Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Big Bank and Me

I have a few accounts at Chase. I think they're also called JP Morgan. It's convenient for me because they seem to have branches everywhere, and if I need cash I can almost always find a Chase ATM.

A month ago, I deposited a check for $1650. I had a deposit form, and I filled it out correctly. I don't like to brag, but I'm a high school graduate and I can handle that many digits and possibly more. (Sadly, as a working teacher, I don't often get to handle many more.) But it wasn't my mistake when Chase decided the check was only worth $16.50. Nonetheless, I was a little upset. That left me with over $1600 less than I'd expected.

I called the number on the back of my debit card. I spoke to someone with an unidentifiable accent who didn't know what to do. This person transferred me to someone else who also didn't know what to do. Oddly, they had access to a view of the check, and knew it was incorrect. I can only assume Chase had never, ever made a mistake before, so it was beyond their capacity.

As I was not working, I decided to visit my local Chase branch. What they did was get on the phone, but evidently the people on the other ends of their phones were not the same as those on the other side of mine. They were able to come to an agreement to somehow issue me a refund, of course at the expense of my friend who wrote the check. I was a little upset at having to waste my time on this, but I was off for the summer so it wasn't that bad.

This month, though, I deposited yet another check for $1650. This time Chase decided it was worth $7650. Now that was better for me than $16.50, but somewhat of a disadvantage for my friend. For one thing, there wasn't enough money in the account to cover it, so it bounced. I made two phone calls, and of course there was nothing they could do, so once again I visited the bank.

The people there were very nice, and said they would work something out and not to worry about it. Nonetheless, the next day there was a charge of $12 to my account for the bounced check. I called again.I told the person on the other end my fee for gross incompetence was $50. He was confused. He said the fee was only twelve dollars. I told him this was my fee, not his.

After all, if the bank is free to charge arbitrary fees for my errors, why shouldn't I charge one for theirs? The person on the phone didn't understand that, so I went back to the bank. After a half-hour wait, I went home and sent them an email. Chase said they would investigate. The following day, they credited back my twelve bucks.

I told them it wasn't good enough, and I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. It turns out, though, that they don't deal with arbitrary fees initiated by consumers. Who knew? So the next time I get an email from Chase telling me how sorry they are, I'll tel them we'll see each other in small claims court. I think the minimum is fifty bucks. However, if it isn't, I'm willing to raise my arbitrary fee.

After all, like theirs, it's just something I made up, so it may as well be any damn number I see fit.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Where Is the Line for Donald Trump?

It's surreal. Donald Trump stands up, in front of the entire country, and suggests there is moral equivalency between nazis, white supremacists, KKK and those who protest them. He gives aid and comfort to terrorists, to those who murder people on the streets.

To their credit, a few Republicans have directly challenged him. Many have not. But almost all supported him, and all who did have blood on their hands today. And they've enabled and encouraged this for decades.

My father is 94 years old. He was in the US Army and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. And he is, therefore, part of the "alt-left" who Trump rejects. If the "alt-left" is composed of people who oppose nazis, I'm proud to be part of it.

It's unbelievable that we now see a President of the United States so undiplomatic he will and does say any damn thing that suits his purposes. While he is nominally a Republican, and while the Republicans selected and supported him, being a Republican doesn't define him. Donald Trump has the mentality and temperament of a junior high school student, and lashes out on Twitter at those who fail to tell him how wonderful he is. He's juvenile. How he did business with that mindset is a mystery to me.

Trump was unable to stick with his refutation of bigotry. He was forced to do that, and Trump cannot be forced to do anything. He's a recalcitrant child who refuses to stop eating ice cream before dinner. Trump can say some of them are good people. Here's the thing--anyone who stands with nazis and KKK is not good people. And anyone who still backs Trump is saying it's OK to wink and nod to nazis.

And maybe, in the United States of America, that's fine. On Facebook I see a lot of people saying this is the end. Well is it? When Donald Trump said Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States, I took him for a lunatic. He's done nothing to disprove it. When he came out and stereotyped Mexicans as rapists and murderers, I thought he was finished. When he said, of John McCain, "I like people who weren't captured," I thought the same. Then, of course, there was grabbing women by the pussy. Who'd have thought that was a route to the presidency?

Now the NY Post has a cover ridiculing Trump. We know Murdoch, who owns Fox News, owns the Post. What on earth does it take before America has had it with this man? What does it take before his fellow Republicans sense they've gone just a little too far?

It's hard to say. If you haven't seen the VICE mini-documentary on the Charlottesville nazi rally, do so now. Then ask yourself if this is the America you want. I'm doubtful anyone who reads this blog will see eye to eye with this President.

It was hard to imagine a President who could make George HW Bush one appear admirable. I was not a fan. Nonetheless, Bush denounced David Duke as a racist and called him unfit for office. The fact that the sitting President of the United States cannot meet even this low bar is a national disgrace.

Donald Trump is unfit for office. And if the GOP that controls Congress and the Senate doesn't impeach him, they are too. Anyone who endorses racism and bigotry needs to be out.

This is not over. The nazis, KKK, and white supremacists will be out again and again, with the tacit approval of our Bigot-in-Chief. And we will see this over and over until and unless we toss out Trump and all his enablers. 

The only question is whether We, the People are up to the challenge.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

It's Beginning to Look Like 1939, so UFT Leadership Disbands Social Justice Committee

That photo is from right here in Union Square last Sunday night. It's surreal that we have to even contemplate such a thing, even as the alt-reich marches through Virginia, and who knows where else. Trump has a long history of ignoring right-wing violence, but this was the week it really jumped out at America, yours truly included.

I was astounded by Trump's remarks about blame on "many sides." It's like you're at a trial and the judge says, "Hey, I know this guy killed 12 people. But let's be fair and look into the fault of the victims. I mean, there they were, actively and provocatively living and all, just challenging the defendant to kill them."

Or it could be rape. Aren't people always accusing women of dressing provocatively? It's their fault, some lawyer will say, that the rapist attacked them on the street.  I once had a job playing guitar at a strip joint in a duo with a friend of mine. There was this big U-shaped bar and a bunch of guys sat around drinking Bud tall boys while the women would dance. And the women would not talk to any guys around the bar. I really didn't see the appeal of that kind of night out. My friend and I marveled that the guys who sat drinking and watching didn't go out afterward and kill people and stuff. Of course if they did, Trump would blame the victims.

On many sides. It was unbelievable. The nazis and white supremacists got the message.

Andrew Anglin, the creator of the Nazi site The Daily Stormer, praised Trump's response. "He didn't attack us," he wrote in a blog post on the site. "(He) implied that there was hate ... on both sides. So he implied the antifa are haters. There was virtually no counter-signaling of us all."

Yeah, what haters people who oppose nazis are. Boy, Trump and his people must be really pissed off about World War II, when Americans went to war to stop Adolf Hitler. Of course a lot of Americans, including a whole lot of GOP leaders, had no problem making Trump look like the self-serving pig that he is. Trump clearly felt the pressure, and a few days later made the statement he ought to have made in the first place. Then, of course, he complained about being pressured to condemn nazis.



Amazing. And when Trump attacks the press, which is often half asleep anyway, he need not give evidence. He just calls them "fake news," as always. Truthiness via repetition is good enough for his Fox "News" watching  followers. President Junior High School Rankout King could not simply stand by a reasonable statement. He had to complain about it. Not only that, but he needed to further demean it by retweeting a diversion about violence in Chicago. His message, in case it isn't abundantly obvious, is that we should stop focusing on nazis marching in our streets because there's violence in Chicago.The originator of that tweet describes himself as "new right," the heart of Trump supporters, for my money.

The nazis certainly get the message. Poor Donald Trump didn't want to disavow them, but he had to. The "fake press" made him take a stand against nazis, and they won't stop at that. Maybe they'll make him disavow murder, or grabbing women by the pussy, or who knows what next. It never ends with those truly bad people. Next they're gonna want elections determined by number of votes cast.

Meanwhile, I'm part of a long group email. The messages keep coming fast and furious. I can't even keep up. The upshot of it is that UFT leadership, who dare not even utter Trump's name, has chosen this week to disband its social justice committee.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Another Day, Another UFT Member Takes the Fall for a Principal

That's what this story in yesterday's Post suggests. This time it's not a teacher but rather a guidance counselor. After all, we're all UFT members, so why not share the fun?

Now that's not to say that there are no consequences for principals. Principal Santiago Taveras was found to have changed grades and course codes for a bunch of students. You see, for Taveras, it was a matter of honor. He boldly stepped down from his cushy deputy chancellor gig to take that principal job and show the world that Bloomberg's former flunkies could do anything. When screaming and shouting didn't get the test grades he needed, well, he had to do something.

As for consequences, well of course there are consequences. When real things happen, when they are proven, principals in NYC have to face consequences. For Taveras, it meant yet another demotion. Not only that, but his $198K salary was reduced to $150K. That's some tough love from no-nonsense Chancellor Carmen "It's a Beautiful Day" Fariña. I mean, how's an important guy like Taveras supposed to get by on only 150K a year? He must think about that each and every moment in his new gig as "educational administrator" doing Whatever the Hell That Is.

As for guidance counselors, well, they don't get treated any better than teachers. This one was fined $7,500,  and I presume made an ATR. After all, you can't have counselors who change grades to make things look better. That would be a disgrace. Actually, though, the counselor says she didn't do it. The counselor says she declined to make the change on the last day of school. Not only that, but check this out:

Taveras’ signature — not Hunter’s — was on a grade-change form, 55 to 65, and there was no paper trail on another change from “no show” to 55, according to testimony. Without paperwork, only a principal can change a grade and enter it into the system, a veteran clerk explained.

Well, that's one guilty guidance counselor. At least that's what another $1600 a day arbitrator decided. Never mind the clear evidence she didn't even do it. And what about the fact that Taveras had already been found guilty of this very behavior? What about the fact that he'd been removed from his job for it?

The arbitrator, in his infinite and well-compensated wisdom, deemed that irrelevant. The important thing was--well I have no idea what the important thing was. I have no idea why this counselor was made to pay $7500, or what she did wrong. My best guess is insubordination. When your principal says to cheat, well, you'd better get to cheating. Otherwise, be prepared to wander from school to school.

And you'd better hope the DOE hasn't got another top-secret file on you, that you used your cell phone in the school building, or that you turned off the lights when you showed a video. Those are career-ending offenses these days. Anyway, who knows what else this counselor may have done? Maybe she took 46 minutes for lunch instead of 45. Maybe she chewed gum in the school building. Maybe she didn't use enough soap when she washed her hands. It could be anything, really.

I guess this is yet another story Campbell Brown won't be spreading all over the media. After all, now she's got a gig for Facebook doing something or other. I mean, she's qualified. She has a Face, and for all I know she's read a Book. Given a story like this, on the heels of a similar one just days ago, it appears to me that due process is a thing we can not be negotiating or legislating away.

Now I don't know everything about these cases. But I've got firsthand experience with arbitrators make questionable decisions. It appears to me, far from going out of their way to defend incompetent UFT members, they seem to be accommodating the wishes of crooked administrators to blame us.

Maybe UFT members aren't the only ones in need of PD.

Thanks to Bronx ATR

Friday, August 11, 2017

Who Had this Man Fired?

There's an amazing and multi-layered story in yesterday's NY Post. A lot of people say that teachers can never be fired, but here's a story about one who was. (And he isn't the only one, because I know others.) I see a bunch of charges, none of which seem to merit a whole lot of response, if any.

Evidently this school has a gender-bender day, where students dress up as the opposite sex. I wonder how students already struggling with gender issues would feel about that. I wonder how parents would feel. In any case, gender-bender is a thing at this school, but visits to Malcolm X's grave site are off limits. And wouldn't you know it? This teacher not only questioned gender-bender day, but also wanted to take his students to see Malcolm's grave site.

But that's not all this teacher did. He turned the lights off while showing a video! Can you imagine? Not only that, but he showed a clip from a Boondocks cartoon, and maybe there was a bad word or something. Also, he used a cell phone in school. (I actually don't know any teacher who has not used a cell phone in school. And in fact, when I show a video clip, students routinely get up and switch the lights off. I let them do it, so maybe I should be fired too.)

This is the flip side of all the crap spread around by Campbell Brown, and the incurious one-sided reporting of Chalkbeat. In fact, it even links to another story that says what's really going on, which evidently escaped the notice of the arbitrator who ordered the firing. You see the principal, the one Campbell Brown wants to make firing decisions, was embroiled in a cheating scandal. And waddya know, the fired teacher was one of the ones who blew the whistle on him.

At first, they fined the teacher $2,000 for this petty nonsense and placed him in the ATR. You'd think the principal would be happy just to bounce this guy, who as far as I can tell did nothing of significance beyond blowing a whistle. Maybe, if the video clip was that questionable, they could have asked him not to show clips like that. But evidently that's not enough, so the principal, or the DOE, or likely both decided to dredge up whatever they could muster, and do a second 3020a on this guy. The genius arbitrator went for it hook, line, and sinker and fired the guy.

I mean, hey, a teacher who turns the lights off when he shows a video? A teacher who uses his cell phone in the school? This is the anti-Campbell Brown. UFT, or anyone, could use this guy as the face of why principals and the DOE should not and cannot be entrusted to fire people without due process. In fact, this is an argument that due process can go awry, and that even $1600 a day arbitrators are not infallible.

An incredible takeaway here is that this principal has never taught except as a sub. How on earth does the DOE hire someone like this? For all I know, he's Leadership Academy. After all, Klein saw teachers as just another stop on the Axis of Evil. Why not just drag someone off the street and make that person principal? I have no idea where this principal came from, but the story certainly alleges some funny things were happening at this school.

This fired teacher embarrassed not only the principal, but also the DOE. Who decided that this whistleblower needed to pay? Who dredged up a bunch of ridiculous charges and took this man's job? And what on earth made an arbitrator decide there was merit to this nonsense?

Let's also be clear on this--all the charges that the teacher faced on 3020a number two occurred before 3020a number one. You see, once you've been placed in the ATR, even for inconsequential nonsense that garners a $2,000 fine, you're under a microscope. Did the DOE deliberately save half of their trumped-up nonsense for round two so they could fire this guy?

Honestly, I see nothing here that merits one round of 3020a charges, let alone two. At the very worst, if the Boondocks video were that egregious, it could be a letter to file. This story, to me at least, is conclusive evidence that the DOE should not be trusted to fire teachers. And that's before we even look at the shoddy judgment of the highly-paid arbitrator. The fact that all charges happened before 3020a round one suggests the arbitrator's conclusion the teacher was "beyond remediation" is  utterly flawed and false on its face.

I was a little tough on the NY Post the other day, but they have their moments. This is one of them. Maybe they'll do better if they read their own stories before stereotyping ATR teachers, many of whom are in the ATR for reasons like these, or no reason at all.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bill Gates and Co.--the iPhone Is Dead and Teachers Will Be Rated by Test Scores

Reps from Microsoft have repeatedly given eulogies for the iPhone . That's the kind of vision you get from Bill Gates' company. Microsoft introduced us to the Kin. They followed that up with the Kin 2. Remember that? Neither do I.

Microsoft, of course, came out with the Windows Phone. Who do you know who has one? Who do you know who's talking about the next Windows Phone? I don't think I've even seen one apart from ads I saw years ago.

I don't have a Windows computer. I have a Mac. A week ago I was following a recipe when I accidentally splashed water on my screen, ruining it. On my way to the Apple Store to replace it, I passed the Microsoft Store. I saw five or six employees standing around doing nothing while I passed by. The Apple Store was really crowded and I had to wait a few minutes just to pick up the computer I'd ordered online.

And yet, our schools are drowning in the vision of Microsoft's Bill Gates. There's testing, testing and more testing. My newcomers now have to take a test called the NYSESLAT, which was never very good, but which now does not even seem to test English acquisition levels. It's more about how many Common Core questions they can answer over hours and hours. Forget about functional English--we want to know about your close reading skills in a language you have not yet learned.

New York State is unveiling new standards now. Common Core is discredited, and therefore it's out. The hope is that no one will notice it's the same old crap with a new name pasted on it. Textbook manufacturers are likely printing stickers so we buy the old crap thinking it's new crap. Cuomo can say it has a new name and is therefore less crappy.

Meanwhile, here on earth, every city teacher is rated by test scores. Although I teach ESL, I'm technically an English teacher. I had expected to be rated on the English Regents scores of the nine students I had who were scheduled to take it. Now I'm told I will be rated by the Regents scores of all the students in our building.

That will work out better for me because my school does well on tests. So I expect to score effective or higher. Should I have a party? Not just yet, I think. For one thing, I don't even think my nine students took the test this year. For another, even if they did, the entire school's Regents results do not reflect on me or my teaching.

Is that ungrateful? I don't think so. Had my nine students taken the tests, I'd have gotten a crap rating because, you know, they'd only been here a year and were still focused on fundamental language acquisition. The Regents exam was wholly inappropriate for them. The bad rating would not be a reflection on my work either, because there's no way I was going to steer my beginning English classes toward an exam they shouldn't have even been taking. In fact, even if I'd been rated on a test that was appropriate for my students, the American Statistical Association would have declared it an invalid measure of my work.

But we're not in a science-based environment here. We're in Microsoft World, headed by Bill Gates. Gates did an experiment called Measures of Effective Teaching and decided test scores were the only things that mattered. Arne Duncan did whatever Gates wanted and now most of the country is still Racing to the Top, building charter schools and rating teachers on nonsense.

Take a look around and ask yourself why America has mandated public education to be a Microsoft Kin, or a Windows Phone, or whatever Bill Gates' company is peddling this week.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Meaning of "Education Reform" Laid Bare

There is a fascinating piece in Politico today. Evidently, we're somehow making some progress against reforminess. This goes hand in hand with a statement from Eduwonk, AKA Andy Rotherham of Bellwether Education Partners, referring to teacher unions:

In fact, these groups thwarted key parts of the Obama education agenda. 

Rotherham does not give any more detail, and with 12 years of blogging I still can't read his mind.  I'll therefore focus on the Politico piece, which is a little more explicit. Politico states that NY is no longer the ed reform capital, and as a New Yorker, that sounds like good news. Reformies are stalled in their tracks, evidently.

Yet here on the ground, I have never seen teachers so demoralized and worn down. Some of the most positive individuals I've ever met have left the profession. Some of them left from my school, a relatively good place. Why would that be, if we were so successful at turning the reformy tide?

One reason is that Politico looks at "reform" in a curious fashion. The word, to me, entails change, and hopefully for the better. That's why I question reformies, because what is their motivation to change? I mean, Betsy DeVos is as reformy as they come, and for all I can see, she's on a mission to destroy public education so her BFFs can profit from it.



The march toward privatization notwithstanding, a great deal of the Politico article focuses on teacher tenure. Here's a blatant falsehood:

At Cuomo’s urging, the Legislature pushed through some reforms in 2015, tying tenure to teacher performance instead of time in the classroom...

In fact, I have firsthand experience with tenure being withheld for classroom performance before this "reform" was passed. Tenure could be delayed or denied for almost any reason before 2015. The city used this much more frequently after Bloomberg came in, but always had the option to do so. But why should education reporters bother knowing anything about history? (In fairness, Politico opts for the Chalkbeat model of not talking to working teachers, speaking with Gates-funded E4E reformies instead.)

A stronger focus of "reform," as per Politico, is the failure of New York to utterly eradicate due process, popularly known as "tenure." It seemed the prime directive of self-proclaimed education expert Campbell Brown to allow administrators to fire anyone they felt like, anytime they felt like it. To enable this, they went full-court press after what they called bad teachers--generally people who were accused of things but not found guilty. Brown went to the tabloids and blew up a few cases to stoke outrage, but it appears her efforts have stalled.

In fact, I knew the circumstances only one of the cases that Brown tossed about, and I knew it to be nonsense. I therefore doubted the rest of her allegations. I was very happy to write about the flip side of the coin, and how all teachers deserve due process. Hey, if I stink at my job, if I'm abusive to children, fine. Come after me. But if you're mad at me for standing up for the children I serve and making your job inconvenient, screw you. If you're mad at me for standing up for the rights of my colleagues, again, screw you.

Reforminess is something Trump is strong on, because he doesn't believe in protecting the rights of working people. With him, it's all about profit, hence Betsy DeVos, who's pretty much decimated public education in Michigan. They can wrap themselves in the flag all they want, and claim to care about the children. Those of us who wake up every morning to serve those children know better.

And then there is Andrew Cuomo, who first ran on a platform of going after unions, who appeared at Moskowitz rallies and frothed at the mouth over the possibility of firing as many teachers as possible. Cuomo could not possibly anticipate that parents would become informed and fight back against the nonsense that is Common Core. He could not anticipate that parents would boycott his tests in droves.

What reformies failed to count on was the opportunism of Andrew Cuomo. As a man with no moral center whatsoever, he is driven by rampant ambition. This year, he watched Donald Trump win the presidency against neoliberal Hillary Clinton. Cuomo decided to position himself as Bernie Sanders Lite and pushed a program to give free college tuition to New Yorkers (albeit with a whole lot of restrictions).

Cuomo is now best buds with UFT, judging from what I hear at Delegate Assemblies. While I don't personally trust the man as far as I can throw him, I'm happy if that works to help working teachers and other working people. So what is education "reform," exactly?

As far as I can tell, it's piling on, How miserable can we make working teachers? How can we arbitrarily and capriciously fire them? How can we give them as few options as possible, and as little voice as possible?

It's ironic. The MORE motto is, "Our teaching conditions are students' learning conditions." I agree with that. Take it a step further, and our teaching conditions are our students' future working conditions. When we fight for improvement of our working conditions, we are fighting for the future of our students as well.

Two of my former students teach in my school. They are the first of their families to be college educated, and the first of their families to get middle class jobs. I will fight for them, and for my other students to have even more opportunity. Betsy DeVos and the reformies, on the other hand, can fight to maximize profits for fraudulent cyber-charter owners and all the other opportunist sleazebags they represent so well.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Breaking--

I have it on good authority that, after a mere 12 years, Chalkbeat has spoken to an ATR teacher.

Super-Reformy Chalkbeat Gives Both Reformy Sides

Naturally, I'm impressed that Chalkbeat went the extra mile, quoting not only Eva Moskowitz, but also the so-called Families for Excellent Schools, an astroturf org whose primary function appears to be supporting Moskowitz. Sometimes it's not enough to only get Eva's side, and it's important to also know how her professional cheering section feels. (In case you're wondering, they support her.) That way, we get a more thorough understanding of the pro-charter side of the issue.

What might you lose when you go out of your way to focus on both reformy sides? A commenter at Chalkbeat offers a taste:

This Chalkbeat article left out the information that Mayor de Blasio offered space to some of these charter schools and the charter schools rejected it because it was not in the expensive neighborhood where it would be much easier to market to the affluent students they prefer to teach.

Odd how the ace reporters at Gates-Walmart funded Chalkbeat forgot that part. Essentially, the story says that charters wish de Blasio to show his good will by giving up and surrendering space. Given the comment, I guess it can't just be any space. After all, Eva needs to be particular. And she can't really complete her rampant expansion plans without  precisely the right space for her private schools that can't be bothered following city regulations. So why shouldn't the taxpayers foot the bill so she can go wherever she goshdarn pleases? You can't expect Chalkbeat to delve too deeply into questions like those, because you know, their reporters are busy, and haven't got time to think about all that stuff.

The important thing, though, is that Eva get her space. After all, Mayor Bill de Blasio ran on an anti-charter platform and won an overwhelming victory, but screw him and everyone who voted for him (and don't even mention that, ever). Governor Cuomo mounted his white steed and rode to Eva's rescue, passing a law that NYC had to pay for Eva's charter schools whether the city wanted them or not. (And for the record, I don't recall UFT leadership raising a peep in protest.)

Not to belabor the point, but Chalkbeat reporters have a lot of things to do. It isn't easy running a Gates-Walton funded operation. They don't have time to find answers to nagging questions,  let alone speak to lowly teachers. If you read yesterday's comment section, you'll see they actually don't even know any, so they asked a commenter who teaches in LA whether he could put them in touch with NYC teachers. Because, you know, they're Very Important, and he's a teacher. Therefore he has nothing better to do than find them contacts in their own town. That's the sort of bold, proactive journalism we've come to expect from Chalkbeat.

In fact, because they pay a whole lot of people a whole lot of money, the charter folks have gotten this story out to a whole lot of local press. You'd think maybe Chalkbeat, with its sole focus on education, might provide a little more depth to the story, but you'd be wrong. From reading Chalkbeat, you'd think there was space all over the city, just waiting for Eva to appropriate it.

Evidently, Chalkbeat is unaware of issues like oversized classes and overcrowding, because honestly, who cares about that stuff? Not Walton and Gates, who fund Chalkbeat. So why should they bother looking into stuff like that? I mean, how would that help Families for Excellent Schools or Eva Moskowitz? How would it help E4E, the Gates-funded group Chalkbeat turns to when it needs the vital opinions of former teachers?

Here on planet earth, I work in a school that overcrowded to the point of bursting. We're slated to have over 4,700 students, more than ever, and I have no idea how we are going to accommodate them. With the help of UFT, we were able to negotiate an annex that will provide us with ten extra classrooms after we lose the trailers. But that will take a few years, and while we wait the DOE has generously provided up with hundreds of extra students, pretty much canceling the value of the extra space before we even get it.

But hey, why worry about that? The important thing is that Moskowitz get her space, and that paid charter shills drown out the voices of those of us who actually do this work. Why on earth would we give extra space to actual public school students? Who lobbies for them?

Actually I do. So do people like Leonie Haimson, Diane Ravitch, Carol Burris, Jeanette Deutermann and others. So do a whole lot of working teachers. What do they think about this?

If you're relying on Chalkbeat for information, you'll never find out.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Reformy Chalkbeat Doubles Down on ATRs, Informs Readers It Knows Nothing

In yet another article, reformy Chalkbeat ponders the issues involved with the ATR. Naturally, they don't bother to interview an actual ATR, because what value could that possibly have? As usual, the experience of the people living through this particular social experiment is given not a single word. After all, why should they talk to working teachers when Students First and others pay people to spout The Gospel According to Gates and Walmart, both of whom fund Chalkbeat?

The first question Chalkbeat has is about the average number of years an ATR teacher has. Naturally, they bring up the cost of the ATR so their readers and funders can deplore it and call for their heads. Then it cites seven-year-old figures, because why bother digging for new ones? And why bother talking to ATR teachers and reflecting on their experience? If they were to do that, they might as well be education bloggers, or others who actually talk to ATR teachers on a daily basis. You won't see people like that writing for Chalkbeat anytime soon. So the answer to Chalkbeat's big question is, "We don't know."

The next urgent question Chalkbeat has is how many teachers are in the ATR for disciplinary reasons. Naturally Chalkbeat goes to TNTP, created by Michelle Rhee, because you can just never have too much reforminess is a piece of education reporting. And for the record, the TNTP CEO is another guy who trashes ATRs in the pages of Campbell Brown's blog, so his opinion, while utterly predictable, is indispensable. What teachers may have been accused of, whether they have been deemed guilty of said accusations, or whether the charges were trumped-up nonsense is of no relevance and therefore not even mentioned. It's always easier to assume they are all unfit even though none have been found to be. And again, Chalkbeat does not waste one minute of valuable time talking to an actual teacher and answers the question, "We don't know."

How long have teachers been in the pool? Chalkbeat again goes to teacher-bashing TNTP, because why bother talking to anyone else? Teachers? ATR teachers? Meh. After all, Chalkbeat reporters aren't paid by the hour.  The answer? "We don't know." In fairness, Chalkbeat also suggests a principal thinks ATR teachers may not have received PD, and may therefore be unfit. Every teacher reading this has been to PD, and every teacher reading this could have advised Chalkbeat on its value. Fortunately for Chalkbeat, they don't talk to working teachers, so that makes their job a little easier.

Chalkbeat also asks where ATR teachers have worked in the past. As someone who regularly communicates with ATR teachers, I'd say, "Everywhere." Chalkbeat, of course, can't be bothered talking to those of us who actually do the work, so their answer, yet again, is "We don't know." But it's important because the teachers, the ones they have not established to have done anything wrong, may have done something wrong, and may be placed in low income areas. Here's a newsflash, Chalkbeat. Anyone may have done something wrong. You, for example, may have done a half-baked, biased job of reporting, and people in low-income areas may rely on you for information.

Finally, Chalkbeat asks the important question--what are ATR teachers certified in? And guess what? They don't know. Chalkbeat thinks ATR teachers may need retraining, because they may be certified in subjects that aren't that popular. In fairness, there's a lot of that going around. I heard somewhere there were journalists who presented and published features on subjects about which they know little or nothing. Of course, I didn't bother speaking to any journalists before coming to this conclusion, because why bother? Chalkbeat wouldn't.

For the record, I am in total agreement with my friends at the ICE blog, who suggest the aim of the ceaseless and baseless attacks on the ATR is to bust union. A lot of people don't know it, but we are all ATRs. Just be in the wrong place at the right time, and it could be you.

A Principal Who Inspires

Did your principal come from the Leadership Academy? Does she think she's God? Does she lock herself in the office and ignore the halls? Does she let her APs run rampant, doing pretty much any damn thing without consequence? Does she tread all over the contract, appointing her BFFs to plum positions and keeping them there forever? Is her mother the chancellor?

Okay, so here's a story about a person who became principal for all the right reasons. Amazingly, this guy was the janitor for 27 years, and yet another inspirational principal saw something in him. The principal pushed him to go back to school, and he became a teacher, and then principal. When you think about all the principals having nervous breakdowns over test scores, to the exclusion of all else, it's great to see a principal who actually looks at people, sees their potential, and encourages them to reach it. I mean, this principal is clearly a teacher at heart.

I've been teaching for over thirty years, and I've been observed many times by many people. I've received many pieces of paper. Some of them have been helpful, and others not. I once had an AP actually plagiarize an elaborate lesson plan I used rather than bother to write anything. I guess writing is a strain for some people. It's kind of remarkable such people choose to be school administrators. The most memorable feedback I ever got was from a principal who observed me, promised to write me up, and never did. He said, "Those kids love you." I don't really see how a written observation could have improved on that.

This notwithstanding, there is one person who has observed me more than anyone else, and that person happens to be a school custodian. Back when I was in the trailer, I was usually the last one there. He would be cleaning the adjacent trailer, and would walk in to pick up and drop off things. I saw a friendly native speaker of English willing to interact with my kids, and he was always ready. He was also great with the kids. I could absolutely see him as a leader.



Isn't that a great thought? How many so-called leaders have you met who inspired no one? In Spanish, being educated implies being able to deal well and treat people with courtesy. They have a saying, Tiene doctorado, pero ne es educado. He has a doctorate, but he isn't educated. It's clear to me that the opposite is also true. Some people without degrees are great with people. (And no, I'm not advocating we do away with certification and hope for the best, because that's just nuts.)

In fact, my kids loved this custodian, and his interactions with them gave them confidence. He got the kids to hear and intereact with another authentic and non-threatening voice, and he was happy to do so. I could easily see him as a school leader. All he'd need to do was go to school, like the guy in the story did.

In fact, there is one person in our school who went from a DC37 gig in the stockroom to being a social studies teacher. I've never seen him teach, but I know him to be smart, and to have a good heart. That's what I'd want if I were picking a teacher, but as a mere teacher, all I get to do is sit in on C-30 hearings for administrators.

If you're out in the halls, you can really see what's going on in a school building. Sadly, a lot of custodians see more about a lot of principals. But it's great to read a story about someone who set a tough goal for himself and reached it. I'd love to read more stories like this one.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Added Later

That's what Trump's toadie Stephen Miller said about the Emma Lazarus poem on the Statue of Liberty, while pushing a plan to reduce immigration. So screw your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Wretched refuse? Don't even think about it.

It was added later, so it doesn't count. Never mind that France created the statue and Americans added it later. By Trump standards, anything added later doesn't count. Things are the way they are, and they need to stay that way forever.

When the United States began, slavery was legal. Personally, I'm horrified by the notion of slavery. And given the prison system, if you've seen the documentary 13th, you could argue it's not completely abolished yet. But hey, what's to stop Trump's thugs from getting up and saying they were re-instituting it? They could use the same argument--abolition was added later.

And what about women? You may have heard that they can vote these days, but that wasn't always the case. That's another one of those amendment thingies, and it wasn't in effect until 1920. Modern day right-wingers seem hellbent on erasing the twentieth century, so why not just take away that right? For one thing, women tend not to vote in great enough numbers for Orange Is the New President. And for another, it was added later. Trumpies have already established that as an argument, so why not trot it out again?

Let's take a look at this free speech stuff. That comes out of that First Amendment, and as we all know, being an amendment, it was also added later. So hey, banning Muslims? That's fine because there's no freedom of religion. And we just bankrupted Gawker, for the offense of reporting on the sex life of Hulk Hogan, so maybe reporters will just shut up and mind their own business so as not to offend Orange Man and his BFFs anyway. But hey, it's added later.

Let's take a look at labor unions. (Full disclosure--I'm in one.) There weren't any around when we started this country. It was, "No Irish Need Apply," and, "If You Don't Come in Sunday, Don't Come in Monday." There was not 40-hour week. There were no holidays. There was no overtime. There were no health benefits. There were no contracts, or grievance procedures, or bathroom breaks. Those things were all added later. And with Trump's Supreme Court, it looks like we're gonna make the whole country "Right to Work," pushing union back a few decades right away.

You know, this added later argument is pretty compelling. You can pretty much use it to roll back any and all progress. And that, my friends, as much as anything, epitomizes the Trumpie plan to Make America Great Again. Stop being snowflakes. Forget about all those frivolous rights people have fought and died for. If you want privilege, have the foresight to be born into it, like Donald Trump was.

Otherwise, stop your whining.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Reformy Chalkbeat Deems Paying Teachers Inconvenient

Who'd have thought that Chalkbeat NY, after taking all that money from Gates and the Walmart family, would suddenly go all community service on us? Evidently, it's not convenient for principals to pay teacher salaries. You know, they're expensive, and that money could go to all sorts of things, not the least of which is stocking the principal's office with free donuts and prostitutes. After all, that principal's job is stressful, what with all those pushy teachers demanding money and stuff.

And hey, isn't teaching a calling? Shouldn't teachers be begging for the right to do this job? After all, it's for the children. Shouldn't teachers be role models, waking up at 4 AM to clean stables, working nights at the car wash, and doing the whole teaching thing just because they're dedicated? Won't they then inspire children to also work for free so that Walmart, which funds Chalkbeat, can also stop having to pay people when they work? Can't the punters see how this will maximize profit?

I just adore the photo Chalkbeat chooses to recycle, the one of a dozen people organized by the well-financed so-called Families for Excellent Schools standing around stereotyping ATR teachers. It would take me about five minutes to organize a dozen people to stand outside the Chalkbeat office with signs that say "Chalkbeat Sucks." I wonder if I could get papers to cover that. Probably not, because oddly enough, papers don't seem to find crappy reporting a problem.

For example, I've been reading the same story for weeks--ATR teachers suck, and they are a big drain on the budget. Why should we pay them if they aren't working full-time? Also, if they are appointed to work full-time, that sucks because they suck. Why? Well, some of them have been charged with this or that, and they therefore must be guilty, even if the process says they were not. Also, the people who haven't been charged are all guilty too, for no reason whatsoever, and therefore they also suck.

Scott Conti, some principal somewhere, is quoted saying schools might not want them and that they will cost more in the future. You know, salaries go up, and those unreasonable teachers still want to get paid, and are unwilling to work for free. I suggest that Scott Conti work for free, and lead by example. Let him wake up and clean stables and work the car wash at night. Or maybe he could get a squeegee and stand around a bridge with a rag. You know, he could set an example of good old American ingenuity.

I'm also disappointed in UFT leadership, which seems to believe that, even with the idiotic so-called Fair Student Funding, that there will be no issue hiring senior teachers. In fact, schools themselves now have to pay teachers out of their own budgets. Why would a principal hire a 100K teacher when a 50K teacher would do? After all, who values experience anymore? You could stock your whole building with newbies and turn them over every three years before they get tenure and start speaking up.

And hey, if you do get stuck hiring ATRs, why not harrass them until they leave?

At the very least, one Bronx principal said, he’d be wary of the hire. “If someone automatically puts an ATR into my school,” he said, “I would go in there and observe them quite a bit.” 

Isn't it cool how the principal knows what he's doing and therefore chooses not to be identified? And isn't it cool how Chalkbeat just goes along with it? But wait, they've saved the biggest whopper for last:

City education officials said it isn’t so easy to rig an evaluation since it relies on a “well-defined rubric based on evidence.”  

Oh yeah, the Danielson rubric is absolutely infallible. If it says this, then that's what principals will do. In fact, the only time Danielson rubric doesn't work is when, you know, principals report things that didn't happen and fail to see things that did. I saw video evidence of a rigged observation where a supervisor failed to see things that happened and distorted things that did. Yet the city cannot imagine such a thing.

Over at Banana Kelly the principal didn't even bother to show up to classes before writing observations. She got caught but how many did not? And if I saw video evidence of some Boy Wonder supervisor rating things that didn't happen, how many times could that supervisor have done it when it wasn't filmed?  And how many times is that replicated citywide?

You won't learn that reading Chalkbeat. Chalkbeat couldn't be bothered to interview a single working teacher, let alone one of the ATRs about whom they are ostensibly writing.

Great work, Chalkbeat! Orwell would be impressed.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Same ATR Attack, Different Day

In the Daily News, there's yet another hit piece on ATR teachers. This one is unique in that it's written by a public school parent. However, it fails to distinguish itself beyond that. It contains the same tired old arguments that every other hit piece has.

I have to trust that the principal is picking the best teachers and holding them to high standards.

Well, actually you don't. There are some awful principals around. Two of them were just bounced very publicly--the one from CPE 1 and the one from Townsend Harris. And if you read Sue Edelman over at the Post, you hear about all sorts of hijinks from these figures. In fact, assuming that principals are infallible is almost as offensive as assuming ATRs are "dud teachers." But it's equally ridiculous.

They land in the ATR — sometimes for a short period, sometimes for a long one — because they are unable or unwilling to find full-time teaching positions after losing their placements.

Actually quite a few land in the ATR because their schools close. A whole lot of schools were closed by Michael Bloomberg for test scores. In a game of musical chairs, he ended up closing even new schools he'd opened to replace original closures. With Mike Bloomberg, nothing was ever his fault. The buck stopped with the ATR teachers.

We've always known it was tough for older teachers to find jobs outside the city. We cost more money, and we know our rights. A lot of principals, the ones the writer deems infallible, would rather deal with more pliable newbies. And under so-called fair student funding, schools have to pay actual teacher salaries. Principals might think twice before laying out extra tens of thousands of dollars. Of course, that wasn't contained in this, or indeed any hit piece on ATR teachers.

In a rational world, if a teacher couldn’t find a job somewhere in our massive school system, he or she would be cut loose. 

I'm gonna have to make an inference here that the United States, led by Donald Trump, is somehow representative of a "rational world." In Europe, unions are more powerful and seniority rights mean a lot more. In New York City we gave them up in 2005. I know because when I was a new teacher, I got bumped out of several schools. If placing hundreds of teachers in limbo for no good reason is rational, if firing them for no reason is rational, I shudder to imagine what is not.

We know that in 2014, a third of the teachers in the ATR had unsatisfactory ratings and a quarter faced disciplinary charges.

What we don't know is why they had unsatisfactory ratings. Was it because they didn't do their jobs well, or was it because they reported malfeasance by the principal? I know people who fit that description. Or was it because the principal was exercising a personal vendetta? I've seen that too. As for disciplinary charges, they are just that. Were they proven? What were they? I know a person who had to pay a fine for missing one meeting and asking someone else to place a sign on an office door. Does that make him incompetent? You'd think so if all the info you had was this article.

But all the mayor seems to care about is rewarding the teachers union during an election year. So instead of fighting to protect public-school kids, he is focused on building support for his reelection campaign.

That's what you call a strawman. Until and unless this writer can establish to me that she can read the mind of Bill de Blasio, it's nonsensical. You might just as easily assume that the city is telling the truth when it says it wishes to put ATR teachers to work. Of course, in the "rational" world of this writer, people are fired based on unsubstantiated accusations. Hey, it's just as likely de Blasio believes people are innocent until proven guilty. I read somewhere that was the American way.

Parents should trust that only quality teachers can stay in the system, but the ATR pool is evidence of the opposite.

This is an odd conclusion, since the writer has offered absolutely no evidence that ATRs are not quality teachers. That's one of the disadvantages of basing arguments on stereotypes rather than facts. You could just as easily substitute any racist or bigoted conclusion here. People of this color, this religion, this nationality are all terrorist, drunk, cheap, stupid, or whatever. Allowing them in our country keeps us from making it great again.

More than half of them had stopped even applying for teaching jobs, meaning they weren’t so interested in being in the classroom. 

Yet another foray into mind reading. Now I'm not sure how many doors you need to have slammed in your face before you stop knocking on them, but people are intelligent and learn from experience. In fact, the DOE places black marks on certain ATRs and warns people not to hire them. And even if they didn't, now that fair student funding enables principals to hire on the cheap, no one's surprised to see that city principals are now picking and choosing just like Long Island principals do.

It's unfortunate that superficial nonsense like this is what passes for argument nowadays. But in a country quite literally run by mediocrity and worse, that's what you get.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Close Reading Is Child Abuse

I'm always surprised when I hear people advocate for "close reading," especially if they're teachers. We really ought to know better. Of course, if you're on the supervisor track, I can only assume you're required to keep up on all the latest fads and trends, and then use the most recent and grooviest buzzwords to describe them to potential employers.

We will enhance classroom-based curriculum integration via close reading, and therefore visualize diverse multiple intelligences across cognitive and affective domains.

I can only suppose when words like Common Core fall out of favor you need to staple your tongue to the roof of your mouth to keep yourself from uttering them.

I'm an ESL teacher, but theories I've studied about language acquisition lend themselves to reading whether you're an ELL or not. Stephen Krashen suggested there is an affective filter that rises when you hand students material to which they cannot relate. They look at it, see it as incomprehensible, and determine it to be not worth their time. In fact, they're very likely correct. Honestly, if you hand me a long, long treatise on The History of Cement, the likelihood I'll read it is quite low.

Krashen thinks ELLs respond best to reading material at or just a little bit above their level. And by reading material, I'd suggest it doesn't have to be the Gettysburg Address, completely out of context. I mean, sure, that makes sense to Common Core architect David Coleman, whose famous theory, in his own words, is that no one gives a shit what you feel or think. But I know exactly how successful I'd be with a lesson like that, and I'm sure it would make no difference whether my students were born here or anywhere on this planet. (In Coleman's defense, I am not entirely sure which planet he comes from.)

Everything I know about teaching suggests you take material and somehow tie it into a student's existing knowledge and interest. If kids can relate to it, they're far more likely to be motivated. I'm fortunate in that I teach English, something these kids direly need and something with direct application to every aspect of their lives. But even so, I work to personalize everything I teach, to make students touch it, use it, and make it their own.

The thing that really jumps out at me about close reading is it's not only counter-intuitive to all my experience, but it also contradicts the research. Of course David Coleman, who knew everything already, couldn't be bothered with any stinking research. Too bad we allowed him, Bill Gates, and Arne Duncan to force their half-baked ideas on cash-starved states via the state-sanctioned bribe that was No Child Left Behind.

This notwithstanding, if you're a teacher, or even if you're an administrator, it kind of behooves you to encourage love of reading, particularly when the likely alternative is hatred of reading. Administrators and would-be administrators who don't know that are incompetent, to say the least. I'm reminded of a song by the Kinks called Dedicated Follower of Fashion. "One week he's in polka dots, the next week he's in stripes cause he's a dedicated follow of fashion."

Take a listen to the song, and substitute portfolios, APPR, the workshop model, and every fad and trend you've ever heard at the September staff meeting for the fashion references. Try to think of close reading as a pair of culottes. And if you don't know what culottes are, you need not bother looking them up. You'll probably never hear of them again, and they are therefore of no relevance whatsoever to you. David Coleman would make you read a book about them, just so your life could be as tedious as his must be.

I want better things for my students, and I certainly hope you want better for yours as well.


Tuesday, August 01, 2017

On Putting Children First

You hear that a lot. The DOE motto under Klein was Children First, Always. It sounds like a great thing. Let's take care of the kids. How could anyone argue with that? If you think that's wrong, you must hate children. It feels like a pretty good argument if you consider argument a tool to shut off virtually all response.

Here's the thing, though--a lot of people who chant this mantra are part of a system that does no such thing. I'd argue that the very best advocates for children are their parents, and the city fought to keep them out of School Leadership Team meetings, going so far as to ignore a judge's order otherwise. Why? Likely to preclude things like the activist parents from CPE 1 ousting an abusive principal

It appears the city wants to put "children first" via doing any damn thing it pleases. Otherwise, why would it have placed another administrator with a demonstrated history of abuse in charge of Townsend Harris, a well-respected Queens selective high school? I mean, seriously, why can't we all get along? Isn't that how we set examples for the children we're putting first?

And on yet another plane of putting children first, there are class sizes. In high schools, our max for most classes is 34. In my building, at least, it's become more norm than max. And yet the CFE law said we should have classes of no more than 25 by now. I find it amazing to be lectured about putting students first by people in a system that denies children one of very few things that have been demonstrated to actually help them.

Let's put aside the hypocrisy of those who lecture us, just for now, and let's focus on when they do it. In my experience, it happens when you stand up for your rights. Let's say you file a grievance because you got nothing you asked for. I once sat with an AP who said, "Gee, I'd love to fix it, but it's impossible." She then showed me a program, made up in a Delaney book with movable cards. I looked at it for one minute, swapped two cards, and asked, "Why don't we do this?"

The AP looked at my suggestion for a minute. She thought for a while, and then said, "Well, it's bad for the children to change their teacher. I'm gonna leave it like this because it's all about the children." So, in other words, screw you, screw the contract, I don't want to inconvenience myself or admit I made an error that could easily be corrected. Instead I'll do nothing, blame you for not caring about children, and let you proceed with the grievance that conclusively establishes you do not.

Usually, when I hear someone speak about putting children first, it has more to do with telling someone to shut up and stop asserting themselves. Why are you talking about your contractual rights instead of the children? It's a strawman argument they pull out and they think you won't notice. If you assert your rights you therefore don't care about children. I had some moron from SCI scream at me that I didn't care about children because I insisted a member be represented before talking to him. The fact that he was broadcasting a baseless lie about me indicated my member needed all the help she could get.

Although a whole lot of DOE reps are not as overtly slimy as he was, they're doing the same thing when they tell you to shut up, sit down and do as you are told for the sake of the children. Remember that it is you who wakes up each and every morning to serve those very children, while those people who lecture you sit around each day doing God only knows what. In fact, when you sit down and shut up, you make their jobs easier. They can tell themselves they are saving the children by getting you to waive and ignore your rights. In fact, they are doing no such thing.

We are role models. If we wish to put children first, we want them to have more, not fewer, options and more, not fewer, rights. We want them to stand up against injustice.

Sometimes people who talk about putting children first don't like disagreements. Sometimes they don't like it when teachers stand up for their rights. In fact, sometimes they don't like union. In fact, there's a "social justice" charter school that just fired a teacher for joining the UFT. It's amazing that people who dare to wrap themselves in a social justice banner can openly reject their absolute right to join a union.

Here's the thing--these people are not doing this to put children first. They may believe they are, but they are not. They are doing this for their own convenience. The SCI guy wanted to get this done right now. He didn't want to bother with representation, or rights, or any of that nonsense. If the member got herself in trouble, well, too bad for her. If I folded when he shouted me down, well, so much the better. Maybe he gets a gold star every time he intimidates a UFT member into waiving her rights. Who knows?

First and foremost, we are role models. Do we want our children to grow up and be sheep? Do we want them to grow up and be steamrolled like the coyote, pictured above, every time they open their mouths? Do we want them to believe that social justice is any damn thing the boss says it is? Do we want them to live in perpetual fear?

If you answered no to those questions, you know the way to place children first is to assert yourself. You know you need to teach children to assert themselves as well. I'm not afraid of children disagreeing with me, and I don't need to tell them to sit down and shut up when they do so. I will listen to them and present my point of view. If they're right and I'm wrong, I'll just say so. I have no idea why some people are so insistent on being right all the time. It's an impossible and crazy burden.

We get up each and every morning to directly serve these children. Let others sit around in offices doing whatever and lecture us on putting children first. Let them worry about shutting us up so they can spend a few extra minutes sitting around in their offices. But remember one thing--we are the ones who put children first. That's why we spend every day of our working lives with them.

If we fold when faced with nonsensical strawman arguments from overpaid bureaucrats, we aren't doing our jobs. Assert your rights, lead by example, and teach our children to do the same.

Monday, July 31, 2017

It's C-30 Day!

Imagine a supervisor who, one year, has a teacher who has an A-fib episode every time he sees him. Imagine, the following year, that another teacher in this department has a massive coronary right out in the hall. Imagine, the year after that, another teacher in the same department actually dies in service, quite prematurely.

Let's further imagine that the teacher who died told the chapter leader the supervisor advised him to get a .8 comp-time gig, a gig which did not exist. This was so he could teach only one class and therefore be rated S or U.  If that didn't happen, the supervisor said he was going to have to rate him ineffective. Imagine that it tortured the teacher to his dying day.

Now imagine another supervisor who was a lowly teacher when you became chapter leader. And imagine you added this person's department to your email list, as a result of another member collecting the addresses. Imagine this person, after your first staff email, approaches you.

"Where did you get my private email address?" she asks.

"Ms. S. gave it to me," you answer.

"I feel like I was raped!" she says.

"Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry," you say. "I'll take you off the list right away."

"No, that's OK," she says. "You can leave me on."

Imagine the relationship you'd have with people like that. Imagine that you had to deal with them each and every day. Imagine you got daily complaints from members about what they did, much of which was on par with what was related above.  Imagine they use Danielson like a sledge hammer to intimidate rather than support staff. How on earth do people like that get jobs?

In a completely unrelated matter, today I have a double-the-fun C-30 for two supervisors in my building. And yes, that is how administrators are chosen in Fun City. One is for a social studies assistant principal, and another is for a special education assistant principal. It's important that members of our school community get a voice in how that happens.

The voice is sorely limited, though. For example, I have no idea who the candidates will be, nor was UFT consulted in any way. I can only assume that our PTA was not consulted either. It's a fairly good assumption that neither students nor DC 37 got a say either. Now this is not to suggest anything bad about the candidates. For all I know, they are the best candidates on earth. On the other hand, they could just as easily be the worst. In that case, after a selection, there would be little recourse for the school community, unless they took the extraordinary step of organizing like CPE 1 did.

Here's the other thing--whether the candidates are good, bad or indifferent, our choices amount to recommendations. We can rate candidate A at 100%, and candidate D at zero, and the principal can still select candidate D. Who knows why? You don't actually get to find out. You give your feedback, but once the decision is made you get no rationale, no nothing.

At the C-30, you sign a document stating that you will not discuss the particulars of the meeting anywhere. So I won't be blogging it. But it's gonna be a long night for me and everyone there. This is not the most fun thing I do, and one reason is because I've reflected on the actual voice we have in this process--very little, as far as I can tell.

How seriously do principals take committee recommendations? Not only will we never know, but we're also sworn to never even discuss it. So as far is we know, this may be the best thing we ever did, or the worst. You never know exactly who is gonna go nuts once there's a little power on the table. And even if you actually know the people, you could sit there knowing they are completely nuts when all you can do is ask the same question you asked everyone else. You're not supposed to talk about the times you've seen them abusive to teachers or students, or indeed any personal experiences.

So you leave your experience at the door and the APs in position. Until the next C-30, of course, when they're up for principal.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Boots on the Ground

I don't know whether anyone has noticed, but we are in crisis. The President of the United States came to our area yesterday afternoon and endorsed police brutality, while a bunch of police officers stood behind him and applauded. Then the Suffolk police force made a public declaration that they do not, in fact, support the policies they applauded, probably because some lawyer told them they'd be liable when the inevitable lawsuits appeared.

This was one day after Trump's people tried to take health insurance away from tens of millions of Americans so they could give a tax break to people who least need it. Here in NY, we have a bill that could enact single payer floating around in the ether, but going nowhere so far. I'm not sure where the IDC, the Republicans who pretend to be Democrats, who keep Democrats from controlling the Senate, stand on that. I'm not sure where Andrew Cuomo, key enabler of the IDC who now poses as Bernie Sanders, stands on that.

One thing I do know is that union in America is living on borrowed time. Scott Walker essentially killed it in Wisconsin, and that's the model Trump's stolen SCOTUS likely wants to emulate. Maybe the cops don't need to worry, because in Wisconsin they managed to keep their right to collectively bargain. After all, someone has to protect the state house when the bootless and unhorsed come out with torches and pitchforks.

It's great we participated in the Women's March. I've never seen anything like it. I marched with UFT in the Puerto Rican Day parade. It was great, but not broadly political, I showed for the Mayday event. It was pathetic, with maybe a few dozen of us out there, at least half from MORE/ New Action. I will be there for the Labor Day parade, and I invite you to join me. But it's far from enough.

As far as I can see, our response to the outrage that's occurring all over the nation is "Public School Proud." Now I'm Public School Proud. I don't need a campaign to know that. But I'd like to hear about this somewhere other than the UFT Delegate Assembly. Every day I read the papers, and learn of the perfidy of ATR teachers. They are terrible because they don't have regular positions. They are also terrible because they're going to be placed in regular positions.

The WSJ, the NY Post, and Campbell Brown are horrified by the ATR. Why can't they just crawl away and die? After all, Brown is not only a failed journalist and a self-appointed education expert, but she's also named after a soup can. Shouldn't that be credibility enough for anyone? Students First NY, funded by Gates, manages to get a group of a dozen parents to stand around and hold signs, and it's covered by every local paper.

We have tens of thousands of members. Why can't we get a few hundred people to stand somewhere for ATRs, for medical insurance for all, for union, for almost anything, and call a few reporters? Why can't we call them, let the press know of an angle, and get stories out there? It's been years since a large scale UFT action.

I am nobody, but when I became chapter leader, I got my school in every city paper and many local papers. I may do that again, because despite the city's agreement to give us space for our existing students, they've already started to overload us, thus welching on the agreement. It is beyond my comprehension why UFT leadership, with a paid staff and resources that dwarf mine, cannot manage to do what I did alone.

We need to activate membership now, or at least try. It will be a different game in a post-Janus world, and every moment we wait is a moment wasted.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

NY Post Hates You and Everything You Stand For

Yesterday I noticed four pieces in the Post that were distinctly targeted at us. The first was a cheery little piece about how well NYC schools are funded. The second was about how test scores went up because exams were easier. The third was about a ruckus between a couple of top people at UFT. (Evidently Donald Trump is not the only person who has to worry about leaks these days.) Then, of course, there's the obligatory anti-ATR piece.

Before I say anything else, I have to add that I am a frequent fan of Post education writer Sue Edelman.  Sometimes I disagree with her columns, but she has a knack for finding and exposing crazy principals., Every time she exposes some principal wearing her fur coat while ignoring her job, or pushing all the teacher desks out on the street, I silently applaud.

Now I can't read the minds of the writers, so whatever I say here is guesswork. But when you compare New York City spending with that around the nation, I figure you ought to include cost of living. I mean, I'm not personally all that shocked that we spend 10% more than Syracuse, although it's presented as an outright scandal. Naturally, our salaries are also to blame. It turns out we have a very high salary compared to teachers elsewhere. Never mind that a whole lot of states pay teachers so poorly they run off in droves, or that we can't really keep them here either. And forget about the fact that teachers in our immediate surrounding area earn well more than we do, and have done so for at least the three decades I've been teaching.

As for test scores, I distinctly recall, when they went up under Bloomberg, the general conclusion in the press was that he was a genius, and his reforminess was working. Diane Ravitch was skeptical, noting that the NAEP scores did not parallel the gains. It took years before the NY Times caught up with Ravitch, and I doubt the Post ever did. (I stand corrected here, because Sue Edelman actually wrote several pieces about this.) Of course, with Bill de Blasio in office, there's no giving credit for test scores.

The fact is that the scores, the ones around which schools live or die, are nonsense. My students are rated by the NYSESLAT, which they took months ago, and which we scored months ago. Yet we have no idea how our students will be placed because they set the cut scores after students take the tests. Can you imagine what your principal would say if you pulled something like that? Sorry, Mr. Principal, but I can't give grades until I figure out how to pass exactly 81% of my students. Miss Grundy passed 80% and I need to do better. No wonder the state believes we're such crooks that we can't grade our own students. They think we must be as bad as they are.

The big scandal in UFT brass looks to be between Howie Schoor and Ellie Engler. I know them both from UFT Executive Board. The very first time I got up to speak there, Ellie Engler set up a meeting with the school construction authority. Because of that, my school will get an annex to address our rampant and chronic overcrowding, so I'm a fan. (Norm speculates Ellie was not a friend of Debbie Poulos, in which case Ellie's misjudged. Debbie is an aggressive and creative problem solver, and she's helped my members more than once. If I ran UFT, I'd have her cloned and send at least one Debbie to every borough office.) I know Howie only because he runs the meetings and regularly offers a range of cursory, off-the-cuff, to outright mystifying answers to my questions. It's nuts the Post goes so crazy over a typo in an email, but I really wonder who leaked it and why.

Yet leaks are problematic, says Post columnist Michael Goodwin:

Leaks, leaks, leaks are Exhibit A. Why they continue, and why nobody has been fired for bad-mouthing the president to the media, ­remain a mystery. Why does Trump put up with it?
 
You see the discrepancy here? Leaks in Trump's White House are bad, and there needs to be retribution. Leaks in the teachers' union need to be celebrated, and we need to do feature stories on them even if we barely understand what the hell they are about.

Naturally there is a piece about how the astroturf group StudentsFirstNY managed, with the bazillions they get from Gates, to assemble 20 parents to protest ATRs. It's always nice to see an organized group indulge in mindless stereotype, and it's not surprising that the Post manages to interpret this corporate-sponsored act of ignorance as "ripping deBlasio apart." That's so stupid I won't give it any more attention. And for my ATR friends wondering when UFT was gonna say something, here is Mulgrew's response. When Mulgrew wonders whether anyone will print UFT "rebuttals "about ATRs I wonder whether UFT has submitted op-eds for publication. If anyone can clue me in, the comments are open.

Now I know the Post's positions are probably not big news to any teacher who reads the papers. But I'm kind of tired of hearing how awful I am for drawing a salary. I teach the children of New York City and therefore perform a more valuable service than President Trump, who appears top devote himself to golfing, decimating union, getting tax cuts for himself and his BFFs, and taking away health insurance from tens of millions of Americans.

I'll sit while I wait for the Post to share my opinion.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Rick and Morty and Unity

I have a confession. At night I watch cartoons on Adult Swim until I fall asleep. One of the most bizarre cartoons they show at night is called Rick and Morty. It's about a grandfather who's some kind of scientific genius dragging Morty all over the universe.

The other night, there was an episode about a group called Unity. It's this being or consciousness that's constantly replicating itself. It does this by vomiting in the mouths of its victims and taking over their bodies. See the video below for an example.

You may not be surprised that I saw parallels to our union, what with the organization having the exact same name. The pale looking guy in the middle is Rick, and all the blue people around him are Unity. So that could be me at a chapter leader meeting, except for the scientific genius part. Of course this episode took it a little further. Evidently Rick was having an affair with Unity, seemingly in the form of the young blue woman to his left, your right.

Now as far as I know, signing up for UFT Unity does not entail having someone vomit in your mouth. Rather, it entails signing this loyalty oath, which used to be available on the Unity website. For some reason, they took it down after PJSTA posted it publicly. The best way to advance in the union is to sign it. If you don't, well, that pension consulting gig might elude you.

I'll tell you the truth--I really like some people in Unity. I'll tell you another truth--I really don't like some other people in Unity. They don't seem to have a code about how they treat non-Unity members. So some people in Unity are reasonable and open, while others are kind of defensive and proprietary. I figure it's better to be reasonable and open, particularly if you purport to represent the union, but that's just me.

Now I understand forming a political caucus. I'm part of one, as a matter of fact. I also understand espousing a particular series of values. I share a lot of Unity's ostensible values. I'm absolutely pro-teacher and pro-union. I don't believe in abuse by administrators, and I think we need to take a stand against Boy Wonders  (even if they're girls).

Sometimes, though, I'm not sure. I don't understand why we supported mayoral control, ever, and I'm not sure why we didn't oppose it vehemently when it came up this year. Though it hasn't been as bad under de Blasio, there's no guarantee he'll be around forever. We suffered through 20 years of GOP mayors here in deep blue NYC, Also, de Blasio's mayoral control has been far from absolute, as the state did an end run around it, forcing him to pay rent for charters. (Of course, my bursting at the seams school has 4728 incoming students, and no one's forcing him to pay rent for us.)

I certainly understand the argument that, in times of crisis, we need to pull together. The only thing is, I can't recall when we were not in crisis. It wasn't time to oppose when we were facing Bloomberg, or Cuomo, and it isn't time to oppose when we face Trump, or "the Presidential Election," as Unity calls him. I can only suppose it wasn't time to oppose when we faced Giuliani either, though I wasn't involved with union politics back then. Is the answer, then, to keep your mouth shut forever and ever and just hope for the best?

Of course not. Unity is wrong sometimes. The Democrats, with Unity's early endorsement, lost the last national election because they presented the populous with a warmed-over agenda that consisted largely of, "We aren't Trump." In fact, I voted for Hillary in the general precisely on that basis. But I enthusiastically pulled the lever for Bernie Sanders in the primary.

We're gonna have to pull out all the stops after Janus. It might not be good enough to say, "Well, you still have a job," when you're sent out to teach subjects you don't understand and rotate schools week to week. It might not be good enough to say, "Well, we did the best we could," when Moskowitz takes over your school and places a non-union test-prep factory in its stead. It won't be good enough to hear "Fifty years ago we sacrificed money for class size regs," while you stand in front of 50 kids in a trailer and try to persuade them that anyone other than you takes them seriously.

And whether Unity knows it or not, that's why a vibrant opposition is necessary. There are voices that need to be heard, and with three out of four teachers not even voting in union elections, I'm not highly optimistic union is a prime concern for them. We all sink or swim together, and I'll work toward the latter. If we want everyone to pay union dues, we're gonna have to stop pandering toward a privileged class. That's the sort of thing that empowers the likes of Donald Trump, and it ain't gonna work for us.