Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Few New York City Teachers Found To Be Ineffective. Governor Cuomo Displeased.






















Well, the final numbers are in and, despite the State imposed punitive Danielson Rubric and the "Junk Science", only 1.2% of New York City teachers were found to be " ineffective".  This is slightly higher than the rest of the State (0.4%) but still too low for the Governor, ex-Mayor Bloomberg and his friends at Tweed, and the education reformers who were hoping for a 10% "ineffective" rate.  The good news was released by the State and Chalkbeat published the report which can be found here


The chart below shows the City and the State teacher ratings.




















Look for the newspapers to complain, the education reformers to howl with disgust, and the displeased Governor to demand a more stringent teacher evaluation system, since few teachers can be fired on the first round of evaluations.  Teacher season is just beginning with the second term of the Governor and a new NYSED Commissioner who's mandate from the Governor will be to go after teachers and not to help the students who will suffer with "high stakes" Common Core tests that they are ill prepared for and "Junk Science" for teacher evaluations.  The Governor is a "student lobbyist"?  Not according to most real educators.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Common Core Is A Disaster For Special Needs Children.



























Most classroom teachers know that Common Core has been a disaster and the "junk science" in the form of high stakes testing that goes with it has resulted in most students not meeting the standards and adversely affect teacher evaluations with unjust terminations.  Unfortunately, from the Obama Administration, to Cuiomo, to De Blasio and his disappointing Chancellor, Carmen Farina, all have supported the Common Core.  Worse, our union President Michael Mulgrew has threatened to punch anyone in the face   if they take away his Common Core.  Until Common Core collapses like a "house of cards" and it will, expect it to stay for the next couple of years and destroy the lives of students and teachers alike. One bit of good news is that Andrew Cuomo is forcing out NYSED Commissioner John T. King and maybe things will change for the better (don't bet on it)  However, that's for another day.  This post is about the collateral damage that Common Core and its rigor is doing to our most neediest of children in the school system and nobody in charge seems to care. 

I have a very close friend who works in District 75 and with the most severely disabled children who are classified as being both autistic and mentally retarded. She is a teacher in the most restrictive 6:1:1 classroom and has spent almost two decades teaching these children life and fundamental skills so that they can be productive adults and contribute to society.  Many of her students stay with her for up to three years and by the time they move on she has taught them many social and fundamental (life) skills that allow them to become functional adults.  However, because Common Core and its associated rigor has infiltrated even to the Special Education District 75, she finds herself being forced to teach them geometry and social studies rather than the skills they really need like using money to buy items in stores and teaching them social cues.  Worse, the Common Core and its associated rigor requires even autistic students to communicate and work cooperatively with their peers despite the fact that these students struggle mightily to do either one and frustrates them to the point they shut down and become uncooperative. 

My friend is clearly frustrated herself as she has seen her mission change from teaching them coping skills and civics to questionable academics that have little or no impact on their life, or ever will be.  Instead of taking her students on field trips to stores and have them buy items, given a limited amount of money and going over a shopping list of what to buy and not to buy.  She finds herself giving her students Common Core Math workbooks that makes little sense to her and makes her students unhappy.  Furthermore, she used to walk her students around the neighborhood and go into the local stores while teaching them appropriate behaviors as they interact with the general public and go over what each traffic and parking sign meant. Now she gives them Common Core workbooks on our country's history and about the Presidents and worries what will happen to her students when they become adults?

In a job she loved and took pride in making the most developmentally disabled students functional citizens of this country, she finds herself counting the days until she retires as she wastes her time doing outrageous amount of paperwork using the SESIS program, day and night without payment and giving out useless Common Core workbooks while defending her teaching skills to meet the ill-defined rigor demanded by her administrators.  To her, Common Core is an unmitigated disaster and hurts the very students who need the help the most.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Comparing Our Pension With Other State Pension Plans.



































How does our pension plan compare to other State pension plans?  The answer is our pension is one of the better ones, assuming you're Tier 4 and are covered by Social Security (SS).    Even Tier 5 compares favorably with only a 3% contribution rate.   However, for those under Tier 6, it falls close to the middle of the pack.There are some States that have it as good as us, like Utah, Delaware, and Virgina but none have it better than New York.  In my opinion,  New York's pension calculation is one of the most generous giving a twenty-five year employee a 50% pension and add that to the Social Security check and you have about a 75% replacement of your working salary, that's a pretty secure retirement.

While the pension multiplier for some states are higher than New York's (2.0%), many of them are not part of the Social Security system and even using the highest multiple of 2.5% used by these States for a twenty-five year employee, the yearly difference would only be $12,500, less than half of what one can expect from Social Security ($26,000).   Furthermore, all but Nevada requires large employee contributions ranging from 6% (Connecticut & Texas) to a whopping 13% in Missouri. Even California who many consider having the best pension system in the country, requires an 8% employee contribution with no Social Security coverage.  I'll take New York's pension system anytime over California's or any other State's for that matter.

The table above compares all the states pension calculations, except Alaska since they do not have a defined benefit pension plan.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Another Principal Acting Badly.




























Yet another Principal, with a record of allegations against him, is still in charge of his school despite having  two separate lawsuits filed against him by female staff in federal court who claim that he harassed them out of the school.  The Principal is none other than Leadership Academy Principal Howard Kwait of John Browne High School. Mr. Kwait has been in the news previously for his questionable actions as Principal.

In June of this year investigators reported three separate cases of harassment by staff but the DOE chose to ignore the investigator's report.  Before that the Conflict Of Interest Board fined Mr. Kwait $4,500 for his vacations with a school aide.

It was at John Bowne that an Indian diplomat's daughter was falsely arrested for cyber bullying and eventually won a lawsuit against the City, school, and the Principal which resulted in a $225,000  settlement from the City for the false arrest.

Since taking over the school as Principal back in 2006, Howard Kwait has been in and out of trouble but due to the apparent protections that he enjoys at Tweed, he has never had to face charges that would have resulted in the removal of most others.   For example while he was accused of changing grades by some staff, the DOE did not seriously investigate the charges,

Principal Howard Kwait is just another example of the DOE's "double standard" that ignores evidence against administrators while removing teachers and filing 3020-a charges against them for far less offenses and allegations.  To find an updated list of Administrators in need of improvement go to the DTOE website.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Queens High Schools To Avoid.



























The DOE's "High School Quality Snapshot" contains some very interesting information and two categories in the report sparked my interest.  They are "would teachers recommend their school to parents" and "do students feel safe in their school"?  Both categories, when put together, gives a educator some very important information whether to apply or accept a position at schools that rated low in one or both categories.  The first list is more about how the school administration treats their staff and students.  While the second list is about how well the school handles student discipline issues.

The first list are the schools who rated lowest in the category "teachers would recommend this school to parents".  The citywide and borough average is 81%.

School                                             Teacher Recommended
Math, Science & Research...............................25%
Business Computer Applications........................33%
Queens Collegiate..........................................41%
Law, Government & Community Service..............44%
Queens Preparatory Academy...........................54%
William Cullen Bryant.......................................54%
Queens HS of Teaching...................................58%
George Washington Carver...............................58%
Gateway to the Health Sciences.......................61%
Flushing.......................................................62%
Pathways College Preparatory..........................62%

The second list, are the schools rated lowest in the category "students feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms,locker rooms, and cafeteria".  The citywide average is 76%.  The borough average is 82%.

School                                               Student Safety
Rockaway Collegiate......................................50%
Martin Van Buren...........................................55%
August Martin...............................................57%
Flushing.......................................................67%
Pathway College Preparatory...........................67%
George Washington Carver..............................68%
Math, Science & Research..............................68%
Law, Government & Community Service.............68%
John Adams.................................................70%
August Martin..............................................71%

The final list combines the two lists and ranks the school based upon lowest total percentages and these are the top twelve schools to avoid at all costs.

School                                                                    Rank
Math, Science & Research..............................1
Rockaway Collegiate.....................................2
Business, Computer Applications...................3
Law, Government & Community Service.........4
Martin Van Buren..........................................5
August Martin...............................................6
Queens Collegiate.........................................7
George Washington Carver............................8
Queens Preparatory Academy........................9
Flushing......................................................10
William Cullen Bryant...................................10
Pathways College Preparatory......................10

The school ranked #1 is the Math, Science & Research Technology Magnet school in the old Andrew Jackson campus, with the infamous Leadership Academy Principal, Jose Cruz in charge.  Yes, the same Jose Cruz who gave 33% of his staff "unsatisfactory ratings" in 2013 and according to the Organizer 23% received "ineffective" from him last year (August Martin had the highest at 27%). Furthermore,  only 12% of the staff believe Principal Cruz was an effective manager.  Add this year's list to last year's list and none of the schools on the four lists are schools I would be happy to work in and hope I never do.

Friday, December 05, 2014

A Simple Chart To Determine Your Tier 4 Pension.



Despite the many retirements in the last few years, the bulk of educators in the NYC school system are still covered under New York State's Tier 4 pension system.  Therefore, I prepared a simple chart that helps one to determine their pension at retirement.

The chart shows the percentage of the Final Average Salary (FAS) that the educator will receive, based upon age, and years of service.  This chart excludes any educator who participates in the 25/55 program and those who receive a disability pension.

Final Average Salary (FAS):
The FAS is calculated as the highest three consecutive years which are usually the last three years that an educator works.  However, to ensure that the educator doesn't pad their pension in the last year, there is a 10% cap.  That means that if any one year is greater than 110% of the FAS, than that year's salary is capped at 110% and not higher.  To get a present day estimate of your FAS, you can go on the TRS website and look it up under benefit estimates .  However, the TRS website does not include per session, coverages, or 683 money in their pension calculation, just your base salary.

Years of Service:
The years of service is credited when you have completed the year not at the start of the year.

Multiplier:
The multiplier used to determine the educator's pension is based upon the years of service completed.  The table below shows the completed years of service and the multiplier.

Years of Service                    Multiplier
Less than 20 years....................1.67%
20 years or greater....................2.0%
Over 30 years..........................1.5%*


* Note: the 1.5% multiplier is for every completed year above 30.

Age Correction Factor:
No educator can receive a regular pension before the age of 55.  Between 55 and 61 years of age, the pension is reduced by the age correction factor.  However, if the educator is part of the 25/55 program or has completed 30 years of service, no age correction factor is used.

Finally, the chart assumes the maximum single educator payout (option 1).  If you intend to put a spouse as a recipient of your pension, the final pension will be reduced by as much as 15%, depending on the option selected and the age of the spouse.

Example 1:
Educator with 15 years experience with an FAS of $85,000 wants to retire at 57.
$85,000 x 19.8% = $16,830

Example 2:
Educator with 25 years of experience with an FAS of $104,000 wants to retie at 62.
$104,000 x 50% = $52,000

Example 3:
Educator with 34 years of experience with a FAS of $110,000 wants to retire at 55.
$110,000 x 66% = $72,600.

Example 4:
Educator with 19 years of experience with a FAS of $90,000 wants to retire at 62,
$90,000 x 31.7% = $28,530

Example 5:
Educator with 22 years of experience with a FAS of $102,000 wants to retire at 55.
$102,000 x  32.1% = $32,742.

Example 6:
Educator with 10 years of experience with an FAS of $75,000 wants to retire at 55.
$75,000 x 12.2% = $9,150.


Thursday, December 04, 2014

Comparing Two Similar Schools With Different Academic Outcomes.




























In my previous post where I compared the Queens high school's racial composition with the "college readiness scores" and found that schools with a high concentration of black students had, on the average, the lowest "college readiness scores".  As expected, I had some real push-back publishing the data.  Included in this push-back was a popular and well-respected blogger who told me that I didn't account for the dumping of a large percentage of  "high needs students"  that made these schools low preforming.  He further stated that I was using the same methods that the Bloomberg administration did by dumping "high needs students" in these struggling schools to justify their closing.  Therefore, to prove that's not the case,  I decided to look at two similar small schools with nearly identical SAT scores and who had single digit Asian/White populations, to see if there was dumping of "high needs students" and did it result in one school having much lower "college readiness scores" than the other.

The two schools selected was the Civic Leadership Academy (24Q293) that has a 78% Hispanic student body and the Humanities & Arts Magnet High School (29Q498) with a 80% Black student body.  The three parameters I used came from the 2013-14 High School Quality Report and were the percentage of English Language Learners, Special Education students, and Free Lunch, used as a marker for poverty.  The table below compares the two schools.

  School.............................ELL...........Sp Ed..........Free Lunch

Humanities & Arts.................3%............20%.............58%
Civic Leadership...................9%............23%.............67%

When one looks at the three parameters, you would think that the higher "college readiness scores" would be found with the school; with the lower percentages of the three categories.  Wrong!  The Civic Leadership Academy had a "college readiness score" of 28% while the Humanities & Arts Magnet school had a dismal 5% "college readiness score"

Since the SAT scores were nearly identical at 1208 at Civic leadership and 1209 at Humanities & Arts.  What accounted for the different "college readiness scores" between the two schools?  The answer is the educational culture of the different student population of the two schools.  At the Civic Leadership Academy, the student body comes from families and communitioes that apparently value education while the student body at Humanities & Arts Magnet School come from families and communities that apparently don't seem to value education the same way.

One thing is obvious, the poor "college readiness scores" at Humanities & Arts were not due to the dumping of "high needs students" into the school but is caused by other factors.  I don't pretend to know the answer but if one looks at the social-economic factors like family and community impacts on the academic outcomes of the child, it will go a long way in identifying the problems associated  with poor student academic achievement.