Day 35 Thursday May 27, 2010: “Raise A Voice”


Today is Thursday, May 27, 2010 and this is Day 35 of my time left at the Mont. Lots of topics to play with. An Especially productive day, even if on the surface it did not seem so. Yeah, there was the frustration of trying to watch the Dodgers-Cubs game, which was unable to be seen for quite a while. But the silver lining appeared when we tried to come up to solutions to the chronically low-performing broadcasters.


First of all, everyone associated with the fiasco last night has to reapply for their jobs. If the peanut vendors only cared more, we wouldn’t be having these problems. The bat boy union is obviously an obstacle to reform, so that has got to be ruthlessly crushed; once that, and the parking attendants’is broken, there’s a championship in the future. Yes, we understand that it will take 2 or 3 seasons for performance to get back to expected levels, but we have to get rid of the culture of failure. Don’t you understand? Whoever spearheads this will be a hero.


These changes will, in order to root out failure wherever it festers, be drastic, but as long as the game improves, it will be for the best.


We’ll need to reorganize, of course.  The venue, to go with the new vision, which will have to include input from the people watch the game from the rooftops (yeah, the community organizations)—but only selected rooftops, hand-selected by the Commissioner—will have to be renamed New Wrigley Field, to better reflect the new athletic spirit of the place. The manager will have the new title Chief of Baseball Operations to better reflect his leadership status in the dugout.


Pitchers will have to successfully strike out over 80% of the batters or they will be sent to the minors. Or is that managers? Of course, teams of consultants, who will have never played the game, but who have sat in ballparks, will have to be brought in and run clinics, for the players.


Instead of nine innings, the game will be restructured into six quarters. Yes, that number is correct.


And the scoreboard will become a big graphic organizer.


But as long as there is money involved, who are we to judge?



Some good news on the Arne Duncan front. After the disastrous phone call Monday, Secretary Duncan called Anthony Cody in Oakland and Marsha Ratzel in Kansas, who helped convene Monday’s meeting, two of our “Dirty Dozen” or “Twelve Teachers”, to actually ask what they thought. Of concern to teachers at the Mont was the topic of restructuring and the unfairness of the process, the means of determining which school would go to the left or the right. Amazing that it also seems to revolved around test scores and SIGs. Which leads to the emphasis on boosting the scores, which turns us into test-prep academies (wait, aren’t you at the Mont becoming academies next year?) as we chase the elusive AYP.


But there are other valid concerns out there, topics which were suggested by the polling on the Facebook “Teachers Letters to Obama” group, of which I am a proud member. There are concerns about assessment, about safe and successful schools, about diverse learners, college and career readiness.


But the good news, aside from the calls, was that Secretary Duncan found what was said to be of value, and that he would be willing to pursue other conversations.


That means we need ideas. We Twelve have the attention of the DOE, so let’s bring forth ideas. Post comments to the sites. No, we won’t all agree, but when folk sing in chorus, not all their voices sound exactly the same. We are one demographic. This isn’t just A.P. teachers, not people working on administrative credentials or hard-bitten union types. We don’t all have the same points of view.


But then neither do the teachers that we will represent. And that’s the point. We’ve come together because it really is about the kids. We will no longer be demonized by the McKennas of this profession, whose scorn of teachers is evident in his every word, venom dripping.


Which leads to the next topic.


Some of you may wonder why I have not been emailing these posts, as well as posting them at this site. In one instance, the emails started bouncing with the explanation that the intended recipient did not like me. So I stopped sending them to that email address. Another chose to speak to me about reapplying in front of my students, so I felt that there was little point; if she wanted to know, she could always check this site, then return to burying her head in the sand. Another showed my email to Mr. Balderas, asking why she was the recipient.


And someone wrote in, crying, “What about the other 80% of the teachers who want to stay at the Mont? The 20% are ruining things.” So, if there are actually 80% who want to stay, then I’ll direct my energies toward this site, as well as “Teachers Letter to Obama” and the group I’ve had the privilege to become a part of.


Maria Gaspar, the oft-silent union chapter chair, sent around a memo yesterday. Here it is:


It is a grant, to the tune of $2 million for three years. SIX MILLION DOLLARS.


What would you do for six million dollars? What would you do for a piece of that? We’re starting to see what some would do.


This is about merit pay. There are strings attached, yes, strings we are being made aware of. But make no mistake about it. This is about merit pay.


I wrote previously about this topic before, as a comment to an earlier post by Barbara Stam. I feel I ought to repost it as part of this rant rather than let the words be hidden as a “comment”. Here it is:


“I have many misgivings about merit pay. There are differences in students; some have problems we can only guess at and do not come here to learn; for some, it is a haven from home, and for others it is another battlefield. And the argument can be made to separate the wheat from the chaff, to put it in its cruelest sense. Then call it tracking.

“So some teachers will be given the achievers, will hold their students up and say, "My kids are just like yours." But they are not.

“I'm staring at my grades, still noticing that 50% of my students are 9Rs (to use the latest designation). That's what I started the year with. I supposed that's better than when we went wall-to-wall SLCs, then I had 58% 9Rs, as did several of the other SLCs on the same track (by contrast, another SLC ended up with 10% 9Rs, which I was told was "luck of the draw"). During the second grading period this semester, 68 out of 169 earned "Fs." Am I a failure as a teacher? I hit different learning styles, bring in realia and music, was told by Mr. Higgins that by laying out each unit on the board so that the kids know exactly how to assemble their notebooks, organize their materials, and not get lost, that I was doing too much for them--spoon-feeding them. Another current AP says that I "over-plan." I provide ways to replace lost work and provide supplementary materials and extra-credit (I differentiate on that). Yet, I have 40% of my students who failed.

“So, am I a failure as a teacher?

“Will it fair to base my pay on my students' grades, having 50% 9Rs, while another teacher might have 10% 9Rs? Will that be a type of tracking? So "loser kids" get a "loser teacher", eh?

“And then there is another problem. Teachers come into the profession often lacking materials and lesson plans. What have we always done? Shared what we have. I have rarely met a teacher who treats a lesson he or she created as copyrighted material. We give it away. These lessons we do are not state secrets.

“I hear APs babble about sharing "best practices." What the hell do they think we do all day. Many of my materials are on-line, so that they can not only be accessed by kids, but by other teachers. In fact, there are other teachers at other schools--and in other districts--who were told about the site and have used what I have. Ask members of the department how often I act like some missionary and brandish my passport or thumbdrive at student teachers, new teachers, and veterans to share what I have.

“But why should I share anything when every teacher is a competitor for merit pay?

“And that cuts to the core. What we do each and every day is *share*. We share our knowledge and experience and bits of wisdom we've gleaned along the way with our colleagues and with our students.

“I thought about dismantling the pages at, not because I no longer wish to share my work. I thought about taking them down because I did not want to watch the administration do.

“But I believe that this is a symbol of what I have accomplished here in 16 years. I will not yield to the siren call of merit pay, viewing each and every on of my co-workers as a threat to every dollar I might earn.

“Some of us fight for other things than money.”

When we get the opportunity, I must beseech you to reject this grant. As the flyer has pointed out, the process has been tainted. The classrooms will never see the money. And this is that step toward merit pay. Some might feel it is okay: the ones who dump their problem kids in other classes for someone else to deal with, the ones who then say, “I don’t have any problems with my kids.”

Educational apartheid.


Did you enter the profession to do that?


May 26, 2010: “Hello, This Is Arne Duncan”—Anthony Cody at Teacher Monthly


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    Chuck Olynyk is a Social Studies teacher who saw the effects of reconstitution upon John C. Fremont High in Los Angeles. These are reposting of his original blogs from the Save Fremont website.


    August 2010



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