Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Harlem Public School With Long Waiting List Struggles Against Eva/Succes Expansion

I always questioned those phantom charter waiting list - used politically to claim demand. The press always mentions the point favorable to charters but never talks about demand for the public schools. Here is a great example where a Harlem public school sharing space with the avaricious Eva that had 10 applications for every open position - yet is being forced to give up even more space to one of Eva's schools.
Harlem public School losing space to SucAcademy charter gets 10X application for every open seat; good story below. http://go.shr.lc/1fkBwqw 

See also interview with former Suc Academy teacher at Epoch Times here: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/632464-inside-success-academies-a-former-teacher-tells-all/

Demand for Harlem School Spots Should Prevent Charter Growth, Leaders Say


By Emily Frost on April 22, 2014 10:33am 



 The school is not offering to compromise with the DOE on Harlem Success Academy taking some of its space.  Frederick Douglass Academy II Fights Back Against Charter Expansion View Full Caption
HARLEM — Leaders from a local public school that students are lining up in the hundreds to attend are fighting back against a charter school's controversial plan to take over classrooms in their shared building.
Education leaders recently learned that Frederick Douglass Academy II received 950 applications for just 100 ninth-grade seats this coming school year.
The huge uptick comes amid a push by Eva Moskowitz's Harlem Success Academy to move into three of FDA II's rooms, including the 6-12 school's only art room.
In reponse, FDA II's school leadership team — made up of the principal, teachers and other staff — recently rejected a plan by the charter school to take over the art room, as well as an additional classroom and administrative space.
However, a 2010 DOE space-sharing document gives Success Academy the right to expand next year.
News of the demand for seats at FDA II stunned Community Education Council 3, which noted that the school previously struggled to attract interest. For the 2013-2014 school year, the school received just 391 ninth-grade applications, said Principal Osei Owusu-Afriyie. A year earlier, the number of ninth-grade applications was 350, he added.
The increase in applications marks "a pretty clear call for making sure they have additional space, not doing a bait-and-switch with existing space," said CEC 3 president Joe Fiordaliso.
The department tried to negotiate with FDA II earlier this spring — offering to move its existing art room into FDA II's administrative rooms — but the school leadership team held fast in its opposition to any encroachment by Harlem Success Academy, CEC members said.
"The parents don’t feel secure in the DOE’s word," said CEC member Olayia Deen.
Worried the current standoff will lead to Success Academy getting its way, the CEC is rallying behind the school and looking for ways to push the issue in FDA II's favor.
"The situation is rotten... there’s no mechanism once these space plans are set up — they don’t check them," complained CEC member Noah Gotbaum. "They don’t look at whether the space allocation makes any sense at all."
Gotbaum tried to push DOE Superintendent Ilene Altschul to stand behind FDA II at a recent metting, but she said the school's current enrollment numbers weren't high enough to justify keeping the rooms, if the DOE was going by the original space-sharing document.
"I am concerned," Altschul admitted, noting she's personally not in favor of FDA II losing rooms. "I don’t want him to lose that space."
CEC members decided they'd write a letter urging Chancellor Carmen Fariña to ask her to stop the takeover.
"These DOE officials have to stand up for our kids," Gotbaum said.
Neither Success Academy nor the DOE returned requests for comment

Fred Smith: Leonie brings Gloom and Doom to InBloom, Dragon Slayer Kills the Demon Seed

The accolades are rolling in for Leonie Haimson on the inBloom closing announcement. Leonie's campaign should written up in textbooks. She won a major war against the leading ed deformers.

Just look at this list from Diane Ravitch:

  • The company was started with a grant of $100 million from the Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation, to gather confidential student data and store it on an electronic "cloud." 
  • The technology for collection and storage of student data belonged to Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of Amplify, run by Joel Klein and owned by Rupert Murdoch
Oh man! How delicious. For those who feel David cannot defeat Goliath, Leonie is one hell of an example.

[Any photoshoppers out there who want to do a cartoon for ed notes exploring this concept - use Gates/Klein/Rupert as face of Goliath and little Leonie with slingshot -- ball labelled "parent/student rights" as it smashes into their head.]

Leonie truly began this fight standing alone - a gang of one against some of the major forces behind the privatization ed movement. She was relentless to the point where I would say to myself, "Stop already! What's the point. She can't beat these guys." But Leonie did beat them - to a pulp. An example to me and everyone else -- they can be beat  --
The national leader of the fight was Leonie Haimson, leader of a New York City-based group called Class Size Matters, who testified across the nation and alerted parents to the possible breach of their children's confidential data.... Diane Ravitch
Thank You Leonie! This wouldn't/couldn't have happened without all you did to spearhead the pushback!... Susan
Wow, this statement shows this guy just doesn't get it. He thinks teachers don't get enough information about how their students are doing by working with them day in and day out, month after month, but need InBloom's data dashboards to feed them factoids and tell them which book to read or science experiment to do next. Unbelievable. Good riddance, and thanks to Leonie and everyone across the country who worked so hard to bring about this result! Now let's send Pearson packing! .... Jeff Nichols
Dragon Slayer Kills the Demon Seed.
Leonie brings Gloom and Doom to InBloom. Wow.
Yes, Jeff, we need to stop the Pearson juggernaut. Another impossible dream. Just as foolish as going up against the inevitability of InBloom... Fred Smith
Leonie Haimson Statement on inBloom's overdue demise
Hopefully, today’s announcement that inBloom is closing its doors will make government officials, corporations and foundations more aware that parental concerns cannot be ignored, and that they must stop foisting their “solutions” on our schools and classrooms with no attention given to the legitimate concerns of parents and their right to protect their children from harm.

Yet the statement issued by inBloom’s CEO reeks of arrogance and condescension, and makes it clear that those in charge still have not learned any lessons from this debacle. The fervent opposition to inBloom among parents throughout the country did not result from “misunderstandings”, but inBloom ‘s utter inability to provide a convincing rationale that would supercede the huge risks to student security and privacy involved.
Leonie's full statement here at the NYCPublicSchoolParent blog.

By the way, do you think Rupert has figured out that Joel Klein can't run anything?

Here are press links from Chalbeat:
Below the break is the statement from inBloom:

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Join Change the Stakes Thursday, 4PM at Tweed - OK, Folks - It's Time to Take a Stand Against Testing

Please join us in NYC for a Rally to demand an end to high stakes testing.

Not One More Year Lost - Our Children Are More Than a Test Score!
We demand accountability at the top, not on the backs of our children!
Thursday, April 24th @ 4 PM (press conference to precede rally) New York City Department of Education, 52 Chambers Street in NYC

Share the flier
and accept and share the event Facebook invitation!

Also check out:

- Change the Stakes responds to NYC's important change in student promotion policy. 
- The inspiring video of NYC parents on refusing state exams
- Three NYC Teachers of Conscience refuse to adminster state exams

Thanks for your support.  The next general meeting of Change the Stakes will be held on Friday, May 2nd @ 6PM.  Please visit the website for updates on location. 
Change the Stakes

Join the Change the Stakes Open Forum discussion group

Follow us on Twitter or on our Facebook page

Teachers Unite: What's Your Story? Features Old Pal Matthew Guldin

We were at Sally Lee and Josh Heisler's wedding when right there in front of my eyes was Matthew Guldin who I hadn't seen for a while. We began jumping around like teenagers. He and I were in the same political group in the 70s/80s - The Coalition of NYC School Workers and hadn't seen each other in a while. Turns out that Josh and Matthew had worked together. Then he retired and has been working with Teachers Unite, which Sally founded. In this bio they even included a photo of me with Matt at one of Teacher Unite's events. Whenever we see each other we just break out laughing -- we always had so much fun. Gee, I even remember when Matt had red hair. And I had an afro.

Day 4 of our membership drive

Our members say that Teachers Unite keeps them motivated to stay in the classroom.

It is vital that we support them to continue.  

Your donation or membership dues will:

* Ensure that 10 NYC schools hire Restorative Justice Coordinators through our Pilot School Campaign targeting the DOE

* Increase the number of TU workshops that train NYC educators to use and promote restorative practices

* Send our members to Washington DC to share their stories and support student testimony to get cops and guns out of U.S. schools

Together we can transform the popular idea of what it means to be a teacher. Please join us
Thank you for your support!

What's Your Story?

Matthew Guldin

Well, I never planned on being a teacher, it just hit me, in the form of the Vietnam War and the draft that would snatch us boys after high school or college. Not being a conscientious objector, nor wanting to move to Canada or jail or go to med, dental, law school or work in a defense plant, my only out was the classroom. So, I hurriedly took ed credits in my last term of Bklyn College and over the summer of '68 and joined the ranks on Sept 6, 1968. I had started an education career which has spanned most of the last 45 years and has seen me involved, happily, in most of the progressive/radical initiatives of these years. 

From the struggle for Black and Puerto Rican community control of schools in the late '60s to the alternative school movement of the '60s and '70s, to the original small schools movement of the '80s and '90s led by Debbie Meier and Ted Sizer, (before it was corrupted by the Bloomberg/Klein 'franchising' of our movement in 2001), to the fight to keep the 'Regents free' 5  year waiver that Consortium Schools were granted in 1995, I've been there and participated actively, even taking leadership at times, in these struggles. At the same time, I was a delegate to the
UFT's Delegate Assembly for 10 years and a Chapter Chair for 5. 

Right now, I'm focusing my energy on moving the city's discipline policies from taking a Zero Tolerance approach to behavior infractions to one which bases itself in building each school into being a caring community and using restorative approaches. I believe that this 'sea change' will help us disrupt the School to Prison Pipeline. This is the reason that I've joined Teachers Unite. I've seen too many poor, Black and Latin teens drop out/be pushed out of schools and into the jails over the years. The increasing demonization of Black and Latin@ youth throughout our country and in particular in NYC, since the 1989 frame up of the Central Park 5, has led to the schools being semi militarized and zero tolerance policies being adopted as the way to handle "anti - social" (rebellious?!) behavior. 

Thank goodness there's a growing coalition across the country which is reversing this trend and moving schools and school districts to transform their buildings from being alienating institutions to caring communities where kids and adults can grow together academically and emotionally. Through participation in the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC), I get to do this work as a Teachers Unite member.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *       

Please donate to Teachers Unite today. 

Teachers Unite is the voice of NYC teachers who have limitless hope for the role public schools can have in creating a just society. 

Our members are not only speaking out, they are acting out!
  • They help schools organize Restorative Justice Teams.
  • They collaborate with youth organizations to change the city's School Discipline Code.
  • They produce media and resources that envision a humanistic approach to student discipline.
  • They transform their own school cultures and advocate to the DOE and UFT for help with doing so.
There is no other member organization of teachers doing this work. In fact, young people who meet our members are surprised to learn that there are teachers who don't just want to push students out of school. 
We have to show parents and young people that teachers are opposed to social and economic injustice.  Please click here to add yourself to this movement today!

Newark Teacher on Christie, Cami... Sirota Hints at Christie in Handcuffs

... I don't care about community criticism. We run the school district in Newark, not them....Governor Chris Christie
Ras Baraka, a mayoral candidate who is also Central High School’s principal, said Christie "told the truth at least."
"He does run the school district, not us. That’s why we need to get rid of him," Baraka said Wednesday. "To say that he doesn’t care about what Newark residents think shows that he doesn’t represent Newarkers."
Recipient of New Jersey pension deal housed charity run by Gov. Christie's wife. "Time to put the cuffs on Chris Christie -- not for the bridge scandal, but for this," Michael Moore.... 
And what a fine job running the Newark schools the state of New Jersey has done over the past few decades. Here a Newark teacher comments the clergy condemnation of Cami Anderson and Marie Corfield's petition to oppose Christie as the keynote speaker at Rowan College. I hope all the ed majors boo.
The nearly eighty Newark clergy members are to be commended for resurrecting their moral voices in condemnation of State Superintendent Cami Anderson's One Newark Plan. The part of their message that stuck in my craw, however, is the pandering to the education reformers regarding support of data driven instruction.

Newark teachers have spent the week pondering the outcome of Anderson's equivalency request to waive tenure and seniority laws in order to "right size" the district. Acting Education Commissioner David Hespe has inherited the request from his predecessor Chris Cerf who has migrated to the greener pastures of Amplify. Have any pink slips gone out for the massive layoff? What is the deadline to notify teachers that they will not be employed by the Newark Public Schools in September? Noticeably absent from the public square is reigning AFT Queen Randi Weingarten. Is she in Finland checking out highly performing schools and exemplary teachers, which are reportedly found there in abundance?

Marie Corfield has issued an all call for signatures on her petition requesting the President of Rowan University to reconsider his choice of Governor Chris Christie as keynote commencement speaker. Sorry Marie, but the last place I need my name right now is on a petition criticizing Chris Christie. Hopefully, there are others out there who are not in my company skating on thin ice.

Allow me to cut to the chase. Will the multitude of clergy have a meaningful impact on the community discourse in Newark? It gives me a measure of comfort to know that I am not wandering alone in the desert during Passover. As far as our governor is concerned, Chris Christie could not be less interested in what anyone in Newark has to say. Should Chris Christie under the cloud of state and federal investigations be paraded around as an exemplar for our youth by delivering commencement proclamations? Will the modern day pharaohs end my enslavement to the State of New Jersey control of the Newark schools? In the words of the spiritual, "Go down Moses and let my people go!"

A Newark Teacher

Baraka praises Ministers Fight for a Moratorium on One Newark School Reorganization Plan
Statement by Ras Baraka
“Nearly one year ago, the City Council passed my resolution calling for a moratorium on all of Cami Anderson’s public school initiatives. A year later, Ms. Anderson continues to run away from input by Newark citizens and continues to carry out her relentless drive to
close our neighborhood schools.
Today, the ministers of Newark have joined me in calling for a moratorium on the destructive One Newark Plan to close our schools, a plan already being implemented against the will of the people of Newark.”

While we're on Christie, David Sirota takes this shot -- I bet Cuomo is also up to his ears in stuff like this.

David Sirota
April 18, 2014
Recipient of New Jersey pension deal housed charity run by Gov. Christie's wife. "Time to put the cuffs on Chris Christie -- not for the bridge scandal, but for this," Michael Moore.

Susan's Sunday Special

Some good reading for a Sunday morning from Susan Ohanian.

The fact that the announcement I sent out yesterday never arrived is a sign of the site's current troubles. Sometimes it works fine; other times it is very slow loading. Thanks to Eric's hard work, we are moving to a new server. But this takes time and money so please be patient.

I know I could go with one of those free blogs but I cling to the notion that the 'search' possibilities offered in the system Eric has devised are invaluable. This site started in 2002. My intent was to record the outrage. Just call me Madame Defarge. But in addition to the incidents of outrage, this site contains a lot of important research. I happen to think the new research: 'Common Core Timeline with the Feds' is important. It provides evidence of the deception, bribery & coercion practiced by the US Department of Education from the get-go under the Obama/Duncan leadership.

Just be patient when the site is slow to load. We'll get it back to full speed as soon as we can.

Thanks to Stephen Krashen, my words appeared in the New York Times last week. Steve is one of the few people I know who's always willing to credit others.


War on public schools

Common Core n'est pas. . .

The Real Gap

The Working Poor: College Profs

Common Core Timeline with the Feds
Susan Ohanian

Here's what Arne Duncan has said about Common Core over the last few years.

Revising the SAT To Make It Even Worse
 James W Loewen


Van Loewen explains why the proposed changes to the SAT will make it even worse.

To the editor
Stephen Krashen
New York Times

Of course I'm delighted that Stephen Krashen got this letter into the paper--pointing out what the real problem is.

Idea of New Attention Disorder Spurs Research, and Debate
Alan Schwarzapril, with Ohanian comment
New York Times

There's a new diagnosis on the market to get children in line: sluggish cognitive tempo. The condition is said to be characterized by lethargy, daydreaming and slow mental processing.

Privacy concerns nix New York student-data plan
Associated Press
Wall Street Journal

InBloom, a Gates project, is left without clients.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Say Wha? Rhee Hubby Kevin Johnson Leads NBA Union Search

This is as funny an article as you can read today. Charter slug Kevin Johnson getting involved in NBA union is as unbelievable as having  Bill Gates keynote an AFT convention.
N.B.A. Players Reset Union Search With Kevin Johnson as Point Man

His tenure has not been free of controversy; in 2012, he was fined $37,000 by the Fair Political Practices Commission for failing to report $3.5 million in donations he solicited for charity organizations. As a supporter of charter schools — he is married to the former Washington public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, a staunch education reformer — he has faced strong opposition in Sacramento from public-school teachers’ unions.

Norm in The Wave: High Stakes Testing Opt-Out Movement Takes Off

Published Friday, April 18, 2014 www.rockawave.com

High Stakes Testing Opt-Out Movement Takes Off
By Norm Scott

Stories of numerous parents in the city and around the state who have begun a revolt against high stakes testing by having their children refuse to take the tests have recently broken into the mainstream media. Even school principals in Brooklyn and Manhattan have led post-ELA test rallies outside their schools over the impropriety of many of the tests based on the common core curriculum. Quite an achievement by organized groups of parents and progressive teachers who just a year ago were being deemed “oddballs.”

Yes, we are in the midst of the high stakes testing season and the education wars keep heating up between the real reformers who want to make schools inviting spaces for children, teachers and parents and the corporate style ed deformers who are trying to turn the nations schools into a mini-me of the corporate model. High stakes tests and the common core nationally imposed curriculum have become the battle ground. The corporate mentality feeds on “data” and with few economic resources to fight against the billions on the other side, real reformers are using the opt-out movement as a “deny them the data” campaign.

The more than a decade old battle has morphed as many parents of younger children have seen how the focus on tests damage their children psychologically and educationally as schools focus more and more time on test prep. Once the tests are over (in a few weeks) everyone breathes a sigh of relief. The change of atmosphere in schools is palpable. Trips, projects, more interesting curriculum become more common. But there is also a cost as the sense of the school year being over is felt in early May. Teachers start disappearing to be sent to other schools to mark the exams, the results of which are not known until the summer, thus becoming useless as a tool for the teachers to use to improve their current students’ learning.

A word of explanation. I am not talking about removing standardized tests from the equation, but to de-emphasize them in the use as a one snapshot a year of a child’s learning to make judgments about them, their schools and their teachers. And I am not talking about the kinds of tests high school kids take to get into colleges where there can be intense pressure. I am talking about subjecting 8-year olds to the same kinds of pressure we used to reserve for 17-year olds high school kids (and increasingly people are thinking we should not be doing that to them either.)

A few years ago I was part of a group of teachers and parents who founded ChangeTheStakes.org (CTS) to inform parents around the city of the impact high stakes testing was having on their childrens’ education. CTS has put out a series of materials to support parents who want to opt their children out the tests by addressing issues of whether their child will be promoted or get into the middle school of their choice if they don’t take the test (new rules protect these children from retaliatory actions). Also on the agenda has been is what the children will be doing while the others are taking the test. Some school systems require those children to “sit and stare” in the same classrooms – do nothing. There has been a revolt against those policies with calls on schools to provide meaningful activities.

There is still time to opt out of this year’s math tests. If you are a potential opt-out parent you can contact CTS at changethestakes@gmail.com or check out the website.

Teachers are also beginning to take a stand. Some NYC teachers at the Earth School on the Lower East Side have formed a group called “Teachers of Conscience” and have refused to give the tests. teachersofconscience.wordpress.com.

Teacher asks for help for research project at Channel View
Were you a resident of the Rockaways during WW II, or served in WW II? Would you consider being interviewed about your experiences? We are seeking individuals to share their memories of life during WW II. Channel View School for Research’s 8th grade students are exploring life during wartime and the impact it had on the Rockaway residents. We are also investigating the imprint Fort Tilden has left on the peninsula and are petitioning the National Park Service to consider why it is worth preserving. Please contact Annette Malloy at (718)634-1970, or AMalloy@schools.nyc.gov if you are interested.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Video - Mike Schirtzer - Too Big for Japanese Doors

Wall Street Journal on ATRs: Deconstructing the Inherent Bias

The ATR Issue Heats Up as astro-turf Ed Deformer groups (E4E, Students First, TNTP) Attack on all fronts. 
Educators 4 Excellence-New York, an advocacy group of more than 8,000 teachers... Leslie Brody, WSJ
WTF-- E4E is a group that has practically zero representation in NYC schools despite massive amounts of funding and full-time organizers, yet is given credence in this article. I bet MORE, a true grassroots group, has more visibility. 'Nuff said about the impartiality of the WSJ piece on ATRs, which also quotes astroturf groups like Students First (Jenny Sedlis, Eva's former pit bull?)

Now here is an important point:
The ATR issue is non-negotiable in terms of a time limit.  Case closed.  We already won this with the awful 2005 arbitration panel.  This has been settled and the ed deformers keep bringing it up as a way to do an end run around tenure. Most ATRs get hired provisionally because principals don't want to keep people who become senior in their school after their one provisional year.  Lots of excessed people.  Most are hired provisionally from year to year.  Some are placed permanently (usually less senior) while some have rotated for three years and been ATRs for longer..... Chapter Leader at a closing school
Yes boys and girls. We have a contract that keeps ATRs in perpetuity. We gave up valuable real estate in 2005. As my pal says, "Case closed." Yet as he says, the ed deformers, having gotten their pound of flesh a decade ago, want even more. There is more on this point and the info will probably appear on the blogs soon.

I know ATRs are unhappy and want some resolution. Do does the DOE. So does the UFT.

There are solutions but not one that includes a time limit being pushed by the ed deformers is acceptable and the UFT has not varied from that position. I know I was one of the people thinking they would sell out, I am moving to James Eterno's position that they will not sell out on time limits, no matter how much pressure put on. (A lesson for the UFT was Chicago, where ATR time limits were major organizing tools for CORE -- MORE in NYC would be in a similar position -- but I am not rooting for time limits to help as an organizing tool.)

When the WSJ's Leslie Brody contacted me about getting the word out to ATRs that she was doing an article on them I wrote her that I was always suspicious of the press, but especially of a Rupert Murdoch-owned publication. Though they always claim there is a firewall between editorial and reporting, I don't believe that.

They start off with a bias and what they want is some quotes from ATRs to try to show impartiality.

While warning them about this, I did notify my listserves. ATR Dave Levin did talk to her and is quoted, though he told me the more pertinent things he said were not included... "of course she didn't use the good stuff and I'm not surprised she picked out the juicy quote but it's OK. I explained to her that the groups like student first were not student first."

In my correspondence with Leslie, when I brought up that salary was an issue, Leslie was misinformed in claiming the DOE picked up the salary. I sent her response to Chaz for clarification. Chaz refused to talk to her but wrote a piece on ATRs and sent it to her (The Reason Why ATRs Should Be Put Back Into The Classroom. It Helps Student Academic Achievement). Chaz pointed to the Fair Student Funding formula as a major culprit and he clarified the point on picking up the salary.
There is a deliberate misconception that the DOE picks up part of the ATR salary if a school selects an ATR to fill a leave replacement or vacancy.  The DOE only picks up the difference in salary between the ATR and the salary of the teacher the ATR is replacing for the first year only!   If the school decides to pick up the ATR for the second year the ATR's salary must be included in the average teacher salary of the school and comes out of the school's budget.  Therefore, very few, if any, ATRs are picked up the second year since it will cost the school money.
Note not one word on this important issue in the article. But plenty of quotes from the ed deform astro-turfers.

And there is the most egregious partisan issue -- the refusal to fully identify who these groups represent - including the owner of the WSJ. They are all funded by the same sources and have echoed every single partisan note of the ed deform platform. TNTP which also makes money from pushing new teachers has a dog in the race -- get rid of ATRs and they get a lot of business.

Note that Leslie did not ask for a quote from ICE or MORE, grassroots groups independent from the UFT line.

Here is the article below the jump - or click here.

Teachers Unite Membership Drive

I was one of the first members of Teachers Unite and continue to support the work of the organization. Jose Alfaro was an early distributor of Ed Notes when I took it citywide in 2002 at Fannie Lou Hamer HS (it was only a publication for the Delegate Assembly for the previous 5 years). Teachers Unite provides the space for people like Jose to continue doing the work he did before he retired.

What's Your Story?
José Alfaro
I considered becoming a teacher in 1970, when I graduated from college, but my conflict with the traditional ed department at my college and the anti-child conversation I found in the staff cafeteria where I did my student teaching dissuaded me from teaching. 

In contrast I ended up working as a youth organizer for United Bronx Parents, one of the key organizations in NYC working for community empowerment in the schools. There, one of my responsibilities was advocating for students and their families in the schools.

In the mid 80's my son began attending the progressive schools in east Harlem and I eventually began teaching at the high school, Central Park East Secondary School. Teaching was great, but it also prevented me from continuing my community organizing, so when I was asked to return to my role as a social worker and help develop Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom H.S. in the Bx. I jumped at the opportunity. Little did I realize that the needs of the students meant that my position presented many challenges, but I was emotionally hooked and today, even though I've retired I continue to work at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School part time seeking to develop the use of restorative practices at the school as well as in other schools.

Since I became an activist in the late 60's I've always stressed the importance of working collectively in an organization with people from whom I can learn and build with. I've been involved with different education organizations throughout the years, but with Teachers Unite I've had an opportunity to combine my training as an education advocate with my training as a therapist through the work we do around Restorative Practices.

My vision for public education is that schools become significant learning centers that address the multiple needs of the community. This means deepening critical thinking skills, using authentic assessment in lieu of standardized tests, provide a rich variety of ways to explore intellectual, artistic and physical interests, make available culturally relevant health and mental health services, and become centers of youth and community empowerment.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *       

Your generous donation to Teachers Unite sends a message of encouragement to educators who take action to end school pushout and racial injustice.

Our members are not only speaking out, they are acting out!
  • They help schools organize Restorative Justice Teams.
  • They collaborate with youth organizations to change the city's School Discipline Code.
  • They produce media and resources that envision a humanistic approach to student discipline.
  • They transform their own school cultures and advocate to the DOE and UFT for help with doing so.
We have to show parents and young people that teachers are opposed to social and economic injustice.  Please click here to donate today!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014



Change the Stakes Responds to New DOE Promotion Policy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                          
Contact: Jane Maisel or Nancy Cauthen, changethestakespress@gmail.com

By announcing that state test scores will no longer be the primary factor in promotion decisions, the NYC Department of Education has taken an important first step toward eliminating the educational harm caused by high-stakes testing. Change the Stakes applauds the DOE for making this long overdue change.  The previous policy, which was overwhelmingly opposed by educators, researchers and parents when approved 10 years ago, was misguided and detrimental to student learning.

The parents and educators of Change the Stakes strongly support the basic premises of the new policy – first, that teachers who know students best should drive promotion decisions, and second, that those decisions should be based on a holistic assessment of student performance throughout the year. But we firmly believe that state test scores should not be used at all in promotion decisions. These standardized assessments were never designed for this purpose.

To facilitate implementation of the new promotions policy, Change the Stakes urges the DOE to:
  • Communicate this important change directly to parents to ensure they understand that the process will be substantially different this year.
  • Clarify as soon as possible how the “promotion portfolio” will be developed and evaluated in a way that ensures fairness and equity across districts while offering individual schools some flexibility.
  • Designate a citywide office parents can contact with any questions or concerns during the first year of implementation of the new policy. This will help promote transparency, accountability and parental engagement.
  • Identify funding and other resources to support more intensive, high-quality student support services for those identified as needing support throughout the year.
To build on this positive initial step toward reducing the high stakes associated with standardized testing, we urge the DOE to remove state test scores from consideration in middle school and high school admissions.

Finally, Change the Stakes calls on the governor and the NYS legislature to take immediate action to remove one of its most damaging high-stakes testing policies– using state test results to evaluate teachers. This policy, known as APPR, is based on junk science and has been criticized by a wide coalition of educational experts, and is just as misguided as promoting students based on test scores. Additionally, APPR and its associated test-driven policies have depleted budgets needed to serve the real needs of students.
Change the Stakes (changethestakes.org) is a group of New York City parents and educators promoting alternatives to high stakes-testing.

Ed Deformer Hedge Funders Looting Public Employee Pensions

So when you invest your pension money in hedge funds, you might be paying a hundred times the cost or more, you might be underperforming the market, you may be supporting political movements against you, and you often have to pay what effectively is a bribe just for the privilege of hiring your crappy overpaid money manager in the first place. What's not to like about that? Who could complain?... Matt Taibi, Rolling Stone.
A Matt Taibi Rolling Stones article was being re-circulated today and it is mind blowing to see how the very people who back Success Charter, Student First, DFER are taking massive cuts to mis-manage public employee pensions while trying to destroy the unions. One of the most outrageous piece of info I learned was that workers, the press and the public have no right to find out how their funds are invested by these hedge hog characters who claim that is "proprietary" info. Matt points out that the AFT did put out a list of these hogs and got hammered for doing so.

Go forth and read this entire Oct. 2013 piece - if you have the stomach for it.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/looting-the-pension-funds-20130926page=5#ixzz2z6uEXQzI

NYSUT in Sea of Red Ink

On paper, the union reported a $30 million deficit on its most recent 990 IRS form. Union officials say that cash shortfall was really less than $8 million. Either way, it’s a flow of red ink that union officials acknowledge continues today.... Capitol Confidential
In Chicago when CORE took over - after running on a promise to reduce salaries of union officials - they found the union $4 million in debt. After one year (Karen Lewis took an big cut in pay) - the debt was basically wiped out.

We may have tilted towards Stronger Together over the victorious Revive, but both are responsible for this mess. It is not just the super high salaries over 300 thousand but note the familiar UFT names taking their share -14-20 grand each for many of the Unity Caucus leadership. Many of them also get a cut from the AFT budget too. So we are paying some of them 3 times. You'll see some very familiar names.

Don't look to them to do what CORE did in Chicago. 

A major threat to teachers here in NYC is how NYSUT legal which provides NYC teachers with free legal, will be affected. Some insiders think that with the UFT firmly in charge at NYSUT, and not having shown the highest interest in teacher defense, NYSUT legal will be the first to get hit by cuts.

Here is the article from Capitol Confidential, followed by the 2010 report (what numbers will the 2013 report show?) which points to a 35,000 drop in members since 2008 -- with the new charter laws hitting us look for a bigger acceleration of that loss.

[By the way -- the UFT is also facing massive debt - which they are covering up -- but don't look to any salary reductions there either].

NYSUT has been squeezed along with the school districts that employ its members, said E.J. McMahon, a senior fellow at the fiscally conservative Manhattan Institute. He said NYSUT has a direct financial interest in lifting the cap.
“The union exists to deliver benefits to its members, including pay increases,” he said. “Their focus all the time is getting more and the tax cap limits the more.”

On paper, the union reported a $30 million deficit on its most recent 990 IRS form. Union officials say that cash shortfall was really less than $8 million. Either way, it’s a flow of red ink that union officials acknowledge continues today.

NYSUT has 600,000 members. It estimates 35,000 educators have lost jobs since 2008 as school districts across the state laid off staff, a process expected to accelerate under tax cap restrictions.

NYSUT had 507 employees as of August 2012, including 26 who worked part time. The forms show the total amount the union spent on salaries, benefits and other compensation rose to $110 million from $96 million in a year, according to its most recent 990 IRS form, which is dated September 2010 to August 2011.

About 300 employees earned gross salaries of more than $100,000, according to NYSUT’s latest federal LM-2 disclosure forms, dated September 2011 to August 2012. Of that number, about 15 employees earned more than $200,000.

Jean Anyon "Radical Possibilities" Updated

Read about the late Jean Anyon's enormous impact at Kiersten Greene's  Mediated blog: How Do I Even Express…

Just got this from the publisher. I ordered a review copy which I will share with anyone who will write a review.

If nothing changes, urban school reform is doomed to fail

Routledge publishes a thoroughly revised and updated new edition of Jean Anyon’s classic Radical Possibilities that addresses poverty and school reform.

The core argument of Jean Anyon’s classic Radical Possibilities is deceptively simple: if we do not direct our attention to the ways in which federal and metropolitan policies maintain the poverty that plagues communities in American cities, urban school reform as currently conceived is doomed to fail. This edition picks up where the 2005 publication left off, including a completely new chapter detailing how three decades of political decisions leading up to the “Great Recession” produced an economic crisis of epic proportions. By tracing the root causes of the financial crisis, Anyon effectively demonstrates the concrete effects of economic decision-making on the education sector, revealing in particular the disastrous impacts of these policies on black and Latino communities.

Going beyond lament, Radical Possibilities offers those interested in a better future for the millions of America’s poor families a set of practical and theoretical insights. Expanding on her paradigm for combating educational injustice, Anyon discusses the Occupy Wall Street movement as a recent example of popular resistance in this new edition, set against a larger framework of civil rights history. A ringing call to action, Radical Possibilities reminds readers that throughout U.S. history, equitable public policies have typically been created as a result of the political pressure brought to bear by social movements. Ultimately, Anyon’s revelations teach us that the current moment contains its own very real radical possibilities.

“For over three decades, Jean Anyon has been one of the English speaking world's most powerful intellectuals on the subject of education, and this revised edition solidifies her legacy.”—Lois Weis, State University of New York Distinguished Professor, University at Buffalo

Jean Anyon was a professor of social and educational policy in the Doctoral Program in Urban Education at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and the author of the best-selling and critically acclaimed Ghetto Schooling: A Political Economy of Urban School Reform

Radical Possibilities
Public Policy, Urban Education, and A New Social Movement, 2nd Edition
By Jean Anyon
Published March 6th 2014
Pb: 978-0-415-63558-5: $41.95

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Parents Who Fought Off School Resistance to Opt-Out Led to Modifed Policy

The students were told by one teacher if they opted out, they would not be part of the "culture" of the school. They would be different and not be able to be part of the after-test celebrations. We wanted to meet with the principal but at this point we were simply getting the party-line and things were moving too slowly (the ELA test was in just three weeks). Two parents from the school set up a community wide meeting and invited Janine Sopp to come and "educate" us on what was exactly entailed with opting out. We brought our kids (who at this point were conflicted as they didn't want to be "different" from their peers). We left the meeting pretty sure we were going to opt out and my kids were DEFINITELY interested in opting out. The more they heard the madder they got. We wrote up careful notes from the meeting and presented those to our principal and the PTA.... Brooklyn parent
It is not easy for a small minority to stand up, especially if you and your kids are turned into outliers. This great story came in from a  Brooklyn elementary school parent. I get where teachers are coming from -- if your job were on the line based on test scores and if your high scoring kids talked about opting out, you just might get that sinking feeling.

Kudos to these parents, their kids and the school principal for willing to listen and modify the policies.
There were several families interested in opting out but we felt unsure. We were at first met with resistance by the principal but especially by the teachers and even the PTA. This was new territory for our school because nobody had spoken of opting out before. The students were told by one teacher if they opted out, they would not be part of the "culture" of the school. They would be different and not be able to be part of the after-test celebrations. We wanted to meet with the principal but at this point we were simply getting the party-line and things were moving too slowly (the ELA test was in just three weeks).

Two parents from the school set up a community wide meeting and invited Janine Sopp to come and "educate" us on what was exactly entailed with opting out. We brought our kids (who at this point were conflicted as they didn't want to be "different" from their peers). We left the meeting pretty sure we were going to opt out and my kids were DEFINITELY interested in opting out. The more they heard the madder they got. We wrote up careful notes from the meeting and presented those to our principal and the PTA. He then set up a school-wide meeting and spoke from the administration's side and we were there as informed parents from the Opt Out side. It was a good conversation with probably 50-60 people. We reassured the principal and the staff that we were worried about harming our school (a school we all care about) or teachers but felt this was really important for parents to stand up. The principal did agree that things were changing so quickly and that the commissioner really is looking to the parents and not the teachers for the lead. He asked us to please, just let him know soon so he would be able to think about staffing on those days. Once we had the reassurance that our kids were going to be included in school activities and not punished, 10 families opted out of 5th grade (and others from the third grade). The kids spent the mornings with their "buddy classes" helping them with their reading.

For a first year and pulling the momentum together just a few weeks before the ELA we think this was a success. Many parents of 2nd graders looked to us for guidance and cheered us on.

Friday before vacation we got a school-wide email from our principal:

The staff and I share some of the feelings that you may be reading in the newspaper. The PTA is creating a page on their website that allows parents to access many resources related to State testing so thta you can be informed about information from the State and discussion or events that are happening around the city.

I just looked and that page is not up yet but it is a positive sign of open dialogue and transparency. We learned the importance of engaging the principal and working together with the school. Additionally, I know many parents who have left the choice up to their kids. We learned the importance to inform our kids in order to make that decision. (The more the kids heard the night of the community meeting, the more committed they were to not participate in this test).

It does take courage to be the minority and stand up for what you believe is right. Some people need others to step up first (are you that person?). It takes courage to ask our children to be different from their peers and stand apart. Finally, it takes courage and trust on the part of the principal and staff. Our principal is new and has no tenure and I believe he was courageous in NOT trying to silence us, NOT trying to dissuade us and ultimately said "I have to be neutral but I am here to support families who make that decision."