Thursday, March 31, 2011


With all the noise about TFA , school budgets, hiring, firing, tenure, Rhee and thee, we seem to forget that teacher training a big variable in the education equation.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

School Reform- A New Notorious Phd Jam

School Reform

A New Notorious Phd Jam


America’s shame

Bankers screw up

And teachers get blamed


Love school reform

It keeps prisons full

and profits warm


School reform,

School reform

It keeps prisons full

And profits warm

You can’t lift students up

When you knock teachers down

It’s a trick to help the rich

Rule your town

But reformers keep shouting

Test, Test, Test

Driving out great teachers

Beating down the rest

Making students hate school

And take to the streets

Where their choice is prison

Or rocking dope beats


School reform,

School reform

It keeps prisons full

And profits warm

You can’t lift students up

When you knock teachers down

It’s a trick to help the rich

Rule your town

Union Busting

Is the Reformers game

Whether Walker, Christie

Or Bloomberg’s their name

They want to run teachers in

Then run them out quick

Before they learn

What makes students tick


School reform,

School reform

It keeps prisons full

And profits warm

You can’t lift students up

When you knock teachers down

It’s a trick to help the rich

Rule your town

So teachers and students

Need to take schools back

Tell reformers that testing

Sets learning back

Bring back art and music

Science, lab and gym

And march down town

So the banks don’t win


School reform,

School reform

It keeps prisons full

And profits warm

You can’t lift students up

When you knock teachers down

It’s a trick to help the rich

Rule your town

Friday, March 18, 2011


Those of you unfamiliar with the state of secondary education in NYC should know what has been going on here. Over the past several years the NYC Department of Education, (under mayoral control) has determinedly and steadfastly worked to close all the large neighborhood high schools in the city and replace them with several smaller schools within each of those buildings. Led by former Chancellor Joel Klein and now present Mayor Bloomberg appointee, Cathie Black, the city has jumped on the Bill Gates bandwagon. Those buildings once had a Principal, perhaps two administrative Assistant Principals and several department chairpersons (also dubbed assistant principals) whose primary job was to train, mentor, and supervise teachers. Now these buildings are called campuses with anywhere from 3-8 schools between those walls. Each smaller school has a Principal and one or two Assistant Principals and no department chairs to train and mentor new teachers. The result has been more and more business management, more test prep, and less and less education.

Once upon a time, almost all of the 100 public high schools in New York City were named for famous people or, like Bayside High School, their particular neighborhood. Some were named after activities, but that was easy to grasp because students in schools like Music and Art or Automotive high schools were studying to become experts in their fields. Now each new school seems to be given a multisyllabic subject based name with variations on a theme.

As a result of this Gates inspired movement year now comes the annual announcement. Which schools are to be closed by the DOE? Which are to be saved? Which have been proclaimed by the all-powerful database to be the best? Then it dawned on me. Maybe, it's the names. Was there a correlation? The key to quality education must be in the schools’ names. After all, wasn't my alma mater, The Bronx High School of Science (6 words) one of the best high schools in the country from its inception in 1938? For years it had the longest name of any high school in the city. Of course it was better than Brooklyn Technical High School, (4 words) and Stuyvesant High School, (3 words) the other specialized high schools in New York for which students have to take an academic admission exam. Ah hah! That must be it. The Bloomberg/Klein/Black administration finally figured it out. Every school’s name must sound like The Bronx High School of Science to give it a better chance at success. I decided to go to the lists and see for myself. I went to the DOE school performance database, found the 23 schools the DOE announced would close and compared them with the top 23 schools on the list.

Here are the lists. On the left, are the 23 High Schools to be closed. On the right, ladies and gentlemen the new champions–the top 23 according to the NYC DOE.



August Martin High School

Beach Channel High School

Boys and Girls High School

Christopher Columbus High School

Fordham Leadership Academy for Business and Technology

Grace Dodge Career and Technical Education High School

Grover Cleveland High School

High School of Graphic Communication Arts

Jamaica High School

Jane Addams High School for Academic Careers

John Adams High School

John Dewey High School

John F. Kennedy High School

Metropolitan Corporate Academy

Monroe Academy for Business/Law

Newtown High School

Norman Thomas High School

Paul Robeson High School

Mother Hale Academy

Richmond Hill High School

Sheepshead Bay High School

Washington Irving High School

W.H. Maxwell CTE High School

Theater Arts Production Company School

Brooklyn International High School at Water's Edge

Williamsburg Preparatory School

Marble Hill High School for International Studies

Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design

Manhattan Village Academy

High School for Violin and Dance

Manhattan Bridges High School

Bronx Aerospace High School

Bronx Health Sciences High School

El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice

Urban Assembly School for Careers in Sports

The High School of Fashion Industries

Academy of Finance and Enterprise

The Metropolitan High School

Discovery High School

Pace High School

High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies

Bedford Academy High School

South Bronx Preparatory: A College Board School

Unity Center for Urban Technologies

Mott Hall Bronx High School

The High School for Enterprise, Business and Technology

High School for International Business and Finance

As I looked down the 2011 list I found a pattern. Of the failing schools, 19 of 23 are named after a person or place, 17 of 23 have names containing 4 or fewer words, and 4 of 23 have names containing 6 or more words. On the other hand, the vast majority of the DOE’s better performing schools had longer multisyllabic names. Only 10 of 23 are named after a person or place, 8 of 23 have names containing 4 or fewer words, and 9 of 23 have names containing 6 or more words. EUREKA. I was right.

I was intrigued. I continued to examine NYC high school names. Some new names tacked subject matter on to names of real people, such as The Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical Education High School. Ten words. What an e-mail address that makes. That one confused me. I though he was a governor of New York, not a techie. Then there is the peculiar case of Bronx Leadership Academies I and II. Is the latter school only for second tier leaders or middle management? What makes the High School for Innovative Advertising and Media so innovative? I looked at its website. Although situated deep in Canarsie Brooklyn, the site’s banner photo convinces the reader that it is right on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan. Now that is an innovative use of media.

The Rockaway Park High School For Environmental Sustainability (nineteen syllables) may have had the longest name. It couldn't fit in the spreadsheet column. After a while my eyes became so tired, I thought I began to see schools with titles like the Manhattan Duke Ellington Academy for Antidisestablishmentarianistic Song Writing and the Astoria School for Lopadotemachoselachogaleokranioleipsanodrimhypotrimmatosilphioparao (Take a deep breath here.) melitokatakechymenokichlepikossyphophattoperisteralektryon (Another breath.) optekephalliokigklopeleiolagoiosiraiobaphetraganopterygon Seafood Cooking. That, by the way is a real word. Those must be two very successful schools. Their admissions tests not only require the students to show their talents as song writers and chefs, but also the ability to say the names five times fast, without glancing at the test. Obviously the students at these schools must acquire a greater vocabulary and therefore achieve higher reading levels.

The longer the name, the better the school. Wow, these new school reformers must really be on to something. I began to dream about starting a new New York City high school. What would I call it? Hmmm, The Metropolitan Academy for the Study of Moronic Educational Practices? MASMEP! Then, startled by an image of the Duke humming a song about the Anglican Church while eating a fish fricassee, I woke up with Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland” lying across my chest.


Some Advice for Would-be History-Makers at Teach For America - Living in Dialogue - Ed
Thoughts on Teaching, School Reform and Social Justice in America- Talking Points for a Continuing Debate

Why I Support Teacher Tenure

Every good teacher I know supports teacher tenure because the harm that results from eliminating it would be greater than the harm that results from the small minority of incompetent teachers. Teachers work in the public domain and are beseiged with constituencies trying to influence what they do - often unfairly and unscrupulously-- ranging from parents, to unprincipled politicians, to the media, to business interests trying to gain contracts in the schools. Teachers need protection from all of these, as well as the incompetent or authoritarian admistrators who occasionally come along. Far more public school teachers are heroes than incompetents. They are among our best public servants and we need to support them, not make the scapegoats for our own failures as parents and citizens

Why Applying Business Models to Education Won't Work

Do you really think that business models would work in the classroom?. Are test results the measure of teacher performance? If I had people measuring my "results" as a professor at Fordham the way people want to rate the performance of public school teachers, I would have quit my job a long time ago. Students are not products. They are people whose imaginations need to be inspired and who need nurturing and support when they are in trouble and sometimes when they aren't. The most important thing great teachers do is build relationships. My colleague, Father Bentley Anderson says that the most important "results and outcomes" of teaching may take twenty years to fully emerge. Rating teachers on student performance on standardized tests will not only make students hate school by turning the entire experience into test prep, it will make every teacher withan ounce of pride leave the profession.

Why Public Schools May Be a Better Example of What's Right in the Nation than What's Wrong

What if this entire discussion is framed improperly. What if our public schools are the symbols of what's right in the nation rather than what's wrong. I can show you a public school in the heart of the South Bronx, surrounded by housing projects, shelters, and drug rehabilitation programs, that functions far better than any private business working in that neighborhod, or in any adjoiing community. It's a place where everyone greets you with a smile, where the walls are covered with amazing art work and exhibition of student projects, where community history is honored in an "Old School Museu," and where students, many of them living in desperate poverty, are loved and protected. This is PS 140, with Principal Paul Cannon. Not a charter school. This is America at its best. And does anybody ackowledge the people who work in this institution, and give them respect. No. Maybe private business should study how PS 140 works instead of trying to impose their operational model on PS 140

America's Heroes

To me, teachers, firefighters, police officers, sanitation workers, people who pave highways and collect tolls and bridges- these are American heroes They work hard every day and never get rich. Their union protections give them security. Why take that away?

Young People, Unions And School Reform

The attitudes of young people, including my former students, toward unions disturbs me enormously. Unions were resonsible for allowing working people, including the descendents of Irish, Italian and Jewish immigrants, and Black people moving up from the South and the Caribbean, to provide a decent life for themselves and their children in post war America. Will the young people growing up in the Bronx today
have that opportunity. Do you think the "school reform movement is going to give it themn when it is the richest people in the country, who stole the inheritance of working America, who are financing this initiatiave, I used the think the school reform movement was led by idealistic but misguided people, Now I think it is the biggest hustle- or the biggest diversionary tactic- in the history of modern America, designed to take attention away from ecoomic inequality and regressive taxation.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

Things We Had When New York Was A Union Town:

Dr Mark Naison
Fordham University

With collective bargaining rights having just been eliminated in Wisconsin by legislative fiat, and with more states poised to do the same; with union teachers everywhere being made scapegoats for the nations educational problems; and with the most powerful business interests in the nation funding movements to privatize government services and decertify public employee unions, I thought be useful to look back at a time in New York City’s history when unions had far more power than they have today.

When New York City emerged from World War II, the most dynamic sectors of its economy- garment, electronics, transportation, construction, and food processing- were all heavily unionized. These union gains in the private sector were soon followed by the acquisition of collective bargaining rights by teachers, employees of state and city government and workers in health care.

Given what is being said about unions by elected officials and the media, one might expect that time in New York history- the 1940’s 1950’s and 1950’s- to be one of educational and cultural stagnation. One would expect that New York City today is a much more dynamic and democratic city than it was during a time when more than half the city’s work force was unionized.

But when do some historical research and ask yourself the question, “Does New York City have better schools, public services and cultural and recreational opportunities for its poor and working class citizens than it did 50 years ago” the answer you come up with is a resounding NO.

I have spent the last nine years doing oral histories with Bronx residents through a project I lead called the Bronx African American History Project, and to a person, the people I interviewed feel that young people growing up in the Bronx had better opportunities in the 50’s and the 60’s than young people growing up there today. As Josh Freeman points out in his wonderful book Working Class New York, many of the programs that my interviewees talked about that made their lives better were fought for by the city’s labor movement.

Here is a list of just a few of the programs which New York City unions fought for that are no longer with us today. I will leave it to you to decided whether we are better off without them,.

1. Supervised recreation programs in every public elementary school in the city from 3-5 PM and 7-9 PM, which included sports, arts and crafts and music. These programs were free and open any young person who walked through the door.

2. First rate music programs in every public junior high school in the city featuring free instruction for students in bands, orchestras and music classes. Students in those classes could take home musical instruments to practice. Among the beneficiaries of these school music programs were some of the greats of Latin music in NYC, including Willie Colon, Eddie and Charlie Palmieri. Ray Barretto and Bobby Sanabria.

3. Recreation supervisors, as well as cleaners, in every public park in the city, including neighborhood vest pocket parks, who organized games and leagues and prevented fights. One of the greatest of these “parkies” Hilton White, organized a community basketball program that send scores of Bronx youth to college on basketball scholarships including 3 who played on the 1966 Texas Western team which won the NCAA championship.

4. A public housing program that constructed tens thousands of units of low and moderate income housing throughout the city and staffed these with housing police, ground crews and recreation staffs to make sure the projects were safe, clean and well policed

5. Free tuition at the city university, at the community college, college and graduate levels, for all students who met the admissions standards

6. Parks department policies which made sure that parks in the outer boroughs were kept as clean and environmentally sound as Central Park or parks in wealthy neighborhoods

7 Free admission at all the city's major zoos and museums

These policies, all of which were eliminated during the fiscal crisis of the 1970's, when a banker dominated Emergency Financial Control Board was put in charge of city finances meant that children in poor and working class communities had access to recreational cultural and educational opportunities which are today only available to the children of the rich . These programs were not there because of the foresight and compassion of the city's business leadership. They were there because unions fought for them and demanded that elected officials they supported fund them

This is not to say that unions are right in every dispute, or that they are immune from arrogance, greed and corruption. But it should give pause to those who think that our lives would be better in a union free environment

Let me leave you with some numbers. In the early 1950's when 35% of the American work force was unionized, the United States had the smallest wealth gap (between the top and bottom 20 percent of its population) of any advanced nation in the world. Now, when 11.9% of our workforce is unionized, we have the largest.

Is this progress?

Let's think long and hard before we blame unions for the city's and the nation's economic problems

Mark Naison

Saturday, March 5, 2011




I just received this. THe interesting and overlook fact is the issue that Ms. Stevenson and Diane Ravitch are raising. How are we doing in schools with less than 10% poverty rates....That seems to be a statistic "reformers" easily ignore as they attack teachers throughout the country. I've taught in both types of schools. I have mentored teachers in both types of schools. Good teachers know how to work with kids from both settings. Dumbing things down for poor kids doesn't do anything for their future. It simply makes test makers and prep for the test supporters happier.

"I teach in a right-to-work state, Texas, and it's more like a right -to- get- fired state. With the Texas budget shortfall projected at $27 billion in the next biennium, Wisconsin's shortfall, still in the millions, sounds like a pajama party. The Texas legislature is refusing to fulfill its constitutional duty to fund public education. It's estimated that 100,000 Texas educators will lose their jobs, and there is nothing we can do about it. Over 8% of our district's current staff has received RIF (reduction in force) notices, including 573 teachers. Now that the school board voted for financial exigency, our superintendent has the power to ignore our contracts. Here in Texas, our "unions" have no collective bargaining power. Our teachers rank 39th in pay compared to other states, and our student test scores are far below those of children in states with strong teachers' unions, such as Wisconsin and Massachusetts. Therefore, please do not blame the unions for the problems in public education. Even the pseudo-documentary, Waiting for Superman, which faked scenes so that it was ineligible for an Academy Award nomination, admits that only one in five charter schools outperform traditional public schools. Stop scapegoating teachers. American students who attend schools with less than 10% poverty outperform every other country but Finland in international tests. Blame instead a national student population of over 20% living in poverty."


Sara Stevenson
O. Henry Middle School Librarian
Austin, Texas

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How Public School Budget Cuts Herald the End of Equality in the United States- Even As an Ideal
Dr Mark Naison
Fordham University
Throughout the United States, the nation’s public school system is being savaged by budget cuts that will make a mockery of federal legislation designed to reduce the achievement gap between children in low income and high income districts.

In Detroit Michigan, the school district has been told by the state to close half of its schools to close a 347 million dollar deficit, leading to high school classes that could contain as many as 60 students. Providence Rhode Island just handed out pink slips to its nearly 2,000 teachers to reduce its deficit; and Austin Texas may do the same in a response to a ten percent reduction in state funding. And in thousands of school districts throughout the country, teachers are being fired, sports and arts programs are being shut down, AP classes are being cancelled, and class size is going through the roof while state and local governments radically cut education funding to balance their budgets.

Make no mistake about it, these budget cuts will have a disproportionate effect in the poorest school districts, where parents depend on schools to impart skills, which because of educational background or language issues, they often lack. You cut arts and science programs in a upper middle class school district, parents will compensate by finding private tutors or funding additional classes through the PTA. In poor neighborhoods, once such programs are gone, they are gone for good. You can squeeze the teachers in poor districts all you want to produce magical results on test days; as opportunities to give students individual attention and special training in arts and science disappear, the test score gap will grow wider, the dropout rate will increase, and college admission from such districts will plummet.

What makes this a bitter pill to swallow that the Dream these budget cuts will destroy was one nurtured by a Republican President, George W Bush. Never mind that the dream was based on false data the Houston school district, never mind that it was used, by politicians, business leaders and the media, to divert attention from confronting sources of inequality outside the school system; it still held as a goal the fact that every child in America had the right to a great education and an opportunity to attend college if they took advantage of that opportunity.

Now that very Dream is in Tatters, not just because of the decision elected officials made to cut public school budgets- but because of the decision they didn’t make, to TAX THE RICH. Make no mistake about it, in every state where these budget cuts are being made, the vast majority of these cuts could have been avoided if taxes were raised on the wealthiest five percent of the population, who control nearly 40 percent of national income! Yet in state after state throughout this country, as well as in the Congress of the United States, such taxes were declared “off limits” by politicians of both parties.

Let us be very blunt about the consequences of this choice. In the midst of the worst economic crisis in modern US history, our political leadership has decided to exempt the very wealthy from sacrifice while tragically weakening the one avenue our society had identified for reducing inequality in the nation-our public schools.

Not only is it profoundly immoral to impose hardship on the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society, targeting schools for such huge cuts does violence to the very ideal of Equality of Opportunity which once used to unite Liberals and Conservatives.

If the only schools that can function well are in communities where parents have the resources to compensate for the budget cuts, then we are basically creating a social order where children will remain in the social position of their parents into the next generation, and where poor and working class children are doomed, by inferior training, to be a servant class for the rich, if they are lucky enough to find jobs at all.

I don’t know about you, but this sounds more like the Ancien Order in France or Pre-Revolutionary Russia than the a country which Abraham Lincoln once praised “for lifting artificial burdens off the shoulders of men.”

The American Dream is dying before our eyes.

Will we have the courage to rescue it?

Mark Naison
March 3, 2011