Monthly Archives: November 2012

Teacher Success Manual For Dummies: Everything You Need To Win The Race To The Top!


Welcome, teachers:)

As you know, the feds are profferring a pot of gold to states with the highest education ratings.  Win the Race To The Top; get the gold.  Losers get nada.

What does this mean for teachers?  They’re going to rate you, personally, on a scale from 0-100.  20-40% of your rating will be based on how your students perform on standardized tests.  Got failures? You’re toast.

About This Manual

But cheer up, Teach. Our Teacher Success Manual for Dummies Everything You Need To Win The Race To The Top! , contains the tips guaranteed to tweak your personal ratings.  Read on to discover how to top the ratings scale and hang on to your impressive five-figure income.

Part 1: Your Job Is On The Line

Have you been on the job for more than 5 years?  If so, you’re in their gun sights.  You’re draining their budgets.  Newbie teachers are cheaper.  They can get two newbies for the price of one oldbie.  Every step you take, every rule you break, they’ll be watching you.

It’s time to get proactive, right?  But…

 Part 2:  You Can Control Yourself But What About Your Pesky Students?

Since it’s all about your ratings, here’s what you can control:  your attendance, punctuality, preparedness, after school initiatives…you know…all the good habits you’ve created over the years. These should help your rating.  But what about the part you can’t control: that is,  how well your students do on standardized tests?  You’ve done everything you can to prepare them.  You’ve set aside all the interesting stuff and drilled them on old tests.  Over and over.  But, once test day arrives, you have no control over which bubble they fill in. All you can give them is a #2 pencil.  After that, it’s out of your control….

…or is it?

Part 3: You Can Drive Your Data to the Heights

That’s right – you can cook the books to boost your own rating.  It’s so simple…so elegant.  Here’s how:

a)  Narrow Your Curriculum:

  • Focus only on test prep
  • Drill baby drill
  • Class discussion of essential ideas is an essential waste of everybody’s time.
  • Encourage your principal to get rid of music, fine arts, trips and anything else that won’t be on the test

b) Segregate Your Struggling Students:

  • Nobody gets into an Advanced Placement class who might have a chance of success with a little extra academic support. Take no chances.
  • Do not challenge students upwards.  If they don’t score well – again, it’s your job on the line.  Keep expectations a little below “realistic.”

c)  Avoid Students in “Special” Categories

  • Students with disabilities
  • Students with health issues
  • English Language Learners
  • Students with emotional issues
  • Encourage them to stay home on test days (unless you can find an excuse for keeping them from signing up for the test in the first place).

d)  Remember, you are in a race.  There’s only one winner.

  • You and your students are now adversaries.
  • No more teacher and student versus the exam.  That’s old school.
  • Now it’s teacher versus student performance on the exam.

e)  Remember, too, you’re now competing with all the other teachers in your school.

  • You don’t want students coming into your class with high scores from their previous year’s class.
  • That’s too much pressure on you.
  • Stay focused. Don’t help any teacher who might be sending you her students next semester.
  • Collaboration breeds contempt when ratings come in. Compare and despair.

Part 4:  Cash and Prizes Can Be Yours

Well maybe it’s just that your teaching position won’t “disappear” as quickly as the teacher who’s been on the job 20 more years than you.   You know him, he’s the one who comes in early, spends individual time with his struggling students, calls their homes, meets with their parents, encourages them to explore the “big ideas.”  Authentic thinking will not be on the test.  His students are doomed and thus, his rating.  You have been smart to ditch this intellectual fodder.

In Conclusion:

We hope you remain hard-focused on test prep.  We hope that you will remember that you’re on your own.  To recap:  Simplify your subject areaSelect your students carefully for testing.  Stay away from teacher collaborations.  Ensure your students’ passing performance on standardized tests and you ensure your high rating.

For more information, please pick up our Teachers’ Guide to Befriending Educational Capitalists:  Making Your Classroom Profitable For Testing Companies …For Dummies (of course).  Our next manual in this series, Possible Kickbacks For Pedagogues is nearing publication.

Meanwhile, you’re free to spread this manual around your state and keep your eye out for that rainbow.

With great appreciation to principals, Drs. Carol C. Burns and Sean C. Feeney – “An Open Letter of Concern Regarding New York State’s APPR Legislation for the Evaluation of Teachers and Principals”:  It’s brilliant.  Required reading!






“Master Race To The Top???” – Guest Post by Don Castellow

My first guest blogger is a music educator I admire, Don Castellow. ( Full disclosure: he’s also my husband.)   Originally written in response to my last blog, “End of Term Report Card – Arne Duncan: NOT Promoted.”  I asked him if he’d mind my featuring it as its own post.  He’s cool with this. Herewith, his musings:

From Don Castellow:   I’m looking for education leaders who will give us better education metaphors. Race to the Top… really? Races have winners and losers, actually a race, singular, has a winner, singular, and everyone else? Losers. Is this the best inspiration we can muster? The problem with this metaphor is that it represents vertical thinking. A race is a preconceived finish line at the end of a known course. Jacques Cousteau said all great discoveries as far as he knew, were made through horizontal thinking. In other words, not knowing precisely what you are looking for or exactly where it may be, but being willing to let go of your preconceived ideas in order to recognize a new discovery when it comes into view.

There are plenty of vertical thinkers around. You may see one tonight, on your way home. He may be standing in the middle of it all, in the way or in the road. Be kind, shine your bright lights and slowly drive around him. He will not see you, you are not in his field of view. He is looking straight up, eyes on where the prize should be. When he sees it he may win, achieving the highest status of the status quo, a victory of vertical thinking.

Horizontal thinkers don’t win, they discover. They discover together or alone, and share discoveries. One discovery can lead to another. The horizontal thinker looks forward, around, and behind. The horizontal thinker is aware of his position 360 degrees around and out to the horizon or beyond and sees the things coming at him, he is aware. There can be no standardized test. You can’t measure the horizontal with a vertical ruler.

W.B. Yeats said, “education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” Now there’s an education metaphor! To build a proper fire you need diverse pieces of wood. You need kindling and pieces a little bigger than kindling but not too big, and dry. You need bigger, substantial pieces that, once encouraged to burn by the kindling, will hold the fire and burn for a long time. You need matches, more than one, and keep them dry.

Let’s carry the metaphor a little farther. The big logs of our education fire can be math and science and English language arts. They need the kindling of Music, Art, Dance, Drama, and Phys Ed. To light this educational fire, you need a good match in the form of a teacher.

There should be no Master Race of subjects. No math, English, or science that is so almighty special that it can downgrade, degrade and eliminate other subjects and claim to be the key to education, no, claim to be education itself – the Master Race at the top.

Our Master Race of education fire has a few problems. One, the kindling is in poor shape or missing all together. Two, it is continually being dowsed from the pail of standardized test prep and testing.

An education should be a fine and generous balance. Yes it includes quality math, science, and ELA learning. But these are tools, important tools, but only equally important among all the tools in the big toolbox an education should fill. Everyone does not have to carry around the exact same tool box either, because everyone should not be building the same preconceived prize. As teachers and students, we should each prepare to make our own discoveries and lead the world into the future as a great collective of individuals.

Don Castellow taught band at PS/MS 29 in the South Bronx, NYC, for eleven years until the band program was eliminated from the schedule in September 2012.  During his tenure, this program received numerous grants.  These grants provided instruments, repair,  small group and individual lessons at no charge to students. One of them, a VH-1 “Save The Music” grant brought new band instruments to the school.  In addition, the band program developed a thriving partnership with The Middle School Jazz Academy at Lincoln Center.  He is the director of a new nonprofit, The South Bronx After-School Band Project, which has its home at PS/MS 29, thanks to the support of the school’s administration.  For more information, you may contact Don at

End of Term Report Card… Arne Duncan: NOT Promoted

End of Term Report Card

Name:   Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education

Term:    2009 – 2012

  • Reading:            “Far below standards in reading and analyzing literature”
  • Math:                 “Below standards in probability concepts and rationality”
  • Social Studies:   “Far below standards in understanding historical concepts”
  •  Science:            “Making little or no progress toward completing a full investigation.”
  •  Music:               “Does not show initiative”
  •  Art:                    “Shows little interest and effort”
  •  PE:                     “Shows initiative, but only on basketball court”
  •  Deportment:      “Does not respect feelings, opinions or property of others”

Immediate Improvements Required:

  • “Needs to accept responsibility for learning”
  • “Requires academic intervention” (consult with professional educators, pronto!)

Final Assessment:




“Grading Takes All The Fun From Failing” …Simon Schocken

This Ted Talk by Simon Schocken, made me well up with tears of joy, just when he “solved” the area of a parallelogram with his tablet app for a 6 year old. Please watch it. It’s about the joy of learning through discovery with a soupcon of Genesis in the mix. He is eloquent, brilliant and funny ….and most definitely, a mensch.

Take a break and watch it now. You will emerge refreshed and invigorated. Promise.


Massive shout out to 3Di Associates who hipped me to this jive.  Check ’em out: