Sunday, July 05, 2015

Michael Mulgrew's Grade Is An Ineffective.

Most teachers are evaluated and range from "highly effective" to "ineffective".  Therefore, its only fair to evaluate UFT President Michael Mulgrew for his work since Bill de Blasio became Mayor of New York City using the same rating criteria.  Mr. Mulgrew was rated on four major categories, contract negotiation, member rights, transparency,  and truthfulness.

Contract Negotiation:  Michael Mulgrew agreed to a very cheap contract that not only screwed his members but the rest of the city workforce by agreeing to as 10% raise for 7 years, or 1.4% annually.  He also back loaded the contract by giving us our retros from the 2009-10 time period as far down the road as  the year 2020!  The contract also included "givebacks" unlike other union contracts.  The "givebacks" included reduce due process rights for ATRs and no retros for teachers who resigned or were terminated.  Micheal Mulgrew falsely claimed that the City could not afford more and there would be no money left if we rejected the city's offer.  Of course, the city has reported record surpluses of billions of dollars because of the cheap contract that Michael Mulgrew negotiated. 

Member Rights:  The reduced "due process rights" of ATRs, negotiated by the union is legendary, with forced placements, forced resignations, mandatory interviews, and the tweaking of the 3020-a process that tips the scales against teachers who are teachers rated "ineffective" who now must prove they are not "ineffective" rather than the DOE having to prove they are.  Even teachers subject to the old 3020-a rules are discouraged from bringing in character witnesses and to wrap up the hearing right after the final date rather than wait for the transcripts to write a closing statement.   Mulgrew claims that he doesn't go after principals because they are fellow union members but has no qualms about funding an anti cop protest led by Al Sharpton. Finally, to date, the union has not bothered to publish the new contract book, I wonder why?

Transparency:  Under Michael Mulgrew, transparency and democracy is just a fiction.  This year Michael Mulgrew shut off the open mike when James Eterno was speaking about giving ATRs proper representation.  He also made sure his flunkies were strategically placed and recognized to support his agenda.  The Roberts rules were routinely ignored under Michael Mulgrew.  Moreover, when the ATRs clamored for their own chapter, Michael Mulgrew ignored their pleas and claimed that the ATRs are a temporary situation, despite some ATRs being one for almost a decade!

Truthfulness:  There are rumors that each "Unity" member must take an oath to support the leadership, no matter how the member felt.  Michael Mulgrew claims there is no such oath.  However, the entire 750 member "Unity" block votes in lockstep with what the leadership wants, be it at the delegate assembly, or at NYSUT.  As for Michael Mulgrew himself?  He declared victory when the NYSED required that 22 components of Danielson be used to evaluate teachers and then claimed victory again when it was reduced to 8 components, really?   In the latest teacher evaluation, Michael Mulgrew again claimed victory as he was given minor changes in the draconian teacher evaluation system that makes high-stakes testing 50% of a teacher's evaluation and even allowed the Democratic State Assembly to vote for it   Finally, he claims that there is a change of tone at the DOE but ask any classroom teacher if things have changed at their school?  The answer is no.

Using the above criteria of contract negotiation, member rights, transparency, and truthfulness, I find that our UFT President to be "ineffective".

Friday, July 03, 2015

Another School Year Ends With The Destructive Bloomberg Policies In Place.

When the Bloomberg administration left office, teachers throughout the five boroughs eagerly anticipated real change in the hostile classroom environment.  We hoped that the continued attacks and mandates on teachers from Tweed would end as the new Chancellor would replace the decade long Bloomberg era policymakers with real educators who understood what the classroom was about. Real change was coming to the DOE claimed our UFT President Micheal Mulgrew, and he sensed a new era of collaboration between the DOE and the union.  Unfortunately, the collaboration between our union leadership and the DOE did not extend to the staffs of the schools or the classroom teacher.

To me, real change is what is going on in the classroom and after a year and a half under Mayor Bill  de Blasio  and his disappointing Chancellor, Carmen Farina, very little has changed.  Let's look at the policies and practice under the DOE before and after the changeover and see how little has changed.

Class Sizes:  Under Bloomberg, class sizes rose over the years and despite Mayor De Blasio claiming he was going to reduce class sizes, the opposite occurred with no reduction in class sizes, the highest in the State.  Moreover, the latest City budget reduces funding to solve the school overcrowding problems, especially in Western Queens.

School Budgets: Shockingly,  Chancellor Carmen Farina froze the already tight school budgets, despite the rapidly improving City economy.  Worse, she left in place the bloated DOE bureaucracy with the emphasis on mindless data mining and accountability not to mention the ever increasing headcount of the legal division to prosecute teachers under 3020-a.   While more and more money went to the already bloated DOE bureaucracy, the schools, who had seen an average 14% reduction in funds since 2008, were starved for resources and were forced to beg their teachers to take an extra period to save on hiring in an effort to save money. In too many schools teachers uncertified in the subject were instructing students, usually with disastrous results.

DOE Policies:  The polices that the DOE implemented under Bloomberg resulted in increased paperwork, the ATR crises, and a funding method called "fair student funding" that forced schools to hire the "cheapest and not the best" teachers for their students have remained unchanged under the disappointing Chancellor.

Principals:  Despite Carmen Farina's claim that she will remove the system of 400 principals who shouldn't be in charge of the schools, few have actually been removed.  Just take a look at some of the principals in my blog or in the newspapers, they are still in charge of their schools.  Moreover, the infamous DOE "double standard" still exists when it comes to disciplining staff and school administrators.

While our UFT President hugs the Chancellor and claims a new era of cooperation between the UFT and DOE is here, the reality is very different.  When it comes to the classroom, its still a hostile environment and a "gotcha system".  Nothing has changed under the disappointing Chancellor as the destructive Bloomberg policies are still in place and experienced teachers are fleeing the system in greater numbers..

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The Unsatisfactory Rating And Substitute Teaching After Retirement.

One of the questions I am asked frequently is "if I retire with a "U" rating can I still apply for a substitute teacher license"?  The short answer is "no".  However, the actual answer is really quite complicated.  It should be noted that few retirees actually apply for a substitute teaching license. maybe less than 5% of all retirees and in that group there are few retirees with a "U" rating, so it only is an issue for a very small group of retirees.

To get a substitute teaching license a retiree or a teacher who resigns must  be in good standing (have five consecutive "satisfactory" ratings in their last five years of teaching for the DOE).  Under the new teacher evaluation system a teacher rated developing or higher is considered "satisfactory".  However, to get around this onerous requirement, a retiree can ask a Principal to nominate him or her and the retiree might be able to work in that school but no other school unless other principals sponsor the retiree. I do know of a retiree who was "U" rated his last year by a newbie "Leadership Academy Principal", he is still called to substitute in three schools that have long-term principals who he worked under in his 30 years of teaching despite not being able to obtain a citywide substitute teaching license from the DOE.   However, I am told this is a rare occurrence as the DOE discourages principals from nominating teachers who received a "U" rating.

Of course, the retiree can appeal the "U" rating but historically only 0.2% are reversed and filing an Article 78 at State Supreme Court can cost up to $5,000 dollars and take two years or more!  Therefore, for almost all retirees that received a "U" rating in the last 5 years, its highly unlikely that the DOE will authorize a substitute teacher license. Presently, the percentage of "U" ratings successfully reversed in the DOE under the disappointing Chancellor, Carmen Farina,  remains unchanged then during the Bloomberg era despite our disconnected union leadership would have you believe ts getting better.

For those retirees who want to substitute teach, I believe you should first get physiological counseling and if you still want the "blood money" along with the stress and student disrespect then here is the procedure you need to follow.  Good luck, you will need it.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Is This Another Regents Cheating Scandal Involving A School Under Superintendent Amiee Horowitz?

In the New York Post today an article by Susan Edelman has exposed a potential Regents cheating scandal that involved Automotive High School.  According to the article students who failed the Living Environment and Algebra Regents in January, were allowed to appeal their grades and 5 of the 9 students were found to have passed one or the other Regents.  While I'm sure that Regents grade appeals are very common throughout the City, the question is who where the educators that re-graded the Regents test papers?

My understanding is that any appeal of a Regents grade is done by outside educators who have no affiliation with the school or subject to pressure from the District Superintendent.  However, according to the New York Post article an insider claimed the re-grading was done by a select group of teachers at Automotive High School appointed by the embattled Principal Caterina Lafergola.  The article included the following:

Automotive insiders said Lafergola instructed several teachers to go into a room and re-score the January exams in March.

Of course, the DOE disputed the claim and said that no Automotive High School teachers were involved in the re-grading.  Maybe the DOE should supply the names of the re-graders and their school affiliation to put the accusation to rest.  However, the DOE has not done so further fueling speculation of another Regents cheating scandal.

As for Superintendent Amiee Horowitz?  This is not the first time she has been linked in a Regents cheating scandal.  Remember, the  post I wrote about her earlier this year?  That's right, while Superintendent of District 20, she not only failed to look into a Regents cheating allegation but tried to take the license of a untenured teacher who was the whistle blower that she discontinued after the teacher reported the Regents cheating.  Interestingly, SCI eventually did investigate the Regents cheating and substantiated the discontinued teacher's accusation which resulted in 3020-a charges against the educator who was involved in the Regents cheating at the school.

While there is no proof that Superintendent Amiee Horowitz condones Regents cheating but if these new charges prove to be true, her failure again to take appropriate action against school administrators who have been implicated in the Regents cheating is very troubling and makes me wonder if she is competent to be a Superintendent.  Then again under the disappointing Chancellor, Carmen Farina. its cronyism over competence, when selecting who should be a Superintendent under her administration.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Is The DOE Using Different Standards When Evaluating ATRs? It Appears So.

A couple of years ago it was brought to my attention that the DOE had separated ATRs into two lists.  The first list were ATRs who were excessed from schools.  The second list are for ATRs who were disciplined or "U" rated.  I was never able to actually see these lists and didn't think much more about the lists or why the DOE would separate the ATRs since it had no relevance at that time since nobody was getting a permanent position anyway.  However, its now become obvious to me and many others that these lists still exist in some form or another and is being used to target the second group of ATRs to harass them until they resign or retire.

It seems to me, that after speaking to many ATRs, that the ones who won their 3020-a termination hearings or were "U" rated the previous couple of years were assigned ATR field supervisors (assassins) as early as September and were continually observed throughout the school year (one ATR claimed she had 19 visits).  While the ATRs who were excessed had either no ATR field supervisors or were observed one or two times during the school year.

I suspect the union is well aware of the different standards being used in observing the ATRs but has apparently done nothing to stop the harassment.  Maybe, they are actually encouraging this abuse of authority and hoping that some of the ATRs actually leave the system?  It's no secret that both the DOE and UFT want to "thin the herd" to the union the ATRs are an embarrassment and while they want them back into the classroom, they would be quite happy if they resigned or retired.  That's why the union leadership does not want an ATR Chapter Leader and prefers that they be disenfranchised by claiming their situation is temporary, despite some people being ATRs for nearly a decade!  As for the DOE?  They would fire all ATRs if they could and save $160 million dollars in the process.  Its no wonder the DOE has instituted policies that made ATRs a second class citizen and some practically an untouchable in their attempt to eliminate the ATR pool and the union is complicit by even allowing it to be part of the latest contract!

Letters have been written to the Chancellor and calls made to the Mayor to eliminate the ATR issue. However, these pleas have been met with unresponsive silence and for the next school year I see nothing changed in resolving the ongoing ATR problem that deprives students of "quality teachers" and drain $160 million dollars that could be used to reduced class sizes and the savings would add resources to the classroom but then its still "children last" when it comes to the DOE as ideology wins over what's best for the students in the New York City public schools.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The John Dewey Easy Pass Saga Continues As Students Graduate Unprepared Academically.

After a year and a half OSI investigation of grade fixing and phony credit recovery courses at John Dewey High School in Brooklyn.  The investigation is still ongoing which is very puzzling to me.  In fact, according to the Daily News, Chancellor Carmen Farina claims that the OSI investigation has failed to substantiate many of the allegations logged against Principal Kathleen Elvin and her administration but that the investigation is still ongoing.  I guess the ten teachers who cooperated in the OSI investigation exposing the grade fixing and phony credit recovery is not proof enough that academic fraud is being perpetrated to artificially increase the school's graduation rate at the expense of the student's education.

It seems that the school's "easy pass" system is geared to give struggling seniors essentially free credits so to graduate them despite being academically unprepared.  Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News exposed this in his article back in April and showed massive fraud when it came to awarding credits.  I also summarized the problems at John Dewey High School in my May post as well.  Since then the local CBS affiliate has reported that the DOE has decided to "circle the wagons" and protect the school's administration while allowing their highly questionable credit recovery system called "easy pass" by critics to artificially inflate the graduation rate. In fact, the local CBS affiliate has claimed that the Chancellor refuses to talk about why she has failed to remove the school's Principal and has now employed a personal bodyguard to shoo away their reporters who wanted her to explain her decision to leave the school administration in place.

It seems that the Principal Kathleen Elvin is very vindictive and according to the New York Post retaliated against staff by giving half the school's teachers failing grades.  Of the 101 teachers on staff, 16 were rated "ineffective" and 35 were rated "developing".  By contrast, only 8% of the teachers citywide were rated "ineffective or developing".  Interestingly the school was rated "effective" on the State tests but the terrible observation reports lowered the teacher evaluation grades.  One teacher was quoted that "She has a personal vendetta against the teachers and is using the observations as a weapon against the teachers to force them to leave or retire".  Interestingly, in the school snapshot a majority of teachers do not believe that the Principal is an effective manager and the union grievance director called the poor rating a "red flag".

This is just another case of a bad Principal being protected by the DOE and a Chancellor that can't see the forest for the trees as the OSI investigation drags on with no report of the alleged educational fraud at John Dewey High School in Brooklyn..

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The City's Use Of Uncertified Teachers Results In Poor Student Academic Achievement And That's A Crime.

This week I was grading the Earth Science Regents for many of the schools  in Queens.  During the grading, I observed two very important things.   First, approximately 33% of the graders were not certified in Earth Science yet they were selected to grade the Earth Science Regents and were even selected for per session grading.  Second, many of the schools graded that had poor Regents results had one thing in common.  Few of the school's students had a certified Earth Science teacher instructing them!  By contrast, schools that had a full complement of Earth Science teachers showed a much higher Regents passing percentage.   That got me thinking if some of these graders, who were uncertified in Earth Science, did not properly credit some student answers because of the grader's lack of knowledge of the subject and this resulted in the student received a failing 63% or 64% on the Regents rather than a passing grade of 65%? The question is how can the use of uncertified teachers instructing and grading students be condoned by the DOE leadership in their "children first" policy?   The simple answer is the DOE doesn't care.

An organization that really believes in putting student first would demand that every teacher be certified in the subject they are teaching in.  A teacher who has deep curriculum and subject knowledge is a prerequisite for real student academic achievement.  Moreover, a certified teacher provides the necessary information for a student to fully understand and not memorize subject material as is done in too many schools.  However, as I have traveled through the Queens high schools, I saw schools like Martin Van Buren, Richmond Hill, Long Island City, Newtown, and Bryant high schools without a certified Earth Science teacher on staff.   Further, many other schools had uncertified teachers teaching nearly full Earth Science schedules rather than hire the Earth Science teachers available in the ATR pool.

Many of the Bloomberg small schools had not emphasized Earth Science and pushed students to take Chemistry and Physics instead.  The result was disastrous as many students failed the higher level and much harder Sciences and eventually these schools had the teachers teaching Earth Science.  Now that many of these schools have Earth Science, they have not hired certified Earth Science teachers to teach it.  The DOE allows this by accepting the false claim that there are no Earth Science teachers available.  True, few newbie teachers are certified in Earth Science but in Queens alone there are 6 experienced Earth Science teachers in excess but because they are expensive, no school is willing to pick up their salary, thanks to "fair student funding".

When I hear that the disappointing Chancellor, Carmen Farina, wants "effective teachers in the classroom" I can only laugh because under the DOE its hiring the "cheapest and not the best teachers" that count and its all about the money and not what's best for the children's academic achievement that is most important. Until this policy changes the New York City schools are doomed for failure.