Tag Archives: Ben Chapman

Follow the Silver Lining…. and the Money

“Every cloud has a silver lining”….. although empirical evidence has yet to bear this out.

Yesterday I mentioned that I might need to find a new place to live. These fears have come true after a most unpleasant meeting with the management of my apartment complex. They want me out now and threatened my career. This complex is apparently for “poor” people and I am just way too rich as a NYC public school teacher to live here. Yet, all of the new tenants moving in are NYU students paying six-figure tuition. Does this make any sense at all to anyone? Those who know anything about New York housing laws are encouraged to contact me at theassailedteacher@gmail.com.

Yet, there is a silver lining. A real estate agent I met years ago who survived a similar cancer to which my beloved mother succumbed said she has a nice, reasonably-priced studio with my name on it. My cat and I do not require much space and her studios are usually large.  This looks like my next residence when all is said and done. This will certainly mean some quiet days on the blog, but I will do as much as I can here. Once a day is still my goal, no matter what is happening on my end.

That is because, for me, it is all about keeping it going in the face of adversity. This apartment experience has been a nightmare, but some very good people have stepped up to help me. A silver lining can be found anywhere, which brings me to the issue of the day.

The Daily News has been a frequent target of criticism from outspoken NYC teachers, me included. I am sure we will all have a reason to quibble with them in the future as well. Over the summer I had a long breakfast with Ben Chapman, the Daily News reporter who has written some articles with which I have taken issue. We ended things on a handshake and I give him credit for coming out to meet me. Over the past few days, the Daily News has written some good articles exposing the unseemly financial machinations at the DOE. First, it was Bloomberg’s showcase schools getting a disproportionate amount of funding while every other school starves. Two days ago, it was the financial rat hole of Joel Klein’s pet project known as School of One.

Norm over at Ed Notes has already written a good piece about it, with some of the usual inside tidbits only he can provide. Leonie over at the NYC Public School Parents blog also had a great piece about it here.

School of One was pushed by Joel Klein towards the end of his chancellorship of NYC schools. It is an online math program originally provided by Wireless Generation, the company where Klein went to work after his tenure as chancellor was over. Wireless Gen won a juicy DOE contract for providing the service. Of course, no investigation into the obvious conflict of interest was ever conducted. Even if there was an investigation that turned something up, Klein would have probably gotten a measly $4,000 fine a la John O’Mahoney.  See, the way it works is that the faux DOE investigators and arbitrators only terminate teachers, usually for things like spilling milk in the cafeteria. On the other hand, Tweedies like O’Mahoney get $4,000 fines for nepotism, harassment, abuse of power and gross financial malfeasance. It makes perfect sense in North Korea Bloombergland.

Since its inception in 2009, School of One has eaten up $9 million. Time magazine heralded it as one of the best inventions of that year. This was representative of the general knee-jerk worship surrounding its advent, something helped along by a nice DOE propaganda campaign. Apparently, technological sycophantism is not just for Khan Academy supporters anymore. Rather than the “flipped classroom” of the Khan Academy, SO1 uses something called “blended learning”, a mix of scripted online curriculum and small-group instruction. The computer was meant to provide the individual support required for struggling students, something a flesh and blood teacher in a class of 30 students cannot do. I will repeat that. The computer, an inanimate box, was meant to provide the individual support struggling students need.

The $9 million was spent to “educate” approximately 1,700 students in all, although last year only 800 students were enrolled in SO1. According to my advanced scientific calculations, that is a little less than $5,300 per student for a math course. Compare this to a middle school math teacher making, let us say, $210,000 over three years for educating five classes of 25 students each during that same time. That comes out to exactly $560 per student, nearly 10 times less than Klein’s pet project. So, one thing SO1 is not is cost effective.

However, if there is bang for the buck, $5,300 per student is a small price to pay. I would say that our children’s math education is worth at least that, and much more. The Daily News paints a picture of inconsistent results, although they point out it was generally negative. Seemingly to save some precious DOE face, one principal was quoted in the article as saying that SO1 was responsible for the “phenomenal growth” in the 8th grade math exam scores at his school. What was this phenomenal growth? A 5% increase in the pass rate, measured against a city-wide increase of 3%. Wow. That is phenomenal, $9 million dollars-worth of phenomenal. Hopefully that principal gets a cushy desk job at Tweed for his public Klein worship.

While the Daily News is right in pointing out the massive waste involved in SO1, they do not go nearly far enough to describe just how massive the waste is. For that, one would have to read Leonie Haimson’s detailed article. The Daily News explains that two of the three schools that used SO1 saw their scores slip over the three year period. Leonie goes into who these schools are: IS 228 in Brooklyn and IS 339 in the Bronx. IS 228 is in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn. There is a multiethnic mix of students from the neighborhood, as well a population attracted from out of the neighborhood. Therefore, it is safe to assume that some students there struggle in math and some do not. This school, according to Leonie, saw their math scores dip a little. IS 339, on the other hand, is on Webster Avenue in the Bronx, an overwhelmingly poor and minority area. This school saw a huge dip in their math scores.

To complete the picture, the only school that did not dip was MS 131. That is a school with which I am very familiar, seeing as how it is located in one of my favorite neighborhoods and I end up teaching many of their graduates as high-schoolers. It is the Sun Yat-sen school in Chinatown, a well performing school whose students, as I see first-hand, are mostly well-prepared and motivated. Math scores would have probably risen at Sun Yat-sen with or without SO1. It is just like that AP math teacher from my Brooklyn Tech days who did not teach a lick of math and still his students scored 4s and 5s on the AP exam. Sun Yat-sen kids are Sun Yat-sen kids and Tech kids are Tech kids. What that means is that they will succeed either with the help of a great teacher or despite the presence of an awful teacher, whether that teacher is made of flesh or circuits. To top it all off, the principal of Sun Yat-sen dropped the SO1 program after the first year. Therefore, the only gain SO1 could point to is for one isolated year with a group of students generally non-representative of the general student body of NYC.

Is this the future of math education, as Time magazine and other technological lickspittles told us it was?

We should hope not for, bear in mind, School of One was meant to provide individual attention to struggling students. That was the entire justification for the DOE spending 10 times the amount of money on software and a pile of circuits than they would have spent on a few veteran math teachers who know the subject and how to motivate students. Most damning of all, Leonie quotes the original NYU study that prompted the Daily News article in the first place to pull out this tidbit:

Students who came to SO1 with low prior performance were exposed to approximately twice as many below-grade-level skills, compared to those who came with higher performance levels from prior grades. … However, these students mastered less than 15 percent of the skillsto which they were exposed (as measured by SO1’s daily assessments), compared to approximately 85 percent mastery for students who entered with higher prior performance.

These results fly in the face of the DOE’s I3 application, which said it should be awarded extra points because it would provide special benefits for struggling students.

Italics are Leonie Haimson’s words.

Could Bloomberg, Klein, Time Magazine and the Sal Khan ilk of education “reformers” who kneel before the pixelated image all have been wrong? Could this $9 million blended learning program not really be the future of math education? Yes.

The only problem is, this is not a just a $9 million program. It is a $46 million dollar program because, this year, the DOE is bringing SO1 into more schools, four to be exact. Yes, a program that not only does not work, but does the total opposite that its sycophants claimed it would do, is being foisted upon more struggling students around the city.

As Norm points out at Ed Notes, one of those schools is IS49SI, the school of Francesco Portelos, a dynamic STEM teacher whom I recently had the pleasure of meeting that was recently rubber roomed for daring to question his principal as to the whereabouts of school funds at SLT meetings, even though that is exactly why SLT meetings exist in the first place. Essentially, they lose Portelos and gain a completely useless system for 10 times the price. Looks like he was onto something when he smelled misappropriation of funds in the air, which is exactly why he was rubber roomed after all, it would seem.

This is a whopper of a story for many reasons: the fact that struggling students are knowingly being hurt with destructive “learning” programs foisted upon them by those who, around 10 years ago, promised to be held accountable for the education of NYC students; the conflicts of interest not only with Joel Klein-Wireless Gen, but with SO1’s new provider, New Classrooms, headed by a man named Joel Rose who also worked at Tweed. This is an incestuous hornet’s nest of corruption.

The biggest tragedy of all, in my mind, is what the DOE could have done with $46 million if it cared one iota about actually educating students. First, Bloomberg could have plowed that money into the schools he is starving of funds like a North Korean countryside just so he can fatten up his Pyongyang showcase schools with cash. The DOE could have hired tons more teachers, providing one of the only proven education reforms out there: lowering class sizes. Just think of it, use $46 million dollars to hire new teachers and put the veteran ATR teachers back to work teaching their subject areas and, not only do you have lower class sizes, but you have the second proven education reform: experienced teachers.

As the financial debauchery that is School of One illustrates, the “achievement gap” could have been taken care of decades ago by ponying up the money to keep on veteran teachers (not harass them out of the system) while lowering class sizes. Time and time again, the DOE and large urban school districts across the nation prove that pulling in education dollars is easy in both boom times and lean times. In NYC, there is not only $46 million for SO1, but $83 million for ARIS and hundreds of millions for charters (including untold millions into the pockets of corrupt charter school CEOs).

And these are just the huge fish. What about the explosion of DOE management jobs out of Tweed, where everyone makes six figures and up? What about the explosion of principal jobs and other administrators due to the Bloomberg/Klein/Gates small schools initiative, where buildings that used to have 7 principals at most now have 15? What about the expansion of Richard Condon’s office with burned out NYPD and suburban detectives who now regularly harass, intimidate and frame teachers under investigation? What about the expansion of 3020a arbitrators who get paid $1,800 a day plus expenses, hired so Bloomberg could ostensibly clear out the rubber rooms that were such an embarrassment to him?

There is no financial crisis in education. The money is flowing more than ever. The only problem is it is not flowing to students at all.

One of the most common comments I read on the internet during education debates is how people are of sick of teachers crying for “more funding”. They look at the budgets and see them more bloated than ever and ask how teachers can want more. Teachers are not crying for more funding. They are crying for the funding that is already there, already in the system, to reach the students. Getting rid of programs like School of One and ARIS, getting rid of the entire Tweed building, getting rid of small schools and the Leadership Academy administrators that misrule them, getting rid of the phony kangaroo court for teachers and putting all of those hundreds of millions of dollars into a big city pot so that every school can implement the two real reforms (smaller class sizes and veteran teachers) proven to work, would whip this school system into shape in a matter of weeks. The achievement gap would be narrowed in five years. Most of all, none of it would cost more money. It would cost not one red cent to the taxpayer at all.

We should hear no more from the mayor, chancellor, media or uninformed public about how there is a “recession” and everyone needs to tighten their belts, especially the students and teachers in struggling schools. None of the people profiting from the Bloomberg regime are tightening their belts. What we need to do is smash open the piggy bank that is the educational 1% and allow real reform to rain down upon us unfettered. That is all it will take and will cost no taxpayer a single dime,

So, I suppose these are my silver linings. There is no budget crisis, just a crisis in budgeting, The Daily News did not go nearly far enough into the disaster that is School of One, but they went some ways in.

Finally, today is when we start what we love to do for the year: teach. For the minutes and hours that we are in front of our classrooms, we can at least put the odious corruption of Bloomberg out of our minds and show the “reformers” how it is really done.


Judging the Judgers

By now, most of us have probably seen the video of dean Stephan Hudson in a physical altercation with high school freshmen Kristoff John at George Westinghouse Technical Education High School in Brooklyn. If not, here is the clip that has been shown on the television airwaves here in New York City.

The very first thing that you see, and something that is easily missed, is the student taking a swing at Mr. Hudson.  Mr. Hudson then basically grabs the student by the arm and manhandles him. The mother of Kristoff John is suing the city for $5.5 million. With that kind of lopsided number, I regret not swinging on any of my teachers when I was in high school.

The video looks bad. As a dean of many years, not to mention a man of height and girth, I know that Mr. Hudson was in a nightmare position. A kid swinging on a dean is not the same as a kid swinging on a teacher. Deans are the disciplinarians of the school. They are the ones teachers call on if they are ever assaulted by a student. Once that swing was launched by Kristoff John, Stephan Hudson was in a lose-lose situation. If he lets it slide, he is a wimp. His authority in the eyes of the students, and even the staff, gets taken down a few pegs. That would make his job as dean much more difficult for years to come. There would always be whispers in the hallways of the day Mr. Hudson got “snuffed” by a student and he did not do anything about it. In a school like Westinghouse, it might not be long until another student tries to snuff him again.

His size would make things worse. He would be seen as a big wimp. Why is such a big man so afraid of such a small kid?

On the other hand, if he does retaliate, you get the situation he is in now. The media cries foul. The public only sees a large man roughing up a small kid. What kind of monsters work in  schools these days? Fire him. Did you see the size of him? This teacher is a bully. The current vogue of that word ensures Mr. Hudson will continue to be vilified as such until this situation is resolved.

As usual, things are not as simple as people are making them, including Ben Chapman of the Daily News, who has never been known to be very thorough or fair in his reporting. This is what he wrote for his June 28th article:

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott was “disturbed” by video of a hulking teacher pummeling a scrawny student at a Brooklyn school and will seek the teacher’s firing, a spokeswoman said.

Chapman uses words like “pummeling”, “beating” and “thumping” throughout his piece. One wonders if he knows what these words mean, especially when used in concert. If Mr. Hudson had balled up his fists and repeatedly punched Kristoff John, then those words would certainly be warranted. But Mr. Hudson was not beating or pummeling the scrawny kid. He certainly was manhandling and grabbing him.

My question is what would Chapman, Walcott and the rest of the outraged public want Mr. Hudson to do instead? Should he have taken the punch, given the kid a pat on the back, and sent him off to class? Should he have not defended himself at all and called school safety to put the kid in cuffs? How many more times would he have been punched by the time school safety got there?

The fact is, owing to the size difference between the two of them, Mr. Hudson doing anything physical in retaliation could only end in him being vilified. I know this not only from my days as a dean, but from my days as a city kid in the schoolyard. If a kid half my size punched me in the face and I did not do anything, I am a wimp (or “herb” as they used to call it). If I had pummeled him with my fists and feet, I would be a bully. All the girls in the schoolyard would have ran over to hold the poor kid’s head as he laid looking up at the sky.

It is a lose-lose situation. With chancellors like Walcott and reporters like Chapman, the “lose” for Mr. Hudson would surely be his career.

The job of a dean is 99.9 percent mental and .1 percent physical. Most of the time, looking scary, being assertive and having a loud mouth is enough to get respect as an authority figure. I added humor to the mix when I was a dean, so thankfully I never had a kid who wanted to punch me in the face. Yet, if you are a dean long enough in a school like Westinghouse, it will just be a matter of time before that .1% of the job calls. Maybe a student pushes you or swings at you. In my case, it was students swinging on school safety, teachers or other deans that necessitated me getting physical to subdue a student. It is not a good position to be in. If the kid gets bruised or hurt, you can have a lawsuit and investigation on your hands.

Unfortunately, that is the hell in which Mr. Hudson currently finds himself. I cannot judge his actions because I do not know what I would have done if I were in his shoes. I wish him the best in navigating the mine field to come.

On the other hand, I find it quite easy to judge those who choose to judge Mr. Hudson. For Ben Chapman, it is business as usual. It is misleading language meant to embellish, all in the service of bashing teachers. The article he put his name on months ago about “perv” teachers bordered on pure smut, making the National Enquirer look like the New Yorker. Careful and accurate language in reporting mean nothing when the goal is to bash teachers and sell copy. It is not like the job of reporters is to investigate and report the truth or anything.

For Dennis Walcott, it is the same Puritanical schoolmarm act that has defined his entire tenure as chancellor. Just as always, he tightens his lips, furrows his brow and speaks in severe and unforgiving language about firing teachers for transgressions against the bounds of decency, real or imagined. In this, of course, he is merely doing the bidding of Pharaoh Bloomberg, the man he unquestioningly serves.

For the mother of Kristoff John, it is the “oh, my poor baby” act. On the one hand, I start to sympathize with what goes through her mind when she sees her son being manhandled by a burly man. Then, I remember that her son had taken a healthy swing right at that burly man’s head. The sympathy quickly fades. As a man, I would have told my son not to start fights he could not finish. As a human being, I would have taught my son to respect all human beings, whether they are in authority or not, whether he likes them or not. Maybe Kristoff John’s mother has tried to teach her son these lessons, but they are obviously not getting through. The lesson she is teaching him now is that it is ok to swing on people as long as there is a big pot of gold on the other side of that swing.

And for the general public, easily lobotomized by the misleading and fluffy writing of Ben Chapman or the knee-jerk television reports about a large man manhandling a scrawny teenager, one healthy reminder might be in order: this took place in a New York City public high school. While most of them are not hellholes, a very slim minority are actually non-violent and easy-going. The fact is, there is a lot of violence and tempers and jealousy and emotions from the classrooms all the way up to the principal’s office. And, yes, teachers get hit, pushed, spit on, harassed and more on a daily basis. Most schools do not have police officers. The only disciplinarians on site are the school safety agents and deans, who are normally overwhelmed. In a school like Westinghouse, there are only a handful of these disciplinarians for nearly 1,000 students. These factors should be considered before people judge the actions of Stephan Hudson.

Unfortunately, this is where we are in 2012. A student assaults a teacher and stands to make a payday out of it. The teacher stands to get fired. These pieces should not fit together, yet they make perfect sense given the state of teaching in the United States today.

The Daily News: A Case Study in Yellow Journalism

This headline should be the Daily News' new title.

Rachel Monahan, Erin Durkin and Ben Chapman put their names on a recent Daily News article regarding teacher Eric Chasanoff aka Chaz of Chaz’s School Daze. Since then, the New York City teacher blogosphere has rose eloquently to Chaz’s defense, especially Chaz himself (here and here). See Ednotes, ICEUFT, Perdido Street School, South Bronx School and The DOEnuts blog (here and here).

The piece printed up by the Daily News demonstrates the sad state of American journalism. Like Chaz, I would like to dissect the hatchet job done on his reputation, if only to show the subtle manner in which papers like the Daily News manipulate public opinion.

The article starts:

One of the 16 teachers that the city wants to fire but can’t insists he’s no perv — and bashed officials for trying to can him for an awkward but innocent remark.

The poor city, they are unable to fire Chaz. No doubt, this is due to all of those union protections that Bloomberg said would get an axe murderer a slap on the wrist. Is it a coincidence that this article was released right around when Bloomberg made those remarks on the radio?

Of course, Chaz insists that he is no “perv” (way to raise the level of discourse). He does not prove, assert or posit that idea. He insists on it, like a child who broke the expensive vase insists he is innocent. On top of that, he has the nerve to “bash” officials. He does not criticize or respond to them. He bashes them like a Klansman does to minority groups. What a hateful person this Chaz is.

“The DOE should be ashamed of themselves for trashing and trying to humiliate the 16 teachers who Independent Arbitrators found ‘no sexual misconduct,’ ” Chasanoff wrote in a lengthy blog post. “In my case, they had a weak and bogus case to begin with and lost.”

How are we supposed to verify that Chaz actually wrote this on his blog? There is no web address or blog title. It is just proper etiquette to cite your sources. I suppose they do not want the public to hunt down the website so they can get a more balanced account of what took place. Now I do not feel so bad for not linking back to the Daily News.

 A student in Chasanoff’s class at Jamaica High School in 2006 told investigators that when the teacher handed back a test she had passed, he said, “I’m so proud of you. If it wouldn’t get me in trouble, I would kiss you.”

The problem is, that is not what Chaz actually said. You see what the Daily News is doing here? They are technically stating a fact, since that is what the student claimed Chaz said at one point.

An actual investigative reporter would have, you know, investigated. If they had done so, they might have found what Chaz actually said as per the independent arbitrator. Sure, the DOE only released the report issued by the Special Commissioner of Investigations to the Daily News. That is where they get the student’s claim from. But that claim changed during the hearing, and probably many more times between the investigation and the hearing, so why only print the SCI report?

The short answer: because it was easy. Reporters have deadlines and space limits. They cannot possibly be bothered with presenting the full scope of a story. If only Woodward and Bernstein had exclusively quoted Nixon’s press releases to paint a picture of the Watergate scandal, the country would have never known their president was involved in heinous cover-up.

The long answer: because the Daily News knows that stories of perv teachers kissing and grabbing teenage girls sells papers. The DOE knows this as well. They also know that papers like the News cannot be bothered with writing a balanced account of what happened. People in the big city, as well as the small city, want their news on the go. They do not want to be bothered with too many words or perspectives. Keep it short and simple. So the DOE exploits the Daily News’ constant quest for simple, juicy stories compiled in a rush by releasing incomplete information. It is a win-win. The Daily News gets their scoop and the DOE gets a major media outlet to make their case for destroying teacher protections.

Yup, it is a win-win scenario. The only losers are the students who stand to lose their most experienced teachers.

 She said he had previously put his hands on her shoulders to calm her down before the test, grabbed her elbow on the way into the classroom the day it was handed back, and appeared to be looking down her shirt when he made the kiss remark.

She did say this, did she not? Again, this story changed once she got in front of the arbitrator. In fact, the arbitrator found that this did not happen at all. The flighty words of a teenager are print worthy things in this day and age I suppose. Maybe teenagers can write all of the articles for the Daily News.

When I was a kid, I told people that I was going to play third base for the New York Yankees. Can we run a juicy headline about Alex Rodriguez having some competition? Maybe we can get his thoughts from his blog that we refuse to actually cite. And the fact that, as it turned out, I do not play for the Yankees? Irrelevant.

But Chasanoff, a 15-year veteran who makes $80,987 a year, had been warned before. He was reprimanded in 2002 for putting his arms around a student’s waist, an incident he doesn’t mention in his post.

This is the part of the article for which the Daily News has since issued a retraction:

Ed. Note:   This story refers to a letter of reprimand received by Eric Chesanoff for a 2002 incident in which he allegedly put his arms around a student’s waist. Although the Department of Education recently supplied that letter to the Daily News, we have since learned that an arbitrator ruled in 2004 that the allegation was false and ordered the Department to remove the reprimand from Chasanoff’s file.

It is pretty obvious why Chaz did not mention this on his blog at first, is it not? If not for the work of Chaz, along with the other NYC teacher bloggers, this little tidbit would have never made it on to the Daily News website. After all, it is not like they are going to do any investigating for themselves.

The problem is, this is not the only part of the article in need of retraction, as we have seen.

 Chasanoff is a vocal critic of the Bloomberg administration on his blog, which is full of rants against the Department of Education. He says his “goal is to outlast Mayor Bloomberg & Chancellor Walcott in their ‘children last’ program.”

Ah, the famous “rants” comment. Chaz is a ranting, bashing lunatic! And look, he wants to outlast Bloomberg and Walcott in their “children last” program. That is impossible. Does he not know that Bloomberg is mayor for life? When the term limits expire, he just pays for more. Is Chaz saying he wants to outlive Bloomberg? That’s impossible too. We all know that Bloomberg does not smoke or eat any trans-fats. He does not have to put up with those pesky things that give other politicians heart attacks, like democratic processes. When the democratic process becomes too cumbersome, he just waves some money at it and it goes away. Bloomberg is immortal.

And the DOE’s motto is Children’s First, Chaz. This is just another example of Chaz “bashing” and “ranting” against Lord Bloomberg. We all know he puts children first, always. That is why he released the teacher data reports. The parents have a right to know if their children’s teachers are crummy. It does not matter if the margins of error on those reports are so large that they render the numbers utterly useless. Bloomberg is all about transparency, except when it comes to releasing information on the mess the 911 system has become.

The article ends:

 Mayor Bloomberg blasted the arbitrators Friday. “Maybe if you were a serial ax murderer you might get a slap on the wrist,” he said.

Notice how Bloomberg does not “bash” or “rant”. This despite the fact that what Bloomberg said is more out there than anything Chaz was quoted as saying in this article. He blasted the arbitrators just like a superhero with a ray gun.

There are no excuses for this type of reporting. It is shoddy, shallow and biased. Ben Chapman has been making his rounds on the blogosphere giving a whole bunch of excuses as to why certain details of Chaz’s case were left out: space constraints, editors’ decisions, incomplete information, the list goes on. One wonders why he would put his name on something over which he had so little control and into which he put so little effort.

This is the sad state of reporting in the United States. While teachers are held to a ridiculous standard of accountability, like getting fired for comments they make on Facebook and getting their names in the papers for their students’ test scores, reporters get a free pass. They can be biased, half-report stories and put their names on things over which they had little influence.

Speaking of which, the Daily News was right there to publish teacher data reports, despite the criticisms of teachers who said that their teaching is not the only factor in their students’ test scores. It did not matter to publications like the Daily News. They were there to shame us like the rest of the media.

The biased rants of the Daily News against human beings who dare to make a career out of teaching is shameful. If this is the Fourth Estate, no wonder why we live under a Reign of Terror.