Sunday, December 10, 2017

The 300 Member Negotiating Committee Is Only A Fig Leaf.















Our union leadership is organizing a 300 member negotiating committee to help with the next contract that starts in November of 2018.  However, if past history is a lesson, the 300 member negotiating committee is simply a fig leaf as the real negotiations will be dictated by a select group of our union leadership who cares little about what the rank and file wants.

Anybody who believes that our union leadership will listen to the 300 member negotiating committee's recommendations, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn t sell you.  Moreover, when it comes to pay raises, the UFT will be subject to "collective bargaining" and since DC37 is presently negotiating with the City on a three year contract with very modest raises.it's a safe bet that whatever DC37 settles for will also be applicable to the UFT.  Finally, the State unions are getting 2% raises and that will also factor into the final contract the UFT negotiates with the City.

The bottom line, I expect a two or three year contract with modest raises of between 1.5% and 2% yearly and hopefully,  no "givebacks". Presently, the City has a surplus while the State has a budget deficit and can afford to give us higher rises but  won't.  I would be shocked if the total UFT contract raises exceed 4% for two years or 6% for three. Let's hope that the small raises will not have to be self funded by increased health care co pays or other "givebacks".

Saturday, December 09, 2017

The NYC Racial Achievement Gap Widenes As Students Get Older.




























A decade ago Mayor Micael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein proclaimed that their education reforms had significantly narrowed the racial achievement gap.  Of course those claims turned out to be "smoke and mirrors" as the primary cause was the State drastically lowering cut scores and providing questionable rubrics on the State tests that eventually led to the removal of the State Education Commissioner Mills.  When the State redid the tests the following years it showed that the racial academic achievement gap actually widened and led to the resignation of Chancellor Joel Klein as Mayor Bloomberg, embarrassed that his education reforms were a mirage , pressured Mr. Klein to leave.

Now in a new study by the City's Independent Budget Office (IBO), the report shows that as children advanced from third to eighth grades the racial achievement gap between Asian and White students grew, when compared to Black and Hispanic students.  The study tracked 71,000 third graders back in 2008 and ended the study in 2013, when the students were in eighth grade. This time period encompasses part of Michael Bloomberg's second term and all of the third term as Mayor of New York City.

The report shows that the Bloomberg/Klein education reforms to narrow the racial achievement gap was a failure and in fact, widened over time as the students advanced to the next grade.  Here are the six takeaways of the IBO report.

  1. Black and Hispanic students started far behind. 
  2. As they got older Black students fell further behind.
  3. Hispanic students made slight gains in English but not Math,
  4. By eigth grade Asians led the back in both English and Math,
  5. Black boys were at the bottom of the list.
  6. Girls out did boys in Math for all races.
Read the IBO report and its obvious that the racial achievement gap is not only real and persistent but widens as the students move up in grade   At least the IBO report doesn't blame the teacher for the poor academic results in high poverty minority schools.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

DOE's ATR Placement Policy Is A Failure - Part 2.




























Last month I wrote a post that suggested that the DOE's ATR placement policy was a failure, which was based upon anecdotal evidence.  Now Charkbeat has published data, supplied by the DOE that confirms my previous post. According to the Charkbeat article only 41 ATRs were permanently placed since October 15th.  That is only 10% of what the DOE anticipated with their ATR placement policy.

Interestingly all 41 ATRs who were permanently placed were excessed due to school or program closing and not due to disciplinary or legal issues.  Which strongly indicates that the ATR assignment folks keep at least two separate lists of ATRs.   Moreover, the DOE admitted that the ATR pool consists of 1,202 educators and not the 822 that they claimed previously.  Finally,  their claim that the 1,202 numbers is 20% less than last year is false   Last year's number was 1,304 and that means the actual reduction is not 20% but 7%!

Another interesting item is that the DOE has admitted that principals would have to agree to permanently hire the ATR and would not be assigned without the approval of the Principal.  A clear win for  the principals.

The bottom line the more things the DOE claims to change, the more they stay the same. The DOE's ATR placement policy is a failure.




Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Proof That The Graduation Rate Is Bogus.



























Since the Bloomberg era the high school graduation rate has steadily increased from 50% in 2000 to 76% in the last school year.  Of course Mayors Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio has claimed that their education reforms are making more high school graduates college and career ready.  The truth is far different.  A recent study by the Center For An Urban Future showed that only 22% of CUNY Community College students graduate with an associates degree within three years. The lowest numbers were in the Bronx with only a 16% graduation rate. The report stated the following:

The disappointingly low community college graduation rate clearly demonstrates that the high school graduation rate  does not make the high school graduate ready for the adult world. The report includes the following paragraph that peopple should take notice.
 These low college completion rates are particularly troubling at a time when a college credential has become the floor to achieving economic success. Indeed, 20 of the 25 fastest-growing occupations in the city that pay over $50,000 annually require a college degree.7 Citywide, the average working adult with only a high school diploma earns 32 percent less annually than a worker with an associate’s degree ($27,259 a year versus $36,101) and less than half the earnings of a New Yorker with a bachelors degree ($54,939).

The poor community college graduation rate of 22% is an improvement from the 13% in 2008  but still that leaves 78% who don't graduate college in a reasonable time.  The three neighborhoods with the lowest percentage of Bachelor degrees are Mott Haven (9%), Brownsville (11%) and Soundeview (12%),  Manhattan has the highest percentage at 60% and the Bronx the lowest at 19%.

The bottom line with almost 8 out of 10 nyc high school graduates unprepared for higher education, one must question the high school graduation rate and the diploma mills that are many of our high schools.




Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Retirement And The GOP Tax Plan.



















The GOP tax plan will punish high tax states like New York and many other Democratic states by eliminating the State and Local Income tax deduction. In addition, the property tax deduction is limited to $10,000.  The New York Times did an in depth study and published it here.

For example the average deduction State and Local Income tax deduction in Manhattan was $60,400 and 45% took the deduction.  In Westchester, it was  $34,400 and 47% took the deductionWhile in Nassau it was $23,900 and 50% took the deduction.

For educators who live in New York City, they pay approximately 10% of their income to State and Local taxes.  Here is an example:

Teacher #1:  Salary $80,000,   Federal Tax = 25% or $18,863
                                           NYS Tax    = 6.65% or $5,320
                                           NYC Tax    = 3.65% or $2,800
                                           Total Tax  =30.30% or $23,983



As one can see, the 10% Sate and Local tax rate results in taxes of over $8,000.  On the other hand the federal tax will be reduced to 22% and the standard deduction increased.by almost double the existing amount.  However, personal exemptions would be eliminated.  The bottom line is that teacher #1  would probably be paying additional taxes due to the higher standard deduction and elimination of deductions.

On the other hand.  If Teacher #1 retires, then the GOP tax plan is going to reduce his or her taxes since the pension, social security, and TDA are not subject to State and Local taxes.  Moreover, the teacher will be in a lower tax bracket.  Finally, the  larger standard deduction probably makes it unnecessary to itemize with no earned income to tax. Overall, it appears that the GOP tax plan might encourage more educators to retire due to tax considerations.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Should You Contribute To The TRS Balanced Fund?



























Starting next month the TRS Bond Fund will be discontinued and replaced by the Balanced Fund.  For educators who are still contributing to the Bond Fund, the same percentage will now be assigned to the Balanced Fund, umless you change your allocation.  While the Balanced Fund is preferable to the Bond Fund the question is should an educator contribute to it?

Normally a balanced fund is an appropriate conservative investment that usually has an asset allocation of between 40% to 60% in stocks and the rest in fixed income investments like bonds, money market funds and government securities.  However, when TRS offers a no fee 7% interest rate Fixed Fund, why bother?  I, for one rather put any conservative investments into a guaranteed 7% return then gamble on the Balance Fund with its allocation of volatile stocks and in our present low interest environment, 2% fixed income investments.

I see the Balanced Fund appropriate for those educators who think stock equity funds.are too risky for their tastes but wants some inflation protection.  Otherwise, the TRS Balanced Fund is not recommended by me at this time. 

Friday, December 01, 2017

Safe Schools? Yeah Right! - Part 2




















In a previous post I pointed out that weapons confiscated from students have risen an astounding 35% this school year so far but due to a lax discipline code, many of these students were not arrested or even suspended. Moreover, only 6% of all schools have metal detectors or scanners.  No wonder students and teachers feel more unsafe in their schools than at anytime in the past.

Wednesday, the DOE and NYPD sprang a spot scanning at the Bayard Ruskin Educational Complex in Chelsea and confiscated 10 knives.  They probably would have found more weapons but students used their cellphones to warn friends of the scanning.   In addition, two students were found to have handled an air gun at another Chelsea High School,  Fashion Industries.   Add the.two students found with guns at John Bowne high school last week and one can see there is a real issue with weapons being smuggled into our schools without metal detectors

Mayor Bill de Blasio may claim that the school crime statistics are going down but its obvious that the real reason is that school officials are not reporting the weapon confiscations as a crime.  No wonder school staff and students feel that their school is increasingly unsafe.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Principals Win On ATR Placements.



























According to my sources, the DOE;s ATR placement policy has not significantly changed the amount of ATRs permanently leaving the ATR pool, when compared to previous years.  While the DOE's ATR buyout removed 120 ATRs from the pool.  These ATRs were retiring anyway!  The retiring ATRs were quickly replaced by the DOE's aggressive persecution of veteran teachers who were subject to 3020-a hearings and few were returned to their school after their completion.  Moreover, as some schools downsized or closed altogether, fresh blood is added to the ATR pool.  Finally, with Fair Student Funding, few, if any, veteran teachers are offered permanent positions due to their salary, age, and institutional memory.

Almost all the ATRs I know are either rotating or given a provisional position.  Of the approximately 100 or so ATRs I know, only 2 were offered a permanent position and they are both doubly certified in Special Education and ESL.  A severe shortage area.  I suspect that is the case citywide,

It certainly appears to me that the DOE's ATR placement policy is a failure and has not significantly reduced the ATR pool, once you include the provisional placements who will all be back into the ATR pool at the end of the school year,  Add the teachers from Flushing and De Witt Clinton high schools at the end of the year and it does not bode well for a reduction in the ATR pool next year.

Will the DOE approve another ATR buyout and sweeten the pot by offering a year's salary and pension credit?  Who knows but if they don't change the existing DOE policy on teacher hiring and eliminate fair student funding, that's the only way to permanently reduce the ATR pool.

Obviously, the DOE's ATR placement policy is a failure and a win for the principals who want to retain their vacancies for the next group of "newbies".





Sunday, November 26, 2017

Safe Schools? Yeah Right!



















If you believe the DOE propaganda that the New York City schools are safer, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you,  Sure, the DOE statistics do show a reduction in criminal actions but that's because many criminal actions are subject to the school Principal determining the severity of the crime.

For example, school weapon arrests have skyrocketed by 35% so far this year. A total of 746 weapons have been confiscated this year, compared to 552 last year.  Despite the increase, the actual criminal arrests were down because under Bill de Blasio many students caught with  knives and box cutters were not criminally charged, or even given a summons.  Instead, it was left up to the discretion of the school administration to determine the punishment, if any.  For example, "warning cards" rather than arrests are the newest fade and instead of suspension its restorative justice.  No wonder, most students feel more unsafe than in previous years.

Despite the rise in weapons in schools, only 3 additional schools have metal detractors and only 6% of all schools have them. You can read more about this Here and Here.

The Bill de Blasio/Carmen Farina weakening of the student discipline code, the allowing of cellphones, and the reduction in suspendable offenses has resulted in schools being less safe.  Just ask the students!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Chaz's Golden Turkey Award.



























This year's golden turkey award winners are the UFT leadership who negotiated an inferior ATR buyout and bought into the fraudulent ATR placement that has resulted in little change from previous years.  Another winner is the DOE who continues to shortchange schools by funding them at 90% of their fair funding and watches  class sizes increase.  Finally, we have the continuation of "Fair Student Funding" that forces principals to hire "the cheapest and not the best teachers" for their schools.

UFT Leadership:
They, once again, negotiated an inferior ATR buyout and despite predictions of  upwards of 300 ATRs taking the buyout, only  120 actually did and all of them were retiring anyway!  Moreover, despite the union leadership buying into the DOE's new ATR policy, nothing has really changed as few ATRs have been permanently placed in vacancies.  Further, the union leadership makes sure that the ATRs lack their own chapter and real representation. Finally, the union leadership continues to ignore member complaints and practices their undemocratic actions.

Department of Education:
The Bloomberg philosophy permeates throughout the DOE,  To most teachers they are the enemy and the DOE's idea of collaboration is top down policies, without input from school staff.  Further, the DOE has starved schools with a recession era budget while their own budget and headcount increase.  Finally, despite the Mayor's promises to reduce class sizes, they have actually increased this school year.

Fair Student Funding:
Despite the negative effects of school based fair student funding, the Bloomberg managers have resisted eliminating it.  The result is that schools are forced to hire "newbie" teachers rather than seasoned veterans.  The result is that many struggling schools experience high teacher turnover and a steep learning curve for their new teachers. Not good for student learning.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Give Thanks You Are Not Working In These Schools.



























Of all the high school snapshots in Queens, I came up with the eight principals that have the lowest teacher trust readings as nominated by their teaching staff.  This list is based upon the 2016-17 school year. 

The  list is as follows:

School.............................................Trust

Humanities And The Arts...................24%
Gateway to Health Sciences..............38%
William Cullen Bryant........................41%
Rockaway Collegiate.........................45%
MAST...............................................53%

Applied Communications...................60%
Queens Collegiate.............................60%
Grover Cleveland..............................64% 

The citywide average is 78%.

Who are these principals you ask?  Topping the list is Principal Kayode Ayetiwa at Campus Magnet's Humanities and the Arts.  Read about her school Here. Others on the list is Namita Dwarka  of Bryant who single-highhandedly 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,  who usually leads high schools in giving negative rating to his teachers. Then there are the principals at Rockaway and Queens Collegiate,  who seem to have trouble retaining staff and then there is the terrible Judy Henry who won her position in questionable circumstances, thanks to Superintendent Juan Mendez and has made the staff wish they never worked there. Finally, lets not forget Principal Michael Weinstein at Applied Communications who sparked a student walkout to protest his flawed leadership of the school.

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.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Queens High Schools Not Ready For College.
























High schools with low college readiness rates are usually associated with schools that have a high percentage of Black and Hispanic student bodies and are located in high poverty areas.  This appears to be true when it comes to the Queens high schools.  Of the thirteen schools that have the lowest college readiness scores, all but one, Flushing high school, a Renewal School, are located in Southeast Queens.  For the remaining twelve high schools the Black and Hispanic population is over 90% and diversity is simply a pipe dream under the current high school choice program.  



School............................College Readiness

Fredrick Douglas Academy VI......13%
Rockaway Park...........................16%
Humanities and Arts...................19%
August Martin............................20% 
Law Enforcement.......................20%
Flushing....................................22%
Rockaway Collegiate..................23% 
QIRT.........................................25%
Excelsior Prep...........................25% 

Pathways College......................26% 
Science, Research, and Tech......26%
Cambria Heights Academy.........27% 
Academy of Medical Tech...........27% 


Basically, only one in every four students are academically proficient and this does not bode well for the remaining 75% of the students who must continue to struggle academically.  Moreover, with the lack of proper academic skills and work habits, these students will;l have trouble finding and maintaining jobs, provide financially for a family, and establish a stable home environment for their children.

Unless we diversify these schools and attract academically proficient students, the above schools are simply awarding useless diplomas to students who are unwilling or unable to become academically proficient to become a successful adult. These schools are simply diploma mills and we are doing a disservice to these students by awarding them a useless diploma when they are unprepared for both higher education and the adult work world.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Disconnect Between Graduation Rates And College Readiness - 2017



























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 annual metric for the 2016-17 school year that takes the graduation rate and divides it by the "college and career readiness rate"  as defined by New York City  The New York State rates are lower..

High schools that have a ratio below "1.5" are in blue and giving their students a world class education while high schools with ratios greater than "2" are listed in red and yellow and are simply diploma mills. Parents should make sure their academically achieving students should stay away from them.  This year's metric was lowered since the Algebra Regents rubric and cut scores was made easier to achieve higher grades and the English Regents was found also to be easier than previous years.  It appears the "college ready" scores went up by an average of between ten and fifteen points, primarily due to the lower cut scores in Math and an easier test in English.

The list is based on the 2016-17 school year.

School...........................Graduation Rate.....College Ready

Cambria Heights Academy........86%.....................27% 
Academy of Medical Tech..........73%.....................27% 
Fredrick Douglas Academy VI....47%.....................13%
QIRT.........................................81%.....................25%
Rockaway Park.........................72%.....................16%
Humanities and Arts.................68%.....................19%
August Martin...........................63%....................20% 
Rockaway Collegiate.................66%....................23% 
Martin Van Buren......................61%....................31%
 Flushing..................................60%....................22%
Pathways College.......'.............66%....................26%
Hillside Arts & Letters...............84%....................36%
Law Enforcement.....................80%....................20%
Science, Research, and Tech.....71%....................26%
Excelsior Prep..........................71%....................25% 
 George Washington Carver......78%...................35%
 John Adams............................71%...................32%
Newtown.................................71%....................36%
Queens Prep...........................70%....................36%
Channel View..........................93%....................55% 

Grover Cleveland.....................63%....................32% 
 R
ichmond Hill..........................69%...................38%
Long Island City.......................66% ..................37%
John Bowne............................77%....................40%
Applied Communications.........82%....................42%
Robert  H. Goddard..................93%....................56%
Hillcrest..................................73%....................38%
Queens HS of Teaching............91%....................51%
Writers Academy.....................90%....................51%
Information & Technology.......84%....................46%
Community Leadership............91%....................47%
Queens Collegiate...................80%....................51%
Robert F. Kennedy...................81%....................47% 
Arts And Business...................90%....................59% 
William Cullen Bryant..............72%....................49%
 Queens Vocational..................84%....................54%
 TV & Media.............................98%....................63%
Metropolitan HS......................86%....................68% 
Middle College HS...................73%.....................56%
World Journalism....................97%....................61%
Robert Wagner........................93%....................66%
Civic Leadership......................96%...................66% 
Maspeth HS............................98%....................63%
Forest Hills.............................88%...................71%
Bayside..................................97%...................78%
East-West...............................93%...................72%
Cardozo..................................91%...................72%
Thomas Edison........................89%...................70%
Francis Lewis..........................89%...................78%
Finance & Enterprise...............97%...................84% 


 The citywide "college ready" average is 46%.

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 Bloomberg small schools in the Far Rockaway and Beach Channel campuses inhabit most of the top positions with the worst matrices on the list, while the worst school metric is by Rockaway Park Environmental Sustainability with a metric of 4.5.. 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 and the Springfield Gardens campus is not far behind.  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.

While my metric is not perfect it serves as a useful guide for parents who want the right Queens high schools for their academically proficient student. You can see the metrics for the last two years Here and Here.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Loss Of Collective Barganing Hurts Teacher Retention. And Student Academic Achievement.

















Its been six years since Wisconsin eliminated collective bargaining rights for civil servants, known as Act 10.  This included teachers, and it has resulted in significant changes to teacher recruitment and retention throughout the state.  Here are some of the findings.

Benefits Drop:
Teachers saw a sharp drop in benefits, averaging 21%.  This includes Health Care and Pensions.  The reduction in benefits has also affected school districts to attract the best and brightest to the teaching profession.

Teacher Salaries Less:
Since the passage of Act 10, the average medium teacher salary has been reduced by 2.6%  In rural areas the low teacher salaries has experienced an outflow of new teachers with 25% leaving the district within five years.

Teachers Leaving The Profession:
Before the passage of Act 10, the average rate of teachers leaving the profession was 6.4%.  Since Act 10's passage the average leave rate is 8.8%.  The result is a less experienced teaching staff for many school districts.

Teachers Jumping To Other School Districts:
Before the passage of Act 10, teachers transferring between once school district to another was only 1.3%.  Since Act 10's passage the transfer rate has shot up to 3.4%, a 262% increase!  The result is that poorer and rural school districts quickly lose their best teachers to richer and suburban school districts who can offer more money and better benefits.

Union Representation Decreasing:
In 2011, before the passage of Act 10, the union participation rate was 16.1% in 2016 it has decreased to only 9%   Wisconsin has become a "right to work state" and unions are struggling to stay relevant.

Student Academic Achievement Hurt: 
A study has shown that the loss of teacher collective bargaining rights have affected student academic achievement.  Chalkbeat published the report and can be found Here.  The reduction was more significant in low achieving schools in poor urban and rural areas who are having trouble retaining teachers.


In the years since Act 10 passed, Brey said her union has adapted by becoming more active on the local level, and offering more training and other services to make membership more appealing for teachers.

Our Disconnected Union Leadership:
You would think with the almost certain elimination of dues checkoff for unions, starting the next school year, our union would be trying to reach out to the members by being proactive.  Like eliminating Fair Student Funding, The ending of the ATR pool by placing all excessed teachers in vacancies in their district before other teachers can be hired.  Push to remove vindictive principals, and remove Charlotte Danielson as a rubric for teacher evaluation. Instead, our disconnected union leadership ignores the opposition at the Executive Board and the Delegate Assembly and vote, based on the leadership's wishes and not what's best for the members.

I would not be surprised that the union will see a vast reduction in dues collected , maybe over a 50% reduction and all ATRs will no longer pay the dues since they and we feel unrepresented.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Tale Of Two Schools And Their Cellphone Use.



























When Mayor Bill de Blasio consolidated his control of the New York City Public Schools he eliminated the cellphone ban and gave principals the option to impose their own rules of cellphone use.  The result was that some students obeyed the rules and others did not.  This post is a tale of two schools.  School A is a high achieving specialized school while school 2 is a high poverty low achieving school.  How has the cellphone policy worked at both schools?

First, the reason Bill de Blasio lifted the cellphone ban was that his son, who went to Brooklyn Tech convinced him that students only would use their phones when absolutely necessary. Of course we teachers know the truth, that cellphones are a distraction and harms academic achievement.  Most Principals tried to set up reasonable cellphone use, limiting them to school cafeterias.   However, this policy quickly changed to prohibiting cellphone use in classrooms and relied on the teachers to enforce the rules as the administration failed or refused to do their job when it came to cellphones.  The result is that in most high schools cellphone usage is a failure, be it in the hallways or the classrooms.

In school A, a specialized high school, students follow the cellphone rules and only use them in the school cafeteria, seldom does one see a student walking in the hallways with a cellphone and rarely does a teacher need to tell students to put their cellphones away in class. Obviously, these high achieving students care about their grades and realize that using a cellphone in class could result in reduced grades and lower academic achievement.

By contrast, school  B, the high poverty and low achieving student body, Renewal Schools are one example, have their cellphones out almost all the time.  Be it in the classroom or the hallways.  Any rules the administration imposed on student cellphone use are ignored once the school let''s the student with the cellphone into the building, and students realize that their is little or no consequences to violating the cellphone rules.  Moreover, with far too many administrations relying on teachers to enforce the rule, the teacher must spend countless minutes of instructional time disciplining students for using their cellphone.  Eventually, the teacher tire of this battle and simply goes on with the lesson while the students continue to look at at their cellphone and are distracted by what they see.  The result is the student fails to take proper notes and learn the subject/

The bottom line the New York City Public Schools should reimpose the banning of cellphones in the schools.  Read my previous posts HereHere and Here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Difference Between An Ineffective And Unsatisfactory Rating























I have been following the nyc educator blog with great interest and in a couple of his posts he mention that he asked the UFT leadership various questions about how many members received an "Ineffective" and "Unsatisfactory"  rating.   The reason nyc educator brought up the issue is that the UFT leadership, in trying to sell how wonderful the teacher evaluation system (APPR) is, compared to the old "S" and "U" system.  It's like trying to sell a broken down mule as a race horse.

According to the UFT there were 3,000 annual unsatisfactory observations.under the old "S" and "U" system, compared to only 217 ineffective ratings last year.  The problem is that its like comparing apples and oranges.   Under the old "S" and "U" system a teacher can get an "unsatisfactory" rating for many different reasons by simply getting a letter to their file for that year, despite being rated an effective teacher,  For example a teacher has an altercation with a student and despite the student being the aggressor,  the Principal dumps a letter in the file for corporal punishment on the teacher who was just trying to defend himself.   The result is an unsatisfactory rating for that year.  Another example is that the Principal told a teacher to do lunch duty, even when no teacher was assigned lunch duty as their circular six assignment.  The teacher said no and was charged with insubordination and a letter to the file which gave the Principal the right to give the teacher an unsatisfactory rating.  Many ATRs received an unsatisfactory rating simply by getting a letter to the file for trivial  offenses like making a silly joke, or showing up late to a classroom in a new school.

By contrast an "ineffective" rating is based solely on the pedagogy and not on alleged misconduct.  An ineffective rating is determined by the teacher's classroom ability and how well his or her students growth factor is, based upon the "junk science" of high stakes testing.

Of the 3,000 unsatisfactory ratings (it turns out to be 2,000).  How many were based on incompetence and how many for alleged misconduct?   Moreover, an unsatisfactory rating still keeps the burden of proof on the DOE in any 3020-a cases.  On the other hand, ineffective ratings are entirely based on alleged teacher incompetence and the burden of proof is now on the hapless teacher to prove he or she is not incompetent.  A high bar to jump over.

In conclusion. comparing unsatisfactory ratings with ineffective ratings is more like comparing a misdemeanor with a felony.  They are both negative but one is so much worse than the other.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Just Another Ethically Challenged Principal.






















In today's New York Post, Susan Edelman has an article about another ethically challenged Principal, Onethea Swinton,  who is the intern acting Principal of Port Richmond High School in Staten Island.  According to the article, Ms. Swinton is using a Pennsylvania address to register her car, despite actually living in Staten Island.  If that was the only issue with Ms. Swinton I would not be writing this post.  However, Ms. Swinton has quite a bit of controversy surrounding her. In her previous stint at Brooklyn's Secondary School For Journalism, based upon limited data she was rated poorly at a 1.33 with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best.

First, apparently the Pennsylvania address Ms. Swinton uses is for a Tanya John who is an education vender that Ms. Swinton hires to provide student services, for the two schools she has been made Principal of. According to the Post article, Ms. Swinton saves up to $4,000 a year on automobile insurance by using the Pennsylvania address that is listed to Tanya and Kirk John and not her own Staten Island address where her Lexus was spotted by the newspaper.

Second, check the blog "Don't Tread On Educators" and you will find negative comments galore about Ms. Swinton  You can read them here.

Third, as Intern acting Principal she has riled up parents, students and teachers when she eliminated a prized honors program and sowed confusion with the student body due to the schedule and course  changes.

Interestingly, at a Town Hall meeting on October 5th, Chancellor, Carmen Farina, defended Ms. Swinton, what else is new?  According to the Chancellor,  all principals deserve an adjustment period and the parents should give Ms. Swinton more time before complaining.

Finally, according to the teachers at Port Richmond High School, Ms. Swinton tried to impose a new grading policy that would allow most students to graduate unprepared for the adult world and college and it was rescinded only when the staff objected and threatened to expose it to the public.

Just what a struggling school needs an ethically challenged Principal.  Where do they get these people from?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Rules Of Thumb For Retirement Decisions.





















Over the years I have heard various rules of thumb for teachers who want to reach their safe and secure retirement goals.  These rules of thumb include the combination of age and years, asset allocation, amount to withdraw, doubling their money, and amount to save.  This post will explain each rule of thumb that teachers might want to use to plan their retirement.  Remember, these rules of thumb are only simple guides and not ironclad guarantees.

Savings Rate:  The savings rate necessary to ensure a safe and secure retirement in the future is 15%, excluding pension and social security and approximately 10% when you include the two.  For younger teachers,every time they receive a raise in their salary, add 1% to the savings rate.  That includes both step raises and contractual raises.

Asset Allocation and Age:
For teachers the rule of 120 is usually recommended.  That is taking 120 minus your age and that is what should be invested in equities and the rest in a Fixed Income or Bond Fund.  For example, if you're 40 years of age, then its 120 - 40 = 80% equities/ On the other hand if your 70 years of age, its 120-70 = 50% equities.  For the risk adverse, you can substitute 100 rather than 120,  which is what was commonly used before 2010. A simple method is to use your age to determine the percentage of bonds and other fixed income instruments.  Age 65 = 65% bonds and other fixed income options.

Doubling Your Money:
The rule of 72 is commonly used for long-term investments, based upon historical average rate of return.  Obviously, if your investments exceed the historical average, you will double your money at a faster rate.  The ule of 72 is as follows:  72 /7% = 10.28 years.  I used the TDA's Fixed Fund of 7% since 65% of all TDA funds are in this option.  The rule of 114 is used to triple your money and the rule of 144 is used to quadruple your money.

Retirement Date:
Obviously, its different for different educators.  However, a general rule of thumb used by accounts for civil servents is the rule of 88.  Any combination of age and years worked towards a pension that equals 88 is when an educator should retire.  According to prople who follow this rule, beyond the number, the financial incentive rapidly diminishes. Playing with various retirement scenarios the rule of 88 seems to work, for the most part.  For example, if a teacher retires at 62 with 26 years in, the combination equals 88 and that is the time to retire.  Does it work for all scenarios?  Obviously not but its a fair estimation of when an educator should retire.

Withdrawal Rate:
A conservative withdrawal rate once you retire, is called the 4%  rule.  The 4% rule has proven to have worked under various scenarios and is used as a first withdrawal method.  The 4% rule allows for the retiree to withdraw 4% of his or her total investment and adjust it for inflation year after year.  For example assume a total investment of one million dollars.  The 4% rules allows the retire to withderawal $40,000 that year/  If inflation rises 3% the next year then the retiree can withdraw the $40,000 plus the inflation rate the next year.  For example, 3% of $40,000 is 1,200.  Therefore,the inflation adjusted withdrawal is $41,200.  If the next year the inflation rate remains at 3% then the following year's withdraw would be $41,200 x1.03% = $42,436.

These rules of thumb are simply guides and not the final say for saving, selecting a retirement date, and withdrawing your money. 










Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The TDA Fixed Rate Fund Is A Winner!
















In New York City, teachers are known as"the smartest", due to their educational requirements that require a masters degree to achieve tenure and passing a content specialty test.  Of course I question that designation based upon teachers voting, time and again, for the same old disconnected union leadership who negotiate inadequate contracts, provide massive "givebacks" and fail to include member concerns when negotiating with the DOE.  A case in point the requirement of four to six observations when the rest of the State only needs to have two observations and the use of the punitive Danielson rubric.  However, there is one item that makes us teachers "the smartest", that is contributing to our Teachers Deferred Annuity (TDA) Fixed Income option.

Why do I say the teachers are "the smartest"?  Easy, the TDA Fixed Income option give the educator a fixed rate of 7% for UFT members and 8.25% for non-UFT educators.   With inflation running a little over 2% and money market funds giving a measly 1%, the no-fee Fixed Income Fund is a godsend and a windfall for educators who contribute to it.

According to the conservative and anti-union Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) the TDA's Fixed Income Option is attracting more and more educator money and in the last report in 2015, the percentage of TDA funds in the Fixed Income Option has risen to 65% of the total TDA contribution.  Compare that to 38% in 2006 and 25% at the creation of th Fixed Income option. Moreover, as of 2016, the average TDA balance was $325,000 and at 7% interest the UFT member can supplement their pension by taking out $22,750 annually.

While I sometimes question the designation as "the smartest", there is no doubt that educators who contribute to the TDA's Fixed Income option are "the smartest".

Monday, November 06, 2017

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly When It Comes To Screened High Schools.





















There is a debate on whether there is too many screened high schools in New York City.  During the Bloomberg years, the amount of screened high schools quadrupled and about 33% of the high schools screen their students.  In addition, the high school admissions program seemed like the wild, wild, west with each screened school having different criteria, making the admission process a bewildering maze of conflicting information fo sort through.

The Good: 
The screened schools are good for the high achieving student  who are with other academically proficient students who want to learn;  This allows for positive peer pressure to achieve the most of the student's academic potential.  Moreover, it keeps middle class families in the public schools, who might otherwise leave the City for the suburbs or enroll in private schools.  Further, middle class parents will provide the additional resources that the school request to supplement their budget and provide the academic enrichment that attracts the high achieving student.  Finally, The screened schools allows for more advanced placement and honor coursers, which in turn, makes the student better able to be "college ready".

The Bad:
Screened schools help segregate schools by academic ability.  Many of the New York City schools suffer from segregation as the high achieving students that live in the neighborhood refuse to go to the local high school and are selected by the screened schools.  In addition, the academically weaker performing high schools struggle to retain effective teachers and teacher turnover is much higher.  The result is an unstable school environment as students see many of their teachers leave the school and question their own abilities or even blame themselves for the teacher leaving.  Furthermore, tracking hurts low achieving students who are relegated to basic skills and few opportunities to take higher level courses.  Finally, the student body struggles academically and being smart is a negative where the "cool kids" are the ones that have social skills but little academic ability and most never make it to college.

The Ugly:
The screened and specialized schools are not only segregated academically but are racially segregated as well.  The specialized schools have a student body that is primarily East Asian and White while the academically struggling schools are located in deep poverty neighborhoods and are primarily Black and Hispanic.  Many of the Renewal Schools fall into that latter and is one of the main reasons they struggle academically.

The online newspaper Chalkbeat has a nice article that deals with this issue and you can read it Here.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

The Difference Between A Successful School District And The NYC Schools.



















There is little doubt that the DOE is dysfunctional and rather than cooperate and support schools, they instead appoint and protect unqualified administrators.  Moreover, the DOE imposes top down policies that have little or no support by school staff.  Be it the unfair "Fair Student Funding" or the Charlotte Dainielson rubric.  Finally, the NYCDOE has a large legal organization, called the Office of Legal Services who's main job is to fire teachers through the 3020-a process.  Many educators call then the "gotcha squad".

Successful school districts have one very important thing in common, that's collaboration. From the Superintendent down to the novice teacher all employees support each other.  The school district usually goes out of their way to support the school and the classroom with adequate resources, a culture of cooperation, and an appreciation of all employees. These school districts might have one lawyer on staff or simply contract the few legal issues to an outside law firm.  3020-a hearings are a rarity and usually a fair settlement is negotiated.  Students need not worry that their teacher will suddenly disappears and they suffer academically for it.

By contrast. welcome to the bizzaro world of the NYCDOE.  The DOE is anything but cooperative.  Rather the DOE polices incentivizes principals to hire "newbie" teachers through their Fair Student Funding policy and encourages the pushing out of veteran teachers into either the 3020-a process or eliminate programs to dump them into the ATR pool.  To achieve this goal the DOE needs and employs a hundred or so lawyers and support staff to assist principals in getting rid of teachers and apparently money is no object.  For the 361 teachers, charged under section 3020-a in 2016, It costs an average of $215,000 to complete a 3020-a hearing, start to finish,  and while schools have recession era budgets and are only funded at 90% of what they should be, the bloated DOE Central Bureaucracy just gobbles up more money for themselves.

Every year or two the DOE has a new "flavor of the day" program or policy and pushes it on schools that end up not to work and wastes time and money to implement the failed program.  Moreover, NYCDOE appoints Superintendents based more on who they know and not what they know.  Teachers have little or no respect for these political appointees and the inferior principals they appoint.  Finally,  the DOE looks the other way when school administrators commit academic fraud and allows it to continue that allows students to graduate unprepared for the adult world.

In my opinion the NYCDOE practices policies and the disinformation that make the New York City Public Schools dysfunctional and only hurts teacher morale and adversely affects student academic achievement.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Teacher Turnover Is Higher At The Renewal Schools Than For The Rest Of The City.



























A union investigation of teacher turnover rates for the two year period between October 2014 and October 2016 shows a much higher teacher turnover rates at the Renewal Schools than for the New York City Public Schools teacher turnover rate

The UFT report found that for the 78 Renewal Schools investigated, the average teacher turnover rate for the two years was 40%, compared to a 23% for all public schools.  The report was summarized in Chalkbeat and found the following factors that contributed to the high teacher turnover rates at the Renewal Schools.
  • Difficult;t teaching conditions
  • Intense pressure to show academic achievement.
  • Unstable and poor school administrative leadership.
  • Sagging enrollment.
  • Low teacher morale
  • Poor academic performance.of the mostly level 1 student body.
Here are just two examples.  The first being August Martin High School that saw 90% of the teachers at the school in 2014 are gone by 2016.  Most of the teachers left or weren't rehired when the school was forced to have their teaching staff reapply for their positions at the school.  The second example is Flushing High School that had seven, yes seven principals in eight years?  Talk about an unstable and poorly performing administration. This Spring both Flushing High School and DeWitt Clinton High School will join 8 other Renewal Schools who are forcing their teaching staff to reapply for their jobs.

Of the 73 Renewal Schools investigated, 50 of the schools had a two year teacher turnover rate of 33% or greater  Add that to a mostly "newbie" teaching staff. who have a steep learning curve to become a quality teacher, the mostly level 1 student body, and  you have a recipe for failure, the Renewal Schools!

For ATRs, there is one bright spot in the Renewal School saga.  The Chancellor, Carmen Farina, has ordered the DOE not to "force place" ATRs in the Renewal Schools, what a lucky break for us.


Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The Rules For Donating Cumulative Absence Reserve Days.



























There seems to be some widespread confusion on how colleagues can donate some of their Cumulative Absence Reserve (CAR) to others in the school building who may have need for them due to medical or family emergencies.

Educators can donate CAR days to colleagues only if they have at least 50 days in reserve and no more than 180 days.  The limitations were set forth by the DOE, using the following rationale.

 The 50 day CAR limit allows for the donated employee to have enough CAR days if they experience a major illness or injury themselves.  The 180 day CAR limitation was determined to be the upper end of an employee's sacrifice in donating days.  Since educators cannot exceed 200 days, it was felt that allowing an employee to donate excess days above 180 does not make it a sacrifice since they were in danger of losing the excess days anyway.

The DOE encourages the CAR donation program since they eliminate 2 days the DOE owes the educator for every day that the educator donates to a colleague.  Therefore, if you give a colleague 5 days from your CAR, the DOE eliminates an additional 5 days from your remaining  CAR, resulting in a 10 day elimination of your CAR.  A good deal for the DOE.

Interestingly, it seems that in my experience the colleagues that push the CAR donation program, don't usually donate themselves.  The reason being that they usually have less than 50 days in their CAR  Then again, unless the colleague who needs the extra days has a major illness or injury and originally had an ample amount of days in their CAR, I don't donate my CAR days to a colleague that didn't bother to accumulate his or her days when they should have while healthy.

Remember, its important to accumulate your CAR days, just in case you are subject to a serious illness or injuryand that helps pay your salary while recovering.