2008-01-11 / Columnists

School Scope

Run Bloomberg, Run
Commentary By Norman Scott

Norman Scott Norman Scott A story in the New York Times, "Obama's Surge Deflates Forum and Talk of a Bloomberg Run," on the day before the New Hampshire primary may have been premature in burying Michael Bloomberg's independent run for the presidency. I hope he does run, but not because I am a supporter.

One has to ask why so many veteran NYC educators have such disdain for Bloomberg and his henchman Joel Klein. They have witnessed close up and personal the destructive nature of what has been done to an already fragile school system.

There is no question that the NYC schools needed major reform. But not on the basis of bringing competitive business practices like merit pay for teachers and students, competitions between schools, bottom line results resulting in punitive measures for schools and personnel - all while funneling money to private interests that leech off the system.

Not only are they an indication of educational policy gone awry but also a tale of major incompetence that has invited comparisons to the mismanagement of the Bush administration.

Hopefully, a presidential campaign by Bloomberg will focus national attention on the Bloom/Klein educational "reform" disaster.

Small learning communities

With so many initiatives by Bloom/ Klein being wrong-headed, the idea of setting up small learning communities with a regular ed and a special ed teacher working together seemed to have possibilities. I have heard of some cases where, if carefully managed, with small class sizes and with lots of teacher input, it has worked. Do you think any of these factors are in operation on the small learning communities set up by the NYCDOE? That's a rhetorical question. There are such setups at our own Beach Channel HS. Let us know how they are working out. Beach Channel staff shaken by Far Rockaway HS closing

The staff at BCHS is preparing for an influx of ninth graders next year that will have nowhere convenient to go other than BCHS. Worried about a disproportionate influx of ELA and special ed students who will not be accepted at the small schools replacing Far Rock, there is the additional factor of increased gang activity due to rivalries between students at the two schools. Will the DOE provide an increase in resources to BCHS to handle the influx? Or will the DOE squeeze the school to force it into a closing of its own? You can find hints of an answer in items one and two above. State Education Department and Board of Regents performances shameful

Someone ought to start an investigation as to why NY State is one of the most regressive in the nation when it comes to overtesting, amongst other items. Who to blame? Start with the Board of Regents, which appoints the state education commissioner, who happens to be the hapless Richard Mills. It is time to take the appointments of these people out of the hands of politicians and hold an election, as is done in many other states. Political action as a teacher

As someone who was an unwilling entrant into teaching in 1967, I'm convinced that becoming an educational activist both in the union and in the community in which I worked (Williamsburg) gave me perspective and an understanding of the forces that impacted on the daily events I was witnessing. The powers that be at the schools and district level and in the UFT were not very happy, but I was young and did not know what I was doing. But I'm very glad I became an activist. Regularly meeting with like-minded people enabled me to work with parents and community, and gave me insights I was able to use with the kids. These types of meetings continue today. A current project is: The big business of public education

Millions of dollars are exchanged between New York City's Department of Education and private companies. How do these relationships impact our classrooms? What can be done about the seemingly inescapable trend of school privatization?

I've been involved in helping set up forums addressing these issues in conjunction with Teachers Unite, an organization, (www.teachersunite.net), under the direction of Sally Lee, that builds ties between educators and community organizers, using these political/ education forums to build an informed teacher constituency where educators can relate their experiences in schools to larger political trends.

The 2007-2008 forums focus on the impact of privatization and the corporate model on classroom life in NYC public schools. Next year, with the law giving the mayor total control of the schools due to Sunset in 2009, we will tackle the thorny issue of school governance. These forums are open to the public.

Rockaway Theatre Company

I spent the past season as the videographer for the Rockaway Theatre Company and the more involved, the more impressed I was about the quality work they do. Recently, I finally delivered DVD's of all the shows. Working on them was delightful, as it gave me a chance to see the shows time and again, something I never get tired of. If I don't chicken out, I might even take their acting course, taught by a remarkable young actor who delighted audiences with his antics as the narrator in Rockaway Café and as "Larry" in "Inspecting Carol."

Rubber room movie The trailer for a movie about the rubber room, also known as Teacher Reassignment Centers, has been released and can be viewed at www.rub berroommovie.com. UFT to start it's own grading system

As I was finalizing this piece, I read a report by Elizabeth Green (the most relentless education reporter in NYC) that Randi Weingarten was going to create a union-sponsored grading system as a counterweight to the one being used by the DOE. Fraught with lots of minefields, this idea bears watching. I'll comment next time. Education Notes Prognostications for 2008

Here are some predictions I made on my blog http://ednotesonline.blogspot. com/

Teachers urged to give steroids to low scoring children to pump up scores.

Teachers ordered to take steroids during height of testing season to counter "testing fatigue."

What the hell: Teachers told to give steroids to all children.

Roger Clemons becomes NYCDOE Chancellor. NY State Ed Commissioner Richard "DICKIE BOY" Mills gives Clemons special waiver. "He has even more qualifications than Joel Klein to be Chancellor. He has four children," says Mills. Test scores and grad rates break Bloom/Klein record for inflation.

Bloomberg is elected President on a platform of nationalizing schools before selling them off to private interests. Russia's Putin puts in best bid and owns the entire school system of the United States.

The business community cheers the advent of a Soviet style system that will prepare children to work long hours without complaining.

Joel Klein arrested for handing out cash to children in front of schools. His claims he was only paying kids for getting high scores on tests were laughed out of court.

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