Friday, March 25, 2016

The Union's Spin Zone.

This post is about two issues that have come up in the the last week.  First, about the union's attempt to put "lipstick on the pig".  Attempting to show that forcing ATRs to take provisional positions outside their district was a good thing.  The second, the leadership's attempt to ram "junk science" down the throats of their members. Let's look at the two issues that our union leadership is spinning to their members.

Forcing ATRs to take provisional positions outside their district:
One of the "givebacks" the union leadership gave the DOE was the right for the DOE to force elementary and middle schools ATRs to take provisional assignments in another district in their Borough.  Did the union ask their ATR members who are affected by it if this was acceptable?  Of course not!  That brings me to the Ed Notes online post where Norm Scott spoke with Amy Arundell about why the union agreed to allow the DOE to force ATRS to take provisional assignments outside their district. Amy's response,  according to Norm Scott, was as follows:

The wider exposure has helped ATRs get jobs and out of the ATR pool.

Amy's statement on its face is probably true but ignores the real issue.  The placements are provisional and not permanent.  Almost all of these provisional appointees will find themselves back into the ATR pool at the end of the school year.  Moreover, most of the ATRs do not want to leave their district since the provisional assignments are in more challenging districts and in schools of deep poverty with low academic achievement and high teacher turnover.  Finally, many of the ATRs live and taught in their district and are now being forced to travel a hour or more to another district with a different culture, "a stranger in a strange land".  Yet, our disconnected union leadership didn't bother to discuss the issue with the affected members.

While I have the up most respect for Amy Arundell, who has helped many of the members throughout the years, the latest being a fellow blogger from the Bronx,  her response to Norm Scott is just the typical union spin when the truth is that most ATRs would not take a provisional position outside their district and results in few, if any, veteran ATRs (10 years or more) obtaining a permanent position.  Instead it adds to the hardship to the life of most ATRs.   To read more about the ATR's lack of mutual acceptance, see my post Here.

Union's position on using "junk science":
In the last DA the union leadership reiterated their support of using student test scores in teacher evaluations,  (see the Ice blog) claiming the only alternative was 100% Principal observations.  While I understand that there are too many principals (especially those from the infamous Leadership Academy) who do not like to collaborate with their teaching staff and giving them all the power to evaluate teachers is a problem, the use of "junk science", which will be 50% of a teacher's grade is just as wrong, if not more so.

Under the old "S" and "U" system at least, the Principal would have to prove to the 3020-a independent arbitrator that the teacher was incompetent and few teachers were actually terminated since the "burden of proof" was on the DOE and it was extremely difficult to prove the incompetence.  However, in the new "ineffective" system the "burden of proof" shifts to the teacher and unless they are part of the lucky 30%, they are as good as terminated.

The union spin is that there were only 700 double "ineffectives", compared to 2,000 consecutive "U" ratings.  However, how many of the 2,000 "U" rated teachers were actually terminated?  I bet it was less that the 700 "ineffectives" who where and will be terminated is almost a surety.

Don't believe the union spin, its all about what's best for them and not what's best for their members.


Bronx ATR said...

The assumption is that the UFT knows what's best for ATRs, asks for no feedback and Amy defends this. Respect works both ways. Amy should have more than an annual meeting with ATRs - especially in light of the fact we were denied a chapter, in part because we were told we had her. There should be a concerted effort to offer ATRs a buyout. The UFT don't want anything to do with us, so Amy should push for this with Mulgrew. We'd all highly respect that.

Philip Nobile said...

Here's a question Amy will never answer: "If you were an ATR, knowing all you do about our troubles and disorganization, wouldn't you want to have a voice and vote at the UFT table, chapters and chapter leaders, and all that, at least to prevent unfriendly closed door deals with the DOE? Please make your best case for less democracy."

Just to be sure, I have emailed the question to Amy and asked her to reply in comments.

Anonymous said...

Who is this Amy person? Your a fool if you respect a person like this. Take off the blinders. If your not part of the solution your part of the problem. Tell us how she has helped the overall situation of Atrs. Is it worth it Amy?

Chaz said...

Anon 3:27

I will not defend Amy but I expect the many people who she helped to comment on this page and explain what she has done for them.

Remember she did sign the "Unity oath" and must follow what the leadership wants.

Anonymous said...

Now that's sad. Why would you respect someone who would take a unity oath. Thousands of Atrs suffering and she helped a few. I want that job. Like I said your a fool for respecting a person like that.

Philip Nobile said...

Chaz, you are far too kind. It's not the Unity oath that binds Amy to indefensible Mulgrew policies, it's the perks, the power, the salary that he affords her.

Anonymous said...

Chaz can you take a moment to respond to my question. I am a high school teacher and no one I've spoken to seems to be clear on how we are getting rated this year. In essence no one really cares but the truth is that it really matters. People's lives depend on the ratings to be honest.
So you mention in this post that the evaluation this year is at 50% test scores. First question is this correct? 50%? Second question is 50% of what? Regents scores or local? If it's local which means argumentative essay by students in an English class, does this mean 50% 0f teacher evaluations are based on how a student performs from writing an essay in october, to writing an essay in May? This is 50% of my overall evaluation? Third and final question is the other 50%? This entire 50% is based on observations? So if I'm doing 1 formal and 3 informals, what is the breakdown? We never saw it. What are the point breakdowns? Is it 25 points for formal and then 5 points each for informals totaling 40? This is so absurd that I'm asking you these questions basically as the year is winding down. The union never broke it down for our ratings this year.
Can you please clarify? People are getting Ineffectives 2 years in a row and then being terminated very quickly. The evaluations give you an Ineffective or any of the other 3 choices so I would say this is important information. Thank you Chaz. Waiting for response.

Chaz said...

Actually, this year its 40%. 20% local, 20% State. While nobody has actually told us how it will be done but my best guess is 20% Regents and 20% lowest third on State tests whatever that means.

ed notes online said...

There is no standard ATR point of view. Every ATR I have spoken to has their own spin on things. Some are hoping to hang on for a buyout. There is a faction that wants out of the ATR pool and into a regular school. Others are not unhappy with rotation as long as no one bothers them very much which is the wild card of course. Now there are threats and the deal between the UFT and DOE is a collaboration to end the ATR pool by hook or crook. I've had ome deep conversations recently with some ATRs some of them have offered various theories as to what is going on. Some think they are aiming at a group of ATRs that are felt may be too accepting of their condition.
As ATRs rotate into schools they see the awful conditions for teachers "lucky" enough to not be ATRs and they blanch at the thought of being in that position themselves. Do we blame them?

But the idea of spending the rest of their career doing work that subs did for a century at much lower pay is anathema to both the DOE and the UFT. The UFT and DOE are working together to try to pressure ATRS either out of the system or into being more proactive.

Amy told me that by going to more school in more districts they met more likely people who might hire them. I'd love to see the numbers on that. She claims the UFT is working with people to find positions - if anyone has had that experience let me know. I do know that some MORE chapter leaders have managed to get their principals to hire ATRS and free them from the pool but they don't want to make their names public.

Let's remember the "good" old pre-ATR days. If you were excessed you were placed in any shit hole they wanted to put you in and you were stuck - it was based on seniority but even that was played with. For some ATRs they prefer the current system to the old one because they feel they have more options. All this is predicated on being able to deal with being a sub of course, which many have adapted to.

I had the experience of being an ATR assigned to one school in my first year and a half of teaching. From my first day in the DOE when they were handing out assignments and I was scared shit of having a class I avoided being assigned until all positions were filled and then willed myself into being an ATR - which for me as a new teacher was hell but also saved me for a future career because I learned how to do stuff.

Some ATRs I am talking too say some of the same things. "Why would I willingly go into a position unless the school was really good and even then why put myself at the mercy of the current evaluation system and all the pressures teachers are under to perform?"

While I don't know all the details of how ATRs would be paid one idea I was thinking of would be that any principal that wants to hire an ATR permanently would get some reward of sorts. On salary the school would cover the cost of a starting teacher and the DOE would pick up the rest in perpetuity - thus taking the salary issue off the table. Not to say there are other issues too but this one seems solvable. If only the UFT actually tried to negotiate real solutions instead of bogus ones.

Chaz said...


I think you miss the point. Whether the ATR wants a permanent position or not is not the issue but its the DOE's attack on the ATRs, with the complicit agreement of the union on thinning out the ATR ranks is the issue. Look at how things have changed for the worse in the last four years.

1. Rotating weekly to different schools as proposed by our own union's Michael Mandel.

2. The rise of the field supervisors.

3. The 2014 contract that made ATRs second class citizens.

4. Forcing elementary and middle school ATRs in taking provisional positions in other districts.

5. Changing the language to give field supervisors the authority to recommend 3020-a charges against "U" rated ATRs.

That's the issue.

Anonymous said...

The UFT doesn't want or ask for input from ATRs. Amy must think you're very stupid, Norm.

Anonymous said...

Hey Chaz. Great article. Just to clarify one point. Only 13% make it to arbitration (not 30%) I know of several people who I thought had very strong cases who ended up losing their arbitration hearings so been if you're one of the ones that get selected it's still a crapshoot that you'll prevail.

Anonymous said...

As I go from school to school, I realize 1 is worse than the other...

Chaz said...

Anon 6:09

I was talking about the 30% where the valudators (rat squad) found the teacher not "ineffective" in the first year, according to the union.

Anonymous said...

The field supervisors, lying from the moment they announce, "I'm here to help you get your new teaching position", are actually there to terminate you. That is their only purpose. The more years you have in, the harder they are trying to terminate you. Mine manages to get me assigned to the worst schools with the least academic and most behaviorally challenged students. Out of that, she manages to find classes who have lost their teacher and have been "taught" for extended periods of time either as a 6th period class for a regular teacher or by a series of subs and ATRs, so that they have lost regular classroom discipline. She never lets the regular teacher or whoever's been teaching them stay during the observation. She always brings another field supervisor to co-observe me. No matter what I do, it's U rating. This latest U rating was based on her claim that the students did not learn anything. This was based on the fact that the students, in a class taught by someone they perceived as a "sub" and therefore not someone to obey, did a minimal job of filling out their worksheet. Did you ever meet teens who voluntarily went to the nth degree to complete a worksheet for someone they perceived as a sub? So although the observation found my classroom management "commendable", the fact that the students just did the minimum to fill out their worksheet was a basis for giving me a U for the lesson.

I called Mike Sill after school. All I got, as every time I've EVER called him, was voicemail. He NEVER EVER answers messages I leave on his voicemail. If I'm really "lucky", I get a call back from Mike's ATR flunky "Haj." This guy will listen to you, but NOTHING is ever done. Might as well take the $1300 in dues we pay every year and toss them down the toilet. I know what it must be like for some Chinese or Russian citizen to be tossed in jail for no reason and endlessly bang on the bars, with no response. The UFT should burn in hell for their collusion against their own constituents.

Anonymous said...

The UFT ceased being a union once they colluded with the DOE to create the ATRs. They are now a dues-collecting agency that administers various health plans and claims to "protect" members

Anonymous said...

Have that Amy person help you I hear she helps Atrs. Not! Still waiting for all the people that Amy has helped to respond on here.

Bronx Teacher said...

Amy has helped me greatly. Yes, there are some things she just can't do, but she more than makes up for it in at least letting you vent and giving you the best advice to help you navigate the problem.

Sadly, there are those (followers and their leader) who have so burned their bridges with her and tasked her with impossible requests they are beyond looking in the mirror and decide to use her as their scapegoat.

ed notes online said...

I am convinced that the only purpose of the field supervisors are to get rid of people one way or another.
They are basically evil tools of DOE legal.
My issue is that if this is all happening and you think you are dead meat why not just go for their jugular publicly? Name names and dates. If they are after you anyway why not go after them and splash their names all over the internet?
If they are asking schools to put you in the worst classes help Chaz build the case.
They have got everyone so afraid. At some point if they are giving U's out and heading for one day hearings why aren't these public and open for people to attend?
Did the UFT agree to making people ATRs if they win their 3020 hearing in a contract? some other agreement?
Is this rule openly stated somewhere?
What is a strategy to fight this?
I Guess that is a source of some frustration to people who are trying to assist ATRS --
I am talking to ATRs who are giving me 2nd hand proof that the Field supervisors are calling the school to ask for the worst class or a bunch of classes in a row.
Now some schools are telling them to fuck off - to their credit.
But others are willing.
I've learned something from ATRs I talk to. Those with the political skills to make certain important allies in schools get some support. I hope to be blogging about one such case where the current and former chapter leader who were impressed with the work the ATR was doing wrote letters of support and got people in the school to sign them. This ATR tells me he tries not to walk in with a woe is me chip on his shoulder. He is sure of his teaching skills no matter what the class and has some stock stuff he knows works.

Still despite good reviews from people he works with he is sure he is a target and I believe him. In fact one principal tried to hire him and he is pretty sure the field supervisor intervened to stop it.
I want to expose these people but I can't do so until I get the go ahead from the ATR who is still not ready to come out in public. My worry is he will wait too long until they are putting the noose around his neck.

Anonymous said...

Bronx teacher it's good to hear she helped you, but you weren't an ATR at the time. She's done virtually nothing for ATRs, as you'll eventually realize as you spend the rest of your career subbing. Why do still have such a hard on for Portelos and Solidarity? It's pitiful.

Anonymous said...

If she really can't do anything why have the position. Oh that's right she took the unity loyalty pledge. I've never met her but she and many others should be doing more if not we need to vote for More. Wow never been a big Union person until they came after me. Should have started earlier getting involved in the most corrupt and inept Union in the city. New Yorks most educated vote for the worst Union leaders. Shame on us all!!!!

Anonymous said...

So theres about 75,000 teachers in nyc. If about 1,500 are atr's thats equal to 2%. So 98% of teachers are not atr's. It's like that movie Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman where they say only a certain amount are infected on this part of the land. Let's just blow it up and save the rest of the population. When 50% of the teachers are atr's I think more people will care.

Bronx Teacher said...

No, I was suspended at the time. Technically, I wasn't a member of the Union.

But as an ATR she has helped me and supported me immensely.

Now back to hard on's what is it Portelos' for Jia?

I have no hard on for Portelos'. If he stops doing stupid ass stuff I have no reason to write about it.

Anonymous said...

What is coming down the line are Kleenex teachers. Use and throw away. First, they are creating and then U-ing out veteran teachers as ATRs. The naive newbie doobies don't care, they are, from what I've seen, nearly as superficial and vapid as the students they are teaching. Then THEY aren't getting tenure, so they are discontinued at will. Another group of suckers with stars in their eyes steps up into the slaughter chute. They will not get tenure for as many reasons as the liars at DOE can make up. They will be used for a few years, then also discarded. Eventually, hahaha, there will only be cheap teachers that they won't have to pay pensions to, as they won't be around long enough. Never mind the ill educated "graduates" who then go on to waste more taxpayer money taking remedial courses (which are simply high school courses with a fancier name) before they can actually handle college level work. Who will be educated enough to handle high tech jobs? The grads of private schools, home-schooled, the few grads of the likes of Stuyvesant and Townsend Harris (provided Dumblahblah doesn't ruin those elite schools with his asinine cries for racial equality when the schools' entry exams demand ACADEMIC ability, and are not based on racial quotas) will be the ones holding executive positions, MD and PhD degrees, pharmaceutical positions, engineering, accounting, attorney, etc. positions.

The rest of the ill educated results of "Whack-a-teacher" will simply be holding out their hands.

Anonymous said...

Bronx Teacher, I would warn anyone to tread carefully when befriended by you.

Anonymous said...


ATRs are most likely meeting more admins who will not hire them.


There are community college students working on elementary level skills.

Abigail Shure

Bronx Teacher said...

Good. That's nice.

Anonymous said...

Still waiting for all the comments from the people that Amy person has helped

Chaz said...

Anon 8:35:

I know at least a dozen people who read my blog that Amy helped, if they choose not to come forward, I cannot compel them to.

Anonymous said...

Two points: 1) Amy helped me when I had to switch my teaching license. She assured me and was correct that I would not loose my citywide seniority when I made the switch. (Nobody at the UFT or DOE could get a straight answer to me on this but Amy called me personally to talk to me about the facts of switching licenses) 2) 98% of teachers may not be ATR's, but do you want to be part of that 2% someday? 1,500 ATR's citywide means that almost every single school may have had an ATR come out of it at some time or another but we probably will never know for sure.