Friday, December 24, 2010

The DOE Leadership Wish List Sent To Santa Claus And Why They Ended Up With A Lump Of Coal In Their Stockings.

It was only last year that Santa Claus was terminated as a teacher, based upon the biased and unfair DOE investigation process. You would think that Santa Claus would be pretty upset with these naughty non-educators at Tweed that runs the DOE. Despite suffering from the DOE's witch hunt that lead to the false, embellished, and outrageous accusations against him and subjected him to the 3020-a process, Santa Claus did not hold any malice and still tried to meet the needs of the DOE leadership wish list because that is what he is. Of course we all know that the DOE leadership was "naughty" and far from nice when it came to the parents, students, and staff at the schools under their thumb. During their failed leadership, over 90 schools have closed or are closing and who cares about what the community wants. Even ex-Chancellor Joel Klein stated he didn't go far enough in destroying teacher due process rights and community input during his eight year tenure that saw teacher morale plummet, paperwork explode, and teacher control of the classroom eliminated by top-down mandated programs, just to name a few.

Let's take a peek what the DOE leadership wish list looks like.

Ex-Chancellor Joel Klein: A heart and managerial skills.

Future Chancellor Cathie Black: A masters degree and a clue about what goes on in a public school classroom.

Head Of Legal Services Michael Best: The power to suspend teachers without pay & health benefits when accused of misconduct or incompetence.

OSI & SCI: More investigators that can do biased and unfair investigations against school staff, when the Principalcalls them in. Here was one such advertisement for OSI investigators.

Tweed Leadership: The right to hire and fire teachers as they please and the elimination of those inconvenient "due process" rights. This is what Tweed wants. Moreover, an increase in their already-bloated headcount to achieve these aims and to further spin statistics and the fuzzy math that is the hallmark of Tweed.

"Leadership Academy Principals": The power to remove staff from their schools and budgets as they see fit. Furthermore, they want the authority to ignore building & layoff seniority rules without being questioned. Are they not the CEO of the building?

Santa Claus read the outrageous demands from the DOE leadership and realized how very naughty and unaccountable they were this year. Therefore, Santa Claus did the only thing possible. He gave every last one of them what they deserved. A lump of coal in their stockings.

I know, I forgot Mayor Bloomberg. However, Mayor moneybags is a mufti-billionaire and does not need a gift from Santa Claus. He just uses his money to change the rules and then he simply buys what he wants, like a third term as Mayor.

This is my last post until 2011. Everybody have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Schools Face A Second Semester Budget Cut But Don't Look For High School Principals To Target Their Parent Coordinators.

The New York City Public Schools face an additional budget cut starting on February 1, 2011. Where will the cuts come from in the schools? The teaching staff? School Aides? Guidance counselors, Paraprofessionals? After-school programs? Or per-session activities such as sports and clubs? Probably a combination of all of them. However, one place the Principal will not cut is the near-useless position of parent coordinator at the High School level. The parent-coordinator serves at the whim of the Principal and can be eliminated by a simple Principal directive. This is because the parent coordinator was usually selected due to his or her friendship with the Principal in the first place. For example, one parent coordinator got her job because she was the Principal's hairdresser, I kid you not and remember how the Parent Coordinator got and lost her job at the Columbia Secondary School? Here.

The Parent Coordinator title was created in 2003 and was a reward to DC37 for their willingness to accept the lousy contract that resulted in the terrible 2005 contract that brought us the ATR crises, lose of seniority transfer , and eliminating the grieving of a Letter-To-The-File among other reductions in the teaching profession . While the Parent Coordinator does serve a useful and sometimes necessary purpose in the elementary schools when used properly. However, in the secondary schools, especially in the high schools, they seem to be just another layer of bureaucracy that insulates the Principal from the parents. Many of these Parent Coordinators are near useless when it comes to helping the school's children. Furthermore, they seem to be only answerable to the Principal. If the Principal needs to reduce personnel for the second semester, let's start with the near-useless position of Parent Coordinator.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Phony Graduation Statistics Are Apparent In An Increase In Students Who Need To Take Remedial Courses In The City's Community Colleges.

We now have even more evidence that many of our high school graduates are not ready for college as the percentage of high school graduates needing remedial course work has increased 3.2% to an astounding 74.4% and this would be even higher if CUNY used the national average of 45 passing rate on entrance exams in math rather than the "dumbed down" 30 used for determining if an entering student needs remedial course work. The New York Post, of all the media outlets reported on the disappointing numbers in an article that further puts to rest any real academic achievement during the failed Bloomberg/Klein Administration. In fact, shockingly, the New York Post Editorial Board actually blamed the New York State Education Department for "dumbing down" tests while giving the Mayor and the ex-Chancellor a free ride from the blame that allowed for this educational travesty.

This is just another result of how both the State and the City has cheapened academic achievement and are graduating students that are not capable to do college course work and even hold a white collar job. The failure of the City and State to provide a solid and well-rounded education for the students under their authority seems to be generally ignored by the majority of the media and should be called what I really think it is, a "junk education" .

Now as these students graduate and have graduated with suspect diplomas, due to phony credits and "dumbed down" tests what will happen to them in the real world? Furthermore, as these people become adults and have children themselves, will the next generation of students fall into the same trap of limited academic achievement and graduating with a diploma that is not worth the paper it is printed on? I hope not.

At one time New York State and City set the gold standard for educating their students now both the City and State Education Departments have lowered these standards to the point that both the New York State tests and the New York City High School diplomas are a joke. It is a real pity on how both the City and State has weakened academic achievement to the point that it really is "junk education".

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Dare To Be Remarkable" Part 2: The Saga Continues AsThe Union Gets Involved But The Teacher Is Excluded From The Meeting.

If you remember back in November I wrote an article about my friend the ATR who was required to teach out of license as a teacher who had the class and went out on a long-term illness. A parent didn't like the fact the teacher was not certified in the area of instruction and made his life a living hell as the "C rated Principal" failed to take the proper action, urged by everybody, to remove the student from the teacher's class. The result was the Principal decided to make the teacher a day-to-day-sub. However, the best laid plans often go astray, especially when it comes to the DOE. Therefore, my friend the ATR saga continues.

Josh came to school thinking he was finally rid of the student and the parent only to be told that the "C rated Principal" could not find an ATR in the certification area and she could not get another ATR since they are no longer free to the school. This concerned Josh since he knew that nothing good will come from his continued interaction with the student and the out of control parent. Just as Josh started to despair, he found out another teacher took a long-term medical leave in his certification area. "What luck"! Josh could teach in his certification area, get away from the student who is causing him trouble, and hopefully lead to a permanent position. Sounds logical right? Wrong! This is the DOE where up is down and right is left. Sure enough the "C rated Principal" gave the only other ATR in the building the schedule and she is not certified in the subject! Why would you not have Josh teach in his certification area (remember he was and is an excellent teacher)? However, this "C rated Principal" is known to make decisions that defy reason and this is just another example of her poor leadership.

Josh decided to make the best of the bad situation and tried to find common ground with the student and went out of his way to engage the student in conversation. Wrong move. You guessed it. The student told his parent about how Josh was paying interest in him which resulted in the paranoid parent calling the Superintendent's office and yes, even the police, by claiming Josh was harassing her child. The police dismissed the complaint after contacting the "C rated Principal" who assured the police that Josh was just trying to find common ground with the student and did nothing wrong and the parent is out of control. Thankfully, the "C rated Principal" finally did the right thing this time. She called Josh in and warned him not to engage the student in any conversation that does not concern the classroom. Unfortunately, for Josh, the nightmare with the child and the parent is not over. When he realized that the situation was untenable he finally reached out to the union leadership for help. He took it to the Borough Representative who bucked it down to the Special Representative, who dumped it on the District Representative. Josh was not pleased with the union's "buck passing". However, he figured maybe if the District Representative went in with him to meet with, the "C rated Principal", this could be resolved. The District Representative did show up to meet the "C rated Principal" but excluded both Josh and the Chapter Leader. Once the meeting was over, the District Representative left the building without talking to Josh or the Chapter leader about what was said and agreed upon at the meeting, To date Josh has not been told anything about the meeting and he is still teaching the very same schedule that could result in further harassment by the student and his parent.

Here is another case of our union's secrecy that only seems to have negative consequences when it comes to the teachers they are supposed to represent. I can only hope in this case I am wrong and my friend Josh's saga comes out with good results.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It Is A Good Idea For The Schools If Principals Were Required To Teach At Least One Class In Their Certification Area.

I was reading the article in the New York Daily News about how some principals make time to teach classes despite their Administrative responsibilities. I previously wrote an article that said that it was a good idea for principals to teach a class back in October of 2006, Here. In the secondary schools the Principal would be required to teach in his or her certification. While in the elementary schools the Principal would be required to teach an agreed upon period, maybe the school's Chapter Leader's class since the CL does get an extra period off for union business.

Having the Principal teaching a class in his or her certification area is good in many ways. First, the Principal will be connected to the students and see first hand what the issues are, assuming the class represents the school and not a "gifted and talented" class for example. Second, the Principal can be evaluated using the same evaluation standards that are being developed for the teacher and make the Principal more sensitive to the teacher evaluation process. Third, it could save money as ever deeper budget cuts affect the school. Finally, the Principal can better understand and direct the scarce resources the school receives and Professional Development Programs to what actually works in the classroom.

Unfortunately, many of the newer principals come from the "Leadership Academy" and some of them are not even tenured as a teacher! Therefore, teaching a class is even more important to these "Leadership Academy principals" since it gives these principals valuable experience in not only teaching a class but to better evaluate other teachers when doing observations. Moreover, these principals will connect not only with the trials and tribulations of the teachers but better appreciate the issues affecting the school's students. This can only help not only the Principal understand the school's issues but bring collaboration with the teaching staff and help make a better school.

There are too many principals that hide in their office and hardly interact with students and staff. When they do interact it is usually for negative issues such as discipline and behavior problems. The result is distrust between the Principal and the school population. By having the Principal teach a legitimate class it brings the school population closer together and allows for a free flow of ideas that can only improve morale and help the students to achieve academic success. That is what makes a successful school.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Teachers Are At Risk Of Being Injured & Even Fired When Trying To Break Up Student Fights

When I was a "newbie teacher" I must have broke up numerous fights between students in my High School. As you can figure out I was young and clueless of the consequences in breaking up student fights. At the time nobody informed me of the danger in intervening in a physical altercation between students. Not the Principal, not the Assistant Principal, or even the Chapter Leader. I just thought that it was part of the job as a teacher to breakup student fights. Luckily, I never was hurt nor did the students complain to the Administration that I used excessive force or touched them inappropriately. Of course that was then, when teachers were looked upon with respect. However, this is now.

As I became more experienced as a teacher and the Klein Administration took charge of the schools and teacher disrespect became the norm, we were told by the Chapter Leader that a teacher should never break up a fight because of the danger to the teacher. First, you can be injured yourself. These students, especially in high school are strong and in fighting the students become stronger as adrenalin flows through their bodies and if they accidentally hit you, it can not only hurt but can cause long-term and lasting damage to you. Just look at what happened to "newbie" Spanish teacher Lissindia Batista when she tried to break up a fight. Second, it only takes a student or his/her parent to accuse the teacher of using excessive force when trying to break up a fight. In some extreme cases female students can falsely claim that the teacher touched them inappropriately when the teacher unwisely intervened in the altercation. This is very true if the female student holds a grudge against a male teacher. It only takes a female student to claim that she was touched sexually to have the hapless male teacher arrested and fired. On the other hand teacher complaints of being sexually harassed by students and Administrators are routinely dismissed.

In other words teachers have a target on their back and the less they get involved in student altercations the better. What should you do if two of your students are fighting? Simple, yell "stop, stop right now" and call for help. If your location does not have a communication system then send a student to get school safety or to the Dean's office for help. Finally, both the DOE and union will tell you that if you get physically involved in a student fight and need medical attention, you may not be covered by the medical plans! Think twice when you want to break up a student fight.

Remember, "no good deed goes unpunished" when it comes to the DOE.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Things That Charter Schools And Their Supporters Don't Want The General Public To Know.

Now that the unqualified Cathie Black is expected to become Chancellor on January 3rd we can expect her to follow in the footsteps of Joel Klein and be a strong supporter of the ever increasing Charter Schools as an alternative to the local public schools. This means more neighborhood schools will have reduced funding as Tweed allocates more of their scarce resources to the Charter Schools at the Public school's expense. What is very interesting are that Charter Schools have very serious problems that they hide from the general public. Some quite serious and are ignored by the pro-Charter School education reformers. Let's look at some of these issues closeup. A must read is what Smart Money published, an Article called "10 Things Charter Schools Won't Tell You". Many of the statistics come from the article.

Many Teachers Are Inexperienced And Not Certified:

Believe it or not, many teachers who are offered teaching positions in Charter Schools are not certified. Furthermore, once they achieve certification they leave for the local school district teaching positions.

According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, charter school teachers are, on average, younger and less likely to hold state certification than teachers in traditional public schools. In a 2000 survey, 92% of public school teachers held state certification, compared to 79% of charter school teachers. A 2008 survey found that 32% of charter school teachers were under the age of 30, compared to 17% of traditional public school teachers. Charter schools often recruit from organizations like Teach for America that provide non-traditional paths into the profession and are known as the "two year wonders" because they do their two year obligation and leave., More-experienced teachers who already have jobs in traditional public schools may have little incentive to give up the protection of tenure, pension, and health benefits to work in a Charter School.

Relying on relatively untrained, inexperienced staff may have a real impact in the classroom. “A lot of them don’t have classroom management skills,” says May Taliaferrow, a charter-school parent.

Large And Constant Teacher Turnover:

Another fact deliberately ignored by the pro-Charter School reformers is the high teacher turnover in most Charter Schools. In some cases the entire teaching staff could turnover within a five year period!

As many as one in four charter school teachers leave every year, according to a 2007 study by Gary Miron, a professor of education at Western Michigan University, and other researchers at the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice. That’s about double the typical teacher turnover rate in traditional public schools. Charter schools typically pay teachers less than traditional public schools do, and require longer hours, Miron says. Meanwhile, charter school administrators earn more than their school-district counterparts, which can also make teachers feel underpaid, he says. The odds of a teacher leaving the profession altogether are 130% higher at charter schools than traditional public schools, according to a 2010 study by the National Center on School Choice at Vanderbilt University. That study also found that much of this teacher attrition was related to dissatisfaction with working conditions.

Charter Schools Are Always Trying To Skim The Best Students And Will Advertise For These Students:

The Charter Schools will do just about anything to get "good students" to go to their school and will send out flyers to the parents of these students to get them to attend their school.

Walking around New York City, it’s impossible to miss the ads on buses and subways for the Harlem Success academies, Haimson says. The school is legally required to reach out to at-risk students, and it has been opening new schools over the past couple of years. However, some schools elsewhere have gone beyond marketing. A charter school in Colorado gave out gift cards to families that recruited new students, and another school in Louisiana gave out cash.

Charter Schools Discourage Students With Disabilities & English Language Learners From Applying:

Another well-kept secret is that the Charter Schools don't want students with disabilities, discipline problems, attendance issues, or English language learners.

Six-year-old Makala was throwing regular tantrums in school, so her mother, Latrina Miley, took her for a psychiatric evaluation, eventually ending up with a district-mandated plan that stated the girl should be taught in a smaller class where half the students have special needs. The charter school’s response, Miley says, was to tell her she could either change her daughter’s educational plan, or change schools. She moved Makala to a nearby public school – where, she says, teachers have been more effective at managing her daughter’s behavior issues. The school says it can’t talk about specific cases.

Critics say charter schools commonly “counsel out” children with disabilities. While a few charter schools are specifically designed to serve students with special needs, the rest tend to have lower proportions of students with special needs than nearby public schools, according to a review of multiple studies conducted by the University of Colorado’s Education and the Public Interest Center. Charter schools also appear to end up with students whose disabilities are less expensive to manage than those of public school students. A Boston study, conducted by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, found that 91% of students with disabilities in the city’s charter schools were able to be fully included in standard classrooms, compared to only 33% of students with disabilities in the traditional public schools.

The Charter Schools counsel out students who struggle Academically:

To keep up with the propaganda that Charter Schools have a greater percentage of graduates than the local public school, the Charter Schools counsel out low-preforming students so that they do not count in the percentages.

For all the hype about a few standout schools, charter schools in general are not producing better results than traditional public schools. A national study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford found that while 17% of charter schools produced better results than neighborhood public schools, 37% were significantly worse, and the rest were no different. (Not that public schools are perfect, as many parents know.

A host of other studies on charter school outcomes have come up with sometimes contradictory results. As with traditional public schools, there are great charters – and some that are not so great. “There’s a lot of variation within charter schools,” points out Katrina Bulkley, an associate professor of education at Montclair State University who studies issues related to school governance. “In fairness to organizations that are running high-performing schools, many of them are very frustrated with the range of quality, because they feel that it taints charter schools as a whole,” Bulkley says.

Charter Schools Do Not Preform Any Better Than Public Schools:

Despite the propaganda by the pro-Charter School supporters that the Charter Schools provides better educational opportunities, the reality is quite different.

For all the hype about a few standout schools, charter schools in general are not producing better results than traditional public schools. A national study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford found that while 17% of charter schools produced better results than neighborhood public schools, 37% were significantly worse, and the rest were no different. (Not that public schools are perfect, as many parents know.

A host of other studies on charter school outcomes have come up with sometimes contradictory results. As with traditional public schools, there are great charters – and some that are not so great. “There’s a lot of variation within charter schools,” points out Katrina Bulkley, an associate professor of education at Montclair State University who studies issues related to school governance. “In fairness to organizations that are running high-performing schools, many of them are very frustrated with the range of quality, because they feel that it taints charter schools as a whole,” Bulkley says.

Where Does The Money Come & Go?:

Unlike public schools where all the money has to be accounted for, the Charter School funding can be a mystery.

An investigation by Philadelphia’s City Controller earlier this year uncovered widespread financial mismanagement among the city’s charter schools, including undisclosed “related party” transactions where friends and family of school management were paid for various services, people listed as working full time at more than one school, individuals writing checks to themselves, and even a $30,000 bill from a beach resort charged to a school.

Financial scandals have come to light in schools around the country, but what’s more troubling, says advocate Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters in New York City, is that charter schools have opposed state audits of their finances. The New York Charter School Association won a lawsuit against the state comptroller last year, with the court ruling that the legislature had violated the state constitution when it directed the comptroller to audit charter schools. Charter schools in the state are already overseen and audited by at least two other agencies, Murphy says. “We have never objected to being audited, being overseen, and being held accountable. In fact, this organization has come out in favor of closing low-performing charter schools,” he says.

Walking around New York City, it’s impossible to miss the ads on buses and subways for the Harlem Success academies, Haimson says. The school is legally required to reach out to at-risk students, and it has been opening new schools over the past couple of years. However, some schools elsewhere have gone beyond marketing. A charter school in Colorado gave out gift cards to families that recruited new students, and another school in Louisiana gave out cash. Talking about bribing?

Are Charter Schools really better than the neighborhood public schools? No they are not.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

What will Happen To The ATRs Now, When In The Past Principals Wouldn't Hire Them At Sale Prices?

The "ATR agreement" has expired in which smart and savvy principals can pick up an experienced teacher for the cost of a "newbie teacher" on their school budget. Imagine, picking up a veteran teacher who already has classroom management skills and understands the curriculum without paying the full salary. What principal would not jump at the chance? Apparently quite a few principals did not take Tweed up on their offer and unbelievably the school system still has 1,232 ATRs. Why would principals not want to pick up experienced teachers at bargain basement prices? Simple, the principals are not doing what is best for the students but what is best for themselves. This is called "Principal first and children last" The primary reasons that principals did not want ATRs in their schools is based upon three factors. Principal control of their schools, funding options, and discrimination associated with the ATR label. Let's look at the three issues in more detail.

Control Of The School:

Under the Joel Klein Administration, the principals were treated as the CEO of their schools and given independence on how to spend the money allocated to the school. Unfortunantly, for the parents, students, and staff, many of the principals did not allocate the school funds wisely. This especially true of the "Leadership Academy principals" who seem to think that funding their "pet projects" was more important then class size considerations. Tweed publicly stated that the principals are doing what's best for their schools. However, Tweed allowed the principals to ignore targeted money to reduce class size and use the scarce funds as they saw fit and it was in many cases what was best for the principals and not what was best for the schools.

Funding Options:

It is no secret that the schools have seen significant reductions in school funding and in some cases, up to 12% less than two years ago and further reductions are expected This has resulted in many schools cutting out after school programs and many clubs due to lack of funding. To further hamstrung the principals, Tweed came up with the "fair student funding fiasco" that severely limited principals from hiring highly qualified teachers due to their high salaries. Instead many principals hired cheaper and inexperienced teachers because of the budget limitations imposed by the "fair student funding fiasco". One frustrated Principal told me a story about how he wanted to hire a Math teacher who he worked with as the Math AP in another school but could not carry his salary on his payroll due to the "fair student funding fiasco". When I asked him why he just didn't hire a Math teacher from the ATR list, he just frowned and said "that the ATRs are failed teachers". That brings me to the ATR discrimination issue.

ATR Discrimination:

Even the union leadership knows that there is discrimination when teachers are ATRs. How many times did we hear Tweed claim that the ATRs are "lazy, unwanted, and are failed teachers" that nobody wants. What is not said is the ageism issue. Many of the ATRs are older teachers and if you don't think they are being discriminated against due to their age? I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. Remember, the age discrimination lawsuit against the DOE was dropped by Randi Weingarten as a condition of the "ATR Agreement". Nowhere does Tweed bring up the fact they have closed hundreds of schools, starved others by reducing funding and discouraged good students from going to "targeted schools" (See Jamaica High School) and Here, allowed principals to file frivolous charges to remove teachers from their schools, and stopped the Districts from placing excessed teachers in schools before "newbie teachers" can be hired. The ATR crises is entirely the creation of Joel Klein who wanted a cheaper and expendable teaching staff at the expense of students and experienced teachers.

What Happens Now?:

The union leadership is trying to negotiate an extension of the "ATR Agreement". However, Tweed shows little interest in doing this. Since it will take the rest of the school year for Chancellor-elect Cathie Black to come up to speed on this issue, I see an extended period of uncertainty on any resolution of the ATR crises. I predict that the existing ATRs will just be moved next year to another school. Hopefully, the "ATR Agreement" is renewed and principals will realize that they must hire the ATRs since the hiring freeze will continue through the 2011-2012 school year. Otherwise, nothing will change for the ATRs.

I take my union leadership's word that they will never agree to an ATR time limit and believe that the union will not negotiate on such a time limit since this would result in the erosion of teacher due process and start the teachers down a slippery slope in eliminating seniority and tenure protection, a third rail for union issues. Just see what happened in Chicago and Washington D.C. when the leadership fails to protect their members. Regardless, look for Tweed to demand a time limit and their media mouthpieces echo it. However, our union will easily resist such attempts to reduce tenure protections, backed by all the unions. Yes, if it was just our union, maybe they would cave but it is all of NYSUT and the other Civil Services unions who supply the backbone on this issue. Therefore, look for Tweed to eventually surrender on the ATR issue and given the recession and budget problems, force principals to select ATRs for all vacancies.....I hope.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Why Is The DOE Allowing Principals To Be Insubordinate By Refusing To Allow Teachers Back Into Their Schools And Their Rightful Teaching Positions?

One of the more interesting results of the April 15th 2010, "rubber room agreement" is that Tweed has decided to allow teachers who have not been charged under section 3020-a or are not terminated after their 3020-a hearings to reclaim their teaching position in their old school. This apparent reversal of policy by the DOE appears related to the existing and future budget cuts and Tweed does not want these teachers on their payroll. The Tweed policy change has forced principals and teachers to be reunited when they thought they would never see each other again. Worse for the Principal is that the teacher is immediately put back on the school's payroll and this is a real hit on the school's already reduced budget and with further reductions projected for the rest of the school year and next the Principal's ability to meet a budget becomes a real problem.

While most principals are reluctantly abiding by the DOE policy change, a couple of principals have refused to accept the teachers back. In fact, in one case a high school Principal refused to even let the teacher into the front door of the school. This Principal had a School Safety Officer hand a letter to the teacher at the front door to go to his CFN. The CFN's are caught in the middle since they are simply a messenger service and cannot assign these teachers to another school since they are not ATRs. Presently, there has been no resolution of this issue.

To me,the principals should be charged with insubordination by refusing a lawful order by the DOE to allow the teachers back to their rightful positions. However, presently no disciplinary actions have been taken against these principals for willfully disregarding a DOE order to reinstate the teachers in their rightful position. I have no idea whether the union is actively involved in resolving this mess but they should be by sitting down with the DOE about how to get principals to follow the rules. To date, the union has not taken any real action, except to encourage the teachers to file a grievance that can take up to a year to be heard. Filing a grievance is only a first step. A more important step would be to take these insubordinate principals into PERB for violating the teachers rights if the DOE fails to take the appropriate action against them. I do not blame the union since this is really a DOE problem. However, our union can certainly "nudge" Tweed in making sure their employees follow their own directives. If a teacher was insubordinate, the DOE would waste little time in holding a disciplinary hearing against the teacher for refusing a lawful and reasonable directive. Why is it different for these principals?

The more things change, the more they stay the same when it comes to the "double standard" when disciplining teachers and principals.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cathie Black Given Waiver Despite Being Unqualifed For The Position Of Chancellor.

New York State Department Of Education Commissioner, David Steiner, has granted a waiver to Cathie Black to be the new New York City Chancellor despite the objections by educators, parents, and politicians. I guess I can now apply to be CEO at Hearst Magazine since I am just as qualified running a media company as Cathie Black is in running the New York City Schools.

It appears to David Steiner that over 15,000 signatures of an online petition by New York City educators, parents, and politicians opposing the unqualified Cathie Black as Chancellor is not as important as what our Mayor4Life, Michael Bloomberg wants and that is a shame.

I always thought the Mayor really cared about the children but he was clueless what actually worked in the classroom. However, it is quite apparent that Mayor Mike only cared for himself by selecting an unqualified fellow businesswomen who is in his inner circle in society rather than an educator to lead the New York City School system. Children first? I don't think so, it is Mayor Blooomberg first and the New York City Public School children last.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The DOE Will Go To Any Length To Keep A Teacher They Don't Like Out Of The Classroom - The Saga Of Melissa Petro Continues.

The New York Post reported that the ex-sex worker turned teacher, Melissa Petro complained about the accusations against her on her Twitter account and was interviewed by the Office of Special Investigations, (OSI). Believe it or not it appears that OSI is investigating her for the following horrible (sarcasm) abuses she did as a teacher. You might ask what did she do? Hurt the children? Steal school funds? Supplied phony doctor's notes? Took time off to work another job? Noooooooo. It appears Melissa's terrible charges are for using the school computers, fax, and photocopying machine for non-DOE purposes. This routine use of school equipment, which most, if not all teachers do, is now subject to an OSI investigation. How unreal is that?. I am sure what the OSI outcome will be since Ms. Petro has already been targeted and it will be substantiated no matter how frivolous the accusation is.

Melissa Petro is subject to disparate treatment by the DOE only because the Mayor4Life Michael Bloomberg ordered her out of the classroom due to her publicizing her escort services she supplied before becoming a teacher. This is consistent with the DOE 'double standard" when it comes to going after teachers and Administrators. The DOE ignores previous and even present misconduct by administrators while leaving no stone left unturned when they target teacher and the case against Melissa Petro is just the latest example of this "double standard" where teachers are presumed guilty while administrators are presumed innocent.

While I may not agree with Ms. Petro's lifestyle choices before becoming a teacher, she should be given the same consideration as others and if she wasn't arrested or harmed a child, she should be sent back to the classroom.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why The New York City High School Graduation Rates Are A Sham As The Increases Are Mainly Due To The Use Of Questionable Methods To Show Phony Gains

I chuckle how Tweed, the media mouthpieces, and even the Obama Administration trumpets the improved high school graduation rates since Bloomberg became Mayor in 2002. However, the improvements in the high school graduation rates are not due to improved academic achievement by the students but by less than legitimate methods to artificially boost the graduation rates. Lets take a look at some of them.

“Credit Recovery Program”:

Almost all high schools have installed a “credit recovery program” for their students. The “credit recovery program” is highly uneven and can range from real academic skill work (but never as much as was taught in the classroom) to doing an essay. Of course some schools went overboard and gave credit to outrageous situations like this. Some schools made it so easy that you just needed to Google the answer. Unfortunately, the DOE has not published any statistics to show what percentage of graduating students were aided by the “credit recovery program” but it would not surprise me if some schools had double digit improvement in graduation rates due to the “credit recovery program”.

“Online Courses”:

In a select number of schools online courses are being used as a method to increase graduation rates. Some online courses are almost, but not quite as difficult, to pass as the actual classroom. Even in the more legitimate courses, the student can take the test up to five times before they cannot receive credit for the course. However, in many cases the online work can be done at home and there is no way to oversee if the student is actually doing the work or getting somebody else to do it for them.

“Life Skill Credits”:

Over the years the DOE has quietly allowed schools to give up to ten credits for foreign born students who’s native language is other than English. However, the criteria used seems to have been ignored as one school in particular gave up to twelve “life skills credits” to all students who came from another country, even English speaking ones like Jamaica and Guyana. Furthermore, no real effort was made to make sure these students actually attended school full-time in their native countries.

“Administrators Changing Grades”:

There has been increased pressure on Principals to improve their school grade and receive bonuses and one of the ways is to either pressure teachers in changing student grades or do it themselves. With Tweed looking the other way when some Principals have been caught doing it, more Principals are tempted to take the easy way out and do it also. Even when they are caught, the DOE appears to do nothing about it.

“Manipulating Dropout Rates”:

Finally, many Administrators will manipulate the dropout rates to make it seem that students who dropped out were never really at the school in the first place or transferred to another school. This practice intensified as principals were judged on their graduation rates. The lower the dropout rate, the higher the graduation rate.

Real academic achievement should be the goal not phony and artificially inflated graduation rates which has been the trademark of the Bloomberg/Klein Administration. I can only say to those clueless non-educators who trumpet the graduation rates, "BULLSHIT"!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Now That The Fix Is In And Cathie Black Will BeThe New Chancellor. Where Will The Budget Cuts Come From In The DOE?

The New York Post printed an article called " It's Slash And Learn For Black" on what she will be doing as the new Chancellor of the New York City Schools now that the New York State Department Of Education's Commissioner, David Stiener has fixed it that the committee will recommend that she gets a waiver. One of the first things she will need to confront will be the allocation of deep budget cuts that will need to be made at the DOE. We are talking about 5.2% for this year and next. Of course if Joe Klein was still Chancellor, I could guess where the cuts would not come out of, Tweed. However, Kathie Black's strong suit is she is a ruthless cost cuter and does not blink about firing large numbers of employees. Therefore, assuming the budget does not change, he is my educated guess.

To show that she means business, look for significant cuts at Tweed and their highly-paid consultants that have escaped the previous budget ax under Joel Klein. I wouldn't be surprised if she reduced the Deputy Chancellors by at least half and encouraged many of the Joel Klein holdovers (cronies) to leave the hall of power. Remember, these are Joel Klein's people, not Cathie Black's. She is no tool (except for Bloomberg) and I hope there is a real housekeeping at Tweed. That doesn't mean that she won't bring her own people in, of course she will but I still look for significant budget cuts at Tweed. Unfortunately, for the Instructional and Field Support Staffs, look for massive cuts here since many people believe these areas are just another level of bureaucracy since Cathie Black will try to limit cuts to the schools and doesn't want her legacy starting with cuts that have direct impacts on the children. I also believe their will be significant cuts in Building Services and reduce the custodial force significantly and rein in Custodial abuses. Another area is the Transportation and Food Services as these are easy areas to cut fat from as these areas historically were used to hid mid-level managers who were either out of favor with Tweed or just could not cut the mustard somewhere else in the school system.

Of course the major cuts will still come from the schools as each Principal will be given a reduced budget to live with. The question is where will they cut? The best guess will be the elimination of school aides, support personnel, and programs. No school wants to eliminate teachers and see their class sizes rise. If some schools do suffer from a lower student body, some teaches would be excessed and maybe retiring or resigning teachers will not be replaced. The same goes for the Administrators. Therefore, most schools should see little reduction in teachers and administrators. In fact, I would not be surprised if Cathie Black tells principals they must hire the ATRs because the hiring freeze will continue for the this and the next school year since the City and Tweed has already been criticized for raising class size despite funding to lower it and she does not need large class size increases at the start of her tenure, at least if I was her.

Yes, Mayor Bloomberg has proposed laying off 6,186 teachers next school year but with a teacher attrition rate of 2,000, the layoffs are 4,100. However, if you remember the Mayor proposed 8,400 teacher layoffs last year only to have no layoffs at all. Look for the same thing to happen here. The Mayor will probably include in his tenure proposal that the "last in, first out" layoff order should be eliminated. If anybody really believes he can get the State legislature to approve it over Statewide and united union opposition then I have a bridge to sell you. Furthermore, Bloomberg always starts off with a "doomsday budget" that under-counts the tax revenue and overstates the unemployment rate. The City is slowly emerging from the recession (New York generated the most new jobs of any other state last month) look for budget revisions that will be less dire. Only time will tell what the magnitude of the budget cuts will be and where they will land in the DOE. However, this is my best guess.

I must point out that external issues might complicate Cathie Black's problems For example less than expected State and or Federal aid, a PERB arbitration decision on the over year overdue teachers' contract and how firmly the union holds the line on tenure, seniority, and the ATR time limit. The third rails of union strength where the UFT cannot and will not compromise on.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why Did Chancellor Joel Klein Really Resign? I Believe It Resulted From Differences With Mayor Michael Bloomberg Because Of The Recession.

We all know that Joel Klein quit as Chancellor for the New York City Public Schools but the real question is why did he quit? The answer he gave was that after eight years it was time to move on as he accomplished his education reforms. However, I believe that the real reason that Joel Klein is leaving was his recent differences with Mayor Michael Bloomberg when it came to running the New York City Schools during a time of recession and budget cuts. A contributing factor was the evaporation of academic gains associated with the 2010 New York State tests and Klein’s failure to narrow the racial/income academic achievement gap during his tenure.

Joel Klein was the architect of the overcrowding of the “rubber rooms” (over 800 at one point) and the ATR crises (2,400) as he was willing to spend upwards of $240 million dollars (not including benefits) to pull and leave teachers outside the classroom. His plan was to force senior and highly-paid teachers out of the school system by closing schools and filing charges based upon frivolous actions. Furthermore, by using a one-size-fits-all teaching method (the Workshop Model) and the Peer Intervention Program Plus (PIP+) charges of teacher incompetence rose dramatically and is now resulting in many teachers being forced to resign or be fired in their 3020-a hearings. Moreover, under Joel Klein’s Administration, ageism and salary was a major consideration in filling 3020-a charges and the majority of “rubber room” iinmates were over 50 years old and making at least $70,000 yearly. This was a major part of Joel Klein’s “education on the cheap” policy with the aim of having an inexperienced and replaceable teaching staff that would not cost the City pensions and retiree health benefits. Therefore, Joel Klein’s attack on the experienced teaching force was consistent with Mayor Bloomberg’s long-term goals to reduce retiree costs and if it meant some inefficiency in the short-term , so be it.

Unfortunately, for Joel Klein the recession came along in 2008 and the City saw that their budget had to be reduced to account for the reduction in State & Federal aid as well as a shrinking tax base. The result was reductions in the Department of Education budget and the City started to question the DOE on not only the allocation of funds at Tweed but the necessity of wasting over 200 million dollars yearly on teachers not in the classroom. The increasingly divergent views between the City and Tweed showed up in the hiring freeze the City imposed on the Department of Education that made it nearly impossible to hire “newbie teachers” unless it was a shortage area. This freeze put pressure on Tweed and they eventually told principals to hire the ATRs and not wait for the freeze to end. This was a reversal of Tweed’s previous policy to encourage principals to hire “newbie teachers” and to ensure that approach, Joel Klein imposed the “fair student funding formula” that discouraged principals from hiring senior teachers in the schools. This upset Joel Klein’s plans to impose an ATR time limit in the next contract and further rid the system of senior teachers which was gaining traction in the media. However, the City, needing to save money,negotiated with the union to eliminate the “rubber rooms” and forced Joel Klein to support the agreement. The result is that principals could no longer remove a teacher from their school and the teacher stays in the school and on the Principal’s budget. The “rubber room agreement“ forced the DOE to settle many cases and the influx of freed teachers from the “rubber rooms” made it unnecessary to hire the “newbie teachers” Joel Klein wants. Mayor Bloomberg could no longer support Joel Klein’s use of hundreds of millions of dollars to warehousing teachers and non-teaching ATRs and forced Tweed to find a cost-effective way to utilize the teachers. In Mayor Bloomberg’s mind the short-term need vastly outweigh the long-term goals during a time of fiscal crises. To top it off, the Mayor now proposes to layoff up to 6,000 teachers already in the system and under the "last in first out" seniority system it will eliminate the pride and joy of Joel Klein to bring in more inexpensive teachers.

Finally, the lack of real student academic achievement has embarrassed the Mayor and the blame has to be placed on one person. Chancellor Joel Klein who said time and again we are narrowing the income/racial achievement gap and raising test scores. All that vanished with the results of the 2010 New York State tests which showed no real improvement since Joel Klein’s tenure began in 2002..

It should be very interesting if the real story of Joel Klein’s departure comes out but I do expect that when it does it will due to the changed policy differences between the Mayor and Chancellor because of the recession.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tsk, Tsk, Principals Are Upset That There Are No “Rubber Rooms” To Send Teachers They Don’t Want Or Like Out Of Their Schools And Must Still Pay Them.

One of the most important aspect of the April 15th 2010 “rubber room agreement” was the DOE commitment to keep teachers in schools while awaiting disciplinary 3020-a hearings. Before some of you tell me that I was against the “rubber room agreement”. I should remind you that I thought the agreement was the right thing to do. I questioned the potential lack of enforceability if Tweed reneges on parts of the agreement and of course I have been proven right. However, one of the main reasons to close the “rubber rooms” was to make it more difficult for principals to remove teachers and kick them off their budget and that has in fact happened.

A Chapter Leader contacted me with a story about his “Leadership Academy Principal” complaining to him about his failure to remove two teachers he wanted out on trumped up charges of corporal punishment and was told by the DOE to reassign the teachers in the school. The DOE official told the Principal that unless it is criminal in nature he was to keep the teachers whom were already removed from the classroom and place them in an Administrative setting in the school. Wait to he finds out that there is no sixty day rule since the teacher reassignment is in the school and that only goes for reassignments outside the school.

The closing of the “rubber rooms” had many advantages to both the City and the UFT. However, the reason that Tweed objected to the closing down of the “rubber rooms” was that Joel Klein encouraged the principals to remove teachers from their schools for the most frivolous of reasons and jettison their salary after sixty days. This fell in line with the Chancellor’s temporary and replaceable teaching staff in his “education on the cheap” policy. If it wasn’t for the recession and the hiring freeze imposed by the City, we would not be talking about the agreement today. The result of the agreement was that principals could no longer dump teachers they did not like or want and warehouse them out of the school. Furthermore, the principal could no longer remove the teacher from the school’s budget after sixty days since the teacher was left in the school to await their charges and go through their 3020-a hearings. This has in fact been happening as few, if any, teachers have been sent to DOE offices or the CFN’s to do work. Instead they are being left in the school, out of the classroom and still interact with the school staff. This has made the principals uncomfortable and it doesn’t help that they must pay the teacher’s salary until the entire 3020-a process is complete, which from beginning to end can take a minimum of six months even under the best of circumstances. Furthermore, it is quite possible if the reassigned teacher is in the school and goes through the 3020-a hearings and is not terminated (80% are not), the teacher may be placed back into his or her position whether the Principal likes it or not. However, time will tell if that is what will actually happen.

Finally, many of the DOE offices have used reassigned teachers for years to do jobs that they have no manpower to do because of previous budget cuts which disproportionally affected the regional and district offices as Tweed actually increased their headcount. The graph by Gotham Schools shows it best Here.With even more budget cuts coming, the need for reassigned teachers is that much greater. Especially, as the remaining reassigned teachers whom work in those locations go back to schools as ATRs, there are no free replacements to do the ever increasing volume of work that the reassigned teachers were doing.

Finally, with principals unable to pull teachers out of the school at their leisure, it should reduce reassignments and stabilize the teaching profession. There are now financial consequences for principals who reassign teachers not just the collateral damage they do the children when their teacher is removed but to the school’s budget as they must hire a substitute to run the reassigned teacher’s classes while having the teacher on the school’s budget.

Tsk, tsk, don’t you feel sorry for these principals? Yeah, right.