2008-01-25 / Community

School Scope

What Did Randi Know and When Did She Know It?
By Norman Scott

Norman Scott Norman Scott The shot heard around the NYC teaching corps was fired on Martin Luther King Day, as teachers awoke to a front page article in the NY Times announcing that a secret program was in effect to evaluate teachers based on test scores.

Rather than argue the case against, we want to focus on the role, or lack of role, the UFT has played.

With every passing day, more and more teachers see that the UFT is no longer on their side but, rather acts as an intermediary for the powers that be. In essence, they represent the interests of people like Bloomberg and Klein to the members, using obfuscation and confusion to give the members the impression they are on their side.

If you're asking why they function this way, we would have to delve into the history of the labor movement and the role union leaders have played to control the militancy of the members - militancy that could threaten their own power.

The Times reported that UFT President Randi Weingarten has known about the program for months but kept quiet about it - she claims she did not know the specific schools which we all know would have been easy for the union to find out and warn the teachers. And even if the union couldn't find out, a public exposure at the time would have allowed teachers in all schools to confront their principals and ask point blank if they were part of the program. That would have forced them to tell them or basically lie to their faces. At the very least the UFT could have thrown a monkey wrench into their plans but chose the sounds of silence.

Therefore, view Randi Weingarten's words of outrage when the story broke - I guess she wasn't all too outraged all these months she kept the secret - and promise to fight the plan as the usual empty words designed to obfuscate the issue and confuse the members.

One of the themes of the Times piece is the usual "teacher quality is the most important determiner claptrap. Of course, Weingarten and her political cohorts, the Clintons, say this all the time, which puts the blame for failure clearly on the teacher. So I don't believe the UFT is against this plan philosophically.

But you know my view of Randi and the rest of the Unity Caucus crew is that they are 5th column collaborators, or, Vichyists, if you will.

Newcomers HS Chapter Leader Michael Fiorillo echoes some of these thoughts in a post to ICE-mail:

Apparently, the UFT fundamentally seems to agree with them: rhetoric made for public consumption aside, they clearly support the "testing as achievement" regime, as confirmed by their support of a merit pay plan that enshrines testing, use of managementframed data in making tenure decisions, passivity regarding testing mandates stemming from NCLB, testing used in rating and school-closing decisions, etc.

This is what a "bi-partisan," "postideological" political landscape looks like: corporate self-interest and stealth privatization masquerading as "reform," and ambitious union misleaders helping them manage the transition.

The Media is getting it: Choking the Big Schools

Gail Robinson referred to my ednotes blog and Wave piece mentioning Beach Channel HS in The Gotham Gazette's blog, "The Wonkster" on January 16th, 2008. The Freedman piece is a must read on the failures of BloomKlein. Note that disgusted teachers are beginning to speak out publicly.

A powerful column in today's Times by Samuel Freedman describes a disgraceful situation at Richmond Hill High School in Queens: Packed with more than twice the intended number of students, classes in aging, sometimes, decrepit trailers, jerry-rigged schedules in a desperate attempt to accommodate some 3,600 teenagers.

"Who decides to treat people this way?" Brian Sutton, a dean and special

education teacher at Richmond Hill asks Freedman. "You don't build a school for 1,800 students and stick nearly 4,000 in it. Why? Who would want to do something like that to other human beings? On purpose."

The answer:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.

Or, as Freedman puts it, "The problem is the outcome of Department of Education decisions to open scores of small, niched schools in the area, close large ones perceived as academic failures and leave the excess students to land in traditional schools like Richmond Hill …. In this version of education reform, it is never hard to tell the winners from the losers."

Given that record, it's hardly surprising that there is a sense of foreboding at Beach Channel High School in Far Rockaway, according to Education Notes Online. With nearby schools, especially Far Rockaway High School closing, the blog says, "BCHS is preparing for an influx of ninth graders next year," particularly English language learners and special ed students who probably will not be accepted by the new small schools. Complicating the pictures are "rivalries between students at the two schools." So, the blog asks, "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?"

Throughout his tenure, Klein has shown little concern for larger high schools - except when he plans to shut them. In Education Notes on Line, Patrick Sullivan, the Manhattan representative on the Panel for Education Policy, says he had asked Klein about Francis Lewis High School in Queens, which according to Sullivan, "sounds much like Richmond Hill in the article." Klein reportedly said the problem at Francis Lewis exists "because too many parents wanted their kids to go to these schools." At a meeting a few years ago, I heard Klein respond similarly to people worried about severe overcrowding at Brooklyn's Fort Hamilton High School. "They're voting with their feet," he said happily.

Klein and Bloomberg - along with the Gates Foundation and others - have a lot invested in small schools. Remember the glossy paid newspaper supplements urging kids to select one of the small schools? The ad campaign touting - somewhat disingenuously - the achievements of the small schools. The larger schools remain, often neglected but nonetheless continuing to try to educate most New York City kids.

The links is at: http://www.gothamgazette. com/blogs/wonkster/2008/01/16/choking-thebig schools/ Delivery of Broad Prize Banners and Flags

Joel Klein's Principals' Weekly (which we fondly refer to as "The Weakly") had this delicious item last week:

"The Broad Foundation has provided us with flags and banners for our schools. These are in recognition of your hard work that helped New York City win the 2007 Broad Prize for Urban Education. You will be receiving one banner and one flag during the next week. They will be delivered to your building's general office, to your attention. Your custodial staff can assist you in determining how to display the flag and the banner. Keep in mind that you should not hang the banner on the exterior of your building, since it is likely to be blown around in inclement weather."

Which prompted this satirical piece I wrote on http://ednotesonline.blogspot.com/ blog: NYCDOE Appoints CEO of "Broad Prize Banners and Flags"

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has appointed his old pal Smellington G. Worthington III, the founder of BFER (Billionaires for Educational Reform), to a newly created position as the CEO in charge of "Hanging Broad Prize Banners and Flags." Worthington will generously take a pay cut and work for a nominal salary of $225,000 a year. "It's my civic duty to serve the poor children of New York," said Worthington.

"Imagine their glee when upon arriving at school every morning from their little hovels, they will gaze upon the banners celebrating the wonderful achievement of our winning the Broad Prize, something we will use to get Michael Bloomberg elected as president."

Chancellor Joel Klein has appointed Alvarez and Marsal as consultants on the project for a $5 million a year. "We were lucky to get A& M so cheap," said a DOE spokesperson, citing their historical expertise in being able to find just the right spot to hang a banner. "That is not an easy thing to do and we just don't have people with those kinds of skills currently working in the Department," said the spokesperson, "particularly since they were ordered NOT to hang the banners on a school's exterior wall."

The money for A & M was raised privately from the profits from foreclosing on the homes of people ruined by sub-prime rate mortgages. Bloomberg will hire a fleet of skywriting airplanes to blanket the skies with facsimiles of the Broad banner and flag.

BFER is a satirical site and can be found at: http://smellington.wordpress.com/And check out this new blog on Mayor Mike's Presidential ambitions:http://respitefrommike.blogspot. com/

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