cluttered desk

A recent headline in The NY Post about a principal throwing out all of her teachers’ desks and filing cabinets has been making the rounds on Facebook http://nypost.com/2015/10/18/principal-forbid-teachers-to-sit-so-she-threw-out-their-desks/

According to the Principal, “It’s the 21st century — you don’t need desks,” Connelly said, sources told The Post.”

As the saying goes, “everything old is new again” and apparently this nutty administrator thinks it’s time to bring back the Neolithic Era when humans never sat and spent their days foraging for food instead. No doubt her teachers’ waistlines might benefit from being denied an opportunity to sit down on occasion to grade papers, plan, contact a parent, check their ever-exploding district email inbox, or just to eat their lunch. Chronic Homo Erectus-itis, however, would lead to worse health for their feet and backs as they would surely develop blisters and sciatica from standing up all day.

Principal Connelly not only views teacher desks as passé, but apparently filing cabinets have also gone the way of the dinosaur.

filing cabinets

As in true administrator fashion, when teachers inquired as to how they should do their jobs as a result of random and poorly thought out administrative decision-making, her response was typical of what teachers are left to do every single day in schools across America:

“Figure it out,” she snapped when staffers asked where to store their supplies, a source said.

As to where teachers should grade papers, Connelly answered, “Use the lunch room,” sources said.

I have a sneaking suspicion that if one were to walk into the administrative offices of this particular school, there would still be desks and filing cabinets. As much as I am at times an obnoxious proponent of going paperless at my school, I still need a desk and a couple of filing cabinets dang it! In case Principal Connelly can’t possibly fathom why a teacher would still need a desk and a filing cabinet in the 21st century, here is my top ten list of why teachers still need desks and filing cabinets:

  1. There is still an inordinate amount of paperwork that comes with being a teacher (most of it inflicted upon us by our districts) and we need somewhere to store all of those papers. I have personally gone almost completely paperless but my desk still looks like an atomic bomb went off at Kinkos because of all the mountains of forms I get from my school: IEPs, tablet computer agreements, testing schedules, packets worth of information that could have been sent in an email or posted online, lesson plans, parent contact folders….you get the picture). Before I became a teacher I did stints as an administrative assistant in the office world, and I have more paperwork to deal with as a teacher than I ever had when I was paid to be a full time administrative assistant. Now on top of all of my administrative duties, I also have to teach and grade and plan.
  2. Even though I post all of my class materials online so that my students can access it with their tablet computers rather than me making copies, I still need to keep a few class sets of materials in case the school Wi-Fi is down. God forbid I’m left in a class of forty fourteen year olds for ninety minutes with no Internet access and no back up plan! Teachers need a place to store those materials, and since about the 18th century that place has been a filing cabinet.
  3. Most teachers sit at their desks to eat their lunch. Running off to the teachers’ lounge is time consuming. My school doesn’t even have a teachers’ lounge anymore. Plus, most teachers don’t have time to chit chat in the teachers’ lounge and are shoveling food in their mouths with one hand and grading papers or responding to emails with the other during their lunch.
  4. There are times during the school day when sitting at your desk is perfectly acceptable. If your students are engaged in responding to a writing prompt, there is no need for the teacher to be circulating the room and they will probably have to be grading some of those essays while the students are writing if they plan on being able to give the students any prompt feedback about their writing.
  5. Most teachers spend an enormous amount of time on the computer these days and walking around with a laptop in your hands all day would lead to some vicious carpal tunnel.
  6. Current educational trends expect teachers to be “guides on the sides,” not standing in front of the room giving a lecture. If your students are working independently on a student centered learning assignment, why shouldn’t we be able to sit down at a desk every now and then?
  7. Shoes are expensive. I have yet to find any pair of shoes that will make it through a year of teaching without some serious damage due to the amount of walking and standing already involved in teaching, even for those of us that are still permitted to keep a desk. I have had two shoes break right in the midst of teaching and I had to hobble around for the rest of the day wearing broken shoes. (Note to female teachers: always have a backup pair of shoes and a pair of flip flops or slippers you can put on your feet during planning. Your feet will thank you).
  8. Spider veins are painful and unattractive. Teachers don’t make enough money to afford the surgery to remove them.
  9. Would this Principal ever think to remove student desks and force them to stand all day with no readily available hard surface to do their work?
  10. Teachers are professionals. Teachers should be able to decide on their own when they need to be circulating the room and when they could use the time more productively at their desks.

Did I miss something? Leave a comment below if you have another reason Principal Connelly should immediately return her teachers’ desks and filing cabinets (if they haven’t already been stolen by other desperate New York teachers in need of an extra filing cabinet or more surface space to store papers).

erik fresen snake

(Image taken from https://thewitheringapple.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/ef2.png?w=860&h=280&crop=1)

In perhaps the least surprising news of the year, Governor Rick Scott has denied a request on behalf of the Florida Educator’s Association to extend the Oct. 1st deadline for the Best and Brightest Scholarship. You can read the letter from FEA President Andy Ford here https://www.facebook.com/BrevardFederationofTeachers/photos/a.468695559883531.1073741829.337122859707469/897976140288802/?type=3&theater

Despite FEA pleas to extend the deadline for teachers still waiting to get their scores from the SAT and the ACT, the best the union was able to negotiate was allowing teachers to use their high school or college transcripts instead. For most teachers over the age of thirty who already hold Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate degrees, high school transcripts are generally not what one chooses to retain in their office filing cabinet. Of course anyone with an ounce of cynicism and an GRE analytical score over 500 would know that petitioning Rick Scott to enable more veteran teachers to qualify for Best and Brightest scholarships would counteract the original purpose of the bill. This bill was not meant for veteran teachers. It was clearly meant as a signing bonus for Teach for America recruits, charter school teachers and any other cheap young blood who are stupid enough (despite having standardized test scores in the top 20th percentile) to sign up for teaching in a state that has shown nothing but disdain for educators and passes one humiliating law after the next.

While the blame and injustice of Best and Brightest lies mostly with Representative Erik Fresen for coming up with the hair-brained scheme and Governor Rick for signing it into law, neither our district nor our union in Miami did much to ensure that their highly qualified veteran teachers benefited from this inane giveaway of tax payer funds. Neither the district nor the union chose to send a district wide email clearly explaining the details of Best and Brightest and how to apply. The district chose to inform teachers the last week in August by putting it in the weekly briefing email that no teacher in the history of Dade County has ever bothered to read. The second least read publication for Dade County teachers would be the UTD “Activist” Newsletter that only gets mailed to union member homes. The newsletter sat unread in a pile of junk mail on my dining table for two weeks. Looking at photos of the union president smiling at one social event after the next is not one of my top priorities. If there were any two places where one could publish information that one could be assured that no teacher in Dade County would ever see, it would be the weekly briefing and the UTD Activist newsletter. This way both the district and union get to say they informed their teachers, while ensuring that the majority of them would remain uninformed so as to not dilute the $10,000 jackpot earnings.

Just this week UTD finally sent out an email only to qualifying union members. This email was sent out on September 21st, ten days before the deadline:

“The Florida’s Best and Brightest plan has been discussed.  Its flaws are numerous and self-evident. Nevertheless, it is now the law.

Even though it is not something we agree with, we recommend that if you qualify, you should apply. We have identified you as being potentially qualified, which is the reason you are receiving this e-mail.  You should use the links below to begin the process of applying for the funds.

Here is the link to get the application. (click here)

Here is a link to College Board to request your SAT scores. (click here)

Here is a link to request ACT scores. (click here)

Here is a link to the Percentile Rankings associated with the SAT and ACT. (click here)

This would have been an awesome email had it been sent out in early August, not one week before the deadline! If teachers hadn’t already known to request their test scores weeks earlier, there was no way they would qualify at this point. Which leaves one wondering, why send out an email one week before the deadline at all? Why did they wait so long to send this email? It’s not like UTD is shy about using the district email to flood both non-member and member Inboxes with useless information. Just last week I got an email to attend the Million Man March in Washington D.C. and another email wishing me a Happy Yom Kippur. Being neither an African American male nor Jewish, I found these emails to be rather unnecessary.

Then on a Friday afternoon, less than one week before the deadline, UTD sends out another email only to union members lamenting that Rick Scott is not extending the deadline but now teachers can look into ordering their high school or college transcripts instead. (By the way, I ordered my high school transcripts and my SAT scores were not even on them). The majority of Dade County union members (remember the other 50% have no access to this information), will probably not even see this email until the middle of the day on Monday. Giving them exactly 48 hours to procure their high school or college transcripts.

“From: United Teachers of Dade <United@UTD.org>
Date: September 25, 2015 at 2:05:34 PM EDT
To: Undisclosed recipients:;
Subject: Best and Brightest Scholarships – Another Update

Neither the Governor nor FLDOE have provided for an extension to the October 1 deadline, but some relief has been provided based on the efforts of UTD and FEA (Florida Education Association).

In contradiction to a previous Technical Assistance Paper provided by FLDOE, M-DCPS will now be allowed to accept official transcripts that include SAT and/or ACT scores.  An email with details will be forthcoming from M-DCPS.

If you have not been able to acquire your official score report from SAT or ACT, you should look into getting a copy of your high school or college transcripts that may include your scores.  You can submit these documents in lieu of something from SAT or ACT.

The deadline for applying for this funding is still October 1, 2015.   Individual awards will be based on the number of qualifying individuals that complete the application divided by the amount appropriated.

Take Action

Best and Brightest “Scholarship” Program FEA Member Questionnaire

FEA is exploring the legal and organizational impact of the “Best and Brightest” program on our members. This is a one year program that provides scholarships to first year classroom teachers who scored in the 80th percentile or higher on the SAT or ACT and all other classroom teachers evaluated as “Highly Effective” and who scored in the 80th percentile or higher on the SAT or ACT.

To best assess this issue, and to determine the best course of action that FEA will need to take to protect our members’ interests, we need your input and contact information.

Answer the Questionnaire Now

If Dade teachers didn’t go to high school or college in South Florida, they are going to be SOL when it comes to getting a transcript with test scores in time as well. Which begs the question, why bother sending this email out at all? If UTD and the district really wanted to ensure all of their eligible teachers benefited from the Best and Brightest “Erik Fresen Makin’ it Rain on Florida New Hires” Scholarship, they would have sent these emails out months ago. The question of why they didn’t remains.

keep-calm-im-a-teacher-aint-nobody-got-time-for-that

The Miami-Dade school district and the state of Florida are apparently under the false impression that teachers have a massive amount of spare time on their hands. Instead of spending my planning period grading papers, I will be filling out a tedious form itemizing each 50 cent pack of crayons I purchased in August so the district doesn’t deduct money from my paycheck next March because I didn’t properly document how I spent each penny of the $285 teacher lead money on classroom supplies. To make matters worse, this is the second time I am filling out this form because the first time I printed it out and hand wrote the items and only now am I finding out the form needs to be filled out online and then printed and submitted with receipts to my site administrator. Luckily, I seem to be one of the only teachers left in Dade County with a functioning printer and toner that my school actually purchased for me. Other Dade County teachers are not so lucky. See this unbelievable email exchange between a teacher just trying to do her job and a district bureaucrat:

Greetings,

It is imperative that your office send teachers a specified list of what constitutes EQUIPMENT. For example, I purchased a small laminator machine from Office Depot to laminate posters for my classroom. I also purchased an HP printer for my classroom this year after I was unable to receive a working printer in my class. I requested an HP printer via several HEAT tickets and administration because the Lexmark printer was not working and it needed a toner cartridge. Finally, after two weeks I was told there were no available HP printers in the building by the administration and the HEAT tech person at my school site. Additionally, I tried several times in past years to order ink cartridges for the school printers in my classroom via HEAT tickets and administration email. I was told several years ago that the school did not have money for ink for printers in the individual teachers classrooms and that I would have to use my Lead Teacher Classroom Supply money for that purpose. Therefore I have been purchasing ink for the school printer in my classroom each year. Also, I needed copies for my classes, along with many teachers in building, for our opening of school course syllabus and our school site copy machine has not been working since teacher OPT Days. So I have been going to Office Depot in the interim to have my copies made for my students.

As you can see, Equipment is a vague term because I do not know what items that refers to especially with what I have already purchased above-ink cartridges, small laminator machine, HP printer… this year and in previous years. Teachers need a list of what constitutes equipment from your office ASAP so they will know what not to enter on the Teacher Classroom Supply Documentation of Expenditures form.

The is the district’s response:
“Please recall your message, you just copied almost the entire District in your response. The District does not have a list, if we did we would have shared it with our teachers. Just yesterday, we were able to get from the State of Florida the definition of “equipment and supplies”, and thus, it was just provided to the Regions to share with the Principals. Your administration just got it, I’m sure that they will share it with staff shortly. Based on the definition, printers and laminators are considered equipment.”

It gets even more absurd ladies and gentleman. Read the state of Florida’s definition of “equipment and supplies” that was sent to administrators and forwarded to teachers. It reads more like a science textbook than anything that would actually help a teacher categorize what constitutes a supply and what constitutes equipment.

SUPPLIES AND EQUIPMENT CRITERIA

An ever-present challenge in financial accounting is that of distinguishing between supplies and equipment.This section provides criteria for classifying an item as either a supply or piece of equipment. Equipment builtin or fixed to the building or grounds is considered a part of the building or land improvement and shouldbe charged to those respective accounts.

CRITERIA FOR SUPPLY ITEMS

A supply item is any article or material that meets any one or more of the following conditions:

  1. It is consumed in use.
  1. It loses its original shape or appearance with use.
  1. It is expendable. That is, if the article is damaged or some of its parts are lost or worn out, it is usually more feasible to replace it with an entirely new unit than repair it.
  1. It is an inexpensive item, having characteristics of equipment but with a small unit cost that makes it inadvisable to capitalize the item.
  1. It loses its identity through incorporation into a different or more complex unit or substance.

CRITERIA FOR EQUIPMENT ITEMS

An equipment item is a material unit that meets all of the following conditions:

  1. It retains its original shape and appearance with use.
  1. It is nonexpendable.  That is, it is usually more feasible to repair it rather than replace it with an entirely new unit.
  1. It represents an investment of money that makes it feasible and advisable to capitalize the item.
  1. It does not lose its identity through incorporation into a different or more complex unit or substance.

All clear now? Probably not. You are probably more confused than ever about what constitutes a “supply” and what constitutes “equipment” and you may be questioning your own sanity at this point. I’m definitely questioning my own sanity for staying in a profession that treats me like a criminal for purchasing a set of wireless mice for the district tablets that only come with one USB port so you can’t work with a mouse and a keyboard at the same time. Charter schools are robbing this state blind, yet every year they come up with even more ridiculous hurdles for teachers to be able to be semi-reimbursed for all of the money they spend on items just to be able to do their job.

It’s unbelievable what teachers are being forced to purchase out of their own pockets these days. Last week at my daughter’s second grade Back to School Night, her teacher asked parents to donate money on Adopt a Classroom so she could purchase cardboard cubicles to prevent the kids from cheating during tests! WTF? Not only are teachers being treated like criminals, but so are second grade students! First of all, the district should be providing the cubicles to prevent cheating on these exams that they want to base teacher evaluations and pay on-not the teacher! Second of all, why are we putting 7 year olds in cardboard cubicles to take a high stakes test in the first place? Sorry teach, but I’m not giving you money to put my kid in a cardboard cubicle.

Once upon a time in a not so distant past, teachers were simply handed a check in September because the district knew that teachers spent a large sum of their own funds back in August to buy supplies, or equipment, or candy, or whatever they damn well needed to buy to do their job and no questions were ever asked. Then last year we were handed a debit card so they could track our expenses and told where we could spend the money. Only problem was that the debit card company was hacked on our personal information may have been compromised. Which leads us to where we are today, itemizing each 50 cent pack of crayons and being told we will not be reimbursed for hundreds of dollars worth of “equipment” because “it does not lose its identity through incorporation into a different or my complex substance.” At this point I’ve lost my identity as a classroom teacher and may as well be working for the IRS.

Many teachers will probably just throw their hands up at this point and not even bother filling out the form out of frustration, total confusion, or because they just don’t have the time for all that. And the great irony in all of this (of which there are many), if you don’t spend your $285 according to those incomprehensible instructions, the district get’s to keep the unused funds! Not only do they save money not purchasing basic supplies and equipment like paper, toner and printers, they get to make money off of the backs of the teachers who did!

On the subject of the criminalization of teachers and wasting teachers’ time, if you haven’t already attended a district PD recently and had to complete an evaluation using “My Learning Plan” you are in for yet another massive time suck. If it weren’t bad enough that there are now PD Gestapo that will turn you away if you show up 15 minutes late and force you to stay until 3:45 even if you finished all of your work two hours earlier, you now have to fill in a multi-stage evaluation. We had a perfectly good PD registration and evaluation system, but apparently the state of Florida audited us and found it just wasn’t good enough. (Funny how the state of Florida is happy to audit district professional development but has never audited districts over compliance with the class size amendment).

Just figuring out where to submit an evaluation on My Learning Plan is burdensome enough, but then you have about a thousand drop down menus worth of “Strongly Agreeing” about the value of your PD, uploading documentation, creating a Smart Goal (100% of will achieve mastery on blah, blah, blah..) and then you are supposed to remember to go back 14 days after your PD and describe how you achieved your goal. I took a PD at the beginning of the summer, and I was still expected to go back 14 days later while on vacation and describe how I achieved my goal even though I wouldn’t see any students for another two months! Basically, I was forced into a situation where I had to lie and this was all being done in the name of preventing PD fraud! I got news for you Tallahassee, ain’t no teacher got time for that!

wall-street-2-006

Education reformers have been arguing that schools should be run more like businesses for years. Policies like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top focused on competition between schools and teachers. State after state has ditched teacher tenure and replaced it with performance pay (actually, they got rid of the job security but most teachers have yet to be paid for performance). Now, with hair-brained policies like Florida’s Best and Brightest Scholarship we have entered a Brave New World of education reform and employee compensation, a world where only top test-takers are entitled to a bonus. Let’s apply the fundamentals of Erik Fresen’s Best and Brightest Scholarship program to the business world for a moment and see how that would work.

Setting: (shiny corporate office building in New York’s financial district)

CEO of Gordon Geiko Financial Services: “Gentlemen, I’ve brought you both into my office to discuss this year’s bonus payouts.”

Jeff and Jordon, both seasoned financial executives, exchange smiles.

CEO: “Times are tough in the financial world these days. I don’t have enough money to give you both bonuses so I’ve decided to only give a bonus to Jeff this year because his SAT scores were higher.”

Jordon: “But that’s crazy! I took my SAT 25 years ago and I was stoned at the time! I outperformed Jeff! I made $200,000 for this company last year and he only made $100,000. Why does Jeff get a bonus and I don’t? That’s crazy!”

CEO: “Sorry, Jordon. Life’s not fair. People with high SAT scores just have more potential to be a top earner one day.”

Jordon runs out of the room in a rage. Jeff runs after him. They’ve been drinking buddies for years. He doesn’t want the CEO’s decision to ruin their friendship.

Jordon punches the wall in the restroom. “I can’t believe this crap! Never in my life did I think my SAT scores would count for anything more than what college I got into. My parents couldn’t afford SAT tutoring or an expensive out of state college so I didn’t even try knowing I would end up at a state school anyway.”

Jeff: “I’m sorry man. This is crazy. Drinks on me.”

Chip, a young fresh-faced intern who started two days ago at the company, walks into the bathroom smiling.

Jordon: “What are you so happy about?”

Chip: “I just found out I’m going to make an extra $10,000 this year because my SAT scores were so high! Isn’t that awesome?”

Jordon and Jeff look at each other enraged. They immediately take Chip’s head and shove it in the toilet.

Jordon storms out of the bathroom, clears all of his belongings off of his desk, and tells the CEO he can stick his SAT scores where the sun the doesn’t shine.

Time will tell how the estrogen-laden teaching profession will react to Florida’s Best and Brightest Scholarship program, but it would certainly never work on Wall Street.

homer simpson

I tend to be a little obsessive when a topic really outrages me and seems to defy all forms of reason (see my 1,000 blog posts about VAM). Compared to Florida’s Best and Brightest scholarship program, VAM seems almost logical and fair. All Florida teachers have a chance at winning the VAM lottery and you have to teach at least one year to be entered to win. With Florida’s Best and Brightest scholarship, some teachers will never be able to score in the top 80th percentile of the SAT, especially English and Social Studies teachers (who may have near perfect scores on the reading portion) but are incapable of breaking 600 on math. Every year I try to be optimistic and think to myself, “It can’t possibly get any worse or more absurd,” and yet every year it does.

Last legislative session seemed to go pretty well. There were laws passed to curb high stakes testing, VAM was reduced to 33% of a teacher’s evaluation, and the Legislature ran home early before they could do further harm. Then special session hit and teachers were slapped in the face with the “Best and Brightest” scholarship program out of nowhere. This little piece of legislation has been keeping me up at night and has completely destroyed my summer’s digital detox program. Last night while worrying about what dreadful legislation might be coming our way next, I imagined a conversation between Governor Rick Scott, Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, and Representative Erik Fresen. It went something like this:

Rebecca Fishman Lipsey: “Governor Scott, we are going to have to revise the Best and Brightest scholarship program. My TFA recruits are pissed. Apparently Florida teachers are smarter and better than we thought. Thousands more of them qualified for Best and Brightest than we anticipated. The $10,000 bonus ended up being a just little over $1,000.”

Erik Fresen: “Tell me about it. Half of the new hires at my brother in-law’s charter schools quit after they found out they would be making $9,000 less.”

Governor Rick Scott: “I can’t believe Florida teachers are that smart! How did they manage to even get their test scores? We knew that the College Board didn’t keep records prior to 1988. That should have excluded any teacher over the age of 45.”

Rebecca Fishman Lipsey: “Governor Scott, you don’t know teachers like I know teachers. Remember, unlike Erik and yourself, I was a teacher for a few years. Those people are hoarders! They have class sets of copies that are ten years old! They have maps hanging on their walls where Russia is still called the Soviet Union!”

Erik Fresen: “And it’s only going to get worse next year. You should see these old teachers lining up on Saturdays to sit for four hours to take the SAT and ACT alongside their 17 year-old students. Pathetic. Makes me almost feel sorry for them.”

Governor Rick Scott: “Looks like we’re going to have to revise the “Best and Brightest” scholarship program to make sure only the youngest teachers benefit. I’m not going to budget any additional money for “Best and Brightest.” If it get’s too large it’s going to be harder for me to claim I overlooked it when you sneak it in the budget at the last minute.”

Erik Fresen: “OK. So what sort of ridiculous new hurdle can we come up with that will discriminate against older teachers?”

Rebecca Fishman Lipsey: “Hurdles….hurdles…hmm…Let’s make them run a marathon! Only teachers that finish in the top 20 of a marathon can qualify! That will surely give my TFA recruits an advantage. Studies show that runners are more likely to be highly successful people.”

Erik Fresen: “Speaking of studies Rebecca, you still haven’t given me any concrete research that shows your teachers with high SAT scores produce more learning gains than other teachers. Reporters are asking for it and me citing that one book I didn’t even read isn’t working anymore. There was actually one study done in Miami Dade County that showed TFA recruits did not achieve higher test scores in reading and math than their counterparts. What if journalists get a hold of that report? http://oer.dadeschools.net/EvaluationMatters/TransmittalofEvaluationMattersTeachForAmericaAnAnalysisOfPlacementAndImpact.pdf

Rebecca Fishman Lipsey: “That’s why we need to shift the focus to physical fitness. It’ll fit in nicely with Michelle Obama’s healthier school lunch and fit kids campaign. How can our students be physically fit if their teachers are fat? They are setting a bad example. The future of our nation is at risk if we continue to let fat people teach our children.”

Governor Rick Scott: “Sounds good to me! Look how skinny I am! We’ll call it “Florida’s Fastest and Fittest” scholarship.”

We’ll have to wait and see what ridiculousness the Florida Legislature dreams up next. But don’t be surprised next spring if they ask you to run a marathon or produce a potty training certificate to be eligible for a raise in Florida.

teach-for-america-life-card-819x1024

In my last blog post I lambasted Representative Erik Fresen and Governor Rick Scott for their lame brained “Best and Brightest” Scholarship program which gives $10,000 bonuses for teachers based on their college entrance exam scores. Considering that the College Board has told several teachers that there are no percentile rankings available for tests taken prior to 2004, most teachers over 30 are going to have a hard time qualifying for the bonus. Perhaps a better name for Fresen’s law would be Florida’s “Youngest and Least Experienced” Scholarship?

One parent of a Teach for America participant called me out for disparaging Teach for America in my last bog. I actually spent most of my blog disparaging Erik Fresen and Rick Scott, but after doing a little research on Teach for America when she asked for data backing up my claim that Teach for America recruits don’t last long in the classroom, I found so much dirt on Teach for America that it merited an entire blog of disparaging them. Thanks for the inspiration TFA mom!

Is it a coincidence that the same year that Governor Rick Scott appoints Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, a Teach For America executive, to the State Board of Education that a ridiculous law giving large bonuses to teachers with high SAT/ACT scores, even though they may have never even stepped foot in a classroom, gets signed into law completely bypassing the legislative process?

According to a report from the National Center for Teacher Quality,

“Since its inception, TFA has placed a lot of weight on academic credentials. For instance, most of its teachers have graduated from selective colleges and have an average SAT score of 1,300, 261 points higher than the average SAT score of other aspiring teachers who pass the Praxis I, a basic skills test required of new teacher in most states.”

http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/Increasing_the_Odds_How_Good_Policies_Can_Yield_Better_Teachers_NCTQ_Report

Clearly, young Teach for America recruits are more likely to have SAT scores high enough to qualify for the “scholarship” and they will also be able to easily access those scores with a few clicks of a mouse on the College Board website. Meanwhile, the veteran old timers will have to pay the College Board $40 just for the hope that their archaic scores can be located. The College Board gives no guarantee that scores can be found and they would not even offer a time frame for locating them. I ordered mine a month ago and so far nothing.

If this were just about the “Best and Brightest” and rewarding teachers with high test scores, why were GRE scores not an option? Because Teach for America recruits don’t have any GRE scores. Teach for America is what you do to enhance your resume to get into graduate school and to help pay for graduate school once your two years of servitude are over. Teach for America recruits will be able to count on making an extra $10,000 for the duration of their service because A) they automatically get the bonus as a new hire B) they won’t have an evaluation to base the bonus on once they have served the first year. There is a nine month lag time in finalizing teacher evaluations because of VAM. So the Teach for America recruit can make an easy extra $20,000 before they run off to law school, become a TFA lobbyist in DC, or become principal of a charter school before they ever receive a finalized evaluation. A recent study by Mathematica concluded:

“More than 87 percent of TFA teachers say they don’t plan on remaining teachers throughout their careers, compared with 26.3 percent of non-TFA teachers working in the same subjects, grades, and schools, according to an analysis released last week by Mathematica Policy Research (PDF).”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-09/most-teach-for-america-instructors-plan-to-flee-teaching

The National Center for Teacher Quality (an organization who’s advisory board is filled with the likes of Michelle Rhee, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and charter school/hedge fund donation “no excuses” queen Eva Moscowitz) concludes that districts that seek to employ the high IQ master race teacher need to prepare for high teacher turnover:

“The findings on college selectivity lend further support to what is already a robust body of evidence indicating that teachers with strong academic credentials are more likely to produce greater student learning gains. However, districts which purposely recruit candidates with higher academic credentials may need to prepare for higher turnover rates, unless they also address those factors that cause those teachers who have the most other options to leave the classroom. http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/Increasing_the_Odds_How_Good_Policies_Can_Yield_Better_Teachers_NCTQ_Report

The report goes on to state:

“According to the National Center for Education Statistics, first- year teachers who scored in the top quartile on the SAT were twice as likely to leave teaching after five years as those who scored in the bottom quartile.

  • Similarly, Richard Murnane and others found that both beginning and experienced teachers with higher scores on a licensing examination were more likely to leave the profession. This was particularly true for white teachers. Murnane also found that teachers with higher IQ scores were more likely to leave teaching at the end of each year than those with low IQ scores.”

There seems to be very strong data to suggest that these high SAT score teachers are going to leave the profession in a very short amount of time. Which if you are the state of Florida doing everything possible to eradicate teacher pension plans, this a great human resource strategy! Bring in the brainiacs because we know they won’t last long enough to collect a pension! School districts will also enjoy the short teaching span of TFA recruits because they will have fewer health insurance costs, be young enough to have no children so they can devote hours to extra school activities and meetings, and think living with roommates is still cool!

So what about those amazing learning gains by the high IQ quick turnover TFA teacher types? Even the TFA/charter school advised National Center for Teacher Quality could not find very compelling data:

“A recent study from Mathematica Policy Research found that first and second year Teach For America teachers produced slightly higher math gains and equivalent reading gains as more experienced, traditionally certified teachers in the same schools.”

Wow! Slightly higher math scores and equivalent reading gains! Well that’s the sort of compelling data that should lead us to offer these master race teachers an extra $10,000!

Perhaps the real mastermind behind Florida’s “Best and Brightest” was Rebecca Fishman Lipsey? Erik Fresen may have been chosen to be the fall guy for the bill since he heads the Education Budget Committee and had the ability to sneak it in during special session. Charter schools also have a lot to gain from the Best and Brightest Scholarship program since they are hurting for teachers to work in their schools, which offer low salaries, no job security, and demanding hours. There is a strong link between TFA and the charter industry. If you watch this youtube video from a former TFA recruit trying to discourage other young people from joining TFA, she mentions that she received a ton of emails from charter schools asking her to come work in their schools once she finished her service because both TFA and charter schools shared a commitment to “excellence.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAKHHHDi8vE

We may never know whether Florida’s “Best and Brightest” Scholarship was designed primarily for Teach for America recruits or to assist in luring young grads to teach in Florida’s ever expanding charter school industry. We can conclude that you, veteran career teacher, be you “highly effective” or just “effective” were not the targeted recipient of this bill. The Florida legislature did not put any money in the 2014-15 budget to pay for the merit pay law it passed three years ago, back in the good ole’ days when all teachers needed was a “highly effective” evaluation to qualilfy.

baby money

In honor of Mother’s Day, I would like to dedicate this blog post to all of the Dade County teachers who dared to reproduce. After a Teacher Appreciation week filled with token robo calls and mass emails expressing words of gratitude, I’m done with sentiment and I want to deal with some cold hard facts. The fact is, that if you choose to become a teacher breeder in Dade County, you are also choosing a path to poverty. This is especially true if you happen to be a single parent teacher (of which I know many) whether it be through circumstance, death or divorce.

According to the Miami curbed.com, the median rent for a two bedroom apartment in Miami is $2450, making Miami the 8th most expensive city for rent in the nation. http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/median-rent-in-miami-for-a-two-bedroom-apartment-is-2-450-eighth-highest-in-nation-7602263

Miami rent

This becomes an even more depressing economic figure for the teacher breeder when you take into account that Miami ranks 57th out of 60 urban areas for teacher pay. http://www.ncpa.org/pdfs/2014_Teacher_Pay_Report-NCPA_MacIver.pdf

You can check out this interactive map of teacher salaries from Mother Jones magazine if you would like to find a city somewhere in America where you might be able to continue your career as a teacher and still be able to afford to reproduce. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/09/map-teachers-salaries-by-city

Because I’m dealing with cold hard facts, I am going to attempt to illustrate how the teacher breeder living and working in Miami-Dade County is on the path to financial ruin using some basic math. Since we teach in the era of Common Core math, this will have to take the form of a word problem.

Teacher A is a young single teacher with no children. As a first year teacher in Miami Dade County their annual salary is $40,000. After taxes, their take home pay is $3200 over ten months. In order to survive over the summer they will have to save $500 a month. This leaves Teacher A with $2700 a month for expenses. Teacher A is renting a small studio apartment or possibly has a roommate and is paying $1200 a month for rent. Teacher A does not have to pay for health insurance since they have no dependents. Teacher A chooses to live near their school and rides a bike to work. Teacher A eats a lot of ramen noodles and spends $200 a month on food. Teacher A has a second job at a restaurant and makes an extra $500 a week. How much money does Teacher A have left over at the end of the month?

Answer: $1800

Teacher A, who is young enough to have no responsibilities and enough energy for a second job, is thinking “Woo-hoo! This teacher gig is pretty good!”

Fast forward ten years. Teacher A has now become Teacher B (B is for breeder). Teacher B reproduced with an Argentinian bus boy who has since been deported and pays no child support. After ten years of teaching, Teacher B is making an annual salary of $42,000. Their take home pay after taxes is $3400 a month over a ten month period. They have to set aside $700 a month to survive over the summer. This leaves Teacher B with $2700 for monthly expenses. Teacher B pays $2400 a month for a two bedroom apartment. Teacher B also has to pay $700 a month to insure their child. Oops! Teacher B is already in the hole and they haven’t even paid for food! Teacher B bought a used Honda civic in cash with the money they saved when working an extra job before they had children. They still have to pay $200 a month for car insurance, gas, and tolls. Teacher B’s child is young enough to be in day care at a cost of $800 a month. Teacher B’s child is still in diapers leading to a monthly grocery bill of $500 a month. How much is Teacher B in the hole at the end of every month?

Answer: -$1900

Teacher B is running a monthly deficit of $1900. Teacher B, who is now middle aged and doesn’t have the energy or the looks to make $500 a week waiting tables, is now contemplating a move to back to their parents’ home in Oklahoma.

Of course there are some teacher breeders who married well (you can tell who they are by the car they drive). In that case, $42,000 a year is a decent secondary income. The reality is that the majority of Miami Dade teacher breeders are not married to doctors or lawyers and some are even married to, God forbid, another teacher. Many teachers chose their profession because they love children. It is a sad irony that if these teachers want to continue to work in Miami Dade County Public Schools, they may have to make the economic decision to forgo having children of their own.

On a cheerier note, a very happy Mother’s Day to all of my teacher breeder readers! Our little bundles of joy are way better than those fancy European vacations some of our childless teacher colleagues get to take every summer.

thinkgate-office*1200xx640-360-0-60

Teachers and school districts across Florida, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Ohio were in for a rude awakening last week when they went to administer an online assessment or dig into their student data to plan a “data driven” lesson only to find that the link to Thinkgate, an online testing service that received millions in Race To the Top funds, suddenly shut their doors-taking droves of district, state, and teacher generated assessments and student data with them.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/ed-tech-company-folds-after-receiving-millions-in-race-to-the-top-funds/2015/05/06/c637e5aa-f310-11e4-b2f3-af5479e6bbdd_story.html

In Miami-Dade, we received an email suggesting that we download our assessments and data within 48 hours because Thinkgate was doing a data transfer. Since they did not say that Thinkgate was going to implode within the next 48 hours, and since there was no way I would have time to suddenly sit there and try to figure out how to download all of my assessments in the two day window I was given in the middle of the school week, I didn’t save anything. This week when I went to set up my final online assessment of the year, poof, the site no longer existed.

After having spent a day of my summer vacation getting lost in the labyrinth of West Hialeah so I could attend a Thinkgate training for which I did not even receive a token $100 stipend, nor 15 master plan points to renew my license, you could say I’m a little bitter. I spent countless hours trying to figure out Thinkgate’s clunky software for creating my own assessments thinking in the end it would save me time and save my school money on copies and scantrons. Thinkgate’s software was so user-unfriendly that even after creating ten assessments, it still took me multiple attempts to remember which icons to click (I don’t feel too bad anymore now that I know that the CEO of Thinkgate could not even create an assessment in his own software program, see ex-employee review below) . I am not one to learn software programs by sorting through a 500 page manual. My strategy is to madly click on every icon until I find something that works. Unfortunately, Thinkgate’s icons were incredibly cheesy and random. If you never had the misfortune of using Thinkgate, think back to the software programs of the late 1980s with black screens and yellow font. Thinkgate was a software platform that screamed “Developed for the sole purposes of government bureaucracies. Not to be sold on the free market under any circumstances for fear of consumer ridicule and competition.”

Even though Thinkgate’s software was cumbersome and unattractive, it worked. Since the district never full-filled their promise of installing a server to restrict our students’ Internet usage, I relied on Thinkgate to curb student cheating during tests since it did lock them out if they opened another browser. And since our students have been raised in a world where information is just one click away and gratification immediate, it was nice to be able to let them know their test scores immediately. Now, with one month left in the school year, teachers are left holding the bag.

“Charlotte-based Thinkgate has provided testing software used to administer 150 tests for about 500,000 students statewide for the past five years.

Teachers are now preparing to give students paper tests rather than online exams.

Debbie Parrish, career development coordinator at Broughton High School in Raleigh, said the change will mean a delay of a day or two in getting student scores back.

“In the long run, as teachers, we’re used to making adjustments and making things work,” Parrish said.

Thinkgate’s contract, which paid the company $7.2 million over five years, was to expire at the end of June.” http://www.wral.com/nc-students-to-take-paper-tests-after-online-exam-firm-closes/14622748/

Two things stand out to me from this article. One, teachers have become so accustomed to failures at the top, that scrambling and picking up pieces at the last minute have become just another part of the job. Two, the state of North Carolina was paying $7.2 million over five years for 500,000 students but the Miami-Dade School District was paying $2 million annually for approximately 300,000 students. Seems like we got a bum deal.

The Miami Dade public school system was Thinkgate’s largest customer according to public contractors.com. http://www.publiccontractors.com/Thinkgate/20431.html At first I thought this site was for the purposes of government transparency. But a quick look at the advertisements on this site holding up money bags and stating “81.5% of government purchases are completed without a bid or RFP. Use smart procure to find businesses that others don’t see,” reveals that the purpose of the site is to entice other businesses to discover the untapped gold mines of lucrative government contracts.

This may explain the sudden demise of a company that was created for the purpose of cashing in on the millions in now expired Race to the Top funds. A business model that relies on exploiting stupid government legislation is bound to fail. Now that the evil DOE bunny has run out of carrots and school districts are left holding the sticks, legislation is being passed to circumvent previous Race to the Top grant money inspired legislation. I think it’s more than a coincidence that Thinkgate’s last tweet was sent out in early March, when the Florida legislature was in the midst of passing a bill that would limit the amount of annual testing and eliminate the need for district generated End of Course exams. No doubt the Thinkgate CEO could see the writing on the wall and made plans to dissolve the company. It would have been nice if the company could have at least honored their contracts until the end of the school year. One has to wonder if Thinkgate’s financial situation was so bad it just couldn’t afford to keep its doors open one more month, or if it was a deliberate flicking of the bird to school districts for cancelling future contracts.

This review from a former Thinkgate employee  might provide the best insight on why Thinkgate collapsed. It also simultaneously outlines the inevitable failures of organizations led by incompetent and unethical leaders who’s top down approach ignores both employee input  and the needs of the clients they serve. His review might sound familiar to anyone working in a large public school district (except for the part about free snacks, beverages galore, and new office furniture).

Pros

Unlimited free snacks (candy bars, granola bars, popcorn, nuts), beverages (soda, fruit juice), and coffee. Newly furnished office.

Cons


This has to be one of the most dysfunctional places I have ever worked. While this company does have a good vision; that being building software to empower educators; it quickly stops there. Most of the issues in this company start with the CEO. During my several year tenure there I watched him make countless unethical and tactical decisions that left you scratching your head. Disregarding suggestions from subordinates he constantly went in a different direction thinking his way was the right way. Unfortunately, under his direction he has lead the company into a negative financial situation, built a toxic work environment, an incredibly high employee turnover rate, and frustrated his customers who are leaving in droves.

WORK ENVIRONMENT

Thinkgate used to be an environment that was filled with talented people who cared about each other and their work. However, due to the CEOs constant firing of the C-level executives, mass company lay-offs and the resignation of many key employees this environment no longer exists. The people that are left are either untrustworthy, unethical, and politically motivated individuals or the few of the talented individuals whose spirits have been broken. Many current staff members who have the luxury to work remotely no longer come into the office because of how toxic and depressing it has become. Most remaining managers frequently will be positive to your face while saying negative things behind your back.

PROJECTS

Most work is generated by the CEO and sales team as they continuously over-commit and over-promise what the company can realistically deliver. Many people have mentioned “they bite off more than they can chew” and this is what happens. Sales deals are signed and then project work is given to the development teams with no realistic means to deliver the work on-time. Excessive hours are worked by team members to get features developed and tested, but, corners are continuously cut in order to meet the unrealistic deadlines. As staff members get tired of this and attempt to push back on the CEO they either resign or are fired.

To make matters worse most of the projects I worked on had little or no benefit to the end customer. When the feature is released the support teams are then forced to support a product that the customer does not want to use or in most cases is useless. However, in the end the company receives a paycheck at the expense of their employees and customers.

TECHNOLOGY

Due to years of constant cutting of corners in order to meet sales deadlines the software platform has incurred a technical debt beyond belief. The software is slow, difficult to use, and expensive to maintain. Development managers and teams have attempted to address these issues, but, are eventually stopped by the CEO who would rather push new functionality and instead of resolving open issues for customers.

What is most painful to see is that the C-level executives don’t even know how to do one of the basic fundamental actions in the software, i.e. make an assessment. If they took the time to understand the product they could possibly see how their aggressive and tactical decisions have led to the current state of the product and how in turn it hurts the customer.

Advice to Management


The issues in this company start at the top. Immediately replace the CEO and CTO and replace them with more competent executives that practice strategic thinking instead of tactical decision making. Next direct the focus of the company on the needs of customers. Those being the teachers, superintendents, school administrative staff, and especially the students. Let the customers and their valuable educational experience drive the product and work on helping them instead of hurting them. Finally, implement a better work-life balance that helps employees and their families instead of the current environment that tears them apart.”

http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Employee-Review-Thinkgate-RVW6259859.htm

russian hackers

OK, I’m lying. Made you look? A bit of yellow journalism perhaps? Who am I kidding? This is a blog. I make no pretenses of having any journalistic integrity. But this headline might not be too far off from the real one considering the cyber-attack excuse Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart made when the FSA writing test failed in March. http://www.fldoe.org/newsroom/latest-news/2010319-fdle-investigating-cyber-attacks-against-fsa-testing-system-.stml

Below is an imaginary conversation between two Russian hackers plotting to take down the computer based Florida Standards Assessment designed by AIR.

Russian hacker #1: The United States colluded with Saudi Arabia to drive down the price of oil and destroy the Russian economy in order to sabotage Putin and our expanding global power. We must get revenge!

Russian hacker #2: Let’s strike them at their greatest weakness, the U.S. educational system. The world knows about the faltering U.S. education system because President Obama and  Prince Jeb Bush keep giving speeches about the failure of U.S. public schools. Even former Secretary of Defense Condaleeza Rice has called the American public education system a threat to national security. Have you ever heard the renowned education expert and media darling Michelle Rhee speak on their cable news networks? According to her, the American teachers are all lazy and terrible because they have tenure. They get a job for life! Reminds me of communism. Only by applying market based incentives to public school teachers can the American achievement gap be erased. Their education Tsar, Arne Duncan, forced states in the last economic downturn to pay teachers based on student growth measures and removed all job security for teachers. This will surely cause American student scores to soar to the top of the International PISA test rankings. We must stop them! If American schools win, Russia loses.

Russian hacker #1: Where should we strike first? Which state will be the most important in the upcoming presidential elections?

Russian hacker #2: You need to stop playing so many video games. Any idiot knows that it is the alligator invested swamp state of Florida that decides U.S. elections. This election it will be even more important because candidate King Bush the III was Governor of Florida and began his test based accountabililty reforms in that state.

Russian hacker #1: But how can we stop them and make sure no American student will ever be college and career ready?

Russian hacker #2: This is where we come in. The new Common Core aligned assessments must be administered on computers. They are smarter and more interactive tests. Not just bubble tests.

Russian hacker #1: America is so rich they have enough computers in every school so that all children can be tested on computers at the same time?

Russian hacker #2: No. Stop watching so many stupid American reality TV shows on Bravo. Those aren’t real Housewives. Not every American woman spends all day lingerie shopping, eating at fancy restaurants, and getting plastic surgery. Only in LA and Miami. The American government is very rich and they could actually afford to give every student a computer but they prefer to spend most of their funds on military contractors that charge $100 for a roll of toilet paper. The Emperor of the World Bill Gates could use his wealth and power to donate devices to school districts instead of further enriching himself by forcing them to buy his crap software but he prefers to bribe teachers’ unions and school districts with his millions in order to implement his crazy education experiments instead. Sometimes I think Karl Marx had a point. By taking down the new Common Core aligned assessments, we will not only take down the greatest Superpower in the history of the world but we can also take down Bill Gates! I hate PCs and MS office.

Russian hacker #1: This sounds like a brilliant plan. What do we have to do?

Russian hacker #2: Stupid and corrupt Florida gave the American Institutes of Research ( a D.C. “nonprofit” with no experience in designing standardized tests), a contract for the new Common Core aligned “Florida Standards Assessment.” This is the same nonprofit that received millions to create an algorithm known as VAM to predict student test scores and then rank teachers based on actual student performance.

Russian hacker #1: An algorithm that ranks teachers based on predicted test scores? How could the tax-payers allow them to waste so much money on such a stupid and invalid idea? They could have just bought a bunch of fortune cookies and given them out to teachers with inserted slips of paper that read “ineffective”, “effective” or “highly effective.”

Russian hacker #2: Florida is just like Moscow, except much hotter and with nicer beaches. It’s filled with corrupt businessmen buying politicians to pass bills that will reward them in return with rich government contracts. Look at the state’s charter industry. There is no evidence to suggest that charters perform any better than traditional public schools. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary. But they are about to pass a bill that will give even more tax-payer money for charter schools to build new schools that are not even owned by the public. The bill was sponsored by a politician who used to run charter schools and whose brother in-law owns one of the country’s largest charter chains. http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/stateroundup/florida-house-approves-construction-money-for-charter-schools/2223111 The same company is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for potential conflict of interests. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article1963142.html

Russian hacker #1: Wow, even Putin would be impressed! America is turning into an oligarchy. This all sounds like corporate welfare.

Russian hacker #2: It is corporate welfare but the people are too stupid and too lazy to care. Their media is controlled. Instead of brainwashing them with propaganda, they distract them into thinking Kim Kardashian’s behind is more important than local, state, or federal politics.

Russian hacker #1: The media is very smart. Kim Kardashian’s behind is very distracting.

Russian hacker #2: We will sabotage their standardized testing this spring. AIR has no idea what they are doing. They haven’t even considered the possibility of cyber-attacks. By interrupting state testing they will have to invalidate the test scores and the entire accountability system will self-destruct. No Florida school, teacher, or student will be punished based on bad test scores.  Without standardized testing there can be no accountability. The American economy will be doomed and ISIS members will be crossing the Mexican border in droves. We will be the heroes of Mother Russia!

teachers-cartoon 1st grade

Monday: I don’t remember anything about Monday. I am so mentally exhausted by Friday that Monday may as well have been three years ago.

Tuesday: The only reason I remember anything about Tuesdays is because there is always a faculty meeting to remind me of how little educators’ time and opinions are valued. This Tuesday was extra special because it started with a bomb threat. There is never a dull moment (save for faculty meetings) in the life a public school teacher. In what other profession does one have to immediately drop what they’re doing and be herded into an auditorium because of an unattended box? The timing of this event was spectacular. I just started teaching the Cold War and my students were having a good laugh over an old Duck and Cover PSA video I showed them when all of sudden the school cop bursts in and tells us we had to move to the auditorium because of a bomb in the bus lane. Said “bomb” turned out to be an empty chicken nugget box but it made my lesson more relevant as I could link the paranoia of an atomic bombing during the Cold War to paranoia over unattended packages in the present War on Terror. After spending my planning period in an auditorium filled with 1,000 teenagers, I dreaded the additional waste of time at the end of the day faculty meeting. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding_common_ground/2015/04/3_reasons_why_faculty_meetings_are_a_waste_of_time.html?intc=es

Here is a quick run down of what educators must endure at the end of their school day twice a month:

  • We were greeted with a proctoring form which we had to sign promising not look at the state test or we would risk losing our teaching certification. The form still said “FCAT” on it so it might not stand up in court anyway.
  • We were told to submit our IPEGS documentation by April 30th. This includes providing evidence of professional development as well as “communication with stakeholders” dating back to August.
  • Next we were handed a 70 page packet printed on expensive yellow card stock paper which listed which planning periods we would have to give up during the next two weeks because of FSA testing and listed the names of 9th and 10th grade students who would be testing over the next two weeks.
  • Feeling demoralized yet? Not quite done making us feel like a common criminal, we were reprimanded for our “classroom kitchens” which violated fire codes. Funny, I thought 60 kids in a room violated fire code too but the district seems less concerned about overcrowded classrooms than with teachers trying to get a cheap caffeine fix or heat up a Lean Cuisine. One teacher stood up and questioned if perhaps we could move the expired textbooks out of the planning rooms built in every hallway which teachers have never been able to utilize because they have always been used as storage rather than a place for teachers to collaborate and warm up a hot drink or meal. He was quickly made to feel like a grumpy old man and sat down. He violated the educator conduct code of never, ever saying anything during a faculty meeting.
  • Normally we might be subjected to a Union sales pitch at the end of a faculty meeting. Today our faculty meeting was sponsored by a local private university who felt they had the right to waste ten minutes of our time selling us on the merits of their expensive advanced degree programs even though 90% of our faculty already has a Masters or Doctorate. I’m sure graduate degrees in education are a tough sell these days but at least they could have brought cookies. Teachers will sit through almost anything for some free food.
  • After the faculty meeting the teacher who stood up to complain about not having anywhere to warm up a cup of coffee, expressed his dismay that I did not back him up during the meeting. Apparently, people view me as their designated griper who must express outrage at anything a teacher might want to complain about. I don’t drink coffee, I eat the school lunch, and I don’t have a “classroom kitchen.” So, frankly Scarlet, I don’t give a darn! Nobody has ever bothered to back me up when I’ve opened my mouth at a faculty meeting about something important to our profession like class size or VAM. I refuse to be your Che Guevara for a cup of coffee.
  • The bomb scare, coupled with a particularly horrendous faculty meeting, reminded me of an oldie but goodie blog post by Mr. Teachbad where a teacher fakes a bomb threat to end a faculty meeting. Possibly the best teacher blog post ever written.  http://teachbad.com/2010/12/28/teacher-fakes-bomb-threat-ends-faculty-meeting/

Wednesday: the revolution will not be televised, it will begin on district email. Somebody actually had the balls to use the district email to call for a sick out on April 15th. I liked their strategy. They used a fake name on a gmail account and systematically went through the search feature in Outlook finding group email addresses by plugging in the school codes. Slick, whoever you are I hope you don’t get fired. Of course some teacher ratted them out, and by morning the mysterious “Blue Flu” email had mysteriously disappeared from our Inboxes. The only reason there is any record of the sickout email is because another self-righteous teacher responded to the email complaining about the insensitivity of choosing April 15th. There have been two district wide emails from frustrated teachers who are calling out the privatization of public schools this year. Each time the only response from teachers is critical. Teachers actually choose to gripe over a few grammatical errors rather than commend a fellow teacher for standing up for our profession and public schools. We are dooming ourselves by such petty behavior. Here is a link to the original “Blue Flu” email in case you missed it https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1TEO563R6ywVVdRWmpRdVFEekk/view?hc_location=ufi

(I would start forwarding important emails to your personal account or printing them out now that we know the district is capable of deleting our emails without our knowledge of consent). The Chief of Staff sent a warning email against teachers calling in sick or boycotting tests the next day:

SUBJECT:    UNAUTHORIZED DISRUPTION OF WORK ENVIRONMENT

“It has come to the attention of District Administration that an unauthorized email has been sent to many of our instructional personnel advocating a “sick out” on April 15, 2015, to allegedly protest state testing of our students.  Further, this email advocated a “testing boycott” on April 16, 2015, urging teachers to refuse to administer tests.

It is important to note that a disruption of the work environment of this type is not legal.  As educators we understand your concerns regarding over-testing and the affect it has on student learning, but the education and safety of our students is our first responsibility.  We urge you to let your voices be heard in a different manner by writing your legislator or becoming involved with groups trying to influence public policy. “

Fair enough. If any Dade County educators would like to become involved in groups seeking to influence public policy in a legal manner there will be a protest over the district’s violation of the class size amendment outside of the School Board meeting next week on April 15th. Teachers will be wearing blue in solidarity with the Blue Flu “We Are More than Test Scores” people. As noted in the blue flu email, April 15th is tax day and all teachers should feel that public tax dollars being funneled to private corporations instead of being spent in public schools is worthy of protesting.

Thursday: received my second new student of the week in my class of 32 (now 34) regular World History students. She is the fourth student in the class that doesn’t speak any English. Not only does she not speak English, she is deaf. I wrote an email asking how I am supposed to accommodate this student and did not receive a response. Apparently, my only obligation is to wear a microphone so I can speak really loudly in a language she doesn’t understand.

Friday: TGIF! It was a fabulous Friday since most of my students were out on a district field trip called “Take Your Child to Work Day” a.k.a “Stay Home and Play Video Games.” I didn’t mind. I needed a day to get caught up and a chance to visit the benefits counselor. I needed to look into district health insurance since the premiums on my husband’s plan kept increasing. Maybe the district’s health plan would be more affordable than my husband’s small private company’s plan? Wrong, still more expensive. How can the largest employer in Dade County not be able to negotiate lower health insurance rates? Housing is supposed to be one third of your monthly budget, not health insurance!

At lunch I spoke with a Miami Herald reporter doing a story on district intimidation against teachers that speak at board meetings. I would really rather not be in this story at all, or be in any Miami Herald story again, but she felt my interaction with the Superintendent after I spoke at last month’s meeting was important. Looks like I might not have another week as a public school teacher after the story runs. C’est la vie. My students tell me their relatives are making $300 a day as Uber drivers.  I might even be able to get me one of those cheap Obamacare health insurance plans.