NYC Educator. A time for every purpose under heaven.

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– NYC Educator is a teacher, local UFT leader and union activist.

I was pretty surprised to read a story in the NY Post with a picture of a few dozen white teachers wearing NYPD shirts. Apparently they’d triumphed over the insidious UFT, which had somehow advised them against wearing said apparel. There was talk of appropriate apparel, and vague threatened consequences for wearing things deemed inappropriate. I guess UFT was trying to be tactful.

I respect NYPD. My daughter aspires to be NYPD. I don’t wear an NYPD t-shirt because I haven’t got one, but I might if I did.

Still, I wouldn’t have gotten together with 20 of my colleagues and worn one to make a statement the first day of school. Why not?

I’m gonna suppose that most of my readers are teachers. So imagine this. A teacher gets caught selling cigarettes on the street one day. One single policeman decides to stop this. The teacher decides to resist arrest and said policeman kills this teacher.

On the first day of school, after your colleague is killed on the street, you walk in to your place of work. You’re greeted by the principal, and by all the APs, and they’re all wearing NYPD shirts. They want to show support for NYPD on this particular day. How do you feel?

Imagine this, instead. You are not an adult. You are a student, a minority student. (In fact, that’s an odd term, because minority students form the majority of NYC students.) You’ve heard stories about how one of your own was killed on the street by a policeman. When you meet your teacher, your teacher is wearing an NYPD shirt, to show her support for the police. All the other teachers are wearing the same shirts.

Why are they celebrating the police right after a police has choked one of your people to death? What can your young mind conclude?

And then, there was the Staten Island march, protesting this act. A lot of people took this as disrespect for the NYPD, but I don’t see it that way at all. In fact, it was an occasion to deplore an act that was plainly deplorable. I have never suggested that the policeman who did this act should not receive due process, nor has anyone from UFT. I have no idea what that entails, and I’m not qualified to decide how this should be dealt with. However, I don’t think people who sell cigarettes should end up being killed on the street. So I stood with all the people who felt the same.

There was a UFT Facebook post about that. I was horrified by some of the comments on it. I was glad when that post was taken down. Some comments seemed borderline racist, and others seemed to go right over the line. Reading those comments made me decide to go to Staten Island and stand against racism, against violence, against needless death. Had the police killed a machine-gun wielding Scarface wannabe, I’d surely have felt differently. But that was not the case here.

And then there was that “tactful” UFT message. I was pretty surprised at how it was worded. Why didn’t the UFT simply say, “If you wear an NYPD shirt right after a black man is killed on the street by a police officer, your students of color may perceive your choice of wardrobe to be an expression of approval for that act.” And why would that not cross the minds of any thinking person who chose to dress like that, particularly if they chose to do so as a group?

There’s also been quite a bit of talk about Al Sharpton. I’m not a fan, particularly since he teamed up with Gingrich and Duncan to spread reforminess throughout the land. Then there’s talk of UFT President Mike Mulgrew, and how he needs to resign for asking UFT members to participate. Regular readers of this blog know Mike Mulgrew would like nothing more than to punch me in the face, and Mulgrew’s theme at the rally, that it was “time to teach,” rang quite hollow after all that punchiness.

But I didn’t go for Gingrich, and I didn’t go for Mulgrew. I went because I’m a teacher. I went because I’m part of a community. I went because people who are not harming other people ought not to be killed on the street.

Read the entire post here.

On this May Day morning my eyes are on Brooklyn and my heart is in Brooklyn.

 

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Staff at Brooklyn’s International High School at Prospect Heights hold a press conference this morning announcing their boycott of the ELA Performance Exam.

As a Chicagoan, nothing symbolizes the spirit of rebellion against what is wrong more than May Day.

The working class holiday began in this city with the fight for the 8 hour day and the events at Haymarket Square.

This morning teachers and staff at the International High School at Prospect Heights are rebelling against the wrong that standardized testing has become.

Each staff member – teachers, psychologists and paraprofessionals – has signed on to a letter to the new New York City Schools Chancellor, Carmen Fariña.

Among the dedicated teachers whose names are on the letter printed below is my daughter Jessica Klonsky. She is a teacher at this wonderful Brooklyn high school serving the community’s immigrant students. She is a veteran of more than a dozen years teaching in the New York City School system.

This May Day morning my eyes are on Brooklyn and my heart is in Brooklyn.

Dear Chancellor Carmen Fariña,

We are New York City public school teachers at the International High School @ Prospect Heights. Over 95% of our students have recently arrived to the United States and are learning to read, write, and speak English. After much deliberation and thoughtful discussion with fellow educators, students, and parents, we have decided to abstain from administering the New York City ELA Performance Assessment.

The New York City ELA Performance Assessment serves no educational purpose for English Language Learners or their teachers. The test was constructed and formatted without any thought for the 14% of New York City students for whom English is not their first language. The level of English used in the pre-test administered in the Fall was so far above the language levels of our recent immigrant student population that it provided little or no information about their language or academic proficiencies. Despite their best efforts and determination, the vast majority of our students received zero points, even though their classwork demonstrates increasing mastery of both English and academics. Accordingly, the test is an inadequate measurement of both student learning and instructional effectiveness. What is the point of spending valuable class time on an assessment that does not inform instruction?

When we administered the test in the fall, the experience was traumatic for both students and teachers. Ultimately, the lessons our students learned were about discouragement and failure. Their first experience as high school students taking a standardized test set the stage for future anxiety and confusion in subsequent testing situations. Participating in this assessment has and will continue to negatively impact their learning experiences and their confidence in their own abilities to succeed. Our students believe in the education system in our country, and they deserve a fair chance. This test, like many standardized tests, teaches them that no matter how hard they work, they will fail.

Our Objections to the ELA Performance Assessment

The ELA Performance Assessment actively ignores the need to make accommodations for students who are learning English, such as providing reading aloud and rephrasing instructions, providing translations, etc. Such accommodations for English Language Learners are routinely given in other testing situations.
The ELA Performance Assessment is intended to measure growth for people who already know English. Our students’ growth will not be measured in this test because the test was not designed for new English language speakers. It was designed for those already fluent in English.
Our students need every minute of instructional time they can get, and we work hard to make that time productive. This test is simply not a good use of their time or ours.
Finally, 50% of parents and guardians in our school community have opted their students out of the exam.
We understand our decision to abstain from administering the test may impact aspects of our evaluations. Despite the potentially negative consequences, our professional judgment dictates that we cannot participate in this assessment. We are not willing to sacrifice the trust of our students, their feelings of self worth, and our professional duty to do what is best for them.

In good conscience, as educators dedicated to the learning of our students and the welfare of our school communities, we are not administering this test.

We applaud your memo to principals instructing that they respect families’ rights to opt their children out of tests, we appreciate the respect you have already shown to educators as professionals and look forward to the changes you will make regarding the use of high stakes testing in our schools. We ask that you remove the New York ELA Performance Exam in favor of an assessment created by educators who best know the individual needs of their students and classrooms.

Sincerely, and professionally signed,

Dr. Robert Stephen Watson – 12th Grade Math Teacher

Joanna Yip – Literacy Coach

Rosemarie Frascella – 12th Grade English Teacher

Bob van Pelt – 12th Social Studies Teacher

Cynthia Chatman – Visual Arts Teacher

Melina Coppa – Music Teacher

Emily Giles – 9th/10th Grade Science Teacher

Adam Lammers – 11th Grade Science Teacher

Emily Wendlake – 9th/10th Grade English Teacher

Jessica Klonsky – 12th Grade English Teacher

Anita Feingold-Shaw – 9th/10th Grade English Teacher

Sabina Hall – 9th/10th Social Studies Teacher

Melissa de Leon – 9th/10th Social Studies Teacher

Mariano Muñoz – Parent Coordinator

Karena Brown – Social Worker

Angela Joseph – 9th/10th Grade Science Teacher

Brian Hsu – 11th Grade Math Teacher

Vadim Feyder – 11th Grade English Teacher

Anya Wislocki – 11th Grade Social Studies Teacher

Yanet Bueno – 9th/10th Grade Math Teacher

James Rice – 11th Grade Social Studies Teacher

Melissa Gitlin – Physical Education Teacher

Carlos Diaz – 9th/10th Grade Math Teacher

Jonah Misterka – 9th/10th Grade Math Teacher

Jennifer Dickman – 9th/10th Grade Science Teacher

Rachel Huang – 12th Grade Science Teacher

Linda Ponciano – Guidance Counselor

Annmarie Oliver – Special Education Teacher

Majed Seif – Paraprofessional

Kirsti Pantin – Community Outreach Coordinator

Teachers at Brooklyn’s International High School at Prospect Heights boycott the NYC English Language Arts Performance Assessment Exam.

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This just in:

On Thursday, May 1, 2014, we, the teachers and school staff, at the International High School at Prospect Heights are refusing to give the NYC English Language Arts Performance Assessment Exam. We are standing in solidarity with the more than 50% of our parents who have opted their students out of taking the test.

Please support the teachers and staff members who have joined together to abstain from administering a test we we believe is harmful to English Language Learners(ELLS). We are not willing to sacrifice the trust of our students, their feelings of self worth, and our professional duty to do what is best for them. In good conscience, as educators dedicated to the learning of our students and the welfare of our school communities, we are not administering this test. We ask that Chancellor Carmen Fariña remove the New York ELA Performance Exam in favor of an assessment created by educators who best know the individual needs of their students and classrooms.

Please read our letter and sign in support!

CONTACT:

Emily Giles, e.giles@ihsph.org, (917) 575-2936

Emily Wendlake, emilywendlake@gmail.com, (413) 657-7255

Rosie Frascella, r.frascella@ihsph.org, (917) 767-1001

Anita Feingold-Shaw, afeingoldshaw@gmail.com, (510) 872-1712

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**Media Advisory**

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26 Teachers and Staff of International High School at Prospect Heights refuse to give NYC ELA Performance Assessment Test

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WHEN: Thursday, May 1, 2014, 7:45-8:20am,

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WHERE: International High School at Prospect Heights, 883 Classon Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225

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WHAT: Teachers will hold a press conference to announce their refusal to administer the NYC ELA Performance Assessment. 26 teachers and staff at Prospect Heights International High School are refusing to administer a new assessment that is part of the new teacher evaluation system pushed by Bloomberg’s DOE and the UFT last spring. 50% of parents have opted their children out of the test. The high school serves almost exclusively recently arrived English Language Learners.

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WHY: The test was constructed and formatted without any thought for the 14% of New York City students for whom English is not their first language. The level of English used in the pre-test administered in the Fall was so far above the level of our beginner ELLs that it provided little to no information about our students’ language proficiency or the level of their academic skills.

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Furthermore, the test was a traumatic and demoralizing experience for students. Many students, after asking for help that teachers were not allowed to give, simply put their heads down for the duration. Some students even cried.

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Teachers at Prospect Heights are drawing a line with this test. Standardized, high stakes test dominate our schools, distort our curriculum and make our students feel like failures. This test serves no purpose for the students, and ultimately only hurts them.

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26 Teachers have signed a letter to Chancellor Farina declaring that they will not give the exam. The letter expresses gratitude for Farina’s immediate turn around of the DOE’s attitude toward teachers, and asks that the Chancellor reconsider the use of the NYC ELA Performance Assessment with English Language Learners.

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WHO: Teachers and support staff from the International High School at Prospect Heights.

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RSVP: This event is open to press and coverage is welcome.

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The International High School at Prospect Heights is a public high school located in Brooklyn, NY.

Humans of New York. “God won’t fix it. We’ve got to fix it.”

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“Let me tell you what’s happening to me. I’m on the PTA at my child’s school, the Secondary School of Journalism in Park Slope. I’m currently advocating on behalf of my child, and seventeen other children whose parents don’t speak English. These kids are from Ecuador, Peru, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, everywhere. These kids have all done very well on their Regent’s exams– I’m talking 90/95th percentile. Very smart kids. They were on their way toward qualifying for an Advanced Regents government scholarship,that would give their parents badly needed money to help in their education. But the fine print of that scholarship says the children need three full years of a foreign language.

And the principal at the school FIRED the Spanish teacher. She is not hiring another foreign language teacher for an entire year, effectively disqualifying all these kids from that scholarship they need. When we try to talk with her about it, she acts like she doesn’t owe us an explanation. When we try to call the Board of Education, they tell us to put it in writing. They get us all excited. They have us think if we write a nice letter, and use good grammar, and use all the correct punctuation, something will happen. Meanwhile another year passes, and nothing. And the kids don’t get their scholarship. You know something like this would never happen at a nice Manhattan school like Stuyvesant.

We’ve got a new mayor and a new chancellor. So we aren’t blaming them. But they need to know how impossible they’ve made it to help our kids. Trying to get something fixed in these schools is like praying to some false God. You call and email hoping that God is listening, and nothing happens. Meanwhile the kids suffer. All these parents that I’m representing are good, simple people. They say: ‘Don’t worry Annette, God is going to fix it. God will make it right.’ I love them. And I love God. But I tell them: ‘God won’t fix it! We’ve got to fix it!'”

 

Duncan’s interference in NY school choice.

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The Washington Post is reporting on Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s attempted interference in New York Mayor Bill  De Blasio’s school chancellor choice.

Duncan reportedly told De Blasio not to choose Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr, according to several people knowledgable about the selection process.

Starr has been a vocal critic of Duncan’s corporate-driven reform efforts.

De Blasio ended up selecting 70 year-old New York school veteran administrator Carmen Farina, pleasing many New York and national schools activists and educators. Farina is considered by many to be a competent administrator, a professional educator who is critical of former Mayor Bloomberg’s bully-boy tactics and failed education policies.

Farina came out of retirement to take the job and few expect her to view it as a long-term commitment.

Starr was offered the No. 2 spot in the department, with the understanding that he would become chancellor within a few years, but he declined it, according to several people familiar with details of the search who spoke anonymously because of its political sensitivity.

Although Duncan’s interference in local schools is unprecedented by a Secretary of Education it is not the first time he has done it.

In January 2011, while D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) deliberated on who would succeed Michelle A. Rhee as D.C. schools chancellor, Duncan said publicly that he hoped  Kaya Henderson, Rhee’s deputy, would get the job. She did.

Starr was one of three current or former schools leaders in the Baltimore-Washington region whose names surfaced in connection with the New York job, considered one of the premier education posts in the nation.

The others were Henderson and Andrés Alonso, former chief executive officer of the Baltimore City public school system, suggesting that the region is a hot spot for education reform and a training ground for education leader.

What isn’t clear is if Duncan also pushed Kaya Henderson for the New York position and De Blasio said no.

Checkers. Charters.

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I was pleased Bill de Blasio won the election for Mayor of New York.

I don’t know how it will turn out now that the difficult stuff has started.

But the wing nuts at the Fordham Institute have already decided.

Remember when MIchael Petrilli, the boss at Fordham, damned Diane Ravitch as a double agent?

 The skeptical, hard-nosed (if biased and data-slanting) Ravitch of the first half of her book turns into a pie-in-the-sky dreamer in the second half.

Consider her “solutions”:

1. Provide good prenatal care for every pregnant woman.

2. Make high-quality early-childhood education available to all children.

3. Make sure every school has a “full, balanced, and rich curriculum.”

4. Reduce class sizes.

5. Provide medical and social services to the poor.

6. Devise actionable strategies and specific goals to reduce racial segregation and poverty.

(She lists five other “solutions” that simply amount to rolling back reforms: Ban for-profit charters and charter chains; eliminate high-stakes standardized testing; don’t allow “non-educators” to be teachers, principals, or superintendents; don’t allow mayoral control of the schools; don’t view education as a “consumer good.”)

This all sounded like a recipe for quality education. Petrilli thought it was a pipe dream.

Now Fordham’s Chester Finn, aka “Checker,” blasts the de Blasio education agenda as hot air.

Here’s the list of what Checker doesn’t like that de Blasio campaigned for:

1. Universal pre-school.

2. Expanded after-school programs. Checker would replace that with a longer school day and more seat time.

3. Breakfast programs.

4. Expanded instruction in the Arts. Better to master the three Rs says Checker.

5. Reading mastery by third grade.

6. End reliance on single test scores.

7. Fixing schools rather than closing them.

8. Expanded career and technical education.

9. Improving school leadership.

10. Class size reduction. More harm than good whines Checker.

11. Higher standards for charter schools. “This would seriously damage one of the Bloomberg era’s signal education accomplishments.”

Ah.

That’s what this is really all about, isn’t it Checker?

De Blasio wants to make it harder for charters.

And close the door on the Bloomberg era.

None to soon as far as I’m concerned.

Watching from a distance. NY teacher evaluation blows up. Updated.

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New York’s bully-boy Mayor.

Watching from a distance, I responded with a smile when I heard that the negotiations over teacher evaluations between the UFT and New York’s Mayor Bloomberg blew up yesterday.

Governor Cuomo had put a deadline for an agreement to evaluate teachers based on student test scores, a stupid idea to be sure.

We’ve covered that territory before.

Cuomo threatened that without an agreement the city schools would be denied $250 million.

Now some in the NY press are screaming that the teachers (read the Union) cost the schools all that money.

Not that $250 million is chump change. But really it is.

It’s probably not much more than the total value of all of Bloomberg’s homes.

Here’s a question: Why should adequate funding of New York’s public schools be dependent on an evaluation agreement between Bloomberg and the teachers?

NY teachers have been without a contract since 2009, before Bloomberg’s re-election.

Many of my NY friends were justifiably concerned that UFT President Michael  Mulgrew and the UFT leadership would cave to the bully-boy Mayor on this.

You can read UFT leader Leo Casey’s description of the bargaining here.

Maybe we can thank Bloomberg for being too big a jerk for even that to happen.

NY’s Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) which organized a street protest of the deal yesterday, said :

The passing of the January 17 deadline for a new evaluation agreement is not an ending but a beginning. Now the DOE will work overtime to spin doctor the failure to reach an agreement on new teacher evaluations, mandated by New York State’s version of Race to the Top, as the fault of Michael Mulgrew and union leadership. This despite the fact that every indication shows it was Bloomberg who failed to negotiate in good faith.

While we applaud the UFT leadership for standing their ground, the MORE Caucus has no intention of giving up the fight to prevent our teachers and students from being given over to the standardized testing regime. We know there will be efforts in the future to convert our schools into low-level thinking factories and our teachers into low-skilled, low-paid bureaucratic functionaries.