Saturday, September 30, 2006

Children First

Here we are at the end of September, and the UFT reports there are 6,339 grievances over class size. The limit for high school is 34, the highest in the state.

I was listening when Sam Greenfield reported on 1600 AM that the DoE had managed to reduce class sizes. It's remarkable how many so-called reporters uncritically parrot whatever the government tells them to say nowadays. In my building alone, there are hundreds of oversized classes. I know teachers who had oversized classes all year last year, despite grievances.

Class Size Matters maintains otherwise:

See the reference to decreasing class sizes in the Mayor’s Management Report in the NY Sun story below; as members of this list serv realize, the city’s data on class size has been shown to be inaccurate in the past.

According to independent monitors such as the State education department and the Independent Budget Office, there has been little or no improvement in class size in the middle and upper grades over the last four years. In the early grades, class sizes have decreased only half as fast as enrollment. And even according to the MMR, average Kindergarten class sizes went up last year for the second time in three years – a very worrisome trend.

Those of us who actually work in schools don't need to read reports from the state to monitor class sizes.

Mike "Accountability" Bloomberg likes to talk about "Children First," particularly when it entails placing working people last. Unfortunately, kids hardly benefit from the systematic neglect he's been practicing since he came into office on a river of lies about improving education.

Friday, September 29, 2006


As you may have read here or elsewhere. Mayor Mike "Accountability" Bloomberg left back 339 kids by mistake. At first, he'd thought he'd passed too many kids.

Odd behavior indeed from an administration that maintains test scores have nothing whatsoever to do with anyone except teachers. Before, a DoE spokesperson said "This is not really a case of anyone dropping the ball."

The Daily News, though, reports otherwise.

State officials said the preliminary results were never meant to be the final arbiter on promotion.

"It was for the city to use along with its own indicators like teacher observations and grades," said state Education Department spokesman Tom Dunn.

That explains why New York City is the only district in the state to have this problem. Let's see how long it takes them to blame teachers for it.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Thursday, September 28, 2006


It's interesting to see various parties having conniptions over the letter of the UFT contract. No, you can't teach new material during your 37.5 minute class, which is not a class. That would be hard work (Reviewing is just a walk in the park, apparently).

Of course, those of us in oversize schools have had our periods extended up to fifty minutes. We actually do teach more (and I'd wager it's much more effective than those classes that aren't classes). Despite UFT propagandist Leo Casey's typically empty bravado, we don't figure in his calculations.

Of course, it's not as simple as that. Bloomberg announces, in front of God and everybody, that it's an absolute must to put our needs last, then he puzzles over why we aren't jumping up and volunteering to do more for him.

My former AP thought I was good at classroom management. One semester, she told me (as an appointed ESL teacher) that I'd have to teach five Spanish 1 classes. If I didn't agree, she would make sure that I'd stay so late I'd lose my second job. I applied for and received a UFT transfer (the one we gave away for less than nothing in the last contract).

My new supervisor also liked my classroom management. She had problems with a first period Spanish class that was driving the teacher crazy. She asked me if I'd do her a favor and take the class.

I said sure, of course.

There's a better way.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Klein's Machinations Bear Fruit

31 principals are rebelling against the CSA, largely those from Klein's Leadership Academy--you know, the ones who've never taught or supervised before.

They don't care for the decorum of President Jill Levy, who reportedly stated she “wanted to puke on (Mayor Bloomberg's) shoes.”

I don't particularly wish to puke on the mayor's shoes (Don't tempt me with a horse head on his pillow.), but I'm bone-weary of "nice" politicians like John Kerry and Mike Dukaukis. Give me Jill (or Bill) any day.

Bear in mind the atrocious UFT contract came on the heels of the draconian givebacks the CSA agreed to last time. However you may feel about supervisors (I know, but I've had some extraordinarily good ones), their fortunes are largely linked with ours.

It was folly on the part of Randi's gang to trust this mayor and grant him control. It would set an awful precedent if he were allowed to break the supervisors' union. If you don't believe me, here's a quote from Mayor Mike:

“My great fear is that all of it will be thrown out and we will be right back to where we started. We’ve got to find some ways between now and the end of our administration to make it so compelling that the public will demand that we continue to put the interest of our students first, and the interest of the people who work in the system or benefit from getting contracts in the system last.

Now you know where working people stand with this mayor. Someone rouse Bloomberg on his yacht--let him know the kids may have to work too when they grow up.

Thanks to Institutional Memory

The Carnival is in Town

Over at the Education Wonks.

Check it out.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Be Careful out There

Mike in Texas has an unusual story to share with us. I cautioned him, because it brings to mind one of my own.

I taught special education for one memorable semester. I was not very good at it, and chose not to pursue it. When I was hired, though, the AP swore up and down I'd be teaching English (my license area at that time). She then immediately assigned me to teach math and music.

After a couple of months, I was teaching something (I don't remember what), when two girls began a very animated conversation in back of the room. After giving them a few looks, I did not get the desired result. This was a science room, with big black tables, and a very large black teacher's desk.

I climbed up onto my desk, walked calmly across the student desks to the back of the room, looked down and whispered to the girls. "I'd appreciate it if you'd be quiet for a little while."

I then walked back across the desks, climbed back onto the floor, and resumed my lesson as though nothing had happened. This happened only once, in front of one small special ed. class.

A month later I was in the cafeteria, when another teacher sat down and asked my name. I told him. He said, "Oh, you're the guy who walks across the desks."

And that's what I was, till I moved on to another school and got a fresh start.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The High Cost of High School

This article spells out various expenses high school students are expected to swallow for the class trip, the class ring, the class picture, the yearbook, the prom, and what-have-you. When I was in high school (and dinosaurs roamed the earth), there were many of those things too, but they were regarded as strictly optional. Perhaps after only 17 couples attended our prom, they reconsidered.

In my school (and every city school in which I've worked), there's something called "senior dues" which cover graduation, a yearbook, a gown, a school shirt, and I'm not sure what else.

I've always found it bothersome that kids needed to pay to graduate from a public school. I find that unreasonable. We ought to make the yearbook and all the other nonsense available to kids who want it, but we shouldn't be shoving it down their throats.

Or maybe I'm just cranky. I can tell you, though, receiving a bill from a public school for several hundred bucks won't make me any less cranky. And many parents of my students are far less-equipped to shell it out than I am.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Taking Back the White House

All you need is someone like this to sock it back to Fox News. Watch the video.

Would this guy have left the swift boat smears unanswered? I don't think so.

Where is the Democrat who will stand up like this one in '08?

Thanks to reality-based educator.

Highly Recommended

Check out Anonymous Educator. This teacher works in an unnamed private school and has the most outrageous sense of understatement I've bumped my head on lately.

You might want to scroll back to follow his adventures in Mexico and Vegas, or his various dealings with friends, neighbors and school administration.

Please support your friendly neighborhood blogger. As you can see, he can't be expected to get by on looks alone.

Randi and Joel Have a New Fan

I was just referred (by an ATR teacher) to an interesting article from NYC Indymedia:

Newly, vastly empowered principals have succeeded in inculcating a climate of fear within the schools that proscribes whistle-blowing, grievance filing, and collective action. Nothing demonstrates this more than the Chancellor’s recent remarks that 1500 recently excessed teachers (an increase of 500% from last year) are “potentially undesirable veteran[s]” (The New York Times, 9/2/06).

UFT President Randi Weingarten should be as much an object of teachers’ scorn as Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein. During negotiations for the 2003-2007 contract Ms. Weingarten sacrificed a well-oiled system of teacher transfer in which excessed teachers were guaranteed placement within their region for a so-called “open market” system wherein excessed teachers pound the pavement–citywide–in the oft-vain attempt at securing employment.

Meanwhile, over at Edwize, Leo Casey and City Sue, who've both signed loyalty oaths to the Unity patronage mill, swear it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. Apparently, more teachers have transferred under this plan, and that's more important than ther thousand-plus displaced teachers wandering around as subs.

Typically, Leo and Sue haven't anticipated what Chancellor Klein will be saying about these teachers come contract negotiation time, and fail to appreciate the ramifications of the chancellor hiring hundreds of new teachers even as they wander about in limbo.

Here's what the latest issue of NY Teacher has to say about ATR teachers (Correction--Schoolgal points to a letter that mentions them). Doubtless they think those teachers should be grateful for the right to to pay Leo and Sue's six-figure salaries. Personally, I wouldn't begrudge them these salaries, or higher ones, if they negotiated decent contracts. While it's simpler to turn the whole thing over to PERB and let them do whatever the hell they feel like, that's not what we pay them for.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Goshdarnit. Chancellor Klein left 339 kids back by mistake (On Thursday, the city claimed it had promoted too many kids). How could such things happen in the world of non-educators who know everything about education?

Now, after the schoolchildren and their parents have suffered the humiliation and frustration of failing an entire grade, the chancellor is generously giving them the choice of staying or moving up after three weeks of school. No doubt it'll be simple for marginal students to catch up and this will have no enduring effect on them whatsoever.

Notice also there's no mention of "accountablity" in the article. That applies exclusively to unionized employees.

Update: The Daily News covers this story with a great quote from a DoE wonk:

"This is not really a case of anyone dropping the ball."

Try telling that to these kids and their parents. So much for accountability.

Thanks to Schoolgal.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Freedom of Speech

A Kentucky teacher burned two American flags to demonstrate free speech to his seventh grade classes. He will not face criminal charges, but his school board may have some sort of disciplinary action.

I do not support flag-burning prohibitions, particularly in the form of constitutional amendments. Still, I find this teacher's actions idiotic and grotesquely offensive.

I wouldn't want him teaching my kid, and I would raise hell if one of my kid's teachers were to try a stunt like this, particularly in front of junior-high kids, who are a handful already.

What do you think?

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Chancellor Klein is fond of adapting business models to suit education. For example, he's a large proponent of merit pay, as long as he doesn't need to pay a competitive wage beforehand. The chancellor believes great teachers will jump at the chance to (maybe) make money, as opposed to approaching nearby districts that pay well to begin with.

But why not, just to show what a regular guy you are, give current teachers a crack at getting their jobs back? After all, there are openings. Sure you can get two new teachers for the price of one vet, but why not give them a small window and have some fun while you're at it?

At Six Flags Great America in Illinois, if you eat a live cockroach you can bypass all the attraction lines. Perhaps the Chancellor can offer the 1,000 blackballed ATR teachers a similar opportunity. Eat a live cockroach and get your job back, before we offer it to someone off the street. This way, he could clean up the schools even as he provides experienced teachers for NYC's 1.1 million students.

While a thousand teachers sit in limbo, Klein's hired at least 275 new teachers, and he's looking for more. Klein says he won't force these teachers on anyone, and implies they're a drag on the system. What principal in his right mind wants to hire them after Klein sends out messages like that? The chancellor is clearly moving toward a showdown with clueless UFT leadership in 07.

Let's give Unity a fastpass to oblivion, rather than yet another opportunity to sell us out.

Oh, I Come from Alabama...

...but just forget about that banjo on your knee nonsense. Kids want cell phones in their pockets. And Alabama has leapfrogged ahead of New York City by instituting a more reasonable cell-phone policy.

In July, the district adopted a policy where its 4,500 students are allowed to carry a phone, but risk having it confiscated until the end of the day if they use it or it goes off during school. A second infraction requires a meeting with a parent.

I'd go with the parental meeting on the first infraction, but it appears to me an overwhelming majority of kids in city schools (or mine, at least) are carrying cell phones. It's counter-productive to make rules that will not be followed and can't be reasonably enforced.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg is in California, explaining why Los Angeles should follow the NYC model of oversized schools, meaningless mandates, and no meaningful mprovement in education. To show where his heart is, he's also attending two fund-raisers for Arnold Schwarzenegger. You may recall the governator referring to nurses and teachers as "special interests," while letting Enron slide on 9 billion they stole from the public.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

On the Job

Last year I used to work a C6 assignment in the ESL office. When Spanish-speakers came in to enroll, I translated for them. But this year I've been assigned to a much more vital activity--hall patrol.

Yesterday was particularly challenging. A kid walked by. I asked him if he had a pass. He did.

Another kid walked by. He didn't have a pass, but was headed to lunch. Several more kids walked by, heading for lunch.

In a crucial moment, a few kids walked by, claiming to be on the way to lunch. But my eagle eye detected they were headed away from the cafeteria! I checked their programs, and set them straight. Or made them walk the other way, at least.

Thankfully, I'm no longer frittering my time away helping newcomers, let alone writing lesson plans or correcting essays.

Wacky Pataki

Governor George Pataki, proud recipient of the coveted UFT endorsement, has just destroyed 200,000 rebate checks scheduled to be mailed to NY taxpayers. That's because they didn't give him credit for the program. Perhaps that's because he fought tooth and nail against it, and only signed it when it was pointed out his veto was going to be overridden.

So now our tax dollars will reprint those checks, so that the gov can boast about his great compassion for working people. The practice of issuing rebate checks just before elections is reprehensible, and it's very sad we put up with such blatant nonsense.

Multi-millionaires like Pataki and Bloomberg are certainly free to buy our votes. But we shouldn't allow them to do it with our own money.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Monday, September 18, 2006

The War on Terror Victims

The Daily News reports that 40 million dollars in 9/11-related small business grants were actually funneled to large corporations.

Meanwhile, Hilary Clinton's request for $2 billion to help those sickened by working on Ground Zero was nixed by Senate Republicans. And Mayor Bloomberg, already working tirelessly to avoid paying any part of the CFE lawsuit, is spending millions to fight first responders who make inconvenient claims about related sicknesses.

In order to serve us better, the federal government has cut anti-terror funding in NY and DC by 40%. Louisville, Charlotte, and St. Louis, apparently hotbeds of terror, are getting extra funds.

It's remarkable how politicians will stop at nothing to make political hay out of how much they care about the suffering of people post 9/11. Yet when it comes time to put up, they do what the hell they like and figure we won't notice.

Thanks to Schoolgal and reality-based educator

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Do as I Say, Not as I Do

I'm embarrassed when my daughter asks me how to make cursive letters. I certainly don't want her to grow up and have handwriting like mine.

If you have the same problem, print out this chart, and you won't need to humiliate yourself any further

Damn Right She Works for Me

There are two kinds of people--those who do what it takes to please Mayor Mike, and those who need to be fired.

Congratulations to Rashid Davis, who's willing to go the extra mile for the kids of New York City. Assistant Chancellor Alonso contends that if kids don't pass, it's the fault of the teachers. Davis has taken that philosophy to heart. When he worked at John F. Kennedy High School as an assistant principal, he couldn't bear to see kids fail the crucial English Regents exam. That's why he went back and changed their grades.

Clearly, if teachers were willing to make such sacrifices, all kids could pass. Naturally, if that were to happen, it would prove once and for all that mayoral control is an unqualified success. Whether or not the kids are qualified is of no importance whatsoever.

So while a thousand teachers wander around as full-time subs through no fault of their own, Davis got a promotion, even as the chancellor's office still investigates whether or not his changes were justified.

But Davis' heart was in precisely the right place--Mayor Mike's pocket.

Meanwhile, JFK's UFT Chapter Chairperson, Maria Colon, sits in the rubber room for an unforgivable offense--reporting Davis on a Department of Education fax machine.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Accountability Is for People at the Bottom

So says Norm Scott, in his latest column on his new blog, EdNotes online.

Check it out.

Progress Marches On

For years I've been hearing people say, "Kids today don't know how to read because all they do is watch TV." I doubted that because I've been watching it ever since I could remember, and it never stopped me from reading.

Later, with the ubiquitous calculator rearing its ugly head, people started saying,"Kids today can't add or subtract because all they do is use calculators."

I always thought such people were being ridiculous. Kids have always been pains in the neck, and they hardly ever do what you want them to without a good fight. Read Tom Jones. They weren't any better then. It's their job to be pains in the neck, when you get right down to it.

However, despite my best arguments to the contrary, I'm coming around to the point of view of the Luddites. Wait a minute, I can explain.

My MO for getting new classes into shape is frequent phone calls. I have a particularly rough afternoon class, and I've been putting a lot of time into it. Anyone who's serious about calling homes knows kids whose homes you want to call are fond of providing incorrect numbers.

Kids will stand there, in front of God and everybody, and loudly declare they just moved yesterday, they only have a cell phone, and give you a multitude of even less plausible reasons they don't know their own phone numbers. Much of the time it's total crap.

But yesterday, I met a kid in the hall who'd cut my class three times in the last four days. I told him the phone number he'd given me was no good. He insisted it was, and showed me where it was written in his notebook (He really didn't remember it!). I'd called it twice, though, and told him it was disconnected.

With a knowing look, he pulled out his cell phone to demonstrate that, like all teachers, I was a total idiot. However, his cell phone revealed that he'd copied the number incorrectly.

Incidentally, if you're a teacher looking for more genuine numbers, the first place to check is the medical office, where something better usually turns up, even if it's an emergency number for an aunt or uncle. This year, I'm becoming very well-acquainted with the medical office personnel, and I'm fortunate they're so friendly and helpful.

Here's my point, though: Kids today don't even know their own phone numbers because all they do is use cell phones.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Those Who Can, Shave

But teacher Gary Weddle has sworn it off until bin Laden is caught.

You'd think some passionate New Yorker would've thought of this, but Gary hails from Wenatchee, Washington.

We've now been chasing bin Laden longer than we chased Hitler. Though I share Gary's sentiments, I'm afraid I'm not going to follow in his footsteps for now.

However, I'm making a solemn vow not to vote for a single Republican while bin Laden's still running around. Multi-millionaires can be dangerous when they're on the loose, and it's high time we recognized it.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Mayoral Control Rides Again

Perhaps you recall Mayor Bloomberg's plan to hold back kids who didn't pass the high-stakes fourth grade test. It was so important to him that he fired a few of his own appointees who were planning to vote their consciences, rather than break out the rubber stamps.

Before Mayor Bloomberg's visionary plan, about 5,000 kids used to be retained. Afterward, about 5,000 kids were retained. Hence, another great achievement for mayoral control hit the record books, and the LA mayor had one more reason to demand control.

Now, the mayor has decided to study his efforts to end social promotion, with a price tag of 3.4 million dollars. Yet another benefit of mayoral control, evidently, is the innovative notion of studying decisions after you've actually made them.

Perhaps that's what the UFT has been doing these last few years. It would explain a lot.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Quantity or Quality?

What's more important? Well, if you're the UFT brass, on the heels of the worst contract in living memory, quality is pretty much out of the question. So you plug the new "free market" program, declaring it a success because considerably more teachers have moved around.

Then, you declare that many teachers have chosen to join the "absent teacher reserve," or ATR program because they didn't want to risk their right to return to their old schools.

How many teachers chose that? Who knows? Today, at lunch, several of my colleagues expressed horror at having to sub indefinitely, and I gotta agree. Not a single ATR teacher who's contacted me wants to be there.

The NY Times says the ATR program will cost 100 million dollars. While its existence is assured until the end of this contract, how can the UFT not anticipate what Klein will have to say about that come contract negotiations?

The open market is an interesting notion. But if you're a principal interviewing a 23-year veteran, even a reasonable one, how can you not consider the effect that teacher's seniority will have on the rest of the department? And despite what I've read about salaries being unimportant, how can no one consider that you get two 40 thousand teachers for the price of one 80 thousand teachers?

Why does no one in Unity consider these things? I'd have no objection to their salaries dwarfing mine if they actually showed vision enough to earn them.

Thanks to POd Teacher and Bigdon393

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

All Sedition All the Time

Check out EdNotes Online, written by UFT activist and renowned public nuisance Norman Scott.

Bad News for Plagiarists

Can't write that college paper? Willing to pay $9.95 a page to someone who can?

Well, the NY Times says the people who write these papers may be just as clueless as you are. In fact, if you really want to pass, you may have to make the supreme sacrifice, and read the book.

Believe me, I sympathize with you. As an undergrad in English, I had to read Beowulf not once, but twice, due to my blunt assessment the first time round. Now I can't read that book for you. But here's a tip:

Every book your teacher assigns is a classic, and to is be treated as such, no matter how excruciating the experience of reading it may be.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Been sitting in the drunk tank all night, with a bunch of chatty but malodorous companions? Smoking crack in a doorway when you mistook a cop for a dealer? With the haircuts nowadays, who can tell the difference? And how were you supposed to know that girl was 16? Anyone would have thought she was 21.

And after all that, the bastards from the DoE call you and tell you to come in and sub for that physics teacher in ten minutes, at 7:30 AM. Damn those cops and their paperwork, you're gonna have to run all the way just to make it in. And what the hell is physics anyway? Better not be gym, the way you're feeling.

Good news, though. With the new smart pass they gave you, there's a fair chance you'll be able to go home and catch a few Zs . After all it's been a rough night and you deserve it.

If you're unlicensed, or just back from a DUI, or whatever, the school can send you straight home. Your smart pass will let them know after they scan it. Of course, if you were unlicensed, why did they bother giving you the pass in the first place? Maybe the chancellor's planning to hand them out on the street and hope for the best. Could be cheaper than 800 numbers and international advertising campaigns.

Is this a good idea, or is it Big Brother? Should they use 'em on regular teachers too, or are we too honest and upstanding to merit this sort of treatment?

Thanks to Schoolgal

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Beating the Ban

Prisoners in El Salvador have found a, um..., creative way to hide cell phones on their persons.

Without boring you with burdensome detail, it seems a good bet this method will evade detection in a typical search. Hopefully, kids looking to evade detection by Bloomberg's cell-phone police won't read this story.

I'd hate to imagine one of these phones going off in class. Some teachers I know instruct their students to leave phones on vibrate as part of a "Don't ask, don't tell" approach. After reading this, I don't even want to contemplate the potential consequences.

The virtues of pointless mandates are few and far between. The consequences are rarely positive.

And don't kids merit more privileges than prisoners?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Always Buy American

Unity mouthpiece Leo Casey is a very important guy. That's why he won't answer my questions about the new excessing plans. After all, Leo makes twice what working teachers do. Why should he lower himself to conversing with the bootless and unhorsed?

Leo says the new excessing plan, which leaves a thousand teachers in limbo even as Klein hires 275 new ones, is an improvement, though he fails to give a single reason why. Then he wrote three long articles (perhaps to ensure the excessing conversation got buried on the rarely-visited second page of Edwize), one of which suggests those who spin events have no decency.

Just last night I got an email from an excessed teacher. As you may imagine, this person does not share Mr. Casey's point of view. This teacher and some friends set up a shop and they have a message for Mr. Casey and his Unity cohorts. No spin for them.

One of their fine products is pictured above.

Thanks to 17 more years, Schoolgal, and an entrepreneurial group of excessed teachers

Update: Leo Casey responds on Edwize.

Keep on the Sunny Side

I was queried about positive things that have occurred under Mayor Mike.

1. Encouraging desks set up in circles. While many of my colleagues hate this, I like it. Bloomberg's push gives me the option of arranging the desks as I wish without facing the wrath of APs.

Of course, my colleagues who like rows can re-arrange the seats as they like too.

2. Whole wheat bread in school cafeterias, and the expulsion of white flour, which has no nutritional value.

3. Banishing soda and replacing it with fruit juice, (albeit through yet another no-bid contract). Natural sugar, while not the very best thing for kids, does not promote obesity quite as much as high-fructose corn syrup, the appearance of which coincided with the beginning of what now seems an epidemic.

Other schools have made it a point to sell water at a much lower price, but I'll take this for now.

So things are better in terms of food and chairs, if you're lucky enough to have a room big enough to arrange them.

In other news, Mayor Mike is now claiming he has no control over class size, even as he continues blocking referendums to reduce it. Klein, on the other hand says he does have control over class size.

Apparently, then, he simply chooses to keep it the highest in the state.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Friday, September 08, 2006

A Time Out for Mikey

This week's Time Out Kids issues Mayor Bloomberg a report card. If my child every brought home such a report card, she'd be re-examining her options, as she'd find them substantially diminished. However, Bloomberg, enabled by Unity's astounding lack of vision, continues unabated, with papers happily reporting the upside and ignoring everything else.

Mayor Mike gets some credit for the better charters, but loses out for his overall neglect of the public school system. Overtesting and his miserable rapport with parents earn him yet more mediocrity. They give him slightly better grades on access to honors classes, and an actual A minus for special ed.

Mayor Mike gets an incomplete on class size, which is very charitable considering my own building, at 250% capacity. It's particularly generous considering that the mayor has his lawyers using the "It's not my job" defense.

The mayor gets around a C average from Time Out Kids. Given that he's still trying to weasel out of paying any part of the CFE suit, I'd have to deduct points, and I'm afraid I couldn't grant him credit.

Nonetheless, I'd make certain he wouldn't repeat the class. Let him find some other city to play with.

Thanks to Patrick

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Raging Controversy

If you really like coffee, go to Fairway. There are several locations in the city, and one in Plainview, Long Island. For my money they're the best.

The guy on the left is particularly fond of their Colombian, which goes for 6 bucks a pound (a real pound, not like the canned stuff), or 4 when it's on sale.

But here's the big question:

Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks?

Personally, I'm addicted to Dunkin Donuts coffee.

I'm thinking of making it the official coffee of NYC Educator.

Update: The Chalkboard weighs in on this important issue.

Unity Has Something to Sell You

City Sue from Unity thinks the ATR plan is just great. She thinks it's "less stressful" to be in a sub position. Oddly enough, the email I'm getting from ATR teachers indicates a very high level of stress. They hate being subs, and have no idea what their status will be when the next contract comes around.

Here, City Sue lets us have it with her big guns:

Did it ever occur to any of you who are waxing poetic about your sympathy for all those excessed teachers without jobs in new schools that many of those folks may never have sought another position?

In fact, it did. City Sue can cavalierly suggest they haven't looked for positions, but this post strongly indicates otherwise.

Here's what I told City Sue:

Pardon me, City Sue, but I'm receiving email from several of these teachers who have indeed tried to get positions and are having doors slammed in their faces everywhere they go.

They do not find subbing less stressful, and are having self-esteem issues that appear to have eluded your otherwise fertile imagination.

Their security and pay are guaranteed only for the duration of this contract, and you should be ashamed of yourself for ridiculing those of us who stand up for them. But for blind luck, those of us not riding the Unity gravy train might be in their shoes right now.

They are not confident that they will be paid through the next contract. Are you prepared to guarantee they will, City Sue?

If you are not, City Sue, it is certainly not I who is "waxing poetic."

That's my response. Feel free to add your own.

The comment form is now officially open.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Disco Lives...

...over at the Village People Carnival, hosted by the inimitable Scott Elliot. Just Get on the Bus.

The Vision Thing

When I read that 1000+ teachers were demoted to subs, I wonder how anyone can think the contract is a dead issue.

When I read that Joel Klein is vilifying 44 APs as "rejects," I wonder how Randi Weingarten does not anticipate the very same thing happening to those teachers.

Or more teachers. Or you or me.

Imagine you are a principal, working at the pleasure of the chancellor. He announces there are 44 useless individuals wasting public money. Then he asks who wants to hire them. Would you do so?

I can't imagine I would.

Do you suppose they're tripping all over themselves to hire the thousand teachers Klein's placed on display as his latest publicity stunt?

Can you imagine how it must feel to go from a working teacher to an overpaid sub? Does anyone at all think Joel Klein plans to allow a thousand teachers to receive full salary as subs through the next contract?

These contracts are a chess game, and I see repeated evidence that Joel Klein, with his union-busting agenda and empty promises of "Children First," continues to outmaneuver our perpetually clueless leadership.

It's high time they became "accountable."

Mas palabras sobre Unidad

Here's a comment I left on Edwize.

I'm not altogether hopeful it will get a UFT response.

It seems to me that Klein is flexing his muscle for the sake of doing so.

Also, while the number of transfers (a Unity guy said thousands) may be accurate, it could reflect teachers who chose to transfer, as opposed to those displaced and sentenced to a purgatory that shows every indication it will lead to termination in the last contract.

It’s frankly idiotic to assume any teacher is unsatisfactory simply for having landed in a school that was shut down, but that’s the conclusion many will reach.

If 50% of teachers are retained and chosen at the whim of a Jack Welch principal (or anyone under the thumb of this Chancellor), I don’t see that as fair treatment of competent, working teachers.

I can’t imagine there are none of them in that ghost ship called the ATR (Absent Teacher Reserve), and I can’t imagine coming to work every day and being nobody either.

Will the UFT insist on maintaining the ATR teachers in the next round of negotiations? The outrageous short-sightedness of the last contract has left many teachers in a very precarious position.

What did you guys get for that?

Less than cost of living.

Less than nothing.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Two Days of Meetings

I'm not a meeting person, actually. Reality-based educator sent me a few email messages suggesting he isn't either:

Today was tough. We had four hours of meetings today in which I heard the exact same things I heard last year and the year before and the year before that...I think I could facilitate these meetings, word for word, while asleep. I also found out that we are now teaching 45 minute periods (up from 40 five years ago, 41 three years ago, and 44 one year ago.) Each year the work time goes up. When will it end? 50 minutes a period? 60 minutes?

Who knows, RBE? Less is more. That is, more time for less than cost of living. That's what 60% of our colleagues voted for, and that's what we have. But RBE had yet another day:

Today we had more meetings and focus groups. The same three crazy people who actually need the meetings and focus groups argued and bitched and complained and whined about books and assignments and schedules and cell phone rules and all that good stuff. The rest of us slowburned while the three crazy people yelled at each other over who got to teach what when and the AP tried to keep order.

My head hit the desk I was sitting at twice, once so loud nearly everybody in the room heard it hit (except for the three crazy people, of course, because they were too busy yelling at each other.) At one point, my buddy sitting in front of me handed me a pen and asked me to stick it into his eye during the proceedings. i considered it. I figured while they were taking him out to hospital, I could leave w/ security.

I was going to write about the meetings I attended, but they weren't remotely as interesting as RBE's.

Anyone out there have any tales of the pre-Labor Day meetings to share?

What's This?

It looks like something for excessed teachers.

JRY has a message for you, and for the UFT leadership.

I strongly recommend you sit while waiting for an official response.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Charter Champ

I was very excited when Eduwonk was covered by the leader of a unionized charter school, Steve Carr. I was sure I'd get a glimpse into something more positive than what I've seen about charters over the past few months.

But Mr. Carr did not convey much of a message. At mayoral control in LA, he proclaimed, "Kids win!" but failed to give a single detail as to why. In a follow-up, the only support Mr. Carr offered was the vague promise of more charters.

Yesterday, Mr. Carr wrote of teachers who "gladly give up tenure" because they "want to be accountable."

It's curious that talk of accountability invariably refers to union employees. If the price of working in a unionized charter is giving up tenure, I can't help but wonder why those teachers even need a union. Anyone who follows the news would have to conclude that Americans need more, not fewer job protections. Ask Nicole Byrne Lau about that. Then compare America with Europe.

I'm afraid anyone willing to trust in the good graces of folks like Ms. Lau's boss (or mine), are bound for disappointment. For all I know, Mr. Carr is the nicest guy in the world. Historically, though, working people have not benefited from trusting their employers and hoping for the best.

Furthermore, there are scores of great unionized public schools, with tenured teachers right here in Nassau County. I'd pit my daughter's school against that of Mr. Carr any day. For example, she entered first grade monolingual, and is now, entering fifth grade, fully fluent in Spanish. The primary difference between schools like hers and the one in which I work (a very good one by NYC standards) is that suburban schools haven't been subject to thirty years of systematic neglect.

Here in New York, the Supreme Court has demanded we address that issue. Mayor Bloomberg thinks it's a fine idea, but has steadfastly refused to pay for any part of it, creating years of delay. His predecessor's policy of reducing city aid by precisely whatever the state increased it certainly aggravated this problem. Bloomberg, however, prefers to save up for charter facilities and stadiums.

Once again, I'm convinced that public facilities and policies need attention before we even start talking of charters.

While Mr. Carr celebrates, the Daily News reports on the grotesque inequities that still face the overwhelming majority of New York City's kids, despite mayoral control:

Isaac is enrolled at Intermediate School 187, a gifted-and-talented school, while Isiah is at Junior High School 259, where roughly half the kids are meeting standards.

That's a tough situation for a parent to face.

"The mayor is doing all right," their dad said. "The system is not where it should be, but some improvement is better than none."

That's an odd conclusion, because gifted-and-talented schools were doing fine before the mayoral takeover. Once again I'm left to wonder what good mayoral control has done. Of course, the dad's actions speak far louder than his words.

...Rodriguez plans to move his family to Orange County before the twins start high school. "I think my kids will get a better education outside of the city, a better quality of life, period," he said.

Mr. Rodriguez is right, of course. I moved to the suburbs because I was priced out of the neighborhood in which I work years ago. But I work in one of the very best regular schools in the city, and the contrast between my daughter's school and mine is striking.

It's simply criminal that Mayor Bloomberg is allowed to defy a Supreme Court mandate and leave schools the way they are. The way they were, in fact.

Celebrate, Mr. Carr. But please don't pretend your victory is for working people, or for our kids--who will have to face the US job market when they get older.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Finally, A Model

After five years of ever-changing mandatory programs that do nothing to help anyone, the New York Times has finally given NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein a roadmap to achieve all his goals in one fell swoop. Over in Palestine, the school system is run by Hamas.

They're not quibbling over merit pay, charter schools, or overcrowding, or how many teachers they can fire. They pay the teachers once in a while, some part of what they owed, and if the teachers don't like it they can walk. As a matter of fact, they just did.

Government officials are loudly proclaiming that the strike is illegal and will result in no raise. Can you imagine the possibilities here in NYC? Klein could invoke the Taylor Law against the striking teachers, have them pay him, and there would be a net increase of funds available for billionaire charters and stadiums.

It's a win-win.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Why Can't Those APs Find Jobs?

The New York Post reports that, after sending a memo to principals explaining how useless the 44 unemployed APs are, no principal expressed interest in hiring a single one.

Let me think about that--I've got a boss who's just vilified 44 people. Should I hire one of them? "Not at this time," says the 8-ball.

This has strong implications for the teachers who've been displaced as well. There's little doubt some teachers should be fired, but the city doesn't seem to fret over individuals like that. Rather, they're engaging in an odd power play, letting us know they can put hundreds of people out of work whenever they like.

Here's part of a note I got in my email last night:

I currently work at P.S. ___ . We were notified of an immediate opening today, and were asked to pool our resources together to help find the replacement. The opening is in a K/1 classroom. All of our classes at P.S. ___ are mixed grades. We are looking for a teacher new to the Board of Ed. They must not be a transfer from another NYC public school.

It's one thing to allow principals to choose which teachers they'd like to work in their schools. It's quite another to show a preference for new hirees, regardless of qualifications. Is this administration capable of blackballing employees just to flex its muscles?

I'll wait a moment while everyone wiggles their magic 8-balls. Have you got a response? Great.

Is our union capable of standing up to it?

What does your 8-ball tell you?

In other news, UFT President Randi Weingarten (along with Chancellor Klein), is feeling optimistic at the beginning of this school year.

My 8-ball can't explain why.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Saturday, September 02, 2006

When They Came for Me, There Was No One Left to Speak Out

Over the last few weeks I've been seeing comments from teachers about how the contract is a dead issue, and that we should just shut up about it.

Certainly the Chancellor and Unity would be pleased.

Sadly, not everyone has that option.

Here's a comment I just received:

I am an excessed teacher with 25 years in the system. I know, I can't believe it either! My school was reorganized this year, leaving almost 50 teachers - all experienced and tenured - in the ATR pool, which is not a place you want to be. This has been an education, a crash course, about what this contract means to all of us.

When a school is reorganized it is also renamed. (If it had the same name all of the senior teachers would have retention rights). Now you have a brand new school, or two new schools, or however many schools it was divided into. The principal now has to hire only 50% of the staff of the "old" school. Teachers must apply and be interviewed for these positions, seniority counts for nothing. Then the principal is free to hire anyone they want to fill the remaining positions - they can hire the rest of the current teaching staff if they want to, but this is not likely to happen. They generally hire brand new teachers. If you are not hired you become a well-paid sub.

I don't know of anyone who was hired from the open market system. The DOE also sponsored "hiring fairs" for us, where I met a lot of teachers from reorganized schools. Oh, BTW, they had fairs for new teachers at the same time; new teacher's fairs would begin at 3 PM, ours at 4PM, and then they would not admit us for another hour or so. Do you think they really want us to be hired?

The union has mailed us letters, telling us about their great job. They say that the city wanted to terminate us if we didn't obtain a permanent position within 18 months, but they saved us - we can now stay in the ATR pool forever, if necessary. I can't help but notice that the Kleinberg machine seem MUCH smarter than the UFT!!!

You Don't Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows

Still, UFT President Randi Weingarten seems to have misplaced her complimentary UFT umbrella. For example, while NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein goes on about 44 supposedly unfit administrators, the measure of Randi's folly has yet to dawn upon the Unity brass, let alone the 60% of teachers who voted for the latest contract.

Klein says these 44 are utterly incompetent, offers no evidence, but happily vilifies them anyway. "Innocent until proven guilty" has little appeal to Tweed. Several teachers who've been suspended without pay and cleared (under the new contract) can attest to that.

A friend of mine tells me the names of the APs were shown on television. Nice thing for their kids to see, ain't it?

Are they inept? Not for the most part, according to the CSA President Jill Levy:

Levy maintained that the majority of the 44 administrators, (37, according to today's NY Times) who earn up to $108,000 a year, have not been fired for poor performance. They have no assignments, she said, because of school restructuring that has shut down failing schools and broken large schools into smaller schools.

That's a drop in the bucket compared to what the DoE shells out for no bid contracts.

Even the Daily News characterizes Klein as a union-buster:

The letter was Klein's latest bid to divide and diminish the principals union, whose members include both principals and assistant principals. The union has been without a contract for more than three years - and its leaders were furious to read Klein's blistering words.

Now, you say, what's this got to do with you? You're a teacher, and a good one too.

The fact is, though, after a reorganization, along with administrators, every teacher in the building is gone. None, good, bad, or indifferent, are guaranteed positions. Klein's Jack Welch-trained principals are not exactly on the lookout for the sort of independent thinkers who inspire kids.

Write Leo Casey or City Sue over at Edwize and they'll say no, that's not true. You'll get placed on the substitute reserve and wander the earth forever teaching subjects about which you know nothing (Thanks, Leo and Sue).

But won't a principal hire me if I'm a good teacher?

You'd hope so. But thirty years of New York City history indicate that good teachers are not particularly valued, and a quick peek at the contract you just got in the mail indicates you can get two new teachers for the price of one vet. This administration and its predecessors have repeatedly shown preferences for bargain basement teachers, (though it'll happily shell out millions for consultants) and have consistently made a point to set the lowest standard in the state in order to recruit and retain them.

It doesn't take a great deal of imagination to envision Klein saying characterizing the substitute teacher corps precisely as he did the APs:

Klein said he must waste "millions of dollars creating jobs we don't need" - money that could be used to hire 80 teachers - because the assistant principals' jobs are protected by their union contract and state law.

I'd wager the substitute corps was created precisely so it could be scapegoated and eliminated in a future contract. I thought so the first time I read City Sue boasting about it in Edwize, and I'm not exactly Bobby Fisher. Our leaders, however, can't seem to see a single move in advance.

Next year, we'll have a precious opportunity to choose someone who can. Let's not waste it on Unity. They've had enough vacations, conventions, and gala luncheons on our dime.

Update: Chancellor Klein has already begun criticizing the sub corps, which he helped create in the most recent UFT contract. There was to be a hiring freeze to place these teachers, but the Chancellor stopped it.

: All 44 of the APs in question were rated satisfactory by their previous bosses. Many didn't even know they were out of work until last week. From that article:

"I was disgusted by it," said a Brooklyn principal, who asked not to be identified. The principal acknowledged he had been stuck in the past with assistant principals he didn't want to hire, but still supported his union.

"He's pitting people against each other within the union," he said. "This is bad for morale across the board."

Thanks to Schoolgal and zippychippy

Friday, September 01, 2006

Big Spender Justifies Big Spending (Sometimes)

Mayor Bloomberg defended paying 17 million in no-bid contracts, as reported by the Daily News last week:

Bloomberg noted that all no-bid contracts are published online and in the city record before they're awarded.

Are you familiar with Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? That's reminiscent of the argument the Vogons used before they blew up the earth to make way for an intergalactic bypass. But that isn't nearly the most interesting of the mayor's arguments:

"Think about where you work if they put up a competitive bid for every job. Just getting the lowest person who's willing to work at the lowest price doesn't get you what you want."

It's odd, then, that the Mayor has steadfastly inisisted on paying teachers the lowest wage in the area. Why do you suppose that is?

Thanks to Schoolgal