Sunday, October 29, 2006


The following appeared in the PIS a week ago.

"There is a question that I would like to throw out. Do we need four computer rooms? One model would be to distribute the computers to the classrooms of teachers who use technology as essential part of their teaching and use some of the rooms as generic classrooms. Don’t forget we are now a wireless school and will continue to purchase rolling labs with 32 laptops. Perhaps Walter could post a paragraph on his blog designed to elicit teacher responses to this question. Maybe I’m wrong – maybe we do need all four labs."

Please post your suggestions !

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Who's Failing?

I am so confused with the Saturday and after-school programs being offered in our school? I think it is great addressing the problems of students deficient in credits but I am truely concerned. Why did we get rid of the opportunity of a traditional “night school”?

Two seniors, one from Montessori and one from Emerson approached me as to how they could make up credits from their freshmen year? I pointed them to the teachers with whom they originally took the course; they said the teachers want nothing to do with them. My suggestion was to them let them benefit from the after-school/ Saturday program however I was not sure if this was right.

In October 20th's NY Times article "Study takes a Sharp Look at City's Failing Students" Gottman clearly states we are on the right track as to how to dissuade students from dropping out of High School, but from the voices of the students I don’t know if we are really ready to deal with new route to academic success.

Are we prepared to award credit to previously unsuccessful students? Who gets the second, third, and fourth chances? Who are we to say no? Are we the gate keepers to accreditation?

Now that we have them staying in school whats next?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

$1.2 Million, Well Spent?

Today in class we discussed the city’s decision to allocate $1.2 million to our 10th and 11th graders with their most popular product the PSAT. After reading the article, Bloomberg Unveils a Plan to Encourage City Students to Take the PSAT, students were then asked a series of question:

1. Why are schools so interested in PSAT exams?
2. Who benefits from PSAT exams?
3. Is the “College Board” profiteering?
4. What affect will this exam have on the sophomore class?
5. Why did the author add the last line to the article?
6. What will school do with the results?
7. Are we as a society ready to let the “College Board” assess our 10th grades?
8. Who pays for the proctors, the non-test taking students, and the counseling of the students who received poor results?
9. Is it a NYC High School’s responsibility to provide prep classes for the “College Board” exams?
10. How might the $1.2 million dollars a year of public school funding be better spent than the PSAT exams.

Please read their comments below. Anything anyone (student/teacher/parent/Jonathan Kozol) can add will be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


The following quoted directly from our UFT blog:

"After my first year at the QHST, I considered the idea of taking a sabbatical. I had hoped to study the educational system in Germany and perhaps incorporate their best teaching practices into my pedagogy. When I brought this plan to the administration, I was asked to reconsider this idea because any kind of leave essentially ignored one of the primary foundations of the QHST: building community between the teachers and the students. It was a convincing argument, and so I deferred my foreign studies.

In this week’s Principal Information Sheet, Mr. Pugh states that we agree on many points, and indeed I do agree that building community is vital to our students’ success. It is for this reason that I categorically disagree with the idea that “attrition is a good thing.” When we lose talented staff members, it is the students who lose. In addition, stating that attrition is desirable allows us to circumvent the reasons that teachers may be dissatisfied and occludes ways to search for solutions that could make the QHST a better place to work.

We did, however, agree that when teachers work, they should get paid. When I was informed that teachers were being encouraged to design PD workshops for November 2, I asked Mr. Pugh if the teachers would be compensated for preparing workshops. I know that in the past, compensation for these kinds of workshops has been rather inconsistent. He agreed that they should get paid for their time. If you have a workshop that you would like to present, see Mr. Pugh so that he can approve your idea before you spend time developing the idea.

In addition, the comment in the PIS regarding paraprofessionals and their feelings of exclusion shows that the UFT and the administration can work together to create a dialogue that will address the staff’s concerns. I also wanted to remind the paraprofessionals that Kathleen Grantz represents the paraprofessionals and will bring your concerns to the consultative meetings with Mr. Pugh. Also be advised that paraprofessionals are not mandated to attend the 40-minute meetings which are traditionally scheduled for two Mondays per month. They may attend, but it would be strictly voluntary.

And lastly, a bit of levity. It was stated in the PIS that I will be running a PTA meeting sometime in November. When I read that I thought that adding that demand to my considerable workload would surely cause me to look for a teaching position elsewhere, thereby adding to the attrition rate for 2008. But Mr. Pugh reassured me that it was an error; I have scheduled a UFT meeting on November 2, at the end of the day.



Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Veterans for Peace

Today in class we were honored to have to members of the Veterans for Peace organization join us about their experience in the military. Ms Groebner contacted the non-partisan speakers to share their experiences and choices they made during the 1960’s while the country was recruiting soldiers during our armed conflict in Vietnam.

Their message was simple. They cautioned our graduating seniors against the dangers of racism that had been instilled in them during basic training and spoke about the danger of not having an action plan after graduation from high school.

Impressed by the positive culture that exudes from each student and faculty member as you walk through the halls of the building, Dayl Wise (Speaker) said, “I arrived here early and I was totally impressed, not only with the school’s physical environment, but with the attitude of the student body... you can tell that there is something special going on here.” Dayl has spoke at numerous high schools throughout the country and clearly has a solid basis for comparison.

Ms. Grantz, Mr. Shatz, Mr. Eddelson, Mr. Brown, and Ms, Groebner would like to extend a warm thanks to Dayl Wise and Jim Murphy for coming to our school and sharing their experiences with a (Montessori and Friere) Participation in Government class. I personally would like to thank Ruth for once agian providing such a rich educational environment in my classroom.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Why do students destroy the computer labs?

I am sickened by the lack of stewardship in the common areas of our building in particular the computer labs. “The lab” was designed poorly; the screens hide the faces of the users making anonymity a rampant cover for all distracted behavior. I myself have resolved to limit any use of the room to allowing no more than four kids at a time enter the room with clear intent and time limit.

The concept of a computer lab is outdated. Technology needs to seamlessly flow uninterrupted lest its use becomes the distraction. Teachers creating lessons saying, “ I want the kids to use computers,” ought to rethink their motives. Imagine how silly a teacher would sound stating, “I want them to use paper.” Of course students will incorporate technology but only when its necessar, not mandated.

Why the destruction?

Maybe it’s because of a Marxism class I took in Grad School at St. John’s University that I feel this way, but it seems students feel alienated from the technology in our building. The computers are not theirs. It is not their world. The network does not allow personalization. (Changing the background) The printers in “the labs” do not work. Students cannot receive or send email without using an filter avoiding proxy website.

Students realize the computers are not theirs, they see them as a tool teachers use to waste their time. There is a dichotomy setup from the get go…there is “class time” and “computer lab time.” Setting up this barrier, which is reinforced by inexperienced (or over experienced) teachers unable to successfully blend technology into their lessons is a reciepe for disaster.

How do we avoid the destruction?

Teachers need to facilitate the lessons. Sending students into the labs to “do their projects” is not enough guidance. A teacher that asks the students, “What are you looking for? How are you going to find it on the web? What keywords do you need to type?” and then follows up with a question like, “Did you find what you are looking for? What are you going to do with that information now?” Teachers that cannot master the technology themselves should not bring students into the computer lab. I feel that I have a grasp on the computer technology available to us in the school, but I feel uncomfortable taking and entire class into “the lab”. I am aware of my limitations, and know that I would be unable to monitor the room the way it needs to be, especially the absurd design of the lab the way it currently is currently laid out.

YES students need to respect the property, but to the same extent teachers too must respect the students enough to acknowledge that the students are going to know when the teachers are just taking up time in the lab with them.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Guns in SLCs???

Like everyone else in America I was appalled by the school shooting in Lancaster, PA. However to think this is some sort of epidemic, and the need for drastic measures now must be taken is a little ridiculous. The recent incidents are not "violence in schools" related, but rather the acts of depraved media grabbing suicidal morons invading the sanctity of our schools. Schools are not less safe however society may be.

The recent violent events in schools should not be confused with "school violence".

"I don't suggest [arming teachers] is the only answer or the silver bullet to solve all our school violence problems," Lasee said. "But it's part of the puzzle of making our schools a safer place for our children."

As for Rep Frank Lasee of Wisconsin, he has obviously never sat in on an SLC (faculty) meeting when the issues of comp time, the sequence of history classes, pizza during advisory, or alpha vs. numeric grades has been an issue. I do not want my colleagues to carry weapons. I know I'm safer because they do not.
Watch a heated partisan debate over the issue here if your filter allows .

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Results are In

Bleow is a reprint of the Newsletter that was published on our UFT Blog yesterday. Please feel free to comment here.

Results from the questionnaire.

1. I think more common planning between communities would improve the experience of teachers and students.

Strongly Agree= 13 Agree= 5 Disagree= 6 Strongly Disagree= 30

2. I believe that Advisory is worthwhile, particularly the way it is presently structured. Strongly Agree= 32 Agree= 10 Disagree= 6 Strongly Disagree= 3

3. Though DEAR / Advisory is not considered a prep, I often spend a great deal of time working on activities.
Strongly Agree= 15 Agree= 6 Disagree= 2 Strongly Disagree= 28

4. I feel that in many cases distributive leadership is a myth and that decisions are made without considering the opinions of the staff.

Strongly Agree= 13 Agree= 6 Disagree= 4 Strongly Disagree= 29

5. I would prefer not to have students come into my class as teaching assistants to simply fill gaps in their programs.
Strongly Agree= 13 Agree= 7 Disagree= 3 Strongly Disagree= 28

6. I often feel that students have too much power, and teachers do not have enough power.
Strongly Agree= 8 Agree= 7 Disagree= 9 Strongly Disagree= 28

7. I wish I had more support from the administration.

Strongly Agree= 8 Agree= 8 Disagree= 7 Strongly Disagree= 28

8. I feel that this non-traditional approach does not prepare students for college-level work.
Strongly Agree= 9 Agree= 10 Disagree= 3 Strongly Disagree= 27

9. The administration is very sensitive to the daily struggles that teachers face.
Strongly Agree= 27 Agree= 7 Disagree= 8 Strongly Disagree= 7

10. Generally speaking, the workload at the QHST is excessive.
Strongly Agree= 12 Agree= 6 Disagree= 6 Strongly Disagree= 25

11. I am pleased with the way the QHST has evolved and taken shape over the past four years.
Strongly Agree= 27 Agree= 10 Disagree= 7 Strongly Disagree= 6

12. There needs to be a more balanced approach between teacher-led instruction and student-centered approaches.

Strongly Agree= 13 Agree= 8 Disagree= 3 Strongly Disagree= 26

13. I wish that the administration was more considerate with my time. Strongly Agree= 9 Agree= 7 Disagree= 5 Strongly Disagree= 27

14. I often wish that the climate at the QHST was more open to dissenting opinions. Strongly Agree= 9 Agree= 7 Disagree= 6 Strongly Disagree= 27

Comments -- These are ALL the comments, and they are taken randomly from the questionnaires. There is
no significance to the order in which they are listed.

1. Main concern is time. Too much is asked of us without being given the time to do it. Remove some of the "extra" things we have to do, to free up time for class-related activities. Do we really
need 3 SLC's per week?

2. Concerns -- a) no more electives, students have holes in programs; therefore, certain sugjects become "repeater classes." b) The separation between communities gives less time to meet within disciplines to plan topics, etc c) No reason for 3 start times -- 1/2 of teachers do not teach first two bands d)Tracking within co-hort level e) single grade advisories. Solutions: a)Cross community classes would allow more opportunities for students to take different electives and fill up programs. b)Split community start times/cross community classes. c) Mix communities co-horts, d) Mixed grade advisory

3. Paraprofessionals are not considered as part of the "staff." We are not included in planning and teaching, and are treated as if we are uneducated and invisible. We are not utilized to the fullest potential.
Solutions: Include us in community meetings and acknowledge us. Assign us to work with several students if we can do so.

4. This is trying to divide the staff and cause problems. We all knew waht we were in for when we signed on. I only answered what I felt was appropriate.

5. I like the idea and philosophy behind small learning communities; however, there are drawbacks to having split schedules. One drawback is the lack of electives available to the students.

6. Although I don't agree 100% with everything done at QHST, why would those that represent us, put out a survey like this. The way the questions are written, it clearly shows a tone that you are dissatisfied with QHST. We all knew QHST philosophy when we were hired and we all agreed to follow it. I am offended by this survey, and I am worried that the writers of this survey will only seed to cause rift -- not solutions -- Disgraceful!!

7. Why aren't the students at QHST given all the same opportunities? Why is the division in this school so black and white?

Concerns: Students safety during "holes" in periods, b) excessive amounts of students in common areas, c) "Project Learn" . . . what is it? d)Why are teachers removed from subject classes and asked/told to teach "Project Learn." Solutions: Create a "curriculum" and rename Project Learn.

9. Due to split schedule, it is impossible to co-plan with other teachers. I am talking about different sciences -- for example all chem or liv. env teachers. I wish we had to SLC's rather than three so that we have more time to prep and grade papers which keep piling up constantly.

10. I am concerned about the changing time of the administration. To me, it seems as though the best interest of the students is put on the back burner. In the past, decisions have been made collectively with the best interest of the students as the primary factor behind every decision. I don't feel as though the priorities are in the right order.
Solutions: Always put the best interest of the students first. Decisions should be made with that first and foremost. Let's go back to distributive leadership.

11. I wish we had a more traditional schedule -- same classes meeting daily. Students would be more prepared. We could build in vocational programs for students with disabilities. How can the Empowerment Zone people tell us we can be flexible with the idea?

12. I am somewhat bewildered by this questionnaire -- Let's use the Union for some real issues when necessary -- not to cuase negative conversation about the foundation of QHST. These questions are very leading and seem to focus on the very culture/basis that the school was founded on! Why question a method of pedagogy if you came here to do the pedagogy expected and of which you knew about ahead of time. Since when can we not do
some teacher-led instruction? Or is it that it is what some teachers would really like do do all the time since it is so much easier to carry off than to create a project that students can really learn from? What are our real issues? Do teachers really need help and maybe won't accept it? Are they reallyh open to professional dialogue, for constructive critiques? I admit that we have a heavy work load, but I had the same at my last school. Opinions that do not always agree with the philosophy of QHST should be heard if they are not a put down but rahter ideas that are for the benefit of our students! Everyone should be heard and I feel are.

13. The 3 separate schedules and start times are detrimental to after-school activities. Students that finish at 2:20 are asked to wait 2 hours to be a part of a club or team. The 3 schedules are totally unnecessary.
Solution: Can 2 communities start at the same time?

Concerns: a) I am concerned that students spend more time in DEAR than they do in their subject-area classes. b) Aren't schools supposed to be for children? Arent they supposed to be educated? What's with TA's, TI's, Service, Project Learn? Where are our priorities? Solutions: Perhaps we can incorporate DEAR into the humanities and extend iehter SS or English to cover th egap during lunches. B) Planning, planning, planning. The idea that students' academic needs come first in a "collge prep school" should be first and foremost in our minds.

And I get the last word . . . . . Thank you all for taking part in the survey and for your enthusiasm, dedication, and your professionalism. I want to end on two points we can all agree on. We do have an extremely talented staff and together we can certainly find the best ways to serve our students.
Also, staff members have voiced their frustration at their inability to post comments on this blog. There are three reasons for this. First, I did not want to create a UFT blog that would make it possible for staff members to criticize other UFT members. That would be antithetical to the idea of the United Federation of Teachers. Secondly, I was afraid that staff members may write statements that might create difficulty with the administration.

Finally, when I created the blog, I thought of it more as an electronic newsletter rather than a message board. Mr. Brown has opened his blog to teachers who would like to make comments about the UFT and this blog. Here is that website: I, too, have contributed comments to his blog.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Death of AP Exams?

How would the Queens High School of Teaching be different with AP exams? Do you think a trend going to be set by the Scarsdale School District of schools abandoning the AP exam? Is this going to make school "better"? Colleges and parents mentioned in the article seem to understand, how can Scarsdale get teachers to buy into this shift in assessment? How does the College Board defend its product?

(Click Here) to read today's NY Times Article.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Fred Flintstone and the DOE

Contrary to what seems to be a popular belief those two machines in the back of most DOE classrooms are learning tools and not just portholes to the evils of the modern world. The city of New York quickly jumped behind the technological curve on Friday by blocking I have personally used this website to bring my students to Egypt, Iraq, and share issues around current events like President Bush’s Speech on 9/11.

I am far from the only person using YouTube to further the education horizon of our students. The Beacon School has held poetry readings online using YouTube , Stuyvesant High School has exhibited robotic fairs online using YouTube and of course the Freshmen writing exhibition at the Queens High School through the Montessori Small Learning Community was just recently posted. (If you are unable to view the above links that’s because the city does not see the educational value)

Ironically the first day YouTube was blocked by the DOE was also the same day that I electronically received “EdUtopia’s spiral notebook blog” where this month’s topic is the value of to the classroom teacher.

Falling off the technology wave now will be something we as educators will not recover from anytime soon. We are setting up a divide between the relevance of the classroom with the outside world. School should be a place where students can learn to safely navigate the world, both real and virtual.

The Filter is bad for education.

If some teachers feel uncomfortable allowing the outside world into their classroom I am not saying they should be thrust into reality with some help, however limiting the valuable resources to Web 2.0 publishing outlets has too many ripple effects.

The city’s internet protection policy:

To protect the public school students from unwarranted Internet websites with content deemed inappropriate, content filtering policies are used at the school level as well as system-wide to prevent against unwarranted Internet websites. To further protect the DOE network’s functionality from unwarranted malicious Internet attacks intrusion detection and monitoring systems are in place for threat mitigation. The latest network security technologies are deployed utilizing secure protocols to further strengthen and eliminate threats against the organization’s network assets.

Who gets to deem websites inappropriate? Once deemed inappropriate how can this be reversed?

The problem is not, blocking it will only force myself as well as others to use or I just feel that teaching my students a way around an internet filter is an extreme waste of a history teacher’s time. I supposed we had problems accepting the use of the ballpoint pen when it was first introduced in 1935.