Sunday, June 30, 2013

Drive-by Superintendent Paul Vallas, YOU'RE OUT!!!!!!!!

Now is the time for history to be clarified, all the way back to the days when Bill Clinton was promoting corporate "school reform" by praising Vallas in two State of the Union addresses and all this mayoral control nonsense began.... George Schmidt 
Hunter College president Jennifer Raab called Vallas "arguably the most experienced superintendent in the country."  ... Susan Ohanian
Finally, someone with the guts to toss Vallas, who jumped from Chicago to Philly to New Orleans -- call him the bed bug of ed deform --- out on his ass as bogus Superintendent of Bridgeport schools.

Ravitch has been reporting on the story almost minute by minute:
Here is a report on Vallas’ time in Philadelphia.
Vallas launched the nation’s most extensive experiment in privatization, which was evaluated by the RAND Corporation.
Here is RAND’s report on Vallas’ foray into the “diverse provider model.”
When the trial was conducted of whether Paul Vallas had the necessary credentials to serve as superintendent of schools in Bridgeport, the attorney for the plaintiffs said he was a “drive-by superintendent.” The state commissioner of education Stefan Pryor, who picked Vallas, said he was impressed by his work in New Orleans, where he oversaw the near total privatization of the public schools. The linked article describes testimony taken during the trial, which culminated in the judge’s decision that Vallas did not have the legally required credentials and should be removed.
Ed Notes has been exposing Vallas since 2000 - due to the info coming in from George Schmidt, who was personally fired and banned from teaching in the Chicago schools by Vallas for publishing the useless and deformed CASE tests in Substance. George is smiling today:
I just finished reading and loving Susan Ohanian's article about how Paul Vallas has been ruled unqualified to be the superintendent in Bridgeport Connecticut by a court. We've posted the article at Now is the time for history to be clarified, all the way back to the days when Bill Clinton was promoting corporate "school reform" by praising Vallas in two State of the Union addresses and all this mayoral control nonsense began. Vallas was always a fraud. But there is now a two decades history of his frauds that will have to be turned into a book about how such frauds came into power. I'm thinking of calling mine "Corporate tyrants and corporate tyranny in our public schools from Paul G. Vallas to Barbara Byrd Bennett." One of the joys of editing Susan's article about the latest Vallas flap was going through some of the available record, including the corruption Vallas presided over in Philadelphia and the fulsome nonsense published in praise of Vallas by corporate shills like Alexander Russo (whose stories read like he has a crush on Vallas). ....Schmidt
Here is Susan's piece

Paul Vallas! Power Point proof of leadership abilities? Social promotion and grade inflation?... Connecticut Superior Court Judge Orders Vallas Removed from Superintendency of Bridgeport publlc schools.

Seventeen years after he was plucked from the obscurity of his post as budget director for Chicago's mayor (then Richard M. Daley) to become the first "Chief Executive Officer" of a large urban public school district, former Chicago (and Philadelphia, and New Orleans, and now Bridgeport) schools chief Paul Vallas has finally been ruled unqualified to be the superintendent of a major American school district. A Connecticut judge ruled on June 28 that Vallas did not have the credentials under Connecticut law to be in charge of the Bridgeport schools and that a quickie course (and a flurry of papers quickly graded "A" by a local university administrator) did not constitute the fulfillment of the requirements under Connecticut law. I find the blatant, arrogant disregard for rules fascinating. 

One of the more memorable whines Paul Vallas emitted when he was challenged for not complying with Connecticut law before he became Superintendent of the 30,000-student Bridgeport public schools (at a salary of more than a quarter million dollars a year) was to compare himself to Michael Jordan. Vallas whined when challenged about his education credentials that Connecticut wouldn't require Michael Jordan to get certified to coach high school basketball, unabashedly comparing himself to the Chicago legend. So far, no report has gotten a quote from Michael Jordan, who has NOT gone around the USA telling people, "I am the Paul Vallas of the NBA!"This whole case rests on whether one independent course constitutes a program. You've got the Dean of the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut testifying for the plaintiff against Vallas and the "Director, Executive Leadership Program, Department of Educational Leadership" at the same university on Paul Vallas's side. The latter did not exactly make a case for his own leadership acumen. 

To sum it up in a word: Pathetic. 

This comes only a little more than a month after Hunter College president Jennifer Raab called Vallas "arguably the most experienced superintendent in the country." [CUNY Institute for Education Policy at Roosevelt House. The Institute has landed: Coleman, King, Robinson, Steiner, and Vallas discuss the future of education at CIEP launch event] This event was May 9 in New York City — when Vallas was busy writing the six papers described below. And we don't know the schedule of his consultancy gig: [In August 2012, the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners voted to enter into a contract with Paul Vallas and VOYAGER Learning, (a subsidiary of Cambium Education, Inc.), to turnaround fifteen Indianapolis schools. The price tag of which is $6 million a year for three years, the total amount not to exceed $18.1 million.] Vallas Turnaround System. Who was minding the store in Bridgeport? Writing the papers, speaking in New York . . . Who was minding the store in Bridgeport? 

Maybe Vallas should have invited his Hunter College fan to go to Bridgeport Superior Court to speak for him. June 28, 2013 — Superior Court, Judicial District of Fairfield at Bridgeport, CT. Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that Paul Vallas, who was approved Monday as superintendent of schools by the Bridgeport Board of Education, did not complete a school leadership program as required by law. In the Superior Court Judicial District of Fairfield at Bridgeport, Judge Barbara Bellis offers a Memorandum of Decision, June 28, 2013 that answers the pressing question "When is a college course a course and when is it a program?" We get a close-up look at what appears to be a bunco game played by then-acting superintendent of Bridgeport Schools Paul Vallas and University of Connecticut Director, Executive Leadership Program, Department of Educational Leadership, Robert Villanova. The Judge's decision includes a whole lot of nitpickiing about a course of study required by the state of Connecticut for Vallas to be granted certification:

In St. Louis, teachers union plays role in getting rid of bad teachers

The "bad" teacher syndrome is one of the lynchpins of ed deform. Call it a version of Stop and Frisk or the War on Terrorism where you taint entire population to root out a few. Given the overall assault on all teachers, for the union to go along with this is tantamount to -- well I'll say it again -- Vichy.

The unions should instead make it clear that all professions have people with problems -- police, lawyers, doctors, etc -- but no where else is the witch hunt going on that with union cooperation gives unfettered power to our enemies. Shame on them and especially to a clear Randi-ite, AFT Local 420 vice president Ray Cummings for playing their game.

Newark Teacher Union Election News UPDATED

Unfortunately, President Del Grosso was not in attendance [at the swearing in] , so the date could not be set. ... NEW Caucus report
....the Newark contract deal was celebrated by Republican Governor Chris Christie and by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who called the deal “a system of the future” and an example “that collective bargaining really works.” In contrast, Rippey [Del Grosso's opponent] told The Nation that the deal “basically is a complete capitulation to the corporate agenda.” ... The Nation
Shamelessly currying favor with Cory Booker and Chris Christie, Weingarten used the national union's resources to push Newark teachers and kids under the bus. In this election of officers, NTU members pushed back. But don't be surprised if Weingarten sees the handwriting on the wall and tries to make nice with New Visions.... Quite an accomplishment for a caucus that really began to pick up steam only after AFT President Randi Weingarten used the national union's organizers to push acceptance of contract that strips Newark education workers of their most basic rights as professionals and workers......Lois Wiener, New Politics
Let's watch this one play out with a president who won by only 9 votes (with 40 going to a 3rd party candidate) while New Visions controls the Exec Bd. Keep in mind that Newark is one of the only New Jersey AFT affiliated locals, which given Randi's work in negotiating the contract might lead to some interesting national repercussions.

The Nation has a piece on this belle weather teacher union election :

Newark Union Head Barely Wins Re-Election After Zuckerberg-Donation-Funded Reform Plan | The Nation

And Ed Notes has been reporting over the last week:
Lois Weiner at New Politics has a piece:

From NEW Caucus:

On Friday new Executive Board members (also known as Vice-Presidents) were sworn in at the NTU hall!

THANKS to all who came out to see this important moment and show support for the newly elected VP's.  It was a great show of solidarity and positivity within the Newark Teachers Union!  

2 major pieces of information about what happened at the meeting:

1)  For the first time in at least 16 years, there are Vice-Presidents who are not members of Joe Del Grosso's SAC slate.  17 (of 18 elected) NEW Vision slate candidates were sworn in.  It was a great moment for democracy in the Newark Teachers Union.  

2)  Newly sworn in NEW Vision slate members requested the date for the  July Executive Board meeting.  The NTU By-Laws require that the Executive- Board meet monthly at the call of the President. Unfortunately, President Del Grosso was not in attendance, so the date could not be set.  We were assured by Eugene Liss, the NTU attorney, that the secretary would pass the request on to the President so that he can set a date for the meeting in late July.

     NEW Caucus will send out the date the moment we know it.  

     BUT, even more significant, and despite the fact that this was officially a full membership meeting, the quorum of Executive Board members in attendance proposed and voted on two motions that may begin the process of democratizing the Executive Board and encouraging membership interest in the workings of the Board.  

     Below are the two motions, BOTH OF WHICH WERE APPROVED UNANIMOUSLY by the quorum of Vice-Presidents in attendance.  Both were read proposed by VP Al Moussab.  

     I move that the President create a calendar of monthly Executive Board meetings and quarterly general membership meetings for the 2013-2014 school year that will be emailed to all NTU members as well as uploaded on the NTU website and placed on all NTU bulletin boards in every school by the first day of school.  

     I move that all Executive Board meeting minutes as well as general membership meeting
minutes are emailed to all NTU members as well as uploaded on the NTU website for all 
members to access within 2 days after the meeting.  

It now remains for President Del Grosso to thoroughly implement these 2 motions.  The newly elected Vice-Presidents will work hard throughout the summer to ensure the July meeting takes place, and that these 2 motions are implemented completely.

In Solidarity,
Newark Education Workers Caucus
(NEW Caucus)

Google Calendar:

Positive winds of change in Newark NJ public schools

Lois Weiner June 30, 2013
A reform caucus in the Newark Teachers Union (NTU)  made remarkable gains in the union election that ended on Friday.  Out of about 3000 members eligible to vote, 1200 NTU members cast their ballots.  (Sadly, that proportion is about par for US unions.) The New Visions candidate for President lost by only 9 votes to the long-time chief, Joe Del Grosso, who will now serve his 10th two-year term.  New Visions won 18 of 29 slots on the Executive Board, giving this vibrant, multi-racial slate of reformers a majority. Quite an accomplishment for a caucus that really began to pick up steam only after AFT President Randi Weingarten used the national union's organizers to push acceptance of contract that strips Newark education workers of their most basic rights as professionals and workers.  Shamelessly currying favor with Cory Booker and Chris Christie, Weingarten used the national union's resources to push Newark teachers and kids under the bus. In this election of officers, NTU members pushed back. But don't be surprised if Weingarten sees the handwriting on the wall and tries to make nice with New Visions. Still, I'm confident New Visions won't be snookered. This savvy group of activists are building the union at the school site, working with parents and students, democratizing the union to "give Newark students schools they deserve." New Visions understands that the future of their union - and public education - requires a different kind of teacher unionism - and union leadership.  And they're poised to provide it.

The Nation article:

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Loretta Prisco: A View from the First Row

  In a Data Driven System, Why Isn’t the DOE Looking at Their Own Data? Can’t See the Forest for the Trees!
The Mayor through his minions, Klein, Black (remember her?), and Walcott have done everything from reorganizing the system to reorganizing it yet again, from firing teachers to hiring newbies and excessing them, to training new principals without teaching experience and rating their schools “F”,  to closing schools and reopening new ones and closing them, to cooking the books in ways that might even top the skills of an Enron bookkeeper, and have still not be able to raise reading and math scores.  Yet the answer is waiting right under their noses.  Hey guys, you claim to be data driven, just look at the data – it sits there waiting for you! Why even a lowly teacher like me can see it!
1.    The schools that have the highest percentage of students in the free lunch program tend to have the students who also perform the lowest on standardized tests.  Don’t you see the connection here? Free lunch = low scores! Suggestion lifted straight from the data:  To improve reading and math achievement, just do away with the free lunch program. Voila!  Join the high scoring schools with fewer free lunch kids. And save the Feds all that money they spend on breakfast and lunch for a bunch of ungrateful kids who do nothing but whine about the food.
2.     Our kids go to school for 10 months, for 6 hours and 57 ½ minutes. Those who are have not done well on standardized tests aren’t promoted, are mandated to go to summer school for 15 days (and some will be absent for some of those days), 3 hours a day, be retested and most will have their scores go up and pass the grade.  So we take the most challenging students and do in 15 days what cannot be done in 10 months with double the daily time. See the connection here? 10 months = failure on tests.  15 days = success on tests.  Hey! Cancel 10 month school and mandate a 15 day school for all students.  Imagine what the most successful students will be capable of achieving in 15 days!  Kids whine about going to school anyway – ask them, they hate school.  We are not teaching art, music and offering gym anyway in year round school as schools are focused on test prep.  So what are they missing? Give the schools to charters, which is what the DOE really wants to do anyway.  And save all that money.
Take a sniff – the solutions are right under your noses!

Norm in The Wave: Education News You Can’t Live Without

I was going to use the final column to review the bad and ugly (there was little good) of education coverage, but with the start of summer vacation for my teacher readers I decided to pass.  But I did write a newsy story on a Stop and Frisk march held last Saturday in Rockaway organized by Josmar Trujillo, one of the very interesting people I've met out here. More about the march and Josmar in a follow-up piece later or tomorrow.

Education News You Can’t Live Without
By Norm Scott
Published Friday, June 28, 2013

It’s a lie. You can live without it and so can I. It’s that time again – the last School Scope column of the school year. And it’s been quite a year for Rockaway schools. The Wave has done a good job of chronicling the struggles and recoveries so I won’t belabor the point, but let’s hope summertime makes the livin’ easy for all our schools, especially those that have suffered draconian and outrageous cuts by the Bloomberg administration.

There have been quite a few changes at The Wave itself. Howie is out, Kevin is in, I’m on a word count limit, and I have to climb this long flight of stairs if I want to complain.

As editor, Howie made the paper one of the only voices in the media resisting the Bloomberg reforms. He made the politics of education a key focus of Wave reporting with great insights into the successes and disasters going on in the school system. In case you didn’t notice, I am an ed policy wonk – duh – and have too much information for my tiny brain to contain. Trying to share even a fraction of it with readers has at times been unmanageable.

The Wave was out in front on so many push button issues in education, especially when they started closing schools in Rockaway. The School Scope column under Howie’s stewardship was the reason I started reading The Wave in the first place over 20 years ago. Or is it thirty? Having worked as a teacher in Rockaway, Howie knew the ins and outs of District 27 and every Rockaway school. When Howie retired from the school system to take a full-time job at The Wave as managing editor he asked me to take over school commentary, giving me the made up title of “education editor” and issuing me press credentials, which I have used to gain entry to press sections not only here in NYC but at events all over the nation. I waved my WAVE press pass at Joel Klein press conferences, American Federation of Teachers conventions in Seattle and Detroit, teacher street demonstrations in Chicago, entry to the press tent at NBC’s Education Nation and a large rally to defend public schools in Washington DC. Plus all that jousting with DOE security when I cover Panel for Education Policy meetings. When I introduce myself as education editor of The Wave people seem impressed. And then they ask, “What is that?”

Having taught and been politically active in District 14 in Williamsburg, I realized I could never duplicate Howie’s great reporting on local schools. So I have focused critiques on the national and the local Bloomberg-led movement to reform schools, which I branded as “ed deform,” and how the local UFT and national AFT were responding – actually aiding and abetting the deforms in so many ways. I have pointed the columns at people who work in the schools and might have some idea of what I’m talking about. But even some of my teacher friends often say, “Wha?”

I’ve been doing this column roughly twice a month for the past 8 years. Or is it 9? Wait, I’ll check the archives. Ooops. Out to sea. With all the things that happened, the loss of those wonderful binders with 130 years of Rockaway history makes me very sad, especially since I had procrastinated over writing a novel using those archives for research. One more reason to just lay in the sun and do nothing. Which I intend to do once I hit the SEND button.

In fact I intended this final column of the school year to be a summary of key stories in education over the year, especially the new teacher evaluation system. I, and everyone else in Rockaway, have had a few distractions, so at times it was hard to focus on external events. There are so many stories, if I wrote about all of them this column would have OCCUPIED this edition. Kevin has pretty much given me the OK to write anytime there is a story to write about, even if outside the education sphere, so I may pop back up during the summer. Otherwise have a great one and see you back in the fall.

In the meantime you can follow the fall of civilization on my blog

Eva Moskowitz Takes Control of StudentsFirstNY With Jenny Sedlis Move

From DAY ONE of the Moskowitz path of destruction, Jenny Sedlis has been at her side attached at the hip, making up whatever lies were necessary to push the evil Success machine. So making Jenny
head of StudentsFirstNY to replace the slime bag Micah Lasher, who jumps from place to place like a bedbug, is a sign that Eva wants to solidify her influence with the next mayor whoever he/she may be.

Jenny can be a nervous sort, dependent on Eva's approval that when things go wrong you get the impression it ain't pretty. I have heard stories about Jenny using hysterics to try to turn away negative stories about Eva and Success, knowing she will get blamed. So it will be interesting to watch how Jenny in charge operates -- but we know she is really not in charge.

I first met Jenny Sedlis at the end of the 2009 school year at a rally GEM supported outside PS 123 in Harlem, another Eva take-over target. She claimed she was an ed notes reader --- monitoring even the blogs for negative Eva stuff, of which Ed Notes is proud to have lead the way. Over the years we have had some nice chats at Gotham Schools parties and at confrontations with the Success machine. I think she really believes that ed deform crap. I know people who despise her for her shilliness but as you know I am not a hater and when we see each other we sometimes hug ---- (she is better than Joel Klein to hug). The thinking must be that using charm might moderate some hostility. It doesn't work but I always love to joust with the Success Stepford crew, though I find some of the parents interesting to talk to.

At one hearing in district 14 the vehemence against Success was so intense as she spoke she looked rocked. (I have some good tape of that -- I almost felt sorry for her.) She started sending surrogates to do her dirty work.
Hey, I have an idea: Jenny Sedlis for next chancellor.

Here is the WSJ article:
StudentsFirstNY, a pro-charter school organization that launched with a bang a year ago and then stalled, has signaled it is ready to jump back into New York City politics, hiring the top lieutenant of a polarizing charter chain.
Jenny Sedlis, who helped former City Council Member Eva Moskowitz build Success Academy Charter Schools, will start in September as the new executive director, the group plans to announce Friday. Officials said this would show they weren't going to sit out the mayor's race.
"This is a launching of a pretty important new beginning, especially with the mayor's race in full swing," said Ms. Moskowitz, a StudentsFirstNY board member.
The group had said it could raise about $10 million and would put its stamp on the mayoral contest, but it has yet to take action. Ms. Sedlis said it is still unclear whether the group will make an endorsement in the mayoral primary or the general election, though she said there would be roughly the same amount of money on the table.
Until now, the 30-year-old Ms. Sedlis has been Ms. Moskowitz's right-hand woman, running ground battles for the Success Academy chain, which consistently posts high test scores but draws a backlash when it opens a new school. "I'm pretty battle-tested," Ms. Sedlis said. "I'm not going to shy away from a fight that's going to take place."
StudentsFirstNY turned heads a year ago when it launched as the New York partner of the national advocacy group founded by former Washington, D.C., schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, a pioneer in the movement known as education reform.
At the helm was Micah Lasher, a former lobbyist for Mayor Michael Bloomberg who promised to put pressure on elected officials and provide an alternative source of cash and support for politicians afraid of breaking with the United Federation of Teachers. Another board member is former city schools chancellor Joel Klein, who now works for News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal.
In the fall, StudentsFirstNY made enacting tougher teacher evaluations its top priority, running advertisements urging the city and the teachers union to negotiate a resolution. It hosted parent meetings explaining the importance of new evaluations and ran social-media campaigns to draw attention to the issue. And in January, it released a report about the proliferation of poorly rated teachers in the city's lowest-income schools.
Pro-union groups fought back, recruiting elected officials to pledge to reject money from the organization. Many said they wouldn't take money—regardless of whether it was offered to begin with. For instance, mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, the city's public advocate, has said he wouldn't take money from the group. (StudentsFirstNY has said it wouldn't offer him any.)
UFT President Michael Mulgrew said StudentsFirstNY's was already having an effect on the mayoral race: Candidates think "what they need to do is stay away from them."
Mr. Lasher left in March to work for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, leaving the group leaderless just when the mayoral race started to pick up steam. Mr. Lasher declined to comment.
"It was disappointing, just because the thing was getting under way, but such is life," Ms. Moskowitz said.
In Ms. Sedlis, the group has someone who comes alive when talking about the specifics of education policies, and someone who isn't just a fighter, but also one who has spent years building schools and walking in and out of classrooms.
Though she said the organization's priorities weren't set, she personally is in favor of changing teacher certification to make sure educators are better prepared to step foot in the classroom, and she supports something known as "parent trigger," a concept that allows parents to take over a public school. Perhaps most importantly, she said she cared about a new teachers contract, which the next mayor will negotiate.
"There are so many provisions of the contract people don't talk about," she said. "So much of why [Success Academy] is successful is because we have the flexibility to orient the school around the needs of children."

Friday, June 28, 2013

Please sign petition to fire principal who called teachers “big lipped,” “nappy haired,” and “gorillas”

From Peter Lamphere who is chapter leader at this school. Let's see now, a principal gives teachers U ratings because they are black. Hmmmm, what will Tweedies do? Back the principal of course. Tweed does support racist apartheid doesn't it? Nelson Mandela would get a U rating and Walcott would bring him up on 3020a charges.
Please consider signing this petition support these teachers who have been victims of racist harassment and asking for the DOE to comply with its own anti-discrimination policy.

If you have media contacts, please share this story with them - we are trying to build up pressure on DOE. Check out the TV interview and press release below.

TV interview with New York teachers who say principal called them “big lipped,” “nappy haired,” and “gorillas”:

Kevin Powell
Queens, NY Principal Minerva Zanca calls African American teachers "big lipped," "nappy haired," and "gorillas"

Two teachers that were preparing for tenure this year were denied and subsequently fired by a principal that referred to them as "having big lips" and "nappy hair." John Flanagan, a Spanish Language teacher, and Heather Hightower, an ESL-Science teacher, were the targets of these remarks by Minerva Zanca, principal of Pan American International High School in Elmhurst, Queens, New York.
These two teachers, as well as tenured Theatre teacher Lisa-Erika James, have filed a discrimination claim against Principal Minerva Zanca within the Department of Education-Office of Equal Opportunity-for poor performance ratings and undue budget cuts that they feel were racially motivated.
Assistant Principal Anthony Riccardo, who is also filing a harassment claim against Ms. Zanca, uncovered these comments in a written statement that discloses, in vivid detail, the targeting of these three teachers over the course of the 2012-2013 school year. In Post-Observation Conferences with Mr. Riccardo, Zanca states that Ms. Hightower "looked like a gorilla in a sweater with nappy hair" and asked, "Did you see his big lips quivering?" in reference to Mr. Flanagan.
"It is not only important to have high standards for our public school teachers," says Kevin Powell, President of BK Nation. "But we must also support the good ones, like these teachers, who are completely dedicated to their young people. I find it unacceptable that a principal can engage in this kind of conduct without any repercussions. We are not going to stop until due justice and process is served here. We are calling on the school district and the DOE to review this matter thoroughly, to deal with the facts fairly, and to make it clear that racial bias and mistreatment of teachers in any form is not tolerated in New York City. We are also specifically asking for the support of City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, who has a working relationship with Principal Zanca since the school is in her district, and for her to condemn this racist and abusive behavior and to stand with us in pushing for an investigation and justice."
The New York City Department of Education's Chancellor's Regulation A830 is a strict anti-discrimination policy that protects its employees from discrimination based on race/color/ethnicity/gender and sexual orientation. The three teachers feel their Civil Rights have been violated and in return are pursuing their complaint in the hopes of getting their jobs back. Ms. James is asking that Ms. Zanca be held fully accountable in compliance with the Chancellor's Regulations. Ms. James states "It is deeply disappointing that Ms. Zanca has made such hurtful racial epithets and is allowed to run a school where many of the children are of Afro-Latino descent." There are currently no African American teachers left at the school.

Confessions of a Bad Teacher - John Owens on the demonization of teachers in NYC and elsewhere

I had read John Owen's piece at Slate and thought that for a guy with so little time in the system he seemed to get it. He contacted me asking for a blurb for his book and sent me a pdf. I haven't had time to read it all but read enough to be impressed. He was at the Skinny Awards dinner a few weeks ago where we met for the first time.

Leonie was also impressed with his book.
Everyone should pre-order this book, out August 6:

When John Owens left a lucrative publishing job to teach English at a public school in New York City's South Bronx, he thought he could do some good. Instead, he found an educational maelstrom that robs students of real learning to improve the school's statistics at any cost, even demonizing its own support system: the teachers.

Using first-hand accounts from teachers across the U.S., Confessions of a Bad Teacher is an eye-opening look at the dire state of American education and an essential blueprint for how to embrace our best educators and create positive change for our children's futures.

"A heartfelt call-to-action.... [Owens] offers a worthy perspective on the need to change the ways in which teachers are viewed and concludes with useful suggestions to get started." - Kirkus


How Ed Deform in the Name of Choice Takes Away Parent Choice

From a new member on the Change the Stakes listserve. NOTE: CTS meets today at 5:30 at CUNY, 5th av and 34th st, rm 4202. (Bring ID).

I'd like to observe that a side effect of being part of a pathological system is that one begins to see small victories as progress and to forget what a healthy system would be like. 
As a citizen and a parent with many parent friends in the rest of America, I don't understand why I have fewer rights than they do when it comes to schools. 
1. They have manageably-sized school districts. We could have one school district in each borough, completely independent from the other boroughs. 
2. They vote for a school board. Talk about accountability! Instead of voters having to consider everything to do with city life, including schools, when they vote for a mayor, they have school board members who are voted in or out every 2 years on a rolling basis and they dump failures, dead weight and corrupt losers like hot potatoes. 
3. They have a budget based on property taxes, for better or worse. If we had that in NYC, it would be better...especially considering we don't yet have borough-sized school districts. Given the astronomically high property values in Manhattan, we should have the best schools in the world. But no. We send all that money to NY State and they send it back. 
4. They have the right to vote on the budget. 
5. They have school board meetings where it is their right to speak. We have lost our constitutional rights, as "mere" citizens aren't even allowed to attend SLT meetings and parents must request permission to speak. 
6. They have a right to see the budget. I thought I saw something somewhere that said I had a right to see that budget, but it's not on the web and in the school, it was chained to the copier. I wasn't allowed to copy it "because it has salaries in there." Hello? I thought school salaries were public information? The principal refused to let me have this information. 
7. Some school districts even have transparent finances now...every CHECK that's written is on the Internet. At our local school, they had a RULE against paying for certain things with anything except cash. Now let's see...the reason for that might make it easy to steal cash? 
I have been told on more than one occasion that I am "just" a parent. But that's wrong. What I am is "just" a citizen who is required to pay taxes to support schools but who is not entitled to any say in how that money is spent and not even entitled to know how that money is spent.

‘Badass Teachers’ Fights for Public Education and Against Ed Deform

The group is part of an ongoing revolution in education in which teachers, parents, and students are exasperated and exhausted by the Obama administration’s Race to the Top proposals and the testing they require, the Common Core State Standards, and school closings.....
Mark Naison was one of the people who got this started and it is growing fast. Below is an article followed by a BAT press release. Anyone can join as I found out when I went to join and was already a member as someone signed me up. anyone can sign you up and you can add your friends. Build it and they will come.
A group calling themselves the Badass Teacher Association (BAT) launched a campaign on Monday against America's federal education policies.

The 15,000-plus strong Internet group spent Monday making hundreds of calls to the White House switchboard to tell President Barack Obama to replace Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education. Instead, the teachers want a lifetime educator who better understands and empathizes with teachers and parents.

The White House call was the first action since the group started about a week ago with an initial 100 members on Facebook.
The group is part of an ongoing revolution in education in which teachers, parents, and students are exasperated and exhausted by the Obama administration’s Race to the Top proposals and the testing they require, the Common Core State Standards, and school closings.

“I think that many teachers hoped that if Barack Obama was re-elected, he would ease up on the testing, and the school closings, and the test-driven teacher evaluations,” Mark Naison, a professor of African-American studies and history at Fordham University and a cofounder of the Badass Teachers Association, told TakePart. Instead, he doubled down on all of those, “leaving teachers with no other option than to speak out in the most forceful way possible, say, ‘enough is enough,’ and demand a seat at the table in shaping education policy, which they emphatically do not have now.”

There’s long been a push for Obama to replace Duncan, a longtime friend of the president’s from their days in Chicago. Obama picked him as his Education Secretary soon after he was elected in 2008. From 2001 until then, he worked as chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools.
Duncan has plenty of foes from his Chicago days, particularly those who disapproved of his successful efforts to shutter underperforming schools and replace them with charter schools.

“I want BAT to show everyone that we are not going away quietly, that we see the true agenda and it isn't about better education,” Marla Kilfoyle, a teacher in California, said. “It is about profit and privatizing our public school system. I hope that BAT exposes that the school closings we are seeing in our inner city neighborhoods are not about helping kids but about business and money. I would like to see BAT expose that to the public and dismantle it so that we can start doing some real work that is genuine.”

Priscilla Sanstead, cofounder of the group and an activist parent, said she helped to get the BAT group started because she likes to connect people and ask questions that “a lot of people won't just go ahead and say out loud.”
Sanstead said that she wants big changes in education. She specifically wants standardized testing to be reigned way back, portfolios to become an accepted way to assess students, and for teachers to get a voice in setting education policy, she said. “I want smaller class sizes, too, and the way to do that is to spend money hiring more teachers.”

Bonnie Cunard, a Florida teacher and parent, is a member of the group. She says that although she can see education reform from both sides, things still need to change.

“Mostly, I see depleted public schools and our public funds channeled to testing corporations and corporate, for-profit charter schools,” Cunard said. “I see high-stakes tests strangling the education of children everywhere, including my own children.”

I'm very tired of teachers not being allowed to be a part of the decision-making process that affects our everyday lives and the lives of our students.
She says that she hopes this group will awaken teachers across the nation “to the fact that many of us are fighting these same issues—that we are not alone...I also hope to take proactive steps to change policies regarding high-stakes testing, privatization, and depleted funding of public schools.”
Michael Peña, a public school teacher in Washington who led the charge to call the White House, says he hopes the group accomplishes three things: reduce or eliminate the use of high-stakes testing, increase teacher autonomy in the classroom, and include teacher's voices in legislative decision-making processes.

“I'm tired of being pointed at as the problem in education by people who don't understand the complexity of the public education system and how decisions are made by elected and unelected officials,” Peña told TakePart. “I'm very tired of teachers not being allowed to be a part of the decision-making process that affects our everyday lives and the lives of our students.”
Many teachers are demanding that they have more control over their profession.

“We are professionals” Denisha Jones, a professor at Howard University and a teacher educator, told TakePart. “We are educated. We deserve to make decisions regarding our craft. I hope that through this group, teachers can come together, organize, and save the profession from the corporate takeover of public education.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                    CONTACT: John V. Wood, Press Coordinator
         PHONE: (919) 632-1827
Badass Teacher Association already causing ripples in educational waters
Public education in the United States has long found itself first in line when it comes to budget cuts and legislative tweaking. People on the front lines have been asked year in and year out to do more with less, and to continue to do so without any kind of salary incentives or increases. The undercurrent of teacher dissatisfaction has been slowly bubbling to the surface, and – at the hands of Dr. Mark Naison – teachers all across the country may have finally found their activist voice.
Naison, Professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham University, founded the Badass Teacher Association (BTA), along with Priscilla Sanstead, a parent activist from Oklahoma. The basis of the BTA is to join together “every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality, and refuses to accept assessments, tests and evaluations imposed by those who have contempt for real teaching and learning.”
Below is a statement from Dr. Naison:
“It was [Priscilla] Sanstead's idea to start the page, although I put out the idea for a Badass Teachers association more than a year ago - even had a video of it made, as well as some T-shirts. Nothing much came of it. We sold about 40 shirts and that was it.
But in the last few months, there has been a huge outpouring of resistance to standardized testing, to school closings, and to the Common Core standards – which led some activists to conclude that the tide was finally turning against the idea that testing and more testing was the way to improve the nation's schools. Priscilla and I were both greatly impressed by the mobilization of parents in a huge test revolt in New York State that took place this April and the anti-Common Core mobilizations taking place all over the country. We thought, “Why not find a way to get teachers involved?"
We were both part of a moderately successful site called the Badass Parents Association, so we said why not create a site like this for teachers. We did this a week ago Friday just before 5pm. We were totally unprepared for the response. We starting publicizing the site on Facebook and got about 300 members by Sunday – much more than we expected. Then came the “Big Bang” that put the BTA on the map! Marla Massey Kilfoyle, a teacher and leader of the Long Island opt-out movement, suggested we sponsor a one-hour recruiting contest and declare the winner as the Badass Teacher of the Month. Teachers all over the country started recruiting and before we knew it we had over a thousand members added! The rest is history!
This was an idea whose time had come because teachers were fed up with being apologetic in the face of constant attacks by politicians and the press and policies which undermine their autonomy, professional integrity and job security. The response just keeps building. We now have over 18,000 members.”
The membership of the BTA is climbing by the minute. Teachers across the nation – and around the globe – are tired of being ignored and pushed around. They say birds of a feather flock together, but BATs would rather FIGHT together!
For more information on the Badass Teacher Association movement, contact John V. Wood at (919) 632-1827, or at

Thursday, June 27, 2013

URGENT: Press release on student promotions crisis

I posted the PRESS ALERT - earlier TODAY!.  Here is the full Press Release.

All are welcome to join the Change the Stakes monthly meeting tomorrow (Friday). 5:30 PM in room 4202 of the CUNY Grad Center, 5th Ave and 34th Street. Please bring photo ID to enter building. Hope to see many of you there!

And See blogger Raginghorseblog who also posted this photo.

ChangetheStakes Bemoans the Chaos and Incompetence of Education Under Bloomberg
Contact: Jane Maisel (917) 678-1913  Edith Baltazar (646) 326-8953 

Press Alert

NYC DOE’s Test-Obsessed Promotion Policies Leave Families in Limbo: First day of summer is NO VACATION for parents wondering if children will be promoted 

New York City – In recent weeks the Department of Education (DOE) sent letters to thousands of students, including some with passing and even excellent grades, notifying them they have not been promoted to the next grade. Shocked parents, teachers and principals have been left scrambling to keep children from being unfairly held back. 

Unlike the rest of New York State, the city bases promotion decisions for 3rd-8th graders on test scores from the annual state English Language Arts (ELA) and math exams, regardless of student performance throughout the year. Yet since 2010, when the state began administering tests in April and May instead of January and March, promotion decisions in NYC have been based on preliminary test results because final scores are not released until mid to late summer. This has meant that some students are sent to summer school and denied the opportunity to participate in graduation ceremonies, even though their final test scores will qualify them for promotion. 

A middle school principal, who asked to remain anonymous, expressed her distress at having to tell an 8th grader he could not participate in graduation because of his preliminary test score in math. She asked, “What happens at the end of summer if his actual score shows he passed? He can’t walk for graduation. That only happens once.” The principal and his math teacher both believe the student’s performance met the bar for promotion. 

This year’s uncertainty about student promotion was compounded by the introduction of state exams based on the “Common Core Learning Standards,” to which schools and teachers are still in the process of transitioning. The exams themselves were wholly experimental. In fact, NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott acknowledged in a February letter to parents the serious challenges inherent in using scores from the April 2013 exams to assess student performance: “This year, because the tests are new, we cannot predict how the State will determine performance levels.” Nonetheless, the DOE is sending thousands of children to summer school based solely on preliminary results from experimental exams. 

“Our 8th grade daughter has been performing well in school all year,” says one Bronx mother, “How can the fact that she did not do well on the April math exam erase a whole year of learning and academic achievement?”
Further, public school parents in NYC and across the country are increasingly skeptical about the reliance on standardized tests to make high-stakes decisions about the performance of students and teachers. As a result, a growing “opt out” movement has meant that hundreds of students in NYC refused to take this year’s state tests.
Students without state test scores as well as those scoring in the bottom 10 percent of preliminary state exam results are subject to an inscrutable “portfolio review” process, which is largely based on yet another test. Conversations with parents and educators throughout the city reveal that:
  1. (1)  The process by which students are denied promotion is not at all transparent. Parents are not routinely informed that students with failing test scores or no test scores will be asked to take another test.
  2. (2)  Most parents whose children go through the “portfolio review” process are not aware that: 

    • Their children are held to a higher standard than children promoted based on their state test scores,
    • Alternative tests comprise the bulk of a student “portfolio,” supplemented by only a few pieces of actual student work,
    • Despite the recommendations of a child’s teacher and principal, the district superintendent makes the final decision about promotion,
    • There is no consistency across districts in superintendent evaluations of portfolios. (3) In some districts, students who refused to take the April exams – including many with
      high grades – seem to have had their portfolios singled out for a higher level of scrutiny. 

      “As parents we are particularly concerned because in so many ways our children’s teachers, who are best equipped to assess them, are excluded from the process, resulting in unnecessary work and anxiety for everyone,” said Andrea Mata, a parent in District 6. 

      Although students who are denied promotion are not required to attend summer school, they are strongly encouraged to take additional tests in August to move on to the next grade. These exams, created by the city, are yet a third set of tests used for student promotion decisions in New York City that further subject children to arbitrary promotion criteria and ignore the judgments of the people best qualified to assess their academic performance – their teachers. 

      Change the Stakes calls on the NYC Department of Education to immediate disclose information on the number of 3rd-8th grade students in each district who were “recommended” for summer school, the number of portfolios submitted by principals to superintendents in support of student promotion, and the approval rate for such portfolios for each district. 

      We also join parents across the city in calling for student promotion policies that are transparent in how decisions about individual students are made, proactive in communication with parents, and consistent across districts. Given the high number of unresolved contested student retention decisions in districts across the City, the DOE should designate a central office to handle inquiries and grievances relating to student promotion this year.

      Change the Stakes ( is a group of parents and educators working to reduce the harm caused by high stakes-testing, which we believe must be replaced by valid forms of student, teacher, and school assessment. Change the Stakes believes decisions about a child’s promotion to the next grade should be made by educators who know the child using a broad range of information and tools to assess the child’s readiness to perform at the next grade level.



Contact:        Change the Stakes
Jane Maisel             (917) 678-1913
Edith Baltazar          (646) 326-8953


First day of summer is NO VACATION for parents struggling get their
children promoted to next grade

WHAT:   Come meet parents battling the NYC Dept. of Education’s dysfunctional and educationally unsound student promotion policies

WHEN:   4:45 PM on Thursday, June 27th

WHERE:  NYC Department of Education, 52 Chambers Street
Assemble on the Courthouse Steps (In the event of severe rain gathering
will take place across the street, under the scaffolding at 51 Chambers)

Participating parents have children who have not been promoted despite
recommendations from teachers and principals who have determined they
are ready    for the next grade level.  They will also discuss concerns the DOE is arbitrarily forcing thousands of children to attend summer school solely on the basis of partial results from this year’s experimental State exams.

Analysis from the Right: EIA's Antonucci on Newark Union Election/ What Impact on Randi Nationally as Arbiter of Contract?

Schmuck, why aren't retirees voting in Newark like they do in NYC? .... Mulgrew/Weingarton to Newark Union President Del Grosso isn’t a good idea for education reformers to invest too much emotional capital in collaborative union presidents. Most members are apathetic/agnostic about this stuff – about two-thirds of Newark teachers didn’t vote – but the active ones are generally very clear about what they want from their union: protection. When the officers start wandering far afield, they are herded in one way or another.... Educational Intelligence Agency
First of all, happy first day of vacation. Warning: not only are the days getting shorter every day, so does your vacation. (I'm a glass half full kind of guy.)

We reported on the New Caucus, running under the New Visions slate (NEW Caucus Shakes the Union Election Tree in Newark), winning a majority of the Ex Bd seats and only losing the presidency by 9 votes. The Newark contract brokered by Randi was another in a long line of interventions on her part (Detroit, Washington DC, Baltimore) where money was put on the table to lure teachers into giving up their basic rights and then showing buyer's remorse in the next contract.

(Sorry I have to use an old photoshopped version done for me by David Bellel -- though I managed to add Newark to it. I think a new version could put Randi on the cycle with Arne Duncan.)

See our April 22 post: Randi Sellout Tour Coming to Fruition in Newark.

Only Chicago had the chops to keep Randi out.

I will deal with national implications within the AFT for Randi at next July's convention in LA in another post.

Can New York be next in terms of a contract that so enrages the members that they revolt against Unity? Or has the UFT basically given us a new contract through the King dictum but has obfuscated the issue by not holding a contract vote and also distracting the members with the lure of the upcoming mayoral election and how when they get rid of Bloomberg things will improve.

[Another post for the future though given the Unity plus retiree control NYC will be the last bastion and in fact the deformers may recognize that and will give the UFT enough crumbs to keep the rank and file under control -- ie, Thompson will come through with some bucks.]

Though coming at the issue from an anti-union bias, Mike Antonucci zooms in on some important points. His key point is that "the active ones are generally very clear about what they want from their union: protection."

But Antonucci ignores an important point about NEW Caucus being more than just protection, but social justice along the lines of Chicago and other cities that have seen the growth of caucuses challenging a collaborationist union leadership on ed deform.

Interesting in that we have been having that debate in MORE where some people think MORE has gotten lost in social justice issues and has not emphasized the protection aspect enough. This is a more nuanced discussion than one would think on the surface as most MOREistas think the long-term protection comes from the building of alliances based on social justice. My feeling is that the rhetoric, given the newness of MORE, has not quite been balanced.

But I should point out that NEW Caucus is as social justicey as MORE if not more so. Thus those internal critics who say that if only MORE abandoned social justice they would have done much better in the union elections have a lot of splaining to do.

Let's also point out that one third of the teachers in Newark voted while only 18% of classroom teachers voted here -- I don't have figures for Newark classroom teachers vs overall but it must be higher. And interesting there was a 3rd candidate for President who got 40 votes which if it had gone to New Visions would have given them the entire enchilada.

Below is Mike's complete analysis where he issues a warning of sorts to ed defomers: don't wast your time trying to woo union leaders to collaborate. He may be right. That's how you end up dealing with Karen Lewis instead of Michael Mulgrew.
Posted: 26 Jun 2013 11:03 AM PDT
Joseph Del Grosso, the president of the Newark Teachers Union for 18 years, has received national attention because his views on education reform have evolved from his early days. He negotiated a contract that included performance and differential pay, though he continued to battle district administrators over the budget.

Well, Del Grosso was up for re-election, and he won his 10th term… by 9 votes out of 1209 cast. His slate no longer holds a majority on the union’s executive board, and the 40 votes that went to a third candidate could have swung the election the other way.

Del Grosso’s opposition was the New Vision slate, which won a majority on the board, and whose manifesto you can read here. A sliver should suffice for summary:
For true social and economic justice to be realized in our time it is imperative for education workers to see that their efforts cannot stop when the school day ends. As powerful corporate forces and the politicians who benefit from their donations attack the working class, we must take affirmative steps to link our teachers’ union to other unions being attacked and to working class people in the city and beyond whose very livelihoods are at stake in this so-called era of austerity.
This is the wayof things in teachers’ unions, and has been for a long time (see “TURN Leader Turned Out” from 2006). That’s why it isn’t a good idea for education reformers to invest too much emotional capital in collaborative union presidents. Most members are apathetic/agnostic about this stuff – about two-thirds of Newark teachers didn’t vote – but the active ones are generally very clear about what they want from their union: protection. When the officers start wandering far afield, they are herded in one way or another.