Friday, February 28, 2014

To NBC4 News

To Whom It May Concern:

I just watched what appeared to be a commercial for Eva Moskowitz charter schools, introduced by your anchor as a "war on charters." I saw no mention that de Blasio had closed fewer than one quarter of the colocations Bloomberg pushed through. I saw no mention of the charters, including the Moskowitz charters, that were not closed. Nor was there any mention of attrition at Moskowitz charters, or the fact that they do not take a representative selection of city kids.

Those who rely on your newscast for information are most certainly not getting the full story.

I teach ESL students. My school takes just about every ESL student that walks through our doors, regardless of level. And if they know very little, they end up in my beginning class. How many beginning level ESL students do you suppose attend the Success Academies? Has it even occurred to you to ask? We also take kids with all sorts of special needs, including alternate assessment kids who we do not expect to graduate with Regents diplomas. How many of those kids attend the charters you filmed with such reverence?

When Eva Moskowitz accepts the same kids we do, when they stay for their entire scholastic careers, when she opens her books to the same audits we're subject to, then we'll have something to discuss.

As of now, I just called your newsroom, where an unidentified male listened to what I had to say, thanked me, and hung up.

Honestly, how can you profess to inform people when you show so little curiosity or interest in the very subjects you purport to cover? Your story was shallow, one-sided, and highly misleading. There's incredible irony in the fact that teachers are now subject to a draconian rating system while those who supposedly inform the public feel no obligation to do the most cursory investigations before presenting what they deem to be news.

Should you be interested in the whole story, which I sorely doubt, feel free to contact me. I can place you in touch with people who actually care and know what is going on.


Arthur Goldstein, ESL Teacher/ UFT Chapter Leader
Francis Lewis High School

Related: If you're more interested in this than NBC was, read this.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Vouchers in NY--Curiouser and Curiouser

Look at the news today and you see this, a story about how NY State is looking at back-door vouchers. You see, rather than give you money back for tuition, you'll simply get a tax-credit for donations to the school of your choice.

This will cost the state 300 million dollars, and half of it will be earmarked for private school scholarships. Make no mistake, this is yet another attack on the institution of public school.

Don't think your local religious school is going to embrace students like mine, who know little English, or students with other special needs, or the alternate assessment students not on track to graduate. My school takes all comers, and that's why the state ought to support us, as opposed to Andy Cuomo's deep-pocketed BFFs.

There are powerful supporters behind the legislation, and they're directing hundreds of thousands of dollars to lawmakers who sign on. 

That's what it's all about in Andy Cuomo's New York, unfortunately. And that's why it's a bad idea for NYSUT to be purchasing $10,000 tables at Cuomo's birthday bash. We can't compete with the money DFER and their hedgefund buds can dish out. We ought not to have to. We represent the children of this state, not just the ones private schools and charters think can boost their stats, but all of them, no matter what.

And while Cuomo, King and Tisch blather on about the importance of Common Core and judging teachers by junk science, the state is getting ready to pump huge money into schools required to do none of the above. If it's so vital that Cuomo cannot contemplate a delay, how on earth can he support legislation to promote schools not required to follow rules?

Cuomo came into office vowing to go after unions, and our legislature appears to be supporting that goal even as we speak. Call your state senator and assemblyperson and ask them to vote against this. Money talks to Governor Cuomo even as he pays lip service to the multitudes who spoke out against Common Core.

We can't show the governor the sort of numbers DFER can. But we showed up in huge numbers for the traveling King-Tisch vaudeville show, and that can't be the last time we do it.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Major Moskowitz Meltown Comes Courting Cuomo

It's all over whatever it is that used to be Gotham Schools. Eva and her buds are upset. Apparently, when de Blasio said charters might have to pay rent, he was referring to none other than charters that have a lot of money. You know, the ones that are so flush with cash they can lay out a half a mil a year for someone like Eva.

That's why they've given almost a million bucks to our good pal Andy Cuomo. You know, the self-proclaimed student lobbyist. Only it turns out our student lobbyist has no power over education, and every screw-up is the fault of the Regents, over which he has no control whatsoever. Unless, of course, they mess with the APPR system that judges gym teachers on math tests, and all teachers on Common Core tests. That's sacrosanct, and though student lobbyist Cuomo has no say over eduction, he will not bend on New York's precious junk science.

Also, student lobbyist Cuomo is lobbying for merit pay. Just because it's been around for a hundred years and has never worked anywhere is no reason to give up on it. Who knows how many teachers are holding back the good stuff until they can make an extra few thousand dollars a year? Those are the kind of teachers Governor Andy wants to encourage, because there's no better motivation to help children than money.

Governor Andy knows a lot about the motivating power of money. That's why Eva and her hedge fund pals are rushing to him. After all, every dime that they pay in rent will be a dime's less profit, or possibly even a dime out of the pocket of Eva herself. This, of course, is unacceptable. Perhaps Eva and Andy, being motivated by money, cannot conceive of why anyone would be otherwise.

I like money. I haven't had a raise in over five years, and I could use a little more. I have a kid I need to put through college. Of course if I had a salary like Eva's I could send her to Harvard. Nonetheless, I'm not holding back anything from my students.

But now that Eva has lost her hotline to Tweed, who has she got? Apparently, she's got Governor Cuomo, the Democrat who goes after unions, the one who never met a reform he didn't like. Proof-shmoof. If DFER thinks it's a good idea, if they send him yet another ten thousand bucks, and if they want it, that's good enough for him.

It's almost like having Mike Bloomberg up in Albany. Now that Cuomo's ego doesn't need to compete with Bloomberg's, now that the man at Gracie Mansion is not a fanatical ideologue, just about anything reformy looks good to Andy Cuomo.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Incredible Amazing Lunchroom

We were all shocked to come in yesterday and find our teacher lunchroom had been totally redesigned. The walls were painted blue. Was there a color on the walls before? No one could remember.

And there were new tables.  There were new seats and they were made in Canada. We could tell because each one had its own individual maple leaf.

Not only that, but the tables were all the same. The seats all matched. None of them wobbled, and none of them had chewing gum either on top or bottom of the seat part. None of them had masking tape with the names of teachers who sat there at some vital event that took place 14 years ago.

We felt like we were at a conference room in some hotel. We felt ashamed if we spilled coffee. How could we sully such fine furniture? It seemed like we should discuss serious stuff, but of course it was lunchtime. Yet there were questions.

"Is this for us?"

"Are they going to let us keep this, or are they going to take it away?"

You can't be too careful. Our school is about 60 years old, and no one had ever thought to refurbish this room. Yet there were little murals on the wall, and cheery little sayings. It was as though we were in some place that wanted us to come back, or cared one way or another whether or not we did.

The principal walked in, and asked what we thought.

"It's beautiful," said someone.

I had a suggestion. "Why don't we redesign this room every sixty years, whether it needs it or not?"

"60 years?" he asked. Then he thought for a minute. "OK, it's a deal. I promise we'll redesign this room every 60 years."

It's important to negotiate whenever an opportunity presents itself.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Uncommon Kids Need More than the Core

Principal Carol Burris is a local hero, frequently writing in Valerie Strauss blog. Most recently, she wrote about the incipient disaster that is the Common Core. They're raising the bar, making everything rigorous, and making sure my ESL students don't get out of high school until they're senior citizens. This is because what the world needs now is rigor, sweet rigor, according to great minds like David Coleman and Reformy John King.

If these scores were used last year, the New York four-year graduation rate would have dropped from 74 percent to 34 percent. But even that awful rate would not be evenly spread across student groups. A close look  demonstrates just how devastating the imposition of the Common Core scores would be for our minority, disadvantaged and ELL students, as well as our students with disabilities.

Because widespread failure is good for everyone. I mean, sure, kids don't like it, and parents don't like it, and teachers don't like it, but we can't focus on special interests. The important thing is to produce the tests, material to support the tests, and privatized empires like that of Eva Moskowitz so that folks of her ilk can continue to bring home the big bucks.

My attention was caught by another point. Over and over, we hear that we need to make kids "college ready," and evidently those of us educated before the magical Common Core are all a bunch of knuckle-draggers, unable to carry on a discussion about anything whatsoever. And yet, despite all the talk of tests, here's something we already knew:

A study by the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC) looked at the college performance of eight cohorts of students from 33 colleges and universities...The findings were that student college success was better predicted by high school grades than by test scores.

Well waddya know? Our grades, often made up (gasp!) without even a rubric, are better predictors of how kids will do in college than standardized test scores designed by Common Core geniuses. It turns out that you and I, who see and feel the enthusiasm and competence of certain kids, might actually give them credit for it. And it's entirely possible that college professors may note practical intelligence and competence even if a student wrote C instead of D!

Because you know what? While David Coleman may believe no one gives a crap about how kids think of feel, many teachers do. And those of us who wish to elicit worthwhile discussion from kids had better give a crap too. Because who on God's green earth wants to talk to someone who doesn't give a crap how you think or feel? Who wants to analyze a train schedule? Who wants to spend a month analyzing the life out of a short story? Who wants to eat lunch with the likes of David Coleman?

Not me.

Empathy is a great quality. Understanding and getting along with others is a great quality too. They will help you get through school and to have a more productive life. I see kids who are good at this and I believe they will excel at whatever they choose to do. I give them higher grades for making my class a better place to be, and you'd better believe their employers, if they're smarter than David Coleman, will pay them better and fight to keep them.

Because we look at people, not just test scores. A student who scores a hundred on every assessment and never interacts with anyone is a student who needs better prep for college, and for life. We, as teachers, know many things David Coleman doesn't know. We, as teachers, have to help and guide those kids even if it won't help our value-added ratings.

That's why it behooves us to stand with our students, and with their parents, to fight this corporate outrage known as the Common Core. It doesn't just need to be slowed down. Like every other fruitless core, it needs to be tossed in the compost heap.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Seat at the Table

This is something our leadership always appears to want. And it's certainly true that it pays to talk to everyone. I'm not a big fan of Bill Gates, but you never know. Maybe one day, even someone as impervious to fact and science as he appears to be may decide to listen. But since there's little evidence to support that supposition, it's best not to bet the farm on it.

For example, there was the Gates Measures of Effective Teaching study, and we participated. Basically, this study wanted to determine what teachers could do to get better test scores. At my school Gates reps pretty much confused everyone, and gave us mixed messages on what they were trying to do. Fast forward to 2014, and we're being evaluated by test scores. The underlying assumption of the Gates study was that teacher effectiveness could be determined by test scores, despite no evidence to support it.

There's a lot of talk about how we could opt for portfolios, projects, or whatever. Unfortunately there's no evidence to support the assumption that any of these determine teacher effectiveness either. The mania to quantify teacher effectiveness may be something worth addressing, but until we can do so with some degree of confidence or accuracy, we ought not to be accepting of (let alone directly negotiating) abject nonsense.

To show our good faith, we allowed Gates to keynote an AFT convention. In gratitude, Gates turned around and trashed teacher pensions the following week.

We've supported mayoral control in NYC, twice, giving Mayor Bloomberg and his merry band of fanatical ideologues carte blanche to close almost every comprehensive high school in the city. Though Gates himself abandoned the push for small schools, we're stuck with them everywhere. As for union, this means a whole lot of schools staffed with untenured teachers who, understandably, won't stand for chapter leader. Thus principals can do whatever they want, contractual or otherwise.

We sold out teachers of closing schools, particularly those with experience, and sent them out as permanent subs. We exacerbated this situation by agreeing to have them move about week to week, school to school. Ostensibly, this was to preclude Bloomberg firing teachers. But since his dreams of further trashing seniority rights were not realized, it's hard to imagine he'd have really opted to fire the lowest-paid teachers he had.

Though a UFT rep came to my school to assure us that no APPR program would occur without a new contract, we gave up the best leverage we had to achieve on and agreed to allow Reformy John King to arbitrate it. Which great mind in the union determined him to be impartial I have no idea, but King managed, among other things, to impose more observations than either UFT or DOE wanted. Bloomberg rightly boasted of achieving the most draconian system in the state and giving nothing for it.

It's time to get that seat at the table, but the union has been aiming for the wrong seat all along. It's ridiculous to appease the corporate reformers and fool ourselves into thinking they and their pals in the media would stop trashing us simply because we've given them what they want.

It's time for our union leadership to give a seat at the table to union members who are tired of reformy nonsense that hurts teachers and working people. It's time to step out of the echo chamber and take a look around. New Yorkers know that Common Core has never been tested anywhere. New Yorkers know from experience it hurts children.

It's time for us to step over, onto the right side of history. Baseless nonsense will not stand. Let's not squander our resources enabling it and pretending it's temporary. Let's tell the truth and wake up the sleeping giant that is our membership. Let's show them we aren't just going along for the ride.

Our time is now. Let's build our own table, invite New York's parents and children, and make Gates grovel for a place if he wants one.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Elastic and Amazing Andrew Cuomo

A few years back, things in New York were not nearly reformy enough. Kids were going to school, teachers were going to school, and there was not nearly enough high blood pressure. For example, supervisors would observe teachers, determine whether or not they were doing a good job, and advise them. This was awful. It did not take into account how students do on tests, which is of course the only thing that happens in school that merits any consideration whatsoever.

So Andy Cuomo got together with union leaders and worked out a deal. From now on, state test scores would account for 20% of teacher ratings, local assessments would be another 20%, and anyone rated ineffective on these "objective" measures would be rated ineffective overall. Unions would negotiate these measures, except for the UFT, which allowed thoroughly impartial John King to impose one.

So Andy Cuomo called himself the student lobbyist, because only he could stand up and make sure junk science, the most reliable measure on earth, was used to rate their teachers. This was the only way to make sure kids had good teachers, because test scores were entirely dependent on teachers, and whether or not the kids were taken care of at home played no part whatsoever in these vital scores.

And when the Regents attempted to delay junk science rating of teachers, based on Common Core tests that 70% of kids failed, Governor Cuomo was outraged. He stood up and said this was unacceptable. The Regents backed down immediately and stopped even hinting of such changes. After all, it's important to rate NY teachers on tests 70% of kids fail. It's not conceivable that the kids could fail the completely new tests because they've never been prepared for them, or because they've been taught different methodology since they started school years ago. Or because they don't speak English, or because they have learning disabilities, or because they're poor, or because they're abused or neglected, or because the tests are based on standards that have never been tested.

Andrew Cuomo knows better, because he's governor. Testing must go on. As long as rich people don't pay additional taxes, everything in his state is fine.

But the other day he saw New Yorkers protesting Common Core. Apparently they, his constituents, don't like it when 70% of their children fail tests. So Governor Cuomo took the incredibly bold position that the Regents were completely independent and did whatever the hell they wanted. It wasn't his fault they screwed everything up. After all, he appointed a commission full of Common Core supporters to study the matter, and who could ask for more than that?

Because just like tests, Governor Cuomo is infallible, and nothing is ever his fault.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

On Email

I love email. If I should wake up at 2 AM and decide to write you, I don't have to wake you. (I hope you appreciate my consideration.) I can wait for you to get back to me, and if you don't, I can remind you any hour day or night without putting you out too much.

Now that many of us have smartphones, we see email a lot more frequently. I keep two accounts on my smartphone, and the rest I check whenever I get around to it.

Of course we now have text messages, which to me, appear marginally more immediate than email. Perhaps this is because who can text you could also call, which means you've given those folks a more immediate option than just writing.

Some people think it's a good idea to email parents and let them know how kids are doing. I don't. Particularly, if there's a problem with a student, I want to be as intrusive and inconvenient as possible. I don't want parents to peruse an email at their leisure. For that, I prefer old-fashioned phone calls.

There's something about a ringing phone, something that says, "Stop whatever you're doing and answer me right now!" That's the point from which I like to commence parental contact.

I once had a part-time supervisor sitting in for one who'd been removed. She left a message for me that a parent had called on a Thursday and asked me to see her about it on the next Tuesday, when she was coming back. I found out who the parent was, contacted her on Friday, and worked out whatever it was. The following Thursday I got called into the part-time AP's office, and chided for not getting in touch with her sooner. She was pretty surprised I'd actually taken care of it. But I'm a parent, and I hate it when teachers don't get back to me, so I try to get back to them quickly.

There's an email address to the right of this post. I just checked it. There is an incredible amount of crap in that box. Everyone wants to write for this blog, it seems. All I have to do is post a link back to whatever organization for which they work. I'm invited to this and that forum to discuss all sorts of topics. Can we please post advertising on your blog? People with any peripheral relation to education feel the need to write me.

Gmail is pretty good. You press a spam button, and you never see these folks again. Nonetheless, you cut off one head, and three more grow back. I apologize in advance to anyone sending me legitimate correspondence, though it seems to come less and less frequently. I invariably ask people with legitimate concerns to write back at another address.

Right now I'm actively using four addresses. I have one that's my personal address, one for the blog, one for school business, and one that I give to any and all with whom I do business and from which I expect spam. That's not counting my DOE email, which I look at every few days but don't use all that often.

How many email addresses do you need? What do you use them for?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Who Does Your Chapter Leader Represent?

It should be clear that your UFT chapter leader needs to represent you when you have issues with administration. Sometimes, people tell me their chapter leader says things like, "I can't take sides," and that's inappropriate. Your chapter leader needs to take your side, particularly when there is a contractual violation.

Of course not everything is a contractual violation. If you're on a crusade to paint the walls hot pink, it will be tough to find language in the contract to back you up. Your CL may advise you against this grievance, but ultimately you can make it if you so desire.

In fact, you never know. If you can muster a particularly persuasive argument for the pink walls, if the principal agrees it's necessary at Step 1, and finds a way to manage the paint and labor, congratulations.

It's different when you're assigned to go to a meeting during your lunch period. There are some principals who'd just as soon let you starve rather than have you miss a lecture on how to execute a better bulletin board, and the contract protects you from such nonsense. In that case, things ought to be a lot easier. It's time for your chapter leader to take a side.

But what about when a contract shows up that eviscerates seniority rights? Let's say, for example, the contract, rather than placing teachers whose schools close, proposes to render you a substitute teacher without classes of your own? What if it makes you patrol lunchrooms and bathrooms rather than prepare lessons or help kids? And what if you and your colleagues oppose it?

What if union leadership decides to support mayoral control, placing the school system in the hands of a fanatical billionaire ideologue like Michael Bloomberg? What if, after learning what an awful system it is, after seeing thousands of teachers displaced, after seeing new teachers hired rather than placing people who are subbing rather than teaching, leadership decides to support it again?

Let's say leadership determines that it will support rating teachers based on student test scores, even though there is no research to suggest there is any validity to such a system? Let's say leadership boasts that only 40%, rather than 50, will be based on said junk science, and that it's therefore a victory. But what if there's a clause saying if you fail the 40% you must fail overall? And what if part of this agreement means the DOE no longer has to prove you're incompetent if one person says they don't?

What if said tests are to be based on some program that Bill Gates spent hundreds of millions of dollars to develop, and what if this program has never been tested or evaluated anywhere?

If you and your staff oppose all these programs, should your chapter leader represent you and your staff? Or should the chapter leader represent leadership, which supported every one of the above cited programs?

If your chapter leader signed the application cited in this post, then he or she is bound to represent leadership rather than you and your colleagues, no matter what you think or how you feel. Should the chapter leader vote the feelings and opinions of your chapter? What if doing so entails a risk said chapter leader will be bounced from the Unity Caucus?

Is it better that they stay on and thus get to go to conventions, where they applaud for the likes of Bill Gates or risk expulsion for failure to cooperate?

Here's the bottom line---shouldn't chapter leaders represent chapters? Should they do so even if the will of the chapter contradicts that of leadership? Are they doing their job if they take orders from leadership rather than those they ostensibly represent?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

On Junk Science Evaluation--Garbage In, Garbage Out

Shockingly, NY State is encountering problems with its new evaluation system. According to Newsday, teachers can rate effective in test passing percentages, yet rate developing overall. Alas, such are the exigencies of a system that is created based on wishful thinking and a desire to fire teachers for no particular reason.

Actually, what is shocking about this story is not that there are problems with APPR, but rather that the state admitted it. It's been pretty much standard fare for Reformy John King and Silent Merryl Tisch to nod their wooden heads, offer minor and insubstantial tweaks, and then go on their merry way. Governor Andrew Cuomo has staked his educational reputation on junk science, and believes in it deeply. Teachers must be rated by untested Common Core tests and judged by junk science, or he will have forsaken his self-appointed post as student lobbyist.

After all, Cuomo is doing his part to make sure we don't raise taxes on the rich or fritter away money paying teachers, and he'd rather assign the death penalty to schools with low test scores than fund them adequately. It makes for good sound bites on the news, and it makes Governor Andy popular with deep-pocketed folks like DFER, but it doesn't help our kids.

Sadly, demagogues like Andy Cuomo earn support not only from astroturfers and would-be robber barons, but also top faux-Democrats like Barack Obama, who happily allow their subordinates to cheer baseless school closings and ignore blatant misdeeds on Wall Street. This is the new Democratic Party, the one that leaves working people bleeding on the street while ensuring rich people don't pay another cent. With Democrats like Cuomo and Obama, I sometimes wonder why we need Republicans.

Of course, in NY State, it's tough to imagine a GOP candidate unseating Cuomo. Not only that, but it's also tough to imagine a GOP candidate that would favor working people any more than Cuomo. So it appears we haven't got a whole lot of choice here in NY State.

This notwithstanding, the fact is New Yorkers have had enough of Common Core nonsense, and all over the state parents and teachers told King and Tisch the same story (with the exception of one NYC session taken over by astroturf Students First NY). It's unfortunate that it's taken developmentally inappropriate instruction based on nothing to wake up our residents, but the fact is we know it's NOT true that 70% of our kids are failing to learn.

What will it take before pols like Cuomo listen to the will of the people rather than that of the hedge-fund dabblers in public education?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Brunch in NYC Schools

The NY Daily News has discovered that lunch is served very early in city schools. I'm not particularly sure why, under 20 years of GOP mayors, that this escaped their attention. This is not remotely new. It turns out that, when you overload buildings and fail to create sufficient space, you can't fit kids on a reasonable schedule. When you look at empty space in a building as an opportunity to privatize, and dump new schools into existing buildings, you can't fit kids on a reasonable schedule.

Physics are a factor in this. If you place 5,000 kids in a building, and only 500 fit in a cafeteria at a given time, it follows that to give them all lunch, you need to have ten periods of lunch. In my school, which has run up to 13 periods, we know this very well. In fact, I'd venture that just about any school that needs trailers is overcrowded.

There is a simple solution to this problem. All you need to do, if there are too many kids to offer reasonable lunch times, is:

A. place fewer kids in buildings, or
B. expand the capacity of school cafeterias

However, it's likely that neither of those things, in itself, will solve the issue of rampant overcrowding. That may involve creating more space, and indeed a whole lot more space than Emperor Bloomberg conceived of. In fact, that will cost a great deal of money, and the traditional mode of government obtaining said money, taxes, is viewed as a plague by leaders like Andrew Cuomo.

Mayor Bloomberg said he would get rid of school trailers by 2012. He later clarified, explaining that he would not get rid of school trailers by 2012. Bill de Blasio said he would get rid of the trailers, but has not provided a timetable. As long as we can't even fit our children into school buildings, it's unlikely we won't be offering them lunch at some ridiculous hour.

I spend a lot of time in front of hungry teenagers, and I notice a lot of them seem hungry all the time. As long as they don't make a mess or disrupt my class, I let them eat in my classes. But if Carmen Fariña really wants to do something about this, it's going to be a very tough issue. You can't place more kids in capacity-filled cafeterias, just as you can't place more kids in capacity-filled classes.

If Fariña really wants to tackle the issue, she may have to tackle the issue of class sizes. And that will require the sort of strong and sustained child-centered vision that has eluded most of her predecessors in my living memory. It's a worthy goal, and one that could make New Yorkers forgive and forget all this "beautiful day" nonsense. Dare I say it, a campaign like this might finally mean we address the issue of class size for the first time in the thirty years I've been teaching.

But it will likely meet the same resistance as de Blasio's plan for pre-K, because the catch is we'll have to pay for it.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Why Did We Do This?

I went in this morning, and passed two accidents on my way. Several teachers in my school told me they narrowly averted disaster when a truck jackknifed on the LIE.

When I arrived an administrator, a security guard and I went out to the trailers. There was a lot of snow, but it wasn't slippery or anything. Anyone dressed for outside could handle it. Of course, a lot of kids don't dress properly. However, a girl I was kind of worried about showed up today in a winter coat rather than the hoodie she tends to favor, so that made me happy. In fact, four other kids showed to that class, and only two were late.

There didn't seem a whole lot of point in starting a lesson I'd have to repeat, so we mostly just talked. There was a pretty interesting show going on outside, what with all the people coming and going. Some custodians were out shoveling, and we couldn't help but notice that everything they cleaned turned white almost immediately. In fact, we began to see sleet and ice, and it didn't seem safe keeping the trailers open anymore.

I teach two double-period classes, and the second took place in the auditorium. I had exactly three students. Most kids I spoke with today told me of parents who forced them out the door.

I'm not altogether sure that the school hot lunch was worth the hour wait for the buses. I don't hear a whole lot of love for school lunches from my kids, who come from other countries and are nonetheless horrified by what passes for pizza in school.

I walked past classrooms with four or five kids. I saw one that appeared to have fifteen. One colleague told me she had 22 in one of her classes, and explained that was because she was incredibly popular and beloved by her students. But when she told me she had, respectively, 4, 7, 3, and 6 in her others I had to doubt her story.

The worst part of my day was when I went outside to find my car plowed in by our excellent sanitation department. They did an incredibly thorough job. I couldn't shovel it out, and I couldn't pull it out, but a very helpful custodian managed to rock it back and forth until it escaped. It took a good five minutes. I have never been stuck like that in a modern car before. Back when I was a poor musician driving $200 cars it was a way of life, but I've forgotten the art, it seems.

All in all, it was a waste of time for my students, and likely for most others. I hope they really savored that cardboard pizza, if that's why they came. Were I Carmen Fariña, and worried about kids getting lunch, I'd find a way to provide activities and serve kids lunch in their neighborhoods, rather than have them travel to city schools that may or may not be nearby.

Personally, I don't think kids learned anything today, other than we should have closed the schools.

To Go, or Not to Go?

I just woke up, and outside it looks like very little has happened. There's a dusting of snow on my car, less than an inch, and there's no snow plow dumping feet of snow to keep me in. At this point, the big storm looks like less than meets the eye. Unless another six inches of snow falls by 6 or 7 AM, the big storm will look more like a big nothing.

Of course, this is exactly the situation that left me and thousands of my colleagues stranded on the roads for hours a few weeks back. If the snow picks up anytime this morning, it could be a disaster by this afternoon. Yet knowing that full well, I don't see how staying home is an option for me, at least.

And perhaps worse, they say this is going to continue on through tomorrow AM. Is tomorrow the day to stay home, or perhaps even the day the mayor breaks down and closes city schools?

In case it isn't clear, a colleague reports via email that city schools are open. I'm not surprised. If there isn't two feet of snow,  reindeer running about, and Santa caught in a tree somewhere, it just doesn't happen. If you go in, move slowly and be careful.

What about you? Are you going to go in and risk the awful trip home, or are you gonna roll back in bed and be more sensible than I am?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Brush with Greatness, and the Weather Report

Our school took a contingent to the Lunar New Year parade last week. All the kids had matching t-shirts, and rode a bus to Flushing for the festivities.  There were banners and good spirits everywhere. There were even a few turned-around kids. One's father offered him a one-way trip back to his country if he didn't shape up in school. Another, upon getting a negative phone call from a teacher, watched as his dad smashed his beloved computer to bits.

But oddly, both these kids survived the trauma and managed to excel in school afterward. Though they fought over who would hold the banner, and argued over which photos merited much-coveted placement in Facebook and QQ, a sort of Chinese Facebook, they mostly had no issues.

Mayor de Blasio was there, and our kids got a rare opportunity to ask him questions. He's pretty tall, and kind of stands out in the crowd. So what did our top student ask the mayor?

"Is school gonna be open on Monday?

"Yes," said the mayor, without hesitation. The kid was very disappointed. Then he had a thought...

"What about Thursday? They said we would have a big storm on Wednesday night."

"Well, I'll have to watch the weather reports very carefully this week," said the mayor.

And that, ladies and gentleman, was the highlight of that kid's month for sure. I think we're all gonna have to follow the mayor's advice and watch the weather reports.

I'm not all that keen on spending endless hours on the LIE. This is the sort of thing that seems worth staying home for, whatever the mayor decides.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Blended Learning

There's a piece in the New York Post that pretty much confirms everyone's worst suspicions about so-called blended learning. Actually, this particular brand does not appear to have been blended very well at all. In fact, it sounds like the very worst sort of credit recovery, and I only wish it were restricted to that which the story describes.

How many of us have seen or heard of kids getting on computers, answering a few questions, and somehow getting credit for courses they'd failed? You answer A, B, C or D, maybe get it wrong, and maybe answer again. Or maybe you sit with the book and look it up. More likely, you find a smart girlfriend to do it for you. Actually, if you're smart enough  to look up the information, you're probably smart enough to avoid taking the makeup computer thing anyway. Still, the story describes students paying other students 80 bucks to sit at the computer.

80 bucks seems like a lot of money for a high school kid to pay. What on earth is the kid learning by doing such a thing? Certainly nothing I want my kid to learn at school. I'm not a big fan of cheating. I discourage it actively in my class. Of course if my class were designed to restore credit in a multitude of subjects for no particular reason, I might have a different outlook. And of course, if I let kids take tests at home, on or off computer, it would be tough to imagine resulting grades as remotely reliable.

I've actually been at presentations where people introduced blended learning concepts that were interesting. But it's clear to me that the bottom-feeders at the DOE liked it because it enabled them to hire fewer teachers, never a good idea for kids in need of role models. It's even clearer to me that desperate administrators won't hesitate to use it to improve their stats.

When Mike Bloomberg places guns to the heads of principals and says he needs higher graduation rates, he places them in a tough spot. Public school principals can't go all charter school and dump the kids they deem likely to fail. In fact, once the charters shed those inconvenient children, the public school principals with guns at their heads not only have to take them, but also have to figure out how not to have them hurt their graduation rates.

So what do you do? Have the kids sit in front of the computer, award them credits, and it's a win-win!

Except for the kids, of course. What do they learn? They certainly don't learn whatever their original teachers had in mind. But they do learn that failure is no problem. If you fail, you just sit at a computer, or get someone else to do it, or pay someone else to do it, and whether or not you've learned anything is of no consequence whatsoever.

After all, college is full of papers, and there are a million places you can buy them. Sometimes those places put ads in the comments section and I zap them. I want kids in my class to really learn English, to be able to communicate, to be able to go out on the streets and get what they want and need. I want them to love the language and I want them to use it. The notion that passing some test on a computer could show me that is simply ridiculous.

Computers are a great tool. I love computers, and obviously I'm sitting at one right now. But people who think they take the place of teachers, people, or learning need to have their hard drives examined.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Fire Them All, Says Daily News

The Daily News gets one thing almost right in its otherwise deplorable editorial:

It is insane for the New York City public school system to keep 1,200 unwanted teachers on the payroll, at a cost of more than $100 million annually.

It's insane that they spend all that money without putting the teachers to work, that's for sure. And it would be very easy to give them jobs with the full blessing of city principals. I'll get to that later.

That's the first line, actually. From there, it's all downhill. Let's not blame this all on the Daily News. I'm fairly certain I've read the same thing in NY Times editorials, which leads me to ponder one thing---where the hell is that liberal bias they're always complaining about on Fox News?

It's been clear to me for many years that newspapers hate unions, and hate having to follow the rules they've contractually agreed upon. Why shouldn't people work all night and all day? Why can't we just give raises to people to whom we're related? Why the hell do they have to eat lunch? How can I eat lunch if I have to make time for others to do it?

Anyway, this is not all the fault of management. For example, I was at a school that was slated for closure, but I got out. I used a UFT transfer in 1992. My then boss had a Spanish teacher who frequently threw kids out of class. I never threw kids out of class. To make her life easier, she threatened me. Either I would teach all Spanish, or she would give me a program so late I couldn't make it to my second job.

I transferred. I had that option. It wasn't, in fact, that I was a bad teacher. I was facing punishment for the unforgivable offense of being good at one aspect of my job.
But, in one of the worst deals in my living memory, UFT gave up seniority transfers in 2005, allowing News editorial writers to conclude the only reason teachers weren't placed was their incompetence. It's surely completely unrelated that DOE now forces schools to pay salaries out of school budgets, and it's sheer coincidence that the overwhelming majority of ATR teachers are senior. Why bother protecting people who've worked all their lives when we can simply toss them out with the trash? That's precisely the future the Daily News is advocating for us and our children.
I've seen Michael Mulgrew at the DA announcing the new program was better, because there are more transfers. You see that? Sometimes Mulgrew thinks more is better, even while not thinking MORE is better. Nonetheless, shortly after I started this blog, I had an email dialogue with a teacher who was despondent at the prospect of being an ATR. She soon resigned, and Bloomberg won that one.

UFT leadership did not expect Joel Klein would continue to hire new teachers before ATR teachers were placed, nor did they anticipate how ATRs would be used as scapegoats and punching bags for our union-bashing press corps. In my view, the ATR brigade was the very worst aspect of the awful 2005 contract. Of course, making them move around week to week has made it even worse.

I was at the DA when the ATR vote took place. Several higher-ups in the UFT assured me that the DOE was inept, that they were disorganized, and that they'd never figure out how to send teachers place to place week to week. Jamaica Chapter Leader James Eterno told me they would certainly do it, and to vote no. As the other part of this agreement was that no teachers would be fired, I abstained. But Eterno was right, and it's highly doubtful that Bloomberg, after wasting months trying to kill LIFO, would have followed through and fired all those newbie teachers.

In any case, given we have the highest class sizes in history, it's insane to fire the ATR teachers. If indeed there are some who are as bad as the paper says, maybe they shouldn't be placed. But if Bill de Blasio really wants to do something, he can offer the services of these teachers to schools without having them pay from the school budget. Then we'd really know how much principals want these teachers.

Some of these teachers, I know, are carrying scarlet letters issued by Emperor Bloomberg. Their files pretty much instruct principals not to hire them. These letters, or marks, or whatever they are, ought to be removed, and principals ought to be able to interview these candidates unhampered by the prejudices of the now-abdicated Emperor.

I know two ATR teachers very well. Both of them deserve to work, and both should be placed. Just because the papers hate union is no reason to hurt working people. The News editorial is old news, old advice, and old ideas. I very much doubt such ideas will fly in Bill de Blasio's New York.

Real people voted for a real mayor, and we will see the sort of real changes we've been too scared to even contemplate for the last two interminable decades.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

When a Mayor's Vision Collides with Corporate Cuomo's

NYC has woken up and come to its senses. After 20 years of GOP mayors who hated us and everything we stood for, the city has elected a progressive-minded mayor, a mayor who seems to value not only working people, but also the people who professionally serve the city. I went to see him speak in Brooklyn during the campaign, heard him say so, and have no reason to doubt his word.

We have a new chancellor, Carmen Fariña, who not only taught, but taught for decades. There will be no more talk about how tenure and seniority promote mediocrity, and no more fanatical ideologues in Tweed preaching privatization. Of course, no one is perfect, and Fariña has not yet come to her senses about Common Core. But she recognizes its miserable implementation, as does everyone on earth save those who actually implemented it, Reformy John King, Merryl Tisch, and their army of private interns who do not answer to we, the people.

The New York Post is horrified. De Blasio isn't opening any more charters! De Blasio may charge Eva Moskowitz rent! Gazillionaires may have to pay more taxes to support pre-K for the children of the bootless and unhorsed! I smile at every one of Murdoch's perceived outrages. It's about time we had a mayor who was concerned with helping our children rather than comforting the comfortable. Finally the UFT President has come around to support our new mayor's pre-K plan. AFT President Randi Weingarten, who once ridiculed the program, appears to have come to her senses as well.

Now Mayor de Blasio's prime obstacle is Governor Andrew Cuomo, self-described student lobbyist, who's helped our kids tremendously by funding most schools at a lower rate than six years ago. Cuomo's vision of saving the millionaires appears woefully inadequate. When you want to actually improve things, rather than simply give the appearance of doing so, you need to find a way to pay for said improvements. It appears the mayor, unlike the governor, has actually thought this through.

So we are at an impasse. We can follow the mayor and support his vision, or we can listen to our governor, the one who was elected based on promises of going after unions, and hope for the best. It's sad that a Democrat can run on a plank like this, but Andrew Cuomo is not fundamentally a Democrat. Like Michael Bloomberg, who overturned the twice-voiced will of the people to buy himself a third term, Cuomo is a relentless and unapologetic opportunist. His goal is to be President of the United States, and if that entails taking money from DFER and their sleazy corporate allies, so be it.

I'm glad UFT leadership has come to its senses and supported the mayor, albeit a little late. It now behooves us to stand up for what's best for the kids we serve. Unfortunately, "student lobbyist" Cuomo is not responsive to the public. For example, the public now opposes Common Core by a wide margin. Rather than stand up and risk the wrath of his corporate supporters, Cuomo has created yet another panel to study what we already know. Cuomo has seen fit to include not only a member of E4E, which in no way represents teachers, but also to have an IBM executive as chair.

It's pretty clear how much Governor Cuomo values teacher voice. When Reformy John King publicly declares public school parents and teachers to be "special interests," he offers not a whisper of rebuke.

But here's the thing--John King was right. We are most certainly special interests, and our special interest is the public school children of New York. It's an abject disgrace that neither John King nor Andrew Cuomo shares that special interest. But we will not waver in advocating for better education, reasonable standards, and developmentally appropriate treatment of our children.

If Cuomo and King do not share our vision, that's a shame. But it's not their job to agree with us. It's their job to help and serve us. And it's our job to make sure they do their job.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Andy Cuomo's Three-Ring Common Core Circus

Intrepid Reality-Based Educator has the rundown on Governor Andy's Common Core panel.  I hear good things about teacher Todd Hathaway, who may perhaps counter the other teacher, E4E's Nick Lawrence. Presumably Lawrence supports whatever E4E's corporate overlords see fit. As someone who deals with real live teachers every day of my life, as someone who knows no teacher who supports E4E or its reprehensible policies, I find it outrageous that they get equal representation to that of real working teachers.

And yes, I know that Lawrence may be a working teacher but there is no way on God's green earth that his policies represent those of any more than a tiny fraction of teachers, particularly those of us encumbered with conscience. There are bright spots on the panel, like Linda Darling-Hammond, yet even she does not oppose Common Core. There is also Cathy Nolan, who was brilliant at the Grover Cleveland High School hearing, but who, alas, does not oppose Common Core.

I have not the foggiest notion how or why Michelle Rhee's brainchild, TNTP,  or even IBM represent the people of New York. I will grant they may represent, like E4E, the fine folks who funnel much-needed cash toward Andrew Cuomo's relentless ambition/ campaign funds. Senator John Flanagan, of course, is the man who sponsored legislation, on behalf of Emperor Bloomberg, to destroy seniority rights for NYC teachers only. (Perish forbid there should be blowback from the district the fine Senator actually represents.) It's acutely bizarre to see UFT boast of his inclusion on Cuomo's panel.

What can we expect from this panel? Will the one independently-minded educator be able to sway everyone else? Will they support a two-year moratorium on results from high-stakes testing, as some on the panel already do? And even if that comes to pass, how will that help parents with young children facing developmentally inappropriate tasks? Will there be any move to stop the idiocy from buffoons like Arne Duncan, who can't wait to slime suburban public schools and open up privatization opportunities for his BFFs?

And even if there is a two-year moratorium on teachers being judged by junk science, how have we determined that 2016 is a good year to initiate junk science evaluations? Isn't education something that ought to be based on reality, as opposed to the most expedient manner of enriching Eva Moskowitz? Isn't the optimal percentage of junk science in education precisely zero?

Personally, I find it borderline incredible I even need to discuss such things.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

The ATRs Are Coming!

The Daily News has a piece about Absent Reserve Teachers, and oh no, new chancellor Carmen Fariña is actually thinking of putting them to work! The headline itself trumpets they are "considered undesirable by principals."

The article suggests this move could save the city $100 million a year, but that's not remotely its main thrust.

...half have disciplinary histories or unsatisfactory ratings, sources said.

Who am I to question that? After all, sources said it. Nonetheless, that also means that half don't have disciplinary histories or unsatisfactory ratings. So there are 50% of your ATR teachers that, if the article is to be believed, could be placed immediately with a $50 million savings for New York City. Let's take a look at those other scary teachers:

25% committed wrongdoing, 25% received an “unsatisfactory” rating, 40% worked in schools that closed or downsized and 10% teach subjects that are no longer offered in schools.

Wow. I'm concerned about those 10% of teachers. Perish forbid someone with a nursing license should teach biology, or someone with a reading license should teach English. Those subjects are totally unrelated, and everyone knows that no teacher in New York City teaches out of license, ever. 

As for the 25% that received an "unsatisfactory" rating, shouldn't we examine the circumstances? Weren't principals able to dispense them for any reason whatsoever, and didn't Walcott sustain virtually 100% of them no matter what? Has anyone told this to the reporter? Someone I know had to go to court to have a U rating reversed, said rating likely being exercised as a direct result of his having done his job as chapter leader.

As for the 25% who committed wrongdoing, it's fairly clear arbitrators did not think said wrongdoing rose to the level of being removed. I know one of those people, and he did nothing but utter a single imprudent statement with no sexual intent whatsoever. Missing from the article is the fact that teacher salaries are now paid from individual school budgets, offering principals a monetary incentive to avoid hiring more experienced teachers. Go figure.

The article goes on to mention a handful of these 25-percenters accused of things Daily News readers are likely to find offensive. Let's leave aside the fact that speculation is that "most" of the 1,200 ATR teachers are to be placed, and ignore the fact there may be reasons behind placing some and not others.

Here's my question---how is mentioning these selected cases any different from taking members of a religious or ethnic group, highlighting some accused of behaving in a sensational fashion, and then gently leading readers to the conclusion the entire group was unfit or undesirable?

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

On Wearing a Tie

I've worn a tie to work most of the time since I began teaching.  Early in my career, I got stopped by a guard at John F. Kennedy High School who mistook me for a student. I began wearing them daily after that, as they got me in the door a little faster. Of course, it was a little slower to get out the door, and sometimes you have to tie the thing a time or two before it's ready.

Yesterday the trailers where I work now were closed. I almost slipped and fell on black ice walking into the building, and one of my students, not quite so lucky, limped into the auditorium. I sent her to the nurse, but as her mom was not home, she got sent right back.

My class was in the back of the auditorium, by the door. I was with a math teacher who's much smarter than I am, but he was wearing a sweater.  Kids asked me questions, one after the other. I had no answers for them. Where's my teacher? Where is the health class? Where can I get a metro card? What time are they going to open the trailers? But when you wear a tie, they think you know the answers.

Actually, since I've been in the trailers, I started wearing suits to work. I figure since the city deems us trailer trash and actually places us in trailers to reinforce it, the least I could do would be to counter that notion in some small measure. (Bill de Blasio just said he plans to get rid of trailers, but I'm pretty sure it won't be happening this week.) Since then, I've learned when you add a suit to your tie, people assume you are in charge, though they don't always specify of what. Regrettably, this perception is not accompanied by a pay raise. We have a new principal this year and at least two students have called me by his name, though we don't really look alike.

So my advice is this--if you can't actually be smarter, just wear a tie and people will think you are. But be prepared to be hit with questions you can't answer. Even the tie won't actually make you know any more than you know.

For that, you may have to read a book. Or take a course. Or open your mind.

But that's a whole new blog. If you're in a hurry, you can always start with the tie.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

"Revive NYSUT" Is Really "Rebury NYSUT"

The more I look at the controversy in our state union, the more I think its intent is to push it back into nothingness. The moment NYSUT leadership begins to take sensible stands, they are opposed. And by whom? By the leadership of the United Federation of Teachers. I often use UFT and UFT leadership interchangeably, but I'm going to have to be more careful about that going forward.

UFT is me, and likely you. UFT is all of us who spend our lives teaching the children of New York City. And our leadership is substantively different from leadership of many state locals. To wit, they do not teach. They will not be observed four or six times, and they will not be rated by test scores of students who they may or may not teach. And since the overwhelming majority of us can't even be bothered to vote in union elections, they don't get a very strong message that we care one way or another what they do.

Honestly, I understand that our union is so large it's impractical for Michael Mulgrew to teach. Of course, with tens of thousands of members we need people to work for us. UFT does a lot for us, my reservations notwithstanding. But you have to wonder, when we all make sacrifices, when we patrol the halls, lunchrooms, and bathrooms, when we can't grieve letters to file simply because they're utterly fabricated, well, how do they feel it when they don't do it?

Here's what NYSUT has done lately--for one, it's not at all clear they're planning to endorse Governor Andrew Cuomo, the guy who came into office swearing to go after unions. They're also taking a strong stand against Reformy John King and Common Core. Where have these people been all these years, as teachers have wondered what the hell was going on?

That might be a question "Revive NYSUT," the new group that wishes to upset NYSUT leadership is asking, but it isn't. Actually Revive NYSUT is sitting Executive VP Andy Palotta and a bunch of people he's recruited to defend his visionary decision to spend thousands of dollars of our money buying a table at some Cuomo fundraiser.

After all, it's important that our union leaders hobnob with top Democratic officials. Actually, that's true, but it's not necessarily important that we give them money before they come up with positions we support. We live in a state where teacher and parent concerns are routinely ignored, where John King and Merryl Tisch tour the state and hear nothing but criticism of Common Core, and where they mutter little things like we might tinker with this or that, but we're staying the course.

That's unconscionable. We, as teachers, have the very same interests that parents do. We serve the same purpose--helping public school children.

I don't know where NYSUT's newfound social conscience came from, and I don't care either. The fact is they are right. They are not only right, but they are on the right side of history. American parents are not going to stand for the baseless nonsense and endless testing that is Common Core. New York parents have heard enough from Reformy John King and Silent Merryl Tisch. We know what's good for our children, and we need advice neither from them nor their army of privately paid interns, accountable to no one.

Revive NYSUT is a misnomer. NYSUT has revived itself. It's our job to keep it alive. And it will be a tough job indeed, with 40% of NYSUT delegates being instructed how to vote by UFT leadership, which appears to believe the only good NYSUT is a dead NYSUT.

Doubtless a future Unity meeting will entail telling 800 of the 2000 NYSUT delegates how to vote, and will make absolutely sure folks like you and me get no representation whatsoever. Because that's what passes for democracy in our UF of T.

Monday, February 03, 2014

A Time and Place for Snow

As you may have noticed, it's snowing outside. Schools where I live are closed, and schools outside the city are closed. But NYC had a Chancellor's Conference Day, and perish forbid anyone should lose one precious moment of PD. This notwithstanding, the roads were in much better shape today than during our last snowstorm. Traffic was moving slowly, but moving.

On the home front, I got some kind of amazing deal on an electric snowblower just after Sandy last year. I thought of using it during the last snow day, but it turned out I'd left it in the box and hadn't bothered to assemble it. This is the sort of thing I put off, because I hate that kind of work. But I bit the bullet, and opened the box. I was able to get the thing together in maybe five minutes. I felt like a genius. Not only that, but I also found long extension cords that would allow me to use it, and tested it. It worked perfectly, it seemed.

But today, when I wanted to use it, my wife informed me that the genius who installed our garage door after Sandy did so in such a way that you could only unlock it from the outside. I couldn't believe that, so I tried opening it from the inside. Couldn't be done. My wife provided me with a key, and it turns out you can't open it from the outside either. The key does not work.

So here's the thing--I can't use the snow blower unless I carry it upstairs, through the house, out the door, downstairs, and then run a cord into the living room. And you just don't do things like that in my house. I don't make the rules here, so it's pretty much the old-fashioned snow shovel technology.

What's the point of living in the twenty-first century when the only innovations that take root are things like value-added and mayoral control?

It seems counterintuitive.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Governor Andy and the Unions

Last month at the Delegate Assembly, Jamaica HS chapter leader James Eterno introduced a resolution to withhold support from NY Governor Andrew Cuomo in his bid for a second term. This makes a lot of sense to me. After all, Governor Cuomo ran for his first term on a platform of taking on the unions. I'm a lifelong Democrat, and he was the first Democrat for whom I declined to vote. With Democrats like that, who needs Republicans?

Since then, Governor Andy has supported and implemented a 2% tax cap for school budgets. While this does not affect NYC, it affects almost every other district in the state. When I visited my kid's guidance counselor last school year, she couldn't promise that the courses my daughter wanted would even exist come September. Yet Governor Andy not only opposes a millionaire tax that might supplement lost revenue, but also finds the audacity to compare said opposition to his father's stand against the death penalty. Do we really need a governor who passionately defends the bank accounts of the uber-wealthy against the education of our children?

As if that were not enough, Governor Andy continues to defend the junk-science based APPR system, sitting mute against John King's insistence that Buffalo use it to fire teachers even if it's untested and unreliable. In fact, as King and Tisch wandered the state in their fake listening tour, as parents overwhelmingly condemned their implementation of Common Core, we've heard very little from our esteemed governor on what action he'll take. He'll appoint a panel to study it. Weren't the voices of outraged parents and teachers all over the state evidence enough? Or do we need to make sure the conclusions are OK with DFER, Students First, Moskowitz backers, and whoever else wields the suitcases full of cash that lubricate our political process?

It's certainly true that Cuomo took a stand against the odious LIFO legislation that would have affected only NYC teachers. But he didn't really say he supported an objective form of layoffs, rather expressing support for the end of LIFO, and suggesting it wasn't practical to pass such legislation at that time. Rather, he supported the junk-science evaluation system, a system by which he still stands, despite no evidence whatsoever that it is effective in proving anything.

As for evidence, that's something our governor has little use for when dealing with education. His most recent stroke of brilliance is a merit-pay scheme, despite the fact it's an old idea that's never worked anywhere.

It's disappointing that the Delegate Assembly, overwhelmingly dominated by chapter leaders who signed a loyalty oath to act in the interests of union leaders rather than members, wants to leave the door open to endorsing an anti-union opportunist who cares not at all about us or our children.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Why You Ought Not to Have Sex With Neanderthals (Or Vote for Them)

It turns out that Neanderthal genes carry risk for certain diseases you probably don't want to have. So you'd be well-advised not even to date Neanderthals, let alone sleep with them. After all, you probably don't want your kids to suffer from disease, let alone the stigma of being part of an extinct species. You know how cruel children can be in the schoolyard.

I'd also go so far as to suggest not voting for Neanderthals either. We can see the results each and every day. I mean, how do you explain a politician like Andrew Cuomo using his bully pulpit to promote merit pay? After all, it's been around for a hundred years and has never worked anywhere. To me, that suggests something we ought not to consider. But our esteemed governor has no time for research, or history, and throws this forth anyway. In fairness, I can't be 100% sure this is a factor of his Neanderthal nature. But it certainly explains a lot.

How do you explain a guy like Michael Bloomberg standing up and announcing that he'd like to double class size for a million kids in New York City? It certainly goes against the small class sizes he demanded when he sent his own kids to a private school. In fairness, said kid likely had a mother who may have had a voice in that decision. But anyone who spent one minute teaching 34 kids knows that number is already too high, and anyone who says otherwise is likely even higher. Or possibly Neanderthal. We can never be sure.

I don't know exactly what to say about Chris Christie. I mean, there he is, sitting on a huge lead in every poll, and he decides to scream at some poor teacher. Next to him is his wife, apparently proud of this decision. We now know that his underlings think creating traffic problems in towns that elect his political opponents is perfectly fine, and it's beginning to appear Christie is fine with it too. It looks like he takes money earmarked for Sandy relief and uses it to help his BFFs build luxury high rises.

So, with all due respect to those with other preferences, I'm gonna suggest we go the homo sapien route when looking for partners. And leaders too.