Thursday, June 30, 2016

Is Reading the Magic Bullet?

Well, of course it isn't. There is no magic bullet. But here's a great piece from the New Yorker presenting the idea of reading as therapy, with a particular emphasis on fiction. I'm a great fan of fiction, and if left to my own devices, that's mostly what I will read. Because I love it, I also love to teach it. Now it's not my favorite thing to teach--I love to teach beginners English, and watch them move rapidly through utter confusion toward muddling through toward mastery, but it's my second favorite thing.

Some of my most gratifying moments were when students came to me and said, "Thank you for forcing me to read that book. I never thought I could read a book in English." And I am relentless in browbeating kids to do that work. Of course I'm not always successful. I really believe reading is a solitary pursuit, and while I will try to motivate kids by reading paragraphs here and there, I make them do the bulk of it outside the classroom, and do that so we can discuss it in class.

There are some books I won't teach. I'm a great fan of Steinbeck, but I won't teach Of Mice and Men, because I don't want to be the person who introduces my newcomers to racial epithets. Maybe that's lazy thinking on my part, and maybe I could make kids understand them better, but I want my classroom to be a place where those things simply do not exist. I don't want anyone to remember my class as the place they learned that stuff.

I think the way to trick kids into loving reading is to carefully select stories to which they can relate, stories that mirror or expand on their own experiences. As such, I'm very fond of The Joy Luck Club. This is a book full of brilliant interwoven stories of people overcoming the situations into which their thrust and making something of their lives. A great extra, for me, is that it's all about several generations of Chinese women. And although neither I nor a whole lot of my students are either Chinese or women, these are stories that everyone can relate to.

Of course my students are all newcomers, which is kind of a hook for this selection, but they're also facing all sorts of personal difficulties. I think just being a teenager is an almost insurmountable problem in itself. Add to that being in a new and strange country with limited use of the dominant language, and things become challenging indeed.  But people rise up from the most awful situations, and a book like this, I hope, gives my teenagers the notion that they too can overcome their troubles, no matter how awful they may appear right now.

This approach is in stark contrast with that of Common Core, that no one gives a crap what you think or feel. Jesus, who even wants to live in David Coleman's world, where no one gives a crap what you think or feel? While I will grant that I honestly don't give a crap what David Coleman thinks or feels, that sentiment does not extend to my students.  I want them to feel cared for in my class, and I want them to know that I care what they think. That's why I'm always asking them what they think and fairly thrilled when they tell me. I spend a great deal of time trying to open up kids who've been told to sit down and shut up all their lives.

The Common Core approach of answering tedious questions about a text out of context actively discourages love of reading, and is precisely the wrong approach, counter to everything we know about how kids learn. There is certainly a time and place for plodding through tedious text, but that's not how we start our kids. And those best equipped to deal with tedious text are people who love to read.

I gotta admit, I read a lot in college, and there were things I just did not love. Moby Dick, classic though it may be, wasn't my favorite. I had the misfortune of reading Beowulf for not one course, but rather two. By the second course I had learned not to tell the truth when the instructor asked us to write our impressions of this classic work. In my job I'm constantly perusing the Contract and looking through regulations to determine just what is and is not kosher, and I sometimes have to counter the preposterous interpretations of the folks the DOE "legal," whatever that is. I'm fortunate in that a whole lot of folks at UFT have already interpreted the bejeezus out of these things, and that they are always right while "legal" is always wrong. Honestly, I think they just make stuff up and hope for the best.

I developed a love of reading early on. I still remember the first book I read, and being amazed that I'd cracked the code. I moved from there to comic books, and from there to the paperbacks my mom had lying all over the house, and from there to whatever grabbed my attention. Once I found an author I liked I sought out everything that writer produced.

I was lucky because reading, in the high school I attended, entailed mostly reading books aloud. You read page one, the girl behind you reads page two, I read page three, and so on. It's a great gig for an English teacher who doesn't actually want to do anything, and even better for a lazy student like me, who only had to pay attention when the person in front of me was reading. The only books I was asked to read in high school independently were The Incredible Journey, about a dog and a cat running around doing something or other, and The Good Earth, which everyone in my social studies class found fascinating. None of us could get over the notion of arranged marriage, though we were perhaps only one generation away from it.

But not every kid grows up in a house full of books, and for those who don't, teachers are the best bet to pick up the slack. It's tragic that Common Core gives kids precisely the opposite of what they need, and will likely lead them to despise reading rather than simply be indifferent to it. Reading is power, and without it, our kids will be swept under those who possess it. Our system is designed to create and maintain drones rather than thinkers.

We can surely do better. We're kind of pinned under the yoke of ridiculous, arbitrary measures of "college readiness," and we begin to measure such things at absurdly young ages. I don't think Hillary Clinton knows that, or much of anything of what is good education for our kids (as opposed to her own, who attended an elite private school that used none of this nonsense) and sadly, I don't think Bernie Sanders does either.

But as long as we do, it's our job to get the word out.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Boy Wonder Does an Observation

Man, I hate this guy. He is always complaining to Chapter Leader about my mandatory voluntary meetings. He thinks just because they're voluntary he doesn't have to go. Doesn't he even know what voluntary mandatory is all about? The bastard. And then Chapter Leader runs to the principal saying I've raised the bar on lowering the bar. What the hell does that even mean?

I'm walking around sticking my face in every notebook. Casting a critical eye and looking for the grit and rigor. These lazy kids. Where is the grit?

You know what I could go for? One of those chicken fried steak thingies. Only place I know I can get it is maybe 45 minutes away. And a 22 ounce draft in a frosty mug. Will anyone notice if I'm out of the building for like three hours? Man I really want that chicken fried steak. With that white gravy. Maybe with mashed potatoes. I think they have a $9.99 special if I get there before 6. Maybe I'll just eat and go home. Who's gonna know?

One kid not writing anything. Two. Three. Four kids in room not writing anything. Therefore no one is participating. Ineffective. Let me write that in my low inference notes on this swine. And as I walk around, sticking my face into every kids paper and every kid's face, I can see they are afraid of something. Probably the teacher. Ineffective. Low inference notes on that son of a bitch reflecting that.

Man this room is really well done. Beautiful. Look at all that art around. Student work everywhere. Very colorful. Someone really cares about this room but it can't be the teacher because there are no rubrics. Ineffective.

Let me check if he has a lesson plan, that son of a bitch, let me check all the papers on the desk, move them around, shuffle through everything, make a big show to let everyone know who's in charge. (Me.) Look at that. What a mess this desk is now. How can anyone find anything? Well, I'm the boss so I don't have to clean it up.

"Where's your lesson plan?"

"It's on the computer."

Cheeky bastard. An answer for everything. Man, the arrogance. I wanted that copy right now. Can I confiscate his laptop? After all, I'm the boss. It's my right. Would that principal back me up? Or would he be, oh, it's his property, and stuff. I tell you, we have to nip this stuff in the bud. Nip, nip, nip. In the bud! You mollycoddle these damn teachers and they're all, the contract says this, and the contract says that. Well screw the contract. I'm the boss and I can do any damn thing I want.

Look at these kids. They're all frozen, in fear or something. None of them are answering questions, let alone volunteering. They act like some alien from outer space has walked in here and they're all too shocked to speak. Ineffective. This bastard teacher, in my low inference opinion, is a total piece of crap and needs to be fired. Another year and I can make it so. Man, I can't wait for that next Star Trek movie. I wonder if I could get tickets online in one of those places where you reserve the seats. You can't begin that stuff too early. Let me write that in my low inference notes.

What is up with those UFT validators and they keep saying the teachers who I say suck actually don't suck?  Shouldn't the fact that I think they suck be good enough for anyone? After all, I've been to supervisor school and Danielson training. I've learned how to look at these reprehensible morons in a totally objective fashion. Have these teachers done that?

I mean, Jesus, I taught for two whole years before I moved out, and I'm ready to move up and out of this craphole first chance I get. Man, this teacher doesn't look happy. He's all nervous and stuff. What the hell is wrong with this jerkwad? Ineffective.

Look at that piece of garbage on the floor. I ask a kid to pick it up and he refuses. Man, what an uncooperative class. And when I ask the kids to pass the can around so everyone can pick up garbage they refuse again. Clearly this teacher has not trained these children properly. Ineffective. 

Man, what an awful atmosphere in that classroom.  And that idiot told me it was his best class.  But every time I walk into any classroom it's like this. You know I never see a good atmosphere when I walk in a classroom. What could be making the kids act so uptight?

Gotta be these lowlife teachers, of course. Ineffective.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Message from Governor Andy on Why You Have to Register Your Certification

Hi, it's me, your old pal Andy Cuomo. I just want you to know that a lot of you may think I hate teachers, but that's not the case. In fact, my mother was a teacher. So that should be proof enough. But no, all you Gloomy Guses are all, "Well, why did you have to judge us by test scores?" and "Why did you say your own system was baloney and then up the test scores?"

Well, I hear you, and I hear all those folks who opted their kids out of the tests. It made me look so bad that I agreed not to count Common Core tests in math and English from grades 3-8. Now a lot of you are saying that implies those of you with other Common Core tests can go screw yourselves and let me say, right at the outset, that I am a great believer in individual freedom. So of course you can go screw yourselves! That's your right and I shall defend your rights to the bitter end.

But a lot of you are complaining about why you have to register with the state. Now that's an important consideration, and I want to be absolutely up front with my response. Now Sandra and I don't get a whole lot of time off, but after eating one of her delicious Kwanzaa cakes, there's nothing we like better than watching a little television in our house. In fact, we've got a whole TV room there that we built, and those county home inspectors will get in to see it over my dead body. No way are we gonna pay taxes on that! But I digress.

One of our favorite shows is The Walking Dead. I don't know if you watch it, but it's pretty terrifying. I mean, all the good people are united against those brain-eating zombies. My gosh, they are just awful. They just run around killing everyone and eating brains. As you surely know, I am the student lobbyist, and I just cannot allow zombies to victimize school children. I have observed the zombies very carefully, and we think having teachers register online is the best precaution. I mean, how many zombies are gonna register? So most registered teachers will not be zombies. And should they become zombies over the next five years, once their registration dates come up, they will not register. Or at least they probably won't. You can never be too sure with zombies. But we're gonna try to fix that.

In fact, while we've neglected this question up to now, preferring to focus on whether those who register are facing disciplinary or criminal charges, our next revision will ask people, under penalty of perjury, "Are you a brain-eating zombie?" Now there was a lot of debate at the most recent gala luncheon where it came up. Will zombies tell the truth? Honestly, I can't guarantee you they will. But nonetheless, if they lie they will be up on perjury charges. One thing Andrew Cuomo will not tolerate is some lying zombie. 

You see, this proves I love public schools, because charter school teachers don't need certification and therefore will not have this protection. Of course, if individual charter schools decide to pass anti-zombie rules they're free to do that. In fact, when Eva Moskowitz calls me today I'm gonna make a very strong suggestion that she carefully screen all new teaching candidates, and that she not hire zombies unless there's really no one else they can get. But Eva is a great gal, and if anyone can handle zombie teachers she can, so hey, if she's good with it I'm good with it.

Now sure, a lot of my critics are on my ass because we haven't really fired the volume of unionized teachers we'd been aiming for. But we're working on it. And please, just because I want to fire a lot of teachers doesn't mean that I don't like teachers. I'm just trying to economize, and that's why I'm only targeting those who are unionized. And if there are any zombie advocates out there, let me say that while it's true I'm preventing zombies from working in public schools, there may still be golden opportunities in charters.

After all, who the hell else really wants to teach in places like those?

Monday, June 27, 2016

God or Alcohol?

I was talking to some teachers the other day, and like many of us, they are freaked out of their minds. They say they got into this job because they'd expected a modicum of security, and they're just not feeling it these days. Everywhere you have to dodge falling pianos, and anyone who gets crushed by one is deemed ineffective. (In fairness, it's tough to be an effective teacher after a grand piano has fallen on  your head.)

But I digress. We started talking about the end-term party. I used to go every year, feeling some sort of sacred obligation as chapter leader. But, truth be told, I'm not a huge fan of blaring disco music, and I wasn't fond of being with a bunch of people I really couldn't talk to. I used to go there for a while and quietly slip out when I thought no one was looking. The next day, people would ask, "Hey, did you slip out of that party when you thought no one was looking?" My ninja moves are not as slick as I'd hoped.

But my friends were more excited about it than I was. They were gonna dance. I don't always feel like dancing, although maybe after a few drinks I could be persuaded. The thing is, I have to drive home from this place, and I won't have more than one drink if I'm driving. I spent my wayward youth playing music at bars, and I'm the only musician I know who hasn't been arrested for DUI. I'm trying to keep my record intact and, you know, not get killed or kill anyone while driving home.

But my friends had a plan. They had a designated driver. So it was OK. Then they talked about bringing a flask. I said there was an open bar, so why bother? They countered it was only beer and wine. One of them, evidently, had some sort of liquor that was almost pure alcohol, and no matter how much you drank you could not get a hangover. I was pretty impressed, but not overly tempted. I still would have to drive home, and I still would have to listen to disco music.

But I had to ask--why did they need to drink such intense stuff? Well, you know, the stress of the job. I asked if everyone in their department was an avid drinker. They said no, but that some had found religion. They lived it, breathed it, talked about it all the time. There was no getting away from it. There were two ways to deal with this job, and I needed to choose one right away.

Then we started talking about children. "For God's sake, you're not gonna let your kid be a teacher, are you?" The only reason they hadn't quit yet was because their AP wasn't crazy, but that could change at any minute, and then they'd be at the mercy of Charlotte Danielson and the deranged mind of some random administrator. It was too gruesome to even contemplate.

I'm always sad when people talk about this job as something our children should avoid. I'm very proud when my students tell me they want to do my job. One of my former beginning ESL students is a math teacher at my school, and I smile every time I see her. I'd hate to think we'd left her in a worse position than I was when we began. That's kind of on us, isn't it?

Anyway, according to my colleagues, there were only two ways to deal. You either embraced religion and trusted in divine providence, or embraced alcohol as a way to place it our of your mind. I'm gonna make it my mission in life to try to forge an alternate path.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Impress Your Friends with Pretentious Language!

Actually there are a whole lot of people who fit the description of ultracrepidarian. What DOE reps don't love explaining things they don't understand? In education, they flourish. It's almost a requirement for reformies, who traffic in untested, unproven, misleading, or utterly discredited ideas. As an added benefit, it has the rings of something ready to fall apart at any moment from either physical or moral decay, like Andrew Cuomo.

As my Facebook friend Christina Cortes pointed out, this is a perfect description of Bill Gates. Bill's latest adventure entailed telling underdeveloped countries to raise chickens. Evidently Bill thought they'd never heard of chickens until he informed them of their existence. Next he'll be regaling them with tales of how well they can eat if only they'll vacation at all-inclusive resorts.

Of course if you want to see ultracrepidarianism at work up close, all you need to do is check your rating form. It's a checklist, and when you get it you have to ask yourself this--does it reflect your teaching style or your supervisor's observation style? Is it based on classroom performance or the personal prejudices of your 28-year-old supervisor, his two years of non-Danielson teaching experience, and his mother's important DOE gig?

That, of course, may not be the case. While I'm really outraged by incompetent supervisors, I do know a whole lot of reasonable and thoughtful ones too. So let's say you have one and the first 60% was fine. You looked at the checkboxes and they said you Don't Suck. However, that's not the end of your rating. You have to wait until September, when the junk science portion kicks in. That, of course, is pretty much anybody's guess. Maybe you'll get lucky, and move from Doesn't Suck to Really Doesn't Suck, and thus be observed next year only three times instead of four. That's pretty life-changing, isn't it?

Mulgrew proudly told the DA that most ratings were brought up by the use of junk science. That's good, I suppose, unless you happen to be among those who were not. What if, for example, your MOSL score dragged you from Doesn't Suck all the way down to Really Sucks? Well, that would really suck. You might get visits next year from the UFT Rat Squad, and if they don't like what you see you may have to prove at 3020a that you Don't Suck.  If you can't, you could find yourself working around the block at Arby's, selling curly fries to your former students. I happen to know a very smart and capable young teacher whose rating went down to Really Sucks because she happened to be working at a school with low test scores. She did better this year, but that doesn't make up for the abuses of the idiotic system under which we work.

Perhaps you're asking yourself this--is Mulgrew, who loves this system more than sliced bread, an ultracrepidarian? As far as junk science, I'm gonna have to say no. To his credit, Mulgrew openly admits that he doesn't understand the junk science. He says he has people who do, but no matter what they're telling him, I doubt it. Diane Ravitch says she doesn't understand it. My principal is kind of a data guy--he explains it better than anyone I know, and deals with it pretty well. Despite that, I'm not persuaded anyone on God's green earth actually understands it. I'm not sure it's even meant to be understood.

But Bill Gates acts like he understands it. So does Andy Cuomo and the New York Post. They love them some value-added ratings. We live in a country where Donald Trump is a serious candidate for President and we rate our teachers via a methodology that has no more credibility than voodoo.

I'm not gonna pretend to understand that.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Where Are We Without Union?

Yesterday commenter Bronx ATR remarked on the weak UFT presence in some schools. The letter at left is a pretty good example of what happens when union isn't around. In this case, the administration demands that teachers work after school, on Saturdays, on breaks, and pretty much whenever the hell they are told.

I love the sentence beginning, "I will follow the contractual agreement between the NYC DOE and UFT but..."

I'm reminded of a Shakespeare teacher I had in college. To be honest, I can't remember anything he had to say about Shakespeare but one thing he said, a thing I share with my students, is once anyone says but, you may forget everything that preceded it. I tell my students when your girlfriend says she really loves you's time to look for a new girlfriend.

We will follow the contract but...means we will not follow the contract.  There is no me in team and there is no but in contract. If you wish to alter the contract, there is always the option of an SBO. Until then, there's Article 20, matters not covered, to wit, the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, specifically prohibiting involuntary servitude.

My UFT source tells me the District Rep. was able to dispense with this non-contractual letter fairly easily. I'd still worry, though, that letter or no letter, the administrators who run this place will bully their teachers all over the place. I've gotta seriously doubt there's much of a UFT presence in this school, or this letter would likely not exist. Just because the folks who wrote it agree they won't hold people to it doesn't mean the lowly teachers in their school aren't off on that weekend getaway to the Catskills to do test prep on an outdoor blackboard at the campsite, rain or shine. It doesn't mean they're gonna wake up tomorrow and say, "Hey, you know what? I can have a life!"

Someone has to stand up, ideally everyone. We are role models, and we aren't teaching children how to be chattel. If kids haven't got suitable role models at home, we're the next best thing they have. How do we model character if we're afraid to show it? If we're miserable, how do we model joy? If we hate our jobs, how do we get children to love their lives?

These are not questions that cross the minds of people who write letters like the one above. You may recognize one of the names of the noble, selfless, altruistic and dedicated administrators named in the letter from this piece. Hmmm. If that's true, he has spare time to pursue his interests.

Why shouldn't the teachers who work for him?

I hope the UFT District Rep. read these folks the riot act, and I hope there will be follow up. After all you know what they say. An unprincipled self-serving administrator doesn't change its stripes. OK, they don't say that. But I'm saying it now.

Do you think things will change much at this school? What do you think it will take for small schools to develop union presence? If Fariña merges schools will that help? And how many administrators are simply doing this stuff without writing about it?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Comment from Facebook: No mitigating circumstances. Goodness. That covers everything from accidents with a chainsaw to tornadoes, alien invasions and leprosy. Not to mention every day things like, "My water just broke," "My father died," and "I'm waiting for the firefighter with the jaws of life."~Michael Lambert

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Yes, Virginia, APs Can Face Consequences

A big frustration of being chapter leader is to see callous and cruel people working as administrative leaders. Often they get away with murder. I can't say literally, because I haven't got sufficient knowledge to affirm that, but it wouldn't surprise me. Sometimes, though, principals say they've had enough and seem to do things about it.

Early on I worked with an AP who had an odd management style. He would call me into his office and show me people's files. He would tell me they did this, that, and the other thing and try to elicit my sympathy. It was pretty odd, because my job was representing these people, I knew it, and I wasn't going to stop doing it just because of something I saw in a file.

I would get called into his office, he would close the door, and we would get into these circular discussions. He had a very hard time dealing with my repeated failures to accept his point of view. He would refer to me as administration, which was bizarre. I can only suppose by doing that he thought I'd be flattered and go along with whatever nonsense he saw fit to enact. Our meetings would often end with him screaming about something or other. I would excuse myself and walk away.

On one day, he decided that teachers in my school ought to start clocking in. I told him that was unacceptable, as I actually recalled when we stopped doing so, and knew that it wasn't simply because every administrator decided to be kind and forgo the whole clock thing. I called my DR, who found me a copy of the regulation, from sometime in the 80s, that declared schools would set a policy to preclude teachers having to clock in. It said that schools would negotiate a policy.

The AP got an idea. He asked me how I knew we didn't already have a check in policy. I told him if we did that he should show it to me. He handed me a copy of some school rule book. I asked him if it was in there and he said those were all the rules. I didn't find anything relevant, and told him it was on him to find the rule if there was one. He told me it was on me to prove there wasn't one. We went on and on.

After a number of these sessions they became boring to me.  I had better uses of my time than arguing about things we would never resolve and started avoiding him. But when I was directly called into his office I went. Once he asked for an expedited posting for something or other. I gave it to a staff member who was a little upset with him, told her to look ever so carefully at the posting, and told her not to bother getting back to me until she was sure it was absolutely perfect. The AP haunted me, coming into my classroom to ask about it. But my agent wasn't finished checking, and you know, you just can't be too careful these days.

He called me in a second time to resolve the issue of teachers checking in, which was very important to him. Why I have no idea. This discussion became pretty lively and ended with him shouting, loudly enough that people could hear him behind the closed door, "I can do anything I want!"

At my request, we met with the principal. The principal informed him that he could not, in fact, do anything he wanted. There was a contract, there were regulations, and there were laws, and we were all bound by them. I was a new chapter leader and was not expecting a whole lot. I was pretty happy the principal acknowledged the obvious.

Eventually this AP was let go. I was amazed. I thought supervisors from hell just stuck around forever. But this one was sent to another school as, oh my gosh, a teacher! Oh, the ignominy. Oh the injustice of it all! To be reduced to such a lowly status, after having had it all, and after having bought all those suits to look important while having it all. (Full disclosure--I wear suits too, and as a result had to listen in great detail while this AP described his suit size and purchasing process.)

Nonetheless, he bounced back at least twice from what I can deduce. I am amazed at the number of administrators who are able to rise via force of naked ambition. Though they may lack leadership, compassion, common sense, and whatever, they simply crawl above enough people and there they are, making an extra 20K a year or whatever it is, and playing God with that Danielson rubric.

There is that C30 thing, where a panel of teachers, parents and students sit and ask tightly regulated questions, but in the end principals do whatever the hell they want. And if they want someone who will just walk over everyone and anyone, then that's who they get.

I actually do know some teachers who used to be APs, but none of them seem crazy to me. It's hard for me to imagine any of them being that unreasonable, and a few have even told me stories that made them (and me) not want to be an AP. In fairness, that's not a tough argument to sell me, because I've never wanted to be AP in the first place.

I guess if the only important thing in your life is rising up and advancing, you do it one way or another. But people who are about that and nothing else make awful leaders, and they are a big problem for those of us who have to deal with them day to day. They're an even bigger problem, long-term, for those of us who actually care about education and working people. And make no mistake, most, if not all of our students are gonna become working people very soon. They've got enough to deal with without warmed-over Dilbert characters as bosses.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Mr. Mulgrew Writes Me a Letter About Certification

Because I'm a very important guy, Michael Mulgrew, UFT president, wrote me a letter. OK, actually he sent me the same email he sent tens of thousands of other UFT members. But that's not the point. What's the point? Well, the point is more what he didn't say than what he did.

When my students show unwillingness to get up and ask questions, or move into groups, I tell them that I'm an old man with one foot in the grave, and if I can do it, they can too. So maybe that explains why I'm in the situation I'm in.

What exactly is that situation?  I hold permanent certification, and in three areas. I used to use only one, but now that Part 154 demands dual-certified teachers, I use two. Anyway, in August I'm gonna be even older than I am now, and that means I'm gonna have to register. After all, how will NY State know that I exist unless I let them know? There are excellent reasons for this. For example, if a piano were to fall on my head this afternoon, they'd need to make sure I didn't come back as a brain-eating zombie and endanger those with whom I teach and work. But do I have to register three times? President Mulgrew didn't tell me, and no matter how important I deem myself, he can't be bothered answering my email.

Now if I were a more recent teacher, I'd also need to register. But those with more recent licenses also have to count PD hours. What we still don't know is what PD hours actually are. I mean, it's great that we can start the count from zero and not worry about the last few years. Nonetheless, we have no idea what will be counted as PD in the future. Will the school PD, the ones so adored by Carmen Fariña, the ones memorialized into the Memorandum of Agreement, count toward the 20 hours? Will some of them? Will newer teachers have to take online courses? Go to approved PDs? Write a paper on the History of Cement? Who knows?

And while we're at it, how the hell are we going to be evaluated next year? Chalkbeat NY reported that we need not even come to an agreement until December 31st. This is really troublesome. For example, who, if anyone, is going to observe classes? Will it be our supervisors? Outside observers? Will Andrew Cuomo observe the classes himself to ensure they aren't "baloney?" What if Preet gets his ducks in a row and puts Governor Andy in a cell with his pals Dean and Shelley? Will they observe us via remote? Who knows?

It's nice that Mr. Mulgrew takes his valuable time and writes us a letter. I know he's got many other important things to do. But the letter answers one question while leaving many unanswered. A defect I see all too often in UFT leadership is a fervent unwillingness to say, "I don't know." But that's actually the best answer you can give when you don't know. A lot of people have issues admitting that. Maybe it's worse with teachers, as we're expected to know everything.

But I get questions about this stuff every day. I do indeed say, "I don't know." It must be a great burden to have to pretend to know everything all the time. I'm really glad not to have that problem.

Actually, I'm a lot more impressed with people who tell me when they don't know something. While Mulgrew has simply avoided the topic, I've been at meetings with UFT employees where they seem to make stuff up. It's very inconvenient. My default mode is to trust people until they give me reason not to. Maybe I'm naive.

But once I get burned by someone, I don't make the same mistake twice. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


How does a teacher get a name like that? It doesn't really make sense on the surface. After all, who wants to have a name that's all caps? And why would anyone want to be confused with what's generally acknowledged to be a fixture at the outlet mall where you buy cotton clothes manufactured in foreign countries?

But we can't always control what people call us, and stranger things have happened. Anyone who's taught in New York City schools can attest to that. 

One day I was sitting in my department office watching a high school student mark papers. This was pretty odd. I mean, I had seen students help teachers do things, but I'd never seen a student actually correcting essays before. So I asked why he was doing that.

"I'm helping Mr. X., he said. "Mr X. gives me a stack of papers once a week and I grade them." I couldn't believe it.

"What are these papers for?" I asked.

"They're from his college class," the kid told me. As it happened, I was teaching college too, graded my own papers, and could barely imagine allowing anyone, high school student or not, to grade my class's papers. I would never, ever let a high school student grade my papers. What would I say if a student asked me about a paper? That I had to consult with my high school student for an answer?

So it was like that--college students were paying to take Mr. X's college class, and Mr. X. was giving their papers to high school students to grade. Clearly Mr. X. had more important things to do with his time. And after all, why would he waste his very valuable time doing stuff when he wasn't being paid? Especially when he had such a large free labor pool?

One of my colleagues found a girl in his class grading a bunch of papers too. He was pretty surprised to find she was doing this for Mr. X. He asked her if she was being paid to do this. She was not. He made her turn the papers over to him.

My colleague went to Mr. X. and read him the riot act. How dare he ask students to grade his papers, and where does he find the audacity to allow them to do it in his class? His class was for studying his subject, not for forcing kids to do his work, and for free no less? Who does he think he is, the GAP, forcing young people to work for little or nothing and taking all the profits for himself?

And thus Mr. X. became known as GAP. This name followed him, though, for only a short time. Within the next year GAP became an assistant principal. I understand the first school in which he worked closed, but guys like GAP always land on their feet.

Today he's walking around with an iPad judging teachers by the Danielson Rubric. And God help the teacher who does what GAP did when he himself was teaching, because that's absolutely unacceptable. GAP has high standards for everyone.

Except himself, of course.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Mayoral Control, but What About Evaluation?

Every year is a carnival. What new and more convoluted ways will the government find to catch us in the act of doing our jobs and fire us? Will it be another rubric for supervisors to follow, or the same one? Will it be the same parts of the rubric? Are we assumed to be so stupid that we believe every supervisor follows the same rubric in the same way?

Are we gonna get surprise visits from people who don't know us, don't know our students, and don't know anything about our schools so as to make things fair, as defined by NY Governor Andrew Cuomo? Will he then look at said program, declare it "baloney," and set about constructing a new one that will fire more teachers? No one really knows.

Because Albany deems Bill de Blasio to be a hippie commie weirdo, perhaps due to his opposition to charter schools, he's only gotten a one-year extension of mayoral control. This places him in the position of having to renegotiate it next year as he runs for re-election. That will be convenient for whichever pawn Eva Moskowitz selects to run against him. After all, if there were a mayor who'd rubber stamp whatever she wanted, like Mike Bloomberg did, Albany would have no issue granting a multi-year extension. (And if he'd pull a million dollars in loose change our of his pocket to keep the Senate's GOP majority, like Bloomberg did, that wouldn't hurt either.)

It looks like there are some goodies in there for those with the corporate driven agenda UFT Unity criticizes MORE for fighting.

The deal also will allow charter schools to more easily switch between authorizers. That could mean the city’s education department, which oversees a number of charter schools but no longer accepts oversight of new schools, could see some of those schools depart for the State University of New York or the state’s education department.

After all, charters need more freedom to do whatever the hell they see fit, and be authorized by whoever the hell they see fit, in case more restrictive authorizers say, hey, you can't do whatever the hell you see fit. Because whatever Eva wants, Eva gets. After all, charters don't need no stinking rules, and the Times offers this:

Charter schools can be authorized by three agencies — the State Education Department, the city’s Education Department and SUNY — but all operate according to the same state law. Although the announcement of the agreement did not offer details, the Senate’s proposal would exempt SUNY schools from the usual state standards and free to set their own rules, two officials with direct knowledge of the negotiations said.
But here's where, as a public school teacher subject to all those rating regulations charters can't be bothered with, I really wonder what the hell is going on here:

Lawmakers also agreed to give districts until the end of the year to negotiate the details of new evaluation systems for teachers and principals. according to Assembly spokesman Michael Whyland. Districts, including New York City, have been facing a Sept. 1 deadline to develop systems that complied with an unpopular 2015 law.

So let's see-- we have until the end of December to negotiate a new evaluation system. Therefore, we could conceivably start with one system in September only to find it completely revamped in January. We could, for example, then train teachers in January to prepare them for what was expected of them in September. That makes sense, doesn't it?

Well, it seems to have passed muster with the Heavy Hearts Assembly that passed the draconian evaluation law demanded by Andrew Cuomo. Of course that law was passed before Tough Andy became the Softer, Gentler Andy, worn down by the opt-out movement so reviled by UFT Unity. This notwithstanding, UFT Unity had no problem taking credit for the superficial changes in tone, and has no problem treating a partial moratorium on Common Core tests and Yet Another Great Victory.

And where does that leave those of us who actually have to go to work every day in New York City's public schools? I'd say pretty much rudderless and confused. After all, UFT Unity is led by Michael Mulgrew, who boasted of helping write the APPR law that brought junk science to teacher ratings. Mulgrew just boasted at the DA that junk science would count even more in our ratings.

Now Mulgrew may say that the junk science ratings help teachers more than they hurt them, and for all I know, he may be right. After all, some people are luckier than others. But I happen to know a very smart teacher who got an ineffective rating solely because of her MOSL scores. I have to think if I know one, there must be many more. But regardless of this, one is too many.

If the judgment of principals and assistant principals is so bad that the quality of their ratings is improved by a virtual coin toss the issue is not how much authority they do or do not have. The issue is not the optimal percentage of junk science we blend in to ameliorate that. The issue is the competence, or lack thereof, of those in positions to supervise us.

Until and unless the United Federation of Teachers faces up to that, there will be no system worth looking at. I've said it before and I'll say it again--the optimal percentage of junk science in a teacher evaluation is zero. If anyone wants to dispute that, I'm all ears.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Saturday, June 18, 2016

UFT Unity and Corporate Values

Leonie Haimson is one of the smartest people I know, and I did myself a disservice by failing to pay close enough attention to her comment:

How dare MORE fight for professional autonomy and against a corporate driven agenda! Who do you think you are?

I'd been looking at the relative truthiness of the ridiculous Unity leaflet and didn't immediately recognize the precise words Leonie was referencing:

MORE urged students to opt out of the state tests as a means of protecting the professional autonomy of educators and fighting against a corporate driven education system. 

Now think about that. That is meant as a criticism. Sure, it leads to their nonsensical and misleading assertions about a reward program. But take it on its face, and think about what it implies--precisely what Leonie said it did. Why on earth would any reasonably informed teacher not wish to fight a corporate driven education system? Anyone who's read Diane Ravitch's books knows how destructive and counter-productive such a system is. 

So you have to ask yourself--has UFT Unity leadership bothered to read Ravitch? If so, why would they criticize us? Actually there's a whole lot of evidence that UFT Unity actively supports a corporate driven education system. Do you remember when Mulgrew told the DA that it was necessary for us to participate in the Gates MET system, the one that judged "good" teaching by test scores? 

Does anyone remember the Bill Gates sponsored MET program being a precursor to Race to the Top, which mandated junk science ratings for teachers? Do we remember Michael Mulgrew going to Albany, then coming back and boasting of having helped write the APPR law that made junk science part of our ratings? Do we remember his telling the DA last Wednesday that the "matrix" would take authority away from principals? Doesn't that just mean the junk science is a higher percentage of our rating? Why not just make teacher ratings 100% based on crapshoots? After all, recent research suggests that VAM is never accurate, reliable or valid. So, while it's fairly amazing to see the President of the United Federation of Teachers boasting that we're increasing its value, it certainly helps explain UFT Unity's disgust with those of us who fight against a corporate driven education system. 

Ravitch suggests in Death and Life of the Great American School System that mayoral control is a corporate tool to bypass and subvert democracy. Yet UFT leadership has endorsed it twice, and under uber-reformy Michael Bloomberg to boot. The second time, after it had proven virtually toxic to working teachers and community schools, UFT leadership demanded a few changes, failed to get them, and went ahead and supported it anyway. Now Mulgrew says he supports it, but not as is. Nonetheless mayoral control bypasses community. Those of us who oppose a corporate driven education system oppose it completely. 

The icing on the top of the cake, of course, was when AFT invited Bill Gates to be the keynote at its convention. I've given a lot of thought to what Gates represents, and it certainly isn't working public school teachers or the kids we serve. In fact, shortly after visiting AFT, Gates criticized teacher pensions, calling them a free lunch. I don't know about you, but I've been working for 32 years, and I've earned each and every penny of that pension. Now, with our legislature working on ways to take it away, I'm not seeing the wisdom of cozying up to those who hate us and everything we stand for. Every time we give them something, they want more. We support Gates and he comes for our pensions. We support charters and they come for our tenure. Appeasement didn't work for Chamberlain then and doesn't work for Mulgrew now. 

As for professional autonomy, that's tough to achieve when you're judged by a checklist. Naturally that checklist is endorsed by UFT Unity, because they love them some Danielson. And yet Danielson herself is backing away on it. UFT Unity, whose leaders have never been judged by Danielson, can happily pretend that a rubric makes everything fair, or that all administrators make low inference notes rather than obeying the voices in their heads. But those of us on the ground know better.

Interestingly, when my friend Julie Cavanagh opposed the 2014 contract, UFT Unity's Leo Casey accused her of being against teacher empowerment. This was because the contract contained the PROSE initiative, so Leo made a handy strawman which ignored Julie's real objections and substituted words she'd never uttered. You know, Julie couldn't possibly be talking about the fact that the contract enabled two-tier due process, got us paid a decade after everyone else, or dumped the worst pattern I've ever seen on our brother and sister unionists (considerably worse than those for which we'd criticized DC37 in the past). No, she must have been criticizing PROSE, which was absolutely perfect even though it had never been tested, let alone utilized.

UFT Unity needs to fight dirty because it has no argument. I guess when everyone around you has signed a loyalty oath, you don't expect to ever need one. The only thing UFT Unity knows is that everything it does is right. When Bloomberg wants to use eight components of Danielson, it's an outrage. Unity fights for 22, which is ideal. When Unity pares it down to seven, it's a great victory. No more 22, which is awful. When we get artifacts added, it's a great victory. When we get them removed, it's also a great victory. And what they complain about is pretty much the only thing that's drawn Cuomo, at least ostensibly, out of his relentless assault on teachers.

Unity's arguments stem not from reason or practice, but rather from the outlandish assumption that everything it does is right. Therefore everything its opponents do must be wrong. The relative value or lack thereof of Unity positions means nothing. Their arguments come from backing themselves up no matter what, rather than from any basic value or standard. Otherwise they wouldn't be able to swap out positions as often as you or I change our socks. 

Now they've taken a stand against basic values set out by visionary education expert Diane Ravitch. I don't know about you, but I'm proud to stand with Ravitch, with activist parents, and with communities. Unity can continue to alienate all of us and paint itself into corners by making outlandish assertions simply to insult the most vibrant and thoughtful activist group in the UFT. 

But MORE/ New Action is just getting started. We will continue to speak the truth and Unity can squirm and spout its convoluted logic all it likes.

Or they can simply join us to improve our working conditions, which are precisely student learning conditions. Because whatever they choose, we aren't backing down and we aren't going away.   

Friday, June 17, 2016

Opt-out Answers UFT Unity

UFT Unity really managed to put its foot in its mouth with its Delegate Assembly handout. I kind of suspected some opt-out activists would not care for that particular message, laughable and poorly thought out though it  was. Here's one commenter, for example, who found little to love about it:

Oh Michael, Michael, Michael. Now you went and did it. You stayed in the closet for four long years, pretending that you were respectful of the work of 250,000 parents and educators to save your profession and protect public schools. Out of fear of your regime beginning to crumble, you have decided to come out and proclaim in all your glory that you despise the opt out movement and all it represents. Let me be the first to let out a sigh of relief that the pretense is over. Now you can come at us with fists flying in typical Mulgrew fashion. Thank you for being you.

~Jeanette Brunelle Deutermann, Opt-out parent activist 

Others are struck by the idiosyncracies in UFT Unity behavior:

What's actually funny is, the UFT UNITY delegates voted unanimously at last year's RA to support opt out. Leroy made a big production of going to the microphone with Beth Dimino. Wait, I'm sorry, it's not funny, it's sad.

~Michael Lillis, President, Lakeland Federation of Teachers

Evidently they were for it before they were against it. But not everyone is familiar with the Unity philosophy that everything they do is right, and it makes no difference whatsoever if what they say today contradicts what they did yesterday. Thus, whatever they do is right. Of course it sounds odd, but there are precedents for that sort of thinking.

Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal

~Richard Nixon

Alas, not everyone can accept the premise that just because Mulgrew, another President, says it's so, that it is. That notion has not gained wide acceptance outside the Unity bubble.   

Also, the logic of "we have to test 95% or more of our students to get grant money" is the same logic that led to "we have to adopt Common Core so we get Race to the Top money." Just administering all these tests every year costs far more than the grant money this flyer points to as the reward for testing our students

~Eric Severson, UFT Chapter Leader, Clara Barton High School

The grant money, of course, is up to $75,000 for 6% of applicants, who may or may not get the 75K, or way less, since we haven't got an "as little as" figure just yet. Of course others are outraged There is an opt-out movement out there, and they're tired of being talked down to. If they wanted that, they could go to John King, Andy Cuomo or Bill Gates rather than the people whose jobs, ostensibly, entail representing them. 

Now this is how Unity hopes people will react:. 

How dare MORE fight for professional autonomy and against a corporate driven agenda! Who do you think you are?

~Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters

OK, well not really. That's what's known as "irony." While Unity deems themselves clever to call us "feckless and reckless," and make puns about MORE, other people are actually thinking about this stuff. Unfortunately for UFT Unity, none of them have signed that loyalty oath. The thing about Unity folk is they hang around people who've signed oaths all the time and aren't very well-equipped to deal with those who have not. And some who haven't signed the oath get right to the point:

Unity leaders aren't used to having to listen to people like that. Maybe we need to forgive them. They know not what they do. Sadly, it's kind of their job to know what they do, and that places the UFT in a precarious situation. It's my inclination to work with them rather than against them. But I won't be silent when attacked. Neither I nor MORE/ New Action nor opt-out is stupid enough to accept strawman arguments and ad hominem nonsense. 

This propaganda piece by the UFT's re-elected Unity leadership is really a disgrace and seeks to undermine the teachers who have stood by NYC parents to support our choice to refuse to have our children be subjected to these inferior test and punish policies. This needs to be called out as the smear campaign that does not respect the decision those 240,000 children's parents across the state made on their child's behalf. So is Mulgrew saying we parents are reckless and feckless too?? Please share widely and support MORE Caucus teachers. The election may be over, but the movement is not!

~Janine Sopp, NYC Opt-out parent activist

UFT Unity now has a choice. They can climb down from that high horse and work with us to help students, teachers and communities. Or they can tell the idiots who write for them to get to work developing more pompous, disingenuous, logic-free nonsense. 

I hope they at least give it a little thought.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

UFT Unity Fears Us

I knew it the moment I laid eyes on the dubious document at left. Right after the election, right after we win the seats we aimed and fought for, the first thing they do is attack us. They wouldn't do that if they were feeling secure. I'm glad they're on edge because we aim to do the very thing they fear most--introduce democracy right into the heart of the United Federation of Teachers, which Unity deems its personal property.

Let's just look at the surface first. They are, in fact, attacking MORE as though we invented opt-out, and as though we are the sole participants. Can you imagine how much power they've attributed to us right there? Of course they ignore people like Leonie Haimson, Carol Burris, Jeanette Deutermann, Diane Ravitch and Beth Dimino, among many others. But make no mistake, these women stand every inch with opt-out. This attack falls not only on us, but on them as well.

Let's look a little bit closer. They say these "reward schools" will now lose as much as $75,000 in reward money. Whenever I see "as much as" I'm always skeptical. There's certainly something unsaid. And brilliant blogger Jersey Jazzman has already considered that, along with much more.

That leaves them with a six percent shot at being eligible for "as much as" $75,000. And if you're thinking, which I can only assume the target audience of Unity faithful is not, you know that when someone uses a phrase like "as much as," you must always question what, exactly "as little as" is, because it could be zero, for all we know.  And in case it isn't wholly apparent, being "eligible" for something, well, that doesn't mean you get it either. How do you become part of this lucky 6% that may or may not get you as much as $75,000? According to Jazzman, and please read his full column:

Want to become a "Reward" school in New York State, and avoid getting designated as "Focus" or "Priority"? First thing you need to do is make sure you keep your Limited English Proficiency (LEP) rate low; no foreign language students for you. Next, make sure you have small proportions of students of color, either black or Hispanic. Then stock up on Asian and white kids.

Hey, that sounds great, doesn't it? How bad do you feel now about disqualifying 6% of these schools for being eligible for grants ranging from zero to $75K?

Let's turn the focus away from Unity's ridiculous argument and take a look at what making it says about them. First, it says that this was the best argument they could muster. Given that, do you have to wonder why we're getting paid ten years after FDNY, NYPD and most city unions? Do you have to wonder why we get no interest on tens of thousands of dollars per teacher? Do you have to wonder why we have two-tier due process and why we're judged by junk science? Do you have to wonder why we inflicted the lowest pattern in my living memory on our brother and sister unionists, or why our health care benefits have been degraded, and are likely to be further degraded?

I don't think you have to wonder very much. The fact is UFT Unity enabled all of these things. Every single one, and all by themselves. They've boasted of it. I don't need to put on a Sherlock Holmes hat and go wandering the street with a magnifying glass to find arguments about UFT Unity's actions.

Not only that, but the people who work for them are incapable of producing a coherent or defensible argument. And those are the very same people negotiating our contracts. Someone is certainly unfit to lead.

But it ain't us.

The fact that they need to scrape the bottom of the barrel to concoct such a stupid and baseless talking point indicates not only that they haven't got a viable argument, but also that they are absolutely 100% freaked out of their minds. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

UFT Delegate Assembly June 2016

Mulgrew asks moment of silence for Orlando victims.

Mulgrew talks of pride parade. Says UFT offered a cocktail reception to open pride week, and that now it takes on a different significance. Invites us all to a reception and discussion as to where we can go to get things right.


Mulgrew announces Trump slump in polls, gets applause. Says Hillary is nominee, also gets applause. Says they needed NY and we delivered.

CA has runoff system rather than simple election system, and every reformy candidate won all of these races. All union-backed candidates lost. Says this is why we need to stay politically strong. Says when a bunch of outsiders can buy local races, this is unacceptable.

Mulgrew says NYC is in good shape but we have issues. Says state did not attack education, but we all have a problem. Says NY cannot stand alone. Says AFT barely fought off characterizing Detroit, and that will be repeated as possible. Says we don’t have that danger because of the work of our local.

We need to be concerned with legislative races.

Says it’s nice we all get together and have a good time at the AFT convention.

Mulgrew talks of malls and how he does not care for them. Compares Staten Island Mall to Minneapolis mall.

Says it’s important we tell our colleagues what we do here. (I listen to Mulgrew talk about malls.)

Mulgrew stresses local politics.


Says last 24 hours in Albany have been ugly. Mulgrew says we support mayoral control but not in its current version. Says current MC bills have a lot of goodies for charters but Assembly won’t accept it. Says they are trying to tie other things to it. Says there was a bill prohibiting union from being politically active.

Says we are always outspent 8 or 10 to 1. Says there is bill about pension forfeiture. Any public employee guilty of felony will forfeit pension. Legislature would have legal right to diminish future benefits without constitutional convention. Says we are running digital campaign. We are talking to people.

Says pension forfeiture is tied into ethics reform. Both houses have decided forfeiture should apply to all public employees. Says they are playing games instead of doing business and going home. He says they justify it by saying that’s the way government is done.

Says if you’re an activist and getting emails just keep doing it.


Regents met. There is now a new path for students with IEPs to get diplomas. It is in effect for this school year. Child must at least receive 55 in ELA and math, and had to sit for other required Regents exams. If teacher, principal and superintendent agree on progress, child will get a local diploma.

Regents has now passed a waiver program for independent observers. 82,000 teachers would have to be observed under this. Says UFT and NYSUT advocated for this. Says a school district, due to its size, may modify or eliminate this clause, but must have observer for ineffective-rated teachers.


City budget—$120-150 for teachers’ choice. Specialized high schools will get diversity boost.

Mulgrew asks how people feel about principals. Delegates whisper they need to be observed, some tell Mulgrew they are evil. Says it’s better than Bloomberg, but there was an expectation. We expected more respectful and collaborative approach. Says we have more collaborative schools but all schools must be there. Says it’s nice that mayor thanks teachers, but he wants support for our work.

Says we’ve moved further and faster than every school district in the state, but we want every school, every sight to be managed properly, respectful, and funded. Says UFT does all lobbying for school funding. Says there is a 570 million increase due to our work. Says when principal says he has no money you should say he’s full of crap. There is more money per child.

Why are there schools people continually leave? Says chancellor said she wanted to look at churn rate, but now she doesn’t, says superintendents minimize it, just like how Bloomberg said class size didn’t matter.

Says we are not Success Academy where people are beat up, where people leave if they don’t get the grades.

Says when principal and staff work together in respectful manner things improve. Says teachers can do instruction, PD, and observations. Says Advance is as bad as SESIS.

Says there will be an email, and it will have school churn rate on it. Will ask if it’s gotten better or worse and why. Will be followed by email from Mulgrew for top 200 schools, and will cause talk with superintendents and legal, and UFT might start publishing data. UFT wants all schools to be well-managed, for teachers to be supported and respected, and correct funding for all.

Asks if it’s OK that we start now, that we talk about it in our schools. Asks we say Mulgrew said we need this info and that we have a good old time with it.

Says we got more than 10K more additional votes in UFT election.

Asks who is at final DA. We applaud their service.

Makes joke about Roberts Rules and why can’t people just yell out, says we have stronger chapters.

Says let’s not forget Friedrichs is gone, but that people looked at activists as an insurance policy. They are glad we are here.

Says our new teacher program was most successful we ever had. Says all supplies they got were from UFT.

Says this has been one of our better years in a long time. Says when we come back it’s Hillary time, Hillary time, Hillary time.

Says we help so many people that no one will ever know about. Says he can’t thank us enough for all the work we do on behalf of UFT. Says next year we work together, we will keep doing our work in Albany, and this local and only this local is the beacon of what leadership should be.

Leroy Barr

Says it’s re-org time. Says if you have a question you have two days from date of notice to file grievance. Speaks of Puerto Rican Day parade, says there was great turnout for UFT. Says pride reception will be tomorrow at 50 Broadway on first floor. Says you must RSVP if you want to go. 4:30-6:30. Says we will also be in pride parade Sunday.

Albert Shanker scholarship—met with recipients. Was great event.

Wishes us happy father’s day and great summer.

Mulgrew says everyone in Albany is mad because we’re beating up everyone.


Delegate—Lisa North—July 8-9 there is SOS demonstration. Is there UFT bus?

Leroy Barr—There will be a bus. Contact Yelena S. or Brooklyn UFT. We will go and return same day.

Q—Are we involved in any legislation about sexual abuse?

We are supporting and lobbying for that. Newspapers may have said otherwise. They have really twisted minds working for some of these papers.

Q—certification—PD—will school PD hours count? Do you have to sign up on birthday?

If your birthday is by a certain point you have to sign up. We are still working with SED on what will be counted. We want PD time to be counted.

Says it will be the month of your birth. You will have the entire month to register. Doesn’t have to be on your birthday. For permanently certified, you will get an email with step by step instructions. Day of registration you are starting new and have five years to collect 100 hours.

Q—Pension forfeiture bill—I thought pension adjustments had to happen through Constitutional Convention.

Says this will be a big political campaign. Says we would challenge it in court. Says one removes police fire and teachers, but legislature can add them as they wish.

Para delegate—asks about new line for paras. Says her principal wants to know who pays the 5K. Paras want to know part about student teaching. Does it only apply to members of this program, or all paras?

Amy Arundell—Principals were notified today with detail. All paras are able to apply for student teaching leave.

Mulgrew—over two thirds of incoming paras have bachelor degrees. Says we only pay for a small number of undergrad credits, but we will not pay for up to 12 grad credits in CUNY. Right now paras have to take a leave to student teach. Says we have 100 slots a year for paras to be paid while they student teach.


Rona Freiser—add resolution in solidarity with Orlando. passed.


All further evaluation will contain a minimum of four distinct components, and no single component shall be more than 35%. This is because a principal had three African-American teachers rated, planned to rate them poorly in advance. Says 60% is too much. Says we’re assuming everyone is decent and he hasn’t experienced that.

Emil P. speaks against. Says he understands what it’s about, but doesn’t know what parts are and that this must be looked at and negotiated.  Motion fails.

Mulgrew says we will have a new eval. system and we want to take percentages out. Says moratorium leaves some people at 100% principal rating. Says matrix takes a lot of authority away from principals and we will never lobby to change that.


Emma Mendez—guidance exec board—As GC for 12 years, important resource was time to build relationships. Says problem is meeting social and emotional needs. Concern is with counselors and social workers in ATR pool can’t meet needs or build relationships in one month. Wants to alter system so counselors and social workers can be longer time in schools.
Vanessa Presley speaks in support.

Jonathan Halabi rises in support. Says there are groups of members in difficult circumstances. Says members get left sitting idle and dignity is attacked.

Barbara Arth, ATR social worker speaks against.  Says time is great, but human resources places without rhyme or reason. Says she is sitting in teacher room and not interacting with students. Says someone must be in charge of HR and can’t be random process.

Resolution passes.

Rona Freiser motivates Orlando solidarity resolution.

Amendment—Wants to add line—about fighting homophobia and attacks on LGBTQI community.

Anthony Harmon—While he agrees with content stands in opposition, says this resolution speaks specifically to Orlando. Says they are having an event tomorrow and that this could come to a new committee.

Delegate—speaks against—says amendment deserves resolution of its own.

Delegate defends amendment as directly related to resolution.

Comment—we need to vote on this now.

Patty Crispino—says she agrees these are separate issues. Says it shouldn’t just be about pride month, that she’s gay all the months. Says it’s terrible it takes a tragedy to wake people up. Says she doesn’t want to be rushed. Says what happened in Orlando could happen here and now. Says she supports resolution as is.

CL calls question.

Amendment fails.

Resolution passes.

Mulgrew invites AFT delegates to meeting.

No Such Thing as Language, Says NY State

Under Part 154, a whole lot of alleged English instruction is moving into subject areas. You see, the geniuses in Albany have decided that, in the time it takes an American kid to read To Kill a Mockingbird, English Language Learners will not only read the book, but also learn English. You see the beauty of that?

And the best part is you can do this whole thing with only one teacher. It's a little known fact that once any teacher takes 12 magical cut-rate credits from the UFT or NYSUT, that teacher becomes an expert in teaching English as a Second Language. In fact, that teacher is so expert that he or she can impart not only the subject matter, but also all the English required to cover it. In fact, once you take those 12 credits, you can magically make ELLs understand the American culture required to appreciate To Kill a Mockingbird, or whatever aspect of whatever subject being covered at that particular moment.

In my school, we're pairing ESL with English, so for all I know, some poor kid could be reading Mockingbird with a bunch of American kids and held to the same expectations. After all, since New York State has now declared that kids will acquire English via magic, this should pose no problem whatsoever.

I'm a little puzzled by this whole thing, though, because I watched Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa explain how important the acquisition of English is, and ridicule those who didn't understand it. Rosa said that those who don't think language acquisition is important ought to go to Japan and try taking tests to see how that worked out for them. Yet when questioned about Part 154, which actively hurts ELLs, all she said was that it was written with good intentions. For me, good intentions hardly justify anything whatsoever.

One of my young colleagues had a bit of luck, in that she'd taken a bunch of English courses as an undergrad. She decided she would take an English license, as she needed only 9 credits to attain one. I happen to have one, and I know it takes not 12, but rather 36 credits. Evidently English is not quite as magical as ESL.

In any case, my colleague had to take a test to get her English certification. The new thing, evidently, is to do this on a computer. She showed up and the computer advised her she had 90 questions to answer. She answered one and the display said 89. She continued, and very thoroughly answered each and every question. By the time it said 1 question remaining she was very proud. She had calmly gotten through each and every question, and she was pretty sure she'd done well.

But then after the last question, an essay question popped up. She was a little surprised. She began to answer the question, but soon thereafter the computer turned off. Her time was up. Whether or not she passes this time, I'm sure she'll manage next time.

But not every ESL teacher is dually certified, or close to it. As courses gravitate toward English teachers who have those magical 12 credits they'll be left by the wayside. That's because the Regents and various other Albany geniuses have determined that we don't actually teach a subject. Evidently a language, in NY State, is not a subject.

By that logic, of course, American-born students should be studying American history in Spanish, Chinese, or Greek. If ELLs don't need language instruction, no one does. It's meaningless. We can just take 12 credits, flip a switch, and everybody can understand anything. Why not teach the American kids To Kill a Mockingbird in Klingon? After all, what's in a word?

Go ahead, NY State. Conduct the next Regents meeting in Japanese. If my kids can do it, why the hell can't you?



Of course a rose by any other name would smell as sweet!

Full disclosure--the Chinese is from Google translate. I took a master's rather than the magical 12, and am thus unable to break the language barrier. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


For me, proctoring is the very least rewarding task I perform. I used to feel that way about lunch duty, which some people thought was a great way to know the students. But when you work in a school of over 4,000 and they're running in and out of this huge room, the chances of sitting down with one or more of your students is close to nil. In fact, if you're doing cafe duty, chances are you're dealing with, oh, the boys who come in with girls' programs and don't expect you to notice, or the kids trying to slip through who are cutting math, or the food fight, or whatever else on today's menu.

Proctoring is another thing altogether. There you are with an entire class, and it's likely you know precisely none of them. They ask you questions about physics, or calculus, or Chinese or whatever, and you get on the school phone and try to find someone to answer. Of course, the school phone probably doesn't work. If someone's calling you, it doesn't ring. If you're calling someone else, their phone doesn't ring. Because that's how we roll with official Department of Education classroom equipment.

Maybe someone in the hall is watching, and wants to come in and offer helpful advice. That kid seems to be looking in the direction of some other kid. Why aren't you circulating? How come you're standing in the front and not the back? Why didn't you write the time on the board? Why did you turn your back to the kids and write the time on the board? How come you let that kid go to the bathroom without an escort? Why did you make that kid wait for an escort to go to the bathroom? Can't you see he's dying?

What does this teacher keep in her desk? Hmmm. No tissues. I was looking for tissues. How long will it be before I get relieved? If I sneeze, can I use one of these pieces of looseleaf? Man, she has a LOT of looseleaf paper. I wonder if anyone would notice if I stole a few of these dry-erase markers. I never have enough, and she has eight boxes.

That kid looks like he is cheating. But I'm not gonna move him. I'm gonna move the kid he's copying from. There. I asked him to do me a favor and sit in this other chair and now that guy can't copy anymore. Man, am I smart. Maybe I'll get rated highly effective for this. Uh oh, Here comes a supervisor. She wants to know why I moved that kid. I tell her.

She walks over to the kid I suspected of cheating, and tears his paper into pieces. Now all hell breaks loose. Turns out his sister is in the class, and she's very protective. Wants to beat up the supervisor. So do I, but I've already envisioned the consequences and they aren't good. How can I slow this down? Supervisor is calling for help. How come the phone works for the supervisor? It didn't work for me.

Oh man, they are dragging the kid and his sister and two others screaming about how unfair life is. None of this had to happen.

The solution, in my view, is to only have teachers proctor their own students, you know, the ones we teach, the ones we know, the ones we are sworn to help.

But I'm a dreamer, and after all Merryl Tisch thinks we're all a bunch of crooks who'd do anything to up our miserable stats. Odd they hired us in the first place, considering that.