Tuesday, July 31, 2018

No Excuses for You, Multitudes for Moskowitz

In yet another piece about its favorite subject, Eva Moskowitz, Chalkbeat runs Eva's answer to her critics. Fortunately for Eva, nothing she does is ever wrong and it doesn't matter at all that she's managed to leave behind 78% of her students. Also, in a single year she's managed to shed most of her high school teachers, with over 2 of 3 moving to greener pastures. This also makes no difference whatsoever. Despite this, for some reason Eva felt the need to write the parents.

It's disappointing to lose your favorite teacher. However, some did not quit out of desperation. Some were not fired for what we call incompetence, and what other people call inability to work 20 hour days or have a life. And if they were incompetent, and we hired them, it's not our fault. After all, nothing is.

You see, at Moskowitz Academies the important thing is to give the very best quality education. Evidently you do that by shedding all the losers who don't measure up. It's not our fault if your kids are losers. After all, dumping losers is how many charter schools manage to get those incredible 100% 4-year-college admissions. You'd better believe anyone who didn't make it to that four year college didn't make it out of the four year high school either.

So this, evidently, is how you make miracles. This is how you trod all over a public school system, grasping and taking whatever you wish, displacing neighborhood children, stealing libraries, and keeping your noses so far up in the air that a good rain would drown you instantly. The other part of the miracle, of course, is an educational leader who's willing to play ball. For a long time, that was Mike Bloomberg, who tolerated Joel Klein's hot line to Eva.

When Bloomberg left City Hall to try to buy his way into becoming President of the United States, Andrew Cuomo grabbed the mantle, stood with Eva in Albany, and made it impossible for Bill de Blasio to oppose charters without paying their rent. And there were all the miracle stories. They passed the test. They had higher percentages than those crappy public schools. It was a civil rights issue. Eva herself echoed GW Bush, speaking of "the soft bigotry of low expectations," in her letter to parents.

Evidently, it does not occur to Eva Moskowitz that a 22% graduation rate is an indication of abysmally low expectations. It appears to me that Moskowitz Academies take no responsibility whatsoever for their students. Were they really running on the magic they claim, they'd graduate 100% of their students. There would be no "got to go" lists.

Last year I had terrible troubles with some of my students. I had a class of 34, par for the course in Fun City. Yet several of them were not keeping up. There were various reasons for this, the most common of which was that the students were SIFE, or students with interrupted formal education. This could easily mean the students had not been in schools in their native countries in years, if at all.

Ask me how many SIFE students are in Moskowitz Academies. Ask me how many beginning English language learners are in Moskowitz Academies. Anyway, I had seven students who could not keep up, seven students who'd certainly have failed. Despite the proven wisdom of Moskowitz Academies, we did not write up a "got to go" list. We did not call up the parents and ask them to move their kids elsewhere. In fact, we didn't even make them sit and do test prep until they peed their pants.

What we did was find an empty classroom, a minor miracle in itself for us. It was a very small room, but that was okay because we only had seven students. I taught the class, took all the kids back to square one, and moved very slowly. I gave fewer tests than I usually do, but I spent a lot of time making sure these kids knew material well before doing so. And rather than drill them to death, I was consistently kind to them.

Every one of those students passed that class. Several thanked me for giving them a class they could understand and follow, unlike others they were taking. I could have taken the approach Moskowitz seems to favor, judging from her letter. Hey, it's a tough world, so you just have to do whatever I force you to do. That's the only way to prep you for college, which is going to be even worse. This, of course, is to prepare you for life, which is going to be even more miserable.

Here's the thing--even though Moskowitz musters the temerity to label her test prep factories "success academies," they fail four out of five who enter. This is nothing to boast about. The papers can praise them in editorials from now until doomsday, but the fact is we public schools, even the ones closed by the city, have better records than Moskowitz.

I, for one, value academic achievement. Nonetheless I'd rather see my own kid, and probably every kid I know, fail in a public school than be tortured in a Moskowitz Academy.

Monday, July 30, 2018

On the Cool Kids and the Organizers

According to this chart, it's barely cool at all to be a cool kid. First of all, calling someone a kid is a little demeaning. And being "cool" is kind of superficial. I'm reminded of times I sat in rooms with people lecturing me about what my priorities must be. Sometimes I walked into these rooms voluntarily in my free time. How can people tell me what my priorities are before they even know me? They must be extremely cool to have that ability.

My priorities are formed day by day. As chapter leader of the largest school in Queens, I get to hear what people's priorities are virtually all the time. I get my highest volume of complaints about the evaluation system. Even people with supervisors they love, supervisors everyone loves, feel under the gun most of the time. That's not helping anyone at all, not the teachers, not the supervisors, and certainly not the kids we're paid to serve. I don't know exactly which drugs Reformy John King was taking when he initiated this. If anyone knows please advise us so we can avoid them.

I know other city schools are not like mine. Our school isn't perfect, but our issues are vastly different from those of many other places. Unlike schools in danger of closure, we're in danger of explosion from sheer overcrowding. Our generally good reputation is a dual-edged sword. We have people in rooms without windows, people who rely on room air-conditioners that are so noisy they preclude communication. Not only that, but when they're on they still don't work very well.

I hear complaints from people in buildings that are under-represented or not represented at all. That is really troubling. A likely intentional side effect of Bloomberg's small schools staffed largely with newbies is the dearth of not only institutional memory, but also teachers with tenure. I wouldn't recommend a probationary teacher become chapter leader, but of course people can step up whenever they wish.

The question then becomes what happens if no one does? That's a thorny issue, and it's certainly not limited to schools full of newbies. Who is crazy enough to want the job of chapter leader? It's pretty simple--if no one will step up to enforce the contract, the contract will not be enforced. If the school is really full of newbies, I guess it falls on the district rep. If not, well, you'd better step up.

I had a conversation on Facebook with someone who said he was never paying dues again. I asked why, and he said his chapter leader sucks and allowed this and that to happen. I believe that, because it's far from the first time I've heard such a story. But the remedy for a crappy chapter leader is to oppose him, and we all had the chance to do that last May. Did this member step up? Of course not. Though May is past, you can still recall an incompetent chapter leader by organizing the teachers in your building. If you do that, though, you'd best have in mind someone else for the job.

Conversely, you can sit around and curse Michael Mulgrew for not coming over, waving a magic wand, and solving all your problems. I prefer the former. In fact, I'm on an ESL committee in the UFT, and a young teacher came to one of our meetings late last year complaining of a chapter leader who seemed to be in bed with the principal. I told her that this was a perfect time to oppose him. She came back the following month and told us she got a friend to do that, and her friend won. I was happy to have played some small part in that.

You can't always win, but you can always work toward it. I'm kind of fascinated by the contrast between building ideas and power in this chart. I don't really see them as mutually exclusive. We are educators, and it ought to be somewhere in our DNA to trade in ideas. Ideas motivate us. They're no substitute for getting out and talking to people. But I'd hope they kind of inspire it. I'd argue the ideas are what moves us off of our couches and into the arena. Without them, what would you discuss when organizing?

Social media, I'd argue, also goes hand in hand with getting people to show up. It's a powerful weapon, which is why scumbags like Trump's thugs want to do away with net neutrality. As a blogger, I'm not gonna trash talk social media. Any influence I may have anywhere likely comes from this place right here. This blog and people I've met through it have been what's formed my outlook and caused me to step up as chapter leader and in UFT politics.

As to the chart, I'm most touched by the note on excluding those who may not sufficiently agree. I saw that trait in leadership for years, and to me it pretty much defined them. I now see that loosening somewhat, even as the ostensible opposition in MORE issues what is tantamount to a loyalty oath--if you don't support their contract demands, don't bother running with them. I actually ran with them, and won. This notwithstanding, I was not consulted at all on their contract demands, and I'm not altogether sure what they may be.

Instead, I'm on the actual UFT contract committee, which I find a lot more interesting than I'd expected. I've agreed not to discuss specifics, but I will say that I'm a lot less cynical about it now than I was when I first started attending. While I hate Janus, I think it's done something many of us have been trying to do for years with little success--it's opened up leadership's ears. Would I have liked to see that sooner? Of course. Could there have been a more positive motivation? Yes.

But I'll take what I can get and run with it. Personally, I'm a whole lot more interested in results than trying to be a cool kid.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

On Union Working With Conservatives

I was pretty curious when I saw this tweet, suggesting that unions and conservatives should band together, so I clicked and read the story.

Of course, this is not actually such a new concept. For years we've tried to work with our political opponents. For example, we paired with Bill Gates to do the MET study. In my school, it was pretty odd. We weren't really sure what they were trying to do, and the people running the study didn't seem to know either. What we ended up with, of course, was a junk science evaluation system dotting much of the country.

I also recall former UFT President Randi Weingarten getting pretty cozy with Michael Bloomberg, going to baseball games or something, and a photo somewhere of Joel Klein kissing her. If Joel Klein kissed me I'd go home and wash my entire body with Brillo pad. Agreements we made with Joel Klein, particularly the 2005 contract, have moved us backward. We live with the ATR and hundreds, more likely thousands, of our members suffer for no good reason.

Let's get to the actual article:

Teachers’ unions are supposed to protect teachers — a good and noble role. Unfortunately, decade after decade of additional “protections,” often written to protect the worst actors, created a sclerosis in many school districts.

It's a "good and noble role," but it's "often written to protect the worst actors." This is an attempt to appear reasonable, but also implies that the "worst actors," whoever they may be, are not worthy of protection. Unfortunately for folks who feel like doing whatever they like, everyone has to follow the rules. This applies to administrators as well. Note that the writer, having gotten in his dig against bad teachers, follows this with an example having nothing to do with them whatsoever.

Michelle Rhee realized that the central office couldn’t get same-day attendance data from the paper-based reporting system, she suggested that teachers use their computers, but the Washington Teachers’ Union fought her on it, arguing that teachers were protected from doing data-entry work.

Hey, if those were the rules, those were the rules. It would be on Rhee to renegotiate them rather than doing any damn thing she felt like. Because she couldn't be bothered with rules, at least one teacher is getting his job back nine years after she fired him, and Rhee's now selling fertilizer. To the writer's credit, he admits to the systemic fraud that fueled Rhee's education miracle.

Alas there are other inaccuracies here:

On some issues, such as school choice, conservatives and teachers’ unions will never see eye to eye.

The fact is a whole lot of the reformy nonsense from which we suffer was initiated by Democrats. Cory Booker can scream and cry about Betsy DeVos all he likes, but the fact is he supports virtually everything she does. And Obama's administration, according to none other than Diane Ravitch, gave Bush a third term in education.

I don't think it's a good idea for us to team up with our enemies. It's been done. After we invited Gates to the AFT convention, he thanked us by attacking our pensions. More recently, Randi Weingarten wrote an op-ed with what's his name, the guy who runs E4E. Predictably, the guy thanked her by attacking the Absent Teacher Reserve. But that was not, in fact, my main objection to the piece. This was:

The guy who wrote the article tweeted back, and I responded.

As you can see, the writer seems to have felt that sheer snark was somehow a substitute for argument. I'm here to tell you it isn't. The fact is that Janus was funded by people like the Koch Brothers and the Walmart family. If they aren't conservative, I don't know who is. We've known for a long time that "right-to-work" was anti-labor, and in fact Martin Luther King railed against it decades ago. As for the goals of these conservatives, one need look only to Wisconsin and various red states to see where they've driven union.

Sometimes we find common ground. But all too often we've been stabbed in the back for the offense of seeking it. We have to stand tall, we have to stand together, and we certainly can't be diverted by snarky nonsense posing as argument. I'll stand with people who support universal health care, a living wage, union, and affordable college. My first go-to, alas, won't be someone from a right-wing think tank. They may be good for propping up traitors like Janus and rewarding them with gigs, but I'm here to support my brother and sister unionists.

We can certainly do better than teaming up with those who work toward our destruction.

Friday, July 27, 2018


Honestly I'm not sure people understand what it means to stand together. My biggest clue to this was reading objections to the parental leave program. People say well, I had my kids and no one helped me, so why should I have to support others? That's a remarkable attitude. To me, it shows not only what's wrong with us, but also what's wrong with the country.

For the record, I adopted my daughter from Colombia. I missed, probably, two months running back and forth to South America. There were a lot of things I did wrong, and a lot of things I wish I'd known before I began. Getting six paid weeks off that wouldn't have come out of my bank would've been wonderful. Nonetheless I'm very glad to be able to help people going forward. I don't care if I have to wait three months to get a raise. You can certainly argue that it's morally correct we get something for nothing, but I'm big on winning, and I don't believe for a moment that argument would have done it.

If you are outraged over paying for parental leave, let me point out that there are a whole lot of services you may use that I don't. First of all, I've been teaching since 1984 and I have never once been called in for a disciplinary hearing. Does this mean I'm wonderful and above it all? It doesn't, actually. I've done plenty of stupid things, and I surely will do many more. Nonetheless, I don't stand here and say, "Screw you. Why should I pay for a chapter leader to represent you?"

I can tell you that I've seen people I'd never expect to see issues in trouble. Given CR A-421, everything is in the eyes of the beholder. A few years ago, I had a student who reminded me a lot of my daughter. She looked like her, acted like her, and even had the same long, curly hair. She asked me a question. I don't remember what the question was, but I remember answering, "No, sweetie." That's something I'd have said to my daughter. As the words were coming out of my mouth, I thought I was going to the rubber room.

The girl in question, though, took my words exactly as I'd meant them. I was lucky, because if she'd complained I'd have gotten a letter in file at the very least. All I'm saying here is that getting in trouble does not necessarily mean you've done anything wrong, or that you're a bad teacher. That's why we have to stand together and help one another regardless.

Saying you ought not to pay to help our brothers and sisters who have children is like saying you haven't been mugged so you ought not to have to pay for police. It's like saying you don't get sick so you don't want to contribute toward health insurance. Just because things have not worked out perfectly for us is no reason to say, "Well, they're not gonna work out for you either." It behooves us to leave this place a little better for those who follow us.

Then there's the ATR. The ATR is kind of a terrible place to be. I've seen it do awful things to people, things so awful I can't and won't write about them. Here's the thing, though--it could be even worse, and it is in Chicago and DC.  In those places, there's a cap on the ATR, or whatever they call it, and people are fired after a certain period of not being placed.

Here's a fact--UFT could have had an on-time contract back around 2010 with double four percent raises if we'd sold out the ATR. And people like me could've said, "Well, I'm not an ATR, so screw them." Of course that would be stupid, because everyone is more or less ATR in waiting. We'd have been handing Bloomberg a way to fire a whole lot more teachers, and an incentive to close even more schools than he did.

Nonetheless leadership hung tough here. Now you'll say, sure, but the other unions would've hated us. if we didn't, and if we left them open to such nonsense. That may be true, though they probably hated us in 2014 when we dumped 10% over 7 years, the worst pattern ever, on them. It doesn't matter that much why we didn't sell out the ATR, but the fact is we didn't. Of course we have to find a way to fix it, and to end it. It's tough to patch up the holes in your boat you made back on 2005, especially when they've been left to fester for years.

The point is we stand together. We offer services to newbies that we ourselves did not have, and we try to leave this place a little better than we found it. If that's not our goal, why did we become teachers at all? Not everyone needs help with everything all the time. And help isn't always available when we need it. Let's move toward fixing it, though, rather than saying screw it all and placing our heads in the sand.

There's an old Russian story about two farmers. One has a cow. The other says, "He has a cow and I don't. I want his cow to die."

Me, I want the other farmer to have a Supercow so he can help both of us.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

No More Speed Cameras

I have to admit, I paid two tickets over the last few years from those things. If the speed goes down to 30 and you hit 41, forget it. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, and that will be fifty bucks, please. In Long Island it's worse, because there's a $120 surcharge attached. I got stuck in traffic, couldn't move, the light changed and it cost me 170 bucks.

So do they really make anyone safer? Perhaps. It's my fault if I go over the speed limit, of course. But over where I got the ticket, on Horace Harding Expressway, the only time you can go 40 MPH is when St. Francis Prep is pretty much dormant. Any time the students are coming in or out, parents are dropping off and picking up, and traffic comes to a crawl. It's best to err on the side of safety, though, even if I get bitten every now and then.

That said, I don't trust the city at its word either. Are they really making things safer, or are they just raking in the bucks? If someone goes 41 MPH on Horace Harding at 3 AM, are there students out there? I doubt it. It's not like it's a Moskowitz Academy where students are chained to their desks for test prep. Would they compromise and only activate the cameras during school hours? Of course they wouldn't. These things are money machines.

In front of our school there have been some very bad accidents. Once, a student lost his leg. Our School Leadership Team asked the city for one of those things that tells you your speed. They turned us down but offered to place a camera at the traffic light. Unfortunately the traffic light wasn't where our issue was. It was pretty clear to us that the city was happy to collect money but didn't really want to bother extending any. Of course, that was under Bloomberg, and they needed to save up to put room air conditioners in his SUV window. After all, the comfort of billionaires is way more important than the safety of my students. (I love watching Bloomberg criticize Trump, contending Trump is more of an asshole than he is.)

It's tough driving home from my school. There's only one lane to make a left turn toward the LIE, and every day there are a million people other than yours truly who wish to go that way. For about fifteen years I would make the left turn from the middle lane. After all, there was no sign saying you couldn't. A cop pulled me over, and not only disagreed with my interpretation, but also gave me a ticket.

At that time, we knew a barbershop on the corner was selling drugs to our students. I asked him why he was focusing on me when that was going on. He told me they had undercover people working on it. I have no idea whether or not he was just making that up or not, but if he wasn't, what the hell kind of undercover operation is it where you tell people you just met what's going on?

There was one other reason no one was going after the barbershop, a cop told me. He said the precinct ended right at the LIE. If he were to go across the street and deal with the barbershop, he'd be venturing into their territory. This, evidently, was some kind of big no-no. I asked why the people in the other precinct didn't come down and deal with it. Oh, they couldn't do that. They were really busy in Jamaica, which must have more barbershops than our neighborhood, I can only suppose.

Why, then, was I talking to a cop all the way on the outer reaches of his precinct, at our school? Hard to say. Was it because it was important to cover schools? If so, why was no one at the junior high school right on the other side of the LIE? Or was someone there, and was it just too much to ask that he walk a block south to the barbershop?

I can't answer any of those questions. I don't oppose safety, and I certainly hope the loss of these cameras doesn't imperil any kids. I'm glad Flanagan will take heat for this, and I hope it bounces back onto the shoulders of all the traitors in the IDC who were elected as Democrats but caucused with Republicans. Like many UFT members, I thought Tony Avella was something special, and worked for him before he decided to stab us all in the back.

Safety first, yes. But I can't look at this process without a certain degree of cynicism.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Moskowitz Academy Retains Only 20 of 67 Teachers, Graduates 22% of Its Students

Why is that? Did they all suck? I mean, that's what Eva mostly says about us. We all suck. That's why we need Moskowitz Academies. After all, they will start off with 73 students and graduate 16. That's a stunning success record, isn't it? Wouldn't your principal offer you a raise and a bonus if you managed to pass 22% of your students?

Of course, now we're talking about a 12-year record. So they managed to hold on to that many kids. What happened to the other 80%? Well, for all you know, they're in your class. Are they passing? Who knows? But if they aren't, then you suck. They aren't Eva's problem anymore.

That's a pretty sweet deal, isn't it? I mean, Eva makes five times as much money as your principal, she has a 22% graduation rate, and the media treats her like a movie star. Hillary Clinton will stand up in front of God and everybody and tell the AFT we can learn from "public charter schools." Here's a hot tip--the only thing "public" about public charter schools is that they take our tax money. We get no say in how they're run, and if New York City dares tell Moskowitz she needs to sign the agreement everyone else did to run pre-K, she'll sue and win.

After all, she's got a 22% graduation rate. Who the hell are we to tell her what to do? OK sure, the school you worked at for twenty years had a considerably higher rate, and Mayor Bloomberg turned it into five Basket-Weaving Academies. But that's neither here nor there. Whatever Eva wants, Eva gets.

Mercedes Schneider, ever the optimist, finds light in the darkness:

At least the percentage of returning SA high school teachers is higher than the percentage of students who made it all the way through from first grade to high school graduation in 2018.

That's true, of course. On the other hand, we're talking about a one year turnover here. Should this rate continue, over the time these students had, we'll have a 360% teacher turnover. Now that's not bad for Moskowitz Academies. I believe that all lessons are pre-written, by Eva herself for all I know, so it doesn't really matter who teaches. Maybe a group of well-trained rhesus monkeys could do the job, literally work for peanuts, and solve the whole institutional memory issue. Who knows?

I doubt it, though. It's pretty cruel to make kids pee their pants because they're doing test prep. I love animals, and I'd never ask an animal to encourage a practice like that. City kids need people who understand and encourage them. City kids need people who accept them as they are. The Moskowitz Experience is an abysmal failure, propped up by incurious reporters who don't think things through, and politicians interested in just how many suitcases of cash DFER and all the hedge fund reformies can deliver.

Those of us who spend our lives serving the children of New York City are regularly vilified in the press for the offense of serving the children of New York City. The Moskowitz Model is unsustainable not only for children, but for adults as well. Grownup teachers are role models. They need to be able to pursue lives and happiness. Being a veritable slave in a test-prep factory does not afford that pursuit.

I want my kids to be happy, and the only way I can encourage that in them is to reach down deep and find it somewhere in myself. While I certainly hope they pass The Test, whatever it is, and while I will help them do that if that's what they need, happiness is more fundamental, and will lead them to success well beyond what "Success Academy" offers. In fact, "Success Academy" appears to fail the overwhelming majority of its students.

I certainly hope that we offer them something better when they come to us. It would be pretty hard work to offer them anything worse.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

If Carranza's Concerned with Inequality, He Can't Ignore Part 154

There's an interesting feature on Chancellor Richard Carranza in the Atlantic right now. Clearly, in tackling inequality and segregation in our schools, he's got his work cut out for him. The writer, who seems to know nothing whatsoever about actual NYC education, compares him to Joel Klein. Were I Carranza, I'd sue for damages. We don't know that much about Carranza, but it's clear he's not a simple corporate mouthpiece.

The issue of segregation is a third rail, and no matter which approach you take, someone is bound to hate you for it. It's particularly tough in this climate, with a President intent on moving us back to the 19th century. No one knows that better than union. We're now clearly in the sights of the Koch Brothers and Walmart, who may as well make the rules for the astoundingly pro-corporate, anti-worker SCOTUS.

I see discrimination played out every single day in my work. No, I'm not complaining about my administration. I'm talking about the third year of CR Part 154, which reduces direct English instruction by 33-100%, and replaces it with, essentially, nothing whatsoever (or perhaps even less than that). In high schools, we used to be required to give beginners three full periods of English instruction daily. Now we can give them as few as one period a day. And once they aren't beginners anymore, we can reduce that to zero.

We replace these English classes with nothing. But for each one, we dump an ESL teacher into one of their "core content" classes. Alternatively, we can place a single dual-certified teacher in. So that teacher might take 45 minutes to teach fractions to a native English speaker. In that same 45 minutes, the dual certified teacher, or the pair of teachers, is expected to teach both fractions and English to English Language Learners (ELLs).

I have been teaching English to ELLs for decades. It probably won't surprise you when I say it takes more time, not less, to teach concepts to people who don't understand the language you're learning. The possibility of teaching both the concept and the language in the same time it takes for native speakers to learn the concept is remote indeed. Not only that, but it's a blatantly stupid expectation.

In fact, I'd argue it's discrimination. Of course it's not Carranza's fault, since he had nothing to do with the regulation. I don't think it was the intention of the Regents to discriminate either. The rationale I've heard from them has been that they wanted to make sure students were focused on actual subject matter, the implication being that English is not a subject. I wouldn't call that discriminatory. Of course it's completely wrong, if not totally idiotic, so that's not much of a defense.

A friend sent me this comment:

 ...the rationale is to keep foreigners in their place. Lock them into dead end jobs and shove them into certain neighborhoods. This is especially true if they are of color. All of those wonderful sentiments about coming to America for a fresh start, the Statue of Liberty as a great symbol of hope- are a thing of the past. These days, it is called “stay in your lane and ensure that your neighbors look like you.” If they cannot speak English or have access to education, that is the first step.

I don't think that was the actual intent, but the effect is not much different. I can't speak for the Regents, but I think their focus was not so much on black and brown as it was on green. There is a shortage of ESL teachers, and every five classes that disappear under Part 154 means one fewer ESL teacher is needed. That means schools save money, and that means the state saves money, I suppose.

The piece in the Atlantic mentions that Carranza learned English as a child. It's actually a lot easier to do that than it is for the high school students I teach. Language acquisition ability begins a rapid decline around puberty. That's why Carranza speaks unaccented English while my students may never do that. But the fact is they need more support, not less, and this has been affirmed by resolutions passed by both UFT and NYSUT.

If Carranza is truly concerned about inequality, he ought not to ignore the ELLs. They are his brothers and sisters, they are our children, and Part 154 is an abomination. Maybe it's time to sue the state for discrimination. If he needs someone to testify, I'm available.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Kim's Convenience

I've had a lot more time than usual these last few weeks, and of course I'm wasting it watching too much video. I stumbled upon Kim's Convenience on Netflix, having never heard of it. I'm supposing you haven't either, but in these times, it's something you ought not to miss.

Every day we are bombarded with the atrocities committed by the lunatic in the White House. Every day we have to sit and wonder what new outrage our President will commit, what juvenile insults he will tweet from his phone, which vicious regime he will identify with, just which nazis are fine people, and who he will threaten war with on Twitter. In fairness, the President has a mandate by every standard (except votes cast). But I digress.

In the real world, no one's really finding happiness or fulfillment Making America White Again. We have to find some more efficient way to get along with and understand each other. It's a particular struggle for immigrants, relentlessly targeted by the Bigot-in-Chief. I work with immigrants every day, and it's a tragedy that we are so close-minded. I like the Andy Griffith Show, but we don't live in Mayberry anymore, if indeed we ever did.

Kim's Convenience is about a Korean-Canadian family running a convenience store in Toronto. Their friends and customers are from various cultures. No one is represented as perfect, and human flaws create character-driven comedy. It's important to see representation of real people, and I can't think offhand of an American show that does this remotely as well.

Mr. Kim is kind of a smarter Archie Bunker. He's very quick-witted and generally free from stereotype. Nonetheless he can't forget things the Japanese did in 1910, and therefore rages against Toyotas. But his Pentax camera was half-price, so that's somehow not an issue. He struggles to deal with his children, one of whom, alas, studies photography rather than medicine. He's estranged from his son, who's dealing with his checkered past. The Kims are a family, imperfect like everyone. But they're also clever and funny, so your time with them is well-spent.

I'm impressed to finally see fair representation of people with accents. There's so much prejudice against accents. I once knew a teacher who criticized a Cuban-born colleague of mine for her English. Her English was fine, actually. I found it really ironic that the guy criticizing her spoke one language while she spoke two. The irony escaped the critical teacher.

There's a line from a great underrated film, A Walk in the Clouds, where Giancarlo Gianini says, "Don't think that just because I talk with an accent, that I think with an accent." Kim's Convenience will make fun of certain language-related errors, but never portrays its characters as being stupid simply because of how they speak. It's important that we see characters like that, and sad that we generally do not.

If watching Kim's Convenience is not the best way for you to see true multiculturalism, you could always do what I did and teach ESL for a few decades. I have to say, though, that with Race to the Top, junk science, and an anti-labor SCOTUS, you might get fewer laughs from teaching 20 years than you would from watching a sitcom for thirty minutes.

This show will not only have you laughing out loud, but it's also sweet and timely. If you don't have Netflix, find someone who does, bring some popcorn, and settle in for a group binge-watch. NYC Educator guarantees you won't regret it, or we will refund your popcorn. (Since you watch other stuff on Netflix, or may even be mooching your friend's Netflix, well, the ten bucks a month is still on you.)

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Another Day, Another DOE Fail

This one, oddly, had a pretty short shelf life in NYC. Evidently, if the DOE has not invested enough time to give a principal tenure, they will actually let one go simply because he presided over two stabbings and a murder, likely as not caused by one of his policies. Oh, and there was that grade-fixing scandal in which a kid handed in a stick figure rather than actual work.

This guy, in fact, was not set to simply be a principal. He was going to supervise or assess other principals. Did they meet the standard? Did they preside over more than one murder? Less than two stabbings? Did they demand two or more stick figures for makeup coursework? Or is stuff like that relevant enough to make the checklist? Or is there a DOE checklist already that may or may not contain that stuff?

Sometimes when I write about stories like these, I have to stress things that reporters wouldn't, to point out the ridiculousness, or elaborate on things that the story only implies. Not this time, though:

Despite the fact that a simple online search yields a number of stories about his past controversies, Richardson told The Post that a team of DOE interviewers never asked him about them.
“Those specifics did not come up,” Richardson said.
Apparently, the DOE decided to run its own Google search after The Post asked about his hiring.

That sounds like sarcasm, doesn't it? I mean, if you were hiring someone for a position that entailed supervising principals, wouldn't you do a cursory check? Wouldn't you be curious as to why someone would leave the DOE for a higher-paying position, then come back five years later seeking a lower-paying one?

Of course you would. But the New York City Department of Education, the one that makes decisions that affect your workplace each and every day, doesn't find that a productive use of its time. What on earth do they discuss at interviews? Do they talk about how many ineffective ratings they're willing to give? Do they ask whether they're willing to violate the UFT Contract with impunity? Do they ask them whether or not they're willing to listen to "legal" rather than read basic English?

Here's what I know to be true--the DOE is a morass of ineptitude. They hire lawyers who can't or don't read the UFT Contract, and they back them up with hearing officers for whom logic is a second language. I don't deal much with Tweed but it's hard for me to imagine that Bloomberg didn't stack it up with equally inept and incurious martinets who aren't worth half their bloated salaries. This recent bout of incompetence ought to get tongues wagging, but it won't.

Despite the fact that there are stories enough for Sue Edelman to humiliate Mayor Bill de Blasio on an almost weekly basis, and despite the fact that each one represents a dozen we've yet to hear, the mayor does absolutely nothing to clean up the mess left him by Michael Bloomberg. I hope the new chancellor reads these stories and does something about them, but his top-level shakeup does not indicate to me a readiness to clean house.

Of course, I can always be wrong, and this time I certainly hope I am.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Working Class Traitor Makes Good

Mark Janus, who lent his name to the anti-union lawsuit to screw American working people, has scored a really cool gig with a right-wing think tank. This should be a lesson to us all. It really pays to be the first one to sell out your brothers and sisters nationwide. You collect your union-negotiated retirement benefits, get some cool job sitting around an office somewhere, and you don't really have to do anything ever again. Was this a deal he made in advance? I don't see why not.

So Janus has really paid off for Janus. It's only the rest of us who will suffer. You see, if you actually study history, you find that Americans do better when they are unionized, not occasionally, not sometimes, but always. You find that unionized workers make more money than non-unionized workers, and you find that non-unionized workers make more money too when union flourishes.

You will also find that union has been rolled back since Reagan was President. This is part of a concerted anti-union program in the United States and it's sorely reduced the number of unionized workers. Now when government boasts of job creation it's often as not jobs that pay minimum wage and come without health insurance or any benefits whatsoever. In fact, many crappy fast food jobs make you sign disclaimers that you won't jump ship for other crappy fast food jobs. This removes the possibility of the competition that Republicans argue will improve the economy.

We are a selfish country, and we choose to be that way even when we are screwing ourselves. We have a national news network that caters to the needs of the uber-rich. It's somehow managed to persuade a great swath of the country that they too might be uber-rich one of these days, and that they therefore must support rules that expand the rights of the uber-rich.

Of course, that's not the only way you manipulate the public. You manage them through racism and xenophobia. You make them terrified of Muslims. You make a big thing out of not allowing them entrance to the United States, unless they come from countries with which you do business, in which case they're fine. You then ignore all terrorist acts committed by white people, because if you demonize white people there goes your base. How are we gonna Make America Great Again if we contend the characters on Leave It to Beaver were terrorists?

It isn't easy to get people to act against their self-interest. Fox couldn't exist, for example, if American hadn't done away with The Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to present both sides of an issue, rather than simply spout right-wing propaganda. But we're way down that road now, and it will take a sea change to turn back.

Janus contended he had to leave his First Amendment rights at the door when he went to work. In reality, unions have separate political funds. I contribute to one. Even though I sometimes disagree with UFT endorsements, I want union to be able to fight things like the Constitutional Convention. Now that we're in an actual existential crisis, I want union to be able to fight even more.

What Janus contended was that union itself was inherently political. Thus, the Americans who wanted to fight for more work for less pay were never well-represented when they were compelled to pay union dues. It's kind of ironic that Janus, as soon as the Koch Brothers finished using him so they could keep money they'd otherwise have to give working people, gave him a gig for less work and more pay.

Of course, hypocrites will do things like that. They'll take more money for themselves while screwing everyone else. And now every American in a union will be able to follow in Janus's footsteps. They can withhold their union dues while making saps like me cover their expenses. The only problem is, in the long run, they won't benefit like Janus did. The less power union has, the worse working conditions will become for most Americans, Most Americans will actually lose more than the relative drop in the bucket represented by union dues.

And make no mistake, that's why billionaire Bruce Rainer started the lawsuit, that's why he set up a stooge named Janus, and that's why the Koch Brothers and Walmart bankrolled it. They want a Fox News-watching, self-screwing country of ignoramuses.

Don't forget to vote.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Alternate Build for a Teacher

I'm a big fan of Curmudgucation, and I've decided to echo its most recent post, How to Build a Teacher. I started teaching in New York City in 1984, and for me it was more of a happy accident than a plan. Like blogger Peter Greene, my undergraduate major was English, not education. Our similarities end there.

I did not plan to be a teacher. I was a working musician, and had a few opportunities to play in Europe, once with the daughter of someone famous(!). When I got back the second time, I couldn't find work anywhere. I had no place to live. The only thing I had was this big old Mercury, and my driver's license had expired. Back then New York City was heavily invested in intergalactic searches for teachers, and I responded to a subway ad I saw on the way back from the DMV in Jamaica.

I went to Court Street and took a writing test. Once they were satisfied I knew a little English, they made me an English teacher. I had no idea what I was doing. On my ninth teaching day, I was observed. My AP wrote that I had no idea what I was doing. I pointed out to her that I'd told her that when she hired me. She then explained to me in great detail about how she made meatballs for her parents.

I transferred to another school, where I taught music for one semester and English for two. At this school, they had broken the English department in two, and I taught in the skills department. This was because no one could seem to get along with my AP, who wore a three-piece tweed suit in any kind of weather, and wrote long, incomprehensible observation reports. A colleague read my first three-page observation and told me the AP liked me. This was because if he didn't like you he tended to write things you could understand.

I enrolled in an MA English program at Queens College, thinking I would do this for a living. But the day I showed up in September I learned I no longer had a job. It was a good thing I'd had the foresight to not yet pay Queens College. I decided I'd had enough of crossing bridges to the Bronx, put on a suit, and walked into every department of every high school in Queens until someone was crazy enough to hire me. The person who did that ran the ESL department in Newtown, and I really loved teaching ESL. Alas, they dropped me at the end of the semester.

I joined the world's worst Irish wedding band. We had an accordion player who played bass on his accordion, and a drummer. They were never exactly in sync somehow. We had a singer who fancied himself Kenny Rogers, popular at the time, and therefore he purchased a $99 white polyester suit at Alexander's and grew a beard to look the part. Alas he couldn't sing in tune. People loved us anyway. He was born in the Bronx, but would show a picture of some home in Mayo and claim to have been born there. He would start a rebel song, "for our boys," turn to the band and say, "Screw 'em all."

This paid my way through an MA in Applied Linguistics. My MA was very good. I learned a whole lot about language structure, language acquisition, and a whole lot of things that the NY Regents, for example, haven't got a clue about. For some reason they didn't offer the last course I needed to complete my MA, and the department head suggested I student teach instead. I said I couldn't because I already had a job by then, but he said that was fine, I could be observed at the job.

My AP was officially my mentor, and won herself a free course at Queens College. The people in my class clued me in that they guy who'd observe us was not, in fact, our teacher. However, it was very important to him that you show a picture, introduce five vocabulary words, and ask three questions. Or something. I did the lesson exactly as requested and the guy thought I was a genius.

One thing that Greene mentioned is key--teaching courses ought to be taught by people who really teach the levels we will. Being a college professor is not the same thing. I recall taking a required education course when I started in the Bronx. The professor suggested we should assemble all our resources and assemble a class library. I didn't have any resources at the time, and I felt lucky to have chalk on the days I did.

She also took me aside and told me that I ought not to teach high school. I'd be better off pursuing a doctorate and teaching college. She wasn't the only professor who told me that either. There's something off-putting about people who train high school teachers but think teaching high school is a dead end. I'd argue we're needed a whole lot more than college professors, and that our jobs are actually more important. We might actually help students make it to college.

I'm really glad to have stumbled onto teaching, and I'm particularly glad I was dropped into ESL. I love teaching students from all over the world. They are really interesting and often have the most amazing stories. I haven't got as many conclusions as Greene did, except to say that this is my story, and I'm sticking to it.

What's your story?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Who Needs English?

Not newcomers to the United States, evidently. Here are a couple of ads for teachers in NYC:

Benjamin Franklin High School for Finance Information Technology is seeking teachers in the following license areas:
- ESL (dual certified with any other subject)
- Special Education (to co-teach in a Social Studies class)
Please send resumes to Dr. Carla Theodorou,  ctheodorou@schools.nyc.gov

Midwood High School is seeking teachers in the following license areas:

- ESL (dual certified with any other subject)

- Special Education (

dual certified with any other subject)

Please send resumes to Michael MDonnell at mmcdonn2@schools.nyc.gov

ESL teachers need not apply unless they have some other niche they can fill. This is the inevitable result of the latest iteration of CR Part 154. NY State has determined that direct English instruction only exists to prepare students for core subjects. Evidently, it's not their problem if newcomers can't communicate.

The Regents in NY State have so decreed, and that's the way it goes. It used to be important that we gave English language learners (ELLs) a whole lot of help so they could, you know, live. Now, living takes second place to testing. It used to be that ELLs who arrived with no English background would get three full periods of English instruction. Now, they can get as little as one.

Imagine going to China and getting 40 minutes a day to learn Chinese. The rest of the day you'll attend classes with native Chinese speakers. But don't worry. In two of those classes, you'll have a Chinese as a second language teacher to help you out. Or maybe you'll have a dual certified CSL/ science teacher. That should make all the difference, right?

If you're an administrator, especially in a small school, you have limited funds. Why would you bother to hire an ESL teacher simply because your ELLs are in desperate need of one? Instead, you could hire some 12-credit wonder who took a few courses and therefore places you in compliance. You could pretend that, during science class, the ELLs were magically learning English. Never mind that you gave native English speakers exactly the same time to learn. The state says ELLs can learn English and science in that same time, and since you're following the rules, that's good enough for the New York State Regents.

Now here's the thing. Both UFT and NYSUT say that newcomers need more instruction, not less. I've studied language acquisition and of course I agree. But you don't need to study language acquisition to know that it takes more time to learn a new language than to not learn one, do you?

If you went to China tomorrow, wouldn't you want a little extra help and guidance with the language? I know I would. I know, your grandfather came here and got no special treatment, no extra help, and he went on to do this and that. So did mine. My grandfather came over on a boat from Russia when he was 13. He became an electrician, opened a shop, bought a house in Brooklyn and raised a family.

Times are just a little tougher now. That house my grandfather bought will cost you a million dollars today. Pay is not what it once was, and most households now need two breadwinners. It's not impossible, of course, to come here, receive little or no help with English, and make it. Language learning is kind of an individual thing. Extroverts will acquire verbal language, for example, more quickly than introverts.

Language acquisition is also very much about affect. If you're happy here, you'll acquire language more rapidly. If your parents dragged you here kicking and screaming, you'll actively resist learning English. It's my job to help students get what they need no matter how they feel. For those who acquire verbal language quickly, I can help with their writing and reading. For those who resist, I can try to trick them into having fun somehow. Last year I taught a very small class and managed to reach kids who would not have done well in a standard ESL class, let alone an academic class pretending to offer English support.

In school, there is nothing more important for newcomers than learning English. My class provides the building blocks for absolutely everything else my students do. I tell them my class is the most important one they're taking. The things I teach are things they will use every day of their lives, things I use every day of my life, and things.

It's nothing short of a disgrace that the Regents continue to push this unproductive and short-sighted nonsense. They know little or nothing about language acquisition, they care little or nothing about the children I serve, and how they sleep at night is a complete mystery to me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Junk Science In, Junk Science Out

One of my favorite musicals is Fiddler on the Roof. Tevye the milkman sings a song called If I Were a Rich Man. He fantasizes about what his life would be like if he had money. Tevye longs for respect, and wants people to come to him for advice. He imagines people coming from all over to seek it.

And it won't make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong,
When you're rich, they think you really know.

And there you have the essence of Bill Gates, who's hijacked American education with ideas that have no basis in practice or research. When Gates sent his people to my school, they were unable to explain to us what they were doing or why they were doing it. My guess? It didn't matter. Gates had already decided what he was going to do and twisted the "study" to support his conclusion.

Carol Burris, who's been critical of this from the start, writes about a new Gates-funded study that makes some predictable conclusions about the pipe-dream Gates imposed on the United States of America:

It concluded that the IP project did not improve either student achievement or the quality of teachers. In fact, it did more harm than good.

Of course, Burris and a whole lot of other principals were saying this well before the experiment began. And this is not an isolated Gates error either. His small-school initiative, the one that Bloomberg used to close schools en masse and effectively hobble union, has also failed, according to Gates himself. It kind of makes you wonder whether it's a good idea to turn our education system over to billionaires with time on their hands.

Some people certainly benefited from this program. For example, TNTP (The New Teacher Project), a creation of Michelle Rhee no less, scored a cool seven million bucks from Gates after it issued a study telling just how awful existing teacher evaluation was. They were placed in charged of hiring and firing in Shelby County, Tennessee. Pretty cool, huh? Since ordinary teachers suck, they used the instant ones from TFA:

This, according to the report, resulted in increased teacher turnover, since many TFAers only “intended to remain in teaching for only a few years.” The report found no evidence that the quality of the teachers recruited improved.

Hmmm...do those five-week wonders suck as badly as we do, or are there factors beyond teacher evaluation we should've examined? I mean, Gates, at the time, had pretty much determined the prime factor we needed to examine was just how much teachers suck. Gates decided to throw money at the ones he decided didn't suck so they'd move to districts in need of less sucky teachers.

Even with a cash incentive, teachers were reluctant to transfer to schools with high needs because they believed that would result in their receiving a lower VAM score, which was now part of their evaluation.

Do you see what's happening here? Teachers seemed to believe the actual students played a part in their own test scores. Also, by hanging test scores over teacher heads like the sword of Damocles, teachers didn't want to teach kids who might get low test scores. Go figure. This whole self-preservation instinct bedeviled Gates' efforts to identify and eliminate sucky teachers from the start. Burris comes to a more realistic conclusion, the very conclusion she and her fellow principals reached when they first saw Gates' Degrees of Suckiness:

The project failed because evaluating teachers by test scores is a dumb idea that carries all kinds of negative consequences for achieving the goal we all want — improved teaching and learning. Every good principal knows that improvement in teaching requires coaching built on a relationship of trust and mutual respect — not boxes and metrics intended to determine whom to punish and whom to reward.

That's what sensible administrators seeking sensible results think. That's what every teacher knows. That's why teachers have been so demoralized by this project. It's clearly conceived in vindictiveness. Cuomo, in fact, called it "baloney" when its first iteration failed to fire enough teachers. He referred to himself as a "student lobbyist," clearly suggesting those of us who spent our lives supporting students didn't give a damn about them. (Meanwhile, "lobbyist" Cuomo pointedly ignores the C4E law demanding lower class sizes, something that would actually help students in need.)

The newer junk science system also failed to fire as many teachers as Cuomo wanted. This notwithstanding, every teacher I know understands the goals of this system. We all understand all these people are walking around with checklists to determine just how much we suck. We feel it every moment of every day, and it's all because Bill Gates woke up one morning and decided he alone could measure suckiness. He imposed this program on virtually the entire country via Race to the Top, with the full cooperation of the Obama administration.

Though we now know it to be a miserable failure, we're stuck with it. Gates tosses seed money at communities and leaves broken systems in his wake. Hence we're stuck with small schools that don't work, and a teacher evaluation system based on the voices in Gates' head.

In New York City, because we have a large volume of vindictive and unreflective administrators, this situation is exacerbated. Although we have very few teachers ultimately rated ineffective, we recognize this system is designed to oppress rather than support us. Because it's entrenched in state law, and because all the papers post reformy nonsense as gospel in their editorial pages, it's a long, hard slog out of the garbage dump into which Gates placed us.

It's pretty clear to me, at least, that teachers need a system to support and help us, rather than one whose goal is finding out precisely how much we suck so it can more easily fire us.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

AFT, E4E, and the Learning Curve

I missed this when it came out, but I was nonetheless pretty surprised to read an op-ed co-authored by AFT President Randi Weingarten and E4E founder Evan Stone. I mean, it's important to get Stone's perspective, I guess, since he taught somewhere for five minutes before selling out to Bill Gates and the reformies. I actually agree with much of what they wrote. Regarding the uprising in red states:

They occurred in states with laws that weaken unions and their ability to collectively bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions — which, when it comes to public education, are teaching and learning conditions.

I've written much the same myself.  That's why people in NY looking to duplicate those actions are more or less banging their heads against a wall. They hit closer to home here:

No student should attend schools with overcrowded classrooms that lack desks for every student...

I wrote just yesterday about being in that situation. In my building, not only are those same half-rooms open, but we now also have converted closets used for classrooms. There are no windows, and there are indoor air-conditioners. They don't work very well, but anytime they are on, interaction is pretty much impossible because they are incredibly noisy.

You may recall a few years back that the AFT brought Bill Gates to its convention as keynote speaker. I've written about Bill Gates here and here, among other places. After the convention, to thank us, Gates went and spoke somewhere against teacher pensions. If you think he was just fooling around, you're wrong. Right now there's an entire organization devoted to attacking our pensions, under the guise of protecting our earnings. (One of its leaders wrote an op-ed in the Daily News suggesting UFT teachers could not take their pensions with them if they changed jobs. That's not the case.)

The other remnant of Bill Gates, the one we see each and every day, is the junk science-based evaluation system. Every time Boy Wonder comes in to check off how much you suck, you can thank Bill Gates. While you're at it, thank Evan Stone, who supported this nonsense in all its glory. After all, he's not a teacher and hasn't been one in years. No skin off his apple if you're oppressed and miserable.

Here's another point where I agree with Randi and Evan:

Teachers rely on their unions to fight for them, but they are also asking for more from their unions. Frankly, they don’t always feel represented by them, and we must respond to that. 

I'm not exactly sure how non-teacher, non-union Stone is part of this "we," but let's humor the notion. I recently wrote about how I felt paying dues to AFT, NEA, and NYSUT but having no vote or voice in any of the above. I don't give a flying hoot what Evan Stone thinks about it, but if Randi Weingarten wants to expand democracy I'm all for it.

High school teachers voted for me to represent them at UFT Executive Board not because I'm charming, but rather because they agreed with me on teacher issues. I worked that election very hard and I am determined to represent not only those who elected me citywide, but also those within my own school building who elected me chapter leader. Someone has to stand up and say it's a terrible idea to get into bed with the likes of Bill Gates or Evan Stone. I'm frankly amazed that Randi Weingarten has yet to figure that out.

In case it's not clear, let me help out. You recall how Gates attacked teacher pensions to thank us for featuring him as keynote? Evan Stone is now engaged in attacking the Absent Teacher Reserve, based on ratings enabled by Bill Gates that are likely as not nonsense.

E4E is a corporate cancer in our midst. Its leaders don't even bother pretending to be teachers anymore. Instead, Stone is a CEO or something. Hey, AFT, if you want to reach out to real teachers, we're right here. Let's work together instead of helping Stone stab us in the back.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Poor Eva Needs Space

I was pretty surprised to see a link in today's Chalkbeat newsletter to a piece about how Eva needed space for a new Moskowitz Academy. Eva, who makes $782,000 a year, is in a real pickle. Evidently the city is reluctant to close another school so she can push her way in. It's tragic. What awful discrimination. Where are kids going to sit to pee their pants during test prep? Where is Eva going to store the extra sweat pants to give the kids who pee themselves?

I don't link to the 74, where the article is, but it was hard for me to cry for poor Eva. I mean, why doesn't she take a few of the millions she raises from her hedge fund supporters and buy a damn building? In fact, why is she taking tax money at all? She can't be bothered to sign the pre-school agreement every other provider signed. Once she does that, she can't do Any Damn Thing She Feels Like, and that's a great injustice somehow.

As part of a school that's obliged to follow chancellor's regulations, as part of a school in which denying students' basic biological urges constitutes corporal punishment rather than Just Another Day, it's hard for me to muster sympathy for Eva Moskowitz or her mission to take space away from us, the community.

It's particularly egregious because I've been teaching in real public schools since 1984. The one I've been in since 1993, Francis Lewis High School, suffers from rampant overcrowding and has done pretty much as long as I can remember. While I don't make students sit until they pee themselves (because I'm evidently not dedicated enough to be Moskowitz Academy material), I have been experiencing outlandish overcrowding situations since well before Moskowitz Academies even existed.

One day shortly after 9/11, an assistant principal walked into my half-classroom, really angry.

"Why didn't you observe the moment of silence?" he demanded.

"What moment of silence?" I asked.

"We just announced a moment of silence for the victims of 9/11," he said.

"Well we don't have a loudspeaker so we don't have the announcements," I told him.

He didn't like that. He tried approaching the situation from another angle.

"Why are those kids sitting on the radiator?" he asked.

"They don't want to sit on the floor," I told him.

I followed him out of the room and asked us to help us get a better room. That, evidently, was not as important as the moment of silence or the unacceptable seating arrangement. He stormed off without answering my question. He was soon promoted to principal.

Another time I was in a bowling alley-shaped room. It opened onto several fragrant dumpsters. There were twelve rows of three seats each. Once, after a test, the AP security came in and started screaming at one of my students. The student was wearing earphones. He had finished the test and was bothering no one. The AP dragged him out and wrote him up. I complained to the AP that he should have spoken to me first. The AP gave me a dirty look. He was also promoted to principal, though not quite as soon.

I did a year in a music room. It was very large. We had a piano, and a board with musical staffs on it. It was OK, expect when the music teacher next door decided to play Flight of the Valkyrie at top volume. However, he generally did that no more than once a day, every single day. I politely asked him to close the door. The first time or two, he complied. Then he decided the hell with it, everyone needs to hear Flight of the Valkyrie each and every day, or what's the point of life itself? One day I'd had it, and I walked over and slammed the door so loud it was perceptible above Flight of the Valkyrie.

The music teacher was horrified by this. He complained to his AP, who called me into her office and screamed at me for ten minutes. I defended myself, explaining how being polite had not proven effective, and she told me I had no right to do what I did. I referred to the situation as "bullshit," and she was horrified by my awful language. She went on about that for a few minutes before throwing me out of her office. She retired before they could promote her to principal.

I also taught maybe twelve years in crumbling trailers. I'd walk in to find the floors covered with sheets of ice. Sometimes some genius would leave the AC on all night and all the seats would be wet with some sort of AC mist. Sometimes there'd be no heat. Sometimes there'd be no AC, and you can't imagine how hot it would get in those oversized tin cans. Sometimes the custodians would be in a wacky mood and throw snowballs at us through the broken windows. Sometimes the marching band would come by playing Louie Louie while my poor students tried to take a test.

Twenty years later, the city is building an annex for us. When it's finished, maybe we'll get some relief. It took a little longer because I haven't got a hot line to Joel Klein so he can give me Whatever I Want, Whenever I Want. I had to get elected to the UFT Executive Board and get Ellie Engler to call up the school building authority. It's not a perfect solution because we all know well the city, rather than utilize this to help us, could simply overcrowd us further to make things even worse.

However, I don't feel sorry for Eva Moskowitz, who manipulates her kids to protest in Albany on school days, who terrorizes children to artificially boost her stats,  holds "got to go" lists, boasts of how wonderful her schools are, sheds the majority of her students well before they graduate, and blames our public schools for their lack of progress when they return.

I'm sorry for the poor teacher who had to write that thing. Maybe she doesn't know any better. Who knows? Maybe she's drunk Eva's Kool-Aid and thinks she's doing God's work. Maybe she'll become a principal for having written this thing. Maybe she wrote it of her own volition.  Maybe she doesn't understand the shelf life of a Moskowitz Academy teacher, and maybe she doesn't understand the value of due process.

Still, I don't feel sorry for the Moskowitz Academies. Screw Eva Moskowitz. Screw Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein, who enabled her. Screw the propagandists who sing her praises while ignoring the overwhelming majority of her students, and ours, who she ends up hurting. If Michael Bloomberg had to send his kids to public schools, there'd be no overcrowding anywhere. Instead of engineering giveaways to developers, we'd be building schools for the children of New York City. Instead of helping Eva with her corporatist self-serving shell game, we'd be improving education for all.

Make no mistake, that's what we'd be doing if we had a collective conscience.