Wednesday, April 29, 2009

DOE Stealth Reorganization Has Impact

An old post on Gotham about another stealth DOE reorganization is still getting comments. The title is misleading, as it is not unions that are nervous but advocates for children and parents.

A DOE plan to personalize bureaucracy is making unions nervous".

Author: Mark
I dont know how this is not called a Reorganization. Half my ISC contacts were told they would be laid off. As i finally became comfortable with my ISC contacts now everything is being reshuffled again. The D.O.E will NEVER retain top talent . The poor staff (which we rely on so often)are constantly being thrown around not knowing if they will have a job. Granted there are some staff that are a waste the majority are very professional and helpful. One ISC rep told me she has been with the DOE 6 years and every year she had to worry about keeping her job, while top management just continues collecting there $180,000 a year. Obviously they are the ones not doing a good job if every change they made does not seem to work.

See all comments on this post here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ravitch and Meier on "What's Wrong With Merit Pay?"

Bridging Differences

Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch have found themselves at odds on policy over the years, but they share a passion for improving schools. Bridging Differences will offer their insights on what matters most in education.

--April 21, 2009
Dear Deborah,
Over time we have developed a very solid and smart community of readers who like to argue with us and with each other. That is as it should be. And of course we need to bridge differences—or disagree—with them, too, as we do with each other.
So the subject today is merit pay. This is an important topic because it has become clear that President Obama has decided to hang his hat on this idea. It has not yet been explained just what he means by merit pay. Does he mean that teachers should be paid more for teaching in what is euphemistically called “hard-to-staff” schools? Or paid more for teaching in areas where there are shortages, like certain kinds of special education or subjects such as math and science? Or paid more for mentoring other teachers? Or paid more for teaching longer days?

More at

Monday, April 27, 2009

The NYC Teacher Pay-for-Performance Program

The closer educators get to the classroom, the more the reject the concept that merit pay improves education, but is merely a gimmick to pump up scores so politicians and school officials could look good. In fact it harms education. These preliminary results show little impact on even the scores, though expect the results to improve the more money is on the table.

April 2009
Manhattan Institute released a study

The NYC Teacher Pay-for-Performance Program: Early Evidence from a Randomized Tria

by Matthew G. Springer, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Education, Vanderbilt University, Director, National Center on Performance Incentives and Marcus A. Winters, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute

Executive Summary
Paying teachers varying amounts on the basis of how well their students perform is an idea that has been winning increasing support, both in the United States and abroad, and many school systems have adopted some version of it. Proponents claim that linking teacher pay to student performance is a powerful way to encourage talented and highly motivated people to enter the teaching profession and then to motivate them further inside the classroom. Critics, on the other hand, contend that an extrinsic incentive like bonus pay may have unfortunate consequences, including rivalry instead of cooperation among teachers and excessive focus on the one or two subjects used to measure academic progress.

In this paper, a researcher from the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and another from the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University present evidence on the short-run impact of a group-level incentive pay program operating in the New York City Public School System. The School-Wide Performance Bonus Program (SPBP) is a pay-for-performance program that was implemented in approximately 200 K–12 public schools midway into the 2007–08 school year. Participating schools can earn bonus awards of up to $3,000 per full-time union member working at the school if the school meets performance targets defined by the city’s accountability progr am.

This study examines the impact of the SPBP on student outcomes and the school learning environment. More specifically, the study is designed to address three research questions.
Did students enrolled in schools eligible for the SPBP perform better on the high-stakes mathematics assessment than students enrolled in schools that were not eligible?
Did participating schools with disparate characteristics perform differently from one another? And did subgroups of students in these schools perform differently from one another?
Did the SPBP have an impact on students’, parents’, and teachers’ perceptions of the school learning environment or on the quality of a school’s instructional program?

Although a well-executed r andom-assignment study is the gold standard for the making of causal inferences, readers should be aware that the analyses reported in this paper can address only the short-run effects of the SPBP because the period between the inception of schools’ participation in the SPBP and the administration of New York State’s high-stakes math exam was less than three months. The purpose of this study is to establish a baseline for subsequent analyses of student outcomes, teacher behavior, and school environment.

The authors did not discern any impact on math =2 0 test scores of a school’s participation in the SPBP. The performance of students enrolled in schools participating in the SPBP did not differ statistically from the performance of students enrolled in schools assigned to the control group. The same holds true after adjusting estimates of student performance to account for whether an eligible school voted in favor of participating in the program, and thus actually enrolled in it.

The authors also investigated whether an effect of participation might be observable in particular =2 0 subgroups of students or schools, if not among students or schools overall. But we could not find evidence that two possible factors—students’ race/ethnicity and their level of proficiency at the beginning of the academic year—affected the impact of the SPBP to any extent.

The authors find some evidence that the math performance of students in smaller schools participating in the SPBP remained static, while the scores of students in participating schools with larger enrollments decreased. However, the relationship between school size and the impact of the SPBP warrants further study when data from year two of the SPBP become available.

The authors also examined the impact of the SPBP on students’, teachers’, and parents’ perceptions of the school learning environment, as well as an external evaluator’s assessment of a school’s instructional program. Once again, no significant differences between the outcomes of schools participating in the SPBP and those of schools that were assigned to the control group could be found.

Overall, the authors found that the SPBP had little to no impact on student proficien cy or school environment in its first year. However, the authors emphasize that the short-run results reported in this study provide only very limited evidence of the program’s true effectiveness. An evaluation of the program’s impact after two years should provide more meaningful information about the impact of the SPBP. The authors intend to perform such a study and release its results in the near future.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Some NYC School Officials Are NOT Happy Campers

This was sent out to a list of principals and assistant principals.

Please take a minute to go to the link listed below for the CAMPAIGN FOR BETTER SCHOOLS to send an email to our elected officials to bring back Parent Oversight of the Mayor... we need real parent involvement and oversight so that the Chancellor and Mayor can not continue to operate without regard to the Community's opinions. We have a say in what is going to be done and our parents have the right to be heard-

PLEASE share this with every member of your community and have your parents, your AP's your teachers and their families sign this petition TODAY!! The vote or School Governance will be coming up very soon. If you read the NY POST, Times and Daily News they are on a major campaign of bashing schools, principals and teachers (other than those in Charter Schools and graduates of the Leadership Academy) to hand Bloomberg continued unfettered control of the
entire school system- DESPITE his having overridden the expressed will of the people by overturning TERM LIMITS-

I don't know about you all- but I think the parents of the District have a lot more interest in their children's future than Joel and Mike.. Lets put them in charge of their children's education AS THEY ARE IN EVERY DISTRICT IN THE STATE!!! Why are there no charter schools in the suburbs? Because the parents would not stand for this nonsense. EVEN FORMER ASSEMBLYMAN STEVE SANDERS WHO WROTE THE MAYORAL CONTROL LAW HAS SAID BLOOMBERG HAS GONE TOO FAR!!!! THE STATE NEVER INTENDED FOR CEC's to be paper tigers with no real voice or authority.

Let's get our parents back into the game with all of the legal rights and statutory authority their District Councils are supposed to hold.

If you think Bloomberg/Klein have run things as they pleased up until now- wait til you see what they will do with a third term!!! Look at his internal cabinet:

Jim Liebman (Designer of the Accountability Initiative and Report Card that makes 60% of your grade based on growth, Eric Nadelstern who ran Empowerment -WHICH NONE OF US JOINED- and who has now been placed in charge of all SSO's despite our refusal to join his Network, and other non educators... Yes Marcia
will be there but no longer in charge of our SSO's-terrible and unacceptable.

Enough is enough- Participate in DEMOCRACY- he may get a third term (and maybe he deserves it)- but our schools should not be enslaved to data mills and number crunchers for another 4 years-

Just when I was ready to have a party for having survived the past 7 years- he went and changed the rules to make it another 4!!!! Ay ay ay and oy vey!!

NOW is the time to speak up!!!! Please get involved in this in a major way for our parents, children and community!!!

From inside schools
The NYC Parent Commission is sponsoring a petition drive calling for a public education governance partnership that includes parents, mayoral representatives, and politicians. See their petition about New York City governance <>
for more information.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Nearly one-third of “grassroots” organizations for mayoral control received no-bid contracts

Excellent post:

Nearly one-third of the companies and nonprofits that are members of the grassroots organization, Learn NY, have received no-bid contracts from the Department of Education since Mayor Bloomberg took control of New York City schools in 2002, according to the analysis by our investigative team.

A group with close ties to Bloomberg, Learn NY is a coalition of organizations created to advocate the renewal of mayoral control after it sunsets in June 2009.

Since it began last July, the group has raised more than three million dollars and hired a number of high-profile lobbyists - Brown, McMahon & Weinraub and the MirRam Group - in an attempt to influence the decision over mayoral control of schools in Albany.

Executive Director Peter Hatch maintains that the organization has not received any money from Bloomberg, but refused to disclose a list of donors when asked. But a New York Times article later found that Harlem Children’s Zone - whose director, Geoffrey Canada, also sits at the head of the Learn NY board - has accepted more than $500,000 directly from Bloomberg since he was elected mayor. They have also been awarded close to $388 million competitively-bid contracts from the city and education department.

Additionally, 13 of the 40 organizations supporting Learn NY have received no-bid contracts from the New York City Department of Education since Bloomberg took control of schools:

Harlem Children’s Zone, received a $2,222,700 no-bid contract in 2008.

Ridgewood Bushwick Youth Center, received a $425,000 no-bid contract. Bushwick is an organization run and controlled by Assemblyman and Brooklyn Democrat leader Vito Lopez, who is close to Bloomberg.

Good Shepard Services, a nonprofit providing tutoring and literacy programs for children received eight no-bid contracts in the past five years worth a total of $3,761,748.

Fordham University, which helps schools establish “Inquiry Teams” and helps establish accountability tools—ARIS, ACUITY and Scantron—received $546,000 in 2009.

City Year, an organization that provides one-on-one tutoring services and literacy training programs, is the largest recipient of AmeriCorps funds in New York State. It also received the largest no-bid contract of the bunch – a $11,097,217 contract in 2006, though these could be federal or state funds funneled through the city’s education department.

Other members of Learn NY receiving no-bid contracts include Ghetto Film School, Young Women’s Empowerment Network, Outward Bound of NY, Publicolor, MOUSE and Learning Leaders. Beginning with Children Foundation and Explore Charter School also received no-bid funding.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Obama Announces NTLB, NPLB, and NILB: Dentists, Doctors, and Policemen to be Held Accountable

by Stephen Neat

Last week, President Obama announced three new proposed federal programs aimed at addressing the issues of America's failing dentist offices, America's failing hospitals, and
America's failing police departments. The programs would be enacted under three
Congressional acts: No-Tooth-Left-Behind(NTLB), No-Patient-Left-Behind (NPLB), and No-
Investigation-Left-Behind (NILB).

Under NTLB dentists' offices that reduce the rate of cavities in their patients would receive federal tax breaks. Some dentists argue that other factors besides the quality of their care have a role in the health of patients' teeth and gums. Proponents of the proposed law disagree. They claim, without any accurate evidence, that the United States is falling dangerously behind other developed nations in oral health, and that the situation must be addressed.

NPLB would assess the achievement of hospitals based on the health of their patients. This would be measured by a battery of tests administered between April 22 and May 9 of each year. Some doctors argue that improving patients' health is an ongoing process and cannot be assessed by one group of tests, given once a year. These objections are being ignored in the mainstream media, however, as they cannot be accurately or engagingly summarized in ninety seconds or less.

The measure aimed at improving the performance of law enforcement, NILB, calls for 100% of all investigations to be solved by 2012. If this does not happen, police departments would be required to contract much of their services out to private security companies. Police departments that do not turn themselves around in five years would be closed and reconstituted as charter police departments. Some people have argued that NILB is unrealistic, said Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), a co-sponsor of the legislation, But I say: how can we leave one crime unsolved. It's for the children!

The response to the proposed legislation has been immediate. Across the nation doctors have put down their stethoscopes, police officers have but down their guns, and dentists have put down their those little pointy things dentists use. These professionals have taken to the streets to protest the proposed legislation. Do they really believe that we are going to take this sitting down said one protesting dentist? Do they think that were going to let them tear our professions apart while we carry on gamely with our work? Who do they think we are? Teachers!?

— Stephen Neat

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gerald Bracey on The 'Fastest Growing Occupations'

From Susan Ohanian:

This is the text of an invited address given by Gerald R. Bracey at the annual convention of the American Educational Research Association in San Diego on Tuesday, April 14, 2009. Dr. Bracey was invited to give the "Charles Degarmo Invited Lecture" to AERA. Dr. Bracey explained in an e-mail two days before he delivered the address,"What follows are the first few pages of an invited address I will give at the annual convention of the American Educational Research Association in San Diego on Tuesday. The pages quote a lot of statistics from President Obama and Secretary of Education Duncan and then show that the statistics are all wrong. It pains me to do this since I campaigned for Obama, canvassed for him, donated to the campaign and, of course, voted for him. But listening to what he says about education, it is easy to see why Diane Ravitch said that in education, Obama is a third term for Bush and Duncan is Margaret Spellings in drag.

I've excerpted Bracey on the point that most jobs in the future are fairly low level, a perfect way to explain the way the ed deformers are trying to fool the public into believing college is necessary while at the same time setting up a school system focused on test prep and narrow skills. What they are doing is serving Walmart and McDonalds future low-skilled employees.

What about those 30 fastest growing occupations? I’ve never seen that statistic presented in quite that way, but it also means that half of the 30 fastest growing jobs DON’T require a B.A. or better. But, the signal point about this statistic is that the 30 fastest growing jobs don’t account for many jobs. And the few that do are occupations like personal care aides, home health aides, nursing aides — low-paying service sector jobs needed in and for an aging nation.

Retail sales accounts for more jobs than the top ten fastest growing occupations combined. For every systems engineer needed by a computer firm, Wal-Mart needs about 15 people on the floor. The ten occupations accounting for the largest NUMBER of jobs in a Bureau of Labor Statistics projection from 2006 to 2016 were retail sales, cashiers, office clerks, registered nurses, janitors and cleaners, bookkeeping clerks, waiters and waitresses, food preparers and servers, customer service representatives, and truck and tractor drivers. I will show the falsity of Miller's and Duncan's linking of education and economic crises in detail later in the talk, but it terrifies me that our new President and Secretary of Education have apparently bought into the old falsehoods.

Little wonder that Diane Ravitch said that in education Obama was a third term for Bush and that Duncan was Margaret Spellings in drag.

Obama and Duncan seem to be following the long-established line that you can get away with saying just about anything you choose about public schools and no one will call you on it. People will believe anything you say about public education as long as it’s bad.

The real causes of the current economic mess

I think one of the reasons we see so many such comments is captured a bit in the first two quotes. Neither Miller nor the President could bring himself to actually blame
the schools for today’s economic catastrophe, but they laid on them some of the responsibility for any recovery. There is a long history of trying to link test scores to a nation’s economic health. That notion needs to become extinct

Let’s take a moment to reflect on the causes of the current mess. Banks used very little capital of their own to buy extremely risky real estate assets, granting subprime mortgages and mortgages on overpriced houses, often without even making credit checks. Then they used virtually unfathomable instruments such as credit default swaps to insure against loss. But insurance companies that insured those risks, like AIG didn’t have the capital to pay off the swaps when the banks’ bets went bad. The situation has produced a slight reworking of the opening rhetorical flourishes of that landmark document, "A Nation At Risk:"

We feel compelled to report to the American people that the business and financial foundations of our society are being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people. What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occur—companies that extolled themselves as models of excellent practices have deceived the American people with sloppy, undisciplined, and greedy practices that are driving Americans out of their homes, threatening their retirements, and dashing their hopes of a financially secure future. Indeed, if an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre corporate financial performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.

Read it all:

Note, especially to subscribers:
Make sure to check the Ed Notes side panel for daily updates and other important information.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Study Shows NO Improvement in NYC Charters Over Public Schools

During an interview, Doug Henwood mentions a new report just out from the National Bureau of Economic Researchers that studied the effectiveness of NYC charter schools in comparison to regular public schools. He says that they show almost NO improvement (math=.09 and reading.04).

To hear this program you have to click on the link below and scroll down to the "Behind the News, Thursday, April 16, 2009 5:00 pm, Public Affairs" program. The Deborah Meier section starts at 9:35 into the program.

I still don't accept results based on high stakes tests even if they come up proving something that appears to be a good result. Actually, I would expect charters to do better because of the self-sorting nature of the lottery process. Of course, I can't make heads or tales of the stat mumbo jumbo below.

The report is at

Charter Schools in New York City:
Who Enrolls and How They Affect Their Students' Achievement

Caroline M. Hoxby, Sonali Murarka

NBER Working Paper No. 14852
Issued in April 2009
NBER Program(s): CH ED LS PE TWP
---- Abstract -----

We analyze all but a few of the 47 charter schools operating in New York City in 2005-06. The schools tend locate in disadvantaged neighborhoods and serve students who are substantially poorer than the average public school student in New York City. The schools also attract black applicants to an unusual degree, not only relative to New York City but also relative to the traditional public schools from which they draw. The vast majority of applicants are admitted in lotteries that the schools hold when oversubscribed, and the vast majority of the lotteries are balanced. By balanced, we mean that we cannot reject the hypothesis that there are no differences in the observable characteristics of lotteried-in and lotteried-out students. Using the lotteries to form an intention-to-treat variable, we instrument for actual enrollment and compute the charter schools' average treatment-on-the-treated effects on achievement. These are 0.09 standard deviations per year of treatment in math and 0.04 standard deviations per year in reading. We estimate correlations between charter schools' policies and their effects on achievement. The policy with the most notable and robust association is a long school year--as long as 220 days in the charter schools.

The Debate Over Community Education Councils

We haven't been doing much on the Tweed outrages against parents, leaving that to parent groups led by Leonie Haimson. I've been following the action on the NYC Education News listserve on the bogus community education council scam being perpetrated by BloomKlein to give the appearance of outreach to parents. This may rank amongst the top outrages by the local branch of the ed deformers. If you are not on this listserve, you are missing out on the parent view of BloomKlein. The list is monitored and responded to by Tweed officials. Only some of the items make it to the NYC Parent blog. (Read Gary's latest about the Somali pirate being offered the opportunity to do community service for the DOE - and maybe preferring a life sentence.)

Beth fertig of WNYC has been reporting on the CEC issue here:

Here is a partial response to Tweed's head of PR David Cantor by Leonie on the listserve. Ed Koch was making robocalls to get parents to vote in what is really not a vote but a straw poll. The DOE is desperate to beat the 5% turnout in the old days of school board elections since BloomKlein has used that low figure to claim the old system didn't work. So they desperately try to get the numbers up in a meaningless election by creating phony grass roots "parent" groups funded by _____ (fill in the blank.)

David: is this $13,466 for the Koch robocalls in addition to the $500,000 that Grassroots is receiving? Or is this cost included in their contract? And are you planning another round of robocalls?

Has the date for the straw vote been extended again to April 29? The vote was originally supposed to take place between April 6 - 12 – then it was extended till April 22, and now till April 29, I have heard. I assume this will be more expensive. Who’s picking up the extra cost – the contractor or DOE?

Finally, what’s the no. of parents participating so far?

As someone mentioned last night at a PA meeting, I’m not sure why PA officers should pay attention to the straw vote anyway – even if it was a fully informed vote, since presumably it will not be disaggregated by school.

Leonie Haimson

Today's UFT Delegate Assembly: There Will Be Some Action

Like the early days of pre-planet formation where elements circulate around each other until gravity pulls them together, lots of forces have been congealing within and without the UFT. People from the usual suspects in UFT politics – ICE and TJC – have been joined by members of NYCORE, Teachers Unite, TAG, ISO and independents, especially some educators in Harlem, whose schools are under assault from charters, to form a coalition called Grassroots Education Movement.

Taking on the co-related issues of closing schools, ATRs, high stakes testing, rubber rooms, principal power, DOE oppression, charter schools and mayoral control, GEM has started reaching out to non educators who are also mobilizing around some of these issues, especially mayoral control.

In the meantime, ICE has been meeting on presenting a list of contract demands, which believe it or not, will be discussed at today's UFT Delegate Assembly. Randi Weingarten has promised an open mic – probably after she spends an hour giving her report. While not totally finalized, an ICE leaflet will be given out with the work the ICE contract committee has done so far. I'm including it in this post. (Click to enlarge.)

All these forces are coming together at the DA today, with some people from TAG holding an informational picket. Some GEM people will be coming to hand out leaflets on the upcoming charter school conference at PACE University on May 4. Other GEMers will be handing out a leaflet for the GEM May 14 rally and march up Broadway to UFT headquarters and on to Tweed. A motion calling for No New Hiring Until ATR Teachers are Placed and No School Closings will be presented by another group not affiliated with GEM.

If you are a NYC educator, there comes a time to get involved, even if the onslaught against public schools has not yet reached your school. If you can't make the charter school conference, reserve May 14 and join GEM and its supporters on the rally and march.

Unfortunately, this is one DA I cannot make. But there will be many people attending, some for the first time who will get to see UFT democracy inaction. Look for reports on the ICE blog and web site and some follow-up here.

Teachers, Counselors, Other Affected UFT Personnel, and Allies:

The DA meeting will be held Wednesday, April 22nd, 52 Broadway. There is so much to protest, all of which attacks our careers in the public schools: The Reassignment Centers- a way to terminate or turn teachers into ATRs; the ATR situation (when will they be out on the street permanently); school closings- to create ATRs and devastate public education- AND of course the contractual give backs which have destroyed the strength of the Union. (The DA meeting will begin to address the new contract demands).

Reassignment Center people- Remember these Centers are crowded as part of the above plan.

Come to the DA meeting at 4p.m. with signs to protest the Centers, the lack of hiring of ATRs, contractual givebacks. Bring signs. Some suggestions for signs:

End the Predetermined U
Hire the ATRs NOW!
Get Back the Givebacks
Let Teachers Teach
STOP Juking the Stats

If we don't protest, we can't complain.


Jeff Kaufman Explains NYSUT/UFT/DOE Deal on Signing Away Tenure Rights

When I get a letter like the one below, I refer it to Jeff Kaufman, one of ICE's experts on all matters UFT. One thing is clear, this teacher would never get a straight answer from the UFT.

I'm writing because you mention in your Jan. 30, 2007 EdNotes blog that "Teachers are being pressured to sign away their tenure rights in these time and attendance hearings. This was a 2005 provision."

I am being called to one of these expedited hearings (I thought it was a 3020a procedure). Can you explain what you meant about "signing away your tenure rights"?

Also, do you know if the DOE has outlined anywhere a time and attendance policy? Outside from the 10 days per year refunded to your CAR, this seems to be a completely uncharted territory. People are getting called out for all sorts of things and there seems to be no clear policy on how you may use the days in your CAR. I used a considerable amount of days [due to illness] but they were in the CAR and they were all very well documented by physicians with causes and reports.

Thanks for any advice you might be able to provide.

Jeff responds:
Since the provision appeared in our contract I have been involved, directly or indirectly, in about 5 of these proceedings. They are 3020-a hearings but have been modified to allow (encourage) speedy resolution with the provision that anything short of termination was a possible outcome.

The case, just like a “regular” 3020-a goes before a single arbitrator and is generally heard within a couple of weeks of the service of the charge. Early on I discovered that the DOE and UFT had entered into a secret unwritten deal that provided a “boiler plate” last chance agreement. While the amount of the fine was negotiable the form agreement contained a provision which required, without hearing, the termination of the tenured employee without further hearing should the employee be absent and or late more than a certain amount of time provided for in the agreement.

When I brought this to Weingarten’s attention she claimed she had no knowledge about this since NYSUT attorneys were involved. While the agreement that was entered into a case I was involved in was taken back I found that this agreement in somewhat different form was still being used.

The T&A hearing basically are designed to determine whether the absence and/or lateness was necessary but allows the principal’s own written policy to determine the parameters of “allowable” absence and/or lateness. Most principals stick to the 10 day rule but there is some difference of opinion as to whether this is reasonable.

In a properly documented case the arbitrator will levy a small fine (I have not found any of these cases having been dismissed but I have only been involved in a small percentage of them).

There is no reason to accept a waiver of future 3020a hearing since this, in effect, puts you back on probation. Good luck and if you have any other question you can email me directly.

Best regards,
Jeff Kaufman

That Randi would claim she knows nothing about it since it is NYSUT (she is a VP of NYSUT) is not surprising of the UFT abdication of responsibility. I don't buy it.

I received another email yesterday from a source with a contact on the inside who said Randi wants to help get rid of "bad" teachers, but "humanely". Jeff's report must be the UFT/DOE humane response. Of course Randi is letting the "bad" teachers be defined by the DOE and the UFT often has the attitude of "guilty until proven innocent," doing the minimal it has to do. So a teacher has to take lots of days off due to illness or personal issues, has the days saved up in the CAR, but is deemed a "bad" teacher.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Teaching: No 'Fallback' Career

AJ hits a few basic truths in his response. He finds
"the great majority [of teachers] to be extremely hard working" and
"The ones most critical of their colleagues, often from the get-go, are often the very ones who seek to escape the classroom from very early on. Unfortunately, many of these end up as administrators or union hacks, or else find a comfortable niche from which they can continue to pour disdain on their own peers."

NY Times OPINION | April 19, 2009
Room for Debate: Teaching: No 'Fallback' Career
By The Editors
Teacher "shortages" may not mean that jobs exist.
As private sector professionals lose their jobs or suffer cutbacks in pay and benefits, more and more of them are thinking about second careers. Public service is suddenly popular with all generations. Teaching may not pay a lot, but it comes with relatively good benefits and, in public schools, job security in the form of tenure after three years. But this fallback fantasy may be unrealistic, despite reports of a possible teacher shortage in the next several years. Does such a shortfall really exist? What does it take to become a teacher, let alone a good one?

Response from AJ:
You can see a majority consensus on some matters -- such as the experience (around 3 years) needed, by most, to achieve competence in teaching, & the extreme difficulties of the initial (& even subsequent) years. However, once again, even from teachers (such as Patrick Welsh) one finds a negative, condescending opinion towards their own colleagues. In my experience, although I have found teachers unduly submissive to authority (often misused & unwarranted authority), I have also found the great majority to be extremely hard working. Indeed, the nature of the profession makes this inevitable.

The ones most critical of their colleagues, often from the get-go, are often the very ones who seek to escape the classroom from very early on. Unfortunately, many of these end up as administrators or union hacks, or else find a comfortable niche from which they can continue to pour disdain on their own peers. But another remarkable fact is this view of teachers as being almost to the profession born -- they either have it or they don't. This is eerily similar to the view of students as either "being able to do math" or not -- or the view that kids will either "get it" right away or never. While familiarity with subject matter, as well as a modicum of compassion & patience, are clearly necessary, as also a belief in human potential, the role of experience & learning and the possibility of the basic tenets being teachable, appears to be lacking -- even among teachers. The fact that far too many teachers leave within the first few years, is mentioned -- but not highlighted. Doing so would have led to the question, "Why?" -- the very thing that no one publicly wants to face up to. It's not the money, although that used to play a part.

How Randi Sells Out DC Teachers: A Concrete Example

AFT $750,000 "grant/loan" to DC local has resulted, in effect, in a national takeover of the union and a total lack of democracy. So what else is new?

We alerted Washington DC teachers in this post on Dec. 4, 2008:
Weingarten to Meet with Washington TU Exec Bd Tonight

Just about any teacher politically active in NYC school politics could have told the teachers in Washington DC that Randi Weingarten would make a deal with Michelle Rhee that will end up as a negative for the teachers and the union. First they had to get Rhee to look like she was making nice by toning down her act and I bet the AFT/UFT PR gang sat Rhee down and did a makeover. But we have been reporting on that aspect before.

Initially, the teachers in DC, not knowing Randi and her ability to make you think she is on your side, breathed a sigh of relief at the AFT getting involved. But we warned them to hold onto their pockets. What resulted is what we have seen here in NYC - the old flimflam scam of putting something in front of them for a short period of time and then pulling it away so there is no time to see the underlying traps that will result in Rhee getting most of what she wants.

The AFT is calling it "good for children fair for teachers" campaign. Sure. As we saw in NYC, disastrous for teachers, parents and children.

What teachers all over this nation where they will be dealing with Randi and the AFT have to get clear, is they are not on your side or your advocate. They are middlemen, negotiating to strike a deal, not exactly what how want your union to function. Randi's appearance on April 15 in Chicago is part of the nationalization of the UFT/Unity Caucus sellout here in NYC.

Nathan Saunders, General Vice President of the Washington Teachers Union commented on our post "Weingarten Agreement to Schmoke as Mediator Means ...":

We got less than 1 hour to read a complicated document billed as the WTU contract proposal which is now the basis of a $750,0000 grant/loan from the AFT Executive Council which the WTU Executive board did not ask for in the first place. The WTU Executive Board questioned the checks only to be informed AFT is giving us the money so we should not worry about it. At a rescheduled meeting which I was not in attendance, the WTU Executive Board passed a motion after the fact but that was to a large extent- a rubber stamp. I am concerned that issues associated with our local are from our members and not from AFT central headquarters. I have cautioned our executive board about willy nilly agreeing to matters they don't fully understand. Some are so eager to please they say "yes I will do it" before they understand what rights and responsibilities they are forfeiting.

This document is the foundation for the "good for children fair for teachers" campaign. This story needs to be thoroughly investigated. Are you telling me that Randi did the same thing in NY and the members did not actually know what was in the contract until much later? Is that how you got involved in the mutual consent, ATR, rubber room fiasco? I am so disappointed.

Nathan A. Saunders
General Vice President
Washington Teachers' Union

Can the AFT, which has always been a top-down organization with really 3 NYC/UFT Presidents in the last 35 years (McElvain was a temp holding it for Randi), take even firmer control of urban locals than it had in the past? With out old red-baiting Unity hack Jeff Zahler as AFT staff director, expect the Unity Caucus model to go far and wide.

A basic lack of democracy must go along with this.Demonizing opponents is part of the process. Expect Nathan Saunders and other critics to be so branded.

Rotherham on Weingarten: Two Peas in a Pod
Paul Moore on a "Kindler, Gentler" Rhee


Please forward, copy & distribute widely. Attend our weekly organizing meetings - contact us for details. (Send an email to for a pdf.)



May 14, Thur 3 - 7PM

Gather at Battery Park (Trains to Bowling Green)
& Walk to the Dept. of Ed. (Chambers & B’way)
Protest TWEED & the Mayor!

Fully Support Neighborhood Schools - Restore Teacher Seniority Rights
No Mayoral Control - Smaller Class Sizes - Stop High Stakes Testing
The UFT Contract MUST address these demands!

Sponsor: Grassroots Education Movement - GEM to Defend Public Education

Endorsers: Independent Community of Educators, New York Collective of Radical Educators, TAGNYC, Teachers for a Just Contract, Teachers Unite


The Bloomberg/Klein Dept. of Education (DOE) are removing the “PUBLIC” from NYC public education. The defenders of unchecked privatization, like those involved in the current downfall of corporations– have now set their sights on education. Greed and corruption have brought our economy into recession; what will they bring to our children?

Since the Mayor took control of the DOE in 2003, the abuses of undemocratic power are evident:

· Charter schools have become the new “voucher” programs of today: repackaged and resold. Companies like Wal-Mart, the hedge fund - Plainfield Asset Management, and countless conservative think tanks have donated to its promotion. And what strange bedfellows have emerged: Newt Gingrich, Al Sharpton, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and even the UFT’s Randi Weingarten. Public schools have long been the prize of greedy privateers, and this time, using the rhetoric of the civil rights movement, they are convincing those unaware of their true intent. Never mind that a AFT study of NAEP data on charter schools have shown a significant DECREASE in reading and math scores compared to public schools.

· The weapon of choice has been standardized high stakes testing. In the last 2 years, the DOE spent a total of $235 million on data gathering and testing for schools, students, and teachers. Money that could have been used for smaller class sizes, textbooks, and after school programs has instead been funneled into the cult of labeling schools as failing. How coincidental that corporations are contracted to assess our schools as failures, thus paving the way for even more influx of corporate control in the form of charter schools.

· The multitude of school closings have left 1700 seasoned veteran teachers (ATRs) without permanent teaching posts. Due to changes in school budgets, principal control, and the DOE’s scheduling of new teacher job fairs ahead of the ATRs, the Mayor is tactically filling schools with inexperienced teachers, who learn more about obedience to dictatorial mandates, than about sound teaching from seasoned colleagues.

· Since taking over the DOE in 2003, Bloomberg's administration has touted real gains in student performance based on "city" statistics. Yet these same defenders of the almighty data scorned the results of the NAEP testing that found no significant gains in NYC's 8th grade reading and math scores. Instead of supporting and funding needy schools, Bloomberg's main tactic of pressuring principals to perform at all costs have brought social promotion to negligent heights. It is now legal to give a year’s worth of credit to students who sit for a few days of “recovery” classes. Furthermore, important subjects like history, art, music, and physical education are cut, to slavishly drill for high stakes (and often dumbed-down) tests.

· Let’s not forget the money. In 2000, there were 7 no- bid contracts by the DOE that cost the city $693,000 dollars. Under Bloomberg’s reign, the fiscal year 2008 saw 944 no-bid contracts totaling 1.9 billion dollars. Comptroller Thompson has decried the lack of transparency in the DOE (unlike every other city agency). There is no oversight in DOE spending, and the mayor likes it that way.

Mayoral Control is up for renewal in June by the state legislature. The forces of privatization are making a nationwide campaign to push their privatization agenda. The good news is, protests are sprouting everywhere, and the truth is being spread. Come out on May 14th. Join parents, teachers, students and concerned New Yorkers to keep our children’s education …..PUBLIC!!!

Gather at Battery Park (Trains to Bowling Green)
& Walk to the Dept. of Ed. (Chambers & B’way)

Grassroots Education Movement -
For info: 718-601-4901

Note, especially to Ed Notes subscribers on Feedblitz: Make sure to check the Ed Notes side panel for daily updates and other important information.

Juking the Stats

TAGNYC reports:
If we are 'voices crying in the wilderness" we have a true champion. David Simon, producer of 'The Wire" is our voice as he made clear in his April 17th interview with possibly the greatest journalist America has-Bill Moyers. Watch it online.

New ralling cry "Juking the stats"

Is Chicago Teachers Delegate Assembly an Evil Twin of UFT?

House of Delegates Denied Democracy

Read Rebecca Johnson's CORE (Caucus of Rank and File Educators) report of the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates meeting on April 15. No democracy there too? And Randi actually was at that meeting to witness it. Deja vu, Randi?

Randi Weingarten spoke for the longest time and [CTU leader] Marilyn Stewart claimed that the reason for doing this speech/press conference/rally during our House of Delegates meeting was Randi’s hectic schedule and her agreeing to come from New York to celebrate with Civitas* on short notice.

What? Randi speak for a long time? Say it ain't so.

CORE, a fairly new caucus, has been extremely active in the CTU. The Grassroots Education Movement here in NYC, which has people from ICE, TJC, ISO, NYCORE, Teachers Unite and others involved is reaching out to CORE to touch base.

Marian Swerdlow of TJC does an excellent DA report here in NYC but you have to subscribe to get it. Email me for the contact info:

George Schmidt at Substance compares Arne Duncan to Alan Greenspan
"improving public education" in Arne Duncan's version of reality means more charter schools, the closing of low-scoring public schools, and various forms of choice and material incentives (including teacher merit pay). Duncan claims that he successfully brought those reforms to Chicago's public schools, although Substance has proven in each case that Duncan's claims are false and will continue to do so even more elaborately now that Duncan is trying to export the attacks on public education that he got away with in Chicago.

*They all also were there to praise teachers from three Chicago International Charter Schools (CICS)—Wrightwood, Northtown Academy and Ralph Ellison campuses—which have voted to become unionized. These schools are run by Civitas, one of the charter educational management companies CPS has allowed to open charters in Chicago.

Monday, April 20, 2009

If you’re not an ATR today, you could be one tomorrow

From Marjorie Stamberg:

This is a reminder, we will be at the UFT Delegate Assembly on Wednesday, April 22 to highlight the the crisis of ATR teachers and school closings.

This is the critical time, before principals hire for September. We need an immediate moratorium on all school closings and for a hiring freeze until all ATR teachers who want positions are placed. If schools are in trouble -- fix them, don't close them! The UFT has already voted for both the moratorium and the freeze, in good part due to our pressure and mobilization. But we need the union to act on this, not just pay lip service.

The D.A. starts at 4:15, and we will have signs outside for “Stop School Closings,” “Hiring Freeze Until ATRs are Placed,” and “If you’re not an ATR today, you could be one tomorrow.”

We will have a motion to call for

No New Hiring Until ATR Teachers are Placed

No School Closings!

Four months after the “Side Agreement” was signed, a grand total of 16 ATRs have been hired, while 295 brand new teachers were hired! There are now 1,740 ATRs across the system. The Side Agreement is like putting a band-aid on a bursting artery. And at the April 6 E-board, it was revealed that the UFT dropped its age discrimination suit in return for the toothless Side Agreement. A secret deal that is only now coming to light...

The union voted last October for a moratorium on hiring until all teachers who want positions are assigned -- we need to act on this now; we cannot wait until September. And there will soon be far more ATRs with many big high schools on the chopping block. The ATR situation threatens the whole union -- the DOE wants a big teacher reserve so they can use it to try to get rid of our "no-layoff" clause, and experienced teachers who know their rights. But it's not enough to know your rights, you have to fight to defend them.

The UFT is not addressing the root cause of the crisis. When the union gave up seniority transfers in the disastrous 2005 contract, it opened the gate for the Bloomberg/Klein to drive this truck through as they go after tenure. That's why one big part of our fightback has to be to restore seniority rights in the contract. We know that the ATR crisis was allowed to simmer and stew in the UFT until we engaged the issue in a strong united way, school by school.

We need a meeting of all ATR teachers where these and other questions are answered. We need a UFT special rep for ATR teachers who is available for phone calls, in-person meetings, not just e-mail that doesn’t get followed up.

We need the UFT to put teeth in its motions for– No School Closings! If a School’s in Trouble – Fix it, Don't Close It!

A Moratorium on all New Hires until ATR Teachers are Placed!
Restore Seniority Transfer Rights in the Contract!

Take Back the Givebacks!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Charter Schools: The Solution to the Crisis in Public Education?

This conference on May 4 is an outgrowth of an informal gathering that took place a month ago on a Sunday afternoon attended by 20 people, mostly younger public school teachers very concerned about the invasion of public school space by charters. It is also an outgrowth of the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) to save public education. Pass this information on to people in your schools as this is an issue not school is exempt from. For a perfect example read this from Leonie Haimson: Brooklyn Prospect Charter School Will Be in Sunset Park High School Building


Charter Schools: The Solution to the Crisis in Public Education?

Do Charter Schools actually represent a genuine movement to re-establish community control, parent choice and equitable education for ALL students? Or are they part of a larger movement sweeping the country and turning the public sector of education over to hands of privately run organizations?

Do charter schools provide adequate channels for the democratic input of staff and parents? What happens when charter schools deny educators union rights, pensions and benefits?
At this forum, we invite teachers, parents, students and community members to consider the role that charter schools play in the larger national agenda to privatize education in the United States. We will discuss the validity of their popular claim to support civil rights by providing parents of “failing” schools other options. Please join us.

Charter schools are opening while public schools are closing or being placed in smaller spaces that hinder the expansion of public schools. Charter schools also have stricter admission policies. With all these “at-risk” or “failing schools” closing, where are their students going to go? Who will accept them?

Join a discussion on these important topics and more!

May 4 5:30 p.m. Pace University Student Union 1 Pace Plaza (look for signs) 2/3 to Park Place, A/C to Broadway/Nassau, 4/5/6 to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall

Sponsored by the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) to Defend Public Education, a newly formed coalition of NYC groups and individuals dedicated to defend public education, and the parents, students and teachers affected against attempts to privatize, underfund and undermine the system. The coalition is building this forum and is also building a rally on May 14 to oppose NYC school closings.

Co-Sponsored by (list in formation) the Independent Community of Educators (ICE), Justice not Just Tests - a NYCoRE Work Group, the International Socialist Organization (ISO)

contact:, 718-601-4901

Get involved in the next planning meeting:

Tuesday, April 21 5:00 p.m.
CUNY Grad Center – Rm 5409
34th Street and 5th Ave. Bring I.D.

A Great Debate: Fiorillo and Others on Charters, Unions and More

At Gotham Schools

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Commentary on NAEP, Klein, Ravitch, and Pallas

Ed Notes responds to Columbia's Aaron Pallas' (alias Skoolboy) response to Joel Klein's response to Diane Ravitch. Got that? (We are still working on our own response to Ravitch, which will include comments from Sean Ahern.) As you can see in the cartoon, the Ohanian/Bacey crowd don't think it does matter much.

Responding to Joel Klein: Why NAEP Matters

Read Pallas' full response. He starts with:
NYC Chancellor Joel Klein’s response in Wednesday’s New York Times to Diane Ravitch’s op-ed last week provides a lot to chew on. Today, I’m focusing on his comments about the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is also known as the Nation’s Report Card.

Many of us have issues with the NAEP because it is just another standardized test (JAST) being used to judge schools and teachers. There have been some calls to use it as THE measure as a way to create national standards, which would lead to a national test. Ravitch and Weingarten are pushing in this direction it seems.

I want to focus on this point. Pallas says:
Quoting Klein: "Our fourth-grade scores on those tests are strong."
Surely the Chancellor must know that, when a test is administered in both the fourth and eighth grade, and he claims that the fourth-grade results are “strong,” and says nothing about the eighth grade, a reasonable person might wonder about the eighth-grade results. In fact, there have been no statistically significant gains in eighth-grade performance in New York City in either reading or math between 2003 and 2007 on the NAEP assessment, and no gains in fourth-grade reading either. Fourth-grade scores in New York City are “strong” only in the sense that there were significant gains in fourth-grade math performance from 2003 to 2007.

One thing Pallas doesn't point to is that even the rise in 4th grade math scores are suspect if the same student drops back by the 8th grade. Did this indicate there was great teaching in grade 4 and poor teaching from grades 5-8? Or the middle school experience was just so lousy? If you're going to live by the sword of high stakes testing to claim how well you are doing, you're going to die by it. My middle school friends used to complain all the time that the scores our kids were showing up with were not real. They could always tell which schools cheated or manipulated the most.

Let me tell you about my experiences with testing in elementary schools. As the math test loomed we prepared much of the day. I always had great success in getting good math scores because it was so much easier to prepare kids than it was in reading. I used to collect questions from old tests and from the first days of schools in September, I would put up a Do Now every day with a few sample questions. The problem solving part was the most difficult to prepare because it involved reading. So we taught the key words like if you see the word "less" think subtraction.

Now I didn't consider this real math teaching, which we basically suspended in the weeks preceding the exam (today I hear they start prepping in September). Math is especially developmental, and teaching in a scattered approach by preparing for all areas of the test at one time is actually harmful.

Teaching fractions and percent are prime examples, as is teaching prime numbers. You can try to get them to understand the process behind division of fractions or you can just tell them to invert the denominator and multiply. "But why. Mr. Teacher?" "Shut up and do it. We have a test to take and there's no time to get into understanding this crap," might be a response. Prime numbers? Just memorize the first 20.

No. I actually did teach this stuff the right way but as crunch time came there was so much to cover. The worst was the stuff we hadn't yet covered and required the speedy cramming approach. Basically, it was all a waste of time. The tests I gave in class were so much more relevant and useful and provided instant feedback. Like, if almost no one got the primes right, do it again.

There are other reasons why the 4th grade math scores went up. By adding a math coach to every school, there was now someone who could focus all the teachers on the subject. This is not a bad thing, though we used to have a Title I math pull-out person who did some of the same stuff. But one would expect the scores under Klein to rise when there's a person who can focus on test prep. Why the coach didn't affect the math scores in the 8th grade is a good question. And why reading scores didn't go up due to the same attention being paid to testing is beyond me.

I view all test prep for reading and math as akin to going to the gym and doing ten sets of bicep curls. You can actually see a muscle – for about an hour. My test of Klein's claims would be to test 1000 kids at random in June and compare the results to the tests from a few months before. I would give the tests the first week of October and then get down to real teaching for the rest of the year.

Elementary schools are a much more controlled environment than middle schools with the teacher having the flexibility to spend as much time on a subject as needed. There are also more opportunities for manipulation and even cheating. My supervisors used to sit in the office for hours going over all the test papers – doing what we were never sure. They claimed they were cleaning up errant pencil marks which could lower scores. And this was in the 80's and 90's, so the ed deformers and NCLB did not discover accountability. Pressure in my school was INTENSE. And there was tremendous resentment when the principal singled out teachers who consistently got high scores but everyone knew were not great. There was one who was absent every year for about 30 or more days but scored high all the time. The joke was: Imagine how well they would do if it was 60 days.

Forcing us to teach in this phony way drove many of us out of the self-contained classroom, a place I thought I would never leave. My 25 years with a test prep principal (since 1979) has informed the strong anti-high stakes testing position of Education Notes and I started bringing this position to UFT delegate assemblies, especially when Randi took over as president. She would tell me how much she agreed with me, her usual style, and I was fooled for years, hoping the UFT would use its influence to raise the alarm.

But it became clear that the UFT would fall right into line with the testing regime and try to use it to claim how well teachers were doing –remember the UFT and ed deformer stand that teaching quality is the most important factor– and make the argument for more money, even if it meant various forms of merit pay.

Joel Klein is defending the indefensible and even if the results on the NAEP were great, the idea of measuring schools and diverting them from their mission of doing a comprehensive job of teaching would still be wrong.

Talk about closing schools, ATRs, teachers under attack, and all the other foolhardy aspects of the ed deformer crowd – the root of all evil is high stakes testing.

Gerald Bracey on 50 years of the manuafactored "crisis" in American schools.

Note, especially to subscribers: Make sure to check the Ed Notes side panel for daily updates and other important information.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Teacher Activist Course from Teachers Unite

How can we counteract the attacks on public schools and the teacher bashing that goes along with it?

Without a union willing to stand up to this onslaught and in fact a union that is a willing collaborator in so much of the program, a union that accepts the parameters set out by the corporate supported ed deformers, an undemocratic union run by a massive Unity Caucus machine, it will take an active and informed membership.

To accomplish that we need a core of educators that is well informed of the major issues affecting education and a willingness to become part of a core of organizers who will work with people in their schools and beyond to bring a message of true education reform. A message of progressive educators organizing to create a true movement for teacher power.

Besides coming out for the Grassroots Education Movement rally and march from Battery Park past UFT headquarters and up to Tweed on May 14, here is a more programmatic way to get involved from Teachers Unite.

Are you a teacher who asks:

*How can I be both an instructional leader and a teacher activist?

*How do teachers organize with NYC communities for social justice?

*What does the UFT, or a teachers contract, have to do with social justice?

*What is the history of public schools in New York City?

Register today for Teachers Unite's Teacher Activist Course! You can sign up for any combination of Sessions 1, 2, 3 and 4.

For full course descriptions, go to:

Session 1:
Education Reform, Social Justice and Teachers Unions
Saturday, April 25, 2009, 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Session 2:
Organizing to Transform Public Education
Saturday, May 2, 2009, 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Session 3:
Effective outreach and organizing
Saturday, May 9, 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Session 4:
Who controls the public school system in New York City?
A brief history of the city's schools
Saturday, May 30th, 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

For full course descriptions, go to:

Lunch is included in all sessions.

Free childcare is available for those who request it at least two
weeks in advance of their registered session.

Teacher Activist Course sessions are free for Teachers Unite members.

Sliding scale registration fee per session for non-members: $25 - $75

To register, go to:

Teachers Unite is a membership organization supporting the leadership of NYC public school teachers committed to social justice and activism.

By leadership we mean:
1) a deep understanding of theproblems faced by educators, students and public school communities,
2) skills to organize a community to build power and make change, and
3) a willingness to take action.

Note, especially to subscribers:
Make sure to check the Ed Notes side panel for daily updates and other important information.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Weingarten Agreement to Schmoke as Mediator Means DC Teachers About to be Screwed

Rhee, Parker and Weingarten Agree to a Mediator

D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, and Washington Teachers' Union President George Parker just announced that a mediator will help settle differences over the shape of their contract.

Kurt Schmoke, Dean of Howard University School of Law and former Baltimore mayor, will work to resolve "outstanding issues" on the table, according to an AFT statement.- Stephen Sawchuck at Ed Week.

Agreeing to Schmoke, part of the anti-union ed deformer crowd ( I received an email with his background yesterday but can't lay my hands on it,) would be like having Joel Klein mediate the UFT contract. But we told the DC teachers to expect nothing less from Weingarten. Watch them be handed a contract and given 10 minutes to read and approve it before the contracts are collected. Count your teeth before leaving the room.

Debunking the Ed Deformer "School Choice" Argument

The phony "give parents choice" free market idea being pushed by the education deformers is finally being challenged. Why don't all parents get a quality zoned neighborhood school? Here is what the charter school operators don't want to do: Take over a few entire schools intact. For experimental purposes, let's allow them to change anything they want - teachers, supervisors, whatever. Anything except the kids. No lottery. Just take the zoned school and make them work. Edison has failed at this no matter where they try it.

Leonie Haimson takes a shot at the school choice argument after the Daily News revealed that the Carl Icahn run charter school in the Bronx accepted only 3% of the applicants. Leonie says:

All classes at the school are capped at 18, according to its website and an article in the NY Sun. Classes run to 4 PM, with Saturday help for any child who needs it.

And yet this administration, which promotes charter schools at every opportunity, allowed class size to rise in all grades this year but 4th – despite millions of dollars in state aid that was targeted specifically to reducing class size. More than 66,000 students-- or about one quarter of all NYC public school children in grades K-3 are now in classes of 25 or more– an increase of more than 11, 000 students compared to last year. There are nearly 14,000 students in grades 1-3 in classes over 28 – a 36% jump.

Charter school promoters like Eli Broad constantly say that charter schools are “laboratories for success that others can emulate within a public-school system. So I'm a very strong believer in mayoral control."

Not sure what the meaning of “laboratories for success” is when the Mayor and the Chancellor resolutely refuses to implement the same reforms that make charter schools successful in the regular public schools they control – even when state law demands it.

And I’m not sure what parental “choice” means, which the administration claims to support, when they are insistent on taking away the most basic choice of all from parents – to send their children to their zoned neighborhood public schools. Some might even see it as a right -- except for the people who run this city, who would rather see the dissolution of our public schools so that privatization can prevail.

The entire piece is at the NYC Public School Parents blog.

Oakland teacher Stephen Miller pointed out in his great piece Pimping for Privatization
The idea of school choice is another “get rich quick scheme” that sounds good until it is examined. What happened in America that should we even have to choose at all

Schools push out the students who take more time and resources to educate. Once privatized, schools compete for the “good” students. Middle-class parents, who have the time and know-how to work the system, get their kids into the “right” schools. Parents from poorer families generally lack these resources and usually wind up taking whatever they are given.

To paraphrase… the law, in all of its magnificence, allows poor parents, as well as rich, to drive their students across town twice a day in their Porsche SUVs to insure their kids are receiving a quality education. “Choice” benefits parents who have the resources to choose. It simply does not carry the same guarantees as a “right”.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The UFT Drops Age Discrimination Suit

There's a long story about the supposed UFT age discrimination law suit, which Ed Notes branded as bogus and just a publicity stunt all along. Here's some more background:

It seems I was the first to raise this issue in a public forum at an Executive Board meeting back in the fall of 2004 or 2005 when I and Betsy Combier helped defend a teacher from John Adams HS at a U-rating hearing. The UFT rep assigned was basically helpless and only wanted to address the letters in the teacher's file,not the underlying causes of why the letters were placed there.

When I raised age discrimination, even the hearing officer perked up, saying, "I'm older and that would be terrible." I angrily called the Queens borough office and got a run-around.

So that night I went to the UFT Ex bd meeting, livid at UFT inaction, asking why I, in no way officially connected to the UFT, had to be the one to use age discrimination as a defense. I think Betsy may have been there and she can corroborate the story if she was.

UFT leaders feigned surprise in the Claude Rains Captain Renault tone of "there's gambling here" that such a thing could exist and disingenuously announced at the next Delegate Assembly that teachers suspecting age discrimination should contact the UFT. Randi Weingarten emailed me asking for names and I sent her some. Then the UFT held a press conference with some teachers and announced a suit.

I knew it was bullshit because someone on the inside tipped me off that 25 teachers in Bay Ridge in Brooklyn has filed a suit a year earlier against District 20 Supt Vinnie Grippo, a political ally of the UFT, and their lawyer was not only getting no help from the UFT, but obstruction. The act of making it seem they hadn't heard of such a thing was academy award material.

Chaz writes about it here, Randi & Joel Do It Again - The UFT Secretly Dropped Their Age Discrimination Lawsuit When They Signed The Unenforceable ATR Agreement based on a report from JD2718, a New Action member of the Executive Board. (Since 8 New Action members only got on the Executive Board with Unity Caucus endorsement, you have to read between the lines. I read it as barely suppressed rage. Or at least, that is what I'm hoping, as it would be nice to see New Action, whose existence depends on being propped up by Unity as a bogus opposition, actually take some action.)

I wrote about this story numerous times and if you want to follow the trail, search the blog for "age discrimination suit."

Here is my October 2007 post:

What happened to the Age Discrimination lawsuit?

The UFT has been making the rounds of the Reassignment Centers. UFT Rep Jeff Huart was asked this question:

What happened to the Age Discrimination lawsuit?

Jeff Huart: The UFT is going forward with the lawsuit. People who believe they qualify should get their information in to the union.
Question: But information is out there that the UFT is not going forward with it.
Huart: The UFT is going forward with that one and the one for the people in the Reassignment Centers.
Question: Do teachers know about the general age discrimination lawsuit. Many teachers claim never to have heard about it.
Huart: District reps went to all the schools to tell about it.

How many schools do District Reps reach a week? Might as well use a milk carton and string to deliver the message. Not in the NY Teacher. Not in the UFT Weekly Updates to chapter leaders. Not a flyer handed out at the Delegate Assembly, or even an announcement to have senior teachers contact the union. But whispers from District Reps (those that are competent or awake). That's showing you are serious about age discrimination.

When your union functions as little more than a public relations factory, what can you expect?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pimping for Privatization

The Perimeter Primate posts a piece by Oakland teacher Stephen Miller, who lays bare just about all the fault lines of the ed deformers. Here are a few excerpts:

[Right wing economist Milton] Friedman demanded the total privatization of schools. He claimed that the so-called “free market” is the best guarantee of efficiency, quality education and equality (not to mention modernizing the system) because it introduces competition, which provides “choice” for parents.

This is in essence the corporate model for education. It is being sold across the country to parents, especially minority parents, who are quite clear that the public schools are more segregated than ever, and who are desperate for something different. Nationally, a gaggle of reactionary billionaires (the Walton family, of Wal-Mart, Eli Broad, of KB homes and AIG Retirement, and Donald Fisher of the Gap) have suddenly become champions of equality and are pushing charter schools as the solution.

The government is getting out of the business of governing. So it should be no surprise that privatization is being forced on school systems across the country. The United States really has two highly segregated school systems. Suburban schools are the best in the world; urban schools are among the worst. Privatization is being forced on urban school districts alone.

What happens, then, when the government no longer handles public education? It is then absolved of this essential responsibility.

The big ideological push for a decade now is to make everything personal responsibility. Then it’s your fault if something goes wrong. Government no longer is even expected to provide equal access.

When was it that the problem started being described, as in the article above, as “the achievement gap” rather than the refusal of government to fulfill the historical demand for real equality? Why do we now just assume that corporations are somehow going to do this better for us and let governments off the hook? Where were these discussions held?

The idea of school choice is another “get rich quick scheme” that sounds good until it is examined. What happened in America that should we even have to choose at all

Schools push out the students who take more time and resources to educate. Once privatized, schools compete for the “good” students. Middle-class parents, who have the time and know-how to work the system, get their kids into the “right” schools. Parents from poorer families generally lack these resources and usually wind up taking whatever they are given.

To paraphrase… the law, in all of its magnificence, allows poor parents, as well as rich, to drive their students across town twice a day in their Porsche SUVs to insure their kids are receiving a quality education. “Choice” benefits parents who have the resources to choose. It simply does not carry the same guarantees as a “right”.

Markets have never solved social problems. They create them.

All we have to do is look around to find the answers. The “free market” Bailouts are creating social problems in all directions, not eliminating them. This is the inevitable result of turning the responsibility for public problems over to private forces. The privatizers are all about deregulating public schools by eliminating public control.

Markets are designed for profit making. Remember when Bill Clinton told us that corporations were the best institutions to tackle the national health care disaster? HMOs have made things much worse, producing the worst health care for the highest price in the industrial world – and – completely outside public control. Sharpton and Klein support the domination of EMOs (Educational Maintenance Organizations) and the elimination of the responsibility of government to address the concerns of society.

In a ironic fashion, the “free market” imposes an equality of sorts on all the peoples of the US. This is the equality of poverty and its misery.

Read it in full:

Where Arne Duncan Sends His Kids to School

When asked this question: As the second education secretary with school-aged kids, where does your daughter go to school, and how important was the school district in your decision about where to live?

Duncan replied: She goes to Arlington [Virginia] public schools. That was why we chose where we live, it was the determining factor. That was the most important thing to me. My family has given up so much so that I could have the opportunity to serve; I didn't want to try to save the country's children and our educational system and jeopardize my own children's education.

Check the class size in Arlington and also the per spending per pupil. I wonder why he didn't send his kids to DC schools under Michelle Rhee? Think his daughter is going to get enough test prep? Does Arlington have mayoral control of schools? Or does Duncan get to vote on school budgets and have a school board? Duncan sends his kids to schools where he gets the same parental privileges that he wants to deny parents in urban school districts.

Tipped from EIA:

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Quiet Coup and the Coming Armageddon

Updated April 15, 2009

...or How I Learned to Live in a Banana Republic

Don't count this as rational. I'm a Terminator kind of guy and just finished watching an episode of the Sarah Conner Chronicles and am in the midst of John Gresham's latest, The Associate. So don't mind my paranoia. If Arnold were to show up as a robot from the future, I wouldn't be shocked. And if we faced the devastation in some apocalyptic films, I would nod and say, "see, told you so!"

Imagine the worst, as I often do. What Joel Klein or Eva Moskowitz or Randi Weingarten does may soon be irrelevant.

I saw on 60 Minutes how people were lining up to buy guns so they can defend their food in case society falls totally apart. I ran and buried my favorite nuts under the floorboard and started thinking about Cormack McCarthy's The Road. Imagine hordes of people going postal. Or will we start seeing educators taking hostages and have that term morph into "going pedagogic?" Do we worry about charter schools when we are all living in the woods?

Think Germany c. 1930. Things get really bad. Like 25% or more unemployment. Deflation. Or printing money leads to hyperinflation. I can't tell which, but either scenario looks like disaster. I mean, what if we're in a decade long hole that could make the lost decade in Japan look like a sunny spring day? Jeez, am I channeling Glenn Beck, who I consider a right-wing nut?

A black president who the left looks at as a front man for a coup by wealthy bankers and the right views as a socialist supported by a rabid youth movement that some loonies are comparing to Hitler Youth. That makes him a centrist where the word CHANGE has been changed to small change.

Some think the crisis is manufactured to create a sense that these bailouts, which will shift even more wealth in the hands of the few, are necessary, while that was the plan all along. As things deteriorate, some of the people on the left, who might have been rioting in the streets, are mollified by their guy in office – liberals who will try to keep hope alive. But what if Obama was part of the plan all along to enable this coup?

I see rioting from the right as more likely than from the left, which always seems so week in this country compared to places like Europe. Just a few years before Hitler took power, the left in Germany was stronger than the Nazis, who were looked on as a fringe. Hitler exploited that fear of the left and the German oligarchy came to see him as the less fearsome threat.

You already hear the right calling for people to take up arms, directed at the black president. Look at the names of so many of the "villains" of the financial crisis: Rubin, Bernacke, Madoff. It would not be hard to target a certain group to blame for the crisis – Blacks and Jews. Could be a hit with the right wing. Remember Father Coughlin's populist rants in the 1930's which turned anti-semitic and ended up with supporting Hitler? (No I really don't remember but I was a history major.)

From an article in The Atlantic,

“The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says [Simon Johnson] a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises. If the IMF’s staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform. And if we are to prevent a true depression, we’re running out of time.”

The entire article is worth reading and is at The Atlantic

The difference from other recent situations is that it is occurring world-wide so there is no one left to bail anyone out. The essence of Johnson's thesis is that bankers have done very well in this crisis. In his experience with emerging market economy crashes in the past, the small oligarchy, which had a symbiotic relationship with the government, always managed to glom the lion share for themselves, which hindered the recovery. These markets did not recover until these forces were broken up.

Now that the US is moving into banana republic territory (not the store), our own oligarchy must be damaged before recovery can begin. Batten down the hatches. In the US this relationship is more than symbiotic. They actually are the government (see one Goldman Sachs).

Related: Anything Reality-Based Educator writes over at NYC Educator. Start with this one.