Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All OK with Us

In Brooklyn for a few hours. Thanks for all your concerns. We stuck it out and water came within an inch of our main level -- flooded basement, den, garage and laundry room but we and cats are ok. Both cars shot.

Our end on the bay side did not do badly considering the bay met the ocean over the sea wall so that every house was surrounded by 5 or more feet of ocean water -- truly part of the sea. Beach side devastated I hear with some houses totally gone. 

No power or cell service -- I had more connectivity in New Zealand and Portugal. Lots of cleanup to do so I will not be on very often until we get it all straightened out -- need new cars, heating system, etc.

Keep up the fight.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Washington Irving Anti-Eva Moskowitz Rally, Part 1

The campus is united as the DOE is handing over one of the prime real estate buildings to Moskowitz.

Anti Eva Moskowitz Rally at Washington Irving Campus from Alex Binda on Vimeo.

The Real Perfect Storm

For those who read my last post (A Perfect Storm: Ed Eval, a Contract and ATRs as Unity Shill Peter Goodman Floats (Sellout) Trial Balloon, no, we did not leave Rockaway. And thanks everyone for all your concerns and invitations for us and the cats to come stay. As soon as I told them that due to probable loss of power and/or storm damage we would probably be staying for 3 months I could hear just a bit of waning enthusiasm.

My garage - water came up to the bags this morning at high tide

My new car - water recedes around 10:30AM
We took a walk to the beach at noon and I took some pics and video. We stopped at someone's house who was worried about her car with the surge. I started to panic over my car (above) since we put my wife's in the garage. I felt my car is higher but maybe not high enough. So I raced back home when I realized my next door neighbors left yesterday and their garage has room for my car. Well it is tucked away but if the surge gets in there we are in big trouble -- in terms of our house which could take a long time to be back to normal.

I'm as worried about the bay a half block away as the ocean 4 blocks away. We have a sea wall about 6 feet high. In Hurricane Donna in 1960 the wall wasn't there and the ocean met the bay. It could still happen tonight at high tide. One seeming good thing is that the storm is moving faster and should hit land a few hours before high tide. But we still do have a full moon. I will be howling at it as my basement and possibly higher levels fill with water.

I made a little iphoto slide show with some shaky, bakey video.

Around 12 noon, Monday. Water at high tide around 8AM almost reached the bay, about 4 blocks. By 10:30 it was receding. Next high tide is 8PM tonight, the big one where we expect to take in some water. The idea is to turn my basement into a swimming pool.

A Perfect Storm: Ed Eval, a Contract and ATRs as Unity Shill Peter Goodman Floats (Sellout) Trial Balloon

Chancellor Tisch was optimistic, more than optimistic that a teacher evaluation plan agreement will be reached by the mid-January deadline. The Chancellor is either a glass half full type of person, has her ear at the door, or a little bit of both. If an agreement is not reached the city faces the loss of $300 million, and, the union the wraith wrath of that guy living in sin in the executive mansion in Albany. --- Peter Goodman, Ed in the Apple blog
Call the Goodman post a triple play. There's some red meat by hinting that the UFT won't walk away from the $300 million penalty for not agreeing to the ed eval in mid-January which according to some points of view (see below) by law must be tied to a contract which will be tied to an ATR agreement that both Bloomberg and the UFT leadership both so desperately want. You know, like the joint agreement to end the rubber rooms -- as long as you can't see them. Maybe they will come up with a salve to turn ATRs into invisible men and women.

Goodman (and the union) pushes the Bloomberg threat of layoffs which he used to get the union to agree to give up the ATRs to weekly rotations. And he believes the governor when he says there is no need to amend last in, first out, which we know is a target for ed deformers. They may not have to once ed eval is in the door.
The negotiating gulf is significant but not huge. I frequently hear cries – “Why do we have to agree at all? Let’s give up the money; the City Council will fill in the lost dollars.” Well, there is no guarantee and thousands of teachers would be laid off, and, let’s not forget the governor’s 70 plus percent approval rating. The governor has taken the position that there is no need to amend the seniority layoff laws (“last in, first out”) due to the teacher evaluation law which, in theory, will rid the system of incompetent teachers. No agreement, the “last in, first out” may be gone – including the ATR pool – it could mean excess = layoff. The union leadership must be nimble.
Goodman fiercely defends the UFT deal on evaluations being tied to test scores as being fairer than the current system. He points to the 90% loss rate by the UFT on U ratings. That is because the UFT is incapable and unwilling to provide teachers under attack any support until it is too late. Principals have no fear of the UFT in any way anymore and have been allowed to gut the contract.

Now look at how Goodman addresses the ATR situation -- that the solution is a separation agreement (forced or voluntary?) in which he calls an ATR mess --- while not mentioning that the UFT helped create this mess in the 2005 contract:
The ATR Mess: The city and the union have, once again, been discussing some sort of separation incentive, a lump sum payment to encourage retirement or irrevocable resignation. I know teachers ask why not a buy-out – allowing teachers to retire before they have accumulated sufficient years or age – that type of  settlement probably requires approval by an outside actuary and legislative action.
Oh, did I tell you that Goodman's son Drew is amongst a horde of ATR supervisors whose job it will be to set up the conditions for forced separation, especially if they are on the high end of the salary? Note how Goodman poo-poohs the retirement incentive option. And what about the coming horde of new and younger ATRs as more schools are closed? I see the Chicago situation in the tea leaves. Sure, defend a gutted LIFO for teachers who are not ATRS but put them in a separate category.

Finally, the long-lost contract. Goodman defends the UFT decision to go to fact-finding and almost thumps his chest at the fact that they did so. He uses scare tactics to soften us up. "These are perilous times for teachers and their unions." WHY? Because the suck-up sell-out union leaders have given up without a fight. (But watch how Mulgrew and Goodman sell the Chicago story as a "special case.")
The fact-finding process, very quietly, has begun. Months, many months, down the road, absent an agreement in the interim the panel will produce a fact-finding report which is not binding but in the past has provided a framework for contract settlements.
The cynics argue: don’t go to fact-finding, wait for the next mayor. Who is to say the next mayor will open the city coffers? Who is to say that by January of 2014 the nation is not in a “double-dip” recession? Or, a Romney presidency will sharply reduce dollars to education and to states driving the city to draconian cuts in funding and services?
Remember little things like health plans for active and retired members are negotiated separately from the contract and currently cost over a billion dollars a year. In other words, once again, the union leadership must be smart.
In Albany there is growing pressure to amend the Triborough Law, which requires that expired contracts remain in place until the successor agreement is in place.
These are perilous times for teachers and teacher unions.
Wait Peter. You mean the vaunted UFT political machine can't stop them from amending the Triborough Law? In essence Goodman is admitting that the UFT is toothless. If the scuzzball politicians the UFT supports actually do so, just watch Goodman defend the UFT leadership's failure with, "the union leadership must be smart." Or at the very least, Vichy.

James Eterno and Jeff Kaufman point to the state law:
James: 3012-c is the part of state law that talks about the Highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective ratings and the percentages used for each.  The clause below is down at the bottom of the section.  I think this little bit of the law gives the UFT leverage in contract talks but they don't talk much about it. 
Jeff:  the provisions don’t go into effect until there is a new agreement. This is because the law made the evaluation process a mandatory subject of bargaining. The DOE can’t alter the current arrangement unilaterally.
Here are the provisions:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, rule or regulation to the
contrary, all collective bargaining agreements applicable to classroom

teachers or building principals entered into after July first, two thousand
ten shall be consistent with requirements of this section. Nothing in this
section shall be construed to abrogate any conflicting provisions of any

collective bargaining agreement in effect on July first, two thousand ten
during the term of such agreement and until the entry into a successor
collective bargaining agreement, provided that notwithstanding any other

provision of law to the contrary, upon expiration of such term and the entry
into a successor collective bargaining agreement the provisions of this
section shall apply. Furthermore, nothing in this section or in any rule or

regulation promulgated hereunder shall in any way, alter, impair or diminish
the rights of a local collective bargaining representative to negotiate
evaluation procedures in accordance with article fourteen of the civil

service law with the school district or board of cooperative educational
Goodman's entire post is below the break for those who don't want to make the extra click on their slow cell phones.

CTU launches Website to Educate Public about School Closings

Let's see the UFT do something similar school closings or need I remind you that at the AFT convention in Detroit this past summer, the Unity Caucus 800 opposed a Chicago resolution calling for a moratorium on closing schools.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                              CONTACT:             Stephanie Gadlin

October 29, 2012                                                                               312/329-6250                                                                                                                                                                              

CTU launches Website to Educate Public about School Closings is a new online resource for parents, activists and students
CHICAGO – In the ongoing battle with the Chicago Board of Education to give students, parents and teachers the resources needed to strengthen public education and stop school closings, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) today unveiled a new online advocacy campaign which provides education justice and labor allies the tools designed to influence the ongoing debate about what’s best for Chicago’s students.  
The website offers a wealth of information and resources for tackling the complex issues around school reform tactics being used in Chicago.  The campaign was born out of CTU’s advocacy efforts with parents groups, community-based organizations, faith-based institutions, education justice activists and labor leaders which culminated in the first teachers’ strike in 25 years. The site is intended to be a comprehensive resource for neighborhood leaders who seek to engage the public and policy-makers and important issues such as school closings, the campaign for an elected school board and how to strengthen neighborhood schools.
Features include:
  • Content organized based upon the ground-breaking “Schools Chicago Students Deserve,” research report which outlined a 10-point plan for school improvement
  • Research-based content including studies, news articles, essays and white papers for education justice leaders.
  • “Hot Seat” profiles on out-of-town education reformers and other politically-connected individuals and groups who seek to privatize and profit off the backs of public school students and their families.
  • A Frequently Asked Question portal which allows the public to ask questions and exchange ideas with seasoned educators and education justice activists around a variety of issues impacting public education in Chicago.
  • Links to community-based organizations currently engaged in the fight for better schools.
  • Access to videos, interviews and broadcast-quality content featuring opinion leaders and activists who are engaged in the education justice fight.
  • Free downloads of community organizing materials in the PDF format.
In addition, will eventually include a dynamic, new database feature which allows the user to compare neighborhood schools to charter operations and determine whether or not the campuses lack critical resources needed to improve student learning. The database, which is currently under development, will also allow users to determine if their neighborhood school has enough resources and teaching personnel such as counselors, social workers, psychologists and nurses who offer vital wrap-around services.
According to CTU President Karen GJ Lewis, “Today’s students have suffered from years of experimentation as CPS closed, turned around and consolidated their schools. These unproven “fixes” have nothing to do with our children and more to do with real estate transactions and rewarding politically-connected for-profit charter operations with school buildings. is an initiative focused on informing the public about how to get involved in the ongoing fight for more resources and support for our students and educators.
The website is located at and is now live.
The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve.  The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois.  For more information please visit CTU’s website at .

Susan Ohanian: Snookered by Gates on Common Core

They are all drinking the Kool-Aid being passed around by Bill Gates.... I read the released items in English Language Arts/Literacy, and I wanted to vomit... we’ve all been snookered by the U. S. Department of Education, working in cahoots with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but the release of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium sample assessment items makes the flimflam obvious ....

Twenty-three states belong to the other testing consortium–Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which received $186 million of your tax dollars from the U. S. Department of Education as part of the Race to the Top scheme. -------Susan Ohanian
Susan sent this message along, along with a few cartoons:
It would be good if you'd go read it and recommend it to Twitter and Facebook. These recommendations act as counters--and let the world know something is important. If we could ever get a huge count, someone might listen. As it is, education items remain in the pathetic category, with the same few people taking note.
So go forth and read it at the Daily Censored or below and like it on FB and retweet.
Attention people who care about children in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

You’ve been snookered.

The truth of the matter is that we’ve all been snookered by the U. S. Department of Education, working in cahoots with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but the release of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium sample assessment items makes the flimflam obvious to people in the above states. Their leaders gave promissory notes to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

U. S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the new assessments will be “an absolute game changer in public education.” Translation: They’ll rob you blind, ruin your curriculum, and turn your children into test-taking drudges.

On Oct. 24, 2012, the Vermont State Department of Education issued an enthusiastic  press release trumpeting these sample test items. Acting as an echo chamber for the U. S. Department of Education, Vermont Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca says, “These sample items will provide Vermont teachers with an early look into the rigor and complexity students will see on the Smarter Balanced assessments.”

It’s sad to see an ed commissioner who actually has a lot of experience working in schools act as a megaphone to power, but certainly it’s no surprise that the U. S. Secretary of Education, a man with no teacher experience,  employs exclamation points to voice his enthusiasm for the new tests. After all, Arne Duncan is the one who handed out $361 million taxpayer dollars to the testing consortia: Smarter Balanced and PARCC.

There are two to avoid accusations of politicos forcing a National Test on public education. By the way, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who financed the development of the Common Core as a delivery system for these tests and many millions to outfits ranging from the PTA to ASCD to promote it, kicked in another $743,331 “to support capacity building” at Smarter Balanced.

State Departments of Education across the country echo Vermont in  urging teachers to use these Smarter Balanced test items “to begin planning the shifts in instruction that will be required to help students meet the demands of the new assessments.” Bring on ugly, brain-numbing skill drill worksheets on apostrophe use.

Linda Darling Hammond, professor of education at Stanford University (which is well rewarded by the Gates Foundation) as well as senior research advisor for Smarter Balanced, said this: Performance tasks ask students to research and analyze information, weigh evidence, and solve problems relevant to the real world, allowing students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in an authentic way. The Smarter Balanced assessment system uses performance tasks to measure skills valued by higher education and the workplace–critical thinking, problem solving, and communication–that are not adequately assessed by most statewide assessments today.

Indeed. I read the released items in English Language Arts/Literacy, and I wanted to vomit.

Smarter Balanced showed their capacity for coming up with new, innovative assessments by hiring CTB/McGraw-Hill to deliver 10,000 test items–bland passages with no authors and no voice–and lots of items requiring copy-editing skills. Now I  know why these Smarter Balanced released items look so familiar: CTB/McGraw-Hill has been selling this stuff since 1926.

I wrote the Smarter Balanced Help Desk, asking why they offered students so many items with no authors and no voice. They replied, “Authors write the items. For passages, internal authors write some of them and others require external permissions.” They invited me to ask any other questions I might have.

The “authors” are work-for-hire freelancers who aren’t allowed to exhibit personality. These Smarter Balanced items don’t qualify as fiction or non-fiction; they are simply test tommyrot. Putting such artificial passages on tests sends a terrible message to teachers, provoking the use of tons of workbook paragraphs–to get kids ready for an ugly test.

In addition to the antiquated copy-editing chores, Smarter Balanced ignores research on how children acquire new vocabulary and asks testees to use context clues to figure out the meaning of words. I summarized the research refuting this notion in a book chapter: Context Clues: Cure-All or Claptrap? Research shows that when students read for pleasure they experience multiple encounters with new words–and it’s those multiple encounters that result in significant vocabulary growth.

Twenty-five states have signed on to this boondoggle.
The examples of  “innovative, technology-enhanced items that take advantage of computer-based administration to assess a deeper understanding of content and skills” provided by Smarter Balanced are hilarious. Here’s one: Highlight the part of the text. . . . Highlighting as innovative technology? Should taxpayers in the Hendrick Hudson School District pay $1.5 million to upgrade their computers so students can highlight text on a test?

In math, the testee sees a silhouetted swimmer’s animated legs before getting to a question that requires rounding swimming times to the nearest 10th, something kids who know anything about racing know would never happen in the real world. In another problem, the testee is instructed to make use of technological innovation to drag a juice bottle into a grocery bag. The Main State Education Department calls this “innovative, technology-enhanced items that take advantage of computer-based administration to assess a deeper understanding of content and skills than would otherwise by possible with traditional item types.”

They are all drinking the Kool-Aid being passed around by Bill Gates.
Twenty-three states belong to the other testing consortium–Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which received $186 million of your tax dollars from the U. S. Department of Education as part of the Race to the Top scheme. A few states belong to both consortia and five states–Nebraska, Minnesota, Texas, Utah, and Virginia–belong to neither.

I hope people understand that this is much much more than just a quarrel over curriculum preference, but  I’ll get to the penultimate concern of the taxpayer: What does all this cost? After the initial infusion of cash from the U. S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top grants, the claim is that most states can expect to spend less on Smarter Balanced assessments than they do on current assessments. But even taking this claim with a truckload of salt doesn’t make it believable. According to an Oct. 28, 2012 article in, the Hendrick Hudson School District estimates that it will cost “$1.5 million to upgrade its computers and infrastructure to comply with the Common Core mandates.” This is for the three elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school attended by the 2,845 students in the Hendrick Hudson School district.

That’s just computer compliance–to get started.  Gene Wilhoit, Executive Director, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, makes it clear that states that have signed on for the tests have agreed to pay annual administrative fees associated with the tests. Vermont school administrators were told recently to budget $300 per pupil for each year hereafter to buy the computer platforms to deliver the tests and other technology. That’s just the technology. Nothing said about administrative costs, test prep costs, test tutoring costs, and so on and so on.

There are 50 million schoolkids out there in K-12. You don’t need any innovative, technology-enhanced, computer-based highlighting to do the math. What you need is the grit and stamina to say “No!”
Below the break are the last 2 Ohanian reports which are loaded with common core stuff. Click her links and get some of her great commentary. And Never Forget: Our national and local union leaders support Common Core which shows you exactly where they are at --- can you spell V-I-C-H-Y?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

NEW Caucus Under Attack by Press, Randi: Whose Side Are You On?

Watch Randi and Cami hold the vote in the middle of the hurricane tomorrow ---
NPS, the union leadership, and the local media all see their agenda threatened by our analysis. --- NEW Caucus
Below is the latest from NEW Caucus on the contract. But first a short video from a NEW member who attended the MORE Chicago Lesson session on Oct. 20.


NEW Caucus Members and Supporters:

This has been a long and taxing week for all education workers in Newark.  It has been especially busy for NEW Caucus in our attempts to inform NTU members about the proposed contract to be voted on Monday.

There have been flurries of emails over district email from NTU officials and their supporters, calling into question NEW Caucus motives, and our analysis of the proposed contract.  Money has been spent on shiny flyers, NTU officials and AFT staffers have visited schools, and AFT staffers have been calling the membership urging them to vote yes.  Even the Star Ledger Editorial Board - headed by Tom Moran, who last week wrote a glowing piece on the proposed contract and NTU leadership - got into the act Saturday, calling the NEW Caucus liars (see link below).  

Yet most of the criticism we have heard of our analysis addresses only the front page of our document, where we bullet pointed, in stark language, the logical conclusions if such a business contract was carried out to its fullest extent.  It almost seems as if none of our critics have read the 4 page ANALYSIS that follows.  Mr. Moran certainly did not.
NEW Caucus (Newark) Updated Contract Critique

As members consider how to vote tomorrow, and as you mull over the honesty of everyone involved, WE ARE RESENDING BOTH THE PROPOSED CONTRACT AND THE NEW CAUCUS WORKING ANALYSIS!  The analysis is updated in response to a few legitimate criticisms of the original document.

We hope that all members will read the proposed contract, and then our analysis.  After comparing the two, members can draw a solid conclusion about the work of NEW Caucus and our veracity.  

Here is Press Coverage of NEW Caucus in recent days:

1) Good article from In These Times on NEW Caucus' Tuesday meeting, and on NEW Caucus' views of proposed contract.

2) Another good article from NJ Spotlight also on NEW Caucus' Tuesday meeting and the proposed contract debate within the NTU.

3) The Star-Ledger Editorial blasting NEW Caucus.  Tom Moran and the Star Ledger have ignored us for about one year now, have never interviewed or even spoken to us officially prior to now, and even refused to run an op-ed piece from us last year, yet chose to criticize us publicly after we analyzed the proposed contract and only 2 days before NTU members vote.  This tells us that we are striking close to the truth. Why else would the Ledger use an editorial to try to discredit us unless they thought we NEEDED to be discredited?  It tells us that our analysis is on point, and that they cannot allow the full contents of that analysis to be seen as credible, lest people actually believe it.  Why else would they harp only on our bullet points rather than the in-depth, 4 page analysis that follows? The answer is that NPS, the union leadership, and the local media all see their agenda threatened by our analysis.

Anyway, here it is...

4) Lastly, here is a post by the always sharp Jersey Jazzman, critiquing the Ledger's attacks on NEW Caucus

Monday's Vote:

During the week, NEW Caucus had considered doing an unofficial exit poll of the vote, but were asked on Thursday by NTU leadership to come in and monitor the process officially.  So, on Monday, 2 NEW Caucus members will be in and around the NTU headquarters monitoring the process.  


NEW Caucus continues to urge members to read both the contract and our analysis of it before they vote on Monday.  

This is a reactionary contract that blames teachers for all the educational problems of the world, and makes it seem that teacher quality is the sole factor in student performance, without taking into account the socio-economic conditions of our students, not to mention the 16 years of state control of the Newark Public School system.  

Does teacher quality matter?  Of course.  

But to focus only on teacher quality, and then to punish thousands of good teachers for socio-economic factors beyond their control is immoral, will not work, sets us up for failure, AND WILL NOT HELP STUDENTS BECAUSE IT IN NO WAY ADDRESSES THE ROOT CAUSES OF THE PROBLEM!  

NEW Caucus continues to urge NTU members to VOTE NO to this proposed contract!

The question then remains: if we vote down this contract, where do we go from here? Here’s our tentative strategy:

1) Create and carry out a REAL Fair Contract Campaign (as happened in Chicago) to truly reenergize and reunite our union.

2) Form a Rank-and-File Contract Committee to involve the entire NTU membership in the decision making process (as happened in Chicago).

3) Form Contract Committees in every NPS building so that members will be involved in every step of the process (as happened in Chicago).

4) Reach out to social justice-oriented labor and education lawyers for assistance and guidance.

5) Begin to form alliances with other social justice organizations in the Newark community who can and will support the NTU in its drive for a fair contract that truly serves the interests of education workers and students.  

In Solidarity,
Newark Education Workers Caucus
(NEW Caucus)

hush, hush, sweet charlotte. . . . . . from Rob Rendo

Cartoon by Robert Rendo.

Robert Rendo gives free and permanent license to anyone who wishes to use this image in their literature, tweets, websites, blogs, etc. to fight the corporate education reform agenda and to restore public education to educators and cognitive scientists who are maintaining the same fight. While Robert Rendo retains copyright, he encourages everyone to use the free permanent license to utilize the image as advocacy. The sole condition for usage is that the name "Robert Rendo" is credited for the illustration. This notice of free licensure can be used as well and is equally encouraged. If image obtainment is a problem for the reader, please e-mail Robert Rendo at, and he will e-mail the image in any file format the user requests.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Norm In The Wave: As a One-Issue Guy, It’s Not Easy Being Green

I wrote this Weds morning pushing right up against a deadline. Nothing has happened since to change things.

Published: Friday, Oct. 26, The Wave,

As a One-Issue Guy, It’s Not Easy Being Green
By Norm Scott

So in this election I’m trying real hard to look at the overall picture. The economy. Defense. Foreign affairs. The environment. The fact that I believe a Mitt Romney presidency will being us back to the 1930’s world of great depression and possibly nuclear Armageddon. You know, all that boring crap.

Most people who know me are aware that I have been obsessed with the politics of education over the past two decades to the extent that interest in all this stuff – and even sports - or worse, working out - are taking a back seat. My wife has been talking about having me committed. One night I woke up as she was attaching some wires to my head from her “do it yourself shock therapy” kit. So how has this addiction affected my vote in the upcoming election? Don’t ask.

I told you not to ask. Now I have to go on another tirade about how there is little difference between Obama and Romney when it comes to education. In fact, there are relatively minor differences generally between Democrats and Republicans on education. Both parties agree that despite throwing all that love at teachers publicly, it is teachers, their unions and the general lack of quality teaching in this nation that is bringing down the entire economy of the western world.

If I had to boil down a major difference between the two parties I’d say that the Republicans want to wipe out teacher unions completely while the Democrats want to weaken them severely but keep them around as a hollow shell for the money and election support the teacher unions give them no matter how badly they are treated.

I’ve railed here for almost the entire 4-year Obama term in office how his Race to the Top (RTTT) has taken George Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and as education historian Diane Ravitch has so eloquently stated “put it on steroids.” An enormous amount of money has been used to bribe states into forcing teachers, at least in part, to be rated based on student test scores based on a system known as Valued Added Measures (VAM) that has been discredited. Governor Cuomo has jumped on that bandwagon by setting a mid-January 2013 deadline for the UFT here in NYC to capitulate or have the city lose an enormous amount of state education aid. Since the UFT supports having a portion of teacher ratings be based on discredited tests (which with some irony, many top-level principal in NY State oppose). I’m guessing the UFT will cave in some manner but manage to disguise it as a “win”. Frankly, I would dare Cuomo to make these cuts and suffer the political consequences. But the union is so afraid of public retribution, which they will get no matter what they do, I’m betting on them caving.

In addition, Obama and his education secretary Arne Duncan have put a billion dollars on the table for merit pay schemes that have been proven by all research to be failures. Yes, I said a billion. Remember how that half a billion dollar Solara solar energy company supported by Obama went belly up and the Republicans screamed bloody murder? Not a peep about the enormous amounts of money – like 750 billion - added to the deficit as a result of RTTT. Hey, Republicans will argue about a relative dime but when the money helps undermine the teachers and their unions it’s “Right on Barack.”

Both national unions, the NEA and the AFT, now run by Randi Weingarten, our own former sell-out in chief, have jumped to Obama’s support unconditionally, leaving many teachers scratching their heads. The unions are selling the idea that Romney is much more dangerous than Obama for educators. Much more? Well, maybe a little.

In selling Obama to the members union leaders like UFT’s Michael Mulgrew are toning down the education issues. All he is saying is “the president believes that public education is the great equalizer and we need to invest more in it and that Romney believes that we should cut funding in our public schools and get rid of thousands of teachers, and that every child is nothing more than a voucher or a dollar sign.” Well, I guess if you think that spending money on privatized charter schools, merit pay, an enormously expensive testing program used not to help kids but monitor teachers is a good investment then Obama looks better – on the surface.

A surprising number of teachers facing this onslaught are not buying it and looking for other options, especially teachers in non-swing states where their Obama vote won’t mean much. Right now I am one of those even though I know Romney will ramp up all that other boring stuff: scut social security and medicare and let the market decide, savage the middle class, remove as many government regulations as possible to allow the financial markets to run wild once again and cut the federal government to the extent that you will need a food taster to check for contamination of everything you eat. Hey Mitt, let’s get rid of the FAA and let the market regulate aviation as planes fall from the sky. You know, your basic right wing Republican program: cut taxes and every government program that services the bulk of the population while raising defense spending and getting us into at least two wars. A sure formula following up on the successful George Bush era.

I know, I know, with Mitt, who I believe as I write this is going to win, we are heading for catastrophe. But since I’m a one issue guy and my vote means nothing here in New York, I (and many other teachers) are voting for the Green Party presidential candidate, physician Dr. Jill Stein.

I hope Dr. Stein makes house calls in case my wife, who claims she is voting for Obama, succeeds in getting those wires attached.

Norm blogs every hour about education issues at


The opinions expressed on EdNotesOnline are solely those of Norm Scott and are not to be taken as official positions (though Unity Caucus/New Action slugs will try to paint them that way) of any of the groups or organizations Norm works with: ICE, GEM, MORE, Change the Stakes, NYCORE, FIRST Lego League NYC, Rockaway Theatre Co., Active Aging, The Wave, Aliens on Earth, etc.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Your UFT at Work: Charlie Turner Emails Jeff Kaufman

Will Brooklyn HS District Rep Charlie Turner visit Chapter Leader Jeff Kaufman's school even though Jeff tells him not to bother? I bet he will since Unity slugs like Turner are supposed to go in and try to undermine chapter leaders who are viewed as "opposition." (I have stories from more than one school.)

Jeff refers to Turner's last uninvited visit along with HS VEEP Leo Casey when they both were there to undermine Jeff due to some complaint from a teacher who happened to be associated with E4E. You can watch Jeff tell about it in this video I shot in July 2011 posted at  Since I consider Turner one of the bigger shits in the UFT hierarchy, I got more than a little chuckle from Jeff's comments.

From: Charlie Turner []
Sent: Monday, October 22, 2012 1:44 PM
To: JeffB
Subject: Issues at your school
Hi Jeff,

I haven’t heard from you lately. You didn’t respond to my inquiry about curriculum, etc. Please get back to me about that stuff. Also, does your school have a library and a librarian? Let me know.

Charley Turner
UFT District Representative
Brooklyn High Schools



Thank you for your concern about my chapter. While issues come up from time to time our staff has remained unified and resilient toward administration overreaching. Fortunately we have not had to utilize our grievance procedure past Step 1 to resolve differences.

Perhaps what most concerns our Chapter is the looming fact-finding and the recent contract negotiations in Newark in which our Union leadership has played a major role in a pay for performance scheme. Additionally the failure of any progress in reformulating assessment metrics for transfer schools has doomed us to become future ATRs. The last contact I had with the Union about this issue was in the Spring of 2011.

Yes, we have a library and a librarian.



Thanks for the information. I find it surprising that your teachers are so intent with the Newark negotiations.
With regard to the assessment metrics for Transfer schools, the union is pressuring the DOE to use a Transfer school waver that was agreed to last spring with Bushwick Community High School.
I would be happy to visit your school to discuss these and other issues with your members.



Our Union has provided precious little in the way of information about contract negotiations over the last 3 years except to say they weren’t going well and that we are once again going to fact-finding (which you know has brought us teacher busting contracts the last 2 times we went this route). Our teachers need to know what to expect from fact-finding and how our Union leadership will react to further DOE demands to emasculate teachers and their role in education.

I was never notified about the agreement that Bushwick Community High School made last year. What are the details? Who made the agreement and what does it provide? (A copy of the same would be greatly appreciated). My understanding, the last I was advised about this issue, was that the Regents tabled the waiver application.

Given your last appearance with Leo Casey I strongly advise against any visits at this time.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Newark Contract: Weingarten is a Serial Pusher of Bad Contracts

The NTU leadership and Weingarten ought to be ashamed they're pushing this piece of shit contract onto Newark teachers, but they're incapable of that emotion. They're too busy sucking up to the corporatocracy as they collect their six figure salaries and benefits and sell working teachers down the river with these "innovative" contracts Weingarten and the education reformers/corporatocracy love so much. It's time to rid the AFT and the locals of these corporate shills and bring in leadership that defends public schools and teachers from the horrors of corporate education reform. ----Reality-Based Educator
When the Baltimore Teachers Union was initially faced with a merit pay proposal in 2010, they turned it down. But after Randi Weingarten and the AFT went there to convince the Baltimore teachers that this was a good contract, a second vote passed merit pay and the contract provisions. Since then, the number of unsatisfactory evaluations (ineffective) shot up throughout the city, in some schools as high as 60%. Let’s not repeat these same errors.  ---NEW Caucus analysis of contract
The Weingarten tactic she and Unity Caucus used here in NYC in pushing the 2005 contract of saying the only alternative is to strike is being used hot and heavy in Newark, as Jersey Jazzman chronicles in this letter (A Newark Teacher Speaks) from a Newark teacher:
From every account I heard, however, our rep told those who were there that if we don't vote for this proposal, the only thing left will be to strike - with no income, no benefits, etc.  Now several people who were firm NO votes are concerned.  They are waffling.
JJ has many articles on the contract but does not take an out and out stand against it trying to lean over backwards to give Weingarten a break:
I also appreciate the work AFT president Randi Weingarten and Newark Teachers Union president Joe Del Grosso did to get this deal done. I am a union guy - I am on your team.

But this is not helpful
This is not a merit pay system,” said Weingarten. “This is a full compensation system where the work you do and the compensation you have are tied in together.” She said the new contract is “aligning the evaluation system with experience” while offering “significantly higher salaries for teachers all throughout their experience. … When you have all of those components, that’s a professional compensation system." [emphasis mine]
I'm sorry, but there's just no way you can call this anything but a "merit pay system." From the NTU's own joint statement with NPS:
I wouldn't use the terms "not helpful" here. How about "Vichy, backstabbing swine?" 

Leave it to Reality-Based Educator to lay it on 

Newark Teachers Hammer Union Leaders Over Sell-Out Contract

A lot of people met Del Grosso and the union leadership tonight and it doesn't sound like too many of them are happy with this sell-out contract.

We'll have to see how the vote goes, but if tonight is any indication, Randi Weingarten and the rest of the corporate shills at the AFT and the NTU might have some trouble getting this "piece of garbage that will divide the union" passed.

And that's of course exactly what this contract is meant to do - divide teachers, pit school staffs against each other, pit young against old, pit other teachers in New Jersey against teachers in Newark if they agree to this contract and merit pay comes to other towns and municipalities.

The NTU leadership and Weingarten ought to be ashamed they're pushing this piece of shit contract onto Newark teachers, but they're incapable of that emotion.

They're too busy sucking up to the corporatocracy as they collect their six figure salaries and benefits and sell working teachers down the river with these "innovative" contracts Weingarten and the education reformers/corporatocracy love so much.

It's time to rid the AFT and the locals of these corporate shills and bring in leadership that defends public schools and teachers from the horrors of corporate education reform.
And of course out brothers and sisters in the NEW Caucus which we in MORE relate to. Here is their latest analysis of the contract. I imagine they will play a similar role ICE and TJC played in the 2005 contract battle here in NYC where we did help turn out almost 40% to vote NO despite the Unity machine going out full force.

Here is what NEW sent out:

NYC Schools Face Another Wave of For-Profit Field Testing

Parents and Educators Protest Unsound Testing Policies

If you want to help in this fight, join our Change the Stakes group.


October 24, 2012

NYC Schools Face Another Wave of For-Profit Field Testing as
Parents and Educators Protest Unsound Testing Policies

Reference material on this week’s field tests and additional updates on challenges to New York City and State’s high stakes testing programs and policies

Pearson’s New York State Field Tests

The New York State Education Department has assigned 169 NYC schools (559 schools statewide) to administer stand-alone field tests to children in grades 3-9 this week.  The stated purpose for October field testing is to try out questions for future testing products. This is the third time this year that public school children in NYC have been subjected to experimental testing solely for the benefit of the state’s test development contractor, NCS Pearson, Inc. 

NYC children are expected to participate in this for-profit research effort despite the fact that parents have received no notification.  Change the Stakes reaffirms the position our organization took in the spring that the State Education Department and NYC Department of Education must notify families of affected students and only administer field tests to students for whom explicit consent has been obtained. 

Earlier in the month, Change the Stakes joined ParentVoicesNY and Time Out From Testing in an effort to educate and inform parents at NYC schools selected for October field testing.  As a result, we have heard from parents and educators from across the state looking for information on ways to challenge this unfair practice.

New York City’s Assessment Policies are Failing Students and Communities

Stand-alone field testing, an ineffective way to try out new test questions, is disruptive to classroom instruction and learning.  Unfortunately, field testing is just part of a larger problem.  In many schools, preparation for high-stakes testing has come to dominate curriculum and instruction, to the exclusion of more-comprehensive, rigorous, and substantive education.  Change the Stakes joins others who argue that inflexible and severely flawed assessment policies waste human and financial resources by narrowing curricula and preventing teachers from using their training and experience to provide optimal educational opportunities for their students, causing particular damage for the most needy and vulnerable students. 

Most New Yorkers are not aware of the excessive amount of testing that occurs in NYC schools throughout the school year. While the State is responsible for the development of standardized tests and the misguided new test score-based teacher evaluation program, specific NYC Department of Education (DOE) policies and practices place ever-mounting pressure to dedicate valuable classroom time and resources to test preparation.
  • DOE student promotion policies, modified this past summer, are still essentially entirely based on test scores from seriously flawed exams.
  • DOE School Progress Reports continue to provide parents and community members with extremely limited and misleading information on the quality of education offered at an individual school.  Despite widespread criticism of this reporting tool, individual school grades continue to guide decisions on school closing and other critical matters.  
Explosion of Parent, Educator and Community Protest across the State

Over the past year more New York parents have begun to fight back against test-driven education by refusing to allow their children to participate in standardized testing.  A number of NYC parents took this action during last April’s annual state exams, and many more refused to participate in field testing conducted in June (press coverage of these actions can be found on the Change the Stakes website).  A number of NYC schools have formed parent committees focused on challenging high-stakes testing policies and practices. 

Over 2,100 parents and other citizens concerned about the impacts of high-stakes testing have signed a Change the Stakes petition calling for a non-punitive process by which New York parents can opt their children out of standardized tests, with many expressing deep concerns about unbalanced and ineffective testing policies. 

Important petition and letter signing efforts spearheaded by other groups include:

1.      New York State Principals Open Letter of Concern Regarding New York State’s APPR (teacher evaluation) Legislation, signed by over 1,500 principals and more than 5,600 supporters
2.      New York State Professor’s Letter to End the Reliance on High Stakes Standardized Testing, signed by more than 1,100 professors and released in June at a press conference at the New York Civil Liberties Union
3.      ParentVoicesNY petition expressing concern about the role of state standardized testing in New York public education

Resolutions calling for an end to unbalanced and ineffective high stakes testing policies include the following:

1.      New York City Council Resolution calling upon the New York State Education Department, the New York State Legislature, and the Governor to re-examine public school accountability systems and to develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment which do not require extensive standardized testing, introduced in June 2012.
2.      Resolutions against high stakes testing adopted by five NYC Community Education Councils (3, 14, 20, 21 and 30) and currently being considered by CEC 6, modeled on the national resolution that originated in Texas and has been passed by hundreds of school boards in that state.
3.      An emergency resolution adopted by the Niagara Region PTA opposing high-stakes testing and calling for the suspension of the statewide testing program for grades 3-8.
Finally, educators such as Carol Burris and Lauren Cohen submitted testimony communicating concern about high stakes testing to the New York Education Reform Commission. 


Change the Stakes ( is a growing group of parents, teachers and other New Yorkers concerned about the harmful effect high stakes-testing is having on our children and our schools.  We oppose the over-emphasis on such tests and misuse of the results for purposes they were never intended to serve. We believe high-stakes testing must be replaced by educationally-sound, reliable and valid forms of student, teacher, and school assessment.

Follow us on Twitter or on our Facebook page