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.


  1. great post--I'm sending a link of this to the principal of my school who thinks technology is the answer to everything.

  2. Thanks.
    You're on speaking terms with your principal?

  3. Hard to believe, I know!

    We argue about lots of things but he is the first principal that actually respects what I have to say. He's new and young. I don't expect it to last, but I am enjoying it while it's going on.

  4. You should get robocall. It slices, dices and is ignored by parents of LTA's.

  5. Yes, we have it, and I totally agree. Robocall does a great job training parents to disregard school messages.

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

    What a gross distortion of facts. And the paranoia that permeates every one of your posts, which I recognize as indicative of the unfortunate experiences you have endured in the past, shouldn't prevent you from at least attempting to learn more about your students and their acadmicic performance. I fully empathize and recognize the difficulties you you experienced, but to summarily dismiss collaboration with similar colleagues using the platform provided, touches more on your skepticism.

    Teachers should be pleased to be able to access information pertaining to their students, their lack of (or attainment) of standards, and other information that you - or your colleagues - may find to be of use.

    As they say, keep what is worth keeping and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.

    As for the cost of the system, one one year and a couple of months of ATRs would have covered the cost of this system a while back.

    You seem like a nice person. I just get the sense that you me be just a little too beaten down.

  7. a. If I have negative feelings about the DoE (you've incorrectly used the word paranoia), they come from gross teacher abuse to me and other educators for as long as BloomKlein has been in office.

    b. As to your implication that I do not care about my students, see para. 2, in which I specifically say in reference to just this point: "Not bad." Can you read?

    c. I do not have one single breath of kindness for these cruel, unqualified people who are dismantling public education instead of putting things right.

    d, Who are you? A teacher? A foil? At least we're clear that I am a teacher and I work in the system?

    e. If I appear "beaten down" (which I'm not, I'm teaching my head off every day every period) -- doesn't that tell you something? No education system should be beating teachers down. This one is.

  8. f. Forgot about your whack at the ATRs.
    I hope you're laying the blame for that fiasco on the DoE, where it rightly belongs. Close schools, encourage principals to hire cheap, maniputable untenured teacher trainees instead of experienced teachers, and farm out hiring to outside organizations — who also attack the ATRs and label them as failing teachers — and that's what you get. A lot of high-paid subs and destroyed careers.
    You couldn't possibly have made that comment if you were a teacher — unless you are pretty young and think it can never happen to you.

    g. You are not denying the DoE has access to everything anyone does in ARIS. Until someone proves the system is private, it's plain judicious for anyone who doesn't buy into the educorp agenda to find somewhere else to do their sharing and communicating.

  9. You are clearly redefining the word teacher if all you seem to be doing is hurling invectives and spewing hate-filled messages. I feel sorry for your students if this venom leaks into your classroom lectures.

    In your redefinitions, how about you become the student and learn facts instead of posit how everything works. I went to nearly the same training, and it was proven ARIS remains an unmonitored share. I am not a technology expert but I am certain you have a number of misconceptions on how ARIS operates. Good luck.

  10. What with Rubber Rooms, ATR's, and public school closings to make way for profiteering charter schools - Bloomberg, Klein, and the DOE are not to be trusted with anything they get their hands on, educationally. Mayoral Control was given to help the system - they are only helping themselves and their privileged friends. The trust is gone.

  11. I attended several ARIS trainings for administrators over the past two years. In theory, the system sounds great. However, the problem is, it never works the way it is supposed to. Every time we attended a training, we had to work around the information that wasn't present, only to be promised that it would eventually be there - which it never was.
    The amount of money wasted is incredible, and dare I say, shameful.
    But then, isn't that the way this administration has been running things?

  12. The truly troubling point in your post is your mention that ARIS is able to organize lists of LTA's in a given teacher's classes. This ability of the program will immediately reveal large lists of LTA's in some teachers' classes. Who but the teacher will be blamed for this, regardless of how students were programmed by administration in the first place? Teachers with longer lists of LTA's will doubtless be classed as boring and inept, or out of touch with students' needs. Just gives credence to your claim that ARIS is really there to monitor the teachers.

  13. Don't we have twelve dollar grade books to keep track of our students academic performance?