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Friday, May 15, 2015

From Arthur Goldstein: NYSED Should Not Take English Instruction Away From ESL Students

Arthur Goldstein is an angry Chapter Leader (at Francis Lewis HS)

Arthur Goldstein on the left
NYC Educator
Arthur's blog:

Since I've been teaching, we've provided English Language Learners with extensive instruction. After all, how the hell are you supposed to pass all-important standardized tests if you don't even understand the language? For the last few years, I've been teaching beginners. The first time I taught ESL I taught beginners. I've found many of my colleagues avoid this. I don't know why, because I love it. They make rapid progress. You can see it before your eyes, like when children are growing up.

Beginners, since I started in the eighties, have gotten three periods a day of instruction. Intermediate students got two, as did advanced. Proficient students, those who tested out, usually got one period but sometimes got another to help them along. Because placement tests are usually total crap, because they gave the same one for decades, and because some kids guess well for no reason, I've often seen kids at high levels come back for help.

NYSED knows everything, though, and has determined we have to stop coddling these kids. So now, for one period a day previously devoted to English, all ESL students in NY will take a subject class. They can either take this class with a dually licensed teacher, for example a math teacher with an ESL extension, or it can be co-taught by two teachers--one ESL and one subject teacher.

This is one of the stupidest ideas I've ever heard in my life, but it will save money that can be devoted to tax breaks for billionaires. Therefore Merryl Tisch and Andrew Cuomo can have a laugh over a Grey Goose martini at the next gala affair in which their paths cross. So it's all good for them.

In my school, we will have classes of social studies/ ESL. This is as good an idea as any, since social studies entails a lot of reading and writing, as does English. But it's still awful. Let's say, for example, that your history class entails, A, B, C and D. Let's further say that A, B, C and D are required for the Regents exam, without which you can't graduate. So you now need to cover A, B, C, D,and English as well. Who knows whether the English levels in the room will be the same? Shall we differentiate by teaching multiple levels of English as we teach history? How the hell do you do that without losing C, D, or some part thereof? And how do you incorporate beginning English into World War II? Present progressive?

Look. The Reich is bombing London.
There's the Gestapo, rounding up people for the concentration camp.

Certainly more colorful than, "I'm studying English." But aren't you supposed to be studying English?  Not really. Not anymore. It's Core, Core, Core, and no more of that touchy-feely crap. Renowned Common Core genius David Coleman says no one gives a crap how you feel or what you think, and if he says it, that ought to be good enough for anyone. If his life is one of tedium, drudgery, and humiliation, why shouldn't yours be too? In his defense, however, I actually don't give a crap how he feels or what he thinks.

And why should I? He knows nothing about language acquisition. Nor does NYSED. What do they care that it takes three years to learn a language conversationally, that if varies greatly by individual, or that it take 5-7 years to learn academic English? NYSED says screw, "My name is _____," and let them all study the holocaust.

Maybe they don't need to know, "My name is ____" because if these kids get the jobs in which the reformy Walmart family wishes to dump them, they'll wear name tags anyway. But while tags tell people what their names are, it's still unlikely anyone will question them about the holocaust while seeking out that 9-gallon jar of Vlasic pickles. By degrading jobs that require actual introspection, like teaching, while offering bargain basement standardized nonsense like this, we actively degrade our children and their future.

It's unconscionable that the demagogues in charge of education would take one moment away from our English Language Learners. Whoever thought of this belongs in prison with Silver, Skelos, and Cuomo,  And Tisch too.

Fred Klonsky's blog had the following:

Arthur Goldstein. Tenure for good apples too.

July 16, 2014
NY Daily News

– Arthur Goldstein is a New York teacher and UFT Chapter Leader at Francis Lewis High School. This
column appeared in the New York Daily News.

Every day, it seems, I read about a new lawsuit to do away with teacher tenure. The crusade reminds me of my friend Harris Lirtzman. It’s because of tenure that I teach and he doesn’t.
Harry used to be a deputy New York State controller until, in 2009, he decided to become a math teacher of special-education students in the Bronx. He offered experience and a depth of understanding few could match — but his discerning eye proved to be his downfall.
He studied the kids’ Individualized Education Programs, the documents that state what services special-education students require, and discovered that many were being underserved, possibly to save on school expenses.
Harry began asking questions — and learned exactly how unwelcome they were when, in December 2011, he was denied tenure.
Harry now tutors at-risk students in Yonkers. If he’d had tenure, he’d still be helping city public school kids.
Without tenure, I’d probably be in Harry’s place. I teach English as a second language, usually to beginners, at Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows, Queens.
One year, I had two students who spoke English but couldn’t read or write. One had been kicking around city schools for years.
He had a strategy for pushy teachers like me. He listened intently and participated orally as much as possible. But when I sat him down and wrote words like “mother” and “house,” he could not decode them at all. I contacted his mother, who knew of his problem. I sought help in the building.
Around this time, I read an article in the paper about ESL. I called the writer to comment. The story of my illiterate students came up, and he asked me if he could write about it. I wasn’t sure. He asked me whether I had tenure. I told him I did; he said it shouldn’t be a problem.
After the writer asked the city Education Department about my two students, I was immediately summoned into the principal’s office. He heartily condemned my ingratitude.
I could see I had broken some unwritten rule. From then on, I was scrutinized constantly. In a series of meetings in his office, the principal glared at me as we met with guidance counselors, the school psychologist and others.
No one was asking whether these kids were being helped. The only concern, apparently, was one teacher with a big mouth. For reasons never made clear to me, both kids left the school before any action became necessary.
I’m absolutely sure this principal would have fired me if it had been possible.
Shortly thereafter, I requested books for my students. For some reason, they were unavailable. My colleagues could get books, but I couldn’t. By then I had less than one class set, so students had to share them.
Months later, I learned the United Federation of Teachers contract said the school had to provide supplies. I threatened to file a grievance, something I had never done up to that point. A week after my threat, my kids got two brand-new class sets of books.
Tenure doesn’t only protect the so-called bad apples, or teachers accused of misconduct or incompetence. It protects all teachers. This is a tough job, and despite what you read in the papers, it also entails advocating for our students, your kids, whether or not the administration is comfortable with it.
I meet passionate and effective teachers everywhere I go. How many will stand up for your kids when schools don’t provide the services they need? How many will demand deserving kids pass classes even if they fail a standardized test? How many will tell state Education Commissioner John King that failing 70% of New York City’s students is not only counterintuitive, but also counterproductive?
It’s hard to say. Abolish tenure and that number will drop very close to zero.

Goldstein is an ESL teacher and UFT chapter leader at Francis Lewis High School.

(Hi Arthur! How about putting my blog back on your list of blogs??