Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mayor Mike Finds New Locales for Public Schools

While stadiums, museums, and private schools find space in the city somehow, NYC's 1.1 million schoolkids are being set up for relocation in the brownfields of NYC. Leonie (of Class Size Matters) and regular poster Patrick have heard denials of such plans.

Why then, would a press release like this one show up?

Next week the City will ask the City Council to approve its plans to build

four schools on a contaminated property in the South Bronx. The proposed

property, referred to as the Mott Haven Site, contains many dangerous

toxins buried underground including mercury, lead, and the suspected

carcinogen benzene.

While the City has a plan to clean the site, independent environmental

engineers have raised significant concerns about aspects of the plan, and

have suggested that more could and should be done. To date the City has

displayed an unwillingness to address these issues to the satisfaction of

community members from a community already overburdened by health

issues related to asthma and cancer.

Furthermore studies show that exposure to certain chemicals, including those

found at the Mott Haven site, are linked to learning disabilities and other

adverse health effects.

Funny, ain't it? They claim Pataki blocked CFE, when they did. They claim to have reduced class size, when they haven't. They focus on higher test scores in fourth grade, and ignore the lower ones in 8th.

Yet they have nothing but good PR. If my union had 10% of Bloomberg's canniness, teachers would all be able to quit their second jobs, and possibly their third ones too.

And perhaps the highest class sizes in the country would be a mere unpleasant memory.

Unforeseen Consequences

Since 9/11, the Pledge of Allegiance has been revived in New York City high schools. How that dissuades terrorists I'm not sure, but I teach kids who come from other countries, and they have no idea what most of it means. That's not all that unusual. When I was a kid they made us sing "My Country Tis of Thee," and I always thought one line was "land where the pilgrims fried." It didn't seem very nice at all.

So I decided my ESL students would understand the entire pledge. The pledge is very idealistic, considering not everyone gets the same justice as O.J. Simpson, but I presented it without any such commentary. I decided to spend considerable time on the word "indivisible." My wife is from South America, and this word was problematic for her when she took her citizenship test.

She went and answered all the questions about branches of government, and spoke English, and did whatever it was she was supposed to do. But when she recited the pledge, she said "invisible" instead of indivisible. She was fortunate in that her interviewer had a sense of humor. He chose to laugh and correct her rather than fail her.

So I made absolutely sure my kids wouldn't have that problem. Now, every day, when the pledge comes over the loudspeaker, my students spring up and put their hands on their hearts. They turn solemnly and look at the flag. As the pledge comes over the speakers, they stand in absolute silence. But then, mid-pledge, 34 young voices call out "INDIVISIBLE."

Unforeseen consequences aren't just for governments anymore.

Speak Out!

This is an open thread about the proposed UFT contract. Please share your thoughts here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Successful Small Schools

They're rough to maintain, and tough to start. But Mayor Bloomberg is determined to ensure their success.

To that end, he's excluding kids who don't speak English. Mayor Bloomberg has consulted with educational experts, who have determined that non-English speakers tend not to do so well on standardized tests, particularly when said tests are in English.

So I guess it's the ATR corps for me when they come to dismantle my school.

Stick Magnetic Ribbons on Your SUV

A little toe-tapper from the Asylum Street Spankers. Tony Orlando would roll over in his grave, if he were dead.


...or Chinese as a Second Language is enjoying a surge of popularity as more Americans send their kids to schools where Mandarin is taught.

The Chinese government has been actively promoting its language for a few years, and it seems to be paying off at San Francisco's Chinese-American International School.

For example, five years ago, the school was 57 percent Asian-American, but this year it is only 49 percent Asian-American, said Sharline Chiang, its spokeswoman, adding that more non-Asian-Americans have been applying in recent years. Andrew Corcoran, the head of the school, said that in the last three to four years, applications from white and Indian-American families have more than doubled, though he declined to give exact figures.

Ms. Chiang also said that this was the first year in which the prekindergarten class had more white children, 36 percent, than Asian-Americans, 32 percent.

School officials attribute the changes largely to a growing awareness of China as a global economic force, and to a strong sense among parents that learning Chinese could help their children professionally. As Mr. Corcoran said, studying Chinese “is looked at as a long-term benefit.”

I think we're going to be seeing a lot more of this.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

They're Here

When MacDonald's rejected meat as substandard, it was redirected and used for years in school lunches. Mayor Bloomberg, in yet another canny moment of sheer pragmatism, has decided to take "brownfields," clean them up as best he can, and use them for new schools.

What's a brownfield? According to the EPA:

With certain legal exclusions and additions, the term `brownfield site' means real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.

Where do I sign up? That sounds like precisely where I want my kid to go to school. It's a good thing the mayor is closing schools and building condos in former school buildings so that NYC's 1.1 million public schoolchildren can have such unique opportunities.

What's next? Ancient burial grounds? Haunted houses? The Neverland Ranch?

Thanks to Patrick

Guilty Till Proven Innocent

Carodozo science teacher Leonard Brown has been removed from his classroom, after a student accused him of having touched her breast during a physics demonstration. Mr. Brown maintains his innocence:

"Assuming I wasn't moral and ethical, I'm not stupid," he said. "Do they think I'd be stupid enough to molest a girl in front of 34 witnesses? To me, this is absolutely insane."

Not to the DoE, though. And thanks to the new UFT contract, which is up for renewal, Mr. Brown can look forward to a 90-day unpaid suspension, whether or not the charges are ultimately sustained.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Tired of Homework?

Why don't you go to the free school, where you can examine the heritage of your favorite video game characters in great depth?

Or why not just stay home, and learn about real-world activities from the comfort of your living room?

Get that Contract

The CSA, which represents administrators, has been without a contract for three years, as it thus far refuses to knuckle under to Chancellor Klein's draconian demands. Now it's running a commercial, featuring the voice of a principal, but the one they happen to have chosen has not been active for two years.

That's the difference between the UFT and the CSA. When our union ran a highly inaccuarate piece hyping the worst contract it's ever had, it chose a teacher who waited till the year was out to leave his job. Also, it changed his name so we wouldn't know he was bought and paid for. When called on it, the commenter promised to stay till Karl Rove was indicted, but went and got himself a patronage job instead.

Why does our union have a contract while CSA doesn't? Because when our patronage hacks lie, they go all the way.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Mayor's View

Mayor Bloomberg just wrote an op-ed in the Queens Courier which is notable mostly for its omissions. It's not as though he's the only one who's forgetful, but as always, the devil is in the details.

The mayor talks about how inspirational his history teacher was. I don't doubt it. However, Mayor Bloomberg has also said the needs of teachers should be put last, and he's done a good job keeping them there.

Perhaps that's one reason the mayor did not see fit to enroll his kids in public schools. My daughter's suburban teachers, for example, are well taken-care-of, and that in no small part accounts for their consistent excellence.

Mayor Bloomberg also points to improvements in the graduation rate, but that was likely to be the case, since he elects not to count dropouts among those who've failed to graduate.

Most notably, though, is this:

As Mayor, I'm pleased to have now negotiated three contracts with the UFT, raising starting teacher salaries by 43 percent during a period when our City has had to overcome both a fiscal crisis and a national recession.

First of all, the city is sitting on a huge surplus, partly resulting from its determination not to share it with working people (The cops and firefighters are big heroes, but we don't want to pay them!). Second, those percentages are not accurate, as these salaries will not be in effect for a few years yet.

But like our union leaders, Mayor Bloomberg consistently neglects to point out that at least 10 percent of that represents additional time, and is, therefore, not a raise at all. The Mayor, like UFT President Randi Weingarten, also fails to acknowledge that perpetual lunch duty represents extra work, that teaching a sixth class represents extra work, or that severely cut prep time necessitates that many teachers finish their work at home.

For new teachers or laypersons unfamiliar with this concept, a raise is when you receive more money for doing the same job. It's very disturbing that UFT leadership shares the mayor's view that our time is worthless. The mayor continues:

That's clear proof of how we're continuing to work hard to put more money into our schools even as the State has failed to fully address its responsibilities identified in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case.

What the mayor forgets here is that Governor George Pataki offered to shoulder 60% of the CFE cost when it would have brought 4.7 billion dollars a year to NYC schools. CFE felt the state should pay 75%. Bloomberg's people refused to negotiate, and said they'd say "No, thank you," to the award if forced to pay a single dime. This resulted in Pataki's appeal, and an award cut to about 2 billion a year. The mayor can blame the state, but were it not for his inflexibility, CFE would have been resolved, and resolved better, years ago.

Governor-elect Spitzer has promised to provide more, but the mayor still insists he will not contribute. It's remarkable politicians are permitted to get away with such logical pyrotechnics. Sadly, they seem par for the course nowadays.

Thanks to Norm

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Yes, Virginia...

...there is a Santa Claus (but there's no teacher shortage). Of course there's a Santa--how else do you explain the opportunity to take a six-week paid program that allows you to start working almost immediately as a New York City teacher?

You get all the benefits of a union--salary, health, dental, due process--you even get to come in August to listen to all the speeches and notifications that preclude the extended Labor Day weekend teachers used to have. Nor only that, but if your school gets reorganized, you join the Absent Teacher Reserve and get to sub for full-time pay. But wait--what's this?

Dear Virginia,

If you don't find yourself a job by next Friday, you're fired. Also, we're kicking you out of your college program.

Have a nice day.



Well, that can't be good. It's odd, because even as they send such notes, New York City is running costly ads soliciting new teachers. I recently clicked an ad on the NY Times site that brought me here, offering me, among other things, a chance to join the very program Virginia's being kicked out of.

Is it wise to solicit candidates for a costly program, and then dump them like so much trash? And why, if there's no shortage, are we running these ads?

Well, it's all about your criteria. According to Mayor Mike and Uncle Joel, if we find one single candidate for each job, we don't have a shortage. Also, it doesn't make any difference which teachers we get rid of, as long as they don't stay around for those costly pensions.

Good teachers are good, because they help us to show we're doing a good job. And bad teachers are good too, because we can blame everything that goes wrong on them.

Don't even bother mentioning those schools in nearby Nassau County, where they get hundreds of applications for each opening, ensuring kids there get very good teachers. That's not cost-effective. So what if we lose good teachers? We can replace them with other good teachers. Or we can replace them with bad ones.

In New York City, it makes no difference whatsoever. It's made no difference for thirty years.

And that's why Mayor Michael Bloomberg, despite all the hoopla, will make no difference either.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Go Figure

Tweed's graduation rates appear artificially inflated. Apparently, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein don't count dropouts as not having graduated.

The state, on the other hand, counts them unless it can establish they've enrolled in other schools. Personally, I'm shocked and stunned. Does this mean we can't trust the figures coming out of city hall?

When are they gonna stop this blatant prevarication and get back to blaming the teachers?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Reasons to be Thankful

Mayor Bloomberg should be a happy guy today. Though NYC schoolchildren have lost almost 3 billion dollars a year in the CFE verdict, the court has re-asserted his right to do whatever the hell he likes with the remaining 2 billion a year. That's a good thing for several reasons.

First of all, his recent collaboration with UFT President Randi Weingarten has freed the mayor from even having to pretend he's using the money to attract or retain quality teachers. Once those pesky teachers accept yet another contract that fails to meet cost of living, their goose is cooked, and there'll be no seconds, thank you very much.

Second, City Hall's precious tradition of no-bid contracts remains protected. Just as it's vital to our national security that Medicare have no right to negotiate drug prices, the most efficient way for the city to award contracts is that of Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein doing whatever the hell they feel like, whenever the hell they feel like doing it. After all, their educational programs have repeatedly stressed the importance of kids being able to do whatever the hell they like whenever the hell they want to, and it behooves good role models to be consistent (except when dealing with teachers, of course, who need to be told what to do every damn minute).

Finally, their vision and insight is vindicated by the 15.8 million contract they signed with Alvarez and Marshall. While critics complain that 10 other firms competed for that job in St. Louis, they never point to the fine work A and M did reforming the exemplary New Orleans school system. And what the hell do people from Missouri know anyway? Show me? Yeah, we'll show you right here, pal.

So it's vitally important that we continue to allow Mayor Bloomberg to do whatever the hell he wants with NYC money. After all, that's why we gave him absolute power to control city schools with no checks or balances whatsoever, and from everything I read, he's doing a heckuva job.

Don't Miss

...the Thanksgiving edition of the Carnival of Education which you can find right here at the Education Wonks' place.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Watch Where You Point that Thing

It's very tough to be a gym teacher, particularly in Brazil. Nearby military police are suing the local gym teacher, because his students keep landing soccer balls around their base.

It appears to be a crime to be a bad football player in Brazil. I'm glad I don't live there (though when it gets a little colder, I may reconsider).

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Tough Talk

Jon Swift says it's time to stop fooling around. Tell the Prez not to pardon the Thanksgiving turkey this year, but execute him immediately.

That'll show those terrorists we mean business.

CFE Lawsuit Cut

NYC will receive less than half of the aid promised by the 13-year-old CFE lawsuit. This is thanks to the legal maneuverings of Governor George Pataki, whom the UFT endorsed, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whom it declined to oppose. Fortunately, as UFT President Randi Weingarten has settled a sub-cost-of-living contract, none of those funds will be frittered away on teacher salaries.

Now Mayor Bloomberg will have more money with which to pretend he's reducing class size.

I have fond hopes that our 250%-capacity school will not rise beyond 300% under his stewardship.

On the brighter side, Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer promises to fund schools beyond minimum requirements. We'll see.

Bloomberg made it clear, however, that he will fight any calls from Spitzer to demand the city pony up more.

It's refreshing to see Mayor Bloomberg reiterating his principled stand to fund schools as long as the money doesn't come out of his budget.

Update: Leonie at Class Size Matters comments:

Perhaps the most infuriating response to yesterday’s court decision on CFE was from the Mayor, who didn’t seem much to care that the courts had just shafted our kids out of at least $2.7 billion a year, as long as the judges did not require any more accountability:

"The courts ruled as we had asked that there be no further oversight. If you remember, the state and the plaintiffs had wanted another level of oversight. I think we're doing a spectacular job with the school system right now, and the last thing we need is more bureaucracy," he said.

Unity Visits our School

Yesterday, a Unity hack came to our lunchroom. My Unity CC felt it was necessary, since I got up and spoke for five minutes at a union meeting, to present the other side. He did this by sending a Unity employee to our lunchroom for three or four hours. Also, he forgot to tell me the guy was coming.

The Unity hack had set up a table, distributed handouts, and was talking very fast. I asked him why we couldn't get cost of living. He said we were bound by the pattern. I asked why we needed the union if we were bound by the pattern, and he then claimed we beat the pattern (the one we were bound by) set by DC37. I said our contract was four months longer than theirs, and that was why our raise was higher.

He immediately started discussing the transit workers, and how they had had to go on strike and eventually go to arbitration. I told him we'd done neither, and that our situation was not like theirs at all. He said he didn't want to talk about the transit workers. I asked him why he brought them up then.

At this point, he stopped responding to my questions, refusing to see my hand go up. After trying three times to get a word in, I interrupted him with a question, a supervisor stood up, saying, "Whoa, whoa, whoa," or something, I concluded I was wasting my time and started walking out.

As I was doing so, I heard another teacher screaming at the supervisor, "You're not UFT and you've got no business here."

It did my heart good to hear such a comment, particularly since she was absolutely right and the thought hadn't occurred to me.

Monday, November 20, 2006

On Manliness

Lots of people ask me, "Gee, NYC Educator, what's it like to be a real man?"

I tell them, "It's hard work."

After a hard day being a real man, I really need to unwind. Sometimes, I do this by reading School Me, the LA Times education blog. They found a story that says we teacher men are outnumbered by teacher women three to one.

Now here's the thing--I would never ask to be paid more simply because of sex--that would be discriminatory. Consider, though, that many of the male teachers that constitute the 25% of the teaching force may not be real men. Do they have their credentials?

Tough to say. That could explain why there's no pay differential thus far for real men in the new UFT contract. But this morning, I must confess, despite being a real man, I'm racked with self-doubt. After having worked very late last night, I'm leaving for work again in a few minutes. Not only that, but I'm working again tonight.

Why the doubts? Well now, a little voice in my head keeps saying, "A real man would stay home." So the question now becomes, "Do real men listen to the voices in their heads?"

There are just too many things those teacher classes don't cover.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

This Jar of Money Can Be Yours (Just Sign Here)

Each day I learn our contract is more complicated than I thought.

Readers of this blog know that Chancellor Klein hires hundreds of new teachers even as he relegates working teachers to the "Absent Teacher Reserve." Under the proposed new contract, he'll be able to offer them a severance package, even though none of them, to my knowledge, have been established as bad teachers.

But here's something you won't read in NY Teacher---those teachers who are part of the city's Teaching Fellows program are not receiving this offer. They're being threatened with termination, and expulsion from college coursework. As I can't provide a link, I'll share the letter one of the Fellows received:

Dear .....,

According to our records, at this time you are still in the Teacher Reserve without a regular, full-time assignment. I am writing to remind you that as per the Fellow Commitment Form that you signed, if you do not find a regular school-level teaching position outside of the Teacher Reserve by December 1 you will no longer remain in the Teaching Fellows program. As a result, you will no longer be licensed and you will be terminated from employment for failure to meet qualifications. Furthermore, you will not be able to continue university coursework after that date.

At this time, you should continue to seek a school-level teaching position. While our preference is for you to remain in your assigned region, you are permitted to seek interview opportunities and obtain a position anywhere in the city. The Placement Support office remains available to assist you with interviewing tips and can provide you feedback through a mock interview. If you would like assistance please contact Placement Support at 718.935.4586.

We must be in receipt of a signed School Commitment Form by 5:00 p.m. on December 1 in order for you to remain in the Fellowship and on payroll. If you have already secured a position, please fax the signed School Commitment Form as soon as possible to 718.935.4185.

I hope you will be successful in securing a position so that you can remain in the Fellowship.


Vicki Bernstein

Director of Alternative Certification

According to my source, the Fellows program guarantees its participants teaching positions if they complete the summer program. This is not the first time Klein's DoE has attempted to weasel out of a contract by simply ignoring its provisions. Can anyone help these teachers?

Can the Unity wonks still stand up and claim the new ATR program is better than the old UFT transfer plan?

Saturday, November 18, 2006


James Eterno informs me I screwed up about the bonus. The contributions may not come directly from members. So I apologize to all who misunderstood as a result of my apparent misunderstanding.

I'll tell you where those contributions come from, and what "internal funding" means when and if I find out.

Adios, 750 Buck Bonus

A few less-publicized gems Norm Scott uncovered in the contract:

In order to address specific needs, the UFT generated internal funding to provide the following benefits:

· Effective October 13, 2007, the annual contribution to the welfare fund will be increased by $100 per member;

· Effective May 1, 2008, a lump sum payment to the welfare fund in the amount of $166.67 per member

Looks like those wacky Unity hacks are fooling us again.

Improving Our Schools

Sometimes, the small schools the mayor builds don't work, because everyone knows the crappy schools are still crappy schools. When that happens, the city just sends more kids to my school, which, at a mere 250% capacity, always has room for a few hundred more.

Sometimes, though, these schools seem to work. Their reputations improve, and people actually like them. In cases like that, the city may pour millions of dollars into such buildings before demolishing them.

That's the way we do things here in NYC. We don't fret over things like special schools for autistic children. After all, City Hall is confident kids like that thrive just about anywhere. According to Juan Gonzalez, though, there are a few naysayers:

"The whole thing with a child with autism is consistency and repetition," said Donadelle, whose 12-year-old son Christopher Jones also attends the school. "All the children know, all the teachers know, we don't change things on them."

Thanks to the inclusion program, the school of largely black and Hispanic children has become an accepted part of the wealthy neighborhood that surrounds it...

"These people don't know what they're talking about," Donadelle said. "It would take years for our school to establish the same kind of community ties in some other neighborhood."

...If this demolition and relocation were absolutely necessary, the parents and teachers would perhaps understand. But no one bothered to ask them what they wanted.

To them, this smells like land grab of a wonderful public school that happens to be sitting on upper East Side land that someone else wants.

They must be mistaken. We would never do a thing like that here in New York City. We value parent input, and that's why we treat involved parents so well.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Friday, November 17, 2006

A Press Conference

Why are the schools overcrowded? Well, uh, it's uh....ya know I'm workin' on's, like, ya see...the schools are...they're...uhhh...they're very good, yeah, that's the ticket....and, well....they're so good that people are sayin', ya know, like, let's go there.

So, like, no one wants to stay home anymore, and I've done what I can, ya know, but it's like, hard, ya know, so like, we've done such a good job, that like, everyone wants ta come.

So, like I wanna close PS 109, because it's, like, uhhh... a problem, ya see, so now those kids want ta go ta good schools, and they're like kinda crowded, ya know, so we thought about using Livingston Street, but we needed condos, so like, that didn't work, but we really hope ta get more money, so we can, like make the schools good, ya see, I mean they're good already, but, like, then more people will come ta the schools, and...uhhh....

Wait, that's not what I wanna say, ya see, like we sometimes gotta save space fur my buds, and sometimes we change plans, and it's like, kinda, ya know, complicated....

But the problem is, ya know, we did such a good job, ya know, and now the schools are. like, too good.

So that's what the story is. Yeah, that's it.

Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200

Go straight to the rubber room. Apparently that's the first stop for teachers who report their principals. So think twice before you report those sixth period orgies, or particularly if you think an educational assistant is doing the work of a certified teacher.

That didn't work out well for Hipolito Colon, who's been sitting in the rubber room. While you sit there, you can't do much till you're formally notified of your charges, and apparently that can take a long time. Read his full story.

And note this as well:

A teacher who reports wrongdoing by the school Principal is almost always the person investigated. Once a teacher speaks out, if there are no uncles, fathers or relatives who work for the BOE to make “a call”, he or she is immediately harassed, given a U-rating, or forced to resign. SCI and the Office of Special Investigations are two organizations that laugh at innocence. The “detectives” are, for the most part, retired cops who have been able to obtain positions through personal contacts with those who do the hiring, or by connection to an important relative in the Education ‘Family’.

Once a teacher whisleblows anything, the BOE immediately takes action. Interestingly, the teacher's Union, UFT, almost always does nothing substantive to assist the teacher remain in the job or to stop the harassment, once a teacher is targetted. (We have met some excellent UFT chapter leaders, however, who we will highlight in a later article - Editor). An example of this is the case of Ronald, a teacher thrown out of his school on false charges of corporal punishment that did not happen, then coerced into signing a stipulation that he would be 'punished' for his 'crime' by losing two months of his salary. He was taken to Arbitration by the BOE, and his UFT representative Neil Dudich and Claude Hersh took him into a separate room to force him to sign away his rights. They told him, "Losing two months of your salary is GOOD, and you should take it." Ron contacted Randi Weingarten, UFT President, in March and in August, 2006. He has not been told that she has done anything to help him.

Perhaps she was preoccupied negotiating the contract. I'm actually surprised by this, as I'd previously thought the UFT was good, at least, for situations like this. Apparently I was mistaken.

Thanks to Patrick

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hu's on First

Hu is a quiet young man, and though he isn't my best student, he isn't my worst either. One day I was walking by Hu's desk and caught him copying his math homework. He laughed, and I told him that wasn't why he was here. He said he would never copy English homework. Of course not. Still, I told him the next time I caught him I'd tear up the paper and toss it in the trash.

The second time I caught Hu copying math homework, I took the paper he was copying and didn't give it back. He swore up and down he wouldn't copy, and that he needed the paper, and I tore it up and handed it to him. He put it in his bag.

Two weeks ago, I caught Hu copying math homework again. I tore up the paper and tossed it in the trash. Hu was very angry. He said he wasn't copying, but simply holding the homework for his friend. He sat with his arms folded and did no work whatsoever. To further punish me, he didn't come to class for three days.

"Hu's not here," the kids said.

I'll spare you what I did with that.

Now, Hu comes to class every day and makes a point of doing no work whatsoever. He talked contemptuously to his friend for a few days to let me know he wasn't going to put up with my nonsense anymore. I moved his friend to the other side of the room, and now he sits and sulks by himself, making scornful noises once or twice per class.

He's determined to teach me a lesson. I tried talking to him, but he insists he didn't copy, though I watched him do it three times. Now he's not messing around anymore. He's going to show me who's boss by deliberately failing my class.

What Well-Behaved Youngsters

Here's an interesting practice from Tony Soprano's stomping ground of New Jersey--school districts that don't have any students. That's certainly a more effective way to stifle incident reporting than the one we have here in NYC. You know, the chancellor publicly demands all incidents be reported, then he grades schools based on the number of incidents, possibly resulting in 20,000 bucks merit pay right out of the principal's pocket.

Another advantage is that if you have no students, you don't actually need any schools, or cafeterias, or custodians. You do need a school board, though. After all, what's the point of having a school district if you can't pay administrators?

That's what it's all about, isn't it?

The Loyal Opposition

Check out Norm Scott's piece on the New Action Party of the UFT. The entire party exists for the sole purpose of fooling UFT members who think they're voting against Unity.

Their headquarters reside in UFT President Randi Weingarten's hip pocket.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bloomberg Eyes CFE Money

Bloomie has his minions talking up the CFE lawsuit again. Reducing class size, a goal of this lawsuit. is very important to this mayor. That's why he reneges on planned seats, closes schools, and devotes buildings to condos rather than schools. Still, Mayor Mike really needs the money (as long as he doesn't have to contribute).

Getting the funds is particularly vital now that a deal with UFT President Randi Weingarten ( a great collaborator with Mayor Mike, whose re-election chances are bolstered by the pact) ensures none of it need be devoted to good teachers, another goal of the lawsuit. Since reducing class size and paying teachers is pretty much a fond memory, there are tons of things these funds could be used for.

For example, they just broke ground on the Mets new stadium, and who knows how many luxury boxes those billions could build?

It's a win-win.

The Giant Killer

There's a great column in today's Times about a woman, a relatively small reading program, and a government that didn't play by its own rules.

She had developed a phonics program, precisely what the administration required, it had been very successful, but they never even looked at it. Only large textbook publishers were called to the table. However, she followed up and things are looking different now.

It's inspiring to see stories like this in America today.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


It looks like kids are going to have to go back to memorizing those nasty multiplication tables. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has reconsidered the cutesy ways of teaching math notably employed by, among other systems, New York City.

But don't expect to hear much about it from the Bloomberg administration. In order to minimize the possibility of anyone finding out just what the heck it is they do over there at Tweed, they've instructed everyone associated with schools to shut the hell up unless they're cleared by the external communications team.

The memo lists 28 examples of groups or individuals whose invitations should be discussed with the communications team.

These include unions, parent organizations, elected education councils, community groups convened to discuss specific issues - such as class size or new schools - and "groups of business and thought leaders."

It's very important that they maintain absolute secrecy. Otherwise, New Yorkers might find out what they're doing, and worse, what they're not doing. Who knows what that might lead to?

Carmine Santa Maria, a member of the Community Education Council in Brooklyn's District 21, whose group invites DOE officials to nearly every meeting, said the new move is suspicious.

"It shows they're afraid of something," Santa Maria said. "What's the point of having [speakers] if they can't say anything?"

Goshdarn inquisitive citizens. Everything was fine till they came along.

But they're not wise to Tweed yet, or they'd be storming my 250%-capacity building with torches and pitchforks.

Monday, November 13, 2006

It's Alive!

Mayor Bloomberg has decided to do experiments on school kids. No, I'm not talking about seeing how many kids he can squeeze into half a classroom.

If we can't give them good teachers, small classes, and decent facilities, like the CFE lawsuit asks, why not psychoanalyze them instead?
We have a laboratory of guinea pigs," said Granville Leo Stevens, a parent activist who refused to allow his daughter, Savanna, to participate in an NYU study at MS 104 in Manhattan last year.

"The Department of Education markets our kids like they're a piece of meat," said Stevens.

Some of the studies target students by race and ethnicity.

But the DoE has offered cheap counseling for parents, and ten bucks each for students, so many participate. After all, now they can say they're doing something, and it's a lot cheaper than providing quality education.

Critics say racially targeted behavioral studies of kids as young as age 9 are intrusive.

"Schools are not laboratories to use children as free experimental subjects," said Vara Sharav, of the Alliance for Human Research Protection.

Tell it to City Hall.

Got the Blues?

Well, good news, everyone!

NYC will now issue you a new birth certificate to match your sex change, even if you hadn't had surgery.

Voila! No more hassles getting into those new single-sex NYC schools, and you won't have to pay strangers to buy beer for you either.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Me too. Just the thought of that hall patrol tomorrow makes me ill.

Let's remember who gave it to us, and then, let's show them it's our union. Let's demand takebacks.

In fact, let's Take Back the UFT.

Maverick Johny

Right Wing Professor and I don't tend to see eye to eye about politics. But he really surprised me with a post on Senator John McCain.

Oddly enough, we agree completely.

What to Do?

There's an interesting, though disorganized, thread developing here. Should we oppose this contract or wait until the spring and try to unseat our entrenched, complacent, self-serving leadership?

Over on Edwize, three or four usual suspects passionately defend it, condemning those who oppose it for such egregious offenses as commenting on this blog.

The inflation rate so far this year is 5.2%. This contract, like the last one, fails to meet that threshold. Governor-elect Spitzer has vowed to resolve CFE, injecting billions into the school system. This money is earmarked for good teachers, small classes, and decent facilities for NYC schoolkids. If you're on the Class Size Matters mailing list, you know, despite public pronouncements. this mayor does not really spend money on class size. Also, if you happen to be one of those good teachers, this contract guarantees that the funds won't find their way to you.

That's a good thing for Mayor Bloomberg, who can use the money for yet another billionaire charter or sports stadium. He knows CFE funds are coming.

Does UFT President Randi Weingarten know about this lawsuit? Of course she does. So why would she sign a contract now? Well, there's no re-election literature quite as effective as a check. It's no coincidence tax refunds go out directly preceding elections and the timing of this refund is just as suspect.

What's in it for the mayor, besides billions of dollars he won't have to spend on those irritating teachers? Ms. Weingarten has publicly stated that there is no quid pro quo, and that she has made no determination about mayoral control. That's odd, because mayoral control has been an unmitigated disaster for both teachers and students, and it's been remarked upon repeatedly on the Unity blog.

However, Ms. Weingarten also sat out the last mayoral election, refusing to endorse Ferrer against Mayor Bloomberg, a demonstrated enemy of public education. If you don't believe that was a quid pro quo for a contract, I have a bridge to sell you.

Please comment not on this post, but on the open thread above. I'll postdate it so it will stay there a while and sustained conversations will be possible.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

R U A transl8r? No? C U l8r.

No need to bother with those cumbersome books and things if you live in New Zealand. You can just practice sending text messages.

If you're one of the elite group that hasn't yet bothered to learn how to spell or write your native language, you can simply use "text-speak" on exams:

The move has already divided students and educators who fear it could damage the English language.

New Zealand's Qualifications Authority said Friday that it still strongly discourages students from using anything other than full English, but that credit will be given if the answer "clearly shows the required understanding," even if it contains text-speak.

What will they think of next? I'm just glad I don't have to grade any of those tests (the students ought to be glad too).

Thanks to Pissed-Off Teacher

Absolute Power

Yesterday I brought my young daughter to work with me. My alternative was not to come in at all.

As I was with my daughter, I went to the Assistant Principal of Organization to request that I not be given any coverages. She was not in, so I decided to mention it to her secretary.

"I don't know about that," she said.

"Well, why not?" I asked. "I always do them when you ask me and we're only talking about one day here."

In front of my ten-year-old daughter, she announced, "I don't know about bringing your daughter to school. We have to worry about insurance."

I'll have taught 22 years come February. I've seen hundreds of my colleagues bring their kids in. This was the first teaching day I've ever done so. It wasn't my fault Chancellor Klein felt it was so crucial to open on Veteran's Day.

"Well, you can send me home then," I told her.

"You don't have to get sarcastic," she said.

"I'm not being sarcastic," I told her.

"Well, it sounded sarcastic to me," she said.

Perhaps she thought I was just going to leave my little daughter to hang out at the gas station by herself while I went to teach. Who knows?

Henry Kissinger said, "University politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small." While he's not my hero or anything, he hit the nail on the head. I've seen teachers become imperious and aloof overnight when they became assistant principals. And this school secretary feels completely comfortable trying to intimidate me simply because her job entails sitting one door west of the principal's office.

You'd think she was famous and powerful, like a gargoyle at a landmark building or something.

There's Always Room for One More!

Mayor Bloomberg, in his ever-evolving quest to scientifically establish the similarities between New York City schoolchildren and Bumble Bee sardines, has decided to eliminate 3,000 proposed seats in District 10. Apparently they cost too much.

This decision follows one to close PS 109, and another to convert the Livingston Street building into condos.

And why not? Only 75% of NYC high schools are overcrowded.

It's not like it's 76% or anything.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Related: See what Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters has to say.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Unity Logic

We had a UFT meeting at my school on election day. The Unity CC knew little or nothing about the contract. I got up and spoke about the financial aspects, added that the raises did not even match cost of living, and that it was almost certainly a quid pro quo for continued mayoral control.

The CC called me into his office yesterday, and told me how persuasive I was. He then told me that I represented ICE (which is odd, because I neither attend their meetings nor have any say whatsoever in formulating their policies), and that I was, therefore, a propagandist. I took exception--I speak for myself.

He explained that he needed "the other side" to be heard. I took exception to that as well, since I'm a real working teacher and not a bought-and-paid-for patronage hack. Still, the hacks must come.

I later thought of this--Last year, he brought the patronage hacks in to pimp the atrocious contract we now have, and saw no reason whatsoever to present "the other side."

Curious, ain't it?

Related: Miss Malarkey comments here.

The Chancellor Smells Blood

NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein is openly attempting to bust the CSA by telling principals the APs are holding them hostage. One important point is that he wants to absolutely revoke job security. If, after six months, excessed APs are unable to find jobs, he wants them out.

He said the teachers’ union had agreed to analogous changes in work rules.

Have we? I don't recall. There are those thousand teachers subbing at full pay, but they've not yet found a way to terminate them (they're working on it). They have, in the wonderful new contract (which contains every single drawback of the wonderful old contract), agreed to offer them a "voluntary" severance package.

But where is this leading? You may recall that our awful contract came on the heels of their awful contract. Our fate may very well be entwined with theirs. I hope they hold out. Remember, when the chancellor tells them, "Look at the teacher contract," it means he won't hesitate to tell us, "Look at the supervisor contract."

If they give up tenure, it's curtains for the ATRs, none of whom, as far as I know, have been determined to be bad teachers.

One argument favored by this year's Unity hack is, "Look what's happening to the supervisors."

Well, look what's happening to Wal-Mart employees. We're not making things any better for them (not to mention us), by taking absolutely anything that comes down the pike.

This contract doesn't meet cost of living (this year, it's 5.2%), but it's not as bad as the last "more work for less pay" deal. Personally, though, "the same work for less pay" is not my cup of tea either.

That's not why we pay union dues. And while this contract will almost certainly pass, the people who enabled it, and the last contract, must go. "We'll take whatever," does not merit re-election.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Bring Your Daughter to Work Day

I didn't realize it was tomorrow, but she's stuck with me. It turns out schools in Nassau are all closed in recognition of Veteran's Day. You remember that holiday where we show respect for those who've fought for our country? Unlike city offices, schools are open tomorrow.

Thank goodness we have Unity, the caucus that's ruled the UFT for fifty plus years, at our side. It's true, of course, that they gave us the innovative sixth class (the one that is not a class). It's true they made us do hall duty, cafeteria duty, and potty patrol. It's true we can no longer grieve inaccurate material in our files.

We may have the longest school year in the region, and we may not be able to transfer. We may be guilty until proven innocent, we may be subject to 90-day unpaid suspension, and we may be sent out to wander an endless purgatory of substitute teaching for no offense whatsoever. And no, we didn't get that 25-55 legislation they promised us along with the above goodies.

But the Great Randini and Leo Casey sacrificed as well. The UFT office is open one entire hour extra every week. Consider that while you inspect the potties.

Can you imagine what it must take for them to spend one extra hour doing whatever it is they do in there? Thank goodness there weren't any givebacks in the new contract. I'd hate to think of them spending yet another hour.

I'm going to join Unity and get my daughter a patronage position. Should I tell her to bring a coloring book, or do you think they already have them?

Anyway, before you complain about working Veteran's Day, consider that extra hour, and how many times Propaganda Minister Leo Casey has to play Minesweeper before it passes.

Lines and Circles

I've remarked before that one good thing Bloomberg and Klein have done was encourage semicircle arrangements in classrooms. I've always arranged my college classrooms this way, and for a few years I've been able to do so in high school as well.

I like my students to feel welcome to talk and contribute as long as they follow my class rules:

1. We will treat one another with respect
, and
2. We will speak only English in this classroom.

For the most part, kids cooperate, and we have a very good atmosphere, where they can use English in a non-threatening forum.

Sometimes, though, I get a very uncooperative group, with kids who really have no interest in learning English. That's very unusual for teenage kids, but what can you do?

What I do is put the chairs back in rows, being very careful to leave such kids in the vicinity of no one who speaks their native language. I really don't like to do that, and I only did it once before. I decided to do it once again in my afternoon class. This class is full of kids who've been stubbornly unable to understand what I want to promote.

They'd be playing handball in back of the trailer and running dance-a-thons if left to their own devices. While things have never gotten to that point, they've persisted in hoping I'd allow them to do whatever they want, whenever they want. After two months, several of them still register shock when I don't do that. And scores of calls home have failed to drive a stake through the heart of that odd notion.

I rearranged the furniture last Thursday.

I didn't really want to do it. But they are still surprised as they forlornly trudge to their new seats, and so far it's worked like a charm.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Forget Politics

Welcome to the 92nd edition of the Carnival of Education. It seems like only days ago we were at the 91st. Thanks to The Education Wonks for sending the carnival to NY this week.

If the folks you liked won, congrats, and enjoy the carnival. If not, forget about it and continue reading. We've tried to include something for everyone.


offers a very amusing textbook prescription.

This Week in Education shows us Dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden.

And everyone, of course, needs to know How to Freak Out Ninth Grade Girls.


That heartbreakingly Poor, Starving College Student enlightens us on the very odd Educational Policy at Brown University. You'll laugh, you'll cry (and maybe you'll send her a few bucks).

But wait! Here's just what that poor, starving student needs. The Education Wonks tell us How to Get Rich in Public Education. This is just the thing for me and my fellow NYC teachers, who've just been offered yet another contract that fails to keep up with cost of living.

Fearless Leaders

Norm Scott of EdNotes Online explains why NYC big shots Mike Bloomberg and Joel Klein's governing styles have a lot in common with those of totalitarian regimes.

Chaz' School Daze thinks principals would be a lot more effective if they actually taught classes.

Classroom Tips

Radagast offers some practical advice about preventing cheating.

Kate at Teaching Debate offers some tips on what you need to get an effective debate started.

And Loni, homeschool mom to 9 children, gives helpful hints for learning the multiplication table.

Union Business

James Eterno and the Jamaica High School UFT chapter have taken a principled stand against the union's unwillingness to even ask for improved working conditions.

Jeff Kaufman thinks the UFT has sold out rank and file.

In Texas, unions are prohibited from collective bargaining. Consider, though, they seem to have baby showers instead of faculty meetings.

Dr. Homeslice offers Union Bouquet 6.5 for your edification and reading pleasure.

Puzzling Dilemmas

Uh oh. Do you see yourself in any of the thirteen things that drive California Teacher Guy crazy?

Mrs. T. (no relation to Mr. T.) has to wander around with a cart of supplies for her 90 minute classes. The other day, she forgot to pack her cart with quizzes. Chucheria asks--what's a master teacher to do?

At The Art of Getting By, one of the very coolest-looking blogs I've ever seen, Janet can't decide whether her breath is taken away or her class should simply be hauled away.

At I Thought a Think, The Rain wonders whether vouchers will work for everyone. Also, he offers the BIGGEST stories in Washington right now.

Ms. H. of Unaccountable Talk had an unusually demanding Halloween.

And Eduwonk has some interesting analysis on how elections may affect education.


Pissed Off Teacher gets to the root of the issue--the kid just might be stupid.

Joe Williams of The Chalkboard discusses the charming young man who came to school dressed as Adolf Hitler.

Ms. Cornelius can't abide a principal who lacks both judgment and principle.

Not Funny

Happychyck Wonders, but her characteristic contentment is shattered when she learns one of her students has been killed in Iraq.

Mamacita at Scheiss Weekly offers something magical but sad nonetheless. Also, some kids are hard to get through to. But if she can't do it, who could?

Schools Matter reports Army recruiters telling prospects not to worry--The Iraq war is over.

Life's Little Challenges

Public Education Defender has an American History Required Knowledge Test. How well can you do?

Carol of The Median Sib is preparing for what must be the evaluation to end all evaluations, as it seems to require so much paperwork it precludes her from doing anything else.

Mr. R. at Evolving Education just got a bonus, and doesn't oppose merit pay sufficiently to return it.

And Mr. Lawrence of Get Lost Mr. Chips is justifiably paranoid about students who touch him.


Graycie, over at Today's Homework, writes a parent to say what many of us would like to, though our internal editing apparatus won't permit it.

Do you have what it takes to be an elementary school teacher? April May will tell you (Her students say the darndest things).

Diane Weir doesn't want school bands at political rallies.

Me-Ander tells us that even prompt, conscientious teachers have to be late sometimes.

And The Science Goddess is sick and tired of the election season. While I'm on the subject, she will be hosting the next Carnival of Education. Don't forget to send your contributions to the_science_goddess[at]yahoo[dot]com by 6 p.m. PT., Tuesday, November 14th.

Testify Some More!

Mister Teacher at Learn Me Good is disturbed by his students proclivities toward ratting out one another.

Ms. Whatsit seems to have had it with English only proponents. She'll show them a thing or two (not that they'll understand).

A History Teacher offers a new twist on War--What is it Good For?

Wenchy Poo holds court on elements of character.

And the Professor over at Right Wing Nation attributes a lot of fuzzy academic nonsense to "Groupthink." Hmmm...let me discuss that with my peers and decide what we think.

Violence in the Classroom

Dr. Deborah Serani wonders how we can stop school violence.

First year NYC teacher Ms. C. has been having a rough year. First, she was assaulted by a student. Then, the kid received only a five-day suspension, despite 8 written accounts of violent behavior. She was not permitted to attend the school hearing for fear things might get "adversarial." After all that, the kid waltzed right back into her classroom.

What to Teach?

Philosophy, et cetera, thinks we're offering too much et cetera and too little philosophy.

Wa Salaam is optimistic about high schools in the US emphasizing writing once again.

A Girl Who Asks Too Many Questions writes about a sex education program that stresses communication rather than the most efficacious methods of placing condoms on bananas.

And Chinese Beyond the Textbook suggests we learn Chinese with Harry Potter.

And Just in Case...

Here's how you dismantle an atomic bomb.

This midway is registered at TTLB's carnival roundup.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Free Speech vs. Unity Machine

I just wrote a polite post on Edwize, the official UFT blog, inquiring as to why we should be happy about yet another contract that fails to keep up with cost of living in NYC. I pointed out that while it was indeed better than a contract with a mountain of givebacks that failed to keep up with inflation, we were still effectively making less money each year.

They deleted it. Cowardly Leo Casey is incapable of defending his many untenable positions.

It's remarkable they get to deduct money from my paycheck for such services.

Update: comment reinstated. Those wacky Unity hacks are so fickle. Congrats to Unitymustgo, who finally got a comment up on the blog he (or she) pays for, after many failed attempts.

Don't Forget....

A lot of us have little faith in the electoral process. If our worst suspicions are correct, the only way to overcome them is by getting out in overwhelming numbers.

Vote no on inept and perpetual war. Vote no on war profiteering and warrantless wiretapping. Vote no on a Big Brother style government empowered to label anyone it likes an enemy combatant. Vote no on open-ended imprisonment without trial. Vote no on signing statements that allow the executive to ignore laws even as he signs them.

Vote no on union-busting. Vote no on immigrant and gay-bashing. Vote no on Pravda-style 24-hour propaganda outlets masquerading as news.

Whatever you do, don't forget to vote today.

On the Contract

All indications are that the CFE suit, which promises to invest in good teachers, smaller class sizes, and decent facilities for children, will be resolved under Governor Spitzer.

By agreeing to yet another contract that fails to keep up with inflation (which hovered around 5% in NYC last I looked), Mayor Bloomberg and Randi Weingarten have ensured that none of this settlement will be frittered away on paying teachers.

Despite Randi's boasts about percentages and figures, a great deal of Nassau teachers hit 100K years ago. And despite her groundless boasts about having caught up with the suburbs, this agreement enables us only to remain 20K behind suburban teachers.

Randi makes preposterous boasts about raises compounded over years and years. But NYSUT prints salaries of our neighbors, which are made available to public libraries. They conisistently outpace us.