Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Uncle Joel and the Parents

Let's see, the DoE bounced the NEST school's principal after the parents successfully fought off the arrival of the Moneybags Charter School. Then, they installed a principal who caused a bunch of those troublemakers to be hauled off in the paddy wagon.

Now, they're doing a friendly little audit on those nasty folks who dared involve themselves in the school their kids attended.

Is something going on here? Nah. It's just a coincidence.

Doubtless parents all over the city are saying, "Gee, I want to get more involved in my kid's school too."

Thanks to Schoolgal

A Rough Halloween

Jolanta Rohloff, the principal of Lafayette High School who unilaterally changed hundreds of student grades, is in the hot seat again. The Alumni Association is pressing for her dismissal. They say it's "nothing personal," which is reminiscent of the characters in The Godfather who would come over, kill you and stuff, and declare it's "only business."

Apparently the school is so awful no one wants to go there. But don't worry, Ms. Rohloff. Hang on for a few years and this administration will make sure every school is just as awful as yours.

Ms. Rohloff is the perfect Klein-era principal, in my view, utterly obsessed with appearances. A few months back she offered teachers $114 bucks each to clean up their classrooms when DoE bigwigs came to visit.

Update: Check out the comments to see who's in the high-powered Lafayette Alumni Association. They ought to rouse the attention of Joel "Society" Klein.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Monday, October 30, 2006

It's All About Taking Care of Your Own

In order to run the schools more efficiently, Mayor Mike is leaving a lot of special needs kids behind. Everyone knows you can't just squeeze those kids into classes with 39 kids. But if you fail to classify them, you can just dump them anywhere and worry about it later, hopefully after 2009.

The DoE denied any wrongdoing, which must be true since they never do anything wrong. After all, according to Deputy Chancellor Alonso, any and all problems with kids are the fault of teachers.

Meanwhile, Mayor Mike's gazillionaire buddies are getting tax abatements on their condos, because people like that simply aren't accustomed to doing without:

Celebrities, including Calvin Klein, Natalie Portman and Derek Jeter, save thousands of dollars in property taxes each year under a tax-abatement program dating back to the '70s that is currently under review.

"It really squeezes the middle class," Queens homeowner Jerry Iannece said.

Iannece, who has a $700,000 Colonial in Bayside Hills, pays $4,192 per year in property taxes. That's almost double what Portman pays for her $5.8 million Manhattan condo.

City records indicate the "Star Wars" queen shells out $2,341 in property taxes a year, instead of $28,653, for her posh digs in architect Richard Meier's Charles Street building.

"People who are scraping their pennies together to buy a home for their families have to pay full property taxes, while millionaires get a break," Iannece said.

Clearly Mr. Iannece doesn't understand NYC policy. Teaching in a crumbling trailer behind a 250% capacity school, I get an excellent firsthand look at who is and is not important in this city. If my school were run by a billionaire, I've no doubt we'd see a huge difference.

Bloomberg thinks the tax-abatement program should be extended, but hopes to throw some scraps to working people in the form of "affordable housing."

He shouldn't bother. Those ungrateful bootless and unhorsed never appreciate anything.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

If They Can...

...then we can too. Check out what the Jamaica High School UFT chapter resolved. Then bring the resolutions to your school.

Everything has to start somewhere.

What's a Teacher to Do?

Are we assigning kids books that are too difficult? Is that what the problem is?

Do teachers get assignments in college and doom their hapless students to suffer through Beowulf just as they did? Or is this all a tempest in a Starbucks cup?

Should we let kids read graphic novels? Classic Comics? Cliff Notes? Cereal boxes?

Or is there a middle ground?

Thanks to Schoolgal

Empty Nest

Well, not quite. But the executive board of the NEST+M parent association (the school that successfully fought a gazillionaire's charter moving in) is stepping down in protest. The parents claim Klein's new principal is on a mission to quash their involvement. Can you imagine the NYC schools chancellor doing such a thing?

After all, Chancellor Klein has repeatedly claimed to support parents (despite having hired a deputy who maintains they have nothing whatsoever to do with the success or failure of their children). As for the principal, she supports them too. That must be why she called the police to have them hauled away forcibly.

The principal seems to feel parents ought to appreciate such treatment.

"There is a very silent and supportive parent body and they tell me they're the majority."

Ah, the old "silent majority" argument. That's the one Nixon used to claim protests against the war didn't reflect the will of the country (The Teacher Rebellion by David Selden reports that Unity expelled teachers for opposing that war, yet another proud chapter in the glorious history of our union leadership). I particularly like the new twist of "they tell me." Clearly, the ejected parents neglected to "tell" her they represented the majority. If only Al Gore's supporters had shown such foresight...but I digress.

Could Joel Klein be so vindictive as to install a confrontational principal after having removed the principal who prevented a charter from degrading the NEST school (just as he's degraded mine and scores of others)?

You tell me.

Thanks to Schoolgal

related: see The Chalkboard here, and especially here.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Walk the Plank, Mateys!

David L. Brewer, the ex-admiral with no educational experience who's going to lead LA schools, has publicly announced his first priority is removing bad teachers.

That's an interesting approach. Is that the biggest problem facing LA schools right now? Maybe it is. I don't defend bad teachers myself, and I abhor having to work with them. But politicians adore bad teachers. They are a wonderful justification for denying raises. Also, when they inevitably fail tests, they can be kept on staff at reduced salaries, as the city did for many years.

If I were running a school system, I'd also try to get rid of bad teachers, but I would not make it my number one priority. I'd first ensure we stopped hiring bad teachers. Without that, the attacks on teachers are hollow words, good only for publicity.

Here's Schoolgal's take (and thanks for sending me the story):

The first thing out of this guy's mouth is anti-teacher. Sorry
but that's not the way to build a learning community. I am sure the LA
school system has it's fair share of bad teachers, but to make that the
focus of his first interview when he has no real knowledge of education and
what problems educators face says a lot. It says it is time to bust
the union.

Why are teachers like me feeling burned out? Maybe it's the way
admins run the school, or maybe it's the stupid mandates that make it impossible
to teach.

Admins have 3 years to see if a teacher meets the grade, yet many of them
still get through.

I agree. That's not how you build morale, and I've never seen morale as low as it is now here in Fun City.

3 years is plenty of time to determine whether or not someone is effective. The only explanation for utter losers getting tenure after so long is an administration that doesn't give a damn. We've had just such an administration for at least as long as I've been teaching.

Are you gonna do something about that, Admiral?

Truth Encounters Mayor Mike

Diane Ravitch spoke on Staten Island a few nights ago:

Perhaps the most prevalent issue she raised was the hoarding of power and decision-making in the hands of Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the expense of input from parents and educators.

"What we get are decisions presented as fait accompli, with no public discussion," said Ms. Ravitch, who added that mayoral control had eliminated checks and balances on the system and politicized education. "There should be far greater openness on the part of the Department (of Education)."

Her targets ranged from the principal-training Leadership Academy to the lack of a definitive curriculum, and from the haste to create small schools to the public relations spin on test scores, which in some cases had barely improved since 1999, she said.

Despite her biting critique, she described Bloomberg and Klein as men of "great integrity" who happen to have made a lot of bad decisions.

"I conclude that businessmen and politicians are not better qualified to run the school system than educators," she said.

Tough to argue with that after six years of Chancellor Klein. Though personally, the "great integrity" Ms. Ravitch mentioned has thus far eluded me.

Maybe it's with the WMDs.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Meaning of Life

Eric Idle gives you the AM version.

Niagara Falls

That's where a bunch of university employees are gonna have to drive for vacation, now that EduCap, a loan company, has cancelled their all-expenses-paid trip to the Caribbean island of Nevis. The officials were all set to stay in $565-a-night beachfront rooms, and now it's sixty bucks out of pocket with continental breakfast at an EconoLodge with a view of the parking lot. EduCap was suddently concerned about the perception they might be buying people off.

Now where on earth would anyone get that idea?

I once took a bunch of ESL students to Philadelphia. The oily little guy who booked the trip, ostensibly a tour guide, tried to give me passes for a weekend at some spa or something. I declined and booked buses directly (at huge savings to my kids) the next time we took that trip.

However, a lot of people are smarter than me. My congressman, Peter King, can spend over six thousand bucks on steak houses, thirteen thousand on hotel rooms, and thousands more on cell phone, cable and car lease bills, and his campaign fund pays for it. Alan Hevesi seems to have spent $80,000 of taxpayer funds to chauffer his wife.

Closer to home, my union boss, Randi Weingarten, rewards all her loyal Unity hacks with not only jobs, but an annual all-expenses-paid trip to the AFT convention, which could be anywhere in the country. Let's keep our fingers crossed we get to send them to Hawaii this year. It hardly seems worth it paying for a bunch of Queens residents to stay in Manhattan hotel rooms.

Certainly Leo Casey needs a vacation, and the rest of them need to get their batteries recharged after spending all year censoring our comments, calling their opponents Nazis, and quashing democracy in the United Federation of Teachers.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Identity Crisis

I was in my trailer, teaching something, when the phone rang. I picked it up.

"This is Miss Grundy from the switchboard. Is this NYC Educator?"

"Yes it is."

"Well I just sent a kid to your trailer with a coverage, and he says you told him you weren't you."

"Well, that can't be," I assured her. "I am most certainly me."

"AREN'T I ME?" I asked my beginning ESL class.

"Yes, teacher, you are you." they called out, with varying levels of enthusiasm.

"You hear that?" I asked her. She hung up.

A few minutes later, the phone rang again.

"Mr. Educator, I sent the kid again, and he says you told him again you weren't you. This is not funny."

My students were clearly beginning to disagree.

"You're wrong, Miss Grundy. I am me. I was me when I woke up, and I am still me now."

My students rose to support me. "That's right, teacher. YOU are YOU!"

"What's that noise anyway? Listen, Mr. Educator, you have to cover Miss Laconic's class period 7 today in room 434 C. Can you do that?"

As though I had any choice. "Of course, Miss Grundy. Anything for you." She hung up again.

A few minutes later, the APO called. "This is Seymour Blatz. I understand you refused a coverage."

"No, Mr. Blatz. That's not true. I'm covering Miss Laconic's class period 7 today in room 434 C. "

"Well then what's the problem?"

"I'm glad you asked. There's someone in this building claiming not to be me."

"Mr. Educator, claims like that are upsetting. Are you serious."

"I'm absolutely serious, Mr. Blatz. Someone is claiming not to be me."

"Well, who is it? I want to talk to him."

"I don't know, Mr. Blatz. I'm not even sure it's a him, but I'll try to find out."

"There's one more thing, Mr. Educator."

"What's that, Mr. Blatz?"

"Miss Grundy says you've been telling her monitors you aren't you."

"Well, Mr. Blatz, I am most certainly me. AREN'T I ME, CLASS?"

Screams and catcalls and "YES TEACHER YOU ARE YOU!"

"Okay, Mr. Educator. We'll try and find out who that person is."

"Thank you Mr. Blatz. Frankly, I'm a little upset about this character walking around claiming not to be me."

"I'll call security," he assured me.

"Thank you Mr. Blatz."

The bell rang.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Mayor Mike Helps His Peers

Juan Gonzalez, my absolute favorite Daily News columnist, has just weighed in on Mayor Bloomberg's plan to make sure no Dalton School rich kid got left behind. After all, the mayor's kids attended schools like this, and it's his job to make sure that his kids' kids have the best facilities money can buy, even if it means the bootless and unhorsed have to pony up.

Otherwise where will those poor rich kids ride their ponies?

Under the deal, one that Parks Department officials quietly negotiated during the past year without soliciting bids, 20 of Manhattan's richest private schools will have exclusive use every weekday afternoon for the next 30 years to more than 50 new and refurbished athletic fields at Randalls Island.

That's an average of three fields each per private school.

Meanwhile, thousands of poor and working-class students who attend 58 public schools in nearby East Harlem must make do today with eight neighborhood baseball and soccer fields for all of their after-school sports.

And one of those fields, at 96th St. and Second Ave., is slated to disappear as a staging area for construction of the Second Ave. subway line.

Parks officials see nothing wrong with giving rich private schools enough new "public" fields for them to schedule several games per day, while the East Harlem schools will be lucky to find a free field a couple of times a month.

The callousness and cynicism of this administration defies belief. What's really incredible, though, is how the public jumps hook, line and sinker for "reforms" that do nothing whatsoever to aid the public school system.

Thanks to Patrick and Schoolgal

Waterloo for the Ed-Hippies

Woe to them. A flush away from extinction.

Grammar is back. With any luck, letting students "do their own thing," whether or not they can read, spell or construct coherent sentences, will soon be just a bothersome memory.

And thank God for that.

I've had it up to here with trendy bureaucrats marching into my trailer and bemoaning the fact that I was teaching sentence structure to kids who didn't know how to write sentences. I've restrained myself from doing them physical harm as (with straight faces) they issued me dire warnings not to teach English grammar to kids who couldn't speak English.

Why won't I just sit them in groups and let them learn from their peers, who don't speak English either? Why won't I just teach ten minutes a period, dump the kids into "workshops," and let the magic happen? Why must I insist on having control of my classroom at all times? That's not cool, dude.

I'm hoping the new old wave will envelop New York City, but I don't know whether it will reach the ed-hippies in time. They're in till '09, and I don't think they read newspapers. I'm emboldened, however, by the revelatory news that the SATs are demanding real sentences from college-bound kids.

The ed-hippies love to let it all hang out, whatever it may be. But they fear standardized tests, and as long as they're afraid, maybe they'll keep their love beads and water pipes out of my business.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

No Criminal Left Behind

After Ms. C. of Teach You a Lesson was assaulted by a student, her administration took firm measures to show its iron resolve. It suspended the kid for five days and moved him to another class.

Perhaps if he assaults the next teacher they'll suspend him for six days, or even seven. Certainly the spectre of having to spend even more time at home watching Jerry Springer would frighten the most jaded miscreant into changing his ways.

Thank goodness for Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein and all their revolutionary educational reforms, thank goodness they discourage incident reporting (while claiming to insist on it) by including it in schools' letter grades, and let's say a special prayer that this child doesn't get left behind just for leaving his teacher on her behind.

Grabbing the Bull by the Tail, and Facing the Situation

NYC schools may be overcrowded, with the highest class sizes in the state. The buildings may be decrepit, crumbling, and infested with uninvited guests. They may be dangerous, with few consequences for assaulting staff members.

But thank goodness Mike "Accountablity" Bloomberg is hanging tough on his cell-phone ban. Despite the fact that no one whatsoever has any regard for it at all, it's good to know he cares.

About what I have no idea.

Still, Harvard University says, "You're doing a heckuva job, Brownie."

Thanks to Schoolgal and reality-based educator

A Dilemma

Phillip's a good student, with grades that are OK, though they could be better. He walked into my classroom a few minutes late the other day, looking as though he'd slept in a garbage can. When I asked what was wrong with him, I found he hadn't slept at all. He'd gone to work from 7 PM to 7 AM in a convenience store in Long Island.

I asked Phillip if he was crazy, and he asserted he was not. Crazy people, however, rarely answer that question in the affirmative. Phillip's a good kid, so naturally I decided to interrogate him mercilessly. It turns out he's employed by a friend of the family, who does him the great favor of letting him do his homework in between ringing up Slurpees and cigarettes and getting held up at gunpoint (but only occasionally).

What sort of friend hires a kid to work all night when he's got school the next morning? Discuss amongst yourselves.

That's not really what bothers me about Phillip, though. He tells me his parents live out of state, and that he lives with his older brother, who's in his late twenties. Will the brother come to open school night? No, he's too busy.

I'm absolutely sure it's unacceptable for kids to work all night. Phillip may be 18, so it may not be illegal. But his little family may need the money he makes at this awful job. I mean, why the hell else would he be doing it?

Should I report this situation? Phillip is certainly aware of my feelings. But assuming his guidance counselor knows the right thing to do, would I be doing him any good?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Those Goshdarn Stragglers

So what do you do about a 20-year-old kid in high school who's only accumulated three credits? An old principal of mine used to make sure such kids were removed from the school, but the papers made a huge stink about kids being left behind, and that's not done anymore. What do you call a principal like that?

I called him effective. When he retired, they wheeled in a smiling political hack. He stayed for a while, smiled happily at troublesome kids, talked to them earnestly, and the school went straight to hell. I transferred out for unrelated reasons, and heard war stories (for years) from my old colleagues. The hack got a promotion. He's now a very important hack, doing very important things.

I've identified kids who'd bounced around the system, sometimes for years, with no one noticing they didn't know how to read. We haven't got enough guidance counselors, we haven't got enough support staff, our classes are too large and our buildings are too full. What's been the response of this administration?

It's refused absolutely to contribute dime one to programs that might really improve the system. Refused to acknowledge any factor in student failure except teachers. Talked endlessly about accountability, blamed others for all failures, and taken credit for all successes, no matter how nebulous or imaginary. Opened dawn to dusk schools, filled them to capacity, doubled the capacity, then filled them some more. Claimed to be creating smaller classes and extra classrooms with money specifically earmarked for that, then done something else with the funds.

Really, it's awful. But we need to look forward for a solution. From this administration, we get SHT---selective happy talk. If we really want to help these kids, we're gonna need something better.

Given the track record of this administration, I'd be very surprised if it came along before '09.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Nothing Funny Here

First-year teacher Ms. C., of Teach You a Lesson, was assaulted in her classroom.

If you've any advice to offer her, she could use it.

Psychoanalyzing Farm Animals

A lot of fourth graders were patently unable to do so on a standardized test, causing scores of complaints from disappointed parents.

In the fable, a rooster, proclaiming himself king of the farm, struts into the cows’ pasture and Brownie, “the kindest of all cows,” worries that he will get stepped on.

After the rooster ignores Brownie’s concern, the cows play a joke. “As the king, it is your job to know everything that happens on the farm,” Brownie says. “That means you are the first to wake up. Then you must be the last to sleep.” The story ends with the cows laughing as the rooster crows each morning.

Can you imagine a 9-year-old failing to see the evil in having roosters crow? Perhaps the writers of this question felt that since they've already learned to hate their alarm clocks, they had an existing predisposition to perceive the sinister nature of this ever-evolving farm animal.

On the other hand, many kids might be thrown off by the test labeling Brownie "the kindest of all cows," not realizing she changes character on a dime (That's just one more reason I don't get too chummy with bovines).

Parents say their kids may not make the middle schools of their choice because much of the test was as confusing as the Brownie question. Check out their website.

The state says the test was not intended for admissions purposes. And parents said their outcry over Brownie the cow highlighted a broader concern that the city is yet again misusing standardized exams.

Mayor Bloomberg, though, hangs tough in asserting his right to use standardized tests however the hell he pleases. Who cares what the state says? Who cares if kids don't make the schools they request? In fact, who cares if they get left back unnecessarily? Who cares if we have the highest class sizes in the state, and even so, thousands of classes are over those sizes?

Mayor Bloomberg says things are fine, and that's all you need to know.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Thanks but No Tanks

Bill Maher trashes the "think tanks" that got us into the Iraq war--but not for a few minutes. Watch what he says about their predictions, and Bill Krystal's new prediction that Iran will thank us for an invasion. Watch it to the end.

Update: Here's a transcript, courtesy of Crooks and Liars:

Maher: And finally, new rule in two parts: (A) You can't call yourself a think tank if all your ideas are stupid; and (B) If you're someone from one of these think tanks that dreamed up the Iraq War and who predicted that we'd be greeted as liberators, and that we wouldn't need a lot of troops, and that Iraqi oil would pay for the war, that the WMD's would be found, that the looting wasn't problematic, that the mission was accomplished, that the insurgency was in its last throes, that things would get better after the people voted, after the government was formed, after we got Saddam, after we got his kids, after we got Zarqawi, and that whole bloody mess wouldn't turn into a civil war, you have to stop making predictions.

Mr. Pilchard and the Principal

Mr. Pilchard calls in sick. "My head is aching. I'm nauseous and I don't think I can come to work today."

By chance, the principal has picked up the phone. "Mr. Pilchard, you are a master teacher, one whom the boys and girls could certainly not do without. I'd hate to send a mediocre sub in your place."

"I'm going to tell you my secret," continued the principal. "Whenever I'm not feeling up to par, I simply have sex with my wife. It completely refreshes me, and I feel like a new man afterward. It never fails. I'll understand if you're a little late, but please do come in."

Several hours later, Mr. Pilchard arrives at work. The principal heartily greets him.

"So, Mr. Pilchard, did you take my advice?" asked the principal.

"Why yes I did, sir," replied Mr. Pilchard, all smiles. "And may I add, you have a very lovely home."

With apologies to Schoolgal

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Fearsome Cleo Lacey has tied up UFT member Chaz and hijacked his blog.

Who Says Republicans Don't Recycle?

Bill Crozier, a Republican candidate for Oklahoma State Superintendent of Education has devised a novel way to keep kids out of harm's way--give them old textbooks to shield them from the gunshot wounds that inevitably occur in classrooms. You can see a video of the candidate experimenting with whether earth science or language texts prove more effective.

In the video, Crozier demonstrates conclusively that a rifle can penetrate a calculus book, something I've personally never been able to accomplish.

When gunfights occur in my classroom, I usually just duck and hope for the best. It's about time someone exerted some leadership and set an example in this area. I'd say this idea ranks right alongside that of arming teachers. When, oh when, is Mayor Bloomberg going to stop pursuing hip-hop stardom, put on a duck-hunting hat and show us how it's done?

Update: Don't miss Eduwonk's take on this and other stunning absurdities.

Onward and Upward

CSA President Jill Levy is not going to stand for re-election in January. She was elected president of the national supervisors' union last summer. This is a pattern that I've seen with UFT leadership as well.

It's remarkable that the president of any New York City union, let alone one that's been without a contract for three years, can find time to manage a national union. After all, if managing the union is only a part-time job, what the hell are we paying these people for?

I'm told that Randi Weingarten, Unity-UFT President, works a lot of hours. Unfortunately for Jill Levy, Klein insists on using the abysmal, union-busting contract Randi approved as a blueprint for the CSA. I don't blame Jill for deserting the ship. But accepting a concurrent job while her union was in such dire straits was wholly irresponsible.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Update: Check out The Chalkboard's trenchant commentary.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Big Bucks Can Be Yours!

Are you sick and tired of that dead-end job? Marking papers not for you?

Well, what are you waiting for? Get off your fat keester and head down to sunny Florida! Start a school of your very own, and get other people to do all that nasty, time-consuming work. Meanwhile, head off to Disneyworld and ride Space Mountain. Or sit at a bar all day, get stinking drunk, and send the bill to Jeb Bush.

How can you do that, you ask? Well, accept vouchers at your school, but don't bother accepting the students. That way, you keep all the tuition, but you don't have to bother with those meddlesome kids (not to mention their pain-in-the-neck parents).

How can you too become a voucher entrepreneur? Send a cashier's check now for $500 to NYC Educator, and I'll include (at no extra charge whatsoever) my new pamphlet, entitled "How to Get Total Strangers to Send You $500."

So you don't forget, send before midnight tonight.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Lost in Translation

China has decided to put behind it the long-standing Asian tradition of odd English translations.

Apparently, the government feels it wants to welcome its visitors for the 2008 World Cup in style. Or at least, in a different style:

Emergency exits at Beijing airport read "No entry on peacetime" and the Ethnic Minorities Park is named "Racist Park"...

In restaurants menus frequently list items such as "Corrugated iron beef", "Government abuse chicken" and "Chop the strange fish".

Mayor Mike Stands Up

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg reiterated his principled stand against paying anything whatsoever toward the CFE lawsuit, which promises good teachers, small classes, and decent facilities for NYC's 1.1 billion schoolchildren.

Mayor Mike says he's paid enough already, and that mayoral control is a success. He's content with oversized classes, crumbling buildings, and the spectacle of a thousand teachers wandering the school system at full pay. If he's able to shift the blame for his inability to fix anything whatsoever to these teachers, his legacy will be secure.

Eliot Spitzer, who, barring an electoral miracle, will be the next governor of New York State, has the odd notion that New York City ought to pay a portion of what it costs to educate its children. Strangely enough, the NY State Supreme Court seems to concur.

Where, oh where is Mayor Mike gonna find the funds so sorely needed for charter schools and stadiums for needy billionaires? And if he's forced to support the bootless and unhorsed, where will the private school kids play?

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Don't Miss...

..the Carnival of Education hosted by Poor, Starving College Student.

What Kids See When They Look at You

Kids think we're stupid. They're absolutely confident we'll believe everything and anything they say or write, whether or not they actually said or wrote it.

Yesterday a kid who hadn't shown up, ever, walked in and told me he'd been out of the country all year. This was fifth period. His program, however, was signed by the sixth period teacher.

"How did that happen?" I asked.

"I couldn't find the trailer yesterday," he said, not missing a beat.

Then I noticed the date on the program--August 31st. How could that be?

"Someone picked it up for me," he said.

Then how did the sixth period teacher sign it?

"I was here two months ago."

"I thought you were in China," I told him.

"That was another time."

Why do they think we're so incredibly stupid? Probably because so many of us sign whatever passes over our desks without even looking at it.

We've gotta stop doing that.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Spitzer Spits on Mayor Moneybags

Looks like Eliot Spitzer is prepared to compel Mayor Mike to pay for the quality teachers, lower class sizes, and decent facilities he's claimed to want for NYC's 1.1 million schoolchildren.

It appears if Mayor Mike wants to retain control of the school system, paying a portion of the CFE suit will be required. And if not, he might have to pay anyway:

"The only thing I will add to it," he said, "is that ... the city is technically a subservient political entity to the state, and the state could just mandate that the city's contribution be X."

Speculation is the city will have to pay somewhere between 25% (CFE's recommendation) and 40% (Governor Pataki's suggestion) of the cost of the CFE suit. You may recall one of Bloomie's mouthpieces telling the NY Times the city would say, "No thank you," if compelled to pay dime one.

Mayor Giuliani had a standing practice of reducing city aid by precisely whatever the state raised it, a practice Mayor Bloomberg had to renounce in order to win control.

Thanks to reality-based educator


In the past, I've praised Mayor Bloomberg for improving the school menu by adding whole wheat products and banishing sugary sodas from school vending machines. However, hizzoner seems to have skimped on some more basic elements, like cleanliness.

Almost half of all city schools have violations, and ten percent fail inspections altogether. However, there are no fines or consequences for such schools. After all, what would be the point of the city fining itself?

The Health Department downplayed the cafeteria violations, noting that it had just instituted more rigorous inspections.

Does anyone actually believe this situation is something new?

Thanks to Schoolgal

Update: Union officials demand more pest control. Meanwhile, Schoolgal, our ace correspondent on the scene, has the following report:

The President of RRU (Rat and Roach Union) Randi Rodent responded that the union will not tolerate layoffs or excessing or any R&R member. They further demanded at 25% increase in their labor force and vowed to march on lunchrooms at selected Charter Schools.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Class to Remember

I was at a meeting of ESL teachers at the regional office. We were discussing the English Regents exam, and one teacher stood up and said something like this:

"I don't actually have them read the books anymore. I just make them look for theme, setting, point of view, characterization, and tone."

Me, if you leave me alone, I'll get all excited, trick and bamboozle kids into reading and do everything I possibly can to make them love the stuff they read. But what do I know about literary elements? I just want more readers.

Shiver Me Timbers

The Los Angeles Board of Education has selected an ex-admiral to run its school system. David L. Brewer III will undoubtedly have LA's kids swabbing the decks and painting aircraft carriers in no time. As for his educational experience, well, he must have gone to school some time or other.

The mayor is disappointed at the choice, apparently hoping for a Joel Klein-New York style rubber stamp. It's good to have someone independent running a school system. On the other hand, it's probably good to have someone with at least a little educational experience, too.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Yeah, but Can You Do Anything?

In the mystical and mysterious south, and all the way to California, education officials are just now determining kids need more than just geometry and earth science:

"We have a generation of students that can answer questions on tests, know factoids, but they can't do anything."

I happen to know plumbers and electricians can make a hell of a lot more than, oh, teachers, for example, so what would be the crime in teaching kids practical skills?

The senior vice president for human resources at Boeing Co. said everyone needs a range of training to succeed these days.

"An auto mechanic today needs to know computer science, electronics, how to use sophisticated electronic tools ... none of which require a degree."

Here in Long Island, there's a program called BOCES (run by the state, if I'm not mistaken) where a high school student can leave with, for example, a cosmetology license. That student can make a lot more money than the kids who work their way through college at Dunkin Donuts (no matter how good the coffee may be).

Why does every kid have to be a math whiz, while so few get the option of learning a viable trade?

Thanks to Schoolgal

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Would You Believe...

...a schoolteacher caught scrawling racist grafitti in a school bathroom?

While Mike "Accountablity" Bloomberg squanders time and money demoralizing every New York City teacher via sanctimonious and ineffectual educational mandates, how many other beauties like this one have made it through the city's standard-free intergalactic recruiting process?

Perish forbid one of the thousand teachers in ATR purgatory should take her place.

Lunatics Take Yet Another Wing...

It's very important that ESL students take the same English tests as kids who've spoken it all their lives, say various so-called education advocates. After all, we used to give them the same IQ tests we gave English speakers. Why should they be exempt simply because they don't speak English?

“If the immigrant kids are studying English, but they can not take the regular test, how are we going to know if this program, NYSESLAT is working?” said Maria Gonzalez, an Ecuadorian mother of three schoolchildren.

It's unfortunate no one bothered to inform Ms. Gonzalez that NYCESLAT is not a program, but a test designed to measure English proficiency (and a highly flawed one at that). The writer of the article shows no evidence of having made that distinction either.

“The problem with the teachers is that they don't want to be tested. The ELA exam will test them,” said Fernando Salas, a Colombian teacher, who has two children in city public schools.

Mr. Salas, alas, knows who he wants to blame, but little about what's actually happening in this state. High school ESL students have been required to take the English Regents for years, largely at the expense of programs that could help them acquire the language. I've taught many of those courses, and I find it entirely possible to teach them how to pass the test.

Sadly, for my kids, passing the English Regents exam indicates only an ability to pass the English Regents exam (though NY State now removes them from ESL classes as a result). I aim and hit the lowest common denominator, get them to answer the questions via rigidly formulaic four-paragraph compositions, make them practice till their fingers turn blue, and they pass. The test is do or die (they can't graduate without it), and I don't have time to do anything more.

I don't delude myself that these kids will be able to make it to college without the instruction we withheld in order to spend more time teaching them how to pass the test. In college, they'll have to pay for people just like me to teach them the very same things I'd have offered in high school, and they'll receive no credit for it, as it's remedial.

This wisdom that fuels that phenomenon is now going to be replicated with elementary kids.

Thanks to Pissed Off Teacher

Friday, October 13, 2006

Just in Case...

Edwize may decide to censor my response to Leo Casey's latest foray into self-righteousness (Mr. Casey deems all criticism "personal attacks"), so I'm reposting it here:

Casey wrote:

A system of checks and balances, in which administrators, educators and parents all have voice in the budgetary process, is more likely to produce an optimum balance than one in which administrators possess all the power.

I replied:

Truer words never spoken, and it’s regrettable you and your cohorts turned over so much power to administrators while failing even to win us cost of living.

It’s remarkable you can muster the audacity to say you’ve preserved anything while we now have permanent building assignments and a virtual sixth period. Gloss over it all you like, but if you sit ten kids in front of a teacher like me, I’ll teach them.

Furthermore, those of us in extended day schools are indeed using the time to teach, and our periods now run up to fifty minutes. Actually I’m teaching, not tutoring, full classes that extra time.

You guys are incredible. I can barely differentiate your approach from that of the Bushies. We’re always right, we’ve never made a mistake, the opposition are nazis or worse, and let’s stay the course.


Update: Edwize has deleted the above post.


No homework! That's a growing mantra that seems to be gaining momentum. Sure, some sourpusses disagree:

The perceived failures of creative spelling and "there-is-no-right-or-wrong-answer" math have made Americans wary of any newfangled educational fad that seems to encourage slacking. No homework, indeed.

I understand that completely. The idea of creative spelling, for example, leaves me colder than a landlord's heart.

But in certain classes, I've given up altogether on homework. Having received hundreds of papers off the net (many with the addresses still on them), I no longer assign compositions to be done at home. My students are supremely confident I can't tell the difference between their writing and that of professional writers. Sad to say, that confidence can only have come from much experience handing in plagiarized papers.

When I teach ESL kids how to pass the English Regents, I need to force them to write, and I don't trust most of them to do so on their own. I need to see what they can do by themselves. To ensure a maximum passing rate, I need to compel maximum writing.

However, when I teach ESL (which is what I really like to do), I give homework daily--usually 15-20 minutes worth to reinforce whatever I covered that day. If they can do my homework, they can pass my tests (and also, hopefully, get out there and speak English). If they need to copy, they can't (and won't).

I don't think I'd help anyone by dropping my homework requirements.

What's your opinion?

Thanks to Schoolgal
Related: Check out smart and funny April May.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Moving Right Along...

After Mike "Accountability" Bloomberg and Joel "#@%&^&#$" Klein accidentally left 339 kids behind, they were roundly criticized for over-reliance on standardized tests. Being the only district in the entire state that had this problem, many felt such criticism was well-deserved.

Of course, that didn't dissuade these intrepid reformers. Mayor Mike says, "Our children have high-stakes tests every day. Do they have a baby? Do they get married?" Bloomberg was accompanied by Florida governor Jeb Bush, a fellow crusader against lowering class sizes.

"Children do not decide to get married at age 8," said Jane Hirschmann of Time Out From Testing. "This shows how out of touch these people are."

Of course, Ms. Hirschmann is probably just another of the bootless and unhorsed, without the remotest notion of how rich people spend their time. Just look at all the inbreeding among royal families. Who knows what the hell these people do behind closed doors?

The more kids fail, the more schools we can close down, and the more we can ease Steve Forbes' tax bill. That's the American way, and anyone who opposes it is a far-left Michael Moore pinko liberal partisan commie traitor bastard.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Please, Sir, May I Have Some More?

Because Mayor Bloomberg cares so deeply about public education, he's leasing the ball fields on Randall's Island to 20 elite private schools. This will buy them 80% of the use of these fields after school.

To ensure the city doesn't profit in any way whatsoever, Mayor Mike is paying 70 mil up front and letting them pay back 85 million over thirty years. Crazy Mike is practically giving those facilities away!

The city is improving 31 fields and creating 34 new ones for the ever-needy private school kids. On the bright side, since only 80% of the space is being leased, NYC's 1.1 million public school students will get to divide the remaining 20% amongst themselves.

No, you can't have more. Now be good little boys and girls and move to the back of the bus.

Thanks to Patrick

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Check out the Carnival...

...over at the Education Wonks.

Where's that?

Right here, that's where.

Better Pay Attention in Hottentot Class

A colleague of mine, Ms. Bright*, told me an interesting story today. She was wondering why her student had not shown up for a few days. She got up and called the father, who speaks only Hottentot*. Fortunately, she's a Hottentot teacher, and speaks Hottentot fluently.

"Hello, Mr. Indifferent*" she began. I'm Ms. Bright, Highly's Hottentot teacher. I'm calling from Spiro Agnew High School*. Where is Highly today?"

"He's sleeping right in front of me in this very room."

She was surprised. "He's supposed to be in school," she told him.

"What school does my son go to?" asked Mr. Indifferent.

"Spiro Agnew High School," answered Ms. Bright.

"How do you say that in Hottentot?" he asked.

"You can't," she told him. "It's a proper name. Can you come to school to talk to me about Highly?"

"Does anyone there speak Hottentot?"

"Sure, lots of us speak Hottentot. His guidance counselor speaks it fluently, as a matter of fact."

"Where is the school?" asked Mr. Indifferent.

"It's right on the corner of 57th and Martha Mitchell*. You can't miss it. Are you driving?"

"No, I don't have a car. How can I get there?"

"Well, I guess you could take the bus," she said.

At this point five or six students began shouting directions, which Ms. Bright shared with Mr. Indifferent.

When Highly came to class the following day, he was very angry with my colleague.

"My father screamed at me for thirty minutes. Before that, he hadn't spoken to me for six months."

She smiled. "I have great news for you. Every time you're absent, or even late, I'm going to call your father. I'm also going to let him know how you're doing in this class on a regular basis. I'm very happy to be able to bring your family a little closer."

*Names and languages have been changed to protect the innocent. Thanks to Ms. Bright for the story.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I Will Not Yell "Fire" in a Crowded Classroom

Don't miss the NY Times article on the ever-evolving 13-year-old CFE lawsuit.

And don't miss Class Size Matters' more complete interpretation, which jibes a lot more with what I see every day:

Despite Dennis Walcott’s assertion..., the city does not intend to use the CFE funds to provide “reduced class sizes for all students”. The administration intends to use only 2% of these funds for smaller classes, and to lower average class size in K-3 -- and in these grades, only to 20. The state comptroller found last year that if the city was using the state class size reduction funds appropriately, classes would be already down to 19.1 on average in these grades.

A Big Question

How attached are you to your desk?

I don't spend much time at mine. I usually take the attendance and I'm gone.

But some teachers are taking things a lot further. They're actually getting rid of the desk altogether.

Some teachers say they use student desks when they need to talk or sit. I do that when it's possible. In my school, the students are lucky to have desks, so extras can't always be relied upon. While I like the idea of the teacher as a moving unpredictable object, I don't know where I'd put extra books and papers without a desk.

Can you do without a desk?

Thanks to Schoolgal

Monday, October 09, 2006

Something Good

In Southwest China's Yunnan Province, residents are no longer required to contribute what amounts to ten percent of average annual income toward public school fees. That means all kids in this rural area will now be educated.

That makes sense. What's the point of being a communist if you have exorbitant school fees, in addition to the exorbitant taxes you're doubtless paying?

Hardly seems worth it, if ya ask me.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

I don't always agree with Joe Williams at The Chalkboard, but I never miss it. The point on which I disagree with him the most is this one--he thinks it's a bad idea for people who administer school systems to be required to send their kids there.

I'm particularly surprised because his reference is to Edspresso, a pro-voucher site that makes the point very well. I'm not a big fan of vouchers, and I'm amazed at how much I agree with them here.

I first heard the notion of compelling pols to patronize the schools they administer from a decidedly right-wing teacher with whom I work. He says if the pols had to send their kids, you'd see instant improvement, and I tend to agree.

Really, if the school is so bad you feel it's unfit for your kid, how on earth do you muster the audacity to tell me it's good enough for mine? And what motivation have you got to improve it, or get those who've left to come back?

By sending your own kid to a public school, you're sending a message that it's workable, and that you care. If you don't feel you can fix the school, you shouldn't have taken the job in the first place.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein wouldn't let their kids touch public schools with ten-foot poles.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Devil or Angel?

School Me has a great article about an imposing principal who gets remarkable test scores. A lot of the teachers adore her. One comments that before she arrived, "parents controlled the school."

Well, they don't do that anymore:

Nivi Lifshitz tells the story of her unfortunate introduction to the Los Angeles Unified School District like this: She answered her cellphone on her daughter’s first day of school and was greeted by a scream — “This is the worst-behaved child I’ve ever encountered in my life!”

Only later did the caller identify herself as Woodland Hills Elementary School Principal Anna Feig, Lifshitz says. The kindergartner, Feig told her, had crawled under a table and refused to come out. It seems her teacher, new to the job, had called the principal for help and Feig hauled the child into the office. The little girl spent three of the next four days outside the principal’s office — once, Lifshitz swears, for refusing to use the correct crayon color.

Her daughter is now at another school.

My friend Schoolgal very much appreciates that she backs up teachers. My view is a little more jaundiced, having given up the remotest hope of administrative support many years ago. Also, I must confess to being one of those dreaded pushy parents myself.

Read the article and let us know what you think. Read the comments too.

Is she a helpful and productive principal whose methods ought to be emulated? Or is she a demon from hell who deserves to perpetually wander the New Jersey Turnpike?

Notes from the Evil Empire

Northbrooklyn is the pen name of an elementary science teacher who occasionally posts here. She wrote the following note to Mac Donald's:

I just finished a unit of study at my elementary school on the food pyramid recently developed by the Harvard Medical School. Many of the students in my school have a McDonalds meal as an afternoon snack or dinner every day.

When I asked them about the meal or snack, they said they usually had the hamburger, a soda and a small french fry. They also said they got a toy. In general, this group of children are obese.

When I asked them if they would order the salad or fruit entre if they also got the toy; 2/3s of them said they would the have the salad or fruit entre.
It would be a very good idea if your company offered the toy [or even a better toy] if a child ordered the salad or fruit entre.



Here's the reply she received:

Hello Northbrooklyn:

Thank you for contacting McDonald's recently with your idea for a product or service that you believe would be of interest to us. We appreciate your interest in McDonald's, but it is our company's policy not to consider unsolicited ideas from outside the McDonald's system.

It's not that great ideas cannot come from people outside of McDonald's. Each year, however, McDonald's receives thousands of unsolicited ideas and proposals for products and services from individuals as well as companies. Because of the volume of unsolicited ideas and the difficulty of sorting out what is truly a "new" idea as opposed to a concept that has already been considered or developed by McDonald's, we must adhere to a strict policy of not reviewing any unsolicited ideas that come from outside the McDonald's family of employees, franchisees and approved suppliers. We realize that we may be missing out on a few good ideas, but we have had to adopt this policy for legal and business reasons.

As a result, we must decline your invitation to review your submission and hope you understand the reasons for this decision.

Again, thank you for thinking of McDonald's.

McDonald's Customer Response Center

Personally, I find it awful that they categorically reject ideas from consumers, who are their life-blood. I suppose, though, that by admitting this policy, they discourage further communication. Northbrooklyn is now trying to share this story with consumer reporters, to whom MacDonald's will have to respond.

I never take my daughter to MacDonald's, no matter how much she asks. She's resigned herself to living without those particular greasy burgers and flimsy toys. If only another hundred million parents felt the same, we'd really have something.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Unity Hack Takes Center Square

Here's what UFT-Unity propagandist Leo Casey says (on a listserv) about people who criticized the AFT:

What a dishonest piece of slander and sleaze that Rich Gibson has
written, and that Gerald Bracey has forwarded to this list. It says
far more about the people who would associate their names with it
than it does about the purported targets.

It's interesting that Mr. Casey chooses to condemn everyone on the list, rather than simply the person who wrote the message that he found offensive. He had much the same to say about those who associated with the United Teachers Party when he accused them of being Nazi sympathizers. Mr. Casey filed a complaint with the anti-Defamation League that was found to be groundless.

He also sent messages to the same listserv trashing ICE:

It is a sign of the political irresponsibility of ICE, that they would hook up with anyone and everyone who says they oppose the UFT, that they would link up with such a group. And when it became known in union circles what appeared on this webpage, instead of separating from the group, they advised them to take down the more explicit links -- such as the Charles Lindbergh quote and the Nazi flag iconography. Pictures of the original web page have been kept.

Mr. Casey revels in attacking, condemning, and stereotyping those with whom he disagrees.

That's precisely how bigots think. It's precisely how teacher-bashers think.

I've encountered that sort of thinking since I was a child. What a disgrace we pay Mr. Casey 2 or 3 times what most teachers make to support his indulgences in such ignorant nonsense.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Passing the Buck

Mike "Accountability" Bloomberg and Joel "Antichrist" Klein are doing such a great job with the city schools that they want someone else to run them. That's right, private enterprise.

Apparently, they've enjoyed playing with Bill Gates' money so much, they've decided to begin playing with yours too.

It's a beautiful thing, actually. There'll be accountability, and someone (besides teachers) to blame when things go wrong. Not Klein or Bloomberg, of course.

And why they hell not keep on trying new gimmicks and reworking old ones for NYC's 1.1 million public school kids? Everyone knows what works, everyone knows it costs too much, and that it hardly leaves what's urgently required for stadiums and charter schools for needy billionaires.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Hell with Phone Calls

A Wisconsin representative says it's time to stop pussyfooting around and arm teachers. Honestly, what do kids care if you give them a zero?

But believe you me, when you whip out your 45 caliber, Dirty Harry style, you'll be sure to get the respect that's thus far eluded you.

Sex, Chalk, and Videotape

Check out today's NY Daily News. Hmmm....Let's see...two teachers are having sex in the faculty room. Who could resist with all that alluring chalk dust in the air?

There just happens to be a camera there to film them. A copy of the tape is sent to the principal. When the teacher who sent the tape admits to having done so, he's removed from the building. Could this teacher have set up the camera? That's even stranger than sex on a school couch, if you ask me.

A middle school teacher from Long Island has a computer full of kiddie porn.

And a Brooklyn teacher is accused of tutoring topics not found on the Regents exam.

Update: See also The Chalkboard

Schoolgal contributes yet another bizarre tale--there must be something in the water.

This Takes the Cupcake

Fill out your school lunch form and win a trip to Hawaii. That's right, an all-expenses-paid luxury trip, complete with pool boys, hula dancers, and ukuleles could be yours. Why wait? So you don't forget, send before midnight tonight.

Every impoverished kid is a big win for fun city, so get them in now. It's remarkable that people with kids eligible for free or reduced-price lunch need this sort of incentive.

Also, to serve you better, NYC school lunches now feature one fewer side dish. Doubtless the kids don't mind, since they can opt for French fries and avoid those nasty overcooked vegetables.

The teacher version now includes pre-packed salads, which I bought a couple of times this year. They were not exactly good, but nonetheless conveniently located. Unfortunately, the third time I tried to buy, they had dressing, but no salad. The last time, they had salad, but no dressing.

I give up.

Thanks to Schoolgal (for the caption too!)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Pay No Attention to the Screen

Stuyvesant High School students, who study in the shadow of Ground Zero, were sent back to school immediately after 9/11. The risk to their health, like that of those cleaning up the site, was minimized by local and federal government.

Now some of them, including a 22-year-old who's developed Hodgkin's disease, are demanding the city provide them health insurance.

Mayor Bloomberg, noble as always, has been fighting not to provide first responders with compensation for the personal sacrifices they've made. With no gazillionaire representing these students, it's fairly easy to anticipate his response.

It's preposterous that we pay twice as much for health care as people in Canada or Europe while 50 million of us aren't even insured. Let's give the Stuyvesant kids insurance. Then let's elect people who will give it to everyone else.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Worth a Look

The twists and turns in the continuing saga of Dr. Suit have me at the edge of my seat.

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three