Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, December 31, 2012

Obama Gets Rolled Again - Or Does He?

The fiscal deal cliff details are emerging and once again, it looks like Obama has gotten "rolled" on almost everything.

First, Paul Krugman:

Anyone looking at these negotiations, especially given Obama’s previous behavior, can’t help but reach one main conclusion: whenever the president says that there’s an issue on which he absolutely, positively won’t give ground, you can count on him, you know, giving way — and soon, too. The idea that you should only make promises and threats you intend to make good on doesn’t seem to be one that this particular president can grasp.

And that means that Republicans will go right from this negotiation into the debt ceiling in the firm belief that Obama can be rolled.

At that point he can redeem himself by holding firm — but because the Republicans don’t think he will, they will play tough, almost surely forcing him to actually hit the ceiling with all the costs that entails. And look, if I were a Republican I would also be betting that he’ll cave.

So Obama has set himself and the nation up for a much uglier confrontation than we would have had if he had set a negotiating position and held to it.

And then Jon Walker at Firedoglake:

First, it signals to the GOP that Obama simple can’t draw lines in the sand. If Obama says he will not negotiate on something (say, the debt ceiling), any Republicans would be foolish to believe he won’t. Obama has never held firm before, and there is no reason to expect him to in the future.
Second, it again reinforced that the best negotiation tactic with Obama is for the Republicans to be purposely disingenuous. The GOP should pretend to be close to a deal so Obama publicly says what concessions he will make, only to have the GOP predictably blow up the deal. After that, the GOP can start negotiations again but use Obama’s concessions as the new goal posts.
After Obama again reinforced his image of weakness, I shudder to think how the next fight will go when Democrats inherently have significantly less leverage.

Even administration mouthpiece Ezra Klein realizes Obama got rolled:

When these negotiations began, the White House was unyielding on that point, with the president promising to veto anything that didn’t raise tax rates for income over $250,000. Asked by House Speaker John Boehner what he’d trade for $800 billion in revenue — about the cost of the high-income Bush tax cuts — Obama was firm. ”You get nothing,” the president said. “I get that for free.”

To make matters worse for Republicans, the Senate had already passed a bill letting those cuts expire back in July because Minority Leader Mitch McConnell figured it would be too politically damaging to block. If Mitt Romney had won the election, that bill would have died. But after Obama won on a platform that was barely about anything aside from letting those tax cuts expire, it seemed inevitable he’d get it done. It was his due.

To the GOP’s delight, that no longer seems to be the case. In the Obama-Boehner negotiations, the White House offered to raise the threshold from $250,000 to $400,000. McConnell, in his negotiations with Harry Reid and now Joe Biden, has been trying to raise that to $500,000. It’s clear to the Republicans that they will get past the fiscal cliff with a smaller tax increase than they thought. Perhaps much smaller. Huzzah!

That will set up a fight over the debt ceiling. The Republicans plan to say that now that they broke their pledge and voted for a tax increase, they’ll insist on a dollar of spending cuts for every dollar of debt-ceiling increase — the so-called “Boehner rule”. The White House plans to insist that it won’t negotiate over the debt ceiling at all.

Republicans I’ve spoken to laugh at this bluster. Obama is already negotiating over the debt ceiling, they point out. He began the fiscal cliff negotiations by saying he wanted a permanent solution to the debt ceiling. Then it was a two-year increase in the debt limit. Now he’s going to sign off on a mini-deal that doesn’t increase the debt ceiling at all. Does that really sound like someone who’s going to hold firm when faced with global economic chaos? The White House always talks tough at the beginning of negotiations and then always folds at the end. Republicans are confident that the debt ceiling will be no different.

All this raises the tantalizing prospect for Republicans that they could end these negotiations having given up less tax revenue than they ever thought possible — less tax revenue than Boehner offered Obama, even — but still getting their entitlement cuts. Oh, and because there was never a big deal, they won’t have to agree to much stimulus, either. All in all, a pretty big win, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the White House’s baffling inability to stick to a negotiating position.

I have to think that the administration didn't stick to a negotiating position because the man at the top, Mr. We Need To Re-Elect Him Or The World Will End, didn't want the administration to stick to a position.

He wanted to cave on the Bush tax cuts, the inheritance tax, the payroll tax cut, everything.

Obama caved on every contested issue because that's what he wanted to do.

Watch how Obama takes a position in education reform and sticks to it NO MATTER WHAT.

Doesn't matter what evidence comes in to show that Race to the Top is horrible policy, Common Core is common crap, test-based evaluations of teachers are harmful to students, and merit pay doesn't work.

Obama believes in these positions and he sticks to them no matter what.

Of course it helps that in the education reform fight, Obama plays the role of the tough negotiator - the Republican, if you will - while teachers and teachers unions and progressive educators play the part of Obama - the waffling "Oh, what do you want, we'll give it to you if you'll love us more!" role.

Perhaps if the teachers unions and teachers themselves treated Obama with the disdain that Republicans treat him, they might  get some concessions on his privatization agenda out of him.

Of course this won't work post-election, but it surely could have worked pre-election - especially when they were panicking after that first debate.

But instead the NEA endorsed him a year and a half out and well-respected progressive people claimed a Romney presidency was "unthinkable" and so we had to vote for Obama no matter how bad he is and the AFT joined the NEA and other unions in GOTV and other efforts to get their man re-elected.

And he rewarded all of this by selling middle and working class Americans down the river, by giving GOPer's almost everything they wanted in the fiscal cliff deal, and he inevitably will do the same when the debt ceiling fight starts in a few months - only that time, he will be selling us out on Social Security and Medicare too.

Either he is one bad poker player or these outcomes are the very ones he wants, only because he is nominally a "Democrat" he has to make believe like he wants something more progressive.

I know a lot of people think he's the former, that he really does have a progressive heart but he just can't stand up to Republicans.

I think it's the latter - he's a moderate Republican at heart and these are the outcomes he wants - lower taxes for rich people, Social Security and Medicare cuts for working people.

Either way, the outcomes are bad for the vast majority of Americans and they will get even worse when the debt ceiling fight starts.

Again I ask, where are all those progressives who claimed they wouldn't let the president sell out progressive principles during the second term?

Sure, they're complaining - but it ain't doing much good, is it?

POSTSCRIPT: A commenter at the Daily Kos puts all this in perspective:

Obama has been very clear in his support of neo-liberal Rubinite economics. He has completely ignored Krugman and Steiglitz. He has kept pretty much the same econ policies as Bill Clinton.
There is no evidence that Obama is a progressive on econ. None.

This whole fiscal cliff performance is theater to get us to accept policies that benefit billionaires and bring cuts to seniors, the middle class and the poor.

That's exactly right.

I think my anger tonight is less at Obama, who is after all acting the same way he has for the last four years, and more at all the progressives and liberals who got their shorts in an uproar over the 2012 election.

This was the guy we had to re-elect?

Hell, he's pushed through more neo-liberal policies than Bush ever dreamed of.

We got food stamp cuts, a health care "reform" law that forces people to buy private insurance, public school privatization programs masking as "reform," - and Social Security and Medicare cuts are coming next.

Just as it took Bill Clinton to end welfare as we know it, it took Barack Obama to sell out what little safety net remains for working and middle class Americans.

Oh, but you know what isn't going to be cut?

The defense budget.

The surveillance state budget.

The drone bomb budget.

Oh no -we just can't cut that stuff.

So shut up and eat your generic dog food from the 99 cents store with the 2009 expiration date, okay!

This is all for your own good.

Democrats Keep Conceding - Obama Wants To Cut Social Security

 Same old same old.

Democrats keep conceding on all their so-called deal-breaker issues and keep giving the GOP everything they want in this fake "fiscal cliff crisis."

President Obama said he wouldn't accept any fiscal cliff deal that didn't raise taxes on families making more than $250,000.

Republicans balked at that level, so Dems raised that threshold to $400,000

But that wasn't good enough for Republicans either, so now Dems have agreed to raise taxes only on people making more than $450,000.

But that still isn't good enough for Republicans.

The Washington Post reports they are holding out for a $550,000 threshold, and since Dems have conceded on almost every other point, Republicans think they can get it.

In addition, Dems were demanding estate taxes go up from their low levels, but Republicans have fought that and the Post reports the following:

Democrats also relented on the politically sensitive issue of the estate tax, according to a detailed account of the Democratic offer obtained by The Washington Post. They promised instead to hold a vote in the Senate that would guarantee that taxes on inherited estates remain at their current low levels, a key GOP demand.

One point Dems have so far held their ground is on Social Security - but only because they plan to use Social Security cuts as a future bargaining chip.

Republicans want to change the way inflation increases are calculated so that Social Security recipients will get less money each year - this way, there will be more money for tax cuts for rich people.

President Obama is a big fan of this change as well, having made the offer as part of the Grand Bargain he tried to make with John Boehner a few years ago as well as part of the Grander Bargain he tried to make with Boehner a few weeks ago.

But Senate Dems fought changing that calculation in this part of the fiscal cliff negotiation and Republicans dropped the demand, realizing that fighting to cut Social Security while simultaneously fighting tax increases on rich people wasn't a winning political strategy.

Don't worry GOPers - according to the Washington Post, the president and his merry men and women plan to give you those cuts to Social Security in short order:

 Obama had offered to include chained CPI in the big deficit-reduction package he had been negotiating with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) earlier this month. Obama endorsed the idea again Sunday, in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” calling it a tough decision he was willing to make “in pursuit of strengthening Social Security for the long term.”

But many Democrats say they would go along with the idea only as part of a far-reaching deal that also included at least $1.2 trillion in new tax revenue over the next decade. The deal under discussion Sunday would raise far less than that, somewhere between $600 billion and $800 billion.

“Chained CPI should be part of the larger discussion about the future of Social Security,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), “not just a casual bargaining chip here at the last minute.”

So Obama and the Dems plan a sell-out on Social Security and they, like Republicans, want to make sure older people live on generic dog food and food pantry offerings - they just want to get more from Republicans in the bargain.

Where are all those liberals and progressives, the ones who said they would hold Obama to his alleged progressive principles after his re-election, the ones who said Romney would be an "unthinkable" alternative to Obama?

They are effectively silent as Obama and the Dems concede on every major point and get ready to sell out working and middle class Americans so that the wealthy and the corporations - the 1% - can continue to rape and pillage the rest of us.

So far, Obama has cut food stamps in order to fund his Race to the Top education reforms, is going to force Americans without health care to buy shitty private insurance, is looking to cut Social Security and Medicare, and has promoted public school privatization.

In the foreign affairs sphere, Obama murders innocents every month in drone bombs strikes - including children just like the ones killed in that awful Sandy Hook shooting earlier in the month.

He has a "kill list" and has declared he can murder any American at any time for any reason if the government suspects - just suspects - that person is guilty of terrorism.

He has extended warrantless wiretapping and expanded the state surveillance apparatus in the name of "keeping us safe," and has condoned the torture of Bradley Manning after declaring publicly that Manning is guilty of a crime the government hadn't yet tried him for.

And let's not forget how Obama's DOJ and DHS helped coordinate the Occupy Wall Street crackdowns all across the country.

I get the part about Romney being a horrific president.

But considering his record in both domestic and foreign affairs, Barack Obama is pretty horrific too.

Oh well - thank God we got him re-elected instead of that "unthinkable" alternative.

We'll make sure we hold him accountable to his campaign promises and alleged progressive principles, won't we?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Go Back To Bed, America

Don't worry - your government is in charge and your media will tell you every bit of "news" that's fit for you to hear.

You can go back to sleep, America.

It's all under control:

Capitalist Patriarchy In Action

A dentist in Iowa fired his dental assistant of 10 years for being too "irresistible."

This dentist began to sexually harass the assistant a year and a half before he fired her, began to send her sexually explicit text messages six months before the firing, asked her inappropriate questions like how often she experienced orgasms and just generally behaved in a creepy and predatory way.

So long as the dentist's wife was unaware of the harassment, the dentist seemed to have no problem with his behavior or the target of his harassment.

But then, the dentist's wife found a text message:

James Knight, the boss in question, is a dentist based in Fort Hood, Iowa. The employee, Melissa Nelson, is a dental assistant. She is married with one child, and is agreed by all parties to have been an exemplary employee. Indeed, she seems to have tolerated more for the sake of her job than most people have to.

What Nelson is alleged to have done to deserve the sack is to constitute a threat to Knight's marriage. The problems began in the year and a half before the sacking. On several occasions, Knight complained that her clothing was "too tight" and revealing. About six months before the sacking, the texting began. While Nelson was willing to engage in text exchanges, she reproved him when he told her off for wearing a shirt that was too tight, and refused to respond when he asked her how frequently she experienced orgasm.

Some time before the sacking, Knight's wife, who also worked at the dental surgery, discovered one of the text exchanges on his phone. Rather than demanding that he change his behaviour, she insisted that he fire his employee. The couple consulted their pastor, and the pastor agreed: the woman had to go, for the sake of his marriage.

All of this may seem ridiculous. Indeed, it seemed sufficiently ridiculous for Nelson to take her former boss to court with the intention of suing him for sex discrimination. But the all-male panel of seven judges in the Iowa district court, which threw the case out on 21 December, saw nothing amiss. As far as Judge Mansfield was concerned, to allow a case for sex discrimination in this instance would stretch the definition of discrimination.

The judges' rationale was that the employer was motivated by emotions, above all by his commitment to his marriage, and not by gender prejudice. "Ms Nelson was fired not because of her gender but because she was a threat to the marriage of Dr Knight," the judgment says – thus identifying the blameless employee as the problem, rather than the wayward behaviour of Dr Knight.

Okay, this thing is screwed up in so many ways.

First, Dr. Knight is a hypocrite extraordinaire, having harassed the assistant for a year and a half before he discovered the object of his harassment was "endangering his marriage" - and he only discovered that because his wife caught him harassing the assistant, Melissa Nelson.

Second, the wife decides to back up the husband and blame the victim of the harassment instead of the perpetrator of the harassment.

Third, the court backs up the rationale of Dr. Knight and his wife when the assistant decides to sue him.

Yes, it's true that Nelson could have quit the job and it's also true that she engaged in text exchanges with Knight.

Nonetheless, the rationale for the firing and the court's backing of the Knights over Nelson is rather telling of our American value system.

Richard Seymour of The Guardian puts it all in perspective for us:

The assumptions and the nature of the inferences made in the court's judgment all reinforce patriarchy in its dominant "family values" register. It consistently identifies the victim as the problem. It alludes to allegations by Knight's wife that Nelson flirted with her boss. Yet all the specific evidence it describes shows that Nelson put up with, rather than instigated or encouraged, flirting. The judgment notes that Nelson did not tell her boss that she was offended by his texts and that their texting was mutually consensual. Rather than considering the power relationships condensed in such exchanges, the court tacitly identifies the woman as the temptress.

Yet the court's behaviour was not some wild aberration. The legal justification for the decision may be intensely ideological, but so is all legal reasoning. The judges were able to cite ample precedent for their decision. "Several cases," they noted, " … have found that an employer does not engage in unlawful gender discrimination by discharging a female employee who is involved in a consensual relationship that has triggered personal jealousy. This is true even though the relationship and the resulting jealousy presumably would not have existed if the employee had been male."

Despite acknowledging that the situation as such can occur only in a relationship between male employers and female employees, that gender does indeed occupy the key determining place, the court refused to "stretch the definition of discrimination" that far. Essentially, even if an employee is at no fault, as long as she is female this is just one of the burdens she has to bear. The responsibility is on her, not her male employer, to safeguard against eroticism – on pain of being fired.

At each step, Knight, his pastor and, to an extent, his wife – and certainly the Iowa district court – fell back on and fortified a particular knot or intersection of power (business, family and church). This knot might be called capitalist patriarchy. And its full arsenal – political, moral, legal, cultural – has just been placed behind sexist employers.

You have to love a system that blames the victim for the crime

And as usual, it's always the woman's fault.

Her shirt is too tight.

She's too "irresistible."

She didn't tell her boss to stop in strident enough terms.

She didn't quit.

She didn't say no.

She didn't scream "Help!" loud enough.

What a fucked up society we live in.

Patriarchy, capitalism, religion, nationalism - all mechanisms of control used to empower rich white men and oppress everybody else.

Friday, December 28, 2012

NY Daily News: Some Schools Already Using Danielson Rubric To "U" Rate Teachers

At the end of this article on the PERB complaint filed by the NYCDOE comes this:

On Thursday, Mulgrew blasted the city for “playing games,” saying he wants talks to resume but first wants to discuss how schools will be trained to properly implement the evaluations before settling on specifics.

Even as the sides are warring, the Daily News has learned that schools are already using part of that new evaluation to fire or otherwise tar teachers.

Five teachers have separately filed suit in Manhattan Supreme Court to allege that they improperly received unsatisfactory ratings based on the new, still unapproved method of observing them at work.
“Those cases are very clear examples and evidence that (Department of Education officials) don’t know what they’re doing,” Mulgrew said.

In the most recent case, filed last Friday, former special education teacher Kristin Achtziger received two satisfactory ratings in previous years at Public School 199 in Queens, but was dismissed last year after her school improperly started using a new method, the suit alleges.

Under current rules, teachers meet with their administrators before and after an administrator observes them and know when they’re going to be observed.

Achtziger says she had a formal observation only once last school year — and received a positive rating, but the administration also conducted unannounced “walkthroughs” and never alerted her to problems until the end of June, when she was fired.
Clearly the Daily News learned this information from Mulgrew.

If the NYCDOE is already using the Danielson rubric to "U" rate teachers, even though the agreement to use the rubric is not yet in place, and Bloomberg is demanding the UFT agree to release teacher evaluations to the press, even though state law says that shouldn't happen, why isn't Mulgrew and the UFT filing a counter-complaint against Bloomberg, Walcott and the NYCDOE for failure to negotiate in good faith?

Once again, the UFT allows Bloomberg, Walcott and the DOE to frame the issue for the public - the headline people will hear is "NYC DEPT. OF ED FILES COMPLAINT AGAINST TEACHERS" rather than "BLOOMBERG CALLS FOR TEACHERS TO BREAK STATE LAW IN EVALUATIONS".

If you're going to fight a p.r. battle with these guys, you have to do it effectively and respond to every charge and complaint with a counter-charge and counter-complaint that exposes the dishonesty and vindictiveness of Bloomberg, Walcott, and the Tweedies.

In addition, if the Danielson rubric, with its 57 page checklist, is already being used to "U" rate teachers before it's put into place, what does the UFT think is going to happen after it's put into place?

And why was the UFT selling the Danielson rubric so heavily as the bestest thing to happen to education since chalk when it's not difficult to see that an observation rubric with a complex 57 page checklist and 22 different components to be used to evaluate teachers in a 45 minute observation period is unworkable in practice?

The UFT ought to be telling the public what a nightmare this APPR system is going to be once it is put into place, with the test score based component with the 86% maximum margin of error and the Danielson rubric with the complex 57 page checklist and the 22 different components to be used on teachers for a 45 minute evaluation.

The UFT ought to be telling parents how teachers are now going to be placed on a GREAT BIG APPR BELL CURVE and evaluated against each other, how the system will make teachers compete against each other over test scores and how students will be harmed by this competition as test scores trump everything else in the evaluation rubric.

But the UFT isn't telling the public about any of this.

Instead they're sitting back and allowing the NYCDOE and Bloomberg to frame the issues in the media and then responding in a reactive way to whatever Bloomberg and the NYCDOE pull to promote their agenda.

It's as if the UFT isn't trying to effectively put a stop to this nonsense.

And that is most likely the reason for the current UFT strategy.

They want this system in place, they just want to make it look like they tried to protect members and fought the thing even as, effectively, their efforts don't amount to a hill of beans in actually fighting it.

Let me repeat, Accountable Talk wrote that a member of the UFT brain trust told him that APPR has to be put into place because not enough teachers are being "U" rated in the current system.
Judging by the strategy the UFT and the NYSUT have followed in the Race to the Top/APPR battles, I completely believe that is what the union brain trust believes.

You can see it from the way they fail to effectively fight the NYSED, the Regents and the NYCDOE on this nonsense, the way they attacked Carol Burris or Diane Ravitch for pointing out the flaws in the system, the way they sent out Leo Casey to shill for the wonders of APPR.

It's a pity that we don't have an actual union looking to actually protect its members and actually fightthis very harmful APPR system, but alas, we do not.

Instead we have a union leadership that is looking to give the appearance like they're fighting APPR and corporate education reform even as they do little to fight against those things.

The fix is in.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The PERB Complaint: Nothing To See Here, Folks

The Post and Gotham Charter Schools have stories up tonight about how the NYCDOE has filed a complaint against the UFT with the PERB board for failure to negotiate in good faith over the evaluation system.

The Post article is most succinct:

The teachers’ union has refused to sign a long-awaited agreement with the city on a new teacher evaluation system unless it gets a guarantee of wage increases in the next contract, Department of Education officials charged today.

They claim the union also sought to derail talks on the rating system, which started in April, by mandating that the city confirm how many schools it will close next year first, according to a complaint filed by the DOE.

Gotham Charter Schools got an interview with UFT President Mulgrew:

 Mulgrew said the complaint’s characterization of the union as recalcitrant was inaccurate and risible.

“I’m kind of laughing at it, to tell you the truth,” he said in an interview. “‘We will be happy to meet with you [to discuss implementation]. We await your communication.’ That’s the last communication we’ve had with them on this. … I’m sitting in my office, and the DOE has not called.”

The PERB complaint won't be heard in time to meet the governor's fiscal cliff deadline of January 17 for all evaluation systems to be agreed upon in all districts.

Mulgrew told Gotham Charter Schools the NYCDOE complaint is "just a publicity stunt" and he's right about that.

But I wonder just who's behind the stunt.

As Accountable Talk noted tonight, Mulgrew is not demanding a new contract and salary increases in exchange for the evaluation system - he's demanding the promise of salary increases in the form of some guarantee, whatever that is.

If I remember correctly, Randi Weingarten got a guarantee from Chris Cerf when she was making the Teacher Data Report agreement with him that the TDR's would never be published in the media.

The NYCDOE promptly broke that "promise" a few years later, claiming Cerf was no longer employed by the DOE, the promise no longer held and nothing was more important than releasing the TDRs with the 87% margins of error to reporters.

So you can see how far DOE promises go - about as far as 50 cents at Starbucks.

You can see, too, how useless it would be for Mulgrew to fight to get a promise of salary increases in exchange for the evaluation agreement.

But it is certainly in the interest of Mr. Mulgrew and his Unity hacks to get the story out there that they're holding out for more money, for a list of school closures and other so-called tough stances that actually have nothing to do with evaluation process.

Perhaps they think that will assuage the UFT rank and file when Cuomo finally comes in and forces a deal before the January 17 deadline.

They may be right about that.

But if they were really looking to stand up for the rank and file, they would be telling the public how damaging the new evaluation system is, with its 57 page observation rubric and test score-based component with large margins of error and wide swings in stability, not making believe like they're holding out for money before they sign away the future.

They would also be telling the public just how badly this kind of evaluation system is working in the two states that have already instituted it, Tennessee and Florida, and calling for a redo of the RttT law before NY State follows suit.

But they're not doing any of that.

No, sir - they're letting Bloomberg, the DOE and the education reformers frame the issue for the public in the media and then playing games and delaying tactics to make it look like they're fighting for the membership.

In other words, it's business as usual at 52 Broadway, and I'm tired of that business.

I bet you are too.

I bet you want MORE than business as usual.

I bet you want a union that does the job of informing the public exactly how damaging these education reform policies are and how they're meant to be damaging in the first place.

Well, you won't get that kind of union from Mike Mulgrew and his merry men and women at 52 Broadway.

Instead you'll get games and promises that ultimately end with the reformers getting their way on almost everything they want.

In the end, this PERB complaint and the alleged tough stances the NYCDOE is claiming the UFT has taken in the evaluation fight feel more like diversionary tactics than any real indication that Mulgrew and Company have really seen the light and are going to fight a coherent, strategic battle against this damaging APPR system and the corporate education reform movement.

There's nothing to see here, folks.

Cory Booker Does The Business Of Our Corporate Overlords

The WSJ covers the release of the emails related to Mark Zuckerberg's "gift" of $100 million in Facebook stock to the Newark school district.

Mayor Cory Booker had attempted to keep the emails secret but the ACLU sued to get release.

Via Schools Matter, Glenn Ford of the Black Agenda Report looks at the crimes of Cory Booker, Barack Obama and other black politicians who do the bidding of our corporate overlords.

Ford shows how the attacks on black progressivism and unionism have helped promote the corporate agenda.

It is good to remember that, as Booker's machinations with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, the Broad Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and David Einhorn and other hedge fund criminals to sell off the Newark public school system are exposed.

Booker likes to go on Oprah and make like he is trying to improve the lives of citizens of his city.

But most citizens in Newark are not fooled by Booker.

They know Booker is not out to improve public education, public schools or the lives of the citizens in Newark.

They know he is out to promote a corporate agenda, a privatization agenda, and thus promote himself for higher office.

If he tried to run for re-election in Newark, he probably wouldn't win - he has a reputation for being an "absentee mayor" - a politician more interested in national acclaim over stunts like his trying live on food stamps for a week than the difficult business of actually governing Newark.

But that's okay - he's aiming higher anyway.

He had been mulling running for governor for so long that it seemed a foregone conclusion he would run - until Hurricane Sandy. 

Following the storm,Chris Christie's approval ratings soared and Booker soured on running against Christie.

He will try and run for Frank Lautenberg's Senate seat instead, using the Senate as a launching pad to eventually run for president, just like another great sell-out of progressivism, Barack Obama.

Booker's ruffling some feathers by announcing this bid so far out from the election, but make no mistake, Big Money, Wall Street and the hedge fundies will be behind Cory Booker.

So will Bill Gates, the Broad Foundation and Oprah Winfrey.

Some of the same coalition that helped put Obama in the White House, btw.

Although unlike Obama, who has a lukewarm relationship with his corporate overlords at best, Booker is beloved by the corporate establishment.

Which is why he is so dangerous - he can look like a progressive to people who aren't paying close attention while actually harming progressive ideals and politics a great deal.

Take his food stamp stunt, where Booker lived on food stamps for a week to allegedly expose the problems with the program.

Rather than pulling stunts like that, he ought to be fighting for better paying jobs for people in New Jersey so they don't have to supplement their pay with food stamps to feed their families.

But this guy's too busy defending the private equity predators from attacks and backing Chris Christie up on his charter school proposals and attacks on teachers unions to get around to putting pressure on a company like, say, Walmart to provide a livable wage to its employees before it opens a store in Newark.

He's too busy promoting himself on Twitter, appearing on Oprah and writing opinion pieces in the Star-Ledger about his future plans to think much about the people who need help the most.

That's why the guys in private equity and on Wall Street love this guy - he's all show, and when it comes to policy agendas, Cory Booker can always be counted on to do the right thing - for Wall Street and the corporate state.

And so, as you peruse the Cory Booker/Facebook emails and see the coziness the mayor has with the Broad Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and the hedge fund industry, remember that Booker is looking to use those relations to take his thing national.

Just like that other paragon of progressivism, Barack Obama.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Windows 8 - A Christmas Gift For Someone You Hate

Microsoft has bet its future on the Windows 8 system, but that bet doesn't seem to be paying off:

BELLEVUE, Wash. — It used to be that a new version of the Windows operating system was enough to get people excited about buying a new computer, giving sales a nice pop. 

Not this time. Windows 8, the latest edition of Microsoft’s software, failed to pack shoppers into a Microsoft store in a mall here last week, at a time when parking lots in the area were overflowing. The trickle of shopping bags leaving the store with merchandise was nothing like the steady stream at a bustling Apple store upstairs. 

Weak PC sales this holiday season suggest that the struggles of Microsoft and other companies that depend heavily on the computer business will not abate soon. Plenty of consumers already own PCs and seem content to make do with what they have, especially in a shaky economy in which less expensive mobile devices are bidding for a share of their wallets. 

While there are also many tablets running Microsoft’s new, touch-friendly Windows, they have so far failed to emerge from the shadow of competing products from Apple and Amazon and other devices that are being snapped up by holiday shoppers. 

Emmanuel Fromont, president of the Americas division of Acer, the world’s No. 4 PC maker, said sales of the company’s Windows 8 PCs had been lower than expected. He said one factor was the system’s unfamiliar design, which appeared to be making consumers cautious.

“There was not a huge spark in the market,” Mr. Fromont said. “It’s a slow start, there’s no question.”
The clearest evidence of Windows 8’s disappointing introduction comes from the research firm NPD, which estimates that sales of Windows machines have actually dropped from a year ago. 

According to NPD, stores in the United States sold 13 percent fewer Windows devices from late October, when Windows 8 made its debut, through the first week in December, than in the same period last year. 

Those figures do not include sales in Microsoft’s own stores, which were the only place to buy a Surface tablet during that period, but because the stores are scarce, analysts believe it is unlikely they made a big difference. 

“I think everybody would have hoped for a better start,” said Stephen Baker, an analyst at NPD. “The thing is, this market is not the same market that Windows 7 or Vista or even XP launched into.” 

There you have it - people hate Windows 8, people aren't buying the new Microsoft Surface tablet, Microsoft stores are bereft of shoppers, and Windows-based PC sales are down from last year to this year, partly because people don't like Windows 8.

And I mean people really don't like Windows 8.  There have been some really harsh reviews of the system, including one by the Nielson Norman Group that panned every part of the Windows 8 system in a usability study.

So while Bill Gates spends all his time trying to privatize the public education system, make all of Africa and Asia eat genetically modified food, and solve global warming by whitening the clouds in the sky, the company he helped found has become a bigger object of ridicule than during the darkest days of Vista:

Microsoft (MSFT) is no stranger to criticism these days, and the company’s new Windows 8 platform is once again the target of a scathing review from a high-profile user. Well-known Internet entrepreneur and MIT professor Philip Greenspun handed Windows 8 one of its most damning reviews yet earlier this week, calling the new operating system a “Christmas gift for someone you hate.” Greenspun panned almost every aspect of Microsoft’s new software, noting that Microsoft had four years to study Android and more than five to examine iOS, but still couldn’t build a usable tablet experience.

“The only device that I can remember being as confused by is the BlackBerry PlayBook,” Greenspun wrote on his blog after using Windows 8 on a Dell (DELL) XPS One All-in-One desktop PC. The acclaimed computer scientist noted that Microsoft omitted all of the best features from the most popular touch-focused platforms and instead created a user interface he describes as a “dog’s breakfast.”

“Suppose that you are an expert user of Windows NT/XP/Vista/7, an expert user of an iPad, and an expert user of an Android phone… you will have no idea how to use Windows 8,” Greenspun wrote.
He continued, “Some functions, such as ‘start an application’ or ‘restart the computer’ are available only from the tablet interface. Conversely, when one is comfortably ensconced in a touch/tablet application, an additional click will fire up a Web browser, thereby causing the tablet to disappear in favor of the desktop. Many of the ‘apps’ that show up on the ‘all apps’ menu at the bottom of the screen (accessible only if you swipe down from the top of the screen) dump you right into the desktop on the first click.”

Bill Gates seems to know as much about computers, tablets and operating systems these days as he does about what works in a school classroom - he thinks Windows 8 is fabulous:

Bill Gates is giving some initial feedback about Windows 8, and it's no shocker that he thinks the operating system is pretty nifty.
The Microsoft co-founder and chairman, speaking in a video interview with Microsoft's Steve Clayton, echoes CEO Steve Ballmer in calling Windows 8 an "absolutely critical product" that combines "the best" of tablets and traditional PCs.

  Gates noted that people will be "amazed at the energy" Microsoft is putting behind its new products, and he said Windows 8 "is key to where personal computing is going."

"This is the big time for us," Gates said.

He added that he has been using his Surface tablet nonstop, calling it "unbelievably great."

Gate also hinted that the PC/tablet version of Windows and the phone version will eventually merge over time.

"We're certainly sharing between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8," Gates said. "Over time, we do more and more of that. It's evolving literally to be a single platform."

Microsoft can merge the Windows 8 phone and computer systems into one single platform all they want - people can then hate one big operating systems instead of two little ones.

And I love how Gates thinks Windows 8 takes all of what is great from every other system while Greenspun the MIT professor and the Nielson Norman Group says it is just the opposite - Microsoft took the worst parts of every system and put them into Windows 8.

It's amazing to me that the people give credence to anything Bill Gates says about poverty, education or the environment when it is becoming increasingly clear that he can't even get computer and phone operating systems right - and that's a business he supposedly knows about.

What's worse, he seems to really think the system is fabo, showing just how clueless he truly is.

Microsoft Windows 8 is a nightmare system designed by people who think they're geniuses but who actually are clueless incompetents.

Pretty much like the people at the Gates Foundation who are involved in education policy, food policy, disease eradication and poverty alleviation.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Where's The Accountability For The New York Post?

The people running the NY Post are very big on holding teachers accountable for so-called performance, but just can't seem to hold themselves accountable for their own.

Case in point - the interview with a fake "Ryan Lanza" they ran in yesterday's Sunday New York Post:

The brother of the Connecticut school shooter, Adam Lanza, said through a spokesman Sunday that he never conducted a Facebook interview with the New York Post and that any statements or postings attributed to him were fabricated.

“This is a complete hoax,” said the Lanza family in a statement issued through the spokesman, Errol Cockfield of the public relations firm Edelman.

In the story, Ryan Lanza, who works for the major accounting firm Ernst & Young in Manhattan, purportedly told a New York Post reporter in a Facebook chat, “I am a victim. I loss [sic] my mom and brother.”

The spokesman said that Lanza, 24, shut his Facebook account shortly after the shooting and it has not been reactivated. A fake Facebook page that at first glance appeared to be Lanza’s was subsequently created and used to deceive the New York Post reporter. It is not known who orchestrated the deception.

Cockfield described the New York Post story as the “unfortunate result of a poor editorial process.”
The New York Post acknowledged Sunday that it had been deceived. An “update” added to the top of the original story on the newspaper’s Web site read: “A spokesman for the Lanza family says an imposter is behind Ryan Lanza’s Facebook page and that Ryan did not post the messages in this story.”

A spokeswoman for the Post said the paper did not have an immediate comment.

Oh, and of course the Post deflected blame onto the imposter who ran the fake Facebook page rather than their own reporter or editorial process:

An imposter created a fake Facebook page in the name of Sandy Hook school shooter Adam Lanza’s brother, a family spokesman said yesterday.

“It appears to be a hoax by someone. Ryan [Lanza] shut down his page shortly after the shooting.

This mock-up is atrocious,” said Errol Cockfield, a spokesman for Ryan and his father, Peter Lanza.

The family will ask Facebook to remove the page, Cockfield added.

The page included images of Adam, Ryan and their mom, Nancy, that had already been published online.

The bogus posts and instant-message chats were reported by news outlets, including The Post.

New York Magazine reports that the "Ryan Lanza" Facebook page looked pretty phony from the outset:

The Facebook page itself looks pretty suspicious: All eight of the eight pages it "likes" have to do with Newtown, and four of them, liked within minutes on the same day, call for Ryan Lanza's name to be cleared. There's no friends list visible, only two photos, and no activity prior to last Thursday. Of course that's just what we're seeing now. The Post's story makes reference to photos and comments not visible, which suggests they're either private or have been taken down since the original report.

The real Ryan Lanza's Facebook page became its own story when he was briefly named as the suspect on the day of the shooting (it turned out Adam was carrying his brother's ID). Lanza used his page to deny the reports, then deleted it. So yeah, it would be possible that he started a new one, but seeing as how he's a regular person with interests and friends and whatnot, and that he's already had to disentangle himself from media attention once, it's hard to believe his new page would focus exclusively on the tragedy and his unfortunate association with it.

Those apparent red flags didn't stop The Post from running the item, and they didn't stop others from picking it up. Yahoo News, The Telegraph, Gothamist, MSN, Huffington Post, The Australian, and others posted the news, then had to update their reports with word of the hoax.

 The Posties are still running the original story on the Post website, albeit with a disclaimer:

UPDATE: A spokesman for the Lanza family says an imposter is behind Ryan Lanza's Facebook page and that Ryan did not post the messages in this story.

Gotta love when some piece of "journalism" is proven to be fraudulent, but the newspaper refuses to take the piece down and instead runs a disclaimer.

Also gotta love how the Post makes it sound as if other journalistic outlets got caught up in the hoax:

 The bogus posts and instant-message chats were reported by news outlets, including The Post.

No - the Post conducted an interview with the fake "Ryan Lanza" and that interview and other information from the Post story got picked up by other news outlets.

That's a whole lot different than a bunch of other news outlets getting caught up in the same hoax.

It isn't the job of the other news outlets to check the news stories of supposed legitimate news organizations like the NY Post for validity.

It is the job of the NY Post reporter to make sure the "Ryan Lanza" he is interviewing is actually Ryan Lanza and the job of the NY Post editors to smell out a hoax when they see it.

Especially if the Facebook page of this "Ryan Lanza" looks suspicious as soon as you see it.

Both the reporter and the editors failed in their jobs, but even worse, they refuse to be held accountable for this and instead are deflecting the blame onto the imposter and then making it sound like other news outlets got caught up in the same hoax.

While it is true that in the hours right after the Newtown shootings, many news outlets reported erroneous information, the only "Ryan Lanza" hoax the other news outlets got caught up today in was reprinting a story from the imposter new outlet called the NY Post.

As usual with the people at a Rupert Murdoch organization, accountability is never for themselves - it's always for other people.

Mulgrew And The Mayoral Candidates

In case you haven't noticed, there's been a lot of wooing of Mike Mulgrew and the UFT from the prospective 2013 mayoral candidates.

The latest example was reported by the Daily News yesterday:

New York's four Democratic mayoral candidates flew to the Ohio city at the request of the teacher's union president, Michael Mulgrew. They want his endorsement - and he wanted them to see an innovative program in Cincinnati's schools.


 When Mulgrew, boss of the United Federation of Teachers, suggested the candidates accompany him to inspect a Cincinnati program bringing social services into public schools, they all complied.
Two of them - city Controller John Liu and Council Speaker Christine Quinn - had the city pick up the tab, maintaining that what they learned was relevant to their work as city officials.

The other Democrats, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former Controller Bill Thompson paid for the trip with campaign funds.

The journey was a chance to spend more time talking about the future of education with Mulgrew, who said he was also impressed that the candidates reached out to him after Superstorm Sandy and stood with him in cleaning up the wreckage.

"Where I come from, standing side by side in the mud, going out on a trip with no media coverage, finding things that are really going to work (for schools is what's) going to make a difference in my mind," said Mulgrew, a Staten Islander whose home suffered flood damage.

Mulgrew does have his limits. He said Republican candidate Tom Allon offered to underwrite a jaunt to Finland to scrutinize its education system after Mulgrew talked about it in a speech - but the union boss said he thought that was a bit much and declined.

The article goes on to describe the "desperation" the mayoral candidates are showing as they suck up to various power brokers, union heads and members of Al Sharpton's family in a bid to garner an early endorsement.

I can't speak to that stuff, but I will note that in this wooing of the mayoral candidates game, Mulgrew is clearly laying out his strategy for the future of the city schools (and even the new teacher evaluation system.)

In the next mayoral administration, Mike Mulgrew thinks he will be a power broker with more input into how the school system is run.

Now I think he's delusional because once one of these candidates gets elected, you can be sure the DFER's and Students First NY and the rest of the hedge fundie/education reform movement will make sure that many of Bloomberg's policies will continue unabated - and they'll put a ton of money behind those efforts.

Maybe if Liu gets elected, the DFER's and the rest of the corporate reformers will be shut out of City Hall, but you can bet that if Quinn, de Blasio or Thompson is elected, Mulgrew will have a lot less influence over policy than he thinks he will.

From what I can see, the strategy the UFT is currently running around APPR and closures and all the other damaging Bloomberg policies is to wait out Bloomberg and try and undo the worst damage once Bloomberg is gone.

It's a short-sighted strategy because it assumes that the next mayor will be open to undoing the damage.

If Bloomberg and his Students First NY group, along with the DFER's and the other hedge fundies have their way, you can bet that will not happen because they will make it clear they do not want it to happen.

It's true that political pressure and parent outrage over the worst excesses of the Bloomberg policies might mitigate some things, but frankly, if the UFT cannot frame an alternative vision of what the public education system should like - one that explains very clearly why high stakes testing, a fear-based teacher evaluation system based upon value added measurements of those tests and an unworkable observation rubric, 30+ school closures a year, and mayoral control can no longer be the policy in New York City - then they cannot fight for an alternative to the Bloomberg policies.

It's great that Mulgrew took the candidates to Cincinnati to see public schools with social wrap-around services.

I am a huge fan of schools with wrap-around services and I think giving schools support like that would go a long way toward improving student performance and academic achievement.

But Mulgrew and the UFT need to put out an alternative vision of what the school system should look like and tell the public and parents why we should move toward that vision.

Students First NY and the DFER's think nothing of putting up ads (usually dishonest ones) touting the wonders of test score-based accountability and fear-based teacher evaluations.

Why won't Mulgrew spend some union funds on counter ads explaining that kind of system is harmful to students, teachers and schools and putting forth a vision for schools that would benefit students - one with low class sizes, social wrap-around services, a rich, diverse curriculum, a plethora of after school activities, and partnerships with local businesses that provide job and learning opportunities for students?

I suspect that Mulgrew and Company don't really have that alternative vision of the school system or public education but rather have a watered down one from what Bloomberg and Cuomo and Obama have.

Watching how the UFT and the NYSUT supposedly battle the reforms pushed by those guys, you really only see a half-hearted attempt by the unions to push back.

It's like they're trying to make it look like they're fighting this stuff without actually fighting it.

Which brings me back to the mayoral candidates and the trip to Cincinnati.

It's fabulous that Mulgrew is getting some attention from the prospective mayoral candidates for an alternative program for schools.

But why can't he share that vision with the public at large?

They ought to be running commercials non-stop touting an alternative vision of schools - one that promotes low class sizes, social wrap-around services, a rich, diverse curriculum, a plethora of after school activities, and partnerships with local businesses that provide job and learning opportunities for students.

Instead they run this kind of thing.

That's a nice little ad - but what does it really tell the public other than teachers are dedicated to their students?

It's the kind of ad you run when things are slow in the news - not the kind of ad you run when your entire existence is under attack from the corporate education reform movement.

It's important to communicate to the public that teachers are dedicated to their students - but nowhere near as important as communicating a coherent alternative vision to the current corporate reform public education system.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

NY Times: Low Income, High Achieving Students Still Struggle In Post-Secondary Life

The central tenet of education reform is that public education is failing students from low income families, particularly students of color, by failing to give them the "rigorous" training and skills that students from higher income families get.

Education reformers say if we just fire the teachers and close the schools where low income students are going and reopen these as "No Excuses!" charters or other reformy institutions, hold the teachers who teach these students to test-based accountability and evaluations and impose a rigorous, top-down curriculum of high standards, these students will flourish in their post-secondary lives.

The NY Times is running a front page story today that puts a lot of water onto that white-hot reform meme:

Poor students have long trailed affluent peers in school performance, but from grade-school tests to college completion, the gaps are growing. With school success and earning prospects ever more entwined, the consequences carry far: education, a force meant to erode class barriers, appears to be fortifying them.

“Everyone wants to think of education as an equalizer — the place where upward mobility gets started,” said Greg J. Duncan, an economist at the University of California, Irvine. “But on virtually every measure we have, the gaps between high- and low-income kids are widening. It’s very disheartening.” 

The growing role of class in academic success has taken experts by surprise since it follows decades of equal opportunity efforts and counters racial trends, where differences have narrowed. It adds to fears over recent evidence suggesting that low-income Americans have lower chances of upward mobility than counterparts in Canada and Western Europe. 

Thirty years ago, there was a 31 percentage point difference between the share of prosperous and poor Americans who earned bachelor’s degrees, according to Martha J. Bailey and Susan M. Dynarski of the University of Michigan. Now the gap is 45 points. 

While both groups improved their odds of finishing college, the affluent improved much more, widening their sizable lead. 

Likely reasons include soaring incomes at the top and changes in family structure, which have left fewer low-income students with the support of two-parent homes. Neighborhoods have grown more segregated by class, leaving lower-income students increasingly concentrated in lower-quality schools. And even after accounting for financial aid, the costs of attending a public university have risen 60 percent in the past two decades. Many low-income students, feeling the need to help out at home, are deterred by the thought of years of lost wages and piles of debt. 

In placing their hopes in education, the Galveston teenagers followed a tradition as old as the country itself. But if only the prosperous become educated — and only the educated prosper — the schoolhouse risks becoming just another place where the fortunate preserve their edge. 

“It’s becoming increasingly unlikely that a low-income student, no matter how intrinsically bright, moves up the socioeconomic ladder,” said Sean Reardon, a sociologist at Stanford. “What we’re talking about is a threat to the American dream.” 

 The Times looks at four high-achieving students from Galveston, Texas to illustrate the problem:

Angelica Gonzales marched through high school in Goth armor — black boots, chains and cargo pants — but undermined her pose of alienation with a place on the honor roll. She nicknamed herself after a metal band and vowed to become the first in her family to earn a college degree.
“I don’t want to work at Walmart” like her mother, she wrote to a school counselor. 

Weekends and summers were devoted to a college-readiness program, where her best friends, Melissa O’Neal and Bianca Gonzalez, shared her drive to “get off the island” — escape the prospect of dead-end lives in luckless Galveston. Melissa, an eighth-grade valedictorian, seethed over her mother’s boyfriends and drinking, and Bianca’s bubbly innocence hid the trauma of her father’s death. They stuck together so much that a tutor called them the “triplets.” 

Low-income strivers face uphill climbs, especially at Ball High School, where  third of the girls’ class failed to graduate on schedule. But by the time the triplets donned mortarboards in the class of 2008, their story seemed to validate the promise of education as the great equalizer. 

Angelica, a daughter of a struggling Mexican immigrant, was headed to Emory University. Bianca enrolled in community college, and Melissa left for Texas State University, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s alma mater. 

“It felt like we were taking off, from one life to another,” Melissa said. “It felt like, ‘Here we go!’ ”
Four years later, their story seems less like a tribute to upward mobility than a study of obstacles in an age of soaring economic inequality. Not one of them has a four-year degree. Only one is still studying full time, and two have crushing debts. Angelica, who left Emory owing more than $60,000, is a clerk in a Galveston furniture store. 

Each showed the ability to do college work, even excel at it. But the need to earn money brought one set of strains, campus alienation brought others, and ties to boyfriends not in school added complications. With little guidance from family or school officials, college became a leap that they braved without a safety net. 

The story of their lost footing is also the story of something larger — the growing role that education plays in preserving class divisions.

The struggles these students have suffered that have short-circuited their dreams have not been caused by "bad teachers," they are not due to "failing schools."

Economic inequality, a nation that has rigged its economic system and its social and political institutions for the benefit of the affluent - that's the problem:

Income has always shaped academic success, but its importance is growing. Professor Reardon, the Stanford sociologist, examined a dozen reading and math tests dating back 25 years and found that the gap in scores of high- and low-income students has grown by 40 percent, even as the difference between blacks and whites has narrowed. 

While race once predicted scores more than class, the opposite now holds. By eighth grade, white students surpass blacks by an average of three grade levels, while upper-income students are four grades ahead of low-income counterparts. 

“The racial gaps are quite big, but the income gaps are bigger,” Professor Reardon said.
One explanation is simply that the rich have clearly gotten richer. A generation ago, families at the 90th percentile had five times the income of those at the 10th percentile. Now they have 10 times as much. 

But as shop class gave way to computer labs, schools may have also changed in ways that make parental income and education more important. SAT coaches were once rare, even for families that could afford them. Now they are part of a vast college preparation industry. 

Certainly as the payoff to education has grown — college graduates have greatly widened their earnings lead — affluent families have invested more in it. They have tripled the amount by which they outspend low-income families on enrichment activities like sports, music lessons and summer camps, according to Professor Duncan and Prof. Richard Murnane of Harvard. 

In addition, upper-income parents, especially fathers, have increased their child-rearing time, while the presence of fathers in low-income homes has declined. Miss G. said there is a reason the triplets relied so heavily on boyfriends: “Their fathers weren’t there.” 

Annette Lareau, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that the affluent also enjoy an advocacy edge: parents are quicker to intervene when their children need help, while low-income families often feel intimidated and defer to school officials, a problem that would trail Melissa and Angelica in their journey through college. 

“Middle-class students get the sense the institution will respond to them,” Professor Lareau said. “Working-class and poor students don’t experience that. It makes them more vulnerable.” 

And so the result of all of this is that students from low income backgrounds who score higher on tests than students from more affluent backgrounds finish college far less.

There are no simple solutions to this problem, but there are solutions.

Lower class sizes in low income schools.

Provide a safety net for families.

Provide medical care.

Add more counselors and support staff.

Provide access to out-patient services for emotional health.

Give each student a "mentor" who can help them  navigate not only the secondary school process and college application process, but the post-secondary process.

Oh, and do what John Liu suggested last week - award students from low income backgrounds full ride scholarships to CUNY and SUNY.

Don't force them to take on tens of thousands of dollars of loan debt to go to college.

Raise taxes on millionaires and cut tuition and fees at SUNY and CUNY rather than the other way around, as Cuomo has done.

I teach high school seniors.

I keep in touch with many long after they've graduated.

I have helped students with all kinds of problems - from helping them to edit their papers to helping them with their taxes to helping them with career advice and resume preparation to using connections I might have to help them get an interview for a job to taking them to out-patient counseling or support programs to help them work through family or life traumas.  

I've gone to colleges and advocated for them when they needed that.

I take that kind of work as seriously as I do my in class teaching because I see my role as something larger than just "adding value" to my students' test scores.

Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee and Michael Bloomberg and Andrew Cuomo and Barack Obama may not think that kind of work is important.

Certainly the education policies they promote in which high stakes testing and accountability trumps everything else suggests they don't think much about the "other" work teachers and schools have to do to help students from low income backgrounds break whatever cycle they're stuck in.

But if the so-called education reformers really wanted to help students from low income backgrounds break the cycle of poverty, they would provide the social safety net and the school supports needed to do just that and would drop the FEAR-based, test-based accountability nonsense which is, quite frankly, only making things worse for these kids.

The reality is, Obama and Cuomo and Bloomberg and Klein and Rhee and Murdoch and the rest aren't interested in helping kids from low income backgrounds climb the economic ladder.

They're interested in perpetuating the current economic system that is very much rigged in the favor of the 1%.

Thomas Merton once said (I'm paraphrasing) that we should call things what they are and give them their proper name.

The name for an education reform movement that demonizes teachers and schools even as it ignores the real solutions to the vast problems kids from low income backgrounds face is "hypocritical."

They say they are putting "Students First" even as they put corporations first.

They use the motto "Children First.  Always" for the NYC school system as a slam at teachers even as they send kids to schools with cancer-causing toxins in them, or mold, or PCB's.

It is good to see this article in the Times, although it would have been nice to get this on a weekend other than the one before Christmas.

It needs to be read widely and used to rebut the claims of the Rhee's and Klein's and Bloomberg's and Cuomo's and Bush's and Obama's that we can fire our way to economic equality if we just evaluate teachers and schools with rigorous test-based accountability.

The more test-based accountability and Danielson nonsense they put onto teachers, the less time teachers have for the socio-emotional, career and life supports many try and provide their students.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mayan/Walcott Deadline Set To Pass Without Evaluation Agreement

Chancellor Walcott and Mayor Bloomberg said the world would end today if the UFT did not agree in full to their prescription for a teacher evaluation system.

The Daily News reports that the deadline will come and go without any resolution.

The deadline that schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott set to settle a contentious dispute with the teachers union was expected to come and go Friday without progress.

The city and union must reach a deal on how teachers are evaluated by Jan. 17 or Gov. Cuomo will slash nearly $300 million in state aid to city schools, but Walcott had wanted the deal by Friday.

Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew broke off talks Wednesday, blasting the city for rolling out new evaluations before an agreement. “We believe this administration is falling apart,” Mulgrew said.

School officials fired back. “While Mr. Mulgrew is focused on his reelection, the Department of Education remains committed to reaching an evaluation deal that will benefit the teachers and students of New York City,” said schools spokeswoman Erin Hughes. Mulgrew won his last election with 91% of the votes.

And so now we begin the over/under until Governor Cuomo parachutes in to "negotiate" a deal between the two aggrieved parties, thus giving Mulgrew and his Unity hacks cover to sign off on some horrific deal.

You'll remember that it was Cuomo who "forced" the UFT and the NYSUT to drop their lawsuit against the NYSED and the Regents for making changes to the APPR system that were not in the law.

You can bet that Cuomo will not allow the January 17 deadline he imposed on school districts to pass without trying to force NYC teachers to accept an evaluation deal.

Cuomo likes to have 100% agreement on everything and he simply will not allow the largest school district in the state to not follow along with so many other districts and put into place a punitive and harmful teacher evaluation system.

The NYCDOE spokesperson suggests that Mulgrew is playing internal union politics with the evaluation deal - and there might be something to that.

With many rank and file angry already over the Danielson nonsense, the Superstorm Sandy PD Day By Candlelight and the lost February vacation days, the Unity hacks are finding they're facing criticism from teachers who usually respond with meekness to this kind of stuff.

There's a boiling point that's been hit, with all the teacher demonization, the changes to the system, the school closures, and the other Bloomberg policies that the UFT has done little to mitigate.

So Mulgrew and Company do have to tread lightly with this sell-out.

Remember, he does have an election coming up in a few months and it won't help his chances if he signs off on a punitive and harmful teacher evaluation agreement that gets rolled out before that election happens.

So I'm of two minds here:

The sell-out is still coming, that's for sure.

The timing is what we have to try and figure out.

Mulgrew needs to agree to the system before January 17 but his election is after that deadline given by Cuomo.

Is it possible he gets old pal Cuomo to extend the deadline for a few months for NYC only, citing Bloomberg's intransigence and refusal to agree to a system that doesn't "hold teachers' feet to the fire"?

Bloomberg has certainly made enough public statements that would give Cuomo the cover to extend the deadline a bit and take a swipe at the Mayor of Money too (something Cuomo seems to enjoy.)

Or does Cuomo tell Mulgrew "No deal - get an agreement done or lose the money," thus forcing Mulgrew and Company to have to decide whether they really want to go to the mattresses over this evaluation fight.

We'll see what happen.

I still believe the sell-out is coming because the UFT has shown no willingness to really fight APPR - they're simply fighting the "rollout" of the system.

Much depends on what Cuomo does and says both publicly and behind the scenes as we come closer to the deadline the governor set for all the agreements between unions and districts to get done.

Still, it is good to see that it looks like the Mayan/Walcott deadline will come and go without progress on the evaluation front.

Unfortunately, I think we will still get sold out in the end.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

On Mulgrew's Evaluation Letter

James Eterno at ICEUFT posted this letter that UFT President Mulgrew sent to Chancellor Walcott:

The letter below was sent to the Department of Education by UFT President Michael Mulgrew. It describes
the conditions necessary for there to be any future meetings between the UFT and DOE regarding 
development and implementation for a new evaluation system.
Dear Chancellor Walcott,
The Department of Education’s demonstrated inability to manage the school system correctly has led us to
have serious concerns about getting anything constructive done with you. Two and half years ago the state
decided to change this year’s standardized tests to the Common Core standards and since then you have
done nothing to create a curriculum based on the Common Core. You have now left teachers in a 
horrendous situation where they are scrambling to try to get material appropriate for these new tests to
teach their children.
Inevitably, this will lead to a drop in standardized test scores — which I know once again you will try to
blame on the teachers because you will not take responsibility for your incompetence. Despite all of this
and many other examples, the teachers in our schools have worked through Hurricane Sandy and many
other challenges to serve the children in our care, even as the union has continued to try to negotiate a
new evaluation system.
We were recently informed by our members in the schools that you have launched a new program, the
Teacher Effectiveness Intensive Three Week Cycle, without any planning or proper training for the schools.
Charlotte Danielson’s rubric requires intensive training in order for it to be used correctly, but you have
refused to certify or intensely train people so that they can properly use this tool. Your decision to launch this
new program without a plan that would lead to its successful implementation is mind-boggling to us.
Given this history, at this time we will only meet with you to discuss a planning and roll-out process 
for the new evaluation system — in case we ever get to such an agreement. We understand that 
an evaluation system that will create a constructive practice in each school that will enhance
instruction and benefit our
over 1.1 million students is a critical opportunity. An evaluation system that will change the culture of 
our schools is something that the UFT has been working on for over three years. 
We hope that you will not be party to wasting such an important opportunity. We await your 
communication to set up such a meeting on the planning and roll-out process for the benefit
of our children and our schools.
Michael Mulgrew
Michael Mulgrew
UFT President
 Here's my take on the letter:

This means there will be no deal by the fake December 21st Mayan/Walcott deadline.

It does not mean there will be no deal.

Before January 17 (the actual deadline), Governor Cuomo will parachute in and "negotiate" something between the aggrieved parties.

Perhaps Bloomberg will not get everything he wants in that kind of agreement, but you can bet it will weigh more heavily in his favor than ours.

And then the UFT leadership can deflect blame onto Cuomo and claim they did all they could to protect us but it was out of their hands,

Ironically, Mulgrew (or whoever wrote Mulgrew's letter) gets two of the main problems many teachers I speak to have about the new evaluation system:

1. The new "tougher" Common Core tests are being given the same year the new "more rigorous" evaluation process based on test scores goes into place - and yet they aren't cutting anybody any slack for that but fully intend to "i" rate as many as they can this very year.

2. The Danielson rubric is a horror show that can be used to "i" rate just about anybody, given the complexity and scope of the checklists contained therein.

How rare to see the leadership actually understand and address the concerns of the membership.

Of course it's not just Bloomberg who is fully committed to going full speed ahead on teacher evaluations this year with all the unpiloted and half-baked nonsense that's been added - NYSED Commissioner King and Regents Chancellor Tisch are also fully committed to this as well.

It seems pretty clear that the political and education establishments in both the city and the state are looking to implement the most harmful, damaging teacher evaluation system possible regardless of the consequences to students, teachers or schools.

How else do you explain their refusal to pilot this stuff or grandfather components in so that teachers don't feel the system is rigged against them?

It's a pity the geniuses at the UFT and the NYSUT didn't think about this stuff beforehand, but they tend to be a reactive rather than proactive bunch, so now we are living with the consequences of their actions.

As always, I hope to be wrong about this - I hope Mulgrew holds fast to no agreement throughout the Bloomberg year+ and negotiates a fair agreement with whoever replaces the Mayor of Money - one that is not rigged to "i" rate as many teachers as possible.

But the UFT has not shown the willingness to hold out for that, nor have they taken to the airwaves to explain their positions to the public.

So I fully expect a sell-out before the January 17 deadline.

Again, hope I'm wrong.

Seriously, nothing would make me happier.

But you'll never go broke betting heavily that the UFT (and indeed, the AFT) leadership will sell out its members time and time again for political expediency or just for the hell of it.