What’s with the Ravitch thing?


Diane Ravitch.

There seems to be a mild dust up over Diane Ravitch. I’m not part of that crowd that calls themselves public intellectuals, so maybe that’s why I’m not so emotionally invested in this.

But I do find it mildly interesting.

Ravitch has been a long-time defender of teacher unions. But her own resume isn’t overwhelming as progressive history. She has been known to hang with an iffy crowd: The Fordham Foundation, the DOE under Bush I, the right-wing Hoover Institute. Unsavory people, if you know what I mean. Nobody I would have to my house for dinner, although I grant you, that’s setting a low bar. Or setting it high. I never know how that expression works. I keep getting an image of playing limbo. Let’s just say, I wouldn’t leave my wallet on the night stand if I knew her friends were sleeping in the next room.

If you have been reading her exchanges with Debbie Meier at EdWeek, you can see that she seems to have moved some. That’s good.

At Eduwonk, Andy got all excited about a column in the Post by a stooge for Mayor Bloomberg which attacks Ravitch for flip-flopping on her previously held education positions.

The thing is that if Ravitch has flip-flopped on all the things that the Bloomberg stooge says that she flip-flopped on then I think that’s a good thing. That would make her wrong before and right now. Welcome to the side of the light, Diane.

Over at UFT’s EdWize, they go a little crazy in attacking the attack. “Sordid,” they call it.

I’m a believer that our enemy’s enemy is our friend. And if Bloomberg is unhappy with Ravitch, she’s ok with me. that’s good too. I’m against personal attacks. If only the Ravitch defenders had been so intense about, say, Debbie Almontaser when she was under attack by the wing-nuts at the Post. But that was then and this is now.

As Anne would say, I need to “build a bridge and get over it.”

Update: Ravitch responds to Bloomberg’s stooge here.

Another update: And now Ravitch is defended by Checker Finn. Ick.

This raises the question: Would you rather be attacked by Michael Bloomberg or defended by Checker Finn?

It should remind us that you can talk all you want about Ravitch’s “personal integrity.” Ravitch is a member along with the racist Checker Finn of the board of trustees of the right-wing Fordham Foundation. She hasn’t quit that bunch yet, has she?

Tzimmes and borscht.


Fifteen seconds = a moment.

While a court upheld the stupid “moment of silence” law that was voted out of the legislature by the fools in Springfield, our district still hasn’t figured out what to do with our fifteen seconds. Apparently someone, somewhere has decided that a “moment” is fifteen seconds.

Green Dot for the South Bronx.

Following the collaborative agreement a few months back between the UFT and the non-profit charter operator, Green Dot, the SUNY board of trustees approved the school to be operated in the South Bronx. Board approval must be followed by approval by the NY State Board of Regents.

“Many charter school operators have been aggressively anti-union and have tried to employ teachers without providing them with any rights, career track or fairness,” said UFT President Randi Weingarten. “Green Dot, on the other hand, encourages its teachers to unionize, and in doing so it has shown its commitment to fair treatment, fair pay and a teacher voice in the workplace,” she said.

Rotherham seems defensive following NOLA report.

The report by the New Orleans teachers’ union underscored the problems with the privatization of schools in New Orleans following Katrina. The destruction of an open public system has been led by the constantly traveling Paul Vallas (forced out of Chicago, fled Philadelphia, settled in New Orleans). Andy Rotherham’s post seems mighty defensive.

What will get obscured, I worry, is that while New Orleans has a dual-school system with open-enrollment and selective schools, those delineations cut across all schooling categories and predate Katrina. It’s not a charter and non-charter issue. In fact, many of the charter school leaders in New Orleans, for instance New Schools for New Orleans, are more committed to the idea of open-enrollment than much of the previous public system.

Union questions NOLA charter results.


Paul Vallas and Maggie Spellings.

Two years after Katrina, two years of reorganizing New Orleans schools, two years of a flood of charter schools, and following the arrival of Paul Vallas, how are New Orleans schools doing?

Not great, says a report from the United Teachers of New Orleans, Louisiana Federation of Teachers and American Federation of Teachers.

The report, “Reading, Writing and Reality Check,” released Thursday by the United Teachers of New Orleans, Louisiana Federation of Teachers and American Federation of Teachers, asserts that little evidence shows charter schools are helping to rectify long-standing inequities. Results of recent high-stakes testing were mixed among charters schools. Schools where student achievement improved — both charters and non-charters — had the largest percentage of veteran teachers, the report stated.

A recurring issue for charters all over the country appears in this report too and it deals with special needs students:

Since the state takeover, the number of students classified as having special needs citywide dipped from just less than 10 percent to 6.2 percent, which means that either students are being discouraged from enrolling or improperly classified, the report states.



75% of the American people oppose the war. 10,000 of us marched in Chicago yesterday. A couple hundred young kids from The Woodlawn Organization led the parade along with Chicago’s more progressive aldermen like Joe Moore and Ricardo Munoz, symbolizing the impact the war has had on our cities.

Three over coffee.


Peet’s Coffee was crowded. This morning started off rainy. But the rain has stopped and, even though the temperature won’t get into the sixties today, there’s nothing to stop anyone from marching (walking?) against the war. 1:30 at Union Park, Ashland and Madison. Mike and Susan are doing security, so those two guys who are still for the war better watch their step!

Bush thinks we’re stupid.

An article in this morning’s NY Times says that W is trying to use the California fires to reverse the verdict on his inaction following Katrina.

President Bush long ago accepted responsibility for the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. But now his administration and its allies are using the California disaster, with its affluent victims and reverse 911 telephone-warning system, to revisit Louisiana’s handling of the 2005 hurricane — and, in the process, to rewrite the story of one of the Bush administration’s biggest setbacks.

First of all, the American people won’t forget the images of poor folks on their roofs begging for help and their pleas going unanswered, or the photos of their bloated bodies on the side of the road days after Katrina hit. And, “You’re doin’ a heck of job, Brownie,” is now the stuff of legend.

And even for those who think things went well in California.

Read the NY Times report on what has happened to the immigrant poor as a result of the fires.

“When you were young you fought ‘The Man.’ Now you are ‘The Man.’ Quit it.”

I’ve mentioned before that my district, like most districts, filters way too much of what should be available to teachers and students on the internet. Up until this week you could read Dangerously Irrelevant, a blog which deals with education and the internet in a highly professional way, with no ads, pop-ups or other inappropriate materials. The day after this was posted it was blocked. So if you work in my district and you want to read this, you have to wait until you get home.

Update: Thanks. At least for the time being, Dangerously Irrelevant, has been unblocked.

The war. I’m walking tomorrow.

Tomorrow Anne and I are leaving the car at home. I’m taking the Blue Line downtown to the Lake/Clark station and switching to the Lake Street El to Ashland. The Lake Street El is named for a color now too, but I forget which color. Not Orange or Red, I’m pretty sure. Back in the day they named the El lines after their final destination. Now they are named for colors, but since I have to drive to the suburbs to get to work, I don’t really take the El, except for the Blue Line to the Loop.

But tomorrow I have to get to Union Park on the West Side to protest this dirty war. They’re expecting twenty thousand marchers and I hope they’re wrong. Twice that many would be good.

We’ll listen to some politicians and activists. Well, nobody will actually listen, but they’ll be speaking. And then we’ll march down Jackson to the Federal Plaza. I was just there this week with my 4th graders to look at architecture and public art.

But, I digress. Tomorrow eleven cities will have protests against the war. If you live in New York, Orlando, Boston, LA, San Francisco, Jonesborough Tenn. (!), New Orleans, Philadelphia, Seattle, Salt Lake City or Chicago, there is a protest near you.

I was going to give all the reasons for joining the march. But if you don’t have a reason by now…

Hope to see you tomorrow.

More on pay for performance.


The Joe Torre analogy.

I’m liking how Eduwonkette is approaching this topic. I’m interested in thinking about the way she compares compensation based on inputs as opposed to outputs and the difficulty in coming up with something reliable and fair when dealing with outputs. I definitely join with others who teach in rejecting the notion that compensation should be based on test scores, an idea that is is characterized by unfairness and invites corruption.

on the other hand is unhappy with Swarthmore’s Barry Schwartz who wrote the NY op-ed piece on the topic yesterday.

Read Rotherham’s response to Schwartz and if you can make any sense out of this paragraph then you should be a BS panelist at the AEI education conference.

Using pay as one strategy to recognize excellence is not the same as assuming people will not try absent compensation. Pay for performance or whatever you want to call it is a way to recognize and reward excellence and consequently change the culture to celebrate excellence. I don’t hear too many people argue that pay for performance will inspire teachers to work harder, that’s not the point.

Merit pay, says Rotherham, isn’t to inspire teachers to work harder. It is to reward teachers who have proven themselves and create a culture change that recognizes excellence. Get it? It’s not to inspire teachers to work harder. It is to reward teachers who HAVE worked harder.

As for the Joe Torre argument, Rotherham says:

we don’t pay all baseball managers, or players, in lockstep. In fact, we don’t pay college professors like that, either…

Oh jeez. Does Andy really want to get near the topic of comparing baseball player salaries to teacher salaries? Yes. Let’s have a national policy debate on that! Or does he really want to talk about college professors and outputs? Would he like to compare the salaries of professors in the sciences compared to professors in the liberal arts? Not exactly in lockstep. But not exactly based on student performance either.

Just to review. Even present teacher salary schedules don’t pay teachers in lockstep. Take my district’s schedule for example. Here are some of the criteria that impact salary:

Years of teaching. Professional development. Advanced degrees. Extra-curricular work with students. Mentoring. Curriculum development and writing. Building leadership responsibilites. Department chair positions.

By the way. My salary as a teacher is public information. What is the salary schedule for people who work for the Ed Sector? How is their salary determined? What outputs are their salaries tied to? Just asking.

Earlville teachers get their contract.

Members of the Earlville Teachers Association went back to class today, ending a three-day strike that sent them to the picket line Oct. 19.

The 37-member ETA and the Earlville Community Unit District 9 school board agreed on a contract Tuesday night. Terms of the agreement are not yet available since a ratification vote was expected late this afternoon. Salary and health insurance premiums were unresolved issues after an accord was reached on retirement issues last week.

Joe Torre says “no” to performance pay.


First of all, don’t get the wrong idea. I hate the Yankees. I have always hated the Yankees.

Second. I am not the first to make note of the irony that at the same time the NY teachers’ union was agreeing to a form of pay for performance, Yankee manager Joe Torre was rejecting another form of pay for performance.

Today, Barry Schwartz, professor from Swarthmore, writes on the op-ed page of the NY Times:

But the insult Torre feels for being offered a bonus for doing something few baseball managers can do is nothing compared with the insult that New York City teachers should be feeling right now. At the same time Torre was being given the offer he couldn’t accept, the city announced that it will start offering bonuses to teachers whose students perform well on standardized tests. In other words, teachers can’t be trusted to do their jobs without bonuses. How insulting can you get?