Friday, August 31, 2007

You, Too, Can Plan Mindless Lectures for August Punishment Days

Everything Old Is New Again

Do you think your job is tough? Well it probably is. Maybe you’ve taken the wrong path.

If you’d only known the right people, you could have become a Tweed flunkie, perpetually dreaming up new ways to justify your six-figure salary. How would that be?

Well, you’d have to sit for hours and consider, for example, should you come up with a new idea? No, if you had any imagination, you’d probably never have gotten this job in the first place. Should you inspire teachers with your years of experience? No, that’s out of the question, what with your not once in your life having ever set foot in a public school, let alone worked in one.

Should you amuse them, at least? No, if you had any talent or sense of humor, why would your mother have had to get this job for you? What if you just gave them another few hours of long-winded convoluted trendy edu-speak with no value whatsoever? That usually works. Hmmmm...

Wait! You have a sudden flash of inspiration. You could just take the same old idea everyone’s been using for fifty years, give it a new name, and claim to have invented it. Then, when they do the same old thing they’ve been doing forever, you can tell the chancellor they’re using your idea. When standards go down, and test scores consequently go up, you can take credit for it!

Let’s see…you’ll need a big word here…OK, you can call it congruency, and amaze everyone by announcing that the do now and motivation have to be mostly related to the lesson. For example, you could caution teachers not to give too many algebraic equations as leads-up to lessons on Hamlet.

Wait—you’d better throw in another big word here—tell them to not even call it the do now and motivation—it’ll now be now the “anticipatory set.” That’s far less likely to be understood! You could explain it by saying “Teachers consciously stimulate the neural network so that the learner will be ready to make connections between prior experience and new learning.” Let them crawl under their beds and figure that out.

This has great potential. You can make up confusing handouts with arcane illustrations and spend hours at meetings explaining them to supervisors who are obliged to pretend they’re interested. Then, for the two extra days of talking you’ll have to do this August, you can rattle off the same thing to the teachers. Just sit them in groups and make them discuss it and give presentations on how they’ll use it. That’ll kill three or four hours right there.

So basically, the introduction to the lesson should be somewhat related to the rest of the lesson. How can you phrase that so no one will be precisely certain what you’re talking about, thus necessitating endless hours of clarifying discussion? What about this—“Most of the Teacher Actions are on a one-to-one match with the Teacher Objective.” That oughta do it.

Maybe you can make a video. That could kill a few hours, and you can show it at every meeting. Now you’ll need speakers no one exactly understands, to facilitate discussion groups who could try to figure out what the heck it’s about. By the time they report back, that’ll have killed two days right there.

Oh well, 11:30—time for another gala luncheon.

This job sure beats working.

Originally published November 24, 2005

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Principal's Welcome

Welcome back everyone. I know you're energized from your break and can't wait to get back to the classroom. I know I'm thrilled to be hear again...

You with your 2o,ooo dollar bonus!

That has nothing to do with how I feel. We had a wonderful year, the English Regents results were excellent, and while...

What about those forty-seven identical essays?

They were not identical.Some were four pages long, and others were five pages long. One was six pages long. They were consistently excellent. And bear in mind, they were all ESL students, many of whom had to use electronic dictionaries to understand the questions.

But they were word for word exactly the same. Even the misspellings were identical.

Really, Mr. Sandburg, who else but you would have even noticed?

Any competent teacher would have noticed. The State would have noticed.

But the State wasn't present. Really Mr. Sandburg, can't you focus on something positive? We're a C school, and next year, we will be a B school.

All you want is another 5 thousand bucks. We are a disgrace if we teach kids that plagiarism is acceptable.

Who says it's plagiarism? Our language teacher, Miss Dim, says that memorization is a very popular learning mode in her country. In fact, she had one of the boys from her country come up and reproduce the first two pages of the paper from memory. It was only then we decided to pass the students.

I can recite Anabel Lee right here and right now, but that doesn't make me Edgar Allen Poe.

That's not the point. These are kids. They have special needs. They require our understanding. Plus, Miss Wormwood claims she gave them that essay as a guide.

You got on the loudspeaker and said anyone whose cell phone rang would have their test voided. Yet here you are saying that 47 plagiarized papers, most doubtless copied from electronic dictionaries that store text, are acceptable.

That was my decision and I stand by it. Where's your school spirit, Mr. Sandburg? Didn't they do their "seat time?" Do you really want to imperil their graduation over a little misunderstanding like this? I regret we must cut this short so that Ms. Pewterschmidt can conduct "Right to Know."

Ms. Pewterschmidt?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Your Last Day of Freedom

Well, here you are, a New York City teacher going back to work tomorrow, and what can you do? You're facing two full days of fun and frolic, listening to speeches about what a great job the chancellor is doing. And it's true. Who else could've negotiated a contract that robs you of your Labor Day weekend for the sole purpose of listening to two full days of blah, blah, blah? Who else would've even thought of such a thing?

Aren't you better off sitting in a meeting than driving to Maine with your family, laying about on beaches, eating lobster, and getting very little of substance accomplished (I used to do that on Labor Day weekend)? After all, how would that improve test scores? Well, sure, two days of indoctrination may not improve test scores either, but at least they'll get you focused on whatever it is they want you to focus on.

What are you doing on this last golden day?

Enquiring minds want to know.

The Carnival is in Town

and you can find it right here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

NYC Leads the Way

In North Carolina, they'll give you a $10,000 bonus if you can teach Algebra 1. I did fairly well in Algebra, though I'm not sure all that mountain air would agree with me. In NY City, they're offering 5000 bucks to help you get settled if you're a new math teacher (If you're already in, too bad).

The retirement of thousands of baby boomer teachers coupled with the departure of younger teachers frustrated by the stress of working in low-performing schools is fueling a crisis in teacher turnover that is costing school districts substantial amounts of money as they scramble to fill their ranks for the fall term.

And it's not only in NC, but all over the country that people are having this problem. They can't seem to get all the highly qualified teachers they need. Historically, NYC has always known how to deal with such crises, and the rest of the country could easily follow suit.

1. Raise class sizes. If you have more kids in any given class, you'll need fewer teachers.

2. Forget all this "highly qualified" nonsense and make the gym teacher teach algebra. If the kids get out of hand, he's got a whistle.

3. Start programs to train teachers. Let them "earn while they learn."

4. Ask the state to lower teacher standards for your district. Tell them it's just for a while, and when a while passes, ask them to do it again.

5. Squeeze as many kids as possible into every corner of every building there is, and save a few bucks on school construction.

6. If teachers fail basic competency tests, or fail to meet requirements, keep them on anyway. Just make sure their salaries are capped at step 4, and it's like two for the price of one.

Do these things, and the whole supply and demand thing won't remotely affect you. And if anything does go wrong, just blame the teachers.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

What's Important to Mr. Klein?

Well,we know it isn't class size. Class size in NYC is the highest in the area, and money dictates that it stay that way. Keep trotting out "reforms" and reduce size by fractions, and hope Class Size Matters goes away.

And we know it isn't overcrowding. My school's at 250% and growing, and how we can sustain quality is a mystery. Still, if we fail, we can move in academies and charters, and relegate half the staff to wander they system as ATR substitute teachers. We can replace them with eager newbies at half the salary who will work a few years, leave, and never collect a pension. Are they good teachers? What's the dif?

But public relations is another matter altogether. So when there's an online poll, Mr Klein's toadies send an email to DoE employees urging them to give good grades to the chancellor. They urge them to tell their friends.

Because in the education game, perception is 90% of the problem. So what if you're on the third reorganization? No one's gonna bother pointing out this means the first two didn't work.

Just give Uncle Joel an "A." Or be prepared to lose that cushy DoE office and find a real job.

Thanks to Norm

Friday, August 24, 2007

Hard of Hearing?

That's a problem. I hope you don't reside in East Meadow, New York, where they're fighting tooth and nail to keep a hearing-impaired student bring his service dog to school with him. In fact, they didn't even want the state to investigate their refusal.

Now we think of service dogs as the exclusive province of blind people, but I could imagine a hearing-impaired person having difficulties. First of all, schools run on bells, and that can be problematic if you don't hear them. Turning corners can be dangerous if you can't hear people coming around them.

If hearing impaired people feel they'll benefit from service dogs, who is East Meadow to tell them otherwise?

Thursday, August 23, 2007


NY State has issued a list of 27 persistently dangerous schools, and 25 of them are in New York City. Mayor Bloomberg says he's going to continue doing what he's been doing.

If it weren't for those two competitors, he could've won the whole enchilada.

We do everything big in NYC. We've got the biggest classes, the most crowded hallways, and the most overcrowded schools. We've got over 90% of the persistently dangerous schools.

I've no doubt we'll move closer to 100%, given time and city politics as usual.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Carnival is in Town

It's at The Red Pencil. Check it out.

Ms. Weingarten Blogs

UFT President Randi Weingarten is guestblogging at Eduwonk this week. Her first column was thoughtful, well-written and hard-hitting, directly refuting Chris Cerf. Ms. Weingarten feels the teacher voice is lost in the stampede toward improving test scores, and points out that teachers can actually do much more than that:
...teachers teach many important things in addition to skills and facts—complex problem solving, civility, aesthetic appreciation, moral values to name a few—and these are things that cannot be delivered in canned programs or assessed on a multiple choice, machine readable test. This evidence, along with standardized test results must be part of the mix in any responsible data-driven accountability system.

I couldn't agree more, and I'm very disappointed when my child's report card says approaching, meeting or exceeding standards--I'd prefer the whole A, B, C D thing.

Ms. Weingarten advocates increased teacher involvement as a real improvement for schools. I wonder, though, when exactly city teachers would do this. Since 2005, most high school teachers teach 5 periods, do hall patrol one period, and conduct tutoring sessions (a sixth class, if you ask me) four days a week. In overcrowded schools like mine, time is simply tacked onto each class, making them run as long as fifty minutes.

If teachers eat lunch one period, that leaves one period per day to prepare classes. Sometimes teachers work as subs that period, and get zero periods a day to prepare classes. Sure you can do it at home, but if you work one or two extra jobs, that's tough to manage.

So where do we find the time to do all this planning? Shall we extend the school day yet again? Shall we come in earlier in August? In July?

Unfortunately, many of the problems Ms. Weingarten mentions were enabled by mayoral control, which she supported. And the current regime at Tweed was plainly emboldened by the complete lack of opposition that met its third (third!) reorganization. Fortunately for them, Ms. Weingarten unilaterally disbanded a demonstration against it. This reversed a distinct downward spiral in PR for Mayor Mike.

Ms. Weingarten is eloquent, thoughtful, and quite intelligent. But if she wishes to be credible, she'll need to adjust her actions to match her words. For example, she might suggest we do planning in lieu of walking the halls, assisting the secretaries, dodging burgers in the lunchrooms, and teaching that sixth class (the one that isn't a class).

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Oh My Gosh! They're Having SEX!

Don't panic. Actually it all happened in Indonesia. Two public school students not only had sex, but made a video of it.

This inspired the local government to propose virginity tests for female high school students.

"We can't accept this idea - it's unfair as the porno tape was just an isolated case," high school student Gita, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, was quoted as saying.

But then how will we know? And we need to know, don't we? I wonder who performs these tests. Do you think it should be the gym teachers? They're health ed. teachers too, of course.

Or maybe it should be the English teachers, as they'll be able to explain the test results better to parents.

Shouldn't we test the men too, just to be fair? Maybe we could make it a multiple choice test. Call me cynical, but I don't think the true-false thing would cut the mustard in this case.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ask and Tell

There's a lot of controversy about what we should tell our children, and when we should tell our children about homosexuality. Should we discuss it in sex ed. classes? To me, it seems that not to do so would render a sex ed. class a lot less valuable.

I regularly hear kids shouting things like, "That's so gay," reflecting a mindset full of the same prejudices that plagued every ethnic group that's ever hit Ellis Island. Probably some of the kids who shout this are gay themselves, and eager to fit in. I think that's pathetic and we can do better.

When my daughter was about 5, she asked me, "What does gay mean?"

"Where did you hear that?" I asked, stalling for time. But she didn't know.

So I told her, very simply, what it meant. I certainly hope she won't be among those shouting, "That's so gay."

What have we to fear from giving our kids more information? Does anyone really think learning about homosexuality will make a difference in whether our kids are attracted to boys or girls? Aren't they going to make up their own minds, no matter what we think?

Why don't we just stop pretending ten percent of our population doesn't exist?

Why can't we get by without those handy stereotypical scapegoats?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Teacher Cam

What do you do when your daughter complains about her teacher? Well, if you work in the same school, you can attach a listening device to the teacher's chair. However, try not to get caught.

Anne M. Harvey, 44, of Flushing apologized to the fellow teacher and following her plea Thursday was sentenced to six months of probation and 75 hours of community service. Harvey also was fined $250.

So it looks like somewhere in Flushing, Michigan, a teacher will be wearing an orange jumpsuit and beautifying the environment. I certainly hope the folks at Tweed don't read this. They'll probably negotiate a new contract in which teachers pick up highway trash for one period.

I wonder if that's worse than hall patrol.

Thanks to Schoolgal

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Rudy Stands Up

Ex-education Mayor Rudy Giuliani has taken a strong stand for vouchers for private schools. Rudy, of course, has strong credentials in education. Under his tenure, every time the state raised aid to city schools, he reduced city aid by an equivalent amount (Mayor Mike was forced to abandon this practice in order to gain mayoral control).

It was also the reason a judge determined that the city could be compelled to pay a portion of the CFE lawsuit. Mayor Mike doggedly refused until the award was cut by 75%. He then declared the severely reduced award a great victory for the city since it entailed no mayoral oversight.

Rudy was also the architect of a plan to force welfare recipients to work in public schools. Rudy felt people chronically unable to find work were adequate adult role models for the city's 1.1 million schoolchildren. After all, his kids went to private school anyway, so what did he care?

Under Rudy's tenure, teachers were the lowest paid in the area, standards for hiring teachers were the lowest in the area, conditions were the worst in the area, and class sizes were the highest in the area. So Rudy knows a little about running public schools. He knows how to run them right into the ground.

When Rudy talks education, he hopes people think 9/11. Here in New York, everyone knew he was a bum on 9/10. Some of us have yet to change our opinions.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Another Principal Bites the Dust

Well, here's one even I can barely believe.

A flamboyant Queens principal who has been hailed by Chancellor Joel Klein once used students' lunch money to help foot the bill for limos to the premiere of a school-produced rap video, investigators charged yesterday.

And it appears to be 30 thousand bucks' worth, too. He seems to have other charms as well:

Blake, who was once cited by Klein for improving school safety, punched, choked and threatened a 13-year-old student last year for making remarks about his son, who also attended IS 109, officials said.

Where in the world do they find these principals? It seems like they're falling like leaves off the trees. Could it be the pressures of having to perform for Mike and Joel are too much for ordinary humans? Could it be that the largest class sizes in the state, facilities more suited to prisons, and the lowest pay in the area for teachers are not precisely ideal reforms for a city seeking educational improvement?

And if it is indeed just a bunch of bad principals, when, if ever, will people start to question the judgment of those who select them?

Thanks to Schoolgal

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Second Look

Check out what Right-Wing Prof. has to say about high-stakes testing.

Mr. Bloomberg Puts Up 5 Million Bucks

Wow, that's a lot of money. And Mayor Bloomberg is sending it to 50 low-performing middle schools. That's 100,000 per school, enough to hire two new teachers for each (as long as you keep them only one year).

He acted as the City Council released a report detailing problems in the city’s middle schools, including teacher retention difficulties and large class sizes, and issued a number of recommendations to address them. The council report noted that the percentage of eighth graders who perform at grade level is just 45.6 in math and just 41.8 percent in reading. Those were sharp drops from elementary school.

So Mayor Bloomberg appeared with a number of important city officials to report this incentive, including UFT President Randi Weingarten. There will be more advanced-level courses in these schools, as many as 100K each can buy, I suppose.

But the mayor shied away from adopting the most far-ranging changes recommended in the reports, like significantly reducing class sizes, creating a special middle school academy to train teachers about early adolescence, and removing police officers from city schools to create a more welcoming atmosphere.

Unfortunately, you can't significantly reduce class size at that price. And sadly, price is everything in Mayor Bloomberg's New York.

5 million bucks buys a lot of PR, though. While it goes a long way to sustain politicians, it will do far less for NYC's 1.1 million schoolkids. Had Mayor Bloomberg really wished to revolutionize education in this city, he wouldn't have reduced the CFE award by three-fourths through his monumental intransigence.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Kleinspeak Is Universal

We're spending four-and-a-half million bucks a year to ensure that students like mine know all the new educational terms. That's for forty translators, and they've got every little nuance down, apparently:

In an earlier life, Xin Meng chased stories as a reporter for a Chinese-language newspaper in New York. Now he spends his days figuring out how to translate mysterious phrases like “empowerment school” and “English language learner” into Chinese.

I've no doubt he's great at it. Still, he should be translating phrases like, "Your child is studying in a half-classroom with no insulation, and therefore can hear every sound from the adjacent classroom." Or the ubiquitous, "We're dumping your kids into a trailer in back of the school because you don't speak English and we figure you won't complain." Or the ever-popular, "We're closing your kid's school and eliminating all the language-support programs that used to be in it. Good luck finding someplace else."

Maybe statements like that would incite the parents to get off their butts and demand better for their kids. Or maybe not.

Probably the best place to begin such a project would be with parents of American kids. Now there are a few that are off to a good start, but we've got a long way to go.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Freedom of Speech

It's alive and well here in NYC, but there are limits. For example, if you're a high school principal, you're free to practice Santeria, or whatever religion you choose. But if you get caught using it to purge your school of negative energy, particularly if you've coerced staff members to contribute, well, perhaps you've created yourself a problem.

Maritza Tamayo, principal of the Unity Center for Urban Technologies, paid a woman named Gilda Fonte to lead several Santeria rituals at the Manhattan school during midwinter break in 2006, when students were not there, according to Richard Condon, the special commissioner of investigation for city schools. Tamayo coerced staff members to participate in and help pay for the cost of the ceremonies, investigators said.

Hmm...ya know it's one thing when the principal asks you to teach that music class, or to do a bulletin board, but paying for the cleansing ceremonies is a bit much. So it appears this principal will soon be seeking greener pastures.

One thing, though...maybe we oughta follow up and see how this chicken blood thing improves the school. Since Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein have so firmly rejected the overly costly good teachers, small classes, and decent facilities route to good schools, isn't this worth a looksee?

Thanks to California Teacher Guy

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Making Ends Meet

Well, that's a rough task for most of us, of course, but if you're Brenda Belton, the oversight chief of the D.C. Board of Ed., there are a few little things you can do to help out. For one thing, laying out $649,000 for yourself and your buddies helps out a lot:

Belton, 61, admitted to U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina that she steered about $446,000 in seven no-bid contracts to friends and a cousin and stole $203,000 by paying school funds to a fictitious company she controlled. At the same time, she received $180,000 in illegal payments and kickbacks from friends she helped with school business.

Ms. Belton's career has hit a rocky patch, however, as it appears she will be headed up the river for the next 30 to 37 months. No-bid contracts are a way of life here in Fun City, too, but they can, apparently, be problematic.

Perhaps someone should tell the mayor.

Thanks to reality-based educator

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Mystery

Over at Edwize, they don't like it when people speak ill of teacher unions. Frankly, neither do I. Teachers are one of the last bastions of vibrant unionism, and there's nothing folks like Rod Paige would lke better than to disband us all and have us work in Wal-Mart, or better yet, in factories like the ones in China that make all the stuff they sell there.

UFT President Randi Weingarten's Edwize mouthpiece is perturbed that Slate's Mickey Kaus (the union-basher in question) is quoting comments from an opponent's blog:

In the latest episode, Kaus has been reduced to quoting comments from Klein’s blog that differ with Klein’s perspective on teacher unions. Now Klein’s blog, like Edwize, actually enables comments, and Klein’s readers carry on an intelligent conversation with him.

It's interesting that this writer has such regard for intelligent conversation. In the past, this writer accused me of making up whatever facts fit today's rant simply because I accurately reported the LA Times' contention that Green Dot teachers do not have tenure (a contention later repeated by the New York Times, not to mention trumpeted on Green Dot's website).

This very same writer, after having libeled a real working UFT teacher, refused to respond directly to any of my numerous comments. "Intelligent conversation," on Edwize, evidently, entails refusing to converse civilly with anyone who opposes Ms. Weingarten's ongoing yard-sale of teacher rights. But it was not the "intelligent conversation" claim that really grabbed me. It was this:

Kaus’ blog has no comments. One can only imagine what Kaus’ readers would say, if they had the opportunity.

Now didn't he just say that Edwize enabled comments, and imply how great that was for those longing for "intelligent conversation?" Didn't he imply that Kaus did not, apparently wish to have "intelligent conversation?"

Odd, isn't it, that Ms. Weingarten, with full access to Edwize, has never, ever chosen to blog there? She'll be blogging at Eduwonk's place, beginning on the 20th of August.

Eduwonk's blog, incidentally, does not permit comments. Why do you suppose Ms. Weingarten chose such a forum to introduce herself to the blogosphere?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Cerf's Up!

Here's Chris Cerf, Deputy Chancellor of the NYC Department of Education, on teacher effectiveness:
But let's hope we are past the point of evaluating success based on "inputs"– how much we care,

Note that one of the first things Mr. Cerf rejects is how much teachers care about students. Personally, it's impossible for me to condone hiring a teacher who doesn't care about kids, nor would I want such a teacher in charge of my own kid. Teachers who don't like kids, in fact, are the very worst teachers there are.

Now caring alone does not guarantee a good teacher. Still, it's an absolute prerequisite, and does not bear belittling.

whether a particular program or approach appears compelling,

This is an ironic comment from one who represents the DoE, with a history of mandating programs and abiding no deviation from the programs it's prescribed.

how many students in a class feels like the appropriate number,

Note how Mr. Cerf mildly ridicules and completely repudiates lower class size. Money, the most important factor in this administration, dicates leaving class sizes as high as they are now, the highest in the state. This is a strong indication that this administration plans to continue making superficial and meaningless changes, to give the appearance of progress rather than actually make any.
how many degrees or certificates our educators possess, etc.

It's always fascinating to see people who clearly don't value education running education systems. I realize there's a lot of crap taught in higher education (as in other fields), but that ought to be corrected rather than flushing college down the toilet. Perhaps Mr. Cerf prefers less costly McTeachers , who can be used a few years, and then discarded.

Personally, my MA in Applied Linguistics was very valuable. I certainly know more about language acquisition than US Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, or indeed many of those who design the tests that quite inadequately test the English ability of my students (Kids who barely speak routinely pass New York City's LAB test).

Mr. Cerf then explains that the single most important factor in student achievement is the teacher. Having taught and studied for many years, I disagree. The single most important factor is the student's background. The teacher is simply the second best bet for that kid (a strong argument for quality teachers), and it's very tough to turn around a 17-year-old with a lifetime of bad habits. Experience is our best asset for dealing with these kids. You learn to approach kids, you make mistakes, and you get better. You get far more effective.

And it's much easier to control such a kid and stop the spread of such behavior in a class of 25 or less than one of 34 or more.

And you can indeed make progress, but that may entail getting the kid to sit down, to stop interrupting constantly, to be friendly, or at least tolerant of you and the other students. It's simply idiotic to discount such progress, and it's woefully ignorant to imagine one could significantly raise test scores without achieving all of the above. Regrettably, that does not occur with a snap of the fingers. And I haven't even gotten to home contact, let alone persuading the kid to study.

It's not all about "designing data systems," Mr. Cerf. When you discount time, education and discipline in learning to teach (or learning anything whatsoever), that represents something other than wisdom.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Wahoo Wahoo Wahoo

That's an old song I heard someone from Texas sing once. And what a coincidence, the Carnival of Education is up on Education in Texas.

Check it out.

You Gotta Have a Gimmick

It's now, it's wow. Let's give kids a few hundred bucks if they can do well on tests. Who knows? It might work. But there are those who feel differently:

Mrs. Windland wants Alexandra (her daughter) to do well for all the timeless reasons — to cultivate a love of learning, advance to more competitive schools and the like. She has on occasion bought her children toys or taken them out for dinner when they brought home pleasurable report cards, but she does not believe in dangling rewards beforehand.

I'll have to agree with Mrs. Windland. It's a kid's job to do well in school, and the rewards may not be immediate. Do we want our kids to expect 10 bucks an hour to practice the violin? To do chores around the house? To say "please" and "thank you?"

What about the kids who don't qualify?

“The kids who don’t get reimbursed are going to say, ‘Why should I bother!’ ” Mrs. Windland said.

Perhaps. But not everyone agrees.

There are parents who support the program. And Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein responds to skeptics by arguing that no one has figured out how to get more poorer children engaged in learning. Trumpeting the long-term benefits of education, the better jobs and lives well lived has not worked. Cash just might.

It just might. But good teachers, smaller classes and decent facilities might work as well. This, which seems to work well elsewhere, has been dismissed as prohibitively expensive not only by this administration, but by its predecessors as well. The CFE lawsuit, which promised precisely that, was rendered toothless by this mayor's absolute opposition to funding any part of it. Furthermore, in its most recent form, there's no oversight for this administration.

That's why we're throwing a few bucks at a few kids, rather than bettering the system for all.

Keep an Eye on Eduwonk

Guest blogging starting today, Chris Cerf from the Department of Education. Next guest blogger is none other than UFT President Randi Weingarten.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

It's Not All Test Scores

In my first year, my first school, my first semester, one of my students presented me with the sort of decision they don't discuss in education classes. He took what appeared to be a switchblade out of his pocket and showed it to me.

"What do you think about this?" he asked.

I pondered two options: running away, or saying something.

"Please don't bring your toys to school," I told the kid.

He opened the object, a comb popped out, and he began to arrange his hair.

In retrospect, things could have worked out quite a bit worse than they did. Also, I don't think I even confiscated the object, which I'd certainly do nowadays.

What would you have done?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Children Fourth

Well, it's money first, of course. You need multi-billion dollar surpluses before you begin to deny a million-plus kids good teachers and reasonably-sized classes. And it's hard to stretch that cash when you're openly planning twice as many seats in sports stadiums than you are in public schools.

Next, of course, is PR. You're only as good as you look. Since the press takes a largely uncritical eye toward reform, you can pretty much change anything any way you wish and they'll hail it as genius. Forget about that good teacher-small class nonsense, which is expensive and not nearly as sexy as a reorganization. Or a second or third reorganization.

Third is to squeeze maximum time and effort from working people for as little compensation possible. That darn teachers' contract, despite all the givebacks, still says you have to pay veteran teachers a whole bunch of money (Never mind that it's still less than the surrounding suburbs). Plus, if those nasty teachers stick it out, you have to shell out for pensions. Why can't they eat dog food like the other seniors on social security (and jeez, when are we gonna get rid of that program)? How can you build sports stadiums and luxury boxes when you have to focus on such frivolities?

Now those charter schools are a great thing. No pensions, no veteran teachers, a lot of turnover, and more money for what's important. So let's keep closing schools and dumping charters in the spaces we create. Never mind good schools, like mine, operating at 250% capacity. If we keep shoveling kids into schools like that, we can close them too, and create even more charters. This way, we not only save money, but avoid any and all accountability for what goes on in the schools. They're privately run, so how the hell are we supposed to know what's going on?

After all that, if anything we do helps the kids, fine. We have no problem with that.

Thanks to Norm

Friday, August 03, 2007

Mr. Bloomberg Declares Randall's Island Free for All

In another magnanimous gesture, city officials announced that Randall's Field would soon be open to all students, private and public alike. Sure the city leased the fields to private schools from 3 to 6 on weekdays, but the bootless and unhorsed are still free to run their dirty little legs around after that.

And to show what great guys they are, Mayor Mike and Uncle Joel didn't even charge the private schools interest (Ask your bank for a deal like that).

Sure, this arrangement precludes the possibility of most sports teams from public schools using the fields after school. But team sports are overrated, as the value of teamwork will probably not improve test scores. Ask yourselves honestly--could public team sports really improve the images of Mike Bloomberg and Joel Klein?

Fortunately, due to chronic neglect and massive overcrowding, some city schools don't even close till almost 6 PM. Everyone knows public school kids never do homework anyway, so why not just send 'em then?

In any case, the little urchins have the fields pretty much to themselves as soon as the Dalton kids have had the run of the place, so what's the problem? Let them stay there until 3 AM if they like. Let them sleep there. Let their families join them. Everyone knows how expensive rent is here in the Big Apple.

But they better get their asses out of there before the Dalton kids get back, if they know what's good for them.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Mr. Bloomberg and Public Transport

Doesn't Mayor Bloomberg take the subway to work?

Then why are there two Suburbans idling outside his townhouse every morning?

I'm Rich!

Wow, check this out. It looks like we're going to have to spend 200 million a year to improve the English skills of newcomers, the legal ones. And if we want to help the illegals as well, we're talking 2.9 billion. As an ESL teacher, I gotta say that's some chunk of change.

The Migration Policy Institute has determined that learning English is very, very important for people who come here, especially if they need to pass citizenship tests. I'm glad that there are people to do these studies. Me, I'd just have said anyone with half a brain who wants a decent future here ought to get off his ass and learn English (Anyone who's unlucky enough to have me as a teacher had better do the same).

But wait a cotton-picking minute:
The authors assume that instruction would cost $10 an hour...

Whoa. I regret to tender my early resignation. I could make that at Baskin-Robins and get free ice cream too.

To all my newcomer friends--Good luck learning English with your 10-dollar-an-hour teachers. You're certainly gonna need it.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Visit the Carnival

over at Doc Homeslice's place.

Truth and Consequences

How does Mr. Bloomberg do it? Sure, a lot of people doubt his statistics, since he doesn't count dropouts as not having graduated, but he does seem to shuffle a lot of kids through somehow. Are they ready for college? What's the dif, as long as they make Tweed look good?

In today's Times, Sam Freeman follows a particularly egregious example of statistics run amuck. Austin Lampros, a math teacher at the High School of Arts and Technology in Manhattan, failed a student. Among other things, she didn't bother showing up for the final exam. Mr. Lampros was ordered to allow her to take it two days after his other students had done so.

I'd be very uncomfortable with such a directive, as I do not wish my students to have the benefit of discussing what's on the test with their friends. But that's not the only reason he failed the student:

According to Mr. Lampros’s records, she missed one-third of the classes, arrived late for 20 sessions, turned in half the required homework assignments, failed 11 of 14 tests and quizzes...

Frankly, that's not my idea of a good student.

What lesson do principals teach when they overrule classroom instructors to pass kids like that?

It appears to me the lesson is there are no consequences for your actions, or your negligence. That's precisely the opposite of what I want my child to learn in school, and it's certainly not what she learns from me.

Mr. Lampros has resigned and returned to his native Michigan. It's very sad that his integrity will keep him from giving city kids the help they sorely need with math.

And it's pathetic, almost criminal, the things that must be done to buttress this mayor's wholly unmerited reputation as an educational reformer.