Monday, April 21, 2014

"You Are Only as Sick as Your Secrets...." Anonymous 12 Step Wisdom

T.S. Eliot supposedly said one time: Good writers borrow. Great writers steal. I am about to attempt greatness here in thieving Perdido St. School Blog's upper half from today's post :

Time for this Shit to End

How To Fight The Testing Industrial Complex
Michael Fiorillo left this comment on NYC Educator's post about why NYSED and Pearson insist the NY State 3rd-8th grade tests must remain secret:

The destruction of public education hinges on everyone's passive acceptance of high stakes exams encroaching more deeply into every classroom. They are the weapon used to close schools, deprive students of a well-rounded education, and beat teachers into submission. They are the primary lever for getting everyone to accept the de-skilling of the teaching profession, and teaching's devolution into temporary, at-will employment.

The tests are also the primary tool for imposing the "social learning" embedded in the testing regime itself, whereby young people are socialized into passive acceptance of the exercise of arbitrary power, tolerance of tedium and absurdity and surveillance/data mining, so as to be powerless worker bees in the future.

Passive acceptance of the exercise of arbitrary power, a high tolerance for tedium, absurdity, and surveillance/data mining: that's what the so-called reformers really mean by students being "career ready."

This abuse will continue as long as we are cowed into respecting the "proprietary" claims of the test makers, which are totally illegitimate. These tests are paid for with public dollars, are used as gatekeepers for public school students, and are the de facto drivers of public school instruction; the public has an intrinsic right to see them and openly discuss their validity.

That right has moral, if not legal, precedence over any copyright claims.

As of now, the only way to force that debate is for teachers to engage in civil disobedience and provide the public service of making these exams available for open examination by all interested parties.

It's time for photocopies, or scanned and scrubbed digital photos of these exams, to be sent to the newspapers, elected officials, parent groups and blogs. They should be handed out at PEP meetings, so that the Chancellor is forced to acknowledge their presence. They need to be distributed so widely that their "secrecy" becomes a dead letter, the media cannot ignore them, and so that threats by Pearson and it's wholly-owned subsidiary, the New York State Department of Education, become irrelevant.

I can't say enough about my agreement with Michael's dead on take here. If we continue to be cowards who tiptoe around squeaking to the drum of NYSED, Pearson and Gates then we get what we deserve. It's time this shit got handed out. To think that parents aren't allowed to see the bullshit tests Pearson shoves at our kids filled with ads for companies that Pearson has connections with is so insane, so fucking complete bullshit, I can't believe Pearson has a single window left intact anywhere. I experienced a very bizarre and unsettling interaction with  corporate trained drones over the weekend that neatly explains why so many billionaires are so in love with Common Core, high stakes testing, evaluating teachers with high stakes tests, breaking unions and bringing in the White Guilt Acolytes of TFA to git 'er done on the cheap before they flit off to MBA land or Law School. More on that later but for now I want to hear your reasons for not photocopying these bullshit tests and spreading them everywhere, far and wide...No Excuses as Michelle Rhee might say. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Bring the Bums In...

Admittedly my last offering was a bit dire. The idea that our elected officials suck is never one to build your day around. Ahhh but friends it gets worse. Any time we experience a hearty round of "throw the bums out" it's soon followed by a round of bring the new bums in. Cases in point : Dick the weasel Ianuzzi sat on his hands when it came time to stand up for his teacher bros and sisters in NYSUT but when Gates et al came a calling he couldn't play pattycake with them fast enough. And then somewhere on the road between Massapequa and Damascus Old Dick went from Saul to Paul and with the dusty bootprints of unionists on his ass and threats of worse to come Dick decided to become the man of the people. Too little too late it appears. The Revive Party, led by anonymously harmless nice lady Karen Magee and surrounded by Andy Palotta and lil Martin the Mess et al swept into power on the tsunami of delegates provided by Mikey Mulgarten of UFT. So the good news here is Dick is out on his ass where he belongs. Ahh but the baaaad news is NYSUT now belongs to Mulgarten whose lips have left a permanent indian burn on the buttocks of Sherriff Andy Cuomo. So guess what folks? That bastard in the Governor's office who's done everything he can to stick it to teachers, who pimps charters and disses us at every turn? Your friends in NYSUT are going to be endorsing him for governor in the hope that he'll go on to run for the White House in 2016. Randi Weingarten is jockeying for  position here too and Mulgrew will do anything he can to further her cause because it will further his own. That's how these mofos have been doing it all along. And I am really glad Diane Ravitch is such warm friends with Randi. Good for them. But she  needs to STFU about it. Randi is no friend of teachers or unions. She is a big friend of Bill Gates and a huge friend of the Common Core. You can't have it both ways Randi.We got rid of the Dick but now we're stuck with this bunch of balls.

Here in B-Lo we have a similar dynamic in play with the Sorority Majority of the Board of Ed. The Sisterhood as Carl Paladino (Affluent Caucasian Caucus) calls them, have played racial politics for years hiring their black friends and railroading qualified white women at will. Amber Dixon and Deb Sykes most prominently. Well halleluiah, the Sisters are getting tossed out on their Alpha Kappa Alpha asses and they can take their idiot, limp dishrag of a leader Pamela Pearls Brown PhD with them. Except... Yeah here's the frying pan into the fire punchline... The Board is going to swing to an angry wealthy white man's club featuring Larry fucking Quinn of Buffalo Sabres' infamy. Quinn already has $35K in his warchest and has has received donations from StudentsFirst not to mention assorted local Brahmin. I can't imagine the Gioia checkbook denying a high profile schmuck like Quinn a few grand and maybe he'll tap into the Jabobses, Bordeaux Bob Wilmers, the Knoxes and the Rich clan too. And when these wealthy white guys get their hooks into the meat, hiring an ed reformy Super straight outta the Broad Academy it's going to be the last train to Charterville for B-Lo Schools. Again we'll experience the same momentary relief of the boil being lanced and all the gnarly puss and shite and whathaveyou being flushed away. In its place however we will be infected with a more organized, better funded and established not to mention better connected bunch of corporate jackals who will see public education the way they see everything else -- as a way of making money. And how do you do that? Well they will start by cutting costs and what do you know but TFA is already here ready to take on the toughest kids in the city with 5 weeks of training for a lot less pay than union backed teachers. The sisters suck. James Williams and Pamela Brown, their two choices of Superintendents have sucked royally. They will not be missed. But when the Affluent Caucasian Caucus gets their game on we are going to be screwed. Throw the bums out is a temporary pleasure.

Friday, April 18, 2014

You Tell Me...

I am not sure I go whole hog with this guy but I am sorry to say he makes sense. Elected officials sucking seems to be the norm these days. We have here in B-Lo a Board of Ed. dominated for years by a majority cabal of black women loosely known as The Sisterhood. In a word they have sucked. In Albany we are faced with a Dumbocrat Governor who sucks and is every bit the corporate union buster the Republicans of our worst nightmares would be. Our state teacher's union has been led by an old white guy who sucked for years and crept into bed with the very forces who seek to demolish public education. Likewise on the national scene with the AFT its Vichy Quisling collaborator queen Randi Weingarten who never had a bad word about Bill Gates or Common Core but is quaalude slow on defending her constituents. In Washington D.C. we are treated to scorn and contempt as public school teachers and union members by a president who sent Joe Biden to Chicago trolling for union votes then stabbed us in the back as soon as he got his chance. All of these people suck and we in part are all to blame for electing them. Hillary in 2016? Paul Ryan ? Seriously folks? 
My question is what else can we do ? 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Another Guy from Somewhere Else Fails to Dazzle in B-Lo Public Schools

It looks like De Ja Vu all over again here in Buffaltucky friends. Another clubcar in the infamous Soul Train Wreck that is the Buffalo Public Schools has been deemed unsafe by teachers in a BTF survey. Recall a while ago when the exact same scenario played out at Lafayette High School under the alleged leadership of one Fatima Morrell? She was known for trying to bitch out teachers in front of kids, a completely lax discipline policy against thugs and troublemakers and at one point a hamfisted hall sweep that sent home hall wanderers halfway through the day -- one of whom was murdered at a bus stop by a neighborhood enemy. Of course the rabble all went after Amber Dixon the white interim Superintendent's head, neatly ignoring Morrell as the administrator who sent the boy home and into the path of his killer for nothing more than hall wandering.

Morrell's survey came up looking about like Dr. Terry Ross's survey -- a rousing vote of no confidence and if Mark Twain had taken it he'd have added a dead cat to the thing. Dr. Ross is a joke. He looks good in a suit, is a black man with advanced degrees and is from somewhere else. Around here that kinda cred will get you a key to the city and a cake from the girls at the Alpha Kappa Alpha house. Not surprisingly, he was not fully certified until Feb 1, 2014 though he's been on the payroll since last summer. He still has 2 years to pass the test for permanent certification. While Carl Paladino is on him like a dog on a football, fellow Board of Ed member James Sampson is taking the administrative, hasn't been within 500 feet of an urban high school ever approach, waiting for "data" to come in before he makes up his mind about Ross. Oddly, Phil Rumore and Paladino are on the same page here calling for Dr. Terry to take his fine self to some other godforsaken dysfunctional hell hole to pursue on the job training at the expense of the students, faculty and staff. 

Sampson I suspect is trying to give local bluenose and education dilettante Robert Wilmers a half nod here since it was Bordeaux Bob's Promise Neighborhood Inc. who found Ross and stuck him in the big office at Bennett. Wilmers' M&T people were miffed that Dr.PamelaBrownPh.D.Harvard blew them off in her talks with EPOs to manage the various BPS holdings deemed to be in need of outside help. Sampson's fellow ed reformer board member Jason McCarthy spoke up on M&T bank's behalf and said as much, that they were shocked and appalled that nobody called or contacted them. Poor bankers being dissed by the sorority girls, what next? I ask you. I suspect Sampson is trying to stall and at very least avoid pimp slapping Wilmer's guy publicly. These wealthy ed reformer guys have to have each other's back you know. While Carl's companies lease school buildings to 3 charters he seems uninterested in playing the diplomatic waiting game and respecting the well heeled Wilmers' pride on this one. 

Terry Ross is yet another race based hireling of a terribly screwed up system. Paladino has fought them as only he can because he has his millions and his status in the area and nobody calling him a racist is going to slow him down one bit. But let's be real here friends. What happened to "Dr. Morrell" as Mark Frazier called her glowingly in the news back when he was one of Jimmy Dubz's minor domos? In a word: nothing. Better than that she was promoted to Principal of Lydia T. Wright School of Excellence where I suspect she has people in place running things and keeping her out of everyone's hair. I recently heard she was spotted nosing around the WNED studio property scouting it out for God knows what unholy occupation. As for Dr. Terry Ross, who among other outrages told a 32 year white veteran of Bennett High that He was the problem, that he doesn't know how to connect with urban kids, (a black friend from Voice acting workshop observed with a smirk one night that when scripts ask for "urban" they mean me!). So it's ok for Dr. Terry to tell this three decade veteran of one of B-Lo's toughest buildings that he's no good cause he's white but woe unto him who declares that the good doctor is sitting at the big desk because he's "urban." Seems the post racial halcyon days are eluding us folks and I daresay we're going backwards.  

Monday, March 31, 2014

Will the Author of St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Werewolves Please Step Forward.

Hello? Karen Russell? White Courtesy Telephone Please...

Loathe as I was to approach the much ballyhooed Karen Russell piece " St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Werewolves" I felt obliged to take a run at it for the sake of Lit. and because as usual there is the "gotcha" spectre hovering above our heads today as teachers  -- in the event that we neglect one of these morsels David Coleman et al found so frottage worthy. This is the story from which some Anti-Common Core Moms and others have extracted a scurrilous use of the term "frottage." And yes dear readers the context is the one used in Urban Dictionary, not the art text.  The work also comes with a 17 lesson script that metastasizes into a 211 pages module. And don't think for a second that these 17 lessons are going to be covered in 17 days. Not even happening. I had already peeked at my trusted colleague Reality Based Educator's website where I stumbled across this teacher's testimony of Karen Russell's short fiction after Common Core Appalachians went "Deliverance" on it: 

Here is how students have received the genius that is this EngageNY lesson module that uses one short story for three and a half weeks of lessons:
The first day, they're excited to start a new lesson and read a story that seems to be about werewolves.

By the third day, they're bored by reading and discussing the same story for three days straight and starting to get antsy.

By the sixth day, they're outwardly hostile to the lessons and the teacher for teaching the lessons. 

By the ninth day, they're totally disengaged from class and talk openly about how much they hate English.

By the twelve day, they no longer give a shit about anything - not the class, not the story, not the teacher, not the "assessment" (i.e., "test" for those of you who aren't fluent in reformy geekspeak) that is coming up on Day Seventeen.

It goes on but you get the idea. I introduced the piece with that old chestnut from Coleridge reminding them that in reading a story involving Werewolves they are being asked to "willingly suspend their disbelief." After which I cite several examples of people in annoying voices saying "Awww that aint real, that's stoo-pit!" O.k. we get it they say after my third or fourth annoying skeptical impression.  I felt compelled to say so because when I inquired who among them likes such fiction, you know spooky, supernatural, Steven Kingy... I got a roomful of 1000 yard stares. O.k. tough crowd, says I. So I remind them that we may be reading about something very human that's about more than werewolves or nuns or anything so odd and bizarre and I ask them to keep an open mind which they promise to do. 

Nobody catches the term "frottage" or even asks about it. So I offer it up and explain that some parents have complained that it's in a story being taught to 14 and 15 year olds. They shrug and say whatever but they do get why that might offend some people. The story is remarkably non controversial. Nuns are portrayed in a wooden and stereotypical fashion which doesn't matter anyway since none of these kids have or ever will experience them in an educational setting. My students shrug and smirk at the end. And when I ask them what they think of the story nobody wants to say anything. I think because they think I really liked it. Aww c'mon, it's o.k. if you didn't like it, Remember those awful Flannery O'Connor stories we read? Finally, one of the boys gives me a smile of condolence and says, I dunno, Corny... Really? Corny? Did you think it was corny? Heads begin to bob and a crack of nervous albeit relieved laughter arcs involuntarily from a girl who rarely offers much in the way of opinion. Yeah, she says, smiling. I was looking for the right word but that's it. It was just kind of corny...

Wow. After all that. These 21st century digital kids have dismissed a 211 page module neatly bisected into 17 skull splitting lessons with a single undramatic pejorative phrase. "Corny." Of course there's no way in hell I am dragging them through this Long March of a module. We ended up having some cross curricular discussions about scapegoats and their role in society through the centuries. Several kids thought of Hitler and the Jews. We also had some lively discussion about the idea that someone can be reprogrammed which veered off into the so called Pray Away the Gay therapies practiced by Michelle Bachman's husband Marcus among others. For a fee mind you. We discussed the likelihood of an imposed rehab vs. one that the rehabee seeks out for himself and which might have a better chance of changing a person. They talked about the premise that prison is supposedly a rehabilitative institution but rarely seems to do much more than churn out repeat offenders who never seem to change a thing. In all we were able to use this story for many worthwhile exercises none of which came from the module.

In my position I feel I have a fair degree of latitude in which I can still operate. My administration bends the knee and crosses the t's as needed but it's done with the understanding that we all know better and none of us wants the magnifying glass. I can't imagine the desperation of anyone bound to follow these insipid modules to the letter. Nor can I imagine being a student in a classroom and having the teacher of my favorite class drain all my love of literature, learning and intellect from me drip by drop like the worst kind of water torture. 

When Daniel Pinkwater's Eggplant and the Hare story was bought by a testing company and edited for use on standardized tests here in New York --apparently Pearson's people thought middle school kids didn't know what an egglant was -- he spoke up loudly and hammered State Ed and Pearson for using his fun nonsense story on a standardized test. He says the test company — which sells the test material for "vast sums of money" and pays the author "non-vast sums of money" — changed the story.

 He was quick to question Pearson's use of his story on a test of this nature especially when they seem to have missed the point of it being nonsense. Mr. Pinkwater (whose wife, Jill, is a former college remedial reading teacher) said he considered himself a nonsense writer, and the test-makers had taken his story far too seriously. “Well give me a break,” he said. “It’s a nonsense story and there isn’t an option for a nonsense answer.”

By now I am certain that the author Karen Russell has got wind of this mess. I know for one she has because I personal messaged her to her facebook account asking her what her thoughts were on her work being used to torture kids into hating English. I was slightly more complimentary and diplomatic. Not that I expected a response of course, I know better. The account could be handled by an assistant for all I know but a story about her was posted to her wall 5 hours previous to my message so I know it's active. I am sure there are those who'd say Aww Come on, what do you want from her? It's not her fault they put her story in there. To which I'd say no maybe not. But the fact is her work is included in a set of so called standards that are on record pace to make kids hate, skip and quit school. I think she has a moral obligation as a writer to speak up one way or the other. Either lambaste the Common Core or tell people like me to STFU. As my wife's old German grandpa used to say at the pinochle table : God hates a coward. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

So Much for Post Racial America in BPS

It's been a wacky week in Buffaltucky folks. For those of you close reading out there you might wanna annotate my opener, it's just a bee hive of alliteration. Back to that later... 

We know now that Mugsy Guinn's henchpersons Yammy and Lil Faith have been sent packing back to the big edumaterials warehouse in Omaha or wherever the hell they climbed out of. It hasn't been discussed yet if they are on the hook for the 12K the district spent trying to retrofit them with certifications to do the sweet 135K jobs they were handed. Seems to me they owe us and if they don't, whoever signed off on using that much grant money to certify two unqualified slugs for high paying jobs neither of them deserved needs to step up and own it. Then repay it. 

Word has it  -- and I am getting some good word these days from a few sources who were able to tip me off first that these two were being put on leave and second that they'd been dismissed before local media had either story -- the next dance contestant on Carl Paladino's card may well be none other than the Chief Talent Officer himself Darren Brown. He seems to figure in the hiring of these 2 carpetslaggers and it seems he also played a role in the nasty racially tinged sacking of Debra Sykes. Now to call anything in this looney bin racially tinged of course makes about as much sense as calling The Everglades humid, uhh no shit. But Mugsy Guinn's harassment of Sykes for what has been reported as a 3 hour meeting, trying to bully her into resigning or retiring while on another burner she slides her two incompetent sorority sisters into a quarter million of shared salary without a scrap of credentialing, in my book has bad racial stink to it.  Sykes filed an harassment complaint against Guinn that went ignored and when Sykes asked the lawyer about it he had no idea what she was talking about. So the lawyer calls Chief Talent Officer Brown to inquire about the complaint and he calls Pamela Brown to tell her Sykes is asking about her complaint against Guinn. The result of said call from Brown to Brown is that Sykes is summoned to the Superintendent's Office and scapegoated for the administration's manifest incompetences. Sykes is told she can retire or resign by the end of the day or face disciplinary action even though Pamela Brown has never made a single complaint about her work. Talent Manager Brown is then instructed by Pamela Brown to offer Sykes no advice or alternatives, leave her hanging as it were. The News was in no hurry to report any of this. It mostly came from Carl Paladino. Big surprise. 

WBEN has also referenced the darling of Bennett High, Principal Terry Ross, yet another out of state 'talent' recruited by god only knows  whom and brought to Bennett to shake hands with kids as they beat the living shit out of each other, threaten and intimidate other kids and adults, sell drugs, skip class, curse, run wild through the halls and generally ignore everything he says. Hey, the guy looks great in a suit though. And he has "a doctorate" like  Mark Frazier, Fatima Morrel and Wil Kerzeszetes, so how bad can he be right? It appears that Dr. Terry may have just got his papers in February but that would mean he has been doing quite a bit without the papers leaving the district liable same as those other 2 slugs were doing. Better yet, back to Talent Manager Brown again, why was this guy hired if he lacked the proper paperwork? Is it another race thing? Would be have been hired if he was a white guy? If he was a chair or a table? 

Yes folks, it's tiresome and depressing here in Barack Obama's neo liberal dreamland of the post racial society that we have to ask these questions. But I think we have to ask these questions. When you hire Superintendents by race, Board members sneak previously fired employees back onto the payroll along racial lines and those employees bring their friends along too skipping ahead of all sorts of people who have the proper paperwork, it's time to cut the shit and call out the players for what they are and what they are doing. Worst of all, yes, worst of all of this is the glaring reality that none of these people, not Guinn, Alexander, Williams, or either of the Browns appear to have the slightest regard for the students of Buffalo. Their main concern appears to be placing people of their own race in high paying positions whether they are qualified to do the job or not. Or in these cases knowing goddamned well they weren't qualified but placing them anyway counting on nobody checking up. 

The rehiring of Mugsy Guinn during the mop up phase of a board meeting was likely the end of Pamela Brown's career here in Buffalo. The deadly intersection of arrogance and just plain stupid has claimed its share of careers and poor Pamela must not have seen the light change. But remember, the great benefactors of SayYes! are the ones who brought her here. They also brought Mary Guinn to Buffalo. And while they are trotting out kids in pom poms and SayYes! t shirts, then welching on their promises to run after school programs, remember they brought us this virus. They are very likely enjoying its spread too...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Yammy and Lil Faith Get Put in Time Out -- Paladino Reportedly Seen Laughing His Ass Off

Suspended with Pay, the Girls Plan to Get their Weaves Did and Kick Back at the AKA House

Well friends looks like the Karma Fairy has flown a sortie over City Hall. When Pamela Brown, Mary Guinn and their 5 co-conspirators on the Board of Ed slid Mugsy G. back into the fold as a Deputy Superintendent in the late innings of a board meeting they seemed to think it was checkmate, game over. The Board's white guys were not amused. A few days ago Carl Paladino unleashed yet another of his voluminous screeds, CC-ing everyone but the Pope and Tupac's ghost and encouraging anyone so inclined to share it on social media, OTB offices, Doc Sullivan's and Lee's Lounge if they were so inclined. And they did. You might even find a copy here if you scroll down a post. Included in Carl's painstaking documentation of Mugsy Guinn's serial kickback operation was a little factoid about her dear personal friends who leapfrogged all sorts of qualified local talent in snatching up some City Hall sweet gigs. 

In classic Buffaltucky bass ackwardness,  Chief Talent Officer, Darren Brown, no relation to PamelaBrownPhDHarvard,  demonstrated some nifty buck passing and unleashed a litany of excuses  neatly letting himself off the hook after issuing a lame mea culpa admitting  "I should have followed up on this." Yeah, no shit dude. The Buffalo News is so quaint. They seem to think the forward thinkers in BPS still have an HR office. Pshaw. In case you aren't up on your ed reform jargon and this one is straight outta Broad Academy 101, Buffalo now has an Office of Talent Management over which we can only assume Chief Talent Officer Brown presides. I understand the office of Gimmee a Fucking Break has been getting a lot of calls this week. 

Upon further review it's been decided the girls are going to the sidelines for a bit. This from WIVB tonight : 

School board member Carl Paladino submitted a resolution at Wednesday night’s board meeting to put Yamilette Williams, who is chief of curriculum, assessment and instruction, and Faith Morrison Alexander, one of the district’s chief of school leaderships, on leave. Paladino says the board’s attorney agreed with his concerns that a lack of certifications could leave the district open to legal challenges.

According to the State Education Department, both Alexander and Williams hold a conditional initial certificate as a school building leader. Williams applied to be a school district leader, but officials say the application is incomplete. According to officials, Alexander has not applied.

The Buffalo News was the first to report that these two employees lack proper certifications. The newspaper says both were hired from out of state by Superintendent Pamela Brown when Deputy Superintendent Mary Guinn was reorganizing the central office. According to the Buffalo News, Guinn, Alexander and Williams all once worked as consultants for Evans Newtown educational firm.

And in case anyone was about to start running off a gross of "Free Yammy" t-shirts, rest assured B-lonians, Dr. Pamela Brown, PhD, Harvard has come the fore yet again to call for calm and soothe the frayed nerves of everyone wearing Pammy and Yammy T's with this Churchillesque proclamation: “This is not to be interpreted as a disciplinary action. It is an appropriate action for a school district to take in a situation such as this.”  

Whew, now there's some peace of mind for ya. Cause when some carpetbagging thief double dips her ass back into City Hall after she's already been fired once and she brings her sorority sisters with her and plugs them into high paying jobs for which they have no skill or certification, who'd ever want to see them disciplined? I am starting to think Pamela Brown is a stone, straight up Martian. Nothing else could explain how completely tuned out and clueless she is on every single issue. Stay tuned. Something tells me we are in the early rounds of a knock down get the hell out brawl. Damn straight I want butter and salt on it...