Thursday, April 21, 2011

CTEN - April 2011 letter

Dear Colleague,

Please note that in addition to the traditional emailing of the CTEN monthly newsletter, we will once again have it posted on the CTEN blog -  Since there are several controversial issues covered in this letter, we think it would be a good time for people to share their opinions with other teachers.
In some circles, Salman Khan has become something of a legend. Born in New Orleans to immigrant parents, he set up Khan Academy where he has posted over 2,000 educational videos which are popular with students all over the world. The Harvard MBA and former hedge fund manager has an easy style and a gift for teaching that is matched by few. The idea is for students to learn from his videos and then have the classroom teacher help with any problems, reinforce what has been learned, etc. This type of “blended learning” enables students to learn at their own pace and relieves teachers of the duty of ensuring that everyone is at the same place at the same time. Additionally, taxpayers will be happy because fewer teachers will need to be on the payroll. To learn more about Khan and what he does, please read,,SB10001424052748704101604576248713420747884,00.html  To see a video of Khan, Bill Gates’ favorite teacher, go to
In what would appear to be counterintuitive, Mike Petrilli, Fordham Institute’s Vice President for National Programs and Policy, reports that “Losing Their Rights Will Not Send Teachers to the Poorhouse.” He contends that teachers in non-collective bargaining districts actually make more money than those in districts with collective bargaining contracts. To read the article, go to
On March 21, CTEN hosted an informational event at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles about California’s new Parent Trigger law -  The modest but knowledgeable crowd included several reporters. Rachel Heller wrote about the event here -
In a New York post op-ed, Koret Task Force scholar Eric Hanushek discusses how best to deal with our fiscal budgetary woes in education. His essential point can be summed up in these two paragraphs, “…lay off the least-effective teachers in order to meet the budget shortfall. This policy would have enormous beneficial effects on achievement. By estimates I have done, eliminating the bottom 5 percent to 8 percent of teachers could move achievement of US students from below the average for developed countries to near the top.

“We all know a few teachers are just plain bad; students in those classes would be much better off learning from a competent or superior teacher in a slightly larger class -- and the students in that class would suffer little (if at all) from having one or two more classmates.”  To read the entire op-ed, go to

The California Teachers Association is most definitely unhappy with the strong possibility of deep spending cuts to education and it will be putting its displeasure front and center for an entire week – May 9th-13th.  Early last week, Mike Antonucci posted a couple of items about planned CTA activities which could be very disruptive to education and the state in general -  and  However, after reconsidering, it seems that CTA has modified some of their activities -

As of this writing, SB 48 very well may become law in California. According to the legislative analyst, this controversial bit of legislation “would require instruction in social sciences to also include a study of the role and contributions of Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and other ethnic and cultural groups, to the development of California and the United States.” To read the exact wording of the bill, go to

In an exceptional blog post that every math teacher should read, Matthew Tabor writes about the type of question that every math teacher gets sooner or later. “Am I ever going to use this?” Or, “Why do we have to learn this?” Tabor answers these questions quite effectively. To read his post, go to

In late March, I had an article published in City Journal about the ACLU ruling in Los Angeles which clarified the state education code’s seniority rules. Now children in some of the lowest performing schools in the state will be exempted from losing any teachers due to layoffs. But unfortunately, the remaining schools will proportionately lose more. To read the piece, go to
We have updated and cleaned up the blog area on our Resources page -  If you have any education blogs that you would like to see on that page, please let us know.

Please look for our Survey Monkey questionnaire as soon as all teachers have returned from Easter break - the first week in May.

In our last newsletter, some of you experienced formatting problems. We think the issue has been resolved, but if any of you still experience these issues, be sure to let us know.

In any event, if you enjoy these letters and find them informative, please pass them along to your colleagues. We know that there are many independent-minded teachers in California who are looking for alternative sources of information. If you would like to see us address certain issues, topics, etc. in these newsletters or on our website – – we would greatly appreciate your letting us know. Thanks.


Larry Sand
CTEN President

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Appropriate Dress At School

Does the way teachers dress have any impact on the school environment, or are classroom management, rapport, subject matter knowledge, and pedagogical prowess all that's important?  See what one teacher has to say here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

California Teachers say Free Mumia!

I have to admit, I am more familiar with the work of the California Teachers Association (CTA), but apparently, there is also a California Federation of Teachers (CFT). During their recent annual convention, the CFT got down to business and approved a resolution where they expressed their support for Mumia Abu-Jamal, the perennial death row inmate who in 1982 was convicted and sentenced to death for the brutal 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.

In the almost 30 years since Mumia Abu-Jamal (born Wesley Cook) was sentenced to death, he has become a cause celebre for the lunatic fringe. The morally bankrupt people at the CFT are convinced that Mumia Abu Jamal is innocent of his crime and that he is a political prisoner.

Just check out their resolution:

Resolution 19
Reaffirm support for death row journalist
Mumia Abu-Jamal

Whereas, Mumia Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial in Philadelphia was characterized by illegal suppression of evidence, police coercion, illegal exclusion of black jurors, and unfair and unconstitutional rulings by
the judge; and
Whereas, the trial judge, Albert Sabo, has been quoted in a sworn statement to have vowed at the time of the trial to help the prosecution ‘fry the n-----;’ and
Whereas, subsequent appellate rulings have bent the law out of shape to sustain the guilty verdict of that trial; and
Whereas, the appellate courts have also refused to consider strong evidence of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s innocence that has emerged continuously in the years subsequent to the trial; and
Whereas, the U.S. Supreme Court, in denying relief to Mumia Abu-Jamal, ignored key precedents such as its own ruling in Batson v Kentucky, which was supposed to prevent exclusion of jurors on the basis of race; and
Whereas, Mumia Abu-Jamal still is incarcerated on Death Row while awaiting a decision from the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals that could remove a stay on his execution; and
Whereas, Mumia Abu-Jamal has for decades as a journalist fought courageously against racism and police brutality and for the human rights of all people and has taken strong stands in support of working people involved in labor struggles and in support of well-funded, quality, public education;
Whereas, the continued unjust incarceration of Mumia Abu-Jamal represents a threat to the civil rights of all people; and
Whereas, the CFT has at a previous Convention voiced its support for justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal;
Therefore, be it resolved, that the California Federation of Teachers reaffirm its support and demand that the courts consider the evidence of innocence of Mumia Abu-Jamal; and
Be it further resolved, that the CFT introduce and advocate on behalf of a resolution at the 2012 AFT Convention reaffirming the AFT’s support for justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal should he not have been cleared of charges and released by that time.

If you just read that and nothing else, you might think that this poor guy got railroaded. But then of course, there is the other side of the story. These Mumia myths put forward by the CST and the rest of the "Free Mumia" crowd are thoroughly debunked here in case you are interested.

In the meantime, while our educational system is falling down in ruins around us, this is what some of our teachers are focusing on. Ludicrous shenanigans like these sometimes make me ashamed to tell people I am a teacher.