Sunday, April 26, 2015

You Get What You Pay For.

I have always claimed that the NYCDOE does not put "children first" but actually they don't care about the students or as I call it their "children last" policy.   Despite the disappointing Chancellor's claim that she wants the best for the students of the City, her actions demonstrate that its still all about the DOE's budget priorities and not what's best for the students.

The prime evidence of the DOE's "children last" policy is their continuation of the "fair student funding" that penalizes schools for hiring highly experienced teachers.  Last year due to retirements and the end of a hiring freeze that was always a joke to savvy principals who knew how to circumvent the restrictions or were secretly given exemptions, 6,000 vacancies had to be filled.  However, few of those vacancies went to experienced and tenured teachers, most hires were "newbies" with no track record and principals closed their collective eyes to the potential damage some of these teachers could and did to their students.  This situation was especially true in schools with "Leadership Academy Principals", many with little classroom experience and were afraid that a highly experienced teacher would question the dubious decisions by these administrators.  The result was that combined with the "fair student funding", encouraged principals to hire the "cheapest and not the best" teachers for their students.

A prime example of the DOE's short-sighted approach was the travesty that transpired at Hillside Arts And Letters Academy, one of the small schools that replaced Jamaica High School.  The Leadership Academy Principal who was the founding Principal of the school needed to hire an Earth Science teacher in their second year.  After going through a phoney interview process, he hired a "newbie teacher" who apparently had poor pedagogy, according to an ATR who was placed at the school.  This deficiency showed up in the school's snapshot where Science did poorly compared to the other tested subjects.

Worse, it turned out that this teacher was caught trying to arrange a meeting with a 14 year old girl who ended up to be a NYPD Detective and was arrested.  He subsequently pleaded guilty and gave up his teaching license and registered as a sex offender.  When the Earth Science teacher was removed in March of 2014 after being arrested, the Principal instead of bringing in one of the 5 excessed Earth Science teachers to finish the course, instead had a Living Environment teacher complete the year.  As a result, the Earth Science Regents passing percentage dropped drastically over an already poor outcome from the year before. In other words, the students suffered for the unwise decision making by the Principal both in his hiring and replacing the teacher.

I'm sure there are hundreds of similar horror stories in the NYCDOE's 'education on the cheap" policy.  Therefore when the Chancellor claims that she only wants the best for the students of NYC, just take a look at her actions and you see its all about the DOE's budget priorities and not what's best for the children.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Latest Opt Out Numbers For Math.

Previously, I listed the "opt out" numbers in the ELA test and as that number slowly approaches the 200,000 mark, preliminary results show that the Math "opt out" numbers are between 2%-10% higher in most school districts.  However, it appears the school districts are being pressured by the State not to publish the data and the Math "opt outs" are only slowly and reluctantly being released by the school districts.  As of Saturday, the latest "opt out" values are as follows:

ELA   193,067 with 76.2% reporting.
Math 150,367 with 44.0% reporting.

The website for the latest "opt outs" can be found Here.

The table below lists some of the highest "opt out" Math numbers for various Long Island school districts.

Rocky Point...........80.9%
East Islip..............74.2%
South Country.......70.9%
East Quogue.........70.2%
Rockville Center.....69.1%

Finally, here are some other "opt out" Math rates throughout the State.

West Seneca.........73%
Lafayette........... .56%
North Rockland......53%

I hope to list a complete rundown of the "opt out" rates of the school districts in New York State next week.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What The NYC KidsPAC Report Omitted.

With much fanfare and great hopes, the De Blasio Administration would make real change to the NYC public schools.  Even our UFT President, Michael Mulgrew, said so and he never lies!  Right?  However, very little has actually changed since Bloomberg left office.  The NYC KidsPAC report gave the Bill de Blasio Administration failing grades on many of the education issues facing New York City that the Bloomberg Administration created.

According to the organization Bill de Blasio and his disappointing Chancellor, Carmen Farina, gets an "F" for failing to reduce class sizes, despite promises to do so.  Moreover, they received a "F" for the lack of transparency on funding and contracts that was the hallmark of the Bloomberg years.  Finally, they get another "F" for their failure to allow for the segregation of too many schools in the City without a diversity plan to correct this.

The De Blasio Administration does little better when it comes to parent engagement, receiving a "D" for not providing enough parent outreach.  Further, the De Blasio Administration was given a "D" on how it handled busing and Special Education services.  Finally, their failure to adequately handle the co-location issue deserves another "D" rating.

What was left out of the report was the continuation of other Bloomberg policies that has not been corrected by the De Blasio Administration or his disappointing Chancellor, they are:

Fair Student Funding:  The continuation of fair student funding has resulted in principals selecting "the cheapest and not the best teachers" for their schools, while allowing teaching talent to waste away as glorified babysitters in the ATR pool at a cost of $150 million dollars annually.

Frozen School Budgets:  Despite the increase in the overall DOE budget, Chancellor Carmen Farina froze the school budgets at last year's levels which was 14% below the 2008 level for the schools.

Teachers Teaching A Sixth Class:  Too many schools, trying to meet their unrealistically tight budgets are requiring teachers to pick up a sixth class to save on teachers,  This is especially true in shortage areas where the DOE picks up the tab for the sixth class not the school.

There are other "education on the cheap" issues like Science and AP classes being shortened, teachers not certified to teach in their content specialty, resources like paper and school supplies not being sent to the classroom, and special education students not being given their mandated services.  All of these issues were omitted by the KidsPAC report but are still going on despite the demise of the Bloomberg Administration as the Mayor and his disappointing Chancellor has failed to make the changes necessary for our public schools to succeed.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Latest "Opt Out" Numbers Across The State.

The explosion of students who "opted out" will not have a final number until all the school districts comply with the FOIL and publish the data.  However, enough school districts have reported (72%) to get a clear picture how successful the student "opt out" movement has been.  So far, 185,000 students have "opted out", that's 17% of all students eligible to take the 3-8 grade tests.  On Long Island, approximately 43% of the students "opted out". Interestingly, the highest "opt out" rates were in solidly middle class school districts not the wealthy suburban school districts that the media would like one to believe.  This shows how the vast majority of middle class parents are concerned with the validly of the Common Core best high-stakes test on their child's well-being  To find your school's "opt out" numbers you can use this website Here are some of the more impressive "opt out" numbers I found.

  1.  Comsewogue 82%
  2. Rocky Point    77%
  3. West Seneca  70%
  4. Sayville         68%
  5. Fairport         67%
  6. Iroquois         65%
  7. East Islip       63%
  8. Onteora        61%
  9. Lakeshore      58%
  10. Mahupac       50%
There were many more school districts with over a 50% "opt out" rate but I couldn't list them all.  In one county, Chenongo students were punished for "opting out" by being forced to "sit and stare".  This policy was also employed by isolated schools in various counties  In addition, at least one Superintendent wrote letters to principals asking to identify teachers who actively supported the "opt out" movement for potential discipline.  Otherwise, most school districts stayed relatively neutral on the "opt out" issue, despite the potential financial consequences.

These numbers should increase as more students tend to "opt out" of the Math based test this week.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Governor And NYSED Only Have ThemselvesTo Blame On the "Opt Out" Explosion.

It appears that approximately 200,000 students have "opted out" of the badly flawed high-stakes Common Core tests in English.  In Long Island almost 50% of the students "opted out".  While the numbers in New York City are small, only 2,500 so far "opted out", out of 400,000.  However, some schools had high rates of students "opting out".  For example the Earth School had 72% of their students "opting out".  

The Governor and the NYSED blamed the explosion of "opt outs" to the teacher unions, especially, the State umbrella organization, NYSUT.  While some of that might be true, the majority of parents decided to "opt out" their children because the tests did not realistically determine their academic growth and couldn't understand why the State placed such emphasis on a secret and questionable test that is simply "junk Science".  Moreover, parents talk to their child's teacher and even the highly effective teacher tells the parent that they spend the entire second semester on "test prep"  because their child's ability to do well on the test affects their teacher's evaluation.  Therefore, the children, rather than learning new and interesting  topics, is subjected to unrelenting "test prep" and just plain hate school.

Furthermore, the NYSED determines the cut scores and can manipulate them to meet their political goals.  If they want to show that 10% of the teachers should be rated "ineffective", than raise the cut scores to achieve that goal.  Since the formula used is top secret and the fudge factors used to account for social economic and school effects requires a super computer to determine and can't be independently verified, the SED can do as they please to manipulate the results.

Finally, the questions used are way too difficult and not relevant to real academic achievement.  Real educators have little or no input into the tests.  Instead the State allows a private company to develop and maintain the test without educators looking at and evaluating the imposed tests. Some of the questions are so difficult that educated adults have trouble answering them and we expect our 3-8 graders to pass the test?  Here are some examples.  Here. Here, and Here. In this year''s eighth grade test here are some vocabulry words used:

Vocabulary words from the 8th grade test this week:

8th grade:
Habituation techniques
Per se
Litigious society
'Assuage paradoxical parental anxieties'
'Far from the tax brackets of the south street seaport'
These are words & phrases from a test for 13 year olds.

The bottom line. The NYSED Common Core tests are worthless, punitive, don't show real academic growth, and actually takes away from real academic achievement. Everybody should "OPT OUT".

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Michael Mulgrew's Fantasy World.

It is with little surprise that at last night's Executive Board meeting UFT President, Michael Mulgrew, defended the union's position not to take a stand against the basely flawed Common Core high-stakes testing.  That's right, our disconnected union leadership has defied the will of its members and supports the Common Core based State tests.  It seems to matter little that the vast majority of teachers oppose the "junk science" used to evaluate them and bring fear and loathing to the students. For its all about Michael Mulgrew's vision and not what's best for his members or the school children of the City.

Let's look at all the issues that Michael Mulgrew supports that's against the wishes of his teachers.

Support and funding for Al Sharpton's race baiting demonstrations at the expense of our fellow union members in the police department. Here.

Defending the high-stakes Common Core tests by claiming he will punch anyone in the face if they attack his Common Core.

Negotiated an inferior contract and threw the ATRs under the bus by making them second class citizens.

Refused to support Zepher Teachout by forcing the Working Family Party to support Cuomo for Governor.  How did that work out Mikey?

Hugged Carmen Farina and claimed there's a new tone at the DOE.  I guess we are all tone deaf since we don't hear it.

How can he declare victory when the reality is Governor Cuomo got almost all he asked for in the new budget.  Remember this?
Dear Teacher,
In a rebuke to the anti-public-school agenda of hedge-fund billionaires, the state Legislature tonight reached agreement on a new budget and a package of education proposals that will immediately increase aid to public schools, ensure that teacher evaluations do not hinge on state test scores and ensure local oversight of struggling schools.
Just two months ago, Gov. Cuomo proposed a series of education proposals that amounted to a declaration of war on public schools. His plan was to use the incredible leverage he holds in the state budget process to ram through his plan.  And now all of our hard work is paying dividends. The governor’s Draconian agenda has, in large part, been turned back. We want to thank the Assembly and the Senate for standing up for our schools and school communities.

Finally, he not only refused to support the "opt out" movement but defined the badly flawed high-stakes Common Core tests. by saying the following at the executive board meeting when it was brought up.
At last night’s Executive Board Regina Gori (New Action), Chapter Leader of the Brooklyn New School (with a 90% opt out rate) asked how the union was planning to help teachers of conscience who did not administer state tests. The response was sharp.

  1. Refusing a direct instruction from your supervisor is insubordinate
  2. If we test less than 95% of our students, we could lose Title 1, Title 2, and Title 3 funding, which would cost jobs.
  3. Our allies in the Civil Rights Movement want annual testing. It has helped us learn where the system has problems.
Yes, it seems that Michael Mulgrew is more interested in protecting his friend's political interests than his teachers and the public school students.  I really would like to know what drugs Michael Mulgrew is on since his views are warped and his perception does not reflect the reality of the situation.  In other words, I believe he is living in a fantasy world of his own making.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Teacher Discontinuances Increase Under Mayor De Blasio And Chancellor Farina. So Much For A New Tone At The DOE.

Thanks to Francesco Portelos's FOIL request, we now find out that an astonishing 186 untenured teachers were discontinued in just a four month period between July 1 to October 31 of 2014.  This figure does not include teachers who decided to resign rather than continue teaching in the NYC Public Schools.  While there are no comparable numbers available under the Bloomberg administration, it's hard to believe that the magnitude of the discontinuance numbers in the four month period under De Blasio and Farina are greater than under the Bloomberg administration but it appears that's the case.

At the beginning of the De Blasio administration, teachers hoped for a new philosophy that would support teachers, treat them as the professionals they are, and with the respect that they deserved.  Moreover, there was real hope that the destructive Bloomberg policies that hurt students and starved the schools of necessary resources would end.  In fact, UFT President Michael Mulgrew hugged the new Chancellor, Carmen Farina, and claimed that there is a new tone at the DOE.  Instead, not only did we see the continuation of the destructive Bloomberg policies of "fair student funding" and the ATR crisis but the inadequate school budgets were frozen at Bloomberg levels and class sizes were not reduced as was promised by the Mayor.

Chancellor Carmen Farina has proven to be inept and is as much anti-teacher as her hated predecessors under the Bloomberg administration.  In fact, she has retained many of the Bloomberg appointed administrators at the DOE in vital policy making positions and this is reflected in the obscene amount of paperwork and data mining that is required of the classroom teachers.  Moreover, there has been no letup of tenured teachers facing 3020-a disciplinary charges as the overstaffed Office of Legal Services needs fresh meat to prosecute to keep them busy. Finally, her disdain for veteran teachers showed when she was Principal of her school, where 80% were forced out of the school during her tenure and her statements to "newbie teachers"to beware of the teachers cafeteria and the gripping veteran teachers.

The new tone claimed by UFT President Michael Mulgrew is simply an illusion when it comes to the classroom teacher.