Diane\'s Blog

Michael P. Klimetz

Dear Professor Ravitch,

This past September was the beginning of my seventeenth year of teaching science at John Dewey High School in Brooklyn. Since the school had been on the New York State Department of Education’s Persistently Low Achieving list for the past few years, it has been selected by the New York City Department of Education to receive remediation assistance in the form of a “Restart”. This method of remediation had been touted as the least invasive and disruptive among the four designed either to reorganize, uplift, and restore or to outright close schools deemed “underperforming”.

The decision to Restart John Dewey High School was not finalized until the end of this past July. Furthermore, the selection of the Educational Partnership Organization (EPO) charged with the responsibility of managing the Restart was not finalized until only a few scant days before the start of classes. Additionally, the New York City Department of Education has assigned John Dewey High School’s administrative staff a “Talent Coach,” whose purpose appears to train Assistant Principals how to observe their teaching staff. Needless to say, Restart has gotten off to a slow start.

There has been little substantive communication offered to the teaching staff from the DOE, the EPO, or even the UFT for that matter. On the contrary, all concerned parties have gone mum. Teaching staff had received a few hours of professional development concerning the Charlotte Danielson Associates rubric against which a John Dewey High School teacher’s pedagogical effectiveness was now to be measured. This rubric, selected by the DOE, is now being used at all schools receiving remediation. It is my understanding that accompanying the teacher evaluation rubric is a software program, preloaded onto a laptop, to be used by Assistant Principals during the observation process. Curiously, the software in question has not been developed by a veteran educator, but rather by a behavioral modification specialist.

There is palpable anxiety and uncertainty among my fellow teachers. Many seasoned and respected veteran educators have decided to abandon John Dewey High School and the teaching profession altogether as a consequence of methods whose sole purpose is designed, in my opinion, as an instrument to leverage dominion over pedagogues and to levy swift punishment and removal for alleged noncompliance without just cause or due process. Personal letters and a host of e-mail inquiries to interested parties have remained unanswered. Kindly share your thoughts on the matter at your earliest convenience. I have read many of your writings on school reform. I have found them insightful, relevant and timely. Thank you.

Michael P. Klimetz