The New York Daily News is starting their bogus hometown hero series again and while some educators are really heroes, quite a few selections are highly questionable. A case in point is the latest nominee, Principal Shawn Rux of MS 53, the Brian Piccolo school in Far Rockaway Queens. Principal Rux has been in charge of this low-performing school since the 2011 school year and the graduates from his middle school have fared poorly on State tests and the majority of his students end up in the worst performing high schools in the Borough.
If you read the "puff piece"in the Daily News on Principal Shawn Rux you would be led to believe he is turning the school around. However, when you look at the academic metrics you find that the school is still failing miserably. It has only 6% of the students passing the State English test and 5% passing the State Math test. This is little or no improvement since he first took over the school that ranks among the lowest achieving middle school in Queens. The Daily News points out that he has reduced suspensions significantly but that goes for most all schools because of the new DOE policy that limits student suspensions. Moreover, he tries to bribe students with something called "Rux Bux" for high grades and good behavior. Is bribing students an academic strategy? Since when is it school policy to offer rewards for appropriate behavior and grades that most of the world expect of their children? If I gave my students cookies and snacks for high grades and good behavior, would I be brought up on charges by DOE legal for discrimination? Moreover, what message am I sending the students?
When you look at the school's snapshot you find some very disturbing information about the teaching staff. First, 52% of the teaching staff has less than 3 years experience, meaning that the vast majority of the staff are not tenured! Moreover, the Principal has a staff trust factor of 76% compared to the City average of 86%. This mean that the inexperienced teaching staff does not completely trust the Principal's decisions and that also shows up in the staff giving the Principal a lower than average "effective leadership" rating. Finally, the constant teacher turnover at the school makes the school environment somewhat unstable and oppressive that is evident in the school's failing academic achievement and the poor ratings the teaching staff received in their quality review of "developing".
Is Principal Shawn Rux a "Hometown Hero"? I certainly don't believe so since I see no significant improvement in the school's academic achievement and bribing students to do the right thing is a real zero in my book.
In other news, the New York Post reported today that Principal Emmanuel Polancio of MS 80 in the Bronx is back in the news again. This time for trying to push a middle aged female teacher (51 years old) out of his school in favor of younger Hispanic teachers. According to the teacher being targeted by Principal Polancio, he has nicknamed the teacher "Shrek". The teacher has now filed a lawsuit against Mr. Polancio in Manhattan Supreme Court for $2 million dollars. This appears to be a "pattern and practice" of Mr. Polancio as you can see Here. He is below average when it comes to "trust" and "effective leadership" and you can find his poor academic results on his school's snapshot.
Principal Emmanuel Polancio is also known as "El Siki" in his inappropriate sexually charged video that makes him a poor role model for impressionable young teenagers. Yet he is still a Principal.
You can see my post Here.
Note: If you read my previous post on Principal Emmanuel Polancio the DOE was going to investigate his behavior. Obviously, they quietly buried it since he is still Principal. The complete "El Siki" video can be found on this link
Regardless who the Mayor of New York City was and is, be it Rudolph Giuliani (Conservative), Michael Bloomberg (Centralist), or Bill de Blasio (Liberal). They all point to the ever rising graduation rate as showing improvement of student academic achievement. However, real education experts know better that the graduation rate is bogus and is based upon questionable methods such as "credit recovery", Principal pressure, and scholarship requirements. Since the Giuliani administration the graduation rate has risen from 45% to over 70% last year. However, just ask employers or colleges what they see when these "high school graduates" cannot fill out an employment application or fail their remedial courses and drop out of college within the first year?
The disconnection between the rising graduation rate and college readiness rates clearly shows the questionable value of a new York City high school diploma and the academic achievement gap. In 2015, the city showed that 70.5% of all high school students graduated in four years, while the college and career readiness metric of those graduates only inched up to 35%. That mean that 2 out of 3 New York City's high school graduates are not ready for college or the adult workplace. Think what that means to our economy? I shudder at the thought that the majority of New York City's high school graduates will be relegated to low wage jobs and will require public assistance to support a family to pay the rent and food on the table. All because we fail to make the high school diploma contingent on academic excellence. Just push them out the door with a bogus high school diploma and hope for the best. That's what the DOE does to these unfortunate students.
Next time the Mayor and Chancellor hail the rising graduation rate, ask them how many of those high school graduates are really academically ready for higher learning and the adult work place? See how quiet or evasive they become. "Children last"....always.
After twelve years of unremitting attacks on teachers and the union under Bloomberg, teachers were hopeful that things would turn for the better with Bill de Blasio. Sure, he picked Carmen Farina as Chancellor and she had a checkered past when it came to teachers under her supervision. However, our union President Michael Mulgrew claimed there was a new tone at the DOE and everything would come out roses for the teachers in the trenches. Unfortunately, it turned out to be wishful thinking on the part of out union.
Under Mayor Bill de Blasio, many of the Bloomberg policies remain in effect, be it "fair student funding",large class sizes, the ATR crisis, and the continuation of the punitive Charlotte Danielson framework. School budgets remained essentially frozen and schools are funded at 86% of what "fair student funding" required. While this is expected to go up to between 89-92%, its still less than 100%. Moreover, Mayor de Blasio kept the "fair student funding" based upon a school rather than the District or City average which is what the rest of the country does. This Bloomberg inspired program that forces schools to hire the cheapest and not the best teachers for their school remains intact under Mayor Bill de Blasio. Finally, the Chancellor's emphasis in removing "bad teachers" outweighs what's best for the students as more tenured teachers are finding themselves removed from the classroom and given 3020-a termination charges.
Sure, there were some changes in the schools under Bill de Blasio, some good, some bad, but overall little has changed. The most negative change under Bill de Blasio was his ill-advised decision to rescind the cellphone ban in schools that has added to more distractions in the classroom. In addition, he has pressured school leaders to reduce student suspensions that have resulted in increasingly unsafe schools. Finally, Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina has pushed for a watering down of the student discipline regulations by imposing a failed "restorative justice" program and giving out "warning cards" for violent incidents.
Our clueless union leadership may be having a love affair with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina but when it comes to the classroom there is little difference between the policies of Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio.
Every school I journey to has a bottled water machine in the student cafeteria and in other student accessible areas in and around the school. The bottled water machine is Aquafine and for a bottle of water it cost $1.25. This seems high for purified water and so I was in Costco this weekend and saw that Costco was selling their own bottled water in their machine. It was called Kirkland purified water and it cost only $0.25 for a cold bottle. The question is a $1.00 per bottle markup appropriate for students, many living in poverty and some homeless? The answer is certainly not.
Sure, the DOE will claim that transportation costs, vandalism, and the many bottled water machines needed for the schools throughout the City accounts for the cost difference. However, does this account for the dollar difference? I don't think so. To me its all about greed and maybe the DOE's slogan should change from "children first" to "greed is good" when it comes to forcing the students to fork over their money for bottled water at a markup of 400% over what Costco charges its own brand.
Since the Bloomberg years the DOE has award many contracts to consultants that cost the school system millions of dollars over the actual cost of services and the contract with the bottled water vender is just another example of the DOE wasting precious money on questionable contracts at the expense of the students of the school system. It's "children last" always when it comes to DOE awarding contracts.
It's Sunday and the New York Post's Susan Edelman has published another important article on the New York City Public Schools, this time its about weapons in the schools. According to the article there has been a 26% increase in weapons confiscated for this school year compared to last. Of the 1,751 weapons confiscated, 698 came from schools with metal detectors, yet the Mayor is under pressure to eliminate these safeguards. Imagine what these schools would be like if there were no meta detectors? How more unsafe would these schools be? As it is, most of the weapon confiscations are from schools without metal detectors or 60% of all confiscations.
Sure, under the Bloomberg administration there were weapon confiscations and many principals hid violent incidents, while the DOE looked the other way An example was HIllcrest High School where staff knew not to report incidents and they received a safety award for being a safe school. However, the Mayor understood that suspensions, arrests, were necessary and no electronics by students in school were important for him to achieve his educational goals. Unfortunately, with our progressive mayor school suspensions are down 32%, cellphones are being used indiscriminately, and restorative justice meeting that students take as a joke allows disruptive and violent students back into the classroom to continue to make havoc in the classroom which hurts student learning.
Schools need to be safe and the classroom peaceful for real student academic achievement, neither is possible if the De Blasio administration continues to ignore what is really going on in the schools. Giving a pass to student destructive behaviors and hiding the real statistics that show how unsafe schools really are and yet teachers are blamed when these behaviors go unchecked.
When Carmen Farina became Chancellor of the New York City Schools one of her priorities were to drain the ATR pool and eliminate the over $100 million dollar annual drain on the DOE budget. She said all the right things like getting the ATRs back into the classroom and encourage incompetent teachers to voluntarily leave the profession. To achieve this goal she authorized an ATR buyout in 2014 where all of 91 teachers (most were retiring anyway) took the inadequate buyout offer. Failing that, the Chancellor changed her tune about ATRs and she not only retained the worst aspects of the Bloomberg/Klein policies but made them more punitive when it came to the ATR pool.
First, despite promises that there would be a new tone at the DOE, Chancellor Caren Farina retained 80% of the DOE policymakers and failed to change the school based "fair student funding" formula. The one major change that needed to be made to encourage schools to hire the experienced teachers they require for better student academic achievement. Instead, this destructive formula penalizes schools who hire highly experienced teachers and improves a school's budget when they hire clueless "newbie teachers". In other words student academic achievement is less important than the school's budget.
Second, under Carmen Farina, all ATRs now have field supervisors whose job is tothin the heard and thanks to our union, they now can recommend termination to the Superintendent which will result in 3020-a charges. More of this later.
Finally, under the new contract the Chancellor and the union negotiated ATRs are now second class citizens with reduced "due process" rights, mandatory interviews, and expedited 3020-a hearings. A complete list of what ATR reduced "due process" rights are can be found Here.
Now, thanks to our union, the DOE has proceeded with 3020-a termination hearings on ATRs who were given unsatisfactory observations by field supervisors and unfortunately. two consecutive unsatisfactory ratings by field supervisors are resulting in ATRs being terminated. Yes, despite being in a strange classroom where the teacher does not know the students or have ownership of their grade, the ATRs are being "U rated" and losing their livelihood.
While the blame lies squarely with the DOE and Chancellor Carmen Farina, the union is complicit with this travesty that has befallen the ATRS and the union leadership should be voted out of office for their failure to protect their most vulnerable members, the ATRs. When you vote remember what the Unity caucus has done to make the life of the ATR a miserable experience. You can read itHere.
In 2004 Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein, heeding the education reform community, decided to eliminate the neighborhood high school and give students "free choice" to apply to any high school in New York City that was not a specialized school. This "free choice" was supposed to narrow the academic achievement gap and help diversify schools. In fact, Chancellor Joel Klein in his exit interview with the New York Times said " poverty is not destiny" when it came to student academic achievement. Well, fast forward to 2016 and the high schools are far from diverse with far too many of them segregated by race and income. As for narrowing the racial/income? It has been a total failure as the "college and career readiness" numbers show. In other words, the education deformer claim that poverty is not the primary factor in academic achievement but teacher quality is has been proven false. In fact, Joel Klein himself grudgingly acknowledged this in a speech this year.
Now adding to the evidence that poverty is correlated with poor academic achievement, a study just completed convincingly shows that a students home zip code is strongly correlated with academic achievement, regardless of what high school these students attend. A study prepared by Measure for America found that neighborhoods are even more important than race or culture. A Washington Post summary of the report is found Here. Some of the findings are as follows: when linking the best and worst neighborhoods to graduation rates. Neighborhood.............................................Graduation Rate Morris Heights.....................................................60.9% Ocean Hill/Brownsville.........................................61.4% Crotona Park.......................................................61.4% Highbridge..........................................................63.4% Hunts Point.........................................................63.4% East Harlem.........................................................65.1% Far Rockaway......................................................67.7% Bedford Stuyvesant.............................................67.7%
Greenwich Village/Soho....................................95.1% Bayside/Little Neck...........................................92.2% Forest Hills........................................................91.0% Tottenville.........................................................89.0% Upper East Side.................................................88.3% Murray Hill/Gramercy........................................86.8% South Beach......................................................86.0% Fresh Meadows.................................................83.9%
What the report shows that regardless of what high school the student travels to, the biggest factor in the student academic achievement is the community that student lives in not the quality of their teachers or the location to school resides in.
Note: While I believe the graduation rate is inflated and the college and career readiness rate is probably a better indicator of student academic achievement, the study is simply comparing the graduation rate for different neighborhoods which shows the true academic achievement gap.