The Insane War on Teachers and Democracy

In NJ, the education commissioner is currently being chosen by the governor, and his choice reveals the tragedy for our country's public education... but few people grasp what is happening. So much noise  by the media, so much misdirection about reform, plus the need by a busy, stressed public  to 'trust' those who shape policies, allow the destruction to continue. (i.e.  Rhee is in NY after her attempts to bring the policy described below into Washington DC.) The Rhee's and the Arnes and the Kleins are taking over the reform debate, and the education practitioners who should be leading the national conversation are nowhere in sight. They have the ears of the governors and the legislators, and the media sings their song.

Evaluation is the key and people like Mr. Cerf (who is discussed in the article below this email) institute the process that  has nothing to do with competence.

 As long as teachers have no voice and no rights they will have no defense. Shades of McCarthy! Democracy falls with an ignorant citizenry who have no idea who is shaping the information they are allowed to hear.

The end of public education is their priority. An ignorant, uninformed citizenry, unable to analyze and grasp big issues, is the end-product. It sounds like  Germany in 1939 to me.

The American Educator Winter 2009–2010 | Vol. 33, No. "We the People Our Democracy Depends on Shared Knowledge"

The only way to fool the public on such a massive scale, is get rid of the professionals, the teacher-practitioners. Silence them and push them out the door, and tell the public, day in, and day out, that there is a need to eliminate those 'bad teachers." 

There is one NOTE being sung out there... those 'bad teachers need to be dismissed'. The fly in this ointment is in the evaluation procedure. No American would sit still for the process or the people that decimate their professional lives. Click on essay on this site The Insane War on Teachers

Yes, there are a few voices out there in NY, in Chicago, in Montana but they have to come together in ONE PLACE, to show the insidious process that has deprived them of their civil rights, and destroyed public education by removing their expertise and their oversight.

If America does not wake up soon, if teachers do not get out there en masse and tell the public what has happened to them, then 

the privatization of American schools will succeed.  This happens only if teachers stay silent and run away into oblivion. Each of us who have suffered the career ending  thinks he is alone. Teachers do not see the agenda, nor do they understand that this process that deprives them of any way to defend themselves is nationwide! 

There are four million teachers. If they begin to speak with one voice, the media will not be able to ignore them.

Today, the media speaks with the voice of these 'reformers' whose agenda is not an educational agenda but one shaped by corporations who see the perfect time to privatize education, a time in America when the states are starved for money and cannot finance public education. The lobbyists and spin doctors have won the day, because the real educators have NO VOICE!

From the article in The NY Times December 18,2010

 “The drive to make tenure more selective, to fire teachers more easily and to use merit and performance pay to compensate teachers all blossomed" under this man chosen to do his dirty work in Nw Jersey.. (see article below from today's NY Times) 

He worked for Klein's agenda: "Opening more charter schools; closing failing schools;" (and replacing them with for profit charter schools)  "using student test scores to evaluate and compensate teachers; and restricting some traditional benefits in teachers’ contracts."

 I do not see how anything will change as the people who run the show continue such policies and the media across America PROMOTES  the war on teachers, with a daily barrage of 'get them bad ones!'

They have set their sights on the universities now.Yesterday, Ellen Shrecker spoke on NPR about protecting teachers at the university level from the politicization that effects their tenure. She made it clear that this is an assault on ACADEMIC FREEDOM. Having decimated the professionals in the lower schools, they are now going after the college professors. Soon, no teacher will be able to address the issues of the day, without fear for their job. Sounds like the end of democracy to those of us who know what is happening.

Doesn't the public and the media see  where this is going?

 This war on public education began with the emptying of the  public schools of the most experienced and the most vocal teachers, and now there will be no way for a teacher to retain a job if some crazed principal wants them out.  Below this essay I have pastedan article from THe New York Teacher, on the destructive Bronx principal Jason Kovic ( attached it here as a document). This is not an isolated behavior. In NYC and across the nation PRINCIPALS AND SUPERINTENDENTS ARE unaccountable to the LAW OF THE LAND THAT GOVERNS CIVIL RIGHTS. 

 This is the poster-boy for the nuts who decide the fate of teachers, and THE PUBLIC DOES NOT KNOW! We teachers know them. Journalists could find the truth with one  look at the blogs on the site NYC

It is one thing to break tenure for teachers, but quite another when teachers are dismissed in a process that is destructive to the profession and to academic freedom.  If crazy people can evaluate teachers, if THEY PROMOTE rubrics for evaluation which are based  on student scores (no matter the level or abilities of these kids when they  come to their class) or on subjective criteria,  then no teacher can defend  reputation. 

Would the public allow hospital directors to remove the most experienced practitioners without a fair process of evaluation? Hospitals would fail! Well, schools have failed,but the public is being fed a tissue of lies.

Who will want to teach when  your job is lost so easily and so capriciously?

One last thing. We teachers need to change the national conversation to one that focuses on what we know will make a difference.

We need to talk incessantly about LEARNING, about the only way the human brain to acquire thinking skills, not just facts.

We PRACTITIONERS of the PROFESSION OF PEDAGOGY are silenced; PEDAGOGY IS UNDER ATTACK IN A REAL WAR  waged by corporate entities and the lawmaker and media that they control.

This is the end, folks, not only of public education, BUT OF OUR DEMOCRACY  which depends on the dissemination of real information.

NO 'reformer' in the public media discusses how LEARNING is really facilitated, because such a conversation would demonstrate the failure of the  myriad of SCHOOL SYSTEMS  whose job it is to ensure that all the principles of learning are met.

 Of course the professional media is filled with the latest research on effective evaluation of teachers and the principles of learning. Who read tis? Not the public. No where are there journalists that report on genuine education!

If you really want to read the brilliant essays and explanations and advice for GENUINE CHANGE, by leading (and genuine experts on education and learning)   THEN GO to the issues of The American Educator 

Read Summer 2010 | Vol. 34, No. 2 "In Need of a RenaissanceNot Another Hollow Reform"

or Spring 2010 | Vol. 34, No. 1"The Most Daring Education Reform of All"


 These are the genuine RESULTS OF THE EXPENSIVE NEW STANDARDS RESEARCH that became a tool of Bush and company,  who turned the research into a mandate for standardized tests.

Insidious! And the public is clueless about the genuine standards!

From the people who did the Pew research for the REAL PEW FUNDED NATIONAL Standards project, BASED on Lauren Resnick's "Principles of Learning" l/index.php/resources/principles_of_learning/

and at

Carnegie Mellon has important principles

There is Peter Ewell's Organizing for learning: A point of Entry which includes reflection &  feedback

Below, ARE SOME QUOTES (and a link) from THE NY TIMES article THAT MADE ME WANT TO CRY, and  promoted this email


Susan Lee Schwartz

Here is the Article from The New York Teacher ,The UFT periodical.

Many of us are evaluated by such a person with no accountability from the union or to the law of the land.

Bronx principal rules with intimidation, disrespect, teachers say


Jason Kovac (left), principal at PS 14 in the Bronx, is “more interested in appearances and vendettas than in being a team leader and educator,” according to UFT District 8 Representative Carmon Quinones.

Who’s the Bronx’s worst principal? The competition is stiff, but teachers at PS 14 in Throggs Neck say their hands-down favorite is their own Jason Kovac. The Leadership Academy graduate has run the school — teachers say into the ground — since June 2008.

The 34-year-old Kovac is an imposing man at 6 feet, 5 inches tall. Many at the school describe him as highly self-regarding, condescending and arrogant toward the overwhelmingly female staff.

“He treats the staff with total disrespect and uses intimidation and retaliation to get his way,” said District 8 Representative Carmen Quinones. “He seems more interested in appearances and vendettas than in being a team leader and educator.”

The previous principal had described the staff to the website as “remarkably professional teachers,” whom he credited with being not only seasoned but compassionate. Under Kovac, the school’s Progress Report grade dropped from an A to a C. Eighteen of his staffers have left voluntarily since Kovac became principal, Quinones said.

Kovac makes unannounced visits to anyone asking hard questions of him, Chapter Leader Elaine Primavera said. He chastises teachers in front of their students for such sins as having, in his opinion, a less-than-exemplary bulletin board, she said. He pulled one veteran educator out of class and accused her of teaching practices that were “criminal,” she said.

Kovac is frequently accompanied by co-principal Mildred Jones, who has earned the staff’s enmity. “She’s told teachers at a staff meeting that she is accustomed to working without a union and that the union means nothing to her,” said Primavera, who has taught for 23 years.

Kovac also refuses to discuss grievances, Primavera said. They just go to Step 2 of the process. As of this writing, 23 grievances at the school are unresolved, according to the chapter leader.

After Michael Mulgrew met with Kovac, following the UFT president’s Oct. 26 morning meeting with some 60 staff members at the school, Kovac agreed to consider a list of 10 contentious items that members wanted addressed. Primavera and Quinones since pared the list to six: 1. actually resolving grievances so they don’t need to go to Step 2; 2. improving communication by sending hard copies of staff notices and memos and not relying solely on e-mail; 3. equitably distributing parking spaces and not — as members say — using them as perks for a handful of favorites; 4. ending the practice of holding disciplinary meetings during class time or after 5 p.m., when the chapter leader cannot be present; 5. instituting — as required — pre-observations, rather than “informal” observations that have lasted as long as two hours; and 6. stopping the practice of using extended days as an additional teaching period instead of for homework help and test prep.

“He’s never responded, and nothing’s changed,” Primavera said.

Primavera said Kovac threatens anyone filing a grievance with giving them an observation or worse.

“His constant refrain is ‘I don’t believe in my [principals’ union] contract, and I don’t believe in yours,’” said Primavera. “When an arbitration decision contradicts his actions, he says it doesn’t apply to him.”

There’s also a suspicion that the funding to provide special education students with the services mandated in their Individualized Education Programs is being siphoned into the school’s general budget. The UFT is investigating that report.

Kovac’s relations with parents are also rocky. In one case, Primavera said, a parent reported at a Community Board 10 meeting that Kovac banned her from the school after she complained to him that her child had been bullied. According to Primavera, who attended the board meeting, the parent said Kovac had told her, “If you enter the school, I’ll have the police throw you out.”

In another case, Kovac — not even present during a stormy, cold December afternoon — called the school and ordered that dismissals be held from the rain-soaked schoolyard. Several parents told teachers at the school that they had called 311 to complain.

The school leader is already notorious in the local area. The community board, according to its Nov. 18 minutes, wrote Chancellor Joel Klein “expressing [our] disappointment in the kind of hostile work and learning environment that the children at this school endure.”

Primavera put it simply: “All we’re asking for is respect and for being treated like adults. Instead, he abrasively insists that everything we do is wrong.”