Sunday, November 11, 2018

UFT Leadership's Animal Farm

Back in 1945 George Orwell published a book called "Animal Farm" that was based upon the 1917 Russian Revolution.  The book showed how some animals were more equal then other animals.  The same can be said about the UFT leadership.  In today's New York Post a prime example of this is President Michael Mulgrew getting free tickets for the U.S. Open year after year from the legal group that gets millions of dollars from the UFT.  Read Susan Edelman's New York Post article on it Here.

By contrast teachers cannot receive any gift greater than $50 dollars and are never offered "freebies".  This is the very same union leadership that agreed to Charlotte Danielson for teacher evaluation, without member input.  Moreover, the very same union leadership that allowed the ATR pool to occur, without educator input, and agreed to the useless rotation without member discussion.   Finally, it's the very same union leadership that agreed to inferior raises and significant "givebacks" that made teaching in the NYC classroom a minefield.

Both the DOE and the UFT have a pecking order that treat different groups differently.  President Michael Mukgrew and his cronies are the "pigs" in Animal Farm while the rest of us are simply farm animals.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Breaking News - ATRs Are To Stay In Place For The Semester.

I have been informed that the DOE will leave ATRs in place, at the school they started in for the rest of the semester.  I had heard this rumor last month and it seems that is what has happened, with some exceptions.

Will ATRs be rotated at all?  I do believe they will be rotated for the second semester.  Let's see if that actually happens.

Just to remind ATRs, the useless rotation was proposed by the UFT leadership back in 2012 and adopted by the DOE.  So blame our union leadership for the rotation that make ATRs a stranger in a strange land.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The Consequences Of Mayor Bill de Blasio Keeping Bloomberg Holdovers At Tweed

When Bill de Blasio became Mayor of New York City, many hoped that the Bloomberg era policymakers at Tweed would have been forced to resign as he would "clean house".  Unfortunately. the Mayor appointed Carmen Farina as Chancellor and she retained 80% of the Bloomberg policymakers.  The result was the conflict between the DOE and teachers continued as teachers looked at the DOE as the enemy.

DOE policies like school-based "Fair Student Funding" which incentivizes principals to hire "the cheapest and not the best teachers" for their school.  Tight school budgets that was only funded at 90% of their appropriate funding.  The 1,000+ ATR pool that wastes $150 million dollars a year.   Finally, the continued hiring of incompetent and vindictive "Leadership Academy Principals" that , rather than collaborate with staff did the opposite and dictated to their staff.

However, the worst offense by the Bloomberg policymakers at the DOE was violating student privacy laws by giving student names and addresses to charter schools in violation of State and Federal privacy laws.  By giving the charter schools public school student names and addresses, the charter schools,  armed with this knowledge they were able to pick off students that were not English Language Learners and did not need Special Education services, by sending them glossy flyers about their charter school.

Susan Edelman of the New York Post published an article that shows why the DOE may have violated student privacy rights and both the State and Federal government have initiated an investigation.  On the nyc public school parent blog more information is also available.

The DOE's apparent violation of student privacy rights should result in many resignations at Tweed if the Mayor and Chancellor do their "due diligence".

Monday, November 05, 2018

If ATRs Had Their Own Bargaining Unit, They Would Have Voted Overwelmingly No!

The UFT contract easily passed with only school nurses voting against it.  However, if ATRs had their own negotiating unit, they would have overwhelmingly voted no!

Why did ATRs vote no?  Let me count the ways.

  • ATRsa re treated as second class citizens.
  • ATRs are forced placed.
  • ATRs cannot refuse an assignment.
  • ATRs are rotated without consent.
  • ATRs have few opportunities to take per session jobs.
  • ATRs are observed in strange classrooms.
  • ATRs are observed by field supervisors.
  • ATRs have no input in student grades.
  • ATRs are discriminated by the DOE's school-based fair student funding policy.
Now you know why ATRs voted no on the contract.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Maximum TDA Limit Raised To $19,000 For 2019.

Starting  January 2019 the maximum annual limit will increase by $500, from $18,500 to $19,000.   If the educator is 50 years of age or older, the TDA allows a "catch up" contribution of $6,000, which is unchanged from 2018.  Therefore, the total maximum limit for educators 50 years of age or older is $25,000.

The more you contribute to the TDA, the less you pay in taxes that year since your TDA contribution is tax deferred..  Moreover, the TDA is exempt from State and City taxes in New York State.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Rotatuon Or No Rotation? That Is The Question.

Rumors are flying around that ATRs will stay in one school the entire school year,  However, according to the DOE ATR rotation is still in force for this school year.  When will ATRs be rotated is anybody's guess.?

Originally, ATRs were to be rotated this month and that may still be the case.  However, I have also heard that ATRs will stay in one school for the semester   It is possible that the ATRs will not be rotated at all.  Of course nobody at the DOE or UFT will confirm or dispute the rumors.

Even principals have no clue on how long they can depend on having the ATR in their school.  Therefore, they cannot assign ATRs to a class since they cannot depend on the ATR being in his or her school a month from now.

You would think that for stability sake the DOE and UFT would have come to an agreement on how long an ATR is assigned to a school.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween Special - Horror Stories From The ATR Pool.

Back in 2014 I wrote a post on the horror stories told to me from ATRs.  I have decided to repost the article.  Please enjoy.

Today is Halloween and  its time to reprint my Halloween special from last year on the various horror figures in the form of administrators, fellow educators, and of course those lovely students who make life miserable for the ATRs as they rotate from school to school. Added to the list is one more from this school year, Here is the reprint of my post from last year, with additions.  Hope you enjoy reading it.

Horror Stories From The ATR Pool.

With Halloween here, its time to recount some of the horror stories told to me by the ATRs in the last couple of years.

Freddy Kruger:
This nightmare started when an ATR, trying to go the extra yard in entertaining the class he was covering, by asking them to solve a math question, using a baseball analogy.  In describing the problem he used statistics commonly used in baseball.  However, one female student didn't understand the concept and he patiently explained the math problem to her.  When she still didn't get it, the teacher explained that since she really didn't understand baseball he could see her confusion in solving the Math problem.  The girl felt insulted and reported the ATR to the Principal who charged the ATR with gender discrimination and verbal abuse. The ATR ended up with a Letter To The File (LIF) and a "u rating" for the year.

An ATR covering a leave replacement was teaching a Science lesson when three girls decided to play "UNO" instead.  The teacher asked the girls to put the cards away three times.  However, the girls refused the teacher's request.  The Teacher went over to three girls and took the UNO cards away.  One girl refused to give up her pile and the teacher grabbed them from her hand.  In doing so he touched her hand in taking the UNO cards away.  The three girls went to the Principal and the teacher ended up being charged with corporal punishment and OSI was contacted.  The result was a LIF for the teacher and no disciplinary consequences for the three students who failed to do their work or follow the rules.

Michael Myers:
A student was feeling ill and the ATR, who was provisionally assigned to the school, told the student to go to the school clinic to be checked out.  The teacher was trying to do what's right by having qualified medical personal observe her and to ensure the child's illness was not contagious to her classmates.  The student refused to go and an argument ensued until the student reluctantly went to the school clinic.  Two weeks later the Principal held a disciplinary hearing and charged the teacher with verbal abuse (yelling)  and embarrassing the student in front of her classmates.  The  teacher ended up with a LIF and a "U rating" for the year.

An untenured ATR provisionally assigned to the school saw a poor performing student's Regents paper being marked separately from others and in another room and quickly realized that the teacher was violating State rules.  She asked the teacher why he had the student's Regents paper and was told to mind her own business.  She reported it first to the Assistant Principal and then the Principal of the alleged Regents violation.  However, it appears the Assistant Principal and Principal wanted this student out of the school and were in on it.  The untenured ATR's satisfactory observations in the Fall semester became "Unsatisfactory observations" after she reported the Regents violation, in the Spring semester.  She was discontinued at the end of the school year.

A certified regular education Math ATR was dumped into a self-contained Special Education class all day without any technology or lesson plans left for the classes and was told by the Assistant Principal to keep them entertained when he complained about the lack of appropriate work for the students.  He tried his best but the students were out of control and when the Assistant Principal walked in saw that the teacher was having trouble keeping them focused.  The Assistant Principal gave the ATR a "U observation" for poor classroom management.

Villain: (new)

 Then there was the field supervisor assassin who "U" rated a poor Science teacher covering a Spanish class and stated that the coverage lesson, left by the teacher, was not rigorous enough and the ATR should have prepared her own lesson instead rather than you the coverage lesson left for the class.  Moreover, the ATR's lack of understanding Spanish or the fact that this was the first time she was exposed to these students was not an excuse and resulted in the ATR getting a "U" observation and was the basis of her "U" rating.  You can read the entire villainous story here.

Frankenstein: (new)
 This year, there is an ATR who was covering for a leave replacement in a severe shortage area where there are no other ATRs available who are certified in that Regents subject area,  The ATR was threatened to be shot by a student.  The result?  The Frankenstein Principal removed the ATR from the school while the 125 students did not have a certified teacher available to replace the ATR for their Regents course.    What happened to the student who threatened to kill the ATR?   Despite the many witnesses to the threat, the school didn't even punish the student for the monstrous action of threatening to kill the ATR.

Count Dracula: (New)
This ATR was sent to a school with one of the worst principals in the system.  She found that many of her Special Education  students (maternity leave replacement) had major behavioral issues and when she tried to discipline them, the Principal filed corporal punishment charges against the ATR.  Yet, she was kept in the classroom to continue to teach for the rest of the year.  At the end of the school year the ATR received her 3020-a charges.

These are just a few of the many horror stories from the ATR pool.  If you have some stories to share, please send them to the comment section and I will publish them.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Why ATRs Voted No On The Contract.

Some people who have been critical of the union leadership, have decided to support the contract.  These well-respected bloggers are nyc educator, DOEnuts, and JD2715.  One thing all three have in common is that they are not ATRs. 

By contrast, all bloggers who are ATRs.  South Bronx Schools, ATR Adventures, and ATR NYC have voted no.  Moreover, ICEUFT, run by a retired ATR recommended a no vote.  Finally, I, as an ATR also voted no.

It's a pity that our usually reliable allies, while giving lip service in support of the ATRs, still voted yes for the contract, despite the contract not making any significant changes to the ATR pool.

Just to remind my readers here is what its like to be an ATR. Read the history of the ATR pool.

  • ATRs have no say in their placement and rotation.
  • ATRs must accept a provisional appointment, even when the school is unappealing.
  • ATRs are observed by field supervisors in a strange classroom with no knowledge of the students and no ability to affect their grade.. 
  • ATRs found innocent of 3020-a charges still has a "Scarlet Letter" attached to their file by the DOE as if their guilty..
  • ATRs realistically have little opportunity for per session.
  • If the ATRs survived their 3020-a hearing, they are considered "untouchables"  for vacancies.
  • Fair Student Funding makes it almost impossible for veteran teachers to  receive an offer for vacancies.
  • DOE continues to demonize ATRs and wants them  terminated.
Now you know why ATRs voted no.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Is The Renewal Program Working? I Think Not.

When the Renewal program was introduced by Chancellor Carmen Farina and Mayor Bill de Blasio.  There were 94 schools in the program.  All of them academically struggling.  Four years later, as the Renewal program is expected to end at the end of the school year, we see that 25% have escaped the Renewal program as they have improved enough academically.  25% have closed as they have academically failed, and 50% have remained in the Renewal program and their fate will be decided at the end of the school year.

At the high school level, no school has escaped the Renewal program due to academic improvement, while some have closed due to poor performance or lack of students applying.  The reasons for the failure are multiple.
  1. Lack of academically proficient students. 
  2. High teacher turnover.
  3. Inexperienced teachers.
  4. Low staff morale.
Is the Renewal program working?  Not at the high school level.  Read the Chalkbeat article.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly Of The Contract.

UFT members are voting for the new UFT contract and while I will vote no. I can understand some people voting for it.

  Let's look at the good:

  • Paraprofessionals get teacher "due process".
  • Paraprofessionals get a 5 and 15 year bonus.
  • Teachers get less formal observations.
  • Principals cannot retaliate (yeah right) against UFT members. 
 The bad:

  • Raises less than inflation. 2% annually vs.2.8% inflation.
  • No increase in the TDA interest rate from 7% to 8.25%.
  • Fair Student Funding still in effect.
  • Charlotte Danielson still in force. 
  • Class size limits remain unchanged. 
  • Health care givebacks.

The ugly:
  • No change in the ATR process
  • The DOE will continue to waste $130 million dollars yearly.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Teacher Absenteeism - More Proof Of The Hostile Environment Of NYC Schools.

Despite a new Mayor, the NYC classroom continues to be a hostile environment for teachers.  In a new report 20% of teachers were chronically absent (10 or more days) during the 2015-2016 school year.  In high poverty schools the percentage of teachers chronically absent was slightly, higher than more affluent communities.  However, the highest percentage of chronically absent teachers (25.2%) were found in the working class, immigrants communities that compose District 30 in Queens.  While the lowest (13.1%) was the diverse District 1 in Manhattan.  Last school year the DOE found that 14.8% of the teachers were chronically absent (11 or more days)..

With one fifth of NYC teachers chronically absent, this negatively affects student academic achievement and results in an unstable school climate.  The blame for the high teacher absenteeism rate lays on the doorstep of the DOE who appoint incompetent, vicious, and uncooperative principals, most from the infamous "Leadership Academy".  Moreover, the DOE implements policies that pit school administrators against staff.  Finally, the DOE is still dominated by Bloomberg holdovers who occupy important policy making positions  and have an "us against them" mentality when it comes to a lack of cooperation with teachers.

Despite a new Chancellor, the classroom teacher still thinks of the DOE as the enemy and not a  partner in educating children.  That's why there is such a high teacher absenteeism rate in the NYC schools.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Memorandum Of Understanding

Chalkbeat published the entire Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) contract between the City and the UFT.  Based on the MOU.   Here are the highlights.

  • Raises (2% per year) less than the inflation rate (2.8%).
  • No change in DOE hiring policy that discriminates against veteran teachers
  •  No decrease in class sizes limits
  • Charlotte Danielson still used.
  • ATRs permanently hired will not count on a school budget for the length of the contract.  Then what?
  • Still two or three lists of ATRs.and the Scarlet Letter will remain.
  •  On the first day of school. ATRs will be forced placed in vacancies
  • No "newbies" can be hired once the school year starts.
  • Paras get teacher "due process" and an increase in longevity raises.
  • Chapter Leaders can see a student's OORS report.
  • Expedited grievances pertaining to oversized classes.
  • Less observations for effective or highly effective teachers.
The major "giveback" was health care.  All "newbies" must be enrolled in HIP the first year.

 A searchable version of the MOU can be found Here.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Union Leadership Once Again Failed The ATRs.

The Union and the City has negotiated a new contract and once again the union leadership failed the ATRs.  According to what is known, the only change is that schools cannot hire "newbie teachers" once the school year starts instead of October 15th.    This change may allow some ATRs to snag a provisional position for the school year since some teachers may have taken another position in a better school at the last minute.  The result is that  these vacancies will be in the worst schools.

According to South Bronx Schools, the ATR salary will no longer affect a school's budget, if permanently hired for the length of the contract and a special program that will employ ATRs in running a small  learning group for struggling students.  However, I have not seen this identified.  In my opinion these changes on the margin will not reduce or eliminate the ATR issue.

Regardless, the union leadership failed to get the DOE to eliminate the school based Fair Student Funding that incentivizes principals to hire the "cheapest and not the best teachers" for their school.  Moreover, the union failed to get the DOE to change hiring procedures that would require schools to hire from the excessed teacher list in the District before hiring "newbies".  Finally, the union agreed to the DOE's forced placement and useless rotation of ATRs,

We still remain second class citizens.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Givebacks "R" Us.

Over the last twenty year our UFT leadership has kept contract negotiations secret from the members and has resulted n contracts that were short on raises and long on "givebacks".  After the UFT leadership negotiated the terrible 2005 contract that resulted in the members giving up time, days, and resulted in the ATR pool.  The giveback laden contract created such a backlash and resulted in the UFT leadership setting up a 300 person negotiating committee to make it seem like member input was important.  However, the 300 member committee was simply a fig leaf as behind closed doors the UFT leadership negotiated with the City without member participation.

Now that another contract is imminent, the UFT leadership is once again negotiating behind closed doors and we can expect raises that don't even equal the inflation rate and who knows what "givebacks" the union leadership will agree to that hurt members.  We already know there are health care "givebacks".

Because the union leadership keeps everything secret, members cannot object if they have no ides what is being negotiated until it is too late.

List of Givebacks:   

  • Elimination of the seniority transfer.system.
  • Creation of the ATR pool.
  • Creation and expansion of the "probable cause" provision.
  • Adding time and days to the school year.
  • Reinstating circular six requirements.
  • Reducing the TDA interest rate from 8.25% to 7%.
  • Agreed to allow the City to have their own 3020-a provisions.
  • Failed to stop the DOE from using the school based fair student funding that discriminates against veteran teachers.
  • Members can no longer can grieve a letter to the file.
  • Restrictions imposed on ATRs.
  • Increased the vesting period for retiree health benefits for newer members.
 Maybe the union leadership will surprise us and negotiate a contract with raises, at least equal to inflation and no "givebacks" but I'm not holding my breath.

Update:  Our union leadership negotiated a 2% annual raise for the members (7.5%/3.75 years).  This is significantly lower than the 2.8% inflation rate and the inflation rate is expected to go higher in the next two years. 

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Proof The DOE Does Not Care About Studemts.

The DOE claims that they care about students but the truth is the DOE only cares about themselves.  If the DOE really cared about the students, the DOE would fully fund the schools, reduce class sizes, and eliminate school-based fair student funding that forced principals to "hire the cheapest rather than the best teachers" for their school..

In addition, the DOE had a 2019 budget of $25,6 billio dollars and according to  the City Council..  in their report,  Despite less teachers hired, the DOE headcount went up,  Some of the increase was due to an expansion of Special Education services but the headcount at the Central Bureaucracy also increased.

The DOE has shortchanged students and teachers:
The Department of Education’s $15.8 billion PS budget supports a budgeted headcount of 133,021 full-time equivalent employees (FTE). Most DOE staff work in public schools, and most staff are teachers. Since Fiscal 2015, headcount at DOE has increased by 11,131 positions, for a total of 133,021 budgeted full-time positions in the Fiscal 2019 Preliminary Budget. However, the percent of teachers has steadily declined. In Fiscal 2019 budgeted teacher positions account for approximately two-thirds (64 percent) of all school-based staff but 58 percent of all DOE staff. Most of the headcount increase at DOE includes titles such as literacy coaches, special education support staff, social workers and universal pre-kindergarten teachers, all of which are not listed as teacher titles at DOE. The figure below shows DOE’s overall FTE headcount since Fiscal 2015 and the total number of teachers. However, we may see this trend begin to reverse as the Four-Month Actual headcount for Fiscal 2018 in the PMMR is indicating an increase of 152 teacher titles.

It appears the DOE rather spend money on headcount, especially in the Central Bureaucracy, rather than spend it on students and schools.  A prime example id that instead of building more classrooms, students are crammed into trailers that had only a life of ten years and now have toxic black mold. Here's how the DOE responded to parents about moldy trailers.

How many students get sick because they are being put into trailers that have lasted long past their lifespan?   The New York Post identified the problem and yet the DOE has done little but claim they are working on the trailer issue.  For the DOE its all talk and no action at the expense of the students and teachers who must suffer the consequences.

Friday, October 05, 2018

It Appears That Teacher Respect Is Making A Comeback

Over the past couple of year American altitudes toward teacher reputation and respect has been improving.    The Answer Sheet wrote an article that, using Time Magazine's cover page, showed how teachers were thought of at the beginning of the Obama Administration and what's happening presently.  Also, Education Week wrote a similar piece.

At the beginning of the Obama tenure as President, his administration embraced the education reform movement that demonize teachers.  Starting with his nomination of Arnie Duncan as Education Secretary, who single handedly destroyed the Chicago Public Schools that resulted in many schools closing and teachers terminated.   Then Obama blamed teachers in Rhode Island for the low test scores, conveniently ignoring that the high school he cited was composed of recent immigrants and English Language Learners.  Obama was a strong supporter of education reform and along with then Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his billionaire buddies like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and  the Walton family, decided to evaluate teacher competence by student test scores.

Washington D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee,  was the "rock star" of the reform movement.  She imposed a teacher evaluation system that entirely relied on test scores.  The result was that many Washington D.C.teachers were unfairly fired.  Moreover, the Obama administration bribed states to develop their own test-based teacher evaluation system by giving them money as they were cutting education funds due to the recession.  This was called Race to the Top   Finally, the reform movement had  the media as allies as teachers were the blame for all school ills.  An example was Time magazine's cover called "Rotten Apples", which demonized teachers.

When states adopted the education reform programs and they failed to improve student academic achievement, .the Obama administration backed away by not supplying additional funding as the President also facing reelection and realized that his ant-public school teacher and pro charter agenda was a political liability.  Of course his teacher evaluation systems were now part of every state's education policy.  By the last year of the Obama administration, Arnie Duncan was gone and the charter school miracle was a mirage.

The combination of a recession, the Obama administration, and the media,  teacher disrespect was at its peak.  Since 2000, teacher salaries were noncompetitive, when compared to other professions and even conservative parents now  support teacher demands for higher salaries, small classes, and more respect.  States like West Virginia,   Oklahoma, Washington, and Arizona saw teacher salaries increase and teacher respect becoming an  issue.

Let's hope that the teaching profession becomes a respected profession throughout the nation.

Monday, October 01, 2018

My Best Guess On What The Next Contract Will Include.

I suspect that the UFT will present it's members with a new contract quite soon.  The question is what will the new contract include?  Here are my best guesses.

  • A three year contract with raises averaging around 2% annually.  Probably back loaded with the lowest raise (1%) the first year and the highest raise (3%) for the final year of the contract. 
  • Only two observations yearly instead of four, at least for those educators who are "highly effective".
  • No change in the ATR rules. Therefore, look for 1,300+ ATRs at the beginning of the semester.  More teacher misconduct chargesmay be subject to the "probable cause" provision and therefore can be removed from payroll and have their health benefits suspended.
  • No change in the DOE hiring process and fair student funding.

There may be other changes but I doubt they will be beneficial to UFT members,  I just hope the union leadership does not allow for "givebacks" to the City.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Racial Academic Achievement Gap Keeps On Widening.

The New York Post did an analysis of the racial achievement gap, based upon State tests, for the last five years and found out that it actually widened, despite efforts to close it.  This shows the failure of Mayor Bill de Blasio's and his Chancellor, Carmen Farina's policies to improve public education for Black and Hispanic students.

According to the Post's article between 2014 and 2018 the racial academic achievement gap increased from 37.2% in 2014 to 38.2% in 2018 between Black and White students in Math.  The racial academic achievement rates also inched up in English as well.

In addition the proficiency percentages in Math between Hispanics and Whites also widened, going from 32.7% in 2014 to 33.3% in 2016.

In English, the racial academic achievement gaps between Black/Hispanic students and White/Asian students also inched up.

The bottom line is that the failure to close the racial academic achievement gap is a real problem that hurts the Mayor's claim that his policies are making the New York City public schools better.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Best And Worst States To Be A Teacher

A study was done using various factors, to determine the best and worst states to be a teacher.  The lists are as follows:

Best States To Be A Teacher:

  1. New   York
  2. Connecticut
  3. Minnesota
  4. Illinois
  5. North Dakota
  6. Pennsylvania
  7. Wyoming
  8. New Jersey
  9. Maryland
  10. Ohio

Worst States To Be A Teacher:

  1. Hawaii
  2. Arizona
  3. North Carolina
  4. Louisiana
  5. Florida
  6. Mississippi
  7. South Carolina
  8. Oklahoma
  9. Washington D.C.
  10. West Virginia
Best vs, Worst

  • Wyoming had the highest annual average salary for all teachers,,public and private (adjusted for the cost of living) at $47,288.  While Hawaii had the lowest $24,409).
  • Michigan has the average annual salary for public school teachers (adjusted for the cost of living) at $69,439.  While Hawaii had the lowest at $30,086.
  • Vermont has the lowest pupil to teacher ratio at 10.54.  California had the highest at 23.63.
  • Washington D.C. had the highest public school spending per pupil at $25,323.  While Indiana had the lowest at $6,673.
  • New Jersey had the best work environment.  While Arizona came in dead last. 
  • Massachusetts had the best school systems.  While New Mexico had the worst. 
The study was based on using 22 metrics and if one was to look at the geographical representation, the Southern States rated the worst for teachers while the Northeast rated the best,

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Disconnect Between Graduating High School And Graduating College - Case Study Newark, New Jersey.

The Department Of Education (DOE) in urban areas brag how their high school  graduation rate is increasing.  The problem is that most educators know that the high school graduation rate is bogus as it's artificially inflated by phony credit recovery courses, administrative pressure to pass undeserving students and grade fixing.  Of course when some of them end up in college, an unpleasant surprise often awaits them.  First, they are required to take no credit remedial courses.  Second, they quickly find out that college is a "sink or swim" environment with no hand holding by the professor.  Either you do the work or fail and many end up dropping out.

A case study is Newark New Jersey.  The data shows that Newark's graduation rate has skyrocketed to 73.47% .  Unfortunately, only 13.7% of those high school graduates actually got a degree of any kind, according to New Jersey's Open Data Network.  According to Chalkbest, 51% of Newark's high school graduates who went directly to college, did better but still disappointing with only 39% of them receiving a degree of any kind.

The Mayor's goal is that 25% of all high school graduates receive a college degree by 2025  he hopes to do this by adding "rigor" to the high school curriculum but if the high schools still use phony credit recovery and grade fixing, the Mayor's goal is simply wishful thinking.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Will The District 15 Middle School Integration Plan Work? I Doubt It.

Count me as being skeptical that Brooklyn's District 15 middle school integration plan will help disadvantaged and English Language Learners become academically proficient as they mingle with middle class White students.  Why do I think it won't work?  Let me count the ways.

First, many of the disadvantaged and English Language Learners come from the low achieving elementary schools and are academically behind when entering middle school.  Only people blinded by their ideology cannot see that these students will never catch up at this late age and might actually get frustrated and fall even further behind academically.

Second, these same elementary schools have no "gifted and talented" programs that can be a source of minority recruitment to diversify the middle schools and that is a major factor in the low minority student body in the "screened" middle schools..

Third, it could spark an exodus of middle class White families to the suburbs as their middle schools receive an influx of academically low achieving minorities, thereby, defeating the purpose of integrating the middle schools.

Finally, if the White middle class students flee the middle schools, look for the best teachers to transfer from those schools since teacher turnover is high when it comes to middle school teachers. If the student population becomes more difficult to educate, then these teachers will leave for a better teaching environment.  Consequently, these middle schools will end up with an inexperienced and short-term teachers who lack classroom management skills, curriculum knowledge, and lack of teaching skills.

I see the District 15 integration scheme to be a failure and will backfire.

Read more at Chalkbeat and the New York Post.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

4,000 "Newbies" Were Hired While 1,300 ATRs Are Left Without A Classroom.

Here we start a new school year, with a new Chancellor, a new outlook, and another layer of Bureaucracy (Regional Superintendents).  Yet much of the new school year sees the same issues.  Foremost among them are the ATRs.

The ATRs are educators that were excessed from closing schools, programs, schools that had staffs reapplying for their positions, or were accused of incompetence or misconduct but were found not guilty of termination at their 3020-a hearing.  Moreover, the ATRs are the step children of the DOE and if the DOE had its way, they would be terminated tomorrow.   However, because the UFT, in allowing the formation of the ATR pool back in 2005, also made sure there was no time limit and has stuck to their guns despite the DOE requesting one.

Despite the UFT ensuring that ATRs can keep their jobs, the UFT did not push the DOE to encourage principals to hire ATRs.  Instead, the DOE implemented a "Fair Student Funding" program that encouraged principals to hire "newbies" rather than veteran teachers.  The result, was that many schools have an inexperienced teaching staff with classroom management issues and lack of curriculum knowledge.

Will anything change in the new contract for the ATRs?  I hope so but don't hold your breath.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Board Of Regents Recommends No Penalties For School Districts With High "Opt Out" Rates.

In a major retreat by the State to school districts with high "opt out" rates, the Board of Regents has recommended to the New York State Education Department (NYSED) that there should be no financial penalties (Title 1 funds) to those school districts.  This is good news to Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and the Buffalo Region where "opt out" rates were the highest in the State and the nation.

Previously, NYSED gave school districts 4 years to meet the Federal 95% student participation requirement or face penalties.  Now it seems that the continued parent  protest to the high-stakes Common Core tests and Governor Andrew Cuomo's 180 degree turn on the issue has caused the Board of Regents to think twice about implementing the Federal requirements.  You can read Chalkbeat's take Here.

I suspect that the high "opt out" rates will continue in the New York City suburbs and with Common Core tests unsupported from the President on down, look for a more significant change that either eliminates or radically changes the State's high-stakes testing program.  Of course that assumes our Governor doesn't change his mind yet again.

You can see some of the "opt out" rates statewide for 2018. Here.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Why Is The TRS Balanced Fund A Bad Investment?

This year TRS shut down the low performing Bond fund and replaced it with a Balanced fund option for risk-adverse investors.  Before investing in the TRS Balanced Fund, please read why I don't believe it's a good investment option.

Most balanced funds usually have between 50% to 70% equities and 30% to 50% bonds and cash equivalents.  Historically, equities average about 7%, after fees and short-term bonds and cash equivalents  usually returns about 3%,  Therefore, the average historical return for a typical balanced fund is approximately 5%.

However, we are probably at the tail end of a bull run in equities and realistically, we should expect single digit returns of about 5%.  Moreover, with slowly rising interest rates, bond funds will struggle to have positive returns and just like this year, one can expect negative returns. The result is that the TRS Balanced Fund expected return will only average about 4% for the near term.

Compare that to the TRS Fixed Income Fund that gives us a guaranteed 7%  return with no fees!  Why would any risk-adverse member take a chance on the Balanced Fund when the TRS Fixed Income Fund gives a better return?

For members willing to take risks, there is always the TRS equity funds and this is a way to fight off the effects of inflation.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Why Do Female Teachers Get Little Or No Prision Time When Caught Having Sex With A Student?

The Daily News reported that Bronx middle school Social Studies teacher Dori Myers pleaded guilty to preforming oral sex on a 14 year old boy and received a 10 year sentence of probation and had to register as a level 1 sex offender but no prison time.  The Daily News article them claimed that she retained her teaching certificate.

The truth is she will most certainly lose her teaching license in New York State when the NYSED files an article 83 against Ms. Myers.  The City cannot take away a teacher's certificate only the State can.  However, what caught my attention was that she received no prison time.

Interestingly, many female teachers like Ms. Myers,  get no prison time, when caught having sexual relations with students while male teachers usually get between 2 to 10 years in prison.  Why is there such a difference?  Apparently, the legal system looks at men as sexual predators who planned and groomed the student, while female teacher are looked at as nurturers who became attached emotionally and crossed the line by becoming sexual.  Hence the disparate sentencing between male and female teachers which is unfair and discriminatory.

Here are the 50 most infamous female cases and the majority never received prison time.  By contrast, this article shows the disparate treatment when sentencing male and female teachers. Moreover, another article shows that same thing.  Finally, read this article.

The bottom line, male teachers are likely to get significant prison time while female teachers are most likely to receive little or no prison time when caught having sex with a student.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

If You Retire Before 2020 How Does TRS Take Out For The TDA In The Lump Sum Payments?

A commenter brought up  something that I could not answer.   The commenter asked a simple question.  "How does TRS account for TDA contributions if the UFT member retires before 2020?"  My answer is I don't know.

Theoretically, once an educator retires, he or she cannot contribute to the TDA.  However, in this situation,the lump sum payments are money owed to those who worked in the 2008-2009 school years, when the TDA contributions were part of an educator's payroll deduction.  Under the rules, you can contribute to a tax deferred plan as much money as you earned that calendar year, up to the maximum limit decided by the federal government. Isn't the lump sum payments earned income?

My guess is that TRS will punt on the question (football season has started) and refuse to allow newly retired educators to contribute to the TDA by using their lump sum funds.  I did try to get an answer from TRS but did not get a clear response to this question.  They informed me that retirees cannot contribute since they need earned income to contribute to the TDA.  When I brought up the fact that the lump sum payments were earned income the TRS said that they would look into it.  I'm not holding my breath waiting for an answer.  I hope I am wrong on this but I believe that somebody would have to bring a lawsuit to find out if the TRS is required to allow retirees to use their lump sum payments to contribute to their TDA.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Principal Manuel Urena Accused Of Anti-Semitism And Discrimination.

Three federal lawsuits have been filed by teachers who were targeted by Principal Manuel Urena of the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan.   He has been accused of targeting Jewish, Caucasian. and veteran teachers on trumped up disciplinary and performance charges and replaced them with young Hispanic teachers.

According to the teachers, including a former Chapter Leader, their complaints to both the DOE and UFT fell on deaf ears. You can read the New York Post article Here.  Principal Urena has a below average teacher trust factor that is 15% lower than the Citywide average.

Principal Urena has been identified as an administrator in need of improvement by the Solidarity caucus in their blog called "Don't Tread On Educators" blog.  You can find what the commenters say about Principal Urena  Here. Moreover, Ed Notes online blog had an article about Mr. Urena's assault on the chapter as well.

This appears to be another case of our union leadership not acting upon member complaints when targeted by a vindictive Principal.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Governor Andrew Cuomo Cannot Be Trusted.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to easily win reelection as Governor in November, as he sweeps through the Democratic primary this week and the general election.  To further his Presidential ambitions, he has swung further to the left (progressive) to get the progressive Democrats to endorse him.  Moreover, he has proclaimed that he is pro union by enacting executive actions that protect unions.  However, has he really changed?

Back in 2011 he imposed a three year wage freeze (the triple zeros) on State workers that affected all public service employee contracts throughout the State since localities can point to the State contract as a bases for giving inadequate or no raises..  If that wasn't bad enough he also imposed unpaid furlough days and a substantial increase in employee paid health benefits.  To put a cherry on top of the "employee givebacks" the Governor required all new employees to join the vastly inferior Tier VI pension plan. Least we forget that he also wanted to reduce retiree health benefits in the 2017 contract.

As for teachers, he pushed for a teacher evaluation system that would have 7% to 8% of all teachers rated "ineffective" due to "junk Science".  Further, 50% of the teacher's evaluation would be based upon student growth scores, even when the student wasn't in the teacher's roster and teachers only account for between 1% and 14% of a student's academic growth!  Finally, he demanded four years of  effective ratings before tenure can be given rather than three and that the burden of proof in a 3020-a hearing be on the "ineffective" teacher rather than the school district which usually means termination.

Least we forget how the Governor has refused to fully fund New York City schools  despite a court order to do so and is a major factor, besides DOE policies,  that schools have budgets that are 10% below their fair funding. In addition, the Governor is a strong supporter of education reform and charter schools.  In addition, he pushed and passed legislation to ensure that charter schools receive public money at the expense of public schools.  No wonder his largest contributor is the education reform organizations and the charter sector.

Remember, the only thing Governor Andrew Cuomo really cares about is winning.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Fix The Schools In Five Easy Steps

A few years ago their was an education blogger who has now retired.  He once wrote the actions needed to improve our public schools back in 2009.  In this down time, I believe we should revisit those five steps that "Accountable Talk" listed almost a decade ago.

Step One:  Stop the Gimmicks:
Step Two:  Enforce Discipline:

Step Three: Reduce Class Size:

Step Four: Attract the Best Teachers:

Step Five: Fire All Administrators:

Accountable Talk's blog stopped publishing in 2016 but his five 2009 talking points are still valid in 2018, Has anything changed since he published these action items?  Not really.  In fact one action item, student discipline has gotten worse under Mayor Bill de Blasio, with "warning cards" and useless restorative justice meetings rather than student suspensions and arrests.

You would think our union leadership would have adopted these five talking points and pressure the Mayor and Chancellor in reforming the money hungry and bloated DOE.  However, none of the five action points have been adopted by our union leadership.  In fact, President Michael Mulgrew told an Executive Board meeting that the UFT does not go after vindictive administrators since they are fellow union members (CSA).  What a crock of shit!  Of course he saw no issue in joining an anti-police rally organized by Al Sharpton,  Aren't the police (PBA) fellow union members?  Our union leadership is complicit in the DOE's attack on their teachers and rather than be pro-active they barely react to the DOE's policies that hurt the classroom environment.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Teachers Paid 20% Less Than Other Professions Natonally.

Nationally, teachers are being paid 20% less than other professions and the teacher pay gap has actually grown over the last twenty-five years, despite a teacher shortage in many areas of the country.  Obviously, where the teacher pay gap is greatest like Arizona and Colorado, teacher shortages were most severe.

It was understandable during the great recession of 2008-12 that teacher salaries were essentially frozen and  layoffs were in force.  However, as the recession morphed into economic prosperity and low unemployment,teacher salaries failed to recover.  Moreover, class sizes were increased during the recession but politicians failed to allocate funds to reduce class sizes.  Why?  The answer is simple State legislatures used the extra funding that went into State coffers to give residents an across the board tax cuts, rather than fully fund the schools. Unfortunately,  politicians are more interested, like Governor Andrew Cuomo (without the tax cuts like other States), in seeking out "bad teachers" rather than fully fund school districts.

The result of the short sighted actions by the State Legislatures and the Governors are that schools are underfunded, lacked adequate resources, like books and other necessary materials, and oversized classes. No wonder only 5% of college students want to go into education, down from 21% in 2014. An updated map shows which State has anticipated teacher shortages for the 2018-19 school year due to their lack of attractiveness to teach in those States.

The teacher wage gap started in 1994 and has increased ever since. For all public-sector teachers, the relative wage gap (regression-adjusted for education, experience, and other factors known to affect earnings) has grown substantially since the mid-1990s. The teacher wage penalty was 1.8 percent in 1994, grew to 4.3 percent in 1996, and reached a record 18.7 percent in 2017.

Wage penalties have grown significantly for both male and female teachers
  • The wage premium that female teachers had in the 1960s and 1970s has long been erased, replaced by a growing wage penalty. Our previous research found that female teachers earned 14.7 percent more in weekly wages than comparable female workers in 1960. This report finds that the teacher weekly wage premium for female teachers had fallen to 4.2 percent in 1979. And the wage premium for female teachers largely disappeared in the 1980s and 1990s, replaced by a large and growing wage penalty in the 2000s and 2010s. In 2017, female public school teachers were making 15.6 percent less in wages than comparable female workers.

  • The wage penalty for male teachers is much larger. The weekly wage penalty for male teachers was 22.1 percent in 1979 and improved to 15.1 percent in 1994, but worsened in the late 1990s into the early 2000s. In 2017, male public school teachers were making 26.8 percent less in wages than comparable male workers.
You can read the entire Economic Policy Institute report Here. Please also read Time Magazine's article on the ever increasing teacher pay gap.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Seattle Teachers Negotiate a 10.5%, One Year Pay Raise.

Threatening to strike on the first day of school, the City of Seattle caved into the union's demand and authorized a 10.5% annual raise for the 2016-19 school year.  Moreover, the teachers also obtained an additional five days of parental leave.  Finally, the contract offers health benefits for substitute teachers. By contrast UFT negotiated a similar raise for seven years!

Maybe our union leadership should take a page out of the Seattle teachers union playbook and get a better contract for their members.  In addition, there were no "givebacks". You can read the newspaper article Here.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Has Anything Changed For The ATRs? No!

There was some hope that an outsider would be appointed Chancellor and "clean house" at Tweed, eliminate "Fair Student Funding", and require that all excessed teachers be placed before "newbies" could be hired.  Disappointingly, the new Chancellor, Richard Carranza, did none of the above.  While 1,000+ veteran teachers are in the ATR pool, 5,000 "newbies" were hired this school year.

Tuesday, a new school year begins and there are over 1,000+ ATRs, mostly veteran teachers, will find themselves in a strange school for a period of time until the DOE arbitrarily decides to move them to another strange school. Moreover, the ATRs will find themselves observed by both the school administration and the field supervisor while teaching in a strange classroom with students who know that the ATR doesn't control their grade.  Finally, the ATR will have no say in the school they are assigned to.

  • The school has no parking?  Too bad.
  • It takes over two hours by mass transit.  Tough luck.
  • You are assigned to a school without an elevator.  So what.
  • You have a handicap sticker and the school offers no accommodation.  That's your problem.
  • You don't like the school climate?  You have no say in the matter.
We can only hope that the next contract negotiated by t5he UFT will eliminate the ATR pool by placing all ATRs in their subject area before any vacancies can be filled.  Stop with the gimmicks like provisionally placed, teaching out of license,  or giving extra periods to existing staff.

While I can hope for positive change for the ATRs, realistically, I expect.little change for the plight of the ATRs as both the present UFT leadership and the Bloomberg policymakers at the DOE accept the status quo.  Therefore, look for the ATR pool to be unaffected and that's a shame.

Friday, August 31, 2018

President Donald Trump Wants To Freeze Federal Employee Raises.

President Donald Trump realizing that there will be a $700 deficit, due to his corporate tax cuts and the Congress passing a bloated spending bill, has decided to unfairly blame Federal employees by freezing their pay.  The anticipated 2.1% raise that would have been in employee paychecks on January 1, 2019 will no longer happen if the President gets his way.  Congress may still overrule the President and is currently proposing a 1.9% raise.  My guess the federal employee raises will be closer to 1% as a compromise.  Furthermore, he also wants to eliminate the locality pay differentials that reward Federal employees who work in high cost of living localities.

The military is unaffected and their 2.5% raise, the biggest in nine years, will remain unaffected.

You can read some newspaper articles Here, Here, and Here.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The More Money Spent On A Student, The Better They Do On High-Stakes Tests.

Most educators know that resource rich schools have students who do better on high -stakes tests.  This assumption is disputed by education reformer organizations who claim its all about the teacher.  Well, we now have a study that shows that educators are right, the more money spent on a student, the better they do on high-stakes tests.

The study shows that when funding per pupil increases, both English and Math test grades increase.  In schools, like in New York City, there is less than a correlation because of the way NYCDOE allocates funding and it's difficult to trace where the money goes.   Consequently, additional funding is not always spent on the student but ends up in the Central Bureaucracy.The study can be found Here.

Chalkbeat does a good job summarizing the paper and can be found Here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Imagine If Our Schools Followed The Example Of This School In Oklahoma?

A high school in Oklahoma has implemented a policy that fines students and their families $250 for repeated student lateness and believe it or not, can be imprisoned for up to 15 days in jail if they refuse to pay the fines!  This is the second high school that fines students who are late to school.  You can read the high school in Utah Here.

Can you imagine if that policy was adopted for the New York City High Schools where 20 to 25% of high school students show up late to class and over 50% for their first period class?   Moreover, just imagine that the fine money would totally eliminate the 10% budget shortfall that our schools currently experience and reduce class sizes to manageable numbers, from 34 to 25 or less.  Finally, the students who repeatedly show up late and refuse to pay the $250 fine will spend 15 days in the local pokey and probably stop going to school and disrupt the classroom, thereby allowing for coherent instruction and a peaceful classroom.  A win-win situation for the vast majority of students.

Of course I'm dreaming since Bill de Blasio will never allow fines for lateness and at worst will only approve "warning cards" to be issued rather than jail time.  Too bad, since it would go a long way in improving the hostile environment of the New York City high school classroom.   

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Pity The Tier VI Teacher.

A new school year will be starting in September and approximately 5,000 "newbie" teachers will be thrown in the classroom.  The question is how long will they last?  With Charlotte Dainelson, inept administration, and lax student discipline rules, many of these "newbies" will end up quitting.  At best, maybe 50% of the "newbies" will be still in the classroom.  Moreover, 80% will no longer be teaching in the school they started in.  Finally, only 33% will make it to vesting for a pension and less to receive retiree health benefits.

Below summarizes the comparison between the two tiers.

Tier IV.
Vesting for a pension, between 5 to 10 years.
Employee contribution 3% first 10 years , then 0% beyond ten years.
Highest three consecutive years for determining the pension.
Five to ten years to receive retiree health benefits.
Multiplier, 1.67% per year for less than 20 years,  2% between 20 to 30 years.
1.5% per year for years beyond 30 years of service.
Age Reduction Factor, 0.73 to 0.94 from 55 to 61.

Tier VI.
Vesting for a pension, ten years.
Employee contribution 4.5% to 6%, depending on salary. 
Highest five consecutive years for determining pension.
Fifteen years to receive retiree health benefits.
Multiplier, 1.67% per year for the first 20 years. 2% for 20 years or more.
Age reduction factor, 0.48 to 0.94% from 55 to 62.  

To show how unlikely these "newbie" teachers will make it to full retirement, please play my Tier VI retirement game Here