2007-09-21 / Columnists

School Scope

Broad Jumping
By Norman Scott

Norman Scott Norman Scott Norm Scott taught elementary school for most of his 35 years in the NYC public school system, all in District 14 in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. This is his fifth year writing the School Scope column. His e-mail is norscot@aol.com.

BloomKlein Win! BloomKlein Win!!

Shout it from the rooftops. Toss the confetti in the air. Have a party.

The BloomKlein gang at Tweed are suffering rotator cuff damage - in both arms- from patting themselves on the back for their victory, announced on Tuesday, in winning the Broad [pronounced Brood] prize.

Who is Eli Broad and why is he using his billions to help destroy public education in the major urban school systems? Therein lies a long tale and I've elucidated much of it on my ednotesonline.com/ blog.

Broad has simple answers to complex questions. Nationally recognized educational historian Diane Ravitch sums it up:

"About 18 months ago, I was invited to meet Eli Broad in his gorgeous penthouse in New York City, overlooking Central Park. I hear that he made his billions in the insurance and real estate businesses. I am not sure when he became an education expert.

We talked about school reform for an hour or more, and he told me that what was needed to fix the schools was not all that complicated: A tough manager surrounded by smart graduates of business schools and law schools. Accountability. Tight controls. Results. In fact, New York City is the perfect model of school reform from his point of view. Indeed, this version of school reform deserves the Broad Prize, a prize conferred by one billionaire on another."

Deborah Meier, a nationally respected progressive educator for the past 40 years says:

"I am afraid. Truly. I think the mayor of New York City, and Eli Broad, are perfectly happy about a future in which most teachers come and go every five or so years. Temps. Easier to manage and harder to organize.

A few will rise to leadership positions after a few years of teaching- after getting MBAs?- and the rest of the leaders will come from other fields like law, business, and the military."

Leonie Haimson and a number of other parents sent a letter to the Broad Foundation:

"We urge you not to award the Broad prize to New York City this year. As parents and teachers, we have witnessed one incoherent wave of reorganization after another over the last five years, leading to unnecessary chaos and in many cases, disruption of educational services. None of these changes have been planned or undertaken with any consultation of the stakeholders in the system.

"Instead of transparency and accurate information, we get spin and PR. Though overall, the amount spent on education has risen, there is no evidence that a larger percentage of resources has gone to the classroom, despite repeated claims by DOE. Instead, each year the headcount grows of highly paid officials at Tweed, as well as the number of multi-million dollar consultants.

"…as recent news reports have revealed, the 4th grade exams in both ELA and math were much easier in 2005, when the largest gains in NYC performance occurred, putting into doubt their validity."

The full text is available at nycpub licschoolparents.blogspot.com/

David M. Quintana, a parent active in District 27 wrote:

"As one of the four parent participants in a focus group held at Tweed for researchers from the Broad Foundation, I am disappointed in the fact that NYC received the Broad Foundation prize today.

"This group of parents, handpicked by Martine Guerrier of the Department of Education (DOE), expressed uniform disappointment with the various changes put into place by DOE, the lack of transparency and accountability, and the lack of consideration given the views of parents about what their children really need to succeed.

"Clearly, the Broad Foundation did not take parents' views into consideration when awarding this prize to New York City today.

"I feel that the DOE is totally dismissive of parents' views and makes short shrift of our concerns for our children (i.e. - class size reduction, cell phone ban, school bus fiasco, numerous reorganizations of the DOE, et al)."

Quintana's resume is not a light one: District 27 President's Council - Recording Secretary; District 27 Representative to Chancellor's Parents Advisory Council, Queens Community Board 10 - Education Committee; and Queens Borough President's Parents Advisory Council member.

And the reaction of teachers on the front line to the national recognition of BloomKlein for doing wonderful things in "reforming" the New York City school system? I would bet my pension that 95 percent of them are laughing (or crying) themselves silly. And they would be joined by a hell of a lot of supervisors too.

I wonder what kind of prize is given to the CEO's of corporations that have absolutely no respect from the bulk of the people that work for them? Oh, I know. The Broad prize.

Et tu Randi?

It should be clear to teachers in the trenches that they are fighting a two front war -- against BloomKlein and their own collaborationist union.

There was a picture of UFT president Randi Weingarten with Joel Klein giving her a big hug and kiss at the Broad Prize Awards ceremony in Washington. (It would not be an impossibility for both Klein and Weingarten to end up in a Hillary Clinton cabinet, though I am betting Randi goes to the AFT presidency in July, tries to become the head of a united NEA and AFT and then moves on to John Sweeney's job as AFL-CIO head.)

Boy, for someone who regularly charges that the UFT collaborates with the forces looking to destroy public education, it doesn't get any better than this.

Last year, Broad gave the UFT Charter schools one million dollars.

Of course, the UFT is saying the Broad prize is deserved, due to the teaching corps, "the best ever" in their words. Funny how they can argue that experience counts for teachers and then negate that argument by saying a system that has an enormous influx of inexperienced teachers, 50 percent of whom leave after 5 years, is the best ever. See Debbie Meier's quote above.

Then they validate high stakes testing, which is the instrument by which the Broad prize is given, negating so much of what their own task force on testing reported last year.

And to further seal my contention that the UFT leadership are collaborators (I compare them to the French Vichy in World War II) against the interests of their own members:

The UFT commissioned a study of whether the ELA tests were easier in 2005 (teachers marking the exam at IS 180 at that time confirmed it at the time), thus enabling Bloomberg to use the "wonderful" results as part of his election bid and as a means to springboard him on the national stage as a masterly (funny that my spell checker first came up with "miserly") educational reformer. When the study showed that this is exactly what occurred, Randi Weingarten ordered the results to be hushed up. Were it not for a leak to New York Sun reporter Elizabeth Green she would have gotten away with it.

Confused? Did the UFT PR machine lead you to think Weingarten and Klein are enemies?

Let Uncle Normie untangle it for you.

Both Democrats and Republicans are pushing the business/factory model of education that has caused so much misery to so many teachers, students and parents, albeit with slightly different twists. And the Clintons are in it right up to their necks. Now follow the bouncing ball.

Eli Broad, when attacked as a rightwinger, responds that he is a Democrat.

Who is Hillary Clinton's main supporter in the labor movement? Someone who is dedicating all her resources to getting Hillary elected? You guessed it. Our girl Randi.

Who worked for Clinton before he became New York City chancellor?

Bingo!

Want to do some more surf Broading? Check the ednotesonline.com blog.

More next time, with a few words on Howie Schwach's praise for Al Shanker. Needless to say, I have another view.

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