Monday, August 21, 2017

The ATR and the Big Lie

I've never been an ATR, so I can't speak from experience here. My experience is limited to being an occasional substitute teacher, not one of my favorite things. I was in my school a few times this summer, and one day a secretary asked me to cover a class. I thought I'd maybe help out, so I asked, "Which class?"

She told me she needed a teacher for a day, and that there were three classes, two hours each. I told her thanks but no thanks. Two hours is a long time to work as a substitute teacher. I generally sub exactly once per semester, because that's what the contract requires. Some teachers volunteer to do more for extra pay, but not me. I don't even want to do the one.

As a teacher, I form relationships with students. They're not always the best, but they're always relationships. That's why I make it a point never to have students removed. I always think it's better they worry about what I will do, rather than some dean or AP. Really, what can they do that I can't? I also feel like allowing students to bother me that much signifies that they've won somehow. I've given up and shown them they are too much for me. I don't like to give them that.

However, when I'm subbing, I don't really give a golly gosh darn what the students think. I never have to see them again, so I'm happy to toss someone out so everyone else sees I'll do it. Of course, that works two ways. Obviously all the students know they won't see me tomorrow either. So why should they be on their best behavior, or anything remotely resembling it? Why not toss absolutely everything at that substitute teacher, and why not literally? Who's gonna know? Who's gonna care?

Now imagine that you're an ATR teacher, and your stock in trade is showing up and teaching whatever to whomever. Physics today, Chinese tomorrow. And then there are the principals, quoted in reformy Chalkbeat, who say how awful ATR teachers are. I'd only hire 5% of them, maybe, they say. And there are two issues with that.

Issue number one, of course, is if I were teaching Chinese or physics, I'd be totally incompetent. I know virtually nothing about either. Even if a teacher were to leave me lessons all I could do would be follow instructions, watch the kids and hope for the best. And the fact is that I get lessons for subbing far less than half the time I do it. Sometimes I hear that teachers should give lessons in their own subject area. Now mine is ESL, so it would be ludicrous to give such a lesson to native speakers. But even if I were to give one in ELA, imagine the reaction of a group of teenagers when a sub they will likely never see again gives a lesson on a different subject. And even if it's the same subject, it's ridiculous to compare the class culture of a regular teacher to one of a sub.

Issue number two is that principals, already overworked, now have to do way more observations than ever. NYC demands double the state-required two observations per year. Even if that were not the case, if I were a principal, it would not be a high priority to observe teachers who were just passing through. I'm chapter leader of the most overcrowded and largest school in Queens. My job is nuts (and believe it or not, I'm not complaining). The principal's job is crazier than mine. There is just no time to fairly assess teachers who aren't around very long. Frankly, I very much doubt the principals who cavalierly toss out these percentages have even bothered to look. The impressions we read about in Chalkbeat are fomented and reinforced by the stereotypes promoted by, among others, Chalkbeat itself.

If someone wants to make me ATR for a day, or a week, or whatever, I'd be happy to participate and let a reporter follow me around. Then they could see what it was really like. Personally, I doubt they have any interest. My success rate as a sub, by my own estimation, runs around 50-50. Sometimes kids are cooperative and I let them do what they want. Other times, they need to make a show, and I need to have one or two removed before they settle down. Sometimes, they never quite settle down and I can't wait to be out of there.

I wonder if any reporters from Chalkbeat ever had or saw a substitute teacher. To compare a classroom with a culture, developed over time, with one led by a total stranger the students expect to never see again is preposterous beyond belief. Watching Chalkbeat and others work up this nonsense so that "Families for Excellent Schools" can organize a dozen parents to protest teachers going to work is beyond the pale.

ATR detractors are mad the teachers are getting paid without regular classes. They're mad the teachers are getting regular classes. Their demand is that all these people be fired for no reason whatsoever.

For my money, they can all do what Mooch says Steve Bannon does.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Reformy Chalkbeat Has Another ATR Report with No ATRs

Kind of amazing that an education publication can write for years about a group and never bother to talk to a member, or learn anything when finally pressured into it. But that's no issue for Chalkbeat NY. Naturally the first person they interview is from Students First NY, because they have her on speed dial. (Norm Scott notes this same person supports no certification for teachers.) And who better to assess a situation like the ATR than someone who's paid to shill for charter schools? How many ATRs does Students First NY know? My best guess is zero.

In fact, I've heard from an ATR who spoke with Chalkbeat for an hour. This happened after several blogs, this one included, pointed out how ridiculous it was that they wrote about ATRs without interviewing any. So Chalkbeat's move, evidently, was to interview one single solitary ATR and report virtually nothing about it. (Update--A commenter informs me they interviewed two, thought evidence in the article is scant.) After all, you could always get someone reformy to say the same old crap they always do, and that's what passes for journalism over at Chalkbeat NY.

One of the cool things about just asking reformies what they think is it makes your Gates/ Walmart funders happy. ATRs are bad for kids. They're no good. It's bad policy. It's so bad it's shocking. Why? Who knows? Chalkbeat doesn't ask and doesn't appear to care. That would entail digging more deeply than the Students First NY position, getting real quotes from real teachers, and who wants to do that? Why that would be, you know, like work or something.

Teachers in the ATR have argued that their higher salaries are one reason principals avoid hiring them — a concern that principals voiced in a recent Chalkbeat report

It's interesting that Chalkbeat makes this reference plural, while offering no evidence they've spoken with even one ATR, let alone two or more. You'd think they'd have a quote. After all, they have a quote from the single person from Students First NY whose remark is of more importance than any UFT member. Where's the quote from a UFT member? And while we're on the topic, this contradicts UFT leadership, which seems to feel otherwise. (Why on earth are they advertising on Chalkbeat?) It's time to get rid of so-called fair student funding, so principals don't have to worry about salaries of those they hire.

“This is part of the injustice of the ATR placement,” said Scott Conti, principal of New Design High School in Manhattan. “Schools might not want them and they will cost schools more in the future, taking away from other budget priorities.” 

I wonder if anyone wants that principal. I've been up close and personal this year with schools and people who didn't want principals. Oddly, their salaries never came into play. Rather, it was their demonstrated cruelty, self-centeredness, and incompetence, none of which has been established for a single one of the ATR teachers generally ignored by this piece.

Once again, Chalkbeat puts out the argument that it's inconvenient to pay teachers. It's pretty interesting to hear that a principal is troubled by having to do that. What is more important for children than teachers? A big screen TV in the principal's office? A gala luncheon at the Marriott? Getting a teacher with the lowest possible salary regardless of quality? Who knows what they hell principals like that find important?  For me, teaching kids is important. That's why I'm a teacher.

If I were a journalist, it would be important for me to talk to teachers. In fact, I talk to teachers just about every day. I also talk to students every single school day. I'd be a terrible journalist by Chalkbeat standards. I don't know anyone from Students First NY, E4E, or "Families for Excellent Schools." I'd probably go around talking to real participants instead of paid shills.

What could I possibly know about education?

Steve Bannon and Eva Moskowitz Trash Talk Trump

Everyone's heard of what rats do on sinking ships, so I guess it was bound to happen. Steve Bannon, maybe on borrowed time after Trump's odd comments about him, called up a left-leaning publication on record. He said some things that make sense, i.e., that Seoul would not last very long at all in Trump's fire and fury. He also said he hoped the left kept protesting nazis, thinking it would hurt them in the polls. I didn't agree with that. I almost never watch cable news at all, but the other day I couldn't even see support for nazis on Fox News.

Of course, the other Trump enthusiast to distance herself was Moskowitz, Count on reformy Chalkbeat to shadow her every move, whether jumping on or off the Trump bandwagon. Moskowitz was under consideration for Education Secretary, because Trump needed the reformiest people, and needed to be so reformy that people would get tired of all the reforminess. (In fairness, it seems he's achieving that.)

Of course Moskowitz needed to distance herself from him at this point. Of course, she didn't need to distance herself at other points. For example, before the hoopla of the presidential campaign, Trump spent a great deal of time in his quest trying to prove our first black President, Barack Obama, was not born in the United States. In fact, even when Obama produced his birth certificate, that was not enough for Trump. It's not too hard to see this effort as overt racism, particularly since there was no basis for it whatsoever. But I digress.

Eva Moskowitz was not put off when Trump said Mexicans were rapists and murderers. I was, because I understand the odious nature of stereotypes. In fact, I grew up in a Catholic neighborhood and got to experience them very young. People who traffic in stereotypes ought not to be around children, let alone teach them. But hey, it's okay with Eva Moskowitz, and she runs a bunch of schools.

Moskowitz didn't mind when Trump incited his supporters toward violence with those who disagreed with them. It was fine when he got a bunch of angry thugs all excited. After all, it isn't like they hate her students and everything they stand for, is it? Actually, given that they're white supremacists, nazis, KKK, and whatever, it kind of is. But that didn't temper Eva's support. Go figure.

Trump didn't think a Mexican-American judge could be fair to him. He expected the judge to be just as predudiced as he was. He acted like he didn't know who David Duke was. Forget that three weeks ago he was telling police to hit the heads of suspects on their cars. No innocent before being proven guilty for him, and no issue for Eva.

Then there's that Muslim ban. Trump said we needed to stop them from coming in until we figured out just what the hell was going on. I found it odd that he was running for President and didn't already know. I mean, you kind of look to the President to tell you what the hell is going on. The President has top-secret briefings and info not available to the rest of us. Of course, Trump was too busy read those briefings, opting instead for feel good stuff about himself twice a day. So it's no wonder he doesn't know what the hell is going on.  I's kind of our job to be role models, and it's kind of our job to help kids figure out what the hell is going on. But ignoring that was good enough for Eva Moskowitz if if got her favorable treatment.

And who could forget the "grab them by the pussy" moment, followed soon by Trump's claim that no one respected women more than him. My first thought was that women are in pretty deep peril if no one respected them more than some guy who was grabbing them by the pussy. A lot of us thought that was the end for Donald Trump, but there's the PT Barnum quote that, "Nobody ever lost a dollar by underestimating the taste of the American people." And then there's the fact that Trump actually got three million fewer votes than his opponent, which kind of put the kibosh on any arguments this was a democratic election. None of that mattered to Eva Moskowitz.

Moskowitz is used to manipulating politicians for her own interests.  We all know that Joel Klein, while closing public schools rather than helping them, was at her beck and call. Of course, he's gone now. And we all know that whoredog in chief Andrew Cuomo would appear at a charter rally just about anytime as long as those suitcases of cash came barreling in. But Cuomo sensed the mood was shifting sometime during the last few years of opt-out, and decided to change his image to Sanders Lite.

So there was Eva, all alone. Who could she turn to? There was Trump. You knew he didn't give a damn about opt-out. I mean, a man who refused to criticize white supremacists and KKK was unlikely to come out against standardized testing. It seemed foolproof.

But then came the day that not even Fox News would rationalize his actions and Eva knew she'd made a mistake. So she wrote a letter. Now I can only assume she's now good with herself. She should have been "more outspoken" against all the things she evidently found completely acceptable. She also she has a book to sell.

I can't wait for reformy Chalkbeat to tell us how wonderful it is.

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


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.