Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Why Teachers Should Not Resign Under Section 3020-a If You Are Charged With Incompetence.

It's common knowledge that most NYSUT attorneys recommend that the teacher resign rather than face an almost certain "award" of termination is found to be incompetent (ineffective)  by the arbitrator.  The NYSUT attorney will tell the hapless teacher how the UFT leadership agreed to a more draconian teacher evaluation system that shifts the burden of proof onto the teacher rather than the DOE. The NYSUT attorney will tell you by resigning the teacher could get another teaching position outside the DOE.  While some charter and private schools might hire the teacher, many teachers who were terminated by the DOE have also found positions in these schools as well.

Here are some reasons not to resign and make the NYSUT attorney to fight for your job.

First, despite how the new teacher evaluation that makes it easier to terminate alleged "ineffective" teachers, if you can show evidence of discriminatory or disparate treatment relative to your colleagues.  For example dumping the majority of behaviorally challenged students in the cohort into your class and the administration's refusal to discipline them or using a different observation rubric on the teacher than used on other teachers.

Second, by resigning you will probably have a difficult time in getting NYS unemployment which is $420 per week for 26 weeks..  By contrast, if the arbitrator terminates you for incompetence you will at least, get NYS unemployment and have some money coming in for a half a year.

Third,  by resigning you are immediately taken off payroll and health benefits stop,unless the DOE is willing to make a deal to keep you on for the remaining semester.  On the other hand, by forcing the NYSUT attorney to fight for you, you can stay on payroll for another 6 to 12 months before a decision to terminate you is made.

Finally, if you resign or get terminated you automatically lose all the retroactive pay owed to you.  That could result in almost $45,000 for top salaried teachers who resign this school year. Therefore, its in the teacher's best interest to fight the DOE charges. Back in January of this year the NYS courts dismissed a class action lawsuit by four teachers who resigned and where told they could not receive their retroactive payments.   The entire case can be found on EdlLawFaqs blog and is interesting reading.  The bottom line is if you are charged with incompetence by the DOE under 3020-a then make the DOE take you all the way through the 3020-a hearing process and if your NYSUT attorney recommends otherwise and is stubborn then it might be worthwhile to look into a private attorney.  Resigning gives the teacher no benefits and  will result in the teacher not receiving unemployment and with a 0% chance of getting their retroactive raises.

Of course every teacher should look at all the different issues whether one should resign or fight the 3020-a charges of incompetence but on the face of it most teachers should try to fight the DOE charges as best they can and not make it easy for the DOE to remove you from their payroll.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Academic Achievement Gap Is Caused By Family And Community, Not The Schools.

Approximately 50 years ago, the Coleman Report was published and it showed that the primary factor in a student's academic achievement was  the family environment, the community the child lived in, and peer interaction.  On the other hand, the quality of the schools and teachers had minimal effects on the student's academic achievement gap.  While many education scholars have tried to debunk the Coleman Report but the study has stood the test of time.  Even the esteemed Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan realized that the family unit was the primary factor in the success or failure of a child.  He even wrote his own report that showed racial inequality was due to the family structure.  The Senator started citing the Coleman Report as well as his own study in speeches around the nation and received blowback from Liberals and Progressives for laying the blame on the crumbling family unit (lack of fathers and lack of income) in high poverty Black communities and not on the inequality and segregation of schools.

Now 50 years later both the Coleman Report and Daniel Patrick Moynihan's study has withstood the test of time and while education scholars have used more sophisticated methods in determining the factors that cause the student achievement gap, the bottom line is it all starts with the family and community environment that the child is exposed to before they even start school.  Chalkbeat has an excellent analysis of this and can be found Here.

While schools matter, the most important factor is the family unit and the income that unit generates and when children grow up with limited childcare, lack of fathers (role models, and financial stability) and is surrounded by similar family units in low income communities, these students are starting off educationally behind when they enter school and will increase the academic achievement gap going forward unless drastic action is taken to improve the family environment.  Blaming the schools and their teachers for the academic achievement gap is simply ignoring the real truth.  Its the family unit and the community the child lives in that are the primary factors that determine a child's academic success or failure not the quality of their teachers.

Is student diversity of the schools a worthy goal?  Absolutely.  However, will it really help narrow the student academic achievement?  Not likely, since the students will still be leaving school back to a low-income community (especially the public housing complexes) that feels unsafe, and insecure where deep poverty and lack of fathers are common, and their role models are the community's adults who hang out on the corner rather than their teacher.  Not a hopeful outcome for educational success.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Finally, Michael Mulgrew Backs Teachers On The Weakened Student Discipline Code.

One of my major criticisms with our disconnected union leadership was that they were more interested in playing nice with the De Blasio/Farina administration then advocate for teachers.  They even negotiated a contract that was highly favorable to the City with minuscule raises and money that had winners and losers and did not make members whole until 2020.  In addition, it screwed the majority of municipal unions who had received their 2009-10 raises.  Finally, the contract made ATRs second class citizens, the only union that allowed "givebacks".  Remember, our union agreed to evaluate teachers on "junk Science", supported Common Core, and claimed victory when only 70% of the peer validators (the rat squad) found teachers "ineffective", which leads to almost certain termination in the new 3020-a regulations.

I have found one area that our union leadership has backed teachers, that is their objection to the weakening of the student discipline code that has increasingly made schools unsafe.  Even the CSA has objected to the De Blasio/Farina administration weakening student discipline.  Both the UFT and CSA believe that school administrators are downgrading serious incidents and refuse to report even criminal incidents for fear of retribution by the DOE.  To the school administration its easier to reprimand little Johnny and send him back to class to disrupt the other students then fill out the paperwork and get permission from the Superintendent to appeal to DOE central for a suspension.

Parents, who:s students come home and report how the administration refuses to take action on disruptive and violent students will either pull out their child out of the school and most certainly never send any other of their academically performing students to that school   That's why the Renewal Schools do so terrible.  It does not take a rocket scientist to realize that a lax student discipline culture at a school is not conducive to academic achievement.

To me, as, a teacher and parent it's more important to protect the children of the school and to run a peaceful classroom then continually allow badly behaved and disruptive students to repeatedly go back to the classroom after a restorative justice session only to act up time and again. The De Blasio/Farina weakened discipline code is an academic disaster for the majority of students in the New York City Public Schools. 


Thursday, July 21, 2016

The DOE's Double Standard Continues.

In today's New York Post there is an article about the two female teachers at James Madison High School in Brooklyn who were caught in an empty classroom being intimate with each other was targeted for termination and were initially terminated by the State arbitrators in their 3020-a cases, under extreme media publicity and DOE pressure.  However, on appeal both teachers had their terminations overturned by the judge under section 75-11 and both ended up with one year suspensions without pay or benefits.

By contrast, John Bowne High School Principal Howard Kwait has cost the DOE  $500,000 to settle two separate sexual harassment lawsuits and having a female student falsely arrested.  Yet, Howard Kwait was not removed from the school and the DOE never bothered to file 3020-a charges against his alleged  misconduct, including accusations of grade changing.  To me that is a double standard.

While I don't condone what the two teachers did in the empty classroom, at least they were consenting adults who simply picked an inappropriate location to have their intimate moment.  On the other hand Howard Kwait allegedly sexually harassed two female Assistant Principals and was fined by the Conflict of Interest Board for taking a trip overseas with a female staff member of the school.  Which is worse?  The two female teachers having an intimate moment in an empty classroom with no students on the floor or Principal Howard Kwait, who's actions cost the city  $500,000 to settle the lawsuits against him and his ill-advised all expenses paid trip with a female staff member overseas that cost him $4,500 To me it's definitely the latter.

It just goes to show that the DOE's "double standard" continues be it Mayor Bloomberg or De Blasio.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Another Example On Why Restorative Justice Does Not Work - John Adams High School.

Since Bill de Blasio became Mayor and appointed Carmen Farina as Chancellor, the New York City Public Schools feel more unsafe.  First, was the elimination of the cellphone ban that has resulted in mass student academic distractions.  Then it was the effects of the more lenient student discipline code that saw suspensions plummet but allowed the school environment deteriorate as misbehaving students were returned back to his or her class to distract the classroom learning process. Finally, the emphasis on "restorative justice" that is a joke to chronically misbehaving students who learn quickly how to play the system and continue to distract other students and reduce teacher authority as they are quickly returned to class.

A case in point is John Adams High School, a "time out" renewal school that has seen their suspension rates drop from 382 in 2011 to 93 this year.  The reason is that many incidents are downgraded or not reported outside the school.  As one teacher said about the reduction of confiscated weapons at the school.

“Of course the number is down — nothing is reported,”

Many staff believe the school is unsafe and there is a report that the entire Science department did not reapply for their positions next year.  Moreover, the Principal is widely disliked as he refuses to take real action against misbehaving students and has even allowed an 18 year old student who allegedly taped a sexual performance by a minor and was arrested by the NYPD who now faces criminal charges, was still allowed to attend graduation with his class.  Susan Edelman's piece goes into further details about the school.  Back in April Chalkbeat also wrote about John Adams High School as well.

Unfortunately, John Adams is not the exception.  There are far too many schools who have unsafe environments, many of them renewal schools like Flushing High School. Not only is social justice crap but is downright dangerous in many of our struggling schools.

To the Mayor, DOE, and the Unity and MORE caucuses of the UFT, you should be concentrating on smaller class sizes, adequate school resources, and school safety not this restorative justice crap that does not work. In only makes schools unsafe.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The New York Post Article On Renewal School Teachers Is More Myth Than Fact.

The pro charter, anti public school teacher New York Post published an article of what happened to the 98 teachers that either did not decide to reapply for their jobs or were not selected for the "time out" renewal schools.  According to the New York Post, all these 98 teachers were "ineffective teachers".  How they came to that conclusion is beyond me since they show no proof of the teacher ratings that would allow the Post to show such a claim as being true.  In fact, many of the best teachers at these "time out" renewal schools opted to not reapply for their positions, due to the more demanding workload, increased stress, and a "high needs" student body that will remain unchanged going forward. What bothered me more than the New York Post calling all 98 teachers who left or were not selected to their "time out" schools "ineffective". was how the article ignored the real issues concerning these renewal schools.

First, the renewal schools have one thing in common. a significant amount of the student body are "high needs" students. Many of them all level 1 students and have significant academic issues, require Special Education services, or are English Language Learners. All three categories are heavily represented in the renewal schools.

Second, no parent of academically achieving students will allow their child to attend, much less apply, to these renewal schools.  How the DOE will attract higher performing students to their renewal schools is unknown and not presently happening. Without an academically proficient student body, the renewal schools will continue to struggle academically and that's a fact!

Third, few veteran teachers apply to teach at renewal schools due to the factors I mentioned previously.  In fact, when the original "time out" school, Automotive High School, was given a list of :"highly effective teachers" not one wanted a position at the school.  The result was the school ended up with a "newbie" teaching staff, with no classroom experience.

Fourth, lets not forget the mediocre school administration that seems to accompany the renewal schools.  Few principals or assistant principals who or shinning stars in the system will accept positions in the renewal schools.  Many are from the failed Leadership Academy and they believe in the top-down model and with little or no staff collaboration.    To make maters worse is the entire renewal school program is run by the Superintendent from hell, Amiee Horowitz, who  is known to discontinue many untenured teachers.

Finally, the DOE's "fair student funding"  formula penalizes schools who want to hire veteran teachers and schools that hire teachers are likely to hire the "cheapest and not the best teachers" for their school and that's especially true for the renewal schools who need to hire as many teachers as they can, due to the high teacher turnover, and since it cannot attract veteran teachers, they end up hiring the "newbies" because of their budget limitations and failure to attract "quality teachers".  In other words, the New York Post article is more a myth and lacks facts when it comes to their opinion on "ineffective teachers".

Please read nyc educator as he blasts the New York Post for publishing an article that makes an erroneous conclusion without showing the data to back it up.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Democratic Platform Is Pro Public School But What About Hillary Clinton?

I was pleasantly surprised that the Democratic party's education plank veered sharply away from the education reform narrative under President Barack Obama and his basketball playing buddy Arnie Duncan.  The Democratic party education agenda originally mirrored the destructive Obama agenda but the final education plank was far different, It included:
  • Support for the traditional neighborhood public schools
  • Allowing parents to "opt out" their children from high-stakes tests.
  • Eliminate the use of those tests to evaluate teachers.
  • Charters should not destabilize or replace traditional schools.
  • Only high quality public charter schools should be funded.
  • Charters must represent the demographics of the community.
The entire platform can be found Here.

Sounds good right?  Unfortunately, there is a problem, the Democratic platform is not the President's platform and Hillary Clinton, despite her friendship with AFT President Randi Weingarten is very close to many hedge fund managers who are the source of funding for the for profit charter schools and some of her closest advisers are part of the education reform movement and believe in teacher accountability by high-stakes testing.  What would Hillary do as President?  The answer is unknown.

The real problem is that Hillary Clinton is considered dishonest and untrustworthy by 67% of the voters and she and her husband has way too much baggage to dismiss.   Be it her email issue, Benghazi, her secret paid speeches to Goldman Sacks, and of course her skirt-chasing husband.  While she may not be a crook as Donald Trump likes to say, it certainly appears she believes she is entitled to do as she pleases and the rules don't apply to her.  That's why what she would do as President when it comes to education policy is unknown.

Hopefully, Hillary's friendship with Randi Weingarten and the blowback the Obama administration has received as parents and even States rebelled against the Obama imposed high-stakes Common Core tests which forced the resignation of the Education Secretary, will result in the Democratic party's education plank to become policy.  Only time will tell, assuming Hillary is the new President .