Monday, March 31, 2008

For the Teacher

Our friend teacher/poet Abigail E. Myers can still use a few opinions from working teachers for a survey related to her Master's thesis. Please take a few minutes and help her out, if you haven't done so already.

Thanks in advance!

Mr. Bloomberg Places Children First

Before we get to that, let's applaud our new governor, who's planning to tax internet sales, regardless of substantial hurdles.
Critics and even some supporters expect legal challenges, citing a 1992 US Supreme Court ruling they say prohibits a state from forcing a company with no physical presence in a state from collecting the state's sales tax.

Thankfully, the governor does not wish to raise taxes on the wealthy. It's a well-established fact that rich people need money more than the rest of us (Otherwise, how would they be rich?), and naturally we're all grateful for a governor who's sensitive to their needs. Instead, he'll tax our Amazon purchases and find new ways to save on unnecessary expenditures:
Meanwhile, Paterson, to help fill a $4.7 billion deficit, is looking to cut the money the state pays toward accidental death benefits for fallen police and firefighters. Families would collect the same amount of money, but the city would be forced to bear more of the burden.

That's not a big problem, as Mayor Bloomberg can simply cut school budgets even further. After all, it's a well-established fact that rampant overcrowding and the highest class sizes in the state are key elements to successful education. This will give the mayor even more opportunities to place his innovative program into effect.

Now there are a few pesky troublemakers in the State Assembly who fail to see the virtues of more overcrowding and fewer decent facilities. Clearly, they don't understand the concept of "Children First." In keeping with this concept, Mayor Bloomberg cut school budgets instead of tax rebate checks to NYC homeowners. Rather than deprive homeowners of that all-important 400 bucks, here's what Mayor Mike's study proposes if he's forced to pay for education:

The analysis insists sparing the Education Department any cuts, while other agencies shouldered the burden, would force the elimination of 609 sanitation workers and reduce the frequency of trash collections.

That comes on top of the elimination of nearly 4,000 of New York's Finest and more the 500 of its Bravest.

It's a testament to the mayor's foresight that he gave away a billion dollars in tax rebates before getting to this point. After all, if he'd wanted to do this now, people would ask why he's cutting much-needed funds to city agencies Fortunately, the proposed cuts in police and sanitation will have no effect on truly vital projects. Still, some naysayers have the audacity to criticize the mayor, even after he conclusively proved he was willing to cut the funds of "Children First:"

Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) defended the push to spare schools from Bloomberg's ax.

"The state Legislature has gone to the wall to increase education aid for the city. If the city is just going to take the state aid and decrease its own aid, that's not what was intended."

That's an interesting comment. As I recall, Saint Rudy regularly used to use increases in state aid to decrease city aid by an equivalent amount. And I could have sworn that Mayor Mike renounced that practice as a condition of mayoral control. But the issue here, of course, is one of "Children First." Did the mayor place children first? He most certainly did.

What more, really, does anyone need to know?

Thanks to Schoolgal

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Another Mayoral Triumph

Almost 40% of kids in NYC schools are gone by 8th grade, according to NYU researchers. There was not enough data to track them all the way through high school.

A new study is expected to show they all returned and and graduated with honors, but a Tweed spokesperson claimed more time was needed to fabricate the statistics.

Busy Parents Outsource Child Care Overseas

Thanks to Schoolgal

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Tenure Question

I recently wrote about a colleague who told me a change in venue brought his Regents passing rate from about 30% to a much more respectable 90%. He claims he did not at all change his teaching methods, but his new audience was simply much more receptive. Was he a bad teacher at the previous locale? You could perhaps conclude that, but his 32% passing rate was the highest in his old school.

Do his new passing rates make him a great teacher? Not according to him. He claims to be the same teacher he was then, albeit a little older.

Now NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein is fighting tooth and nail for the right to be able to grant or deny tenure on the basis of test scores. How do you do that fairly when a simple relocation produces such a radical change in results?

Shall we trust in the good graces of this chancellor? Isn't he the same guy who unilaterally violated the contract via blanket denial of sabbaticals (till the UFT dragged him to court and won)? Isn't he the same guy who's failed to deliver any substantive class size reduction? Isn't he the same guy who went to Albany in order to preserve his right to hire and retain thousands of teachers who'd failed basic competency tests? Is that the sort of person you want to judge teacher quality?

Isn't this the same guy who instituted three separate reorganizations and failed to make any significant improvement in scores he couldn't manipulate? And he now wishes to judge others on a standard he himself has abjectly failed?

Let's simply forget about Chancellor Klein's various double-standards for a moment and examine the situation. According to the DoE, only 1 percent of teachers are denied tenure after three years (and who knows how many get it after its extended?). Whose fault is that?

The overwhelming majority of teachers I know are competent, at the very least. But I've seen some teachers who'd never have landed a Burger King gig, due to the more rigorous interview process. Such teachers would never have been hired in Long Island schools. Whose fault is that?

Tenure can and should be enforced. If the city fails to identify those who don't deserve it, that's plainly the city's fault. If the city chooses to hire based on college credits, or the ability to meet whatever reduced standard it's negotiated with Albany, that's the city's fault too. If the city chooses to hire through bus ads, 800 numbers, intergalactic recruitment schemes, or the capacity to draw breath, that's on them as well.

There was a time when city requirements were higher than those of the state. In fact, I had to take city tests and face the Board of Examiners to get two different city licenses, and that was no walk in the park. Want to "experiment" with "reforms?" Why not try paying the highest salary in the area, rather than the lowest, and utilizing the highest standards, rather than the lowest? Maybe that would work. Who knows? After all, it's just an experiment.

I'm not UFT President Randi Weingarten's biggest fan, not by any means. But tenure issues are not her fault--they're strictly the city's own doing. Tenure laws are enforced in Long Island--I know many teachers who've failed to get it, and every one of them now works for New York City. I can't really attest to their quality, or lack thereof. The obviously bad teachers I know would never have been hired on the island (let alone Taco Bell).

Personally, I think Chancellor Klein would be lost without bad teachers, and despite all his posturing and bluster, will keep them on forever, sending random others to the rubber room as long as possible. After all, without bad teachers, who in the world would he and the mayor blame for their chronic inability to substantively improve this system?

Thanks to Schoolgal

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Why Bother?

Here's an interesting article in City Limits by teacher J.B. McGeever, who hails from Jamaca High School. McGreever teaches the "transitional" class, which apparently indicates he caters exclusively to kids who've failed the English Regents exam. But only 30% of the kids are expected to pass, so why would any teacher want that job?

It's particularly unattractive because this year, NYC is secretly monitoring passing scores of certain teachers. Who knows who they may be? Is it fair to measure McGeever against a teacher in Stuyvesant? Could a kid in Stuyvesant possibly fail this test? And if 100% of the Stuyvesant kids pass, does that alone mean they have great teachers?

A teacher is certainly part of the equation. A good one can clarify the requirements, and explain simply how to pass. In fact, this semester I got several classes of ESL kids, all of whom failed the Regents in January. Some have been in the US for a matter of months. Some have been here longer, but against the odds, have managed not to acquire English as most have by now. I think I'll beat 30%, but I wouldn't bet the farm on 60.

The notion that newcomers should take a test designed for people who've been here their entire lives is preposterous. So I tell my kids that anyone who scores 65 or over will get a hundred as a final grade from me. That motivates a few of them, as they sit scribbling furiously in the forced labor camp that is my writing class. But I know it will take more than 11 weeks for some to acquire sufficient English to write coherently.

It's really unfortunate that these kids are deprived of language instruction (which I could certainly provide) so that they can prepare for this test. But as long as Albany deems it wise to require it for graduation, I'll do the best I can for these kids. And if they're monitoring me, I say this--you guys go to Korea, and I'll give you one year to pass the test in Korean.

If you can pull it off, I'll eat my laptop. And it's a pretty heavy one too.

But honestly, why should crazy teachers like McGeever (and me) volunteer to take on these uphill battles when the powers that be choose to surreptitiously spy on us, and quite possibly hold scores against us in the future? Why shouldn't we just battle the APs for the honors classes, grab some great statistics, and forget about the kids who need our help the very most?

Maybe we're just not smart enough.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

To Serve You Better

It appears that Sirius will buy out XM and the two satellite radio companies will merge. They were granted licenses in 1997 by the FCC under the condition that neither company could own both licenses, so that there would be competition.

But the DoJ now says AM and FM are competition enough, and that monopoly satellite radio is just fine.

Ms. Weingarten Runs a School

There's trouble in paradise, and it may take more than a spoonful of sugar to fix.

The UFT-run charter school, which was to be perfect in every way, appears to be suffering from some of the same issues that trouble other charters. As a regular reader of both NY Teacher and Edwize, I know Ms. Weingarten has never, ever made a mistake, and no one who works for Ms. Weingarten has ever made a mistake. Naturally, I must suppose they hire perfect teachers who'd happily labor forever under her beneficent leadership.

And naturally, I routinely ignore rumors and email suggesting Ms. Weingarten runs the place like a boot camp.

Still, parents complain of teacher turnover. Doubtless neither they nor the picky pedagogues appreciate the fine work of Ms. Weingarten and her infallible staff. They can be pesky, those parents. Doubtless that's why they had to threaten the top administrator at the UFT school, Rita Danis, in order to get an audience.

And look, after all that trouble, they ended up in The New York Sun anyway. How can this happen to the UFT leadership, who never, ever make mistakes? These darn parents say the UFT leadership is ignoring problems like "lack of security guards, poor communication with administrators, and high teacher turnover." Promptly, UFT bigshots committed to study the issue.

You can imagine how relieved those parents must be. As a teacher, I'm certainly satisfied that the union is studying mayoral control. Perhaps one day they'll come to a conclusion. Meanwhile, I'm well aware that opposing it might jeopardize Ms. Weingarten's political aspirations, thus violating the prime directive of the entire UFT patronage mill (and all the perfect people populating it).

So, naturally, I'm encouraged by all the progress Ms. Weingarten is making:
A regular review of the school issued by the State University of New York's Charter School Institute about the 2006-2007 school year called teacher quality "limited," describing "a lack of student engagement throughout most classrooms" and widespread misbehavior. The report also noted that, "Teachers did not capitalize on 'teaching moments.'"

In any case, the parents got their meeting. In a typical display of the sort of transparency that typifies the workings of our union, a reporter was forbidden to sit in.

As for me, I'm encouraged as usual by the brilliant successes of our Great Leader, Ms. Weingarten. And naturally, I applaud her decision to expand her charter business, opening a Green Dot school here in NYC. There are very few teacher union leaders who'd go out on a limb for a charter chain that proudly rejects both tenure and seniority. No doubt it's such actions that have earned her the admiration and devotion of Rod "The NEA is a terrorist organization" Paige.

Regardless, it certainly appears at the UFT charter school Ms. Weingarten is finally getting a chance to do to schoolchildren what she's been doing to working teachers for years.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Steve Jobs and New I-Products

Cut School Budgets, Give Raises to Out-of-Towners

While Mayor Bloomberg cuts the budgets for the 1.1 million public school children in his fiefdom, he's giving a raise to Cambridge Education, which evaluates city schools on a yearly basis.

They're certainly better-qualified than anyone in this country could possibly be, so it's worth importing them. And naturally, they're getting a 9% raise this year, as Mayor Bloomberg plans to cut funds for kids by 5%. After all, in these tough economic times, Mayor Bloomberg's business partners are in dire need of a 9% raise. After all, teachers are enjoying their 2% raise, and they'll only have to pay 1.85% to buy into 55/27. They've netted a cool .15% raise, so really, the British are only getting about 60 times what the teachers got.

That's fair, isn't it?

And what's a 5% cut to kids in the city, when you really think about it? I mean, after you fly those folks in, put them up in Manhattan, take them out for gala luncheons, and pay for their carfare, someone has to pay. I mean, really, it would be unseemly for Mayor Bloomberg to walk to the subway, rather than being chauffeured in an SUV. I mean, really, doesn't everyone have their chauffeur take them to the subway?

But still, some Gloomy Guses insist on looking at the negative side:

"How do you cut money from the schools, from the children, and give a raise to these consultants that many principals feel are not useful?" said the principal of a Queens middle school that got a middle rating of "proficient" on its Cambridge quality review last year.

It's called "values," Mr. Principal. And there's very little question that "reformer" Mike Bloomberg thinks these folks from England are more valuable than the kids who attend your school.

For goodness sakes, get with the program!

Thanks to Schoolgal

Monday, March 24, 2008

Best 12 Bucks You Ever Spent

Well, Eliot Spitzer had to spend $4,300 to get happy, but if you want to be happy, all you need to do is click here, send Ricky Skaggs 12 measly bucks (he has kids in college, I think), and he will send you a copy of his fabulous CD of bluegrass music from 1946-1947. No cutesy nonsense, this is the real stuff, played and sung by some of the very best in the business. I just heard it and it is absolutely excellent.

And if you buy it before tomorrow, Ricky will autograph your copy.

Full disclosure: NYC Educator does not own stock in Skaggs Family Records.

Education Next Looks at Mr. Bloomberg

On the left, apparently, is what they see. Despite Mayor Bloomberg's well-documented failure to raise test scores he couldn't manipulate, and despite having included an illustration of basically flat results in NAEP, they offer a contrary view:

“Shame, shame!” scolded Whitney Tilson. Tilson, a hedge fund manager and founding member of Teach For America who issues a regular e-mail newsletter about Bloomberg’s education reforms, called the Times story “lousy” and argued that the NAEP scores showed noteworthy improvements in three of the four measures.

Clearly, hedge fund managers are far more knowledgeable than expert historians like Diane Ravitch, or papers like The New York Times, and they, therefore, deserve equal billing, if not the last word (In Education Next, that honor is left to the mayor). Nonetheless, Mr. Tilson's concern for working people is well-documented. That's why he invests so heavily in Wal-Mart and McDonald's. Mr. Tilson states he's made more on McDonald's than on any stock in his investment career (Perhaps Mr. Tilson could offer Chancellor Klein advice on how to remedy his bad investments).

Clearly, those awful unions prevent schools from being run like McDonald's or Wal-Mart. Therefore, they must be stopped, After all, how could McDonald's or Wal-Mart treat working people the way they do if there were unions to contend with? Mr. Tilson now runs a group called "Democrats for Educational Reform." It's clever in a way--with anti-labor, anti-union, pro-Wal-Mart Democrats, who needs Republicans?

Still, when our kids grow up, they will have to work. Personally, I wouldn't trust the good graces of these "Democrats" to protect them. And I doubt they'll want their kids working in Mickey D's either. But really, what are the chances of that when Daddy's a hedge fund manager?

As for the supposedly evil union bosses, what are they concerned about? Well, UFT President Randi Weingarten was interviewed for this article, and upon learning about Mr. Bloomberg's breakfast preferences, inquired:

“I have breakfast with the mayor. Did he tell you that?”

It's a relief to know Ms. Weingarten is concerned, but somewhat of a disappointment to see what she's concerned about. I'm concerned about working people, as I'm fairly certain my child and my students will grow up to join our ranks.

If Mr. Bloomberg cared about schools, he'd make sure that kids in NYC had good teachers, reasonably sized classes, and decent facilities. Unfortunately, Mr. Bloomberg opts for band-aids, shortcuts, "reforms," the highest class sizes in the state (which somehow eluded Education Next), and shoveling children into schools like mine whether or not they can be accommodated.

When I first started, oversized schools were given annexes, or extra buildings to accommodate those who couldn't fit into buildings. Now Mr. Bloomberg's people can build walls in classrooms that house 34 and Voila! These same classrooms now house 68. It's brilliant! Never mind that the sheetrock wall has no soundproofing whatsoever.

Imagine trying to get 6 South American kids to speak English while the teacher next door has her class chorally repeating "Come esta usted?" Imagine clearly hearing every single word uttered in that classroom. Imagine people playing music, dancing and shouting outside your classroom. Imagine a classroom you wouldn't board your dog in. If you can do that, you have an idea of what public school education is like in Mr. Bloomberg's New York.

Over at Education Next, they don't bother visiting classrooms. Why should they? They have "experts" to rely on. As they have no apparent need to examine what actually goes on as Mr. Bloomberg places "Children First," it's no wonder Diane Ravitch quit their ranks.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Webmaster's Note

There is no need to repost your comment five times. This is particularly true if I happen to have removed it the first time. While the sixth time may be a charm elsewhere, it is not so here.

If you wish to personally insult or libel me, I suggest you apply to write for Edwize. Over there, it's perfectly acceptable to accuse me of making up things I didn't even say. Here, we frown on that sort of thing (Of course, it's still a great honor to pay the salaries of Edwize writers).

If you increase the level of profanity in your posts, or the number of words in caps, it is not very likely to make me think, "Gee, I made a mistake before when I didn't put up that first post."

Finally, you need not be a teacher to post here. However, if you claim to be one and are not, and I actually catch you, you will not be welcome here.

Thank you.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


I listened to Chancellor Klein yesterday on NPR. When Brian Lehrer asked him whose fault the budget cuts were, he pointed to the state, but would not say one cross word against his boss, Mayor Bloomberg. Apparently, the state has an obligation to follow the mandate of the CFE lawsuit, but when the city cuts budgets, it's just one of those minor inconveniences you have to put up with.

One problem with mayoral control is that there are no checks and balances. Of course Chancellor Klein can't speak against the mayor, because his job depends on total agreement and capitulation. They can proclaim "Children First" from now until doomsday, but the fact is this chancellor, whose job is ostensibly to represent these children, cannot do so if it displeases Mayor Mike.

He is, therefore, ultimately of little use to the 1.1 million kids who attend city schools.

Or perhaps he's simply forgotten that the CFE award was reduced by more that half as a result of Mayor Mike's refusal to agree to pay dime one toward it. The judge said the city could be forced to pay a reasonable perentage, Governor Pataki offered to fund 60% of it, and CFE, if I recall correctly, suggested the state ought to pay 75%. Mayor Bloomberg's rep told the New York Times they'd say, "No, thank you," to the funds if they had to pay anything whatsoever.

And the problem doesn't end at this level. What if your school, like mine, is at 250% capacity? Can the principal go to the press and say, "This is outrageous and unconscionable," without the very real possibility of becoming an ex-principal? It doesn't seem a viable possibility these days.

Who will stand up for kids? Well, what about the UFT leadership? You'd think they'd oppose this administration, which regularly vilifies educators, which violates the contract with impunity unless courts compel it to do otherwise, which follows every fresh concession by the union with a slap in the face to working teachers. You'd think they'd have had enough of mayoral control (even though they supported it to begin with).

Unfortunately, the policy of the UFT is to never, ever admit mistakes. And despite their many words in the past devoted to mayoral control, it appears they're already flying the white flag of surrender. This week, UFT bigshot Peter Goodman suggested on Edwize that anyone who wanted mayoral control to expire was "cynical."

"Cynical" denotes having no faith in human nature. It's hard to understand why favoring checks and balances over mayoral control is cynical. It's fairly easy, though, to think of words for those who fail to learn from past mistakes, and "cynical," I'm afraid, is not among them.

Expect no meaningful opposition to mayoral control from the UFT. It's clearly more important to have a quiet coronation for Ms. Weingarten, who's already stated her plans to concurrently reign over both the UFT and the AFT. After all, being president of the largest teacher union in the country is, apparently, just a part time job.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Don't Contradict the Teacher

Be glad you're not working in Oregon, because things must be really tough out there. In fact, teacher Shirley Katz thinks the schools are so dangerous that she needs to bring her Glock 9 to work with her. I gotta suppose classroom management goes a lot smoother when you're packing.

Personally, when I know someone's carrying a gun, I tend not to give that person a hard time. And no matter how rambunctious teenagers may be, it's tough for me to imagine them picking fights with gun-toting teachers.

I myself wouldn't carry a gun under any circumstance as I have a constant fear of shooting myself in the foot. Also, I bought several pairs of new shoes this year at a closeout sale, and if I were to shoot holes in them, it would definitely be full-price to replace them.

In any case, sadly for Ms. Katz, the courts have thus far denied her petition. She will, therefore, have to face her students unarmed. I certainly wish her luck in that always challenging endeavor.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Look! Up in the Sky!

It's a bird!

It's a plane!

It's Su-per-Principal!

Super-Principal! Able to lead a small school in a single subway ride! Able to bend potentially embarrassing statistics in her bare hands! And who, disguised as someone working in a failing school, gets to collect a $25,000 bonus even though the city claims the school is fine, having given it a "B."

Meanwhile, in another part of town, 75% of city high schools are overcrowded. Who will save the day?

Nobody, that's who. There are still charter schools that need space. First things first in Mr. Bloomberg's New York.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Carnival...

...of education is up and running at So You Want to Teach. And somehow they're on a spring break already.

The Only Variable Is the Teacher

That's what ex-Deputy Chancellor Alonso used to say, and as far as I can tell, that philosophy still pervades Tweed. After all, "accountability" doesn't apply to the mayor, who failed to increase test scores in national tests he couldn't manipulate. And it certainly doesn't apply to Chief Accountability Officer Jim Liebman, who literally runs from concerned city parents. Still, test scores are everything to this mayor, apparently, as he lets school buildings crumble and packs children into overcrowded buildings like sardines.

So is it all on teachers?

This morning I was talking to a social studies teacher who told me his former school was not as good as the one in which we work now. In his former school, he had the very best passing record for the Regents exam--32%. In our current school, 91% of his kids pass the test. He swears he's the same teacher, using the same methods, and even contends that he may have had more energy in the old days.

There are three elements to good schools--good teachers, reasonable class sizes, and decent facilities. In NYC, where none of these elements are regarded as important, the three elements are exactly what the real estate agents say they are---location, location, and location.

This afternoon I was telling one of my students that he was lucky to be in one of the best schools in the city. He said he'd seen better. I asked him what school was better than ours, and he named a school on Long Island. I couldn't argue with him at all. My daughter attends a school on Long Island, and it's nothing less than disgraceful that uber-"reformer" Michael Bloomberg refuses to give this kid what every kid should have.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Untangling The Wire

Here's a four-part video discussion about The Wire. If you're a fan you may want to check it out.

Thanks to Sol Bellel

Clean Up this Mess (But Not Too Much)!

Yesterday the Panel for Education Policy, mostly rubber stamps for Bloomberg and Klein, decided that 8th graders would have to pass tests and classes, or they wouldn't become 9th graders. A large group of parents protested, and I saw a news report ths morning stating they had to clear the room. In the end, of course, they ignored the parents and did what they wanted. The sole holdout, Manhattan rep Patrick Sullivan, faced 10 votes of approval.

Oddly, this is the same administration that's floated the idea of giving kids credit for "seat time," and the same administration that's been pressuring teachers to pass as many students as possible. It's a strange message, and I saw it acted out at a meeting I attended yesterday.

At first, we were told to get tough on latecomers. Fail them, and tell them you're failing them because they were late to class. It was a surprising message.

But then, it was followed by a brainstorming session on how to pass as many kids as possible. One teacher suggested allowing the students to make up their own cheat sheets. From this teacher's experience, making up the cheat sheets was an alternate mode of note-taking. And there was no doubt that students tended to get higher scores when they brought their sanctioned cheat sheets with them.

Another teacher suggested pairing up low-performing students with high-performing students during tests. This teacher found that when the students were paired up in such a fashion, the formerly low-performing students tended to get grades exactly as high as the high-performing students.

The last teacher offered a plan to give half-credit for corrected answers on tests. For example, if you get a 50 on a test, you correct it in class, hand it to the teacher, and your 50 automatically becomes a 75. This teacher was able to pass many more students with higher grades via this method.

There was talk about intervisitation so that backwards traditional-style teachers who simply taught the material, gave tests and graded them could learn the new way. At the next meeting, I'm going to suggest that I team up with the principal and that we halve our pooled salaries. I have no desire to do his job or put in the hours he does, but I want to see how far exactly this new paradigm will take us.

Monday, March 17, 2008

"Bear Sterns Is Fine!"

Here's some great video of CNBC's Jim Cramer, host of Mad Money, explaining last week why a viewer shouldn't sell Bear Sterns stock: "Bears Sterns is not in trouble...Bear Sterns is fine!"

Gee, once again Jim Cramer couldn't have been more wrong about a stock (if you want to see his track record on stocks, see this article from Barron's.)

And yet, there was Mr. Cramer on a CNBC special tonight about the Bear Sterns collapse to provide his "expertise" without noting how he had been absolutely, totally and completely wrong about Bear Sterns the week before.

Once again, we see how accountability is only for public school teachers.

H/T to TPM.

The Downside of Reading

Harold's in 4th grade, and his mom has to force him to read. He reads the books, and does his reports, but now his mom has other worries. It started on Saturday, while they were out to lunch. All of a sudden he stopped eating and looked at her very seriously. He paused for a moment.

"Mom," he said, "I want a very special card for my birthday."

"I think we can do that, Harold," she replied.

Then there was another pause, a longer one this time.

"Mom," he began, "I also want a very special present."

"What is it you want, Harold?" she asked.

"I want a jet pack."

"You want a what?"

A jet pack, Mom. Like the boy in the book had."

"But you can't just buy a jet pack, Harold."

"Yes you can, Mom. My friend says he saw one in Target."

"Why do you need a jet pack, Harold?"

"So I can visit Grandma in California."

"Okay, Harold. We'll go to Target right now. But I have to warn you, the jet pack may not get you to California."

After a very, very thorough search of their local Target store, neither Mom nor Harold encountered a jet pack of any kind. Fortunately, Harold called Grandma to give her the bad news. Grandma promised Harold she'd get him a jet pack before he visits this summer.

Harold can't wait.


I've been blogging for a while at NYCEducator about problems in the financial and economic sectors.

With the collapse of Bear Sterns this morning, those problems have grown immensely.

The ironic thing is that as of last Thursday, S&P said all was well in the financial sector and that most bank writeoffs related to the mortgage mess were over.

The Dow Jones, which had been down all day, responded with a triple point turn-around and finished the day up.

But behind the scenes on Thursday, there was a run on Bear Sterns, the fifth largest brokerage in the country with tons of investments in garbage mortgage securities.

By Thursday night, Bear Sterns told the Federal Reserve they might have to file bankruptcy.

As a result of Bear's impending collapse, a bunch of laissez faire capitalists who hate government regulation and intervention got together to try and save Bear.

By Sunday night, J.P. Morgan had agreed to purchase Bear Sterns for $236 million in a deal brokered by the Fed. On Friday afternoon, Bear Sterns had been worth $3.5 billion and as of January 2007 Bear Sterns was worth $20 billion. Now it was being sold for about $2 a share, truly a firesale.

To get J.P. Morgan to purchase Bear Sterns and keep this financial crisis related to the mortgage mess from spreading to other vulnerable banks like Lehman and Citigroup, the Federal Reserve is providing as much as $30 billion in financing for Bear Stearns's less-liquid assets, such as mortgage securities that the firm has been unable to sell.

In other words, the Federal Reserve is buying a bunch of crap mortgage securities that are worthless for $30 billion.

Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture wonders just who is buying Bear Sterns, J.P. Morgan or the Federal Reserve.

It kinda sounds like this is a government bailout to help out a bunch of laissez faire capitalists who made some awful (and greedy decisions) over the past few years.

It's funny how all these laissez faire capitalists hate government bailouts unless they are on the other end of it.

At any rate, rumors are swirling that Lehman Brothers will be next to collapse and that Citigroup could go to.

It is not in the country's interest to have these major financial institutions collapse even if the reasons why they are vulnerable to collapse are due to their own misguided and/or greedy decisions so I can understand why the Fed needed to step in to avoid a possible financial system meltdown.

Nonetheless, the next time some billionaire businessman or greedy hedge fund manager tells us in print that the problem in education is that there is no accountability and what we need to do is bring more business and corporate principles to education to make sure the system, the administrators and the teachers are held accountable for their performances, let's ask the billionaire businessman and greedy hedge fund manager where the accountability in this mortgage crisis is.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Another Great Reform

Chancellor Klein, in yet another revolutionary improvement to our troubled school system, has banned "Pizza Day" at PS 193 in Queens. Apparently, young students were exchanging money for a dangerous product that consisted of several habit-forming substances including, but not limited to, bread, tomato sauce, and a cheese product described only as "mozzarella."

Furthermore, the proceeds of this nefarious act were being utilized by its perpetrators for highly questionable purposes:
Proceeds from the pizza parties pumped $200 a month into the PTA's budget - meaning thousands of dollars a year for teacher grants, supplies and funding for the yearbook, graduation festivities and school dances. The extra cash is crucial in the face of citywide budget cuts.

How dare this "PTA" attempt to circumvent vital and necessary school budget cuts? If Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein feel the best route toward improving schools entails leaving them crumbling and overcrowded with less money to function, that must be the way to go. Besides, he had several great reasons for this important act, and offered them one after the other:

Parents said they were first told that it was a nutrition issue, then that the fund-raiser violated a chancellor's regulation that bars for-sale food from competing against and replacing school-provided lunch.

Well, there you go. You see? Now how on earth are city school cafeterias supposed to sell their dry overcooked cardboard pizza-like product when real professionally-baked pizza is being imported for illicit consumption? We're lucky to have Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein keeping "Children First" and devoting their time to important issues, rather than wasting it on costly non-starters like class size, overcrowding, or decrepit facilities. After all, if we were to reduce class sizes and relieve overcrowding, we could lose much-needed funds for sports stadiums, not to mention space for new charter schools.

Along with "reformers" everywhere, I once again applaud their vision and courage.

What We Got Here Is a Failure to Communicate

Are you having trouble getting your point across to 34 kids at a time? Do you find that your puny voice pales in comparison to all those teenagers? Well, here's a solution of sorts--why don't you get a microphone and set up a mini-PA system in your classroom?

A handful of school districts, including those in West Orange, N.J., and Ann Arbor, Mich., are putting amplification in every classroom, while scores of others are requiring the systems in elementary schools.

This year, the Seattle district is spending $1.5 million to outfit 1,200 elementary classrooms, and 125 libraries and gyms, with microphones and speakers. The Ohio School Facilities Commission requires all new buildings and renovations financed with state aid to be wired for amplification, and many schools built in Florida and Michigan over the past few years also have the technology.

New York City is also investing in this technology. In West Orange, one school has seen a very significant boost in passing test scores since adopting it--from 59% to over 89%. But there's another school of thought:

“I’m appalled. This is the triumph of marketing over science,” said David Lubman, a fellow of the Acoustical Society who lives in California. “In most cases, they’re putting it in as a substitute for good acoustics. In other words, instead of cutting down the noise, they’re blasting over the noise, so the net result is more noise.”

Michal Linker, a kindergarten teacher here in Millburn, turned off the microphone after finding that with it, she was talking louder and drinking more tea to soothe her throat. Instead, Ms. Linker, 50, whispers to her students to get their attention, and rewards them for lowering their voices, listening more and using hand gestures during quiet times.

“I would rather they stop and pay attention than make it easier for them to hear me so they don’t pay as much attention,” she said.

Now something like this might help me when there are a hundred kids dancing to a boombox set outside my door. But why on earth is there a dance class and a boombox outside my door? Maybe if there were adequate space utilized in a rational fashion I wouldn't need amplification. Perhaps this technology is helpful to some, but I question its value in NYC. If there's already too much noise, do we really help by creating more?

I'm also concerned that people like Mayor Bloomberg, who steadfastly cling to the highest class sizes in the state, would use technology like this as an excuse to rationalize its continuation. After all, while 75% of high schools are overcrowded, he takes no action to alleviate this situation. Instead, the whole city is busily seeking space for new charter schools.

Mr. Bloomberg loves band-aids, as real solutions cost money. This band-aid could allow him to continue to thumb his nose at the CFE lawsuit and also continue to reap its benefits while ignoring its mandates. While this technology may work elsewhere, it's got great potential for abuse here in fun city.

What do you think? Would you be a better teacher if you had a microphone?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Salary Woes?

Why not do something innovative? I mean, don't you get sick and tired of helping kids fill out college applications? Writing recommendations? After a while, they all get to be a blur. But if you're enterprising, you can simply record those social security numbers, and put them in a safe place. In a few years, the kids will be in college, and soon thereafter, with any luck, they'll be gainfully employed.

That's when you use those numbers to open a credit-card account and buy all those things you've been needing. What about that pinky ring you've always wanted? How about trying one of those $4,300 hookers you've been hearing so much about? What about grabbing that collectible DVD that has season one of the Smurfs? Sure, there are 5 million Smurfs and only one Smurfette, but you won't care, what with your $4,300 hooker and all.

And when you get caught, you'll get to go someplace where you get three squares a day, free health care, and no more bills. What more could you ask?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What's This Thing For?

I often read Pissed Off Teacher to find out exactly what angers her from day to day. It appears that today, she's upset about a fellow math teacher who knows all the angles but doesn't care to teach them. To tell the truth, I barely understand what she's talking about.

At my school, in the lunchroom, all the teachers talk except for the math teachers, who are furiously drawing triangles. Why do they need to draw all those triangles? Aren't there enough of them already? When will their lust for angles ever be satisfied? If we bought them all three-cornered hats, would they talk to the rest of us? Would they eat?

Sometimes I thank God I don't have to study math any more. Then I come home, my daughter has pictures of 500 triangles, and she asks me to explain them to her. Are those teachers drawing all those triangles just to confound hapless parents like me? Do they go home and chuckle over our ignorance?

Honestly, I don't know how those math folks can do what they do. But if you're one of them, please fess up. What's with this triangle fetish anyway?

Administrative Leave

That's what they call what happens to a 35-year-old English teacher caught with films from the girl's bathroom.

The Carnival of Education... now up at Learn Me Good.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Eliot Gets It

That's what a headline over at Edwize declared, and since Eliot pointedly failed to enforce the class size demands of CFE, I always wondered what the headline meant. Now I know, and I'm sure we all have to agree that Eliot gets it.

A curious thing, though, is that Eliot pays $4,300 to get it, and a lot of us today wondered what exactly it is you get for that kind of money. No doubt it's something very special that Eliot is getting. Otherwise, why would he need to pay so much for it?

Now a lot of my readers seem to take a dim view of Eliot getting it. In his defense, I have to say that Eliot made sure he got it from New York. Apparently, Eliot even paid the young lady's train fare. Now clearly she'd have poured a good portion of her salary into the local economy, and Eliot has to know this. I mean, a leather thong here, a nurse's outfit there, and pretty soon you have money trickling down to regular people, like teachers.

And for goodness sake, when I watch The Wire, all the drug dealers know to conduct their business on cellphones and throw them away every few weeks. Not Eliot. He uses land lines that can be easily traced, due to his great respect for law enforcement. That's what Eliot does when he gets it.

So, there you have Eliot, pouring money into the local economy and showing great respect for law enforcement. And for all you 55-year-old teachers planning to retire next week, he made it a point to sign that legislation before getting got for getting it (Apologies to you poor newbies who will now pay for 27 years, but that's the way the cookie crumbles).

So let's stop being Gloomy Guses, and look at all the positive things Eliot's got. And while we're at it, let's hope the next governor lowers class sizes, as the CFE lawsuit mandates.

Related: Eduwonk doesn't think the Lt. Governor is a teacher's best friend.

William F. Buckley Was Too Wordy

So sez Steven Colbert

Thanks to Schoolgal

Monday, March 10, 2008

Anything Big Happen Today?

Governor Eliot Spitzer ought to be a text book example of how NOT to run a political career.

After making his bones as a hard-nosed prosecutor who took on Wall Street corruption and malfeasance in the public and private sectors and running as the guy who was going to change politics as usual up in Albany, he has himself become embroiled in not one but two scandals that look like they will all but end his political career.

The first scandal involved Spitzer aides and political dirty tricks. That one, while politically damaging to Spitzer, wasn't as bad as what broke today:

NEW YORK -- Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the crusading politician who built his career on rooting out corruption, apologized Monday after allegations surfaced that he paid thousands of dollars for a high-end call girl. He did not elaborate on the scandal, which drew calls for his resignation.


The New York Democrat's involvement in the ring was caught on a federal wiretap as part of an investigation opened in recent months, according to a law enforcement official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing inquiry.

Four people allegedly connected to the ring, identified in court papers as the Emperors Club VIP, were arrested last week. The ring arranged connections between wealthy men and more than 50 prostitutes in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Miami, London and Paris, prosecutors said.

According to the law enforcement official, Spitzer is the person identified in legal papers as "Client 9," who paid for a four-hour tryst with a woman identified as "Kristen" at a Washington hotel on Feb. 13.

Gotta love when the governor of New York State is identified in an indictment as "Client 9."

And you gotta love when a politician trying to explain away a sex scandal forces his wife to stand by him while he offers lame excuses.

Can there be much in life more uncomfortable and downright selfish than that?

At any rate, most politicians could survive this kind of thing these days, but I'm not sure about Spitzer. While all kinds of Moral Majority types have gotten caught in public restrooms or madam's books engaging in "immoral" behavior, most do not have the kind of enemies Spitzer has.

Senator David Vitter, for instance, conservative Republican/Family Values Guy/pro-marriage proponent, turned up in the D.C. Madam's little book, yet he managed to survive charges of hypocrisy, immorality and downright creepiness (rumors swirled around the Internets that Vitter liked to wear Huggies when he met with his professional women...) and is still serving his term.

Senator Larry Craig, conservative Republican/Family Values Guy/pro-marriage proponent, got arrested in a Minneapolis bathroom for allegedly soliciting an undercover cop for sex, pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge, then tried to have the guilty plea rescinded when the scandal broke publicly. He even announced he would resign his seat, but reneged on that promise and is still serving in the Senate. His excuse - that he has a "wide stance" when using a public restroom - may be a punchline on The Daily Show and Colbert, but Craig still has his job.

But Spitzer, another "holier-than-thou" guy who set himself up as the public morality police in his job as New York attorney general, has made so many enemies on Wall Street and in the political world that I just think he's going to have a more difficult time surviving this than other politicians.

And maybe he shouldn't survive it. You know, if a politician's going to set himself up as a "holier-than-thou" crusader who takes down wrong-doers and such, shouldn't he NOT use a call girl service?

Or at the very least not make the call to the prostitute ring himself so that if the lines were wire-tapped his voice would be on the tape?

You know, if Spitzer was dumb enough to do this once, I bet he did it lots of times before. Given all the guys on Wall Street who hate his guts (just watch CNBC and listen for how they say his name) and given the probability that Spitzer has engaged in this kind of behavior before, I'm surprised it took this long for something to come out.

The bad part about all of this is that we're going to get a plethora of "Bloomberg for Governor" stories now that Spitzer seems mortally wounded after this scandal.

While last week I didn't think there was much to those rumors, after today I can start to see a scenario where Mayor Moneybags becomes Governor Moneybags and brings his Children First education reforms statewide while rezoning most of the state for sports stadiums and luxury buildings.

The Arts in Mr.Bloomberg's New York

There are certain disadvantages to being in an improvised classroom. I mean, sure, there's no place else in the building to put kids, so you have to eye every nook and cranny in the building to see where best to cram them in. After all, even though the building's well over 250% capacity, they continue to pour in on a daily basis.

So when you suddenly hear tango music in the middle of a class period, you probably shouldn't be surprised. There you are, blabbing on about some essay the kids need to write, and the music comes on, accompanied by a loud voice:

And ONE and two and three and four and ONE and two and three and four...

And you look outside and there are a bunch of kids in gym uniforms doing the tango. So you try to ignore it, but the kids in your closetlike classroom are restless (as kids tend to be), and they want to know what's going on.

And ONE and two and three and four and ONE and two and three and four...

And what can you say, really? In some ways, this is an improvement. After all, last week you found twenty-five kids out there playing with balls claiming their teacher had sent them. At least this time, they're with their teacher. I mean, you know she's there because you hear her distinctly from each and every spot in the room.

And ONE and two and three and four and ONE and two and three and four...

So do you really want to go out there and hassle the teacher? After all, this hallway was her domain before they renamed the closet a classroom. And you're the invader, really. So who are you to tell the gym teacher not to stick a boom box right outside your door? Haven't you been complaining, along with the entire union, that there's too much focus on English and math? I mean, here are a bunch of kids learning the tango, and you ought to be applauding their efforts.

One day maybe there'll be classrooms. But meanwhile there's music, and dance, right out in the hall, and how dare you raise your voice in protest? After all, it's not like anyone would hear you above all that music and shouting anyway.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Communist Propaganda

That's what The Andy Griffith Show is, according to this thread.

Expert Testimony

In the Times magazine, a panel of five including Joel Klein, Steve Barr, and Fredrick Hess discusses the effects of philanthropy on education. No public school teachers, public school parents, or public school children are part of the discussion, so you know you're getting the real deal.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Accountability Is For The Other Guy Redux

The NY Daily News reports that Chancellor Klein plans to meet with nearly 200 principals over the next couple of weeks about the mayor's current and proposed future budget cuts for the New York City school system.

You see, these New York City principals were given extra money earlier this year for the school budgets "in exchange for higher consequences if they fail to raise test scores" as part of the mayor's and chancellor's vaunted Children First education reform movement.

The extra money could be used for a variety of programs including after-school and Saturday tutoring to help students on the battery of standardized tests the mayor and the chancellor have instituted per year.

Unfortunately for all involved, the U.S. economy has begun to tank (see here) and the mayor has ordered a bunch of city-wide budget cuts including ones in the public school system. Principals were ordered to cut 1.75% from their school budgets this year while much of the central administrative NYCDOE budget was saved. In addition, the mayor has ordered additional cuts to city agency budgets between 5% and 8% for the next fiscal year, although it is unclear just how much schools will have to cut.

Nonetheless you can bet individual schools will be forced to shoulder the fiscal burden while the central administrative budget (and all those yummy, yummy central administrative consultants and even yummier no-bid contracts handed out to Klein and Bloomberg cronies) will see few if any cuts.

And that makes sense. I mean, why cut the $80 million dollar ARIS computer system that doesn't work the way it's supposed to or the no-bid standardized testing contract Bloomberg handed to McGraw-Hill, the company that STILL hasn't delivered on the standardized ELA tests kids are supposed to be taking nearly nine months after the company first got the contract, when you can cut after-school Regents tutoring, arts and enrichment programs, and field trips and force principals to try and raise their test scores and graduation rates with much less money than they were promised.

Oh, and you can bet the mayor's and chancellor's vaunted school report cards and quality review program won't be cut, even if the programs that might help schools improve in some of the categories measured will be.

Remember, it's Children First and children always, as long as Bloomberg's and Klein's corporate cronies are not hurt in the pocketbook or the balance sheet.

No wonder principals are mad as hell over the budget cuts. Unlike the CEO's from Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and Countrywide Financial who got dragged in front of Congress yesterday after receiving millions in executive "performance" compensation even as they made terrible business mistakes that cost their companies and shareholders hundreds of millions of dollars, you can bet Klein and Bloomberg will hold principals, assistant principals and teachers accountable for "improvement" even as he cuts the school budget by as much as 10% (and perhaps even more if the economy continues to worsen.)

You see, accountability is for everybody except the big-time businessmen, the corporate CEO's, the short-selling hedge fund managers, or billionaire media moguls.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Batten Down The Hatches

Tough times ahead.

The February job numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics today showed nonfarm payrolls fell by 63,000 last month, the worst showing in five years.

Payroll numbers were also revised downward for December and January.

There have now been two consecutive months of negative job growth.

Economists had been expecting job growth between 20,000 and 50,000 for the month.

How did economists react to the bad job numbers? Here's a taste:

"Turn out the lights the party's over," wrote Joseph Brusuelas, U.S. chief economist for IDEAglobal. "We are in a recession."

"Folks, based on today's employment report, if we are not in a recession, it is a darned good imitation of one; we are in an unprecedented real estate and credit crisis that is whipping its way through the U.S. economy," said Kevin Giddis, managing director, fixed income trading, Morgan Keegan & Co.

The unemployment rate actually fell for the month of February, but that's because the job climate is so bad that many Americans simply stopped looking for work and weren't counted in the statistics.

I guess that's one way to lower the unemployment rate.

The bad economic news didn't stop there.

The Federal Reserve reported Thursday that Americans were poorer at the end of 2007 than they were the year before:

The net worth of U.S. households fell by $533 billion, or a 3.6% annual rate, in the fourth quarter of 2007, the first time total wealth has fallen since late 2002, the Fed said.

For all of 2007, household net worth rose 3.4% to $57.7 trillion, the slowest growth in five years. After the effects of 4.1% inflation are included, real net worth fell for the year.

The Wall Street Journal reports that more Americans are working multiple part-time jobs in order to make ends meet as salaries fall and job security disappears:

More and more people are working part-time jobs for economic reasons, rather than by choice. That figure rose by 100,000 in February for the second month in a row, the Labor Department reported yesterday, bringing it to 4.79 million -- compared to 4.13 million a year ago, and the highest since 1993.

More people also are holding multiple part-time jobs out of economic need. In 2007, an average of 1.8 million people held two jobs for that reason, the highest since the government began regularly tracking the statistic in 1994. The growth was largely fueled by women, who overtook men to make up the majority of the multiple-job market for the first time, according to a labor bureau study.

Even the investor class is taking a hit these days.

Stocks ended lower for the week, with the Dow Jones Industrials (11,894) down 1,370 points since the start of the year (-10%) and down more than 2,300 points since the all-time high reached last October. The S&P and Nasdaq also are down sharply for the year.

With the housing market continuing to tank in all areas around the country except for Manhattan, it looks like economic conditions are going to get a lot worse before they get better. Increasing foreclosure rates are likely to increase the problem:

CHICAGO (MarketWatch) -- More foreclosure records were broken in the fourth quarter of 2007, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported on Thursday.

The rate of mortgages entering foreclosure was at it highest level in the history of the MBA's quarterly national delinquency survey and the percent of loans somewhere in the foreclosure process also hit its highest level.

The delinquency rate of loans past due but not in foreclosure was at its highest since 1985.

Rising right along with the foreclosure and delinquency rates are commodity prices. Oil remains over $105 a barrel and Goldman Sachs said Friday that $200 a barrel oil could be a possibility.

And of course food prices have increased dramatically in the last few months:

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- The soaring cost of grains, dairy products and other edible commodities continues to pile up on consumers as producers seek to dull the impact of higher prices on their own bottom lines, according to scanner data from U.S. supermarkets.

According to Citigroup, which based its research on AC Nielsen data, food categories with the biggest price spikes for the 12 weeks ended Feb. 23 were:

Cheese, up 14.1%
Yogurt, up 8.3%
Ground coffee, up 7.1%
Frozen pizza, up 5.5%

Food makers have been boosting product prices to offset the surging cost of ingredients. Corn, wheat, soybeans and cocoa are all trading at or near record highs.

Tough times indeed.

Of course, the White House says everything is fine and the president's got it all under control - the $600 rebate checks are going to be in the mail soon.

Yeah, that should solve all the economic problems the country's facing.

How far do you think $600 goes these days?

I'm betting not too far.

What's a Raise?

Is that a dumb question? If you're a New York City teacher reading the nonsense our union often propagates, you may not know the answer. But I'll tell you--a raise is when you get more money for doing the same job. If you get 10% more compensation for working 10% longer, you did not get a raise (If you don't believe me, ask someone who just worked an extra shift at Taco Bell).

That's why I am not impressed when Randi Weingarten, UFT President, boasts of the "raises" city teachers have received over the past few years. Clearly, Ms. Weingarten does not consider our extra time or effort to be of any value. But I do. That's why I'm skeptical of stories like this one, about a new charter school that pays $125,000 for teachers. I mean, the pay sounds great. But then I see this:

In exchange for their high salaries, teachers at the new school, the Equity Project, will work a longer day and year and assume responsibilities that usually fall to other staff members, like attendance coordinators and discipline deans.

So do these teachers really make more than city teachers? Perhaps they do, if the teachers in question are at the beginning of the salary scale. Are their benefits equal to those of city teachers? Do they have a pension plan? Probably not.

They certainly sound better off than other charter teachers in the article:

Claudia Taylor, 29, applied to the Equity Project even though, she said, the thought of leaving the Harlem Village Academy, the charter school where she teaches reading, “breaks my heart.”

“I’m tired of making decisions about whether or not I can afford to go to a movie on a Friday night when I work literally 55 hours a week,” Ms. Taylor said. “It’s very frustrating. I’m feeling like I either have to leave New York City or leave teaching, because I don’t want to have a roommate at 30 years old.”

While I sympathize with Ms. Taylor, it sounds like she's working like a dog with no union protection for very little money. Will she be happier working like a dog for more money? I suppose it's better to work with no union protection for more money. But what would happen to a teacher at this school who dared to mention unionization? Would she be tossed out on her ear like Nicole Byrne Lau? Blanche DuBois may be comfortable depending on the kindness of strangers, but I'm not.

I have to question this, as well:

Will even the most skillful teachers be able to handle classes of 30, several students more than the city average?

I don't know what Mr. Bloomberg claims the average is, but my colleagues and I regularly teach classes of 34. Also, with the various loopholes in the contract, I regularly see teachers with classes up to 40. Music teachers regularly get classes of 50, and if you don't think this mayor shoves kids into every existing nook and cranny, you haven't been in a public school for a long, long time.

There's one part of this school's philosophy with which I'll readily agree---good teachers are element number one of good schools. I'll also agree that a class of 30 with a good teacher is superior to a class of 20 or fewer with a bad one. But here's where they lose me--an even better scenario is a class of 20 with a good teacher. That's what I see every day in the suburban school my daughter attends.

The fact is there are plenty of suburban teachers making very good money, with unions, with pensions, and with great benefits. They do a great job, too. My kid's in 6th grade, and she's yet to have a bad teacher. It doesn't take a miracle.

And it doesn't take a non-unionized charter school either. It takes good teachers, small classes, and decent facilities. I see them work every day.

Related: A thoughtful post on Edwize and another on Eduwonkette

Thursday, March 06, 2008


An anonymous tipster reports that on The View today, Barbara Walters told Joel Klein he was a great chancellor, and praised him for instituting merit pay for both teachers and students.

Whoopi Goldberg replied that teachers ought to be paid more rather than labor under these conditions.

The Republican on The View, what's-her-name, claimed the Klein-Weingarten merit pay program made teachers work harder.

Whoopi responded that if teachers didn't need to work second jobs, it would improve the quality of education.

Thank you Whoopi!

Ms. Weingarten's Mouthpiece Praises Her Brilliance

Yup. It's libelous Leo Casey, pontificating in Edwize about the great achievements of his patronage mill. They've finally got 25/55 (for some) signed into law, only several years after having promised it.

And to think, all we teachers had to do is cut short our summers, work 3 extra days a year, 10 extra minutes a day, accept a sixth class (that the UFT says is not a class), accept merit pay (that the UFT says is not merit pay), give up any and all possibilities of transfer without a principal's OK, dump hundreds of working teachers into the ATR pool, give up the right to grieve letters in the file, do hall patrol in perpetuity, agree to a reorganization that forces principals to consider salary for potential hires, give up every single benefit we've won since well before I became a teacher, and agree that 55/25 is 55/27 for any and all new teachers.

Ms Weingarten (who is not a socialist), Libelous Leo and all their merry band of patronage employees, on the other hand, made the great sacrifice of keeping UFT HQ open an extra hour now and then so they can continue doing whatever it is they do in there.

And our deal is much better than the one NYSUT is trying to negotiate:
Keep in mind the UFT agreement does not give its members a cost-free 55/25. The optimum benefit (a NYSUT-backed bill that was passed by the Legislature in 2006 and vetoed by Gov. Pataki) would alter Tiers 2, 3 and 4 to 55/25 without any cost to members.

NYSUT will be re-introducing that bill in the upcoming legislative session and lobbying again for its passage.

Yup. It's much better, because we get to pay 1.85% of our salaries until retirement. Also, we only give 55/25 to those already on the job, thus "eating our young," something the highly principled Casey and Weingarten refused to do when they tossed away years of gains for a salary increase that didn't even meet cost of living.

I doubt NYSUT could work out a deal like Ms. Weingarten does. The whole "more work for less pay" thing seems to elude all but the most artful negotiators. If NYSUT gets their deal, with the UFT get a similar deal? Don't bank on it. As in all of their dealings with Ms. Weingarten's patronage mill, the city stands to reap a great profit on our latest giveaway, while a great many new members will have no benefit whatsoever.

Yet another brilliant victory for Rod Page's favorite union leader.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Today's Question

Domino's Pizza is now offering speech lessons to rid Brooklynites of their "annoying fake accents." They must watch too many old movies.

Who will offer cooking lessons to rid Domino's of their annoying fake pizza?

More, Please

Today, John McSameAsBush got an endorsement from the least popular president since Richard Nixon. Were I him, I'd have hooked up with someone else, but fortunately for the United States, Mr. McCain has other ideas. That's why the Doubletalk Express pulled into DC on this fine day.

Here's what I want to see a Democrat relentlessly hammer him with come election time:

Visit the Carnival...

..the Carnival of Education, now playing at Edwonk's place.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Mayor Mike's Fiefdom Under Review

They're holding hearings on mayoral control after five years. To the surprise of no one, Mike and Joel claim it's a huge success. Apparently, whenever they are able to manipulate test scores, they go up (Just ignore those nasty NAEP scores, please).

But test scores aren't everything. In my neck of the woods, Mayor Mike, through his unyielding diligence, has managed to squeeze more kids than ever before in our school. We're open from dusk to dawn, and we serve lunch to lucky kids at 9 AM. Not only that, but we're taking dozens of new admits every week. The intrepid admissions officer knows no bounds. Free space in NYC, after all, is for charter schools.

Mayor Mike knows how to do more with less (Or perhaps it's less with more, I can never remember). Despite the highest class sizes in the state, Mayor Mike has shamelessly run commercials proclaiming that class sizes have gone down. They haven't, actually, even if you accept his preposterous statistical claims they're down by .2% of a student per class. Yet he's still managed to make a lot of people believe it. I heard a clueless radio host reciting the false news about class size as though it were true.

It's not easy to make people believe this emperor has clothes, but Mayor Mike's PR machine manages. It's sad the UFT is not able to churn out PR like that. It's even sadder that, despite this mayor's open contempt for working teachers, the UFT will not take a stand against the disaster that mayoral control has been. It's time for Ms. Weingarten to stop pussyfooting around, and to tell her patronage mill to oppose mayoral control as though their jobs and second pensions depended on it.

Of course, that may risk alienating the affections of Rod "The NEA is a terrorist organization" Paige, her biggest fan.

Monday, March 03, 2008

UFT Brass Springs to Action

Not wasting a minute, they're on the case. After printing pages and pages of propaganda on Edwize about why it was better for working teachers to have fewer transfer privileges, and why it was best that principals alone decide where teachers can work, after giving away everything but the kitchen sink for less than cost of living, the UFT leadership has come to the defense of an ailing Brooklyn teacher who needs to work closer to home on Staten Island.

Though the teacher, David Irons, requested a medical transfer, the best the good ol' DoE would do was offer him a permanent substitute position. Mr. Irons' misfortunes would certainly not have occurred if Randi Weingarten and her minions had not been so willing to trust in the good graces of Tweed and its Leadership Academy principal corps.

It's pathetic that an experienced working teacher needs a crippling disease to qualify for a transfer. If Ms. Weingarten had half the foresight and vision of the folks on the other side of the bargaining table, we'd never have left this poor teacher in this miserable situation. We'd never have left teachers whose schools had closed as ATRs either.

The patronage employees at Edwize regularly congratulate themselves on the program that's enabled easy transfers for low-paid new teachers. While that may be a good thing, they regularly ignore the plight of ATRs dumped into this pool through no fault of their own. The UFT aristocracy is responsible for all this, and for the very real problems of Mr. Irons as well.

Ms. Weingarten can make a principled argument that Mr. Irons deserves placement, but he wouldn't be in this predicament if it were not for her monumental indifference to the needs of working teachers. Rod Paige's admiration notwithstanding, Ms. Weingarten is plainly incompetent, frets only over the maintenance of her 40-million per annum patronage mill, and merits impeachment, not promotion.