Intercepts

A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

From the Vault: October 1, 2001

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Feb• 26•15

Talk Like the Pros, Learn Educanto! Many people are frustrated by their inability to understand education jargon – often referred to as Educanto. They wear out brain cells trying to make sense of it all. EIA says “Why bother?” Now, you can make education jargon right in your very own home. It’s easy when you use EIA’s exclusive Jargon Builder!

The first step is to make sure you begin with an acceptable verb form, such as “facilitate,” “engage in” or “foster.” Then add from this menu one each from Columns A, B and C:

Column A         Column B            Column C

cognitive           constructivist      awareness
formative          holistic                 inter-relatedness
normative         integrated           congruence
facilitative        developmental   implementation
qualitative        externalized        clusters
adaptive            core                      differentiation
supportive        perceptual           mastery
connective       conceptual           validation
summative       contextual           modules
proactive           structural            indicators

Should you require even further elaboration, there are a host of prefixes and suffixes from which to choose. “Meta-,” “multi-,” “post-,” “sub-,” or “self-” are all very versatile, as are “-oriented,” “-faceted,” “-centered,” and “-based.”

This handy tool will enable you to build sturdy structures in Educanto, such as “We’re facilitating meta-normative structural modules, while engaging in a multi-summative developmental inter-relatedness, with an eye towards self-facilitative contextual awareness, all of which, of course, is core-based and mastery-oriented.”

Act now and EIA will throw in an attachment to help you use jargon to inflate your job title. Tired of being a mere “deputy superintendent?” With Jargon Builder, you can quickly and easily become “Deputy Superintendent for Connective Integrated Validation.” Call now! Telecommunications device manipulators are standing by.

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From the Vault: September 17, 2001

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Feb• 25•15

 Intelligence failures and holy war

“The necessity of procuring good Intelligence is apparent & need not be further urged – All that remains for me to add is, that you keep the whole matter as secret as possible. For upon Secrecy, Success depends in Most Enterprizes of the kind, and for want of it, they are generally defeated, however well planned & promising a favourable issue.” 

– General George Washington, 8 miles east of Morristown, New Jersey, July 26, 1777 

Like all of you, I had different plans for how I would spend last week. You are reading the 250th EIA Communiqué – and I wanted to contemplate how to mark the occasion. But that was all before the entire nation found itself living out the plot of a Tom Clancy novel.

Despite the calls to return to business as usual, it seemed wildly inappropriate to blithely report on public education and the teachers’ unions as if nothing had happened. I could not bring myself to do it. So I had to draw on previous experience – military, aviation, history, and a short but intensive stint as a researcher for Dr. Daniel Pipes, one of America’s leading experts on the Middle East – to provide what I hope is a somewhat different analysis of the September 11 attacks and what we might expect next.

As George Washington understood so well, the control of information is one of the most important levers of power. It is not the only one. Knowing what your opponent is about to do is not the same as stopping him from doing it. And “knowing,” in intelligence terms, is not the same as “knowing” the sun will come up tomorrow morning. It has quickly become the conventional wisdom that the September 11 attacks constituted a criminal failure of intelligence. Ironically, many of these accusations came from people who reported on Tuesday morning that a car bomb had exploded outside the State Department, that a truck with explosives had been found under the George Washington Bridge, that car bombs had been discovered and defused outside Los Angeles International Airport, and that 10 policemen, alive under the rubble, had called relatives from a cell phone – none of which turned out to be true.

Of course it was an intelligence failure. But we need to be very specific about what part of the system failed. Many experts have blamed this on an overdependence on electronic intelligence gathering at the expense of human intelligence gathering. While these two methods do seem to be out of balance, it is far from certain that spies would have prevented the attacks. Case in point: Two days before the World Trade Center crumbled, Ahmed Shah Massoud, the famous leader of the mujahidin resistance during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, was assassinated. Massoud was the primary military leader of the Northern Alliance, the ongoing rebel opposition to the Taliban, the fundamentalist rulers of Afghanistan. It is fair to assume that Massoud had dozens, if not hundreds, of spies in Kabul to pass critical information to him and his forces. He knew his enemies’ mind, having fought with them for 10 years. He spoke the same language, knew their customs, and had the advantage of close proximity to his sources of information. How was he killed? Two men, posing as television journalists from Morocco and Tunisia, detonated a bomb hidden in a camera. Perhaps bin Laden himself had his agents perform this service for his Taliban benefactors.

In the weeks ahead, through the benefit of hindsight, we will learn that all the information to warn us of the impending assaults was available and at hand. What was lacking was someone able to take all the isolated, insignificant clues and turn them into an identifiable scheme – which is much like putting together a jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box.

All wars begin with a failure of intelligence. But the first failure of intelligence that began this war was not made by Americans, but by the terrorists themselves. The people who plotted this so well for so long didn’t do it just out of blind hatred of the United States. They do blindly hate Americans, but they also believe that we are weak and corrupt. As American culture sweeps the globe, these fanatics believe their own Islamic culture is being weakened and corrupted. They strike at us not only to hurt us, but to demonstrate to Muslims that they are following a weak and corrupt Western society to damnation.

“Bin Laden has been trying to show that a band of faithful Muslims can, with the right weapons in the hands of death-wish believers, reverse the history of the Muslim world,” writes terrorism expert Reuel Marc Gerecht in The Weekly Standard. “If you can repeatedly maul the United States, the spiritual cutting edge of Western civilization, and get away with it¼ you simultaneously degrade the West’s ideals, which is the ultimate objective. The collapse of the World Trade Center is in this sense, for an Islamic holy warrior, the most potentially promising victory since the Ottoman Empire took Constantinople in 1453.”

It should come as no surprise that Gerecht refers to the 15th century, or that President Bush referred to our impending response as “a crusade.” If Gerecht is right, and I think he is, the perpetrators of the World Trade Center atrocity are laboring under the badly mistaken notion that 21st century America is roughly akin to 15th century Byzantium – that is, a formerly great and powerful state on its last legs. It only takes a daring initiative by a group of devoted believers to topple the weakened giant.

What they are about to learn is that they have suffered their own intelligence failure. They fully expect America to talk big, launch a few dozen cruise missiles, and then lose interest. They have no conception of what they have unleashed.

After Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy, America’s main method of projecting force abroad, was decimated. The United States faced battle-hardened enemies who controlled all of Western Europe and the Pacific Rim. Less than four years later, not only had these enemies been utterly destroyed, but Americans had developed and used the deadliest weapon the world had ever known.

After the World Trade Center, the United States military is completely intact, a mere 10 years from a resounding victory in the Gulf War. The United States faces an enemy who controls no territory, and who in many cases must hide from local authorities. This enemy, in one day, murdered thousands – not soldiers, sailors and airmen on a distant military base while a world was at war – but secretaries, accountants, stockbrokers, mail clerks, firemen, medics, priests and mothers in the nation’s first city while a world is at peace.

My friends, the men who hijacked those airliners and those who supported them, directed them and harbored them believe they are engaged in a holy war with the United States. They are about to personally experience something directly out of the Old Testament — specifically Hosea 8:7, “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” Live your lives without fear. They are the ones who should be very, very afraid.

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From the Vault: August 20, 2001

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Feb• 24•15

Teacher Shortage: Fight the Future. “We will have to hire 2.2 to 2.7 million new teachers by 2009,” says NEA President Bob Chase. This is a slight variation on the “2 million teachers over the next 10 years” figure that is accepted everywhere nowadays. The age of the average classroom teacher in increasing, as is the average age of the population, and when these teachers retire, they will need to be replaced. But the 2 million teacher estimate is hardly written in the solid concrete we think, and the latest projections from the U.S. Department of Education only stir up the muddy mixture even more.

Projections of Education Statistics to 2011 is the 30th edition of the U.S. Government’s annual estimate of the future of public education’s cornucopia of numbers. The figures in this edition suggest a huge mistake is being made somewhere – either in statistical projection or in current public policy – but no evidence that anyone notices. According to the U.S. Department of Education, enrollment in K-12 schools will grow by 0.7 percent by 2011. But even this modest increase is an overstatement. Enrollment will drop in 29 states over the next 10 years. Public school enrollment in grades K-8 nationwide will actually drop by one percent. However, the same USDOE report tells us that the number of teachers will increase by 10 percent over the same period. In raw numbers, the disparity is even starker. In 2011, we will have about 100,000 more students in K-12 schools than we do now. But we will have 350,000 more K-12 teachers. If we are experiencing such drastic shortages replacing retiring teachers, why are we hiring seven new teachers for every two new students?

If you separate the K-8 public school figures, the trend is even more ridiculous. By 2011, the U.S. Government says we will have 309,000 fewer children in public elementary schools, but we will have 184,000 more public elementary school teachers. Some shortage. What’s more, the authors state, “The projections do not take into account increases in the number of teachers due to the effects of initiatives to reduce class sizes.”

Either the U.S. Department of Education has got its numbers wrong, or the teacher shortage has a extraordinarily simple explanation: Districts are hiring more teachers than they really need. In economic terms, it’s called hoarding.

(Note from 2015: USDOE ended up getting the teacher numbers right and the enrollment figures waaaay wrong. There were almost 1.9 million more children in K-12 public schools in 2011 than in 2001, and 176,000 more teachers.)

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From the Vault: July 23, 2001

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Feb• 23•15

EIA Exclusive: The Latest Staff Salary Figures from NEA Affiliates. Each year, NEA collects information about the salaries and benefits paid to employees of its state affiliates all across the nation. The survey contains the most comprehensive data about staff compensation outside of the payroll records and collective bargaining agreements themselves. Naturally, NEA tends to keep the survey close to the vest. Indeed, EIA hasn’t seen one of these surveys since 1996… until now.

EIA is in possession of the latest survey, which amassed wage and benefit data for the just completed school year, along with a 10-year history of average salary information for both professional and support staff. The survey contains no information on union elected officials (presidents, VPs, treasurers), nor does it contain information on union executives and managers (executive directors, department heads, general counsels). The data are divided into two categories: professional staff (UniServ directors, communications, etc.) and support staff (secretaries, administrative assistants, etc.).

The highest professional staff salaries belong to the New Jersey Education Association, which average$100,018. Connecticut professional staffers come in second at $93,115, and California is third with $92,010. Bringing up the rear is South Carolina at $42,091. At $50,764, NEA-Alaska had the highest paid support staffers. Professional staffers of the California Teachers Association are at the top in total compensation, thanks to a retirement plan that contributes almost $20,000 per employee per year. CTA’s UniServ directors average $135,434 in salary plus benefits, one of 18 state affiliates in which the professional staff compensation package reaches six figures.

Average salaries can fluctuate wildly from year to year, especially in small affiliates, when highly paid experienced staffers retire and are replaced by lower-paid new employees. Fortunately, the NEA survey also provides average salary data for the last 10 years, which allows for some leveling out of these spikes. The highest average professional salary increase last year came from the Virginia Education Association. UniServ directors there made $68,660, an 18.5 percent increase from 1999. Professionals saw double-digit average pay hikes in Texas, North Carolina and Nevada. The Nevada State Education Association also had the largest average pay increase since 1991– 66.0 percent. Support staffers in North Carolina saw a 27.1 percent average pay raise last year, while Delaware, California and New Hampshire also saw double-digit increases. Since 1991, Nevada support staffers have seen their average pay more than double — a 100.4 percent increase to $35,328.

Alaska staffers lead the nation with 47 days off (vacation plus holidays), while no affiliate has fewer than 27 days off per year for any of its staffers.

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Taking a Break

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Feb• 20•15

I’ll be away all next week, returning to these pages on Monday, March 2. I’ll fill the space with selections from the EIA vault. I’ll miss you!

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Minnesota Teacher of the Year Talks About Unions

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Feb• 19•15

Tom Rademacher is the reigning Minnesota Teacher of the Year, an award sponsored by the state teachers’ union, Education Minnesota. He posted a long article on his blog and it was reprinted on Education Post. I encourage you to read the whole thing because it explains better than I could (though I’ve tried) the state of affairs between teachers’ unions and younger members, and especially teachers’ unions and dissident members – from both the militant and collaborative sides.

Here are a few important paragraphs:

Though details may vary on how, teacher after teacher I have met has felt unwelcome in union spaces. There are teachers who don’t see the union taking action on issues that are most important to them, not supporting district leaders who speak up with concerns about kids of color, who don’t see a place where they can advocate for those issues without being treated like they just don’t get it yet or like they don’t belong. Young teachers are talked down to. Teachers with new ideas are treated like they just don’t understand the old ones. If they keep talking, they are shouted down and pushed aside. If they take their voices elsewhere then their integrity, honesty, motives, and histories are questioned.

…It may not be apparent to those whose beliefs line up perfectly with the union narrative of teacher experience, but for those who don’t it is striking how often conversations, meetings and events assume opinions as known truth and move on (after taking a few potshots for cheap laughs at anyone who may think otherwise). When a person or organization holds their truth so firmly as the truth, they are going to lose people, which is just not acceptable from an organization that is supposed to represent everyone.

…I’m worried. Worried for the union and for the potential it may not reach. There are good teachers doing good work in unions, but their numbers are a tiny percentage of total teachers. Union involvement, especially among new teachers and teachers of color, is at a critical low. I don’t think those groups are anti-union or afraid of the extra work, but are told to listen more than they’ve been asked to speak. The work I see in unions is more “how do we convince everyone we are right,” and less, “what are we doing wrong that so many teachers aren’t here?”

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Bad Day for Local Officers

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Feb• 18•15

Orange County, Florida –  [Background here]:

Some teachers are crying out in opposition to their union president, and one teacher is sending out a flier titled, “Our union is in crisis,” which has a petition to recall Moore attached.

…That national union organization investigated an allegation that Moore spent $91,000 in union funds without approval from the board of directors.

AFT said Moore likely did not pocket any of the money, but found a serious breach of controls and said there should be no more credit cards allowed for now.

They also found Moore was trying to place allies in helpful positions and went around the board to get what she wanted.

* Plum, Pennsylvania:

For the second time in less than a week, police have arrested and accused a Plum High School teacher of having sex with a student.

Joseph J. Ruggieri, 40, of Plum, is an English teacher and vice president of the Plum Borough Education Association that represents the district’s 268 teachers.

Plum police arrested Ruggieri about 7 p.m. Tuesday in his home, Chief Jeffrey Armstrong said. Ruggieri is charged with one count each of institutional sexual assault and corruption of minors.

The student told police she had sex with Ruggieri in his home more than once, according to a criminal complaint, which did not provide her age but said she was a minor. They began talking on the phone and sending text messages in late 2014.

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