Sunday, April 30, 2006

NYC Teacher Cleared of False Charges

Cardozo teacher Ara Muradyan is going back to work after having had his reputation dragged through the mud for five months. He'd been accused of flashing two girls, who mistakenly or falsely implicated him. The police didn't even bother to check his alibi.

It makes you wonder what induced Unity hacks to agree to 90-day unpaid suspensions for teachers who hadn't even been found guilty.

Ara Muradyan is suing the city for "unspecified damages for ruining his reputation." What an outrage our union helped enable such a thing!

Thanks again to Schoolgal for another great tip!

Breaking News

Ancient rocker Keith Richards was injured when he fell out of a palm tree in Fiji.

Sources suggest Richards may have broken his hair, but it is hoped he will make a full recovery.

What're You Trying to Cell Me?

The great cellphone controversy rages on. Chancellor Klein is sticking to his guns, despite vocal opposition. As far as Klein is concerned, students can't even turn them off before entering the building. Random searches will result in their confiscation, and huge headaches for the Chancellor.

Personally, I don't care if my students have cell phones. This is fortunate, because two-thirds of them, in fact, carry them religiously. I'd just as soon forbid crucifixes (I draw the line at proselytizing). As for cells, I just don't want them used in my classroom, and pretty much none of my students would dare do so.

The other day, however, a cell phone went off. It was a loud dance tune. I gave the kid "the look," and it was immediately turned off.

I walked to the front of the room and dialed my cell number from the school phone. I then handed him the school phone and answered my own cell, which is always on vibrate (Aside from this occasion, I don't answer cell calls till after class). I talked into it, and we had a brief phone conversation, which the class couldn't help but overhear.

"What did you just hear?"


"That's exactly what I want to hear from your phone."

"OK, teacher. I turn off."

His English is not so great. But he got the message. I informed my class that all cell phones look alike to me, and that I might mistake the next one I hear for mine.

I do not expect to hear another cell in that class.

As for text cheating, if I'm too lazy to check on them, it's my own fault and they deserve to get away with it.

But they won't.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Another Great Unity Benefit

A UFT member was falsely accused of sexual misconduct and suspended without pay. The teacher has now been exonerated, and was a victim of vindictive lying kids. The press, which eagerly accused him, couldn't be bothered correcting itself, according to this source.

As you may know, the new UFT contract provides that members accused of sexual misconduct can be suspended up to 90 days without pay. While the suspension may be justified to ensure student safety, withholding of pay should not take place until and unless charges are substantiated.

You may recall Unity hacks on Edwize pontificating on the unlikelihood of teachers being suspended on flimsy allegations (scroll down to the ninth paragraph). Whether or not this story is substantiated, in this climate, it's entirely possible that UFT members could lose their homes as a result of 3 months lost income.

Has Unity forgotten what can happen to falsely accused teachers?

Yet More Evidence We Need ESL


First Things First

This week's NY Teacher devotes two full pages to the 37.5 minute class. It claims there is good and bad, but highlights only the "rave reviews" and "sweet successes."

Great! So why not have teachers give up another prep period? Why not expand it to a full class period so more kids can benefit? Why not have teachers come in on Saturdays?

Why not indeed? Klein is out to break the union, and Unity is all too happy to help him do it. Why not? Unity hacks are still pulling in six figures for doing whatever it is they do in that building. They still collect double pensions. As far as they're concerned, everything's fine.

So what if you come in a few days early? So what if you get excessed and can't get another position? So what if you get one and have to drive another hour to get there? So what if you're suspended without pay for 90 days on a trumped-up charge and end up losing your home, your car, and maybe your family?

As long as those dues keep rolling in , everything's good.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Speak Up!

One of the great things about Edwize is that it gives us the opportunity to openly share our opinions with other UFT members.

Feel free to share your opinions about the Iraq war, Darfur, or, now that the strike has been over for months, the TWU. Discuss the perfidy of Joel Klein to your heart's content.

However, do not discuss the recent UFT sellout that wins money for future teachers and nothing of substance for rank and file. That would be "off-topic" and strictly verboten. Unity censors expressly forbid discussion of topics they themselves have not initiated.

There are blogs that have covered this topic, including:

Ms. Frizzle
Your Mama's Mad Tedious
Chaz's School Daze

as well as the one you're now reading.

UFT President Randi Weingarten, in her print NY Teacher column, wrote "even though I agree with the Edwize bloggers who say teacher retention is the issue, it was in this context we helped the DOE address the issue.."

Perhaps Edwize bloggers indeed said such things, somewhere. But Edwize has provided no opportunity whatsoever for rank and file to discuss Unity's most recent misstep, and it's plainly disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

Saving Fish from Drowning

That's Amy Tan's latest. I'm afraid I can't recommend it. While I adore her first four novels, this one, with the notable exception of the narrator, is uncharacteristically full of one-dimensionial silly rich people you won't care about at all. That's a huge disappointment from the pen that gave birth to the incredibly rich characters of The Joy Luck Club.

But there are flashes of wit sprinkled throughout the book which somewhat reward you if you have the patience to wade through it. My favorite part remains the introduction, an anonymous quote Tan gives us:

A pious man explained to his followers: It is evil to take lives and noble to save them. Each day I pledge to save a hundred lives. I drop my net in the lake and scoop out a hundred fishes. I place the fishes on the bank, where they flop and twirl. "Don't be scared," I tell those fishes. "I am saving you from drowning." Soon enough, the fishes grow calm and lie still. Yet, sad to say, I am always too late. The fishes expire. And because it is evil to waste anything, I take those dead fishes to market and I sell them for a good price. With the money I receive, I buy more nets so I can save more fishes.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Another PR Coup

UFT President Randi Weingarten has been extremely cooperative with New York City.

First, she sold a contract to rank and file that was all about more work and less pay. Just a week ago, she allowed the Chancellor to give selective raises to new science and math teachers, while cleverly securing absolutely nothing for current dues-payers.

When I complained about the contract on Edwize, various Unity hacks objected.

If we don't accept this, what will the NY Post say?

OK. So now it's done. How does the NY Post treat our fearless leader?

With outright derision and contempt.

So, Randi--was it worth it?

Thanks to Schoolgal for the tip!

Klein's Message to Principals

Dear Colleagues,

As principals, you know all too well how excellent teachers help students learn and achieve, and how ineffective teachers cause students to fall behind.

In our schools, we face the continuing challenge of successfully attracting and retaining top-notch educators. Clearly, this isn’t as simple as it sounds. But I think we’ve recently made significant strides that will help us to take on this challenge in ways that will lead to real, positive changes in our schools and in our classrooms.

Last week, we announced an innovative agreement with the United Federation of Teachers that allows us to offer experienced math, science, and special education teachers an almost $15,000 housing bonus for joining our schools.

This new bonus program comes on the heels of our announcement this year about the “lead teacher” program, also negotiated with the UFT, which launches in the fall. Master teachers selected through an application process will receive a $10,000 bonus in exchange for spending half their time teaching and half their time mentoring and advising their peers in high-needs schools. This is another way we are paying more for what we need in our schools.

Both of these programs are simple applications of the rules of supply and demand. All of our kids desperately need great teachers, but right now teachers have no incentive to sign up for challenging assignments. This doesn’t make sense. We cannot rely solely on good will to stock our classrooms with high-quality teachers. To encourage more of the best teachers to seek out very demanding jobs in more challenging schools, we need to reward them, in addition to paying all teachers fairly. (In the past four years, we have raised all teacher salaries by more than 30%.)

The same principle applies to teachers in shortage area subjects. Each year, we hire almost three-quarters of new math, science, and special education teachers through alternative certification programs like Teaching Fellows. We hire the vast remainder of the remaining one-quarter of our new math, science, and special education teachers from overseas. The supply of certified common branch, English, and social studies teachers is substantially larger. For every opening in those fields, we receive about 10 applications. What do these numbers mean to me? They mean we can afford to be far more selective when we are hiring English teachers than when we can be when we are hiring math and science teachers. Both subject areas are critically important to us, but we are, in effect, shortchanging our schools and our students by not being willing to pay market rate for all teachers. To increase our options, we must do what most good employers do—spend more for services that are in short supply and high demand.

Don’t get me wrong: A system of differential pay will not solve all our problems in attracting and retaining high-quality teachers, but in areas where we want to recruit more teachers, it’s an important first step. As you know, we have limited resources, so we need to be strategic about how we allocate our funds. That’s what these recent initiatives are all about.

I am grateful to the UFT for its support and creativity in helping to devise these programs and look forward to working with the union to develop new methods of compensation in order to attract and motivate our educators.


I look forward to the day when the UFT gives its members something for which to be thankful.

I'm thinking new leadership.

Note that Klein, while referring to effective teachers, sets programs in place to have only enough teachers. Note our union's support for such programs.

Check Out the Carnival

Admission free

(Slightly higher in Canada)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Principals' Principles

JoeWilliams at The Chalkboard criticizes principals for not wanting to meet Chancellor Klein on a Saturday to discuss his latest scheme to revolutionize education. Never mind that this scheme replaces his last scheme, and the one before that. Never mind that neither good teachers, small classes, nor decent facilities form part of this scheme. Principals earn six figures, and therefore should jump through hoops at the Chancellor's bidding.

I don't much like to defend principals, but I wouldn't want that job for all the tea in China. They can have the six figures, if they want 'em that bad. I like dealing with kids, but I have little patience for petulant adults, including some of my colleagues and, most particularly, Klein's clueless minions (who also, incidentally, make six figures for whatever it is they do). If I had to spend my days kowtowing to troglodytes, six figures would hardly restrain me from jumping out the window. Worse, principals' offices are usually on the first floor.

And don't get me started about doing it an extra day.

In a city where a hovel in a marginal neighborhood runs north of half a million bucks, making six figures is nothing to jump up and down about. More importantly, this Chancellor has let these principals go years without a contract or a pay raise. Despite his charming demeanor and boyish good looks, Klein's flagrant disrespect merits neither the extra mile nor basic loyalty.

He'll be lucky to score moderate civility.

Go Ahead...Take It!

Edwize is still mum on the issue of the UFT's latest giveaway, preferring to vilify Chancellor Klein. While such criticism is richly deserved, it's still a diversionary tactic.

Why did the UFT agree to modify our contract so the DoE could ramp up recruitment? Isn't recruitment their problem? If teachers aren't being paid enough, shouldn't we urge them to correct that while we're renegotiating the contract?

Unity is quick to label Klein as unappreciative and vindictive, and they're absolutely correct. What's the point of making it easy for people like that?

During the last contract, the UFT agreed to several contractual modifications. Why? What did we get in exchange?

The point of negotiation is for both sides to come out a little better, not to give management whatever it wants, whenever it pleases.

Unity hacks love to rationalize, "We have to give them these things, or what will the News and the Post say?" Well, guess what? We've given them the moon and the stars, and they still hate us, and always will. The only thing they've ever like about us what when we signed the most recent contract. Do you suppose they'd have supported it if it were good for teachers??

The UFT's agreement with the city is one more precedent, along with the "master teacher," toward merit pay. Look at Florida, where 10% of teachers will get it. That means 90% will not. I sure feel sorry for Florida, where 90% of their teachers, apparently, are without merit. As a parent, I find that completely unacceptable.

It doesn't end there. Our last two contracts included longer days. What do you think is next? Our last contract included two days in August. What would you say to three more? Our last contract included 32.5 minutes "small group instruction" four days a week. Why not tack on one more day, 8 more minutes, and 30 more students?

Why not? Unity can easily give that away, and get its standard payment for being so agreeable.

Nothing whatsoever. Thanks, Unity.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Today's Question:

Which one is NYC Educator, and which one is the fourth grader who just made honor roll?

Something You Don't See every Day

Here's a California editorial suggesting more teaching and less testing.

That's not a fashionable stances nowadays. But it's certainly possible to learn without the spectre of high-stakes tests haunting your every waking moment. Otherwise, everyone my age would be illiterate.

I'm generally neutral on testing. But I teach one class that's solely test prep. By my own admittedly biased judgement, it's the class of mine I'd least like to be in. Sure, the kids learn how to pass the test. But they don't learn to love reading or writing.

In other classes, I do try to fool them into such things.

Another Charming Classroom Video

Doubtless this is all the teacher's fault.

Clearly what's needed is more standardized testing.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Upset with the Teacher?

Punch her in the face.

Why waste time with niceties?


Top Secret

Check out the newest story on the ICE-UFT blog. Apparently the unwieldy 346-person contract committe has been sworn to secrecy as to what exactly they're doing. This precludes those who might tend to question Unity from airing their concerns. It also shields Unity nicely from criticism of the next sellout contract. They can say, "Jeff Kaufman was on the committee. Why didn't he speak up?"

Never mind that he's numerically overwhelmed by Unity hacks bound to do whatever it takes to procure employment and/ or double pensions at the end of the rainbow.

Unity, however, sees no point in observing the oath it procured from its lowly rank and file. It uses the meetings for PR, and reports what it sees fit. Unity pointedly mentioned that its minions overwhelmingly rejected a motion for no more givebacks. That way, when your 32.5 minute class metamorphizes into a five-day 40 minute class, Randi can say "The committee approved it. It was in New York Teacher"

Trust Unity. But don't tell anyone I said so.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

RFK on Religion

I heard Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the radio talking about Jesus. Would Jesus support tax cuts for the rich? Would Jesus support unprovoked war? Cuts in aid to the poor? Torturing prisoners? Would Jesus support discrimination against gay Americans?

RFK discussed the prohibition in Leviticus against homosexuality. the one often quoted by fervent right-wingers, saying that men who lie down with other men ought to be put to death. That Old Testament means business. However, Leviticus also said that those who work on the Sabbath, those who eat shellfish, and sons who disobey their fathers ought to face the same fate. Who volunteers to cast that first stone now?

What did Jesus say about homosexuality?

The same thing as our constitution. Nothing whatsoever.

Mike Winerip, NY Times education columnist, just wrote an inspirational true story about a pair of moms who brought their kid to a Catholic school and found kindness and support.

When questioned about it, school employees seemed embarrased: officials do not appear comfortable speaking publicly about the kindnesses to Jesse and his family. A Saint Clement coach said he would be happy to talk to a reporter, and a few minutes later called back, saying he couldn't. The Saint Clement principal, Robert Chevrier, did not return several calls.

They should be proud. Kennedy spoke of going to a Jesuit school where the teachers were activists in social causes, and advocates for helping the poor. He said that's what Jesus would have done.

I'm not very religious. But if you're going to be, you might as well support a God who wants to help those in need, rather than soulless corporations, two-faced talking heads and self-indulgent preachers.

Kennedy said discrimination against gay people was precisely the same as discrimination against black people. He's right. What a shame that people who practice kindness in GW Bush's America find themselves ashamed to speak of it.

What a shame that we, as a nation, haven't yet managed to understand gay people have been around forever, and will remain with us indefinitely. Laws against homosexuality are as ridiculous as laws against snowstorms.

How sad we choose to hold on so fervently to our idiotic and baseless prejudices.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

If Fox News Had Been Around Throughout History...

Click here for more...

Death and Taxes

If you have HBO, you ought to be watching Big Love. There's nothing quite like it.

Alternatively, you might want to follow the trials and tribulations of real polygamist families as they try to wend their way into the twenty-first century. The Mormon church renounced the practice in 1890, but a band of determined true believers formed their own church, which still flourishes today.

Like everyone else, though, they have their share of tax issues.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Watch Those Rows of GOP Toes

They're all doing the Bush Bash!

Tired of Humdrum NYC?

Maybe you can go learn Chinese. The Chinese government wants to train American teachers in China, and also wants to help teachers over here get licensed.

Mandarin is the most widely spoken language in the world, though Hindi is expected to surpass it fairly soon. Contrary to what you may think, we're only number three. However, English is still the most popular second language in the world.

The United States, with no official language, has been more successful than any nation in the history of the world in getting people to acquire ours. The French, with their ministry of language and complicated rules and laws have had absolutely no success keeping up with our policy of benign neglect.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sure Beats Working

Who needs a signing bonus?

Forget about Klein's plans. Forget about their implications for the future.

Start a charter school. Pay yourself half-a-million bucks to get it started. Then, award yourself 100K per annum for directing it.

If you get audited for poor performance, follow our previous recommendation and change the grades.

Unity on Your Side

Perhaps you've heard that there is housing assistance available for all UFT members. That's not precisely true, according to the Unity website. Here's what they have for the rest of us:

At the UFT’s urging, the Department of Education also agreed to offer new affordable housing opportunities to all income-eligible UFT members (including those not employed by the DOE).

Good. I was really worried about those nurses. They've already missed out on that great contract Unity got us.

The DOE, in partnership with the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development, will offer homeownership counseling and down payment assistance to UFT members whose family income is $56,720 a year or less.

Let me counsel you on your homeownership prospects in New York City if your income is $56,720 or less:

Check out the worst houses in the worst parts of town, and be thankful you can't afford them. Look into fixer-upper one bedroom co-ops in questionable neighborhoods, and hope for the best. Then, rent an apartment somewhere. Or move in with your parents.

A separate program of special preference in lotteries for city-financed affordable rental and homeownership units is open to middle-income UFT members who meet income criteria determined by a sliding scale based on family size and demographics.

When is the last time you've won a lottery? Special ed. teacher Miss Dennis at Your Mama's Mad Tedious has a unique solution to this problem--she's gonna quit, and come back in two years when she's eligible for the big bucks. Let's continue with the exciting benefits you might get if you win the lottery:

For example, to qualify, a married couple with two kids could have a household income of up to $175,000 while a single person could earn up to $90,000. The housing programs build on a city initiative created last year by the mayor for municipal workers represented by District Council 37.

Was that DC37 you said? Aren't they the ones who agreed to a three year contract for 5%, with one point in givebacks? Didn't they set the pattern for the rest of us? Could it be Mayor Bloomberg was paying them back for stabbing the rest of us municipal workers in the back?

Anyway, good luck in the lottery.

If you don't find that entirely satisfactory, here's another option:

If you can afford heels, click them together 3 times, and say:

There's no party like Unity...
There's no party like Unity...
There's no party like Unity...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Need a Few Extra Bucks?

It's your lucky day! Today's Daily News reports your principal can now give you eighty bucks to clean your classroom if a bigwig like Deputy Chancellor Carmen Farina comes to visit. Apparently Ms. Farina is very sensitive, and does not wish to be reminded what city schools really look like.

So when the big moment comes, get that dustpan moving, and eighty smackers can be yours. Don't be caught with your pants down, like the thousands of hapless math and science teachers who missed out on that $14,600 bonus because of bad timing. Make sure to always leave your classroom an utter mess so you can "clean up" when that eighty bucks is headed your way.

And if you get tired of waiting, don't despair. As Quentin Crisp said, "Cleaning is a waste of time. After four years, the dust doesn't get any worse."

Many thanks to Schoolgal for the tip!

Your Dues at Work

Here's what Edwize has to say about Unity's changes to the contract.

Where would we be without our timely, informative UFT blog?

Unity's Bold New Incentive

A few days ago, I wrote that Unity, the monoply party that controls the UFT, had amended the contract without consulting rank and file in order to provide $5,000 signing bonuses to new math and science teachers. I stand corrected. Actually, according to today's NY Times, the bonuses also include monthly living stipends of $400 for up to two years. Therefore, the subsidies can reach $14,600.

"What you are starting to see is a very different compensation structure for teachers in the City of New York, different from the traditional lockstep thinking on teacher pay and seniority," Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein said in an interview yesterday, "based on system need and performance."

Mr. Klein also cited a provision in the latest city teachers' contract, approved this fall, that created a new master teacher position with additional pay of $10,000 a year. "The differentials will have power to attract people," Mr. Klein said, "to give our city a competitive advantage."

While Unity hacks will vehemently maintain that this is not merit pay, Klein's words certainly suggest otherwise. And for those who think this will mollify the right-wingers who decry the perfidy of teachers, you're mistaken. After the grab-bag of goodies we tossed the city in the last contract, the tabloids still treat us as though we're one step away from the antichrist.

In New York's nearby suburbs, there is no need for such incentives. That's because they pay considerably better than NYC, have vastly superior working conditions (not to mention learning conditions), and attract hundreds of applicants for each opening. This gives their schools a keen edge over NYC.

Merit pay ought to be over and above a fair wage, rather than an attempt to avoid paying one to the majority of the workforce. This effort, like the one in Florida which denies merit pay to 90% of its teachers, attempts to keep wages down, rather than reward excellence. As per NYC tradition, excellence still plays little or no role in recruitment. The key goal remains unchanged--placing the most readily available hind quarters into ancient wooden chairs.

How does Mayor Bloomberg suppose current math and science teachers will react to being denied this benefit? Does he think this will curtail the 50% of teachers who leave within five years? If he does, he's sorely mistaken, as is UFT President Randi Weingarten.

And the retention problem certainly applies to the new recruits, whose benefits run out after 24 months.

What works is uniformly good teachers, smaller classes, and decent facilities. Anything less is an unproven gimmick, and yet another attempt to give NYC's kids an education on the cheap.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

We Report, You Decide

Fox , in its zeal to avoid airing real news like this, featured a teacher on Hannity and Colmes who showed a questionable video to his class of 13 year olds.

I suppose today's lesson is that teachers are all liberals, shamelessly trying to indoctrinate our children . After all, O'Reilly has already told us teacher unions are not good Americans.

Hannity called for the teacher's firing. To be "fair and balanced," Colmes called for it too.

That video, though, above all, is juvenile. If that refrain is the cleverest thing the songwriter can produce, he ought to go back to delivering newspapers. Any teacher who shows such a thing ought to know there will be repercussions.

And frankly, whatever his political persuasions, I wouldn't want someone who could not anticipate this response teaching my kid.

For more "fair and balanced" coverage of vital issues, check out how O'Reilly, who accused "secular progressives" of waging a war on Easter, now says there is no such thing, and that it's a concoction of wacky liberals. Great video of O'Reilly taking both sides of this "issue."


Monday, April 17, 2006

Low Grade Blues?

NCLB regs closing you down? Principal on your back for low passing ratio? Getting death threats from parents of kids who failed that math test? Your charter being decertified for crappy results?

Just change the grades.

Problem solved.

And if they start merit pay, we can just do the same thing.

Do Teachers Need to Be Smart?

A USA Today story poses that question. Some say that passing aptitude tests does not ensure a good teacher. I agree.

However, I'd say failing competency tests pretty much guarantees a bad one. I certainly want my kid's teachers to be smart. I'd like to see parents who don't want that.

When we find them,perhaps we can display them in museums.

(Thanks to Mike at Intercepts for finding the story.)

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter


Let's Experiment with Unfounded Notions

This makes a lot of sense:

The nation's oldest and largest school voucher program is about to undergo its biggest expansion yet with no clear-cut evidence after 15 years that sending youngsters to private school at taxpayer expense yields a better education.

I'm not sure multimillion-dollar teacher salaries would be effective either, but let's give it a whirl anyway. Waddya say, Mayor Mike?

Let's bring that teacher image uptown. That's the ticket.

Should Bush Be Impeached?

Jumper Bailey says he should not.

Here's Jumper's reasoning:

Clinton was impeached for lying about a sexual indiscretion, whereas the lies of this administration have pulled us into a quagmire in Iraq, bloodied our reputation around the world, caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis who didn't need to die over weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist, undercut our civil liberties in ways that would make the normally serene Benjamin Franklin apoplectic, stretched our military resources, squandered our surplus, burdened our grandchildren with an economic albatross, neglected the suffering of our people in the face of natural disaster, opened the public coffers to corporate crooks, caused the torture of people who never committed crimes, destabilized the Middle East, created a new terrorist factory (in Iraq) where one did not previously exist, made the world a more dangerous place for everyone, robbed our seniors of prescription drug options that actually work, and wounded our future in ways from which we may not recover for a very long time.

Now doesn't that make you think impeachment is a bad idea?

Well, okay, there actually are a few arguments against impeachment, a very strong one being Dick Cheney would become president. It's tough to see how that would be much of an improvement. In any case, talk of impeachment is wasteful until and unless Democrats regain one or both houses in 06.

That's far more important than the spectacle of impeachment. Jumper also mentions that most Americans, particularly after having witnessed Clinton's impeachment, are against the idea.

Does that mean GW Bush is not the very worst president any of us have ever seen? Does it mean his policies do not imperil the very future of our country?

Let's not get carried away.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Are You "Highly Qualified?"


According to NCLB, all you need is a bachelor's degree, a license, and proven knowledge of your subject area.

Does that mean you're a good teacher?

Not necessarily.

You may be, of course, but can you get along with kids? Do you like them? Do you have contempt for them? Do people understand you when you talk? To be "highly qualified," none of that matters.

And how did you prove knowledge of your subject area? Here in NY, where certification requirements are more rigorous than many other states, I've met Spanish teachers who couldn't actually speak the language. How could that be?

Still, they're "highly qualified," according to federal standards.

Go figure.

An Idea Whose Time Has Come (and Gone)

If you read NY Teacher, you know that UFT President Randi Weingarten is floating a proposal to amend the Taylor Law. Ms. Weingarten proposes adding a COLA, so that we won't have to beg for scraps, offer outrageous givebacks, and end up with less than cost of living anyway. That's an idea whose time has come.

Unfortunately, it came two contracts ago. When the first time giveback occurred, I thought it was short-sighted. Having worked in NYC for some time, I remembered many zero percent raises. With that in mind, it was easy to imagine the eventual degradation of salaries, and the very real possibility we'd be doing the extra time for free.

When the second time giveback occurred, not only was it short-sighted, but we seemed barely compensated for it, let alone the grab-bag of goodies Ms. Weingarten gleefully surrendered.

A COLA is a good idea, of course, belated though it is. Is she going to get it through? That's highly doubtful. Canny Bloomberg, with the governor's veto in his hip pocket, vigorously opposes it. The fact is, Randi's gang promised us teachers would be able to retire at 55 with 25 years service, and that Bloomberg supported it. Where has that promise gone?

Is it time to make new promises when you haven't fulfilled the old ones? Sure, why not? Who remembers anyway?

Does the idea deserve our support? Absolutely.

Given her record, do you believe she'll deliver?

There's the rub.

Friday, April 14, 2006

UFT Members Need Not Apply

The ICE-UFT blog reports that Unity, the anti-democratic monopoly party that manages the UFT patronage mill, has approved a change in the contract without bothering to run it by the membership. There will be a $5,000 bonus for new math and science teachers.

If you're already working as an NYC math or science teacher, too bad. You get nothing.

This precedent-setting change comes despite Unity's rhetoric about how it hasn't approved merit pay, and its repeated insistence the lead teacher position does not reflect it.

Also, Unity has approved the end of extended-time schools. So much for its talk of how important and effective they are.

Remarkably, Unity hacks on Edwize continue to blame Bloomberg for all the woes of the system, despite their oft-repeated willingness to go along with things they themselves have condemned in the past.

We're Sorry...

...your SAT score is 450 points too low.

Feel better now? No?

Goshdarn it, then, I guess we're gonna have to deal with that lawsuit.

What's Good for the Goose...

Mayor Bloomberg announced a roving search program yesterday. Because gun incidents are up 5%, the mayor wants to check students at random. I heard the mayor on the radio stating that the program would be a success even if no one was caught, as that would demonstrate its effectiveness as a deterrent.

That's a clear indication of the mayor's unacceptable standards. There must be accountability. To consider this program effective, we need incremental improvement each year without exception, and zero percent kids with guns by 2014. Furthermore, if there are zero incidents now, there must be fewer than zero incidents in the future.

No more excuses. Mayor Bloomberg must be judged by the same standards with which he judges us.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Required Reading

Check out reality-based educator's take on the mayoral takeover of the LA school system.

The New Paradigm

There's a lot of talk. necessarily, about whose fault it is NYC schools do not function perfectly. Naturally, the failure to insist on good teachers, small classes, and decent facilities is excluded from this discussion, as Bloomberg does not wish to pay for such caprices. Therefore, NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has decided to blame the principals.

Where do you suppose principals will turn when they have to look for scapegoats?

Another of Klein's unique approaches is the method in which schools are graded. If school A's students consistently pass the all-important tests, but improve less than school B, whose students do not, school B is doing better than school A.

As a parent, I'd ignore the rating system entirely and send my kid to school A. Most parents follow suit, which leads to the unconscionable overcrowding at my school.

Ignoring the natural ebb and flow of performance is characteristic of both NCLB's and Klein's preposterous standards. Ignoring the dysfunctional nature of the system for which he demanded responsibility is Bloomberg's calling card.

How he manages to fool the voters, despite his money, is beyond me.

Truth vs. Unity

On Edwize, Unity hack Ron Isaacs (aka Redhog) gave us another window into the Unity approach to the truth yesterday. I'll post here in case Unity censors once again delete my response:

...all of our members are forever competent and innocent unless proved beyond a reasonable doubt...

Under the new contract, which Redhog strongly supported, we’ve specifically lost that protection, and can be suspended for 90 days without pay, whether or not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

That is the perpetual cornerstone of unionism, and the reason for our members’ unyielding faith in the UFT and its leadership.

Actually, that's only one of the many reasons for the growing dissatisfaction with our ineffectual, clueless leadership, as typified by the blatant falsehoods and wishful thinking Redhog and his ilk delight in substituting for truth.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Magic School Bus...

...hosts yet another edition of the Carnival of Education.

Charters vs. Public Schools

Here’s part of an email I got from Leonie at Class Size Matters:

Yesterday, I was at the rally in front of PS 154 in Harlem, where parents and teachers are trying to save their school from losing its cluster rooms and increasing class sizes as a result of a proposed new charter school that Tweed intends to put inside its building. If this happens, class sizes at PS 154 in Harlem will rise to 25 from 20 children per class in grades K-3 and to 32 in 4th and 5th grade, according to the sources at the school.

Each new charter school, because it replicates administrative, specialty and cluster spaces, takes up considerably more space per student within a building. And according to the Independent Budget Office, it costs at least three times as much to educate a student at a new charter school compared to an existing public school.

Already, the Department of Education has been withdrawing its support from class size reduction, by offering fewer classes in each grade up through 7th over the last three years. Last year, in District 5, where PS 154 is located, class sizes rose dramatically in K-3 grades, from 18.4 students per class to 19.7, according to data from the Independent Budget Office…

Of the 22 schools that share space with charter schools, in every borough of the city except for Staten Island, only two did not experience a significant increase in class size in at least one grade, and usually, many grades after charter schools were placed within their buildings.

She goes on to give various examples. I was not aware of any of this. It’s hard to see how charters can justify paying triple per student what my public school kids get. Perhaps if they’d receive that sort of funding, there’d be no need for charters.

As good as some charters may be, there’s no excuse for short-changing the overwhelming majority of NYC’s kids.

Update: Joe Williams has a completely different take on this info right here. We report, you decide.

No, really.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Wize Lies

Edwize prints lies with impunity. They don’t like to be told that, and censor UFT members, like me, who inconveniently point that out. They think UFT members are sheep, and should believe what we’re told.

They think it's gospel to pay dues, but blasphemy to form our own opinions.

I commented on Edwize that Unity rep City Sue says there’s guaranteed placement when it sells the contract, but Unity rep Leo Casey strongly condemns a Daily News article for claiming much the same thing.

Casey defended this odd position thusly: “when you go the actual text City Sue wrote, you see that the phrase about always having “a job,” follows a long description of the ‘open market’ with the clear statement that there will be no automatic placements”

Here is the entire text to which Casey refers:

1. With the transfer plans gone, we won’t be able to transfer to another school. They’ll be able to put us wherever they want.

Not true. In fact, there’ll be more transfer opportunities. The only thing is, like in the real world, you’ll have to sell yourself. See a vacancy? Just apply! All vacancies will be declared, not just half. No limits on how many jobs you can apply for. No release needed from your principal. No limits on how many teachers can transfer out of a single school. No discrimination in hiring allowed, not even for union activities — or age, race, etc. No involuntary transfers. It’s a free market, for those who dare! And for excessed teachers, there’s always a job for you back home (in your school or district) if you can’t find anything else.

Where is that “clear statement” there will be no automatic placements? If “there’s always a job for you back home” it certainly sounds to me as though you’re placed.

Could it be Leo Casey, who we pay to write this stuff, imagined it? Did he make it up? Does he see dead people? And even if he does, does it merit a six-figure job and two pensions?

While City Sue makes an oblique allusion to the truth, that’s not quite the same as honesty. In fact, she’s blatantly attempting to mislead UFT members into thinking there’s some advantage in the new arrangement.

Casey continues:

The supposition of NYCEducator’s comments here, it appears, is that no one will actually read City Sue’s post, so accusations can be made in inflammatory language without the slightest heed.

In fact, I posted her comments in their entirety as a response.

It's Casey who thinks we're too lazy to bother checking.

Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and no one should be in power for 50 years.

Tell all your colleagues about the Unity patronage mill, how New Action is another arm of Unity, and if you know anyone in the press, tell them too. If you don't know anyone in the press, meet them, and then tell them.

The UFT is our union. Let's take it back from the self-serving, do-nothing, accept anything hacks who have the audacity to claim to represent us.

Unity thinks we're too stupid to question them, let alone topple them. The fact is 40% of teachers knew what this contract was before it was implemented. Now, 100% know what it means, though the worst is yet to come.

Reject Unity, their inflated salaries and their double pensions. Next year, we can vote them out. If they want more money, let them go to work.

Why should we have all the fun?

Suozzi Ducks

Tom Suozzi evaded the question of whether he'd veto aid for NYC school construction.

It's time to send a Democrat to Albany, but Tom might be better off in Nassau for now.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Edwize and Me

Recently, a poster on Edwize suggested this:

Folks, if you all want to discuss material off-topic, please start another thread.

That sounded like an excellent idea. So I posted a response:

Thanks for the suggestion.
How do we go about doing that?

Kombiz, the moderator, wrote the following:

...any ideas from regular readers would be greatly appreciated.

However, when I proposed my idea, not only did they fail to respond, but they deleted it entirely.

Also, they seem to have banned me from the website. Since I am compelled to pay the salaries of those who work there, I’m very disappointed.

Perhaps I can request a dues rebate, since I am no longer afforded the courtesies granted other UFT members. I'm gonna call right now.

Update: Edwize belatedly put up my post, so I guess I won't be getting that dues rebate after all. Too bad. I had it earmarked for a pizza.

However, since they won't let me respond to the accusations of the resident Unity hacks, I'll be doing that here.

Trailer Trash

Portable classrooms may cause health problems. This is disturbing to me (as I spend my entire teaching day in them), and to my students as well.

They seem to be associated with severe headaches and a variety of nasty infections associated with ventilation problems. I suppose this is even more disturbing to elementary students and teachers who spend their entire days in these facilities.

In addition, these facilities make certain schoolyards resemble WWII POW camps. Take a gander behind Richmond Hill High School one of these days.

I don't wanna sound like an extremist, but perhaps we oughta actually construct schools for our children.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Happy Talk

Joel Klein, NYC schools chancellor, is eagerly pontificating about big changes to the school system. He's even hired someone from Edison, perhaps hoping to emulate their hollow record of trying to privatize public schools. Their failures are irrelevant, apparently, when there are still teachers and unions to be blamed.

Everyone knows what makes good schools, and it's been affirmed by the NY State Supreme Court. That's good teachers, small classes, and decent facilities. Klein's boss, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, with pouty billionaires needing stadiums, has repeatedly expressed an unwillingness to devote any city money to any such enterprise. He will, however, accept money if it's provided by others. How magnanamous of him.

Klein, despite a record of multiplying school bureaucracy, now talks of trying to reduce it. When you put non-educators in charge of education, and make it a point to never, ever consult those who actually work in classrooms, results are predictable.

A total breakdown of the education system would not only please the extreme right wing, to which Mayor Bloomberg has donated millions, but also ease Steve Forbes' tax bill, the most cherished goal of our current national government.

Folks like Bloomberg and Klein, endlessly spinning their wheels while assiduously avoiding real issues, play right into their hands.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

This Is America

A high school senior is suing over his SAT score. The student is inviting others whose scores were erroneously too low to join the suit.

A Guide for the Gullible

That's what 6-figure Unity mouthpiece Leo Casey calls the New York Daily News in his latest missive for Unity propaganda outlet Edwize. After some highly impressive references to Maimonides, Casey enthusiastically points out the fallacies of the Daily News op-ed.

“For instance,” they opine, “the contract stipulates that ‘excessed’ teachers unable to find a position will be placed in vacancies in their district, on the basis of seniority, regardless of their previous performance.” Anyone who has even casually followed developments in the collective bargaining agreement in New York City knows that it now operates on the basis of an ‘open market,’ such that an ‘excessed’ teacher has no automatic placement in another school of the sort described above.

But would Casey bet his double pension on it? I could have sworn I read in Edwize that teachers were guaranteed placement under the new contract, to wit:

...for excessed teachers, there’s always a job for you back home (in your school or district) if you can’t find anything else.

Is Casey nitpicking over whether it's another school? City Sue certainly suggests the possibility of being placed within the district, and therefore, within another school. Which one of them is lying?

Casey continues:

An ‘excessed’ teacher is placed in another school only when he and the principal and personnel committee of the receiving committee all agree it is the right match.

This implies no guaranteed placement. When Unity talks to teachers, they're guaranteed placement. When Unity answers the Daily News, they aren't.

One can only conclude that Unity hacks, like the Bushies, adjust their facts to suit their audience. They value not the truth, but their appearance.

So much for the Unity line about "no politicking" on Edwize. "A Guide for the Gullible" is precisely what you need if you get your info from Edwize or NY Teacher.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Brooklyn-Queens Day

My favorite holiday, much reviled by those who work in other boroughs (and by me, back when I taught in the Bronx), has been relegated to the dustbin of UFT history, along with transfers, free periods, grievances, relief from lunch duty, and the 5 class per day schedule. However, kids all over the city can enjoy it while we listen to the aimless meanderings of Klein's army of overpaid sycophants.

The problem is, while it's written out of our contract, the APs in Brooklyn and Queens haven't gotten a new one yet. Their calendar doesn't call for attendance.

Will they show up out of the goodness of their hearts to support Bloomberg and Klein, who've denied them a contract for three years?

Helpful Classroom Tip

Let's say you're out in the woods and you find a 40 mm shell lying on the ground.

Should you use it as a paperweight in your classroom?

No, you should not.

Marriage? Wait a Minute...

In Rajasthan, India, there are fewer women as the practice of sex-selective abortion skyrockets. Now, it's getting tougher for single men, who need to offer a sister who can marry brothers of their wives-to-be.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

From NYC Educator's Email

Re: Edwize:

Politicking is unacceptable but teacher bashing is ok.

Shows Unity's priorities.

Told Ya So

UFT President Randi Weingarten's ill-thought-out challenge to John Stossel appears to have fizzled, leaving Stossel with a barrelful of ammunition in his ongoing quest to vilify teachers. Due to various red tape and nonsense, he won't be teaching in the city after all.

It's remarkable, after years of effort, that the efforts of our expert negotiator labor-lawyer president to win PR are so transparent, pathetic, and ineffectual.

More remarkable still are those who vote to keep her and her tired, self-serving, impotent Unity party in power.

The Space Race

I'm fairly neutral on charter schools. However, I work in a building designed for 1800 people which currently houses 4,500, with no end in sight. When I read that Klein and Bloomberg are giving city space to charter schools, I see red.

It particularly irks me that they'd give it to noted teacher-basher Eva Moskowitz, who embraced Klein's draconian, Wal-Mart associate style 8-page contract and criticized him for not sticking to it.

There's no excuse whatsoever for giving away space to charters while my kids are packed in like sardines.

Pssst...You Needa Job?

I know a nice New Jersey medical school ya might wanna check out. Nah. Don't worry bout experience.

In this business it ain't what ya know, it's who ya know.

So howaboudit?