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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Nicholas Kristof Wins The 2009 Bad Journalism Award

Nicholas D. Kristof

Nicholas D. Kristof is a well-known columnist for the New York Times. He has won several awards for his writing.

Thus, there is no excuse for the misleading article that he wrote and that was published in the New York Times on October 15, 2009 called "Democrats and Schools". In his honor I have thought up a new award, The Bad Journalism Award which is, without ceremony, hereby awarded to Nicholas D. Kristof, columnist at the New York Times, for writing an article about a subject he knows nothing about: "the rubberization in NYC of "incompetent" teachers.

When I read the article below written by Mr. Kristof, I thought of alot of "maybe"s:

(1) maybe Mr. Kristof didn't actually write the article but was so busy on doing other things that he simply cut and pasted it off of Steve Brill's published piece, email or pdf;

(2) maybe Mr. Kristof did not want to write the article as he doesn't know anything about the Bloomberg/Klein teacher rubberization process and didn't have any desire to find out what the NYC Rubber Rooms were really about, but he was told he had to write the article;

(3) maybe Mr. Kristof was told, "take Steve Brill's article and add to it, do not research the validity of what he is saying";

(4) maybe Mr. Kristof was told not to read any comments or articles by anyone on the false information written by Mr. Brill in his article on NYC's worst teachers;

(5) maybe Mr. Kristof does not like research, and simply re-prints someone else's article if the author is "politically correct";

(6) maybe Mr. Kristof is tired of writing and wants to retire.

In sum, I really don't know why Mr. Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times wrote such a piece as the one below, "Democrats and Schools" which is filled with misleading as well as absolutely wrong - if not defamatory - information. Nonetheless, I give him the 2009 Bad Journalism Award.

As I wrote in a previous post, I know all the teachers who were mentioned in Mr. Brill's article. Not a single one is incompetent. Exactly the opposite is true. All are examples of the Bloomberg/Klein administration's policy of allowing Principals to "cleanse" their schools of people they don't like, or who may speak out and reveal crimes being committed in the school by the administration.

However, Mr. Kristof's worst error is his defamatory statement about "the fifth-grade teacher" as follows:
"A devastating article in The New Yorker by Steven Brill examined how New York City tried to dismiss a fifth-grade teacher for failing to correct student work, follow the curriculum, manage the class or even fill out report cards..."

Mr. Kristof, you repeat the same lies that Mr. Brill published without knowing whether or not this teacher was "guilty" of anything other than grieving the racial/religious discrimination against her by the Principal! Shame on you.

And then you attribute to the arbitrator (Mr. Jay Siegel) a conclusion that has not been reached, due to the fact that there has not yet been closing arguments in this case. Your comment:

"...but an independent observer approved by the union confirmed the allegations and declared the teacher incompetent. The school system’s lawyer put it best: 'These children were abused in stealth'.” Shame, shame, shame on you, Mr. Kristof.

On October 27, 2009 Mr. Siegel will hear closing arguments in this case, and there will be sparks flying if indeed he now declares this teacher guilty of incompetence, and told you or Steve Brill this before he heard the summation and looked at the evidence. This will have serious consequences if what you wrote, Mr. Kristof is correct. Please keep all of your records on who gave you the arbitrator's 'decision' before the closing arguments were heard. I for one want to have this information.

Oh, Mr. Brill - you have won the 2009 Yellow Journalism Award. Congratulations.

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter

October 15, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist
Democrats and Schools

The Democratic Party has battled for universal health care this year, and over the decades it has admirably led the fight against poverty — except in the one way that would have the greatest impact.

Good schools constitute a far more potent weapon against poverty than welfare, food stamps or housing subsidies. Yet, cowed by teachers’ unions, Democrats have too often resisted reform and stood by as generations of disadvantaged children have been cemented into an underclass by third-rate schools.

President Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, are trying to change that —and one test for the Democrats will be whether they embrace administration reforms that teachers’ unions are already sniping at.

It’s difficult to improve failing schools when you can’t create alternatives such as charter schools and can’t remove inept or abusive teachers. In New York City, for example, unions ordinarily prevent teachers from being dismissed for incompetence — so the schools must pay failed teachers their full salaries to sit year after year doing nothing in centers called “rubber rooms.”

A devastating article in The New Yorker by Steven Brill (pictured at right) examined how New York City tried to dismiss a fifth-grade teacher for failing to correct student work, follow the curriculum, manage the class or even fill out report cards. The teacher claimed that she was being punished for union activity, but an independent observer approved by the union confirmed the allegations and declared the teacher incompetent. The school system’s lawyer put it best: “These children were abused in stealth.”

The effort to remove the teacher is expected to cost about $400,000, and the outcome is uncertain. In New York City, with its 80,000 teachers, arbiters have removed only two for incompetence alone in the last couple of years. We tolerate failed teachers —and failed arbiters — as long as it’s not our own kids who suffer.

In another case cited by Mr. Brill, the union hailed its defense of a high-school teacher — who had passed out in front of her class, allegedly smelling of alcohol, with even the principal unable to rouse her. The union fought to secure her return to teaching, Mr. Brill wrote, until she passed out again, and her “water bottle” turned out to contain alcohol.

In California, we see the same pathology — as long as the students in question are impoverished and marginalized, with uncomplaining parents, they are allowed to endure the kind of teachers and schools that we would never tolerate for our own kids.

A Los Angeles Times article this year recounted how a teacher rebuked an eighth grader who had been hospitalized for slashing his wrists in a suicide attempt. “Carve deeper next time,” the teacher allegedly advised. He was even said to have added: “You can’t even kill yourself.” A review board blocked the termination of that teacher.

The Los Angeles Times investigation found that it is so expensive to remove teachers that the authorities typically try to do so only in cases of extreme misconduct — not for something as “minor” as incompetence.

Of course, there are many other obstacles to learning: lack of safety, alcohol and narcotics and troubled homes and uninterested parents. But there’s mounting evidence that even in such failing schools, the individual teacher makes a vast difference.

Research has underscored that what matters most in education — more than class size or spending or anything — is access to good teachers. A study found that if black students had four straight years of teachers from the top 25 percent of most effective teachers, the black-white testing gap would vanish in four years.

There are no silver bullets, but researchers are gaining a better sense of what works in education for disadvantaged children: intensive preschool, charter schools with long hours, fewer certification requirements that limit entry to the teaching profession, higher compensation to attract and retain good teachers, objective measurement to see who is effective, more flexibility in removing those who are ineffective.

Unions are wary in part because school administrators can be arbitrary and unfair. Yet there are some signs that the unions are rethinking their positions in very welcome ways. The National Education Association has announced an initiative to improve teaching in high-poverty high schools, and the American Federation of Teachers is experimenting with teacher evaluation that includes student performance data.

Neither initiative reflects sufficient urgency. But let’s hope this is a new beginning. I’m hoping the unions will come round and cooperate with evidence-based reforms, using their political clout to push to raise teachers’ salaries rather than to protect ineffective teachers.

This is the central front in the war on poverty, the civil rights issue of our time. Half a century after Brown v. Board of Education, isn’t it time to end our “separate but equal” school systems?

Norm Scott weighs in on Kristof's lack of journalistic integrity.

See also:
The Baltimore Sun Falls Victim To The Brill/Klein Propaganda

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