Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Obama Flu

Rush Limbaugh today explained that the swine flu epidemic occurred precisely because of our failure to elect John McCain. Limbaugh pointed out that we'd had no such epidemics for the last eight years, and that clearly the new administration had dropped the ball by failing to erect an airproof wall separating us from Mexico. Furthermore, it hadn't even established an embargo.

Over at Fox and Friends, several good-looking young hosts speculated as to what exactly it was Obama meant when he made that lipstick on a pig remark. Sure, it made headlines for a few days, but could it be he'd only put the lipstick on the pig so as to slip it past customs? After all, lots of people are the same color as pigs, so with a little sunhat who'd know the difference?

Bill O'Reilly stated he was keeping an open mind, but you had to admit schools weren't closed and cleaned when President Bush was in office. Hannity said it was most definitely Obama's fault, and to be fair and balanced, asked Colmes to present his side, momentarily forgetting that Colmes was no longer actually on the show.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Idiots and Bullies

Those are the kind of people who hit children. But in North Carolina, many of them seem to have found employment as teachers. Now, for the first time, parents will be able to opt their kids out of corporal punishment. Some wanted to ban it entirely. But the idiot lobby has apparently held firm, and are going to allow people who can't imagine a better alternative to continue hitting children.

We're studying The Good Earth in a few of my classes, and there's a scene where the protagonist watches an old teacher sleeping at a desk. Then the old teacher wakes up and smacks a kid, and the protagonist determines this is truly a worthy pedagogue. One of the kids asked me what I'd think of a teacher hitting my kid.

"That would be one dead teacher," I said.

The kid pressed me about whether I meant it literally, and I amended my statement to, "OK, that would be one ex-teacher."

Honestly, I don't hit my own kid, so what right do I have to hit anyone else's? I think as a teacher or parent it behooves you to coldly calculate revenge in the most evil and insidious manner. Losing your temper is tantamount to losing altogether, and hitting is even worse.

Now my dad used to hit me sometimes, but every time he did I went out and committed an atrocity. I'm not sure that was what he intended, but it's not what I want for any kid in my charge. I want to make it as inconvenient as possible to mess with me, for both my child and my students, and that requires thought, not violence.

Self-defense may be one thing. But other than that, anyone who needs to hit kids is unfit to teach, plain and simple. And teachers, from North Carolina or elsewhere, who hit kids ought to be shipped off to prison, where they can meet other like-minded individuals.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Arlen Specter has become a Democrat.

Can't Everyone Spell?

Apparently not, and it's making for problems over at Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg.

Get Healthy, America!

President Barack Obama has sorely disappointed me on education, largely by pursuing the path he said he'd pursue during the campaign. While I can't express any enthusiasm for his misguided appointments and plans, I can at least console myself that his opponent's plans were far worse.

Nonetheless, there are other issues of importance to Americans, teachers included, and one of the most egregious failures of our society has been that of providing health care for our citizens. On this front, President Obama may have a much better approach, avoiding the GOP filibuster before they even get a chance. In short, he can insert health care proposals into the budget resolution, which requires only a majority vote.

Poll after poll has shown that Americans are very worried about their health insurance. People are afraid to quit jobs they hate because they are worried they won't be able to get health insurance after their COBRA coverage expires. The core of the problem, of course, is the insurance companies' desire not to insure anyone who is sick or likely to become sick. All other industrialized countries solve this problem through laws saying that health insurance companies must offer a standard policy at a standard price to anyone who asks for one. Cherrypicking good customers is illegal everywhere except the U.S. To prevent young healthy people from going uninsured util they suddenly get sick and then applying for insurance, other countries make carrying health insurance mandatory, the same way most states in the U.S. mandate that car owners have accident insurance on their cars.

The Democrats and Republicans differ hugely on their views about cherrypicking and mandates. Any bill the Democrats came up with containing both of these items would be filibustered to death in the Senate. However, now that Senate Democrats (with Obama's blessing) have decided to make health care reform part of the reconciliation bill, the Republicans will not be able to filibuster it. This will make them absolutely furious--even though George Bush used the reconciliation process himself on a number of occasions.

There are some interesting assertions there. One is the mandate that all citizens carry insurance. I'm not sure whether that's entirely true, as most health insurance is government-run. But the preclusion of "cherry-picking" would certainly benefit Americans. Perhaps it's true that this would cut into the profits of companies who wish to insure only people who won't get sick. But not-for-profit companies like GHI-HIP, or Emblem Health, have managed to do well despite having to actually cover existing illnesses. That's one more reason to vehemently oppose its efforts to convert itself into a "for-profit" entity, no matter how much cash its IPO would net the UFT patronage mill.

If President Obama manages to improve our health care system it will be a monumental achievement. I, for one, will stand up and applaud, at least until Arne Duncan spouts some new unfounded nonsense about how subverting public schools will help our children.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Problem Solved

President Obama is concerned about the shortage of doctors, particularly primary care physicians. Clearly it's time to take bold action, as NYC did during the teacher shortage. Brilliant NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff wonders:

Suppose Colin Powell tires of giving $100,000-a-pop speeches and wants to teach high school social studies. Suppose Meryl Streep has a hankering to teach drama.

Suppose they want to be MDs. Why should they have to jump through hoops and go through all that bureaucratic nonsense? Why not let them get to work right away? They can begin working on folks like Kristoff, who think it requires no training or background to get in front of 34 kids at a time and teach them. Let's give folks like Mr. Kristoff precisely the sort of options he wants for our kids.

I'm pretty sure Meryl Streep could easily act the part of a doctor, though I'm not sure one way or the other about Colin Powell. In any case, I hope Dr. Streep and Dr. Powell work out for Nick Kristoff. Me, I'm sticking with my regular MD, the one who went to medical school and has a license. I don't want to be a doctor myself, but in the spirit of giving, if Mr. Kristoff needs a lawyer I'd be willing to take a whack at it. I have a suit the same color as Ben Matlock's, and that ought to be good enough for anyone.

What a Bunch of Babies

Parents in Belle Harbor are upset about the toxic environment in the special needs annex at PS 256. Apparently the mold and asbestos is having negative effects on their children, as well as those who worked at the school:

"He's been getting rashes on his face, fungus in his head, he's had cellulitis in his knees," said parent Katrina Inerhunwunwa. "He went from being a child with no asthma to being a child with active asthma," Gilmartin said. "I was having allergic reactions rashes. I was getting sties in my eye. I kept losing my voice," said Susan Lombardo, former school nurse.

Now sure, it's inconvenient to be sick all the time. But big picture issues, like opening new sports stadiums and charter schools, are seriously jeopardized when Mayor Mike needs to divert valuable tax dollars toward decent facilities for public schools. The CFE lawsuit brought hundreds of millions to improve conditions for kids and Tweed has repeatedly requested the option of using the money to do whatever the hell it likes.

Now, because these parents are worried about the health of their children, there may be one fewer charter school in the city. This is the price you have to pay when parents' voices are heard. That's why the folks at Tweed work assiduously to subvert their demands, particularly when they demand reasonable conditions for their kids, like class size reductions or avoidance of toxic waste sites.

Sure, you parents can humiliate the Mayor for his indifference to the welfare of your children. Sure, you can take him to court and make him look like he values stadiums and charters more than the schools your kids attend. But even if that is true, answer me this--how are charter moguls like Eva Moskowitz going to clear even a paltry half a mil per annum if folks like you keep getting in the way?

Thanks to Schoolgal

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Birthday Gift

George W. Bush was feeling a little down, what with the his polls in the toilet and everything. Laura decided to buy him an Iphone to cheer him up.

"With this doohicky, I can call you from anywhere?" asked George.

"Of course you can, George," Laura assured him.

"And I can get on the internets, too?" he asked.

"Yes George. Also there are games, and you can store photos, and do all kinds of things. I've stored my number so you can call me from wherever you are."

"Thanks, Laura," said GW. "This is the bestest birthday ever!"

A few hours later, Laura's phone rang. She picked up.

"Hi Laura. It's me, W. I'm calling you from the freeway. This thing is just great. Thanks again."

"Oh, George, be careful. I just heard on the news there's a lunatic driving the wrong way on the freeway."

"One lunatic?" said George. "Why, there are hundreds of 'em.

Super Teachers

Could you be one? Could you sustain it? Ms. Eyre points out that even the much-hyped subject of Freedom Writers had to quit.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ms. Weingarten Takes a Firm Stand

Part-time UFT President Randi "Everything's on the table except vouchers" Weingarten was very much against the DoE using test results to determine which teachers do or do not get tenure. This very much vexed Mayor Mike and all the Tweedies, who felt the state tenure laws were inadequate. After all, for thirty years the city had pretty much granted tenure to anyone who drew breath, so the solution, rather than simply enforce existing tenure laws (which work OK in my neck of the woods), was to change the law altogether.

It couldn't possibly be the mayor's fault Joel Klein went to Albany and begged for the right to hire or retain 14,000 city teachers who failed a basic competency test, some dozens of times. Accountablity only applies to unionized employees, so there must be something wrong with the existing system. Ms Weingarten took quite a bit of flack for resisting that train of thought. It's well-known she's a new kind of labor leader, not one of those cigar-chomping anachronisms always demanding higher pay and better working conditions. And for goodness sake, if she can get by on a piddling 350K plus perks, why should anyone complain about trying to make ends meet?

So now, Ms. Weingarten is trying to get a discussion going about using test scores to determine tenure. After all, the UFT contract expires next October, and why not get started with the givebacks ASAP? I believe after we gave up UFT transfers, days in August, a planning period, 30 minutes a day, the right to avoid lunch and potty patrol, the right to grieve letters in the file, the right to not be suspended without pay based on unsubstantiated allegations, and whatever else she tossed Chancellor Klein over the years, Ms. Weingarten and her patronage mill committed to keeping UFT HQ open an extra hour a week, so that they could do even more of whatever it is they do there.

Perhaps after she sacrifices the newbies, to whom she already broke the promise of 25/55 (for them it's 27/55), she can keep the office open another half hour. Patronage employees are always willing to do more of whatever it is they do, and after all, they're always building up those UFT pensions, you know, the second pensions we lowly teachers have the rare honor of supporting.

What other givebacks do you suppose Ms. Weingarten has up her sleeve?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

All the News that Fits

This morning's New York Times reports that the Panel for Educational Policy is not much of a check on Mayor-for-life Michael Bloomberg's power. A lot of people made this observation after the mayor fired several members for not planning to vote his way. That was three or four years ago, if I'm not mistaken.

I'm gonna skip over to the music section now to see if Duran Duran is still hungry like the wolf.

Men Are Not Very Deep

I walked into my department office yesterday right in the middle of a speech by one of my young unmarried colleagues. She was insisting that it's often the woman's fault men cheat on them. If women took care of themselves, if they got new clothes now and again, if they stopped focusing on everyone else...

"Men who want to cheat will cheat on the most beautiful women in the world," I announced.

"You shut up, Mr. Educator," suggested one of my female colleagues. "It's not your turn."

"So here's the thing," the young woman continued, "Women are always thinking about everyone else. They don't worry about themselves. If you give a woman a bunch of money and send her to a mall, she'll walk around and say, look, there's a suit, and it's on sale for $5oo. Then she'll buy it for her husband. Then she'll see baby clothes and say oh my gosh, those are beautiful. She'll get them too. Then she'll get something for the other kids, and by the time she's finished, she'll get herself a pretzel and that will be the end of it."

"It's because we think about everyone. We think deeply. Men aren't like that."

"I wonder what the pretzel symbolizes," mused another of my colleagues.

I wandered away to scratch myself.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Everyone in the Pond!

The Wall Street Journal recently featured an article which, among other things, explained just how tough it was to get by on $400,000 a year. In fact, some people make as little as a quarter-mil per annum, and their taxes may actually go up under the diabolical schemes being concocted by Barack Obama and his band of merry men (and women).

Some of them cannot afford vacation homes, and some of their Infinitis are over ten years old. Not only that, but these people actually have to pay to send their kids to college! Naturally, I'm outraged. Of course, I too will have to pay to send my kid to college, but as I make a whole lot less money than any of these folks, it will be much easier.

The people who really have it good, according to the WSJ, are the "lucky duckies" who pay no tax at all. Boy, if only I were making $12,000 a year as a Walmart associate, I could qualify. Woo-hoo! No more taxes.

Personally, I don't mind doing my bit and paying for my community, for education, for roads, for every opportunity this country has afforded my family. And I wouldn't mind paying for health care, like every other industrialized country does. Still, I feel the pain of those poor folks making two, three, and four times my income. And my feeling is this--if they feel an extra 3% is beyond the pale, let them take that job at Subway, at Walmart, at KFC, and live like the "lucky duckies."

As for the assets that encumber them so, that subject them to this unacceptable abuse, the root of all evil, I suggest they donate them to the government, off whose largess they'll be sponging. Or better yet, they can donate to my school, which needs 50 more classrooms.

After all, if the Wall Street Journal thinks it's a good idea, who am I to argue?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Best of All Possible Worlds

Joanne Jacobs points to a survey that says teachers today like teaching more nowadays than in the past, and reasonably concludes, "I guess the happy teachers are the quiet teachers."

I'm one of the biggest complainers I know, though, and I love teaching. Teaching makes for very little of what I complain about--you can correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall the last time I complained about teaching.

Now the people who run the city school system, the people who reflexively vilify those of us who do the actual work, and the people who've barely set foot in a public school but fancy themselves experts---they're another thing entirely.

America Stands Up

In these troubled times, it's hard to know what to do next. The stock market is in the toilet and our tax money is going to bail out companies that engaged in reckless speculation and simply can't be allowed to lose money. Naturally, were you or I to lose money in such reckless speculation we'd simply sleep on park benches, so it would be no problem at all.

But communities in Missouri and Kentucky have zeroed in on the real problem in America: baggy pants. To show they mean business, they're prepared to fine offenders a thousand bucks, or even give them 90 days in the hoosegow.

I'm glad to see that our neighbors are finally standing up to this menace, and I for one hope that Mayor Michael Bloomberg gets on the case, just as soon as he finishes closing all those nasty public schools.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Thank Goodness for Private Insurance Companies

Of course, there are many reasons we should be grateful. The thoughtful and reflective individual at left offers but one point of view (though I personally was not aware Mr. Frank was a medical doctor, let alone the questionable quality of the services he appears to offer). The United States now stands alone among industrialized countries as the last bastion against that awful universal health coverage that's infected our neighbors. Thank heavens for that:

An Oklahoma man who lost an eye and a leg in Iraq says the giant insurance company AIG refused to provide him a new plastic leg and fought to keep from paying for a wheelchair or glasses for the eye in which he has 30 percent vision.

It's an honor to bail out AIG, as I suppose they're finally showing precisely what they're going to save money on. And regularly enlisted soldiers ought to know that President Obama, like his predecessors, doesn't plan to waste federal money on making sure they get VA coverage either. Not only can't we cover everyone, like most countries, but we can't even cover those who've risked their lives fighting our wars.

Nonetheless, we've got billions to bail out insurance companies that nickel and dime us over whether or not they should provide us the coverage they actually get paid for.

And if you like the way AIG protects its profits, just wait until GHI-HIP is allowed to convert to "for-profit" status. Part-time UFT President Randi Weingarten thinks that's a great idea, but wants to make sure her patronage mill gets a sufficient portion of the IPO before throwing her support behind it.

So finally, we city workers can have the sort of private insurance our neighbors have. Lucky us. If you run into Ms. Weingarten, don't hesitate to thank her in advance.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Better Think Twice...

...before buying plastic pizza from Domino's. It may not be 100% plastic.

To Serve You Better

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg is cutting tutoring for elementary kids who have reading problems. This is a good thing, because as long as papers keep reporting the things the "education mayor" actually does, there is always the danger people may read about them. The fewer city residents who actually know how to read, the better the chances Mayor Bloomberg can buy their votes in the election he enabled by overturning term limits.

Furthermore, the less education people have, the better they'll be able to accommodate the ever-increasing need for low-wage, no-benefit 200-hour-a-week employees. Someone's got to do those jobs, and teaching people how to read just doesn't help at all.

Maybe that's what the mayor is talking about on those jobs, jobs, jobs ads he's running on TV.

Let it not be said this administration lacks a long-term vision.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Children First

Billionaire Mayor-for-life Michael Bloomberg is not just some windbag spending petty millions on TV commercials that promote him as a regular guy. To prove this, his innovative programs to help working New Yorkers continue. Just recently, to serve them better, he closed all the kindergartens in city day care centers. And now, to help out even more, he's going to raise class sizes in existing kindergartens.

That means we can wedge even more kids into kindergartens that already have the highest class sizes in the state. But even now, naysayers are raising their cynical concerns:

"This is totally unacceptable to me," City Council Education Committee head Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan) told reporters.

"I did not work for almost 20 years pushing the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case to get extra money to reduce class size to sit idly by and watch us move backward."

Naturally, that's nonsense. Although Mayor Bloomberg certainly accepted hundreds of millions, if not billions, to reduce class sizes, the fact is those dollars offset the cost of sports stadiums that accommodate important people willing to spend 2500 clams to see the Yankees. Shouldn't they have good seats, even if your children do not? After all, your kids don't pay 2500 bucks a day to sit in class.

In any case, there are always trailers, closets, and toxic waste sites available for your kids, and learning under those conditions will build character. And, of course, you can always play the charter school lottery, and you may even luck out and get a place for your kid in a class of 17 students, with a real classrooom and everything. You gotta be in it to win it.

Sure, the overwhelming majority of kids will be stuck in the public schools, with the oversized classes in trailers and bathrooms. But the rest of the system is in place to give huge salaries to folks like Eva Moskowitz, while promoting the kind of non-unionized workforce your kids can expect to be part of, with more work for less pay, no job protections, reduced benefits, and so much work they almost certainly won't last but a few years. This not only keeps salaries down, but also saves money for the important and inevitable renovation of sports stadiums for Mayor Bloomberg's buds.

So stop whining, work hard, and be nice.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Q and A

Q: Why hasn't Mayor Bloomberg signed a no-bid contract to incorporate Walmarts into public schools?

A: Because unionized teachers are already Targets.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

More Change We Can Believe In

The Wall Street Journal reports tonight that President Merit Pay's "Car Czar" - Steven Rattner - may be implicated in the same pension fund scandal that brought down former Liberal Party head Raymond Harding.

Steven Rattner, the leader of the Obama administration's auto task force, was one of the executives involved with payments under scrutiny in a probe of an alleged kickback scheme at New York state's pension fund, according to a person familiar with the matter.

A Securities and Exchange Commission complaint says a "senior executive" of Mr. Rattner's investment firm met in 2004 with a politically connected consultant about a finder's fee. Later, the complaint says, the firm received an investment from the state pension fund and paid $1.1 million in fees.

The "senior executive," not named in the complaint, is Mr. Rattner, according to the person familiar with the matter. He is co-founder of the investment firm, Quadrangle Group, which he left to join the Treasury Department to oversee the auto task force earlier this year.


In the long-running pay-to-play case, authorities allege that about 20 investment firms made payments in exchange for investments from the $122 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund. The case, being investigated by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the SEC, has led to three criminal indictments and a guilty plea. The attorney general's office and the SEC declined to comment.

To be fair, neither Rattner nor his firm have been accused of any wrongdoing in the case. Not yet, at any rate (the Journal does point out that the next phase of the case is expected to focus more on the firms, like Rattner's, that were involved, so who knows where the investigation goes from here.)

And to be honest, the Rupert Murdoch-owned Journal definitely has an anti-Obama agenda to push and hasn't been shy in pushing it. So printing a story alleging wrongdoing by Merit Pay's car czar could be nothing more than Murdoch political hackery.

That said, I am getting sick and tired of these Obama bigwigs, like Larry "I made $2.7 million last year from firms I'm bailing out this year" Summers and Timothy "Can't wait to retire from government service and get some of that yummy Goldman money Larry got" Geithner, making tons of money from their positions of influence. I am also sick of them getting to play by different rules (remember Treasury Timmeh's tax foibles?)

It is absolutely the case that the Bush administration, corrupt from top to bottom, had industry guys making all the calls in a host of government departments - from Interior to Defense. The most egregious example of this was Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, who basically engineered a bailout scheme that helped his old firm, Goldman Sachs, rake in the bucks while their competition in the investment banking sector were either put out of business or were bought out (see here and here.)

But Obama campaigned on doing things differently, on demanding accountability and honesty from members of his administration and from people on Wall Street as well as Main Street.

Certainly he and his Secretary of Education, Uncle Arnie Duncan, are demanding accountability and honesty from teachers and schools across this nation.

But apparently President Merit Pay's standards are different when it comes to bigwigs, bankers, and connected businessmen.

Why is that?

I thought President Merit Pay was going to bring "change" to Washington.

So far, haven't seen much change.

Have seen lots of business as usual, however.

UPDATE: Another example of business as usual - AIG received hundreds of billions of taxpayer bailout dollars and paid much of that bailout money to its trading partners, including Goldman Sachs. AIG CEO Edward Liddy has a $3 million stake in Goldman - so taxpayers have bailed out AIG so it could pay Goldman which then paid AIG CEO Liddy.

Yeah, that's some change we can believe.

Where's the accountability there, President Merit Pay?

Sucker's Rally

The stock market is rallying from its lows, the Wall Street Journal reports that jobless claims fell to their lowest level since January, indicating that the recession is nearly over, and Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan have all reported good first quarter earnings - the country's economic problems are abating, right?

Uh, not quite. Certainly the people who run the country - i.e., the bankers and hedge fund managers - want you to think so. You see, they lose money when you - the sucker - are not buying or selling stock, buying products, buying houses, buying on credit, etc. When you are saving money - as many people have been doing for the first time in a long time - the boys who run the country get very mad and push the meme that you HAVE to get back to purchasing stuff or the country will face economic collapse/armageddon.

We have heard this from the CNBCers and others on TV, we have heard this from the politicians in Washington and New York City, we have heard this from the Obama administration - get back to buying, people, the economy is getting better and all will be well again soon. Consumer purchases, coupled with the trillions the government has "lent" to the financial industry and banks along with the stimulus money, will get this economy back on track and everybody working again.

But is this really the case? Are things getting better or just getting worse a little slower than they have been in recent months? Should we buy into the "Things Are Getting Better" meme we're hearing from the same people who told us the subprime mortgage problem was self-contained and the global economy wouldn't suffer if the U.S. fell into recession?

Probably not. The news is STILL pretty bad. Goldman Sachs made a profit first quarter because they didn't count the month of December in their earnings report - when they lost $1 billion. Subtract $1 billion in losses, add billions in free taxpayer-provided TARP money (via AIG) and no wonder they showed a profit! Gee, must be great to have so many ex-Goldies like Hank Paulsen in power to make sure you get taken care of, eh?

JP Morgan and Wells Fargo also added TARP money to their balance sheets (and like Goldman, they promise, no really, they promise they're going to pay it back soon, they swear...) and reported good first quarter earnings. But what they're not telling you is just how bad the credit card defaults are going to be coming down the pike. Capital One did though and here's how Zero hedge reads that news:

Some very ugly credit card charge-off data just out from Capital One. The February annualized rate of 8.06% has spiked by over 1% month-over-month to the current 9.33%, a very troubling deterioration, especially as to what it may portend for delinquency data from bigger brothers such as AXP, but also for the credit card securitization market as well as for upcoming rating agency actions on not just this name, but the entire credit card industry.
In addition, foreclosure rates are increasing (they're up 24% in the first quarter) and mortgage default rates are spreading into higher priced, upscale neighborhoods, meaning the problem is getting worse, not better. Are increased credit card chargeoffs and a spreading foreclosure problem signs the problems are getting better?

obless claims have reached 6 million for the first time ever as home foreclosures hit a record high - meaning that at least in the short term the foreclosure problem is going to get worse, not better. More foreclosed homes means more added home inventory which means more falling home prices which means no, we haven't hit bottom in the housing market yet. Here's Bloomberg News describing the problem:

“A flood of bank-owned properties is hitting the housing market as the U.S. recession deepens. The unemployment rate jumped to 8.5 percent in March, the highest since 1983, as 663,000 jobs were lost, according to the Labor Department. Home prices fell 19 percent in January from a year earlier, the fastest drop on record, according to the S&P Case/Shiller Index of 20 U.S. cities. The measure has fallen every month on a year-over-year basis since January 2007. Mortgage applications declined last week for the first time in a month, a sign that even with borrowing rates below 5 percent may not be enough to spur a housing recovery.”

And we haven't even gotten around to talking about the potential hyperinflation coming down the pike from Bush's two wars, Paulsen's TARP and Geithner's TALF plans, Bernanke's 24 hour printing press at the Federal Reserve and Obama's stimulus spending - all bought on the nation's credit card (and notice too how the idiots out teabagging themselves yesterday conveniently forgot about the Bush/Paulsen contribution to the problem...)

Does it still sound like we've hit the turnaround on the economy?

The hucksters on CNBC are all sweaty under the hot TV lights telling us "We have hit bottom - depression over!!!!", but remember, they're also the same clowns who told us there were no problems in the first place.

So I'd wait a little while before buying into "The economy is turning around" meme.

Unless you're a sucker, of course.

Advice for Administrators

In the highly unlikely event that Joel Klein's Leadership Academy ever wishes to produce effective leaders, as opposed to mindlessly loyal automatons, Miss Cornelius has a few helpful suggestions.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On the Road

I woke up in London, Ontario and now I'm in Hunt Valley, Maryland. I'm working pretty close to here tomorrow. On Route 15 there are five million hotels, one cheesier looking than the next. Some of them have signs advertising low rates. Others say they have clean rooms. You know you're really in the boonies when they don't bother with either. It's tough to imagine anyone with a car who'd stop for a dirty room with a high rate, but it takes all kinds.

My favorite sign, though, was the one that said this:

Borderline Beverage Distributors


Now you gotta wonder, who is thirsty enough, or desperate enough, to drink "beer?" What is it? Or have all my years as an English teacher put me out of touch with the common folk, who want to drink "beer?"

I also have a problem with people who use apostrophes to indicate plurals, though it seems less egregious when it's done at good fruit stores. Bad fruit stores are a blot on humanity, and should be destroyed, with explosives if necessary.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thank You, Rich People

A commenter on these pages has pointed out that I've been remiss, and have failed to show adequate appreciation for the rich. So I thought I'd try to make up for it.

First of all, thanks to billionaire Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Despite paying teachers the lowest wage in the area, he's managed to make sure New York kids still get the highest class sizes in the state. And he's done away with all that fancy no account nonsense, like classrooms, and managed to squeeze kids into trailers, bathrooms, closets, hallways, and pretty much any space available.

Also, Mayor Mike's not going to let city kids grow up to be pansies, so if he ever does build new schools, they go on toxic waste sites. City kids have the grit to deal with that, and that also saves valuable space for sports stadiums, where season tickets can run tens of thousands of dollars, which ought to be no problem for kids who are already radioactive. And let it not be said that Mayor Bloomberg denied taxpayers the privilege of funding the construction of these stadiums.

Rich people are really having a tough time in this country. It's a privilege to spend trillions fighting their endless wars, and bailing out their banks and companies. Sure, working people are losing their jobs, and their homes, but they ought to be used to the occasional inconvenience here and there. Personally, I'm relieved we didn't fritter away our tax dollars on anything so frivolous as health care for our people, who certainly deserve to drop dead if they don't earn enough to buy health insurance.

And let's have a shout out to those affluent lawyers willing to forgo their livelihoods and commit to do absolutely nothing for the piddling sum of $80,000 a year. This, while lazy ATR teachers collect full salaries for substitute teaching in NYC. How dare they complain? Everyone knows it's a walk in the park to control 34 teenagers who know they won't be seeing you tomorrow. Would these lazy teachers commit to doing the demanding task of nothing whatsoever for only 80K a year?

Finally, let's thank Bill Gates and Eli Broad for financing "reforms," as well as the altruists who donated half a mil to Al Sharpton to pay his taxes so he could push an agenda that assured my students would sit in a trailer behind a 250%-capacity building until the end of time itself. Certainly I lack that sort of vision.

Were I mayor, I'd build new schools instead of new stadiums, even if it meant depriving important people like Eva Moskowitz their 400-K taxpayer-funded salaries. Thank goodness we have Mayor Mike, who can toss a few charter schools into public buildings, get them written up in Gotham Schools, and ignore the overwhelming majority of schoolchildren, thus saving taxpayers a veritable bundle.

Thanks to David Bellel and Schoogal

Monday, April 13, 2009

Working Man's Blues

The NY Daily News reports that Mike Bloomberg, who has already started push-polling negative information about his potential mayoral rivals and dropped $3 million advertising dollars in his "shock and awe" re-election campaign to become New York City Mayor for Life, is seeking the Working Families Party ballot line this fall.

Bloomberg has already won the Independence Party and Republican Party ballot lines, so if he wins the WFP endorsement, only the Democratic Party ballot line would be sans Bloomberg.

That's assuming he also doesn't buy the Dems off before Election Day ballots get printed.

Ironically, as Mayor Moneybags has his people handing out cash incentives to the WFP heads for their endorsement, he is actively orchestrating an anti-working class campaign against municipal workers. Last week he called for municipal labor unions to give health care and pension concessions to him immediately or he would lay off at least 7,000 city workers. Moneybags claims health care and pension benefits will "bankrupt" the city unless these concessions are made.

But as Errol Louis noted Sunday
, Bloomberg is trying to get city workers to make health care and pension concessions at the same time he refuses to stop hiring outside contractors to do jobs city workers could do:

In city parks, for instance, Roberts claims the Department of Parks and Recreation is paying $12.6 million too much for landscape architects and engineers to plan the reconstruction of eight parks - work, she says, that could be done by workers already on the city payroll.

In the Department of Transportation, the study says, outside contractors are being hired to install those signs indicating parking hours and other traffic regulations, at triple the rate it would cost to use city workers.

The Fire Department contracts out audit and accounting services. The Department of Education uses outside companies to deliver school lunches and other food when city workers could handle the load.

"It's wasting the citizens' money and it's denying employment to people who could do a job," she says. "There's $9 billion worth of this nonsense going on."

And that's assuming that this "work" the city is contracting out isn't wasteful in the first place. More often than not, it is. Take some of the no-bid contracts Bloomberg's Department of Education hands out. As the NY Post reported on August 10, 2008:

According to city-comptroller statistics, in fiscal year 2000 under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the DOE signed seven no-bid contracts worth a total of $693,000. In fiscal year 2007, under Mayor Bloomberg, 76 no-bid contracts were signed for a total of $72 million.

The most egregious of those contracts was one that paid $10 million to a company run by an alleged pedophile to help teachers "demystify" their students. The company - All Kinds of Minds - received the no-bid contract money to train 20,000 teachers, but wound up only training 3,000. In addition, the head of the company, Dr. Melvin Levine, has had sexual abuse allegations leveled against him by 55 former male patients. The NYCDOE defended itself by saying they had hired Levine's company, not Levine, for professional development services.

Is this the kind of money the city needs to spend in lieu of money on health care and pension benefits for city workers?

Apparently so. If you want to see what other contracts the NYCDOE has handed out, you can look here. Want to bet the mayor isn't looking at this list for any savings as he threatens city workers with layoffs? Or at any other department where contracts are being handed out to cronies.

But he is looking to the Working Families Party heads for another ballot line in his campaign to turn New York City into Stalinist Russia.

What a city - you can vote for Mike Bloomberg on the GOP line, the WFP line, or the Independence line next November.

But you can't get a viable alternative to him if you're a working person who wants to ensure the city doesn't balance its budget on your back while still handing out hundreds of millions of city dollars to Bloomberg cronies and connections.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Education Agenda

It's fairly clear what's going on in this country. The priorities of billionaires like NYC Mayor-for-Life Michael Bloomberg have come to the forefront, our money goes to bail out the rich, and as usual, working people can move to the rear. Nowhere is this more clear than in the mayor's naked power grab, overturning the term limits New Yorkers twice affirmed at the polls. But it's also undeniable that Education Secretary Arne Duncan shills for mayoral control, saying, "I've got the figures right in front of me."

And like a good number of the sloths that populate our press corps, Mr. Duncan can't be bothered to fact-check the same doctored figures Bloomberg's been feeding the tabloids for years. And I have a strong suspicion Mr. Duncan will make it a point not to read Diane Ravitch's op-ed in the NY Times, which addresses his lack of curiosity in no uncertain terms:
There were no significant gains for New York City’s students — black, Hispanic, white, Asian or lower-income — in fourth-grade reading, eighth-grade reading or eighth-grade mathematics. In fourth-grade math, pupils showed significant gains (although the validity of this is suspect because an unusually large proportion — 25 percent — of students were given extra time and help). The federal test reported no narrowing of the achievement gap between white students and minority students.

The city’s Department of Education belittles the federal test scores and focuses on the assessments given by New York State. And, indeed, the state scores have soared in recent years, not only in the city but also across New York state However, the statewide scores on the N.A.E.P. are as flat as New York City’s. Our state tests are, unfortunately, exemplars of grade inflation.

And it stands to reason that if mayoral control were indeed the greatest thing since sliced bread, the state scores would have soared even higher when magic of mayoral control was applied. But no such luck. Fortunately for mayoral control supporters, Duncan can't be bothered thinking such things through. So he, along with the new President, can prance about singing the praises of charter schools, where teachers have no unions, and do more work for less pay, thus setting an example for our children.

Closer to home, the newest source for education reporting is Gotham Schools, which hopes to covince doubters (like me) that it doesn't have an agenda focusing on charter schools at the expense of public schools. Typically, that piece is preceded by one about charter boss Eva Moskowitz, another about charter school funding, an invidious comparison of a charter school and a public school, and of course yet another on Gotham's big scoop. the shocking revelation that the perfidious teacher union wishes to influence local politics.

Is Gotham biased? To be fair, it presents both praise and criticism--but if you bother to check, the criticism comes from two working teachers, while the praise is from a charter school organization and a long-time critic of teacher unions.

If I want to know everything that's happening in the world of union-busting charter schools, I know exactly where to go. But the fact is there's life outside Manhattan, the overwhelming majority of public schools are not charters, and there are stories every day about how the billionaire agenda hurts kids like the ones I see all the time.

You won't hear them from Mike Bloomberg or Arne Duncan. Frankly, they're notoriously absent from Gotham Charter Schools as well.

Friday, April 10, 2009

All Better Now

Great news, everybody - the financial crisis is over! Armageddon has been avoided!

So declares TIME Magazine in this article here.

Their evidence?

Wells Fargo claims it made money in the first quarter of 2009 and declared its takeover of Wachovia "a success."

According to the TIME piece, we can now all sleep easy because the economy will be roaring back before you know it. Any day now, BoA and Citigroup and the rest will all be rolling in profits and the American taxpayer will get back all that TARP, TALF, and Federal Reserve money handed out to the financial industry since two Bear Sterns hedge funds went belly up in the summer of 2007.

Never mind that President Merit Pay's administration refuses to release the results of the solvency "stress tests" they've applied to 19 of the nation's biggest banks even though the administration has guaranteed all banks pass by saying that any bank that seems a little "stressed out" will receive taxpayer funds to help it through its "periods of stress."

All is well now!

Never mind that the books of many of these banks are still loaded with worthless crap investors will only buy if the government guarantees to mitigate losses or that the IMF says total bank and financial institution losses will top $4 trillion bucks before it's all over.

All is well now!

Never mind that the full impact of the credit card crisis has yet to be felt by these banks or the problems in commercial real estate have yet to hit.

All is well now!

Never mind that some pretty smart analysts (i.e., ones who have made correct calls on the economy so far) think housing prices will still fall another 30% before we hit bottom in the real estate market.

All is well now!

Wow, President Merit Pay - what a fantastalicious job you have done! You are even more awesome then your political handlers and ads make you out to be! You have fixed the banking crisis and put the economy on the road to health. And all it took was some $2 trillion bucks in government welfare to banks and financial institutions in the form of TARP and TALF money and a 24 hour printing press at the Federal Reserve. So glad you and Timmeh and Larry are running things.


Batten down the hatches, everybody. When Wells Fargo comes in with a quarterly profit because it's been adding free taxpayer money to its balance sheets and TIME is using THAT as evidence for the end of the financial crisis, you can bet the s#$t is REALLY going to hit the fan.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

How Many Charter Moguls Does It Take to Screw in a Light Bulb?

Over at Gotham Charter Schools there's an article comparing the public school on whose back Joel Klein has painted a target to the new Moskowitz academy that wants to help kill it. Amazingly, a huge point that appears to favor Moskowitz is that she was able to send an email and get a light bulb replaced within 30 minutes. It's odd, because I, a lowly teacher, am able to get such a job done much more quickly, without even consulting my Blackberry (This is additionally convenient because I don't happen to have one).

The fact that it's not the UFT, nor the principal in question, but Tweed that refuses to address the rampant dysfunction in public schools. That's neither here nor there, apparently. Why should they bother with such trivialities? After all, Mayor Mike is providing charters for some kids, so who cares that my school is at 250% capacity and that my students are relegated to a trailer well past its due date? That doesn't merit a paragraph, even a whisper, over at GCS.

With convenient outlets like Gotham providing the lion's share of coverage for a system that serves a distinct minority of kids, they can ignore the outrageous failures of Bloomberg and Klein, focus on schools that get private funding and enrich demagogues like Moskowitz. Not only that, but they can recruit teachers who do more work for less pay, and blame those greedy unionized teachers for all the woes of society. Never mind that the kids they shed all those crocodile tears for will grow up to find the more-work, less-pay precedent even more common than it is now.

The staff of Gotham Schools appears to be two tireless and brilliant young reporters, a thoughtful and reflective college professor, and a rich guy with time on his hands who really likes charter schools. But the front page seems to reflect the latter POV, repeatedly, insistently, and in Flintstone-sized helpings.

You won't be reading about my school there, or scores of schools like it and better. Frankly, fair and balanced it ain't.

Slowly I Turned...

Guess where I am. But don't say the name aloud. Could be dangerous.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Teacher Knows Best

I believe in absolute power for the classroom teacher. There's no democracy, and no discussion about some things. For example, in the trailer, I might let the kids out a few minutes early so they can slog through the wind and snow back to the classroom. Nonetheless, I get to make that call, and if they have to stay till the bell rings, or even after, well, so be it.

So when kids say, "It's time to go," it irritates me to no end, and I tend to make them stay while I go over some fine point of the lesson that doesn't really need going over. In fact, the more tedious I can make that last unnecessary moment, the better. Mostly they catch on and stop saying that. But some kids are hardcore and cannot be dissuaded.

So the other day, I tried something new. When the guy who didn't catch on said, "It's time to go," I said, "Fine, everyone can go." All the kids rose to leave, and I added, "Except you. You stay till the bell rings." He took it as a joke, and got up to leave. But when he set foot out the door, I told him there would be dire consequences if he didn't return to his seat instantly. He looked at my face and went back.

I gathered all my stuff, and discovered the bell was actually late that day. So I picked up my bag and told him, "I'm leaving. But you have to stay till the bell rings. If you get out of your seat before that, I'll know it, and you will regret it."

I walked toward the building. As I approached it, the bell rang, and I saw the kid run like a bat out of hell out of the trailer. And guess what?

He hasn't told me since when it was time to go.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Attention Walmart Shoppers

Jeez, maybe if the people who worked there got a half-decent salary, they wouldn't need to filch customers' credit card numbers.

Poor Rich Folks

It appears that the economic boom is causing some of our well-heeled residents to consider (gasp!) public school for their children. Now I send my kid to public school, but on the other hand I'm just a lowly teacher. So the question of whether or not I'd be spending 33 thousand bucks a year on my kid's education just never came up somehow.

So you can imagine how badly I must feel for all these people. Apparently, although they're zoned for good public schools, there may not be enough space for their kids. Gee, it's kinda too bad that Mayor Bloomberg closed all those other neighborhood schools rather than fix them. But those are the breaks for people who couldn't afford the good neighborhoods, and now they're the breaks for these poor rich folks too.

Now if you didn't move into a favorable school district, you can sublet your apartment and rent elsewhere. But it turns out that districts with better schools command higher rents. Who would've imagined a good neighborhood school made the neighborhood more desirable? Not Mayor Bloomberg. Not Joel Klein. Not any of the "reformers." They always figured important folks, like themselves, could just send their kids to elite private schools and everyone else could just go to hell. But now that rich people are going with them, they may need to take another look. They probably won't, but if they did it could be a silver lining in this economic downturn.

There is absolutely nothing that enriches a neighborhood more than a good school or three. Hopefully the voters, whose will clearly means nothing to the mayor, will select someone in November who thinks enriching neighborhoods is even more important than enriching the likes of Eva Moskowitz.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Monday, April 06, 2009

Wow. This Cereal is Really Worth that $3.79

Personally, I think including the ability to control time with this box of cereal makes it a fairly good value. Think of all those stocks you should have sold, all those incriminating photos and tapes you made in your wayward youth, or even that nasty dress you may have left over at Monica's place.

And just in case that's not enough for you discriminating shoppers, it has calcium, vitamin D, and enough high-fructose corn syrup to keep you buzzing for a week.


Dadburn It!

I had it in mind to blog on this, but Mr. Talk went and beat me to it. Don't miss Fun with Maisie.

The Next Best Thing

Well, charter schools are all the rage, but before the "reformers" could push charters, they were pushing vouchers. That's when we, the taxpayers, get to pay for out and out private schools, rather than "nonprofits" that pay the likes of Eva Moskowitz 370 grand a year. Doubtless Ms. Moskowitz gives it all to charity and lives in a cardboard box outside one of her schools.

In any case, vouchers are still alive and well in Milwaukee, and they seem to be doing a heckuva job:

Often they were forced to carry their desks over their heads. One student who wasn’t well fell asleep in class and had a pitcher of water poured over his head. Several students, including one who is just six years old, said that if they broke the school’s rules, they were punished by having their arms twisted behind their backs until they said, “I give.” A nine-year-old girl said she was punished by being forced to carry around a bag of sand. Others were made to do push-ups on milk crates until their arms throbbed.

And this at a cost of a mere 4.5 million to taxpayers. Well, that's certainly a more innovative approach than just making calls home and trying to force improvement. Doubtless that's why voucher schools like this one are so superior to public schools. The only problem, apparently, is that they aren't:
A recent battery of studies of the Milwaukee scheme by University of Arkansas researchers found that voucher students are doing no better academically than their peers in public schools

That's not all that impressive, is it? And studies like those perhaps explain why geniuses like Bill Gates and other idle rich ignoramouses now spend their time visiting and giving seed money to charter schools instead. Never mind the obvious--that 100% of charter school parents have proactive parents. Why do flunkies like NYC "Chancellor" Joel Klein write letters that not so subtly urge parents to pull their kids out of public schools and send them to charters?

Because there's a ton of money to be had in public education, that's why. Eva Moskowitz isn't the only one around here who stands to profit when we direct our tax dollars to private pockets. There's a potential bonanza out there, and the more public schools we can close, the more private entrepeneurs stand to benefit.

Clearly our abysmal health care system and financial collapse have taught us nothing. By privatizing our schools, moneyed interests want to make sure we never learn anything at all.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The New Paradigm

Billionaires like Mike Bloomberg whose kids never set foot in a public school run them, with advice from other billionaires, of course. Newsweek, taking a page from their book, finds a guy who's never seen ER and has him review the finale.

You Didn't Vote for Me, so Screw You

"You people made your choice," Maverick Johny tells Hispanic voters, saying they should look to Obama for immigration reform.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Crime Bosses

The Washington Post reports that the crooks running the country have decided to hand out more free money, no restrictions required, to the financial industry through a money laundering scheme they've set up:

The Obama administration is engineering its new bailout initiatives in a way that it believes will allow firms benefiting from the programs to avoid restrictions imposed by Congress, including limits on lavish executive pay, according to government officials.


The administration believes it can sidestep the rules because, in many cases, it has decided not to provide federal aid directly to financial companies, the sources said. Instead, the government has set up special entities that act as middlemen, channeling the bailout funds to the firms and, via this two-step process, stripping away the requirement that the restrictions be imposed, according to officials.

Although some experts are questioning the legality of this strategy, the officials said it gives them latitude to determine whether firms should be subject to the congressional restrictions, which would require recipients to turn over ownership stakes to the government, as well as curb executive pay.

Have you got that? On the same day that the BLS reports 668,000 lost jobs for the month of March, a total of 5.1 million lost since the beginning of the recession in December 2007, President Merit Pay is going to make sure that the same criminals/bankers/financial executives who brought us this mess can continue to live their lavish lifestyles, rake in the big executive bucks and yuck it up at the club smoking cigars and drinking martinis with their banker buddies - and he plans to break the rules, or as we used to call it, "the law," to do it.

Now I understand the administration is claiming that financial institutions in need of government money won't ask for it if the restrictions placed on the TALF dough by Congress remain.

But you know what? That's bulls$%t - these institutions are insolvent and they're asking for a taxpayer-funded bailout. Anybody in the administration ever hear the phrase "beggars can't be choosers"? Apparently not - at least not if the beggars are former Masters of the Universe on Wall Street. If you're a begging member of the financial industry, you get a photo-op at the White House with smiles and chuckles all around. And lots of free money, restriction-free.

But if you're an auto industry CEO or a member of the UAW, then watch out below, brother. After General Motors took far fewer bailout dollars from the government than Citigroup, BoA, and AIG did, GM CEO Rick Waggoner was shown the door by President Merit Pay as a way of showing the country that the auto industry must get "serious" in fixing their financial problems. And after claiming that the AIG bonuses could not be taken back because the contracts that guaranteed them are sacrosanct, the Obama administration is prepared to force the UAW to eat its current contract and make concessions, concessions, concessions in order to help fix GM's problems.

Ironic how the Masters get treated so differently by President Merit Pay and his merry band of bailouters than the carmakers do. Wonder if it has anything to do with just who is in this administration and the fact that the contracts being broken are union contracts?

Hmm - here's a clue. The Wall Street Journal reports that President Obama's second-in-command on the economy, Larry Summers, received $2.7 million dollars in compensation last year for giving speeches to many of the same firms he is handing bail out money to - firms like Goldman, JP Morgan, and Merrill Lynch. In total, Mr. Summers made $5.2 million last year from his work on Wall Street helping the Masters of the Universe.

Gee, no wonder the administration is telling Europeans they favor a less stringent regulatory approach to the financial industry - the financial industry is running them. And no wonder they're setting up a money laundering scheme to get the TALF money to the financial industry "restriction-free" - they're being compensated for it.

Meet the new crime bosses in Washington, same as the old crime bosses.

Friday, April 03, 2009

I'm Your Uncle Arnie!

President Merit Pay's Secretary of Education, Arnie Duncan, announced in a letter to the governors of all 50 states that additional stimulus bill education aid will be tied to the states providing what the NY Times described as "reams of detailed educational information."

The data Uncle Arnie is requesting includes the following:

¶Student math and reading scores on local tests, as well as on the National Assessment of Education Progress, a federal test that is more difficult.

¶The numbers of schools declared failing under federal law that have demonstrated student achievement gains within the last three years.

¶The numbers of students, by high school, who graduate and go on to complete at least a year’s worth of college credit.
The Times says the administration wants the data so that it can catch the states that have dumbed down tests in order to make test scores look better, manipulated graduation rates and overall failed to educate children while on the surface making it look like they are doing an adequate job.

Here's the ironic thing about this: just this week Uncle Arnie praised a man who has done all of the things Uncle Arnie wants to catch states doing - manipulating test scores, dumbing down tests, playing with the graduation rates, etc.

That right, Uncle Arnie loves him some Mayor Bloomberg, as the NY Post notes here in this article from Tuesday:

"I'm looking at the data here in front of me. Graduation rates are up. Test scores are up. Teacher salaries are up. Social promotion was eliminated . . . Dramatically increasing parental choice. By every measure, that's real progress."

"It's absolutely going in the right direction. The mayor and chancellor deserve great credit for that," he said.

Uh, huh.

Now I don't know if Uncle Arnie is stupid, corrupt or both. But everything the Times article says he hopes to find states doing Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein engage in - dumbed down tests, phonied graduation rates (ask the mayor what his "credit recovery" program is), excluding ESL and Support Services students from testing in small schools to make the scores look better - and we can add manipulated school crime stats and no-bid contract corruption to the mix.

As has been noted time and time again here on NYCEducator, the test score progress Bloomberg and Klein claim on the state and city tests (which are graded in-school by the same teachers who teach these students and created by state and city bureaucrats with an interest in dumbing down the tests and rubrics) disappear on the federal test - the National Assessment of Educational Progress:

New York City’s eighth graders have made no significant progress in reading and math since Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took control of the city schools, according to federal test scores released yesterday, in contrast with the largely steady gains that have been recorded on state tests.

The national scores also showed little narrowing of the achievement gap between white students and their black and Hispanic counterparts.

The results for New York and 10 other large urban districts on the federal tests, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, paint a generally stagnant picture for the city, although there are gains in fourth-grade math. On measure after measure, the scores showed “no significant change” between 2005, when the test was previously administered, and 2007.

Mr. Bloomberg has trumpeted improving state test scores as evidence that the city is setting the pace for urban school reform. But the federal scores, on a test often called the nation’s report card, suggest that the city’s gains are limited. Similar patterns of gains on state tests outstripping gains on the national assessment have emerged elsewhere as well.

New York City’s federal scores showed that while fourth-grade reading results have improved over the past five years, the most significant jump came in 2002, before Mr. Bloomberg took control.

And all this lack of progress on the NAEP under Bloomberg/Klein came as they gave testing modifications (i.e., extra time, having some read the test aloud to students, etc.) to 20%-25% of the students taking the test - more than the 10 other cities that take part in a city-by-city NAEP comparison used to give context to the stats and more than any other state in the nation.

So by the most independent measure of educational progress - the NAEP - Bloomberg and Klein show little to no progress in test scores but a marked increase in the number of students who received testing modifications . And these are the guys Uncle Arnie wants to use as a model for education reform around the nation?

You have to wonder if Uncle Arnie compared the NAEP test results for New York City to the state and city tests or noted all the testing modifications Kleinberg added while showing no progress on the NAEP before he opened his mouth to the NY Post and endorsed Mayor Bloomberg for Public School Dictator? Or was Arnie too winded from his post-basketball cigarette break with President Merit Pay to do the comparisons? Or maybe he just doesn't give a s#$t in the least, maybe he just wants to prop up the education "reform" status quo as embodied in the crooked carcasses of Mayor Moneybags and Chancellor Sarcaphogus?

I don't know about you, but I think it's the latter.

These people don't care about true education reform, real student progress or helping educate students for that matter.

All they seem to care about is privatizing education, adding more charter schools to the system, extending hours and days for urban students and busting teachers unions.

And the rest is a bunch of "fiddling about."

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Great Education Myth

Back in December 2006, David Sirota wrote a piece for Huffington Post entitled "Obama - Power Challenger or Power Appeaser?" in which he noted how then presidential candidate Barack Obama was a purveyer of the "Great Education Myth" - that if we only raise education levels for all Americans, raise test scores, raise graduation rates, etc. we can solve the economic problems so many working, middle and now even affluent Americans are suffering as a result of globalization - problems like outsourcing, wage depression, and health care benefit/pension cuts.

Here's how Sirota put it:

This is one of the most dishonest myths out there, as the government's own data shows that, in fact, all of the major economic indicators are plummeting for college grads. You can make everyone in America a PhD, and all you would have is more unemployed PhD's - it would do almost nothing to address the fact that the very structure of our economy - our tax system, our trade system and our corporate welfare system - is designed to help Big Money interests ship jobs offshore and lower wages/benefits here at home.

Sirota writes that so many politicians, including our current president, traffic in the Great Education Myth because it's easier to blame teachers, teachers unions, schools, and the education system for the economic ills we suffer as a result of globalization rather than take on the true creators of the problem - the Big Money multinational corporations who outsource the jobs, pressure Americans' wages downward, cancel health care/pension benefits and look to have American workers compete with workers in Sri Lanka and Thailand for a race to the bottom of the economic scale while they pay off the politicians in Washington with campaign contributions and cushy post-political jobs to look the other way.

That's exactly what the last administration did with No Child Left Behind and what the current administration is apparently going to do with its education policies. The problems of low wages, outsourcing, lay-offs, falling 401 (k)'s can all be laid at the feet of teachers and the public school system. What we need, the president says, is longer school days, a longer school year, increased testing, and an AIG-type merit pay bonus system for teachers based upon test scores to solve our economic ills (and note too how he gave this education speech to a bunch of business "leaders" at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, further underscoring just how much he and his administration trust the guidance and wisdom of business leaders to take our country out of the current financial mess these self-same business leaders created.)

Of course Obama's belief that "fixing" America's public school system will fix the economic fall-out from globalization is horse#$%^. Here's Sirota again:

This isn't to say that we should underfund America's schools, or that our education system isn't a priority. Of course it is. But it is downright destructive to peddle the idea that paying teachers more or better funding the No Child Left Behind Act will be the major key to solving the problems inherent in a globalization policy that incentivizes slave labor, sweatshops, union busting and environmental degradation. All this Tom Friedman-inspired Great Education Myth does is raise public expectations to unrealistic levels while creating a justification for continuing to sell off our country's core economic policy to K Street lobbyists.

And that's it in a nutshell - divert attention from the real culprits for America's economic problems by blaming teachers, schools and of course teachers unions, all the while propping up the current dying financial system by handing out trillions in bailout money to the financial industry in the form of TARP money, TALF money and ancillary other forms of corporate welfare. But the real problem is not teachers and schools on Main Street, the real problem is the globalization policies in Washington and Wall Street (and let us note how so many "education reformers" are also corporate raiders, con-men, crooks and hedge fund managers - no accident that the people who want to "reform" the system are the same people pillaging it.)

Obama's education policy is just another example of how the "Change You Can Believe In" promises we heard from him during the campaign were nothing but empty slogans - about the only change Obama seems to believe in was a change of his own address.

Meet the new boss, Boss Obama - busy propping up the status quo of a globalized corporate world where wages are pressured downward and Americans are told they're going to have to work longer and harder to maintain a lifestyle that their parents and grandparents took for granted.

He looks a lot like the old boss, Boss Bush.

The Suzuki Method

My poor writing students are struggling through yet another listening passage designed by NY State to bore everyone to death as quickly as possible. This time I went back to the last century, 1999 precisely, to a passage about the Suzuki method of violin instruction. The theory is kids learn the violin just as they learned to speak, but according to the passage, it doesn't work as well in America as it did in Japan.

Apparently we don't do things quite as naturally as they do in Japan, but rather we just make kids play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star until their arms fall off. Having experienced this a little, and having seen kids who'd been in the program for years sawing away at things that didn't sound precisely like music, I can't argue with that. Of course, the results must be better at least sometimes, or why would all those folks be dragging their kids to classes so early on Saturday mornings.

One of my students, though, had an even more interesting interpretation, and I'll write it from memory, sparing you a few grammar issues:

The US is a democratic country. Parents don't want to spend time with their kids playing violin. Also, they don't want anyone telling their kids how to play or what to do. Parents want their kids to do what they want and they don't care what anyone tells them. Parents want teachers to leave them alone and leave their kids alone. The Suzuki method won't work here because no one listens to anyone and no one wants anyone to tell them what to do.

Well, I have to get back to my daily routine of letting my kid run rampant and do whatever the hell she feels like whenever she feels like doing it. And any teachers who criticize her, who try to give her any direction or reign in her reign of terror, well, I've got a knuckle sandwich for them

This is America, dammit!