Thursday, July 20, 2017

From Reaching For The Stars To Back To Basics.

Over the last few years, many schools were pushing their students into higher level Math and Science courses.  This was known as "reaching for the stars".  It also didn't hurt that the DOE gave high schools extra points for the total number of students who took these higher level Math and Science courses. However, many parents and students started to complain that these higher level courses of Algebra II (Trigonometry), Chemistry, and Physics were a "bridge too far" for the students  Moreover, many schools pushed students to take these courses, despite the added pressure, stress, and reluctance to take these courses that many were destined to fail..

One of the reasons that many low performing schools pushed students to take Chemistry and or Physics was the lack of certified Earth Science teachers as well as getting more credit as a school bu the DOE.  According to the ATR pool there was only one certified Earth Science high school teacher available, citywide,  in June and he had just came out of his 3020-a hearing that Spring.  Moreover, many schools use teachers not certified in Earth Science to teach the Regents Science course and, for the most part, their students did poorly.  Finally, many seniors, are forced to take the Common Core Algebra II Regents and complain bitterly about taking a difficult Math course that means little to their college acceptance since the Regents is given after the student received their acceptance letter.

Some forward thinking school administrators are finally seeing the light and realize that to "reach for the stars" you need the academic tools to built a spaceship to get their and far too many students lack those tools.  Therefore, these administrators are now going "back to basics" and only giving those academically proficient students higher level Math and Science courses.   These administrators have learned a painful lesson and that is "reaching for the stars" is just a dream when there is a failure to launch a successful rocket ship due to the lack of the academic tools to build it, which hurts the students confidence, self-esteem, and ability to move ahead academically.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Truth Why ATRs Are Not Being Picked Up By Schools.

I was disgusted by the self-serving ATR bashing article by non-educator Daniel Weisberg who, once again,  falsely claimed that ATRs were "unwanted", ":bad", or had :discipline issues.  Mr. Weisberg called the "forced placement" of ATRs as "the dance of the lemons".  When the facts are so very different.   Mr. Weisberg's suggestion is to give the ATRs a time limit of between 6-12 months to find a position or be fired.  Which is what happened in Chicago and Washington D.C. that lead to mass firings of veteran teachers and the election loss of the union caucus to dissidents.

Interestingly, Mr. Weisberg bragged that he was responsible for the 2005 union contract that created the ATR crisis and therefore, he is responsible for the DOE wasting over 100 million dollars annually since 2006 or over one billion dollars!  Moreover, he is also responsible for the Open Market Transfer System that has resulted in high poverty and minority schools to have inferior teachers, new to the profession, who transfer from these schools to better schools.  If I am Mr. Weisberg, I would stick my head into the ground and hide my shame that I cost the City schools over a billion dollars and screwed the poor and minority schools. of excellent teachers

Back to the facts, the real reason that principals are not hiring ATRs has nothing to do with the ATRs being "bad" teachers.  It has everything to do with money, control, and power.

Fair Student Funding:  School budgets have not recovered from the 2009 recession and is only funded at 92% of their fair funding.  Moreover, this upcoming school year the DOE, flush with money, has cut school budgets back to 90% of their fair funding.  To make matters worse, Fair Student Funding actually penalizes schools who hire veteran teachers and for far too many principals the school budget overrides what's good for the students of the school.

Seniority:   Once a school hires a veteran teacher (ATR or not), that teacher is placed in his or her seniority rank and in worse case scenarios can cause a school to exceass a younger teacher that the school wants to retain.  Therefore, principals are reluctant to hire a veteran teacher and even if the teacher works out, I doubt the Principal will be given the ATR an "effective" observation, knowing his salary and seniority will be dumped on the school for the next school year  and many more years after. 

Institutional Memory:   Many principals don't like veteran teachers because they understand the union contract and know their rights.  This is known as institutional memory.  Principals like untenured teachers because when the Principal yells jump, they say "high high"?  While a veteran teacher will respond with "Why"?

Demonitization Of The ATRs:   Since the signing of the 2005 contract, ATRs have been labeled with the tag of "unwanted" or "bad" teachers.  Even a month after Chancellor Joel Klein signed the 2005 contract he told principals in the Principal's Weekly that ATRs were teachers that nobody should hire and that in the next contract he intended to include a time limit, which he couldn't do, due to New York State Civil Service rules and the union leadership who refused to even consider it since they knew what happened in Chicago and Washington D.C as their union leadership was voted out of office. .

In summary, the ATRs are not getting positions because of the four issues discussed above.  They are Salary, Seniority, Institutional Memory, and the Demonitization of the ATRs by the DOE, lead by Chancellor Carmen Farina, an old Bloomberg Deputy Chancellor who shared the poisonous ideology about ATRs,  along with their media allies. For more insights on the ATR issue read today's ICEUFT and NYC Educator posts.

Update:  It appears the ATR incentive was unsuccessful and has been extended to July 28th.  Just another failed ATR incentive that had no ATR input.  When will they ever learn?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Why It Made No Financial Sense To Take The ATR Incentive.

In the last two months at least three UFT leadership officials tried to convince me that the ATR incentive was a good deal and if I am planning to retire in June of 2018, I should jump at the chance to get an extra $50,000.  Of course, I politely refused the UFT and DOE's generous offer to retire and take the money and fade into educational oblivion.  Here is my rationale why I declined to take the ATR incentive.

First, the ATRs who take the $50,000 incentive are really only getting 50% of the money or $25,000 after taxes if a New York City resident.  Moreover,  the money is not pensionable, meaning that the incentive will not be included in the ATRs pension.  Finally, The money will put me into a higher tax bracket for this year, especially with the terminal pay.

Second, any ATR who wanted to take terminal leave, cannot do so, since the incentive does not allow for it.

Third, if the ATR wanted to join NYSUT's Comprehensive Major Medical Plan, they can't since you must be an active member as of January 1, 2018.

Finally, the largest of the contract raises of 3% will not be available to ATRs who took the incentive.

Obviously, if the ATR was planning to retire anyway or was subject to a 3020-a hearing due to incompetence or misconduct, I can see taking the incentive. However, here are my reasons I didn't take the ATR incentive and its really financial.

First, I'm not ready to retire this school year and the $50,000 is not financially good enough to change my plans and here's why.

By staying for the 2017-18 school year, I increase my pension by the 2% each year adds to the pension.  Furthermore, my final average salary will increase by an additional 4.5% due to the increase in the salary scale and it will be my 25th year of service.  That means that my pension is expected to increase 6.5% by staying another year.  A quick and rough calculation tells me that I will receive an extra $4,574 annually on my annual pension by staying till June 2018.

In staying an extra year, I will contribute another $24,000 to my TDA and receive a 7% return.  By simply taking out the 7% interest annually, I will be getting an extra $1,680.  Add that to the pension and I will be making an extra $6,254 each year and its exempt in New York State from State and Local taxes!  Moreover, my ASAF will increase by an additional $140 by staying an extra year

Finally, I expect to have a full semester of terminal leave and that means an extra 1% increase in my pension, assuming no contract raise for the 2018-19 school year.  Therefore, my pension of $57,008, excluding the ASAF,  increases to $57,581  Moreover, by adding an extra $12,000 to my TDA, I will also gain an additional $840 of interest income.  Add it all together and excluding the ASAF.  I will increase my retirement pay by $7,666 by staying an extra year, all exempt from State and local taxes!

In four years after retirement I will have already far exceeded the actual take home pay from the ATR incentive.   Further, let's not forget the increased Social Security I will receive by adding an extra year on my benefit.  Therefore, if you figure out the financial aspects, you can see the ATR incentive is no bargain and that's why I didn't even consider it.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Here's How The DOE Policy Changed On ATR Hiring.

I have received and digested  Randy Asher's webinar and I believe this is how the DOE policy on ATRs changed. According to the webinar, there will be no ATR incentive for the 2017-18 school year.  In fact, principals and ATRs will be "forced placed", starting October 15, 2017.  Both the ATR and Principal will not have any say in the selection and placement of the ATR.  Moreover, once placed, the school will be responsible for the ATR's salary.  Only DOE Central can removed an ATR from the school and not the Principal.

Any provisionally placed ATR covering a vacancy, who receives an "effective" or higher rating, by observation, will automatically be permanently hired the next year, despite the wishes of the Principal or the ATR for that matter.  The school is responsible for the full salary of the ATR going forward.

The DOE will continue to retain separate lists for ATRs who were simply excessed and those who won their 3020-a termination hearing or received an "Unsatisfactory" rating.  The DOE will only select from the excessed list when possible and only from the other list when there is no available ATR from the excessed list.

Rotations will be limited and probably to the ATRs who are from the disciplinary list or who had issues in their assigned school.

According to the webinar, the last incentive saw 372 ATRs hired.  While I cannot prove it. since both the DOE and UFT keep their motives and methods secret.   I bet Mr. Asher is including the hiring of newly excessed young teachers in the second semester and the beginning of the summer hiring season as Principals were told well in advance of their reduced budgets and that they would be responsible for veteran ATR salaries, imposed on the school without any incentive..  Therefore, best to take the ATR incentive while obtaining a young and untenured ATR teacher rather than be stuck with a $108,000 veteran ATR..

The bottom line, no Principal will be giving a veteran ATR an "effective" or higher rating, unless the school is a high teacher turnover hellhole that no veteran ATR wants.  The best most of us can expect in the observation portion will be "developing".

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The New York Post Editorial Board Are A Bunch Of Hypocrites.

In today's New York Post, the paper's Editorial Board made it seem that all ATRs are "bad" or unwanted teachers.  If you were unaware of how the DOE operates, the reader would think that the ATR pool consists of poorly performing teachers and not that principals don't or won't hire ATRs because of their salary, institutional memory, and seniority. Yet, the same Editorial Board supported the hiring of unqualified teachers at SUNY's charter schools and hoped it expands to the public schools.

How can you support the hiring of untrained and unqualified people to teach students on one hand and then be against the hiring of veteran teachers who are properly certified and experienced?  The answer is simple, the New York Post Editorial Board is a bunch of hypocrites!  Obviously, ideology trumps common sense.  What parent would want their child to be a guinea pig by having a "newbie", with no education training and experience with children, instructing them?  Apparently, the New York Post Editorial Board does since they support privatizing the public schools. .

The New York Post Editorial Board does not care about students, they simply follow the education deformer philosophy that teaching is a temporary and transitional job, without a pension and other benefits, until a real professional occupation is found.  Much like the Teach For America model.  Remember, its really not about the children its about the ideology and that's why they are hypocrites.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Few ATRs Will Be Rated Effective By Principals Under The New DOE Policy.

Over the years, many ATRs were rated "effective" or "highly effective" by school principals who appreciated the ATRs ability  to lead the students to a passing grade.  These principals also knew that at the end of the school year, these ATRs would be excessed and they can hire an inexpensive "newbie" for the next school year.  This was known as being provisionally hired, which reduced the ATR pool from over 1,300 to 822 by the end of April.   Of course, those provisionally appointed teachers were dumped back into the ATR pool at the end of the school year.  You can read some of my posts Here and Here.

Now, ex-Principal Randy Asher has decided that any school that has a vacancy after October 15th, must fill the vacancy with an ATR and if the ATR receives an "effective" or higher rating, the school must award the ATR with a permanent placement.  Sounds great right?  Wrong! 

First, what Principal wants to hire a 20 year veteran with their high salaries, institutional memory, and their seniority?   Not many and certainly not the Leadership Academy Principals.  Therefore, principals will make sure that the ATR will receive a "developing" or "ineffective" rating under Danielson.

Second, since schools can hire outside the system in January, what stops a principal from hiring a teacher for the vacancy for the second semester and jettisoning the ATR back into the pool?  I saw that happen this year at Queens Vocational High School.

Finally, since there is no "mutual consent" on the ATR's part, what if the ATR does not wan the permanent placement due to the school,'s reputation, distance, or lack of parking?  How fair is that the ATR is forced placed at a school they do not want to be at for the rest of their career, since the Open Market Transfer System is useless for veteran teachers who wish to transfer out of these terrible schools.

By the way, with a reduced school budgets for the next school year, there will be more excessed teachers into the ATR pool and knowing the devious way the DOE operates, these new ATRs will be the first ones to be "forced placed" with the ATRs who won their discipline cases and others who received an "Unsatisfactory" rating being the last.  I suspect that remains unchanged from the last three years.

That leaves me to our union President Michael Mulgrew who almost bragged about how the contract  is being enforced and that's why the DOE changed its policy.  With friends like Mulgrew, ATRs don't need enemies.You can read Mulgrew's statement on the ICEUFT blog Here.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Charter Schools Hoping That SUNY's Proposed Rules Will Allow Them To Hire More Unqualified Teachers.

Because of the increasing difficulty that charter schools are having in hiring certified teachers and the high teacher turnover, SUNY has proposed to lower teacher standards for their charter schools.  There rationale for lowering teacher hiring standards is the looming teacher shortage and the almost 50% reduction in college teacher training program applicants.  While these reasons are true, its really that charter schools cannot retain teachers for more than two or three years due to the increased school time, lower salaries, and inferior benefits.

Presently, only a maximum of 15% of the teachers in a charter school can be uncertified.  Some schools have had difficulty meeting that goal and some charter schools have a majority of teachers uncertified in the subject that they are teaching in.  Moreover, its not uncommon for charter school classes to have two or more teachers during the school year.  Finally, once teachers get fully certified, they usually leave to the higher paying and better benefits, such as a pension, of the public school system.

SUNY's proposal would mean that these uncertified charter school teachers will never need to pass State certification tests or obtain a master's degree.  Therefore, limiting the charter school teachers to teach in charter schools.  While both the Board of Regents and the NYED Commissioner has objected to SUNT's proposed teacher hiring regulations , Under the draft rules, some would-be teachers wouldn’t have to earn a master’s degree or pass the state certification exam. Instead, you’d need 30 hours of instruction and 100 hours working in-class under the supervision of an experienced teacher, as well to finish state workshops on bullying, violence prevention and child abuse.

If  these draft rules are implemented, the charter schools will simply hire any Tom, Dick, or Harry with a college degree and dump them into a classroom, unprepared in the art of teaching and that's not good for the students in any setting.