Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Truth About E$E, Part I

I realize that I haven't written anything in some time, but an article I came across this afternoon sufficiently raised my ire enough to say something. Over at, the teacher layoff bill introduced by State Senator Flanagan was enumerated in plain black and white. I'm not going to go into the specifics of it – you can certainly read it for yourself, and, if you have a shred of intellect, grind your teeth in frustration over many of the details – but I'd like to comment on one point made in the article:

"…the bill was written with input from the mayor's office, along with groups like Educators 4 Excellence — an organization of teachers who, with funding from the Gates Foundation, has put forward its own proposal to change teacher layoffs."

I'd like to examine this statement, because people unaffiliated with the public school system might wrongfully conclude that any of those people mentioned have any idea as to how to educate children. Let's start with the obvious; I won't thrash a deceased equine here, because hundreds of people in and out of NY have previously pointed out that Emperor Bloomberg doesn't have the slightest idea as to how to run a school system. So, when the article mentions, "Mayor's Office" it should be noted that the two people involved in such decision making are the aforementioned Mr. Bloomberg, who has repeatedly demonstrated that he cannot effectively have the streets cleared of snow, let alone competently assess the state of the NYC Public Schools, and the newly appointed Schools Chancellor Cathie Black, a millionaire crony of Bloomberg who not only has never taught a day in her life (and as such, was forced by the state to employ an experienced "educational advisor", which begs the question, "Why wasn't the advisor simply appointed to the position?") but regards the schools as a business with a profit margin, and who has surmised that the solution to the overcrowding problem in the schools is "Birth Control."

But those two clowns are not the ones I take issue with – at least not here. It's the disingenuous group known as "Educators 4 Excellence" run by post-adolescent lovebirds and former NYC teachers Sydney Morris and Evan Stone. In the interest of fairness and disclosure, Educators 4 Excellence should point out two things. Since they won't, I will.

1) It is not run in any way by educators. Both Stone and Morris are no longer affiliated with the NYC Public Schools. In other words, they are not educators. After just three years of teaching, they abdicated their positions in order to secure a $160,000 grant from the Gates Foundation to run their propaganda machine. Perhaps that's for the best, as neither of them ever completed the certification process necessary to teach. Using the NYS Certification Database, one can plainly discover that the "Educators" are not licensed to teach in NY State. Even though through their TFA program, (more on that in a moment) Stone and Morris were guaranteed to receive a fully subsidized NYS Teaching License, they failed to do so. A person who spent less than three years in a classroom, never received tenure, never received a license, and walked away when a better, non-teaching opportunity came along, can, in no way, shape, or form, refer to themselves as "Educators." Who are you educating? You have no class. In more ways than one.

2) The only thing "excellent" about either of them is their ability to exploit the system for their own advantage. Both are Teach For America alums, and if you're not familiar with TFA, let me summarize the organization thusly: Freshly-graduated college kids from the Midwest and notoriously liberal California suburbs, with little to no "real-world" experience, are thrust into classrooms in economically depressed areas of the country with a scant five weeks training. Being part of the program, they are guaranteed teaching positions, oftentimes surpassing real teachers with real experience applying for the same position. Why would a principal want to hire some kid with no credentials? Two reasons – one, because they have zero experience and no license, they are paid at the very bottom of the NYC pay scale, which currently is $45,530. Conversely, a principal would have to pay a fully licensed teacher with a Master's Degree and five years experience $56,048. When you consider that a school of 650 students (the norm for NYC) has a staff of 70 or so teachers, that $11,000 savings per teacher is substantial. Secondly, since they are untenured, the Principal can effectively order them to complete any task or risk being terminated. It doesn't matter anyway, because "according to a 2006 Newsweek article, between 10 and 15 percent of [TFA participants] drop out before completing the required two years, forcing the schools to scramble for replacements while the students go without. Even if they do fill out their requirement, only one in three TFA teachers stay on at their school after those two years. 38 percent of TFA alumni do not work in education at all, and many of those who do leave the classroom for administration." Stone and Morris represent the vast majority of TFA'ers who want nothing to do with actual classroom teaching after their term of "service" is up.

Speaking of costs, TFA participants receive an education award of $5,350 at the end of each year of service (a total of $10,700 over the two years), and major expenses during the five week training " institute" (e.g., housing, food) are covered. Furthermore, Teach For America offers awards in the form of interest-free loans and, in some cases, grants to help cover "transitional" expenses ranging from approximately $1,000 – $6,000. In addition, in the case of TFA members working in NYC, they receive a fully subsidized Master's Degree from Hunter College, Fordham University, or Bank Street College. A graduate degree in Education from Fordham University costs $1050 per credit for a total of $31,500. Essentially, within two years, Sydney Morris and Evan Stone cost the taxpayers about $90,000. Actually, when you consider that the NYC Department Of Education paid $11,000 in overtime between them for the 2008 fiscal year, the two founding members of E4E have racked up over $100,000 in benefits. Truly Excellent.

I don't have a problem with people attempting to fix the problems and inequities of the NYC DOE. If you haven't noticed, my entire blog is dedicated to pointing out the failures of the city school system – failures that come from administration, parents, students, and yes, teachers. What I do have a problem with are opportunistic frauds and publicity hounds like Stone, Morris and their ilk. They are in no way "dedicated" to fixing the system, nor are they interested in educating NYC's youth. Every time Morris opens her mouth, she mentions "our children," or "my children." She's 25 and not currently employed by any school system. Unless she and Stone have finally tied the knot (yes, they are a romantic couple, in case you haven't figured that out yet), she has no children. The children of NYC belong first and foremost to their parents, and, when working closely with the schools, to the teachers that have sacrificed so much of their own time and resources to make sure that they provide those children with the best education that is possible within a flawed system.

You are not "Educators," Mr. Stone and Ms. Morris. You are not "Excellent." You are presumptuous, dishonest, hypocritical, inexperienced, exploitive and opportunistic. Drop the rhetoric, go back from whence you came and leave the policy making to those of us who have done so much more than merely dip our toes in the system in exchange for handouts, subsidies and payoffs.

You are not worthy to wipe the chalk dust from our shoes.