There are stark differences between the typical urban and suburban public school and these inequalities are the major reason that urban schools consistently fall behind their suburban counterparts when it comes to academic achievement, especially in New York City and the suburbs. Let's look at these differences.
Class Sizes: The urban public school usually have more students packed into a classroom than the suburban school. In New York City, the average elementary school classroom has 25 students in the K-2 grades and 28 students for 3-8 grades. At the high school level, the average class size is 32. By contrast, most suburban schools have 15-20 students in their K-2 grades and no more than 25 for the rest of the grades 3-12.
Teacher Retention: A study dome by the UFT showed that there was a high teacher turnover in the NYC public schools that and that 8.8% of all new teachers left by the end of their first year in 2014-15 . Moreover, as we move further away from the 2009 great recession, teacher attrition is increasing annually. Finally,with the inferior Tier VI pension benefits and the punitive teacher evaluation system, teacher attrition is a growing concern as a teacher shortage looms on the horizon. More NYC teachers are fleeing the school system for better opportunities elsewhere. On the other hand, teacher attrition in the suburbs for their first five years is below 10%.
High Poverty Schools: The urban public schools almost always lag behind academically since they suffer from student poverty, large class sizes, high teacher turnover, and lack resources for their "high needs students". Furthermore, these schools have far too many inexperienced teachers and unqualified school administrators. Finally, parent support for these schools are lacking. Many of these schools don't even have a functioning PTA. In the suburbs, few schools are considered high poverty schools and parent support is usually strong. The PTAs in the suburbs usually fund raise for additional services for their children.
Parent Issues: Far too many students come from one parent homes where the other parent is not supporting the family financially, emotionally, or providing a positive role model to the student. This affects the student academically and you can see the results in my post Here. In addition, the dysfunctional family increases the likelihood of the student coming to school with the negative baggage of his or her home life. Is it any wonder, that these children show up at school academically unprepared, behaviorally challenged, and lacking emotional control? By contrast, few students in the suburbs suffer from the high poverty that their urban counterparts and even in a one parent household, the students have both financial and food security.
Student Body: In the urban public schools, misbehaving and disobedient students are cheered on by the rest of the students and the high achieving students are the ones ostracized by the student body. These schools suffer from "the broken window theory". While in the suburbs its the misbehaving students who are ostracized by the student body. Peer pressure is extremely important and a school's success or failure is strongly correlated with how the student body responds to academic and emotional stimuli.
Of course there are some highly successful urban schools in New York City, like the Specialized high schools, and the schools in solidly middle class White or Asian neighborhoods like Bayside, as there are terrible suburban schools like those in Hempstead and Wyandanch. However, the average urban school is usually has more student poverty, less resources, more unstable staff, and less family support. That's why suburban schools do much better academically.
Over the decade, the DOE has tried many different ways to reduce the ATR pool and has utterly failed as the total number of ATRs has remained relatively steady, despite the DOE's claim otherwise. The origin of the ATR pool was the terrible 2005 contract that allowed principals to hire whom they pleased and the Fair Student Funding that punished schools that hired veteran teachers.
First, the DOE, in the form of Chancellor Joel Klein, called the ATRs "unwanted" or "bad" teachers and the influx of "Leadership Academy Principals" with little or no New York City classroom experience believed him. Moreover, he bragged that in the next contract he will demand an ATR time limit of six to twelve months as they hurt student achievement. The result was few schools were willing to select an ATR to fill their vacancies.
Next, as Mayor Bloomberg continued to close schools, targeted by the DOE, due to the student demographics (poor and minority). The ATR pool grew from a few hundred in 2006 to 1,500 in 2009 as principals were encouraged to jettison veteran teachers and replace them with cheaper "newbies".
During the recession, the DOE came out with the only incentive that partly worked. During the 2009-10 school year. schools could pick up an ATR at a "newbie" salary, with the DOE paying the rest for the first eight years. However, this was the depth of the recession and most schools were prohibited from hiring outside the system (savvy principals managed to get exemptions). Therefore, schools had little choice but hire ATRs for their vacancies while getting a subsidy in the process.
The DOE abruptly changed course and Mayor Bloomberg tried to eliminate seniority rules in his failed "Last in, First out" gambit. The result was frozen contract talks, and a further demonization of the ATRs.
When Bill de Blasio became Mayor he finally negotiated a new contract in 2014 with an ATR incentive that was so inadequate that only 95 of the 1,315 ATRs took it and they were retiring anyway!
With the new Mayor a, a new incentive that allowed schools to hire ATRs for free the first year, half price the second year, and three quarters price the third year. According to the DOE 372 schools took advantage of this incentive. However, many of the schools took the incentive late in the year when they realized their hidden vacancies will be filled by ATRs the next school year and teachers were becoming scarce, especially in the Bronx.
That brings me to how to realty drain the ATR pool.
Require all teachers be certified in the subject area taught.
Eliminate the ":sixth period" that saves on teachers and hurts students.
Reduce class sizes to State average.
Fully fund school budgets
Provide more electives for students.
Penalize schools who hide vacancies.
While some archaic teaching titles and music teachers will still have trouble being placed, the ATR pool will drop from over 1,000 to maybe a hundred or so. If only, the DOE gets rid of Fair Student Funding and goes back to hiring by units and not actual salary, then maybe, just maybe, there would be no ATR pool to drain.
Over the last few years, many schools were pushing their students into higher level Math and Science courses. This was known as "reaching for the stars". It also didn't hurt that the DOE gave high schools extra points for the total number of students who took these higher level Math and Science courses. However, many parents and students started to complain that these higher level courses of Algebra II (Trigonometry), Chemistry, and Physics were a "bridge too far" for the students Moreover, many schools pushed students to take these courses, despite the added pressure, stress, and reluctance to take these courses that many were destined to fail..
One of the reasons that many low performing schools pushed students to take Chemistry and or Physics was the lack of certified Earth Science teachers as well as getting more credit as a school bu the DOE. According to the ATR pool there was only one certified Earth Science high school teacher available, citywide, in June and he had just came out of his 3020-a hearing that Spring. Moreover, many schools use teachers not certified in Earth Science to teach the Regents Science course and, for the most part, their students did poorly. Finally, many seniors, are forced to take the Common Core Algebra II Regents and complain bitterly about taking a difficult Math course that means little to their college acceptance since the Regents is given after the student received their acceptance letter.
Some forward thinking school administrators are finally seeing the light and realize that to "reach for the stars" you need the academic tools to built a spaceship to get their and far too many students lack those tools. Therefore, these administrators are now going "back to basics" and only giving those academically proficient students higher level Math and Science courses. These administrators have learned a painful lesson and that is "reaching for the stars" is just a dream when there is a failure to launch a successful rocket ship due to the lack of the academic tools to build it, which hurts the students confidence, self-esteem, and ability to move ahead academically.
I was disgusted by the self-serving ATR bashing article by non-educator Daniel Weisberg who, once again, falsely claimed that ATRs were "unwanted",":bad", or had :discipline issues. Mr. Weisberg called the "forced placement" of ATRs as "the dance of the lemons". When the facts are so very different. Mr. Weisberg's suggestion is to give the ATRs a time limit of between 6-12 months to find a position or be fired. Which is what happened in Chicago and Washington D.C. that lead to mass firings of veteran teachers and the election loss of the union caucus to dissidents.
Interestingly, Mr. Weisberg bragged that he was responsible for the 2005 union contract that created the ATR crisis and therefore, he is responsible for the DOE wasting over 100 million dollars annually since 2006 or over one billion dollars! Moreover, he is also responsible for the Open Market Transfer System that has resulted in high poverty and minority schools to have inferior teachers, new to the profession, who transfer from these schools to better schools. If I am Mr. Weisberg, I would stick my head into the ground and hide my shame that I cost the City schools over a billion dollars and screwed the poor and minority schools. of excellent teachers
Back to the facts, the real reason that principals are not hiring ATRs has nothing to do with the ATRs being "bad" teachers. It has everything to do with money, control, and power.
Fair Student Funding: School budgets have not recovered from the 2009 recession and is only funded at 92% of their fair funding. Moreover, this upcoming school year the DOE, flush with money, has cut school budgets back to 90% of their fair funding. To make matters worse, Fair Student Fundingactually penalizes schools who hire veteran teachers and for far too many principals the school budget overrides what's good for the students of the school.
Seniority: Once a school hires a veteran teacher (ATR or not), that teacher is placed in his or her seniority rank and in worse case scenarios can cause a school to exceass a younger teacher that the school wants to retain. Therefore, principals are reluctant to hire a veteran teacher and even if the teacher works out, I doubt the Principal will be given the ATR an "effective" observation, knowing his salary and seniority will be dumped on the school for the next school year and many more years after.
Institutional Memory: Many principals don't like veteran teachers because they understand the union contract and know their rights. This is known as institutional memory. Principals like untenured teachers because when the Principal yells jump, they say "high high"? While a veteran teacher will respond with "Why"?
Demonitization Of The ATRs: Since the signing of the 2005 contract, ATRs have been labeled with the tag of "unwanted" or "bad" teachers. Even a month after Chancellor Joel Klein signed the 2005 contract he told principals in the Principal's Weekly that ATRs were teachers that nobody should hire and that in the next contract he intended to include a time limit, which he couldn't do, due to New York State Civil Service rules and the union leadership who refused to even consider it since they knew what happened in Chicago and Washington D.C as their union leadership was voted out of office. .
In summary, the ATRs are not getting positions because of the four issues discussed above. They are Salary, Seniority, Institutional Memory, and the Demonitization of the ATRs by the DOE, lead by Chancellor Carmen Farina, an old Bloomberg Deputy Chancellor who shared the poisonous ideology about ATRs, along with their media allies. For more insights on the ATR issue read today's ICEUFT and NYC Educator posts.
Update: It appears the ATR incentive was unsuccessful and has been extended to July 28th. Just another failed ATR incentive that had no ATR input. When will they ever learn?
In the last two months at least three UFT leadership officials tried to convince me that the ATR incentive was a good deal and if I am planning to retire in June of 2018, I should jump at the chance to get an extra $50,000. Of course, I politely refused the UFT and DOE's generous offer to retire and take the money and fade into educational oblivion. Here is my rationale why I declined to take the ATR incentive.
First, the ATRs who take the $50,000 incentive are really only getting 50% of the money or $25,000 after taxes if a New York City resident. Moreover, the money is not pensionable, meaning that the incentive will not be included in the ATRs pension. Finally, The money will put me into a higher tax bracket for this year, especially with the terminal pay.
Second, any ATR who wanted to take terminal leave, cannot do so, since the incentive does not allow for it.
Finally, the largest of the contract raises of 3% will not be available to ATRs who took the incentive.
Obviously, if the ATR was planning to retire anyway or was subject to a 3020-a hearing due to incompetence or misconduct, I can see taking the incentive. However, here are my reasons I didn't take the ATR incentive and its really financial.
First, I'm not ready to retire this school year and the $50,000 is not financially good enough to change my plans and here's why.
By staying for the 2017-18 school year, I increase my pension by the 2% each year adds to the pension. Furthermore, my final average salary will increase by an additional 4.5% due to the increase in the salary scale and it will be my 25th year of service. That means that my pension is expected to increase 6.5% by staying another year. A quick and rough calculation tells me that I will receive an extra $4,574 annually on my annual pension by staying till June 2018.
In staying an extra year, I will contribute another $24,000 to my TDA and receive a 7% return. By simply taking out the 7% interest annually, I will be getting an extra $1,680. Add that to the pension and I will be making an extra $6,254 each year and its exempt in New York State from State and Local taxes! Moreover, my ASAF will increase by an additional $140 by staying an extra year
Finally, I expect to have a full semester of terminal leave and that means an extra 1% increase in my pension, assuming no contract raise for the 2018-19 school year. Therefore, my pension of $57,008, excluding the ASAF, increases to $57,581 Moreover, by adding an extra $12,000 to my TDA, I will also gain an additional $840 of interest income. Add it all together and excluding the ASAF. I will increase my retirement pay by $7,666 by staying an extra year, all exempt from State and local taxes!
In four years after retirement I will have already far exceeded the actual take home pay from the ATR incentive. Further, let's not forget the increased Social Security I will receive by adding an extra year on my benefit. Therefore, if you figure out the financial aspects, you can see the ATR incentive is no bargain and that's why I didn't even consider it.
I have received and digested Randy Asher's webinar and I believe this is how the DOE policy on ATRs changed. According to the webinar, there will be no ATR incentive for the 2017-18 school year. In fact, principals and ATRs will be "forced placed", starting October 15, 2017. Both the ATR and Principal will not have any say in the selection and placement of the ATR. Moreover, once placed, the school will be responsible for the ATR's salary. Only DOE Central can removed an ATR from the school and not the Principal.
Any provisionally placed ATR covering a vacancy, who receives an "effective" or higher rating, by observation, will automatically be permanently hired the next year, despite the wishes of the Principal or the ATR for that matter. The school is responsible for the full salary of the ATR going forward.
The DOE will continue to retain separate lists for ATRs who were simply excessed and those who won their 3020-a termination hearing or received an "Unsatisfactory" rating. The DOE will only select from the excessed list when possible and only from the other list when there is no available ATR from the excessed list.
Rotations will be limited and probably to the ATRs who are from the disciplinary list or who had issues in their assigned school.
According to the webinar, the last incentive saw 372 ATRs hired. While I cannot prove it. since both the DOE and UFT keep their motives and methods secret. I bet Mr. Asher is including the hiring of newly excessed young teachers in the second semester and the beginning of the summer hiring season as Principals were told well in advance of their reduced budgets and that they would be responsible for veteran ATR salaries, imposed on the school without any incentive.. Therefore, best to take the ATR incentive while obtaining a young and untenured ATR teacher rather than be stuck with a $108,000 veteran ATR..
The bottom line, no Principal will be giving a veteran ATR an "effective" or higher rating, unless the school is a high teacher turnover hellhole that no veteran ATR wants. The best most of us can expect in the observation portion will be "developing".
In today's New York Post, the paper's Editorial Board made it seem that all ATRs are "bad" or unwanted teachers. If you were unaware of how the DOE operates, the reader would think that the ATR pool consists of poorly performing teachers and not that principals don't or won't hire ATRs because of their salary, institutional memory, and seniority. Yet, the same Editorial Board supported the hiring of unqualified teachers at SUNY's charter schools and hoped it expands to the public schools.
How can you support the hiring of untrained and unqualified people to teach students on one hand and then be against the hiring of veteran teachers who are properly certified and experienced? The answer is simple, the New York Post Editorial Board is a bunch of hypocrites! Obviously, ideology trumps common sense. What parent would want their child to be a guinea pig by having a "newbie", with no education training and experience with children, instructing them? Apparently, the New York Post Editorial Board does since they support privatizing the public schools. .
The New York Post Editorial Board does not care about students, they simply follow the education deformer philosophy that teaching is a temporary and transitional job, without a pension and other benefits, until a real professional occupation is found. Much like the Teach For America model. Remember, its really not about the children its about the ideology and that's why they are hypocrites.
Over the years, many ATRs were rated "effective" or "highly effective" by school principals who appreciated the ATRs ability to lead the students to a passing grade. These principals also knew that at the end of the school year, these ATRs would be excessed and they can hire an inexpensive "newbie" for the next school year. This was known as being provisionally hired, which reduced the ATR pool from over 1,300 to 822 by the end of April. Of course, those provisionally appointed teachers were dumped back into the ATR pool at the end of the school year. You can read some of my posts Here and Here.
Now, ex-Principal Randy Asher has decided that any school that has a vacancy after October 15th, must fill the vacancy with an ATR and if the ATR receives an "effective" or higher rating, the school must award the ATR with a permanent placement. Sounds great right? Wrong!
First, what Principal wants to hire a 20 year veteran with their high salaries, institutional memory, and their seniority? Not many and certainly not the Leadership Academy Principals. Therefore, principals will make sure that the ATR will receive a "developing" or "ineffective" rating under Danielson.
Second, since schools can hire outside the system in January, what stops a principal from hiring a teacher for the vacancy for the second semester and jettisoning the ATR back into the pool? I saw that happen this year at Queens Vocational High School.
Finally, since there is no "mutual consent" on the ATR's part, what if the ATR does not wan the permanent placement due to the school,'s reputation, distance, or lack of parking? How fair is that the ATR is forced placed at a school they do not want to be at for the rest of their career, since the Open Market Transfer System is useless for veteran teachers who wish to transfer out of these terrible schools.
By the way, with a reduced school budgets for the next school year, there will be more excessed teachers into the ATR pool and knowing the devious way the DOE operates, these new ATRs will be the first ones to be "forced placed" with the ATRs who won their discipline cases and others who received an "Unsatisfactory" rating being the last. I suspect that remains unchanged from the last three years.
That leaves me to our union President Michael Mulgrew who almost bragged about how the contract is being enforced and that's why the DOE changed its policy. With friends like Mulgrew, ATRs don't need enemies.You can read Mulgrew's statement on the ICEUFT blog Here.
Because of the increasing difficulty that charter schools are having in hiring certified teachers and the high teacher turnover, SUNY has proposed to lower teacher standards for their charter schools. There rationale for lowering teacher hiring standards is the looming teacher shortage and the almost 50% reduction in college teacher training program applicants. While these reasons are true, its really that charter schools cannot retain teachers for more than two or three years due to the increased school time, lower salaries, and inferior benefits.
Presently, only a maximum of 15% of the teachers in a charter school can be uncertified. Some schools have had difficulty meeting that goal and some charter schools have a majority of teachers uncertified in the subject that they are teaching in. Moreover, its not uncommon for charter school classes to have two or more teachers during the school year. Finally, once teachers get fully certified, they usually leave to the higher paying and better benefits, such as a pension, of the public school system.
SUNY's proposal would mean that these uncertified charter school teachers will never need to pass State certification tests or obtain a master's degree. Therefore, limiting the charter school teachers to teach in charter schools. While both the Board of Regents and the NYED Commissioner has objected to SUNT's proposed teacher hiring regulations , Under the draft rules, some would-be teachers wouldn’t have to earn a
master’s degree or pass the state certification exam. Instead, you’d
need 30 hours of instruction and 100 hours working in-class under the
supervision of an experienced teacher, as well to finish state workshops
on bullying, violence prevention and child abuse.
If these draft rules are implemented, the charter schools will simply hire any Tom, Dick, or Harry with a college degree and dump them into a classroom, unprepared in the art of teaching and that's not good for the students in any setting.
I'm glad to see that a group of parents, along with Class Size Matters, Alliance Of Quality Education and Public Advocate Letitcia James has filed a complaint that the DOE is violating the 2007 CFE agreement that was supposed to reduce class sizes. The DOE, rather than reduce class sizes, actually saw trhem increase since 2007. Despite Mayor elect Bill de Blasio's campaign promise to reduce class size in the New York City Public Schools, his appointed Chancellor, Carmen Farina, actually allowed class sizes to increase, especially in K-3 grades which has increased an astounding 15%!
Part and parcel with the highest class sizes in New York State is the DOE's tact approval to allow schools to use teachers not certified in the subject their assigned to instruct students in. This is especially true in the Middle Schools and in Earth Science, a Regents course in both Middle and High School. If parents knew that uncertified teachers were instructing their students, especially in a Regents subject, they would be up in arms and claiming educational neglect. In addition, most schools, to save on hiring Science teachers, have gone to an educationally inferior 4-1 program when the Regents is based upon a 5-1 program. The result is a lowering of Regents scores for schools who have a 4-1 program. How is that good for students? Its not of course.
Finally, how many ICT classes fail to have a certified Special Education teacher as a co-teacher? Far too many I'm afraid. Moreover, how many limit the ICT classes to 12 or less students with IEPs and are they capable of handling a large class? Further, are these students getting the professional support they are entitled too? My experience tells me that many of the Special Education students are underserved and some, with more severe disabilities, need to be in a self-contained environment and not large class settings where they struggle mightily to academically survive..
Now it seems that inexplicably, school budgets have been reduced from 92% of their fair funding to 90% as the DOE failed to account for rising staff salaries and blame the already tight budget and the further reductions on the union contract and not on their bloated Bureaucracy. Expect class sizes to be at contract maximums, teachers pushed to teach a "sixth class", and pressure to remove veteran teachers from the school's payroll by filing 3020-a charges or harassing them into retirement. Furthermore, look for shady administrators to cut corners by not providing services to Special Education students and using inexpensive and uncertified "newbies" to teach the most needy of students. Instead of solving these problems, expect it to continue until the Mayor removes Chancellor Carmen Farina and her Bloomberg era policymakers and selects a leader who puts education first.
Most knowledgeable educators know that the investigative units of SCI, OSI, and OEO are not fair and impartial. If a teacher is charged with a potentially serious accusation you can bet the three investigative agencies will pull out all the stops to substantiate the accusation and recommend the terminat6ion of the teacher. By contrast, accusations against administrators are usually buried and no action is usually the result. Now the New York Post published some actual numbers dealing with academic fraud against school administrators and shows how little the investigative agencies care to file charges.
According to the New York Post, SCI received 704 cases since August 2015 of grade tapering or fixing, trey investigated only 22 of the cases or 3% of all accusations, and substantiated only 3 cases or 0.04% of the total accusations. Unbelievable, but true! It seems that SCI does not take academic fraud seriously and maybe that's why principals are willing to commit academic fraud, knowing full well that the DOE and the investigative agencies will not investigate it and will look the other way/ A prime example is Principal Howard Kwait of John Bowne High School who has been accused multiple times of grade fixing and is still in charge. Read the ICEUFT blog on the latest.
How many principals have actually lost their position when caught committing academic fraud? A handful at most. Yet, if you look at my list of bad principals and my academic fraud articles you will find numerous examples of principals acting badly and have been accused of grade fixing or tapering yet they are still in charge of their schools. Here is the most recent case.Yet if teachers are accused, they are removed from the classroom and are assumed guilty of the accusation, even before its investigated.
If you have any question about the fairness of the investigative units that work with or are part of the DOE please read my articles on corrupt investigations.
District 75 have the most disabled and behaviorally challenged students in the public school system. These schools have self-contained classrooms with 6 to 8 students per class, along with a para or two. Few, if any of these disabled students graduate with the academic skills to go to college and the few who do, are usually subject to no-credit remedial courses as they struggle not to fail out of the more demanding college environment. Ask any District 75 teacher and they will tell you that their job should be to teach the students "life skills". Like counting money, holding a job, taking public transportation, and practice good hygiene. Instead the District 75 administrators, under pressure from DOE Central, forces the teachers to teach Common Core Math, Social Studies, and Science instead.
Many of the District 75 students have major academic issues due to their disability like autism, down syndrome, and ADD/ADHD. Rather than train them to survive in the world after school, like how to develop social skills, working at a job,, make their own meals, and select their own clothes. The District 75 administrators push these students to learn academic subjects that have little or no practical application to these students.
What good is it when the student can't dress or feed themselves properly and suffers from poor hygiene as they enters adulthood and interact with the rest of the adult world? Who is there to train the child on "life skills" when their teachers are forced to teach academics instead?
The misguided policy of the District 75 administration only hurts the most vulnerable of children who graduate unprepared for independent living in the hard and cruel adult world. To me that its real educational malfeasance.
Sometime in 2019 the City and the UFT will start to negotiate a new contract. By law the next contract should be for two years, unless the contract is delayed or both sides agree on a longer contract. Assuming for now the next contract will be a standard two year deal, what can the UFT members expect?
First, here are some assumptions that I used:
Bill de Blasio is still the Mayor.
Metropolitan area inflation is 2.5%.
The City economics is stable.
State and Federal support remains unchanged.
Therefore, here is my educated guess on what the next contract will include:
Minimum raises of 2.5%, based upon the anticipated inflation rate and the baseline 2% raises the State is giving their unions. I see no reason for the UFT back-loading the raises or extending the contract beyond two years. Unfortunately, I also see our union agreeing to "givebacks" in the form of health care. Hopefully, it will not include larger co-payments or paying a monthly fee. The real question will there be additional "givebacks" such as time for money which has always worked against the members as the pitiful raises we have seen as the time go up from 6 hours and 20 minutes a day in the 1990's to 7 hours a day, almost a hour more! Adding time for money is not a raise! Finally, will the ATR situation finally be resolved by allowing for real "mutual consent" by both teachers and principals? I'm not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.
There are still other issues that can affect the next contract negotiations. Like the upcoming teacher shortage, potential class size reductions, and City, union relations. All three can positively or negatively affect contract negotiations as well.
Most importantly, the union negotiators must be more aggressive and rather than scare the membership by falsely claiming that if they don't take the City offer, the next offer will be worse. However., i strongly suspect that our union leadership rather roll over and play dead rather then force-the City to agree to a fair contract for their members.
The bottom line, I will not be holding my breath waiting for our union to negotiate a fair and generous contract with our present leadership in charge of the negotiations.