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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.