Replace No Child Left Behind With A Strong Education Policy

    UPDATE - This is now closed. NCLB came in 4th. Teaching Esperanto in schools came in 2nd. Somehow I don't think Obama will take that as a serious issue.

    VOTE NOW: Send A Message to Obama and Spread the Word

    From Philip Kovacs of The Education Roundtable
    I'm not sure if you've heard, but there's a movement of citizens inspired by the presidential campaign who are now submitting ideas for how they think the Obama Administration should change America. It's called "Ideas for Change in America."

    One idea is titled: Replace No Child Left Behind With A Strong Education Policy. I thought you might be interested in getting involved and recommend you check it out. You can read more and vote for the idea by clicking the following link:

    At present, this idea is losing to a movement for Esperanto and a movement for implementing national science standards.

    Please take 5 minutes to log in and vote for this issue!

    The top 10 ideas are going to be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day and will be supported by a national lobbying campaign run by, MySpace, and more than a dozen leading nonprofits after the Inauguration. So each idea has a real chance at becoming policy.

    I look forward to hearing what you think,

    Arthur Coddington (former teacher), San Leandro, CA
    No Child Left Behind sucked the soul out of education under the guise of accountability. It created no-win situations for school administrators and narrowed the curriculum for students to only test-relevant subjects. Education of children cannot be tracked according to models of productivity and corporate growth.

    We need an education policy that encourages critical thinking, embraces science and the arts, empowers school administrators to make the right decisions for their students, and welcomes second career teachers without sending them back to school and into debt.

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Nat Hentoff Wishes BloomKlein a Happy New Year

    Federal Court Defendants Joel Klein & Ray Kelly

    Nat Hentoff in The Village Voice

    Our Education Mayor remains silent about police abuses of students in public schools By Nat Hentoff, published: December 31, 2008


    I have reported often here on the documented abuses of students, and even some teachers, by the School Safety Agents deployed in this city's schools under Kelly, Klein, and Michael Bloomberg (the latter two praised around the country as champions of "school reform"). Since the 1950s, I've written in columns and books on our schools—and their chancellors from the worst to the best. But not until the Bloomberg/Klein regime have I seen such flagrant dereliction of accountability at the very top of the school system for frequent abuse of students by police agents.

    Teaching fear of the police is part of the curriculum in the school system—of which Bloomberg is so proud that he is striving (with the help of the City Council) to control the schools permanently.

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Parent Empowerment Network, Year-End Update

    We heard from Juanita Doyon in Washington State. Juanita is part of the George Schmidt, Susan Ohanian, crew that has been so persistent (and prescient) in their exposure of the phony education reform movement. John Lawhead and I connected up to them at the ACTNow conference in Birmingham, Al in March 2003 - in our pre-ICE days. To their critics -- na, na, na,na - they have been right all along.

    Juanita is the high stakes button lady and recently sent 5000 "Choose the Best Answer: Teach/Test” to the LA Teachers Union. (I used to sell them at the UFT Delegate Assembly.) She also played a role in assisting the new Wash. State ed commissioner get elected, supported Carl Chew in his test resistance and lots more.

    Read Juanita's entire post on her significant doings here:

    Parent Empowerment Network, Year-End Update

    It’s not too late to make one last 2008 tax-deductible contribution to your favorite, outspoken nonprofit organization. Your help is needed, today! If you like what you read here and believe there is a need for PEN’s voice, please send your check of $10, $25, $100 or more to:

    Parent Empowerment Network
    PO Box 494
    Spanaway, WA 98387

    or contribute through PayPal at

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Time to Bring Honest Government to NYC

    As the Bloomberg administration has been exposed for it's blatant attempts to subvert basic democratic institutions - buying and bribing politicians and charities in exchange for political support and subverting the entire system of public education to benefit private interests, a call has gone out to find an appropriate candidate on the Democratic side to stand firm for more honest government.

    After diligent research, Education Notes has come up with a worthy candidate who will soon be available and looks clean as a hound's tooth compared to Bloomberg - soon to be former Illinois governor Rudy Blogojevich.

    With his appointment yesterday of a candidate for the US Senate who is about 1000% more qualified than Bloomberg's favorite, Carolyn Kennedy, Rudy B has exhibited a significantly higher degree of judgement (and honesty) than Bloomberg.

    Of course, if Rudy B is not available, there's always Bernie Madoff - who better to have raise money in a budget crunch?

    But if Bernie's not available, here's my favorite -

    Related from Gary Babad at NYC Public School Parents:

    Test Scores Crash, Class Size Soars as Klein Rings Closing Bell

    GBN News “Best Headline of 2009” Contest

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Send a message to Obama about the need for smaller classes now!

    Posted at:

    But worth repeating in full. Note mention of Andrew Rotherham: Instead of class size reduction Andy "wants to require that this critical funding be spent on more experimental and controversial programs, that are supposedly 'high leverage' – like teacher performance pay and Teach for America." Yep, that's Andy. Let's throw anything that smells of market-based ideology against the wall and see if it sticks (don't worry, it won't.)

    Obama’s transition team has a website, with proposals for his administration to consider that were suggested by members of the public.

    Please, go now and vote for smaller classes -- you can also leave a comment on the website. According to his transition team, "the top 10 ideas are going to be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day and will be supported by a national lobbying campaign run by, MySpace, more than a dozen leading nonprofits after the Inauguration. So each idea has a real chance at becoming policy.

    The first round of voting to determine the top three ideas in each category will end tomorrow, December 31 – so there isn’t much time! Why is this important?

    Recently, there has been an unprecedented attack on class size reduction at the national level by policymakers, bloggers, business leaders and foundations, despite the fact that smaller classes are one of the few education reforms that have been proven to work, according to the research arm of the US Dept. of Education, and that also have widespread support among parents and educators.

    In a recent report, Andrew Rotherham, an influential inside-the-beltway blogger, has proposed that school districts no longer be able to use their federal Title II education funds for this purpose – despite the fact that about half of all districts currently invest these funds in smaller classes. Instead, he wants to require that this critical funding be spent on more experimental and controversial programs, that are supposedly “high leverage” – like teacher performance pay and Teach for America.

    In support of his opposition to class size reduction, he cites not a single research study (because none exists) but an oped published in the Daily News last year, written by Robert Gordon, a consultant employed by Joel Klein and another inside-the-beltway policy wonk, who trashed public school parents for their “class size obsession”.

    Like Joel Klein and Jim Liebman, Gordon is an attorney with no experience as an educator or researcher. Yet both Rotherham and Gordon are being promoted by the charter school privatization and testing crowd to receive top-level appointments in an Obama administration.

    Their attacks on class size have been joined in recent opeds by conservative commentator, David Brooks of the NY Times, who wrote that small classes were a “superficial” reform, compared to “merit pay for good teachers, charter schools and tough accountability standards”, and Lou Gerstner, former head of IBM, who baldly stated in the Wall St. Journal that class size “does not matter” and is pushing for the abolition of all school districts (along with more merit pay and testing.)

    The most powerful man in education circles today, Bill Gates, who intends to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the newest flavors of the week, including -- you guessed it -- more charter schools, testing, and merit pay, recently joined in on the chorus, attacking class size reduction in a prominent speech,

    So vote for smaller classes here, if you would like Obama to consider supporting class size reduction and more school construction. Help him resist the loud but clueless voices of the DC education policy establishment.

    Please forward this message to others who care, and Happy New Year.

    Leonie Haimson
    Executive Director
    Class Size Matters

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From the Horses' Mouths

    Some recent noteworthy blogs:

    NYC Educator shows how Bloomberg solved the problem of high class sizes: One child per class; teachers just teach 40 classes at a time.

    This Little Blog searches for proof of Michelle Rhee's 300 bowling score, as elusive as the spectacular results her kids scored when she taught.

    Duncan wrong education choice
    by Kevin Kumashiro
    Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    More on Duncan BAD from Kenneth Libby posted at This Little Blog

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From Bill and Joanne Cala: Joining Hearts and Hands

    Just got this from Bill, who would be a great choice to replace Richard Mills as State Ed Commissioner. This is what he does in his "spare" time.
    Still time to give.

    A three-room classroom is under construction in Katito, Kenya with a school kitchen, playground and lavatories.

    Hannah’s Hope Near Completion

    There will be 17 of us traveling to Kenya next week to cut the ribbon that will officially open Hannah’s Hope. If you did not see yesterday’s Democrat and Chronicle or if you are not in the Rochester area,, there was a wonderful article by reporter Jim Goodman covering Hannah’s Hope. The URL is:

    We just returned from a great meeting at Terry and Marilyn Congdon’s home. Friends and Family of the Congdons along with some of our special friends went over last-minute trip details. The best part of the meeting was dividing all of the donated books, clothing, medical supplies, school supplies and games for our young Kenyan students. Each of us is carrying 50 pounds of materials to Africa. That’s almost 900 pounds of kindness.

    As we make the expedition, we ask for your prayers and good wishes. We will be opening Hannah’s Hope at a Mass on January 11th and all of you will be in our prayers of thanksgiving for making the dream of Hannah’s Hope become a reality.

    This is also a great time to take advantage of a 2008 tax deduction. There is still a week left in the year to do so! Any and all donations are greatly appreciated. We know how difficult these economic times have been in the USA. Imagine what this world-wide recession is doing to developing countries! The need in Africa is greater than ever!

    Donations can be sent to:

    Joining Hearts and Hands
    9 Fieldston Grove
    Fairport, NY 14450

    Peace, Love and Happy Holidays,

    Bill and Joanne Cala

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Holiday Test Prep

    I hope everyone is having a good and restful holiday. When I was teaching the number of activities around the school during the pre-holiday season wore people out.

    This was made worse by my test-driven principal who has us prepare a package of assignment materials for the kids to do on their vacation. If it was just something like reading books and doing a report I could see that. But the packages were full of test practice rexos. What a waste of time and materials.

    I guess that was all related to some of the tests being given in January. They all used to be given in late March and early April, and then later, the first week of May. Now it is test prep all the time. But my principal started this stuff when she took over in 1979, so we saw all the angles and learned every trick in the book for years before the test game playing became standardized.

    I saw first hand for 2 decades what the test-driven systems do to teaching and students and how teaching and learning were negatively affected.

    When I became active again in the UFT when I became chapter leader in 1994 (after over a decade of union inactivity - I had bought a house and was involved in a Masters degree program in computer science) I began to raise the high stakes testing issue at Delegate Assemblies in the late 90's– naturally to deaf ears.

    At one point in my of my resolutions, I spoke about how the testing mania had driven the rest of the curriculum underground, gutting things like social studies and science in elementary schools. Even I was surprised at the applause I received.

    Randi Weingarten was always present. so when she talks about the evils of too much testing I know just how much bull shit she is all about.

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A Tale of Bloomberg, Wolfson, Caroline - and Randi Too

    One of Glover's top clients is the United Federation of Teachers, and Wolfson's move to Bloomberg may be a signal that the union's retreat on the term-limits bill in October will be repeated in the mayoral election, with union president Randi Weingarten, who's often railed against Bloomberg education policies, neutralized or even backing Bloomberg.

    The Village Voice

    Inside Mayor Bloomberg's Hiring of Hillary Clinton Aide Howard Wolfson

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Update on The Baileys and Potter

    As an adjunct to last night's post on It's A Wonderful Life, there is this item in today's business section of the NY Times. Jeffrey Goldfarb writes in Timely Twists on Holiday Films:

    The most beloved films of Christmas are about redemption, often set against a backdrop of banking, real estate and commercialism. After the financial troubles of 2008, favorites like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street” probably will be seen in a whole new light this holiday season.

    Hollywood isn’t always content to let the audience do the re-imagining, however. Producers might want to create their own remakes, tinkering with the originals to frame them more appropriately for the current era. So we have imagined how five of the most popular holiday classics might be storyboarded to reflect the credit crisis.


    This time around it’s Henry Potter who is suicidal on the eve of Christmas 2006 because his stingy banking has cost him immeasurable fees and sent his customers to mortgage lender George Bailey, who loved giving cheap loans to poor people. The angel Clarence Oddbody visits to show him that if Henry had never existed, Bedford Falls would have been called Baileyville, a boom-and-bust town ravaged by excessive leverage. With his newfound appreciation for what he has contributed to society, he returns home to find modest-living friends and family members, thankful to Mr. Potter for saving them from themselves.

    The other four movie revisions are pretty funny too.

    Related: The Subprime Mortgage Crisis: It Was All George Bailey's Fault

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The Subprime Mortgage Crisis: It Was All George Bailey's Fault

    Here I am watching "It's A Wonderful Life" for the umpteenth time - and with all the dumb ass commercials yet. So the Bailey Building and Loan gave away mortgages to people with no collateral. And mean Mr.Potter is there to say all the things we hear being said today about the lax policy. But George Bailey and his pop talk humanity. Must have been New Dealers.

    Ooops! Gotta go. Clarence just pulled the switch.

    POTTER: Have you put any real pressure on those people of yours to pay those mortgages?

    BAILEY: Times are bad, Mr. Potter. A lot of these people are out of work.

    POTTER: Then foreclose!

    BAILEY: I can't do that. These families have children.

    POTTER: They're not my children.

    BAILEY: But they're somebody's children.

    POTTER: Are you running a business or a charity ward?

    BAILEY: Well, all right . . .

    POTTER (interrupting): Not with my money!

    CLOSE SHOT –– Potter and Bailey.

    BAILEY: Mr. Potter, what makes you such a hard-skulled character? You have no family –– no children. You can't begin to spend all the money you've got.

    POTTER: So I suppose I should give it to miserable failures like you and that idiot brother of yours to spend for me.

    George cannot listen any longer to such libel about his father. He comes around in front of the desk.

    GEORGE: He's not a failure! You can't say that about my father!

    George’s father dies years later

    POTTER: Peter Bailey was not a business man. That's what killed him. Oh, I don't mean any disrespect to him, God rest his soul. He was a man of high ideals, so-called, but ideals without common sense can ruin this town.
    (picking up papers from table)
    Now, you take this loan here to Ernie Bishop . . . You know, that fellow that sits around all day on his brains in his taxi. You know . . . I happen to know the bank turned down this loan, but he comes here and we're building him a house worth five thousand dollars.

    George is at the door of the office, holding his coat and papers, ready to leave.

    GEORGE: Well, I handled that, Mr. Potter. You have all the papers there. His salary, insurance. I can personally vouch for his character.

    POTTER (sarcastically): A friend of yours?

    GEORGE: Yes, sir.

    POTTER: You see, if you shoot pool with some employee here, you can come and borrow money. What does that get us? A discontented, lazy rabble instead of a thrifty working class. And all because a few starry-eyed dreamers like Peter Bailey stir them up and fill their heads with a lot of impossible ideas. Now, I say . . .

    George puts down his coat and comes around to the table, incensed by what Potter is saying about his father.

    GEORGE: Just a minute –– just a minute. Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. You're right when you say my father was no business man. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan, I'll never know. But neither you nor anybody else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was . . .

    Why, in the twenty-five years since he and Uncle Billy started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn't that right, Uncle Billy? He didn't save enough money to send Harry to school, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter.

    And what's wrong with that? Why . . . Here, you're all businessmen here. Doesn't it make them better citizens? Doesn't it make them better customers? You . . . you said . . . What'd you say just a minute ago? . . . They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait! Wait for what?

    Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they're so old and broken-down that they . . . Do you know how long it takes a working man to save five thousand dollars? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about . . . they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him, but to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you'll ever be!

    POTTER: I'm not interested in your book. I'm talking about the Building and Loan.

    GEORGE: I know very well what you're talking about. You're talking about something you can't get your fingers on, and it's galling you. That's what you're talking about, I know. (to the Board)
    Well, I've said too much. I . . . You're the Board here. You do what you want with this thing. Just
    one thing more, though. This town needs this measly one-horse institution if only to have some place where people can come without crawling to Potter. Come on, Uncle Billy!


    CLOSE SHOT –– Sign hanging from a tree: "Welcome to Bailey Park." CAMERA PANS TO follow George's car and the old truck laden with furniture as they pass –– we hear Martini's voice singing "O Sole Mio." Bailey Park is a district of new small houses, not all alike, but each individual. New lawns here and there, and young trees. It has the promise when built up of being a pleasant little middle class section.

    WIPE TO:


    MEDIUM CLOSE SHOT –– George and Mary are on the porch of the new house, with the Martinis lined up before them.

    GEORGE: Mr. and Mrs. Martini, welcome home.

    The Martinis cross themselves.

    CLOSE SHOT –– Mary and George on porch.

    (to Mrs. Martini, giving her loaf of bread)
    Bread! That this house may never know hunger.

    Mrs. Martini crosses herself.

    MARY (giving her salt): Salt! That life may always have flavor.

    GEORGE (handing bottle to Martini): And wine! That joy and prosperity may reign forever. Enter the Martini castle!

    The Martinis cross themselves, shaking hands all around. The kids enter, with screams of delight. Mrs. Martini kisses Mary.


    CLOSE SHOT –– Potter seated in his wheelchair at his desk, with his goon beside him. His rent
    collector, Reineman, is talking, pointing to maps spread out on the desk.

    REINEMAN: Look, Mr. Potter, it's no skin off my nose. I'm just your little rent collector. But you
    can't laugh off this Bailey Park any more. Look at it.

    POTTER: Go on.

    REINEMAN: Fifteen years ago, a half-dozen houses stuck here and there.
    (indicating map)
    There's the old cemetery, squirrels, buttercups, daisies. Used to hunt rabbits there myself. Look at it today. Dozens of the prettiest little homes you ever saw. Ninety per cent owned by suckers who used to pay rent to you. Your Potter's Field, my dear Mr. Employer, is becoming just that. And are the local yokels making with those David and Goliath wisecracks!

    POTTER: Oh, they are, are they? Even though they know the Baileys haven't made a dime out of it.

    REINEMAN: You know very well why. The Baileys were all chumps. Every one of these homes is worth twice what it cost the Building and Loan to build. If I were you, Mr. Potter . . .

    POTTER (interrupting): Well, you are not me.

    REINEMAN (as he leaves): As I say, it's no skin off my nose. But one of these days this bright young man is going to be asking George Bailey for a job.

    Reineman exits.

    POTTER: The Bailey family has been a boil on my neck long enough.


    CLOSE SHOT –– Potter is lighting a big cigar which he has just given George. The goon is beside Potter's chair, as usual.

    GEORGE: Thank you, sir. Quite a cigar, Mr. Potter.

    POTTER: You like it? I'll send you a box.

    GEORGE (nervously): Well, I . . . I suppose I'll find out sooner or later, but just what exactly did you want to see me about?

    POTTER (laughs): George, now that's just what I like so much about you.
    (pleasantly and smoothly)

    George, I'm an old man, and most people hate me. But I don't like them either, so that makes it all even. You know just as well as I do that I run practically everything in this town but the Bailey Building and Loan. You know, also, that for a number of years I've been trying to get control of it . . . or kill it. But I haven't been able to do it. You have been stopping me. In fact, you have beaten me, George, and as anyone in this county can tell you, that takes some doing. Take during the depression, for instance. You and I were the only ones that kept our heads. You saved the Building and Loan, and I saved all the rest.

    GEORGE: Yes. Well, most people say you stole all the rest.

    POTTER: The envious ones say that, George, the suckers. Now, I have stated my side very frankly. Now, let's look at your side. Young man, twenty-seven, twenty-eight . . . married, making, say . . . forty a week.

    GEORGE (indignantly): Forty-five!

    POTTER: Forty-five. Forty-five. Out of which, after supporting your mother, and paying your bills, you're able to keep, say, ten, if you skimp. A child or two comes along, and you won't even be able to save the ten. Now, if this young man of twenty-eight was a common, ordinary yokel, I'd say he was doing fine. But George Bailey is not a common, ordinary yokel. He's an intelligent, smart, ambitious young man — who hates his job –– who hates the Building and Loan almost as much as I do. A young man who's been dying to get out on his own ever since he was born. A young man . . . the smartest one of the crowd, mind you, a young man who has to sit by and watch his friends go places, because he's trapped. Yes, sir, trapped into frittering his life away playing nursemaid to a lot of garlic-eaters. Do I paint a correct picture, or do I exaggerate?

    GEORGE (mystified): Now what's your point, Mr. Potter?

    POTTER: My point? My point is, I want to hire you.

    GEORGE (dumbfounded): Hire me?

    POTTER: I want you to manage my affairs, run my properties. George, I'll start you out at twenty thousand dollars a year.

    George drops his cigar on his lap. He nervously brushes off the sparks from his clothes.

    GEORGE (flabbergasted): Twenty thou . . . twenty thousand dollars a year?

    POTTER: You wouldn't mind living in the nicest house in town, buying your wife a lot of fine clothes, a couple of business trips to New York a year, maybe once in a while Europe. You wouldn't mind that, would you, George?

    GEORGE: Would I?
    (looking around skeptically)
    You're not talking to somebody else around here, are you? You know, this is me, you remember me? George Bailey.

    POTTER: Oh, yes, George Bailey. Whose ship has just come in –– providing he has brains enough to climb aboard.

    GEORGE: Well, what about the Building and Loan?

    POTTER: Oh, confound it, man, are you afraid of success? I'm offering you a three year contract at twenty thousand dollars a year, starting today. Is it a deal or isn't it?

    GEORGE: Well, Mr. Potter, I . . . I . . . I know I ought to jump at the chance, but I . . . I just . . . I wonder if it would be possible for you to give me twenty-four hours to think it over?

    POTTER: Sure, sure, sure. You go on home and talk about it to your wife.

    GEORGE: I'd like to do that.

    POTTER: In the meantime, I'll draw up the papers.

    GEORGE: All right, sir.

    POTTER (offers hand): Okay, George?

    GEORGE (taking his hand): Okay, Mr. Potter.

    As they shake hands, George feels a physical revulsion. Potter's hand feels like a cold mackerel to
    him. In that moment of physical contact he knows he could never be associated with this man. George drops his hand with a shudder. He peers intently into Potter's face.

    GEORGE (cont'd –– vehemently): No . . . no . . . no . . . no, now wait a minute, here! I don't have to talk to anybody! I know right now, and the answer is no!
    NO! Doggone it!
    (getting madder all the time)
    You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it doesn't, Mr. Potter! In the . . . in the whole vast configuration of things, I'd say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider. You . . .

    He turns and shouts at the goon, impassive as ever beside Potter's wheelchair.

    GEORGE (cont'd): . . . And that goes for you too!

    As George opens the office door to exit, he shouts at Mr. Potter's secretary in the outer office:

    GEORGE (cont'd): And it goes for you too!

    Full script at

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UFT/AFT Leads the Race to the Bottom

    Bob Herbert in today's NY Times (A Race to the Bottom) talks about the attacks on workers while millionaire bankers get bailouts. He focuses on teachers and auto workers, quoting extensively from Randi Weingarten. What's interesting is that in the midst of this supposed defense of teachers he says:

    But Ms. Weingarten’s defense of her members was not the most important part of the speech. The key point was her assertion that with schools in trouble and the economy in a state of near-collapse, she was willing to consider reforms that until now have been anathema to the union, including the way in which tenure is awarded, the manner in which teachers are assigned and merit pay.

    Here we go again as both Herbert and Weingarten engage in the more subtle type of teacher bashing by putting issues like tenure, merit pay and the assignment of teachers on the table as the causes of the problems in education. What Herbert doesn't get is that these ideas have not been anathema to the UFT/AFT.

    Rather than pointing out how all these market-based ideas won't work and will in fact damage education, Weingarten goes along with the plan.

    The economic crisis is a gift to Weingarten who can use it to justify giving away the store.

    Now let me make this clear. This is not just a tactic of Randi Weingarten. Albert Shanker started rolling this ball down the alley 25 years ago and Randi is giving it her own spin. And as far back as 1975 Shanker used the economic crisis in NYC to go along with the layoffs of 15,000 teachers, the cutting of prep periods, the freezing of salaries for years, the closing of schools and lost of other attacks on education, all the while using teacher pension funds to help bail out the city.

    When these attacks come this time, the script Weingarten will use was written by Shanker 33 years ago.

    What UFT and AFT members need to see clearly is that Randi Weingarten is not there to represent their interests but to serve as the agent for the phony ed reformers in selling teachers on the plan even if it leads to undermining the union at its core.

    She does this piecemeal by using scare tactics and saying, "see they wanted the whole loaf and we gave them only 75% but look at the victory in preserving 25%." We have seen it is only a matter of time until the other 25% goes too.

    What do the teacher unions get out of this? While teachers at the school level see their unionism destroyed, the union at the top flourishes with incoming dues, a seat (minor) at the table and a sense of power and influence - for the leadership – while the members flail helplessly.

    People like Joel Klein don't want the UFT to go away. They serve a much needed function and the political and business/corporate powers that be will continue to praise Weingarten as one of them.

    And, so she is.

    Related: Ed Notes is inviting people to join in a series of discussions on the role the current leadership of unions is playing and will play in the context of the economic crisis and what the rank and file would need to do to fight back in what is a two front war that attacks them from both sides. Hopefully this will lead to a more in depth analysis. If interested, let us know.

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Klonsky and Meier on Arne Duncan

    From Susan Ohanian

    Obama’s Choice for Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, Seen as Compromise Between Divided Strands

    by Mike Klonsky and Deborah Meier

    Democracy Now

    Susan says:
    There is a lot of game-playing and positioning in this discussion. Is Mike Klonsky keeping his options open, or what? Duncan as a "centrist" candidate when he says?

    I think Arne Duncan has the potential to be a good Secretary of Education, and I
    think he has some real positives going for him.

    Read Henry Giroux and Kenneth Saltman on Duncan's corporate brand of schooling and Obama's betrayal of public schools.

    After reading Susan's comments I took a good look at what Deb Meier said. Read it all but here are just a few words and though I think she is being careful, she makes some important points:

    So, first of all, I think we’re—it’s not two sides. It’s sort of a—it’s different views about the purpose of education, and there are different views about how human beings learn well. And I think there’s a very predominant view right now that gets—has been called by the name of reform and that has nothing to do with red and blue. It’s a kind of market view of education, though. And I
    think there are a lot of people on the red side who are more close to my views and a lot of people of the blue side who are more close to Arne Duncan’s views. And that part does worry me, maybe even more than it does Klonsky, my friend Mike Klonsky, because it’s—I think we need a different discussion about what the point of education is.

    [O]nce you’ve posed the issue as being union lackeys or reformers—and the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, a variety of magazines, as you mentioned earlier, have said there are two sides: unions lackeys, people who want to—who are worrying—you know, who are dependent upon the union, and on the other side are real reformers. I think it made it hard for the union to speak for its own membership on this question. And the history of reform has almost nothing to do—I shouldn’t say that. There has always been a struggle between these two wings in reform. But they have posed me as an anti-reformer, as though there are—since I’m not for market-style reforms, this testing mania, this narrow focus on prepping kids for a small selection of skills, that makes me a dupe of the union and an anti-reformer and someone who doesn’t care for the future of the economy or democracy. I think it’s been posed that way for so many years now.

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Klonsky and Meier on Arne Duncan

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ICE Video on MS 399X Protest

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ICE Video on MS 399X Protest

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    Since I'm still cavorting in Mexico and having trouble with keyboards, getting online and the impact of a constant influx of mohitos and margaritas, here are some nice links from Susan Ohanian. And Antonucci at Intercepts makes sure to focus on the anti-Duncan positions of the left with this headline: Commies Don’t Like Duncan

    Gee, next Mike will be telling us to hide under school desks because of the Soviet threat.

    Susan says:

    Much of the news items concern Arne Duncan.
    Read them all because each offers a somewhat different perspective.

    If you can read only one, then Henry A. Giroux and Kenneth Saltman's piece is not to be missed.

    Gary Stager's Huffington Post piece. "Obama Practices Social Promotion"

    No School Left Unsold: Arne Duncan's Privatization Agenda

    Jesse Sharkey 2008-12-18

    A Chicago teacher continues to speak out about Arne Duncan.

    17,000 kids have no school library
    Meredith Koloner, New York Daily News2008-12-11

    Ohanian suggests that we call on our professional organizations to redress this grievance.

    Controversy brews over move of Richard R. Green High School from Upper East Side to Harlem

    Joe Kemp and Merdith Kolodner, New York Daily News, 2008-12-18

    Charge of racism surfaced over a plan to move a mostly minority Upper East Side high school to Harlem to make way for the children of wealthy white local residents.

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The Takeover at the New School

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The Takeover at the New School

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Darn! Missed the DA

    I was out of town so I missed the scinitilating Delegate Assembly as described by James over at the ICE blog. There was an ICE leaflet on closing schools and ATRs. James said the teachers and students from IS 399 which is being closed where there and as we reported yesterday the UFT is attempting to control the spigot of militancy.

    The announcement that the New School is being occupied today following on the takeover of the Chicago factory may pressage a new day in militancy and the UFT and the rest of the labor movement will have to work doubly hard to control things.

    I remember a time in my early years of teaching when a militant parent group occupied the District 14 offices for months. That was my first exposure to political activism - I went over to visit one day. That was pretty dumb as I was new to my school and had a year to go till tenure. But I figured it was a free country.

    The next day my principal called me into his office and asked me about that. Okaaay! I get it. Lucky he was on terminal leave and his replacement tried to reign me in, he just was too milktoast to do it. Things might have been different if a real power freak as principal had been there.

    I probably would have been denied tenure and ended up as a (fill in the blank)_________.

    Note: The spell check on this computer does it in Spanish so excuse the typos.

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Teachers at Closing Bronx School Hold Protest....

    ...UFT will be there in ususal role of undermining militancy.

    Oh, Randi, the enabler of closing schools, will be there to cry crocodile tears and commiserate. UFT officials will be there to tell teachers their "rights" - their rights to join the growing ATR pool from which they will have to race around the city applying for jobs with all the other ATRs and then be branded incompetent a year later if they are not hired and then with the help of the UFT be councelled on how to make a settlement with the DOE.

    And sadly, the teachers at MS 399X, grasping at straws, will have no choice but to buy it.

    Imagine if every school being closed held a protest on the same day all over the city? That will never happen with a UFT that plays the role of easing the closings for the DOE, not fighting them.

    If one day there is a massively organized opposition to Unity, this is exactly what could happen. But that day is still far away.

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Schmidt on Duncan/ Media Failure on Fair Reporting

    Crony Capitalism in Education
    Take another look at that slimy AFT letter by Randi Weingarten to the New York Times in the context of Substance editor George Schmidt's analysis.
    by George Schmidt
    Arne Duncan's career has been in crony capitalism, Chicago style. Since he was appointed "CEO" of Chicago's public schools by Mayor Richard M. Daley in July 2001, he has been responsible for the greatest expansion of patronage hiring (generally, but not exclusively, at the central and "area" offices, but often as well in the schools) on the CPS payroll since the Great Depression (when the school system was controlled by politicians, leading to its near-demise in 1945).
    Duncan has also presided over more "no bid" contracts from contractors (for everything from buildings and computer hardward and software to charter schools) in the history of the City of Chicago abd its public schools. Finally, and equally important, Arne Duncan has closed "failing schools" (dubiously defined by low test scores for one or two years, often because of special circumstances at the schools) in Chicago's African American community.
    Since Duncan became CEO, he has eliminated 2,000 black teachers from Chicago's teaching force, undoing decades of desegregation and affirmative action in the name of "school reform." Last year (2007-2008) Duncan began a program he called "Turnaround" (based on the corporate models) that was actually reconstitution.
    He fired most of the teachers and principals in six public schools (four elementary schools; two high schools). At each of those six schools, the majority of the teachers and principals were black.
    Were Arne Duncan living and working in Mississippi in 1952, it would be easy for the USA to see what he is and has been up to in the service of corporate Chicago. Because he plays ball not only with Barack Obama but with Richard M. Daley and corporate Chicago, Chicago's white blindspot has ignored the fact that Duncan has gotten rid of more African American educators than most Mississippi and other southern governments during those dark days just before Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.
    The reason why the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) can promote Duncan's candidacy is that seven years of turmoil within Chicago's union has left the union badly split (and weakened).
    Arne Duncan does not have the support of Chicago's teachers. He has the support of the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, Marilyn Stewart, who is in the midst of a purge of her own staff and elected administration. Stewart, a lame duck officer with no more chance of re-election than George W. Bush, is viewed by the majority of Chicago Teachers Union members as a traitor to her union and the teaching profession.

    — George N. SchmidtSubstance2008-12-14
    FAIR Media Report:

    Media's Failing Grade on Education 'Debate'
    President-elect Barack Obama chose Chicago schools superintendent Arne Duncan as his nominee for Education secretary after an almost entirely one-sided media discussion that portrayed the most progressive candidate in the running for the post--Stanford educational researcher Linda Darling-Hammond--as an unacceptable pick.

    Corporate media accounts presented the selection as a choice between "reformers who demand more accountable schools" and "defenders of the complacent status quo," as a Chicago Tribune editorial put it (12/9/08), claiming that the selection would determine whether Obama "wants to revolutionize the public education industry or merely wants to throw more money at it."

    The Washington Post's December 5 editorial was headlined, "A Job for a Reformer: Will Barack Obama Opt for Boldness or t he Status Quo in Choosing an Education Secretary?" The Post warned readers about "warring camps within the Democratic Party," which they characterized as "those pushing for radical restructuring and those more wedded to the status quo."
    Such loaded language was not confined to editorials. The Associated Press' Libby Quaid (12/15/08 ) summarized the debate this way:

    Teachers' unions, an influential segment of the party base, want an advocate for their members, someone like Obama adviser Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University professor, or Inez Tenenbaum, the former S.C. schools chief.
    Reform advocates want someone like New York schools chancellor Joel Klein, who wants teachers and schools held accountable for the performance of students.

    These were almost the same terms adopted by conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks (12/5/08):

    On the one hand, there are the reformers like Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, who support merit pay for good teachers, charter schools and tough accountability standards. On the other hand, there are the teachers' unions and the members of the Ed School establishment, who emphasize greater funding, smaller class sizes and superficial reforms.

    Brooks' exemplar of the "establishment view" was Darling-Hammond, who seems to have attracted the same kind of fury from the actual establishment that was visited on Lani Guinier during the early days of the Clinton administration (Extra!, 7-8/93). As the Tribune editorialized:

    If Obama awards the post to Darling-Hammond or someone else reluctant to smash skulls, he'll be telegraphing that the education industry has succeeded in outlasting the Bush push for increasingly tough performance standards in schools. That would, though, be a message of gratitude to the teachers unions that contributed money and shoe leather to his election campaign.Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter (12/15/08) echoed the same theme: "Obama also knows that if he chooses a union-backed candidate such as Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford professor active in the transition, he'll have a revolt on his hands from the swelling ranks of reformers."

    Strangely, in corporate media's view, the selection of someone who would continue the education policies of the Bush administration would to signal that Obama favored serious change, even "radical reform" (in Brooks' words). The Tribune again:

    The Bush administration exploited this post not only to help promote crucial No Child Left Behind legislation, but to follow up by making schools more accountable for how well their students do--or don't--learn.

    Will that emphasis on accountability now intensify? Or will it wither as opponents of dramatic change reclaim lost clout? We trust that Obama instead will make a statement for real improvement.

    Voices in support of Darling-Hammond were hard to find in corporate media: There was an op-ed backing her in her local paper, the San Francisco Chronicle (12/12/08), and a couple of prominent letters to the editor--one by Darling-Hammond herself (New York Times, 12/12/08) responding to the Brooks column, and another in the Washington Post (12/11/08):

    The claim that Ms. Darling-Hammond represents the "status quo" is ludicrous.... She was the founding executive director of the National Commission for Teaching and America's Future, a panel whose work catalyzed major policy changes to improve the quality of teacher education.
    She has been a powerful voice for the fundamental principle that all children deserve a well-prepared and properly supported teacher. She has advocated for strong accountability and has offered thoughtful alternatives--a balanced system of measures to evaluate higher-order thinking skills. And she has urged federal policies that would stop the micromanagement of schools and start ensuring educational equity--an issue only the federal government can tackle. Corporate media have thus far been mostly pleased with Obama's nominations--in large part because the president-elect's moves have been seen as staying close to the media-approved "centrism." (FAIR Media Advisory, 11/26/08).
    The media unease with the possibility of a progressive pick for education secretary was dealt with by Alfie Kohn in the Nation (12/29/08):
    Progressives are in short supply on the president-elect's list of cabinet nominees. When he turns his attention to the Education Department, what are the chances he'll choose someone who is educationally progressive?

    In fact, just such a person is said to be in the running and, perhaps for that very reason, has been singled out for scorn in Washington Post and Chicago Tribune editorials, a New York Times column by David Brooks and a New Republic article, all published almost simultaneously this month. The thrust of the articles, using eerily similar language, is that we must reject the "forces of the status quo" which are "allied with the teachers' unions" and choose someone who represents "serious education reform."

    One prominent exception to the corporate media's one-sided presentation of the Education nominee search was Sam Dillon's news article in the New York Times (12/14/08). Not only did it avoid caricaturing Darling-Hammond by citing views of both her critics and supporters, the article included some accurate media criticism:

    Editorials and opinion articles in the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times have described the debate as pitting education reformers against those representing the educational establishment or the status quo. But who the reformers are depends on who is talking.

    Unfortunately, in most establishment media accounts, only one side has been allowed to do the talking.

    Feel free to respond to FAIR ( ). We can't reply to everything, but we will look at each message. We especially appreciate documented examples of media bias or censorship. And please send copies of your correspondence with media outlets, including any responses, to

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Duncan Is It

    Arne Duncan has tried to cultivate a middle position but in fact is is Klein lite, as has been pointed out by others. I'm out of the country so can't comment extensively but here are a few so far.- Norm

    Hello All,

    And so, just as it took a Republican to initiate trade with China, it is taking a Democrat to destroy (what's left of) the teacher's unions and public education.In a perverse way, Klein would have been the better choice, since he's such a polarizing figure, and his appointment might have led to more static. Duncan seems to be smoother, making him more dangerous.Randi, of course, played her part in this, blowing a kiss to Duncan just the other day. Was that the public statement and capitulation - the first of many more to come - Obama was waiting for?

    Michael Fiorillo

    Teachers in Chicago are sorry to see the CEO of the schools here being promoted.
    In the past couple of years Chicago has been turning public schools over to private operators (mainly in the form of charters and contracts) at a rate of about 20/year. The city has also resuscitated some of the worst ideas of the 90's like firing all the teachers in low-performing schools (called 'turn-arounds') while at the same time eliminating many Local School Councils and making school decisions without public input. Charter schools and test-score driven 'choice' have been the watchwords of Duncan's rule in Chicago. Expect more of the same in Washington DC.

    But in case anyone is wondering what kind of a person we appear to be getting as Secretary of Education. Duncan is a tool. To me, the thing that made clear Duncan's role came after three months of organizing against the Chicago Board of Education's proposal to install a Naval Academy at our community high school, Senn HS.

    After an inspiring campaign that had involved literally hundreds of people in the biggest campaign the area had seen in decades, we forced Duncan to come up to our neighborhood to listen to our case for keeping the military out of our school. Over three hundred of us--parents, teachers, and community supporters held a big meeting in a local church and, at the end of the meeting, we asked Duncan to postpone the decision to put the military school at Senn. Duncan's answer was a classic--he said, 'I come from a Quaker family and I've always been against war. But I'm going to put the Naval Academy in there because it will give people in the community more choices.'

    When push came to shove Duncan was always a loyal henchman of the Daley political machine--albeit with a style that made it seem like he was listening and a knack for a sympathetic phrase--the kind of person who will look a t you with a straight face and tell you that, as a person with a Quaker background, he supports a military school, and in a community that is fighting as hard as it can against some Daley-Department of Defense backroom deal, that he is ignoring us because it will give the community more choices.

    Jesse Sharkey
    Chicago Public Schools Teacher

    Editorial: Duncan's agenda and Paul Bremer's

    Substance Editorial Staff

    Picture Paul Bremer, the erstwhile “viceroy” of Baghdad, only without the boots. You now have Arne Duncan and his troupe of zealots privatizing everything in sight at the Chicago Board of Education and in the “Office of New Schools.” Of course, just as Bremer would have been nothing without George W. Bush and the crazies in the Washington Think Tanks that write the privatization scripts for the world, so Duncan would just be another washed up former professional ball player if Mayor Daley and his corporate buddies weren’t backing his massive privatization plans.

    For the past six years, we’ve watched while Chicago Schools CEO Arne Duncan lied repeatedly to the public about how and why he was closing dozens of public schools. Duncan was not trying to improve public schools in Chicago for all children, but was in command of a ruthless privatization plan that is designed to undermine traditional notions of public education for urban children and replace them with a crackpot version of “market choice” that exists only for the wealthy and the powerful.

    The key to Duncan’s ability to get away with the Big Lie, however, is not Duncan’s own eloquence, but the face that he has the backing of Chicago’s ruling class. From the CEOs of the city’s largest corporations (organized into the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club) to the editorial boards of the two power daily newspapers, Duncan’s lies are amplified every day, and except for the pages of this newspaper and a few other places, unchallenged in the public arena where democratic debate is supposed to take place.

    After we reviewed the school closings in Chicago since 2001, when Mayor Daley appointed Duncan the second “Chief Executive Officer” in CPS history, the shocking details began to become clear. Not only were poor black children being forced out of their homes (public housing reform, it was called), but they were also being deprived over and over of access to public schools.

    Comparing Duncan’s other work with massive privatizers like Paul Bremer (who headed up the Provisional Coalition Authority in Baghdad from 2003 to 2004), any clear-eyed reader can see the same pattern. These guys are not in the business of improving public school, but of stripping the assets from public services and turning unionized public servants into non-union public slaves.

    For five years, we have watched thousands of people appear before the corporate stooges who constitute the Chicago Board of Education, trying to talk about what would be best for public schools. Every argument has been eloquent.

    But the arguments don’t really matter, because Arne Duncan and the seven members of the Chicago Board of Education are not in the education business, they are in the privatization and charter school business. Once the public understand that, at least people can stop wasting their time talking about what’s best for the education of Chicago’s poorest children. Duncan couldn’t care less about that as long as his crimes — and they are crimes that flow from these lies — don’t make the TV news or interfere with the agenda of his mentor Richard M. Daley.

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The Fearless Forecaster Prediction on Darling-Hammond Chances

    With the battles swirling around the potential next Education Secretary - for and against the Joel Klein/Michelle Rhee/Arne Duncan, a major attack has been launched on Linda Darling-Hammond, who has been a key advisor on Obama's ed team even though a critic of those media darlings Teach for America. Naturally, the TFA machine is sweating a bit and has been part of the attack on Darling-Hammond.

    Some people are optimistic, thinking the D-H critics have gone too far. That Obama will move in her direction. Witness the John Affelt post at Huffington (which I posted at Norms Notes). Affelt opens with this:

    A slickly-coordinated string of editorials and columns in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The New Republic, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere has poured forth recently, all decrying the possible appointment of Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond as Secretary of Education. Obviously responding to the same talking points, the pieces paint Darling-Hammond a status quo, incrementalist and anoint a new group of pro-merit pay/pro-testing/pro-charter school advocates as the hard-charging "reformers."

    Darling-Hammond has spent 30 years pushing for a radical restructuring of public schools and the systems that serve them so that all students will have high-quality teachers and rich learning opportunities, not just well-off, predominantly white kids. To call her a defender of the status quo is like calling Lincoln a defender of slavery because he wasn't as absolute in opposition as were some on his team of rivals.

    By drawing so heavily from the old playbook, the hard-chargers may have just charged off the cliff--virtually ensuring Obama will be less receptive to their pleas.

    So I have borrowed WFAN's Steve Somers' FEARLESS FORECASTER to predict the fate of D-H. Unfortunately, I don't agree with the view that Obama will turn out to be the kind of politician who will pick D-H. He seems to look at how easy it will be to get a person confirmed. And with both Republicans and many Democrats taking a view that D-H is easy on teachers, we can expect quite a battle if Obama chooses her. On the other hand, if he chooses Duncan or Klein or Rhee, there will be screams of protest from educators but not from politicians.

    Note: If you read Randi Weingarten's letter to the NY Times (posted at ed notes Dec. 13) you will see she did not put the AFT/UFT in the Darling-Hammond camp at all - which shows how the union lines up as more political than educational. A recent quote is in effect an endorsement of Arne Duncan: “We have no candidate in the race,” Ms. Weingarten said. But last week she publicly praised Mr. Duncan in an interview with The Associated Press. “Arne Duncan,” she said, “actually reaches out and tries to do things in a collaborative way.”

    FEARLESS says that Obama will go the route of least protest and choose some non-controversial politician who is palatable to all sides. After all, Obama himself has gone both ways on education and left people guessing.

    Thus, FEARLESS' prediction is that for Darling-Hammond, becoming Education Secretary is
    A LOSS!

    More Speculation on Education Secretary at Norms Notes.

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More from Moore on NCLB

    Paul Moore Comment on WaPo article:

    NCLB is the evil spawn of the globalization of our economy. That process is at the very foundation of business model for schools, charters, vouchers, data driven instruction, merit pay, standardized testing, and most perversely of all, paying students to consume the corporate version of knowledge. It was the reason the Business Roundtable and Bill Gates were so instrumental in getting this absurd and perverse legislation passed. The CEO's wanted a profit making private school system. In the new economy there would be Wal Mart and security guard jobs or the military for the kids that used to go to public schools.

    These Reagan revolutionaries had a good run, in fact their campaign appeared ready to bear its bitter fruit. They had public school system wreckers like Michelle Rhee in place. Just then their rationale for being, their precious global economy, crashed! Why in just the past month they have had to do $326 billion CPR on Citigroup and scrambled to rescue the Big Three. Their pride and joy is on fire. It was supposed to be immutable. It was eternal! Now that attitude's all
    gone. There's only panic now.

    Any talk of NCLB is prayer said over a corpse.

    The great transition is coming!

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Pathetic Letter to Times From Weingarten

    Want to get a bead on why teachers are in a losing two front war where the enemy is within? Instead of castigating David Brooks for his outrageous column, Weingarten says:

    The educational improvements that have occurred during Joel I. Klein’s tenure as chancellor of New York City’s public schools are the result of hard work and collaboration with the United Federation of Teachers and the teachers we represent.

    Improvements? Every teacher knows this is a crock.

    OK, stop gagging. Susan Ohanian's comment:

    This "cover your backside no matter who gets chosen" letter shows how morally bankrupt union leadership is.

    Letter in New York Times

    To the Editor:

    The three very different candidates David Brooks (column, Dec. 5) names as possible choices for secretary of education share a common denominator — they all have worked with teacher unions, to great effect.

    The educational improvements that have occurred during Joel I. Klein’s tenure as chancellor of
    New York City’s public schools are the result of hard work and collaboration with the United
    Federation of Teachers and the teachers we represent.

    In Chicago, Arne Duncan has partnered with the local affiliate of the American Federation of
    Teachers to restructure struggling schools and adopt promising innovations.

    Linda Darling-Hammond has worked with the A.F.T. on projects going back decades to implement lessons from the best research and real-life experience for the benefit of students and teachers in America’s classrooms.

    We agree that the choice of a secretary of education is a crucial one. But we disagree that distance from and disdain for teachers’ unions are positive credentials. Demonizing teachers’ unions might win favor in certain quarters, but it won’t do anything to help kids or advance school improvement.

    Randi Weingarten
    American Federation of Teachers and United Federation of Teachers


    So Randi, how do we say people like Klein and Duncan who demonize teachers' unions and castigate teachers and then claim to have made "improvements" are somehow "collaborative?"

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British Columbia Teachers to Boycott Tests

    When will teachers in the States get as fed up one day?

    A solid majority of B.C. Teachers' Federation members voted this week in favour of a controversial plan for a province-wide boycott of the tests - known as the Foundation Skills Assessment and delivered in Grades 4 and 7 - unless the government agrees to stop testing every student and introduces random sampling instead.

    "It's clear that teachers are ready to take a strong stance," BCTF president Irene Lanzinger said in an interview as her union announced that 85 per cent of teachers who voted were in favour of the boycott plan. Slightly more than half of the 41,000 members cast ballot

    Read full piece at or at norms notes.

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A Voice speaks da trut about Rhee.... The Chancellor's New Clothes

    Quite frankly, I’ve never met anyone who works in the system for a few years, who does not eventually see the truth.

    Perhaps this is the real genius of Teach for America and of Michelle Rhee who is a product of it; get the teachers out of the schools before they question the corruption and label those who stay and begin to question it as “burned out.”

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The New Know Nothings

    I just heard Jonathan Alter rant against teacher unions on Don Imus while praising Bill Gates as a reformer. Alter joins David Brooks, another education Know Nothing in pushing the Joel Klein/Michelle Rhee/Arne Duncan model of "it's all the teachers and their unions fault" model of school reform. Brooks recently wrote his second column pushing his vacant ideas on education.

    What's interesting about these Know Nothings is how they refuse to look at places where the anti-union market based "reforms" have had little impact. Arne Duncan brags about how he fired the teachers at low performing schools. How has the Chicago model worked out? (See my recent column about how PS 225 in Rockaway had most of the teachers dumped out in March 2005 and is now being closed.) As a matter of fact, the refusal to look at the record of Chicago 13 years after mayoral control began and where George Schmidt reports the union has been rendered just about helpless, is a major plank in the Know Nothing platform.

    Another plank is the refusal to look at all the right to work states where unions barely exist and how education is working out in those places.

    Alter never mentions Gates' recent turn around on his support of small schools, a movement that has decimated and de-stabilized so many schools in New York City. Ooops! Let's try another experiment with no data backing it up. The irony, of course, of all these data kings never using data to judge the validity of their "reforms," would be delicious if it wasn't so destructive.

    The rants ignore the significant voices of vocal parents in New York who have actually made a firmer stand against BloomKlein than the UFT.

    I put a lot of blame for how this is being played out squarely on the teacher unions, who could of/should of been fighting for the kind of education reforms that would work. But they abandoned that fight a generation ago. We expect people like Gates, Alter, Brooks, Klein, etc. to act the way they do. But when the rank and file have to fight a two-front war, their situation is very bad indeed.

    As we full well know, the UFT has barely made a stand at all. I won't go into the gory details. You see, the UFT/AFT wants to play "me too – see, we are also reformers." No, not the kind of reformers who call for low class sizes and offering urban kids the same kind of education wealthy kids get. But merit pay, ending union work rules, support for the testing mantra (though making squeaks about how much they are opposed.)

    The tragedy is that our union leaders are not Know Nothings. They actually know something about how schools work but have decided to play the political game with the union attackers. "We'll give you some of what you want now and sell it to the members while leaving you loop-holes to get the rest. We will then put on a big act for the members about how awful this is but shrug our shoulders with a 'what can we do' attitude." The key issue: hold on to power.

    They want to be a partner with the business community and have a seat at the table. Except for the extreme right wing union attackers, the reformers are perfectly happy to have a UFT/AFT on board as their intermediaries in selling their platform from the inside. The union leaders will get dues no matter what happens to the teachers. And most importantly, they will remain in power.

    If a reform movement within the UFT ever got started and attracted masses of rank and filers, watch how quickly the gang running the schools line up with Unity Caucus to keep militants away from union power.

    Greg Palast had a great post at Huffington which I posted at Norms Notes. Is the real Gates interest to make sure poor kids are educated in a narrow, test-driven school he would never send his own kids to so he can assure enough data entry clerks?

    Is Obama Getting Bad Advice on His Appointments?

    Joel Klein is being considered for secretary of education, which would make as much sense for our schools as Michael Brown did for disaster relief.

    Has Barack Obama forgotten, Michael "Way to go, Brownie" Brown? Brown was that guy from the Arabian Horse Association appointed by President George W. Bush to run the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Brownie, not knowing the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain from the south end of a horse, let New Orleans drown. Bush's response was to give his buddy Brownie a thumbs up.

    We thought Obama would go a very different way. You'd think the studious senator from Illinois would avoid repeating the Bush regime's horror show of unqualified appointments, of picking politicos over professionals. But here we go again. Trial balloons lofted in the Washington Post suggest President-elect Obama is about to select Joel Klein as secretary of education. If not Klein, then draft choice No. 2 is Arne Duncan, Obama's backyard basketball buddy in Chicago.

    It's not just Klein's and Duncan's empty credentials that scare me: It's the ill philosophy behind the Bush-brand education theories they promote. "Teach-to-the-test" (which goes under such prepackaged teaching brands as "Success for All") forces teachers to limit classroom time to pounding in rote, low-end skills, easily measured on standardized tests. The transparent purpose is to create the future class of worker-drones. Add in some computer training and -- voila! -- millions trained on the cheap to function, not think. Analytical thinking skills, creative skills, questioning skills will be left to the privileged at the Laboratory School and Phillips Andover Academy.

    Alphie Kohn has a piece in The Nation which I also posted at Norms Notes.

    Beware School 'Reformers'

    For Republicans education "reform" typically includes support for vouchers and other forms of privatization. But groups with names like Democrats for Education Reform--along with many mainstream publications--are disconcertingly allied with conservatives in just about every other respect.

    Sadly, all but one of the people reportedly being considered for Education secretary are reformers only in this Orwellian sense of the word.

    Duncan and Klein, along with virulently antiprogressive DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, are celebrated by politicians and pundits. Darling-Hammond, meanwhile, tends to be the choice of people who understand how children learn. Consider her wry comment that introduces this article: it's impossible to imagine a comparable insight coming from any of the spreadsheet-oriented, pump-up-the-scores "reformers" (or, for that matter, from any previous Education secretary). Darling-Hammond knows how all the talk of "rigor" and "raising the bar" has produced sterile, scripted curriculums that have been imposed disproportionately on children of color. Her viewpoint is that of an educator, not a corporate manager.

    Imagine--an educator running the Education Department.

    For more research-based pieces, check Leonie Haimson's consistent defense of reforms that will work at the NYC Public Parents blog. Leonie's stake is that she has a child in the NYC schools. In this piece Leonie punches holes in the entire Bill Gates rationale.

    No evidence of improved outcomes at NYC's small schools

    And of course the work done by Eduwonkette to debunk the Know Nothings. And then there's the ongoing discussion between Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch at Bridging Differences.

    You see, the new Know Nothings want to know nothing about all this evidence of opposition that goes way beyond teachers.

    Previous Ed Notes articles on another David Brooks column in July.

    David Brooks and the Status Quo at the NY Times

    Responding to David Brooks

    Michael Fiorillo Challenges David Brooks

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Randi in Miami

    Paul Moore sent this link to Randi's speech today in Miami.
    She sure brought along her shovel.
    I love the part where she says she was a social studies teacher.
    She left out the "full time for 6 months" part.
    She doesn't mention her former buddy Rudy Crew, who left (or was chased out of) Miami recently.
    And she agrees with rewarding teachers who produce results.
    Hmm. Exactly what kinds of results are we talking about? Test results, of course. But don't be shocked to see Weingarten make a speech to another group tomorrow where she rails against the evils of testing. Remember the mantra: watch what she does, not what she says.

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Randi in Miami

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When Schools Close

    My column for the Dec. 12 edition of The Wave (

    The geniuses at the Tweed Courthouse (the HQ of the NYCDOE) have done it again. Joel Klein and Mike Bloomberg have been in charge of the NYC schools for seven years and they still don’t have a clue. But they have to make it look like they’re doing something, so they race around closing schools. Closing schools has been a failed policy. The mantra should be, “fix schools, don’t close them.” Like, have they ever tried the idea of drastically reducing class size?

    Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters has written on the NYC Public School Parents blog:
    The Institute for Education Studies has concluded that that class size reduction is one of only four, evidence-based reforms that through rigorous, randomized experiments have been proven to work – the "gold standard" of research. None of the strategies attempted by the NYC Department of Education under Joel Klein's leadership were cited.

    But Joel Klein has always pooh-poohed class size reduction with the response that high quality teachers are more important. Our response has been that with smaller class sizes the overall quality of teaching will go up across the board.

    The act of closing a school is a deflection of responsibility and an open admission by Klein that he has no answers. After all, he is in charge. He can change the administration of a school at any time. But that’s not the fish Klein wants to fry. His minions have put in these administrators to run most schools in the city and their continued problems can be laid directly at his door. So, it becomes “blame the teacher” time.

    The most recent list of schools to be closed includes PS 225 on Beach 110th Street here in Rockaway. Howie Schwach’s front page story has a list of exactly how this plan will be implemented. Tweed arrives at these plans by tossing a bunch of post-it notes in the air and those that land inside a square are the ones implemented. More of that rearranging of deck chairs on a sinking ship.

    They have a particular problem with PS 225. In Schwach’s article, a parent says, “This school was closed once before. They got rid of all the teachers, some of who were very good. They kept the administration and the kids, who are the real problems in the school. What good did it do?” Over two-thirds of the teachers had to find new jobs and the others had to reapply and be accepted by the administration.

    In the world of the BloomKlein model of education reform, the lack of quality teaching is the problem with poor academic performance. So how did changing the teachers three years ago at PS 225 work out?

    Now let’s get this straight. We know there have been some problems at PS 225. But Tweed doesn’t care about the problems parents and teachers worry about. They care about data. And the widgets (or idjits) at the DOE looked at some numbers and made the decision to close the school – again. Guess what? Watch them do it again in three years.

    There’s been a lot of focus on the “D” grade the school received on the school report card, another bogus attempt to create a phony accountability system by Klein, where everyone is accountable but him. These grades are 85% test-driven and ignore so many other factors. Leonie Haimson suggested we focus less on the grade and explore the more reliable state accountability status of PS 225 and compare it to other schools that are not closing down. “We simply have no idea why DOE chooses certain schools to close and others to keep open,” she said. “If there is a problem with the principal the DOE can remove him and put another in place without closing the school.” People who want the school to stay open can do this and make their case to the public. But with a union that goes along and gets along, teachers are left to the wolves. Imagine if there was a real union out there that made a big issue of this! Nah, not in this universe.

    The “new” plan for PS 225 now calls for two separate schools instead of the current K-8, which was supposedly forced down the throats of the school administration to relieve the pressure on the other middle schools in Rockaway. Beginning in September 2009, a Pre-K to 5th grade school will open, which will ultimately go up to 5th grade and a 6-8 middle school with a different administration will open. See, now we can have two high priced principals and sets of administrators and office staffs all fighting over the same space. Like, I said, geniuses. The “old” DOE policy seems to have been to form lots of K-8 and 6-12 schools. Is that policy now dead? Or will it be resurrected when the “new” policy become old. How about trying this? Form two separate schools with odd and even numbered grades. We can have a school with grades 1, 3, 5 and 7 and another with K, 2, 4, 6, and 8. Ok, I’m joking. But don’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen.

    The teachers at PS 225 now face the prospect of being added to the growing ATR (Absentee Teacher Reserve) list, where those that don’t get jobs (while brand new teachers do) will be relegated to substituting and doing scut work around the school or being sent off into the hinterland to other schools while many of whatever union rights they had left disappear. Oh, yes, there is always that Open Market System of job searching, so vaunted by the UFT (Unfortunate Federation of Teachers.)

    I’ve been working with groups around the city to defend and rally around the ATR atrocity created by the disastrous 2005 contract agreed to by our wonderful UFT leaders, who have broken a Guinness record by selling more teachers down the river in the shortest amount time.

    Teacher quality
    Speaking of sell-outs, I’m really getting sick of the line being pushed that the single most important factor in student achievement is teacher quality, something the UFT unfortunately signs onto. That has lead to a focus on so-called accountability where teachers are being measured by the scores of their students (again, something agreed to by the UFT). Many teachers in NYC will be getting report cards supposedly based on the value added approach, which measures how much their students have grown (not height, unfortunately). But researchers have pointed out that the value added approach is an unproven commodity. And even if it was, we still question whether the narrow test score approach that leaves so much out about what teachers do is an adequate way to judge a teacher’s quality. There will never be a true measure. But here is what I know about judging whether someone is a good teacher: you know one when you see one.

    Related: No evidence of improved outcomes at small schools

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