It's teacher hunting season!

Friday, August 26, 2011

NYT: test cheating charges vs. Rhee in DCPS amid test cheating charges from Georgia to New Jersey

The New York Times this week ran a story (Michael Winerip), "Eager for Spotlight, but Not if It Is on a Testing Scandal") with this shamed-looking Rhee photo on how Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools has been generous with her access to a range of news interviewers, yet she has refused to speak to reporters at USA Today. As the Times noted, the test erasure charges swirling around Rhee come at the same time as allegations of cheating in Atlanta, Indiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Rhee's whole self-promotion campaign has come from her argument that her get tough methods of attacking teachers and stressing tests over everything were successful. Yet, erasure analysis raises plenty of suspicious red flags. Translation: Rhee's success is illusory, contrived:
At some schools, they found the odds that so many answers had been changed from wrong to right randomly were 1 in 100 billion. In a fourth-grade class at Stanton Elementary, 97 percent of the erasures were from wrong to right. Districtwide, the average number of erasures for seventh graders was fewer than one per child, but for a seventh-grade class at Noyes Elementary, it was 12.7 per student. At Noyes Elementary in 2008, 84 percent of fourth graders were proficient in math, up from 22 percent in 2007.

Ms. Rhee’s reputation has rested on her schools’ test scores. Suddenly, a USA Today headline was asking, “were the gains real?” In this era of high-pressure testing, Washington has become another in a growing list of cheating scandals that has included Atlanta, Indiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.

It took the USA Today reporters a year to finish their three-part series. So many people were afraid to speak that Ms. Bello had to interview dozens to find one willing to be quoted. She knocked on teachers’ doors at 9:30 at night and hunted parents at PTA meetings. She met people in coffee shops where they would not be recognized, and never called or e-mailed sources at their schools.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


REAL ACTIVIST (as opposed to the anti-education deformers) Brian Jones (Grassroots Education Movement or GEM) (updated: appeared) on Democracy Now, tomorrow, Friday, August 26, 2011,
along with Diane Ravitch.

Local radio broadcast time: WBAI, 99.5 FM, weekdays, 8:00 AM to 9:00 AM.
Click here for TV, radio, Internet broadcast times.

Click to this post of essential quotes on Education Notes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Judge Helps Bloomberg Score Big Hit vs. Working Mothers




Sometimes the blockbuster stories come in the summertime, when the subjects of the stories are spared the full exposure that they might get in December.

A federal judge has issued a decision in favor of New York City Mayor's Bloomberg L.P., a decision that is wincing in its harsh language. The language is further disconcerting in that it underlines how much the mayor, the legal system and our economic system (I dare not say society, since I would hope that people would not brazenly hold such sentiments) hold working mothers in contempt. Additionally, the judge supports companies' expectations that workers work far in excess of a forty hour week. (In a strange irony, this sickeningly insensitive judge is a woman.)

Toward the start of Mayor Bloomberg's term, employees of his Bloomberg L.P. charged that he was not in any way accommodating to women employees that needed time to care for their children. One employee charged that Bloomberg said, "Kill it," advising the employee-mother to abort her pregnancy. (For those that wonder about this quote, Google it. I have included a link to a Guardian (UK) 2001 article on the matter., Ed Vulliamy, May 20, 2001, "Is Michael Bloomberg the new Citizen Kane?" An excerpt is tucked below.) Just remind people, this is a privately held company, further indicating that the company's policies stem from the boss.

Judge Loretta A. Presko issued a decision that rejected the women plaintiffs' claim that Bloomberg L.P. discriminated against mothers and mothers-to-be.
Some legal decisions go down in the history books as glimmering testimonies to the law working for justice. Others, such as the Dred Scott decision, as noxious and inhumane, a disgrace to the principals of law. Presko's decision and her language fall into the latter category.

As Elissa Gootman in "The New York Times" reported, in "Bloomberg Discrimination-Suit Ruling Renews Work-Life Debate,"
“The law does not mandate ‘work-life balance,’ ” she wrote, in a decision issued on Wednesday.

Sonia Ossorio, executive director of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women properly said,
“She hardly hides her contempt for women with kids who have ambition and want top-paying jobs,” Ms. Ossorio said. “If you read her comments, she says that basically if a workplace culture is work 24/7, then they have a right to have that type of culture.”

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said,
“It feels like a throwback to the era when women were forced to choose between work and family — an era that I had hoped we had graduated from[.]”

Now to the "kill it" quote, as cited in the UK Guardian:
After her doctor told Sekiko Garrison she was pregnant, in 1995, the top sales executive with a major finance company went to inform her boss of the good news. 'Kill it,' he reportedly said. Ms Garrison, aghast, asked him to repeat himself. 'Kill it,' he repeated.

These words, as readers of New York's press now know only too well, were alleged to be those of Michael Bloomberg - the mogul of the markets whose name is synonymous with Wall Street and who now wants to be the next Mayor of the Big Apple . . . .

Look to the stories in "The Village Voice" in 2001, "Bloomberg’s Sexual Blind Spot: Testimony of Would-Be Mayor Bares Indifference to Harassment, Misinformation on Rape," and in New York magazine in 2009 for further discussion of the context of this quote, and the employee in question. Here is a Village Voice archived link to an excerpt of Bloomberg's 1998 deposition on the matter.

A twisted insistence on a round-the-clock work culture
The idea that people should devote nearly all their waking hours to the job is obscene. Unfortunately, corporate heads are now assuming that this is as things should be.

Jack Welch, a figurehead influential to Bloomberg said, (here quoted from the same Thursday Times posting): “there are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.” As the Times noted, Judge Preska echoed these words in her decision, to support her/ the mayor's position: “In a company like Bloomberg, which explicitly makes all-out dedication its expectation, making a decision that preferences family over work comes with consequences.”

As a sad reflection of how some women executives have endorsed this kind of thinking, Kathryn Wylde of a "business coalition" of which Bloomberg L.P. is a part, said, “I am among the first generation of ‘liberated’ women professionals who took for granted we would have to sacrifice personal time and family life to achieve our professional goals. Younger women tend to assume ‘equality in the workplace,’ along with the notion that they can and should ‘have it all.’ I don’t think that is possible for men or women, and certainly not in the competitive environment of New York City.”

Who should have it all, dear executive, the corporation or the working person?


Back to our question of who should have it all, should the principals have it all from their employees, or may the latter "have a life"?
The principals, apparently, in the following example expect the former concept:
A new blog, "NYC ATR" has a contribution from a job applicant that was subjected to numerous illegal questions from a potential supervisor (principal) regarding her status as a mother: "The Interview II, in which My Kids Become a Concern
by Life in Limbo, August 19, 2011

Note how a common thread running through the account is the principal's expectation for the teacher to work far beyond an eight-hour day.

The first signs of trouble from the principal:
Her [the principal's] entire demeanor changed as soon as I said, “per-session.” She said, “Now you know in these times that budgets are tight. I heard you say that you would do this per-session, but I am wondering if you would still be as enthusiastic about this if we could not pay you.” I went on to explain that I already do this activity after school and on weekends and that I am paid when I do. I told her that volunteering my time instead of being paid would impact my availability as I would be hesitant to give up a paying gig only to replace it with an unpaid one--this would be the equivalent of taking a pay cut. Her face froze at that point, and the temperature in the a/c-free room dropped by at least 20 degrees.

The principal in the clincher, reflecting thinking that is thoroughly reflective of the employee as wage-slave to the enterprise that Welch/Bloomberg envision:
“As the parent of young children, I have to ask if your parenting responsibilities and child care situation would prevent you from being able to fully devote yourself to doing whatever it takes to move this school forward.”

Bloomberg has his stamp throughout the institution of the Department of Education L.P. Through his Leadership Academy he has groomed principals to expect superhuman performances from teachers. This interview reflects the sexist and inhumane expectations of principals that are in tandem with the mayor's expectations at Bloomberg L.P.

And people wonder why we want unions? Sekiko Garrison, the target of Bloomberg's alleged "Kill it" instructions, is an example of why corporate professionals need to shed their disdain for unions and seek unionization themselves.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

NY Times / CBS News Poll: Bloomberg's Support at Lowest in Six Years

The New York Times reported today, August 16, 2011, that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's popularity ratings are at their lowest this month, since six years ago:

"Poll Finds Bloomberg’s Approval Rating the Lowest in 6 Years."

We have to remember that the last times that New York City's mayor had such low ratings among polled city residents was in the 2002-2003 period, when the region was still recovering from the economic effects of September 11 and before that the bursting of the Dot Com Bubble.

Read through these numbers of New York City mayors' poll numbers. The views on mayoral job performance and condition of the city's economy have not been so unfavorable since 2003.

Read the full story by David W. Chen and Marjorie Connelly in "The New York Times."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Did He Just Say That?! Mayor Bloomberg Slurred Black and Latino Men

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is donating $30 Million in an effort to aid African-American and Latino men.

He was interviewed on the PBS Newshour last night (August 4, 2011). The problem is, his language was a might patronizing, and given the gross generalizations in his comments, racist.

When he referred to crime rates he said, "If you look at who the victims and the perpetrators [of crime] are, it's virtually all minorities." (Emphasis added.)

Many white Americans have made attempts to be sensitive with their comments, both in the substance and in their choice of words.

Not so with Mayor Bloomberg. Here we have someone who opines nearly every business day on policy matters. We find it hard to believe that this was an impassioned slip of the lip.

Let's be clear: Blacks and Latino do not commit virtually all crime, nor are they virtually all the victims. Slick generalizations such as Mr. Bloomberg's are akin to the kind of thinking behind the differential prosecuting and sentencing of darker skin toned criminal offenders compared to lighter skinned offenders.

Here is the essential quote from the PBS Newshour interview transcript, I am critiquing, again, with emphasis:
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: Well, for a long time, people have said there's nothing you can do about it.
But blacks and Latinos score terribly in school testing compared to whites and Asians. If you look at our jails, it's predominantly minorities. If you look at where crime takes place, it's in minority neighborhoods. If you look at who the victims and the perpetrators are, it's virtually all minorities.
This is something that has gone on for a long time. I assume it's prevalent elsewhere, but certainly true in New York City. And for many, many years, people said there was just nothing you can do about it. Now, what we have done in the last 10 years is we have cut the testing gap in schools for black and Latino kids vs. white and Asian kids in half, but they still are way behind.
We have tried to diversify our police department, so that it really does measure the -- mirror the community's ethnicity. And they have brought crime down dramatically. We have the lowest crime rate we have ever had in the history of the city. And that's particularly important to black and Latino kids and their families and their neighborhoods, because that is where the crime is.
So they benefit from that. And we have done a number of these kinds of things, trying to attract the kind of jobs that are available to people who maybe don't have a formal education, have dropped out of school, or don't have great command of the English language, or have a blemish on their resume which would keep them from getting a job at a more traditional firm where they do an extensive background check.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: And so we have tried to attract industries that can use the people here who are unemployed.
But, nevertheless, there's this enormous cohort of black and Latino males aged, let's say, 16 to 25 that don't have jobs, don't have any prospects, don't know how to find jobs, don't know that the -- what their skill sets are, don't know how to behave in the workplace, where they have to work collaboratively and collectively.

Bloomberg with his donation is trying to help the unfortunate, or at least, help his image. Had he been a more sensitive speaker he would have taken great pains to emphasize that men with criminal or dysfunctional behaviors are a minority in the Black and Latino communities. We did not hear words representative of the majority, for example, "trust-worthy," "peaceful" or "law-abiding." Instead, Mayor Bloomberg, an influential public personality, has done a disservice by perpetuating racial stereotypes in the minds of lesser informed sections of the public.

Aside from the dissent voiced on Mark Riley's morning show at WWRL, as referenced in the Daily News, "Mayor Bloomberg donating $30M to minority youth causes skepticism among radio listeners" and a critique at the Mediaite blog, I have seen no dissent on this project.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Big Stories on Test Cheating in NY Times and Daily News -in Middle of Summer when Fewer are Noticing; Similar Cheating Concerns Across Nation

Convenient for administrators, and city executives, embarrassing stories about schools and test cheating encouraged by administrators are hitting the news, when more people are at summer get-aways.

Sharon Otterman, Review Aims to Avert Cheating on State Tests
New York State education officials announced Monday that they had begun to review the way they detect and prevent cheating on standardized tests, taking a step to avoid the cheating scandals that have engulfed school systems in other states.

New York does not conduct statistical analyses of its high-stakes third- through eighth-grade tests to scour for suspicious results that could signal cheating, like unusual spikes in a school’s scores or predictable erasures on multiple-choice questions, officials said.

Analyses in Atlanta and Philadelphia, among other cities, have produced evidence of tampering on a scale that calls into question those cities’ educational achievements.

The State Education Department released a brief statement on Monday saying that the education commissioner, John B. King Jr., had convened a high-level working group in mid-July to begin an immediate review of “all aspects of the state’s testing system.” Officials said details would be available soon.

All aspects? I'm not holding my breath.

New York state should send a Michigan-type survey of teachers on cheating pressures. See "About the school cheating survey" (Detroit Free Press, July 27, 2011) on the Michigan Educator Survey. Nearly 30% of the surveyed teachers reported pressure to cheat.

And another quite interesting tidbit, broadcasted about nine years too late: Prince Michael I (Mr. Bloomberg) cut the funds for investigations of test cheating in 2002, immediately after assuming mayor control of the schools:

Rachel Monahan, yesterday in the New York Daily News: "NYC drops controls to ferret out cheating on high-stakes standardized tests."

34 NJ Schools Investigated For Possible Cheating:
Officials: Some Schools Showed Especially High Deviations Of Corrected Answers

In Michigan, teachers feel compelled to cheat

Alas, in many western and southern states the school year is starting in a week or two. In these states the scandals or "probes" are getting attention at an inconvenient time for policy bigs.
Pa. Joins States Facing a School Cheating Scandal Actually, this covers the Georgia scandal as well.

And Education Week gives us a thumbnail of cheating scandals in the era of No Child Left Behind (NCLB): "Cheating Scandals Intensify Focus on Test Pressures"

Consider that the policy maker/ media pundit beating up of teachers does not consider the role of administrators. A common thread of these stories is that administrators, not teachers, are the source of the pressure to cheat.

Will all of these scandals prompt education "reformers", media pundits and politicians to rethink their mania for tests and data emphasis? Let's hope so.