2006-06-30 / Columnists

School Scope

Wrap-Up
By Norman Scott


Where the rubber room meets the road

Hearing about so many teachers being charged with verbal and psychological abuse, I realize that if I were still teaching I would have a permanent seat in the rubber room. Maybe my own couch.

When I started teaching in the late 60's, I used the eye for an eye approach in dealing with kids who bullied their weaker classmates. If you broke someone's pencil, I picked up the perp's pencil, held it up for all the class to see and broke it. Today, off to the RR for making the perp feel bad.

If a student hit other kids, he (girl bullies required a different approach) "accidentally" would get his foot stepped on or in extreme cases, was put up against the wall and told he would have the crap kicked out of him. Today, off to the RR. (Has the statute of limitations expired or will I be sent to a RR for retirees who admit wrongdoing?)

This was the way I dealt with bullies and their little gang of henchmen. How about calling the administration? Ha. They measured good teachers by how few times they called for help. Call the parents? Double Ha. They often had even less control than I did.

Part of my strategy was to isolate the main perp from the henchmen and play psychological games by praising them for even minor successes or rewarding them with little jobs. It is so easy for a teacher to buy kids off.

The rest of the class quietly cheered what I was doing. After all, I was protecting them. In the end, the social isolation of the bullies worked almost all the time and I was able to start rewarding them too. Eventually, some of them became my favorite students. But I had the time and was given the space by my administrators to work these things out. In today's world - well, I don't even want to think about that.

As hordes of people are packing the RR's we are finding that even those with perfect records for 20 years are being pulled from their buildings for one incident. I can understand if there is a pattern over time. Usually the incident is used when a principal is just looking for an excuse to go after a teacher.

Some might say "Good. We want bad teachers removed." Whoa. Don't assume that because a principal wants a teacher out, that teacher must be bad. Often, that it is because a teacher has seniority and is blocking a favorite from a job, or was asked to do something outside the contract and balked. Or is wearing the wrong color clothing.

I recently ran into a principal, a Rockaway resident, who said, "What does it cost a principal to treat people well?" I have been in this principal's school and all I hear are great things.

Galleries Lafayette III

Our series of stories on Jolanta Rohloff, the Leadership Academy grad principal of Lafayette HS got a response from people at the school. The latest update is that Rohloff gave out nine U ratings, almost half of them by Social Studies AP Phil Scroggins, who must not have met his quota in the past. As one of Scroggins' victims wrote in a gutsy letter to the staff: "You might think that Ms. Rohloff would examine the effectiveness of AP Phil Scroggins, since his teachers are supposedly functioning poorly. Not so. She says the AP's are her 'eyes and ears.' An AP is apparently valued more in Ms. Rohloff's Leadership Academy universe for writing thorough U observations on their laptops than for demonstrating instructional leadership."

Statistics always lie

Bloomberg used the big rise in fourth grade test scores last year to claim his Children Last - er - I mean First "reforms" were working splendidly. (Hordes of third graders were enrolling in post-doctorate programs.) Education pundits disputed that, claiming that the test was clearly easier as all large urban areas in the state rose, most even higher that those of BloomKleindom, even though these school districts wouldn't let a workshop model program get within ten feet of their schools.

When the fifth grade reading scores of those former "successful" fourth graders from last year dropped drastically, no one was really surprised, except the gullible, or worse, the complacent NY Ed Press corps.

Then we find that BloomKlein's claim of a 53-54% graduation rate was bogus (say it ain't so Mikey and Joey). Recent studies have estimated the rate to be under 40%, a number which Freddie Ferrer (remember him) was claiming during the mayoral campaign and was charged with bumming all the BloomKlein cheerleaders out. (Zip, zoom, bow-wow - the only acceptable cheer for Children Last - er - First. Sorry, I keep getting confused.)

And the final straw for a bad few weeks for ol' BloomKlein was the news that the small schools that had been trumpeted as a clear sign of SUCCESS had the slight advantage of not accepting too many special ed or difficult students, leaving these students to be shunted to the big high schools which were then being closed down because they are not as successful as the small schools.

You really can't make this stuff up. Many of us suspect the same scam is being pulled in some of the heralded charter schools. But that's a story for another day.

When all is done and told (probably after BloomKlein are gone) the "children last" "reforms" will turn out to be the proverbial rearrangement of deck chairs.

Empowerment zones: Giving

Principals More Control

Sorry, I'm out of room and will deal with this issue in future columns. Though I hear of some great principals who treat their staffs with respect and would use this power benevolently, I leave you for the summer with this thought: After reading about some of the power-hungry, ego-driven, anti-union principals, would you want to actually give these people more power.

Have a great summer.

Look for columns at the end of July and September 1, which will be the second day teachers, who will be back at work before the Labor Day weekend. Oy! Email me at norscot@aol.com.

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