Friday, September 27, 2013

Diane Ravitch Brings the Fight to the Ed Deformers in "Reign of Error"

Well once again, I am finishing up a post over a week later than I promised myself I would.  One day I am sure I will get the hang of it and these posts will come more consistently than once every three weeks.  This time though I have a bit of an excuse.  I had to read an entire book before I could even begin.  So without further ado, here is my review of Diane Ravitch's new book Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools.

Disclaimer:  As is the case with many teachers/bloggers in my world, Diane Ravitch is a personal hero of mine.  At age 75 Ravitch blogs several times a day, tweets non-stop, gives talks all around the country, and still has time to write very thoroughly researched books on education.  Ravitch does all this while being constantly attacked and slandered by some of the most powerful players in the education reform movement in the county.  Talk about one tough lady.

Over the past few weeks, dozens of bloggers across the country have come out in support of Ravitch and written glowing reviews of Reign of Error.  At the same time her opponents have come out to slander her, mainly out of a very real fear that the tide is turning back against them.  I doubt this book will change the opinion of people on either side of this debate.  If you are a teacher who has been in the trenches, you know that what Ravitch speaks is true.  At the same time, if you are a member of E4E, StudentsFirst, or any other Walmart/Gates backed dummy group, you will jump on any "reform" in education, no matter how damaging it is to children, as long as it keeps your society meritocratic, and your pockets lined.  (Just consider the fact that all the people praising the book are actual classroom teachers, parents of public school children, and prominent researchers and professors.  While the people bashing the book are conservative hedge fund managers and their cronies.)  However, if you are someone who has not picked a side yet, someone who still needs more information on the debate itself, or just someone interested in learning about the climate of education in this country you will certainly gain a lot from reading Reign of Error.

In her book Ravitch tells the entire story of the current national movement towards privatization (often cleverly disguised as "school choice").  After spending a few chapters carefully shaping the debate Ravitch goes on to point out and debunk many of the myths of education reform being pushed on the American public by the plutocrats that run this country.  Each chapter starts with a "claim" of the reformers, and then the "truth."  Each myth is very carefully disputed and made clear through evidence, charts, and clear explanations (all of which are end noted with sources).  Here are two of my favorite "claims" and "truths":

Claim:  Charter schools will revolutionize American education by their freedom to innovate and produce dramatically better results.

Truth:  Charter schools run the gamut from excellent to awful and on average are no more innovative of successful than public schools.

Claim:  Virtual schools will bring the promise of personalized, customized, learning to every student and usher in an age of educational excellence for all.

Truth:  Virtual schools are cash cows for their owners but poor substitutes for real teachers and real schools.

In the final chapters of the book Ravitch takes the next step by offering many solutions to our current problems in education.  It is in this final third of the book where I believe she exceeds her previous book The Death and Life of the Great American School System.  The solutions she offers are nothing radical or earth shattering, and none of them would change the system overnight.  However they are real solutions (not the next big thing that will be thrown out in 3 years, after several billion dollars are wasted and millions more have dropped out) that would bring real positive results over time.  Things like reduced class size, wraparound services, and strengthening the teaching profession.  These are real solutions that any teacher who has spent more than two years in a classroom knows are necessary for progress.

Ravitch has done all of the hard work for us activists.  She has made many clear and well researched arguments, and advocated for the real reforms that real educators want.  Reign of Error may just be the catalyst that finally pushes back the tide of education reform.  Once the public is truly informed and sees through the lies, double talk, and half truths, of the reformers it will be impossible to stop the push back.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Accountability for Some, Cushy Jobs and Multi-Million Dollar Contracts for Others

It is September, and thus another school year begins.  For the over 75,000 teachers, and thousands of Principals and Assistant Principals in NYC this will likely be the most challenging and frustrating year we will face in a very long time.  The Common Core Standards are in full implementation, and for many teachers that means preparing students for a new crop of Common Core exams.  The biggest change for teachers though, will be the new teacher evaluation system that the DOE is now calling ADVANCE.

On Tuesday, much of the first day back for teachers was spent on this new system.  For the majority of teachers who do not follow these things closely or read the blogs, it came as a pretty big shock.  Teachers learned for the first time, the specifics of how the test component would work for their specific evaluation. Many teachers were both stunned and appalled to learn that 40% of their evaluation would be based on students' scores in subjects they do not teach.  Since many people do not teach tested subjects, their evaluations will be based 20% on regents scores for the school as a whole.  The other 20% of their evaluation will be based on student performance on an English task.  (Now I know all teachers should have plenty of reading and writing in their curriculum, but is it truly fair to judge a Physical Education, or Art teacher, based on how a student does on an English task?)

Many people believe that this whole system will quickly crumble once teachers start to sue.  It does seem hard to believe that the firings that come from this system would hold up in a court.  How can you fire a wood shop teacher based on Regents exams and a writing task?  How can you fire a first grade teacher based on the scores students receive on 3rd-8th grade tests?  I certainly don't believe you can, but it seems that our city/state/union officials are more than OK with this.  In fact, many of them believe this is the best thing to happen to education in decades.

Although I am bothered by this system for a million reasons, there really has been one part of this whole thing that keeps me up at night.  What bothers me the most, is the fact that this system holds teachers, principals, and assistant principals accountable, yet it lets all the other high ranking officials completely off the hook.  It seems that if you are a multi-million dollar corporation, or have a cushy job with DOE central, or a network, there is no real accountability for you at all.  So while teachers are being bludgeoned by this system, let's look at the track record for some of the people that are not only avoiding accountability but making a lot of money off of this system.

First we have the testing/textbook/curriculum companies.  These are the people most likely profiting the most from the new standards.  These companies have gotten hundreds of millions of dollars to create tests, text books, and other materials for districts all across the country.  Despite the millions of dollars invested into these companies, it seems that they are not held to any standards at all.  As reported yesterday on gothamschools and a few months back by the awesome Lindsey Christ at NY1, hundreds of schools across the city have still not received their materials from Person, McGraw Hill, Scholastic, and Houghton Mifflin. All this money spent, and they can't even get these materials before the school year starts?  Normally teachers plan for the year during the summer, and now they have to start a new school year with no materials.  (This is of course after going a whole year with no materials for the 3-8th grade teachers, who despite this, still had their students tested in the common core).  Two major pieces of the Danielson Framework that teachers will be evaluated on is their lesson plan, and their unit plan.  If any teacher told their principal that they didn't have a lesson plan today, but that it will be ready next week, they would be "I" rated instantly.  Yet we allow companies with multi-million dollar contracts to get away with just that...And let's not forget this debacle by Pearson, and this one by McGraw Hill.

Secondly, we have the city and state education departments.  These two entities put the ADVANCE system into place, and have been fighting to make it easier to fire teachers for years.  Yet both of these entities can't even live up to their own ridiculous expectations.  Like our beloved testing companies, the State Education Department promised teachers curriculum via their site Engage NY.  The timeline the state gave High School English teachers indicated that by June 1st we would have the "lesson seeds" for the first "module" of 9th grade English.  (So literally all we were expecting was one unit, for one grade, for one subject.)  Yet as of Wednesday September fourth (the last planning day before students arrive) no lesson seeds exist.  Again, would it be acceptable for a teacher to not have a lesson plan on the day of a lesson?  I think not.

Even more ridiculous is the fact that the growth models (formulas used to determine the test part of a teacher's evaluation) have not been official decided yet.  So as a teacher, we have no idea what equation is even being used to show that we helped students grow.  The school year is starting, and students will be taking their pre-tests, in a week or two.  How can we fairly be judged on a system that neither the city or state education departments have finished creating yet?

As for the city, they apparently have created a brand new website for their system ADVANCE so all school administrators can have their many questions answered.  This is also the space where principals will put in all the information and data regarding their teachers.  Yet apparently, in typical DOE fashion, currently the website is completely blank.  Principals can use their log-ins to go on the site, but when they do they are met with nothing but a blank page.  Again, a typical case of standards for the people in the trenches, and zero accountability for the people at the top.  Let's not forget that the chancellor himself admitted that he does not even give his own people performance evaluations.

Can we please stop putting the cart before the horse?

Finally we have the hundreds of administrators working in network offices across the city.  Generally these people make the same salary as an assistant principal or principal, (some of these jobs are still on teacher salary lines) but once again we see a lack of accountability.  If you asked 99% of teachers, and likely the majority of school based administrators what these "network" people do, the best you would get is a very vague response.  These people have titles like network leader, cluster leader, achievement coach, talent coach, math coach, curriculum coach (well a whole bunch of "coach" names), and a whole wide array of other silly titles.  From what I gather, most of these jobs entail going to different schools and "advising" teachers/administrators, and occasionally running a PD.  My question is, if these people are making the same amount of money as a school based administrator, and far more than a teacher, how come they don't have the same accountability?  Why aren't they subject to growth scores, based on the performance of the schools they advise?  It seems like their jobs are far less stressful than running a school or a department, so shouldn't they at least have some accountability?

As Bill de Blasio has put it many times, we live in "a tale of two cities."  If you work in the trenches, and really want to help the lives of students you get demonized by the media, and have to go through a thousand and one hoops just to prove you are a good teacher.  However, if you are somewhere at the top, you get to make all the mistakes in the world, and receive no punishment for it.  In fact, you might even make a lot of money off it all.

If you agree with any of this, and believe the APPR system is truly unfair and an attack on the teachers of New York, I suggest you sign this great petition created by members of the MORE Caucus.  They are the ones fighting the fight that our UFT leaders should be fighting.

-DOENUTS 2.0  Has taught High School English in NYC for several years.  I sometimes post on other education blogs as "Former Turnaround Teacher".  I took over this blog from the original DOENUTS in July.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Why Aren't the "Reformers" Pushing for the Type Education their own Kids Have?

Testing, Testing, Testing.  Is that all that there is in education anymore?  It certainly seems that way in the mainstream media.  For the past two weeks, the media and education officials have been obsessively analyzing the results of the new "common core" aligned 4th-8th grade exams, and what those results could mean for the future of New York State education.  While I do have strong opinions on these test results, I believe that many other experts and bloggers I admire have said all that needs to be said about the validity of these tests.  All I will say is that I am one of the people who believes that both these tests, and these standards, are a complete waste of time, and will make no headway towards getting our students college and career ready.

Why debate whether 30% proficiency is a good thing, or a bad thing, when really the question should be what does good education look like?  Good education does not mean students score high on some multiple choice nonsense exam that they were ill prepared for in the 5th grade.  Good education does not mean that students spend 6 out 7 hours a day taking practice tests and getting "drilled and killed" in order to raise their scores.  Good education means students enter and leave school well rounded, having been exposed to a very diverse curriculum across contents.  Good education means students make connections with both their peers and the adults in the building that they see everyday.  Good education means students feel comfortable and safe in their environment, and actually want to come to school.  Good education means students feel connected enough to the school to participate in extra curricular activities.  Finally, good education means that when students leave school they will have gained enough interest in one or two areas to know what they would like to do in the future.

This was the type of education I had.  The type of education that helped me realize when I was only sixteen that I wanted to be an English teacher when I grew up.  The type of education that turned me from a hesitant and below average student, to one who is starting my second masters degree this fall, and who believes education is the most important thing in the world.  This is the type of education that many students still receive, however this is far more likely to happen in private schools, specialized/magnet schools, and in middle/upper class suburbs than in places like The Bronx, Rochester, Brownsville, Buffalo, and anywhere else where the majority of students are poor minorities.  Apparently somewhere along the line it was decided by the people who make the big education decisions both locally and nationally, that these types of students do not deserve the same education they would want for their own kids, and likely had themselves.  It is no wonder that currently the most vocal opposition to these tests comes from parents in wealthy suburbs.  It is very hard to convince parents who have supported their child's school for years that the same school and district is suddenly failing.  However this seems to be the next step in the reform movement with these common core exams.  Now officials can claim that suburban schools are failing almost as badly as urban schools.

Let's compare the differences in the way education looks looks in NYC and the way it looks in the surrounding suburbs.  There are three major differences that I can see (at the school level) in the public education I received just twelve miles outside NYC in the suburbs of New Jersey and what students receive in the majority of schools in NYC today.  (Keep in mind that I graduated High School a decade ago, and that many of the NCLB mandates had not been fully realized yet.)

High Stakes Testing/Test Prep:  In NYC students take at least one standardized test every single year from 3rd-11th grade.  (Most still have at least one regents in 12, but theoretically could avoid this). When I went to school we had three standardized tests, one in 4th, one in 8th, and one in 11th.  As far as I can remember, we did no prep at all for these tests, and they were more or less meaningless.  I never heard of a single person not graduating or being held back because of the results.  They were just a two day break from regular instruction, with scores that eventually came in the mail, and again, were meaningless.  I actually remember doing quite well on all of these tests (we got the results by percentile across the state),  even though I was getting average marks in many subjects.  How is that possible without a ton of prep for the test?  Maybe, just maybe, our teachers were making us well rounded students, with the skills needed to succeed without forcing meaningless prep down our throats.  Actually the only standardize test I ever prepped for was the SAT.  Our district and school did not need silly standardized exams to see that we were learning.  They left it up to the teachers in middle/high school to make their own midterms/finals/class exams. They also realized that there is a lot more to an elementary school education than some silly test.

Class Size:  I have taught in two different NYC High Schools.  In both situations, the majority of the classes I teach have had 34 students on the roster, and those that don't have 31-33.   34 is the legal limit for class size in New York State (50 for Phys Ed. and music classes), so it is reasonable to assume that classes would be even larger if legally possible.  Doing some quick research I found that the average class size at my High School for the 2011-2012 school year (couldn't find last years data) was 18.4. 18.4 people!  How can anyone ever argue that a classroom with 30-34 students is just as likely to be successful as one with 17-20? Yet shockingly many famous education reformers (Michelle Rhee comes to mind) argue that class size is meaningless.  Bloomberg famously said he would double class sizes if it meant he would only have high quality teachers.  (That would mean 60-70 students per class here in NYC).  When your class is small, you get more individual attention as a student.  Teachers have more time to give quality feedback on writing, and even assign more research papers.  Yet this is an issue so often ignored by the people making our education decisions in New York State (although it is often the number one issue for parents).  Why put money into reducing class size when we can give massive contracts to famous screw ups like Pearson and create more standardized tests?

A varied curriculum:  This is the one that schools have the most control over, but that power is also being taken away.  With budgets shrinking in NYC, it is harder and harder to offer a wide array of arts/electives. This has become an even greater challenge under the small schools movement, championed by Mike Bloomberg.  With 4-6 schools in one building, and a very small budget, it is impossible for any of these schools to offer more than the narrow focus of the schools "theme".  Even worse still, is the fact that under NCLB and RTTT the only subjects that really "count" are English and Math.  (Schools are never closed because students did not learn to how to paint water colors, or recite Shakespearean soliloquies, they are closed because not enough students passed the state math exam).  So now even core subjects like science, and social studies, are getting the shaft in favor of block periods of math and English and any extra time is used for tutoring and prep.  I have even heard that in many charter schools, students who are not preforming on practice tests are pulled out of gym or whatever elective time they do have in favor of extra tutoring.  I honestly would have hated school if the curriculum was this narrow and dry.  Of course at my High School we had a vast array of electives and after school activities.  Some years I was even able to fit multiple electives into my schedule.  On top of all the core subjects, in my senior year I was able to take drama, journalism, and philosophy.  I can also say without a doubt that the best preparations for college level writing I received were in the journalism and philosophy classes I took.  If you want children to succeed they need to feel invested in their own education.  By forcing test prep, and basic skills down their throats, they will begin to hate school.  One of the biggest issues in urban schools is absenteeism.  When students hate school they are not going to make much of an effort to overcome personal struggles to get there.

So despite what John King, Andrew Cuomo,  Mike Bloomberg, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, or any of the other "reformers" tell you, there are millions of kids across the country getting excellent educations at their local neighborhood public schools.  If you really want to move towards improving education, why not start by looking at all of the great schools around NYC that have been succeeding for decades.  There are still a few large comprehensive high schools in NYC that have a model (at least structurally) similar to what many of us had in the suburbs.  These schools (such as Francis Lewis, Bayside, and Forest Hills) all have massive waiting lists of students trying to get in.  Yet all over the city schools just like this have been closed and replaced with no frills, no fun, test prep factories.  I am now completely convinced that we are moving backwards at a rapid pace.  Every new reform seems like a step in the wrong direction and it is time that we all look really closely at where our priorities lie.  We can still save education in this country, but it will not happen by breaking up/closing down schools, shrinking budgets, narrowing the curriculum, allowing class sizes to get out of control, forcing kids to travel two hours a day, or reverting education to how many bubbles you can correctly answer on a test that may not even measure whether or not you are on track to be college ready.

-DOENUTS 2.0  Has taught High School English in NYC for several years.  I sometimes post on other education blogs as "Former Turnaround Teacher".  I took over this blog from the original DOENUTS in July.

Monday, July 22, 2013

            It is late July, and by all reports the DOE is currently spending a lot of money on professional development for both teachers and principals surrounding the new evaluation system.  As many educated teachers, bloggers, politicians, and administrators have reported for months, this whole evaluation system is full of holes, unworkable, over reliant on standardized tests, and clearly designed to fire good teachers.  I know that nothing I, or any of the other teacher/principal bloggers, write will convince the privatizers and deformers that this evaluation system is bad and our current one is good, but there are a few things that need to be considered and are often overlooked.  Since a lot has already been said about the math behind the evaluation, such as 40% on test scores really equals 100%, or how effective + effective + effective can = ineffective, and the fact that test scores should not be used to evaluate teachers at all, I will focus on part of the evaluation most often praised by both The DOE and The UFT, the observation component using the Danielson Framework for Effective Teaching.

            First of all, it is clear to anyone who has read the framework that the rubric is slanted towards teachers of older, general education or honors students.  See for example component 3b: Using questioning/prompts and discussion. (I chose this one since it has been a focus component in schools throughout New York for several years.)  According to the rubric, a highly effective classroom under this component would look like this “Teacher uses a variety or series of questions or prompts to challenge students cognitively, advance high level thinking and discourse, and promote meta-cognition. Students formulate many questions, initiate topics and make unsolicited contributions. Students themselves ensure that all voices are heard in the discussion.”  Does anyone think a group of first graders have the ability to manage their own discussions effectively and ensure all voices are heard?  What about self-contained special education students with oppositional defiant disorder?  How about teaching a self-contained ESL class where students are new to English and some are native Spanish speakers, and others native Chinese speakers?  The Danielson rubric tries to make teaching a “one size fits all” model just like our standardized tests.  Unfortunately for 99% of teachers in NYC they will never hit that "Highly Effective" mark, even if they are the best teacher in the world.

            Secondly, one of the worst crimes of this evaluation system is the fact that teachers and administrators alike will be spending far more time next year focusing on everything but their students.  Administrators will be buried in paper work spending half the day doing observations, the other half of the day doing post observations, and spending every night at home writing up the reports.  They will not be able to actually support or help the struggling teachers, because they will be too busy sitting in other teacher’s classes and filling out forms.  The teachers themselves will be so busy writing lesson plans proving they know how to teach, and teaching in such a specific way, that there will be no time to meet with students and help them out as individuals.  The best teachers make connections to their students, but between Danielson and The Common Core there will be no more room for that next year.

            Finally, the worst myth of them all is that we had a problem with our current evaluation system in the first place.  Despite what our local tabloids tell you, the fact that only 3% of teachers are fired for incompetence every year has nothing to do with the evaluation system, but everything to do with management.  Under the current system any teacher receiving an “unsatisfactory” rating two years in a row can be fired.  As long as a principal has actually observed the teacher and shown some effort in trying to support the teacher, a teacher will be fired.  Under the current system an administrator can observe a teacher once a day, every day for the entire school year.  So if teachers are not being fired, it is because they are either all good teachers, or the administrators can’t be bothered to go through the steps to terminate them.  I don’t even necessary blame the school level administrators themselves.  For far too long, the admins being shot out of the “leadership academy” pipelines have been brainwashed to think that they are “CEOs” and not “Instructional Leaders.”  Since many have taught for only a few years, they don’t even know what great instruction looks like.  Many seem to be intimidated by veteran teachers and their solution is to just not observe the teachers at all.  If you ask the majority of veteran teachers in NYC how often they are observed each year, most will say once or twice.  Also, under the Bloomberg hallmark “small school model” most schools have one principal and either one or two AP’s.  In the small schools there are no longer departments.  I often hear teachers at those schools complaining about how an AP who does not speak Spanish is observing a Spanish lesson, or a Principal who has never taught math is observing a Geometry lesson.  You don’t need any content knowledge to check off a rubric, which I am sure is one of the main reasons that this observation model has been pushed by the DOE for several years.  Our current evaluation system is not bad, our administrators are just often not equipped to use it correctly.

            I certainly don’t want people to think I am suggesting all administrators are bad.  In fact the flip side of our current evaluation system is also true, meaning a good administrator can easily use our current system to both fire incompetent teachers, and support and help teachers that need it.  I will use myself as an example.  As someone who has taught in two different schools, and also taught summer school for years, I have been observed by many different administrators, in fact six in total.  I am very lucky in that three of the six were excellent instructional leaders.  All three of them always gave excellent feedback in both my post-observations and my observation reports.  Of course all of these admins were veteran teachers before moving into administration.  Having a competent AP who knows instruction is invaluable to a new teacher, yet all the reformers seem to want of an AP nowadays is someone who can check off a rubric.  Even worse, all those great administrators out there will no longer be able to support their teachers as they have in the past since the will be bogged down by this unworkable mess of an evaluation.

            Why are we wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on a system that is only going to make everyone’s job harder?  Why are we wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on a system that will only take the focus off the students?  Why are we wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on a system that will fall apart in three years?  Why would both The DOE and The UFT support a framework that is completely bogus?  Well on the bright side, some consultants, and education non-profit organizations will make lots of money off of this before it collapses, and fake groups like E4E, StudentsFirst, and DEFER, will get to talk in the papers about how great it is every week in order to inflate their own egos.
-DOENUTS 2.0  Has taught High School English in NYC for several years.  I sometimes post on other education blogs as "Former Turnaround Teacher".  I took over this blog from the original DOENUTS in July and am new to Blogger so I apologize for any formatting issues.

Monday, July 8, 2013

            School Closure is a concept that on the surface creates a lot of backlash.  When then PEP does their big “vote” every spring, hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of community members turn out in opposition to this policy for a least one night.  People claim that the process is “unjust” “unsound” and “undemocratic,” and while I couldn't agree more, I am concerned that people have gotten so caught up in the idea of school closures that they are forgetting the worst parts of the closures themselves.  It has become clear to me over the past few weeks, that even if we get a mayor who demands a moratorium on school closings, (which is of course no guarantee) the worst parts of school closings might stick around, just in another form.  People believe that a new mayor could mean the end to school closings, and I fear that a new mayor might just be an end to very public school closings, and an end to the opposition against school closings, while school closings are actually still going on.

            What happens when a school closes in New York?  Generally the school goes through a process called “phase-out.”  When a school is phased out, the school does not admit any new students for the following school year, meaning there are no transfers and no freshman class.  Each year the school loses a grade until there are no students left (either they all graduate, or they are placed into other schools if they cannot finish in four years).  While this happens, since there are fewer students each year, the budgets shrink.  When the budgets shrink, programs and teachers are cut.  Students no longer are offered a wide variety of electives or honors courses and are left with a very basic education.  As for the teachers who lose their positions (due to budget cuts, not any fault of their own) they go into the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) Pool where until they can find a permanent job they work as subs getting assigned to a different school every two weeks. If a teacher is probationary (meaning they are new and have not gotten tenure) they are often fired by the Dept. of Ed. after one year of not finding a permanent job.  If a teacher is a 20+ year veteran, no principal wants to hire them since they can get two newbies for the price of one, and if a teacher is in a hard to staff license (such as music, or a career/technical subject) it can be nearly impossible to find a job as well.  Basically being an ATR in NYC is like being stuck in Purgatory.  So in a nutshell, when schools phase-out, students lose many of the classes they love, and teachers lose their positions.

            Now that we understand the effects of the school closure process, let’s look at three schools that were proposed to phase-out this year and that were “spared” due to heavy community opposition.  Dewitt Clinton High School, Flushing High School, and Herbert H. Lehman High School were all on the early engagement list to phase out in October, and Lehman stayed on the list until it was announced to be “saved” one day before the closure vote.  The students, staff members, and community members, at all three schools rejoiced, and once they found out they would be saved stopped the closure fight.  At the PEP vote to close dozens of other schools, I did not meet one person from Flushing or Clinton, and only one person from Lehman (so much for solidarity, but that is a topic for another post).  Still, I understand why people seemed very happy to find out that they would not be phased out, but rather undergo a much “less” drastic route.  The DOE in all three cases decided to significantly “downsize” all three large High Schools, and still co-locate the schools with new small schools.  Lehman, which once had over 4,000 students, will shrink to about 1,000 while sharing the building with five other schools.  Clinton, which once had over 5,000 students, will shrink to about 2,000 while sharing their building with, for now, two other schools. Flushing which currently has about 3,000 students will share the building with two more schools and downsize significantly (I could not find an exact number for Flushing online.)

            So what happens when schools are downsized?  Budgets are cut, programs are cut, and teachers lose their jobs.  In fact, at Lehman alone over 40 teachers were told this June that their positions were being cut and that they would not be back in the fall. I am sure the number is similar at Clinton and Flushing.  What is worse, this is just year one of the downsizing.  Staff members will continue to be cut over the next several years as the population shrinks.  Once again, students suffer, teachers suffer, and a school while still technically opened, is a shell of itself.  How does this help the kids?  How does this help the teachers?  How does this help the community?  Literally hundreds of teachers have lost their positions at their schools this June, not due to phase-out or closure, but due to downsizing.  Thousands of students will not be able to take some of the electives they love, or participate in after school activities, since there will be no more money for those things in the new budgets.  In effect, almost all of problems that come from a phase-out come from downsizing.  The only thing that doesn’t change is the name.

            In a way this is worse than closing the school.  Why is it worse?  Because other than what has just been published on this blog, not a single media outlet has covered this issue.  Once again hundreds of teachers have lost their positions and no one says a thing.  Next year we might very well get a more moderate mayor when it comes to education.  They may promise to put a halt to school closings and use “less drastic measures” to improve schools, but if children lose their programs and teachers lose their jobs, it is all the same to this blogger.  The only difference is the trees will keep falling in the forest, but this time there will be no one there to hear them, other than those directly affected.  The DOE, The UFT, and certainly none of the mayoral candidates have not even touched this issue, but at some point it has to be addressed.  The media likes to vilify ATRs but no one wants to talk about why we really have them in the first place.  Pressure has to be put on our next mayor to end all forms of school closings not just the dramatics ones.  Otherwise it will be the same thing next year only with a different name and much less attention.

Monday, July 1, 2013

My Last Post on DOENuts -Ever!

I started this blog back in 2010. I had just bought a house out in the suburbs and suddenly found myself with no extra cash and nothing to do (except for commuting to the city and tending to my 2 year old). At the same time I, forever the news junkie, came to realize that there was a pretty big movement against teachers and the teaching profession underway. I'm not one of these guys who's easily able to sit and write for hours on end -and I'm definitely not a person who you'd think would be a blogger (of all things)- but  I just didn't have a hobby! Given all that was happening in the ed. world and my own personal life, starting an edu blog seemed to be the natural thing to do. It certainly seemed like a good idea at the time! Any idiot can write (many of them do. Some under their real names!) and I thought that if I could figure out a way to get people to read the words that this idiot here wrote, maybe people would remember why they empathize with teachers and just maybe they wouldn't go so hard on teaching.

It's now three years later. The recession is over. The one time superintendent of the year will soon be heading off to a jail in Georgia. Michelle Rhee is disgraced. The NYTimes has disbanded it's education desk and Diane Ravitch -once relegated to tweeting her opinion from her couch- is now ruling the blogosphere defending people like me every day. And I, having now owned this  house for a few years, have a bit more money in my pocket then I did back then and a few more ways I can be spending my free time.

While it's fun to write (and to read) and to be a bit more informed and active than what I once was, and while I've met some awesome friends along the way, I have to tell you that this blog, once it grew, brought with it one unending burden;  people actually expect you to write stuff! 

I hate doing what's expected of me! Deep down, any man does. On the one hand, if the man doesn't do what's expected of him, people are disappointed because he hasn't done it.. On the other hand, if he does do what's expected of him and, like me, he really doesn't like pleasing people for the sake of pleasing them, he does sub-par work and people come away feeling disappointed because he hasn't done a good enough job! Yuk! There's a running joke in my house whenever my wife asks me to clean the shed: "Daddy's going out for cigarettes" the joke starts. "He'll be back in ten years."

This is just one the reasons why for the past  six months or so, this blog has felt more like an albatross around my neck and less like a cool way to spend a few hours each week. To be perfectly honest, I've been looking for a way to let it go for sometime now. But there is this War Against Teachers happening. Have you heard? And it needs every little voice defending teachers and teaching (and everything that makes being a teacher the best job in the world) that it can get. That's a pretty important key to the new social media movement: Each perspective needs a hundred little voices (like this one) in order for the web of opinion to grow. Given those realities, dropping a blog that could potentially generate so many page views seemed like a plain dumb idea.

Luckily I found a guy to help me with my dilemma! I found a New York City teacher who was willing take this blog over and keep writing. Like me, he's smart and a good writer. Like me, he doesn't jam his opinion down the reader's throat, opting instead  for an approach that delicately illustrates his perspective and lets the reader draw a final conclusion.   Like me, he's going to remain anonymous and write here every so often to make sure folks remember what the world is like from a teachers' perspective.  But unlike me, the next post you read on the doenuts blog will be from him. He's going to be the one who approves your comments, reads your emails and involves himself in the public ed. discussion moving forward. And unlike me, he'll be constant and deliberate with what he chooses to say or do. He'll be the only owner of the doenuts accounts after today. I am thankful that he said yes. My guess is he'll turn this blog into one the biggest there is.

Now I'd love to say that writing and reading about ed. issues has been fun and I'd love to say that I enjoyed reading, considering and approving all of your wonderful comments, emails and tweets. The truth, however, is that it really, it hasn't. This blog was created during a low point in American history (the Great Recession) in my profession (the War Against Teachers) and in my life (don't ever buy a house in the suburbs if Brooklyn is your one true love). So not being engaged with edu issues, not reading your comments, not reading and responding to emails and tweets for hours and hours on end (and never commenting on Gotham Schools again!) will probably be one of the best things to happen to me since I started teaching!

That's not to say that it hasn't been fun. It's always great to come in contact with people who share your general opinion. In my case, I came in contact with people who were smarter, better informed (almost always forgiving of my ignorance) and more experienced than I ever wanted to be. (That's why, if you've sent me an email in the past, you shouldn't worry about your privacy. I actually have a profound respect for everyone who has ever bothered to drop me a line and I'll be deleting my inbox before I hand over the passwords). But it hasn't been enough fun for me to stick around one minute longer. I intend to spend a lot of time on the beach and with my friends & family as I go out and enjoy some of those rights I've been writing to defend! And I don't intend to feel the slightest bit guilty about it either.

In the meantime, kindly keep this blog in your readers on your sidebars. Believe it or not, I searched high and low for a writer similar enough to make you even forget that the blog has a new author.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

All Documents Have Been Graded For This RIB

That's the message that teachers across the city have been getting when they access regents exams in a vain attempt to scores them for students.

Look, for three full days, we have have not been unable to access these exams because the private, for-profit company that has been asked to scan and present the exams to us for grading has not been able to do their job. We've sat in these rooms for this time accomplishing nothing (a particular pet peeve of mine) because our department struck a deal with some company that couldn't even deliver on their end of the bargain. This screw up is jeopardizing the graduation expectations of high school seniors all across the city and I'm sure that several hundred family vacations are currently hanging in the balance (with the potential for summer school still alive for many teens who would otherwise know their scores by now).

This whole time we at our schools (grading along the time honored tradition) would have been finished with this task, or would have been very close to finished, by now and none of this would be happening.

You see, we would have delivered, as we have for decades now. They didn't. 

And who will they turn to to fix their screw up? Why us, of course!

The DOE, as rumor would have it, has decided to offer us all per session (DOE-speak for overtime) on Thursday and Friday evenings -and all day on Saturday, as well as all day Sunday- to make up for this train wreck. Yep.

We're in this fiasco because the department had decided -astoundingly!- that it was us who could not be trusted to produce accurate results for our own students! That's right. They concocted this system as a way to keep us and our professional judgement at bay with regard to assessing our own students at our own schools. We're here because we weren't trusted to act as professionals. 

People who read this blog know that I really don't complain and I really don't gripe. Maybe I'll throw out the occasional piece of sarcasm, but wining isn't something I really do. But as you read the blogs and Ed. news sites tonight figuring out exactly what is causing this mess, and as you go into your grading 'hub' tomorrow wondering if it will continue for yet another day and wondering when you will find out how well your students performed on their* state tests  I'd like to you to remember just one thing:

We're here at these grading hubs experiencing this fiasco because they said that they could not trust us to be professional!

And ain't that a hoot!?

*(they being the same Ed Reformers who contracted and created this crummy regents grading system)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Anonymous Commenter Talks Union and Family History

It's not often that I get comments. And less often that I share them. I recently sparred with an anonymous commenter about why I went public with that MORE thing I wrote about last weekend. Just when I thought that I had won the contest, he (I think it's a he) pasted this story into my comments section. It's certainly worth the read, so pull up a chair and take some time from your evening (or morning) to read about the importance of being a part of union from the perspective of A. Nonymous.

My grandpa and grandma lived in a large Jewish community in the Lower East Side of New York City. Grandpa was a union organizer, I’m not sure what type of factory he worked at, at one point it may have been a furrier and other times it was the garment center. He never identified himself by his job title, he always called him self a union-man. I think he had a position like shop steward, or delegate, but in his words he a “union organizer”. I know he led many protests, strikes, rallies, picket lines, and famous marches down Broadway. The only thing he ever discussed was unionism, politics, and Jewish matters.

Grandpa would stand on the corner of Delancey and Essex and argue all day long. They would argue how to organize, who had the worst boss, best union, and which politician was best for workers. They debated loudly all day and all night. Some were claiming communism was better then socialism, others socialism better than communism. The Alta kakas (old Jewish Folk) all called themselves something different; some were Trotskyites, other revolutionaries, some anarchists, communists, socialists, Marxists. My grandpa never told me what he was, other than a union-man, of course, but I once asked Grandma “who is Mr. Marx:, she laughed and said “he was a Jew”, that was it in grandma’s book,. I never understood the difference, I would just listen to them argue and argue, eventually the debate would stop with some one cracking a joke, they would all laugh and go back to talking how best to defend workers rights and make their unions stronger. Today we cal it “busting chops”, but it always works to calm down a tense situation. I asked grandpa “why do you fight all the time?” , he said it was good they fought, “we’re in America” Grandpa said, “in the old country we wouldn’t be allowed to do this, now we have different views, but we’re all union men and that’s what counts”

I asked Grandma why they always argued she answered “its what they do, its healthy, its helps them get out their ideas and learn from each other”, I said “if they fight so much why do they stay friends” Grandma answered “because they’re in the union together”. That’s it conversation was over.

We would go to synagogue every Saturday and high hold day (Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah), but it was never about God or prayers it was always about discussing unions and politics. Grandpa loved God and Judaism; he just loved unions and politics more. Of course Grandpa and friends would stand on the steps and argue before the service, after service, during service every time the rabbi would yell at them. Grandpa then would go back to the corner and argue some more. There were always two groups, the loud rabble-rouser type, like Grandpa, and the intellectual types, who were not so loud, but always referred to some book or article or the torah or haftarah and had it all memorized. The loud people weren’t always right and the intellectuals were sometimes wrong, but that was the fun of watching them all go at it. It must be fate that today his grandson is a union delegate that is a rabble rouser, who works along side a chapter leader who is an intellectual that knows the contract as well as Grandpa’s union friends knew the Torah. Grandpa must have arranged this

They would also have a comment or disagreement about every article in every paper, both Yiddish and English. Everyone would read, and everyone would fight, of course any situation can be diffused can be with quick witty joke, where everybody would laugh and then go back to organizing the next union event. Grandpa would love the blogs today, they’re informative, they’re funny, and they have a place to comment back. I could see grandpa now typing away on his ipad, yelling at some blogger he disagreed with, or send out an angry email to some list serve. Grandpa would be in paradise with blogging and emails, a place where he can instantaneously express himself and have, thousands read it, and he may have never left the house. The bloggers today have a way of presenting poignant arguments that use humor that would have been greatly appreciated by the old union men and women on the Lower East side.

Grandpa thought everyday, every place was a chance to organize, he would go to a store and ask the clerk “why don’t you form a union I’ll help you”. I was always excited at how grandpa would speak to anybody with such authority. I always knew I wanted to be like him. Some of the Jewish men would not speak to the “gentiles” on Mulberry Street, they were Italian and Catholic, very strange to this community. Grandpa would have none of it, he said “lets go talk to them and find out what unions they’re in”, soon enough grandpa had made new friends and new connection and of course new people to argue with. They would march down Broadway and strike in support of each other. I would join the marches and Grandpa would say “We have to be louder than them”, they would compete who had the largest banner and brought out the most people. God-forbid you missed a union march, my grandfather and everyone else would yell and yell at you, you would be too embarrassed to leave your house. Grandpa and his friends would warn the man and his wife that missing a union event was the worst sin in the world and they would be thrown out of the union if it happened again. No matter how sick or tired you were in that union march, it was a shanda (shameful act) to miss one.

Grandpa would talk to anyone regardless of color, religion, or background, as long as you were union it was fine by him. He spoke a lot about how poorly the government treated black people, he always said, “ the way our people were treated over there (meaning the old country) are the way black people are treated over here”, “this” grandpa said “must not be allowed”. He was very upset at the images he saw on TV, as were the other Jewish union workers. They reached out to Black churches and asked how they can help. They donated to Black rights organizations and had joint meetings with civil rights leaders. I asked Grandma why is Grandpa involved in this, “she said we’re Jewish, we can’t sit by and watch, do you remember what happened to our people, never forget” and that was that. Jewish leaders would march side by side with Martin Luther King, Rabbi Hershel, Rabbi Prinz, and the union leaders that created committees to support the civil rights movement. Today such a thing would be called social justice unionism, grandma and gradpa called it “the right thing to do”. They never saw supporting civil rights as separate from union rights, it was one in the same for them; human rights!

I questioned my grandparents as to why they seemed to be the only ones talking to Italians, Irish, Black, Hispanic, and all types of people, Grandma answered, “Your grandpa and dad fought for this country so people could be what ever they want to be, Grandpa only cares if they support the unions, if they do, then they’re good in our book” and as usual that ended the conversation. Today grandma would be called progressive or liberal, I’m not sure she would understand those terms. She would just tell me “In this country you are allowed to be, think, or say what you want, that’s why we Jewish people like it here, and it should be the same for everyone”. Grandma was ahead of her times and I’m sure she would be happy to see the rights Gays, African-Americans, and women have achieved. Grandma and Grandpa never cared what people believed in or what the looked like, they saw everyone as working class and “in the same boat” as grandma would say “and the boat will sink like the Titanic if we don’t stay together” she always said. I never thought this was radical it just made sense.

Grandpa got older; the factory jobs left, and with it the union jobs. They moved to Coney Island and he became a democratic party organizer, walking the boardwalk talking to everyone. He had to over come being a New York Giants fan in the borough that supported the Dodgers, but even with that “impairment” people gravitated towards him.

Grandma would make friends with her neighbors who were Italian, Irish  and Black. They would form life-long relationships. This would make things easier for her, as compared to others in her generation, when my mom re-married to a Greek man, who Greek-orthodox, and later when my brother brought home a Paksistani-Muslim that he latered married, grandma accepted it all. At first grandma was a bit upset, because of the whole Israeli-Arab thing, and my family were and still are Zionists, but soon my mom and grandma realized my sister-n-laws family was no different than our, we’re all good people. My grandma or grandpa weren’t around to see the rest of the family grow, but I’m sure they would be happy that we’re Jewish, Greek, Italian, Chinese, Pakistani, Muslim, Catholic, and Greek-orthodox. We celebrate Easter and Passover and Ramadan, and we all are able to laugh about our differences

Grandpa had passed by the time the Crown Heights riots had happened, but grandma was visibly upset about how “our two peoples who are so closely can possible become so separate”. She would feel better knowing that I’m involved in fighting for equality of opportunity and conditions for all peoples. Grandpa would be so happy that my union group is old and young, black and white, and everything in between. He would probably argue with everyone, tell us all why they are wrong, and then laugh with everyone and go back to organizing.

Both my grandparents and parents would never allow me to label anyone or stereotype, if I said “those Italians”, they would yell at me saying :” people have names use it”. When the younger children came home and shared what they learned in American history class about the times in the 1950’s called McCarthyism, grandma would come to tears and grandpa would say “don’t bring it up”. Obviously this wasn’t a good time for my family.

My grandparents didn’t see me achieve my dreams. Today I’m a teacher, a union delegate, and an organizer myself. The proudest days of my life were being hired to be a teacher and being named vice-presidential candidate of MORE for UFT. I know they were watching from heaven and proud of me. I know they love that I’m part of group that is so diverse where we stand for union rights and human rights. They always said, “Jews have to always fight for the rights of others, because we’re lucky to finally have some”. They would approve that my group is dedicated to unionism and social justice.

I regret they didn’t live to see my name of that UFT ballot; it gave me so much pride to tell everyone I was the UFT Vice presidential candidate. I only wish I could have told them.  I even told my students about it-as I teach Participation in government and always stress the civic participation part. My favorite day out of the entire election was the last period I taught duringFriday after the election, I walked in a bit late into class as I was have a discussion on union matters with my principal, I walked into a standing ovation, I asked “my kids’ why they were applauding me, they said “you finished second, we’re proud of you” –they must have Googled the election results. I was shocked and it was the closest I ever came to crying in front of the class.

Today I continue to try to be a union leader, I see past any differences as grandpa did because as he would say “we’re all in this together, unions”, and grandma would like my caucus because we defend the right of people to “be whatever they want to be”. Im the last of dying breed in Brooklyn, I was Born, raised, and teach here. I am the product of the public school and CUNY system. I have a deep Brooklyn accent that the new people who have since moved into Brooklyn, seem to look down on it. People mistake my accent for being dumb or naive. My friends and I wear crosses or chai’s, have tattoos, and all have hard old-school Brooklyn accents. Although the new Brooklynites call themselves progressive, I get the feeling they see themselves as better than me. I’m working class and they’re what Grandma would have called a “limousine liberal” they slap the Obama sticker on the back of their hybrid but as grandma would say “you talk the talk, but can you walk the walk”. My answer is no. Its unfortunate we’re losing our working class identity, I don’t think grandpa would approve of UFT being called a “union of professionals” he would probably say “your a union, that’s it”. The loss of union strength was deeply disturbing to all my family, but they would have faith since me and my brother are such strong union activists.

I’m happy to be in MORE, I learn a lot by being here, and it makes me a better person and a better teacher. I am 10000 percent sure, Grandma and Grandpa would be very happy with MORE, grandpa would most certainly like the politics and arguing, grandma would like that people are who they are.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

About MORE: Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

Yesterday, I aired some of MORE's laundry on here. The airing was a response to a decision they made to shut down one of their lists. Because the decision appeared to be made suddenly, and because the list was also shut down suddenly (very shortly after after their announcement was made), I posted the message (along with my response and my goodbye).

That post was seen as an attack (it was not an attack. It was a rebuke. Please see the full post here) but it helped lead to a flurry of emails, telephone calls, text messages, G-Chats within MORE which eventually lead to a review, then a reversal, of their decision. My understanding is that people within MORE who rarely spoke found themselves having long phone conversations last night, explanations about the decision, which weren't initially offered, were offered (in great detail)  and some longer term issues which I thought would never be addressed, were suddenly put on the table. 

So today, on the newly recreated MORE planning listserv, this message was sent. I posting it her (with permission from a Steering Committee member) with the hope that everyone who read yesterday's post will read this one.  

Dear Friends,
We are sorry for the way we handled the closing down of this list serve. It was done in a hasty, non-democratic fashion and we apologize sincerely. It was never our intent to offend anyone or make you think you no longer count in MORE. It was a mistake to send out an email on a list and then immediately close that list to all discussion. For that we apologize, we are very sorry. This list has already been reactivated and you will get advance notice to any changes
Steering committee made the decision to change from a planning list to a discussion list in order to involve MORE people. It is not fair to our membership to have an internal list where certain conversations go on that others are not privy to. This planning list as it currently stands consists of people who came to MORE at the beginning and are not really active anymore, as well as others who are very active.  There was no real process for getting on the list other than "if you were doing work it made sense for you to be on it." Not very democratic, but obviously nothing malicious, and now we are more organized and need a clearer process.
The discussion list will be the same as the old planning list, open for all discourse and debate, and in fact we encourage it, as long as it's in a respectful tone.There will be an internal steering list to hammer out the minutia of setting up meeting dates, conference calls, and approve press releases and/or statements. We are doing this so as not to bombard people's emails which seems to be the case, therefore much of the correspondence goes unread by so many. If membership feels, including all of us on this list, that all emails ought to be transparent we can arrange that too. The steering committee was democratically elected and is only a 6 month term, so there is always room for change.
There needs to be room for discussion of differences that exists among the members of MORE and we all must work harder to ensure this discussion continues to happen.
We have formed committees in order to organize the work of MORE and involve as many UFTers as possible in the work of the union. See below for the list and contact info (from the weekly update) of our committees: 
The high stakes testing committee was formed to challenge the high stakes testing regime that it is destroying our public school system, and is at the heart of the assault on teachers and students alike.
The newsletter committee exists to give us a publication we can get into our members boxes because there are so many great writers in MORE and every great change is led by it's literary heroes, including a change in UFT leadership. This is a trusted and tried way of educating, organizing, and mobilizing.
The chapter organizing committee was initiated because it was felt that after the election we must help people by building strong chapters, or as in we say in old trade unionism "organize the shop first". In order for MORE to gain victory we will need chapter leaders, delegates, and organizers who can protect their own in schools.
We began the contract committee because we all know that when a new mayor steps in, municipal worker contracts will be the first order of business. MORE must have a vision ready to deliver, because we all know in the past (and most recently with evals) leadership is ready to give away the farm and concede on anything. MORE must be prepared to lead the conversation on what a good contract entails and a vote no campaign is necessary.
The media committee is in charge of putting out content for our blogs, statements, producing videos,and responding to press requests. There have been many great contributors so far and we always need more. Our blog and social media has brought us great notoriety and after watching the events in Occupy, the Arab Spring, and Union protests through-out Europe, we all can agree in the importance of twitter, facebook, and blogging in bringing about great change of any kind.
If there is something you feel passionately about that is not covered by these committees, by all means start one up and we will offer all our platforms to help you promote it or join one of these committees. MORE needs all the help it can get.
Hopefully we have set the record straight. There will be an open, transparent, email list where all discourse and debate is welcome by all members of MORE. We deeply regret the move yesterday to close the list, sorry, and we hope everyone here continues to be active on the email list and with one of the committees
In Solidarity, 
The MORE Steering Committee
Just three thoughts to share about this. 1) I believe every word of it. It's in line with everything I've heard  and read about the issue yesterday. 2)  It takes a commitment to integrity to publicly acknowledge your mistakes. These folks deserve a lot of credit for sending this out and for sending it out so quick. 3) This wasn't an email that was just put together by one person who felt bad for me or others.  I've been reading emails from MORE people for some time now and I am able to identify the writing styles of no less than three different  people from their steering committee in this message. This acknowledgment of  the foul up seems to be the result of a group effort. So kuods to MORE. That says something about the integrity of people within that group.

Post Script (but a very important one): I also pointed a finger at steering committee members who are part of the International Socialists Organization. In my post, I wrote that these people seemed to be taking over MORE. I shouldn't have gone there and, in fact, I should address two things about that tact: 1) It was, apparently, factually inaccurate. After my post, it was brought to my attention that only three people on that committee belong to the ISO. 2) It was a very misplaced label. A more appropriate label would might have sounded more like 'people from the left' or 'the 'social justice' crowd within MORE'. The ISO person who spoke with me today was, rightfully, upset at that salvo. In fact, as my therapist always says, labels are something you want to stay away from in general anyway. And so I apologize for it. 

That reference, however, opens up a whole can of worms that is just too big for me to understand or deal with. The issue of how a union caucus addresses something called Social Justice Unionism, as opposed to Trade Unionism, has been talked about from the outside quite often. You can see some examples of some smart people trying to address this underlying issue  here (and here and here and here (and here on Ednotes)).  Unfortunately, that discussion hasn't been so robust within MORE itself. Meanwhile, I have observed that the differences, having not being addressed directly, tend to materialize from time to time in the form cognitive dissonance, or grumblings, or disagreement over an issue that is being addressed or, like my take on their move yesterday, misplaced suspicions of some very well intentioned and well-meaning people. 

Like any healthy organization, MORE has some issues that they will, eventually, have to address.  But those issues are way too big for me to understand or want to deal with or even want to be near as they're being dealt with. So while I wait for people who might be identified as the 'social justice' wing be more willing to have that larger discussion,  and as I wait for people who might be identified as the Trade Union wing figure out how to open their mouth and speak up when  it counts (when an issue is actually being discussed), I'm still going to be a former member of MORE (sorry folks: I already have a job that consumes all of my time and thoughts and it's way more fun than union stuff.). But (taking the advice of one MORE person who was kind enough to send me an email today) I'll be listening, and I hope to see those issues resolved sometime soon. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

ISO In the House! (My email to Brian Jones)

Back in MArch when the blogger Chaz accused MORE (the union caucus) of moving to the left, I thought he was, well nuts. Chaz' conclusion, that this cool little caucus had been taklen over by the left (and byleft, I mean members of the Internation Socialists Organization (ISO)) may have been correct after all.
Just today, I receievd an email on the MORE listserv from Brian Jones. Here's the email:

Dear planning listserv,

Thank you for serving as the volunteer planning committee. Your work has gotten MORE to where it is today!

We now have a several committees up and running, including a steering committee.

The steering committee decided to take several steps to streamline our use of email and to create a more transparent and democratic use of email.

For those reasons, we voted to terminate this listserv, and move its various discussions into the committees and to the discussion listserv.

For general discussion and debate of important issues, please use the MORE discussion listserv.

Since some people have complained about receiving too many emails, we will be re-starting that listserv very soon. Stay tuned for an email that gives you the opportunity to re-subscribe.

We are also starting a separate news listserv for articles and other news items. Stay tuned for the email to subscribe to that listserv as well.

We will continue to maintain a discussion listserv for chapter leaders and delegates ONLY. This listserv is for discussing school-based organizing issues. If you are already on this listserv, then you will remain on it. If you would like to join that listserv, send an email to:

For concrete work and decision-making (drafting leaflets, etc.) please use your respective committees.

You can contact any of the committees directly with the following email addresses:


The Steering Committee makes proposals for MORE's general membership meeting agendas, and makes decisions for MORE between membership meetings.

The Media Committee handles social media, the blog, press releases, and the production of most leaflets.

The Newsletter Committee produces the MORE newsletter (launching this fall).

The Testing Committee works on challenging high stakes standardized testing.

The Chapter Building Committee deals with the ins and outs of school-based organizing.

The Contract Committee is looking carefully at our upcoming contract to help MORE develop a strategy for a contract campaign.

Feel free to send any questions about these changes to me.

for the MORE Steering Committee
I have been a little concerned about an agenda that didn't put teachers (and parents and students) first for sometime now. With this concern, I've observed that the voice of one full wing of the caucs (the Trade Uniosts or teachers' rights people) has been lessened and and the other wing (the International Socialists of the World(!)) has been on the increase. That big uber committee, Steering, is overwhelming influenced by the 'ISO crowd. So shutting down the 'plan' list in favor of the larger list (which is never used, and which I was actually never added to anyway) was more a way of lessening the democratic structure (and containing disucsion within the several committees) than it was a way of increasing democratic structure. I understood it as the socialist crowd saying "hey; we've pretty got control of this steering committee now, so we're going to go ahead and shut down other vehicles for communication. Thanks and have a nice day"

So I quit. I never was much of a union person anyway. And I sent the list this  reply:

This isn't, in my opinion, anywhere near the transparency that I was assured would exist when I joined MORE. It sounds more like you nice folks in steering are containing much of the discussions to committees, then allowing the general listserv to continue. Moreover, it sounds, very much Brian, that the decision (which wasn't discussed anywhere outside of steering?) wasn't as democratic as I have come to expect, and have experienced, MORE to be.
For those reasons, and because I'm not comfortable with what appears to be an ISO agenda (at the direct cost of a Trade Unionist agenda) asserting itself, I'm going to go ahead and say goodbye to MORE. I wish you well, I just don't wish to work with you.
Now before you go taking to the keyboard like a, well, a warrior, I'd like to point out that a single brick bat was delivered in this entire email (which is quite a feat for an edu blogger), so I expect a response in kind which would include, and would be limited to, such messages as "ok" "be well" or even no response at all (preferably the latter).
Thanks very much and be well
Johnnie Doenuts
Thing is, it got bounced. MORE had already shut down that list before anyone could express any opnion abotu it at all! No discussin there. No democracy.

Now I know the decision to shut down the planning list wasn't unanumous. It surely wasn't discussed with the general membership, including a lot of folks who have been workign very hard for the organization. We all just got this email today, you see and ..poof! The list was shut down. So I have to quit publicly!

Dear  Brian and MORE (including the folks who I adore),
Please accept this cordial goodbye.
Good luck with that whole 'democratic' thing.

MORE to come ;)