Saturday, October 31, 2009

October 31, 2009 - Lehman Story Gets Legs, DOE Investigations of Teacher Whistle Blowers Gets Trashed by Sullivan as DOE Throws Child Under Bus

If you've been following the Lehman HS scandal exposed at Gotham Schools here and here and our follow-ups at Ed Notes, Lehman HS, School for Scandal, What Did Klein Know About Lehman and When Did He Know It? the story is gaining legs. CBS picked it up, closing with this:

Investigators are also looking into whether teachers who blew the whistle on the scandal improperly shared student records.

The back story is that teachers notified Joel Klein last March and he supposedly ordered an investigation - a very s----l----o----w investigation. When the school year began and they hadn't heard from investigators (I say investigate the investigators), teachers felt they were facing the same crap this year and went to the press with the phonied up student records. Now the DOE is investigating them for releasing student records (though phony, were they really student records?) I bet the teacher investigation takes priority over the cheating scandal.

Manhattan member of the Panel for Education Policy Patrick Sullivan pointed to the hypocrisy by comparing it to the case of the release of the test results of a 4th grader:

The Bloomberg administration has a double standard on student privacy.

On Wednesday, the Daily News covered the story of a 4th grader who was told she couldn't be in her school's dance program because she instead needed to attend test prep sessions.

DOE spokesman Will Havemann, in a feeble defense of the decision, proceeded to broadcast to the News readership that the girl scored "a low level 3" on her ELA.

By their twisted internal logic, releasing student data to smear a nine year old in defense of the Bloomberg administration is acceptable, yet furnishing transcripts with redacted personal information requires an investigation. This from the people who tell is their mission is to "put the needs of the children before the needs of the adults".

If anyone is interested, I plan to raise these issues with Chancellor Klein on the record at the Nov 12th PEP meeting.

Leonie Haimson followed with:

Why is this acceptable behavior David [Cantor]?

To reveal confidential test score information on a little girl, while investigating teachers who exposed major corruption? Not to mention the absurdity of barring a girl from taking dance classes because she tested at a “low level 3” – which by the way, means she is on grade level.

Over and over again, the administration has claimed that the emphasis on testing has not led to a decrease in arts education, yet we know this has happened. This case is a perfect example of the insanity that has taken over our schools.

In the response put out by the Bloomberg campaign to the candidate survey put out by the Center for Arts Education, asking about his elimination of the dedicated funding called Project Arts, they wrote: “rather than tying the hands of school leaders by dictating their budgets for them, we need to give principals control over their resources and hold them accountable for learning outcomes.

In other words, as long as those test scores go up, arts education be damned.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Learnin’ New Tricks

School Scope column for The Wave (www.rockawave. com)
October 30, 2009

By Norman Scott

I’ve always tried to take the “old dog, new tricks” cliché to new heights. One of the fascinating things about teaching was how much I learned from the students, probably more than they learned from me. I certainly learned a lot about the human condition. Most of the things I learned from kids occurred during the 17 years I taught self-contained classes in grades four through six. Spending almost entire school days with a bunch of kids for an entire year certainly gives you lots of insights. Twice I moved up with my classes. Spend two years with the same kids and you’ve moved into their heads. And they’ve moved into yours. But you have to pay attention and do a lot of observing.

In today’s world of test prep all the time teachers don’t seem to have the luxury of just watching their kids. Watching them do what? Fill in test bubbles? I used to enjoy watching them just be themselves and observe how they related to each other. We had enough space in the day for me to give them some breaks to relax and talk to each other. A very important aspect of education that is too often ignored is how much they learn from each other. And the numerous class trips, for many the only times they left the neighborhood (Williamsburg), were like little psychological laboratories. How much fun was it to see kids who were sniping at each other in class walking arm in arm and sharing a sandwich?

Acting 1.1
In the seven years I’ve been retired this old dog has discovered new tricks in unusual places. I recently began my third round of acting classes at the Rockaway Theatre Company with the amazing Frank Caiati. The members of the class range in age from late teen to ancient (me). Now Frank is about 23 years old and I probably could have taught his parents, but I’m learning a hell of a lot from him, not just about acting, but the human condition.

Frank is not only a great actor but also an insightful director. Teaching acting is not about showing how it’s done but helping the actor discover the character. What would a person given these characteristics do in a given situation? Having such understandings are important skills in the real world. (My ability to predict the behavior of the kids in my class once I got to know their characters made a big difference in the way I dealt with issues that arose.)

So when you get up to do your lines he wants you to know as much as possible about the relationships the character has, the background, what took place before your lines get read and what happens after you finish your lines. He gives us short two person scripts of about ten lines totally out of context with no plot or background. We have to make up the context and fill in the details. The script for each twosome is the same, but the lines come out meaning different things to each pair of actors.
Wow! What insights. And then Frank starts pushing. If you say you broke something right before the scene started he wants to know exactly what you broke. He wants to know what took place years before between the characters. “What does your character want and how will he/she get it?” That is his constant refrain. And he often sets up a situation where the two characters want very different things. That's when things really got going.

No one ever considers me shy. But getting up on a stage in front of an audience to perform is a frightening thing. As the videographer for the RTC, I watch every play they do through the lens and marvel at the talent and abilities of the people involved. So the idea of me ever having the nerve to go on stage seemed totally out of the question. Until I started working with Frank I used to think that acting involved getting it right the first time. But Frank teaches there is no right or wrong. Try stuff and don’t be afraid to fail. Work with the director and your fellow acting students to uncover the character and the relationship to other characters. I gained enough confidence in last year's class with Frank after doing a short scene with Joe Lopez, a young up and coming RTC actor, that when I was recently offered an opportunity to play one of the card players in an upcoming production of “The Odd Couple” being produced by the Bayswater Players in Far Rockaway, I was ready to take my shot, whereas BF (Before Frank) I would have run away screaming. My time constraints made me take a pass. If you’re thinking, “what time constraints, you’re retired,” don’t ask. But maybe next time.

I learned a few more tricks recently. Like when someone calls you with an offer with two free tickets to last Sunday’s Yankee with a few hours notice, drop all plans and say, “YES!” Which is what I did when a Met fan and Yankee hater chose to watch the Jets game. So I called up a former pre-k teacher from my school, a rabid Yankee fan. She didn’t hesitate. She is almost 80 years old now, but all the young female teachers in my school used to idolize her as the kind of independent woman they wanted to be, a woman who never stopped learning new tricks.

Unfortunately, I had to miss an event I was looking forward to. I help out on a Manhattan Neighborhood Network TV show called “Active Aging” which is run by a group of mostly former professionals in the industry, a fascinating group of people, mostly in their 70’s and 80’s who have taught me many new tricks. Sunday evening there was a birthday celebration for a 91-year-old tango dancer named Alex Turly at Sessions ’73, a restaurant and club that holds Tango dances every Sunday night. My partner, Mark Rosenhaft, and I were supposed to go up and tape it. My wife and Mark’s wife were kind enough to take my place and do the sound and lighting. The footage of Alex dancing with one woman after another, all dressed in Halloween costumes and learning new Tango tricks from an old dog, is priceless.

We took our twenty something cousins to Peter Lugers on Monday to celebrate one of their birthdays. The boys had just returned from a weekend in Michigan where they went to see the Penn State/Michigan game. They returned Sunday and the birthday boy had tickets to both the football Giants game and the Yankee game. What choices. (He chose the Yankees and we met up before the game.)

At dinner Monday night, the older brother was saying how proud he was when his younger brother “manned up” over the weekend. Now this is an expression I’ve been hearing more and more often and seems to be a code for what is considered proper manly behavior in these times. But I’m not always sure of the exact details of what it entails to “man up.” This old dog still has a lot of new tricks to learn and gaining a better understanding of “manning up” is one of them. I just hope my wife won’t be too mad when I do.

ATRs, Chicago, New Haven, and NY State Plan for Massive School Closings

That headline certainly is a mouthful. But there's a lot on the table in this post, so hang in.

Let's try to connect all the dots. (I put the entire series of links to articles mentioned here up on Norms Notes. Read them and weep.)

Let me start with this great quote from Leonie Haimson:

Why should any teacher be summarily be fired unless the decision is based on some objective criteria? Again, the stigma of being associated with a failing school is enough for the editors, which will provide a powerful disincentive for any experienced teacher to choose to move to a low-performing school. This is akin to blaming the workers at a GM factory for the conditions that led to the firm’s bankruptcy. Should they be barred from every being employed in the industry again if Toyota set up shop in the factory?

Think: close massive numbers of schools and create non-unionized charters.

Problem: that pesky UFT contract that guarantees ATRs created by closing schools and excessing will continue to be paid.

Solution: follow the Chicago and Washington DC model of giving ATRs one year to find a job or they're out. With the UFT contract expiring on Halloween, there is speculation the UFT will pull a sellout and give them what they want. (See Jennifer Medina's article - for which she interviewed me but I didn't make the cut- in today's Times).

Problem #2: This is the point I made to Jenny Medina. With an internal election coming this Jan/March, can the Unity/Mulgrew operation afford to give up the ATRs before then? Not that they expect to lose, but with almost every teacher in the system facing ATRdom, the fright factor might drive votes to the ICE/TJC slate and provide a sense of a growing and credible opposition.

Historically, the UFT/Unity machine comes in with a contract timed to the internal election, usually between November and January. So, there should be a contract signed soon after the mayoral election without any open attacks on ATRs, other than some definitive buyout offers, which is actually part of the 2005 contract. Now, there might be some hidden stuff in there. Like a "guarantee" for protection of ATRs that in reality will turn out to have no teeth.

Marjorie Stamberg comments on the Times article urging people to be vigilant:

Last year's demonstration at Tweed is a key reason why the DOE was forced to step back on its constant teacher-bashing and vilification of ATRs. Action by the ranks was important in getting UFT officialdom to try to deal with the problem they helped created in the first place by giving up seniority transfers and agreeing to principal control of hiring and the phony "open market" -- key elements of the corporate agenda for "education reform."

Make sure to watch the video I made of that crazy day - The Video the UFT Doesn't Want You To See: The ATR Rally

A Village Voice hit job on ATRs?

Gotham School gals Anna Philips and Phylissa Cramer wrote a disappointing piece on ATRs for the Village Voice (The City's Bid to Save Cash Leaves New Teachers Out in the Cold), that some teachers are viewing as part of the hit job on ATRs. The piece is all sympathetic for those poor new teachers (and most likely much more wonderful than any ATR) whose hopes about getting a job were dashed by the existence of those foul ATRs. There's not one quote from an ATR who's been screwed, but Ariel Sack's attack on the ATRs in her school is referenced. TILT!!

Here is one interesting point in the Philips/Cramer piece:

Much could depend on the outcome of the UFT's latest contract negotiations, which began last month. Teachers, city officials, and labor experts are speculating that the city will try to negotiate a time limit for how long teachers can remain in the ATR pool. The city says the reserve teachers—who are guaranteed a full salary—are costing the system millions of dollars that otherwise could be used to bring in new teachers who principals want to hire. Already, the DOE is pressuring ATRs harder than ever to find jobs, for the first time requiring them to interview at schools with openings in their field and to attend job fairs. Those who don't are subject to the department's disciplinary process. Chancellor Klein has said repeatedly that he would like to see a time limit placed on the hiring process, giving ATRs nine months to a year to find a new position before being terminated.

"The entire ATR situation is the result of a failed management strategy," says Dick Riley, a UFT spokesman. He insists the union is no happier about the ATR situation than the city is: "The DOE was aware that as it closed schools and cut back programs, veteran teachers would become available for new assignments, yet it continued to recruit new teachers. The result has been that some newcomers did not get the jobs they had been led to expect, and many veteran teachers are now working as substitutes."

NY State plans massive school closings

Then comes this NY Post reporter Yoav Gonen article (State charting new course for old HS's) that expands the idiocy, as the state wants to close a number of large high schools and create, not only thousands of ATRs, but thousands of high school kids floating around looking for new schools.

Here are a few choice tidbits from Yoav's piece:

State officials are seeking to dismantle as many as a dozen large city high schools and turn many of the newly created smaller schools that will occupy their buildings into charters, The Post has learned. Officials said they're also looking to partner with outside managers, such as CUNY and New Visions for Public Schools, to help run some of the newly formed schools. The controversial plan will be included in New York's application for a share of $4.3 billion in federal education aid, known as Race to the Top, which requires states to detail how they'll turn around their lowest-performing schools.

....this marks the first time that charter-school managers, who operate less than a handful of high schools in the city, have been asked to get involved in such restructuring.

sources said schools that are likely to make the list include Columbus and Gompers high schools in The Bronx, and Sheepshead Bay HS in Brooklyn -- although the principal at Sheepshead Bay denied her school would be on the list.

Schools on the state's annual list of failing schools -- including Boys and Girls HS in Brooklyn and even a number of middle schools -- are also likely contenders.

"There is not going to be a person in New York state who will be able to defend any of the schools that end up on our replacement list," state Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said at a recent conference. "It's not going to be a controversial list."

Chicago/Duncan model of school of school closings shows fault lines of policy

Merryl Tisch ought to read the report about the failure of Duncan's school closing policies in Chicago Report Questions Duncan’s Policy of Closing Failing Schools. With the emphasis on charters, they need to get that charter cap lifted and the pressure to do so to get that stimulus Race to the top money will be intense. But be assured, after they close almost every large high school and the city is awash in ATRs and a floating band of kids with no schools to go to, we will be reading a similar report in a few years. Unless they cover it up.

This story about the failures of the Ed Deform policy in the urban area with the longest history of mayoral control and ed deform was almost buried in the NY Times yesterday exposing so much of the ed deform program of closing schools. I included the Ed Week article and some comments by Leonie Haimson in my post of the reports at Norms Notes.
But here are some excerpts:
“If the findings are correct­—for Chicago, at least—we have to question the value of closing schools and creating the dislocations that would attend those school closings for little or no constructive result,” said Daniel L. Duke, a professor of educational leadership at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville.

Julie Woestehoff, the executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education, a Chicago advocacy group often critical of Mr. Duncan’s initiatives as district chief, said the study’s findings are more evidence that the district’s reform strategies are not working. The group has called for the end of Renaissance 2010, a district program that closes low-performing schools and replaces them with charter and charterlike schools run by private groups.

“When Arne Duncan announced this program, he said it was going to lead to dramatically better education for the children. We were hoping that would be true,” Ms. Woestehoff said. “There hasn’t really been any payoff from all the money that has been spent and all the disruption that has been caused to communities and especially to students.”

Chicago’s school closings returned to the spotlight this fall after a high school student was brutally beaten and killed in a fight near a South Side high school. Local activists have contended that the school closings created a dangerous mixture of students from rival neighborhoods. Mr. Duncan said earlier this month that blaming school closings for the uptick in violence was “absolutely ridiculous.” ("Outcry Against Violence," Oct. 14, 2009.)

New Haven teacher contract
The lunacy continues with Thursday's editorial in the Times on the New Haven schools contract, where our old friend and Klein Klone Garth Harries, who was hired on the recommendation of Ed Notes (Garth Harries Leaves DOE as Ed Notes Helps Pass Klein Lemons) is doing his magic. As I reported based on my conversation with a New Haven official, Harries was hired specifically because his ties to the BloomKlein administration were thought to give the city a leg up on getting stimulus money. Note the praise for Randi's AFT/UFT:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is right to push the nation’s schools to develop teacher evaluation systems that take student achievement into account. The teachers’ unions, which have long opposed the idea, are beginning to realize that they can either stand on the sidelines or help develop these systems. We hope they will get involved and play a constructive role.

The politically savvy American Federation of Teachers has decided that it is better to get in the game. In New Haven, the union has agreed in its new contract to develop an evaluation system in collaboration with the city. Secretary Duncan praised the agreement lavishly. But the accolades seem premature given that crucial details have yet to be worked out.

Leonie Haimson connects the dots between the school closings, New Haven, and Chicago stories

As ususal, Leonie Haimson puts it all together with these comments, which offer more of a defense of teachers rights than we ever hear coming from the UFT:

Today’s Times editorial delivers faint praise for the New Haven teacher union deal –because “administrators will be able to remove the entire staff at a failing school and require teachers to reapply for their jobs. This should allow the new principals to build stronger teams.”

(Teachers who are not rehired at these so-called turnaround schools will have the right to be placed elsewhere, at least until they are evaluated, which means that New Haven could still end up passing around teachers who should be ushered out of the system.)

Why should any teacher be summarily be fired unless the decision is based on some objective criteria? Again, the stigma of being associated with a failing school is enough for the editors, which will provide a powerful disincentive for any experienced teacher to choose to move to a low-performing school. This is akin to blaming the workers at a GM factory for the conditions that led to the firm’s bankruptcy. Should they be barred from every being employed in the industry again if Toyota set up shop in the factory?

The Times editors also criticize the deal for requiring that evaluations be made on multiple factors – with the factors weighted by a committee including teachers and administrators.

To be taken seriously, the evaluation system must be based on a clear formula in which the student achievement component carries the preponderance of the weight. It must also include a fine-grained analysis that tells teachers where they stand.

The Times, like Michelle Rhee, now implicitly equates “student achievement” with standardized test scores – without openly admitting that these words are being used as an euphemism because of the widespread unpopularity (and unreliability) of using test scores alone.

Indeed, there is no system that can reliably tie teacher performance overall to student test scores; there are too many uncontrolled variables and hidden factors. .

Meanwhile, Sam Dillon covers the report we posted yesterday, showing that most of the students who were transferred out of closing schools in Chicago did no better elsewhere, and the disruption in their lives caused their test scores to dip in the months following their transfer

Report Questions Duncan's Policy of Closing Failing Schools

… the report’s findings are likely to provoke new debate about Mr. Duncan’s efforts to encourage the use of Chicago’s turnaround strategy nationwide. He has set the goal of closing and overhauling 1,000 failing schools a year nationwide, for five years, and Congress appropriated $3 billion in the stimulus law to finance the effort.

Too bad the Times editors didn’t read this article first.

Now, it’s scary that, according to the NY Post, the model of closing schools and giving them over to charter schools and other management companies like New Visions is coming to NYC – as part of the state’s “Race to the top” application. No mention of the fact that the small schools that already exist and the charters enroll fewer low-performing students in order to get better results.

The difference between the school closure model and the “turn around” model is more semantics than anything else. In both cases, the strategy seems like a blunt instrument: focused on replacing teachers and students with a new crew, rather than actually improving conditions on the ground to allow them to become more successful. I predict that neither New Visions nor the charter schools will be willing to take the bait unless they are given substantial financial subsidies, and/or allowed to pick and choose the students they want, while discharging most of those already in the building to parts unknown.

For more, see State charting new course for old HS's at

This is the kind of stuff that should be in the NY Teacher. If I weren't supporting James Eterno, I would shout from the rooftops "Leonie for UFT president."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What Did Klein Know About Lehman and When DId He Know It?

Gotham Schools is reporting that the whistle blowing teachers at Lehman HS will be investigated over the fact they allegedly sent student records as proof of the cheating, apparently a violation of some law that does more to protect cheating admins that students.

City officials will investigate whistleblowing Lehman HS teachers

The teachers approached Gotham Schools with students’ transcripts after some of them had submitted the same transcripts to the Office of Special Investigations, but had not heard back for months and assumed the investigation was dead. Former Lehman teachers stood by their decision to share the documents. The principal “has a three-year contract and it takes the DOE an average of two years to complete any investigation,” one teacher said. “So she gets her bonus for increasing graduation rates and we’re supposed to keep quiet?”

The DOE sees fit to allow all sort of info to be released to charter school operators. And can phony grades manipulated by the principal be considered real grades being released?

I sent this to the NYC Education News listserve re: the Lehman HS cheating scandal, which I wrote about yesterday: Lehman HS, School for Scandal

What needs to be pointed out is that Klein was told Lehman and did nothing. He is as complicit as can be and the investigators should include him. What did Joel know and when did he know it?

My old buddy David Cantor, Tweed press chief, responded:

From: david cantor
Sent: Thu, Oct 29, 2009 9:18 pm
Subject: Re: [nyceducationnews] Now playing at ed notes: Lehman HS, School for Scandal

Norm, I don't know why you say the chancellor "did nothing" after learning of the allegations at Lehman. He was contacted by a teacher at Lehman in late March and asked general counsel Mike Best to follow up. Within a few days, I believe--I can get you the dates--Best met with teachers from the school, after which he referred their allegations to the Special Commissioner of Investigation (who in turn referred them to the Office of Special Investigation). The investigation began in April and has continued since. I'm not aware of any lack of timeliness around the DOE's response to the charges.
David Cantor

My response:

David, The smoking gun.

Let's see now. It seems to be almost November. Let me count the months.
Hmmm, 7. I didn't get to the point where I had to take my shoes off to count past 10, but if the story didn't come out at Gotham I believe I would have had to take off both shoes before we knew anything.

If Klein knew about Lehman in late March and many of the issues reported were going on in relation to graduating students, then nothing was done to interfere in a process that just happened to lead to "improved" grad rates that June. Boy, these investigations seem to take so long. Maybe it will be completed by the end of
Bloomberg's 4th term.

By the way, even little ole me knew about it months before that and was linking to the barely disguised 19 credits blog.
I see the teachers will be investigated and I would bet much more effort will go into that aspect and they will suffer much more than the cheating administrators, just as happened at JFK HS a few years ago when the whistle blowing teacher was sent to the rubber room and the admins got off scot free. We know you have your priorities.

And if the principal tampered with student grades, can they really be considered true student grades and therefore did teachers violate any law in releasing phony grades? Should make an interesting court case.

Oh, yeah, what about all that student info charter school operators are allowed to access in recruiting kids?

Best Norm

As this story goes citywide and beyond, we want to point out that Ed Notes, due to our impeccable sources, had the story for months and worked with the teachers to get the story out to the press. Why didn't we break the story last spring? Because the teachers were feeling their way as to the best route to take and we were there to help in any way possible. I was asked my opinion and I and the teachers thought Gotham Schools was the way to go. And of course we love Gotham's Anna Philips over here at Ed Notes. And not only because she treated us to dinner, but listened to the entire history of Ed Notes and ICE for two hours without falling asleep into her dinner plate (though I thought I saw a few yawns being stifled).

UFT Charter School Teaches Practice of Democracy - in Theory Only

The UFT Charter School 300 Wyona Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11207 5 year renewal hearing was held on Oct. 22.

"Currently serving Kindergarten through 9 grades, the UFT Charter School is committed to closing the achievement gap and creating a school built on democratic principles of respect, tolerance, and liberty so that students will alsobecome practitioners of democracy and civic responsibility. This school is authorized by the State University of New York – Charter School Institute. More information about the school can be found on the school’s website at"

Students will attend UFT Delegate Assemblies and Executive Board meetings to see democracy in practice.

More on Moo-Moo Here

Thanks to Susan Ohanian for mentioning our spoof of the NY Times article about a class trip taken by Harlem Success as a way to do test prep. She sent me a nice note that she was rolling with laughter. Unfortunately, an hour later she sent a note that Gerald Bracey had died and she didn't post her daily list that evening. So, I just came across the full range of her wonderful comments on the article in the Times titled, A Moo-Moo Here, and Better Test Scores Later, which she includes on her web site at the end of her comments.

Ohanian Comment: I made a 'regular' comment on this nutty news item [see below] but now the penultimate comment has just appeared over at Ed Notes. I wish I'd thought of this, I wish I'd thought of this, I wish I'd thought of this. Test Questions on Outer Space Lead Eva Moskowitz to Book Space Shuttle for Harlem Success Field Study.

Eons ago, I was a teacher in a special federal program, given the mandate of helping urban kids do better in school. In those days, if a school got a federal grant, teachers made the decisions on implementation. I know, I know: Some people are smarter than others. But I didn't hear of any systematic abuse of children, which is so pervasive in schools now that I can't keep up with it.

One thing we did was take a busload of kids from upstate New York to the Barnum & Bailey Circus in New York City. It wasn't a matter of thinking "clowns: or "elephants" might appear on the standardized test kids took in the Spring. It was a matter of expanding children's horizons, helping them see beyond their insolated and isolated neighborhoods.

Hell, when I taught in Queens, New York City, I used Federal dollars to take two busloads of students to the Cloisters, also in New York City: expanding children's horizons, helping them see beyond their insolated and isolated neighborhoods.

Back with the circus trip: I've never forgotten one 5th grader asking, "Do they have different money in New York City?"

Unlike the five-year-old in the story below who thought he was visiting the farm so he could "get smarter on tests," our students looked forward to a good time for the sake of a good time. Only we teachers looked to the possibility of some deeper, longterm benefit. Unlike the folk at the Harlem Success Academy, we didn't have "a relentless emphasis on data," but we did believe that children should have many opportunities to explore the world--in books and in field trips."

Imagine reading stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table so children will "glide through questions" on this topic.

For Eva S. Moskowitz, even a visit to a farm has to be "rigorous." And when children are required to come up with an "I didn't know" statement, they'll tell you they didn't know chickens made eggs. . . right on schedule.

In my analysis of the NAEP items for fourth grade I found that topics include an American female astronaut on Mir, crab hunting, wombats, and life in the American Colonies. Two items, a West African tale and a pourquoi story from William Bennett's edited collection The Moral Compassare in the folklore genre. There are two stories about rural children and their dogs. Field "study: possibilities are staggering.

Take a look at the spot-on comments of a teacher who quotes a great observation a New York City principal left in the "comments" section of the article.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lehman HS, School for Scandal

We've been hearing stories since last year out of the Lehman HS in the Bronx, one of the few large schools remaining, about how the new principal, Janet Saraceno, who replaced the legendary ogre principal, Robert Leder, was considered even worse.

I was tipped to the 19credits blog when it first began last February and put a link on Ed Notes. It started out as somewhat cryptic with a fictional motif, calling Lehman "Herman High". I spoke to one of the authors, who is known as moral obligation, last March. We discussed giving the blog more of a direct link to Lehman to get more traction. This year they did so. And it is paying off.

I was slipped a letter of resignation from a fed up Lehman teacher in late June which I passed on to Anna Philips, Phylissa Cramer and Elizabeth Green at Gotham at the time. With summer coming on, nothing was done. But today, the stuff should start flying out of the fan.

Gotham just published an explosive report on the Lehman situation written by Anna Philips. Congrats to Anna and the crew for sticking with the story and putting together this excellent in-depth report.

Our sources report that Joel Klein has been directly informed about the situation at Lehman for quite some time, making this quote from David Cantor a total joke: “The Office of Special Investigations is investigating allegations of grading improprieties at Lehman,” said a spokesman for the Department of Education, David Cantor. “We’ll comment once we have findings.”

Sure David. You should have asked Joel about Lehman, since he's known about it for a long time. Send the investigator over there and ask why Klein sat on the information he received.

Excerpts from Anna Philips' report:

As part of a Department of Education program to lure principals to the city’s most challenging schools, she was given a bonus and the title “executive principal.” At the time, this perplexed more than a few parents and teachers, who told the city’s daily newspapers that they couldn’t understand why a school with a “B” on its latest report card needed to offer its new principal an extra $25,000 a year.

According to current and former teachers, Saraceno methodically set about increasing the school’s 47 percent graduation rate by changing students’ grades from failing to passing over the objections of their teachers and, in some instances, in violation of state regulations.

“Leder was not a perfect human. We had hoped that anybody would have been better,” said a current teacher. “It turned out his replacement was much much worse. She has changed Lehman into a diploma mill.”

Grade changing is not an entirely foreign phenomenon at Lehman. Teachers who worked under Leder said he sometimes asked them to change student athletes’ grades if their grade point average slipped below the minimum required for them to play, or if a student was mere points away from passing a class. But that process involved conversations with teachers in which Leder persuaded them to sign the paperwork, they said. Today, failing grades disappear from transcripts without warning, teachers said.

“Leder’s corruption was at least confined to a cohort of 50 kids,” said a former teacher who was one of eight math teachers to leave Lehman last year. Former and current math teachers said their department has borne the brunt of the grade changes, as it has the lowest pass rate within the school.

“Saraceno is actually worse. It’s sickening that I would take him over her,” said the teacher, who now works at a charter school.

Our sources at Lehman, who while admitting that Leder was a tyrant, felt he was the tyrant you knew. "He had an educator's mentality and if he believed you were serious he left you alone," said a teacher. "If he said he was going to consult with teachers and let them run the ship he meant it. There was no bull." Saraceno, on the other hand was described as duplicitous, going through phony charades to make it look like she was consulting with teachers, but still pushing her own program in a dictatorial way that at times made Leder look mild mannered. Well, maybe not exactly but maybe it was the devil you know factor operating. Her move to break Lehman into Small Learning Communities (SLC's) was fraught with manipulations and fear mongering against recalcitrant teachers. The SLC situation caused as much consternation as the credit recovery game.

Make sure to check out the 19credits blog to get the full background scoop.

There is a pro-admin blog, 19stepsahead, that has 2 posts so far. If you have nothing good to report, say nothing but make sure to put down the critical blog that says it all. This sounds familiar when shills come out:

For months conversation about Lehman High School, the new direction of the administration, and its development into SLC's has been dominated by what it would appear are a minority of loud complaining people... with lots of time on their hands to write "creative" stories, but with little real steps being offered to make effective change.

Hmmm. Joel Klein could be writing this.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

ATR Zombies Invade

When Ariel Sacks' piece, ATRs in the Teachers Lounge, opened with "Strange happenings … There are ATRs in the teacher’s lounge of my school" it got me to thinking there was a touch of, "My God, we've got ATRs. Get the poison spray." A short note to David Bellel, and a short time later, Voila!

Slugging It out over ATRs (and seniority transfers) Part 2

Arthur Goldstein, chapter leader at Francis Lewis HS, has written one of the best pieces on ATRs and in defense of the old seniority transfer system over at Gotham Schools.

In ATR — A Simple Twist of Fate, Arthur tells how he himself benefited from the system.

For a while, there was also a UFT transfer plan. If you worked in a building for a number of years, you could consult a list of openings in your subject area. You could then select from those openings and move to another school. Judging from tabloid editorials, the UFT transfer plan was evil. From what I’ve read, it was used exclusively by lazy incompetent teachers who moved around to inflict more misery in new and different places. This notwithstanding, I used the plan...

I can't imagine a school that would not want Arthur as a teacher. Well, maybe in today's world the all empowered principals would not want Arthur. He makes too much money. And he is willing to point out the idiocies perpetrated by so many administrators. How come we hear about how important it is to get rid of bad teachers, while the much higher rate of awful admins goes unnoticed?)

I know many superb teachers who used the seniority transfer plan. Most of them went from, let's call them "challenging" schools to places where teaching wasn't a wrestling match. They were often greeted with suspicion by administrators an fellow teachers. "Look where they are coming from. Failed schools. They must be awful teachers." Sort of the attitude we see today about ATRs, which I addressed in part 1: Slugging it Out Over ATRs at Gotham, Part 1

But in reality, those wrestling matches had prepared them very well to teach just about anywhere. At a Manhattan Institute luncheon honoring Christopher Cerf, in trying to prove his point that quality of teaching was the most important factor and that student success on tests was the key factor, he claimed that if we switched the entire teaching staffs (including supervisors) of a "successful" school with the staff at a "failing" school we would see the latter rise up into the stratosphere. I challenged him to try it. "Find a grant and test your hypothesis," I said. "I would bet my pension that the opposite will occur. That the teachers from the "successful" school going to the "failing" school would go through hell while the "failed" teachers would flourish."

All my friends who made such a switch did flourish. They were surprised at how easy things seemed at their new schools. No wonder the teachers never wanted to leave (often dieing at their desks), which was what made it so hard to get the UFT transfers in the first place.

Thinking back to my days in elementary school, I remember my teachers (who I mostly liked and thought were pretty good, though one did practically die at her desk) often gave us "work." Like, read for the next hour and answer these questions while they marked papers. In my 18 years in self-contained classes, the idea of giving "work" was a joke. I could see a 15 minute break here or there, but the day was spent teaching - or wrestling.

Arthur, an ESL teacher, decided to look for a transfer after an AP assigned him to teach Spanish

...I was appointed to teach ESL, and there was that bothersome UFT contract. She couldn’t force me. I’d already told her I’d been offered a 3:30 class at Queens College and she said it was no problem-so I’d accepted. She decided to make me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

She said, “Mr. Goldstein, I’m going to assign you to teach five Spanish 1 classes in September. If you don’t agree to do it, I’m going to give you a late class and you’ll have to forget about Queens College.”

This was a tough decision for me. What to do?.... I was just married, had just bought a house, and I really needed that second job. But I loved teaching ESL.

Thank goodness for Arthur there was a UFT transfer plan and he got into Francis Lewis HS, where his ESL AP took a different tack:

My new AP at Francis Lewis was wonderful. To this day, I’ve never seen anyone who could handle people quite like she could. One semester, she asked me if I’d mind teaching a Spanish 1 class. I told her sure. I’d have done anything she wished. I’d have put her statue on the dashboard of my car. She’s gone now, and so is the UFT transfer plan that sent me here. I miss them both.

Ahh, such a simple rule for so many idiot supervisors. Just ask and say "pretty please" and respect the UFT contract without rancor.

Arthur has a deep understanding of the situation ATRs find themselves, a point Ariel Sacks missed in her piece at Gotham that was critical of the ATRs in her school. Here is one of the paragraphs that has caused more than a few comments:

they do not want to be at my school, and they know they are not wanted either. In the classroom, they behave like incompetent substitutes. No order, no real planning, no real teaching. Some have been rude to students on occasion. Students get rude right back to them (and you know how middle schoolers can be when they feel disrespected). It’s not good.

Arthur's points responds to some of what she said:

I love to teach. It’s exciting to meet new kids and get to know them. It’s even more exciting if you’re an ESL teacher and they come from every corner of the world. I’m very proud I can play some small part in helping them along.

If you take that away from me, I’ll be lost, and that’s precisely the sense I get from ATR teachers I know. I read one writer speculate about how wonderful it would be to not have the day-to-day responsibilities of lesson planning and follow-up, but I’ve yet to meet the real-live ATR teacher who was happy about it.

I can imagine most teachers who had learned their craft in their particular niche and finding themselves totally out of their context being more than a bit flummoxed. If one day I was teaching in an elementary school where I knew all the kids and the next was sent to sub at a middle school I might just be a bit perturbed. And probably look like an incompetent sub. I spent my first year and a half in teaching as an incompetent sub, one of the hardest teaching gigs I had. And I was in the same school and actually termed an ATR - and that was in 1967. But while I learned how to handle basic discipline, it was much easier to do when I had my own kids. Thrown back into subdom in another school and possibly with a group of kids of an age I wasn't used to....

The first comment on Arthur's piece out of the box came from the UFT's defender to all things UFT, Peter Goodman. Goodman, who writes the Ed in the Apple blog, was a district rep in Brooklyn for many years, as was his wife in the Bronx, two district reps with double pensions. And when the UFT was looking for a principal for one of its charter schools, after a long an expensive search, their son Drew Goodman was chosen. He didn't last too long after numerous teacher complaints. Goodman also served in paid positions on panels that lead to the closing of schools, which is a major cause of the growth in the number of ATRs.

This statement by Goodman was astounding:

"By the time the UFT and the DOE agreed to end seniority transfer more than half of all city schools had opted for the SBO Staffing Plan, that exempts them form seniority transfers … each year more schools were opting to participate in the SBO plan and it was clear that the SBO plan would replace seniority transfers."

So we ended up with a system, in a world of total principal power, where most teachers play no role in most schools.

If half the schools didn't have SBO plans, mostly because the principal didn't want to give teachers any role at all, then half the schools were still available for UFT transferees. However, we know that schools that are troubled, and there are an awful lot of them, were not targets for UFT transferees. As I said, generally, the UFT transfer plan allowed a teacher who had put in years of work in a tough place to try to find some place that might be a bit less stressful to teach in and closer to home. Of course under BloomKlein, they have tried to make every place enormously stressful. And of course, there are the cases where awful administrators were on your back. Or just take Arthur's own personal story as to why he transferred.

The UFT transfer, had flaws in it, but still gave about 5-600 teachers a year an option. But it became a whipping boy for political reasons and instead of defending a plan that worked in its own narrow sphere, the UFT went along with the attacks. That Arthur would not have these options today is a sign of what has been lost.

The flaws as I remember: The current principal had to sign off I believe and that was unfair. I heard of people who got good jobs but the principal stopped them from leaving. My memory could be hazy.

Teachers put down a few choices and were sent to one of them. Some often didn't get the school they wanted and passed and could not reapply for 2 years I think.

Principals often tried to intimidate some of the tranferees into not accepting the position, as they often had someone in mind.

They also found numerous ways to cover up positions. For years people who lived in Staten Island or New Jersey and wanted to transfer to SI, mostly for travel reasons - kept getting rejected while noticing a number of young teachers who were somehow working in the positions they had hoped to get.

So Goodman's follow-up comment in responding to Arthur's question about going back to the old system "as far as returning to seniority transfer … is there a consensus among members. I doubt it. Teachers want to control who teachers in their schools," must bring laughter to the overwhelming majority of teachers who have less than zero power. That argument is pure sophistry, but totally logical, given Goodman's slavish allegiance to UFT policy.

He has the nerve to say "I don’t speak for the union," which sparks much mirth in those of us who have been involved in UFT activities for many years. Of course Goodman speaks for the union position. There is not one thing he has written or said publicly that contradicts any union position on any issue and he would find a way to justify just about anything the union decides to do. So, here's another question for Goodman not to respond to:

As a member of Unity Caucus isn't he bound to support every position taken by the Caucus which runs the union or face expulsion (and the loss of those trips to conventions, jobs for friends and family, etc.) ?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Slugging it Out Over ATRs at Gotham, Part 1

Ariel Sacks, a 4th year middle school teacher in Brooklyn, has written a piece on ATRs at Gotham that has ignited a fire storm. See ATRs in the Teachers Lounge.

There are 60 c0mments and counting, with all sides chipping in. The Fiorillo comments are always worth tracking, as are Mr. Talk and Michael M. Of course, I agree with their sentiments. Sacks is undergoing quite a thrashing, while being defended by the usual anti-teacher crowd. She seems to really resent having people around her school who she feels don't work as hard as her but get paid more. It seems logical to some people that she is right. Naturally, I don't agree.

More interesting is the hysteria over the possibility that there are some potentially bad teachers out there. HELLO!

Believe me, I had my share of bad teachers as a kid and saw a few as a teacher. But the overwhelming majority of teachers were competent, though I think the number of great/bad teachers would come out to about the same numbers. In fact, most teachers are pretty good but few are great. Yet the ed deformers predicate their program on having all teachers be great. That's like saying you cannot have a good baseball game unless all players are a the level of Willie Mays.

No matter how hard people huff and puff to get rid of bad teachers - for instance, measure them by test scores and I bet you lose as many good ones as bad ones. In fact I surmise more honest teachers who understand and try to teach realistically will go down the drain, while the free loaders will figure out the easy ways to get better scores and never worry about really trying to teach in the best manner that meets the needs of the kids.

Look at the numbers of teachers and how many leave the job in droves within 5 years - both good and bad. The replacement factor automatically brings in a new crop of bad (and good) teachers with every round. These people get to experiment on the kids for a few years until they are denied tenure. Think of the effort - and hot air - spewing forth about removing teachers. I would rather have a 10 year bad teacher than a 2 year bad teacher. Either way, you're going to get them anyway.

My answer it to figure out a way to make the best use of whatever talents they have. There is really a lot of useful work to do in a school and some would rather do any work other than teach.

Not to say that there are impossible cases that bug their colleagues even more than the outside "experts" like Kristof and Brooks. I always believed if teachers ran the schools - even hiring the principal (along with parents) - their fellow teachers who were goof-offs would shape up or ship out. And there are certainly a bunch of people who are actually competent but don't want to work very hard or don't think much of the kids.

By the way, there are teachers who don't like kids all that much but actually teach pretty well and there are teachers who love the kids but can't teach their way out of a paper bag. There are teachers who put in a tremendous amount of time and those who don't, but don't judge them by that factor. I had to put in time because I was not organized. We should factor in the organized factor in talking about good teachers. I could get in front of a class on a dime and teach my ass off with almost no prep. Creativity sometimes seemed to flow out of me. Other times not. Getting the stuff ready drove me crazy, as did marking papers. So if you saw me in my various roles I played as a teacher, you could find many levels of competency from bad to sometimes great. (I do think today I would be a very different teacher than I was. But certainly not in the world of BloomKlein.)

Want to think about bad and good teachers? Think back to the ones you had as a kid and rate them on a 1-5 scale. Now if your kids had to rate you as a teacher, how do you think you would do? What about parents rating you? What about the principal? And your colleagues like Ariel Sacks? Better not go there. I bet the numbers might vary considerably depending on the audience rating you. Then factor in the scores your kids get on tests as your rating. How would that change the way you teach? Not for the better, I bet, though the lower level, non creative types would do better.

And by creative, I do not mean drawing pretty pictures, but creativity in reaching deep into the minds of kids and coming up with ways to hold their interest and stimulate them, a skill great teachers have, but a skill not values in the world of ed deform.

Part 2 will address the hysteria over bad teachers compared to other professions that can harm kids much worse than a bad teacher: police harassing black kids, lower quality doctors and other health professionals in the poorer neighborhoods, less competent military leaders when poor kids get to Afghanistan? Lousy court appointed lawyers to defend the overwhelmingly high numbers of Black kids than white kids - no one want to talk about that gap. Oh yeah, and when they have passed through the school to prison pipeline, they meet a few prison guards that just may be more harmful than the bad teachers.

PS 15 Teacher Calls on "Moaning" Mona Davids, Self-Proclaimed President of the NY Charter Parents Association, to Apologize for Race Baiting Remarks

I'm posting a letter from a teacher at the Patrick Daly School (PS 15) in Red Hook, Brooklyn to "Moaning" Mona Davids, self-proclaimed president of the NY Charter Parents Association over the outrageous comments she made at Gotham Schools blog where she tried to pull the divisive race card. (These "Parent Associations" are often funded by the same philanthropists backing the privatization movement. See the work of the Perimeter Primate cited at the end of this posting.)

It is worth checking out all the comments on the Sept. 18 posting at Gotham.

Davids apparently created an organization, got an office on Water St. in Brooklyn, and made herself president. Nice work if you can get it.

On Sept. 17, Davids came down from her perch in Co-op City in the Bronx to make an appearance at the Dist. CEC 15 meeting in Red Hook Brooklyn to castigate the teachers for coming into Red Hook from outside the neighborhood. You can't make this stuff up, but I have the video of Moaning Mona's speech on you tube,

Long-time PS 15 teacher calls for Davids to apologize for her remarks:

Ms. Davids:

I am a teacher at The Patrick F. Daly School in Red Hook, Brooklyn. I am writing in response to the comments Ms.Davids made at the CEC meeting which was held at PS 15 on September 17th, and also to the comments she wrote on the blog at Gotham Schools (Here is an excerpt from that blog entry):

“Every teacher that spoke last night was white, did not live in the community and at the end of the night got into their cars and left… The PS15 teachers who all got into their cars last night and drove out of the community are the ones who need to get out of PS15.”

Ms. Davids…How dare you say that I am not a part of the Red Hook Community. I have supported the children of the Red Hook Community for over 15 years.

I have worked with the Red Hook Community to teach its children both academically and morally. I have joyfully given my time and energy to guide my students to reach their personal potential and goals. I have collaborated with parents to help each child perform to their best and mature in an ethical manner. I have made myself available to my students and their families in order to work together to this end. My students have grown and I have delighted in their progress.

I have grieved with the Red Hook Community when a student in my class was killed in a snowplow incident over a weekend. I have counseled my students and helped them cope with the death of a classmate. I have taught my students to focus on the positive aspects of a person when their life is ended and to celebrate their life, while also experiencing the sadness of their death.

I have celebrated with the Red Hook Community at many functions. I have shared food with them at our annual Thanksgiving dinner. I have laughed with them at the after school's annual Halloween festival. I have been entertained with them at the multitude of performances both by our band and chorus, and by our after school program. I have attended softball games of my students in the Red Hook ball fields. I have used the facilities of the Red Hook library and I frequent various Red Hook establishments. And…..I travel by the Red Hook Buses … not by a car.

I have been on network television on The Oprah Winfrey Show with the Red Hook Community. Due to the efforts of my class, every student in our school received a generous gift certificate and hundreds of students and family members were treated to a Knicks game. I attended that game also, with other members of the Red Hook Community and…I took the subway…not a car.

You focused on “color” in your remarks, Ms.Davids. What color am I? I am a multitude of colors Ms.Davids. My life has been touched by every person I have encountered in this lifetime Ms. Davids. I am a kaleidoscope of colors and mirrors, reflecting the connections I have created by my ability to see people AS people….NOT as a statistic….and most definitely, Ms.Davids….MOST DEFINITELY…..NOT as a “color”.

By the way, Ms.Davids…I am the person who approached you after the CEC meeting and told you how your comments affected me. You did not offer an apology then Ms. Davids. I am requesting one now. I am requesting an apology from you for ALL of the teachers and staff who give so much to the Red Hook Community on a daily basis. You chastised us for defending our school We must be praised for defending our school, for in defending our school, we are standing up for our students. What better tribute to their students can teachers give?

Ms. L.Pantuliano Teacher-The Patrick F. Daly School, PS15 Brooklyn

Michael Fiorillo commented at Gotham Schools about Davids:

...a quick bit of research shows that she is the head of Azania Holdings, which is describes itself as involved in "business development," "strategic investment," "marketing" and "branding." Which is exactly what the push for charters is all about. Azania Holding focuses on South Africa, which has endured the widespread privatization of public resources that is one of the hallmarks of neo-liberalism. Some people recognize a great business opportunity when they it, I
guess, and are investing accordingly.

CAPE also commented on Davids' business connections to the Bloomberg administration:

This Bronx parent advocate has way deeper ties to the Bloomberg Administration and the business world than her role as President of Charter School Parents Association, or she, reveals. We love how this article states that she just decided to start this group up, and mentions nothing about the money and support behind her, let alone her business dealings. It reminds us of the new trend in politics; astroturf movements as opposed to true grassroots movements. Here is a woman, who came from the Bronx into Red Hook to scream at a crowd of concerned educators and parents and tried to divide them with racial undertones and vicious attacks on teachers. This same woman runs a company that is the only bridge to new development in South Africa and NYC, which the Bloomberg Administration is seeking investment with. Let us be clear, the goals of business investment and commerce between the United States, specifically NYC, and African nations is a good one; what is questionable is the ties and connections and the 'back-scratching' nature of it all; not to mention the fact that Mona presents herself as a neighborhood parent advocate, which apparently according to her, white people and teachers can't be, when really she is a very savvy, very organized, very funded, and very connected business woman. This is certainly does not negate her role as an active parent, we just ask for truth and transparency. When one hides or misrepresents who they are or what their interests are, it makes you wonder...

Sharon Higgins at the Perimeter Primate wrote about the "creation" of charter school parent organizations. Here is an excerpt:

Maria Guadalupe Mena of Garfield High School "Community members stated they were offered monetary compensation [by Green Dot] in exchange for their signature on a petition."

The Parent Revolution group Ms. Mena refers to is also known as the Los Angeles Parents Union, and is a descendant of a Green Dot “project” called the Small Schools Alliance.

The 2007 Form 990 for the Broad Foundation shows that it gave $75,000 to
the Small Schools Alliance, “To match SEIU funds to support the launch of the Los Angeles Parents Union.” Broad also gave $75,000 directly to the Los Angeles Parents Union (aka The Parent Revolution”) to support its business plan. It’s almost certain that more Broad contributions will show up for 2008; when I get access to those records I’ll let you know. Incidentally, Broad directly gave $1,210,040 to Green Dot Public Schools in 2007. Green Dot is Steve Barr's charter management organization which took over LA's Locke High School and brought an armed security force to campus.

I believe the money supplied by Broad is what would be paying for the propaganda (leaflets, on-air spots, websites, etc), to make it seem like the movement is being generated by "the people," when in fact it is a carefully planned, targeted marketing campaign.

So this is how it works.

Green Dot invents an organization called Small Schools Alliance (“SSA”). Then Eli Broad gives that organization some money to give birth to another organization they will call the Los Angeles Parents Union (aka The Parent Revolution). Then Broad delivers another chunk of money directly to support the business plan of that secondary organization (LAPU/Parent Revolution). This is probably not the only money the organizations have received; there's a strong likelihood other pro-charter "philanthropists" are making huge contributions, too.

Sharon's full piece is at:

Independent Community of Educators is Ready to Parteeeeee!

ICE plans its first fundraiser of the UFT election year


Benefit to raise funds for the UFT elections

Show your support for ICE —
the Independent Community of Educators,
a caucus of the UFT

Come out and enjoy a late afternoon/evening
of conversation, food and drink.

Stay late. There're no students in
school the next day,
only PD!

When: Monday, November 2, 2009,
the day before Election Day

Where: Woody McHale's, 234 West 14th St.
(between 7th & 8th Aves.)
Time: 4PM - 7PM and beyond

See your local ICEer to buy a ticket.
Advanced Reservations can be made at, or call 917-538-9815.

ICE blog ICE main site

Read the full ICE platform at UFT Elections 2010

Sick of Unity Caucus controlling the UFT for 45 years?
The UFT leadership is the true Manchurian Candidate, the enemy within.
Help to build a base that can become an alternative to Unity.
And make sure to check out sections of the dynamic and progressive platform at the new ICE election blog: UFT Elections 2010

Capital City Band Appearing Saturday Night

As an old fogey, hanging out with young people can be like a transfusion. Call it "Dracula light," drinking up the energy. Now, many of the young activist teachers we meet don't have all that much energy left after a day of teaching and then heading off to more meetings. But we have some non-teacher backups.

We got a message from our good friends Dan and Robyn Scherr, who live in Perth Australia (you can't get any further from Williamsburg, Brooklyn where, Dan was raised in pre-gentrification days).

Their son Sam’s band, Capital City, is scheduled to appear at the CMJ New Music First Marathon in NYC October 20-24. They will appear at the Ace of Clubs on Great Jones Street in the Village on Saturday night the 24th at @ 10pm. Their new album, Keep it Stupid, Sucker will be out on October 17.

We're meeting Sam for dinner tonight after we see "An Education." Maybe he'll bring the entire band. Hmmm, that Keep it Simple, Sucker would make sense. But, no, he is coming alone- I think. We'll be heading to bed after dinner, while he will be off to do what musicians from far, far away hanging out in NYC do. Here's a blurb on the band:

"For those who came in late to the whole Capital City story, this Australian band fronted by a diminutive Israeli-born, Washington-raised Western Australian ball of energy (Sam), started in Perth in 2000. More

Looking for something to do Sat. nite? Check it out.

In the meantime, our touching bases with the young 'uns continues with a visit to Peter Lugers on Monday night with our three 20-something cousins. The two boys are heading to Michigan today for the Penn State game and then flying back for the Giants game Sunday night and if there's a Yankee game, they may hit that. What a life. I'm tired just thinking about it. Our young lady cousin is working selling cable TV ads, so she is not having as much fun, but as a non-native New Yorker, she is still having a blast living in the city and is looking forward to her first Peter Luger steak dinner. Afterwards, we may check out some surfer bands in the Burg. Groovy. Can I take a nap now?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Village Voice Best of: And the winner is....

The annual Village Voice "Best of" awards are out and guess which paper is the top neighborhood paper? I agree, but I'm prejudiced. Hey, after a 116 years, you get it right. (I guess the pages with my twice monthly School Scope column were stuck together when the reviewer went through the paper).

Best Neighborhood Paper

The Wave of Long Island

Fate led us to The Wave of Long Island, "Rockaway's Newspaper Since 1893," and we have lauded it ever since. Sometimes our praise has been fanciful, as with our Pulitzer Prize nominations for the hideous editorial cartoons of Robert Sarnoff. And there's as much happy-clappy stuff in The Wave as in any other neighborhood tab. But Rockaway is a fascinating place neglected by both the city and its media, and The Wave diligently reports its stories, from "Shooting Incidents Rip Rockaway" to "New Diner Management Hopes to Erase Nightmare Beginning." The paper's stories on local politics also fascinate ("[Council candidate] Jacques Leandre is a civil attorney with ties to the Nation of Islam and the Rosedale Jets youth football league"). Coverage of the area's numerous local homicides is exemplary—specifically, The Wave's stories on the investigation that freed Kareem Bellamy after 14 years for a murder he didn't commit would do honor to any city paper. "Rockaway Irregular" conservative columnist Stuart W. Mirsky makes more sense than David Brooks and Ross Douthat put together, and the letters to the editor are often sublime ("You are beautiful black people but you are showing too much breast and backside"). And it's only 35 cents for a paper copy.

ICE urges all readers to vote against Bloomberg!

Published at the ICE blogs and web site: UFT Elections 2010, ICE Blog, ICE Web site

ICE Statement on the Nov. 3, 2009 Vote for Mayor

The election on November 3rd will have lasting consequences for public education and the city. It deserves the attention and involvement of all New Yorkers. The UFT has a long history of candidate endorsements made without any regular process of consultation with the membership and often contrary to members' interests. The decision to sit out the contest between Michael Bloomberg and his opponents speeds us to the brink of more disasters. If appearances are real and the UFT leadership's passive support for the mayor's reelection is a deal for a new UFT contract by deadline, our union is deeply complicit in another landmark defeat for the teaching profession.

Nearly eight years of direct control over the schools have provided Bloomberg with an unchecked opportunity to implement numerous policies premised on distrust and contempt for teachers, students and school communities. Early on with his rush to implement grade retention policy he put the blame on 8-year olds for low reading scores and further worked to make standardized testing a year-round concern. “Weekend, vacations, summer -- time off is a luxury earned, not a right,” he told a radio audience in 2002. Chancellor Klein went to work making testing an obsession for all schools by hanging their fate on it.

His administration accelerated the wholesale closing of neighborhood high schools. Together with a successful assault on teachers' contractual rights this led to the creation of an excess teacher reserve force in the thousands. The result of dozens of school phase-outs deepened the gulf between the two worlds children in New York encounter at the high school level. One consists mostly of large neighborhood or selective schools and is increasingly filled with white and Asian students An entirely different realm awaits black and Latino students consisting mostly of new small schools, stripped of both enrichment programs, IEP services and bilingual programs and plagued with teacher turnover.

The new schools have been staffed with discriminatory hiring through privately-run programs. Just as tens of millions in funding by Bill Gates went to school reorganizations, Eli Broad's millions were used to train principals to see teachers as antagonists. In recent years Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein have extended the agenda of privatized education by embracing charter schools, displaying a marked preference for the chain operators. Their favoritism towards the charters has allowed them to invade neighborhood schools and shrink them.

For educational activists the past eight years have meant not only palpable damage but also lost opportunity for positive and progressive change. The Bloomberg monopoly of power has excluded local participation in decision making, eliminating a common entry into politics by Black and Latino New Yorkers. It has also preempted meaningful discussion around educational goals and policy. What should be the goals of a public education? How can schools do more just provide an exit from the poorest communities? How could schools be part of a collective effort to improve neighborhoods and increase democracy?

Bill Thompson has played an important role as city comptroller in exposing Bloomberg-era fraud and mismanagement. His supporters are waging a spirited fight against a billionaire mayor with lopsidedly less resources. It is difficult to offer Thompson unqualified support when he has thrown support to mayoral control and supports much of the underlying corporate agenda for education. The mayoral race this year also attracted Tony Avella (who Thompson defeated) and Billy Palen who is running as the Green Party candidate. Both advocated a more grassroots response to the current mess and it's a shame Thompson didn't adopt some of their policies in his campaign against the mayor.

Despite these differences anything other than energetic rejection of the Bloomberg monopoly is the wrong choice for our union.

We urge all readers to vote against Bloomberg!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

AFT Takeover Sanctioned By US Labor Department

The Lund Report, an Oregonian Health Blog run by Diane Lund (who I accidentally ran into on a subway in NYC this summer), has an excellent report on the AFT takeover of a Portland health care local which had been discussing leaving the AFT before being invaded by an AFT goon squad, er, Vice presidents. Randi went out there to speak. She even invited me along but I was washing my hair. The UFT has had the AFT in receivership for 35 years (or since Shanker became AFT President.)

Previous articles in ed notes on the situation in Portland:

Jul 11, 2009
Search the blog for FMPR.) Time for a national opposition movement in the AFT? I foresee road trips in my future, though Randi jokingly invited me to go to Oregon with her at the Ex Bd meeting the other day. My bags are packed, Randi. ..

Jul 20, 2009
her about me says, "diane is the founder and former executive director and editor of oregon health forum/oregon health news, an organization she ran for 16 ½ years. under her leadership, it became the leading resource for health policy ...

Union Rules Own Takeover Legit Despite Federal Probe
U.S. Department of Labor has final say based on a formal complaint

By: Diane Lund-Muzikant

October 21, 2009 -- The American Federation of Teachers is maintaining its grip on the 3,000 nurses and health professionals who work for Kaiser Permanente and Providence Milwaukie Hospital following a four-month investigation.

A hand-picked panel of three AFT vice presidents voted to continue the trusteeship on Oct. 16, however the fight may be far from over. An investigation has been launched by the U.S. Department of Labor in Seattle, which will ultimately determine whether the takeover was lawful. It’s unknown who filed the complaint.

AFT took control of the local union’s functions and finances through a protective order on July 7, “to prevent the erosion of members’ bargaining status, contractual protections and democratic rights,” according to Mark Richard, OFNHP administrator.

That same evening, the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals had scheduled a special membership meeting to consider disaffiliating from AFT by amending its constitution. Union representatives feared they would be traded to SEIU and had approached the California Nurses Association, which intends to create a new organization known as the National Nurse Organizing Committee. They also were preparing to embark on labor negotiations with the Kaiser Coalition.

AFT maintains the union violated its constitutional requirements, which does not allow a membership meeting to be held during July, put their members status in the Kaiser Coalition at risk, and expended funds for meetings, materials and elections in violation of the local union’s rules.

“Essentially what happened here was a small group of leaders purposely deceived the wider membership,” according to Richard. “They forgot their mission. They were supposed to be guaranteeing democracy in the workplace and in the union hall. The goal now is to strengthen the union and restore OFNHP to local control.”

AFT acted after receiving a petition from some current and former officers as well as members who was concerned that certain OFNHP leaders were ”cavalierly violating the union’s constitution and taking steps to remove the local union from membership in AFT and the Kaiser Coalition without transparency and proper membership approval,” according to Richard.
Kathy Geroux, who was stripped of her role as union president by AFT, could not be reached for comment. But TheLundReport did get a copy of the legal brief she filed with her attorney, Barbara Harvey.

Disputing the claims made by AFT, Harvey contends the national union seized control to scuttle the disaffiliation campaign. After taking over its operations, Richard acknowledged that the “deposed leadership had done a commendable job of streamlining the budget, limiting expenses and generally restoring the union to financial good health,” according to her brief.

By using its powerful authority, “the AFT violated its own constitutional procedures for invoking that authority,” Harvey wrote. “And utterly failed to produce the sort of record of imminent financial catastrophe that its constitution requires to justify emergency proceedings.”

The OFNHP had authority to hold a special meeting on July 7 with prior notice, and the $3,000 expended for that meeting had been budgeted and approved by the executive board, she insisted.
In attempting to interpret its bylaws, AFT had no particular expertise, “reflecting either a creatively self-serving result-oriented bias or shocking unfamiliarity with life in the trenches.”
Harvey also called AFT “guilty of distortion made in its grab for whatever monkey wrenches might be at hand to derail the OFNHP leadership’s admittedly lawful and protected substantive purpose.”

Around the same time as the takeover, labor negotiations were about to get underway with Kaiser. By removing from office those people most effective in handling those contract negotiations, “AFT is over its head,” according to Harvey. “The AFT has not handled these negotiations in the past. The trusteeship itself is what will cause immense damage to the members’ economic welfare.”

For related article click here.