Tuesday, July 30, 2013

TFA Becomes Scab for America

I've read a lot of criticism of Teach for America over the last few years. For one thing, they provide a scant five weeks of training, and that's clearly insufficient preparation to teach in urban schools. This is particularly true when you compare it to student teaching, which is basically a full year shadowing and experienced teacher.

But when there are teacher shortages, TFA is the tip of the iceberg. I myself was recruited via a subway ad, with no experience at all. And I watched for years as the DOE conducted intergalactic searches, taking anyone in the universe who could occupy a wooden chair in front of kids.

I don't fault non-career teachers who wish to give back to the community, or even pad their resumes en route to doing something else. If there is a need, and they are filling it, they are helping, even if they have to learn on the job.

But when faux Democrat/ Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fires thousands of teachers and hires TFA grads to teach kids, that's something else altogether. In fact, TFA is now enabling the unemployment of working people. They are making their likely idealistic young college grads into scab labor. Their insane defense, that the jobs were eliminated and they are taking newly created jobs, is nothing more than a semantic game, unworthy of anyone capable of serious discourse.

The more nonsense I read from reformy types like those who have the audacity to muster such an argument, the more I think that objectivity is overrated. In fact, it's reasonable to present both sides of an argument. But like many other things reformy, this is indefensible. The argument is so weak it's ridiculous, and does not merit consideration.

If we're really going to help our kids, we have to raise them to differentiate not only between, say, fiction and non-fiction, but also between logic and BS. Because they're going to need that skill more than ever in the brave new world where people can scab and claim it's "for America."

Monday, July 29, 2013

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Bloomberg?

My buddy Chaz just wrote a piece explaining why New York is not like Detroit.  This is a response to a blog from Ed in the Apple, represented in Gotham Schools as a "union blogger." Ed in the Apple certainly is a union blogger, as he appears to support absolutely everything UFT leadership supports. As far as I can determine, that's his job.

This is the same union blogger who fervently supported the 2005 contract, the one that dumped thousands of teachers into the ATR pool, made it impossible to grieve letters in file for factual inaccuracy, and sent teachers to patrol hallways and bathrooms.

If I'm not mistaken, this union blogger raised not a peep when we supported the disaster that is mayoral control, not once, but twice. I do not recall this union blogger saying one word against the new junk science evaluations that will cause UFT teachers to be fired based solely on test scores. Nor can I recall this union blogger saying one word against Reformy John King unilaterally dictating the particulars on NYC's junk science plan. I don't remember this union blogger objecting when we managed to enable this system without even procuring the contract or raise that most city employees got between 2008-2010.

So pardon me if I see this union blogger as having contributed directly toward enabling the city's resolve, Detroit or no. If they can get UFT judged by junk science while giving absolutely nothing in return, as Mayor Bloomberg boasted, why should they worry about teacher contracts? Personally, I see these things as having contributed heavily to the cynicism and apathy that precluded 82% of working teachers from even bothering to vote in UFT elections.

All this aside, the "union blogger" is now predicting the next contract will call for contributions to health care and is tamping down expectations for a raise. After having watched almost every city union get raises of 8% for the 08-10 pattern bargaining season, I'm really amazed that this is the message our union has for us. Be judged by junk science, based on a law we helped craft, get nothing in return, and after all that expect to get even less than nothing in the next contract.

I'm really beginning to understand the cynicism of the non-voters. After all, it wasn't them who wasted precious minutes checking a box, sealing an envelope, and walking it to the mailbox. And in fact 52% of the vote was retirees. Working conditions don't even apply to them.

No wonder he's the only "union blogger." If I had a message like that, I'd close the blog, shut the hell up, and resign.

Sometimes people criticize independents like me. They say our messages give comfort to Bloomberg, that our "real" enemies delight at seeing us fight amongst ourselves. That may or may not be true. But you'd better believe Bloomberg and his minions are dancing on the tables when they see representatives of the controlling caucus tell working teachers to forget about raises and get ready to give up part of what they already earn.

Thanks to Art S. for photo

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Friday, July 26, 2013

Gotham Schools Exercises Its Psychic Powers to Hype Astroturfer Teacher Bashing

“So how can Anthony run for Mayor, when a teacher for the same conduct would be fired,” Weingarten said in a tweet yesterday.

She was referring to a push to tighten punishments for teachers found
guilty of inappropriate behavior that the union here has opposed.

Gotham Schools has improved its reporting by adding the element of mind-reading. Apparently it knows what AFT Prez Randi Weingarten is thinking when she tweets. According to Gotham's crystal ball, Weingarten is thinking about legal expert Campbell Brown's campaign when she muses on the double standard between Anthony Weiner and working school teachers. She couldn't possibly be referring to the fact that teachers actually get fired sometimes.

Because in the world of legal expert Campbell Brown and Gotham Schools, teachers never get fired. Never mind that Brown and her regular partner, the New York Daily News, regularly write of some group of 128 teachers and complain that only 33 got fired. 

Gotham writes of legal expert Campbell Brown's astroturf group without bothering to confirm whether anyone actually belongs to it, because that's not their job. Another thing that isn't Gotham Schools' job is basic research. Perhaps when you're uncritically pushing a story about astroturfers, some of whom fund your operation, there's not a whole lot of upside in checking the facts.

For example, Gotham Schools labels teachers as "found guilty" based on the DOE's internal investigators, rather than the arbitrators jointly selected by the DOE and UFT. This is tantamount to suggesting that everyone picked up by the NYPD is found guilty, while ignoring all that inconvenient court stuff. It's too much trouble for Gotham Schools to look up the blaringly obvious--that the arbitrators are, in fact, the people who judge these things under the agreement between the UFT and the DOE. 
In fact, to Gotham Schools, that's a "gray area." Either they aren't sure whether or not the hearings the UFT and DOE agreed upon actually exist, or they aren't sure whether or not contractual agreements have any validity. Or perhaps, having done no research whatsoever, they're utterly ignorant of such agreements. Regrettably, I cannot call upon the psychic powers that enable Gotham Schools to read the minds of labor leaders, so to me, it's a "gray area" as to why they are so astoundingly unaware of the obvious.

Legal expert Campbell Brown, who may as well have written the article, thinks Chancellor Walcott should decide whether or not to keep teachers accused of sexual misconduct. Neither Brown nor Gotham notes that Chancellor Walcott denies virtually 100% of U-rating appeals. Apparently legal expert Brown finds such a person to be a fair arbiter. Gotham Schools cannot be bothered to look further than that, or seek a differing opinion.

This is odd, because when the UFT held a rally at City Hall to protest Bloomberg's attempt to keep his policies beyond his tenure, Gotham not only failed to cover it, but rather ran a piece about how charter supporters felt about it. 
Naturally, Gotham Schools cites the couple of cases endlessly mentioned by legal expert Campbell Brown and the Daily News. I'm familiar with precisely one of the hundred other cases. It involves someone who did nothing remotely sexual, who spent years in the rubber room, and who was forced to pay a small fine. I therefore have to question whether or not even the cases cited by Gotham and legal expert Campbell Brown are valid. I don't have all the facts, and neither does Gotham Schools.

Of course,  Gotham Schools couldn't be bothered seeking an opinion counter to that of legal expert Campbell Brown. After all, Campbell Brown is married to some big shot from Students First, her legal expertise is above reproach, and that ought to be good enough for anyone.

Perhaps Gotham Schools should advocate for anyone arrested to be imprisoned based on police reports alone. Or perhaps Gotham Schools feels that sort of treatment should apply only to unionized teachers. Again, lacking the psychic powers of Gotham Schools reporters, I can't really say.

And the comparison between teachers who were either accused, or more likely acquitted, with Anthony Wiener, who actually admits to what he's accused of, is absolutely fair. After all, why should the busy employees of Gotham Schools differentiate between accused and guilty? Perhaps that's another "gray area" for them.

Or maybe they're just tired from reading the minds of union leaders. Clearly they're too exhausted to pick up the phone or write an email to get another point of view.
Why strain themselves?

Related: Opine I Will opines on legal expert Campbell Brown.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

On the "Worst" Schools

A link at Gotham Schools today declares "The worst schools in Buffalo, as in NYC, are routinely flooded with the neediest students." I went to the link in question, which repeatedly described the Buffalo schools as "failing," including the quotes. In fact, the article clearly stated the city and  Reformy John King were "stacking the deck" against these schools, counting even students who'd attended only one day in their failure rate.

My question to Gotham regarded which standard we were using to label these schools "the worst?" Standardized test scores? The graduation rate? Are we absolutely certain that if we placed the same kids in other schools they would do better, and by do better I mean graduate sooner? Would that kid with only one day of attendance have excelled at some Doug Lemov-approved miracle school where the papers got distributed faster and the kids marched quietly from one side of the room to another?

Isn't it harder to graduate when you have learning disabilities or arrive in eleventh grade with no knowledge of English? I sometimes teach kids who arrive at 20 years of age with no knowledge of English and one year to graduate. They tend not to. Does that make me the worst teacher? Could Eva Moskowitz get that kid to graduate on time? Would it be a good idea to, say, give incoming students with no English a year of intensive immersion before issuing that two-inch thick biology textbook? Could we actually do things to help homeless children who move around from shelter to shelter, school to school, before we label the schools they pass through as failures?

Reformy John King, Andrew Cuomo, and Mike Bloomberg don't think so. Like the kid in The Sixth Sense sees dead people, they see bad teachers. In fact, the director of that film, after producing films of increasingly lesser quality, has hit a new low by focusing on reformy things and writing a reformy book. Someone tweeted to me a few days back, "I see deluded people."

As long as we blame the schools, the teachers, the neighborhoods, and ultimately the kids, our reformy ways will get us nowhere. And if you don't think we're on that path, with teachers no judged nationwide by junk science, ask anyone who's spent this last endless decade with Mike Bloomberg, "Does reformy mean better?"

So, do low test scores not speak to poverty, to lack of English, to learning disabilities? Is the simplistic reformy mantra of "no excuses" universally applicable? Are these, in fact, the worst schools?

What does this say about us, and by no means only Gotham, when we accept such a definition without question? And what are we saying about ourselves, our kids, our neighborhoods, and about those kids, their families, and their neighborhoods when we do such things as a matter of course, and close their schools and fire their teachers as a result?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Only City Teachers Should Be Fired for Nothing, Implies Daily News

I was pretty surprised to find this story in the Daily News today. Apparently a teacher in Merrick, Long Island appeared shirtless in some stupid reality show, and resigned under pressure from administration. The News appears sympathetic to his cause, as am I. Sometimes people take off their shirts, and I don't personally see anything awfully wrong with that. It's certainly not grounds for dismissal.

Yet the Daily News, aided and abetted by their resident legal expert, Campbell Brown, prints story after story about how city teachers should be fired based on unsubstantiated or dismissed charges. They print features about publicity-seeking politicians who sympathize with this ridiculous point of view. And for two years now, they endlessly condemn city teachers who have been convicted of nothing.

As I've repeatedly written, I know only one of these teachers, but I also know this teacher is no more a "perv" or "sex creep" than the Long Island teacher whose cause the News seems to espouse. Why, then, are city teachers subject to a different standard?

This is not, in fact, unique. A few years ago, there was a big stink about seniority rights, and Emperor Bloomberg wanted to torpedo them here in Fun City. In fact, there was a bill, sponsored by Long Island State Senator John Flanagan (and supported by Gotham Schools fave E4E), that would have decimated seniority rights only for NYC teachers. This did not apply to the teachers in Flanagan's district, of course. They, apparently, are above this sort of thing.

Of course, that bill died with the help of Governor Cuomo, who strongly suggested the junk science APPR would result in teachers being fired, eventually satisfying the bloodlust of the Emperor.

The thing is no one complains about the quality of teaching in the suburbs. It turns out when you have fewer kids with learning disabilities, fewer kids who don't speak English, and fewer kids in poverty, all the teachers are highly effective, just like the one who (gasp!) took his shirt off.

Had the same thing happened, or been alleged to have happened, in NYC, the law pushed by the News and legal expert Campbell Brown would have allowed Walcott to fire him. Would the News have published a piece complaining about that?

Since they've repeatedly condemned all city teachers who've been lawfully acquitted of "perv" charges, I have my doubts.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Getting Rid of "Bad Teachers"

That's what AFT President Randi Weingarten focused on in some sort of AFT gathering. I don't get invited to AFT gatherings in my lowly capacity as representative of the largest school in Queens. That's because a prerequisite for AFT gatherings is to support whatever the UFT supports, like mayoral control, junk science evaluation, or genuflecting to Bill Gates. Better we send people from schools with twelve teachers who really know what their roles are, to wit, do what they're told and shut the hell up about it.

Now no one actually wants bad teachers. No one wants bad weather, bad haircuts, or bad karma either, but there you go. But what is a bad teacher? Well, according to the new APPR, for which the union helped compose a state law, it's anyone whose students don't get high enough test scores. Yet, according to brilliant math teacher Gary Rubinstein, who actually crunches the numbers, and Diane Ravitch, whose statue I keep on my car dashboard, judging teachers by test scores is junk science. This means teachers will be rated, continued, or fired based on junk science, essentially on a random basis next year.

Am I a bad teacher? Who knows? I'll just have to wait and see the test scores of my students. Since they don't actually speak English, the tests may prove challenging for them. Of course, in this age of no excuses, it's simply my fault if they fail. If I have kids dragged here kicking and screaming from China, kids who refuse to learn English or mix with anyone outside of their language group, that's my fault. Sure, it goes against absolutely everything I know about language acquisition, but Reformy John King hasn't actually studied language acquisition. Under the NYC agreement, his is the only opinion that matters.

I'm a little surprised at what Weingarten says here:

...she acknowledged she did not want to be in the business of defending all teachers.

What should this mean? Will the AFT decide whether or not I am worth defending when up on charges? If my kids, who speak no English, fail tests, does that mean I'm on my own? Should I, as chapter leader, determine, OK, I'll demand the contract be enforced for teacher A, who's a good teacher, but not teacher B, who's a bad teacher?

There is, in fact, a process for disciplinary matters, and the contract applies to all of us. At least now it does. Were that not the case, it would be like saying, well, I can't run around killing people whenever I feel like it, but it's OK for George Zimmerman. Or teachers have to pay taxes, but GE doesn't.

That may be OK for Grover Norquist and Florida, but it's not justice. We are teachers. We are role models. We need to do better.

We can't say you get representation because you're a good teacher, but you don't because you suck. This is particularly egregious when the definitions of good and bad teachers are legally determined by junk science.

I can't claim to know what Weingarten is thinking. But, to paraphrase, "Don't ask for whom the rules apply. They apply for thee."

Hopefully, at least.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Attention Daily News and Legal Expert Campbell Brown!

To keep informed, I read all the education articles in the Daily News, and I've noticed a common theme. They are terribly concerned about "pervs" and "sex creeps" because they worry about how our students are treated. As I read the stories, I can't help but notice that they pick the most sensational details from only a handful of cases. In fact, the majority of cases they mention have already been resolved, and the teachers in question were not guilty. While they don't actually bother to get the teachers' versions, I can only assume they'd concur on the lack of guilt thing.

However, I've finally come across a case in which we've got the teacher's point of view. The teacher herself, in fact, admits it in her own words. Far from being repentant, this teacher seems to find it hilarious that she taped students' mouths shut to keep them quiet, and that the kids bled when they removed the tape. Not only that, but she seems to ridicule the way these children speak.

I'd have to say, here in NYC, that these are clear violations of Chancellor's Regulations A-420, corporal punishment, and possibly, given the gleefulness with which she tells the story at the children's expense, A-421, verbal abuse. This may perhaps also violate A-830, given that she seems to express great glee in mimicking the speech patterns of these children.

Since the Daily News and legal expert Campbell Brown are so concerned with protecting our children, I think the least they could do is launch a full-blown investigation. While it's true the incident in question occurred in another municipality, the fact is the teacher in question, Michelle Rhee, has launched groups to promote her ideas. One of them is called Students First NY, and is located right here.

Do we want NYC's 1.1 million schoolchildren subject to the whims of an awful teacher like this? Do we want our children physically abused? Can we tolerate people who not only abuse our children, but also boast and joke about it in public forums?

I say no. And therefore, since these charges are not only sustained, but freely acknowledged by the teacher in question, it's time for self-appointed protectors of decency to stand up. Therefore I call on the Daily News and legal expert Campbell Brown to stand up and take on this horrifying case. The public needs to know.

They'd surely enhance their credibility by taking on a case they could actually prove. I await their response, and offer them whatever support they may require in this quest.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Chicago--Now With 4% Fewer Teachers!

Reformy Rahm Emanuel has made education a priority in Chicago. That's a pretty good idea, since Arne Duncan's Renaissance 2010 has proven an abject failure. Now, were I mayor of Chicago, looking at all the reformy things that didn't work for Arne, I'd take a different approach. Regrettably, Rahm has decided to double up on reforminess.

To that end, he's fired another 2000 school employees, 1000 of them teachers. This, of course, follows his vitally important program to extend the school day, which was followed by firing another few thousand school employees. So, the secret sauce, according to Rahm, is more time with less help. After all, once kids reach the ages of 5 or 6, it's time they fended for themselves a little more.

And there's another good reason Rahm can do this--his kids don't actually attend public schools, so why the hell should he care what goes on in them? After all, he's already moved to close dozens of them, and so what if the kids are in huge classes in overcrowded schools? Who cares if schools, the hearts of communities, are closed? Rahm doesn't actually live in those communities anyway.

Because Rahm is such a classy guy, he's distributed a script for principals to read when they fire teachers. When Xian Barrett (who I met in DC last year) got fired, his principal called his mom. After all, when you're in a hurry to fire people, who has time to waste looking up their phone numbers? And since you're reading some script rather than actually giving a sincere message, what's the dif anyway?

But Rahm doesn't simply fire teachers. Instead, he's concurrently hiring a bunch of new, shiny TFA folks. After all, when you're as reformy as Rahm, five weeks of training is certainly better than decades of experience. Best of all, the TFA folks get a beginner's salary, and will likely not hang around long enough to get pensions. So what if they have no experience dealing with urban youth and are just passing through? So what if they're essentially scabs taking the food from the mouths of people who've dedicated their lives to Chicago's children?

Bottom line for Reformy Rahm is money. And when it comes time to cutting funds, you'd better believe it's Children First, Always.

Because that's the reformy way. And that's the Chicago way.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Gotham Schools Values

Yesterday I went to a rally at City Hall to protest Bloomberg's plan to extend co-locations for years into the term of his successor (assuming he doesn't buy off the City Council and change the law again).  I saw a group of reporters there, and cameras. For example, it merited a story at NY1. You can see it at Schoolbook. I was pretty surprised to this was all I found at Gotham Schools.

But, after all, it was only the United Federation of Teachers, which represents every single public school teacher in the city, so why should their event merit coverage? And those were real parent activists up there, rather than those enlisted to pursue a Gates agenda, so why should we worry about them?

On the other hand, when an astroturf group like Students First NY holds a rally to announce something that's not actually going to happen, there's a picture right there so everyone can see. Gotham Schools readers can ask one another, "Gee, what is Michelle Rhee's NY branch going to not do next? Are they going to not tape kids' mouths shut? After all, Rhee found it hilarious when she herself did it."

But no, the rally itself did not make the Gotham cut. Perhaps it was because the UFT is actually going to go through with this. Or maybe it was due to the vital nature of covering every little thing reformy, real, imaginary, or whatever.

This notion is supported by the fact that, while Gotham didn't bother to cover the UFT/ parent rally, they saw fit to cover how charter supporters felt about the UFT lawsuit. There are extensive quotes from astroturf folks, but not a single one from any of the varied speakers at yesterday's rally.

Way to go, Gotham Schools!

Update: In tweets with Gotham Schools, they pointed out that they had covered the story twice, and that the first time was not entirely from the POV of charter supporters. However, I'd argue that their first story gave short shrift to the union's POV,  giving it only one line in the entire piece while extensively covering contrary positions. Rally was yesterday, and Gotham can certainly correct this by covering it today. Update 2: Gotham Schools, apparently, did not consider this rally as newsworthy as the Students First rally that announced a non-event.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Sunshine State

There are many advantages to living in Florida, if you don't care whether or not your vote counts. For one thing, there are all those beaches. You can bicycle over from the condo, sit in the sun, swim, and if you're so inclined, stroll over to the tiki bar and drink yourself silly.

If you're retired, the tax rates are really low. So are the property values. If the prices in NY make your head spin, you can probably pick yourself up a nice little home for 20% of what it would've run you around these parts.

If you don't care for the beach, you can move to Orlando and visit Mickey Mouse until your head spins. You can go to water parks, and if you don't actually care about money or benefits, you can probably pick up some kind of job.

But best of all, if there are people you don't like, you can follow them in your car, call the police, have them advise you to stay in your car, then follow them on foot, and if they make any physical objection to your gratuitous and threatening pursuit, you can just whip out your gun and kill them. You'll be a hero on Fox News, and columnists all over the country will vividly demonstrate why they have no business being writers when they support you and your abject racism.

All a day's work in the home of the free and the land of the brave. And actually, it ain't just Florida.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Another Gates Project--Because Destroying K-12 Is Not Enough

Bill Gates, the world's richest man, has appointed himself our national education expert. It's pretty clear he's got the ear of Arne Duncan, who gleefully repeats whatever Gates says. If Gates says we need higher class sizes, so does Arne. If Gates says release junk science scores of individual teachers, Arne wholeheartedly concurs. If Gates says don't release them, Arne's on board with that too.

This begs the question, has anyone ever seen Arne Duncan speak while Bill Gates drinks a glass of water?

This notwithstanding, Bill Gates has determined, after having been responsible for closing scores of schools, after having decimated neighborhoods, after having privatized public schools, after having seriously cut into the power of teachers, the last bastion of vibrant unionism in these United States, that he needs to branch out. It's not enough to degrade and codify K-12 in ways his limited intellect can process. Apparently, we need to do the same in college.

Gates looks at the figures, which are all that matters. There aren't enough college graduates, determines Gates, and we must correct that. Let's get rid of all these teachers and buildings and simply have people sit on computers. Socializing is not an important part of college. Who cares about all those wasteful discussions about literature, morality, society and other such nonsense? Let's stick to the meat and potatoes. That way, we can make sure Americans get not only a one-dimensional K-12 education, based solely on test scores, but also an equally shallow college education.

Who cares whether or not the graduates end up getting jobs? That's not Bill's job. Who cares whether or not kids are raised in poverty? That's not Bill's job either. He doesn't think he can fix that problem. What he can do is bring "accountability." That means unionized teachers get fired if they don't get enough kids to pass the tests Bill's BFFs collect millions to design.

Why can't we export this model to college? Since K-12 teachers cannot be trusted to design tests, let alone grade them, why can't we use this model in college? Let's have all American students rated on standardized tests only, and graded by computers. Let's dispense with that human factor Bill can't comprehend.

Because anything Bill can't comprehend, apparently, is not worth considering.

Actually, all that talk about American education being in crisis, or left behind, or whatever they call it is abject nonsense. In fact, if you discount poverty (as Bill Gates does), American students are doing fine. If you were to address poverty (as Bill Gates does not), a whole lot more American students would perform a whole lot better.

It's a sin that we allow a clueless billionaire to toy with our national education system just as a two-year-old will toy with anything she can find. Just as we preserve things from our two-year-old, so they don't get irrevocably broken, we need to fight to preserve our schools, our legacy, our country, from this idiot savant.

This is particularly egregious as whatever is, was, or was perceived to be savant about this idiot continues to become more elusive.

Monday, July 15, 2013

If It Doesn't Get Them Sued for Libel, Daily News Can Run With It

Personally, I'm bone weary of ridiculous headlines like this one, announcing to the world what's happening with "perv" teachers. While I'm certain it's important to Bloomberg's BFF/ Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman to trash mayoral hopefuls for not being Bloomberg, I question the whole name-calling thing.

First of all, it's there for no reason other than to mobilize public sentiment against working teachers. Anyone who didn't know better might believe this nonsense.

Second, it's pretty clear the Daily News has allowed itself to become the ever-willing tool of legal expert Campbell Brown. It's getting to the point that the Daily News might wish to take note that legal expert Campbell Brown is married to some Students First bigshot. After all, if you're going to press a story like this one over a period of years, you might as well do a little rudimentary research.

Finally, and here's the major issue, the charges are simply untrue. Legal expert Brown contends that most teachers charged are still working. That's a fact because they were not convicted. I realize that legal expert Brown and the Daily News cannot distinguish between charges and actual guilt, but it's kind of irresponsible they mislead their readers like this. For example, not a single person relying on the Daily News for information will realize that legal expert Campbell Brown wants Walcott to fire teachers who were not convicted.

Isn't it libel to write lies about people? I don't know what the legal burden is to establish it, but I suppose the News has lawyers on staff to advice them of what lines to cross. I'm sure they manage to draw lines that keep them out of court.

Because that's important.

The truth, on the other hand, appears to be of no consequence whatsoever.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

How to Make It in Mayor Bloomberg's New York

There's gold in them charter schools, says the NY Daily News. And make no mistake, that's what the Charter Superman is really here to deliver:

Money for charter schools exploded from about $32 million to about $659 million over a decade as Bloomberg increased their number from 17 when he took office in 2002 to 125 in 2010-11, the most recent year for which spending data are available.

Why on earth are we wasting our time with this public school stuff? Well, for one thing, we aren't very smart. Clearly the money is in running the charters, not teaching in them. Charter teachers are largely not unionized and subject to the caprices of their employers. I have not met a single student teacher who wanted to work in one except as a last resort.

And where does Mayor Mike get all that money to dump into charters? For one thing, he unilaterally denies teachers the 8% raise virtually all other city workers got between 2008-2010. And this is instructive. When the city pattern is crap, it's sacrosanct, and we have to give the sun, the moon, and the stars to better it. When it's attractive, it's screw you, you will take nothing and like it, and we'll also throw in a junk science evaluation system so you, like the charter teachers, can be fired for no reason.

Charter schools need the money, because they are amazing. What's amazing about charter schools?

Charter schools outperform public schools on many measures, but only 6% of their students are English-language learners, and just 9% of their students have special needs — much lower than the citywide averages.

It's pretty easy to run a school that looks good. All you need are the right students. Make sure you don't take the same mix the community has, which Eva Moskowitz opposed, and then say screw you all when they come to audit you, as Eva Moskowitz did. If that's not your cup of tea, you could just dump an entire cohort of kids, as Geoffrey Canada did.

It's fairly well known that it's harder to teach kids with learning difficulties and kids who don't speak English. It's less well-known that there are varying degrees of learning difficulties and English knowledge. If I were a charter school, I'd simply pick and choose those kids with the most minor problems, say I've taken my share, and leave the real problems to those awful public schools with the unionized teachers.

It's pretty simple, and if I had half a brain I'd get out of the teaching game and pull in the big bucks. Just like Eva and Geoff.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Glorified Babysitters

That's what some people call us. But I'm not a glorified babysitter. I'm a real one.

My 17-year-old daughter lined up a nice babysitting gig for herself. Then she got an opportunity to spend two weeks in Ontario visiting family and dumped the gig on us. It works out well for our friend, the mom, since we don't take pay for our services.

The girl's almost three years old and speaks mostly Spanish. She seems to like me, but barely speaks to me at all. She prefers to gesticulate when around me. I can't really figure it out. I can speak Spanish. But it doesn't matter whether I speak Spanish or English--all I get is a lot of finger-pointing. I get my share of smiles too, so it's not all that bad.

In contrast, with my wife, she chatters like a little parrot. She comments on everything, asks questions about me, talks about everything, sings songs, but once I set foot in the room, she clams up completely.  I can't figure it out.

As an ESL teacher, one of the best things I do is open kids up and get them talking. This is pretty important because I often teach beginners. For some reason, a lot of ESL teachers prefer not to do that. I'm fine with it. You can often see really rapid progress, and for the most part, I do.

But I'm having the opposite effect on this little girl. I have no idea why.

What this lets me know is as a teacher, I'm completely different from a babysitter.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

NYC to Great Literature--Drop Dead

The geniuses at Tweed have done it again. They've managed, pretty much, to exclude literature from ELA curriculum. Better our kids should read political speeches, newspaper articles, and train schedules. After all, when you're training a generation to work in Walmart, how can reading Tom Jones help you to fold a sweater?

The important thing, in Mayor Bloomberg's New York, is that kids read things no more interesting than the textbooks they must plod through. After all, how better to train kids to plod through tedious textbooks than to make them plod through other tedious crap? And certainly, getting through tedious crap is great prep for getting through tedious lives folding sweaters.

Why waste time making kids love to read when there will likely be pictures on the menu at McDonald's anyway? And even though Walmart has lost the fight over paying a living wage in DC, there's no such legislation in NYS, and city residents need not travel far to get a crappy Walmart job. And there will be no need for reading on their commute when they can simply Facebook on their smart phones.

It was instructive to read David Coleman at Diane Ravitch's blog saying that this would not happen, that the bulk of fiction reading could and would take place in ELA classes, and that we need not worry. Fortunately, since being reformy means never having to say you're sorry, the Tweedies can do whatever the hell they feel like. And best of all, there are no consequences, since this brave new world means "accountable" applies only to unionized teachers.

Don't miss Perdido Street School on the same topic. As an ESL teacher, I fully expect the innovative Tweedies to move to preclude my teaching newcomers English, and force me to give them tedious non-fiction they can't possibly understand.

That's gonna be the day I resign.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

To Bobblehead, or Not to Bobblehead

Let's be clear. If I were going to get a bobblehead it wouldn't be the one you see to the left. It would be Diane Ravitch, or Leonie Haimson, or maybe Stephen Krashen.

But there are a lot of bobbleheads out there, and that includes the overwhelming majority of UFT chapter leaders. In fact, almost every one has signed an oath to never disagree with leadership in public. They are supposedly permitted to express disagreement within the confines of the Unity Caucus, but a very small minority of teachers are privy to what the hell goes on there. For all I know, anyone who speaks out of turn there gets a pinky cut off.

Yesterday, this blog received a comment from the sole Unity blogger, Ed in the Apple:

Unfortunately the union movement has spent too much time fighting internally rather than concentrating on their enemies...

Actually, I focus a lot on union enemies, like Bill Gates for example.  My union, on the other hand, invited him to keynote the AFT convention while every bobblehead chapter leader wildly applauded. To thank them, Gates went out and said screw them all once they retire. Actually, my life might be a little easier if I went to Seattle and applauded with the chapter leaders. But would I be representing and advocating for teachers if I applauded the man who's brought us so much misery?

Would I be doing teachers a favor if I were to support VAM, which has been established to work absolutely nowhere? Shall I tell teachers the fact that the city no longer will have to prove they are incompetent when trying to fire them is a benefit? In fact, if the new "validator" says the principal is right and you stink, it will be on you to prove your competence. How on earth is it an advantage to be guilty until proven innocent?

Should I stand up and applaud when the union supports mayoral control? After we experience it and find it to be an abysmal failure, should I give three cheers to Mayor Bloomberg for all the schools his rubber stamp fake board of education has managed to close? Because the same people who now complain about school closures supported mayoral control not once, but twice.

Does it behoove us to support the ATR system that has teachers wandering week to week from school to school? I have heard an earful from unhappy teachers stuck in the system. I know untenured teachers who, desperate to find a place, took whatever they could get only to be discontinued at year's end. I know teachers who resigned rather than endure being a teacher without a classroom. I've had teachers cry to me about how miserable they are, on multiple occasions.

What on earth is the point of being activists if we're unable to speak our minds? What is the point of being teachers if we set such a miserable example for our students?

The Unwritten Word on Fake Student Advocacy

It's interesting to read the piece in Gotham Schools about Students First NY. You wouldn't know from the piece that this was a Rhee-sponsored reformy entity, since that doesn't merit mention. What is mentioned, of course, is that this article is about a complaint that has not actually been filed. The most outrageous thing is the headline, which blares the preposterous conclusion that the astroturf group is now a Bloomberg adversary.

Ostensibly, the group's complaint is that there are more teachers rated unsatisfactory in low SES schools. This, they contend, indicates that there are, therefore, more bad teachers in these schools than others. Ironically, they're one of the most outspoken opponents of the S/U system they're now trusting made decisions worth complaining about. But when it will garner them an article in Rupey's NY Post or Gotham Schools, who cares about principle?

Of course, when your national leader is someone who finds it hilarious to duct tape the mouths of young children, principle may not be what motivates you anyway.

I didn't realize these schools were dispensing more U-ratings, but it's fairly easy to guess why. For one thing, there is a direct correlation between low-SES and school closings. Schools with high percentages of high needs kids tend not to get high test scores and are therefore considered failing. It's the school's fault the kids have learning disabilities, and it's the school's fault the kids can't speak English. No excuses. Just because the kid arrived from the Dominican Republic four days ago, that's no reason he can't write that essay about American history.

In any case, should you be unfortunate enough to be the principal of one of these so-called failing schools, you are sorely in need of a scapegoat. Since you can't blame the scores on the fact that the kids don't know English, someone has to take responsibility. Now it can't be you, or you'll be working at Kinko's next week. Therefore, it has to be those teachers. If Mr. NYC Educator's kids can't speak English, it must be his fault, so give him a U-rating. That'll show Chancellor Walcott you're tough.

After all, Mayor Bloomberg has publicly bemoaned the dearth of U-ratings for teachers. He wants more, and you'd better deliver. This is particularly urgent if your test scores are nothing to jump up and down about.

Clearly this complaint is ridiculous. Even if it had merit, which it certainly does not, it's based on a system that no longer exists.  Bloomberg will not spend one moment being upset about this. Anything that makes teachers look bad works for him. Anything that degrades and discourages them is just fine in his book. And make no mistake, that's precisely what Students First exists to enable. Students First means Adults Last, and when the kids they shed those crocodile tears over grow up, they'll be just as screwed as the rest of us.

Hardly something to aspire to, if you ask me.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Home Improvement At It's Finest

That legend comes off a truck I passed, and I thought, "I won't be calling those guys anytime soon. Perhaps we can overlook capitalizing "at," but how can they be the finest if they can't even get a possessive pronoun right? Couldn't they at least get someone to check that truck before putting it out on the street?"

But maybe I'm being too hard on them. Who knows? Maybe they can put up a roof better than anyone. Lord knows virtually anyone could do it better than I could. (I REALLY wanted to say "better than me" right there, but I'm nervous about doing that in a column where I'm bitching about grammar.)

I once taught my wife to drive. It was a disaster. She almost drove into the canal. But before I got her to finally stop, she did some serious damage to my car.

When I brought it into the body shop, the guys were highly amused I was a teacher. "Oh, he's a teacher. What does he know?"

And their assumption, a very good one, was that I knew nothing about how to fix cars. I have to admit they did very good work, and seemed to take it easy on me. But there's a dual-edged sword there--first, they need to treat me well. However, they only needed to do that because as a teacher, I must be supremely ignorant. After all, do they teach you to do body work in school? If they don't, what's the point of going there anyway?

So I wonder whether I'm too tough on those home improvement guys. It doesn't matter a whole lot because I improved the heck out of my home after Sandy. But stuff like that really makes me nuts. If I were in a position to hire someone and saw that on a resume, it would go straight into the trash.

But if the position were in a body shop or putting up siding, I might be losing the very best candidate there is just because of my stupid prejudices.

Would you hire those guys? 

Monday, July 08, 2013

Time for Charters to Work Their Magic

It's not altogether surprising to me that fewer than 50% of students in transfer schools don't make it. After all, we're pulling from a pool of 100% that didn't make it before. To me, that's a predictor.

But to reformy types, I suppose that's yet another failure. After all, schools with high percentages of special-needs students are always labeled failures, always closed, and the reformy Tweedies are always patting themselves on the backs and saying what a great job they did closing those schools. Then the kids from those closing schools get dumped into other schools, which develop stats similar to the closed schools, and then more schools close.

What does this mean? Well, this means we need more charter schools, which tend not to have ESL and alternate assessment students, and sometimes miraculously improve the grad rates. The fact that they shed inconvenient students along the way is of no consequence.

In any case, I have a solution to this vexing problem. Since public schools are all so awful, and since charters are so wonderful, let charters exclusively serve these tough kids. Let Eva Moskowitz and Geoffrey Canada sprinkle their fairy dust on these children, and let them make everything better. For goodness sake, Canada is on American Express commercials. He must have the secret sauce.

So from now on, let's dispense with all this lottery nonsense. Why on earth should our system favor parents proactive enough to actually enter? Let's take our neediest children, the ones Michael Bloomberg places First, Always, and let's give them direct access to these utopian charter schools. It's a simple fix.

I only wonder why Joel Klein didn't think of it himself.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Charlotte Danielson on Value-Added

She seems to agree it's not ready for prime-time.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Retirees Should Not Vote in UFT Elections

It's pretty disappointing to read that only 17% of working teachers could get off their butts to vote for UFT leadership. In fact, to check a box and seal an envelope, getting off said butt was not even a requirement. If you have family, for example, you could always ask a family member to mail the thing for you.

Even more disappointing was the fact that more than half of the vote came from retired teachers. Some were in Florida, where the UFT has an office. Actually, if there's a large concentration of UFT retirees in Florida, the office is not a bad idea. However, having the incumbent non-teacher President campaign there, directly or otherwise, is questionable. First of all, if the opponent is a teacher, the opponent has no way of getting her voice heard.

More importantly, retirees should not be voting at all. The issues facing teachers today are frightening and complex. The new evaluation system, despite a great recent Gotham piece, is so convoluted few people understand it at all. Maybe I'm just slow, and everyone else is catching the nuances. But I'm a teacher, and I will be facing this each and every day. I don't care how many free lectures they give in the Florida office, and that ought not to be a factor in my decision.

I worry about the day to day. I worry about what tens of thousands of my colleagues will face next year. I worry about people being fired for no reason. And that ought to be a prime focus for whoever leads my union.

I remember the 05 contract, a step in bringing us toward where we are now. I remember one of our school's delegates was planning to retire that year. He told me he voted for the contract because it would help his retirement. I understood that, but I also understood that it went against the interests of working teachers, 40% of whom ended up voting against that stinker. Now that he's retired, I'm not persuaded he's taken to voting the interests of working teachers.

Of course I know other retired teachers who do, in fact, vote in the interests of those of us still working. But as I'm still working, I suppose I'm voting in my self-interests as well. There's nothing wrong with that.

And there's nothing wrong with looking after our retirees. In fact, we all hope to be retirees someday. There should be an office to deal with retiree interests. We would be fools to abandon retirees, if for no other reason than we'd be abandoning our own future. Of course there are more important reasons.

But retirees ought not to be voting in UFT elections, unless they're voting specifically for retiree reps. To have them be the majority vote in our general election is an embarrassment and a disgrace.

They shouldn't be taking part in that election at all.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Fire All Perv Reporters

As you can imagine, I was horrified when my pal Reality-Based Educator notified me that a news reporter was arrested on child molestation charges. These charges are as serious, in fact more serious than most of those the Daily News, Senator-without-sin Ruben Diaz and legal expert Campbell Brown have been tossing about for the last few weeks.

What's truly shocking is Fox News merely suspended him, rather than firing him without any discovery of the facts. The Daily News, Diaz, and legal expert Brown insist that teachers be fired even if the arbitrator has determined the offense does not merit it. They want a highly prejudiced person like Bloomberg mouthpiece Dennis Walcott to be able to overturn decisions his infallible boss agreed to by contract.

I'm also highly prejudiced, however. I'm prejudiced in favor of due process. I'm prejudiced in favor of fair deals for working people. I'm prejudiced in favor of following rules you negotiate, and not whining, "I don't feel like following that darn contract!" In fact, I'm prejudiced in favor of negotiating new contracts when old ones expire, rather than simply saying, "Screw you, I'm taking my ball and going home."

But hey, if journalists don't think they should get a trial, if they don't think the judge's verdict should mean anything, if they prefer to be judged by someone with no legal knowledge or regard for the rules, if they think it's fair to be judged by someone who convicts 100% of the time regardless of the circumstances, I'm willing to volunteer.

In fact, I volunteer my services for each and every reporter writing about this nonsensical topic, up to and including legal expert Campbell Brown. I'm willing not only to convict them all without the slightest charge, but also to create new unsubstantiated ones to ruin their reputation for no reason whatsoever.  If there are charges, it matters not to me whether they are true, false, or simply transmitted to or from a tinfoil hat.

I'm willing to convict them, ruin their careers, and quite possibly ruin their lives for no reason whatsoever. And, of course, I'll simply claim to be doing it for the children.

God help those children when they grow up, if they're judged by the same standards these sterling reporters judge us.

Thompson for Mayor

Though I particularly like John Liu, and to a lesser extent Bill deBlasio, I'm now persuaded that neither will win the nomination come September. And while I'm upset that Thompson stood up in front of God and everybody and said teachers should not get the 8% raise that virtually all city employees got in the last round of pattern bargaining, I kind of understand why he did that.

After all, he'd been in virtual lockstep with UFT for some time when we saw fit to stab him in the back. I'd heard him say things that may as well have come from the mouth of Randi Weingarten. So it's understandable that the man may have been pissed off. Of course, it speaks to a lack of commitment on his part, and that's not something I particularly admire.

Another negative note with Bill Thompson is his close ties to Meryl Tisch, who, while not as insane as Michael Bloomberg, appears to be firmly rooted in baseless reform. Ms. Tisch is notably behind the current movement in NY that does not allow teachers to grade state papers written by their own students. The thought process behind this, as far as I can determine, is that we are all criminals who will cheat given any opportunity.

However, if we discount Liu and deBlasio, Thompson becomes the only reasonable choice, and certainly the only route with which the UFT can establish itself as a force to be reckoned with. In fact, UFT phone banks can be enormously powerful, and politicians will think twice about screwing with UFT if it's perceived as a kingmaker. I've seen UFT Queens accomplish enormous tasks out of sheer determination, most notably placing Tony Avella in a seat the GOP had held for decades.

If UFT gets this one right, it will be a good thing. One strong sign of how good it will be is Howard Wolfson's inane 3-page screed against Thompson in the virulently anti-teacher Daily News. Bloomberg is completely wrong calling the UFT endorsement the kiss of death, and it's time to prove that.

Christine Quinn, despite her massive ego, is on a losing trajectory, and no one deserves to lose more than Ms. Quinn. Wiener is a preposterous figure propelled by name recognition for all the wrong reasons, and is our best bet to get us yet another GOP mayor in deep-blue New York City.

Mr. Thompson is not the best candidate. But he is more acceptable than the other candidates, his poll numbers are likely higher than they appear, and we need to stop fooling around and win one.

Bill Thompson represents our very best chance to do that. Will he fail to give us the pattern raise? If he does, he'd better think back to David Dinkins, who lost a second term when he failed to get the UFT endorsement again. If we win, a lot of politicians will be thinking that way, and the "powerful UFT" will become something more than an epithet for hateful tabloids.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Breaking News: Legal Expert Campbell Brown Says Same Thing

Today, according the the crack reporters of the Daily News, legal expert Campbell Brown once again demanded that all pervy, sicko, sex creep teachers be fired.

Because Brown is a legal expert, she would not be put off by nonsensical claims by the awful UFT that teachers accused of misconduct are immediately removed from the classroom. It's clear to legal expert Brown that anyone Dennis Walcott says is guilty should be fired. It makes no difference whether or not they've actually been declared guilty by the arbitrators selected jointly by the UFT and the DOE.

"We will ride this thing as far as we can take it," said legal expert Brown. "As long as we can run our commercial, and the Daily News will keep running the same story three times a week, we think we can outrage enough people to make this a thing."

"While I have heard a lot of special interests whining about this people are innocent until proven guilty stuff, I've read nowhere that this specifically had to apply to teachers," pointed out legal expert Brown. "Thanks to Mort Zuckerman for allowing me to hammer this day after day. I really appreciate that he places the scary comments at the beginning, and doesn't allow any responses until mid-story, by which time most of our target audience has already exhausted their attention span."

"We won't have clean teachers until they're all working in charters and none of them are unionized," continued legal expert Brown. "That way, we can fire them for bad haircuts. And I can tell you, as a former network anchor, that good haircuts are very important."