Archive for the '“Education reform”' Category

Paul Ryan Comes To Harlem

May 14, 2017

In a sense, the visit of such a person to such an institution made perfect sense, that much the more in the Age of Trump. After all, here you had Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, one of the leading proponents of the ceaseless war on the remnants of the social contract, fresh off his successful orchestration of a billionaire tax cut masquerading as a health care bill intended to strip millions of healthcare, visiting Harlem Success Academy, the flagship school of Eva Moskowitz, one the most successful practitioners of the publically funded privately managed scams called charter schools.

The two, after all, have a lot in common. Both owe their careers to the largesse of the richest people in the country and, in the case of Moskowitz, the politicians in their employ. Ryan, of course, is a prime example of such an employee.

Hence, Moskowitz beckoned, Ryan came.

Despite their almost limitless financial backing, and a government that seems pleased to give them both almost anything they ask, both parade around as heroic strivers for the underclass against the wily tyranny of the status quo, i. e. the public sector and labor unions.
Both are corporatists, through and through.
Please note that Harlem Success Academy is but one of three schools housed in the building in which Ryan made his visit.
What was the purpose of Ryan’s visit? A visit that necessitated police barricades and TV crews at 7:30 in the morning when I arrived to teach in the school that Ryan had no intention of visiting . A visit that brought hundreds of furious protesters whose whistles and howls I could hear intermittently throughout the day, one especially loud volley signaling Ryan’s arrival, another, his hasty exit.

For Moskowitz, Ryan’s visit was a public relations bonanza, made to show the world how connected to power she really is. A few years ago I literally bumped into presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the hall of my school as he was leaving Success Academy after visiting with Moskowitz.

It is not hard to imagine what would happen if a public school official called Ryan’s office and offered a tour of a public school.

For Ryan the visit was an opportunity to show how much and how deeply he cares about the children and people of Harlem, even if he and Donald Trump and a bunch of rich white guys recently celebrated stripping them of their healthcare while taking aim at Medicare.

Full disclosure: Ryan, who arrived hours late, did make a last minute gun-at-the –head, perfunctory visit to a special needs class in the 811 school which Moskowitz tried ruthlessly to gobble up as part of her ever expanding empire, to hell with the special needs kids who are schooled there. Almost certainly agreed to because of the pressure asserted by 811 teacher Mindy Rosier, Ryan was reportedly escorted into a classroom of children who had no idea who he was, smiled, said hello, shook the principal’s hand and was hustled up the stairs for an hour long visit with Success Academy.

Using children for political props is nothing new to Moskowitz, even if the same act would find any DOE principal out of a job and possibly in jail should they pull such a stunt. Over the past few years Moskowitz has bussed children up to Albany and had them parade over the Brooklyn Bridge, all on school time, all as their teachers were on the city’s dime, all under the pretext of giving the kids a “civics lesson.”
Ryan’s visit, presumably, was just another such “lesson. “

But what, precisely, was the nature of the lesson? What did the students learn? That it was somehow OK for the Speaker of the House of Representatives to visit their school and not the public school next door in the same building? That the students my colleagues and I teach are somehow not as important? That passing savage health care bills that will destroy people’s lives and render millions helpless so the richest people in the country can have yet another tax break is just fine?
That some people count and some people don’t ?

Yes, it made perfect sense that these two should meet, as it is so perfectly revealing of the nature of all things in the Age of Trump.

Ryan and friends celebrating stripping millions of Americans of healthcare.

Addendum: http://thechiefleader.com/news/news_of_the_week/house-speaker-gets-a-private-look-at-success-and-a/article_a5d7128c-2ab7-11e7-8d4d-6364c3ca180d.html

Advertisements

Teachers Speak on the Brian Lehrer Show

February 21, 2017

bl

Six teachers from New York and New Jersey schools, myself included, spoke out on the WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show this morning, sharing their thoughts on teaching as well as the disastrous ideas of newly confirmed Secretary of Education Betsy De Vos. The time limits of the show were unfortunate but some worthwhile thoughts were aired. You can listen here.

A NYC Teacher Speaks of His Sabotaged School

January 31, 2017

The following is the transcript of an address given by NYC Public School teacher Jim Donohue on what has happened and is happening to his school:

Hello. My name is Jim Donohue.

I’d like to start by thanking you for allowing me a few minutes to speak tonight, and I’d also like to thank Carol Harrison and Mary Atkinson from the Bronx chapter for their support in what has been a very difficult couple of weeks.

I’m an English teacher at JHS 145, where I’ve worked for the past 17 years. JHS 145 is a renewal school, and we were told (through a leak to the New York Times) that a proposal has been made to close the school at the end of the school year.

I want to share a quote with you because it precisely defines the situation my colleagues, my students, and our school community find ourselves in today. It reads as follows:

“For the past 12 years, New York City’s ‘answer’ for struggling schools was simple: warehouse our neediest students, starve the schools of support, and then close their schools if they didn’t miraculously turn around. “

As you may have guessed, that was spoken by Mr. Michael Mulgrew back in 2014 in response to Mayor de Blasio’s announcement of the Renewal school plan.

Mr. Mulgrew used the term “warehouse our neediest students.” Well, I’ve come to you tonight directly from the warehouse. How else to describe a school whose students come NOT FROM ONE OR TWO zoned elementary schools in their district, but from 94 different schools located in EVERY BOROUGH of NYC? How else to describe a school with 140 students who arrived at its doors DIRECTLY from the Dominican Republic? How else to describe a school with 53 (20% of its population) shelter students, another 50 classified as Special Needs students, and another 20 with Interrupted Formal Education? We’ve done some research. NO OTHER MIDDLE SCHOOL IN THE BRONX has demographics to match this.

Mr. Mulgrew used the term “starve the school of resources”. Well, I come to you from a place of terrible starvation. How else to describe a situation in which 140 out of 298 students are English Language Learners but had NO ESL teacher for the entire 2014/2015 school year, and only 1 this year. How else to describe a situation in which 60% of a school’s population are English Language Learners, but have NO Bilingual math teacher, NO bilingual science teacher, NO bilingual English teacher and No Bilingual Social Studies teacher? How else to describe the following absurdity: One year into the renewal program, a program that promised ADDITIONAL RESOURCES to schools like ours, the DOE allowed the Success Academy to take 18 of our classrooms, which scattered our staff and students across 3 floors of a building occupied by 4 different schools, and forced us to dismantle our computer lab in order to convert it into classroom space?

Mr. Mulgrew mentioned the closing of schools, which brings me to my true purpose tonight. After attempting to systematically starve JHS 145 to death, the DOE now calls for the school to be closed. And I say “ATTEMPTING TO STARVE TO DEATH” because we are far from dead. Despite DOE claims that our students “FAIL” the state ELA and MATH assessments, we have data that shows otherwise.

Our students come to us reading at levels between Kindergarten and 4th grade. Do they miraculously (another term used by Mr. Mulgrew) achieve grade level scores on these tests at 145? No, they do not. What they do is move, consistently, from Kindergarten levels to 2nd grade, from 2nd to 3rd or 4th, from 3rd to 5th or 6th and so on.

Despite years of neglect, our students have won the Thurgood Marshall Junior Mock Trial Competition 8 times, more than any other school in the citywide tournament.

Our students have won the BronxWRITeS Poetry Slam more than any other school in the city, recently sharing the stage with Mayor De Blasio and Ambassador Caroline Kennedy in an exhibition at Goldman Sachs.

The DOE’s 2014-2015 School Quality Snapshot tells us that “86% of this school’s former 8th graders earned enough high-school credit in 9th grade to be on track for graduation,” a number that is nearly identical to the citywide average of 87% and better than the district average of 81%.

Our kids are some of the most vulnerable in the city, living in the poorest congressional district in the country, but they are smart and capable and worthy of respect. They are not failures.

Finally, I want to use a term that Mr. Mulgrew didn’t use. That term is DIRTY POOL. Because a full 3 weeks before the DOE’s closure proposal even becomes official, and 2 months before the PEP vote takes place, and despite the DOE’s claim that the closing has NOTHING to do with the charter school, Success Academy’s website has begun advertising for applicants to its new middle school, opening in 2017, at JHS 145. In recent weeks, Success Academy staff members have been measuring our classrooms, apparently 100% confident that the PEP will rubberstamp our demise in March.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m here to ask you for 4 things:
We ask that the UFT publicly demand that the proposal for the closing of JHS 145 be pulled from the PEP agenda.
We ask that the UFT utilize its resources in the form of media, social media, twitter, etc. speak out against this proposal.
We ask the UFT to help us move the PEP from Manhattan to the school so that the community can attend, and if that proves impossible, to supply a bus for community members to travel to the PEP.
Finally, and perhaps mosti importantly, we ask that Mr. Mulgrew come to our school to witness or participate in the student march to the District Office that we are scheduling for next week.
Thank you.

Please Contact
Jim Donohue 917-318-8762 donohuenyc@gmail.com
Craig Moss 914-319-1227 poet145@gmail.com
Deidre Walker 347-869-4810 deidremw@gmail.com

A Reading on WBAI About De Vos and Trump

January 18, 2017

betsy

This evening I was honored to be broadcast reading my most recent piece on the WBAI Evening News hosted by Linda Perry-Barr. The reading is found in the last seven or so minutes of the show which you can fast forward to but the whole show is well worth listening to.
Hope you enjoy.

It was a big thrill for my daughter.

http://www.wbai.org/articles.php?article=3328

dt

doorknob

Bill Gates and the Medal of Freedom: Obama Officially Recognizes the Right of the Rich to Impose Public Policy

November 19, 2016

gates

As if to officially acknowledge the insidious and tacit transformation of the remnants of democracy to not so subtle oligarchy, the Obama administration has announced that Bill Gates is to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In a sense, as the Obama administration has done more to undermine public education than any in American history, it is right and fitting that Gates, the person who has bankrolled and forged that effort more than any individual in American history, be so duly honored.
For the past 15 years, Gates, a private citizen with zero educational experience and knowledge, has been allowed to use his virtually limitless fortune to impose his will on the public school system as he has pleased, an effort he has pursued with the same ruthlessness that he once used to obtain the intellectual property rights that have led to his immense fortune.

Gates’ efforts have led directly to the expansion of publically funded, privately managed charter schools, the creation and imposition of idiotic and grossly unfair teacher evaluations, mass financing propaganda like Waiting For Superman, and the purchase and acquiescence of long standing education organizations such as the national Parent Teacher Association. In addition, Gates has funded the creation of a seemingly endless amount of freshly minted “grass roots” advocacy organizations (Educators for Excellence, for example) the sole purpose of which is to deceive an unknowing public into believing that a campaign to privatize the school system by the richest people on earth is rising from the streets. (The usurpation of the language and iconography of the Civil Rights Movement has been both beyond shameless and disturbingly successful. ) It has also led to the immiseration of teachers from coast to coast as well as the weakening of the power of teacher unions – who foolishly tried to dance with this monopolist — across the nation. Gates’ crowning achievement thus far is the imposition of the secretly written, deceptively named, disastrously received Common Core State Standards which, as they were written with standardized tests in mind, in turn have led to a reduction of education to test prep.

His success at” reform” has led education historian Diane Ravitch to sardonically dub Gates “ the superintendent of American schools. “
That this unelected, unaccountable and largely hidden figure has been allowed to forge his will on an American institution as vital as the public school system should fill every American who actually believes in participatory democracy with abject horror.
Instead, Gates is being awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor. And so it goes. Allow an individual man to accumulate the wealth of a state and it is only a matter of time before that individual begins to act like the state and a short time after that the state recognizes said individual as proxy for the state.
May the kind of freedom President Obama is awarding here be clearly recognized and seen for what it is. It is the freedom of the private citizen to make public policy for millions providing that private citizen is super rich.
The rest of us be damned.

What a sad, sad time in which we live.