Posts Tagged ‘Education reform’

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

Advertisements

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 Compares Trump with JFK Revealing to America His Profound Mediocrity

December 13, 2016

bg-unknown

Bill Gates’ astoundingly ignorant comparison of the promise of Donald Trump with President John F. Kennedy reveals to America what every conscious educator in the country has learned or unearthed about the man in the past fifteen years or so. To wit, that whatever his talents in building computer operating systems and monopolizing the intellectual property rights of both his predecessors and contemporaries, whatever his cunning in outmaneuvering his business rivals, Bill Gates is an intellectual mediocrity of the most profound order.

That, of course, has not stopped this unelected, unaccountable “philanthropist” from being allowed to impose imbecilic whim upon imbecilic whim on the entire American public school system and to do so in the most insidious ways possible. Galvanic bracelets, Big History (because it is not history) the Common Core, nonsensical teacher evaluation systems and so much more owe their existence to the bottomless billions of the saintly Bill Gates.
Now here’s Bill somehow comparing the promise of the most objectively unprepared, demagogic, clueless, vicious and mentally unstable person ever elevated to the presidency to the deeply flawed but nonetheless enormously inspiring presidency of JFK. It is revealing that Gates, a man who in his own way is as narcissistic as Trump, sees the Kennedy years, not through the sublime struggles of the Civil Rights Movement or the near nuclear apocalypse of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but through Kennedy’s Space Program, which, in the final end bore relatively little fruit, excepting in the world of technology.

At any rate, there is something grotesque about speaking of a vulgar conman like Trump in the same breath as a man like JFK who, despite his failings, had the stuff of grace and greatness. Indeed, Trump is the negation of all JFK stood for. At the same time Gate’s blathering reveals to the rest of America the quality of thought that, thanks to the spinelessness of our political leaders, has degraded American educators and education for years with not only no end in sight but with the utter certainly of greater and greater degradation under the leadership of a person like Trump.

The Daily News Outdoes Itself with a Masterpiece of Ugly Spirited Nonsense

September 7, 2015

DN g

Even in a campaign based almost entirely on public relations and perception management, yesterday’s editorial on “education reform” in the Daily News may be the most dishonest, manipulative and ugly spirited I’ve ever read on the subject. And I’ve read a lot.

Indeed, the unsigned editorial might well be studied as a masterpiece of manipulative bullshit, chock a block full of absurd assertions, gross insults, lies of omission and out right falsehoods – all to do nothing less than to poison public perception of the teachers’ union on the eve of Labor Day.

The phantom editorialist begin be lamenting that Andrew Cuomo, he who referred to the public school system as “the last monopoly,” was wrong in calling for a weasel worded “comprehensive review” of the deceitful and catastrophic Common Core standards. (For a brilliant and concise history of this long term con job, see Common Core Dilemma/ Who Owns Our Schools? by Mercedes K. Schneider.)

Somehow Cuomo’s attempt at appearing to listen to thousands and thousands of politicized parents of New York public school children, so enraged and disgusted by his reckless and damaging education impositions that they have refused to allow their children to take the tests he has forced down their throats,
“stands as a loud warning that the drive for teacher accountability is in dire jeopardy.”
The Daily News does not trouble itself with inquiring why any parent, never mind thousands of parents, would somehow not want their child’s teacher to be held accountable.

Better to skip that one.

The News is utterly flummoxed that a mere five months after an apparently all-powerful Cuomo used the budget to “push(ed) through the Legislature major changes to the state’s teacher-evaluation system, heightening reliance on kids’ Common Core standardized test results to gauge instructor performance, while shielding kids from consequences, “ parents across the state, mindful of what the “major changes” are doing to their children as well as their children’s teachers are, in greater and greater numbers and with more and more passion and articulation, simply refusing to go along with it.

I am one of those thousands and thousands of parents. I am also one of the thousands and thousands of teachers whose livelihood and professional reputation could easily be destroyed by the unconscionable and incomprehensible evaluation system that non-educator Cuomo rammed into law without a single debate or discussion as to its merits – not unlike the Common Core which apparently was consecrated as holy writ even before it was written. Meanwhile, in Long Island, a dignified and universally praised teacher whose reputation has been sullied by the evaluation system in question has brought the unholy mess to trial.

None of this troubles the Daily News who prefer to believe and in believing traffic the sweet and insidious lies that the states’ evaluation system is fair and just; that the Common Core was not, in fact, rushed into existence surreptitiously by a handful of education entrepreneurs funded by the Gates Foundation but “developed over many years by the nation’s top education experts. ”

It is instructive that the Daily News choose not to name the “nations top education experts ” or the exact length of time they toiled over their heavenly goal.

It is even more instructive that, in a statement that is beyond ludicrous,
The News insinuates that the parents who have opted their children out of the testing debacle have done so because they have been “ginned up” by the teacher unions. In other words, the thousands of parents who have opted out are so many human balloons with little tiny brains, pushed this way and that by the evil Svengali-like teacher unions.

Not only is this idea a grotesque insult to thousands of parents — and one that will hopefully resonate across the state and move thousands more to opt out — it is completely and tragically untrue.

I am a member of the largest teacher union local in the state and like many of my unions brothers and sisters I have and continue to be dismayed by both my unions’ support of Common Core and refusal to support the Opt Out movement.
But, of course, this disgraceful piece of propaganda was written exclusively and consciously for those who have no knowledge of what ed reform truly is and no way of finding out the truth of the matter in the media. It was written to deceive, to enrage, to divide those who do not know any better by those who do. And it was done at the expense of millions of children. It was written to be read on the eve of Labor Day to poison the souls of all who read it, indeed to do nothing less than “gird for war” against teachers who educate our children, against the public schools that have helped create the most powerful nation on earth, against unions that have created the middle class and given dignity to countless millions, and even against parents who stand up to the hubris of the state in defense of their children.
“O, “ wrote Walter Scot “ what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive! “

SAT Scores Point to the Systemic Failure of Education Reform

September 5, 2015

SATs
So on Labor Day weekend the College Board releases SAT scores that show that said scores have slipped to the lowest level in ten years, with New York scores falling below the national average.

What to make of this? What to make of this in a nation where public education has long ago been hijacked by private citizens and absolutely dominated by their untested and unproven notions of “education reform”, all of it designed to make students “ college and career ready, “all of it centered on test scores as the ultimate criteria of both student learning and teacher “effectiveness.”

I, for one, find the use of test scores as anything more than one criterion among many to be as cynical and intellectually lazy as one can get. But that said, those who live by test scores should have the integrity to follow out their own logic. If their reforms are working, why after a decade are SAT scores going down? If they are
not, why are they allowed to continue ?
One would think that the people responsible for such failure, should they be reasonable and decent people, might be somewhat humbled at what they have essentially inflicted upon a generation of other peoples’ children.
But humility and decency are qualities in short supply amongst education reformers.

At any rate, New Yorkers were given a prelude to the SAT revelation – the ocean between the promises of reformer and the results of reform — in June 2014 with the startling news that not a single one of the “little test-taking machines
of Eva Moskowitz’s endlessly praised Harlem Success Academies was able to pass the test needed to enter New York City’s selective high schools.
Not one.
That news too should have been met with humility but, of course, it was simply buried, as this too is likely to be buried. But in the mean time you can rest assured that as you read this there are well paid mercenaries busy figuring out some angle with which to blame this failure on teachers and argue the need to double down on the insane policies ed reformers have been allowed to inflict on millions of American children.