Sunday, December 25, 2016

You Think You Understand the New Eval System? You Don't. Here's Why

Attending a monthly Chapter Leader meeting during the weaning days of Joel Klein's Chancellorship felt a lot like visiting the crew who was stuck inside the walls of the Alamo. When there weren't complaints about the Quality Review or complaints about Klein's new emphasis on enforcement (dubbed 'Gotacha Squad'), there were complaints -howls, actually- about the capricious "U" ratings that teachers across the city were getting. 

Apparently, Klein had rigged the whole process so that any teacher whom one of his Leadership Academy principals didn't like simply got a U rating for no real reason. The backdrop to this, an appeal process with a three-person panel (one picked by the union, one picked by the city and one picked in some other Byzantine way) had been completely compromised and 99.9% of these U ratings were upheld on appeal many times with no evidence at all to support it. I can't tell you how many hours I spent in monthly Chapter Leader meetings listening to uncomfortable details about how this process was unfolding. I was CL for exactly two years and almost 1/2 of the time of each meeting back then was devoted to this one topic. 

So now, almost eight years later (and six years after Klein lost interest and moved on), the UFT has finally arrived at a defense for these capricious U ratings: The new new new new teacher evaluation system of 2014 2015 2016.

Groups ranging from Students' First to the UFT MORE caucus are objecting to it and the DoE and UFT's Unity Caucus is heralding it. 

Both sides are completely wrong. The simple fact is that the newest version of the evaluation is rooted in recent history, the result of scars still held by the people who run the city union and, at the end of the day, neither good or bad. It causes neither harm or pain and will not advance or regress our profession or our students in the slightest way. It is as useless, and as useful, as a teat on a very old bull.

Now if everyone can now stop clapping and stop objecting, that'd be great. Thanks.

The essence of the system is two words: Multiple Measures. Once you understand the concept of multiple measures, then you'll understand how utterly neutral this new agreement is. ICEUFT blog, written by a long time chapter leader who understood the world of the S/U rating system has objected that the union agreed to too many classroom observations (three times the amount other districts in the state gets). I was surprised at that objection because he, of all, chapter leaders, had to deal with high stakes classroom observations that resulted in unfair U ratings -rating that many times killed a teacher's whole career. The more classroom visits we have, the more watered down each visit's rating becomes and the less easy it is wreck a teacher's career.  Most teachers will have 4-6 observations over the course of the entire year. Thats 4-6 measures.

Fact: The more observations that are required, the harder an administrator has to work to hurt a teacher. It's easy to wreck a teacher's career when you have only 40 observations to perform per year. Try keeping on top of wicked task that with 250 observations to perform, data to enter in detailed manner and 'on the record' reports to generate for each and every observation. It's a lot harder to go after a teacher under that process. 

That's not to say that it can't be done. Of course it can. But when it can be done, the observations had better align with the teachers' test results. Because if the two measures don't match the teachers' test scores, then the teacher still escapes with his or her middle finger fully in tact. 

And that test may now count for as much as half of the rating. That's unbelievably not good. However under the previous system, where testing counted for forty percent (just under 1/2), the tests themselves were cut into two different categories.  For HS teachers, this meant that how your students did counted for 20% and (in many cases), how all of the school's students performed on tests in your department counted for another 20%. That's 2 more measures. These became combined and when they did, it looked real bad for your capricious, abusive administrator if they did not match their observations of your teaching.  

That's not to say this system isn't bad. The truth is that no one pays attentions to Danielson at all until the teacher has been "I" rated for close to a year. Something (like Danielson) that no one understands can easily be used as a stick to beat someone with. But this stick is more reversible. It has a built-in review process and almost all of the APPR grievances in my building result in the observation being removed. Why? Because the process is so difficult to keep up with, it's almost impossible to do without breaking some rule of some sort. The best job in the NYC DoE is that of tenured AP. They don't want to ruin all that cushiness just to go after a teacher. 

 However, I was VERY surprised at the UFT leadership for bragging about the result Matrix to determine final ratings. They spoke about it as though it was both simple AND fair. Let's be clear: The matrix neither simple or fair. (The whole system is neither simple or fair.) True, the Matrix doesn't' default to ineffective if your test scores suck (and it doesn't default to ineffective if your observations suck). But the Matrix and a Danielson process so complex that no one pays attention to it does nothing to improve teaching. And teachers who don't understand the process will have a more difficult time preparing to defend their jobs.

Final thought: This is where we'll all be left for whole generation of teachers. While it doesn't hurt too much and doesn't help at all, the current evaluation system does haves the benefit of operating from political consensus up in Albany. Because of this, this current system isn't going anywhere (in any substantial way) for the rest of our careers. This is it, folks. This (finally) is the hand we've been dealt: A system that is difficult to maneuver, where administrators will have to work their assess off to end our careers and where data and tests scores (many of which is generated by us) will dictate much of our review scores. 

No one happy. No one hurt. "Welcome. To the real world."

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Poverty in America

If you read one thing this week, make sure it is NBC's web based report on the Geography of Poverty: A journey through forgotten America in America. I haven't glimpsed anything as noticeable since thumbing through an old copy of Michael Harrington's "The Other America" in college (a book still too painful for a former poor kid like me to go through with any depth).

One look and you'll understand a bit more why 'Make America Great Again' appeals to people beyond even reason.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

About Eliot

Once, after class, I mentioned to my high school Global Studies teacher that I wanted to grow up to be a high school social studies teacher. He laughed in my face. "You will never in your life" he bellowed "be a social studies teacher. That's ridiculous and hilarious". His laughter persisted until I turned to leave and it continued until I had completely left the room. 

While the incident did leave an impression on me, it didn't exactly leave me with scars either. My friends and I were all poor kids living in a good suburban school district and we had long since become accustomed to not being welcomed by the adults with open arms. Eliot's (I'll only use his first name here) laughter was chalked up as just one of the things you deal with under certain circumstances. This is especially true for me because I a wise-ass when I was a kid and had no desire of being liked by adults.  My mother scrimped and saved and sacrificed most of her life just to keep me in that district and back then if you stepped too far out of line, they just find a way to put you in a special ed room. (And Special Ed wasn't \s back then what it is today).  So we all just took sucked it up. Lots of us were poor back in the 80's so I had company.

School districts in the suburbs are based solely on geography. If you can afford to live in a good geographic locality, then you can attend a school in a good district. If you can't afford to live there, then your education is not as good. That's why on the surface of things, Betsy Devos' school choice plan, whatever plan is put forth, may look pretty good for parents stuck in bad school districts.

Choice. You can choose to leave your district. Think about how good that sounds to a student who is in an unsuccessful school district.

I guess that's a nice way of acknowledging the obvious truism that, in American schools, there are "haves" and "have nots". Most times they're in different districts. But sometimes, as in my case, they're in the same. The "haves" in my school district were all the children of middle and upper middle class white people. The "have nots", and there were many included a bunch of poor white kids strong Dominican-American community. A close neighboring district was almost entirely poor.

While the "have not" districts are largely ignored, the sense of community among the "haves" districts is strong. That same sense is within the mixed districts. The "haves" in my district had a strong sense of community and "have nots" were, well, largely ignored.

I have zero hard feelings toward Elitot. I grew up to be a social studies teacher and have a few  plaques and certificates on my wall to show for it so, even today, I'm good. But Eliot was a very popular teacher in my high school; among the haves.

He actively treated the "have nots" pretty bad. He once told a valedictorian, a have not from a broken home living in an apartment with her mother, that she really shouldn't be the valedictorian, because  another girl had worked harder and required no extra help during her time in high school. He openly wondered how he could remove certain kids from his class on Genocides (while naming them as they were in the room) and read aloud the list of names of students he felt would pass one of the two state exams offered for the class while looking the others in the eye.. The "haves" thought nothing of this. The "have nots" were the only ones who noticed.

These are true stories about Eliot. It's just the kind of guy he was. My district was filled with them. Genial, friendly, great educators who could just give a shit less about you if you weren't on the right wrung of the socio-econmic ladder.

Damn. If I had a choice, I would have escaped my district!

 I scrolled through Eliot's  friends list on Facebook a while back. Tons of former students. All haves from the community. Not one have not. Not one. Not one poor kid from around my way. It's nice that teachers care. It would be nice if they cared about all the students.

Good people in my former district. Good colleagues now, I'm sure. But good people are often not up to this task. Good people can often teach yet still shouldn't be teachers. In that environment, who's to say the student shouldn't have a choice? No one is going to tell me that the concerns of the students mean something less just because someone doesn't want to blame a school district that could, honestly, care less about some of its students. No one is going to tell me that parents who exercise the choice that may be coming is wrong for feeling let down by their neighborhood school or district. I think everyone agrees we could all be doing a better job.

I checked the accountability stats for my old district. Over 95% graduation rate, with a 49% grad rate for students with disabilities (SWDs) 36% for ELLs and (if I read correctly) less than 30% for African-American students. New dialogue, new century but still the same old suburban school district.

Say what you want about these choice people. They're misguided. They're evil. They have chosen the wrong targets and have offered the wrong solutions. They will destroy public schools.

 But the simple fact is that the whole choice movement has been wrought because of our collective failure of the have nots. The classroom teacher, who has no real power in virtually all schools, should not be in this equation to the extent others should but the teacher still is.

And while education isn't the place where we failed them, the truth is we have also failed them in their education. It's alright to say that. It's ok to acknowledge that. This is but one reason why the choice movement holds the "have nots" on its mantlepiece.

And while, for my current friends, rejecting the movement is not -not by any means- a rejection of the have-nots, I worry that my friends are enabling, by sheer accident, a process that helps to perpetuate the problem. We can't teach to just some of our students.

In the town where I grew up, Eliot is loved. Eliot is revered. Eliot is admired and Eliot is very much respected. But, you see,  Eliot is part of the problem. I feel a touch of blame toward folks like Eliot just as I blame the Evas and choice advocates of the world for any pain to public schools that the choice movement may bring.

Because, of course, choice isn't choice for the tens of thousands of students who did not get in or who were pushed out of a charter school. Choice will not be choice for the 1000th voucher student who applied to a private school or neighborhood district with only 50 open seats.  But the myth is sold to parents and students who were in classes taught by people like Eliot; to parents and students who would like the "have nots" in education to have equity and a real opportunity after high school.  And that myth looks pretty good.

Bubbles. (or 'There is no "We. There is only "Them" and "Them")

Yeah. I couldn't decide on a title. Sorry.

Now that Choice will come to the USDOE, folks are wondering what the  public education advocates are going to do. When the subject turns to matters outside of education, they're wondering how "the left" in general is going to respond. This seems to be a common trend. One reader sums up the dilemma well when talking about what "we" should have done:

Instead of loudly whining about every little (and big) thing Trump has said and done since his election, we should have held out fire until this appointment. Now we have no credibility. Lesson learned
And the fact is:


  1. Unfortunately, there is no "we" here. There is only a whole bunch of names 'who have been involved in ed' or in "activism" for years and there are the reformers. That's it. The "we" you refer to is just us kind of caught in the middle of people who want to destroy public ed on one side (the right) and people who want to convince us to fight THEIR battles on the other (the left). I have just seen one indicate to me, in a friendly way, that teachers' concerns were (essentially) nothing much to worry about and that activists' (which these days is nothing more out of touch leftists) comprise a real existential problem (and that's after reading about how an edformer will slowly pick apart public schools). Look, neither can be trusted given the current positions and EITHER will just destroy the idea of the local public school teacher and they'll think absolutely nothing of it.

Sadly, everyday parents and teachers really can't trust either the ed reformers or the activists who would like to stop them. That's not to say anyone who cares about public ed shouldn't stand on one side or the other. But if you think they people you'll be standing with care about your issues, then I've got a bridge to sell you. It's pretty old but still works well.

One respected DOENuts reader sent along an SNL link suggesting one possible path "the left" in general may follow:  Build a bubble around Brooklyn and wait until the whole thing passes over. That's just how the "edu" public school advocates seem to be responding.

Need an example? Here. Go "write" a letter to your Senator urging them not to support DeVos for the Education post. Then, have a cookie and you'll feel much better.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Welcome To the Party, Pal!

Now that Trump's choice for education has a name, Betsy DeVos, the elite educationnados have finally decided to pay some attention to the policy that is poised to undermine public schools and change the face of education as we know it. Naming just a few:

Eskelsen Garcia
these are just a few of the names I quickly grabbed. The list of recent voices who have objected goes on and on.  And that's a good thing! Its a very good thing!!

Now that they have a name to the policy, maybe they'll act? Maybe they'll have meetings? Maybe they'll protest? Maybe they'll rally?

They'll surely jump all over each other to get in front of a microphone and a newspaper reporter to decry the destruction to schools in poor communities that the policy will bring. That will be good.

But will they embrace a message that reaches out to people who may be inclined to support the "fresh" face policy that is coming? Will they try to convince new people to come into the fight to defend the local public school as we know it? Will they try to pull more people into the tent? Or will they pull up a bunch of chairs in some corner of it and tell everyone else they should to come over.

For me, it will be simple to tell: If they shout about "privatization" or "charters" or "vouchers" and nothing else, then it will be clear that the urban elites have no intention of taking the time to convince people from outside urban America that what may come in two months is a real threat. If they demonize "Devos" instead of talking about policy, then it will be clear that they'll be just preaching to the same old choir of followers.

But if they start writing and talking to people about what will happen to their local school if Title I funding becomes portable, if they try explain how federal funding equates to their football team, or buses for their children, or teachers in their classrooms, then maybe the polls will change in places where it counts (Minnesota Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida to say the least) and maybe Trump will be smart enough to ease the administration away.

I myself have absolutely, positively no faith in the "voices against education reform" figuring out that they need to find a way to convince the people who voted for Trump that this is a wrong idea.

There's a reason people went out to vote for him: Elitists.

My guess is these folks will speak to the same old supporters and keep blowing hot air into their echo chamber of northern liberal cities. These folks haven't even figured out what the hell happened to them on 11/8. How are they supposed to figure out how to speak through the anger to people who voted for a different candidate?

Or how to speak to the concerns of people who voted for him?

20% of the AFT's own members voted for this guy!! As many as 33% of NEA members  did the same -in direct conflict to their own professional and financial interest. Let's see if certain folks (I'm looking at you rich Manhattan. I'm looking at you fancy school district leader)  can pull themselves together.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Rhee for Sec-Ed: New Name. Same Threat.

I've been trying to sound to alarm all week about the real threat faced by public schools from the incoming Trump administration. Pardon me while I pump you full of those annoying things, facts, just one more time:

President-elect Donald Trump will meet Saturday with Michelle Rhee, a Democrat and former District of Columbia public schools leader who is considered in the running for secretary of education.

We all knew that Rhee's name was swimming around as a potential pick. Learning that she has met with Trump was no big surprise to me and it definitely means she's one of the names being floated around. And the platitudes that her PR team have amassed go wherever her name goes:

Rhee was hired to lead D.C. schools under Democratic Mayor Adrian Fenty, who gave her essentially unprecedented autonomy to change the costly and under-performing city’s school system.
Known as a visionary education reformer, Rhee shot to national prominence after her picture appeared on the Dec. 2008 cover of Time magazine next to the headline “How to Fix America’s Schools.”
But the picture of Rhee holding a broom enraged teachers, union leaders and others who said the image made clear Rhee’s intentions to improve the school system by trying to sweep out the most experience teachers -- in her effort to pay them based on performance, not tenure.

The Trump squad also met with Betsy DeVos yesterday - another "school choice" advocate.

What's important is that is that this meeting comes just two weeks after the election, before a Secretary of State and Defense, Treasury have been announced. In other words, before the basic presidential cabinet positions have been settled, the president elect has his mind on education policy. This fact is more important because it means that the $20 billion threat is going to be a priority for the new administration:

Trump’s School Choice Policy released in September calls for his incoming administration to “immediately” redirect $20 billion in federal funds to school choice -- in the form of block grants for an estimate 11 million school-age children living in poverty.
“We want every disadvantaged child to be able to choose the local public, private, charter or magnet school that is best for them and their family,” the Trump campaign said in announcing the plan. “Each state will develop its own formula, but the dollars should follow the student.”
That's Kevin Johnson, Rhee's Democrat Husband

School choice is governmental poison pill. Those who advocate it claim that it empowers people of poverty. What it really does is undermine the one institution that has not yet declared war on poor people: Public Schools. After decades of reducing funding for basic safety net provisions through a process called "starving the beast", one of the last institutions left standing is the (partially federally funded) local public school. The strategy there is also to starve the beast. bBy expanding charters and offering vouchers for private schools, public schools would be forced to make cuts that would force them to define themselves in a new role. There is a word for a crisis like that: Existential.

And that's the real threat. There is a new Ed war coming and it may be more painful than the last. And I almost hope Rhee gets picked to lead it. Her appointment would bring a much needed lightening rod to public education advocates all across the country. With Rhee in office, the voices of dissent would be as big (or bigger?) than they were in 2009-2010. The amount of voices lending their support to public schools would triple in size and $20 billion strategy would wind up being seen as a massive overreach of federal authority to influence local institutions -indeed Corporate Edreformers jumping the shark. What concerns me is a name no one knows, like DeVos, or Evers or Messer; names that most folks don't know coming out of the box. A name like that could get away with a lot before activists decide to pull it together and oppose the policy reforms.

Because if there is one thing I know about the left, it takes them forever to pull it together. The populists (of which I count myself) get too angry, often withholding their presence in a dissenting moment until their sure the terms are met. The elitists get too vindictive, always -always- allowing the entire house to burn down until their old scores have been settled before they throw their hats into the process of opposition. (If you think the Republican troubles were a mess, then you have a lot to learn about learn about the left!). A Rhee appointment would settle all of that quick. DeVos? That would be pretty bad.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Eva Eva Eva.

With the Daily News reporting that Eva is most definitely not going to be the US Education Secretary , one questions should be on everyone's mind: Did that ever matter?

If this election, and the past several years in the education advocate world has taught me one thing, it's that the elitists' mentality pervades a bit too much. Their mentality over the past few days have centered around one thing and one thing only: Eva.

But that Eva thing never really mattered to begin with. Neither did the Michelle Rhee thing.

What does matter is the $20 billion dollars that Trump is proposing to shift in USDOE and spend to undermine America's public school system.

...his first budget would redirect $20 billion in federal funding to create a state-run block grant that he said he hoped would help poor children in low-performing public schools to enroll at charter and private schools
"I'm proposing a plan to provide school choice to every disadvantaged student in America," Trump said.
Where would the money come from and how would that effect public schools?

Trump said during the campaign that he'd like to use existing federal funds to support his big school choice program, even though he didn't say, specifically what pot of money he was referring to. The department's current budget is about $70 billion, with roughly $15.5 billion going to Title I grants for districts, and $12 billion going to state grants for special education.
Both programs have been absorbed into the blood stream of school district budgets, so re-directing the money would be a big deal.

There have been wild rumors from the left, and indeed the right, that he would eliminate the USDOE altogether. But one look into the names that have surfaced as rumored picks for DOE Secretary make it obvious that that's never going to happen. Aside from Williamson Evers, one of two who are leading his transition on education, the names Rhee, Moskowitz and even DeVos aren't associated with destroying the USDOE. Even the name dujour, Congressman Luke Messer of Indiana is associated with something far more sinister: school choice. Implementing choice will require the use of the USDOE.

And $20 billion is a lot of money.

Race To the Top caused massive disruptions in public school across the nation and the Obama administration only spent $4 billion on that. That's a discount next to this. Trump's plan, to shift money form among the federal budget away from the USDOE and into direct grants so school parents can choose to stay in public schools or go to a private school is five times that amount. The money that would be shifted within the DOE is system money, meaning that whole school districts rely on it to run their system. $20 billion would change almost everything we know about public education.

And if you're thinking that the Democrats can block this with a 60 vote cloture requirement, think again. A tax re-write in going to happen in 2017 and a matter like shifting federal tax dollars around could easily be tied to the tax code changes, which, under the rules, requires only a 51 vote majority to bring to a floor vote. Not 60. In other words, tax matters are not what most other folks would call filibuster proof.

$20 billion dollars would change  almost everything. And all I see and hear from the NY elites is Eva. I wonder who they will pick as an enemy tomorrow while ignoring the obvious threat public school advocates are facing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

New Name Floated as Education Secretary (NOT Eva)

As New York elites and activists brood over the possibility of Eva Moskowitz being appointed Education Secretary, a new name is making its way around main stream and social media as a possible Trump pick to head the USDOE:

Betsy DeVos, a prominent school choice advocate and GOP supporter, is under consideration by president-elect Donald Trump to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education, according to news reports.
Several news organizations, including the Washington Post and Politico, have said DeVos is among a handful of people under consideration for the position.

And in the event you're wondering about who she is and what she stands for:

DeVos, whose husband Dick unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2006, is a renowned advocate -- both in Michigan and nationally -- for school choice and charter schools. She serves on the board of the Michigan-based Great Lakes Education Project and the Washington D.C.-based American Federation for Children -- each of which works to expand educational options for children.
Trump, for his part, pushed for greater school choice on the campaign trail, including a proposal to pump $20 billion into expanding options for low-income students. 
DeVos, a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, previously expressed reservations about Trump. At the Republican National Convention in July she cast her vote as an at-large delegate for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and said she was still hoping to "hear something from our nominee to convince me that I should support him."


DeVos and her husband led a failed effort to amend the Michigan constitution to provide vouchers that would allow students to attend private schools at public expense. That's a centerpiece of Trump's education plan. He would invest $20 billion in federal money toward school choice, and expect states to kick in $110 billion of their own money, to provide $12,000 each in school choice funds to the 11 million school-age children living in poverty.

The $20 billion wouldn't be new money, but would instead be the result of re-prioritizing existing federal money.
Given the list of organizations she serves as a board member of, she'd be a shoe in for a New York socialite.

  • Chairman, All Children Matter
  • Chairman, Michigan Republican Party, 2003 2005
  • Member, MI Executive Committee, Bush Cheney '04
  • Member, Trust Fund Board, Library of Congress 2003
  • Member, Leadership Team, W Stands for Women, Bush Cheney '04
  • Chairman, Great Lakes Education Project PAC, 2001-2002
  • Chairman, Choices for Children, 2001-2002
  • National Finance Chairman, National Republican Senatorial Committee
  • Chairman, Michigan Republican State Committee, 1996-2000
  • Republican National Committeewoman Michigan, 1992-1997
  • Chairman, Spence Abraham for U.S. Senate Committee,1994
  • Member, Board of Trustees, American Council of Young Political Leaders
  • RNC Budget Committee, 1992
  • Delegate, Republican National Convention, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000
  • Alternate Delegate, Republican National Convention, 1984
  • Chairman, Fifth District Republican Committee, 1989-1992
  • Chairman, Kent County Republican Committee, 1984-1988
  • Co Chairman, Kent County Republican Finance Committee, 1983-1984
  • Delegate/Alternate Delegate, Michigan Republican State Conventions
  • Vice Chairman, Bush/Quayle State Steering Committee, 1992
  • John Engler for Governor Committee, 1990
  • Co Chairman, Bill Schuette for U.S. Senate Committee, 1990
  • Co Chairman, Michigan Republican State Committee Lake Michigan Barbecue, 1988—1991
  • Co Chairman, Kent County Bush/Quayle Campaign, 1988
  • Delegate to China, American Council of Young Political Leaders, 1988
  • Volunteer, "ScatterBlitzer" Ford for President, Kent County Republican Committee, 1976
  • Member, Board of Directors, Alliance for School Choice
  • Member, Board of Trustees, Kennedy Center for Performing Arts
  • Member, Board of Directors, Children First America 2004
  • Member, Board of Directors, American Education Reform Council, 2002
  • Member, Board of Directors, Kids Hope USA
  • Ministry Leadership Team, Kids Hope USA 2005
  • Member, Board of Directors, Compass Arts
  • Member, Board of Directors, Education Freedom Fund
  • Member, Board of Directors, Acton Institute
  • Co chairman, "Heartbeat" fundraiser for the American Heart Association, 1995-2002
  • Member, Board of Directors, Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Executive Committee
  • Member, Board of Trustees, Blodgett Memorial Medical Center, 1986-1997
  • Member, Board of Directors, Grand Rapids Economic Club, 1993-1998
  • President's Advisory Council, Calvin College, 1993-1995
  • Member, Advisory Board, The Potter's House School
  • Member, Board of Trustees, Ada Christian School, 1992-1995
  • Grand Rapids Christian School Association Capital Fund Drive, 1990-1993
  • Member, Michigan International Year of the Family Council, 1994
  • Member, Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs, Governor Engler Appointee, 1991-1992
  • Chairman, Ada Christian School Education Foundation 1991-1992
  • Member, Board of Trustees, Kendall College of Art &Design, 1986-1992
  • Member, Board of Trustees, Arts Council of Greater Grand Rapids, 1990-1992
  • Member, Board of Trustees, Grand Rapids Area Medical Education Committee, 1990-1991
  • Member, Board of Trustees, Worldwide Christian Schools, 1988-1991[47]

The one pattern emerging from all of the names that have passed through media, the pattern of vouchers, school choice and a large investment for a federal initiative supporting the two seems to be emerging. My guess is that the rumors that Trump is going to destroy the USDOE are probably not true.  It looks, very much, like he's seeking out a pick who will actively push through vouchers and charters on a national level.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Trump's New Education Secretary

Oh, I'm going to have so much fun with this, I may just have to start writing again.

Today, the New York times reported a list of leading candidates in the new Trump administration. On the list for Sec. of Education? Dr. Ben Carson, who doesn't remember running for president and Williamson M Evers (Bill for short).
Because this guy looks totally qualified

Took a quick look on Wikipedia about him (because of the Celebrity Apprentice host can become president, then surely I can now source Wikipedia without any flack) and found out that Evers is actually leading the transition team for education.

In November 2016, he was selected to lead President Elect Trump's transition team for the Department of Education.[1]

So who is this guy? He has been an active libertarian for several decades. He is associated with the Cato institute and had published a libertarian magazine, Inquiry before ending his association with that right-of-right think tank.

"What, doenuts", you may ask, "is this guy's credentials on education?". And that would be a great question! He was an angry parent in California. In 1995, upset with a new math curriculum, he:

 "...organized a publicity stunt in which a toilet was mounted on the back of a pick-up truck and driven to a protest outside the school district headquarters. There Evers ceremonially flushed the new curriculum...."

Nice! The current Ed. Sec is a Dr, the previous Ed Sec at least lead a major city's school district and the next Ed Sec? Well he mounted a toilet onto a wall and flushed it.

But wait! There's more!!!!

Williamson M Evers was also the education adviser to provisional Iraqi government after the US took it over in 2003.

And that worked out well!! The provisional government was the one that allowed the growth of Al Quadi in Iraq and sewed the seeds that lead to the Civil War that caused almost 300,000 Iraqis to die.

So our next Education Secretary may well be a man who A) Doesn't believe in public education B) Has no education experience in the places where it counts and C) Was part of the worst provisional government in modern history.

I guess that's how you make america great again!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Tote, A Charter Rally and A Guiding Principle

My grandmother is 84 years old. She likes to go the dollar store and buy little things here and there for the people she knows. She bought me this tote last winter from her local Dollar Tree. She saw that it said "teacher" and I'm sure she thought it looked nice so she decided to pick one up. The Dollar Tree is one of those companies that is willing to buy retail junk that did not exactly fly off the shelves at other places, then sell it to customers at the grand old price of a dollar. She knows I don't use tote bags but, for a dollar, this 100% canvas model seemed to be quite a deal to my grandmother.

I immediately recognized the slogan on the front of the bag. It is the name for one of the many Charter School rallies that occur in the city every Fall and Winter. This particular rally was hosted by a pro charter group called Families for Excellent Schools. The rally took place in Folly Square back in October of 2015 and asked teachers to stand for school equality. It happened on a Wednesday. I think I missed it. I think it was because I, along with the rest of the NYCDoE was probably bringing school equality where it counts on a Wednesday -in school- but I could be wrong -and I digress.

The next day, The New York Daily News ran a piece about the rally entitled "1,000 NYC charter school teachers to rally for educational equality".

"Team Possible" over at Families For Excellent Schools must have ordered more than 1,000 totes, because this one found its way to a shelf in a Dollar Tree store out in suburban New York.

Charters come under attack all the time for bringing market-based values to the public education world. I've never shared in the attacks, because I think there are good charters out there, but I have always felt cautious whenever I saw the guiding principles of American Capitalism creeping their way into the last great public trust -education- there is. There are highly paid charter leaders and for-profit charter leaders in the world. There are even charter leaders who own the buildings that are rented to charter schools, thus making a sizable profit for themselves. Though not all bad, charters are not all good either and common sense leads anyone to be a bit cautious.

There is no doubt that Families for Excellent Schools purchased these totes for a rally back on 10/21/2015. Heck, the name of the rally is right there on the tote! I'm sure some were distributed to participants. But the guiding for-profit principles are pretty obvious when you realize that the tote bags that weren't' distributed for free at the rally, and weren't given out to students or to parents or even to passers by on the street, were actually sold to an after market retailer, who, in-turn sold them for a profit.

It looks like someone in the organization devoted time and resources away from "possible" and toward reaching out to companies to hock some wares in an attempt to recoup monies spent for a public relations event. Or maybe not. Perhaps someone allowed to happen. This, frankly, is much the same to me but some folks would find that different.

Meanwhile, "Why", critics would ask, "might groups like Families for Excellent Schools, the folks who sold us on possible, not be the best fit for education?" It may be because their mindset, which is focused on results and on bottom line, leads them to sell their junk to a dollar store when they can't get enough people show up at a rally. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

JUST Like Tammany Hall

        (No cute satire today, folks. Just a rant from a brilliant, very angry dude)

Before the first seniority laws were passed in the city, a person had to know someone within the political patronage system in order to get a job as a civil servant. This included jobs like teaching. Read this Harper's Weekly article from 1901 if you'd like to know how living and working under Tammany Hall, the major political machine that ran city and state politics, was like.

The seniority system was put in place in order to stop all this.  That whole period in history (the Progressive Era) brought a realization that jobs (like teaching) shouldn't simply go to people who had paid a political patronage on some level but should go to those who actually merited the job. There is a long history of the struggle to reach a merit based hiring system, on the state level, here. Respect the written word. Learn your damn history and read it. It is a continual struggle waged for hundreds of years in this state.

When seniority transfers for teachers were abolished in the 2005 contract, there were concerns expressed at my school about how teaching jobs could go back to a political patronage system, where your assignment relied more on who you knew than what you knew.  We were told, by our Unity Chapter Leader, that the guarantee of that not happening -the trade-off of giving up seniority- was that teachers were going to be given an open and free job market where they could search for any teaching job in the city and obtain a position based on their own merit.

That system -the Open Market Hiring System- has been highly criticized as being an empty vessel, where jobs are posted but instead go to political patrons on some level anyway. I have heard of of one school -in Queens- where the son of a one of the school's employees bragged to his grad class about how he had a leg up on an open social studies position because of his mother's position at the school. (Whether or not he was hired, I do not know. I do know that my very qualified friend was not).  I know of another -again in Queens- where a man answered the "how did you get the job here" question with "my mother is an AP at <school XXX> and I got it that way". What precise way that meant, I am not claiming to know (he seemed like a nice fella).

 There are schools in the city -right now- who have sent emails to listervs letting folks know they are hiring but have not placed the positions on the "Open Market".

What is the result of all this? A corrupted system of hiring practices for the city, just like in the days of Tammany Hall.

Now we, in the city classrooms, all know these examples exist. I won't pretend to be bringing you up to speed on something that should be blazingly obvious. This (the last time I checked) is a grown up's world and I'm not here to cry.

But this year's offenses seem particularly egregious. The "Open Market System" for non excessed teachers has been open since April 15th -for three weeks as of this writing. Thus far, the system has posted exactly zero openings anywhere in the city. That's Zero for any teacher on any level anywhere in the city of New York. This is the case for the account I have created and, thus far, the accounts of three other assigned teachers who are looking to change schools.

Zero positions open.


I sent an email to through system's help feature asking why I was prevented from having the opportunity to view the job openings.  The reply I received is below: the start of the Open Market transfer period, there are few vacancies listed in the system. If no vacancies appear in your search results, please check back regularly, as new positions are added daily.

If you are searching for vacancies and do not find any, you may still apply to a school instead of a specific vacancy.

That reference to *few* vacancies ignored my assertion that *zero* vacancies were being shown.

But it's just this last part that is absolutely infuriating. If the world had email during the Tammany Hall days, when patronage was the natural order of things and your merit was rarely considered, I am certain I would have received an email from someone inviting me to apply directly to a school, just like I was invited to a apply here.

A good friend shared the backstory (the real story behind this mess) with me. Apparently, the budget accounts in Galaxy, the principals' online budget system, had not yet been established for the upcoming school year and would not be online until roughly the middle of May. Once that was done, principals could begin -begin- posting the positions they anticipate opening at their schools (if they chose to publicly post the assignments).


Thing is, the opening of this system -the system established to replace seniority as a fair hiring practices for schools- was supposed to happen in April. This was done through a city/UFT agreement (which may or may not have been part of the contract. I honestly don't know). It was agreed on this date for a reason: To give schools and applicants enough time to look around and prepare for interviews and demonstration lessons.  Time is an important component to fairness.

(I can't believe I had to write that down; that sufficient time is important in the process of being fair. Honestly, saying the obvious is so ridiculous.)

Opening that the system in April, then pushing its population of data (the postings for positions) back until May helps to defeat the purpose of having a fair an open hiring system in the first place and it brings us right back to a patronage system, much like the one we had before World War I, when people like William M Tweed and Charlie Murphy decided who worked in this city and where they worked.

I wonder which colleagues reading this -the teachers who are working at desirable, "nice" schools- received their position without knowing at least one person who was already assigned to that school. I congratulate the few who can claim to have received their positions solely through the merit of teaching.

For the rest of you, I'd offer a different congratulations. You are the beneficiaries of a rigged hiring system; one that is corrupted either by its lack of competence or by the agenda driven by its politics. And you are using that corruption to get over on everyone else. Of course, you're no better than anyone else and you know. You just happen to have the 'hookup'. Congrats on having a 'hookup'.

Now as of this writing, this system has been open for three weeks. Not one position has been posted and my union -the same Union that stopped the whole city in 1968 over due process for city employees- has been absolutely silent on this topic. They, obviously, could care less.  The people in the schools posting the assignments could clearly care less. The principals of these schools could clearly care less.

But there is a principle at play here that is larger than any rat scrambling for his or her piece of cheese at a nice school. When I'm not being a smart aleck on a blog, I happen to be (by any metric used thus far) a highly effective teacher. Danielson? HE. Student surveys? HE. Frameworks other than Danielson? HE. Student achievement? Informal colleagues surveys? Outside reviewer visits? HE. HE. HE. The point is that, unless you're an idiot who doesn't know what good teaching is, it's pretty clear that I'm good at what I do.  If I wanted to change schools, I'm sure I could get a job by putting out feelers and seeing which friends knew which principals (Ok. I know I could get a job this way because I say no thanks to two or three each year. Not to brag, but I felt a sudden urge to assert that I'm not coming from a disgruntled place).

 But I shouldn't have to do all of that. You see folks, for the last 100 years, a system has been put in place to measure me (as an applicant) on my merits. It's just not being used.

What will (or won't) my union, including my friends in both dissenting caucus', say next year,  when the positions are placed on the open market even later? Or the one after that?

Or the one after that -when any idea of merit based hiring practices for schools is lost to everyone memory?

Update: It is four hours after initial publication and 92 vacancies have been listed. They were not there at the time of publication. I will continue updates.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Is There A Dichotomy Between Practitioner and Advocate?

I recently read on the ICE blog a few thoughts about an activist's need to write more about being  a teacher. James Eterno, the primary writer of the blog and leader of the ICE caucus of the UFT wrote:

I'm often criticized by my friend Norm Scott for writing too much about union issues and not enough about teaching.  He is of course right as I am known to separate the two in my head and this blog mostly concerns the union stuff with an emphasis on standing up for teachers.
I know James and he's a great union man. I've been to his school, where people judge you only on how well you do your job, and I believe him to be a good teacher as well. The point he makes about teacher-activists needing to present their teacher side more often is a valid one. NYC Educator, another educator I know to be a good union person and teacher, touched on this point as well just today. During a fairly scathing mock up of what seems to be the writing of a young supervisor, he wrote (in the voice of the supervisor named 'Boy Wonder'):
So that we may reflect on our practice. On Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays the entire department will assemble. For mandatory voluntary meetings. I shall assign each of you. To a proactive working group, and you will examine student work to determine precisely why you failed to make it better.
As funny as this is (and it is), NYC Educator is also demonstrating, with a sophistication that only he can pull off, that he has a fairly deep understanding of the rather complicated process of Looking Together at Student Work (I'm acknowledged in that book, by the way. Just bragging saying).  Only a seasoned, and very effective, teacher can demonstrate such a practitioner's understanding of the process of looking at student work. In demonstrating this, the author is demonstrating that he is both an excellent blogger and an excellent teacher.

And ergo, my point: There's that balance again.

That 'good teacher' side isn't always present in the blogosphere or in the places where edu-activists tend to meet to be active. I know. I read the blogs and I've been to those places and showing our good teacher stripes isn't usually on the agenda.

But striking that balance between being a good advocate for the profession while also being a good practitioner of the profession is really important. I'd even go so far to say that it's vital to the work we do.

And it is unbelievably challenging! I embraced my practitioner side about two years ago and thought I had separated myself  from my advocate side.  Recently though, when a colleague nominated me for a fairly selective teaching award (one of those "XXXX teachers who are nominated, but only 1/3 of them are 'vetted and invited' to apply!!!"), I found myself having to film a three-minute video of myself talking about my thoughts on education. They wanted to hear what a practitioner had to say and I was all ready to give it to them! I was set to talk about classroom practices and curricular development and all of the things that a judge would want to hear from a teacher. Instead, that little advocate inside me took over and I found myself talking about runaway school segregation and the need to bring more equity to the overall system -stuff that I knew no judge would ever want to hear from a classroom teacher but stuff I couldn't not say to someone from Tweed who was listening.  I just couldn't help myself! It's part of the dichotomy.

Or maybe it isn't. The one thing I have in common with James Eterno, and NYC Educator, the bloggers from Accountable Talk, Assailed Teacher, RagingHorse, South Bronx School, Labor's Lessons or Perdido Street or even Norm Scott's Ednotes Online is that the sum of what I am as an educator can't be seen by just observing what I do in the classroom or what I write on some blog-with-a-funny-name. You've got to take both of these things into account when adding it all up.

But that goes for everyone else, too. You can't be a poser and put on the hat of "teacher" just because you think it can help you make your societal points or because you want to be famous. In the same manner, you really can't just grab your chalk-chuck every day and go be a teacher without doing something to advocate for the betterment of your profession and your colleagues. There has to be a balance somewhere along those lines and you (yes, you, reader) have to work to find that balance. The two blogs I talked about above -blogs by teachers with more than 50 years experience between them- are emblematic of the effort of finding that balance.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

My Career As A Teacher

Year one: Welcome to our school. We have run out of chalk. Please buy your own. 

Year three: Here's a handout on the workshop model. Figure out how to incorporate it into your own teaching. I'm observing you in three days. 

Year five: you must pay for your own masters' degree. Figure out how to do it. You have one more year. 

Year seven: We're using an ICT model now, teachers must learn how it works. Here's a book,  Read it carefully. I'm observing you in three days.

Year ten: Ed wars! You've been doing it wrong this whole time. I want to fire you and all your colleagues and get some big stars to say in movies how important you've been and how much you've messed up. 

Year fourteen: Let's restore dignity to teachers and to teaching. 



Saturday, February 27, 2016

Why Are Our Copays Going Up!!???

Just this month, I wrote three long (and dense) pieces describing the healthcare crisis that NYC Employees are facing. Feel free to read it. I ended the last piece by telling readers to:

"...expect the union and the city government to come up with a common sense solution. This solution would include
  • Minor payroll deductions from everyone's paychecks (say 2% of the total cost?)
  • An increase in co-pays (because what's the point if we can't all punish the sick and the elderly)
  • A further reduction in the actual amounts that the health insurance providers pay to health care providers. .."

Well, It looks like the first attempt to offset rising healthcare costs has happened. Last night, the UFT Welfare Fund sent members and email describing a significant rise in copays for any city employee seeking healthcare. I'm pasting those increases below this post.

But before you see them, please read these three important observations:

1. This is not necessarily the last increase in our healthcare costs. The city can still call for premiums to be deducted and Emblem can still follow the practice of paying providers so little that our doctors make the decision to turn around and bill us for the difference.  Those are still two very real possibilities that will also offset the rising costs. So make sure you're aware of that. (Deductibles are still possible but I just don't want to think about that)

2. These increases are a direct result of the city's decision to pay less into the Health Insurance Premium Stabilization Fund (HISP). Direct. The unions have allowed the city to pay $153 million less into this fund this fiscal year. That difference must be made up. It is being made up through the copay increases that are posted below. This is important: We, city employees who see doctors, are paying for the mayor's healthcare savings.

3. It doesn't have to be this way, but this effects the least amount of people. In order to make up the $153 million difference, premiums of roughly $25 per paycheck would have to be deducted from each of the city's 250,000 employees. As I wrote in the past, that -avoiding payroll deductions for GHI and HIP members- is the ultimate goal of both the city and the unions (and they all share that goal together).

(JTBC: I support small payroll deduction for all employees. We are union employees, after all. We should share the boom. We should share the burden as well. That's unionism. But from a political standpoint, this 'solution' effects the least amount of people. That's Realpolitik at work in the 21st century. The ones who need the care the most -the folks who visit the doctor- will shoulder the burden).

The chart below lists the GHI changes that will take effect in the coming months:

GHI – CBP BenefitsCurrent CopayNew Copay
The following chart shows the changes affecting HIP subscribers:

HIP BenefitsCurrent CopayNew Copay
HIP Preferred Network (new)No copayNo copay
HIP Non-Preferred PhysicianNo copay$10

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Secretive Teachers

A reformer's car broke down in front of a school after hours. He knocked on the door to ask for help and, sure enough, the school was filled with teachers preparing for the following day. Despite knowing who he was, they were more than happy to help. The shared with him their food, let him use their phones to call for a tow and made him feel comfortable and welcomed as he waited for it to arrive.

As he was leaving he heard a wonderful nose. "What was that??" he asked.

"We're sorry" replied the pedagogues. "We can't tell you because you're not a teacher".

Troubled by the response, yet grateful for all of the help he had received, the reformer climbed into the tow truck and went on his way to have his car repaired.

Many years later, the reformer was driving near the same school when his car broke down again. Confident he would receive help, he knocked on the school door. Once again, the teachers opened their hearts to him, sharing their food, allowing him to use their phone to call for a tow truck and making him feel comfortable and welcomed as he waited.

When the tow truck arrived, he heard the same wonderful noise that he remembered hearing years ago. "What was that??" he asked. "Please tell me!".

Once again, the educators replied "We're very sorry but we cannot tell you because you are not a teacher".

"No, no" he responded. "You can't do this to me again. I simply must know. Isn't there any way I can find out?"

"Well" replied one of the teachers. "Go to college for four years and successfully study psychology and pedagogy. Then pass a four hour test in Liberal Arts and Sciences, followed by another in an area of content specialty and finally a last demonstrating your expertise in understanding the many facets of teaching. When that's done be a probationary teacher for four years to learn the trade. Establish real relationships with the parents of each and every student you teach. Demonstrate commitment and loyalty to your school community, commitment and loyalty to the greater community that school serves and the commitment and loyalty to the profession of teaching. .Study the results of your students and your teaching practices. Improve each and every year and make sure you know how each and every one of your students learn best. Arrive early. Stay late and graciously accept unhelpful advice from people who don't really know the job. Be aware of the bad press from the newspapers and TV, suffer ignorant comments from friends, strangers and politicians alike about how you don't have a real job and should be working harder; all while maintaining a magnanimous, teacher-like demeanor.  Do these things while working on a second college degree and make sure you earn three-quarters of the pay that people with similar educational backgrounds have. Once all of that is done, examine this student's paper, then come back here and tell us just one thing: Why doesn't Dan like to learn? Answer this question correctly, and we will gladly show you this wonderful, blissful noise".

So off the reformer went back to college. As requested, he was educated in the background of human psychology and pedagogical techniques. He passed each of his state exams and struggled, but successfully worked, through his probationary teaching period. He earned a required Masters' Degree, suffered all of the benighted comments traditionally shared by people who aren't part of the profession and did so while carrying the name -teacher- with honor. He arrived early each day and stayed late each night.  He learned his students, perfected his craft and did all of this at 3/4 of the pay that his friends and peers earned. And, when he knew he was ready, he took out and examined the paper he had been given years before.

Elated that he would finally learn the true nature of this wonderful, blissful noise, he ran to the school, and burst through the doors looking for the teachers -who he now knew would be there.

"Dan doesn't like to learn because he doesn't understand the vocabulary. But a few vocabulary games will build his confidence and get him engaged."

The teachers, immediately recognizing who he was, smiled from ear to ear, then silently walked him to a special room on the side of the school. They turned they key to the door and welcomed him in to the place where he, at long last, could understand the true nature and composition of this, the most wonderful noise in the world.

But he can't tell you what it is because you're not a teacher.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

MORE's New Steering Committee

Strike a chord for a democratic way of doing things. As of March 1, The MORE candidate for UFT president, Jia Lee (whom I wholeheartedly support), is not part of the leadership Steering Committee of the caucus. This means the caucus' decision making processes aren't directly connected with the candidate who we would all like to preside over the UFT.

'How can that be?' you may ask. 'Doesn't a presidential candidate call all of the shots?'Not exactly. Democracy doesn't always require a cult of personality type in order to function. Hearing all voices means that it doesn't really matter who steers the caucus: The caucus members steer it. We all know what the caucus stands for because, well, we're the ones who are standing. That's a pretty cool way to do things and it's the kind of rank-and-file driven leadership that Jia will bring to the whole UFT.

That's not the structure the UFT's Unity Caucus has. Many of those folks, as wonderful as they are, have been so left out of the leadership loop that they aren't quite sure what the caucus stands for and have surely not been able to carry an issue to their caucus for consideration. The UFT does great things but that's not a way to run a caucus and expect a union that is strong enough to do things like carry the endorsements they make to actual electoral success (the last time they picked a mayoral winner was 1989).

Anyway, I digress. Here is the list of MORE's *New* Steering Committee Members. A new one will be chosen after six months. If you want to be on it, all you have to do is join the caucus and take part in the effort.

The new committee will take over from current steering on March 1 for a six month term that will run through August 2016.

Meet the new MORE­UFT Steering Committee:

Cayden Betzig ​is a first year teacher at Eagle Academy in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Prior to beginning his lead teaching career this school year he spent five years working in NYC and DC public schools as a teacher’s aid. As a student at NYU he campaigned vigorously for educational justice. He coordinated a campaign demanding that the university prioritize financial aid over real estate expansion. He also founded the NYU Public Education Project­ a group of pre­service teachers dedicated to social justice. He is passionate about moving MORE and the UFT to be a truly democratic organization that represents all teachers­ especially teachers of color and the untenured.

Erik Forman ​is a second­ year ESL and Social Studies teacher and current Chapter Leader at the High School for Language and Innovation in the former Columbus High School building in the Bronx. He has worked as an educator for nearly a decade, teaching Adult ESL, substitute teaching, and teaching at a university in China. Before his life as an educator, Erik spent seven years participating in groundbreaking campaigns to unionize the US fast food industry with the Industrial Workers of the World. He wants to build the schools students deserve and the union teachers need.

Ashraya Gupta: UFT Delegate and Chemistry teacher at Harvest Collegiate High School, Manhattan. “We deserve a democratic union, representative of our members. For too long, teacher interests have been cast as oppositional to student interests. But our union should make it clear that our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. Let’s be the union we wish to see.”

Peter Lamphere ​Teaches math and robotics at Gregorio Luperón HS in Manhattan. During four UFT elections since 2004, he has learned the need to prioritize building a strong base and organization through our campaign. Throughout the fall he has focused on developing literature, fundraising and outreach plans, including a strong fall conference and membership drive. Also, he will continue to develop MORE’s organizing committee and the database of thousands of contacts we maintain, and contribute to local organizing in Washington Heights. He has a long record as a MORE/UFT activist, Chapter Leader and Delegate. But more important is a commitment to MORE’s social justice unionism model. This means that we can’t win against the deformers without broader support from families, communities and working people generally. We need not only parent and community support of our demands but also to support wider working class fights against budget cuts, for #BlackLivesMatter, and so on.

Janice Manning​ is currently a fifth grade Special Education Teacher in an Integrated Co Teaching Classroom at P.S. 503 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. She started her teaching career as a fourth grade teacher in Fort Worth, Texas. After teaching in Fort Worth for a year, she taught English as a foreign language in Znamenka, Ukraine as a Peace Corps Volunteer. She is passionate about working with other educators to organize ways to improve education for ALL students.

Kevin Prosen​ is chapter leader at I.S. 230 in Jackson Heights, Queens. He campaigned as part of MORE’s slate for the executive board in the 2013 UFT elections, and has organized mass grievance campaigns at his school involving up to 35 members of his chapter. He has been active in the MORE chapter organizing committee and has been organizing outreach to other chapter leaders in the city. His writings on UFT issues have appeared in Jacobin and Socialist Worker.

Roberta Reid, a native New Yorker, presently resides in the Bronx. She made a mid-life career change, returning to study and complete her Bachelor of Art degree at Lehman College of the City of New York to go into the Education Profession. Her service with the Department of Education of the City of New York commenced in 1991 as a Common Branch teacher, first, at CS 198, then at the Mohegan School, both schools in District 12 in the Bronx. In 2008, she ran unsuccessfully for Chapter Leader at CS67, Bronx. Roberta's career covered a span of 22.5 years until her retirement in June 2014. In May 2015, she made a first time run for the Delegate Assembly of the UFT Retired Teacher Chapter as an independent, garnering an impressive 151 votes.  She has always viewed social justice and equity as vital components of what the profession represents. 

Mindy Rosier ​is a native New Yorker who graduated from Marymount Manhattan College with a B.A. in Psychology and Elementary Education and Fordham University with an M.S. Ed in Early Childhood Special Education. She has been a teacher for 17 years, including 3 years at the NY Foundling Hospital and currently 8 years with the Department of Education in a District 75 school. After seeing the hardships that her school has endured and after researching the education system itself, she became active to promote an improvement in the quality of education for all children.

Mike Schirtzer:​ UFT Delegate and Social Studies teacher at Leon M. Goldstein High School, Brooklyn: “We Need New Leadership!” “Classroom teachers need a voice in our union and we will be that voice on the UFT Executive Board. Our leadership negotiated a poor contract, worse than other city unions. Micromanagement, Danielson, and 1% raises with delayed retro is not what teachers want or need.” 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


I had read on the excellent NYCEducator blog yesterday that Alan Singer had noted how the teacher in question from the Success debacle wasn't even certified. I couldn't believe it, so I looked it up. Sure enough, she's not licensed to teach in New York (look it up for yourself here).

The teacher comes from Indiana, so I looked it up. She's not certified there, either. Apparently, this lady has never possessed a teaching credential in her life. Wow.

For me, the big takeaway from all this isn't from the pattern abuse (you can plainly see the children weren't surprised and the teaching aide had seen this behavior before) and it isn't from the fact that this class was in the middle of an intense math lesson after the sun had gone down (Yeah, that 'calm down chair'? It's in front of a window and you can plainly tell this incident took place at night. yuk).

For me, the big takeaway is that this was done by a person not credentialed to teach anywhere in the US. I have to believe that a licensed teacher would not have done this. So I Dropped this comment on Ravitch earlier today:

Now that the initial news of the video itself is passing, is it a good time to start addressing the shocking realization that Ms. Dial was not certified to teach in New York State? Isn’t that a real a takeaway here? (As she hails from Indiana, it may be a good time to point out that no one named Charlotte Dial is certified to teach in that state either). That, to me, is shocking as I always just presumed charter teachers possessed the same professional qualifications as public school teachers. It raises three questions that I don’t think have ever been addressed (and probably should):

1) Are all charter school teachers not required to be licensed to teach?
2) Given the assertions from charters that they ‘perform’ better than public schools, what does this lack of certification from among their teaching corps say about the allegations of the need to improve teacher prep programs on every college campus across the country? If uncertified teachers are doing ‘so well’ then why invest so much money in teacher prep programs?
3) What it that say about charter schools that they do not even require their teachers to be certified? How does that mesh the claim of high standards and high achievement?
I think these are fair questions.
It does raise questions about why the ed deformers are pushing for tougher teacher prep programs and about whether the charter sector can really claim higher standards if they don't even require the minimum requirement for teachers. No one responded to those two questions.

But I did get this response re the first question from a commenter named Sharon in NYS:

New York State allows charter schools to hire up to 30% of non-certified individuals to teach. 100% of teachers in New York State PUBLIC schools must be certified.

 Can this be true? Can close to one third of charter teachers not be real teachers? I'm not a big charter fan, but I haven't expressed real concerns about them in the past because I always felt that, for parents who send their children to charters,  the benefits outweighed all of the criticisms (I'm a parent, so I tend to want to not attack the choices that other parents make for their children).

But if close to 1/3 of charter teachers aren't certified, then I think there is a real danger for students. Uncertified teachers will not respect the traditions of our profession as much as certified teachers will. Uncertified teachers will not benefit from the high, intense training that certified teachers have undergone in order to be certified.

Uncertified teachers may even commit to a pattern of abusive behavior without fully understanding the consequences it poses for children. There is a reason we are required to possess a minimum amount of certification. That reason was on full display in that video, if even evident only from its blaring absence.