Sunday, August 02, 2015

Academic Fraud In The New York City High Schools Continues Under Chancellor Carmen Farina.

When Carmen Farina took over as Chancellor, many educators hoped for better times led by the UFT leadership.  In fact, there appeared to be a blossoming love affair between the Chancellor and UFT President, Michael Mulgrew. However, there were some dark clouds on the horizon.  First, there was Farina's actions as Principal of PS 6 the resulted in the majority of the school's teachers to leave as reported by blogger Betsy Combier.  Second, was her lack of action as Superintendent of Region 8 when the Cobble Hill cheating scandal broke as Phillip Noble reported.  Finally, her failure to remove the Bloomberg era managers at the DOE and kept them largely intact in their policy making positions. Now it seems that the academic fraud that permeated the Bloomberg years is continuing under Chancellor Carmen Farina.

In today's New York Post, Susan Edelman has written an article about a student who admitted she didn't attend class, failed to make up work, or even bothered to take the final but yet the school, William Cullen Bryant, graduated her anyway.  Yes, the very same school that brings you Principal Namita Dwarka.  You can read the entire article Here.  The DOE will pretend that this is an exception but we teachers know this academic fraud is commonplace throughout the system.

School administrators are under pressure to improve their graduation rates, reduce dropout rates, and increase credit accumulation.  That means giving easy "credit recovery courses" that require little or no work, blended learning with little real instruction,  pressure on teachers to pass undeserving students by threatening the teachers with bad observation reports, and ignoring attendance and seat time requirements under State regulations.  Many principals require a 80% to 90% passing rate (scholarship) for a teacher's students, including no-shows and anything less results in the administration harassing the teacher with numerous observations, requests to document parent contact, and interrogating students about any dirt on the teacher that could be used for disciplinary action.

All this academic fraud was the trademark of the Bloomberg/Klein years and continued under Dennis Walcott as the racial/income student achievement gap kept widening while the bogus graduation rate rose.  The DOE, despite assuring the State that the "credit recovery" would be rigorous, closed their collective eyes to the abuses throughout the school system.  Moreover, they even tried to protect principals who were caught and exposed by dragging out investigations, hoping it would simply die and some did.  Finally, the DOE's antagonism to staff whistle-blowers remains as entrenched as ever under the de Blasio/Farina administration as shown by the Richmond Hill investigation.

Regardless how one looks at it, academic fraud is widespread in the New York City schools and too many students are being graduated unprepared for the adult world. The latest statistics show that an astonishing 78% of high school graduates from the system must take remedial courses due to their lack of  "college and career readiness" and despite assurances that things will change for the better, I just don't see it happening under this disappointing Chancellor.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Principals To Avoid In Queens.

Thanks to Gene J Mann of The Organizer who put together the list of the trustworthiness for all Queens principals in the latest school survey, we now can rank each principal on whether they and their decisions are trustworthy by the school staff.  The Citywide average for Principal trustworthiness is 86% and is used as the baseline.

The list below are the principals who had the lowest trustworthiness ratings by their teaching staff  and I call them the "dirty dozen" plus two.

Samantha Severin.....................Q45..........................25.8%
Lynne Callender........................Q496.........................34.2%
Rachelle Legions.......................Q106........................36.2%
Judy Henry............................Q680.........................37.4%
Melissa Haidary........................Q186.........................44.4%
Vasilios Marolios.......................Q540.........................47.4%
Melissa Menake........................Q326........................50.2%
Raquel De Millio........................Q165........................51.2%
Enric Kendall...........................Q460.........................51.6%
Caryn Michaell.........................Q87..........................52.2%
Namita Dwarka......................Q445.........................52.2%
Adeline Valastro-Tripoli...............Q58.........................53.0%
Patricia Costa..........................Q242........................53.0%
Cheryl Ann Leone.....................Q306.........................54.4%

As for principals who are newsworthy due to their actions, here are a few.

Ruchelle White.....................Q226........................56.8%
Neil Ganesh..........................Q475........................69.0%
Minerva Zanca......................Q294.......................72.4%
Jose Cruz.............................Q492.......................72.8%
Jamie Dubel.........................Q310.......................74.8%

Maybe Chancellor Carmen Farina should look at this list and realize that these principals have not earned the trust of their staff and should not be running their schools.  However, I am not holding my breath on the disappointing Chancellor to do what's good for the school and their students and remove these principals.  Therefore, if you are looking for a position or want to transfer please avoid working for these principals.

You may also want to avoid these Queens high schools as well.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

City Has A Record Budget Surplus Thanks To The Inferior Contract Negotiated By Our Union Leadership.

 It wasn't long ago when UFT President Michael Mulgrew pleaded with the membership to approve a substandard contract claiming the City had a limited amount of funds and if we refused, we would be sent to the "back of the line" and get less money.  The scare tactics worked and the members approved the contract with a  pitiful 1.4% annual raise for the ten year period from 2009-18, with much of the money back-loaded to as far as the year 2020!

Just yesterday, the City Comptroller, Scott Stringer told the press that the City has a whopping $5.9 billion dollar budget surplus and the City revenues have increased by 7% or 1% over the 2009-13 average of 6%.

Where did the budget surplus come from?  Partly from the economic recovery that greatly increased tax revenues and the cost savings from the public sector contracts that our UFT leadership rammed down the throats of City workers.  That's right, the City is experiencing record surpluses while freezing school budgets, fails to reduce class sizes, and continuing the Bloomberg tradition of  "education on the cheap" policies under Bill de Blasio.

What bothers me most is that most every economist predicted that the City was on track for a major economic recovery and even before De Blasio took office, the City budget was realizing an increase in revenue.  Yet our union leadership ignored the economic reality and wanted the new Mayor to look good as a tough negotiator.  Therefore, we all received an inferior contract. 

All I can say is "with a friend like Mickey Mulgrew protecting our profession, who needs enemies"?  For more information on the budget surplus and our union selling out the members, read the ICEUFT  blog .

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Why The City's School Renewal Program Is Bullshit!

With much fanfare the NYCDOE has rolled out a plan for the renewal schools to succeed.  The plan relies on unrealistic assumptions and clouded by the leftover Bloomberg ideology that staff turnover is a positive option, when it will negatively affect the school's future. Let's look at the issues and why success is not in the future of those schools.

First, and foremost, since there is no high school zoning anymore, high achieving students are allowed to apply to any public high school in the City.  What parent in their right mind would allow their high achieving child who lives in South Jamaica to attend, lets say August Martin High School, when the student can be accepted to a school like Forest Hills assuming the student does not get into a selective or screened school? For a renewal school to succeed, the present demographics of the student population needs to change and there is no way that will happen without high school zoning restrictions.

Second, many veteran teachers see the handwriting on the wall and are retiring or if they can, leave the renewal schools.  This means that the renewal schools are recruiting "newbies" who have little curriculum knowledge and no classroom management skills.  How does that instill confidence in the students who are guinea pigs as these teachers struggle their way through a curriculum and the steep learning curve that goes with a "newbie" teacher.

Third, few, if any veteran teachers would give up a good school, such as Francis Lewis, to work in a renewal school like Martin Van Buren for a mere $5,000!  Even if it was $50,000,  who would risk getting two consecutive "ineffectives" due to the low achieving student population, when the high-stakes testing is 50% of a teacher's evaluation? This doesn't even take into account the extra time and challenges that is required to teach in these renewal schools.

Finally, it seems that the Superintendent of the renewal schools, Amiee Horowitz, has allegedly told school administrators that she wants to get rid of as many teachers as possible to change the school culture from the failure they have experienced.  To school administrators that means pushing untenured and veteran teachers that they dislike out of the system by discontinuing them or giving then "ineffective" ratings.

With "fair student funding" still in force and the DOE's mistaken belief that exchanging veteran teachers with more compliant teachers,  many of them with little or no experience, will result in not better but worse results.  Will the renewal schools succeed?  Not in this lifetime unless the polices drastically changes. To me the City's school renewal plan its all bullshit!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

An Open Letter To Amiee Horowitz From A Discontinued Teacher.

 In my previous posts I have written about Superintendent Amiee Horowitz and how she has protected school administrators while going after whistle blowers.  If you need a refresher you can find the posts Here, Here, and Here.  Moreover, as Superintendent of the Renewal schools her mission is to terminate as many teachers as possible and replace them with "newbies" as these school will continue to struggle.  Now with the permission of the discontinued teacher, I will post that teacher's letter to Amiee Horowitz to appeal for his job.  Maybe Ms. Horowitz will do the right thing and overrule the Principal and give the two teachers a second chance but her history shows otherwise.  In fact, the new Solidarity caucus will be picketing her office at the end of August due to her anti-teacher bias, especially for whistle blowers.

July 19th, 2015

Dear Ms. Horowitz,

Hello Ms. Horowitz I am making one final request that you would kindly find some time in your schedule either this month or next where we would have the opportunity to briefly meet in your Staten Island office and discuss my situation. If you are unwilling to meet with me, or if I don’t hear back from you, then I’m not going to pursue this matter. I am in the process of moving on with my life, and my career. I am making this request to hopefully meet because I am in a somewhat depressed state as I look back at the four years that I’ve been teaching in the DOE at Richmond Hill, and all the experiences that I’ve had. I had initially planned on spending the rest of my teaching career in the city schools, and it’s very hard for me to accept the fact that’s it’s ended on a note like this after only four years of service. I just got married so it’s also been a disruption to the life of my spouse as well.

Ms. Horowitz as I mentioned to you in the last email, I understand that you are/were in the unfortunate position where you felt that you had to discontinue a certain number of teachers. I do not believe that the high volume of candidates up for tenure and the number of discontinuances that you had to grant and/or look over in a relatively short time allowed you to spend adequate time evaluating each person’s portfolio and statistics in their entirety. Ms. Horowitz I always look for the best in people, and I hope to believe that you are a decent person, and that you will do what’s fair and proper. This is why I believe that a visitation is so essential. Even if you are unwilling to reverse your decision on my behalf…at least you will have all the facts. 

With this letter I have attached a letter of recommendation that Mr. Ganesh wrote for me last year. I have also attached my observation reports from 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. I have attached my observational ratings under the Danielson system from last year 2013-2014. My overall score last year under this new system was a “77” I was “effective” in all three categories of local and state measurement.  I had wanted to achieve tenure very badly and (although most of us were granted extensions at the end of last year) I was willing to work all the more harder this year. 

Ms. Horowitz, the final piece of documentation that I have attached is my initial rating from this year where I scored a “2” out of “60” points. Ms. Horowitz with all due respect you must have questioned the gross inconsistency and believability of this score when evaluating my performance this year as compared to the last three years as something would appear seriously wrong. 

Ms. Horowitz at this point in time I have nothing to gain or lose by being truthful about my situation, and I am not going to misrepresent the facts or tell somebody simply what they want to hear. It is the very strong opinion of myself and others) that this year Mr. Ganesh felt that he needed to give a certain number of teachers poor ratings in order to increase the school’s statistics as well as for the protection of his own job security. Whatever the reason may be, my colleague and I were chosen as teachers to be targeted with poor ratings consequently leading up to both of our discontinuances. (Just like me, my colleague was also an effective teacher with a previously unblemished pedagogical record prior to the arrival of Ms. Peterson.) On numerous occasions Mr. Ganesh and Ms. Peterson (mostly Ms. Peterson) were dishonest in their accounts of what took place in my classroom during the observations. (I can very easily substantiate this claim by offering numerous sources of evidence.)

*I also want to make the point that I am not somebody who is oppositional to receiving poor ratings or feedback from supervisors. Perhaps one of my greatest strengths that I have always valued is being able to grow and self-evaluate based on collaboration and support from staff and supervisors. Unfortunately it was extremely obvious to me and everybody else who was aware of my situation that neither Mr. Ganesh nor Ms. Peterson had any intention of offering that support since their agenda seemed to be focused in precisely doing the opposite.

My next point goes to the heart of my initial argument. *Even if Mr. Ganesh were to see my situation differently which I’m sure would be his first line of defense, then may I offer that there was absolutely no support that was initiated by him and offered to me or my colleague this year.

If Mr. Ganesh truly was of the opinion and had a good faith basis to believe that somehow under very mysterious circumstances I went 180 degrees from being this “dedicated outstanding and fabulous teacher” in which he wrote a glorifying letter of recommendation suddenly mysteriously turning into this incompetent horrific teacher just a short time later….than what measure of support has he offered? The answer is none.

*At no point this year was I ever questioned or conferenced in a meeting initiated by Mr. Ganesh regarding “his” perception of the drastic turn that the quality of my lessons were allegedly taking.  *There was never any discussion had between myself and Mr. Ganesh over the possibility of discontinuance. *Every email I sent him addressing my concerns pertaining to my observations was completely ignored by him. *When I complained about the lack of support that I was receiving, and the way that I was being treated by Ms. Peterson, Mr. Ganesh did absolutely nothing nor even acknowledged that he got my complaint. *Other than observations, there was never any classroom visitations conducted by Mr. Ganesh or Ms. Peterson for the purpose of improving instruction. *There was never any modeling or demonstrations done by either of them despite the fact that I asked for this many times throughout the year. *Mr. Ganesh was hardly in my classroom this year. He spent a total of approximately 35 minutes in my classroom this entire year for two observations (one formal and one informal.)  *For the formal observation he spent a total of 15 minutes out of the 47 minutes of the period that he was in my classroom. Yet he spent the entire period in the classroom of other teachers when their formals were conducted. 

Most importantly, the timing of the observations and lack of feedback in a timely manner was a serious issue this year. When you started reviewing our portfolios towards the end of April there were only two observations that were conducted at that time for most people. For me and just about everybody else in my department, the observations themselves only started being conducted in the second half of the school year beginning in the late part of December and concluding by  mid- May. The first observation was written up as entirely “ineffective” but then feedback was given one month later. The second observation which was the formal was conducted at the very end of March and the feedback was again given to me about a month later. The patterns of allowing so much time to elapse absent teacher support in which Ms. Peterson and Mr. Ganesh chose to conduct these observations were in my view extremely unprofessional and non- conducive to any form of growth. *This of course assuming that their opinion about the quality of my lessons is correct.

The last and final point that I wish to make is the working relationship that the ISS department has had with Ms. Peterson this past year. I do not wish to sound slanderous or make any personal attacks, but Ms. Peterson’s attitude towards her staff, lack of knowledge, and unprofessionalism revealed to us all somebody who was highly unqualified to serve in her respective position as AP of ISS. Her substantial lack of knowledge of special education, vindictive nature, and her lack of empathy and abrasiveness towards her staff became the subject of great discussion amongst many staff members as well as students. Richmond Hill has its’ share of problems and the department was/is in need proper and professional leadership to ensure that we “as one” progress in a forward direction. (Not regress.) I say that because you might as well know that half the department is leaving specifically because of her. And the ISS department was a rather large one with close to 20 people. It was of very poor discretion of Mr. Ganesh to appoint her as AP when she had no immediate experience as AP of ISS prior to her appointment which was quite evident to us all in seeing how the department was being so severely mismanaged. 

What really hurts the most about this whole experience is the length that both supervisors were willing to stoop down to when creating this false case against my colleague and me. Never was there any single moment in time this year when either Mr. Ganesh or Ms. Peterson offered any sort of support or guidance. As responsible and dedicated teachers we were the ones who attempted to go to them for support and it absolutely sickens me that our efforts were used against us by them.

Both Ms. Peterson and Mr. Ganesh were well aware of the consistent initiatives that my colleague and I often took when seeking to get support, and right after my first “ineffective” observation that was conducted in December, I became extremely concerned over the arbitrariness and dis-alignment to Danielson that the initial observation contained. Nevertheless I “initiated” weekly support meetings with Ms. Peterson for two purposes. Number 1: to cover my basis, and number 2: to improve instruction. Ms. Peterson ignored my request for several weeks and then finally one month later up until the end of the school year we met for a total of 9 times. I became concerned because despite the arranged visitations there was no feedback of substance being given, and the “ineffectives” just continued coming.  I find it unlikely that the support sessions would have even been offered to us if we had not requested them in the first place considering how late in the year and sporadic the observations were when they were given. Perhaps if we hadn’t made this request, then the discontinuance would have been harder to grant.

It was absolutely disgusting to me beyond believe when I saw attached with the discontinuance letter  Ms. Peterson’s log sheet detailing “her” version of what took place at the meetings which was riddled with inaccuracies and misleading claims (which can easily be substantiated by me) used as evidence against me by her and Mr. Ganesh making it appear as though they offered support but we were just so horrible that their effort was in vein.  *My colleague and I both had several years of nothing but positive records and observational reports. We suddenly and unexpectedly started receiving nothing but ineffective ratings. As far as I know my colleague and I were the only two teachers in the entire ISS department who made arrangements to get weekly support. Despite our weekly visitations we were continuously and consistently rated “ineffective” and subsequently were the only two teachers in the department to be discontinued.

What are the chances of that happening? 

I’m sure Ms. Horowitz that you can appreciate our perception in that there was clearly an ulterior motive had here, and that we see something seriously wrong with what took place this year. I personally am having a tremendously (tremendous is a gross understatement) hard time believing that the actions of Mr. Ganesh and Ms. Peterson were undertaken in good faith.

I’ll even entertain the benefit of the doubt for a moment. Even if there was no wrong doing here, perhaps our scenarios are a testament to and speak volumes about the levels of incompetence displayed and inability in the proper coaching and mentorship of those in need exhibited by Mr. Ganesh and Ms. Peterson this entire year that just passed.

Ms. Horowitz, in conclusion I just want to mention that despite this very bad year, my experiences in my school have been positive for the vast majority of the time in the last four years that I’ve been there. I have had the pleasure of working with very good people. I have a tremendous respect for the majority of those in my line of work who are genuinely interested in changing the lives and minds of young people. Although my experience this year was not good, I am absolutely convinced that I consistently acted and displayed a level of professionalism, dedication, willingness to learn and grow, and deep commitment to my students and staff of whom I work with. Unfortunately this was not reciprocated. Of course I feel that my rating this year should be erased from my record (I am presently fighting to have that happen) and I should be re-appointed with tenure. Assuming that’s not going to me case, I would like to at least be granted another year of probation. This will make the process of leaving Richmond Hill and securing a position elsewhere exponentially easier. I also think that there should be at minimum an inquiry directed at Mr. Ganesh for his role and compliance in this situation. When examining all of the evidence we all just can’t help but believe that Mr. Ganesh knowingly and deliberately violated his position of power by intentionally misusing the Danielson framework to achieve personal gain. Ms. Peterson was complicit in his act. What has me deeply concerned, is that if he was willing and able to do this to us, then I see no reason why they’re not willing to do it to other teachers in the future.

If none of the above happen, than I may as well mention that my conscience is absolutely clear in knowing that I was discontinued due to circumstances beyond my immediate control and that I did absolutely everything that I possibility could to protect myself in such unfortunate times. I am happy to report that I have the love and support of those who knew of my situation, and unfortunately I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Ms. Horowtiz, I sincerely hope that you are able to say the same. 

Thank you for your time in reading my letter,

Just a final note.  Richmond Hill has a history of using teachers uncertified in the subject they are teaching in.  The school has over 25 Earth Science classes with no certified Earth Science teacher on staff and many other teachers assigned to subjects that they are not certified in.  How can anyone believe things will get better at this school?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Unity Caucus And The Borg Collective.

In the age of accountability, one of the more unaccountable organization is the UFT's "Unity caucus" who controls the union from top to bottom.  The "Unity caucus" has ensured that nobody can seriously threaten their complete domination of the union.  All leadership positions above the school's Chapter Leader are appointed by the "Unity caucus" leadership and even at the Chapter Leader level dissidents are challenged by a carefully selected opponent by the "Unity caucus" when they believe its in their best interest to win the seat. Yes, the very same  "Unity" leadership that gave us Dainelson, Common Core, APPR and declared victory at every step as teacher "due process" rights were being eroded away, piece by piece.

 In trying to find a similar organizational structure I stumbled upon the one that best fits the "Unity caucus", its the Borg collective from Star Trek the Next Generation TV series!  Yes the scary, evil, and extremely dangerous organization who's mission is to destroy civilization, while assimilating their distinctive characteristics to make the Borg collective stronger and more powerful. Why do I think they are similar?  Let's investigate.

First, there is no independent thought in the Borg collective, all decisions are controlled by the Borg Queen.  When was the last time anybody in the "Unity caucus" voted against Randi Weingarten or Michael Mulgrew when they demanded that they vote in favor for their position?

Second, when a member of the Borg collective show independent thought they are expelled from the collective or re-assimilated as a more compliant drone.  When a member of the "Unity caucus" disagrees with the leadership, they are expelled from the caucus or re-educated not to object.  There are persistent rumors that all "Unity caucus" members will be implanted with a vinculum so that the leadership can instantly communicate internally with its caucus drones.

Third, all Borg are required to tell outsiders that "resistance is futile", while the "Unity caucus" has their own loyalty oath that must be followed at all times.

Finally, the Borg will disregard civilizations that don't have any distinctive characteristics worthy of assimilation.  While the "Unity caucus" will only recruit outsiders they believe will enhanced their control over the membership.  All other outsiders are unworthy of admission into their cult organization.

Yes, the Borg is here in the guise of the "Unity caucus" and to all you dissidents? "Resistance is futile".

Friday, July 24, 2015

Science Education Is Lagging In The New York City Public High Schools.

Yesterday Chalkbeat summarized a report by The New School's Center For New York City's Affairs  and not surprisingly found that most New York City high schools had an inferior and inadequate Science curriculum.  Over the years I have been informing my readers how the New York City public high schools are short changing students in Science education.  My complaints have fallen on deaf ears at the uncaring DOE as they actually encourage school principals to eliminate many Science courses and to reduce others by a period a week in an effort to save on teacher salaries in their "education on the cheap" policy.  For example New York State Regents Science requires that there be five classes of instruction per week and one class of laboratory skills .  However, almost every New York City high school has reduced classroom instruction by 20%, or one class a week to meet their tight budget requirements.  Worse, is the lack of certified Earth Science teachers teaching the subject,  In most schools the Living Environment teacher is required to teach Earth Science and, as one could guess, the Regents results predictably are terrible.  The reason being that Living Environment teachers are life Science teachers not a physical Science teacher and have little understanding of the subject, be it Chemistry, Physics, or Earth Science.  Is it any wonder that 100 of the 600 high schools in the City had no students graduate with an advanced Regents diploma last school year?

Many of the Bloomberg small schools do not offer the courses necessary for students to obtain an advanced Regents diploma, be it Regents Earth Science, Chemistry, or Physics and in Math Algebra II.  In fact, these schools are simply diploma mills, graduating students who are not "college or career ready" academically.  Just 25 of the 600 high schools had 50% of all students who obtained an advanced Regents diploma while few poor and minority schools had no more than a handful, if any, students who earned an advanced Regents diploma.

While Asian and White students make up only 23% of the student population they accounted for 70% of all students who obtained an advanced Regents diploma.  By contrast, in the 100 schools that award no advanced Regents diploma, 92% of them were Black or Hispanic. For a complete list of all New York City High Schools that offers STEM related advanced Math and Science instruction and the ones that do not,  it can be found Here.

Maybe the DOE and the disappointing Chancellor will wake up and stop short-changing the New York City High School students on their Science education but I highly doubt it.   In the DOE Its still "children last"...Always!