It's teacher hunting season!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

ObamaReform behind Queens HS fates

The August 19, 2010 Queens Tribune reported that "7 Boro High Schools Face Uncertain Futures." The schools are:
August Martin, Beach Channel (well, the NYC Department of Education doesn't give up), Grover Cleveland, Jamaica, John Adams, Newtown and Richmond Hill.
Federal grant monies (read: Bush era No Child Left Behind repackaged as Barack Obama-Arne Duncan era No Teacher Left Unvilified or No School Left Unsold, courtesy of Zcommunications) give the city four choices, the article reports.
The NYC DOE is considering only two possibilities for the schools: "Turnaround" and "Transformation."
Already the city has slated three other Queens schools for Turnaround treatment:
Flushing, Long Island City and Queens Vocational and Technical.
The article includes critical comments against the proposed changes by Beach Channel Chapter Leader David Pecoraro.
Anything to add to this discussion or the Tribune's coverage of this issue? Jessica Ablamsky, the author, posted her work contact:

Click to the updates, at the bottom of my August 13, 2010 post, for resources on overviews of Duncan's changes in Chicago.

Galling WNYC, Village Voice inconsistency re NYPD, DOE malfeasance coverage

Yesterday (Wednesday, August 25, 2010) I heard WNYC's Brian Lehrer speak about New York State's victory in the "Race to the Top." The voice of New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein graced the show. While there was at least one caller that bemoaned the rising stress on teachers from test-driven teaching to the test, the general reception of Klein was congratulatory in New York State's competition with neighboring New Jersey.
A blogger has cited the Broad Foundation's friendly relationship with WNYC after my open question: why is WNYC treating New York City's Department of Education with such kid gloves?
One would hope that the exposure of New York City's plummeting scores (when the notoriously easy New York State tests were made more difficult this year) would prompt WNYC to lessen the fawning treatment of Chancellor Klein. No. Klein was allowed to wax on an on, in an uninterrupted soliloquy. Valuable time that could have gone to parents or teachers was lost in deference to his ego.
In contrast to the kid gloves treatment that Lehrer gave Klein last Thursday, August 19, note these essential questions that a poster to Lehrer's site offered:
1. Isn't Klein a total failure? Eight years of an experiment on our kids and no progress?

2. Wasn't claiming progress on flawed tests a lie?
Wasn't he promoting and firing teachers on the basis of these flawed tests? And telling parents which schools are good on the basis of these tests? And so if he knew these tests were flawed why did he give all this bad advice and claim progress that didn't happen?

3. Shouldn't he just resign?

When Lehrer usually organizes a segment on an issue with opposing perspectives he invites guests from different sides of an issue. Not so with the NYC DOE. No Leonie Haimson, no Juan Gonzalez or no Norm Scott for balance. On Lehrer's show there is no speaking truth to the power of Mr. Klein.

So, it was grandly disappointing when Lehrer segued over to a piece dealing with insensitive treatment of police officers. The piece centered around "NYPD Tapes 5: The Corroboration," the latest of a series of journalistic pieces by The Village Voice that has looked into corrupt practices in the New York Police Department, New York City's police force. It was obvious --but Lehrer did not pick up on it-- that there is a direct parallel: in both the NYC DOE and in the NYPD there is a management culture that only values the professionals, teachers and police officers, respectively, on the basis of their statistics.

In both cases the public suffers. Students get a dullened education that only lives for tests (see Gabe Pressman's report from his interview of Diane Ravitch and see this City University of New York study, "Teaching to the Test: How No Child Left Behind Impacts Language Policy, Curriculum, and Instruction for English Language Learners"). No appreciation of knowledge, just prep for the test, all to the end of making the great Oz (his holiness Mike Bloomberg). In the case of police performance, police offices do not report larcenous thefts as such, police officers willy-nilly harass black and Hispanic New Yorkers (see this Times story and this New York Civil Liberties Union report), all in the name of protecting the great Oz (mayor Bloomberg, just to remind you) and his ever improving statistics.

The Village Voice's disturbing report is a good deed. Perhaps the Pulitzer Prize committee will reward the newspaper or its reporters. But why the attention to stats mania in the police department, but no attention to similar abuses in the Education Department? The allegations that police department supervisors pressure police officers, with a singular mind to statistics, in self-interest for promotion or bonuses resonate with the allegations that teachers make about principals that harass teachers over test statistics. Yet, neither The Village Voice nor WNYC will address the parallel patterns of harassing of teachers and mis-serving the students.

Where is our free press? Where are the investigative reporters? The "alternative" or "non-commercial" media outlets fail at their duty. We bloggers don't carry the same weight as these outlets or the daily newspapers. Otherwise, Bloomberg would have lost to Bill Thompson last fall.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Toxic elements in NYC schools; nine months of inaction?

PCBs have been found in window caulk in three New York City schools.
See Mireya Navarro, "Preliminary Tests Find Elevated PCB Levels in 3 Public Schools" in the August 18, 2010

A blogger (PCB Free) has posted an August 4, 2010 report of concerns over PCB presence in schools.

This is an old, lingering issue. On January 19, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reached an agreement with the NYC Department of Education, whereby the city would study PCBs in five city schools. But there was no mention of the dozens of schools already found to have PCBs.

The schools revealed in August represent the tip of an iceberg. In November 26, 2009, "The Queens Chronicle" reported that there is toxic PCB caulk on the windows of numerous primary and secondary schools in the city.
The article, by Lisa Fogarty, reported that the New York City Department of Education determined that there is such contamination on 85 public schools in the city. It also reported that parents have been active in opposing the presence of these compounds in the window caulk. It quoted Naomi Gonzalez, a Bronx parent that is working with other parents in litigating, with the assistance of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, against the Department of Education and the School Construction Authority.
These windows are the legacy of construction from earlier generations, as the article reported:
Before the 1970s, PCBs, which stands for polychlorinated biphenyls, were added to the caulking material used to cushion window and door frames to make them more elastic, according to the NYLPI. Although they were banned in 1979, products that may still contain the compound include electrical equipment, oil-based paints, floor finishes and caulking — which has recently been found in abundance on many school windows.

PCBs volatize into air and don’t stay in place, Massie said, affecting the quality of air students breathe, as well as the soil around a facility.

A fuller accounting is needed. Many questions need to be addressed. How many schools with pre-1980 windows (or other areas with possible PCB caulking) have yet to be tested? When will the New York City Department of Education act to replace the toxic windows? How is the NYLPI's suit against the School Construction Authority progressing?

For more sites on the issue of PCBs in schools, see PCBs: Mandatory Testing in Schools or

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New York State 2010 primary voter registration deadline is Fri, Aug.20

The 2010 deadline for New York State voter registration for primary election participation is Friday, August 20, 2010.

Here is the page for online or mail registration:

Click on the above link, and scroll to "How and Where to register to Vote."

The so-called online instructions:
Alternately, you can complete a PDF version of the New York State Voter Registration Form on-line by clicking on the link below, typing the necessary information and selecting the appropriate boxes. However, the file size of these forms are substantially larger than the above forms, so it may take quite a while for them to load on computers with slower Internet connections.
Complete English Form On-line (2,370KB) [which means 2.37 MB]
Complete Spanish Form On-Line (596KB)
Once the form is completed, you need to print the form and sign it. Then, mail the form to your county board of elections.

Of course, note the caveat in the last sentence: you must mail the form.

Of course, this is the more straight-forward explanation:
You can register in person at your county board of elections
or at any New York State Agency-Based voter registration center.
You can enter your name directly into our mailing list database to have a New York State Voter Registration Form mailed to you. (NOTE: The same form can be downloaded, using the link below.)
You can call our 1-800-FOR-VOTE begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              1-800-FOR-VOTE      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              1-800-FOR-VOTE      end_of_the_skype_highlighting hotline to request a voter application.
You can download a PDF version of the New York State Voter Registration Form.
Download English Form (69KB)
Download Spanish Form (115KB)
Print the form, complete and sign it, and mail it to your county board of elections.

(Got questions? Telephone the general office number: 212-487-5300. Here is the link for the borough office telephone numbers and addresses.)

Of course, there are problems with the gubernatorial candidates, but that's another matter.
* * *
The Albany "Times-Union" blog on the New York State attorney general's race. The latest post includes a database of contribution to candidates, in amounts of $250 or more. One can read of contributions from real estate companies, lawyers and labor.

Ron Gunzberger's site. Has comprehensive list of statewide candidates, Congressional candidates and New York State news links.

Friday, August 13, 2010

PBS addresses Chicago killing wave --Will it address claim of link to Duncan's school closings?

PBS' new, in-depth Friday evening news show, "Need to Know" with Alison Stewart and Jon Meacham will focus on Chicago's wave of youth violence, "Block By Block: Violence in Chicago." (Friday, Aug. 13, 8:30, local time, in NYC and Indianapolis, 9:00 in Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia, 10:30 in Baltimore and Annapolis [for the Washington, DC market --pre-empted on Aug. 13].)

Will the news program address activists' contention that Arne Duncan's (Chicago schools CEO [sic], 2001-2009) wave of schools closings has contributed to the spike in youth violence in Chicago's poor neighborhoods? Shootings spiked after the 2004 schools closings program (euphemistically called "phase-outs") began.

Links on this theme:
MSNBC: "School closings root of Chicago teen violence?: Activists blame education reform plan for spike in youth attacks"

Catalyst Notebook: "Chicago schools plan to combat violence: kinder, gentler security guards, disciplinarians"

WBEZ, Chicago Public Radio: "Parents, Activists Say Renaissance 2010 Exacerbates Youth Violence"

And alas, just like this endless ego-trip of "school reform" in New York City, that has produced lackluster school performance (no improvement), research shows that Chicago's school transformation produced little improvement:
Education Week: "Chicago School Closings Found to Yield Few Gains"

See this great resource on the devastation that Duncan and his successors have wrought on Chicago public schools:
Paul Street, "Arne Duncan and Neoliberal Racism," at ZNet
At Amy Goodman's DemocracyNow, A Look at Arne Duncan’s VIP List of Requests at Chicago Schools and the Effects of his Expansion of Charter Schools in Chicago," the source of this quote:
The larger scandal is that Chicago has basically a two-tiered education system, with a handful of these selective enrollment magnet schools, or boutique schools, that have been set up under Renaissance 2010 in gentrifying and affluent neighborhoods, and then many disinvested neighborhood schools.

Looks familiar, eh? Just what mayor Michael Bloomberg and chancellor Joel Klein are doing in New York City.