Back in 2005, with the implementation of the terrible contract our union leadership negotiated with the City. One of the many "givebacks" that our union surrendered to the City was the right to bump untenured teachers out of their position if you were excessed from your school. Moreover, the salaries of staff were in units and did not affect the school's budget, no matter how much a teacher made. However, after the implementation of the 2005 contract, thew union allowed the DOE to change their teacher funding mechanism and the unit method was replaced with actual salaries. The result was the "fair student funding" that encouraged principals to hire the "cheapest and not the best teachers" for their schools as their ever tightening budget made it painful to hire an experienced teacher. The result, was a pool of excessed teachers called the Absent teacher Reserve or known as the ATR.
The ATR pool consists of between 2,600 to 1,000 ATRs annually. Some are covering for leave replacements, others are in provisional vacancies for the rest of the year, while a good 50% are rotating from school to school during the school year. While the former two groups are not considered ATRs by the DOE and UFT in their statistics to the media, they are ATRs and they know it since they have a snowball's chance in hell of being appointed and have their salary on the school's budget. The average age of ATRs are in their 50's, have over 15 years of experience, and make $87,000 annually.
The Union leadership will claim that the ATRs are temporary status employees and don't need their own chapter. However, since when is temporary when some ATRs have been in the pool for almost a decade? How can the ATR be adequately represented by the Chapter Leader of the school that they are rotated into? The ATRs rarely meet the Chapter Leader and in my time I rotated, I met less than 25% of the Chapter Leaders and few ever bothered to introduce themselves to me. Not only are ATRs being treated as "second class citizens" by the DOE but are regarded as unwanted orphans by the union leadership. ATR's need to be represented by having their own chapter to advocate for them since our disconnected union leadership has done a poor job in protecting the ATR by allowing the DOE to impose different rules for the ATRs, likemissing two mandated interviewswill result in termination, lack of mutual consent, the vaguely defined "problematic behavior" clause, and the expedited 3020-a hearing.
The bottom line, I want a Chapter Leader to represent the ATRs not rely on the school's Chapter Leader who does not know you or what's it like to be an ATR.
I have always claimed that the NYCDOE does not put "children first" but actually they don't care about the students or as I call it their "children last" policy. Despite the disappointing Chancellor's claim that she wants the best for the students of the City, her actions demonstrate that its still all about the DOE's budget priorities and not what's best for the students.
The prime evidence of the DOE's "children last" policy is their continuation of the "fair student funding" that penalizes schools for hiring highly experienced teachers. Last year due to retirements and the end of a hiring freeze that was always a joke to savvy principals who knew how to circumvent the restrictions or were secretly given exemptions, 6,000 vacancies had to be filled. However, few of those vacancies went to experienced and tenured teachers, most hires were "newbies" with no track record and principals closed their collective eyes to the potential damage some of these teachers could and did to their students. This situation was especially true in schools with "Leadership Academy Principals", many with little classroom experience and were afraid that a highly experienced teacher would question the dubious decisions by these administrators. The result was that combined with the "fair student funding", encouraged principals to hire the "cheapest and not the best" teachers for their students.
A prime example of the DOE's short-sighted approach was the travesty that transpired at Hillside Arts And Letters Academy, one of the small schools that replaced Jamaica High School. The Leadership Academy Principal who was the founding Principal of the school needed to hire an Earth Science teacher in their second year. After going through a phoney interview process, he hired a "newbie teacher" who apparently had poor pedagogy, according to an ATR who was placed at the school. This deficiency showed up in the school's snapshot where Science did poorly compared to the other tested subjects.
Worse, it turned out that this teacher was caught trying to arrange a meeting with a 14 year old girl who ended up to be a NYPD Detective and was arrested. He subsequently pleaded guilty and gave up his teaching license and registered as a sex offender. When the Earth Science teacher was removed in March of 2014 after being arrested, the Principal instead of bringing in one of the 5 excessed Earth Science teachers to finish the course, instead had a Living Environment teacher complete the year. As a result, the Earth Science Regents passing percentage dropped drastically over an already poor outcome from the year before. In other words, the students suffered for the unwise decision making by the Principal both in his hiring and replacing the teacher.
I'm sure there are hundreds of similar horror stories in the NYCDOE's 'education on the cheap" policy. Therefore when the Chancellor claims that she only wants the best for the students of NYC, just take a look at her actions and you see its all about the DOE's budget priorities and not what's best for the children.
Previously, I listed the "opt out" numbers in the ELA test and as that number slowly approaches the 200,000 mark, preliminary results show that the Math "opt out" numbers are between 2%-10% higher in most school districts. However, it appears the school districts are being pressured by the State not to publish the data and the Math "opt outs" are only slowly and reluctantly being released by the school districts. As of Saturday, the latest "opt out" values are as follows:
ELA 193,067 with 76.2% reporting.
Math 150,367 with 44.0% reporting.
The website for the latest "opt outs" can be found Here.
The table below lists some of the highest "opt out" Math numbers for various Long Island school districts.
Finally, here are some other "opt out" Math rates throughout the State.
I hope to list a complete rundown of the "opt out" rates of the school districts in New York State next week.
With much fanfare and great hopes, the De Blasio Administration would make real change to the NYC public schools. Even our UFT President, Michael Mulgrew, said so and he never lies! Right? However, very little has actually changed since Bloomberg left office. The NYC KidsPAC report gave the Bill de Blasio Administration failing grades on many of the education issues facing New York City that the Bloomberg Administration created.
According to the organization Bill de Blasio and his disappointing Chancellor, Carmen Farina, gets an "F" for failing to reduce class sizes, despite promises to do so. Moreover, they received a "F" for the lack of transparency on funding and contracts that was the hallmark of the Bloomberg years. Finally, they get another "F" for their failure to allow for the segregation of too many schools in the City without a diversity plan to correct this.
The De Blasio Administration does little better when it comes to parent engagement, receiving a "D" for not providing enough parent outreach. Further, the De Blasio Administration was given a "D" on how it handled busing and Special Education services. Finally, their failure to adequately handle the co-location issue deserves another "D" rating.
What was left out of the report was the continuation of other Bloomberg policies that has not been corrected by the De Blasio Administration or his disappointing Chancellor, they are:
Fair Student Funding: The continuation of fair student funding has resulted in principals selecting "the cheapest and not the best teachers" for their schools, while allowing teaching talent to waste away as glorified babysitters in the ATR pool at a cost of $150 million dollars annually.
Frozen School Budgets: Despite the increase in the overall DOE budget, Chancellor Carmen Farina froze the school budgets at last year's levels which was 14% below the 2008 level for the schools.
Teachers Teaching A Sixth Class: Too many schools, trying to meet their unrealistically tight budgets are requiring teachers to pick up a sixth class to save on teachers, This is especially true in shortage areas where the DOE picks up the tab for the sixth class not the school.
There are other "education on the cheap" issues like Science and AP classes being shortened, teachers not certified to teach in their content specialty, resources like paper and school supplies not being sent to the classroom, and special education students not being given their mandated services. All of these issues were omitted by the KidsPAC report but are still going on despite the demise of the Bloomberg Administration as the Mayor and his disappointing Chancellor has failed to make the changes necessary for our public schools to succeed.
The explosion of students who "opted out" will not have a final number until all the school districts comply with the FOIL and publish the data. However, enough school districts have reported (72%) to get a clear picture how successful the student "opt out" movement has been. So far, 185,000 students have "opted out", that's 17% of all students eligible to take the 3-8 grade tests. On Long Island, approximately 43% of the students "opted out". Interestingly, the highest "opt out" rates were in solidly middle class school districts not the wealthy suburban school districts that the media would like one to believe. This shows how the vast majority of middle class parents are concerned with the validly of the Common Core best high-stakes test on their child's well-being To find your school's "opt out" numbers you can use this website. Here are some of the more impressive "opt out" numbers I found.
Rocky Point 77%
West Seneca 70%
East Islip 63%
There were many more school districts with over a 50% "opt out" rate but I couldn't list them all. In one county, Chenongo students were punished for "opting out" by being forced to "sit and stare". This policy was also employed by isolated schools in various counties In addition, at least one Superintendent wrote letters to principals asking to identify teachers who actively supported the "opt out" movement for potential discipline. Otherwise, most school districts stayed relatively neutral on the "opt out" issue, despite the potential financial consequences.
These numbers should increase as more students tend to "opt out" of the Math based test this week.
It appears that approximately 200,000 students have "opted out" of the badly flawed high-stakes Common Core tests in English. In Long Island almost 50% of the students "opted out". While the numbers in New York City are small, only 2,500 so far "opted out", out of 400,000. However, some schools had high rates of students "opting out". For example the Earth School had 72% of their students "opting out".
The Governor and the NYSED blamed the explosion of "opt outs" to the teacher unions, especially, the State umbrella organization, NYSUT. While some of that might be true, the majority of parents decided to "opt out" their children because the tests did not realistically determine their academic growth and couldn't understand why the State placed such emphasis on a secret and questionable test that is simply "junk Science". Moreover, parents talk to their child's teacher and even the highly effective teacher tells the parent that they spend the entire second semester on "test prep" because their child's ability to do well on the test affects their teacher's evaluation. Therefore, the children, rather than learning new and interesting topics, is subjected to unrelenting "test prep" and just plain hate school.
Furthermore, the NYSED determines the cut scores and can manipulate them to meet their political goals. If they want to show that 10% of the teachers should be rated "ineffective", than raise the cut scores to achieve that goal. Since the formula used is top secret and the fudge factors used to account for social economic and school effects requires a super computer to determine and can't be independently verified, the SED can do as they please to manipulate the results.
Finally, the questions used are way too difficult and not relevant to real academic achievement. Real educators have little or no input into the tests. Instead the State allows a private company to develop and maintain the test without educators looking at and evaluating the imposed tests. Some of the questions are so difficult that educated adults have trouble answering them and we expect our 3-8 graders to pass the test? Here are some examples. Here. Here, and Here. In this year''s eighth grade test here are some vocabulry words used:
Vocabulary words from the 8th grade test this week:
8th grade: Bowdlerized Habituation techniques Orthodoxy Cognitive Per se Counterintuitive Litigious society 'Assuage paradoxical parental anxieties' 'Far from the tax brackets of the south street seaport' These are words & phrases from a test for 13 year olds.
The bottom line. The NYSED Common Core tests are worthless, punitive, don't show real academic growth, and actually takes away from real academic achievement. Everybody should "OPT OUT".
It is with little surprise that at last night's Executive Board meeting UFT President, Michael Mulgrew, defended the union's position not to take a stand against the basely flawed Common Core high-stakes testing. That's right, our disconnected union leadership has defied the will of its members and supports the Common Core based State tests. It seems to matter little that the vast majority of teachers oppose the "junk science" used to evaluate them and bring fear and loathing to the students. For its all about Michael Mulgrew's vision and not what's best for his members or the school children of the City.
Let's look at all the issues that Michael Mulgrew supports that's against the wishes of his teachers.
Support and funding for Al Sharpton's race baiting demonstrations at the expense of our fellow union members in the police department. Here.
Refused to support Zepher Teachout by forcing the Working Family Party to support Cuomo for Governor. How did that work out Mikey?
Hugged Carmen Farina and claimed there's a new tone at the DOE. I guess we are all tone deaf since we don't hear it.
How can he declare victory when the reality is Governor Cuomo got almost all he asked for in the new budget. Remember this?
In a rebuke to the anti-public-school
agenda of hedge-fund billionaires, the state Legislature tonight reached
agreement on a new budget and a package of education proposals that
will immediately increase aid to public schools, ensure that teacher
evaluations do not hinge on state test scores and ensure local oversight
of struggling schools.
Just two months ago, Gov. Cuomo
proposed a series of education proposals that amounted to a declaration
of war on public schools. His plan was to use the incredible leverage he
holds in the state budget process to ram through his plan. And now all of our hard work is paying dividends. The governor’s
Draconian agenda has, in large part, been turned back. We want to thank
the Assembly and the Senate for standing up for our schools and school
Finally, he not only refused to support the "opt out" movement but defined the badly flawed high-stakes Common Core tests. by saying the following at the executive board meeting when it was brought up.
. At last night’s Executive Board Regina Gori (New Action), Chapter
Leader of the Brooklyn New School (with a 90% opt out rate) asked how
the union was planning to help teachers of conscience who did not
administer state tests. The response was sharp.
Refusing a direct instruction from your supervisor is insubordinate
If we test less than 95% of our students, we could lose Title 1, Title 2, and Title 3 funding, which would cost jobs.
Our allies in the Civil Rights Movement want annual testing. It has helped us learn where the system has problems.
Yes, it seems that Michael Mulgrew is more interested in protecting his friend's political interests than his teachers and the public school students. I really would like to know what drugs Michael Mulgrew is on since his views are warped and his perception does not reflect the reality of the situation. In other words, I believe he is living in a fantasy world of his own making.
Thanks to Francesco Portelos's FOIL request, we now find out that an astonishing 186 untenured teachers were discontinued in just a four month period between July 1 to October 31 of 2014. This figure does not include teachers who decided to resign rather than continue teaching in the NYC Public Schools. While there are no comparable numbers available under the Bloomberg administration, it's hard to believe that the magnitude of the discontinuance numbers in the four month period under De Blasio and Farina are greater than under the Bloomberg administration but it appears that's the case.
At the beginning of the De Blasio administration, teachers hoped for a new philosophy that would support teachers, treat them as the professionals they are, and with the respect that they deserved. Moreover, there was real hope that the destructive Bloomberg policies that hurt students and starved the schools of necessary resources would end. In fact, UFT President Michael Mulgrew hugged the new Chancellor, Carmen Farina, and claimed that there is a new tone at the DOE. Instead, not only did we see the continuation of the destructive Bloomberg policies of "fair student funding" and the ATR crisis but the inadequate school budgets were frozen at Bloomberg levels and class sizes were not reduced as was promised by the Mayor.
Chancellor Carmen Farina has proven to be inept and is as much anti-teacher as her hated predecessors under the Bloomberg administration. In fact, she has retained many of the Bloomberg appointed administrators at the DOE in vital policy making positions and this is reflected in the obscene amount of paperwork and data mining that is required of the classroom teachers. Moreover, there has been no letup of tenured teachers facing 3020-a disciplinary charges as the overstaffed Office of Legal Services needs fresh meat to prosecute to keep them busy. Finally, her disdain for veteran teachers showed when she was Principal of her school, where 80% were forced out of the school during her tenure and her statements to "newbie teachers"to beware of the teachers cafeteria and the gripping veteran teachers.
The new tone claimed by UFT President Michael Mulgrew is simply an illusion when it comes to the classroom teacher.
Reading the newspapers, the statements coming out of the Cuomo Administration , the NYSED, and Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch, its obvious their running scared about the percentage of children who will "opt out" of the badly flawed high-stakes tests next week.
First the NYSED has informed rebellious school districts and boards that they may suffer financial consequences if they encourage their parents to "opt out" of the State tests. Moreover, they threatened to fire school board members if they encourage the "opt out" movement. The letter sent to the President of the Kenmore-Tonawanda School Board is Here.
Second, Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch told the media that parents are doing a disservice to their children by "opting out" and harm their educational ability. Further, she claimed that if enough children did not take the test, it could result in federal sanctions and reduced funding, Here.
Third, the Governor's administration in the form of the Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Huchi claimed that parents are doing a disservice to their children by "opting out".
Finally, in today's Newsday, three education deformer groups who support the Governor's agenda wrote a piece supporting the badly flawed high-stakes tests and criticized the "opt out" movement. Here. Also the Buffalo News had an editorial that also slammed the "opt our" movement.
Why are they running scared? Here's why! That's right, in one school district an astounding 56% of the students are "opting out"! Many schools in New York City will experience significant "opt out" rates and in some elementary schools the majority of students will "opt out".
This is only the beginning of the push back on the punitive education agenda that punishes teachers and ends up hurting the students of the State.
Its very interesting how Governor Cuomo has blamed teachers for his punitive education agenda that will hasten teacher retirements, bring about a teacher shortage, and hurt struggling schools in districts in high poverty communities who cannot attract or retain quality teachers due to the fear of the new teacher evaluation system. Some bloggers like DOENUTS believe that the Governor overreached and when the general public realize that the new requirements not only hurt teacher quality but resulted in disappointing student academic outcomes, the blowback on the Governor will be intense. His reputation and poll numbers will suffer and his Presidential ambition will be a pipe dream. While I agree with that assessment, the problem is until the Governor's education agenda blows up in his face, the collateral damage done to the teaching profession and to the students will be devastating.
Already, the Governor is spinning the reason he changed the teacher evaluation system to make it more punitive by claiming that educators conspired to manipulate the present teacher evaluation system so that very few teachers could be ratted "ineffective". In other words, he was more interested in how many teachers he could terminate than the students he professed to care about. The new teacher evaluation system was opposed by Superintendents, school board members, principals, teachers and parents yet the Governor and his education deformer buddies didn't care. To them its about how to terminate as many teachers as possible and not what's best for the students.
The Governor claimed that he could not understand how only 1% of the teachers in the State can be considered "ineffective" while only 30% of the students met the State testing standards. This flawed comparison placed the blame on the student academic outcomes squarely on the teachers, despite studies that showed that the teacher has little effect on the student's academic ability. Its like a person who has stage three or four cancer who finally shows up for treatment and the doctor who is newly assigned to the patent is rated on how many of these late stage cancer patients he or she can save.
The Governor does what all education deformers do, that is to ignore the effects of poverty, family, inequality, and community, that contributes to over 80% of a student's academic development. Add that to the lack of accountability by politicians who starve the schools of resources, and cause large class sizes and you have a recipe for poor academic outcomes. Better to blame the teachers than to tackle the social-economic factors that are primarily responsible for a student's academic ability. That and the failure of politicians to be held accountable for approving badly flawed high-stakes tests, and using "junk Science" in calculating the VAM that have resulted in the poor student outcomes.
In the Governor's blame game, its easier to blame the teachers than to admit that the problem lies beyond a school's ability to control.
One of the many changes in the punitive teacher evaluation system are the changes to the New York State Education Department Part 83 Regulations on an educator's "Moral Character". Presently, if the State finds that the educator was terminated in a 3020-a hearing for misconduct, resigned under chargesof misconduct, or found guilty criminally, it triggers a Part 83 review that usually results in the educator being stripped of their teaching license. Now it seems under the new and punitive teacher evaluation system the educator will be treated like a convicted criminal who is on probation with the inclusion of this paragraph in the budget.
Certificate holders shall notify the department of any change ofname or mailing address within thirty days of such change. Willful failure to register or provide such notice within one hundred eighty days ofsuch change may constitute grounds for moral character review undersubdivision seven of section three hundred five of this chapter.
That's right, if an educator moves his or her residence, or changes their name and fails to inform the NYSED, the educator can be brought up on charges of misconduct and lose their license! Unbelievable, but apparently true.
Imagine, as a women, you get married and change your last name to your husband's and fail to tell the State, this can trigger the "Moral Character" clause. Moreover, you frequently change your address as you move from place to place and fail to notify the State. That also can trigger a "Moral Character" review. To my knowledge only convicted criminals who are released on probation are subject to this notification requirement.
This is yet another example of the punitive nature of the teacher evaluation system as it makes educators subject to rules that no other State employee is subject to and the notification requirement is similar to criminals who were released from jail and are on probation.
While our UFT President, Michael Mulgrew, claims victory, the reality is quite different and this punitive teacher evaluation system will result in producing a teacher shortage and hurt the "high needs" student population as they will never have "quality teachers" willing to put their career in jeopardy working with this student population.
We educators have a very nice retirement package, assuming we can last long enough to be vested and accumulate enough years to reach at least twenty. We get a pension that covers approximately 40% (20 years) to 60% (30 years) of our final three year average salary. Moreover, you can retire with a full pension at age 62 (63 for Tier VI). Since Social Security is available at age 62, the retired educator, on a full pension, can have a guaranteed monthly income of 75% of their working salary. Considering you no longer pay Social Security and Medicare taxes (9%) and the cost of commuting and other work related expenses, the retiree will end up with a cost of living similar to their working years.
Lucky for us, the NYC educator has a 403b plan called the TDA that allows us to put away up to $24,000 a year, tax deferred, and the guaranteed fixed interest rate is 7% for UFT members and 8.25% for other educators. While the educator can decide to put the TDA in equities or bonds, the educators nearing retirement or already retired might want to put 100% in the fixed fund since it gives us a 5% increase over the present day inflation rate of 2%. Moreover, the TDA is not subject to State or Local taxes on the first $20,000 (thanks Norm) if your primary residence is in New York State.
Therefore, for educators approaching retirement, here is my four step bucket approach that I intend to use when I retire.
Bucket 1: Pension and Social Security. Stable Monthly Income.
Bucket 2: TDA. 7% Interest. Stable Monthly Income.
Bucket 3: Interest & Dividends: Quarterly/Annual Income
Bucket 4: Equity Appreciation. Variable/Annual Income
For educators its extremely important to have a stock/mutual fund since inflation will slowly eat away at the pension and TDA. The equity appreciation component is necessary to combat the eroding effects of inflation. True, in bad years, there will be no equity appreciation and therefore, no bucket four. However, over the long-term, equities are the only instrument that can overcome the erosion of principal due to inflation.
While Social Security is inflation indexed, it will only account for 25% of a retired educator's income. Moreover, the pension has an inadequate cost of living adjustment that is only half the inflation rate which ranges from 1% to 3% and only for the first $18,000 of a retiree's pension. Further, you must wait five years after you retire before the COLA actually kicks in. Therefore, its important for the educator to have a significant portion of their retirement funds in equities.
This advise is not for everyone but its what I intend to follow for my retirement years.
Rather than continue with the analysis of the demoralizing teacher evaluation system which has been thoroughly covered by Perdido Street School , ICEUFT Blog,nyc educator, andEd Notes Online, this post will concentrated on the consequences to the future of teaching and learning in the New York State and City schools.
This week eleven educators, administrators, principals, and teachers were found guilty of "cheating" and were immediately sent to jail as they were convicted of "racketeering" and face long prison terms of up to twenty years. The cheating scandal resulted from the City of Atlanta who decided that high-stakes test scores should be the basis of a school's success or failure as well as teacher tenure decisions. The result was increased pressure on schools to show that their schools were successful, that meant test preparation was emphasized over actual learning and the joy of teaching and student learning was replaced by the threat of dismissal for not meeting the expectations for the teacher and hating going to school for the student. When the students still struggled to do well on these high-stakes tests, many educators either condoned or were complicit in changing student scores. Overall, 180 employees, including Dr. Hall, the head of the Atlanta school district, were charged and 44 schools had cheating allegations tied to their test scores. Most took a plea deal and are no longer in the education field as they lost their teaching license.
This brings me to the new teacher evaluation system that will hasten the exodus of experienced teachers from the already struggling schools and will see teachers refusing to work with a "high needs" student population for fear of being labeled "ineffective". Combine that with fewer college students going into education, especially in the classroom, and Board of Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch's suggestion that a school district's graduation and/or college readiness rate be tied to the more punitive part of the teacher evaluation system, struggling schools will be left with two choices. Either they put increased pressure on the teachers to pass the students along deservingly or not, or "cheat" by changing student answers or encouraging them to select the correct choice while taking the test. Regardless, the potential for educational abuses is high and I suspect will commonly occur.
The bottom line is that no experienced teacher, no matter how much extra money is offered, will willingly take a position in a struggling school with a "high needs" population, knowing full well that they can be terminated due to their student population and the badly flawed Common Core high-stakes tests and not based on their teaching ability. For the rest? The potential to cheat to save their job will be real and thanks to the new teacher evaluation system I can see the Atlanta cheating scandal repeated in the City and the State.