It's teacher hunting season!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

BBC News America looks at Finland's education system

Finland has low levels of homework assigned, but it also has high academic performance: BBC News America's report on education in Finland.

Some things to take into consideration: Finland has much greater social service supports for the poorer part of its population than the United States does. It also has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, by various measures, here, here, here. This introduces the chicken or the egg question, which feature came first, high literacy in general, or literate parents fostering a good learning environment at home?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sen. Malcolm Smith's 2nd life: self-serving crook

Cambria Heights State Senator Malcolm Smith, who has been poorly serving New York State, with his shepherding drastic education cuts,
has cheated individual property owners, as in this story in the New York Daily News:
"Federal probe shows Senate President Malcolm Smith ripped off elderly couple for $60,000"

"Merrick Academy students suffer as State Senate President Malcolm Smith profits from charter school

From the New York Post, April 4, 2010: Sen. Malcolm Smith grossed $500,000 from a land deal for two companies that he controlled. This apparently evades requirements for legislative financial disclosure.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Excellent, sympathetic comments at Daily News about the Rubber Room situation

The "Daily News" allowed some excellent comments by sympathetic readers, on the issue of Rubber Room accusations, on the occasion of the closing of the rubber rooms.
We should remind readers of the context of the Rubber Room closures:
The closures decision occurred simultaneous with the public premiere of an independent film no the rubber rooms. UFT president was letting New York City schools chancellor off the hook when he agreed to the closure of the rubber rooms. The movie was apparently embarrassing to the city.

Here, some of the best comments on the issue of rubber rooms, and accusations against teachers, by someone named "EllenB."

6:28:20 PM
Apr 15, 2010
Having many friends who are DOE educators, I have an inside look at what's really what in the NYC education scene that many people don't have. First of all, It is absolutely APPALLING that the DN has continuously bashed teachers within its pages, particularly those assigned to the "Rubber Room". Most of those teachers have, in truth, done NOTHING wrong. They are in effect political prisoners. China or the old USSR have nothing on the Bloomberg version of the camps. Some of the teachers assigned to "Rubber Rooms", unfortunately, have in fact been incompetent or actually committed a crime. And they should, of course, be removed from the classroom. But they are a very small minority of the hundreds of teachers in "Rubber Rooms". A very small minority indeed. The teachers may have been whistleblowers on unscrupulous administrators, and their reward was to be falsely accused of hastily drawn-up charges and sent to the "Rubber Room". Students who justly received failing grades
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6:30:01 PM
Apr 15, 2010
Cont'd for poor quality work are actively encouraged to write statements against their teachers, which are then used to "justify" charges against that teacher. And they end up in the "Rubber Room" for no authentic reason at all. Oh, and if the charges are found to be false, the teacher's name is still blackened but there are NO consequences to the students, none at all. It's such fun to get some get-back at your competent teacher who justly gave you a failing grade for low quality work or who told you to be quiet so that a lesson could proceed and people could actually learn, or who had your cell phone confiscated. Every single day since the dawn of time, teachers have had to raise their voices in class when polite requests for quiet are ignored. By rewriting definitions, this has now become a criminal offense, corporeal punishment, under Bloomberg and it's been given the title "verbal abuse". "Corporeal" refers to "bodily" and this sort of punishment originally meant tha
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6:31:41 PM
Apr 15, 2010
CONT'D - that teachers could not physically strike students. Many teachers reassigned to "Rubber Rooms" did nothing more than speak a little too loudly. Principals with a lot of older and hence expensive teachers have been very busy inventing all sorts of ludicrous charges to then clear their school budgets of these high-priced veterans, whose salaries are then eventually taken over by the central DOE---off the budgets of the individual school. This decentralization of salary payments was instituted by Bloomberg, and presents an obvious incentive to get rid of expensive teachers--by any means. The point is, the vast majority of the teachers sitting in the "Rubber Rooms" are falsely accused by their school administration based on questionable evidence, and would much rather be TEACHING kids than sitting around. And if you, a highly educated and intelligent person, were forced to sit basically immobile in an overcrowded room, only allowed to walk around during the lunch hour, w
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6:34:34 PM
Apr 15, 2010
CONT'D - hour, what exactly WOULD you do to pass the hours? These people are not criminals, but they are being treated so. These people are not lazy bums, but they are being characterized as such. Bloomberg created the "gotcha" parameters, then pays off the media to defame those so accused (and usually innocent), inflaming public opinion against these unjustly maligned educators and thus gaining a favorable position with which to negotiate a less favorable contract for teachers. What is so hard to see about this? Yet judging from the vicious and ignorant comments posted by many here, Bloomberg's counting on an easily roused mob mentality ("Lynch them teachers! Hang 'em high!") worked admirably.
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7:37:54 PM
Apr 15, 2010
@EllenB- This is EXACTLY the truth. I dare anyone who does not work for the DOE to see what goes on these days in a school. Principals have been given carte blanche and g-d help the teacher who speaks out against him/her. They'll quickly find themselves in the rubber room on charges of corporal punishment based upon NONSENSE. Take on the thankless job of being union rep, file a grievance for a fellow colleague and you'll find yourself written up for insubordination or professional misconduct. The DOE and the Mayor cry that the Union is the reason that things move so slow but when you have 15 arbitrators for the entire city that work 5 DAYS A MONTH, whose fault is that? The 60 day rule has been in effect for years but those cases are few and far between.

Read more:

Diana Williams teaches Mulgrew that new rating system will lead to teaching-to-the-test

So pathetic: A broadcast journalist has to point out to United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew that the new teacher evaluation system (with plenty of observations --thanks, Ed Notes-- of what the system will mean, in action) will lead to more test-prep as "teaching":
On Sunday, May 16, 2010, WABC-TV's Diana Williams pointed out that the new rating system, with its placing 40 percent of a teacher's evaluation on student performance on standardized test performance, will lead to more teaching-to-the-test.
The lame UFT president evaded that point.

Does anyone in the media ever consider the pitfalls of test-emphasis when so many factors are generally beyond a teacher's control, such as whether a student actually shows up to class?

Pertaining to the last point above, note these comments in reaction to a Washington Post article, "Is the public turning against teachers unions?":
if teachers had to deal less with bad parenting (behavior, morals, discipline, work ethic, etc...) and ineffective administrative practices (rules with unrealistic or little punishment, false threats, etc...) then we would be a little less "bad". i am SICK and tired of not having my students show up to school regularly, on time, with materials, and willing/ready to do any work. i guess it must be because i'm a bad teacher and has nothing to do with the fact that most of my students have no accountability nor support from home to push them to appreciate an education.
(Granted, the lower case first-person "i" doesn't look good.)

Could your observations and performance ratings play havoc with your health?

Tara Parker-Pope, writing last Tuesday, May 17, 2010, in "The New York Times" wrote on "Time to Review Workplace Reviews?."

You think your administrator is tough? And that performance evaluations are petty and arbitrary?
As Parker-Pope wrote, you're not alone. And both health and management experts think that they are both overrated and often detrimental to workers' physical and emotional health.


A number of studies have documented the health toll of workplace stress, showing that unhappy workers are at higher risk for heart problems and depression, among other things. This month, Danish researchers reported on a 15-year study of 12,000 nurses finding that nurses struggling with excessive work pressures had double the risk for a heart attack. And a British study tracking 6,000 workers for 11 years found that those who regularly worked more than 10 hours a day had a 60 percent higher risk for heart disease than those who put in 7 hours.

Samuel A. Culbert, a clinical psychologist who teaches at the Anderson School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles, says too many people work in a “toxic” environment, and the title of his new book (from Hachette) throws a spotlight on one of the culprits: “Get Rid of the Performance Review!”

Annual reviews not only create a high level of stress for workers, he argues, but end up making everybody — bosses and subordinates — less effective at their jobs. He says reviews are so subjective — so dependent on the worker’s relationship with the boss — as to be meaningless. He says he has heard from countless workers who say their work life was ruined by an unfair review.

“There is a very bad set of values that are embedded in the air because of performance reviews,” he told me.

. . .
Frank Cordaro, 56, of Ontario, N.Y., said years of good performance were undone by one bad review from a new manager. He refused to sign the review and ended up taking medication to cope with the anxiety and stress at work. Eventually he lost his job.

“It played hell with my physical health, my mental health, too,” said Mr. Cordaro, adding that he is much happier since he started his own business. “When you’re always fearing for your job, it’s not a good situation.”

Gary Namie, director of the Workplace Bullying Institute in Bellingham, Wash., says office bullies have been known to use performance reviews to undermine a worker.

“I say, ‘Throw it out,’ because it becomes a very biased, error-prone and abuse-prone system,” said Dr. Namie, the author of “The Bully at Work” (Sourcebooks, 2000). “It should be replaced by daily ongoing contact with managers who know the work and who can become coaches.”

And bad bosses are an enormous source of stress. In one British study of nurses, workers who didn’t like their supervisors had consistently elevated blood pressure throughout the workday.

Although there is little an individual can do about such a boss, the American Psychological Association offers some tips, including finding a mentor within the company to discuss strategies for dealing with a problem supervisor.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Essential tools for deciphering NYC school districts


Here is a link to the districts and the offices, for the New York City school districts:
For the visually oriented, to the right is a map of the school districts.

These districts are from the pre-Joel Klein Board of Education days.

HEALTH DISTRICTS and CORRESPONDING DISTRICTS - Call for explanations of which immunizations students are required to have.
(Also, students are required to have their medical examination documented on a Child Adolescent Health Examination Form (CH205).
Bureau of School Health Region I - 917-492-6950/51/52: Department of Education Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.
Bureau of School Health Region II - 718-579-6853/54: Department of Education Districts 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12
Bureau of School Health Region III - 718-336-2553x112: Department of Education Districts 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23 and 32
Bureau of School Health Region IV - 718-495-0507: Department of Education Districts 13, 14, 15, 16, 20 and 31
Bureau of School Health Region V - 718-520-4950: Department of Education Districts 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"The Chief": DOE to Use $5M to Recruit While Girding for Teaching Layoffs

"The Chief"'s David Sims reported in May 14, 2010's issue: "DOE to Use $5M to Recruit While Girding For Teacher Layoffs."
Even as Mayor Bloomberg presented a budget May6 that included a reduction of more than 6,400 teachers, the Department of Education is planning to spend up to $5 million to recruit teachers for the next school year.

Is it really any surprise?
This is the regime that has been tight fisted about longer tenure teachers' salaries and reducing school crowding, while having millions to spend on no-bid contracts on consultants.
"The Chief" then cites a quote from our lame sell-out union president. UFT head Michael Mulgrew calls the recruitment spending "totally ridiculous."
Come on, Michael! You shouldn't act so shocked. This brings to mind the faux surprise that "Casablanca"'s Captain Renault (played by Claude Rains) says that he is shocked to find gambling in Rick's night-club.
This is the same city administration that has allowed principals to break the rules requiring the hiring of Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) teachers over new teachers. Principals have time and time again dismissed those rules and hired their preferred new, young blood.
Look for no word in the United Federation of Teachers' newspapers as to how the union will fight to uphold seniority rules, in opposition to the city's hiring of inexpensive novices.
(Oh, by the way, notice how some of those ads of the cute, hip, young recruits, fresh out of college, posed as teacher recruits, are still posted? How is there money for this campaign, and no money for so many things, like special education teachers? Sure, the ads' funding comes from special campaign. But if Mike cares so much about the kids, he would get more books into students' hands, more computers in the classrooms, more supplies so that "Teacher's Choice" would no longer be necessary.)
The union's general silence on this issue speaks volumes about how weak the union leadership is. No mass mobilization; no activism. With this and the sell-out on the new rating system, why, again did we re-elect Mulgrew?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

US News: Your boss-originating stress could be killing you

Your administrator is draconian, insensitive, ultra-demanding, bullying etc?
Leave this on your union's board, or on a table for your boss to see:

By Katherin Hobson, originally in "U.S. News & World Report": "Beware Your Job May Be Killing You"
"In an attempt to live longer, you may have given up trans fats or learned to love the elliptical trainer. But there's evidence that another factor may be just as important: your job. Whether or not you're employed, how secure you are in your job, how much you enjoy your work -- all may influence your health and longevity. A study that came out in November, for example, found that men who didn't vent about unfair treatment at work doubled their chance of a heart attack or heart disease. "We spend 8, 10, 12 hours a day at work," says William Gallo, associate director of research at the Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging and Longevity at Hunter College in New York. "That may be more important than whether you're on the Zone Diet."

It's known that the very fact of employment is tied to our well-being. Losing a job is bad not only from a financial perspective but from a psychosocial one; you lose ties to other people and structure as well as a paycheck. After a major downsizing among municipal workers in Finland, the risk of death from a heart attack went up fivefold for those let go. Gallo says evidence from U.S. studies has been mixed, but research has found that people who lost a job in their 50s were more than twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke in the next decade.

It's not just the fired employees who are at risk. Even Finnish municipal workers who weren't actually downsized were more likely to die sooner, the study there found. In the United Kingdom, the "Whitehall studies" took a glimpse at a group of civil service workers whose jobs were threatened by a planned privatization. Both physical and mental health declined after the announcement, says Michael Marmot, professor of epidemiology and public health at University College London and the studies' principal investigator. Research in the United States has shown that job insecurity can be as bad for your longer-term health as a bout of serious illness or actual job loss.

Underlying all of this is the fact that, regardless of the health or precariousness of the economy, a person's socioeconomic position is associated with differences in longevity. The Whitehall studies revealed that many causes of death follow a "social gradient": the higher up on the ladder you are, the longer your life. The diseases people are dying from are generally the same, but the timing is different, Marmot says.

Critical combination? It's pretty clear, too, that something about the workplace pecking order affects health. One factor seems to be how much control employees have over the demands of their jobs. "Pressure by itself wasn't a key factor," says Marmot. "It's a combination of high demands and low control." That combination -- often found in lower-ranking, lower-paying jobs -- is associated with an earlier death as well as with health problems.

You might think access to healthcare would make a big difference. But studies show the same trends even in countries where free healthcare is available to all. Some of the difference in the Whitehall studies can be explained by the fact that people lower on the totem pole were more likely to smoke, less likely to be physically active in their leisure time, and less likely to eat fruits and vegetables, says Marmot. But researchers suspect that constant stress also is a key culprit. Studies of baboons show that both low-ranking animals and those that are socially isolated have higher levels of stress hormones like cortisol. While humans are not baboons, Marmot suspects the same biological mechanisms are at work in the civil servants he studies.

Health disparities aren't likely to go away, but the gaps can be narrowed through public policy -- better health insurance for all and getting the unemployed back to work quickly, for example. A positive work environment is important, though many folks obviously can't be too picky in this economy. It's healthiest to take your responsibilities seriously -- don't write them off as "just a job." And if you're unemployed, or unhappy at work, at least eat right and get moving; exercise is particularly helpful for relieving stress and bolstering the spirits."