Monday, February 28, 2011

I Shouldn't Have Spoken So Soon

No matter how bad a departmental conference is, it beats a trip to the ER any day of the week.

For Joy, For Joy!

Department conferences on the first day back after break.  I can't wait!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

If Kids Were King

(Picture from New Orleans Mardi Gras Museum)

I saw The King's Speech this week and a couple of  things hit me...

Lionel Logue was a master speech teacher without any degrees.  He learned all he needed to know on the job.  Experience was his teacher and he had years of it.  All the doctorates in the world could not do what he did, help the King stop stammering.  The arch bishop, who knew nothing about speech impediments discounted Mr. Logue and tried to convince the King to find someone else to help him.

Most teachers do have masters degrees but not PhDs.  We learned what works best in the classroom from experience, not from those fancy theories that have never been tried in a classroom.  We know more about our subject than the corporations and the politicians that are telling us how to do our job.

The King had the power to ignore his advisers and go with the teacher who knew the most.  Too bad our students don't have that option.  They are subjected to every new theory-from workshop model to horse shoes to who knows what else and no one forcing these practices have any idea whether they will work or not.  Our kids don't have the power to tell the politicians to leave teaching to the teachers.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Vacation Ends

(Picture from Rose sculptures along Park Ave.)

This winter's horrendous weather kept me grounded this vacation and a bad cold kept me from even taking a road trip for a few days or a subway trip until today. Having time at home for meant I got to clean a few closets (not too many--being domestic is not one of my strong points)  and I got to watch some idiot television.  Retirement will mean I can get a full load of Divorce Court every day.  These idiots make some of the idiots (not referring to the kids here) I work with daily look smart.

I did manage to get into the city today.  The thought of not doing anything all week didn't sit well with me.  I even took a few pictures.

Pictured above is the Julia Richman Education Complex.  I began my teaching career here.  This was one of the first schools the city closed down years ago in an effort to improve education.  (I was at Packemin by then.)  Notice the phone booth on the corner.  The kids used to set that on fire whenever there was a fire drill in the building.

When Julia Richman was closed, the teachers were not blamed.  In fact, it was just he opposite.  Every teacher was given a choice of three schools and they were guaranteed placement in one of those.  Several teachers chose to remain.  The school was broken down into mini schools and only the best kids were allowed to remain.  The others were shipped out, shipped to schools that have now been closed down.

(More pictures here, on Facebook.)

Friday, February 25, 2011

History Repeats Itelf

Instead of witches, they are hunting teachers.

Aren't Schools Supposed To Protect Their Charges?

Marion's teacher saw him looking at his cell phone in class, something he usually never does and got concerned.  She approached this child and asked him what he was looking at.  The teacher saw a message from a male asking Marion to meet him outside. 

The teacher worried and called for a dean who did not respond.  The teacher called the head of security who also was not available to respond.  The teacher then called her supervisor who upon arriving said "This is not school business, what do you want me to do about it?"  The supervisor walked away in a huff.

The teacher then called the Marion's father who made sure to pick his son up at the end of the day.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Say My Name

Rihanna is helping my students learn to appreciate math. 

We were approximating square roots the other day and all of a sudden, Tiffany yelled, "I get it.  Now I know why she says the square root of 69 is 8 something."  I'm glad I found a way to relate math to their real lives.

(And no, we weren't finding the square root of 69--I'm not that insane!)

Colbert and Weingarten On Wisconsin

If Teaching Is Their Calling They Will Weather The Storm

Back in the '70's when I began my teaching career there were massive teacher layoffs.  No one called for the end of seniority to save the newbies.  No one said the new teachers were better than the old ones because, quite frankly, we weren't.

I was one of the lucky ones.  I would get laid off on Monday only to find I had my job back by Tuesday.  My school was not a very good one and we had lots of Title I money that kept remedial programs going.  Math teachers, even in schools without these funds fared better and many spent the first years of their careers moving from school to school before earning enough years to guarantee them a job in the same place.  Teachers in other subjects were not so fortunate.  Many ended up changing careers.  The ones I know ended up going into fields that were much more lucrative and did much better financially than they would have done had they stayed in teaching.  Others weathered the bad years and returned to education when things got better.

I became a teacher the traditional way, majored in math and minored in education.  I followed the full route, taking the meaningless education courses and the meaningful methods and student teaching classes.  But, the most important things I learned about teaching were the things I learned from the experienced teachers in my school.  They were the ones who taught me how to deal with students I never knew existed, the ones with the guns and the criminal records.  They taught me the most efficient way to write an exam. They shared lessons.  They helped me cope with a devil supervisor.  In other words, they gave me the survivor skills every teacher needs.  And now, there is a call to end "LIFO", to get rid of these experienced teachers so the newbies can keep their jobs.  The claim, of course will be that these experienced teachers are not effective but who's to say if they are or not?  Some vindictive principal with an axe to grind?   Some administrator who wants to save some money?  A person in power who wants to free up a teaching spot for his niece?

Any young person who truly wants to remain a teacher will do so.  They might be out of the classroom for a year or so, but if the desire is will, there will be nothing to keep them from returning to a school when things get better.  Ending "LIFO" is not only bad for the long term teachers, it's bad for children as well.  Without experience, who will be around to teach the teachers what they need to know?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

21st Century--I've Arrived

I actually have a computer in my night class.  I don't know what I could use it here for as it does not project (at least as far as I can figure out) on the board, but it's nice to have.  At least I can use it for attendance.

I'm giving an exam now and it is nice to be online without having to drag my laptop.  Glad the college allows the dinosaurs to have access to technology.

It's All About The $$$$

The media is highlighting all these new, young teachers who are so good and so dedicated and how devastating their layoff will be to the children they teach.  Thanks to JD2718 I just read this post, Will They Stay, a post about how quickly all these TFA youngsters leave the classroom.  Anyone worth a plug nickel will tell you that great teaching only comes with experience and this makes we wonder why only they newbies, like Stany LeBlanc are ever given any mention in the media?  The only reason I can come up with is a financial one.  Mr. LeBlanc costs a hell of a lot less than a teacher with 20 years experience and he will probably be long gone before his paycheck reaches its maximum.   I know this argument makes sense. The story about him comes from the Wall Street Journal.

Danger Ahead

Gave the algebra kids an online assignment.

Exactly one kid completed it so far and his grade was really bad so I let him redo it.  The results weren't much better.

If our school's grade depends on how these kids do on the regents this year, we are in serious trouble.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

City To Toughen Auditing Of School Test Scores

February 18, 2011  (NY Times)

City to Toughen Auditing of School Test Scores

New York City school officials said Friday that they would introduce a new, rigorous system of auditing the test scores, grading practices and graduation rates of the public high schools, appearing to acknowledge rising concerns that some schools might be manipulating the statistics they are judged by.
The move comes as the city and the state have sought to raise standards to better prepare students for college and careers, and as mounting evidence has cast doubt on whether even the current standards are being met.
In at least the past two years, an unusually large number of students have obtained exactly the minimum score needed to pass state Regents exams, which are often graded by their regular teachers. City officials say the anomaly existed even before Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took control of the city’s schools in 2003.
In an e-mail sent Friday to high school principals, Shael Polakow-Suransky, the department’s chief academic officer, said that auditors would look at how schools awarded course credits, graded Regents exams and tallied graduation figures in determining which schools to audit.
In a departure, the auditor general of the department, Brian Fleischer, is to oversee the new audits, to ensure greater independence. Previous audits were conducted case by case by the same office that develops the accountability practices.
“Ultimately, we want to have confidence, for ourselves, and for the public, in the data we use to measure schools,” Mr. Fleischer said. The new audit procedures, he said, “will be much more data-driven and systematic.”
About 60 high schools will be selected for the first round of audits, based on whether their data showed suspicious patterns, like sudden rises in scores, he said. Allegations of misconduct would be referred to the special commissioner of investigation for city schools. In the first year, however, the emphasis will be on providing guidance and training to schools so that employees understand what is expected.
Despite the increased scrutiny, Mr. Polakow-Suransky has said he does not believe there is widespread cheating. He said last week that the city aggressively investigated the “tiny handful of cases” where there were allegations. On the question of Regents scoring, a process determined by the state, he said, “We feel an obligation to work on this issue, despite the fact that they are not our tests.”
But observers of the school system, including those who have been skeptical of rising test scores and graduation rates, said officials seemed to acknowledge issues with some of the data.
“It seems to me that the D.O.E. is realizing that they have a credibility problem with their numbers and they’re trying to address that,” said Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children of New York, which has questioned whether some schools tally dropouts incorrectly to help graduation rates.
Officials said that they started working on toughening auditing procedures more than a year ago, but that in recent months they approached the issue with greater urgency.
The state comptroller recently completed a review of the city’s graduation rates, which has not yet been released to the public, though it has been submitted to city officials for their response.
The city had already begun investigating grading at the school that had the highest score on the department’s annual report cards, the Theatre Arts Production Company High School in the Bronx. Its teacher handbook indicated that failing grades were only for students who never went to class.
And an analysis by The New York Times found that on the English and history Regents exams in the past two years, students in the city’s public high schools were roughly five times as likely to score 65, the passing grade, or slightly above it than to score just below it.
Statisticians say that such a difference is out of line with the smooth scoring curve that should normally result. A recent report in The Wall Street Journal came to a similar conclusion.
Even on the algebra exam, where there are no essays, 8,451 students got grades of exactly 65, while only 7,145 students combined ended up with a score of 61, 62, 63 or 64.
Regents exams are graded by teachers within schools, and teachers are not barred from grading their own students. While the practice is controversial, some say it is appropriate to give students the benefit of the doubt.
There is ambiguity in grading essays, and even in mathematics tests, in which extra points can be given for students’ showing their work.
At one Queens high school, the number of students scoring 65 to 69 last year in the five most popular Regents exams — integrated algebra, global history, biology, English and United States history — was more than five times the number who scored 60 to 64.
“If you have a kid with a 64, you want to look at the paper again to give the kid an even chance,” said the school’s principal, who spoke only on condition that her name, and the name of her school, not be published. “We’re not talking about changing the grade where the kid got it wrong to make it right.”
David M. Steiner, the state education commissioner, acknowledged in an interview in January that the state had known for years of the spikes in scoring patterns.
The department has made some changes, like required training for teacher-scorers, and it is phasing in computer scoring for multiple-choice questions.
But of the practice of teachers’ grading their students’ exams, Dr. Steiner said, “obviously, it’s not ideal.”
The state, he said, was focused on building the next generation of exams, to come into use in three to five years, which may be completely graded by computer.

Amanda Cox, Robert Gebeloff and Fernanda Santos contributed reporting.


A Saturday At Packemin HS

It's Saturday afternoon.  The second and third floors of the school look like this. 

Staff and students are away, enjoying their weekend.

But wait, the first floor is alive with activity.

A group of students is working on a bulletin board that cannot be completed during the week.  Their teacher is nearby.

Another group is working on this big box that will transport their robot to competition at Javitz Center. Their teacher is neglecting her family to be here with them.

But the main attraction was the JROTC exhibition and competition.

Teachers and students from Packemin worked for weeks preparing.

There were kids who competed and spent what felt like zillions of hours perfecting their skills.

And there were the kids who worked behind the scenes making sure everything ran smoothly.

And there were  the other schools with their hard working teachers who came from all over the area to compete.

This man is hoping to join the staff so he is here with his two young sons, on a Saturday, getting to know everyone and participating.

Anyone who thinks teaching is a 6 hour and 50 minute job hasn't spent time with a teacher.
Any rating system that gives Packemin anything but an A is flawed.

I am proud to be in the same field as those mentioned above.

Monday, February 21, 2011

You Can't Have Your Cake And Eat It Too

Parents in Sayville are being given a choice as to which programs their school district should cut. Things on the chopping board include full day kindergarten, music program, after school enrichment activities,tutoring and college level classes for advanced students. The school day might also be shortened from 9 to 8 periods per day.

With the great cry for higher standards and more college readiness programs, these threatened cuts seem more ludicrous than ever. Higher standards require more activities, not less. If education is truly a priority in this country we have to find a way to fund it.

Faced with a potential $2.7 million reduction in its state aid, the Sayville school district has seized on an unusual strategy - asking parents and other residents what programs to cut if given the choice of fewer services or higher taxes.
The district, which serves 3,000 students, drew up a list of 30 programs that could be eliminated, ranging from elementary bands and orchestras to college-level math and science courses. Then the public was invited in to offer its input - an event last week that drew about 300 students, parents and other residents.
"Not to be dramatic," said Cassie D'Agostino, 17, one of the students who stepped up to the microphone, "but it's kind of a slap in the face to get to the end of your high school career and find it's all gone."
From today's Newsday:
In Sayville, as in other Long Island districts, final decisions on the future shape of school spending and services are still nearly two months away. So it's unusual for a district to put so many programs on a potential chopping block, and to do so at this stage in the process. No other Long Island district has reached out to the community the way Sayville has.
There was no clear consensus by the end of the forum. But with many Long Island teachers living in the district, the teacher union's influence weighs heavily on elected leaders.
Even so, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's call to slash the Island's school aid next year has stirred widespread fears that teachers will be laid off and popular programs lost.
Cuomo insists such fears are exaggerated - fanned by what he describes as frantic statewide lobbying.

Hike taxes or lose services
In Farmingville last week, more than 1,800 teachers, parents and others protested his plans. And in Sayville, Walter Schartner, the school superintendent and a former chemistry teacher, says he wants residents to understand that the district could either face a tax hike as high as 8 percent or painful reductions in teachers and services.
Schartner emphasized that he personally would rather not cut any programs on the list.
"Those are things the kids enjoy," he said.
At Tuesday's forum, many parents and students argued against cuts in elective courses and extracurricular activities - especially the district's award-winning music program. Some said school officials should look for savings in other areas, such as further concessions by Sayville's teacher union, which has already agreed to partial pay freezes.
Sean Murphy, 44, a home-improvement contractor, said he hadn't taken any salary since December so he could pay his workers instead. "When are we going to hear about pay cuts, and not just a freeze?" Murphy asked.
Sayville's teacher union notes it already has agreed to six-month freezes in contractual raises and step increases, both for this year and next. Even with next year's partial freezes, the district says salary costs are due to rise more than 4 percent.
Islandwide, most districts won't come up with final budget proposals until mid-April, with voting by the public the following month. But local PTA meetings already buzz with rumors over which programs might have to go: full-day kindergarten, art, music, sports.

From 9 class periods to 8
Freeport plans to shed 26 staff positions next year; Middle Country, up to 14. Administrators in Glen Cove, Harborfields and South Huntington all confirm that daily class schedules at their high schools might be reduced from nine periods to eight.
For struggling students, that would mean less remedial tutoring - and for advanced students, fewer elective choices.
"Everything we do is on the table - there are no sacred cows," said Joseph Laria, the Glen Cove superintendent.
In Albany, Cuomo has proposed a $1.5 billion, or 7 percent, cut in statewide school aid to help erase a state budget deficit pegged as high as $10 billion. Under the plan, the Island's schools would lose nearly $250 million of their aid next year, on top of $172.6 million lost this year.
Cuomo proposes capping annual increases in property taxes at 2 percent or the inflation rate, whichever is lower. If lawmakers approve, the cap would take effect in 2012-13.
All this has touched off furious exchanges between the governor and school lobbyists, with some overheated claims on both sides.
Recently, the State School Boards Association distributed copies of a study showing that a tax cap could cost the Island more than 3,300 teacher jobs. But calculations were based on last year's inflation rate, which would have held districts to a zero tax increase, rather than the current 1.5 percent.
Cuomo, meanwhile, has released his own data, showing that districts statewide are holding $1.8 billion in cash reserves and unused federal jobs money. Initially, the governor suggested this was more than enough to offset his proposed cuts. But aides later backed away from that position, saying it was understood that districts couldn't prudently spend down the bulk of their reserves in a single year.
With Joie Tyrrell

To Advertisers On RMT

Dear Name of Vice President for Marketing,

            I am a teacher in a community with many gifts and many needs.  Many years ago, I was asked by my principal to teach a class of students who experienced many social difficulties.  Unfortunately, one of those students was a very angry young man who had intense feelings of rage towards females in positions of authority and persons of colour.  This young man began to obsess and fixate on me to the point where he would stalk me and post swastikas on my classroom door. The Hate Crimes unit of the police department became involved and the student was seriously cautioned.

            At about the same time the website “Rate My Teacher” was created.  This website became a vehicle through which this student could express and post intense feelings of hatred towards me.  Knowing how disturbed this student was, I believe that he, in fact, was the moderator of the site and continued to generate his particular breed of hate against me for a number of years and provide a forum for others to do the same.

             And, it is for this reason that I writing to ask _________Company of Canada to remove its advertising sponsorship of this site.   I do not believe that  Ford would knowingly sponsor a website which encourages people to make anonymous racist comments like “y don’t u just go back to where you came from b****” or  insert other comment” let alone post the corporate logo beneath them. As your approach to marketing is one that presents an image of integrity and corporate responsibility, I think that we can agree that the type of thinking this web site generates and cultivates none of these.

And, if you were to multiply my experience by the many other teachers in North America who have been unfairly maligned on this site, many of whom are your customers, I think you would find that your corporate images suffers more than it benefits by advertising on “Rate My Teachers”. Although I have personally requested for my name to be removed from this web site, “Rate My Teachers” has refused to do so. 

Secondly, to put it mildly, insert name of company yields a great deal of power through its advertising budget.    Perhaps I am extremely naive, however I believe that this is really a wonderful opportunity for your company to be an incredible force of change. 

I realize that, despite their claims to the contrary, I am a means through which this website can generate more revenue. Should you choose to withdraw your sponsorship of the site, please inform “Rate My Teachers” of your concerns.  At the very least, please encourage “Rate My Teachers” to re-consider the intent of the work that they do.  In a world where people feel

Sunday, February 20, 2011


A colleague told me she heard two radio commentators talking about how old Gertrude gets to keep her job while poor little Tweenies, the young dedicated, caring teachers will lose theirs, due to budget cuts.

Let me tell you about the Gertrudes in my school. Saturday, little white haired Gertrude #1 spent the entire day with a group of kids getting ready for a competition.  Guess what, she didn't get paid for her time.  Gertrude #2 gave up her Saturday to watch the JROTC exhibition to support the students in the school.  Gertudes #4, #5, #6 and #7 spent a 12 hour day with their cadets. There were no Ms. Tweenies around.  Gertrude #8 spends almost all her non teaching periods helping students, even sitting on the floor with them.

The Gertrudes are the ones helping the Tweenies, sharing their knowledge of classroom management and curriculum.  They are sharing the tricks of the trade they have learned and perfected and things that can only be learned after years of classroom experience.  There are Gertrudes that use the Smart Board and use a computer and are learning all the technology the 21st century has to offer.

Believe it or not, an old person can be a good, caring teacher.  Old Gertrude is a teacher of merit.  It is against the law to discriminate against any individual because of age, unless of course that person is an aging teacher.

Must Read

Think the E4E group has the answers for which teachers to keep and which to lay off?  Think again. Read Jeff Kaufman's analysis over at the ICE blog.

Question From A Friend

Are Chihuahuas good with kids or do they bite them??????

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Stop The Bullying Week Did Not Help Teachers

Mrs. King left a message for her supervisor saying "I spent all last night in the emergency room with my baby.  Thankfully, she is fine and is home now but I'm exhausted.  I will be in, but it will be a little late.  Please let the students I am  to see this morning know that I will have to reschedule."  The supervisor was not pleased.  When the very tired woman arrived at work, she was greeted with "Mrs King, your priorities are quite screwed up.  Do not let anything interfere with what you do here.  This must come first!  How can you possibly think your child is more important than your job."

(Above is based on a true story as told by a colleague of mine.)

Campaign To Ban RMT

From the reader who sent me this post.

You and your site rock!
I'm a teacher in Canada, and I try not to give the site too much attention, but this summer I just got sick of the whole thing.  There is nothing more violating than seeing the horrible things written about me-- except having the self righteous folks at RMT try to broker their terms of whether or not they would remove the information.
I was wondering, is there any way your site would be willing to organize a campaign? You wouldn't have to do much, except provide teacher readers with a little direction. 

The process of contacting advertisers is quite simple for teachers-- it just takes time. Go to the site, note the advertiser, look up the info about the VP of advertising, write a letter or an e-mail (polite) and follow up with a phone call to the corporation and (very important) inform the people at RMT of your success-- they need to know that their advertisers find their actions to be unacceptable.

I would even be willing to provide my letter as a general template that teachers could modify. (I just asked her to send it so I can post that as well.)

Also, were you aware that in France the site was banned.  Because of their history with the Nazi occupation, the French government finds the act of anonymously berating an individual to be disgusting.  Oh to live with French morals! :)

Anyway, it's just a thought and if you need any info from me, I would be happy to help.

Take Care

Becoming Really Rich

stephen Colbuffington Post: How Long Will Stephen Colbert Repost Huff Post?
Ariana Huffington made her money, in part, by relying on bloggers to fill her pages with stories, bloggers she does not pay.

I'm strongly considering not submitting posts any longer.  I don't need to self promote and I certainly don't want to make the rich richer.

(Steve Colbert really ripped into her this week about using him without paying him.)

Calming The Savage Beast

My friend Ricochet just posted what I've known all along.  Music does calm the savage beast, or at least it helps the teen with ADD concentrate. Letting the more active kids use their iPods does help them focus and stay calm.  It also keeps them from annoying the person next to them.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Not A Warm Fuzzy

From our weekly newsletter:

Effective February 11, 2011, if per session time sheets are not submitted on time, it will lead to further disciplinary action such as, letter to file.

This is encouraging me NOT to do the peer tutoring I applied for.

Let's see.  I can make half the money I would make if I did the same job privately.  I can be subjected to extra paper work and now I can get a discipliary letter for submitting my time sheets late.  Isn't working for the DOE grand.

Do We Really Want To Do Away With Unions?

The people in this country fought long and hard to have the rights to safe working conditions, benefits, and decent wages.  Do we really want to return to the days before that?  Do we really want to return to the conditions like those the workers at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory faced

Unions are not the cause of the sad shape of the economy.

Dolt Teachers Who Had To See Themselves On Television

To the fools who want to end seniority:
You say we should keep the best well, ending seniority will end this.

Let's suppose the Principal's neighbor has a child who just got certified to teach.  He wants to give this young person a job and as luck would have it, there is a spot available.  Budget cuts mean that the school will lose teachers in the next year and someone must be let go.  Mr. T has been at the school a year longer than this young person and has been doing a good job, but someone must go and Mr. T and the principal have no personal relationship.  Guess who goes?  Don't you dolt's know that your job is not safe if seniority ends?  Don't you care?  Do you really think being a friend of an administrator is the best way to choose a teacher? I can guarantee that is what will happen if we give up seniority protection.

Everyone needs job protection.  Leaving this to a principal who is often barely qualified to tie his own shoes is not a good idea.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I hate being sick and I am too stubborn to stay home.  I've added a big box of tissues to the things I walk the halls with.