Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Education Reformer's Darling, Ex-Atlanta Superintedent Beverly Hall, Indited In The Cheating Scandal.

One of the education officials that education reformers pointed to as an example of great leadership and a "no excuses" approach when it came to testing, has been indited, along with 34 other educators in the "Atlanta cheating scandal".  Superintendent Beverly Hall who was exposed as a fraud for allowing cheating on her watch was indited by a Grand Jury and is facing charges of racketeering, influencing witnesses, conspiracy, making false statements, and fraud.  She faces up to 45 years in jail if found guilty of all charges.

The prosecutors have recommended bail of  $7.5 million dollars for Ms. Hall and claim that she illegally obtained $581,000 in performance bonuses for the phony test scores that resulted from the "cheating".  Under Ms. Hall's watch she fired 90% of the principals who couldn't meet the impossibly high standards she required.  For the other 10%, the pressure on them to keep their jobs forced them to "cheat".  For the principals it was "low scores, out the door".   Ms. Hall called it "no exceptions, no excuses". Furthermore, many principals received bonuses for raising student test scores which added to the problem. With principals under pressure to cheat, it was transferred to the teachers and it was common practice for schools to raise test scores to the point that student who tested poorly and were 1s were raised to 2s and 2s raised to 3s. One teacher finally blew the whistle to an investigator and the entire cheating scandel was exposed.

Of the 178 educators who were involved in the "Atlanta cheating scandal"  almost all have been fired, retired, or did not have their contract renewed.  Only 21 of them have been reinstated on appeal.  The State of Georgia has reviewed 159 of the educators and revoked 41 teaching licenses, gave 100 two year suspensions, 9 were given less than two year suspensions and six did not have any penalty.

Ms. Hall has stated that not one person has claimed that she asked them to cheat.  However, she "Atlanta cheating scandal" was under Ms. Hall's watch and she now must face the consequences for her actions. She created an atmosphere that encouraged cheating.   In fact she was known to retaliate against educators that reported cheating. One example:

When a teacher at C.W. Hill Elementary complained about cheating by a colleague in 2005, Hall suspended the accused educator for 20 days. As for the whistle-blower, Hall fired her.  

It was her policies, and pressure to raise test scores by any means possible and ignoring evidence of wrongdoing that is the issue.  She was responsible for all the policies that encouraged the cheating and hurt the children who needed remedial help and didn't get it because of the phony scores, now she will suffer the consequences for her actions.

Is Michele Rhee next?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Camden Schools, The Education Reformers Blind Spot.

Education reformers have this myth that great teachers and schools can overcome the ravages of poverty.  This propaganda has been spouted by the likes of Ex-Chancellor Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, Mayor Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and many others.  If only  schools were allowed to" hire and fire" at will could principals get "effective teachers" and turnaround students who came from poverty. However, the reality is so very different.  Take a close look at Camden, New Jersey which the State just took over the school system last week.

Camden, New Jersey is the deadliest and poorest city in the country acorrding to 2012 statistics.  The city had a record high of 67 murders in 2012 and had the highest percentage of murders per population than any other city.  Moreover, the average household income was $21,191 and 42.5% of families lived below the poverty level.  Violence was everywhere in the city.  Camden recorded an astonishing 2,158 incidence of violent crime in 2012.  Add that figure to the 4,573 incidents of property crime, the total crime rate was 6,731 in a city of only 77,000 residents, the highest in the nation!Worse, 56.7% of the children were in households that lived below the poverty level and 76% of these children lived in single parent households. In fact, Camden has the highest percentage of single family households in the country at 66.8%.

The City of Camden has over 200 liquor stores,  180 gambling dens, and not one movie theater or new car dealerships.  In the entire city there is only one supermarket and no restaurants.  Block after block there are boarded up and dilapidated houses and unrepaired roads.  The city's entire infrastructure needs repair and there is no money to make the necessary repairs.   Finally, it is downright dangerous to walk the streets of Camden at night and nobody does.  That brings me to the Camden schools.

The Camden schools are the worst performing schools in New Jersey with 23 of the 26 schools as designated as "low achieving".  Even the Charter schools, who try to eliminate "high needs" children from their schools, are part of the group.  Teachers and principals come and go all too frequently and it matters little how good these educators were or are, the results were disappointing.  Academically, few students graduated (44%) from the three high schools that have no screening requirements and the "college and career readiness" rates were close to "zero".  Even the two screened high schools have a "college and career readiness" rate in the teens.

Camden is a laboratory that shows that children of poverty will end up in low performing schools not because of poor educators but because of the deep poverty, violence, and lack of a family unit that retards a student's academic development.  What sane adult would allow their 12 year old to walk a mile to a library, play in a park withour supervision, or walk around the neighborhood in violence-prone Camden?  Is it any wonder that the a city that experiences epidemic poverty and frequent violence and where there is a 19% unemployment rate, has resulted in low-achieving schools?  New Jersey Commissioner Christoper Cerf (an education reformer himself) stated the following:

"That the idea that public education can be an agent of change in people's lives despite the circumstances of their birth, is a great big lie in much of urban America".  He called the Camden schools a "human catastrophe".

If schools are to improve without addressing the effects of poverty on the students than those schools would need to follow the "Joe Clark" approach where he removed 300 "troublemakers" from his Patterson school.  In fact, his school did improve without the 300 "troublemakers" but now you had 300 kids on the streets with nothing to do all day but commit crimes and the majority ended up in jail.  While Charter schools do the same thing as Joe Clark did, at least those students can return to public school and not the streets.  Obviously, schools cannot do the "Joe Clark approach", therefore the State must attack the route cause of the schools low achieving status by bringing the surrounding community jobs, family intervention services, and proper housing and most of all safety.  That with wraparound services at the school for the students is the answer to school improvement.

To me "children first" means improving the social-economic problems in the community and wraparound services in the schools and the student academic improvement will follow.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Classroom Management 101

One of the most difficult aspect of teaching is how to mange a classroom.  Effective classroom management requires at least five years of experience and an understanding of the ever changing classroom environment.  Most importantly, is how the teacher understands the different student dynamics that the teacher inherits for each class.  If a teacher gets a high-achieving, focused classroom, it is much easier to control that class than a teacher who walks into a low-achieving, unfocused class.  The later group is more likely to have behavioral problems and makes classroom management even more difficult.  This post will attempt to provide some effective techniques that have worked for me to improve teacher classroom management. While it is important that the teacher have administrative support at the school,  especially with dealing unruly students, once the student is in the classroom, it is up to the teacher to control their classroom.

First, identify the problem students, if any.  Usually, there may be one to three students in the class that cause problems.  These students should be seated away from their friends and repeated calls to the parents should result in better behavior.  Ignoring the problem and hoping it will get better will result in a chaotic classroom throughout the year. Many students are in cliques and if any problems occur, be quick to break up these cliques by separating the students.

Second, get the students into a routine.  It is important that the students know what is expected of them daily.  When my students come in, they see the "Do Now" on the board.  Homework for that night and the "Aim" for the day. Furthermore, they are to hand in their homework assignment and copy the Regents question and be ready to explain what the answer is.

Third, enforce the rules but be flexible.  Too many teachers either are too stringent in enforcing the classroom rules or not stringent at all.  The result is a classroom of students that either resent the teacher for being too stringent or disrespect the teacher for not enforcing classroom rules.  The trick is to make sure the students know the rules but on rare occasions the teacher can bend the rules, when appropriate.  This will allow the teacher to maintain classroom control and get the students to buy into them knowing that they can be flexible depending on the situation.

Fourth, you are the boss!  It's your classroom and the students look to you for guidance. Make sure you know your curriculum and speak with an authoritative voice. Speaking softly in a classroom of 34 students will not result in good academic learning.

Fifth, walk around the room if possible.  It is always a good idea to check on "student work" such as the "Do Now" and see if they have their notebook open and taking notes.

Sixth, limit unnecessary noise.  In a crowded classroom noise can result in a lowering of academic achievement for all.  Let the students know that talking in class is unacceptable and inform them that this is negative behavior and will reduce their grade.

Seventh, try to call on as many students as you can.  It is important to keep them on their collective toes and engaged in the lesson you are teaching.

Finally, and most importantly, it's up to you to show your students that you care about their well being and problems. If the students believe you care about them, they will respond positively to your teaching academically.  The students must like the teacher if the teacher is to get the maximum effort from the student.

Good classroom management is a necessary part of "effective teaching" and is the hardest to get right but with experience and watching other teachers teach any teacher, as they gain experience, will be able to master the classroom management issue.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Why Chancellor Walcott Should Go To Jail.

Clueless Chancellor Dennis Walcott has shown what a wonderful role model he is to the students by defying a judge's decision to allocate $240 million dollars to the New York City schools and has instituted a "hiring freeze" until the Bloomberg Administration exhausts their appeal process.  The result is a high teacher attrition rate with many classrooms without a full time teacher and an increase in class size. As of the beginning of the second semester (January 29th), 400 teachers have left the system and have not been replaced and the DOE expect another 300 to leave before the end of the school year,. for a total of 700 teachers not replaced. 

The fact that Chancellor Walcott has defied a judge's order to distribute the needed funds to the New York City classrooms is outrageous and hurts the children.  The Chancellor's willful disregard of the judge's order should earn him some jail time.   In addition, the City Council's education head said the following about the Chancellor and his Tweed buddies:

"The judge should hold them in contempt of court and, if necessary, fine them and put them in jail," said Manhattan Councilman Robert Jackson.

The DOE had instituted the cuts back in late January which surprised the City Council and lead to many angry questioning of the Chancellor and his staff.  The Chancellor's response to the questioning on why the DOE included the cuts when a judge ordered them not to so was to claim that the City was appealing the ruling and they decided not to include the $240 million dollars in the school budget process while the appeal is ongoing.  It is just incredible that the DOE refuses to follow a lawful order to provide the necessary funds to the City's school children because of political considerations.  But then the inept Chancellor is the Mayor's poodle and does not have a mind of his own. He does what the Mayor tells him and not what is best for the children.

Fewer teachers, larger class sizes, and a lack of resources are the result of the Chancellor's terrible "children last" decision to disobey the judge.  Yes, if I was the judge I would throw Dennis Walcott in jail and throw away the key until the $240 million dollars in desperately needed funds are restored to the City's public schools. For Chancellor Dennis Walcott and his Tweed buddies it is just another example of "children last.....Always".

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The DOE's Fair Student Funding Fiasco Forces Principals To Hire The Cheapest And Not The Best Teachers For Their Students.

Back in 2008, ex-Chancellor Joel Klein and his flunkies at Tweed come up with a program to encourage principals to hire "cheaper teachers" and force them to put the school's budget first and their children last.  This program is known as the "fair student funding formula" and required the school to take on the actual salary of their teachers in the school's budget. 

The DOE's "fair student funding formula" replaces the past teacher budget process that treated teachers as a unit rather than their actual salaries.  Under the previous teacher budget process, schools competed with each other for the "best teachers", who, for the most part had high salaries. Therefore, it was quite common to see the good schools gobble up the "best teachers", while the struggling schools saw a turnstile of "newbie teachers" come and go.   The reason was that the smart principals knew how to sell their schools to attract the "best teachers". For these principals it was and always will be their ,school's students first.  However, the "fair student funding formula" changed all that.  The actual teacher salaries were now assigned  to the school's budget and if a school wanted to hire a teacher for $20,000 above the salary that a teacher who left the school had, the school's budget is now charged for the $20,000 for the cost of the teacher.  The result is that principals must choose between what is best for the school's students or what is best for the school's budget?  Unfortunately, many principals choose the budget.

While the DOE and UFT claim the "fair student funding formula" has a "hold harmless provision" the reality is very different.  According to the DOE and UFT, the salary of an experienced teacher is averaged into the existing staff and counts for any upward increase in salary due to steps, differentials, and longevity.  However, the school,  is still responsible for the additional $20,000 in the teacher's salary.  Therefore, the Principal is put in a vise and must chose between their budget and the children the school serves.

In my rounds as an ATR last year, I noticed that the small schools had a staff of almost all young and untenured teachers.  Worse, was the Principal was usually a graduate from the infamous "Leadership Academy" and had limited teaching experience themselves.  The result was a terrible "college readiness rate" and very few "Advanced Regents Degrees". A main reason was that these small school  principals rather hire inexpensive "newbie teachers" rather than the "best teachers" for their students. Thie "fair student funding fiasco" simply is a "Trojan Horse" to get rid of experienced teachers.

It takes a truly great Principal to hire the "best teachers" and these great principals have one thing in common, they care about their students and will do what it takes even if the "fair student funding formula" makes it painful to their budget.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Mayor Bloomberg Claims He Fights Obesity By Banning Large Sodas But Actually Causes Child Obesity By Cutting Physical Education In Schools.

The Emperor, oops I mean Mayor Michael Bloomberg lost hi scase for reducing large sugary drinks and ranted about how the Judge's  decision was a terrible decision and defies "common sense.  The Mayor' exact words were:

"There is one public health crises that has grown worse and worse over the years? It would be irresponsible if  I didn't take action". If you know what you are doing "common sense" would say you might want to do something about it".

While the Mayor conveniently ignored are the reasons why the judge stopped the soda ban as "arbitrary and capricious".  First the judge stated that it was an end run around the City Council.  Second, was the lack of authority by the City health Department since it's not considered a "health emergency".    Finally, there were so many loopholes in the proposed regulations that a bus could travel through them.  The Mayor's new mission  as the Mayor who brought healthy living to New York City.  However, when it came to the New York City students, the Mayor's education policies actually encourages childhood obesity.

Since July of 2008 there has been a drop of 12% in the number of licensed physical education teachers.  That is from 2,150 to 1,890.  Moreover, many of the small schools the Mayor has touted have no or inadequate gyms or fields for physical fitness and some small and Charter schools have no gym classes at all!  Added to the inadequate or lack of gym space is the limited extracurricular activities in these small schools.  Many of the extracurricular activities are sports related and keep the children physically fit.  Only those schools fortunate enough to occupy a large campus have adequate physical education facilities.  Assuming they have the money to fund these programs. Worse, the very stringent Bloomberg budget  restrictions make school principals reluctant to spend money on non-core subjects or add extracurricular activities.

Even the large comprehensive schools feel the severe budget restrictions imposed by the Mayor.   For example, the few schools that have swimming pools do not get any funding to maintain them nor do they give these schools extra funding to hire swim teachers who can properly supervise and give swimming lessons to the school's students.  In addition, many of the schools claim the DOE has inadequate funding of necessary and up-to-date physical education equipment.  While the DOE, under the Mayor's watch has a road runner program that includes anywhere between 60,000 and 100,000 students, that is less than 10% of the New York City student population of 1,100,000!  Finally, the Mayor's emphasis on increased test preparation means that less money is spent on physical education.

The Mayor might claim that his legacy as Mayor was to improve the health of the people of the City.  However, the reality is the very children who needs it most, children trapped in neighborhoods of poverty and violence and are afraid to go out and play, are the ones most affected by the reduction and lack of physical education in the New York City schools. Just another example of the Mayor's "children last" agenda.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Another Principal Acting Badly And The DOE Does Nothing About It.

The DOE "double standard" continues when disciplining teachers and administrators as the New York Post exposed another despicable example of a Principal doing something that would have removed and probably terminate a teacher. The New York Post article describes Leadership Academy Principal Anissa Chalmers who was appointed Principal of P.S. 132 in the Bronx in 2006 and has had a difficult time in bringing discipline to a school that has reported an astounding 172 "incidents" in this school year.  This "D" rated school has had its share of bad publicity, here, here, and here, just to name a few. Interestingly, Principal Chalmers cancelled a 5th grade graduation ceremony because of the students behaving badly.  I guess acting and behaving badly only applies to the students and not to Principal Chalmers.

What is Principal Anissa Chalmers accused of doing?  While Principal of P.S. 132 she used extremely poor judgement and made a "B" rated movie call "Gang Girl" where the Principal plays the lead Gansta and shoots, rapes, and murders her rivals.  Furthermore, she also distributes drugs and commits robberies in this terribly violent and bloody movie.  What a role model this Leadership Academy Principal is to her violence ridden school.  I guess she is just paving the way for her elementary school children to follow in her footsteps and glorify gang life. 

What has the DOE done about the Principal's extremely poor judgement in making a violence-ridden film while a Principal?  Nothing, Principal Chalmers is still Principal and while the DOE claims she is under investigation for an undefined allegation, the fact that she is still running her school tells me that the DOE is not serious in removing the Principal.  I see this as another example of the DOE "double standard" when disciplining teachers and administrators for alleged misconduct.

If I was a parent of a child in her school I would demand her immediate removal as a terrible role model for my child and the school's student body.  How can the DOE allow her to run the school?  Easy it's "children last....Always" at the DOE.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

ILearn....Is It Rigorous Enough?

The NYC DOE has told many schools to use the "ILearn" program as a "credit recovery"  course that meets the City criteria of "rigorous instruction".  While I believe that the "ILearn" program is superior to many of the bogus "credit recovery" courses the City allowed the schools to use in the past to boost the graduation rate. However, it still is inferior to a real "credit recovery" course that incorporates a full range of academic work and real "seat time" The "ILearn" program does not show real student academic achievement in my opinion. Moreover, a recent study showed that 72% of students self-reported that they cheated on online tests.  How does the City handle the cheating issue? As far I am concerned they don't.

 Here are some of the problems that I believe makes "ILearn" suspect.

  • The tests are simple multiple choice questions and the student can take it as many tines as necessary until he or she passes it.
  • The online course allows for the opportunity for a stronger student to take the test for a weaker student without being flagged for cheating.
  • The passing of the "lLearn" tests seem not to help the same students when it comes to the "Regents exam" or "college and career readiness".
  • The "ILearn" course rewards students who choose not to go to class and with help, can finish the online course in as little time as a month.
If we are truly interested in improving student academic achievement than taking "ILearn" as a "credit recovery" course is not the answer.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Why Do I Love Teaching? It's Seeing My Students Succeed.

My son asked me why I still teach since he hears and reads my complaints about the injustice and incompetence of the DOE and the politicians (Bloomberg, Cuomo, Obama, etc) who rather scapegoat teachers as the cause of all of what's wrong with the school system than the poverty, lack of funding, and unproven mandates that are the main causes of much of the academic shortcomings.  I though about it for a minute and told him it was the satisfaction of watching my students improve academically and mature as young adults.  All the useless nonsense that the DOE imposes on us pales in comparison when one of my students tell me how much I have made a difference in his or her life.  No matter what Mayor Bloomberg says about experienced teachers or what Chancellor Dennis Walcott would like to fire me, if he only had the power, the bottom line is what do the students think of me as a teacher and are they learning? To me that is the reason I teach.

I must admit I have been fortunate this year as I have landed a long-term leave position in my subject area in a highly rated school with a supportive Administration and a well-run department.  However, more importantly the students are eager to learn and try their best in mastering the skills necessary to pass the year-end Regents exam.  I have three ESL classes and two classes with English speaking students and enjoy teaching them all.  With some support, and encouragement from the school I have settled into a routine with my ESL classes and have successfully integrated my teaching style to fit their limited English vocabulary.  The result is that my ESL classes are rapidly improving and I have even used this approach with my English speaking class and it has helped some of my struggling students who have weak vocabulary skills.  However, what I enjoy most is the exchange of ideas with my students and I am especially proud of my ESL students who are now asking questions, a real breakthrough from the beginning of the year.  I feel like a proud father watching them grow academically and becoming more confident in their ability to master the English language.

As much as I like the Principal or the Assistant Principal telling me I am doing a good job and I do appreciate their feedback, it is what the students think of me that counts the most.  To me, what makes teaching so enjoyable is when a student tells me that I am a good teacher and that they are learning in a subject they never liked before, that is what is important.  When a student goes out of their way to complement you it just makes my day and helps me refocus on what are the most important things in life and that is to see the students becoming successful and that I had something to do with it.

The Education Reformers claim they want "excellent teachers" in the classroom and so do I.  However, these so-called Education Reformers have no clue what goes on in a classroom and what makes an "excellent teacher"?  The intangibles that make an "excellent teacher" are many and test scores are only a small percentage of that equation.  If you ask the students what their idea of an excellent teacher is somebody who manages his or her classroom effectively, has passion for the topic, motivates, is caring, has a deep knowledge of curriculum, is nurturing, can be entertaining, and most of all helps them to achieve academic success as they move on in life.  

Why do I teach?  It's because of the students.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The City Saw A Dramatic Increase In Poverty & Homelessness. Where Is The Accountability Mayor Bloomberg?

In the last couple of months the Bloomberg Administration has received a double dose of bad news,  First, at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year the poverty rate in New York City has risen significantly under the Bloomberg Administration' from 18.4% in 2008 to 20.9% this year.  Furthermore, this is an increase of 74,000 people who fell into poverty compared to the 2011-12 school year. Worse, is the astounding increase of homeless families since the Mayor took office.  The increase in homeless families is a mind blowing 73% since 2002.  Hard to believe but true. Moreover, the amount of children living in a homeless shelter  in January was 21,000 which rivals the numbers found in the 'Great Depression".  "Way to go Bloomie".

There is a major correlation between child poverty and homelessness with educational outcomes and only people like ex-Chancellor Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee ignore this correlation. In addition, the effects of poverty combined with homelessness resulted in these children not reaching their academic potential.

By contrast, the Mayor saw a significant increase in his wealth during the same time period and is one of the 13 richest men in the world and increased his net worth by 5 billion dollars while the New York City income gap continued to widen.  In fact, the City's income gap is so wide that it rivals many sub-Sahara countries in Africa.  Unbelievable but true. Yet the unaccountable Mayor seemed unfazed and blamed everybody and everything except himself on the income gap in New York City under his watch.

The Mayor's legacy includes an unacceptable increase in poverty, an astronomical increase in homelessness, a failed educational reform program, and a wasting of billions of dollars on various bad technology projects like the 911 fiasco, and CityTime to list just two of many.  I guess accountability is for everybody else but not for our billionaire Mayor.  "Way to go Mikey".

Sunday, March 03, 2013

The DOE, UFT, And The Rubber Room.

The assailed teacher wrote a very heart-felt article on his evolution as a clueless "newbie teacher" who worshiped his Principal to a knowledgeable Chapter Leader who. with eyes wide open, sees the injustice and hypocrisy that permeates the New York City schools. Part of his evolution is how he perceived teachers who were banished to the "rubber room".  At first, he assumed, like many teachers, that those teachers reassigned were perverts, beaters, or committed financial larceny.  However, as he saw colleagues reassigned to the "rubber room" for bogus or frivolous incidents he soon realized that the Administration was removing teachers not for serious misconduct but because they didn't like the teacher, be it for complaining, age, salary, or for their own prejudice. This post will explain, from a largely first-hand perspective the evolution of the "rubber room" and why the amount of reassigned teachers exploded starting in 2005 and only ended in 2010 with the Rubber Room Agreement.

Historically teachers were reassigned out of the classroom and away from children when accused of "major misconduct", usually corporal, financial, or sexual in nature.  These teachers waited for their 3020-a hearings at district or regional offices doing clerical work.  The average number of reassigned teachers was between 80-100 on a yearly basis.  The numbers started to inch up under the Rudolf Giuliani Administration into the low hundreds as the first non-educator, Harold Levy, became Chancellor.  However, it was not until Michael Bloomberg came into office and appointed non-educator and failed classroom teacher, Joel Klein, as Chancellor did the number of reassigned teachers significantly increase. 

During Chancellor Joel Klein's reign of terror and disrespect the number of reassigned teachers skyrocketed to an astonishing 802 by 2008.  It was really more since the thirteen "rubber rooms' (downsized to seven by 2010) were bursting at the seems and many teachers who principals wanted removed from their school were told by the DOE that there was no more room and to leave them in the teachers work room or any other room with no contact with children.  Rumors were there were half as many teachers reassigned out of the classroom (400) but not sent to the "rubber room". That meant that the real number of reassigned teachers at the peak may have been as high as 1,200. Various DOE officials who I talked to during these days confirmed that the principals were clamoring to remove teachers from their schools but since the reassignment centers were overcrowded, the principals appeals were refused with some exceptions.

You might want to know why the sudden increase in reassigned teachers during the Bloomberg/Klein years?  Yes, it was partly due to the anti-teacher attitude of the Chancellor and it was the the granting of more discretionary power to principals.  However,the major reason was the Chancellor's decision to remove teachers from the school's payroll after only 60 days once they are reassigned.  Previously, if a Principal removed a teacher, that teacher's salary stayed on the school's payroll through the entire school year.  Therefore, Principals had to think twice about removing a teacher if they still had to pay the teacher's salary and pay a substitute for the teacher's classes.  Consequently, only teachers accused of serious misconduct were removed. The result of Chancellor Joel Klein's decision to remove reassigned teachers from the school's payroll was the primary reason for the high number of both "reassigned" and "rubber room" teachers.

Presently, the "reassignment centers are now closed and reassigned teachers are sent to their school's "Children First Network" (CFN) offices to do little or no work (see Franseco Portelos)   However, since the teacher's salary must stay on the school's payroll until the end of the school year unless the teacher is removed for major misconduct, the number of reassigned teachers have dropped to 222, including administrators.

The UFT was very complicit in the "rubber room' fiasco as they rarely objected to the removal of a teacher or provide investigators of their own on obvious bogus or frivolous cases.  The UFT had special representatives who represented reassigned teachers and were, for the most part, useless.  Their advice to reassigned teachers is to say nothing to anybody and that the teacher sitting next to you could be a "snitch" and testify against you at your 3020-a hearing (in my almost five years of being rubberized, I never saw this happen). In other words the UFT told reassigned teachers to be "quiet and clueless to their fate"  Once the teacher was pressured to resign or terminated (20% of the time), the UFT's action was "don't let the door hit you in the ass as you leave".  I saw this first hand many of the time and that always bothered me that the UFT seemed to be on the side of the DOE in many of the cases at the Queens reassignment center. As the liaison at the Queens reassigned center I found myself explaining the rights to the reassigned teacher and what they can expect, especially, when it came to OSI and SCI investigations.  Too many teachers came in traumatized and in need of support, it was up to the liaison to provide comfort and clarity to their situation.  These put us in conflict with the union leadership as we felt it was our responsibility to let the reassigned teacher know what will happen to them, step by step in the reassignment process.  Knowledge is power and the union would badmouth the liaisons by telling reassigned teachers not to listen to us since we were a threat to the union because of our knowledge and respect by the "rubber room" teachers.  Of course almost all the teachers did look to the liaisons for information and in many cases we helped them make informed decisions about their fate in the 3020-a process.

My experience with the NYSUT lawyers who represented us in our 3020-a hearings was a positive one (sorry Betsy).  Overall the NYSUT lawyers were competent and tried their best to represent us.  Sure, there are cases when the teacher didn't think his or her NYSUT attorney was on their side but I believe that had more to do with the "Chemistry" between the NYSUT lawyer and the teacher and not the competence of their representing us.  Further, a minority of teachers had a private attorney represent them and had mixed results . Moreover, I was unimpressed with the DOE lawyers, they seemed unprepared and believed hearsay against the teacher was a proven fact only to fall apart in front of the independent Arbitrator.  In other words the DOE lawyer believed their own propaganda and in many cases the "Specifications" were either dismissed or reduced by the Arbitrator when real evidence was found wanting.  The DOE lawyers case is to throw as many accusations against the wall and hope that some stick.  They call this a "preponderance of evidence".  However, to the Arbitrator it is the preponderance of relevant evidence and not unsupported hearsay that is a major part of their "award".

  Unfortunately, for the teachers Arbitrator decisions do not follow a simple rubric but requires many different variables, some subjective, before they make an "award".  For example three teachers were found to have been drinking alcohol in a Queens High School classroom before open school night.  The three teachers received widely different "awards" from three different arbitrators.  One received a six-month suspension without pay, the second received a $25,000 fine, while the third teacher who actual bought the alcohol and brought it into the school and tried to get his student teacher to join in (she refused) received a $5,000 fine. In other words not all Arbitrators weigh the evidence the same way.  Some of my closest "rubber room" friends received terrible "awards" including terminations while others received a mere "slap on the wrist".  The best statement I can say about the 3020-a process and the "awards" that come out of it is "that every case is different" and I found that to be very true.

In summary, while there are no "rubber rooms" for reassigned teachers and fewer teachers are being reassigned since the Principal must show that the teacher committed major misconduct otherwise, the school still pays their salary for the school year, the union must be more pro-active and not reactive to teacher reassignments.  Furthermore, the union should start their own investigation when there is a reasonable suspicion that the Principal removed the teacher for personal or vindictive reasons and not let the teacher languish in a CFN for over a year

Friday, March 01, 2013

Mayor Bloomberg Once Again Puts His Foot In His Mouth About Class Size And Quality Teachers.

Mayor Bloomberg's continued disrespect for the teachers in the New York City Public Schools shows up again when the Mayor on his radio show stated that class size is irrelevant.  According to the Mayor it is not a problem for students if they stand rather than sit as long as their is a "quality teacher" instructing them.  In fact here was his exact words according to the NYC Public School Parent blog.

"I got in trouble every time I say this. But I would do anything to have better quality teachers, even if it meant bigger class size, even if it meant them standing rather than sitting. That's what really makes a difference. That human being that looks the student in the eye, adjusts the curriculum based on instinct what's in the child's interest."

Can you manage standing for up to 90 minutes in a class and be expected to learn?  Furthermore, the extremely over sized classes gives a student no room to put their books down and take notes.  Finally, the noise level of having up to 70 students in a classroom where 34 students are way too much, would make it a poor environment for learning. Moreover, the billionaire Mayor sent his daughters to a private school that have average class sizes of 17 students not 70 as he proposes. How clueless the Mayor is of what really goes on in a NYC Public School classroom but what does he care?

As for Mayor Bloomberg's perception of what is a quality teacher?  It is obvious to all that the teacher must be young, cheap, and temporary and not cost the City money for a pension and retiree health benefits.  The Mayor's ideal teacher would be those Teach For America recruits who are in the classroom for two years and go on to their real profession such as a lawyer, an Administrator, or a hedge fund manager to name a few.  His attack on NYC teachers by trying to get a "LIFO BILL" passed by the State Legislature is a prime example of what lengths the Mayor would do to eliminate senior teachers from the NYC schools.

The only thing the Mayor has been successful in doing is the closing of  schools and dumping "high needs" students in schools he would like closed in the future.  Oh yes, let's not forget the co-location and expansion of Charter and small schools.

It is a good thing that the Mayor is a lame duck with only 300 days left and the quicker those 300 days pass, the better.  Under the Bloomberg Administration teacher disrespect is at a new high and any Mayor that is elected can only be an improvement...I hope.
"I got in trouble every time I say this. But I would do anything to have better quality teachers, even if it meant bigger class size, even if it meant them standing rather than sitting. That's what really makes a difference. That human being that looks the student in the eye, adjusts the curriculum based on instinct what's in the child's interest." - See more at:"I got in trouble every time I say this. But I would do anything to have better quality teachers, even if it meant bigger class size, even if it meant them standing rather than sitting. That's what really makes a difference. That human being that looks the student in the eye, adjusts the curriculum based on instinct what's in the child's interest." - See more at:

I got in trouble every time I say this. But I would do anything to have better quality teachers, even if it meant bigger class size, even if it meant them standing rather than sitting. That's what really makes a difference. That human being that looks the student in the eye, adjusts the curriculum based on instinct what's in the child's interest." - See more at:

I got in trouble every time I say this. But I would do anything to have better quality teachers, even if it meant bigger class size, even if it meant them standing rather than sitting. That's what really makes a difference. That human being that looks the student in the eye, adjusts the curriculum based on instinct what's in the child's interest." - See more at:
I got in trouble every time I say this. But I would do anything to have better quality teachers, even if it meant bigger class size, even if it meant them standing rather than sitting. That's what really makes a difference. That human being that looks the student in the eye, adjusts the curriculum based on instinct what's in the child's interest." - See more at:
I got in trouble every time I say this. But I would do anything to have better quality teachers, even if it meant bigger class size, even if it meant them standing rather than sitting. That's what really makes a difference. That human being that looks the student in the eye, adjusts the curriculum based on instinct what's in the child's interest." - See more at: