It's teacher hunting season!

Monday, December 14, 2009


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

In a sharply worded decision, yesterday, Justice Walter Tolub of New York Supreme Court rebuked the DOE for affirming a "U" rating given by an elementary school principal to a 20 year veteran when few of the procedural safeguards were followed. Jill Budnick, represented by private counsel, decided not to accept the rating and had claimed that she was targeted by the principal due to her seniority.

Justice Tolub found that the teacher evaluations and appeals of unsatisfactory ratings must be conducted in compliance with the formal procedures set forth primarily in two handbooks prepared by the Division of Human Resources, namely, "Rating Pedagogical Staff Members" and "The Appeal Process." The Handbook requires a Rating Officer (in this case, the school principal) to complete a thorough performance review for the academic year before rating the teacher (Section 11, at 3-4).

The Handbook states that the Rating Officer should make informal and formal classroom visits in order to improve and sustain effective teaching (Ex. 4, Section 1, A, at 1). A formal observation may consist of one full-period observation or a series of short visits by the principal (Section II, E, at 7). Discussion with the teacher before and after an observation must be built into the formal observation process, along with a post-observation conference and a written report, which should include prescriptive recommendations for professional growth where appropriate.
The Rating Officer must characterize each formal observation of the employee's performance Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory and indicate why this is so (Section 1, A, at 1). In arriving at the rating for a school year, the Rating Oficer should take into account all events and incidents manifesting professional growth, pupil guidance and instruction, and classroom management (Section, II, C, at 4). A U rating has serious implications, as it is a compelling reason to file charges against a tenured teacher and may affect the teacher's ability to obtain additional licenses and salary increments (Section II, G, at 9).

Reports of observations must be included in a teacher's official file and a teacher is permitted to append a letter or note of explanation or rebuttal to documents placed in the file (Ex. 4, Section 11, I, at 9-10). This appended material is considered part of the original document and should be permanently attached thereto (Section II, I, at lo). Any material to be placed in a teacher's file must include a notation that it is being placed in the file and a space for the teacher to sign and to indicate when he or she received a copy of the material.

Justice Tolub found that the rating officer did not provide pre and post observation conferences or any meaningful way to correct Budnick's alleged deficiencies. Additionally the Court noted that documents appended to the file letters were not included in the record on appeal and the appeals officer refused to mark into the record supportive letters from colleagues and other teachers.

The irregularities, according to the Court required that the U rating be vacated, an S rating be substituted and the DOE ordered to make the changes.

Rubber Room Teachers Sue Klein and NYC DoE

Saturday, December 05, 2009
Rubber Room Teachers Sue Klein and NYCDOE
Breaking Education News - For Immediate Release

Manhattan Attorney, Dr. Joy Hochstadt, Esq.
Files Class Action Lawsuit in Federal Court to
Close the NYC Dept of Education "Rubber Rooms"

from: "Village Voice," New York News Blog
Teachers Bring Suit Against Klein Over Rubber Rooms
By Roy Edroso, Tuesday, Dec. 1 2009
Click to above link for full "Village Voice" article link

And here, from Betsy Combier's NYC Rubber Room Reporter blog:
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Whistleblower PE Teacher Daniel Smith Sues the NYC BOE in Federal Court For Putting Him in the "Rubber Room" For More Than Two Years

Contact: Alan J. Wax (631) 873-8044
(631) 574-4433
or Todd Shapiro (516) 312-6573


NEW YORK (Nov. 12, 2009) -- Daniel Smith, the outspoken former Dewitt Clinton High School girls softball coach and Bronx high school gym teacher, is suing the New York City Department of Education to get out of one of the city’s infamous “rubber rooms.” Smith claims he’s been assigned to the rubber room for speaking out against school officials.
Click to link for full article

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ravitch chimes in on illusory reputation of Duncan and Chicago schools

The close them down, spill out the staff and rebuild them approach is under full swing in Chicago. The media loves a story of someone performing miracles in tough situations. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan received media accolades for his closing and reopening strategy in Chicago.
Maybe people should scratch the surface and engage in a bit more critical thinking, both as they research for the media and as they digest the media. As in the situation of George W. Bush and the alleged education miracles in 1990s Texas, we have a phony situation in Chicago. We should have learned our lesson then. The Texas reality was manipulation to produce attractive test scores.
As New York University professor Diane Ravitch tells us, the real record of Duncan's close-and-reopen schools strategy is unimpressive. It progressed with data frenzy, data manipulation and in the end, no improvement in the results.

The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago released a report ("Still Left Behind")
earlier this year that documented the lowered cut scores on Illinois's state tests, which gave the illusion of progress in Chicago. Chicago students are still far behind, and progress during Arne Duncan's tenure was meager. The report reaches these key findings:

"Most of Chicago's students drop out or fail. The vast majority of Chicago's elementary and high schools do not prepare their students for success in college and beyond.
. . .
Similarly, the scoring of the state tests in New York was dumbed down dramatically from 2006-2009, and it became possible for students to reach Level 2 by random guessing. Proficiency rates on state tests soared dramatically at the same time that the state's scores on NAEP remained flat. As a result of the state's dumbed-down tests, New York City's accountability system crashed, and 97 percent of all elementary and junior high schools were rated A or B because of their alleged gains on the state tests.
. . .
New York City and Chicago are two districts that adopted competitive business practices, aggressively closing down schools and spurring competition. What are the results? Grade inflation on state scores, but neither district saw significant improvement on NAEP since 2003. (NYC did get a gain for its 4th grade students in math in 2007, but not in 4th grade reading, 8th grade reading, or 8th grade math, and in 2009, the state's math scores were flat, which indicates that the city's were, as well.)

Living as we do in an age when test scores are so easily manipulated and so often fraudulent, we should proceed with caution before using them to determine the fate of students, teachers, principals, and schools.

The close and reopen strategy leads to the "failure" of other schools, as weaker students get pushed to the remaining large schools that are forced to take them, as told in this story on Adlai Stevenson in the Bronx, and this story on Richmond Hill in Queens. Once the crowded atmosphere weakens students enthusiasm and the gap between ninth grade enrollees and graduates increases, the Chancellor clamours for the schools to be shut down.
Jamaica High School's death knell has been sounded. See this post, on the planned closure of Jamaica and eight other schools. And this is stirring much activism in the activist teacher community. New York City Chancellor Joel Klein, fresh from Mayor Michael Bloomberg's weak victory is running forward with a growing list of schools to shut down.
We should peruse lists of shut down large comprehensive high schools. Lists here and here (Norm Scott's). It has been going on since the 1970s, with the closing of Julia Richman in Manhattan, and a new wave that began with the closing of Eastern District (Brooklyn), James Monroe (the Bronx) and Andrew Jackson (Queens), all in the mid-1990s. Serious study needs to be made: what good came of these closures? The residual schools in the same campuses have similar difficulties (e.g., Regents scores, graduation rates) as the earlier schools. If the record of closing down and reopening has made no profound progress, then we need to look to different strategies to improving education for the students in the city.

I have previously posted here and here about how the curriculum options for students are different in schools in minority neighborhoods, contrasted with schools in white neighborhoods. This pattern and the linked trend of school restructuring is exclusive to minority neighborhoods and is a massive civil rights class action lawsuit waiting to be launched.
A race to the top, to the best of aspirations, sounds nice on paper. The reality is that Duncan is pushing a poisonous plan that will encourage other school systems to pursue the same unfounded policies that has accomplished nothing in Chicago and in New York.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Poll: Which workplace TV show does you school remind you of?

In an more immediate sense, the physical structure of our schools reminds us of films such as "Up the Down Staircase" or the threats from students bring "The Blackboard Jungle" to mind. Or the quest for respect, as in "To Sir With Love," only the real world teacher's quest for respect from administrators, not just the Sidney Portier character's search for peace between students.

Our schools exude farce, pathos, irony, tragedy, scandal. The comedies in the poll at right come to mind as I think of the ... challenges ... as I put it, delicately, of working in New York City (NYC) public schools / the Board of Ed / the Department of Education.

Your vote in this online poll and your comments are most welcome.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

To NYS: Education should be last on public chopping block

Campaign to protect classrooms

Call or fax Albany to protect classrooms!

Budget talks in Albany are coming down to the wire.
Governor Paterson reconvened the State Legislature this week for a special session to close a midyear deficit of over $3 billion, and under consideration is a $223 million cut to New York City schools. Legislators will make a decision on a deficit reduction plan in a matter of days.
The UFT is prepared to work with lawmakers to meet the challenge. We have proposed alternative budget cuts that will help us get us through the immediate crisis. But we say
NO to cuts to the classroom and direct services to the classroom.
We need you to once again call or fax your local senator and assembly member and tell them: Protect the classroom!
Call the state Assembly at 518-455-4100, between 8 a.m. and midnight, Monday through Friday, and ask to speak to your local assembly member.
Don’t know who your assembly member is? Look it up here.
Call the state Senate at 518-455-2800, between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and ask to speak to your local senator.
Don’t know who your state senator is? Look it up here.
Send another fax to your state representatives to drive home the message that classrooms must be shielded. Go here to send a fax to Albany. (UFT site)
Urge your state legislators to protect classrooms from midyear cuts!

Michael Mulgrew
UFT President

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Coordinated media campaign against ATRs; separate, unequal schools in minority neighborhoods

Is anyone noticing that after a lock-step media campaign (particularly among the newspapers of New York City) on certain topics: about a year ago, against the Teacher Reassignment Centers / a.k.a. "Rubber Rooms" and their detainees, this summer, the imperative for renewing mayoral control for Michael Bloomberg, and most recently, the imperative for a) ending teacher tenure and b) eliminating the ATRs, the new cancer on New York City public education?

Additionally, where is the outcry among activists or the UFT over the DoE strategem that produced the ATR mess? Namely, I speak of the school decommissioning in minority neighborhoods, a school closure process that has eliminated access to a range of programs that continue to be available in schools in white and Asian middle class neighborhoods. From the break-up of established schools comes the creation of over 1,000 ATRs.

Generations ago, noble, principled activists put Plessy to challenge the segregation laws in transportation, backed legal challenges in Topeka, Kansas to end school segregation. Today, who is challenging New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein for his clear segregation of schools, most glaringly, the charter schools and the high schools? Worst served by these two systems are the special education students and the English Language Learners / a.k.a. English as a Special Language students. (I addressed this issue at greater length in an October posting.)

Policy-makers would be wary of constructing a school assignment pattern that explicitly excluded black students. But with the charter school system and the free-for-all competition pattern that the Department of Education has set forth in the 2000s in the Klein era, charter schools are starkly skewed in their demographics (more middle class families, exclusion of special education students and ELL (ESL) students by the exclusion of services for these students).

But here is where the paradox appears: the city has broken up schools, cast off teachers as ineffective, and has overwhelmingly transformed the curriculum of schools, all-the-while masking the failed curriculum with invalid increases in graduation. The flip-side of the tricky game of watered down Regents tests and increases in students' scores, as detailed by NYU education professor Diane Ravitch is a dirty secret of a failure to properly educate students.
Test results that are more properly fitting for contrast against test results in states beyond New York State, those from the NAEP, indicate flat performance rates in English and math.
(News late in the week just ended indicated that New York State students are performing worst in GED pass rates are the lowest in the nation.)
Throughout the curriculum there are profound flaws: in English the city pushes watered down standards of literature and student writing, teachers interested in teaching grammar are derided; in mathematics constructivist math is in vogue, whereby pre-adolescents are expected to create theories for math operations, teachers interested in emphasizing memorization of times tables are derided.
The result? High school graduates Johnny and Jane cannot perform at authentic eighth grade level standards. You want proof?: just see the reports on how the vast majority of New York City graduates in the CUNY colleges require remedial courses in English and math. (As WNYC's Beth Fertig reported last week, these courses actually deal with math at a level of the later years of middle school.)
In sum, the city breaks up schools and places blame on teachers; the city's curriculum fails the students, it gets away with blaming the teachers. The UFT and real education reform advocates (not the expensive consultants at Tweed) need to make the real case for education equity and they ought to oppose the castigation of experienced teachers for the hasty mistakes of the Department of Education. The media need to do a better job of speaking to people outside of the city administration and ill-informed think-tanks; they need to do a better job of connecting the dots to recognize the city's role in short-changing school-children's opportunity for a quality education (across the board, in Canarsie as well as in Bayside).

Friday, November 13, 2009

Flash leak of teacher contract negotiations: UFT to cave in on ATRs

News flash on the contract negotiations between the United Federation of Teachers and the New York City Department of Education:

The UFT is inclined to give in on the ATR (Absent Teacher Reserve) issue, in order to secure a four percent salary increase in the next contract. The leaked word is that the union would accede to the termination (firing, dismissal) of teachers who could not find permanent assignments after six months.

Public Schools Better than Charters Says DOE Progress Report Data

Public Schools Better than Charters Says DOE Progress Report Data

Posted using ShareThis

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Republicans increase seats on NYC Council

Republicans increased their seats on the New York City Council in the municipal elections of November 3, 2009. They will have five seats in the up-coming council when the 51 seat body commences its new term in 2010, an increase from the current three seats.

Traditionally, Republican seats on the council have been from Staten Island, central Queens (neighborhoods such as Middle Village) and southwestern Queens (areas such as Ozone Park and Howard Beach). In this election Peter Koo (District 20) is adding Flushing to that small number of neighborhoods represented by Republicans. News accounts have focused on his ethnicity. But they have ignored that he is a Republican; this is in contrast to other successful Chinese-American politicians (John Liu and Margaret Chin) in the city, who have up to this point won as Democrats. Another neighborhood in which a Republican is replacing a Democrat is Bayside. In this district Dan Halloran (District 19) is succeeding Tony Avella, who made an unsuccessful run for mayor in the primary this September 15. Republicans re-elected to the council this year are: Eric Ulrich (District 32), James Oddo (District 50), Vincent Ignizio (District 51).

A vacancy was also filled in the election. Miguel Martinez (District 10 in Washington Heights) resigned he seat earlier this year in a taint from corruption. He is succeeded by Ydanis Rodriguez. Like Martinez, he is one of the first elected members of local government originating from a Dominican-American heritage. The "Daily News" reported that "White City Council members the minority for first time ever after Tuesday elections". The News also noted that the council will also have the first two openly gay men from Queens (and I believe from the outer boroughs), Daniel Dromm (District 25) and Jimmy Van Bramer (District 26).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Two candidates -Davila, Griffith- challenge 2 incumbents that supported the term limits extension

New York City voters voted twice to support limits of two terms for the offices of mayor and city councillor. Yet several city council members supported the extension of term limits.

If you oppose those councillor's votes, you can vote them out on Tuesday, November 3, 2009. Here are the councillors and their opponents, running on the Working Families Party line with that party's endorsement:
Diana Reyna (District 34, in eastern Williamsburg, Bushwick in Brooklyn and western Ridgewood in Queens) (Click here for the district boundaries.) --challenged by Working Families Party nominee Maritza Davila

Albert Vann or Al Vann (District 36, in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights in Brooklyn.) (Click here for the district boundaries.) --challenged by Working Families Party nominee Mark Winston Griffith

Davila is a former aide to Williamsburg political powerhouse State Assemblyman Vito Lopez. She is also a community organizer, having established the Northern Bushwick Residents’ Association. Here is a biographical sketch by Aaron Short in the BushwickBK blog.

Griffith is the executive director of the Drum Major Institute, and is currently on leave, during the campaign.
WWRL radio host and New York Daily News columnist Errol Louis has repeatedly criticized Al Vann for his chronic absenteeism from the city council. Vann ranked an inglorious second place in absenteeism from votes, "A City Council Scorecard: Who's Engaged and Who's Not?", by Gotham Gazette.
Griffith received the endorsement recently of Al Sharpton and the Daily News.
The New York Times spotlighted the Vann-Griffith contest with a recent piece by Kareem Fahim this weekend, "Once a Young Turk, Now Challenged by One."

To see the break-down of city council votes on the term limit extension law, click on this link to NY1's site, "How They Voted: Council Members Tackle Term Limit Bill".

So, even if you are dejected over the lack of even resources in the Mike Bloomberg-Bill Thompson race for mayor matchup, you can still express your voice, to support candidates that oppose certain Democrats that caved in to the mayor's heavy-handed strong-arming of community organizations, media outlets and ultimately the city council to win an extension of the term limits law.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Last events in the mayoral campaign

Last events in the last week of the campaign:

Mayoral debate
Tuesday, October 27
7 PM
Watch WABC-TV (channel 7) or

Contact the William Thompson for mayor 2009 campaign, to pitch in:
Main Campaign Headquarters
99 Madison Avenue, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10016
Phone: 212-608-6555
Other Bill Thompson campaign office locations details.

Candidate Forum on Civil Rights, Monday, Oct. 26

Western Queens for Marriage Equality, DFNYC and other progressive groups are sponsoring a candidate forum on marriage equality this next Monday, October 26. Please come and show our elected officials that we care about equality and civil rights.

What: Candidate Forum on Civil Rights, Informational Meeting
When: Monday, October 26, 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Where: Astoria Historical Society
35-20 Broadway, 4th Floor
Directions: R train to Forest Hills, get off at Steinway St., exit near intersection of B'way and Steinway St.,
walk west on Broadway towards 38th St.
Join us and RSVP on facebook:

Eight Years is Enough!

NYCorE's Political Education and Mobilization (PEM) work group

Join NYCoRE’s Political Education and Mobilization (PEM) work group as we launch our educator political education series for the 09-10 school year. Through these forums we will interrogate the ways in which current education reforms are aligned with corporate-thinking and how deeply these reforms shape our work lives, the lives of our students and the local community.
First up, Obama & My Classroom.

What are some of the major elements of Barack Obama’s (& Arne Duncan's) education platform? How does this federal discussion affect the lives of teachers, students, and families in the New York City Public school system? What are the political ideologies that support this stance? How might we, as educators, respond? These are just some of the questions we will be looking at during this first gathering.

Join us, and please invite other interested educators and concerned community members.
Wednesday, Oct. 28th
5 – 7 pm
CUNY Graduate Center 365 5th Ave. (@ 34th St.) [Transit info at Education Activism box at right.]
Room 5409 Please bring ID.For information or to RSVP, contact Edwin

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Video: Bloomberg in '04 RNC convention, resoundingly endorsing GW Bush

This is what the video showed from the Republican National Convention:

Republican New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg resoundingly endorsed G.W. Bush, while speaking before the RNC in the convention hall,
Let's remind you, this was in 2004, just as the US war in Iraq was having one of its deadliest years, both for the US and for the civilian population there ...
"The president deserves our support. We are here [the convention hall] to support HIM." --emphasis, Bloomberg's. He continued, "And I am here to support him."

"President Bush is a great Republican leader who has kept his word for New York." --Two years earlier, at the New York State Republican Nominating Committee, 2002.

Click on this line, to get the Thompson2009 Youtube video of mayor Bloomberg's own words, gushing forward, to endorse President George W. Bush.
Appropriately, the video is entitled, "George, Rudy and Mike: So Happy Together," with the Turtles' famous 1960s ditty, "Happy Together," playing in the background.

Pass this video around; Bloomberg definitely endorsed President Bush for re-election to the presidency.

Monday, October 12, 2009

William Thompson campaign events, campaign offices

Click here for volunteering page (and upcoming campaign events for the next week) for William Thompson for New York City Mayor:
Debates: Tues., Oct. 13, 7-8 PM (NY1 & WNYC-820 AM & 93.9 FM); Tues., Oct. 27, 7-8 PM (WABC-TV-ch. 7 & 1010 AM). Click here for full NYC 2009 debates schedule, including public advocate and comptroller debates. The renegade "Daily News" is among the Oct. 13 debate sponsors; anticipate some possible fireworks questions.

For the campaign offices:

For the County Democratic Party Organizations (more campaign options):

(Need a reminder for why Thompson over Bloomberg?: see my previous post, immediately below, on Thompson's expose of maneuvers behind sham education statistics.)

Will Bloomberg put Zuckerman in the Rubber Room? One less media outlet feather in Bloomberlusconi's cap

New York City lost a voice of independence with the folding of "The New York Sun." The conservative newspaper that had politics close to those of the New York Post and a mature tone closer to that of the New York Times was a rare exception in the New York City commercial media landscape: it dared to print stories that were critical of the direction of the city Department of Education under Chancellor Joel Klein.

Yet, now the "New York Daily News" has now taken this mantle. Pick up an issue or look at its website and you will see frequent stories that tarnish the Bloomberg-Klein record on education. If you just read stories from the paper in the last six months you will have a nice collection of details that sully the myth of the "Joel Klein miracle" in New York City schools.

The Bloomberg myth rests squarely on his alleged record of turning around student performance in New York City schools. Puncturing that myth is the story last week on cheating, grade-scrubbing and improper social promotion that allegedly occurs at P.S. 147, an elementary school in Queens. The concerned citizens of the city can appreciate the courage of math teacher Darren Johnson for having the courage, principles and honesty to come forward and expose administrators' moves to change students' grades. (Read the story to see how students that rarely turned in homework or could not perform basic algebraic operations were moved from failing to "passing." --photostat of grade record, included.) One cannot help but think that the principal's U-rating of Johnson was in retribution for something, perhaps a pattern of failing poorly performing students or clashing over grade changes. Furthermore, one would also suspect that this practice is more wide-spread than one school --particularly in this climate of pressure from "No Child Left Behind" and "grading" of schools.

The question is, will mayor Bloomberlusconi punish Mort Zuckerman, publisher of the Daily News for fostering known dissenters from the official truth, such as columnists Juan Gonzalez or Errol Louis? Surely, he must have some strategem to lash out at this errant publisher. Maybe he can consult with his White House friends on how he can create a rubber room for Zuckerman.

Shame on the Times for burying its head on these crucial issues. When newspapers fail to pursue second opinions on claims of "school success" they fail to perform their duty of informing the public of the un-biased facts of a city government's performance. The Times bears a special obligation to rise to the task of reporting the truth about the New York City schools. For this is the "paper of record" that is held in high regard, touted by high school teachers and college professors, held in microfilm at nearly every college library and in the libraries of countless municipal libraries. As a matter of course, many lettered historians often assume that they can count on the Times to provide that "first draft of history."
William Thompson, the Democratic challenger to Bloomberg for the mayoralty, in July issued a report from his office, in the capacity of city comptroller. In this audit he cited the city Department of Education as "the Enron of American Education," "showing the gains, hiding the losses." In the official audit report, Comptroller Thompson asked, "Did graduates actually meet all requirements to earn their diplomas?" <<< Link to the audit-in-brief; further link to full report available. >>> (See the video at the right column of this page.) Where is the New York Times on this charade???

One of the most important children's fables is Hans Christian Andersen's story, "The Emperor's New Clothes." Let us review the fable, the essence of which appears summarized briefly in a wikipedia article:
An emperor of a prosperous city who cares more about clothes than military pursuits or entertainment hires two swindlers who promise him the finest suit of clothes from the most beautiful cloth. This cloth, they tell him, is invisible to anyone who was either stupid or unfit for his position. The Emperor cannot see the (non-existent) cloth, but pretends that he can for fear of appearing stupid; his ministers do the same. When the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they dress him in mime. The Emperor then goes on a procession through the capital showing off his new "clothes". During the course of the procession, a small child cries out, "the emperor has no clothes!" The crowd realizes the child is telling the truth. The Emperor, however, holds his head high and continues the procession.

The 1837 story's importance lies in its being a cautionary tale of the power of propaganda, the folly of group think and the fear of standing out and disclosing an unpopular truth. The story is a parallel to the media deception of school performance in New York City under mayor Bloomberg and schools chancellor Klein. In our case, the swindler is the mayor, the mayor's million-dollar budget publicity office, and schools chancellor. The self-deluding --or hoodwinked-- crowd is the official media, secondary policy-makers (who are enamored of "the-good-work-that-Joel-Klein-is-doing-in-New-York-City"), and the public. Of course, the child is the Daily News and a handful of bloggers hoping for the day that a critical mass of the public --or some principled reporter at a paper of record will pay heed to the disclosed reality.
The New York Times' (and countless other media outlets) willful ignorance of the true Klein record is truly a great tragedy. There is a broad failure of duty to explore the true record of "educational reform" in this city. An election will pass, in which a public will (probably) re-coronate a mayor on the basis of an emperor's new clothes myth. In the absence of efforts to debunk myths, reporters, pundits, policy-makers, and naive voters are all resounding in a massive chorus, adulation for emperor Bloomberg's new clothes.

Conspiratorial-minded people have argued that the New York Times is "bought" by Mike Bloomberg. However, various strands of information have convinced me that while there is possibly no explicit conspiracy, yet there are de facto relationships that compromise the independence of the newspaper from mayor Bloomberg or chancellor Klein. On a simple level, the newspaper needs money, literally. As a corporation with print news at its core, it is quite vulnerable. This newspaper, as others internationally, have lost advertising revenues and readers. The Times came close to shutting down its subsidiary, the New England paper of record, "The Boston Globe." Enter, the mayor. The newspaper needs regular ad revenue. The mayor's office has run ads in heavy frequency, until the "hiring freeze," that seek to employ new talent for teaching positions. And you can add to these advertisements other Department of Education and Bloomberg-funded "community organizations" or "foundations" that supplied regular ad revenue for the newspaper.
Then, there is the radio connection. Until the change-over to WNYC ownership last week, the New York Times operated a commercial classical radio station, WQXR. In past decades the Nine and Eleven O'Clock PM hours brought advance news of the following days' edition of the New York Times. In pre-Internet days it was a nice advance source of news for news junkies. However, in recent years, the Times newspaper connection was severed. When the Times' WQXR chimed in with news of the hour, it said, "Bloomberg Radio News reporting." Do we need any more clear a smoking gun of a biased news subject-to-media outlet relationship than this????

Next we have the matter of a possible inter-locking relationship between the New York Times and Bertelsmann Music Group, the German media conglomerate. Thomas Middlehoff has been on the board of the New York Times since 2003. From 1998 to 2002 Middlehoff had been the Chief executive officer of BMG. Coincidentally, present-day New York City schools chancellor Klein had been chief United States liaison officer for BMG, from January, 2001 to July, 2002.

In the wake of the great recession of the latter half of 2008, Bloomberg suddenly asserted that he could not in good conscience allow himself to deprive the city of his brilliant leadership in this time of crisis. And again, just like the uncritical chorus of Klein-promoters over the education issue, no one questioned the grounds of the argument for his great leadership. Indeed, the city has seen spiking homelessness, a pinch on the working and middle classes, and an exodus of 50,000 African-Americans from the city (compare the 2005 census with the 2000 census). Surely, this is a city that has failed to protect many of its residents. And again, what great wizardry could Bloomberg point to? Even if we close our eyes to more humble groups, what has happened in the glitzier parts of town? Declining patronage of restaurants, thousands of upper end professional jobs lost for good from Wall Street.
Has anyone remembered that the men that are credited with saving New York City in the 1970s fiscal crisis, mayor Ed Koch and governor Hugh Carey, had law and politics backgrounds --not business backgrounds?

TJC's flyer on the UFT, the ATR crisis and the mayoral election

The Teachers for a Just Contract has been doing good work as a caucus competing with the Unity Caucus which dominates officer positions in the United Federation of Teachers. They (along with ICE) have a competing candidate (James Eterno) for UFT president in next year's UFT president election.

They have offered serious critical analysis of New York City's Absent Teacher Reserve ("ATR") crisis, which the Unity Caucus conceded to with the 2005 contract. Before we share the TJC flyer on the UFT and the ATR crisis, let's discuss the ATR issue. The 2005 contract gave away seniority transfer rights. This was a dream-come-true for the city, for the city could pursue its ageist (or at long employment service)-cleansing of the teacher ranks. With the closing down and breaking apart of schools, the Department of Education was able to eliminate the people that it considered bad: the veteran teachers. The city not only preferred younger, cheaper teachers, it castigated the thoughts, teaching methods and energy of veteran teachers as out-of-date, old-school, un-progressive, worn, tired and so on.
The teachers that seemed too expensive or out of sync with the new ideas of pedagogy were rejected in the new pools of teachers in the restructured schools. The rejected teachers became the ATRs. Thus, the ATR scheme worked hand in glove with the restructuring of schools.

The buzz on the web is that scorned teachers should alert the local chapter leader and petition for placement on the school's teacher rolls. This is a trap, for while the ATR teacher would be getting a bona fide position and would be on the good side of Joel Klein and media-fed public opinion, the ATR teacher that secured the teaching position would be on the principal's bad side from the start. The principal would have a potential grudge against the teacher: the principal would see the ATR as forced on him/her, as dislodging her choice for a newer, "fresher-thinking" teacher. And the older ATR teacher could find him/herself the target of principal wrath with letters-in-the-file, negative observations and the like.
Here is where the top-down power and a top-down strategy is safer: the union could demand an audit of the schools. The union, the city, the chancellor have put a public face that the ATRs must be placed, and that there must be a freeze on the outside hires.
Yet, we all know that the reality is that the principals (particularly those trained in the Leadership Academy), inculcated with seven years of Klein-driven anti-established teacher thought, have been hiring novice teachers, ahead of ATR teachers, often at schools where there are seasoned (ATR) veterans in the same license area that are working at office-work assignments instead of teaching actual classes.
Let's see if Interim Acting United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew has the moxie. Will he force an audit of the DoE's hiring patterns; will he force the placement of the seasoned veteran ATR teachers, or will he ignore the issue and let the city take the initiative?

HERE IS THE TJC FLYER ON THE UFT AND THE ATR CRISIS, which touches on the union's neutrality in the mayoral race.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Education Week challenges schoolratings; Daily News publicizes assertions: administrators intimidating teachers to pass (failing) math students

Education Week writes "Questions Raised on New York Test System's Reliability"
"High number of schools receiving A or B in city a red flag, critics argue" September 29, 2009
By Erik W. Robelen

The recent news that 97 percent of New York City public schools got an A or B under the district’s grading system might be seen as reason for celebration, but critics suggest the grades hold little value and highlight the need to revisit the state assessment system.

The results, they say, reveal far more about flaws in the city’s so-called “progress reports” —and the state testing regime that largely drives them—than they do about the quality of education in the 1.1 million-student district.

Eighty-four percent of the city’s 1,058 public elementary and middle schools received an A on the city’s report cards this year, compared with 38 percent in 2008, while 13 percent received a B, city...

(Alas, the site wants you to subscribe in order to read remainder of story.)
* * *
From the Daily News (not the New York Times):
"PS 147 in Queens probed for promoting failing students: School math doesn't add up in records" October 7, 2009
(We could say that this is part of Bloomberg/Klein misrepresentation of student performance under B/K regime..)
Flunked math and couldn't do the work.

Teachers say administrators at Public School 147 in Cambria Heights doctored failing grades into passing ones and bumped seventh-graders up to eighth grade.

"I was told that no students were going to summer school this year, so everyone had to pass," math teacher Darren Johnson said.

Copies of student evaluation forms obtained by the Daily News show two math teachers at PS 147 failed nine seventh-graders with a final score of 55. But copies of three of the students' report cards - dated two weeks later - show a final grade of 65.

Those students fell "far below standards in function and algebra concepts," the report cards say. Report cards for the other students could not be obtained.

An Education Department spokeswoman said neither the principal nor agency officials would comment because the investigation is ongoing.

Some of the students who flunked rarely turned in homework assignments, teachers said, and could not perform basic algebra problems. Most did not pass the state math exams. One student was late 52 days.

"It didn't make sense to me to pass kids who failed almost every single test," Johnson, 29, said.

The tenured six-year veteran was given an unsatisfactory rating for the year by school Principal Anne Cohen.

Johnson, who resigned last month, says an assistant principal told him PS 147 could not pay for summer school.

The Education Department pays for summer school only for children who get the lowest possible score on state exams. Schools must dip into their budgets to pay for extra help for other kids, including those who failed a class.

All schools took a 5% hit to their budgets this year.

Read more:

Reports such as this help explain the cold truth that tens of thousands of New York City students are being pushed along -SOCIAL PROMOTION LIVES ON in reality. This explains why you encounter majorities of students in ninth or tenth grade that cannot perform multiplication operations without counting on their fingers (apparently, indicating that they have not mastered fourth or fifth grade mathematics competency).

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Shame of the city V: overcrowding the result of unresponsive Tweed; seeing how the other half studies

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg likes to tout his educational performance, and he likes to contrast it with the William Thompson era at the Board of Education.
We are seeing the results of an autocratic mayor, with an autocratic policy, a man that acts alone, through his puppet schools chancellor Joel Klein (head of the NYC Department of Education, at the old Tweed Courthouse).
There are no authentic sessions of parental or parent advocate expression at public meetings of school policy panels. Instead, we have a rubber stamp, mayorally-selected board of yes-men and women that OK everything that King Michael has decreed.

(I was about to cite a Daily News article. Though it has a date of a year ago [October 2, 2008], the analysis remains the same. It is shameful that the city has not addressed the issue. It is shameful that the media, from the liberal "American Prospect" to the "New York Times" has uncritically frothed on about "the work that Joel Klein is doing" and that they have ignored this persistent, and now worsening crisis.) Meredith Kolodner reported community activists making an argument as to the cause of the problem: central or district office decisions that do not consider a common sense solution: build neighborhood schools.
In response to the crisis, a coalition of parents, elected officials and the teachers union will launch a campaign Friday called A Better Capital Plan.

Hey, it's been a year. What ever happened to this campaign? What ever happened to media coverage about parent outrage? Why aren't parents coalescing and challenging the leadership that has worsened this crisis? Why did the city council not challenge Bloomberg's education policy? Why did it roll over and play dead with every demand of King Michael? Hopefully, the changes in the city council and the new public advocate and comptroller will pay attention to the misguided funding policies.

The groups will rally before a City Council hearing to urge leaders to build schools based on neighborhood need instead of the current district-wide evaluation.
They say keeping up with demand is as important in troubled economic times as it is when the city is prospering.
"We don't want to make the same mistake we made in the 1970s, when we stopped investing in the city's infrastructure," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. "You do not want to lose the tax base because of a lack of school construction."

* * *
Again, the arts suffer: read this reader response to the article:
A recent survey of NYC principals revealed that 25% reported losing art, music, dance or drama spaces to general education classrooms. Extrapolated to the whole system, that’s close to 400 schools that have lost their art room! In New York, the cultural capital of the world – renowned for its Broadway theaters and world class museums -- public schools are failing to provide the infrastructure, and even instructional time, to provide students with a world class education in and through the arts.

Read more:

Note the class disparity in policy. Neighborhood schools are forced to close or break up in minority neighborhoods. Parents get upset. The city ignores them. Yet, in middle class neighborhoods, the city modifies its activities (to break up or not to break up) with a mind to not upsetting local sentiments. Again, it bears repeating, note how high schools in the middle class and upper middle class neighborhoods of eastern Queens have been spared the break-up mania, no doubt so as not to disturb the parents that don't want to disturb Johnny's chances to take AP classes and French and get accepted into Columbia or Cornell.
Contrast the diversity of offering at schools such as Fresh Meadows' (Queens) Frances Lewis High School with the patterns discussed in this morning's earlier post (Shame of the Cities IV) about block scheduling in small schools in poor neighborhoods.
Note the following from Jennifer Medina, "The New York Times," September 28, 2009:
Not far from Francis Lewis, two schools with lesser reputations, Jamaica and John Bowne High Schools, are below capacity. But education officials, wary of alienating middle-class parents, have been reluctant to shift students to even out the load.

And Frances Lewis High School is big; and somehow there is no rage to shut it down and replace it with limited course offering "academies."
“We’re big because we’re good and people want to send their kids here,” said Francis Lewis’s principal, Musa Ali Shama. “But how much longer can we keep getting bigger and stay great? There comes a point where too much is too much.”
This year, as it has for much of the past decade, enrollment grew by 200 students, to roughly 4,600, expanding the school day to 14 periods, more than any other school in the city. The school has successfully kept most classes below 34 students, which is better than many schools in the city.

Note: the large size of the schools offers diversity of course offerings, something not found in the small schools peppering the poorer districts of the city. The students Medina quoted enjoy the range of courses:
Jasmine and her friends extol the benefits of Lewis, as students call the school — their electives have included forensics, psychology, bioethics and aerobics. The school’s graduation rate, 81 percent, far exceeds the citywide rate of 56 percent.

Affluent neighborhood: neighborhood school; poor neighborhood: restricted choices
Note the contrast: Students have to apply to high schools. For many students in poor neighborhoods (particularly in much of the Bronx and Brooklyn) they do not have the chance to go to their neighborhood schools. As I've noted elsewhere, this is forcing students to become commuters on the subway, certainly not a green policy, as heavy transit usage requires greater use of natural fossil fuels.
Yet, in affluent eastern Queens and (affluent parts of) southeastern Brooklyn, generally, if you are in the geographic zone, you get to go to your zone school. This is generally implicit in the following:
Unlike high schools in Manhattan,
[comment: somehow, the Times writers are unaware of the convolutions in school access many Brooklyn and Queens students endure.]
which are open to anyone in the city, Francis Lewis and other high schools in Queens have geographic enrollment zones.

This interactive website on New York City public school overcrowding has been up since 2008. Where has been the public outrage that forced a reversal of the mayor's preference for charter schools that run rough-shod over neighborhood schools?
Click here, to

Children need neighborhood schools. They do not need siphoning of resources over to charter schools that will then produce skewed results and that the mimicking media (the Daily News excepted) will tout as miraculous. Enough with making new sports stadia, steer public policy over development and construction of neighborhood schools. Stop forcing tweens and teens into becoming commuters.

Shame of the City IV: in a small school: longer classes, core topics push aside variety of curriculum

Peer into a traditional large New York City school that has been broken up into four or so small learning communities or small schools.
You will see students with programs that concentrate only on core subjects, what we could call EMSiS: English/Math/Science/Social studies. A reform in the design of United States high schools in the first third of the twentieth century was that public education no longer was narrowly about reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic. It developed into a sort of junior university, with those four core subjects, and also topics that enrich the muse and work the body. Namely, arts, music and physical education were offered. Foreign language classes gave students and understanding of essential parts of cultures beyond America. Many people look back at subjects that touched them and kept them interested in returning to school each day. The EMSiS core didn't do it for all students. For many, art, music or shop classes gave them one subject that they enjoyed and thrived in. This variety, shall we say, "diversity," of subjects was in working class urban schools, and as well as in wealthier suburbs.
Joel Klein's "reform" of the city's large comprehensive schools has deprived students of the traditional varied menu of courses. A look at a student's schedule shows what is happening and gives a hint at why the "marginal," non-EMSiS fields are areas in which teachers are finding shortages of open positions. Typically in "failing" --read, lower income and minority-- schools or districts, students are being given long periods, called block scheduling, of 90 minutes. But these classes are in the EMSis core. This core pushes aside the traditional non-EMSiS classes: art, music, foreign language and physical education.
This core emphasis provides administrators with a cover: the students' school days are full; yet this allows the administrators to skip funding teachers in non-EMSiS subjects. Non-EMSiS subjects may be offered; but these are offered in a kind of random fashion: there are tokens: maybe a Spanish class here or an art class there. Students are placed in these classes, they do not choose them. The EMSiS model is given an exception two or maybe five times a week, but only with one class per student. Students do not have three non-EMSiS classes beyond their core classes; they have only one. Thus, the scheduling of one non-EMSiS exception per student is an empty gesture on the Department of Education's part. Again, herein lies the secret to the mystery of the vanishing of art, music, foreign language jobs in the system.

Robert Jackson and his Campaign for Fiscal Equity in the 1990s waged a noble effort to bring New York City schools funding up to par with suburban schools funding. He and other advocates of equity or civil rights for education should fight for parity with suburbs in terms of opportunities to take the muse-enriching and body-exercising exceptions to the EMSiS core. Let's be honest: the non-EMSiS subjects haven't vanished from the better-off suburbs. In many school systems, enrollment in foreign language classes is not a mere option or a right. It is often a mandate required for graduation. Yet, many New York City schools skimp on the availability of foreign language classes.
This denial of educational service is something that is hitting minority neighborhoods worst. Indeed, go into a public library and take a look at the public high school directory. You will see --unless Klein's new DoE has scrubbed this information in the latest editions-- the survival of much of the non-EMSiS educational menu in the schools in the "better neighborhoods," schools such as Midwood, Bayside or Cardozo, schools in this city. French is still offered; advanced placement ("AP") classes are still offered. Thus, students are better prepared to compete with non-city students for places in the more prestigious private universities. The trend of reducing non-EMSiS electives (in the wake of breaking large schools into small schools) is a trend of low income, particularly minority neighborhoods, not white neighborhoods. This detail sometimes makes its way into the larger media: Reporting on a parents' meeting on the closure of Canarsie High School, the New York Times quoted a parent: “You are not closing the white schools.”

There are rumors that William Thompson should not highlight the patterns of schools from his day. On the contrary, we should bring back many core features of schools from his days as president of the Board of Education.
We should:
*bring back the developmental lesson
*bring back diversity in topics: art, music, photography, dance, physical education, language options beyond Spanish
*bring back career-relevant vocational education topics: shop, culinary classes, accounting, up-to-date computer classes
*bring back such diversity in low income / minority neighborhoods
*bring back the neighborhood school / stop putting young children through the competition scramble that middle class suburban kids will only begin to worry about in preparation for college
*restore, not deny: English Language Learner (English as a Second Language) classes, special education classes
*roll back the for-profit charter schools that belie a class and ability preference (prejudice, dare we say) by keeping out "difficult" students, special education students or English Language Learners, that have deprived proximate schools or resources and have exacerbated the class overcrowding crisis

This is an issue of civil rights. Teachers should not only agitate on issues such as the UFT factions, ATR crisis, tenure or the rubber rooms. Teachers should reach out to parents, students and sympathetic voters in the general public. This is a two-tier system, plain and simple. With its block scheduling and its shunting aside varied electives, it is exercising a soft bigotry of lower expectations. We should recognize class and race bias when we see this. Bloomberg has suckered voters and whole community organizations with his pitch of his educational reforms as a civil rights issue, as an accomplishment. What a fraud! On the contrary, the new curricular patterns are a racial affront to black and Latino families.

Friday, October 2, 2009

One week left, then the end of NY Times-Bloomberg radio relationship

Listen to the news portions of WQXR and you hear the annoying introduction, "Bloomberg News."

In one week's time, October 8, this will end: at 8 PM WNYC will assume full control of WQXR and there will be no more formal imprint of mayor-king Michael [Bloomberg]. (And the station will move from 96.3 FM to 105.9 FM.) Pity that this was a New York Times radio station and that they gave up news responsibility. This commercial relationship compromised the independence of the New York Times and the mayor. If one reads the reportage of city affairs in the Times one will notice a lack of strong, independent reporting on New York City mayoral politics during the last several years.
By the way, one can google Thomas Middlehoff of the German media giant, BMG, and conjecture a connection: Middlehoff-[Joel] Klein, formerly of BMG-Times-Bloomberg. Alas, too much work right now.
Keywords: bias, quid pro quo, influence buying

Thursday, October 1, 2009

School incidents ... safer NYC schools ... don't believe the hype

Any teacher that has survived at least two years will tell you: If you want to keep your job, don't report incidents. Why? Because "it makes the school look bad." And the principal will get rid of you --QUICKLY.

What are the consequences of numerous violent incidents? Under No Child Left Behind, a letter must go out to parents, indicating the violence report, and offering students an opportunity transfer.
Read on, regarding the effect at Jamaica High School: a drop in enrollment. Read the second section in Arthur Goldstein's blog post at Gotham

Imagine there are two high schools in the same borough. One school can’t enroll enough kids to stay open, and the other is filled to 250% of capacity. What would you do? It might seem logical to even out the population of both schools, but that is not how New York City operates.

I’m in one of the most overcrowded schools in the city, Francis Lewis High School. Our building is designed for 1,800 kids, and last year we were up to 4,450. This year we hit 4,700, and the sky’s the limit. Where the extra kids will go I have no idea. I teach in a trailer out back, and you wouldn’t use it to house your dog if you had a choice.

In the trailers, you never can tell if there will be heat on cold days or AC on hot ones (and don’t buy a used car from anyone who tells you tin keeps you cool). The bathrooms are an abomination. Though school trailers are all the rage in New York City, you never see them on the news. If I didn’t visit one every working day of my life, I probably wouldn’t believe they existed.

On the other hand, James Eterno, chapter leader at Jamaica High School, has a completely different problem. Not enough kids are enrolling in his school. Could we help one another? That way, if, God forbid, there were ever a fire or something, perhaps more of us could make it out alive. How did things get to this point?

It’s complicated. Longtime teachers know that a lot of incidents routinely go unreported. The Bloomberg administration, early on, declared all incidents would be reported, and some administrators took those words to heart — as did those at Jamaica. The consequences are highly unlikely to encourage other administrators to do the same.

The city labeled Jamaica a “priority” school, and then an “impact” school. Ultimately, the state labeled the school “persistently dangerous.” Under NCLB, this triggered a letter home to all Jamaica parents, offering them an opportunity to transfer their kids to another school. Understandably, the school population dropped precipitously. Was Jamaica persistently dangerous, or was it just reporting more incidents than its neighbors?

Administration then began to move in the opposite direction. This resulted in the disastrous policy (by no means unique to Jamaica) of not allowing staff to call 911 without administrative approval. This was widely covered in the media, and likely resulted in even lower enrollment at Jamaica.

The DoE’s position was that Jamaica needed surveillance cameras, police, and metal detectors to improve. Eterno felt it would’ve benefited more from additional counselors, teachers, and social workers. But that was not to be the case. In fact, in 2008 Jamaica had over a dozen teachers, excessed due to declining enrollment, sitting in the school day after day, sometimes working as subs.

Why couldn’t these teachers have been used to decrease class sizes, and consequently give more attention to kids at Jamaica? The answer may be that the DoE had other plans for the space created by the exodus of local kids.

In 2008, Queens Collegiate, a school co-sponsored by the College Board, was placed in what used to be the social studies wing of Jamaica High. Jamaica’s social studies department was banished to an office in which they shared a single electrical outlet. Meanwhile, according to Eterno, Queens Collegiate rooms got paint, computers, smartboards, and everything else private-public ventures are entitled to in Mayor Bloomberg’s New York.

Additional schools create additional levels of administration and eat up classroom space, worsening overcrowding. Eterno asks, “Wouldn’t it be a better idea to fix a place like Jamaica?” At overcrowded Francis Lewis High School, I wonder the same thing. Why couldn’t the free space in Jamaica be used to help us, rather than a privately-sponsored school? Why doesn’t the city invest in technology, magnet programs, and better conditions to draw kids to Jamaica?

In fact, why don’t they offer prospective Jamaica students lower class sizes (which parents declared their number one priority on a DoE-sponsored survey)? Hasn’t Mayor Bloomberg accepted hundreds of millions of CFE lawsuit funds for that very purpose? Isn’t fixing schools for our kids, whether or not they win charter lotteries, whether or not they’re accepted into elite schools, worth a try?

Eterno says of the DoE, “If they perceive you as troubled, they don’t throw you a lifeline. They seem to say, ‘Good, you’re drowning. We hope you go under.’” But is that attitude unique to Jamaica? It doesn’t appear so. Our school is just a variation on a theme. They perceive us as successful, and seem to want to overcrowd us until we reach a breaking point — which is nothing short of inevitable.

It’s sort of a Catch 22 — struggle and you’re in danger of closing, but excel and you’re packed to the rafters and beyond. Why not give Lewis kids a real incentive to attend Jamaica, or any nearby school for that matter? Any time it felt like it, this administration could wake up and help me and James Eterno.

More importantly, it could help the thousands of kids we serve.

THE HYPE: "SCHOOL CRIME HAS REDUCED UNDER BLOOMBERG" -- More from the recent Bloomberg Watch blog-post
The Bloomberg administration claims that increased policing in schools is responsible for a significant decline in school crime. But the National Center for Schools and Communities at Fordham University shows that such claims are inflated: Although the DOE reports declines as large as 59 percent for major crime incidents and 33 percent for all crime at the Impact Schools, the numbers on which these percentages are based are so low that even very small numerical decreases create large percentage changes. For example, at Christopher Columbus High School behavior officially classed as violent crime decreased from 17 incidents during the 2004-2005 school year to 10 during the 2005-2006 school year, which represented a 41 percent decline on paper, but only a small decrease in actual incidents.

Brown University educational analyst Deinya Phenix (formerly of New York University) provides further support for the conclusion that the Bloomberg administration’s claims about decreases in school crime are misleading. Regression analysis reveals that the decline in crime figures at Impact Schools is not statistically significant compared to simultaneous declines at other high schools. Crime in schools had been declining for years before the Impact Schools program; proving, Phenix contends, that “the most important factor in the decrease in school crime is the passage of time.”
{{An interjection: see this Drum Major Institute report, "A Look at the Impact Schools".}}
Despite the Bloomberg administration’s willingness to exaggerate small drops in school crime statistics, city officials routinely downplay statistics that show a rise in school crime. Data recently released by the Mayor’s Office show that major crime in city schools increased by 21 percent from July through October of 2006 compared with the same period in 2005.57 Although city officials virtually ignored the data, a close examination of the numbers is worthwhile. The rise in major crime incidents was driven by an increase in grand larceny, typically theft, without threat or force, of items worth more than $ 1,000, such as laptops or credit cards. The 197 incidents of grand larceny which occurred from July through October 2006 — and which caused the rise in major crimes— could not have been prevented or deterred by policing practices that rely on metal detectors.

Three years ago the New York Times ran thought-provoking article with a thought-provoking headline. Winnie Hu's October 8, 2006 story reported on how a school in Rome --in upstate New York-- joined a list of the state's most violent schools, "A Very Violent School, or Just Very Honest?"
It noted that even public overseers questioned whether under-reporting was occurring:
an audit by the New York State comptroller, Alan G. Hevesi, in May found that high schools were significantly underreporting school violence.

James Garbarino, a psychology professor at Loyola University in Chicago, is one of many school violence experts skeptical about watch lists that are based on self-reporting, which essentially amounts to an honor system.

“Lots of schools don’t want to report because it brings unwanted negative attention,” Mr. Garbarino said. “It affects the careers of school administrators and school boards, and it can even affect real estate values. So there’s a lot more at work here than just acts of violence.”

In Rome, the state watch list made front-page headlines in the local newspaper and brought sharp disavowals from school officials, who have invited parents and members of civic groups to visit Rome Free Academy to see for themselves.
. . . .
Complaints about inconsistent reporting have increasingly drawn the attention of state officials. Mr. Hevesi’s audit criticized the State Education Department’s handling of school violence reporting, finding that 10 of 17 high schools — Rome was not in the sample — failed to report at least one-third of their violent and disruptive events.

For example, the audit cited 780 unreported cases at Albany High School, including 106 assaults that resulted in physical injury. The school, which is not on the state’s watch list, tightened security last week after a student was stabbed. School officials, however, dispute the assertion they have failed to report violent cases.

School officials across the state say the reporting process is overly subjective and confusing. First, they must decide whether a confrontation is serious enough to report, and then they must choose among vaguely defined categories. For instance, if a student is scratched in a fight, should that be reported as an “assault with physical injury” or as a “minor altercation”? Or should it be reported at all?

A few things need to be done:
1) No Child Left Behind must eliminate the automatic letter trigger that results from reports of school violence.
2) The greater context of disincentives for principals to under-report or totally suppress reports of violence must end. Teachers must be able to anonymously report incidents of violence, free of administration intimidation.
Children's safety is at stake; school tone is at stake.

Criminalizing the Classroom - It has gone overboard under Bloomberg

Truth be told the NYPD replaced the NYC Board of Education-provided police by a 1998 Board of Education vote; however, conditions have worsened for our schoolchildren under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Click here for the NYCLU report, "Criminalizing the Classroom."

The blog, "Bloomberg Watch," has a valuable summary of the report on the rough mistreatment of public school students.
At the start of the 2005-2006 school year, the city employed a total of 4,625 School Safety Agents (SSAs) and at least 200 armed police officers assigned exclusively to schools. These numbers would make the NYPD’s School Safety Division alone the tenth largest police force in the country – larger than the police forces of Washington, D.C., Detroit, Boston, or Las Vegas.

Because these school-assigned police personnel are not directly subject to the supervisory authority of school administrators, and because they often have not been adequately trained to work in educational settings, SSAs and police officers often arrogate to themselves authority that extends well beyond the narrow mission of securing the safety of the students and teachers. They enforce school rules relating to dress and appearance. They make up their own rules regarding food or other objects that have nothing whatsoever to do with school safety.

On occasion they subject educators who question the NYPD’s treatment of students to retaliatory arrests. More routinely, according to our interviews and survey, they subject students to inappropriate treatment including:

• Derogatory, abusive and discriminatory comments and conduct;
• Intrusive searches;
• Unauthorized confiscation of students’ personal items, including food, cameras and essential school supplies;
• Inappropriate sexual attention;
• Physical abuse; and
• Arrest for minor non-criminal violations of school rules.


Throughout the morning, police personnel hurled invective and threats at the students they were charged with protecting. Officers threatened students with arrest for refusing to turn over cell phones, for stepping out of line, and for refusing to be scanned. Officers cursed at students and scoffed at educators. When a student wandered out of line, officers screamed, “Get the f--- back in line!” When a school counselor asked the officers to refrain from cursing, one officer retorted, “I can do and say whatever I want,” and continued, with her colleagues, to curse.

The threats of arrest turned out to be more than bluster. Several Wadleigh students were hauled to the 28th Police Precinct that morning for minor non-criminal violations of school rules. Among them was Carlos, an eleventh grader and Vice-President of the School Government Association. Carlos, who worked thirty to forty hours each week after school and needed to communicate frequently with his mother about his whereabouts, did not want the police to confiscate his cell phone. When he became aware of the police activity in the school, he chose to remain outside in order to call his mother and ask her to pick up the phone, which she agreed to do.

As Carlos stood outside the school, a police officer approached and asked for identification. Carlos explained: “My mother’s on the way. She should be just up the block. You can talk to her.” In response, the officer said to a second officer, “What are we going to do with this smart aleck? The second officer replied, “Take him to the precinct.”

The officers handcuffed Carlos, seized his cell phone, forced him into a police vehicle, and took him to the precinct without informing school officials or his mother. At the precinct, Carlos was ordered to remove his belt and shoelaces and was forced into a cell. Meanwhile, Carlos’s mother – who did not find Carlos waiting for her when she arrived at the school to pick up his cell phone – began a frantic search for her child. Many phone calls later, she learned that Carlos had been arrested. When she arrived at the precinct, officers returned Carlos’s phone to her, but refused to release her son into her care. Carlos was released only after his mother had finally left the precinct. Upon his release, the officers issued him a summons threatening that if he did not appear in court, a warrant would be issued for his arrest. The charges were ultimately dropped. What happened to Carlos and the other students at Wadleigh Secondary School on November 17 was not an aberration. In fact, this scenario takes place in New York City schools every day.

I supported Bill de Blasio for Public Advocate; I would hope that, in office, he will advocate for the children and stop this flagrant abuse of the children.

I supported the formation of the Coalition for Public Education; stopping the police abuse of our city's schoolchildren should be a number one agenda item for the organization.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

De Blasio & Liu victorious -resoundingly!

W E H A V E W O N ! ! !

The opponents of the autocracy of King Michael Bloomberg have won the Democratic primary run-off:
Bill de Blasio, for public advocate, and John Liu, for comptroller.
The next four years, should Bloomberg win re-election will be marked by checks against and increased conflict against the mayor, over issues such as school governance and over-development.

De Blasio read a victory speech that struck an economic populist chord.

Liu's victory party was an expression of a Democratic lovefest. A span of names was present: primary opponent David Weprin and mayoral nominee William Thompson.

Let there be no mistake, the imprimatur of the Working Families Party was the sponsoring force behind these two victories.

I had endorsed de Blasio over Mark Green. But, truth be told, Green is a positive figure. He did perform great service in his first time as public advocate. The difference between de Blasio and Green can be cast as a difference between an "A" and a B. In the end, de Blasio pledged a more ambitious office, one that committed to more changes and greater challenge vs. mayor Bloomberg. Green's low showing probably will mark the end of his electoral-political career.
Click here for the latest results from 7 online, with 99 percent reporting.
The results, 99 percent reporting:
Public Advocate, Democratic nomination:
Bill de Blasio, 62%
Mark Green, 37%
Comptroller, Democratic nomination:
John Liu, 55%
David Yassky, 44%

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Shame of the City III: city schools are not preparing NYC students for college

As it has been put before, the key question is:
"Is Our Children Learning?" [har, har] and the answer is No. Read on.

WNYC's Beth Fertig has an important story today on the station's website:

NYC students are ill-prepared for real college life.

NEW YORK, NY September 24, 2009 —A new study finds too many New York City high school students aren't prepared for college, and urges the state and city to take action. WNYC's Beth Fertig has more.

REPORTER: The study by the Annenberg Institute for School reform looked at students at the City University. More students are entering CUNY and fewer need remedial classes. But most students in community colleges still need remedial math or English; and the six-year graduation rate for an associate degree is less than 29 percent. Researchers say the problem lies in the lack of college readiness. They say state standards aren't well aligned to what students need to succeed. And too many students don't take four full years of math and science. The report urges public schools and colleges to collaborate in guiding students, so they'll know what they need in college. It also says students often don't aim higher on their Regents exams because they don't understand that they need a score of at least 75 to avoid remedial classes later. For WNYC I'm Beth Fertig.

A major crux of the problem is that high enough math standards are not being pursued with the students. Students' actual grade level in math and English lag at least two grade levels, throughout their careers, particularly as the tween years transition to adolescent years, i.e., in fifth grade. This lag is really not acceptable if the city expects students to have "on-par" literacy and "numeracy" by the college freshman year.
Let's look at how the basic skills are not honed in English and math. The city denigrates the focus on the fundamental ability to construct clear, grammatically sentences or spelling skills. The city subscribes --far more aggressively under Klein-- progressive education ideologies. It has allowed those ideologies to elide the development of the basic skills of written expression. In the crucial years of fifth through nine, when this skills should be refined in students, the city dogmatically avoids addressing these skills.
Regarding math, Klein's administration gullibly bought, hook, line and sinker, the constructivist dictates that students learn math best by developing theories and trying some experimentation. The city wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on worthless textbooks on the discredited "Everyday Math" and "Impact Math" series specializing in this avant garde nonsense. California experimented with this New New Math nuttiness almost two decades ago, and it rejected it with passion. Yet, the city has ruined the basic math skills of nearly a generation of students by using these approaches since 2002. (For more analysis of these discredited trends, visit the website of the venerable Thomas B. Fordham Institute.)
For those unfamiliar with graduation routines from New York State schools, final summation tests in the various academic subjects are administered in high school, mainly in ninth through eleventh grades. The bar is ridiculously lowered for the most commonly taken Math A Regents exam. Just try this January 2009 version of the test on your own, without any preparation. Most of it appears on the level of sixth or seventh grade math.

The education analysts that responded to the aforementioned reporter said that more years of math are needed in high school. Yes, maybe, but prior to that goal, they need to master pre-algebra fundamentals.

To boot, the state has lowered the passing score for one Regents exam, to make the question of judging passing scores, as the New York Times reports, even more suspicious, particularly when we are in the era of Bloomberg/Klein reform.

Further, the city schools have adopted the progressive education dictum that school must be fun and cooperative, well into high school. Thus, they coddle impulses of informality and they withhold the development of skills, mental and behavioral attitudes upon which high performance in the college level depnds. Walking around the classroom is sought as part of the lesson. Group-work is mandated.
Are these the modes of rigor in college? Are these habits that are constructive for working alone, and concentrating for long periods, on a test at the college level? No, no, no. Yet, Bloomberg/Klein have adopted and enforced this silliness that is doubtless not used in Singapore or Denmark.

Shame of the City II: City cheats with claims of small school performance; Times mum

Liar! Liar!
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his Department of Education claim that small schools are more effective.
Yet, a Columbia University study has exposed a deception on the mayor's part. The study reports that while small schools have shown better performance, the comparison is deceptive. Why? The city keeps certain weaker students from the small schools; and so, not too surprisingly, the overall performance of the remaining cluster of students is "better." This parallels the similar scam going on rampantly in the charter schools. The fact is getting out that the weaker students, the special education students are withheld from the charter schools, and again, the students in the charter schools "perform better."
From Meredith Kolodner, "Mayor Bloomberg's boast on graduation rates is misleading, according to study", "New York Daily News", September 23, 2009
One principal proudly boasts in the ad that the graduation rate has increased to 80% from 30%.

A closer look shows that in 2005, only 11% of ninth-graders entering [Evander Childs High School in the Bronx] were reading at grade level, the study claims.

At the same time, 30% of students entering the small replacement schools were proficient in reading, significantly higher than the boroughwide average.

"We cannot make sense of large differences in the graduation rates at Evander and the small schools which replaced it without taking these differences in who entered the schools into account," said study co-author Aaron Pallas, a Teachers College professor.

The same is true, on average, of all of the students who attend the new small schools that have replaced the roughly 20 large high schools that have been closed since 2002.

Students entering the new schools were between 10 and 15 percentage points more likely to be reading and doing math at grade level, as measured by state tests.

They also were less likely to be special education students, more likely to be female and more likely to qualify for free lunch.

The study also suggests that the lower-performing students who would have gone to the large schools that were closed end up in other nearby large high schools.

Now, google this at home:
"small schools"

Then on "news."

You only get two stories on small schools' performance in New York City. And neither of the sources is the New York Times.

Other disturbing news: the breakup of schools into small schools has meant fewer English Language Learner (the new phrase for English as a Second Language) classes. Thus, students new to English lose out in the transformation of schools. See this article by Mary Ann Zehr in "Education Week."

Shame of the City I: record overcrowding: the flipside of refusal to hire teachers

Record numbers of classes are experienced overcrowding.
From the Queens Gazette, "Queens High Schools Reported 3,399 Oversize Classes, With Forest Hills Topping The List," September 23, 2009
As the 2009-2010 school year began, almost 7,500 classes in the city’s elementary, intermediate and high schools exceeded the contracted class size limit, leaving an estimated 225,000 students in an oversize class for all or part of each day, according to a survey by the United Federation of Teachers of its members.

The annual survey found that as September 18, 2009 there were at least 1,969 oversize classes in elementary, middle and intermediate schools. With at least 5,450 such classes in high schools the current total of oversize classes is 7,419.

Queens high schools had 3,399 oversize classes . . .

Come on! Let's do the math, and use some common sense. Classes are crowded because the city has not hired enough teachers. (More teachers = more classes = less crowded classrooms, for a better experience for students.) Yet, the city has maintained an ideology that older teachers (and well-paid) are bad. And suddenly the Department of Education is supposedly trying to reverse its gears and hire experienced teachers. Yet, as earlier posts this week reported, the number of ATRs seeking classrooms far exceed the number of the posts that principals were willing to publicly interview for.


Beth Fertig at WNYC closed her article ("Teacher Union: Overcrowding Worse Than Estimated", September 21, 2009) with the typical NYC Department of Education response to overcrowding:
The department of education says it still expects class sizes to drop as enrollment stabilizes. It says only 20 percent of class size grievances last year reached an arbitrator.

As I have stated earlier the media has a responsibility to exercise some critical thinking. They need to probe the city: just what is involved in "stabilizing" the classes??

At worst, this is a worst, students will give up and drop out (not show up). The better scenario is the that the city will actually hire more teachers and create more classes.

How did anti-Bloomberg vlogger Suzannah B. Troy get censored?

A search two days ago for Suzannah B. Troy's video blogs on YouTube turned up statements about her account being suspended. Likewise, her aliases were also suspended.
One wonders whether there was some political manipulation from mayor Michael Bloomberg was responsible for bringing down her site access. "Queens Crap" blog suggests such a possible connection, "YouTube censors Blogger: WEEKS BEFORE NYC MAYORAL ELECTION, YOUTUBE.COM SUPPRESSES FREE SPEECH." Anyway, Troy's access was restored by today.
While I don't support all (or most) of her views --she went on a rant against campaigns' illegal stapling of signs around city lampposts, and I think that those are an acceptable form of advertising -- she should not have her constitutional rights of free speech trampled upon.
She is a little bit of a crank for my ears, but she has done some solid volunteer reporting on the autocratic posture of New York City's mayor, and Council President Christine Quinn's complete caving in to Bloomberg.
Here's Queens Crap's pitch; maybe it had an effect on the restoration of Troy's vlog.
First Suzannah B. Troy, next us.

Ms. Troy has spent months creating, editing, and posting hundreds of original citizen journalist videos focusing on the controversial election this year of local candidates running for third terms in office. In particular, Ms. Troy's videos have been highly critical of the New York City Council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The nature of the videos on her account have ranged from breaking news-quality videos of voter demonstrations, to video blogs of her commentary on the elections, to artistic interpretation of news events. There is no reason for her account to be suspended by YouTube other than for the political and artistic nature of their content.

Please write to Youtube at: and ask them for their official policy of suspending accounts of artists and citizen journalists.

We are only weeks away from an important election, which shall decide if City Council Members and Mayor Bloomberg will thwart the will of voters' two referrenda on term limits. And missing from the free exchange of ideas during the critical debates that will be taking place in the time leading up to the election will be Ms. Troy's body of work.

Without you stepping in to blog, publish, or report about this questionable suspension of Ms. Troy's YouTube account (as well as the potential of loss of hundreds of videos), other citizen journalists may face the same sad fate : cyber suppression.

Please consider the importance of voter participation in free and open democratic elections.

Whatever the reason for the restoration of Troy's vlog, let's hope that nothing like this happens again, especially between now and the November 3, ELECTION DAY.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

ATR Handbook

An ATR working in a school?

You need to heed the following, to save your career in the medium term:

(from the blog, "Under Assault")


[Note: This manual was written mostly for per diem subs.
Even if you've been given full or partial programs, a lot of this still applies.]


1. You are an inconvenience to your administrators and are essentially being tolerated. Do not try to be a goody-goody or get them to like your work, because bottom line, they don't actually want you on their budget.
[NEW COMMENT: Of course, if you're being paid out of central, they probably DO want you, but not enough to take you in properly.]

2. Do what is educationally sound at all times. That's the only way you'll be able to sleep at night.

3. You are a place holder, not a place filler. You are in someone else's room doing what you can with someone else's lesson for someone else's students, a situation which lasts for the duration of that person's absence.

4. Know that you the only person in the building being asked to "wing it," and no ed school ever taught you how. In the wonderworld of BloomKlein, your job specification has just shifted, and whether you like it or not, you're now a Jack-of-All-Trades, particularly in the HSS with all those specialized classes. Either enjoy, or . . .

5. Detach. Students might be cold-hearted, either unwittingly ("Hey, Miss, did you get downgraded or somethin'?") or purposefully ("F— you. You not a real teacher.") They can also be delightful, like the girl at the bus stop who shouted enthusiastically to her friend: "Hey, there's my substitute!" You are neither a sub-order of teacher or fabulous. You are doing your job to the best of your ability under volatile circumstances.


1. Class registers. Oh, how the intruder types love subs, and what a run-around they can give you.

2. Pens, pencils: but get collateral if you lend them, because they'll walk out with them and when they remember to return them, you've moved to another room.

3. Wordfinds, math puzzles, crossword puzzles, scrap paper. There'll be days when the teacher has left you nothing, and when kids are bored enough, some will take whatever you're handing out.

4. Chalk, eraser, dry erase pens. Don't rely on the teacher's supply.

5. List of school phone numbers, like for security, guidance counselors, the program office.


1. Have kids sign in on a separate sheet. Bubbling comes later, at your convenience and when you've had a chance to reflect over the legitimacy of the signatures.

2. Assign work immediately. Better still: write the assignment on the board before they get there and don't even open your mouth. Teens respond better when they're not being told by you to do anything.

3. Announce that you'll help anyone who needs it.

4. Then help a few of them, or at least look at what they're doing over their shoulder. Send a message that you're not just a disinterested bystander. It will convince some of undecided characters to crack a book.

5. Standard behavior for immature classes is to test the sub, and they can be merciless. So, it's now time to annotate that sign-in sheet. Look really serious when you do this, as if the mark you're giving them really means something. Tell one person he gets a check because he's working, another a half-check for not working so hard, or NW for No Work at all. Give your own marks for anything you can think of: being disruptive, intruding (contact Security to remove these kids), breaking school rules (don't contact Security for these because you'll annoy them, but you can write the student up later and let other people handle it).

6. A malicious child can really hurt you, but remember this. There are Chancellor's Regs on abuse to protect the student, but you won't find any regulations for the kind of abuse substitutes are frequently subjected to. In BloomKlein, teachers are abusers, students are . . . well, just kids.

7. Put the room in good order when you leave and the work in a neat pile. It's like wampum: you're trading a bit of effort for a bit of good feeling, and you'll be needing as much of that as you can get.

Part IV: DOCUMENT EVERYTHING, for example:

1. When no assignment has been left for you
2. The kids who enter late
3. When kids sign the attendance sheet, then cut out
4. Dangerous items left around the room (broken glass, formaldehyde, etc.)
5. Ripped books
6. Security not arriving if you've called them
7. An AP or principal walking into the room, for whatever reason
8. A kid's tirade of vulgar, aggressive words. It might get worse before it stops, but it will stop, especially when the rest of the class sees the humor (i.e., the stupidity) of it.