Friday, March 31, 2006

Fool Me Once...

UFT President Randi Weingarten, recently humiliated by the self-serving editing of right-wing demagogue John Stossell, has come crawling back for more.

This week's NY Teacher reports that Stossel has accepted her challenge to teach for a week in NYC. First of all, by allowing him to take responsibility for real kids, it's implicit that teachers need no qualifications or preparation.

Anyone can do this job. It's a lark.

Right there she's demeaning our profession.

Furthermore, if Randi thinks Stossel is doing this for any other motive than to prepare yet another hatchet job, she's laboring under a terrific misconception. Stossel's got free reign on ABC to spout whatever nonsense strikes his fancy.

Expect to read his column in the NY Sun describing the week as a walk in the park, vilifying teachers, criticizing public schools as inadequate, and renewing his call for vouchers. Expect well-edited film footage calculated to prove the points he's already decided upon.

I've seen Randi Weingarten speak, and always thought she was very smart. But she's dealing with someone with a clear and pronounced agenda, tremendous access to mass media, and she ought to know better.

Problems With the SAT?

Get a note from your psychiatrist that says you have a learning disability.

Can't afford a shrink?

Better hope the next scoring error falls in your favor.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Lower Those Standards RIGHT NOW!

It looks like 27% of American schools are not making it, as far as NCLB regs.

If their respective states don't make the tests easier soon, they could be sanctioned.

The Good News from Iraq

In case you live in a cave with nothing but wi-fi internet access to keep you company, reporter Jill Carroll has been freed. That means there's one fewer hostage in Iraq.

Take that, liberal media.

From NYC Educator's Email



Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Opposite of NYC... when there's too much parental involvement.

Thanks to Schoolgal for the tip.

Wake Up and Smell the Future

Tom Friedman posted a great column ($) this morning about the US and just how far we're falling behind. He stressed the need for quality teachers, and the need to attract more of them.

"If teaching remains a second-rate profession, America's economy will be driven by second-rate skills," Mr. Gerstner (former IBM chairman Louis Gerstner) says. "We can wake up today — or we can have a rude awakening sooner than we think."

The Teaching Commission notes that "our schools are only as good as their teachers," yet this "occupation that makes all others possible is eroding at its foundations." Top students are far less likely to go into teaching today; salaries are stagnant; nearly 50 percent of new teachers leave within five years. To remedy this, the commission calls for raising teachers' base pay, finding ways to reward the best teachers, raising standards for acquiring a teaching degree and testing would-be teachers, on the basis of national standards, to be certain they have mastered the subjects they will teach (

As if that's not enough, under the guidance of President Bush, we've gone from first in broadband access in 2000, to 16th today. Our technological manufacturing is also falling behind at an alarmingly rapid rate. While Bush's National Security Strategy paper assumes we're a powerful country and always will be, Friedman's take is much more sobering:

It's not surprising that the Bush strategy paper is largely silent about these educational and technological deficits, as well as about the investment we need to make in alternative fuels to end our oil addiction. Because to acknowledge these deficits is to acknowledge that we have to spend money to fix them, and the radical Bush tax cuts make that impossible. It would be one thing if we were going into debt to solve these problems that affect our underlying national strength. But we are going into debt to buy low-interest houses and more stuff made in China.

We're like a family that is overdrawn at the bank just when the parents need to send their kid to college, buy a computer and a D.S.L. line, and replace a gas-guzzling furnace. Whatever "strategic plan" that family has for advancement, it won't get anywhere until it rebalances its books.

Surprise, Surprise...

Fewer people are choosing to go into teaching as a career. Despite the arssertions of those who supported the UFT contract, it turns out more work and less pay may not be what people want after all. Perhaps that's why NYC, despite 800 numbers, ad campaigns, job fairs, and exhaustive intergalactic searches, does not consistently attract the cream of the crop.

Perhaps that's why half of all teachers leave within five years.

Nationally, one-third of teachers are estimated to be 55 or over. Replacing them may prove challenging, to say the least.

The Education Wonks have a great piece about a math teacher who felt he had no other choice but to leave.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Follow the Leader

President Bush just signed the Patriot Act. Then he stated that he was not required to obey provisions he found inconvenient.

I'd like to approach my job like that. Perhaps I'll teach only the kids in the front rows. Maybe I'll stop coming in on Tuesdays. Or perhaps I'll sleep an extra hour, and ignore the first class.

What a shame UFT President Randi Weingarten didn't think to make a signing statement when she agreed to that awful contract. I'm thinking "37.5 minute classes and potty patrols are optional."

Unfortunately for the President, two bothersome Democrats are starting to demand he follow the rules. But there's no precedent for that. I say screw the rules, and wait for this approach to trickle down to us.


55,000 kids have been adopted in China by Americans, almost all girls. While China restricts many families to one child, many still long for a son to carry the family name. It's a remnant of an old, old tradition of considering women essentially valueless.

There's all kinds of speculation on the net as to why China's population has such a high ratio of males to females--115-130 men for every 100 women, depending on which statistics you choose to believe. Whatever the reason may be, the fact that so many are willing to give up daughters, and so few sons, suggests the tradition of valuing men more than women is alive and well.

This proud old tradition extends all over Asia, and in India, gender-selective abortion is one result. Old ways die hard, and if they keep practicing this one, their much-valued heterosexual male population may as well jump in the river and drown.

As prejudices go, it's time to let go of this one. And the other ones too.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Truth or Consequences

Let's say you share a worksheet with old test questions to help your students prepare for a standardized test. Let's say the same questions show up on the actual test. Do you get a thank you card?

In Maryland, you get suspended, actually.

Standardized tests should be revised with every administration. In NYC, they gave the same English competency test for 20 years. Enterprising students stole copies of the test and circulated the answers by email. If a lowly teacher like me can figure that out, professional test prep experts ought to know too.

(They've now revised the test, dumbed it down, and have been giving the same one for about 5 years now. Kudos to Klein's crack DoE.)

Justice Delayed...

Joyce Purnick, suddenly one of my favorite columnists, turns in another great article ($) on the incredible false starts and delays in the now 13-year-old CFE lawsuit to fund a sound basic education for the children of New York City.

"We've never had a case where we've had a governor and Legislature just blatantly defying orders of the highest courts," said Michael A. Rebell, a lawyer representing the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, a coalition of parents and community groups that brought the lawsuit in 1993.

Why We Need ESL (Part 3)

I will heed that warning, though.


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Mandatory Viewing

Joe Thomas from Shut Up and Teach posted this video of dancing administrators.

Ever wonder what they do while you're teaching? Now you'll know.

Have You Had Your Irony Today?

Reality-based educator suggests the Democrats need to hire Newt Gingrich as a consultant.

Unintended Consequences

NCLB is causing some test-conscious districts to focus on math and English to the exclusion of virtually everything else.

A Model for Us All

Barbara Bush made a contribution to the Bush-Clinton Houston Hurricane Relief Fund, provided it be spent on educational software from her son Neil's company, the one with ties to the UAE. Doubtless educational software is precisely what homeless people are longing for about now.

You may recall the charitable Mrs. Bush stating that folks living in the Astrodome were "underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."

I’m thinking of making a contribution as well, as long as (1) the proceeds go to my brother-in-law’s Amway franchise, and (2) he refrain from telling me about said Amway franchise for a period not less that fifty (50) years.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Why We Need ESL (Part 2)

Sign in a Swedish furrier's

Sign in a Japanese hotel

Sign in a bargain basement

Advert posted in shop window

Sign in a Yugoslav hotel

Book title

Sign in a Hong Kong supermarket

Sign in a Norwegian cocktail lounge

Sign in Budapest Zoo


You Feel Lucky, Punk?

How would you like to be observed and evaluated by students? I know...

But kids may give you more valuable feedback than your supervisors. After all, they're the ones who'll actually have to sit through your classes.

The New Klein

The old Klein ignored parents, with an advisory board, like all his advisory boards, with no actual power. However, now that parents have humiliated him by going to Albany with the dreaded UFT, and making very public complaints about his restrictions on gifted programs, he's changed his tone. ($)

The new Klein cares deeply about what parents think and is going to listen very carefully to what they say before doing whatever the hell he wants.

No Millionaire Left Behind

President Bush will cut 12 billion from student loan programs.

To support huge tax cuts for those making in excess of 300K per annum, you have to make certain sacrifices.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Are You a Democrat or Republican?

The North Texas e-News might help you decide.


We are the most modern school in the world. Months ago, I boasted that we had each and every classroom wired for the internet, but no computers. Now, we have a wireless network that reaches every classroom in the building. We still don't have computers, but if we ever get them, we'll be ready.

Yesterday, I decided to bring in my laptop and test the connection in between school and Parent-Teacher night, and I'm pleased to report that it works. It's about the speed of dial-up, which I abandoned years ago, but it works.

The censoring software works very well. It wouldn't allow me to access reality-based educator, for example, because there were too many objectionable words. I'm thinking Bush, Rumsfeld and Abramoff.

I, for one, applaud the Department of Education for their foresight.

High school kids are simply too young and impressionable to read about such things.

Today's Cartoon

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Why We Need ESL:


Mistaken SAT Score Got You Down?

Sure, the rejection letter was depressing , but think of the money you'll save.

The Bush tax cuts have not yet trickled down to college tuitions, and everyone will be digging a little deeper if they want to go to college:

Funding for higher education institutions sank to a 25-year low with similar downward trends mirrored in Utah, according to a report released today from the State Higher Education Executives Officers group.

Inflation and surging enrollment outpaced modest increases in state higher education dollars nationwide, driving down per-student spending to $5,833 — the lowest level since 1981.

At the same time, student tuition nationally jumped an average of 7.7 percent in one year to compensate for the lagging state funds.

On the brighter side, President Bush says the Iraq war is going well, and will be going on well into the future.

Do That to Me One More Time....

Looks like those wacky folks at the College Board forgot to check another 27,ooo exams. Looks like another 400 tests were scored too low.

Kinda makes ya wonder how many mistakes we didn't get to hear about, how many mistakes they missed, and how many mistakes they didn't re-check.

Personally, I never tire of their zany antics.

Thank goodness US Secretary of Education Margret Spellings is on the case, ensuring that machine-scored multiple choice tests are the gold standard for our kids here in the good ol' USA.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sorry, All Full Up

It looks like Klein's offer of amnesty for NYC non-resident NYC employees with kids in city schools is more popular than I'd imagined. According to the NY Times, 132 employees have applied, including 59 teachers, 7 APs, 6 principals, 6 guidance counselors, and 6 secretaries.

Apparently, many of these employees were simply invited to bring their kids, and didn't even claim false addresses. While they'll have to pay from now on, these employees will not be charged the $5,500 annual back tuition others will face.

Are we supposed to believe that these people (and those who encouraged them) were unaware it's illegal to send your kid to a school district you don't live in?

For a Limited Time

See the Carnival of Education at a great ed. blog--The Education Wonks

No Dollar Left Behind

As recent SAT scandals have shown, machine-graded multiple-choice exams have their drawbacks. Michael Winerip writes that ETS failed over 4,000 teachers in a licensing test who had actually passed.

The costs of giving essay exams are not anticipated in NCLB, but Connecticut has gone ahead with them anyway. They've been given no extra leeway under the law by Secretary Spellings, who suggests they go back to multiple choice.

Every teacher knows that writing can tell you more about a kid than A, B, C, or D. But that hasn't occurred to Secretary Spellings, who, like her predecessor, has no educational experience whatsoever.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

If You Look Like This...

...and have sex with your 14-year-old student, what are the consequences?

In Florida, you lose your teacher's license and get three years house arrest.

How Young Is Too Young?

Depending on what paper you read, kindergarteners either are or are not going to get explicit lessons about HIV in New York City.

Newsday reports that they are not, in fact, going ahead with lessons on how HIV is transmitted, though the New York Post's headlines might have you believe otherwise.

I don't teach kindergarten, but I've raised a kid, and I think five is way too young. Fourth grade? Maybe. Although I can't imagine how they'd find time between the standardized tests with which they bombard my nine-year-old daughter.

Breakfast of Champions

If you're near St. Louis, you might want to detour to see the Gateway Grizzlies. I can't vouch for their ability, but they've got Baseball's Best Burger: a burger with cheese and two slices of bacon, set between two halves of a Krispy Kreme donut.

That's what the American baseball team ate to keep in shape this year, apparently.


Monday, March 20, 2006

NCLB Got You Down?

Just do what they're doing in California. Lower your standards.

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

One of my colleagues, for whom I'd previously had nothing but respect, just explained to me that he'd spent the weekend preparing a lesson he was giving today.

As everyone knows, virtually all teachers can give good lessons if they prepare. The great teachers, on the other hand, the artists among teachers, simply walk into classrooms cold, without even knowing what subject is supposed to be taught.

They then walk up to the chalkboard, write a few words, get the kids talking, and forty minutes later casually elicit the aim from the students, who haven't yet even checked their watches to find out when the class would end.

George and Dick Save Hollywood

Click here to watch Brokeback White House.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Change Your Wicked Weighs

A Maryland proposal to weigh students is being challenged by a coalition of eating-disorder groups, doctors, and fast-food manufacturers. They also want to measure body mass of students and send a "health report card" to the parents.

Some feel this would be too costly. After all, Maryland schools are already providing 20 minutes a week of physical education.

Things Could Be Worse...

Our bosses, the CSA, have been without a contract for three years, and want to declare an impasse. The city denies there's an impasse and thinks they're a bunch of crybabies.

After all, you don't see Michael Bloomberg ever whining about getting a raise. Why can't everyone just follow his example?

Ready to Take a Chance?

In Kansas, they're scrambling to fund education, as a move to expand gambling has just failed. It's unfortunate that the legislators have taken such a defeatist attitude. There are many ways to increase revenue. There's prostitution, drug-dealing, blackmail, and murder-for-hire, just to name a few.

You'd think such an intelligently-designed species would be able to come up with at least one viable alternative.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

63% of All Statistics Are Made Up on the Spot

Don't believe that?

On the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), it's encouraged.

Make up a statistic. Invent a quote. Attribute it to George Washington. Or George Bush. Or George Jefferson, perhaps.

Maybe this is the wave of the future. On second thought, maybe it's the wave of the present.

Good Question, and a Simple Solution:

"Why do I have to send my child to an enriched program to get a decent education in the city?"

NYC parents want to know. Joyce Purnick points out in the NY Times ($) that it's the only option as far as many of them are concerened.

The selective classes and schools are seen by some as sensible public policy aimed at retaining white middle-class families in the largely black and Hispanic school system.

But restrictions are getting tougher. Hey, I've got an idea--why don't we give a quality education, including good teachers and smaller classes to all kids in NYC, not matter what color their skin happens to be?

Wouldn't that solve the problem?

The Unity Negotiating Committee

New York Teacher has a great article about Randi’s negotiating team. Not only was Unity represented, but the “opposition” party New Action had a say too.

New Action, the "opposition" party, offered no opposition in the last election to Randi Weingarten for President of the UFT. In exchange, Unity allowed several New Action members to run unopposed on the executive board.

It is the height of hypocrisy for Unity to maintain that it entertained ideas from the opposition. In fact, banking on the naivete of a large pool of inexperienced and easily frightened teachers, it lazily embraced a sellout contract, demeaned the profession of teaching, worsened an already tough job in NYC, and gave away anything they could to maintain their comfortable six-figure, double-pensioned jobs.

Is it any wonder half of all new teachers leave the city in 3 to 5 years?

Mike Shulman, New Action leader and former UFT Academic VP, has apparently been bought off with a Unity job, and will no longer stand up for our best interests. In fact, he was part of the team that brought us the very worst contract I’ve seen in 22 years.

Now Randi wants to handpick even more shills to sell us out again, while somehow reinforcing the illusion that Unity cares about something other than their narrow self-interests.

We need union leadership that cares about the welfare and future of New York City teachers. We need leadership that will stand up and fight for us. New Action, sadly, is now just another branch of Unity.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. No one should be in power for 50 years.

It's vital we unite and select one single opposition slate to topple Unity/ New Action in 07.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

How High the Class Roster?

A mother complains...

My son is currently enrolled in French 1A, along with 13 other students. In early February, course options for next year were sent home; French was not included. When asked, my son said students were told to "switch to Spanish" next year. Of course, this renders their current course obsolete, as two full credits of the same language are required to graduate.

She continues...

Meanwhile, North Chevy Chase Elementary imports a language teacher for a subset of its small sixth-grade population. Further, Tilden Middle in Bethesda has three languages, through Level 3 Honors. Yes, it's a larger school, but it still considers 15 the usual minimum class size, though it has offered smaller classes at times (we have been told 14 students are much too few for a class).

Is it a coincidence, then, that Tilden and North Chevy Chase see a far greater number of their students later accepted, for example, into the highly regarded and language-focused International Baccalaureate program at Richard Montgomery High School than does Lee? Is it a coincidence that these schools each have white/Asian populations of 76 percent, vs. Lee's 33 percent? More relevantly, is it a coincidence that these schools' poverty rates (measured by free and reduced meals via the school system's Web site) are 7 percent and 12 percent, while Lee's is 39 percent? Dropping French, i.e., limiting student options and aspirations, is the type of insidious resource disparity that serves to perpetuate the well-documented achievement gap suffered in high-poverty schools such as Lee.

This is par for the course, as demonstrated by the disparity in education offered in NYC and neighboring suburbs. The CFE suit seeks to remedy this, but remains entangled in legal maneuvering. While I do feel Bloomberg ought to pay a part of this suit (to compensate for Mayor Giuliani's regular cuts to the education budget), if he does finally manage to strong-arm Bruno into paying up, he may accomplish something truly historic for this city's kids.

And if it can happen here...

Thank the Lord

The Republican Senate today voted for more debt, so as to freely continue granting huge tax cuts to individuals making in excess of 300K per annum. Don't worry, it ought to trickle down to you any moment now.

More importantly, this will enable us to forge ahead with good old basic conservative values like torture, unlawful wiretapping of American citizens and invading countries that haven't attacked us.

If the State Funds CFE...

...we'd better use the funds wisely, and build schools that will last a long time. NYC isn't the only place with a wasteful, ineffiecient school construction authority. New Jersey's has just inexplicably run out of money, despite having ever so carefully built many fine schools such as the one pictured here.

If we're going to build desperately needed schools in NYC, we'd better build them efficiently, rather than simply padding the bank accounts of Mike and Joel's buddies. Hopefully, Mayor Bloomberg won't follow the model of his no-bid Snapple deal.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Big Brother is Watching...

...on closed circuit TV, no less. To curb the problem in Bosnia, where 90% of undergraduates were cheating, they're watching them, or at least going through the motions.

I also had a few college teachers, like their Bosnian counterparts, who were far too busy to keep an eye on their students. I particularly remember a Spanish class led by a teacher who knew everything about a certain country in South America. He was forever regaling us of his scholastic exploits and showing videos of his interviews.

The young woman who sat next to me regularly slid cheat sheets out of the mini-skirts she wore on test days. I don't cheat on tests, but it was very tough not to look.

Fortunately for her the teacher sat semi-comatose at his desk, looking deeply into a cup of cold Dunkin Donuts coffee, and cursing his miserable luck for not having drawn a class more worthy of his gifts.

A Man and His Mannequin

Greg Pringle has been sentenced to stand by the highway with his mannequin, Tillie, and carry a sign stating "HOV lanes are not for dummies."

Not only that, but he's gonna have to sell Tillie.

It's one thing to enforce a traffic ban, but another to separate a man from his companion.

Greg should have gotten a Prius. While it may not be as much fun to talk to, it gets you in the HOV lane solo here in NY, among other places.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

NCLB, Presidential Style

The trouble with us teachers is we're altogether too timid and traditional. When the call comes to improve test scores, we run around like headless chickens, drilling, reading, never ends. As GW said in his first debate with John Kerry, it's hard work.

So let's stop working hard, and start working smart. When GW gives a speech, do you think any Larry, Moe, or Curly simply walks off the street to listen? Of course not! Yesterday, at George Washington University, President Bush gave a speech about the great job we're doing in Iraq. Do you think the audience consisted of students? What have you been smoking?

Bush requires his audiences to be pre-selected. During the campaign, people had to promise they'd vote for him before being admitted to his speeches. During the State of the Union, which really isn't even a Bush rally, two women were removed for wearing t-shirts. One was even arrested.

So why on earth are we not doing the same? Let me select which kids to teach, and I will guarantee absolutely brilliant scores on whatever test comes down the pike. Let's demand equal consideration, and equal rights. And let's have the cops drag away any kid who dares to forget the homework.

If the President of the United States does it, it must be OK. Also, this will certainly bring us closer to the President's oft-stated desire to have every kid in our classes pass.

Let's hand-pick the kids we test, and solemnly swear to leave not a single one behind.

Dog Bites Man, Volume 2

Mayor Bloomberg wants more money.

Do You Feel a Little Stupid...

...when a bunch of kids form a line at your desk so you can correct all the errors you made while marking your tests? Well, cheer up.

The highly trained professional test experts at ETS made far more errors than you did, and they've just located another 1600 papers that need rechecking. And who knows how many times they spilled coffee on a bunch of tests and failed to catch it?

Maybe you too coulda been a contender.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Steel Cage Match

We take you now to Boone County, Kentucky for the ultimate showdown of all time--Librarians vs. Nuns in a no-holds-barred spelling competition.

The Eleventh Commandment

(from the Insane Waiter)

Today's Assignment:

Read No Dentist Left Behind at Kontan Jou.

There may be a quiz tomorrow.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Time to Make the Donuts

Not for my kid, or yours, I hope.

While vocational education has been virtually abandoned in New York City, bright kids elsewhere are using it as a means to an end. What's wrong with picking up a profitable trade? If kids need to work their way through college, why shouldn't they make real money doing so?

Why not learn construction? Why not get a cosmetology license? It beats the hell out of working in Dunkin Donuts, and it's a shame we don't give our kids the opportunity to do so.

And while it may not be fashionable to admit it, some kids are simply not college bound. Shouldn't we prepare them for something better than minimum-wage fast-food drudgery?

Why We Outsource

A school in India is teaching its students to write with both hands at the same time. That way, they can take notes in two different languages in two different subjects simultaneously.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

It's Not Fair

Such was the message of one of the UFT's ineffectual TV campaigns, but our leaders still love it. Students in my classes know better than to use this argument, as does my 9-year-old daughter.

With its standard lack of foresight, tired, entrenched UFT monopoly party Unity allowed Chancellor Klein the position of "lead teacher." Unity propaganda sheet Edwize vehemently insisted this was not merit pay here, and here. School Chancellor Joel Klein, always a step ahead of Unity, stated outright "It’s not performance pay, but it is merit pay."

Now, propagandist Leo Casey complains it's not fair that Klein has excluded the UFT and parents from the selection process. Why on earth didn't Unity negotiators make such participation mandatory as part of the contract they agreed upon?

You may recall Casey ridiculing the concept of a sixth class, and other Unity hacks claiming there was no such thing, as though the "small group instruction" were not a sixth class in everything but name. After all, as six-figure salaried, double-pensioned UFT employees, they don't have to teach them anyway.

Unity endlessly hyped this contract, going so far as to change the names of its lackeys to trick us into believing they were typical teachers. They can defraud us, but, like the current national administration, they can't seem to take responsibility for their egregious errors.

Let's show them the door and reclaim our union.

Fewer NYC Students Are Smoking

So states a new a DoE/Dept. of Health survey. Smoking is down 36% among high school students. I wonder how on earth they managed to survey these kids, many of whom deny smoking as a matter of course.

Nonetheless, the city contends the rate has fallen from one in four to one in ten. Where have the other three gone?

They seem to be standing outside my trailer every single day. Actually, the other day I chased off three kids smoking something with substantially more kick than tobacco.

Perhaps they are the ones who no longer smoke cigarettes.

You Gotta Give the Prez Credit...

...for consistency. As a candidate, in the face of surpluses, he said we needed to ease the tax burden of the very wealthy. When the surpluses disappeared, GW said we still needed to reduce the tax burdens of the very wealthy.

Now that we're in an endless, pointless war and facing record deficits (largely caused by tax cuts on people making over 330 K a year), GW thinks we need to make those tax cuts permanent.

His approach to education is much the same. Hire a loyalist education secretary with no educational background, judge every population based on testing (whether or not they even speak English), support vouchers, exempt voucher schools from the tests that burden public schools, and hope to close down as many public schools as possible, thereby reducing tax burdens.

After all, why should Steve Forbes have to help educate your kid?

Friday, March 10, 2006

One Criminal Left Behind

President Bush's longtime domestic-policy advisor, Claude Allen, resigned last month. This month, he's up on felony theft charges, having received refunds in Target last January for merchandise he hadn't actually bought.

GW is unconcerned, sitting pretty on that 37% approval rating. I wonder what he'd say about a school with a score like that.

Hot Potato

That's the CFE lawsuit. Through threats to help erode the NY Senate Majority, Mayor Bloomberg is another step closer to his dream of avoiding payment of any portion whatsoever of the CFE lawsuit.

The judge had instructed that the city could pay a portion, since Saint Rudy, another great education reformer, had a firm policy of reducing city aid by precisely whatever number the state increased it. Mayor Mike, in his zeal to build sorely needed new schools, had his rep say the city would say "No, thank you" if forced to pay one dime.

After all, there are still several underprivileged billionaires out there in need of sports stadiums. First things first.

Let's Get Kinky!

We'll start by supporting singer /author /iconoclast /Texas gubernatorial hopeful Kinky Friedman with the purchase of a snappy No Teacher Left Behind T-shirt.

Well, what did you think I was talking about?

The New Gold Rush

There’s a bonanza out there for entrepreneurs in school tutoring, thanks to GW’s characteristically flawless education reforms. Why, you can hire just about anyone to teach NYC’s kids, including criminals, and split up almost 75 million bucks. That’s not a bad payday.

It’s even better when you consider that less than half the kids who qualify even bother to show up.

This brings us to a problem. While everyone, from John Stossel to US Education Secretary Margaret Spelling, knows lazy teachers are solely responsible for lack of student achievement, what the heck do you do about kids who just don’t show up?

I mean, you’d think the notion of hiring marginally qualified tutors would have chronic cutters breaking down the doors to attend school after hours. You’d think they’d jump at the opportunity to study with genuine convicted criminals instead of boring teachers.

It must be another conspiracy cooked up by those goshdarn terrorist teacher unions. After all, Bush is always right. Even his brother is always right.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Gee, We're Sorry...

...that your SAT score is off by 400 points. You didn't really want to get into that college anyway, did you? You did? Well, then we're really sorry.

Teachers Aren't the Only Teachers

An article in USA Today suggests that American students are lacking in a work ethic more common in their foreign counterparts. That's a sobering, even frightening thought.

However, when our leaders, from the President on down (Reagan, Clinton, and GW spring to mind), refuse to take responsibility for their actions, that's hardly a surprise. We're experts at evading blame, and our kids soak up our expertise like sponges. If I ran my family finances like GW ran the country, we'd be living in a tree by now. But I'm always ready to evade my responsibility too. In that spirit:

It is not only parents...who are siding with students in their attempts to get out of hard work.

“Schools play into it,” says psychiatrist Lawrence Brain, who counsels affluent teenagers throughout the Washington metropolitan area. “I've been amazed to see how easy it is for kids in public schools to manipulate guidance counselors to get them out of classes they don't like. They have been sent a message that they don't have to struggle to achieve if things are not perfect.”

It's true many immigrants come here with a better work ethic that many of us have. People who drag their families across oceans tend to seek more than the first crack at the latest incarnations of "Super Mario."

But don't buy into those "model minority" stereotypes too quickly. Kids from all over the world are Americanized very quickly, and if you think that doesn't include picking up our bad habits, you're sorely mistaken. I see the results every day, from manipulation of counselors and APs up to and including matching the most outrageous behavior of American kids.

The article notwithstanding, there are still plenty of great American kids. Let's try to keep that up somehow.

(Thanks to AJ for the tip.)

I'm Certified Trailer Trash...

...working in a DoE trailer 5 times a day, 5 days a week. Yet you don't see me organizing marches protesting The Jerry Springer Show.

Eduwonk is absolutely right that teacher unions are focusing far too much attention on unprincipled media whore John Stossel. UFT President Randi Weingarten was foolish to appear on his idiotic special, since it was inevitable he’d portray her in the worst light imaginable. Anyone who knew anything about this man could have predicted what he’d say and do without even watching.

This is a man who's highlighted commentators denouncing the minimum wage because poor people in the United States have color televisions and microwave ovens, and therefore are doing pretty well after all. (In fact, they're "lucky duckies," according to the Wall Street Journal--since they make almost no money, they don't have to pay taxes.)

We need to choose our battles, they ought to be affirmative, and they ought not to supplement the publicity of a lowlife who's gotten far too much already. Stossel, like an obstinate child, thrives on such attention, and this battle is precisely the sort good teachers avoid in their classrooms.

Our unions should be fighting for us, not sullying themselves in wasteful, endless battles with attention-seeking, overpaid, willfully ignorant babosos.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Accountable Talk

Colorado teacher Jay Bennish, in hot water for comparing GW to Hitler during class, claims that the 30 missing minutes provided a balanced viewpoint. The teacher, apparently, is required to provide balanced viewpoints in his classes.

That may be a good thing. Why, then, are news networks not required to provide balanced viewpoints? That's because the Fairness Doctrine, originated in 1949, was killed by the Reagan Administration.

Should teachers be held to a higher standard than broadcasters? Certainly, since broadcasters nowadays can pretty much ignore the truth and say whatever they like.

How We Do Things in Texas

Sure, the Dallas school district gives free lunch to 80% of its impoverished students. But it turns out the district is property-rich, so millions of dollars will now be funneled out to support other districts. Dallas isn't the first Texas district to have its property values sneak up from behind, either.

It kinda makes ya yearn for the good old days, when serial liar/ex-US Secretary of Education Rod Paige could cook the books thoroughly enough to convince the sleeping press corps there was a "Texas Miracle." Rod later went on to call the NEA a "terrorist organization" and slink away, after paying off Armstrong Williams and other journalists to hype NCLB.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Another Bunch of Deadbeats?

George Harrison died owing 20 pounds on his Gretch guitar. Merchant seaman Ivan Hayward is still holding his IOU.

A lawsuit does not appear to be pending.


There's an interesting back and forth between Eduwonk and the AFT Blog. Apparently, Eduwonk praised my union for putting our contract on the internet, calling it exceptional.

Eduwonk first says only seven out of 50 unions had their contracts on the net. He then mentions that 31 others are on the net, though not precisely on their sites. Still, it's tough for me to see how 76% doesn't constitute an overwhelming majority.

He then claims the more pressing issue is having unions negotiate in public.

I don't buy that. Eduwonk has previously cited quotes from Edwize, complaining teachers asking for raises was "not about the kids," or some such nonsense (update-more precisely Thursday, September 22nd, 2005--fourth post down). Perhaps he feels we'd champion the kids more during contract negotiations if they were public.

Of course it's not about the kids. Let them see the contract, if they're inclined to read it, but union negotiation is between the city and the union, and if teachers weren't asking for more money, they'd be brain-dead--hardly the sort of role-models I'd want for my kid. Teachers, like all working people, need to stand up and demand fair treatment, and I have fond hopes we'll have leadership (some fine day...) that shares that view.

What's about the kids is what we do every day, and it's a cheap shot attacking us for wanting more for our families, including the kids with whom we live.

Eduwonk writes:

…if I'm a union-basher then they're really in trouble…

In fact, like all working people nowadays, we really are in trouble. Eduwonk may not be John Stossell, but I wouldn't want him negotiating for me--he's been regularly critical of the UFT, the AFT, and my favorite education writer, Michael Winerip. I wouldn't want a champion who ridicules us for wanting a fair contract. Would you?

Do you want good schools? In this order---hire good teachers, even if it means (gasp!) paying them, lower class sizes, build some decent schools and you'll have them. That's the formula, and it ain't magic.

We've all known about it for years.

Monday, March 06, 2006

If You Don't Give Me that Pass...

A Florida teacher faces suspension after having refused to let a kid visit the lavatory. The kid said he would urinate in the trash can if she didn't let him go, and waddya know--he was as good as his word.

I've refused the pass to hundreds of kids, and heard many such threats without ever once having that happen. I give the pass freely to reasonable cooperative kids but am very stingy with kids who like to wander the halls. I hate having them disrupt my classes, so I don't send them to bother my colleagues.

If I think kids I'd normally deny the pass to really have to go I create some pretext to give them the pass--bring the attendance folders to the office, please. This teacher, supposedly, embarrassed the kid. It's tough, though, for me to see this kid as the type that embarrasses easily.

The kid had the option of getting up and going to a bathroom, and chose rather to be theatrical. There should be consequences. But this kid's behavior strongly suggests they should not be directed at the teacher.

Parents wonder why teachers lack authority. Give some credit to troglodyte administrators like those who side with kids who urinate in trash cans.

The Negotiation Process

Mayor Bloomberg, in yet another installment of his highly-principled quest to avoid having NYC pay any portion whatsoever of the cost of the CFE suit, held discussions with State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. This gets him one step closer to his dream of a city that pays only for sports stadiums, blackmailing others to pick up the tab for frivolous extras like schools.

I'm particularly enamored of this paragraph:

The mayor denied a report in The Daily News yesterday suggesting that he would agree not to back a prospective Democratic challenge to Serphin R. Maltese, a Republican senator from Queens, in exchange for more school-construction money.

It's always more colorful when an outright confirmation is worded as an absolute denial.

Fair and Balanced

No, really.

Eduwonk says it's OK to criticize the President but ranting isn't teaching.

While I'd hesitate to characterize "absolute academic freedom" as the right to rant and rave, I'm inclined to agree.

Finding Space for City Kids

Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, suggests that “alternative” high schools are not doing their job—that in fact many boast graduation rates of 5% or less, including Brownsville Academy HS, Career Education Center, Community Prep, HS Redirection, Island Academy; NYC Vocational Training Center, Offsite Educational Services, and Second Opportunity School.

Bernard Gassaway, former Senior Superintendent of Alternative Schools and Programs, suggests that Ms. Haimson is right on target. As usual, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein are more concerned with appearances than facts, outsourcing public school programs into “church basements, housing projects, homeless shelters, storefronts, suspension centers, juvenile detention centers, and prisons.” Mr. Gassaway adds, “I ventured into places that few department of education officials would dare go. Most pretend these makeshift programs do not exist. Worse, they pretend that these children do not exist – out of sight, out of mind.”

Mr. Gassaway’s closing paragraphs leave no doubt of his familiarity with the Bloomberg-Klein approach education:

As City Hall, DOE central, and consultants go through another clandestine reform of the original “Children First” reform, I know they will not deliver on this latest promise to serve disconnected children. Their arrogance and disconnection preclude them from doing so. Their arrogance precludes them from working with people who may disagree with them. Their disconnection precludes them from listening to people who live and work closely with children. Their arrogance precludes them from respecting people who are poor and miseducated. In the final analysis, a system and its protectors are incapable of putting “Children First.”

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Today's Cartoon

I found this over at Miss Cellania, and I just had to post it.

While some will contend this is not educational, I think there's an important lesson to be learned here.

Please interpret the lesson, state whether or not you agree, and give two literary references (novels, plays, short stories, poems, or memoirs)to support your opinion. Be sure to write a well-organized essay and refer to literary elements like theme, setting, characterization, tone, and point of view.


Well, okay. It's still the weekend, so homework is cancelled.

The Perfect Grade

Some schools are now avoiding class rankings. Since every trendy and nebulous idea that comes down the pike finds favor with the New York City Department of Education, I've decided to take the initiative and start making some changes of my own. I'm determined to be on the crest of this new wave.

First, I'm eliminating grades as we know them. It's true that I'll have to write something on student report cards, but I'm no longer presuming to impose any variation. After all, why should I give kids good grades simply because they worked hard and paid attention? Isn't that going to have the effect of hurting the kid who cut the entire semester? Or the one who did no homework whatsoever and failed every test?

So I propose something new. No one is perfect. Therefore 100s are out. Conversely, no one is without merit. Ergo, no more zeroes. The mystical 50% looms large, directly between the two newly unacceptable extremes, and that's what all my students are getting from now on.

I'm explaining the new grading method to my classes tomorrow. I certainly hope my students will grasp the undeniable cosmic beauty of this new system.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Student Teacher

I always allow student teachers and observers in my classroom. Generally, my experiences are positive or unremarkable. But I remember one in particular who really surprised me. This occurred in an English immersion class at a public university.

I was discussing the lesson on the phone with the teacher, whom I'll call Joseph. We'd been practicing using present progressive (She's washing her hair.) in everyday conversation. I told Joseph, as part of his lesson, to bring in some pictures, and ask the students to describe what was happening.

Joseph followed my instructions. He prefaced his talk by saying "These are very old pictures," then proceeded to show the class pictures of Jesus (He's healing the sick....)and others (They're kneeling before Jesus...).

I could not decide quickly enough how to deal with it--I felt if I'd stopped him, my class, 100% Christian, might determine I had something against Jesus.

When I told Joseph that he had no business bringing religion into my classroom, he suggested that my heathen ways were impeding his mission. I told him his mission would probably not be helped by his failing the course, which I assured him I'd recommend if the episode was repeated.

He seemed to understand that a little better. While my students found Joseph largely tedious, he did not do any further proselytizing in my classroom. He did stand outside the building before class distributing religious literature, though.

Last I heard, Joseph was planning to travel to a Muslim country with his wife and two daughters to convert the infidels.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Sign of the Times

Missouri is proposing an official religion--Christianity.

The resolution would recognize "a Christian god," and it would not protect minority religions, but "protect the majority's right to express their religious beliefs.

The resolution also recognizes that, "a greater power exists," and only Christianity receives what the resolution calls, "justified recognition."

So much for separation of church and state.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Bring Back the Hickory Stick?

That's what Scott McConnell thinks we ought to do. Mr. McConnell is the education student at Le Moyne College who got expelled for expressing that opinion in a paper, as well as advocating an end to multiculturalism. Mr. McConnell also suggested a classroom should be run "like a dictatorship."

After a legal battle, Mr. McConnell has been reinstated. I agree that his expulsion was an extreme and uncalled-for measure. I also agree that a classroom should be run "like a dictatorship." There is no question of who's in charge of my classroom, and I certainly hope my daughter's teacher makes that clear as well.

However, I'd have to draw the line somewhere before public floggings and firing squads. I find corporal punishment absolutely unacceptable. Anyone who needs to resort to such measures lacks the imagination to be an effective teacher.

I'd never hit my own child, let alone anyone else's. And any teacher who hits my child will not remain one very long.

Mr. McConnell has a right to attend LeMoyne College. But I wouldn't want him teaching my kid, or anyone else's. Hopefully he won't apply in NYC, where a pulse and a diploma still score a passing grade with Mike and Joel.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ban Republican Adoption

In response to the latest Republican diversion from their massive failures, the widely-publicized effort to ban gay adoption, Ohio State Senator Robert Hagan declared that he was going to "introduce legislation in the near future that would ban households with with one or more Republican voters from adopting children or acting as foster parents."

While Senator Hagan is firmly tongue-in-cheek, the Republicans are dead serious. When you can't just keep trotting out Willie Horton, and your numbers are in the toilet, you need a demonstrably reliable scapegoat.

An Inspiring Teacher... the topic today in Sam Freedman's NY Times column.

The White House Dictionary

from Jumper Bailey's Bully Pulpit -

Bubble: (n) A term used by people on the outside to refer to the world as we know it.

Checks and Balances: (n) Not in this dictionary.

Cheney: (v) To shoot something, be it a fellow hunter, the truth, or the democratic process.

Condi: (v) To put on a happy face and give the most optimistic view possible of situations that everyone else thinks are spinning out of control.

Congress: (n) Troublesome fools who are starting to ask too many questions.

Constitution: (n) A flexible document that people on the outside take far too seriously.

Domestic Agenda: (n) A list of catchy phrases to be used on backdrops at presidential photo opportunities.

Law, The: (n) A set of rules that applies to other people.

Presidency: (n) A blissful state infused with divine purpose in which people tell one what one wants to hear and spare one the depressing details.

President: (n) One sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States with caveats, exceptions, and waivers of terms and conditions as the spirit moves one.

Presidential Adviser: (n) Babysitter.

Press: (n) A collection of newspapers, magazines, and broadcast media outlets which can be useful for dispensing spin. Not to be trusted, however, as they occasionally print and broadcast depressing stories and photographs which upset people.

Press Conference: (n) A forum for dispensing spin and hoping people will buy it.

Privacy: (n) The state of keeping things away from the eyes of others. Applicable to policy formation, facts requested by Congressional committees, and bad news. Not applicable to citizens' telephone calls or library records.

Treasury: (n) A line of credit with no limit for weaponry and tools for surveillance, and a $200 limit for everything else.