Monday, July 31, 2006

Showdown in Detroit

Detroit has issued an ultimatum to its teachers--they have to come up with 88 million in savings for the city and raises are out of the question. The teachers are standing firm and threatening a strike in September.

It would be easy for many to say "those greedy teachers" and condemn unionism for giving them the power to stand together. But New York teachers have heard this song before, and it doesn't play well with us.

We accepted zeroes from Giuliani in what turned out to be one of the biggest economic booms in the history of the city. The last contract we took, while Bloomberg was sitting on billions, included massive givebacks of time, perks, and rights, and failed to even meet the inflation rate. Bloomberg claimed the surplus would soon disappear. When it increased instead, he still gave DC37 less than cost of living.

Perhaps Detroit is different. But in New York, during rough times, public employees take one for the team. During good times, they simply take another.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Storms in Teacups

There are a lot of words flying around about the UFT's threat of no contract-no work. They made themselves a target with that threat. First of all, the threat is bogus.

It's utter nonsense, in fact, designed to persuade rank-and-file that Unity means business, which is only true if you interpret that to mean "business-as-usual." And it's utterly irresponsible of self-serving Unity hacks to toss around idle threats. Every good teacher knows the folly of making threats you're not prepared to follow through.

The fact is Unity values the dues checkoff far more than the well-being of teachers, kids, or anyone on God's green earth. How could they sit around the UFT office and collect 6 figures a year, and go on all-expenses-paid junkets to Hawaii or the west coast without our money?

Still, by arrogantly exercising their mouths before engaging their brains, they've given the folks with whom they constantly argue a lot to talk about. I'd like to particularly address a very clever point made by Joe Williams of The Chalkboard.

Joe's out of sorts because the charter cap has been reached, and he says Sheldon Silver won't raise it unless they agree to unionize new charters. Personally, I support unionizing new charters. I'd settle, however, for a card check, in which the teachers could vote on whether or not they want union.

Joe makes a stronger point, though, inspired by the empty threats of the self-serving UFT leadership. Don't hold your breath for a substantive response from Unity hacks:

When teachers, school boards, and the general public were first pitched the merits of collective bargaining in the 1960's and 1970's, it was supposed to be one of the grandest win-wins of all time...

So... what happened? In places like NYC that have had collective bargaining for 40 years, teachers are still pissed off...

Is this the best we can do for teachers and students?? Is it possible there is a better way to do this??

First of all, "collective bargaining" does not traditionally entail the Taylor Law, which is designed to cripple labor's power to negotiate. One result of the Taylor Law, which imposes draconian penalties on employees but none whatsoever on management, is that contract negotiations drag on for years. Why should the city sign? Better to wait a few years, and save up for stadiums.

Not only are teachers pissed off at this sort of treatment, but so are cops, firefighters, and virtually all city workers, except those of DC37, who seem to revel in more work for less pay. Of course when you consider their documented history of fraudulent contract votes, that may not be the case. It got very brief press coverage, though, and did not seem to outrage the otherwise perpetually incensed Mayor Giuliani.

You don't see this sort of anger in suburban schools, which actually grant cost-of-living raises to employees.

If you consider what city teachers made before unionization, which I've read in today's dollars would be around $14,000, you see that, despite what the UFT has rotted into, teachers do far better today. If you read about Nicole Byrne Lau, you see that there are definite benefits to unionization. Ms. Lau, no fool, vowed never to work in a non-union shop again.

There is a better way, and it begins by voting out the folks who currently own our union. Like the folks who run our country, they shun democracy. When the will of the union threatens them, they simply change the rules to suit themselves. High school teachers voting non-Unity? Throw their votes into a larger pool. Stop voting for Unity employees and let the Prez hand-pick 'em. Like the folks who run our country, prison is where they belong.

Still, even with their bag of dirty tricks, they're gonna have to do better to get re-elected. For anyone curious about available alternatives to union, check out Klein's 8-page contract, which leaves us with no rights whatsoever. Of course we can do better.

But it's not gonna happen until we toss out the monopoly leadership.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

5 Posts You Shouldn't Miss

1. Sapient Sutler quotes children.

2. April May describes a rafting trip, and reveals the secret of halting tiresome complaints from children.

3. Get on the Bus debunks John Tierney.

4. I Thought a Think takes on Mort Kondracke, by cracky.

5. School Me shows not all gumballs are equal.

Semesters of Our Lives Chapter 14

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night...

Richard got into his ancient Mercury, and started driving. He was a little nervous about trying to climb into a house, but it wasn’t the most ridiculous thing he’d ever tried, particularly since he’d become a teacher. More importantly, it seemed like the only way he’d ever get to be alone with Jennifer.

Richard had been having a bad year. When he’d arrived back from Europe, he went to see his girlfriend, who he’d assumed had been waiting, informed him she’d found a new, better boyfriend.

“You left for Europe,” she’d told him. “You didn’t tell me when you were coming back, or even if you were coming back. Did you really think I was going to sit and wait?”

“I was hoping,” he’d told her, a response which did not impress her in the least, and here he was, driving around in rain so heavy he could barely see through the windshield.

He cleverly stopped the car a few houses away from hers, so that her aunt wouldn’t suspect. As he walked to her house, he considered how much more clever it would’ve been if he’d brought an umbrella or a raincoat. As he feet sank several inches into the mud that now comprised Jennifer’s lawn, he wondered if tennis shoes, though generally comfortable, had been the best choice for this mission.

Richard was getting cold, as the freezing rain had soaked through his sweatshirt. But he was determined to continue. When he reached the house, he grabbed onto the window frame, which came off of the house, causing him to fall backwards into the mud.

Richard shouted an expletive, which the noise of the rain prevented the neighbors from hearing. He began to push himself up, but lost his traction and fell once again.

Undaunted, he tossed away the now useless piece of frame, which left him with an irritating splinter he did not have time to tend to. He carefully tested another piece of the frame, which seemed sturdy, and managed to pull his muddy miserable carcass up the wall so that his muddy wet feet were resting just outside the windowsill of Jennifer’s crazy aunt's home.

He found a hook on the wall, and managed to pull himself up. It was working! He was almost at the top. He could see the dormer, and he could see Jennifer smiling at him through the window. He got a firmer grip on the ancient piece of gutter.

There. This was good. It was perfect. It was just a little loose, though. It was coming apart—Uh oh.

Richard fell down the side of the house into the mud. He hit his arm on something and wasn’t feeling all that good.

Through the corner of his eye, he saw a figure climb down the wall like an iguana. It was uncanny. It was Jennifer.

“Oh Dios mio, are you OK Richard?”

“My arm doesn’t feel so good,” he told her.

“Give me your car keys,” she said.


“No buts. Just give me the keys.”

Jennifer helped Richard to his feet, and in what seemed like a very long walk, led him to his car. Then she drove him to the emergency room.
Next Week: The Assembly

Friday, July 28, 2006

Cheapskates Rejoice

There are numerous discounts available to DoE employees, among them substantial savings on several brands of cell-phone service.

While I don't own stock, consider that Cingular is a union shop. In any case, you can apply for discounts on your existing service if your provider is listed.

It's All About Pointing that Finger

Dr. Andres Alonso is the new head of instruction in New York City Schools. He doesn't care for kids being called "at risk." He's had it with tired old excuses. (The kid can't read. The kid fights with classmates. The kid repeatedly assaulted me. The kid's parents tie him to a table and use him as a sex toy.) Enough with the blah, blah, blah. If kids don't pass, it's exclusively your fault.

And don't bring up that tired old nonsense about the city hiring substandard teachers since 1976. Or the whining about Bloomberg refusing to support the CFE suit designed to give kids quality teachers, lower class size, and decent facilities. That's your fault too.

Poverty has no role whatsoever in whether or not kids can learn, according to Dr. Alonso. The fact that the worst schools tend to reside in impoverished neighborhoods worldwide can be attributed to coincidence. And bad teachers, of course, who apparently wake up in the morning and say "I think I'll find the worst neighborhood possible and get a job teaching there." Why they're drawn to such places is one of life's enduring mysteries.

Dr. Alonso took legal custody of one of his former students, a 15-year-old. That's a curious move, since parents, according to his philosophy, play no role whatsoever in the welfare of their children. Why didn't he simply change the kid's teachers, since they are the one and only factor in child development?

Thanks to Schoolgal and Norm

The Perfect Team

Here's an idea that NYC Schools Chancellor Klein would love (so don't tell him). In Osaka, Japan, principals will now be able to build educational teams by trading teachers. Need a chemistry teacher? I'll trade for a football coach.

Maybe if you have a really good football coach, you could swap for two math teachers and a cash bonus. The possibilities are endless.

Thanks to Schoolgal.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Why Don't Ya Just Get a Job Already?

While perusing reality-based educator, I couldn't help but notice that instead of the subversive commie propaganda I've come to expect from him, he actually wrote about education. RBE was discussing this story, about a charter kindergarten where the kids have no toys, no blocks, and spend their time doing grammar drills, phonics drills, arithmetic drills, and the like.

Now when I was in kindergarten, we spent a great deal of time blowing bubbles in our milk, and several of us actually turned out alright. Still, things are different nowadays.

My daughter had to take a multi-day standardized test in kindergarten called Terra Nova. She got excellent reading scores, which I found curious since she most certainly did not know how to read. A further look at her scores, though, left me in some distress--she had no language skills whatsoever. Naturally, it being a standardized test, I believed every word of it, and focused all blame on her teacher (OK, not really).

The teacher explained to me that this pattern was the same with most of the class. They took the "reading" test the first day,and the "language" test the last, by which time their 5-year-old attention spans had pretty much had it.

I thought that was taking things a bit too far. Achievement First East New York Charter School takes things even further, and the kids, apparently, are being trained to read at that age. I don't have any problem with that, but I'd like to very little kids eased into it a little more.

I liked my kid's kindergarten teacher very much, and got the feeling she shared my sentiments about the Terra Nova. It's a mistake to neglect socialization and play for young children. While my child was taught the alphabet in kindergarten, along with letter sounds, she spent a lot of time playing, and learning how to get along with her classmates. She formed a positive attitude about school that she still carries.

Pressing for too much too early can have bad results. I often think of one of my college students, a bright, soft-spoken and charming young woman, who told me her parents forced her to practice piano several hours a day from the time she was five. She was not permitted to stop until she left her country and came to New York. She adored New York, and hated music.

As for the charter, even the teacher had mixed feelings:

“Achievement First gives them a solid foundation,” she said.

But even as she took pride in her students’ progress, Mrs. Rattray betrayed ambivalence about the method. “If it were my own child,” she said, “I would want more time for play.”

Hope she doesn't get fired for that.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Stossel Primer

Go, John, go.

See John go.

John goes.

John goes down.

See John go down.

Down, John, down.

When pro-wrestler David Schultz punches your frigging face out.

Unity vs. the Nazis

Unity patronage mill workers have a lot on their plates. First of all, imagine all the work it takes to manage two pensions. Also, UFT HQ is now open an entire extra hour a week. Finally, they need to write all those columns on Edwize letting us know what a great job they do.

The Unity employee who runs Edwize claimed no one gets paid for writing those columns. But if Leo "6-figure" Casey, for example, spends business hours sitting in the UFT building, making 50% more than any working teacher, and writing for Edwize, it seems to me that we are paying for whatever it is he does. After all, Mr. Casey's salary comes directly from our dues.

When mere rank-and-file UFT members comment on Casey's columns, the ones we're paying him to write, he can't be bothered responding. If pressed, he may say things like "Now let's answer some real questions, " or "How dare you ask me questions during the week of my relative's birthday?" as though UFT members had such occasions marked on their calendars.

Mr. Casey responds to folks like Eduwonk, or Joe Williams from The Chalkboard, or Mike Antonucci from Intercepts, because their opinions, apparently, are important. Perish forbid that people who aren't on potty patrol criticize the great and powerful Unity monopoly. As mere duespayers, though, why the hell should he care what we think? Make no mistake, that's the message.

Behind the scenes, however, Mr. Casey pays very close attention to opposition voices. When the United Teachers Party, or UTP, started a website a while back, he was outraged by their iconography. Eagles! They must be Nazis! Also, they'd originally featured a quote from Charles Lindburgh. Egads! Further proof! And they'd used a clenched fist! That clearly supported skinheads (notwithstanding its use in traditional militant labor images).

The UTP look, actually, including the eagles, was based on the United Farm Workers site. That did not deter the dogged detective work of Unity, though. The fact that not one word the UTP had written remotely hinted at a Nazi philosophy was also neither here nor there.

The intrepid Mr. Casey went on to discover not only the offensive use of eagles, but that ICE had linked to the UTP website. How dare a UFT opposition party link to another UFT opposition party! This proved that ICE was no good either. After all, not only did they question Unity, but they were clearly in cahoots with the Nazis!

So remember, the next time you wonder why the hell you're paying 6-figure Unity hacks so you can get potty patrol, extra days, extra classes, and unpaid suspension based on unsubstantiated gobbledy-gook, all for less than cost-of-living, bear in mind that's not the only thing you're paying for. For no extra charge, you're protected from the Nazis!

In response to an important critic (a non-duespayer, of course), Casey complained this week that Bloomberg imposed a pattern negotiated by another union.

To me, that was an odd complaint, considering that the UFT had gone to PERB with full knowledge they'd endorsed pattern bargaining, and full knowledge of what the pattern happened to be (5% over three years, one being for givebacks). You'd think they'd know better. I did.

But little did I know they were fighting the Nazis! How could they bother negotiating a decent contract when they were on such a vital mission? After all, what's a 20-year contractual setback when one considers Unity has gone back and re-won World War II single-handedly? How can you greedy teachers fret over making mortgage payments when your very freedom is at stake?

Thanks goodness for Leo Casey, and the heroic Unity party. I hope they all enjoyed the AFT convention we just paid to send them to, unmarred by a single solitary voice from the 40% of teachers who oppose them, those Nazi bastards.

Update: The UTP website reports that a complaint about their iconography and such was made to the Anti-Defamation League, and found to be without merit.

Thanks to Norm and Advisor


Chance at Sapient Sutler says it's Dubya-Dubya Three.

And here I was, thinking I'd almost recuperated from 2004.

Also---check out the Carnival of Education over at Text Savvy.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?

There are few things quite like an 86 degree day (and night) in a New York apartment building without electricity. Mayor Mike, of course, being a billionaire, needs not fret over such trivialities.

That's why, in his typically out-of-touch fashion, he just asked New Yorkers to thank the CEO of Con Ed., who left tens of thousands of them without electricity for days. This aroused the ire of his usally reliable good buddies at the local tabloids.

You see, when billionaire CEOs don't deliver, they're doing their best. When working people, like the transit workers withhold their service, they need to pay crushing fines. That's the way it is in Mayor Mike's fiefdom.

Things being that way, I'd suggest Mayor Mike deserves our appreciation as well, for hopelessly tying up the CFE suit that aims to give city kids quality teachers, smaller classes, and decent facilities.

So line up New York, and get that gratitude flowing.

Thanks to Schoolgal

School of Hard Knocks

A few years back, my supervisor approached me and asked if I'd be willing to have someone come and lecture my students on better ways for them to seek employment after they'd left high school. I said fine, and a couple of guys showed up in my classroom a few weeks later.

The first thing they did was pass out cards, on which my kids filled out their phone numbers. They then proceeded to give a hard-sell lecture to the kids about their two-year college, in which they offered associate degrees, and for which financial aid was available. I was amazed these guys had the audacity to do such a blatant bait-and-switch. I told them not to come to any of my other classes.

I reported this to my supervisor, who watched them lecture someone else's class, but for reasons that defy my comprehension, did not see what I found objectionable. They were allowed to continue visiting other teachers' classes, and return year after year.

The next day, and whenever I heard they were visiting, I told all my students that the good folks from the Interboro Institute were a couple of con artists, and that they'd be far better off going to a community college if they wanted an associate degree. They were significantly cheaper, and equally, if not more valuable.

Now the New York Times reports that not only did they do what I saw, but they paid their crack scorers 50 bucks a pop to pass students who didn't merit it. This qualified them for the loans that, apparently, are the lifeblood of this great institution. So remember, anything that sounds too good to be true, is. And anything that doesn't even sound very good in the first place, isn't.

As teachers, though, it's our job to warn our kids, who are often too young and naive to know the difference.

Monday, July 24, 2006

On Testing, Test-prep, and Writing for the Test

A few bloggers are on that topic this week. For one, there's perpetually-amusing Mamacita at Scheiss Weekly, from whom I stole the great cartoon on the left.

Also, Happychyck, typically, is wondering whether we're doing our students a favor with formulaic essays.

Happychyck sent me to yet another blogger, Tim Fredericks, who has a series of posts about lies teachers tell regarding essay structure, the importance of assigned books and student laziness, to name a few.

I'm not sure about all of Tim's points, but I certainly agree about the myth of the all-important five-paragraph essay. While it may be a good starting point for kids with no organizational sense, it's ridiculous to teach kids (and even college students) that structure and then maintain they know how to write. I commented:

Ya know, I've always felt that way about the five-paragraph essay, ever since I was first forced to teach it. Who the hell sits down to write a five-paragraph essay, ever?

Ironically, I've been having to teach ESL students how on earth they could pass the NY English Regents exam, which is entirely inappropriate for them (but that's yet another topic).

The way I've devised is teaching them a very simplistic FOUR-paragraph essay, and it seems to work. But I'd be deluding myself (not to mention my students) if I were to pretend this skill, which I spend up to a year teaching, were useful for anything but passing that one test, which they need to graduate.

Private "U"s and Public Schools

While I teach in a trailer, while my building is ready to burst from dusk to dawn, we're providing enormous subsidies for private universities in New York City. What's Mayor Bloomberg had to say about that? Nothing whatsoever.

This document, Fatal Subtraction, suggests NYC lost as much as 7.3 billion dollars last year in uncollected property taxes from private universities.

How much in taxes do you suppose we get for the Chrysler Building? Well, let's see, that must be a chunk of change. It is, actually, since NYC taxpayers have been going without a dime on it since 1931. I'm pretty sure my little 3-bedroom house supports public education more than the Chrysler Building, and I don't mind admitting we have far fewer bathrooms.

Actually, Cooper Union is entitled to charge taxes on that building, and keep the proceeds.

NYC hugely subsidizes Cooper Union, NYU, and Colombia University, among others, while CUNY students struggle to make tuition. A large percentage of students attending private universities aren't even residents. Why NYC taxpayers need to supplement their education, while their own kids are squeezed into odd spaces like sardines, is a mystery to me.

It's unconscionable that this happens while the CFE lawsuit, which would provide good teachers, smaller classes, and decent facilities for NYC kids, languishes is legal limbo, after being endorsed by NY State's Supreme Court.

Check out the report for much more detail.

Thanks to Norm and

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Further Censorship

I've replaced the photo that was, according to comments and emails, causing people to lose their lunch in the post below.

Hopefully that will help.

Ratfink Teachers

They don't do anything, and our kids are all stupid. Why the hell won't they kick in for their health insurance, so they can make less money? Why don't they give up tenure, so they can be fired for writing those crappy self-serving teacher blogs? Why don't they come in nights, weekends, and summers for free? Why do they get pensions? Why can't they eat cat food like everyone else once they retire? Don't they even care?

That's what you read in the Daily News and the New York Post, on a fairly regular basis. When the United Federation of Teachers was selling us the awful contract that halved our prep time, denied us presumption of innocence, and set us back over 20 years, one of its lines was "What will the tabloids say if we don't agree to this?" Now we know. They'll say the same things they said before, and even though we took that contract, they continue to say it.

It's not surprising that newspapers, which have unions of their own to deal with, or which have already managed to break them, don't much care for unions. What's surprising is that regular people read this stuff and then repeat it.

My brother-in-law is a factory worker in Canada. He has all the benefits NY teachers have, and his prescriptions, since he's now in a union, are free. His wife, when she had a baby, got a year off from her job, with pay. The government provides free child care for Canadian pre-school kids, and she now runs a daycare center in her home. And yes, they were able to buy one of those too.

Furthermore, they won't need a second mortgage to send their children to college.

How can Americans ask "Why do teachers get these things?"

They should be asking "Why doesn't everyone get these things?" Look at Canada and Europe. If you think our standard of living approaches theirs, you've got your eyes closed.

And for those who'd make the absurd argument that teachers who say such things don't care about kids, our kids will inherit the country we leave them.

Ours is sorely in need of improvement.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Semesters of Our Lives Chapter 13

Observations on Observations

Summer school and Tier One is sitting at his desk after having finished one more day of the odious task that would increase his pension. His supervisor, a young woman with an absent expression, walks in with an observation report. Tier One signs it and she leaves.

Tier One then tears up his copy and tosses it in the trash, unread. Unbeknownst to Tier One, the woman is watching.

“I spent forty-five minutes writing that,” she bellows. “I’ll be back tomorrow with another copy!”

Tier One is unmoved. He learned long ago that observation reports are far easier to take if you don’t read them, and no force in heaven or earth, including this young woman, is going to persuade him otherwise

Richard was nervous. He had just been observed teaching math, a subject about which he knew next to nothing. The only good thing was that the kids he taught knew even less. He’d been plodding along just fine with the book of lesson plans Mr. Benjamin had given him, but then Keisha and Sonia had complained for days that he was making them do all the work, following up with a complaint to Mr. Benjamin himself.

They wouldn’t have complained to Ms. Goodrich, thought Richard. Kids never approached her. They were frightened she’d correct their grammar, and with good reason. Few kids got past her ongoing critiques of the way they spoke.

And now Mr. Benjamin had walked in and observed his math class. Well, what could he say, really? Richard had told him he was no good in math. It wasn’t like he studied it or anything.

“Please come in, Richard.”

“Thanks, Mr. Benjamin.”

“And please call me Julius. I’m not your English teacher.”

“Um, okay…I’m sorry about the lesson. I never taught math before, I never taught anything before, and I…”

“Whoa, just wait a minute. Who said you had anything to be sorry about?”

“Well,” said Richard, “I know the girls came and complained, and I figured that’s why you came to observe the class.”

“You’re right, Richard. But I thought the class was fine.”

“You did? Really?”

“It was fine. The kids complained because you made them go to the board and work out the problems. They said you’d been making all the kids go to the board and work out all the problems. From what I saw, they were right.”

“So then why do you think the lesson was fine?” asked Richard.

“I want all my teachers to do that. Most teachers in this department just talk. The kids sit. Especially at this low level, I don’t think the kids retain much unless they actually get up and do things themselves.”

“Ms. Goodrich didn’t like my lessons very much,” said Richard.

“Come on,” said Mr. Benjamin. “Everyone in the building knows she invited you for meatballs and you turned her down. Did I, or did I not do you a big favor by getting you away from her 80% of the time?”

“Well…” began Richard.

“Don’t say anything,” said Mr. Benjamin. “Never, ever talk about your supervisors to other supervisors. They’ll think you’ll talk about them next, and they’ll never trust you.”

“Well, I didn’t mean to…”

“I don’t care what you meant to do. Let’s just talk about you, now, OK?”

Richard nodded.

“I think you’re a good teacher, a little rough around the edges, but I think you’re gonna turn out OK. You seem to like the kids, which not everyone does.”

Richard nodded again.

“Don’t worry about those girls. They don’t know what they’re talking about. Keep sending them to the board, along with everyone else, and let me worry about it, OK?”

“Yes, sure, thanks Mr. Benjamin.”


“Thanks, uhhh…”

“OK. Call me Mr. Benjamin, if that makes you happy. But remember this. You’re new, and at the end of the year, you could easily lose your job. It’s not that you did anything wrong. It’s a seniority thing. You don’t have any. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” said Richard.

“Now, I’m not saying you will lose your job, but if you do, remember this—use me as a reference. Do not use Ms. Goodrich, do not use Dr. Canales, and do not use the principal. Do you understand?”

Richard nodded his head.
“It’s not that they’d say bad things about you, except for Ms. Goodrich. It’s just that they never have anything good to say about anyone.”

“OK,” said Richard.

“One more thing,” said Mr. Benjamin. “I’d like you to keep those kids on their toes. Please give them a test every Friday. Can you do that?”

“Sure,” said Richard.

“OK, Richard. Now get back to work.”

“Thanks, Mr. Benjamin.”

Next Week: A Nocturnal Visit

Friday, July 21, 2006

What's Wrong with Boys?

A lot depends on who you ask. I had a student once who was fond of standing up at odd moments and announcing "All men are pigs!" Sometimes this provoked conversation, sometimes not, but as she never bothered anyone much beyond that, I tended to let her be. I'd heard she'd had a bad breakup, and her proclamations seemed to make her feel better.

But a lot of people do say boys are trouble. Our brains are different. We don't like to read, because it's too "girlish." We'd rather be off starting wars, because the only emotion it's socially acceptable for us to express is aggression.

Now some say a good solution is more male teachers. Naturally, I don't mean just any male teachers. I mean real men. Some men don't want to bother with that, because of all the hunting, fishing, and watching sports it entails.

It's odd, because some years people say boys get all the attention, but this year it's girls. Jay Matthews, of the Washington Post seems unable to decide whether or not we're having a boy crisis or not.

My college class, one year, complained that I called on the female students more than the male students. So I went to an index-card system, where I call on everyone whether or not they want to talk.

Check out the article, which is well-organized and easy to read. I particularly like its explanation for the new phenomenon of "boomerang kids:"

Simple economics helps explain why so many young men are returning to the nest. Recent college graduates are carrying 85 percent more debt than graduates of a decade ago, while pay for entry-level jobs has not kept pace with inflation. “Him living here is not a problem for us,” said Harry Hartshorne, a suburban Detroit retiree whose 42-year-son, Neal, a stained-glass craftsman, has been living at home since his early 20s. “It may be a problem for him, but he’s not anxious to solve it.”

The disapppearing middle class hurts us all, regardless of sex.

One word of caution: please, don't email me asking how you can become a real man. Real men never ask for directions, especially when they're lost.

Thanks to Alison.

A Mystery

The College Board, a la Enron, commisioned a report from a company it had paid over 5 million in fees in 2005. This was in response to having been caught with 5,000 incorrect scores on SAT exams last year.

What possible motivation could this company have to put a more positive sheen on the report?

Kinda makes ya wonder what they did to your SAT, doesn't it? Should you have been going to Harvard instead of York College? Or Crawford Community instead of Yale?

Did you really answer those analogy questions correctly? And if you didn't, could it have left you overconfident?

We'll just never know.

Bloomberg's Legacy

While 75% of NYC high schools suffer from overcrowding, and the CFI suit that might relieve it languishes in the courts as a result of mayoral intransigence, Mike Bloomberg is making serious plans to become a full-time philanthropist.

No overcrowded decrepit building will do for his good works, though. He'd headed into things just as the billionaire-run Ross Charter School did--first class all the way. Mayor Bloomberg's charitable works will take place in a 45 million dollar Stanford White-designed building.

Several people suggest Mayor Bloomberg will now have a bully pulpit to promote his social causes. I certainly hope he takes these causes more seriously than he's taken the welfare of New York City's 1.1 schoolchildren, relegated to trailers, hallways, closets and bathrooms if they lack representation from Mr. Bloomberg's fellow billionaires.

Thanks to Patrick.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Pssst...Here's a Hot Tip

The AFT has just launched T-Source, with which it will provide resources for teachers.

In review, research this resource rapidly.

Abstinence Only or the Highway

Sam Freeman writes of the demise of the Healthy Teens Act here in NY State. The bill did little but allow districts offering sex education to apply for state aid.

But the federal government supports abstinence only education, and talk of HIV or condom use seems to choke the flow of federal funds to our fair state, which amounted to 3.7 million in 2005-2006.

It's criminal, in this day and age, to offer incomplete versions of sex education to children. It would be more appropriate and morally defensible to present no sex education at all.

President Bush is certainly free to believe the world began 6,000 years ago, and that humans and dinosaurs once shared the earth. But he shouldn't be able to impose such nonsense on our children and label it education.

For Public Schools, Less is More

Or maybe more is less.

It appears that in New York City's district 4, 82% of principals complain of overcrowding. What's to be done? Should you move the public school kids into the best facilities in the city?

Oops! The Chancellor already gave them to a billionaire. So what's the next best thing?

Let's see, there's that PS 109, over on E. 99th. That building just got landmark status, and the DoE had to spend big bucks to replace its roof. Unfortunately, that was the result of one of those nasty coalitions that also fought to stop its illegal demolition. Things like that don't sit seem to sit well with this mayor.

So, rather than create 1200 sorely-needed seats for public school kids, Mayor Mike has decided to simply use the building to make 65 apartments for artists. According to an email I received from Class Size Matters, NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said on NPR that the city needed artist housing more than schools.

That reminds me of GW's "Mission Accomplished" speech (over three years ago) and Cheney's quote about the Iraqi "insurgency" in its "last throes"(over one year ago). What year do you suppose Chancellor Klein is living in?

The email also stated that nearby PS 72 is now leasing space due to overcrowding, in a building that used to be a school before the city sold it. This, along with the deplorable overcrowding of other city schools, begs the question--is it wise to get rid of even more school real estate?

The chancellor, apparently, feels the problem will resolve itself if we simply ignore it long enough and ensure we have fewer locations for our kids.

As someone who works in a building at 250% capacity (and rising), I have to question that approach. Really, someone ought to let the chancellor know it's his job to advocate for kids, not artists (Perhaps that's just another of the pitfalls that come with hiring a non-educator cocktail-party devotee, squarely in the mayor's pocket, as chancellor).

For more info, go to Save PS 109, and check out the site of the folks who successfully stopped its demolition. They're now trying to see that it's utilized as intended.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Important Update

For those of you who are weary of the restrictions teaching places on you, here are 12 jobs that let you have weird hair, an important consideration when selecting a new career.

Perhaps you chose your last job simply because it was across the street from Arby's, and you couldn't get enough of those roast beef sandwiches. Well, if that didn't work out for you, here's another approach. They say, for example, you could be an art instructor at some trendy college. Don't know diddly-squat about art? Don't fret.

All those folks who go to museums and stare at framed blank canvasses are just crying out for an authoritative voice to tell them what's good.

You Say Potato, I Say Voucher

After a recent federal report showed public school students score as well as private school students, a decision was apparently made that they needed to do worse, so as to expand the fiction of the evils of public schools. This will help promote the important goal of their elimination, and the consequent reduction in Steve Forbes' tax bill, which will promote freedom and democracy everywhere.

Therefore, Bush's education secretary, Margaret Spellings, introduced a new federal voucher program. Displaying the sensitivity that typifies this administration, she called it a "scholarship" program, so that people who oppose vouchers wouldn't think it was a voucher program. This is in line with previous government policies which referred to propaganda as "news"

This, along with the President's recent promise to veto any expansion of stem-cell research, ought to help shore up his religious conservative base. Conservative Christian schools, potential recipients of vouchers, found their eight grade math scores lagged behind those of public schools. This oughta help 'em forget.

Asked whether voucher schools would be subject to the same accountablity as public schools (which they often are not), Spellings gave a weasel of an answer praising accountablity and promising nothing whatsoever.

Thanks to reality-based educator.

It's Carnival Time

Too hot for dancing on the streets, so try to stay indoors and celebrate this week's carnival over at Education in Texas.

Admission is free (slightly higher in Canada).

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Casey Rides Again

I've been giving a lot of thought to charters lately. I'd been thinking I might support them if they didn't get preferential treatment, and if their employees were given free and fair opportunities to unionize (or not).

Then I go to Edwize, and look at Leo Casey's take on it, and I don't know what to think. According to Mr. Casey's trenchant analysis, the problem with charter supporters is they all trot around saying "Like, duh," and scratching themselves inappropriately.

It takes something quite extreme to drive Edwize to “valley girl” discourse. We are teachers and we are New Yorkers, and proud of both, so we lean toward the intellectual side of things. Ask us about that good book we just finished reading, the great jazz gig we saw over the weekend or the latest exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum, not who is on the top of the pop music charts.

I'm pleased to hear once again how sophisticated Mr. Casey feels himself to be, and delighted by his cheerful stereotypes of teachers and New Yorkers in what he perceives as his own image. It's a good thing Mr. Casey isn't teaching while he spouts his stereotypes, as he'd be subject to 90 days suspension without pay under a clause he loudly championed. No doubt Mr. Casey shares my sense of relief, since the potty patrol he also advocated has turned out to be so intellectually unrewarding.

Far from defending and extending the status quo, we are looking for ways to negotiate better contracts, and to create post-industrial, bureaucracy free schools which work better for students and for teachers.

Mr. Casey and his monopoly party achieve this by cutting teacher prep time in half, saddling us with permanent lunch duty, hall duty, potty patrol, a sixth class, two summer days of pointless conferences, and agreeing to previously-mentioned 90-day suspensions for working teachers based on unsubstantiated student accusations. I've already read of two teachers falsely accused under this policy. How does that work better for students or teachers?

Furthermore, Casey's party agrees to these things, among others, for less than cost of living. Working teachers need Casey's negotiating acumen like they need holes in their heads.

The main problem with charters (disregarding the preferential treatment of schools like Ross) is union-busting. And the main problem with the UFT is its blatant lack of democracy, typified by pompous windbags who won't lower themselves to either defend its practices or engage in civil discourse with its critics.

Mr. Casey is quite right about union-busting in general, and provides statistics to support his point. But it's also true Mr. Casey sold us out with the worst contract I've ever seen, and while we gave scores of givebacks, he and his 6-figure Unity cohorts got the same raise we did.

Their giveback? They keep the UFT office open one extra hour a week. Don't hold your breath waiting to read about that on Edwize, either.

Go ahead, Mr. Casey, and discuss music and Shakespeare with your clever intellectual friends. But stop pretending you're one of us. You sold us out, actively quashed opposition voices, and told us you got a good deal. Neither you nor your witty dinner companions will suffer the consequences.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Bloomberg Appoints New Chancellor

In a surprise move, Mayor Michael Bloomberg today gave school Chancellor Joel Klein his walking papers.

Mayor Bloomberg stated, "In today's ever-changing environment, we need a chancellor who will stand up for the things I believe in. While Chancellor Klein did an admirable job in many respects, we'll need someone who can get right into the thick of things. The next time, for example, parents object to my dumping a charter into their public schools, we need someone who can get right in there and show them we mean business."

Mayor Bloomberg added, "We plan an absolute ban on cell phones. They are not allowed. I could not have one when I was a kid, and no student under my administration can have one either."

Asked for comment, the new chancellor replied, "I pity the fool who doesn't do what we tell him, and do it right now." Reporters instantly scurried away, fearing for their lives.

NYC: A Nice Place If Klein Pays Your Rent

Thanks to UFT President Randi Weingarten's willingness to amend the contract without consulting rank and file, new math teachers can make more money than working ones.

90 teachers will get $5,000 bucks up front, and 400 a month for two years for agreeing to spend three years teaching in fun city. While I still don't see how that will help with long-term housing, or attract long-term teachers, it's certainly cheaper than dealing with the long-term problem, and right in line with NYC's thirty-year shortcut program.

In Nassau County, they generally pay teachers well, have small class sizes, and decent facilities for all students. They don't hire underqualified teachers who fail scores of tests, they don't need charters, they don't need vouchers, and they don't need merit pay.

Would that work in NYC?

Mayor Bloomberg doesn't think it's worth fooling with. That's why he refused to pay a dime of taxpayer funds toward the CFE lawsuit.

Here's what one applicant says:

"New York City is a very expensive place to live," the 40-year teaching vet said. "The prices are staggering. It would be OK if a teacher's salary was staggering. But that's not the case."

Congratulations to him. And good luck to the other 79,910 NYC teachers.

Update: LA is now also offering a $5,000 bonus for math and science teachers.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Elephant in the Easy Chair

What do you do with kids who can't read when they get to high school? And how in the world did they manage to do that?

I identified two kids who could not read a few years back, one of whom had been kicking around city schools for years. When I brought this matter to the guidance counselor, he was upset at my disturbing his reverie, and did nothing. When I spoke to a reporter, who called the school, it became a crisis.

I got called into meeting after meeting, in which various members of the administration assured the principal their asses were covered, and gave chapter and verse explaining why. Not one breath was devoted to the welfare of these kids.

I was later told by an ex-administrator working for the UFT that there was no program whatsoever in NYC to deal with such kids. It's about time someone noticed. Too bad this awareness hasn't made its way to NYC, where Mayor Bloomberg is busy protecting the world from cell-phone use.

Follow the Leader

Let's say you're a school principal, and you stand accused of having placed your grubby little fingers into the school lunch fund, not to mention intimidation and corporal punishment.

What do you suppose your boss will do about that?

Well, if your boss happens to be NYC School Chancellor Joel Klein, he gives you another $250,000 of taxpayer funds to play with, and hopes for the best.

Thanks to Schoolgal.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Charter Finds a Home

Mayor Bloomberg, on the heels of the NEST-Ross fiasco, has decided to award the non-union Ross charter school the best classrooms in the city--the state of the art facilities at Tweed, funded by city taxpayers. While public school kids are sent to trailers, hallways and bathrooms, the Ross students will be fine.

A note to the teachers working for Ms. Ross--avoid talking about union salaries and benefits. You know what happens to people like that.

"Boy, how nice is it for a privately run school to get such wonderful attention!" said Carmen Colon, a parent who runs a group of parent leaders. "It would be nice if our public schools were getting this type of attention."

Stuart Marques, a spokesman for teachers union president Randi Weingarten, said the move "certainly shows where the chancellor's priorities are."

Perhaps if public schools received this sort of consideration, they wouldn't be in the state they are now. In fact, all things being equal, a lot of people think public schools are just as good , or even better than private schools.

Personally, even beyond what test scores say, I think they're better. I can't muster much sympathy for bazillionaires like Ross who deny working people their right to unionize. However good her school may be (and it's certainly getting better treatment than any public city school), the kids who leave it, thanks to her "vision", are going to enter an economy with even fewer opportunities.

Thanks to Schoolgal for the tip!

Semesters of Our Lives Chapter 12

The Principal Observes a Class

Mr. Jacobs, social studies AP, and Ms. Robinson, working teacher and apprentice AP, entered Ms. Mudd’s classroom via the back door five minutes into the lesson. Ms. Mudd, on the advice of Mr. Jacobs, had taken the new methodology to heart.

The students were working in groups, as suggested by the chancellor, and Ms. Mudd was circulating around the room, answering questions and offering advice to students.

This went on for about five minutes. The observers sat quietly scribbling notes. Suddenly, the principal and Seymour, assistant principal of organization, entered via the front door.

“How is everyone today?” asked the principal. “What are you all learning here today?”

All activity ceased and the students sat mute.

“Come on, someone needs to speak up. Your teacher’s job could be on the line here, you know.”

Ms. Mudd turned pale.

A female student began to explain, but the principal interrupted. “Ms. Mudd, do you have a lesson plan?”

Ms Mudd stammered, “Of course I do.”

“I want to see it,” demanded the principal.

Ms. Mudd went to her desk and recovered her notebook, then handed it to the principal. The principal glanced at it, then to the floor, then examined the floor more closely and asked, “Why is all this paper on the floor? How can anyone learn in this environment?”

He walked to the front of the room and picked up the trashcan. He handed it to a student and said, “This is unacceptable. Please pass this around the room, and drop any papers you find into it. “ He then dropped the notebook on Ms. Mudd’s desk and said, “This classroom is a disaster. Don’t you agree, Seymour?”

Seymour adjusted his tie, and nodded his head. “Oh yes, sir, absolutely.”

The principal then looked at a desk, which was covered with graffiti.

“Seymour, please go get a couple of buckets, some soapy water, and some sponges.”

“Yes, sir,” replied Seymour, and quickly ran down the hall to the custodian’s office.

When Seymour returned, the principal instructed several students to start cleaning the desks. They refused.

“Ms. Mudd,” began the principal, “is this how you teach your students to obey? I’m very disappointed at your lack of control.”

Ms. Mudd fought back tears as best she could.

The principal walked out of the room, with Seymour following closely behind him.

Mr. Jacobs and Ms. Robinson followed.

“Well, Mr. Jacobs,” the principal asked, “What did you think of that lesson?”

Mr. Jacobs was flabbergasted. “The lesson…did you even see the…”

“I’d like you to write it up as unsatisfactory,” said the principal.

“But, you didn’t see anything. She was… "

The principal gave Mr. Jacobs the look he’d been practicing. “Are you refusing to follow instructions?” he asked.

“I’m not refusing,” Mr. Jacobs replied. “It’s just…”

“Make a note, Seymour. Mr. Jacobs is refusing a direct order. That’s insubordination, isn’t it, Seymour?”

“Yes, sir. Refusing a direct order is insubordination. I’m shocked and stunned.”

“Well, Seymour, make a note of it. We can’t have that here. No wonder those kids are behaving so poorly. I made a simple request, and they refused. And how dare that girl interrupt me when I’m asking questions?”

Mr. Jacobs and Ms. Robinson just stood there, speechless.

Next Week: The Observations Continue

Friday, July 14, 2006

Contract Update

DC37, the city's largest municipal union, which set the standard for all city contracts in the last round of negotiations, has done it again. They've received a 32 month contract and a 10 percent raise, and have agreed to no givebacks. They've also won the right to live outside New York City, an actual gain for them.

Several labor experts said Mr. Bloomberg’s decision to loosen the residency requirement was a tacit recognition that the city had become too expensive for many municipal workers.

Meanwhile, UFT President Randi Weingarten has organized a coalition of unions waiting for contracts. Since the precedent has already been set, and neither FDNY nor NYPD are on board, there's little to no chance this will do anything but impede negotiations for us.

Randi has asked for 4 percent a year, in order to catch up with the suburbs. An odd position, considering her regular boasts to rank and file that we'd already done that. Clearly the only path to Randi's goal is more givebacks for actual teachers. That will give me something to think about next year as I patrol the halls one period a day rather than read essays, meet students, and prepare lessons.

Having excluded precedent-setting DC37, there's little chance any city workers' salaries will keep up with cost of living, as DC37, apparently, never frets over such trivialities.

That's the plight of people who work in the United States nowadays. Check out Paul Krugman's column on Left Behind Economics ($):

Bush supporter: “Why doesn’t President Bush get credit for a great economy? I blame liberal media bias.”

Informed economist: “But it’s not a great economy for most Americans. Many families are actually losing ground, and only a very few affluent people are doing really well.”

Bush supporter: “Why doesn’t President Bush get credit for a great economy? I blame liberal media bias.”

Redhog Oinks Again

Here's a very interesting article by Ron Isaacs, who posts on Edwize as "redhog."

Mr. Isaacs bemoans what he considers to be his grotesquely unfair treatment, invoking Nazi death camps and Elie Wiesel. He refers to himself as "Nailed and Screwed" even though his case, strikingly unlike those of Mr. Wiesel and other Nazi victims, entailed no substantial consequence whatsoever.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Issacs passionately defended a contract that allows UFT members to be suspended for three months, without pay, on unsubstantiated accusations (Apparently Mr. Issacs' impassioned arguments do not apply to working teachers). He used yet another pseudonym for that article, so people would not mistake him for the Unity shill he was and is.

Mr. Issacs has retired, and will not be subject to the terms of the contract he championed. Last I heard, he landed a nifty UFT job writing for NY Teacher.

Enjoy your retirement, Ron! We lowly dues-payers are privileged to pay your salary, and your second pension.

More on Cells

The NY Times covers Bloomberg's much-beloved cell-phone ban this morning.

Haven't I Seen that Somewhere?

Schoolgal wonders whether NYC teachers will find anything familiar in the deal LA union leaders struck with their mayor? I see a hand raised in front. Yes?

That's right. They made the deal without waiting for the union's policy-making body (let alone rank-and-file) to vote on it.

Perhaps that's the "new" teacher union stance I hear bandied about so much. If only those darn teachers would stop worrying about trivial things and just cede total control--which is precisely what LA is poised to give the Mayor.

Some folks say teachers don't care about kids. Perhaps those people teach their kids to give up their rights at the drop of a hat. My kid will know better.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


The Parent Advisory Board, set up so Mayor Mike can say he's listening to NYC parents even as he ignores them utterly, is getting tired of being used. They're particularly upset about the cell-phone ban, in which Mayor Mike did what he liked despite widespread sentiment otherwise.

In fact, they're so upset, they're taking him to court.

We'll see if Mayor Mike respects the courts any more than the parents.

Don't count on it.


The Carnival Is in Town

Actually, it's all the way over in la-la land. Play the jukebox at this week's carnival over at the LA Times' cool new School Me blog.

New Laws

NYC Educator has been on the road for the last few days, along with Senora Educadora and little NYCita. I'm afraid, viewing the country, I've determined there need to be some new laws, and perhaps a constitutional amendment to enforce them.

First, there needs to be a special ring of hell for people who get into the fast lane on Tennesee highways with seventy-mile speed limits, and drive 57 mph. Yesterday, I was behind the proverbial Arkansas traveler, with the license plates to prove it, and the only thing missing was the theme music.

Drivers who move slowly, then speed up just as you're passing them need to be executed. For this, we need those military tribunals so as to save the expense of trials.

Finally, bands who play in theme parks may not take a forty dollar tape recorder, put it on the stage, press the results as a CD, and sell it to their listeners. For this infraction, the penalty must be financial. First, they must refund all proceeds from the crap CD. Then, they must perform their music at the park exactly as it sounded on the CD.

If they lose their jobs as a result (and they surely will), we must attribute that to karma.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

So Long, Mike

Michael Winerip, head and shoulders the very best education columnist I've ever seen, is leaving the NY Times. My friend Schoolgal also bemoans the loss of a columnist who took the time to respond to her emails. Many education columnists seem not to have encountered teachers since they left high school, and have seen public school teachers only in museum photos.

He leaves with some choice words about No Child Left Behind, characterizing it as relying on standardized testing because it mistrusts teachers, along with a plea for reduced class size. There's a little history on how figures like Jeb Bush and Michael Bloomberg have battled against it.

Of course standardized tests suggest teacher judgment is inadequate. If they were the only way to judge progress, no one my age would be able to read. A better step would be to insist on and seek out quality teachers, even if it meant (gasp) paying them. This is particularly important in places like NYC, where adult role-models are not always in abundant supply. What can you expect from a city that elects demagogues like Rudy Giuliani?

As a parent, I can't imagine how the obvious advantages of smaller class size eludes anyone with children. Kids need more attention from adults, not less. This is particularly true, again, in areas like NYC. There are studies, but why anyone needs one is beyond me.

Lastly, Winerip suggests a "No Family Left Behind" act, as crushing poverty, unbeknownst to the likes of Bush and Bloomberg, can severely inhibit education. He points out that NCLB is resulting in curricula that sacrifices education to test prep.

There's no one to replace Mike Winerip, and very few education writers with the remotest notion of what goes on in classrooms, and I'm very sad to see him go.

English? Who Needs English?

I'm surprised by an article in the Times stating that NY State is leaving ESL students behind. It's quite true, or course, but for none of the reasons the article states.

Apparently, the feds have deemed that the NYCESLAT exam, which purports to measure the proficiency of ESL students in English, does not measure the same things as the English Regents. That's true also, but the English Regents is supposed to measure reading and writing skills, not the extent to which kids born here have acquired the English language.

The odd thing is that the feds, the state, and apparently the Times seems to think that the NYCESLAT is a stand-in for the Regents exam. It is not. All ESL students are required to take the English Regents exam, and are denied graduation if they fail to pass it.

This results in kids who've been here for a very short time being compelled to take the test. I am regularly sent kids who cannot speak English at all and asked to prepare them for the Regents exam. It's absurd.

As for the NYCESLAT, it tests only things I'd teach to first-year students. Originally the standard was set so high that a perfect score, apparently, was required to pass. Then the standard was lowered dramatically, so that many kids with few English skills could pass. The city test sets the bar even lower.

We're not doing these kids any service by setting the bar so low, and sending them to college with such meager language skills. Nor do the Times, the feds, or the state do us any service by being so poorly informed.

Update: A poster writes that this applies to grades 3-8, not high school. I'm not changing the piece, because I think while the grades may have changed, the point has not. In fact, this expands the problem.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Teachers Need to Follow in the Mayor's Footsteps

When teachers fail, it's the end of the world. They're leaving children behind, those bastards. How on earth could they requisition summers off? Walmartize the entire operation, pronounces the public.

When Mayor Bloomberg fails, it's also a disaster. How on earth could only 18% of NYC kids meet Regents qualifications under the reign of the one, the only, the education mayor? That's absolutely unacceptable, and something must be done about it. What?

How about reducing the number of required Regents exams from 8 to 5? That just about triples the passing ratio, and makes everything fine.

Why the hell can't those hopeless teachers make progress like Chancellor Klein and Mayor Bloomberg?

Thanks to Schoolgal.

Have a Great Summer

Guess what New York City gave 825 unqualified teachers?

Well, it only took thirty years to get around to it. On the positive side, however, they've attracted about 90 teachers with that signing bonus.

I think it's a step in the right direction. Perhaps another step might be competitive pay. Although Randi Weingarten, UFT President, claims we've caught up with the suburbs, she's laboring under a misconception. This is well-demonstrated by the case of a teacher leaving Lawrence for NYC, and even better by NYSUT's list of Nassau salaries.

Once, NYC paid the highest salaries, had the highest standard for teachers in the state, and was one of the best school systems in the state, a model for the world. The city's 30-year flirtation with the lowest salaries in the area (and the lowest standards for teachers) has been an abysmal failure.

We're saddled with the remanants of that policy for some time to come. But bargain-basement shopping for teachers, as shown by the bonus system, the 800 numbers and the endless job fairs--that's not how you do it. How you do it is by emulating what works.

And anytime Mayor Mike gets curious enough to see what that is, he can just have his chauffer drive east till he crosses the Nassau line.

Muchas gracias a la gal de la escuela

Monday, July 10, 2006

Watch Yourself in Norwalk

Norwalk has had it with parents whose kids don't attend school. They've decided to evict the parents of kids who don't attend regularly. But only those who reside in public housing.

I have mixed feelings about this. I agree with opponents that making them homeless will probably not contribute to improved attendance. I've had a few students who lived in shelters, and it's really heartbreaking, particularly when you see they're really good kids.

On the other hand, I will say just about anything to manipulate troublesome kids and their parents. There's a law in NY State that says parents who refuse to come to school are guilty of neglect, or abuse, or something. I wouldn't hesitate to threaten a parent, and follow up if I thought it would help.

I also wouldn't hesitate to threaten a parent with eviction, if you threw that into my bag of tricks. However, I do agree that it's unfair to pick on parents who reside in public housing. That's not fair.

So let's evict all parents who don't send their kids to school, no matter where they live.

It's Good to Be King

Mel Brooks said that. It wasn't during this scene, though. He was at the shooting range. He'd call "Pull!" a peasant would fly into the air, and King Mel would shoot him.

Anyway, it's also good to be principal. Well, of course women find high school principals sexually irresistable. Why do you think they decorate their homes with long wooden benches instead of sofas? But I digress. That's not the main reason. What is, you ask?

Well, if your scores go up, you get bonus pay.

One of the great things about this system is it doesn't matter how badly your school stinks. Consider this--if only one kid passed last year, and two passed this year, your ratio improved 100%. Who cares about the other 2,764 kids who flunked under your beneficent guidance? Cancellor Klein likes to accentuate the positive.

And if your school is being closed because it's a miserable, irredeemable failure, you still get a cool 5-15K for that great job you did!

I, for one, am glad the UFT opened the door to merit pay with that "lead teacher" think. I can't wait to get my paws on Mayor Mike's Millions, and frankly, I'm getting sick and tired of having to work for it.

I have my standards. And I'm absolutely ready and willing to lower them.

Thanks again to Schoolgal!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Is Size Everything?

Here's another teacher who lost his job. He says it's because he's overweight. Michael Frank,who weighs 325 lbs., was not granted tenure at Lawrence Middle School, despite four years of "overwhelmingly positive reviews."

Frank, who is 6-feet-4, says the assistant superintendent evaluating his classroom performance said, "You are so big and sloppy," and "your appearance is not conducive to learning."

It's hard to imagine an administrator who doesn't work for NYC schools saying something that stupid, but perhaps Frank's former boss is the exception that proves the rule.

There's one more thing, however, about this story that puzzles me:

He lost his job teaching seventh-grade math at Lawrence Middle School, and has since found a lower-paying job at August Martin High School in Queens.

Didn't UFT President Randi Weingarten declare that we'd caught up with the suburbs?

But--if he's making less in the city, that means he was making more in the suburbs. So that means--wait--what did Miss Clavel say?--Something is not right.

Extra credit to the first poster who can explain what it is.

Thanks to Schoolgal for the tip.

Hey Mr. Taliban, Tally Me Banana

It appears Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, former Taliban spokesman, will not be able to matriculate in Yale. Frankly I'm shocked.

I mean, can't they give this guy credit for life experience? How many Yale students took part in a regime that held mass murders in football fields? Are they against multiculturalism or something?

What a blatant lack of consideration. Do they think this guy can just go to some crappy community college after a lifetime of subjugating women, blowing up wondrous Buddhas carved into mountains, and sheltering Osama?

Let's send Mr. Hashemi to Yale. Perhaps he'll learn to run the Taliban the way President Bush ran the war in Afghanistan. Then they'll never regroup or succeed, they'll involve themselves with wholly irrelevant pursuits, and we'll never have to hear from them again.

Let's use a little strategery here, folks.

NYPD Sends the Mayor a Message

It's interesting when Mayor Bloomberg throws up his hands and calls for binding arbitration. The woefully underpaid NYPD, not surprisingly, has yet to jump at his typically unattractive offer. Oddly enough, this Mayor is not content to sit and wait for years, as public employees have often done for him.

Unlike our union leaders, the NYPD's are smart and tough. They insisted on raising pay for veteran cops last time, agreeing to pay cuts for rookies. The noble UFT insisted on protecting rookies, and was roundly praised for it. For about five minutes. Then the Post and News began their semi-weekly pronouncements that we were and would always be the lowest form of scum of God's green earth.

But the cops "ate their young," as the geniuses at Edwize put it. Guess what? It got a lot harder to attract cops. Now, the city wants to raise starting pay, but NYPD wants all cops to get a raise. Whose problem is this? Bloomberg's, of course. This is yet another entirely predictable consequence. If teachers in the lunchroom knew it would happen, why didn't the mayor?

Thanks to Schoolgal!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Semesters of Our Lives Chapter 11

A Minor Alteration

Richard hadn’t been summoned to the principal since ninth grade. But little had changed—there was the long wooden bench, and the bespectacled lady behind the wooden counter bade him to sit and wait. There were photos on the walls—the principal with this guy, shaking hand with that guy, smiling with the baseball team, certificates of gratitude, letters…how long would he have to wait.

After many minutes, Richard could bear it no longer, and decided to go to the bathroom. He wondered whether he needed permission. He stood up.

“Mr. Carter. The principal will see you now.”

Richard walked into the office. Wow. It was big. There was a conference room, a living room, a coffee machine, a refrigerator—uh-oh. There was Ms. Goodrich, his boss, who hadn’t said a kind word to him since the meatball incident.

“Please sit down, Mr. Carter,” said the principal. He was smiling slightly. That was good, possibly. “Ms. Goodrich?” She was going to speak. That was bad. Also Mr. Benjamin, the math AP, was there. He looked like Bernie Mac, plus 10 years and 20 pounds. Also, Jennifer’s boss, Dr. Canales, was there. That was strange.

“Richard,” began Ms. Goodrich. “We’ve formed a bond, a very special bond, these past few months, and I hate it when something comes along to interrupt my training, it saddens me. I know how much you’ve come to depend on my counsel, and believe me, you can continue coming to me with whatever is on your mind. I was just telling the principal about how much you’ve grown as a pedagogue…”

That was strange to hear. Just yesterday she entered his classroom and screamed at him about the writing on one of the desks…

“..but we have to allow for the exigencies of the moment, and…”

“We want you to teach ESL, two classes, and math, two classes,” said Mr. Benjamin. “You’ll continue with one of your English classes.”

“I’m not really good at math,” said Richard.

“That’s okay,” said Mr. Benjamin. “Your resume says you used to work as a musician. So improvise. Fake it until you make it. Anyway, this math is so easy anyone can do it.”

“But why did you pick me to do it?” Richard asked.

“There comes a time, in life’s rich pageant, when we need to…” began the principal.

“Because they can’t learn and you can’t teach,” interrupted Mr. Benjamin, definitively. “It’ll be a thing of beauty. Really, you’ll do fine, kid. Any other questions?”

“What’s ESL?” asked Richard.

“It’s when you teach kids from other countries how to speak English.” Said Mr. Benjamin, flashing a movie-star smile. “You’ll love it. You have two sections of ESL 1. Start with hi, how are you, and go from there. Fake it until you make it.”

“I will help you,” said Dr. Canales, unconvincingly.

“I don’t have licenses in ESL or math,” admitted Richard.

“No one cares,” said Mr. Benjamin.

“Why are you asking me to do this?” asked Richard.

The principal cleared his throat. “It’s not really relevant. You see, sometimes, in the best of schools, even under optimal circumstances, the long, cold hand of….”

“Ms. Moscowitz had a nervous breakdown,” interrupted Mr. Benjamin. “We swapped a few classes around and gave you what was left.”

Richard was starting to like Mr. Benjamin. For one thing, he actually understood every word the man said. For another, Mr. Benjamin plainly had no respect whatsoever for Ms. Goodrich or the principal.

Richard wondered how he got away with being so up-front about it.

Next Week: The Observation to End All Observations