May 30, 2009

ACES sounds like ICE

If you had a chance to read Randi Weingarten’s speech at the May 9th UFT Spring Education Conference, you might have thought the union president was preparing to run on the ICE ticket in the next election.

Because it's bits like these that have been central to ICE discussions for years, that problems in the schools have to be addressed within the context of larger social communities and that teachers should never be scapegoats for problems over which they have very little control:
It’s time for a new strategy — one that of course focuses on instruction, but also aims at the root causes of chronic school failure, one that addresses the needs of the community and its families. . . .

What would happen if we not only acknowledged that there are conditions in children’s lives that make it harder for them to learn, but actually did something about it?
The learning process itself depends first and foremost on the smarts and sensitivity of the teacher – the teacher who must discern how each child learns and have at her fingertips a panoply of strategies, materials and resources to provide just the right combination that will get through to each child. . . .

And that’s why, for reforms to be successful, they must be developed with teachers, not imposed on them.

But many influences merge in that moment the teacher reaches into her bag of tricks (actually, her reservoir of accumulated skills and knowledge) and comes up with just the right instructional solution.

Some of these influences are out of the teacher’s control. . . .

Teachers alone cannot cure a child’s asthma or repair a stormy family situation.
In fact, Weingarten's new “comprehensive school turnaround model to serve our neediest children in our most challenging educational settings” — she’s calling it ACES, Active Communities Enabling Success — smacks of the election platform ICE wrote back in 2004.

That document was put together by more than twenty dedicated, politically savvy educators with enormous classroom experience in New York public schools. I’m not going to post the whole thing here because there's a link to it on the ICE website in the left side column.

I don't want this union leader to go one step further casting herself as a visionary of ed reform without making it clear that the essential points of the program she’s introducing originated not in her own Unity caucus, but in the opposition — the same opposition she's taken great pains to marginalize and deride in the past few years. For proof, just look at the way she wrested the HS seats from ICE/TJC in the last election and the way she manipulates procedures at the delegate assemblies to get the votes to go her way.

So when Weingarten says that smaller class size is one of the things “we are still fighting for today," let’s remember it took her many years to make class size a real priority. In 2004, ICE not only pushed smaller classes in its platform, but criticized the Unity strategies that undermined them:
Small classes are the underpinning of an effective classroom, and are especially crucial where children have low performance levels and special needs. . . .

Our union leaders continue to undermine the fight for lower class sizes by:
— Not successfully tying class size to learning conditions.
— Adopting the strategy that a referendum was the only way of lowering class size. . .
— Continuing to support out-of-classroom positions which in fact contribute to large class size because it diverts money for pedagogical personnel away from the classroom. Included in this are the thousands of facilitators, mentors, staff developers, coaches, and teacher center personnel.
— Supporting currently mandated programs and strategies from the DOE, multiple grouping, balanced literacy, and the new math program, which are impossible to implement with class sizes over 18 to 20.

Our union’s position on class size should be:
— Class size limits comparable with other districts in the state and capped by contract
— No half-class size loopholes, and no excuses in overcrowded buildings where classroom teacher-student ratio can still be lowered.
And when Weingarten trumpets the importance of teacher input and skill in statements like these:
The learning process itself depends first and foremost on the smarts and sensitivity of the teacher — the teacher who must discern how each child learns and have at her fingertips a panoply of strategies, materials and resources to provide just the right combination that will get through to each child. . . . And that’s why, for reforms to be successful, they must be developed with teachers, not imposed on them. . . .

Teachers would be allowed to unleash their amazing creativity.
she not only hasn't protected us from the micro-management of our classrooms, but has for the most part condoned it. (Has anyone ever won a grievance under Article 24 for interference in the way we want to teach? That thing has absolutely no teeth in it, and she knows it.) ICE had to remind Weingarten in 2004 that she could be doing a lot more to protect us from zealous administrators trying to make their bonuses:
Basic trust in the professionalism and knowledge of teachers. The current school “reform” is premised on a distrust of teachers (as well as any independent-minded local school leadership) with change to be commanded from the top supervisory levels. Our union leadership is allowing the DOE to violate Article 24 of our contract, which states, “The Board and the Union agree that professional involvement of teachers in educational issues should be encouraged”, and provides procedures to work out differences between teacher and administrative judgment. With the DOE model, decisions about instruction are made prescriptively and through packaged programs, and place enormous restrictions on a teacher’s ability to service the needs of individual students.

— Teachers must have a say in what goes on in the classroom, a contractual right that is presently violated by the DOE.

— Teachers’ own practical knowledge should be the basis for change, rather than one-size-fits-all program.

— Planning for instruction and curriculum reform should be arrived at through respectful relationships among all staff.

On testing, Weingarten says that the ACES network she's proposing
would not shy away from accountability. But it would seek broader metrics than just test scores and graduation rates to measure its success. It would ask such questions as: Is the school safe? Do children come to school every day? Are they healthier, more engaged? Are they critical thinkers and problem solvers? Are they involved in community service? Are their parents active in the school?
Come on. ICE and many others have made this point all along — not to mention the fact that whenever she's given credence to test scores and school grades, she’s buying into the DoE’s corpothink. And she gives credence to these all the time (see here, for example). Here’s ICE in 2004 on testing and long-term education goals:
Ending the misuse of city- and statewide tests, which increasingly distort the curricula and misrepresent true academic performance. Standardized test results can be a tool for evaluating instruction and pointing out where extra resources should be focused. But the current accountability model with its simplified goals and objectives results in students and teachers alike becoming prisoners of the achievement numbers game. This model also ignores any accountability for long-term learning goals or the kinds of learning that might give educators and students cause for satisfaction.

Good teachers develop an awareness of how children actually learn. The premise that children will learn more when they are subjected to weeks of teaching-to-the-test methodologies, that they become more successful students when strict standardized levels are set for them, or that they respond positively to threats and punishment are ideologically driven beliefs, contrary to what we know as experienced educators. An additional consequence of high stakes testing is that those children most in need become a liability to a school which then leads to an attempt to pass them off to another school instead of addressing their needs. . . .

— Teachers must play a primary role in judging student levels and progress from elementary school through high school.

— Students should have the opportunity to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.

Weingarten is now envisioning schools as hubs of community involvement. I guess she was unaware how much ICE has been advocating broader services for kids and fostering strong relationships between schools and the communities they serve:
Our long-term teachers could be a valuable resource in reaching out to the community and together formulating models for success.
Using teachers’ knowledge of their students’ communities as a basis for building successful schools. This includes the culture, history, experience and knowledge which the families and communities bring to this process. Neither the DOE nor our union leadership has an appreciation for how spending years, or even decades, working in the same neighborhood might yield valuable knowledge. Union leaders support the assumption of the school system managers that teachers are replaceable parts and will be fine with that as long as they have transfer rights and the guarantee of a job . . . somewhere.
Remember this was written way before Weingarten negotiated a contract that allowed for the ATR debacle.

Weingarten has always pushed PD, oblivious to how inappropriate so much of it is. In this speech she says teachers “would help shape the professional development they need" and help deliver it.

Sorry, but ICE already called for that years ago:
Meaningful professional development. Presently new and less experienced teachers are not allowed to grow into good teachers. They are not given the opportunity to try strategies and take risks. Ill-prepared and poorly trained administrators, coaches, regional personnel (some still politically appointed), have reduced professional support to a checklist with the intention of instilling fear and intimidation. The UFT has allowed these methods to distort teacher training and leave teachers open to attack.

— The UFT should be demanding school-based professional development determined by teacher need.

Lastly, does Weingarten think she’s saying something new when she concludes that:
As a community, we can let teachers teach and managers manage, but we can also help one another. We can make all our schools work for all our kids by pitching in together, not walking away and leaving the hard work to others.
I hope not. Because ICE laid it all out quite clearly five years ago.
Our union must stand up to the scapegoating of teachers for the problems of our school system. It must work to build coalitions of teachers, parents, active community members at the school and citywide level, and employees of other city agencies so that we can’t be played off against one another by the mayor and Department of Education.

We need a union that will lead and fight for an education system that meets the needs of all the students in our city, an overwhelming number of whom are poor and of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. It would take enormous changes and massive resources to correct the inequities in our society, but well-run schools with well-trained staffs, good programs, supportive services and small classes can bring about improvements for all children. To think that communities with vast economic and social differences can succeed with identical monetary resources is a mistaken notion and a popular political ploy.

The union leadership must be ready to expose such lies and not allow failures in our society to fall squarely on the backs of teachers and our union. Our union must also challenge all the various schemes to destroy public education by diverting money to private schools through vouchers, to DOE-funded charter schools or by hiring private companies to run public schools, which can only further polarize both our educational system and our society.

I challenge anyone to claim that Weingarten is forging new paths with her ACES proposal.

There only two innovative thoughts in this whole speech: that Bloomberg has ever been willing to take responsibility for the troubles in the schools ("In fact, even the UFT admired Mayor Bloomberg’s willingness to take responsibility, and many of us still do") and that this mayor and this chancellor are ever going to enter into any "collaborative, coordinated, comprehensive school turnaround model" with the union, educators and school communities any time soon.

May 27, 2009

Terms of use, whether you like it or not


A teacher got a letter-in-the-file for not using our school data management computer enough. Without divulging the name of the system (I don't know how many schools have it), it is accessible from school computers through an https:// address. This is the first time I've heard that someone has been formerly disciplined about the use (in this case, the non-use) of computer data. It doesn't look good.

For the 100th time: WHERE IS THE UNION???

A blog I wrote a couple of weeks ago about my first experience with ARIS — that’s the system the DoE bought when it went on a technological shopping spree with taxpayer money — made me reassess my relationship with school computers.

Don't get me wrong, I like computers. I especially like them when I have a fair degree of control over who gets to know when I’m online, what kind of stuff I’m doing there and whom I’m writing to. ARIS will not give me those pleasures, and I will probably resist using it as long as I can.

Within a week of that post, I was refused access into my school email account and could only get back in by re-registering and accepting the DoE’s “Acceptable Use Policy” (AUP). I don’t remember doing that before, but maybe I did, when I was less burnt by this system. In any case, I hope that their forcing me to re-register was part of a general housekeeping exercise and that they weren't just targeting me. Did everyone’s access to nycboe get cut within the past couple of weeks?

Being wary of anything the DoE does at this point, I decided to actually read the AUP they were telling me to sign off on before I could get back onto the system. If you're interested in the whole text, it's online here.

It’s not that I oppose a system that tells you what you can and cannot do when you're on it. What I thoroughly oppose is that we've been forced into having a DoE email account in the first place and then told all kinds of stuff about how it has to be used.

For one thing, by making us sign the AUP, someone — whether it’s a local administrator or a higher-up at Tweed — is telling us to give up a right to privacy. While it is true that privacy is not an iron-clad Constitutional right, courts over time have sought to give it some definition, as explained in this passage:
The Constitution does not specifically mention a right to privacy. However, Supreme Court decisions over the years have established that the right to privacy is a basic human right, and as such is protected by virtue of the 9th Amendment. The right to privacy has come to the public's attention via several controversial Supreme Court rulings, including several dealing with contraception (the Griswold and Eisenstadt cases), interracial marriage (the Loving case), and abortion (the well-known Roe v Wade case). In addition, it is said that a right to privacy is inherent in many of the amendments in the Bill of Rights, such as the 3rd, the 4th's search and seizure limits, and the 5th's self-incrimination limit.
Here's the 9th Amendment, for those who haven't memorized it: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

Way down in the AUP's clause on Privacy, there's this startling remark:
e) System users have no privacy expectation in the contents of their personal files and records of their online activity while on the Department system.
Must we agree to this? Backing up a bit, there’s this:
a) The Department reserves the right to use "cookies" on its site. Cookies are computer programs that . . . store information about a user on a computer hard drive or disk. Information stored includes, but may not be limited to, the date and time a user visits the site and information about the user’s activities while online. Any information gathered is obtained solely for the purpose of improving the Department’s services and providing the system with statistical information to assist in improving teaching and learning by teachers and students respectively.

Except as otherwise provided in this Internet Acceptable Use Policy, the Department will not use cookies to gather personal identifying information about any of its users. Personal identifying information includes, but is not limited to, names, home addresses, e-mail addresses and telephone numbers.
I’m not so worried about the “personal identifying information” mentioned in the 2nd paragraph above. What I am very worried about is the kind of “statistical information [the DoE will gather] to assist in improving teaching and learning.”

That’s because I don't much trust the DoE’s methods to improve teaching and learning. Just look at its abysmal record on class size reduction, the misrepresentation of test results and graduation records, its campaign against senior teachers and the way it stocks schools with so many uncertified and possibly transient educators, and its fake accountability/grading systems to achieve the data outcomes they desire.
Users should be aware that their personal files may be discoverable in court and administrative proceedings and in accordance with public records laws.
At this point, I’m saying to myself I really don’t want any part of this thing.

And right after that I’m asking: Don’t we have a Union to object to our being forced to sign onto such an invasive system?

It’s worth noting some other things in the AUP, like the section on “Freedom of Expression," which talks solely about the items set forth in the Bill of Student Rights and Responsibilities: there's absolutely no mention of free speech for staff.

I’m also not crazy about the clause in “Inappropriate Language,” which tells users not to use “rude, inflammatory . . . abusive or disrespectful language” or engage in “personal attacks,” but I can live with it, since there are so many other places where we can talk about the BloomKlein debacle — and talk about it we really must.

It's rather quaint that we have been given permission to engage in "incidental use" during our duty-free time ("staff may be permitted to use the Internet for purchasing a book for personal use during their lunch hour"), though I don’t know many teachers who have luxury of a duty-free lunch. Maybe that's what goes on at Tweed.

The AUP says that teachers who make their own web pages must “provide a resource for others." They don't mean like this one, of course, though I frequently quote from primary sources. Web pages created on DoE computers must “reflect well upon the Department, district and school,” which is really the kind of thing we used to expect from the Soviets or Chairman Mao.

There's a fair amount of talk about violating these AUP rules: employees breaking the rules "will be handled by appropriate discipline.” It's not that I’m intending in my lifetime to surf salacious sites on school computers or hurl obscenities at anyone in Outlook Express. But, there’s a good deal of ambiguity here. Just how critical of Joel Klein and Tweedledom can one be on a DoE computer without being disciplined? Have they assigned a team of ├╝bersnoops to monitor the internet activity of critics like myself? And what might be that "appropriate" discipline alluded to above that would keep me and others like me in line?

If the truth be known, I saw a ray of hope in this sentence:
The Department may revoke Internet access in its sole discretion.
That would suit me just fine, because then I wouldn’t have to read all that self-serving crap administrators always circulate to staff. And if my principal really wanted to speak to me, she’d have to send me a note in my mailbox or just pick up the phone, without an infinite number of people getting CC or BCC copies.

Talking about e-mails, the AUP not only orders us to use it “frequently," but be sure to do certain things when we’re on it, like delete unwanted messages “promptly.” Fine if the system were optional, but it isn’t. First they force us to have an account, and then they tell us how and how often to use it.
It's as if they have boundary issues or something.

Lastly, I would be remiss in not citing these paragraphs on the DoE’s “Acceptable Use Guidelines” for emails.
"Acceptable" e-mail activities are those that conform to the purpose, goals, and mission of the DOE and to each user's job duties and responsibilities . Users shall have no right to privacy while using the DOE's internet or e-mail system . E-mail may not be used for personal purposes during working hours, except that users may engage in minimal e-mail activities for personal purposes, such as family correspondence, if the use does not diminish the employee's productivity, work product, or ability to perform services for the DOE.

"Unacceptable" use is defined generally as activities using DOE hardware, software, or networks at any time that does not conform to the purpose, goals, and mission of the DOE and to each user's job duties and responsibilities . . .

NOTE: Users may be subject to limitations on their use of e-mail as determined by their supervisor. The DOE reserves the right to examine any/all e-mail or Internet correspondence for security and/or network management purposes.

Violation of this e-mail policy may result in disciplinary action.

The underlining is editorial, and on the grounds of these bits alone, we should all consider boycotting the whole system.

Weingarten, you're a lawyer. Doesn't any of this offend you?

May 17, 2009

"Shut down the mayor, not public schools!"

UPDATE: See the end of this post for an important link.

That was what they chanted at the May 14th rally against School Closings. And they're dead right. No one should be closing schools without fixing them.

I see it as a kind of gerrymandering.

If in politics you manipulate the boundaries of an electoral constituency to get a desired electoral outcome, the mayor and his ed machine at Tweed have built an entire apparatus for shifting tax dollars to private entities.

They've manipulated scores and designed a non-transparent, highly suspect school grading system.

They skipped the next step, which would have been to change what's not working in particular schools. Instead, they just c
losed them down.

Or broke them up.

They've rabbit-punched the contract, defied laws and mandates that got in their way (e.g, special ed violations, no-bid contracts, state graduation requirements), marginalized the parents and kept them guessing. All in a day's work.

In other words, make failure, declare failure, then throw money at charters, foundations and big business to create a new set of schools with new rules, not all of which are in the public interest.

This mayor is not for New Yorkers. He's from and for a class of people who want to keep another class of people out of power, and that's gerrymandering.

The NYCLU put out a report on May 14th called "Civil Rights, Transparency, Accountability Suffer Under Current Mayoral Control Scheme." Here's what Exec. Director Donna Lieberman said in an email NYCLU members received just today:
The current regime of absolute, unfettered mayoral control is incompatible with a safe, effective educational environment. For our schools and our children to be as successful as they can be, parents must be a part of the educational process and the core democratic principles of transparency, accountability and public participation in government must be respected. The Legislature must close the loopholes that have given Mayor Bloomberg and the Department of Education unfettered discretion over education policy.
The report documents the NYCLU's
. . . tremendous difficulty in obtaining basic data and records on these issues from the DOE and NYPD through the Freedom of Information Law. The NYCLU’s experiences are not unique. The DOE routinely withholds from parents, the media and elected officials raw data on student performance, student safety and the education budget. . . .

Under the current mayoral control system, Mayor Bloomberg and the DOE flout state and local statutes intended to assure public oversight of agencies with rulemaking power. For example, new Chancellor’s Regulations – rules that affect the lives and education of New York City’s children – are never subject to the 30-day public notice and comment period required by the City Administrative Procedures Act.

Among the eight changes they're calling for are these: (a) delineate the position of the DOE within the existing structure of city government, (b) increase public oversight, (c) strengthen the parental voice in policymaking, (d) allow for public engagement in the decision-making process, (e) mandate data transparency, and (f) create an Inspector General to protect integrity, conduct independent audits and investigations, etc. These are for starters, to restore the public trust.

Back to that rally . . .

You can read about it on Ednotes (thanks to Norm Scott), watch it on YouTube, join GEM (Grassroots Education Movement) like so many groups have done, and do some homework on the corporate takeover of public education and the people from Obama on down who are guilty of orchestrating the educorp coup.

And most importantly, you can be there for the next round.

. . . Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Our federal and state governments have checks and balances so no one person has total control, which is a synonym for dictatorship. . . . Under this mayor, charter schools get the best of everything, including small classes and new technology.

. . . We need a chancellor who works for the kids, not the mayor. The chancellor needs to fight for what's best for kids whether or not the mayor agrees. He can't do that if the mayor can fire him for not following his orders.

This mayor boasts about accountability. Teachers are accountable. Principals are accountable, but the only time the mayor is accountable is once every four years. That's not enough, particularly for a man who is prepared to spend $100 million to buy reelection and who scoffed at the voters by changing the term limits law they twice affirmed.

Four more years of this system guarantees the privatization and destruction of public education in New York City. That's a prospect we should all oppose.

[Arthur Goldstein, teacher]

May 16, 2009

New info on LIFs! Just kidding.


After I posted this blog piece last Saturday, ICE's James Eterno provided some more commentary on the same LIF presentation. He was at the May 13th Delegate Assembly where grievance head Howard Solomon unveiled it to all and sundry.

I could not attend, but am thankful to James for taking the time to lay out the history of this ever-deepening giveback and show how UFT management is trying to spin the current contractual wording into gold.

It's another must-read on the ICE-blog. One of many.

Here's something on Letters to the File that union management has just made available to chapter leaders. I tried to access it without a password but couldn't.

I can't figure out why we all weren't allowed to see it. Is this stuff secret or something?

Maybe it's just too stupid. Making it available to everyone might be too embarrassing.

This presentation on LIFs is strategically useless. No fight to remove a letter from your file is going to make a principal click his heels in joy. There was a reason you got a LIF, and it probably has nothing to do with the kind of respect, professionalism, collaboration, improvement, or sound educational environment the contract seems to call for.

Principals are out to intimidate you, one by one and collectively. They've been trained and encouraged to do it, by a chancellor who has recently put out a presentation saying "Principals never lose," or words to that effect. Fight to get that letter out of your file and you'll continue to be on the principal's shitless, maybe even deeper than before.

Union management sold us out on the grievance process. They know it, we know it. The difference is that these bumblers keep getting a nice piece of our salaries and there's no way either to fine them for their crummy negotiations or get them out of office. The system is so rigged they can't be replaced without sinking a huge portion of your personal money into an election run.

So, here's what they've made available to chapter leaders, for what it's worth. (There are a few sample documents I've not included.)

Raise your hand if you think that will do any good.

Yes. And exactly how many people get their licenses taken away for such trivial items? In other words, so what. These are just tools to keep the troops in line. No one is going to lose a license over this stuff.

And have fun. You might get that meeting, but you won’t change the LIF.

What decade is union management living in? A response these days not only won't get you anywhere, but could possibly make the principal even more combative. After all, many of these newbie administrators are very inexperienced people. Some are not even educators, and most are not in this game for the kids. If you are a good writer, you can really get under their skin. If you are a poor writer, better not show anything you put on paper to an arbitrator. It will certainly color his opinion of you as an educator.

Why bother, or what’s so good about this? If you are incorrectly reprimanded for attendance, the letter in your file shows the principal, not the teacher, is in violation of the contract: you shouldn’t have gotten an LIF on attendance in the first place. If you’re found guilty of corporal or verbal abuse, the LIF is nothing compared to the charge itself, and if the charges are unsubstantiated, do you think filing a grievance to get your LIF on this removed from the file is going to endear you further to your principal? In most cases it's probably better to just let it rot there (thanks, RW) and take it out of your file when its time is up (3 years).

I have an idea.

Let's tell all those union management people — who just loved the idea of PD for all — to go get some PD for themselves. Maybe even an internship for a year in a real school.

We're up against an army of corpocrats and their generals, people who seek power for power's sake. Union management doesn't have a clue about the reality of what we're dealing with. If I'm wrong and they do, their band-aid approach to this abuse is stunningly anemic, or . . . they're collaborating big-time.

Pissed On asked what I left out (that's so cute, a guide to how to give up tenure), so here's a sample of one of the last pages:

May 9, 2009

A taste of ARIS

I got my first ARIS training the other day.

It was a short session, probably the first of many they have in store for us, but I had enough after about 10 minutes.

We were shown how to log on, follow a few links, and see how much information we could access about all our students. Not bad, I thought, but then I started calculating how much information the DoE could learn about me while I was logged on.

Let me say first off that I do know what I can expect of writing stuff on-line, and I don't like anyone being able to snoop around in my business when I haven't told them they could. (I have enough trouble with the feds doing that behind our backs and without a warrant.) Use ARIS and you're giving the DoE tacit permission to monitor your professional work habits really up close and personal.

The first task in our training was to create a "group" out of the student data. By way of example, they showed us how if we twiddled this or that, ARIS could automatically group all the LTAs (Long Term Absences) in our classes into one big list.

Pardon me, but any teacher worth his salt knows exactly who is not coming to class, and no computer is going to make it any clearer. Now, if they invented a way to make phonecalls home to the parents of these kids, and keep making them when the line is busy or track them down when the phone is disconnected or the voicemail is full, then log those calls in automatically and send some documentation over to the principal to show you've done some prodding — then I'd say they've got something really useful. But to tell me what I already know without being able to sort out the truancy issues is simply outrageous.

Let me withdraw that. It's not outrageous, because I forgot ARIS is not actually designed to help teachers. It's designed first to monitor teachers, and then to project an image of a kind of high-tech proficiency — a perfect system, in fact, for the Madison Avenue types of Kleinworld and not for common sense, hands-on educators like ourselves.

The second part of our training just left me flabbergasted. They showed us how within the ARIS system we could — wait for it — communicate with other educators through the internet! I'm talking MySpace, Facebook and Twitter kind of stuff. Private subscriptions, public ones. We could throw some questions out there to see if anyone responds and share our thoughts with other educators.

They didn't mention that Big Brother could be very interested in all that sharing and communicating. Who on earth would believe that anything we do in ARIS would really be private.

Spending $80 million on a blogging system that exists everywhere for free is inane.

Let me withdraw that. It's not inane, because I forgot ARIS is not actually designed to facilitate communication. It's designed first to monitor teachers, and then to pretend it wants to facilitate the sharing of ideas. Puh-lease! When was the last time the DoE ever showed any interest in creative thinking at the teacher level. They've been too busy with one-size-fits-all methodology and teaching to the test for more than a decade.

ARIS is neither helpful or amusing.

It is costly, not particularly innovative, deceptive and invasive. The DoE could service us much better by providing a working computer and printer in every classroom, and sending over a supply of paper and extra ink cartridges. They should design a system so teachers don't have take attendance two or three times a day, generate and disseminate copies of any relevant IEPs to every teacher required by law to get them, and most of all, guarantee we're not being monitored when we communicate and share ideas with teachers down the hall.

May 5, 2009


We all got a letter today from the chancellor, and I'd be putting it here for a some comic relief except no one's laughing.

Not the teachers forced to use methodologies they know don't work.

Nor those who have to teach to the test.

Not the educators in closed or closing schools.

Not the educators who are threatened into doing all kinds of things by principals to push the promotion and graduation rates up.

Or the guidance counsellors and social workers whose caseloads are too huge to handle.

Not the ATRs.

Not the people in the rubber room who haven't done a thing to hurt children.

Certainly not the ones who got fined by arbitrators with questionable motives and directives.

And not any of the members in our union whose rights are being violated by administrators backed by and maybe even encouraged by Tweed.

Did I leave anyone out?

Dear Teachers,

Every day of the year, your talent, passion, and dedication open up new worlds of possibility for our children. I can’t thank you enough for what you do. Today, as we celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Day, I would like to recognize the difference you make in the lives of our City’s 1.1 million children.

Day after day, you push your students to gain the academic, social, and emotional skills they need to succeed. You develop innovative ways to help them understand important concepts. You tirelessly work to reach students who need extra support. You go above and beyond, enriching students’ lives by exposing them to the arts, sports, and other forms of culture.

And your work has paid off. More of your students are graduating from high school than ever before. Your efforts have helped more students to meet and exceed State standards in math and reading. Thanks to you, New York City’s children are making real progress.

Your efforts demonstrate the dramatic impact great teachers have on students; teachers have the power to help students overcome extraordinary odds, equipping them with the skills they need to become engaged, productive citizens.

It’s what you do everyday that helps New York City students succeed—but it’s also your creative ideas and innovation that make a difference. Here are just a few examples of special things that our teachers have accomplished this year:
A group of elementary school teachers from Brooklyn spent their mid-winter break in New Orleans building a home for those in need this year, later constructing lessons for their students around the importance of service and social action.

Teachers at a high school in Queens designed a physics lesson—based on Archimedes—incorporating a fun cardboard boat race for students.

Students at a Manhattan school learned the importance of taking action to protect the environment when their teachers helped them launch an advertising campaign encouraging people to use less paper.
I know that your work is not easy—but the results speak for themselves. Your commitment to our children is inspiring. On behalf of all New Yorkers, thank you for all that you do for our children.


Joel I. Klein

This thing is so transparent you can look right through it. Every last line.