Thursday, August 31, 2006

Startup Tips

I Wish Someone Had Told Me

Practical suggestions were few and far between when I started out. I was an English teacher, with an AP who spent hours describing the difference between an “aim” and an “instructional objective.” To this day, I haven’t the slightest notion what she was talking about. She also spent a good deal of time describing the trials and tribulations of her cooking projects, and other utterly useless information.

Neither she nor any teacher of education ever advised me on classroom control. The standing platitude was “A good lesson plan is the best way to control a class,” but I no longer believe that. I think a good lesson plan is the best thing to have after you control the class.

I also think a good lesson plan need not be written at all, as long as you know what you’re doing. If you don’t, neither the lesson plan nor the aim will be much help.

The best trick, and it’s not much of a trick at all, is frequent home contact. It’s true that not all parents will be helpful, but I’ve found most of them to be. When kids know reports of their classroom behavior will reach their homes, they tend to save the acting out for your lazier colleagues—the ones who find it too inconvenient to call. You are not being "mean" or petty--you're doing your job, and probably helping the kid. If you want to really make a point, make a dozen calls after the first day of class. Or do it the day before a week-long vacation.

Now you could certainly send that ill-mannered kid to the dean, to your AP, to the guidance counselor, or any number of places. But when you do that, you’re sending a clear message that you cannot deal with that kid—he or she is just too much for you. You’ve already lost.

And what is that dean going to do anyway? Lecture the child? Call the home? Why not do it yourself?

You need to be positive when you call. Politely introduce yourself and say this:

“I’m very concerned about _______________. ___________ is a very bright kid. That’s why I’m shocked at these grades: 50, 14, 0, 12, and 43 (or whatever). I’d really like __________ to pass the class, and I know you would too.”

I’ve yet to encounter the parent who says no, my kids are stupid, and I don’t want them to pass.

“Also, I’ve noticed that ___________ is a leader. For example, every time ___________ (describe objectionable behavior here) or says (quote exact words here—always immediately write objectionable statements) many other students want to do/say that too.”

"I'm also concerned because ________ was absent on (insert dates here) and late (insert dates and lengths here).

I certainly hope you will give _________ some good advice so ___________ can pass the class.”

If the kid’s parents speak a foreign language you don’t know, find someone else who also speaks it, and write down what you want that person to tell the parent.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone in your room, next time you have a test, get on the phone in front of your class and call the homes of the kids who aren’t there. Express concern and ask where they are. If the kid is cutting, it will be a while before that happens again. If the kid is sick, thank the parent and wish for a speedy recovery.

The kids in your class will think twice about giving you a hard time.

Kids test you all the time. It’s hard not to lose your temper, but it’s a terrible loss for you if you do. When kids know you will call their homes, they will be far less likely to disrupt your class. The minutes you spend making calls are a very minor inconvenience compared to having a disruptive class.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a reasonable and supportive AP, God bless you. If not, like many teachers, you’ll just have to learn to take care of yourself. If you really like kids, if you really know your subject, and if you really want to teach, you’ll get the hang of it.

But make those phone calls. The longer you do it, the more kids will know it, and the fewer calls you’ll have to make.

Your AP, whether good, bad, or indifferent, will certainly appreciate having fewer discipline problems from you. More importantly, you might spend less time dealing with discipline problems, and more helping all those kids in your room.

Originally posted June 5, 2005

See also:

Ms. Cornelius with everything they forgot (or more likely, never knew about) at ed. school, and great advice from a new teacher at Syntactic Gymnastics

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Dropping the Pretense

Brooklyn Principal Jolanta Roloff rolled out her magic pencil and adjusted hundreds of grades, based on Regents exam scores. Obviously, the test scores are far more significant than whatever may have occurred over hours and months in a classroom.

So why bother consulting teachers? If their grades did not conform precisely with the Regents exam, they were clearly of no value whatsoever.

So what if a kid didn't show up to class the whole year, then read a review book and passed? The teacher should have known that would happen. If the kid did excellent work all year but got carried away in an ambulance on test day, the teacher must not have done a good job.

Apparently, though, the new "no excuses" policy applies exclusively to teachers. There will be no consequences for Ms. Roloff.

Chaz has a few thoughts about this.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Curtain Up

Thespis Journal presents the 82nd edition of the Carnival of Education.

Hurry up, or you'll have to wait till intermission.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

No Excuses Here

It's all on the teachers. NYC Deputy Chancellor Alonso would be proud of what's happening in Motor City.

Detroit, facing a 105-million dollar deficit, wants its teachers to pay for almost 90% of it through wage and benefit cuts. Does anyone suppose that the teachers would be offered 90% of a surplus?

Historically, in NYC municipal employees take zeroes, or multiple zeroes, when the city's going through rough times. We defer pay and get it back years later.

During boom times, though, we do not share in the benefits.

Detroit teachers, facing a 5% pay reduction, have indeed been driven to the edge. The judge was wise to order negotiation in lieu of capitiulation.

It's disgraceful that the district can't even be bothered sending people with authority to negotiate, and also disgraceful there are no consequences for management's failure to negotiate in good faith.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Trimming the Fat

It's tough to cut down on administrative costs. I remember when NYC Schools Chancellor Klein cut down on teacher indoctrination days. It seemed like a good idea. But then when he reinstated them, and added more, its impressiveness withered.

When he removed levels of administration, it seemed like another good idea. Of course, when he added more layers than he removed, I once again failed to perceive the net improvement.

How do you resolve such conundrums?

Well, in this case, the Chancellor has determined the best way to eliminate waste is through a no-bid contract. That will cost the city 17 million dollars.

In St. Louis, the company only charged 5 million, but was able to cut costs substantially. How did they do this?

It cut $79 million from the district's bureaucracy, but spawned controversy by firing 1,400 nonteaching employees, outsourcing food, custodial and warehousing contracts and shutting 21 schools, many in predominately black neighborhoods.

Sounds like just what we need, right? Well, proven experience doesn't come cheap. That's why 7 individuals alone are getting paid 1 to 1.7 million each for this service.

UFT President Randi Weingarten now says no-bid contracts are another reason to re-examine mayoral control, which sunsets in 2009. I couldn't agree more, and I hope she gets some mileage out of this, unlike the debacle that succeeded her challenge to slimeball John Stossel.

It's unfortunate Ms. Weingarten didn't have the foresight to examine mayoral control before having given it the UFT's crucial support.

Thanks to Schoolgal, Norm, and Patrick

Monday, August 28, 2006

Forget Merit Pay

It's all about sex. Let's bring back single-sex schools.

And make sure the teachers are the right sex too. Here's a new study claiming that boys learn better from men, and that girls learn better from women.

In college, I had great teachers of both sexes. They knew everything about literature, and woe to those who dared dispute them.

In high school, I had terrible teachers of both sexes. This was an era, though, where it was regarded as hip to play Neil Young songs in class rather than assign anything so inconvenient as books.

Frankly, I find it tough to see this as much of an issue. But I could be wrong.

What do you think?

Leaving No Sacred Cow Behind

Here's a stunningly powerful editorial from the NY Times declaring that charters, despite what Chancellor Klein may say, are not a panacea. I don't think there is any such thing as a panacea as far as education goes. But the Times is very specific:

Too many lawmakers seem to believe that the only thing wrong with American education is the public school system, and that converting lagging schools to charter schools would cause them to magically improve.

Frankly, I'm not altogether convinced even lawmakers advocating charters believe this, so I'm glad they modified it with "seem." Public schools are a prime target, full of nasty union employees who'd like nothing better than to raise Steve Forbes' tax bill. Vouchers haven't captured the public imagination, so such politicians are direly in need of some gimmick that will relieve them of actually paying for good teachers, decent facilities, and reasonable class sizes.

There are certainly good charter schools, and charters might be useful in a diverse city like NY. Optimally, they wouldn't be used to divert attention from rampant neglect of our school system or unconscionable overcrowding. Nor would they be used as exercises in union-busting.

Where I live, we pay teachers well, get hundreds of applications for each and every position (in each and every discipline),send our children to buildings that plainly show we care, and do not subject them to the highest class sizes in the state of New York.

Here, there's little discussion of charters. There's little discussion of vouchers. There's no discussion of merit pay (Why in the world would anyone truly concerned about education want to hire teachers without merit at any price?), and no school officials making the preposterous contention that teachers are the only factor in the education of children.

Treating teachers like items to be scraped off of Chancellor Klein's Florsheims is not precisely what will retain them in the long-term. Denying that years of experience may factor into teacher quality will not much help kids either.

President Bush may be comfortable with such tactics, as they inspire voucher programs which directly undermine public education (a constant drag on Steve Forbes' tax bill). Nonetheless, Mayor Bloomberg, if he genuinely wishes to leave the system better than he found it, simply can't afford to ignore the genuine dysfunction of our school system anymore.

He needs to step up and make sure the CFE lawsuit, promising good teachers, decent facilities, and smaller classes become more than an overly optimistic pipe-dream (even if he has to pay for it). He's got to stop slavishly emulating GW's chronically underfunded and insincere No Child Left Behind. The Times is grateful for the increase in available statistics. But that's plainly not enough:

Four years later, the national teacher corps is still in a shambles. Until Congress changes that, everything else will amount to little more than tinkering at the margins.

Nowhere is this more true than in New York City. Charters, maybe.

But let's attend to the schools that serve the overwhelming majority of New York City's children first.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Fresh Pig

Ron Isaacs, aka "Redhog", is offering us yet another chapter of his newfound philosophy. You may remember that Ron wrote a litany of lies and half truths praising the contract on Edwize, using yet another name so we wouldn't peg him for the Unity hack he is.

Despite Ron's claim to be "from the trenches,", he crawled out of his trench ands retired before the contract was a year old to grab a UFT patronage job.

Here's something you may not know about Redhog--two years ago he was so disenchanted with the monopoly UFT leadership that he ran against them, with ICE. In fact, I'm led to believe he helped them to get on the ballot. This could not have been a capricious decision, since he'd been a chapter leader for years beforehand.

Now that he's got one of those neat two-pension UFT jobs, though, Ron adores Unity and its history so much that he's written a memorial to former UFT President Sandy Feldman. You've gotta wonder how much adoration he felt for her two years ago, when he was running against the party to which she devoted her career.

And you've gotta question the wisdom of showering patronage on people whose loyalties are so blatantly for sale. When the UFT leadership comes up for re-election next year, it'll be high time to consider a healthier dietary alternative.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Take This Job and....Relocate it

Teacher Eric Hamlin was suspended from his post as a Denver geography teacher due to his refusal to remove Mexican and Chinese flags from his classroom. In Denver, there's a regulation against flying foreign flags in school.

He was then offered the opportunity to return, along with an offer to display foreign flags for up to 12 weeks at a time. Hamlin has declined the offer, opting to stay in the district, but choosing to serve in another school. He feels his continued presence could be a distraction, due to all the publicity he's received.

What do you think about this teacher's actions, or the proposed compromise?

Thanks to Jonathan

Another Mayoral Triumph

This year, Mayor Mike was able to accomodate 60% of the requests of kids wishing to opt out of failing schools. That's about twice as many as last year.

Unfortunately, there wasn't enough space to accomodate them all. Mayor Mike certainly did his darndest. For example, my school, already at 250% capacity, is slated to get 200 extra students next year. I want to personally thank Mayor Mike for his overwhelming concern, and I have no doubt that he'll be able to squeeze in hundreds, if not thousands more, over the next three years.

Meanwhile, the CFE lawsuit, which promised good teachers, decent facilities, and smaller classes, rots away in limbo due to his unwillingness to pay any percentage of it.

Congratulations, though, to the 5% of city students who managed to get into a good school, like the one in which I work.

Friday, August 25, 2006

More Great News from DC

In yet another important step toward the single most important goal in America today, reducing Steve Forbes' tax bill, the federal government has withdrawn all aid to the Center for Hispanic Medical Students.

Asked about this, Mayor Bloomberg wondered out loud, "Hmmm. How can we do the same for billionaire charter school chief Courtney Ross? State-for-the-art school facilities are simply not enough for people that rich."

So, remember, if your school is at 250% capacity, like mine, and you're trudging through puddles and snow to your trailers, like us, you and your kids aren't simply suffering an inconvenience.

You're performing a vital public service.

Dangerous Schools

They're a tough issue. But one of the DoE's most cherished approaches to tough problems is denial. Say the schools in question are special education schools, for example, so they're supposed to be dangerous.

Or claim that since the weapons you found were during entry searches, that they shouldn't count. That's an odd argument from the administration that recently claimed if it found nothing from the random search program, it would prove the program was a success.

The article, of course, neglects to mention the time-honored tradition of principals not reporting incidents in the first place, so who knows what's really going on?

Not us, I have to suppose.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Thursday, August 24, 2006

We're Back in Kansas, Dorothy

Low income students will no longer be receiving federal grants to study evolutionary biology, it appears. Various government spokespersons declared the omission an error.

Of course, various government spokespersons said the Iraq mission was accomplished three years ago, that the resistance was winding down, that Sadaam had WMDs and was in league with Al Queda, and that the war would last 6 days or 6 weeks (they doubted six months).

Perhaps that's why others feel it's yet another step to refute well-established science and edge the United States back to feudalism. We've got those highly efficient black boxes now so who knows whether or not our votes are being counted?If it weren't for that nasty science and history intruding everywhere, perhaps the Bush administration would be able to proceed more rapidly with the vital business of reducing Steve Forbes' tax bill.

Another Brainstorm

Mayor Bloomberg's representative declared the city would not contribute a single dime to the CFE lawsuit. Therefore, despite a state Supreme Court ruling, it's somehow still not resolved.

So, sorry, NYC, but your kids will continue to have the highest class sizes in the state. And the money that would be devoted to procuring quality teachers is just not there. And schools at 250% capacity (like mine) are just gonna have to stay that way.

But guess what? The day after the Daily News reported that the DoE was spending millions on no-bid contracts, NYC Schools Chancellor Klein declared that all 10th and 11th graders would be able to take the PSAT for free.

Doesn't that make you feel better, as you try to crawl over your fellow students to get to your earth science class on time? So what if it's taught by a gym teacher? The whistle keeps you awake, at least.

Thanks to Schoolgal.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bad Spell for Charters

USA Today reports that charters, after all, do not outperform public schools. So does the NY Times. Despite having 100% enrollment of kids with proactive parents, they do a little worse.

US Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings says they need more time. After all, it's only been six years since Michael Bloomberg got into office, and he still hasn't managed to bust a single union.

According to the articale, Albert Shanker came up with the notion of charter schools. I'm sure he did not envision them in the hands of demagogues like Eva Moskowitz. I can see a useful role for charters. Unfortunately, folks like Bloomberg and Spellings see them as nothing more than a battering-ram to be wielded against the inconvenience of unionism.

One only needs to observe the obscenely preferential treatment received by charters to see how little Mayor Mike values open public education.

Read more from Jim Horn at Schools Matter.

Thanks to reality-based educator

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Blatant Discrimination

The Department of Education has not yet granted charters extra transportation money to cover Metrocards for kids in the Eva Moskowitz School (or other charters). They're using the flimsy excuse that since they start the school year earlier than public schools, they can't have extra funds.

Frankly, that's poppycock. If they were treating charters the same as public schools, why did billionaire Courtney Ross get a state-of-the-art facility while most city kids are just as liable to learn in bathrooms, closets, or hallways? Why isn't Mistress Eva's school in a buiding at 250% capacity, like mine?

And come to think of it, why isn't NYC Deputy Chancellor Alonso up on his hind legs screaming "no excuses," and demanding Mistress Eva get in her Range Rover and drive the kids to school herself?

Thanks to Schoolgal

Monday, August 21, 2006

Hey, Big Spender

Tired of that nasty teaching job?

Consider becoming a teacher trainer. Or a consultant. Or open up a testing company.

Because Chancellor Klein, who squeezes every penny fifty times before letting it trickle down to an educator, believes in granting no-bid contracts to people like that.

Millions and millions, and money is no object.

Sure beats working.

Update: The News story has generated outrage from several city politicians, who threaten hearings. Despite great personal distaste, ace tipster Schoolgal swears to follow the teacher-bashing Daily News for further developments, so we'll see what comes of this.

But please, let's sit while we wait.

Thanks to Schoolgal (for the headline too!)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Bad Taste Is Timeless

I used to work occasionally at parties with this guy who served genuine Texas barbecue. People raved about it. I tried it, and found it bland, nearly tasteless in fact. I thought the guy was a fraud. Now I've got a book called Roadfood, which recommends genuine barbecue joints all over the country (among many other things, and it's a great book).

We stopped at a genuine barbecue joint in Georgia a few weeks back, and I learned that genuine barbecue is indeed what the Texas guy was serving. I came to a very humiliating realization--I don't like genuine barbecue. Here in Orlando, on Semoral Drive and Curry Ford, there's a little Cuban joint in a strip mall called Martin's BBQ with ribs that I would fight you for. They cost maybe 8 bucks a pound.

Still, I'm truly ashamed not to appreciate such an important part of Americana. I thought I knew better.

If you go to Orlando, after you get ribs, shoot over to the coast to see Anna Maria Island, with beautiful green water that's as warm as your bathtub. Pick up a hotel discount book on a thruway, and be prepared to lay out up to 60 bucks a night for a hotel, or rent a 2-bedroom condo for 75 in nearby Bradenton. Look for Alvarez Mexican Restaurant on the way.

And check out Blue Spring State Park, on the St. John's River. It's mystical, beautiful, and incomparable. And just in case that ain't enough, bring charcoal and you can make your own barbecue (any style you like).

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Tom Terrific

If you're planning to vote in the upcoming Democratic primary, you ought to know that Tom Suozzi has declared funding in NYC is a "moral crisis." Mr. Suozzi proposes, among other things, more charter school and raising aid to NYC by less than half of what the CFE lawsuit mandated.

His opponent, Eliot Spitzer, proposes to boost aid by close to the mandate (Mayor Bloomberg, the education mayor, has declared throught a representative his intention to contribute not one dime toward the NY State Supreme Court mandate). Suozzi says full funding will result in a tax hike. Spitzer says it won't.

Supremely ambitious Suozzi got my vote for Nassau County Executive. I was thrilled when he beat a party hack to get the nomination.

Furthermore, Suozzi is absolutely right that funding NYC is a moral crisis. That's why I'm voting for Spitzer, first in the primary, and then for governor.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Obvious Eludes Alonso (Says Alonso)

The NY Times reports that minority students are declining in the most selective NYC schools. NYC Deputy Chancellor Andres Alonso finds this “extraordinarily surprising,” perhaps since it goes a long way toward contradicting his absurd contention that teachers are the sole factor in student achievement. Is race a factor?

Absolutely not. The influence of home and culture are factors, and American culture, from the lying, self-serving president on down, places little emphasis on personal responsibility (unless you feel blaming the poor for their poverty counts). Proactive parents are the single most valid predictor of academic success. Those working two or three jobs are far less likely to have time for their kids.

I've been shocked by some of the very, very cheap shots against Jonathon Kozol around the blogosphere. Impoverished individuals are playing perpetual catch-up and don't tend to have time to check their kids' homework.

There are certainly exceptions to this rule. I've seen kids come from awful homes who've used school as an escape from the chaos that generally rules their lives. I've also seen kids from very poor homes whose families knew and stressed the value of education. But to dismiss poverty as a factor is at best, idiotic, and at worst, a blatantly insincere mode of pointing the finger at working people.

NYC's 30-year policy of hiring teachers from the bottom of the barrel hasn't helped much either. Nor has Tweed's insistence on gimmicks and buzzwords in place of real solutions.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Only the Best Principals for our Precious Children

Anyone curious how much value the Bloomberg administration places on experience need only read this column by Samuel Freedman comparing the traditional route to principal with that of Klein's academy. It's truly incredible that Klein seems to value neither classroom experience, administrative experience, nor even a master's degree.

I'm struck, however, by this paragraph:

The upheaval in New York’s corps of 1,451 principals — more than half have resigned or retired in five years — cannot be laid entirely to Mr. Klein and his approach. Higher salaries in the suburbs, periodic buyout offers and protracted periods without a new contract have all contributed to the current situation.

Pardon me, Mr. Freeman, but isn't Klein responsible for the disparity in salary between the suburbs and the city? Isn't Klein responsible for the protracted periods without a contract? Isn't Klein responsible for any and all buyout offers that occurred under his tenure?

How come all talk of accountability begins and ends with teachers?

In fact, it's entirely Klein's fault we're using cut-rate, bargain-basement principals. The results are predictable: precisely the same as those thirty years of cut-rate, bargain-basement teachers have wrought.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Summer Diversions, Part 2

Whatever you do, don't download Gazillionaire.

You'll surely become addicted, as some of us here, and be compelled to shell out thirty bucks for the full version.

Even if you don't, the free version is great. One of the finest time-wasters since television.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Well, it's not all that surprising to find it in the NY Post op-ed page. The basis of Kleinspeak is this--teachers have more protections than many working people. The way to make life better for working people is to degrade those protections. You won't find anything in Murdoch's editorial pages suggesting that American workers, whose jobs have been under siege for many years, might benefit from more protection.

That would be socialism, I suppose.

And you'll find no suggestion from Joel Klein that the kids he mentions will ever grow up and become working people.

The civil-service system that forms the basis of public employment is deeply entrenched and resistant to change. The basic pillars of that system - life tenure, lock-step pay and seniority - essentially mean that, whether you are good or bad or whether you work in a more challenging or less challenging school or whether your are qualified to teach in a hard-to-fill position like math or science, you get paid the same, with differentiation based on length of service.

I love Klein's condemnation of "lockstep" pay. It's odd, though, that he and his boss insisted on lockstep pay when negotiating contracts not only with the UFT, but with every single city union. Lockstep pay, evidently, is a good thing when it ensures city workers get well under cost of living raises. It's bad, however, when it results in their actually being paid for experience.

Talk of quality employees is remarkable coming from the guy who went to Albany to beg for the right to hire and retain teachers who'd repeatedly failed competency tests (so that he wouldn't have to pay competitively). Bad teachers, evidently, are OK for NYC's kids as long as they aren't paid very much. If you accept that premise, you gotta love Klein and Bloomberg.

You'd think it wasn't the city that selected all teachers in the first place. You'd think that NYC, with similar contracts, wasn't one of the best school systems in the world until the city started experimenting with lowest-common-denominator intergalactic 800-number teacher recruitment.

Most of all, you'd think there weren't an abundance of successful public schools a stone's throw east of New York City that exercise high standards and have great schools full of great teachers. My kid attends one of those schools, and I see what works every day. Apparently, it never occurs to union-busters like Klein to replicate success. Klein looks at a successful school and thinks. "Boy, what a great place to dump the charter my billionaire buddy wants to start."

Fortunately, we are beginning to change the culture of employee uniformity. Our most recent agreement with the teachers' union puts an end to the practice of teachers being able to insist on transferring from one school to another based solely on their seniority.

However you may feel about it, the UFT transfer plan was bought with zero-percent raises. For Unity to toss it away without even getting cost-of-living in return was bad, bad business. Its loss will not help retain teachers, and the chancellor has not word one on that topic, further evidence it's, at best, meaningless to him.

In addition, we have begun the process of using pay to differentiate our employees based on need and talent. We have a bonus program for principals and assistant principals based on student performance. And now, for the first time, we are able to offer generous signing bonuses for experienced math, science and special education teachers.

I'd like to think experience were valued by the city, but this piece shows no evidence of that. Chancellor Klein also seems to forget that the CFE lawsuit, which stresses good teachers, decent facilities, and smaller classes for all NYC's kids is being blocked due to the refusal of his "accountable" boss to contribute dime one of NYC's budget towards its realization.

These are important first steps toward work-force differentiation. But make no mistake about it: We have a long road ahead of us. We need to create a real meritocracy to replace the civil-service culture of uniformity in public education. We need substantial merit pay, based on student performance, and a system that enables us to remove unsatisfactory employees.

It's time for the UFT to wake up. Klein's fondest wishes were spelled out in the 8-page contract that reduced teachers to the status of Wal-Mart associates. Though he's using prettier words, that's precisely what he's advocating here. Klein talks of accountability, but spells out viable consequences only for working people. Despite his many words, they're the only ones remotely "accountable."

Educators are one of the very last bastions of unionism in a country that increasingly values nothing more than relieving Steve Forbes' tax bill. If you don't happen to be Steve Forbes, the way to create opportunity for your kids is by strengthening, not crippling unionism. We need a strong union, one that recognizes the folly of giving away the store for less than nothing.

The first step to that is getting rid of the folks who brought us this awful, awful contract.

Thanks to 17 More Years

Looking for Adventure?

Why not try teaching in China? You'll meet interesting people, learn a new language, and experience new and exciting working conditions.

"A number of substandard English language teaching mills have sprung up, seeking to maximize profits while minimizing services," the US House of Representatives International Relations Committee said in a recent report on Russell's case. These institutes have become virtual "`sweatshops' where young, often naive Americans are held as virtual indentured servants."

Tempted? Well then, read on:

In one case, an American ended up dead. Darren Russell, 35, from Calabasas, California, died under mysterious circumstances days after a dispute caused him to quit his teaching job in the southern city of Guangzhou.

"I'm so scared. I need to get out of here," Russell said in a message left on his father's cellphone hours before his death in what Chinese authorities said was a traffic accident.

I don't know about you, but I'd have a lawyer look over any contract I signed before going to a foreign country to work. I'd also make sure it was in a language I understood, and that it could be enforced. American teachers, while most come back alive, were subject to many sleazy surprises:

One school "piled on classes without compensation, dragged their feet on repairing leaks in her apartment and would deduct sums from her US$625 monthly salary for random taxes and phone calls that were never made. These ranged from US$30 to US$85..."

Perhaps kids, who look to video games for adventure, are often smarter than we are. Better to lose twenty bucks on a mediocre Playstation game than a year of your life, or worse.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Bottom Line on Teacher Retention

I keep reading about teacher retention. The AFT magazine is veritably obsessed with it, and some fellow bloggers wonder what we can do about it. I look at the problem, which admittedly is serious, and I look at the actions of the DoE and the UFT, and there's really only one conclusion to be reached--the powers that be are fine with it.

Imagine you're just coming off a thirty-year teacher shortage. For all that time, the city gleefully lowered standards as low as it could to fill as many chairs as possible. Chancellor Klein, despite much talk otherwise, did the same. Do you find it a logical conclusion the heart of the problem is high pay and work that's too easy?

Well, Chancellor Klein and UFT President Randi Weingarten clearly seem to have backed that conclusion. Otherwise, how could they have endorsed the last contract, which complicated the job, while failing even to keep up with inflation?

In the past, for example, teachers could transfer from one school to another. In the past, teachers could get other jobs if they lost the ones they had. Now, they have to be approved by Klein's army of Jack Welch-principals. Sure, that way principals can veto bad teachers. There's no denying they can also veto a whole lot of other teachers as well.

In all liklehood, they'll weed out teachers who've got a bunch of years under their belts, who inconveniently receive those higher salaries that, apparently, are a great obstacle to kids learning. Now they can be sent out as wandering subs indefinitely (or more likely, till the next contract, when they'll all be let go, with the blessings of Unity hacks everywhere).

Teacher retention? Every teacher who leaves in two years, or five years, gets no pension. Every teacher who leaves in two years, or five years, gets no benefits. Teachers who leave early are an integral part of the system, contributing mightily to both stadiums and charter schools for needy billionaires.

That's why Klein's incentives get people in, but don't bother to keep them there.

How could the entrenched, self-serving and impotent Unity party continue to get re-elected by a group of career teachers?

That's why it endorses incentive that get people in, but don't bother to keep them there.

It's a thing of beauty, akin to "You can't teach, and they can't learn, so we decided to put you together."

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Condo Complex Has Everything (Almost)

Mayor Mike must be excited about the new East Side condo complex. There will be seven new high-rise residential buildings, and one new commercial building. The current residents of the area don't much care for the plan, as it will bring 10,000 new residents to their area.

They think 10,000 extra residents will cause overcrowding, as there is no subway, and the buses are already overcowded. What a bunch of crybabies. Can't they find alternate transportation? I mean, let's not go overboard. Why charter a helicopter when a simple limo will do? And if you must charter a helicopter, carpool for goodness sakes.

The other thing this new community lacks is a school, and the locals are whining about that as well. Now why on earth would anyone rich enough to buy into this development send their kids to public schools? Everyone knows that's for the bootless and unhorsed. You don't see Joel Klein or Mayor Mike sending their kids to public schools, for goodness sakes.

There will be "some affordable housing," whatever "some" means, and whatever "affordable" means. I suppose those who can only afford "affordable" can fight for spots in 200 plus percent capacity schools.

Remember, in NYC it's always "chidren first."

Just not your children.

Thanks to Patrick

Friday, August 11, 2006

Adios, Night School

Mayor Mike has quietly killed night school, so if your kids fall asleep in class, they'll need a better excuse. The city expects to save 4 million dollars,previously frittered away on teacher salaries, with this measure. Principals will now be able to apply for funds for new programs.

As everyone knows, new programs are far better than old programs. That's why Mayor Mike and Uncle Joel don't waste their time insisting on good teachers or decent facilities for NYC's 1.1 million kids.

Why spend money on teachers? Why create a state-of-the-art school building on space that could be used for condos? Why give nice buidlings to indigent children when there are billionaires in need of stadiums and charter schools?

Get real, New York.

Thanks to Schoolgal

I and I Give U a U

Things are great in NYC, if you ask Chancellor Klein. He's now actually got more than one applicant for many teaching jobs. So he no longer needs to grovel in Albany for the right to hire and retain sub-standard teachers in order to fill those ancient wooden chairs without paying a competitive salary. Yup, President Bush's ongoing war against the middle class is pretty much an answer to his prayers.

So Klein's let the principals know it's time to start rating teachers unsatisfactory, in order to give the impression he actually cares about teacher quality. The NY Post reports "U" ratings have increased by 70% over the last four years.

Apparently the Jack Welch-trained principal academy graduates are better at finding fault than their counterparts. Also, it seems easier to rate teachers unsatisfactory now that the bold, visionary leadership of the UFT has given up the right to grieve letters in teachers' files.

According to UFT propagandist Leo Casey, the right to appeal was relatively meaningless, since the UFT was so inept at resolving them. Why he felt that was worth boasting about is beyond me, but I somehow doubt teachers who received "U" ratings are singing his praises right about now.

Naturally, our fearless leader spoke out:

That spike troubled the president of the United Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, who suggested a correlation between the jump and a growing number of rookie principals, particularly those trained at the city-run Leadership Academy.

"The anecdotes we hear from the field are that principals from [the academy] do not respect experience," Weingarten said. "The moment a teacher says, 'I know how to teach,' principals from the institute will actually threaten them with a u-rating."

Ya know, comments like this make me wonder why none of this occurred to Randi before she supported giving Bloomberg total control. They make me wonder what on earth she was thinking when she gave up the right to grive letters in files, along with a grab-bag of goodies for this mayor for a contract that didn't even meet cost-of-living.

Education Department spokesman Keith Kalb acknowledged that the increase in u-ratings has coincided with the implementation of Mayor Bloomberg school reforms, but added that the reforms "always focused on accountability at all levels."

Meaning, of course, accountablity by teachers alone. I honestly doubt they're actually targeting bad teachers, of whom there are plenty, thanks to 30 years of the lowest standards the law would allow.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Double Messages from the Mouse

Here in the happiest place on earth, there's an awful lot of talk about the environment. Yesterday, a young woman asked my daughter, "What can your dad do with that water bottle to help the environment?"

My daughter dutifully replied, "He could recycle it."

Yet after two days of walking up and down Animal Kingdom and Epcot, I've yet to encounter a single recycling bin. How many plastic bottles do you suppose Disney sells in a day? How many do you suppose recycle them, I wondered, as I dumped mine in the trash.

Today, Simba the lion told us a tear-jerking tale about how man has done terrible things to the world, and urged his two companions (Hakuna and Matata?) about how they should not develop the jungle with their money-making scheme.

Driving around the ex-swamp (or whatever it was) that is now Orlando, I couldn't help but notice the huge gap between Disney's words and actions.

Simba's exhibition was full of happy talk about the environment, and how many people are driving bicyles. But all around me were highly overpriced pieces of plastic, probably made in China under God only knows what conditions. And Disney, by refusing to release Fahrenheit 451, helped enable a bunch of crooks who were the worst thing to happen to the environment since New Jersey.

Don't get me wrong, I love Disney World, as do the kids with whom I'm traveling.

But you better not think too much if you really want to enjoy yourself there.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Another of Life's Mysteries

Today we took my young daughter and her cousin to Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World. While my wife sent me on a mission to get a Fastpass for the Everest Expedition (which none of us actually had the guts to ride), the kids each went to a souvenir shop and bought eleven-dollar autograph books.

This grieved me deeply. First of all, it's rough getting through these parks with young kids dragging you every which way. Stopping for autographs was an inconvenience I hadn't planeed for. Worse, there was no way I could get them to understand that the "autographs" were actually being signed by highly unfortunate individuals whose jobs entailed wearing furry animal suits on 97-degree days.

So now, my daughter and her cousin have the signatures of B'rer Bear, Goofy, Mickey and Minnie Mouse (who, like the Clintons, weren't actually together--maybe there's a story there), and a couple of Disney characters I couldn't identify.

And they are happy, happy, happy, despite my cries of "Bah humbug."

So now, I understand a little better why 60% of UFT teachers voted for a contract involving tons of givebacks that didn't meet cost of living. I gotta get to work teaching my kid not to do things like that.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

On the Road

Now why would someone walk into a restaurant wearing a shirt bearing this legend:

I don't have an attitude problem. You have a being an asshole problem.

It brought all sorts of responses to my mind, none of which I spoke in front of the two kids with whom I'm traveling. I'll do you the courtesy of not repeating them here either.

And why would a bottle of lemonade proudly boast "Contains 0% fruit juice?"

The other thing that I keep wondering about is the appeal of convertibles. When the thermostat says high nineties, why does the guy in front of me want to ride around with the top down. Admittedly it looks cool.

But I gotta think every car with AC on was cooler.

Thanks to Norm for the sandwich, which beats much of what's available on the road.

Monday, August 07, 2006

News Flash--Bloomberg Says He's Doing a Great Job

In an op-ed piece in the LA Times, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley discuss mayoral takeover in LA.

There's a brief reference to rising test scores, which is moderately impressive if you ignore concurrently declining test scores, but the piece consists of largely vague and unverifiable statements about non-specific improvements.

We have brought back standards, empowered principals, improved safety and created innovative programs to support struggling students and schools. In addition, we have been able to allocate resources far more efficiently and effectively, shifting money out of the central bureaucracy and into the classroom.

Neither of the two mayors can be bothered to give specific examples how they achieved any of these things. From my vantage point at a 250% capacity high school, I'd like to have seen them.

From what I've read, Bloomberg greatly cut bureaucracy, then turned around and extended it. Klein, his able stooge, cut wasteful professional development (meriting rare applause), then reinstated and expanded it (earning yet another Bronx cheer).

Any reform proposal can always be criticized as less than perfect.

It's odd, then, that they seem to have described it as the greatest thing since sliced bread. When I got up at one of many PR meetings that masqueraded as professional development, and asked one of Klein's flunkies why they had not addressed the fundamental dysfunction of our system, he responded "Well, we had to do something."

I find that a remarkably unimpressive retort. You could have done something effective.

I don't see anything in this piece about quality teachers, decent facilities, or smaller classes. That's not surprising, because Mayor Micahel Bloomberg has openly refused to contribute dime one to the CFE lawsuit that would provide these things.

Mayor Bloomberg prefers shortcuts, gimmicks, and sleight of hand. Stadiums are expensive, and you'll never get them built if you fritter away dollars on kids who don't matter.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Paris Hilton Gives Up Sex for a Year

She says she'll kiss, but nothing else. I can only imagine how disappointed you all must be.

I think she's simply waiting for the repeal of the estate tax. What's an orgasm or two compared to all that money? And make no mistake, that money is bound for Paris, her ilk, and no one else.

Leona Helmseley was right. Taxes are for the "little people." Like you, me, and our children.

It's Magic

Got a problem? Make a new law.

From now on there will be no more snow on weekends. From now on, there will be no more power failures on hot days. From now on, everyone will speak only perfect American English.

A long time ago, immigrants would be given IQ tests and classified as retarded. Well, their scores were no good, weren't they?

In a typical and predictable act, the federal government has declared that testing the English ability of third to eighth-grade ESL students was unacceptable. They must be tested the same way native speakers are tested. They will, therefore, know just as much English as we do.

By magic.

In my school, maybe 90% of the kids who took the NY State English Regents exam passed. Only 55% of the ESL students passed the same test. This was regarded by our administration as a failure that must be corrected. Personally, I didn't buy that. What could they expect? The kids didn't know English. Still, it was regarded by the federal government as a failure that must be replicated wherever possible.

Previously, students who had been in an American school for fewer than three years were exempt from the regular test.

That's not good enough for Margaret Spellings.

Perhaps Ms. Spellings ought to fly to Korea, study for one year, and try to get through college. If my students can do it, why can't she? Here's why, actually:

Christine Rossell, a professor of political science at Boston University, called the federal law completely unrealistic and illogical when applied to students with limited English skills.

Dr. Rossell said students should be tested upon entering school, but the results not used for compliance with the federal law until a child has been in an American school for five years.

Making high school ESL students take the Regents exam was a terrible idea. Because we had to teach them to pass the test, there was often no room on their programs to study English. They can't pass the test until they know English. But they won't have space to study English until they pass the test. Don't worry, though. Margaret Spellings will fix it. With the same magic Rumsfeld's been using in Iraq.

Here's one more thing you won't read in the Times--teachers like me can sometimes use little tricks and show kids with little English how to pass the Regents exam.

But they still won't know English. We can do better for these kids.

Unfortunately, the US government wants, needs, and demands failure in public schools, which happen to be a huge and inconvenient drag on Steve Forbes' tax bill.

You may as well go back to giving them IQ tests in a language they don't understand.

Meanwhile, you want good test scores? You want a good school? Just keep the ESL students out.

That'll be the next big thing. In schools that utilize that approach, scores will skyrocket. NYC Schools Chancellor Klein will praise the principals of those schools, lambast the teachers in the others, and claim victory for mayoral control.

But he believes in magic. And, like Margaret Spellings, he wants you to believe in it too.

Do you believe in magic?

Thanks to Schoolgal and Norm

Saturday, August 05, 2006

NYC Educator's Mailbag

Narda asks:

Is Eva Moskowitz the Antichrist?

Well Narda, here at NYC Educator we kid Ms. Moskowitz, but it's all in good fun. Just because you're a self-serving serial liar, it does not necessarily follow that you're the Antichrist. Let's try not to jump to conclusions.

Sure, she held hearings and labeled unions responsible for all the ills of the city school system. Sure , she ignored the fact that the city actually does all the hiring, chose to use the lowest standard for teachers in the entire state, as well as the fact that the union has no part in rating teachers.

Yes, she ignored the multitude of union schools in Nassau that pay teachers well, are highly selective, and achieve excellence through good teachers and higher standards. And it's certainly true that when NYC had the highest standard for teachers in the state, and the highest pay for teachers in the state, they had the best schools in the state. However, let's not blame Eva for that. All union-busters need us to ignore history.

It is indeed true also that she endorsed a contract that eviscerated all the rights of union employees, and that no union (even ours) would have approved it.

It's also true that she regularly recites falsehoods about the contract (the six-hour forty-minute day, the inability to assign teacher to lunch duty), which she can't be bothered researching, and that she freely misrepresents her school as paying her teachers more. Actually they work more and make substantially less than union employees. She avoids hiring experienced teachers because she would really have to pay them. It's also true that there's no way in hell she wants to run a union shop, and that she wants to become mayor, crush unionism, and help ensure no one in New York City can ever make it to middle class again.

How does that help children? I have no idea. But that's sort of the American way nowadays.

If you read The Chalkboard the day before yesterday (and you should read it every day), you might think that lazy teachers should stop complaining about coming in before Labor Day and go start their own schools. I've no doubt Ms. Moskowitz would heartily endorse this notion. After all, they should count themselves lucky to be working more hours and more days for less than cost of living. Who the hell do they think they are asking to be compensated for more work? No doubt Eva, a driven politician who can't refrain from mentioning her desire to be mayor when ostensibly discussing her school, works 200 hours a week.

I know many working teachers, though, who have their own children to care for, and who did not actually go into teaching to become entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurial streak, in fact, is rare among teachers. People who went into teaching expecting to become rich, I'd posit, are so poorly informed they'd make poor teachers, and I wouldn't buy stock in their charters. Of course some teachers could run their own schools, and do it very well. I'd say, though, it would be preferable for them to make such decisions on their own.

As for Eva, being a union-buster does not precisely make her Satan. You're right--listening to her, you'd think the city's thirty-year teacher shortage and inability to retain staff were the result of too little work for too much pay. And sure, she spells like Dan Quayle. But no, that doesn't specifically make her the Antichrist.

Sure, here at NYC Educator, we kid, we kid. But let's not get carried away.

Thank you, Narda, for your excellent question, and please feel free to write anytime.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Summer Diversion

NYC Educator recommends the brand-new instrumental album by Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder.

It's beautiful--with influences of bluegrass, blues, jazz, and American and Irish traditional music. These are all new tunes, and it seems like Ricky composed them himself. The arrangements are thoughtful, lively, and beautiful. The musicians, including Ricky, are among the best on God's green earth.

Order it from Ricky himself for only $11.99 with free shipping.

Full disclosure: NYC Educator does not own stock in Skaggs Family Records.

Let Them Eat Cake

While 1.1 million New York City students get by on scraps, and 75% of NYC's high schools suffer from overcrowding, billionaire Courtney Ross gets to reject sites for her charter school. The NEST school, largely improved and supported by NYC parents, was not the first choice after all.

Before opting for space at NEST, the founder of Ross, Courtney Sales Ross, had been shown space on the top floor of P.S. 147 on Bushwick Avenue in the remote eastern reaches of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, across from a housing project.

Ms. Ross rejected that space.

If this doesn't prove that Ms. Ross's charter is more important to Bloomberg than the schools the overwhelming majority of NYC kids attend, I don't know what does.

Here's a comment from Norm Scott:

The space at PS 147 in Williamsburg in Brooklyn (not the fancy part) that Courtney Sales Ross rejected included the amazingly large space of the classroom I taught in for 27 years on the 4th floor. The entire floor is empty of kids now except for the computer lab. An old building but in fabulous shape with high ceilings and big rooms, yet Ross tried to squeeze into NEST with the support of Klein when the PS 147 space was clearly empty and available. Then she gets further rewarded with space at Tweed.

Why did Ross reject this space? Maybe because she would have to accept kids from the projects across the street? Or maybe the neighborhood is just not chi-chi enough for Ms. Ross? Poor dear. She would have had to go into Brooklyn to visit her school.

Actually, it doesn't much matter to me why she rejected it. The fact that she had such an option, while I teach in trailers behind a building at 250% capacity, shows clearly that "Children First" doesn't actually apply to those attending public schools.

It also takes a great deal of wind out of the sails of those who called the parents of the NEST kids racist for fighting this mayor. They worked to make a great school and wanted to preserve it. Despite the lip service this administration pays to parental involvement, when these parents actually put hundreds of thousands of their own dollars into a school they loved, what was Mayor Bloomberg's response?

He tried to cut it into pieces. Thanks, Mayor Bloomberg. Doubtless scores of parents will work to improve the decrepit buildings you offer their children, so that you can give them away to petulant billionaires.

It's the trickle-down theory. If you aren't a billionaire, don't forget your umbrella.

Mayor Mike and the Very Sunny Day

Poor Chaz. Out there in the sweltering unbearable heat trying to motivate teenagers to learn biology. Everyone knows it's too hot for biology. But wait, maybe there's hope---here's a notice from the DoE:

ALERT: Due to heat conditions, summer school attendance is optional on Wednesday, August 2 and Thursday, August 3 -

In anticipation of a severe heat wave, please be advised that attendance at Summer School on Wednesday, August 2nd is not mandatory. Students will not be penalized for being absent on that day. Parents' familiarity with their child's health and physical condition should help them determine whether or not to send their child to school. Please note that the school will be open, teachers and supervisors will be present, and classes will be in session on Wednesday. Parents should contact their Parent Coordinator if they have any questions.

Uh-oh. Bad luck for Chaz. While Tweed, from its air-conditioned offices, has deemed being out and about unfit for ordinary humans, it's apparently no problem for New York City teachers. This should come as little surprise from the cool mayor who recently announced we ought to thank the head of Con Ed for leaving parts of Queens with no electricity for days.

I can only imagine what those poor folks in Astoria are thinking right now.

This is nothing new, however. Mayor Mike is following in the illustrious footsteps of his predecessor, Saint Rudy, hallowed be his name.

I remember a very snowy day about a dozen years ago. I was on the Long Island Expressway. Cars were crashing to my right. Cars were crashing to my left. Mayor Giuliani got on the radio and said, "Don't come into work today unless you absolutely have to." Yet the schools remained open. I posted the mayor's words as the quote of the day for the handful of intrepid souls who placed learning English above their personal safety.

I shouldn't criticize, since clearly I must have been just as crazy as they were.

Thanks to 17 More Years

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Not to be Missed

Here's a new take on charter schools, just published at the ICE-UFT blog:

Any charter school study that compares a charter school with local non-magnet elementary or high schools is biased and statistically invalid.

Norm Scott, public nuisance extraordinare, tells why. Like Norm, I like the idea of small, innovative schools. Using them as battering rams against existing public schools and unionism , as demogues like Moskowitz and Klein do, is another matter entirely.

When I See an Elephant Fly

While kids in my school are rolled in like sardines, New York City has taken 110 Livingston Street, the former headquarters of the Board of Education, and turned it into condos. To make space for these condos, Mayor Mike is sending us an extra 200 kids next year. Thanks Mayor Mike! Your devotion to these kids is the stuff of legend.

With 75% of the city's high schools overcrowded, I'd have thought it might be sensible to use a building like this to relieve it. But Mayor Mike can still find first-class homes for charters run by billionaires, so it's no biggie.

The project is aptly named DUMBO, a fitting description for anyone who still believes public schools are a priority for this mayor.

Thanks to Norm.

Gone, but Not Forgotten

Who woulda thunk that Eva M. reads this little blog? Apparently she does, though, since soon after I pointed out her third-grade style spelling error, she went back and corrected it.

You'd think she'd send a commission, or at least a thank you note for kindly pointing out her error. I mean, here I am, a lowly New York City public-school teacher, and I caught something that escaped her entire highly-trained staff, every one of whom is far more competent than I could ever hope to be.

Since she didn't, however, I'll leave her original here for posterity.

Thanks to Kombiz, who captured this image. And thanks to sharp-eyed SE Martin, for noticing the correction.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Mission of the Eva Moskowitz School...

From Eva's website ---under "Our Mission--scroll to "integrity":

"We teach Success Scholars to be honest and honerable...."

Personally, I wouldn't send my kid to a school with that mission statement. Aside from the spelling, it's redundant.

Furthermore, Poster DB informs us that only 2 members of Eva's high-quality instructional staff graduated before 2000, and that they work almost 9 hours per day for those free massages.

You'd think folks that young, if they'd yet to master spelling, would at least know how to use spell-check.

Update: Eva's corrected this---but not before we got a screenshot.

Ferris Wheel Carnival

The Ferris carnival is here.

Okay, not exactly here, but over at This Week in Education. That's Ed Ferris on the left, blowing out the candles to celebrate.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Get $5,000 AND a Back Rub, with Absolutely No Obligation! Step Right Up!

There's a fascinating post on The Chalkboard today, involving the Eva Moskowitz Charter School. Apparently, Eva appreciates her teachers so much that's she's bought them back massages. Not only that, but "as a rule" they earn "at least $5,000 above the salary scale of the city's public schools."

She told them of their free massages after they had "completed three weeks of intense professional development this past Friday..."

Wait a minute. That's three weeks work for a massage? Or is the 5K for three weeks of extra work? Or is it for coming yet another week early, on August 21st, to start teaching? Or is it for the longer school day that Eva boasts about in every interview? Or is it for accepting charter health benefits, which don't equal ours? Could it be for having no pension?

Or could it be for being "at will" employees, with no rights whatsoever, able to be fired at any moment for any reason, or indeed for no reason whatsoever? Do you suppose Eva would pay a 20-year teacher what a 20-year teacher makes in a union school?

If charters really wanted to show appreciation, they'd allow their employees to exercise their right to choose whether or not they wanted to unionize. It's frankly disingenuous to compare Eva's work schedule and benefits to those of city teachers (let alone their suburban counterparts), and assert they're paid more. Compare their hours, their benefits, and their working conditions and I've no doubt they're paid less by any rational standard.

Keep your back rub, Mistress Eva. I wouldn't trade places with one of your teachers on a bet. Let me know when you pay 5K more than suburban schools. I still won't believe you.

Anything that sounds too good to be true, is.

Time to Examine Our Priorities

Aside from guiding us into an unnecessary war on false pretenses, attempting to dismantle our public education system, giving huge tax breaks to bazillionaires during wartime, torturing prisoners, and mounting taxpayer-funded propaganda campaigns, there are those who say the GOP is doing a great job running the country.

Except maybe for having the oil companies write energy policies. Of course, then there's the stem-cell veto, and the secondary war on facts, including those that have been scientifically proven long ago.

Though the Scopes trial was over 80 years ago, evolution is still a hot issue in Kansas. It appears that evolution-backers are poised to challenge the folks who believe the world is 6,000 years old, and that dinosaurs and people were once neighbors. Let's hope they prevail.

Other topics they differ on include sex-education. I've read right-wing pieces claiming that condom use does not protect people against STDs like AIDS. This country is backward enough as it is. It's time we accept science, though, no matter how much we my have dreaded it in high school.