It's teacher hunting season!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Two Lies Exposed: Collective Bargaining & Taxpayer Contributions to Pensions

Two big lies have been shot down, regarding states and issues behind the public employee salaries and pensions.
The actual truths instead of the myths:
Here are examples of no public unions states and higher deficits:
from "The New Republic," "What's Really Going on in Wisconsin?
The assault on collective bargaining isn’t about the deficit—it's about politics"
But now, in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, conservative, anti-labor politicians like Governor Walker are trying out a new and potentially more potent anti-union argument: We can no longer afford collective bargaining. The wages, health benefits, and pensions of government workers, these opponents say, are driving states into deep and dangerous deficits.

Yet this contention is every bit as bogus as the alarmist arguments put forth by the anti-union crusaders of the 1970s. Contrary to Walker’s assertion, there is no direct correlation between public-sector collective bargaining and yawning state budget deficits. According to data gathered by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, while Wisconsin projects a state budget deficit of 12.8 percent for FY 2012, North Carolina, which does not allow government workers to bargain, faces a significantly higher deficit: 20 percent. Ohio, whose Republican governor John Kasich has also made clear his desire to roll back collective bargaining, has a deficit that is only about half the size of non-union North Carolina’s. Clearly, then, state budget deficits we are now witnessing are not the product of collective bargaining, but rather reflect the differential impact of the current recession on individual states, as well as the integrity of state fiscal practices (such as whether they raise enough in taxes to pay for the essential services they provide).

Such facts apparently matter little to Walker, Kasich, and their ilk. They have taken to heart the famous quip by the right wing’s bête noire, Rahm Emanuel: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” Exploiting the suffering of so many during this “Great Recession,” they are seeking to turn hurting private-sector workers against their supposedly “privileged” public-sector counterparts in a perverse new form of class warfare, the end results of which will only accelerate the downward pressure on incomes and benefits that has contributed to a new gilded age of wealth inequality in America.

What proponents of the rollback in public-sector bargaining rights are unable to explain is how taking rights away from some American workers will improve the lot of others . . . .

"The Wisconsin Lie Exposed – Taxpayers Actually Contribute Nothing To Public Employee Pensions"
Pulitzer Prize winning tax reporter, David Cay Johnston, has written a brilliant piece for exposing the truth about who really pays for the pension and benefits for public employees in Wisconsin.

Gov. Scott Walker says he wants state workers covered by collective bargaining agreements to “contribute more” to their pension and health insurance plans. Accepting Gov. Walker’ s assertions as fact, and failing to check, creates the impression that somehow the workers are getting something extra, a gift from taxpayers. They are not. Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin’ s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Teacher Basher Rahm Emanuel Wins Chicago Mayoralty

Rahm Emanuel, former Illinois Congressman, former Barack Obama White House Chief of Staff, had a sweeping victory in Chicago yesterday, February 22, 2011. Emanuel won 55 percent. His nearest rival, former Chicago schools president Gery Chico, won 24 percent. Former Senator Carol Moseley Braun and City Clerk Miguel del Valle both trailed with 9 percent apiece.See this Associated Press reference, "Rahm Emanuel Wins Chicago Mayoral Election."

Will Emanuel continue Arne Duncan's destructive record of weakening public schools? On the eve of Emanuel's election, "The Chicago Sun-Times" ran this story, "Emanuel Backs Crackdown on Teachers."
By this article, the Democratic mayor-elect sounds like a combination of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.
Mayoral front-runner Rahm Emanuel supports curtailing teachers’ right to strike. And if they won’t agree to work longer hours for extra pay, he’ll ask state legislators to mandate it, he said.

“As we have [rules against strikes] for police and firefighters, I would have it for teachers because they provide an essential service,” Emanuel said.

The “Performance Counts” bill the state legislature is considering would severely limit the right of teachers to strike. The Chicago Teachers Union says it would essentially eliminate the right to strike.

There has been no teachers strike in Chicago since 1987.

Emanuel says he supports the package of reforms, which he says will reward high-performing teachers and give principals greater sway to weed out low-performing teachers.

In this era of teacher blaming and budget slashing, this sounds like a tool for eliminating experienced teachers in favor of less experienced, less expensive teachers.

Will Chicago's unions put up a stronger fight against Emanuel than New York City's unions have done with their anti-teacher mayor?

Yahoo News on Bad Bosses: Didn't Leadership Academy Get the Memo?

Yahoo News ran a story on bad bosses, "5 Signs of a Bad Boss." The article is directed towards bosses.
Don't bosses get it, that they will not get employees working at their optimum, that they will get massive staff bitterness, that they will get employees calling in sick, often? (Regarding the last point, those Educators-Shilling-for-the-Deformers, Educators4[sic]Excellence groused about teachers taking sick days off. If these were real teachers, i.e., teachers working full-time, they would have realized that the students burn the teachers out and that the administrators actually join the students in harassing the teachers. So, you wonder why teachers take days off as mental health days?)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Memo to Mayor Mike: Lay Off the Irish and Jewish Stereotypes

In this time of public figures and other elites terrified of labeling the powerful with the bigot label that they deserve, we can expect little negative repercussions from New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's bigoted, anti-Irish statements this week at thee American Irish Historical Society.

Everything rolls off mayor Mike and everything his imprimatur touches. Witness his sham chancellor Cathie Black's creepy (albeit vague, but whatever it meaned... who can tell what was going on in her mind) Holocaust quip about "Sophie's Choice" when speaking about school placements, and her quip about birth control as a solution to over-crowding problems.

Here's Imperial Mayor Mike's anti-Irish comment, dredging up stereotypes about the Irish and alcohol:
He said that he had seen "people that are totally inebriated hanging out windows" [out of the Irish Historical Society].
So, he invoked low-life behaviors at a high-brow association. As "Irish Central" wrote on February 9,
The American Irish Historical Society, located at 80th Street and 5th Avenue in New York, is one of the oldest Irish societies in America and emphasizes support for scholarship, culture and research. It recently won an architectural award for best renovated building in the city.

(No surprise that "The New York Times" today called the institution "a very sober place": "Mayor Aimed Drunken Irish Joke at a Very Sober Place" A Criticized society Seems Far Removed From a Stereotype.")

Hmmm, I wonder how the sober Irish-American school administrators feel about following his every order...

Sound rather offensive? "But, wait! There's more!" --like late night TV ads say. In the less widely circulated quote includes the words that preceded and followed the famous inebriated line, Bloomberg also stereotyped wealthy Jews as sympathizing with his feelings. (That's how I read the next quote. You'd like to spin it differently?)
Here's the fuller quote, as "The New York Post," directing from the front page to page 7, published it:
"I live in the neighborhood, right around the corner," the mayor said. "Normally, when I walk by this building, there are a bunch of people that are totally inebriated hanging out the window. I know that's a stereotype about the Irish, but nevertheless, we Jews around the corner think this."

Read more:

Is it me, or did anyone notice how he lumped Fifth Avenue area Jews into a group sharing his stereotypical thinking? Seems to me that he is following one stereotype with another one. No, the whole tone of the statement does not sound like an accidental gaffe.
Click to this Feburary 10 New York Times site, "Irish Eyes Not Smiling Over Bloomberg Remark," for the audio of the mayor's ethnic slur.

Rumors have it that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is imperial mayor Mike's hand-picked successor for the mayoralty for when he finally leaves to his own Sharm El-Sheikh. This could explain why she blends into the wallpaper every time Mike pursues one of his more outrageous policies. Yet, even she was offended too:

Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker and the granddaughter of Irish immigrants, called them “surprising and inappropriate.”

--from Fernandez, "Irish Eyes Not Smiling Over Bloomberg Remark," "The New York Times."

So, I ask, again, where's the outrage? Sure, there are a few quotes from people insulted by this classic stereotype slur. But where are the endless demands on talk radio for his resignation? You can bet that if any famous African-American said this there would be calls by area pols for his resignation and angry mobs calling for the same and worse.

No, Mike, all Irish are not drunks, and not all Upper East Side Jews share your thinking. --Then again, maybe the bizarre quotes of Black and imperial mayor Mike in the last five or six weeks suggest that those two have been drinking.

Arum on NPR cites lack of rigor at American colleges

Richard Arum of New York University, interviewed on National Public Radio, on the lack of academic rigor at American college campuses.
Her is the link to the audio archive file at NPR's site.

Arum emphasized the need for students to apply themselves. He cited studies showing that students did very little homework and avoided courses that required writing long papers. Students apply themselves? I thought that teachers'/instructors' jobs was to entertain students. Someone send the memo to college and school administrators!

Arum also negatively cited the practice of evaluating instructors by relying on student evaluations of teachers. Positive student evaluations college instructors are inevitably correlated with the grade that they anticipate receiving and their sense that the instructor is entertaining, rather than boring. Any wonder that there is grade inflation.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Brockton HS shows that large schools can be strong, keeping older teachers

Brockton (Massachusetts) High School shows that strong schools can be good, keeping older teachers.

Meanwhile, it is in outer-space, compared to much of the rest of America. Rahm Emanuel (Chicago mayoral candidate) and Michael Bloomberg (New York City mayor), now a mysterious, multi-million dollar media campaign to generalize that younger (and the clincher: CHEAPER) teachers are far better than older, veteran (clincher: with SENIORITY SALARIES).
Yet, in Massachusetts a heavily blue collar, heavily English as a Second Language, community, Brockton, the academic performance of the student body had been tremendously turned around, to have a much larger percentage of students that have passed the rigourous English.

Brockton High School did not get chopped into several pieces, small schools, small learning communities, whatever cliche you want. (With a 4,000 student body, it is the largest high school in Massachusetts.) It did not turn out its teachers. (And the English test (MCAS) that Massachusetts students must pass is far more rigourous than the infamously dumbed-down New York States regents English test.)

It developed a new intensive program of English skills, and the integration of literacy skills into other subjects, such as science. The principal did not turn out the school's teachers. It solicited contributions of ideas from teachers.
So, as Brockton High turned its performance, it did so without throwing out its veteran teachers. Read about BHS, for example, in this New York Times story.

...this and other stories on "education reform" that pleasantly, did not rest on teacher-bashing, older teacher-bashing, small-school-touting, charter school-touting, were on PBS, "Need to Know" tonight.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

School closing argument undercut: Shuttered NYC HS schools met their graduation targets

One the same page, Yoav Gonen in the New York Post reported Wednesday February 9 in "Shuttered Schools Met Grad-Rate Predictions" that several high schools shuttered in the last few years actually met or came one or two points short of graduation percentage targets.

Here are the crucial excerpts from the article:
Internal Department of Education predictions of graduation rates at more than 200 public high schools show that a number of schools have been closed even though they met or came close to meeting their expected results, data obtained by The Post shows.

Among them were Franklin K. Lane HS in Brooklyn and Far Rockaway HS in Queens — which both began phasing out in 2008 — and Columbus HS in The Bronx, which last week was approved for closure.

Critics liken those closures — under which most teachers and administrators are bounced and forced to find positions at other schools — to shuttering a police precinct for its crime stats even though it’s known to be in a high-crime neighborhood.

The predictions are based on a number of factors — particularly the performance of incoming 9th graders on annual math and reading tests — so that schools with greater challenges are expected to produce fewer graduates.

A number of schools approved for closure in recent years had predicted graduation rates below 45 percent — far below the current citywide graduation rate of 60 percent.

But several of them came within 1 or 2 percentage points of meeting their expectations in 2007, the most recent year for which the predictions were calculated.

In fact, Far Rockaway HS beat its prediction by 0.6 percentage points just months before officials decided it should close.

"This data shows that the administration’s stated rationale for school closings, that teachers were underperforming, is false," said Patrick Sullivan, a Manhattan rep to the Panel for Educational Policy. "They must stop closing schools until a new policy based on transparency and community engagement can be put into place."

Read more:


It is such a paradox. The paper bashes teachers, is distributed in schools, occasionally gives news exposing systemic ills.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Report: Sham HS diplomas in New York City & State, weak college readiness

It's official:
the diplomas that New York (especially New York City) gives out are sham diplomas. Despite the fact that some zealous young principals love to bandy about the cliche, "college readiness," New York City schools are not preparing students for college level work.
It's official: a New York State Department of Education report says as much. See the full discussion in Sharon Otterman's article, "Most New York Students Are Not College-Ready" on the front page of Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011's New York Times.
Commissioner David Steiner and other high officials in the New York State Department of Education are cited in the article.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Classroom disruption accommodation, and DoE's unprofessional role

800-pound weight in the New York City classrooms is the problem of "classroom management." The NYC Department of Education's accommodation of classroom disruption has wide-ranging deleterious ramifications.
First-most, the student disruptions have a profoundly negative impact on the classroom. The disruptions make teaching difficult. They make it difficult for children to learn. The ability of children to disrupt without consequences establishes a destructive precedent for the disruptors' peer students. The paucity of consequences makes the arena of the classroom is the disruptive student's true nirvana.
So, do administrators go after the disruptive, oppositional students? Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the answer is: hardly.
Are you say ... over 35 years of age or from outside "the city"? When you misbehaved terribly your principal probably called your home. This of course, probably turned over a whole mess at home. You saw immediate consequences to your non-sense.
These days, something has to happen pretty extreme, such as putting another student into an unconscious or making blood spill, to get a call home from the principal. No, there is a terrific shield that gives the disruptive student a tremendous cushion against any immediate consequences. That shield, "the ladder of referral." Essentially, if Johnny bullies or sexually harasses or non-sexually harasses or loudly and continuous disrupts a lesson or engages in dangerous rough-housing, weeks will pass before Johnny sees repercussions between his actions and any kind of punishment. Click here for the multi-page booklet, "Discipline Code," in a range of available languages.

No call from the principal or suspension; no, if you've done something egregious, no, the victims of the harassment or disruption will have to put up with things." The undergirding philosophy of what the discipline code calls "interventions" is that there is no urgency to stopping disruption, harassment or violence, and secondly, that the teacher needs to contact a bunch of people before the principal is contacted, and then maybe the student might get suspended. The teacher needs to do a plethora of things, use psychology to a pointless exercise of making like Mr. Rogers, "Now, if Yesenia says that she doesn't want you to touch her and she pushes you away, she probably won't be your friend anytime soon." And then you have to appeal to the parent a few times, and then, inform the guidance counselor or dean, and then the assistant principal and then the principal. Schools' formal "classroom removal process" of menacing or disruptive students includes following this kind of process.

The code has a bunch of letter and number code combinations which sound empowering to the teacher seeking peace and respect in the classroom." The various aforementioned offenses are grounds for some serious punishments.
The problem is that administrators at best frown upon reporting of incidents, and at worst, will go after the reporting staff member with a ferocious vengeance. For, the ultimate problem is that schools get negative ratings or reviews if incidents are reported. This is the crux of the problem. This aspect should be removed and principals might become more of partners in disciplining students. The absence of immediate consequences for disruption creates the self-fulfilling prophesy, "You can't control your classes."

In recent decades court cases have resulted in advances for the cause of the disruptive student. In the interest of not depriving the disruptive student his due education and his fair treatment, state governments placed restrictions on the disciplining of students. This has particularly been true in New York State. Perhaps this enabling of disruption and dysfunction has contributed to New York's position of lagging performance behind other states such as North Carolina or Georgia. (Albeit, there has been a national underpinning of protections, understandably, for accused students' right to an uninterrupted education. See Goss v. Lopez (419 U.S. 565) (1975).)
This present post has been occasioned by the editorial today in the New York Post, "Rx for Classroom Chaos."
The New York Post published the following:
classes can't be run without discipline. Denying them [school administrators] the right to run their own schools then becomes an act of collective punishment.

No one knows better than teachers and principals just what their students need -- and what an orderly class demands.

I would contend that significant educational gains could be accomplished if the disruption accommodation pattern were turned on its head.
Years past, teachers set the bar of their expectations, both in terms of classroom material and behavior.
Now, administrators fall into the classroom management philosophy that legitimizes student disruption, and more frequently so under Bloomberg's vindictive Leadership Academy principals and assistant principals. The most cynical administrators take the posture that teachers have the disruption coming to them because the classes are boring. This posture has intensified with the elimination at the secondary school level of assistant principals that have authority over specific subjects. Now, we have administrators with little familiarity in subjects that teachers under their authority teach. Again, the more cynical and less intellectually curious of these administrators want entertainment and educational superficiality and trivialization over substance.
(An eyewitness of a NYS Education Commissioner David Steiner lecture last year heard him observe that in other countries surveyed teachers say that they are in education because of a love of the content of their topic, and in the United States they report that they are in teaching because they love teaching. Given the anti-intellectualism of too many principals and assistant principals, is it any wonder that the latter orientation prevails.) Too bad he is not saying this in public, away from college campuses.)
Now, the teacher is not in control of the classroom. The student is.
State laws, school system codes of discipline and administrator policies and policies need to change, to reflect a respect for education and learning, rather than edutainment and disruption.
The compulsion to blame the teacher provides an indispensible tool by which to eliminate teachers (particularly experienced [read, higher salary] or politically undesirable teachers). Shamefully, the United Federation of Teachers plays along with this. They will not challenge the use of "classroom management" as a tool by which to pursue the biased and highly selective U rating of teachers.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

DOE school staff & potential PCB class action lawsuit

Staff of New York City schools afflicted with cancer and their survivors have potential grounds for a class action lawsuit against the New York City Department of Education school system for its lingering inaction on PCB dangers in the schools.
For a couple of years the outer borough newspapers addressed this story, while broadcast media and major newspapers ignored the story.
"The New York Times" in the Saturday, February 5, 2011 edition runs a front page article on the lingering PCBs in NYC schools..

Of concern to staff is this note in the times over prolonged exposure to the PSB:
There is no immediate health risk from PCBs lingering in schools, all are told, yet with one important caveat:
the longer the exposure, the higher the risk.
(Line break in this quote is mine.)

People cannot sit sanguine on this issue. After all, this is the same mayor Mochael Bloomberg that resisted the city's cooperation with providing help to the overcome the onerous effects of longtime exposure to Grand Zero contaniments.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

UFT and parents walk-out of sham PEP meeting


After calling the city's bluff (???) and assuming that this will get the city to play nice,
the United Federation of Teachers tonight at 7:15 PM walked out of the Panel for Education Policy meeting for voting on the proposed closure of some two dozen schools in the auditorium of Brooklyn Technical High School, one of the city's top selective public high schools.

At 7:00 PM UFT President Michael Mulgrew called the panel for what it is: a sham of a democracy. He noted that the city Department of Education sets up schools for failure. He made reference to a recently publicized internal DOE report (ironically, in "The New York Post") that the DOE starves schools for resources and sets them up for failure (clusters them with weaker students).
His speech was followed up by a parent that echoed his comments. Then, at 7:15 PM, parents in the front of the hall entered the aisles to leave, and union leaders, seated in the back of the hall, joined the crowd.

The Gotham Schools blog inaccurately reported that one-quarter of the crowd in the Brooklyn Tech auditorium left. The proportion was more like at least one-half. The reporting blogger cynically referred to the crowd walking out as "the Gompers crowd." In truth, parents and students were heavily represented in the crowd walking out of the meeting.

Parents and elected representatives, such as City Councilor Charles Barron, in a stirring speech, earlier in the night noted that the schools targeted for closure are saddled with special education and English Language Learner (English as a Second Language) students. The union has had to pursue a public campaign in recent years to get the city to properly staff schools with special education and resource room teachers, so as to meet the Individual Education Program needs of special education students.

The closings and co-locating of competing schools in buildings with existing schools will lead to the displacement of veteran teachers. Every experienced teacher is in great danger of becoming next year's ATR (absent teacher reserve) teacher. This suits the perennially budget minded mayor exquisitely. Expensive veteran teachers will be replaced by cheaper, novice, untenured and timid teachers.

Others chided embattled schools chancellor Cathie Black's contempuous talking back to parents, Tuesday, February 1, 2011, evening.
(She said, "I can't speak if you're shouting." Members of the crowd said, "Ohhhh." Black mocked back, "Ohhhh." Click to this NY1 clip, "Chancellor Black Criticized For Talking Back To Crowd During PEP meeting."
(NY1 was the only commercial outlet with cameras rolling during Black's jeering retort to upset parents.)

This walk-out, we hope, will foreshadow, a new, stronger turn for the teachers' union and parents, in a bid to challenge the fait accompli plan of closure that the city has for a quota of the lowest performing schools. As Mulgrew and others speak said Tuesday and Thursday, the panel is mostly hand-picked by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and is seen as a rubber stamp for the mayor's wishes.
Parents, students, teachers and elected officials walked out because speakers can speak, but the decision is always pre-determined. Whatever the people say, the panel members will only vote according to the pre-ordained program for X number of schools each year.

As speakers cited the stirrings for democracy in Egypt, we hope that this evening's stirrings and walkout will lead to the replacement of the autocratic rubber stamp PEP with a democratic board of education.

NY1 stuck around after the walkout. The reporter, Lindsey Christ, reporting live at 9:00 PM, said that only 200 to 300 audience members remained and that they were mainly charter school supporters. In contrast to Gotham Schools, Christ said that the majority of the attendees walked out.