Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Second Bite Of The Apple To Terminate Teachers- New York State's Part 83.

In the New York Post today there is an article about the two female foreign language teachers who were allegedly caught, after school locking lips and being partly undressed, in a classroom.  The DOE brought 3020-a charges against them and-both were fired due mostly from the bad publicity it generated in the media.  However. in their Article 75 appeal both teachers were given their jobs back after being suspended without pay for a year or more.  End of story?  No, not quite.

It now appears one of the two teachers has been investigated by the State of New York under their Part 83 for "good moral character.  This formally little used State provision allows the State to revoke an educator's teaching certificate and was only used against teachers found guilty of serious sexual misconduct with a student or for felony criminal convictions  However, over the last few years the State has vigorously pursued New York City teachers who were found to have committed misconduct such as corporal punishment, inappropriate behavior, and other non-firing offenses, despite the fact that many of them survived their 3020-a hearings. .

The definition of "good moral character" is quite vague and inclusive that allows the State to arbitrarily decide who to file Part 83 against, usually from a recommendation from the DOE's Office of Legal Services, since it takes a representative of a school district to notify the State of actions taken against a tenured teacher.   Betsy Combier's blog clearly spells out the State Part 83 requirements and can found here.

One example is the selective nature of the State's application of Part 83.  The two teachers found to have allegedly engaged in inappropriate behavior in a classroom after school.  However, only one of the two teachers were subject to the Part 83 investigation, why?   It should have applied to both or neither teacher and since there were no students or children involved and occurred after school by two consenting adults, why is Part 83 being used to take that teacher's license?  Seems unfair to me.

The State's aggressive used of Part 83 to revoke a teacher's license is all part of the Cuomo agenda to terminate teachers and not to improve student instruction. Just because a teacher survives the 3020-a process, look out for New York State's Part 83 provision that gives the politicians a second bite of the apple to terminate tenured teachers.

Monday, December 28, 2015

How To Improve The Graduation Rate By 26%? Stop Requiring Them To Take The Regents.

In New York State, almost all students who graduate high school must show mastery in their core subjects of English, Math, Science, and Social Studies.  To show that students have achieved mastery in these core subjects, the students must pass the State Regents exams to meet graduation requirements.  To ensure that the students Regents exams were tamper proof, teachers from other schools graded these exams at off school sites (except for charter schools).  However, there were a select few schools that were exempt from the Regents requirements and instead were allowed to submit a portfolio instead.  These student portfolios were graded by the school's staff and usually by their own teacher!  Not surprisingly, these schools showed higher graduation rates than schools of similar demographics.  One school improved their graduation rate by 26% by replacing the Regents with the student portfolio option.  Because, a school's grade is based upon the graduation rate, more schools wanted to replace the Regents requirements with the student portfolio option and who could blame them? Very quietly, the DOE has allowed 20 high schools to dodge the Regents exams.  That is a 77% increase in schools that no longer use the Regents exams to determine graduation in the DOE's quest for a higher graduation rate.

The beneficiaries of the switch from Regents to portfolios were the International schools, who catered to recent immigrants with poor academic skills. While I personally have little problem with these schools supplementing the Regents requirements with a student portfolio option.  I do question the widespread use of portfolios instead of a Regents exam and the portfolio grading structure that allows the school's own teachers to grade the student portfolio.  Furthermore, I saw with my own eyes how one teacher at a International school rewrote the student's  portfolio and then graded her own work as if it was done by the student.  Do you think the student's portfolio passed?  Finally, I question the use of the portfolio option when it comes to higher education.  If these students need to use the portfolio option, how in the world will they succeed in college where testing is required?    Are we pushing them into no-credit remedial courses in a two year community college only for them to drop out because of their inability to show mastery of the subject through testing?

The State Regents exams are used by colleges to show a student's mastery in that subject and replacing it with the student portfolio option allows for potential academic fraud and the inability of these students to succeed in college.  Let's make the portfolio option more stringent and only used in conjunction with Regents exams to determine the real graduation rate of these schools.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The DOE Expects Miracles But Fails To Support Teachers.

No matter where one turns to, the newspapers will blame teachers for the failure of the schools.  Just look at the pounding the renewal schools are subject to and even the untrustworthy Hillary Clinton has demanded that below average public schools should close, putting teachers out of work.  It matters little that many of the students enter school, especially high school with Math and English skills many grades behind.  Some are functionally illiterate.  Yet the mass media expect the teachers to perform miracles and close the academic achievement gap.

While its understandable that the mass media blames teachers for the student shortcomings since they are overly influenced by education reformers and don't understand how the classroom works. Its different when the DOE and school administrators expect the same thing.   Many of the "ineffectives" and "developing" ratings are given to teachers of "high needs" students.  Many of these students are level one with issues.  Yet the DOE and school administrators expect teachers to perform miracles and raise them to a level that is unattainable.  Sure, a "quality teacher", can make a differences on the margins but most student's academic achievement is based upon social-economic factors such as family, poverty, community, and friends.  A teacher can contribute between 1 and 14% for any one student's academic growth.  Yet the DOE and the school administration give us unrelenting professional development on how we can raise student academic achievement and when it doesn't work, the blame is put squarely on the teachers

Instead, of reducing class sizes to a imaginable size, providing students with disabilities with a self-contain classroom setting,and proper support services,,  or provide the resources needed to help a student succeed. the DOE and the school administration holds teachers accountable when these students show little academic growth.  They use the Danielson rubric as a punitive weapon against the teacher and any appeal of an adverse rating to the DOE is almost always found in favor of the school administration.

Nationwide there is a teacher shortage and its only a matter of time before New York City will be  having difficulty in hiring certified teachers, especially in the STEM areas.  Already education classes are down 50% in colleges that offer such a degree and many education graduates never see the classroom as they go into the education policy field instead of teaching.  One would think the DOE would be making life easier for the classroom teacher, instead they have made the already hostile classroom environment even more toxic and in the last three years have seen a mass exodus of teachers resigning, retiring, or terminated by the increasingly difficult teaching environment in New York City, thanks to the DOE and the school administration.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The "Gotcha Mentality" Still Applies To Far Too Many Schools.

During the Bloomberg Administration the DOE changed from a somewhat benign overlord to an organization that targeted teachers for termination. especially veteran teachers while shifting funding from the schools to the central bureaucracy.  This effort was spearheaded by Chancellor Joel Klein and his Deputy Chancellors, one being Eric Nadelstern who's policies saw the creation of the useless and money-sucking Children First Networks and Principal autonomy while pushing far too many failed Leadership Academy graduates into schools with mostly disastrous results.

 Unfortunately, the Bloomberg Administration was not interested in the students, despite the slogan "children first...Always".  While the DOE Central Bureaucracy became bloated with more lawyers and accountability experts, the schools were being increasingly shortchanged for funds and necessary resources.  Worse, was that class sizes were rising every year and that resulted in New York City having the largest class sizes in the State.  Finally, the Bloomberg Administration put in the "poison pill" called the "fair student funding" that fundamentally changed hiring practices in the system and discriminated against veteran teachers.  Add to this the hiring of many non-educators at the DOE  who bring with them their pet projects and highly paid consultants and the result is that the schools are starved from the resources they need to improve academic achievement.

All this was supposed to change when the "progressive" new Mayor, Bill de Blasio,  put in a career educator as Chancellor, Carmen Farina. However, Carmen Farina was once a supporter of the Bloomberg agenda and was Deputy Mayor under Chancellor Joel Klein before being forced out and replaced by Eric Nadelstern.  Unfortunately, Carmen Farina was not the solution as she retained many of the Bloomberg policymakers at the DOE and this translated down to the hostile classroom environment and the continuation of the "gotcha system".

In far too many schools, the school administration is not collaborative but adversarial.  They will "pop in" without notice and in your worst class, just to get you.  This is not collaboration but confrontation and makes teachers not want to go to school, change schools, or simply quit.  How is that good for the students?  Moreover, when the teaching staff believes that the school administration is out to trap them, teacher morale plummets and many teachers will no longer give that extra effort and do just enough to get the administration off their backs.  These same schools hold teachers solely accountable for student issues, being discipline, cellphone usage, or attendance, while taking no responsibility themselves.  The result is a climate of fear and an "us against them" mentality.  Not a good way to become a successful school..

On the contrary,  a successful school is a collaborative school where the school administration and the teaching staff are on the same page.  These schools will work with the teachers and give them notice that they are coming in to observe them and usually ask them which class would they like to be observed in.  This collaboration makes the teacher fell appreciated and will work that much harder to show the administration that their confidence in that teacher was warranted.  No wonder these schools never need to recruit "quality teachers".  Their reputation of being fair and supportive attracts talented teachers who don't need to continuously "look over their shoulder" fearing the "gotcha system".

An example of schools that use the "gotcha system" goes like this.  One teacher hired in his content specialty to teach Regents courses, was also given a couple of elective courses to complete his schedule.  These classes consisted of unmotivated seniors who just wanted to do a worksheet and socialize, many of them didn't need the course and was simply a fill-in to a schedule.  The administration, knowing full well these two classes were behaviorally, and academically an issue still observed the teacher in these classes rather than the content specialty he was hired to teach.  That's what I mean by the "gotcha system".  A collaborative school would be observing the teacher in his content specialty not in an elective course that is not fair or even appropriate.

Unfortunately, the "gotcha system" is alive and going strong and until the DOE leads by example and encourages schools to appreciate their teaching staff, nothing will change from the Bloomberg years.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Rumble In The Bronx, At Lehman Campus.

The once proud and prestigious Lehman High School, like many of the large comprehensive high schools including Jamaica, George Washington, and Tilden high schools to name just a few, were flooded with "high needs" students and closed due to poor performance in a deliberate action by the Bloomberg administration.  Replacing these once majestic schools were numerous small schools, known as the Bloomberg schools and when the extra financing and exclusions were eliminated, these schools defaulted to having similar academic issues as the large comprehensive high schools they replaced.  Just look at the Campus Magnet schools that replaced Andrew Jackson high school.  These four small schools are among the worst academically in Queens.  See their snapshots, Here, and Here. The other two schools are not listed since they are slated to close due to poor performance this year.

Now we see that the Lehman Campus, that includes six Bloomberg small schools, have the distinction as the fight club.  Unfortunately,  they're not fighting for better grades but rumbling outside the school.  It seems most every day somebody pulls a fire alarm and the six schools empty out onto the street near many commercial stores and start fights.  The New York Post wrote an article about it a couple of days ago.   and WABC has an article on it Here.

I guess the rumble in the Bronx has been reborn at Lehman Campus in the Bronx. Where's Jackie Chan when you need him?  Could they at least have Car 54 which was shot in the Lehman Campus area?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

It's Still Testing, Testing, And More Testing For The Teacher Evaluation System

Despite what you may be hearing from our UFT President, Michael Mukgrew, or the newspapers.  The basic teacher evaluation system remains unchanged.  True, the high-stakes Common Core based tests required by the State will not be used to rate teachers, at least for the next four years.  Instead,  the local measures, selected by the school district and approved by the State Department of Education, will be used.  The local measures are also based upon testing and it will still be 50% of a teacher's grade!  Once, educators, parents, and students realize that the teacher APPR will be unchanged and that their teacher will be teaching to the test, there will be an uproar that the State was just trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the parents.  The result will be a surge in parents opting out their children from the State and local test requirements.

Obviously, the State politicians and the education department have failed to read the anger from parents, and teachers alike and have simply added air freshener to the stinking teacher evaluation system, complete with the "junk science" of the Value Added Method (VAM) that is supposed to account for student growth but is so filled with errors and false assumptions that it's almost useless as a tool to evaluate teachers and their students. This has been exposed in the groundbreaking lawsuit by a 4th grade teacher.

Last school year saw a huge rise in the "opt out" movement in the State, with a 20% 'opt out" rate.  Once, the general public realize that the APPR has actually increased the testing component from the past 20% of a teacher's evaluation to 50%, look for a corresponding increase in the "opt out" rate.

It seems only an increasing "opt out" rate and dissatisfaction with the Governor's education agenda will end this vindictive and unfair teacher evaluation system and therefore, I support the "opt out" movement until the testing component is more realistic (5 to 10%) and fairer when it comes to grading students with age-appropriate tests.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Do Statistics Lie? When It Comes To The Regents Passing Rate The Answer Is Yes.

During my 20 years of teaching in the New York City schools, I have worked with many Science teachers.  Most of them I can say were caring, nurturing, and had the best interests of their students at heart.  However, there were a select few who did not particularly care about their students and I wrote about one colleague years ago, who is now a rotating ATR and loves the fact that he doesn't need to know his students.

There were also another group of Science teachers that I encountered at schools where I was provisionally assigned for the school year who would brag about their Regents passing rate.  One even claimed she had a 100% passing rate!    However, I must admit this group of Science teachers did have an unusually high Regents passing rate. These passing rates were high because of the large amount of students who these teachers excluded from taking the Regents.

What these Science teachers did was to ban the low achieving students from taking the Regents by giving them low marks on their weekly laboratory reports or discourage them from even attending lab!  In either case these struggling students would give up and stop attending the Science lab class and therefore be banned from taking the Science Regents.  In one outrageous case (the teacher who claimed to have a 100% Regents passing rate) a teacher had banned 50% of her classes from taking the Regents!  Worse, their Assistant Principals will crow about these Regents passing statistics, knowing full well that the high Regents passing percentage was due to the large amount of students banned from taking the Regents due to the lack of lab reports from students who were discouraged from completing the lab requirements.

Why doesn't the Assistant Principals confront these teachers?  Because the Regents passing percentage is part of the school report card and teacher evaluation grade.  Therefore, its not how many students were in Regents classes but the percentage eligible to take it!.  Hence, the reason the school administration will look the other way when these teachers exclude large number of low performing students from taking the Regents and the easiest method is to encourage them to ignore the lab requirement.

Do statistics lie?  They certainly do.  Just ask Mark Twain who was quoted in saying the following:

Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."
- Mark Twain's Own Autobiography: The Chapters from the North American Review

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.

I was very amused by UFT President Michael Mulgrew's claim of victory after the State Regents has imposed a four-year moratorium on using the Common Core based high-stakes State tests for teacher evaluation.  However, if you read carefully the State Regents is not eliminating the use of the Value Added Method (VAM) to determine teacher grades.  In fact, the VAM is still 50% of the teacher's grade, using local measures.  That means that teachers will still be evaluated based upon test scores that they may or may not control. I don't consider that a victory, just a first step in totally dismantling this punitive and vindictive system.  Let's look at the facts'

The Good: 
The unfair and not age appropriate Common Core based State tests will not be used to evaluate teachers until the tests are made more relevant (if ever) and fair.  The four-year moratorium will probably spell the end of Michael Mulgrew's Common Core and I noticed our UFT President isn't threatening to "punch the Regents in their collective faces" for passing the moratorium that probably spells doom for the Common Core in New York State.

The Bad:
The Regents still wants to push for the existing teacher evaluation system.  They are just responding to the negative reaction to the teacher evaluation system by teacher unions and parents who saw the "opt out" rate zoom to 20% of the State's students.  The Regents, State Department of Education, and Governor Cuomo  are just trying to lower the temperature and have no intention of significantly changing the teacher evaluation system while wanting to achieve a 5 to 10% teacher termination rate.

The Ugly:
The fact the a teachers grade will still be 50% of the student's VAM, based upon local measures is disgraceful.  In many cases the teacher may not even have the student in their classroom yet half their grade is based on "junk Science"!  This figure of 50% is certainly not supported by any objective research which supports a VAM of between 1% to 14%.  The large student growth factor in a teacher's evaluation is purely political and vindictive and all educators should be protesting this injustice and work for its elimination when the State legislature is up for reelection/

The bottom line, the Regents four-year moratorium is a good start but more must be done to completely dismantle the existing teacher evaluation system and replace it with a fair and appropriate teacher evaluation system that accurately grades teachers on their students while only allocating that percentage that object research has shown to be appropriate.  That is no more than 14% at the elementary school level and 5% in the secondary schools, not the 50% that the State has imposed.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

What Happened To Chancellor Carmen Farina's Promise That Principals Needed Seven Years Of School Experience?

Last year one of the very few positive changes the disappointing Chancellor, Carmen Farina, made was that graduates from the infamous "Leadership Academy" would have a minimum of seven years school pedagogical  experience before even being considered to be a Principal.  However, it appears that the Chancellor's directive is ether not being enforced or ignored by the DOE.  In today's New York Post we find an article about a newly minted Principal, Eujin Jaela Kim, age 33, who apparently has entered the New York City schools in the 2008-9 school year.  How did she circumvent the Chancellor's directive?  Well if you look at her Linked In page you see she was the Deputy Network Leader in 2011 and Director at DOE Central in 2012, before being handed the Principal's job at PS 169 (the Sunset Park School) in May of 2014. The answer to me is obvious.

According to my Math, no I don't need Common Core to figure out her actual teaching experience, she worked as a teacher for a total of 3 years and three months when she took the Deputy Network Leader position in December 2011 an administrative position. Obviously, the Bloomberg holdovers at the DOE have ignored the Chancellor's C-30 directive and allowed Eujin Jaela Kim to become Principal at the tender age of 32 years of age with less than four years of school experience either as a teacher or supervisor.  Obviously, she never was a school Assistant Principal, the logical step to become a Principal.  Was she even tenured?

With Ms. Kim's lack of actual teaching experience, she has made some very poor decisions as Principal  like banning Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the pledge of allegiance at her school and has brought national ridicule to her school and herself as well with her personal political correctness.  You can read about it in the New York Post article Here.  Is it any wonder that only 32% of the teachers trust Ms. Kim as Principal?  By the way the City average is 83%.

My question to Chancellor Carmen Farina is what good are your directives when your Bloomberg holdovers at the DOE ignores them and places a person who obviously needs more seasoning to be a Principal and does not have the support of 2 out of every 3 teachers at her school?  How can you allow these actions and that opens the school to the deserved ridicule it's now receiving?  Is this what you call a good leader and a role model for the students?  No wonder most of us believe you have been a bitter disappointment as Chancellor and your failure to clean house at Tweed is making you.look incompetent and indecisive.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Strong Union Represents Their Members And Our Union Leadership Has Come Up Short In That Duty.

I have been highly critical of our union leadership and rightfully so.  They have given us inferior contracts which was short on money and loaded with "givebacks",. made some teachers (the ATRs) second class citizens, agreed to DOE termination programs like PIP+ and now peer validators, a 3020-a process that made it easier for the DOE to terminate teachers, and made it difficult for opposition voices to be heard by imposing the "Unity oath".  In addition, the union leadership controls all appointments based upon loyalty and not ability and there is very little democracy or transparency in the union which makes it  unreceptive to positive change.

 To make matters worse, UFT President, Michael Mulgrew, has made himself unaccountable and decides, without member input, what to support.  For example, he refuses to go after vindictive principals, claiming their fellow union members while supporting the racial arsonist, Al Sharpton,  against the police who happen to also be fellow union members.  Moreover, his love affair with Chancellor, Carmen Farina, has clouded his mind in supporting the DOE's "fair student funding" that discriminates against veteran teachers.  Finally, just try to e-mail him with complaints and see where that gets you?

It appears our union leadership has decided that cooperating with the political elite is more important than representing their member interests.  For example they supported the APPR that gave us the god awful teacher evaluation program, complete with junk science and their failure to support the "opt out" movement was a dereliction of their duty to support their main constituency, the teachers. Furthermore, the UFT is the only union that allowed the City to make some of their members, the ATRs, second class citizens.  No other union allowed this to happen, be it DC37, the uniformed unions, or any other municipal union for that matter.  Finally, the union leadership has shown, time and again, that they are disconnected to member concerns.  They look the other way when they see  schools using uncertified teachers to teach Regents subjects,  ignored the use of a sixth period class to save on teacher hiring at the expense of the students and the veteran teachers in the ATR pool. Worst of all, they allow vindictive principals to continue to run their schools undisturbed despite these principals who make teaching in their school a living hell.

While I have not decided who to support in the upcoming election, the "Unity Caucus" has proven to me to put their own interests first and that is a problem and voting for them is certainly not the solution in making our teaching profession the once proud job it once was. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Goivernor Cuomo's Common Core Panel Is Recommending A Moratorium On Teacher Evaluations For The High Stakes State Tests.

The large and ever growing "opt out" movement has apparently scared Governor Cuomo enough that his hand-picked Common Core Task Force will recommend an up to four year moratorium on linking teacher evaluations to the Common Core tests. Moreover, many of the Common Core Task Force's  other recommendations address the "opt out"movement complaints.  They are as follows:

  1. A moratorium of up to four years to decouple the teacher evaluation system until a fairer and more transparent system is developed.
  2. A slower roll out of the revised Common Core standards and increased flexibility to allow educators to create curriculum aligned to student needs.
  3. Shorter, fairer,  and more age appropriate tests will be developed and older tests will be made available to teachers as review material like Regents are presently.
While the Governor's Common Core Task Force was not empowered to address the teacher evaluation system.  It felt compelled to do so since most of the support of the "opt out" movement was due to the opposition of parents who objected to the linkage of the teacher evaluation to student test scores.  With the Governor's poll ratings in the toilet due to the education agenda he rammed through the State Legislature, it will be interesting to see if he decides to follow the recommendations of his hand-picked Common Core Task Force.


Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The De Blasio/Farina Renewal School Goals Are A Joke!

Finally,  Chancellor Carmen Farina has made public the goals for the 94 renewal schools and the pumping in an extra $400 million dollars that will achieve these goals and the consensus is that they the renewal goals were found to be deficient.  In fact, they are riddled with the potential for academic fraud and goals that are either beyond reality without massive academic fraud or are so low that some schools have already met them without any extra resources.

Many of the renewal schools were supposed to hire carefully selected "effective teachers" for their schools.  However, due to the DOE's "fair student funding" and the refusal of many vetted teachers to risk their careers at these poorly performing renewal schools, the majority of teachers hired were "untested newbies".  Moreover, the poor reputation of the renewal schools ensured that the student population remained unchanged and few, if any, high performing students selected these poorly performing schools.  Finally, many of the principals of the renewal schools came from the "Leadership Academy" with little or no classroom teaching experience and rather than collaborate with staff, rather dictate to them, meaning a continued high teacher turnover rate and unstable school environment. When you put together the lack of effective teachers, an academically struggling student population, high teacher turnover, and poor leadership, the results are fairly predictable for most, if not all the 94 renewal schools.  That is a recipe for failure. Therefore, its little wonder that the City's renewal goals are being  severely questioned.

For example the goal for John Adams High School is to have a "College Readiness Score" of 15.6% by 2016.  However, in the latest school 2014-15 snapshot the "College Readiness Score" was 20.2%!  Worse, many of the renewal high schools have a three year graduation rate goal that requires a 17% increase from last years rate.  How in the world will these schools come close to achieve this without "effective teachers"?   The answer is simple.  I believe these renewal school principals will put intense pressure on their inexperienced staff to pass struggling students just to graduate them..  Its scholarship over real education.  In other words, its academic fraud.

The bottom line is that I am highly skeptical that Bill de Blasio and Carmen Farina will achieve the benchmark goals for the 94 renewal schools without a large amount of academic fraud.  To me the renewal school goals stink and are simply a joke.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

A Week Of Principals Acting Badly.

Here we go again and the newspapers and blogs are full of principals who are acting badly.  Be it having their own personal shower and refusing to supply a key to it to others, a Principal who's decision cost the DOE over $100,000 to settle a case against her, and least we forget the four principals at a campus who tried to bully and jeopardize the safety of their staff into using the same door as the students while allowing themselves use of a separate door to their cars in the parking lot.  Yes, this was a bad week for principals and what has our disappointing Chancellor did about it?  Nothing.  Nothing whatsoever!

First, there was the Principal of DeWitt Clinton High School Santiago Traveras who embarrassed the DOE when the New York Post exposed his personal bathroom with a shower in it.  You can read the entire sorry Santiago Traveras story Here.  Now it seems the DOE, clearly embarrassed by the shower, went into the school and dismantled the shower.  According to the New York Post, the key to the locked door that contained the shower could not be found and the workmen had to use a drill to get it open!  Yet Chancellor Carmen Farina has allowed Principal Santiago Traveras to remain as Principal.  Go figure?

Second, was the Principal of William Cullen Bryant High School, Namita Dwarka who has somehow remained in charge of her school despite the many allegations and investigations lodged against her and her administration.  You can find all the sordid details Here.  Now it seems one teacher won a major settlement against her and the DOE, rather than defend her, decided to pay off the teacher, remove the bogus 3020-charges she filed against him, and sent him to the ATR pool in the Bronx The Daily News article can be found Here.  This is just another reason that Namita Dwarka should have been removed from her position but has Chancellor Carmen Farina done so?  Of course not!

Finally, the four principals at Springfield Gardens Campus acted badly when they decided to force the campus staff to use the same door to enter and leave the budding with the students, while exempting school administrators from the requirement..  In fact, one Principal was ready to hold  a disciplinary hearing against a teacher who accidentally used a different door to exit the school on the first day of the new rules.  The entire punitive and vindictive story can be found in my blog Here.  Will any of these principals be disciplined for their poor decision making that the DOE was forced to rescind when a grievance was filed?.  Yeah right, if you believe in the tooth fairy.

The UFT and DOE talk about collaboration and a new tone but these cases highlight the double standard the DOE practices when it comes to principals acting badly, a hallmark of the previous Bloomberg Administration and continues under Bill de Blasio..

Friday, December 04, 2015

Sometimes Our Union Does Protect Their Members.

I have been extremely critical of our union leadership and rightly so, as they seem to care more about their political views than what's important to the members.  Examples were the inferior contract to make Mayor Bill de Blasio look good, the support of the APPR that no sane teacher likes or wants, and our President's active support of the destructive Common Core.  Furthermore, lets not forget how our union failed to support the "opt out" movement.  However, for once, our union leadership stood up for the staff at one large campus where the DOE tried to force the staff to enter and leave through one set of doors with the campuses students, a real concern and a safety issue.  Yes, the same old DOE that is permeated with the Bloomberg ideology, that treats teachers like unwanted orphans rather than the professionals they are.

The DOE and the four school administrations at the campus decided, without staff input or safety considerations,  that all staff, with the exception of school administrators, would enter or leave the campus through one set of doors.  It mattered little to the DOE that the school administrators carved out an exception for them and granted themselves access to a separate set of doors near the small parking lot that they parked in.    This was not only unfair, but violates the UFT/DOE contract.  Thanks to the union, a grievance was filed about the punitive and unfair treatment to staff that deprived them access to the staircases in and out of  main parking lot and required staff to squeeze through one set of doors with the students.  The DOE, faced with a potential defeat that could affect all schools, decided to compromise with the campus staff and reopened the doors to the staff parking lot for all campus staff.

Special thanks is afforded to UFT Borough President Rona Freiser, Special Representative Washington Sanchez, and the campus Chapter Leaders who filed the safety grievance and forced the DOE's hand that gave the campus staff back their parking privileges and staircases that makes it more convenient and safer for all staff.  Admittedly, without the support of the Queens UFT leadership this victory may not have happened and I applaud them for supporting the campus staff in maintaining our rights.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Why The City Wants Veteran Teachers To Leave Teaching. Its About The Pension!

The DOE has encouraged many veteran teachers to leave teaching in the City schools and while some of the reasons are the rise of the "Leadership Academy Principal" (about 20% of all principals), the salary and health benefits, and the institutional knowledge that is a danger to the administration who want teachers to jump through hoops and not question their authority.  It matters little what the City administration is in charge.  Be it Dinkins, Gulliani, Bloomberg, and now De Blasio, its all about the pension!

You see, the majority of teachers in the system are Tier IV and when these teachers leave the school system they are replaced by a Tier VI "newbie".  Not only does the City save on their salary, as much as $54,000 yearly but the big money is the potential savings on the pension.  You see, the Tier IV teachers are already vested, or about to be so.  While the Tier VI teachers have almost a decade to go just to be vested and a study done predicts that less than one out of three will make it to full retirement age and only 40% will last long enough to get vested and receive even a minimal pension. Moreover, while most Tier IV employees only pay 3% annually to their pension and that ends after ten years, the Tier VI "newbie" starts at 3.5% and must pay up to 6% annually until they resign or retire.  Finally, while the Tier IV teacher can retire on a full pension as early as age 55, the Tier VI teacher must wait to age 63.

To further dilute the Tier VI pension, the adjustment factor used to determine the pension is 0.25 less than that for a Tier IV pension.  The Tier IV teacher is awarded 2% annually, while the Tier VI teacher only gets 1.75%.  Furthermore, the very cherished retiree health benefits is achieved after ten years by most Tier IV teachers while for Tier VI teachers it will take fifteen years.  Finally, and most importantly, the Final Average Salary (FAS) is the highest consecutive five years for Tier VI teachers, compared to the FAS of three highest consecutive years for Tier IV teachers.  Let's look at a summary of the differences.

Information.......Tier IV......................Tier VI
FAS....................3 years....................5 years
Health................10 years..................15 years

For a more detailed comparison see my blog posts Here  or Here.

Now you understand why the City and the DOE wants to get rid of veteran teachers its all about the pension!

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Is Andrew Cuomo's Pivot On Teacher Evaluations Real? I Don't Believe It Is.

Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo, after seeing his poll numbers plummet and his education agenda under attack by parents, teachers, and School Superintendents, has apparently made an about face on tying in teacher grades with student growth.  The Governor's apparent change of heart was the ever growing "opt out" movement that saw 20% of the students Statewide, boycott the high-stakes Common Core tests.  Worse for the Governor was the 50% "opt out" rate in solidly middle class Long Island communities and 40% in the suburban  upstate communities.  Finally, the shocking realization by the Governor that 75% of the parents who "opted out" their child, objected to the teacher evaluation tie-in to these Common Core high-stakes tests.

 The question is he serious about reducing or eliminating the teacher evaluation tie-in to the student growth scores?  I believe he is not. This is only a ploy to defuse the highly embarrassing "opt out" rate of the State's students that some believe will approach 50% Statewide and could go higher if the UFT and other large teacher unions push the issue.  I believe the Governor is just blowing smoke and has no intention of changing his much criticized education agenda.  Sure, there will be some minor tinkering and more flexibility in the teacher evaluation system.  However, once the March-April testing period ends,  watch as the Governor refuses to significantly change the more punitive part of the teacher evaluation system, that is the 50% grade, based upon those tests will remain unchanged.

If the Governor was serious, he would ask the Legislature to make the changes rather than continue with his committees who only make non-biding recommendations that the Governor will either accept or ignore,  Furthermore, in an interview with an education reform group, he expressed his continued support of a more punitive teacher evaluation and his tone was about punishing teachers rather than improving student academic achievement.

Is the Governor just blowing smoke to try to defuse the ever growing "opt out" movement or is he finally realizing that going after teachers and their unions hurts his poll ratings and alienating the middle class parents, the mainstay of the voting system, could result in his losing the Governor's Office and any other elected position he runs for.

While I am hopeful that Governor Andrew Cuomo has finally seen the light, my gut feeling is that his pivot on the teacher evaluation system tie-in is simply a ploy to defuse the "opt out" movement  and will fight tooth and nail in defending his education agenda.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

In The DOE Its Still All About The Graduation Rate Not The Student's Education.

Once again the New York Post exposes academic fraud in the New York City Public Schools.  This time it's the Principal of DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx.  According to the Post article, the Principal,  Santiago Taveras, is accused to have changed grades from failing to passing, despite no sign off from the teachers, all in an attempt to artificially raise the school's anemic graduation rate.  Is Mr Traveras alone in this academic fraud?  No! I'm sure if the Special Commissioner of Investigations (SCI) really was on the ball, they would find dozens of principals committing similar academic fraud.

The interesting part of the Post article is that the present Principal was a Deputy Chancellor under Klein and resigned after Cathie Black took over.  Mr. Traveras was the DOE executioner that closed many of the comprehensive high schools and sat impassivelyat hearings as parents, students, and teachers pleaded with him to keep their school open.  He tried his hand in private industry but decided (or was pushed out) to come back to the DOE who, in the closing months of the Bloomberg Administration, Chancellor Dennis Walcott  offered him the Executive  Principal's job at DeWitt Clinton High School, a renewal school.  Unfortunately, Mr. Traveras brings with him some heavy baggage from his Bloomberg years such as the policy in artificially raising the graduation rate by any means possible to achieve a high letter grade and scholarship over real education, a hallmark of the Bloomberg years.

Making Santiago Traveras a Principal at a renewal school is more the problem than a solution as he uses the same old academic fraud tricks ;like changing grades, questionable credit recovery, and pressuring teachers to pass undeserving students by demanding a high scholarship percentage.  Moreover, his trust factor by staff is below average and the college readiness rate is 19%.  Not an encouraging number to me. Finally, under Principal Santiago Traveras, the school has utterly failed to close the academic achievement gap and despite his Bloomberg inspired policies, the school's graduation rate is  only 46%!

While SCI is currently investigating the alleged academic fraud at DeWitt Clinton High School, the DOE has chosen to leave Mr. Traveras in place as its Principal which just goes to prove the more things change the more they stay the same when it comes to the DOE.

Friday, November 27, 2015

How Much Is Your Pension Reduced By Taking A Loan Out At Retirement?

Some educators believe its a good idea to take a loan from their pension just before retirement and use that money to fund a large ticket item or invest it into the equity market.  These educators can take up to 75% of their pension money (QPP) out of the pension system and still get a good pension.  However, before an educator should take money out of their pension contribution, they should know how much their pension would be reduced on an annual basis.

Since most educators who want a full pension retire at 60 or later and want to get Medicare (65) and Social Security (62 to 70), I used the range from 60 to 70 years of age to calculate the amount an educator's pension will be reduced by taking out a loan just before retirement.

Age....Annual Reduction Factor.....% Reduced per $1000

FRA   Full Retirement Age and Reduced Social Security.
MED  Medicare
FSS   Full Social Security.
MSS  Maximum Social Security (32% greater than FSS).

 Let's look at three examples and how each would have their pension reduced by taking out a loan just before retirement,

For example let's look at educator #1,  She has reached retirement age of 62 years old and gets a full 25 year pension ($50,000).  She takes the maximum pension, with no beneficiaries.  However, she decides to take 75% of her QPP ($40,000) and use it to put a down payment on a retirement condo in Florida.

Pension - (QPP loan x % reduced) = Adjusted pension.

$50,000 - ($40,000 x 6.133%) = $47,547 .

 Therefore, her pension is permanently reduced by $2,453 annually. Moreover, unless the educator puts the QPP money she withdrew in a tax deferred account (IRA), she would need to pay taxes on the money.  Consequently, short term gain will result in long term pain from a reduced pension during her lifetime.

Then there is educator #2  who is 66 years old and he waited so that he could retire with full Social Security benefits.  He worked 20 years as a second career teacher and decided to rollover 50% of his QPP to an IRA so as not to be taxed on the withdrawal.. He will use the IRA to fund a custodial account for his grandchildren.  He took the option (option #1) that gives his spouse 100% of his pension if he dies.  Therefore, his pension is as follows:

(Pension x 0.85) - (QPP loan x % reduced) = Adjusted pension

($40,000 x 0.85) - ($20,000 x 6,885%)  =  $32,623

Therefore, his pension will be permanently reduced by $1,377 annually.

Finally, there is educator #3.  She has 30 years in the system and retires at the ripe age of 70.  She takes the maximum 75% QPP loan which, in her case is $50,000.  She wants to use the money to travel the world and doesn't care about reducing her pension or the tax consequences since she waited to this age to collect Social Security and will be subject to the RMD anyway next year.  She has no beneficiaries.

Pension - (QPP loan x % reduced) = Adjusted pension

$60,000 -($50,000 x 7.898%) = $56,051

Therefore her pension will be permanently reduced by $3,949 annually.

All three educator FAS was assumed to be $100,000 for simplicity.

I take no position on the taking of a QPP loan at retirement.  It's a personal decision that every educator must decide on.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Winners Of The 2015 Golden Turkey Award.

Today is Thanksgiving and its time for my annual turkey award for those leaders who have hurt education and made the classroom environment an unwelcome place to be. This year features a three time winner, an increasingly unpopular Governor, and a Mayor who can't seem to live up to his promises.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew:
Michael Mulgrew has done little to  gain member confidence and his arrogance when it comes to member complaints by trashing their e-mails has made him and his Unity caucus increasingly unaccountable for their actions.  Under Mulgrew the "Unity oath" is more important than member concerns and his support of Common Core and the APPR while refusing to support the growing "opt out" movement is at odds with teachers, the majority of the UFT.  Moreover, his cozy relationship with Carmen Farina and the failure to get the Chancellor to significantly change the DOE's "gotcha system" is proof positive of Mr. Mulgrew's uncaring attitude toward his membership.  Finally, his treatment of the ATRs by not only agreeing to make them second class citizens but has allowed the DOE to unleash the ATR field assassins on the ATRs to get them to resign or retire is unacceptable to many.  When was the last time Michael Mulgrew took the bull by the horns?  Instead he sits back and watches his members get gored.  This makes Michael Mulgrew a three time winner of the golden turkey award. A more complete analysis of Michael Mulgrew can be found in my series Here.

Governor Andrew Cuomo:
The Governor's onslaught on the teaching profession ended with the most punitive teacher evaluation system in the nation which allowed the "junk science" in the form of the "Value Added  Method" to account for 50% of a teachers grade. The result was an increased "opt out" movement and an erosion of the Governor's status in polls.  The fact that these high-stakes Common Core based tests did not count for the students.but only for teachers was a red flag for concerned parents who realized that teachers would forgo total education instruction in favor of the "drill and kill" test preparation for English and Math.  The result was an ever growing "opt out" movement and dissatisfaction with the Governor. Now the Governor is quickly backtracking and may eliminate his teacher evaluation tie-in  using VAM entirely.

Mayor Bill de Blasio:
To say the Mayor has been a disappointment is an understatement.  His failure to reduce class size and overcrowding is a glaring example of his inept administration.  Furthermore, the Mayor has lost the public relations war with the Charter schools and was made impotent by the pro-charter Governor. Under Bill de Blasio's handpicked Chancellor the Bloomberg era policies remain intact and the policymakers that gave us "fair student funding" and the "gotcha" system that's still in force.  Finally, the vastly inferior contract that he and Michael Mulgrew agreed to has allowed the City to have a $6 billion dollar surplus while resources remain scarce and school budgets frozen from the recession years as the Bloomberg education on the cheap policy continues under Bill de Blasio.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Has The Union Leadership Sold The ATRs Out?

I am increasingly concerned over the fate of many ATRs in rotation as they are being increasingly harassed by the DOE to include Danielson, Common Core, and rigor in their lesson, despite the ATR being subject to "the teaching for the 21st century"  Article 8j in the contract.  When ATRs complain to the union leadership about the unrealistic expectations that the ATR field supervisors assassins require, the union leadership just shrugs their collective shoulders and do nothing to help the ATR.

There are too many people contacting me about their field assassins giving them "Unsatisfactory" observations.  These field assassins find fault with the ATR for not giving a coherent lesson (Dainelson), classroom management, or rigor.  It matters little that in far too many cases the ATR is only providing the work the classroom teacher has left.  Since the ATR does not know the students and has no ownership of their grades, it is unrealistic to expect students to be well behaved and engaged in the assignment unless you are in one of the top schools in the city.  Yet the ATR field assassins demand this impossible task.  Moreover, if am incident with a student occurs and the building Principal gives the ATR a Letter-To-The-File, it automatically triggers an "Unsatisfactory" rating for that year!  Despite the ATR having satisfactory observations throughout the school year.  That means that the ATR cannot teach summer school, do per session grading, and other income producing activities in the DOE.  Finally, if the ATR takes more than ten sick days in any one year, the ATR will be rated "Unsatisfactory" by the field supervisor unless the ATR took FILMA (unpaid family leave).  I already know three ATRs who were rated "Unsatisfactory" for taking more than 10 sick days and one of them had 150 sick days in his CAR!

It appears to me that the UFT is not only looking the other way when it comes to the abusive ATR field assassins but is quietly supporting the DOE in their attempt to demoralize, defame, and destroy the ATRs and force them to either retire or resign by making them second class citizens and allowing the ATR field assassins to demand unrealistic expectations and when the ATR cannot possibly deliver, "U rate" them and possibly terminate them with two consecutive "Unsatisfactory" rating.

With friends like our union leadership, who needs enemies when you are a rotating ATR?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The DOE Double Standard Continues Under Renewal Superintendent Amiee Horowitz.

Here will go again!  Another scandal has been exposed under renewal Superintendent Amiee Horowitz as she allowed a removed Principal, due to her alleged sexual misconduct with school personnel and a child's parent. to teach English at the nearly all male Automotive High School.  Yes, the very same Automotive High School that the DOE falsely promised to hire a top quality teaching staff only to fill the vacant positions with "newbie teachers" with no classroom experience and it seems a teacher who should not have any contact with students due to her alleged sexual misconduct.

The story starts with the then Leadership Academy Principal of Robert Wagner High School,  Annie Schmutz Selfullah being removed from her position as various allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced between her and a student's parent as well as other people inside the school. While you can say that they are all adults except that sex in the school is considered extreme misconduct and should have resulted in her firing, especially in the DOE's alleged zero tolerance policy that is not enforced for administrators. Moreover, her affair with a student's parent is unseemly.  The DOE removed the Principal but did not file 3020-a charges and said that she will never be put in a position that exposes her to children.  Yeah, right?

Now it appears the DOE quietly allowed Superintendent Amiee Horowitz and the embittered Principal of Automotive High School to quietly hire the ex-Principal as an English teacher.  Unfortunately, for the troubled school the students checked on her and found the sex scandal.   Ms. Selfullah left the classroom and ran out of the building when confronted with her past by her students.  The DOE claimed it was a mistake that Ms. Selfullah was assigned as a teacher.  However, one must think that a competent Superintendent and Principal would have done some checking and realized that Ms. Selfullah should not be with students.  Therefore, the blame lies with the renewal Superintendent Amiee Horowitz and the Principal of Automotive High School, Lafergola who did not do their "due diligence" or just ignored Ms, Selfullah's alleged sexual misconduct.  Either way, they are both culpable for the disgraceful action of putting, as the New York Post states "a cougar in a den of cubs".

Just another poor decision made by renewal Superintendent  Amiee Horowitz but then we all have learned that seems to be the a recurring pattern in her inept administration.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Why The NYU Study On The Closed Schools, When Replaced By Small Schools, Is Fatally Flawed.

This week, NYU released a study showing that students fared better with the closing of the many large comprehensive high schools and replaced by the Bloomberg small schools. The basis for the study's conclusion was the increased graduation rate from the small schools when compared to the closed schools.  However, the study is fatally flawed since the graduation rate is a bogus parameter and easily manipulated by the school Principal to allow students to graduate academically unprepared for college and career.  Let's look at how schools manipulate the graduation rate.

First, a little history.  During the 2002-08 time period the study looked at 29 closed high schools and the results for future students who instead went to the Bloomberg small schools which showed a 15% increase in the graduation rate.  However, the study admits that students who fled these closing schools did worse then the ones who stayed and graduated,  Moreover, these students who fled were academically behind their peers in the new schools they transferred to.

Credit Recovery:
During the time period the study covered there was an explosion of credit recovery courses that artificially increased a struggling student's credit accumulation.  Even the State finally saw the abuse of the credit recovery system and required the City to put an end to it in 2012.  The primary beneficiaries were the Bloomberg small schools who needed to have a high graduation rate to show how successful they were.  Therefore, they gave struggling students loads of "credit recovery" courses, many of them were bogus.  You can read some of the stories, Here, Here, and Here.

Principal Pressure:
The Bloomberg small schools were notorious in hiring "newbie teachers"  and since these teachers lacked tenure, they were pressured to pass along the school's struggling students.  Teachers who failed too many of their students were discontinued due to scholarship issues and were banned from working at the DOE.  This message resonated loud and clear with the inexperienced staff and resulted in high graduation rates despite these students academically unable to succeed in college or careers.

Student Selection: 
To ensure the Bloomberg small schools would succeed they opened with some very significant advantages like excluding many ELL;s and Special Education students the first few years of their operation.  Further, they limited "high needs" students (namely level 1's) and were given 110% of the resources allocated to the school of similar size and student demographics.   These significant advantages were, in contrast to the higher levels of "high needs" , ELL's, and Special Education students that were in the soon to be closed large comprehensive large schools.  Moreover, these soon to be closed schools were starved for resources and averaged 80% of what similar large comprehensive schools received.  The Bloomberg small school I am in for this year is a prime example as they were once a high achieving school in the mid 2000's, when it first opened.  and now they struggle to get even mediocre, students to go to the school as their funding advantage disappeared and they could no longer exclude students. The resulting influx of "high needs" students has destabilized the school environment.

When you put the three aspects together, the bogus "credit recovery" programs, Principal pressure to  graduate academically unprepared students, and the deliberate advantages that the Bloomberg administration bestowed on his newly created schools, you basically are getting a higher graduation rate at these small schools, when compared to the closed large comprehensive schools.  However, what's more telling is the low college and career readiness scores that show that many of the Bloomberg small school are graduating students who are unprepared for college or careers in the adult world. That's why the NYU report is fatally flawed.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

School Overcrowding And Larger Class Sizes Is The Hallmark Of The De Blasio Administration.

Despite assurances and campaign promises by Bill de Blasio to reduce class size and build more classrooms to alleviate school overcrowding, it turns out that class sizes have actually risen and school overcrowding continues unabated.

First, the New York City Public School Parents blog shows that class sizes have actually rose during the first two years of the De Blasio/Farina Administration.  According to the blog, the DOE's own 2014-15 data shows that class sizes rose 0.1 to an average of 26.4 students per classroom from the previous school year and since the 2007-08 school year, the average class size has increased an astounding 8.32%.

Second, there are 540,000 students who are attending overcrowded public schools or about 50% of the New York City Public School students.  Worse are the schools in the immigrant communities where for every 1% increase in the immigrant population, there is a need for 100 more classroom seats.  Unfortunately, the City only projects to add 33,000 seats when the minimum needed is 49,000 and some groups claim it should be 100,000 new seats to account for the under counting of illegal these largely immigrant communities.

Finally, unreasonably tight school budgets that average 14% lower than in 2007-08 and kept frozen the last two years despite the City's 6 Billion dollar surplus along with the unfair fair student funding  continued school overcrowding and large class sizes will make student academic achievement a struggle.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

It May Be A Different Administration But When It Comes To Teacher Discipline, It's The Same Old DOE!

The end of the Bloomberg administration was greeted with universal joy by the teachers and other staff members of the New York City Public Schools.  Even principals, except for the Leadership Academy graduates, were happy to get rid of the Bloomberg policies that hurt their schools.  However, educator joy has been replaced by a realization that for the schools little has changed.  The class sizes have remained unreasonably high, school budgets were frozen at the  recession levels of 2012, paperwork has not been reduced and even increased for Special Education teachers, and  much of the Bloomberg policymakers are still in charge.  When it comes to teacher discipline, the amount of 3020-a hearing have remained essentially unchanged from the last years of the Bloomberg administration.

The DOE's Office of Legal Services will go to great lengths to terminate a teacher by embellishing, perverting, lying, and falsifying innocent actions into serious misconduct. This is typical of this office during the Bloomberg years and unless the teacher was willing to fight the 3020-a charges, many were not and took a settlement to retire, resign, or plead guilty to keep their job and be thrown into the ATR pool, they would be reassigned for a year or more waiting to defend themselves and require the DOE to prove their case. Unfortunately, only 4% are found innocent since the State Arbitrators are appointed to one year terms and either the DOE or UFT can refuse to reappoint the Arbitrator.  Therefore, the Arbitrator will usually give a fine to teachers even when the DOE did not prove their case.  On the other hand, about 8% of the educators are terminated but when you add the resignations and forced retirements, the number jumps to 55%!  Our out of touch leader, Michael Mulgrew, promised a new tone at the DOE, instead we see that Chancellor Carmen Farina, is part of the problem and not the solution as she retained the Bloomberg 300 in their policy making positions. Is it any wonder that the classroom teacher sees little change in the "gotcha mentality" coming from the DOE?

Now the New York Post reports on a 60 year old teacher who was forced to resign under the threat of termination by the DOE.  The teacher, a 29 year teacher who was legally blind and walks with a cane was charged under 3020-a with DOE trumped up charges of drinking alcohol and sexual harassment.  What did this teacher do?  A parent thought she smelled alcohol on the teacher's breath when it turned out that he had a bad breath issue and used Listerine, which is alcohol based (25%).  Yet, the DOE didn't buy it.  The Office of Legal Services believed the parent and reassigned the teacher to the "rubber room" yes, they still exist.  The DOE eventually charged the teacher under section 3020-a with drinking alcohol on school grounds and added sexual harassment charges to boot.  What was the sexual harassment? . The teacher was joking with a group of moms and asked them who wants a blind date with me?  Even if he wasn't joking, what's wrong with one adult asking another for a date? The teacher retired hoping that his good name will remain undamaged.  However, if he tries to get a job with the DOE or DOE provider, he will find he cannot be hired since the DOE will have put a "do not hire" flag on his file.

This is just another of the many questionable cases the DOE's Office of Legal Services brings to intimidate teachers and force them to retire or resign rather then going through long and demoralizing 3020-a hearing where your moral character is made out to be a cross between "Jack the Ripper" and "Typhoid Mary" besides being a danger to the children.  It may be a new administration but for teachers in the trenches facing discipline, it's still the same old DOE.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Why Aren't Parents Being Held Accountable For Their Child's Absenteeism?

The New York Post published an article that showed that many Elementary and Middle School students were chronically absent.  Every study shows that children who are absent from school for a period of time  are likely to fail and drop out in high school.  However, unlike high school, parents weld the most influence on their child and allowing their child to be absent is their fault and nobody else. 

According to the article PS 396 in East New York Brooklyn had an astounding 58% of its students were chronically absent last year.  Other schools with high absenteeism rates were PS 50 and PS 123 in Harlem at 50% and at PS 112 in the Bronx 47% were chronically absent. All of these schools are in the poorest neighborhoods in the city and have a 100% minority population. Overall there were 127 elementary and middle schools that had 40% of their students defined as chronically absent.  Is it any wonder that these schools academically struggle?  In fact, Researchers have long noted a correlation between school attendance and academic performance, and 18 schools with the most absentee students have landed on the city and state list of academic laggards.

Blaming educators, be in school principals, teachers, and support staff for the academic failure of these students is not only unfair but wrong and not holding parents accountable is the primary cause for student academic failure in the elementary and middle school years.  Its time for politicians to stop blaming educators and make parents and guardians accountable for their child's high absentee rate and poor academic achievement.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The College Acceptance Rate Increase Hides The Fact That Most NYC High School Graduates Are Not College Ready.

The Bill De Blasio and Carmen Farina Administration were greeted with some good news that there was a bump upward that high school graduates were applying for college and career occupations in higher numbers.  According to the New York Daily News, 53% of New York City high school graduates applied to college, vocational schools, or civil service careers.  This is an increase of 2% over the year before and was hailed by Chancellor Carmen Farina.  However, if one looks deeper into the number there are some very disturbing issues that are buried in the so called good news.

First, applying and being accepted does not mean they actually finish and in far too many cases many drop or fail out before completing their education. In a study done by NYU in 2014 only 36% of all New York City high school graduates ( 25% for CUNY Community Colleges) that entered college received a 2 or 4 year degree

Second, the increase in remedial course work to 78.3% of all high school graduates who attained CUNY Community College is highly disheartening, meaning that many high school graduates are given worthless credits (credit recovery) to push them out and help devalue the high school diploma and the colleges know it..

Finally, the college recruiters are well aware that many New York City high schools give free or easy credits to pad a student's transcript. It's no secret that the college Math, English, and Writing tests to prospective students are given to identify students who were educationally deficient and most take these no credit remedial courses before doing college level course work.  In the last known study over 22% of New York City high school graduates needed triple remediation before taking college courses and few of these students persevered to complete a degree but by then its not a public school problem..

Until the remedial course work is no longer necessary, many colleges will question the educational value of the New York City high school diploma.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Media Bias Against The "Opt Out" Movement.

If you read the various newspaper editorials, they would have you believe that the growing anger against the Common Core based high-stakes testing is spearheaded by the teacher unions and a few parent advocates,  despite the poll that parents blamed hated these tests and are against them by a 2 to 1 magin!  These editorials claim that the State's faulty roll out of the Common Core based high-stakes testing simply needs to be fine-tuned and not what it really needs a complete overhaul.   Moreover, they applaud the Cuomo inspired punitive teacher evaluation system and ignore the fact that one of the very same newspapers showed that 75% of the parents "opted out" their child because of the teacher tie-in.

The recurring theme by the newspaper editorial boards is that the teacher evaluation system is a wonderful way to hold teachers accountable for 50% of a student's test score despite the fact that a teacher only accounts for between 1% to 14% of a student's academic growth.  That the newspapers ignore this inconvenient truth is perfectly fine with them.  Who in their right mind believes that one teacher can account for 50% of a student's academic growth when various studies show that 80% of a child's academic achievement is based on social-economic factors?  Moreover, the Value Added Method (VAM) has proven to be unreliable with errors so large that a teacher could be rated "highly effective" one year and "ineffective" the next?  No wonder the VAM is known as Junk Science!

Despite the newspaper editorial boards the anger against high-stakes testing and the punitive teacher tie-in will continue to increase and the 20% of students who "opted out" last year is expected to rise this Spring and just maybe our politicians will finally see the light and demand a complete overhaul of the teacher evaluation system and eliminate the insane Common Core testing regime that has fueled anger and contempt from parents and educators alike throughout the State.