Wednesday, December 30, 2015
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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 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 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
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:
- A moratorium of up to four years to decouple the teacher evaluation system until a fairer and more transparent system is developed.
- A slower roll out of the revised Common Core standards and increased flexibility to allow educators to create curriculum aligned to student needs.
- 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.
Tuesday, December 08, 2015
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
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
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
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
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.