Secretary Spellings Forced to Admit Lack of Qualifications for the Job

    Thank goodness Susan Ohanian is back from vacation. She came up with this gem where a member of Congress who actually was a teacher and principal questions the education chief officer of the USA. Oy vey!


    I got to see Spellings in person at the Manhattan Institute luncheon where there was an entire table of UFT suits (and suitesses) hobnobbing with the very people who are killing real education. See that post here. And Susan's satirical (and hysterical) post on Spellings' declaration of a non-testing day.


    Ohanian Comment: Take a look at this short segment of Rep Mike Honda's questioning of Secretary Spellings on if and how she is highly qualified for her current position. It is refreshing to see a politico cut through her hot air snowballing and get right to the point.

    — Congressman Mike Honda
    House subcommittee hearing
    2007-03-26

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zSJexw0Gvs&mode=related&search=

    And while you're at YouTube, take another look at these excellent videos:

    Test the Kids

    NCLB Truths and Consequences

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Secretary Spellings Forced to Admit Lack of Qualifications for the Job


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Broad Jumping II - From The Wave


    by Norm Scott

    The following article appeared in The School Scope column in The Wave, September 21, 2007 and summarizes some of the previous pieces on Eli Broad on this blog.

    BloomKlein Win! BloomKlein Win!!
    Shout it from the rooftops. Toss the confetti in the air. Have a party.
    The BloomKlein gang at Tweed are suffering rotator cuff damage – in both arms– from patting themselves on the back for their victory, announced on Tuesday, in winning the Broad [pronounced Brood] prize.
    Who is Eli Broad and why is he using his billions to help destroy public education in the major urban school systems?
    Therein lies a long tale and I’ve elucidated much of it on my ednotesonline.com/ blog.

    Broad has simple answers to complex questions. Nationally recognized educational historian Diane Ravitch sums it up:
    “About 18 months ago, I was invited to meet Eli Broad in his gorgeous penthouse in NYC, overlooking Central Park. I hear that he made his billions in the insurance and real estate businesses. I am not sure when he became an education expert. We talked about school reform for an hour or more, and he told me that what was needed to fix the schools was not all that complicated: A tough manager surrounded by smart graduates of business schools and law schools. Accountability. Tight controls. Results. In fact, NYC is the perfect model of school reform from his point of view. Indeed, this version of school reform deserves the Broad Prize, a prize conferred by one billionaire on another.”

    Deborah Meier, a nationally respected progressive educator for the past 40 years says:
    “I am afraid. Truly. I think the mayor of NYC, and Eli Broad, are perfectly happy about a future in which most teachers come and go every five or so years. Temps. Easier to manage and harder to organize. A few will rise to leadership positions after a few years of teaching—after getting MBAs?—and the rest of the leaders will come from other fields like law, business, and the military.”

    Leonie Haimson and a number of other parents sent a letter to the Broad Foundation:
    “We urge you not to award the Broad prize to NYC this year. As parents and teachers, we have witnessed one incoherent wave of reorganization after another over the last five years, leading to unnecessary chaos and in many cases, disruption of educational services. None of these changes have been planned or undertaken with any consultation of the stakeholders in the system. “Instead of transparency and accurate information, we get spin and PR. Though overall, the amount spent on education has risen, there is no evidence that a larger percentage of resources has gone to the classroom, despite repeated claims by DOE. Instead, each year the headcount grows of highly paid officials at Tweed, as well as the number of multi-million dollar consultants. “…as recent news reports have revealed, the 4th grade exams in both ELA and math were much easier in 2005, when the largest gains in NYC performance occurred, putting into doubt their validity.”

    The full text is available at nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/

    David M. Quintana, a parent active in District 27 wrote:
    “As one of the four (4) parent participants in a focus group held at Tweed for researchers from the Broad Foundation, I am disappointed in the fact that NYC received the Broad Foundation prize today. “This group of parents, handpicked by Martine Guerrier of the Department of Education (DOE), expressed uniform disappointment with the various changes put into place by DOE, the lack of transparency and accountability, and the lack of consideration given the views of parents about what their children really need to succeed. “Clearly the Broad Foundation did not take parents views into consideration when awarding this prize to NYC today. “I feel that the DOE is totally dismissive of parents views and makes short shrift of our concerns for our children (i.e. - class size reduction, cell phone ban, school bus fiasco, numerous reorganizations of the DOE, et al).”

    Quintana’s resume is not a light one:
    District 27 Presidents Council - Recording Secretary
    District 27 Representative to Chancellors Parents Advisory Council, Queens Community Board 10 - Education Committee and Queens Borough President's Parents Advisory Council member

    And the reaction of teachers on the front line to the national recognition of BloomKlein for doing wonderful things in “reforming” the NYC school system? I would bet my pension that 95% of them are laughing (or crying) themselves silly. And they would be joined by a hell of a lot of supervisors too.
    I wonder what kind of prize is given to the CEO’s of corporations that have absolutely no respect from the bulk of the people that work for them? Oh, I know. The Broad prize.

    Et tu Randi?
    It should be clear to teachers in the trenches that they are fighting a 2-front war -– against BloomKlein and their own collaborationist union.
    There was a picture of UFT president Randi Weingarten with Joel Klein giving her a big hug and kiss at the Broad Prize Awards ceremony in Washington. (It would not be impossibility for both Klein and Weingarten to end up in a Hillary Clinton cabinet, though I am betting Randi goes to the AFT presidency in July, tries to become the head of a united NEA and AFT and then moves on to John Sweeny’s job as AFL-CIO head.)
    Boy, for someone who regularly charges the UFT collaborates with the forces looking to destroy public education, it doesn't get any better than this.
    Last year, Broad gave the UFT Charter schools one million dollars.
    Of course the UFT is saying the Broad prize is deserved, due to the teaching corps, "the best ever" in their words. Funny how they can argue that experience counts for teachers and then negate that argument by saying a system that has an enormous influx of inexperienced teachers, 50% of whom leave after 5 years, is the best ever. See Debbie Meier’s quote above.
    Then they validate high stakes testing, which is the instrument by which the Broad prize is given, negating so much of what their own task force on testing reported last year.
    And to further seal my contention that the UFT leadership are collaborators (I compare them to the French Vichy in WWII) against the interests of their own members –
    The UFT commissioned a study of whether the ELA tests were easier in 2005 (teachers marking the exam at IS 180 at that time confirmed it at the time), thus enabling Bloomberg to use the “wonderful” results as part of his election bid and as a means to springboard him on the national stage as an masterly (funny that my spell checker first came up with “miserly”) educational reformer. When the study showed that this is exactly what occurred, Randi Weingarten ordered the results to be hushed up. Were it not for a leak to NY Sun reporter Elizabeth Green she would have gotten away with it.
    Confused? Did the UFT PR machine lead you to think Weingarten and Klein are enemies?
    Let Uncle Normie untangle it for you.
    Both Democrats and Republicans are pushing the business/factory model of education that has caused so much misery to so many teachers, students and parents, albeit with slightly different twists. And the Clintons are in it right up to their necks. Now follow the bouncing ball.
    Eli Broad, when attacked as a right-winger, responds that he is a Democrat.
    Who is Hillary Clinton’s main supporter in the labor movement? Someone who is dedicating all her resources to getting Hillary elected? You guessed it. Our girl Randi.
    Who worked for Clinton before he became NYC chancellor?
    Bingo!

    Want to do some more surf Broading? Check the ednotesonline.com blog.

    More next time with a few words on Howie Schwach’s praise for Al Shanker. Needless to say, I have another view.

Post Title

Broad Jumping II - From The Wave


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Urgent: Students and Teachers “At Risk”in D79 Reorganization

    John Lawhead, the ICE web site admin, posted Marjorie Stamberg's very excellent piece that she handed out at the Chapter Leader meeting the other day.

    The last time I posted something on District 79, Randi Weingarten told people that my post almost killed negotiations with the DOE. (Not the first time Weingarten just makes things up, but at least this blog has one regular reader).

    Hey! This may be a rare occasion where Weingarten isn't trying to manipulate peopIe

    give me a minute so I can stop laughing –

    so I'm not posting it here in full.


    Sorry - I can't seem to stop –

    I wouldn't want to mess anything up - Sorry again –

    between the UFT

    and the DOE.

    OK. I'm recovered from my fit.

    I can't resist a few quotes from Marjorie's leaflet.

    "Why did D79 teachers have to read about their situation in the Daily News and The Chief before it was finally reported in the New York Teacher?"

    "
    We need our union to fight for the kids and the teachers of D79!"

    Read the whole thing, as she raises some great questions. I've heard all too many teachers say the union has no business fighting for the kids. These teachers just don't get it. Aside from being the right thing, improving things for kids also affects teachers' working conditions. Marjorie points out that there are ATR's from District 79 while kids are tossed out of schools. If they were back in schools these teachers would not be ATR's. Get it now?

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Urgent: Students and Teachers “At Risk”in D79 Reorganization


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Robots Are Us

    While it may appear that writing and organizing in the UFT is my major activity, since I retired 5 years ago I've been even more involved in the NYC robotics community through volunteer activities with NYCFIRST, the local incarnation of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology) which puts on various tournaments for kids from age 6-high school all over the world.

    My focus has been the FIRST LEGO League, where teams of kids from age 9-14 build and program robots out of LEGO materials. That makes for an interesting competition with 4th/5th graders competing on the same playing level as 9th graders. (And they do pretty well.) There are over 8000 teams world wide.


    A team from a public elementary school at the tournament at Brooklyn Tech last year. The teacher has left after 2 years to start a program at a private school, citing the high class sizes as a reason. (See, I can combine robotics and ed politics.)

    We are just completing the registration procedure for this year and at this point have 180 NYC teams from all 5 boroughs, mostly from public schools. We have grown so much that we are running events in each borough in December. All of these events are mostly run by high school kids from the senior robotics teams at Brooklyn Tech, Stuyvesant, Aviation, Lehman and Staten Island Tech, along with their great teacher/coaches.

    The top 80 teams will go on to the citywide at Riverside State Park at the end of January. The winning team there may have an opportunity to go to Atlanta for the World Festival, which includes teams from all over the world. I went last year and had a blast. One of the interesting highlights was seeing teams from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordon and Israel interact. And teams from different Chinas - Hong Kong, Taiwan, Shanghai.

    A bunch of us from NYC may be going to Japan at the end of April to assist with the Asian Open tournament. Konichiwa.

    This Saturday we are holding a kickoff event at Polytechnic U. in downtown Brooklyn from 9-1. Stop by if you are in the area. Or come on down to one of the events in December and think about getting your school involved for the future. You can check it all out at my robotics blog .


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Robots Are Us


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Giving up on the UFT Delegate Assembly

    The following was distributed at the UFT citywide chapter leader meeting on Sept. 25.

    Education Notes has been distributed at almost every Delegate Assembly since 1996. Roughly 100 editions of the paper, in various formats from mimeographs to full newsprint tabloids.

    The last regular print edition of Education Notes will be distributed at the October Delegate Assembly and will only publish in print when there are special issues on the table.

    Why stop now?

    Ed Notes began when I was a chapter leader and delegate as a means of establishing a regular communication with the members of the Delegate Assembly to counter the Unity Caucus spin.

    The initial purpose of Ed Notes was to inform delegates of motions I was going to present in advance to meet the “has to be printed if 3 lines or more” rule. I would inform Randi Weingarten before the meeting where I was sitting. Initially, things worked out, with Randi even declaring to the DA “I love reading Ed Notes.” But then again, I wasn’t overly critical of her and Unity Caucus at that point, thinking that as a new President, she would bring a breath of fresh air to a union that was in much need of reform. I also felt that with New Action being such a weak (and pathetic opposition even then) that only by getting Unity people to back reforms would we see the kind of democratic changes that would prepare for the coming attacks. New Action even began spreading rumors that Randi was funding Ed Notes. Ironic in the light of New Action’s total sell out in years to come.

    At some point it became clear that I was being avoided when Weingarten wasn’t happy with my motion, even canceling the new motion period (the only opportunity for rank & file delegates) at one point. I angrily told her that in all my years at the DA (since 1971) neither Shanker nor Feldman had ever gone that far. The final straw came in 2001 when I spent 4 months trying to get a motion calling for the UFT to reject all schemes that hint at merit pay. That was followed soon after by Weingarten’s endorsement of mayoral control, a clear disaster for members of the UFT. (I had been in touch with George Schmidt in Chicago.)

    It was clear there would not only be no reform under Weingarten but she would take the control and manipulation of the membership to new heights. And so she has. At that point Ed Notes went into opposition mode which led to the formation of ICE by supporters of the paper after the New Action sell-out left a void.

    I won’t go into the history of the past 5 years. Just look at your schools and the state of the union at the school level where pre-UFT conditions prevail in so many places. From Kahlenberg’s new Shanker bio: “Shanker was assaulted by a student, but when he asked for help from the principal he was told, ‘This would not have happened if you had motivated your students.’” That was 1952. “Administrators were in a position to play favorites, assigning some teachers to ‘administrative assignments’ and others to the most violent classes. At long drawn out faculty conferences “teachers sat there seething.”

    Back to the future.

    So, why stop publishing the print edition of Ed Notes now? Ed Notes continues to be more active than ever on the ednotesonline blog. But with Unity Caucus more tightly in control than ever and a DA that reminds me of the Roman Senate in the declining years of the Republic, the idea of reaching out to people at the Delegate Assembly seems fruitless.

    Weingarten has turned the DA into a farce. Why not just put up a video of her hour long report on the web and save everyone the trip?

    The past few months of last school year took things to a new level. With 10 items waiting on the agenda, a deputy mayor and DOE reps from the reorganization are brought to the April DA and a meeting gets extended until after 6:30. One blogger, a member of New Action, actually complained about this on his blog. Where was he at the meeting raising a protest at the outrage? Only silence. And silence from most of the opposition, including some of my colleagues in ICE. They seem to have given up on the DA too.

    The outrage continued at the next DA when Manhattan chapter leaders, who voted 19-1 to call for discussion at the June DA on a rally against the reorganization, had their resolution overwhelmingly defeated. Nothing better illustrates the disconnect between the schools and the Unity Caucus leadership when nineteen chapter leaders representing probably a thousand to fifteen hundred members are turned down in the attempt to discuss - I repeat “Discuss” - the idea of a rally. (By the way, are you still happy with the cancellation of the May 9th rally?)

    But it went further. When Kit Wainer rose to defend himself against Jeff Zahler’s red-baiting attacks, Weingarten had the nerve to suggest that the body read all 10 resolutions while he spoke so they could be voted on en masse. When someone objected, she incredulously said, “Well, people have been waiting for these for so long, it is not fair to obstruct them.”

    No one called a point of information to remind the delegates about the deputy mayor and all the DOE people at the previous DA. Farce, indeed!

    At that point I said “Enough.”

    It seems the overwhelming majority of delegates and CL have accepted the rationale of the Unity spinmeisters that the UFT leadership bears absolutely no responsibility for the events of the last 5 years. They are coated with Teflon. Similar to the way BloomKlein have become the heros of the nation for basically destroying the union at the ground level. It confirms a new insight - that the most important job in the world – one I would urge any young person to go into – is public relations.

    In fact, the UFT leadership have been enablers of BloomKlein. And all too many members of the DA have been enablers of the leadership. If they won’t look at themselves in the mirror and see that the conditions for most rank and file teachers resemble those that existed before the birth of the UFT, there is no point in Ed Notes trying to convince them otherwise.

    I pity the rank and file. To survive they have to fight a 2 front war – against a horrendous assault on them by BloomKlein and with a collaborationist leadership that has shown a masterful ability to coopt and deflect any hint of militancy that might arise. I can go into numerous examples but you will have to read them on the ednotesonline blog, where daily I post the outrages of the BloomWeinKlein team.

    Have I given up? Not at all. Not with the loads of emails coming in from teachers in schools all over the city that have been decimated by BloomKlein who are screaming for a union that will truly stand up for them. Increasingly, teachers are beginning to take action on their own, in small groups. The U-rated, rubber rooms, ATR’s are beginning to make their voices known. The biggest threat they face to this movement is from a union that will leap in to gain control of them by promising action with words, not deeds. They will get high level meetings which will impress them no end. But in the end the most vocal might get a behind the scenes transfer or some special deal that will separate them from the rest of the group.

    Deflection, cooptation, delay. Or form a committee.

    I will continue to work with ICE and support TJC. But from now on I will only attend Delegate Assemblies purely for the entertainment value – and for the post DA visit to a local pub with the regular DA gang. Join us. If you are an independent delegate, skip the meeting and go directly to the pub where the real delegate assembly will take place.

Post Title

Giving up on the UFT Delegate Assembly


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Carnival of Education is Open

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Carnival of Education is Open


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NYC Public School Parents: GBN News Editorial: Let Them Speak

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NYC Public School Parents: GBN News Editorial: Let Them Speak


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Teacher Advocacy Group NYC (TAGNYC): TAG Confronts Klein at PEP Meeting September 24th

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Teacher Advocacy Group NYC (TAGNYC): TAG Confronts Klein at PEP Meeting September 24th


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TAG NYC Crew Rock at the PEP...

    ....and Patrick Sullivan was pretty fine too with a resolution on military recruitment plus lots of good questions and comments for the Tweedles:

    "Mr. Cerf. I'm from the corporate world, not education. But our human resources people take a good hard look at retention rates as a measure of effectiveness."

    And I got it all on tape. Details later.

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TAG NYC Crew Rock at the PEP...


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Eduwonkette on Teacher Effectiveness

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Eduwonkette on Teacher Effectiveness


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Q&A From a Chapter Leader on Rubber Room



    CL: Due process/speedy trial and all that it entails are rights that we as citizens have. Those same rights cannot, as a matter of course, become abrogated by a contract. Our own contract states that even if any part is deemed illegal, the rest of the contract stands.

    So, why is it that teachers can be pulled out of the classroom without even knowing why?

    Shouldn't that be totally illegal????

    EdNotes: Of course. The argument by the DOE and the UFT is that they are getting paid. A proactive union would never allow this and would raise so much hell about it. But the UFT/Randi is worried about image and a potential article in the NY Post that they are protecting a child molester. So, they would rather let 50 innocent people be railroaded than risk the 1 bad apple. There is a % of guilty people but the union should be saying publicly that it is their job to provide a rigorous defense to everyone but they don’t do that. Instead they make public pronouncements about how they want to "help" the DOE get rid of people. Thus Randi gets points nationally from the anti-union forces for being a "progressive" union leader, meaning she is perfectly willing to make "adjustments" to contractual rights.

    On the other hand, the screams of the people are beginning to be heard and with the potential national impact of blogs calling Randi a sellout, she is trying to make it look like they will do something-- she has assigned Ron (back-stabbing worm) Isaac, Betsy Combier and reporter Jim Callahan to visit the rubber rooms and come up with suggestions - I hear Staten Island RR people are organizing with tee shirts and something might explode at some point as much against the UFT as against the DOE. So she is trying to let the air out of the balloon.

    CL: The argument that one is getting paid is irrelevant. People in jail still are able to earn income from their investments, yet they are in jail.

    They have been removed, and I am curious if they (union and board) are liable for any health problems that are exacerbated by these tribulations - ala if one robs someone, and that person has a fatal heart attack, the perpetrator is guilty of homicide.

    There is no need to go to rubber rooms for suggestions. Any constitutional lawyer can tell you that the process, as it stands now, is flawed. The union should send some of their retainered lawyers to work on this.

    The union should be defending the people, realizing that there is always the bad apple, just as there are bad cops, bad doctors, etc. does not permit the warehousing of teachers. The damage done cannot be undone by licking one's paws.

    EdNotes: One day soon we must explore how Ron and Betsy got jobs at the UFT.

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Q&A From a Chapter Leader on Rubber Room


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Monthly PEP Meeting

    Monday Sept. 24 at Tweed, 6-8pm. Sign up time for speaking is 5:30.

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Monthly PEP Meeting


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TAG Members to Speak at PEP


    On Monday, Sept. 24, a group of teachers from the Teachers Advocacy Group NYC, many of whom have unfairly been given U-ratings and/or sent to rubber rooms, plan to take 2 minutes each to force the members of the Panel for Educational Policy to look into the faces of teachers who have been savaged by the policies of the BloomKlein administration.

    They will do so with dignity and style, befitting senior teachers who have been slated for obsolescence.

    Their blog states: "We represent teachers and counselors who have been excessed, unfairly U-rated for political reasons, teachers forced into ATR status, and high-salaried and senior teachers who have been discriminated against. We feel abandoned by the United Federation of Teachers, which by its silence is allowing Bloomberg and Klein to destroy our careers."

    TAGNYC can be contacted at their blog and at tagnyc@hotmail.com.

    Ed Notes will be there to support them while UFT will be holding one of their rubber stamp Executive Board Meetings.

    Monthly PEP Meeting: Monday Sept. 24 at Tweed, 6-8pm. Sign up time for speaking is 5:30.

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TAG Members to Speak at PEP


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Lois Weiner on Shanker, NCLB and Neoliberalism


    Right wing conservatives have turned the term "liberal" into a dirty word. To the left, neoliberals are even worse.

    Former UFT'er Lois Weiner wrote a great piece on Neoliberalism a few years ago for New Politics. I posted the entire article with a link to New Politics on
    Norms Notes. Here is the section on Al Shanker:

    Although Albert Shanker, AFT's longtime chief, died in 1997, his organizational stranglehold on the union, his political compact with social conservatives, and his leadership of the segment of the AFL-CIO that has collaborated with the U.S. government in subverting popular movements throughout the globe, were continued by his co-thinker and replacement, Sandra Feldman, who recently resigned the AFT presidency due to poor health. (Readers can find a fuller discussion of Shanker's politics in the obituary of him Paul Buhle wrote in New Politics, or the one I wrote in Contemporary Education, Summer 1998. ) The similarities between Shanker's vision for school reform, which because of his iron-clad control of the union were de facto those of the organization, and the neoliberal program manifested in NCLB are apparent in his article, published posthumously, in the Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy (Fall 1997).

    If we ignore the article's curmudgeonly asides and focus on its main argument, Shanker's agreement with the major portion of the neoliberal educational program is apparent. First, Shanker contends that U.S. schools are far worse than those in OECD nations because we offer too much access to higher education, or as he formulates the problem, we have an insufficient amount of academic "tracking." We don't start early enough to put students into programs that prepare them for their vocational destinies, so he advocates putting all students into vocational tracks sometime between grades 5 and 9. In their earlier grades, they should have a curriculum based on E.D. Hirsch's project for "cultural literacy." Although he maintains that in these tracks students must all be held to "high standards," his use of Hirsch's curriculum signifies that instead of engaging first-hand with primary sources, reading, appreciating, and perhaps creating literature, students will memorize facts about the "great" (white men) of history, the arts, and science. He bemoans the absence of a system of high-stakes tests with really harsh penalties for failure, the absence of mandatory national curriculum standards, and the presence of far too much tolerance for student misconduct. Shanker assails the laxity of the pre-NCLB curriculum standards, which were additionally problematic for being left to the states to execute.

    Shanker adds that some standards can be too "vague -for example, ‘Learn to appreciate literature.'" Note how Shanker's breezy dismissal of the standard about appreciating literature echoes the OECD's rejection of international assessment in "reading for literary experience." Although Shanker used his weekly column in the New York Times, paid for by the membership, to ridicule the national standards developed by professional organizations of teachers of the arts, rejecting them as grandiose and unrealistic, his own children attended school in a suburban district with excellent arts programs -- and no E.D. Hirsch curricula. Union members had not formally endorsed many of the positions Shanker adopted, for instance rejection of the standards in the arts, and recent surveys of teachers, in cities, suburbs, and rural schools find even less support now than there was at the time Shanker advocated many of his positions about standards and testing. Yet because of the AFT's bureaucratic deformation, of which the indictments for graft in the Miami and Washington, D.C. locals are shamefully graphic illustrations, the opposition to the AFT's vocal, unwavering support for testing and "high standards" scarcely registers at the national level. Most of the biggest locals are so bureaucratic that rank and file challenges to the leadership must be about fundamental practices of democracy, in order for classroom teachers' voices on issues of educational policy to be heard.

    The NEA generally can be counted on to adopt liberal positions on the important political issues of the day, although its positions do not necessarily represent those of its members because its organizational structure is also bureaucratic -- but in a different way from the AFT. The AFT is a federation of locals so the state organizations have small staffs and little power. The AFT constitution contains no term limits for its president who has little direct control of local functions. Shanker masterfully exploited the post of AFT President to promote himself and to trumpet his political views on a wide-range of opinions. He did so by using his domination of the massive New York City local to leverage control of the state and national organizations, ensuring that his political views received a formal stamp of approval from the union's executive council while never being debated at the local level. Shanker ruled the national staff with an ideological iron fist, employing only people who agreed with him -- or were fired.

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Lois Weiner on Shanker, NCLB and Neoliberalism


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Maybe It Wasn't Shanker After All - Updated

    Read the additional update below from the AFT blog with an addendum from me and brief history of the opposition in the UFT from Shanker times on.

    Posted by Alexander Russo on September 20, 2007 on his edweek blog.

    "One of the most interesting of the 20-something mostly irate comments on my
    Huffington Post article claims that Shanker doesn't deserve credit for unionizing the teachers because David Selden was the true visionary and was replaced by Shanker in a power struggle along the lines of Stalin and Trotsky. Hmm. Guess I skipped that chapter in Kahlenberg's book."


    Ahh! Now we're getting to the source of Jeff Zahler's red-baiting attack on Kit Wainer who ran against Randi Weingarten in last spring's UFT election. I am into just the 2nd chapter of Kahlenberg's book ("Tough Liberal") and there are many themes and contradictions emerging. Like Shanker's "commitment" to democracy and vehement opposition to totalitarianism, while at the same time setting up the Unity Caucus system of governing the UFT that would make your average run of the mill dictator envious. Kahlenberg's index doesn't even mention Unity Caucus. Maybe it's a figment of all our imaginations.

    I won't even go into the issues of his support for all the very things that have led to the undermining of the very union structure he helped build. Reading an account of
    Shanker's humiliating experience as a teacher in the 50's sounds so much like today. But then the UFT leadership would say he didn't have big, bad BloomKlein to deal with in those early years of organizing (Maybe it really was Selden). Poor babies, they have it so hard.

    Not that I am new to this stuff since I was part of the opposition to
    Shanker in the 70's and even attended Shanker's coronation as AFT President at the AFT convention in Toronto in 1974 where Shanker stabbed Dave Seldin in the back and turned the AFT into an agent of his foreign policy.

    We'll be doing a lot more on
    Shanker as I am working with Bruce Markens on a review of the Kahlenberg book for New Politics. Bruce was in this thing from the early 60's and ended up being the only elected UFT District rep that kept beating the Shanker machine (even though it was run by Feldman at the time.)

    I hear old timers say that Shanker must be turning over in his grave over saw what is happening to teachers in schools today. I don't agree. He would be perfectly comfortable as it is a system inherited from him.

    And in many ways, Randi Weingarten is more adept at selling this kind of stuff to the members. She's much more socially adept than Shanker (or Feldman) and much more of a politician - in the Clinton "We feel your pain" sense.

    When Feldman/Shanker chose their successor, they knew exactly what they were doing. And it is in this sphere where Weingarten is far behind them - never secure enough to cultivate someone strong enough to run the UFT effectively in her absence. That may prove to be her bete noire.

    Posts on Unity Caucus red-baiting can be found here, here, and here

    Also check out the Century Foundation slightly biased roundtable discussion on Shanker's legacy. There are some powerful political forces behind the Shanker resurrection. And none of them bear well for teachers.


    UPDATE from AFT blog:

    Shanker in Our Times
    September 21, 2007 12:28 PM

    I am currently reading the new Shanker biography the Washington Way--I am looking up names in the index and then seeing what people said, or what is said about them, in the text. (C'mon, I work here, it's all part of the intrigue.) So, who did I start with? Bella Rosenberg. And, in the short section on NCLB, Bella says:

    "Al believed in eradicating achievement gaps, group distinctions . . . But Al also knew that since the beginning of time, there had been individual variability," so a performance standard which requires 100 percent proficiency by a certain date "is just a human impossibility."

    In reading over that section, I thought, gee that sounds familiar. Who was it, who was it, oh yeah, it was Amy Wilkins at Ed Trust who recently said in press release a on the Miller-McKeon bill:

    "The 2013-14 deadline for proficiency is a powerful disincentive to raising standards. If we are going to ask states – and students – to climb a higher mountain, we need to give them more time to get there . . ."

    So, it only took Wilkins five years and half years of NCL to realize what Shanker knew intuitively over ten years ago. He was a man ahead of his times. To read some of the reviews of his biography, click here.

    Oh, and if you really want to understand what makes the AFT tick, read the sections on the Social Democrats with care. I, myself, never realized that Yetta Barsh, Shanker's assistant, was married to Max Shachtman.

    Ed Notes comment:
    Back in the 70's we used to talk about certain ironies in the fact that Yetta Barsh held the gateway to Shanker.

    It is worth reading the Wiki about former Trotskyite Shachtman to get a picture of the underlying roots of the UFT/AFT.

    Here's a piece:
    Social Democracy. After Shachtman's death in 1972, many social democratic Shachtmanites rose to prominent positions in government and organized labor. Supporters of Social Democrats USA (SDUSA) in the labor movement included Albert Shanker (president of the American Federation of Teachers), as well as AFL/CIO presidents George Meany and Lane Kirkland.


    The Opposition in the UFT: A brief, down and dirty history

    With the main opposition to Shanker coming from Teachers Action Caucus, a Communist Party dominated group, the Stalin/Trotsky wars were being fought out in the UFT beneath the surface. With the rise of the New Left in the 60's and 70's, new groups of Trotsky derivatives began to surface in the UFT. As oppositionists, they could not work with TAC and therefore became part of the opposition independent of TAC.

    TAC was opposed to the '68 strike and for years were branded as strike breakers, an unfair label, as that strike had so many connotations beyond labor issues.

    The group I was with (Coalition of NYC School Workers), independent left-wing but anti-left political party - by this I mean, we viewed people who joined left political parties came into a group with a priority of organizing for their party and not for the group – occupied a middle position within this milieu and anti-CP (Communist Party) leftists gravitated to us.

    Ultimately (1975-6), some of the Trot party people saw they weren't going to get anywhere and split off into New Directions along with others who felt the CSW were too cerebral and not action oriented. The dichotomy in New Directions led to a split there with the Trot party people left out in the cold and they ultimately formed a group called Chalk Dust while ND was left with the more middle of the road right wing elements. Eventually, ND and TAC merged (around 1990) into what is currently New Action and some of the Chalk Dust people evolved into Teachers for a Just Contract. New Action still has the old TAC/New Direction dichotomy with the NA core people still coming from the old TAC.

    Thus, the roots of why New Action and TJC would find it impossible to work together go a long way back.

    ICE (Independent Community of Educators) was formed 4 years ago from the original people involved in the old CSW from the 70's and people who worked with Education Notes, which began publishing around 1996 as an alternative point of view to New Action and TJC. The word "Independent" in the name of the organization was very important, reflecting those same feelings from the 70's when the CSW was in the middle of the ideological battles between the Social Democrats, CP and Trots.

    That battle still goes on, as does the red-baiting on the part of Unity Caucus.

Post Title

Maybe It Wasn't Shanker After All - Updated


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What Makes a Quality Teacher? Part 1

    revised

    They all say it: Joel Klein, Christopher Cerf, Randi Weingarten, Bill Clinton, Eli Broad - the entire mishpucha. "The single most important factor in education is the quality of the teacher."

    The Quality Teacher issue is one worth exploring and we will do so in a series of posts.

    Does the
    quality of the kids and their families have any impact at all on the quality of the teacher? This is a question loaded with implications. We won't go there yet.

    The focus on the QT issue, naturally leads to the conclusion that when students and schools fail, there can be mainly one cause - the quality of the teacher. That is the most important factor, isn't it? Hey! They all said it.

    Why would a leader of a teachers union go along with this idea when it can only lead to the "blame the teacher" witch hunt mentality with all the consequences — U-ratings, rubber rooms, loads of useless PD [professional Development for those not familiar with educational gunk words], total control of what to teach, how to teach it, when to teach, etc. (often decided by supervisors who have spent 10 minutes in the classroom,) is beyond some people.

    But then again you have a chancellor and union president who have spent 10 minutes in the classroom.

    There are lots of answers - from – "the UFT is in the PD business and stands to profit from PD, certainly in that scads of jobs are created for the Unity caucus faithful" to "the UFT leadership basically lines up with the rest of the
    mishpucha philosophically - as befitting of people who think they have answers to educational issues but do not have much teaching experience to really make these judgements. I have not heard many working [classroom] teachers make the claim that "The single most important factor in education is the quality of the teacher."

    I guess they're not part of the
    mishpucha.

Post Title

What Makes a Quality Teacher? Part 1


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Teacher Advocacy Group NYC (TAGNYC)

    ... added to blogroll.

    A group of NYC teachers have had enough.
    With BloomKlein
    And the UFT.

Post Title

Teacher Advocacy Group NYC (TAGNYC)


Post URL

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Vichy, Anyone?

    New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein, second right, hugs United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten as Eli Broad, left, and U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings look on. Broad is announcing that NY City won the annual Broad Prize for corporate suck-up district of the year.
    - Susan Ohanian

    http://susanohanian.org/cartoon_fetch.php?id=461


    Boy, for someone who regularly charges the UFT collaborates with the forces looking to destroy public education, it doesn't get any better than this.

    Of course the UFT is saying the Broad prize is deserved and is due to the teaching corps, "the best ever" in their words. Funny how they can argue that experience counts for teachers and then negate that argument by saying a system that has an enormous influx of inexperienced teachers, 50% of whom leave after 5 years, is the best ever. Then they validate high stakes testing, the results of which the Broad prize is given, negating so much of what their own task force on testing reported last year.

    And then there's Green Dot and Broad and the UFT - perfect together.

Post Title

Vichy, Anyone?


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BloomKlein WIN!

    BloomKlein WINNNNNNNNN!!!

    Say the above using your best John Sterling "Yankees Win" voice!


    You can fool most of the people most of the time


    But not all...



    David Quintana rains on the parade

    As one of the four (4) parent participants in a focus group held at Tweed for researchers from the Broad Foundation, I am disappointed in the fact that NYC received the Broad Foundation prize today.

    This group of parents, handpicked by Martine Guerrier of the Department of Education (DOE), expressed uniform disappointment with the various changes put into place by DOE, the lack of transparency and accountability, and the lack of consideration given the views of parents about what their children really need to succeed.

    Clearly the Broad Foundation did not take parents views into consideration when awarding this prize to NYC today.

    I feel that the DOE is totally dismissive of parents views and makes short shrift of our concerns for our children (i.e. - class size reduction, cell phone ban, school bus fiasco, numerous reorganizations of the DOE, et al)

    Thank you.

    David M. Quintana

    District 27 Presidents Council - Recording Secretary; District 27 Representative to Chancelors Parents Advisory Council, Queens Community Board 10 - Education Committee and Queens Borough President's Parents Advisory Council member

    http://davidmquintana.blogspot.com/

    "never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; it's the only thing that ever has" - Margaret Mead

Post Title

BloomKlein WIN!


Post URL

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Why is Joel Klein Broading?


    Joel Klein has headed down to Washington for the announcement of the Broad Prize. He is expected to come home with a check for $1 million. At least he stays even with the UFT which got its own one mil from Broad last year for its charter school. (Wouldn't Broad be doing a lot more for American education if he spent his money buying a sports teams like other billionaires?)

    Here are a bunch of articles, posts, etc. on Eli Broad on Norm's Notes with direct links. Graphic shamelessly copied from the NYC Public School Parents blog.

    Eli Broad's article "System Failure" in "Democracy" reveals the shallowness of his vision for American ed. Read our quick and dirty critique here along with his complete article.

    Diane Ravitch comments on Broad in her regular featured conversation with Deb Meier on Ed Week. She thinks based on Broad's narrow view of education, BloomKlein do deserve the Broad prize. I wish Ravitch would expand her criticisms to address the national assault on urban public schools.

    Leonie Haimson and 50 NYC parents take the position that NYC doesn't deserve the Broad Prize and have sent a letter to that effect to the Broad Foundation.

    Deborah Meier responds to Ravitch where I include her comments on how mayoral control was a gimmick in the NY Times in Sept. '02.

    George Schmidt, editor of Substance, comments on how Broad's vision leads to totalitarian school systems (did Broad really write that article for a mag named "Democracy"?) with the creation of all sorts of expensive job titles.

    In his inimical style, Sean Ahern savages Ravitch et. al. endorsed the schools takeover which they now bemoan. Could it be that the ("Recall that Ravitch and the UFTeducrats were promised a secure perch that has at least for the moment been pulled out from under them? Maybe they hitched their wagons to the wrong horse?").

    I do not agree with Sean's point of view at this time in history. While a feel the UFT still backs mayoral control and are enablers and collaborators, I give Ravitch the benefit of the doubt. I commented:

    Diane Ravitch has enlisted in the NYC school wars - on the right side. While she focuses on BloomKlein, her nationally recognized voice is very welcome as a counter to the BloomKlein spin. As she continues to reexamine her positions I expect we will be hearing a lot more.

Post Title

Why is Joel Klein Broading?


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Broad Jumping


    There are lots of warning signs in this post. Even if the governance law in NYC is changed to allow for more oversight, it is clear the takeover artists who have captured so many urban public school systems and put them under what is in essence private management (Broad, Gates, et al decide public ed policy) will never allow their poster boy in NYC to fall from their grasp. So watch the money pour in to assure a continuation of BloomKlein (with new surrogates) in perpetuity.

    The
    BloomKlein gang at Tweed are suffering rotator cuff fatigue from patting themselves on the back for their expected victory for the Broad [pronounced Brood] prize, which will be announced Tuesday, Sept. 18 at high noon in Washington DC. Some people are saying they do not deserve the prize. But if you follow Broad's anti-union, simplistic business model of education, it is clear that BloomKlein and Broad are perfect together. Want to have some fun? Watch the UFT dance around this one. Broad is a major benefactor of UFT partner Green Dot charters. And they also received $1 million from Broad for their own charter school. And, oh yes, Broad is a lifelong Democrat. Emphasis on the large D. I've posted a whole bunch of Broadisms on the Norm's Notes blog.

    Here are some more resources sent by John Lawhead culled from Susan Ohanian.
    http://susanohanian.org/


    Gary Stager's "Bill Gates and Eli Broad Go Gangsta" makes for some great reading.

    You may have heard by now that bad boy billionaires, Bill Gates and Eli Broad, are kicking it together. They invested $60 million (lunch money) in the Strong American Schools Project, also known as ED in ’08. They hope that this charitable non-profit organization “will catapult the need for improved public education to the top of the 2008 presidential candidates’ agendas.”(Heszenhorn, 2007) One can hardly criticize an effort to get presidential candidates discussing critical education issues, but it is unclear if Gates and Broad should be steering the agenda.

    It is disingenuous that Gates and Broad are investing $60 million just to inspire spirited debate.
    “One complication, however, is that ED in 08, isn't just pushing candidates to have some real education agenda; it also wants them to support a specific trio of policies: more learning time for students, common academic standards across states, and tying teacher pay to things like subject specialty, performance, and working in high-poverty schools.” (Education_Sector, 2007)
    Read the full article (with videos)
    http://districtadministration.com/pulse/commentpost.aspx?news=no&postid=48233

    Also check out:

    An 2004 article from San Diego Reader.com on Eli Broad's impact on the San Diego schools. Guess who was instrumental in running them? Our old friend and former chancellor Anthony Alvarado (playing the role of Diana Lam to Superintendent Alan Bersin's Joel Klein). He had a Leadership Academy which was Klein's model and installed his then girlfriend (and now wife) Elaine Fink as the head (at a cool $250 grand a year). Those numbers ought to warm Eli Broad's cockles as a sign of the efficient management he loves so much.

    The article shows how even when there is public school board oversight, the Broad forces will go to no end to gain contol over the schools by pumping lots of money into school baord elections while trying to hide that this is what they are doing.

    Here is an excerpt:

    A champion of public school "reform," Democrat Broad, a longtime Bersin ally, has a history of hiding his financial support of the superintendent's efforts to retool the school district.

    Broad's involvement in San Diego school politics dates back to summer and fall 2000, when Padres owner John Moores (along with Moores's partner, downtown real estate mogul Malin Burnham) and Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs spent more than $720,000 on a campaign of television spots attacking Democratic board incumbent Frances Zimmerman and her opposition to Bersin's policies.

    More than two years later, after the foundations filed 2000 tax returns, it became clear that Eli Broad had used his own nonprofit, tax-exempt foundation to funnel his contributions to the two eastern charities that had given the money to the anti-Zimmerman advertising campaign.

    A May 2001 tax return showed that in 2000, the Broad Foundation contributed $110,000 to Essential Information, according to a letter signed by Broad himself. "I am pleased to inform you that the Broad Foundation has approved your recent grant request to support Essential Information's efforts to encourage citizens to become active in public education issues in their communities.

    LA Weekly had a great article in July 2006 on how Broad operates, in this case vis a vis LA Mayor Villaraigosa's attempt to gain control of the LA school system in an attempt to mimic Bloomberg. But there's a very different dynamic in LA with a reform teachers union putting up a bit more resistance than the UFT in NYC. Plus the fact that the Mayor's old job was not a billionaire entremanure, but a union organizer.

    Here are a few excerpts:

    Broad, who made his fortune developing the outer sprawl of Southern California, has long fancied himself something of a policy maven on public schools, telling anyone else who would listen that the mayor needs control over the school district’s budget, its curriculum and — most importantly — its salary talks with the powerful teachers union.

    With all that behind-the-scenes advocacy, it wasn’t a surprise that Broad sounded a bit betrayed in his June 30 letter to Villaraigosa in which he admonished the mayor for playing footsie with the unions and reaching a compromise that allows the elected school board to keep a few duties, including contract negotiations. Read more at:

    http://www.laweekly.com/news/news/where-did-the-love-go/14052/



    Broad is all over the place – at least where he can steal an urban school system. Here's one more from Willamette Week in Portland, Or. Why doesn't he take a shot at Scarsdale? Oh, right, those schools work -and they spend 20 grand per schild with low class sizes - not in Broad's lexicon.

    While Portland Public Schools loudly debates closing some schools and reconfiguring others, teachers and parents are worried about a much quieter but significant long-term development for local education.

    They're troubled by how entrenched billionaire Eli Broad's Los Angeles foundation, which is devoted to making schools more businesslike, has become in Portland schools.

    They're raising red flags about the private Broad Foundation's payment for all seven Portland School Board members to take weeklong training sessions in Utah and its help with funding two key district positions.

    But it's not just the teachers union that's alarmed by the foundation's influence.

    Parents like Anne Trudeau of the Neighborhood Schools Alliance, a grassroots parents group, see a right-wing tilt to Broad's ideas that she considers a poor fit for progressive Portland.

    "I don't think our school board are puppets of Broad," Trudeau says, "but I think the influence is insidious."

    [Broad] Foundation spokeswoman Karen Denne rejects any charge that the foundation is right wing, noting that Broad is a "lifelong Democrat."

    http://www.wweek.com/editorial/3226/7507/

Post Title

Broad Jumping


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Welcome Baaaack! - The Wave

    This School Scope column

    .. appeared in the Sept. 7 of The Wave (www.rockawave.com)

    (The Wave has been Rockaway's community newspaper since 1893. Norm took over the column from current editor Howard Schwach in Sept. 2003.)

    Even though I wrote a column for the Wave’s special education edition weeks ago, this feels like the first column of the new school year – the year of Power to the Principal – with the BloomKlein theme of “If it goes wrong, we know whom to blame.” One would think education issues would be dormant with schools closed. Not so.

    The column reprised and updated the following items covered on this blog.

    What's the Real Difference Marcia Lyles?
    How Weingarten Helped Undermine Almontaser
    NY Times does another puff piece on Klein

    The complete column is posted at here at Norm's Notes.

Post Title

Welcome Baaaack! - The Wave


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Bloomberg/Klein Solve Iraq War

    Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein have unveiled their plan to end the war in Iraq.

    Each terrorist will be paid $50 for each bomb they do not throw.

    Potential suicide bombers will get an extra bonus - a number of volunteer virgins have been signed up to substitute for the ones they would have received.

    Al Quida members will be allowed to enroll in the Leadership Academy if they renounce terrorist activity and be put on a fast track to become principals. "Al Quida members have demonstrated the perfect traits we are looking for in our principals," said a spokesperson for Tweed.

    Osama bin Laden has been offered Christopher Cerf's position if he comes out of his cave. "We love his new look," said the Tweed spokesperson. "He will be in charge of making sure School Leadership Teams have no teacher input."

    The Eli Broad Foundation has promised BloomKlein they are guaranteed to win the Broad Prize, which will be announced on Sept. 18, when Bin Laden is installed in his new office space in Tweed.

Post Title

Bloomberg/Klein Solve Iraq War


Post URL

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The Carnival is Open

Post Title

The Carnival is Open


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Randi's Question for Klein on Colbert Tonight


    Brian Lehrer asked Randi for a question Colbert should ask. And it is...

    "What is the funniest thing he ever did and who knows about it?"

    Hmmmmmm. What does she know that we don't?

    How would Klein respond?
    "Got the UFT to allow the gutting of the contract and use it's own PR machine to try to make sure no one knows about it."

    Add your own. Best response wins an all expense paid trip to the next UFT Delegate Assembly.

Post Title

Randi's Question for Klein on Colbert Tonight


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Can we collaborate? Pleeeeeeeeze

    I've been calling the UFT collaborators for years.

    Now they are actually using that word in their commercials.

    They say the umpteenth reorganization by BloomKlein that gives power to the principals (all too many of whom are either power hungry, ego-driven, and manipulative or incompetent or just plain nuts) is an opportunity for teachers to collaborate. See, all you have to do is just ask. And spend probably a million bucks to do it.

    Pleeeeeeeeeze! Will you let us collaborate?

    You see, things like holding a rally and using political muscle to demand there be penalties when teachers are denied the right to sign off on basic decisions go too far.

    ICE's James Eterno, chapter leader of Jamaica HS, has posted a good piece on the ICE blog about how BloomKlein are trying to give principals total control over the Leadership teams.

    James faults the UFT for not waging a stronger fight:

    "We should be mobilizing to bombard the DOE with emails to A655comments@schools.nyc.gov opposing any change to A655 that would weaken shared decision making. Wasn't the revitalization of the School Leadership Teams, not their weakening, one of the gains we supposedly made in negotiations to "postpone" the big rally last spring with the teachers, parents and students? It looks like the UFT is waging an extremely low key opposition to yet another attack on us."

    My guess is that Tweed is just formalizing a fait accompli.

    Even when I was chapter leader in the mid-90's my principal, when told at a district principals' meeting she had to had a Leadership Team with me on it, got up and practically screamed, "But I have the chapter leader from hell!"

    She recovered quickly by using the parents on the team to get the AP appointed as head of the LT. (Some of my teacher colleagues did not exactly distinguish themselves either as it took them about 10 seconds to cave when I tried to stop it.)

    That's why all these years I have felt that something much stronger was needed to give teachers a role in basic school level decision making.

    Like running commercials that say, "Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze!"

    So I would say to James that bombarding the DOE with emails is not the way to go.

    Just say —

    PULEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEZE!



    Note:
    The Tweedies removed the principal a few days before the start of the school. There's a smart move. Declare Jamaica an impact school - DANGER! DANGER! - wait all summer and get rid of the guy at the worst time possible. How would you like to be his successor?

    Yesterday I got a call from CNN looking for James' contact info. James said a lot of press was looking for him. Apparently the ban on 911 calls has hit home when the family of the girl who had a stroke is suing. Read the Daily News article here.

    "Former Jamaica Principal Jay Dickler could not be reached. He was removed from the school this summer because crime there was too high, Klein said. "I met with him on numerous occasions about safety at the school, and that's why he was removed," Klein said."

    Let's see now. Think that very threat has anything to do with the ban on 911 calls?

    "This happened because statistics are more important than anyone's life," the girl's lawyer said. Randi Weingarten made a similar allegation. "This is a tragic result of what happens when everything comes down to data," she said. "If there's only a hammer when people report crime, then people are going to continue to hide their incidents."

    I agree with Randi. I'm getting nervous.

    You can bet that someone connected with the school will take a hit while BloomKlein walk away clean.

    A few years ago I facetiously wrote that one day Klein would be taken out of Tweed with his coat over his head. If we had a fair system of justice, we would be closer to that day.

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Can we collaborate? Pleeeeeeeeze


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The UFT Leadership and Fuzzy Contracts...

    ...honest mistakes, or deliberate deception?

    by juliwoo, guest columnist

    I've generally given the UFT leadership credit for drawing up each new contract with honest intentions. Maybe they were outfoxed by BloomKlein. Maybe there were too many tactical errors. Maybe they weren't fighting hard enough. But I always assumed the ambiguities in the contract were the result of someone just not paying enough attention. Slip-ups.

    Since we have lost so much ground in the past few years, I’m looking at things a little differently and am more unhappy with the fuzzy wording and the misplaced bits of text. With so many legal heads supposedly having worked on this document, I have come to believe that where the text is unclear, the leadership meant it to be so — to confuse members and mask the severity of the givebacks.

    After the fact-finding report came out in 2005, much was written about the seniority rights we were going to lose and subsequently did lose. I was pretty oblivious to the chatter, though, feeling no particular threat to my career and assuming ATR neverland was not going to happen to me.

    But I was, in fact, excessed last spring, music being the fickle little subject that it is, and after being told by Human Resources that “the days of us finding you [teachers] a job are over,” I looked up “excessing” in the contract. It was at Article 17, which states more than once that excessed teachers would be placed in new jobs.

    Then I got all kinds of stuff from the DOE telling me to sign up in the Open Market system, including a massive, condescending document on how we could improve our job hunting — which they wouldn’t have dared to send to their own parents if they had been senior teachers excessed out of their jobs. I sent angry emails to the UFT to find out what was going on and why I was being pushed towards this new hiring system. Didn’t 17B say I’d be placed? I hadn’t even heard of the Open Market before, and hadn’t much looked into the whole transfer thing in general because there hadn't been any need to. I was content enough in my job.

    In response to my memos to RW and others, grievance head Howard Solomon asked me to come to 52 Broadway to talk about these issues "from beginning to end.” Adam Ross (legal) was also there. They listened to my gripes and acknowledged there might be a contradiction between a rule or two in 17B which they would perhaps tighten up.

    I walked away from that meeting thinking I had done my homework, made my complaint, and was heard.

    What a dupe I was! Festering away in another part of the contract that I had not seen was an entirely different scenario for the excessed teacher. In Article 18, “Transfers and Staffing,” there was more on the subject. I was really surprised to see in the middle of 18A that vacancies “will be posted as early as April 15” and “candidates (teachers wishing to transfer and excessed teachers) will apply — ”

    Wait a minute. How did that “and excessed teachers” bit get in here? I thought the subject of this article was transfers and staffing. The words “will apply” are rather vague as well. Must they apply? Will they apply only when they want to apply?

    Clearly, Solomon and Ross were willing to talk "from beginning to end" about the issues I had brought up in my emails, but they were not at all inclined to point out other parts of the contract they knew I had overlooked, bits that are absolutely crucial to any discussion of what happens to a teacher when he is excessed.

    The long and short of this is that these two articles in the contract, on excessing and on transfers, contradict each other entirely.

    Rule 4 of Article 17B says that excessed teachers “must be placed in vacancies within the district to the fullest degree possible,” or for certain categories “must be placed in appropriate vacancies within the district or central office or if no such vacancy exists, within the region.”

    Rule 6 says that the “central board has the responsibility for placing teachers who are excessed from a school or office and cannot be accommodated.” But an important factor at the very core of teacher placement (or non-placement, as it happens) crops up way down the list of rules, at no. 11 — so far away from 4, 5 and 6 that I missed it at first.

    It starts: “Unless a principal denies the placement, an excessed teacher will be placed by the Board . . .” (Note that it again says the Board will do the placing, but that’s not what’s important here.) The mistake I made, and I’m sure many have done this as well, was to trust what the sentence implied, that under normal circumstances excessed senior teachers could expect to get placed by the Board. My second mistake was to brush off the severity of the final sentence, that “the Board will place the excessed teacher who is not so placed in an ATR position.” I had heard, of course, about various people becoming ATRs during the course of the year, but not in great numbers, not like we've been hearing about this summer. I more or less set that ATR possibility aside as a long shot.

    With all the legal expertise running this union, are we to believe that these half-truths, set out as they are in various non-contiguous paragraphs and especially under a less than truthful heading (18), are the result of carelessness?

    I don’t think so. I think that the UFT leadership has deliberately fogged up this contract, first to obscure the complete sellout of our seniority rights, and then to make it difficult for us to demand they defend our jobs.

    We know this chancellor will keep following his businessman’s path towards financial gains for the privateers he’s feeding and losses for the rank and file. He's never been a standard bearer for the public good. We expect him to treat some teachers as collateral: he'll tolerate the cost of paying senior ATRs for a few years until they are weeded out through disillusionment, harassment, or legitimate retirement.

    For all Weingarten's pretty words, she has really broken faith with us. Ingratiating herself into corporate and governmental playgrounds kept her from doing the job we've been paying her to do, which is to keep blocking these deplorable attacks on our core benefits and not stand down.

    When a union president, who is herself a lawyer and supported by an entire legal team, is capable of writing succinct, fail-safe text and then chooses not to do it, we demand to know why.


    Editors Note to juliwoo:
    We don't need them to tell us why?
    UFT staff director's Jeff Zahler's own words from the UFT weekly update.


    "Underscoring the need for genuine collaboration, Weingarten made a joint appearance that morning with Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Eliot Spitzer, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Council of School Supervisors and Administrators Ernest Logan at PS 53 in the Bronx."

    The UFT/Unity caucus leadership function like the French Vichy government in WWII. They ought to serve Vichyssoise at Exec. Bd. meetings.

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The UFT Leadership and Fuzzy Contracts...


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