Friday, January 25, 2013

Chapter 39: Cohort Contamination

Chapter 39: Elder Statesmen

Experience is the best teacher.  Nowhere is this more true than in 9th grade clasrooms within the Bloomberg reform schools where the sagacious overage 9th grader has more impact on the learning that takes place than does the teacher.  However, like most aspects of the current education reform movement, it is true only in an Alice in Wonderland way.

On age 9th grade students begin the year at the age of 14 and end it at 15.  Although there is now a move to create larger small schools, schools that include grades 6 through 8 as well as the conventional high school grades of 9 through 12, typically an on age 9th grader is new to his / her high school.  Their first months in the 9th grade are their first high school experience.

I use the term "on age" because the typical 9th grade student in these schools is not necessarily 14 at the beginning of the year.  I have discussed a 9th grade class in these pages in which 62% of the 38 students on the roster were at least one year over age, some as many as 4 years over age, for 9th grade.  Those were the numbers by the end of the school year 2011-12.

The 9th grade class discussed in Chapters 35 and 36 is now undergoing a similar evolution.  At the time of the observation on Oct. 16, 2012, 12 out of 31 students were overage according to the observation report linked to that chapter.  Since that date 2 students have been added to the roster, both overage.  The numbers are now 14 out of 33 overage student - 42.4%.  7 of those 14 students are already 2 years behind.  Another 2 are 3 years behind and one is 4 years behind.  The good news is that 4 of the 14 overage kids are only a single year behind!

If this year progresses as last year did, more such students will be funneled into these 9th grade classes.  The addition of 4 more such students to this class will bring the numbers to about 50% overage.  That means that 50% of the students in the class will have failed or been held back at some point before reaching 10th grade.

My situation is further complicated by the 3 students the assistant principal imagined she observed in the classroom.  In line 3 of her report, I am addressing the imaginary Daisy.  In line 9 I'm supposed to have asked the imaginary Diane to take off her hat, which she does in line 10.  In line 54 I asked the non-existent John to turn to page 29 in the textbook.  If you think you've stepped into the Twilight Zone in this paragraph, I refer to the actual report:  Observation Report entered into my DOE file
(The fantasy begins on page 2.)

I don't know if these imaginary students are on age or overage.  This important data is listed at the top of the first page of that report.  Which of those 31 students on the roster mentioned on that page were these 3 imaginary beings?  How often did they attend class?  Are they on age or overage?  At the end of the term I don't know if they passed or failed my class.  Thus I cannot calculate either my atendance data or my "scholarship"  figures with any degree of accuary.  It's a virtual Crocodile's Dilemma.

I was headed for one of these over-stuffed with over-aged 9th graders classes one day when I heard a commotion down the hall.  It seemed to emanate from my destination.  As I neared the classroom, a substitute teacher came running out of the room as if her life if not her career depended on it.  It was, of course, my group.  When I entered the room, I found that the students had sculpted a great pyramid at the center of the classroom.  They had piled desks, one on top of another, to a height of more than 10 feet.  This was towards the end of the year.  By this time some of the on age stduents were participating as gleefully as the over-aged.

Since four-year graduation rates, rather than determining the success of the students, now determine in large part whether a school remains open for business or goes out of of business, Bloomberg reform school administrators are face with many Sophie's Choices.  One of them is how to give a "senior" who never passed 9th grade math or English adn who never bothered to pick up the credit in summer school the opportunity to make up that credit.  As school budgets shrink, there is less money for PM (after school) classes.  Small reform schools often don't have enough students failing a given course to make up an entire class of students in need of "recovery", which would also require an extra teacher hour per day, something the budget may no longer allow for.

One "solution" is to program these "seniors" into regular 9th grade classes.  The composition of the "regular" 9th grade class begins to look something like this:

# of students                           student
12                                       on age
5                                         already over age entering 9th grade
5                                         hold back from last year
8                                         "juniors" and "seniors" attempting to make up a creit

In this way the on age 9th graders become outnumbered by the elder statesmen.

But the wisdom of the elder statesmen has nothing to do with Buddha, Confucius or even Granny from "The Beverly Hillbillies".  The wisdom that these elder statesmen pass along to their inexperienced peers has more to do with how to make high school an enjoyable six-year experience at the end of which arrives not a diploma but an invitation to apply for an alternative program than with the sound advice not to put off until tomorrow what you can do today.  These elder statesmen might coin axioms like:

     "A truancy a day keeps the diploma away."
     "A paper ball in the basket is with 8 on the floor."
     "Early to bed, early to rise and you miss out on a lot of fun."
     "All work and no play has it backwards."
     "Don't put off until tomorrow ... put off until next year."
     "Do as I do ... not as they say."
     "If at first you don't succeed, don't give up.  Fail again."

What kind of role model is this elder statesmen?  What kind of student has spent 3 years in high school and yet still lacks 9th grade credits for graduation?  What kind of example are such students setting for the unsuspecting on age 9th graders?

For teenagers the difference between 17 or 18 and 14 is enormous.  There are few 14-year-olds mature enough to be immune to the negative example of the 17-year-old freshman, particularly if the elder statesman freshman is popular, good-looking, charming or even charismatic as some are.  Many are one or more of these thing because academic success ranks well down the list of what makes one attractive or influential.  There is nothing wrong with that per se.  The h[problem arises when the academics of younger students is negatively impacted.

I've seen this many times over the past 11 1/2 years.  I would estimate that of those 12 on age 9th graders in that prototypical classroom above, no more than 3 are immune from the negative impact of the elder statesmen.  The other 9 will lean in the direction of the general tenor of the class.  A teacher who can hold the elder students at bay stands a chance of mitigating their influence.  When the numbers of elder statesmen freshmen exceed 30%, however, there is nothing a teacher can do.

"I'll write your essay, Mr. Haverstock," I was old once, "on one condition."
This was a final exam.  The student offering the deal was one of the best writers in the class.
"What condition is that?" I said.
"I'll write your essay if you give me detention," she said.

I had watched this 9th grade student's performance deteriorate over the course of the semester as half a dozen over age elder statesmen had been dumped into her class.  By the end of the semester the percentage of elder statesmen in the room had reached 45%.  I could have graphed the negative correlation between the arrival of those students and the deteriorating performance of this and other students.

"You want me to give you detention," I mused.
"That's right.  Two days."
"I'll have to call your parents, you know," I reminded her.
"That's okay."

Solomon is never around when you need him.
"Okay," I agreed.  "Write that essay and I'll give you detention."

I knew she could easily write the essay.  The rest of the class had spent the semester trying to catch up to her.  She spent the semester slowing down until at this point she was willing to take an "F" on her final exam essay if I didn't give her detention.  Her grade had ceased to mean anything to her.  The reason was simple.  45% of the students in the class now acted as though grades were meaningless.

She wrote the essay.  I gave her 2 days detention.  (She had a friend who had gotten detention.)

Detention was obviously neither punishment nor deterrent for this student.  It was more like a reward.  Worse, a failing grade had ceased to be a motivating factor in itself and this was happening in the most important of all high school years - freshman year.  If the best students start giving up during their 9th grade, the cohort is doomed.  Filling 9th grade classes with elder statesmen in the desperate hope that these over age underachievers have somehow realized the errors of their ways and will in one or two semesters make up all the classes they've failed over the course of the previous 3 years is akin to sabotage for a small Bloomberg reform school.

That school was sabotaged.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Chapter 38: Naming Names

Chapter 38: How Public Are the Public Schools?

Teachers are civil servants.  We work for and are paid for by the public.  Ibid. administrators.  Since all children are required by law to attend school, society has an obligation to provide the schools and pay for them.  Much information, therefore, about teachers is available to the public.  I’ve used my real name in this blog, making it relatively easy for anyone with the desire to know to find out where I work, whom I work with, whom I work for and how much I make.  You can find out exactly how much teachers and administrators are earning, for example, at .  You can even discover how much overtime we’re making at this website.
When I started this blog in Nov. of 2011, my plan was to write about education in general and to expose how the good kids in the system are being neglected by a system geared entirely for failing students.  90% of the time, energy and money in the NYC public school system is wasted because it is being used for the political purpose of raising the graduation rate in order for politicans like Bloomberg and Duncan to be able to claim that they’ve had a positive impact on public education.  Every time you hear some politician pointing out that the graduation rate has gone up over the past decade, don't let them overlook the fact that the percentage of graduates who are functionally illiterate and unprepared for college, albeit with diploma in hand, has reached abysmal lows.
Even the big boss man in Washington, Arne Duncan, could come up with nothing more when pressed by Scott Simon on NPR late last year.  Simon, not satisfied with the sound bites Duncan was handing him, pressed on about what Duncan might want his legacy to show.  In the end all Duncan could say was that he hoped that during his tenure graduation rates had gone up.  There is nothing easier than increasing graduation rates.  Just water down the requirements.  That has everything to do with false and deceptive “data” and nothing to do with education.
Things changed for me in March 2012.  That’s when something so egregious happened in my school that it makes the mean-spirited heartlessness described at the beginning of chapter 36 seem like a petty crime.  I took it upon myself to see that justice was done in this case and that meant making certain demands of the administration.  Since this case is still pending, I cannot speak of it directly other than to say that my principal threatened to fire me at a meeting in his office with his A.P. as a witness on May 1, 2012.  The next day, May 2, he threatened to sue me for slander if I discussed this incident.
I have no interest in slandering or libeling anyone.  I do have an obligation to protect the students in my care from gross violations of their rights and other injustices whether perpetrated by other students or adults.  This is what I have been attempting to do since last March, 2012.
When I has handed a document filled with fantasies, gross inaccuracies, distortions and misrepresentations so outrageous that if they’re not outright lies, we need a new word in the language to describe them, I decided to start naming names - a few at least.  Since this document was used to evaluate my performance, I felt obligated to present this document to the public.  This I did in chapter 35.  For the first time I named the principal and the assistant principal in question.  I was careful to edit out the names of the “real” students, if indeed that observation document can be said to have anything at all to do with the class it purports to evaluate.  I edited out all names other than that of the principal and assistant principal who did the observation / evaluation.  I left in the names of fictional students whom I am supposed to have addressed during that class.  The name of my principal is easily discovered.  Since there are 3 assistant principals at the school, however, it may not have been clear which one I was talking about if I had not named her.  One would have to somehow make the illogical assumption that a former math teacher is supervising English teachers.
Did I go too far in naming names?  The 2 chapters of this blog in question (35 and 36) are the documents that I wrote specifically to be inserted into my official DOE file.  The assistant principal’s observation report of Dec. 7, 2012 – linked to chap. 35 – too, is officially in my DOE file.  All three documents are in my DOE file and therefore part of the public record.  At least, as far as I’m concerned, they are part of the public record.
I’m a teacher, not a lawyer.  I don’t know the legalities of making DOE files public.  I don’t know the legalities of using names of real people in a personal blog meant for nothing more than to generate discussion about education, which is what blogs are.  By putting the link to my blog in the documents that I submitted for my DOE file, I have inserted the entire blog into my file.  At least, that was my intention.  I don’t know what the lawyers and politicians might have to say about that.  It would depend on their agendas.
I have no doubt that the agenda of my administration is to award me a “U” rating at the end of the year.  It will have nothing at all to do with my teaching, everything to do with the act they committed last year and which they are still hoping to cover up.  In order to claim that I was “unsatisfactory” at the end of the year, they have to create a paper trail.  Unfortunately for them, the paper trail they’ve created is as flimsy and fabricated as a scuffed three-dollar bill printed on Kleenex.  The Dec. 7, 2012 observation report – see link in chap. 35 – that they are attempting to use as evidence that my teaching on Oct. 16, 2012 was “unsatisfactory” would be laughable if the stakes weren’t so high - my reputation and career as a teacher.
          My primary agenda is to expose some of the absurdities of the Bloomberg reform schools.  One of those is creating small schools with only 2 or 3 assistant principals so that math people are supervising subjects out of their expertise.  Another absurdity is the fact that many of these small schools have so little to offer the high-performing students that by senior year those kids have nothing to do.  About 2 weeks ago (Jan. 2013) a senior noticed that I was showing Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid” to a class.  She entered the room, sat down and watched.
“Nothing to do?” I asked.
“No,” she said.  “Why isn’t there a film class?”
“Good question,” I said.
In fact, there are no electives at all in my school.  Since 1 or 2 electives are required, however, the senior classes in government and economics are designated “elective” even though all seniors have to take them.  I suppose this enables the school to skirt with semantics some legal technicality.
As for naming names, maybe this has also become an "agenda" for me.  I suppose if a lawyer tells me to take the names out, I’ll have no choice.  I don’t want to jeopardize my larger goal of rectifying that gross injustice perpetuated during last school year (2011-12), the one mentioned in the 4th paragraph of this chapter above.  Perhaps I’ve said too much at this point although I think it is clear to those who did the dirty deed that that has been my purpose all along.
How public are the public schools?  How public should they be?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Chapter 36: English by Numbers

Chapter 36: Division by Zero

Response to Jan. 10, 2013 Meeting with Clarke / X – FOR DOE FILE #xxxxxx

Date:            Jan. 10, 2013; 6th period
Place:           Clarke’s office, B47, Taft / JLHS
Present:        David Haverstock, ELA Teacher
                    Erica Clarke, A.P. of Instruction
                    Ms. X, A.P. of Special Ed.; A.P. of Security
                     Ms. Y, Clarke’s secretary (at desk by door)
Re:              “Pre-observation” meeting (as described in the letter sent from Clarke)

To:               A.P. Clarke

As requested, I attended the meeting with A.P. Clarke in her office as described above.  Unexpectedly, A.P. X was also present. [1]  The purported purpose of this meeting was a “pre-observation” meeting, as described in the letter handed to me by Ms. Clarke’s secretary, Ms. Y, during 4th period on Jan. 8, 2013.  As per her custom with all teachers, Ms. Clarke had her secretary interrupt my class (room 115) in order to hand me the envelope containing this letter rather than simply putting it into my mailbox.  After all it wasn’t a subpoena.  At the very least, she might have handed it to me outside of class.
This behavior is reminiscent of Ms. Clarke’s treatment of a probationary teacher in June of 2005.  Ms. Clarke herself interrupted that teacher’s class with an end-of-year rating form that rated that teacher “unsatisfactory” and recommended “termination”.  Ms. Clarke demanded that the teacher sign the form there in front of her students, which caused that teacher to break down right there in the classroom and begin to sob.  When I entered that very classroom the following period, I found many students in tears over this incident. [2]  As I was consoling the weeping children, Ms. Clarke entered the room again and provided them with an encore, this time in my name.
This behavior, at best insensitive, at worst malicious and certainly unprofessional, resulted in a petition signed by most of the faculty demanding that disciplinary action be taken toward Ms. Clarke.  As a result of this petition, a meeting took place in the school on Friday, June 17, 2005.  At that meeting the teachers were assured by Mr. Hoxha, principal, that he had told Ms. Clarke that if she ever treated a teacher again the way Ms. Clarke had treated that probationary teacher, Ms. Clarke “would be fired.”  (Those are Principal Hoxha’s words though few in the room believed them.)  Ms. Clarke expressed no remorse for her actions at that meeting.  Unfortunately, Ms. Clarke has not been fired although similar behavior has been in evidence ever since without Mr. Hoxha’s keeping his promise. [3]
Back to the present: although this meeting of Jan. 10, 2013 was described as a “pre-observation” meeting, it was nothing of the kind.  We did not discuss any specific lesson to be taught other than for Ms. Clarke to demand that every lesson I teach be structured according to the “gradual release” model.  When I asked when she might come in to observe me, Ms. Clarke replied that she would not tell me that.  The purpose of this meeting, therefore, was something other than what Ms. Clarke claimed it was. [4]
Ms. Clarke demanded that every lesson I teach be a “gradual release” lesson.  This she had written in her post-observation report dated Dec. 7, 2012 (which see in this file along with my response).  As I informed her, the lesson she had observed had been structured according to the gradual release model, though she could not recognize that because the “I” part of the model had been done in September while the “you” part would not be done until the following January or February.  Ms. Clarke observed the “we” stage of the model but could not recognize it as such.  As is commonly understood by educators but not by Ms. Clarke, “[The gradual release model] will look different in each lesson depending on the lesson and your students.” [5]  This is but one example of Ms. Clarke’s misunderstanding of my lesson, both unwitting and deliberate.   It is “unwitting” because Ms. Clarke is a former math teacher with no expertise in the teaching of English and unaware that math, English and social studies for that matter require different teaching methods.  For these reasons Ms. Clarke should not be in a position to observe and evaluate English or social studies teachers.  It is “deliberate” because, as I said, the purpose of this meeting, whatever it was, had nothing to do with teaching a lesson of any sort.
Therefore, Ms. Clarke demanded that I stop using the gradual release model and instead use the gradual release model.  This is the tenor of many conversations with Ms. Clarke.  As I said in my blog, “One monkey with one typewriter could make more sense.”  See chapter 34. [6]
Is it impossible or simply nonsense, I ask rhetorically, to replace what you’re doing with what you’re doing? [7]  I’ll call it impossible for now.  It is equally impossible to write a formulaic “gradual release” lesson plan for each day of the week.  Many lessons take more than a single day.  It takes on average 2 – 3 days simply for low-level 9th grade students to read one of the selections in the Pearson / Prentice Hall anthology.  Not only will the “gradual release” model look different from class to class, teacher to teacher, subject to subject, it is not always appropriate for a given lesson.  This is another thing well understood by educators but which eludes Ms. Clarke’s ability to apprehend.
It is equally impossible to write a formulaic “gradual release” lesson plan for every exercise suggested by Pearson, including vocabulary study, literary analysis of poetry, creative writing, reading with purpose, reading strategies, responding to an “essential question”, open discussion, etc.  At the post-observation meeting, which took place on Dec. 7, 2012 for the lesson observed almost 2 months earlier on Oct. 16, 2012, I was instructed by Ms. Clarke to use nothing but Pearson materials in my classes.  I was even instructed to say nothing other than what is outlined in the margins of the teacher’s edition.  This is as absurd as it is impossible.
The gradual release model is best suited for teaching a skill.  The teacher models the skill as students watch.  The teacher then models again with students imitating.  The teacher then watches as students attempt to replicate the skill.  In the end students are expected to demonstrate mastery of the skill on their own.  This is now called the “gradual release” model but math was taught in this exact way when I was in high school in the 1960s.  It’s nothing new.  The gradual release method is best suited for teaching math skills.  In fact, it is difficult to teach a math skill to a group of students without using the “gradual release” model.  Obviously, the expert first demonstrates the skill and then helps the students imitate it until they can do it by themselves.  I guess university education departments have to keep changing the names of things in order to justify themselves or pretend they’ve come up with something new.
There are certain ELA skills, of course, that lend themselves to this format in an English class, such as writing the introduction to an expository essay, which usually takes more than one day for 9th grade students, or using the text to support answers to multiple choice questions, which occurs only over time and which I was modeling in the “we” stage when I was observed by Ms. Clarke on Oct. 16, 2012.  This format, however, is not appropriate for content courses, which English often is and which history and social studies are almost exclusively.  It is not only impossible, therefore, to write the “gradual release” lessons for English classes as instructed by Ms. Clarke in this Jan. 10, 2013 meeting, it is also inappropriate.
In essence, I have been told to teach English as if it were math.  I have been told this by a former math teacher who has not been in the classroom in more than a decade.  I am an English teacher supervised by a former math teacher who has little knowledge and less understanding of how English is taught.
Therefore, although I was instructed by A.P. Clarke (at the Jan. 10, 2013 meeting to which this is a response and with Ms. X as a witness) to submit 5 “gradual release” model lessons for the week of Jan. 14 – 18, 2013, I submit no such plans.  I cannot do the impossible.  It would also be irresponsible for me as an English teacher to subject my ELA students to lessons twisted into a form that might make sense if I were teaching 5 separate math skills, which is never done within a five-day period either.
If this is insubordination, Ms. Clarke, then I suggest that you charge me now with 5 counts, Monday through Friday, so that I can get a hearing on this subject beyond you and your principal, Mr. Hoxha.  Your incompetence at JLHS must be exposed.  I have no doubt that anyone with even the slightest knowledge of how to teach English will acknowledge the value of the lesson you observed and rated “unsatisfactory”.  For that reason I attached examples of student work to my response to your absurd document, the one where you have me addressing students who don’t even exist (see chapter 35 of my blog). [8]  Although you had this student work in your possession, Ms. Clarke, you failed to include it with your lengthy post-observation document.  The reason for this failure is obvious.  The quality of the work done by the “real” students during that lesson is unmistakable and exposes the fact that you rated that lesson “unsatisfactory” for reasons having nothing to do with the lesson itself.
I also have no doubt that anyone with even the slightest knowledge of how to teach English will view your demands as both impossible and nonsensical. [9]  Once upon a time there was a school system in which experts in their fields led their departments.  I fondly recall a time when a person with experience and expertise in the teaching of English was head of the English department and in a position to evaluate, assist and guide English teachers in doing their jobs.  In the era of the small Bloomberg reform school, however, such responsible educational practice has been flushed down the toilet.  We now have supervisors supervising subjects foreign to them.  This is as much a disservice to the teachers as it is to the students.  It is a phenomenal waste of talent, time and taxpayer’s money.

(signed)  ______________________                (date)  _______________
                  Walter David Haverstock

Cc:      Mr. Hoxha, Principal
            Ms. X, A.P. of Securty and Special Ed. / witness
            UFT Chapter Leader
            UFT Chapter Delegate

Notes made by me during / just after meeting:

Jan. 10, 2013
Clarke, X present in B47 6th period
1.     Lesson plan
a.      Gradual release
b.     Weekly
2.     I tell them that Clarke observed the gradual release but didn’t know it
3.     I tell them that I showed her write up to the CUNY and she said it was as ridiculous as I said
4.     Said I can’t change to gradual release when it already is the gradual release
5.     Clarke asked to see today’s lesson – B50B 1/8/13 – cause & effect
a.      Clarke wants to see the gradual release in the lesson
b.     I show her lesson, explain the gradual release; Clarke is unable to see it because it is slightly different from teacher manual
c.      Clarke says teacher manual is a “guideline”
d.     I say that I used it as a guideline – it is there in my aim, etc.
e.      Gradual release meant for math
f.      Clarke demands a week of lessons all showing gradual release – not possible
6.     Give her my response for file
7.     Gift old text book to a kid with a Prentice Hall book receipt
a.      Hand out new version of Prentice Hall book receipt
b.     Return book receipts to Clarke
8.     Showed parent log; discussed [student name]
9.     Change grading policy in grade book – I complain about having to use the same grading police as math and other departments; X insists that it is the school policy
10.   I ask Clarke to tell me which class she will observe – Clarke says she won’t tell me
11.   Email grade book and lesson plan for week
12.   Gave in goals – when Clarke began to tell me that they were not as she had requested, I interrupted her and said that I wouldn’t change them because they were my goals, not hers/theirs: “I will not argue with you,” Clarke replied immediately, parroting someone’s instructions.

[1] Ms. Clarke claimed that Ms. X was present because Ms. X would be taking over Ms. Clarke’s duties during an upcoming medical leave of absence.  However, on Fri., Dec. 14, 2012 I met with Ms. Clarke in Mr. Z’s office with Mr. Z present.  At that time and in the presence of Ms. A, union delegate, Ms. Clarke claimed that Mr. Z would be taking over her duties during this medical leave of absence.
[2] Many of those students, incidentally, thought that this young woman was an excellent math teacher.
[3] One might wonder if this isn’t harassment but I am only writing here an objective, low-inference and non-judgmental description of events that I have personally observed.
[4] Ibid.
[7] Note that Word underlines this last “doing”.  Word considers it nonsense, which, of course it is.
[8] One might think that an administrator would do some basic fact checking before submitting such shoddy work for the record.  A competent administrator, of course, would do that.  A competent administrator would be aware that there is no “Daisy” or “Diane” in her school.
[9] Again, one might suggest that all of this is harassment but I will restrict my comments to objective observations made by me personally and leave the value judgments to those meant to make such judgments at a future date, at which time I will submit exhaustive “data”.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Chapter 35: Observing the Observer

Chapter 35:  Unsatisfactory

Response to “U” Observation
Jonathan Levin H.S. for Media and Communications (09x414)

Pre-observation date:            Sept. 13, 2012
Observation Date:                 Oct. 16, 2012
Post-observation date:          Dec. 7, 2012

Principal:                           Nasib Hoxha
Assistant Principal:            Erica Clarke
Teacher:                             David Haverstock

A negative times a negative equals a positive.
I was observed by A.P. Clarke while teaching a 9th grade English class in room B50A on Oct. 16, 2012.  I remember that she entered the room with her computer, sat in the back and spent most of the period typing furiously.  What I don’t remember is saying what she typed almost immediately in line 3 of her “transcript” (appended below with the names of “real” students removed):

T            All right, Daisy, look up.

Since there was no one named Daisy in this class – or in the school, for that matter – I surely would remember if I’d called on this imaginary student.  Perhaps Ms. Clarke simply typed the wrong name or misheard the name.  We all make mistakes.  However in line 9 she claims that I said:

T            Excuse me, Diane [FS4] please take your hat off? {sic}

Again, there was no “Diane” in that class and I know of none in the school although, according to line 10 of the transcript, Diane took off her hat.  Again, let’s give Ms. Clarke the benefit of the doubt.  Perhaps she just misunderstood the name.   But then how do you explain line 54 of this transcript?

T            Everybody page 29.  John page 29.

No Daisy, no Diane, no John – three’s not always a charm. [1]  As I said, I remember that Ms. Clarke was in B50A that day.  I remember that she was typing away on her computer.  What she was typing, however, I never saw.  Maybe she was writing to her pen pal.  Maybe she was composing a sonnet.  Maybe she was tweeting something about Diane or Daisy.  Maybe she was trying to compose the complete works of Shakespeare on only one typewriter.  I don’t know what she was typing but maybe Ms. Clarke forgot what room she was in and was thinking of some other class, one where there might have been a John or a Diane.  Or maybe she attached the wrong transcript to my observation report.

[Click here if you can't believe this and figure that I must have ripped it from the pages of "The Onion": Observation Report - it's on page 2.]

A negative times a negative equals a positive.
If this were a court of law, I’d need go no further.  The witness would be excused, her hearsay testimony ruled inadmissible.  The jury would be instructed to ignore Ms. Clarke’s comments or more likely the judge would simply dismiss the case.  The defendant (me) would have his cuffs removed and walk out of the building a free man.  Unfortunately, the DOE doesn’t adhere to rules of order or even common sense.  Therefore Ms. Clarke was able to conclude, based on this faulty, specious document:

“The teaching I observed on Oct. 16, 2012 was unsatisfactory.”  (p. 6 below)

Ms. Clarke, the observation I observed on Oct. 16, 2012 was UNSATISFACTORY.
If identifying no less than 3 imaginary students isn’t enough to disqualify this “observation” as inaccurate, inadmissible and unfit to be used as any sort of evaluation tool, there are many other grounds for the impeachment of this “observation”.  I’ll begin with the time sequence.  The “pre-observation” took place more than a month before the “observation”.  The post-observation meeting took place almost 2 months after the “observation”.  Allowing such a length of time to elapse between the initial meeting and the observation defeats the purpose of the pre-observation meeting, which is meant to be a coordinated attempt to refine a teaching method or strategy.  Allowing such a length of time to elapse between the observation and the follow-up meeting renders serious discussion of the lesson impossible, particularly given the faulty nature of the alleged transcript.
This “pre-observation” was no such thing.  As admitted on page 1 of Ms. Clarke’s report below, that meeting concerned administrative and logistical details such as setting up a grade book, professional goals, accessing Prentice Hall on line, setting forth classroom rules and so forth.  Nothing was said about the lesson to be observed.
Clearly this process had nothing at all to do with teaching a lesson, which is the purpose of the entire observation process.  Teaching a lesson was never discussed and has never been discussed at any of these bogus “pre-observation” meetings in the 8 ½ years that I’ve been a teacher at Jonathan Levin H.S.
What, then, was the purpose of this “pre-observation” meeting?  I can only speculate.  Maybe it was just to remind us that she or she together with the principal (as has mostly been done in the past) would be popping in one of these days.  In fact, Ms. Clarke popped into room 115 where I was teaching on Sept. 24, 2012 and stayed from 10:50 a.m. until 11:15 a.m.   This was not an “observation”, I guess.  Later the same day she popped into room 117 where I was teaching with Desiree Anderson and stayed from 2:20 p.m. until 2:27 p.m.  As she left, she asked for my lesson plan for the earlier class in 115, which I emailed to her the next morning.  On Oct. 10, 2012 Ms. Clarke entered room B50B where I was teaching and stayed from 2:40 p.m. until 2:50 p.m.  Again she asked for my lesson plan, which I emailed the next day, but neither was this an “official” observation.  I wonder if she saw Diane or Daisy in any of these rooms.

A negative times a negative equals a positive.
Pages 8 and 9 of the “observation” report concern the newly in vogue “gradual release” model, formerly called “scaffolding” and other pedantic terms.  In the 2nd recommendation on page 6 of the report she mentions this “gradual release” model and says, “I recommend you go to this link, again review this method of instruction and use it to plan, write and implement your lessons.”  (Last sentence)
As I tried to point out to Ms. Clarke during that Dec. 7 meeting, what she would have seen in the class if she had looked up from her typewrite or had discussed with me my method of using Prentice Hall Multiple Choice (MC) tests as a teaching tool to teach “text dependent writing” (another newly in vogue term), she might have realized that she was watching (if not observing) the gradual release model in action.  The 9th grade students I’ve taught at JLHS have not been in the habit of proving the answers they choose on MC tests.  I teach them to use the text for quotations and textbook for explanations so that they can explain why a correct answer is correct and an incorrect answer is wrong.  I insist that they write these explanations and quotations directly on the test paper – see examples here:

Student work.

[The student work at this link are the tests that the students were working on when A.P. Clarke observed their class in B50A.   These were done not by imaginary students Daisy, Diane and John  but by real students Stephanie, Laura and Christopher.]
At that Dec. 7th meeting Ms. Clarke said that students were to circle answers on tests and NOTHING MORE.  I am not to ask them to explain or prove their answers.  As I wrote previously, this amounts to using the test to gather data rather than to teach students how to study and write using references and sources.  For a more detailed discussion of this aspect of this unsatisfactory observation see chapter 34 of my memoir at “Teaching to the Data”.
Though she didn’t know it, Ms. Clarke was observing the very gradual release model she is recommending that I use.  Maybe Diane or John could have explained that to her.
This was the gradual release model in action but in long-term action.  My goal is for students to take these tests individually by the end of the semester.  But since they are used to just circling answers on MC test, I first have to “show” them how I want these tests done.  Therefore I begin by “modeling” for the entire class.  Once they see what I am asking them to do, I put them into groups and they do the next 2 or 3 tests in that way.  I was at that point of the “gradual release” by the time this Dec. 7th meeting rolled around.  Finally when I have observed them working well in groups, I ask them to take the tests individually.  By that time I want them all to be able to go into the text and use detail to support their answers for MC or any other kind of question.
Of course, one would have to observe the class taking one of these tests for the first time and then again for the 4th time and then again for about the 8th time in order to see this particular form of “gradual” release over the course of the semester.  More importantly, one would have to value the concept of using tests as teaching tools rather than as data management.
Therefore, as for the 2nd paragraph of the recommendation in this report (p. 6), I submit that not only do I frequently utilize the “gradual release” model in planning both long-term and short-term activities, I also submit that Ms. Clarke actually observed it in that classroom on Oct.16 but did not recognize it.  Had there been a proper pre-observation meeting, I could have outlined my use of the gradual release model for the purpose of teaching text-dependent writing and which stage of that process she would be observing.

A negative times a negative equals a positive.
The last 2 lines of Ms. Clarke’s ridiculous transcript have me attending to attendance.  In line 198 I (or perhaps MS2) allegedly asked a student to add “attendance data” to the chart that is kept on the wall of every classroom.  JLHS teachers have been mandated to spend a few minutes of every class putting up the number of students present, the percent present and a goal for the next day’s attendance, which surpringly isn’t necessarily 100% because 100% would not be a “SMART” goal.  (Since the SMART “r” stands for realistic, it is acceptable to set a goal below the ideal.)  We are supposed to talk about this each day with the students who are present, i.e., preach to the choir about attendance.  If five minutes of each of 8 classes is devoted to this repetitious inanity, 40 minutes of the instructional day is wasted.  That’s nearly a full class period.
The last 2 lines of Ms. Clarke’s “transcript” in which she “observed” attendance related behaviors illustrate the fact that there is no such thing as objective, non-inferential observation.  All observation is subjective.  We’ve been told that these “objective”, “low-inference” transcripts are not to be used for the purposes of evaluation.  We’ve had professional development classes in which we are told to do this very thing – write down what we see and hear – but then not to make any evaluative inferences from it.  As I said in chapter 34, however (which see), “… the only one who can truly observe objectively and non-judgmentally is the monkey who composed Hamlet.”
However, since Ms. Clarke has gone against protocol and used this as part of her unsatisfactory “observation” of my “unsatisfactory” lesson, I would like to draw my own inference from her last 2 lines, which read (p. 5):

MS2 198 Walked over to a student and asked him to add the attendance data to the board

         199 [moved the screen and wrote the attendance data then covered it back up with the projector screen.] {sic}

Note: Ms. Clarke has “MS2” walking to a student and asking him to add attendance data to the board.  Again after so many months I don’t remember how this happened, but it is highly unlikely that a student performed this act.
This “objective description” greatly distorts what actually happened.  Although it is not clear who actually performs this act, the reader might logically draw the inference that the student “MS2” in the previous line is the perp.  The distortion creeps in through the words “covered it back up”.  I don’t remember this specifically months after the alleged event, but if it happened, the student did no such thing.  In room B50A where this “observation” took place, when pulled down, the screen conceals the attendance chart.  I and many other teachers routinely project our lessons onto this screen.  That is what it is there for.  The screen was down for the entire class.  If the student did write something on the attendance chart, he would have had to pull back the screen to do that.  Allowing the screen to fall back into place in no way covers up anything at all.  The “observer’s” bias is clearly evident in her choice of words.  She wanted to fabricate evidence that I was not following school policy on discussion of attendance during class, suggesting that the data was “covered … up”.  While it is true that I consider this attention to attendance a waste of precious classroom time, I certainly didn’t and don’t attempt to cover it up.  In fact, I publish this in order to expose this ludicrous policy.

A negative times a negative equals a positive.
I could point out many such distortions in this alleged transcription of my classroom.  But why waste time on such an inaccurate, incoherent document that is nothing more than hearsay anyway?  I would like to make one or two final points, however, about the first paragraph of the “recommendations” (p. 6).  I refer to the 2nd and 3rd lines of this paragraph:

“Your aim, ‘How do I use text to support MC answers?’ suggested you would address questions with multiple responses, however {sic} none of the questions you addressed had more than one correct answer.”

Ms. Clarke spent the first 10 minutes or so of that Dec. 7th meeting trying to explain to me what she meant by this statement.  I never got it.  While holding the Prentice Hall test in her hand, she asked me if I were giving a test or a survey.  Surveys, she explained, can have multiple answers.  It was then that I realized that I ought to have been using the “gradual release” model during this meeting.  Evidently after spending 45 minutes observing students working on a standard multiple choice test, a test that had the heading “Selection Test” stamped clearly at the top, Ms. Clarke was unable to determine if the students were working on a test or a survey.  No student, however, asked if they were working on a survey.  They all knew that the test was a test.
Finally, as if to confirm my charge that I have been directed to use tests not for teaching but for data gathering, Ms. Clarke includes in this same paragraph the Pearson chart that purports to describe what each question is supposed to reveal about the test taker:

Questions 1,3, 4            Literary Analysis
Questions 2, 9, 11            Interpretation
Questions 5, 7, 8            Comprehension
Questions 6, 10            “Reading” [2]
Questions 12, 13            Vocabulary           
Questions 14, 15            Grammar           

I was directed never to ask students to use the text to support their answers to MC questions.  I was directed to use this chart to gather data on which questions were answered correctly or incorrectly by each student.  How well a student reads therefore is not as important as the statistics derived from tests.

A negative times a negative equals a positive.
In the current Bloomberg-esque, data driven corporate mentality in which education is an industry and students merely “product”, there is a move to evaluate teachers based on “data”, a euphemism for meaningless statistics.  Michael Mulgrew and the UFT in New York City are rightly contesting this mindless pretension that teaching is akin to manufacturing.  Education is social interaction at a very intimate level.  It cannot be depicted by graduation rates, test scores or any other data.
Therefore, in spite of the fact that I have been rated “unsatisfactory” by an administrator, I nevertheless believe that the only way to evaluate teachers is for administrators to make admittedly very subjective evaluations based primarily on the social interaction in the classroom, the relevance of the lesson presented and on the attempt to reach the students at a level on which they can receive it rather than on statistics.  An honest, competent administrator should be in a position to know his/her students, know what they need and evaluate the performance of a teacher based on the needs of that population.  The needs of any group of students vary drastically from neighborhood to neighborhood, school to school, even classroom to classroom.  Just as you cannot take the human aspect out of teaching, neither can you take it out of administrating.  Administrators who merely parrot the latest fashions in education will overlook or even ignore the reality before them.  This is what teachers are now up against.

A negative times a negative equals a positive.
An unsatisfactory observation that rates a lesson “unsatisfactory” = an excellent lesson.

I’m tempted to sign my name “Franz Kafka” but must resist that urge.

NOTE: This blog contains an excerpt of the entire book.

[1] I have attached the class roster to the copy of this response going to my official DOE file.  However, I withhold the names of what might have been “real” students for the purposes of this blog – though I feel free to name the imaginary ones.
[2] Stop laughing and look at the document below.  It really says “reading”!  Obviously every question is a reading question.