Friday, September 30, 2011

Wall Street Occupation Gains Support: Join Transport Workers Today at 5:30

Growing labor union support for  Occupy Wall Street. Let's have an Educators Contingent on Friday.
Demonstration in Solidarity with Occupy Wall Street

                                   Fri, September 30, 5:30pm – 7:00pm, One Police Plaza

I hope you are rooting for the gang involved in the Wall St. occupation. Some are even comparing it to the Tea Party with a left twist. It is beginning to get mainstream media attention, a lot of due to FAIR - see the posting between the 2 events - one today and one Weds. - I can't go then because I'm going to the matinee of Spiderman.

Also - tonight Patrick Walsh - a UFT Chapter Leader in Harlem is doing a talk on the lower easr side:

Hello all,
On September 30, 2011, I will be speaking again as part of the Friday Night Meeting series of  The Catholic Worker in the Lower East Side.   My talk is titled The Intellectual and Spiritual Price of Corporate Education Reform, a subject of tremendous import not only for the future of education in America but for the survival of our already enfeebled democracy.   
Friday Night Meetings are held at Maryhouse located at 55 East Third Street between First and Second Ave very close to the 2nd Ave F subway stop. ( 212 777 9617) The meeting will begin at 7:45 and will be followed by a question and answer period in which all are encouraged to participate. Please try to attend.
The corporate cancer that is devouring our country and insidiously extinguishing all forms of public life can only be stopped by the building of community, community awareness, community resilience and community resistance. 

Here are 2 upcoming actions with a FAIR media watch posting in between. I'm heading to Wall St. to do some video.

Origins of the ATR Pool: A Short History

Originally Posted 2:45, updated 1PM

Look for an upcoming ATR flier for distribution and sharing. 

Thanks to Teachers for a Just Contract for sending this clarifying information:
The ATR pool is not, in fact, directly related to the right to seniority transfer.  It is related to what is mentioned in the small type:  the end of the practice of placing of excessed appointed teachers in nearby unencumbered vacancies (although that was not a seniority right, see below).    
These are two entirely separate rights.  The seniority transfer required that schools post half their unencumbered vacancies in the early spring.  (This is a slight simplification, since there was also transfer for racial balance, but let's leave that aside)  Teachers then could apply and the most senior in the specific license applying for a position was hired.  
 Excessing would take place long after the deadline for the  seniority transfers,  at the very end of the school year.    Before the 2005 contract, the excessed teachers would be placed in nearby vacancies in their licenses.  This took place even in schools that had already opted out of the seniority transfer system by adopting the SBO transfer.  (This btw was not a seniority right. There was no bumping. They were placed in vacancies, or displaced only unappointed teachers.)  What changed to stop this was that principals got the power to decide who their school hired.  Even if the seniority transfer were to be restored, without the right of excessed teachers to be placed, there would still be ATRs, since teachers who already have positions could get the positions posted on the seniority list, and schools only had to post half their unencumbered vacancies. 
I know this doesn't make much difference, we should have both rights.
Next week the UFT is holding borough ATR meetings at the borough offices. We believe this is a response to the agitation around the ATR question. The ostensible purpose of these meetings is to reasure ATRs that they will not be laid off out of seniority but will not address the underlying issues that ATRs are bringing up regarding being moved from school to school.

The flyer says they will answer questions and address your concerns. Bring your stories.

Just last night I got an email from an ATR in south Staten Island who was assigned to a school in Bushwick. There is some physical handicap involved and the ATR has to use public transportation. On purpose? I bet it is.

Thanks to ICE's  Jeff Kaufman for this related info:
District 76 is BASIS which covers all of Staten Island and schools in South Brooklyn, Williamsburg and Bed Stuy among other neighborhoods. The rest of Brooklyn is Brooklyn HS which is district 73. It appears the ATR is being assigned within the district. While BASIS is terrible just think about my old district, 79, which has a city-wide reach.

Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

"American Teacher" Praised: Say It Ain't So Valerie

UPdated - 10:15PM with Susan Ohanian comments on Dana Goldstein review.
Here is my review from May: Reviewing "American Teacher": Ed Deform Wolf in Sheeps Clothing

Praise for American Teacher Movie As "Getting it Right" Gets It Wrong.
The Answer Sheet Blog
'American Teacher': A Film on Education That Gets It Right
by Mark Phillips
Every policymaker should be required to see the new film “American Teacher,” which powerfully reveals the huge challenge that the country faces in attracting and keeping the best teachers to help improve public education.
I can't think of any post Valerie Strauss at The Answer Sheet published that I don't agree with. Until now. I've seen "American Teacher" twice and just loved Real Reformer Jamie Fidler (Rocking the House at Education Nation) in it. But I didn't hear the 2 dirtiest words in the world of ed deform:   class size

Funny, but there's a statement in the movie that they've "tried everything." But
class size (reduction)

And there is just too much Ed Deform house researcher Eric Hanushek in the film, one of the stars of "Waiting for Superman." See: Eric Hanushek Mistates Facts - Again

But then again there's Linda Darling-Hammond.

Dana Goldstein Review of "American Teacher" Raises Important Questions

I thought Dana did a pretty good job pointing out some of the major inconsistencies in the film. Brian Jones and I sat in the blogger peanut gallery with Dana during the screening at Education Nation on Sept. 25. Brian gave her a copy of "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman." Too bad she didn't compare all 3 films. I think ours has the most consistent logic but I have a feeling Dana won't bother watching it or reviewing it if she does. 

We also sent a copy to Valerie Strauss at her request back in June but not a word.

Here, Susan shamelessly plugs our film once again.

Still Waiting for Superman

Ohanian Comment: OK, below find a warning about movie star worship. My advice is that you should order a copy of The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman and share it with colleagues, neighbors, churches, etc. This movie is unique: it is made by teachers. We MUST stop looking for outside saviors and look to our own for leadership in The Fight.

Here is the subtitle for this review:

Dave Eggers and Matt Damon’s American Teacher is almost as flawed as last year's big school reform movie.

In an otherwise fairly sensible review, Dana Goldstein pronounces, [T]here is little doubt the quality of the teacher corps would improve if the job paid a six-figure salary.

I have grave doubts that this is true. I base my opinion on visiting classrooms in 26 states. I wonder what Goldstein bases her opinion on.

Leonie Haimson had a few things to say about another "favorite" featured in the film:
TEP – The Equity project charter – is not just featured in this movie but also relentlessly promoted in several articles in the NYT, NPR, 60 minutes etc. despite the fact that it has among the worst results of any school in the city. 

Zeke Vanderhoek its founder has attacked the notion that class size and other factors matter – and that teacher quality is the only thing that does.

He has also recruited teachers who moved across the country to be there and then fired them.  In fact, he bragged about how many teachers he’s fired.

I wrote about this charter last year here:

On this year’s scores the students came out on bottom again – and yet the PR spin continues unabated.
More specifically the website it links to; Microsoft Partners in Learning at

Sad, because though I haven’t seen the film, according to many, it appears to be sincerely committed to improving the public’s appreciation of teachers and how hard they work w/ so little pay.  It is too bad that they are participating in this green wash.

Protest Against NYPD Brutality - Friday 9/30 at 5:30pm
In response to NYPD brutality this past Saturday (Sept 24) and the on-going discrimination against people of color (for example, City Councilman Jumaane Williams and City aide Kirsten John Foy were arrested & detained unlawfully by the NYPD simply because they are young African-American who looked like trouble makers), there will be a rally and a march to protest against NYPD brutality.

WHEN: Friday, Sept 30. Start time 5:30pm
WHERE: The rally will start from Zuccotti Park (between Broadway & Liberty St.) in Lower Manhattan, marching toward NYPD headquarter at One Police Plaza in Lower Manhattan.
Source: AM New York

Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.

Mis-Education Nation: Sending NBC's 'Education Nation' Back to School

Standing Room Only Event wows attendees at alternative event showing real voices.

They kept coming and coming - until just about every single seat was filled and people were standing along the walls of the auditorium at the School of the Future, and very apt name for the  location of an event co-sponsored by GEM that presages a re-balancing of the debates in the ed wars between the Goliath billionaire backed Ed Deformers and the David-like Real Reformers.

Flanders, Jones, Ravitch, Haimson, Noguera
There was some irony on the choice of panelists.

We knew three of the four panelists - Brian Jones (GEM), Diane Ravitch and Leonie Haimson (Class Size Mattera) - line up squarely on the Real Reform side of the line. Pedro Noguera, who is considered a fairly safe choice when Ed Deformers try to claim "balance" (he was on an Education Nation panel) found himself under attack for attempting to have one foot on both sides of the line. As GEM's Julie Cavanagh declared in a note attached to her report on the event posted at Labor Notes, "Brian, Leonie and Diane fabulous as always and wooohooo Michael Fiorillo going after Noguera something fierce!" Noguera who is often the star of events he is invited to looked uncomfortable throughout as Brian Jones with his insights and humor stole the show. (See my AFTER BURN comment for more on Noguera.)

I taped the entire event and have put the hour and a half video up at As the weekend progresses I will extract excerpts, in particular the Noguera/Fiorillo material. Michael who works with ICE and GEM has been a persistent critic of Noguera on the blogs.

I should say a word and put in a plug for FAIR - Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting - which sponsored the event (along with Class Size Matters. GEM was proud to be asked to join in as a co-sponsor.) In today's world of media domination by the wealthy, FAIR plays a crucial role which you can support with a donation.

Here is Julie's report at Labor Notes:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What Goes On in Vegas Doesn't Stay in Vegas - "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman"

We send this out with every copy (7000 we've had made so far - but apparently way beyond that).
Please share the film with your friends, family members, and colleagues and feel free to duplicate your DVD! If you do duplicate or distribute the film, please let us know. We'd love to keep track of who our film is reaching. Email:
Why isn't this happening in NYC?
I am a teacher who saw "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman" at a summer screening in Las Vegas, Nevada.

I was moved and inspired by the film enough to request a copy and then make a sizable donation. Combining my enthusiasm with the permission of the film makers to share copies, I put together a cover letter and shared eighteen copies with each member of my school's PTA board.

Additionally, I put together a write-up and made copies available to my school's staff. Twenty-five copies were shared in this manner. Beyond this, I gave a glowing review and offered copies to teachers and support staff around the Valley. In this way, I sent out thirty-eight copies to other campuses.

In addition to home watchings, I know that there have been "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman" viewing parties. Once viewed, I encourage people to pass their discs onto new potential viewers. My hope is that a large enough number of people watching the film here will either be inspired to resist the current reform movement or better yet, spark a real reform awakening. I've done what I can to pay honor to the film and spread the message to this corner of the country. I appreciate the efforts of Real Reform Studios for creating such a long overdue and well-done film! Thanks for the film and your permissions, Ryan D.

Come to our next screening:
Oct. 14 (Friday) at Community Church, 40 East 35 St., 6PM

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fight Back Friday - on Tuesday, Oct. 4

Hello Fight Back Friday participants and allies!

Below is the announcement we are sending out for an action to support the nearly 800 DC37 workers who are being threatened with layoffs. These are school aides, parent coordinators and other colleagues who work with our students everyday. The fight back friday committee is made up of rank and file teachers, members of Teachers Unite, GEM and NYCoRE, and others who are tired of watching the racist attacks on our schools, students and colleagues occur while we and our union sit in shameful silence. Please check out the time line below and let us how you can participate, and especially if you would be willing to spread the word in your school. Attached is a paper petition and a flier for your use. Below are articles and an online petition. This is an important opportunity to build solidarity with the many folks in our schools who go largely unnoticed (and certainly underpaid).
in solidarity

 sam for the fight back friday committee,

 Stop Bloomberg from Laying Off over 700 School Workers!

 DC 37 employees play a critical role in our school community as parent coordinators, tech support, and school aides who help our schools run like clockwork. They are invaluable members of our community that our schools cannot function without. In a time when schools are already suffering tremendously under the weight of budget cuts, our ability to "do more with less" will be even more impossible than it already is. These layoffs not only hurt the learning of all children, but they also disproportionally impact low-income communities of color, such as Harlem,Washington Heights, and Brooklyn. Many of these areas are slated to lose up to 25% of their DC 37 staff members! Additionally, these cuts are not necessary when the city is in a time of surplus. We have little time to act! Let's stop the mayor's unnecessary layoffs and support schools, save jobs, and defend the right for every child to have the equal opportunity to learn!

Here is what YOU can do to Stop DC37 Layoffs:

 The Week of September 26th

 ·    Begin publicizing the Day of Action on October 4th to all your coworkers and parents (flier attached)

 ·         Use the articles linked below to inform your coworker about the layoffs.

 Gotham Schools:

 Daily News:

 NY Times:

 ·    Survey the DC37 workers about how much they know about the layoffs

  Tuesday, September 27th

 · Come to the Teachers Unite office (90 John St., Suite 308, New York, NY 10038) from 5:30 to 7:30 to phone bank NYCoRE and Teachers Unite members about the event on Oct 4th

  Monday, October 3rd

 · Remind Co-workers to wear GREEN  in solidarity with DC37 workers on Tuesday and to come out to the rally at City Hall after work from 4pm to 6pm.

 Tuesday, October 4th

 · Wear GREEN to show your support to all the DC37 workers throughout the city.

 · Join DC37 workers at City Hall to protest the layoffs of over 700 school staff from 4pm to 6pm.

 · Call 311 and tell the Mayor to Stop the Layoffs of all 700 DC37 workers. Our students need these workers and there is a surplus in the budget.

 · Have your co-workers sign the petition (hard copy attached to this e-mail, link: to stop the layoffs.)

 Let's keep showing the city that we have teachers and a union that cares about our schools and kids!

 Brought to you by the Fight Back Friday Committee

 Please E-Mail <>  to let us know you are participating.


Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.

Tonight: MisEducation Nation/ Oct. 12 - It's Time to Change the Stakes

I'm posting this email from parent activist Janine Sopp to her listserve. If you can make it to the School of the Future at 7PM tonight you will get the alternative view from Education Nation - see my upcoming post on my adverntures there yesterday.

And on October 12, we kick off our "Change the Stakes" campaign to reverse the impact of high stakes testing, which has affected - and infected- almost every child, parent and teacher in America - except for those involved with private schools. Yong Zhao is honoring us as the guest speaker.

Both events are co-sponsored by the Grassroots Education Movement.

Dear Parents, Teachers, Administrators and Friends,

If you are reading and listening to the media of late, you will find that issues around "Education" have been making the headlines.  In President Obama's State of the Union Speech the other night, he spoke firmly about his vision of what our Education System should be.  This article speaks to his points and clarifies some of the facts behind the talk.

Below are two very important and informative events that will help to shape your understanding of the path our current administration, from the Federal Government down to the State and City level are taking.  Should you find the laws and policies being implemented in your child's school confusing at best and potentially destructive rather than instructive, please consider attending one or both of these events and engaging in the process of educating yourself on the current climate of Education. 

There are many policies in the works that will effect our students, our teachers and our schools, most of which will be put in place without our consent.  If you want to know what to expect beyond what has already happened, these panel discussions will help you gain some perspective.  If you feel this is not the path you would like to see for our children and our schools, now is the time to get informed and involved.

I hope to see some of you there......

Report from the Field: Race to the Bottom

Stand and Deliver
by Anon.

So this week’s Inquiry Team task is a doozy. We are supposed to go into ARIS, list all kids by proficiency level AND by proficiency rating, cross reference on NYSSTART to find trends, identify kids that are in more than one category (for example, a young, African American male who has an IEP, has been held back, and who qualifies for free lunch counts for 4 points because he is a member of 4 subgroups) for school report card purposes and identify two target groups with proficiency ranged from high-1 – mid-2 and high-2 to mid-3. There are other little data tricks we need to do, but I think you get the idea.

So my co-teacher and I settle down with the directions and start to work on this. As I read the directions, I notice at the end that the final SMART goal on the sheet reads something to the effect of “By September 27, 2011, 100% of teachers will have MEMORIZED the names and proficiency scores of ALL students within the target proficiency ranges, along with each students proficiency score.”

There were other memory requirements. I have to memorize the names and proficiency ratings of all the students I have that fall into one or more subgroups (they are worth extra points on the school report card). I have to memorize who my level 1s are and who are my “push/slip” kids – the ones whose scores are JUST under or over the threshold for another level, therefore at risk of “slipping” back or worthy of trying to “push” for the next level to gain points.  I must also memorize the number of students I have in each level and the range of scores within the level.

Apparently, just having the information available in a file for planning purposes is not enough. I must have it all committed to memory, along with the school-wide SMART goals (verbatim, btw).  I have visions of being stopped in the hallway by an administrator and being told “Recite all students who are young black males with IEPs and free lunch, in ascending order, GO!!”  Or even, “All your level 1s who are within .03 points of making level 2, alphabetically! GO!!” It’s a scary thought and I am already lying awake at night stressing out over what is going to happen to me if I can’t alphabetically recite, on demand, the names of all my Level 2s who qualify for free lunch and have trouble with inferences as I am walking to the ladies’ room.

And I fail to see the point of this.  I understand needing to know where the areas of most need are within my students and needing to know who is at which proficiency level (I do this anyway and use the information to inform instruction), but to require me to memorize this data for some kind of “Stand and Deliver” encounter in the hallway strikes me as degrading. I am I really simply a seal performing tricks for administration in the hopes of being thrown a herring?  Must I take time away from planning lessons and creating strategies to meet the needs of these kids to study a stack of flash cards filled with sterile data about them?  Somehow we all become less than human in this situation.

The other disturbing aspect of this Inquiry meeting was the treatment the lowest and highest students are slated to receive this year.  As we focus on the kids who are “worth” more points on the school report card and the kids who fall into the “push/slip” categories, the students who are at the high and low end of the range will be ignored. To quote my AP this week, “The kids who are at a 3.4 or higher, even into level 4, well, we’re not going to worry about them. They will pass the test and we get no points from moving a 3 to the 4, so we don’t want to waste our instructional time on them since there is little return in it.”

Yes, she said that.

Regarding the really low kids – the level 1s and holdovers, she said, “It’s the same with the really low kids. You know you can’t make a level 1.2 into a level 2 by the end of the year, so you don’t  need to waste time on those students who will not be able to help move the school’s data forward. We need to be pragmatic and use our limited time and resources on the kids that can get up points."


She wrapped up with a reminder to focus on the kids who are “worth” more because they fall into more than one subgroup and therefore count more than once on the report card. To wit, “Let’s say you have a student who is a young African-American male, who has an IEP, qualifies for free lunch AND is an ELL student. THAT student needs to get LOTS of attention because my moving that ONE student, his points are multiplied by FOUR, whereas a student who is simply an African-American male will be worth only one point and therefore is not as valuable on the report card.”

I find this profoundly disturbing, and it’s making me feel dirty.

Race to the Bottom, indeed.

Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chicago Teachers Fight Back

SaveOurSchools: Chicago Presents

Teach-Ins in Public Spaces of Chicago
Thursdays in September

Teachers: come show Chicago how much work you really do!

Bring Lessons to PlanEssays to Grade, Teams to Coach, Students to Tutor, Clubs to Sponsor, and Parents to Conference.  

Thurs., September 29th: Millennium Park @The Cloud Gate (Bean)

Before you go 
Call a colleague, 
Text a teacher, 
Fwd this email,
Print and Post in Public
Status your Facebook, and 
Retweet your followers

See you at the SOS Thursday Teach-Ins!

Find us on facebookSOS Thursday Teach-Ins


Rocking the House at Education Nation: JA-MIE FID-LER, JA-MIE FID-LER, JA-MIE FID-LER

Last Updated: Monday, Sept. 26, 8AM
[See my live tweets below the fold]

A new star rose in the firmament tonight last night at Education Nation as PS 261K teacher Jamie Fidler, one of the stars of the film "American Teacher" which premiered tonight, went head to head with major ed deformer Jonathan Alter on the post screening panel. She was joined on the panel, moderated by Al Roker, by the three other teachers from the movie and Parents Across America parent leader Helen Gym from Philly.

The only logic for having Alter on this panel was that NBC had to make its sponsors happy by having a voice for ed deform to counter what real teachers who are not ed deformers but real reformers might say. Tonight, the sponsors didn't get their monies' worth. Jenna Bush (yes, THAT BUSH) had to rescue him from the audience by finding a TFAer who defended the org vehemently, followed by an ed deform Supt from Idaho who bragged about getting rid of tenure and putting in merit pay. But what would you expect from Bush's daughter?

The word was that NBC was totally embarrassed by the criticism last year over their one-sided case for ed deform - they are partners with Gates at MSNBC - and tried to get better balance.

Jamie Fidler has been co-chapter leader at her school and is now working with the Real Reformers in the progressive activist groups in NYC, especially with Teachers Unite. Thus she was perfect to be on the panel. She also lights up the screen whenever she is on. Look for her to emerge this year as a new voice in the ed wars on the Real Reformer side.

At the end of the event I told Alter what I thought about him. Hope I ruined his karma. I also ran into E4E's Sydney Morris (who I waved to when she went in) on the way out. Sydney always says hello. But then I noticed a sour looking Evan, who glared at me, walking the obligatory 2 steps behind his leader. Guess he didn't care for my comment calling Sydney the brains of the outfit. At least she recognizes that I know what I'm talking about. [BTW South Bronx School takes a big shot at E4E today.] I heard from a teacher in Kansas City today that E4E had packed the teacher forum during the day - where is GEM she asked? GEMers do have better things to do than waste time at these events on a Sunday.

I was there with a press pass along with Brian Jones who teaches at Jamie's school and we passed out some copies of The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman to some press people and to Dave Eggers who made "American Teacher." Brian and I sat in the special blogging section in the back and ate popcorn and other goodies they gave us.

I actually like the movie better the 2nd time. When I saw it in May I reacted to the overwhelming money theme which I think distorted some of the message. But this time the other positive issues like the work teachers really do came through. That is why I like the Chicago Teacher Union people who go to malls and other public spaces and do Maulins - where teachers gather on Sundays or in the evenings to work on lesson plans and mark papers in public to show people what they really do.

I have a pass for tomorrow afternoon where I may get to tape a press conference of parents who Dennis Walcott is trying to ban from a panel he is on. Negotiations are going on to balance that panel or there will be more embarrassment for NBC.

I copied and pasted my tweets - you have to read them in reverse order. It was the first event I tweeted at - not my fave way of reporting. See below the fold:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Raging Horse Goes Deep

This blog by RH takes us down the long, long road of ed deform. Shuddering and shattering. Is there any hope?

In Darkness Visible: The Corporate and Oligarchic War on Public Education and Public Life

September 24, 2011  

Given the unprecedented concentration of financial and political power bent on “reforming” the American public school system, it is well within the realm of possibility that within the next few years, the system that has educated the vast majority of Americans for almost two centuries and helped propel this country from an agricultural backwater to, for better or worse, the greatest power in human history,  will cease to exist in any recognizable form if, indeed,  it exists at all.
That same system, according to self declared “reformers,” is now so utterly hopeless it must be completely altered or eradicated altogether. Now.  Before it is too late. There is not a moment to lose.  Not if,  in the bizarre words of   Barack Obama, “we are  to win the future.”   If the “reformers” get their way, the crown jewel of American public life will become merely the latest and the greatest of our public institutions to be devoured by the ever-grasping hands of what is called the free market.  If this comes to pass, the system’s destruction or utter transformation comes, not as the result of an election, an uprising of the people, a revolt of parents (who, like educators have been completely ignored) or anything resembling a democratic process or mandate. It will come, rather, as did the Iraq war: entirely as the result of the machinations of a handful of extraordinarily powerful men who,  aided and abetted by corporations who stand to reap billions in profits, waged a brilliant and relentless public relations campaign based on gross distortions and out -right lies to manufacture a false sense of crisis wholly out of proportion to the reality of the situation.
With the indispensable assistance of a completely subservient  media,  this false crisis was used to impose their will upon a largely unwitting nation, come what may. Their will, as we now know, was war and profit, resulting in mountains of corpses and rivers of innocent blood.


In Darkness Visible: The Corporate and Oligarchic War on Public Education and Public Life

Addendum: an excerpt from this essay will appear in the October – September issue of The Catholic  Worker newspaper.  I will be speaking on another aspect of corporate  education reform on September 30, 2011 as part of the Friday Night Meeting series of  The Catholic Worker.  My talk is titled The Intellectual and Spiritual Price of Corporate Education Reform.
Friday Night Meetings are held at Maryhouse located at 55East Third Street between First and Second Ave very close to the 2nd Ave F subway stop or the Broadway/Lafayette   stop on the  4, 5, or 6  trains.  Their number is  212 777 9617. The talk will begin at 7:45 and will be followed by a question and answer period in which all are encouraged to participate.

Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bloombergville Turns into Syria

UPDATED: Sunday, Sept. 25, 12:30PM

From KG:
As most of you already know, hundred's of people have occupied Wall Street since Saturday, September 17. The "movement", an offshoot of the online magazine, Adbusters, is angered by and fueled by what people there call the principle of "profit over and above all else". Sound familiar? We are all part of this fight - workers across all fields and unions, parents, children, students of all ages... everyone. It felt so right joining Verizon workers. Imagine if a union came out to support these (mostly) young folks. I can dream.

Posts on their Web site compare the groups efforts to those used in pro-democracy movements across the Middle East.

There have been arrests and police caught on video using ridiculous amounts of force. So the media is noticing.

The protesters need supplies and they certainly need much more company.

Wouldn't it be something if this did grow into a movement?

Below is the live stream.


At least four arrested, one for shooting photos UPDATE: at least eighty arrested, five maced | RETRACTION: no tear gas used

Published 2011-09-25 12:11:29 UTC by OccupyWallSt
We have at least four arrests today during a community march, a fifth arrest is suspected but police will not confirm.
A legal observer attempting to contact an arrested member was not allowed to due to “an emergency situation,” we are currently unsure of what this means. At least one arrest was due to a protester taking photographs. At least one protester's possessions have not been returned.
Please call the first precinct, central booking and the Deputy Commissioner of Public Information and urge them to release these peaceful protesters.
First precinct: +1 (212) 334-0611
Central booking: +1 (212) 374-3921
Deputy Commissioner of Public Information: +1 (646) 610-6700
NYPD Switchboard: 1-646-610-5000
UPDATE: We are now receiving reports that at least 80 protesters have been arrested. The National Lawyer's Guild puts the number at around one hundred. Liberty square is currently full with an ongoing discussion on how to respond to this unprecedented level of police aggression. Police are currently surrounding the square. There is nearly one police officer for every two protesters.

Earlier today we had reports of police kettling protesters with large orange net, using tasers, at least five protesters have been maced.

Reviewing "American Teacher": Ed Deform Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?

Last update: Saturday, Sept. 24, 9pm - 

I'm reprinting this review from May since "American Teacher" is premiering at NBC's Education Nation on Sunday with Jamie Fidler on the panel. Brian Jones and I will be in the press section to report back, maybe with some live blogging.

Make sure to read comment 2 from Caroline with a little more information on one of the teachers featured.

See Saturday NY Times article on Jamie Fidler.
A film whose main focus is on paying teachers more money as a solution to the educational crisis. A film purporting to be apolitical is actually very political by what it leaves out. Class size anyone?

What could be wrong with a movie featuring wonderful stories of four dedicated, overworked, underpaid teachers with interesting personal stories and attractive personalities, one of whom I know personally? And while focusing on paying teachers more money?
Jamie Fidler


I went up to Brandeis for the press conference opposing Harlem Success invasion of that school yesterday but couldn't stay for the hearing because a friend gave me a ticket to American Teacher, narrated by Matt Damon. I also know Jamie Fidler, one of the four teachers and the co-chapter leader at PS 261 in Brooklyn. We reconnected after many years at the May 12 rally where she and people from her school marched with the NYCORE/GEM/Teachers Unite group. (More on Jamie later.) 

I expected this movie to be a weapon on our side in the war against teachers right along side our own Grassroots Education Movement's Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman, which seems to be resonating with teachers and parents because addressed the political issues head on. 

Don't get me wrong. There was also things I liked about the movie. The ridiculous comments on FOX attacking teachers got a good laugh.

The teachers featured were fabulous, especially the teacher from Texas, Brooklyn's Jamie Fidler and the African-American teacher from San Francisco who left teaching to go into real estate. Their stories were compelling. The Harvard grad who went to teach at TEP for $125 grand was the only one who didn't share any of her personal story so I was a bit turned off. She did not seem to exhibit much of a sense of humor, which all the others seemed to have. My guess is that she wasn't long for teaching at that low salary and TEP may have saved her - for now. 

I may be prejudiced, but I think Jamie, who was pregnant throughout most of the filming, was the star of the movie with her humanity, openness, humor and wonderful personality. One of the good things about the film was how it dealt with the choices Jamie had to make. I loved the bit how her prep gotten eaten away on a phone call to the DOE to get info on her leave. And the breast feeding pump story brought the house down.

An effective teacher? No mention of high stakes tests and their impact
From the opening moments of American Teacher my friend and I were seething over the repeated term used by ed deformers: an effective teacher. The film barely touched on the issue of what makes an effective teacher (though Jamie does raise the question of how we can judge) while ignoring the fact that "effective teacher" is a code word for results on standardized tests. In fact, the very idea that high stakes tests even exist or have made most teachers' lives miserable is totally ignored. How do you make a movie called "American Teacher" in these times without talking about high stakes testing and the impact test prep and threats of closing schools and charter schools are having on their psyches?

An immediate warning sign went up when the the first people you see in the film are Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, President Obama and the Hoover Institution's Eric Hanushek, all leaders of the ed deform movement. At least Linda Darling-Hammond is there to lend a bit of balance on the pundit side of the ledger.

And presenting Zeke Vanderhoek as a hero (on the post-screening panel) who pays teachers at his TEP charter school $125 grand is enough to make you gag. Vanderhoek was featured on 60 Minutes (Ed Notes link) trashing the union and LIFO. (See Leonie Haimson's Zeke Vanderhoek, relentless self-promoter.)

The teacher in the film who left her school in New Jersey to teach at TEP, which so far has had dismal results even with all that high-priced "talent," was filmed in her old school. She has been at TEP for two years. Since the film makes so much of her leaving, I would have liked to have seen her at her new school. Vanderhoek said he could pay all that money by eliminating much of the out of classroom personnel public schools have, joking the teachers change the rolls of toilet paper. It sounded like it was close to that. We would have liked to see more of what teachers have to do for that money. It might lead some to prefer driving a forklift.

Blurb from the San Francisco Film Festival:
 As the debate over the state of America’s public school system rages on, one thing everyone (including President Obama) agrees on is the need for great teachers. Yet, while research proves that teachers are the most important school factor in a child’s future success, America’s teachers are so woefully underpaid that almost a third must divide their time between a second job in order to make a living. Chronicling the stories of four teachers in different areas of the country, American Teacher reveals the frustrating realities of today’s educators, the difficulty of attracting talented new teachers and why so many of our best teachers choose to leave the profession altogether. One of the very few black teachers at Leadership High School in San Francisco, Jonathan Dearman, loved his job, and his students adored him. But his inability to support his family led him to pursue a new career and left his students devastated by his departure. An elementary school teacher in New Jersey, Rhena is fresh out of Harvard and personifies the smart, young teacher anyone would want for their kids. But even her strong commitment to her students ultimately gets pushed aside when weighed against her own financial needs. Their stories are disheartening, but this wake-up call to our system’s failings also looks at possibilities for reform. Can we re-value teaching in the United States and turn it into a prestigious, financially attractive and competitive profession? With almost half of American teachers leaving the field in the next five years, now is the time to find out.

—Joanne Parsont 
In fact, as our filmed response to WFS makes clear more than once, the only two in school factors that research has proven to have a positive impact on student learning is class size and teacher experience. So seeing a fuzzy fact stated so early in American Teacher got us off to a bad start. My pal and I were already nudging each other 5 minutes into the movie. Hanushek goes through the bullshit rigmarole about how an effective teacher can affect the lifetime earning salary of the students and we see all that cash flying around the screen. In fact studies have shown low class size has a bigger effect on future earnings than which particular teacher a student has.

Texas teacher Erik Benner - as described in this review: "Teacher, football coach, and fork-lift operator Erik Benner is underpaid, over-extended, and in foreclosure (62 percent of teachers have a second job, teachers are priced out of housing markets in 32 cities)" makes much less money than Jamie Fidler though he is teaching longer. Guess what? Jamie's union helped get her that salary. Benner teachers in Texas. 'Nuff said. At the post screening, one of the producers said they purposely left the union out of the movie. I'm sure. Would they have gotten the funding they received if they made the very important point that unionized teachers are paid much more money? To pretend the two issues are not connected is disingenuous if not openly dishonest.

Time and again we hear the words "teacher excellence" and "teacher effectiveness", ed deform buzzwords. What is lurking behind the call to pay teachers more? Do they mean all teachers? I was wondering if the real point of the movie is that only certain - "effective" teachers - should be paid more.

Class size ignored
I also was perturbed when Damon stated a list of things we have tried that haven't worked and included class size as one of them. If they had allowed questions after the panel I was going to ask for a vote of teachers in the audience if they think class size reduction was the major issue in their working conditions. I bet most hands would have shot up. While the movie claims that low wages are the reason most people leave (it does include lack of respect and support) many teachers would say a lot of the problems would be ameliorated if they had smaller class sizes - and many site the large classes as a factor in their leaving. I mean, you might be willing to keep working for a lower salary if the job were more satisfying and class size is often the bomb. To its credit the movie does include a comment that failures in school leadership is as large a factor as anything else. Broad Leadership academy grads, anyone?

Doing the Finland dance while ignoring unions
Two of the people involved in the film wrote an op ed in the NY Times on April 30 that many people initially cheered. They said:
The consulting firm McKinsey recently examined how we might attract and retain a talented teaching force. The study compared the treatment of teachers here and in the three countries that perform best on standardized tests: Finland, Singapore and South Korea.
Turns out these countries have an entirely different approach to the profession. First, the governments in these countries recruit top graduates to the profession. (We don’t.) In Finland and Singapore they pay for training. (We don’t.) In terms of purchasing power, South Korea pays teachers on average 250 percent of what we do.
And most of all, they trust their teachers. They are rightly seen as the solution, not the problem, and when improvement is needed, the school receives support and development, not punishment. Accordingly, turnover in these countries is startlingly low: In South Korea, it’s 1 percent per year. In Finland, it’s 2 percent. In Singapore, 3 percent.
Ahhh, Finland, the little nation that could. Lauded in American Teacher, Waiting for Superman and our movie. Except that we are the only ones to point out that teachers in Finland are almost totally unionized and their union has been in the lead in fighting for the very reforms that are so praised in ed deform movies.

Our movie points out that the 5 states with the lowest level of union activity - in the south of course (and including Texas) had the poorest results on the SAT/ACT scores.

I did love the statement by 2007 New York State teacher of the year Marguerite Rizzo who said "People think teaching is about liking kids or getting summers off--they don't understand the intellectual rigor involved in teaching students in a way that they'll understand." I totally agree but would extend the intellectual rigor description to figuring out a seating plan or where kids should stand on line. I used to spend hour pouring over these issues.

The panel discussion afterward was so-so but when Jamie Fidler took the microphone towards the end I was anticipating something interesting. She said she had become politically active and urged people to get involved in the fight. She didn't get into details but we all know what she was talking about even if the filmmakers didn't.

On the way out I stopped to say hello to Rizzo and raised a few of the issues I talked about above, also telling her about my involvement with the Inconvenient Truth Behind... film. She said she had heard about it, I think she said from Randi Weingarten. I gagged. I told her Randi and I were not exactly on the same side and handed her a dvd of our film.

Also on the way out we were handed a flier titled: Take Action to Honor and Reward Effective Teachers with 4 things you can do to improve working conditions and salaries for teachers. Supporting the work of their unions was not on the list.

We were all invited to a party afterwards but I knew it would turn into a battleground. Besides, my companions had to teach today. So we went out looking for a place to get coffee and dessert – searching for a nice piece of strudel looked like a better deal. I ended up with a scone but it was better than getting ed deform agita.

See another review of the movie here:

Afterburn: Jamie Fidler
I go to know Jamie when she threw herself and her school into the 2005 contract fight. Jamie contacted me on the recommendation of her dad who was a teacher and featured prominently in the film. He had heard of Ed Notes or ICE and had my contact info. Jamie and others in her school formed Brooklyn Teachers for a Fair Contract. We joined together to leaflet entire areas of north Brooklyn urging a "NO" vote on that disastrous contract. Jamie joined me as a UFT Executive Board meeting to check out what was going on. When we rallied at the October 2005 Delegate Assembly followed by a rally at UFT headquarters a few weeks later, she was there with her colleagues. 

Soon after the contract battle was lost we fell out of touch. I heard she had gotten married and had a baby from my contacts at PS 261 (they have a robotics team. ) Recently, I found out she was the co-chapter leader at the school and was working with Teachers Unite. When I saw her at the May 12 rally it was just like old times. One can never go wrong working with Jamie Fidler. One of the major successes of the film is how clearly that point is made.

GEM High-Stakes Testing Committee Meeting – Monday, September 26, 5-7PM

Bulletin from the Grassroots Education Movement
The next GEM high-stakes testing committee meeting is this Monday, September 26th at 5pm at the CUNY Graduate Center, room 5414. Please bring ID. We will be planning a launch of the Change the Stakes campaign in October, but we need to plan that together! We hope you will join us.

You may know that a petition in support of opt out has been launched for New York State, written by someone upstate. Sign if you haven’t already!

As the “national insanity” that is high stakes testing continues, we must continue to work to expose the use of high stakes testing as a cancer that is destroying real learning and thinking in our schools. As we all know, every child deserves an opportunity to think creatively, talk about ideas, and have time in their day devoted to art, music and science. Unfortunately, students who struggle to pass such tests, many of whom don’t speak English or traditional English in the home, are then subject to the treacherous test-obsessed changes that we all know too well. This is a racist practice that is serving to increase the divide between the schooling of those who are privileged enough to be born in a household that speaks traditional English and those who do not.

And of course the second layer is not just the individual impact on individual students, but the fact that these tests are then used to shut down schools and dismantle pillars of community, with the goal of privatizing education in mind. Again, a racist practice that is without question disproportionately impacting communities of color. We must struggle against these inequities, for our very well-being as human beings and the health of our society both depend on it. We hope you will join us on Monday!

There are 454 elementary schools in Chicago. Only 13 have volunteered to participate in the longer school day experiment

This is the first of a series of posts on the situation in Chicago. To bring you up to speed. If you haven't been reading NYC Educator check out. Rahmbo Demands More Work for Less Pay

And George Schmidt's Chicago-based Substance for extensive reporting.

Emanuel's media Blitzkreig against Chicago Teachers Union fails as only 13 schools go with 'Longer School Day'... Brizard team gets an 'F' on 'Longer School Day' campaign... As schools enter fourth week, Brizard's 'team' sports a Won-Lost record that makes Cubs hundreds-year World Champs

Here is the Chicago Teacher Union Press release:

[Press Release] 115 elementary schools ignore cash incentives and threats and vote “no” to waiver

Teachers express concerns as CPS Implements its Ill-Planned “Longer School Days”

CHICAGO - A confidential school-by-school analysis conducted by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) reveals that teachers and other classroom professionals at 115 elementary schools voted down the longer school day waiver ballot proposed by the school board.
“These results demonstrate that most union members clearly favor taking the appropriate time necessary to carefully plan for delivering the rich and broad curriculum that our students deserve,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “This longer school day initiative is just another experiment in a long line of experiments over the last two decades.”

There is no strong evidence indicating that student achievement will rise if the school year is lengthened. CTU maintains it is the quality not the quantity of instruction that matters.
CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard’s “longer school day,” initiative is a rebranding of a similar program offered by the Daley administration, then called “Additional Learning Opportunities (ALO).” On August 25, 2010 the Board of Education approved Resolution 10-0825-RS3 which authorized CPS to increase student learning hours in designated schools by requiring students to attend a mandatory 90 additional minutes per day for five days per week, or as otherwise scheduled. At the time Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley said the ALO program costs were expected to exceed $10 million. To date, the Board has not provided taxpayers or educators with an assessment of the extended learning time experiment.

Ever since CPS began its recent aggressive public relations campaign to force schools to endorse its longer school day ideology, CTU phones have been flooded with calls from concerned teachers who said they had “received no training or in-service as to how the 90 additional minutes were to be used,” according to one grievance report.
At Henry H. Nash Elementary School, 4837 W. Erie Street, though CTU attorneys declared the vote null-and-void because a school bus driver was asked to break a tie of 14 to 14 in favor of the extended day, the K-thru-8 campus will go to an extended schedule from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. After school programs could see children as young as seven walking home in the winter months well after 6:00 p.m.
Another complaint from Mann Elementary noted: “…(the principal) held a meeting to discuss the possibility of doing a waiver vote. Teachers in attendance agreed to do an informal inquiry. No written plan was submitted for us to study…. We all voted no.”

The waiver process was flawed from the start. Elementary school educators complained of intimidation, coercion and threats of layoffs or school closures if they did not vote in favor of a longer school day. Principals were promised a one-time $150,000 gift to their school if they convinced staff to void parts of their current 2007-2012 labor contract to enact longer work hours this year.

Only teachers were promised a one-time, non-pensionable stipend of 2 percent of the average teacher salary or roughly $1,250 before taxes, among other bribes and incentives. Other school employees receive nothing. CPS has made no guarantees on how it intends to fund and staff all of the city’s elementary schools when the longer school day becomes mandate next year. Even though its longer school day theory will cost upwards of $100 million system-wide, the Board continues to lay-off qualified teachers citing budget concerns.

“Rather than sit down with educators who spend all their work time focused on improving our students’ education, the Board of Education decided to implement a flawed, political process,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “CPS has essentially given schools a popular slogan and told them to figure it out on their own. Unless there is a comprehensive, well-thought-out academic and funding plan—you will see our 200,000-plus elementary students doing the same things like mindless test prep—but only longer.”

The campaign to implement an ill-planned longer school day, school-by-school, comes on the heels of other attacks on teachers. In June, the Board denied unionized employees their guaranteed contractual 4 percent cost of living increase. After slashing teacher pay, it then raised the CEO’s salary and offered lucrative increases and benefits to other CPS executives totaling millions of dollars.

“Our teachers are dedicated public servants: they educate our kids, watch over their safety and often pay for school supplies out of their own money,” Lewis said. “All we want is the support to do our jobs well, and appropriate compensation. Targeting teachers in this way sends the wrong message and will hurt our students in the end.”

There are 454 elementary schools in Chicago. Only 13 have volunteered to participate in the longer school day experiment. At least 115 CPS elementary schools have taken “informal straw polls” or waiver votes in which teachers voted against the extended day. The remaining schools met the program with silence and indifference. A formal complaint filed with the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board will be heard in mid-October.

Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.

Friday, September 23, 2011

E4E: 3000 Members, 2900 Don't Show - Walcott And Crew Appearance at E4E Event Failed to Bring Out Troops

UPDATED: Saturday, Sept. 24, 12:30AM

An embarrassed Sydney Morris blamed "transportation issues" for the low turnout.
Even at a E4E event w/ Walcott, only 15% teachers think that DOE listens to their concerns? Wow. That shows how pissed off teachers are. ....Leonie Haimson
DFER was late getting E4E transport support
See report from a GEMer who attended the Walcott at the end of this post.

I've been staying away from the E4E story due to the work SBS has been doing, most notably his breakdown of their financials: Educators4Excellence Structure And Financials Reve...  Really a must read. (See more SBS E4E reports listed in the Afterburn.)

The partnership between Tweed and E4E reached new heights when Chancellor Dennis Walcott brought his entire top team to meet with E4E on September 19 in an attempt to breathe life into an organization that despite an infusion of money paying for 5 full-time organizers cannot seem to get traction after its initial splash despite enormous media coverage (which I chronicle below).

Now we have been tracking E4E's events all summer and have seen planned events canceled due to lack of interest. Their Sept. 14 event morphed into the Sept. 19 event and despite all the advertising, only a hundred people showed up. Which means 2900 of their supposed 3000 members did not show. And even amongst that hundred a few were from GEM there to check out what Walcott had to say (see report below). An embarrassed Sydney Morris passed off the low attendance as due to "transportation issues." Yeah, DFER forgot to order the helicopters.

There is no question E4E has been hurt by the number of their members who were denied tenure or had tenure extended (Ruben Brosbe for the 2nd straight year.) E4E supposedly advocated for rigor in tenure judgments, something which Real Reformers would also support. But the decisions this past year were so blatantly politically motivated in many cases  with principals demonstrating to superiors how "rigorous" they were or superintendents ordering principals to not grant tenure. In one strong E4E school, just about every teacher was not given tenure and the Supt told them it was because the school got an "F."

E4E has a large team to organize but is apparently hitting a wall. Maybe they can tap into the new teachers - until they don't get tenure. You can "follow the E4E team on Twitter! Evan, Sydney, Ryan, Tori, and Beth travel the city, meet with teachers, report back from schools, and give you a glimpse of what we're up to. We'll also live-tweet E4E-hosted events if you can't make them and want to follow along."

Have fun, kiddies.

E4E/Tweed partnership
It has been clear that E4E works closely with Tweed. Uncle Joel gave them a nice pop, which E4E bragged about, showing just how out of touch they are given that Klein is almost universally despised in the schools by both teachers and principals alike. Some people are getting involved with E4E, looking at it as a career track entry into the world of Tweed. Or maybe figuring that DFER and Gates will take care of Sydney and Evan in some big way and they hope to go along for the ride.

I even stopped by after the GEM meeting around the corner and saw Walcott walking down 5th Ave. shaking his head and reading his Blackberry. Walcott had been hassled over the cheating issue, apparently by Philip Nobile and had a sour look on his face.

I got into the lobby as Sydney and her green tee-shirted crew (they look like bugs) were ushering people up to the 9th floor for breakout sessions with a Deputy Supt whose name I didn't get and David Weiner (a former Brooklyn awful principal who went to Philly and then escaped the equally awful Supt Arlene Ackerman who has just been fired). Weiner on his first day on the job on May 12 held one of his first meetings with Sydney and Evan (I put the brains of the outfit first), showing just how deep the Tweed/E4E partnership is. Expect Tweed to "urge" principals to allow E4E organizers into the schools as a way to undermine the union at the school level. WARNING: WITNESS CHICAGO.

I was wearing my press pass. "No press allowed. We want to have an honest conversation about education," said Sydney. "As opposed to the usual dishonest conversation you generally have," I said. I tried to scam a tee-shirt because I too want to attract bees but you have to leave a pint of blood. I could have stayed around to join them in the bar afterwards but looking at all that green was giving me a headache.

Media Loves E4E while blacking out GEM, NYCORE, Teachers Unite and New Teacher Underground

There has been much hype by the anti-teacher/ed deform media trying to push Educators 4 Excellence as a legitimate group representing teachers when in fact the main role E4E is to play is to undermine LIFO. Here is one example of the propaganda they push
Our amazing E4E summer intern Claire Goebel writes about how Last In, First Out policy hurts schools in Minnesota.
[I collated a bunch of recent articles at Norms Notes: Articles Pumping Life Into E4E and Other Groups].

E4E bragged about being mentioned in an Ed Week article mostly about SOS, which E4E totally ignored since SOS was aimed at Ed Deform. But even in an article with a sea of Real Reformers being talked about like Anthony Cody, Nancy Flanagan, and Sabrina Stephens-Shupe, the reporter felt he had to bring in a the faux E4E:
Meanwhile, a new nonprofit group in New York City, Educators 4 Excellence, seeks to give teachers more voice in policy debates, but its agenda parts company in some ways with the Save Our Schools march. For example, the group backs tying teacher pay in part to test scores. It also calls for ending “last hired, first fired” teacher-layoffs policies. More than 2,600 New York teachers have backed the group’s “declaration” of beliefs, said Sydney J. Morris, the co-founder and a former teacher. Her group receives financial backing from the Gates Foundation and other philanthropies. (Gates has been a funder of Education Week’s nonprofit parent corporation.)
Note the last point about Bill Gates funding Ed Week. Is that part of the contract? You have to mention E4E in every way possible? And sure, how many of those "backing" E4E are just spies like me? They certainly didn't seem interested in hearing Walcott.

Recently Ed Week did another report on E4E, a report for which I was interviewed but not one word of what I said made it into print.
Education Week examines E4E as a group providing an independent voice for educators, interviewing co-founders Evan and Sydney about the importance of teachers being included in policy discussions.
When I asked the reporter how come all the attention to E4E while groups with bigger outreach despite not being funded like NYCORE and GEM that actually have done real reform organizing are ignored, I was told that E4E influenced policy in the NY State teacher evaluation debate. I pointed out that a: these people are no longer teachers and b: they are funded by Gates and DFER and it is THEY who influenced policy with their outreach and money and are just using E4E as a front group and are trying to pump them up (which the reporter seemed to be falling for) even though they are a paper tiger.

I pointed out that E4E had to cancel events this summer due to lack of interest while New Teacher Underground attracted from 20-40 people every Thursday this past summer to their events.

The Ed Week article talks about other groups in urban areas that are similar to E4E. Los Angeles-based NewTLA is a caucus in LA that has bragged about the influence it had in the recent union election in LA that resulted in defeat for Julie Washington, the favored candidate. My sources in LA indicate they are way over valuing their influence but the media loves groups like this that are capable of pushing ed deform values from within. Look for code like: we must hang on to our talented young teachers. No interest in hanging on to talented old teachers.

Other groups mentioned are Teacher Plus, with branches in many cities and "New Millennium Initiative, in which local networks of teachers work to make their voices heard on topics of local interest, such as the implementation of new state laws. Support from a variety of private national and local foundations, including the Joyce Foundation, the Bill &amp; Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Denver-based Rose Community Foundation, have helped in the transition. (The Joyce Foundation underwrites coverage of improvements to the teaching profession in Education Week, and the Gates Foundation provides grant support to Editorial Projects in Education, the newspaper’s parent company.)

Ooops! There goes that nasty little funding issue for Ed Week again.

There were other reports during the summer. I was clued into them by this post from Educational Intelligence Agency's Mike Antonucci, which warned about them getting too ecstatic:

We’d All Love to See the Plan

On the pages of Time, Andrew Rotherham examines the various reform-minded groups that have sprung up within the ranks of the big-city teachers’ unions. Sarah Rosenberg at The Quick and the Ed follows suit. Rotherham calls them “insurgents” while Rosenberg refers to “a revolution.” While I applaud any publicly stated diversity of thought within NEA and AFT, I am considerably less sanguine about the prospects of major internal reform. There are two problems. One is that in any corporate culture radical changes in direction are frowned upon, if not suppressed. In unions, whose very hallmark is solidarity, this reluctance to entertain unorthodox thought is ratcheted up several levels. The relative electoral success of NewTLA is remarkable, but such victories don’t usually result in further gains in subsequent elections. I admit we are operating in extraordinary times, so maybe things will be different and I’ll be surprised.
Second, everyone is an insurgent until he or she achieves power. If you think this is an easy transition, ask Karen Lewis in Chicago. Or ask Bob Chase how that new unionism thing worked out for him. The teacher union reform field is littered with the bodies of those who sought to alter the union’s primary mission – protecting teachers – and found themselves ousted in favor of challengers who promised to get tough with administrators.
You say you want a revolution? Well, you know…
I know Mike is a leading ed deformer, but you gotta love him. His mistakes here are to actually give credit to NEWTLA for electoral success (they endorsed people who were not NEWTLA and claimed credit for people who won) and equate Real Reformer Lewis with with deform groups like E4E. Lewis just came out of 30 years teaching high school chemistry to take over the Chicago Teachers Union.

One interesting real reformer new union leader who is being ignored is Milwaukee's Bob Peterson who founded "Rethinking Schools," the most progressive teacher journal in the nation. I got to hang with Bob in Chicago and at SOS this summer and here is a guy who just came out of a 5th grade class and is now running a big-city union (NEA unfortunately or we could really give Randi agitta).  I should also point to a young-gen teacher activist in Chicago - Kristine Mayle - who went from 4th grade special ed teacher to chief financial officer of the Chicago Teachers Union.

These real reform reformers are the ones that should be getting the press - if the press was not tilted. Just note how the local press, which all know about our movie simply ignores it. Yesterday when Brian Lehrer mentioned WFS and branded its counter film as the closed ed deform "American Teachers" Beth Fertig who I spoke to extensively about our movie could very easily have said, "actually there is really a counter film to WFS produced by local teachers and parents." But she didn't.

Here is a report from a GEMer who attended the Walcott event but not the breakouts.
The E4E event on September 19, was held at the CUNY graduate center and immediately upon entering I was greeted by overly friendly people. When I said I taught in the South Bronx the young woman responded by saying that was the “territory” she covered when she taught. They audience was mostly young and white and numbered a little over one hundred.

Sydney welcomed everyone and for the teachers in the audience she displayed a lovely power point agenda. We would learn what is E4E; event and conversations norms, “Please stay respectful and solutions oriented in your comments”; the chancellor would speak; the chancellor would hear from us; there will be break out sessions and lastly we would continue this conversation at the bar listed on our break out session cards.

In a barely ten minute speech, the chancellor did nothing but continue the legacy of his predecessor. He began his speech saying his goal when he started was to lower the rhetoric and in five months he succeeded with the exception of last week with the incident in Staten Island. He talked about the first days of school, his plan for the extra day of staff development and the teacher who amazed him on the first day while at a school in the Bronx. He stated that he would continue to work with mediocre schools but that the DOE would continue to do what its been doing with failing schools. He said that what we’ve done with high schools with the Gates funding is great. Things are off the charts now. He said he would be coming out with a number of vision statements over the next 3 months. He believes his greatest challenge is the size of the system. That a lot of reform can take place in 6 months and he is not here to enforce the status quo.

In the next segment, questions were on the big screen with answer choices. Only current teachers were given clickers to respond. After the teacher responses were shown the chancellor would give his answer and speak about the topic.

The first question asked which out of 4 issues should be the biggest for the year. The choices were; principal/teacher evaluations, teacher pay structure, potential layoffs, and tenure. I missed the teacher response; Walcott said principal/teacher evaluation was his number one issue. Regarding tenure he said, “no one should be guaranteed a job for life”.

Asked if they were very well informed, somewhat informed or uniformed regarding the new teacher evaluation system, 55% said they were somewhat informed. Evan ? said “that’s pretty good” and Walcott said “yeah”.

Teachers were asked if we should be compensated based only on seniority or credits accumulated, only on effectiveness in the classroom or both measures. Overwhelmingly the teachers responded both measures. Walcott stated that teacher pay should be measured by some metric.

64% of teachers said they agree that tenure should be a meaningful milestone based on a fair and rigorous assessment. Although 63% responded that they were uninformed regarding the DOE’s changes to tenure guidelines.

Teachers were asked if they felt the DOE was aware of their concerns and if they DOE actively listens to those concerns. 38% responded they somewhat disagreed and 19% strongly disagreed. 28% remained neutral and 15% somewhat agreed. Walcott asked how can we better listen and communicate.

The next question had “helpful” suggestions for the DOE to better communicate with teachers. 12% of teachers said regular town hall meetings, 6% said webinars, 14% said survey teachers and 67% said all of the above. In response to Walcott’s query teachers said districts would be a manageable town hall meeting. Walcott said webinars were possible but surveys are costly and time consuming.

The chancellor then answered 5 questions written on index cards by audience members. Responding to a question regarding how to compensate teachers, Walcott said that he believes in alternative compensation and that David (Weiner) was recruited for this purpose, to determine different ways to compensate teachers. Walcott then said he did not have to worry about a job he would be there for two and a half years.

The chancellor got a bit testy when asked a question about cheating on the regents exams and the finding that so many tests were scored 65. He said New York City is not Atlanta and the Regents has always had a policy if a grade falls in the 60-64 range to go back over the exam which is why there were so many tests at 65. He quoted an audit by Bill Thompson in 2009 that found no evidence of cheating. When pressed further on the question Walcott responded, “I’m trying to be nice”. He then turned it over to Shael Suransky.
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