Monday, March 30, 2015

Mulgrew Declares Victory As Governor Cuomo Gets His Way. - Teachers Are The Real Losers.

It appears that Governor Andrew Cuomo won big time in the budget as he gets many of the things he wanted in the teacher evaluation system. Not surprisingly, UFT Michael Mulgrew claimed victory for increased school aid and a delay in other issues in the Governor's education agenda.  However, the teachers are the real losers.  I guess for our disconnected UFT leadership its like Hamas claiming victory after the Israeli-Gaza conflict because they were left standing despite the devastation around them.  Let's see what we lost under the proposed teacher evaluation system.

 First, The Governor gets an additional year tacked on to a teacher's tenure, to four years.  Moreover, in three of the four years, the teacher must be either "effective" or "highly effective" to be awarded tenure. 

Second, the State will decide when a failing school closes down, not the City or school district.

Third, the State and not the school district will decide on the new teacher evaluation system, meaning that the high-stakes testing will be half of a teacher evaluation and an "ineffective" on this portion will automatically make the teacher either "ineffective" or "developing"..

Fourth, two consecutive "ineffective ratings" results in automatic disciplinary charges and three "ineffective rating" results in automatic termination.

Fifth, independent observers will be employed for part of a teacher's observation at cost to the school district.  See how well this has worked for the ATRs?

Sixth, No union approval is necessary for implementing the new teacher evaluation system.  It can and will be imposed on the teachers unions by the State.

Finally, all other unresolved issues will be given to the NYSED to develop a plan to implement them.  Yes, the very same NYSED who will be subject to intense pressure from the Governor to follow his education agenda.

Already, there is a looming teacher shortage, as few college students are going into education and fewer yet into the classroom.  Good luck getting good teachers for the New York City Public Schools as the higher paying suburbs, with better working conditions, and academically accomplished students will out compete the City for the dwindling supply of these "quality teachers".  Of course, as UFT Michael Mulgrew continues to proclaims victory, the demoralization of the teaching profession just gets worse.  Clueless politicians will continue to blame the teachers for student academic failure as the City struggles and fails to attract the necessary teaching talent necessary to raise student academic achievement.

The bottom line, is that accountability is for teachers and not the NYSED or the Governor.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Danger For Teachers In Governor Cuomo's Education Agenda.

The hedge fund financed and supported Governor has proposed an education agenda that comes straight out of the corporate deformer playbook that intends to destroy the unions and make the classroom teacher a temporary occupation. Of course, the ultimate goal is to make teaching a temporary profession with no pension and retiree health benefits and making "due process" a joke.  Now that the recession is receding, the ranks of teachers are thinning with fewer and fewer candidates going into teaching and the boomer teachers retiring in droves due to the continued demonetization of the profession, you would think the Governor would want to attract highly skilled applicants to teach in New York State. However, that's not the case and this has not stopped the Governor in attacking teachers and trying to remove as many teachers as possible, despite the looming teacher shortage.

The Perdido Street blog published the 22 point breakdown of the Governor's education agenda and 11 of them are downright dangerous to teachers and their students, I hope to explain why.

  • Adjust the APPR sub-components to be 50 points on state tests and 50 points on Other Measures.
Can you image that 50% of a teacher's evaluation is based upon a high-stakes test that's subject to manipulation by the State (cut scores and bands), "junk science", and a VAM that has proven to be beyond the ability of a teacher to control?  What teacher in their right mind would want to teach in a high needs school or with high needs students, even for an extra $20,000, if it means a loss of their job two years later? As for his merit pay proposal?  It has never shown to work anywhere, why should it be any different here?

  • Thirty-five points of Other Measures will be determined by independent evaluators.
Who pays for these independent evaluators?  Yes, you guessed it, the schools and not the State.  Moreover, these independent evaluators will be under pressure to find a significant number of teachers to be "ineffective" to keep their job.

  • Have the state set the scoring bands for both student growth and observations.
To ensure that the Governor gets his 5% to 10% ineffective ratings, the SED can adjusted it to meet that criteria and not on the academics. Believe me, that's exactly what will happen as SED will manipulate it to fit the political narrative.

  • If a teacher is rated ineffective in either portion, then the total score cannot be effective or highly effective.
This requirement will ensure the Governor gets his share of his "ineffective ratings" as well as greatly reducing the amount of teachers who achieve tenure.

  •  Tenure granted when a teacher achieves five consecutive years of effective or highly effective ratings.
If any one year the untenured teacher gets a "developing" or "ineffective", the teacher will not get  tenure.   This will ensure that many teachers leave the system without any pension or retiree benefits. This will go a long way for the corporate deformer goal of making teaching a temporary profession.

  •  Expedited hearings (maximum time of 60 days) extended to cases of accused physical or sexual abuse of a child. Teacher’s charged with abuse will be suspended without pay pending the outcome of the hearing. If a teacher is convicted of a violent felony against a child, he/she will automatically have his/her certification revoked.
That's right a mere accusation of corporal punishment or sexual misconduct will remove the educator from salary and benefits until their 3020-a hearing is concluded.  For many, that could mean up to two years without an income until the actual decision is published, even if found not guilty of the charges.

  • If a teacher receives two ineffective ratings in a row, the teacher would only be able to rebut this strong indication of incompetence by “clear and convincing evidence” that the calculation of one of the ratings was fraudulent.
Good luck winning here since the teacher would have to prove fraud and show evidence of the fraud. The teacher is as good as being terminated if this requirement is imposed.

  • Eliminate the legal requirement that districts must attempt to “rehabilitate” teachers who are incompetent or engage in misconduct.
In other words, there will be no "plan of assistance" and the school administration does not need to provide assistance to the teacher and show that the teacher could not be rehabilitated. Moreover, the 3020-a arbitrator does not need to take into account whether the educator can be rehabilitated in their decision as they do now.

  • Remove the requirement that children must testify in person. Allow them to testify via sworn written or video statements.
Dangerous, very dangerous.  A teacher has a right to face their accuser and  a trained arbitrator likes to see the body language of each and every witness.  Furthermore, how can a witness be cross examined if they're not there?  Great potential for abuse and unfair to the educator in a 3020-a hearing.

  • When a school is determined to be failing for three years, a non-profit, another school district, or a turnaround expert must take over the school. This is similar to the Massachusetts Model. New York has 178 “priority schools".
 This will allow the new operators to excess the staff and add significantly to the ATR pool in New York City.

  • Raise the charter school cap from 460 to 560 and make it statewide not restricted by region. New York City only has 24 charter applications remaining under its cap;
No way should the charter cap be raised and no increase in New York City.  We need the money to go to the traditional public schools and not siphoned off to the charter sector. Furthermore, the proposed increase of charter funds by $75 per student that will come from the overall education budget and take away much needed funding to the traditional public schools. It's a "rob Peter to pay Paul" policy.

  • Pass the $100 million Education Tax Credit for public and private scholarships to promote choice in education.
This is a backhanded way to subsidize the private and parochial schools, which will take students and funding away from the public school systems.

To try to ensure the Governor gets his way, he has dangled an extra $1.1 billion dollars or 4.8% to the school districts.  Of course, he owns the very same school districts $7 billion dollars.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Join The Demonstration Against Governor Cuomo Tomorrow.

Tomorrow there will be demonstrations throughout the State against the Governor's education agenda.  The biggest one will be held in front of the Governor's Office at 633 3rd avenue at 41st.  To join the demonstration, enter at 3rd avenue and 36th street at noon.  While I have my differences with my union leadership, I will close ranks when it comes from outside corporate deformers and hedge fund managers who are funding the Governor and in return, his education agenda is simply an attack on teachers.

The Governor has claimed he is a "student lobbyist".  However, he has withheld $7 billion dollars to the City and State schools, despite a State surplus and is trying to blackmail the State legislature by holding increased school funding to his corporate deformer education agenda.  Unfortunately, for the Governor, his demonetization of teachers and withholding of billions of dollars to schools have backfired.  His poll rating are dropping like a rock with only 28% of the general public supporting his education agenda.  For public school parents its 21%.  Worse for the Governor, when it came to who the general public supports, they support the teachers unions by 55% to 28% when it comes to education.   Both the Democratic controlled Assembly and the Republican controlled Senate have balked at including the Governor's agenda in the budget.

The planned demonstrations should further deteriorate Cuomo's popularity and if followed up with hard hitting television ads, will eventually force the Governor to abandon his quest for higher office and look for other issues to champion rather than butt heads with real educators and the students who trust them.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Chancellor Carmen Farina Continues Her Attacks On Teachers.

When our union leadership was telling the media that they now had a friend ruining the DOE in Carmen Farina and life would become easier for teachers.  However, I was highly skeptical.  Yes the very same leadership, who's President threatened to punch you in the face if you dare oppose Common Core, and is strangely silent on the "opt out" movement that many teacher support, except for the E4E fifth columnists.

 At first, the disappointing Chancellor committed to reducing the obnoxious paperwork requirements, to bring a different tone to the DOE, and eliminate the antagonism at Tweed to the teaching staff.  However, fourteen months into her tenure as Chancellor, nothing has changed for the classroom teacher.  Most of the Bloomberg 300 are still in policy making positions at Tweed, the double standard between disciplining principals and teachers continue, her school budgets and class sizes remain frozen when compared to the Bloomberg third term, and her comments about teachers would make Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg proud.

Just yesterday she told the press that she approves having administrators harass teachers by observing them many times until the targeted teacher resigns or retires.  Her words were, according to Charkbeat are below:

She said the principal must weed out unmotivated or unsatisfactory teachers by documenting their performance problems and advising them to look for jobs elsewhere. After they stopped by the classroom of a teacher whom Hernandez said she had concerns about, Fariña told her to observe the teacher “many, many more times a day.”

After the tour, Fariña explained that principals can use such methods to convince teachers who are not a good fit for a school to leave.

This is not the first time she went after teachers.  Remember what she said to the newly hired teachers not to hang out in the teachers room and listen to the disgruntled veteran teachers.  You can find it Here.  Finally, her insistence in making ATRs second class citizens in the contract proves her dislike for the "due process rights" for teachers.

To me Carmen Farina is no different than the other three Chancellors who blamed teachers for every ill of the school system and refuse to hold themselves accountable for their poor decisions that hurts the students. Too bad our disconnected leadership prefers to ignore the damage Chancellor Carmen Farina is doing to the members but then again its politics over what's best for the classroom.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

To The Daily News. It's The DOE's Education On The Cheap Policy That Causes Student Failure.

The New York Daily News ran a series about the New York City schools that was biased and supported Governor Cuomo's badly flawed education agenda.  However, in one of their articles, they did touch on a subject that they, and other media outlets have deliberately ignored in the past. That is the influx of "newbie teachers" and the use of teachers forced to teach in subjects they're are not certified in.  Maspeth High School had an astounding 88% of their teachers who had less than three years of experience while Banana Kelly had 69% of their teaching staff with less than three years of experience.

The Daily News article reported that there were 21 NYC schools that had over 50% of their teaching staff with less than three years of experience and are probably nontenured as well.  Worse yet, are the amount of classes being taught by teachers who are not qualified to teach the subject.  According to the Daily News and my own experience in traveling in the Queens high schools, this is a common problem and the more pervasive the practice, the lower the school's academic achievement ends up to be.  Even the DOE admitted to the Daily News that many schools use their Living Environment teachers (Biology) to teach Earth Science (Physical Science) and the results are uniformly disappointing with the majority of these students who have these uncertified teachers, failing the Earth Science Regents. Remember my article on Excelsior Prepatory High School where the school decided to not give the over 100 students the Earth Science Regents rather than hire an Earth Science teacher?  How's that putting children first?

The question is why does the DOE and the UFT allow our NYC Public School students to be exposed to uncertified teachers instructing in subject areas that they have no business teaching in?  The answer its the DOE's "education on the cheap" policy.  That's right, if you think its about what's best for the students, than you probably believe in the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny, and yes, Santa Claus.  The truth is that the DOE imposed a destructive budgeting practice on the schools that's called "fair student funding" that forces principals to hire the "cheapest and not the best teachers" for their school.  Add that to the 14% budget cut since 2008 and the rise of the "Leadership Academy Principals", with little actual classroom  experience and you have a receipt for educational disaster.  I have written about this travesty previously and it can be found Here.  Finally, many schools try to save money by assigning phantom teachers to courses and force the unfortunate students to take an online or blended learning course.  Remember this?  Or in today's New York Post.

Its too bad the Daily News didn't bother to dig deeper into this issue but then they would have found out the real truth that its what's best for a school's budget than what's best for the students in the DOE's "education on the cheap" policy and that would bring into question the validity of the Governor's education agenda and their "blaming the teachers theme" for the school system's many problems.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Putting Lipstick On The Pig Doesn't Solve The ATR Crisis.

The De Blasio/Farina administration claims their policy has been successful in reducing the ATR pool by encouraging these teachers to leave the system as a gentler approach to solving the ATR crisis. Unfortunately, if you break down the numbers it still looks like the same old punitive Bloomberg/Klein policy that is costing the DOE over a hundred million dollars just to satisfy their ideological goals.  Putting lipstick on a pig does not make it more appealing. The DOE released updated information on the amount of ATRs who are still rotating and how many left the system, as of February of this year.  According to the publication Chalkbest, it broke down as follows:
  • There are 1,000 ATRs still rotating as of February of 2015.
  • 289 ATRs left the system since April of 2014.
  • 100 of the 289 ATRs left due to retirement. 
  • 97 took the ATR buyout (most were retiring anyway).
  • 53 ATRs resigned under disciplinary charges.
  • 19 ATRs were terminated due to missing interviews (10) or time and attendance issues (9).
  • 18 ATRs simply resigned.
  • 2 ATRs were discontinued.
To date, no ATRs have been brought up on 3020-a charges, using the expedited disciplinary process after being accused of "unprofessional conduct", whatever that means.

What's left unsaid by the obviously biased Chalkbeat article is that the majority of ATR teachers who found a long-term placement or leave replacement (estimated to be about 1,400) in the schools are not appointed but are simply placeholders for principals to hire cheaper "newbie teachers" during the summer when the DOE allows unlimited hiring.  Few ATRs are offered permanent positions and if the ATR has ten or more years of experience and makes $75,000 a year or more, the chances of being permanently hired are slim and none.  Until the DOE changes how the schools are funded, the ATR issue will continue to exist and over 100 million dollars a year will be wasted on a failed ideology rather than use the money for the classroom for more resources, reduce class size, and hire qualified and certified teachers to truly help the students. Of course if you only talk to the education reformers like StudentsFirst or E4E, of course you will insinuate that the ATRs are "subpar" or "ineffective". Better to ignore the issues and slant it to make it seem that the ATRs are the problem and not the failed ideology that has resulted in the waste of talent and money at the expense of the students.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Scholarship Requirement Artificially Raises The Graduation Rate And Cheapens The Diploma Of NYC High School Graduates.

Over the Bloomberg/Klein years the high school graduation rate jumped significantly and of course the Mayor and Chancellor claimed their education policy was a success.  In fact, the Chancellor proudly stated that "a zip code was no excuse for failure" as the dumbed down State tests narrowed the racial achievement gap.  However, it all collapsed in 2010 when it became obvious that many students were getting free credits through a bogus "credit recovery system" and Principal pressure to obtain a high letter grade for their school and receive a bonus as well.  Moreover, the State re-cut the State test to more realistic levels and the racial achievement gap actually widened!

Under State pressure the "credit recovery system" was strengthened to include more meaningful work and a stringent requirement for eligibility, the easy credits became harder to justify and principals needed to find another way to maintain their graduation rate.  The answer was a scholarship requirement.  In many schools administrators tell their teachers they want a minimum of 80% of a teacher/s students to pass their class.  Otherwise, the administrator will threaten to give the teacher a low grade on the observations and if not tenured, result in a discontinuance of employment,  This scholarship requirement usually included student "no-shows", meaning that if a student shows up most of the time, the teacher is pressured to pass the student to meet the scholarship demand. I experienced this first hand during the 2011-12 school year at Flushing High School where your effectiveness was based upon your student passing rate.  In my travels to the various high schools many teachers told me about the pressure their under to meet the scholarship requirements.  Its a rare teacher that refuses to abide by the administrator demands to pass undeserving students just to meet the scholarship requirements of the school. In one school at Campus Magnet, the Principal allegedly demands a 90% scholarship and this school is known for giving one third of the teachers an unsatisfactory or ineffective rating.  The result is that the students run the school with little fear of failing.

I feel sorry for the students who work hard and achieve good grades who must be frustrated that their poor performing classmates are allowed to pass their classes without bothering to open a book or do any work, except to show up,  Is it any wonder that a New York City High School diploma is greeted with great skepticism by colleges?