Friday, February 23, 2018

Dear Blabby: A.I. and Me

If the evaluator cannot reliably tell the machine from... The Turing Test

 ...thanks to the rise of algorithms that can quickly learn tasks on their own, research in conversational computing is advancing.... NY Times
In a natural language computer class I took at the CUNY grad center in the summer of 1988, the project I chose was to create a program to emulate a love advice columnist. I called it "Dear Blabby," using the famous Eliza therapist program, written in the mid-60s, as a model.
The most famous script, DOCTOR, simulated a Rogerian psychotherapist and used rules, dictated in the script, to respond with non-directional questions to user inputs. As such, ELIZA was one of the first chatterbots, but was also regarded as one of the first programs capable of passing the Turing Test. [There is some question about this claim].

ELIZA's creator, Joseph Weizenbaum regarded the program as a method to show the superficiality of communication between man and machine, but was surprised by the number of individuals who attributed human-like feelings to the computer program, including Weizenbaum’s secretary. the human, the machine is said to have passed the test.... While ELIZA was capable of engaging in discourse, ELIZA could not converse with true understanding.[5] However, many early users were convinced of ELIZA’s intelligence and understanding, despite Weizenbaum’s insistence to the contrary.
If you want to know how Eliza did that I'll have to charge you-- though now I could code my way out of a paper bag -- I might have to check with Jeff Kaufman.

Anyway, in that summer of 1988 I did get some kind of conversation going in Dear Blabby, which was trying to converse like your bubba would, but didn't get as far as I hoped, spending long hours in the computer lab using the LISP language, which was a heavy load for the desktops we were using, which made for very slow going. [That summer my sabbatical year followed by a year off without pay was ending, so I may have been under some duress and needed a therapist program myself.]

Every time I see a story about artificial intelligence I want to write a piece on my own experiences with AI 30 years ago when I was going for my MA in computer science at Brooklyn College and CUNY. Many of the courses I chose were AI, which was looking like gold in the mid-late 80s before crashing in the late 90s. There were many sub-fields in AI in the 80s - natural language, artificial vision, machine learning, expert systems and more.

My final courses were pattern recognition (the basis of artificial vision) and one of the earliest classes in neural networks, which is the hottest thing going (I kept my textbooks but lost them in Super Sandy 5 years ago. If only I didn't go back to teaching in 1987 and stuck with it I may have been a contender.

Today's business section of the NY Times has an interesting piece,  To Give A.I. the Gift of Gab, Silicon Valley Needs to Offend You
which talks about chatbots - the hot rage on all your help lines.
These systems do not simply repeat what is said to them or respond with canned answers. They teach themselves to carry on a conversation by carefully analyzing reams of real human dialogue. At Microsoft, for instance, a new system learns to chat by analyzing thousands of online discussions pulled from services like Twitter and Reddit. When you send this bot a message, it chooses a response after generating dozens of possibilities and ranking each according to how well it mirrors those human conversations.
Alan Turing defined the border being breached between humans and computers in
The Turing Test - wikipedia
The Turing test, developed by Alan Turing in 1950, is a test of a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. Turing proposed that a human evaluator would judge natural language conversations between a human and a machine designed to generate human-like responses.
Let me know when you can't tell the computer from a human (Where are you Hal?). It may not be long in coming. And then there are the robots coming which will replace us all as we head for Mars with Elon -- but that one another time.

And how about Arnold and his pals in the first Terminator movie where the aim is to wipe out the human race. Thank you very much. I think there's a good chance we won't need robots to do that.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

West Virginia Mountain mamma, take me home Country roads

I see some of my colleagues salivating over the state teacher strike in West Virginia. Don't hold you breath here in NY. Maybe when the conditions of teachers are back to what they were in the 1950s when desperation drove teachers to unionize and be willing to break the law (it was outlawed when they first struck) - I was a high school senior - and not long after I was a teacher 5 years later striking on my first days on the job, followed by 3 strikes the next year and another 7 years later. It's not just the Taylor Law, which also guarantees our old contracts stay in place until a new one is negotiated -- and dues checkoff is another bribe to unions not to strike. It's what people have to lose. Top salary will soon be reaching $118,000. That's like walking around with a target on your back and with so many leaving this current generation may mostly not make it that far.

Here are 2 articles on the strike - Diane Ravitch and background from Mike Antonucci on the right who actually feels teacher strikes should not be outlawed - the libertarian view -- and he gives us some good background on the relationships between the 3 unions involved. It is posted at the horrible 74.

I always find Mike's takes from the right interesting as they touch on my own libertarian tendencies. That the NEA and AFT affiliates have been fighting is interesting news, as is the story of the disaffiliation -- usually the AFT goes after the disaffiliated with guns blazing.

Just Say No to Teacher No-Strike Laws

Three unions representing public school employees in West Virginia announced a two-day walkout this Thursday and Friday to protest low pay and health insurance benefits.
Solidarity among the three is significant, given that they have been at one another’s throats for years. AFT West Virginia and the West Virginia Education Association continued to battle for members and influence long after National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers affiliates in other states called a cease-fire. And the independent West Virginia School Service Personnel Association once belonged to AFT but disaffiliated in 2015.
The unions stated that an “overwhelming” majority of school employees across the state authorized the job action, though it failed to release numbers on votes or turnout.
There are several issues and complications for all involved.

Click here to read the rest.

West Virginia: Teachers Strike Across the State for Pay, Health Care

by dianeravitch
West Virginia teachers went out on strike across the state, closing down every public school.
“Teachers across West Virginia walked off the job Thursday amid a dispute over pay and benefits, causing more than 277,000 public school students to miss classes even as educators swarmed the state Capitol in Charleston to protest.
“All 55 counties in the state closed schools during Thursday’s work stoppage, Alyssa Keedy, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Education, said.
 “Work stoppages by public employees are not lawful in West Virginia and will have a negative impact on student instruction and classroom time,” West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Steven Paine said in a statement this week. “Families will be forced to seek out alternative safe locations for their children, and our many students who depend on schools for daily nutrition will face an additional burden. I encourage our educators to advocate for the benefits they deserve, but to seek courses of action that have the least possible disruption for our students.”
“Data from the National Education Association show that in 2016, West Virginia ranked 48th in average teacher salaries. Only Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Dakota sat below it in the rankings, which included 50 states and the District.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

UPDATED: Rally Feb. 21 at Tweed at 11 AM, School Scope: Similarities in Proposed Closing of Local PS 42, PS 50M (East Harlem) Expose DOE Misinformation

Here are some photos of the rally from Gloria:

I wrote this column for the Feb. 16 edition of The WAVE but it didn't make it in. I expect it to be in the Feb. 23 edition.
Also note that there will be a rally against closing schools today at 11 AM at Tweed. Unfortunately I'm stuck at home waiting for a delivery so I can't make it.

School Scope: Similarities in Proposed Closing of Local PS 42, PS 50M (East Harlem) Expose DOE Misinformation

Tuesday, Feb. 13, 12PM

I’m heading over to the PS 42 hearing and NAACP press conference later today – look for coverage in this week’s paper, which last week featured a front page piece by Ralph Mancini on the MS 53 hearing: “Teachers say they aren’t buying rationale to close MS 53.” Hell, yes, no one should buy what they are selling when they close schools, for, behind it all is the goal of dumping often higher cost teachers and low-performing students and forcing parents to send their kids further away to school in the future. Behind many school closings is gentrification – the attempt to remake a local school to be more attractive to wealthier people moving into poor neighborhoods.

Last night I went up to East 101St just off the FDR Drive and overlooking the East River to tape the PS 50 hearing and also to speak up for them as a member of MORE-CASCADE --- Coalition Against School Closings, Colocations, and Displacement Everywhere –it’s a mouthful. We intend to attend the February 28 Panel for Educational Policy vote on 14 school closings at Murry Bergtraum HS in as much force as we can muster to try to get all the schools to stand up together and say NO.

If I swapped videos from PS 42 and PS 50 (District 4, East Harlem) you might not be able to tell the difference between the schools which are so far from each other geographically, but so close in terms of experience of the staff, poverty of the children, but also facing encroaching gentrification. Current and former students spoke passionately about losing their school. Teachers exposed the faux help they received, often consisting of outside consultants pushing useless professional development (PD) (how many years of experience do you need before they stop hocking you with PD up the kazoo?) instead of infusing real resources like more teachers to reduce class size and guidance counselors and social workers to address the learning issues connected to the socio-economic gap poor kids face that hinders their progress. And the point has been made in both PS 42 and PS 50 – why are test scores the end-all and be-all while not counting progress made in closing that social gap which is a pre-cursor to breaking the learning log-jam?

I will put links to a variety of videos from both the PS 50, PS 42 and the Feb. 28 PEP hearings online for those interested in seeing some of these dramas played out.

Those of us who have been involved in closing school stories for the past decade have seen a repeated pattern. School buildings are often coveted by charters. MS 53 is occupied by Eva Moskowitz’ Success Charter. A charter is going into PS 50, along with Central Park East 2, an elite k-8 school that is being moved from two current buildings it occupies. PS 50 was targeted for disruption by the DOE – the attack included not allowing new parents to register their kids so as to dump population and then claim no one wanted to go to the school, as insidious and dirty tactic one can imagine.

A side story is that the principal of CPE2, an elite much coveted school with a large waiting list – so they won’t accept the current kids at the school, sided with the District 4 Superintendent Alexandra Estrella in a major political dispute and is being rewarded for her loyalty by getting the building. Also, across the street from PS 50 is a massive building housing another Moskowitz school. And I also noticed scaffolding going up around PS 50 to make massive improvements for the wealthier future occupants. Teachers complained that money that should have gone to help the kids instead went to cosmetics like expensive paint jobs. Note that PS 42 not too long ago had a beautiful extension attached to the old school. Why waste improvements on poor kids?

While the attendance numbers at PS 50 are significantly better t(88%) han at PS 42, their numbers are worse. Yet in the first year they tripled their reading outcome from 5% to 16% but the next year fell back to 12%. The major difference I heard at PS 50 was that the principal installed when the school became a renewal school, Esther Quinones, was a vicious terminator of teachers, attacked parents, openly lied to people, etc. – the often usual tactic used to rid the school of high priced teachers (younger, non-tenured are easy to remove – discontinue them). Imagine, in the midst of renewal and good outcomes the first year, the principal turned her guns on the staff, most likely on the orders of Superintendent Estrella, a known practitioner of that practice. At the hearing I read letters from teachers and parents talking about these policies.

One other interesting aspect about PS 50 is that its closing will eradicate one of the last memories of the man the school is named after: Vito Anthony Marcantonio (1902-1954) the most radical congressman in the 20th century ( , an open communist who makes Bernie Sanders look like a right winger. Despite that, Marcantonio, who was always on the side of the poor and fought for social justice, was consistently elected to Congress by a mixed bag of Italian immigrants (and others) and the Puerto Ricans in the community of East Harlem. An interesting mix. Marcantonio became a member of the American Labor Party in the late 30s. He was so popular, he often won the Democratic and Republican primaries, as well as the American Labor Party endorsement. He was finally defeated in 1950 due to the growing McCarthyism. (Also see: Rebel in the House: The Life and Times of Vito Marcantonio | John J ...

So the closing of PS 50 aside from all the other aspects, has this added wrinkle.

Read more Norm, if you can stand it, at

Monday, February 19, 2018

Video: PS 42 Chapter Leader Condemns Closing,Teachers Turn Backs on Dep Chanc Rose

They create new schools, only they're for other people's children. -------Paraphrasing speech by PS 42 Chapter Leader John Krattinger, who has exerted extraordinary leadership since the school closing was announced. John was a teacher at Rockaway's MS 180 over a decade ago when it was closed and replaced by the exclusive Scholars Academy where PS 42 kids would get not get accepted.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

We’re Losing Our Schools - Rockaway Youth Task Force

“When school districts close schools, they are sending a message to low-income students of color, which is, ‘We’re going to give up on you, rather than support you.’ It is understandable that the DOE may assume that phasing out a school is actually improving the schools in the long term, but what about the current students?”

To many advocates, it is clear that our education system is fundamentally broken and requires a deep restructuring that paves the way for future students to achieve better educational outcomes. Despite these noble intentions, the upheaval of closing an existing school and replacing it with one or more new schools creates instability, uncertainty and a lack of steady resources for current students. In the movement to end educational inequity, we must seek solutions that support the success of all students, tomorrow and today. To accomplish this, we must shift our approach from relying on metrics and test scores as the exclusive measures of student success to a more holistic approach that accounts for the needs and experiences of each student. This means increased guidance counselors, college advisors, drug abuse counselors, and mental health resources. This requires a shift from harmful school policing practices and school suspensions to restorative justice and anti-bias initiatives. Although the Renewal School Program encompasses strategies for some of these goals, not all of them are given the investment our students deserve.
An article posted by the Rockaway Youth Task Force soon after the Rockaway school closings were announced in December.

We’re Losing Our Schools

Albert Shanker, Image and Reality - Kit Wainer and Marian Swedlow

Kit and Marian, who were founders of Teachers for a Just Contract (TJC) in 1992, a caucus that merged with ICE and others to form MORE in 2012. I posted this piece with some comments back in 2007 soon after Unity Caucus attacked ICE-TJC pres candidate Kit Wainer for being a socialist.

They wrote this 21 years ago when Shanker died. Sean Ahern posted the article on the MORE listserve. While I don't sign on to the entire analysis, most of it is pertinent, especially the UFT recent waffling on support for the MORE reso on Black Lives Matter and the argument that the Shanker led UFT made the right decision to not condemn the Vietnam war. I was a 2nd year teacher in 1968 and did not cross the picket line, though I was unaware of the deeper issues. I also was on strike in 1967 and 1975, when I was very active in the opposition to Shanker and opposed the settlement of that strike that led to the layoffs of 15,000 teachers.

Both issues, the UFT and race and the war are touched on in this essay, as are the connections of Shanker to ed deform in its earliest manifestation in the early 80s. Don't forget - Shanker created the concept of charter schools.

Check out the review Vera Pavone and I wrote for New Politics of the Shanker bio: Albert Shanker: Ruthless Neo-Con where we showed the roots of union support for ed deform were sowed by Shanker and Randi was just following in his footsteps.

Sean was critical of our take: Sean Ahern: Shanker as NeoCon?
The NY Times obit: Albert Shanker, 68, Combative Leader

Albert Shanker, Image and Reality

— Mirian Swerdlow and Kit Adam Wainer

THE DEATH OF Albert Shanker on February 22, 1997 provoked a flurry of eulogistic praise both inside and outside the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Presidents, think tank experts and AFL-CIO leaders held in high regard the man who had presided over the national teachers’ union for twenty-three years.
Although the AFT is less than half the size of its rival, the National Education Association, Shanker had become the most widely known figure in teacher unionism.

Farina Goes to Rockaway to Sell Replacment School; Most Parents Boycott Visit

Farina outside PS 42 - where did everybody go?

"Fariña’s 12-minute speech was followed by a QandA session during which the chancellor’s team of experts replied to issues including whether or not the incoming teachers would not only be qualified to succeed in their roles, but if they could also “relate” to the student population.

DOE representative Melissa Harris responded that an “exhaustive” round of interviews would take place. Earlier in the gathering, Fariña also maintained that all current PS/MS 42 teachers would be invited to reapply and that some would be afforded priority status..... Ralph Mancini, The WAVE
Priority status my ass. We know what this closing is all about -- dump the teachers.

When Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth Rose announced at the Feb. 13 public hearing that Farina would come to the school on Thursday, Feb. 15 at 4 PM as the school was closing down for the mid-winter break there was a bit of rolling of the eyes. Was she clueless or was this intentional to keep teachers away and avoid being questioned, knowing how quickly school evacuate on the eve of vacation?

I tipped the crew over at The WAVE that Farina was coming and that there won't be many, if any, parents there to hear her. Assistent Editor Ralph Mancini was in the building.

Sources say there was some pissed offtedness coming from her highness and her aides making some disparaging comments about parents not caring instead of facing the reality that they boycotted. If they didn't care, how come so many showed up at the hearing just 2 days before?

but then a two or three parents straggled in. Farina saw how small class sizes can be so convenient, as she was apparently able to sit at a table with the parents and explain her vision for the new schools replacing PS 42. That most parents did not show up indicates that they don't want their school to close and that they want to keep the teachers who their kids have gotten to know so well.

Did the strong UFT response at the hearing put pressure on Farina to drag her way to Rockaway on the eve of a vacation? (Video- PS 42 Hearing - UFT Puts Skin in the Game).

Lots more video to come.
Here is Ralph's story which appeared online. Also see his front-page piece on the Feb. 13 hearing - PS 42: “We Will Prevail! -The WAVE Front Page.

Friday, February 16, 2018

PS 42: “We Will Prevail! -The WAVE Front Page

Great story by WAVE Assistant Editor, Ralph Mancini. I'll be posting video footage as I process it.

A few previous Ed Notes posts on PS 42:
PS 42 Hearing - UFT Puts Skin in the Game
School Scope: PS/MS 42 Closing Drama –

“We Will Prevail!” 

School community refuses to give in on PS/MS 42 closure

[Chapter Leader] John Krattinger led the charge against DOE forces that are looking to shut down PS/MS 42 at Tuesday night’s public hearing. Photo By Ralph Mancini

A green-shirted cavalcade of teachers, students, and other community members lobbied Department of Education officials to keep PS/MS 42 open during a public hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 13.

United Federation of Teachers (UFT) chapter leader John Krattinger rallied the troops by charging the DOE of blatantly silencing people’s voices by failing to immediately notify elected officials of their decision to shutter the Arverne-based facility, also known as The Robert Vernam School.
“If elected officials weren’t notified, what makes you think they’re telling us the truth?” asked Krattinger in rhetorical fashion while also mentioning that NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña issued positive reviews of PS/MS 42 less than 12 months ago.

“The truth has reared its ugly head—gentrification has come to zip code 11692,” he exclaimed. “They want to take it away from our kids and give it to other kids,” Krattinger added, referring to what many have called the DOE’s agenda to see PS/MS 42 closed to clear the lane for two new incoming charter schools that will reportedly be zoned for new homeowners and apartment dwellers in the more affluent Arverne By The Sea community.
Those living in the poorer surrounding communities would be left out in the cold, according to Krattinger and several other teachers.
The school activist continued his rant by calling attention to the statistics that single out the Beach 66th Street location as the sole Renewal school among 20 others with a rating of “good.”
To that end, Krattinger and other faculty members mentioned that the numbers indicate that PS/MS 42 has shown 122 percent growth in English Language Arts (ELA) over the past school year and a 166 percent surge in math over the same stretch.
Undaunted by the DOE’s claims that the school’s level-one percentages among its student population in both ELA (50 percent) and math (60 percent) far exceeds borough-wide totals, Krattinger promised those in attendance that he and his fellow teachers “have moved mountains and will continue to do so.”
“Mark my words,” he declared, “we will prevail.”
Parents also weighed in, including Rhonda Williams, Lechelle Gulley and Millisa Lenihan, who felt as though their sons and daughters were being treated like second-class citizens.
Attendees at the PS/MS 42 meeting vociferously opposed the DOE’s decision to close their school by shouting, “Save 42” in unison. Photo By Ralph Mancini

Williams peppered the DOE panel with questions regarding the type of staff that will be slated to replace the current faculty staff.
She wondered why her school was on the list of sites that are slated to be replaced when data proves that PS/MS 42 is ahead of six other K-8 Renewal schools from an overall performance and progress perspective.
“How about giving us some help? How about giving us the proper education other schools are given? It’s ridiculous. Our children can learn. They’re not failures,” she insisted.
Fifth-graders Hasson Smith and Demetrius Weekes both professed their love for their environment and their teachers, as well as seventh-grader
Leilani Dyer, who felt her school wasn’t offered ample time to show real improvement.
Fellow seventh-grader Nigel Adu, however, elicited a hearty round of applause for relating how his teachers have guided him to persevere and overcome an assortment of obstacles he once had as a special education student.
“If this school wasn’t here, I don’t think I would be where I am right now,” he concluded at the end of his allotted time at the podium.
Community activist Queen Makkada lobbed a series of verbal attacks against Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña by calling her a “bully” and “law breaker” along with apprising the crowd that the DOE leader didn’t follow civil rights law in endorsing multiple school closures in Rockaway.
Toward the end of the meeting, Danielle McGuire, a PS/MS 42 teacher, expounded on the topic of time that was previously introduced by Dyer. She noted the site’s governing agency had promised to afford the school three years to grow and develop, but has now reversed course.
Less than 24 hours after Tuesday night’s hearing, The Wave learned that Fariña would be visiting PS/MS 42 Thursday afternoon to unveil her plans for a new facility slated to supplant the current school.
When Krattinger was contacted by The Wave to comment on the chancellor’s appearance, he reported that neither teachers nor parents would attend the presentation.
He further remarked that the DOE’s last-minute decision to schedule a meeting at 4 p.m. was another “dirty deal” on their part to keep faculty staff away as the school heads into its mid-winter break that same day.
An official verdict on the fate of PS/MS 42 and other Renewal schools takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 28 at Mary Bergtram High School, located at 411 Pearl St. in Manhattan. The event will kick off at 6 p.m.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

PS 42 Hearing - UFT Puts Skin in the Game
Leroy Barr at PS 42 hearing
What a remarkable hearing last night at PS 42. I have some amazing video. Deputy chancellor Elizabeth Rose was on the dais -- pretty remarkable - and Farina is supposed to come to the school this Thursday at 4PM to explain to parents about the new schools being opened. All apparently due to the firestorm the school community has created, which has led to an enormous presence of the UFT, especially from the Queens borough office, now led by Amy Arundel -- and I give her credit for the response. Almost the entire office staff were at the hearing last night.

What a pleasure to interact with some of these parents, some of whom I've gotten to know since I began covering the story.

Leroy Barr, who has been attacked - unfairly some believe (Mike Schirtzer on BLM Reso: A Plea for More Unity in Our Union)
- for his position on Black Lives Matter week, stood up strong for the black lives being ignored by the DOE at PS 42, which is 72% black. I'll note that many of Barr's critics have not turned up at one closing school hearing, where black lives matter is under attack by the DOE, as of this point. See -Virtue Signalling.
When Rose began to speak, the entire teaching staff put tape over their mouths and turned their backs to her.

Parent comments were spectacular comments. The UFT chapter leader said the new schools were not for our children.

Rose at the end for the first time seemed to guarantee every child in the school a seat but it was fuzzy if that was only for kids who are in the zone. Some parents from other zoned schools raised that point.

When someone shouted out about the teachers, Rose ignored them -- kids can stay but teachers not --- it is so clear what this closing is about -- parents brought up questions about new teachers coming into the neighborhood who don't know the children.

The NAACP made comments about going to court for civil rights violations. Rose squirmed a bit at that.

More videos to come over the weekend and I will post them as I process them, but off for a few days of Valentine Day celebration.

Virtue Signalling

The NY Times refereed to this term in the Feb. 12  F section where they listed the Alt-right vocabulary. The alt-right uses the term virtue-signal to mock liberals who conspicuously express left-wing values, primarily for the purposes of impressing other liberals.

Wikipedia defines V-S this way.
Virtue signalling is the conspicuous expression of moral values done primarily with the intent of enhancing standing within a social group.[1] The term was first used in signalling theory, to describe any behavior that could be used to signal virtue—especially piety among the religious. [2] In recent years, the term has become more commonly used as a pejorative characterization by commentators to criticize what they regard as empty, or superficial support of certain political views, and also used within groups to criticize their own members for valuing outward appearance over substantive action.

Oh boy, as an obseerver of the left, this strikes a chord. But then again I've been guilty of v-s myself.

Another alt-right term is snowflake -- a weak or overly sensitive liberal. This is especially prevalent in younger generations, who blanch at any hint of conflict or contentious debate. All  must be springtime and roses. Only optimism, never pessimism. Everything's comin' up roses. Some of the excuses or rationals when things go wrong are laugh out loud funny. But I have not been immune to snowflake behavior of my own.

I've heard baby boomer women in certain circles I will not name who roll their eyes at what they see are some of the excesses of the me-too movement.

I ain't touching that one.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 13, 2018
More information contact:
Eileen Graham
Lisa Rudley
NYS Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE)
Link to Press Release

NYSAPE Calls on Education and Policy Leaders to Break Their Silence; Stand Up for Educational and Racial Justice in Our Public Schools

NYSAPE calls on the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), NYC Department of Education, NYSED, the professional associations representing school administrators, members of the NYS Legislature, and Governor Cuomo to stand with teachers, students, and parents in denouncing all acts of racism, including the recent racist events at NYC schools MS 118 and MS 224, and to call for an immediate commitment to training for ALL current teachers, pre-service teachers, and school administrators in anti-bias, anti-racist, and culturally responsive teaching.

Jamaal Bowman, principal of CASA Middle School said, “I am horrified and outraged by the recent racist acts committed by a teacher at MS 118 and principal at MS 224. I look forward to hearing comments from the UFT, CSA, and NYC DOE, as their silence at the moment is deafening and heartbreaking. As an educator for over 17 years, a principal for 9 years, and a black man my entire life, these recent incidents provide evidence that America’s history of overt racism and oppression continues to manifest itself as covert hatred and implicit bias in our schools.”
Jia Lee, NYC public school teacher and member of Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) added, “Teachers across the city participated in a nationally coordinated Black Lives Matter Week of Action from February 5-11. One of our central demands is to institute Black history and ethnic studies in our curriculum. Teachers, such as Mercedes Liriano, need to have the autonomy to teach culturally relevant curriculum for our students. If my union’s (the UFT) leadership would have supported this demand, teachers would be much further along in making racially conscious and just pedagogy accessible to our students.”

“While our so-called leaders play politics, every day children suffer devastating emotional injury in our classrooms and schools. Sometimes they literally die. It is time for parents, educators, students, and allies to hold our leaders accountable and demand that they denounce and destroy the infrastructure of racism within our schools,” said Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director of The Badass Teachers Association.

Bianca Tanis, Ulster County public school parent, educator and founding member of NYSAPE said, “Too many students of color are dealing with an oppressive public education system in which they are subjected to under-resourced and segregated schools, over-crowded classrooms, disproportionate suspension rates, and curriculum and instruction that centers whiteness and upholds racist narratives. This is an educational crisis and those who remain silent are complicit.”

“As the parent of a biracial daughter, I know that when the majority of students are black and brown, but the teaching and principal force fail to reflect this demographic, these are hardly isolated situations. Teachers who, in the best interests of their students, go the extra mile to bring in more than standard scripted lessons should be supported, not stifled or shut down. Moreover, we should be looking beyond these separate incidents to the larger issues of systemic racism in our schools: students and schools of color are disproportionately crushed by “test and punish,” “drill and kill” practices that strip them of a rich curriculum, set them up for failure, and pave the way for charter schools to take over their schools,” said Janine Sopp, NYC Opt Out founding member and public school parent.

Eileen Graham, Rochester public school parent and founder of Black Student Leadership said, “What happened in the Bronx happens consistently throughout the state, including Rochester, and it is shameful. We must use our voice, influence and power to deal directly with individuals who attempt to carry on the legacy of bigotry, hatred, and disrespect, and we must continue to be intentional in our fight for black and brown children who have been historically disenfranchised. As a parent, I know that it is important to educate and empower our children through culturally enriching and diverse curriculum. The people demand that our leaders support the needs of our children.”

“As a mother who has long been involved in both education policy and community politics, I am becoming increasingly alarmed at the lack of responsible and diverse cultural and ethnic pedagogy in our public schools. It is especially disheartening in a climate where our most vulnerable children are constantly being bombarded with examples of normalized racism and an education system that is riddled with policies perpetuating the school-to-prison pipeline. There is absolutely no excuse for anything other than to stand up for our children, especially students in targeted populations. It's time to reclaim our children's time and revamp our education policies and practices!” said Johanna Garcia, NYC public school parent and President of Community Education Council of District 6, Manhattan.

“Unlike our counterparts in suburbia, who can apply pressure to, or directly vote out, school board members who ignore their wishes, we parents in New York City are grievously disenfranchised by the system of mayoral control. The anti-democratic suppression of our voices as we advocate for the rights and needs of our children has gone on for far too long, with low-income communities of color left most powerless of all. If we want things to change, we need to return control of our classrooms to those with a stake in the system,” said Kemala Karmen, NYC public school parent and founding member of NYC Opt Out.

Jeanette Deutermann, parent and founder of Long Island Opt Out concludes, “Across the State, supporters of equitable and just public education applaud and stand in solidarity with the courageous teachers, students, and parents who have raised their voices to demand educational and racial justice. We expect our education leaders to do the same.”

NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition with over 50 parent and educator groups across the state.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Another Dist 4 Supt Estrella Disaster Project: Help Us Save Our School! (Vito Marcantonio P.S. 50)

What irony -- A school named after Vito Marcantonio being closed. Read more in the most radical politician in the 20th century,

Rebel in the House: The Life and Times of Vito Marcantonio | John J ...

I'll be there tonight to tape the hearing and support them. I have some interesting info to share about what was done to the school. The MORE-CASCADE group is trying to get to as many hearings as possible. CASCADE stands for: Coalition Against School Closings, Colocations, and Displacement Everywhere - WOW, if I could remember that I wouldn't feel like someone about to hit 73 years old. Or is it 74? 64?
We need your support at the joint public hearing being held to determine the future of P.S. 50. Please join us to help protest the proposed closing of our school. A school that has been around for over 3 generations for some families.

This school has served students, families, and the community alike. Having over 21 partnerships including The Children's Aid Society (after-school, summer camp, and holiday programs), a school-based health clinic (eye exams and dentist on site), Parent Job Net (helping parents, guardians, and family of students, to obtain G.E.D's, jobs, free workshops and classes, etc).

Basing a school on test scores alone is unfair. You don't give up on a school when it is "failing", you show support and do what it takes, as a Superintendent, a Chancellor, a Mayor, to ensure that time, money, and resources are given to the school in the RIGHT way, so that these kids strive and have an equal opportunity, without losing their second home.

I hope that as a community we can come together and prove that we will not go down without a fight. These kids, our kids, deserve our support.

Paul Singer (The Vulture), Eva Moskowitz Success Academy Slimebag Supporter - Paid for Original Steele File

Greg Pallast: Before Hillary paid for a copy, the file was already written for a news front sponsored by Republican billionaire Paul Singer.  Singer: Better known as “The Vulture.” Singer The Vulture, the court should have been told, has a long history of creating what FBI Director James Comey himself called “salacious and unverifiable” files on his enemies. I know.  Because The Vulture created a file on me. And on elected officials worldwide who got in the way of his next billion.  Poisonous garbage – but really effective, deadly garbage.
In 2011, I flew to the Congo and discovered that The Vulture had seized the funds meant to end a cholera epidemic.  I reported on Singer’s deadly capers at the top of the BBC news, on the front page of the Guardian and on Democracy Now!  ---- Read more at: 
Pallast's story -- I included it below the break -- actually sort of sides with Devon Nunes, though he calls him a liar  --- it's like the world has been turned upside down --- did I and other left-leaning people ever think the FBI WOULDN'T fabricate stuff?

I and other have mentioned billionaire hedgehog's support for Eva's Folly and Paul Singer in particular. (Google his name and Success Academy). Here is a link to one of my posts back in 2013:

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Mike Schirtzer on BLM Reso: A Plea for More Unity in Our Union

I also call on both groups to work together to achieve a common goal: Because Black Lives Do Matter to all of us. Now is not the time for blame or is it the time to scream how things *should* be. Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and get stuff done.... Mike Schirtzer
I asked Mike if this was his official application to join Unity Caucus. I don't agree with some of it but do agree that the black members of Unity are not racist - duh! or mere sellouts. More of my commentary after Mike's piece.
A Plea for More Unity in Our Union

By Mike Schirtzer

UFT Delegate Goldstein HS-Brooklyn

UFT Executive Board member

“We want a union that believes Black Lives Matter”. That is the statement that was published by the MORE caucus of UFT, which I am a member, to be circulated online.

It is also a false statement, one that is unnecessarily inflammatory and unfair.

School Scope: PS/MS 42 Closing Drama – NAACP Jumps into the Fray

I wrote both of these pieces for the Feb. 9 edition of The Wave. I went on the bus with the PS 42 people going to the NAACP press conference Thursday afternoon. They had a spirited group rally in front. A UFT official from the Queens office showed up and somehow we got invited to go in as there as a monthly meeting of the boro pres education advisory council taking place at 6. So the press conf never did take place and will instead take place this Tuesday (Feb. 13) at 5PM at the school before the 6 PM hearing.

As part of the CASCADE group to fight closing schools, we have been attending hearings and offering support. The UFT has shown some activity - Leroy Barr came to PS 42 on Thursday and is supposedly coming to speak on Tuesday - and probably Amy Arundel and others from the Queens office will be there. I can raise issues about what the UFT is not doing but will leave that alone pending the outcome --- there is hope they can play a role in saving the school. If they do I will praise them to the sky.

School Scope:  PS/MS 42 Closing Drama – NAACP Jumps into the Fray
By Norm Scott

Last week I pointed to the political, not educational, irrationality of closing schools that are viewed to be performing poorly. In this follow up I hope to demonstrate there are other factors than mere educational performance behind the decision to close PS/MS 42. I’m writing this on Feb. 6 so I can’t report on the outcome of the NAACP press conference at Queens Borough Hall on Feb. 8 at 5PM. A bus is leaving from the school at 3:15. Email to reserve a seat. And come to the hearing at the school on Tuesday, Feb. 13. There will be food at 5PM and sign-up to speak at 5:30.  It should be some evening, better than the political battles on cable TV. PS 42/MS 42 community vs. the DOE --- more exciting than the Super Bowl.

[BATs in NYC] Bronx principal probed after creating hostile environment for black teachers, students

I walked past the office on my school and noticed a young black man nervously sitting outside the principal's office. I stopped to chat with him and he said he was assigned to the school as a special ed teacher by the district and was waiting to meet the principal. "Good luck" I said, with just a little rolling of my eyes. I had an Irish woman as principal in a school with about 40% black kids and 60% Hispanic. I believed she had some racist attitudes but would never have thought she was a racist.

Shortly after he was gone - I asked someone what happened and was told she said she didn't need him and sent him back to the district. A few hours later he was back. Once again she sent him back to the district. The next day he was back again, ordered by the district to be placed in a permanent position. He became an integral part of the staff for many years and was very popular. He never created waves and she became very happy with him. I think he was the only black male teacher in my school.

Despite some of her attitudes she did seem to care about kids and also hired a number of black women who were paras in our school when they became teachers. So I present the above story as background for the story below.

I know some of my racism denier readers may be skeptical when they read this. Are they really any different than holocaust deniers?

Bronx principal probed after creating hostile environment for black teachers, students: ‘She’s a racist’

The city is investigating explosive complaints from students and staff at a Bronx school saying their principal barred an English teacher from delving into black-history lessons — and targeted black teachers and students for abuse.
The Department of Education launched the probe after kids and educators leveled the allegations against Intermediate School 224 Principal Patricia Catania, who is white, the Daily News has learned.
The 26-year veteran of city schools remains in her $154,257 post even though students and staffers of color say she’s created a hostile environment since she took the top job at IS 224 in December 2016.
 “She’s racist,” said English teacher Mercedes Liriano, 45, who’s worked at the school, where 95% of students are black and Hispanic, for more than a decade. “She’s trying to stop us from teaching our students about their own culture.”
The disturbing allegations — relayed to the Daily News by eight current or former employees and five students — come amid a spate of racially tinged controversies at city schools.
Liriano said she was beginning a class Wednesday when Catania pulled her aside and told her not to give lessons about the famed Harlem Renaissance movement of literature and art in the 1920s.
The order shocked Liriano.
She teaches the Harlem Renaissance, as well as the writings of Frederick Douglass, to her sixth- and seventh-grade students as part of the officially recommended New York state curriculum standards, she noted.
But Catania made clear she had a far different view of what Liriano should be teaching her students, the incensed educator said.
“She said I’m not a social studies teacher so why am I teaching my students about black history?” Liriano said. “Her tone was very harsh, as if I committed a heinous crime.”
 Liriano returned to class and continued her lesson in defiance.
“She’s attempting to stop the students from learning about their own history, and she’s denying them the right to learn about where they came from,” Liriano told The News.
The teacher was so shaken by the experience that she discussed it with her colleagues and students, who responded by wearing all black the next day in protest.
About 75% of the school’s 353 pupils participated in the event, which was organized by kids using Snapchat, kids said.
And 71 students signed a petition calling on Catania to allow the lessons in black culture to continue.

Sixth-grader Savannah Villagomez, 11, said she confronted the principal about her double standards on the day of the protest.
“I asked her why we shouldn’t learn about black history?” Villagomez said. “She said we weren’t learning anything, but she didn’t even look at our projects.
“I was angry,” she added. “She doesn’t know our history and she wants to stop it.”
Catania referred a reporter seeking comment to the Education Department.
Doug Cohen, a spokesman for the DOE, who confirmed the investigation was ongoing, said Catania has no prior disciplinary history. Cohen added that some students are getting lessons in black history from other teachers.
“African-American history is an important part of the school’s curriculum,” Cohen said. “Students are currently working on projects related to Black History Month that will be presented and highlighted at the end of February.”
Liriano said she called 311 to file a complaint about the encounter, which she described as the latest in a string of hostile acts by Catania targeting black and Hispanic students and workers.
Several other staffers echoed Liriano’s accusations of hostile actions toward educators of color. A number of middle-schoolers told The News they were targeted as well.
According to Liriano, Catania told other people that black instructors have poor knowledge of their subjects and are only good at controlling classrooms.

IS 224 math teacher Jacinth Scott said she thinks Catania should be canned immediately.
“She’s a racist, based on her actions and what she does,” Scott said. “She doesn’t belong in this school.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton weighed in on the controversy Saturday.
“This is a disgrace and an insult,” Sharpton said. “(IS 224) needs to know we stand with this teacher and we will be there to do whatever we need to do.”
The Rev. Kevin McCall, crisis director at the National Action Network, said Catania should be replaced.
The trouble at IS 224 comes after The News reported other shocking claims of racism and cultural insensitivity in city schools.
Patricia Cummings, a white teacher at Middle School 118 in the Bronx, was pulled from the classroom on Feb. 1 after it was revealed that she made black students lie face-down on the floor — and then stepped on them — as a lesson on slavery.

And white administrators at Christ the King, a Queens Catholic school, angered students, alumni and activists for refusing to allow a black teen named after Malcolm X to put the civil rights leader’s name on his class sweatshirt.

In the wake of those stories, protesters have descended on City Hall calling for expanded anti-bias training and the creation of an office for culturally responsive education within the Education Department.
But so far city officials have declined to add resources to address the issue.