Wednesday, February 28, 2007

That's His Story, and He's Sticking to It

My colleague, Ms. Bright, had an unfortunate run-in with a bakery product yesterday.

She was teaching her class when something hit her in the ankle. She looked down, she looked out the door, and for some reason she happened to recognize the special ed. student who threw the thing at her.

She went to the special ed. office and told them, "Brian threw a muffin at me while I was teaching."

"You'd better write it up," they told her.

"Will there be any consequences for Brian?" she asked.

"Probably not," they told her.

"Then I'm not writing it up," she said.

But the folks in special ed. did indeed talk to Brian. In fact they brought him by her classroom to explain.

"That lady is a liar, yo. I wasn't eating a muffin this morning. It was a bagel."

"Brian..." began the special ed. dean.

"No, it's true. I wasn't eating no muffin. It was a bagel."

Clearly Ms. Bright had perpetrated a grave injustice against this young man.

The Carnival of Education.... up and running over at Dr. Homeslice's place.

Don't miss it!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Exit, Stage Left

It's cute on TV, I suppose, but real life can be more complicated than a taxi ride and a camera following you out of the Donald's office.

Joe Williams of The Chalkboard, in a fit of nostalgia, recalled a link to a post I did last year about bad teachers. It got picked up by Joanne Jacobs and a few other blogs, and it's been getting hundreds of hits over the last few days. As it happens, I wrote the very next day about good teachers, but that didn't generate half the buzz the first one did.

Lots of people read pieces about bad teachers and ask, "Why can't we fire them?"

It's a pretty good question. The answer, of course, is you can certainly fire them. That assumes, of course, that someone in the system wants them fired (I no longer labor under that particular assumption).

"Why is it so difficult?" they ask.

It should be difficult because you're proposing to deprive people of their livelihoods. Would excellent teachers get fired if those who directed schools could just do whatever the hell they liked? It certainly appears so.

This blog has an infrequent commenter who visits, asks the same questions on this topic, ignores the responses, and returns to ask them again. Last time I didn't bother responding, having done so just two weeks ago on Edwize.

He had written to protest Peter Goodman's defense of a teacher who was facing termination. An administrator had asked Mr. Goodman how he could represent that particular teacher. In fact, there was not one iota of evidence presented to suggest the teacher was guilty. However, the poster, ready to fire him regardless, suggested this:

Your anecdote with the “How can you represent this guy?” line is telling. How can teachers get the respect they deserve if people can ask this question and your only response is to blame others for a bad hiring decision?

It's certainly problematic for working people when people ready to condemn us with no factual basis whatsoever get their way. They ask, "What about the kids?" Well, I have a kid, and she's going to have to work one of these days. I'd like to know she'd get a vigorous defense if she were ever charged with a crime. I'd also like to know she wouldn't be fired based simply on the caprices of some troglodyte boss somewhere. I'd hate to think she'd end up bound by the ever-changing whims of a leader like Mr. Bloomberg.

My response is below:

I think it’s an important point that we don’t hire teachers, and it’s equally important to note that we have nothing to do with granting of tenure either. Pointing fingers at us is disingenuous.

It’s the union’s job to represent its members. It’s as simple as that. That’s what they’re there for. The notion that anyone facing removal from a job does not merit a vigorous defense is un-American.

Those who are so quick to condemn Mr. Goodman for doing his job ought to know that this city has had many, many opportunities to hire more selectively and has balked repeatedly, choosing to lower standards, establish 800 numbers, and conduct multiple intergalactic searches to fill those ancient wooden chairs.

I don’t believe in hiring bad teachers, or granting them tenure. But neither I nor the UFT has any say in those matters.

As for the comment being telling, I take strong exception to that, and those who’d stereotype teachers are bigots, plain and simple. There’s a school of thought that working conditions are bad in this country, and there’s a certain amount of truth to that.

To make the conclusion that we will somehow improve things by worsening conditions for teachers is nothing short of idiotic. All workers, not just teachers, deserve protection and due process.

We should be working to improve the lot of working Americans, not worsen that of teachers.

90% of Florida Teachers Are Without Merit

In Florida, if I recall correctly, only what the powers that be determine to be the top 10% get merit pay. It appears Santa Rosa County's teacher of the year, Nicole Mayhew, may not qualify.

Apparently whatever Ms. Mayhew did to earn that title does not coincide with the Florida merit pay laws. Perhaps she now regrets not spending more time falsifying student papers, which could have earned her a cool two thousand bucks. More likely she regrets not taking a job in Georgia, where she could have made a much cooler five thousand bucks without jumping through the hoops Governor Jeb Bush left for her.

The biggest problem with merit pay is that it isn't really used to augment salaries, but to artificially depress them. Joel Klein loves merit pay, not because it rewards extraordinary teachers, but because it will allow him to continue hiring from the bottom of the barrel. He can then say the teachers stink and continue to pay them sub-par salaries--and if anyone doesn't recognize that as his goal, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn for a very attractive price.

The union also contends performance pay is premature until Florida teacher salaries become competitive with other states and professions. FEA spokesman Mark Pudlow said Florida’s average $42,000 teacher’s salary is $6,000 below the national average and trails neighboring Georgia by $5,000. Performance pay advocates have challenged those numbers, citing benefits, beaches, balmy weather and other amenities that make Florida attractive. Pudlow counters: “It’s real difficult to get a mortgage on sunshine.”

And in NY, much of the time we don't have even that. Nearby suburban schools still pay 10-20K per annum more than NYC, and they still get hundreds of applicants for each position. The city, which has declared the end of the teacher shortage, is lucky to get a handful. If the city really cared about quality, it would work on increasing that pool.

But there's nothing bad about bad teachers for Mayor Mike and Uncle Joel. They make a fine scapegoat, and help him divert attention from what's really wrong here. I don't know if they still keep unqualified teachers at a low salary step, but NYC did so for years, making them very attractive and cost-effective.

Needless to say, that's not how you put children first.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Mr. Bloomberg and the Small Schools

There's nothing quite like a good school to improve a neighborhood. We value nothing more than our children, and it's great to know they've got a good place to go right near home.

Of course, if you have billions of dollars, you can charter a helicopter and send your kid virtually anywhere. That's one reason why Mayor Mike closes neighborhood schools without a thought about how it will impact the community.

Inconveniently, the city council is not yet directly chosen by Mayor Mike. Its members, who must be elected by the communities they serve, are getting a little uppity. Until Mayor Mike can remedy this with further mayoral control, they're liable to continue asking impertinent questions.

"As much as the Department of Education touts the success of new schools (which has yet to be determined)," interrogated Flushing's John Liu, "who is determining the impact on existing, neighborhood schools?"

Before Josh Thomases, the DOE's chief academic officer for new schools, could finish answering the question, Liu was interrupting him. "That's obfuscation," he accused. "That's a numbers game. You expect us to just swallow what you give us. We want real info."

In the face of this barrage, Thomases relented, conceding: "We have not fully assessed it."

Mr. Liu found this odd, as Mr. Thomases was surrounded by multicolored charts showing the alleged successes of the small school program. This goes right to the heart of the Bloomberg "reform" agenda, which is this---try any damn thing, hope for the best, and consistently claim it's a huge success. If facts don't support your claims, make up new ones.

If it doesn't work, try some other thing, hope for the best, and claim to be reforming the reform. And as long as you're in the process of "reforming" you can dump kids anywhere (regardless of their needs), let anyone teach anything to anyone under the most squalid conditions, send children all over the city, build new schools on sites unfit for human habitation, and reserve the best facilities for charters and private schools.

Few will notice, mayors all over the country will try to follow in your footsteps, writers from Newsweek will sing your praises, and not even the president of the teachers' union will oppose your bid to renew mayoral control.

Pretty sweet deal.

Unless the papers continue to report the truth (they have begun, at least) and folks like John Liu help them along. God help Mr. Bloomberg if writers from Newsweek ever bother to research what actually goes on here.

Thanks to Patrick

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Sunny Side of the Street

One of the biggest draws in real estate is a good school. One person who knows that very well is Hillary Blumenthal-Levy. She paid 1.16 million dollars for a three bedroom co-op in Manhattan, and neglected to budget for private school. It didn't seem necessary, since both her real estate agent and the Department of Education website said her sons would be guaranteed access to PS 290.

Turns out, though, she's on the wrong side of the street, and the website was incorrect. She's suing the broker, claiming she specifically requested a place zoned for this school.

The Education Department acknowledges that a function on its Web site allowing people to determine school zones by entering an address is not able to give accurate information when the home is on a street that divides one zone from the next.

"We are working hard to address this issue, and we have included a disclaimer on our Web page," department spokeswoman Debra Wexler said in a statement. "If parents are looking at school zones as a factor when buying a home, we strongly encourage them to contact either the school or our Office of School Enrollment Planning and Operations before making a decision."

Wexler added that Blumenthal-Levy's apartment on the north side of E. 87th St. is in a "lottery" zone where kids are placed in upper East Side schools that include PS 6 and PS 290.

In a city where a highly rated public school can bump up a neighborhood's real estate prices, brokers will be stunned to learn that the Web site they count on for school-zone information isn't always accurate, said Della Leathers of Prudential Douglas Elliman. "This is pretty scary," she said. "I would have thought you'd be pretty safe relying on the Department of Education."

Welcome to Mr. Bloomberg's New York, Ms. Blumenthal-Levy

Friday, February 23, 2007

Mr Bloomberg Makes a Purchase

James Monroe High School has a new scoreboard after half a century. Unfortunately, they haven't been able to get it in the building.

The 14-foot sign doesn't fit into Monroe's ancient doorways. They don't make schools like they used to.

And in Mr. Bloomberg's New York, they don't make new ones, unless they can find contaminated tracts of land unsuitable for anything else. Perhaps Mr. Bloomberg thought he could squeeze the sign in just as he squeezes 4500 kids into a building designed for 1800.

It turns out, though, that metal is less pliable than children. Public school kids will fit just about anywhere. You just need to put screens on the classroom windows so the excess doesn't spill out onto the streets, where business may be being conducted.

Anna Nicole Update: Still dead.

Britney Update: Still bald, but increasingly insipid.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

My Window Faces the South

If not, I'm gonna have to move it.

I'm not saying the mysterious South is perfect. Last night, my daughter obliged me to stop at the ugliest diner on God's green earth, with a group of people who matched it perfectly. And there was a condom machine in the men's room, so someone is entering that joint and feeling lucky.

The whole southern concept of breakfast seems to depend a lot on grits, which don't much resemble food. Waffle House and Huddle House, two identical chains of dark, greasy, cramped breakfast joints, seem to draw customers from everywhere.

On the other hand, here in the USA, where we produce the best music in the world, some of the very best musicians are hidden in the mountains around Asheville, NC, from where I'm writing this.

But there's no need to come that far if you want to see real southern wisdom. In Virginia, people are starting to defy NCLB. It seems they've determined it's unfair to give the same tests to people who don't speak English.

A hundred years ago, people used to routinely give IQ tests to non-English speakers, who were often classified as mentally retarded. This was due to a failure to factor in the reality that these folks didn't speak English. Now, with a hundred years of progress behind us, we no longer label non-English speakers as retarded. We simply say their schools are unacceptable and need to be closed. Oh, and their teachers, like me, are incompetent for failing to press a button and make them magically fluent.

What does Uncle Sam have to say? He was unavailable for comment, but Aunt Margaret has little sympathy:

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said Virginia is "dragging its feet" and called the testing provision, the law's Standards Clause, a necessary measure to counter "the soft bigotry of low expectations." In a Feb. 4 letter to The Washington Post, Spellings said: "It's time to remember that yes, Virginia, there is a Standards Clause."

Spelling's comments incensed school division officials.

"We're all so angry," said Arlington County School Board chairwoman Libby Garvey. She called the required test a "painful and humiliating experience" for children who haven't grasped English.

Similar disagreements will arise in other states that have many students who aren't proficient in English, said Reggie Felton, lobbyist for the National School Boards Association. The association has asked that the federal education department grant each state flexibility "for real-life situations to ensure that the test is valid and reliable for each student."

In Arizona, where there are many Latino immigrants, school officials also are grappling with testing language learners.

"We believe that English language-learner students come to school with different levels of competency," said Panfilo Contreras, executive director of the Arizona School Boards Association. "They may not be proficient in their own language, let alone English."

That's very true, and it's absurd to blame American schools for this. Also, momentarily disregarding its effect on schools, there's no way such idiotic regulations keep kids from being left behind.

Anna Nicole update: as of this morning, still dead.

Britney update: as of today, still bald.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Country Life

Here in Cary, North Carolina, housing developments are popping up everywhere. They squeeze those houses out as though they're donuts, and people seem to buy them as fast as they can make 'em. Everything is nice and new.

My niece lives in a brand-new house. It's got four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a granite kitchen and it looks great on the inside. The outside is a little mass-produced for my taste, but what do I know?

"Do you have a new school?" I asked her.

"No," she said. "My school is really old."

Then she showed me her school schedule. It's incredibly complicated--you go one month, you're off another, this week and that week schools are closed, sometimes group A goes, sometimes B, sometimes C, D, and E.

"Why is it so complicated?" I asked.

"Well, the schools are all too small and they can't get enough teachers, so we have to take turns."

I now realize it's not their fault, but mine. Here I am writing about education, when most of the country doesn't really give a damn one way or the other. I'm gonna have to get off my high horse and start focusing on what really matters. Let's see what USA Today is writing about:

First, this morning, all indications are that Anna Nicole Smith is still dead. We'll update tomorrow.

It also appears that singing sensation Britney Spears is still bald. Insider sources suggest this condition is likely to continue until her hair grows back, but caution it may take longer if Ms. Spears decides to shave her head again.

The Carnival...

...a great big one, too, is over at History Is Elementary.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Unity-New Action Researches a Campaign Leaflet

We're in Cary, North Carolina, visiting family. The hotel we're in costs sixty bucks a night, with an indoor swimming pool and a breakfast buffet. In the city, we'd be lucky to get coffee for that.

I haven't gotten to see the latest Unity-New Action campaign handout yet, but I got an email saying they claimed the latest contract keeps up with inflation. That's a very strong statement.

First of all, NYC inflation runs higher than the rest of the country. When the latest contract proposal came out, it was running over 5% for the first 3/4 of the year (The contract was 2% the first year and 5 the second). Perhaps the last quarter had a real downturn. I don't know.

Still, last I heard, inflation figures don't include energy prices, and it's hard for me to imagine they're headed anywhere but up. Even if the great minds at Unity-New Action used city figures, and we somehow met inflation at 3.5%, there are still about two years left in this contract.

I'd like to meet the economic experts who've figured, given massive, unprecedented national debt and the highly volatile situation in Iraq and the middle east, inflation won't go up over the next two years. Whatever their basis may be, the 05 contract, despite the unconscionable givebacks, didn't meet cost of living. While I have no access to Unity-New Action's highly sophisticated calculating mechanism, it's very doubtful that this one will either.

The proud Unity-New Action tradition of little or no real contract negotiation results in second pensions and patronage jobs for some (to wit, those who lead Unity and New Action) and more work for less pay for most.

It's no help at all to us, The Help, who work for a living.

Of Course You Do

But there are certain obligations attached.

So whatever you do, don't miss Miss Cellania's take on New York.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Last week, our trailers were closed due to the weather. We were sent into the auditorium, where a show was being put on. Before the show, a bunch of kids next to my class were shouting and making a great deal of noise. I walked over and asked them to be quiet.

One of the students responded by shouting in my face. I asked him for a program card. He said he didn’t have one. I asked for ID. Again he claimed not to have it. I told him that if he couldn’t identify himself, I’d have him removed.

The kid produced nothing. I called a nearby dean and had him escorted out. I had to write up the incident.

5 minutes later, the kid was right where I’d left him. As it happened, the principal came in and took a seat very close to him. I watched him get up three times to speak to them, and the third time he dragged up a very large security guard who hovered over them, as though he might do something. Naturally, I hoped there wouldn't be any confrontations.

After the show, I went to the dean’s office to ask why the kid was sent back.

“I told him to go back,” the young woman told me.

“Do you know what that means?” I asked her.

She didn’t.

“It means there are no consequences for his actions. It means he can be insubordinate to faculty members, then walk right out and do it again.”

She responded with a vacant stare that would have depressed me if it were coming from one of my students.

If she ever has kids, they’ll be the ones at the supermarket howling until she buys that box of Oreos.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Two of my favorite bloggers, Mamacita and Ms. Cornelius, have nominated this blog as one that makes them think. Mamacita has instructed that I must do the same, and that's enough for me. I'd put both their blogs on this list, actually, but you can already find them above.

1. April May is funny and perceptive, and of late has been posting translations of what it means when parents and administrators say things. I really enjoy the humor with which she colors everything, and the universal nature of her topics. If you're a teacher, you shouldn't miss her.

2. Schools Matter is on top of every "innovator" looking to experiment with our public school children. Nothing gets past the critical eye of Jim Horn.

3. Anonymous Educator is cynical and outrageous. I haven't got the faintest idea how much (if any) is truth, and it makes no difference to me whatsoever. I can't stop reading this character.

4. Get Lost Mr. Chips is clever and surprising, and though Mr. Lawrence has become more serious of late, I never miss it. I also like Graycie at Today's Homework, who's smart and perceptive, and more passionate about English grammar than anyone has a right to be.

5. A couple of NYC teacher blogs I don't miss are EdNotes Online and Pissed-Off Teacher. Though EdNotes is more political, and POd more personal, they both lead me to similar conclusions about the school system.

6. My favorite political bloggers are reality-based educator (another NYC teacher), with whom I almost always agree, and the Prof at Right Wing Nation, with whom I almost never agree. I find myself hanging out with the right-wing history teachers where I work, and while we don't see eye-to-eye on GW Bush, we share almost exactly the same view of hizzoner Michael Bloomberg.

They tell me if I run for Congress they'll go out and work for my opponent, but if I ever decide to run for Chapter Chairperson I'll have their full support.

7. The Education Wonks may have started this whole teacher-blogging thing. Ed has boundless energy and a great eye for quirky education stories.

8. Two blogs I like immensely (despite the fact I frequently disagree with them) are Eduwonk and The Chalkboard. They're both clever, lively, and well-written.

9. I'm fond of Mrs. T. (no relation to Mr. T., as far as I know) at Chucheria, who has a sense of humor and isn't afraid to use it.

10. And finally, I always read Chance at Sapient Sutler, who's got a very quirky view of everything, an absolute necessity in anyone who aspires to be a teacher.

I apologize for going way over 5, for cheating and inserting 2 blogs here and there, and most of all to the many bloggers I neglected to mention. Feel free to register your complaints and vehemently demand apologies.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Where Mr. Bloomberg Puts Children First

Pissed-off Teacher has interior photos of the trailers in which NYC kids study.

Check 'em out.

Mr. Bloomberg Makes a Mistake

Cardiac wards all over the city are working overtime as unwary New Yorkers succumb to massive shock. Mr. Bloomberg has suspended the parking tickets he'd issued during and after the snowstorm.

"I don't understand what the fuss was all about. I simply had the chauffeur garage the limo," Mr. Bloomberg said. "It's common sense to garage the limo on a day like that, and I don't understand why my fellow New Yorkers didn't do the same."

"However," Mr. Bloomberg continued, "This act of forgiveness shows I am a regular guy, the sort of guy who lets the chauffeur park the car at a meter."

When asked whether the chauffeur had parked on the street today, Mr. Bloomberg had no further comment.

Poetry Corner

California Teacher Guy has been on a poetry kick lately. I like his stuff very much and suggest you take a look. One of his poems reminded me of another I like. It's simple, and I wonder if my students would understand it as a cautionary tale.

Incidentally, if you're the guy in the picture on the left, I don't recommend you begin with this one:

Oh Yes
there are worse things than
being alone
but it often takes decades
to realize this
and most often
when you do
it's too late
and there's nothing worse
too late.

-Charles Bukowski

Friday, February 16, 2007


Security guards are not what they used to be. In our school, we had an entire group of them at one time. Everyone knew them and they knew everyone, kids included. One day someone decided to disband our little force and send them all over the city.

Now, they come, they go, and no one knows from one day to the next who they actually are. Worse, no one is sure what they actually do.

Kids walk up and down the halls wearing hats, talking on their cells, and listening to their ipods. Security guards watch passively. They don't ask why they're in the hall, and they don't ask why they're violating school rules. At a recent meeting, I heard an administrator say, "It's like we have a dozen extra kids wandering the halls."

A few weeks ago, while on my hall patrol, I saw three security guards standing in a corner, while a chronic truant huddled with them discussing God only knows what. I approached the kid and sent her to class while the guards continued their chat.

Why do they watch? Well, I'm told it's because they want to avoid confrontations. If they were to say, "Hey, kid, take off the hat, put the phone away, take those things out of your ears, and go to class," the kid might have a bad reaction. As we all know, bad reactions are bad.

It's different for teachers, apparently. I would not hesitate to say any or all of those things to each and every kid in my class. And the fact is, such remarks may indeed cause confrontations.

But by avoiding them in the hall, they're letting the kids know rules don't matter. And frankly, support like that is worse than no support at all.

Another Day in Mr. Bloomberg's New York

Boy, those wacky Edison Schools vets are certainly beloved by Mayor Bloomberg.

The Education Department has hired the former head of a tutoring company that was slammed last year for "bribing" students and allowing people with criminal records to interact with kids.

Joel Rose, the former general manager of the Newton Learning company, was hired last month as the $149,000-a-year chief of staff to Deputy Chancellor Christopher Cerf, school officials said.

Mayor Bloomberg, while building ballfields for rich kids on your dime, has determined folks who hire criminals to tutor your kids aren't so bad. After all, how can ex-Edison employees do their thing if they can't have their peeps around?

It's Children First in Bloomberg's New York. That means first we take care of the rich people's children, then we take care of their parents, then we take care of their cronies, and the rest of the kids get their schools closed down, which is fine, because we've stopped their bus service to economize anyway.

The deal to give Randall's Island to a bunch of rich kids turns out to have been illegal, but the Mayor plans to make it legal sometime in the future, so everything is fine.

And, to serve you better, Mayor Bloomberg didn't waste city money cleaning the streets many of us had to drive on yesterday, but gave you a ticket if you didn't dig the slush off your car and move it yesterday. After all, we have laws in this city, and there must be immediate consequences for non-billionaires who defy them.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Moving Ahead

Mayor Bloomberg has succeeded in his plan to give away 66% of the public ballfields on Randall's Island to wealthy private schools, via a no-interest 20-year loan (a fact that seemed to escape the NY papers). He's done so with the full blessing of city Controller Bill Thompson, who had previously objected.

A lot of teachers, myself included, had thought that placing Democrats in key positions might be helpful to city schoolchildren, teachers, and working people in general. Given Mr. Thompson's support for this plan, I no longer think it's that simple. Take a look at Governor Spitzer, who'd promised to lower class sizes, but now makes it a menu choice, along with longer school days and years, both of which we already have in NYC, and neither of which has much helped anyone.

Perhaps Governor Spitzer can credit Bloomberg and UFT President Randi Weingarten for already having instituted this plan, what with their having negotiated the longest school year in the area already. Then, Mayor Bloomberg can get the extra cash without frittering it away on those troublesome CFE demands (good teachers, small classes, and decent facilities).

Also, take a look at how Whitney Tilson on the pro-voucher blog Edspresso loves Governor Spitzer's approach. Why on earth do you suppose Randi Weingarten loves it too? Spitzer's running for president, and so is Ms. Weingarten. We'd better line up some real allies, or New York City's kids may soon need to run as well. Where?

Nassau, where I live (because I couldn't afford the area in which I work), looks better every day, and while I'm beginning to wish Suozzi had beaten Spitzer (I voted for Spitzer in the primary and the election, hoping he'd follow CFE's recommendations, rather than "reform"), I'm glad we still have Suozzi here.

My kid's school is excellent. Why? It has good teachers, small classes, and decent facilities. That seems to work, but it's not what I'd call a "reform."

Politicians like "reforms." I don't much like politicians today, though.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Let's Party!

Over at Education Wonk's carnival of education.

See ya there!

Mr. Bloomberg Vs. the Aliens

Mayor Bloomberg's teflon armor continues to erode, as Sam Freedman questions his policy of closing high schools and disregarding the needs of the kids who attended them. The schools are supposedly no good (as always, through no fault of the mayor or his minions) and they must go (even if they're improving). The DoE has spoken. That's it. All the failing kids will go elsewhere, and magically become excellent.

But does this policy serve NYC communities? It certainly doesn't serve Lafayette High School's Chinese community. Where will they go, particularly if they're in need of bilingual services? Not Lafayette, because its new "academies" will not be providing it.

It turns out that ESL students don't tend to score as well on standardized tests. Why? Because they DON'T SPEAK ENGLISH. It turns out that if you DON'T SPEAK ENGLISH, tests are somewhat more difficult. And Mayor Bloomberg really ought to make some accommodations for these folks, because even though he's renamed their schools and kicked them out, they still DON'T SPEAK ENGLISH.

Several Lafayette administrators and teachers joined Mr. (Steve) Chung, the president of a Chinese-American community association, in devising a proposal for a school specializing in international studies and submitting it to the department. At a public meeting, residents of the neighborhood lauded it. Meetings with department officials, he said, went amicably and productively.

Then, a few weeks ago, the department announced its plan for restructuring Lafayette, which now has about 2,100 students, beginning in September 2007. It would contain three new schools — one emphasizing sports management, another focusing on film and music, and a third offering “expeditionary learning” under the aegis of Outward Bound. None will offer bilingual instruction, at least at the outset.

“This is an absolutely unacceptable choice,” Mr. Chung said. “These three schools have nothing to do with our community. They’re forcing the immigrant students out of their own neighborhood. New York is an immigrant city, but I think the education policy is not for us.”

This is typical of Tweed--it makes public claims to care about parent input, then does whatever it wishes and gives parental opinions no weight whatsoever. While it reorganizes Lafayette and utterly disregards its immigrant community, it's doing much the same elsewhere:

Several miles to the east, in East Flatbush, something remarkably similar was happening at Samuel J. Tilden High School, which serves roughly 2,400 students. Like Lafayette, Tilden will be dismantled beginning next fall, and replaced by a collection of small schools. Like Lafayette, Tilden has a large population of immigrant pupils, about 250, many from Haiti. That critical mass allowed Tilden to operate a bilingual program in Creole, and its students outperformed peers at comparable schools on various standardized tests.

The new version of Tilden, however, will have one high school run by Outward Bound and another, called the It Takes a Village Academy, that says it will “prepare students for college and meaningful careers while fostering an appreciation for diverse languages and cultures.”

At best, according to the department’s own projections, those schools will take in a total of 50 English-language learners, as students entitled to bilingual or E.S.L. classes are officially known, despite the heavy presence of Haitian and African immigrants in the surrounding neighborhood.

While it may be convenient for Mayor Bloomberg to shuffle these kids around, it's not any way to treat immigrants, and one way or another, we're all immigrants. It's not their fault they DON'T SPEAK ENGLISH, but in a couple of years they'll catch up.

Kicking them out of their community schools, whatever they may be called, is nothing short of reprehensible. It's true their test scores are inconvenient, and that's because they DON'T SPEAK ENGLISH, but they need time.

Let's send Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein to China. We'll have them take the NY State English Regents Exam in Chinese. I'll give them one year to prepare for it. I'll even provide them with the answers, which I wouldn't do for my own ESL students.

And I'll bet every cent I've ever had that my kids outscore Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Klein. It's time to stop penalizing our immigrant population and give them a little support. I'm sorry their test scores are low, but they DON'T SPEAK ENGLISH. They can do everything they need to do in schools, but they'll need a little time.

Is that too much to ask?

In the trade-off for the closing of Lafayette and Tilden, with the net loss of about 800 places in bilingual and E.S.L. classes, the Education Department has announced the opening of only one small school geared to immigrant pupils in the entire borough. And even now, less than two weeks before eighth graders throughout the city must submit their applications to high schools, the department has not revealed the location of that school, the Multicultural High School. For all any parent or child knows at this point, it could be anywhere from Bay Ridge to Brownsville.

It behooves this mayor to do better. I know kids who wake up at four in the morning to trek to our school, and we ought to have fewer, not more of them.

It's cold today in Mr. Bloomberg's New York.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Blatant Discrimination

Sometimes I'm amazed at the things I find when I check homework. Look, this kid got all ten sentences wrong. Wow, here's another kid who made exactly the same ten mistakes. What's the chance of that? And oh my gosh, here's another paper that's exactly the same again.

Boy, I wish I didn't read this stuff. It would certainly help me to become a better teacher by upping my passing rate.

So what to do?

"Say, David, you won't believe this, but Tim had exactly the same answers as you. Isn't that amazing? Also, they're all incorrect and you spelled all the same words wrong. What a coincidence."

"I didn't copy, Mr. Educator."

"Yes, I understand, but maybe Tim copied from you."

"I didn't copy, Mr. Educator."

"Well, I'm not saying you did. But to me, whether you copy from him, or he copies from you, it's all the same."

I usually leave little boxes blank for missing homework, but enter zeros when I catch kids copying. Dave and Tim get zeros.

But now, the bearer of paper no. 3, Linda, is crying. She knows she's caught, and is trying to explain. I restrain myself, gesture her to calm down, and don't discuss it further. But later, another kid says something about cheating, and Linda starts crying again. Linda's usually a good student--she participates, passes tests, and doesn't need to copy.

Two years ago I caught a generally excellent student doing the same thing. Though the evidence was overwhelming, she denied it and didn't speak to me for a year. I decide not to risk this with Linda. I won't tell her I'm mistaken (because I'm not). A few moments later, though, I say this:

"I'm sorry I made you cry, Linda."

She sniffs a few times and says it's alright. I've given both the boys zeros, but not her. She's still with me, at least.

As for the boys, they've learned their lesson--or at least they'll try to cheat more carefully in the future.

To Serve You Better

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, while sitting on billions of surplus dollars, is planning to cut millions in unimportant programs that are, admittedly, of little use to billionaires:

Bloomberg has called for slashing $22.2 million in city education programs, $30.3 million in aid to the City University of New York, $5.4 million to the beleaguered Administration for Children's Services, $6 million for child health clinics and $3 million for rapid HIV testing.

Aside from that, the Mayor is cutting a few other troublesome programs for the bootless and unhorsed:

  • $19.7 million from the "Teacher's Choice" program, an initiative that gives teachers up to $100 each to purchase instructional materials of their choice.

  • $9.3 million from youth programs directed at immigrants.

  • $5.9 million from mental health programs.

  • $4.8 million from initiatives aimed at preventing infant mortality.

  • But fear not. Sports stadiums will not be affected, nor will the number of luxury boxes. And there will be no tax increases on either yachts, helicopters, or aircraft chartering fees. But as the old saying goes, why charter a private aircraft when simple first-class reservations will do?

    Monday, February 12, 2007

    Should the Democrats Cross-Endorse George Bush?

    Should the Republicans cross-endorse Hillary Clinton? Not many from either party think so (even if their opponents might hope so). There's little need for opposition if that's the sort of opposition they provide.

    Yet the United Federation of Teachers has a so-called "opposition party" called New Action, whose ticket is headed is current UFT President Randi Weingarten. Ms. Weingarten hopes those of us who oppose her will be too ill-informed to notice that the "opposition party" is nothing but smoke and mirrors.

    Ms. Weingarten also hopes you won't find out that all New Action's leaders have union jobs and second pensions. These jobs and pensions appeared magically the moment they agreed to endorse Ms. Weingarten. Is anyone naive enough to believe keeping those jobs does not depend on rubber-stamping Ms. Weingarten's agenda?

    Unfortunately, I've spoken with many articulate, otherwise well-informed teachers who've confirmed Ms. Weingarten's supposition, and still believe New Action represents true opposition. Few teachers follow union politics, and that's one reason we've gotten mayoral control, hall patrol, 90-day unpaid suspensions based on unsubstantiated allegations, and all the other goodies that accompanied the unconscionable 05 contract.

    Meet James Eterno. He believes in checks and balances. He believes there needs to be an alternative to the Unity-New Action machine that's controlled our union for over half a century.

    So do I.

    Sunday, February 11, 2007

    More Than Meets the Eye

    This story got my attention, but not enough of it. Now-bankrupt Platform Learning got over 63 million bucks for tutoring, though the no-bid contract from Tweed projected a mere 7.6 million. When you look a little closer at the Platform Learning Leadership Team, you find that both of its major executives are former employees of Edison Schools.

    Despite the repeated insistence of DoE employees from Chancellor Joel Klein on down that they are not privatizing NYC schools, there is a definite pattern emerging here. When you consider that Joel Klein saw fit to appoint former Edison Schools president Christopher Cerf (who conveniently sold his interest in Edison only the day before he took questions from a parents' group) deputy chancellor, it doesn't take a Sherlock Holmes to figure what the pattern is, either.

    When you consider the city paid Platform more than it would've cost to preserve the use of Randall's Island for New York City's 1.1 million schoolchildren, the priorities of this administration become crystal clear.

    I only wish the residents of this city, along with the New York Times, would clean their windshields a little so they could see too. Fiscally bankrupt is one thing. Morally bankrupt is altogether different, and our kids deserve better.

    Gracias al ángel misterioso

    Why Didn't I Think of That?

    Everyone from NYC knows the schools never close, no matter how much snow there is, or how many wicked witches or cows happen to be flying through the air.

    I vividly remember driving up the Long Island Expressway one morning with cars crashing to the left and right of me. Then-Mayor Giuliani was on the radio saying, "It's awful out there. If you don't have to come to work, stay home."

    The mayor, of course, was referring to people of significance---not teachers or students, who were required to come in.

    A pair of creative students from Edgewood, Ohio have decided to forgo such nonsense altogether. They simply stole a password, went to the school website, and announced a snow day themselves.

    Saturday, February 10, 2007

    Pay to Play

    Randall's Island, it appears, is bound for a new look. All we had to do was devote most of the island to private schools for a brief 20 years. After all, we're talking about 52.4 million bucks, and the private schools are gonna pay for it (over 20 years). The city doesn't have that kind of money (multi-billion surpluses are for other things). Unless, of course, it's paying even more than that for a no-bid tutoring contract, another valuable public-private partnership.

    What this is about is values, and public school children simply don't cut it. Mayor Bloomberg could have built a school here, but he's using contaminated fields in the Bronx instead. Do you remotely imagine Dalton kids would play there? Do you think billionaire stadium owners would construct in a place like that?

    No, Randall's Island is a playground for the rich in more ways than one. On Independence Day, Bloomberg LP (run by guess who), roped off a good portion of it for two weeks so it could have a private party.

    Randalls Island Sports Foundation officials refused this week to answer questions about how much the company paid to use the park or what the foundation's policy is for private parties on the island.

    Why don't you give 'em a call and ask whether you can have you can close part of it for your kid's birthday party this summer?

    Even though Randalls Island has always been considered part of East Harlem, there is not a single resident of that neighborhood on the foundation's board....

    That's because the mayor knows whats best for everyone, and excellent schools and parks are best for those who can pay for them. For everyone else, you know the drill.

    Update: Class Size Matters states that the private schools are paying only half the cost for this new construction. Try getting a 20 year, no-interest loan when you buy something:

    Contrary to what has been written in the press and elsewhere, the private school payments amount to less than half of the cost of this project. The present value of the annual payments by the private schools is only $33.2 million, while these fields are projected to cost between $70 and $ 80 million. Moreover, there is the considerable cost of maintaining them, which the city is expected to cover.

    Friday, February 09, 2007

    The Uniform

    During my endless hall patrol, when boredom threatens to jump out of the air and strangle me to death, one of our Chinese teachers often takes pity and speaks to me, thus diverting me from the pointless mind-numbing task UFT President Randi Weingarten has condemned me to perform forever.

    Yesterday, she told me that she had to wear a school uniform from first through twelfth grade. When she was selected for college, she was thrilled and had her mother buy her a pair of jeans. She'd wanted one for years and though it cost 25 Chinese dollars (a lot for them at the time), her mom obliged. But when she got to college, a dour-looking matron informed her jeans were prohibited even there.

    One of the things she loves about America is the frequency with which she can wear jeans. Another is the fact that, as far as she can tell, it doesn't bother anyone at all.

    "Boy," I told her, "I never had to wear a uniform. I'm glad we don't wear uniforms."

    "But of course you do," she said.

    Just then, four kids walked down the hall. Three of them were wearing black North Face Jackets. One was not.

    "Where's your North Face jacket?" she asked the fourth kid.

    "I left it in class," she replied.

    I recently bought my daughter a full-length down coat at Macy's. I remember marveling that the North Face jacket in her size came only to the waist and cost $200 more.

    Anyway, she's right. Our kids do wear uniforms.

    And expensive ones too.

    Thursday, February 08, 2007

    Tie Me Down One of Those Kangaroos

    Here's an inspiring story, all the way from Australia, for those of us working under the draconian conditions UFT President Randi Weingarten and her Unity-New Action patronage mill negotiated for us in 2005:

    Up to 700 Victorian teachers have been forced to take stress leave in the past five years after children as young as 10 bullied, threatened and abused them on the job, WorkCover figures reveal.

    More than $21 million was paid to the teachers, who took stress leave from January 2002 to August last year because of harassment, work pressures and assault, News Limited newspapers reported.

    I regularly read similar tales from NYC teachers, notably Ms. C. over at Teach You a Lesson. Where's justice? Where's the union?

    And most importantly, where's our 21 million bucks? That would go a long way to compensate us for the indignities of potty patrol, baseless 90-day unpaid suspensions, compensation increases that fail to meet inflation, punishment days in August, 6 classes daily, and ATR purgatory.

    Thanks to Schoolgal

    Are You Overpaid?

    My favorite anonymous tipster emailed me a story from Jay Greene and Marcus A. Winters stating that teachers were not, after all, underpaid. In fact, the article claims, they're paid better than just about anyone. It's from the Wall Street Journal, I don't have a link, and you have to be a subscriber anyway, so pay up and do a search if you're so inclined. With all that money you have, it shouldn't be a problem.

    It's remarkable that anyone can make such arguments. One of the big disagreements between the UFT and Mayor Bloomberg is over the percentage of teachers who get tenure. Bloomberg says it's 99%, but the UFT puts the figure closer to 65%, since fully a third of the teachers hired never make it far enough to be considered. Within five years, fully half have moved on. I've heard, in fact, that more than half of our current union members have fewer than five years (and if anyone knows better, please correct me).

    I've heard these teacher pay arguments for a long time. If you sit and make out a chart of actual hours worked, maybe it's true. I mean you get the summers off (I've had three summers off in 22 years) and you only work a few measly hours a day. Unless you take work home, or work nights and weekends (like me, for example).

    For me, a regular-working-guy-type, it's hard to attribute teacher retention problems to the pay being too high, or the work being too easy. But folks like Mr. Greene manage to do it anyway.

    Another thing I learned was this--according to the University of Arkansas website, Mr. Greene is paid $160,000 a year. That doesn't include speaking fees, or whatever he makes for writing papers and articles vilifying teachers.

    I wonder how many hours he works.

    Short Takes

    Mayor Bloomberg has had it with people criticizing the bus debacle. How dare they? They have no experience doing anything. Public advocate Betsy Gotbaum wholeheartedly acknowledged the contrast between critics and the company that won hizzoner's no-bid contract:

    "As to experience, yes, Alvarez & Marsal has ample management experience," she said sarcastically. "The firm managed to make a mess of the school bus system in St. Louis."

    Meanwhile, 5-year-old children stand outside for fifty minutes on the coldest week of the season, waiting in vain for the newly rerouted buses to show.

    And NY Schools Chancellor Joel Klein says of course he wouldn't send his six-year-old child out onto a city bus. Of course, he doesn't have a six-year-old, if he did he'd enroll her in public school, and your 7-year-old child is another story altogether.

    Thanks To Schoolgal

    Wednesday, February 07, 2007

    My New Classroom

    On Monday morning, UFT President Randi Weingarten came to visit our school. I’d have liked to see her, but I was out back teaching in a trailer. Ms. Weingarten, whose monopolistic Unity-New Action Caucus has not bothered to negotiate class size for almost 40 years, talked about class size and overcrowding. Others of us were experiencing it firsthand.

    A colleague arrived unexpectedly to greet me.She notified me we were kicked out of the trailer, effective immediately, and sent my 27 students and me back into the building (She said she had 39 students, so protest seemed futile).

    There are things I like to do when I teach. I like to walk around and check what kids are working on. I like to set the desks in a semicircle to encourage discussion and participation. On test days, I like to make three or four long rows to discourage cheating.

    All these things are out of the question in our new classroom.There are 8 rows of 3 desks virtually piled on top of one another. Testing will be extremely challenging, if not impossible.

    As an ESL teacher, I insist my student speak English at all times. That’s why I seat certain kids with others who don’t speak their languages.In this classroom, it’s virtually impossible to strategically place the kids, 55% of whom speak the same first language.

    There are no windows in our new classroom. There are two doors, one of which connects to the office of the Assistant Principal of Security. We can hear every word he utters and every reply on his speakerphone. We can also hear every discussion he has with the students unfortunate enough to land in his office.

    The other door leads to the hallway.You have to open the door, because the room smells like “cement,” “smoke,” “the locker room,” or “a pharmacy,” depending on which kid you ask. But you can’t open the door, because we’re across from the locker room, and the gym classes, which don’t seem to actually fit in our gyms, march down the hall for the first ten minutes of the period, and back up the hall for the last. Also, can hear everything going on in the dean’s office, just south of us, and you don’t really want it to spill into the classroom.

    “What did we do?” a kid asked me.

    “Is this a torture room?” asked another.

    “No, it’s a punishment room,” replied someone with experience.

    He was right. Our new classroom is exactly where they place kids with in-house suspensions. But there are usually only 5 or 6 of them at a time.

    When you squeeze 4500 people into a building designed for 1800, you have to make a few compromises. I am not what you'd call shy, and I do not expect the administration to keep me there for long.

    Still, some less assertive colleague will land in my stead for sure.

    If you’re going to put “Children First,” as Bloomberg and Klein claim, there’s no excuse whatsoever for treating kids like this. Still, it will be my efforts, not Ms. Weingarten's, that get my kids out of there.

    It's my job to look out for them, and neither they nor I can afford to wait another forty years.

    So You Don't Forget, Call Before Midnight Tonight

    Check out the Carnival of Education, appearing right now at This Week in Education.

    Tuesday, February 06, 2007

    The New Wheels on the Bus

    The wheels on the bus go Round and round, Round and round, Round and round.
    The wheels on the bus go Round and round,
    All through the town.

    Alvarez and Marsal say beat it kid, beat it kid, beat it kid"
    Alvarez and Marsal say beat it kid, beat it kid, beat it kid"
    All through the town.

    Bloomberg on the bus goes "Cheap Cheap Cheap, Cheap Cheap Cheap, Cheap Cheap Cheap"
    Bloomberg on the bus goes "Cheap Cheap Cheap,
    All through the town.

    Klein on the bus goes "Duh duh duh, Duh duh duh, Duh duh duh"
    Klein on the bus goes "Duh duh duh, Duh duh duh, Duh duh duh"
    All through the town

    The money from the bus goes "Clink clink clink, Clink clink clink, Clink clink clink"
    The money from the bus goes "Clink clink clink, Clink clink clink, Clink clink clink"
    straight to the consultant clowns.

    Thanks to David Bellel for updating the classic tune!

    I Am Woman

    "Mr. Educator?"

    "Yes, Suzie?"

    "What 's the difference between A-L-L-E-N and A-L-A-N?"

    "Just the spelling, I think."

    "Well, I like A-L-L-E-N better."

    "I don't sink so," opined her neighbor (note to self--work on that "th" sound).

    "Well, Suzie," I told her, "Maybe some day you'll have a son and you can name him A-L-L-E-N."

    "No, I'm going to call my husband A-L-L-E-N."

    "Don't you sink he may not like it?" asked the neighbor.

    "If he wants me, he's going to have to use that name," declared Suzie, and the matter was closed.

    Monday, February 05, 2007

    Worth Another Look

    One of the most remarkable education stories I've ever heard happened a few years back in Kansas City. I wasn't blogging at the time, but I wouldn't be surprised if it happened again today, so I hope you won't mind my dredging it up.

    A young science teacher named Christine Pelton assigned a class project. Parents and students signed an agreement that the project would be worth half the class grade.

    Unfortunately for the kids in question, Ms. Pelton went and read the projects. Perhaps the kids had not anticipated this occurrence because it turned out that many of the papers were identical. Using software that identified it, Ms. Pelton determined that 28 of the kids had committed plagiarism. Under the terms of the signed agreement, she proceeded to fail the plagiarists.

    But the kids were not happy. And their parents, who'd signed the agreements, had second thoughts. The local board determined the project was weighted too heavily and instructed Ms. Pelton to reduce its value from 50 to 30%.

    When Ms. Pelton arrived the next day, the kids let her know who was boss.

    "The students no longer listened to what I had to say," she said. "They knew if they didn't like anything in my classroom from here on out, they can just go to the school board and complain."

    Ms. Pelton resigned. At the end of the semester, her principal resigned too.
    Ms. Pelton

    Thanks, Mayor Mike

    Here's an article about some of the nice folks kids are meeting on the public buses.

    If Alvarez and Marshall say it's a good thing, that ought to be good enough for anyone.

    Sunday, February 04, 2007

    Now That Can't Be Right

    Norm at Ednotes has posted an incredible piece from Class Size Matters showing we're building twice as many seats for sports stadiums than for public schools.

    Talk Talk Talk

    UFT President Randi Weingarten has an op-ed in the Daily News this morning. She repeatedly praises Governor Eliot Spitzer for his emphasis on proven reforms, like smaller class size, but does not make it clear precisely what other choices he offered.

    I'd like to believe Ms. Weingarten that Mr. Spitzer's intentions are good. Unfortunately, actions speak louder than words, and even Mr. Spitzer's words, up to this point, have been highly disappointing. Mr. Spitzer ran claiming he'd reduce class size, not that he'd offer the option of reducing class size.

    Mayor Bloomberg has always had the option of reducing class size. He has always declined it. Can Mayor Bloomberg find some way to lengthen the school day, or year (his other options, according to the governor) without violating the UFT contract? He doesn't have to lengthen if for teachers if he can somehow make kids stay longer. Will Unity/New Action lengthen the school day and year in the next contract to secure another compensation increase that fails to meet inflation?

    They've certainly done it before.

    Related: This blog is also quoted in today's Daily News.

    Tower of Babel

    Peppermint Kiwi writes:

    One of my Spanish teachers was Cuban, and she told us about her American boyfriend who was attempting to communicate in Spanish to impress her father. Unfortunately, he didn't realize that embarazada means "pregnant," not "embarrassed."

    It's tough to pick up a new language, and if you do so as an adult, there are always stumbling blocks like that. When I was more advanced , I had a very good Spanish teacher who invited our class to come to a Three Tenors concert and "assist." We all thought we'd have to work (and most of us worked in the day before coming to class at night).

    None of us accepted the offer. It wasn't till a few years later I discovered that the Spanish word asistir means "attend" while the word atender means "assist."

    There the guy was, offering us free tickets to an expensive concert, and none of us had the remotest notion what he was talking about.

    Saturday, February 03, 2007


    My Spanish 1 teacher was from Chile. She would not hesitate to announce, "For homework, please do exercise C,D,E, F, G, H and I. You know what? Also do J,K, L, M,N O and P." You never knew whether the mood might strike her to add Q to Z, so it was important to try to ask an unrelated question at that point. It was summer, and she gave a test every other day.

    She was a holy terror. But I never learned so much Spanish from anyone, anywhere.

    For example, she taught us the word guagua means "baby" in Chile. But it means "bus" in Puerto Rico. Also, in Spanish, you don't miss the bus. You lose it.

    When she first came to the US, having fled from the junta, she met a worried-looking Puerto Rican woman at a bus stop. She asked her what was wrong.

    "I lost the guagua," the woman said.

    "Oh no!" replied my teacher. "What on earth are you going to do?"

    "Don't worry," she replied. "I'll just get another one."

    Friday, February 02, 2007

    Good for What Ails You

    Having rejected wasteful frivolities like good teachers and small classes, Mayor Mike is looking for new innovations, like privatization, that won't divert money from important projects, like sports stadiums, giving ball fields to private schools, and constructing public schools on contaminated land.

    After all, if you aren't gonna do what works, why not just toss a bunch of balls into the air and see where they fall down? Well, it turns out they've beat Mayor Mike to the punch in Philadelphia. How's that working out?

    Philadelphia's groundbreaking privatization experiment with 46 of its worst public schools not only failed to significantly improve academic performance but cost an extra $300 per pupil, a new report said on Thursday.

    Hmmm... but surely that wouldn't happen here, would it? Haven't Alvarez and Marshall been doing a heckuva job with that bus reorganization?

    The report said the private model offered "no evidence" to show that private management was effective.

    "There were no statistically significant effects, positive or negative in reading or math, in any of the four years after takeover," according to the report.

    I don't expect that will deter Mayor Mike. When reorganization doesn't work, you reorganize the reorganization. When privatization doesn't work, reprivatize the privatization.

    That way, the balls are constantly in the air, and there's no accountability whatsoever.

    Mayor Mike's Magical Mystery Tour

    I love the headline from today's Times: "City Tells Parents It Understands as School Bus Crisis Eases a Bit." There's a distinction between telling people you understand and actually understanding, but I don't see it in this headline. I wonder if that was intentional.

    Education officials say the rules have existed for decades, but State Senator Carl Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat, accused the Education Department yesterday of wrongly denying bus service to thousands of children based on a rule requiring them to live within a quarter-mile of a school bus stop.

    He said the rule was not printed anywhere and accused the department of making it up.

    “It’s a Catch-22,” Mr. Kruger said in a statement. “They’re saying you can’t take the bus because it’s too far from your home. But the only reason the bus is too far from your home is that the city took the route away.”

    It's encouraging to see the public so up in arms about something regarding the public school system. I can't help but think that if they'd take the same approach to teacher quality, class sizes, and decent facilities, we'd all be in much better shape today.

    The Daily News reports today that the changes were made, in typical Bloomberg-reform style, with little or no thought as to what the results would be:

    In an attempt to get the millions of dollars in savings promised by a high-priced consulting firm, the Education Department rushed its school bus reorganization before it was ready.

    After all the headaches, taxpayers will see only a measly $5 million go into city classrooms this year - far short of initial estimates, school officials conceded.

    Well, that certainly justifies the 15.8 million dollar Alvarez and Marshall contract, doesn't it? It kind of makes you wonder how well hizzoner has planned out the new reorganization.

    Likely he planned it just as thoroughly as the last one. Unfortunately, I don't anticipate it getting nearly the scrutiny of the bus debacle.

    And that's a shame. It merits every bit of it.

    Related: See reality-based educator

    Thursday, February 01, 2007

    What a Piece of Work Is Spam

    I've just spent a good deal of time removing hundreds of commercial spam messages from the Haloscan comments boxes. I'm afraid I may have deleted other comments as well. Feel free to repost if I deleted yours in error. If you have trouble logging on, please email me and I will correct the problem.

    You are free to express your point of view, whatever it may be.

    Be advised that ad
    hominem attacks and name calling, whether directed at me or other commenters, will not be tolerated.

    Rules are Rules

    In yet another effort to help put Children First, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein are strictly enforcing their bus policy. It's a well-known fact that rules must be adhered to, no matter how incomprehensible they may be (unless they're rules that protect working people, and they can all go to hell).

    In any case, it's a rough world out there, and it's our job to prepare kids for it. This isn't the first stupid rule they've encountered, and it won't be the last. Give 'em a Metrocard, get 'em a subway map, and let 'em learn like we did. So what if they're five years old?

    Did we have buses? Didn't it snow every day when we went to school? Didn't we have to walk 10 miles, uphill, shoveling the snow all the way? Didn't we have to walk 10 miles back, uphill again?

    Does Joel Klein complain when he can't manage to charter a private aircraft to jet him to a blue-ribbon panel? Of course not. He knows simple first-class reservations will do. Grow up, New York!

    We paid Alvarez and Marshall 15.8 million bucks to figure out how to save money, and if they say you can't get on the bus, you can't get on the bus. How are we gonna recover their fees if we squander our precious tax dollars transporting small children?

    Schools Chancellor Joel Klein apologized for the inconvenience last night but defended the cuts.

    "Of course everybody would like to have a bus. I understand that. Our job is to make sure the eligibility requirements by law are met, and they're done equitably and fairly," he said.

    Still, some of the changes left parents baffled. Kerry Grasser's 7-year-old daughter is eligible for bus service to Public School 114 in Rockaway Park, Queens - but her 5-year-old daughter isn't.

    Too bad. Rules are rules (unless they're rules that protect working people, and they can all go to hell).

    "I had to imagine it was a mistake because you have two children coming from the same house and going to the same school," said Grasser, who is putting both children on the school bus anyway.

    Clearly Ms. Grasser is laboring under a misconception, because if Chancellor Joel Klein says one of your daughters is eligible and the other isn't, I can only assume the eligibility line runs through your apartment, and the five-year-old is on the wrong side of it. Can't the five-year-old just sleep in the kitchen?

    How on earth can Mayor Bloomberg continue to put Children First when adults can't even follow the rules? What sort of example does that set, anyway?

    Thanks to Schoolgal

    Related: Whatever you do, don't miss Joe Williams' take on this!