Thursday, January 31, 2013

UFT--Champion of Junk Science

It's pretty remarkable the situation we now find ourselves in. If there's a problem with an evaluation system, you wouldn't expect a teacher union to see the addition of junk science as an improvement. You'd be wrong, of course, You'd think, if the uber-reformy mayor opposed the new junk science system, union leadership would say, "Whew! What a relief," and move on. Wrong again.

In fact, now, with the mayor insisting that any junk science system we institute must be written in stone and  carry the gravatas of the Ten Commandments, you'd think the union would say, "Well, any system ought to be subject to review, and when the mayor chooses to be reasonable, we'll be happy to negotiate." I guess you'd be wrong again.

Because when Andy "I am the government" Cuomo announced he wanted to simply impose a system, the UFT President said, in effect, "Sure, go ahead." And UFT leadership, for reasons that defy every logical thought I've ever been near, seems to assume that people who know about education will make decisions about said system.

First of all, anyone who knows about education believes in research rather than voodoo. This precludes VAM right out of the gate. Second, Cuomo, who champions other things that don't work, like tax breaks for zillionaires and  merit pay, who stocks his blue-ribbon panels with non-educators, is hardly likely to come up with anything remotely reasonable.

Wasn't it Cuomo who pushed back Bloomberg's efforts to kill LIFO, citing the new evaluation plan? Does that in itself not imply Cuomo sees this as a vehicle to fire teachers, Mayor Bloomberg's long-cherished wish?

I cannot fathom what UFT leadership is thinking turning this over to the state. After having heard them repeatedly boast that we will negotiate a system, and that it will therefore be OK, they're now saying we won't negotiate a system and it will be okay anyway.

Does this mean the Delegate Assembly, who denied rank and file a vote on the evaluation system, will themselves be shut out of voting? Not that this would be a big deal, because if Unity/New Action proposed jumping out the window en masse, there's little doubt the overwhelming majority of chapter leaders would battle to see who could jump first or fastest. So I suppose this is a moot point.

When I asked why our arbitration was not binding, as is that of NYPD, I was told it was because we'd previously lost in binding arbitration. So why on earth, when looking at what's more than likely the most crucial issue facing our union since I joined it, are we contemplating it now?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Maybe It's a Female Thing

That's what my supervisor said to me today. Someone called me on my cell phone, looking for my wife. She was from my daughter's school and didn't seem to want to talk to me. I was a little upset with that explanation. I said it wasn't fair. Women can say, "It's a female thing," shut you out, tell you nothing, and look knowingly at one another. Naturally you could never comprehend such a thing because you are an insensitive unintelligent galoot.

I protested, along with the one other male teacher in my department. I said we never say, "It's a male thing," to explain things. At this point one of the women in the room revealed one of the great secrets that has eluded me over my lifetime. She said if we were in a circle of women, we'd hear that all the time. I found that absurd. How could we be in a circle of women? For one thing, if we were in it, it would no longer be a circle of women. So there. But the women were ready with examples of "a male thing."

1. You repeat something dozens of times. The man then asks you what you just said.

2. A man opens a refrigerator containing nothing but milk. He then asks, "Where's the milk?"

3. You ask a man when his mother's birthday is. He looks around and says he isn't sure.

Then the women, who greatly outnumbered us, nodded to one another, claiming there were multitudinous examples they could cite if only they weren't busy doing More Important Stuff.

Here's the thing, though. When someone says, "It's a female thing," to me, it means I should shut up and not ask any more questions. It sounds very private and none of my business. Yet the male thing is some embarrassing thing that makes you feel pretty incompetent.

Am I missing something here? Is it a male thing?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Testing Blues

This is the fifth time I'm taking this test, and I don't understand what the hell is so important about it. I mean, I don't even care about this stuff. Who does? What will I ever need to know it for? I mean, the teacher's pretty nice and I don't want to insult her, but it's not my fault she chose a job where she needs to talk about this stuff all the time. So anyway, the topic doesn't interest me, and I'm just not gonna write about it.

Instead, I'm gonna talk about what I had for dinner last night. We had steak and rice. Now, where we come from, we eat rice all the time, so you kind of have to have it. Steak is something we don't always have. I kind of like it medium-rare, but last night, I gotta say, my mom overcooked it a little. That was fine with my family, who likes it like that. They like it cooked until it cracks, and if the texture is like a pair of Florsheims, they're good with that. But at my girlfriend's house, they grill it and don't cook it so much, so I really like that better.

We also had cauliflower. Now, to me, cauliflower is kind of like the bastard stepchild of broccoli. I mean, why do we need that stuff? You could just eat broccoli. Cauliflower smells kind of funky when you cook it, and that's a real turn-off for me. I mean, by the time it hits the plate, you're just kind of turned off. However, I was at this chicken take-out joint on Long Island, and they had this mashed cauliflower that was really not bad. I mean, if you didn't think about it, you wouldn't know it was cauliflower.

So anyway, in conclusion, from now on, I'm gonna try and eat at my girlfriend's house as much as possible. Her parents really know how to cook. And if you don't like the essay, please feel free to give me extra credit for this cool dinosaur.

Thank you for reading this, and have a nice day.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Misogynist in Chief

Mayor Bloomberg is certainly free to speak like a junior high school student. After all, it's a free country. If he thinks women should be judged by the color of their hair, by whether or not it's gray, that's certainly his prerogative. If he wants to admire their figures, and make juvenile sexist comments in public, that's fine too. After all, since Michael Bloomberg is the epitome of what every woman desires, since he's an absolutely perfect physical specimen, he should have the right to rate women.

I only wish he had begun doing so this publicly before he'd purchased term three.

It seems to me that a person with such crude thought processes would display them not only in how he looks at women, but also in how he deals with people. As one recent example, I'm certain that he lied about the evaluation system with the UFT. In a sense, I'm grateful he blew up the deal, which I did not support.

But here's the thing--you really can't negotiate with a liar. Liars cannot be trusted. This is far from the first time Bloomberg has lied to us, or about us. I hope the UFT has finally learned this.

Finally, perhaps you were unaware that Mayor Bloomberg sang country music on weekends. He does that when he flies out of town and we're all shoveling out of a snowstorm. Here's a recent performance.

The Coolest Thing About Being Reformy

When Joel Klein left his job as NYC Schools Chancellor, he landed in a big old pile of cash, working for none other than extreme right-wing Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch. This certainly beats working for a living, and even beats being Bloomberg's mouthpiece while pretending to put "Children First. Always."

As head of Amplify, Klein can devote his attention to selling crap we don't need to schools, and raking in a tidy profit for Rupey, who simply cannot amass enough money. And who better to get it from than NY City's 1.1 million public schoolchildren? For goodness sake, if the money weren't going to Rupey, it would be frittered away on teachers, and you need only read Rupey's NY Post to learn how worthless they are.

Furthermore, were the city to run around hiring teachers, it might have the effect of reducing class sizes, and it's well known that Mayor Bloomberg would like to fire half of all working teachers and double class sizes. This would benefit students by letting them know how little attention they merit, knowledge that would serve them well in Rupey's vision of an entire non-unionized, serf-like work force. Of course, a big step toward that goal is getting rid of those pesky unionized teachers, and we're getting closer each and every day.

In fact, it's no longer just right-wing lunatics who want to profit off of our children rather than educate them. President Barack Obama's Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, as often as not echoes whatever nonsense Bill Gates sees fit to spout. He gleefully broke the New Orleans teacher union, gave the city to charter schools, and declared Katrina the best thing to happen to education in New Orleans. The fact that the schools are not so good as a result is of no consequence, just as his abysmal failure to fix Chicago schools through closing them means nothing but a replication of the system nationwide.

Now, Duncan's press secretary, Justin Hamilton, has abandoned all pretense of being a real Democrat or supporting working Americans. He's jumped ship for a gig with Rupey and Joel. So it really pays to do the reformy stuff Rupey favors.

If you don't believe that, just ask the ex-teachers who run Educators for Excellence and pretend to represent working teachers. Is it a coincidence that every time they get 100 people to sign a petition saying teachers need fewer rights Rupey's Post runs a story about it? Why should they bother going to some crappy trailer to teach unpredictable teenagers when they can simply do whatever Rupey wants and get paid for it?

There's gold in that there reformy stuff. What the heck is it that makes 80,000 UFT teachers get out there every day and try to educate children when there's so much more money to be made elsewhere?

Negotiation, New York Style

There was a monster hit song by some guy named Psy, who I never had heard of before,  called Gangnam Style. As far as I could determine, understanding no Korean whatsoever, in Gangnam everyone jumps up and down like a horse when they dance. Everyone was talking about it. A music teacher I know was horrified. It was garbage, he said. But most people seemed to like it.

On the other hand, New York is a tough town. Our style is completely different. Frank Sinatra said if you could make it here, you could make it anywhere. Governor Andrew Cuomo doesn't dance. It would probably be dangerous for him, as he lives with Sandra Lee. I've seen her cook, and that food looks toxic at best. All those cans and boxes. The man is probably living on the edge, ingesting all those chemicals.

So it's not surprising that with him around, New York Style entails threats and bullying. Do this or I'll take all your money. You see, I just took 250 million. Now Governor Cuomo needs that money. After all, he took a principled stand against the millionaire tax, because millionaires are very fragile creatures. If you touch them, they may break, so they need to keep all their money.

Schoolchildren are different. They have little money in the first place, so how are they gonna even know when you take it from them? And now, tough guy/ State Education Commisioner John King is threatening to withhold another billion in Title 1 funds. It's amazing how brave these big men are when faced with little children too poor to pay for school lunch.

But Cuomo is even tougher than you think. In fact, he already owes these kids over 5 billion dollars. But he wasn't afraid to take another 250 mil. Cuomo has done a great job of protecting those delicate rich people. His dad's principled stand was against the death penalty, and may have ultimately cost him his job.

But Governor Andy is not afraid to be a reverse Robin Hood, taking from the neediest, from the poorest, and giving to the very rich. Thank goodness we have such a fearless leader, able to make those tough decisions, let the chips fall where they may.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Who Are the Test Experts?

Are they the NYS Board of Regents? Are they corporations to which we pay millions? Or are they we, the teachers?

Friday, January 25, 2013

In Which I Am Instructed by DOE Experts

Yesterday I went for an exciting day scoring kids I have never met and never will meet. This is because I, like every teacher in the state, cannot be trusted. I am a lowlife, dishonest, worthless piece of protoplasm, as are all teachers. Naturally, I cannot evaluate papers without help from the experts at Tweed. Likely none of them have ever taught so they aren't corrupted as we all are.

First of all, we should "bring a printed copy of the State-posted rating guide for the appropriate subject area." This is because we are patently incapable of making decisions, and cannot do so without the help of the folks in Albany, who know everything. I mean, if I wanted to improve education, it would never occur to me to withhold 250 million bucks from schoolchildren, as Governor Cuomo did, or an entire billion, as Education Commisioner John King wishes. Me, I'd figure withholding funds could hurt kids. But what do I know?

Next, "to protect the integrity and confidentiality of the scoring process, scorers may not use any electronic devices in the scoring room, including cell phones, iPads, iPods, computers, tablets, etc." That's because I, like most teachers, would find nothing so hilarious as posting some kid's essay on Facebook with his full name. And how would I be able to resist ridiculing it for my thousands of followers, even if I had to do so 140 characters at a time on Twitter? Or maybe I'd scan it for the amusement of my friends and family. Thankfully, the DOE, in their infinite wisdom, has not allowed me to do this.

"Scorers may not listen to music while scoring." Because once the beat has me, I might just get up and dance, and teachers, lemming-like creatures that we are, would just get up and boogie along with me. Then it will be a big dance party, someone will film it on their iPhone, it will get broadcast on Fox News, and Mayor Bloomberg will declare, "This is clear evidence we must judge teachers by junk science."

"Scorers may not eat at the scoring tables with the exception of hard candy." Because what teacher could resist the urge to stick Jujifruits to test papers, or block out words with pieces of caramel. Mayor Bloomberg knows very well you can't do that with a piece of Jolly Rancher.

"No liquids are permitted at the scoring tables except for water in a closed container which must be kept on the floor." Now this one confused me. Was I allowed to open the container? And even if I was, how could I drink said water without picking it up from the floor? Dare I try? Would this be what finally lands me in the rubber room?

"Conversation should be kept to a minimum to avoid distracting other scorers." Good point. Because people locked in a room for six hours straight, in blatant violation of UFT contract, tend to talk. And how can any learning take place when people are talking? Clearly the only way to do anything productive is to sit around for hours with no interaction whatsoever. That must be in the Danielson framework somewhere. I'll have to check.

"Any discussions at the table should be about the rubric." Hey, how about that rubric? It's a wacky and wonderful thing, isn't it? I used to have a rubric's cube when I was a kid. Spent hours with the thing. That's not what it is? You mean you just don't like bricks? You rue bricks? No? Well, then, what the hell are we talking about?

I, for one, am gratified to know that someone is paid many times my salary to sit around, think about this stuff, and put it into words. I could certainly never come up with it on my own.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

John King Is the Worst Person in the World*

It's not really easy to become a superlative. You have to work very hard at it, and there is always tremendous competition. But NYS Education Commissioner John King is breaking new ground of late, leapfrogging over other "reformers" to capture a title they're all clamoring for. How did he do this?

It's simple, actually. When Mike Bloomberg once again failed to negotiate a junk science evaluation for teachers, reneging on a deal with the UFT, John King decided he'd take a billion dollars away from the neediest kids in New York City. Though it's his decision, he's quite content to blame the UFT, Bloomberg, or pretty much anyone. I'm UFT, so I guess it's my fault. And I'm worse than most, because I absolutely oppose the use of junk science in determining whether or not teachers keep jobs. For reasons I cannot remotely fathom, my union leadership embraces this.

Now we can debate all day long as to why the evaluation deal failed (Bloomberg, Bloomberg, and Bloomberg). But as ridiculous as that debate is, there ought to be none whatsoever about a man who'd withhold a billion dollars from children so poor they need free lunch. Now sure, you'll say, King has his kids in a Montessori school, so why the hell should he care that public schools are degenerating into test factories where teachers are interchangeable, replaceable cogs, to be dispensed with when test scores don't make him or his corporate buds look good?

That's certainly a good argument. As King is enamored of programs that are neither research nor practice-based, preferring "reforms" that originate in the most profound depths of Bill Gates' hind quarters, it doesn't appear he cares much about city kids. As he chooses not to patronize the schools he purports to lead and support, there's certainly an argument that he's an outrageous hypocrite. And the fact that he has only three years teaching experience, two in a charter, certainly indicates he may not know a whole hell of a lot about what goes on in public schools.

What is not even debatable is that he does not give a damn about the neediest children in New York City. That he would deprive our children of help and support simply to push an evaluation system no one really needs makes him beyond despicable.

If the man had any shred of conscience, he wouldn't be sleeping at night.

 *With due respect to Governor Andrew Cuomo, running a strong second

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Governor Cuomo and His Grand Experiment

Governor Andrew Cuomo has proclaimed himself the student lobbyist. This is, apparently, because no one else in the state cares about students. Certainly teachers don't care. They're so utterly worthless they can't even be trusted to grade the tests of students in their buildings. And parents don't care either. So it's on Andrew Cuomo, alone, to take on this monumental task.

Oddly, Governor Cuomo pontificates about what schoolchildren need, but refuses to do any homework himself. Were he doing homework, he'd know there is no research to suggest his latest miracle drug, a longer school day, would improve education. Were he doing homework, he'd know that class size is what parents want. He'd also know there's plenty of research to suggest reasonable class sizes actually help children.

The notion that a kid who hates school and cuts class will be turned around by more of it is absurd. And please, don't tell me about charters. The chances this kid has parents proactive enough to apply to one, let alone participate as required, are abysmal.

Last year, my beginning English class hit 34 and was split into two. Kids I'd had to keep quiet, in the smaller classes, were finally able to talk as much as they wished. In a language class, that's a great thing. This year, since there was another section, my beginning English class hit 34 and stayed there. It's a lot harder to reach the kids who most need my help while keeping the classroom a reasonable place to learn.

Beyond that, it's incredible that Governor Cuomo can just come out and say he wants more with no particulars whatsoever. If there is to be an extended day, it ought to be for the enrichment of kids who will want and/ or love it. You need help with trigonometry? We can help you after school. You want to learn how to play the guitar? We'll teach you. You want to learn how to play the accordion? Sorry, that's beyond the pale and no one is gonna help you do that.

In any case, education is about quality, not quantity. Governor Cuomo needs to educate himself before presuming to lecture others. He should find out what works before advocating passionately for things like junk science evaluation schemes. He should learn how important class sizes are before talking about how long the day is. It's kind of strange that a guy who's always complaining about how awful schools are would advocate more of the same. It's even more amazing that a guy who claims to advocate for children takes 250 million away from them because the city and union can't agree on a junk science evaluation system.

I'm just a lowly teacher, but even I saw how well Rahm Emannuel's push for a longer school day worked out. Rahm knew nothing, hardly the POV for someone who wishes to lecture on education. If Governor Cuomo wishes to advocate for a longer school day, it behooves him to offer specifics on how and why he will make it a better school day.

And if he can't do that, it behooves him to stop talking, at least until he has the remotest notion of what, if anything, it is he's talking about.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Song of the Week

 Hula Girl

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Growth Model in Medicine

We all depend on doctors. They have a very good reputation, are highly educated, and we tend to trust them. Here’s a disturbing statistic, though. As western medicine is organized now, 100% of patients tend to die.
Clearly, there’s something wrong with this system. If 100% of patients die, what value are doctors adding? Sure, some say, they can provide medicine, surgery, and advice that often puts off the inevitable. But why should Americans, including children (whom we place first) invest countless millions of dollars in something that guarantees only death?
The only solution, as far as I can tell, is to institute a system that rewards good doctors. For example, I myself have seen many doctors, yet I'm not in as good shape as I was twenty years ago. I have less hair, and it's not quite the same color it used to be. Furthermore, I'm a government employee, and the taxpayers have subsidized my health insurance. Why on earth should they be paying for this?
 We need to offer merit pay to doctors who can reverse the aging process. Let's face it--everyone wants to be young and beautiful. People pay millions chasing this ideal. Yet our doctors go to school for years, study all sorts of things, and still people grow old and die.
Mayor Bloomberg is looking a little under the weather lately, to tell you the truth. It baffles me that he doesn't champion this cause.
It certainly makes about as much sense as anything else he's done lately. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Inside the Top Secret UFT Evaluation Committee

We have come into possession of this top-secret recording and transcribed it for you below.

Please come to order. Thank you. Do I hear a motion to approve the minutes?

So moved.


All in favor? Opposed? The minutes are approved. Please place them in the shredder, Mike Shulman.

I'm Mike Shulman, dammit! Mike Shulman used to be vice-president of UFT!

Thank you for sharing that, Mike. Are there any opening comments?

How can we use value-added to judge UFT members? Hundreds of teachers lost their jobs in DC! Won't that happen here?

The chair rules the member is out of order. (screaming in background) The member will be quiet or once again spend the meeting in the copy room listening to Mike Shulman. (audible protesting ceases immediately) Are there any other comments?

Yes, we've been looking at negotiation since 2010. We've now got one week to work out this entire system. Do you really think we can get this done fairly in one week?

Well, we're doing the best we can. Is there anything else before we get down to the business at hand?

Well, yes. The press is making a big deal out of how we can lose 250 million in funding. That's one percent of the education budget, but Bloomberg has cut 14 percent of the budget since 2007. Shouldn't we be letting the public know about that?

Well, it's always dangerous dealing with the press. That's why we're so circumspect about it.

What does that mean?

It means we don't bother with PR. We leave that to Tweed. Now please, can we get down to the business at hand?

What is that?

What are we going to call opponents of the junk science system?



No, we need something more compelling.

How about if we call them ugly? People hate it when you do that.

No, we need to think of something new.

I know. Let's call them Tea Partiers.

I like that. It has a ring to it.

All in favor?  All opposed?

The motion is carried. Peter Goodman can blog it. Do I hear a motion to adjourn?

So moved.

I second the motion.

Top secret meeting is adjourned.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Teabaggers All

The new line from UFT leadership is that anyone who opposes junk science evaluation, which they helped write into the law, is a Tea Partier. To them, this is code for people who just say no to everything--they are simple-minded, contrarian galoots who speak only to hear the sound of their own voices, or to create problems for no reason whatsoever. However, by their standard,we are in very good company here.

Diane Ravitch is a Tea Partier. She's written extensively on why VAM is junk science. Just days ago, she praised Hamburg, NY teachers for voting down a junk science plan. A huge difference between Hamburg, NY and New York NY is that Hamburg teachers, rank and file, actually got to vote on this system. This is a big plus for those of us who believe in democracy, where the people have the ultimate voice. What is the word for people who don't believe in democracy?

Nonetheless, Ravitch has been a consistent and outspoken opponent of VAM, growth model, or whatever it is they're calling this weeks rat juice.

Aaron Pallas is a Tea Partier. Pallas has written brilliantly, in various venues, on the lack of validity of so-called value added. He had a great piece about how 400 DC teachers were fired on standards that may have been invalid. Many of us here see people fired for no reason and say to ourselves, "This is absolutely unacceptable." It's very tough to make the argument we're simply being negative for no reason.

Principal Carol Burris is a Tea Partier. She's written repeatedly for the Washington Post on the myths and misconceptions of this system. She's likened it to building a plane while in the air, and explained very clearly why that may not be the best of ideas.I've seen her speak against it, and find her eloquent and persuasive. Furthermore, she has very definite ideas about where this is leading. But, according to UFT leadership, she's an empty-headed Teabagger making trouble for no reason whatsoever.

One third of New York State Principals are Tea Partiers. They signed a petition opposing this evaluation system. I've spoken to principals who say they'll have no time to do anything but observe, and that this will certainly cut into the time they would have spent helping struggling new teachers. In fact, despite what Leadership Academy grads (many of whom have little or no classroom experience) may say, the fact is that helping teachers is really one of their primary roles.

Finally, AFT President Randi Weingarten is a Tea Partier. She specifically referred to value-added modeling as junk science, earning kudos from not only Diane Ravitch, but also from yours truly. Yet, by the definition set forth by my UFT leadership, not only all those mentioned, but I too am a Tea Partier.

Still, it's pretty distinguished company in which I find myself. Let UFT leadership engage in juvenile name-calling, if that's how they feel they can best defend this abomination they wish to foist upon us.

Sticks and stones.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

UFT Mouthpiece-If You Oppose Junk Science, You Are a Tea Partier

Holy scrape the bottom of the barrel, Batman. I guess Diane Ravitch, who just applauded the Hamburg teachers for rejecting such a plan, is a Tea Partier too.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

UFT Sponsors Blockbuster Film--We Will Back Down Immediately and Unconditionally

After the astroturf folks brought out two propaganda films, neither of which exactly hit box office gold, the United Federation of Teachers has decided to sponsor its own film, to bring the true story of education "reform" to Mr. and Mrs. Joe Sixpack. It's clearly been difficult for the astroturfers to get their message across, as their ideas are supported neither by research, practice, or any objective semblance of reality.

The UFT film will focus on bold leadership willing to tackle tough issues. For example, it will show how real leaders are unafraid of taking on the anti-teacher media and political demagogues who use teachers to deflect from societal problems like overwhelming poverty, learning disabilities, and limited ability in English. It will show them facing these problems head on and coming up with practical solutions.

For one thing, it will portray a heroic union leadership ready and willing to negotiate an evaluation system, even though said system will end tenure as we know it and result in firings of hundreds of teachers for no defensible reason. When people complain that teachers will be denied tenure based on unreliable test scores, the leadership will tell them how meaningless tenure will be under the new law, and of course that will be the absolute truth.

It will show how, via determined leadership, solutions will be found to the nagging problems of democracy. In Hamburg, NY, where rank and file actually got a vote, junk science was overwhelmingly defeated. But in NYC, by restricting voting to bodies consisting of people beholden to union leadership for free trips to conventions, or possible non-teaching gigs, there will be no further discussion of the nasty issue of letting the actual rank and file vote on these innovative moves. This, of course, is all in the name of solution-based unionism.

The working title is We Will Back Down Immediately and Unconditionally, and it will refute the nonsensical portrayals of union as an obstacle to "reform." It will contain interviews with scores of ATR teachers who've been reformed out of their jobs, and it will show that they've been replaced with young teachers with little or no experience. It will show how teachers now get letters in their file for no reason whatsoever and have no recourse. It will demonstrate how 87% of working teachers can get rated ineffective with no means of appeal unless they're willing to pony up tens of thousands of dollars to go to court.

You'll see teachers patrolling lunchrooms and bathrooms across the city rather than teaching or preparing classes. Finally, you'll notice the sea change of teachers doing nothing but prepping students for the tests on which their careers now depend. While this will be of no benefit whatsoever to hapless public school students, the inevitable failed test-takers will result in more corporate-sponsored charters. As said charters cream all the best test-takers, more neighborhood schools will close and profits will increase dramatically for privatizers.

And it's all done with the absolute blessing of the union. Get your eight bucks ready, because the theater's already begun to heat up those garbage bags full of popcorn.

Friday, January 11, 2013

It's Not Value-Added! It's Growth Model!

The latest round of negotiations to bring junk science to New York City is about to begin, and boy do they have surprises for us! One is that yes, your Regents exams will indeed be used to determine whether or not you are fit to keep your job. I'd previously been under the impression that since these tests were not designed to determine whether or not we add value, they would not be used for that purpose.

Boy was I wrong! It turns out the city can make up some pre-test, then give the Regents exam at the end of the year, and figure out how well you did. And that's not value-added because there's no complicated mathematical formula attached to it, and no one's fretting over how many high-poverty students you have, or how many ESL students, or how they're disabled. It's just straght scoring.

If anyone watched the Michelle Rhee Frontline piece, you can see how well that worked out. There was Rhee, in front of everyone, declaring the amazing gains schools had made under her brilliant guidance. And that made a great deal of sense until all those erasures started showing up, and people said things like there was a better chance of winning the lottery than posting such incredible gains so quickly. So there you go. If you want to do well under the growth model, do it the old-fashioned way--cheat. Hopefully whatever merit pay that entails will be spent before anyone finds out.

Seriously, I have made inquiries, and my understanding is the growth model has no more validity than value-added. In fact, because it fails to consider external factors, it could indeed be worse. That's what the UFT is discussing with the DOE right now, and it's entirely possible they could come to an agreement before Cuomo's January 17th deadline. This is because a potential 1% cut in the city education budget is very important. What is of no importance whatsoever is the UFT contract, which expired over three years ago. Also of no urgency is the fact that educators have not had a raise in four years, despite the 8% raises all other city employees got.

So don't worry about those things. Just remember, as UFT officials will tell you, under the current system, principals have way too much power. The way to correct that, of course, is by making your evaluation 20%, 25%, 40%, or possibly 100% junk science and hoping for the best. So what if hundreds of DC teachers were fired as a result of a similar system? So what if good teachers get fired for no reason? So what if it's abundantly clear the only reason reformy types like Gates and Rhee even float these evaluation systems is so they can fire as many teachers as possible?

The important thing to remember is that, since value-added has such large margins of error as to be completely unpredicatable and unreliable, you may get a good value-added rating, even if you're the worst teacher on God's green earth!

So stop being such a Gloomy Gus, and start hoping for the best!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bloomberg's Successors

Recently. the New York Times ran a story about whom Mayor Bloomberg may have been grooming as a successor. The story mentioned such names as Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton, and all of us reading it knew they were as far as could be from real consideration. For one thing, neither of them really shares the goals of this particular mayor. For another, it's doubtful the mayor's ego could fit in another room with either of these individuals; just witness the rocky relationship he's had with Governor Andrew Cuomo. Clearly the original list, from a Bloomberg letter we've managed to acquire, was edited at least somewhat by Howard Wolfson.

Dear Howie,

Here's my dream list of mayoral candidates in case I decide not to buy run for a fourth term. Please clean it up and release it to the press.

1. Vlad the Impaler Now a lot of people give this guy a bad rap, as he's alleged to have killed tens of thousands, but those numbers are surely exaggerated. Even so, we're not actually looking to kill people. We'd just like to fire about half of working teachers. Whatever may have been the true story here, that seems doable. And of course when they go yammering on about contract, the impaling tools could be brought out. Not that we'd ever use them, of course. But negotiation is largely an art of mastering appearances.

2. Genghis Khan Surely someone who can build an empire could construct a strong network of charter schools. The entire notion of invading public schools, tossing out the leadership, and bringing our own people in has proven troublesome. Sometimes there are protests, pickets and speeches going on that get inconvenient press coverage. Were we to parade in with horses and medieval weaponry the stories would look much different, and the sign-carrying pinkos would disperse in no time at all.

3. The Spanish Inquisition Yes, I know technically that is not an individual, so we could not actually place that name on a ballot. But everyone knows, for example, the tweets of Students First NY come from a single individual rather than an organization. All we would need would be someone who represented their goals. Getting people to agree with us by any means necessary would lessen the need to rationalize the decisions of my rubber-stamp PEP. Certainly threats of torture or confiscation of property might persuade people to accept reformy ideas that have no basis in fact. This is particularly true when the reformy stuff benefits no one but my pals who might profit from it.

4. Eva Moskowitz What can I say? The woman is a genius. Without so much as a single gunshot the woman has wrested school space from those cursed union bastards. Sure there's a lot of turnover, but teachers are a dime a dozen nowadays, and it's always possible to squeeze 200 hours a week of effort from someone. Once they burn out, we simply open up another can.

I think any of these candidates would do a great job, but if you have any ideas. or you want to add anyone, feel free.



Wednesday, January 09, 2013

E4E Member Demands Evaluation Process

by guest blogger Suzy Surething

As a beginning teacher, I need guidance. Under the current evaluation system, I'm simply not getting what I need. I mean, sure, my AP observed me, and said I was unsatisfactory. But what does that really mean? I really need to know whether or not I am excellent or ineffective, and this observation does not measure that at all.

For example, I was criticized because several students were throwing chairs out the window, and my AP claimed that was a safety hazard. Now I'm not saying it was not a safety hazard, because it's true that anyone traipsing through the courtyard could have been hit in the head by one of the chairs, and when the teacher desk went out, I must admit I too had some concerns. But the problem is the narrow focus on things like what actually goes on in the classroom.

I can't argue that the three fistfights that broke out during the period were ideal, especially when the AP tried to break up the last one and suffered a broken jaw. And the ambulances outside the window did prove a huge distraction to my class. It was hard to teach while the various victims were being wheeled out by the paramedics. I think, in fact, that my AP should have taken that into account. I'm also upset that I would get this observation. The fact is, thirty minutes into the period, the AP was taken to the hospital, and we at E4E believe there should be full period observations.

But what really bothers me is that this observation does not take into account the most important aspect of what I do--standardized test scores. I will admit there are a few issues in my classroom, but who's to say that they won't show excellent gains by June if we continue with the program? I really can't depend on these observation reports that don't show what value I added.

Sure, there are cynics and skeptics who ask, well, Suzy, why don't you design your own tests and see how the kids do? Well, honestly, do they really think that I could design a test like the good folks at Pearson education? I mean, if I knew how to design tests, why would we even need companies like Pearson?

In any case, I have tried giving my own tests, with varying degrees of success. The last time I did that, though, the boy in the third row said it was too hard, and set the classroom on fire. Well, between the fire alarms and the evacuation, it was impossible for me to collect all the papers before they burned. And I don't mind telling you that I got another observation report that day, again for less than a full period. This is just one more reason why we need a fair evaluation system that uses standardized testing. I'm tired of being judged by what goes on in my classroom. The only true measure of whether or not my students are learning is to see whether they improve on tests.

And I know I am not unsatisfactory. I am excellent. Once we have a true evaluation system in place, I will prove that. Or I will get a good-paying gig with E4E so I don't have to bother with the classroom again. Either way, it's important we get a good evaluation system in place.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

UFT Democracy

I was pretty surprised to read this on the ICE-UFT Blog yesterday. A lot of us have issues with what the UFT determines to be democracy. For example, at a recent DA, a motion to have rank and file vote on any new evaluation system was denied. This, ostensibly, was to preserve the power of the DA. Actually, in a democracy, ultimate power belongs with the people, in this case, the rank and file.

When we vote in UFT elections, all branches vote for all reps. This is because, a few decades ago, the uppity high school teachers had the temerity to vote for a New Action VP (back before New Action became an arm of Unity). To preclude this from happening again, rules were changed. Thus, elementary teachers, who vote overwhelmingly for Unity, now help high school teachers choose their VP. This is akin to having Texas and Oklahoma help New York select their US Senate reps.

In any case, I'm amazed at the contents of this. Most amazing is that this District Rep put this into writing. He apologized for people at his meeting speaking their minds. Apparently, his meetings are not for that purpose. His meetings exist so that he can tell chapter leaders what to tell their constituents. According to him, they were elected as chapter leaders so they could transport messages from UFT leadership to their members. And UFT leadership, according to him, know what's best and cannot ever be criticized.

Now, here's the thing. I'm certain transmitting messages from leadership to membership can be a useful service. Of course, if that's all chapter leaders do, the UFT could simply email whatever it wanted members to hear directly and eliminate the middleman. In fact, the UFT has a huge email list and often does just that.

A chapter leader represents not UFT leadership, but rather the membership of his or her school. It behooves a chapter leader to be well-informed, and by that I do not mean asking leadership what to think and then thinking it. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of UFT chapter leaders belong to the Unity Caucus. To join, you must agree to disagree with the caucus only within the caucus, and to publicly support any and all caucus/ UFT positions.

To wit, a Unity chapter leader must support mayoral control, value-added evaluation, the 2005 Contract, and the process of sending ATR teachers school to school, week to week. A Unity chapter leader must support the Open Market as a superior system to that in which there were no ATR teachers, because there are more transfers under this system than there were under the old one.

To me, someone like that is not a leader, but a follower. It's very sad that the UFT chooses to let only those who will follow orders lockstep into leadership positions. It's weakened us to have leaders like that. A chapter leader would earn my vote by representing my interests, even if they conflicted with those of UFT leadership.

I'd put my faith in a chapter leader who was independent and thoughtful, precisely someone like James Eterno, who wrote the piece to which I linked. The District Rep who wrote this?  His notion of democracy very much resembles that of Mayor Bloomberg, who gets 8 of 13 votes on the PEP. That means that no one can ever win a vote against Mayor Bloomberg.

However, on the UFT Executive Board, and in UFT leadership, no one even gets a vote against Unity/ New Action. There are precisely zero opposition reps in the UFT. This DR has a lot of gall speaking out against duly elected chapter leaders. Does he find even that vestige of democracy so inconvenient he must rail against it?

In fact it's the rank and file members in a school who determine which chapter leaders they want, and why they want them. It behooves our leadership not only to keep it that way, but also to expand real democracy.

They seem to like it in Chicago!

Monday, January 07, 2013

Reality Rules Vs. Reformy Rules

A few weeks ago, reformy types got all excited when Diane Ravitch mentioned that the heroic teachers at Sandy Hook were part of a union. Some of us thought that was significant, since every day brings us a new story about the perfidy of unionized teachers. But reformy folks went all Amazing Kreskin on Ravitch, saying what she meant was non-unionized teachers are not heroic. Furthermore, she was only advancing her own personal cause, promoting the teacher union. That Ravitch does not belong to a teacher union was neither here nor there.

This caused a lot of discussion on Twitter, on this forum, and elsewhere. Reformy folks prohibit any sort of speech that leads to conclusions they have not already made, and they reserve the right to declare what writers have in mind, even if writer's words bear no actual resemblance to their conclusions. After all, they must know best, or why would folks like Bill Gates and Mike Bloomberg have all that money?

In short, we are prohibited from saying anything they may deem offensive, or anything they may infer to be offensive, no matter how outlandish their inferences may be.

However, if you are a reformy type, like, say, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the rules are different. Basically, you may say anything, no matter how outlandish, and if it happens to be overtly offensive, so much the better. For example, the other day Mayor Bloomberg compared teacher unions to the NRA. Apparently, after an unspeakable atrocity involving guns, one in which unionized teachers sacrificed their lives to protect children, it's okay to compare them with a group that advocates more access to the firearms used in taking the children's lives.

That's fine.

Now let's get to the actual comparison. Mayor Bloomberg says most NRA members are not on board with NRA policies. I have no idea whether or not that's true, nor did Mayor Bloomberg support his statement with any cites or stats. He goes on to suggest that most teachers want a new evaluation system, and that they assume this as-yet unestablished system will somehow result in better teachers.

First of all, I don't know a single teacher, a single working person who gets exercised about lack of evaluation. "Gee, I wonder whether or not I'm doing a good job. I can't tell because I have absolutely no way to determine whether or not I'm working hard or goofing off." Few teachers say, "The only way I can determine whether or not I'm doing a good job is by the scores my students get on tests I did not write."

The exception, of course, is the fifth columnists over at E4E who support every reformy thing that comes down the pike. Otherwise, how would they get gigs running E4E rather than wasting their time in classrooms like the rest of us. Since they're likely the only teachers (or ex-teachers) Tweed bothers to talk with, it's understandable that Mayor Bloomberg may take the position their views are representative of working teachers.

He's wrong, of course.

And it is nothing less than disgraceful and disgusting, at this time, that he would muster the audacity to compare working teachers with gun advocates. If Mayor Bloomberg had any character, he'd resign. And if he had one iota of conscience, he'd publicly apologize to the tens of thousands of working teachers he outright slandered.

Friday, January 04, 2013

UFT Evaluations: Painted into a Corner

There's an interesting UFT commercial airing right now. It criticizes Mayor Bloomberg, rightly so, for being an intransigent galoot. But it goes on to demand a fair evaluation system. Now, who, aside from Mayor Bloomberg, could oppose such a thing? Not I. I support a fair evaluation system, just as I support Mom, Apple Pie, and the American Way.

Yet I fail to see how it is possible for us to achieve one under the law our union leadership helped craft. The law calls for, depending on when and whom you ask, 20, 25, 40, or even 100% value-added measures. This means, roughly, we give kids a test, then test them again later, and whatever gains they make in that test equal your value as a teacher.

What's problematic here is that there is no validity whatsoever to this method. Furthermore, when it was used last year, the margins of error were so large as to be preposterous. Can you imagine Mayor Bloomberg using such methodology to figure out where he stood in a political race? "Well, Mr. Mayor, we have you winning by five points, give or take 55."

No one would depend on such a thing. But let's say, for the sake of argument, that it's only 20%. That means 80% of your rating will depend on other factors, like AP observations, a portfolio, or what gets reported on the principal's secretary's Ouija board. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the Ouija board says you're one heckuva teacher. Your AP thinks your DO NOW is the best she's ever seen. You're golden, right?

Well, not necessarily. In fact, under the current regime, your school will remain open or close based on test scores. Your principal will keep the job or not based on test scores. Now it's conceivable that principals will exercise principle, and fight to keep those teachers they deem good. It's been done before. However, it's inevitable that some principals will keep only those who keep their scores up, and further keep them only so long as said scores stay up. People are funny when you put guns to their heads.

So my problem is this--I see no way, no way at all for there to be a fair evaluation system that comprises junk science. This is exacerbated by an insane system that closes schools based on test scores, and will surely be made worse when working teachers lose their jobs based on test scores. Not only that, but having examined and graded hundreds, thousands of standardized tests, I'm not even persuaded the writers of those tests are qualified to test the subject matter, let alone those who teach it.

So, yes, we should have a fair evaluation system. But how on earth can we achieve it when the law constricts us to incorporate junk science? How is it fair to use junk science to determine whether or not people are allowed to work? How can it be?

If anyone has a serious answer, I'm all ears.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Geniuses at Work

One of the reasons I voted for President Obama in 2008 was his promise to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. At first, he ignored that promise. Later he made a deal and extended them. He's finally changed that, to an extent, and has protected people who've made up to 450K per year. Apparently, those making only 250K, Obama's previous target, cannot pay any more or they will move to Australia.

However, President Obama neglected to extend cuts to the payroll tax, and that effectively cuts the income of working people by 2%, immediately. For me, not having had a raise in four years, that's a tough pill to swallow. Apparently people who actually have to work for a living were not a priority for this President or this Congress.

Even worse for those of us who were devastated by recent flooding, the Congress didn't bother to pass a bill to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy. It appears we've been paying insurance for decades only for fun. There isn't enough money to cover us, and those who haven't got enough to lay out can either take loans or go to hell, as far as I can determine.

The GOP's absolute indifference to working people is simply stunning. How those guys can get on Fox News and persuade Americans to vote for them is beyond my comprehension. However, the Democrats are not much better.  Perhaps it's important to protect those who make 450K, but how on earth can you say you did that when you've just raised taxes on every working person in America?

And frankly, what's the point of paying taxes at all if we can't even help Americans after a natural disaster?

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Happy New Year to All!

Yes, I know, break's over, and there's school tomorrow. But it's a new year, and things could get better at any moment!

Keep a good thought for a great year.