The Political Side versus the Education Side of Tweed: The Drive to Burnish the Reputation of the Mayor, the Political Side, Drags Down the Entire Institution

A million kids trek to school today, the last school year of a deeply flawed mega-structure run by a nice guy who once taught for a few months. A Chancellor whose main job is to carry the message of the Mayor, regardless of the message. In Norway in World War 2 they had a name for that type of person.

What is so sad is that he leads a school system that is morally corrupt.

Any accusation is deflected, the press is the enemy, FOIL requests are buried or delayed, the press flaks at Tweed plant article after article,  op eds, editorials in the media attacking perceived enemies and praising themselves.

When a teacher is accused of serious sexual misconduct is allowed to remain in contact with children for two months after a principal made the complaint the Tweed flaks blame the investigative agency.

Rule # 1: It’s never the fault of the Department of Education.

For the decade of Children First the bureaucracy has had a simple approach to raising scores – the sole metric for measuring success –  simply turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to cheating.

The Stuyvesant High School cheating scandal is a prime example. Susan Edelman’s investigative report in the New York Post  uncovers student cheating that was endemic in the school. Complaints from teachers resulted in the harassment of the teachers. If the principal followed up on the rumors/accusations the higher ups would blame the principal- why didn’t he do something to prevent cheating from taking place?

In the pre Bloomberg-Klein days a Board of Education representative was stationed in every school in the city on the testing days. From the moment the seal on the testing envelope was broken, throughout the school day, to the packing and collection of the papers at the end of the day a board monitor was in the school building. The cost? Nothing. For a few days district and central office staff were reassigned.

If a school had a jump in scores the Board used software to identify suspicious patterns.

Today, in a 20 billion dollar budget the department just can’t find a few million to assure that test results are accurate. Poppycock!

Rule # 2: Trust, and don’t verify (Wink! Wink!)

Geoff Decker reports the principal of Fort Hamilton High School falsified documents to increase her budget, threaten and intimidate teachers; the department investigates, and investigates, and allows the principal to continue to rule, excuse me, to remain in her school.

The principal of Sheepshead Bay High School pressured an underling to hire his wife  is caught, pays a fine, and is allowed to remain as principal.

Principals threaten teachers, give large percentages of teacher U-ratings to staff in their school, have large percentages of staffs transfer, the department ignores bad personnel practices.

It takes the department seventeen months to investigate egregious violations including blatant cheating .

Rule # 3: Only test scores count: do what you have to do – to the extent we can, we’ll protect you – if we can’t protect you, we’ll blame you.

What is so sad is that on the education side, not the political side, network and Tweed staff are struggling to train and work with principals and teachers – to do the right thing.

A department deputy chancellor at a citywide training of network staff told the hundreds in the audience, “The NY Post is wrong – we are not out to fire the lowest few percent of teachers – their own  performance will fire them – we want to make the average teacher into an above average teacher”

He wasn’t playing to the audience – the educators at Tweed want to work with teachers to make the school system better. Unfortunately the political side, the morally corrupt side paints the entire bureaucracy with the specter of evil.

The political side could negotiate away most of the outstanding obstacles – when both sides want to resolve an issue it gets resolved – the 3020 (teacher discipline) rules before 2010 were onerous – both sides knew it – and both sides sat down and negotiated an expedited system  that the State Commissioner King called “a model for the state.”

The political side wants to battle, to obfuscate, to cajole, to use a steady flow of propaganda to marginalize the union and convince legislators to pass legislation that will burnish the national reputation of the mayor.

We’re not talking about education – we’re talking about politics.

There’s nothing wrong with politics – when politics sacrifices the education of a million kids it is morally corrupt

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7 responses to “The Political Side versus the Education Side of Tweed: The Drive to Burnish the Reputation of the Mayor, the Political Side, Drags Down the Entire Institution

  1. So sad!

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  2. Education was controlled by politicians when the Tweed Courthouse was new. Maybe we should have seen Bloomberg’s insistence that the DOE be housed there (Remember he took it away from the Museum of the City of New York to put the DOE there.) as presaging a return to the that kind of political corruption.
    Perhaps the most corrupt piece is the slogan “Children First” which was intended to imply that the dedicated teachers and administrators had a different agenda than the Mayor. In fact, as you point out, the real slogan should have been “First, Make Bloomberg Look Good.”
    It is more than sad, as it will take a long time for the system to recover and become focused on its real mission again after Bloomberg leaves office.

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  3. Pingback: When Politics Trumps Education « Diane Ravitch's blog

  4. Well said Peter! Most individuals in the Children First Networks,the CFN’s, are enthusiastic and desire to bring about possitive changes. But the changes the CFN’s push do not prepare the children to do well on standardized tests. Group work and shared learning are fantastic ways to reach and engage young minds, but they take the test alone.

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  5. Thanks, Ed. Remind us how to get your words regularly!

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  6. There is a chapter leader who is in the “Rubber Room”! Why is he there? He uncovered inappropriate financial dealings at his school! Please log on to “Protect Portos’ website!

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