Saturday, October 01, 2016

DOE Continues Their Destructive Fair Student Funding At The Expense Of The Students.

Back in 2005, when Randi Weingarten allowed Chancellor Joel Klein to give principals complete control of their budget, one of the most destructive aspects of this new policy was the "Fair Student Funding" (FSF) that was imposed on the schools in 2007 as part of the budget process.  The fsf in conjunction with the elimination of seniority bumping rights and closing schools (162 under Mayor Michael Bloomberg) caused an explosion of excessed teachers.  At last count there are 1,162 teachers without a classroom, which does not include ATRs who are provisionally appointed or covering a long-term leave. By contrast, this year the schools hired over 5,700 "newbies" who have no classroom experience rather than hiring an experienced classroom teacher.

Why would principals rather hire a "newbie" who must learn classroom management, curriculum, and the culture of the New York City classroom over a teacher who has mastered these skills?  The answer is the fsf.   You see the fsf penalizes schools who hire experienced teachers as the higher a teacher's salary the less money the school has to supply the resources to give to the staff.  The DOE will claim that many school districts nationwide use fsf and that is correct but only New York City makes it school based rather than district based as the rest of the country does.  The result is that principals are forced to "hire the cheapest and not the best teachers" for their school.

To exacerbate the problem, after the 2008 recession, Mayor Bloomberg cut the school budget and the average school received only 86% of their fsf.  Some of the large comprehensive schools were cut even more as one school in Queens, slated for eventual closing received only 78% of their fsf.  By contrast the new Bloomberg small schools, to ensure they succeed, received 100% of their fsf and the newest schools even more than 100%.  Eight year later, Mayor Bill de Blasio has a 6 billion dollar surplus, yet this year's budget is still only 89% of the fsf and is only expected to increase to 92% of the fsf.  The good news is not only is the school budget increasing, but the schools should all be getting the same percentage of the fsf, no more winners (Bloomberg small schools) and losers (large comprehensive schools). However, the fsf still hurts the schools and the students by penalizing principals who hire veteran teachers.

The blame lies with Mayor Bill de Blasio and his Chancellor, Carmen Farina, who has retained 80% of the Bloomberg policymakers at the DOE and allowed the bloated Central Bureaucracy to continue to suck up funds that could be better spent on school based student services or lower class sizes.  However, at the DOE its still ideology first and children last...always.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Queens Job Fair, Sparsely Attended And Few Schools With Vacancies Participated.

I went to yesterday's job fair in Queens with very low expectations and was not disappointed.  A smattering of teachers actually showed up, mostly ATRs over 50 years of age and the few schools that were there were not interested in hiring them, while the schools who did show up were looking for Special Education, Math, and English teachers.  The schools were mostly middle schools and the majority were in the worst neighborhoods or had bad reputations.  As a High School teacher I did notice very few high schools were represented.  Of course there was the terrible Math and Science Magnet school at Campus Magnet run by the infamous Jose Cruz and, the equally horrible Flushing high school, a renewal school with 5 principals in 6 years.  I gave both schools a wide berth.

I did drop off a resume to a relatively high achieving middle school for an 8th grade replacement position for the second semester since I must keep my options open in case the DOE tries to place me in the many horrid schools that need a teacher in my shortage area subject.  Better to be appreciated in taking a leave replacement than abused by a "gotcha" administration who force places you in their school.

The games schools play were very evident at this job fair when I checked the Open Market Transfer System, I noticed few positions I saw at the job fair were listed, while schools with vacancies on the Open Market Transfer System were not represented at the job fair.  Incompetence, laziness, or are these schools hiding their vacant positions with the appropriate licensed teachers?  Probably all the above applies.

It was an experience going to this job fair but an experience that was a bad experience as few schools and teachers participated and it looked hastily arraigned and unorganized.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The ATR Field Assassins Are Coming!

A new start of the school year and very little has changed.  Only a handful of ineffective or vindictive  principals have been removed, the punitive Charlotte Danielson rubric is still in force, "junk science" is still used to evaluate teachers, and fair student funding continues. In other words the Bloomberg education policies remain largely undisturbed under Mayor Bill de Blasio. While the terrible 2014 ATR agreement sunsetted, there are still over a thousand ATRs without a classroom (1,162) and the field supervisors are coming to "U" rate them if they can.

 The field supervisors (assassins) are now introducing themselves to the ATRs in rotation and they will tell you that they are there to assist you in improving your teaching and getting a permanent position.   Unfortunately,  the field assassins are not telling the ATRs the truth.  The field assassins are there to thin the ATR herd.  Their job is to “U” rate as many ATRs that they can and force the ATRs to either resign or retire rather than face 3020-a termination charges.  In fact, the section dealing with field assassins responsibilities were changed from supporting the ATR‘s pedagogy to recommending to the Superintendent 3020-a termination charges.

According to one informal source 120 ATRs were charged under section 3020-a in the last year, mainly by field assassins “U” rating them.  How accurate the number is I don’t know but certainly even one ATR who was terminated, based on a field supervisor recommendation is one too many. While the union did the right thing and allowed the terrible 2014 ATR agreement to sunset, due to an overzealous DOE prosecution of the ATRs, the union needs to go much further and challenge the DOE’s use of field supervisions at PERB or by filing a lawsuit.  How unfair is it to observe a teacher in a classroom of strangers, with no ownership of their grades, and no idea how much rigor to put into a lesson since the ATR has no idea of the students’ academic ability?  Yet our disconnected union leadership ignores the issue and allows the DOE to run roughshod over the hapless ATR.

My advice to the ATRs in rotation when the field assassin shows up with a smiling face and promises to assist you in getting a permanent position, remember the saying “Beware of the Greeks bearing gifts”.  In this case the gift can be termination.

Finally, in the last DOE/UFT ATR committee there was no consensus on changing the ATR agreement.  Therefore, the 2011 ATR agreement is now in force, except it will be a monthly and not weekly rotation..

Friday, September 23, 2016

Graduating Unprepared For The Adult World And Workplace.

Every year the Mayor and his Chancellor, be it Bloomberg (Klein, Black, Walcott) or De Blasio (Carmen Farina) sing the same tune.  That their education policies are working and they look to the high school graduation rate as evidence of their claim.   True, the graduation rate continues to climb but are the graduates really ready for college or careers?  The answer is a resounding no.

Far too many students are graduating unprepared for the adult world.  For example 78.3% of all New York City high school graduates had to take at least one no credit remedial course while almost a quarter took two or more remedial courses.Remember, this statistic is based on high school graduates actually applying and attending college and does not include the 20% who never bothered to attend college.

What happens to these students who struggle through high school, aided by bogus "credit recovery" courses, administrative pressure to pass them, and outright academic fraud?  The answer is that these students, lacking a real education, are destined to be the new under class of society.  Low wage jobs, unstable employment, and financial instability when it comes to the family. Sure there are occasional success stories, but for the majority of these struggling high school graduates the outlook is bleak.

We must stop kidding ourselves and realize that some students are not cut out to pass academic subjects and open up more vocational schools that will allow these students to enter the high paying trades like plumbers, nursing, electricians, and mechanics to name a few.  This nonsense that everybody can pass the Regents and be academically proficient is a fantasy and has resulted in far too many students being shortchanged educationally and unprepared for the adult world.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

More Transparency On The Executive Board, Thanks To The Opposition Caucus.

One of the more significant changes that has happened since the UFT elections was the election of the MORE/New Action coalition for the high schools.  The result is there will be more transparency as Executive Board member Arthur Goldstein, will be blogging on the issues discussed.  Moreover, with people like Jonathan Halabi (New Action) and Mike Schirtzer (MORE).  We now have advocates who will represent our interests and not the disconnected union leadership.

Unfortunately, the opposition caucus, will be regularly outvoted by the "Unity" slugs who will vote  on whatever the leadership wants since they all take the "Unity oath".  However, at least the membership will be informed in advance the shenanigans the union leadership will use to try to hide controversial issues from them.  Maybe now the union leadership will think twice before they impose terrible contracts, change the rules like the ATR agreement, and fail to protect the membership due to vindictive principals.

Let's all hope that with more transparency it will result in a more receptive and responsive union.

Monday, September 19, 2016

What Are The Demographics Of the ATR Pool?

One of the most closely held secrets by both the DOE and UFT is the demographics of the ATR pool.  The reason being that both organizations knows that if they released the information, it would show an age discrimination issue and that only younger and untenured teachers were being selected for vacancies. However, thanks to the Solidarity Caucus we at least have a partial data set that shows that the ATR pool is made up of older and veteran teachers.

The Solidarity caucus survey numbers on ATRs are as follows:

ATRs surveyed = 127
Average age = 52
Years of Experience = 20 

Rated Satisfactory = 68%
Rated Unsatisfactory = 23%*
No Rating = 9%

Excessed from school = 39%
Closed schools = 32%
Won their 3030-a = 23%

Black = 21%
White = 47%
Other = 32% 

Looking at the data above, the following conclusions can be reached.

  • The ATR pool consists mainly of highly experienced and older teachers
  • Salary and seniority overrides all other factors.
  • Racial factors have little to do with who ends up in the ATR pool.
* It should be noted that many ATRs are being observed outside their license area and with students they have no ownership of, making classroom management a difficult chore.

At this point, I must bring up what Amy Arundell said to the Executive Board when she claimed that there are less ATRs in the system (1,162 according to UFT Solidarity) because more of them are being picked up daily by the schools.  There are less ATRs in the system because some retired, resigned, (forced or not) or were terminated by DOE field supervisors and not because they received permanent placements. Moreover, provisionally appointed ATRs  are not counted as ATRs and there are hundreds of them in the system. They are the ATRs being picked up daily as provisional hires and not permanent hires.

In conclusion, the UFT leadership's claim that its an "urban myth" that veteran teachers are being discriminated against has been found to be false as the data above clearly shows the discrimination in the ATR pool.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Homeless Students And Academic Achievement.

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to know that homeless students suffer academically because of their social-economic situation and are far more likely to be placed in special education programs and struggling schools since their parents are more concerned in finding food and shelter than advocating for a better placement for their child at school.  The result is renewal schools end up with a large amount of homeless students which number almost 87,000 in New York City.  Moreover, add to the homeless student population the many students who are recent immigrants whose families share an overcrowded apartment with other families and offer little or no privacy or a place to study and you have a recipe for educational disaster.

When you talk to education reformers, they ignore the inconvenient truth of poverty and homelessness and instead blame schools for their low academic achievement.  These organizations will blame the teachers and demand that teachers be fired for their failure to improve the test scores of deep poverty students by the use of junk science.  Unfortunately,   even the best teachers have little real effect on a child's academic achievement.  A major study showed that any one teacher makes between a 1% to 14% difference in a child's academic achievement.  In other words, the education reform organizations and their media allies believe that putting a bandage on an infection will cure the infection.

Secure housing (not shelters), food security, and parental involvement is the solution for better academic achievement and failing to address these difficult issues and blaming the schools and their teachers is not going to improve a child's education.