Monthly Archives: July 2014

Why I Have Not Try to Turn My Best Classes into a Higher Ed “Common Core”

Over the last 20 years, I have developed  4 classes at Fordham which have become very popular with students–. The Sixties, Rock and Roll to Hip Hop, Affirmative Action, and the Worker in American Life. By every standard, enrollment, class participation, new student projects, publications, future teachers produced, they have been successful. NEVER have I tried to make them part of a national curriculum for African American Studies, Cultural Studies or Labor history. Why, because with a different student population, a different teachers and in a school with a different academic culture, they might not work as well. So, what if Pearson approached me and gave me a million dollars to take my courses annd institutionalize them nationally? I would be horrified. Not because I don’t think other scholars couldn’t possibly benefit from looking at the syllabi, but because I don’t want it forced on any body, especially for my profit or those of a global corporation. Same with Common CORE. Once profit and oercion enter, I fight it tooth and nail

Parents; The Secret Weapon Against Corporate Ed Deform

Parents are the secret weapon in the struggle to preserve public education in the United States and push back against the testing and micromanagement that is deforming it beyond recognition. If they refuse to allow their children to take the tests, and take legal action against the abuse that excessive testing imposes on special needs students, ELL students, and increasingly all students, the whole testing, evaluation and date collection machine grinds to a halt. We cannot as teachers, legally advocate for parents to take this step, but we can as parents and there are a growing array of networks and resources available for those who take these steps. I encourage everyone on this page to become a member of United Opt Out and local opt out groups in your state. What happened in NY State last April, where upwards of 10,000 families opted out, is the tip of the iceberg. Parent test resistance is the Achilles Heel of the School Deform Juggernaut. Spread the word. Spread the love. Spread the revolt!

East Flatbush Memories

My heart goes out the the people of East Flatbush who are now under police occupation. Theirs is a neighborhood I know well. Every spring, for three years, between 1960 and 1962, I took the Church Ave bus from Flatbush Avenue to Kings Highway and then walked three blocks to the Highway Courts on Foster Avenue and Kings Hwy, where the Erasmus team had tennis practice, and where we played all our matches in the Brooklyn public school league. The neighborhood then was mostly Jewish and Italian, with a small number of West Indian families starting to buy homes there. It was a community of one and two family homes, interspersed with small factories, and it had two high schools with great sports traditions- Samuel J Tilden HS, the public high school and Nazareth HS, the Catholic HS.
I didn’t really return to the neighborhood much until 1976 when I moved back to Brooklyn, this time to Park Slope. I resumed playing tennis at the Highway Courts which was all the best players in Brooklyn congregated. I had fierce games with three longtime rivals, John Mogulescu, Ollie Tiegerman and Allen Polen, and occasionally got my butt whipped by Brooklyn legends Kenny Lindner and Steve Ross. By that time, the neighborhood had become about 80 or 90 percent West Indian, but it still looked and felt the same as it had in the 60’s, filled with hardworking homeowners who kept their lawns and sidewalks clean and patronized local businesses.
In the late 80’s the Highway Courts closed so I had no reason to go back to the neighborhood until I started coaching CYO basketball and started taking teams to tournaments in some of the neighborhood churches. By the 90’s, the neighborhood was close to 100 percent people of color, with some Latinos and South Asians adding to the West Indian presence
In all my times in the neighborhood, in four different decades, I never felt uncomfortable in the streets, never felt an air of menace. So what has happened in the last fifteen years to make it a flash point for tensions with the police. 
I have a few thoughts. One is the possible effects of gentrification and displacement of poor people from Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bed Stuy, Prospect Heights, and Crown Heights. I don’t know for sure, but it may be that people pushed out of those communities have moved South into East Flatbush, doubling and tripling up to pay the rents, or taking in boarders to their homes and apartments
The other issue is school closing. Both Tilden and Nazarth High Schools, once anchors of the neighborhood have been closed, the former divided into numerous small schools competing one another. Perhaps that has undermined neighborhood stability.
In any case, it really hurts to see police drive a neighborhood into rage and despair by killing a sixteen year old boy and then putting the neighborhood on lock down.
There is a message here about what is happening to once peaceful outer borough neighborhoods and we’d better figure out what that message is

Why People Love the Badass Teachers Association!

  Why People Love the BATS!
So excited by the  response to  The Badass Teachers Association at the fundraiser for an anti-testing candidate for NY Mayor, Bill De Blasio. It is hard to put in words how much people I met there, most of them teachers, and activist parents, LOVE the idea that a group like this exists!!! It gave them hope that they had allies in the incredibly uphill battle we face in NY not only against the Bloomberg Department of Education, but against the concentrated power of the city’s financial elite who want the school closings, charter co-locations, and test based teacher and school evaluations to continue. Our power lies precisely in the fact that we are 22,000 LOOSE CANNONS who cannot be bribed or intimidated or bought, and will not necessarily be polite and civil in getting our points across. Diane Ravitch told me the same thing. The movement needs a large wing of activists who are perceived as crazy and unpredictable and the BATS are that group. Now we have to prove it in action. Are you down with this? Time for BAT Visits! Time for BAT Power! No Justice, No Peace!

An American Tragedy: The Humiliation and Displacement of Veteran Teachers

Every day, i get an email or Facebook message from a teacher somewhere in the United States who has been driven our of their job by a school administrator after more than 20 years of loyal service to the profession, often with great distinction. These teachers have worked in all kinds of schools; have taught a wide variety of subjects, have sometimes been coaches, librarians and school counselors. The one thing they seem to have in common is that they loved their jobs, had developed their own effective methods of teaching, and were at the high end of the salary scale.
The number of people we are talking about here is very large- probably tens of thousands of teachers pushed out, maybe more than that. Each one of these forced departures is an individual tragedy- a life deprived of meaning and purpose, often in the context of a very public personal humiliation in front of the entire school community, sometimes plunging the individual into depression and their families into hardship
 But it is also a collective tragedy. At a time when the average teaching career is less than five years, when young people pour in and out of the profession at a staggering rate, the forcing out of skilled and veteran teachers deprives schools of mentoring, of continuity, and also of resistance to methods of administration and pedagogy which are poorly thought through fads rather than carefully researched strategies.
And perhaps the latter reason, along with purely budgetary concerns, is why these teachers have been targeted. In the last ten years, our public schools have been deluged with initiatives which have transformed the way teaching is conducted and teachers are evaluated- ranging from VAM ( rating of teachers on the basis of test driven measures of student achievement), to the Common Core Standards, to high orchestrated methods of conducting teacher observations ( Danielson and Marzano protocols being the best known) accompanied by an unremitting wave of standardized tests.  Young teachers are shell shocked by all of these policies because they have known nothing else and desperately try to conform, often leaving the profession in frustration when they can’t adapt. Veteran teachers, who have seen education fads come and go, speak out and call for skepticism.  This is threatening to the new managerial ethos in education which relies more on intimidation than cooperation and is determined to script teachers rather than inspire them
As a result, the brightest and most talented veteran teachers in each school, the natural leaders recognized among their colleagues, their students and their students families, are the ones targeted for being removed from their position, a process made easier by the new evaluation systems created to weaken teacher tenure and allegedly get rid of bad teachers.
But what has happened has turned the alleged intention of such policies on their head- leading to  the systematic elimination of the best  and most experienced teachers.
This has left young teachers unprotected. It has also left students without their most effective advocates
Someone needs to call out everyone responsible for this tragedy from the US Department of Education, to the Halls of Congress, to State Legislatures  and individual schools
That might as well be me
Enough is enough.
Time to use our best veteran teachers to help keep great young teachers in the profession- not to humiliate them, shame them and turn their example into a warning to young teachers to avoid speaking out, and above all avoid loving your profession so much that you fight for it’