Monday, June 30, 2008

Taxes Are for the Little People... John and Cindy McCain didn't bother paying theirs for four years. I guess you just lose track when you own seven homes, like the McCains and their buds. Where do you suppose you or I would be living if we didn't pay our property taxes for that long?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mr. Klein Takes Credit for a Miracle

I'm going to quote Eduwonk, from an amusing post offering the Cliff Notes interpretation of recent New York State scores:

Anti-Bloomberg/Klein argument: Test score were up all over the state, Bloomberg and Klein are just riding a wave that's out there. In fact, because of everything they've done the scores in the city should have dramatically outpaced the state. It's a failure!

Pro-Bloomberg/Klein argument: Sure, test scores are up everywhere, and that's a good thing. But considering all the challenges in New York City and the fact that the system has 1.2 million kids, these gains are noteworthy nonetheless. The city hasn't always kept pace with the state and has now turned a corner. It's a success!

Of course, Tweed's claims assume the tests are valid. If the tests prove to have been easier than previous versions, their arguments are baseless. There's not much mystery--if the test is X% easier, there should be X% improvement everywhere. And if the test was not different, was there simply a miracle that caused scores to rise all over the state? Diane Ravitch has serious doubts:

How did New York State (and New York City) move from flat scores over the past few years to a phenomenal jump in 2008? Should we call it the miracle of 2008? From my experience with large-scale testing, I have learned to be dubious about any one-year changes that are large, whether up or down. One child may have an amazing improvement or loss, but it is unlikely that an entire district or state will see a sudden change of the magnitude reported by New York State.

I've received email asking other questions about this miraculous development. How did Buffalo and Rochester post bigger gains than NYC, despite a lack of "reforms," and despite fewer resources? Sol Stern, who also questions the validity of Tweed's claims, offers a few figures:

Pass rates in reading have also risen dramatically over the past two years—up 7 percent for the state overall; 6.9 percent for New York City; 12.4 percent for Buffalo; 8.2 percent for Rochester; and 8.1 percent for Syracuse.

Have they got an 80-million-dollar computer system? Have they got merit pay? Don't they too have to follow those state tenure rules that Chancellor Klein claims are crippling the system? And, they haven't even got mayoral control.

How could anyone outperform the city or succeed in any way without mayoral control? Well, Buffalo and Rochester have done it. In fact, while it's true the city hasn't always kept pace with the state, it's still behind the rest of the state. You don't hear Chancellor Klein mentioning that much. Perhaps he forgot. Or maybe he doesn't wish to draw attention to the fact that none of his "reforms" entail things that actually work.

And there is always the spectre of those nasty NAEP scores. The state was flat from 05-07, and the city was flat from 03-07, with notable exceptions for both in 4th grade math.

So why isn't the city doing better? Why is my school running well over double capacity? Why are my students studying in filthy trailers and unventilated closets? Why do we have the highest class sizes in the state? Why aren't we doing better rather than just keeping up and why do districts with fewer resources and "reforms" easily outperform us?

If every single district does better, it's very hard to conclude that Klein-Bloomberg "reforms" have anything whatsoever to do with it. Unless you believe in miracles, and you believe a distinctly different miracle occurred in the city than the one that occurred in the rest of the state.

Do you?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mr. Klein Ensures His Legacy

According to a DoE press release (Thanks to Norm for posting it) NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has ensured the survival of the large donut machine known as the Leadership Academy by granting it a five-year contract at 10 million bucks a year. As a predictable consequence of Tweed "reforms," the taxpayers will now be picking up the tab.

Ya ever notice schools closing and the DoE explaining it wasn't the principal's fault? Ya notice how they get reassigned to some other place? Those folks are the Leadership Academy principals. All you do is take a 25-year-old who may or may not have a degree, add some indoctrination from Tweed, and voila! You've got a school leader.

Never mind that this particular leader has no notion what it takes to lead a class, having never done so. This leader will not hesitate to tell you how to run your class. And they'll do it the "reform" way, even though Mr. Klein has galloped into the sunset and his beautiful partnership with fellow non-teacher Al Sharpton.

They'll bask in the glow of media acclaim while city kids continue to learn in filthy trailers and unventilated closets with the largest class sizes in the same. Leadership Academy grads will dutifully declare how wonderful it is for years after Mr. Klein's exit. And that's what New York City residents are paying 50 million dollars for.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Trouble with Liberals

I've had Sirius satellite in my car for almost a year now, and now that I've begun listening to Sirius Left, I can definitively say why folks like George W. Bush end up being President of the United States.

First of all, it took me a while to even be able to listen to the sort of liberal media bias I'd been looking for. This is because Sirius found the woman with the most irritating voice on earth, decided she'd make a good radio personality, and placed her on when I drive home. It's entirely possible that my fellow left-wingers have become accustomed to this voice, have decided it's OK, and are emulating it. Now this, I must say, could be enough to make anyone vote Republican.

Not me though. Not yet.

Because in the morning, Sirius runs Bill Press, who sounds like an ordinary human being. Listening to Bill, I finally hear the sort of partisan spin I'd been looking for. Now, when my Republican friends come into the lounge reciting whatever Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh has said, I know what they're referring to. Consequently, I have no more embarrassing questions like, "Who the hell is Reverend Wright?" Now more to the point, I can simply ask, "What the hell do I care about Reverend Wright?"

But despite being better informed, I'm deeply troubled. This is because on Sirius talk stations (unlike the music stations) there are a lot of commercials. On Sirius left, there are frequent commercials for companies that will either negotiate, refinance, or manage your debt for you, which leads me to believe that

1. Liberals tend to be tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

Another thing I've noticed is that there are an awful lot of commercials for trucking companies. These companies mention their openings, tell of their health benefits, and offer free Sirius satellite in their trucks, if only you'll drive for them. This leads me to learn that

2. Many liberals are unemployed truck drivers with no health benefits.

A very popular commercial is one from some sort of tutoring company. It promises tremendous results if only we'll call. Children who were doing very poorly in school are now Rhodes scholars, all because of one free phone call. I now know that

3. The education system is failing the children of liberals, all of whom are flunking out.

The other education-related commercial I hear is from some guy who turns kids around with a wave of his magic fingers. He was the guy who everyone went to with incorrigible children who could not be controlled by anyone else. And guess what? He'll send you his free CD if you buy his program for the low price of $39.99, and your kids will no longer be rebellious, troublesome, and will all behave precisely like characters from Leave it to Beaver (and not Eddie). Of course, this brings us to the fact that

4. Liberals cannot control their children.

I won't even go into the implications of the Viagra and Cialis commercials. It's just more bad news for liberals. But bad as things are, they could be worse. Over on the Howard Stern show, they're selling an apparatus that will allow you to shave your back hair all by yourself. No more embarrassing trips to the barber shop, and no more begging your girlfriend to shave your back. They even promise it will make you smell better, as Howard's listeners' backs are not only prodigiously hairy, but painfully malodorous.

I can't speak as to the political persuasions of regular Stern listeners, but I'm not likely to join their ranks anytime soon. After all, as a card-carrying liberal I have massive personal debt, the endless job search, and my uncontrollable failing children to deal with.

I don't think I can afford back hair right now.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I Howled Cause I Heard You

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving, hysterical, naked,

…and I suddenly realized the value of clothing.

I mean, who cares how smart you are? Why can't you walk around the block once in a while? Or ride a bicycle?

And stop telling me you're starving, just because we ran out of potato chips. If you were starving that shirt would still fit.

And really, you ought to get some pants to go with it. This is New York City, not some bohemian nudist colony. Don't we have decency laws? How come you can never find a cop when you need one? This image will stick with me far longer than I would like.

From NYC Educator, who's very happy to be off, if just for a few days, and who's also very happy to be headed to a party with some colleagues.

This howl inspired by Jose (the only math teacher in the world who writes poetry). With apologies to Allen Ginsberg

Congratulations... all my colleagues beginning their summer breaks today. I wish you a happy and healthy summer, and I hope you manage to have some fun, preferably a whole lot.

Special congratulations to those of you who, unlike me, won't be working this summer. I'm glad you haven't turned into mercenary whores and are standing up for what you believe in (or simply spending more time at the beach).

And if there's some secret in how you manage to afford not to work in the summer, please share it. That's something I've wanted to learn for years.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Carpe Canem

Seize the dog!

Test Scores Explode Statewide

Some people say the tests were easier, and that explains it. The state says no, it works very hard to ensure that state tests are of similar difficulty each year.

Mayor Bloomberg, of course, takes credit for this. However, it's incontrovertible that if the improvements were statewide, his "reforms" had no effect whatsoever. Extra test prep was everywhere. If the mayor's "reforms" were working, the city would have outpaced the state.

"Clearly, if it's happening all across the state, it isn't report cards and ARIS and an accountability system and bonuses for principals," said Sol Stern of the conservative think tank the Manhattan Institute."There ought to be an investigation of the whole testing regiment."

Despite this, Mayor Bloomberg is expected to use this development as evidence that mayoral control should be continued. It's deliciously ironic, in an environment so reliant on math scores, that logic plays no part whatsoever in the mayor's calculations.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Perfect Attendance Award

In Chicago, they give you a car. Who cares if you're only 12 years old?

Where Do the Children Play?

There's a question Cat Stevens used to ask over and over (before his interests wandered) and the answer has to be this--not in New York City.

Half of all schools have no place for recess, and minority communities, as usual, are hit the hardest. NY State Senator Jeffrey Klein doesn't want any new schools built without playground facilities, and doesn't want current schools filling yard space with other buildings. This would be a blow to the Bloomberg-Klein "reform" program, which has constructed entire schools out of trailers. Not only did they lack playgrounds, but they lacked gyms, cafeterias, science labs, and, well, everything that wasn't a trailer.

Clearly Mr. Klein, unlike his chancellor namesake, values things other than test scores. This is not the case over at Tweed, where they've turned over their state-of-the-art facilities to a failing charter run by a billionaire. You'd better believe that they're not sitting in some filthy trailer. Courtney Ross, who runs the charter, rejected another site before creating a big to-do at the NEST school, where the parents who'd built it up objected to a charter being dumped on them.

Kudos to Senator Klein for standing up for kids. Perhaps one day we'll have a mayor (or at least a chancellor) who will do the same. Or should we just forget about play and send our kids to work in tall buildings, like the ones in this song?


PS--because it's almost summer, I'm offering extra credit to anyone who can name the above singer/songwriter, his preferred instrument(s),or his most famous song.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Everything Is Bigger in Texas

Alternative teacher certification programs in Texas are threatened under a new proposal suggesting that those who teach children ought to have at least a 2.5 cumulative college average. Also, the proposal suggests that teachers should actually have some sort of training before they go to work.

Some in high-poverty schools are objecting, suggesting that this will make it hard for them to recruit. Apparently they rely heavily on college graduates with mediocre records and no experience. This may be yet another factor explaining why the Texas system, the model for NCLB, has such poor graduation rates.
Among other findings, the study showed a relationship between the increasing number of dropouts and schools' rising accountability ratings, finding that the accountability system allows principals to hold back students who are deemed at risk of reducing school scores -- but a high proportion of students retained this way end up dropping out.

What? Manipulating statistics? I'm horrified, of course. Naturally, that would never happen here.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Eternal Quest

The NY Sun reports that Chancellor Klein, in his search for "accountability," is no longer content to simply blame teachers for his myriad failures to improve public education in NYC. Apparently, the chancellor now wishes to hold schools of education responsible for his failures as well.

If only Chancellor Klein were certifying teachers, the reasoning goes, they'd all be excellent, everyone would be happy, students who came last week from China would suddenly become totally fluent in English, the 80-million dollar computer would suddenly work right, and everyone would forget that this administration can't raise test scores without cheating.

Yup. You don't need to produce results if you have enough places to spread the blame. That's what "accountability" means. I know this because every kid who ever gets kicked out of a class and sent to my office tells me so.

"Why are you here?" I'll ask.

"Ms. Penska sent me."

"Why did she do that?"

"She's crazy. She always picks on me for no reason."

Of course, Ms. Penska usually has a different version (which I'll get to), and the kid, unlike Mr. Klein, doesn't have the New York Post and the Daily News to write editorials pronouncing the absolute guilt of teachers. Fortunately for Mr. Klein, neither of these tabloids has anyone (like me, for example) who bothers to question his assertions.

In other news, young students are demonstrating and writing letters protesting cuts to their schools. Predictably, Mr. Klein blames the state. Apparently, the state wishes to direct the CFE funds toward wasteful frivolities like quality teachers, reasonable class sizes, and decent facilities for children. The chancellor, of course, deplores such nonsense.

As for Ms. Penska, she suggested her student was upset because she declined to allow him to do whatever the hell he liked, whenever the hell he liked, however the hell he liked. In fact, it appears Mr. Klein shares that student's agenda. This may account for why he spends so much time and energy disparaging working teachers.

Hat tip to Chaz

Friday, June 20, 2008

People Will Talk

Mr. Miglio was mad. He hates proctoring, he'd just done two proctoring assignments, and he was just given yet another assignment on a day he thought he had a free period. Plus he had two million exams he had to mark.

He aired his grievances rather freely. Everyone heard.

When he reported for his proctoring assignment, the AP who'd given it to him said, "I hear you're stirring up a mutiny."

Mr. Miglio wasn't receptive. "Who's the rat bastard who told you that?" he asked.

"I'm only kidding around," said the AP, in the conciliatory tone they teach you at AP school.

"Well, I'm not," replied Mr. Miglio. "Who's the rat bastard who told you that?"

The AP was not amused. "Look, I'm just trying to..."

"I don't know what you're trying to do. All I know is some rat bastard reported what I said in the department. Now who was it?"

"I can't deal with this," said the AP. I guess there are some things they don't teach in AP school.

"Fine," said Mr. Miglio, and he walked out.

But he's still wondering who that rat bastard is.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Children First

Affluent children firster.

Suburbs or Urbs?

My POV is very much shaped by the fact that I work in a city public school but send my kid to a suburban public school. Though I teach in a very good city school, I'm continually amazed at the differences, and I always wonder why city kids can't get what my daughter gets--uniformly sane teachers with reasonable hygiene habits, well-kept facilities, windows (that don't open to dumpsters), real classrooms, computers in every classroom, and all the other frivolous luxuries kids have in Long Island.

Here's a case in point--cell phones are strictly verboten in NYC. Though many kids have them anyway, most of us tend to ignore them if the kids are reasonable. In my daughter's school, she arrives every morning and deposits her cell with the teacher for safe keeping. If she chose, she could keep it with her (as long as it stays quiet).

Yesterday morning, my daughter's schoolbus did not arrive. She and her friends waited and waited, but only ended up waiting more. So my daughter called the school to complain. The people at the school told her they would send a bus, and within ten minutes, they did.

In New York City, on the coldest days of the year, kids stood outside and froze because the Tweedies, in their infinite wisdom, decided to cancel their bus routes and didn't want to waste time or effort notifying them. These kids weren't allowed cell phones, and even if they had them. would anyone in their schools have had the power (let alone the inclination) to send out a bus? Who thinks so? Show of hands?

That's what I thought.

So should we model our schools after suburban schools? Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein don't think so. Better we should hobble unions, make smart teachers leave before they earn high salaries, institute bargain-basement, untested "reforms," and hope for the best.

So far, it isn't working.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mr. Klein Unties His Hands

A number of articles lately have stated that Chancellor Klein has his "hands tied' because he's required to spend a great deal of CFE funds on low-performing schools. For that, he's said, better schools will suffer. It now appears he may be spending the money however he likes anyway.

Can You Say "No?"

Can you? And if you do, do you really mean it? Because if you can't, you might not want to go into teaching. And you might not want to be a parent, either (though you may not have much of a choice, what with that regrettable inability).

When Steven starts fights in classes, and refuses to do any work, and hands in tests with blank answers, you'd think there would be consequences, and of course there should be. So when Ms. Holloway says, "Forget it Steve, you can't come on the class trip," you'd think that would be the end of it. But it wasn't, so when Steve got on the bus anyway, she had another teacher instruct him off, despite his yowls of protest.

Now Steve had his cell handy, and his mom was just a phone call away. And this, for Steve's mom, was a true outrage. She called the supervisor immediately.

"He really wants to go," she told the supervisor. "If he doesn't go, he might do something stupid."

This was frightening to the supervisor. She hated the thought of being responsible for a child's behavior, so she allowed Steve to go with the other bus. Steve was upset he couldn't stay with his friends and teacher, but managed to get on the trip regardless. All in all, he was doing all right. Consequences? For him? Out of the question.

So naturally, during the last week of school, Steve didn't hesitate to beat the crap out of a kid who liked the same girl he did. So what if the girl liked the other guy better than him? This was a matter of principle. What could they do to him anyway? Suspension? What was that? In school? No problem at all, especially if you don't show up.

But when his class had a party at the end of the year, well, that was something worth coming in for. So he showed up. When Ms. Holloway told him to leave, he just laughed. When she called security and had them remove him from the building, he wasn't laughing anymore.

If only he'd known there could be consequences for his actions, maybe he wouldn't have beat the crap out of that kid. After all, now he had to miss a party because of it, and it was a genuine inconvenience.

Steve blamed the teacher. She should have warned him about stuff like that.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Co-Op City Residents Jump to Conclusions

Residents of Co-op City are demanding that the Tweedies repair the pools at Truman High School. Mayor Bloomberg, who always puts Children First, is sure to get around to it very soon. After all, they've only been out of service for 12 years. Don't they understand a mayor has to prioritize?

Bless the Researchers

Researchers at a Texas university have determined if you wake up early in the morning, you're likely to perform better academically. It now appears that staying up all night drinking, drugging and whoring does not actually result in higher grades. For one thing, you may not feel well after such nights. This may result in complicated hangover remedies, fights with noisy neighbors, and potentially troublesome misunderstandings.

After much study, the researchers have determined that if you do spend your nights drinking, drugging and whoring, it might be advisable to schedule your classes after 11 AM. After all, college professors who don't share your predilections may be touchy about your stumbling into their classes and, say, vomiting on their shoes.

One researcher came to the conclusion it's "easier to get to your classes on time and study if you get up earlier." This strongly suggests that people who rise at 8 are more likely to make it to 9 AM classes than those who rise at 10. In fact, it's entirely possible that folks who rise at 10 have a hard time getting to those 9 AM classes.

Monday, June 16, 2008

For Sale

It's touching to see that NY Times columnist David Brooks is so concerned about education. He asks whether presumptive Democratic nominee Obama Barack is concerned with "reform" or "status quo." It's interesting that for Mr. Brooks, it's either one or the other. There are no gray areas.

It makes no difference, of course, that uber-reformer Joel Klein has been sitting around Tweed for 6 years and has blundered his way through three reorganizations that failed to substantively improve anything whatsoever. It makes no difference that he couldn't register improvements on test scores he couldn't manipulate. The 80-million dollar Aris computer debacle, leaving young children stranded outside on the coldest day of the year, the huge investments in ineffectual touchy-feely math and reading programs, labeling persistently dangerous schools as excellent, closing rather than fixing neighborhood schools, failing to provide services for kids in need...

These things are not important at all. The thing worth mentioning, as Tweedies have repeatedly told me, is, "At least we're doing something." Those of us who Mr. Brooks has relegated to the "status quo" category want to know this---Why the hell don't you try doing something that works?

However, whether or not things work is of no consequence whatsoever to Mr. Brooks. For years now, Mr. Brooks has been offering us his wisdom on Iraq. According to Mr. Brooks, everything in Iraq is fine, and everything there has always been fine. Like John McCain just said, it doesn't matter how long we stay there. The important thing, apparently, is that companies like Blackwater and Haliburton continue to reap huge profits at taxpayer expense.

Never mind we're borrowing 3 billion dollars a week from China to finance this endless affair, and don't worry if our children are tens of thousands of dollars in debt before they're even born.

The important thing, again, is to keep privatizing regardless of consequences. In education, that means turning public schools into playgrounds for billionaires. While my kids sit with me in a filthy trailer or an unventilated closet, billionaire Courtney Ross gets the state-of-the-are facilities at Tweed for her grand experiment, runs through five principals in two years, can't hold onto teachers, and is now accused of doctoring test scores.

Make no mistake about it--"reforms" don't mean getting decent facilities for children. They mean undermining and eventually destroying union protections for working people. They mean our kids will grow up and work as many hours as KIPP now makes them go to school.

I've heard many "reformers" say, "Gee, I'd love to pay teachers more, but those darn union contracts make it impossible." Well, I'm a lowly New York City teacher, and I make more money than the overwhelming majority of private non-union school teachers, including those in KIPP.

If you believe columnists like David Brooks give a damn about your children and mine, please email me at your earliest convenience. I can get you an excellent deal on the structure pictured above.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Mr. Klein Makes a Concession

In a remarkable turnaround, NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has decided to continue to allow a hugely controversial language, to wit, English, to be taught at Lafayette High School in Brooklyn. Mr. Klein had previously dismissed the entire English department at Lafayette.

There has been much criticism of the Chancellor and his policies of late, and a good deal of this criticism has been in English. Diane Ravitch, for example, has been a highly vocal critic of the Bloomberg/ Klein approach to education. Ms. Ravitch is known for writing not only columns, but entire books, in English.

Furthermore, Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters has not only criticized Mr. Klein, but also repeatedly called for reforms that might actually cost money (while utterly failing to enrich the private sector). Ms. Haimson, outrageously, has done this simply because such reforms would better educate public school children. This notion is completely at odds with the oft-stated "reforms" advocated by the Chancellor.

As if this were not enough, Ms. Haimson also persists in recording her opinions in English. This language has been a thorn in the side of Mr. Klein for some time now, and it was thought that by eliminating it students and their parents would be spared the unpleasant spectacle of disagreement.

However, it was later learned that many students at Lafayette still communicated exclusively in English, and that English was still the only means of communicating Mr. Klein's "reform" agenda to these students and their families.

So Mr. Klein made the Solomon-like gesture of restoring two English teachers (and dumping the other two into the Absent Teacher Reserve, so that he could make sure they never work again, and then excoriate them for daring to draw paychecks). That's the way things work in Mr. Bloomberg's New York.

But Mr. Klein is surely working on a way to get rid of that awful language one of these days.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Quote of the Day

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.

-Mark Twain

The Sincerest Endorsement Money Can Buy

Rudy Giuliani is ready and willing to get out and campaign for GOP candidates---if they pay him.

Yes We Can

Here's one of Obama's staunchest supporters, addressing whether we can fix the problems GW and his gang have created. If you have kids, they'll love this.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Well, Shazam...

Soon-to-be closed, reorganized, revamped, renamed Lafayette High School is in big trouble. Apparently, they had to excess all their English teachers. Are they switching to Spanish? Well, no. But it looks like some of those goshdarn senior teachers (you know the ones I mean) who've been there for over twenty years can't be canned! Why not? It's that awful union contract, of course.

Chancellor Klein still can't toss people out on their butts whenever he likes. And that, of course, is awful. Here in NYC, the motto is "Children First," and we need to be able to fire teachers at the drop of a hat. How else will we prepare our children for what we most desire for them--jobs in which they can be fired for no reason? It's our job to set an example, and if we have to sell pencils on the corner to do so, well, so be it.

But there's another solution, wait, it's coming to it've got it! Why can't the city simply not excess the English teachers? It could keep them and those evil senior teachers on staff. I realize that's a radical notion, because it will result in reduced class sizes, which are not nearly as effective as large class sizes. I realize that it may cost more, and give the kids the dangerous impression that Tweed actually cares about them. I know what a dangerous precedent that could be.

But why not simply not excess the English teachers? There ought to be more space in a phasing-out school, so you would have places to put the additional classes that would result.

Or does the city simply have other more important things to do with its money?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

3 Square Pegs in a Round Hole

According to the New York Post, "Education officials yesterday said they'd like to build a 1,650-seat high school at Pier 40 off the Hudson River in downtown Manhattan."

In Mayor Mike's New York, that's room for at least 4,000 kids.

Bitter Hillary Didn't Make It?

Sign the John McCain loyalty oath.

Sharpton and Klein Team Up

Reverend Al Sharpton and NYC Schools Chancellor are teaming up for a "national, high-profile political campaign" regarding education. What they want specifically is a big secret. The only hint they're dropping is "Teachers haven't done enough."

It's nice to see Mr. Klein reach out for diverse support in his longterm effort to vilify teachers and cripple unions (After all, you can't depend on UFT President Randi Weingarten for everything). Perhaps Reverend Sharpton is impressed with the Bloomberg administration's record of hiring minorities. After all, Mayor Bloomberg managed to win an impressive number of minority votes when he ran in 2005.

Oddly, Wayne Barrett of the Village Voice is not impressed at all with Hizonner's hiring record:

While Bloomberg's sensitive handling of the Sean Bell shooting and other police-abuse cases are commendable milestones in his two-term tenure, the meager results of his minority hiring and contracting initiatives suggest that, with just a year and a half to go, his legacy on racial-justice issues will be tough to square with the record-setting minority vote that re-elected him.

After election day, the implementation of both initiatives was immediately relegated to an obscure city agency called the Department of Small Business Services (SBS)—which had, surprisingly, more blacks at the top under Rudy Giuliani than it does today under Mike Bloomberg. Once run by a series of four consecutive black commissioners and other minority deputies, its table of organization now lists white employees in virtually every top position; the sole exception is Larry Scott Blackmon, a former aide to Rangel who worked in the 2005 Bloomberg campaign.

And anyone who's watching will have to admit that this administration's offered multiple opportunities for minorities in education. Where else can kids study in trailers and closets? Who but Chancellor Klein offers the highest class sizes in the state? Who else can get away with pushing test scores at the expense of virtually everything else, and then failing to make significant progress on the only scores he can't manipulate? Who else can take a 14-year-old lawsuit designed specifically to get kids better teachers and smaller classes, and demand its funding be used for merit pay?

You have to give Mr. Klein credit. He's snowed the tabloids, he's snowed a lot of New Yorkers, and now he's snowed Al Sharpton. It certainly shows that determination and a clear agenda pay off.

UFT bigshots could learn much from him, if only they were remotely inclined to learn anything whatsoever.

Thanks to Sol Bellel

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More It's Good to Be King Files

Over at Edwize, UFT bigshot Peter Goodman writes:

Teachers live by their own calendar … September through June.

As every working teacher well knows, thanks to a contract Mr. Goodman supported, it's now August to June. Of course Mr. Goodman, who is not a working teacher, has no reason to trouble himself with such matters.

Update: Elsewhere on Edwize, a snide piece about Obama that seems to use "social justice" as an epithet, pitting what it calls the "social justice" left against the "center" left. If anyone in Unity/ New Action used that tone to discuss Ms. Weingarten, they'd be excommunicated and sent to bed without a second pension.

It's Good to Be King Files

California Congresswoman Laura Richardson has managed to default 8 times on home mortgage loans.

This week's NYC Educator challenge--you try that and see how long it is before you're living in a tree (because you didn't qualify for the cave).

The Survey SAYS...

...the Carnival of Education is at Learn Me Good this week.

The Model Minority

I teach kids from all over the world, and I was very happy to come across this article. Somehow people revel in stereotypes, and they think if they say a group is smarter, that it's somehow not a stereotype. But if you expect more from kids because of their national origin (or skin color, or sex, or religion, or whatever), then you are acting out of sheer ignorance.

They come big, tall, fat, thin, smart, not so smart, and every degree in between. I've seen excellent to terrible from each and every group I've ever taught (including Americans). Really, teachers need to take kids one at a time and if they can't, they shouldn't be taking them at all.

The best predictor of academic success, or lack of it, is parental involvement. If your parents let you stay home and watch Jerry Springer every day, the chances of excelling in the school you've failed to attend all year are considerably lessened. But if they teach you school is important, and if they follow your progress with interest, your chances for academic success brighten considerably.

No matter what color your skin is.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Just a Thought

Over the last two days I've received three invitations to participate in various events that apparently value my educational insights, such as they may be. But all of them were during school hours.

I don't know a lot about symposiums, or interviews, or panels, or whatever these things may be. But I do know if you really value the participation of real teachers, you ought not hold your event during school hours.

Contrary to popular belief, some of us have to work.

The Eleventh Commandment

On Open School afternoon I got paired up with Miss Pitts. I'd just been out with a bunch of teachers to a great Chinese restaurant, where a Chinese teacher introduced me to the spiciest crabs I'd ever encountered. I was gasping for air, gulping down water, waving my hands over my mouth, but my colleague just sat there as though he were eating something very ordinary. I suppose, for him, it was.

We had to break laws to get back to school on time, and I ran up the stairs to make it to my room before the bell rang. I scooted into my seat, right by the window, and opened it as far as I could.

"Could you pleeeease close that window?" asked Miss Pitts.

"I'm really sweating here. Could you wait a little while?"

"I don't like having too much air in the room," she said, definitively.

I closed the window and went out into the hall, where I sat on a windowsill next to an open window. There were no parents yet, and I'd be able to see any that arrived.

Miss Pitts came out of the room. "Could you please come inside, Mr. Educator? I have a student with me and I'm not comfortable being alone with him."

"Tell him to leave, then," I told her.

"Oh, no, I couldn't possibly do that. I asked him to come and help me."

"Then let him stay."

"But I'm not comfortable. I'd like you to come into the room right now, please."

"I'll come in if you let me leave the window open," I told her.

"Well. We'll see about that!" she said.

Miss Pitts went and complained to our AP, who told her that as long as I met with any parents who showed up, she didn't care if I sat in the classroom, in the hall, or out of state. Dejected but determined, she went to the teacher who mediated between students with conflicts. The teacher approached me sheepishly, and asked what I could do.

"Ms. Pitts can let me open the window, and I'll go back. She can also tell the kid to go, and then she won't have this problem. If she wants, she can come out here, close the windows, and I'll go back in there and open them."

When presented with these options, Miss Pitts rejected them outright, and insisted the teacher force me back into the room. The teacher, having no actual authority in the matter, politely declined. Miss Pitts didn't speak to me for two months.

Everyone was jealous.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Tales from the Rubber Room

Click here, scroll down a little, and select "Full Episode." Fast forward about 7 minutes and you'll hear more about the rubber room than you ever wanted to know.

It's simply unbelievable. But it's true nonetheless.

Thanks to Greg

Father Knows Best

Lots of people talk about how awful our educational system, and make invidious comparisons, often pointing to Asia. Yet in South Korea, with its demanding and rigid system, many parents are choosing to ship their kids out of the country rather than have them study 200 hours a week. It's incredible to see moms choosing to relocate to New Zealand rather than have their kids study in their native country.

Of course, that's not the only reason they send their kids away. In South Korea, knowledge of English is a big deal, with some parents subjecting their kids to tongue surgery, supposedly to promote better pronunciation.

And tough as that sounds, families are willing to separate for years so that kids can attend foreign schools. Why?
South Korean parents say that the schools are failing to teach not only English but also other skills crucial in an era of globalization, like creative thinking.

It's tough to promote creative thinking in an environment of large class sizes and no class discussion about anything. While I don't go in for much of the touchy-feely nonsense that Tweed and its highly-paid no-bid consultants embrace, I certainly think there ought to be room for interaction and discussion. From what I've heard (at a lecture I attended), there is very little in South Korea.

The fathers of these children must really feel strongly about this, because there are some rough consequences to their decisions:

Asked whether she missed her father, Ellin, 11, said: “I don’t miss him that much. I see him every year.”

“Do you think that’s enough?” her mother asked, a little surprised.

Ellin corrected herself and said she saw him twice a year.

For older kids, some parents simply send them alone. There are boarding homes in NYC, some run by churches, that take these kids in and provide what I can charitably describe as minimal supervision. As the parent of an almost teenage girl, I'm amazed that anyone would send their fourteen-year-old kid to live in a foreign country and hope for the best. But that's precisely what happens.

As the US economy plummets and we go billions and billions in debt to our Asian neighbors, it's makes you wonder--where will our national mania for testing lead?

Will we be shipping our kids out one day?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

You Pays Your Money...

...and you takes your chances. Several NYC members of Congress, to their credit, are trying to get federal funds for PCP cleanup. Good for them.

If they get the money,though, there's always the danger that NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein will stand up, complain bitterly his hands are tied by the earmarking of funds, and demand they be spent on more important things, like 80-million dollar computer systems that don't work, or no-bid contracts that leave kids stranded outside on freezing cold days.

After all, the CFE regulations say Mr. Klein has to spend money on reasonable class size and adequate education, and Mr. Klein has made it very clear he doesn't wish to squander valuable tax funds on such frivolities.

Background Checks? Qualifications?

They're for public schools. At private schools, we do whatever we want.


Mamacita at Scheiss Weekly has collected some wonderful quotes. One that might be of interest to NYC teachers (in light of Rod "The NEA is a terrorist organization" Paige's praise for UFT President Randi Weingarten) is this:

"Do not fear when your enemies criticize you. Beware when they applaud."
--Vo Dong Giang

Saturday, June 07, 2008

A Lesson for Us All

Greenwich CT Principal Marc D'Amico was suspended after he refused to allow a parent to bring cupcakes for a kid's party. Now everyone knows cupcakes are just the beginning, leading to fudgy-wudgy bars,apple pies, cinnamon pastries, the much-dreaded Carvel ice cream cakes, and who knows what else? So naturally, I was shocked that D'Amico was suspended for protecting the kids from these dangerous substances.

But it turns out that D'Amico was not suspended for his valiant efforts to protect the children from these pernicious materials. Rather, he was suspended for lying during the cupcake incident. Fortunately, he's been reinstated.

Because in Greenwich, apparently, they'll stop at nothing to protect the kids from the evils of cupcakes.

Misrepresenting the truth, though, is just fine. In fact, it's the American way.

Common Denominator

Well, Tom Delay's out on the campaign trail, calling Obama Barack a marxist. I haven't seen red-baiting like that since UFT President Randi Weingarten labeled her opponent a socialist.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Failing School? Closing School?

Don't worry. As principal, you still get merit pay.

Technology Marches On

I was pretty excited when, maybe 10 years ago, I got placed in a room with a whiteboard. For some reason, I found it easier to write, and my handwriting became far more legible. It was a miracle, I thought, and I was really pleased.

But a neighboring teacher complained of an allergy to chalk dust or something (despite having used it without incident for many years), and I was relegated back to an ordinary blackboard.

The next semester I got the whiteboard again, but got bounced into a half-classroom where the kids were sitting on top of one another. After a litany of complaints (from me), we moved into a trailer. I missed the whiteboard, but at a meeting, we were shown the wonders of computers. You could project the images onto the screen without any board at all, and share documents or Power Point presentations with your classes. It was amazing.

Alas, it was for carefully selected classrooms, and certainly not the trailers. It was too risky to bring them out there. You could send the kids out there, but not those costly computers.

The next year there was a lot of talk about smartboards. They were amazing, and everyone needed to have them, but few did. I thought perhaps they could fly. Maybe they can. Who knows? I've never actually seen one.

Now, there are these great little tablets that work with projectors, and they're better than smartboards. They can project all kinds of things onto the wall. They remember everything, and you can do everything with them. They surf the net, and can find just about everything you need to know about anything. If you're in Chicago, you can still put notes on your classroom screen.

I'll be retired by the time they hit the trailers. Perhaps soon after that people will sing the praises of the blackboard, how all you need is chalk and an eraser, and how simple and flexible they are. On that day, they'll remove the blackboards from trailers and reinstall them in the classrooms that now have computers, or whatever it is they have this week.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Pre-K Problems?

Apparently, not only middle schoolers are wondering where to report next year. I've been asked to post this:

As you have likely heard, a number of public PreK applicants who should have received priority (siblings of older kids already enrolled at that school; zoned kids rejected, while out-of-zone and out-of-district kids were accepted) did get spots in this year's PreK admissions. As spots are limited in general, some schools simply have more sibling or zoned applicants than there are spots for, but that is not the matter at issue.

If you know of anyone in this situation (anywhere in NYC!) please ask them to complete this survey as we (parents of rejected kids) attempt to get a handle on the scope & outreach thus far. While both Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum & City Councilman Bill De Blasio called a press conference yesterday demanding the DOE deal with the situation, we have yet to have a proper response from the DOE as a group or individually. They have told the press they will find suitable spots for wrongly rejected kids, but these spots may be in a school elsewhere in one's district. That is unacceptable.


Many thanks,

Mom to rejected twin and accepted twin (although no letter yet) at big sis' school

Brooklyn Queens Day

It's here again.

The kids are at home. I used to be at home too, before Randi Weingarten and her merry band gave it away, along with every gain we'd made since I began teaching in 1984, for less than cost of living.

Get ready for mind-numbing lectures on why it's bad to be late and what a great job Mayor Bloomberg is doing.

And for goodness sakes, don't forget to bring a book.

Now it's true that teachers in other boroughs used to simply teach on those days.

I'd certainly rather be teaching today.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Hillary to Endorse Obama...

...on Saturday.

The Education Wonks...

...present the Carnival of Education.

Tweed's Latest "Reform"

Expect city schools to get even dirtier.

One Fewer Voice of Reason

That's what NYC media has, with Sam Freedman departing as education reporter from the Times:

As regular readers know, I have been a skeptic on the ballyhooed overhaul of New York’s public schools under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein.

In particular, I have questioned their spotty record of providing required English as a Second Language classes to immigrant students, and have asked whether the creation of small schools — a signature of the Bloomberg administration — has caused collateral damage by shunting lower-performing students into traditional high schools.

No education column received greater reader response than one last August about an award-winning, idealistic young math teacher, Austin Lampros. He had been overruled by his principal at the High School of Arts and Technology in Manhattan when he tried to give a failing grade to a senior who missed scores of classes, didn’t even show up to take the final and claimed a dubious medical excuse.

The student got her passing grade and her diploma. The principal still has her job. The only loser was Mr. Lampros, who quit a profession he adored rather than be party to a travesty.

Hopefully they will find a well-informed replacement. But they'd better look carefully--there aren't many opinion columnists who know what goes on in city schools. Michael Winerip springs to mind. But he's gone too, of course.

You'll be missed, Sam.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Watch Where You Step

I've never had a shyness problem, and I'm quick to complain about trailer conditions. I'm now marginally questioning whether or not that's a good idea.

One of the first things I learned as a new English teacher was to never piss off the person who runs the bookroom. In fact, the very first time I selected a book, I had to get a kid to steal it for me, and give him extra credit for helping out.

But the most powerful people in any school building are generally acknowledged to be the custodians, and I've angered them repeatedly with my complaints. Oh, there's a bar hanging off the stairs, and you're worried a student may accidentally kill himself? Or intentionally kill someone else? You don't like it when the soap is covered with a black mold-like substance that no one will touch? You want towels in those bathrooms? You want us to clean the trailer, after 15 years of dirt have accumulated? We'll show you.

And show me they have. Every morning the AC is on full blast, the temp is set to the lowest possible setting, and it's like walking into Antarctica. They've not yet left polar bears, but I'm careful when I open those doors. And though the 15-year-old gum still covers half the floor space, they've thoroughly cleaned my desk. They took all the papers I'd graded and dumped them in the trash, along with absolutely everything else I'd left in the drawers. In fact, they dumped two of the drawers altogether.

You want towels? I got your towels right here, pal. Now I get towels every day, on my desk, along with a fresh roll of TP. I actually placed the towels in the dispenser the first two days (our custodians don't do that kind of stuff), but they dump new piles on the desk even if the old ones are still there.

The lesson? Don't complain. Things are never gonna be the way you want. On the other hand, while it's way over the top, I now have towels, the kids can use the bathroom, and there's plenty of TP to cover it, being as it hasn't been cleaned anytime in my memory. All in all, I don't regret it.

But who knows what comes next.

Lowest Paid Teacher Now Earns 63 Billion

That's the headline over at the Columbus Education Association.


She's the best.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Liars, Damned Liars, and Teenagers

How do you tell if a teenager is lying?

Her lips are moving. That's what Judge Judy says, and cynical though it may sound, I'm just a little more inclined to agree with her today.

Now here is a secret that you absolutely may not share with teenagers--the very best way to trick an authority figure is to be unfailingly polite and accommodating. I mean, when Harold takes off his clothes and runs around the halls shouting, "I am the greatest," he's likely to draw attention to himself. People are gonna notice him and he's gonna get in trouble one way or another.

But it's the quiet kids, the ones who always say, "Excuse me," or "please," or even "Thank you, Mr. Educator,"---well, who's gonna question them when they're out on a test day? In fact, this morning I surprised myself by asking Ronnie where he was on Friday. He said he'd been to a doctor, and that he'd had a terrible fever. I asked if he had a doctor's note, and waddya know, he did.

I looked at it very carefully, and noticed no other teachers had signed it. I asked him why that was and he said no other teacher had asked to see it. That's possible.

I looked again, and noticed that the diagnosis was "fever," and that the doctor's number had an area code that I associate with cell phones. I asked him why that was and he shook his head. I dialed the number, and got an announcement it was disconnected. I asked him what was up. I dialed again and got the same announcement.

I took another look at the doctor's form and noticed that this doctor didn't seem to have a specialty.

"Ronnie," I said, "It's time for you to tell me the truth. I will go to the directory and look up this doctor if I have to, but I'll be very disappointed if I find you've been lying to me."

"It's a fake note," he admitted.

"And where were you on Friday?"

"I was at my friend's house."

I found a colleague who speaks Ronnie's language and she called his dad. Based on Dad's reaction, I don't expect it will be a good week for Ronnie.

Still, in two weeks, I absolutely expect him to pass the NY State English Regents exam, and that's not too bad for a kid who's only been here two years. He's gotten good at fooling crotchety teachers like me, but he couldn't have done so without learning a whole lot of American culture, including our version of English.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Obama in Mitchell, South Dakota

I can't find it on the net yet, but Barack Obama gave a wonderful speech today, taking on McCain directly. I think the man has hit his stride and I think we're looking at the next President of the United States.

Update: Here it is. Thanks to Gary Babad.