November 28, 2008

A NY Times editorial that really crosses the line

After reading the ignorant editorial in the NY Times today (which I've posted below as well), I thought they should really go and have another look at the meaning of "due diligence":
1 the care that a reasonable person exercises under the circumstances to avoid harm to other persons or their property

2 research and analysis of a company or organization done in preparation for a business transaction (as a corporate merger or purchase of securities)

Then I wrote this Letter to the Editor, who's not doing any of the above or, in fact, his job:

Dear Sirs:

Concerning "A Plan to Hire the Best Teachers" (Nov. 27th), you should look past Klein's PR materials before you go on record.

For one thing, your information is incomplete. The third paragraph of this editorial says that "the central administration budget pays [the] full salaries" of excessed teachers. Central only pays for some of these teachers, those who do not get placed in permanent positions after their schools have been closed. When the school remains open but a teacher's position is closed (e.g., when a program or a position is dropped), the school continues to pay that teacher's salary. There isn't any incentive in the contract or in this present agreement for other principals to hire the higher paid vets in this group. Two for the price of one hiring works against these people regardless of how well they teach, and many have gone more than a year without having been asked on a single interview.

Your rush to judgment in the last paragraph about the teaching skills of these people shows just how successful the DoE's disinformation campaign has been. There are many satisfactory, good, and excellent teachers in this pool whom principals have been given no incentive to hire, but the public would never know. That's because Klein's main goal has been to get as many vets with high salaries out of the system and replace them with newer people, who are not only cheap, but also untenured and malleable. He's done this quite systematically: by labeling a whole group of them of "poor" quality, by changing how teachers are paid, and by not insisting that districts adhere to the contract, which is to try to get them placed in other schools. Did you even know that Human Resources has not been doing its job on that score?

Even your opening paragraph reflects a basic ignorance of what is going in city schools. You say: "The new policy . . . has put an end to disruptive transfers and made it easier for schools to build coherent teams." First of all, what has been most disruptive is the closing of schools and opening of new ones — not something you can blame on the teachers. And what's more destructive than transfers has been the widespread hiring of teacher "trainees," many of whom have no intention on staying in the profession for more than the few years they signed up for. Albany allowed this, mind you, by creating an even lower kind of teacher certification than the one we had before: it permits a newly minted BA to enter the teaching force with only a couple of weeks' training. Should inner city parents be grateful to the city for that? Everyone knows it takes 5-10 years to become a good teacher. A constant turnover of people experimenting on kids would never be acceptable in the suburbs — or to those, I suspect like yourselves, who have the means to send their children to private schools.

As for the "coherent teams" you speak of, when principals hire grad students over vets, the word is not "coherent" but "compliant." Without tenure, these new teachers will do what they're told, even though so many of Klein's directives have been misguided and need to be resisted.

There's a lot of social engineering going on at the hands of this mayor and his chancellor. If the press is not willing to look past their PR, with all the manipulated test data, fuzzy school grading, erroneous calibrations of success and graduation rates, multiple restructurings, and belittling of higher paid teachers, then it too becomes part of the problem.

NYC high school teacher

I was referring to this editorial:

A Plan to Hire the Best Teachers

Published: November 27, 2008

New York City and its teachers’ union took an important step when they agreed to abandon a rule that allowed senior teachers to transfer into any school they wished, often bumping younger teachers from their jobs. The new policy, which allows principals to reject unwanted applicants, has put an end to disruptive transfers and made it easier for schools to build coherent teams.

The new system is not perfect. It has unfortunately created an incentive for principals to pass over the most experienced teachers — who can earn $100,000 a year — in favor of new teachers who cost about half that much. The passed-over teachers, whose jobs are guaranteed under the union contract, end up in a “reserve pool,” where they typically work as substitutes, while the central administration budget pays their full salaries. The cost to the city is estimated at $74 million a year.

The city and the union have now agreed on a new initiative that should cut costs while helping the best reserve pool teachers find permanent positions. Under the new rules, schools that fill vacancies from the pool will receive a small bonus and a significant salary subsidy that holds them harmless for up to eight years.

If all goes as planned, principals will seek out the best teachers from the reserve pool, no matter how high their salaries. That still leaves a crucial question unanswered: what to do with reserve teachers whose records of poor performance make it unlikely that they will be hired.

Within a year or so, the city should know which teachers were passed over for salary reasons and which ones have languished in the reserve pool because of poor performance. Once the data is in, the city and the union will need to negotiate a plan for ushering the inadequate teachers out of the system.

November 25, 2008

Four kinds of tenure, but who's counting

[NOTE: Small updates towards the end in blue print.]

For those who think Weingarten's ATR agreement with the DoE on the tenure issue has helped the profession much, think again.

While it's true that
some ATRs might get placed in real jobs and some principals might get an incentive to hire them, there's a category of excessed members who aren't even included in this plan. In fact, they've blown some more buckshot at the contract and broken tenure up into categories. Like differentiated instruction.

Thanks a lot. This kind of collective bargaining is really for the birds.

Teachers get excessed in two ways, when a whole school gets shut down or when their positions are cut in schools that otherwise remain open. Central will pick up the tab for the first kind (school closings), but all the other kinds of ATRs will be paid for out of their school budgets. I don't know how many fall into each category, and I'm not sure the union does either. If they do, they're not saying.

What we have in this new agreement is an incentive to hire back one type of excessed vets, but not all. Don't you love it when equity in the union is not equity in the union?

Here, then, are the four tiers of tenure:
1. Tenured educators placed in a real position, paid out of the school's budget.

2. Tenured educators placed in a real position, paid in part by central for eight years. Principals get extra money the first year to sweeten the deal.

3. Tenured educators placed in a provisional position for a year, paid in part by central. They can be dropped at the end of the first year (regardless of seniority), but principal will get that extra cash if they keep them on permanently.

4. Tenured educators who remain ATRs, paid for by central or by the school. This is the least privileged category of tenure, and the thing is: your qualifications and years of service make absolutely no difference to anyone. In fact, the vets are worse off, because two-for-the-price-one hiring still flourishes citywide.

Oh, yes. Did I tell you that Weingarten sabotaged her own rally yesterday? Well, it really wasn't her rally, because it's obvious she collaborated with Klein to diminish seniority rights. This rally was forced upon her when the Delegate Assembly voted for it some weeks ago. She must not have gotten her signals out to her Unity people quickly enough to stifle it, so it got voted in by accident and she had to go along with it.

She begged the organizers to call it off. Didn't work.

She scheduled an "informational" meeting for ATRs at the UFT HQ a half hour before the rally was supposed to start — two subway stops away, mind you.

She moved the time of the rally to 5 pm without telling the organizers.

She had people at the City Hall station telling people making their way to the rally to go down to the UFT instead.

And she served them wine and cheese down there, when — for solidarity's sake — they should have really been at Tweed.

And of course she kept the meeting running for a couple of hours, so there was no way anyone was going to get to Tweed to hear the enraged protests going on over there.

I also heard she put it to a vote, whether the people at her meeting wanted to walk over to the rally or not. A vote? They override the vote at the DA that demanded the rally be set up in the first place. Please tell me that's not true.

This is union-busting of the WORST kind. It came from union management.

November 23, 2008

L E A — Phooey!

You can read Joel Klein’s spiel today in the Sydney Morning Herald on the great job he’s been doing with the NY school system — if you have the stomach for it.

In a whole era of arrogant men and women, ethically and morally challenged and entirely untrained for the powerful positions they’ve attained, Klein’s fabrication of his successful chancellorship really wins top marks. What claptrap. [And by the way, some Australians aren't buying it either — see this link posted on Ednotes.]

I do want to talk about one point Klein makes in amongst all that corpospeak:
Our "children first" reform strategy is based on three principles: leadership, empowerment and accountability.

This is not new, of course, and I must credit Ed in the Apple who wrote back in December of 2006 that Klein and Cerf were up to no good. In a post called “The Education NeoCon Plans for the NYC School System: Privatize and Walk Away,” he asked:
“Who are these “masked men”?

The new motto of the DOE is “leadership, empowerment, accountability,” expect to see it on T-shirts and emblazoned on banners. Makes sense: the three leaders have taught for a total of less than ten years, none has ever lead a school and are thoroughly disliked, or unknown to the hundred thousand employees and million kids and their parents in the NYC school system.”
He also spoke of the hundreds of new empowerment schools the DoE was creating, in a world
where schools are “managed” by outside organizations under a performance contract. In the totally cynical world of politics it might make sense: if schools fail it’s the fault of the outside manager, if schools succeed the Mayor can claim credit.
I know I didn’t listen carefully enough back then. I only remember thinking “What? More restructuring?” It took a couple of more years for me to understand the nature of the war BloomKlein had already started waging against public education.

For the heck of it this evening, I decided to google the three terms Klein was pushing to the Aussies — leadership, empowerment, and accountability — to discover who coined them and who’s been throwing them around.

The earliest reference I found came up in Shropshire Online, “Your Gateway to Services and Information in Shropshire.” On the agenda of a meeting in November 1998 was an Organisational Review that listed leadership, empowerment and accountability among the “guiding principles for the way we work.”
Curious ... a British governmental Tourist Agency.

There was Sandra Donovan, who wrote a paper for the journal Industrial Biotechnology back in December 2006 called "Ten Keys to Successful Technology Commercialization":
Commercializing technology successfully is the result of thoroughly understanding and applying the basic principles [which] include . . . leadership, empowerment, accountability . . . all of which have significant impact on commercialization endeavors.
Biotechnology. Industry. Commercialization. Interesting ...

In May 2007 an announcement appeared for a new staff development initiative at the National Solid Waste Management Authority in Antigua. It would be led by Myrtle Looby, founder and CEO of LEAP Training Consultants. LEAP stands for “Leadership Empowerment Accountability Professionalism.”
Hmmm ... Solid Waste Management.

The journal Design Intelligence had an article by James Cramer in October of the same year on “Global Growth, Design Demographics, and Business Success.” He wrote about a diagnostic analysis called LEAP™, derived from the words “leadership, empowerment, accountability, and processes.” The say they have a way to assess
the culture of an organization as it relates to real world success. Twenty-six critical areas of a firm’s culture under the umbrella zones of professional services, marketing, finance, and operations are analyzed . . This LEAP™ diagnostic has been used for over three years now to identify strategic priorities, to create alignment in merger situations, and to create a meritocracy environment that produces high performance firms.
I hate to admit it, but I'm not familiar with Design Demographics. Does it involve people?

This might, but I can't make heads or tails out of it. Let me just throw it in for good measure:

An application for an award being offered by the Red Cross says that candidates must share six “core values,” one of which is teamwork. They must be "committed to workforce leadership, empowerment, and accountability."
So they've found their way into Emergency Medical Services as well. Nice.

Any ten-year-old can tell you what’s missing in all this leadership, empowerment and accountability.

It’s children, and it’s learning. And we don't need no Joel Klein to tell us that.

November 22, 2008

Keeping it on full boil

Just for the record, the commenting is winding down over at the NY Times post about how New Yorkers feel about Joel Klein becoming the Secretary of Education in the Obama administration.

Which doesn't mean I have to wind down, because BloomKlein's values are so base and I'm so unconvinced that what they favor and how they go about installing their agenda are so bad for the city that we can't afford to put this issue onto the back burner.

37 of the 44 comments over at that post are anti-Klein, most to the max. As for the other 7, not much in there either: 1 just asked for information, 2 couldn't care less, and 2 others hate public education altogether. I guess those people have a choice where to send their kids to school. Two were actually favorable, one of which I left in for a good laugh (#40).

1. November 10, 2008 4:07 pm
Quote from Mr. Klein’s Press Secretary: “Along the way he’s angered adults with entrenched interests in policies that have never worked.”
I am a 70-year-old adult who has never had children, have never been a teacher, did not attend the New York City school system, and therefore I have no “entrenched interests” of any sort.
I am APPALLED by the mess Mr. Klein has made of education in New York City.
— cynthia

2. [asks for information]

3. November 10, 2008 4:21 pm
Mr. Klein has failed public education in too many ways: He is obligated to a corrupt and disasterous high stakes test machine that has made our schools absent of learning, soul or life. He is in service to Mayor Bloomberg’s governing philosophy of “screw the public first.” They as policy view parents and students- the client- as in the way. Worse, NYC schools have not improved one iota during his tenure. He runs an expert-less, management first enterprise that scoffs at educators, insults parents and looks at children as data creating subjects. President-elect Obama- select an educator first!
— mitchell

4. November 10, 2008 4:47 pm
A really nasty person
Wants to rid the system of all teachers with experience and replace them with new cheaper teachers.
Paying for results is just a way to show better results. Telling Principal’s to drive teachers who give proper grades a hard time. If no resluts then you are out. So what do many do? They just pass students. An alcoholic teacher who sleeps in class but passes all students is considered satisfactory and one who works hard in every way angive fair grades is considered unsatisfactory. It’s a reign of terror.
Please get someone else and please investigate Klein
— bob

5. November 10, 2008 4:50 pm
I don’t see how Klein is worse than any other education official. The fundamental failure of school systems, all over the USA, is that kids don’t learn to read, write, calculate, and think.
Education is NOT effective in a democratic process. Of course parents should have input, but wasting billions of dollars on PTAs, sports, and other fluff is a problem. Schools should be run more like universities, where trained educators create curricula and organize classrooms. Biologists should create biology curricula, chemists should create chemistry curricula, historians should create history curricula, etc., etc.
— Rick

6. November 10, 2008 5:27 pm
In response to David Cantor’s comment that “The chancellor has spent the last six years building a school system focused on the needs of kids. Along the way he’s angered adults with entrenched interests in policies that have never worked,” I would respond that he’s antagonized parents who care about their children’s education and teachers who care about teaching. For him to call parents “adults with entrenched interests” is surely the most blatant example of projection I’ve ever read!
As for Rick, for him to say that billions of dollars are wasted on PTAs, which raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for schools that are inadequately funded by government, shows that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
— Ellen

7. November 10, 2008 5:42 pm
Joel Klein, like his boss, Mayor Bloomberg, is virulently anti-union. For example, a few years ago he unilaterally denied almost all his teachers sabbaticals that they were entitled to under their collective bargaining agreement.
— Bob

8. November 10, 2008 6:02 pm
In response to David Cantor’s comment:
The Chancellor has spent six years focused on building a system defined by the policy ideas of the Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation, Dell Foundation and many wealthy New Yorkers like Caroline Kennedy and Courtney Ross who would never send their own kids to public school yet have no qualms about dictating how my kids should be educated.
And to dismiss parents who care about smaller classes, arts education and shielding their kids from Klein’s relentless bludgeon of standardized testing as “entrenched interests” is despicable.
It should be obvious to all why a Klein role in the Obama administration is a non-starter. Let’s focus on changes to mayoral control of our schools and the next mayoral election to bring an end to this.
— Patrick J. Sullivan

9. November 10, 2008 6:11 pm
Klein is NOT the man. It’s strange that a job of such importance is given to ‘politicians and those politically connected, instead of someone in either of those categories with true experience as an educator and leader.
When Secretary Spellings was appointed, both the Dems and Repubs applauded this decision, but her tenure has been a complete disaster. She simply sought to push rules on the K-16 community with real engagement or understanding.
We need a leader who has true experience, exposure, and knowledge of education. At some level, that should include some time spent as a teacher/professor as well as managerial experience. Not just “business” leaders/policy analysts that think they can just swoop down and make everything “right”. It hasn’t worked in Washington, and we all know that it hasn’t worked in NYC.
— Xilla

10. November 10, 2008 6:30 pm
This letter has been signed by a hundred New York City parents since Friday night:
Dear President-elect Obama,
First of all let us congratulate you on your election. Many of us worked ardently to advance your cause, and today we celebrate the bright and hopeful years before us under your leadership.
We write now as parents in the New York City public school system. We would like to urge in the strongest terms that you select a Secretary for Education with deep practical experience in teaching and learning. We feel that there is a fashion now for placing school reform in the hands of leaders outside the field. In our experience in New York this trend is catastrophic; in our view the administration of Chancellor Joel Klein has disastrously neglected the fundamental needs of children. To lead in education one must understand something about children, about human development, about the history of successes and failures in pedagogy.
Please appoint an experienced educator, a person close to the lives of children, to lead our nation’s education system.
Yours sincerely,
[see for a list of names]
— Ann Kjellberg

11. November 10, 2008 7:03 pm
If you think having a typical kid in the NYC system is difficult, try having a Special Ed kid. You are treated like a criminal by the Board of Ed who makes it as tough as they can for you to get these kids an appropriate(non-existent)education. The money spent on endless paper shuffling and legal battles would be better spent ridding the Board of Ed of dead wood and overhauling an archaic system that fails this population. The idea Joel Klein is even being considered as an Education Secretary is horrifying.
— luci p.

12. November 10, 2008 7:03 pm
Joel Klein has drawn the ire of teachers and parents alike.”
That in itself is high praise.
— Jim from Brooklyn

13. November 10, 2008 7:28 pm
As much as I’ve been angered by Mr. Klein, there may be one bright spot should he become Secretary of Education: We will, at last, get rid of him in New York.
— Carol

14. [couldn't care less, doesn't want taxes going to pubic education]

15. November 10, 2008 7:34 pm
I am the mother of 11-year old twins who have been in the New York City public school system since kindergarten, all under Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.
While I would gladly see him leave, I protest as strongly as possible his appointment as Secretary of Education in the Obama Administration.
Chancellor Klein has proven himself to be an autocratic bully, surrounded by people who agree with everything he does because they know their jobs are on the line.
He does not care what parents think and does not seem to believe that parents should have a say in their children’s education. He pontificates at hearings then walks out without listening to parents’ responses.
Klein talks a lot about “transparency” in the schools, but his Department of Education is the least transparent in City government.
Klein is committed to the discredited theory that the only measure of a child’s achievement is the the score on standardized tests. This is despite the extensive research in education that points to the fact that standardized tests “dumb down” a curriculum.
The Chancellor uses the 3rd, 5th and 7th grade tests as requirements for promotion — when the test designers themselves have warned that these tests should NOT be used for this purpose.
Testing and other data collection activity is extolled by Klein as a means towards accountability — yet his own office is not accountable to the parents, children, or teachers. Klein sits in judgment on principals, teachers, and children — but he has not created a mechanism through which he and the department can be judged in turn — for good reason: he has failed.
The Chancellor has also proven himself to be an extremely poor administrator of public funds. He has wasted millions of dollars on a data tracking computer system that not only does not work, but is not appropriate for a school system. He spent extravagant sums on importing consultants from Britain to administer a “quality review” of every school, consultants discredited in Britain itself.
New Yorkers were justly in an uproar last year when Klein’s expensive consultants cut bus service — and thousands of children were left standing on street corners in the cold. From Klein, no apologies, and the system remains in disarray.
Over the years of Joel Klein’s administration, we have seen trained, credentialed educators forced out of his department. It is now filled with lawyers and businessmen whose only experience with pedagogy occurred when they were in school 30 years ago.
Education is not a business. Each year that a child spends in school is his or her one chance to “get it”. If an 8-year old spends a year in 3rd grade being taught how to take a test, and the next year it’s decided that the test was faulty, that child’s loss is forever. Under Klein too many children have lost too many precious years.
America needs a Secretary of Education who is an educator, a listener, and a person who understands that our children are not a collection of data, but the future of our country.
That person is decidedly NOT Joel Klein.
— Linda Levy

16. November 10, 2008 7:41 pm
Mr. Klein is a walking disaster,
Of mismanagement a past master,
Has the wit and the charm
Of a piranha farm,
A dyed-in-the-wool flabbergaster!
— Larry Eisenberg

17. November 10, 2008 9:14 pm
Isn’t it important to have someone who is not afraid of the current bureaucratic structure and enforce the new administration’s policies on education reform?
— John

18. [not for or against him]

19. November 10, 2008 9:46 pm
Now that education is a department under mayoral control, every teacher I know is afraid to publicly speak out against adiministration policies. Pick a free crative thinker with a background in some other discipline than educatiion, e.g. science.
— ***icle***

20. November 10, 2008 10:24 pm
The Secretary of Education should be an educator, not someone who has had a negative impact on the NYC Dept. of Education. There are so many talented people who could provide leadership in this important position. Mr. Klein has not distinguished himself as a positive leader in NYC-the country deserves better.Rachel
— RP

21. November 10, 2008 10:37 pm
I quit after five years of teaching high school largely because of the tremendous negativity in the system. I was a former lawyer who left the profession and obtained a Masters Degree to pursue teaching. I have never worked harder and been treated worse than in the NYC public school system. I credit that, in part, to a culture created/reinforced by Joel [Klein], who constantly belittled teachers and made it acceptable for administrators to do the same.
— Anonymous from Manhattan

22. November 10, 2008 11:38 pm
If Mr. Kristof is correct that Barack Obama is an intellectual, then he will revive a respect for professionalism and appoint an educator as Education Secretary.
Mr. Klein is no educator. Obsessed as he is with voluminous record keeping and standardized assessments, he can be credited with inventing what I call, “bureaucracy-centered pedagogy.” As a New York City ESL teacher, I am compelled to spend more time with paperwork and testing than actually teaching my students.
With Ivy League credentials and publications under my belt, it is safe to say I am not another of Mr. Klein’s alleged lazy teachers standing in the way of rigor.
— Constance Benson

23. November 10, 2008 11:50 pm
David Cantor’s dismissive comment (”he’s angered adults with entrenched interests in policies that have never worked”) is, unfortunately, totally typical of the Klein administration’s low regard for parents, most of whom have no axe to grind other than wanting a well-rounded education for their children.
I can’t think of a single person in my children’s public elementary school who approves of the DOE’s obsession with standardized testing. And while Klein coopts the language of the civil rights movement (”equity of access”), the city’s schools remain shamefully segregated and changes in G&T and early childhood admissions have resulted in fewer minority children in those programs.
President-elect Obama, I (and my children!) traveled out of state to knock doors for you, spent evenings phone banking, bought buttons and bake sale cookies. I realize that you can’t please all of your constituents, but I beg you to listen to the grass roots on this one and not to be fooled by the NYC DOE’s misleading and disrespectful PR machine.
– Brooklyn mom of preK and 2nd grade students
— kk

24. November 11, 2008 12:19 am
I have 2 children currently in the NYC public schools, and I myself attended NYC public schools from grade K-6.
My daughter is an 8th grader, and her class was the first year for whom the 3rd grade NYS test was the promotional criteria. I watched a child who had been an enthusiastic student become increasingly demoralized and crushed by a curriculum that did not offer clear teaching methods, particularly in the mathematics curriculum, and which did not match what was covered on the assessments she was given prior to the test. In the years since, I have seen no improvement in either the ability of the curriculum to match the test, or in the ability of the test to measure any progress in educational achievement.
My son is autistic, and in a 5th grade equivalent class at this time. When I attempted to get information about kindergarten level placement for him, I was unable to find anything pertinent on the DOE website. Being something of an involved parent, I called the phone number provided for District 75 and was told such information was confidential. I ask you, who would I tell? Is educating an autistic child now classified? It took a rather sarcastic email to Mr. Klein to get information that allowed my husband and I to interview schools for our son. He’s doing well, but to be very honest, his school is now attempting to inflict the general education curriculum on his class, and I am beside myself. Autistic children have a great deal of trouble connecting with abstract notions like “How do you feel? How was your day?” Imagine what will happen when someone asks my son, who taught himself to multiply when he was 6, to describe how he chose to solve a problem.
In all honesty, if Mr. Klein is given the opportunity to do for the nation what he has done for New York, I’d strongly suggest we abandon all hope and become a nation of homeschoolers. I don’t care about the ridiculous letter grades he assigns to schools based on some Byzantine calculations. I loathe filling out the annual parent surveys, which ask absolutely no questions that I find relevant, but which are deliberately skewed to produce data that supports his agenda. I want parent involvement to actually have meaning again. I want my children to be taught by methods that may very well be considered didactic, but which actually worked for my generation. In fact, I’d like teachers to have some input on the curriculum, based on what they know works as opposed to what a think tank thinks might work. I’d like principals to have at least 15 to 20 years of classroom teaching under their belts before we place them in charge of an entire school. Otherwise, obviously unqualified individuals like myself (my work history was strictly corporate/financial) could apply for the position, although I suspect I might at least have the maturity to know I was in over my head.
— Christine Burke

25. November 11, 2008 3:05 am
Mr. Klein’s statment from his press secretary David Cantor said:“The chancellor has spent the last six years building a school system focused on the needs of kids.”
Mr. Klein, your claim is bassless and unfounded.
— CR

26. November 11, 2008 6:18 am
The man is unqualified and the SED should never have granted him a waiver to take a job for which he has no qualification whatsoever.
He and all the cronies he brought in are arrogant. Like they are the only ones who put “Children First.” He never spent a day in a classroom and has not the slightest concept what the teachers, Assistant Principals and Principals go through on a daily basis.
He has destroyed many of the finest high schools, especially in minority areas of Brooklyn, with his belief that smaller schools work better. He has brought in Principals who don’t have a clue, who wouldn’t know a good less if they saw one.
He has gotten a lot of good press by playing the role of politician by ripping apart the people who put it on the line every day of their working lives.
His grading system of schools makes no sense. Why tell people their child works in a school that is an F. Why tell teachers that. Why tell Principals that. Are there some schools that have problems; yes of course. But more often than not, these problems are far above what the teachers can do. How would you like walking into a class every day and 3/4 of the students don’t bring notebooks to school. Or get up and walk around the room. And of course, the teachers are blamed.
Teachers who have spent 20 years of their lives working at a high level are told their schools are closing and told go out and find a job. And then they discover that because of this moron, schools no longer get a personnel budget based on one teacher unit but based on actual dollars. So of course a Principal will be very reluctant to hire a teachers making $100,000 when he or she can hire 2 newbie making $40,000 and still have $20,000 to spend. Or teachers go on interviews and discover they are dealing with mental midgets brought in to be Principals by a “Leadership Academy” that doesn’t have the slightest clue. So they rightfully mind their time in the Absent Teacher Reserves and this jerk blames the teachers and wants to take away their jobs because of his inability to comprehend what his policies have done. And then we get the newspapers supporting him and blaming the teachers and accepting his idiotic comments that the reason these teachers can’t get jobs is because they are incompetent. And then nobody questions why most every teachers retires on the first day he or she can to get away from this madness.
And we see the papers and the Mayor trying to tell the world what a wonderful job they have done “improving” the schools. And of course the newspaper editors buy into this.
Maybe New York City does need him to get a job in the Federal government so that we can spread this incompetent’s “wealth” (in terms of educational knowledge).
But as for NYC, it will take decades to recover from what has been done to its school system.
The man has to go.
— Jeff S

27. November 11, 2008 7:20 am
I served as a New York City public school teacher for over ten years. I hold two New York State teaching certificates and a Ph.D. from Columbia University. I currently teach at a top private prep school in New York City. In my experience, Joel Klein’s leadership of the NYC public school system has been a complete disaster. If Barack Obama wants to replicate this disaster on a national scale, Klein is his man.
First, Mr. Klein created a new centralized bureaucracy and tried to micromanage teachers. This flew in the face of all experience and research with school reform, which shows unambiguously that successful school reform is and must be staff driven.
When Klein’s micromanagement predictably failed, he declared victory: “Now that I have brought accountability to the system, it is time for the next phase.” This next phase is management by numbers. Knowing nothing about education or about running a school system, Mr. Klein thinks it is a simple matter to measure the performance of students, teachers, and administrators using test scores.
The result is predictable: teachers are being pressured to teach to the test, and administrators are being pressured to tweak the metrics to make the numbers come out right. This has nothing to do with quality education, but Mr. Klein will get his numbers. At least he will until the whole house of cards collapses in an Enron-type academic scandal.
Mr. Obama, if you want to improve education in this country, you need a master educator, respected by other educators, in charge of the nation’s Education Department.Brian D’Agostino, Ph.D.
— Brian D’Agostino

28. November 11, 2008 7:48 am
As a graduate of New York City’s public school system at a time when the system, for all its many faults, provided an excellent education for many of its students, I would like to see a return to education and the end of those endless standardized tests. All they measure is test-taking ability, which is a skill having nothing to do with learning. No child left behind, indeed! Klein represents the failure of Bush education policies, and should not be rewarded with a federal position. Neither should he continue in his position in New York City.
New York’s public school system has never been perfect, and it had a sad amount of failures even in my day. But to say it is broken and can never be fixed is to doom our future. Klein’s tenure has been an outright failure. Let’s give him an F and try education instead of testing.
— Amy Stoller

29. [liked Klein, trusts Obama to make the right choice]

30. November 11, 2008 9:03 am
And the police-state conditions now in effect in our schools, with the nypd having more authority than principals, thanks klein!
— Wanda

31. November 11, 2008 9:56 am
Deliver the City of New York from the ineptitude and malfeasance of Joel Klein. Appoint him secretary of the US Department of Education and be done with him once and for all.
— Vir Gules

32. November 11, 2008 10:16 am
Response to some of the comments:
To 2. Please read Obama’s ideas on education, which were up online for a while but are taken down from time to time while they construct the site. I made some comments about certain items in his bulleted list at: “A whiff of Educorp” — using assessment to get “quality” teachers (quality teachers come from experience, not from entry assessments), charter schools and merit pay.
To 5: You hit the nail on the head when you say that education should be designed be trained educators. Klein is not an educator, was waivered in by the State, and is a political, corporate appointment by a billionaire mayor. So I don’t understand why you think he’s no worse than anyone else: of course he is, with those non-credentials.
To 10: Update on the number of signatures: 323 right now.
To 12: If drawing the ire of parents and teachers is a good thing, you must be part of the moneyed class who sends their children to private schools and wants the rest of the city ghettoized.
To 14: We are not talking here about the next NYC schools chancellor. We’re talking about a much larger position.
To 18: You say that individual “successes” in the public sphere are more revealing regardless of who’s chancellor. What elitism! The kids who “make it” big through this system are mostly the ones with huge emotional, educational and financial support from home. This guy condemns the rest to any combination of huge class size, failing buildings, circumvented laws (sp. ed), and rescinded programs. No one is extending a helping hand to the kids who have no way out of this muck and get dragged down further.
Send Klein back to wherever he can do least harm, and start mounting a parallel campaign of equal importance to NYC: against a billionaire mayor who has already bought the system and wants to do it some more.
— Woodlass

33. November 11, 2008 12:44 pm
One of the most destructive things Klein has done while Chancellor has been to dismantle the school districts. The districts used to be huge sources of support for the principals and the schools. Those working in the district had once been principals and teachers themselves, and principals report to me that the relationships they used to have with the district personnel were “almost familial.” New principals were mentored by old. If a principal encountered a problem, he or she could call up the district and get advice from people who had once stood in her shoes.
One principal reported to me that during her first months as a new principal, the district superintendent showed up one morning before school, meeting her unexpectedly in the doorway. The two of them sat downstairs at the security officer’s desk and together went over a document the principal had written about her plans. Similarly, the week after 9/11, the district realized that they had a brand new principal in a school and sent a district representative over to spend the day with her, to give her support and make sure she was all right. Interestingly, this was District 2, the same district that had 4 or more schools in the vicinity of the World Trade Center, schools that had had to be evacuated and temporarily housed elsewhere. Obviously, District 2 had a lot on its plate. But the people in the district remembered the new principal they had just assigned to a school and were nursing along, and they were committed to helping her.
Now, in stark contrast, principals report to me that the only time representatives from the DOE show up is on testing days, when they stand and observe, eyes squinted, arms folded, while the principal unpacks the tests and distributes them to the classrooms. Now, because of Klein’s destructive policies, most of the district personnel, many of whom were nationally respected educators, have “retired,” and are no longer available to shepherd our schools.
I am not a teacher; I am a parent who has been a public school parent for 8 years now, and in that time I have seen how hard the teachers and principals work. These are people who not only have experience every day in the trenches, but who have academic backgrounds, advanced degrees, in education. Education is a field, just as law is, or business, and I object strenuously to the DOE’s assertion that Klein and Co. are working against “entrenched interests.” Instead, what they’ve done time and time again is arrogantly refuse to listen to or respect the professional educators who have devoted their lives and careers to educating our city’s children.
— Jan Carr

34. [won't make a difference Klein or anyone else, since school system bad all around]

35. November 11, 2008 6:07 pm
If one is to really vet the selection of Joel Klein, I would hope the Transition Team would speak to parents and teachers alike. Do not believe the hype that the Bloomberg administration is giving the media. You will find that under Klein, education has turned to TEST PREP. Under Klein, more money was wasted on corporations that could have went towards lowering class size. Under Klein, parent concerns go unheard. Under Klein, the Department of Education is flooded with lawyers instead of educators. Under Klein, appointments have been made that ended in disgrace. Under Klein, principals are allowed to abuse educators instead of collaborating with them. Under Klein, little children were forced to wait hours for their school bus in the middle of winter. Under Klein, budgets were cut in the middle of the school year forcing many after-school programs and tutoring sessions to close. And under Klein, principals are forcing teachers to pass students so they can get a bonus.
— Linda

36. November 11, 2008 7:20 pm
Let Klein go to Washington and let’s see how long it takes them to figure out that he knows nothing of building capacity in schools and school systems, that he lacks leadership, vision and compassion. For me, as a parent of a school aged child, he has made it perfectly clear that he has no interest in hearing the voices of the families and teachers he serves. If that is what the Obama camp wants, let them have it.
— Angie

37. November 11, 2008 9:14 pm
As a father of two middle school sons solely educated in the NYC public school system, past president of a PA, currently on the SLT and proud parent who gives school tours to perspective parents, I must speak out. I have heard the words of Mr Klein up close and personal when he speaks about education being partnership between the schools and the parents (as long as the parents abide by all his decisions). He has elevated high stakes testing to an unthinkable degree (the numbers don’t lie, do they Mr Bloomberg?). He had to receive a variance to become Chancellor as he hadn’t earned appropriate teaching credentials .. and feel free to sing the praises, Mr. Klein, of the public schools your children attend.
HE IS NOT AN EDUCATOR. HE IS A LAWYER and that doesn’t make him a bad person, it has made him a bad choice to head the Department of Education in New York. He has hired other lawyers to run his no bid, opaque spend fest, without reducing class size or investing directly into the classrooms. Parents will never have a seat at his decision making table. Oh did I metion, its all about testing, Testing and more TESTING not education, and the buckets of money (that would be far better spent for instruction) have been pissed away keeping score. Years from now, when this failed experiment perpetratred on New York City’s publically educated children is analyzed after having wasted our students’ precious years, will we be thanking the God of your choice because he left NY to run our nation’s education into the ground? President elect Obama, have mercy for the educational future of America’s children…DO NOT APPOINT KLEIN. Hire an educator, just because.
— Don

38. November 11, 2008 9:44 pm
I voted for Barak Obama because I believe tomorrow can be a better day and that real improvements can be made in this country if our leaders use common sense and seek input from a wide variety of views and experts.
Speaking as a teacher in the NYC public schools, if Obama picks Joel Klein as Secretary of Education I will feel my vote has been used in vain.
I’ve been teaching for six years now and like everyone, I know the system has flaws but the way the DOE has gone about solving them makes the cure far worse than the disease. Klein has no clue about education, has no idea what happens in the classroom and has shown no interest in learning and improving. His policies actually make it harder to teach and less likely my students will learn.
Klein’s obsession with flawed testing, inane and inaccurate school grades and wasteful outside reviews would be a disaster if pushed on the rest of the country.
— Alan

39. November 11, 2008 10:19 pm
“Education is NOT effective in a democratic process.” - Rick (#5)
I do not endorse the rest of that post, but those eight words are at the very center of the humungous problem facing American public education from K through 12. Voting for the members of local school boards is so strong a convention in the US, and has been for centuries, that the disconnect and inconsistency is never remarked on. As Rick points implies, and I would emphasize, the one and only area of public education in the US which is indisputably world-class is the work of the Land Grant Colleges - our magnificent network of State University systems. If there was some way of running the pre-post-secondary sector as the state universities are run (with public oversight by boards of regents happening at an appropriately large remove from the administrators of those institutions) we would have a chance to bring about the changes so desperately needed. Otherwise, I suspect that many more billions of dollars will go down many more drains, with very little to show by way of real change for real students.
Or perhaps we could follow Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice: We could empty our prisons in very short order if our K-12 public school system throughout the nation was based on having one teacher for every six students!
Worth a try, I would suggest.
— Old-timer

40. November 12, 2008 10:32 am
[This is Pro-Klein, but so craven and absurd I had to leave it in for the entertainment value.]
Of course Joel Klein has angered educators. He made some moves to introduce accountability and innovation to a malfunctioning system which is in some ways simply a tool of a Union whose last concern is actual education. I am a parent of a New York City public school student and Mr. Klein has at times disappointed me with moves he made. However, those cases were usually due to his concern for the all the children in NYC being in conflict with my parochial interests in my child’s school. In every case, there was and is never any doubt that Mr. Klein thinks of children first.
I wasn’t a Barack Obama supporter, but an appointment of Joel Klein as Secretary of Education would go a long way towards convincing me that our President-Elect has wisdom that is commensurate with his charisma.
— M. A.

41. November 12, 2008 12:29 pm
As a recent graduate of NYC’s public schools, I cannot even begin to relate just how poorly matched and unqualified Mr. Klein is for the country’s top education job. Mr. Klein was a fantastic antitrust lawyer, especially in the Microsoft cases. That is the only salvageable part of his legacy. He should beg for a Justice Dept. job, perhaps senior-level. Personally, I think that if a New Yorker should be Education Secretary, it should be Caroline Kennedy.

42. November 12, 2008 12:31 pm
TO “M.A.:
“In every case, there was and is never any doubt that Mr. Klein thinks of children first.”
No one doubts whether Joel Klein thinks about children first. its just that other people are better suited candidates for the job.

43. November 12, 2008 12:57 pm
I am African American Single Parent among many other things had enrolled my precious child inot a district three public school on the Upper West Side. We made it though 3 weeks in which i vowed that my children will NEVER be a product of a public school education. Between the Raggedy Classrooms , with No Textbooks a Fifth Grade Curriculum that is fit for Preschoolers a slick hustlin’ Absentee Principal and the SYSTEMATIC RACIST STRATEGY called THE GIFTED AND TALENTED program … I was done . It absolutely amazes me that Middle Aged Adults with a million dollar budget cannot NO will not pull it together to ensure that all children of America have a descent environment to send thier children.
— Karimu Abena Hamilton

44. November 20, 2008 6:45 am
It’d be interesting to know what about Mr. Klein would spark interest in an Obama administration to consider him for such a position. It’d interesting to know.
Mr. Klein has, at best, managed to be an unmitigated disaster. His may claim good intent if he so wishes, but his policies, management style and practices have been unproductive and harmful to the NYC DOE. Worse still, to cover his tracks of failure, he uses watered down assessment tests - the results of which are used as political instruments to perpetuate and justify what isn’t so as to reach for more political gains. He surrounds himself with consultants and businesses that have no pulse on what goes on in the classroom.
What is his position on class size, parent and teacher support and involvement, collective bargaining, salaries, curriculum design, textbook design and selection, and (Lord have mercy) special education.
Yes, special needs children. In Klein’s DOE, providing education to your special needs child is a torture of a thousand cuts and a million deaths. He has set up these painful processes that take parents through this maze of raw frustration. I know because I’m a parent of a SpEd child and a NYCDoE SpEd teacher.
President-elect Obama, mull this one over very carefully. If your expectation is unproductive angst and a sure failure of your education agenda, Klein is sure to deliver. I doubt if he’d fail.
— Emma

November 18, 2008

Klein — Indicted, but only by the people


Here's what Marjorie Stamberg writes about last night's PEP (Panel for Education Policy) meeting. We need to keep getting this stuff out there.

Tonight’s PEP meeting was a vivid demonstration of the way in which the Department of Education is trampling underfoot the most heartfelt concerns and interests of students, parents and teachers. There was an outpouring of anger — from teachers confined to the “Rubber Room,” from parents and advocates for Special Education, from the ATR teachers denied positions, and from students fighting against military recruitment in the schools. Below is a brief summary of the ATR remarks shortly. But first…

The outrageous treatment of those who had come to speak on the point on “Special Education Update” was breathtaking. They, and everyone else had waited patiently for well over an hour as the Chancellor’s close associate Jim Liebman (architect of the totally bogus school report cards, supposedly based on dubious high stakes tests) droned on about the new ARIS “accountability” system. Then someone from the DOE budget cuts office unveiled a power point presentation about the “four buckets” (I kid you not, this is the way they think) where cuts will take place. When they finally got to the Special Education point, for which parents and advocates had prepared for weeks, the Chancellor suddenly ruled there was no time, the point was off the agenda until a future meeting.

People stormed angrily out of the meeting and we were all aghast that a schools chancellor would just blow off the concerns of children with disabilities! Later, an advocate for the children reluctantly came back and spoke during the public comment session. Ms. Connelly, from the Citiwide Council on Special Education, said it was a sad commentary that the Chancellor’s Panel was doling out the same cavalier treatment that special needs students too often find in this society.

Several people from the ad hoc committee to support the ATRs spoke, including myself, Angela De Souza, and Roz Panepento. We noted that the vendetta against ATRS was part of an assault on teacher tenure, and that parents should be outraged that at a time when classes are larger than ever, teachers are being kept out of classrooms. We emphacized the November 24 rally, demanding a hiring freeze until all ATRS who want positions are placed and that there be no firing of teaching fellows. Our central message is “Let Teachers Teach”—The DOE should stop vilifying and victimizing the teachers who are the heart of public education.”

Three ATR teachers spoke very powerfully about their situation – this is the real story of how DOE arbitrariness rips up people’s lives. Here are some excerpts.

Dr. Lezanne Edmond, ATR, said:

“There are over 1,600 ATRs, who are languishing and their experience and talents wasted on being bathroom and lunchroom monitors, or substitutes, instead of being utilized in the classroom, where they need to be, doing their jobs — teaching.

“As an educator, with a doctorate in learning styles, with over 10 years of instructional experience, as well as having contributed to over 150 students obtaining their GED, I find having the talents of myself and my colleagues squandered in such a manner unconscionable, as well as an enormous disserve to the city’s students. What needs to cease is the viewing of education as a business, and instead proceed with the business of education.

Mary Najaddene, former citiwide mentor and ATR:

“We, the ATRs, are the new class or rather underclass of teachers who have masters and other advanced degrees, and many years of satisfactory service. And yet we have been told unofficially by principals, ‘I’d love to have you here, but I just can’t afford you. I can get two new teachers for your salary.’ That can’t possibly be the reward you alluded to with regard to excellence in teaching.”

Robert Bobrick , ATR at Lafayette HS, said:

“‘Why is the DOE doing this,’ people ask. They can’t understand why the DOE could be so stupid as to pay hundreds of qualified people not to work, or at least not in full-time positions. You might say it is the union contract that doesn’t allow the DOE to fire incompetent pedagogues. But I say our teaching records demonstrate that we are not incompetent, we are in excessed positions because of bad DOE policies--closing large schools instead of supporting them, over-hiring new teachers and teaching fellows. Moreover, you are denigrating and defaming through mouthpieces such as the New Teacher Project — your most dedicated teaching and school staff.”
Play your games, you men of low integrity. It's more than money you're squandering.

November 16, 2008

Wake up, New York, and smell the roses

I thought I was done for the night, but then I read this post from a teacher at Jane Addams HS.

Dear Colleagues,

Yeah, Addams got a D. But the fix was in, right from the start, for us to "fail."

A closer look at the "report card" reveals:

1. Our "Student Performance" (success in graduating students, in four years) score: B. Honestly, what the hell else matters???

2. Our "Student Progress" score: F. Simplified — We didn't improve enough from the B in "Student Performance." And in case you haven't noticed — the competency of the students admitted to Addams is not the same as it was just four years ago. (No longer are students who really want to come to Addams routinely admitted.)

3. The group of 40 so-called "Peer Schools" to which Addams is being compared includes schools that are very different than ours. Many of the 40 are newer "mini academies" — the replacement schools for schools that were previously closed down. These schools have much smaller enrollments, and can, to a larger extent, "cherry pick" which students are admitted and which are rejected. The dirty little secret is that many of these rejected students are sent to . . . Addams (and Truman).

Remember, the big money (Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation, et. al.) and its lackeys (Klein in NYC, Rhee in DC, et al.) is on "proving" that "traditional" "big" schools (read: us!!!) don't work. And — surprise, surprise — this report card does just that.

Hope y'all haven't already spent that $3,000 "bonus money" that we were never gonna get, but were conned into voting for — twice.

Solidarity forever (for the Union makes us strong),

Glenn Tepper

BloomKlein and his crowd have polluted the waters, and we're dealing with swamplife. We can't drain the stuff because we're not at the controls. The only thing we can do is aerate it with our professionalism and replace the slime with truthtelling. Lots and lots of truthtelling.

November 15, 2008

Is there a blacklist?

I’m going to throw out a couple of things that have happened to me in the past two weeks and you can draw your own conclusions.

Human Resources sends me on an interview to a school with a music vacancy. On the street, it's known as the HS of Witchcraft, and I have ties to this school, actually. I was the only non-core teacher when it was founded several years ago, and under normal circumstances, for me to return to the job that I was harassed out of might have turned out not to be a bad thing. They had gone through two principals since then. I’d be seeing the third, reputably worse than the second, whom the students had walked out on in protest and the DoE had to replace (or he left on his own, who knows).

Given that the interview was set up by HR, you’d have expected the man to have at least been there to receive me. But, no. He was neither late or called away on an emergency, just inexplicably not present and determinedly unreachable on his cell. So, I sat around for an hour talking with my teacher buddies and a few kids I knew, and after making copies of my resume and sample letters of commendation to leave for him, I wended my way back to my day job, ATR subbing.

I did email HR, though, to tell them I was stood up, adding: “Unless something very untoward happened to him, I find this inconsiderate and strange.” That was October 27th, and not a word from anyone since.

A week or so later, I ran into one of my APs at one of my former schools, the one in which I had built a very large chorus over many years with quite a respectable reputation. He said: What a coincidence, he had just been thinking of me, there was a school that needed a general music teacher immediately, fax him my resume and he'd shoot it over to the principal. I did, and the next day and an administrator from the school called to ask me in for an interview. Since the DoE was not sending me on this one, I told them I’d have to come after school, and an appointment was set up for two days later. The AP told me the principal had received my resume and wanted to see me.

Before leaving the building for the interview, I checked the two messages on my voicemail. Both said: “Don’t come in. The position has been filled.”

A couple of days ago, I had the opportunity sit down with my current principal for a long talk. That's the one who excessed me in 2007 and under whom I continue to serve as per diem sub, using none of my most important talents or skills. I’m not going to report the details of this conversation for obvious reasons, but let’s say I got the feeling that as a person I was liked, and as a teacher, respected.

Something Principal said caught my attention, though. Paraphrased, it went: I don't understand. You go on all these interviews and you're still here.

Really, I go on interviews? I said. I’ve applied to 21 schools and haven’t been contacted by a single one. Zilch, nada, nunca. What are you talking about?

Principal did not need any reminding about the only time (more than a year ago) that HR tried to place me in another school. Nice interview, but wasn’t offered the job when they heard I was at Step II over my excessing. (Rightly so, in my opinion. Why destabilize the kids at two schools when the situation was in flux.) Then I reported on the two non-interviews of the past two weeks and asked where this idea came from that I was going on all kinds of interviews and not being placed.

Principal reiterated something mentioned before, that when I was hired, word was going around NOT to take me in: “Everyone told me not to hire you.”

I don’t know who the “everyone” is, but my top three guesses have always been other principals (against whom I've gone up against as chapter leader), the region, and the Witchcraft's partner, New Visions. But at 5:30 this morning, I woke up with the feeling there's been a fourth possibility all along:
Joel Klein has a healthy and current Don’t Place list.
Because facts are facts: A highly qualified candidate with a successful, long career gets no response to job applications over a long period time; a couple of interviews get set up but are scuttled before they happen, and there's no explanation or follow-up.

So, my questions for Randi Weingarten, if she's listening, are:
Have you ruled out a DoE blacklist, official or otherwise, and what evidence is there that there isn’t one?

And to our local reporters:
Though Klein is not forcing any principal to absorb veteran salaries into their budgets, doesn't it occur to anyone that 1400 unplaced teachers may be the result, in part, of something way more sinister and way more specific than general financial considerations?

If this thought piques your interest, call me for more details.

November 11, 2008

Grand théâtre

Just in case people missed Klein's Nov. 6th Letter to Principals on the latest round of cuts he's making (1.3% to school budgets), here are some excerpts from it that were passed around by the Bronx UFT.

"While your school budget will be reduced by a relatively small amount, you will also be affected by reductions to DOE budgets and staffs, which provide direct services to schools. For example we will:
"Reduce the cost of grading math and English language arts state assessments (we will be getting you new scoring procedures shortly). [Why not.]

"Reduce the headcount at central and the Integrated Service Centers, which will reduce the level of service and support you receive. [I guess there'll be no one left to place ATRs anymore. LOL]

"Limit summer school to students who are mandated for summer school service. [Bring your own toilet paper, and when he says "rest assured" that the schools will remain safe, try to overlook the fact that there's not a thing this guy has ever restructured, assessed, negotiated, budgeted, planned for, or promised that has actually worked out. And don't bother calling ISC either if something needs fixing, because there'll be no staff over there answering the phones.]

"We will also change the way we charge you for ATRs. Beginning on November 17, you must use the ATRs assigned to you as substitute teachers and you will be charged accordingly. We will be sending you more information on this change in the coming days. [This doesn't apply to me. I've already been subbing for a year and half while way newer teachers got all the jobs.]

"Unfortunately, we will also need to eliminate the School Excellence Awards for schools that received A's on their Progress Reports and "Well Developed" scores on their Quality Reviews. (This does not affect schoolwide performance bonuses for UFT members or principal bonuses.) [Those awards didn't mean much anyway, just admit it.]"

It's starting to feel like une tragicomédie spectaculaire over there at Tweed — énorme et exceptionellement perverse.

The speak-out has begun

And I hope it's not too late.

JOEL KLEIN knows very well how to take down a system, but has no idea how to nourish children, listen to parents, or support educators.

If the man were an educator, he'd be a failed one — and by the way, the UFT doesn't like to make that point, leaving the rest of us to bring it up all the time. The fact is he's not, and so the question remains why is he even being considered for Secretary of Education?

I've created a sidebar over on the right that contains links to recent blog posts, letters, and commentary on the legacy this chancellor is building for himself. Very few of these are positive or even neutral. Most are scathing and speak of the man's vision, record and character in the most negative terms.

Senator Obama, please trust us.

Klein's a poor choice of this cabinet post — even if the UFT isn't saying a word. (Which it's not, at least not on the main website. But, why am I not surprised. There's also no mention there of the ATR rally scheduled for Nov. 24th. Let me tell you about someone else who should never be considered for Education Secretary.)

Most of us wouldn't even want Joel Klein over for dinner, much less invite him to set policy for our children's education.

There's a funny little poll going over at Fred Klonsky's blog, and a more serious petition to President-Elect Obama against this dreadful nomination (self- or otherwise as it suggests below). It begins:
We, the undersigned, devoted thousands of hours of volunteer time to the election of Barack Obama as President. As Professional educators we were encouraged by the promise to have an open and respectful dialogue within the educational community about NCLB, its limits, and its failures.

Now, a trial balloon has been advanced in the media for Joel Klein, Chancellor of NYC schools to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education in an Obama Administration. (It is quite possible that Klein himself promoted the trial balloon.) Trial balloons are trials. They are floated to see how people will react.

This petition is a reaction. . . "

It sure the heck is.

Actually, there's a more general statement for the kind of Education Secretary some of us would like to see. They've got a petition going as well on their website:
Say YES to public education. Say NO to privatization.

Dear supporters of public education,

Many of you have by now heard the rumors of Obama's potential appointees to the position of Secretary of Education. This list includes several people whose records show a history of dismantling democratic public education in the name of private interests. As people committed to public education, this strikes a hard and fast blow in the euphoria that we have felt since Tuesday, November 4th. But it's not too late to make our voices heard once again. Let's build on the sense of representation and democracy we have just experienced to send a clear message to the Obama Administration.

Please click on ENDORSE THIS STATEMENT in order to sign the following statement that voices our concerns about the kind of Education Secretary that we want. Additionally, please FORWARD this message to your friends and colleagues who are also concerned about the future of public education.

Thank you!

The National Network of Teacher Activist Groups
The signatures on both of these petitions are mounting by the hour. It's obvious people are very unhappy with the way things have been going, and hanging out on the sidelines is not really an option.

November 8, 2008

A whiff of educorp over at Obama's

Since writing this post, I got the chance to put up a revised version of it on Here's the link.

LearnersInherit just sent me a link to Obama's new website,, to which I bounded immediately to check out what he plans for Education.

It's detailed and extensive, and has some things in there a lot of educators I know don't much like. Take, for example, this:
Support High-Quality Schools and Close Low-Performing Charter Schools: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will double funding for the Federal Charter School Program to support the creation of more successful charter schools. An Obama-Biden administration will provide this expanded charter school funding only to states that improve accountability for charter schools, allow for interventions in struggling charter schools and have a clear process for closing down chronically underperforming charter schools. An Obama-Biden administration will also prioritize supporting states that help the most successful charter schools to expand to serve more students.
Anything relating to increasing the funding for and the expansion of charter schools is more or less a swipe at public education. Why is he going in that direction?

Prepare Teachers: Obama and Biden will require all schools of education to be accredited. Obama and Biden will also create a voluntary national performance assessment so we can be sure that every new educator is trained and ready to walk into the classroom and start teaching effectively. Obama and Biden will also create Teacher Residency Programs that will supply 30,000 exceptionally well-prepared recruits to high-need schools.
There isn't any performance assessment, voluntary or not, that can ensure that every new educator is ready to start teaching effectively. That's because assessments leave out the most volatile factor in the classroom: real children. Assessments will always be arbitrary. Experience and hard work make teachers effective. Why is Obama thinking an assessment at the start of a new career is going to get you a good teacher?

Reward Teachers: Obama and Biden will promote new and innovative ways to increase teacher pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them. Districts will be able to design programs that reward accomplished educators who serve as a mentor to new teachers with a salary increase. Districts can reward teachers who work in underserved places like rural areas and inner cities. And if teachers consistently excel in the classroom, that work can be valued and rewarded as well.
Increase my pay when I teach more hours. I will not teach better, harder, more intelligently, or with greater adaptability if you pay me more money. Where is he getting this idea from, that more money produces better quality teaching? Bonuses for taking positions in inner cities won't cut it either. I have an idea: try lowering class size. Is that too difficult to understand?

Obama's site seems to be under construction, since there's a lot of repetition and funny stuff going on, like paragraphs on College Outreach under the Early Childhood Education section. In fact, when I tested the link above before publishing this post, they had taken the education page down altogether (temporarily, I guess, though it's still a day later).

Still, it's not just a matter of text editing. It's crucial that Obama puts together a program for America's children that comes from true blue educators — not corporations, think tanks, financial institutions or testing companies. He has to learn how to walk away from anyone wanting a piece of our education dollars. These people are in the business of education all right, but none of them have ever been much good at educating.

After I wrote this post yesterday, a comment showed up in another NYC ed blog about the failure of the chancellor's reforms. Joel Klein — a veritable darling of educorp — has certainly been around long enough for us to see some good stuff happening in city schools if it were there to be seen. Instead:
Klein has drained our schools of life, energy, experience and money.
That's worth repeating:
Klein has drained our schools of life, energy, experience and money.

I cannot imagine being a new teacher now in a NYC public school. Even if you come in with exquisite preparation, nothing works the way it did in your classes or your student teaching experiences. Yet, whole schools are now comprised of brand new faculty and administrators. And in every new small school which I have visited I find student artwork done with primitive materials -- construction paper, oaktag and markers. This is true for all of their assignments in every field of study. Students are creating charts by hand in a world where their counterparts in private schools can devise charts with computer programs and with the internet at their fingertips. They are producing hand drawn, stick figurines with magic markers and often, sadly, the writing on the posters they create is filled with errors of which a first grader should be ashamed. The flagships of the Klein administration are schools in which 30 or more children surround a 22 year old teacher who is working with little more than chalk and talk. And they are housed in old school buildings and forced to compete with other schools for classroom space. In the 21st Century. In The United States of America.
Floraine Kay
People making decisions right now at the highest level should take her words very seriously.

A picture says it all

New from David Bellel, which I'm putting up here hoping he'll send me a link to where he's posting it himself.

May it find its way into many blogs — from sea to shining sea.

Ednotes, by the way, is doing a great job putting together what might turn out to become a broad campaign against the selection of this leviathan to any cabinet position, much less education. See Scott's article "De-Kleining America — Updated," which supplies text and links to what a lot of people are thinking about this guy's extraordinary betrayal of the public trust.

November 2, 2008

Keep educating Obama

I'm kinda digging web technology these days. Maybe we can start taking back the country from all the yahoos who feel so comfortable in saloons (Joe Sixpack), zealotry and institutionalized ignorance.

I was impressed, for example, with the network of call parties. You volunteer to have one or more of these at your house, post the directions, and poof! you have 25 like-minded people fighting
phonecall by phonecall for the American way right from your own living room.

This time round you didn't even have to speak to more than a one or two Republicans. Each person got some lists of MoveOn members in swing states, and our sole function was to get them to go down and volunteer for a shift or two at the Obama office in their town. The most hostile response was: "You meant to reach my son. He's at college. Me and him don't vote the same way. Bye, bye." Or maybe: "I'm not voting for McCain. I'm voting for Bob Barr," which I can handle because that vote's not going anywhere.

You can STILL sign up to call these swing-staters and ask them to volunteer. I've been doing it even without all those fun party people by signing up at:, and hopefully you can, too.

At least try.

And if you need something to fire you up, let me tell you about the ALL-HANDS-ON-DECK! alert posted on The Chancellor's this morning.

It made me head out straight away to find a Contact Us link on the Obama website to tell him he should under no circumstances consider Joel Klein as his Secretary of Education. The site didn't have a such a link, but it did have something spectacular: an option to create your own blog right in the Obama internet heartland.

I could kick myself that I only found out about this option so late in the game. If only I had known about it a year ago, I would have tried to convince the senator that some of his educational choices were really turning me off.

Just a couple of weeks ago at the third debate I nearly fell off my chair when towards the end he called Washington's Michelle Rhee a "wonderful young chancellor." That was nine wasted months after my January post on Obama and his connections with Renaissance 2010 in Chicago. My main point at that time was:
The kind of unchecked privatization the country has experienced at the hands of the neocon ideologues over the past decade has meant that it is harder to distinguish the boundaries between governments and corporations. The players have a foot in each camp to varying degrees, and they are frequently all too willing to profit immensely from the public purse. The revolving door, as mentioned in the Shock Doctrine, has become a lofty arch.

How far each of the presidential candidates are willing to embrace the most manipulative and anti-social practices of corporate America is something that should be pretty much at the forefront of our thinking.
but there are also some George Schmidt paragraphs that are a must-read (he's the editor of the union rag Substance).

So here's the letter I wrote to him this morning via my new blog on "Please don't choose Joel Klein for Sec'y of Education." (Don't choose Weingarten either, by the way.)

It works fine from my Mac, but in case you can't get it, I'm posting it here as well, with a link to AVoiceIn's inspirational shout-out at The Chancellor's.
Dear Sen. Obama,

I am working very hard for your campaign in ways that I can, but mostly, I am working very hard for students and teachers in New York City.

In your third debate, when you called Michelle Rhee the "wonderful young chancellor" in Washington, DC, many of us were horrified. We are equally shocked to hear that you might be considering Chancellor Joel Klein for Secretary of Education should you be elected president. Klein has no credentials in education. He had to be waivered in by the state commissioner, Richard Mills (who has just resigned), to take the job and has no understanding of how kids learn or the best environment for them to learn in. Through union-busting and some pretty heavy-handed, profoundly suspect legal techniques, he has been systematically depleting the system of senior teachers and replacing them with a stream of grad student trainees — cheap, manipulable, and often transient — who do not have the experience or all the skills to get the job done.

Children are not computer bytes, and they can't be fully defined or assessed by numbers. They must each find their way through a maze of information, social differences, and personalities, ingesting what they can under the particular circumstances they find themselves in. In New York City, politicians refuse to lower class size and do little to address the social issues of our poorest communities. The current chancellor knows this, and he doesn't much care. He's engaged in social engineering with the most powerful sector of our society, the corporations and the very rich.

Klein's original restructuring of the school system was a very expensive shake-up, and the two subsequent attempts no more than do-overs. He hasn't made schools in this city any better than they had been, because it's obvious students aren't doing so well and neither are the teachers. He excluded parents and the rank-and-file from the decision-making process, poured millions into machines to crunch data for no practical purpose, and he neither respects or defends truth. He has also hired an expensive PR machine to sell his malicious agenda to a disengaged public, and maybe even to you.

Below is an article written by a long-term educator [AVoiceIn] every bit of it is true.

Obama has got to keep hearing from us about the corporate takeover of public education in this country, about social engineering, and the complete violation of the public trust. That's our new job.