It's teacher hunting season!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Save New York City Libraries From Bloomberg Developer Destruction

Save New York City Libraries From Bloomberg Developer Destruction

By Carolyn McIntyre (Contact)

To be delivered to: Stephen Levin, City Council Member, Mayor Michael R Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, NYC Comptroller John C. Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Trustees of New York Public Library, Trustees of Brooklyn Public Library, and Trustees of Queens Public Library
Petition Statement
We demand that Mayor Bloomberg stop defunding New York libraries at a time of increasing public use, population growth and increased city wealth. Shrinking our library system to create real estate deals for the wealthy at a time of cutbacks in education and escalating disparities in opportunity is not only unjust, it is a shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.
Petition Background

Mayor Bloomberg refuses to adequately fund our public libraries unless they sell off assets including crown jewels of the system, a plan that is wrong-headed and counterproductive.

We are in a period of steadily increasing use of libraries by all sectors of New York’s population, attendance is up 40% and circulations are up 59%, while the amount required to properly fund libraries is a pittance compared to other city expenditures.

Public libraries enrich their communities and are an important part of the tax base and a stable economy, providing jobs, community space and serving as a buffer against economic downturn. They provide a safe haven for seniors during the day, teens after school, for parents with young children, for job seekers needing computers, for the growing number of freelance professionals, and for those needing literacy and technical skills.

Bloomberg’s plan would eliminate irreplaceable and historic crown jewels, such as the research stacks underneath the main 42nd Street library, and demolish Brooklyn Heights Art Deco style building, housing 62,000 square feet of library space replacing it with only 15,000 square feet of space in a developer’s high rise. The removal of the Brooklyn Business Library from Brooklyn’s central business district in downtown Brooklyn, the hub of commerce, transportation, and next to universities is a travesty. These are just two examples of a scheme to shrink New York’s public library system, eliminating resources that communities depend on.

We need to immediately halt real estate deals that involve selling any more branches to private developers until the libraries have been properly funded and until the needs of the public’s library system are the first priority.

Libraries should not be hostages for development. The city should cease the practices of bribing the public into approving bigger and denser development and pressuring communities into accepting libraries housed in smaller spaces with fewer services.

Developer-driven partnerships that put developers in the driver’s seat and render competitive bids meaningless are bad public policy that must be avoided. The practice of using developers who specialize in insider deals, who treat the communities poorly and have a record of failing to deliver promised benefit violates the public trust.

There should be no elimination or sale of irreplaceable assets such as the crown jewel research stacks under the 42nd Street main library or elimination of the Business and Career Center Library on the border of Brooklyn Heights and downtown Brooklyn.

There should be no premature library closings such as Donnell library, closed in 2008 and still awaiting a replacement. Any library closing should have a binding contract for its prompt replacement with solid assurances, including full up-front payments and financing in place.

There should be no mass sell-offs of libraries. Sales of library properties, if any, should be sequenced so that multiple libraries are not closed at the same time and only when it is in the best interest of the public's library system.

“The knowledge of different literature frees one from the tyranny of a few”
-Jose Marti Plaque on 41St Library Walk

New York’s libraries, the lifeblood of a democracy, have contributed to making our city economically vital and a cultural powerhouse. We must not sacrifice it to shortsighted planning and the interests of powerful developers. We demand protection for public libraries, the city’s trusted place to learn, grow, be inspired, and connect with great minds.

Relevant articles:
• New York Times: Critic’s Notebook- In Renderings for a Library Landmark, Stacks of Questions, by Michael Kimmelman, January 29, 2013.
• Wall Street Journal: Undertaking Its Destruction, by Ada Louise Huxtable, December 3, 2012.
• Noticing New York: New City-Wide Policy Makes Generation Of Real Estate Deals The Library System’s Primary Purpose, by Michael D. D. White, January 31, 2013.
• Center For An Urban Future: Report - Branches of Opportunity, by David Giles, January 2013

Monday, February 4, 2013

NLRB: School Bus Strike Legal; Drivers Fight NYC Disinformation


Press reports reported in recent days that the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the school bus drivers' strike is indeed legal.

Here are key excerpts from the New York Times' story, February 1, "Labor Board Refuses to Halt Strike by School Bus Drivers:"
The workers were angered when the city announced that it could no longer require private companies bidding for transportation contracts to hire drivers on the basis of seniority and maintain previous pay rates. That, and the expiration of the union’s contract with a coalition of bus companies in December, prompted the walkout.

The private bus companies argued in their complaint to the labor board that they were essentially caught in a dispute between the union and the city.

Federal law generally prohibits workers from striking against a secondary employer to punish a primary employer, but the board said that the rule did not apply in this case because both the city and the bus companies were primary employers.

The chief lawyer for the New York City School Bus Contractors Coalition, Jeffrey D. Pollack, said he intended to appeal the decision.

The ruling mirrored past ones by the board and was widely expected, but will still disappoint some parents who were hoping for an end to the strike, which has been particularly difficult for students with disabilities.
Corinne Lestch, in the Daily News, authored the January 31 story, "Striking school bus union: Blame city, not drivers for high cost of busing: Union says higher numbers of special needs kids, traveling farther from home is why costs have increased, not driver salaries."
The transit workers' union presented its side of the story on busing and costs in New York City:
Specifically, the union pins rising prices on a rapidly growing special education population and an increasing need to transport city kids to special schools outside the city. "Mayor Bloomberg continues to mislead the public on the real costs of student busing, blaming it on the backs of hard-working, meagerly paid workers of Local 1181," said international union president Larry Hanley. "Again, we urge Mayor Bloomberg to come to the table and talk about the real costs of the school busing industry." In a report released Thursday, the union said there are: — 52,000 special education children to transport - up 20,000 students from 1979, the last time bus drivers went on strike. It costs $12,000 to transport each of these students per year. — More than 7,000 bus routes, up from 2,000 bus routes about 30 years ago. The union also points out that more than half of 100,000 general education students who qualify for yellow bus service attend private, parochial and charter schools. About 20% of charter school students ride the buses, compared with 9% of regular public school kids.
Meanwhile, one bus company said that it would remove workers' health benefits, starting Friday, February 1. "Neil Strahl, the president of the Staten Island-based school bus company Pioneer Transportation Corp" said that it will remove striking workers' health benefits beginning Friday.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

UPDATE: Replacement NYC school bus drivers, in competing union; DOE ready to wait out strike to June


From WNBC-TV, by Tracie Strahan, January 29, 2013:
Replacement School Bus Drivers and Matrons Cross Picket Line: Chants against the replacement workers were scathing

Replacement workers on duty for the first time since the New York City school bus driver strike began nearly two weeks ago, got an earful from protesting drivers and matrons Tuesday.

"That's my right to yell," said Local 1181 member Maria Law, outside the Staten Island Bus Company's depot, where all day long the chants against the replacement workers were scathing.

Of the 113 routes affected by the strike, 59 were back up and running Tuesday as replacement workers hit the streets just a day after a mediator oversaw talks between both sides. On Monday, striking workers renewed their call for job protection while city officials continued to seek contracts with private bus companies in a quest to control costs they claim are spiraling out of control.

Parents like Jackie Addeo, whose daughter has special needs, questioned the training and experience level of the replacement workers now in charge of getting children to and from school.

"How do I know what your capabilities are and what your temperament is gonna be because you have to have a lot of patience with these kids," Addeo said.

Strikers on the picket line also wondered if the replacement workers were properly trained to do the job.

"These people took a four hour class yesterday, where our matrons go 10 hours for the state, 10 hours for the city, CPR, red cross physical performance, safety classes throughout the year," said Ernest Maione, a Local 1181 shop steward. "This guy did four hours and put them on the bus and said 'it's OK you can go pick up those kids and take them to school.'"

Patrick Cerniglia, general manager of Staten Island Bus Company refuted the claim that the replacement workers had been inadequately trained for the job.

"They're experienced, they are safe, they are trained. It doesn't get any safer than what we did out here today," Cerniglia said.

For one replacement worker who declined to give his name, the stress of crossing the picket line was too much to bear, causing the man to opt for retirement instead.

"A disgrace for the city, for the parents, the workers," said union member William Cox. "I'm afraid for these children."
LABOR NOTES: The strike will hurt special needs students

The rushed, half-day training of matrons bears out the contention of a matron cited a Labor Notes article a week and a half ago. Samantha Winslow, Labor Notes, January 16, 2013, "New York School Bus Strikers Say Low Wages, Turnover Will Hurt Special-Needs Kids"
“This is a very professional and serious job that we get trained for,” said Anita Timmes, a matron who’s accompanied children on and off the buses for 23 years.

Timmes, who had been on the picket line since dawn, pointed out that many children use wheelchairs or are attached to medical devices such as respirators; they require more than just supervision. “I don’t think any driver can come off the street and do what we do,” she said.

Out of New York’s 1.1 million public school population, 150,000 students use the bus services; 54,000 have special needs.

As part of her job, Timmes goes through yearly trainings in first-aid and emergency preparation, in addition to being fingerprinted and licensed by the Board of Education. Long-term workers learn students’ needs, assisting them day in and day out. “We get attached to them as they get attached to us,” Timmes said.

Drivers too receive rigorous testing and training, including road tests and physicals, said driver John Jankowski, who has four wheelchair students on his route. He has worked as a driver for 22 years, and today is spending morning and night on the picket line.
Read the entire Labor Notes here.

Emma Sokoloff-Rubin in Gotham Schools writes Wednesday, Jan. 30 afternoon, "City turns down school bus drivers union’s offer to pause strike"
A union proposal to suspend the city’s two-week-old school bus strike temporarily got a swift rejection this week from city officials, who said the plan would block cost-cutting measures for over a year.

The bus drivers union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, called a press conference today to announce that the city had turned down its proposal for a two-to-three month “cooling off” period during which drivers would return to work and the city would not solicit bids for new transportation contracts.

The union called the strike because the city is not including seniority protections for current drivers in the new contracts’ terms.

In a mediation session organized but not attended by the city, union president Michael Cordiello met on Monday with Justice Milton Mollen, who brokered an agreement to end the last bus strike, in 1979, and representatives from several major bus companies.

Cordiello said today that during mediation, he agreed to send drivers and matrons back to work for two to three months if the city would suspend the special education transportation bidding process and negotiate with the union.

But freezing bidding for two months would make it impossible to have new contracts signed by September, delaying new contracts for another school year, according to City Hall spokeswoman Lauren Passalacqua. “Postponing the bids would guarantee that the same billion-dollar contracts we have now stay in place next year,” she said.

City officials appear prepare to wait out the strike, which could last through the end of the school year. The Department of Education has revised its strategies for helping families use alternate transportation, and some school bus companies have trained replacement drivers and matrons. The department has certified 49 new drivers and 200 escorts since the strike started, officials said this week.
[Ed.: Translation: 1) In waiting this out until the DOE is serious about fighting the bus drivers; 2) With a small number of replacement drivers and matrons, the DOE is slowly breaking the strike.]
“We have shifted from broad initial preparations to more tailored options for students disproportionately affected by the absence of bus service,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott wrote in a message to principals sent late Tuesday. The city has assigned Walcott police protection at work and at home because of the strike.

On Tuesday, attendance in District 75 schools, which serve severely disabled students who rely heavily on yellow bus service, was at its highest level since the strike began. About 73 percent of students in those schools were present, compared to less than 65 percent all of last week.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

UPDATE: Bloomberg Says 2,500 Teacher Lay-Offs Loom / Ed. Comm. King's February 15 Evaluation Deadline

UPDATE: AMNY: BLOOMBERG SAYS 2,500 NYC TEACHER LAY-OFFS LOOM IF NO EVALUATION DEAL -SCROLL TO END Bloomberg, scolded, keeps blame for the lack of a teacher deal on the union | Capital New York

"Let us rate every month." --New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg
Has a kind of Marie Antoinette ring to it.


From the get-go this morning, during what was his final testimony on the state budget as mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg went on the attack against the teachers union and the state education department.
Near the start of his testimony before a joint session of the Assembly Ways and Means and the Senate Finance committees in Albany, Bloomberg derided the "state Education Department's outrageous pandering to the [United Federation of Teachers]," described U.F.T. tactics in its negotiations with the city as "shameless ploys" and said the teacher evaluation system as proposed by the U.F.T., would have created "an unworkable sham and a fraud on the public."
And he was just getting started.
The issue at hand was the city's failure to reach an agreement with the teachers union on a teacher evaluation system by the state-mandated January 17 deadline.
The city was one of just a handful of state districts that failed to reach an agreement with its teachers union by the deadline, endangering up to $450 million in state and federal aid.
Today, the mayor said the ensuing loss of funding could lead to the loss by attrition of 700 teachers this school year and another 1,800 next, in addition to fewer after-school programs, fewer substitute teachers and fewer teacher aides.
The state has since set a new deadline, February 15. If the city and union don't reach a deal by then, state education commissioner John King has threatened to suspend the city's ability to spend another $830 million in federal aid.
Following his testimony, Bloomberg endured multiple rounds of questioning from the assembled politicians, including a particularly heated interrogation from Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, an ally of the UFT.
"Don't you feel some responsibilty for this disaster?" she asked him. "And it is a disaster."
"Now we're sitting here, and I have to look at my son, who is a freshman in a New York City high school and say to him he's gonna be punished because the adults couldn't work it out?" she continued, now yelling at the billionaire mayor as if he were an errant schoolboy.
The mayor offered a long response in which he pointedly declined to take any responsibility.
"What is your strategy for accepting some responsibility as the head of the local school district under mayoral control for this debacle?" Nolan asked again.
The mayor responded that the evaluation deals reached in the rest of the state are "just jokes, Cathy," because they expire after just a year, and getting rid of a failing teacher takes two years in New York State.
"People are saying they did something and they didn't do it," he said.
"But incremental progress is how government works," she countered, before returning to the trope of her son.
"What do I tell my son? It's my son who's in a New York City public school that I chose to send him. What do I say?"
"Cathy, you can change the law," said Bloomberg. "Let us rate every month."
"Everybody else made an agreement but the city," she said.
"Yes, because everybody else is just interested in getting the money and committing what I call fraud," he responded.

As reported in AMNY print editions, speaking before the New York State Legislature in Albany, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said that 2,500 teacher lay-offs loom by 2014 if there is no New York City teacher evaluation deal.

AMNY's web edition tonight (Jan. 29) reports that Bloomberg, when speaking of the city's budget, cited the $250 million lost state funds as thre reason for an anticipated 2,500 teacher layoffs. CAPITAL NEW YORK REPORTS $724 AS TOTAL LOST STATE AID
At risk is $724 million in state funding over the next two years, and possibly, another $1 billion on top of that.

Should there be no teacher evaluation deal by the second deadline, the mayor predicts the city will have to get rid of some 700 teachers this school year by attrition, and another 1,800 next year, not to mention lots of extracurricular activities, afterschool programs, and school supplies.

Whatever pain the city might suffer "is more than worth it" in pursuit of a good evaluation deal, said the mayor.

There was also some more generalized carping about the state's shrinking contributions to city education.

In 2002, when the mayor took office, the city and state split non-federally funded education costs. Now the state only funds 39 percent.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Activists, Use this ProPublica site: A New Way to ‘Check In’ on Education Inequality

The ProPublica Nerd Blog A New Way to ‘Check In’ on Education Inequality

by Al Shaw ProPublica, Jan. 24, 2013, 2:19 p.m.

Starting today if you connect [1] your Foursquare account to "The Opportunity Gap," we'll send you stats about schools whenever you check into one. If you've checked into a school we've associated with a Foursquare "venue," we'll show you some details and give you a link to that school's profile.

You can also tap the ProPublica section of your checkin (see screenshot to right) to bring up that school's profile and compare it to nearby schools right from your smartphone.

The ProPublica News apps desk is:

* Scott Klein * Krista Kjellman Schmidt * Jeff Larson * Al Shaw * Lena Groeger

Safeguard the public interest.

Support ProPublica’s award-winning investigative journalism.


A year ago when we launched the first version of our "Opportunity Gap [2]" news application ["A New Way to ‘Check In’ on Education Inequality"], we tightly integrated Facebook [3] in order to make it easy for readers to compare schools and share their school comparisons. Today's relaunch adds Foursquare, along with adding a slew of new data [4] to the app as well as algorithmically generate narratives by Narrative Science. [5]

To accomplish the Foursquare integration, we're taking advantage of their new Real-Time API [6] which lets us send push notifications in response to checkins. In order to associate schools with Foursquare venues, we used Foursquare's search API with its "match" intent -- a specially-designed endpoint [7] for "venue harmonization" between apps. We ran our database of over 50,000 schools through Foursquare's API to store the venue IDs. If you check into a school that we haven't matched to a venue in our database, we'll use your location and the school name to show you a number of guesses as to what school you're at (we don't store your checkins or location data in our database at all). Once you pick one, we'll use your checkin data to link the school venue, so the next user that checks into that school will immediately see school stats.

Many news applications are location-based, and we're excited to start experimenting with bringing our apps to users where they are.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

ATU Head: Bloomberg Refusal to Participate in Negotiations Means Strike Will Continue

Talks in NYC ATU 1181 Bus Strike Are Set; City Isn’t Taking Part
By AL BAKER Published: January 25, 2013

Negotiations in the 10-day-old New York City school bus strike will resume next week at Gracie Mansion, the Bloomberg administration announced Friday. But the union at the center of the walkout, Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, warned that it was unlikely to end the strike unless the Bloomberg administration reversed course and agreed to take part in the talks.

While the city made the official mayoral residence available, only the union and the private bus companies that employ the drivers are sitting down to negotiate on Monday. “As I have said from the beginning, the best way for this strike to end is with Local 1181, Mayor Bloomberg and the city’s bus companies in one room, talking candidly and in good faith,” Michael Cordiello, the union president, said in a statement. “Until that happens, the strike goes on.” The disagreement over who should be at the table illustrates how complicated the issue is. Technically, the strike is against the private bus companies, who operate bus routes under contract with the city. But it was prompted by the Bloomberg administration’s soliciting bids for new contracts for 1,100 special-education routes, which do not include job protections for current members of the drivers’ union.

A coalition of about 20 bus companies have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, saying Local 1181 is carrying out an unlawful “secondary strike.” The board has not yet ruled, but if it decides to end the strike, it must seek an injunction in federal court. “The school bus companies have agreed to participate in Monday’s meeting at Gracie Mansion, in the hopes of ending this unfortunate strike,” said Carolyn Daly, a spokeswoman for the bus company coalition, in a statement. She said the companies intended to do “whatever we need to do” to fulfill their contracts with the Education Department to transport children.

At the same time the city is continuing to place itself at a distance from the issues of negotiations. On Monday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is scheduled to visit Albany to testify before lawmakers on the state budget’s impact on the city. His administration maintains that the issue is between the bus companies and the union. “The mayor reached out to both the bus companies and the union to arrange a meeting in hopes that they can come to an agreement to end the strike and resume bus service for thousands of students,” Lauren Passalacqua, a mayoral spokeswoman, said in a statement.

The strike began on Jan. 16, affecting more than 100,000 students, tens of thousands of them special-needs children, and their parents, who often travel long distances to schools, and with difficulty. As of Friday, about 2,689 of the 7,700 total routes were running, said Erin Hughes, a spokeswoman for the Education Department. There are now a “couple of hundred” replacement drivers out on the roads, Ms. Daly said. Routes handled by drivers who are not part of Local 1181 are generally running.

Talks in NYC ATU 1181 Bus Strike Are Set; City Isn’t Taking Part

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Sociological Eye on Education | It’s the curriculum, stupid

A Sociological Eye on Education | It’s the curriculum, stupid

Schools Matter: Teachers and CCSS: To Implement or To Resist?

Schools Matter: Teachers and CCSS: To Implement or To Resist?:
At the Teaching Now blog (Education Week), a recent debate among Larry Ferlazzo, Stephen Krashen, David Cohen, and Paul Thomas has prompted the post:

"Should Teachers Resist the Common Core?"

In a series of blog posts as well as comments on those posts, Ferlazzo and Cohen have offered skepticism about CCSS, but maintain implementation of CCSS and the high-stakes tests to follow are inevitable, and thus the realistic and practical response from teachers must be how to implement CCSS well.

Krashen and Thomas will not concede implementation of CCSS is inevitable, and have called for resistance.

Since this is a powerful debate at the core of the education reform movement and since this debate is among credible practitioners and scholars, I am listing the relevant blog posts in one spot for Schools Matter readers; please be sure to read the comments in these posts as well.

Larry Ferlazzo (@Larryferlazzo)

How Can We Best Prepare Students for Common Core in Language Arts?

Response: Best Ways to Prepare Our Students for CCSS in Language Arts

Response: 'How on Earth Will I Implement' Common Core for Language Arts?

Stephen Krashen (@skrashen)

Because of the common core, do it wrong

Accepting the common core as inevitable has the effect of making it inevitable.

Embracing the common core = “Drinking poison to quench thirst”

P. L. Thomas (@plthomasEdD)

Fatalism and Teacher Professionalism

Teacher Agency in a Time of High-Stakes Accountability

“A Realistic, Pragmatic Approach” to Rejecting CCSS

David B. Cohen (@CohenD)

Common Core: Implications of Collaboration
What do Schools Matter readers think?
Click to original for links: Schools Matter: Teachers and CCSS: To Implement or To Resist?

Monday, January 21, 2013

NLRB Action Could Send School Bus Drivers Back to Work Tuesday

The three private school bus companies affected by the strike could get a National Labor Relations Board decision on Tuesday, January 22, 2013.

New York City news outlets are reporting that the companies have convinced the NLRB to meet on the strike. The companies claim that the drivers and matrons strike is illegal. It is expected that the Board will make a decision on Tuesday.

The NLRB meeting could happen early Tuesday, as media outlets are claiming that striking bus drivers and matrons could be ordered to return to work, as early as Tuesday.

As earlier reported, job guarantees are at the core of the dispute:
In an effort to cut costs, the city wants to put contracts out to bid for 1,100 routes for the first time in 33 years. The union is objecting to the lack of job guarantees in the contract bid specifications and safety issues that could arise if current drivers are replaced with less experienced ones.

As Juan Gonzalez reported in the New York Daily News, the bus routes themselves are expensive, and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has not been forthcoming about the full story as to why the routes are expensive, according to bu union president Mike Cordiello.
Even more amazing is the mayor’s silence at the causes of skyrocketing bus costs that have nothing to do with the workers.

The biggest is special education. While only about a third of the 150,000 students bused daily are in special education, their transportation represents three-quarters of the total cost of the program — more than $770 million. That's an average of $12,000 annually per child, according the city's Independent Budget Office.

Many of those children ride long distances to private schools outside the city.

Bus union president Mike Cordiello says many routes are so ineptly configured by Tweed bureaucrats that his members run 186 routes daily to Westchester County, most of them with 6 children or less per bus. There are 25 buses per day to New Jersey, 16 to Rockland County, several to Connecticut.
Read more at the full January 17 Daily News story.

The city’s last school bus strike, in 1979, lasted 14 weeks.
Infoshop news yesterday reprinted a Year 0 report that the bus drivers won the disputed EPP protections were won in that strike.

Writing in Socialist Alternative a parent executive board member of a PTA wrote:
Striking drivers and matrons are outraged at the way their strike has been portrayed by Billionaire Bloomberg and the corporate media. Tony Livia, a shop steward in ATU local 1181 and a driver for 15 years says that the mayor lies continually in the media and portrays the union members as people with a job for life. Actually 200 to 300 ATU members get laid off each year for an average of 4 months, Livia says, because the city typically cuts bus routes in its yearly downsizing. The school bus drivers are usually rehired when parents call up and complain about the loss of service for their children. Now, Bloomberg's plan is to eliminate the seniority and let the workers be hired back on a company by company basis, not on a union seniority basis. In this way the company who bids the lowest and pays the lowest will be able to call back the workers with less seniority, less experience, and lower wages first. If the city gets its way, nearly 3,000 jobs from three companies alone will be lost in August when the contract expires. This race to the bottom will devastate the union and force workers with years of experience to compete with the lower wages of new hires.

Bloomberg called a press conference even before the strike was announced, and his speech was a hypocritical pile of rhetoric about "putting our children first." In reality the Bloomberg administration has implemented a slash and burn budget which puts bankers first while cutting millions of dollars from after-school programs which affect many of the same children that Billionaire Mike pretends to care for. As a parent of a special needs student in the public school system, I have seen first-hand the level of skill that is required to safely drive a bus full of rambunctious and sometimes tearful children to school each day. Special needs children in particular, need to develop a bond with the bus driver and the matron, in order to establish trust and feel secure. When "Think of the Children" Bloomberg was asked if it was right to take these experienced drivers away from the children and break those familiar ties, especially in the wake of anxiety after the Newtown shootings, he famously said "They'll get over it.”

The national debate about child safety seems to go flat when corporate politicians want to make profits. The mayor is already making preparations to hire scabs and this raises the question. Will rigorous background checks and driver training take place in the rush to break the strike and get an even lower wage work force? Let's not be naive. In the words of one striking worker "Education is big business to those guys.” You have to remember that Bloomberg is the mayor who wanted the marathon to go ahead because it was "good for business" while people were dying in the streets of Staten Island and the Rockaways during Hurricane Sandy.

Click to "Teachers aren't the only ones giving low marks to Michael Bloomberg's war on public schools," January 20, 2013

"New York School Bus Strikers Say Low Wages, Turnover Will Hurt Special-Needs Kids", January 16, 2013

Year 0 gave picket line support locations:
NEW YORK YEAR ZERO 17 January 2013

Here’s an updated list of picket locations, to be staffed 24/7 (peak support times are 6am-4pm): **New Location** Join the members of ATU 1181 in picketing the Department of Education, located at 52 Chambers St. in Manhattan anytime between 8:30am and 5:30pm Tuesday, January 22nd to Friday, January 25th as they demand the Mayor put our children’s safety first.

MANHATTAN Department of Education 52 Chambers Street Manhattan, NY 8:30am and 5:30pm 1/22/13-1/25/13

Atlantic Express Co. – Ridgewood, 46-81 Metropolitan Avenue, Ridgewood, NY 11385: Subway – L (Jefferson St & Wyckoff Ave)
Atlantic Express Co. – Jamaica, 107-10 180th Street, Jamaica, NY 11433: Bus – Q42 (177th St & 106th Ave)

Boro Transit, 50 Snediker Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11207: Subway – L (Atlantic Ave)
Reliant Transportation – Greenpoint, 297 Norman Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222: Bus – B48 (Hausman St & Norman Ave)

Lonero Transit, 2350 Hermany Avenue, Bronx, NY 10462: Subway – 6 (Castle Hill Ave) (Office entrance on Hermany Ave., bus yard around corner on Zerega Ave.)

Pioneer Transportation – Staten Island, 2890 Arthur Kill Road, Staten Island, NY 10309: Bus – S84/S74 (Arthur Kill Rd)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Chicago Observer's Analysis of DOE-UFT Evaluation Talks Collapse

From Fred Klosky, an ally of real education reform in Chicago, cites the MORE caucus in "Watching from a distance. NY teacher evaluation blows up. Updated.", January 18, 2013:
Watching from a distance, I responded with a smile when I heard that the negotiations over teacher evaluations between the UFT and New York’s Mayor Bloomberg blew up yesterday.

Governor Cuomo had put a deadline for an agreement to evaluate teachers based on student test scores, a stupid idea to be sure.

We’ve covered that territory before.

Cuomo threatened that without an agreement the city schools would be denied $250 million.

Now some in the NY press [the NY Post] are screaming that the teachers (read the Union) cost the schools all that money.

Not that $250 million is chump change. But really it is.

It’s probably not much more than the total value of all of Bloomberg’s homes.

Here’s a question: Why should adequate funding of New York’s public schools be dependent on an evaluation agreement between Bloomberg and the teachers?

NY teachers have been without a contract since 2009, before Bloomberg’s re-election.

Many of my NY friends were justifiably concerned that UFT President Michael Mulgrew and the UFT leadership would cave to the bully-boy Mayor on this.

You can read UFT leader Leo Casey’s description of the bargaining here.

Maybe we can thank Bloomberg for being too big a jerk for even that to happen.

NY’s Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) which organized a street protest of the deal yesterday, said:
The passing of the January 17 deadline for a new evaluation agreement is not an ending but a beginning. Now the DOE will work overtime to spin doctor the failure to reach an agreement on new teacher evaluations, mandated by New York State’s version of Race to the Top, as the fault of Michael Mulgrew and union leadership. This despite the fact that every indication shows it was Bloomberg who failed to negotiate in good faith.

While we applaud the UFT leadership for standing their ground, the MORE Caucus has no intention of giving up the fight to prevent our teachers and students from being given over to the standardized testing regime. We know there will be efforts in the future to convert our schools into low-level thinking factories and our teachers into low-skilled, low-paid bureaucratic functionaries.

Friday, January 18, 2013

UPDATED: One Thousand Evaluation Petition-Signing Teachers Can't Be Wrong --The Real Story Behind the Evaluation Talks Collapse

UPDATES AT END: GOTHAM SCHOOLS LINKS WITH MORE ANALYSIS OF EVALUATIONS TALKS COLLAPSE - MULGREW CONTINUES TO MISS POINT - SPITEFUL NYC GOV'T SENDS INSPECTORS AFTER THE UFT The New York City are news was abuzz since 2:00 pm with news that talks between New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and United Federation of Teachers Michael Mulgrew over teacher evaluations had broken down.

Some main points lost in the discussion:
UFT president Mulgrew has basically changed his posture on the question of the teacher evaluation system.

Developments seemed all pointed towards go for the high-stakes test based evaluation system (20 percent of a teacher's rating from state tests, 20 percent from local --read, city-- assessments). Then in a mid-December delegate assembly of the union, the MORE caucus advocated a democratic vote by the rank and file members of the union. The Daily News was rare among news outlets to catch the significance of the action, albeit, in a December 29, 2012 editorial, and without naming the active party involved:
Far more pertinent, at a union delegate assembly, a motion opposing Mulgrew’s authority to reach an evaluation deal with Chancellor Dennis Walcott — demanding instead that the matter be put to the membership — won a stunning 30% of the votes. A union president accustomed to 95% support then ran scared. Before that, by some accounts, Mulgrew and Walcott appeared to be progressing toward a deal even though Mulgrew veered far and wide, wanting to discuss even next year’s school closures.

But then, last week, he demanded that the city and the union must first settle how the new system will be implemented and rolled out, and how teachers will be trained in it . . . .

(Read more at the Daily News.)
Published yesterday morning, January 17, 2013, before the early afternoon announcement of the evaluation talks breakdown, "Potent Mix of Politics Shapes Current Education Debate" in the New York Times Schoolbook, Tim Clifford, a New York City teacher penned another distinctively accurate representation of the MORE strategic position in Mulgrew's changing posture. He pointed out that MORE's activities around the evaluation have Mulgrew nervous, as his Soviet-style 91 percent victory could be difficult to replicate unless he make some moves to co-opt the mass energy pushing back against the value-added test-based evaluation system. Truthfully, the hand-writing was clear at the start of the week, with MORE's announcement of a rally (for a membership vote) outside UFT headquarters, set for half an hour before the delegate assembly. Here is the latter part of Clifford's Times article, with the crucial election year elements included:
It’s likely that both the city and the UFT want an evaluation deal. For Bloomberg, this could be his last chance effect a major change in how teachers are hired and fired after several failed attempts to get rid of LIFO (Last In First Out) rules for excessing and layoffs. Yet he has insisted that the deal must include a means of holding teachers’ “feet to the fire” by making evaluations public, which is not required by state law. For its part, the UFT had a hand in crafting the new Annual Profession Performance Review (APPR) in the first place, helping limit efforts to make standardized test scores count for more than 25% of a teacher’s grade.

But there are other underlying political factors that may hinder an agreement. Foremost among these is the upcoming UFT election. Last time, Michael Mulgrew, then basically an unknown among teachers, won a staggering 91 percent of the vote as the protégé of outgoing president Randi Weingarten, facing no meaningful opposition. This time around, a new caucus has been gaining traction. This caucus, called MORE (Movement of Rank and File Educators), opposes any teacher evaluation agreement based on standardized test scores, which critics argue have a wide margin of error and other problems.

MORE’s candidate for president, Julie Cavanagh, is a well-spoken, well-regarded educator who is beginning to make a dent in Mulgrew’s hold on leadership. MORE’s recent resolution to have members vote on any evaluation deal, rather than union delegates mostly loyal to Mulgrew, garnered a significant amount of support. Said Cavanagh: “It is unacceptable that he (Mulgrew) does not recognize the truth: That the highest decision-making body of this union is its rank and file members. We should decide if ‘we as a union’ accept this: Because we are our union.”

Membership unrest in Chicago due to evaluations led to the ouster of the leadership there and conferred near hero status among unionists to Karen Lewis, who stood up to education reformers; the same could happen here if teachers are dissatisfied with the evaluation deal. And lest the potential mayoral candidates feel too sanguine, the story of Adrian Fenty, who was booted out as mayor of Washington, D.C. due largely to his support for test-obsessed Michelle Rhee, should act as a cautionary tale.

Complicating matters further is the teachers’ contract. The current deal expired in October, 2009, and the UFT did not receive the 4 + 4 percent over two years that other city workers got at the time. There is pressure on the union to settle a contract right away by tying evaluations to a new contract with higher wages, but there is also considerable sentiment that the UFT should wait out the Bloomberg era and try to get a favorable deal from the next mayor.

If Bloomberg and Mulgrew fail to come to terms on a contract, pressure will brought to bear on the current crop of mayoral hopefuls as to what kind of contract, with what kinds of wage increases, they’d be willing to sign. Democratic candidates are sure to vigorously court the UFT’s endorsement but by doing so they may risk losing financial support from Bloomberg, who will likely try to keep his reforms intact.

Other issues face the schools as we enter a new year. A bus strike is upon us. The city is looking to close 26 more schools, and is certain to be met with a fight. Governor Andrew Cuomo stepped into the fray in his State of the State address, calling for a teacher “bar” exam, as well as a longer school day and year that could add 300 hours to the school year without a clear means of financing those initiatives, which easily would cost billions of dollars in an age when school budgets have been cut every year for the last four years.

While the outcomes may not be certain, one thing is: 2013 promises to be a contentious year in education in New York. Whoever wins their political battles this year will likely affect the city’s schools well into the foreseeable future.
This writer is pleased that Mulgrew is speaking truth to power, calling mayor Bloomberg's assertions lies, however, the wish remains that he would directly and comprehensively reject the illogic undergirding these tests. Click again to the original, now classic, Gary Rubinstein statistical analyses of New York student test performances.

Why critical thinking is important: (Critical thinking ... something missing in the Common Core and the other new trends ... hmm.)
This chart of Value-Added Measures, from an article by math instructor Gary Rubinstein, demonstrates how no real correlation can be drawn between the scores of students in one year with generally the same students in another year. (Actually, good fortune of down servers preventing access to the original Rubinstein post brings us to another mathematician's quite scattered plotting of test results. See below.)

* * *

Moreover, this writer points out that Mulgrew is still enthusiastically defending the indefensible: see "MULGREW TELLS DELEGATES SCUTTLED NEW EVALUATION SYSTEM WOULD BE GREATEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD" at the ICE-UFT blog.
This blog said the following last week: "The UFT is willing to concede on almost everything but Bloomberg's people may make it so humiliating that President Mulgrew would not even get a fig-leaf out of this. On the other hand, the Union could demand real safeguards (a right to grieve any unfair evaluations) so the DOE would reject any agreement." We were almost completely right except it looks like it was the mayor and not the DOE that inserted the poison pills. The fig-leaf was the two year sunset clause and the expedited arbitration if procedures weren't followed.
Trust me these were not great gains.

What happens next? I see the UFT going over the mayor's head to the state to try to get the system into law. What should people be doing? Call, email or talk to your union representatives, particularly Unity Chapter Leaders, and tell them you want no part of this and the real fight in Albany and Washington DC is to change the law so that no part of any teacher's rating is based on junk science.

* * *


Yes, there is no new evaluation system. But the UFT leadership remains tarnished for blocking a membership-wide vote on the system. For, contracts are voted on by the membership. The evaluation system has contract-like effects and significance.

Additionally unsettling is that the Unity leadership used its staff director lecture the delegates back in December about what the democratic representation scope is for the delegates. Certainly, a great error in principal. This excerpt from the ICE-UFT blog's report of that earlier Delegate Assembly:
Leroy Barr was called on to refute Kit's points. Leroy said that the membership elects Delegates and Chapter Leaders to represent members and the DA has a proud history of these duly elected representatives doing their job.

Back to the analysis of the talks breakdown, Mulgrew still won't own up to the reality that his tentative evaluation agreement --yes, it is debatable as to whether there was some deal ready in the middle of the night-- was morbidly flawed, given that it was resting on illogical premises of the VAM testing models. His complaints have been around secondary, yet still important, side-issues. (The same can be said for Leo Casey writing at EdWize. He still has not rejected the fundamentally flawed VAM basis for the evaluations.) It's understandable that they will not own up to the essential core flaw of the high-stakes test-based evaluation system, for they has to save face.

The MORE caucus on its website, "Post-Mortem: The Non-Deal Between the UFT and DOE," has cited three critical reasons behind the failure of the evaluation deal, with discussion of each reason:
--Reason #1: Race to the Top is Bad Policy
--Reason #2: A Growing Backlash against Education Reform
--Reason #3: High-Handed and Un-Democratic School Leadership

We cannot entirely rest and must be watchful. There are rumors that the UFT might try to squeak in a deal in the next few weeks.

It is being argued, and rightly so, that the UFT ought to release the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), so that the UFT members may see what teacher evaluation agreement almost was agreed to. And just as the Great Powers' problem of secret negotiations and World War I, there is a major problem for democracy when the issues in the MOU are being kept from the members, as though we are young children.

New York City sends inspectors after the United Federation of Teachers after the breakdown of evaluations talks, UFT president Mulgrew tweets.

Right-minded teachers ought to oppose this harassment, this intimidation of our union.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bloomberg School Choice Policies Created Bus Budget Crisis; Environmental Issues Lurk

Among the major issues progressive school workers, parents and community members should face is the reality that eliminating the neighborhood school is behind this school bus budget crisis.

The fraud of failed schools and the "need" for school choice is behind this dilemma. Each day, thousands of children are needlessly sent out of their neighborhood in a con game that carries the premise that schools are notably better a few miles away.

Socially, this carries a cost. Students are pulled from schools; the New York City Department of Education cries underutilization or school failure because some plumb students are gone, and schools close. The community-school identification wears down.

Add a few hundred charter schools and you've magnified the problem.

Meanwhile, students are bused, and the unnecessary busing worsens the pollution situation, adds students to the already burdened bus and subway lines.
Just take a look at this "New York Times" graph, in "At Root of Strike, Runaway Costs in City’s School Busing System," scheduled to run on the front page of Thursday's edition. Today, there are about 7,000 bus routes. When Bloomberg entered office in 2002 the city had 5,000 school bus routes. Twenty years ago, the bus routes stood at around 3,400. Note that costs move roughly commensurate with the growth in school bus routes.

If Bloomberg had not pursued this ideological, unproductive shell game policy, we would not have been in this situation.

Another factor is Bloomberg's particular bus route choices. As Juan Gonzalez reported in the New York Daily News, the bus routes themselves are expensive, and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has not been forthcoming about the full story as to why the routes are expensive, according to bu union president Mike Cordiello.
Even more amazing is the mayor’s silence at the causes of skyrocketing bus costs that have nothing to do with the workers.

The biggest is special education. While only about a third of the 150,000 students bused daily are in special education, their transportation represents three-quarters of the total cost of the program — more than $770 million. That's an average of $12,000 annually per child, according the city's Independent Budget Office.

Many of those children ride long distances to private schools outside the city.

Bus union president Mike Cordiello says many routes are so ineptly configured by Tweed bureaucrats that his members run 186 routes daily to Westchester County, most of them with 6 children or less per bus. There are 25 buses per day to New Jersey, 16 to Rockland County, several to Connecticut.
Read more at the full January 17 Daily News story.

The New York Times' Schoolbook claims that mob ties are a major factor in keeping school bus costs high. If this is so, why doesn't New York City tackle that issue instead of harangue school bus drivers and their union? Where is the 1980s era Rudy Giuliani, the prosecutor of mobsters?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

UPDATED: NYC School Bus Drivers on Strike Wednesday - No Support from the UFT

New York City School bus drivers and matrons, represented by Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union voted today, Monday, January 14, to strike on Wednesday, January 16. New York City mayoral Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott have already issued a statement against the strike.

(Contact the Mayor today at 1-888-833-7428. Also click
this link to sign the AFL-CIO's solidarity petition with the school bus drivers, under the slogan "Who do you want driving your child’s school bus?")

Andy Newman of the New York Times reports:
New York City’s school bus drivers will go on strike on Wednesday, the head of their union said Monday afternoon.

“While we remain optimistic that we can reach an agreement,” said Michael Cordiello, president of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, the strike is to begin on Wednesday morning.

“This is not a decision we’ve arrived at lightly, but an action we must take,” Mr. Cordiello said.

A strike would require as many as 152,000 city public and private school students to find another way to get to school. The city has said it would provide parents and students with MetroCards and reimburse cab fare for those without access to public transportation.

The central issue in the labor dispute is job protection for the drivers. Last month, the city’s Education Department announced that it would accept competitive bids for 1,100 of its routes — about a sixth of the total — for children with disabilities. If the vendors who employ some of the most experienced yellow-bus drivers lose their city contracts, the drivers could lose their jobs.
The Raw Story reported Bloomberg's statements:
Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the strike “regrettable” and said the union was “abandoning” the tens of thousands of students and their families who rely on school buses on a daily basis.
Schools Chancellor Walcott upped the ante, New York Magazine reported:
"If there is a strike, it's a strike against our students."
However, United Federation of Teachers Michael Mulgrew has issued no statement of support for the school bus drivers, no statement to counter Bloomberg and Walcott's scolding of the bus drivers. A shame, as the issues facing the bus drivers, mainly job security of veteran drivers, parallel the issues facing New York City public school teachers. Whatever happened to union solidarity?

MORE CAUCUS IN SOLIDARITY WITH SCHOOL BUS DRIVERS AND MATRONS The MORE Caucus' website Wednesday carried a statement of solidarity with the ATU and the striking school bus drivers and matrons.
The MORE site carries the link with the picket locations.

For its part, the AFL-CIO has this statement of support at its website:
Who do you want driving your child’s school bus – a highly skilled, trained, and experienced driver who knows our children and community, or someone learning on the job? At the end of the day, that is the only question that truly matters to parents regarding the busing of their children to school, and it is why it is so important that we support our New York City school bus drivers and matrons.

For the first time in over 30 years, New York City issued bids for school bus service without inclusion of the Employee Protection Provision (EPP). Although this may simply sound like a labor safeguard, make no mistake, this provision is directly linked to the safety and security of our children by ensuring that the City’s most qualified, skilled, and experienced school bus crews remain on the job.

The EPP helps create industry wide seniority and ensure an experienced workforce – union and non-union. This is critical. Although new drivers may receive training, training does not replace years of experience driving on New York City Streets in the third largest transportation system in the country.

This move would particularly impact New York City’s special education children – children who are most in need of the steadiness, reliability, and consistency that an experienced workforce offers.

We all want to ensure that the City operates as efficiently as possible. The EPP has never been shown to increase costs, but its absence will certainly come at the cost of our children’s safety.

Tell City Hall, our children deserve the best. Keep the EPP.
Teamsters Local 854 represents 1,000 bus drivers, matrons and mechanics for the NY Department of Education. Danny Gatto, Local 854's president, said the Teamsters cannot strike under their contract and will not. However, they will honor picket lines.

Gatto excoriated Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a scathing statement:
There is only one party responsible for the possible job action by unionized bus drivers represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union: Mayor Bloomberg and his administration. For weeks now, City Hall has refused to discuss the job-killing provisions they are insisting on as part of new contracts with bus contractors. It’s almost as if City Hall wants this strike to happen for some perverse reason. The Mayor has shown callousness and a disregard for the working men and women of the ATU that would be surprising from any elected leader other than Mike Bloomberg, who has shown time and again that he has a tin ear when it comes to the needs of working men and women. The best way to avoid a job action is for all sides to negotiate face to face, but City Hall would rather throw the entire system into disarray than sit at a table with the ATU. The workers deserve better, the parents deserve better and the children deserve better.

The Teamsters, which represent about 1,000 drivers, matrons and mechanics, will not go on strike. Our contracts do not allow for it and we will honor those contracts. However, we believe our contracts also allow us to honor picket lines from members of the ATU, and we will not cross their picket lines. In addition, many of our members work in garages with members of the ATU, and without those workers on the job, those garages will not be able to function properly or safely. We trust the City will recognize those safety concerns and not put children or drivers at risk.

We urge Mayor Bloomberg and his administration to work with the ATU to resolve this dispute before a job action is required. Find a solution, Mr. Mayor. That is your job; that is who you claim to be. The children of the City are waiting.
Local 854 is asking parents of New York City school students to call the Mayor's office by dialing 311 and The Schools Chancellor at (718) 935-2000 and demand that they put the Employee Protection Provision back in the bid.

The New York State AFL-CIO points out the mayor is lying when he said the job-protection provisions are illegal. New York City Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez said city officials,
... defended the cost and the legality of including the Employee Protection Provision (EPP) in contracts in Court. The simple fact is the EPP ensures that the best drivers and crews are responsible for transporting our children to school, and is thereby directly related to safety.

Molly Knefel, writing in Alternet, ["What the Looming NYC School-Bus Strike Can Teach Us About the Real Impact of 'Austerity': Those who claim to care about our children's safety often refuse to invest in it,"] argues the dispute is all about austerity:
The battle between the city and the bus drivers represents the supremacy of budgets over quality of life. It illustrates what happens when communities, jobs and families are devalued, marginalized and destroyed while the language of austerity reigns, infallible. And it illuminates the hypocrisy of those in power who claim to care for our children’s safety but refuse to invest in it.

Read the whole thing here.
Valdes-Dapena, the mother of a 10-year-old, told the AP, “I’m concerned about what happens if the drivers lose their seniority, if they’re less experienced. You can teach someone to drive a school bus, but what happens when all hell breaks loose behind them?” She added it takes experience to deal with situations like bus breakdowns, medical emergencies of kids with special needs or traffic, when kids get frustrated or unruly. “The drivers we have now—I’d trust them with my own life,” she said.

Any time a labor dispute like this arises, leadership from the top-down rushes to blame selfish workers for putting children in jeopardy rather than addressing issues of job security, privatization and how children are far more likely to suffer under budget cuts and teacher layoffs, while trying to learn in hostile education environments monitored by overworked, under-paid educators, than they are to suffer during a hiatus to settle a labor dispute.

Mayor Bloomberg perfectly demonstrated the “think of the children!” concern trolling when he remarked, “We hope that the union will reconsider its irresponsible and misguided decision to jeopardize our students’ education.” (Note: This concern for the children was missing when Bloomberg cut millions from after school programs.)

Herein lies the false choice. It’s not the children versus the bus drivers, but a choice between living wages and jobs with dignity, and the forces of privatization threatening workers everywhere.

For more on less-than-stellar job standards, check out Josh Eidelson’s post on Walmart’s “benefits” for veterans.
The New York Times' Schoolbook claims that mob ties are a major factor in keeping school bus costs high. If this is so, why doesn't New York City tackle that issue instead of harangue school bus drivers and their union? Where is the 1980s era Rudy Giuliani, the prosecutor of mobsters?

Monday, January 14, 2013

NY Post: Weprin & Montgomery Sponsoring Bill vs. Mayoral Control in NYS Legislature

Carl Campanile in the New York Post reported today that Assemblyman David Weprin and Senator Velmonette Montgomery are sponsoring a legislation in the New York State legislature to end mayoral control.

The article cites changes that New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has pursued:
Bloomberg has used the sweeping power to implement accountability and innovations — often over fierce opposition from entrenched interests.

These include tightening “social promotion” from grades 3 to 8, adopting a new school grading system, extending the school day for struggling students, and dramatically expanding choice and opportunity through charter schools and other alternative schools.
The Post's article left out endless tests, a mania for test-driven teaching, quantification of everything imaginable under the sun. It published some quotes of Weprin's criticisms:
But lawmakers pushing the bill to kill mayoral control counter that Bloomberg and his chancellors have run the schools like autocrats.

“The school system needs to be restructured. There is less community and parental input under mayoral control. There’s got to be a way to give parents more say in their children’s education. They don’t have that now,” said Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Queens), who is sponsoring the measure.
Some details of the proposed act:
The proposal would strip the mayor of appointing the majority — eight of 13 appointees — to the Panel on Education Policy, which replaced the Board of Education.

Under a reconstituted board, the mayor would have only four appointees. Each of the five borough presidents would have an appointee and the City Council would have four appointees.

And the board, not the mayor, would have the authority to hire the schools chancellor.

The mayoral-control law is not up for renewal until June 30, 2015. But the bill advanced by Weprin and state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn) is an early bid to sway public opinion for what could be a bloody political battle.
Weprin added that the United Federation of Teachers "is 'very sympathetic to changes' and 'happy that there’s a discussion on mayoral control.'"

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Value Added Medicine?: Movement on Doctor's Compensation Comes to NYS

Teachers are under attack. A major tool is the evaluation system, which improperly relies heavily on commercialized standardized test results. The test results do not take into account what some economists call externalities, factors external to the immediate teaching process? Is the student prepared? Does he or she attend class regularly and with attentiveness? Is the school tone, set by school administration, problematic? Has the administrator assigned the teacher a group of students with more challenged circumstances than students in other classes in the school? Does poverty impact on the student's life?

Despite the illogic of holding test results central to teachers' performance, this method is being steamrolled through, by policy makers, test-promoters and media pundits.

In New York State, outcome-based evaluations are being used to evaluate doctors. Doctors will be rated according to the patient's outcome after he or she leaves her or his office. The same poverty concerns enter into consideration. Does the patient live in a high pollution area? Does the patient's job have high stress? Does the patient experience classism, racism, sexism or homophobia? Does police frisking create stress in the individual's life? Are there affordable fruits and vegetables available in a supermarket in easy access to the patient's home? Are there affordable gym facilities available to the patient? Then, there are the lifestyle issues? Does the patient floss her or his teeth? Does the patient have a preference for a healthier diet? Does the patient exercise? Does the patient take recreational drugs or smoke? Does the patient bicycle without a helmet or reflective gear?

Is all of this the doctor's responsibility? Will doctors be responsible for the effects that externalities play upon the patient's life? Will the doctors avoid working with high-poverty clients? Will doctors find it incumbent to their income to push aside patients that neglect to handle his or her life with proper life-style choices?

The New York Times yesterday opened its front page story, "New York City Ties Doctors’ Income to Quality of Care," on the topic with:
In a bold experiment in performance pay, complaints from patients at New York City’s public hospitals and other measures of their care — like how long before they are discharged and how they fare afterward — will be reflected in doctors’ paychecks under a plan being negotiated by the physicians and their hospitals.

The proposal represents a broad national push away from the traditional model of rewarding doctors for the volume of services they order, a system that has been criticized for promoting unnecessary treatment. In the wake of changes laid out in the Affordable Care Act, public and private hospitals are already preparing to have their income tied partly to patient outcomes and cost containment, but the city’s plan extends that financial incentive to the front line, the doctors directly responsible for treatment. It also shows how the new law could change longstanding relationships, giving more power to some of the poorest and most vulnerable patients over doctors who run their care.
The article closed with quotes from various doctors citing the difficulties with the approach. Indeed, Dr. David Himmelstein, professor at the City University of New York and a visiting professor at Harvard Medical School noted, “The consequences in a complex system like a hospital for giving an incentive for one little piece of behavior are virtually impossible to foresee.”
But Dr. Himmelstein said there were still hazards in the city’s plan. He said that when primary-care doctors in England were offered bonuses based on quality measures, they met virtually all of them in the first year, suggesting either that quality improved or — the more likely explanation, in his view — “they learned very quickly to teach to the test.”

“I think the most interesting finding is, things that were not measured, in a few studies, appeared to have gotten a bit worse,” Dr. Himmelstein said. For instance, patients were not as likely to stick with the same doctor, possibly because they were encouraged to see whichever doctor was available — speed was one quality measure — rather than the doctor who might know them best. In another example, while the doctors reported that they had controlled blood pressure in virtually all their patients, a random survey showed no downward trend in blood pressure or strokes.

There could have been any number of ways of outsmarting the system, he said: “If you take blood pressures three times and report the lowest, is that lying or merely tipping the numbers in your favor?”

Dr. Himmelstein also said doctors could try to avoid the sickest and poorest patients, who tend to have the worst outcomes and be the least satisfied. But physicians within the public hospital system have little ability to choose their patients, Mr. Aviles said. He added that he did not expect the doctors to act so cynically because, “in the main, physicians are here because they are attracted to that very mission of serving everybody equally.”

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Aspiring Michigan Teacher Writes "An Open Letter to Gov. Rick Snyder"

A powerful blogpost from an aspiring teacher in Michigan that caught my interest.
The blog is named "Catharsis."

An Open Letter to Gov. Rick Snyder Regarding Teachers
January 4, 2013 by Laura 139 Comments [!!!]
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Dear Gov. Snyder,

This letter is a request for help in completing the coursework required for me to apply for my professional teaching certificate. Before I get into the specifics of the request, however, I feel I should give you a little background about me and my circumstances.

My Education
I graduated with high honor from Michigan State University with a BA in English in 2003. During my undergraduate years, not only did I take several courses in pursuit of my English degree and history minor, but I also took several teacher preparation courses, which included quite a few tutoring and student teaching placements in local schools. A year after graduation, I completed MSU’s year-long teacher internship program, which required me to teach for free for five days per week in the classroom while paying to take graduate classes at night.

I worked hard. Very, very hard.

The entire program — undergraduate and graduate — was both expensive and grueling, yet I knew it would be going in, and it prepared me to approach the art of teaching with knowledge and a bit of confidence. Thankfully, my parents were able to sacrifice to send me to school, but I know several of my cohorts were not as lucky, many of whom continue to struggle with massive amounts of student loan debt to this day.

I also earned my MA in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment from Marygrove College’s online program in 2012. I had to go with the online option, for it was simply impossible for my husband and me to both attend and afford classes outside of the home with our two small children (the younger of whom has special needs), our full time teaching jobs, and our hours-long, off-the-clock grading and planning sessions. This one my parents didn’t help me with, and so we have quite the substantive monthly financial aid bill between the two of us.

We’re not superhuman, after all.

My Career
I spent the first four years of my career teaching in the Tampa, Florida area. As you know, Florida is a right-to-work state, so any resident from Michigan could imagine the shock I felt at the lack of resources and community involvement in education that awaited me when I arrived. I worked alongside several dedicated, knowledgeable educators as well as many, many inexperienced and thoughtless ones.

See, Florida has a heck of a time attracting quality educators given teachers’ poor salaries and benefits as well as the numerous non-educational-related tasks with which they’re charged — tasks like bus duty, lunch duty, detention duty, truancy monitoring. Schools lack a sense of the importance of education because administrators are strapped thin, counselors are strapped thin, teachers are strapped thin, and some classes contain 45+ students in what isn’t so much a classroom as it is a breakout room intended for 15 people maximum, to name a few issues.

Because of this, teacher turnover is incredible, with many educators entering classrooms without any formal training in the art of teaching and perhaps even more leaving the profession altogether within 5 years. In fact, as of 2003, “the state’s overall teacher attrition rate was pegged at 13.5 percent, compared to a national average of about 8 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.”

Startling, huh?

What’s even more frightening is that it’s not even possible to raise a family there on a teacher’s salary (or that of a pair of teachers, as was my husband’s and my case). Two highly educated, dedicated professionals such as my husband and me could not afford to have one baby and a small house and hope to put food on the table without serious sacrifice. That, coupled with what came to be unbearable work conditions for us and a desire to raise our children in a quality school system like that in Michigan, motivated us to move back in 2008.

In Michigan, teachers were not responsible for what should be administrative duties like those in Florida. In Michigan, things like organizing and enforcing a tardy policy without administrative support did not cloud teachers’ efforts to provide for their students. In Michigan, teachers had one goal and one goal only: to deliver quality public education in a safe environment.

That’s why in Michigan, there was a prevailing sense of academic pride in many of the state’s public schools. That’s why in Michigan, teachers willingly attended professional development opportunities and collaborated in an effort to improve their craft and their students’ learning gains. Because you see, in Michigan, teachers’ one job was that of educating and educating well.

But all that changed when you took office.

The Problem
Now, Michigan teachers are met with ill-informed evaluation procedures and pressure to teach to the test. Now, Michigan teachers await the effects of that right-to-work legislation you passed — effects like lowered standards of living and the dissemination of teachers’ unions without any of the proposed benefit. Now, Michigan is looking more and more like Florida, that place we had hoped to escape.

Because now, instead of willingly paying for required continued education with the knowledge that our comfortable salaries and benefits will make up for any out-of-pocket cost incurred presently, Michigan teachers worry if we’ll ever be able to pay back all that debt.

Because now, Michigan teachers question whether we should just leave the profession about which we are most passionate in favor of something a little less costly and a lot less risky.

Because now, Michigan teachers have to make the very real and very unpleasant decision to either continue down this path for the good of Michigan and its children’s futures or to put the needs of our own families ahead of the rest and head out of state for something better.

And because now, my husband and I (and many other teachers across the state, no doubt) are faced with having to pay $3252.00 plus $30 in “convenience” fees to take the Michigan required reading course (even though we both have English degrees and have been successfully teaching reading for 9 years) to fulfill MCL 380.1531(4) and be permitted to apply for our required teaching certificate.

This may not seem like a lot to a millionaire such as yourself, but for us it is a month’s worth of daycare expenses, three mortgage payments, eight car payments, or a trip to Arizona to visit my parents. For us, it’s more than a lot.

I’d like to stay in Michigan, Governor Snyder. I’d like to be able to pay for my continued education and provide the best possible education I can to the students who walk into my public classroom.

Most of all, I’d like to be able to do all this without worrying about what financial crisis awaits my family’s future.

That’s why I’m asking — no, pleading — for you to do a couple things.

My Requests
1.) Quit corporatizing our state under the guise of helping it rebuild. You’re not trying to benefit the little guy and our state’s working families. You’re working in your own interests and those of your cronies.

2.) Quit attacking public education. You know the goal is not to rebuild and improve public education as you and like-minded politicians nationwide claim. It’s to destroy it in favor of corporate-run charter and private schools which get to hand-pick their attendees and reject the students they don’t want to bother with — at risk, low SES students who need help the most.

3.) Make continued education affordable for educators. Pay for teachers to go back to school, if not in whole, then at least in part. Big corporations do. You’re constantly comparing the private and public sectors and trying to run schools like businesses. Why not start with this? Even better, provide free professional development hours to teachers interested in improving their craft but not interested in seeking a higher degree. Master’s and Specialist’s and PhD degrees are expensive, you know, and we shouldn’t be required to pursue them to keep our teaching certificates without some sort of reimbursement of our time and money. Best of all? Amend the requirements for teachers to maintain certification in MI. I’m not saying eliminate them. I’m saying amend them to make recertification affordable.
I am not asking for a raise. I am not asking for a fancy car or a private vacation home in the Bahamas.

I’m simply asking for some help in doing what’s necessary to remain in this profession — a profession I dreamed of joining as a child and one for which I would sacrifice almost anything except my family’s goodwill and my sanity.

I’m simply asking for you to help me, my husband, and countless other teachers struggling to pay for these extra and often unnecessary credit hours — credit hours that take away from time we could be spending planning quality curriculum and providing feedback to students — just to remain in the classroom doing what we believe in most.

I’m simply asking you to take Michigan teachers seriously for a change and quit attacking its children and families by proxy.
Click to original post for the 139 and growing comments.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Diane Ravitch at PBS Site, on Occasion of Frontline Rhee Report and "How Do You Measure Success in School Reform?"

Diane Ravitch: Why Focusing on Student Test Scores Is No Panacea
Diane Ravitch is a historian of education at New York University and author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.

I watched John Merrow’s documentary on The Education of Michelle Rhee with high anticipation. I wanted to see what she had learned from her experience, and what lessons there might be for the nation.

The documentary emphasizes her steely determination to do whatever she thought necessary to turn around the Washington, D.C. school system. She fired principals; she fired teachers; she closed schools. She told every principal that he or she must set a target for raising test scores. If they met it, their schools would win thousands of dollars; if they didn’t, they risked termination. She tied teachers’ evaluation to student test scores.

Rhee assumes that better test scores equal better education. She never once mentions literature or history or science or civics or foreign languages; she doesn’t talk about curriculum or instruction. She never calls out a teacher for poor instruction or a principal for a weak curriculum; she is interested only in the bottom line, and that is the scores.

The problem, of course, is that focusing obsessively on test scores has predictable results: narrowing the curriculum (some districts and schools have dropped the arts and other subjects to make more time for testing); cheating; teaching to the tests; and distorting the whole education system for the sake of scores. Our best public and private schools would never dream of making test scores their goal. They know that a real education includes the arts, history, science, literature, foreign languages and physical education. Their parents expect nothing less.

“Our best public and private schools would never dream of making test scores their goal. They know that a real education includes the arts, history, science, literature, foreign languages and physical education.”

Unfortunately, Rhee cared only about test scores, not a balanced curriculum. By the end of the documentary we learn that the public schools in D.C. improved “slightly” on national tests but “are still among the worst in the nation,” and its high school graduation rate is dead last. We learn that her relentless focus on test scores produced allegations of widespread cheating, not better education. Her policy of firing teachers and principals did not turn around the schools; it created turmoil and led many teachers and principals (including those she hired) to leave.

The only logical conclusion from this documentary is that states and districts should not do what Michelle Rhee did. It didn’t work. It failed. Rhee, however, remains unfazed. She’s taken her reform agenda to the national stage and is now urging states to follow her lead.

True educational leadership involves a commitment to children and to education (not just test scores), a dedication to improving curriculum and instruction, and the ability to recruit and develop a strong staff. That is the kind of leadership I saw when I visited Finland, a nation whose students never take standardized tests yet do very well on international assessments.

Thankfully, such leadership is hardly absent in the U.S. In schools all across the nation, I have come across countless unsung educators who build teamwork and a culture of professionalism. They create a climate of respect built on wisdom and judgment, not carrots and sticks.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

UPDATE on Frontline, Michelle Rhee: Highlights Cheating Scandal / Rhee critique goes mainstream?: Esquire skewers her record / Henwood weighs in

Tune in to Frontline on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) tonight, January 8, 2013. Click here to find your local affiliate and broadcast time.

Click to new address for full blog post.

Michelle Rhee, former teacher, former Washington, D.C. schools chancellor, and tireless self-promoter of her brand of education reform, more properly called deform, will be the subject of a Frontline inquiry tonight.

Click to new address for full blog post.

Monday, January 7, 2013

UPDATED: AFL-CIO: Sign School Bus Driver Bus Petition to Bloomberg / Driver's Quote Shows Why It is Urgent for NYC Teachers to Support the School Bus Drivers and Their Possible Strike

Who do you want driving your child’s school bus – a highly skilled, trained, and experienced driver who knows our children and community, or someone learning on the job? At the end of the day, that is the only question that truly matters to parents regarding the busing of their children to school, and that is why it is so important that we support our New York City school bus drivers and matrons.

For the first time in over 30 years, New York City issued bids for school bus service without inclusion of the Employee Protection Provision (EPP). Although this may simply sound like a labor safeguard, make no mistake, this provision is directly linked to the safety and security of our children by ensuring that the City’s most qualified, skilled, and experienced school bus crews remain on the job. Call the Mayor today at 1-888-833-7428 and sign the petition at

The EPP helps create industry wide seniority and ensure an experienced workforce – union and non-union. This is critical. Although new drivers may receive training, training does not replace years of experience driving on New York City Streets in the third largest transportation system in the country.

This move not only affects the general education population of school children, but would particularly impact New York City’s special education children – children who are most in need of the steadiness, reliability, and consistency that an experienced workforce offers.

We all want to ensure that the City operates as efficiently as possible. The EPP has never been shown to increase costs, but its absence will certainly come at the cost of our children’s safety.

Tell City Hall, our children deserve the best. Keep the EPP.
* * * * * * * * * *
Teachers should be supporting the bus drivers. The attack on veteran bus drivers is strikingly resonating with the issues that veteran New York City teachers are facing. Great that the AFL-CIO is supporting the drivers. But what is the (Unity-led) UFT doing?
“They have ridiculous answers to stupid questions,” Hedge said, speaking of the city. “You’re telling drivers and [student] escorts who have been around for years and years…you’re no longer needed. If you need a job, you can go to the new bus companies and apply as a new employee and start all over again.”
Hundreds Gather at City Hall Park in Support of School Bus Drivers' Union Updated January 6, 2013 8:00pm | By Jesse Lent, DNAinfo

MANHATTAN — Moments after a press conference held by Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott calling on the bus drivers' union to stop scaring city students with threats of a strike, hundreds of parents and drivers gathered at City Hall Park to demonstrate widespread support for the drivers.

Organized by several parent groups and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, which represents school bus drivers, the oversized rally was scheduled to take place at 1 p.m. on the steps of City Hall, but was punted by police to the nearby public park due to high turnout, organizers said.

“It was supposed to be a little press conference on the steps of City Hall,” said Sara Catalinotto, co-founder of Parents to Improve School Transportation, who spoke at the rally. She estimated over 1,000 showed up instead. “People really felt this in their bones, so they came out.”

An hour after the large group amassed at the park, however, at least a dozen members of the NYPD began clearing the group out, and shut down City Hall Park.

"The park is closed,” an officer told a reporter for New York. Once it was cleared of protestors, the park was reopened.

Parent Johnnie Stevens, 58, fumed after he sent his son, 10, home, fearing over the strict policing. He called the redirection of the gathered crowd "a violation" of his rights.

“They were letting 10 people at a time into the park,” Stevens said. “There were over a thousand people outside…[The DOE] had their press conference but we can’t even get onto the City Hall steps. What is that? What am I supposed to think of that as a parent?”

The union has threatened to strike in response to new Department of Education plans to accept nationwide bids for more than 1,100 school bus routes — about a sixth of total routes. Current contracts are set to expire June 30, 2013.

Chancellor Walcott, who spoke at 12:30 p.m. at Tweed Courthouse, said an open bidding process for bus routes was long overdue.

“After more than 33 years without any significant competitive bidding for new school-age yellow bus service, we are now issuing a request for bids,” he said. “Last year, we bid out contracts for pre-kindergarten yellow bus service and saved the city over $95 million over a five-year period. We can anticipate significant savings by bidding out these school-age contracts as well.”

Busing costs have risen from $71 million in 1979 to $1.1 billion a year today, according to DOE figures. The union is hoping to secure job guarantees for its 7,700 member workers even if new bus companies are hired.

Jimmy Hedge, a board member for Local 1181, said he snuck into the DOE’s pre-bid conference aimed at bus companies interested in bidding for the routes. Several of the city’s proposed changes, like busing special education students with the general student population, troubles him, he said, but the possible elimination of driver seniority disturbed him the most.

“They have ridiculous answers to stupid questions,” Hedge said, speaking of the city. “You’re telling drivers and [student] escorts who have been around for years and years…you’re no longer needed. If you need a job, you can go to the new bus companies and apply as a new employee and start all over again.”

School bus driver Alvis Newell, 54, fears inexperienced bus drivers will compromise the safety of children, particularly those with special needs.

“You’ve got so many kids to deal with [as a school bus driver],” Newell said. “You have autistic kids, kids with Down syndrome, kids with Cerebral Palsy and you have to be patient with these kids. You can’t just have drivers who don’t have experience dealing with these kids.”

Walcott dismissed the idea that new drivers would put students in harm’s way at the earlier conference. “Seniority doesn’t guarantee safety,” he said.

Read more:

Emily Ngo at Newsday added this information in an article this morning, re-posted at Huffington Post:
Labor officials said they hope to avert a strike and want to meet with Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office.

"We're exploring every option," union president Michael Cordiello said. "A strike is a strong possibility, probably not tomorrow. It is an option, but it's not our ultimate goal."

The city has put out the first competitive bids for "school-age yellow bus contracts" in 33 years, and responses are due Feb. 11, school officials said. The average cost of busing a student in the city is $6,900 annually compared to $3,124 in Los Angeles, officials said.

The bids do not include an employee protection provision, which was ruled illegal by the New York Court of Appeals in 2011, officials said.

Cordiello said union lawyers believe the EPP can be included in the bids, but would not detail how. The EPP has been in the union's contract since 1979, the last year there was a strike, he said.

Sara Catalinotto, a lower Manhattan parent who is planning car pools for her autistic 10-year-old son in preparation for a strike, said the city should find a way to legally put the EPP back if officials "care about busing our children."

Here's more analysis by Catalinotto, as published at the NYC Public School Parents blog. The intro:
The real issues behind the looming bus strike by Sara Catalinotto of PIST:
The Chancellor has warned of a possible school bus strike shortly after students return from the Xmas vacation. The issues are not obvious to most parents; here is an explanation by Sara Catalinotto of Parents to ImproveSchool Transportation [PIST].
The Times: The city is preparing for a school bus drivers strike.