Wednesday, February 03, 2016

The DOE Finds 36 High Schools Abuse The Credit Recovery Program. Or Did They?

The DOE's task force on cheating quietly found that 36 high schools abused the "credit recovery" programs but in typical DOE fashion, refused to identify any of the 36 high schools and protecting wayward principals from public scrutiny.

Apparently, the DOE wrote a report that identified 36 high schools that inappropriately used the "credit recovery" program and recommended corrective action be taken.  However, the report has not been made public and without a detailed review of the findings there is little way to know if the principals of these 36 schools were found to have inappropriately give out "free credits" or that the abuses were minor and did not significantly affect the credit accumulation of the students involved?

The problem is that the DOE has so far refused to make the anti-cheating task force report available to the media or general public.  Therefore, one must take the report's conclusion with suspicion.  Maybe, if an independent task force had prepared the report, I might believe it.  However, the DOE has time and again found nothing wrong only to find major problems that the DOE ignored.

The Deputy Chancellor claims they were proactive but without a detailed inspection of the report and the data that went into the conclusions, there is no way to determine the accuracy and truthfulness of the conclusions.

Monday, February 01, 2016

In Defense Of A Discontinued Teacher

In yesterday's New  York Post there was a story about a teacher accused of sexually abusing students who ended up being discontinued by the DOE.  Before I go into the story let me tell you that there should be "zero tolerance" of proven sexual misconduct between a teacher and a student and they should be arrested and terminated while losing their teaching license.  However, as I have previously written, the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and the Special Commissioner of Investigations (SCI) will almost always substantiate sexual misconduct charges if a student complains that the teacher touched him or her inappropriately.  I should know because SCI substantiated such a complaint against me only to have the 3020-a arbitrator, faced with real and relevant evidence and an ever-changing story by the student involved,  rightly ruled that no sexual misconduct happened.

Back to the story, the discontinued teacher was accused by four different students (both boys and girls) of touching them inappropriately and sexually.  If the charges were remotely true then why wasn't the teacher arrested by the NYPD sex crimes unit?  Obviously, an adult accused of sexually touching a minor gives the police "probable cause" to arrest the adult.   Especially, as one boy claimed he engaged in oral sex with the teacher.  Could the reason be that the NYPD looked into the accusations and decided the students were not credible?  I certainly think this might be the case. However, since the default by OSI and SCI is that the teacher is guilty of the allegation, they didn't need "probable cause" to substantiate the accusations, despite the questionable credibility of the students.

According to the teacher,  who was not tenured and teaching Special Education students, the four students complained after he called their homes to tell their parents about their unruly behavior.  Could the four students have conspired to make up the sexual abuse allegations as revenge?  Maybe, and I wouldn't discount that possibility.  The fact the teacher was not arrested tells me that the NYPD did not believe the student allegations makes me question the student's accusations.

The New York Post article also claimed one boy was crying when telling his story to the SCI investigators.  Was he crying because he was alone with two strange detectives and was stressed and scared of being caught in a lie?  Or was he crying due to the alleged abuse?  I don't know the answer to this but again, why didn't the NYPD arrest the teacher, even if it was to simply arraign him?  When the male teacher from Brooklyn Tech was found to have committed sexual misconduct, he went to jail.  So did the female gym teacher at Grover Cleveland.  Yet, the NYPD did not arrest this teacher?

Being a recipient of SCI's flawed and corrupt investigations, I am highly suspicious of the SCI report on the discontinued Special Education teacher since the NYPD chose not to arrest the teacher, despite the allegations lodged against him.  If he really did it, he should count his lucky stars that he is not in jail but my own experience tells me that he was simply an unfortunate example of the overzealous SCI investigative process.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Great Loss To The Blogosphere. No More Perdido Street School

To my great shock and dismay I read that Perdido Street School is no longer a source of very important education news.  The author Reality Based Educator (RBE) has discontinued his blog and that is a great loss to the education blogosphere.

We bloggers are the voice of the educator and losing one of the best will create a void for the rest of us.  Like RBE, Arthur Goldstein aka nyc educator, encouraged me to start my own blog and it has made me a better and more informative  person.  Perdido Street School was one of the first blog posts I read every day and while I might not always agree with RBE's politics, I highly respect his opinion.  How he can update his blog twice or even three times a day is beyond me.  I have trouble enough updating my blog once every two days.

RBE, you will be greatly missed and we all hope that you reconsider and bless us with your insight and information that we all depend on.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

High Schools With Untrustworthy Principals In Queens.

One of the more stressful environments teachers find themselves in is when they do not trust their Principal, be it for incompetence, vindictiveness, or just being plain abusive.  When there is a lack of trust between the staff and the school administration, it only ends up hurting the students both academically and emotionally.  Therefore,  its important for teachers looking for positions which schools they would be wise not to apply to.  The "dirty dozen" list below comes from the latest school snapshot (2014-2015) that shows the schools that have the least trustworthy principals that should be on everybody's "do not apply" list.

School................................Trust Principal

Queens Gateway.....................23%
William Cullen Bryant..............40%
Cambria Heights Academy.......43%
Science, Research,  and Math...60%
Grover Cleveland....................60%
Richmond Hill..........................63%
Queens HS for Teaching...........63%
Queens Collegiate...................63%
American Studies....................67%
Martin Van Buren....................70%

The citywide average is 82%

Just missing inclusion into the "dirty dozen" were Queens Preparatory Academy (71%), Forest Hills (72%), Newcomers (73%), and York College High School For The Sciences (73%).

 One thing that I have been told is that even though the survey is not subject to the Principal's scrutiny, many teachers don't want to take the chance that their Principal will find out.  Therefore, they don't truefully fill out the survey with negative comments in fear of being targeted.

Maybe Chancellor Carmen Farina should start with this list, when she finally decides to remove poor leaders who have not gained the trust of their staff and, in turn, hurts the school's learning environment.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Parent From Hell.

In every class you always have a parent or two who believes their child walks on water when they can't even swim!   However, what's even worse, there is always the parent from hell who believes their child is perfect and deserves high scores when the reality is the student's work is mediocre at best.   That is the case today as I was pulled out of my grading assignment to document the grade I gave a child.

The grade I gave the child was based upon four different factors, tests, labs, assignments, and participation.  When I added up the entire package the final grade was a touch below what I gave the student, so I rounded up the grade to the higher value.  I didn't penalize the student for missing days or arriving late to school, which I should have done.  Finally, on the days the student didn't show up to my class, the student could come in the next day and pick up and make up the assignment.  The same goes for the student's missing labs.

Naturally, the student never bothered to make up the missing labs or take the previous do Therefore, the blame was placed not upon the student, who's failure to make up the assigned work but was placed squarely on me by the parent since I didn't inform the parent of every assignment she did not complete.  Moreover, I failed to have an online grading book so the parent could closely follow on the internet her child's progress.  I also was at fault for not getting back to the parent about the student;s grade, despite the fact I had not calculated the grade at the time since I was still marking labs and did not finish grading the last test given that day.

Reading this you would think I failed the student?  The grade the student received was a "B" average and I was being generous!  Unfortunately,   for some reason this parent believes her student is an "A" student and her grade would have been higher, except its because I'm a lousy teacher and I don't appreciate the student. The parent of course,  ignores the six days that her child missed my class in the last two months or the problematic behavior her child exhibits far too many times as well as the student's lack of focus.

I would like to say the school administration had my back but I spent the entire morning being made to justify my grade for the student and being threatened with going to the Superintendent's Office to micromanage my grading policy and organization.  Having my back?  It felt like I was being stabbed in the back!  I felt quite disrespected and people want to know why there is a looming teacher shortage?

In the next semester, to protect myself from both the school administration and helicopter parents, including  the parent from hell, I will make every effort to document everything daily but I will not use an online grading book and have big brother watching my every entry. Furthermore,  I never use an online grading book until and unless the union contract requires it.  To me that is too much work and I have a life after school even if other people don't think I should..

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Education Deformer Pursuit Of The Holy Grail.

Since the turn of the century, education deformers have been in pursuit of the "holy grail" that would make every American student academically proficient.  This futile search for education excellence has been met with disappointment, frustration, and failure as all their attempts to improve education has made it worse instead as they ignore the root cause of the problem..

First, there was no child left behind that required all schools and their cohorts meet academic standards by 2014.  Over the years many states obtained waivers,  like not hiring "highly qualified teachers" and carving out exemptions for different cohorts of students.  Then there was the Bill Gates pushed small schools initiative that claimed small schools that replaced large schools help students.  Once the playing field was leveled,  (take a look at the Bronx) even Bill Gates realized that small schools were not the answer. Next, were the charter schools, surely the charter schools freed from union regulations was the answer.  Innovative teaching and the ability to impose strict discipline will allow for academic achievement.  However, most charter schools became test prep factories and failed to provide a stable teaching staff as teacher turnover hurt the very student academic achievement they were trying to achieve.  Moreover, in the few successful charter schools like "Success Academy" , those schools found ways to suspend struggling students, not promote them, and make life miserable for their parents until the student was removed from the school.  Even, the biggest supporters of charter schools are slowly realizing this model does not work,

Bill Gates, then spent his billions to push for a teacher evaluation system, making teachers accountable for student growth scores.  Encouraged by the Obama Administration who dangled billions of federal dollars to the states during the depth of the recession, 47 states jumped at the money, called "Race To The Top"with many of the largest teacher unions supporting it.  It mattered little that most teachers were dead set against such an unfair teacher evaluation system but it was much needed money.   Furthermore, despite a study that shows teachers account for between 1% (high school) to 14% (K-2) of a student's academic growth, some states like New York requires student growth scores to be an astonishing 50% of a teacher's evaluation!  Now, many States are rapidly retreating or eliminating their teacher evaluation systems as being punitive (Danielson)  and riddled with errors (junk Science). However, the damage has been done with a teacher shortages spreading throughout the country and fewer qualified individuals willing to be disrespected and abused by electing to become a classroom teacher.

Finally, the newest  idea that ed deformers are picking up on is "blended learning" that is a combination of classroom and online courses.  However, experience has found that "blended learning" has not lived up to its promise and many school districts, including New York City, are using it to eliminate teaching positions to save money and use it as a "credit recovery course" .  Unfortunately, the use of "blended learning" is already morphing into just another way for struggling students ti get easy credits.

Will the education deformer world find the "holy grail" for that great education?  Not very likely unless they solve the social-economic factors of family, poverty, and community first and then spend the funds needed to reduce class sizes and provide quality teachers to the schools.  Unfortunately,  that's the ed deformer blind spot on what's really needed to improve student academic outcomes.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

When An Investigation Is Substantiated, Is The Educator Automatically Terminated?

According to the Special Commissioner of Investigations (SCI), there were 5,500 complaints made against educators in 2015 and 26% of them were substantiated or 1,430 cases.  SCI investigates complaints of sexual misconduct, criminality, test tampering, or financial mismanagement.  Some are serious, like sex with a student or stealing money, while others are not.  Regardless, all substantiated complaints by SCI and the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), who investigate issues of corporal punishment and verbal abuse, are placed on a teacher's file as a red flag for anybody considering in appointing the teacher to their school, or as I call it a "scarlet letter".

Unfortunately,  even the most minor of incidents such as making a bad joke, disciplining a misbehaving student, or a student misunderstanding a teacher's intentions can lead to a SCI or OSI investigation and if the student has a friend or two to back her up, the allegation is then substantiated. However, just because the two investigative agencies substantiates the allegation, it does not necessarily mean the allegation is true and lead to termination.  It depends on what was substantiated and is there real evidence to back it up, not simply hearsay.  Moreover, even if the DOE decides to file 3020-a termination charges against the tenured teacher, only the  independent arbitrator can decide if the teacher's conduct was egregious enough to warrant termination. For teachers who are not tenured, usually any substantiated allegation by SCI or OSI will lead to the teacher receiving a discontinuance and will make it nearly impossible ever to work for the DOE again.

While the two investigative agencies will claim that they conduct a fair and impartial investigation, the investigations are heavily influenced by three factors and they are;
  1. Does the Principal like the teacher?
  2. Does the teacher have previous discipline issues?
  3. Did the teacher cooperate with the investigators?
 In my experience, the Principal's input will determine the tone of the investigation and how they will approach the allegation.  Furthermore, if the teacher had previous allegations, the investigators will assume a "pattern and practice" and will almost always substantiate the allegation, no matter how frivolous.  Finally, the teacher's refusal to talk to the investigators makes it seem that they are hiding things and are guilty of the allegations.  Of course, talking to these investigators, without appropriate union or legal representation, will allow them to turn your own words against you at the 3020-a hearing.  Therefore, its best not to cooperate and talk to these investigators and wait for your 3020-a hearing where your words cannot be twisted. This is especially true when it's SCI since they can actually arrest you if by speaking to them, you give them probable cause.

      ......................."NEVER TALK TO SCI"...................

Remember, the default is that investigators assume the teacher is guilty of the allegation and anytime you are scheduled to meet with an investigator, make sure you have proper union representation if its OSI and a lawyer if SCI is the investigative agency. Hopefully, you will never be put into the position that requires taking this advice.