Sunday, September 30, 2007

Who Really Belongs In The Rubber Room?

Leonard Brown, a veteran physics teacher at Cardozo High School, languishes in the New York City Department of Education Rubber Room these days after he was charged with "having made physical contact with a student" during a science demonstration when he asked her to push her hands up against him with all her weight.

Brown writes that he has been using this lesson for the past 18 years to demonstrate one of the axioms of Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Brown says never in all that time has there been a complaint about impropriety during the lesson but nonetheless he now faces charges against him pursuant to the 3020a State Education Law.

This means the city is trying to have him permanently removed from the classroom and strip him of his teaching license.

While Leonard Brown sits in the Rubber Room awaiting his fate, another city employee continues to work unhindered despite some pretty serious discrimination and harassment charges made against him.

This city employee has been accused of the following:

* asking a female employee if she was giving her boyfriend "good" oral sex.

* saying "I'd like to do that" and "That's a great piece of a--" to describe women in the office.

* pointing out a young female employee and telling another female employee, "If you looked like that, I would do you in a second."

* telling a pregnant employee to "Kill it!" in reference to her baby and saying "Great! Number 16!" -- an apparent reference to the number of women in the company who were pregnant or had maternity-related status.

These are just some of the specific allegations made against this city employee.

There are others but they all add up to one thing - this city employee with immense power who supervises hundreds of thousands of other city employees has been accused of creating a work atmosphere where he and "other male managers at the company made 'repeated and unwelcome' sexual comments, overtures and gestures," and contributed "to an offensive, locker-room culture."

This city employee is of course Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg, as I posted here on Friday, has been hit with at least three sexual harassment law suits in the past. He settled one out of court, paying the accuser off quietly and insisting upon a confidentiality agreement in the case. Another suit was quietly withdrawn by the accuser after her lawyer and Bloomberg's lawyers met for some "discussions." His company, Bloomberg LP, is currently being sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for gender discrimination after at least four female employees accused Bloomberg LP of discriminating against them either during pregnancy or upon their return from maternity leave.

Now it is true that the current discrimination allegations made against Bloomberg LP all allegedly took place after Bloomberg stepped down from day-to-day operations running the company, but the previous sexual harassment allegations were all made against Bloomberg himself and an argument can be made that the alleged gender discrimination practices currently pursued by the management of Bloomberg LP started when Mayor Mike himself was running the company (since all of the sexual harassment charges I detailed above stem from his time as CEO.)

I cannot fathom why it is that Leonard Brown, an 18 year teaching veteran who was simply trying to teach Newton's Law to students, sits in the DOE Rubber Room for months on end as the city cooks up reasons to fire him while Mayor Michael Bloomberg, accused of saying things like "That's a great piece of a--" and "If you looked like that, I would do you in a second" gets to run around Europe drumming up support and media buzz for his independent presidential bid.

I also cannot understand why there is not more outrage over these allegations from both the news media and the public.

Let's be honest here - wouldn't we hear a lot more outrage about these sexual harassment and gender discrimination charges if they were made against a teacher?

I know we would.

The teacher would be tried and convicted in the court of public opinion (otherwise known as the front covers of the NY Daily News and NY Post) while the UFT threw up their collective hands and said "Sorry, we've done all we can do."

And yet somehow Michael Bloomberg has managed to avoid serious scrutiny over some truly disturbing allegations that may or may not be true but certainly are much more troubling than what Leonard Brown is accused of doing in physics class and certainly shouldn't be glossed over the way they currently have been.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Have We Gone Too Far?

Bronx Assemblyman Michael Benjamin wants to make cupcakes the official children's snack food of New York State.

Benjamin's bill is in response to a ban on cupcakes at school birthday parties in some Long Island school districts.

These school districts want to combat obesity problems in children and have banned the cupcake as one of the prime offenders in the war against fat.

Benjamin acknowledges there is a huge problem with childhood obesity in this country, but thinks the school cupcake ban is going too far:

Benjamin said that while even his wife thinks his bill encourages childhood obesity, "it's a personal pet peeve of mine that everything that brings warm memories, the muffin mullahs want to cut out of our diet."

"I recognize that there are some overweight children and obesity is a rising problem among some of our children, but it makes no sense that school districts are banning cupcakes parties for little children," he went on.

Is Benjamin making a good point here? Are the food police going too far when they start banning cupcakes and other goodies from schools for even special occasions like birthday parties and holiday fests?

Or are these school districts right to ban sweets of all kinds from school in an attempt to get kids socialized into eating healthy early on in their lives?

I dunno, maybe there is a third way to deal with this problem. Maybe cupcakes could be allowed in school for very special occasions like birthday parties but otherwise banned from the school?

I tend to think the special occasion idea might work best.

I don't know about you, but I try and eat healthy as much as I can (lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat, etc.) but when it comes to special occasions, I like to celebrate with something fun like cupcakes or ice cream.

As good as carrots and hummus or a fresh fruit salad can be, there's nothing like cupcakes and ice cream to really mark the occasion "special."

And of course you can make the cupcakes or other goodies healthier than say the Tastycake/Hostess/local bakery loaded with lard and fat variety.

What do you think?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Harassment and Discrimination

Many in the mainstream media have fallen all over themselves to praise the possibility of an independent run for the White House by Mayor Moneybags.

David Broder, the "dean" of Washington journalism and a man who is considered the weather vane of conventional political wisdom, has been pushing a Bloomberg candidacy for quite a while now.

The conventional wisdom is that Moneybags, seen as "Mr. Competent" and "Mr Apolitical," would be a candidate who could appeal to people who cannot stomach the more polarizing figure of St. Rudy of 9/11 or want to forget the sex scandals of the Clinton years by NOT voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Behind the conventional wisdom lies the presumption that Bloomberg is relatively sane, highly competent, has little political or personal baggage and more money than God to spend on campaigning.

But between the news of the sexual harassment suits filed against him personally in the past and yesterday's news that his company is being sued for gender discrimination, the conventional wisdom about Moneybags having little personal or political baggage just might be wrong.

First let's take a look at what the NY Sun has to say about the gender discrimination suit filed against his company yesterday:

New allegations of gender-based discrimination against Mayor Bloomberg's financial news company, Bloomberg L.P., could be a political liability for the mayor if he opts to run for president.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the company yesterday on behalf of three women who say they were discriminated against either during pregnancy or upon their return from maternity leave.

The EEOC, which acts on only a fraction of the discrimination complaints it receives, claims that the company engaged in "unlawful employment practices" between February 2002 and the present. That is after Mr. Bloomberg stepped down and removed himself from the company's daily operations. The mayor has been at the center of a gender discrimination lawsuit in the past, but he adamantly denied the charges.

A professor of public affairs at Baruch College, Douglas Muzzio, said that though yesterday's suit covers a period after Mr. Bloomberg exited, it could hurt politically if he decides to run for president as a third party candidate.

"It could be argued that he did it before, there was a culture, he was a man at the top," Mr. Muzzio said. "If he decides to run it could be very bad because then it dredges up all the old stuff."

That's an interesting point about Bloomberg creating a culture where women were discriminated against and/or treated as "less-than," because back in 2001 the Village Voice reported that Bloomberg seemed to be pretty indifferent to sexual harassment charges and the seriousness of rape when he was running the Bloomberg L.P. too:

In a 1998, 272-page deposition never before made public, Michael Bloomberg said he would believe a rape charge only if it was supported by "an unimpeachable third-party" witness, and accused an ex-employee who said she'd been raped by a Bloomberg executive of "extortion." Asked if he believed "false claims of rape are common," the GOP mayoral contender and CEO of a vast financial-information empire replied: "I don't have an opinion." [Read excerpts.]

Bloomberg's comments are drawn from one of three sexual harassment lawsuits that have dogged him since 1996, all of which contended that "a hostile environment of persistent sexual harassment and the general degradation of women" existed at the 8000-employee company of the same name that Bloomberg founded and ran. In addition to his uninformed testimony about rape, Bloomberg also displayed a chilly indifference to sexual harassment laws and guidelines during the deposition. Bloomberg declined to discuss these issues with the Voice, though a company spokeswoman insisted it has "zero tolerance" for harassment or rape. While the rape case of sales representative Mary Ann Olszewski has been mentioned in occasional news accounts, it has not attracted as much attention as a companion case filed by Sekiko Garrison, another member of the predominantly female, and usually young, attractive, and short-skirted sales force.

The Garrison case focused on a claimed pattern of gender discrimination, with several women quoted in court documents as saying that they'd "lost lucrative portions of their sales territory, were denied business opportunities and received inferior bonuses" once they got married or had children. Garrison alleged that Bloomberg told her twice to "kill it" when she informed him she was pregnant, adding "Great! Number 16," a reference to the number of women then on maternity leave.

Now I'm not the most astute political observer and I'm certainly no David Broder, but how is it that a man who went on record saying rape charges made by women against their bosses are often "extortion" opportunities, told a woman employee who informed him she was pregnant that she should "kill" the child, and created a "good ole boy" atmosphere in his company where women were systematically discriminated against and/or harassed manages to have the reputation for being a straight shooting political guy with little political or personal baggage?

It seems to me that if somebody in the press actually looked into the numerous sexual harassment and gender discrimination charges made against Moneybags in just the past decade alone, they would find a treasure trove of dirty laundry that would permanently end his White House dreams.

You can be sure that if these stories were swirling around Bill Clinton, the press would be following up on them.

How is it that Moneybags gets a free pass?

I have this theory that's it's because he runs a media company and that journalists in general are loathe to anger potential future employers by writing negative stories about them.

I dunno if that's the case, but it sure is disturbing that Mayor Michael Bloomberg manages to avoid scrutiny for these very serious harassment and discrimination charges made against him and his company.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Is Our Childrens Learning?

Preznut Bush held an education photo op yesterday with Mayor Moneybags, Uncle Joel Klein, First Lady Laura Bush and a bunch of New York City school kids.

Bush extolled his record as "Education President" and demanded the Congress extend the No Child Left Behind law.

Bush said the recently released results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests that showed fourth and eighth grade math scores rising between 2003 and 2005 prove that NCLB is working.

Here's how Bushie put it:

"As yesterday's positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured."

Yes, the childrens sure do learn when standards and measured results are added to the system!

And just in case you think Bush made a mistake when he said the word childrens, he followed up with this statement:

"Congress needs to work with this administration to pass legislation that helps gives (sic) our children the education they deserve."

Keith Olbermann reported last night on Countdown that the White House scrubbed the grammatical errors from the transcript of the event to make Bushie sound both articulate and grammatical.

That's one way to have high standards!

Make the mistakes, then erase them like they never happened.

Kinda like he's tried to do with the Iraq war, Katrina, the budget deficit, global warming...

Remember, accountability is only for other people.

Mayor Moneybags and Uncle Joel Klein, despite being members of different parties from Preznut Bush, hold similar views about accountability and standards.

As Bushie said yesterday about Mayor Moneybags:

"The mayor is a no-nonsense guy who understands that if you set a goal, you expect to see results in achieving that goal...He knows how to ask tough questions and he's pretty good about moving aside bureaucracy that will inhibit the people he has selected to achieve the goal."

Sure, that's one way of looking at the mayor's record on education.

Another would be to note how the mayor has continually reorganized the New York City public school system because his reform program hasn't worked, yet he refuses to accept accountability for the changes he has brought about because he says the reforms are not all in place yet.

Of course the reforms will never all be in place because Moneybags is constantly changing them so that he never has to be held accountable to those high standards he and Klein and Bushie have for others.

It's kinda like when the White House press office scrubs the transcript of Preznut Bush's mistakes and makes believe they never happened.

The lesson for our childrens is quite simple - accountability is for other people.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Carnival....

...of education is up. You can find it right here.


Yesterday, the Department of Education in Washington released the results of nation-wide math and reading tests for fourth and eighth graders from 2005 - known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

The NY Times reports that nationally math scores rose while reading scores did not, with eighth grade reading scores actually declining.

In New York State, however, students performed poorly on both the math and the reading tests compared to the nation at large.

For example, the percentage of eighth graders in New York State who are considered proficient in math decreased from 32% in 2003 to 30% in 2005 while overall nation-wide proficiency increased.

The NY Sun reports today that the discrepancies between the national test scores and the scores students receive on New York State tests, which tend to be much higher, are causing some to call for an independent audit of the state tests:

A Manhattan Institute scholar, Sol Stern, called the discrepancies a "spanking" for the New York State Education Department. "Its claims of fabulous improvements in eighth-grade reading and math scores for 2007 have proven to be just more hype," he said.


The president of the teachers union, Randi Weingarten, called the discrepancies a "cloud" on returns showing achievement overall went up nationwide.

"What these tests suggest is New York State has a very serious problem with its testing program," an education historian, Diane Ravitch, said, calling for an audit of the program.

The state education commissioner, Richard Mills, has so far rejected calls for an independent audit of the state tests.

Nobody has yet asked Uncle Joel Klein and Mayor Moneybags why the city tests scores are even better than the state test scores when the national test scores clearly show New York students lagging behind other states in achievement on the fourth and eighth grade math and reading tests.

But let's be honest here - if education experts like Sol Stern and Diane Ravitch think the NAEP test scores for NY State students call into question the integrity of the state tests, the NAEP results REALLY call into question the integrity of the city tests.

Perhaps as Moneybags continues to play coy with the national political press and flirt with the idea of running for president as the "Education Mayor" and "Mr. Competency," somebody in the national or city press can stop sucking up to him long enough to ask him some direct, pointed and knowledgeable questions about the validity of the test score increases he continually brags about and the integrity of his so-called education reforms.

In other words, how about somebody holds the "Accountability Mayor" accountable for his own horse hockey?

Let's start with an independent audit of the city tests.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Adventures in Charter Schools

The LA Times runs a story today about Academia Avance, a Highland Park charter school that former teachers, former office workers, a former principal, and parents say has serious problems with financial impropriety, gross mismanagement and academic shortcomings.

The founder of Academia Avance - Ricardo Mireles, a former technical specialist for the Metropolitan Transit Authority and LA Unified school district - decided to open his own charter school after he helped set up computer and phone systems for the California Charter Schools Association.

The LA Times says Mireles thought he had "soaked up" enough about education while working for the charter school association as a computer and phone guy to start his own charter.

Apparently top officials at LA Unified agreed because he got his charter in the fall of 2005 and started the school with 100 sixth and seventh graders. He is planning to add a grade every year so that the school eventually teaches grades 6-12.

But former employees and parents say the place is a disaster. Mireles is described as an "autocrat" who burns through staff like cheap candles. Teachers quit and are replaced by office staff, parents of children, even Mireles himself. Rarely is a qualified teacher brought in.

Mireles pads attendance records to make his school look better to LA Unified. If a student is absent but can be contacted by staff on the phone at home, in the hospital or even in Mexico, that student is declared "present" on the attendance list. Mireles denies this is so but told a parents' forum that

We explained to parents and kids, even if your child is not in school and you come and talk to your teachers and get the homework, there's a value for that," he said. If the student comes on campus for 1 minute, that counts -- that's the way the average daily attendance rules work.

Heckuva way to educate the kids! Have them stay home, watch Maury and call in for the homework or go to Mexico for the week and call in long distance for it.

I bet Chancellor Klein in New York City, who also likes to pad attendance statistics himself, might find some use for Mireles' attendance innovations.

At any rate, even when the kids show up to Academia Avance, there are huge problems. For instance, in order to make the school environment look better than it actually is to regulators from the district, Mireles has a habit of moving classes from the actual school grounds to somewhere else:

He allowed the school district's charter-school division to believe that classes were actually taking place at nearby Ramona Hall or in the facilities of Plaza de la Raza, rather than at a Presbyterian church at North Avenue 53 and Figueroa Street.

For one visit by the charter-school division, the entire student body was moved to Ramona Hall, according to former Principal Carlos O. Cortez, former office manager Maria Lopez and former teacher Miller.

Mireles denied any deception. Sometimes the church was unavailable because of construction or church-related business; sometimes it wasn't the best venue for the day's instructional program, he said.

Why does Mireles feel the need to move classes to another locale when higher-ups from the district come?

Because Academia Avance has substandard classrooms, no heat, no air conditioning, inadequate services for the disabled, computers that don't work, and broken bathrooms.

You can see why Mireles would want to take the school on a class trip on those days when the charter school supervisors show up to evaluate his school.

Academia Avance is a dump.

Mireles says all these allegations are being made by disgruntled former employees so they shouldn't be believed, but even if they are true, none of the allegations amount to a crime, so everything is swell with Academia Avance.

The LA Times says charter schools like Academia Avance, which has low test score stats as well as the numerous complaints lodged about staff turnover, inadequate facilities and administrator impropriety, will probably survive:

The story of an embattled charter school facing the school board and the court of public opinion has emerged several times in the last year. Nearly all such schools have survived, whether the issue was low test scores, admission practices, questionable accounting or an unorthodox curriculum.

It seems that charter schools lead a charmed life in the LA Unified school district.

Apparently because these schools are charters, they are allowed to get away with financial impropriety, attendance record fraud, broken down facilities and other problems that charter school advocates would be screaming about if the schools were regular old public schools with unionized employees.

On the plus side, it does seem that if you're looking for a change in job and you know nothing about education other than you once went to school sometime in the past, LA Unified has a charter school for you.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Without a Paddle

Unity-New Action types are all aglow with a resolution they've made in the executive board proposing that ATR teachers be placed before new teachers are hired. However, without specific contractual amendments, it's just as meaningless as their declaration about solving the class size problem.

Monopolistic, amoral, self-serving Unity-New Action can make all the resolutions it likes. Perhaps it's learned from Mayor Bloomberg that image can yield more political capital than substance. The fact is, however, that its patronage machine enabled the ATR problem by approving it, and recently worsened it by supporting Klein's Mach III re-org. They took an enormous step backward with this, and the result was entirely predictable.

Were it not for the extreme apathy of most city teachers (over 75% of whom didn't even bother to vote in union elections), and the patronage mill that enables the Unity-New Action machine to suck up our dues money (not to mention permitting them blatantly unethical major television campaigns before every election), informed voices would be crying out for the impeachment of Randi Weingarten, along with her entire Unity-New Action gang of double-pensioned sycophants.

The 2005 contract was an abomination of unprecedented givebacks for a compensation increase that failed even to meet cost of living. It was relentlessly promoted by union leadership with threats and lies worthy of Karl Rove. On Edwize, they even changed the names of Unity faithful to give us the impression they were voices "from the trenches." Ms. Weingarten's "progressive" leadership earns us ATR status and the admiration of blatant anti-unionists like Rod Paige. There is no question we could have done better.

We could hardly have done worse.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Toxic Spew

The NY Daily News reported yesterday that parents of students attending one of the mayor's small schools - the Information Technology High School in Long Island City - held a news conference along with two City Council members from Queens to protest that the school site "occupies a former metal-plating warehouse contaminated with lead and petrochemicals."

The Daily News goes to report that Mayor Moneybags and Chancellor Klein exploited a loophole in the law to avoid public scrutiny of the school site.

If the city had built the school on city-owned land, they would have to make the details about the entire project, including the ostensible clean-up of the toxins, public.

But the NY Times reports that the city instead leased the land for $1.5 million a year and then spent $20 million converting the warehouse for use as a high school and an occupational training center for disabled students.

The city is not required to make public any details about school buildings that are leased rather than owned outright by the city, which is why they made no details about this school and the problems with toxic waste public.

The Information Technology High School has been opened since 2003. The Department of Education claims they have tested the school building and have deemed the air quality good and the environmental quality "safe."

But according to the Times article, the pump outside the school that is supposed to pull vapors from the toxic plume under the school site and expel them has repeatedly malfunctioned and caused increased contamination levels at the site.

As a result,

the group monitoring the school’s environmental remedial system, Leggette, Brashears & Graham, Inc., advised the school system to shut down the pump until the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation could identify the cause of the increased contamination levels.

The Daily News also reports that some environmental advocates believe the building's vapor-extraction system might be making conditions at the site worse by "sucking up toxins from adjacent sites" and bringing them to the school site.

Parents and environmental advocates want the school retested for toxic contamination.

But the DOE continues to resist new testing, again saying that the school air quality has already been tested and deemed "safe" and the extraction system has "no faults."

Chancellor Klein, notably absent from said toxic waste dump while issuing his press release, said this about the problem:

"My understanding, based on all the reports we've heard, is that it is not toxic," Klein said. "But we will continue to do the appropriate testing and to make sure that obviously there's no exposure to our students."

Notice lawyer Klein's lawyerly response to the charges that the school is toxic and dangerous to students.

"Based on all the reports we've heard..."

"My understanding is...that it is not toxic..."

Heckuva way to parse language and avoid liability, Joel!

And notice too that Klein says he will continue to do "appropriate testing" of the school to see that it is safe.

By "appropriate testing," we must assume he means only tests that he approves of, and clearly new air quality tests and testing of the extraction system equipment are NOT tests he approves of.

Perhaps if these environmental air quality tests were standardized multiple choice tests that could be used for teacher merit pay he would be more inclined to support them.

In any case, it is clear that Klein will do nothing about this problem other than issue press releases from the safety of Tweed Courthouse.

And so as the Department of Education and the chancellor and the mayor do all they can to mitigate the damage from this story and make it go away, parents are left to wonder if their children are being irreparably damaged when they send them off to school every day.

As one parent told the Daily News:

"The school is great; his teachers are great. He's really learning," the Maspeth parent said. "[But] if we leave him here, we are just rolling the dice."

Another parent said:

"I want to be able to place my child in another school come Monday," he said. "Thank you. Give me my child. I'm out."

Given the track record of this mayor and this chancellor when it comes to transparency and honesty over safety issues in the schools, you'd have to think that pulling their kids out of the Information Technology High School is the best thing parents can do.

Friday, September 21, 2007


A Riverhead football coach has been suspended for refusing to allow videotaping of his gym class. After Colombine, video cameras are thought by some to be necessary in auditoriums and gymnasiums. And it doesn't seem to end there:
Uniondale installed 162 cameras last year at its high school alone. Great Neck began installing about 250 cameras districtwide. Federal statistics show 60 percent of high schools nationwide have at least one security camera on premises.

I can understand recording at entrances, and perhaps in large areas where a lot of people congregate, but I wouldn't want cameras perpetually in my classrooms. It's very tough to get kids to participate, and knowing they're being recorded doesn't help. I spend a great deal of energy trying to coax words out of quiet, shy kids, and they're frightened enough already.

I once had a student observer who sat in my beginning class and clicked on a tape recorder. She was quite upset when I had her turn it off, arguing with me to the point where I asked her to leave. She went nuts. I told her she could either leave of her own volition or wait to be escorted out by security. She left, screaming at the top of her lungs. Doubtless she'll make a fine teacher one day.

I wouldn't mind having my classes recorded from time to time. But having a camera there all the time is a little too Big Brother for my tastes.

Do we need cameras in schools?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Closer Look At The Manipulated School Crime Stats

We already know that Mayor Moneybags and Chancellor Klein manipulate test scores. The Daily News reported that back on September 4th.

We also know Moneybags and Klein manipulate the physical and sexual abuse complaints on city school buses. The Daily News reported that on September 16th.

As NYC Educator posted here
, today we learned from both the NY Times and the NY Daily News that Klein and Bloomberg are also manipulating crime statistics in public schools.

Boy, these guys know manipulation!

Let's take a closer look at how they do it.

Here's the NY Times account:

A sampling of large New York City high schools showed that the schools failed to notify the state of a significant number of violent or disruptive episodes in the 2004-5 school year, the city comptroller announced yesterday.

The comptroller, William C. Thompson Jr., said an audit showed that the city had not ensured that all principals accurately report violence in their schools, making it difficult for the public to assess their safety.

The audit examined an array of records in 10 schools, comparing them with computerized data sent to the state. It found, for example, that officials at Brooklyn’s Boys and Girls High School informed the state of 14 cases of violence or misbehavior through a special computer system, which the state uses to comply with reporting obligations under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

But the audit also found that in 41 additional cases the state was never informed, including one rape and an instance outside the school in which two students were “about to be jumped” by gang members.

At Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical Education High School in the Bronx, 133 cases, ranging from graffiti to the removal of six students from a particularly disruptive class, were noted in school records but not placed in the computer system and sent to the state, the audit found.

On average, more than one in five episodes at the 10 schools were not reported to the state, the audit found. Reporting varied widely among the schools; some reported most incidents, while others did not.

Chancellor Klein, ever the model for accountability so long as it is teachers being held accountable, promptly blamed the person who ran the audit of the 10 schools - New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson - for the mess and said the public school system has “one of the most comprehensive reporting systems in the country.”

Klein also said that if there was any fault on the part of the school system, it clearly lays with the principals and the school personnel who do the reporting of the crime statistics.

Never mind that it is the chancellor's guidelines, clearly approved by the mayor, that are so vague and open to interpretation that a school principal can fail to report rape and gang violence as crimes.

It's funny how the accountability in the school system always seems to reside just below Klein's level and certainly never gets anywhere near Moneybags either.

For his part, Comptroller Thompson - a candidate for mayor in '09 and probably not someone who is going to want to keep Chancellor Klein around to finish the Children First reforms - dismissed claims that his audit was imprecise and misleading:

"I think parents would want to know the accurate numbers as to whether a school is safe or not safe."

Failing to report every incident, he said, "creates a bit of illusion" that could deprive a school of public resources that might flow with a full accounting.

It also could deprive parents of the right to move their kids to safer schools. Students at schools on the state's list of persistently dangerous schools can request a transfer.

Not to mention it makes it look like Moneybags and Klein are doing a much better job with the school system than they really are.

Ironically, Moneybags released a set of statistics yesterday that showed major felony crime down 2% in schools, from 1,187 in fiscal year 2006 to 1,164 instances in 2007. Bloomberg also reported major felony crimes were down 22% in schools where he sent extra police as part of an anti-crime program. Thompson's audit showed on average more than 1 in 5 crimes or violent incidents were not reported in the 10 schools he audited.

While the comptroller's audit looked at 2004 and the mayor's vaunted stats released yesterday were for 2006-2007, you'd have to think that if there was underreporting in just the 10 schools Thompson looked at, there was underreporting in plenty more that he didn't look at.

You'd also have to think that the statistics Bloomberg released yesterday that he claims shows major reductions in school crime are as phony as his 4th grade math test score statistics.

It's good that Comptroller Thompson called Bloomberg and Klein on their phony crime stats the very day they released others showing how great a job they're doing running the system.

One final note about all this: while Klein seemed to dismiss the whole thing as political nonsense created by Thompson to help him in his mayoral bid in '09, we know from a Daily News report from last week that when principals fail to report incidents properly, deadly consequences can occur:

Heavy pressure to make a school seem less dangerous may have exacerbated a stroke that 15-year-old Mariya Fatima suffered at Jamaica High School in Queens last spring, the girl's family said.

The Daily News reported last week that Jamaica High officials may have waited too long to call for help because an assistant principal barred deans from dialing 911.

Although Thompson stopped short of saying the unreported incidents were deliberately covered up by unscrupulous officials, he referenced the story in The News about Mariya as an example of a "lax attitude" that "paints an artificial and illusory picture of what's actually going on."

Bloomberg and Klein need to open the books and show the methodology for their stats. They claimed in a statement that "The [controller's] methodology wouldn't make it to first base with a researcher worth their salt" because "it used old data, different crime definitions from the ones schools use and looked at only 10 schools."

Different crime definitions?

At one school, a rape wasn't reported as a crime.

Since when is rape not a crime?

Since Mayor Moneybags and Chancellor Klein rewrote the crime definitions!

Keeping Up Appearances

The New York Times reports (surprise!) that principals are still underreporting violent acts in public schools. You'd think they'd jump at the opportunity to place their jobs (not to mention their schools) at risk, but it appears, for some odd reason, they're not doing so.

It's a long-standing city tradition not to report incidents. Now the mayor has made strict rules saying they must be reported, but that's a cynical ploy which does nothing but get him off the hook. The major reform of Michal Bloomberg, and the legacy of his "reforms" is a system in which all blame is laid upon working people.

There's a new TV commercial urging the city to keep the reforms up. To support its premise, it mentions a school where only 30% of kids were meeting standards. One of the new schools which replaces it has 70% passing. The commercial neglects to mention that the new school houses entirely new students, and that in any case it represents a fraction of the previous school's population, rendering any comparison invalid.

But few will question its premise, people will cheer, and that's how reforms are approved in Mayor Bloomberg's New York.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Random Testing?

Is that the key to improved education? Robert Pondiscio suggests it may be, in the NY Sun. Perhaps if no one knows who will be tested, teachers will focus on giving everyone a well-rounded education. It's an idea worth considering, in that if we don''t know precisely what or who will be tested, we'll simply have to prepare everyone to do the best they can--which is really our job.

Mr. Pondiscio also makes an excellent point about kids who don't merit promotion moving ahead simply because they passed a single test. As an ESL teacher, I'm frustrated by kids who test out, despite being far below what I'd consider proficient in basic written or verbal English. This suggests another problem with testing, random or otherwise--the tests must be well-written and on target. I've seen many professionally prepared tests that fall well short of these modest goals.

When testing comes up, I keep falling back on the tried and true--good teachers, reasonable class size, and decent facilities. I trust good teachers to prepare good tests. I trust them to assess kids (mine included) more than, for example, the NY State Board of Regents. The city scoffs at class size reduction, but it's clear a teacher with 25 kids has more time to help kids than one with 34. And sending kids into buildings at 250% capacity sends a message, in no uncertain terms, about how much the city values their education.

The city has chosen to ignore the most important factors in education, opting for gimmicks, scapegoating, and sleight of hand (most egregiously, the manipulation of test scores) to avoid biting the bullet and paying for quality. I'm afraid we will not make the sort of gains kids need until this 30+ year policy is reversed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ask NYC Educator

Here's a letter I got from a reader. Has anyone got some advice for this teacher?
Here's the situation: I have 2 8th grade classes. One is "high-functioning" and is, on the whole, problem-free. They come in, get to work, and generally allow me to get through a lesson without much in the way of disruption. The other group is "lower-functioning" and...well, anything with this group is a challenge. They just won't stop talking long enough for me to introduce anything, give instructions...even if I do have group work or something kinesthetic or SOMETHING "engaging" for them to do.
Since it's only the 3rd week of school, I figure I still have some time to salvage this class if I act quickly. And to pre-empt many reader suggestions: 1.) Yes, I've called homes, but only to introduce myself--the whole class is really the problem, except for maybe 3 or 4 very quiet kids; 2.) Yes, we had tons of time to practice rules and procedures, including a test; 3.) Yes, I've tried both carrots (extra credit points via a "listening" game) and sticks (extra writing assignments); 4.) Yes, I'm aware that most of my kids don't listen to spoken directions well, and I'm trying to make sure I have lots of visual cues for them to know that it's time to be quiet, like my body language, position in the room, facial expressions, etc.
Most of the other teachers in my K-8 school are well acquainted with this bunch, and seem to have thrown up their hands and are just waiting for them to graduate. I feel, though, that since many of these kids are sitting for the SHST and, even if they're not, will require some greater measure of self-control in high school, it's my job to try to instill some self-control in them (as well as readin' and 'ritin).

Monday, September 17, 2007

What's Your Kid Drinking?

The Times reports that the soft drink industry, facing a ban one way or the other, is voluntarily banishing full-calorie soft drinks from schools. Instead, kids will be able to buy juice, sports drinks, and diet soda. They'll also be able to buy things like "vitamin water," basically sugar water with a few mushed up Flintstones tablets added.

This is one very rare area where NYC has led the way. Mayor Bloomberg banished soda from city schools a few years back and accepted a no bid contract from Snapple to fill machines like the one above. He also banished white flour from cafeterias, so now school burgers, terrible though they are, are served on whole-wheat buns.

Juice has as many calories as soda, but some say natural sugar is better than processed sugar. Kids will take what they can get, and will happily suck down juice rather than Pepsi. Why they need sports drinks and vitamin water is anyone's guess, but it's a moderate improvement.

Unfortunately, it doesn't preclude any of the the bad choices they're likely to make when they leave school, and that's probably where we ought to be focusing our energies.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

So Much For Accountability

Yesterday the NY Times reported that Mayor Moneybags Bloomberg tried to have city lawyers "debrief" firefighters involved in August 18th's deadly Deutsche Bank Building fire before the firefighters spoke to prosecutors in the district attorney's office. Prosecutors are concerned that Bloomberg and Fire Department officials are trying to cover-up malfeasance by city officials and/or limit the liability of the city in future lawsuits by having city lawyers scare city employees into silence.

In further Bloombergian cover-up news, today we learn from the NY Daily News that Mayor Moneybags and New York City Public Schools Chancellor Joel Klein have been hiding hundreds of complaints of abuse on city school buses:

The City Education Department hid 225 complaints of abuse aboard public school buses to keep the numbers down, a Daily News investigation found.

The hidden cases include some in which school investigators established that bus drivers or monitors beat children or covered up abuse aboard buses, documents show.

In one case, a driver used a school bus and his official uniform in a film playing himself as a New York City school bus driver who smokes marijuana, drinks beer and has sex - all while on duty.

In another hidden case, a driver and monitor admitted they'd covered up a razor attack on an 11-year-old boy.

In another, Department of Education records noted a driver had been suspended - but didn't say why. The new documents said the driver was operating a bus while drunk. DOE spokesman David Cantor said the documents were withheld due to an "oversight."

In a fourth case - perhaps the most disturbing - a school bus monitor witnessed a driver beat a 12-year-old special needs child on Dec. 20, 2005.


None of those cases was disclosed to The News, which requested the information under a Freedom of Information Law request. Last spring, the DOE insisted it had given The News all substantiated cases of physical and sexual abuse aboard buses in response to the FOIL request.

Now, officials say they have "discovered" 175 more cases. Officials also reclassified 50 more allegations of abuse aboard school buses in 2005 and last year that its investigators had termed "substantiated."

In some of the "unsubstantiated" cases, the department's investigators had determined there was ample evidence of wrongdoing and the department had imposed punishment, including decertifying bus monitors and drivers.

The revelations of the hidden cases comes after The News' series, "School Bus Disgrace," forced the department to admit the unit that investigates such abuse was in chaos.

The News found seven Education Department investigators were overwhelmed trying to probe 3,547 complaints of abuse on city school buses last year. The number of investigators remained flat, though the number of complaints shot up.

In previous reports, the Daily News has documented how the DOE has illegally "blacked out" public information on cases of physical and sexual abuse aboard city school buses.

The News says the DOE has admitted that at least 916 allegations that investigators had declared "unsubstantiated" were in reality never investigated because the DOE didn't have enough manpower.

When the Daily News asked for and received data from the DOE on abuse allegations on city school buses, they found "inconsistencies" in the data - namely the DOE kept changing the number of "substantiated" cases.

The News raised these "inconsistencies" with the DOE and that's when an additional 140 pages of records were turned over to the newspaper.

The DOE claims the reason why the records weren't first turned over to the Daily News was because "they were lost due to a mix-up."

Uh, huh.

Or the Department of Education was keeping two sets of books - one "real" set and one set that could be made public and be given to the news media.

Let's be honest here - this mayor and this chancellor are very good at maintaining and releasing statistics and records when the stats and the records make themselves and the city look good.

But when it comes to honestly complying with the law and releasing all public records related to the school system - even if those records show serious deficiencies in how the DOE and the city has run parts of the school system - then Bloomberg and Klein aren't so good.

On the flip side, Mayor Moneybags is pretty good at cover-ups and limiting scandal damage. Right now he's engaged in at least two cover-ups (school bus allegations, Deutsche Bank Building fire), yet he's managed to keep himself and his top deputies at the DOE and the FDNY from serious harm.

You can imagine how Bloomberg and Klein would react publicly if a principal or a teacher in a NY city school knew that "substantiated" cases of abuse had occurred, but the officials in charge did nothing about them.

Yet here are Mayor Moneybags and Chancellor Klein, big accountability guys that they are, helping to hide hundreds of cases of abuse on city school buses so that they aren't embarrassed publicly by the number of incidents.

I guess accountability is only for teachers and principals.

Channeling Frankie Pentangeli's Brother

Mayor Bloomberg is big on accountability, as long as he and his political cronies are not the ones being held accountable.

In the case of the Deutsche Bank Building fire investigation, Bloomberg said he is making sure every city employee cooperates with the investigations into the disaster that killed two firefighters back on August 18. But the NY Times reports today that Fire Department officials directed several firefighters involved in the tragedy to meet with city lawyers last week before they were to be questioned by prosecutors at NY District Attorney Robert Morgenthau's office. The Fire Department employees ignored the directive by their superiors to meet with Bloomberg's lawyers before going to Morgenthau's office and instead gave their accounts of the fire to prosecutors without interference by city lawyers.

This is not the first time Bloomberg has tried to have city employees involved in a tragedy meet with city lawyers before offering their stories to prosecutors. Back in 2003, city employees were debriefed by Bloomberg's lawyers before they met with federal prosecutors investigating the crash of the Staten Island Ferry. At that time, federal prosecutors complained that the city lawyers had a chilling effect on the willingness of city employees to criticize their superiors or reveal information that would not be in either their superiors' or the city's interests to investigators.

Remember the scene in The Godfather II when Michael Corleone quashes Frankie Pentangeli's testimony before the Senate by bringing Pentangeli's brother in from Sicily to sit in the gallery and stare at Frankie during the hearings, scaring him into recounting allegations he has made against the Corleone Family?

Sounds like Bloomberg does the same thing with city lawyers during criminal investigations where malfeasance and/or criminal liability may be revealed by city employees.

Only this time the firemen involved wouldn't play Bloomberg's game and the investigation is proceeding without Bloombergian interference. This is important because there seems little doubt that the deaths of two firemen could have been prevented had city officials conducted inspections or looked into the companies doing the work at the high profile site. Here's how the Times article puts it:

Relations between Mr. Morgenthau’s office and City Hall have become strained as prosecutors press their investigation into the fire at the contaminated former bank building, which looms over ground zero and is both an ugly reminder of 9/11 and of the government’s slow progress in rebuilding Lower Manhattan.

Prosecutors are focusing not only on the firefighters’ deaths, but also on the actions of several contractors and city and state officials and agencies. The city faces potentially significant civil liability in the case.

In particular, prosecutors are reviewing the work of several contractors, examining why the building had not been properly inspected by the city, and exploring how a company with little experience was approved by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation for the $60 million contract to demolish the building.

Firefighting units that responded to the blaze in the tower found that demolition work had created difficult conditions.

A standpipe used to deliver water to the upper floors had been dismantled, forcing fire companies to improvise with their own system of hoses, a procedure that delayed getting water on the fire.

Required inspections in the building, including tests of the standpipe, had not been done, and the stairwells had been sealed as part of efforts to remove asbestos.

Gee, no wonder Bloomberg tried to have city lawyers debrief the firemen before they met with prosecutors.

It sounds like the Fire Department, city agencies and the mayor himself have got some serious accountability problems in this case.

An Addition

I'd like to proudly announce that reality-based educator is joining the staff here at NYC Educator, and will soon be posting all the latest news and scandals of the Bloomberg-Klein regime directly to these pages.

RBE is a great writer who focuses more on national politics on his own blog, but he'll be cross-posting things of local interest here.

Stay tuned for the answer to the puzzle at left and more.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mr.Klein Innovates

Here you can see NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein in the latest phase of educational reform. As you know, Mr. Klein has reorganized the system three times now, and yet changes still need to be made.

Mr. Klein has decided to go to a school for wizards. Here you see him trying on the sorting hat, to determine which house he'll be studying in. From now on, reforms will be completely magic. There will be no more wasteful back and forth with the government, and grumbling constituents.

Mr. Klein's initiatives will kick off with a mass conversion of cell phones to peanut butter sandwiches on whole wheat bread. Later, Mr. Klein will look into converting ATR teachers into luxury skyboxes for sports stadiums. The use of magic is believed to have great PR potential, and promises to be far more cost-effective than small classes, quality teachers, and decent facilities.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Don't Miss the Carnival

It's up right now, at History is Elementary.

From NYC Educator's Mailbag

What happens when your classroom air conditioner dies? My principal has found a simple remedy. Forget it.

Last year a teacher's air conditioner stopped working during the heat wave. She immediately informed the principal who told her air conditioners are no longer being repaired or replaced. When the teacher offered to help offset the cost, the response was still, forget it.

When our school became a summer school site, some of the rooms were air conditioned.

The teacher tried to use this as leverage to get her a/c fixed. The conversation went something like this:

"What about summer school?"

"If the teacher assigned to that room doesn't like it, she can leave!"

Then the teacher went to our CC. The response was principals have the power to do whatever they want (God Bless my union dues).

Of course if the principal's a/c should go kaput, does the policy still hold?

I think not.

One might argue that principals have to bear the burden of the budget. Yet my principal hires her best friend to work F-status ($240+ a day) a few days a week. One day a week is spent working on administrative details in the principal's air conditioned office. Of course she could pay her sub wages and use the savings to improve the school, but what are friends for?

I know many of you reading this post don't have air-conditioners. But if you did, how would you feel if you could no longer teach in a comfortable environment while others around you still had their air conditioners?

Politicians are screaming for an extended school year. When they forced us to come back to work in the dog days of August (so we can sweat even more moving all that furniture around) why didn't they negotiate for air conditioners? I wonder if Green Dot schools are air conditioned.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mr. Bloomberg's Cell Woes

The City Council is poised to override the mayor's veto of a bill giving city kids the right to bring cell phones to school. This being the twenty-first century, many, many kids already do so, but if we pretend it's not happening, city hall reasons, perhaps they will simply stop doing so, thus moving us back into the eighties, when such problems did not exist.

The mayor can still opt not to enforce the bill on the basis that it violates state of federal law. However if he does so it may wind up in court again, and it would be fairly tough to prove that cell phone use violates existing statutes. I'd like to hear the arguments, though.

Those of us who were in classrooms six years ago today remember the hardships of kids and parents trying to get in touch with one another. We remember the lines of parents coming to take their kids from schools.

And we all know that the little security a cell phone provides is important. Hopefully, common sense will prevail, and kids will be able to bring their cells to school. Of course they should turn them off in classrooms, and of course they should keep them in their bags or pockets.

But it's ridiculous to say kids can't have cell phones in school. You might as well say it's not allowed to rain on school days.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Renaissance Teachers

Being an ATR teacher in NY is not what it used to be. I just got an email from an on-again off-again ATR who tells me she used to be an ESL teacher. She was then made an ATR, and subbed for various and sundry colleagues before getting a position again.

Unfortunately, she's now lost her position, an ATR again, and she's teaching 2 health classes, 2 English classes, and one social studies class. This is reminiscent of the good old days, when they'd make anyone teach anything. I remember teaching music, math, special ed., and all sorts of things I was unqualified for.

So now, in NYC, they can simply dump these odd programs on the ATR teachers and claim they don't exist. Out of license? Of course not. This position hasn't even been filled.

And despite all the reforms, there you have it--anyone teaching anything to anybody.

Just like in the good old days.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Some States Look For Standardized Test Cheats, But In New York We Call Cheating Progress

by reality-based educator

The New York Times reports today that some states are beginning to look for patterns of cheating on standardized tests in public schools.

The theory goes that all the pressure to do well on standardized tests from the No Child Left Behind law has caused some teachers and/or administrators "to improve their schools’ standings" on standardized tests through what is euphemistically known as "adult interference."

In other words, they change wrong answers on tests to right ones.

As the Times article notes, this is easy to do because the very people who are held accountable by the No Child Left Behind law - teachers and administrators - are also the ones charged with test security.

The Times article doesn't really get around to the problem of school districts and/or states making tests easier than in previous years or dumbing down the grading rubric so that students need fewer correct answers to pass the tests, but the Daily News did address that problem earlier in the week when they reported NY State had made the 2005 4th grade math test much easier than the 2002 4th grade math test.

Lo and behold, test scores dramatically increased on the 2005 4th grade math tests and city and state politicians and education officials hailed the results as proof that, in Mayor Bloomberg's words

"'s clear that the reforms that we put in place are working...Over the last two years we have begun to bring order and accountability to a system that had been dysfunctional for decades. By providing students with the resources they need and holding them, their teachers, and ourselves accountable for producing results, our schoolchildren are now receiving the education they deserve. Today's results...are remarkable and a sign that things are moving in the right direction. I congratulate the students, teachers and parents that have worked so hard to achieve these record results."

Never mind that the real hard work that took place was in the testing office where they were busy dumbing down the tests and making the grading rubric less rigorous.

This is not to say that kids and teachers aren't working hard to do well with the tests, but when you have huge score increases that are statistically unlikely, it should be a clue that something is wrong with the integrity of the test.

After the publication of the Daily News stories about the easier math tests, Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein finally agreed to create an independent auditing panel to analyze city test scores and methodologies after delaying the creation of said panel for over two years.

On that panel will be Chancellor Klein, UFT prez Randi Weingarten, some charter school advocates, and a few business leaders/Bloomberg cronies.

As Sol Stern noted in the Daily News, "the whole thing's a fraud." Every member of the independent auditing panel will have a vested interest in making it look like the test score increases are valid and the tests are on the up-and-up.

So while other states begin to look for patterns of cheating at the school level, here in NYC we call cheating at the school, district, city and state levels "remarkable achievements" - even when they are statistically unlikely.

And then we create "independent test auditing panels" made up of Bloomberg/Klein cronies with vested interests in covering up any bad news about the test scores or methodologies to give the mayor and the chancellor cover for their systematic and systemic cheating.

Wow - what remarkable achievements in education we're making here in this city.

Won't it be nice when Bloomberg runs for president as the "Education Mayor" and brings these achievement opportunities to the rest of the nation?

POSTSCRIPT: How come the NY Times, which is always clambering about how teachers need to be held accountable for student achievement (more test data please!!!) and how teachers are the ones responsible for the cheating on standardized tests can't take a closer look at how Bloomberg and Klein manipulate the test score statistics and screw with the integrity of the tests?

Seriously - how come?

Friday, September 07, 2007

Live and Die by Test Scores

It's the oddest thing. When the test is easier, the scores are higher. So when you hear about those remarkable gains, you have to ask yourself, is it the incredible reform movement, or is the test just easy?

The Daily News leans toward the latter. So if test scores are the only factor in quality, the answer is--dumb down the test. Then declare victory. It's another brilliant gain for the reform movement. When the scores go down, it's those damn teachers. Close some more schools and send em to the ATR brigade.

Thanks to Sol and Schoolgal

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A New Year

Things are different in the city today. If your school isn't up to par, it gets a bad grade. That means the school's no good, and it isn't Mr. Bloomberg's fault at all. You see, this means we need to close or replace this school, until we shuffle kids far and wide enough that we can say we're making progress. And if the new schools don't work, we'll just rename and replace them.

If we do this long enough, no one will remember those bad schools we keep opening and closing. And when you get right down to it, the important thing is to keep those balls in the air, and perpetually give the impression you're reforming.

That way, you can keep the highest class sizes in the state, the lowest paid teachers in the area, the most overcrowded facilities in the region, and no one will think to blame you for anything that goes wrong.

It's your classic win-win.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Answer

Kids making you crazy? Administrators driving you nuts?

Try this:

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Tikkun Olam

by Abigail E. Meyers

Our task begins

with giving order to the chaos created

by poverty, illiteracy, apathy,

the too-cool kids that make bad parents

or good parents with a too-cool world

to fight, exhausted by the battle

with neighbors, government, money,

broken glass, broken hearts, broken homes, broken lives—

this is where we begin.

We step in,

dressed more sharply than we’d like,

speaking more sharply than we’d like,

issuing rules and goals,

shaking our heads, straightening lines,

bleeding our wallets and minds

right from the start

to stanch the flow from our hearts

as long as we can

before this newest collection

of dreamers, criminals, fighters, angels—

children, all—works their way in

before we can begin

to bring them to order

and teach them to teach themselves,

restore them to the restoration

of the universe, raise up a million saviors,

prop them up with stickers and pencils,

form them into wobbly queues, love them, love them.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Destroying The School System In Order To Save It

by special guest reality-based educator

Here in New York City, we're all about data.

Mayor Moneybags Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein have instituted their third reorganization of the New York City public school system in the last five years and whereas in the past it was all about "sameness" (as in all classrooms will have the same reading rugs and reading libraries, all bulletin boards in all schools will have the same measurements, all kids in each grade will be taught the same curriculum at the same time on the same day in the same way), this time it's all about creating “the most sophisticated achievement data system in the nation, which will allow us to focus on how well individual students are learning."

In other words, this time it's all about quantifying every part of the education process to a number and/or letter grade which can then be posted on the Department of Education website and used to close down schools, fire the teachers and administrators, get rid of the kids and start the whole thing anew for as long as they want until they finally throw their hands up in the air, say "It can't be done! We have to privatize it!"

Here's how that process is being done:

New York City public schools will be receiving letter grades this month (A-F) that will tell students, parents and school staff how their school is "performing." The letter grade will be posted on the NYC DOE website along with all the accompanying data (test scores, attendance stats, graduation rates, etc.) that went into making the grade. In addition, all New York City schools have also received "Quality Reviews" done by a British education firm that has graded schools as either "well-developed," "proficient," or "undeveloped."

Any school that receives an F is in threat of being shut down and any school that receives a C or lower for three years running will see its principal (and perhaps other administrators) fired. No word on what happens to schools that received "undeveloped" designations from the British education firm, but I suppose negative reviews like that will also be used to justify closing down schools, firing the staff and dispersing the student body around the system. (Interestingly enough, some of the people hired by Uncle Joel Klein to perform the Quality Reviews had their own schools shut down back in Britain because they were of poor quality. Perhaps Klein hired them because they know poor quality when they see it?)

Anyway, the brainchild of this "sophisticated data system" is of course Mayor Moneybags Bloomberg - the self-made millionaire who accumulated more money than god by creating a media company to track every ounce of data Wall Street and other financial and bond markets have to offer.

In other words, data has been very good to Mayor Moneybags and he sees no reason why he cannot take the same kind of data systems used to track investments, markets and the like and apply them to schools, teachers and kids. After all, if you're going to buy stock, say in a company like Bloomberg Inc., you want to know just how well that stock has performed over the last five years, what the price-to-earnings ratio is, what the highs and lows of the stock price have been and so forth. Therefore, doesn't it make sense that if you're going to send your kid to a school that you know how well students have performed in that school over the last five years, what the graduation rate is, what the teacher-to-student ratio is, and so forth?

Sure it does. At least on the surface. Especially if you have little exposure to what actually has gone into creating these grades and think the stats used are legitimate and on the up-and-up.

But they're not. The test scores used to justify these grades are as manipulated and hollow as any of the evidence the Bush administration used to justify invading Iraq. Pressure has been coming from the top to have test scores "rise." That pressure - starting with Mayor Moneybags, moving to Chancellor Klein, then to the principals of the schools, then to the assistant principals, and then to the teachers, has meant that many of these tests, given and graded in house, have miraculously "risen!"

How do you think the scores have gone up when they're graded by the very people being held accountable to the grades?

Let's just say that when the chancellor tells the principals he wants to see test scores increase and he doesn't care how and the principals inform the AP's they want to see test scores increase and they don't care how and AP's inform teachers they want to see test scores increase and they don't care how, test scores increase!!!

Amazing how that happens.

On top of this, the mayor and the chancellor will not release the testing methodologies for the exams they use to prove that the school system is getting better. Nobody outside of the DOE has any idea how the tests are developed, how many correct answers equals a passing grade and so forth. You see, it's all a secret. Like much of the "data" the mayor and the chancellor have collected over the past few years running the public school system, it cannot be viewed by anybody outside a tight circle top DOE and Bloomberg people. So if you were, say, an education expert like Diane Ravitch or a writer like Sol Stern (two notable critics of Bloomber's education reforms who once supported them) and you wanted to do an intensive analysis of the test scores to see if the increases are real or manipulated statistical noise, you would be out of luck. As a media tycoon, Bloomberg of course knows that he who controls the stats controls the story. Therefore you'll just have to take his words at face value when he says test scores are up, schools have improved and the improvement is a result of his reforms.

To increase the amount of "data" that can be collected, collated, diced, sliced and manipulated, the chancellor is instituting 8 additional standardized tests this year, 4 in math and 4 in English (the tests - or "periodic assessments" - will actually start in the Spring term because the company hired to create them, McGraw-Hill, has not completed them much else to do with the constant reorganization of the Department of Education, the "reform" was trotted out before it was actually workable.) The results of these tests will be put on line at the DOE's new (and barely working) website. The idea behind these tests and the public posting of the scores is "to provide timely and detailed information on students’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as their progress over time, to teachers, parents, and students." The DOE website claims that "There are no stakes attached to the results for schools, principals, teachers, or students." Cynics and DOE vets note that there are "no stakes" for the tests this year, as McGraw-Hill hasn't even created them yet and nobody knows what they look like, what they will test or how they will be scored, but the mayor and the chancellor didn't create these additional data opportunities for fun. It seems pretty clear that the "no stakes" tests, despite the haphazard way they are being created, will be used to evaluate schools, administrators, and teachers much the way the school report cards and Quality Reviews have been. Since the mayor and chancellor have been in the business of shutting down as many large schools as possible and opening new ones, it seems possible that the half-assed way these tests were created might even be intentional - they'll use bad test scores here to justify shutting down more schools, opening news ones and perpetuating the meme that the reform movement is ongoing and thus cannot be properly measured yet.

How long will it take to measure the success/failure rate of Chancellor Klein's/Mayor Bloomberg's "reforms"? According to Klein, a long, long time:

Mr. Klein, in an interview, said that he and the mayor have brought the “most profound school reform in America.” At the same time, he said, the school system is only adequate.

“I’ve always said that this would take seven years, minimum,” Mr. Klein said, and for the first time he expressed a desire to stay on, even after Mr. Bloomberg, in the hope of finishing the job. “It might be more like 10 or 12 years — a generation of students. If I can continue to do the work that’s necessary, I would like to stay.”

Since we are now on the third reorganization of the system in the last five years, another 5-7 years of Klein rule would mean at least three more reorganizations and lots more "data opportunities." Teachers, administrators, schools and students would all be held accountable for the data, while Chancellor Klein and his reform lieutenants would not because it takes a long time to radically rework a public school system.

Or so they say.

Critics say the constant reorganization is nothing more than an attempt to completely break the country's largest school system and provide the rationale for a privatized public school system run by one of the education management organizations (EMO's) like Edison Schools (Klein has hired the former president of the private school corporation, Edison, as deputy chancellor of the NYC public school system) or Greendot. The NY Times reports that Klein sees public school systems as "monopolies" that must be broken for the good of the nation:

Much of the way Mr. Klein is trying to transform the system is rooted in his longtime career as an assistant United States attorney general and antitrust lawyer — he is still trustbusting. He has sought to break what he regarded as a vise grip by the teachers’ union on work rules; to divide large failing schools into small schools; to put traditional public schools into competition with charter schools; and to end what he viewed as a monopoly by the mostly white, middle and upper middle class on good public education services.

Klein and Bloomberg - anti-union, anti-labor and pro-business - see education reform as a way to remake the public school system into a corporation. CEO's don't have to deal with union rules, they just fire who they want whether it's justified or not. CEO's can reorganize their companies anytime they want for any reason. CEO's don't have to listen to outside bureaucracies like school districts - they do whatever they want whenever they want. CEO's don't pay employees on pay scales, they offer incentives and bonuses for "productivity" and "success."

This has been the blueprint for the latest reorganization:

this month the administration is cutting principals loose to run their schools like independent franchises. The administration believes that principals are the best equipped to make decisions for their schools, and can best improve efficiency. Their job performance will be measured by a vast new storehouse of data on student achievement used to create a report card on each school — and a record on each principal.

This year, for the first time, the schools are offering cash incentives to students and administrators. Some low-income students will be able to earn $25 a test for doing well on periodic exams. Principals can earn $25,000 bonuses if their schools shows considerable improvement.

Some critics say you cannot run a school system like a corporation, of course. Treating adult employees as cogs in the corporate machinery is one thing, treating kids in pre-K to 12th grade like that is something else. Children are people, not investments, and cannot be educated solely by paying attention to data.

Other critics (myself included) say that treating kids like cogs in the corporate machinery is EXACTLY the purpose of the "reforms." The education reformers - Bloomberg, Klein, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs - are all CEO's and corporate officers with decidedly corporate agendas. Socializing kids into the corporate agenda (longer work hours, longer work years, less pay, salary by incentive, data accountability) is REALLY the idea behind all of the "reforms." You'll note that Bloomberg/Gates/Jobs have created an education reform movement for the 2008 election season known as Ed in '08 and their agenda is: 1) longer school days/longer school year; 2) more standardized tests; 3) national standards for these additional standardized tests; and 4) merit pay for teachers. This agenda is EXACTLY the one Bloomberg is slowly instituting here in New York City, along with a corporate structure where each school becomes an island to itself.

Critics argue that paying kids to do well on tests sets up a very scary reward system for the future (will kids learn only if they're being paid to learn?). Critics also argue that merit pay based solely on standardized tests privileges teachers with AP and honors students over teachers with lower performing students and special education students. How will merit pay and incentives be doled out fairly when the level of student achievement is so different through no fault of the teachers or the schools themselves? Critics also note how all these reforms have been done without any input from parents (it goes without saying that CEO's Klein and Bloomberg would do them without any input from teachers or administrators.) Parent groups are very angry at the chancellor for a variety of reasons, but the biggest one is his refusal to consult with them over anything. (But again, why would a CEO consult with his customer base? If they don't like what he's selling, they can go elsewhere...)

In addition, critics note the destruction of the centralized bureaucracy is going to create havoc system-wide:

“The latest reorganization is the most radical change in the history of the system,” said Diane Ravitch, an education historian who has been highly critical of Mr. Klein. “For the first time, there are now 1,500 islands rather than one central system of command.”

Merryl H. Tisch, a member of the State Board of Regents, has another reason why the reorganization is ultimately harmful:

“What he has is loads of experiments going on simultaneously, but it isn’t clear which of these are working, and a large system like this does need some underlying structure.”

Nobody knows who to call tomorrow when something goes wrong. As the Daily News reported here, parents cannot get any answers to their questions from the schools or the DOE central offices. The NY Times reports that the latest reorganization has created havoc even before the first day of school:

Hundreds of teachers who had taught in schools that are being shut down gathered in Long Island City last week for last-minute placements. Many principals said they were not sure to whom they were supposed to turn if they had problems on the first day of school. And in the past few weeks, in some district offices, phone calls went unanswered for days at a time, according to a spot-check conducted by Ms. Gotbaum.

Klein says once all the reorganization is in place, there will be time to judge the results. But as I have noted again and again on this blog, the constant reorganization of the system gives Klein and Moneybags an excuse to say "Wait, you can't judge us until everything's in place." The few times they do want to be judged, they want it only on their own terms. They will cherry pick test scores and say "See - we're having success with our reforms!" but they won't let anybody outside the system look at the data closely. Plus, whenever they make changes, they do it overnight. The idea is to give the system "shock therapy" and make the changes so quickly that opponents cannot mobilize against them.

This is why the additional standardized test curriculum has been added even though the tests have not been created yet. This is why the bus schedule reorganization last year done by outside firm Alvarez & Marsol that was such a nightmare was done overnight. Make the changes before anyone knows they've been done.

And all of this is done without any oversight from anybody. Bloomberg and Klein long ago promised they would bring in an outside independent research group to monitor and assess the mayor's reforms and education policies. But the group has never been brought in. Klein and Bloomberg won't say why, but I can tell you EXACTLY why - their "reform successes" have all been smoke and mirrors and the illusions of success would crumble under ANY outside scrutiny by an independent research panel of education experts who know what they're looking at. But as Sol Stern, conservative critic from the Manhattan Institute noted here, Bloomberg and Klein don't want to be held accountable:

The Department of Education routinely undermines accountability with a public-relations juggernaut that deflects legitimate criticism of his education policies, dominates the mainstream press, uses the schools as campaign props, and, most ominously, distorts student test-score data. Without transparency, real accountability doesn’t exist.


Bloomberg, master manipulator of the media, knows EXACTLY what he's doing. The general press know little about education and cares even less to look closely at his "successes." They mostly report whatever his p.r. department publicizes uncritically and move on (as Stephen Colbert once said, the press often sees it's job to uncritically report word for word what political leaders say and then go home and work on that novel about the intrepid reporter who holds political leaders accountable for lies and misdeeds...) A real cynic would even say that reporters do not want to anger a potential future employer by writing anything nasty about him or his policies.

Given that the mayor has managed to hide his past as a serial sexual harasser with three separate sexual harassment lawsuits filed against him and a racist with a penchant for ethnic/racist "humor" (see here for one of the rare media stories about these problems), count me with the cynics.

In any case, as the school system enters its fifth year under Klein's command, kids, parents, teachers and administrators will be lab mice in Bloomberg's and Klein's grand "market-based accountability" system. Schools are on their own, the central system is gone, schools will be graded and held accountable with all the available data, more data-collecting opportunities are being added by the year (juniors in high school will now take at least 12 standardized tests - 4 math, 4 ELA, 1 practice ELA Regents, 1 real ELA Regents, the PSAT and the SAT.) The data will be tracked very carefully, released publicly (again, given their penchant for secrecy and data manipulation, one can only assume that what will be released is only what they WANT released) and those schools that do not perform well will be closed.

Given the mish-mosh creation process of the tests (we still do not know what they will look like or actually test), there is a lot of fear in the system this year. You can imagine that about ALL that will take place from now on is test-prep, test-prep, test-prep. In my school, we have instituted grammar curricula for all grades, ratcheted up the test-prep, decreased literature study (there is no time for it with all the test prep) and decreased other important education units. I, for instance, will probably not be able to teach my financial literacy unit this year. After school clubs have been canceled so that additional tutoring classes can be added.

The media, of course, reports little of the havoc (after all, Bloomberg's p.r. releases do not say anything about it) or the complete and total emphasis on test prep in the system. The shock therapy has been completed and the changes instituted. Klein and Bloomberg have gotten their way.

It's a shame that they will not be held accountable along with the schools, the administrators, the teachers and the students. But as the chancellor told the Times, reorganization takes awhile and the changes cannot be effectively evaluated until 10-12 years after they started.

By that time, of course, the complete destruction of the country's largest public school system will have been completed and Edison Schools and other EMO's will have been brought in to run things. Bloomberg/Gates/Jobs et al. will be publicizing the "successes" of the market-accountability reforms and pushing a national movement to do the same for districts all across the continent.

They will have saved the public school system by destroying it. And the corporate agenda (privatized schools, busted teachers unions, longer days, longer years, incentive pay) will be the norm.

I have said for a long time that the "education reformers" do not REALLY want an educated populace. After all, a truly educated populace might start to question why income and real wages for all but the top 5% have risen above inflation in 30 years. A truly educated populace might ask why they have to work harder and longer than their parents did to make less money. A truly educated populace might be less willing to spend themselves into debt for consumer crap they don't really need. A truly educated populace might no longer elect rich patrician politicians like Bloomberg and Bush who support policies of class warfare and the re-feudalization of society.

No, they don't want a truly educated populace. What they want is a populace just smart enough to be able to kinda add, subtract, read, write and run the offices, but not smart enough to know they've been getting screwed lo these last 30+ years.

So far, their reforms are right on schedule.