Thoughts on My Final Year of Teaching

            Next week, I am returning early to school to set up my room and get ready for my final year as a public school teacher.  If you listen to the so-called reformers, we union teachers are a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings who only care about our high pay.  Last Saturday, I went to Staples for Teacher Recognition Day to get a few discounted items.  I ended up paying over $200 for essential supplies.  Being that our school has no budget for supplies, I had to buy dry erase markers, white board cleaning fluid, pens, pencils, index cards, extra notebooks, fasteners, paper clips, binders for my lessons and monitoring tools, a lesson plan book, etc., etc. 

            When I get to school tomorrow, I will have to move furniture, inventory my supplies, climb, tape, and clean.  It will take many, many hours to do all this.  I do this out of love and not any type of monetary compensation.  I can spend the extra week relaxing, but it would be impossible to be ready for the kids if I did not do this.  By the way, I worked all summer until Friday.  I worked in one of the special education offices for the Department of Education.  I did annual reviews for students who receive special services by the DOE, but remain in private schools at their parent’s expense.  I did over 130 cases because during the school year there are not enough people in the office I worked in to do the job.  Why do I work?  I have to.  I am grateful to have this job because if I did not earn the extra money, I could not make ends meet.  Besides me, almost every teacher in my school has to work in the summer.  However, according to the reformers, we have these fabulous summers off to lounge in the sun.

            I am starting this year with a lot of apprehension over the new evaluation system that has been imposed by our state education department.  As a special education teacher, I am very concerned.  Only five percent of disabled students passed the ELA and math tests.  Therefore, if my kids do not show enough growth on tests that play into the disabilities these students have, I may be rated ineffective no matter how effective I am rated in the classroom. 

            Recently I read in Diane Ravitch’s blog about the Common Core first grade curriculum in which six-year-olds have to learn comparative religion and the impact geography had on the development of the ancient river valley civilizations in Mesopotamia ( I kid you not).  This ELA unit has hundreds of abstract vocabulary concepts that used to be taught in middle and high school.  I have to look now at the curriculum that my fourth and fifth grade resource students will have to learn.  I hope that micro and macroeconomic concepts do not come into play for my age group or I do not stand a chance of being an effective special education teacher of learning disabled and language impaired students. 

            Seriously, I do not plan to change the way I teach my students.  I will do my best to teach them the skills that they really need to succeed.  My goals are for my student to meet their IEP objectives.  I care not one iota about this curriculum.  I will not teach them goals that are unachievable.  Whatever happens will happen.  I plan to do my “personal best” as I have done since 1978.   I know that for the last 35 years, I have been an effective special education teacher in which most of my career has been with high need students.  I taught kids that had everything stacked against them.  Yet, I do know many who have made it against all odds.  One of my students is a supervisor for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (who has a learning-disabled adolescent) and another is presently a registered male nurse in a large city hospital after spending part of his life in a correctional facility.   These former students are real people and not data driven numbers or some TFA made-up anecdote. 

            I will tell you one thing.  When I retire on July 1, 2014, I am not going to rest.  I am just closing a chapter.  I plan to begin anew.  I plan a chapter in which I will adamantly advocate for disabled children and fight to save the public education system.  We retired teachers will become an army to oppose the reformers and privateers.  We cannot be intimidated and will not be afraid to speak truth to power. 

Small Lies, Big Lies, and Statistics

            Over the past few days, I was torn whether or not to publish a letter I wrote to Michael Mulgrew.  I was hesitant for several reasons.  First, I hold a position with the United Federation of Teachers and I was in no mood for flak from those just above me because I would be publicly disagreeing with the leader of my union.  Second, I thought that if I sent the head of my union a personal letter disagreeing with him, I should at least have the courtesy to wait until he replied.  Right now, it is over three days since I sent the letter and as of yet, no reply.  What prompted the letter was an email to union members critiquing Bloomberg’s reaction to the recent results of the ELA and Math Common Core State Assessments.  In a nutshell, he made two statements that I had to disagree with.  One, that educators developed the Common Core and that the Common Core is the way to make our students college and career ready as well as develop deep higher level thinking skills.

            In the last seventy-two hours, three things convinced me that I have to publish the letter. First, I asked the opinion of several bloggers who I greatly respect.  One wrote me saying that I should not care what he thinks while the other blogger said that my letter was powerful and needed to be heard.  Next, I read a great blog from NYC  Educator critiquing Mulgrew’s email to the members that put into words many of my own feelings.  And finally, a memory from college hit me in the face.  When I was 19 year-old Queens College sophomore in the year 1973, I took my first statistics course.  When you took statistics at that time, a computer, which was the size of a room, could not help you and my $60 Casio calculator could do no more than basic operations.  Calculating complex statistical formulas had to be done by hand.  After my first test, I got a grade of 49.  I was devastated.  I went to the professor and told him of my worry about my GPA if I failed his course.  What was his reaction—laughter.  This was not what I expected.  He said, “Look, with the type of statistical calculations I gave you and the short amount of time you had to do it in, your mark was great.”  Then he pulled out a piece of paper and showed me a bell curve he developed using the grades for the test.  The curve showed how the grades would be distributed to represent A, B, C, D or F.  His bell curve revealed that my grade represented an A.  He said that thinking 49 is a failing grade is nothing more than one mathematical construct.  Then he reminded me of the scoring system for the SAT which was a different construct.  During his course, I learned that his favorite statement was that there are small lies, big lies and statistics.  One can make a statistic mean anything.

            This, my friends, is what Commissioner King and his cohorts in the state decided to do.  They, and their supporters, have created a construct—a construct with a political purpose.  Before they can destroy public education, they have to prove that it is a failure.  All we have to do is not teach students a new curriculum and invent a grading system knowing most of the questions will be so challenging that only 30% could possibly answer the requisite number of questions that they deem to represent a passing grade.  King, Bloomberg, Walcott, and their corporate reformer friends have no care about the emotional damage that anyone feels when one fails.  The way I felt entering that professors office decades ago is magnified a hundred fold in the hearts of many children today. 

            This is what I wrote to Michael Mulgrew in response to his email.

I am writing you as a loyal union member and a special education teacher in a middle class ethnically diverse neighborhood who knows a lot about testing because I spent nearly two decades assessing disabled children as part of a school assessment team until this Mayor deemed my psychometric skills to be worthless.   Nevertheless, under my belt are a lot of graduate level coursework as well as thousands of hours of field experience in administering and analyzing valid and reliable norm-referenced educational assessments.

Therefore, based upon a lot of research and reading, I have to respectfully disagree with your statement that educators developed the Common Core Standards and that these standards represent a valid instrument to determine if a student is college or career ready.  Educators did not develop the Common Core Standards.  Many of those who developed these standards are deeply involved in the corporate educational reform movement.  Many articles I have read about its development stated that the developers worked backwards and often disregarded some basic tenets of child development.  Furthermore, we are taking on faith standards that have not even been longitudinally tested.  We are taking on faith that these standards will make students college or career ready.  We all know that so many reforms in the past half a century failed because, like the Common Core, research was lacking.  Where are those “open classrooms” or the “New Math” of my childhood?  Both were just fads, just as I believe the Common Core is a fad, which led to no significant educational achievement. 

I, and many others, could only accept the efficacy of the Common Core Standards if there were real research over a number of years showing that students who learned by a curriculum derived from these standards had higher achievement than those students taught by a more traditional curriculum.  I have a sense that many of your rank and file teachers are unwilling to put their careers on the line based on standards that I feel were developed with a political agenda.  The agenda is to convince the American people that our present public school system is a failure and that only a privatized charter-based system is the way to go.  A system, that will in the end, destroy our progressive union movement.

Any assessment in which only 25% to 35% of students can pass is invalid.  A valid test is standardized in such a way that it creates a bell curve.  These assessments do not come even close to creating a bell curve.  Instead, these assessments look more like cliffs.  Many students are set to fall off such a cliff–especially students with disabilities.  Special educators are taught that to help students with learning challenges, one must start where they are.  One does not start at the bottom of an unclimbable precipice.  I work with many students who have, through no fault of their own, significant language impairments that make this curriculum impossible to master. What will become of many of these students when they reach 8th grade and modified promotional standards terminate?  How many times are we willing to leave back such students and destroy their self-esteem before we realize that what is really needed are many vocational programs that will serve the needs of a very diverse disabled population?  There is a big difference between a high IQ child with minor sensory problems and one who may have a severe language impairment that results in a borderline IQ.  Sadly, this curriculum will result in many special education teachers, like me, who are willing to work with the latter child, being punished by someday being rated ineffective because of an invalid assessment based upon invalid standards that work against the educational needs of such children.

Children need to reach their potential.  Unfortunately, I see these Common Core Standards setting up roadblocks based upon a student’s economic class, language proficiency and disability.  Those born economically advantaged will go to either private schools or charters exempt from these standards or whose parents have the resources to get them the extra tutoring needed to pass these tests.  Those children born to parents who do not have the resources will end up in schools that will not have the funds necessary to create the academic intervention services needed to compensate for their parent/guardian’s inability to afford the extra tutoring needed to pass from grade to grade. 

Our focus is completely wrong.  These standards are broken and unrepairable.  I fear, in the end, it will lead to the dismantling of our system of public education and social stratification in this great nation.  In the 18th century, our founding fathers created a flawed constitution called the Articles of Confederation that they realized was unworkable.  But they were smart.  They scraped the document and started anew.  Many of the best and brightest, at that time, got together, and through compromise and negotiation, came up with something workable.  They came up with a constitution that was flexible enough to change with the times.  These Common Core standards are unchangeable stone monoliths that block our way to creating a society and nation that has always believed in education as the great leveler as well as creator of economic opportunity and social mobility.  Let us think before we jump!

             Mulgrew’s lack of response is just a continuation of what has been happening to education during the last several years.  There has been a lack of dialog between those in power with us teachers.   They refuse to engage us, to debate with us.  I offer a challenge.  I challenge those in power—not only Mulgrew, but also Duncan, Gates, King, Rhee, and Broad to engage us in a public debate on the national media stage without moderation or commentary.   Let them engage people like Ravitch, Cody, Haimson and others who spent years doing peer reviewed educational research.  Let the American people decide who has the answers. 

            Public education is not a failure overall.  Yes, we have not been as successful educating limited English proficient, high need and disabled students.  However, look at the small number of students who graduated high school at the turn of the twentieth century and the millions who graduate college today.  These are not false statistics but head counts. Look around at your own families.  I had a grandfather who came to this country with nothing.  He had no formal schooling.  He was a baker making $14 a week.  Only one of his five children went to college.  The others had to drop out and work during the depression.  However, 70% of their children went to college in the 1960s and 70s.  Of those who were born after the mid-1950s, almost all went to college and became professionals.  And of our children, all went to college.  This is one family, multiplied by millions. This is not failure, but success beyond the wildest dreams of those 19th century pioneers who began America’s public education movement.  It is a dream worth preserving.

Ms. Campbell Brown, did you ever hear of Teacher Abuse?

I had all intention of writing about something else until I read the great blog by NYC Educator today. Here is Gotham Schools and Ms. Campbell Brown who feel that everyone should have the right to due process except us teachers. Listen, we live in a democracy and no system is perfect. What was it that Mr. Churchill once said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” Many believe there was a miscarriage of justice done in Florida, but no one is talking about ending all jury trials in cases that will be similar to that of Zimmerman vs. Trayvon Martin. It does not mean that because a jury may have made a wrong decision, we should do away with jury trials for all such cases. For someone to accept a judge’s decision in a bench trial, one must have complete faith in the honesty and integrity of such a judge. Unfortunately, our Department of Education reflected in the personage of Chancellor Dennis Walcott does not even come close to Solomon’s standard. Here is Bloomberg’s lackey—a man who has a symbiotic connection to our little corrupt dictator.

The Department of Education is made up of approximately 80,000 teachers and less than 200 cases have gone to a 3020a hearings about sexual misconduct. Of those who were found innocent, I am sure a few guilty ones may unfortunately have gotten away. That happens in our system and it is shameful. But it is no reason to completely end our right of due process because not only do teacher’s abuse children, but children abuse teacher and make false accusations. Just remember the famous play by Lillian Hellman—“The Children’s Hour” about the professional and emotional toll a teacher can go through when a child makes a false accusation. I have personal knowledge of two cases where teachers were falsely accused and were clearly innocent.

The first case involved a teacher in a Queens’s high school eight years ago. My son was a freshman in that high school and ended up in an English class taught by one of the best instructors he ever had. He was a first year teacher and to my amazement helped my son understand Shakespeare. No, he was not a TFA five week wonder but someone who came out a traditional teacher education program. I met him in November at the school’s first parent-teacher conference of the year. I was impressed by the hard work and dedication of this young teacher. A lot of planning went into his lessons that not only taught my son how to comprehend Shakespeare, but also, at the same time, taught him to understand many different types of literary elements. Unfortunately, about a week after the conference, my son told me that his favorite teacher was removed because he was accused by two students in his class (who were, by the way, failing) of exposing himself in a Mercedes that was parked near a bus stop by the school.

Anyone hearing this story would have the same reaction—the teacher must be fired. However, there was more to the story. When he was removed and assigned to a rubber room in another borough pending final disposition of the case (by the way, this untenured teacher could easily be fired even without cause), the pervert struck again at the same bus stop. This time, the pervert was caught and arrested. Now, one would think that this teacher would easily be cleared and returned to the school. By the way, this young teacher could not even afford a jalopy on his meager first year salary, yet alone a Mercedes Benz! Instead, he ended up in purgatory for the rest of the year. First, the DOE wanted him to resign because, even though he was clearly innocent, he was now “tainted.” In the DOE’s view, he would always now be viewed with suspicion even though the real perpetrator was caught. They could not fire someone who was innocent, so they put pressure on him to accept another assignment far away from his present school’s venue. It ended up that this teacher had to hire a personal lawyer to fight for his right to return to his school. Let me just say that after about a year, he was returned to the high school with a little settlement that reached into the six figures for pain and suffering.

The next case involved a school psychologist who was evaluating students in a New York State approved nonpublic school for emotionally disturbed students. In NYC, many school psychologists are assigned cases in nonpublic schools that receive funding by the state. He gave a psychological assessment which would be used to determine the educational needs of this student. This teenager, after the assessment, accused the psychologist of talking dirty to her. He ended up in the rubber room and could not even understand why this young woman would even make this accusation. But he was guilty until proven innocent. It did not matter that this teenager had a police record a mile long, was sexually acting out, and, by the way, had an out-of-wedlock baby at 15 years old with an unknown father. Nope, the word of this highly volatile emotionally disturbed student held more weight than this psychologist who had a perfect record for over 25 years. It went to a 3020a hearing. The DOE wanted the psychologist fired, but obviously, a fair arbitrator cleared him because it was obvious that the student was not credible. Yet again, the DOE viewed him as tainted and he was never assigned to a permanent position within the school system. He eventually retired bitter and angry. Wouldn’t anyone?

If Campbell Brown had her way, she would give Walcott the power to fire immediately these two educators. They would have never had the chance to clear their names. DOE has a simple philosophy—accusation equals guilt. And even if one is found innocent, one remains tainted with a Scarlett letter forever. Yes, arbitrators do make mistakes, but that is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Recently, I know of a case where a principal created a trumped up case against a teacher. The teacher was even arrested, but cleared by the police because the witnesses to this supposed incident all had different stories. Even though, there was a 3020a hearing and the teacher was fired because the arbitrator said he showed no remorse (against a crime he did not even commit). What is the alternative? Well, according to Mr. Brown even a single arbitration mistake warrants the doing away with the present system. We have to trust the wisdom of our leaders to do the right thing to protect us. I think Mr. Brown and Gotham schools need to reread the constitution and the Federalist Papers to see how much our founding fathers believed in trusting the wisdom of any single individual—they didn’t! Yes, we have to live with the Trayvon Marin verdict and that one teacher who may have gotten away in our imperfect system of justice. But, to paraphrase Mr. Churchill, the alternative is far worse. Ms. Brown, we are not trying to protect possible child molesters, we just want to be treated like anyone else in society—no more and no less!

Casualties of Reform

There are no winners of war, only survivors . . .

                A war has been declared on public education and the quote above sums it up.  Nothing reveals an effect more than the lives of real people who have been hurt by the misguided ideas of an elite who has used their wealth and power to force their views upon parents, educators, and children.  To Broad, Gates, Rhee, Duncan, and the Walton family, we are viewed as sheep that can be easily controlled and manipulated.  However, we sheep are real people and many individuals have been hurt.  It is time to talk about what happens to real people because of this misguided reform.

                A good friend of mine who was a master teacher in midtown Manhattan was a year away from retirement when her principal retired.  Under this principal, she became a coach and mentor to many teachers.  She was a published author, won awards, and when she was in the classroom, countless parents requested her as a teacher.  In the 29 years she was in this school, many of her former students ended up achieving at very high levels.  Over the years, her former students would visit her.  She told me that a student she taught a quarter century ago came to the school just to see her.  When this boy was in her sixth grade class in 1980, he had great difficulty reading.  She discovered that he loved science fiction and whenever she had a free period, she would read with him short stories from Ray Bradbury.  This was just the spark to help this children read on his own.  And what did this former student bring to this teacher, but a copy of a science fiction novel that he authored and was just published along with a donation to the school.

                However, the following September a new principal came to the school from what we in New York calls the principal’s academy.  This academy trains people who have little or no educational experience to run schools based on a corporate model.   I know of one graduate from this so-called academy who went from paraprofessional to principal without passing GO.  One of the tenets of this academy is that schools should become more cost effective and efficient.  The best way to get the most bang for your buck is to dispose of those “tired, old, worn and burned out teachers.”

                As usual, this teacher/coach came in early to set up her office and plan for the year.  Instead, the new academy principal (who was never even a teacher) called her in to tell her that he decided to make a change.  He told her that the school no longer had money for a coaching position.  She would have to go into the classroom.  By the way, the building she was in had been built in the early 1930s and was five stories high without an elevator.  So obviously, the principal assigned her to a classroom on the fifth floor.    By the way, her office was on the first floor and she spent two days lugging a library of books and reference materials up the stairs to the classroom.  She also bought hundreds of dollars in supplies to set up a beautiful, attractive classroom for her new students. She completely set up a classroom when, at the end of the day, the day before the students were to arrive, the principal came to her room.  He told her that he was moving her room to a classroom on the second floor and that he expected her to be ready to teach when the students came in the next day.  When she asked why, he said it was in the best interest of the school.  When she asked him what that meant, he, without turning around as he walked out the door, and said that if she asked one more question, it would result in a disciplinary letter of insubordination.  She cried all the way home.

                Obviously, she could not get her new classroom ready the next day.  Although, she came an hour early and did the best she could moving necessary material, the class was not at all set up.  At 8:45, this monster, came into the classroom and said to her that it was obvious that she was not ready to teach and, in front of the class, said that she was expected to come to his office when she has a prep period for a disciplinary hearing, which could result in her termination.  She felt humiliated that he said this in front of her class on the first day of school.  This profligate principal set her up.  At this point, she said that this is not the way disciplinary meetings are handled and that she has right to union representation.  He said that the union is garbage and he is doing it his way.  She said she would only come to a meeting with the chapter leader of the school after a written request.  He left the room saying, “I have to consult legal.”

                Instead of consulting legal, he came back to her room during the prep period and said that he would not write her up if she put in her retirement papers tomorrow.  My friend told this administrator that he was acting in an illegal manner and had no business saying this to her.  She knew that she could not ever engage this principal in a civil conversation.  By the way, no discipline hearing was held over her classroom not being ready because he put nothing in writing. However, each day he would come into her classroom, observe informally for about ten to twenty minutes, and walk out without saying a word.  After two weeks, he stopped coming into her classroom and all seemed quiet. About a month later, she received a letter from him requesting a formal observation.  She came to his office for a pre-observation conference.  She decided to do one of her coaching lessons.  He looked it over for about a minute and said it was garbage.  She then asked for constructive criticism so she could make any improvements.  He said nothing and so she walked out (in tears).  By the way, she kept an anecdotal record of every interaction she had with this principal at this point. Yes, as she expected, she received an unsatisfactory observation during the post conference.  She asked him if he could go over this lesson point by point so she can understand what was wrong with it. He refused and said that he was assigning her to observe another teacher (one who only started last year) so she could learn how a decent lesson is done.

                When she got home, she told all this to her husband (who happened to be a lawyer).  He immediately said that she has to go to the union to file harassment charges against this principal.  However, her husband added that he would try something a little unorthodox.  What he did was wait for the principal after school the following day.  He knew from his wife that this principal often stayed late.  The next day, her husband parked across the street from the school and waited for the principal to leave the school. When he was sure no one was around, he walked over to the principal and introduced himself.  This young, arrogant man ignored him.  The teacher’s husband then said that he was a lawyer, his wife will file harassment charges through normal channels, but if she wins, he guaranteed there would be a personal lawsuit that would be outside the protection of the Department of Education.  He continued walking and said nothing.  However, all harassment suddenly ended the next day.  Not only did the principal never write up the observation, but neither looked at nor spoke to my friend for the rest of the year.  At the end of the year, she received a rating of satisfactory.  That June, she reached her 30th year, and at the age of 56 years old, she put in her papers.  Sadly, the following year, no one from the school even contacted her to honor her years of service in any way.  A great teacher was lost and no one cared.  Yes, this principal, with the full weight of a miscreant school system, declared war on a teacher and she survived, just like the quote.  She told me that when she put in her papers on the last day of school, she felt nothing.  She was numb and demoralized.  What was once a great school now had teachers that lived in constant fear and intimidation from an authoritarian principal.  This is the real face of reform in New York and the face is ugly.

King on the Spot: Who “Won” the Teacher Evaluation Battle? or, Is the Hubbub “Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing?”

More on this unworkable plan. . .

Ed In The Apple

… it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Macbeth

Understand we are all pawns on a limitless stage with the powerful vying for our adulation, and every few years, our votes.

After eight years Michael Bloomberg had fashioned a worldwide reputation – as a cynical New Yorker told me, “He turned New York into Copenhagen, whether we liked it or not,” pedestrian malls, bike lanes, new refurbished parks, low crime rates and an avalanche of tourists from around the world, the well-honed image, the diminutive, aloof manager-mayor at a press conference pointing at a reporter, “Miss, your question?” The apolitical mayor, neither democrat nor republican, running the greatest city in the world, who briefly flirted with running the nation.

Four years later he is an angry, reclusive billionaire spending his final months in a vengeful assault on teachers and their union.

In…

View original post 836 more words

From the Trenches

The real world is finally intruding into the Tweed fantasy that most New York parents are sheep that can be easily manipulated and fooled. I am lucky enough to work in a diverse middle class district in New York City. Most parents in my district truly value education and want their children to achieve. What they do not want is a school system that wishes to destroy the self-esteem of children because a test is of more value than a student’s affect.

Today I received a call from one of my colleagues who unfortunately works in a high need middle school in another part of the city. Unlike my district, high need parents in New York have to deal with multiple challenges, but many also want the best for their children. She told me an interesting story. Her principal received a letter from a high needs parent of a mildly disabled child. The letter basically said that the parent has reviewed the SIRS manual (this is a manual from the New York State Education Department which I call the accountability bible). The parent referred to a page which states that a child can refuse testing. The parent went on to say that she feels that this test serves no instructional purpose except to punish schools, teachers and disabled children. Any test that her child has to take should serve the purpose of developing appropriate IEP goals which will help her child acquire the skills needed to eventually master an appropriate curriculum that will enable her child acquire a high school diploma. The parent stated that on the day of the testing, the child will refuse to take the examination.

The Principal immediately called my colleague (an testing coordinator) down to the office and threw up his hands. Upset, the Principal said that if bunches of parents request this, the school’s annual yearly progress will be destroyed if the number of untested children go below 95%. He said that the school was at the cusp of being closed and that it was obvious that the parent was too stupid to write this letter herself. Someone had to have helped and advised her. She wanted my colleague to find out who could have helped this parent and if it was a teacher, she would make sure charges would be brought. She told my colleague that she sent the letter to “legal” and the “Network”.

This resulted in a conference call between the legal department of the New York City Department of Education and the special education administrator of her school’s Child First Network (or should we call it Child Last). According to my colleague, the special education administrator said to just ignore the letter. The network person said that disabled child is too stupid to understand why she is refusing and could easily be ignored. The lawyer for Tweed said parents cannot opt out according to state law. She said that the parent stating that the child will refuse testing is equivalent to opting out because the child’s justification for refusal derives from the parent and not the child. After about a half hour of banter, these administrator, principal and lawyer decided that if the child refuses, the Principal should suspend the child and the administration of children’s services should be called so the parent can be charged with educational neglect. Finally, the testing coordinator, who was part of this conference call, meekly added, “What if the parent seeks out a professional advocate and commences legal action?” The DOE lawyer said not to worry because such parents are too stupid to do this.

In shooting down the opinion of the test coordinator, the lawyer and special education administrator showed their true colors. These three birds show first, they have no respect for parents, have latent racist tendencies, and care nothing for democratic processes. They told the Principal that he should lay down the law. He was to tell the parent that when the child shows up for testing, the assessment will be given. If the child refuses to take the test, the child will be sent to a guidance counselor and any missed part of the assessment will be administered during a make-up day. They told the principal not to worry about any legal action, because if the parent went that route, it would take time and the child taking the assessment would be a fait accompli.

All I can say is shame on this Principal, DOE lawyer and Network special education administrator. They represent a culture of racism, corruption, and despotism that show no respect at all for teachers, parents and children. This is a culture brought to us by an out-of-control Mayor who rules with an iron hand. For the last twelve years, Mayor Bloomberg has ruled this Department of Education as a third rate dictator. He totally disregards parents and thus created a system which rubber stamps all his policies. Public education was originally meant to be a democratic institution with school boards elected by the citizens. Yes, it is true, that in the past, school boards have made decisions that were often harmful to students and teachers. We recall what happened in the South during the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and those boards who would ban such books as The Catcher in the Rye. But a board could eventually be voted out when decisions went beyond the pale of reason. Here is a mayor who yells and screams about accountability, but he is accountable to no one. He is undemocratic and cares nothing about anyone’s thoughts and ideas. There is an old SAT prompt which asks whether those in power should listen to the ideas of people who are critical. Obviously, the answer is yes. When one listens, ideas are often fine tuned and when one listens, all stakeholders develop ownership of an idea or policy. Therefore, the idea has a better chance of being successfully implemented.

In New York City, no parent, no educator feels any ownership for the many failed reforms that Bloomberg has tried to implement. As was stated in this little scenario, those in power feel that parents as well as teachers are stupid. Like every reformer that is attempting to destroy public education, these elite individuals feel they know what is good for all of us. They are the elite who think they understand the whole picture while ignorant parents and self serving teachers are Luddites trying to prevent the inevitable. What Bloomberg and his minions do not understand is that their belief about what constitute a good education is based on faith and is nothing but a social construct based upon a complete fallacy. They have developed a new anti-democratic orthodoxy far more rigid than the Roman Catholic Church on the cusp of the Reformation. It is an orthodoxy bent on redistributing public funds to the few and stripping workers (teachers) of any power. They want a feudal system in which one lives or dies at the whim of the Lord of the Manor. That is why they want administers to have absolute power to either keep or dismiss teachers with little or no due process and to force an immoral and invalidtest on innocent children.

I have described a cabal that is completely dismissive of the thoughts and ideas of a parent. This parent is anything but stupid. Although high need, she was smart enough to probably get help from some advocacy organization in order to write this letter. This parent is demanding to be heard. A half century ago, many were dismissive of a woman who refused to sit on the back the bus and few brave young men who wanted to be served at a lunch counter. They were laughed at and ignored. By the way, history teaches us that revolutionary movements are never created by the elite or those who barely subsist. It is the middle and professional class who always lead the way and brings along those who are below. It is for this reason that the anti testing movement is starting in more middle class districts and will spread. This is a war of ideas. We write, we talk, and we research for one goal— to destroy the legitimacy of this fake reform movement. Think of how the anti-Vietnam War movement began and grew in the 1960s and early 1970s. The few who denounced the war at first were condemned by the elite at that time, but in the end, the movement became so great that those in power had to compromise and eventually end the conflict. The cornerstone of this democratic society is that power derives from people. Those who are presently in power have forgotten this. History again teaches us that those who refuse to share power or listen often have power taken away from them—sometimes by force. The anti testing movement that is being started by a few brave souls is just the beginning salvo of a greater conflict that I feel will come. What is at stake is the basic foundation of our democratic society—an expansive public education for all. I suspect that people are beginning to become fed up with tax money being redistributed to benefit the few—to allow public money that is supposed to educate everyone to enrich hedge fund operators at the expense of the commons.

In the end, they did intimidate this parent to force the child to be tested. However, although the Principal, Network special education administrator, and lawyer may have won this little battle, I have a growing sense that they will not win the war. And why won’t they win, we is the reason. We still have a constitution that gives us the freedom to speak out and to expose follies to the light of day. I have faith that teachers and parents will someday take back the commons to the benefit of a society that still, for the most part, believes in the preservation of the democratic institution we call public education.

This New York State English Language Arts Assessment is brought to you by . . .

PEARSON!!!! Why the title? Two days ago, my school received its first boxes containing the New York State ELA assessment. Previously, these tests would arrive in plain unmarked boxes from the New York State Department of Education. But this year, something was very different. All the boxes were printed with the PEARSON logo in large block letters. Inside, was a packing list, not from the State Education Department as was always the case, but from Pearson. Today, our school received notice from the state that several grades were chosen for field tests. When we looked at the letterhead, one side showed the insignia of the New York State Department of Education but on the right was Pearson’s logo. Now my question is: Who is really running the New York State Department of Education?

I am completely tired of this idea of public/private partnerships as President Obama described in his inaugural address. When it comes to this educational reform crowd, there is no such thing as a partnership. What we have here is a private entity calling the shots for only one purpose—to use public funds for private profit. Here is a corporation who last year published assessments containing so many mistakes. And this is the consequence. Instead of being run out of town, they are now nominally in charge of the our state’s assessment process. In previously years, when schools were short tests because of packing errors, the school called the state. Now it is a toll free number direct to Pearson.

I completely resent that our public money are lining the pockets of a few corporate executives. Instead of our money being used by schools to buy books, upgrade classrooms, repair crumbling schools or lower class size, it is going into the pockets of people who do not care one iota about the real educational needs of children. A half century ago, Dwight Eisenhower made a speech saying that we must beware of the military industrial complex whose only interest was to profit from war. Now we have a corporate educational complex whose only purpose is to profit from testing. Not testing to help students learn, but to punish teachers and close schools. The real purpose of these assessments is ultimately to redistribute public wealth from students and teachers into the hands of that one percent who feel that they know what is best for the rest of us. What we have here is the beginning of a corporate state, in which all the resources of a society are being directed toward the support of corporate profits in the name of national and economic development. This is, by the way, one of the definitions of “fascism.”

I agree completely with Crawfish’s comments and thank him for using my comments as a basis of his blog piece. I want to add that complex problems, such as poverty, require complex solutions. What I do know is that to defund public schools that must educate every child and redistribute those funds to Charters that will exclude those children most in need is not the answer. Instead of these billionaires investing in political front organizations that seek to destroy public schools, which is a democratic institution, they should be investing their money in what is called here in New York community schools. It is a pilot program in which a public school provides a variety of services, such as extensive academic intervention services, educational services for parents, counseling for students and parents, health clinics, and day care so high needs parents can work. This obviously costs a lot of money. There is an easy way to find the money; let us go back to a progressive income tax rate of let’s say 75%. In this way, we will take the money these billionaires are using to create fake nonprofits that have political agendas and use those resources to create thousands of public community-based schools in our urban areas.

Crazy Crawfish

I recently received a comment on my blog that struck a chord. . . and triggered a memory of who I used to be and who I am.  It addresses a number of questions people ask me about my own feelings on a wide range of issues, and I found it both focusing and inspirational and thought I would share it with you.

Let me just say that I’m not a teacher, and my kids are only now starting going to public schools. While I did work for the Louisiana Department of Education until recently, that was in the data department and my only role dealing with children’s issues directly was ain an advisory position on a student discipline adversary panel. So I understand why people ask me:

“Why do you care so much? Why do you fight, for teachers, for other people’s kids? You’re not a teacher and you could afford…

View original post 1,481 more words

This blog clearly echos my feelings. This is class warfare at its finest. The elite always claim that liberals want to redistribute their wealth. Well, this powerful elite is absolutely redistributing what little wealth I have. We must stop them and, I hate to say this, if normal democratic channels will not work for us, civil disobedience may be the only way. These people are just refusing to listen to us and we may have to take back our profession in a manner that will be more forceful.

Crazy Crawfish

I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed by all the rapid changes happening in the education sphere. I’m positive I’m not alone in feeling this way – based on the feedback, articles and correspondence I’ve been receiving from local and national groups and individuals. As I struggled to zero in on a topic where I could help or enlighten the most, something else even more screwed up would be sent to me. I’ve started and stopped work on several pieces, which may make their appearances later, but I feel the need to get my bearings again. All this crazy “stuff” (not my first word choice) needs to be sorted out and organized before I can make any more forward progress. I think the mistake I was making, and many others are probably making, is not connecting all the dots and figuring out what kind of picture they…

View original post 1,974 more words