Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"LIF" For Life, Or How The DOE Snookered The UFT Again At The Teachers' Expense

This is another investigative article on how the October 2005 contract that the UFT rammed down our throat has adversely affected the teaching profession. In this case we are talking about the infamous "Letter To The File" or "LIF". As we all know, The union gave up the grievance protection when an administrator dumps a "LIF" into a teacher's personnel file. However, the union claimed the teachers won a more significant gain in having "LIF" removed from the teacher's file after three years, unless it was used in a 3020-a hearing, a "U" rating, or in a discontinuance proceeding. However, what seems to be an inadequate tradeoff is much worse than you think.

In a January 31, 2006 letter by Joel Klein in the Principals' Weekly he explained exactly how the "LIF" works.

"Teachers or other UFT represented employees who wish to have a letter removed from their file pursuant to the new agreement should follow the current procedures for viewing their personnel file by making an appointment with the principal or his/her designee when the principal or designee is available. The employee will be permitted to view his/her personnel file in the presence of the principal or designee. Employees may identify any letter that has been in the file 3 years or longer. The supervisor shall remove the letter from the file if he or she knows that the letter has not resulted in further disciplinary action, such as 3020a charges, a discontinuance, an unsatisfactory rating, or a suspension and confirms that it is 3 years old or more. Copies should be made of all the documents to be removed and the employee should be given the originals. The records will be kept in a central repository and maintained under the control of the New York City Law Department. They will be used solely in defense of the Department of Education or the City of New York in litigation or administrative actions and as otherwise required by law, and DOE supervisors will not have access to them. The records will be destroyed 6 years after an individual retire, resigns, or terminates. if the records are accessed the UFT will Be notified".

Let's take this statement apart and see what it means.

"Teachers or other UFT represented employees who wish to have a letter removed from their file.....

The above statement means that unless a teacher formally requests to review their personnel file to see if unwanted or dated material is in it. The principal is not obligated to take them out. Since most teachers don't want to take the time before or after school hours to review their file and some are unaware of their rights, unwanted or outdated items can remain in a teacher's personnel file indefinitely!

Copies should be made of all the documents to be removed and the employee should be given the originals. The records will be kept in a central repository and maintained under the control of the New York City Law Department.

That means that even when unwanted and dated material are removed from a teacher's personnel file, a copy is sent to the New York City Law Department for deposit!

The records will be destroyed 6 years after an individual retire, resigns, or terminates. if the records are accessed the UFT will Be notified".

The records are not eliminated until 6 years after the teacher leaves the system? Notice how the UFT must be informed when these records are accessed? Obviously, the UFT knew about the contract provision and agreed to it.

Let's see how this works. The teacher on his/her own time must request that the principal, when available, oversee the review of the teacher's personnel file. Any unwanted or outdated material the principal agrees to remove from the teacher's personnel file must be copied and sent to the New York City Law Department for deposit. The records can be accessed at anytime for litigation or administrative hearings and, of course, the UFT will be informed of this. In other words, any "LIF" given to a teacher will always be available to New York City even if the "LIF" is removed from the teacher's personnel file.

The DOE snookered our wonderful union again. The result for teachers? It's "LIF" for life!

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Experienced Teacher - An Endangered Species

Tweed's crusade against the experienced teacher is moving full steam ahead as it appears that more teachers will be retiring or resigning from the New York City Public School system than ever before. True, the 25/55 pension change is an important factor. However, the classroom environment keeps getting worse and more teachers are tossing in the towel. Last year saw a doubling of teachers leaving the system and this year appears to be no different.

Tweed cannot be happier about how their recruitment over retention policy is succeeding beyond expectations. Teachers have to wait to November before they can even get an appointment for a pension consultation. Further, many talented and experienced teachers are now ATRs and many other experienced teachers find themselves in the "rubber room" for minor, frivolous, and false allegations.

Where does Tweed find these inexperienced and low-paid teachers to replace the experienced teachers they push out of the system? Easy, besides the truly naive college graduate there are the two year wonders of "Teach For America" and the not ready for the classroom "Teaching Fellows". In addition, Tweed runs their usual intergalactic job fair that brings teachers from Jamaica, Philippines, Slovakia, and if NASA find life on Mars, maybe even a Martian to the city classroom! Moreover, Tweed has allowed the principals to go after experienced teachers to get them off the budget. Many of the new small schools have few experienced teachers and the ones in the school are always at risk of being removed due to budget considerations.

If you were a parent, would you want an experienced teacher who knows how to manage a class, work with a curriculum, and handle student problems? Or a newbie teacher who is clueless in the classroom and must follow a steep learning curve to manage classroom issues teaching your child? A no brainer. Right? Wrong, in the wacky world of Tweed a newbie teacher is more important to the DOE than an experienced teacher. Remember, in the Kleinberg administration its all about the money and not about the students.

As for our union? Forgetaboutit! Randi has bought into Tweed's recruitment over retention policy and don't expect any help from Randi and her friends. Look for more experienced and senior teachers to find themselves as ATRs and in the "rubber room". Hence Tweed's "Children Last" program continues unabated.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Nightmare Scenario - DOE Wants To Take Over Teacher Certification

That wonderful "Education Reform Warrior", Joel Klein continues to push his anti-teacher crusade by giving a six item "wish list" in a Florida summit of politicians, hosted by Jeb Bush. Apparently, they again forgot to invite classroom teachers, I wonder if that was an oversight? In the New York Sun article, Joel Klein also wanted to make it easier to fire teachers, use test scores to evaluate teachers, and take over teacher certification from universities. Furthermore, he also wanted more accountability for schools that fail to improve college student scores. Where is his accountability? I forgot he doesn't need to be accountable, that's for the little people. The politicians that support these pseudo-reform groups were fawning all over Klein. An example was President Bush's education secretary, Margaret Spellings, who also spoke yesterday. Her remarks praised a group of people she described as "education reform warriors," including the group Mr. Klein recently launched with Reverend Al Sharpton, the Education Equality Project. She also singled out Klein as a leader in education reform. I almost choked on these statements about our Chancellor.

Bloomberg and Klein's education policies look worse and worse as they continue to blunder their way through numerous reinventions that result in low morale, uncertainty and flat NAEP and SAT scores. However, they have managed to snooker the pseudo-reform educators. The people in the trenches know better. In an Andrew Wolf article he points out how Bloomberg's education excellance rating has dropped from 19% in October 2005 to just 5% in 2008.

Kleiberg's "smoke and mirrors" no longer fool the parents and school staff of the New York City Public School system anymore but they can still fool those pseudo-reformers that want change in the education system. However, while change may be good at times, change for the sake of change is a disaster. I can't wait for January 2010. If I can survive that long.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More Fuzzy Math BY Those Wonderful Education Reformers

I couldn't help but laugh when I opened up to the New York Daily News opinion page and read how that pseudo- education reformer Michael Antonucci used "Fuzzy Math" to show that the New York City public schools have an oversupply of teachers. Really? According to Mr. Antonucci for every teacher there are 14 students. Overcrowded classrooms? What overcrowding? How did he come up with this erroneous conclusion? What Mr. Antonucci did is he took the total number of students and divided that number by the total number of teachers. What a ridiculous way to determine a student to teacher ratio. Obviously Mr. Antonucci has not been a public school teacher and doesn't understand all the duties a teacher is expected to do in a school. Mr. Antonucci, the Director of the Education Intelligence Agency, is apparently clueless of the various duties assigned to a teacher. If he had really done his homework he would have realized that his "Fuzzy Math" would have resulted in a failing grade and the well deserved "dunce cap". Let's see why Mr. Antonucci is wrong.

First: Special education teachers are mandated by State and Federal law to have between 6-12 students, depending on their disabilities. In fact, in some cases it is one teacher for no more than three students, as mandated by law. Mr. Antonuuci forgot to mention that.

Second: Some teachers are itinerant teachers that go from school to school or home to home to provide services on a one-on-one basis, also mandated by law.

Third: A few teachers are coaches that work with other teachers on Math, English, Literacy, etc.
These teachers are extremely important and don't usually work with students.

Fourth: In the middle and high school many teachers have dean duties that reduce or even eliminate their classroom duties. Discipline is necessary for school safety and teachers fill the critical dean position.

Fifth: Every school uses teachers for scheduling, grade advisors, and mentors, which reduce the classroom teaching time by these teachers.

Finally, the DOE must take some blame on the "Fuzzy Math" used by Mr. Antonucci. Because of Tweed's misguided policy to allow schools to hire new teachers rather than place excessed teachers, there are close to a thousand ATRs with no students assigned to them. Include another eight hundred teachers in the "rubber room" and is it any wonder that Mr. Antronucci's "Fuzzy Math" came up with a misleading 14:1 student to teacher ratio?

Mr. Antonucci, please don't apply as a math teacher because your "Fuzzy Math" makes you unqualified to teach and I hereby bestow you the "Dunce Cap".

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Collaterial Damage Done To The Students When A Teacher Is Removed

The DOE's dirty little secret is the damage that is done to the students when a teacher is removed from his/her classroom. While a few teachers need to be removed because they really are a danger to their students (examples: sexual abuse, corporal punishment, gross incompetence, and drugs etc.). However, the DOE has lumped teachers accussed of these serious behaviors with the 93% of teachers who will end up back in the classroom. The DOE refuses to differentiate between minor or frivolous incidents, if they are even true, with serious incidents. The lack of a clear and fair removal policy allows Tweed to encourage principals to remove teachers at will. Especially highly-paid veteran teachers. Moreover, the unfair, one-sided, and biased investigation process allows the DOE to keep teachers in "rubber rooms" for over two years at full pay until their 3020-a hearings are completed.

While these teachers will eventually find their way back to the classroom, what about the students they left behind? The DOE does not even acknowledge the collaterial damage to the students that removing a teacher brings. In many cases the school must use substitutes or ATRs that are not even certified in the subject area for the remainder of the school year. In fact some special programs such as Advanced Placement classes must be discontinued in mid-year due to a lack of a quality teacher. Further, the trust between teacher and the students is destroyed and any academic progress is reversed. Moreover, the removal of a fellow teacher lowers morale and inhibits other teachers to make the extra effort to reach the difficult student. Finally, the removal of a teacher from the classroom may be a short-term victory for the principal, it is a long-term disaster for the school as teacher distrust and fear make cooperation and collaboration with the administration highly unlikely. This lack of unity affects the student body as well as few teachers are willing to sponsor clubs or provide adult direction for student activities for fear of being accused of inappropriate behavior. Is it any wonder that overall student achievement is flat?

It is a pity that in the zeal by Tweed to get teachers to retire or resign they seem to have forgotten their prime responsibility. To do what is best for the students. In the wacky world of DOE "children last" continues.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Chancellor's Failing Grade

I just checked off my survey and not surprisingly I found myself strongly disagreeing with Chancellor Klein's policy. In other words Chancellor Klein's initiatives was given a grade of "F"! I suspect that except for a few clueless newbie teachers, a smattering of "Teach For America" two year wonders, and an isolated "Teaching Fellow", the grade I gave the Chancellor is the grade that the rest of the teachers will be giving him as well.

Under the Kleinberg "children last" program we have seen little or no improvement in children's test scores, micromanagement of the classroom, destruction of large traditional schools, incompetent "Leadership Academy Principals with little classroom experience, increased teacher disrespect, and low morale."Furthermore, why hasn't Tweed reduced class size despite the money from CFE? Where is it going? I will not even go into the ATR crises and the "rubber room" overcrowding that wastes up to 146 million dollars a year.

I envision that the UFT will publish the results on the front page of the New York Teacher newspaper. Nice, but who other than a few teachers read it? The best that you can expect is a small paragraph buried on page 12 of the daily tabloids. This is inadequate and will not embarrass Chancellor Klein or his non-educrats. However, if Randi Weingarten is really serious about challenging the Chancellor. Try this approach.

A full page advertisement in all the New York City newspapers announcing the Chancellor's grade and why the teachers voted the way they did. Our union can certainly afford it. Further, Randi should be making a public relations blitz on all local news shows on why the teachers believe the Chancellor is destroying New York City public schools. Certainly, Randi is very good at talking a good game, this should be right up her alley. Moreover, let the local press interview teachers who could explain why Chancellor Klein's course is bad for the public schools.

Finally, Randi should adopt the slogan "Chancellor Klein's Children Last Program" showing the damage the Chancellor has done to the classroom. For example, the failure to reduce school and classroom overcrowding, the waste of talented and experienced teachers as substitutes, and the collaterial damage done to the students when their teacher is removed based on false, frivolous, and twisted accusations, or for minor incidents.

It's time for our Union to send out the attack dogs and expose Chancellor Klein for what he is. An anti-teacher, pro- charter school politician that does not serve the public school students.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Operation Was A Success However The Patient Died

Only in the bizarre world of the Kleinberg DOE can a principal of a failing school that is closing down get a $15,000 bonus. A second principal will collect a $5,500 bonus even as he was removed for mismanagement in December. In addition, four principals who's schools received an "F" grade will be getting between $10,000 to $15,000 of bonus money. Can you imagine if a teacher was given an "F" grade, what would that teacher's future be? Right, a charge of incompetence, and termination.

With amusement, I read the Daily News article on the monetary bonus the principal of EBC/East New York High School for Public Safety and Law is getting. His school, which was given a grade of "D" and is being closed down due to a dismal academic environment, is getting a $15,000 bonus. I kid you not. Another principal, removed in December from the Acorn High School for Social Justice for mismanagement is still getting a $5,500 bonus, even as his school was graded an "F". Only, in the warped world of Tweed can poor principal performance result in monetary bonuses.

Randi Weingarten said " it's a cockeyed situation" is putting it mildly. What Randi should have said " it's insane to give principals of failing schools a bonus. Where's their accountability?"

Unfortunately, Tweed's "children last program" continues.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Patrick Lynch & Randi WeingartenThe Strong & The Pathetic

The two most powerful unions in New York City are the Police and Teachers. However, the union leaders have dramatically different approaches in dealing with the City. Patrick Lynch, the president of the police union fights tooth and nail for his existing members. The result? Four consecutive 5% pay raises in the last four years, ending July 31st 2006. Their givebacks were mostly put on the "unborn". Less salary, vacation days, and more flexible time limits for their patrol duties. While only minor givebacks were associated with the existing members. Lynch's hard-nose negotiations has made the City look bad with fewer and fewer police recruits willing to join the police force.

By contrast Randi Weingarten has taken the opposite approach. She has negotiated contracts that contained many givebacks by her members while buying into the City's recruitment over retention policy. Randi's pathetic negotiation committee only achieved raises that were marginally more than DC 37 (22% for the last seven years or 3.15% per year) and well below the 20% raises the police achieved in the last four years, despite the UFT giving back significant time and duties for it's existing members . I have previously identified these givebacks and won't waste time listing them. However, you can find many of these givebacks here.

The union educrats bring up that a union should not "eat it's unborn". However, a union's main goal is to protect it's existing members first. In the UFT's case, that didn't happen. Hence, the ATR crises, overcrowded "rubber rooms", and teacher disrespect. Is it any wonder that in the last year over 4,600 teachers resigned, double the average in previous years? It seems that Patrick Lynch, has represented his members a whole lot better than the pathetic Randi Weingarten has her members