Whenever I have had the opportunity at PEP meetings where I could address Joel Klein directly, I have pointed out that as long as even one teacher was hounded into the rubber room for political reasons, he would have more difficulty in removing even those teachers who should be removed. I called on him to monitor these political cases carefully to protect the integrity of a process to remove teachers who should be removed. And let's make no mistake about it, there are teachers who should not be teaching. I always make the point that if teachers were given power over running the schools, these people wouldn't last long at all.
NOTE: Check comments section where comments on the article from listserves are inserted.
Was Steven Brill commissioned as a hit man on the rubber room and ATRs?
A long article in the New Yorker by Steven Brill (posted on Norms Notes Biased and One Sided Article on Rubber Room and ATRs) goes after the rubber room people and ATRs. Brill uses selective interviews with principal Anthony Lombardi and Joel Klein with comments thrown in by Randi Weingarten.
The article is clearly designed as the opening salvo in a PR blitz to pressure the UFT to give up some protections in the current contract negotiations. The problem for the UFT is how to do it without causing members to go crazy. One way out for the UFT is to put up a weak fight to keep tenure law from being weakened by claiming they couldn't stop the state legislature from wanting to get some of the Obama/Duncan stimulus money. The contract supersedes the state law I believe and was already weakened in previous negotiations (thus, teachers have less protections that they would under current state law).
We have been predicting the coming assault on the ATRs and rubber room. We laid out the plan for ATRs over the weekend: Creating ATRs a Key Part of Privatization Plan pointing to the various phases. Though expensive, Bloomklein made an initial investment by agreeing to pay ATRs for a period of time with the goal of using the press and public opinion to force the UFT to give up something in exchange for raises.
Clearly, Brill was allowed access to rubber rooms. (When filmmaker Jeremy Garrett of "The Rubber Room" movie attempted to enter Brooklyn's Chapel St.rubber room he was arrested.) He selectively interviewed certain people who could help make his case. He even attended an open hearing. Note that he did not attend the most famous and often advertised open hearing, that of David Pakter.
Let's look at the writer who is making these judgements.
Brill (I'm assuming this is the guy, but correct me if I am wrong) himself has had some controversy. Hamilton Nolan wrote this past June in The Persistent Failure of Steven Brill. Check the site directly for the links, but here is the text.
Steven Brill has a reputation for being a media wise man—a deep-thinking mogul who's always spotting the opportunities of The Future. Which is kind of strange, since the majority of his projects have been ostentatious failures.
Brill's latest company, "Clear," which was supposed to save rich people a half hour standing in security lines at airports in exchange for $128 a year, is shutting down. Let's do a quick and dirty balance sheet of Brill's successes and failures—keeping in mind that to do your best is all your mom really asks.
The American Lawyer: Brill launched what would become the nation's leading legal magazine in 1979. This is not an unqualified success, though, since American Lawyer Media (now Incisive Media) is having problems right now.
Court TV: Brill created the network (now truTV) in 1991. After receiving a huge popularity boost from the OJ Simpson trial, it was sold it to Time Warner in 1997. For which Brill got a tidy sum.
Emily Brill: Steven's daughter, the ultimate narrator.
Brill's Content: Launched in 1998, this mediacentric mag was supposed to capitalize on America's insatiable thirst for news about the news! Turned out not that many people really care about the news about the news. Not enough to pay money, at least. Stopped publishing in 2001.
Contentville.com: A website selling "a variety of content ranging from thesis papers to ebooks." Closed in 2001.
Inside.com: The legendary media site that launched the careers of many top media reporters and also failed to make any money. The magazine version of Inside was merged with Brill's Content, and the website was part of a convoluted plan with Primedia to corner the market on media trade publications, but the whole thing was shuttered in 2001.
Clear: In the post-9/11 world, Brill noticed, airport security sure was a hassle. People would pay to be "verified" beforehand so they could breeze right through! Right? 165,000 people did, reportedly, and Clear raised more than $100 million from investors, but now it's dead, unable to afford to keep going.
Brill also wrote a couple books which didn't sell all that well and a column for Newsweek, but you can judge those on their own merits. He's not out of the game, though—his other ongoing venture is Journalism Online, a company that plans to help various magazines and newspapers charge readers for online access. Bet on it!
Hmmm. Steven Brill with a persistent record of failure, now reduced to writing about rubber rooms and ATRs.
If they had rubber rooms for the things people like Brill do, he'd be writing about himself.
The hearing Brill doesn't want to cover:
3020-a Teacher Trial of David Pakter
Continues Sept 8, 2009
49 Chambers Street, 6th Floor, 10 AM
Please request Hearing Room of the Hon. Douglas J. Bantle, Esq.
Thanks to Jeff Kaufman for posting the article.