Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Surprise, Surprise: The Corporate Press Cheerleads the Corporate State

November 12, 2011

 

The following italicized section is an editorial from this  morning’s New York Times.

November 11, 2011

Tennessee’s Push to Transform Schools

 

Tennessee has a long way to go in improving its schools, but it has made significant headway in turning itself into a laboratory for education reform. It was one of the first states to test a rigorous teacher evaluation system, which was put in place this school year. Yet even before the results are in, political forces are now talking about delaying the use of these evaluations. State lawmakers and education officials must resist any backsliding.

 

Tennessee’s need to do better was underscored when the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the nation’s report card, ranked the state near the bottom in fourth-grade math performance, just ahead of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. These dismal results — slightly worse than those reported in 2009 — were made public earlier this month during legislative hearings on the evaluation system.

 

The Tennessee Education Association has criticized aspects of the system, citing what it describes as poorly trained evaluators and a confusing scoring rubric, and wants it postponed until it is essentially perfect. Some lawmakers are suggesting that evaluations performed this year not be used in personnel decisions. Such a delay would destroy momentum and could weaken reform.

 

Tennessee and Delaware were the only states to win generous grants in the first round under the Obama administration’s Race to the Top education initiative. It won partly because it had approved comprehensive reforms, which jettisoned a system that evaluated tenured teachers only twice every 10 years. The new approach requires that every teacher be observed several times a year.

 

Teacher evaluations now have three components: 50 percent from classroom observation data, 35 percent from student growth on test scores and 15 percent from student achievement measures that are locally selected. The teachers are rated on a five-point scale, from “significantly below expectations” to “significantly above expectations.” School districts are not required to fire anyone based on the ratings, but the state now requires teachers to work for five years, instead of three, before they are eligible for tenure. Those who want tenure have to earn high ratings for two years.

 

At the legislative hearing, superintendents and other school leaders praised the new system, saying that it had forced principals to spend more time in classrooms and required them to offer more help to novice teachers.

 

The president of the teachers’ union, however, pointed out that some evaluators failed to give teachers the feedback they need to improve. And she raised concerns about the fairness of the state’s decision to use schoolwide achievement measures to evaluate the more than 50 percent of teachers who work in grades or subject areas where standardized tests are not given. Better measures are under development but are not available.

 

As with any new reform, adjustments will be necessary. For example, principals should have the option of evaluating high-performing teachers less frequently than novices or low performers. And state officials must continue to review the question of how much standardized test data should count in teacher evaluations. Tennessee will need to address these issues fairly if the system is to win wide support among teachers and school administrators. But, even with shortcomings, the new approach to teacher evaluation is a vast improvement over the one it replaced.

Herein the Obama administration’s union busting extortion scheme Race to the Top in action.  By turning the state into a “laboratory  for education reform” ( am I the only one who find such language chilling ? )  it has paralyzed Tennessee’s school system and demoralized the state’s entire teaching profession.

Sound familiar ?

It has made both teaching and administering onerous if not out right impossible. It is based on wholly unproven assumptions — assumptions provided, once again, by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which is now the de facto Department of Education and chief policy maker in our great democracy — that may cost good teachers their livelihoods and children any chance of a real education.   Moreover, it could pervert education for  decades to come, reducing it even further into a corporate sponsored test taking disgrace  that you can be sure no child of the editorial staff of the New York Time or the Obama administration will be sullied with.

No matter to wise men of the “liberal” New York Times and their allies in the corporate education heist.  Tennessee must continue to implement this disastrous scheme to keep up the momentum.  Momentum, after all, is more important than accuracy, truth, fairness and even sanity.  Ram it home.  We’ll work out the details later. Sure, people will get hurt and further debased and children will be robbed of anything vaguely resembling a meaningful education – but we must begin somewhere.   Besides, the plan that preceded it was bad too, maybe even worse.  The essential thing is not to think and examine but to just keep pushing forward.  We must resist the “political forces” who advocate “backsliding.”

Herein the level of idiocy, recklessness and callous indifference to reality that has pervaded corporate education reform from day one. All in the name of putting kids first, of course.   Herein the level of craven surrender to corporate dictates that has characterized the Obama administration from day one. RTTT is a boon to test makers like no other.   Herein the logical results of Race to the Top, a plan designed to undermine the very thing it is claiming to improve and so antithetical to public education it should appall all, being excused by the non educator editorial staff who run the New York Times: the same folk, mind you, who thought it a splendid idea to let   Mike Bloomberg undermine the will of millions and purchase himself a third term at City Hall and thus allow him to do all he can do to privatize the NYC public school system. Rest assured, Mike is not letting them down.

Herein the corporate media cheerleading the furthering of the corporate state, democracy and the will of the people be damned.

Long live Occupy Wall Street and the spirit that brought it to life across the states and the globe. Let it occupy every office and editorial board and class room across these starved and suffering United States until the corporate state is exposed as the degrading, inhuman, mindless totalitarian monster that it is and can only be and locked in the dust bin of history where it belongs.

A Message from Michelle Rhee

August 29, 2011

Michelle Rhee is nothing if not convinced of her own genius, reality be damned.

Despite serious questions about her ethics during her miraculous three year teaching career, despite her outright rejection by proxy by the people of D.C, despite her corporate sponsored reputation as an educational messiah cracking beneath the mass cheating that occurred during her tenure as chancellor of DC schools,  (and her abject refusal to address the same ), despite the abject failure of the corporate reform campaign to improve anything despite a decade of dominance, Michelle Rhee is running around the country determined to tell you exactly how to think and how to save America’s schools.

Since her termination as DC schools chief, the lady has kept herself busy with her corporate sponsored Studentsfirst.org/ a movement to transform public education.   Rhee’s idea of transforming public education is to hand it over to corporations — not that she’d ever admit it.    Somewhere I read that Rhee has vowed to raise a billion dollars to defame, undermine and slander teacher unions   Of course, Rhee did not use that language even as that is exactly what she and her employers in the corporate  reform movement do and can do.  No, what Rhee claims to do is to “take on” the “all powerful ” teacher unions who are destroying our nation’s youth and which will soon be found to be the cause of cancer and perhaps death in all forms.
To be sure Rhee knows all the right people  to raise that kind of  money.

Studentsfirst.org is Rhee’s very profitable non-profit vehicle designed for the job.

Meanwhile, she’s also become a sweetheart of union busting governors — Democrat or Republican; it makes no difference these post -partisan days — from coast to coast.

Rhee’s organization is, of course, part of a billion dollar “campaign” rather than a “movement” and you would think that Rhee, whose devotees seem to consider her the greatest educator in the history of the sperm cell, would know the difference between the two words.  Then again, since the entire corporate reform blitzkrieg is a campaign claiming it’s a movement – and better still, a grass roots movement — what the big deal?   What’s in a word, after all?

At any rate, lo and behold, not an hour ago  I was somehow the recipient of a message from the divinely inspired Miss R that I believe it my duty to share with you all.   As always, Michelle wishes to help you help put students first rather than last which is, of course, where bad teachers and the unions that protect them wish to relegate them.  As always Michelle wants to do this by firing all manner of bad teacher as to have the $ to retain “great” teachers.   The problem, Michelle states passionately in her voice-over to the accompanying video, is “ an outdated system called last in first out. “  This is  also called seniority.

Michelle never bothers to explain why seniority is suddenly “out dated” or how to identify a “great” teacher but…so what ? We all know what and who’s she’s aiming at, don’t we?  Michelle than follows up with the same load of theoretical horseshit proclaimed by Hoover Institution economist Eric Hanushek in the shameless, grossly dishonest, and  highly effective propaganda film Waiting For Superman in which Rhee not only stars but actually fires a principal on camera.

We’re talking an Olympian badass here !

Anyway, see for yourself what our girl is up to these days.

http://www.studentsfirst.org/watch-video

I must say this for Michelle Rhee: she is shrewd, very shrewd.  Producing this crap for a living is a whole lot easier and infinitely more lucrative than teaching ever was and ever will be.

Aftermath of the Great Walk Out: The Mighty Bloomberg Reduced to a Scold

February 7, 2011

In his never ending quest to remake New York City Public Schools in his own image, Mayor Mike Bloomberg began last week in one pose and ended it in a strikingly different and far weaker one.

On Sunday last Bloomberg was on the offensive, lashing out and acting essentially as a  political terrorist: on Friday, Bloomberg was babbling on the radio, an incoherent scold.  What happened in between – a mass walkout of UFT members and parents from one of Bloomberg’s signal educational institutions, the mockingly undemocratic Panel for Educational Policy   — was the nearest thing to an uprising that Bloomberg has yet encountered.

And hopefully the first of  many, many more.

One week ago today Mayor Mike Bloomberg entered the Christian Cultural Center in Flatlands Brooklyn, and delivered a divide and conquer, union bashing doomsday sermon that warned of laying off  15,000 newer teachers due to massive cuts in the state budget.

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The New York Times billed the “bluntly worded speech” as Bloomberg’s  “first major confrontation” with Governor Cuomo. I disagree.  I would categorize the speech  as nothing short of a political terrorist attack designed to do nothing  other than to strike fear into the hearts of newer teachers across the city, the better to turn them against their union.

Bloomberg  was demanding Cuomo use the financial meltdown orchestrated by the mayor’s   Wall Street pals and the governor’s Wall Street allies   to somehow justify eradicating the state rule protecting the seniority rights of teachers and other civil servants.  Taking a page directly from Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, Bloomberg self –righteously insisted Cuomo use the completely unrelated financial crisis to radically re arrange or remove a state rule  that provides some modicum of   security and dignity to   the 80,000 professionals who have dedicated themselves to educating our  children.

Nice.

It is for the children, of course, that the seniority rule  is  to be abolished,  for Mike Bloomberg ( like Michele Rhee, Bill Gates, Eli Broad  and the Wal-Mart family and other prominent education reformers  ) is always putting children first.

A big part,  indeed, the biggest part, of putting children first for Bloomberg and his fellow reformers is stripping teachers of all rights, all due process,  all say in how they should do their jobs.   Oh, yes, and destroying their unions.   For Bloomberg, a perfect world would be one in which  teachers would work in perpetual  competition with   an ever enlarging army of fellow teachers, the younger and less experienced the better, forever attempting to prove their “merit” by raising their  students  scores on standardized bubble tests. The winners of the perpetual competition would get to keep their jobs another year or so.

Of course, Bloomberg cannot say that.  What Bloomberg says instead is that he  wants the seniority rule abolished so that his Department of Education “can take merit into account when making these difficult decisions”  about  teacher layoffs.

What Bloomberg knows is that abolishing seniority will be a major step in giving   principals what Bloomberg wants them to have: the right to  fire anyone they feel like firing for any reason they feel like  firing them for.

Bloomberg also knows that there is no credible method of evaluation in place to measure what he calls “merit.”

Most importantly, Bloomberg knows that the public has no idea that there is no credible method of evaluation in place and would naturally assume that the mayor of New York would not insinuate there was one if there wasn’t one.

But there isn’t.

He knows too that, due to “principal  empowerment”, a Bloomberg scheme that gave principals full control over their budgets,   the negation of   seniority would give principals every financial incentive to fire teachers with experience, and replace them with cheaper, more malleable novices.

Again, Bloomberg  knows that, by and large,  the public has absolutely no idea of such insidious incentives and that most parents would be as appalled as the ones who walked out of  Bloomberg’s PEP hearing at such treatment of their kid’s teachers if they found out.

Rest assured Mike Bloomberg is not about to tell them.

What he will do and in fact did was insinuate that there was a great injustice afoot, both to teachers and to students, and possibly a little racism as well.

The injustice was as follows: due to seniority rules, some of these 15,000  newly hired teachers would lose their jobs despite their great work.  Bloomberg offered not a single shred of evidence, nor a single digit of his beloved data to back up this assertion, which is quite astonishing when you think about the fact that it is with data that this man accumulated his 20 billion dollars.

But then again, maybe not.

Like a skilled terrorist,  Bloomberg was appealing not  to reason but to the  base impulses of selfishness, fear and survival.

There is, in all probability, a small truth in Bloomberg’s statement.  If layoffs,  indeed, were to occur, especially in the massive numbers that Bloomberg threatened, some good or at least potentially good newly hired teachers would lose their jobs.  That’s sad.  And in a perfect world that  would not happen. But that’s the trade off with all seniority rules everywhere.  Seniority is an imperfect solution in an imperfect world created to do several very good things.  It is meant to make arbitrary, capricious dismissal due to one’s race, creed, political views or the fact that  some 24 year old Leadership Academy principal doesn’t like your face, more difficult.  Seniority is also meant to reward dedication to an extremely difficult and taxing profession.   Lastly,  it is meant to provide some modicum of job security in a world in which, pathetically, job security is rapidly going the way of the pterodactyl.

Before the advent and apotheosis of  what Diane Ravitch calls the “Billionaire Boys Club”   ( Bill Gates, Eli Broad,  Wal-Mart family and etc) , those wacky  unelected, unaccountable fellows who,  despite never spending  a single moment teaching are force feeding their moronic ideas on an entire generation of  students and teachers,

it was commonly assumed among people that actually knew what they were talking about that teaching was an art that, no matter what your natural abilities, took years to master.

There are those, and Mike Bloomberg is  surely among them, who would like to see that wisdom too go the way of the pterodactyl. After all, this is the guy who after burdening New York with the catastrophic  chancellorship of prosecutor  Joel Klein,  thought it was a good  idea to follow up that act with publishing executive Cathie Black.

There is a similar message in both of these contemptuous selections and in Bloomberg’s self-righteous indignation over the hypothetical tragic young victims of   seniority: educating is so simple one can do it right out of the egg.    Indeed, one can instruct 80,000 licensed and certified teachers on how to  teach straight out of the egg.

Bloomberg then implied that  not only would these poor young teachers unfairly suffer but  so would their charges in the poorer, high need schools  and neighborhoods where they worked.  As poor neighborhoods tend to be neighborhoods of  people of  color, Bloomberg also seemed to be implying that seniority was not  only unfair, it was somehow racist.

“ The mayor, “ said The New York Times”, told the congregation that state cuts to New York City’s education budget, cuts he has said could reach $1 billion, would disproportionately hurt poor neighborhoods, where schools tend to have the newest teachers because of high turnover.”

Note:  As Bloomberg well knows, poor neighborhoods do not have the newest teachers because of high turnover but because of programs such as the New York City Teaching Fellows which has a policy, dubious indeed if not outright reckless, of deliberately placing the least trained, least experienced, least qualified teachers into the schools with the highest needs.   I know this because I am a New York City Teaching Fellow and I was placed in exactly that situation. Imagine the outcry if a similar policy were implemented by the FDNY or the NYPD.

So much for putting children first.

“So we have to really do something about this,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “Across this city, layoffs would send exactly the wrong message to our kids. You know, we tell them, ‘Work hard, play by the rules, you can rise as far as your talents can take you.’ And yet Albany rules say that when it comes to teaching, talent doesn’t matter, results don’t matter.”

This is truly rich.

The Times makes no mention of the congregation’s reaction to Bloomberg’s speech but one would like to think there was at least one extra high volume echoing horse laugh when the Mayor who contemptuously ignored the will of millions of New Yorkers who voted for term limits, spoke of playing by the rules at the very moment that he was, in fact, arguing to change yet other rules that were in his way.

Ultra rich.

As stated above, contrary to the Times, I do not believe Bloomberg’s weasel-worded address was aimed anywhere near Albany. Bloomberg knows you don’t affect change in Albany by talking to families in a church in Brooklyn.      I believe the overriding purpose of Bloomberg’s speech was an attempt to turn every newly hired teacher in the city  against their union which, like every union worth its salt, unequivocally supports seniority.  I believe that  Bloomberg was attempting nothing less than to help cause a generational rift in the NYC teaching corps, the better to divide and conquer.   (For more of this, see my earlier post on Educators 4 Excellence, an execrable organization funded by Bill Gates and others for the sole purpose of union busting. The DOE has helped them along by allowing the two founders to work as teachers but one day a week.  Sweet! )

Bloomberg’s insinuations were base, divisive and dishonest no matter how you looked at them but information released to the public two days later made them that much the  more so.     Two days after Bloomberg’s speech, Governor Cuomo released a budget proposal that called for cuts of 2.9 % and made it clear that there was nothing in the proposed state budget that would require local layoffs.   Is there anyone in this city not employed by or otherwise beholden to Michael Bloomberg who believes that a man as obsessed with data and power as is Bloomberg did not have this information before he stepped into the pulpit to deliver his speech?

If so, how else to categorize Bloomberg’s actions than as an act of low life political terrorism?  And mark this:  judging at least from the newer teachers in my own school, Bloomberg succeeded in scaring some of them out of their wits.

And lest we forget, Mayor Bloomberg gave this divisive, dishonest   address on a Sunday  in a house of God.

Did no one walk out? The Times does not say.

Tuesday night brought Bloomberg the first of two  rubber stamp Panel for Educational Policy Hearings (PEP) which, despite overwhelming opposition from parents, teachers, community activists and elected officials, ended  predictably with all of Bloomberg’s appointees voting for every school closing and every charter school co-location requested by the DOE, including one in my own school.

If anyone were seeking concrete evidence of how thoroughly contemptuous Mike Bloomberg is of the democratic process and the people of New York, they could do no better than to attend a PEP hearing or cast an eye on how it’s comprised. Of the thirteen members of the panel, eight  are selected by Bloomberg with the understanding that they are to be his puppets, a role in which they happily oblige.  Refusal to obey Bloomberg leads to an immediate firing.  In 2004, Bloomberg  summarily  sacked panel appointees critical of his plan requiring students to earn a minimum score on state exams before being promoted. Not surprisingly, panel members have  never voted down a school closing, a co-location   or any significant policy requested  by Bloomberg. When state lawmakers required the mayor to appoint two parents to the panel, Bloomberg selected two who head  organizations with financial ties to his philanthropy.

Yes, this really is New York, not Bucharest.

Borough presidents select five members.  It is only within these that there is any integrity.

An absolute travesty, as has been every other PEP of the past nine years, the Tuesday night “hearing” dragged on for five and one half hours. This gave me plenty of time to observe the distinguished panel and consider how foolish were those who believed, in Bloomberg’s  first campaign all those years ago, that the same obscene wealth that would keep Bloomberg from being bought would somehow keep Bloomberg from buying others —  and buying them by the dozen.

Twenty billion dollars in the hands of a complete narcissist with limitless political ambitions is as toxic to a body politic as you can get.   And New Yorkers  have been getting it for nine years now.

The Tuesday night PEP was notable for three things.  The first was  the level that charter school mogul Eva Moskowitz would stoop to when she bussed in, fed, and robed in orange tee shirts  hundreds of parents and a small army of five and six year olds. Child after child after child was sent  up to the mic to praise   her ever expanding empire.

It was creepy.

The second was the now infamous incident where an extraordinarily haughty Cathie Black, four hours into the phony hearing, mocked the audience in an open mic before delivering a boilerplate rational for closing schools.

The third and far  most important thing was that for the first time, and none too soon, one saw real rumblings of rebellion against the entire insulting process.  The scorn for Black, and indeed, it for all of the panel members except those not chosen by Bloomberg was  palpable and ceaseless. Elected official after elected official decried the process.   Angry shouts of  “Fraud!”  echoed through the auditorium as the  panel members read their verdicts.

Thursday night brought the second PEP hearing of the week and the great walk out.

References to the events in Egypt were heard again and again. Some invisible line had clearly been crossed.  Outright rebellion was in the very air.

And how does Mike Bloomberg respond to thousands of people at last rejecting his contempt and his phony hearings? At last demanding a real democratic process?

Mike Bloomberg responds as if speaking of and to disobedient children.

Mike Bloomberg scolds them.

Then, for good measure, he calls them an embarrassment to the  country.

“This is not democracy, letting people yell and scream,” Mayor Bloomberg said on WOR’s  John Gambling radio show. “It’s embarrassing for New York City, New York State, for America.”

Wow.

Note above the same bizarre disconnect  that Bloomberg displayed in his weasly attack on  seniority   where  he  spoke of  changing the rules for  those who played by the rules.  In the same manner, Bloomberg seems to believe that    stacking a public body with stooges and staging pretend  hearings with pre-ordained results is   somehow a perfectly acceptable  part of a democratic process.

Bloomberg then veers not only into slang  ( “ dissing ?”)  but  into absolute incoherence.

“When you’re yelling at a meeting like they had last night, you’re yelling at the teachers, you’re dissing them, you’re dissing the principals, you’re dissing the school safety officers, you’re dissing the custodians, you’re dissing the taxpayers paying for it,” Bloomberg continued.

Whatever Bloomberg is talking about in the above passages has nothing at all to do with the events of   the February 3rd PEP hearing.  The people yelling that were disrespecting no one. The people yelling that night were yelling because they spoke and were not listened to for years.  The people yelling that night were yelling at one thing and one thing only:  the disgraceful and pathetic collection of souls bought by Michael Bloomberg and paid to do his bidding which was to pretend to listen to them.    Ultimately, the people yelling that night were yelling at the Honorable Michael R. Bloomberg who has   treated them, their children, their schools, their teachers, their communities, their government with absolute contempt for nine long years.  All had played by his rigged rules until all good faith was at last depleted and their fury erupted.

Bloomberg is a man who has long been accustomed to being obeyed, long been accustomed to  and getting what he wants when and how he wants it.   The events of Thursday night may well have shocked him to his core.  May it be so.  If ever a man needed and deserved shocking it is Michael R. Bloomberg. And may it be the beginning of the end for this devious, corrupting and tyrannical figure who believes it is his right to overturn any law that stands in the way of his monumental ego.

Let Bloomberg be “embarrassed” by people standing up for their rights.  Let Bloomberg be “embarrassed” by people refusing to be mocked.

Every such statement exposes him  for what he is and what he and his supporters believe.

And in no way do they or Bloomberg believe in democracy.  Indeed, they hold it in hardly hidden distain.

Embarrassed?

As for myself, even as I fully understand that what took place on Feb 3rd is at best the beginning of a beginning and perhaps not even that, I have never felt prouder to be a member of a union, never felt prouder to be a member of the UFT, never felt prouder to be a New Yorker, as I did that wild, electric, passion filled night.  Oppression begins to end with the word  “no “ and oppression is the truest word to describe the Department of Education under the reign of Michael Bloomberg to which   2000 decent, educated and committed  people said “no”  to last Thursday.   Many, many more are needed.  But, if built upon with courage and intelligence the refusal of February 3rdh could be the beginning of a new beginning.

As too many children are being lied to and cheated out of anything even resembling a real education, as too many teachers are being debased and degraded, as too many  families are being turned  against each  other as part of  deliberate, conscious  strategies aimed at privatizing education from Tweed straight across the country, it is  my fervent hope we make it so.

The alternative is simply too bleak to even contemplate, never mind accept.

UFT Walks Out of Bloomberg’s Sham Hearing

February 4, 2011

Rightfully declaring the entire process a scam and a fraud, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) staged a massive walkout of this evening’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) hearing at Brooklyn Tech High School in Fort Green, Brooklyn.  The walkout took place about 7:45, an hour and a half into the meeting and included not only all UFT  members but hundreds of angry and frustrated parents and students.   The hearing was the second in two days at Brooklyn Tech, the purpose of   which was to close 12 more “ failing” schools in addition to the 10 that were closed at the conclusion of Tuesday’s five and half hour marathon scam fest.

Chants of  “Black must go!” erupted the moment Chancellor Cathie Black appeared on stage and lasted a full five minutes before temporarily halting.   The chant began again and again holding up the beginning of the process for long stretches of  time. Nobody seemed to mind.

Patrick Sullivan, one of the few panel appointees  who is not a shameless Bloomberg stooge, received a standing ovation when introduced.   As one of the few members of the panel who has actually stood up to Bloomberg and advocated for the children of this city, Sullivan deserved it.

By the time Ms. Black was formally introduced the chanting had begun anew and went on and on and on.

I have never witnessed such scorn hurled upon a public figure before.  Then again, I have never witnessed a public figure who has  so thoroughly invited such  scorn.  Two nights ago in the same auditorium,   the audience demanded that Black answer the questions that were addressed at her — literally all questions to the chancellor had been  intercepted and answered by deputy chancellors –Black broke a four hour silence but scolding the audience and then mimicking them.(http://www.ny1.com/content/news_beats/education/133278/chancellor-black-criticiz)

It was a shocking and bizarre  display, even for one who wears her arrogance as proudly as does Black.  And  it was  not, as they say, well received and was doubtless on the mind of many who attended  the hearing.   I cannot see how this person can continue in the role of chancellor for much longer.   I would not be surprised if she were gone in a month or less, either pushed by a embarrassed  Bloomberg or just sick to death of  being treated with the same contempt she showers on others.

Either way, to see the back of Black could come none too soon.

Speaker after speaker denounced the recklessness and arrogance of Bloomberg and the DOE.   Councilman Charles Barron threatened to show the panel how to close down schools by organizing a massive student walkout.  It’s a delightful and powerful idea and I hope he goes through with it.  Barron also told Black  that she was completely unqualified for the job of chancellor, pointing out correctly  that Black could not even legally teach a class in the school system over which she presides or even enter a classroom unaccompanied by a certified teacher.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew straight out accused the DOE and by extension the panel of lying to teachers, parents, students and the city by setting up schools to fail and then blaming teachers for the failure.  The panel, said Mulgrew,  was  a disgrace and  had no legitimacy whatsoever.

And how right he is.

Shortly thereafter the crowd of at least 2000 people began to slowly rise from their seats and head for the doors leaving Ms. Black and Bloomberg’s largely hand picked panel sitting silently on the stage. I later heard that perhaps 150 people remained.

We walked laughing and smiling into the night.  Some blew whistles.  Some chanted.

It was 29 degrees outside and I felt not in the least bit cold. Neither, I suspect, did any  of  the others.

It was beautiful.

May it mark a new beginning of simply refusing to be treated with contempt.

Addendum:  As all suspected would happen,  Bloomberg’s rubber stamp PEP voted to close all 12 schools.

Another Volley in the War on Teachers

September 1, 2010


By advocating that school systems across the nation implement a teacher evaluation system that research from the Department of Education itself has warned is  “ subject to a considerable degree of random error,”  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is  recklessly and knowingly condemning unknown numbers of dedicated teachers to needless public shame and the possible termination of their careers.

Allow me to rephrase this:  by advocating that teachers be evaluated (after which they can be   either financially rewarded   or terminated) by a system that is known to be   fundamentally flawed and thereby wholly unreliable Mr. Duncan is, in effect, advocating   institutional fraud on a national scale in which, among other things, the careers of any number of excellent teachers will surely be destroyed.

(Formula to Grade Teachers’ Skill Gains in Use, and Critics

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/01/education/01teacher.html?th&emc=th)

The destruction is a statistical certainty. It is  merely a question of  how many.

It gets better. In their perverse and perversely successful Race to the Top scam  (in which states in a nominally democratic society compete against each other for federal funding for a public school system by accepting increasingly degrading conditions for teachers) the Obama administration has made implementation of value added analysis a precondition for even being considered for the “grants.”

This is the same Department of  Education, mind you, that has warned of the unreliability of the method.

Nor are they alone in their criticism.

A report released this month by several education researchers warned that the value-added methodology can be unreliable.

As the Times reports,  “If these teachers were measured in a different year, or a different model were used, the rankings might bounce around quite a bit,” said Edward Haertel, a Stanford professor who was a co-author of the report. “People are going to treat these scores as if they were reflections on the effectiveness of the teachers without any appreciation of how unstable they are.” ’

At this point it  goes  without saying that   advocating such a  transparently flawed system is but a rather more transparent  continuation of  Mr. Duncan’s  and the Obama administration’s relentless war on teachers,  all in the name of  somehow or other “reforming” our school system. The reformation, almost a decade into the process and centered  almost entirely on standardized test  scores has led to no real  improvement.  This, despite hundreds of  millions of  dollars wasted.

As such the reform  is  a failure.  Those responsible for it should have the backbone to face up to this fact.  That is, they should be as accountable as they desire teachers to be.

Reform  has succeeded, however, in  completely  demoralizing and disgusting thousands and thousands of completely dedicated teachers across America.   “Value added” evaluations are sure to increase both the disgust and the demoralization.

What exactly is  “value added analysis?”   It as a method, its advocates claim, for increasing teacher accountability and thereby allows one teacher to be compared with another teacher and in this way sees which teacher is  “good” and which teacher is “bad.”

And how does this method increase teacher accountability?  By increasing a child’s vocabulary?  By helping a student struggle through the nuances of, say, Moby Dick or some other classic mind expanding work ?

By little by little helping a child  develop  critical  thinking skills so he or she   might have some chance of  comprehending the  world  they must soon survive in ?

Nah!  None of that Kumbaya stuff in our brave new world!   As any serious person knows, the only real way for  students to learn is to hold teachers accountable and the only real way of holding them accountable is by analyzing  data: i.e. by comparing students scores on standardized bubble tests and seeing how they do from year to year.

Here’s how the New York Time’s describes the value-added method:

“In value-added modeling, researchers use students’ scores on state tests administered at the end of third grade, for instance, to predict how they are likely to score on state tests at the end of fourth grade.

A student whose third-grade scores were higher than 60 percent of peers statewide is predicted to score higher than 60 percent of fourth graders a year later.

If, when actually taking the state tests at the end of fourth grade, the student scores higher than 70 percent of fourth graders, the leap in achievement represents the value the fourth-grade teacher added.”

Did you get that?  You would if you worked in the “corporate community” which is, of course where the phrase and the thinking behind it originated.

Here is a more succinct definition found, appropriately on a business website: Value Added: The enhancement added to a product or service by a company before the product is offered to customers. (http://www.investorwords.com/5210/value_added.html#ixzz0yI8Obp8N)

In the same way I can appreciate the brutal clarity of the language of   business, I cannot help but shudder to think of how dehumanized we have become when our own government is demanding the implementation of a system where words like “teachers”  and “students” are interchangeable with  words such as “products” and “customers.”

To be fair, valued added analysis does have advocates other than Arne Duncan – even if they do have very vested interests in the scheme.

“William L. Sanders,” reports the New York Times,”  a senior research manager for a North Carolina company, SAS, that does value-added estimates for districts in North Carolina, Tennessee and other states, said that “if you use rigorous, robust methods and surround them with safeguards, you can reliably distinguish highly effective teachers from average teachers and from ineffective teachers.”

Dr. Sanders helped develop value-added methods to evaluate teachers in Tennessee in the 1990s. Their use spread after the 2002 No Child Left Behind law required states to test in third to eighth grades every year, giving school districts mountains of test data that are the raw material for value-added analysis.”

Dr. Sanders makes no mention, however, of why his “mountains of test data” have done nothing at all to improve the Tennessee school system, perhaps because such “data” might interfere with SAS acquiring mountains of tax money from unsuspecting Tennesseans impressed by sophisticated sounding computer generated nonsense.  (http://www.sas.com/businessanalytics/)

But what really is going on here?  This  is yet another method to turn teacher against teacher, to make teaching somehow competitive the better to undermine any solidarity and implode teacher  unions.

While it  cannot be said  for certain what Mr Duncan wants , there is  little  question  of the goals of the people from whom Mr. Duncan and his  boss, President Obama, seem to be taking orders.    Unelected and unaccountable, the de facto educational policy making team of Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Mike Bloomberg,  the Walton family, Whitney Tilson and his fellow hedge fund billionaires at Democrats for Education Reform would like nothing better than to create a  completely corportized public school system run by the likes of themselves in which  troublesome democratic elements such as unions and teacher input would be non existent.

Think Singapore.

They are well on their way  to getting what they want.  There is  no doubt in my  mind that the ultimate goal of men like Gates and Bloomberg and the rest is to eviscerate unions in America altogether  — hence their sudden obsession with education and re-educating educators.   Neither Mr. Duncan nor  Mr. Obama have given any  indication  they disagree with these men.  Quite the contrary.   The fact that the whole  lot of them have absolutely  no idea of what they’re doing doesn’t seem to trouble any of them in the  least.  Nor, much to our  national disgrace, does it seem to trouble many of our fellow citizens.

But back  to the “value added”  campaign.  In a sane and healthy society, such dangerously unfair advocacy from the head of a federal institution would lead to a public outcry, possibly an investigation into ulterior motives, even demands for the Secretary’s resignation; at the very least such advocacy would call into serious question the secretary’s competence, knowledge and ethics.

As we are as a society far from sane or healthy and increasingly indifferent and adjusted to the institutional debasement of both ourselves and our fellow citizens — just as long as it can be rationalized via an infantile application and servile acceptance of bogus data – you can expect but two reactions from such Duncan’s advocacy: either silent indifference or cheerleading from those who have located in “ineffective” teachers the perfect scapegoat for their own failed lives or the perfect business opportunity in privatizing education.

In any and all cases, the sheer recklessness and cruelty of implementing a transparently faulty system of evaluation upon vital, dedicated professionals will not be an issue of any discussion.

For those who care and for those who are affected by it, the entire reform juggernaut feels like an endless sick joke. But the joke is  on all of us —  especially the kids.

For the past two years, in subways ads, in the New York Times, on the airwaves and TV, New Yorkers been subjected to report after report concerning the miraculous leaps our students, particularly minority students, have made in their tests scores under the wise and brilliant leadership of Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein.   Here was proof  that  what was needed to fix the schools was   the corporate business model and a ceaseless demand for teacher accountability.

Bloomberg and Klein seemed to be everywhere.There they were beaming on the six o’clock news.  There they were on the cover of the NY Post.   There they were testifying before Congress about the great strides they made and the greater strides they will make!

Two thirds of our students were passing English while 82 percent were passing math – and this was only the beginning!

Except it wasn’t because it was largely  bullshit.

Evidence of the bullshit appeared sporadically over the  summer.

The first blow came with a report that almost half of the NYC public school graduates who enrolled in the City University of New York needed at least one remedial course and 40 percent dropped out within two years.

(Schools Given Grade on How Graduates Do

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/10/education/10remedial.html?th&emc=th)

According to Susan L. Forman, who  has taught remedial math at Bronx Community Collage for four decades, many of the issues have remained the same: students are easily confused by fractions and negative numbers and become paralyzed when they are told they cannot use calculators.

The change that Forman has noticed  is that students are often overly confident.

“Their naïveté is just extraordinary,” she said. “They have a tremendous underestimation of what they do not understand.”

This troubling over confidence is the logical by product of telling students over and over again that getting a high score on a multiple choice test and getting an education are the same thing.  They are not and they never will be – and this is one of the reasons all of the major reformers send their children to schools that hold such nonsense in proper distain.

Meanwhile, our schools are graduating untold scores of students who by no fault of their own are barely literate and numerate but bursting with confidence.

A troubling combination. One might say that it is even cruel.  Or a con job.

There was more bad news and all of it was predictable enough when you considered that teachers were forced to teach students how to pass a bubble test rather than how to write a simple narrative sentence.

Klein and Bloomberg responded in typical fashion.  In no way, shape or form did they question their obsession with test scores or their ridiculous  ( or cynical ) underlying premise that a high score on a  bubble  test was indicative of  a reasonably  educated person.  Instead, they began a program to give high schools yet another grade from A to F based on how their graduates did in City University.

Somehow, in the minds of Bloomberg and Klein, teachers were to be accountable  for their students progress even after they were no  longer their students.

Remarkable!

Then,  in the doldrums of July  ( do  not think that an accident ! ) New York State  released a damning and bracing report. Raising the standards from a place where it was almost impossible to fail to  a more or less acceptable level, state officials “readjusted” the levels to  something closer to  where they  should be. (Standards Raised, More Students Fail Tests

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/29/education/29scores.html?th&emc=th)

To almost no teacher’s surprise, the miraculous leaps all turned out to be a lie.  86 percent passing in math became 61 percent.  77 percent passing in English became 53 percent. Teachers know that learning is a slow arduous, wholly unpredictable struggle.   Miraculous leaps in test scores are as much a con as are miraculous   leaps  in real estate or tulips or the stock market or  whatever.    They are seldom if ever built on solid ground and  sooner or  later the con is exposed.  Then on August 15  came another report, this one even sadder as it  detailed and exposed the much heralded  lie that the racial  gap in the city was closing. (Triumph Fades on Racial Gap in City Schools

By SHARON OTTERMAN and ROBERT GEBELOFF

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/16/nyregion/16gap.html?th&emc=th)

It also exposed the fact that after eight years of dictatorial control over the school system, eight years of imposing a corporate business structure on a school  system, eight years of harassing and hounding  teachers with ceaseless talk of accountability, the leadership of Mike Bloomberg and his friend Klein had improved nothing.

This result, of course, should be no surprise to anyone who knows anything about education or even anyone who has bothered to think about it for a few minutes. This would exclude, of course, Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Klein.

Not that such sobering “data” would shake either know-it-all Klein or Bloomberg out of the narcissistic haze in which they dwell.  Far from it. Nor is either one likely to ever assume accountability for their failure to improve a system they themselves largely imposed and have completely controlled for years.

Perhaps, in time, the idiotic and perverse notion of imposing a corporate business structure onto a school system and expecting it to produce anything more than an absolute mediocrity (at best) will be seen as what it is:  as barbaric as the medieval notion of drilling a hole in the head of a person suffering from mental illness.  Only in an age of paralyzed imagination can either barbarity be allowed.

And paralyzed we seem to be.

The more the corporate business model fails — even after the corporate business model led the world over a cliff into  a deepening global  recession  —  the more certain institutions cling to it as the sole model of accountability. The more the leaders of  such institutions babble on endlessly and sternly about accountability,  the  less accountable  they  are.

And this leads us back to Mr. Duncan and his reckless advocacy of the “value added analysis,” a system of evaluation researchers in his own governmental department (and many  other credible sources )  have told him is, at  best,  flawed.

Where is the accountability with this man?  Who is accountable to the teachers whose careers and lives will be destroyed by the implementation of this system?  Why is our government doing this and why are we accepting this?

As I wrote above, with the wholesale implementation of such a system, the destruction of the careers of any number of excellent, dedicated teachers is a statistical certainty.

This is insane.

And so are we  for  accepting it.