Monday, May 31, 2010

The iPistol

Is this Steve Jobs' latest effort to persuade people to use his new products?  Will it grab more new customers than the iPad?  In these troubled times, perhaps it's just the thing.

Maybe thieves will use it even though it costs more than a regular pistol.

"It just works," they'll exclaim.

Then they can keep scrupulous records of whom they've robbed, how much they got, where they robbed them, and calculate the best times and places to rob people.  Doubtless if there isn't an app for that one will pop up on iTunes any moment now.

What won't they think of next?


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day Plagiarism...

...from that wild and wacky Sarah Palin.

The Little Rascals Get Schooled

Thanks to Pogue for sending this video!  There seems to be a substitute in for Miss Crabtree today, and the kids are not learning the Gettysburg Address. (Farina said it was Sixteen Forty Four South Main Street.)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Happy Three-Day Weekend!

from the entire staff here at NYC Educator!

We hope you do something fun and forget everything you read here, at the very least until Tuesday.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Change Is Inevitable--Except in Vending Machines

In my school, teachers struggle with inadequate facilities like trailers, half rooms, and unventilated monstrosities even as classes take place outside and in the halls.  As if that weren't enough, Mayor Bloomberg's favorite snack company has come to town and set its machine right outside the worst classroom in the school.  Apparently, disrupting class is no problem as long as there are potato chips that need selling.

And it turns out potato chips are fine for kids as long as they're baked.  You see, if the empty calories and sodium don't arrive fried, they're good for you.  Who would've thunk it?

But it's OK.  Fortunately, the company is not unionized, and indulges in the sort of practices Mayor Bloomberg would like to see as the norm.  This story is from a few months back, but I just saw it--and here's who got selected:

Answer Vending, a Westchester-based firm, was ordered in June 2008 by the State Department of Labor to ante up $116,000. This included penalties and back pay to 21 employees it was found to have shortchanged. Answer executives didn't respond to questions last week, but Labor Department spokeswoman Michelle Duffy said the fines are still outstanding: "They haven't paid."

They sound like a fine bunch to me, just the sort of people our venerable leaders love to get into bed with.  And to help out, they've secured the services of Octagon Vending, the company that set up the Snapple deal, making sure Snapple alone could re-do its bid before short-changing the city of some 5-million dollars.   Naturally the Panel for Educational Policy voted to select this company.  Here are a few more of their bonafides:

What the workers did tell organizers was that they often had to work 50- and 60-hour weeks, without overtime, and that wages were often paid partly in cash. They received no benefits, they said. 

Now there's a company after Joel Klein's heart.  The unions say with card check they could organize in a flash, but President Change We Can Union Bust With has not managed to keep his promise to pass a bill enacting it.   So what does Octagon Vending do, exactly, besides deliver less cash than promised?

"We're paying them 15 to 18 percent of the contract, and it's not even clear what they're doing," said Patrick Sullivan, a public school parent who is Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's representative to the panel and who voted against Octagon. "There was no assessment of their prior performance."

The much ballyhooed Money for Nothing Dire Straits sang about.  But at least they gave it to the highest bidder, didn't they?

Education officials admitted last week that the formal contract authorization request that they submitted to the panel described the only unionized firm, Canteen Vending, as offering the highest guarantees for revenue to be paid to the schools. Canteen was rejected, the report stated, only because its "vending machine operation/monitoring systems are inferior to the competitors."

The department's spokesman said this was "a misprint." Wasn't this a pretty long and involved sentence for a misprint? "I have no idea what that's about," he said. And the statement that the losing bidder made the highest offer? That was a mistake, too.

Hmm...well, if The Department of Education says so, it must be correct.  After all, they never lie.  So let's just take them at their word.

But--do we believe the first thing they said or the second?

So many questions, so little time.  And so many contracts to dole out to union-busters.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dress Code Enforcement; Or, Yes, Please Give Me One More Thing to Do

As the weather grows warm and no climate control-type relief is in sight, my kiddies have taken to wearing fewer and fewer clothes to school. Which means that dress code policing has become one of my jobs.

Now, I'm all for children dressing sensibly for school. I wore a uniform growing up and neither my sharp sartorial sense nor, God forbid, my self-esteem was damaged. I would happily teach in a uniform school or send my own children to one. But alas, my current school simply has a somewhat vague dress policy.

For example, no one seems to know the rule on shorts. The loose longish cargo shorts that the boys wear and the cute Bermudas that are popular with the girls seem to fine to me, so I've never given a kid a hard time about them. But my AP recently claims that they can only be worn for gym. I've no idea if this rule is official or, if it is, why.

As well, if a child is dressed improperly, I am supposed to send that child directly to the office to either change clothes or wait for a parent or guardian to bring a change of clothes. Now, again, I am theoretically in favor of a policy like this. However, in the recent past at my school, a child has told a teacher to go f--- herself only to be promptly returned to the classroom, and another child called a classmate a name that I cannot even attempt to partially censor on a family blog and faced no consequences at all. So perhaps you can see my hesitation to remove a child who is otherwise productive and pleasantly behaved from my classroom.

I probably have two options: continue to mostly ignore all but the most egregious dress code violations, or simply send every single violation to the office. It will certainly free up some oxygen in my classroom to do the latter. But something tells me that my administration would actually secretly prefer me to do the former so as not to clutter their office.

I have not removed a child from my classroom at all this year, not even once. I have managed all disruptions by myself. I sort of don't want to ruin my perfect record. But I'd rather not be disparaged for not doing Part #647 of my job, which is, apparently, Dress Code Enforcement.

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

All the Propaganda That's Fit to Print

by special guest blogger North Brooklyn

     Steve Brill, whose last NYT article detailed why executives should make more money than g-d, has laid out the new education plan. Millions of dollars are to be paid out to develop data systems that will never affect the education of one child in this country. We old spinster teachers are wisely going along. We’ve made our case for years that these data systems are unworkable; that education is more complicated than that. But we are not stupid. We are not going to stand in the way of great gobs of money flowing into the coffers of the grand state of New York.

     Brill claims that by last March, Duncan had forced more school reform that the country had seen in decades-without spending a nickel. Standing around some state rotunda hearing a few education bureaucrats say, “Sure, Arne. We can do that,” does not qualify as reform.

     But Brill insists there are important forces at work; typified by Jon Schnur’s who heads the Manhattan based New Leaders for New Schools and the author of the RTTT spin. Ever heard of him? Me neither. These forces are blogging and emailing one another [so are the aficionados of Mary Kay cosmetics-doesn’t mean they are a force]. These forces went to an Ivy League school, taught for two years as TFA and have moved up the ranks and now run city or state systems.

     Who, the gentle reader might ask. Michelle Rhee, who can’t figure out a budget? Joel Klein, who can’t figure out how to get the yellow buses to the kids on time? Oh, those guys, yeah. That’s a rock solid education group.

     The second force at work, according to Brill, is a new crop of Democratic politicians--including Obama--who seem to be willing to challenge the teachers unions. Who wouldn’t? Have you taken a look at the bump in the polls every time a politician intones the words ‘bad teachers’? If I were running for office I’d blame the teachers for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

     Third, there are the powerful money interests like Bill Gates.  Bill,  at one time, didn’t think poor people needed computers, but learned very quickly that there is a lot of money to be shaken from that tree.

     And finally there is the charter school movement--an educational prairie fire that educates less that 5% of the children in this country and is rarely monitored except when something really bad happens.

     There is much ado about the sausage making going on and it pains Brill to report that the UFT and AFT want a fair process in place. Frankly it doesn’t pain me at all to write that American teachers insist on being treated fairly even if it gives the education industrialists heartburn. 

     Had Brill stopped there, it would have been enough. But that’s not Brill’s style. He compared two schools in NYC; one public, one charter, both in the same building. The charter school was lovely and the public school was not. Brill failed to note fundamental differences between the two school populations,  and certainly every NYC public school puts its best foot forward when the NY Times comes to call. Assuming Brill is writing the truth, he slipped in unannounced. This makes him an intruder. I’m sure he wouldn’t see it that way. I’m sure he sees himself as a nice guy who would hurt another person. But if he doesn’t even understand what unlawful public school intruders represent he's utterly unqualified to comment on the work of teachers.

     So, a plan will be created. Why? Because the Kid in Chief, Obama, and his basketball buddy, Duncan, love it. And the education bosses love it. And Jon Schnur’s parents love it because now he’ll move into his own apartment and start picking up the tab on his college loans because he is going to be making buckets of money.

   And public school children are left behind yet again.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Those Awful Lazy No-Good Unionized Public School Teachers...Where Can We Sign Our Kid Up with One?

Well, it's not a pretty time to be a UFT member, if there ever was one. You scarcely need to scroll back even a week here at one of the top 20 teacher blogs to find tales of demoralization, indignance, and ineptitude by (un)elected officials that will make whatever hair is left on your head curl. But every so often, a little gem comes along, a comment so perfect and serendipitously obvious that it makes me smile a secret little teacher smile. This comment slipped in under the radar at GothamSchools, but I'd like to highlight it here.

Context: over 1000 kindergarteners-to-be have been lost in the shuffle here in NYC, some shipped to schools several miles from their homes. This might be understandable in the Alaskan tundra or the lonesome prairie, where there might be only one school around for miles. But here in NYC, the problem is overcrowding for which the school system did not adequately plan, despite the fact that they saw it coming. Parents are understandably confused and upset. After all, kindergarteners aren't ninth graders with MetroCards and subway maps. These are the kids who can't yet tie their own shoes or print their own names. I can understand why parents would like them close to home.

But anyway, parents citywide are pretty upset. "But wait," any casual viewer of the television news or the Post might ask, "don't the public schools all suck? Aren't they full of those lazy good-for-nothing unionized teachers?"

Indeed, right? So why, the commenter asks craftily, are parents fighting over slots at their neighborhood schools? Don't they want their kids in those supposedly better charter schools? Are they all out-of-touch, oblivious, negligent parents?

Or could it be that neighborhood schools, full of those worthless unionized teachers, are actually worth fighting over?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Thank you, thank you very much

It looks like we've been listed as one of the top 20 teacher blogs!  What taste and discernment they've shown to select us.  In fact, I too would have selected us.

I knew this blogging thing would pay off one of these days.  I can only hope Miss Eyre doesn't ask for a raise.

I want to thank all the people who made this possible--Joel Klein, Michael Bloomberg, Randi Weingarten, my dog Bertha, and last but not least, all the commenters with whom I argue on a regular basis.

Now With Only Half the Crap!

Incredibly, that's pretty much the line UFT central has been using to promote their latest evaluation deal.  Only 20% of your evaluation will be determined by standardized tests, using an unproven and highly questionable technique called "value added."  (Another 20% will be rated using local tests, portfolios, or some other thing.)  This is a good thing, they say, because it could be 50%.  In fact, that's what it is in Colorado, and AFT President Randi Weingarten supported the bill that enabled it.

And that's not all the venerable Ms. Weingarten enabled in Colorado:

Under the legislation, which garnered bipartisan support, teachers would be evaluated every year and students' academic progress would count for half the instructors' overall rating. Elementary- and high-school teachers would need three consecutive years of positive evaluations to earn tenure, which guarantees them an appeals process before they can be fired. 

Educators rated "ineffective" two years in a row would be stripped of tenure protection and revert to probationary status. They could earn back job protection after three straight years of satisfactory evaluations.

UFT teachers already work without tenure protection in the Green Dot charter school, among others.   With an openness to agreements like these, tenure could come to mean little or nothing to public school teachers as well.  The Unity/ New Action coalition that brought us leaders like Ms. Weingarten has now given us President Michael Mulgrew, who opted to negotiate this deal in secret and have the UFT Delegate Assembly rubber-stamp it for him.

The argument I've been hearing, incredibly, is it could have been twice as crappy as it was.  The truth is, while the agreement may indeed contain half the crap, or even less, crap is not on the short list of what today's teachers need most.  I know, because not a single teacher has told me so, and I talk to teachers all the time.

Perhaps union presidents should consider doing the same.

Thanks to Fred Klonsky

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Teacher Speaks

Here's a letter from the NY Daily News Voice of the People section:

Pay for performance

Flushing: When our soldiers and sailors are paid more or less depending on whether we're winning or losing wars; when law enforcement officers are compensated according to whether crime rates are rising; when firefighters are paid according to the number of homes that burn, and when members of Congress are paid based on the state of the union - then, perhaps, I will listen to those who would tie compensation of K-12 educators to student performance.

Mary Tortorella

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What's America Coming To?

Below you'll find a potpourri of quotes from NYC Educator's much-beloved Fox News.  Since they're "fair and balanced," they share with us all sorts of information we don't get elsewhere, and thank goodness for that.  I'm no fan of Barack Obama, but the repeated assertions that he's an anti-white racist are ridiculous, scraping the bottom of the barrel.  You have to ask yourself what sort of person would entertain such ridiculous notions, and the answer is not at all uplifting.

But the thing that really takes the cake here, a little later in the video, is the worldview of prominent teacher-basher John Stossel, who asserts:

"Private businesses ought to get to discriminate. And I won't won't ever go to a place that's racist and I will tell everybody else not to and I'll speak against them. But it should be their right to be racist." 

Now there's something, in twenty-first century America, that you don't hear every day.   So you have to ask yourself--does he really believe such nonsense?  Or are his "reformer" pals putting him up to it?  Is it a test balloon?  Maybe after they destroy public education, they have other "improvements" in mind.

John Stossel can't wait to return to the "good old days" of segregated lunch counters.  It's OK, apparently, because he won't eat there, and after publicly defending them below, claims he'll speak against them in some hypothetical future.  And for espousing such viewpoints, Rupert Murdoch pays him, not to mention his assorted pals below, a substantial salary.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lessons Learned

Mr. Doppler was teaching English.  This was not such a bad thing.  He spoke English, and heard it pretty much everywhere he went, so it didn't represent much of a hardship.  But he wondered whether or not they should have assigned him to teach the senior thesis project.  After all, he was a gym teacher, and the last time he had done a senior thesis, or even read one, well, he couldn't remember.

But the kids weren't concerned.

"Don't worry mister," they assured him.  "We're seniors.  We don't have to do anything."

That didn't sound good to Mr. Doppler.  But he plodded through the book the English AP had given him.  One day five kids were absent.  The next day seven.  More and more, kids disappeared.  They didn't do homework.  Except for three.  They did everything.

When the paper was due, twelve of the 34 kids in the class submitted papers.  The three working kids did very well, Mr. Doppler thought.  He gave them grades of 100.

A few of the others who had cut fewer than fifty times managed to pass, though Mr. Doppler felt he was overly generous.  The ones who handed in papers with the AOL logo still on them he didn't pass.  It was ridiculous, he thought.  So he failed almost everyone.

The principal approached him.  "Mr. Doppler, we don't have room for all of those kids.  You have to pass them all."

So he did.  And waddya know, the kids were right.

But he never taught English again.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Stop Listening to the Teachers' Union! Listen to Parents!": Miss Eyre Agrees

I sure do love that ad that keeps playing on NY1 every morning while I'm trying to catch the traffic report. You know, "Stop listening to the teachers' union! Listen to parents!", that one? It brightens my Cheerios in the wee hours before I leave for my cushy union-protected public school job in my fifteen-year-old car to a school in which I am down to my last ream of student-donated copy paper before I have to go and buy my own. In fact, I AGREE.

What is the union saying right now that we'd want the city or the state to pay attention to? Not much, from the looks of things. So it's not going to make much difference if the government makes it official that they're not listening.

I guess that ad has just grown on me, you know?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Duncan Doesn't Think Anyone Opposes Charter Schools

It's interesting to see the US Secretary of Education make blanket statements like that.  Actually, what he said was no one opposes "good" charter schools.  So what it comes down to is this--what are "good" charter schools?  Well, clearly they must be the ones that replace "bad" public schools.

Perhaps it's KIPP that's "good."  It's good for our kids to spend many extra hours and days at school.   They learn to "be nice and work hard." That trains them, I suppose, to work many extra hours as adults.  That's a good thing, because over in Europe people work far fewer hours.  That, I'm told, makes them "socialists," which is scary and dangerous.  Even worse, everyone over there gets health care, even if they work for Taco Bell.  They have unions that make demands, have power, and go on strike.  This is also bad, because it indicates they are neither working hard nor being nice.

But the fact that Duncan thinks "no one" opposes whatever it is he's determined good charters to be is indicative of the bubble he's in.  The New York Times recently posted a story suggesting charters don't produce better results than public schools.  That's remarkable, considering the fact that 100% of the  kids who attend have proactive parents. 

I wonder whether Duncan knows or speaks to anyone who isn't either affiliated with charters, a hedge fund manager, or a politician owned by Bill Gates.  He doesn't seem to require a lot of input.  After all, his policies seem not to have worked in Chicago, yet he's replicating them nationwide anyway.   I wonder who he consulted before he applauded the firing of an entire staff at a Rhode Island public school.  Certainly he didn't squander his valuable time talking to teachers.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Second (and Third and Fourth and...) Chances

This post by Jay Mathews had me thinking about classroom management and discipline today. You should click over and read the whole column, but in case you don't, Greene and the commenters there ponder whether or not students should lose major privileges, like a year-end trip, as a consequence for (I assume) flagrant and repeated bad behavior.

A couple of years ago, I had two very difficult students in one of my classes. They were difficult in most of the same ways: severely disruptive, rude, disrespectful, and generally out of control. I was a youngster back then and my classroom management was, I'll be honest, lacking. But at the same time, I knew that other teachers in the school had also had a hard time with them.

We had planned a year-end trip for the kids, and my co-teacher and I were worried about taking these two students. We asked our principal if we could write into the permission slip that if a student was suspended, they couldn't go on the trip. Both Frick and Frack were one more infraction away from being suspended, so we figured that this would serve either as an incentive for them to straighten up and fly right or as a warning that we were serious about taking the trip away from them, or possibly both. Our principal agreed.

Frick and Frack both got themselves suspended. And we had them removed from the trip.

Here's where the story changes.

Frick remained his surly, unmanageable self for the rest of the year, earning himself a second suspension. But Frack changed. He was truly disappointed that he missed the trip and begged to be allowed to go to the senior dance. Our principal said that if he stayed out of trouble between the trip and the dance, he could go. Well, Frack was an angel for those three weeks. He came to the dance on his very best behavior and conducted himself with dignity during graduation.

What did I learn from this experience? A few things:

1.) If you're going to threaten to take something away from a kid, be sure it's yours to take. Make sure your supervisor is going to back you up.

2.) Whatever you're going to take has to be meaningful. Frick obviously didn't care about being excluded from the trip. But Frack did.

3.) Remember that if you're taking away something like a kid's recess time, you may well be punishing yourself. It happens, and sometimes it's appropriate (unfortunately for you), but plan for it.

4.) Most importantly, if you're going to take something away, I think that you're more likely to see behavior change if the kid still has a chance to redeem him/herself. Can you take one thing away but leave the door open for something else? Can you work on a plan with the kid to help him/her "earn" the privilege back? I've seen that work with my classes quite a bit. And if you can mess with the kid or the class for a little while before you offer them the path to redemption, it works even better. Let them think it's gone forever for a short time.

Taking stuff away from kids is no fun. Even for your most nightmarish students, I bet you'll feel a little sad when you do it. But, done properly, it sends a serious message about behavioral expectations and teaches kids a real lesson. And, hey, you might just have a Frack in your class for whom finally experiencing real consequences actually has the intended effect.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Today's Special--Good News!

Fred Klonsky reports that the Rhode Island teachers who were fired (with the blessing of President Change You Can Bring to the Unemployment Line and his stooge Arne) have gotten their jobs back!  Personally, I'm grateful for each and every crumb of lucidity in this country.  I'd like a little more clarity as to what the agreement entails, but it's good they stopped this particularly boneheaded action.

Fred also notes that "reformers" are upset with this turn of events.  To serve kids better, apparently, we have to make sure they grow up in a world in which they can be fired at will by adminstrators who refuse to take any responsibility for the school systems they run.  By firing their teachers, we also absolve politicians, communities, and the moneyed interests that manipulate education for their own self-serving ends.  Instead, we dump it all on the shoulders of working Americans--which most if not all public school kids are destined to become.  

Money quote, from Fred:

"They only win when teachers and students lose."

Mr. Slick

Mr. Slick is not at all upset at the new agreement to judge teachers by test scores.  That's because he's going to cheat.  If kids get wrong answers, he'll simply erase them and make them all better.  This will ensure improvement on a regular basis.  After all, his predecessors are not likely to have juked the stats the way he's going to.

His kids are going to show enormous improvement in every area, and it will all be attributable to his excellence as an educator.  There's really no way anyone could determine otherwise, unless a hidden camera catches him erasing and replacing all those pencil marks. 

In fact, maybe Mr. Slick will take a look at  ARIS to make sure he inflates scores in a more believable fashion.  Though it could take ten years, admin might eventually get a clue as to his scam.  Of course, by then he'll have earned merit pay, and likely be an administrator himself.  Maybe he'll be the one who breaks the story about corrupt teachers gaming the system to their advantage.  Stranger things have happened.

But Mr. Slick is not really my concern.  The teachers who really have to worry are those who succeed him.  After all, the test scores will plummet for them, and the system will surely determine they are bad teachers.  They'll be rated "ineffective."  And indeed, their cheating skills do not and did not rival those of Mr. Slick, so maybe they are. 

Perhaps some innovative entrepreneur will provide a cheating course for teachers.  I think there could be big bucks in it, and maybe that's one of the goals of the "reformers" who regularly vilify education schools.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Really Love the iPad?

Here's your chance to get one covered in gold and diamonds for a mere $190,000.  Hurry, though, there's a limited supply!

Friday, May 14, 2010

From the Folks Who Brought You the 2005 Contract:

I'm still trying to get my head around the agreement the UFT and NYSUT made to re-do the teacher evaluation system.  After having read voices like Diane Ravitch and Aaron Pallas on "value-added" measures of teacher effectiveness, I'm fairly convinced that there is no way to use it effectively.  That's one reason I was wary to see the UFT get into bed with Bill Gates and his "Measures of Effective Teaching" program.

Mulgrew told the DA in September that we needed to participate so as to be part of this discussion, but apparently the discussion is moot since they made the deal without even waiting for the results.   There is a Q and A at which pretty much lays out the union position.   I was very curious about the teacher input I'd been hearing about.

How much say will teachers have in the new system?
Throughout the process, the role of collective bargaining is maintained, and, in many ways, strengthened. All of the elements comprising the composite score must be developed through state and local negotiations. The agreement states that the new teacher evaluation and improvement system would also be a “significant factor” in employment decisions such as a career ladder to positions such as lead teacher, mentor or coach that could lead to supplemental compensation, promotion into administrative positions, and tenure determination as well as in teacher professional development. But how the evaluations will figure into those decisions must be determined locally through collective bargaining. If no agreement can be reached, the old system will remain in place.

It appears the "teacher input" is restricted to those who control the union--the folks who brought us the 05 contract which was the best thing since sliced bread (highly overrated when you consider all those artisan breads you can bring home and cut yourself.)  The best I can see is if we don't reach an agreement, the old arrangement stays in place.  If we do reach an agreement, watch the eraser sales at Staples quadruple as teachers and administrators all over the state scramble to inflate scores.

And, as Mr. A Talk pointed out, the Q and A fails to mention you're terminated 60 days after two unfavorable ratings.

What are you going to do if the teacher who preceded you inflated scores?  How will you explain the massive losses you incur by the woeful liability of your incredible honesty?  How are you going to resist your supervisor imploring you to pass that kid who set off the stink bomb while the principal was observing you?

Hey, I hope I'm wrong.  I really, really do.

But these negotiation techniques are beyond my meager comprehension.  When the mayor refuses to give you the pattern, the one he gave all the other unions, the one he's held you to for decades, you don't give him the end of the rubber room.  You make him pay.

And when the morons who write op-eds attack you, you fight back.  You attack them in the media, even if you've blown your advertising budget with a cute but pointless cartoon. You don't appease them.  Why not?  Because when you do, they say it's not good enough and ask for more.

In fact, they don't appreciate our short-sighted, idiotic, pointless giveaways one bit. 

Nor do I, truth be told.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Field Test THIS

My darlings were pretty cranky today. You see, we had another standardized test today. "But, Miss Eyre," you might say, "didn't y'all just have the state ELA exam two weeks ago and the state math exam last week?" Why, yes, we did. So obviously this week was a GREAT time to have ANOTHER test.

They want to know why they have to take it and I have to tell them that I don't know. I tell them it's being used to develop test items for future tests.

"So, tests we won't have to take anymore because we'll be in high school?" they shoot back.

Well, yes, children, that is the case.

"Why couldn't we take this another time?"

I don't know.

"Hey, why do I have to take this long test and they don't?" (There were several different forms of the test, some of which had extended-response questions and some of which didn't.)

Sorry about that. It sucks. Wasn't my decision.

"So, basically, we're guinea pigs?"


This is not a fun conversation to have with a group of thirty cranky teenagers first thing in the morning.

Clearly more tests are just what we need.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I Must Be Dreaming

How else could I explain this article, which seems to have appeared in the New York Times?  We are entering into an agreement that makes it easier to fire "sub-par" teachers, and apparently the UFT and NYSUT trust the powers-that-be to determine exactly who fits that category.  The fact that Klein's minions make a career of lying to us and undermining public education does not appear to have played any part in this decision.

The sentence that really made me go back and check again was this one:

The unions — the New York State United Teachers and the United Federation of Teachers, the city’s union — did not gain any clear benefit from the deal, other than shielding themselves from criticism that they were hurting the state’s chances in Race to the Top.

Did I really read that?   Is this what we get weeks after having elected a new President?  He's used his overwhelming mandate to appease an opposition that vilifies us in the press on a never-ending basis?  Is this what they call negotiation?  Does he remember how that worked out for Neville Chamberlain?

Four years ago they pushed the awful backward contract that created the ATR brigade and endless hall patrol.  The contract that halved prep time for high school teachers.  The one that effectively gave us more work for less pay.  When we cried against it, they asked, "What would the tabloids say if we were to reject this contract?"

The answer?  The same thing they say now.  The same thing they always say.  Teachers suck.  Fire teachers.  Throw them out and dump non-union charters in their place.

I had hoped Michael Mulgrew would bring something new to the UFT.  Instead, he's brought us yet another idiotic deal in which we gain nothing, and provide givebacks.  And this time he's managed to provide no raise, not even an illusory time-for-money swap.   Despite this,  he's unilaterally changed the contract with no input whatsoever from rank and file.

And the Bill Gates experiment, the one the UFT went along with--the one that was supposed to give us a voice in how to determine what a good teacher really is?  He didn't even wait for the results before entering into this agreement, a tenure-killer if ever there was one.

After all, the UFT leadership can still collect union dues no matter how many veteran teachers are fired.  Is that all they care about?

I'd very much like to be convinced otherwise.  If anyone can provide any justification whatsoever for this, I'd love to hear it.

What Makes Writers Tick? Find Out Next Tuesday

Award-winning author of Ben Franklin’s Almanac and Our Eleanor Candy Fleming is will be at the NYPL on May 18 from 4:30-6:30 where she will speak about her own research and writing process—how she uses non-fiction and primary resources to research historical eras, and then compiles them into highly illustrated, highly narrative format.

Ms. Fleming won the 2009 Flora Stieglitz award for Non-Fiction for her book The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary that captures intimate details as well as the broad sweep of history. This scrapbook-style history draws upon photographs, letters, engravings, and even cartoons to “form an enthralling museum on every page.” Both her research and writing acumen are displayed in this wonderful text.


: Candy Fleming event for Educators

: May 18, 4:30-6:30

: “Lion Library” at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street
Additional Information

: First 100 RSVPs who attend will receive a hardback copy of the Lincoln book and all educators will receive primary source Civil War teaching materials. Refreshments will be served.
Email for more information and to register.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Eric Nadelstern, Demotivational Speaker

I've felt demotivated a lot in my teaching career. But Eric Nadelstern's remarks at a Teachers Network forum might just take the demotivational cake.

For those of you are unfamiliar with Mr. Nadelstern's uplifting rhetoric, he attempted to make the case to his audience that they would not want their own children to be taught by two-thirds of the city's teachers. Yes, two-thirds of the city's teachers suck, according to Mr. Nadelstern. Let's set aside, for a moment, the fact that Mr. Nadelstern has held various posts in the DOE over the past few years in which he has been responsible for teaching and learning, which would suggest that if the teaching corps is unequipped to teach all but the most bootless and unhorsed, perhaps it is somehow a tiny bit his own fault. But since I'm a generous commentator, I'll set that aside.

Why on Earth would someone in Nadelstern's position make such a statement? I can't fathom the president of a hospital saying that two-thirds of their doctors can't figure out how to open a Band-aid, or the president of a car company saying that two-thirds of their workers forget to install brakes in new cars. First of all, it sounds too ludicrous to even be true; second, it sounds like a great way to totally undermine your work force's self-confidence and the public's trust in them for no good reason at all with absolutely no evidence.

Stuff like this makes younger teachers like myself who might be open to making some contract changes want to dig in their heels and refuse to budge an inch. Or maybe it just makes us want to quit. In fact, Nadelstern's remarks made me want to make a statement that is unprintable in a family blog but that you can surely imagine, pack my things, and head for the suburbs. And I tell you truly, I have never considered teaching anywhere else until now.

I don't know why it bothers me so much that he said this stuff. I should just shrug it off as posturing. But I know way too many good teachers. If two-thirds of the city's teachers were somewhere on the mediocre-to-awful spectrum, you'd think we'd notice. I'm not seeing it, though.

Monday, May 10, 2010


I was once driving on a Sunday morning and heard NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein on NPR railing about state education cuts.  How could they?  It's awful!  What about the children?  Moments later, the conversation turned to city education cuts, and it was well, no one likes cuts, but what can you do.  It was amazing.  Any thinking person knows that cuts hit kids the same wherever they come from.

But the Daily News editorial board hasn't gotten the memo, I suppose.  Mayor Bloomberg's latest doomsday budget cuts thousands of teachers, and it's entirely the fault of the state.  They should cut pensions and health care to working people.  Perish forbid they should raise taxes on the likes of Michael Bloomberg and his newspaper-publishing pals.

The state cuts are as deplorable as the News says they are.  But the notion that Bloomberg plays no part in his own plan to cut 6400 teachers, after the preposterous but much-repeated contention he places "children first," simply defies belief.  How could any objective writer suggest that the mayor has no say in his own budget?

Mayor Bloomberg decided not to cut cops, and he could decide not to cut teachers as well.   He could start by cutting 5 million he's earmarked to recruit teachers in times of layoffs.  And he could ask New Yorkers, particularly wealthy ones, to pitch in and support the children he claims to put first. 

Frankly, if the mayor is so indispensable in these times that he needed to buy himself a third term against the stated will of voters, he should have a way better solution than I do.  He should have a brilliant plan that will require the sacrifice of no one.

Otherwise, what's so special about this guy?

Sunday, May 09, 2010

How Do You Explain Education "Reform?"

It turns out 4% of humans are literally Neanderthals.

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Turnaround Model

Reality-based Educator reports teacher-bashing Newsweek mag is for sale.  I guess it's not succeeding, and since it's so keen on "reforms," it's only fair we apply them in this case.

First of all, we need to transform Newsweek into a charter magazine.  What we'll do is establish a lottery for bloggers.  Those who win the lottery will become writers for the reconstituted Newsweek, and make the same salaries of those guys who get paid to trash teachers.  Actually we should solicit private funds to supplement our pay, and add expense accounts for necessary extras for the writer on the go, like donuts and prostitutes.

This being my idea, I want 400 grand a year like Eva Moskowitz gets.  I also want a Blackberry so I can write ungrammatical missives to important folks about being on a mission from God and therefore needing more and more frequent infusions of cash.  Naturally, I will create consultant gigs for my buds.  And if we fail to sell the paper, I'll simply write a column stating that charters should not be subject to the same standards to which we "reformers" hold non-charters, just like some creative genius did in the NY Times the other day.

It's pretty much a win-win.  I've pretty much had it with this whole work thing, and given all the writing I do for free, I think this is gonna work out very well for me and all my friends.

 Naturally, I'm open for suggestions on how we run our new charter magazine.  Feel free to describe any no-show jobs, diversions of profits, expansion plans, or displacement of existing magazines in the comments section.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Dispatch from the Trenches of the New York State Math Exam

My classroom was still experiencing a sauna-like degree of comfort this morning as I prepared to administer the New York State math exam. "Miss Eyre," you might ask, "aren't you an ELA teacher?" Yes, but I have a "homeroom," and it's easier to just keep the kids in one place all morning to take the test. So I administer the math test. It's easier, actually, than administering the ELA because on the ELA, the kids always want to ask me questions, thinking that I'll slip up and answer them. They know that on the math test, they're better off on their own.

My math teacher colleagues are possibly even more anxious about their test scores than myself and my ELA teacher colleagues, so, naturally, as I dutifully delivered my packed-up test materials later in the day, one of my colleagues asked me how my group had done.

"All right, I guess," I said. "It's hard to say. But B.B. and Smooth finished Book 2 in about fifteen minutes." (Eighth graders have 40 minutes for Book 2.)

Her jaw dropped. "No, no," she said. "That's no good. They probably rushed through it. Oh, they probably made a million silly mistakes."

I tried to reassure her, because if anything, those boys looked confident. And they're among the better students in the class, so I didn't think they'd simply written "That's what she said" for every answer and slammed the books shut or anything.

Running into some kids from one of my other classes later, I asked them how the test had gone for them.

"Eight minutes," one kid replied simply.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

My Brief and Glorious Deaning Career

It was June.  Everyone and everything was winding down, and I was sitting in the dean's office with one of my dean buddies.  It's good to have buddies in the dean's office.  Every now and then you might could use their help.

Anyway, we got to talking, and it turned out there was an opening for a new dean.

"Why don't you do it?" my friend asked.  "You're pretty good with kids, and they don't give you many problems."
I considered it.  Wouldn't it be cool to walk around with one of those radios, striking fear into the heart of every miscreant that dared to wander our halls without proper authorization?  They'd scurry and scatter whenever they heard my footsteps. 

Given that, I went to my AP.

"Are you crazy?"  She asked me.  "Look at Mr. Downtrodden.  He's absolutely miserable.  He comes to me every day with stories about how kids disrespect him.  I think he's gonna retire for sure.  He just can't take it anymore.  Do you really want to be like that?"

Truth be told, I did not.  I like being a teacher.  What hubris to think I could control the world outside my classroom.

So it took five minutes to talk me into it, and just five more to talk me out of it.  I hope I made the right decision.   I could be missing out on everything.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

What Would You Do for $125K a Year?

I've been helping a friend look for a new position for next school year. While looking this eve, I came across the website of The Equity Project (TEP) Charter School. At first, well, what's not to like? They pay their teachers $125K a year. Yes, you read that right. $125K a year. I had to admit that I was interested in seeing what kind of workload they thought was worth $125K a year.

It's...well, it's intense, to say the least. This is "a day in the life of a typical TEP teacher." And this is a typical work year. And working at TEP also includes a mandatory unpaid sabbatical every four to five years. (Click all the links before you continue; they're worthwhile reading.)




You know, as much as I (genuinely) love the idea of having more planning time built into the school day, I'm not sure that 1 hour/week of whole school planning time, 45 minutes/day of partner planning time, and 6 weeks (!) of whole school planning/development in the summer isn't just the tiniest bit of overkill. I could see how it would be really helpful for new teachers, or for a school that is in really dire straits for some reason. But if this is a stable, well-functioning school, I have to ask...WHAT ARE YOU DOING with all that time? What are you still trying to figure out? And I suppose all that is mandatory, not "Here is some staff development we're offering, maybe some of it will be helpful for you," that kind of thing?

This is me reacting, mostly, and maybe being a little reactionary. I'm not totally averse to messing around with the school day and year as we know it. I'm really interested in the Generation Schools model, for example, and I think my, uh, friend might like to teach someplace like that. And I think we all know here that any decent teacher is putting in time, usually lots of it, outside the school day--grading, planning, gathering resources, researching, whatever to make the actual school day itself better for his or her colleagues or students. All fine.

But as someone who'd like to be a parent someday, and has always envisioned herself with these pesky interior lives and social lives and family lives, I have to confess that I don't think I've got what it takes to join up with TEP. God bless the ones who do, I suppose, and maybe I'm wrong that this is an unsustainable model. Maybe some people can do 9- or 10-hour official work days followed by another couple of hours of travel and other stuff. And maybe all of TEP's students are going to go on to cure cancer and write Pulitzer Prize winning novels, and I'll just be one more lazy unionized public school teacher standing in the way of real reform.

I suppose we'll see. But I'll watch, with my friend, from a distance, I think.

Monday, May 03, 2010

A Stopped Clock.. right twice a day, and even Mayor Bloomberg has to get something right once in a while.   He rails against the idiotic Arizona law that will enable people to be stopped for the offense of looking different, or having an accent.   And he went further the other day:

"This country is committing national suicide. We just passed a health care bill to give coverage to millions of people, tens of millions of people and we don’t have doctors and we’re not allowing people who want to come here and be doctors to come here. This is just craziness. People are developing new drugs in India, rather than here. They’re going to win the next Nobel prize in China or in Europe, not here. If we want to have a future, we need to have more immigrants here and we should get control of our borders and we should decide who we want, what languages, what skills we need; people who work with their hands and people who work with their minds and we have to get real about the 12 million undocumented here. We’re not going to deport them. Give them permanent status. Don’t make them citizens unless they can qualify, but give them permanent status and let’s get on with this.” 

Now if only he'd apply the same logic to the public school system.  Even as he bemoans the idiocy of killing opportunities for Americans, he plods forward with an effort to expand charters.  Who cares if parents get no say as to whether charters invade schools their children attend?  The fact that they do not actually out-perform real public schools is of no consequence.  The market rules, the cream will always rise to the top, and who cares that the market resulted in the current recession, the worst in my living memory?

The important thing for Mike Bloomberg, and his billionaire buddies Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and the union-busting Wal-Mart family is that we plod on with programs to marginalize unions even more than Ronald Reagan did.   After all, who wants health care for all?   Who needs free college education?  Who wants a comfortable retirement?  That's socialism, for gosh sakes!

With folks like Mike Bloomberg and the tabloid editorial writers he pulls out of his pocket like so much loose change, Americans think the way to go is making teachers' lives and jobs miserable.  They're so brainwashed by crap like Fox News and the New York Post,  they don't understand what they do need--to make their own lives better.

Unfortunately, as long as people keep listening to backward-thinking demagogues, the country will just keep moving backwards.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Commercial of the Year

Looking for that perfect double-wide?   Over at Cullman, they don't care whether you buy one or not.  That's why they made this commercial, perhaps:

Yeah, and Bloomberg's "Reforms" Are Working...

Here's a man who claims not to have eaten for 70 years

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Blog of the Day

Check out Queens Teacher on pay for performance.

More Folksy Arizona Wisdom

Now they want to reassign or fire teachers for having accents they disapprove of.