Archive for February, 2013

“Grass Roots” Educators4Excellence Make $250,000 Commercial

February 19, 2013

You know there is something seriously wrong with any teacher evaluation plan that is pined for by the likes of the minuscule and despicable Educators 4 Excellence, a whole cloth creation of Bill Gates, Democrats for Education Reform and other union busting privatizers lusting to get their hands on our public school system and remake it in their own image.      You know there is something even more wrong with the thinking of the United Federation of Teachers who, with very minor differences, were willing to sign on to the same plan before Mayor Mike Bloomberg “torpedoed “ it at the 11th hour over the UFT’s insistence that this radical experiment in union suicide and  systematic destruction of teachers have a two year sunset clause. ( Like all ideas favored by Bloomberg, Bloomberg believed the experiment should  go on in perpetuity: a goal he is apparently seeking for all of the  insane ideas that blossom in his fertile head  in his final 10 months of power. )

Now here we are some six or so weeks later and Governor Andrew “I am the government”   “ Cuomo is poised, somehow, to pass legislation allowing  New York State Commissioner John King the right to  impose his own evaluation plan, union  contacts, and laws be damned, if the existing plan is  not ratified.

This is what passes for binding arbitration in our time.

Inexplicably, my union, the UFT,  seems to be quietly fine with that arrangement.  Much more loudly, E4E is demanding precisely that, and the New York Post, which can be seen as the house organ of E4E, is as ever happy to spread their word.  (Note: As Commissioner King taught for a mere three years before being handed power over education in New York State,  he may well feel an affinity for the leaders of E4E and they for him. )

A couple of  months ago, E4E held something purporting to be a rally at City Hall Park in favor of the wretched plan.   The affair was darkly amusing in its pathos, what with the E4Eer’s chanting idiocies in their billionaire bought green beanies and going on and on about how excellent they were.  “I am not satisfactory!  I am excellent” was a cringe inducing fave.

One after the other they barked on about how they craved feedback from their administrators, all but admitting to being as helpless as infants in their classrooms without an assistant principal telling them what to do and how to do it.

And  yet these were the very same adults who  were demanding the right to influence state educational policy and radically rewrite or outright remove the teacher protections that their predecessors  risked their careers to obtain for them.

A wee bit of a contradiction there, I’d say.  But what the hey!

There were ignorant if almost passionate lamentations  about using the 250 million dollars of Race to the Top extortion money to buy laptops for their students,  as if one dime of the tainted loot was ever going near a   class room and not going straight to consultants and test makers. I attended the rally (and wrote of it in an earlier post) and spoke to some of the beanie wearing crew, all of whom were clueless, some of whom were very pleasantly so.   This morning I  was mailed the on line version of E4E latest effort and — lo and be hold! — there are the same few faces in the video as at their tiny rally spouting the same lines, albeit  it, in  somewhat gentler and infinitely  more somber, even funereal tones.    Alas, what else can you do when your budget is in the millions but your membership is in the hundreds but trot out and re cycle the same people over and over. Indeed, one of them is the very lady who was handed a platform by the NY Daily News on January 3.

The Post does again what it has done since the creation of  E4E , even repeating the nonsense about E4E  forming spontaneously, like Athena out of Zeus’s head, from a couple of frustrated Bronx teachers — neither of whom of is still teaching, but rather living large on their corporate sponsor’s welfare  — in a in a lonely February kitchen under a dim bulb with a sad minor scale violin solo playing in the distance.

( OK, I made up the part about the dim light bulb and the violin but  they made up the bullshit about the kitchen.  You can rest assured, like so much of corporate education reform schemes,  the idea for  this repugnant organization was  vomited  up ages ago in a well lit boardroom. )

A mere two or three years later and here’s E4E with a snazzy midtown office, a branch in LA and   no less than a quarter of a million dollars to spend on a commercial!

My favorite line from the Post’s puff piece?  “The nonprofit E4E has drawn criticism for relying in part on funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates and Carnegie foundations.”

“In part.”   That’s a good one.

My bet is that there has not been a single dollar raised by teachers for this egregious organization.

And yet here again is E4E, possessors of zero credibility, with less than 1 % of NYC teacher as members again presented as if it is a legitimate organization and an “independent” voice of real educators.

I know of no other group that so completely embodies the fraudulence and deceit of corporate education reform and the willing complicity  of the media to aid in such fraud and deceit as E4E.  Think about it.  A quarter of a million dollars for an ad for a group that was “hatched in a kitchen” three years ago.  There is a story here.  It is the story of media complicity with insidious corporate reformers.  And how that story  goes on and on and on.

And there is another story here, one even darker in its way that the fraudulence of E4E.

And that story is this:  how did it happen that a group like E4E, that was created by billionaire  privatizers  for the sole purpose of   stripping  teachers of their rights,  and an organization like the UFT, that was created by teachers to  grant them rights and protect their rights wind up agreeing to essentially the same teacher evaluation plan ?


My question:  on what level of Dante’s hell are we trapped in and how the hell do we get out dignified and alive?

We have reached the hour when everything must change or we will enter decades of data based, billionaire orchestrated, illuminated darkness.

Independent teachers group demands Albany eval plan

  • By ERIK KRISS, Bureau Chief
  • Last Updated: 3:07 AM, February 19, 2013
  • Posted: 1:55 AM, February 19, 2013

ALBANY — A group of reform-minded city teachers is taking to the airwaves today to demand the state impose a teacher-evaluation system on the Big Apple soon, The Post has learned.

Educators 4 Excellence plans to flood network and cable TV stations in the city with a 30-second ad calling on Albany to impose an evaluation system as soon as possible in the face of an impasse between Mayor Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers.

Gov. Cuomo will introduce legislation this week for a state-imposed system — but the measure could give the city and UFT until Sept. 17 to agree on their own plan before it takes effect.

But that could push implementation of any teacher-evaluation plan into the 2014-15 school year, E4E says.

“It will be incredibly difficult to train teachers and principals on a teacher-evaluation system that isn’t finished until the beginning of the [next] school year,” E4E executive director Jonathan Schleifer told The Post yesterday.

“We need a system put in place soon,” he said, adding that there is “no local deal in sight.”

The ad buy is expected to exceed $250,000 and may run longer than a week, organizers said.

It’s aimed at Cuomo, who faces his own deadline this week to amend his state budget proposal by adding his mandatory teacher-evaluation plan.

State lawmakers are expected to approve the budget for the state fiscal year that begins April 1 by the end of March.

E4E says it wants evaluations to provide feedback to teachers based on multiple observations, “student growth data” and student surveys, among other factors.

With school out for winter break, E4E members also plan to fan out across the city today to collect petition signatures calling for a state evaluation system to take effect as soon as possible.

“A meaningful evaluation system will tell me what’s working — and help me be better for my students,” Queens seventh-grade mathematics teacher Jemal Graham says in the ad.

“With feedback and support, I will be a stronger teacher for my students,” adds Rafael Gondim, a math teacher in Queens.

The city already lost $250 million in state aid by missing a Jan. 17 deadline for an evaluation plan that must be agreed to by the UFT.

It stands to forfeit another $224 million if the sides miss the September deadline.

“We can’t afford any more empty promises and empty programs,” Gondim says, with Bronx special-education teacher Susan Keyock adding, “Our students deserve better.”

The nonprofit E4E has drawn criticism for relying in part on funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates and Carnegie foundations.

A UFT spokesman questioned how “a supposedly grass-roots teacher organization with limited membership and resources can afford an ad campaign — unless of course the campaign is being funded by outside sources,” adding that the union hopes the state facilitates “binding arbitration” in the absence of a negotiated settlement.

Cuomo’s office had no comment and a spokesman for Bloomberg did not return a request for comment.

E4E was hatched about three years ago by several Bronx teachers frustrated over the lack of teacher input on school reforms. It has also advocated for merit pay and stronger tenure requirements, and opened a Los Angeles chapter in late 2011.

The teacher-quality and school-choice advocacy group StudentsFirstNY ponied up over half a million dollars in December for a citywide TV and social-media ad campaign to pressure the city and UFT to reach an agreement before the January deadline.

Trouble viewing this email? You can View this Message Online

Educators 4 Excellence: An Independent Voice for Teachers

Dear Karl,Good morning.I wanted you to be the first to know. As millions of New Yorkers watch TV today they are going to see myself and two other E4E-NY teachers calling on Albany to act immediately and deliver a meaningful evaluation and support system for New York City’s teachers.You’ll probably see it during your favorite news and shows this week, but you can also watch the 30-second video here:

This message couldn’t come at a better time – yesterday the NY Post reported that the Governor would give the City and Union until September 17th to try to get a deal. Unfortunately, though we hoped they could work something out before, we’ve seen they haven’t been able to – even when a quarter of a billion dollars for our students was at stake. I remain optimistic, but we need Albany’s leadership to guarantee that we will get the feedback and support we need to help our students.

E4E teachers have been asking for meaningful evaluation and support for two years now and we can’t afford to wait until the start of another new school year. In order for an evaluation system to have a meaningful impact, we need time to implement it thoughtfully by training principals, setting up a feedback loop with teachers, and lining up high-quality professional development to support teachers. No more kicking the can down the road!

The video will be seen by millions of New Yorkers, but our voice is strongest when you join Susan, Rafael, and me. Here are two quick things you can do right now to help share this message:

•    Forward this email to your friends and colleagues.
•    Share the video on Facebook and Twitter


Jemal Graham
Seventh grade math teacher, Queens
E4E-NY School Captain


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333 West 39th Street, Suite 703, New York, NY 10018About E4E: For far too long,education policy has been created without a critical voice at the table – the voice of reform-minded classroom teachers. Educators 4 Excellence (E4E), a teacher-led organization, is changing this dynamic by placing the voices of teachers at the forefront of the conversations that shape their classrooms and careers. To learn more,

Right now, educators are working through E4E to drive positive outcomes for students and elevate the teaching profession. Help grow this movement. Please donate today.

Rethinking TFA: A Small but Good sign

February 11, 2013

It is always refreshing to encounter someone who has the courage and integrity to reevaluate their beliefs and act upon such reevaluations.  It may be even more refreshing to see the thoughts of such a person published in the Harvard Crimson, as Harvard has established itself as a well oiled advocate of neo-liberal policies in just about everything, including education.  This is worth a read.

Rethink TFA


Originally a 2009 Teach For America Mississippi Delta Corps Member, I am now a fourth-year teacher of low-income and minority students at a public charter high school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. I would not be a teacher today without the support of TFA, and the majority of my incredible colleagues are Teach For America alumni. My principal—the most effective school leader I have ever witnessed as a teacher or a student—is a TFA alumnus.

But February 15 marks the final deadline to apply to be a 2013 TFA Corps Member, and you should not click “submit.”

Unfortunately, many TFA alumni (including myself) allow sentimentality to blind us to the harsh practicalities of TFA and its place in the education reform movement. The truth is, TFA teachers within their two-year corps commitment window do not, by and large, have tangible positive impacts on their classrooms. The natural extension is that if you join TFA, you will most likely have a neutral or negative impact on the academic gains of the students that you teach.

TFA paints a rosy picture for its prospective applicants when it glows that TFA corps members enable “students in high-need communities [to] make the academic progress that expands their opportunities.” But this statement isn’t bolstered by fact. TFA is not a traditional teacher-education program. In lieu of obtaining extensive preparation in multi-year undergraduate teacher credentialing programs, TFA corps members complete a five-week training program called “institute” in the summer immediately before they begin teaching. One study on the subject has shown that when compared a relatable cohort, teachers in the same schools who are untraditionally prepared and less likely to be certified, novice TFA teachers perform equivalently—but not superior—to those colleagues.

This seems disappointing but not terrible. You might not be the next Jaime Escalante (Stand and Deliver, anyone?), but surely you’re not going to de-learn your students as a first-year corps member, right?

Not so fast. Compare the performance of Teach For America corps members to another cohort: credentialed, non-TFA corps members. The same study indicates that novice TFA teachers actually perform significantly less well in reading and math than credentialed beginning teachers at the same schools. Keep in mind that to “perform significantly less well” as a teacher is quite literally to have a group of 10, 100, or even 200 students learn less than they would had you not been their teacher.

professed mission of Teach For America when it was founded was to “provide an excellent education for kids in low-income communities,” especially in classrooms staffed by permanent or non-permanent substitutes and “emergency hires.” (My own students’ Algebra I teacher died in the fall before I came, and the students did not see a licensed or credentialed teacher for the rest of the year. Every child was passed on to geometry, yet 91 percent of them failed a low-rigor state Algebra I assessment.) In situations like that, a TFA teacher can be an injection of energy into a “failing” school. In those schools, TFA teachers are no more inadequate than their alternative, and the chance that these corps members might stay past two years and develop into strong teachers is small but worth taking. Unfortunately, these scenarios are becoming less and less frequent.

According to the study, TFA has been placing teachers outside of those roles that cannot be filled by certified or experienced candidates, in positions that could be filled (or in some cases, were previously filled until rounds of layoffs) by effective, veteran teachers. Although an initial skim ofdata released by the U.S. Department of Education reveals a large number of regions suffering from teacher shortages, a closer look reveals that TFA placements are “largely outside” of those highest-need areas. Therefore, the fact that TFA teachers are equally or more effective than their unqualified colleagues becomes irrelevant as we realize that the teachers who were once the inadequate alternative are, in fact, no longer the alternative at all.

There is some limited statistical evidence that TFA can be at least marginally impactful. But so fewTFA teachers stay in the classroom beyond three years (more than 50 percent leave after two years and more than 80 percent leave after three), that the potential positive impact of TFA is rarely felt by the people who matter most—the students. In short, TFA may be pumping alumni who “understand” the achievement gap firsthand into various professions and fields outside of direct instruction, but it is doing so at the academic expense of the highest-risk kids who have the greatest need for effective teachers

If you feel inspired to teach, I beg you: teach! There are young people who need “lifers” committed to powering through the inevitable first three years of being terrible at teaching sinusoidal curves to hormonal 17 year-olds. I encourage you to pursue an alternative route to licensure and placement: one that encourages and actively supports longevity in the classroom and does not facilitate teacher turnover by encouraging its alumni to move into policy or other professions. If you feel compelled to Teach For America instead of teaching for America, please preference a region that has demonstrated a high need for novice teachers due to verifiable teacher shortages. And then stay in the classroom. For a long time. Feel at home teaching, and feel even more at home learning how to get better. Sit. Stay a while. Then stand and deliver.

Emma M. Lind ’09, an editorial chair emeritus, is a public charter high school teacher in Brooklyn, New York.