2006-02-10 / Columnists

School Scope

Implementation is Upon Us
By Norman Scott


Well the time has come. The 37.5 minutes are upon us. There has been enough written in the mainstream press about all the problems teachers, administrators, parents and students will have with this extra time. So we don’t have to go into details other than to say, do we really believe this extra time (how much exactly with the movement of kids and teachers) will make any difference? It is called tutoring. To me tutoring means one on one, which could really work if was for some significant amount of time.

A middle school computer teacher sent this report on the first day:

“On the whole it went ... well, it went.

“I am working with another teacher I never worked with before and barely know. He’s a second year social studies teacher who knows little about teaching “Literacy.” I probably know less about literacy than he, so we started with Math.

“We agreed that it didn’t make sense to try to teach two different lessons in the same room.

“Between the two of us we were assigned 19 kids of whom only 5 students didn’t show up. Each of us got some of our homeroom kids. Our HR kids showed, the non- HR kids didn’t. We only received 5 workbooks for math and 5 for literacy. I guess we’re lucky to get any books at all. Admins say there wasn’t enough money for more books and they aren’t willing to make copies. OK....

“Of our students two have some kind of learning disability and neither of us have any special education training. Both of us tried to convey the meaning of Absolute Value. It didn’t click. Somebody remind me why it is important for an eleven year old to know what Absolute Value is. Where’s Jamie Escalante when you need him?”

In another school, a pre-k teacher was assigned 10 emotionally handicapped students to tutor – these are kids that used to be in class sizes of 12 with a teacher and a para.

Let’s be fair here. A DOE press release issued on Feb. 6 quoted deputy mayor Dennis Walcott: “Today marks a milestone in our Children First reforms. Our City’s children need and deserve every opportunity to achieve and succeed, and the additional support and intervention will benefit our students significantly. For far too long, an excuse-based system failed too many of our students - today is yet another signal that those days are over.”

We should be happy excuses will no longer be tolerated – unless they are issued by the DOE. With parent complaints about multiple dismissal times and other logistical problems for parents, with the expense of $24 million on numerous additional bus routes for the rest of this year alone, Chancellor Joel Klein responded: “Any process like this is going to have certain kinks.” Thank goodness that’s not considered an excuse. The UFT leadership certainly wouldn’t be expected to make excuses about the implementation of a contract they agreed to and forced down people’s throats. But here is a comment from one of the communications people picked up off a blog:

“The union when confronted with that demand (for the 35.5 minutes) from the City told them that it would be a lot better to spread the time across the board so that all children would benefit from the extra instruction. But the mayor insisted, because he wanted to prove that he got a visible productivity gain. I don’t think he consulted with the DOE to see what they thought. So he negotiates this and then dumps it on Klein and his minions who have no idea how to implement this new tutoring session. They don’t factor in the busing schedules, and then don’t factor what all this is going to cost. So now we have the mess that they created. Parents will surely be raising an uproar soon and in some districts have already voiced their concerns.”

So the union takes an irresponsible “who me” attitude, playing the blame game even though they were not forced to agree to the demand for extra time and it was obvious to all there would be problems with implementation.

Secret agents at Region 5 central have procured a memo to Dr. David Morris, Principal of Beach Channel HS from Local Instructional Superintendent Roz German, dated Dec. 27, 2005. Some juicy excerpts:  When observing teachers a few major words should pop-out to make you question the lesson:

1. quiz  2. re-visit (3. worksheet     4. fill in the chart.

With the above in mind I strongly question several satisfactory ratings. Also, it appears that classroom management techniques were not utilized. In reviewing your Assistant Principal’s observations it appears that most staff observations are satisfactory. I find this quite unusual as during my walk-through’s [sic] I noted that pedagogy requires improvement at Beach Channel High School. Please remember that you are responsible for monitoring the pedagogy in your building and making sure Assistant Principals’ [sic] are on target. In addition, the stationery [sic] used for each department should be the same as yours. And, you, as principal, must sign off on all Assistant Principal observations. Also, in the future include a cover sheet listing the names of teachers observed and their rating.

Please incorporate my suggestions in future observations; also encourage your teachers to use higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy when planning their lessons.

Roz German

Local Instructional Superintendent

Attachment:  Bloom’s Taxonomy

What can you say? Arrogant, condescending, insulting – and still not meeting standards to be hung on a Region 5 bulletin board. No wonder principals often act nuts – being talked to like a 3rd grader can have an impact. Note in particular the all-important suggestion about keeping the stationary uniform. A proven method to improve pedagogy. Of course in DOE lexicon, there can’t be so many satisfactory teachers at Beach Channel – the old Jack Welch quota system (give 15% unsatisfactory ratings) in action.

German walked on by and saw bad pedagogy. Maybe one day she will elucidate exactly what she saw. Seeking guidance from that old standby “Blooms Taxonomy,” (I thought that referred to something stuffed) she can claim she made a suggestion for improvement. I have an idea. Why doesn’t German go into Beach Channel for a few days and demonstrate good pedagogy by teaching a couple of classes?

The German letter to Morris makes it seem that there’s a quota on giving satisfactory observations. Teachers have long suspected that a supervisor who doesn’t give out enough unsatisfactory ratings will be called on the carpet. The letter to Morris is the smoking gun we have been looking for. The NY Teacher may be doing a piece on it soon. Check out Howard Schwach’s comments on the German letter in this edition of the Wave.

NY Times education columnist Mike Winerip’s last two columns have chronicled wrong-doing by administrators at Rikers Island Academy, where chapter leader Jeff Kaufman was sent to the rubber room because a former student had his address, and at Kennedy HS in the Bronx where administrators changed English regent scores without consulting teachers in an attempt to make the school look better. In the latter case, the chapter leader, Maria Colon, has been the only person disciplined because she exposed the situation to the press by using a school fax machine. An interesting point is that both Kaufman and Colon have been associated with ICE, a group opposed to the UFT leadership. Attacks on union reps that are on the front-line should be a big deal for a union. Apparently, not the UFT, which does a lousy job protecting its chapter leaders.

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