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Archive for September, 2005

Carnival of Education

The Education Wonks are hosting this weeks Carnival of Education.

Do They Care?

Twenty-five freshman boys and girls, ninety minutes, 2-4 grade levels below their peers, the last two periods of a 13 period day…all of these things equal one tired and frustrated first year teacher.

I’ve tried so many things. I called parents, I wrote referrals, I compromised, I gave a pop quiz, I dropped the curriculum and tried current events, I turned the lights on an off, I yelled (numerous times), I kept them after class, I started talking notes on each student, I warned them they were being graded on class work, but nothing has worked.

I keep hearing you’ll be fine, they’re just kids, but these kids can be incredibly difficult. They look at me with disgust; they glare and snicker. I have to fight to keep my cool. I’m struggling to not tell them my true opinion of them during those moments.

They are rude and more disrespectful than any other children I think I have ever met. They disrespect me, as well as each other.

After one of my best students in the class raised his hand to answer yet another question, I heard a cough from across the room; it was a cough with the phrase “your gay” underlying it. I gave the kid a look to let him I know I heard it, but let it be at that.

Two kids had a verbal argument. They threw insults back and forth as I asked them to quiet down. One student blatantly cursed over and over again while speaking to me in front of the entire class – without even flinching. Am I wrong to say that, “I remember when I was young, and I never would have gotten away with such a thing?”

I speak about these kids and I am asked, “do they care?”

Do they care?

There is so much more that goes on in my day, and so much of it is wonderful and inspiring, but this last class makes my head hurt and my spirit suffer.

In Manhattan Klein gets Booed

Teachers, para-professionals, school based professionals, parents and some community members joined together to "welcome" Chancellor Joel Klein to PS 75 on Tuesday. PS 75 is located on the Upper West Side. We have just posted a story about the protest on the UFT’s website.

Inherit the Wind, Part II

If the retrograde movement over the past quarter century of American cinema as well as the New York Mets gives the lie to A Theory of Progress then the news that a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania court, nearly 80 years after the Scopes “Monkey” Trial is entertaining a case involving the teaching of evolution can be a potent argument against belief in an intelligent entity in the educational universe having had any hand in the design of the brains of members of the Dover Pennsylvania School Board who insist science teachers present the supernatural dogma of intelligent design as a valid, scientifically based alternative to the theory of evolution. (Lest some bloggers say it’s equally an argument against progress, I would caution that Mr. Darwin never equated evolution with progress, a fact to which anyone with bad feet, knees or back can attest.)

Lending a certain gravitas to the situation, the man formerly known as The Education President, George W. Bush has weighed in on the side of the Dover School Board and endorsed the teaching of intelligent design. I, along with other informed observers of educational law formulations, can only theorize (not state as a fact) that this stance, combined with his strong advocacy of scientifically-based research, enshrined in the No Child Left Behind legislation as it relates to the reading and math programs that school districts may purchase using federal education funds, is an opening salvo in the fight to incorporate the teaching of intelligent design in a reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind bill. (Speaking of spending federal education dollars, the fact that many of these reading and math programs are the products of Texas-based publishing companies is an indication that Mr. Bush also endorses the scientific concept of symbiosis, although the Dover Pennsylvania School Board members have not yet expressed their position on this equally controversial topic.)

Regarding the reauthorization, however, early indications from Capitol Hill are that Mr. Bush will trade off changes in AYP, SES, SINI, HOUSSE and other initial components of NCLB for a requirement that, in order to show the importance of knowing all about intelligent design, extra federal funds be given to private schools that include discussion of intelligent design in their curriculum. (Smart money is also on a compromise of the provisions of the law that give military recruiters access to names of students. The compromise would give the military recruiters access only to the names of male high school students involved in after-school drama clubs, thereby eliminating the need for costly “don’t ask, don’t tell” discharge proceedings, savings that the feds can use for voucher programs or pass throughs to states to cover the cost of developing tests of intelligent design, in collaboration with Texas-based publishers.)

What is sadly missing in all this discussion is how the actual teaching, that wonderful amalgam of pedagogical and content knowledge, will happen in should intelligent design become the law of the land. I believe that New York City’s public schools, a leader in the management of instruction, may provide an answer, one I will share with you on a future posting.

In Queens This Morning

Angry teachers, paras, parents and community members in Queens protest the treatment of teachers under the Bloomberg/Klein administration. Do you have pictures of actions at your school? Send them to blog -at- uft -dot- org

Ravitch Does Not Believe

You know things aren’t 100% rosy for Klein and Bloomberg when Diane Ravitch goes after them with no holds barred. See the interview on math scores with her and Inside Schools’ Clara Hemphill on Brian Lehrer’s show. Ravitch actually says she doesn’t believe the test scores. “You never see a 10-point jump. I am dubious, they are incredible. Incredible, like, not believable.” Ravitch served in the federal education department under Bush pere, and is an NYU professor. She’s not a chronic miscreant, but she is not even buying the published test results. Her reason: there’s no accountability under mayoral control. He can spin anything any which-way. There is no independent board, no audit committee, no independent research function, no public participation, and unbelievable announcements. She also went after the DOE’s spin of a new Harvard study on special education, saying the report was actually very critical, but to hear the DOE tell it, the Harvard researchers gave special ed a glowing review. Ravitch warns that if Bloomberg is reelected, “we will have four years of no accountability” at all.

From the Website

Just posted on the UFT’s website.

Push Polls in NYC?

This from a colleague who received a call on Sunday night:

Sunday night I was minding my own business when I got a call from a self-described market research firm called PSA ("It doesn’t stand for anything," said the young lady).

PSA wanted to know if I preferred Bloomberg or Ferrer, but the questions quickly moved to starkly unbalanced characterizations of the UFT’s positions vs. Bloomberg’s, 1199 and Bloomberg, even David Dinkins and Bloomberg.

For example, who did I believe: teachers, who complain they are underpaid or Mike Bloomberg, who raised test scores and is demanding accountability from teachers and schools. Um, gee, what’s the answer?

The “question” on 1199 wasn’t even framed as a choice. It simply attached Ferrer’s name to the “information” that 1199 has tried to bargain for city health and benefits for 25,000 members in exchange for a Bloomberg endorsement. 

Another “question” asked if I was more inclined to vote for Ferrer or Bloomberg once I knew David Dinkins had endorsed Ferrer. When I still said Ferrer (I answered Ferrer to everything, just for fun) the lady persevered, asking would I still vote for Ferrer if I knew that “when asked who’d make a better mayor, Dinkins had replied ‘we’ll see’.’’

I finally told the lady this was ridiculous. She sort of laughed and promised we were almost through, then asked for my demographic data. What was this???

Doesn’t sound like they’re testing their message to me.

On Klein

“Teachers and principals share an almost universal outrage at the mean-spiritedness and climate of loathing that Klein and his wrecking crew have visited from top down upon the school system.”

“Klein commends himself for having restructured “special education.” In fact he has gutted it.”

“Klein touts his dissolution of “large, unproductive schools.” All the evidence shows is that he has thereby created several smaller unproductive schools.”

“Special effects are the new mark of the educational bureaucracy.”

Read the whole thing!

A Mayoral Legacy

Prior to 9/11 Giuliani’s administration was characterized by dramatic decreases in crime rates and sharp increases in racial tensions; he was a controversial Mayor leaving behind a polarized city. The events of 9/11 changed the world perception of Giuliani; he will forever be associated with that momentous event. Nixon and Watergate are synonymous; Clinton and a sex scandal frame his presidency.

Elected officials do everything possible to create their own place in history, oftentimes it is done to them. John Lindsay was a shining light among mayors. Cities across the nation were burning and Lindsay managed to keep the cap on New York. In the turbulent late sixties, amidst anti-war demonstrations and increasingly militant public employee unions New York seemed the exception and Lindsay’s future beyond New York seemed bright. A two month teachers strike and a failed reform of the education system framed the Lindsay heritage. When he attempted to gain the Republican presidential nomination in 1972 he was plagued by teachers, their friends and supporters. All of Lindsay’s achievements, and they were many, are forgotten, he is the Mayor who failed to avoid a brutal strike and who created a decentralized school system that was rife with corruption and incompetence.

More »

Teaching: The” new” Waiting Tables?

Sat, Feb. 24, 2005 10:23 am

Last night, I was out with Danielle, Patrick and Lynn. One of them asked me how my job was going and if it was still as difficult as I had imagined it.

Embedded within in that question is a not so secret, rather overt accusation: “You must be either desperate for work or just plain retarded to choose to teach.” I know that people (esp. my friends) don’t intend to come off this way. But I am pretty intuitive and observant of humans and the way they interact. This inquiry into my daily life as the adult who corals and tries to educate 75 8th grade girls is more of an intense wondering of WHY would anyone want to coral and try to educate 75 8th grade girls? Or “you must have just given up on life and any artistic goals since you ended up here.”

I love to share stories of my schizophrenic students and their random attitudes and eye rolling. Often when I have finished one, Lynn responds with: “You’re doing the Lord’s work.” That remark is usually accompanied with a distinct look. A look that asks, “What the hell is wrong with you? Why do you go there every day?”
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A Tale of Success In Changing Educational Policy

Over at the Forum for Education and Democracy, Ann Cook and Phyllis Tashlik tell the story of the long but successful struggle of the schools in the New York Performance Standards Consortium to have their waiver from the New York State Education Department extended. That waiver allows these schools to continue to substitute their rigorous system of performance based assessments in Social Studies and Science for the Regents Examinations. Here at the UFT, we are proud of having played a supporting role in that struggle, and thus, in allowing these schools to continue their excellent academic programs.

For all the rhetorical support for small schools that one sees issue forth from Tweed these days, it is interesting to note that Chancellor Joel Klein and the Department of Education intervened in the struggle – AGAINST the schools and their efforts to maintain their waivers. At a critical moment when the state legislature was considering legislation to extend the waiver, Klein had the DOE’s legislative representative send a memorandum to all state legislators declaring that the DOE “strongly opposed” the legislation and the waiver.

Advocate Weekly

Make sure to check out The Advocate Weekly, a collection of posts from educators that Joe Thomas puts together every week.

The Educational Mandarins and their Policy Fables

On cue from City Hall and Tweed, Manhattan Institute fellows Jay Greene and Marcus Winters appeared on the op-ed page of Thursday’s New York Post to declare that New York City public school teachers are already very well paid. And just in case someone might miss the immediate import of those comments [this is, after all, the Post, which never overestimates the intelligence of its readers], the piece begins with an explicit reference to Tuesday’s UFT Delegate Assembly resolution which laid down a deadline for the completion of contract negotiations.

Someone is overpaid here, but it isn’t the public school teacher.

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New York Times Sends A Message To Bloomberg

Today’s New York Times’ editorial, The Road Map to School Peace, is remarkable in its forthright rebuke of Mayor Bloomberg’s failure to conclude contract negotiations with the UFT. And the fact that such an admonishment appeared on the editorial pages of the Times is as significant as the statement itself.


If anyone doubted the significance of the Times editorial, or that City Hall and Tweed took immediate notice, the fact that they had their minions at the New York Post rush a contrary editorial into print the very next day should dispel such reservations.

With the many thousands of English teachers in New York City, there must be one willing to sacrifice for the greater rhetorical good of the ‘Big Apple’: who will volunteer to teach a rather young and poorly educated Post editorial writer [too many workshop lessons?] that there are other tropes in the English language beside hyperbole?