Saturday, May 31, 2008

Fair Notice

Over at Eduwonk's joint, he proposes that he and UFT bigshot Leo Casey hug it out. I've no word on whether or where this love-fest will actually take place, but in the spirit of generosity and support, I'd like to arrange to record the proceedings.

(And if either of them should write or say anything that remotely gets on my nerves, I'll make them watch the video. That'll show 'em.)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Severe Mental Issues

That's a lawyer's defense for a teacher accused of having sex with a former student and his cousin. He says the teens exploited her.


There are many reasons why I'll never be principal. I used to think it was simply because I had no principal's license. On the other hand. Chancellor Klein doesn't have on either. As he's gotten pretty far, that's no longer an issue.

Today, though, I realized that making announcements would be impossible for me. I couldn't do it.

Here are a few announcements I would have made today:

Good morning.

Thank you, Ms. Grundy, for your recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. First, I'd like to prohibit the use of "Oy" for the personal pronoun "I." Now I don't know anyone in this building who does that, but there's a radio personality I know of who does it constantly. Frankly, it really, really irritates me, so let's dispense with that immediately.

Our next issue is the use of the phrase, "I am agree," from both native and non-native speakers of English. This phrase is also strictly prohibited, and anyone using it will be required to paint the flagpole top to bottom without the use of a ladder.

Finally, this morning I had the distinct displeasure of reading an essay about The Preal by "Stein Johnbeck." It was largely based on a 2001 film that tacked on a happy ending to a classic American novel. This film is now banned in our building, and any teacher who shows it will get a letter in the file, as well as endless unreasonable harassment from yours truly, along with anyone else I can persuade or intimidate into dispensing it.

Also, as everyone knows, Mr. Morris is a card-carrying NEA member with many T-shirts to match. At my personal request, he has agreed to shoot the director of this awful film if he ever encounters him on or near our campus. Mr. Morris will get first crack at all no-show per-session positions for the rest of the year.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Library

"What are you doing after school?"

"Well, a bunch of us are planning to meet at the library at about 3:30."

"How long will you be there? I might be a little late."

"Well, we usually stay till it closes."

"I saw Mr. Benchley Saturday morning. He looked like he'd been doing a lot of studying Friday night."

"Yes, Mr. Benchley studies more than just about anyone. His eyes are still red, as a matter of fact."

"Reading will do that to ya. Does Ms. Radcliffe go to the library? I never seem to see her there."

"Oh, you'd like to study with her?"

"Yes I've always wanted to study with her."

"Well, she was at the library last week. As a matter of fact, she took out a book."

"A book? Really?"

"Yes, right before closing time. And I hear she's been reading this book all week."

"All week, huh?"

"That's what I hear."

"What about Ms. Wallace?"

"She'll be at the library tonight."

"Are you sure?"

"Absolutely. Ms. Wallace loves the library. I just spoke to her and she's definitely planning to be there. So are you gonna come and study with us?"

"Oh yeah, definitely. See you there."

"OK. Three thirty. Or as soon as you can make it."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mr, Klein Hangs Tough

One of the key problems with mayoral control is that there's no one whatsoever to speak for kids. Joel Klein, a political appointee who serves at the whim of Mayor Mike, can protest from here to doomsday if the state reduces aid. Unfortunately, when the city does the same, he can't criticize the mayor at all. Fortunately, the City Council is doing the job Mr. Klein is supposed to do.

Mayor Mike has money for sports teams owned by billionaires, but when it comes to kids, well, when it's time to walk the plank, it's "Children First."

What a disgrace that an administration that talks so much about accountability consistently refuses to take any whatsoever, blaming the state for it's own choices. What a disgrace that the administration responsible for a huge reduction in the CFE award pointedly tries to avoid using it for quality education and reduction of the highest class sizes in the state.

Honestly, I don't know how they sleep at night.

Go to the Carnival!

It's over at Ms. Bluebird's place.

No Gym for You!

So sez Mayor Mike to kids in the Bronx. As part of its "all-reform, all the time" agenda, there's neither programs nor space for physical activity. An important aspect of mayoral control is allowing the mayor to do whatever he feels like, whenever he feels like it, and if the mayor feels like saving a few bucks on physical education, well, that's the way it is.
According to city health statistics, the Bronx has the highest obesity rate of all the boroughs, with about 42% of elementary school students considered overweight or obese.

All over the Bronx, people are shouting, "We're number one!" And Mayor Mike's Tweedies are helping to ensure they stay that way.

The Bronx has been on the receiving end of a number of Mr. Bloomberg's "reforms," including his all-trailer academy, which didn't have a gym (or a cafeteria) either. As you may know, Mr. Bloomberg promised to rid the city of its ubiquitous trailers by 2012. Mr. Bloomberg has since clarified that statement. As part of the "reform" agenda, he actually won't get rid of them by 2012.

Thus, Bronx students will be able to view them daily while they're not going to gym.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Well, maybe there are reasons why the whole world (except Mayor Mike) puts one school in one building. Maybe there are reasons to build new schools, instead of sports stadiums.

Maybe it's not necessary to fill every last inch of every building, and maybe it's not a good idea to have the highest class sizes in the state. Maybe 100% capacity is enough. Maybe, if schools are at less than 100% capacity, we should allow room for extra students, rather than dumping charter schools into every available space.

And maybe putting up partitions, having 5 schools in a building, having 5 sets of administrators, and 5 sets of rules is not the ideal situation. In fact, maybe it's not optimal to have more than one school per building. Maybe with multiple schools, there could be conflicts or rivalries.

Maybe kids of different ages should not be placed in the same building. Maybe they have different needs.

Or maybe we should just ignore all that, and move on full-speed ahead with the "reform" agenda.

Walking the Hallowed Halls

Joanne Jacobs writes about an endless debate--should you be nice to kids or follow the "Don't smile until Christmas" method?

It's tough to say. Actually, I'd say you need to treat different kids differently. I'm always nice to kids who are cooperative, but I'll go out of my way to make life inconvenient for anyone who gives me a hard time. Kids need to know there are consequences for their actions in school, both positive and negative, and whatever it takes, it's our job to make sure they do.

She then makes a point comparing public schools to a charter she started, which got me thinking:

When I was reporting for Our School, which is about a turnaround charter school aimed at underperforming Mexican-American students, kids always said, “Teachers here care about me.” They were willing to care if they perceived the teachers cared. Teachers were strict in demanding good behavior and hard work, but the kids saw that as caring. It’s a lot harder to create that dynamic in a large school that lacks a unifying mission.

Here's how I responded:

It may indeed be harder, but it’s absolutely necessary to control your classes. The “don’t smile until Christmas” is an exaggeration, but you need to show kids there are consequences for what they do.

I don’t think I could stand coming to work if I didn’t have control over my classes. But controlling the class is one way to show that you care. Honestly, until you do that, there isn’t much else positive that can happen in any class.

I still feel that way, but I started thinking a lot about the concept of a "unifying mission." Unifying mission or no, I'd probably manage my classes very similarly. But as I walk down the halls of our crammed to the rafters building, I often observe the deans telling kids to take their hats off, turn off their radios, and straighten up and fly right. The kids, walking right in front of me, move about ten feet before putting their hats back on, turning on their radios, unstraightening themselves and flying incorrectly.

Now I'm rushing to class, and I honestly have neither the time nor the inclination to deal with these kids, none of whom I remotely know. My experience in hall patrol has taught me that what the AP Security's office most desires is to be left alone, and that they're unlikely to issue even a slap on the wrist to anyone I bring in. So honestly, why should I bother?

If the administration were willing to strongly enforce its rules, and back up teachers who help, it would be one thing. But in the real world, I'll deal with the kids in my class, all of whom know their problems in my class will follow them home, due to my efforts (and those of a loose team of translators I've assembled through the years).

Personally, I like teaching in a regular public school. But while the chancellor cries that all incidents must be reported, merit-pay for principals hinges on as few of them seeing the light of day as possible.

And while I may control things in my saloon, once the customers step outside those swinging doors, it's the Wild West all over again.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Risk Your Life..

...but we can't risk paying for your education. So say GW and his protege, John McBush.

Throw the Book at Her

A long time ago, a guidance counselor told me that in New York State, parents who failed to come to school when summoned could be charged with parental neglect. Hmm...I thought--that would be a useful addition to the various threats and insinuations I could make when I call homes. Still, in the 20 years since I've heard about it, I've never actually had to resort to it.

But it is used, apparently. In Mr Bloomberg's New York, who is it used against?

Bronx HS of Science senior Michel Dussack has a "B" average, an 1890 SAT score and an almost full college scholarship for the fall.

But Dussack's mother was accused of "educational neglect" two weeks ago and was reported to the city's child-services agency - because she missed a scheduled meeting to discuss her son possibly failing gym.

Wow. What a terrible mother, allowing her son to fail gym. That must be the worst offense these administrators had ever heard of. Not only that, but Michael had eight unexcused absences. Naturally, they were horrified. And what excuse did the mom offer?

The nonconsecutive days were for family deaths and illnesses, and his mom said she knew about them.

You'd think people would have the courtesy to get sick and die on vacation days. Apparently that's what the administration expected them to do.

Sources at the department told The Post that since the case of Nixzmary Brown, who was absent 46 times in one school year and killed in January 2006 by her abusive stepfather, school officials have been encouraged to enforce the absence policy strictly.

Doesn't it behoove those "sources," then, to keep an eye out for kids with such serious problems, rather than harassing parents whose kids are doing relatively well?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Problem Students?

Why not wrestle them to the ground? That'll show 'em. Don't miss the video.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Feeling Lazy?

Here's your chance to earn five thousand bucks a month for lying in bed.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Whatever I Want

That's what NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein says he wants to do with the funds from the 13-year-long CFE lawsuit. Why should he have to reduce class sizes if he doesn't want to? Why should underperforming schools get more funds when the Chancellor can simply close them and open new ones? Who cares if kids have to get on a train or bus at 4 AM because their neighborhood school is now the Academy of the Dark Arts?

And Mr. Klein now blames the city budget cuts on the state. Accountability, the Bloomberg-Klein mantra, never applies to them. After all, despite mandates, they've utterly failed to reduce class sizes in NYC. Who can even take seriously the preposterous claims of class reduction by .2 students per class, or whatever it is they're claiming? Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver has a message for Mayor Mike, and calls his finger-pointing a smokescreen. And that's indeed what you can expect from Mayor Mike and his entire gang of "accountable" number-crunchers.

When Joel Klein doesn't like a contract he himself wrote and agreed to, he demands it be broken. When Joel Klein gets money earmarked to improve education, he demands it be used for whatever he feels like. When the state cuts money, Joel Klein cries foul, but when the city cuts it, Mr. Klein takes no responsibility whatsoever, since Mayor Bloomberg must be spending it on more important things. Some role model.

It's ostensibly the job of a schools chancellor to stand up for kids. It's regrettable that in this era of mayoral control, New York's 1.1 million schoolchildren have, instead, a rubber stamp.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dress the Part

In NYC, there's no dress code for teachers. I don't have a problem with that. But when I started, I used to wear a tie every day. One day, in a mad rush to get out the door, I forgot to put the tie on, and the security guards wouldn't let me in the building. That's how young I looked when I started (Sadly, I don't have that problem anymore).

Since then, though, I've worn a tie pretty much every day. Eventually, I acquired a bunch of jackets to go with it, and began to look even more serious. A few years back, I stopped eating white sugar, switched to whole carbs, and lost 40 lbs. When I tried to buy new jackets, I found that I could buy suits for the same price or less. What the hell, I figured, and upgraded.

So now, with a bunch of suits in my closet, I've discovered that a lot of cool-looking people wear long-sleeve Ts with suits, and figured after 20 years, I could finally ditch the tie.

The kids said nothing. My supervisors couldn't care less. My principal said not one word. My wife didn't even notice. But one of my colleagues found it completely unacceptable.

"You have to wear a tie," she told me.

"Hardly anyone else does," I countered.

It doesn't matter," she replied. "You have to."

"But I have to get up early, and I'm in a hurry, and..."

"No excuses," she said. "You can't dress like that without a tie. That's my final word on the matter."

Why should I listen to her, I asked myself. She's not my boss. There's no way she's gonna tell me what to do.

Today, one of my students asked me, "How come you're wearing a tie every day?"

"Ms. Bright made me do it," I said, and added, "I'm a little afraid of her."

"We're afraid of her too," he said.

She's a very successful teacher, I think.

Today's Grievance

Comments do not seem to be registering consistently on the main page, and some may have been lost. I apologize. Haloscan, which runs the comments section, has been a little buggy the last few days.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Carnival of Education is at...

...Teacher in a Strange Land. Where's this strange land, specifically? Right here.

Here Is Your Opinion

Well, it appears that the new English Regents extolled the virtues of filling bags with a flair, and also the great advantages of having leaders with no experience. After all, kids who aspire to fill bags need someone to look up to. And it looks as though they've found someone:

“Johhny the Bagger” has become an entire movement and is being used by corporations like McDonalds to ‘inspire’ their staff...

It's nice that we can inspire our children the same way Mickey D's does. After all, if we're going to feed them that vile food, we may as well inspire them to do sub-minimum wage work with panache. Even better, the exam tells the students which sides of arguments to take. No more of that time-consuming "agree or disagree." Take this side, kid, and that's it.

It really saves a lot of time and trouble when we tell kids what to think. Here are a few topics I'd suggest for the next big English test:

1. A lot of Americans are now losing their homes. Some of them are living in vans. Write a well-organized composition of about 300 words, and explain how living "on the road" can be big fun for a family of four.

2. In places like Wal-Mart, a lot of single parents can't afford to buy health insurance. When they get sick they have to go to emergency rooms. List a dozen fun ways to pass the time while waiting in an emergency room. Extra points for really cheery activities.

3. Presidential candidate John McCain wants to stop giving tax breaks to companies that provide health insurance for their employees. He'd rather give tax breaks to individuals and let them pay for it themselves. Give three reasons why this is better than the awful "socialized medicine" that people have in every other industrialized country in the world.

4. Mike has a contract with a bus company, and a contract with the teachers (Some of these teachers have experience, which is bad). The bus company wants to change its contract since the price of gas has exploded, and it's now losing money. Mike wants to change the contract with the teachers, since they get paid too much, and some of them have experience (which is bad). Explain why Mike should break the contract he made with the teachers (who are experienced, and therefore bad) and insist on keeping the contract with the bus drivers (who may have no experience driving buses at all, and are therefore better drivers).

Have you got any questions you'd like to propose for the NYS Regents Exam?

Clarification: This question did not appear on the English Regents exam--it was on the recently given component retest.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Failing to Plan?

Or planning to fail?

NYC hasn't got enough seats for the kids it has now (except for new charter schools, for which, like the product in the picture, there's always room). Today's Daily News suggests the situation (for non-charters, of course) is only gonna get worse:

A new report predicts dramatic enrollment increases in Brooklyn schools - and adds that Department of Education officials have failed to plan for the new tidal wave of students.

"Parents have been complaining about overcrowding in [Public School] 24," said Teresa Lantigua, mother of 10-year-old Antonio Kee, a fifth-grader at the Sunset Park elementary school. "DOE needs to do . . . more."

Four of the five elementary schools in Sunset Park are crammed beyond capacity, the report by city Controller William Thompson found.

No new elementary or middle schools are planned, even though a nearly 5% enrollment increase is expected as soon as 2015.

Fortunately, the Tweedies say everything is just peachy. After all, why shouldn't more kids study in trailers and windowless closets? My students and I do it every day.

In Mr. Bloomberg's New York, kids don't need decent facilities unless they're in charter schools. When are those pushy parents gonna get with the program?

School Till Six?

Several schools are trying just that, plus adding four summer weeks--including the UFT Charter School.


You hear a lot of talk about that word nowadays. The man on the left didn't much care for it. And some right-wing commentators will say we shouldn't elect Barack Obama because he'll practice it. But all Mr. Obama has suggested was that he'd talk with our problematic neighbors. Personally, I don't see how that could hurt anyone.

Appeasement is when you give things to the enemy. Like a good portion of Czechoslovakia.

Closer to home, UFT President Randi Weingarten gave up the right of working teachers to grieve letters in their files. She gave up the UFT transfer plan, which enabled teachers like me to escape crazy supervisors. She gave up the right of teachers in closing schools to work in open ones. She gave up three days a year, and thirty minutes a day. She gave up professional assignments and sentenced working teachers to lunchrooms, halls and potty patrols in perpetuity. She gave up five classes a day and now has UFT teachers doing a sixth class.

One of the responses I got when I commented on Edwize about the awful 2005 contract was on the lines of, "What will the tabloids say if we reject this contract?" Well, we didn't. And we now know what the tabloids say now that we've accepted it. Naturally, they praised it when it was signed. But about five minutes later they began vilifying us as though it had never happened, and they continue vilifying us on a fairly regular basis.

Have Ms. Weingarten and her minions learned anything from this? To their credit, they're hanging tough on the ATR issue for now. Will they continue to do so during the next round of contract negotiations? I certainly hope so. It's the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, doing the right thing does not always precisely suit the needs of the UFT patronage mill, which needs to go to conventions, collect second pensions, and re-invent itself with new Borg-like drones every now and then. Would that it were otherwise. Until it is, I'm afraid I'll have to put my trust elsewhere.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Another great achievement from Mayor Mike and company.

Last-Minute Conversions

I don't meet a lot of kids who are determined to fail, but occasionally there's one who leaves no stone unturned in that quest to reach the bottom of the barrel. Now it's one thing for a kid to never bother showing up, but quite another to be there on a fairly regular basis and manage to never try at all.

I vigorously advocate home contact (as regular readers of this blog know), but it doesn't work 100% of the time. With Steve, I've called his mom and dad on many occasions, and they're suitably horrified when I report his lack of effort, but I've only been able to effect very superficial changes in his behavior. For example, he no longer sleeps in class. He no longer makes remarks about his classmates. He doesn't arrive late nearly as frequently as he used to. In fact, I've got him sitting at his desk every day giving the appearance that he's doing work.

But whenever I go to check his work, he hasn't done anything. And when I collect work, including tests, his papers are notoriously absent. A few days ago, he asked, "Mr. Educator, if I show up every day and do all the rest of the work, can I pass this class?"

Now that's a loaded question. It's not really productive to tell a kid he has no chance whatsoever of passing a class, even if that's what your heart of hearts tells you.

"Steve, you've asked me that many, many times. And each time you've failed to keep your word. What's different now?"

"It's the third marking period. This is the one that counts."

I don't know exactly where kids get the idea that two thirds of the semester is just for practice, and that teachers will forget about it in the end. But it's a very common belief. In meetings, we're encouraged to pass kids who've failed most of the term if they catch up in the end.

The thing is, I've never actually seen anyone do that. And even if I had, what message would passing them send to the kids who've been consistently doing work all semester? I'm reminded of a gothic novel called The Monk, in which last-minute conversion figures prominently. Of course, God may be more forgiving that I, or indeed many of my colleagues.

Frankly, while I can't read his mind or see into his soul, I find Steve's offer a little hollow. Have you seen kids turn around this late in the game? What did you do when that happened?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

In Case You Missed it...

Here it is:

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bias in Standardized Testing?

"I see no reason why any high-school senior shouldn't be able to answer questions about basic yachting terminology."

I knew there was something we'd been overlooking.

What's With the Rubber Room?

Find out right here.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Communists Rejoice

You may be able to get a job teaching in California (I can't say I envy you that commute, though).

Teach Them How to Make Money

For years, I've listened to teacher after teacher complain that vocational training ought to be an option for high school kids, and it's been hard to disagree. In yesterdays Daily News, Errol Louis makes a very compelling argument:
I, for one, would gladly trade in every minute I wasted on high school trigonometry for training in how to fix my busted furnace on a cold winter night.

Now how could anyone possibly argue with that? Does anyone dare laugh at plumbers? If you've had to hire one any time recently, you won't be laughing all that loudly. If kids are indeed inclined to do that sort of work, why on earth shouldn't we help them?

Not everyone is a scholar, and thank the Lord for that. It would be a pretty rough world if we all sat around reading and no one ever fixed anything.

Plus, I'm thinking if we help these kids achieve what they want to achieve, well, maybe they'll give us a discount when we hire them. Maybe they'll even forgive us for making them learn trigonometry.

Stranger things have happened.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

No Slush Fund Here, Sez Mayor Mike

He simply hands out cash to anyone who wants it.

The Eyes Have It

In my college class, someone asked me why I had blue eyes. I said, "My mother had blue eyes, my father had blue eyes, so I have them too."

A discussion ensued. My students started tossing around terms like "recessive" and "dominant." Much talk went on about brown hair, brown eyes, and why just about everyone seemed to have them. One student explained that blue eyes were recessive, and that you needed two blue genes (not bluejeans) if you wanted them.

A girl stood up and got very angry. "My father has blue eyes," she said. "Also, my mother has blue eyes. So you're completely wrong." She glared at the other student with outright contempt.

Fortunately, it was time for oral reports. An Israeli student stood up and gave a description of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as he saw it. And oddly, though I had students from both sides of the border, this presentation was far less controversial than the one about genetics.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Are Your Students Cheating?

I hope not. But take a gander at this video and watch them carefully.

Ms. Weingarten Goes on Television

On Wednesday night, if you stayed up later than I did, you could have seen UFT President Randi Weingarten on Charlie Rose. I TIVOed it, though. Ms. Weingarten grabbed my interest immediately by referring to her mom, who was a teacher. Ms. Weingarten, referred fondly to her experience as a teacher, but explained that education was not her first choice:

“I went into law first, because we watched how my mother worked, and we thought that teachers worked all the time.”

Interestingly, Ms. Weingarten's approach to the volume of work teachers did was to add to it, and add to it considerably. Under Ms. Weingarten's leadership, teachers now work 30 minutes more a day, and three more days a year. High school teachers generally teach six classes per day instead of five, and all teachers now have perpetual hall or potty duty. I suppose Ms. Weingarten felt working all the time was simply insufficient.

Ms. Weingarten likes to say that city teachers are now paid on par with their suburban counterparts. Regrettably, that isn't true at all. However, Ms. Weingarten has succeeded in bringing us the longest school year in the area. Remember that, because when you bring up the fact that we have not actually achieved salary parity, UFT bigshots like to claim that suburban teachers work an extra 10 minutes a day. If you actually consider we work five extra days, that argument weakens considerably.

The show also featured an interesting quote from Mayor Michael Bloomberg:

"We’ve instituted merit pay, we’ve gotten rid of a lot of the seniority rules, the teachers are teaching longer... "

Ms. Weingarten's response:

“It’s not merit pay.”

It's certainly nice to hear that merit pay is not merit pay. This statement dovetails nicely with the UFT's assertion that the sixth class is not actually a class.

If I had a magic wand I would try to instill a sense that schools have to be able to be a big tent where we listen to what parents need and what teachers need to do a good job.

Ms. Weingaten praises inclusion. It's odd, then, that Ms. Weingarten and her monopoly party do everything within their power to stifle and crush any and all voices of dissent within the union itself. They restructure voting so that high school teachers, who once dared to choose a non-Unity VP, can never make their own choice again. They make sure Ms. Weingarten hand-picks district reps so those nasty chapter leaders won't choose anyone not to her liking. They buy out opposition parties with patronage gigs if they'll only agree to endorse Ms. Weingarten for re-election. In true Joseph McCarthy style, they call their opponents reds.

In any case, Ms. Weingarten needs no magic wand. As the head of the largest local in NYSUT, which is the largest state union in the AFT, she's pretty much guaranteed her long-awaited promotion to President of the AFT. And Ms. Weingarten need not quit her UFT presidency, as it's only a part-time job anyway.

Kind of like what Ms. Weingarten's teaching job was.

The rest of you teachers, get off that computer and go find a hall to patrol!

(Extra credit to anyone who names the TV stars pictured above)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Why Not Implant Chips in Kids' Brains?

Too expensive. For now, we can do this instead.

Mutual Benefits

Every day I get email about the ATRs. And every day I have more questions about Tim Daly and his merry New Teacher Project. According to Mr. Daly, the UFT's criticism of his figures is all wrong, primarily because it included guidance counselors. The NTP never said to put guidance counselors on unpaid leave, only teachers. Evidently, paying teachers to be in ATR is a huge financial drain, but paying guidance counselors to do the same is a different animal entirely.

I've written before about Mr. Daly's questionable use of statistics. Actually, though, it's remarkable that none of the tabloids mention word one about his millions of dollars in DoE contracts. Even more remarkably, no one notices that his organization actually trains many of the people who are bouncing veteran teachers out of their jobs.

The biggest irony, though, is that Mr. Daly can write a report, entitle it "Mutual Benefits," offer no benefits whatsoever to working people, and have virtually no one question his integrity.

If that's indeed the case, consider me the first.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Old Age and Treachery...

...the saying says, beat youth and enthusiasm every time. I don't know the precise moment at which I turned evil, but ever since I did that saying has made more sense every day. Yet the other day I was unsettled by something that threatened my core beliefs.

My daughter's very close with her 11-year-old cousin, and has been all her life. Now she also has a 16-month-old cousin who everyone dotes on. Sometimes, though, on very important occasions, the older children need time to themselves. Such occasions, like the purchase of a new video game, require total concentration. They can no longer afford to applaud, or even be amused when the child points and says, "Dog." It doesn't even matter whether or not he correctly identifies a dog, and correcting him if he didn't is utterly out of the question. So they pick him up and bring him to the kitchen, where the adults are drinking coffee.

Now my wife is not nearly as evil as I am. But observing the kids turning the little one away, who could resist the temptation to turn him around and urge him to play with the older kids? Certainly, he'd rather be with them than us anytime. So this dance went on for a few rounds, with the confused toddler going back and forth, until my 11-year-old nephew decided it had gone on long enough, and threw down the gauntlet.

He came right into the kitchen, and did not say a word to any of us, having determined (correctly) that we were now the enemy and that further negotiation would be a waste of energy and valuable video-game time. He picked up the child's chair and plunked it directly in front of the TV.

Then he strapped the child into the chair, gave him a bottle of juice, and an unconnected video-game control. He and my daughter played the video game, the 16-month old sat contentedly thinking he was playing too, and this battle was over.

But the war continues.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Oh Boy!

Get 15 pounds of lard for only 17.49.

Mr. Bloomberg's Neighborhood

There's nothing quite like a good neighborhood school. The kids learn and play, the parents are happy the kids are there, and people all over want to move into that neighborhood. Why not?

Well, in Mayor Mike's New York, once people start moving in, these schools can get very crowded. So even though you've bought into a neighborhood, the value of which has risen due to the school, your kid may not get in.

...when Dr. Hsiung, a dermatologist, tried to register her son for kindergarten last month, she was shocked to hear that because of a surge in applications, he would be placed on a hold list, and could not be guaranteed a seat.

Oh well. Just because you've spent millions for a Manhattan condo, you think you can avail yourselves of the local public schools? Apparently, you don't grasp the concept of "Children First." You see, their children were firster than your children, so your children will just have to wait. Maybe in a few years, more people will move out, and then your children will be first. Then you can call them in their college dorms and let them know they qualify for PS 234.

The problem, apparently, is that Tweed can't figure out where to build schools. That's not their fault, of course. Under "Children First," it's the fault of the children, who invariably fail to notify the Tweedies before moving in. Doubtless, that's why 75% of high schools are overcrowded.

In my school, way, way over capacity, what they do is build walls in the middle of classrooms and declare the school capacity has increased. Or they take a closet, rename it a classroom, and declare it's increased even further.

One great thing is that, no matter how overcrowded it gets, Mr. Bloomberg takes more, more and more kids into this school. Once the kids hit high school, there's no such thing as too many kids. Just let them all in.

Best of all, when we don't build new high schools, we save valuable dollars for truly important projects.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Those Goshdarn Educational Think Tanks

Over at The Chancellor's New Clothes, they say they're just one big happy family.

It's Good to Be King

Short of that, it's good to be principal under Mayor Mike and Jolly Joel. There are so many things you can do--condemn veteran teachers to the purgatory of ATR (a joint production of Tweed and the UFT), make pedagogues jump when you say, or, even better, have them tutor your biological offspring as part of their daily routine. After all, you can only stretch 130K a year so far.

This is really cost-effective because when you live in Rockland County, as this principal does, tutoring fees can really get up there. So what, you ask, is the penalty for blatant personal corruption and getting city employees to neglect their work and do your personal bidding? Well, in Mayor Bloomberg's New York, it's only three thousand bucks. Can you beat that?

It's even more of a bargain when you consider that teachers fester in the rubber rooms for offenses as trivial as using DoE fax machines. Thanks to the 2005 contract, teachers can be not only sent to the rubber rooms, but suspended without pay or health insurance based on unsubstantiated accusations. But if you're principal, you can have a dozen corporal punishment complaints against you and just keep on doing that thing you do.

Apparently, though, teacher complaints are not taken as seriously as children's complaints here in Mr. Bloomberg's New York. Judge Judy says, "You know how you tell teenagers are lying? Their lips are moving." Mayor Bloomberg, however, assumes they speak absolute truth without exception, and will suspend teachers without pay on their say-so. The UFT, which signed off on the contract that permits it, seems to agree. In the US of A, you're innocent until proven guilty.

Unless you're a New York City teacher.

On the other hand, if you're a New York City principal, even being guilty means nothing more than a fine.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Maybe I Shouldn't Have Recorded that Unnatural Act...

...and posted it on Facebook. Apparently, it may not have been a good idea. It turns out that schoolchildren actually use those internets after all. This comes as a surprise to some teachers: one teacher in the story put it, her employer may be anxious about the posted matter, but "my work and social lives are completely separate. I just feel they shouldn't take it seriously. I am young. I just turned 22."

It appears if you wish to keep your private life private, posting it all over the net is not the optimal way to achieve that goal.

Second-grade teacher Marie Jarry recently won Howard Stern's "Ugliest Guy and Hottest Wife" contest. The $5,000 prize money had better be well-spent, since she's now jobless. Whether she resigned or was pushed out is questionable, and what your rights are may be open for debate. Still, it seems you might be wiser if you endeavored to keep your private life private.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Word Problems for Future Hedge Fund Managers

Here's a sample to get you started:

Your middle-class parents have a combined household income of $115,000. You receive an allowance of $20 per week. If you save all your allowance for two years, how much debt will you have to finance to hostilely take over your family? How will you structure the debt?

The rest are right here.

Thanks to reality-based educator.

John McCain Loves Our Veterans

That's why he's giving them a big middle-finger salute by rejecting the new GI Bill. So what if they risked their lives in the desert? In John McCain's America, that doesn't entitle them to an education.

They Think We're Idiots

They do.

Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein were able to get massive givebacks frpm us for less than cost of living. So it's not much of a surprise when New Teacher Project head Tim Daly writes a paper about "Mutual Benefits" and tells teachers, "We won't fire you. We'll just put you on unpaid leave."

In other words, teachers could have had no salary or benefits, but now they'll just have no salary or benefits. Despite Mr. Daly's incredible good will, even folks who adored the 2005 contract aren't buying that.

Nevertheless, thank goodness we have Tim Daly to offer us "mutual benefits." Mr. Daly also suggests that leaving veteran teachers up the creek without a paddle will put them in line with other American industries.

In case you haven't heard, people are losing their jobs and homes and living hand to mouth all over the country. And though Bill O'Reilly won't tell you this while he's "looking out for you," there's no better protection for working people than unions. Their demise has not helped most Americans.

Here's what Americans need---they need to get in line with us.

As for Chancellor Klein, in the preposterous thrall of trying to break a contract he himself created, the solution to the ATR problem is simple. Since you're paying these salaries anyway, offer to continue doing so. Let principals have them for free.

They'll all be working tomorrow.

Problem solved (if that's what you want).

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Carnival of Education is at...

a. home
b. work
c. the park
d. lunch
e. Bellringers

Mr. Klein Closes One School...

...and manages to screw up another.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Six Random Words

That's what the teacher asked for. The kids obliged, and while they wrote their poems, she gave them this one. The kids really liked it, and so did I. I hope you like it too:


by Abigail E. Myers

Saturday morning. Dark. Another basketball
game, another day with conceited
wealthy prep-school stars
walking on the court like they own it, red
uniforms clashing with the blue, the silent angel
point guard rolls out of bed.

He looks towards his unmade bed,
sighing, his limbs sore from basketball
practice last night. He thinks of the angel
who hangs around practices--some say she's conceited
but to him, she's a red
rose behind the chain-link fence, a star

under the fluorescent lights under the stars
in the sky. His Jordans are under the bed,
paired together with the red
shorts and jersey his mother still washes for his basketball
games. He tries not to be conceited,
but his colors haven't faded, the white as white as the robe of an angel,

his Jordans without a scuff. "Ma, you an angel,"
he murmurs, dragging them out. Today he has to be a star,
a tough game, their center a conceited
punk he had words with last week. He puts his bag on his bed
to pack it, the name of his basketball
team printed on it in red.

The girl--she said she'd come to the game and wear red.
In red, she looks like a twisted angel.
He didn't know she liked basketball
(or maybe it's just him--he wishes)--she makes him want to be a star.
He's ready to be free of the bed.
He's ready, maybe a little cocky, maybe a little conceited.

But you have to be conceited,
have to wear the team's red
with pride, with swagger. No time to make that bed--
time to get clean and sharp for that angel,
time to be a star,
a warrior, a knight of basketball.

The sky turns red, yellow finally pale blue with the angel of dawn.
He leaves the bed, the stars of night behind. It's okay to bounce
down that stoop, to be conceited if you got game, if you're all about the basketball.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Mayor Mike's Kinfolk Issue a Report

After reading widespread claims about Mayor Bloomberg's 81 million dollar bill for ATR teachers, it's nice to see that the UFT is finally speaking up. I only hope someone is listening.

The New Teacher Project, a completely objective organization (which just happens to have a bunch of DoE contracts) released a "fair and balanced" report calling for amendments to the UFT contract. Apparently, those goshdarn lazy ATR teachers don't want to look for jobs at all.

But the UFT says 194 of the 665 ATR teachers are actually working regular schedules full time. Not only that, but with the central system paying their salaries, principals have no incentive whatsoever to put them on payroll. Why not have a free teacher in perpetuity and buy that all-important plasma TV for the principal's office? Why not invest in daily donut deliveries to freshen up the place?

And while you're at it, why not let the mayor and his "fair and balanced" NTP quadruple the supposed cost of this enterprise? The UFT estimates it costs substantially less than the city claims.

The president of the New Teacher Project, Timothy Daly, said he knew of no way to collect data on precisely what ATR members are doing inside schools.
"Why didn't I hear about this before now if this is a widespread problem?" Mr. Daly said.

Interesting that Mr. Daly, despite having no knowledge of what ATR members did within schools, had no problem issuing reports and coming to conclusions about them. And Mr. Daly's conclusions are interesting indeed:

As we have seen in New York already, only a very small percentage of the entire teaching force (235 teachers out of approximately 79,000, or only about 0.3 percent) was unable to find a mutual consent position after a full year in the reserve pool.

Note that the "fair and balanced" approach of Mr. Daly's group is not to actually use the percentage of teachers in the reserve pool, but to compare it to the number of working teachers in New York City, the overwhelming majority of whom have never even been in the reserve pool. You know the old line about "liars, damned liars, and statisticians?"
Another example of Mr. Daly's approach to statistics can be found over at Eduwonkette's comment form.

38 percent of the most senior group of excessed teachers found a new position compared to 35 percent of the most novice.

Note that when Mr. Daly refers to "excessed teachers," he makes no distinction between new teachers excessed for declining enrollment in their subjects, and veteran teachers stuck in schools that got closed. That right there is misleading, as a one-year English teacher might easily go from school A to school B with little problem. It's different for the vet, who's gonna cost principal B over double what one-year teacher gets. And Mr. Daly acknowledges, somewhat, that new teachers are less likely to find themselves in the ATR pool:

...the most novice teachers were more than twice as likely to be reabsorbed by their former schools as the most senior teachers (44 percent compared to 18 percent).

Here, the statistics become even more questionable. There are simply more novice teachers than senior teachers these days. So if 38% of them found jobs, while 35% of novices found jobs, it's entirely possible that many more novices found jobs than senior teachers did. We don't know, of course, because in Mr. Daly's "fair and balanced" report, that info is unavailable to us.
Is there anyone naive enough to believe that if Mr. Daly's group came to different conclusions they'd still be riding the DoE gravy train?

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Heck with Gym

Mayor Mike's put whole wheat bread in the cafeterias, so city kids don't need to exercise anymore.

The Best

I really hope some teachers disagree with me, but I think the best thing to teach is ESL.

The kids really, really need to learn what you offer immediately (if not sooner), and in most cases you see very rapid progress. Some of my colleagues hate to teach beginners, but I love it. There's nothing quite like watching kids go from mute to conversational in a matter of months. There's nothing like watching them open up.

I have one girl who's been here a very short time, and who sadly got dumped into my regents prep class. She's very small, and she sits next to a guy who looks like a professional boxer. Oddly, she hits him all the time. I tell her to stop, but she says, "No, in China, hit means love." I don't know about that, but the guy who sits next to her clearly enjoys her attention.

The other day, he didn't show up. I said, "Sandra, did you finally kill Raymond?"

"No," she answered, "Not yet."

It's a little morbid, I guess, but it's a remarkable response from someone so new.

Last week I was out one day. My beginners questioned me closely to find out if I was cutting. They didn't believe me when I told them I saw a doctor. As it happened, I had a medical note, which I pulled out of my pocket and showed them. For a moment there was silence.

Then a girl who rarely speaks raised her hand and asked, "Do you want us to sign it?"

I couldn't stop laughing. It's remarkable to hear wit bordering on sarcasm from a kid who barely spoke a few months ago.

Do you love your subject as much as I love mine? I hope you do.


Sunday, May 04, 2008

Tag--You're It

Ms. Bluebird tagged me for this meme. I don't think I ever heard of that word before I started blogging. I'd accuse her of making it up, but I've seen other people use it before her. It's been a while, but I'm catching up. These are the rules:

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they've been tagged and asking them to read your blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you've posted your answer.

1) What was I doing 10 years ago?

Ten years ago I was in Arauca, Colombia, adopting a little girl. It was one of the very best things I ever did.

2) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order):

1. Get away from the computer

2. Visit relatives

3. Try to maneuver the DoE email system to enter grades

4. Make chili

5. Try to convince my daughter the chili is not too spicy to eat

3) Snacks I enjoy:

I don't actually eat a lot of snacks.

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

1. Collect preposterously expensive violins

2. Never go to New Jersey

3. Travel to many places that aren't Jersey

4. Stop worrying about that college fund

5) Three of my bad habits:

1. Quietly plotting revenge

2. Spending too much time on the internet

3. Obsessively collecting old live music

6) 5 places I have lived:

1. New Paltz, NY

2. Interlaken, Switzerland

3. East 6th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenue

4. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

5. Cuernavaca, Mexico

7) 5 jobs I have had:

1. paperboy

2. dishwasher

3. musician

4. guitar teacher

5. selling souvenirs at the Bear Pit in Bern, Switzerland

8) 6 peeps I wanna know more about:

I'd like to know more about all three presidential candidates. I'll add:

Michael Cleveland

Byron Berline, and the late

Bill Monroe

I tag:

1. Norm at Ednotes Online

2. Chaz

3. 15 More Years

4. PREA Prez

5. Pissed Off Teacher

6. Jose Vilson

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Where Credit is Due...

I doubt the Prof at Right Wing Nation and I are going to vote the same way in November. But the guy knows a good commercial when he sees one...

My Third Grade Teacher Was a Liar

According to Fox News, Abraham Lincoln debated abolitionist Frederick Douglass in 1858.

It may not be accurate, but as long as it's fair and balanced, that ought to be good enough for anyone.

Hat Tip to Abi

Update: It could have been worse.

For Women Only

It's your lucky day. Scientists want you to eat chocolate.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Today in Edwize

Ron Isaac, aka redhog, aka Irakundji, aka Harold Spinner, wrote a post today that I agree with 100%. It's unfortunate that Bloomberg and Klein want to play the ATR issue the way they're doing.

It's even more unfortunate that the UFT allowed them to do it. The way to address potential problems like this is with crystal-clear contractual agreements, not by allowing entirely predictable scenarios and then crying, "It's just not fair!"

And when the contract that enabled this situation came out, Mr. Isaac adored it unequivocally.

The UFT Responds

Over at Edwize, UFT President Randi Weingarten's internet mouthpiece is shocked, SHOCKED!, at the entirely predictable PR storm the Tweedies have kicked up over the Absent Teacher Reserves, or ATRs. It's true, of course, that the Tweedies are getting a lot of mileage complaining about these teachers. Also, most of the claims in the article appear entirely verifiable.

However, the biggest difference between Mr. Klein and Ms. Weingarten is that Mr. Klein has a long-term vision of what he wants to do with the city school system. Obfuscate and delay on class size, decent facilities, and overcrowding, but full speed ahead with charter schools (With 75% of high schools overcrowded, there's always room for charter schools), privatization, no-bid contracts, and illegal anti-labor antics in the name of saving children. Who cares if we signed a contract? Who cares if we wrote the clause we're now protesting? We're SAVING THE CHILDREN, FOR GOD'S SAKE!

In any case, the United Federation of Teachers, after having endorsed mayoral control, agreed to a 3rd reorganization in which principals have to count teacher salaries as part of building budgets. And they are stunned, apparently, when principals overwhelmingly choose new teachers for less than half the price. The only surprise I see here is that they fail to recognize their own monumental lack of foresight.

The article is interesting in that it offers a laundry list of all the things Tweed won't do. They won't talk to us. They won't negotiate with us. They won't do this, they won't do that.

Well, of course they won't. But the UFT happens to be a signatory to the very document that displaced all these people. The writer protests:

When the Department of Education entered into the staffing choice system in the 2005 contract — which gave teachers the power to choose their school and school principals the power to choose their teachers — the UFT negotiation team clearly stated that such a system would result in a pool of unassigned teachers. The DoE agreed this would happen, but said it was prepared to bear that price.

That sounds like a pretty rough situation. It clearly indicates, though, that the UFT had no problem accepting a pool of unassigned teachers. This is something the very same writer chose to conspicuously ignore when writing in praise of the "Open Market System" that's left so many senior teachers out in the cold.

This situation, again, was entirely predictable. The DoE's unwillingness to negotiate is nothing new. The UFT aristocracy's policy of giving away the sun and the moon, then feigning shock when the city asks for the stars, is simply preposterous. Its response to Tweed's well-oiled PR machine (and why on earth haven't we got one?), despite having pimped the 2005 contract like the best thing since sliced bread, is typically ineffectual.

The most frightening thing about the clueless UFT leadership, though, is its chronic inability to see fault in itself. It staunchly refuses to learn anything, an odd position for a union of teachers.

Indeed, after months of proclaiming that they were concerned with attracting experienced, accomplished teachers to schools in poor communities with the greatest educational challenges, the DoE is now pursuing a policy which would ensure precisely the opposite.

Of course, if you had not agreed to mayoral control, this might not be the case. Perhaps if you had not agreed to support a reorganization that made principals consider salary, that might not be the case. And certainly, if we had not given away every single professional improvement we'd gained with zero percent salary increases (each one fully supported by the UFT leadership), that would not be the case.

What experienced teacher would take the risk of going to a school which might well be closed down, knowing that if they were unable to find another assignment the DoE would have the power to fire them.

And why would they need to worry about it if the UFT had not dumped the UFT transfer plan? Why would they need to worry about it if the UFT had not scuttled seniority privileges for less than cost of living?

It all comes down to the vision thing. Bloomberg has it.

Ms. Weingarten and her merry band of patronage employees do not.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Thursday, May 01, 2008

If Mayor Mike Sez Your School Is PCB Free, It Is.

Only it isn't.

More Great Work from the Tweedies

Well, they've closed your neighborhood high school, and most others as well. So now you can go to any school you want. Of course, if you don't get in, you don't get in.

Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men?

Well, not just Lamont Cranston. Every ATR teacher knows what the Chancellor wants them to do (jump off a cliff), and the DoE is making noise about them yet again. If the Tweedies are to be believed, it's cost 81 million bucks to prop up their substitute teacher brigade. Now this was entirely predictable, and I've no doubt whatsoever that many (myself included) predicted it repeatedly.

Mr. Klein instituted this system along with UFT President Randi Weingarten, and made the additional decision to hire new teachers before he placed the displaced. To further ensure experienced teachers would never find employment, he instituted yet another reorganization in which he required principals to take salaries out of their budgets.

Now, of course, both Mr. Klein and Ms. Weingarten are shocked, SHOCKED!, to discover that principals choose to hire 45K newbies rather than 100K vets. Naturally, Mr. Klein wishes to renounce the contract he wrote and signed. After all, this is an emergency!

"We've got some teachers on our hands that are costing our city a lot of money [while not teaching]," Daly said. "This is not a sustainable system. ... It has to change."

Well, then, Mr. Daly, I've got a simple solution--why the hell don't you put these teachers to work? Why don't you reduce class sizes? Why don't you devote every single teacher to the task of teaching the children you very publicly claim to put first?

I'll tell you why--you'd lose a valuable scapegoat, and would have fewer targets at which to point your various fingers. You couldn't risk that, as "accountability" must be restricted to unionized workers, and must never, ever approach Tweed.

While we're on the subject of hypocrisy, note that the Tweedies, who purport to worry about fairness, adhere very strictly to the letter of agreements that lose money for others, like bus companies. They're feeling the pinch of huge rises in gas prices, and want to cut down on field trips. Oh, no, they say. Since they make no dent in our budget, why worry about yours?

Instead, the "Children First" crowd are cutting down the costs of school lunches, making them even worse, if such a thing is humanly possible.

I shudder to imagine the possibilities.

Thanks to Schoolgal