Sunday, May 15, 2022

Chancellor on School Time

Dear UFT members:

As you know, I appreciate teachers quite a bit. After all, I not only said so, but also made a video about it. How many of your students have bothered to do that? Nope, only I did it, because I am the cream of the crop, the top dog, the soaringest highestest when it comes to teacher appreciation. Consequently, because of my great respect for you, you should all do whatever I say without question.

As His Swaggerness Himself has declared, we need to get our schools together. We are in crisis! There was a pandemic, and while most tests were canceled, that still doesn't mean our kids are passing them. As you know, before I became the great Soaring Highest Chancellor, I ran the Eagle Academies, and we opened on weekends and Saturdays. Now sure, you'll say, our results were not that great, but that's only if you read blogs like this one

As far as the NY Times knows, as far as Chalkbeat NY knows, and as far as our Swaggerific mayor knows, we did a fantastic job. After all, there was an HBO documentary about me, and they didn't bother to nitpick the small points, like a 32% passing rate on the Algebra Regents exam, only 7 students in the whole school passing the Geometry Regents exam, or our terrible AP results. After all, tests aren't everything. Unless it's you teaching for them, in which case you're ineffective. You wouldn't want that, would you? So just help me out here, and give me what I want.

And what I want, not to put too fine a point on it, is for you all to work summer and weekends. Now sure, you'll say, it's never been done that way. And sure, you'll say, if students aren't interested in school five days a week, ten months a year, they're unlikely to be interested in 8 days a week, 16 months a year either. But the world is changing, and the old model of people having time to think or reflect, or spend time with their families is not what Americans want.

Otherwise, why would they vote for so many politicians who are anti-union, who preach about government handouts, who even oppose national health care? Unless you're in a bracket like I am, making over 330K a year, this government is all about pulling yourself up by your frigging bootstraps. So wake up, New York! If you didn't want this sort of thing, you'd have voted for something other than Swagger. But you didn't.

However, there is a bright side. Your contract is coming up pretty soon, and our position is offering zero-percent increases unless we see gains in productivity. I see a whole lot of people complaining about near ten-percent inflation. Sure, companies are making record profits, and there are arguments that this is all just price-gouging. But that's all academic. (You see what I did there? You're teachers and I said "academic." That's a pun. My mother says I have a great sense of humor.)

And hey, if you don't want to do it, we'll just get community members to volunteer under our new and innovative "work for free" model. We don't care if they have teaching licenses, or experience, or subject knowledge, or an actual heartbeat. None of those things matter under our new and revolutionary "no standards whatsoever" model. The important thing is we need to do something. This is something, and we therefore need to do it right away, without hesitation! 

And hey, guys, don't go giving me any guff about smaller class sizes. We're not about to spend money hiring more teachers, or building facilities to accommodate students. We place children first, and we're the first to place them in inadequate facilities under deplorable overcrowded conditions. Because priorities.

Anyhoo, you all need a ten-percent raise if you're gonna keep up with inflation. The good news is Mayor McSwagger is willing to offer you a ten-percent raise, phased in over only nine years, if you'll agree to work 40% more time. That's what you call a WIN-WIN. You get your money, and we get you to work round the clock seven days a week. No more frittering away your time going to the beach in the summer, or visiting far-away places that aren't even New York. 

So what do you say, guys? Remember, we're doing this for the children, so when they grow up, they can work 200 hours a week just like you do! Remember, you heard it here first!

Soaring high,

Chancellor David C. Banks (And should we meet on the street or something, please address me as MISTER Chancellor David C. Banks. To me, you're one of the family.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2022


NYSESLAT is the test the state uses to test the level of English Language Learners.

In case you're wondering why you didn't see Exec. Board minutes here yesterday, you now know. On Saturday, I took a second booster and then drove to Costco. I was walking around the store when I started to feel really disoriented. 

I decided to get out of there without buying anything, and drove home very much hoping not to pass out or something on the way. I thought I was having a reaction to the booster.

I went right to bed, and later in the day developed a very sore throat, which a friend had told me was her first symptom. I took a home test, and both lines turned bright red immediately. After an interminable 15 minutes, the test remained that way. For a few days I stayed in bed, forcing myself to drink water. Yesterday I saw a doctor online, and she gave me an anti-viral med. This morning I was able to get up and make breakfast, and actually eat for the first time in days, but I'm not quite up to walking the dogs, one of my favorite things to do.

I was pretty surprised to test positive because I took a PCR test in school on Wednesday and tested negative. I've also been masked virtually all the time in school, and whenever I visited stores. So I had to wonder where the hell I caught the bug from. 

Now I'm pretty sure I know. I spent all of last week giving a speaking test to English Language Learners. Of course I couldn't give them to my own students because NYSED assumes I'm a criminal who will pass everyone simply to make myself look good, with no regard whatsoever as to their placement. I'm going to talk about that a little before I get back to COVID. 

One thing I noticed as I tested students one level above mine, the lowest, was that several of them were no more advanced than my students. There are two reasons for that. One reason is that it is not, in fact, corrupt teachers who place students in too high an English level. It is the test itself, which is the very worst standardized test I've ever seen. It was probably developed in a test tube. I'm sure they give valuable lip service to real teachers while this work goes on, but it is, nonetheless, total crap.

The second reason is the NX grades we were forced to issue last year. I'm not opposed to the concept of being merciful under extreme circumstances, and I know there were sincerely good intentions here. However, everyone was promoted regardless of mastery. And the fact is, whatever makeup work students may have done did not likely equal what original teachers had intended.

On the test, there is a glaring run-on sentence, a comma splice very much in need of a conjunction on the speaking script, which the students read. (Let's ignore the fact that, by allowing them to read, we are not measuring their listening skills at all.) They capitalize the word "sun" for no particular reason. These are errors I'd certainly expect from my beginners, not professional test-writers demanding exorbitant sums for their work. I am absolutely certain my colleagues and I (or you and yours) could place these students more accurately, and that we could help them more than the state. I deem the state incompetent.

Aside from the miserable quality of the test, the fact is we now have a variant that is more contagious than Omicron. Every day I sat with a series of students, face to face for extended periods of time, often leaning in very closely to hear what they are saying. You won't likely be surprised to hear that some kids are very shy with their new language, and deal with this by speaking in a near-whisper. This process was markedly different than what I'd been doing all year, circulating to see what my kids were doing, giving them oral or written comments, and moving on to my next student. I didn't have time to sit for 15-20 minutes with anyone. 

I've been wearing KF94 masks consistently. I've been eating lunch in my car, something I really hate doing. But I've tried as hard as I could to stay safe. Now I have COVID, and my wife, who is at least as meticulous as I am, has it too. I blame NYSED for this, and I'd sue them in a heartbeat if any lawyer told me I had a case. We started this year with social distancing. While regs have relaxed, it's still totally irresponsible for us to be doing one on one oral exams. 

I'm grateful that UFT negotiated non-CAR days for this purpose, but all things considered, I'd rather be at work. By work, I mean teaching, NOT giving a pointless exam so as to satisfy Betty Rosa and the Regents, none of whom appear to have the remotest notion of what language learning entails.  They seem to think if they sufficiently ignore the need of English Language learners, they will magically disappear.

The process of individually testing students for the NYSESLAT, which is wholly a waste of time anyway, should take place entirely on Zoom. Any school leader who reads this and chooses to run it otherwise is being either capricious with, or indifferent to the health of staff.

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

The Chancellor Appreciates You

Dear Teachers,

Every day I am inspired by the dedication and innovation you bring to your work. As we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, please don’t harp on the fact that we are currently offering you zero percent salary increases unless you agree to productivity increases. What’s money, guys? Teaching is a calling.

As part of our Teacher Appreciation Week celebrations, I recorded a short thank you video for you. Now, honestly, shouldn't that be enough? Why do you need a raise in salary? I made the video. That would be enough for you if you were truly dedicated.

We are stronger because of you. You are owed an enormous debt of gratitude for your perseverance, your resilience, and your profound commitment. I can’t say exactly who owes this debt. Not us, of course, because, you know, even though we’re rolling in dough we’re offering zero percent. This notwithstanding, were it not for you, I would have to go out there and do actual work. So believe me, I appreciate you a lot.

Because of you, our students have been able to return to full-time classroom learning. Sure, they're more likely to get COVID since we don’t require masks. Picky, picky, picky. Because of your efforts, and your teamwork in getting vaccinated, we were able to stay safe and stay open during the Omicron surge. Sure, 20% of your students were out with COVID on any given day. Sure, we dumped unvaccinated teachers without due process, in blatant violation of state law. Sure, we’re being sued by UFT for that. But we don’t care, because it’s not our money we’re playing with. It’s yours, and that’s what swagger is all about.

Additionally, while our city fights against increased gun violence, and state education law, our schools serve as safe havens and tight communities that provide healing and support for our young people. Students know that whatever they do, they won’t be suspended. No matter how they mistreat you, insult your mother, or whatever, we’ll call their house, once, maybe, and hope for the best.

Despite all the incredible challenges of the pandemic, New York City’s students have the opportunity to grow and flourish. kids have pathway to a rewarding career (And lest you correct me, note the singular indefinite article, indicating one career, somewhere, for a million kids.), long-term economic security, and the ability to be a positive force for change. I’m not sure exactly what that is, in this gig economy where we pay welfare to billionaires while ordinary Americans go bankrupt over catastrophic medical emergency. And, you know I’m not even planning to give a raise to teachers, or firefighters, or cops, or anyone, but hey, look at the cool gig I scored for my brother. Maybe students have brothers too. Maybe you do. Who knows?

I also know how challenging and stressful it can be, even besides the many difficulties the pandemic has created. That’s why my focus, as Chancellor, is to ensure that we are coming through for you. Except when it comes to paying you money, or having your back when students or supervisors are violent or abusive. Like my sainted grandma used to say, “It’s all part of life’s rich pageant.”

So once again: thank you for the difference you make in the lives of our students and their families, and for the power of the example you set for us all. Also, keep doing it, because I’m sure as hell not doing it.

One more thing: this week, we are encouraging New Yorkers to send a note of thanks to the teachers who have made a difference in their lives. After all, who needs money when you have a thank you note? Not only that, but should you see me, I'll be the first to have someone from my staff offer you a hearty handclasp!

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Soaring high on my $363,000 salary,

Chancellor David C. Banks