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Archive for December, 2009

How’d We Get Here?

[Editor's note: Bronxteach is a third-year elementary school teacher. He blogs at bronxteach.com, where this post first appeared.]

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, and I hope I get a chance to sift through it on here over the next few days. In the mean time, there’s one incident stuck on my mind.

It happened the other day when one of my students got caught with his finger up his nose by the math cluster teacher. She sent him to wash his hands and I escorted him to the sink in our classroom to help him out. He’s a third grader who can’t tie his shoes and can’t really use scissors, so I figured he might need some help using the faucet and the soap.

As he was soaping up I thought it was a good opportunity for a quick hygiene tip: “Do you know a good way to know if you’ve washed for long enough? You can sing your ABC’s while you soap.”

“I don’t know my ABC’s.” More »

Merit Without Merit

In her Dec. 6 “Edwatch” commentary in the Providence Journal, columnist Julia Steiny says, “No evidence anywhere shows that merit-pay systems aimed at individual teachers improves education. Incentives to groups of teachers are effective, but not individuals.”

She is to be commended for making this both striking and strikingly obvious observation. She cites Jeffrey Pfeffer, who in a 1998 Harvard Business Review essay, exposed the fallacy “that individual incentive pay drives creativity and productivity.” It has instead, he notes, “been shown to undermine teamwork, encourage employees to focus on the short term, and lead people to link compensation to political skills and ingratiating personalities rather than to performance.”

Steiny identifies several “boondoggles” that she associates with individual merit pay. More »

Modern Day One-Room Schoolhouse

[Editor's note: Ms. Flecha is a third-year teacher in an elementary school in Queens. She blogs at My Life Untranslated.]

This is my third year as a teacher but in many ways it’s a first. It’s only my second year in the classroom and it’s my first year teaching 5th grade. In my self-contained ESL class, we’ve grown from 20 to 28 students since September — all of my new students are brand new to the country. This means I have roughly 20 beginners in a multi-lingual, multi-level class. Eleven of my students speak languages that I don’t: Indonesian, Chinese, Bangla, Urdu and Pashto. The rest are Spanish speakers. Their reading levels range from AA to Q. My colleagues tell me it’s like I have my own one-room schoolhouse. This is exactly the type of class I’ve always wanted, and yet sometimes it feels like it will be the death of me. More »

Class Sizes Rise Again

Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend is an odd time for the Dept. of Education to publish the new class size numbers.

But a quick look at them suggests why: class sizes rose virtually across the board, for the second year in a row. This occurred despite $150 million in targeted state funding to reduce class sizes in New York City in each of these two years.

DOE obviously knew since September that class sizes were up. They told the Daily News Sunday that the just couldn’t help it because of budget cuts. That may be true, but then why stay mum and then publish your report over a holiday?

A UFT survey in October found that 70 percent of high schools and 63 percent of elementary and middle schools had larger classes this year. It was no surprise. But DOE has sort of slinked around on this issue, saying principals are in charge of their individual school budgets so Central is not accountable for how this state class size funding is spent. This doesn’t sound like the kind of accountability Central imposes on everyone else. More »