Three over coffee.


I know I said postings would be light. I didn’t say they would stop. It’s Saturday morning. I have a few minutes. It’s misty rain outside. Peet’s was crowded. Mike and Susan joined us for coffee and something sweet. Well, I had a bagel.

The tyranny of language.

An above the fold story on Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez in the NY Times had me going. In spite of the best efforts of the Bush administration, Chavez is a hugely popular figure among the poor and peasants of Venezuela. The Times quotes a Chavez critic:

“This is not a dictatorship but something more complex: the tyranny of popularity.”

In some places that is called, “the will of the people.” In other places they call it, “democracy.” If only it could be true here.

Making noise about a moment of silence.

The Trib reported:

A federal judge today issued a preliminary injunction barring a suburban school district from implementing the state’s new law mandating a moment of silence at the start of classes, calling the statute too vague and “likely unconstitutional.”

U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman made the decision at a hearing on a lawsuit brought by local atheist activist Rob Sherman over issues related to the separation of church and state. Sherman sued Township High School District 214, in which his daughter is a freshman at Buffalo Grove High School.

Dave Zirin on Bonds indictment.

Arguments raged in the teachers lounge over Barry Bonds. I go with Zirin on this:

The fact is that Bonds is under attack from a collection of torture-loving, Habeas Corpus shredding, illegal wire tapping, political operatives. The idea that a Barry Bonds indictment becomes the first act of Mike Mukasey’s Justice Department only exposes Sens. Diane Feinstein and Chuck Schumer, and the other Democratic pols who backed his confirmation. They called him “a man of character” as well as “a strong leader, committed to depoliticizing the agency’s operations.” There is no evidence of character and leadership in this indictment; only the tawdry political desire for headlines.

Gobble, gobble.


This is definitely the crazy season for teaching: Two weeks of report cards and parent conferences.Not that parents are streaming into the art room to find out how their child is doing in the Visual Arts. But, we have three evenings of conferences scheduled.

I enjoy meeting the parents. When they do find their way into the art room, it is usually just to say “hi,” and look at the kids’ work.

Today is the last day before the Thanksgiving week break. Yep. We’re off the whole week. Monday through Wednesday combine a floating day with the comp days for the 12 hours of evening conferences. Thursday and Friday are holidays.

Remember, teachers get no paid holidays. In our district we are contracted for 185 days. If the state legislature passes a law to honor something, somebody or the other by closing schools, they tack on a day at the end of the year. It’s 185 days.

Tuesday Anne and I fly off to NY to see the kids and our grandchild. We’ll have turkey on Thursday in Flatbush with our family and some of their Brooklyn friends.

There were some early e-mail exchanges among family members about a Thanksgiving menu that is more quality and less quantity. This is crazy talk. The very IDEA of Thanksgiving is quantity over quality. You should be able to fill your plate twice without repeating a dish.

Anyway, I write this because for all of you who can’t go a day without checking in, the blogging will thin out a little the next week. I’m not sure I can go the whole week without posting anything. But it will definitely be quality over quantity.

Maybe that’s what they meant.

Morton West anti-war “mob” win a victory.

Morton West students in the working class suburb of Berwyn won their demand to be allowed back in school today. They had been suspended following in anti-war protest November 1st. Superintendent Bob Nowakowski rescinded his expulsion order.

Nowakowski had originally charged 38 students with “gross disobedience and mob activity” for taking part in the November 1st sit-in at the school cafeteria to protest the war in Iraq.

Parents, students, anti-war groups, the ACLU and Operation PUSH came to the students’ defense.

“It’s wonderful news,” said Rita Maniotis, president of the Parent Teacher Organization

The fight ain’t over. Parents want to make sure the penalties don’t appear on the students’ records.

Sun-Times story here. Tribune here.



  • Students here arrived at school in Yorkville, Illinois Monday to confront reading and math lessons instead of picket lines as teachers and administrators move toward ratification of a three-year contract. (Beacon News)
  • The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition is going after the Berwyn high school that suspended 25 students over an anti-war protest, threatening Monday to sue if the students aren’t returned to school. (Sun-Times)
  • Social Justice High School Principal Rito Martinez summoned Celso Gomez to his office last week and suggested he pull his son out of school and move him away from Little Village until simmering gang violence cooled down.

    The two agreed it was a good idea for 15-year-old Miguel Gomez to live with grandparents in Mexico. Nov. 2 was the sophomore’s last day in school.

    Less than a week later, the boy was gunned down in gang violence. (Sun-Times)

  • Rather than just pat themselves on the back, District 64 school board members already have expressed concern about how long they can continue to meet the rising state standards.

    “At what year are we going to fail to meet AYP?” asked board member Martin Joyce, at a District 64 meeting in late October. “Because we are going to fail.” (Park Ridge Herald-Advocate)

Trib gets it wrong on Green Dot.


Green Dot’s Steve Barr talks with the unions in Chicago.

There’s a lot of debate within the ranks of teacher union activists about Green Dot and charter schools. In my opinion, it is a good debate. If you go back over the past year of my own posts about Green Dot you will see that I have spent a good amount of time debating with me (and with Steve Barr himself) on the topic of Green Dot.

But the Chicago Tribune’s Green Dot editorial yesterday gets it wrong on a number of counts. Their facts are wrong (well, it is the Chicago Tribune). Their politics are wrong (well, it is the Chicago Tribune).Let’s just look at the first two paragraphs to make my point:

A new crop of high schools in Los Angeles has the potential to change the labor model for public education. The idea: Challenge the monopoly that traditional teacher unions have in urban school systems and free good teachers to do what they got into the business to do — teach.

Green Dot Schools are charter high schools. Unlike most charter schools, teachers in Green Dot schools carry union cards. But they’re part of a new union that, in short order, has furiously and effectively challenged the status quo in Los Angeles.

While the reaction to Green Dot at LA’s Locke High School by AJ Duffy and the UTLA was weak and unnecessarily defensive, the intended target was the LAUSD. It was the “owners” of the LA school district that held the monopoly which prevented good teachers from practicing good teaching. This union-phobic analysis is consistent with the contempt with which the Tribune has always held teachers and teacher unions. It is a tradition that goes back to the days of the racist Colonel Robert R. McCormick.

And someone should tell the editorial writers in the Tower that the California Teachers Association, which now represent the teachers at Locke, is not a new union. In fact, it is the largest union in the state of California, the largest affiliate of the NEA.

Letter grades, growth models and stigmas.

NYC Educator suggests that bad education ideas start in NY and hit the west coast six months later. I’m not sure. We in the Midwest have produced our share of bad education ideas. But the school grade plan of Bloomberg and Klein are NY originals and are worth taking a look at.The NY Times editorializes today that the system of giving letter grades to schools should be tossed out:

Mr. Bloomberg should ditch the simplistic and counterproductive A through F rating system. It boils down the entire shooting match to a single letter grade that does not convey the full weight of this approach and lends itself to tabloid headlines instead of a real look at a school’s problems.

Otherwise the Times gives a stamp of approval to the Bloomberg/Klein accountability system. Yet, it seems that the public response to giving letter grades to schools based on a few test scores has created a backlash that even the Times can’t ignore.

The practice of giving, say, an F, to an otherwise high-performing school that lags in student improvement for a single year stigmatizes the entire school and angers parents. It also shakes the public’s faith in the evaluation system.

There’s a lot to look at in this case study. But one thing that jumps out at me is the issue of growth models. In the debate around reauthorization of NCLB, some critics of NCLB said that one way to improve the federal accountability provisions would be the use of growth models. They argued to not look at one or a two high stakes test scores one year. These critics argued that we should look at improvement on scores over time and compare those scores among similar schools. But that is precisely what was done in the NY case and it still led to this fiasco.

Bard’s president, Leon Botstein, isn’t in the meat business.


Bard College President, Leon Botstein.

You send your kid to a school in NY. It’s a good neighborhood school. You like the school. It has caring and dedicated teachers. It struggles with test scores, but as Eduwonkette has demonstrated, there doesn’t seem to be a correlation between test scores and a positive school environment.

As a result of the latest stupidity from NY’s school chancellor Klein, schools now get a grade, A through F. The grade is mainly based on Regents’ test scores. The school you send your kid to, the one with the good school environment but weak Regents’ test scores, gets a C or a D. Great incentive for the staff (I’m being ironic). Good for the kids too (irony again). And the parents start feeling uneasy (no irony).

But it is a regular school. No famous parents. No influence downtown.

According to the NY Times today, it’s a different story at Bard College’s school. They were going to get a C. But the DOE withheld the grade.

The Times reported that Bard President Leon Botstein appealed directly to Klein:

Mr. Botstein said he respected the chancellor’s need to turn around a failing school system, but urged that he not do it at the expense of innovation and excellence.

“You have a system that is broken and that is failing, and they are desperately trying to improve it. But don’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” he said. “There are a couple of places, and we’re one of them, that really do something different and well.

“Not all plants are weeds,” he said, “so why are you spraying insecticide on the whole thing?”

Oh, do tell.

“They’re in a tough bind, and I have a lot of respect for them,” Botstein said.

“Let’s say we’re a vegetarian restaurant and you’re telling me our meat is not good. I’m telling you we don’t serve meat. We’re not in the meat business.”


Three over coffee.


It’s a three-day weekend. No school Monday for Veteran’s Day. The front yard is loaded with fallen leaves. The two trees have no more leaves on them. But I’ll rake ’em up later. Coffee first.

Morton West anti-war students are getting lots of support.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

Representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, an anti-war group from Northeastern Illinois University and the Vietnam Veterans Against the War attended the meeting. They praised the students for their actions and said they are protected by their 1st Amendment rights.Disabled Gulf War veteran Cesar Ruvalcaba, dressed in his military uniform, chose to lash out at military recruiters allowed to roam the halls of the school.”Shame on the administrators who think receiving military money from recruiters is more important than the education of their students,” he told the board. “I am 100 percent disabled, and I learned the hard way that education, not carrying a machine gun, is the key to success. It’s those people who are pro-war who would never drop everything and go fight for the red, white and blue. These kids should receive extra credit for speaking up, not expulsion.”

Lobbyist for the tobacco industry and opponent of Mothers Against Drunk Driving is now ready to take on teacher unions.

The Las Vegas Sun reports that at the Conservative Leadership Conference last month, Richard Berman announced a plan to roll out a multimarket media campaign attacking teachers unions as impediments to education reform. With enemies like this, who needs friends?

On strike since October 15, Seneca Valley teachers 15 speak using YouTube.



  • Elgin School District U46 teachers could strike if an agreement is not reached later this month, union officials said Thursday.
  • Jerseyville — Teachers from the Jersey Community School District voted Saturday to approve a contract after six months of negotiations.

    The teachers have been working without one since school began in late August. The previous contract was for five years.

  • While some area school districts have been quick to implement a new state law requiring a “brief period of silence” at the start of the school day, Evanston-Skokie School District 65 plans to act as if the law doesn’t exist.
  • The Chicago Public Schools plan for the first time to restrict military recruiters who visit schools, including limiting access to students and banning gifts.
  • The president of the Gavin District 37 School Board has been charged with official misconduct and felony theft for allegedly structuring a contract to avoid competitive bidding and stealing about $11,000 from the Lake County Fair Association where she worked, the state’s attorney’s office said Thursday.
  • Illinois students who have limited English-language skills will have to take the regular state achievement exams beginning next year, under a recent decision by federal officials.