Saturday, February 28, 2009

Maverick Johny's Point Man

Joe the plumber is out suggesting members of Congress should be shot. None of that mamby-pamby freedom of speech nonsense for Joe. What a shame MJ couldn't get this guy a cabinet post.

And what about this Barack Obama character? Is he the antichrist, or just a new Hitler?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Another Great Victory at KIPP

I'm always amazed at the volume of talk about charter schools. Jay Matthews, cheerleader extraordinaire, can't get through a hundred words without demanding every sentient being on God's green earth enroll in a charter school immediately. So imagine my shock when I read this article, from San Franciso Education Examiner Caroline Grannan:
It seems to be getting little public attention that the principal of the KIPP school in Fresno has resigned after a lengthy school district report accused him of:

... slamming students against the wall, placing trash cans over their heads, forcing kids to crawl on their hands and knees while barking, and enforcing unreasonably strict bathroom rules, resulting in students having accidents and vomiting on themselves inside the classroom.

Wait a minute. I thought over at KIPP, principals walked on water. Isn't that what Jay said? It sounds like this guy treads on the kids, the ones charter supporters care so much about. They must be horrified by these accusations. Here's a comment Caroline received:

Mr. Tschang resigned because the last thing he wanted to happen was the school to close. Fresno Unified School District demanded Mr. Tschang's resignation. It would not have rechartered the school, otherwise. The good news is that KIPP Academy Fresno is the product of the work of hundreds of parents, teachers, and most importantly, students who will continue to bring the school the new heights of academic and character achievement.

He sounds like an admirable human being. I can't wait to see what new things the folks who brought us this principal have in store for those lucky kids. Personally, I wouldn't send my kid to KIPP on a bet, because I don't believe she needs to spend 200 hours a week in school, even if it gets her an extra point on some standardized test.

Would you take a chance on this guy with your kid? And if you were innocent, would you step down rather than face these charges?

Student (name deleted) said that in December of 2007, Mr. Tschang told him to get on his hands and knees and bark like a dog. (Name deleted) said it was a metaphor to get him to stop joking around in class.

… It was reported by Kim Kutzner that students who were late to school would not be allowed to eat their meals provided by the state. Student (name deleted) stated that Mr. Tschang told her, “People who are late don’t get to eat.”

… Parent (name deleted) reported that Mr. Tschang took student (name deleted) glasses away from him because (name deleted) was constantly adjusting his glasses. (Name deleted) is totally dependent on his glasses and cannot see without them. Mr. Tschang admitted to taking (name deleted) glasses away.

Never mind that kids who leave KIPP are not replaced, or that their statistics depend on those who remain, or the fact that all KIPP kids have parents willing to volunteer at school and have their kids go to class 200 hours a week.

If Jay Matthews says that KIPP serves the same kids public schools do, it must be true.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Worst Product Ever

You can find it right here.

A Call to Action – Seeking No-Bid Contract Whistleblowers in New York City Public Schools

By Malia Politzer

Since Mayor Bloomberg took office in 2002, no-bid contracts have ballooned from roughly $700,000 per year to $40 million.

We are three graduate students at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University investigating why this jump in no-bid contracts within Department of Education took place.

By filing a Freedom of Information Law request, we’ve acquired a list of every no-bid registered with the city comptroller’s office during the span of the Bloomberg administration. But sources tell us that there are even more no-bid contracts that are not filed with comptroller.

Here’s where you come in. We’ve been doing our homework—but there are hundreds of no-bid contracts, and only three of us. We need your help to narrow the scope of our investigation.

Linked here is a complete list of no-bid contracts filed with the City Comptroller’s office under mayoral control. This second list is narrowed down to no-bid contracts for technology, teacher trainings, testing, and data-collection.

We’re requesting that concerned teachers, parents, officials within the DOE—or anyone else with inside knowledge and an interest in improving education—take a look at this list and tell us if there are any contracts that they think ought to be further investigated.

Our focus is on data, testing, and teacher trainings. Who’s making money off of these contracts, and should they be? Are the contracts going to the right vendors? Are any companies getting the contracts because of insider-connections (a wife, friend, golfing-buddy etc.) Are testing, trainings or data-taking actually effective in public schools?

Are you educator who is suspicious about a why your school is using a specific testing system or data collection method? Are there certain teacher trainings that feel like a waste of time, and that you think providers aren’t qualified to give? Or perhaps you are a vendor who lost a contract with the DOE you feel you should have gotten? Do you know people who used to work in contracting in the DOE? Email me.

You can reach me anytime at my email address: .

We also want to talk to parents, teachers, students, and administrators about execution – are these no-bids getting the bang for their buck? Are the teacher trainings beneficial, or a waste of time? Are that data-taking initiatives helpful or hurtful? Testing?

If you have information, experience, or opinions on these issues – please take a look at these contracts, and contact me directly. Thank you for your help.

Complete no-bid contrast list:
Narrowed-down by topic:

I Don't Know Much About Medicine, but I Know What I Like

That's about the size of it for hundreds of thousands of twenty-somethings here in New York. If you have no health insurance, fall off a motorcycle and rip your arm off, you go home and sew it back on. It's not the best of all possible worlds, but if you don't have health insurance, you know a visit to the hospital will be five thousand bucks on a good day.

So you stumble around and hope one of your buddies has a jar of whatever drug you need, because Lord knows you can't afford it.

As things stand now, I believe you can claim your kids on your insurance until they turn 18, or 21 if they're enrolled in college. How many 21-year-old kids score jobs with full health insurance? To my way of thinking, anything less than 100% is unacceptable. Of course, you can't get there immediately.

Governor David Paterson, though, has finally come up with a good idea, and it's about time. He wants to allow us to keep our kids covered until they're 29. That would help about 10% of the uninsured twenty-somethings, and you have to admit it's better than nothing. Not much better, but at least it's something. The Times says two dozen other states already do this, and it's nice to see we're getting with the program.

Now if we can only convince part-time UFT President Randi Weingarten that privatization of Emblem Health is an abysmal idea, we'll really have gotten somewhere. It's unfortunate that Ms. Weingarten, despite the market's recent performance, still worries about how much the IPO will benefit her patronage mill, while few doubt privatization will result in city workers paying more and receiving less from their most popular plans, GHI and HIP.

Do you doubt it? When they merged, there was talk of improving benefits for subscribers. But GHI subscribers still don't have the option of HIP-style care with no co-pay, and HIP subscribers haven't got the wide variety of doctors available to those with GHI.

Tell your state legislators you support Governor Paterson's plan, and would like to see it enacted ASAP.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

At Microsoft's Xbox Live...

...lesbians need not apply.

Don't Tread on Me

Some days, Maria and I get along fine. She doesn't do a whole lot of work, or pay much attention, but we're usually friendly. I don't know exactly why she can't concentrate. Once I sent her to the nurse when she appeared to be talking to herself, and no, she wasn't wearing one of those bluetooth things.

Other times, we don't get along that well. For example, when she walks into the trailer five minutes late, I'm not happy at all, and I want her and everyone else to know it. Yesterday, as she walked in, saying, "I'm not late," I did not have a whole lot of patience. I asked her to sit down, and raise her hand if she had any questions. She immediately raised her hand, and I proceeded to ignore her utterly. Two minutes later, she became terribly ill with a headache, and demanded to go to the nurse. "You can't say no," she instructed me.

I didn't say anything, at all, and shortly thereafter she wrote herself a pass and brought it up for me to sign. When I didn't respond, she walked out of the classroom.

"She showed me," I announced. Then I went to the phone and dialed her home number. I got her dad and explained to him in Spanish what had just happened. He was not pleased, and I'm certain Maria had a less than joyful homecoming. More importantly, every kid in the room knew exactly how long it took me to react to such nonsense.

I explained to my class that it was a very bad idea to give me a hard time if their parents spoke Spanish. If their parents spoke English, that was even worse.

"That's true," said a young woman from Pakistan, who had learned from experience.

"What if they speak French?" asked a curious girl in back of the room.

"Well, I'm good friends with Madame Rosenberg, and she'll speak to your parents for me. She's a little nicer than I am, but not that much."

We had a discussion about who I knew and which languages they speak, and the Albanian kid in the second row finally had me stumped. I don't know anyone who speaks Albanian, and I'm pretty sure I never even met anyone from Albania until this year, when for some reason, I got three kids from Albania.

"OK, you win. But the last time you cut class I called your mom. She didn't understand everything, but she did understand you weren't in school. I notice you haven't missed a class since then."

He nodded gravely.

You can't win 'em all. But you can let the kids know you'll do everything within your power, and usually they'll give someone else a hard time. Usually, that person will be your colleague who's too busy to make phone calls and terrorize everyone who steps out of line.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Da Chicago Superfans

AT&T charges $27,000 to watch that Bears game on your laptop.

Ms. Weingarten Holds a Rally

We've seen some remarkable things over the last few years. We've seen part-time UFT President Randi Weingarten support and enable mayoral control. Though it's been an unmitigated disaster for teachers and kids in NYC, we've yet to see her oppose it, preferring to request a modification here and there. After all, a thousand teachers in the ATR purgatory she and Mr. Klein negotiated doesn't call for bold steps. Nor did a mountain of givebacks in exchange for a compensation increase that failed to meet cost of living.

When Mayor Bloomberg ran for a second term, when a third reorg actively hurt senior teachers, when Joel Klein was being considered as US Education Secretary, when Bloomberg hijacked the will of the voters, there was no reason to stand up. Charter schools exploded, with blatantly unfair advantages, but charters were good. In fact, Ms. Weingarten went out and started a few. Not only that, but she actively courted Green Dot, a charter outfit that boasts its teachers have neither tenure nor seniority privileges. Yet they're unionized (why, I have no idea.) So now, after actively building an unfair playing field, after helping Mayor Bloomberg paint targets on your workplace and mine, she wants to take a stand.


Well, bad though Green Dot may be for working teachers, its duespayers' money is as green as yours. Why not unionize KIPP, a la Green Dot, and squeeze a few bucks out of their 200-hour-a-week staff for a few years before they die of exhaustion?

But the latest threat by Mayor Bloomberg has gone beyond the pale. How could he even speak of firing 15,000 teachers? Do you know how much that represents in dues? This could have a seriously detrimental effect on the UFT budget. Ms. Weingarten worries about things like that. She has no problem with Emblem Health, which represents the overwhelming majority of city workers, privatizing. Is Ms. Weingarten concerned your costs will go north while your benefits head south? Of course not. She wants to know what portion of the IPO will end up with her ever-hungry patronage mill.

Because, ladies and gentlemen, the UFT treasury is vital. When it comes to mere teachers' issues, she and the patronage mill would just as soon have a little wine and cheese. But keep your hands off her dues collection, Mayor Bloomberg. That's where patronage hacks draw the line.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I'm Glad I Have a Hammer

Today's guest post is written by Graycie, writer of Today's Homework, one of my very favorite teacher blogs (though it's been sadly silent lately). Graycie blogs from the Blue Ridge Mountains, but administrators there seem every bit as capricious as those in the Big Apple.

[Background note: In our system, everything that must be delivered, filled out, taken home and returned, taught, collected, or covered in an assembly is done through English classes. We miss days of learning time throughout the year because of this. We also follow a block schedule, which means that classes last for an hour and a half, and we see classes every other day. This means that when we have to do something “today,” it means that two days are thrown out of whack, not just one. I see juniors on A days and seniors on B days.]

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

As we all do, I arrived at school this morning with my shiny lessons plans all ready for the week. Yeah. Rookie mistake.

Brand new first-thing email from Downtown Admin told us that we were to give an online survey on School Safety to sophomores and juniors. This School Safety survey had to be done today and tomorrow.

There was no computer lab schedule for this surprise-no-warning survey. Apparently teachers would have to battle mano-a-mano for lab access. Once in the lab, the kids would have to type in a web site address of over 70 characters (I counted), liberally sprinkled with indistinguishable ones and lower case Ls, dashes, hyphens, and underlines. We were told that travel time to the labs, the fistfight for lab time, taking the survey, and return to classrooms would take about ten minutes. My dear children would take twenty minutes to type in the address and a couple would still never get it.

The bell rang, the kids came in and settled, the Moment of Silence began and . . .

Wait! Here comes my hall principal with news: the survey is for sophomores and seniors. And it’s not online, it’s for scantrons. She gives me hard copies of the survey. No more online. Good, I don’t think I could take Ms. S next door in the computer lab fight; she works out. It’s a big packet, a long survey; no way they’ll finish in ten minutes.

We stand for the pledge, sit for the announcements, I start to handout scantrons sheets and . . .

Wait! Here comes my department chair explaining that there are over 90 questions on this survey. He also gives me chocolate to avoid teacher-meltdown. It was Ghirardelli chocolate. That is a direct indication of the severity of the potential for high blood pressure, brain explosion and consequent screaming. No, I don’t mean the kids.

I surreptitiously eat the chocolate while the kids begin the survey. They are startled by some of the questions concerning their own personal experiences with alcohol, drug use, and the frequency of their sexual activity. Whoa. School Safety?

Wait! Here comes Ms. S from next door to tell me that this isn’t a School Safety survey; it’s a Youth Risk Behavior survey. (Oh. That explains the scary questions and the ultra-privacy built into the procedures.) I explain to the kids and reassure them of anonymity, privacy, and purpose and . . .

Wait! my hall principal is back to tell me that while this survey is for seniors, the original online School Safety survey is still to be given to the juniors and sophomores. Both A and B days shot for my kids and I’ll still have to fight Ms. S for use of the computer lab. (Aren’t the sophomores and their teachers lucky? By having to take both surveys, they have achieved the Survey Jackpot.)

All of this unplanned, un-notified, unheard of craziness is from Downtown Admin. None of it is in-house. It is insane. I wonder if the people who work Downtown have ever been inside a working school. I nibble more chocolate.

Tomorrow when I take my juniors to the computer lab in the morning, I’m going to carry my hammer.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sub of the Year

A week ago I couldn't come in, and the sub not only took attendance, but photocopied the attendance sheets so I'd know who showed and who didn't. That's never happened to me before, but I've only been teaching 24 years. I've got to say something nice about that sub to the main office. His or her handwriting was illegible, so I haven't got an actual name. However, at least that handwriting wasn't as bad as mine.

I've got the handwriting to be a doctor. The only thing standing in my way is an utter lack of scientific talent. However, I read a long conversation about how certification is a big waste of time over at Gotham Schools, so maybe I should just hang up a shingle.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

More Expert Ideas from Jay Matthews

Jay Matthews, who knows everything there is to know about education, has unleashed yet more brilliance upon us. Personally, after learning the seven myths about KIPP, I thought I'd heard everything there was to know. But there's more.

Jay has seven recommendations:

1. Why can't those darn public schools do what charter schools do? Charter schools are better in every way. Kids need more charter schools. Ask those public schools why they don't do what charter schools do. Jay visited a charter school last week that does what he wants them to do, and this clearly suggests that public schools are not doing it.

2. Stop asking for high averages for kids wanting to enter advanced placement courses. So what if the kids are failing? Clearly what they need is more difficult work. Remediation is a big waste of money, and let the kids not only pull themselves up by their bootstraps, but put them in AP courses. If they fail it must be because they aren't in charter schools.

3. Now that we've dumped low-performing kids into AP classes, we should pay to have them take AP tests. If they fail, it will prove conclusively that our public high schools are failing and that all students without exception should be shipped off to KIPP schools, which Jay wrote a book about.

4. Why the hell are we sending kids to remedial classes in college? After all, we've put them in AP courses in high school whether or not they did well in regular classes. Since we ignored their performance in high school and pushed them on whether or not they were capable, why should we change horses in midstream? Now that we've exposed their unionized public school teachers as blithering incompetents, now that we've sent more kids to KIPP, our job is done. Jay has no facts whatsoever to support his suspicion that it's a good idea, but what the heck, it's never stopped him before.

5. And now that we're on the subject, let's take all the kids who failed placement tests and move them ahead anyway. Jay has a "hunch" that "some professors" might help the kids pass. And what the hell, everyone knows that no one gets frustrated by being in classes for which they're utterly unprepared, and that no one ever drops out and loses a college education for that reason.

6 and 7. Cut off federal funding for colleges that don't follow Jay's suggestions. Some have no research to support their policies. Making policy without facts to back it up is utterly unacceptable. Unless you're Jay Matthews (See step 4).

Personally, I'm thankful we have experts like Bill Gates and Jay Matthews to let us know what's good for us. Every day, when I view the garbage bins from the trailer behind my 250% capacity building, I thank goodness for all the "reforms" these great thinkers have brought to me and my lucky students. In fact, maybe I should stop teaching them English as a second language and just move them into Shakespeare classes. This ESL stuff is probably just some cash cow for people like me, and everyone probably knows English already anyway.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Can't Get that DTV Converter to Work?

Why not just shoot at the TV? If it was good enough for Elvis, it ought to be good enough for anyone.

There You Go Again

NYC Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is pontificating once again on the awesome difficulty of getting certified as a teacher. He's rolled out at least three variations of his proposal, but he's unaware of the thirty-year city flirtation with hiring anyone with a pulse, in order to keep providing city kids with teachers paid the lowest wage in the area. That tradition continues, though the pay difference is not quite as egregious as it once was. Of course, in these dire economic times, it's easier to find people than it once was.

Despite what the likes of Kristof and Gates say, I don't believe teachers fail to improve after two or three years. I'm always learning better ways to deal with kids. You can't help but do that if you're paying attention. How many parents do a better job with their second child, or their second teenager, than with their first?

I replied to Mr. Kristoff the first time I saw his idea, and I see no reason not to answer him exactly the same way. Here's my response as it originally appeared May 5th, 2006:

The Nice Man Cometh

Mr. S. came into our school with a doctorate in mathematics. That's right. A doctorate. I haven't got one, and I'm duly impressed by those things--I kid you not.

He could make the slide rule sing. He could calculate pi to the umpteenth decimal. He understood all that trig and calculus that eluded the likes of me in high school.

Mr. S. walked into his classroom, started writing on the board, and an egg mysteriously appeared on it. Pop! Just like that. Mr. S. turned and asked who threw the egg, but received no response. It was an inauspicious beginning, particularly for someone who'd gone through NYC's most recent response to the 30-year teacher shortage, the Teaching Fellows program.

So why, his AP pondered, couldn't this fellow teach? Perhaps it was that he could not relate to the kids. Perhaps it was that he had no sense of humor. Perhaps it was because he'd never been in front of 34 kids before. Who knows? But after repeated conferences, repeated suggestions, and repeated calls from irate parents, nothing changed.

A student of mine, a Spanish speaker with a nice personality, asked if I would talk to Mr. S. Apparently, she had always been good in math, but was failing his class. I found him in the teacher's cafeteria. He apologized profusely, as though I had some sort of authority over him (I did not, nor was I pretending to).

I tried to ask how we could help this girl, my student, and he looked like he was holding back tears. In fact, I wondered whether he was going to take the fork he had in his hand and suddenly drive it into his heart. Mr. S. looked like the unhappiest human being I'd set eyes on in some time.

I thanked Mr. S., hightailed it out of there, and later discovered that all the students in his class were failing. That's too much to attribute to juvenile delinquency, and I was sure at least one of his students was trying. My efforts to get my kid transferred to another teacher were in vain, unfortunately.

Why am I telling you this? Nick Kristof, op-ed writer for the New York Times, thinks that teacher certification is preventing ($) Colin Powell and Meryl Streep from becoming teachers. While that may be true, the fact is they have not expressed the remotest interest in this pursuit. Kristof is happy that women have other options (so am I), and feels that results in a decline in quality. He's right. But despite impressions to the contrary you may have gleaned from watching Sex in the City, women are not deserting the profession because they hate kids. The only way is to lure better teachers, regardless of sex, is to pay them. It works like a charm in Nassau County.

Furthermore, it's idiotic to suggest we'll draw better teachers by lowering standards. We need to cut the nonsense, rid ourselves of self-absorbed education professors who wouldn't know an urban high school if they worked across the street from it for twenty years, offer practical instruction, and raise standards.

How on earth is lowering standards going to get us better teachers? New York City's been doing precisely that for thirty years, and during that time it's gone from one of the best systems in the world to one of the worst.

We need people who actually know how to reach kids. Without that, all the doctorates in the world won't make a difference.

Lowering standards, unfortunately, does not draw Meryl Streep, or Colin Powell, Jr.

It draws Mr. S.

Do you want him teaching your kid?

Related: EdNotes Online, Gotham Schools, Schools Matter, Diane Ravitch

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Nowhere to Run

Mayor Bloomberg, a lifelong Democrat (until he eyed the competition in the primary and decided to run as a Republican) has run into a little problem. As you may know, hizzoner renounced the GOP and registered as an independent a while back, thinking it would help him when he ran for President. When polling appeared less than promising, Mayor Mike decided to throw in his lot with the term-limited city council, and overturn the term limits city voters have twice affirmed.

But waddya know? The Republicans have decided since he dumped them, they don't much care for him. Now he wants to run as a Democrat, but things aren't looking that good for him there either. What's a billionaire mayor to do?

Accountable Talk has a few suggestions. What do you think Mayor Bloomberg should do?

Related: The redoubtable Augustus Smith-Smythe airs his mind at Billionaires for Educational Reform.

Mr. Gates Unleashes the Parasites

Over at's blog, they posted a speech by gazillionaire education reformer Bill Gates. Mr. Gates, as you may know, runs around giving seed money to his pet projects, which are then dumped on taxpayers in perpetuity. One of Gates' signature issues was small schools, which he later decided was not such a good idea after all. Oops. Too bad we closed and renamed every high school in the Bronx.

It was rough sitting through twenty minutes of Gates. For the first ten, he discussed the progress we've made against disease, and released a bunch of mosquitos into the crowd to demonstrate just how many of them wouldn't get malaria nowadays. After the talk of mosquitos, Gates discussed the other problem that, in his view, was ruining the world--teachers.

Gates clearly knows very little idea about what he's discussing. The situations regular public school teachers deal with are various, and the notion that experience plays no part in dealing with what comes up is preposterous. Nonetheless, he's firmly convinced by something he read somewhere that teachers do not improve after three years. Personally, I've got 24, and the way I handle a possible incident in my classroom is much different than the way I would've handled it twenty years ago. In fact, I don't remember the last noteworthy incident in my classroom. As a newer teacher, they occurred on a fairly regular basis.

Of course, unscripted incidents don't occur in Mr. Gates' world. When Gates speaks of improvement, he means only rising test scores. I think my experience helps with that too, but Gates says it doesn't, and he has more money than I do, so I must be wrong. Nonetheless, the notion that test scores are all we deal with is idiotic, as is the notion that just anyone can control 34 city kids at a time. Gates then derides Master's degrees, as they also fail to increase test scores. Perhaps he's right, but less educated teachers, frankly, are not what I want for my kid. Of course, they're not what Gates wants for his kids either, who wouldn't attend public schools on a bet.

What is Gates' answer to the daunting problem of test scores? Well, we need merit pay, of course, and KIPP schools Why? Well, when he visited a KIPP school, the teacher ran around the class, made sure everyone was participating. It was amazing! He'd never seen anything like it! Clearly the answer is to increase the school week by 50% and eliminate unions. Also, no more raises for teachers after three years. We could just replace them and make the used ones work at Walmart. Jobs like that will ensure a bright future for all the kids he cares so much about.

The notion that public school teachers do not run around and engage kids is about as preposterous as any Gates set forth, as is the notion that such behavior is extraordinary. I do it every day. Still, since I can't be fired at will by Michelle Rhee, I'm part of the problem. After all, if I could be fired for writing this, there'd be fewer voices against Gates, and that's what democracy is all about, isn't it?

It's telling that Gates speaks of public school teacher retention, but neglects utterly to examine KIPP in that respect. It's interesting that the KIPP population, consisting 100% of kids with proactive parents, is compared directly to public school, which takes absolutely everyone. Even more interesting, Gates failed to note the dropout rate at KIPP, or the fact that those who leave are not replaced.

Sorry, but it's a hell of a lot easier to control and maintain a class under a private school or KIPP environment, and I don't think for a minute Mr. Gates, self-styled expert, could handle my kids or my job. For one thing, he just stood there lecturing, and failed to differentiate instruction for the folks who each paid 6000 bucks to listen to him.

It's nice to have billionaires, whose kids wouldn't attend public schools on a bet, running around stating what they think should be done about public education. Gates, of course, has no idea why the Nassau schools five minutes away from NYC do as well as KIPP without union-busting, or kids and teachers working preposterously long weeks. I could tell him, if he weren't already so in love with Jay Matthews. In fact, he thrilled the audience by giving them free copies of Matthews' book about KIPP.

Personally, I heard nothing new or surprising from Gates. His description of the KIPP classrom sounded like no big deal at all. I've watched his "reforms" in action, and aside from much-enhanced PR and larger-scale rigging of stats, there's just not a whole lot to jump up and down about. We can do better for our kids, and it's unfortunate that their futures are, to whatever extent, in the hands of trigger-happy galoots like Bill Gates.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Rupert Murdoch's NY Post compared President Obama to a dead chimpanzee in a cartoon on Page Six today.

I kid you not.

That's it to the left.

Now I'm sure the usual wingnut apologists like Billo the Clown, Comedian Rush Limbaugh and others will claim the cartoon is absolutely NOT racist nor is it comparing Obama to a chimp.

But those of us who live on Planet Earth know better.

That's a disgusting piece of bigotry published by Murdoch and his minions.

Not enough bad stuff can happen to Rupert Murdoch, the cartoonist himself, and the entire gang of editorial people who signed off on printing that cartoon.


The good news is, Murdoch's company, News Corp., lost $6.4 billion dollars for fiscal Q2 and started laying off employees.

Generally I don't like to see people lose their jobs, but when it comes to the venomous degenerates who work for Murdoch losing their jobs, can't say I feel too sorry for 'em.

The cartoonist who created this piece of racist crap, Sean Delonas, should definitely lose his job.

So should the editor or editors at the Post who signed off on it.

The bad news is, it probably won't happen.

But a couple more quarters like fiscal Q2 and the entire Murdoch operation will end up in the garbage dumpster anyway.

And won't that be a great day for civil society.

Mr. Bloomberg Retrains Wall Streeters... the tune of $45 million. Gawker suggests several new career paths, including my personal favorite-- "fast-talking sellers of dubious 'get rich quick' ideas to financially unsophisticated marks."

Jay Matthews Improves Education for Free!

Jay Matthews, who knows everything about education, has offered seven brilliant ideas on how we can improve it without spending money. After all, with the state of big-screen TVs and affordable home theater, why should we fritter away our hard-earned cash on educating our children?

1. Stop spending money on textbooks or giving young kids homework. Just ask them to do a little reading with their parents. It's well-known that all parents, without exception, will participate if asked. To make sure this is done, the teachers can ask a few questions about what they read. It's obvious to experts like Mr. Matthews that kids never lie to their teachers or invent stories about having done things they haven't actually done.

2. We need more cut-rate charter schools. They're cheaper. Of course, they aren't cheaper in Mr. Matthews' district, or in NYC, but somewhere, they're cheaper. And because they're not unionized, you don't need to pay teachers as much. You can say you're paying them more, and ignore the fact they work twice as many hours. One good thing is these teachers don't last very long, so you never need to worry about them reaching higher pay steps. And if they get anywhere close, you can always fire them, since they don't have any job protection whatsoever. Plus you don't have to offer them the same health benefits those expensive unionized teachers are always carrying on about. Of course, this suggestion has nothing whatsoever to do with the book Matthews just wrote about KIPP.

3. Have teachers call parents and tell them their kids are doing well. It's well-known that teachers never call parents. We're technologically backward and afraid of damaging our fingers. It's never occurred to me to call a parent. In fact, I wasn't even sure what a telephone was until I looked it up on Wikipedia. And though cellphones are prohibited in NYC classrooms, like most classrooms, you should never hesitate, as a role model, to take yours out and use it in front of your students.

4. Have parents call or email to praise teachers. Since teachers are taken for granted, this will be a fine thing. Who needs salary increases? It's well known that teachers don't have bills, mortgages, expenses, or children of their own. A little pat on the back ought to be good enough for any self-respecting educator.

5. Make kids read one nonfiction book before graduation. It's common knowledge that kids don't read anything unless they're forced to do so. So why not vary their misery by forcing them to read something that isn't fiction? It's unheard of for anyone to make a kid read a biography or memoir, the stacks of them in every bookroom I've ever seen notwithstanding. It's well-known they're placed there only to class up the joint.

6. Teachers should call on all their students. Most teachers make it a habit to ignore their students, speaking with them only to demand money for writing recommendation letters. But apparently, students benefit when you talk to them. Apparently, letting the kids sit like 34 bags of potatoes is not optimal. Who woulda thunk it? Where would we be without such expert advice?

7. Give teachers time off without pay. It appears that, when you don't pay teachers, you save money. And Jay Matthews is willing to walk the walk by allowing his wife to take one week off. This places his family in the position of having to get by on a mere Washington Post columnist income, plus 51 weeks worth of whatever his wife earns. So why can't you teachers make do with a little less? Matthews, who makes many times your salary, is willing to put off the 68-inch plasma for a few weeks, so why should you be squawking just because they're repossessing your Hyundai? It's bad for the environment anyway.

Thanks, Mr. Matthews, for your great ideas. And anytime you need more, just come visit NYC, where we save by having the highest class sizes in the state. We overload schools well beyond double capacity, and don't bother to clean or repair them. If there's any vacant space, we dump charter schools in rather than relieve our public schools. And we dump kids anywhere, closets, hallways, bathrooms, and what-have-you. We use mayoral control to exclude absolutely every expensive voice from the decision-making process.

You could learn a lot from us.

See also: Curmudgeon

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What Fresh Atrocity Will Today Bring?

How about Starbucks instant coffee for a dollar an envelope?

Bloomberg Is as Bloomberg Does

In America, we can't afford to make sure everyone gets health care. We can't have the government cover everyone, like they do in every other industrialized nation. That's why the no. 1 cause of bankruptcy is catastrophic medical emergency. We're all cowboys and we gotta do what we gotta do. Except for big corporations that we can't afford to lose. You can die for lack of help, but they can't.

As for public schools, those atrocious drags on Steve Forbes' tax bill, Mayor Bloomberg is standing up and doing something about them. He's taking a look at them, and if they don't meet his standards, he's closing them. That's what happens in private industry. You fail, you die.

OK, well, he's not exactly closing them. He's renaming them, adding five layers of administration to replace one, selecting all new kids, and patting himself on the back for doing a great job. Never mind that he compares one-fifth of a school to the old school, or that the kids in the new school speak English and don't have special ed. The important thing is we made progress, and we have to keep it going.

In Mayor Bloomberg's New York, though, this doesn't apply to private schools. When they fail, we save them, like the banks. Just because they can't sustain themselves is no reason for them to close. We'll just make them charter schools. The beautiful thing about charter schools is that they are absolutely fair. They only take students from an incredibly accurate lottery system, and they never discourage anyone from entering during interviews, and the tests they give before entry are utterly meaningless. Did I mention they have a lottery and are absolutely fair?

Except, of course, when they aren't:

Mr. Bloomberg has pledged that students currently enrolled at the Catholic schools would be guaranteed places in the new charters...

So we won't bother with a lottery, and the kids will keep going to their private school, and it will be exactly like a public school. Everyone wins. The kids keep their private school, and there's no more tuition, because taxpayers now pick up the tab. And, of course, the school will contain kids whose parents are so proactive about their education that they were willing to pay to send them to private schools. And this is completely fair, because in Mr. Bloomberg's New York, the only variable is the teacher.

It's well-known that private school teachers are more highly skilled than public school teachers, and were they to be taken out of their quiet private schools and sent to the worst schools in the city, all discipline problems would cease instantly and passing rates would triple. And don't worry about those nasty state laws prohibiting the conversion.

As Mayor Bloomberg demonstrated when he overturned the term limits bill voters had twice affirmed, laws are for the little people.

Monday, February 16, 2009

How To Avert Economic Armageddon

With unemployment approaching 8%, the world financial system in danger of collapse from an overload of debt, and economists like Nouriel Roubini (the man known as Dr. Doom who correctly called the housing market and U.S. economic collapse when most other economists and analysts were still making a living as "permabulls") claiming the recessionary downturn could easily slide into a long and painful depression, right wing Ayn Randites like the Wall Street Journal op-ed writers, FOX News bobbleheads and "scholars" at wingnut thinktanks like the Heritage Foundation and the Manhattan Institute have a solution for how to fix economic Armageddon.

Make those lazy, good-for-nothing public employees pay for their own health care and give up their pensions for oh so valuable 401(k) accounts!

You see, the housing bubble and subsequent housing market collapse wasn't caused by greedy bankers at Citigroup, Countrywide, Bank of America and other financial institutions who lent out money to anybody with a pulse so that the greedy real estate industry could inflate the prices of homes way above what Americans could actually afford given that real incomes for 95% of the country have declined during the Bush years.

No, the housing buble and subsequent collapse was created by lazy, good-for-nothing public employees who make less money in the public sector but supplement that income with a health care and pension package.

And you see, the financial crisis that threatens to destroy some of the largest financial institutions in the world wasn't created by crooked bankers, hedge fund managers/education reformers and other Masters of the Universe on Wall Street who overleveraged themselves and their funds 40 to 1 on insane amounts of risk all the while knowing that buddies like Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke and George W. Bush would make sure there was a golden parachute for them (currently known as a TARP) that would make sure the only people on the hook for the mess would be their stockholders, clients and U.S. taxpayers..

Nope - it was caused by lazy, good-for-nothing public employees with health care and a pension.

Who knew? Certainly not me - a good-for-nothing, lazy public employee who works in a school with few working computers (even fewer of which are hooked up to working printers), elevators that are always broken (but to be fair, walking up 9 flights of stairs a day has helped keep me trim and svelte - thanks Mayor Bloomberg!!!) and a heating system with two settings - off and HOT AS F#$%ING HELL!!!!

Lucky for us that "scholars" such as Nicole Gelinas at the wingnut welfare office known as the Manhattan Institute know better:

Ms. Gelinas says that the city cannot expect to rely on Wall Street bouncing back, given Washington’s move to curtail bonuses and impose tougher oversight. So what is needed, she says, is a long-term change in mentality. And she says that it is incumbent upon the city and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, whom she has criticized in the past as lacking fiscal discipline, to persuade everyone — residents, city workers and businesses — that they must seriously scale back on their lifestyles and their expectations.


As a result, the city needs to tighten its belt in the right places — for instance, tackling the rising costs of pensions and health benefits for city employees — without hurting critical services like mass transit and police.

You see, public employees make too much money and expect too many benefits - you know, like health care and the retirement plan they've paid into - and they need to be disabused of these notions right now.

It's not as if public employees like cops, fire fighters or teachers actually do anything worthwhile for society and let's face it, any idiot can do these jobs.

It's not like being a "scholar" at a wingnut institute funded by right-wing interests who gets every prognostication about the economy wrong or a financial CEO who loses hundreds of billions of dollars a year then applies for hundreds of billions of TARP money so that he can hand out bonuses to himself and his cronies and/or redecorate his office for a $1 million+.

No, those kinds of jobs take talent and skill.

So thank god Ms. Gelinas is here to set us straight about who is too blame for this mess and just how we can fix it.

Give out bonuses to Wall Streets even if you have to do it with federal bailout money (it's good for the NYC economy!!!) and curtail all those yummy, yummy giveaways to those lazy, good-for-nothing public employees.

As CNBC economic "expert" Jim Cramer (you know, the guy who has been calling a housing bottom for over a year and thought sub-prime mortgage house Countrywide was a "buy" just a few months before it went belly-up) might said - BOOYAH!!!

No Progress at All

That's the status of western civilization, from my perspective, for the last few decades at least. Yesterday I went to a guitar show at Brookdale Community College in Darkest New Jersey, and it seems to me that, while the hairstyles may be different, culture has failed utterly to advance. For example, I watched a college student excitedly play Pinball Wizard on his acoustic guitar in one of the corridors.

As far as I know, that's what eleventh graders were doing to impress their girlfriends back in 1972. So if college kids are doing it now, I don't know what to say. Not only that, but scores of college students were playing Rock Band on big TVs in the student center. Have we actually moved backwards? I mean, there they are, the stewards of our future, playing fake 35-year-old music on fake guitars and fake drums. What's the world coming to?

On the bright side, my friend Paul Unkert, who used to build Kramer guitars for Eddie Van Halen, is now selling his own line of guitars, both in cheap Asian versions and less-cheap American versions (No, I don't own stock in his company). Some people, at least, are buying real guitars. Plus he gave my daughter a cool black T-shirt proclaiming, "Rock and roll is my religion."

All in all, though, I'm less than optimistic.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Be the First on Your Block... pick up Sony's latest technological marvel.

It Was a Very Good Year

Here's a travel deal--if you were born in 1959, you can fly to China for free, if you find one paying customer to go with you. I'd go, but I have to go to New Jersey today. Well, someone has to do it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Midwinter Break Blues?

Maybe you should get on a bus and engage in a lively discussion with your students. Then, if you really want to explore the issues in detail, maybe you can get into a physical altercation. That oughta break up the week, if nothing else.

Me, I'm gonna stay home. I've had enough excitement for the week. I hope you have too, and I wish you a great week off!

Girl from Ipanema Imperiled

Muzak is bankrupt.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Meet Regifting Robin...

...and play guess the gift. Try it, you'll like it.

Thanks to Schoolgal

How Can You Lose What You Never Had?

There's a lot of talk about job losses this year. Mayor Bloomberg, who always puts Children First, wants to help them with another innovative "reform"--to wit, firing 15,000 of their teachers. After all, city teachers only teach 34 kids at a time, so why the heck can't they teach 60 and just suck it up? Perhaps part-time UFT President Randi Weingarten will offer it as a concession and get a fifty-dollar bonus for all teachers. Who knows?

But actually, according to newly-elected RNC chairperson and general deep-thinker Michael Steele, you don't have a job to begin with:

"You and I know that in the history of mankind and womankind, government -- federal, state or local -- has never created one job.

So I guess I am unemployed, along with 80,000 other teachers here in Fun City. Those trips I take every morning must be an illusion, and I must not have been cursed out yesterday by the young woman who was mortally offended by my thoughtless suggestion that she was late to class. And the police officer I saw outside doesn't have a job either. The bus driver who whizzed by, and the firefighters whose sirens interrupted me in the trailer...even the custodians who don't clean or repair the trailers are unemployed. The military, the National Guard, right up to the President. None of them have jobs either.

So with this vast unemployment, what are we going to do before postal workers find out they don't have jobs either and begin shooting up the joint? Well, it's hard to say. Mr. Steele's doing his bit for job creation:

Steele is also facing a distraction -- a federal inquiry into allegations that his 2006 Senate campaign paid a defunct company run by his sister for services that were never performed

Sweet. Why must I, then, as an unemployed government worker, keep showing up every day? Well, on the positive side, I do get these paychecks for my nonexistent job, so I really should stop complaining. After all, part-time UFT President Randi Weingarten established a sixth class that is not a class for most teachers in 2005, so why shouldn't we be able to handle a job that isn't a job? It ought to be child's play for us.

What else does the GOP have in mind, besides labeling government workers, a huge portion of the national work force, as unemployed?

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) suggested last week that the party is learning from the disruptive tactics of the Taliban, and the GOP these days does have the bravado of an insurgent band that has pulled together after a big defeat to carry off a quick, if not particularly damaging, raid on the powers that be.

Well, as a teacher, I can attest to the need for role models. Odd the things those guys aspire to, though.

Pardon me, but I'm off to the job the government never created for me.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

From the Ol' Email Bag

I just got a message offering to trade links from someone whose webpage declared:

Find a school and Learn Busines English

I wonder what business needs that sort of English.

Test Time Is Over

On Edwize, Leo Casey talks about the mayor's threats as a test of our character. Sadly, this mayor knows us already. He knows we supported mayoral control. He knows we declined to support his opponent in the last election. He knows we failed even to oppose the nomination of Joel Klein as US Education Secretary and that we accepted a known privatizer.

Mayor Bloomberg remembers 2005, when we accepted a compensation increase that failed to meet cost of living in exchange for the sun, the moon, and the stars. He knows we accepted a third "reorganization" that made it virtually impossible for displaced veteran teachers to find new jobs. He also knows we accept the figure of a 43% "raise" without accounting for the fact that the compensation increase entails a great deal more of our time, summer punishment days, and perpetual potty patrol.

Inspiring though it may be as a call to arms, Mr. Casey, part-time UFT President Randi Weingarten, and their enire patronage mill failed their test of character long ago, when they sold us out, when they forgot we'd earned what we had by accepting zero-percent increases, and when they tossed over twenty years of improvements out the window for less than cost of living.

They were tested again when they chose to spend over half a million dues dollars on lawyers negotiating the coming of Green Dot, a charter company that offers neither tenure nor seniority rights, to New York.

There's no need for further testing, Mr. Casey. You've failed us again and again, and after all this time you cannot even take a principled stand against mayoral control, an unmitigated disaster. Mayor Bloomberg is many things, but he's no fool.

He knows you very well.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Walk Away, KIPP

Eduwonk thinks if KIPP walks away from unionization, the union loses. Actually, that's dead wrong. In the United States, working people have the right to unionize. Though slimeball operations like McDonald's and Walmart (both companies in which head "Democrat for Education Reform" Whitney Tilson's hedge fund invests in heavily) close down stores rather than admit unions, schools are a different thing altogether.

A charter school chain that closes schools rather than subject itself to federal law would look preposterous indeed. It would also leave little doubt that its agenda goes well beyond education.

So go ahead, KIPP. Leave New York. Try a "right to work" state. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

NY State Invests Taxpayer Millions in Technology...

...that doesn't work.

True Blue

Yesterday, in deference to part-time AFT President Randi Weingarten, I wore blue to school. I wore a blue suit, a blue shirt, and a blue tie. I considered wearing blue underwear, but it was dark when I got dressed, so I can't say for certain. As you know, this was to express support for the stimulus package, and waddya know, it passed.

Whew! That was a close one! Can you imagine what would've happened if I'd forgotten, and just threw on whatever clothes I had lying around on the floor?

I felt empowered. I felt alive. But then something funny happened. The administrator who complained I wasn't circulating enough while proctoring a science exam walked by, and as I looked into her eyes, she was struck by lightning right there on the second floor hallway. All that was left of her was a smoking pile of ash next to the opaque projector she spent her entire career wheeling around.

Then I encountered the custodian who filled my desk with garbage, sauntering down the hall like he owned the place (he probably does). I gave him a look, and he gave me one back. We slowly approached on another, like high noon at the OK Corral. Now I'm the sort of guy who'd run a mile to avoid a fight, but fortunately for me the custodian turned and walked right out the front door. I watched him walk to the street, where he was eaten by a pack of ravenous wild dogs.

Thank you, Ms. Weingarten, for your excellent suggestion. I'm convinced it's changed not only my life, but the entire course of history.

Extra credit: Identify the guitar genius in the photo!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mr. Bloomberg's Minions Explain

Mr. Bloomberg himself appears unavailable, but nonetheless, as Leonie Haimson has demonstrated, people are paid to peddle his POV on blogs. There are several posters over at Gotham Schools, and officials from Joel Klein to Goeffrey Canada make remarkable statements in defense of the current system.

As I wrote a while back, Chancellor Klein's position is that under this system, we have a longtime chancellor. Never mind how you feel about me, he says, it's important to keep the same person in for a long time. Unfortunately, being appointed solely by the mayor, and serving at the mayor's pleasure, the Chancellor tends to serve as the mayor's mouthpiece rather than an advocate for the city's 1.1 million schoolchildren. I became acutely aware of this when I heard Mr. Klein on NPR. He railed against state budget cuts, but pooh-poohed city budget cuts as just one of those things. A good chancellor would work in kids' interest, and having their school budgets cut was clearly not in their interest.

Another argument is that advanced by Goeffrey Canada, who runs a few charter schools as well as Mayor Bloomberg's school propaganda campaign. Mr. Canada suggests that either one person is in charge or no one is. A commenter on Gotham Schools suggested this was similar to Harry Truman's famous plaque declaring "The buck stops here." Actually, though, anyone marginally familiar with the Constitution knows that our system is built on checks and balances. They may not always be perfect, but they certainly exist. Mr. Canada, whose charters are supported by the city, has every reason to be happy with things the way they are. From my vantage point, a trailer with plumbing that's been broken for years, and a school at over 200% capacity, it's hard to share Mr. Canada's enthusiasm.

My favorite Bloomberg argument, though, is the one I've been seeing Gotham commenters trot out of late. They ask--do you want to go back to the old days when nothing got done? Then they talk about all the things that could potentially occur under this mayor. The fact that he's getting nothing done does not merit even a mention. But do you want to go back to those bad old days?

This argument reminds me of nothing more than Squealer the pig in Animal Farm asking the miserable animals, "You don't want Jones to come back, do you?" That was the ultimate threat. Even though they were overworked, and tired, and hungry, and many of them didn't even remember Jones, that question worked wonders.

And it's a very good question indeed, for the many people who don't know what really goes on in Mayor Bloomberg's New York.

Monday, February 09, 2009

In Other News...

...DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee wants you to forget all that stuff about her declaring an emergency so she could fire whoever she felt like. She didn't mean it, and now she just wants you to trust her, OK?

What Did the Senate Cut from the Stimulus Bill?

Children first, that's what.

Putting Children First

Mayor Bloomberg is closing a bunch of day-care centers and moving affected kindergarteners into public schools. After all, public schools have plenty of space, and parents can always leave their kids in the car during the hours the day cares used to cover. Sure, they should open the windows a crack, and maybe leave a bowl of water in case they get thirsty.

Better KIPP Yourself in Line

Some people who claim to care for children amaze me. Some oppose birth control, or reproductive choice. It seems to me that if you're going to insist women bear children, you damn well owe them a hand once they're born. But not all who take that position agree. Then there are the education "reformers," like KIPP, which have made the startling discovery that keeping kids in school 200 hours a week gives them more school time.

Of course, when KIPP kids grow up, they'll have learned that working 200 hours a week is the norm. After all their mantra is "Work hard, be nice." So why would they fight for better working conditions? Why would they insist on a 40-hour week? Why would they demand time to spend with their families? I ask you, is that "nice?" Was it "nice" when a bunch of Americans dumped British tea from a boat? Was it "nice" when we demanded to have no taxation without representation? Was it "nice" when Americans fought for the right to form and be represented by unions?

Apparently, it was not nice at all. That's why the folks at KIPP have taken measures to intimidate the rabblerousers who wish to unionize:

...during the last week in January, while teachers were at a faculty meeting, the principals met with seventh- and eighth-grade students alone, a move the teachers said was unprecedented. Several students told their teachers that they had been encouraged to talk about “negative feelings and interactions” with them, those teachers said.

It certainly sounds as though these teachers have something to be nervous about. As "at-will" employees, there's not really much they can do if the administration decides to dump them based on unsubstantiated allegations elicited from kids. And what did the kids say, exactly?

“Teachers are very disrespectful. They always tell us sarcasm and mean words and expect us to have respect for them,” and “We need more reason to come to school, the classes are boring and there’s nothing to do. I miss how it used to be,”...

That's not the most direct condemnation I've ever heard. In fact, it sounds like general gripes you'd hear from middle school kids anywhere. Still, were I a KIPP teacher favoring unionization, I'd be nervous. Because honestly, they're absolutely expendable. They can be replaced, right now, with teachers more willing to be "nice." And honestly, are those the sort of role models we want for our kids?

Sure, kids are immature. They can be selfish. They can argue over meaningless things. It's our job to set them straight.

But when we're talking about the right to unionize, something Americans have struggled and sacrificed for, being "nice" is simply not the way to go. And frankly, anyone giving our kids that message is not suited to teach, let alone run a school

Sunday, February 08, 2009

A Public School Parent Gets Uppity

Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters thinks that the schools chancellor ought to have experience working in schools. Furthermore, she thinks the Department of Education ought to follow state laws. Not only that, but she thinks when the city takes millions and millions of dollars to reduce class sizes, they ought to reduce class sizes.

She thinks neighborhoods ought to approve or disapprove school closings or openings in their districts. Where does this woman think she is? Clearly not Mayor Bloomberg's New York.

Required Viewing

Diane Ravitch eviscerates the claims of Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein.

A Petition

Here's a petition someone sent me, asking Mayor Mike to respect the will city voters.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Cruisin' the Net

Mayor Bloomberg is doubtless quaking in his boots, faced with the awe-inducing threat of teachers wearing blue next week. As if that's not bad enough, his friends may have to resort to domestic caviar this season.

Circuit City is closing, and suggesting its former locations be used as schools. You may recall that, in a cost-cutting measure, CC simply fired all its higher-paid employees, inspiring Joel Klein, Al Sharpton, and "reformers" everywhere:
As soon as you move in there, they'll fire all the teachers and replace them with 11th graders who'll work part-time in exchange for minimum wage and cafeteria discount.

Why does Ms. Cornelius have to put up with a kid who makes her class impossible, and a mandated aide who doesn't show up, in the name of "socialization?"

Could Maverick Johny McCain have selected staff even worse than Sarah Palin? Perhaps.

Weirdo radical Diane Ravitch thinks the NYC Schools Chancellor should represent schoolchildren rather than the billionaire mayor.

GW Bush got us into endless, pointless war, blew the surplus, bankrupted the country, and made things even worse by giving huge tax breaks to those who least needed them. But Barack Obama doesn't even delete his expletives.

Not to be outdone, newly-elected RNC chair Michael Steele reveals his Senate campaign paid his sister's defunct company for services that were never performed. On a side note, I'd like to point out that I am also available to not perform various services, and my prices are very flexible.

A teacher suspended in Texas (a "right to work" state) for being atheistic and too liberal, has resigned.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Two Smart Fellas

Ms. Languageteacher was surprised to be assigned to the Social Studies department for marking.

"Why do they want me?" she asked me. "I'm a language teacher."

Nonetheless, she went to the department as requested. "Nice to see you, Ms. Languageteacher," said the AP.

"I don't understand what I'm doing here," she said.

The AP told her they had 150 papers that had to be read completely that day. He actually had two teachers who spoke Ms. Languageteacher's language, but they were overwhelmed. He would just really appreciate it if she'd help out.

So she dutifully walked to her assignment. Mr. Knowitall, one of the marking teachers, thought this would be a good time to interrogate her on her knowledge of history. He asked her what the capital of North Dakota was, and when she didn't respond immediately told her she couldn't possibly help with the task of evaluating these essays. His partner emphatically agreed.

She reported back to the AP, who excused her and thanked her for her time. The AP then marched into Mr. Knowitall's classroom and instructed him that he and his partner would have to mark all 150 papers by themselves, that they were due at 2:00 sharp, and that heads would roll if they were not done by that time.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Who Runs This Place, Anyway?

Traditional wisdom suggests the custodian. Teachers and principals come and go, and really they're only sometimes in charge of some of the people, but the building belongs to the custodians. I don't know whether they can still buy Jeeps on the city's dime and drive them home for good after a while, but there's no question who the ultimate authority is.

Now the custodians in our building are indispensable. It's their job to not provide paper towels or toilet paper in the trailers, to make sure the sinks and water fountains never get fixed, and most importantly, to dump garbage in the teachers' desk if the kids fail to leave the trailer clean enough for their demanding standards.

As they are so important, I don't depend on them, ever, for anything. That's why, on the rare occasions when I wheel a TV to the trailer, I bring a kid with me on the way back. You see, there's only one door with a ramp to the building, and for our convenience, it's always left locked. As we're not privy to the key, I have a kid go inside and open the door for me.

A colleague of mine, unschooled in the ways of the trailer, failed to plan ahead. Standing by the door, he saw a custodian walk by, and asked, "Have you got a key to this door?"

The custodian looked at him with disdain. "Yeah, I have a key to that door," he said, and just stood there.

"Could you open it?" asked my naive friend.

"Oh, you think I have nothing better to do than open doors for you? Is that what you think?"

"No," said my friend. "I'd just really like it if you would open the door."

"Well, you didn't say please," pointed out the custodian. After a long day of not stocking paper towels and toilet paper, not fixing sinks and water fountains, and teaching educators important lessons by dumping Coca Cola in their desks, social niceties are a must.

"I'm sorry," said my friend. "Would you please open the door?"

The custodian looked at him, shook his head, and opened the door. Then he got back to the important work of not cleaning the trailers.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?

I don't know how I got on their email list, but the CSA, the New York City school supervisors' union, just sent me an email saying they support a renewal of mayoral control of city schools. I called a CSA rep for comment. She asked to be identified on the blog, so as to have a better shot at increased merit pay.

"We think Mayor Bloomberg is doing an excellent job," she said. "We think he should be mayor-for-life, and he should control not only the schools, but the entire country. In fact, if Mayor Bloomberg controlled the entire world, everyone would have smiles on their faces, all the little children would be happy, many diseases would be cured, and most things would smell better, perhaps even New Jersey."

She went on like that for 30 minutes, but regrettably I had left my pen in my other pants, so I failed to write down her name.

Seven Myths About Jay Matthews and KIPP

I was fascinated by the Gotham Schools piece encapsulating Jay Matthews latest song of praise to KIPP, which this time fills an entire book. Matthews has been raving about KIPP for years. Apparently, when you make kids work 200 hours a week, they tend to work 200 hours a week! So don't tell me that Jay Matthews doesn't know what he's talking about. That's a myth.

1. In fact, KIPP is frequently victimized. Matthews needs to dispel the myths because no one speaks for KIPP. Except, of course, Matthews himself, a lowly education reporter for the inconsequential Washington Post. The only allies Matthews has in his quest are the op-ed boards of newspapers everywhere, the mainstream media, billionaires like Gates and Broad, Wal-Mart heirs and hedge-fund managers who send their kids to private schools but inexplicably know everything about public education. I mean, they're all alone against those awful bloggers.

2. And then there's the outrageous accusation that KIPP is militaristic. Just because they wear uniforms, get demerits, chant whatever they are told, and follow strict rules ignorant bloggers jump to conclusions. But it turns out that their teachers are nice sometimes, so the accusation can't possibly be true.

3. It's also not true that KIPP families are more proactive than public school families, according to Matthews. The fact that parents of KIPP children actively selected the school means nothing. The fact that they filled out applications means nothing either. The fact that they showed up for interviews and tests is also completely meaningless. There's no difference at all between parents who go through all those steps and ones who take no interest whatsoever in the education of their children. That KIPP absolutely never gets the children of disinterested parents is completely irrelevant.

4. Also, KIPP does not kick out misbehaving or low-performing students. It's the parents who take them out, apparently, as they want their kids to go elsewhere so that they can enjoy the freedom to misbehave and perform poorly. Doesn't it stand to reason that this is what parents who fill out the applications and go for all those interviews want? The fact that these students are not replaced, and that KIPP is therefore left with only well-behaved or high-performing students is also completely irrelevant, and not worth mentioning.

And anyway, rather than kick kids out, KIPP can always just skip town.

5. KIPP doesn't care how much outside analysis there is. KIPP has no problem whatsoever with Matthews writing how wonderful it is. It doesn't mind at all when MSM editorial boards talk about how great it is. It doesn't mind being held up as a shining example of what is possible when you make kids study 200 hours a week. It's been proven beyond doubt that students studying 200 hours a week have more study time than those studying 199 hours a week, and KIPP has no problem with that conclusion, controversial though it may be.

6. KIPP doesn't brag about how they are saving the inner city. That's an outright falsehood. They don't need to. They have Jay Matthews for that.

7. The biggest myth, of course, is this--anyone who disagrees with Jay Matthews is propagating a myth.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Who Should Teach Teachers?

Yesterday Joanne Jacobs ran a piece about how good teacher pay looks in a recession. And people have told me that during the depression, teachers did better than a whole lot of people. It's beyond pathetic that's what it takes to make this job appealing to some, but when you see how regularly we're vilified in the press, it's certainly understandable.

My attention was drawn by one of the comments, from one Obi-Wandreas, who writes:

There’s not a gorram thing you’re going to learn in an education class that will actually be of any use to you in the classroom. You still have to take a metric keesterload of them, however, to get a teaching license. This takes a significant amount of time. I was fast-tracked and it took a year before I was able to teach.

I can't really argue with that. I too had to take several courses that were total crap to become a teacher, but I also learned a lot about my subject area. Many in the "reform" crowd, including Rod Paige, ex-US Education Secretary, falsifier of the "Texas Miracle," and part-time UFT President Randi Weingarten's biggest fan, say this must be corrected, and the sooner the better. We need to make it easier for people to become teachers, and we need to ease the restrictions, because it's too hard to get certified.

Actually, folks like Rod don't give a damn who teaches kids, and want to let anybody in so as to enlarge the employee pool and keep salaries down. But many buy that line, and NY Times columnist Nicholas Christof thinks it's keeping Meryl Streep and Colin Powell from becoming teachers. That's an idiotic notion, of course. Just as implausible, but somewhat less idiotic, was a remark I read somewhere suggesting, "Just put a CPA in that classroom. Give him the book. He'll know what to do."

Actually, leaving aside the woeful cut in pay, a CPA may know math, but that doesn't remotely guarantee he can control a room full of 34 teenagers. We had a Teaching Fellow in our school who knew as much or more math than anyone, but couldn't handle the kids at all. And poor retention rates suggest (to me at least) that not everyone can do this job.

So perhaps we shouldn't have ivory tower professors who've never seen public school classrooms telling us how to run them. Perhaps we should find people who have actual experience doing the instruction. Actually, I have friends who are lawyers and nurses who tell me their education included lots of impractical nonsense. Still, you don't hear people say we should let absolutely anyone become a nurse, or a lawyer, or a doctor.

That's because, make no mistake about it, an awful lot of people have no respect whatsoever for what we do. We could certainly improve teacher education. But I think eliminating it is one of the worst ideas I've ever heard.

What do you think?