Friday, September 27, 2013

No. of Fired Teachers

Mr. Nerad:

I am writing in response to your outstanding Freedom of Information Act request, which was received and processed by the Chicago Public Schools Law Department.  Thank you for your patience and thank you for your interest in Chicago Public Schools.

Kind Regards,

Cassandra Daniels 

The data is the following chart represents teachers impacted in the Chicago Public Schools over the time period indicated.
There are typically three types of impacts reflected here:

  1. Year-end decreases in projected student enrollment that result in position losses

  1. Year-end position losses due to shrinking funds

  1. Adjustments based on actual student enrollment decreases after school has begun but before 20 days of student attendance. (20th day adjustments)

Please note - for the most current year reflected, 20th day adjustments are not yet known.

*In 2010, the district experienced a major loss in funding resulting in a large number of position losses due to shrinking funds.

**In 2013, CPS closed an unprecedented number of schools.  In addition, new contractual requirements provided the opportunity for tenured teachers impacted to transfer to the same schools the students transferred to.  Of 516 teachers eligible to transfer, only 51 have not transferred or been rehired at present.

School Year
Teachers - No Substitutes
Laid Off

Dear Ms. Daniels:
          Under the Freedom of Information Act I'm requesting the following information:
> >
1.       The number of CPS teachers laid-off in the last five years, 2008 - 2013; broken down by year.
> >
2.       The number of CPS teachers fired in the last five years, 2008 - 2013; broken down by year.
> >
3.       The number of CPS substitute teachers fired in the last five years, 2008 - 2013; broken down  by year.
> >
4.       The number of CPS substitute teachers laid-off in the last five years, 2008 - 2013; broken down by year.
> >

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Slaying Great Teachers

How one great teacher was wronged by flawed evaluation system -  The Common Core Data Command Force is destroying teachers. 

by Valerie Strauss 
The Washington Post

Principal Carol Burris of South Side High School in New York has for some time been chronicling the consequences of standardized test-driven reform in her state ( here, and here and here, for example). Burris was named New York's 2013 High School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and in 2010, tapped as the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State. She is the co-author of the New York Principals letter of concern regarding the evaluation of teachers by student test scores. It has been signed by more than 1,535 New York principals and more than 6,500 teachers, parents, professors, administrators and citizens. You can read the letter by clicking here.

In this new post, Burris tells the story of a New York state teacher who was just unfairly smacked by the state's flawed new teacher and principal evaluation system, known as APPR, which in part uses student standardized test scores to evaluate educators. The method isn't reliable or valid, as Burris shows here.

by Carol Burris

Jenn is a teacher of middle-school students. Her school is in a small city district that has limited resources. The majority of kids in the school receive free or reduced priced lunch and about 40% are black or Latino. Many are English language learners. Lots of them are homeless.

After learning that she was rated less than effective because of her students' standardized test scores, she wrote to Diane Ravitch, who posted her letter on her blog. She wrote: 

I'm actually questioning whether I can teach for the next 20 years. It's all I've ever wanted to do, but this APPR garbage is effectively forcing out some of the best teachers I've worked with. I may be next. 

I contacted Jenn to better understand her story. I encountered the kind of teacher I love to hire. She has never imagined herself as anything but a teacher--teaching is not a stepping stone to a career in law or business. She does all the extras. She comes in early and leaves late. She coaches. She understands that she must be a counselor, a nurse and a surrogate parent to her students--the most at-risk students in the seventh-grade. Jenn is their support teacher for English Language Arts. 

She is valued by her principal who gave her 58 out of 60 points on the measure of teaching behaviors—instruction, lesson plans, professional obligations, understanding of child development, communication with parents--all of the things that matter and that Jenn can truly control. 

And then came the test score measures. The grade-level teachers and the principal had to create a local measure of student performance. They chose a group measure based on reading growth on a standardized test. They were required to set targets from a pre-test given in the winter to a post-test given in the spring. The targets were a guess on the part of the teachers and principal. How could they not be? The team was shooting in the dark—making predictions without any long-term data. Such measures can never be reliable or valid. 

The state of Massachusetts requires that measures of student learning be piloted and that teachers be evaluated not by one set of scores, but rather by trends over time. That state’s evaluation model will not be fully implemented for several years because they are building it using phase-in and revision. But New York does not believe in research or caution. New York is the state where the powerful insist that teachers "perform," as though they were trained circus seals. There is no time for a pilot in the Empire State. Our students and we must jump, as our chancellor advises, "into the deep end of the pool." In New York, our commissioner warns that we can never let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We don't even let nonsense be the enemy of the good. And so Jenn hoped that she and her colleagues made a reasonable gamble when they set those targets. 

Many of the seventh-grade students did not take the standardized reading test seriously. Middle schoolers are savvy--they knew the test didn't count. So they quickly filled in the bubbles as teachers watched in horror. Luckily, enough students took their time so that their teachers were able to get 10/20 points on that local measure of learning, which put Jenn in the Effective range. 

The final piece in her evaluation was her score from new Common Core-aligned tests that the state gave to students this past spring. The tests were far too difficult for Jenn's Academic Intervention Services (AIS) students. They were too long. The reading passages were dense and many of the questions were confusing. We know that only about 1 in 5 students across the state, who are like the majority of Jenn's students, scored proficient on the Common Core tests. Even more importantly, we know that about half of all students like Jenn's scored in level 1--below Basic. These are the students who, overwhelmed by frustration, give up or guess. The test did not measure their learning—it measured noise. 

So Jenn's students' scores, along with all the other seventh-grade scores on the Common Core tests, were put in a regression model and the statisticians cranked the model, and they entered their covariates and set confidence levels and scratched their heads over Beta reports and did all kinds of things that make most folks' eyes glaze over. And all of that cranking and computing finally spit out all of the teachers' and principals' places on the modified bell curve. Jenn got 5 points out of 20 on her state growth score along with the label, Developing. 

When all of the points were added up, it did not matter that she received 58/60 points in the most important category of all, which is based on New York's teaching standards. And it did not matter that she was Effective in the local measure of student learning. 5+10+58 = 73 which meant that Jenn was two points short of being an Effective teacher. Jenn was labeled, Developing, and put on a mandated improvement plan. 

This seven-year dedicated teacher feels humiliated. She knows that parents will know and possibly lose confidence in her. She is angry because the label is unfair. She will be under scrutiny for a year. Time she would spend on her students and her lessons will be wasted in meetings and improvement plan measurement. The joy of teaching is gone. It has been replaced by discouragement and fear. 

Her principal also knows it is not fair--she gave Jenn 58/60 points. Over time, however, she may begin to doubt her own judgment--the scores may influence how she rates teachers. After all, principals get a growth score too, and the teachers with low scores will become a threat to principals' own job security over time. Those who created this system put Machiavelli to shame. 

Jenn is not alone. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of good teachers and principals across the state who are receiving poor ratings they do not deserve based on a flawed model and flawed tests. Slowly, stories will come out as they gain the courage to speak out. There will be others who suffer in silence, and still others who leave the profession in disgust. None of this is good for children. 

During the July 2013 hearing of the Governor's New Education Reform Commission, David Steiner, the previous New York State Commissioner of Education, said, 

There is a risk, and I want to be honest about this, that very, very, mature, effective teachers are saying you are treating me like a kid. In the name of getting rid of the bottom 5 percent, we risk losing the top 5 percent. . . . We do not want to infantilize the profession in order to save it. 

Steiner directed those remarks to his former deputy, now state commissioner, John. B. King. Did King understand what his former mentor was trying to tell him? Because he did not respond to Steiner's observation, we do not know. 

John King told districts to use caution when using this year's scores to evaluate teachers and principals. He claimed that the tests did not negatively impact teacher’s accountability ratings. Perhaps he should ask Jenn if she agrees. We already know that 1 in 4 teachers and principals moved down at least one growth score category from last year -- hardly the hallmark of a reliable system. 

There is much that King and the Board of Regents can do. They can ask the governor to pass legislation so that the evaluations remain private. They can request that teachers like Jenn, who are more than effective in the eyes of their principals, be spared an improvement plan this year. I hold no hope, however, that John King will do that. He lives in "the fierce urgency of now." But for Jenn and her students, now quickly becomes tomorrow. The risk that David Steiner explained is real. We need to make sure that we have our best teachers tomorrow and not lose them in the deep end of the pool. 

— Valerie Strauss and Carol Burris
Washington Post Answer Sheet
September 08, 2013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mexico Ed Fight

Mexico City Erupts Over Neoliberal Education Bill
In These Times 

By Michelle Chen 

In Mexico City, school teachers are meting out some serious discipline to a government gone awry.

For the past several weeks, the metropolis has pulsed with a labor insurrection. There have been fierce union-led rallies, clashes with police, and mass demonstrations that have paralyzed the city, climaxing with an estimated 12,000 teachers storming the streets on Wednesday. The catalyst is Mexico's new education reform legislation, championed by President Enrique Peña Nieto and his PRI party, which teachers union activists blast as a thinly veiled attack on organized labor.

After lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to implement the reforms last week, demonstrations flared across the capital, blocking traffic and drawing crowds around the French, Spanish and U.S. embassies. The National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), a radical union faction representing a third of Mexico’s public school teachers, has mobilized tens of thousands of protesters. The conflict is now widely seen as as a principle test of Peña Nieto's political strength, symbolizing the class and ideological tensions between Nieto's center-right PRI party and Mexico’s embattled leftist movements.

The government maintains that the law, which amends articles of Mexico's constitution that guarantee the right to public secular education, is necessary for improving management of Mexico's school system and raising the quality of teaching. Reflecting the same neoliberal "reform" impulse that politicians have pushed in the United States with charter schools and draconian testing systems, the idea is to tighten controls on educators and students by imposing standardized tests and evaluations. The reforms would also ease the process for firing teachers, aiming to dismantle traditional union control and cronyism in employment decisions. As in the U.S., the "reformers" are pushing "merit-based" performance measures other market-oriented reforms.

Teachers see this as an assault on a sacrosanct public institution and view the law as a union-busting campaign masquerading as public-minded reform. In a Labor Notes report last December, Dan La Botz quoted Rubén Núñez Ginés of SNTE Local 22 in Oaxaca: 

We consider the educational reform, and especially any changes to Article 3 of the Constitution, to be an attack on the Mexican people... The project hides its real objective: the labor issue... It is an attempt to do away with collective bargaining in education and to institute instead individual contracts based on evaluations with a punitive character, in order to justify firings. 

The debate has highlighted a three-way power struggle in education: The radical teacher activists of the CNTE are driving the ideological rank-and-file opposition to the government proposal, yet they are simultaneously opposed to the mainstream leadership of the teachers union, SNTE, which has also criticized the law. The SNTE is reviled by both left and right for its deep corruption and notoriously dictatorial leader Elba Esther Gordillo, who was recently imprisoned on corruption charges. 

Gordillo's union, however, successfully lobbied for an amendment to the law that softened some of the provisions aimed at easing the termination process for teachers. But the CNTE's campaign has linked many communities in a coalition of opposition to the PRI'santi-labor, pro-economic liberalization agenda. Along with stripping power from the teachers unions, the administration has also pushed to open the state oil company to foreign private investment, which has also drawn deep resentment from Mexico’s labor left. 

The intensifying unrest in Mexico City echoes the 2006 teacher strike in Oaxaca, during which activists seized the city for several months and inspired international labor solidarity campaigns. The current teacher-led protests in Mexico City have similarly sparked a broad-based grassroots revolt, met with harsh repression by security forces to clamp down. The alternative media collective SubVersiones recently issued a video showing the security crackdown on protests and "arbitrary detention" and abuse of fellow journalists. 

The radical faction CNTE is not opposed to restructuring the education system, but argues that this must be done democratically, taking into account the vast social and economic inequalities ingrained in Mexico’s struggling school districts. Opponents representing indigenous communities also point out that Mexico’s linguistic and ethnic diversity complicates the push for a single, centralized educational standard. Oaxaca elementary school teacher José Alfredo Martinez tells The Real News

We are demanding and are in agreement with an evaluation, but an evaluation that is not standardized or punitive, an evaluation that takes into account the social context in which we develop our educational practices. It is not possible that a student from the mountains of Oaxaca or Guerrero will receive the same standardized test as a child who lives in a large city like Monterrey or Guadalajara. 

These criticisms align with the arguments of grassroots education activists in the U.S., who say that many mainstream education reform measures, such as mass school closings, end up hurting the same poor, disadvantaged students that reformers purport to be lifting up. 

Speaking at a recent rally of the CNTE, a protester summed up the ethos of the teacher rebellion: 

Today we are mobilized by the storm wind of millions of teachers. It is a lie that we are a minority! The teachers. The students. The indigenous communities. We are millions in this country! And we are the ones leading these occupations in the streets! In these marches. We are the teachers. We are the workers. We have identity, roots, history! And this is what we have come to defend before this tyrant who wields the economic and political power in this country and in the world. 

If the teachers do not prevail in their resistance to PRI's education policies, they have set the stage for a much wider-ranging battle over the role of labor in Mexico’s social future. And if the past few weeks portends anything, it is that the PRI may have taken the ballot box, but the unions have the street on their side. 

Raquel de Anda, SubVersiones and Imágenes en Rebeldia assisted with gathering and translating video for this report 

Michelle Chen is a contributing editor at In These Times, a contributor to Working In These Times, and an editor at CultureStrike. She is also a co-producer of Asia Pacific Forum on Pacifica's WBAI. Her work has appeared on Alternet,, Ms., and The Nation, Newsday, and her old zine, cain. Follow her on Twitter at @meeshellchen or reach her at michellechen [at] inthesetimes [dot] com.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Merit Pay?

Another step to gut the City Colleges

September 24, 2013

The Chicago Tribune, on behalf of the corporate sector, is touting the merit pay plan the Chicago City Colleges have implemented, but Chicago Public School teachers avoided due to a major strike last year. Here is a perspective written by CCC teachers that the Tribune completely avoided in its totally biased report, breaking every journalistic rule of presenting both sides of a story on merit pay.

To the great delight of Chicago’s business leaders, the City Colleges of Chicago has taken yet another step in its move to gut the institution of its role as educator for those who most need it and to track it largely toward a job training center for the corporations.

On September 19, hundreds of Adult Educators (who teach thousands of English as a Second Language and GED students) for the first time received bonuses based on examination scores rather than years of service. Similar bonuses will go to credit teachers, as a result of union contracts. The bonuses are just the first step toward a system which rewards teachers for fulfilling the goals of “Reinvention,” the program established by mayor Rahm Emanuel (through his appointee as chancellor, Cheryl Hyman, formerly a vice president of Commonwealth Edison) and the Commercial Club of Chicago. The bonuses won praise from Hyman and from the Chicago Tribune, which usually ignores the City Colleges, but printed an article praising the bonuses on September 21.

In all likelihood, these bonuses will disappear in the future since, as the Tribune noted, “The targets teachers have to hit will rise, too.”

The consequences of what is going on will be felt as fewer and fewer poor and minority students are able to get a general education at the City Colleges (after all, this system has few if any jobs and certainly no future for millions upon millions, except for prison, the military or drug dealing), and more and more are tracked into job training programs, which do the work at public expense of training workers for private corporations. One example: this summer, ESL students took the first of a new series of examinations to pass from one level to another. The tests are so difficult most of the students failed.

What will this do? Discourage many who haven’t historically done well on standardized tests from continuing in school—even though this is exactly the group of students the City Colleges should be serving.

There have been doubts about the real goals of “Reinvention,” since it is couched in terms of improving “student outcomes” and giving more people a chance to get a college education. But these goals also
became a lot clearer this spring, when one of the most hated and hateful institutions on this planet, the
World Bank, responsible for enslaving and impoverishing hundreds of millions of people worldwide,
arrived in Chicago to lavish praise on “Reinvention” and express its desire to copy it everywhere!!

“City Colleges of Chicago was honored to host 17 representatives from The World Bank this week.
They were interested in learning more about Reinvention and the College to Career initiative.  Their
focus was on how what we’re doing here in Chicago could potentially be replicated in the countries in
which The World Bank is currently operating to improve economies through education and workforce
development.  After two days of meetings and tours of our colleges and partner facilities the delegation
returned to Washington DC much impressed by what they experienced at City Colleges.” (from
Reinvention website, May 11, 2013 (

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund impose "Structural Adjustment Programs" (SAPs) on countries as a condition for receiving loans. SAPs restructure Third World economies to make them more fully subordinate to the needs of international capital and multinational corporations.

SAPs result in the impoverishment of hundreds of millions of people. Poor countries are forced to produce and export more, and spend and eat less. To pay back loans, they are told they must earn more on the world market, which means cutting back on domestic spending, exporting more, and making exports cheaper (reducing costs and lowering the value of their currencies). Poor countries must open their economies up even more to foreign investors. Government cuts demanded by the IMF usually fall heaviest on health care, education, food subsidies and housing.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund say they are “neutral” agencies concerned with issues of economic development and stability. But in truth, the World Bank and the IMF intensify
poverty, environmental destruction, and economic dependency in the Third World. Despite their
rhetoric and promises, they increase the gap between rich and poor.

What does it say that the World Bank is “impressed” with “Reinvention” and wants to “replicate” it
around the world?

City Colleges teachers start to see bonuses for hitting performance targets

Goal of incentive pay is to increase number of students getting GEDs, moving on to college courses

Teachers in City Colleges of Chicago's adult education program this week received their first bonus checks based on performance, not seniority.
In a contract negotiated in April 2012, City Colleges and the union representing the adult educators agreed to give up retention pay, a bonus based on years of service. Instead, adult educators — who teach courses for high school equivalency, English as a second language and adult basic education programs — can earn bonuses for hitting student achievement and enrollment targets.
A five-year contract between City Colleges and the full-time faculty union signed in September 2012 includes similar performance pay measures.
The bonus was good news for Andrew Oloffson, who has been teaching adult reading, math and college readiness classes at Truman College for about a year and a half and would have been among the nearly 30 percent of teachers who didn't qualify for a tenure-based bonus in the 2012 fiscal year.
This year, all 476 adult educators earned bonuses because performance pay is tied to overall targets rather than individual achievement. Bonus amounts depend on the number of hours taught but averaged $440. In total, teachers received $200,000 out of a possible $250,000, up to nearly 2 percent of their salaries.
"Any incentive to work harder is beneficial. Now we know there are benchmarks and have to strive to do better," Oloffson said.
City Colleges hopes to double by 2016 the number of students getting GEDs and transitioning to college courses, said Sameer Gadkaree, associate vice chancellor for adult education.
Over the past year, 33 percent more students moved into college courses and 21 percent more earned GEDs compared with the 2012 fiscal year, according to a City Colleges statement. Overall, adult education enrollment increased by 5 percent.
In the past year, the college system added 30 locations in areas that had high demand for ESL and GED courses, which may have accounted for some of the growth, administrators said. But they said teachers are having an effect, too, with initiatives to support students transitioning to college and greater emphasis on writing skills.
The size of the potential bonus pool increases each year, so that by the time the contract ends in 2016, performance bonuses could account for up to 7 percent of instructors' salaries, the City Colleges statement said. The targets teachers have to hit will rise, too.
"Some difficulties could come in down the road," Oloffson said. "I think they negotiated fair incentives this time. I just hope that continues to be the case."

Monday, September 23, 2013

Progressive NY Mayor?

NY Mayor Race a Reality or What?
By Norm Scott

New Yorkers are on the verge of voting in a real progressive that would have the ruling class taking notice in our country's biggest city.  Bill de Blasio, who won the NY mayoral primaries, is against charter schools, the corporate school reform, he wants to tax the rich, supported the Soviet-backed Sandanistas in Nicaragua - wooaa, am I still in Kansas or the Land of Oz. Here is a perspective from one of the best education minds in the Big Apple.  And why did the United Federation of Teachers not support this guy?

(New York) - We are in a complex situation with lots of analysis going on here. One of our best teacher/political bloggers here is Reality Based Educator, a Manhattan HS teacher who blogs at

Some of his analysis is spot on.

None of us on the left trust de Blasio to actually come through with much, but at least he is not Bloomberg. It will be hard for him to sell us down the tubes completely on education, though he will on housing etc. Too many of our people have ties to him- and I feel we can penetrate the wall to get points across.
We will know a lot by who he appoints as chancellor and to the school board.
Actually, the candidate I really like is Leticia James for public advocate, though she is in a touch run-off with a charter supported slug.

Now as to why the UFT supported Thompson despite the fact his campaign finance manager is billionaire and NYS Regent head and chief ed deformer Merry Tisch has made for interesting discussions. Thompson was Bloomberg's fave for running against him in 2009 and barely campaigned, yet came within 5 points --not due to him.

Even though some of us view de Blasio as a potential Obama c. 2008 - offering all things to all people - the ruling class seems to be in a panic and are hoping there will still be a runoff so Thompson can  run and drain the democratic coffers to allow a Republican pal of Giulianni to win.

UFT had long time ties to Thompson and feels comfortable with him -- and it was interesting that Randi endorsed him before the UFT did, which made it so obvious that despite their claims to be doing the democratic process, they had pre-decided to go with Thompson, but then manipulated what appeared to be a democratic process in choosing Thompson. Many teachers just ignored the recommendation and they spent well over a million dollars on the campaign which I calculate is about $15 a vote.

While they are being made a joke due to the fact that their muscle could only deliver 26% of the vote, in fact their muscle helped raise Thompson from the low teens and knocked Quinn out of the potential runoff. And since she was the most favorable candidate towards Bloomberg, that was important.

UFT sees the writing on the wall and wants to switch over to de Blasio we think but is waiting for the count. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sex and the Teacher

By Stephen Wilson

(Moscow, Russia)'We are all murderers and prostitutes ' theatrically declared R.D. Laing in his work 'The Politics of Experience'.  It sounds almost like a platitude, but we all compromise ourselves with evil in one way or another.  As soon as you pay money for goods in a supermarket, you are already compromising with the capitalist system.  It is irrelevant whether you claim to be an anarchist or socialist.  A teacher, in a sense, sells his brains in exchange for money.  Perhaps his main motive is to genuinely serve the community, but it is difficult if not impossible to deny that the need to bring in bread is at least one factor in motivating his work. Therefore, it makes sense not to be too self-righteous about certain cases, especially if we don't fully understand the full details of a person's predicament!

It is all to easy for a teacher to inadvertently stumble into ridiculous situations where they look as if they are colluding or compromising with something such as, say prostitution.  Some recent cases of Russian teachers alleged to 'be on the game' may well be more complex than we assume.

I will  offer two stories from my life to illustrate the point.  When I was a young man I visited the city of Frankfurt for the first time.  I unwittingly was walking along a pleasant street when a cheerful and friendly man rushed out of a pub and invited me into his place for a drink. They thrust a bottle of Champagne on me and wavered me to a corner of the pub. I presumed it was just hospitality. The next minute an obese prostitute turned up to sit next to me. It dawned on me that I had dropped into a brothel.  

'What will you have?  What will you pay for her services?,' the pimp asked me.  

'Nothing. I thought this was just a pub.' 

A typical mean Englishman 'angrily retorted, a German prostitute.

'I'm not English, but Scottish.  I'm sorry but I don't have any money. I have to leave.'

I rushed out, but the pimp who followed me pursued me and even assaulted me.

'Don't come back you cheap skate.'

It was too late. I had lost a lot of my money and got stuck in Paris without a penny for the return fare home.

The second problem I encountered was in Moscow where I was asked to teach a particular woman who did not know any English. I came to her twice to instruct her.  She was quite kind and caring and paid me. I realised there was something odd about how the place was decorated.  And then from all the translating I was doing, I realised that this woman was most likely a prostitute. Not only that.  She was in the process of packing her suitcase and going abroad. Was she quitting the apartment soon? Doing a bunk? 

When I left I went down the stairway (l don't trust the lifts) and on my way, I met an angry courtyard caretaker who eyed me suspiciously. 

'Where have you been? What are you up to?  Let me see your passport!'

I answered, 'You have no legal right to examine my passport. You don't have any authority to do this'.

This only made him incensed. I rushed out. He pursued me, cursing me, shouting, 'I will call the militia.'  Later, it occurred to me that me might have presumed I was the client of this prostitute. My student, who had not paid me, insisted I return to get paid. She did not have change at the time. I never returned. Given the troubles this poor student was experiencing, I thought she needed the money more than me.

What if such a silly situation arose for some Russian teachers?  After all, it is sometimes difficult to discern who is and is not a prostitute. I noticed that a lot of young Russians were wearing very sexy high heeled boots, which are traditionally favoured by prostitutes in Europe.  I thought, maybe the rise in prostitution has exploded. An American came to the same conclusion. We later learned that those women were not prostitutes, but it was one of the new fashions which had hit Moscow!

In a school in the Volgogonsky region, the students were doing an exam. The supervising teacher made the mistake of leaving the classroom, as well as his electronic notebook, on his desk. The students crept up to the desk to examine his notebook to see if they could find the exam answers. Instead of finding the answers, they found some titillating photos showing his partner apparently advertising her services. The woman in question turned out to be a current teacher! A student recorded all this on a flashcard and revealed it to the media. The result was a scandal, and a school angrily accusing the students of 'hooliganism.'  Whether the school students were disciplined for cheating remains unclear.

This is not all. In recent months, the media have focused on some cases of young school teachers supplementing their meagre income by prostitution.

Prostitution is not even concealed in Moscow.  A magazine by the name 'Flirt' is openly handed out to anyone passing by. It is free of charge! The magazine openly provides the phone numbers and photos of agencies which provide the services of prostitutes.

However, it is a huge indictment of the Russian government that they can 't provide teachers with a decent living income and that some are resorting to extreme cases to just get by! It is almost a rarity to come across a young school teacher in a Russian state school. The vast majority of teachers are either middle-aged or elderly. Of a class of Russian English teachers, I was supposed to lecture, I came across only one or two young students out of a class of forty! If there are young school teachers, they are almost always doing another job, such as private tuition, business, or Lord preserve us, moonlighting in one of the oldest professions; prostitution.

Interestingly, whether those teachers can carry on working in the schools, this remains an open question.  Russia is not quite America, and can work in different ways.


Breaking: Boehner, Pelosi and Cantor back Obama's Syria attack plan - The House leadership on both sides has publicly positioned itself behind the president. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, and speaker John Boehner, a Republican, have both just delivered statements outside the White House calling for support for military strikes in Syria. House majority leader Eric Cantor subsequently released a statement of support. Speaking in separate appearances after a meeting with the president, Pelosi and Boehner said they would urge their caucuses to support Obama. "The use of these weapons have to be responded to, and only the United States has the capability and the capacity to stop Assad," Boehner said. Pelosi said the case for taking action is strong. "I feel pretty confident... that we have a good conversation to have with our members," she said. (Guardian UK live blog)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Charter School Gravy Train Runs Express To Fat City

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 26:  Parents of student...
(Getty Images via @daylife)
Charter schools are booming. “There are now more than 6,000 in the United States, up from 2,500 a decade ago, educating a record 2.3 million children,” according to Reuters.
Charters have a limited admissions policy, and the applications can be as complex as those at private schools. But the parents don’t pay tuition; support comes directly from the school district in which the charter is located.   They’re also lucrative, attracting players like the specialty real estate investment trust EPR Properties EPR -0.06%(EPR). Charter schools are in the firm’s $3 billion portfolio along with retail space and movie megaplexes.
Charter schools are frequently a way for politicians to reward their cronies. In Ohio, two firms operate 9% of the state’s charter schools and are collecting 38% of the state’s charter school funding increase this year. The operators of both firms donate generously to elected Republicans
The Arizona Republic found that charters “bought a variety of goods and services from the companies of board members or administrators, including textbooks, air conditioning repairs and transportation services.” Most charters were exempt from a requirement to seek competitive bids on contracts over $5,000
In Florida, the for-profit school industry flooded legislative candidates with $1.8 million in donations last year. “Most of the money,” reports The Miami Herald, “went to Republicans, whose support of charter schools, vouchers, online education and private colleges has put public education dollars in private-sector pockets.”
Among the big donors: the private equity firm Apollo Group APOL +1.03%, the outfit behind the for-profit University of Phoenix, which has experimented with online high schools. Apollo dropped $95,000 on Florida candidates and committees.
Lest you get the idea charter schools are a “Republican” thing, they’re also favored by big-city Democrats. This summer, 23 public schools closed for good in Philadelphia — about 10% of the total — to be replaced by charters. Charters have a history in Washington, D.C., going back to 1996.
And they were favored by Arne Duncan when he ran Chicago Public Schools. Today, he’s the U.S. secretary of education. In 2009, Duncan rolled out the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” initiative, doling out $4.4 billion in federal money to the states — but only to those states that lifted their caps on the number of charter schools.
Too bad the kids in charter schools don’t learn any better than those in plain-vanilla public schools. Stanford University crunched test data from 26 states. About a quarter of charters delivered better reading scores, but more than half produced no improvement, and 19% had worse results. In math, 29% of the charters delivered better math scores, while 40% showed no difference, and 31% fared worse.
Unimpressive, especially when you consider charter schools can pick and choose their students — weeding out autistic kids, for example, or those whose first language isn’t English. Charter schools in the District of Columbia are expelling students for discipline problems at 28 times the rate of the district’s traditional public schools — where those “problem kids” are destined to return.
Nor does the evidence show that charters spend taxpayers’ money more efficiently. Researchers from Michigan State and the University of Utahstudied charters in Michigan, finding they spent $774 more per student on administration, and $1,140 less on instruction.
About the only thing charters do well is limit the influence of teachers’ unions. And fatten their investors’ portfolios.
In part, it’s the tax code that makes charter schools so lucrative: Under the federal “New Markets Tax Credit” program that became law toward the end of the Clinton presidency, firms that invest in charters and other projects located in “underserved” areas can collect a generous tax credit — up to 39% — to offset their costs.
So attractive is the math, according to a 2010 article by Juan Gonzalez in theNew York Daily News, “that a lender who uses it can almost double his money in seven years.”
“Wealthy individuals from as far away as China, Nigeria, Russia and Australia are spending tens of millions of dollars to build classrooms, libraries, basketball courts and science labs for American charter schools,” says a 2012 Reuters report.
The formal name of the program is EB-5, and it’s not only for charter schools. Foreigners who pony up $1 million in a wide variety of development projects — or as little as $500,000 in “targeted employment areas” — are entitled to buy immigration visas for themselves and family members.
“In the past two decades,” Reuters reports, “much of the investment has gone into commercial real estate projects, like luxury hotels, ski resorts and even gas stations. Lately, however, enterprising brokers have seen a golden opportunity to match cash-starved charter schools with cash-flush foreigners in investment deals that benefit both.”
So how can you, as a retail investor, grab a piece of this? How can you reclaim some of your property tax dollars from the fat cats?
As with many other instances of “extraction”… good luck.
Sure, you could buy shares of the aforementioned EPR Properties. Unfortunately, you’re buying strip malls and ski parks along with charter schools. It’s not a “pure play.”
The history of publicly traded charter school firms is limited and ugly. Edison Schools traded publicly from 1999-2003. During that period, it reported one profitable quarter. Shares reached nearly $40 in early 2001… only to crash to 14 cents.
“There’s a risk to taking education to Wall Street,” says Education Week — “one that helps explain why so few publicly traded companies cater to the educational needs of students in elementary, middle and high school.”
That risk is spotlighted by the only pure play currently trading on a U.S. exchange. In December 2007, just as the “Great Recession” got underway, K12 Inc. went public under the ticker symbol LRN.
It has proven, at best, a trading vehicle.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

We're Growing!

Secondcityteachers Getting Bigger
By Jim Vail

I'm pleased as punch to say this little news blog I started is starting to take notice all around.

I started about half a year ago so that I could post daily the ins and outs of what's happening in the world of education and its politics in the city, the nation and the world (where our fine correspondent Stephen Wilson reports how the privatization of education is effecting the Russians).

I was just contacted and interviewed by an editor at the Columbia Chronicle about the crazy situation in our city schools.  She called specifically in reference to a story I posted about how awful some teachers feel about "legalized looting" of the closed schools, where teachers rush into the closed schools and take everything they can - books, whiteboards, projectors, etc.

Before that I was contacted by the son of Dr. Heimlich - inventor of the Heimlich maneuver - who wanted me to follow up on a corruption story about a charity called Safe a Life in which they scammed people into giving money to support a program, no longer used in the schools, to promote certain emergency aid techniques not properly followed.

Before I decided to jump to this blog site to post daily (well, I must admit I may skip a day or two which isn't nice to my readers), I had another site called  On that site, a story I wrote in which I questioned the endorsement process of President Obama in the Chicago Teachers Union was picked up by the - the conservative version of the Huffington Post.

I do believe readers of all ages are getting more savvy in their search for good inside information on what is really happening inside the political establishment that is really screwing the people.

While the Sun-Times, the NY Times and other corporate entities provide some hard-hitting, good reporting - these are papers owned by the establishment.  They don't call out the hypocrisy of our political system that favors the 1%.  They tacitly endorse it, as life keeps getting worse for the rest of us.

The situation in the schools is not good.  While Gates and others are demanding SUPER STAR teachers to save our country - as they continue to loot it by off shoring jobs and downsizing their payrolls so their coffers fill up - teachers in the city keep getting bombarded with the REACH - REACH - REACH.

How would you like to be hired and right away hear lectures on a regular basis about how you are going to be evaluated over, and over and over again?

Boy - they're gonna watch my every move, to see if I make a mistake.  Heck, good old Gates himself is insisting on putting video cameras in classrooms.  So you need to hire more police!  

Maybe that's the next job growth opportunity - getting your license to badger teachers over and over again! 

Ooops!  Sorry, our administrations who are being forced to administer the REACH - REACH - REACH, are also under the gun and being evaluated for their performance.

Remember, we're all within a second of getting the axe, but that includes the so-called powerful at the top, who perhaps know more than most, how quickly this whole thing can turn.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Tough Loving Teacher Loses Battle to Cancer
By Jim Vail

Students, teachers, principals, family and many more came out last Friday night to say good bye to a teacher who was a fighter up until the end.

Celia Rivero, a teacher for nine years at Hammond Elementary School, and taught writing her last year at Shields Middle School, died last week at the age of 32 after being diagnosed with terminal cancer about six months earlier.

Perhaps the best words to describe her would be "full of life." 
Celia Rivero was filled with her Puerto Rican passion to teach kids and fill the hallways with laughter and cheer.

Rivero comes from a family of teachers.  Her mother taught at Washington High School, and then left to start her own sewing business, while her father also taught at Washington High School, and is a published poet.

Celia would always laugh as she would talk with teachers or chat with friends.  But her no nonsense approach in the classroom made her a favorite among the students.

She taught many grades, including primary, intermediary and upper, and what made her stand out was the different projects she would introduce to complement her lessons.

For example, I remember walking into a classroom one day and seeing her and her students' hands filled with paste as they paper mache objects.  I believe her family's artistic talents carried over into her teaching.

Celia was the type of person who had to speak to you, and for a while, about everything happening, and she always made you feel very good.  She loved people, and if anyone was a natural born teacher, Celia Rivero was definitely one of them.

Many of her colleagues who came to say good bye could only express shock that the cancer took her so quickly, in the prime of her life.

She had not yet started a family of her own.  

Her father Alvaro said he had just finished writing a poem about his brother who passed away earlier this year.  He has not had time to even think about his next poem to be dedicated to his daughter.

Her principal at Shields was kind enough to take her out of the classroom while she was beginning to undergo chemotherapy and had to use a wheelchair due to her weakened state.

For those who were blessed to have met Celia Rivero, all would agree she was one a kind, someone you can't ever really forget, the essence of a teacher, a human being and a lover of life.

Which gives us hope for the future.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Elite Propaganda

Guggenheim's 'Teach,' another Bill and Melinda Gates Project

By Robert L. Arnold  

Robert L. Arnold, longtime educator and author of Remaking Our Schools for the Twenty-First Century reviews Davis Guggenheim's latest film offering 'Teach,' which the New York Times called 'bouquet-lobbing' at teachers.

Last spring, after several years of bashing teachers and public schools in every way possible, Bill Gates called together a selected group of teachers to tell them he has changed his stripes; in the future they could expect he would show his "soft side." TEACH is the first and most extensive public disclosure of what he meant. 

TEACH is the slickest propaganda movie yet to be viewed, far superior to the one, Waiting for Superman, that advocated for charter schools. Mixing tidbits of reality with a cleverly designed subliminal message containing the intentions of the Gates clan and their foundation, supported by the Koch Brothers, the Wal-Mart empire, the Business Roundtable, and Chief School Administrators, the film keeps the viewers in wonderment about what is real and what is propaganda in this presentation. The fact that a major television network was a party to this two-hour prime time program without a disclaimer calls into question their real intentions and leaves one to wonder just what money can buy.

What was the real message in the presentation and how was it delivered? One reason Bill Gates decided to announce a "change of heart" presumably was due to the push back he received from teachers and other educators across this land. His reputation in the educational reform movement was in jeopardy. He chose to show a group of seemingly dedicated teachers, struggling to make changes recognizing the difficulties presented by broken homes, poverty, lack of technology and the need for accountability. Teachers, craving for recognition, are expected to react positively to this aspect of the presentation, thus winning them over to his views. In reality, there is no freedom to innovate within the standardization movement that has descended upon the schools.

One element in the Gates view is the need for the "brightest and the best" teachers to be placed in the classroom. He demonstrated the human side of these presumably dedicated teachers who demonstrated needs for guidance from authorities both from within the school and from outside, to find the ways to affect improvement in standardized test scores.

Interestingly, the words "common core curriculum" were not mentioned throughout the presentation, but the standardized test is derived from the common core and it played a predominate role. It was designed to show how smoothly the assessment process takes place. Each student filled in the bubbles on the answer sheet and the sheets were collected and placed in the automated feeder for the digital reading of the pre-determined correct and incorrect answers. There wasn't a flaw in the flow of answer sheets through the feeder; not a single glitch occurred. The unchallenged statistical data were displayed on a chart that identified where each student placed on the scale of grade levels, below, above or at grade level. Each teacher nervously approached their mail boxes and withdrew the sealed envelope that contained their fate.

Of course "persistence" was given a rating of highest virtue, intended to allay any anxieties these teachers might be experiencing with their students who did not pass. Consistent with the behaviorist positions taken by the Gates people and their disciples, rewards were given to those who showed improvement in their test scores and those who failed stood by with unnatural determined looks. This practice is believed to provide motivation for those who failed, to work harder to pass the tests.

The tests were prepared by outside agencies; their contents were not known by the teachers and the students could only hope they had been instructed in what would be asked in these secretly prepared and administered exams. The film deliberately avoided showing students vomiting with anxiety when faced with this process.

The exam results recorded in the records of each student remain there for the rest of their lives. Perhaps as in New York State, the scores are sent to InBloom, Inc., to be stored in an electronic cloud, available for sale to publishers of instructional materials and manufacturers of gadgetry assumed to prepare the students for success. There was no recognition of the developmental considerations that are prevalent in the lives of each individual. Students were all treated alike and tested with the same standardized test.

A brief reference to the limitations of standardized tests was included but it was followed by the injunction "the tests are V E R Y important." To this we all can agree. In the words of Marion Brady, published in the Washington Post on Wednesday, April 27, 2011, "Standardized tests are enhancing and destroying reputations, opening and closing doors of opportunity, raising and lowering property values, starting and ending professional careers, determining the life chances of the young, and shaping the intellectual resources upon which America's future largely hinges." 

This vast experiment with kids' minds and America's future was put in place without broad national debate, without in-depth research, without trial pilot programs, and without answering questions posed again and again by those who know something about teaching--know about it because, unlike those making policy, they've actually taught. 

No alternatives were suggested in the film since they might not fit perfectly within the parameters of the Gates philosophy. The viewer is led to believe these tactics and strategies adopted from a concept of behavior modification will rid us of the ills of education. These practices represent the salvation of our competitive businesses in this global economy. With such huge sums of money being used to lobby for the behaviorist views for change and reform, how can we who challenge their views get a hearing? The picture does not appear optimistic.