You would think that all teachers are treated the same by the DOE. However, we all know that excessed teachers are not treated the same as appointed teachers but in the bizarro world of the DOE, teachers are treated very differently. Welcome to the DOE's version of Animal Farm. If you're not familiar with George Orwell's book the animals rebelled against the human farmer and took over the farm, At the beginning all the animals were treated equally but as time passed the pigs gradually took over and became the overlords of the rest of the farm animals. Lowest on the pecking order were the cows and hens who were liquidated when their food producing days ended.
The DOE, with the complicit agreement by the UFT leadership, has developed its own Animal Farm pecking order when it comes to teachers simply by their policies.
Pigs: Young and preferably untenured teachers who have low salaries and inferior Tier VI pensions which few will ever last long enough to obtain. The DOE's school-based "fair student funding" formula ensures that almost all the 4,500 teachers hired annually are these teachers. They get the DOE's " Hero First Class" Award.. Furthermore, most of the Open Market System transfers come from this group.
Dogs: Tenured but hired under Tiers V or VI and with less than 8 years of experience. They are the gate keepers for the Bloomberg small schools and are still young and cheap enough not to be targeted. These teachers get the DOE's " Hero Second Class" Award. The remaining transfers of the Open Market System occur in this group.
Horses: Experienced teachers and used by the DOE to implement good teaching practices. However, while they are getting on in years and becoming expensive, they are still needed since these are the top teachers in most schools.. These teachers between 8-15 years of experience are the role models and mentors for the "newbies". They are the work horses that make the schools run until they wear down and are eventually enter the final two groups and are targeted.
Cows: Veteran teachers , usually over the age of 40 and 15+ years of experience. They are used by the DOE to milk their vast experience until they are of little use to the DOE. These teachers will be forced to pasture by retirement or termination once they have been squeezed of their best milk producing years.
Hens: Senior teachers who have the most seniority and accumulates the most pension credits. The DOE policies force them to lay eggs and then terminate them to feed the DOE's ever increasing monetary appetite while starving the schools. Targeting senior teachers is the top priority in their "education on the cheap" policy since they posses the "institutional memory" of what its like to run a peaceful classroom and that is a threat to the ever increasing "Leadership Academy Principals"..
In the DOE's version of Animal Farm its always "newbie teachers are good" and "senior teachers are bad".
We all know that principals can and do manipulate the graduation rate. Credit recovery, grade changing, administration pressure on teachers, and school scholarship requirements (80% or more passing per class) or a combination of them all. The result is an artificially bogus graduation rate as far too many schools graduate students unprepared for the real world. Therefore, to determine if unscreened Queens high schools are really diploma mills or truly giving their students a real world class education, I have developed the metric that takes the graduation rate and divides it by the "college and career readiness rate" as defined by New York State.
High schools that have a ratio below "2" are in blue and giving their students a world class education while high schools with ratios greater than "3" are listed in red and are simply diploma mills. Parents should make sure their academically achieving students should stay away from them.
The list is based on the 2015-16 school year.
School...........................Graduation Rate.....College Ready Cambria Heights Academy........79%......................9% Academy of Medical Tech..........66%......................8% Fredrick Douglas Academy VI....66%......................8% QIRT........................................70%.....................12% Rockaway Park.........................62%.....................11% Humanities and Arts.................79%.....................14% August Martin...........................39%....................7% Rockaway Collegiate.................63%....................13% Martin Van Buren......................66%....................18% Newtown.................................71%....................19% Pathways College....................71%....................20% Hillside Arts & Letters...............81%....................24% Law Enforcement.....................81%....................25% Science, Research, and Tech.....70%....................22% Excelsior Prep.........................78%....................24% Queens Prep...........................72%....................24% Flushing.................................63%....................18% Channel View..........................95%....................31% John Adams.............................66%....................22% Richmond Hill...........................64%....................22% Long Island City.......................63% ...................25% GroverCleveland.....................63%....................27% Queens HS of Teaching............91%....................37% George Washington Carver......86%....................35% Writers Academy....................82%....................36% Hillcrest.................................72%....................29% Queens Collegiate...................77%....................33% Information & Technology........76%....................34% Community Leadership............84%....................37% John Bowne............................74%....................33% Applied Communications.........80%....................38% Robert F. Kennedy...................86%....................42% Arts And Business...................90%....................40% William Cullen Bryant..............69%....................34% Metropolitan HS......................92%....................46% Robert H. Goddard...................89%....................50% Middle College HS...................82%.....................49% Writers Journalism..................94%....................51% Robert Wagner........................87%....................51% Queens Vocational...................84%...................51% Civic Leadership......................91%...................55% Maspeth HS............................99%....................63% TV & Media.............................98%....................62% Forest Hills.............................88%...................56% Bayside..................................95%...................63% East-West...............................97%...................66% Cardozo..................................89%...................60% Thomas Edison........................93%...................71% Francis Lewis..........................88%...................73% Finance & Enterprise...............91%...................77%
Obviously, the lowest rated schools are "diploma mills" and for the most part, are located in Southeast Queens or are "Renewal schools". By contrast the best schools are located in two areas Northeast Queens and the Long Island City/Astoria area. The three Bloomberg small schools in the Far Rockaway campus inhabit three of the top four positions with the worst matrices on the list, while the worst school metric is by Cambria Heights Academy, while last year's winner (loser), Rockaway Park Environmental Sustainability rounds out the top five. By contrast, the best two schools remain Finance and Enterprise and Francis Lewis, when it comes to the metric.
The takeaway is that all the high schools in the Far Rockaway, Beach Channel, and Campus Magnet campuses are academic failures. Moreover, the Jamaica Educational Complex is showing gradual deterioration with one school already failing and the one of the other two unscreened schools showing a significant drop in "college and career readiness".
My annual golden turkey award finds two returnees. Chancellor Carmen Farina, and Mayor Bill de Blasio, new to the list is the DOE's ATR incentive and Hillary Clinton .
Chancellor Carmen Farina, a two time winner, has persistent in her disappointing regime. The Chancellor has continued many of Michael Bloomberg's anti-teacher policies. Using the Danielson rubric as a weapon against teachers, failing to remove many terrible principals, visiting schools and asking principals to identify their weaker teachers in order to terminate them, and keeping both the "fair student funding" and the ATR crises as part of the Bloomberg/Klein ideology in place. Chancellor Carmen Farina is still the problem and not the solution when it comes to better public schools.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has continued to fail to live up his to campaign promise to reduce class size as class sizes remain the highest in the State. Moreover, with a 6 billion dollar surplus, he still allows the DOE to practice an "education on the cheap" policy and blames the State for the lack of resources in the classroom. Finally, the Mayor remains tone deaf to the distracting use of cellphones in the schools that make teacher classroom management difficult and the student learning environment hostile to good academic achievement.
ATR Imitative: The DOE's ATR imitative has been less than successful, with only a bit over 100 ATRs offered permanent positions, many of them were provisionally hired at "bad schools" with high teacher turnover and usually teaching Special Education. Since there are over 1,300 rotating ATR's and more than 400 ATRs provisionally appointed or filling a maternity leave, the ATR imitative has only resulted in 6% of the ATRs being offered a permanent position. Moreover, there is a disturbing and persistent rumor that some people at Tweed are discouraging principals from hiring ATRs who survived their 3020-a hearings. While principals have the sole authority to hire in their schools some weak and scared principals (there are many of them) will follow what DOE Central recommends. In addition, "Leadership Academy " principals are using this as an excuse not to hire ATRs that won their 3020-a termination hearings. Unfortunately, the UFT leadership has remained silent about either confirming or denying this rumor.
Hillary Clinton who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with her corrupt and untrustworthy ways, lost the Obama coalition, the rust belt workers, and even 51% of White women.; Thanks to her baggage and deceit, we will have to cross our collective fingers and hope that the demigod, Donald Trump, does no real harm.
I had downloaded all the high school snapshots in Queens and came up with the "dirty dozen" principals that have the lowest trust readings as nominated by their teaching staff. This list is based upon the 2015-16 school year. The 2014-15 ist can be found here.
The "dirty dozen" list is as follows:
School.............................................Trust Queens Preparatory Academy............24% William Cullen Bryant........................28% MAST...............................................28% East-West International....................42% Gateway to Health Sciences..............45% Flushing...........................................46% Grover Cleveland..............................56% Pathways to College Prep..................58% Metropolitan.....................................60% Rockaway Collegiate.........................60% Queens Collegiate.............................62% HS of Teaching..................................63%
The citywide average is 76%.
Who are these principals you ask? Topping the list is Principal Tashon Haywood of QPA who saw an exodus of fourteen teachers fleeing her school at the end of the school year. Read about her school Here. Next on the list is Namita Dwarka of Bryant who single-handedly may be responsible for most of the senior teaching staff leaving the school over the last few years. Least we forget the infamous Jose Cruz, of MAST, ranked third who usually leads high schools in giving negative rating to his teachers. Fourth, is the one and only Ben Sherman who seem to have trouble retaining staff despite the wonderful student body and then there is Judy Henry who won her position in questionable circumstances, thanks to Superintendent Juan Mendez and has made the staff wish they never worked there.
Many of the schools listed above are two time losers as Chancellor Carmen Farina has protected these principals, despite the low opinion of them by their staff, year after year..
If you are a teacher then give thanks this Thanksgiving for being fortunate enough not to work in these schools with these terrible principals.
Soon, the eighth graders will be selecting their high school and hopefully get their first choice. However, for many parents and students who are bombarded with school fairs, testimonials, and visiting school staff with why the students should apply to their high school. The problem is what is the truth about which school is successful?
First, and foremost, ask the students of the school you are interested in applying about the school. Most students have no vested interest in selling their high school. They will tell you the truth about the high school, good or bad.
Second, check to see what academic courses and electives the school provides. How many Advanced Placement courses? What electives are there? Does more than one teacher teach a subject in case you and the teacher do mot see "eye to eye"?
Third, does the high school provide adequate extracurricular activities and clubs for a total high school experience? Many of the small schools suffer from lack of a gym and have poor physical education programs for example.
Fourth, does the school have a stable and supportive teaching staff with a collaborative administration?
Finally, check to see what the "career and college readiness rates" are for the school in their snapshot?
In Queens, successful schools like Forest Hills and Francis Lewis, with high "career and college readiness rates" which demonstrates an academically achieving student body. Both schools are large comprehensive high schools with loads of Advanced Placement courses, electives, and extracurricular activities. Furthermore, both schools have a stable teaching staff, with experienced teachers, and the students have the ability to move from one teacher to another if there are any issues between a teacher and a student. Just ask students about the successful schools and they will tell you how their academic and social life revolves around these schools. Is it any wonder that these schools are over subscribed?
By contrast, far too many schools are like Queens Preparatory Academy, a failed Bloomberg small school. They have low and dropping "career and college readiness" scores. Limited courses, few electives, and a low achieving student body. While they are part of a campus and have adequate extracurricular activities but have few clubs. In fact, in the 2014-15 school year, to have enough students for the school, they had to take over-the-counter students to fill their 115 vacancies, many of them level one students, the lowest academic level. I suspect similar numbers occurred this school year.
Ask the students of the school how they feel about the school and you would probably receive a negative reaction. Moreover, ask them how they ended up at the school and they may claim they don't know since they ranked the school below their top three choices. Yet, they are at the school anyway. Unlike the successful schools, Queens Preparatory Academy lost fourteen teachers of their small school staff this school year. Moreover, I was told by a teacher there the school had a 0% passing rate in Regents Chemistry. Yet these very same students are being forced to take the more difficult Regents Physics this school year with one of the courses being Advanced Placement Physics, go figure the logic to this? Is it any wonder that the Principal had a 24% trust factor in the latest snapshot?
Unfortunately, in New York City there are more schools like Queens Preparatory Academy than Forest Hills, thanks to Michael Bloomberg's education policies, we have a bogus graduation rate while our "career and college readiness" rates are unacceptable low. For students who are selecting a Queens high school just look at the chart that compares the ratio of the two metrics for each unscreened high school.
Unfortunately, I have been contacted by and hearing from other teachers that quite a few teachers are being served 3020-a charges by the DOE for incompetence and minor alleged misconduct. Almost all of them are senior teachers with 15 years or more experience and over 50 years of age. By contrast, few teachers are being served 3020-a charges if they are under 35 years of age and less than 10 years of experience. While I can claim there is discrimination against senior teachers, the DOE will not release the age and experience breakdown of teachers served their 3020-a papers, despite the news media and the Solidarity caucus trying to FOIL the DOE for the information. If the UFT knows the breakdown, and they should, they are not divulging the information. Therefore, without any firm data, this is just anecdotal evidence. However, just be aware if you are a senior teacher you have a potential target on your back. Check my postsHere and Here.
The rest of this post will discuss what a teacher should do when he or she receives their 3020-a charges.
First, and foremost when the DOE decides to serve a teacher with 3020-a charges, they only want to terminate the teacher and for the most part, the only deals the DOE will make is for the teacher to irrevocably retire or resign by the end of the semester and then a scarlet letter will be attached to your file as a "do not hire" flag will be placed for any administrator to see if the teacher applies for another DOE position in the future. Under Mayor Bloomberg and his Chancellors the DOE's 3020-a process were used by principals to have troublesome teachers removed from the school and budget on the most minor infraction or allegation of misconduct or incompetence. Since arbitrators found only 4% of the teachers completely innocent, even a simple letter-to-file-file given by an arbitrator was enough to dump the teacher into the ATR pool and out of the hair of the Principal. However, the Office of Legal Services was overwhelmed by the almost 800 teachers in the reassignment center that they started to make deals with teachers that were willing to plead guilty to at least one of the stipulations of the 3020-a charges and ended up in the ATR pool upon their return to service.
Fast forward to the De Blasio administration with Chancellor Carmen Farina in charge and the Office of Legal Services was beefed up with more lawyers and while the number of reassigned teachers have dropped since the peak, it still is close to 400, about the average during the Bloomberg years. The only thing that changed is that the DOE does not make deals and demands termination, even for the most minor of alleged offenses. So much for Micheal Mulgrew's statement "that there's a new tone at the DOE".
Second, when a teacher is served with his or her 3020-a charges, the teacher should immediately contact the Chapter Leader who will instruct you to go to the UFT office in your Borough tso they can write an appeal to the DOE charges and demand a hearing in front of an independent arbitrator. Failure to do this could result in the DOE terminating you at the next PEP meeting. The appeal must be given to the DOE within 10 days of the teacher receiving the 3020-a charges.
Third, the teacher will be assigned a NYSUT lawyer, free of charge, to represent the teacher at his or her 3020-a hearing. If you and your NYSUT attorney don't see "eye to eye", the teacher can always hire a private lawyer to represent them.
Fourth, the hearing will usually start 3 to 6 months after receiving the 3020-a charges, it could be longer, depending on the arbitrator's caseload. The 3020-a hearing will last no more than a month and the arbitrator will usually render a decision 30 to 60 days after the end of the hearing. From start to finish it's usually less than 9 months between being served 3020-a charges and the arbitrator's decision.
Fifth, despite the often quoted myth that the arbitrators "split the baby", the truth is that if the arbitrator finds the teacher guilty of serious misconduct and/or real incompetence, especially under the new teacher evaluation system, the teacher will be terminated. The "split the baby" only deals with more minor misconduct or questionable incompetence charges that don't warrant termination..
Finally, don't be afraid to go through your 3020-a hearing. Let the DOE prove their charges since it takes 30 to 60 days for the arbitrator to send a decision, you can retire one day after the hearing and it becomes effective the next school day. That way you don't lose the lump sum and retro payments (up to $50,000 owed to you). However, if you wait for the decision and your terminated, you get no lump sum payments and retro adjustments to your pension.
As most of you know, the UFT wisely let the terrible 2014 ATR Agreement, that made ATRs second class citizens, sunset into history. The 2014 ATR Agreement was for two years and could be renewed for the final two years of the contract. However, the DOE decided to abuse the 2014 ATR Agreement by making many rotating ATRs temporary provisional appointments in the hopes they could charge them under an expedited 3020-a, despite the fact they were not covering a class for long-term in their content specialty. After some fruitless discussions between the UFT and DOE, the union decided to let the 2014 ATR Agreement to sunset.
What provisions are no longer in force after the sunsetting of the 2014 ATR Agreement?
No mandated interviews and no forced resignation for refusing to appear for an interview.
No out of district placements, unless the ATR agrees to one.
Principals are no longer required to release the ATR for interviews.
No expedited 3020-a hearings for "unprofessional behavior".
No forced resignation for missing the first two consecutive days at a new school.
No different rules between ATRs excessed due to closing schools and those that won their discipline hearings when being placed..
Length of rotation is monthly unless DOE decides otherwise.
No mutual consent, the DOE will place the most senior ATR in the district in any vacancy and unless the Principal decides the ATR is "not a good fit" the ATR is stuck there for the duration of the placement.
Only in-district placements allowed unless the ATR agrees to an out of district placement.
Unfortunately field supervisors will continue to observe rotating ATRs and the S/U rating system still applies. However, if your ATR field supervisor "U" rates your informal then demand, in writing, a formal observation with a lesson specific pre observation conference. The formal observation will override the informal observation at rating time. Remember, the field supervisiors are not there to improve the ATR's pedagogy but to weed out the weaker ones and expose them to 3020-a charges.
Finally, do not receive "a letter to the file" for any reason or take more than 10 days of sick time since the DOE has ordered the field supervisors to give a "U" rating for the year.
How did the ATR fiasco start? our union leadership helped the DOE create it starting with the terrible 2005 contract and you can read it here.
Last week I received a change in my assignment and was sent to a middle school, despite the fact the ATR agreement plainly states that rotating ATRs can only be placed in their district. My district is District 77, Queens high schools, and that is the only district I am required to rotate in. Yet the DOE continually violates the 2011 ATR agreement and tries to dump ATRs outside their district.
Luckily, I contacted Michael Sill and Amy Arundell who swiftly contacted the DOE and over the weekend I received a revised assignment to a high school in my district. The question I have for the DOE are the following:
Is the DOE ATR group just a bunch of incompetent boobs?
Does the DOE ATR group simply ignore the 2011 ATR agreement?
Maybe the DOE ATR group tries to trick the ATRs by assigning them to an out of district assignment as if they are required to report or face disciplinary action?
I cannot say which of the three above questions apply, maybe all three, but if you believe you are placed out-of-district, please contact Michael Sill of Amy Arundell at UFT headquarters as quickly as possible and explain why the placement is wrong. If the DOE does not place you in your correct district by Sunday night, report to your last school until the proper placement is assigned. Do not simply stay home! Otherwise, you will be marked absent without cause.
Speaking of the ATR agreement there are two other issues that need to be clarified. First, the ATR incentive may have a hidden condition that wasn't explained by either the DOE or the UFT. I have been informed that the first year of the ATR incentive is free for the calendar and not school year. Meaning that schools will wait till the second semester to pick up ATRs since they can get the ATR for free for both the second semester of this school year and the first semester the next school year. The same goes for years two and three when they get the ATR at a reduced cost.
Another hidden condition is that the school would still be responsible initially for the ATR salary and get reimbursed by the DOE which is a disincentive for principals who are on a tight budget and are reluctant to shell out up to $54,000 in salary for the second semester and hope the DOE will pay them back at the end of the school year. If this is true, I see many principals deciding against hiring ATRs for their vacancies.
Finally, does the realigning of New York City licenses with New York State licenses allow the DOE to use it as an end around of the ATR Agreement and put high school teachers into middle and elementary schools? Will the UFT allow it? I certainly hope not as the DOE will most certainly take advantage of this and abuse the ATRs even more than they do now.
Remember, the ATR information meeting is scheduled tomorrow at 4:30pm at the Queens UFT office. See you there.
Update: Amy Arundell has clarified and corrected the issues dealing with the ATR incentive and the license expansion. According to Ms. Arundell the DOE came up with the ATR incentive to try to place ATRs in permanent positions since schools are being paid for the vacancies anyway and it makes little sense for principals not to hire the ATRs for these paid for vacancies, unless they have ideological motives that only hurt their students who end up with no teacher. As for the license issue? Amy states that it will not affect the placement of ATRs in their district. The DOE cannot force place an ATR outside their district without the ATR's approval, even if his or her license now allows for them to be placed in, for example, in a middle school if they are a high school teacher.
Amy also informed me that the DOE's assignment to a middle school was a "computer glitch" doe to a new computer system and new personnel. In other word the DOE showed their incompetence and carelessness in not checking to see if the placement meets the 2011 ATR Agreement. .
Until the passing of the June 2014 contract, teachers at retirement age charged under 3020-a could go through the entire hearing process without worrying about losing their benefits. If the teacher was terminated or forced to resign or retire (about 55% from the latest data), they still retained all their benefits. However, that all changed in the 2014 contract. While teachers of retirement age still retained their retiree health benefits and pension, they are in for a significant financial hit.
If a teacher goes through their 3020-a hearings and is terminated, the union negotiated contract allows the DOE to refuse to pay the teacher their lump sum retro payments from 2009-10. How much money can the DOE save by terminating the teacher? Approximately $50,000. Therefore, the DOE pushes for termination, hoping the teacher takes a deal to irrevocably retire, rather than risk losing the $50,000.
The DOE, empowered by the June 2014 contract, has pushed school administrators to contact the Office of Legal Services and start 3020-a termination charges against teachers for minor offenses or against teachers who had "developing" ratings. The DOE figures that the 3020-a charges will push teachers at retirement age to retire rather than risk losing the $50,000 owed them. I already know of three senior teachers who told me that they cannot risk being terminated even when I told them that the charges against them would probably not result in termination.
Its obvious to me that he June 2014 contract has encouraged the DOE to go after senior teachers, knowing full well that the mere threat of termination and losing $50,000 will force them to irrevocably resign rather than fight the charges against them.
When Bill de Blasio replaced Michael Bloomberg as Mayor and selected Carmen Farina as Chancellor, the UFT President. Michael Mulgrew, proclaimed "there's a new tone at the DOE". However, Chancellor Carmen Farina, who had been a Deputy Chancellor under Joel Klein and only retired when the Chancellor made Eric Nadelsternhis second in command over her, was really part of the problem and not the solution when it came to real change at the DOE. Chancellor Carmen Farina retained 80% of the Bloomberg policymakers and told new teachers not to listen to those complaining veteran teachers in the teachers room. For the teachers in the trenches things remain unchanged. More about the history of Carmen Farina can be found in a previous post.
In just about every school I have traveled to or speak to other teachers, they tell me how the administration and the Office of Legal Services at the DOE are going after senior teachers. The latest anecdotal evidence shows that the majority of teachers under 3020-a charges are senior teachers as are those teachers in the ATR pool. It seems that if you are a senior teacher that the DOE has painted a target on your back and the principals and ATR supervisors are their willing executioners. True, some school administrations value their senior teachers as role models and mentors but when you consider that 25% of the principals come from the infamous "Leadership Academy" and the Superintendents have told principals under their control to target their "weakest teachers", the temptation is for these principals to target senior teachers due to their salary and seniority status.
The union leadership had hoped that things would change with a new administration but the reality is "the more things change the more they remained the same".
For New York City teachers who manage to reach retirement age, (only about 33% will reach full retirement age). They can look forward to a generous pension and a TDA. The average NYC teacher retiree has a pension of $45,000 and a TDA balance of $325,000. Add that to Social Security and a teacher who reaches full retirement age can look forward to nearly $100,000 dollars of guaranteed income. Moreover, with an inclusive health plan and welfare benefits, the teacher retiree is in very good shape as he or she retires. Finally, the pension and Social Security are indexed to inflation. Why should teachers worry?
Teachers need to worry as they proceed in retirement. First, the pension is only partially indexed for inflation by increasing at a third of the CPI which is usually lower than the actual inflation rate. Furthermore, the pension adjustment is capped at 3%, regardless how high the CPI goes. Furthermore, the first pension adjustment occurs five years after retirement or if you retire at the age of 60 or less the first pension adjustment cannot occur until the age of 65 years of age. Finally, Social Security is usually only 25-30% of the total retirement income at the most.
As for the TDA, there is no inflation adjustment and since 60% of the teachers keep their money in the fixed income option (7% interest rate), there is no inflation protection. Therefore, the teacher retirement income will steadily erode the retiree's pension income. How much will the pension erode? The table below shows a worst case scenario since its complicated, due to the partial indexing of the pension and the reduced indexing of the Social Security income
Of course, its probably not as bad as the table shows because at present inflation is lower and there is some partial inflation protection in our pension but all the same the retiree's income will erode significantly over time.
What can a teacher do as they approach retirement? Make sure they have at least 20% of their income in equities, preferably in low-cost index funds that historically appreciate above the inflation rate. Otherwise, expect to reduce your standard of living as inflation slowly but surely erodes your effective retiree income.
I was told a story by a teacher who works in a transfer high school in the Bronx. However, before I tell you the story, you should know what a transfer school is. A transfer school is a school that accepts overaged and under credited students (at least 16 years of age) who struggle in other high schools. Moreover, these transfer schools take in students who previously dropped out, students who came out of incarceration, and students who move from one temporary shelter to another. In other words, these are "high needs" students. To help accumulate credits, the transfer schools are tri-semester, meaning they receive three credits for the year instead of two.
Teachers who work in transfer schools call it "heaven and hell". Its hell during the fall semester as the classes are crowded and quite a few students don't want to be there but are forced to by their probation officer, parent, or authorities. By the Spring semester most of the students have disappeared, especially the behaviorally challenged who disrupt the classroom. This time is know n as heaven as the teacher has small class sizes and students who wanted to graduate.
That brings me back to the Bronx transfer school which recently had a student assembly and elections for student body President. Three candidates were running, one boy and two girls. The girls campaigned for the usual things, a stronger student voice, more resources, a less punitive discipline policy, and student respect. The audience seemed only half interested and many were eying their cellphones or talking to the person next to them, Then it was time for the boy to speak. He started talking about the awful bathrooms. He called them "smelly and stinky" and lacked toilet paper, soap, and paper towels. He demanded air fresheners for the bathrooms. He explained when you take a "shit" and there's no toilet paper it helps to stink up the entire school The buzz from the crowd stopped as he was speaking and then went wild with yells and applause as he targeted the one issue that they all wanted to fix, the stinky and smelly bathrooms.
In a shocking upset, thanks to the "deplorables", Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by capturing nearly all the important battleground States (Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Iowa, and Arizona) worth 79 electoral votes, only losing Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Nevada worth 32 electoral votes. Had that been the only changes Hillary Clinton would have still won. However, Trump's "rust belt strategy" broke the blue wall and he captured the rust belt states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. worth 46 electoral votes Now that Donald Trump is President and the Republicans control Congress what will Trump's priorities be?
First, look for Obamacare to be replaced by a more modest health care program that will not dump the cost on the middle class, or so we all hope.
Second, all President Obama's executive orders will be allowed to lapse, especially when it comes to immigration.
Third, a more draconian immigration policy and more deportations of criminal illegals. While I don't think a wall will be a priority, I could be wrong, I also suspect he will also target sanctuary cities who protect criminal illegals with punitive financial penalties.
Fourth, a conservative justice for the Supreme Court.
Fifth, a pro business friendly tax code with low corporate and personal taxes,
Sixth, a more sympathetic policy toward Israel and a more hard line against Iran.
Seventh, forcing our NATO allies to foot their fair share of the cost.
Eighth, More large scale infrastructure projects to generate jobs.
Ninth, A renegotiation of existing trade agreements.
Tenth, Have States determine their own education policy, not the Federal Government.
Whether you like it or not its "Welcome to Trumpland".
In the school I have been assigned to we had an uneventful Professional Development (PD). However, there was one part of the PD I found very interesting. A question was asked by the trainer. The question was"Do you trust the Chancellor and the DOE in making the proper decisions to help the school"? I had expected the vast majority of teachers to keep their hands down, However, not one teacher raised their hand, even the "newbies"! While I admit this is a very small sample and only one high school. I bet if this vote was done citywide the teachers would vote over 90% against trusting the Chancellor and her acolytes at the DOE to do what's right for the schools.
Why do the teachers feel this way? There are many reasons, the continued excess paperwork heaped on teachers, the many "gotcha" administrators that rather confront teachers than collaborate with them, the punitive Dainelson rubric and the asinine student growth metric used to unfairly evaluate teachers. Then there is the many bad principalsthat the DOE protects despite there terrible leadership and let's not forget how the DOE sucks up the money while essentially keeping school budgets frozen at less than a 100% of their fair student funding.
If the above issues aren't enough? How about the DOE's policy of going after senior teachers for incompetence, despite the fact they only had one year of "ineffective" ratings! In one such case a teacher received an "ineffective" rating back in 2014-15. However, she worked hard and in the 2015-16 school year raised her grade to "developing" for both the observation and her testing components. This did not stop the DOE from filing 3020-a charges this school year. There was a similar case where a senior teacher received a "developing" from a validator and still was charged under 30200-a and was terminated.
Finally, the DOE still treats the ATRs as unwanted teachers and with one hand offers schools an incentive to hire ATRs, while with the other tries to get their field assassins to terminate the weaker ones.
I can only snicker when I hear our UFT President tell us that there is a different tone at Tweed when for the teachers in the trenches its still the same old song. They continue to be the enemy and not an organization that supports teachers and the vote shows that.
There is a disconnect between what teachers want and what education reformers expect. This disconnect is exacerbated by politicians and their media allies who, along with the education reform movement demonizes teachers every chance they get.
If you ask the education reformers privately what they want for their child, they would say the following about their child's school:
Low class size
An experienced teacher certified in the subject
A stable school environment
Strong student discipline procedures
A thriving learning classroom
Just take a look at all the leading figures in the education reform organizations and their political allies and see what they demand for their own school-age children and you see that is in fact what they have for their children. However, when it comes to other children, these education reform organizations demand the following:
Large class sizes
cheap and replaceable teachers
Weakened student discipline code
High-stakes testing and test preparation
Inappropriate test-based teacher evaluations
Add to that how these education reform groups want to divert money to charter schools, private schools, and demand merit pay and you have the makings of the demoralization of the teaching profession. What better way to explain the shortfall in education funding then to blame teachers on the woes of the school system by attacking their pensions, tenure, and teacher due process rights.
What do teachers want? We want the following:
Low class sizes
Respect for the teaching profession
An enforceable student discipline code
A strong union that represents their members
What teachers don't want:
Evaluations tied to inappropriate tests
Obviously, teachers want what all concerned parents want for their children and that is a peaceful and academically thriving classroom with real student growth not artificial and inappropriate benchmarks that have no real world applications. Learning should be fun and students should not fear and loathe going to school because of these high-stakes tests. Is it any wonder that there is a growing teacher shortage nationwide and the "opt out" movement is spreading throughout the country?
Unless, the education reform movement is exposed as a bunch of hypocrites who want their own children to have the same things public school teachers want and not what they claim the rest of us should get, both the teacher shortage and the "opt out" movement will continue to grow. See what teachers want is what parents also want for their children.
I have been accused by some principals of only going after them for their incompetence and vindictive actions and rightly so since they run their schools. Remember, bad administrators makes for a bad school. However, there are occasions I do mention teachers who should not be exposed to our students and this is one of those stories.
The teacher is known as "Mr. Sleazy" and I have been informed that he was forced to resign or retire back in the 2014-15 school year after allegedly being "U" rated two consecutive years. How he lasted the fifteen years in the system is more an indictment of the DOE incompetence than his ability as a teacher.
Mr. Sleazy was known as the school snitch and most teachers of the school gave him a wide berth. In one disgusting action Mr. Sleazy asked the Principal if he could meet with the "Special Commissioner of Investigations" (SCI) since he had valuable information to aid in the investigation of a recently removed teacher from the school. However, fearing that other teachers could find out that he was meeting with SCI, he requested that he meet with them outside the school. The Principal eagerly complied since the SCI investigation of the teacher was going nowhere and finding no evidence to support the Principal supported allegations against the teacher.
Mr. Sleazy told the SCI investigators that he was hearing many of his assigned students, both female and male, had requested that they be transferred to the other teacher's class. Mr. Sleazy claimed that the other teacher had to be making some sort of arraignment with these students. Why else would they request a transfer? Of course SCI did investigate and found out that Mr. Sleazy was a lousy teacher and had the lowest Regents passing rates in the subject. Moreover, they were told he could not connect with his students and because of him, teacher shopping was out of control as students assigned to Mr. Sleazy's class went to their guidance counselors to request a transfer. The end result was SCI disregarded Mr. Sleazy's information. Mr Sleazy was so bad as a teacher that the school eventually made him a Dean rather than have him in the classroom. You can read the stories about Mr. SleazyHere.
Thankfully, Mr. Sleazy has left the DOE and can no longer damage students and snitch on teachers he come in contact with. Its goodbye and good riddance to a terrible teacher, Mr. Sleazy.
I was told a story by an ATR teacher who was recently assigned to a school with a vacancy in his content specialty. He was covering for a recently hired "newbie" who had an altercation with a student and when the Principal wrote the teacher up, he quit on the spot or so goes the story. The ATR teacher is fast approaching retirement and has informed the Assistant Principal of his intentions of retiring at the end of the school year or next school year at the latest.
The Principal had asked the ATR teacher to provisionally cover the class for the rest of the semester and maybe for the year, if she cannot find a certified teacher (newbie) in January, for the second semester. The ATR teacher told the Principal of his intention of retiring by.June of 2018. at the latest, and that he has received "Satisfactory" or "effective" ratings since becoming an ATR, when his school closed down. Since the school has a relatively good student body and ample parking, the ATR teacher asked the Principal to permanently appoint him since she would save money and get an experienced teacher, with demonstrated classroom management and curriculum knowledge skills.
The ATR teacher pointed out the new ATR incentive plan that the school would get the ATR for free this year and half price next year and he would retire at the end of the 2017-18 school year. At first, the Principal acted like she didn't understand how the ATR incentive worked and claimed no knowledge of such an incentive. She eventually backtracked and said that she's aware of the ATR incentive but needed to explore it further.
A week later, the Assistant Principal told the ATR teacher he was happy what he saw in his informal observation and that he has excellent classroom management skills and the students really like him. However, he also told the ATR teacher the Principal wasn't going to permanently hire him for the position but would like to provisionally hire him instead. When the ATR teacher asked why, since he will retire in two years and helps her budget, the Assistant Principal shrugged his shoulders and said he didn't know.
On Monday, he asked to meet with the Principal and she met with him at the end of the day. He asked her why she wouldn't consider permanently hiring him? She claimed that if her enrollment went down, she would lose one of her best teachers because he would have seniority over her. When he correctly pointed out that the school is a desirable school and the danger of losing students are next to zero. She responded with the statement that things could change. She told the teacher that she doesn't trust the DOE when it came to the school's budget and what if you change your mind about retiring? The ATR teacher told the Principal that he has no intention of staying beyond two years but the Principal seemed unconvinced and claimed he could change his mind or the DOE could cut her budget and it would be difficult to remove him from the school's payroll if she permanently appointed him. The ATR teacher quickly realized that the discussion was going nowhere and thanked the Principal for her time.
The next day the Assistant Principal told the teacher that the Principal told him that she will be interviewing other ATRs for the vacancy to fill provisionally and expect to be rotated out. No provisional assignment, despite the obvious need for the students to have a certified teacher in the content specialty. Then again, for this Principal and many others, especially principals from the infamous "Leadership Academy" its Principal first and children last...Always!
I read the Beth Fertigschoolbook articleon how small themed schools try to get the most interesting applicants to their school and have some real issues about how naive Beth Fertig is, considering how experienced she is on New York City education issues.
First, she bought the kool-ade that small themed schools should be allowed to "screen" the applicant list to only select the "interested student". Despite the fact that all schools must take a lower third student population. Gone are the days when the Bloomberg administration allowed the small schools to exclude the lower third academically challenged student to ensure that the school succeeds while dumping the rest into the schools he wanted to close and did.
Second, these principals of the themed small schools would be happy to exclude "high needs" students, like Special Education, English Language Learners, and behaviorally challenged students if given the chance. Yet, Beth Fertig seemed not to understand that's what these principals were really requesting.
Finally, Beth Fertig should have asked the obvious question to these principals from the small themed schools, What then happens to the students who cannot meet the school's threshold criteria? The answer is also quite obvious, you dump them in the academically struggling schools and make it their problem.
Of course, the reason the small themed schools want only "interested students" is because these are the students that most likely have good academic skills, parents who went to school fairs or made a school visit, and best of all will have the best chance to graduate high school. Remember, the DOE still uses the graduation rate as the main focus of a school's success or failure and the first thing parents look at is the school's graduation rate. Given the chance, these themed small schools would "game the system" and could not care what happens to those "high needs" students, as long as they can reject them for their school.
To read a more detailed analysis of Beth Fertig's article please read the Ed the Apple blog.