Tuesday, February 21, 2017

For Randy Asher, Its Three Strikes And You're Out!

In baseball when a batter has three strikes he is out. That appears to be the case of Randy Asher, the ex-Principal of Brooklyn Tech.  Under his watch three staff members have been accused of sexual misconduct.  One went to jail, while the other two resigned when presented with the evidence. Interestingly, the third accusation was substantiated by SCI in December and that is about the time that Chancellor Carmen Farina removed Randy Asher as Principal of Brooklyn Tech and put in charge of the ATR issue.  Coincidence?  I suspect not.

If my suspicions are correct and Randy Asher was removed due to his failure to properly oversee his staff, then look for little or no change in the ATR situation since Mr. Asher will have no power to force principals to hire ATRs.  That's right, regardless if he succeeds in stopping the rotation, few, if any ATRs will be offered permanent positions and unless principals are required by the Chancellor in filling their vacancies with excessed teachers, the ATR crisis will continue unabated.

I hope I'm wrong but knowing the DOE and how they have brainwashed principals, especially the Leadership Academy principals, that ATRs are "unwanted" or "bad" teachers and the fact that Mr. Asher will have no authority to significantly change the hiring process, along with the continuation of "fair student funding", makes hiring qualified ATRs a rarity.

You can read the other staff stories Here and Here.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

When Ideology Trumps What's Best For Students.

If you're a regular reader of my blog you know that I believe that the DOE wastes millions of dollars on a bloated bureaucracy, short changes schools of needed resources and funding, and implements policies that keep experienced, veteran teachers without a classroom. In addition, the DOE is considered the enemy and not a friend to the classroom teacher, the same as under Mayor Bloomberg.  The reason is the ideology of the Bloomberg era remains at Tweed.

Nowhere else in our country would a school district be allowed to spend money so lavishly on their own creature comforts  and expensive consultants at the expense both to the taxpayer and the students they are supposed to educate.  Yet the DOE wastes countless millions on their ideological pursuit of data mining, teacher accountability, and lawyers.  Moreover, the DOE allows 1,300 to 1,600 ATRs to act as substitute teachers and is estimated to cost over $100 million dollars annually.  Finally, their school-based fair student funding encourages principals to hire "the cheapest and not the best teachers" for their school.

The present DOE budget is 29.2 billion, that is a 7.3% increase since last year and a 22% increase since Bill de Blasio took over as Mayor.  By contrast, teacher salaries have only risen 5.5% since the Mayor took over the City and schools have only seen a 3% to 6% increase in their funding.  If you realize that 4,500 teachers leave the system every year and are replaced by cheaper "newbies" the overall teacher salary has probably changed little or even dropped.  Further, class sizes have remained unchanged and are the highest in the State.  Rather than hire more teachers and add more seats, the DOE encourages schools to give a "sixth period" to teachers and stuff as many students as possible in any one class.

Until Chancellor Carmen Farina retires for good and the new Chancellor "cleans house" at Tweed, ideology will trump student needs in today's DOE.  Children last.....Always!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

ATR Update, Rumors, Rumors, And More Rumors.

Since I broke the story about the rumor back in January that the ATR rotation may be coming to an end and that the new ATR DOE leader will start to place ATRs in vacancies, little has actually changed.  In fact, even more rumors and disinformation are being spread about the ATRs.  While I know no more than the rest of you, I do know that some of the rumors are downright wrong.  Here is what I know and don't know about each rumor.

Rumor #1 - Rotation ends:
According to the UFT leadership and ATR Assignment the rotations will continue next month.  Both claim that the ATRs are not being placed in one school to the end of the year,  While Randy Asher did tell principals in a meeting that he was intending to eliminate the ATR rotation and place some ATRs permanently in vacancies, he was vague on how he was to achieve it.

Rumor #2:  Forced placed in vacancies:
ATRs have been forced placed  for years and nothing changes. The few vacancies that do exist after the outside the system January hiring are few and far between. Some schools hide vacancies or find excuses to keep the vacancies unfilled.  How Mr. Asher's proposals will significantly affects the ATR hiring process remains unknown if at all.

Rumor #3: Double Observations:
I find it highly unlikely that a school administration will have the time or inclination to add to their paperwork by observing ATRs especially if the ATR is only there monthly or is not provisionally hired for a long-term leave replacement or vacancy.  My understanding is that the field supervisors will continue to rate the ATRs in rotation not the schools.

Rumor #4 Danielson Rubric:
The ATRs are observed using Teaching for the 21st century and not Charlotte Dainelson.  The union would have to reopen the contract to change the ATR evaluation system.

Rumor #5: ATR time limit:
While I don't trust the union on many levels one issue they have been rock steady on was no ATR time limit.  An ATR can be in that status for the rest of their career.  Can the union give up the ATRs in a future contract?  Possibly, but the two unions that agreed to an ATR time limit, Chicago and Washington D.C. found themselves voted out of power and our union leadership knows that.

I do agree the union leadership should have sent out a mass email either debunking the rumors and informing the members what issues are being negotiated with the DOE concerning ATRs.  This lack of transparency and secrecy has allowed the rumors to spread throughout the ATR community and is it any wonder that most every day there is a new rumor cropping up and the blame must be laid at the feet of our disconnected union leadership who continually fails to get input from the ATR community on issues affecting them.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

High School Science Instruction Is Given Short Shift By The DOE.

Increasingly, principals who are subject to tight budgets and not fully funded, find different methods to reduce expenses. One of the ways these principals reduce their budget is to cut school staff.  Many schools have no social worker and are usually short guidance counselors in their quest to cut expenses.  Moreover, the schools will try to reduce support personnel like paraprofessionals and school secretaries and try to use much cheaper school aids instead.  However, the favorite tactic that principals use is to push veteran teachers into retirement, either by persuasion or by targeting them, and hire cheaper "newbie" teachers in their place.

Given the above tactics that principals use to reduce expenses, one of their favorite is to reduce Science instruction both for Regents and Advanced Placement courses and save on Science teachers.  The DOE approved and encouraged practice was the byproduct of the terrible 2005 contract that allowed principals to become CEO's and not instructional leaders of their school.

First, NYS Science Regents is based upon five days of instruction and an extra period for laboratory skills. Otherwise, known as a 5-1 program.  Outside of NYC, all school districts in the State run the Regents recommended 5-1 program.  However, thanks to the UFT allowing extra teacher time in the 2005 contract,  the DOE quietly encouraged schools to raise the classroom instruction time to barley meet the time requirement set by the State and make it a 4-1 program.  The DOE and schools knew full well that the few extra minutes of classroom time was only used for reinforcing the day's lesson and not to start a new lesson.  The result was that as the end of the school year approached many Science teachers were under increasing pressure just to finish the curriculum and there was no time for Regents review since there lost 30 days of instruction.  The result was a lower percentage of students passing the Regents and fewer yet who achieved mastery in the course.

Second, few NYC schools follow the College Board's recommendations of double periods daily and no more than 20 students in any Advanced Placement class.  The rule in New York City is to dump up to the contract limit of 34 students in single period Advanced Placement classes.   Is it any wonder that New York City Public School students fair poorly, when compared to the rest of the country?

Finally, it is not all that uncommon to have teachers who are uncertified in the Science they are instructing in.  Even in the elementary and middle schools most schools will have a non-Science teacher trying to teach Science, with usually disastrous results.  Even in the high schools many teachers who teach Regents Earth Science are not certified in the subject.

How does the DOE and school principals get away withm this educational abuse of the student's Science education?  Simple when our union leadership stays so silent on the abuse that you can hear crickets chirping at UFT Headquarters .   Therefore, instead of exposing the Science education travesty in the City schools they are complicit in sweeping the issue under the rug.

You don't need to be rocket scientist to realize that both the DOE and our disconnected union leadership rather ignore the issue than to help students get a quality Science education.  Children last...Always!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Sweetheart Endorsement Our Union Gave Mayor Bill De Blasio.

Last week Michael Mulgrew announced, without member input,  the endorsement of Mayor Bill de Blasio for reelection.  What "takebacks" did our disconnected union leadership negotiate with the Mayor to get the union's endorsement?  Nothing, nothing whatsoever.

It would have been nice if our union played hardball and demanded some "takebacks" from the Bloomberg era of massive "givebacks". Here are just some examples of the "takebacks" I would have liked to see.

Fair Student Funding:
Eliminate the school-based "fair student funding" that badly under fund schools Moreover, the fsf  forces principals to hire the cheapest and not the best teachers for their schools.  Finally, most schools only received 89% of the already stingy fsf

Class Size:
Where is the class size reductions promised by Bill de Blasio when he was running the first time?  Why didn't the union leadership hold the Mayor's feet to the fireInstead class sizes have remained largely unchanged and are the highest in New York State.

Despite promises to the contrary, few ATRs have landed permanent positions and there still is between 1,300 and 1,600 ATRs without permanent placements. Despite the school system averaging 4,500 vacancies annually, these experienced and veteran teachers have little chance to land a permanent position under present DOE policy that originated from the Bloomberg era.

Teacher Voice:
Teacher autonomy in the classroom has been replaced by administrative micromanaging and data mining.  Moreover, school policy is top down and teacher voice is ignored, when given, and the DOE is deaf when it comes to teacher complaints.  Be it incompetent and vindictive principals or lax student discipline.  Even complaints about academic fraud is more likely to get the teacher disciplined then the perpetrators.  Shouldn't our union leaders be pressuring the Mayor and his staff to empower teachers since empowered teachers result in better student academic outcomes.

Parking Passes:
How about giving school staff their parking passes back?  School staff was the most affected by Michael Bloomberg's limiting parking passes and made life more difficult for many teachers.

Unfortunately, our disconnected union leadership rather be the Mayor's valentine rather than demand "takebacks" for our support for his reelection.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

What Is The Average NYC Educator Pension Last Year?

The average educator pension for all New York City retirees in 2016 was $43,701.  Not bad but not a windfall by any means.   However, if you read the Daily News headline, the newspaper makes it seem that the average pension for educators is $88,000.  Of course, inside the article you find out that their definition of "average" is much different than everybody else s.

It turns out the Daily News average salary is based upon educators (including Assistant Principals and Principals) who retired in 2015 with 30 or more years experience, not the average of all educators who retired in 2015.  Deceiving?  I certainly think it is.

Obviously, this is the newspaper's opening salvo on educator pensions as the Constitutional Convention is discussed and this may be one of the issues brought up.  Once again the Daily News is practicing questionable journalism in their quest to demonize teachers and their benefits.

Friday, February 10, 2017

To Caring Parents. Avoid These Queens High Schools At All Costs.

A major problem parents have is how to guide their middle school child to a safe and academically proficient high school. This post will help parents stay away from schools that have the best chance to potentially harm their child academically.  The three types of schools are the Renewal high schools, high schools with a terrible administration, and diploma mill high schools with low academic proficiency.  Some high schools may fall in more than one category.  However, just being in one of the three categories should disqualify the school from consideration by caring parents who want a quality education for their child.

Renewal Schools:
The Renewal schools, which are academically struggling schools, are rapidly losing experienced and veteran educators to retirement, resignation, or transfer and are populated  by "newbie teachers" who themselves suffer a steep learning curve to master the art of teaching.  These schools suffer from classroom management problems, instructors struggling to learn the curriculum themselves, and are subject to an unstable school environment with high teacher turnover.  Just take a look at this post to better understand why parents don't want their academically proficient child subject to the Renewal School environment.

Bad Administration:
Some of the highest teacher turnover rates are usually associated with terrible principals and their administration. For example the neighborhood around a school like William Cullen Bryant High School is middle class, yet the school cannot attract the neighborhood students because of the Principal, Namita Dwarka, and her Assistant Principals.  Instead the school is forced to reach out to the DOE to get enough "over-the-counter" students to keep their numbers up.  Under her four year tenure as Principal, of the 173 teachers she inherited, she has seen 137 leave.  You can read my post about her and other bad principals Here.

Diploma Mills:
There are far too many schools that operate as "diploma mills"  with very low "college and career readiness" rate.  Many of the Rockaway High Schools fit into this category.  In fact, almost all the high schools in Southeast Queens can fall into the diploma mill category.  Add the Renewal Schools and you have unprepared graduates for the post secondary and the adult world. 

Parents in the know and who have academically proficient children would be wise to avoid these schools at all costs.