Saturday, July 31, 2010

Summer Fun!

Cool off.  Go to Alaska.  Do a little Hunting with Palin

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Letter from the Chancellor

Dear Principals:

As you know, the scores on state tests were drastically reduced.  Some kids failed and we didn't find out about it until a few days ago.  In fact, we didn't even offer them summer school.   We're going to double down our efforts to deal with this.

To make sure we reach these kids, we're going to cut your budgets.  This way, you can offer them fewer services and larger class sizes.  But make no mistake, we believe in you.  That's why we take no responsibility when things go awry.  To show our continued good faith, we take no responsibility for this whole test thing either.  In fact, when shrill troublemakers like Diane Ravitch and Leonie Haimson questioned the results, we vehemently and repeatedly denied the scores were gamed.  Be assured the public forgot this long ago if they didn't simply ignore it in the first place.

I know that for many of us, it's dispiriting and disappointing to see so many more failures. But we must see this not as a roadblock, but as an important next step in our commitment to close every public school in New York City as soon as possible.  Once we do that, we can replace them with charter schools and you can fire all the teachers you like, for any reason, or for no reason at all.  We guarantee, whatever else happens, an abundance of scapegoats.

Sure, the lowered grades do not look good.  But they give me renewed faith we can blame the UFT for everything that's gone wrong over the last few years.  Clearly they are a bunch of saps who can't tell which way the wind blows.  First they invited Bill Gates to the AFT convention.  They applauded wildly for Bill, who along with our good friends at Wal-Mart, enabled all the school closings and test-score mania.  And now they're coming back to DC to ask for Race to the Top funds.   Make no mistake, neither Bill nor Wal-Mart will be holding us responsible for this humiliating episode.  Nor will the Daily News or the New York Post.

They will blame the teachers, and we'll solemnly nod our heads.  We'll spend all the 700 million writing tests designed to fire as many teachers as possible.  The 700 million won't be nearly enough, so we'll have to economize further.  We've already announced that teachers will not get a raise, and that will become a standing policy.  With the money we'd have wasted on teacher raises, we'll design even more tests so as to fire more teachers.  Eventually the entire work force will be non-union, and we can pay whatever we like, hire anyone we want, and they won't need no stinking degrees.  We can use DVDs instead of real teachers, and if kids don't learn we'll simply swap out the DVDs.  Then we'll swap out the kids.  If we do this frequently enough, no one will be able to follow what's going on, so results will make no difference.

I have the utmost confidence if we proceed in this fashion, the editorial pages will all say we're doing a great job, and New Yorkers will believe them.  After all, anyone with money sends their kids to private schools, as Mayor Bloomberg and I did, and those who can't afford private school work far too many hours to follow what goes on.

Otherwise, how would we have overturned their votes and gotten a third term based on test scores any thinking person could see were juked to the max?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sorry the Drug Doesn't Work. Let's Double the Prescription

I'd have some trouble returning to a doctor who offered that advice.  Yet it's status quo in the USA.  We've just found out that Bloomberg's much-vaunted test gains are smoke and mirrors, which many of us have been saying for years. 

Still, if you look at the Daily News,  Bloomberg's illusory gains don't even merit a mention.  The important thing, according to their omniscient editorial writers, is we've raised the charter cap.  Who cares if charters don't represent any improvement over charter schools in our idiotic quest to make test scores the sole factor in whether or not schools succeed?  Who cares if their rates dropped even more than those of public schools?

What's crucial now, according to the News, is that we keep moving in the same direction that's gotten us nowhere.  In fact, we need to follow in the footsteps of Michelle Rhee, who's also produced no improvements, and start firing more teachers.  Yeah, that's the ticket.  Let's continue moving forward with this Race to the Top.  Even the UFT President supports it, so what's to question?

There are a few things, actually.  As Reality-Based Educator pointed out in chapter and verse yesterday, the same geniuses at the Daily News couldn't get enough of Bloomberg's phony test scores, and ridiculed those who questioned them.  These same folks now are not humbled in the least by their utter failure to see the obvious.

And they're just as wrong now as they were then, says Aaron Pallas.

...Washington, D.C. and New York City have failed to disclose the technical materials that describe the strengths and weaknesses of their chosen value-added technology. 

So teachers can be fired, but letting them know exactly why is top secret.  But that's not all.  The infallible Michelle Rhee has based her firings on a system that has some serious drawbacks:

There’s no polite way to say this: The procedures described in the DCPS IMPACT Guidebook for producing a value-added score are idiotic. These procedures warrant this harsh characterization because they make a preposterous assumption based on a misunderstanding of the properties of the DC Comprehensive Assessment System (DC CAS). 

Stupid in, stupid out is one thing.  But stupid administrators whose policies result in hundreds of fired teachers is another thing entirely. That's where we're headed in NY too, with the recent deal between UFT President Michael Mulgrew and the state to bring value-added here.  This will be piloted in 11 "turnaround schools" in NYC, then brought everywhere.  Teachers branded ineffective two years in a row, based on student test scores, will be fired within 60 days.

Once that happens, the Daily News will praise the process.  When kids inevitably fail to benefit from it, they'll cry we didn't fire enough unionized teachers.  Will union presidents be rushing to Washington to hasten the process?

One would hope not.  The role of union leaders is to help working teachers.  Helping teachers, in fact, would help kids, parents and communities as well. 

Maybe it's time union leaders, like all Americans, began looking to sources other than Daily News editorials for information.

Support Public Schools...

....via this Facebook Page.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Coming to you from the OMG RLY NO WAI??!!!?! desk here at NYC Educator is a link to this brilliant piece of research over at Education Week's Teacher Beat blog. Now I may not be a Harvard researcher, my friends, but I could have predicted the results of this study very easily. In a nutshell, the study finds that "Teach For America teachers who are assigned to teach more than one grade, subject, or out-of-field are more likely to leave their schools—or the profession altogether."

One's first year of teaching is always difficult. No teacher I know, and at this point in my career I know quite a few, has ever said their first year was enjoyable or easy. Everyone looks at it as a necessary step to be endured and survived so that one can come back and do a bit better the next year. The least that any semi-competent administrator can do for any first-year teacher, from Teach for America or otherwise, is to keep the responsibility burden a bit lighter during that first year.

Now that doesn't always happen. I taught three different subjects in my first year of teaching and had a student load that was around 150. One could argue that this was a fairly heavy load for a first-year teacher, but no one particularly cared. I dragged myself through, but thought about quitting plenty of times. If I were an administrator (not, as I've stated here many times, that I'd like to be, but still), I would avoid putting a first-year teacher of any stripe in that situation.

The study named above draws a necessary, if obvious, conclusion: first-year teachers are rarely, if ever, ready for a very rigorous teaching load. But the potentially harmful effect of this study is that administrators might assume that only nontraditionally certified teachers--i.e. TFAs, Teaching Fellows, and the liked--need a lighter load in that first year. I'd venture to say that every single teacher, no matter how superbly trained, needs an "apprenticeship" year that goes beyond student teaching with as light a load as is possible.

The other pernicious effect, of course, is that we have headline news screaming what should be blindingly obvious. But, in education, that's nothing new.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reaping the Rewards

If you ask one of the 800 UFT members we sent to Seattle why on earth they invited Bill Gates to the convention, they'll say, "We need to be proactive and engage him."  That's what Randi Weingarten says, so that's what they say too.  I've heard that from her, I've heard it from commenters on this site, and I've also heard it from Peter Goodman in the comments at Gotham Schools. 

Engagement, though, entails conversation, give and take.  Inviting a person to be the featured speaker at your national convention, with no Q and A, is something else altogether.  That, frankly, appears more an endorsement.  The fact that you applaud this person wildly and ridicule anyone who'd question your choice serves to emphasize this position.  But nonetheless, you maintain it's engagement.  So now you've engaged the guy who's placed his billions of dollars behind, among other things, linking student test scores to teacher employment.  Perhaps you've told him that there is no research whatsoever to support this move.  Or perhaps not, since this "engagement" is not made public.

But since you're so modern-minded, and so engaging, you'd think there'd be some positive result.  Instead, hundreds of DC teachers are summarily fired.  And in NYC, the next experimentation ground for this "engagement strategy, the Daily News and the New York Post both call for more teachers to be fired, just as they were in DC.

Wow.  This "engagement" strategy is really paying off.  We've had no raise for three years, and we're facing firing for no good reason.  But as AFT leadership would certainly tell you, that's a small price to pay for making Randi Weingarten look like a new kind of union leader--the kind that doesn't trouble herself worrying over whether her members make more money or lose their jobs.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Who's Next?

By now, you're aware that Michelle Rhee fired about 6% of the teachers in DC.  In some cases, she did this because teachers failed to get their credentials, but in most it's because of their students' test scores.  Supposedly, there's a 22-point system scrupulously followed, but who really knows what Rhee is doing over there?  AFT President Randi Weingarten cries outrage, as this is not supposed to happen.  But what exactly is supposed to happen when you erode tenure and allow demagogues to judge teachers by test scores?

When you have contracts that judge teachers by test scores, and allow their firings based on test scores, isn't it logical to expect teachers will be fired based on test scores?   And if, as in the case of DC, you get no input into how the scores will be used, why do you agree to let them be used at all?  Is it wise to trust in the good graces of a Michelle Rhee?  Those are questions DC teachers should be asking union President George Parker, and it's tough to imagine he has satisfactory answers.  Perhaps that's why Parker, whose term has expired, has not permitted an election to take place.

Honestly, how could you vote for a person who's subjected you to job loss based on factors largely beyond your control?  Could Parker have anticipated that Rhee would use tests not designed to assess teachers and fire teachers on such a ridiculous basis?  Perhaps not.  But I certainly could have. 

Now it's entirely possible that Joel Klein is too principled to mess with people's livelihoods on such a frivolous basis.  But given that he specifically requested the ability to dismiss teachers on an "arbitrary and capricious" basis, I doubt it.  Supposedly, Mulgrew will have to negotiate how "value-added" is used to assess teachers.  But since there is no valid way to use it, how will he do that fairly?

Will he decline to do it at all?  One would hope, but wouldn't that make it look like we were anti-"reform?"  What would Bill Gates have to say about that?  More likely they'll work something out, and after two years of bad ratings, tenured teachers will be dismissed after 60 days.

But it's not all bad news.  On the brighter side, UFT employees at 52 Broadway will not be judged by test scores.  No matter how many city teachers are fired, they will continue doing whatever it is they do over there.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Someone Appreciates Teachers

More likely they appreciate our money, but you'd better hurry before Bill Gates figures out how to stop giving it to us altogether.  Until then, it appears some box stores are willing to not only sell you stuff, but also reduce the price first.

In some cases, they'll eliminate the price altogether.  When you consider inflation, shipping, tax, and the fact you haven't had a raise in three years, this seems very reasonable.

Office Max Event is supposed to be August 15 per my store {TX} - no further details given. Last year they had muffins, apples, a nice extra large magnetic paperclip, and a reusable shopping bag with discount coupon for 15% off everything you could fit in the bag.

Office Depot Event the dates vary - you can look them up here:
Event Locator]. Supposed to have free breakfast and giveaways, and 10% off qualifying in-store purchases all week. In addition to that there will be 50% back in rewards for purchases of select brands {listed here} and $25 off Lexmark printers $199 and up. Looks like you must be a member of their STARTEACHER rewards program to qualify.

Staples Event the dates also vary - you can look them up
here. Free thank you gift for the first 100 teachers {last year was a bag of school supplies, a pencil case, pencils, a highlighter} and breakfast.

Michaels - Teachers, treat yourself to extra credit on Fridays. Present your educator ID every Friday through September 24th and take an additional 10% off entire purchase
including sale items. See a sales associate for details. Event on 7/30/2010 from 1pm to 8:45 pm - Create some fun for the classroom. Teachers and friends, join us for Teacher Appreciation Crop Event. Learn to create fun bulletin boards, bookmarks, signs and more. We provide the space and assortment of tools. Plus, we take care of the cleanup. Link

Big Lots - Saturday, August 14 is Big Lots Teacher Appreciation Day. To America's teachers and educators, we offer our sincere thanks. Join us for special discounts! Said to be 10% off.

Barnes and Noble is having Educator days - their their website for dates under store events. Free snacks from the cafe, raffles, and a free gift. 


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday Video

There's a lot of bad news this week.  I'm going to hold off on it for now and focus on some teachers at PS 193 in Brooklyn who lodged a unique protest.  This video is produced by Norm of Education Notes Online, from whom I stole it outright.  I hope it brings at least a little inspiration to your weekend:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Donors Choose Let Bill Gates and Wal-Mart Choose for You

I was surprised to read at Accountable Talk yesterday  that the Donors Choose program, ostensibly set up to help teachers with pet projects, was whoring itself out to the billionaires and hedge fund managers who want to destroy public education.  What will those wacky rich folks do next?  They've bought the President, NY State's Governor, NY State's likely next Governor, and now they've got their hands in this innocent-looking little program.

They want teachers to pledge to see the anti-union, anti-teacher documentary Waiting for Superman, which has left people like Roger Ebert stating that teacher unions are responsible for everything wrong with education.  Certainly this must be a very effective piece of propaganda.  Doubtless it's bought the line every editorial board in NYC has, that charters are magic and fix all the problems kids may have.

But it's reprehensible that it would bribe teachers into working against their own interests.  You won't be seeing me asking for money with Donors Choose.   You won't see anything on this page that goes against the interests of working teachers.

Feel free to send them a little note and tell them how you feel.  Their website says they "vet" every project submitted by teachers.  Too bad they can't be bothered to do the same with wealthy propagandists.  It says a lot, actually, about how little they trust or respect working teachers that those representing the Gates/ Wal-Mart POV can do whatever the hell they like.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What Can You Do with an iPad?

To tell you the truth, I have no idea what you can do, but watch this guy play Flight of the Bumblebee on one:

Why Don't Teachers Trust Joel Klein?

Sure the local editorial boards are mesmerized by the Chancellor's rhetoric.  First, several of them are in the mayor's pocket.  Some have unions of their own.  And none can be bothered to examine anything whatsoever beyond the relentless Tweed spin.

There are a number of reasons working teachers might feel otherwise.  As editorial boards don't bother speaking to working teachers, they have no notion of such things.

There's the year Klein denied sabbaticals to virtually everyone, against contract, until the UFT took him to court.  There's the fact that he rails against the ATR clause in the contract, though he's a signatory to the contract that enabled it.  There's the fact that he doesn't consult teachers when making decisions.  There's his boss, Mayor Bloomberg, who has respect for neither the courts nor the law.  There's the "fair student funding" boondoggle that blatantly discourages principals from hiring senior teachers.

But mostly it's that anyone who pays attention knows what Klein would do if he had his druthers.  For years, he's been complaining about tenure, seniority, and pay steps.  Everyone knows he'd do away with all three in a heartbeat.  Teachers would then be at-will employees, subject to being fired for any reason, or indeed no reason.  Raises would come at the discretion of Klein and his minions, who have been consistently hostile to teachers.  We'd be like a bunch of waitresses at a diner, hoping for tips.

In DC, we can see the results of "empowering" autocratic administrators like Michelle Rhee--apparently talented teachers fired at the whims of her staff.  In the test-prep factories these short-sighted tinhorn dictators envision for our children, love of learning is valued not at all.  Inconvenient personalities are dumped by the wayside and no respect whatsoever is given to wisdom or individuality.

Of course you need not travel to DC to find such thinking at work.  Right here in NY, the Merrick Charter School, facing unionization, simply fired rabble rousers who wanted to unionize.  UFT President Michael Mulgrew says he'll sue if he can prove that's why they did it.  Of course, Mulgrew sued to prevent the closure of schools, won, and then allowed Joel Klein to muscle his new schools into the "saved" buildings even as the incoming classes were so small the schools were clearly being phased out.  Klein clearly respects the court no more than Mayor Bloomberg does.

Perhaps Mulgrew was under the thrall of anti-teacher, anti-union Bill Gates when he decided to further appease Joel Klein, agreeing to colocations that will certainly leave hundreds of UFT members without regular positions.  Or perhaps he thought the appeasement strategy, having not worked when we gave the ATRs, the extra time, lunchroom duty, the extra class that isn't an extra class, the various iterations of merit pay that aren't merit pay, and all the givebacks we've wrapped up in a bow and given to Joel Klein, would succeed if given yet another chance.  Perhaps he thought this time, Klein would not simply turn around and make even further demands. Who knows?

But every deal Mulgrew makes with Klein is a display of confidence that the overwhelming majority of teachers I speak to do not share.   We all know Klein would just as soon step on us as look at us.  It's not as though he's coy about it.  His boss, after years of insisting on pattern bargaining, demanded we take less than half the pattern.  Then he unilaterally announced, to save jobs, he'd give us nothing.  Then, based on information he already had when he made that announcement, he said he might lay off teachers anyway.

In fact, until and unless we're offered a fair contract, it's unwise to give the chancellor anything at all.   And once we have a contract in hand, it still won't mean we can trust these folks.  The toxic atmosphere between administration and teachers is something they've created, something they prize, and it's clear to all who pay attention they'll do everything within their power to make things worse.

Joel Klein's vision is one that doesn't benefit teachers, and if our children don't happen to be independently wealthy, it clearly will not benefit them either.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer Reading

I tried, friends, I really did, to blog about the "release" of the NYS test scores. I call it "release" because apparently somebody somewhere has seen the scores, but when I log into ARIS, I got nothing. So I still have no idea how my students did, other than that they all passed. Therefore, it's hard for me to speculate on the reality (or, probably, non-reality) of this year's scores in relation to the achievement of my now-former darlings.

Instead, inspired by this post over in the heady environs of Core Knowledge, I thought I'd blog a bit about my summer reading and invite you to share yours. Following Pondiscio's lead, I'll start with Shakespeare. I need to brush up on my Macbeth this summer, probably while I'm waiting in line for tickets to The Merchant of Venice in Central Park; I may check out a summer camp performance of the "Scottish play" this weekend. Looking for something to wear to Shakespeare in the Park? I recently added this to my wardrobe; who can catch the reference? Post in the comments.

I'm a recent convert to Stephen King. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is among the most unforgettable stories I've ever read. I'm looking for recommendations from King fans of his less overt horror stories and more of the cerebral thriller that The Girl... was.

As usual, I'm reading some books aimed at the kiddies to have some things to talk about during reading time. The Rules of Survival was a National Book Award finalist for young people's literature, and that's the one I'm on at the moment. Click is a very cool read, having been written collaboratively by ten top-shelf YA and adult authors for a middle school audience. Also, I have New Moon in my Netflix queue, guiltily.

No, no edubooks, at least not yet. But if you haven't read The Death and Life of the Great American School System, you certainly should. Diane Ravitch's writing is enormously informative and revealing. And Holding on to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones by Thomas Newkirk is very comforting for literacy teachers who want to fight the good fight against endless test prep.

What are you all reading? Form a friendly circle for Miss Eyre's book club. Or something.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Don't Miss...

1. Bill Gates' third year review at Incongressional.

2. Curmudgeon's study of how charter supporters cook the statistics.

3. Ms. Cornelius--Sarah Palin is not only ignorant of her first language, but also darn proud of it.

Inside Bloomberg's Department of Education

As Mayor Bloomberg rapidly moves to close every school in New York City and convert them into now you see 'em, now you don't operations that can be closed, replaced or disappeared at the drop of a hat, the little peeks we get inside his operation become more and more surreal.  A few weeks ago, like a recalcitrant child, he complained about a court that followed the law, preventing him from closing schools whenever he liked.  Then, he said any parent who sent their kid to one of the schools he was ordered not to close needed an "education."

Of course, Bloomberg is sending so few students to those schools that, in effect,  they won't be open anyway.  And in a startling deal with the UFT, he's placing replacement schools in a bunch of them anyway.  It's incomprehensible to me that they've agreed not to file another lawsuit and are essentially allowing him to walk all over the one they managed to win.  But such is the transitory nature of victory when you have no follow-up strategy, I suppose.

Over the last few years Mayor Bloomberg has made some incredible remarks about which parts of education parents may and may not involved themselves with.  But one of the most telling happened just the other day.  Sure, it's shocking to hear DoE officials using racial epithets.  You'd hope educators would decline to perpetuate such things, but of course the DoE contains few educators--after all, what do educators know about education?

Even more shocking, I'd argue, is someone the DoE hired specifically to help parents, a "family advocate," plotting in public to exclude them.  What sort of training did this guy have that made him think this was acceptable?  Well, anyone who went to the school closing hearings last year saw communities up in arms, while arrogant DoE officials with no respect or interest for their positions sat for hours, ignored every word they said, played with their Blackberries, and recommended whatever Mayor Bloomberg told them to recommend.

It's not really shocking that this administration goes out of its way to ignore communities.  What's shocking is that they do it openly, with utter impunity.  Mayor Bloomberg is right that parents need an "education."  And God help him if, despite the nonsense that passes for editorials in NYC papers, enough of them get one.  He'll have to batten down the hatches as they rise up and storm City Hall with torches and pitchforks.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Witch Hunt

I've been in and around Boston all week, and we just spent a day in Salem, Massachusetts, seeing the House of Seven Gables and listening to stories about the witch hysteria that caused the state-sanctioned murders of 20 people back in 1692.  This was largely due to the hysterical ravings of a few people who may or may not have known better.

But it's human nature to pick scapegoats and blame all the troubles of the universe on them.  After 9/11, of course we were angry.  We put unprecedented faith in our President, unelected galoot George W. Bush, and he repaid us by investing extraordinary powers in himself.  Thus, the government can now listen to us order pizza and keep records of our favorite toppings, to be used against us should it ever become necessary.  And hopey-changey Barack Obama supported more of the same.

GW let his good buds do whatever they liked.  Then he let us bail them out.  He took the disaster in New Orleans and let them supplant the school system with charters.  Barack Obama let his Education Secretary say Katrina was the best thing that ever happened to the school system, and I've yet to hear a reprimand, let along a contradiction. 

Now, due to the economic meltdown that was the legacy of GW Bush, we need someone to blame.  Is it GW himself?  The hopey-changey successor who continued his policies?  Is it the banks who benefited from our largess in making good their bad debts?  

Of course not.  That's so six months ago.  While the editorial writers haven't specifically called for unionized teachers to be hanged, their comments seem to suggest we deserve worse.  I doubt they'll call to burn us at the stake.  That's a European tradition, and I don't think they want us to focus too much on Europe.  Once we do that, we might notice Canada too. 

Look to places like that, and you'll see better options for working people.  Elsewhere people belong to real unions.  The unions demand better conditions for their members, and they strike when they don't get them.  People don't work 200-hour weeks in Europe.  Health care is for everyone, and no one pays $3,000 to visit an emergency room.  Retired working people can expect lives of dignity rather than scrounging.

Here, of course, that's vilified.  They call it "socialism" and spit on the ground.  With billionaires like Bill Gates setting the agenda, Americans don't demand European-style rights.  Instead, they demand teachers give up the few remaining perks of their profession.  Amazingly, in America, even union leaders participate, perhaps thinking they're protecting the dues money that pays for their parties and possessions.  Such thinking is counter-productive, and not only they, not only we, but all our children will pay for it.

It took about a quarter century before Salem repented of the witch hunt mentality for which it's remembered even now.  What will it take for us in America to come to our senses?

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Perdido Street School covers President Hopey-Changey's health care "improvements."

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bill Gates: Let Retired Teachers Eat Cat Food

Our good pal Bill Gates went to Seattle and told thousands of AFT delegates how much he valued teachers.  Being at a free convention, they applauded wildly.  After all, it cost more than a year's individual teacher dues to send a single Unity member there, and it would be kind of rude not to show their appreciation.  So cognizant of the awesome responsibility of spending our dues money were they, they didn't hesitate to sing, "Na, na, na, na, na, na" to those who failed to appreciate the brilliance and wisdom of the great Gates (whose influence is so vast and far-reaching that even now it's causing the schools of those very delegates to close).

Yet days later, to show how much he appreciates teachers, Bill Gates is telling the Wall Street Journal we're spending way too much on their retirement.  It's interesting to see someone with Gates' money complaining that elderly teachers are excessively living it up.  More interesting still is that he gets Randi Weingarten to publicly announce how smart she is to have dialogue with Gates, and he can't even wait a full week before turning around and throwing a pie in her face.

Fortunately, Ms. Weingarten likes pie.  She's determined to build a legacy as a new kind of labor leader.  She's not some cigar-chomping figure sitting in an office somewhere.  You don't see her out there demanding more money for her members.  Not only does she not demand better working conditions or less time at work, she often seeks precisely the opposite.  That's why she garners praise from folks like Rod "The NEA is a terrorist organization" Paige and Tim "Mutual benefits via firing ATR teachers" Daly.  That's why she makes jokes at her members' expense and casually chuckles over them with Bill Gates in front of thousands of teachers, and who knows how many YouTube viewers.

Make no mistake, an attack on teacher pensions is right in line with who Gates is and what he wants.  If you think America will be a better place by degrading the profession of teaching, if you want to be an at-will employee, if you think Americans don't need decent pensions (which few of us still have nowadays), if you think billionaires should dictate our terms of employment, then Bill Gates and Randi Weingarten are a match made in heaven.

After all, rich people simply know things we don't.   That's why they have so much money, and I suppose that's why Randi Weingarten wants to let them do to us exactly what they did to the American economy.

Only once that happens, who's gonna bail them out next time?  Certainly not retired teachers.  They'll be too busy collecting deposit bottles in stolen shopping carts.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Don't Miss... favorite Perimeter Primate, Sharon Higgins, painting teachers hypnotized by Gates as lambs being led to the slaughter.

UFT Listens to Gates, Gives Up

Like many teachers, parents, and community members, I was elated when the UFT prevailed in its lawsuit against Joel Klein's Death Star, apparently saving 19 schools from oblivion, and hundreds of teachers from the scrap heap that is the Absent Teacher reserve.  Finally, I thought, someone is standing up to the criminals who run public hearings and ignore absolutely every word the public says.

In the months that followed, it became clear that Bloomberg was going to simply ignore the order, sending only 21 students as the 9th grade class to Beach Channel and 23 to Jamaica.  Furthermore, they were going full speed ahead with their plans to open new schools in the buildings slated for closure, judicial order or no.  Bloomberg stated his contempt for the law when the judge's decision was affirmed, as he knows what's best and laws largely don't apply to him.  In fact, to grab a third term, he simply had the law changed.

It was unclear whether or not Bloomberg had the right to open the new schools, but it seemed he did not, as they were designed to replace schools illegally slated for closure.  After all, the UFT could always file another lawsuit blocking their openings.  But then the UFT aristocracy went with their minions to Seattle, applauded Bill Gates, and heaped juvenile abuse on those had issues with his anti-union, anti-labor, anti-teacher pro-KIPP agenda.

Yesterday we learned that the UFT decided to fall down before it was pushed, agreeing that 9 of 16 of Joel Klein's new schools could "colocate" inside the buildings it "saved."  We also learned the DoE would provide no additional resources for the targeted schools, as the UFT apparently did not see this matter as worthy of including in the negotiation.  This does not bode well for the schools slated for closure, like Beach Channel and Jamaica, which will both house new schools next year.   In fact, it's entirely possible Klein and company will abide by the letter of the law next year, while still ignoring community sentiment, and close all the schools it wants to next year.

It's discouraging to watch the union so eagerly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  But they appear to be learning important lessons from Bill Gates--to do whatever the hell he wants and ignore the interests of teachers, parents, students, and communities.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Summer School; Or, What Are You Doing Here?

I'm not teaching summer school. None of my 2009-10 students had to go there. So why is summer school on my brain?

I was watching a piece on the news the other day about how many summer school classrooms are not air-conditioned (despite, naturally, the DOE's claims to the contrary). This past week was a hot one here in NYC, with two consecutive days over 100 degrees and the rest of the week well into the 90s. I give kudos to the students and teachers who gave it their best shot this past week. I would not have wanted to do so.

But that's not the whole story, not for me. While watching the piece on the news, I realized that one of the students they were interviewing was a former student of mine. I was shocked, and not pleasantly so. This young lady was, when I taught her, very bright, but also somewhat mercurial. She'd been through a lot in her young life, and her academic performance was variable and unpredictable. I tried hard to keep her focused when I had her, and when she got into a nice high school, I was happy.

Two years later, though, she's in summer school. Real summer school. For kids who fail a class. And there's no good reason this young lady should be failing anything.

I hope she's all right. Maybe one isolated incident made her miss a lot of school and she just couldn't catch up. Maybe she's run into one subject giving her a really hard time. But I'm going to try to find her old e-mail address and see if I can get in touch. Summer school usually isn't a good sign.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Heed the Perimeter Primate

Note:  This comment from Perimeter Primate Sharon Higgins originally appeared at EdNotes Online.  It discusses Bill Gates' appearance at the AFT Convention, its implications, and comments on those who walked out in protest, ridiculed from the floor as well as the podium by chair and AFT President Randi Weingarten.  

If the teachers at the convention had any idea how much money Gates has put into developing non-unionized charter schools, and that his vision includes an extreme reduction in the membership -- and power -- of their union, they might not have been so willing to cheer for him.

But like most Americans who aren't studying what is really going on, I'm sure 99.9% of the teachers were uninformed and clueless. They behaved like the people they are: typical Americans who were super-excited to see a famous celebrity. Seeing Bill Gates in person was the thrilling part of the convention that they later told their families about.

As an urban public school parent, supporter of teachers, and pro-public school activist, I believe that the larger concerns the resisters have are perfectly valid and deserve to be acknowledged and discussed -- at a venue other than in blogs. The opponents of today's "ed reform" desire to be heard but are constantly being ignored and shut out. They aren't wealthy enough to pay Charlie Rose to do a five-part series on their side of the story, like Eli Broad can.

Just because the resisters are fewer in number at this time, does not make their concerns any less valid; I suspect they are going to turn out to have been the bellwether.

Bill Gates is an unelected individual who has been manipulating public policy from behind the scenes by making use of his extreme wealth. His lack of willingness to engage in a transparent, public debate with people who oppose what he is doing -- and who do have legitimate opinions, concerns, as well as data and historical accounts to present -- is what makes it necessary for the resisters to react in a loud and angry way.

It appears to me that Weingarten is aiding and abetting Gates' undemocratic ways.

If Bill Gates is truly interested in doing what's best for America's public school future, he should purchase one hour of primetime airtime and present a show featuring himself debating Diane Ravitch.

Read more from The Perimeter Primate right here, 24/7. 

Testing Fever

I don't know how I missed this yesterday, but Elizabeth Green at Gotham Schools has a great piece about the 1-4 scale used to score "proficiency"on New York tests.  A score of 2 is enough to pass to the next grade, 3 is a little better, and 4 is the highest possible grade.  However, students with a 3 score "only have a 55% shot of getting a Regents diploma."

I don't know about you, but 3 to me would suggest a B, or a relatively good performance.  NY teachers know the Regents exams are not a particular indicator of stellar performance, but rather that this or that kid did enough to get by.  For a kid unable to pass the Regents to earn a 3, these tests musts have even lower standards.  In fact,  I remember reading Diana Senechal, writing about the sixth grade test,  that she simply wrote A, B, C, D over and over again, and managed to score a 2, or good enough to pass.

It's remarkable that Chancellor Klein can get up in front of God and everybody and state that he opposes social promotion.  In fact, basing promotion on a single test, or even weighing a single test heavily is a poor idea.   Basing it on tests like these, in fact, is practicing a most cynical form or social promotion.  It's amazing how folks like Klein get to speak out of both sides of their mouths, and that few if any members of our media challenge them.

I'm glad Gotham found this.  It's too bad NY Times editorial writers don't read Gotham, relying mostly on Tweed PR for their opinions.  It'll probably take three or four years before this news hits them.  By then Klein will be on to something even worse, and they won't know about that either.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Play by the Rules

So says the New York Post, which seems to make the rules up as it goes along.  The Post supports every "reform" that comes down the pike.  They applaud when schools close, and never, ever question why.  They do cartwheels when public schools are replaced by charters.  Yet they're shocked, shocked when they find that credit recovery programs are shams designed to make students pass by any means necessary.

The Post, which applauded while GW Bush cheated, lied and drove the country into the dirt, has no patience for public schools that don't want to close.  They can't wait to make room for new schools with disposable McTeachers.

The test-prep factories that the Bill Gates/ Wal-Mart coalition is spawning are fine.  The non-union charters are fabulous.  The only problem, apparently, is that some unreasonable public school principals are unwilling to just lie down and die.  This is troubling to Gates and Wal-Mart, who need to save the world by supplanting public schools with non-union charters ASAP. 

It's unfortunate that billionaires who know nothing about education, including ultra-right wing Post publisher Rupert Murdoch, are the dominant forces in education today.  It's disgraceful that faux-Democrats like Barack Obama are eager to do whatever the billionaires request, and have no interest in representing the people who put them in office.   Of course I expect one-sided, shallow nonsense from the Post, and they rarely disappoint.

But these stories are the inevitable consequences of the test-prep, do or die frenzy that's gripped the nation.  Any thoughtful person can see that such incidents will multiply rapidly as the Gates/ Wal-Mart/ New York Post crowd make their imprint on education.

That's just one reason we should drop this nonsense and go back to teaching children.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Technical Difficulties

I somehow managed to delete a lot of items from my blogroll by getting deeper into the template than I should have.  If your blog does not appear, it's probably a direct result of both my error and faulty memory.  Please let me know and I'll restore it.  I seem to have lost mostly from the category labeled Read Another Blog.

I Won't Do It To Ya, I'll Do It With Ya!

That's what President Barack Obama told the NEA when he was a candidate.  Everyone knew Obama supported charter schools.  No one knew he would insist that states drop charter caps. No one expected he'd give his blessing to firing an entire high school staff based on test scores, or that he'd end up largely a frontman for Bill Gates and the Wal-Mart family.

The NEA, last week, voted no confidence in the President.  They know he lied to them, and it's perfectly reasonable to lose faith in purveyors of lies.  The AFT, on the other hand, invited Gates to the convention and offered him several standing ovations.

In fact,  we know very well what Bill Gates has done.  We know that he started the small school movement, and that dozens of city schools have been closed to make way for them.  We know that the new schools were stocked with kids who didn't include the ones who'd enabled the scores that set the stage for said closings.

Also, we know that when Gates himself abandoned the small school notion, we were still stuck with it.  The fact that ideas don't work means nothing to Joel Klein, and as small schools fail, despite their unfair advantages, he closes them and replaces them with even newer ones.  From that, a sensible person can infer we will be stuck with his current and future bad ideas too, as Gates drops seed money for whatever else strikes his fancy and we're left footing the bill to continue whatever idiocy suited him before he came to his senses, however briefly.

The watchword here is accountability, and it's significant that neither Joel Klein nor Michael Bloomberg is accountable for anything whatsoever.  Everything, and I mean everything, is dumped upon the laps of unionized teachers.

A theme of Gates' that seemed to resonate with the crowd was that cooperation of teachers was paramount for "reforms" to work.  That's ironic, considering that there's no evidence whatsoever that any "reforms" have worked at all.  The "reform"of the moment is value-added, or holding teachers responsible for test scores.  After all, under the new paradigm, swallowed hook, line and sinker by Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew, neither Joel Klein nor Bill Gates nor parents nor society nor kids themselves are responsible for anything whatsoever.  

Here's the thing, though--Bill Gates does not enlist the cooperation of public school teachers.  He has no respect for them whatsoever, and invidiously compares them to KIPP teachers with no basis in fact.  And cooperation of teachers, to him, entails gaining concessions from leaders who don't bother to consult with rank and file.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew told the Delegate Assembly in September it was vital we cooperate with Bill Gates to find ways to measure teacher effectiveness.  Yet before the results of that program were even available he negotiated a "value-added" method of evaluating teachers in NY State with no input whatsoever for members.  There is no research whatsoever to suggest this method has any validity.    The UFT rationalizes this by saying only 40% of teacher rating will entail value added.  They state it's 50% in Colorado (thanks to Randi Weingarten, which they conveniently omit).

Unlike the NEA, the AFT has learned nothing from the lies of Barack Obama.

Or worse, they're cynically selling us out for no good reason at all.  Either way, it's beyond the pale, and these leaders are not working in the interests of working teachers.  Nor are the delegates, who seem to applaud on command as teachers face the most serious threats to the profession I've seen in a quarter-century on the job.

Any New York City delegate who applauded Bill Gates most certainly does not represent rank and file.   How these people sleep at night after having cheered the AFT sellout to the most destructive force in pubic education today simply boggles my mind.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Faux Democrats March On

From somewhere deep in Bill Gates' pocket, disgraced and unelected lame duck New York Governor David Paterson decided to take even more money away from public schools and give it to charters.  Apparently, the governor felt the draconian cuts we were already experiencing were insufficient.  In my school, I saw young teachers being excessed as a result of these cuts, and it was heartbreaking.

But for Governor Paterson, that wasn't enough.  Nor was it enough for the Wal-mart family or hedgefund managers who dictate what happens in American education.  Not only do charters not get cut, they get more.  Clearly, to the politicians the charter lobby owns, the 3% of kids who attend charters are more important than the 97% who do not.  Watch out for Andrew Cuomo, headed your way in a November election.

It's vital that teachers unite and send these people a message.  Don't believe the demagogues who claim that ruining our schools, demoralizing teachers, and revolving kids' lives around test scores is "for the kids."  Kids need smart, independent teachers--not a bunch of frightened automatons subject to being fired at the drop of Eli Broad's hat.  Kids need decent, clean facilities.

And our kids are not little robots who run around back and forth taking tests to make Michael Bloomberg look good.  Make no mistake--the widespread proliferation of charter schools is aimed squarely at the destruction of public schools, which are a real drag on the tax bills of billionaires.  For many uninformed Americans, reducing the tax bills of billionaires is our prime directive.

We're teachers.  It behooves us to know better.  Paterson can still do damage, but come November let's send a message that he and all his ilk are unacceptable and will feel our wrath.   In fact,  let's hope against hope the AFT sends Bill Gates that same message when he shows up as their honored guest.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

We're Havin' a Party

In Seattle today, Unity members are reaping what they've sown.  A free trip to Seattle, and a few days in a hotel.

Ostensibly, they're representing the United Federation of Teachers.  That would be you and me. But really, they're representing the Unity Caucus.  That's a special fraternity, open by invitation only.  That's not you and me.  That's whoever they say it is.

In fact, every one of them has signed an oath to express disagreement with the Caucus only within the Caucus.  Every one of them has pledged to support Caucus decisions, however they may feel about them,  outside of the Caucus. 

Albert Shanker threw people out of Unity Caucus for opposing the Vietnam War.  More recently, I heard of a chapter leader expelled from the caucus for inviting a speaker to a meeting--a speaker of which the Caucus did not approve.  So much for freedom of opinion.  One fewer person in Seattle, I suppose.

Nonetheless, Unity doesn't discriminate.  No matter how big, no matter how small your school may be, as long as you've signed an oath to support whatever they've told you to support, you get to go there, stand up for whatever they've told you to stand up for, and let the world know you believe whatever they've told you to believe.  It doesn't matter if your school has ten teachers or a thousand teachers--your chapter leader is there in Seattle supporting whatever the Unity Caucus says needs supporting.

This week they're supporting a forum for uber-"reformer" Bill Gates.  Here's the man who started the small-schools movement, the one that's resulted in dozens of past, present and future school closings in New York City.  Maybe your school is next,  or maybe my school, or maybe your kid's school.  Though Bill doesn't support small schools anymore, having learned they aren't the magic bullet, he's off supporting other magic bullets like charter schools.  And Joel Klein supports the small schools regardless.  I haven't heard Bill Gates repudiate Klein's use of them, and I don't suppose the AFT will hear him do so either.

Are there problems in your school?  Is it on the verge of closing?  Are you going to become an ATR?  Will Bill and his buds, the Wal-Mart family and Eli Broad, put their billions behind having you fired? Is your school overcrowded?  Are there dozens of class size violations?  Do you think the UFT should be worrying about those things?

Well, the Unity Caucus disagrees, and what they say goes.  They're having a party right now so don't bother them with your petty nonsense.

And that's the system 91% of the 30% of teachers who bothered to vote voted for.

It's becoming very clear to me why the other 70% didn't bother.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Why Should It Be Easy to Fire Someone?

I should have sworn off this stuff for the summer, but I was reading the eight gazillionth article on why it's to fire teachers and I got steamed even without a rolling blackout coming through my 'hood and annihilating my a/c. And I got to thinking: Why, really, should it be easy to fire someone? Anyone? Outside immediate threats to people's lives and/or mental and physical health, why should anyone, in any job, be able to be fired instantly? Stop fantasizing about doing it to Joel Klein and think about this for a second.

I've wished, fleetingly, to see a few people fired in my lifetime (I'm looking at you, MTA token booth clerk who yelled at me when a MetroCard machine was defective! And you, JetBlue gate agent who lost THREE separate reservations! but never mind), but I guess I was too much of a softie to really demand it. Oh, maybe those people still "deserve" to be fired; I'll never know because if I ever see that gate agent again I'll run screaming, but NEVER MIND. My POINT (and I do have one!) is that I'm wondering why so many people seem to love the idea of firing "bad" teachers so fast it would make their heads spin.

Again, I'm not talking about teachers who grossly misconduct themselves. No one here is saying that the teacher who poses a threat to their students' well-being ought not to be promptly removed. But teachers can make well-intentioned mistakes; even worse, teachers can do everything right and still end up with unfavorable results (i.e. test scores).

Although the tone of this piece is a little dramatic, the author makes a good point in his introduction: With the introduction of evaluation based heavily on test scores, all the good a teacher might have done can be overlooked. And, as I stated above, a teacher who "does everything right" can still end up with not-so-great scores. And because political leaders are giving into the firing blood lust, it's going to start happening.

So why should it be easy to fire anyone, from a grocery store clerk to a rocket scientist or anyone in between? Why is this country so in love with the idea of at-will employment when it's clearly a good deal for those in power and not so good for most everyone else? Do we fantasize that one day we'll be filling out the pink slips? Or is it good old schadenfreude popping up again? Don't most people deserve time to grow and learn? Are most mistakes so life- or business-threatening that they can't be used as teachable moments? Is there always someone better out there ready to take the place of the washed-up screwup? Or is today's bright young thing just tomorrow's washed-up screwup?

I know this isn't my usual thing. The heat is probably getting to me. Or maybe I'm just sick and tired of people who have never done my job saying that I ought to be able to be fired from it in one fell swoop.

Q: Why Is Arne Duncan So Clueless?

A: Because he resides in the echo chamber known only as "The Village."

Consider the Source

We all love praise.  There's nothing like praise from kids--from your students, or from your own kids.  You can see when it comes right from the heart.  I've saved some little notes kids have given me, and I look at them from time to time.  One year I got a letter from a principal commending me for my attendance but I have no idea where that is.

While I don't treasure praise from admin quite like I do that from kids, it's fine nonetheless.  It's better, for example, than the counseling memo I got for strolling into a PD session two hours late.  Still, what if you're garnering praise from, say, Jack the Ripper on what fine work you do?  Would you be proud if Charles Manson sent you a Christmas card?  I'm not at all certain I'd put it out for my guests to see.

So when Tim Daly, who took Michelle Rhee's former post as head of The New Teacher Project, starts writing you valentines, it's time to seriously re-examine your priorities.  After all, Daly's name pops up again and again when it's getting rid of working teachers is on the agenda.   He's famously been behind a report called "Mutual Benefits" that suggested firing ATR teachers and offered no benefits to anyone but the Bloomberg administration and its Death Star approach to personnel matters.  It was full of such blatant manipulation of statistics, even I could see them with a cursory examination.

And who is Daly praising?  None other than AFT President Randi Weingarten.  What are her accomplishments?

1.  She's allowed teacher pay in DC to be linked to "performance" in DC, and allows them to be dismissed more easily at the whim of Michelle Rhee, a "common sense" approach, according to Daly.

2.  In New Haven, apparently, test scores also determine who is and is not a good teacher.

3. In Colorado, she was part of a negotiation that allowed 50% of a teacher rating to be judged by test scores and pretty much allowed teachers to be fired on that basis.  Layoffs will no longer be done on basis of seniority but on the basis of test scores.  Raise your hand if you think senior teachers will be getting the best kids.  Anyone?  Anyone?  Incidentally, these changes were vigorously opposed by the NEA.

Daly goes on and complains because Weingarten didn't lead the changes, but acceded to them.  He says it would have been easier for her to fight them.  If there's any truth to that, since no study supports the validity of "value-added," why the hell did she insist on falling down when no one pushed her?  And why was UFT President Michael Mulgrew, here in NYC, so keen on following in her misguided footsteps?

Perhaps the NEA's frank rejection of this nonsense will shock Mulgrew and Weingarten into reality, and coax them into acting in the interests of working teachers.  I'll keep my eye on the convention.  Hopefully, when Bill Gates spouts similar praise, AFT leaders will join rank and file in copious vomiting. 

When parasites write op-eds in the Daily News thanking you for all the lifeblood you've allowed them to drain, it's time to seriously scrutinize how you do your job.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Another World

I'm a regular reader of Fred Klonsky's blog, and over the past week I've been reading his missives from the NEA convention in New Orleans.  I'm struck by the stark contrast in tone from what I've been hearing from the UFT and our parent union, the AFT.   Most notably, NEA voted "no confidence" in Race to the Top.  As one who shares that lack of confidence, I'm thrilled to see teachers standing up.

Another notable difference was the delegates did not vote en masse as instructed by Unity/ New Action, or whatever its equivalent may be.  In fact, Fred's own Illinois delegation seemed to oppose this motion.  So, at the convention, all the teachers voted their consciences without worrying about being expelled or barred from future conferences for doing so.  I'm very hip on the whole notion of democracy, even for teachers, and I'm encouraged to see that.  (In NYC, there's a concerted effort to crush any possibility of dissent, and the crown jewel, enabled by Randi Weingarten, is the faux-opposition New Action.   Few UFT members understand NA's actual purpose, or realize it couldn't function without Unity support.  Still, it's thus far successfully kept opposition fractured and precluded any possibility of the emergence of a unified and effective challenge to the Unity machine.)

Not only that, but the NEA President got up and stated he and his members felt betrayed.  This is in stark contrast to the attitude of former part-time UFT President, current AFT President Randi Weingarten, who sponsored anti-teacher mayoral control in NYC both before and after it turned out to be disastrous for teachers, parents, and students.   In fact, Ms. Weingarten saw fit to invite Bill Gates, one of the most destructive forces to education in the country, to the AFT convention.  However, union dissidents like me, who support better conditions for working teachers, are specifically kept out.

I hope the NEA attitude catches fire among teachers.  I have little faith it will have much influence on the UFT, which pretty much dominates the AFT.  Sure, we may get a sound byte or two, but since the beginning of the year UFT President Michael Mulgrew has been cheerleading for Bill Gates, inviting his research team in to decide how to impose "value-added," insisting it was necessary, and then agreeing with the state to impose it without even going through with the experiment.  Incredibly, while Diane Ravitch addresses the NEA, Bill Gates addresses the AFT.

It's time to stand up for teachers, and protect the future of our children.  Obama and his minions need to know we're tired of being his scapegoat and will not support him.  We have to not only tell them in advance, but to demonstrate in November that faux-Democrats cannot count on the votes of real teachers.  Have Weingarten and Mulgrew got the belly to stand up and tell them what teachers feel?

I hope so.  That's their job.

Saturday, July 03, 2010


Clearly I have none, and it isn't just because school is out.  I just got back from a shopping expedition to one of those outlet centers, and there were some very classy places there.  I went to Off Saks 5th Avenue, where everything was thirty percent off, and possibly buy one get one half off.  I went to look at the suits.  There was one there that was only $700, with the discount and all, black with red polka dots.  I mean, they were small, relatively subtle polka dots, but nonetheless, why pay 700 bucks for that when you could simply stock up at the Clown College down the road (at a much more attractive price)?

In another corner of the mall was Nieman Marcus, which was having another incredible amazing sale, and I looked at the suits again.  There was a brown affair that looked slept in (I think the term is "pre-owned) for just a few hundred dollars more than the polka-dot Saks suit.  And honestly, I've never seen so many ties that looked like polyester but claimed to be silk.  Maybe that's what the hedge-fund managers who own Arne Duncan are wearing, and they can have it.

But I'm no judge of polyester.  Over at the Perry Ellis store, all the suits were polyester, and to my crude eye, every one looked better than the ones at the fancy stores.   They still looked kind of chintzy, but unlike the others, I might not mind being caught dead in one.  As long as I'm alive, though, I'd just as soon shop in Macy's or some other fairly ordinary place.

A lot of people I know like Ralph Lauren.  A few weeks ago, one of my female colleagues was wearing what appeared to be a boy scout shirt.  But when I asked her what troop she was in, she pointed out the Ralph Lauren label.  At the mall, though, the little polo players had all gotten larger, maybe four inches square.  Though my daughter revels in wearing shirts that boast "Aeropostale," I still feel they should be paying me to wear such things.

So I suppose I'm hopeless.  After an hour in the sweltering heat, we turned around and came home.  We almost bought something for my daughter in Gap, but the long, long line frightened us away for good.  I marveled at some shirts that had epaulets.  Who needs epaulets in this weather?

I hope everyone reading this is having a great weekend, and doing as little shopping as possible.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Ay, Caramba!

Nazis Address Synagogue

Klansman Addresses NAACP Convention

Unlikely headlines.  Nonetheless, I keep reading that Bill Gates is addressing the AFT convention.  It kind of makes me glad I won't be there.  What the heck can Bill Gates, who knows nothing but union-busting, trendy gimmicks, and ungodly alliances with Wal-Mart, tell a bunch of teachers?

Fortunately, he'll largely be addressing those teachers who've openly collaborated with him, so we won't have to worry much about his converting anyone new.  After all, UFT leadership insisted we collaborate with him on a value-added experiment back in September.  Bill placed his surveillance cameras in classrooms all over the city to figure out some sort of rubric for good teaching.  His lies and Big Brother techniques alienated a handful of teachers in my school to the point at which they dropped out, turning down his $1500 payoff.

Then, before this experiment even concluded, before its results were even imposed upon us, UFT leadership made a deal with the state to have value-added used to assess teachers.  They promised us they'd do research.  They promised us they'd negotiate how it was done.  After all, there's no research whatsoever to support the validity of value-added.  I suppose if you're going to do something baseless and stupid, you may as well do it carefully.  Teachers will certainly lose jobs as a result of this, particularly coupled with the rubber-room agreement that makes sure they're dumped quickly and efficiently.

Last week, though, in order to avoid some of the school closings (which, if not for the UFT collaboration on mayoral control, may not have even been a consideration), the UFT agreed that a bunch of schools would begin value-added assessments next year, a full year ahead of the agreement, with no research, no planning, and no specifically negotiated plan.  One might argue, since the entire notion has no validity, that there's no point fretting over a valid model.

Considering all that, why shouldn't the most destructive force in education address his collaborators?  What have we got to lose?  You'd hope that an AFT convention would be a place where they'd discuss a productive future for education, a vision for improving the lot of teachers.

Instead, you've got the Antichrist coming to deliver the Sunday sermon.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Ding Dong, the Kin Is Dead

Microsoft, after having invested who knows how many millions, has killed its cool new phone, the Kin.  Here's the problem--no one wanted to buy it.  So the Kin is kind of a modern-day Edsel.  How could Microsoft, the company practically synonymous with rich guy/ educational genius Bill Gates make a mistake?  It's a mystery.  Why am I writing this on a Mac?  Yet another mystery.

Of course, Bill made a few errors himself.  There was that small schools thing, which was a great idea, except that it didn't work.  Oh well, you can't have everything.  What's important is that Gates is still widely regarded as an expert, despite his utter lack of credentials and his repeated willingness to support ideas that are not only unproven, but which must be repeatedly propped up financially by Wal-Mart to even exist.

Now, of course, we're talking about charter schools, the most recent panacea, the magic bullet that will change everything just like all the previous magic bullets failed to do.  Bill's billions will see to that.  With Eli Broad, the Wal-Mart family, and all the faux-Democrat hedge fund managers, they continue to push non-union charters as ways to get our children accustomed to working long hours with no play time--just as they want them to do as adults.

For our children, though, the ones who will be left with even fewer decent job opportunities, Bill's latest wide-eyed golly gee whiz venture may not prove to be an Edsel after all.

Indeed, it could be the Titanic.