Friday, February 24, 2006

Johnny Can't Pass The Test? It's The Teacher's Fault!

The Department Of Education (DOE) and their media followers (Daily News, New York Post, & The Sun) love to blame the teachers when something goes wrong in the schools. The DOE's top-down management imposes a strict curriculum and micromanages the classroom. This stifles teacher innovation and doesn't allow teachers to enrich the subject. Without teacher innovation and enrichment the students become restless and bored. When the students perform poorly on the "dumbed down" state and city tests who gets blamed the TEACHER!

When the students come to school without parental support and discipline and act up in class it is always the TEACHERS FAULT! If the teacher dares to discipline the unruly student, the teacher is removed from the classroom and is subject to the corporal punishment regulations along with a 90 day unpaid suspension at a minimum.

When the DOE refuses to spend the money in the classroom and instead uses it for their favorite consultant or charter/small school, the result is oversized classes, poor materials, and overcrowding, it's the TEACHER'S FAULT that the students don't meet standards.

How dare teachers complain when DOE brings in the Leadership Academy principals (many without real classroom experience) and they use the business model and it doesn't work. Ignore the fact that children are incomplete personalities and unlike widgets, they are all different. It can't be the business model ? IT'S THE TEACHER"S FAULT!

The student who comes from a dysfunctional family and has poor work skills and when the student can't pass the state & city tests is it the parent's or student's fault? Of course not! It's the TEACHER'S FAULT! According to DOE a good teacher can get all the students to pass.

DOE has established a culture of disrespect for the teachers. Teachers are rarely consulted on decision affecting the classroom, they are removed from a classroom based upon a student's unfounded accusation, and no longer can grieve any administrator's observation. Why does the DOE disrespect the very teachers they need to improve their statistics? Why it's the TEACHERS FAULT that they don't buy into the failed DOE business model.

The DOE solution? Let's get Jack Welsh, Bill Gates, and other notable business leaders to tell them what needs to be done to improve our schools. You mean this has been done and so far there has been little or no improvement? Why it must be the TEACHERS FAULT!

In conclusion, whenever a school fails under NCLB, the state and city tests, it's not the students, it's not the parents, and it certainly not DOE. Therefore, it must be the TEACHERS FAULT!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Culture of Disrespect in the Classroom

Well, the winter break is here and none to soon. Since the beginning of the semester I have two students curse at me and three who told me to "mind my own business" when I caught them in the halls talking on a cellphone. Except for one, the rest are not my students. However, even in my classroom I experience the culture of disrespect as the students try to test the limits of my tolerance. For example, I will check if the students did their "Do Now" and the usual suspects will have a variety of excuses why they didn't do it. They continue not to do it until I threaten to call a parent. Further, I always have a couple of students who will find any excuse to talk to each other, usually when my back is turned or if I'm working with another student. Even the best teachers are tested by these students.

Occassionaly a student is having a bad day and will act up or feel sickly and put his/her head down. Or the teacher is not in top form and some students get restless. However, when a student continues to violate classroom rules and only threats of suspension seem to work, this is usually due to the student's disrespect of the school rules. Many a time I hear the "N" word being tossed around in my class. Some of the males disrespect the females calling them sexual names or touching then inappropriately. Finally, quite a few females think it's cool to out curse the males and insult them when they see fit. Eventually, my students learn that I don't tolerate bad behavior, curse words, and disrespect in general. I simply tell my class that if you don't follow my rules you will be taking this course again during summer or night school. Consequences for their action.

While I can control the students in my classroom by clearly showing them the consequences of their disrespecting me (the student who cursed at me was suspended and was transferred to another class, this action sent a clear message to the students in my classes). These very same students revert back to the culture of disrespect in the hallways. Until the students learn to respect each other, its an uphill climb for the classroom teacher to combat the culture of disrespect. We can only try to be the role models that many parents won't or can't be and hope that we get through to some of them, one student at a time.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Office Of Special Investigations Double Standard

The New York City Office Of Special Investigations (OSI) was created to investigate educator misconduct from the school chancellor to the school aide. However, based upon past performance, not all investigations are handled the same. It is common knowledge that DOE administrators are treated differently than teachers. An unproven student accusation against a teacher can get the teacher removed from the classroom and a 90 day unpaid suspension. However, accusations by a group of teachers that seems to have merit are reluctently handled by OSI and the administrator is free to continue their service in the school until OSI gets around to issuing a report. Below are two examples of OSI dragging it's feet in reviewing allegations against two principals.

Over the last week two New York City Principals have been investigated about alleged abuses of their authority. The first, Dr. Lee McCaskill of Brooklyn Tech high school has been accused of not living in the State and sending his daughter to a local elementary school without paying the tuition for out of state students. Further, Dr. MacCaskill has been accused of changing failing grades to passing grades without the teacher's knowledge or approval. Finally, Dr. McCaskill allowed an AP Tracy Atkins-Zoughlami to go unpunished for reading to her class the false and anti-semitic poem by Amiri Baraka that stated that 4,000 Jews were given advanced warning of the 9/11 event and didn't go to work at the World Trade Center. Dr. McCaskill finally retired this week after it was found that he lived in New Jersey and his daughter did not pay the out of state tuition. No disciplinary action was taken.

The other principal, Mr. Anthony Rotunno of John F. Kennedy High School, has been accused of changing English Regents grades months after the Regents was given, without the knowledge or approval of the teachers. In fact, the teachers only found out that the English grades were changed by the administration when the students informed the teachers of their passing grades. OSI stated that the principal had the right to change Regents grades and cleared Mr. Rotunno of changing the grades without finding out why the grades were changed. Only after complaints were aired in the newspapers did OSI start a second investigation on why the grades were changed. This investigation is ongoing and Mr. Rotunno sits in his principals office in the meantime.

Both principals have been accused of changing grades without the knowledge and approval of the teachers. This is in apparent violation of New York State law that gives the teacher the final decision on a grade. Yes, Principals can change grades or Regents but only after the teacher(s) are informed and given input to the changing of grades. Nowhere in the New York State education law does an administrator have the right to change a student grade without teacher input. Yet both principals saw fit to ignore the teacher input and had them changed without informing the teachers. Why is OSI dragging its feet when the evidence is very easy to obtain? You can only guess why? However, OSI wasted no time in removing the Chapter Leader of JFK high school for using the school fax to send the information to a New York City newspaper. Against teachers the OSI works fast!

Is there an OSI double standard on how they investigate teachers and administrators? You better believe it!

Thursday, February 02, 2006


Yesterday Epiphanny Prince scored 113 points in a 137 - 32 win over Brandeis High School in a Public School Athletic League (PSAL) basketball game. The local newscasts played up the issue as a wonderful event and the newspapers did the same. However, buried on page 60 of the New York Post was the real story of the game by reporter Dan Martin. The reporter interviewed the Brandeis coach, Vera Springer who put it in the proper perspective. She stated that "it stinks"! She further stated that the Murry Bergtraum coach Ed Grezinsky wanted to prove that Epiphanny was better than the Christ the King player, Tina Charles. What Ed Grezinsky did is undefendable and while he didn't break any technical rules under the PSAL, he certainly broke some moral rules:

* Don't run up the score on an inferior opponent.

* Keep your best players out once it is a blowout.

* Never embarres another team.

* Show class and be a role model for your players.

In my opinion, on all counts the Murry Bergtraum coach, Ed Grezinsky failed to meet these moral rules. Worse is the lack of criticism from the media. In fact, the Rugters women coach C. Vivian Stringer gave her a hug and congradulated Epiphanny on scoring 113 points. Real good role models that Epiphanny has in school basketball. Yes, Epiphanny is going to Rugters next year.

I have coached high school sports for the PSAL for the last eight years and travel teams for the ten years before that, when I am playing an inferior opponent, I never let my best players run up the score or embarres the other team. We are supposed to be role models to our players, a proud representative of our school, and a respected teacher who cares about their students well-being. Yes, there are coaches like Ed Grezinsky, who are poor role models, classless, and only care about winning. Thankfully, these coaches are a minority in high school sports and athletic directors and/or principals should be doing the right thing and dump these coaches. For every Epiphanny Prince there are thousands of players who never see significant playing time or are cut from the team because they will not add to the winning record. While all coaches want to win, the best coaches can balance winning with respect and make all players feel worthwhile. However, a minority of coaches lose sight of this goal in the zeal for winning and in the proccess destroy the self worth of the weaker athletes and opponents.

There is winning and there is winning. The way Ed Grezinsky won is undefendable!