Monday, October 31, 2011

Mayor Bloomberg Offers Only "Tricks" And No "Treats" To The New York City Schools This Halloween.

Here we are, Halloween 2011, and Mayor Bloomberg has presented the New York City Public Schools with more "tricks" in the form of budget cuts. Bringing the total cuts to the schools averaging 21.7% by the start of the 2011-12 school year. The Mayor once thought that he would go down as the "Education Mayor". However, even he now realizes that his so-called advances in student academic progress was all "smoke and mirrors". Now it seems he wants to starve the New York City Public Schools of resources, especially for the classroom and find ways to cut staff by any means possible.

Let's list some of the devastating changes in the last few years in the schools since the Mayor has taken charge of the schools.

  • An additional 8% budget cut on top of a 13.7% reduction in the last three years.
  • Largest class sizes in a decade.
  • The elimination of 7,000 teaching positions since 2008 and more to come.
  • Laying off 1,179 school aides in the last few years who are necessary to run the schools and help the most vulnerable of children.
  • No teachers' choice and less resources for the classroom.
  • A more hostile classroom environment with increased paperwork & duties.
  • Billions on worthless technology that are useless in the classroom. (ARIS & SESIS).
  • Closing of schools and being replaced by privately funded Charters.
  • A widening racial/income academic achievement gap since 2005.
  • Failure to properly educate students. Only 21% of college graduates are ready for college or careers.
  • Only 46% of high school graduates attend college. In addition, an astounding 22.6% of high school graduates going to college needed triple remediation.
Yes, this is the same Mayor who was quoted as saying "teaching experience does not count". Now he has made his pet poodle, the Chancellor of the New York City Public Schools who on the Mayor's orders will shit on the schools. With this Mayor it is "children last". Always.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Will The DOE & UFT Do Anything About Principals Who Are Not Filling Their Vacancies With Qualified Teachers In The Subject Area? Don't Count On It.

More and more information is being sent to the UFT about principals who refuse to fill or hide their vacancies because they one, do not want to hire ATRs and two, they want to save money by hiring day-to-day substitute teachers or give teachers coverages to cover the classes. Other principals are simply using the weekly ATRs to cover the classes. In any case, this is not good for the students since they have unqualified subs running the class or tired teachers nd ATRs who are forced to cover the class on a temporary basis. This "children last" policy is best applied to the outrageous behavior by a Principal can be found in the NY1 news article about Long Island City High School which has five vacancies that have not been filled and has caused an uproar among students, parents, and teachers. A NY1 follow-up story appears Here and the New York Times story Here.

Yet despite the rising clamor by Chapter Leaders, ATRs, and appointed teachers for the union to do something about this serious situation that is hurting the students in these uncovered classes, the union leadership is strangely quiet about attacking the vacancy issue. In fact, the union leadership reminds me of the three monkeys "Hear no evil"' speak no evil" and "see no evil". Here we have anywhere between 1,100 to as much as 2,000 ATRs in the system that are being wasted in a totally useless weekly assignment from school to school while vacancies are not being properly filled by principals.

Both the DOE & UFT have apparently put their collective heads in the ground hoping to ignore this problem and wishing it will just disappear. However, even the news media are starting to sniff around on why students don't have qualified teachers and it is up to the union leadership to stop being a monkey or an ostrich and do what is right for the students and make sure every vacancy is being covered by a certified teacher in their subject area. No other solution is acceptable since it is "children first". Always!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The DOE Assignment Algorithm Is Simply A Fraud And Our Union Actually Bought The DOE Line, "Hook, Line, & Sinker"!

Now that I am going to my fifth school and have already contact the Administration to see if they have a vacancy at the school in my subject area, they do not. I can safely say that the $4 million dollar ATR algorithm developed by the DOE is a failure. It is very obvious to me that the DOE algorithm simply randomizes the ATR's schedule within the District's schools without any thought of which schools are the best fit for the ATR. In my case, my first ATR assignment was in a school that didn't teach my subject! What is most disturbing is that our union claimed that the DOE algorithm was developed with the goal of matching the ATR with the proper schools that have vacancies in their field. It is very obvious to me that THE UNION LIED TO US!

It is bad enough that the DOE treats the ATRs as "second class citizens" and at the same time refuses to punish principals who hide vacancies which one ATR claims that the school she is in has five. But it is worse when our union leadership lies to us by telling us the DOE algorithm was well thought out and it is a great chance for ATRs to obtain a position. Worse is the union's inaction and lack of concern that principals are hiding their vacancies. In one outlandish case that I am personalty acquainted with the Principal refused to hire an ATR in a hard to place subject, despite the Assistant Principal's request to hire the ATR. Instead the principal hired a day-to-day sub who is not certified in the subject area. Just another outrageous example of "children last".

Sure the union will tell you how ATRs are offered vacancies but what they won't tell you are the vacancies are in the:

  1. "Worst schools with notoriously high teacher turnover".
  2. "Bad school administrations that are on the "do not apply" list.
  3. Low poverty schools who are going through restart or transformation.

Unfortunately, the union's propaganda machine continues to make the ATR crises into lemonade and it is not working. We ATRs see through the union's deception and it still is a lemon, sour taste and all. Tthe union needs to change their uncaring ways and at a minimum, do the following:

  • Publicize the plight of the ATR and how the DOE algorithm is a failure.
  • Pressure the DOE in making sure principals are filling their vacancies.
  • Press conferences that not placing ATRs in vacancies is contrary to the DOE's "children first" policy.
Finally, the union's plan to have the Chapter Leaders greet the ATRs is a complete failure. In my case, I only met two Chapter Leaders in the four schools I have been sent to and I actually had to seek out one who was very reluctant to help me. It is one thing for the DOE to abuse the ATRs but it is another when our own union fails to protect our rights.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mayor Bloomberg Do You Still Claim To Be The "Education Mayor" After The Terrible College Remediation Results Were Published?

Well, the Mayor's claim that he will go down as the "Education Mayor" seems like a fantasy as even more data shows that New York City high school graduates who attend college needs more and more remediation before taking legitimate college courses. It is bad enough that 79% of the entering freshmen need remediation in at least one course but an astounding 22.6% need triple remediation in reading, writing, and Math, unbelievable but true. This triple remediation level has risen 7.2% since 2005 when it was 15.4%. This dramatic rise in students needing triple remediation appears to correlate with the rising high school graduation rate and associated with the increased use of questionable "credit recovery programs". Remember, this does not include those high school graduates who never bothered to attend college.

Furthermore, only 46% of all graduating high school students actually enrolled in college. That means the majority of high school graduates never go to college according to the New York Daily News. The newspaper actual quoted the Mayor in defending the poor results in which he said the following:

"Do every one of our 1.1 million kids that go to New York City public schools get a great education?" Mayor Bloomberg asked rhetorically. "No, but that is our objective, and we're going to keep working until we get there."

What a crock of shit! What the Mayor should have said is: "We are just trying to increase the High School graduation rate by any means possible. Be it bogus "credit recovery", phony credits, and changing grades. What ever works".

The statistics really show that the Bloomberg/Klein/Black/Walcott era has been a dismal failure and the Daily News editorial states it best. "Flunking Grades". How about their "accountability" for failing the New York City school children? Oh, I forgot "accountability" is only for the educators not the people at Tweed and City Hall where "children last" runs supreme.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Do You Know Know Your Rights As An ATR?

There seems to be some confusion on what the rights of the ATRs are. Most schools appear to be using the ATRs appropriately as teachers in a classroom or doing circular six duties that other teachers do. However, some schools are making ATRs do the work of school aides or doing clerical work which violates the teacher contract. A few schools are requiring the ATRs to do all day hall duty or Cafeteria duty which would also appear to violate the contract. Most Chapter Leader (CL) have failed to meet with the ATRs despite union assurances that the CLs were told to greet the ATR (In my first three schools I met only one, my first school) and despite union assurances, having CLs represent the weekly ATR does not appear to be working. My District Representative (DR) always seems to be on the run and it is difficult to contact him on a timely basis. That brings up the question what are the ATR's rights when showing up to a school for a weekly assignment? This post is an attempt to answer those questions.

First and foremost, ATRs are teachers and can only do duties assigned to teachers! They should not be doing the job of school aides or clerical work unless the school's appointed teachers are doing such duties, subject to the School Based Option (SBO). That is why the ATR must make immediate contact with the CL to ensure that the Administration does not abuse the ATR.

Second, the ATRs must be given a lunch and a prep period and, if possible, be given a bathroom key.

Third, the school the ATR is assigned to cannot loan the ATR out to other schools without written authorization from Central to the ATR.

Fourth, In mufti-session schools the ATR must be assigned to one session only!

Fifth, an ATR can refuse a "mandated interview" outside their district by simply emailing the reply to the person who sent the email or the Principal of the school. Do not let the words "mandated interview" or "as an ATR you must attend". These are just scare tactics and if it is outside the District you have the right to refuse to go. However, if it is in your District you are required to attend.

Sixth, if a Principal offers you a long-term or vacant position and you do not believe it is a "good fit" for whatever reason, you have the right to refuse the offer and proceed to the next weekly assignment. Remember, you are not required to accept a long term or vacant position in a school that you are uncomfortable in, just say no thank you.

Seventh, if you are asked to cover an additional class, you should make sure that the school pays you for the coverage. Do not let them claim that you are required to give them a "free coverage". Inform the school that you already did a "free coverage" at a previous school and you would only be too happy to cover an additional class as a paid coverage and "get it in writing"!

Eighth, yes, in theory you can be observed for classroom management issues even if you are not teaching in your subject area. However, it is highly unlikely that an Administrator will bother to observe you if you are there only a week. It would be too much trouble to observe the ATR, write up an observation, and meet with the ATR. Certainly the observation will not be a formal one where a pre-conference meeting is required. Furthermore, your file is probably in the last school you had an appointed position in so what does the Administrator do with the observation?

Ninth, you can go back to the school you were excessed from for a weekly assignment. Furthermore, due to DOE incompetence, even teachers who were charged and removed from schools can end up back in those schools for a weekly assignment.

Finally, the school must give the ATR a list of the school rules that students must abide by, be it a dress code, use of cellphones, or discipline codes. Lack of knowledge about school rules can put an ATR in a position that could lead to disciplinary action. Take it upon yourself to contact the CL about the school rules.

Remember ATRs are teachers and can only preform duties that are assigned to the appointed teachers in the school that the ATR is assigned to. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the school's administrators to provide meaningful lessons to the ATRs to give to the students. It is not the responsibility of the weekly ATRs to develop lessons for the class!

More information about the rights of the ATR can be found in the "ATR Agreement". By the way if I have missed any ATR rights please feel free to let me know in the comment section of this post. Knowledge is power and the more we know the more powerful we become.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Principals Are Hiding & Filling Vacancies With Non ATRs As They Attempt To Circumvent The "ATR Agreement". What Is The Union Doing About It?

There is increasing anecdotal evidence that principals are either hiding or filling their vacancies with substitute teachers or requiring teachers in the school to cover (usually at per session rates) the otherwise uncovered classes. Complaints to the UFT leadership has been met with shrugs and indifference. Instead the UFT proudly announced that 100+ ATRs have been placed into long term positions (vacancies, or leaves).Yes, according to the UFT, a measly 5% of the 2,000 ATRS received a job tryout since the DOE's "ring around the rosy" started, using a selection algorithm that is next to worthless. However, many of the ATRs took positions in struggling schools out of their Borough where there is high teacher turnover rate. Therefore, unless the union publishes what schools and where (by Borough) these ATRs took positions, I am not impressed. I was offered seven jobs, three in Brooklyn and three in the Bronx. The one school in Queens that offered me a position is closing and is not a viable option. Since I am a Queens teacher, I expect to work in a stable Queens school. Therefore, if I was desperate and wanted to work in far and away Transfer schools, or travel for an hour or more, to other Boroughs I could have been part of the 100+ too! I do not call this a victory by any means.

The union inaction is appalling, a real pro active union would file formal complaints and expose the apparent Principal "hi jinks" surrounding the vacancies in their schools. Furthermore, why is the union allowing the principals to bring in substitute teachers to cover vacancies or long term leaves? Granted, the union has lived up to their promise in saving ATRs from the DOE ax. However, many ATRs are "quality teachers" and allowing the DOE and principals to abuse the "ATR Agreement" is unfair to the students who suffer from a lack of these "quality teachers". It is one thing for the DOE to practice "children last" polices but it is another for our union to aid and abed the DOE in this hurtful practice.

The GEM-ATR Committee has a list of proposals that all ATRs support and can be found here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chancellor Walcott's Six Month Grade IS A "F"

It has been six months since Dennis Walcoot took over as Chancellor for the incompetent Cathie Black with promises to lower the overheated attacks between the teacher union, parents, and the DOE. He promised to listen to the parents, discuss civilly with the teachers' union on various issues and demand "accountability" from the DOE. Six months into his regime, the Mayor's poodle has failed to change any of the destructive polices of the Bloomberg/Klein Administration. True, he lowered the temperature a bit and listened to parent complaints but when it came to any real change, there was none whatsoever.

Chancellor Walcott's first speech was to support the Mayor's LIFO bill and to make it clear that he was not going to change direction and will follow the destructive deforms started by Joel Klein. While some people might say that six months is not enough time for the Chancellor to make his mark. I beg to differ. Dennis Walcott was Deputy Mayor for Education for the eight years and worked closely with Chancellor Joel Klein during his destructive Administration. Therefore, Chancellor Walcott came in with a working knowledge of the New York City Schools and a learning curve was not necessary. Let's look at why Chancellor Dennis Walcott gets a grade of "F".

Independence from the Mayor:

There is good reason that I call Chancellor Dennis Walcott " the Mayor's poodle". He has not deviated one iota from Mayor Bloomberg's misguided vision of what makes for a good education. The Mayor's legacy as the "Education Mayor" is just a sick joke with the ever widening racial/income achievement gap, low "college and career readiness rates", rising class sizes, reduced school staffs, and a bloated DOE Central Bureaucracy where high priced consultants and wasteful technology rule. Moreover, the Chancellor has supported the Mayor's actions to circumvent the union's "collective bargaining rights" and to support the layoff of 4,666 teachers!

Closing Schools/Charter Schools:

The Chancellor has continued the DOE's assault on the large comprehensive High Schools by closing them and has supported the Charter Schools at the expense of the neighborhood schools. This has resulted in an increase of ATRs to 2,000 and to make matters worse, lifted the hiring freeze for three months exacerbating the ATR crises.

Lack of Accountability:

Time and again the Chancellor claimed that he will make principals accountable for any cheating or bogus "credit recovery programs". However, to date, the Chancellor has been "all talk and no action". Even the New York Post has questioned the graduation rates. Where was Chancellor Walcott and his investigators when the New York Post exposed the phony credits given to students at Washington Irving High School? How come we haven't seen and results of the claims that the Chancellor made about investigating the various principals that teachers emailed him by way of Michael Goodwin? I know the investigations are ongoing ZZZZZZZZZ. Wake me up when those investigations are complete 1n 2014 when the new Chancellor arrives..

Technology Rules While Teachers Drool:

The DOE has imposed a $79 million dollar SESIS program on Special Education teachers that is a fiasco. Despite union pleas, the Chancellor and his subordinates at Tweed has refused to see that the program does not work without teachers spending extra time, either at home or at lunch just to keep up with this terrible program. The union has actually filed a PERB complaint and a grievance to stop the abusing of teachers that are required to work with the SESIS program.

Disconnect With Classroom Teachers:

Dennis Walcott seems not to understand what rising class sizes, lack of resources, and lack of student discipline does to classroom teaching and student academic achievement. He follows in Joel Klein's boots in blaming the student ills on the teachers and like his Mayor only wants the "best teachers". Of course the definition of "best" is young, controllable, and inexpensive.

Blaming Principals When It Was His Policy That Led To The Layoffs of 676 School Aides And Parent Coordinators:

Probably the most outrageous action by the Mayor's poodle was his laying off the lowest paid school staff despite DC37's attempts to come up with reasonable compromises. Rather than agree to furloughing them on school days when children were not present and a reduction in hours, similar to the accepted agreement with the Park's Department, the Chancellor refused to negotiate. To make matters worse he blamed the principals by claiming the principals had set their school budget and selected the people who were laid off. However, according to the principals union President, Ernest Logan, had the principals knew of the compromise, they would have found it preferable to the layoffs. Finally, under Walcott 30% of the Principal's unspent school funds must be returned to Tweed for their use. This year, the principals can only keep $44 per student, assuming they get a passing grade on the DOE's school progress repor, tany unspent funds over that figure will be sent back to Tweed. Good job Walcott as you continue to "rob Peter to pay Paul".

The bottom line is that Chancellor Dennis Walcott deserves a grade of "F".

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Union Should Prepare Their Own Survey Of Principal Effectiveness & Grades If They Really Care About Their Members.

One of he most overlooked issues that has been under the media radar is the decreasing quality of the Administration at schools. Until the Bloomberg/Klein era most principals came up through the ranks with ten or more years of teaching experience and five years as an Assistant Principal. However, now we have the infamous "Leadership Academy Principals" with little or in some cases no teaching experience in the New York City Schools! The result is a reduction in the quality of the Administration when it comes to leadership of the school.

Now that it is becoming increasingly clear that Administration observations will become a very important part of the "teacher effectiveness evaluations". It is time to put the people who will be doing these evaluations, which could be 60% of the teacher grade, under review. My proposal would be that unions will issue an Administrator evaluation survey to all UFT represented staff at each and every school. These surveys will be comprehensive and include, but not limited to, the following items:

  • Leadership
  • Competency
  • Fairness
  • Budget Allocation
  • Accessibility
  • Respect
  • Unreported Violence
While these are just some general areas that the staff can rate the administrators on, I believe if the union leadership put their collective minds and our dues money to it, they can come up with a more detailed Administrative evaluation system.

The Principal evaluation report would be a counterbalance against vindictive and incompetent Principal observations in any teacher termination process under State law 3020-a. This could greatly help "level the playing field" at the teacher termination hearings. Moreover, by rating principals the union can identify those principals that should not be school leaders and publish a list to the media of these terrible principals. Furthermore, the list of "bad principals" will be given to all teachers who wish to transfer and bypass those schools. blogger jd2718 had the right idea in making a "do not apply" list of schools that teachers should stay clear of. The union should expand that list to all schools in the City and put the DOE on notice that the union will not tolerate bad administrators, especially principals. If the union really cares about its members, they must be pro active and put out a list of "bad principals" who received a "D" or "F" based upon their staff's evaluations. Anything less is a disservice to us all.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How Much Does Mayor Bloomberg Hate Teachers? This Much!

To many teachers, Mayor Bloomberg has blamed the various ills of students on them. Not the dysfunctional parents, not the poverty or community, and certainly not the waste of money by the bloated Tweed Bureaucracy on high priced consultants and useless technology. His blaming the teachers was apparent when he tried to not only layoff 4,666 teachers but even tried to get the State to pass a bill that would make the layoffs permanent and those laid off could not get their jobs back even if the economy recovers. His hatred for teachers made him use all his influence to circumvent the teacher union's "collective bargaining rights" which failed of course. He even embarrassed himself by claiming experience does not count in teaching! Finally, he refused to follow the "City pattern" by unilaterally freezing teacher raises while giving the very same raises to all other unions.

All knowledgeable people know that the City's Finances are much better than the State's. However, Bloomberg's budget called for 6.3% of the teachers being laid off while the average Statewide School District only had a 3% layoff rate. Some people may claim that the New York City Schools have too many teachers. However, the reality is that New York City Schools have the largest class sizes in the State, yes the largest! Ranging from a low of 22.3 in Kindergarten to a high of 25.5 in fifth grade. The Middle School averaged 27.8 students per classroom and the High Schools averaged 27.5 students, based upon the 2010-2011 school year. With an additional 2,500 teachers leaving the classroom and not replaced, it is expected that the average class sizes will go up between 1.5 students (DOE estimate) to 3 students (UFT estimate). It will be very interesting what the "average class size" will really be for the 2011-12 school year.

Will the union negotiate with this Mayor? I certainly hope not since his only goal is to destroy the teacher union's power and make teaching in the New York City classroom as miserable as possible.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Are Principals Really Telling The Truth About Why Hiring A Senior Teacher Will Significantly Affect Their Budget? Probably Not.

Time and again I have heard the same complaint from principals. " I would like to hire a senior teacher but I don't have the budget to do so". The question is were they telling the truth? For the last two years I truly believed them since the "fair student funding formula" imposed on schools by the Joel Klein Administration required that school budget reflect individual teacher salaries in calculating school budgets back in 2008. However, what was little known was that there was a "hold harmless" provision that delayed the use of individual teacher salaries in school budgets. Instead, the school budgets are based upon the baseline 2008-2009 school year "average teacher salary". This baseline, with adjustments for teacher raises, is still in effect and this means that in most cases hiring a senior teacher would only make a small difference in many school budgets. Let's look at some examples.

School "A" - Large Comprehensive High School:

The "average teacher salary" is $75,000 and there are 150 teachers in the school. A $50,000 a year teacher leaves and a $100,000 a year teacher is hired. How does it affect the school's teacher budget? Under the fully implemented "fair student funding formula" the school budget would need to come up with $50,000 dollars to hire the senior teacher. However, since it is based upon the "average teacher salary" the increase is calculated as follows:

$75,000(.9933) + $100,000(.0067) = $75,167 or a $167 increase for teachers in the school's budget!

School "B" - Mid Sized Middle School:

The "average teacher salary" is $70,000 and there are 80 teachers in the school. A $50,000 a year teacher leaves and a $100,000 a year teacher is hired. How does it affect the school's teacher budget? Under the fully implemented "fair student funding formula" the school budget would need to come up with $50,000 dollars to hire the senior teacher. However, since it is based upon the "average teacher salary" the increase is calculated as follows:

$70,000(.9875) + $100,000(.0125) = $70,375 or a $375 increase for teachers in the school's budget!

School "C" - Small School:

The "average teacher salary" is $50,000 and there are 25 teachers in the school. A $50,000 a year teacher leaves and a $100,000 a year teacher is hired. How does it affect the school's teacher budget? Under the fully implemented "fair student funding formula" the school budget would need to come up with $50,000 dollars to hire the senior teacher. However, since it is based upon the "average teacher salary" the increase is calculated as follows:

$50,000(.960 ) + $100,000(040) = $52,000 or a $2,000 increase for teachers in the school's budget!

As you can see, even in the small schools the hiring of a top salaried senior teacher is not a budget breaker. Therefore, the question becomes do principals really know how their school budgets really work? Or they do know how the budget really works and use the fully implemented "fair student funding formula" as an excuse not to have knowledgeable senior teachers in their schools by falsely claiming that they can't afford to hire them? The answer is probably both, depending on the school and whether the principals understand how their budget really works.

Remember, the DOE under Joel Klein had encouraged principals not to hire ATRs and called them "bad or lazy teachers". While Joel Klein is long gone, his propaganda resonated with the principals who think the hiring an ATR is like being dealt a "bad hand". This is especially true with the "Leadership Academy Principals" who have told from the time they went into the Leadership Academy that they should hire the "newbie teacher" who they can mold rather that somebody else's reject who is set in their ways.

Next time you hear from a Principal why he can't hire a senior teacher because of the school's budget, you now know it is because the Principal is ignorant of the budget process or putting his or her own requirements above what is best for the school's children. In either case it "children last" when it comes to the students they claim they are doing the best for.

Friday, October 07, 2011

The UFT Tried To Make "Lemonade Out Of A Lemon" But To The ATRs It Still Tasted Sour.

The union's "dog and pony show" came to Queens on Thursday to explain to the over 100 ATRs why they should be thankful that the UFT had their backs. The UFT "dog and pony show" consisted of all the UFT District Reps,the Borough Rep, Rona Freiser, and the Queens Special Rep, Washington Sanchez, from UFT headquarters were Co-Staff Director Leroy Barr who kept order and Special Representative Amy Arundell, who explained the ATR agreement. Admittedly, Amy Arundell was very impressive as she discussed the ATR situation in detail and is obviously a rising star in the union (she has always cared about teachers and that is why she was a hero when it comes to teachers). They tried to make the lemon of the deal that forced ATRs in weekly placements as lemonade and a win for the ATRs as principals will be required to fill their vacancies with the ATRs. However, to the ATRs, including yours truly, it simply left a sour taste in our collective mouths.

The Union's View:

Ms Arundell explained that moving the ATRs week to week was to stop principals from using ATRs as "free help" to cover vacancies and then jettison them at year end rather than hiring them. Now, according to Ms. Arundell, principals will be forced either to provisionally hire the ATR on their budget, or the ATR will be sent to the next school. She also stated that an ATR does not have to take the provisional placement if they don't want to and would then move on to the next school the following week. In other words, the ATRs are simply "gypsies" that move from school to school weekly or as another ATR put it " 30 schools in 30 weeks" of the school year. She claimed it was a win-win for the ATRs. She also said that the DOE developed a computer algorithm that places teachers in schools that theoretically has a need for a teacher in the subject area is based upon the "best fit" and maximizes the chances for ATRs to gain a vacant position. Based upon what I see, this algorithm is simply a joke and in the first round I do not know of any ATRs that were actually offered positions. I, myself was put in a school that didn't even have my subject area in their curriculum! I guess it is garbage in, garbage out.

What was most interesting to me was what Amy Arundell said about the "fair student funding formula" and how principals were deliberately misusing it. According to Ms. Arundell the "fair student funding formula" has never been fully implemented and that the school budget is based upon the school's average teacher salaries of 2008, with adjustments for rising teacher salaries over the years, and not the actual salaries of the individual teacher. Ms. Arundell stated that many principals claim that they cannot hire senior teachers because they cost too much. However, many of these principals are either unaware that the "average teacher salary" is used in their school budgets or uses the confusion of the "fair student funding formula" implementation as an excuse not to hire senior teachers. Her attempts to talk to the DOE about this has been met with "principals have total control of their budget and are autonomous when it comes to hiring and personnel decisions". If Ms. Arundell is correct then a fraud has been perpetrated on teachers as principals have told various Chapter Leaders that the school's ever tightening budge cannot accommodate a senior teacher when in fact, hiring the senior teacher would result in the school's teaching budget to go up by a few hundred dollars! I will publish the calculations and how it really works in my next post.

Finally, Ms. Arundell admitted that weekly ATRs better have direct deposit because the DOE will not be able to transfer checks to the schools you have been sent to and that includes pay stubs. So much for the $900 million dollars in technology the DOE spends at the expense of the schools.

The ATR Response:

By contrast, many of the ATRs felt that they are being sacrificed and abused by the ATR Agreement. That means that the ATRs will need to beg for a bathroom key, experience parking and transportation problems, and an unfamiliarity with the school, its staff, students, and culture. In other words, the ATRs felt like "outsiders" with no real connection to the schools. The union's retort was we saved 4,600 jobs. The ATRs showed no faith in the DOE developed computer algorithm or with the imposition of the hiring freeze that more ATRs will actually be hired by the principals. When it was brought out that Mayor Bloomberg had no intention off laying off his cheap "newbie teachers" and bluffed the union to give in and allowed the DOE to make the ATRs life even more miserable by making them travel to a different school every week. The union's reaction was "We saved your jobs by fighting the Mayor's LIFO bill and not agreeing to a contract that the City wants with an ATR time limit". The response by the ATRs were low-level grumbling and disbelief. Almost every ATR in the room had their own personal horror story and injustice only to hear the union act as if everything was going fine was unbelievable and just added to the growing distrust and disconnect between the union and many of the ATRs.

Winners & Losers:

That brings me to the "winners and losers" in the ATR Agreement. Let's look at the winners first.

The Union: The UFT is a winner because they made sure that no teacher was laid off. Remember, the "newbies" pay the same dues as the ATRs do, so the union gets extra dues money. The union also claims victory because they stated that principals will be forced to hire ATRs in vacant positions, assuming it is a good fit for both the ATR and the Principal. We will see about that, so far this prediction has been shown to be untrue. The union is also a winner because they can claim they stood up to the Mayor and won (if you are not an ATR).

The DOE: The DOE is a winner because the schools can use the weekly ATRs as day to day subs and save Tweed money by not paying for both the ATR and a day to day substitute. The DOE is also a winner because a few ATRs will probably get hired by the schools or quit rather then continue the weekly Russian roulette of trying to get to and fitting into the various schools in their District. In either case they are off the DOE's payroll.

The losers are:

The Principals: The principals lose because they can no longer cover their vacancies with ATRs without picking up their salaries. The question is do the principals really understand this? It seems many principals don't or won't and even into mid-October many classes go uncovered by teachers certified in the subject area as principals have been reluctant to hire qualified ATRs from the ATR pool.

The ATRs: The ATRs lose because they are being treated as "Gypsies", going from school to school weekly without any expectations to put in roots in the school community. Furthermore, the ATRs will be treated as "outsiders" and be treated simply as an expendable "tool" by school administrators. In other words, the ATRs are simply warm bodies and glorified "baby sitters". Age and salary discrimination runs amok at the DOE and the ATRs bear the brunt of the very real ageism issue that the union chooses to ignore.

The Students: The biggest losers are the students who are caught in the middle between principals not filling their vacancies and a succession of weekly ATRs with no interest in bonding with the classes that they will not have the next week. In these classes the students will suffer academically, lack stability, and lose any discipline with the parade of weekly ATRs coming and going. Imagine what emotional trauma these students will experience with such an unstable situation? This is truly a "children last" situation that needs to be corrected as soon as possible.

I did not list everything that was discussed since others have already done that for the other Boroughs. Read what other Borough ATR meetings were like at NYC ATR here, here, and here.

Finally, I must appeal to my union and demand that they take action on two issues immediately. First, that the union needs to launch an advertizing campaign about how ATRs are "quality teachers" and that the DOE is wasting millions of dollars to demonize them rather than encourage principals to do what is right for the children in the classroom. Second, the union knows the vacancies in subject areas within the District and needs to take real action" to pressure principals in hiring ATRs to fill those positions as quickly as possible. The existing situation is unacceptable and intolerable.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Will The Bloomberg Administration's Hiring Freeze Be A "Game Changer" For Hiring ATRs Into Existing Vacancies?

Yesterday, the Bloomberg Administration announced a total hiring freeze of new City employees as well as an across the board reduction of 2% for this fiscal year and an additional 6% cut next fiscal year. Apparently, this hiring freeze overrides the relaxation of the previous hiring freeze by the DOE over the summer. Moreover, the new citywide hiring freeze also applies to the so-called shortage areas of Physical Science, ESL, and Special education teachers, and principals can no longer request an exemption to hire an outside teacher. What is unknown is whether the hiring freeze will affect the new small schools that could recruit 40% of their teaching staff from the outside (almost all "newbie teachers") and the Chancellor's proposed middle school incentive that will replace 50% of the existing teaching force in the 50 targeted schools by using the entire "2012 recruiting class of "Teaching Fellows". The Chancellor's comments was reported in Gotham Schools, that the hiring freeze is total and no new staff can be hired from outside the DOE. Of course, let's see what happens during the summer of 2012 when the new schools hiring and the Chancellor's initiative goes into effect?

If we are to assume that the DOE will not allow any exceptions to the citywide hiring freeze (knowing the Mayor and his poodle, the Chancellor, an admittedly unlikely assumption, especially as the summer of 2012 approaches and look for a new LIFO bill from the Mayor) it may be a real "game changer" for the 2,000 ATRs. Already some "newbie teachers" are fleeing the classroom. In my friend's high school, two "Teaching Fellows" have already left the school leaving eight science classes uncovered and the Principal told my friend that he cannot find replacements for the classes. When my friend reminded him that there are ATRs who are Science teachers, the Principal frowned and said he might have no choice but hire from the ATR pool. With the hiring freeze, this scenario should be the rule with principals having little choice but to place ATRs in their vacancies.

The real question is whether the Bloomberg Administration will require the DOE to abide by the hiring freeze or will they allow the DOE to insert loopholes that make a hiring freeze meaningless. Only time will tell.

That leaves the union's role in this. The union most shake off their apathy about the ATR crises and demand, through the media, that all vacancies must be filled by ATRs to save money and ensure that a "quality teacher" is in the classroom. Furthermore, require that DOE to become fiscally responsible by cutting the Administrative bloat at Tweed and making sure that no outside consultants are hired during this time of fiscal constraints. It is up to our union to put the DOE's "feet to the fire" to ensure the dwindling resources are spent in the classroom and not on the already bloated Central Bureaucracy.

Monday, October 03, 2011

ATR Meetings Scheduled This Week. Please Go And Express Your Disappointment And Disapproval On The Union's Inaction Dealing With The ATR Crises.

This week, starting today, in the Bronx, the UFT will be hosting a question and answer informational sessions with the almost 2,000 ATRs in the system. Realistically, the union set up these meetings to forestall any independent effort to bring the ATR travesty to the public's attention. Presently, the UFT inaction has embarrassed their members and alienated the ATRs that they are supposed to represent. While, I cannot tell you the union's actual agenda, you can bet they will say that the new ATR agreement was a win for the union and the ATRs since principals must place ATRs in vacant or long-term leave positions. Further, the union will proudly announce that no ATRs can be laid off. Finally, look for them to tell you how they saved the ATRs jobs by defeating Mayor Bloomberg's LIFO bill in Albany. Of course, the truth is very different. First, the ATR Agreement is an unenforceable farce and principals are still hiring "newbie teachers" to fill their vacancies and long term leave replacements. Even the New York City Comptroller's Office question the DOE about allowing principals to hire "newbie teachers" while more experienced ATRs were available. Second, under New York State Law, only the newest teachers with the least seniority ("newbies") could be laid off, not the ATRs. Finally, all New York State unions opposed Mayor Bloomberg's LIFO bill since it was an end around "collective bargaining" and would affect all unions down the road.

What should the ATRs be asking the union at these question and answer sessions? That is up to you but here is what I will be asking.
  • Why didn't the union object publicly to the DOE's decision to lift the hiring freeze?
  • Why not start an advertising campaign showing that the ATRs are "quality teachers" and that not hiring them hurts the students?
  • Why not file an age discrimination lawsuit with the AARP on the apparent ageism that is being practiced by the DOE?
  • Why didn't the union take the DOE to task about their ridiculous ATR "job fairs"?
  • Why didn't the union demand a continuation he hiring incentive for ATRs?
The GEM-ATR committee has issued a list of demands and you can find it on the NYC ATR blog. I agree with almost all of them as it states out the issues and resolutions that our union should be implementing and demanding from the DOE.

ATRs are "quality teachers" and using them as day-to-day subs are just a waste of talent.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Arnie Duncan's Legacy Is The Same As Joel Klein's. Failed Education Reforms And A Widening Income/Racial Achievement Gap As A Result Of Their Failures

The University of Chicago did an extensive and long-term twenty year study on the Chicago Public Schools and found that the various education reforms had failed to improve public education. Most disturbingly, was an actual widening of the income/racial achievement gap during the Arnie Duncan "diversification" Administration. Yes the very same Arnie Duncan who is now the head of the Federal Department of Education and President Obama's basketball buddy. The Chicago study questioned the almost exclusive use of the State tests as the basis of student achievement and found that the State test was a poor indicator of student academic achievement.

The University of Chicago study found that over the twenty year study the Chicago elementary scores showed no improvement in Reading and only a marginal improvement in Math. In fact, the major improvements actually occurred in the higher achieving affluent neighborhood school, while the struggling high poverty neighborhood schools showed the least amount of progress. Interestingly, the constant education reform of test preparation did show some academic progress for the high schools. However, due to the "cut scores" on the State tests student academic achievement could not be easily identified and did not show up in the statistics.

The conclusion by the University of Chicago was that reliance on the State tests and "cut scores" along with continuous "test preparation" does not determine real academic achievement. Instead, the report came up with these items that were correlated with student academic achievement:

The consortium said that schools that showed growth were strong in the five pillars they had identified as being crucial to success — instructional leadership, adequate professional support, ambitious instruction, a good learning climate, and strong community and family ties.

It would seem that the legacy of the Arnie Duncan Administration is closely tied to the legacy of the Joel Klein Administration. Fuzzy math, over reliance on dubious State tests, constant test preparation, and worst of all a widening student income/racial academic achievement gap during their failed Administrations.