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Archive for April, 2010

Violation of Trust

[Editor’s note: Ms. Socrates is a first-year 10th-grade science teacher in a school in Brooklyn. She blogs at Teacher’s Diary where this post originally appeared.]

digital cameraLike so many new teachers, I have had to learn the hard way that I cannot fully trust my students, no matter how close I feel to them or how responsible they may seem.

A few days ago, my camera was stolen during a passing period, when I left it on my desk for a few moments to slow an influx of kids into my classroom. The students are always a bit off the walls right after lunch and I was hoping to avoid chaos at the front of my classroom.

Instead, I lost my camera. More »

Talk About Clueless

Thomas Dewey

While there’s much in the typical teacher education program that is seriously in need of rethinking and retooling, the “know nothingism” of the editorial board of the Daily News reminds us that such programs could as easily get worse as they could improve.

Never afraid to issue broadsides on educational matters about which we they know nothing, the editors of the Daily News complain that

Newbie instructors too often emerge from ed school stuffed with the ideas of everyone from Thomas Dewey to Brazilian Marxist theorist Paulo Freire (author of “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”) – but clueless about how to help kids learn.

John Dewey

What’s clueless is knowing so little about American education history that one mistakes the former governor of New York and failed Republican presidential candidate, Thomas Dewey, for the American philosopher and educator, John Dewey. Perhaps we should be grateful that the Daily News didn’t throw in Melvil Dewey, the founder of the Dewey Decimal System used for many years to catalogue books in a library.

For all that is wrong with teacher education, certainly a knowledge of the pedagogical thought of the most preeminent American philosopher, the leading exponent of the one school of philosophy — pragmatism — which can claim to be distinctively American, is not one such failing.

Reflections on the Test

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

After months of work and a fair amount of anxiety, test day finally arrived. As usual I did my best to calm the nerves of my students, and refreshingly, for the first time I didn’t have to calm my own.

I assured the kids that they were completely prepared, and reminded them of all the strategies they had learned to make the test easier. I handed out key chains from my trip to California and told the kids they were good luck charms. I could see the kids loosening up. And finally when I told my 3rd-graders that the practice test they had taken Friday was actually a 4th-grade exam I knew their confidence was boosted.

Once the test began I knew that I had been telling the kids the truth. They really were prepared, probably better prepared than any class I’ve taught before. More »

Imagine A Charter School Management Focused On Education, Not On Profit

While charter management at the NYC Charter School Center and the New York Charter School Association continue to offer an unqualified defense of for profit charter management organizations [CMOs] and extravagant AIG and Goldman Sachs type salaries for New York charter executives, all extracted from public money intended for education, today’s New York Times has an in-depth, page one story with the latest revelations of profiteering in the charter school industry.

The subject of the Times’ article is Imagine Schools, now the largest for profit CMO in the United States. [On its web page, Imagine says it “will operate as a nonprofit organization,” but as the Times points out, “Imagine is not a nonprofit group, and it has so far failed to gain status as a charity from the I.R.S.”] More »

Welcome Back!

The Teacher Reassignment Centers (“rubber rooms”) were an affront to taxpayers, a waste of productivity and an insult to human rights. At last they have been busted up. Much has been written about the agreement that ended them and there is a lot of speculation about what the future will bring.

Certainly the reaction to the abolition of the TRCs has been on the whole celebratory. The terms of their dissolution have been presented and analyzed at length. This post will not add to the discussion or make judgments about the settlement’s conditions or make observations about the DOE. Instead I will share a concern and make an appeal to our Edwize readers.

Many of our fellow professional educators who are currently in a TRC will before long return to schools and be amongst their former colleagues. This return has the potential to be a very joyous occasion but also a quite stressful one. Much depends on the sensitivity and discretion of the personalities in the school environment. It is important that our colleagues be welcomed back with a full and embracing spirit and be graciously supported in every way.

Such “open arms” would be a defining moment and finest hour for every school family.

Rally for “Good Jobs Now” on April 29

From the New York City Central Labor Council:

Good Jobs Now
More »

Selling Our Souls

[Editor’s note: Mr. Foteah is a second-year teacher in an elementary school in Queens. He blogs at The World As I See It, where this post originally appeared.]

VThe imposing forces known as the ELA and math tests have been moving in since September. If you’ve seen the television show “V,” you are familiar with the image of the alien visitors’ ship hovering above New York City and hanging there as an ominous sign of the new world order. That’s the best way I can describe the tests.

We are in full-fledged testing mode now (invaded, you might say). It’s flowing all the way down to the children from the top. Every morning, after we dutifully pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, our principal assumes the public address system to remind the kids how many days remain until the ELA and math tests. More »

Video: Child Care is Essential to New York’s Recovery

In a new video, the UFT Family Child Care Providers remind us that to keep New Yorkers working, families need affordable, reliable child care; and that cutting child care subsidies for working New Yorkers is not a viable way for lawmakers to help close the state’s budget gap.

Video: Rubber Room Press Conference

Video from yesterday’s press conference:

Closing the Rubber Rooms

[Editor’s note: This piece first appeared on the Huffington Post.]

Rubber rooms, where New York City teachers can sit for years while being investigated or while going through a hearing process, don’t work for anyone. They don’t work for schools, students or teachers.

Fixing this problem has been a high priority for me ever since I became President of the UFT eight months ago.

In a groundbreaking agreement between the UFT and the Department of Education, we have agreed to shut the rubber rooms down; from now on teachers under investigation or facing charges will generally be employed in administrative tasks in schools or DOE offices. More »

Teacher Unions, Democracy and Markets

In the classic ur-text of the school privatization and anti-teacher union movement, Politics, Markets and American Schools, John Chubb and Terry Moe provide a forthright statement of their perspective on public education. The problem with American public schools, Chubb [a founding partner of the for profit management company Edison Learning, once Edison Schools] and Moe [a stalwart of the ultra-conservative Herbert Hoover Institute] explain, is democratic control of schooling. Markets, they contend, will change all that:

The real cause [of the problems in public schools — LC] is the public education system as a whole. Its institutions of democratic control are inherently destructive of school autonomy and inherently conducive to bureaucracy… More »

Science Fair?

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on April 11 that “science is gaining momentum in American schools.” It attributes this “new found respect” to “prodding by industry, business and government leaders.” (So far no mention of educators.)

The article lauds the “upgrade” in science education and offers some verbal snapshots of classroom hands-on and minds-on activities and lab experiments, noting that officials in many area schools are “adding class time and squeezing dollars out of tight budgets” in pursuit of the goal “to boost student achievement to match math and science powerhouses in Asia and Europe.”

The piece repeats a reference to the concerns of “corporate, industry and government observers” and their “push to gain public support for better science and math instruction.”

The implication that the quality of the instruction itself is weak does not appear elsewhere in the piece and is not developed. More »

Going Too Far?

[Editor’s note: Ms. Socrates is a first-year 10th-grade science teacher in a school in Brooklyn. She blogs at Teacher’s Diary where this post originally appeared.]

I’ve often expressed my wish that there were more effective discipline at my secondary school. But when I read an article a few months ago about how a 12-year-old New York City student was actually arrested and handcuffed for merely writing on a desk, I was almost impressed with how my school deals with certain issues.

While I’m almost certain that the student and probably most of her classmates will never tag up a desk again, I am positive that this zero-tolerance approach is not the most effective way to deal with discipline issues. More »

NYC Charter School Center: We Want Puppets, Not Parent Advocates

James Merriman, CEO of New York City’s charter management association and former charter boss for Wal-Mart’s foundation, recently took to the Huffington Post to declare his deep and abiding faith in the educational choices and wisdom of Harlem and New York City parents.

For charter school parents who are aware of Merriman’s record, such a declaration must ring very hollow.

In the ten years after the first New York charter school, Sisulu-Walker Charter School, was created, Merriman’s New York City Charter School Center saw no need for a voice for charter school parents. It was far better, they reasoned, for management to reign unchallenged by parents, just as they would have them rule without organized teacher voice.

Then along came Mona Davids, a Bronx charter school parent who quickly realized that without an organized voice, parents in charter schools would be limited in their advocacy for their children’s education. One year ago, in April of 2009, she organized the New York Charter Parents Association. Aware of the potential power of an organized charter parent voice, Merriman made an effort to co-opt and take over her efforts. But Davids is an outspoken and fearless advocate, and she soon was raising issues that made charter management very uncomfortable. More »

Progress Report Revisions

The DoE is upgrading — or at least changing — some aspects of its Progress Reports, the school wide accountability reports that assess school progress and performance based primarily on test scores, as well as credit accumulation and graduation rates in the high schools. For the first time, the special challenges brought to schools by students in self-contained classes will be part of the equation. I have been arguing long and hard on this blog that the cards inadequately addressed this challenge, and that that inadequacy was a factor in the low scores of closing schools (see here, here, and here, for example).

The relevant high school changes: More »