Monday, January 30, 2017
In the Daily News the other day, there was an opinion piece by the politically conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute which claimed that firing teachers is an endless odyssey and demands that the rules need to change by either eliminating tenure, or removing tenure after getting an "ineffective" rating.
The truth is that teacher tenure does not mean a lifetime job, it simply means that the teacher has the right to challenge his or her termination in a 3020-a hearing. This is known as educator "due process". Teacher "due process" simply means that the School District cannot arbitrarily terminate a teacher without "just cause" and must present relevant evidence to an independent State arbitrator.
For teachers in the NYC version of the teacher evaluation system two consecutive "ineffective" ratings can result in 3020-a termination charges and for 87% of the teachers, the burden of proof is on the teacher to show they are not incompetent. For the remaining 13%, ATRs, and for teachers subject to misconduct or a "developing" rating, the burden of proof shifts to the DOE
According to the opinion piece by the Fordham Institute the article claimed only 77 teachers had two consecutive "ineffectives" in the last two school years. However, according to the UFT approximately 1% of the 70,000 teachers (700 teachers) received an "ineffective" rating last school year. Assuming the numbers are true, of the 77 teachers with consecutive "ineffective" ratings, 57 were charged under section 3020-a and as of now only 9 were terminated. Of course, the reason for such low termination numbers is that most of the 77 teachers were told by their lawyers that since the burden of proof is on them that it would be highly likely that the arbitrator will agree to terminate the teacher. Therefore, the teacher would lose up to $54,000 of retro lump sum payments if they are terminated, they teacher than retires instead so as to get the retro payments.
Remember, it now takes four years to achieve tenure and once granted its only right that the teacher who gets an "ineffective" rating, be given a chance to correct their deficiencies before being subject to termination. Two years is no way close to lifetime tenure.
This is just another case where the statistics are manipulated and the article's premise that its difficult to fire a teacher is far from the truth.
Sunday, January 29, 2017
Back in 2014, when Carmen Farina became Chancellor, one of her first major headaches was PS 106 in Far Rockaway Queens, the Lighthouse school. Despite documented issues like a Principal showing up late most every day, no library services or books,no Gym or Art classes, and high teacher turnover. The new Chancellor was reluctant to remove the Principal. However, after a continuous media onslaught, teacher complaints, and poor student academic results, the Chancellor removed the Principal, Marcella Sills, who was eventually fired in her 3020-a hearing by an Independent State arbitrator, David Reilly. You can read the stories about her wrongdoings Here. Here. and Here.
Fast forward to the present and PS 106 is back in the news again. This time for hiding between six to eight students who have chronic misbehavior issues and hiding them in an office trailer during their two Quality Review visits by the District Superintendent. Not once, but twice. You can find the New York Post article Here.
PS 106 is listed as a "priority school" by NYSED due to their abysmally low English and Math scores, 50% below the District 27 average. Moreover, teachers and parents complain that the Principal, Rachelle Legions, rarely disciplines bad behavior and bullying is a major problem at the school. The majority of teachers are untenured and only 59% of the teachers trust the Principal. You can find the school's snapshot Here.
What will happen to Principal Rachelle Legions now that she was caught "gaming the system"? I suspect nothing, nothing at all. This is just another example of the DOE looking the other way in their "children last" policy.
Saturday, January 28, 2017
DOE's Bloated Bureaucracy Keeps On Growing While Schools Suffer From Tight Budgets And Large Class Sizes.
During the Bloomberg years, the biggest complaint from education experts was the bloated DOE Bureaucracy as more and more funds were transferred from schools to Central Administration. You can read about it on my posts found Here, Here, and Here. Now it seems that the De Blasio administration, rather than reduce the headcount at DOE Central has actually seen it increase by an astonishing 70%, starting July 1, 2017.
While schools average 89% of their fair student funding and are expected to increase to 92% next school year, the schools are underfunded by any metric used while the bloated Bureaucratic DOE Central keeps gobbling up funds to feed the beast. By contrast, New York City having the largest class sizes in the State and suffering from high teacher turnover due to the large class sizes, lack of resources, and a lax student discipline policy is forced to hire 4,500 teachers annually. DOE Central continues to increase their headcount and consultant services especially for teacher recruitment and nothing for teacher retention. In fact, DOE Central is willing to pay $100 million dollars annually to allow highly experienced teachers to act as substitute teachers, rather than place them in schools to reduce class sizes,
Unfortunately, when Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor, Carmen Farina, decided to retain 80% of the Bloomberg era policymakers at Tweed, that also meant that the Bloomberg ideology of "children last" continues to be the policy at DOE Central.
Friday, January 27, 2017
This week the NYC Council's Education Committee held hearings on teacher recruitment and retention at City Hall. Appearing for the DOE was Amy Way at the DOE's Office of Teacher Recruitment and Quality and Anna Commitante, Senior Executive Director of the Office of Curriculum. Both DOE Bureaucrats faithfully echoed Chancellor Carmen Farina's famous statements that "80 hours of rigorous professional development weekly" and "high-quality curricula" is the best strategy to attract and retain teachers. Of course, most school-based professional development has been a colossal waste of time and the disconnect between the graduation rate and the "college and career readiness" rates show that students are graduating unprepared for college or the job market.
When asked by committee members what other strategies the DOE was implementing to stop high teacher turnover, especially in the high poverty schools, the DOE response was to push for "professional learning communities". A non-starter to the committee members. At no point did either DOE official mention lower class sizes despite the many studies that show that lower class sizes stems he flight of teachers from schools. In fact, when asked about any policy to lower class sizes, the two DOE officials simply did not respond.
Another committee member wanted to know how can the DOE expect academic improvement at Renewal schools when classes have 30 or more students and cannot attract veteran teachers to mentor the largely inexperienced teaching staff? The best line was if you child was sick, would you take him or her to a Renewal Hospital to be treated? The DOE response was silence.
The chairman of the Education Committee Danny Dromm, a former middle school teacher, correctly pointed out that lower class sizes and clear student discipline rules that are strictly enforced are needed to keep teachers from fleeing the NYC classroom. However, the DOE seems to ignore these proven strategies and their failure to listen and respond to teacher complaints is the primary factor of teacher dissatisfaction and the cause for the teacher retention problem.
For Mr Dromm, the most disturbing DOE response was about "Fair Student Funding" and how it hurts the schools. He even suggested that the City Council may pass a resolution to eliminate the Fair Student Funding from school budgets. Mr. Dromm stated that the Fair Student Funding incentives principals to hire inexpensive "newbie" teachers while trying to offload veterans from their budget. The DOE response, was that they see no problem with the school-based Fair Student Funding.
A more through analysis of the hearing can be found at the New York City Public School Parents blog.
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
A number of educators have failed to take advantage of a perk that can greatly enhance one's pension. That is to "buy back" pension credits for public service jobs that they once worked in New York State, County, City, Town, or Village. Moreover, for Military Veterans who were honorably discharged. they can receive up to 3 years of pension credit. under certain conditions. Finally, all substitute teaching and per diem jobs can also be bought back as service credit for a pension. TRS has a service credit brochure that explains it all.
Unfortunately, working in a private, parochial, most Charter schools, and private industry are not eligible for buying back service credit. Further, Federal and teaching in other States are also not eligible as well for service credit. On the other hand since pension contributions are optional for paraprofessionals. Many of the paras delayed or never joined the pension system. These paras should see if they can buy back the time that can greatly enhanced their pension at their retirement date. Chapter Leaders should canvas the school paras and inform them of their potential pension windfall.
Remember, all service credit "buy backs" are subject to the 3% employee contribution and if the teacher is part of the special 25/55 or 25/57 programs than it would be 4.85%. Still a great deal.
The bottom line, all educators should "buy back" any time they can and help them retire not only with a better pension but it gives one the option to retire earlier.
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
It has become increasingly clear that the DOE only cares about one thing the, graduation rate! It appears that all other metrics are ignored by the DOE and they want everybody to buy into the fiction that the New York City Public High Schools are producing "college and career ready" students. A case in point, as brought out by the New York Post, is Bronxdale High School, a Bloomberg small school carved out of the old Christopher Columbus High School. This school has a graduation rate of 76% but a "college and career readiness" rate of 4%. That's right, of the 430 students in the school only 17 are ready for post secondary education or a professional career. According to my metric that's a ratio of 19.0 and it ranks with the worst numbers in the City high schools. For Queens high schools you can find their numbers Here.
Bronxdale High School was given a perfect 4 out of 4 for rigorous instruction by a clearly delusional DOE bureaucrat , despite the school's abysmal "college and career readiness" scores. Maybe the DOE evaluator should be evaluated? Insideschools stated that there is a lack of instruction and too much student-based project work as a negative downside to the school. No wonder the dismal metric of 19.0. Moreover, the majority of teachers have less than four years of experience and two thirds are untenured. Furthermore, the school suffers from high teacher turnover and while 57% of the students go on to some sort of post secondary education most end up in a two year community college, taking no-credit remedial courses. You can find the school's snapshot Here.
Bronxdale High School has been in the news before when a Leadership Academy Principal, John Chase Jr, was charged with sexual misconduct and harassment of his "newbie" female teaching staff and retained his position by then Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Tweed until the public outrage forced the DOE to change their mind. You can read my post Here and how the Mayor and Chancellor tried to protect the Principal.
The legacy of the Bloomberg/Klein era of bogus graduation rates and academic fraud continues under Mayor Bill de Blasio and his Chancellor, Carmen Farina. When will the City and the DOE be held accountable for their failure to graduate students who are prepared for the adult world? In my book its educational malfeasance.
Monday, January 23, 2017
In the vocational high school that I am assigned to until the next rotation, an Earth Science teacher is leaving at the end of the semester. The five year Leadership Academy Principal, rather than interview the 3 or 4 ATRs with an Earth Science certification, has instead hired a Bronx charter school Science teacher with no Earth Science certification to complete the school year. The reason, she is paid a "newbie" salary and she's has no tenure or institutional memory. Who cares if she knows how to teach Regents Earth Science or not, its not about the students anyway.
What this Principal did is legal, since schools have a January window to hire outside the system for the second semester and I suspect most principals are doing the same thing as this Principal. Therefore, I believe that Randy Asher will be having a difficult time convincing principals to hire ATRs unless he is given and uses his authority to put an end to this nonsense. At least in this case he doesn't have the authority or the will to overrule the Principal.
As for me? I'm happy I was not interviewed for the position and relieved I am not being forced placed in the vacancy since the school is a long distance from my home and is difficult to park. However, that's not the issue, its that once again a Principal abuses their power by hiring what's best for their budget and control and not what's best for the students she is in charge to educate.
Sunday, January 22, 2017
When Bill de Blasio replaced Micheal Bloomberg as Mayor of New York City most educators were hoping that a new spirit of cooperation between the DOE and schools would replace the antagonism that was foisted by the Mayor and his Chancellor, Joel Klein. Instead, the new Mayor selected a Klein insider, Carmen Farina, as the Chancellor. Sure, she was a long term educator but she also had a history. First, being principal at P.S. 6 where she oversaw the turnover of 80% of her teaching staff and played games with student selection and funding. Then as a Brooklyn District Superintendent who oversaw the Cobble Hill Regents cheating scandal and claimed knew nothing about it to investigators. Finally, as the Deputy Chancellor under Joel Klein, she imposed questionable learning programs from Columbia Teachers college on the public schools. Yet our union leadership seemed pleased with the selection and told the members that there was a new tone at Tweed.
While the Chancellor did get rid of the useless and money sucking Children First Networks and any new applicants to the Leadership Academy must have at least 5 years of school experience, she retained 80% of the Bloomberg policymakers at DOE Central and froze school budgets. Moreover, class sizes actually rose during her first three years and the ATR crisis remained unresolved. Worst of all, the school based Fair Student Funding system remained that forced principals to hire the "cheapest and not the best teachers" for their schools.
Now that Bill de Blasio is up for reelection, he wants the UFT's endorsement and no longer has to worry about the news media since they blast him daily anyway. Therefore, look for significant changes, starting with a new Chancellor, the end of the wasteful ATR pool that cost $100 million dollars yearly, and changes in school funding. This might be wishful thinking on my part but I do look for significant changes at the DOE if Mayor Bill de Blasio wins a second term.
Regardless, its time to purge the Bloomberg ideology that hurts schools and student academic achievement.
Thursday, January 19, 2017
I was told by my APO that as of Feb 4, 2017 the school assigned to the rotating ATRs will be the school they will remain in for the rest of the school year. Apparently, the first tangible change Randy Asher has made in changing the ATR status is to eliminate the useless and demoralizing rotation of excessed teachers. It seems that Chancellor Carmen Farina has finally decided to reduce Principal autonomy in hiring teaching staff since few principals were hiring experienced teachers and especially ATRs, no matter how qualified they are and the incentives offered them.
According to the APO, ATRs will be placed in schools with vacancies in their subject area. Will that include the many hidden vacancies throughout the system? Can the school still hire outside the school system in the last two weeks of January? What penalties will the DOE impose on schools who refused to accept the ATR in their vacancy? What about uncertified teachers teaching in a subject area their not qualified to teach in? How will school budgets change (Fair Student Funding). What about the ATR field Supervisors?. These questions remain unanswered.
I have no doubt that the placing of ATRs in schools with vacancies in their subject area is because of the looming teacher shortage and the saving of $100 million dollars that it cost DOE Central annually. Moreover, the Chancellor and Mayor have finally realized its to their political advantage to move further away from the ideological Bloomberg/Klein policies that has alienated school staff and with a new election approaching, its time to go in a different direction. Finally, principals only have themselves to blame for this turn of events as they rather hire young, inexpensive "newbie" teachers rather than spend a few extra bucks on high quality talent as it was more about age and salary discrimination than about what's best for their students academic achievement.
Far too many principals believed the decade long DOE kool-ade that ATRs are "bad teachers" and even the ATR incentive wasn't enough to change their minds. The DOE did such a great job demonizing the ATRs over the decade that the principals have been brainwashed in believing this false narrative and now its up to the DOE to forcefully tell principals that it was all a lie and please hire them. The question is what's next? Stay tuned.
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
There is no secret that almost all of the 4,500 annual vacancies in the New York City Public School system were filled by "newbie" teachers as the DOE's Fair Student Funding (FSF) policy and the ever increasing Leadership Academy principals in charge of schools result in the hiring of the "cheapest and not the best teachers" for their school. How does that affect student academic achievement? Let me count the ways.
First, 50% of the "newbie" teachers will not be in the New York City school system in five years and 80% will not be in the same school that hired them.With both Long Island and Westchester now hiring after a 5 year freeze, even more teachers will flee the City schools for higher pay, better behaved and academically proficient students, with lower class sizes and better working conditions. Moreover, many of the "newbie" teachers lack classroom management skills, deep curriculum knowledge, and experience dealing with different student personalities. Finally, what's left unsaid is how do the students feel when a teacher leaves the school? They feel betrayed, blame themselves, or feel undeserving enough for the teacher to stay.
In the school I am in, three teachers are leaving at the end of the semester. One for Long Island and two others are quitting the profession as they got better offers from private companies. I covered one of the classes as the teacher took the day off after telling his class he was leaving the day before. Despite my best efforts, many of the students were angry, cursed, and complained about how their school sucks. The school is a decent school and has a relatively well behaved student body. The biggest complaint was why do so many teachers leave the school? "Don't they like us"? We forget how leaving affects the physic makeup of students who look to to their teacher as an island of stability and guidance in a world of chaos.
Had this Principal hired more experienced teachers, they would be more likely to stay since they have a stake in the game, be it the pension, the TDA, or simply they are acclimated to the New York City Schools and their student population. I don't blame the Principal since as a Leadership Academy Principal she was trained to hire "newbies" and not think about whether these teachers would actually stay at her high school.
Maybe Mr, Asher, in his new position, should be bringing up this reason to the principals on why they should be hiring ATRs since these teachers are more likely to stay long-term and provide stability to the teaching staff. More importantly, these experienced teachers will not flee the classroom and hurt student academic achievement. Isn't that what education is for? Something to seriously think about if you ask me.
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
In yesterday's New York Post, Chancellor Carmen Farina used some questionable statistics to show how the New York City schools have improved. First, was the 70% high school graduation rate, of course she failed to mention that only 34% were "college and career ready" and that far too many of the schools had a "college ready" rate below 20%. Second, she crowed about the 55% who went to college but failed to mention that 78% needed no-credit remedial courses and usually flunked out without getting even a two year degree. Finally, school violence has gone down, due to a change in reporting requirements but she failed to mention how her lax student discipline policies has made student misbehavior the biggest problem for school staff. For more information behind the Chancellor's bogus statistics, read the New York City Controller report.
Today, in the New York Post an untenured teacher was discontinued because he dared report student misbehavior at the Bronx High School, called Design and Construction. Despite the school's requirement to document student misbehavior, the school administration didn't want it reported, You can read the article here. How good is the school? Take a look at their snapshot. That;s right the school has a 63% graduation rate and a 15% "college and career readiness" rate, another diploma mill with few graduates who will be getting financially successful jobs.or succeed in college.
The school administration should be installing a strict student discipline policy rather than hiding student misbehavior but then we all know the DOE rather punish teachers that dare report such inconvenient facts and reward schools that hide incidents, just to make their statistics look good. For the DOE it still is "children last" ....Always.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
One of the most glaring issues dealing with the DOE is the "double standard" when disciplining teachers and administrators. Teachers who commit or allegedly committed minor infractions can and usually are removed from the school and subject to 3020-a termination charges. By contrast, school administrators are presumed to be innocent and few are removed from their school. A case in point is the story of 33 year old Assistant Principal Diana Rendon of Progressive High School for Professional Careers in Brooklyn, who was first caught on a cellphone apparently boozing it up on a hotel bed with some of her teachers at taxpayers expense and now she has been accused of barging into a boys locker room with some of the boys still in their underwear.
Can you imagine if a male coach walks into a girls locker room with half-dressed girls? That coach would be immediately removed from the school, be subject to an SCI investigation, and quite likely suspended without pay for sexual misconduct and terminated.in a 3020-a hearing. Yet Ms. Rendon is still an administrator in the school. As a coach of a girls soccer team, I knew better if I wanted to keep my job and always had a female team captain handle the locker room and only came in when she gave me the go-ahead to enter. Yet, apparently Ms. Rendon rather than follow the rules, believes she can do as she pleases and barge in for any reason whatsoever.
If that is not enough, how about the free baseball tickets that she and the Principal were supposed to give to the students but went to staff instead? This stuff apparently goes back to 2010.
What we have here is apparently another case of DOE's different criteria when disciplining teachers and administrators, or the old "double standard".
Saturday, January 14, 2017
One of the metrics the DOE and politicians love to use is the graduation rate. Every year the graduation inches up and everybody praises the heavens for the apparent improvement. However, when I looked at the snapshot of the Queens High Schools, I found that there was a real; disconnect between the graduation rate and the "college and career readiness" rate. Why is that important? Its important because it shows that far too many students are graduating unprepared for high education and for good paying jobs. A recent study shows that a college graduate makes 56% more money than a high school graduate and every year the gap widens, that's why the "college and career readiness" metric is an important metric for a student's financial success.
While disappointing Chancellor Carmen Farina may keep claiming how academically the schools are improving, her policies and the poor administrative quality at Tweed and in the schools suggest otherwise. In most of the high schools in the Bronx and the deep poverty communities in Southeast Queens and Eastern Brooklyn the "college and career readiness" rates are in single digits while graduating 70% or more of the students. In other words, these schools are graduating students unprepared for the adult world.
Previously, I came up with a simple ratio to determine if the high schools are giving their students a real education or simply an academic fraud factory. You can find the list for all unscreened Queens school Here. As one can see, looking at the list, the schools located in solidly middle class neighborhoods attract a racially diverse student body and has a stable and an experienced teaching staff. By contrast, the schools with the worst numbers have a nearly 100% minority student population, suffers from high teacher turnover, and an inexperienced teaching staff. Add that to the poor quality of the school administration and the many over-the-counter- students these schools must accept to keep their school afloat and you have a recipe for educational disaster.
With the present policies implemented by Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein still in place, like the school-based fair student funding, the ATR crisis, and student free choice at the high school level, I see little real change to our student educational needs as inequality between the haves and have nots will continue and students who are stuck in poorly performing high schools like the Renewal schools will have a dim future when it comes to financial success.
Thursday, January 12, 2017
The DOE announced that the former Principal of Brooklyn Tech, Randy Asher, will get a promotion and a $185,000 dollar salary to tackle the vexing ATR problem. According to Chancellor Carmen Farina, Randy Asher will bring a fresh approach and new strategies to reduce the ATR pool that cost the DOE over $100 million dollars annually. This is proof that the DOE's ATR incentive has been a failure since if it was a success, there would be no reason to hire Mr.Asher to tackle the problem. According to the Daily News article, there are presently, 981 ATRs in rotation, down from 1,303 at the beginning of the school year. However, most of the reduction is due to provisional placements. That means once their provisional assignments ends, they will be dumped back into the ATR pool. The latest anecdotal information showed only 125 ATRs were offered and accepted the incentive for a permanent placement.
What can Mr. Asher do to reduce the ATR pool? The simple answer is to be given the authority by the Chancellor to prohibit principals from hiring outside the District until all exccessed teachers in the District in their content specialty are placed. Without that authority, Mr. Asher will be met with resistance as principals who have been indoctrinated under the Bloomberg ideology and will simply refuse to hire ATRs. Mr. Asher would need to obtain the power to penalize principals who fail to follow the new rules in hiring ATRs and get caught hiding vacancies. These penalties should include but not limited to the following:
1. Monetary penalty in the form of a fine.
2. Taking away funding for the hidden vacancy
3. Removal of the Principal.
Of course this can only happen if the school-based fair student funding program is made District based and the schools no longer have a financial incentive to hire "newbies".
However, what I suspect will actually happen is that Mr. Asher will propose an ATR time limit and a reduced "due process" proposal when he negotiates with the union leadership. Our union leadership will reject the ATR time limit but will agree to a more punitive ATR program that will once again make ATRs a "second class citizen". Of course, our union leadership will once again declare victory and convince the DOE to make an inadequate ATR retirement incentive, similar to the one in 2014 as a sweetener so that everybody wins, except the ATRs who cannot afford to retire and are subject to more onerous requirements and more harassing pressure to quit the system.
I could be wrong but I strongly suspect that the scenario I outlined in the previous paragraph will be the most likely path that Mr. Asher will take as he won't step on the toes of his Tweed supervisors and the principals of the CSA union he was a long-term member in.
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Earlier this school year the DOE, realizing that there is going to be a teacher shortage in the coming years and has already hit the Bronx, offered schools an incentive to hire ATRs. This incentive would offer schools an ATR for free the first year, half price the second year, and a 25% discount the third year. Yet few schools have taken the DOE up on the deal. The reason is that the ATR comes with his seniority and institutional memory and the ever increasing numbers of Leadership Academy Principals rather not hire them. Moreover, the Bloomberg policymakers at Tweed remind schools how Joel Klein called the ATRs "bad teachers" and rather hire a "newbie" then giving their students an experienced veteran teacher.
The questions I would like answered by the DOE and UFT leadership are the following:
- How many ATRs were placed because of the incentive?
- What was the experience breakdown?
- What was the age breakdown?
- What was the salary breakdown?
- What was the percentage of tenured members?
- What is the breakdown by subject area?
- Placement by District
- Placement by Borough
I am appealing to the MORE and New Action members on the Executive Board to ask these questions to the UFT leadership, the union has the numbers and maybe the union could be pressured in releasing the statistical breakdown and that we can all see how disingenuous the DOE incentive offer has been.
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
One of the very few improvements Chancellor Carmen Farina implemented was eliminating the useless and money sucking Children First Networks (CFN) and replaced their function back where it belonged with the Superintendents. The idea was that principals could no longer play one CFN against another and do as they pleased like hiring uncertified teachers for Regents classes and making sure parent voices were not heard if the CFN was geographically located in another Borough. The idea of giving back the responsibility to the Superintendents was a sound one in practice since principals could no longer do as they pleased and get no pushback from above. However, this policy only worked if the Superintendent was an excellent educator with good instincts that did what's right for the children of the schools under their jurisdiction.
Unfortunately, under Chancellor Carmen Farina, far too many of the Superintendents were selected not based on their educational ability but on cronyism, favoritism, and political connections. In fact, some Superintendents needed a waiver since they never achieved either the ten year teaching experience and at least three years as a school Principal required for the position. In fact, the Chancellor retained 34 of the 42 Bloomberg Era superintendents or 77% of these questionable leaders. Add that to the Chancellor retaining 80% of the Bloomberg policymakers and you can see what's wrong with the DOE. Worse, these superintendents continued committed educational malfeasance by allowing unsavory and vindictive principals to continue to harass staff and hire and use uncertified teachers for Regents courses in the subject area.
Just take a look at some of these Superintendents? Amiee Horowitz, the Superintendent of the Renewal schools that oversaw the hiring of a whole staff of "newbies" instead of recruiting the "highly effective" teachers that Chancellor Carmen Farina claimed that the DOE was going to employ at Automotive High School, The result? The school which now will be merged with another failing school. Moreover, she ignored Regents cheating and academic fraud instead of exposing it.
Let's not forget Superintendent Juan Mendez who has put in far too many questionable principals under his administration. and is under federal lawsuit for racial bias. Here.
There are many more superintendents with questionable educational ability but you get the picture. Until a new Chancellor is appointed and Carmen Farina finally retires for good, the weakest link will continue to be the superintendents appointed by the Chancellor who herself saw nothing, did nothing, and said nothing when she was Superintendent in Brooklyn during the Cobble Hill Regents cheating scandal.
Sunday, January 08, 2017
Over the last couple of years and especially after the Ferguson Missouri incident. Black outrage against the police resulted in the rise of a new group called "Black Lives Matter". This group was a vocal advocate of treating the young black men with the same respect as all other people, However, the Black Lives Matter group slowly morphed into a political organization and seemed to move away from their roots. While the Black Lives Matter movement still had a focus on anti-police action when they could exploit incidents that show the police abusing their authority and rightly so. The movement has also taken an ideological slant that is quite disturbing to me.
For example the Black Lives Matter movement supports the Boycott Disinvestment and Sanction (BDS) organization against Israel, an anti-Semitic movement dominated by pro Palestinian, far left fringe groups. Can anybody explain how the Black Lives Matter movement supports an organization that tries to de-legitimatizes a Democratic country which has never discriminated against young black men in the United States?.
What bothers me the most is that the Black Lives Matter movement has been strangely silent about the escalating gang violence in Chicago that has resulted in 762 killing last year and 41 children under the age of 14 were shot. Most of these killings and the over 3,550 shootings in 2016 were black on black crime (75-80%). Instead of protesting the occasional police misconduct or abuse, the Black Lives Matter organization should be protesting against the gang violence that plague the black neighborhoods of Chicago. In fact, Black Lives Matter may have indirectly caused the skyrocketing of the crime rate in Chicago by stopping police from making stops of suspicious young black men for fear of being labeled a racist.
Back to the 41 innocent children shot who were in the crossfire of gang violence. Because of neighborhood distrust of the Chicago police, only 3 of the 41 child shootings have resulted in an arrest. According to the police, the distrust of the community makes it difficult to get witness statements even when people know who the shooter is. Shouldn't the Black Lives Matter movement be protecting these children? Try to clean up the neighborhood and eradicate gang violence? Wouldn't the movement gain respectability by helping make the communities safe for families and children to walk to school and play on the street? How about cooperating with the police to make communities safe? Instead they continue to follow an ideologically driven anti-police agenda at the expense of the very communities that they should be supporting.
The bottom line is, if Black Lives Matter wants to be relevant then they must start with fighting gang violence in the Black communities of Chicago and not simply protesting the occasional police action.
Friday, January 06, 2017
As a second career teacher I know what it was like to work in an office and now in the classroom and the difference is night and day. In an office you interact with a dozen adult personalities. By contrast, most secondary school teachers interact with the dozen adult personalities and the 150 incomplete and unpredictable teenage personalities. Add that to a hostile and crowded classroom environment due to incompetent or vindictive administrators and unruly students and almost half the teachers feel high daily stress. A high UFT official once told me that 25% of the teachers take anti-depressant or anxiety drugs to get them through the school day.
Even in good school districts 40% of the teachers leave before their fifth year and the quit rate is much higher in high poverty, minority school districts. A study showed that the primary cause of high teacher turnover was student misbehavior and the failure of school administrators to support teachers.
Come Friday at many schools and you will see teachers lying down in the teacher's rooms complaining of headaches because of the accumulated stress throughout the week. New York City Chancellor, Carmen Farina once told new teachers that they should stay away from the teacher rooms and the complaining veteran teachers. However, for these complaining veteran teachers it is their coping mechanism that helps them deal with the accumulated stress.
How to help alleviate the stress? .First, find a low poverty or screened school where the students want to learn. Second, make sure the school administration has a reputation for collaboration with teachers. Finally, find a school with an experienced teaching staff where mentoring and peer role models will help newer teachers handle the everyday insults that go hand -in-hand with teaching in the New York City public schools.
If you cannot find a school that meets all three requirements then take up meditation, you will need it if you are to make a career out of teaching in the New York City public school system.
Wednesday, January 04, 2017
When Mayor Michael Bloomberg finally left office on January 1, 2014. UFT President Michael Mulgrew saw an opportunity to curry favor with the Bill de Blasio administration and pushed for a long delayed contract for the members. Being his first negotiated contract, Michael Mulgrew wanted to show he was a tough negotiator and his top priority was to get the two 4% raises owed to the members that Michael Bloomberg refused to give the UFT for the years 2009 and 2010. This is when the story begins.
In the winter of 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio told his Labor Commissioner, Bob Linn to start negotiating with the UFT and he gave Mr. Linn two demands. One, that the contract becomes the "new pattern" for all other municipal contracts and two, that the new contract be affordable to the City. Mr. Linn, a veteran of the Koch administration is a savvy negotiator with decades of experience in negotiating municipal contracts. He quickly realized that Michael Mulgrew's top priority was to get his members their two 4% raises. Mr. Linn also knew that the City would lose if the UFT had taken the retroactive payment issue to arbitration. In fact, in the latest PBA arbitration, Arbitrator Edelman emphasized that the "pattern bargaining" is a mainstay for all negotiated contracts and Mr. Linn was probably 99% certain that the City would be on the hook for billions of dollars and put extreme stress on the City budget. Luckily for Mr. Linn, he was negotiating with a novice, Michael Mulgrew.
Mr. Linn dangled the two 4% raises to Mr. Mulgrew as bait in exchange for deferring most of the retro payments out six years to 2020. Customarily, all retro payments were given in the second paycheck to members after a contract was negotiated. However, Mr. Linn persuaded Michael Mulgrew to waive the traditional practice and stretched out the retro payments with 87.5% of these payments not given to the members until 3 to 6 years after the contract was signed. Moreover, Mr. Linn convinced Michael Mulgrew to allow certain teachers who worked during the 2009 and 2010 school years not to get their retro payments. They included members who resigned, were terminated, on unpaid leave, or died. This forced many teachers to retire rather then fight their 3020-a charges. Finally, with the urging of the DOE, the ATRs were made "second class citizens" with reduced due process rights for the first two years of the contract before the UFT thankfully allowed it to sunset.
Mr Linn outmaneuvered the municipal unions when he convinced an over matched Michael Mulgrew to accept a contract that averaged 1.42% for the seven year period, less than the cost of inflation since Mr. Linn was well aware of Michael Mulgrew's eagerness to get a contract. Further, he also received Micheal Mulgrew's approval to reduce health care costs that has saved the City millions of dollars as the municipal workers found themselves paying significantly higher health care costs. The majority of municipal unions howled in disapproval, especially the uniformed unions that saw a meager annual raise since they already had received the two 4% raises, the contract was vastly inferior and thanks to UFT President Michael Mulgrew it became the pattern.
To say that UFT President was over matched by Labor Commissioner Bob Linn in negotiating the City favorable 2014 contract is an understatement. It was like a man negotiating with a boy.
Monday, January 02, 2017
When Michael Bloomberg became Mayor of New York City there were only 15.8% of the high schools who screened their students. By 2009, at the beginning of the Mayor's third term, screened schools almost doubled to 28.4% and rose even further by the end of his third term in 2013 to 33%. The Mayor's "school choice" program led to a further segregation of the high schools, both racially and academically, as it gave the high achieving students greater choice to pick high schools that only admitted students like them. In fact, as Mayor Bloomberg further exacerbated the segregation by closing down almost all the large comprehensive high schools that had a somewhat diverse student racial composition and ability called "educational options". Approximately 55% of the high schools were in this category. By the time Mayor Bloomberg left office the schools that had an "educational option" feel dramatically to only 27%!. Regardless, the abundance of screened schools make the "ed-opt" model a failed method to attract high achieving students since the multitude of screened schools could out compete them and this was encouraged by the DOE's school choice program.
Various studies have shown what is needed to make schools diverse and attract high achieving students is. One, sharply reduce screened schools. Two, bring back the large comprehensive high schools in the community and offer programs and staff that can attract high achieving students like Mandarin, Computer Science, and Advanced Placement courses. Three, have a stable and experienced teaching staff. Unfortunately, Deputy Chancellor Phil Weinberg has already said that school choice will not change and that few, if any, screened schools will be eliminated. Moreover, the DOE policy of school-based fair student funding, which is funded at only 89% of what it should be, discourages schools from hiring experienced teachers by penalizes them in their budget. Therefore, while the City talks desegregation, their very policies actually encourages segregation.
While the DOE talks about desegregating the high schools, just look at how the DOE allows screened schools to grab the high achieving students and are relatively diverse racially while the remaining schools are left to fight over the low performing students that are age appropriate, have good attendance, and have no behavior issues. Oh, by the way, is it any wonder that the schools that are not screened are 86% minority with few East Asians or Whites? The DOE may claim they are looking at desegregating the high schools but the reality is their very policies will make this virtually impossible to achieve.
Sunday, January 01, 2017
Here are my predictions for 2017.
Look for the UFT leadership to continue to make nice with the DOE at the expense of the members as they refuse to go after vindictive principals, allow the DOE to pursue their "gotcha agenda" on going after veteran teachers. and to continue the oppressive Danielson rubric while allowing four or more observations when most school districts are requiring only two. Moreover, our disconnected union leadership not only does not support the "opt out" movement but falsely claims that it could cost the schools federal funding. Finally, the UFT leadership allows the ATR situation to continue and refuses to oppose school-based "fair student funding" that forces principals to hire the "cheapest and not the best teachers" for their schools.
Instead, look for our union leadership to campaign for increased COPE payments by claiming to fight the upcoming constitutional convention and the incoming Republican administration when the COPE money will probably be used for other issues that are not supported by the members. Remember this?
I expect little change in the DOE as much of Mayor Bloomberg's managers still retain their policy-making positions at Tweed. Until the disappointing Chancellor, Carmen Farina finally retires or is replaced, the DOE will remain the enemy of the classroom teacher.. Collaboration is discouraged and top down management is the mantra when it comes to the bloated DOE as they push their pet programs while ignoring academic fraud, support vindictive principals, and are tone deaf to parent complaints.
Look for this to be a total failure unless the City can bring back community high schools and integrate the neighborhoods. Maybe in isolated elementary schools some limited integration can be achieved but at the high school level with complete choice, integration is a pipe dream.
I predict that most of these struggling schools will continue to flounder unless the schools can attract a better educated student body (unlikely) and an experienced teaching staff (highly unlikely). Most of the Renewal schools have "newbie" staff and are struggling to meet even the modest goals
assigned to them.
The teacher shortage that has hit the Bronx schools will become more prevalent and spread to the other boroughs, except for Staten Island. Yet the DOE, for ideological reasons, will continue to keep ATRs who won their 3020-a hearings in limbo by refusing schools who would like to hire them. The DOE will probably allow schools to hire uncertified teachers rather than do what's right for the students.
Few minor changes, like another failed incentive and maybe a little more flexibility for high school ATRs so that they are rotated Region wide and not Borough wide (probably wishful thinking). Otherwise, I see little real change. Hopefully, the opposition caucuses of MORE and New Action will continue to put pressure on the UFT Leadership on the executive board to advocate for ATR since the Unity caucus does not..
Bill de Blasio:
Look for the UFT leadership to endorse Mayor Bill de Blasio by the Spring, without asking for member input. Will it lead to a new contract down the road? Maybe, maybe not but the union leadership will endorse the Mayor anyway while ignoring the hostile classroom environment and punitive evaluations that make teaching a stressful occupation where the majority will never be vested for a pension..
While outside issues such as the Supreme Court, the new Secretary oi Education, and the new President (Donald Trump is his name UFT leadership) will affect the education landscape, the issues directly affecting New York City public schools will remain largely unchanged with large class sizes, tight school budgets, and poor quality administrators will continue, As the members continually see their autonomy erode our disconnected union leadership will claim victory when negotiating with the City and the DOE.