Monday, April 25, 2011

Talking Through His Asshat

Move over, Ruben Brosbe! We have another A4E clown tossing his asshat into the ring!

The newest scab to don the sphincter sombrero is Michael Loeb, a third year teacher from the Bronx. (How is it that the Bronx manages to produce both a union stalwart like Bronx Teacher and schmoes like Ruben and Michael? It doesn't seem possible.)

But I digress. Michael Loeb penned a piece of drivel for Michelle Rhee's Students First website. When it comes to drivel, Michael is right up there with Ruben. Read the first incomprehensible paragraph:

"Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." That's how Nobel Prize for Literature winner George Bernard Shaw saw it over 100 years ago when he wrote these now infamous words. Educators know first-hand that Shaw was wrong. But we have to do more to change lingering misperceptions. Considering the enormous role education plays in shaping the lives of our kids, it is essential we elevate the status of teachers in our society.

I mean, what?? I often tell my students to begin their essays with a meaningful quote that helps illuminate the rest of the writing. Loeb got the quote part right, but he's about as illuminating as the dim bulb he appears to be. If Shaw were alive today, he'd modify his quote to read, "Those who can, do; those who can't teach, write for ed deform websites."

Mostly what Michael says is an A4E retread of how we need to "elevate" the status of teachers by firing senior teachers. Of course, Michael himself has been teaching for a whopping three years now, so obviously he knows everything there is to know about education and how to change it for the better. He advocates the elimination of seniority as a means of elevating the profession. He asks, "How will we attract new, talented, relentless teachers if potential educators know they may be out of a job in a year or two regardless of how they do?" To which I say: relentless? Really? Spend a little time on your vocabulary, Michael; "relentless" is hardly the mot juste here.

A better question is, "How will we attract new, talented teachers if they know they may be out of a job as soon as their salary rises? Why will anyone spend time and effort mastering the craft of teaching when they know they are disposable and will be discarded after a few years?" Michael and his coterie of colonic chapeaus would do away with many of the things that make teaching an attractive profession, such as security, due process, freedom to implement one's own teaching methods, pensions, and whatever else they can think of.

Of course, A4E's position, and one assumes Michael's position as well, is that test scores should play a large role in determining who gets fired (let's stop saying Bloomberg wants to lay off teachers--he wants to fire teachers). Let's look at this position and figure our why all the Asshats seem to love this idea.

Look at your Teacher Data Report or TDR (you can see a sample one here). Look at the very top. The first thing reported is how many years a teacher has in the system. That's important because teachers are NOT judged the same way. TDRs break teachers down into four groups: Teaching for 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, or more than 3 years. They do this because that way new teachers can only be graded against each other, and NOT against senior teachers. So when layoff decisions are made using test data, newbies don't have to pit themselves against more experienced colleagues. As a result, if Michael scores a 56 percentile against other 3rd year teachers, this doesn't mean he's in the top half of teachers--it only means he's in the top half of the very small number of teachers who have his exact experience level in his subject area. That gives him a huge advantage because he only has to perform better than a very limited subset of teachers to appear as if he's in the top half. Senior teachers, however, would be judged against all other teachers.

The DOE does it this way because they know what all the research says: that teachers only really begin to shine when they hit their fifth year. If the DOE pitted their newbies against senior teachers, the newbies would be hammered.

Ruben Brosbe knows this. After a rather dismal showing on his TDRs for three years, he ended up teaching third grade this year. Of course, third grade teachers do NOT get TDR reports. How convenient.

So if the DOE and StudentsFirst (gag) and Michael and Ruben really were concerned about keeping great teachers in the classroom, they'd put all their "relentless" energy toward protecting seniority, because the evidence shows that experience makes one a better teacher. Instead of shoving a shiv in the backs of their colleagues, these Asshats should be arguing that layoffs are totally unnecessary given that the city has a 3 billion dollar surplus.

I'd like to conclude by reminding Michael Loeb that George Bernard Shaw was a strong advocate of workers' rights at a time when most workers didn't have any rights at all, so he is hardly a fitting quote to use in your essay (sorry, but even my 8th graders know an inappropriate quote when they see one). To show Micheal how it's done, as all good teachers do, I will leave him with a quote from Shaw that is much more appropos:

I would like to take you seriously, but to do so would be an affront to your intelligence.

Note: Thanks to commenter Zulma, who brought Michael's article to my attention.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pity the Poor Asshats

A commenter called "ms. v" (sic) on GothamSchools has taken to defending Ruben Brosbe, Head Chapeau of Asshats4Education. According to her, some commenters there are picking on the poor boy. I was actually going to stay out of it this time, but her assertion that Ruben is being picked on pissed me off. I'm going to post my comment below, just in case it gets removed by GS. If you want to follow the original thread, you can go here.

No one has reason to "pick on" you. No one is picking of Ruben, either. He accepted this position as a blogger in GS and ever since has been guilty of lies of omission, at the very least. If he intends in any way to be considered a journalist or commentator on education, he must at minimum be honest. He has not been.

He was not honest about his membership in A4E until he was outed by another blogger. He said he would discuss his tenure and he has not. He told the world that he wants TDRs public and yet he scurried off the 3rd grade knowing he would not get a TDR there. He posted to EduSolidarity, knowing full well that he and his union-busting opinions were not welcome there. His behavior has been underhanded.

You think we're bullying him because we call him on his dishonesty and deceit? If he chooses to prevaricate in a public forum he should expect not to be believed or respected.

If you want to talk about bullying, let's talk about A4E. A bunch of non-educators take money from billionaires to try to bust the union and steal the jobs and future pensions of hard working, dedicated teachers. They spend millions of dollars on glossy mailers and TV ads trying to poison the public's mind against public education. The vast majority of teachers see through their BS, but there are a few teachers who side with them. Some side with A4E because they are too gullible to understand the implications of A4E's positions. Some side with them in the hopes of getting a nice, cushy job like Sydney and Evan have. I'm not sure whether Ruben is gullible or conniving, but I know he does not have the interests of public education at heart. And yes, I do take that as a very personal thing. If Ruben wants to be the voice of A4E, he should man up and at least be honest about his intentions. He has about zero credibility here.

There are a lot of great teachers out there who would have been fired (not laid off, but fired) had Ruben and his A4E pals gotten their way. I most likely would have been one of them based upon my previous year's TDR. If he wants to come here and advocate that dedicated teachers like me should be fired so union busters like him can help clear the decks for the billionaires, then yes, he should expect some push back.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dennis Walcott Channels Cathie Black

Dennis Walcott, the new cookie cutter choice for NYC schools chancellor, recently said something that rivaled even Cathie Black for inanity and insensitivity, yet it got virtually no press at all. His statement appeared in the NY Post, and was in response to a question about layoffs:

"We're looking at 6,100 jobs -- give or take."

Opposition in Albany has blocked City Hall's effort to inject merit into layoff decisions.

But Walcott said he's an "eternal optimist" and hopes to persuade union leaders and state lawmakers to give ground.

Excuse me? Walcott, the "eternal optimist", is looking forward expectantly toward giving 6,100 teachers the ax? Shouldn't the new chancellor express optimism that layoffs can be avoided altogether? Shouldn't he be hoping that class sizes don't explode as a result of those layoffs?

What Walcott really means is that he is optimistic that he can con the legislature into allowing him to fire senior teachers and so fulfill the mayor's dream of an at-will workforce. He doesn't give any more of a damn about the children of NYC than Cathie Black did.

The only difference is that the press called out Cathie Black when she made idiotic comments. Walcott's tenure as chancellor will be far more insidious, as the press has already pronounced him a much more thoughtful and serious person than Cathie, even though they are both spouting the exact same Bloomberg anti-teacher rhetoric.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Ruben Sandwich, Hold the Beef

Ruben Brosbe, highly qualified columnist for Gotham Schools, has been strangely silent these past few days since the release of the Teacher Data Reports (TDRs). I say strangely, because he was the one who informed us that he was below average when compared to first year teachers when he began his career, and that he was a low average when compared to second year teachers the following year. In fact, so insistent was he that the numbers be public that he penned an opinion piece for the NY Post in which he argued for the release of the data to newspapers.

So my question, Ruben, is this: Where's the beef?

I've basically released my own data, so I think I am entitled ask Ruben for his, especially as he wants to make everyone else's number public, despite the written pledge from the DOE that the number would only be used internally.

Ruben believes in data. If data had an orifice, Ruben would be out buying lube. He and his Asshat4Education cronies believe that these reports should be a huge factor in determining layoffs and tenure. Ruben is up for tenure this year, so his score should be very interesting. Will he get tenure no matter what, due to his olfactory buggery up the DOE's anus?

When you post the numbers, make sure you tell the truth, Ruben, because we'll almost certainly be able to fact check in the newspapers soon. No sense waiting until you are outed, like you were when your membership in Asshats was uncovered by Bronx Teacher.

Maybe I'm being harsh. Maybe Ruben just forgot to post his numbers. I'm going to drop him a little reminder at his latest post on GothamSchools. I'd encourage all of you to do the same. Just go here and leave a comment.

C'mon, Ruben. Show us that you're more than a couple of empty slices of damp bread.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mr. Talk Gets High

No, not that way. I'm talking about my Teacher Data Report (TDR). If you haven't seen yours, check your DOE email. Mine arrived today.

If you follow this blog at all, you know that my previous TDR was a stinker. I'm not as daring as Ruben Brosbe, who disclosed his lousy TDR to everyone on the planet by announcing it in the NY Post. But I will give you a hint as to what it was. Think single digits.

So when I saw the email announcing that my current scores were in, you can imagine how my heart skipped a beat. Another number from the crapper, and my principal would have to take notice. I began picturing myself on the front page of the Post, with the caption "Worst Teacher In The City--End LIFO Now!"

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Teacher Hall of Shame. I opened the report, scrunched my eyes--and laughed. Yes, laughed. And this time it was because I was high. I'm talking about my Performance Catergory. Again, I'm not disclosing the number, but to end up in that category, one has to score in the 95th percentile or above.

Value-added has an alleged margin of error of 35 points, by most accounts, which is lousy in and of itself. In my case, however, the data changed more than 85 percentage points.

I don't put this information out there to pat myself on the back. I'm the same teacher, teaching the same curriculum as last year, but my numbers varied widely. I'll repeat what I said back when my number was microscopic. These numbers are worthless.

A lot of you will be opening your TDR reports tonight to not such good news. Don't let it get to you. The numbers don't reflect reality. It's just a moronic formula dreamed up by a bunch of non-educators who believe that you can quantify everything. What you should do, regardless of what the TDR says, is ask yourself whether you are really working hard and doing a good job. If you are, then the numbers mean less than zero.

What gets to me, though, is how those numbers can be abused. Based on that worthless formula, some of you will be denied tenure. Others will be targeted for U ratings. Had Mayor4Life gotten his way on ending seniority for layoffs, that formula could have cost you your job. It's insanity.

I wonder which numbers will appear in the papers, should the FOIL request be granted. I hope both of mine appear, so that everyone can see just how ridiculous value added really is. I'd love to hear from anyone else whose number changed more than the accepted 35% margin of error. If there are enough of us, maybe we can expose the TDR fraud for what it is.


Monday, April 11, 2011

When is a Joke Not a Joke?

When it comes true, at the expense of children.

I joked last week
, after Cathie Black's firing, that Mayor4Life Bloomberg...

"...conducted the same exhaustive search for Black’s replacement that he did for Black herself, by which I mean Walcott happened to be in the room at the time."

As it turns out, that was no joke. According to the Post, Bloomberg "...looked over his shoulder and saw Walcott," said a second City Hall veteran. "At least he didn't look across the room at a cocktail party, as he did when he found Black."

If you wonder why Mayor4Life didn't bother with scouring the country for the best education leader he could find, the answer is obvious. He isn't looking for someone who can bring something to the table educationally. He's looking for a stooge who will unblinkingly carry out his policies.

He didn't have to look any further than over his shoulder. And that's just not funny.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mr. Talk Nails It Again!

You know, sometimes I scare myself when I don my swami hat to make predictions, and not just because it lowers my apparent IQ by forty points. It seems I am right an uncanny number of times (Mrs. Talk would take issue with that, of course--perhaps with a rolling pin). Still, there’s no gainsaying the fact that I correctly predicted that there would be no layoffs in 2010. Some called me crazy (Mrs. Talk would agree on that one), but the fact remains that layoffs were averted. I also correctly called the ever diminishing Teacher’s Choice allotment, and my prediction that at least one of your admins would be a dick is beyond question.

Nevertheless, it came as a shock even to me when I basically nailed the resignation of “Chancellor” Cathie Black. When she first took office, I predicted that she would be out by April 1, and I only missed the mark by six days.

One question remains unanswered about this surprise announcement. First of all, did Cathie resign, or was she fired? I’d say fired, because Dennis Walcott’s appointment came just moments after her meeting with Bloomberg, so apparently he had this move in mind for a while. Of course, it is also possible that Mayor4Life conducted the same exhaustive search for Black’s replacement that he did for Black herself, by which I mean Walcott happened to be in the room at the time.

Another question that hangs in the air is: Why now? Sure, Cathie’s poll numbers hit a new low last week, but she’s never exactly been Justin Bieber. I think the truth is that Black was brought in to be the corporate chainsaw who would oversee the massive layoffs that would have occurred had Bloomie gotten his way on eliminating seniority. Now that Bloomberg's plan to end "LIFO" is dead, Cathie is out.

I’m sure the burning question in your mind is—What can we expect from Dennis Walcott? And what does Mr. Talk have to say about it? Here are my predictions:

Walcott is African American, so I expect he and Bloomie will take one more shot at LIFO. They’ll send Walcott out to black neighborhoods to claim that laying off new teachers will disproportionately affect their neighborhoods.

Once that fails, Walcott will announce some miraculous savings he has found/cuts he can make/wallet he has found in the street, and call off layoffs for 2011. Walcott then appears to be a hero and Bloomie is off the hook and doesn’t have to fire precious newbie teachers like Ruben Brosbe.

Other than that, absolutely nothing will change. Bloomie will still be rich. You will still end up buying your own staples and construction paper. One of your admins will continue to be a dick.

And so it goes.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Read. Watch. Laugh.

If you haven't already seen it, go watch the video created by the brilliant Sabrina.