Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Evaluation Trap--What's the UFT Planning?

It's been a while since UFT President Michael Mulgrew went to Albany and negotiated a statewide evaluation system. Part of that agreement was that value-added testing would comprise 20%, 25%, 40%, or even 100% of a teacher rating. It depends who you ask, and perhaps also when you ask.

The debate over percentages does not much interest me. I'm firmly persuaded that the optimal percentage of VAM in a teacher rating is zero. UFT people I speak to say, well, what if you have a crazy principal who gives you a U for no reason? And yes I know there are principals like that. But I fail to see how diluting that crazy principal's rating with junk science by 20, 25, 40, or whatever percentage will help anything. Why aren't we talking about removing crazy principals rather than evaluating teachers out of work for no reason?

Here's the thing--a UFT rep came to my school last year and heard a whole lot of complaints about having gone two years without a contract, and three without a raise. This rep told us not to worry, that we'd get our contract. The rep told us UFT leadership was very smart, and that any new evaluation system would have to come in the form of a contract. While I will not personally vote for any contract that contains junk science, no matter what sort of money comes with it, I could appreciate that argument.

However, at Gotham Schools I repeated the argument, and Peter Goodman, AKA Ed in the Apple, suggested I misheard. Goodman states that evaluations can be independent of the contract. Why would he be singing that particular song at this time? Could it be the UFT is getting ready to have working teachers judged by junk science and will not even bother demanding a contract in return?

I have some advice for the Unity Caucus--if you wish to maintain your stranglehold on UFT politics, don't even think of agreeing to an evaluation system without procuring, at the very least, the 8% raise all other city employees got between 2008-2010. And don't forget that it's now 2012, and screwing the other unions by accepting a big fat zero for this year is just not the thing to do.

Again, I will not vote for any contract that includes junk science. I find it reprehensible that teachers will be fired as a result of invalid measurements.  One teacher fired for no reason is one teacher too many. And hundreds? Based on junk science? Too much for me.

Selling teachers down the river so the city can get money to do more reformy stuff is insane. That's not why anyone became a teacher. I certainly hope Goodman is "smoking something," as Sandy Feldman said people were before her first double zero contract went down to defeat. I hit maximum two years earlier because it was renegotiated. We, the teachers, can say no to contract.

And they, the leadership, should say no to junk science. At the absolute bare minimum, they must demand a contract before agreeing to this nonsense. I still won't support it, but at least we won't look like a bunch of morons with no negotiating skill whatsoever.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Is It the New York Times, or Is It the Onion?

I don't know what to say anymore when I read the news. Does anyone remember the deal the UFT made with the Gates Foundation? They were going to do some sort of research on value-added, and they would score the teachers, and it would be a big secret. The secret part made sense, since there was no validity whatsoever to the methodology. Why we agreed to it in the first place I can't say. In any case, when the papers demanded the results, Tweed said, oh my gosh, it's the law, so we must release it. Papers printed scores, teachers were publicly humiliated, and one poor woman was called the worst teacher in New York on the front page of the execrable New York Post.

Yet Bloomberg swears he'll go to the Supreme Court before anyone sees the emails between him and brilliant educator Cathie Black. Because junk science that makes working teachers look bad must be made public ASAP, but whatever passed between Bloomberg and the Most Unqualified Educator of All Time must be kept secret at any cost. Doubtless financial expert Bloomberg will fight this case to the city's last nickel.

Next on our absurd news is an op-ed in Schoolbook by Merryl Tisch and John King, doubtless trying to give Cathie Black a run for her money on precisely how unqualified one must be to run public education. Tisch and Black put forth the idiotic argument that we can't wait another moment to unleash untested and failed programs on our young people. It's of the utmost importance that we get started right away with Common Core, even though it's never been tested anywhere and no one knows how, or even if it works. Let's quickly dump all that literature nonsense and get kids reading important stuff, like train schedules, menus and articles by people who have not the remotest notion what they are talking about. That would be Tisch and King, in case I'm being too subtle.

Also, of course, we need to embark on a new teacher evaluation system. This is because neither Tisch nor King can be bothered to do the most cursory research on value-added, which is junk science pure and simple. And yet we live in a state, in a country in which research, science and statistics are held meaningless by those who run education.

As for the cherry on top of today's cake, visionary NY Times columnist Tom Friedman, cheerleader for such brilliant undertakings as GW Bush's Iraq War, tosses his hat into the education arena. suggesting that Arne Duncan ought to be Secretary of State. This makes sense to Friedman because Duncan was able to negotiate with tough-as-nails Randi Weingarten. Weingarten is responsible for the wonderful 2005 NYC contract, for the merit-pay VAM Newark contract, and for VAM nonsense in other parts of the country. Recent admirers of Ms. Weingarten include Governor Chris Christie and Eli Broad.  Friedman wants to expand Race to the Top, because he has no idea what it is or what it does and that's just fine with him. Apparently he's also unaware that Duncan's Renaissance 2010 in Chicago was an utter failure, and can't be bothered to find out.

So there you have it. People who don't do research, people who ignore existing research, people who can't be bothered to test theories before trying them en masse on hapless American schoolchildren--those are the people we have running our education systems and writing for our newspapers.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Say It Ain't So, Miss Oh

Miss Oh was getting ready to teach her English class when a monitor came to her door with the daily attendance. Included in her little folder. as is often the case, was a stack of papers. Miss Oh dutifully passed out the papers and proceeded to try and figure who was here and who was not. She had learned the hard way, as a new teacher, that administrators take attendance very seriously and was not about to have the same problem twice.

"What's this?" she heard, from her generally well-behaved class.

"You must be kidding me!" came another voice, even more agitated than the first.

"What's the matter?" she asked, looking up from the sacred attendance sheet.

"This paper says there's no February vacation, Miss Oh. How can you do this to us?"

"Well, it wasn't my idea," she responded, with great conviction.

A boy stood up and announced, "Well, I'm not coming. My dad said we were gonna go to Florida that week, and that's what we're gonna do."

"Well," offered Miss Oh, "It's a regular attendance day so please bring a note when you come back."

The comments and questions grew more heated. Miss Oh did not like this at all. She had not seen her class so out of control since she was a new teacher.

Later, in the teacher cafe, she told her friends, "It was only five minutes, but it felt like an eternity. I felt like they were all coming after me."

"You know," said her best friend Ms. Dawson, "You're lucky I wasn't in that class. I would've come after you too, and much harder than any of those kids did.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Obama: Do as I Say, Not as I Do

Leonie Haimson has a great new piece pointing out that the preposterous things we demand from American children don't apply to the kids of the President of the United States. Sasha and Malia attend the Sidwell Friends School, where they are not subject to high-stakes tests, and where they enjoy small class sizes. Obama was very vocal in criticizing Romney for opposing reasonable class sizes, yet his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, did the same thing months earlier.

One would think this would suggest a change in Education Secretaries for term two, but one would be mistaken. Many public school parents and working teachers are upset with his insane and non-science-based policies, but it appears we're headed for more of the same. I often question why the NEA and AFT supported a second term for such policies and I get varying responses. One is that Romney would have been worse. Indeed, Romney supported not only all the crap Obama supports, but also vouchers. However, Obama's education policies are pretty bad, as evidenced by supporters like Jeb Bush.

The other talking point I get from union reps is that Obama has said many positive things about class size, but again he never refuted Duncan's contradictory statements. More importantly, there has been absolutely no action to support these words. Also, Obama has spoken out against excessive testing, but policies like Race to the Top and Common Core will almost certainly exacerbate the problem. Sad to say, his words look very much like lip service, and, unless they are accompanied by deeds, will surely be meaningless.

Would it have been tougher for a GOP President to have enabled such things? Probably. Democrats may have opposed such nonsense on principle had it been suggested by a Republican. But we are Barack Obama's Sister Souljah moment, and nonsensical VAM evaluations will surely result in teachers being fired for no reason whatsoever. However, now that Democrats have jumped on the "reform" bandwagon, this is a tough issue for us. Until these programs fail, as they certainly will, and enough people notice it, which may or may not happen, we're stuck here.

We missed a golden opportunity by not making demands before endorsing Obama. LGBT and immigrant groups extracted concessions from this President, and I marvel day after day why our union leaders, in what promised to be a very close election, did not deem this worth negotiating over.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

On Debate

This week I had to delete a number of comments. One likened this blog to Fox News and called me all sorts of names. Another laid out what I should write about, and criticized my choice of topics. Apparently these readers know what belongs here better than I do. Perhaps they should start their own blogs and write about whatever they wish.

Sometimes people tell me what I think, and are almost invariably incorrect. I'm not sure what passes for debate elsewhere, but to me that's blatantly ridiculous. You say this, therefore you believe (insert preposterous and offensive assumption here).

This is first and foremost an opinion page. It's remarkable that some adults, who have presumably seen newspapers and/ or news shows, seem unable to discern that. I'm not Jim Lehrer reporting the news. If there is, indeed, another side, feel free to offer it. I'm all ears. In fact, if you persuade me I'm wrong I'll admit it. Frankly, though there was at least one issue-oriented comment at odds with my opinion, no one has come close to changing my mind this week.

Arguments like you are an idiot, how dare you say that, or why aren't you giving my point of view rather than your own are juvenile, and furthermore unpersuasive.

I welcome dissenting opinion. If union reps wish to comment here and offer points of view other than mine, or discuss issues, they are more than welcome, and if I respond it won't be with personal insults.

However, if the sort of ad hominem nonsense I've been seeing in the comment section represents what is discussed behind closed doors by those who run our union, we are in very sad shape. I would not tolerate this sort of discussion from teenagers in my classroom and I certainly won't tolerate it here.

The comment section here is a forum for opinion and discussion, not personal attacks or name-calling. If you feel such policies are unfair, feel free to seek out and participate in a forum that meets your standards.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Turkey Day

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who bothers to read this little blog, all those who've contributed to it, and all those who took time out from their Thanksgiving Day to read this.

We have a lot to be thankful for. We have the best job in the world. There is no greater privilege than that of influencing, guiding, and helping our young people. I'm very proud to be a teacher, and all teachers have much to be proud about.

Though they trash us in the media, though we're used as a political football, and though the President of the United States sees fit to use us as his Sister Souljah moment, we move on and do the important work we've chosen, day after day.

Of course it's not easy. And of course many of us are suffering from the disaster that rocked the east coast three short weeks ago. But we're smarter and tougher than our detractors, and like the truth, we will prevail. I have no doubt.

But it's on us to make sure of that. We can rest this weekend, but there is a lot of work to do. We must confront the demagogues with the inconvenient truth at every turn. We must be unafraid to speak, to write, to show up where we are needed.

We must make our voices heard. Because one voice won't suffice. There isn't just one voice, and there isn't just one way of speaking.

Just like there isn't just one turkey. Some people just don't like turkey. But there's a turkey for everyone out there anyway.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Law Is the Law, Says UFT Leadership

That's what I keep hearing. Don't you know about the law? Do you want us to break the law? We all have to respect the law and never, ever question it, no matter what, because it's the law.

That's why, apparently, it was vital that we agree to give up February break immediately, with no consultation whatsoever with rank and file. It appears that the State Education Department has the power to waive the 180-day requirement, but can only do so when all vacation days are exhausted. That's true. It's in the UFT Q and A that came out yesterday, and will doubtless be a talking point used against folks like me who wonder why we were so quick to capitulate.

However, there is another way to waive the requirement. This, apparently, escaped the attention of whoever wrote the UFT Q and A. The State Legislature can vote to do so, and have done so as recently as last year. In fact, on November 1st, they were considering just that.

School districts would face a loss of state aid if they were to have fewer than 180 days of classes. Lawmakers said they would look to modify the law to hold school districts downstate harmless because of the extended school closures caused by the devastation from Sandy.

So yes, the law is the law. But why didn't we wait to find out if it would be waived without penalty before agreeing with Walcott? Had the law been changed, I'm certain teachers would have agreed to forgo consultation days and provide kids with more instruction. That, my friends, is what is known as a win-win.

And that is what we should all aspire to. When this chancellor demands we jump, after having denied us the contract almost all other city workers got, we ought not to be asking, "How high?"

We ought to be making our own demands.

OK, we'll do the days. My demand? First, put every ATR teacher to work so as to alleviate outrageous class sizes.

In exchange for our time, we certainly ought to ask for more than nothing whatsoever, which appears to be what UFT leadership requested.

What would you ask this chancellor?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Daily News Inspired by Merit Pay Fairy

Since Newark teachers ratified a contract full of unspecified bonuses for evaluations that don't exist, the Daily News editorial board thinks we ought to do the same thing. You know, we should be paid like professional athletes. This is not a new argument. I've been hearing it for years. Except, of course, that no one, ever, has remotely suggested we be paid on any such scale.

Blogger Jersey Jazzman has been consistently brilliant on this issue, and wrote a fairly definitive history describing its various incarnations and failures. Regrettably, the Daily News editorial board either hasn't heard, or more likely doesn't wish to hear about them. They'd prefer to interview some defeated ex-union chief who no longer believes seniority ought to mean anything for working people.

For some reason, a lot of people out there actually believe that folks on the Daily News editorial board, the ones who consistently support things like junk-science VAM, actually care more about kids than we do. After all, all we do is spend every working hour of our lives teaching them, watching them, caring for them. What the hell do we know about kids?

I think Lily Tomlin said, "No matter how cynical you get, it's hard to keep up." And every day, I marvel when I read about the latest untested or failed nonsense that's come down the pike, and how we must enact it right now. I kind of expect this from newspaper editorial boards.

What really disappoints me is when union leaders stand behind it, calling it innovative and worthwhile. I'm particularly irked when they call real teachers liars for opposing such nonsense. In this case, it is the New Caucus that opposes the junk sci-contract, and Jersey Jazzman has posted their position in its entirety.

The danger of nonsense like this contract is that it can spread like a cancer. It's no accident that Bill Gates' boy Arne Duncan has imposed crap evaluation on most of the country, and I don't doubt the man who stated Katrina was the best thing to happen to education in New Orleans would love to see us have contracts just like this one. Chris Christie and Eli Broad love it. That's just one reason for us not to.

Here's another--real working teachers need a raise, not a tip. Remember that when they tell you you can make "up to" whatever. Because the other side is you can also make "as little as" whatever.  A one time payment of "up to $20,000" for a degree approved by the likes of Chris Christie is no substitute for actual credit for education. We ought to encourage teachers to get more education, not have them spin the Wheel of Fortune to find out how much it's worth.

Is that what pro athletes do? If so, I've yet to hear about it.

Monday, November 19, 2012

UFT President Michael Mulgrew Gives Up February Break

Just got an email from Michael Mulgrew stating that Wednesday through Friday would be work days, and that a half-day in June would become a full day.

That makes much more sense than converting PD days into attendance days. After all, it's of pivotal importance that we learn how bad it is for kids to be late, how we have to teach some special way, and how they've repackaged ten-year-old ideas that didn't work into new ideas that don't work. Perish forbid we should miss a moment of that. Better to strip hard-working teachers who've just lived through the worst catastrophe in their living memory of the break they're all looking forward to.

Why forge creative solutions when you can simply capitulate and do whatever Dennis Walcott golly goshdarn feels like?

Here's the thing--this is not about Children First. Not remotely. If it were, we'd have converted the PD days in a flash. It's about the money the state gives Mayor Bloombucks, ostensibly to run schools. If we don't show, he loses that money. Then, how will he finance the next ARIS? How will he pay for the next round of preposterously flawed Spanish pseudo-Regents exams?

And most importantly, where will he find the money to not give hard-working teachers a raise for the fifth year in a row?

We had to do this, because the law is the law. Unless it involves term limits. Or selecting an unqualified chancellor. Or fulfilling FOIL requests. Or negotiating in good faith with the UF of T. Or anything else Mayor Bloomberg doesn't feel like doing.

And the law apparently forbids thinking outside the box, seeking creative solutions, or using the COPE money teachers like me faithfully send in to enable such things.

I know. They did the best they could do.

Just like in 05.

It's time to either do things better, or find someone who can.

Related: ICE-UFT Blog

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Open Letter to UFT President

Dear Mr. Mulgrew:

I was somewhat dismayed by your letter stating we must make up days in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. I’m a little shocked the union would conclude this without having even consulted rank and file.

This, however, is not at all my only concern. First of all, there has been very public talk of relaxing the minimum attendance requirement statewide. We certainly ought to be open to that, and examine our options before simply agreeing to Chancellor Walcott's very public pronouncements. As you pointed out in your letter, we have worked up to 196 days a year and there was never extra compensation for our efforts.

My primary concern is for my members, many of whom, like me, have not been able to stay in their homes for over two weeks. We have not, in fact, spent our time off watching Oprah and eating popcorn. Most of my time has been spent frantically calling electricians and plumbers to replace walls, floors and appliances destroyed when six feet of saltwater rampaged through my home. Despite being essentially homeless, like many of my members, I’ve yet to miss a day this year.

Many of my members have already made plans for breaks and are set to lose considerable sums of money if these plans are abruptly altered by mayoral fiat or otherwise. At the last Queens Chapter Leader meeting, I was reminded that article 6C of our Contract lays out the days we are required to report.

I certainly hope I did not make an error sharing that information with my members.  Further financial strains on those affected by the storm will not be welcome. As you know, all city employees but educators received raises in excess of 8% between 2008-2010. My members, who have gone four years without a raise, are ill-prepared to take such a hit at this time.

In fact, last year we took no snow days at all, and Walcott, in a bizarre but typical DOE aberration from logic, gave us a choice in June of having kids attend or running an SBO for a PD day. My members were quite confused at the prospect of making up a snow day we did not actually use, and have reminded me of this frequently, most recently last Friday.

Personally, I'm incredulous the UFT seems to have capitulated to Walcott's demands for more days without any discussion, let alone demands. If Walcott wishes for us to be reasonable, the very least he can offer in return is a contract, with the 8% raise Mayor Bloomberg unconditionally granted all other city employees.

Thank you for your attention in this matter.

Very truly yours,

Arthur Goldstein, UFT Chapter Leader
Francis Lewis High School

The Amish Are Wimps

For years, I've been hearing about those hearty souls, up with the sun, and asleep with the moon, using only a candle now and then to make their way in the evening. And no they don't have electricity, so they aren't frittering away their time with Facebook and Twitter, and certainly they aren't indulging in anything so inane as a blog. So we'll grant them that.

But in my house, we don't have any stinking electricity either. Now here's where the Amish lose me. In their homes, they have to have walls, and floors and all sorts of other frivolities. None of that for us. We've taken down our walls, because we aren't going to bother with any of that nonsense anymore. And pretty soon we're gonna get rid of those floors too, probably tomorrow.

Because this is America, land of the free and home of the brave. In America, we don't have to depend on walls, and floors and electricity. We aren't one of those wimpy socialist European countries where everyone simply gets health care just for being alive. No, we make sure that the people who need money the very least get tax breaks, because they're so fragile that if you touched them, they'd probably break.

The rest of us are a bunch of cowboys wandering the plains in our gas-guzzling automobiles, surveying the landscape, taking that goshdarn suburban outlook and moving it back to the piles of rubble that suit our post-Sandy apocalyptic sensibilities. Because that picture to the left? That's the real America.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Today's Cartoon

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Three Weeks

That's how long it will be before my little family can go home. We need a new boiler, water heater, washer/ dryer, refrigerator, dishwasher and stove. Problem is, we also need new floors and walls, and apparently we need to dry out and clean up the mess that is our crawl space. For one thing, right now, when we turn the electricity on, it seems to catch fire.

They tell me that it's a real disadvantage to have your house catch fire on a regular basis. Also, it appears before they can put in new walls and floors they have to remove the old ones. And they tell me that it's tough to live in a house without walls or floors. Also, the stairs, which we frequently use to go from one floor to another, need replacing.

Now I'm a reasonable guy. Why can't they take off this piece of the floor, or that wall and not this one? Can't we just replace this piece of floor we need to walk on now and save the rest for later?

Apparently not.

I gotta say, all in all, I did not much enjoy my date with Sandy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Where Is This Man?


This is the President I voted for in 2008, speaking for the power of people to organize. This is the President I've missed for four long years, as he failed to find those comfortable shoes and materialize in Wisconsin, as he failed to support, let alone pass, the Employee Free Choice Act, as he failed to stop the ruinous Bush tax cuts.

Now he has another term, and teachers are saying it's time to dump Arne Duncan, who lacks the sensitivity of a number two pencil, who publicly declared that Katrina was the best thing to happen to education in New Orleans. Sure, if you're a privatizer, or a corporate shill looking to beef up your portfolio on the backs of helpless schoolchildren. Or if you think drowning low-scoring children is a good way to juke the stats. 

To this, rumors abound. One is this--if Arne Duncan goes, Michelle Rhee will take his place. I presume that is supposed to scare us, so we say, oh no, Mister Obama, PLEASE keep Arne Duncan, because even though he hates us and everything we stand for, he's better than that scary Michelle Rhee! Actually, I see little difference. They are both fanatical "reformers" who can't be bothered with facts. Anything that comes out of Bill Gates' platinum-plated ass is good enough for school children. We can't wait to test the theories, and we must ignore all studies and experiences that say they don't work.

I didn't vote for this, and this isn't hope and change. If I wanted someone who was going to oppose science, I could've voted for Romney, Ryan, Maverick Johny McCain, Sarah Palin, and all the good old boys and girls on Fox.

The AFT and NEA endorsed Obama, and he won by a small margin. For the life of me I have not the foggiest notion why they did not extract concessions from him first. And for the life of me I see no reason whatsoever that he should do us any favors now. I'd love to see that guy in the video above.

That's a man I could support. That's a man who deserves the support of working Americans like you and me.

But again, where is that man?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Act of God No Excuse, Declares Mayor Michael Bloomberg

If your house had ten feet of water rip through it, or if your living room is full of mud, or sand, or locusts, that's no reason for missing work. Michael Bloomberg is the mayor of New York, he has billions of dollars, and if he says so it must be true.

After all, his brownstone is still there, and it was not damaged. Why the hell was your residence damaged? If you had half a brain, you would've bought an east side brownstone rather than a ranch house in a flood area. Then you would've been able to go to work while the storm raged. So what if you were taken up by the wind, and flew around with Dorothy and Toto and a cow? Judy Garland wasn't even five foot tall and she did it. So what's your excuse, pal?

And please, don't give me that line about helping your grandfather dig out of his ruined home. Have you seen Bloomberg helping anyone clean up, or bringing food to people without power? Have you seen him donating food to shelters? Of course not. In fact, he banned donations to food shelters, because who knows whether or not the evil donors will give soft drinks that are too large? After all, who wants those careless refugees drinking too much Pepsi Cola?

Now of course Mayor Bloomberg has made allowances in case the building in which you work happened to have been closed. Were that the case, you simply had to have taken a photograph of yourself in front of the closed building on the day in question. What could be simpler? And just to make things perfectly clear, Mayor Bloomberg made that ruling a week after the fact. So all you need do is travel back through time, take the photo, perhaps with that day's newspaper, and provide absolute proof you didn't do so after the fact. A cinch.

Mayor Bloomberg is not restricted by nature. When we were hit with a crippling snowstorm last year, he just got in his private jet and headed to Bermuda. If you'd had the foresight to do that, you wouldn't have been here bellyaching about how to get your car out of the driveway. And please don't go on about convention and laws. When Mayor Bloomberg saw term limits, twice affirmed by voters, he simply got his pals to pass a new law, spent a hundred million bucks, and bought himself Gracie Mansion, fair and square, for the third time.

So please, New York, enough with the complaints. Man up, and face the situation. Just do what Mayor Bloomberg would do.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Role Reversal

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ad of the Week

Friday, November 09, 2012

Donors Choose Promotes Anti-teacher Propaganda, AFT Promotes Donors Choose

For those unfamiliar with Donors Choose, it's an organization teachers can use to fund classroom projects. Thus all the needed supplies that folks like Mayor Bloomberg fail to provide can come from charity. Can we please have this or that? It only costs 400 bucks, and since I haven't had a raise in four years I can't lay it out myself.

However, Donors Choose does other things, like pay people to watch anti-teacher, anti-union propaganda. In fact, they offered to bribe teachers who would watch it. Personally, I found that repugnant. I would sell things to raise money for my classroom before taking a dime from an organization that supports teacher-bashing.

Furthermore, Donors Choose had no qualms about taking money from the miserable teacher-bashing film Won't Back Down, actually headlining that it supports teachers. This is the sort of nonsense that turns my stomach. While the latest attempt at anti-teacher propaganda bombed at the box office, we really don't need to associate with those who'd strip us of everything for which we've collectively labored for decades.

Therefore I was shocked to get an email from the AFT urging me to contribute to Donors Choose. I won't reproduce it here as I don't wish to drive traffic to their site. But I have a few questions for our leadership.

How many times must they stab us in the back before we get the message? Is twice enough? Or are we breathlessly waiting for yet another attack on our profession and everything we stand for?

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Act of God? Contract? Forget it, Says Walcott

NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott will not let natural disasters deter him from his mission. Kids must sit in school as long and as much as possible. Living through a disastrous hurricane never taught anyone anything, he reasons, and kids must make up the time they'd have spent preparing for standardized tests. After all, the more time they spent in school, the more circles will be correct, and the more likely it will be that his boss, Michael Bloomberg, will have achieved his divine mission to get those circles in the right places.

And that is the only thing that matters. If the circles are wrong, they can close schools. They can exile teachers to the ATR. They can undermine neighborhoods by cutting school space and dumping private charters into them. But eventually, if those circles aren't in the right places, someone will blame Bloomberg, and that is absolutely unacceptable. What the hell do those losers expect? He's only been at it for ten years, and it takes time to accomplish these things.

So we'll just order the teachers back to work. After all, they've been having big fun all week, sitting in the dark and freezing with the rest of the bridge and tunnel crowd, in Queens, or Brooklyn, or whatever those places are called. And we gave them a raise three or four years ago. What the hell are they always whining about anyway? So what if all the other city employees got 8% between 2008 and 2010? They deserved it! It's not their fault kids don't know where to put the circles!

So, we will negotiate with the UFT. They're always talking about getting a seat at the table, so we'll give them one. And we're flexible. We're willing to call them back for four days, but if that's not acceptable we'll call them back five or six. That's why we negotiate.

But nothing will stay between us and those circles! If we have to buy another term to get them in the right places, so be it!

Monday, November 05, 2012

The Value of a Good Electrician

With the green tag on our house, our town turned on our electricity. It turns out they really can do it one house at a time. We and three neighbors now have power.

However, our electrician warned us not to use it until he came over. He tested circuits one by one, and it turns out we have quite a few loose wires underwater in our crawl space. We know that because they caused a small fire, which the electrician quickly extinguished. Tomorrow he and a plumber will drain the crawl space and remove or replace the offending wires.

Then they will install a new gas furnace, which apparently can mount to the ceiling rather than sit on the floor so as to wait to be destroyed by the next flood. So if we get that far, we will have not only power, but also that heat stuff I've been hearing so much about.

And if we ever get that far, I'll probably start writing about education again. I'm hoping Wednesday's storm proves far less educational than Sandy did.

Time will tell.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

We Passed! (So What?)

It was a great thing, first thing in the morning, to sit in line for three and a half hours waiting for gas. Intrepid daughter and her teddy bear came with me, and weathered the situation with the other hundreds of motorists who shared our predicament. Forty-dollar cash limit was reduced to twenty by the time we hit the front, but I persuaded the guy to go twenty-five and pretty much filled the Prius. Good to have a Prius this week.

Our town has its own electric company, and the mayor's office told me they were turning us back on at 10 AM yesterday. The woman told me it was on us to get things in order, and if we didn't, our house could catch fire or explode. I told her that was insane. If there are a thousand people in our town, at least ten of them are crazy, and when their houses blew up, ours would too. She was not fazed. Power was going on at 10 AM, and that was it.

My neighbor had a genius electrician who changed all his circuit breakers, but he was too busy to help us. My friend, a retired electrician, came out on the condition that I drive him, and told us we would have to change not only the breakers, but also the box, and that we would have to pull the meter to do this. He didn't feel like doing the job, but would do it anyway if we couldn't find anyone else. Fortunately, we did, and he also pulled the meter outside and cleaned it or something. It was pretty hard to buy the box and breakers, and it cost me some gas (and ultimately three and a half hours this AM). There were no breakers or boxes anywhere in my town, but I went to a Home Depot farther from the flood and they had several.

After waiting for gas this AM, we went to our home and found a green sticker on it. Apparently the mayor's office had thought about those houses blowing up, and sent inspectors. The only thing they looked at was the meters, and on my block, my house was one of only four that passed. However, we will not have electricity until every other house on the block passes too. I need not have rushed. After a flood like this, I seriously doubt everyone on my block is in a position to have an electrician come out, and those licensed in my town are very, very busy.

So we're fortunate to be at sister-in-law's house, a few miles north, where we're welcome and there is, thankfully, enough space for us. But I hate, hate being shut out of my home.

And I know very well there are people worse off than we are. I don't care what people say about Christie, Cuomo and Bloomberg. They are a bunch of self-serving thugs, and the good things they do are largely for the sake of publicity (witness blowhard Christie trying to look statesmanlike with the President, whom he's publicly trashed on very recent occasions).

I don't know about you, but I feel like we're living in a third-world country.

Bring a Book

Sitting on a gas line, and the word is they are actually pumping gas in front. Was here last night but they stopped before I hit the front of the line. Line was too short somehow, and seemed too good to be true. Today's line is not nearly too good to be true, and stretches blocks and blocks. Wouldn't be doing this except I have to go to work tomorrow, I had to go to work last Friday, and I had to go to a funeral last Thursday. Have been reading all about how Governor Cuomo has released millions of gallons of gas in a relief effort.

Yesterday, he sent 5,000 gallon trucks to armories around the area. This was a nice gesture, but you couldn't get your car anywhere near the one in my area. The one person I know who got there within moments of the announcement waited seven hours for ten gallons of "free"gas. Shortly thereafter, our munificent governor declared this gas was only for emergency responders--police, fire and such. I certainly don't begrudge them, but from the vantage point of this line, the Governor is not precisely my hero.

There are four major terminals that supply gas, and three are currently out of service. Somehow I haven't been seeing that on the news, but it's here. LIPA, for some reason, has not made that a priority, and does not seem to be discussing it.

I don't know how things are in your neighborhood, but mine looks like Katrina hit it. I usually kind of dress up for work, but what with my clothes in my house, and me elsewhere, I don't see that happening any time soon. I hope that is the extent of my work-related issues, and I honestly wonder how many of my students will be able to show up at all.

In any case, I just got a letter of thanks from Chancellor Walcott. I'd like to thank him. Thanks for denying us the raise you gave everyone else between 2008-2010. Thanks for holding up the crap evaluation system because you think 13% of poorly-rated teachers having fair appeal processes is too much. (That's sincere because one single teacher losing a job due to junk science is one too many.) Most of all, thanks for making me come in Friday. If you hadn't done that, I'd have enough gas to hold out another day.

No gas lines for you or Mayor Bloomberg. I guess your transport is covered by the government even though you effectively serve no one but the 1%.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Good Morning World

I just woke up in a friend's apartment. Even though there is power, I haven't got an alarm clock. I have no idea exactly what time Mayor Bloomberg wants me to report to my school to not teach. It's good I'm not teaching because the only clothes I have are jeans, t-shirts and hoodies. Our town is supposed to get power tomorrow so I may be able to do better by Monday.

But we can't turn the power on until we change the circuit breakers, which got wet. Apparently there's a risk of the house blowing up if you do that. While I'm sure teacher homes blowing up is fine with Mayor Bloomberg, I have to send my wife and daughter to make sure those circuits get changed. It's complicated because everyone who can do this job is pretty busy, but we know someone who's promised to show at ten AM.

Whatever Mayor Bloomberg has in mind today, I will be glued to my cell phone. I don't give a damn about PD and I don't care what it's about.

The other issue, of course, is gas. In my town there is a gas station that has it, but it will take you over two hours to get it. I was able to get a colleague to carpool next week, when we actually have to do something, but she can't make it today, what with no electricity and pressing issues that need her attention.

I have seen the form to ask they don't take days out of your CAR. Pardon me if I have zero faith in the tender mercies of Walcott and Bloomberg, who reject virtually 100% of U-rating appeals, and are outraged that 13% of poorly rated teachers will get fair hearings in the next contract. Oddly, I'm outraged that 87% will not.

In any case, like most teachers, I doubt either of those guys would spit on me if I were on fire. Asking us to come in today was a vindictive and juvenile act from people who have no business in education. In Spanish, being educated implies having good manners. There's a saying, "Tiene doctorado pero no es educado." He has a doctorate but he isn't educated.

These guys don't even have doctorates. On behalf of my 80,000 union brothers and sisters, thanks for nothing, Mayor Bloomberg.

Update: Walcott sent an email at 12:52 AM stating that staff should report at 10 AM.  The lack of consideration and decency this entails is staggering. 80,000 people are getting ready to go to work, and he, apparently, expects them to check their DOE email before doing so.