It's teacher hunting season!

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.