Saturday, October 21, 2017

Coming To A High School In Your Neighbohood, More ATRs For The Bronx And Queens.

The Chancellor, Carmen Farina, has informed  226 teachers and other staff members that two Renewal high schools, DeWitt Clinton in the Bronx ( 96 staff) and Flushing high school (128 staff) in Queens, will have to reapply for their positions and add significantly to next year's ATR pool.  The two schools continue to struggle academically and were targeted by the DOE for poor performance.  Chalkbeat also has an article.

To be fair, both Renewal high schools have become a dumping ground for the Borough's students who have failed to land placements in other schools. Moreover, both Renewal Schools have high percentages of English Language Learners and Special Education students who usually have academic issues,  Finally, both schools have unstable administrations with the Principal of DeWitt Clinton, Santiago Taveras, accused of grade fixing and removed last November, while the Flushing High School Principal,  Tyee Chin, also accused of grade fixing removed this week.  Below are the latest statistics for the two schools.

School.....................ELL........Sp Ed....College Ready

DeWitt Clinton.........22%........18%...........19%

Just as important both schools  have high rates of chronically absent students, with DeWitt Clinton having 45% and Flushing 39%, which is down from the previous year's 46%.  The City average is 30%. and you can find the information in the latest snapshot for 2016-17 school year. 

You can read the stories on the two recently removed principals Here and  Here.

My understanding of the rules is that teachers not selected by the two schools for next school year will join the ATR pool but will be assigned to one school fore the school year and will only switch schools if the Principal requested his or her removal.  Expect most teachers who have 5 years or more experience in the two Renewal Schools to be excessed under the bogus 18D process.

The bottom line is that up to 150 teachers will be new additions to the ATR pool for the 2018-19 school year.  I guess DOE's draining the pool  is simply a pipe dream.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Maximum TDA Contribution Is Expected To Increase By $500 Next Year.

There's some good news on the financial front as the Federal Government has raised next year's maximum contribution to 401(k) plans to $18,500.  That is a $500 dollar increase from this year.  If you are 50 years of age or over, the federal government allows for "catch up" contributions of $6,000 dollars for a total maximum contribution of $24,500 dollars.

Our TDA is a cost efficient 403(b) plan and the same rules apply as for the 401(k) plans when it comes to the maximum contribution and "catch up"  funds.  Therefore, expect the TDA to raise the maximum contribution limit by the same $500 dollars.

Depending on your age, the maximum contribution limits are as follows:

Age.......................Maximum Contribution

under 50...........................$18.500
50 or older........................$24,500

Just a reminder.  We will be getting a raise (3%) in May and another 2% in June.  A good rule of thumb is for every raise, you should increase your TDA contribution by 1%.  Moreover, the TDA is tax differed and until age 70.5 it continues to appreciate tax free, until the Required Minimum Distribution kicks in.

For more information go to TRS online and my article on the TDA.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Our Union's Complicity In The ATR Crisis.

It's been over a decade since our union negotiated the terrible and "giveback" laden  2005 contract.  The union leadership has claimed that they're not responsible for the ATR crisis and blames it entirely on the DOE.  However, a UFT sponsored report " Case Study In Partisanship" shows the union's complicity in the creation of the ATR pool.

On page five of the above referenced UFT sponsored report the union was well aware of the potential damage the contract will cause excessed teacher and the potential discrimination of all veteran teachers..

"The UFT negotiating team warned the DOE before the 2005 contract was signed that the new Open Market Transfer System would result in a growing number of unassigned teachers (ATRs) but the DOE said it was prepared to pay the price for the changes it wanted.  The UFT raised concerns about the waste of money and talent but the DOE did not seem to be worried at the time".

Interestingly, the report states that the UFT leadership was getting more concerned about the potential effects on the ATRs and all veteran teachers with the DOE's school based "Fair Student Funding" budgeting process and on April 7, 2008 filed an age discrimination lawsuit, only to quietly drop it in negotiating the 2009 ATR Agreement a year later

The union leadership was well aware that the combination of the "givebacks" iin the 2005 contract and the Fair Student Funding budgeting process made the ATR pool top heavy with older veteran teachers.  In fact, according to the report, 81% of the teachers in the ATR pool were 40 years of age or older while for the UFT educators as a whole. it was only 57%. Fast forward to 2017 and the age of the ATR pool is still about the same while the average age of teachers is decreasing.

In 2006, 44% of the newly excessed teachers had between 0-3 years experience while 22% had 13 years or more.  The next year, only 25% of the teachers with 0-3 experience were still in the ATR pool while 42% of those with 13 years of experence were still in excess.  A complete reversal from the year before and proves that principals were discriminating against veteran teachers.

So when the union leadership tells you that they never expected the DOE to demonize the ATR pool, don't believe them.  They knew what the DOE was planning to do before the 2005 contract was signed and still they agreed to the DOE's demands that made the ATR pool what it is today.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

10% Of New York City's Students Are Homeless.

Despite the City having an economic Renaissance and a $6 billion dollar budget surplus,  the student homeless population continues to increase.  Of the 1.1 million students, approximately 140,000 are homeless or 10% of the student population.  In fact, there has been a 28% increase in student homelessness since Bill de Blasio became Mayor of New York City.  In the last 20 year period, between 1994 and 2014, there has been a 115% increase in sthe student homeless population and that has only increased in the last few years as it rose 22% in the 2015-2016 school year and another 6% in the 2015-2017 school year.

Obviously, the reason for the increased homeless population is due to an affordable housing shortage and the City still a attractive location for recent immigrants, many of then with limited English language skills,  In fact, Mayor Bill de Blasio has told Puerto Ricans that while their students are welcome to the New York City schools, their family better be able to have friends or relatives take in since the City has no housing to provide them with and the shelters are overcrowded as is..

Educationally, its a well known fact that homeless students experience higher dropout rates, lower graduation rates, and chronic absenteeism.  The ICPH study shows how homelessness affects student academic achievement.  Until the student homeless problem is solved, expecting real academic improvement is simply "smoke and mirrors".

In Queens schools the amount of homeless students vary by school district.  They are as follows:

District 24.............................4,186
District 25.............................2,020
District 26...............................945 
District 27............................3,164
District 28............................2,638
District 29............................2,782
District 30............................3,058


Friday, October 13, 2017

Chancellor Carmen Farina Hates ATRs.

Yesterday, Chancellor Carmen Farina told Chalkbeat that ATRs will not be placed in Renewal Schools and that ATRs who were subject to discipline would not be placed in any schools.  The interview with the Chancellor clearly shows that she hates ATRs and believes they are inferior teachers.  Moreover, it also shows how she believes that all ATRs who faced discipline, were guilty, even when an arbitrator, faced with the evidence, found that the teacher was not guilty of the charges.Finally, the Chancellor continues to vilify ATRs.

To me. its not surprising that the Chancellor feels the way she does since she was a Deputy Chancellor under Joel Klein and retained 80% of the Bloomberg policymakers when she was appointed Chancellor under Mayor Bill de Blasio.  Moreover, as Principal of PS 6 in Manhattan she pushed out 80% of the teachers in her school and as Chancellor she went to various schools to seek out poorly performing teachers and advised principals how to start a paper trail to terminate them.

As for the ATRs?  Chancellor Carmen Farina has made it clear that she shares the Bloomberg/Klein ideology that ATRs are "bad teachers"  and that the ATR pool must be drained by any means possible.  While few ATRs would want to work in a Renewal School and we ATRs can celebrate that we will not be dumped into these low performing schools.  I feel sorry for the students in those Renewal Schools who will continue to academically struggle as they experience high teacher turnover and a steady stream of "newbie" teachers that have a steep learning curve themselves. . In other words the Renewal Schools will continue to be separate and unequal when it comes to student and teacher quality.

The Chancellor did gave herself some wiggle room by saying that ATR hiring will be on a case by case basis and that principals will be able to accept or reject the ATR placement.  This seems to contradict what the DOE said about vacancies after October 15 in which principals would have no say in who the DOE sends the school from the ATR pool.

It seems to me that the Chancellor has made it clear she hates the ATRs and our union leadership continues to remain silent in rebutting the erroneous assumptions that ATRs are "inferior" or "bad" teachers.  Then again, the UFT leadership has never stood up for the ATRs so why would  I expect the unaccountable union leadership to do the right thing and stand up for their must vulnerable of members?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

SUNY Charter Board Approves The Use Of Inferior Instructors For Their Children.

Yesterday, SUNY's Charter Institute has approved a vastly inferior teacher certification process because their charter schools are having serious trouble hiring and retaining teachers.  Therefore, to rectify the teacher shortage issue, they have approved the use of non-certified instructors in their schools.  The SUNY certification process was criticized by the State Education Department's Commissioner and the Chancellor of the Board of Regents, also the UFT promised to file a lawsuit to stop the new regulations.  Read the entire New York Times article Here.  A slightly different take of the SUNY certification process can be found in Chalkbeat.

For people who are hired under the new SUNY charter school regulations, they are only allowed to teach in the SUNY charter schools and still must be State certified to teach elsewhere in New York State.  Therefore, these SUNY approved charter school teachers will be stuck working for these charter schools until they become State certified, if ever.

The new SUNY teacher certification regulations will allow their charter schools to hire cheap, unqualified, and inferior instructors to teach their charter school students and that's not what's best for their students but is apparently best for the SUNY charter school operators who want an endless supply of cheap and replaceable instructors.

Please read my article about this Here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Not All UFT Educators Who Worked In The 2009-10 School Years Get The Lump Sum Payments.

This Sunday UFT members will get their second 12.5% lump sum payment in their regular paycheck if they were on active service in the 2009 and 2010 school years.  The lump sum payments are money owed to us when then Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided not to abide by the City's collective bargaining pattern he negotiated with 75% of the other municipal unions that consisted of two 4% raises.  UFT President, Michael Mulgrew, negotiated a sweetheart deal for the City that resulted in the UFT members receiving a measly 1.4% raise annually for the seven year contract and delaying payment of the two 4% raises for years, with the last lump sum being paid out in 2020!

However, not all UFT members will be getting their lump sum payments.  Who will not be getting their lump sum payments?  Let me count the groups who will be screwed.

Tier VI Educators:
 Those Tier VI educators didn't join the UFT until after March 31st 2012 and along with those Tier IV educators who were hired after the 2009 and 2010 school years will not receive any lump sum payments.

Educators on Unpaid Leave:
Educators who were on maturity leave or other unpaid leaves in October of 2015 will not get their 2017 lump sum payments. Instead they will receive their 2015 lump sum payment instead and it will not include the two year interest accumulated for the delayed payment.  Educators who were under unpaid suspension and those that took time off for personal reasons fall into this category.

Educators Who Resigned or were Terminated:
Any UFT educator who resigned or were terminated will not get any lump sum payments, despite working those two years.  However, if the educator retires. (must be 55 years of age or older and vested), the lump sum patments will be paid out with other retires.  Obviously, if an educator is currently on unpaid leave, they will  not recieve this year's lump sum payment this year.

Educators who transferred to other City Jobs:
If an educator transfers to a non-UFT title, except if they joined the CSA, they will in effect has resigned and receive no lump sum payments.

Educators who have Died before October 1, 2017: 
If the educator died, their family or beneficiaries does not get the lump sum payments.

It would be interesting to find out how many UFT educators will not receive their well deserved lump sum payments because our union leadership decided to sacrifice them to make Mayor Bill de Blasio look good.


Sunday, October 08, 2017

Why Giving Principals Unlimited Authority Hurts Student Academic Achievement

In 2005 the UFT leadership under Randi Weingarten, irreversibly changed the dynamics of a school by agreeing to a contract that gave principals unlimited authority to run the schools as they saw fit.   This post is not about how terrible the "giveback" laden contract was but about how principals used and abused their newly won power to do as they pleased and how it hurt student academic achievement.

Principals were given unfettered authority to hire and fire as they pleased.  The result was that far too many schools hired newly minted teachers with little or no actual classroom experience and student academic achievement suffered as these "newbie" teachers had a steep learning curve themselves when it came to curriculum knowledge and classroom management issues.  Some schools like Maspeth High School in Queens has an entire staff of untenured teachers.  Moreover, many of the Bloomberg small schools have a majority of untenured teachers on staff.

The DOE policies encouraged principals to hire inexperienced teachers with their "fair student funding" that incentivized principals to "hire the cheapest and not the best teachers" for their schools.  Moreover, approximately 25% o0f all principals came from the infamous "Leadership Academy" many of them with limited classroom experience and were trained to be the CEO and not the instructional leader of their school.  Interestingly, where you find both Leadership Academy principals and an inexperienced teaching staff, student academic achievement suffers.

I once wrote the weakest link in the school system is the Superintendent.  In New York City this is especially true as the superintendents seem to get their position based upon who they know ands not what they know.  Just take a look at all the bad principals associated with Superintendent Juan Mendez, who has been indited by the feds for racial discrimination.   Many of the "bad principals" in Queens high schools wee either appointed by or protected by Mr. Mendez.  Again, student academic performance suffers as these "bad principals" experience high teacher turnover, an unstable school environment, and lack of collaboration.

The bottom line giving principals unlimited power only hurts student academic achievement.


Thursday, October 05, 2017

Why Are Teachers Absent More Than Other Workers? Its The Stress Stupid.

A clearly biased study published last month by the Charter friendly Thomas Fordham Institute found that public school teachers took off an average of 8 sick and or personal days each school year, compared to the average worker taking off 3.5 days a year.  The report failed to point out that stress in the classroom is a major factor in teacher absenteeism and teachers are usually surrounded by sick students/  In addition,  many a classroom teacher needs an occasional mental health day after dealing with up to 150 student personalities daily.

The report, while ignoring stress as a cause, blamed the high teacher absenteeism on their union's collective bargaining contract that gives the teacher an average of thirteen sick and personal days that a public school teacher gets every school year.

The author of the report, David Griffin, wrote a summary in the flypaper and called it the "Public Schools Billion-Hour Teacher Absenteeism Problem"and came up with a list of proposals to correct the teacher absenteeism issue.  They are as follows:

  • Reduce the amount of paid sick and personal days to between 8 and 10 from the average of thirteen days,
  • Eliminate "carrying over" sick and personal days.  In other words, use it or lose it at the end of the school year.
  • Have a qualified substitute teacher available.
  • Include chronic teacher absenteeism as a factor in the school's quality review report.
  • Eliminate union restrictions on all charter schools
Interestingly, the report shows that 28.3% of all public school teachers took eleven or more sick and personal days in a school year and were listed as "chronic absenteeism".  Moreover, the Fordham report showed that charter school teachers were less likely to be "chronically absent".  Maybe that's because many of these charter school teachers are quite young., and quit or were fired during the school year.  Finally, the report states that chronic student and teacher absenteeism are correlated and he believes that teacher absenteeism should be included in evaluating schools.  

Besides ignoring the stress factor, the report did not address the high teacher turnover in charter schools or the fact that many charter school teachers are not certified in the subject they are teaching in.  The bottom line, the report fails to account for stress and ignores the high teacher turnover and lack of certification issues associated with charter schools.and that makes me question the validity of the Fordham report.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Why Do Schools Realy Have High Teacher Turnover Rates?

The UFT and DOE set up a consultation committeee to identify and solve the issue of high teacher turnover.  For the Queens High Schools, on one side was the UFT who brought out that the primary issue was bad principals and identified a few.  While on the other side was the Superintendents who claimed it was because teachers left for the greener pastures of the suburbs, as if they don't see their principals as a problem.    The obvious disconnect between the two sides meant that nothing was accomplished.

The problem that neither the union or the DOE are willing to address is the low morale among teachers throughout the public school system.  Both the union and the DOE turn a blind eye to the serious morale issue among teachers and to address the low morale the following steps must be implemented.
  1. Stop blaming teachers for student failures beyond their control.
  2. Stop passing students who don't deserving to pass.
  3. Stop administrative harassment of teachers.
  4. All salaries will be centrally funded and by units, not actual salary.
  5. Eliminate school based Fair Student Funding.
  6. Let teachers teach the way they see as best for their students.
  7. Eliminate Charlotte Dainelson as a rubric.
  8. Stop targeting veteran teachers.
  9. Stop the ever increasing paperwork and data mining.
  10. Remove principals that have low teacher trust factors.
While bad principals and the suburbs will always affect teacher turnover, by implementing the above steps you can allieviate the high teacher turnover that plague far too many of our schools.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Weapon Seizures At Schools Increasing Under Mayor Bill De Blasio.

 Since Bill de Blasio became Mayor and weakened the student discipline code while allowing students to have cellphones in the schools, which has resulted in schools becoming more unsafe. The result is that more students are carrying weapons to school.  The New York Post reported that weapon seizures have increased by 3.3% since last year and 27% since Bill de Blasio became Mayor of Ne York City and weakened the student discipline code.

  According to the article there were 2,120 weapon seizures at New York City schools in the 2016-17 school year and compares to the 2,053 in the 2015-16 school year and 1,673 in the 2014-15 school year.  According to  Gregory Floyd, president of the school safety agents union, Teamsters Local 237, blamed a lax disciplinary system that discourages arrests and suspensions.
“They don’t arrest kids for these offenses, which means children are bringing weapons to protect themselves,” Floyd said.

Under Bill de Blasio as schools become increasingly unsafe and metal detectors are frowned upon by the Mayor (only 88 schools have them) students will continue to bring weapons to school and the stabbing at the Bronx school may no be an isolated incident going forward.