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 & 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.
More links to SBS articles on E4E


Leonie Haimson said...

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.

Good post as usual, Norm, but I think you buried the lead!

Anonymous said...

Have to agree Norm. Lead was buried.
Just too much writing for one post.

David B. Cohen said...

There's a lot of good information here, and any group out there is fair game for scrutiny. For what it's worth, however, I don't think taking foundation money automatically makes a group suspect. Look at the records of the foundation and the group. I'm thinking in particular of the mention of the New Millenium Initiative groups affiliated with the Center for Teaching Quality. I have some loose connections to both CTQ (through its Teacher Leaders Network) and teachers I know in the SF Bay Area NMI group. I think they're doing good work and truly represent the perspectives of teachers rather than providing a front for any foundation agenda.