Thursday, November 09, 2006

Good Contract, But What Will We Pay In Health Care?

As predicted, the money is similar to the DC37 pact with a 7.1% increase for 24 months with a 2% raise on October 13, 2007 and a 5% raise on May 19, 2008. Notice most of the money is back loaded! Of course we all will receive a $750 bonus in January of 2007. Nice money, almost meets the cost of inflation (9-10%) for the same 2-year period and yes I will probably vote for it. However, I am very concerned about how much the MLC agrees to give the city for health care. 1%, 1.5% (TWU), 2%? You don't have to be a math whiz to figure out the amount the MLC agrees to giveback to the city will reduce our raise from 7.1 to as little as 5.1%!

In voting for this contract, I am uneasy about the ATR buyout. What stops a principal giving an ATR two consecutive "U" ratings and then recommends that the ATR take the buyout or else?
I would like to hear from somebody that understands this problem and whether the union has thought this out?

Nice contract, but there are some questions.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

To Our Negotiators - Navigate Carefully

The negotiation committee is now down to a more manageable 50. However, from my view in the classroom I am suspicious if the negotiators will really reflect the concerns of the classroom teacher or be controlled by Randi and her non-teaching educrats. Only time will tell. However, here is what's important to the classroom teacher.


Since DC37 has already set the pattern for the first 18-20 months with a 6% raise with no givebacks. The question is how much more money can we obtain? The coalition thinks they can get 7% for the next 14 months is probably wishful thinking. More likely it will range from 3-4%, without givebacks. This would give us a total raise of about 10% (compounded). This would be below the "cost of living" and well below the salaries of the suburbs.


Rather than go into detail here please read my previous blog on October 27Th. At a minimum, we should at least takeback the five priority items I listed there. Failure to obtain "takebacks" in the contract negotiations should result in a mass resignation of the negotiators and the union should not even attempt to bring it to the "rank and file" for a vote. Let DOE try to bring their list of "givebacks" to the table (like they won't anyway). If we refuse to go to PERB the DOE "givebacks" are a non-issue.

School Year Limitations:

Many of the suburbs limit the school year to 183 days and have three of those days as snow days. If all three are not used, they are used as an extended Memorial Day weekend holiday. Presently, thanks to Randi and her friends at DOE we have a 190 day school year, the most ever, and of course no snow days!

Teacher-Directed Classroom Activities:

Using the extra time negotiated in the previous two contracts into a teacher-directed activity, be it tutoring, clubs, or counseling. Further, let teachers teach the way that is best suited for both the teacher and the students. No more micromanagement and "one-size-fit-all" curriculum dictated from the DOE.

Safety & Security:

Tough and fair student discipline codes and penalties when administrators fail to take action. Furthermore, a narrowing of the Corporal Punishment regulations by eliminating the statement "and any other action as determined by the administrator".

Retention rather than Recruitment:

The previous contracts and revisions have focused on recruiting teachers rather than the retention of the existing teachers. This contract should be giving the largest raises to the 5-20 year teacher at the expense of the new teachers. "Eating our young"? Yes, if it means retaining the quality teachers we most desperately need in the system.

Increase in Per Session Pay:

The rate of per session pay should equal the pay of the ten-year teacher not the new teacher. The City has been getting away cheaply by giving inadequate per session pay. This needs to be addressed and changed.


Under no circumstances should we agree to send the contract to PERB. Our experience with PERB is an unhappy one and we already know what the wage pattern is, so what is the advantage? None!

In conclusion, remember the classroom teacher is the bulk of the union, please try not to screw them again as you navigate your way through the negotiations. No contract is better than a bad contract.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The UFT Proposed Contract - Where Are The Takebacks?

The negotiations between the UFT and the Bloomberg administration is on the fast track and it appears that the takebacks are being left behind. Why? Well, let's investigate.

First, lets look at the contract that the UFT is negotiating with the Bloomberg administration. On the surface it looks pretty good with a 13% increase for 32 months which averages 4.88% per year, almost the rate of inflation with no identifiable givebacks! However, I am confused why the Bloomberg administration is willing to give us an almost 7% increase for the last 14 months of the contract? Remember the DC37 pattern is 6% for the first 18 months (20 months if the UFT needs it's welfare fund replenished). Hopefully, this is not UFT wishful thinking and that part of the contract looks like a real winner, if it is true.

Unfortuantely, the proposed contract does not include the takebacks that devastated the soul of many classroom teachers for a salary increase less than the "cost of living" . While all the takebacks are important, the following takebacks are a priority in the proposed contract.

Prority #1: The bringing back the seniority transfer system that required that all excessed teachers to be placed in their specialty area before DOE can hire new teachers. Thanks to our union's poor understanding of the consequences of their actions we now have a 1000+ ATR's without a classroom while inexperienced teachers are given a classroom. Talking about children last!

Priority #2: Giving back the two days before Labor Day. I don't know of any school-based teacher who thinks this was a wise move by our union. If it wasn't for the ATR disaster, this would be the top priority of the union. What possessed our union to do this to us is unbelievable and shows a serious disconnect with the classroom teachers.

Priority #3: The reinstatement of the grievance process. No matter how our union spins it, the lack of a grievance procedure has empowered the principals to write more and more Letters-To-The-File (LIF) without the teacher challenging it through the grievance procedure system.

Priority #4: The revision of circular six to eliminate many of the distasteful administrative duties such as cafeteria patrol, hallway policing, and bathroom supervision.

Priority #5: The elimination of the 90-day unpaid suspension based upon an OSI acceptance of a student accusation due to sexual abuse, harassment, and physical corporal punishment (the OSI almost always find the teacher guilty until proven innocent) and except for Leo Casey and his lap dog, this unfair part of the contract has already caused much anguish to the classroom teacher.

There are, of course, many other takebacks but these are the ones we must demand if we are to regain our soul and self-respect. Failure by the union to fight for these takebacks brings into question their dedication to the very people they claim they represent, the classroom teacher.

Negotiators, just a reminder, make sure retention not recruitment is emphasised in the contract negotiations.

I will most certainly try to get more details on the contract negotiations and will report on what our final contract should include.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Bloomberg & Klein, America's Best Leaders? They Certainly Didn't Ask The Teachers!

The Center for Public Leadership at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government has chosen Mayor Bloomberg & Chancellor Klein as two of America's Best Leaders. According to the Center they were chosen because of their efforts in improving the public schools by stamping out "cronyism", reducing administrative costs, and partnering with private groups to improve the schools. Also mentioned was an improved graduation rate, streamlined learning programs, and a focus on the students, not the entrenched "interests" (teachers). Who made up this blue-ribbon panel? The panel included high-level leaders of various industries and interests. You can bet there were no teachers on it. Certainly not any teacher that has experience in the New York City schools under Kleinberg.

Let's look at what Kleinberg has really done to the New York City schools?

First, the NYC public schools have the highest class sizes in the State. In fact the Bloomberg administration is trying (and succeeding) in keeping a class size amendment from the City Charter. Is this a man who is a top leader for education? I think not.

Second, the Bloomberg administration has stated that they will not contribute a single penny to the expected windfall of billions of extra dollars for the New York City Public Schools in the CFE lawsuit. This refusal of the city to contribute it's fair share of school funds (about 25%) is unreasonable and mean-spirited and is inconsistent with a mayor that wants to be known as the education mayor.

Third, the mayor's refusal to pay a competitive salary and to treat his teachers as mere drone workers result in a lack of quality teachers in the NYC public school system. Every study has shown that a quality teacher is necessary for needy students to be successful in school.

Fourth, under Chancellor Klein, the emphasis is recruitment over retention. In other words why pay an experienced teacher when you can get two novice teachers for the price of one? So what that the new teachers have a steep learning curve of three to five years before they become an effective teacher, by then they are disillusioned and leave only to be replaced by two more newly-minted teachers. To make this point, only New York City has an intergalactic job fair where teachers from other countries and alternative certification programs can find teaching positions, while experienced teachers are relegated to day-to-day substitute teaching in their home school.

Fifth, Chancellor Klein's emphasis on not enforcing the student discipline code by penalizing schools that suspend these students due to the school's zero tolerance policy result in more chaos in the schools. Further, the DOE's policy to require violent felons to return to their own schools where they can be with their friends and terrorize the student body also is not consistent with a person who places the children first.

Finally, the micromanagement, the top-down decision making, and the disrespect of the teaching profession show how cluelees both men are about education in the terenches.

Let's see how Kleinberg policies affect education.

Class size - Failed to reduce class size and in fact opposes an amendment to reduce it.

Quality Teacher - Emphasis is on recruitment not retention of quality teachers.

Compensation - Teachers not paid competitive salaries.

Teacher Respect - Top-down decisions and micromanagement are symptoms of disrespect.

Student Discipline Codes - Failure to enforce the student discipline codes.

Do Kleinberg deserve the award? Not if you are a classroom teacher because in the real world of the classroom the Kleinberg policies represents a "children last" approach.

By the way I was able to recapture my blog as Cleo Lacey received an e-mail that some union Nazis had a key to the executive bathroom at UFT headquarters and he is now on a search & destroy mission against those union Nazis in retrieving the Holy Grail, the UFT executive bathroom key.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Stop Complaining About Our Most Wonderful Contract

Yes, it's me Cleo Lacey. I have hijacked Chaz's blog to show you the power I have, punks! Now that I have control of this blog, it's time to set the record straight.

First of all, I am sick and tired about all the classroom teachers whining about our most glorious leader, Le Gran Fromage, who gave us the best contract we ever have had. Under our imperious leader, Le Gran Fromage, you undeserving scumbags received a 33% pay increase in the last two contracts. How can you be so critical of that? We at UFT headquarters, with our double pensions, have seen our salary shoot up to $125,000 +. Wait, you say that no classroom teacher makes even $100,000? Who cares about you? We are the important ones not you.

Second, under our most wonderful leader, Le Gran Fromage, we have ensured that any teacher who wants to transfer can. In fact, we had more transfers than in any other year. Yes there are some disgruntled teachers (the ones who can't teach) who are now ATR's because the principals were smart enough not to hire them. Anyway, those ATR's don't have to prepare lesson plans, grade tests, and prepare progress reports, sounds like heaven to me. Or as we say here on-the-job-retirement.

Third, under our all-knowing leader, Le Gran Fromage, we ensured that the pedophiles and perverts in the system will get what they deserve, a 90-day unpaid suspension, until the Office Of Special Investigations (OSI) recommends their removal from the system. I'm sick and tired of hearing about due process. So what that OSI assumes the teacher is guilty based upon a student accusation. Yes, I know that many of the accusations are false and in that case they get their job and pay back. Reputation? What do I care about a teacher's reputation? That's their problem not mine! I don't have to deal with those brats.

Fourth, we agree with the administration that you classroom teachers have had it much too easy. More time in the classroom is just what is needed here. I was so proud that our fearless leader Le Gran Fromage, allowed me to develop the curriculum for those bratty UFT Charter School students who must stay extra hours in the classroom. If it was up to me there would be even more classroom time for teachers. Because of your complaints I was told that I must put in an entire extra hour in my plush air-conditioned office once a week (like I really do that, ha, ha).

Fifth, stop complaining about the extra days you work. In my days in the classroom back in the 60s, I couldn't wait to come to school and begged the custodian to let me in a week before school starts. I also stayed until sunset before I went home. Of course I walked six miles uphill to and back from home to school. Do you? Of course not.

Finally, you ignorant classroom teachers don't see the big picture. The rapes and killings at Durfur, The killing of striking teachers in Mexico (so what no actual teachers were killed at the time I championed it in Edwiz), and Wal-Mart are the real problems not class sizes, inadequate facilities, lapsed student discipline enforcement, poor salaries, and teacher disrespect. Who cares what you classroom teachers think? I would like to end this enlightened blog with how we allow Nazis in our mist. When I complained to the Anti-Defamation League about these Nazis, they choose not to take it seriously. Maybe I need to consult with Mel Gibson on what a Nazi is.

Cleo Lacey is a fictional character and any similarities between Cleo and any real person is just coincidential.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Dumb & Dumber - The Presequel Starring Tweed

The increasing clueless and remote Department of Education (DOE) finds dumber & dumber things to impose on the classroom teachers, without their needed input.

Previously, Tweed came up with this idiotic idea to have students come in the morning of June 14th, when Regents were scheduled in the afternoon (12:45 pm). The result was very few students showed up and the ones that did were there to say goodbye for the year. Despite a Tweed edict to provide instruction, very little, if any instruction was provided as teachers were preparing for the Regents and to coordinate their proctoring schedules. Anyway, there were very few students willing to show up to be instructed! Now that was dumb!

However, even dumber Tweed required all high school juniors and sophomores to take the PSAT's on a school day. Instead of holding classes in the morning and giving the test in the afternoon, Tweed gave the test in the morning and tried to hold classes in the afternoon. The result? I had 11 out of 32 students in my official class (where attendance is taken) 7 out of 34 and 5 out of 25 students in my other two classes. What a waste of time, energy, and money. Worse yet, they made the freshmen sit for almost three hours in the cafeteria and hear the administrators drone about college (fours years and an eternity away), discipline, and school spirit. The seniors, of course were savvy enough to stay home.

Tweed, instead of doing the logical thing like having a half day of classes in the morning, decided they can squeeze more money out of the state if they claimed a full school day. "Penny wise and dollar foolish" should be the Tweed motto.

I guess when they made the movie
"Dumb and Dumber" they must have had the people at Tweed in mind. I can only cringe knowing that the dumbest from Tweed is yet to come.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Should Principals Teach A Class? I Think So

One of the problems I see at the high school level is the disconnect the principal has with the student body. This lack of communication with the principal is a major issue between the students and the administration and hurts the school climate. For example many student issues never seem to make it to the principal's desk and these students then believe that the principal does not care about them or their school problems. This lack of communication can result in misunderstandings between the student body and the administration and result in a poorly-run school. Sure, the principal may meet with representatives of the student government or on school committees. However, we are talking about two to five students, hardly a representative sample of the school's student population.

My idea is to have the principal teach a leadership class for the seniors. What better way for the principal to get to know the movers and shakers of his/her graduating class. Better yet, the principal will be exposed to the issues that most affect the students and can discuss them in an informal and non-intimidating fashion. Finally, being with the class every day the principal will bond with the students and better understand why certain polices bother them and can better relate to their concerns.

The advantages for the students are very obvious. They will view the principal as more a mentor than a remote administrator. their daily access to the leader of the school means that their complaints will get a fair hearing and they will believe they have some real say in school policy when it comes to the student body. Best of all, the students will feel empowered and feel pride in being part of a progressive school.

Having the principal teach a leadership class is a win-win proposition for the school since it unifies the students with it's leader. Furthermore, it allows a continuous line of communication between the two. Finally, it allows the principal to better understand what school issues need to be solved, based upon student input.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Next Contract - Should We Settle For 6% For 18 Months?

As we enter the final year of our contract with a 3.15% increase and for the average teacher salary of $48,000 this equals $58.15 per paycheck, before taxes (about $35.00 after taxes). It is time to look forward to contract negotiations with the Bloomberg Administration.

Due to pattern bargining the teachers will receive 6% for the first 18 months of any future contract. However, any lengthening of the contract will mean givebacks for any extra raises. What are the givebacks that the Bloomberg & Klein want? Well it's not hard to guess.

First, look for the Administration to try to put a time limit on teachers excessed from the schools and placed on the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) list. They will probably demand that after 18 months if a teacher on the ATR list does not land a classroom teaching position, that teacher will be fired as is presently done in Chicago. Look for our union to resist such a proposal as an attack on teacher tenure and is probably doomed to fail despite a DOE media bliz and newspapers demanding an end to lifetime tenure for ATR's.

Second, the administration has not been shy about adding a sixth teaching period to the secondary schools and will try to achieve it by using the extra time won in past contracts and adding any time gained in this contract negotiation. This is another non-starter since the union is on record not to exchange anymore time for money. Further, a sixth teaching period has always been a "no" issue for the UFT.

Third, Klein wants the right to move the better teachers into schools that need them without compensating them for it. Good luck trying to convince the union to buy into that.

Finally, look for the Bloomberg Administration to ask for concessions in the health and pension areas that go beyond our contract negotiations and are probably a way to open up the entire city workforce to a Tier V pension and more restricive and costly health benefits in the future. However, the UFT will probably defer these concessions to the MLC For future discussions.

Obviously, the administration will ask for other outragious items. Reduced sick days, more unpaid suspensions, weaken or eliminate due process etc. However, that is part of the negotiation dance and should not be taken seriously.

The real question should we even bother to negotiate a contract longer than 18 months? An 18 month contract, with no givebacks, thanks to pattern bargining, wil end April 2009 and the Bloomberg Administration will be gone in January 2010. Therefore, we can then negotiate with a more reasonable Administration for a better contract with very little givebacks.

My vote is an 18 month contract with a 6% raise and "no givebacks"! If we can get it.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Kleinberg's Attack On Our Pensions

A teacher in the New York City School System is vested , for pension purposes, after five years. However, a teacher must still put in ten years before the city stops deducting 3% of the teacher's salary into the pension system. Further, to get maximum credit for the pension, a teacher needs to work 20 years (you get 2% a year for every year you work once you reach 20 years, otherwise you get only 1.67%). For example a 19-year teacher who retires gets 31.73% of the highest three consecutive year average salary (FAS). While a 20-year teacher would get 40% of the FAS. Of course if you worked to 30 years you would receive a 60% pension. Almost as important, after 10 years the teacher is eligible to retire on disability, which is 33.3% of your FAS and if the disability was in the line of duty, it would be 67% of the FAS. Finally, once a teacher reaches their maximum pay grade (8b), the city contributes $400 per year and this money accumlates at 5% interest. This is called the Annuity Savings Accumulation Fund (ASAF). After 20 years a teacher can expect to have nearly $8,000 in the ASAF and is used to supplement the pension through an annuity.

All of the above were obtained by hard-won union negotiations and protected (pensions & disability) by the New York State constitution that does not allow reductions for existing employees. However, this has not hampered Kleinberg from trying to reduce pension costs in the New York City School System. How are they doing it? Let's see how.

First, the Kleinberg policy of recruiting teachers over the retention of existing teachers. The recruiting of teachers is the top priority of the administration. It doesn't matter that many of the teachers come from alternate certification programs like the Teaching Fellows and Teach For America and that DOE recruits out of the country to fill other positions. Kleinberg gives a bonus, loan forgivness, and rent payments for up to two years. Further, the DOE, for the first time, allowed schools to hire new teachers rather than first hire from the excessed teacher pool. Since 50% of the new teachers quit by their third year that means many of the newbies will never benefit from the pension plan. The unfortunate part of this is my union's aiding and abetting Kleinberg in their recruitment over the retention policy.

Second, the increased work day eliminated many per session jobs, which are pensionable, especially in the elementary schools. By using the 37.5 minutes at the end of the day, many after school programs were eliminated. More importantly, night school was also eliminated. Many of the more senior teachers use night school to increase their pensions. Therefore, by eliminating night schools, they are reducing pension expenses. Further, the lower budgets for many schools mean no paid tutoring programs, which is a per session activity.

Third, many of the ATR's are experienced teachers who were excessed due to the closing down of large schools or from schools that had budget cuts. Since the DOE allowed the small schools to hire the new teachers, they did not have to take many of the teachers excessed from the schools. While these ATR's are protected by the union contract, it is very obvious that Kleinberg will want a time limit for them in the next contract. In other words, if you are an ATR for 18 months then you will be fired. The more ATR's fired, the less the pension cost.

Finally, the Kleinberg policy to privatize the school system, such as Charter Schools means that more teachers will not have union or pension protection thereby, reducing costs to the City.

What's next? Well, there are rumors that summer school will be privatized, meaning reduced pension costs and of course the administration's attempt to fire the ATR's in the next contract.
Regardless, look for the City to propose a new pension tier for the new teacher. Tier V it will be called and however it will be constructed, it will save the City money and reduce the pensions for the new teachers. An inferior pension indeed!

Friday, October 06, 2006

When Tweed Attacks - Part 2 - Rikers Prep

When last I wrote about how Tweed was angry that our school refused the wonderful DOE offer of cameras in the schools. The result was to treat our school as an impact-like school. (not an impact school but flood the area with police, and arrest the students for such major crimes as jaywalking, littering, and refusing to move quick enough). I mentioned that Tweed had put us on their radar screen and made surprise visits to catch our school unprepared. The result? They found such major safety issues as:

The cafeteria tables were inadequately washed between periods.

Too many students were late to school for first period and filled up the auditorium. it doesn't matter to Tweedie-dee & Tweedie-dumb that some of these students live over two hours away and take up to three buses to get there before 8am.

Too many teachers had pictures on their door windows.

What does this have to do with safety? Beats me. However, Tweed has come up with an age-old solution to try to show that our school has safety problems. What have they done? First some history. In the past as many high schools closed down, they designated my school as one of the schools to dump the unwanted level 1 eigth graders, 8+ students, and the student with language and/or other disabilities into. After community & political pressure this year, Tweed reversed itself and at the beginning of September, my school was 240 students short, resulting in budget cuts and six ATR's. Because our school had space, all students in the Region was assigned to my school. This included students first, moving into the region, transfers due to hardships or safety issues in their old schools, and private school students going into the public schools. This variety of students is similar to the school population. However, Tweed had their secret weapon waiting in the wings. 12 overaged felons from Rikers (Jail) were released and all, yes all were sent to my school in direct violation of DOE procedures that require these felons to terrorize their home schools. Tweed just needs to wait for these felons to do their thing and cause chaos and crime in the school and then label it an "impact school".

My school is fighting back with teachers, the community, and students contacting our representatives about how Tweed's disgusting behavior is endangering the students and staff of the school. We are in the process of getting the media involved and expose Tweed for what it is, a bully that welds abusive power and stacks the deck against schools that dare to question their flawed judgement. Children first? How about Tweed's ego first and children last!

To Tweed - Shame On You!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Good Schools Equal Quality Teachers

The New York Post, of all newspapers, in their Sunday, October 1, 2006 editorial stated that good schools have focused principals who places a premium on discipline and who supports the faculty; parents who take an active role in their children's education, and teachers who are committed and creative - and qualified. Except for low class sizes, the Post is right on the money. However, they incorrectly stated that New York City is making real progress in achieving this goal, the reality is different.

First, the NYC Department of Education (DOE) does not like strong-minded, independent principals, especially those that support the faculty. Instead the DOE is placing many of the Leadership Academy principals, who have little or no school experience, who follow the Jack Welch business model that has failed to work in schools, and worst is that these new leadership principals have little interaction with the faculty and teacher input is not asked for or respected by them.

Second, the DOE has continued to weaken the student discipline code by allowing parents to appeal to an ouside DOE administrator when a school tries to suspend the student. This is in addition to the DOE's policy of placing an overaged violent felon back into the same school he/she terrorized in the first place. Moreover, the DOE has eliminated many of the special schools that handled overaged felons, as well as the overaged 8th graders who are pushed into the large high schools rather than a more suitible setting. Furthermore, the DOE discourages schools from taking a "zero tolerance" approach since too many reported incidents could result in the school being put on the DOE radar as an "inpact" school, or a school that has safety problems.

Third, unfortunantly, the major problem in the New York City Public Schools is a lack of parental involvement. Especially the middle & high schools. The DOE aided and abetted this by eliminating the parent-dominated district councils that had the ear of the old Board of Education and rightly or wrongly nothing could get done with the council's approval. Instead we now have a powerless parent advisory committee that is largley ignored by the DOE Instead of more parental involvement in the schools, we now have less!

Fiourth, A quality teacher means a competitive salary, low class sizes, and experience. However, the DOE's policy of recruitment rather than retention makes a quality teacher in every classroom a pipe dream. The Post editorial states that 100% of the teachers in the school system are certified. However, included in the 100% are the alternate certification programs such as Teach For America & the Teaching Fellows Program - which means the teachers are certified in name only since they still have to pass the certification tests. In other words they are not certified! Based upon 2005 data that means that only 82% are really certified teachers! Finally, how many of the 82% are teaching in their subject area? Many schools have physical education teachers teaching english, math, science, and social studies. The DOE policy to allow schools to hire newly-minted teachers (some not certified) over excessed, experience teachers has resulted in a steep learning curve for these new teachers at the expense of their students. Children first? How about children last! In addition, the DOE's "one-size-fits-all" appraoach and micromanagment stifiles teacher creativeness. As for the low class sizes and competitive salaries? Forget-about-it!

Finally, under the new NCLB proposals, 65% of all money must be spent on classroom instruction. While I have no clue what the DOE spends on classroom instruction since it's accounting transparancy is very foggy. I'm sure they would include instruction-related-activities such as professional development that lacks classroom teacher input, District/Regional office personnel who work on school budgets and assignments, and DOE hearing officers that work on school grievances and other issues. Is this classroom instruction? Of course not. To me classroom instruction includes direct classroom expenses including books, supplies, salaries, school infrastrucrure, guidance and a school nurse. I believe that teacher-directed extracuricular activites (sports, clubs, honor societies, yearbook, plays, band, etc.) should be included as part of the 65%. This is opposite the NEA & AFT positions. However, these activities are part of the total student experience in school and provide positive motivation to do well in the academic environment.

The New York Post was right on everything they said. Except for one, their conclusion that New York City is making progress.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Kleinberg Plan For The ATR's

It is common knowledge that there are over a thousand Absent Teacher Reserves (ATR's) roaming around with no teaching assignments and wondering what their future is? What is their future? Uncertain at best and ominious at worst.

First, let's start on why we have all these ATR's in the first place. Until this year all excessed teachers were placed in teaching positions within their borough before any other teacher can be hired. However, that all changed this year when the Department of Education allowed schools to hire newly-minted teachers and even uncertified teachers from the alternate certifaction programs like Teach For America & the Teaching Fellows Program without placing the excessed teachers. The DOE did not even try to pretend to care about the ATR's by having their job fair AFTER the new teacher job fair. Therefore, many of the schools that needed teachers were inclined and maybe even pressured to hire the new teacher over the experienced teacher.

Second, why are there so many ATR's? Good question and an equally good answer. The closing down of the large schools into small schools was a primary reason. See, once a large school closes and is replaced by small schools, the small schools are only required to select 50% of the large school staff and since many of the small school principals come from the Leadership Program who's emphasis is on loyality to the DOE and ignorance of how to collaberate with the teaching staff, many of the more experienced and knowledgable teachers were not selected in the interview process. To be fair, many of these teachers didn't bother to apply to the small schools since small school teachers are required to take on more non-teaching responsibilities and prepare more preps.

Third, a secondary reason is the reduced budgets to the remaining schools that are not part of the empowerment zone. Yes, I know the DOE said that the extra money the empowerment zone schools comes from the elimination of mid-level district administrators. However, DOE's lack of transparancy makes that claim highly suspect. Many of the non-empowerment schools have suffered budget cuts for this year. The result, more excessed teachers!

Finally, the increased hiring of new teachers, encouraged by DOE with recruitment packages and job fairs, at the expense of the excessed teachers, increased the ATR's.

The result is that there are over 1,000 teachers without their own classrooms.

Why would the DOE have 1,000+ ATR's doing no classroom teaching? Wouldn't it be in their best interest to place these teachers into the classroom by reducing class size? You would think so since lower class sizes would benefit the children and result in higher test scores. However, Mayor Bloomberg & Chancellor Klein are not interested in the children but are looking long-term to the next contract where their goal is to fire these ATR's.

Just think, the Kleinberg people will wail how the teachers' contract forces them to pay over 1000 teachers their full salary, including senority time, and step pay raises, while they are just doing day-to-day substitute teaching. The Daily News, New York Post, & the Sun will have full page editorials demanding the end to tenure for life for the ATR's and even Newsday & the New York Times will ask for contract changes. The result will be a media blitz that puts the union on the defensive with the ultimate goal of putting a time limit on ATR's in finding a full-time teaching job. An example of this is in Chicago where excessed teachers have 18 months to find a job. If not, they are fired!

I don't believe that whichever faction wins the UFT election will agree to an ATR time limit. Yes even gasp Unity! However, unless the UFT becomes pro-active on this issue by bringing up the class size issue, the waste of experienced & talented teachers while hiring untested and clueless people from alternate certification programs, and failing to ensure a quality teacher in every classroom by running an "education on the cheap" program. The union will find itself increasingly on the defensive and the political pressure may result in an ATR time limit and the beginning of the end of teacher tenure. Therefore, it is a must that the UFT come out strong and hard over how Kleinberg has caused the ATR mess.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Randi Does It Again - Recruitment Over Retention

In a New York Post article Randi Weingarten complained that to encourage qualified minorities to join the New York City teacher corps, the city should give bonuses, loan forgiveness, and housing assistance. Here again Randi chooses to ignore the real problem, retention of quality teachers. In response to a somewhat bogus study that showed that minority children respond better to their own kind despite all studies that show an experienced quality teacher is the most important thing to have in the classroom, regardless of race, creed, and religion. Instead of stopping at the colorblind statement, Randi continued on how we need to attract more minorities to enter the teaching profession. At no time did she bring up the retention problem, the most important factor in the successful classroom.

It certainly appears to me that Randi & gang seem more focused on the high and low end of the the teacher memberts in the UFT. Much of the problem with the last contract was Randi's insistance in not selling out the newborns. However, Unity sold out the rest of us. with god awful givebacks. She should have stuck it to the city and see if they can hire a $25,000 per year teacher, instead she chose to screw us. Further, she is trying to enhance the high end members (30+ years in the system) by sweetening their pensions while doing nothing for the 5-20 year teaching veteran.

As a 10 year teacher who is subject to the Unity givebacks and lack of union support for the very teachers that are the backbone of the union, is it any wonder I am anti-Unity? The shocking thing is how clueless many teachers are to the issues and it is this ignorance that must be addressed if our Union is to become responsive to the classroom teacher.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

What I Want From My Union

In the past year I have complained about many things that my union, the UFT, has done. Starting with the contract and ending with my attack on the clueless educrats writing articles on Edwize that have nothing to do with the classroom. However, while complaining is a time-honored way to air ones grievances when the powers-to-be are unresponsive to their members, it's time to move ahead and state what I expect from my union leaders.

A Pro-active Approach:

It seems to me that our Union never takes the lead in bringing issues to the media. Instead they seem to respond to attacks in a defensive matter. To the general public it appears that the UFT is more interested in protecting union rights than student learning. While this is not true. Remember the preception is what counts and the DOE is winning the media war.

An example of this is the UFT failure to bring up the DOE attack on the large traditional high schools by dumping the 8+ students, special education students, and discipline problems into the schools while exempting the small schools from getting these students. Another example is the failure of the UFT to alert the media of the DOE policy that forces the schools to take back violent, overaged students released from jail so that they can terrorize the student population, rather than finding alternate settings for them.

A pro-active union is a must if we are to combat the DOE attack on the schools.

Retention Issues:

The biggest problem facing the teaching profession is that 50% of the teachers are gone by their third year. This plays well into the hands of the City and DOE since these teachers make less money, don't have pensions, and are unaware of union protections. Presently, our union works hand-in-hand to further the DOE policy by amending our contract to provide subsidies for the new teachers. The union needs to focus not on the new teachers but retaining the existing staff. Its no secret that quality teaching is associated with the 5-20 year veteran teacher and this is the group the union needs to support. Children first means a quality teacher in the classroom and retaining these teachers should be a top prority for the union.

Class Size:

Its no secret that class size is one of the two most important factors in student learning, the quality teacher being the other. The union must insist that a cap of no more than 25 students per class be part of the next contract. Can you imagine the outrage by the public if after the UFT media blitz the City refuses to lower class sizes? What happened to children first?

Competitive Salaries:

To get quality teachers you must have competitive salaries. Even after the last contract, the city teacher salaries are 15-20% lower than the average salaries in the suburbs. In fact our salaries are 10% lower than the Yonkers teachers! That is outrageous! The city is in it's best financial shape ever with a 5.5 billlion dollar surplus and an ever-climbing stock market. The union must, at a mimimum, insist on a restructuring of the teacher salary scale that rewards the mid-career quality teacher and an increase to the average surburban salary.

Under no circumstances should the union go to PERB or accept the pattern. Any official that proposes this should be voted out of office.

No More Givebacks:

Under no circumstances should our negotiators allow givebacks of any kind. That includes ATR tine limits, more teaching time, and extra work. In fact, this contract should include takebacks such as the two days before Labor Day, and grievable LIF.

Student Discipline:

Every year the DOE weakens the student discipline code and the union plays dead as it is rammed through. The result is that a parent can appeal to a non-school administrator to reverse a student suspension. The union must demand that a strict student discipline code be enforced and approved by the union.

City/DOE match on TDA (403b) Plan:

A 100% company match up to 3% of a person's salary would be a good starting point as a way to improve teacher retirement. Further, a commitment by the city to increase the percentage used for pension purposes from 1.67 to 2.0 for the 5-20 year veterans.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Social Promotion To The Large High Schools

Previously, I commented on the Department of Education's (DOE) policy of promoting "not ready for promotion" eighth graders (8+ students) to the large traditional high schools as they mistakenly believe that the size of the school will solve the problem. I pointed out that that the best environment for these 8+ students would be a school dedicated for these students and self-contained small classes similiar to Special Education classes. However, this would cost money and in the Kleinberg tradition of education on the cheap and children last politics, its easier to dump these s 8+ students into the large high schools. For Tweed this is a win-win proposition. First, you don't have to spend any more money on these 8+ students for programs that are necessary for them to succeed. Second, it advances the Tweed ambition of showing that the large schools are academically inferior to the small schools as these 8+ students terrorize their classmates and their inclusion lowers the academic level of the school.

Yes, I understand that it is not in the best interest of the middle schools to have 16 year old boys preying on 12 year old girls or bullying the student body. However, dumping them into a setting that almost ensures their droppimg out before they graduate, is certainly not the answer. The only thing this accomplices is the next generation of criminals and poverty wage workers. Even Wal-Mart won't hire them! For the skeptics that don't believe this does not go on I will give you a couple of examples.

I spoke to a middle school teacher who informed me that she was required to write the exit projects for five 8+ students who refused to write it. When she balked at doing student work her principal informed her that I don't need these students terrorizing the students in the school. She did the exit project and all five were sent to the large high school close to the school.

In another case a student with over 125 absences and had assulted a female classmate in the middle school was passed along to one of the large high schools where within two weeks he and a friend were allegedly involved in assulting another student which resulted in that student being sent to the hospital. What was Tweed's response? Blame the large high school it can't be the child's fault!

I only mentioned two examples However, I'm sure there are many such stories throught the city schools and I would like to hear your experiences dealing with the 8+ students.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Why Don't Quality Teachers Go To The Small Schools?

In an Edwize article a comment by the respected Peter Goodman of Unity (yes I do respect his opinon - unlike the rest of the Unity hacks) stated that the small schools would have welcomed any of these excessed teachers if they only showed up for an interview? That left the unaware of why wouldn't an experienced quality teacher interview in a small school that would welcome them with open arms? Well, if I have one problem with Peter, it is his bias in pushing small schools and ignore the problems with many of them. Including their inability to attract experienced quality teachers. Therefore, after talking with a few excessed teachers who did interview at small schools, I decided to come up with a hypothetical interview of an excessed Chemistry teacher at the 350 student small school called The School of Environmental Justice.

School: Why do you want a position at our school?

Teacher: I want to teach in a classroom, not being a day-to-day sub in my home school.

School: Why?

Teacher: I fell embarrassed and my self-esteem has suffered in working in a school that no
longer can use me as a classroom teacher. It's difficult to face my ex students as a sub.

School: What did you teach in your school?

Teacher: Chemistry, AP Chemistry, AP Environmental Science.

School: Have you taught Living Environment, Earth Science, & Physics?

Teacher: Not recently, and I have never taught Physics.

School: In our school we have no money for AP courses and you will be required to teach all four
Regents science courses.

Teacher: You mean four preps?

School Yes.

Teacher: Will lab preparation be my professional assignment?

School: Yes, but in our school the teachers must do an administrative assignment as well.

Teacher: Like what?

School: Hallway duty, cafeteria patrol, or policing the bathrooms.

Teacher: Are there any other duties you expect me to do?

School? Yes, we expect you to volunteer for Saturday instruction and help in our after school

Teacher: Will I get paid for the extra work?

School: Sorry, we don't have the funds to pay the teachers anything extra.

Teacher: Let me get this straight. I must teach four different Regents science courses, volunteer to teach on Saturday for free, do a professional and administrative assignment, and help out in the after school program?

School: Yes, and by the way, you will become a team leader and spend an occasional lunch with your group of students. See, we can only afford one guidance officer and the teachers must do double duty.

Teacher: Thank you for the interview but I think I will stay at my school as an ATR until a real teaching position becomes available.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

When Tweed Attacks

On the first day of students my school received an unpleasent surprise, a boatload of NYPD's finest showed up at the school. What were they doing at my school? Our halls are clear of students during classroom instrunction, our student population have not participated in crimes that would put us into the impact school category, we have improved our Math & English statistics under NCLB, and our school saftey scores were the highest(best) ever. Our school safety scores have almost always been near the top for all NYC high schools! Why the police?

Well, it seems my school is on the Tweed radar screen because the school refused the Tweed offer of putting cameras in the hallways, entrances, and lockerooms (big brother). Further, Tweed has already proposed that my school be reorganized into small schools, which was defeated and rejected by the banding together of the teachers, administrators, students, and community leaders. Finally, Tweed took a beating on dumping many students who were not selected by the small schools that replaced the closing down of other large high schools on selected high schools in Queens including my school.

What was Tweed to do? How can they punish a large traditional high school that dares to fight the mighty powers of Tweed? First, Tweed reversed course and not only stopped dumping excess students into my school but limited the amount of students entering our school. This resulted in a budget reduction and caused the excessing of five teachers ---more about them later. Second, Tweed apparently pressured our principal (or so he claims) to use precious budget money to pay for non-educators to teach us how to keep in touch of our feelings. Finally, Tweed authorized the NYPD to flood our non-dangerous school with police officers. Does Tweed really think that armed police in our school is going to increase learning in the classroom? I think not!

What justification did Tweed use? I cannot be sure but I did hear they took into account our attendance figures, which are lower than the surrounding schools because of our "zero tolerance" policy that does not allow students to walk the halls, hangout in the back stairwells, or sneak into lthe cafeteria. With their only choices to either go to class or not go to school, many of these problem students become truants. The result is a quiet, safe school and an increased absense rate. Reasonable people would take this tradeoff but not the maniacs at Tweed. These are the same educrats (some have no experience in education) that see nothing wrong in sending overaged students from Rikers Island (jail) back to the very schools they terrorized in the first place! In their warped prorities the child is important but the children are not. Tweed also claimed they wanted to see a better graduation rate. How does the police presence increase the gradation rate? are they going to shoot the non-graduates? Will the police fan out from the school and track down the truants and forceabily bring them to school so they can graduate? Obviously, Tweed is trying to punish us for our refusing their generous offer of cameras in the school.

What can be done to stop Tweed from bullying our school? Well the only way to stop a bully is to hit back. In this case the union, PTA, politicians, and media must join together to expose Tweed's revenge on a school that didn't want any part of big brother in the school.

On a side note. All five of the excessed teachers failed to land a position in other schools. These teachers, all excessed because of the budget cut included our very popular ESL coordinator who nobody wanted to see leave. Well, thanks to Joel Klein's intimidation on hiring other school's excessed teachers, all are ATR's and hopefully will land a position before the next contract.

Remember, when Tweed attacks, you fight back!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Defined Benefit Vs. Defined Contribuition Plans - Which Is Better?

Over the last decade there has been an explosion of defined contribution (401k) plans in the business community. In fact the Federal Government switched to the defined contribution plan for it's new employees in the mid 90s. The advantages of the defined contribution plan is it's portability (you can move from job to job) and employer match (free money). However, is it better than a defined benefit plan? Apparently, the answer is a loud no!

A study by a Boston research group on pensions found that the average defined benefit plan outperformed the average defined contribution plan by 1% annually and the average defined benefit pension was 20% greater than the definded contribution plan for the same period of time (20 years). Why such a difference? Because defined benefit plans are run by professional investment companies who are always rebalancing their allocation between stocks, bonds, and cash. On the other hand, the defined contribution plan is controlled by the employee who are either too conservative (money market fund) or too risky (company stock - think of Enron). Furthermore, the definded contribution plan has higher fees than the defined benefit plan and many defined benefit pensions have a COLA adjustment, the defined contribution plans do not. Therefore, it is accurate to say the longer a person works on the job, the greater the difference between the defined benefit pension and the defined contribution pension.

Unfortunantly, the defined benefit pension is under attack. Recently, IBM and Verizon have terminated their defined benefit plans and only about 28% of all companies have a defined benefit plan (1n the 1970's it was 86%). Mayor Bloomberg and the MTA have proposed a Tier V pension which can either be a less generous defined benefit pension or a defined contribution pension. Even the labor-friendly New York Times has jumped on the Tier V pension as a way to save money. While the New York State constitution does not allow for pension changes for existing employees, unless they are pension improvements, new employees may find themselves on the receiving end of a vastly inferior pension plan.

The New York Teachers Retirement System (TRS) provides a defined contribution (403b) plan that suffers from not including an option that should be included in all defined contribution plans. A life cycle fund. Depending on your age and date of expected retirement, the life cycle fund would automatically be rebalanced between stocks, bonds, and cash with little cost to the employee. However, presently the TRS has not proposed any changes to their fund and without a company match, the annuity generated by the 403b plan is inferior to the NYC defined benefit plans that include the life cycle funds.

If the future for new employees is a defined contribution plan then these plans should be low cost, have life cycle or retirement funds, and professional investment advise.

By the way, the fixed income investment return of the TRS 403b plan is 8.25% and this value will not change until June of 2009. If inflation stays between 3-6%, you get a minimum return of 2.25% above the rate of inflation, not a bad deal. I suggest that all teachers put at least 50% of all new money into this fund and take any money you have in Option "B" and switch it to the fixed fund (it takes one year to complete the switch).

Friday, September 01, 2006

Thank You Randi, Joel, & My Clueless Administrators For The Two Most Miserable Days In My Teaching Career

I just spend the two of the most miserable days in my teaching career doing nothing at my school. Instead of recharging my batteries on vacation and preparing for the next school year, I found myself subject to mindless (un)professional development, a principal who spent precious time telling us how great he is, and assistant principals who had a mind-numbing session on bulletin boards, hallway practices, and classroom sharing. We were also exposed to an afternoon of videos of "right to know" that drove most of the teachers bonkers.

You might ask. "How about working on the classrooms?" Well my school administrators didn't program time in for this in our very busy two days of mindless nothingness. But Randi said the two days were to fix-up the classroom? Well, tell that to the administrators because they didn't seem to care what Randi said. What follows is my two days of misery.

Thursday, August 31st started off with coffee & bagels as the principal spoke about how our school improved their Math & English scores over last year. Clap, clap, clap. Next he introduced teachers who came back from sabbaticals and informed the staff of the teachers he excessed. We did not lose any teachers to transfer using the open market system. Note; teachers don't usually leave large traditional high schools in Queens for smaller schools despite the best efforts of Kleinberg to make the smaller schools attractive. See my August 24th blog. Next, he informed us how he single-handedly fought the Tweed educrats on adding cameras, security officers, and a police presence in our school I thought it was a total effort between parents, students, teachers and some administrators? What do I know. Finally, he finished it up with how we should all work together and collaborate on issues that affect the school and that we are one big family. Boy was I getting sick of this phoney. My principal is a "cya person" and will stab you in the back if that is what his Tweed masters want.

Next, it was off to our department meeting for the rest of the morning where we discussed what should go on our bulletin boards. Should it be student work, or posters? What can go on the walls? Can student work be put on the hallway walls? Thankfully, the session ended for lunch as the assistant principal was explaining how three teachers can share one room.

The afternoon session consisted of two videos on the "right to know" what chemicals are being used in the school and what the procedures are to inform medical personnel. However, our right to know apparently does not include knowing if our students have Communicable diseases. We are forbbiden to know if a child is HIV positive, another reason why a teacher should not break up fights. By the time the videos were finished it was time to go home.

Friday, September 1st we are back to coffee & bagels and another speech by the principal. Charitably, he limited it to a half hour. However, he had a wonderful surprise for his teaching staff, a day-long professional development session. Of course, despite his statements that he wants to collaborate with the teachers, he didn't ask for teacher input or comment on the type or necessity of professional development. By the way the administrators were exempt from the professional development sessions. The professional development consisted of
non-educators telling us how we should be in touch with our feelings. What a wonderful waste of time and money. Yes, he used his budget to pay for this rather than saving the money for before/after school tutoring. This professional development was to extend to the end of the day but a revolt by the teaching staff truncated it to 1:50 pm. This allowed the teachers one hour to fix up their rooms!

Didn't Randi say that the two days before Labor Day will be used for teachers to fix-up their classrooms? Well I took a look at the contract and under section 6C it states that "part of the time on the days before Labor Day will be allocated to classroom preparation. " The question is what does part mean? Half a day, 2 hours, 10 minutes? Another, poor job by Randi and her lawyer friends that did not specify what part of a day means. Does giving us one hour on the second day meet the definition as part of a day? What about not having any time on day one? What are the penalties for non-compliance of the contract by the administrators? I suspect there will be no consequences for the administrators for violating the contract. Can you imagine if you refused to go to the professional development session? Yes, you would be charged with insubordination and at the very least receive a letter to the file and maybe even being removed from the school!

My miserable day ended with my assistant principal (who I have a good relationship with) coming into my room and asking me if I finished the Earth Science lab booklet. My response was "you must be kidding" I informed him that had I not been required to go to the professional development session, I would have been finished. He left my room and told me that I forced him to find a common lab paper to hand out next week. My heart bleds.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Joel Klein who does not understand the law of diminishing returns and thinks quantity means quality. Joel, more time in the classroom does not mean better grades if you overwork the teacher & students. I would also thank Randi Weingarten who first, agreed to the two days before Labor Day that ruined many a planned vacation and second, lied to us about how the two days were to be used. Finally, I would like to thank my school administrators who time and again fail to practice what they preach and use limited funds for professional development that nobody wanted.

Before I forget, I want to give special thanks to Randi & Joel for the precedent-setting 190 day school year.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Department Of Education Claims The Regents Is 33% Of A Student's Classroom Grade - Really???

The principal of Lafayette high school has reduced student Earth Science classroom grades 10 to 15 points if they failed the Earth Science Regents. While I question the principal's wisdom in changing student grades without teacher discussion and input, I'm more concerned with DOE's response to the event. According to DOE, the policy is that the Regents should be 33% of the classroom grade. I have been teaching a decade and have never heard of this. In fact the Regents was not part of the classroom grade at all!

Granted if a student tanked on the Regents (less than 50%), our policy was to reverse any passing grade to a failure since the student did not possess an adequate knowledge of the subject.
Further, some students who passed the Regents had their failing grade reversed if they were close to passing. However, I have never read or was verbally informed that the DOE had a policy that the Regents is 33% of the classroom grade! In fact, final grades must be bubbled in days before the Regents is given and maybe more than a week before the Regents is marked! Just imagine the chaos if teachers were required to incorporate the Regents scores into the classroom grade.

Lets take an example of how DOE's policy works. First, you give student X a classroom grade of 75%. A week later after you finished marking the Regents, Student X received a 52%. How do you deterimine the final grade? Easy if you are a math and science teacher.

Final Grade = 75(.67) + 52(.33) = 67%

Student X passed but now do this for 125 students at the end of the Regents week and then have to bubble in the grades. Rush, rush, rush, mistakes are very likely and the stress on the classroom teachers trying to complete the paperwork for the year is greatly increased.

Finally, all teachers should know that a principal can change a grade but they first must consult with the teachers and must justify, in writing to the teacher, why the grade was changed. A principal cannot just change a grade because they want to.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Advantages Of Going To A Large Traditional High School

The large traditional high schools have been attacked as a relic of the past and not serving the needs of today's students. Instead the Kleinberg administration is gun ho on developing small schools and fighting tooth and nail to increase Charter Schools. To try to prove they are right the DOE dumps the "not ready for promotion 8th graders", discipline problems, and children with disabilities on the large traditional high schools. To their surprise and disappointment there has been no net improvement for students who go to the small or charter schools, when compared to the large traditional high schools The reason for this is not evident. However, I do have some theories on why the large traditional high school can still do better on an uneven playing field.

First, the large traditional high school gives a student a wide variety of Honors and Advanced Placement courses as well as electives such as forensics, computer courses, finance courses, and law courses. By contrast, the small and charter usually don't have the ability to offer anything but courses associated with the school's theme (example the school of Law Enforcement only have courses associated with law). The lack of a varied and challenging curriculum limits student choice and therefore student achievement.

Second, the large traditional high school has many extracurricular activities an area that motivates student school participation. Sports programs, clubs, and academic teams. In particular the sports programs of the large high schools are usually split by gender. For example my school has football (Varsity and JV), soccer, track, basketball (Varsity and JV) swimming, volleyball, golf, handball, bowling, fencing,and baseball for the male students. The female students have swimming, volleyball, track, soccer, softball, basketball, bowling, golf, handball, and fencing. Students that join sports and other extracurricular activity do not get themselves in trouble and do well in class. By contrast the small and charter schools have very limited extracurricular activities and little or no sports teams.

Third, and I believe most importantly, the large traditional high schools have a higher percentage of experienced quality teachers. The flexibility of the course selection, and the chance of teaching highly motivated students in Honors and Avanced Placement courses attract teachers to the school. Case in point, my principal informed me that he received ten applications for two openings. All were experienced teachers with good references. I'm sure the small and charter schools do not receive the same quality teachers. In fact, based upon discussions with various teachers, it seems the small schools are looking for young, inexperienced teachers they can mold. As for the Charter schools? They are lucky if the teacher is certified and lasts for more than a year. Quality teachers? Give me a break!

In my overcrowded Queens high school not one teacher is uncertified and the average school experience is eight years! Are all of them quality? Of course not! However, many of them are
quality teachers and the students benefit from being exposed to them.

In conclusion, send your child to the large traditional high school if you want a well-rounded student that colleges will be happy to have on their campus.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Reflections of Summer School

Well, summer school is over and it is time to reflect back on my summer school experience. For the many of you that don't do summer school, I suggest you do it once so you can appreciate how lucky you are that you don't need the money and have a relaxing summer. However, enough of this and lets get on with what its like to teach summer school.

First, and most important are the students. Summer school students are not your regular year students. The summer school students are there for various reasons, all bad. Some of them are there because of poor work habits, others because of behavior problems, many are there due to academic dificencies, and a few due to attendance issues. In other words these students are the unmotivated bottom layer of the school system. To motivate them is a real challenge since if they were motivated, they wouldn't be in summer school in the first place!

Second, class size. While my three classes stabilized at 30, 32, and 32 students, there were some Math and Living Environment (Biology) classes with up to 48 students in a class. Some of the students were standing, sitting on the window sills, and shared chairs. What an environment for learning with already "at risk" students!

Third, many of the summer schools are not air conditioned and the average heat index in the summer is 92 degrees (temperature plus humidity). Even motivated students would have a problem with learning in these hot and humid classrooms, can you imagine what is like for the unmotivated student? What's interesting is that the Department of Education (DOE) claims that these old schools cannot handle air conditioners. However, all of these schools upgraded the wiring for the administrative offices and are air conditioned. Children first? Yeah right, if you believe that then I have a bridge to sell you.

Fourth, Teachers are paid on a per session basis ($37.96/hr) and are required to work five straight hours with only two 5 minute breaks in between the first and second period classes.Teaching three straight classes in less than ideal conditions is not condusive for good learning.

Fifth, school supplies and textbooks are usually inadequate since many of the summer school teachers come from other schools and the administrators don't like to give up precious resources to the summer school program. The result is that the school gives the summer school teachers outdated and poorly conditioned textbooks, little, if any photocopying services, and no technology. Pencils, paperclips, staples, and chalk are usually in short supply.

Finally, the DOE starves the summer school program of money. There is no money for test prep courses, tutoring, or allocation of extra hours for test scoring. The result is a "bare bones" program that meets the minimum requirements for summer school students who really need a maximum effort by DOE to educate the neediest of students.

Over the years the summer school program has changed, and not for the better. Once a student missed three days (summer school is 30 days long) the student was automatically discharged. Now a student can go on a two week vacation (10 days) and still demand to pass. Misbehaving students were discharged at a teacher's request, Now the administrator puts the student back into the class after a lecture. Finally, the lack of enforcement by administrators have seen an increase in cell phones, sidekicks, blackberries, and ipods in the summer school classrooms. A teacher can do little but threaten to fail the student but without administrative muscle teacher threats are not taken seriously since the student does not believe that they will fail until it's too late. (urban myth: There is a mistaken belief by high school students that if you show up enough the teacher can't fail you - wrong).

In conclusion, summer school is for the student misfits and the teachers that need the money. In our profession its called "blood money".

Postcript. My students had a 85% passing rate and a surprising 52% passed the New York State Earth Science Regents. Not bad considering the roadblocks in their way.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

DOE Erodes Teacher Authority With It's Revised Student Disciplinary Code

The New York City Department of Education has decided to further erode the classroom teacher's authorty by proposing to revise the student disciplinary code in allowing a parent to appeal the removal of their child from the classroom. Presently, the classroom teacher has the right to remove a disruptive student for three days from his/her classroom. Most administrators don't like this regulation and try to pressure the teacher from enforcing the regulation. The reason they don't like this regulation is that the disruptive student is usually assigned to the assistant principal's office and the AP must oversee the student.

In my school, the administration tried to set up a procedure to limit the removal of the disruptive student, First, you had to talk to the child at least twice about his/her behavior. Second, you contacted the parent (trying to contact the parent was not good enough) and let the parent know about their child's behavior. Third, if the first two fail you send the student to the AP for a lecture and is sent back to class. Finally, only after the three procedures failed to change the student's behavior can the teacher issue a 3-day "do not admit" order for the student. The result was a teacher outcry and the Administrators backed down. However, they still try to discourage teachers from removing the disruptive student.

The proposed DOE regulation allows the parent to appeal to the Regional administrators, who don't care about the classroom, and will, in many cases, allow these disruptive students to return to the classroom so they can cause more damage.

This propsed revision is another attack on the classroom teacher's authority. First, it was micromanagement, then it was the one-size-fits-all curriculum, and now limiting the rght of a teacher to have a peaceful classroom. What's next?

To the union's credit the president Randi Weingarten has objected to this change. However, objecting is one thing doing something about it is another. The union must be pro-active on this issue and take whatever action that is necessary to ensure the revised student disciplinary code is not implemented. Talk is cheap, we classroom teaches expect action from our union representatives.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The UFT Questionnaire - What It Didn't Include

Today I received the UFT questionnaire on what we should ask for in the next contract. Of course most teachers want more money, better health benefits, low class sizes, and enforceable student discipline codes. However, I was more interested in what the UFT questionnaire did not include.

First, a priority for many teachers is getting back the two days before Labor Day. All the teachers I spoke to bring this up as a top priority, on par with a competitive salary. Why doesn't the UFT questionnaire include this?

Second, the reinstatement of the grievance procedure that protected teachers from overzeolous administrators who, if not kept in check, can give teachers Letters-To-The-File (LIF) at their leisure.

Third, the elimination of the 90 day unpaid suspension based upon a student accusation. Already teachers have been subject to these false accusations. Why didn't the UFT include it in the questionnaire?

Fourth, How come the UFT questionnaire didn't include changing the 1.67% factor for teachers who are vested to 2% in the pension plan. Instead they only seem to care for the 30 year teacher.

Fifth, why wasen't a limit of 183 school days, as is done in the suburbs, included in the questionnaire?

Finally, The UFT questionnaire should have had a question that read "should Randi and her lawyer friends negotiate the next contract rather than the classroom teachers?" I guess we all know the answer to that.

I know there are other items left out of the UFT questionnaire. However, I believe these are the most important.

I would like to hear what other teachers think.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Mayor Bloomberg's & Chancellor Klein's Children Last Program

I have reached the halfway point in teaching summer school in my non-air conditioned building and have come up with the following observations after talking to my students.

First, I have eight students who have been thrown out (explled) of Private/Religious/Charter schools in June. Four of them due to behaviour issues, the rest for poor grades. All are waiting to be placed in the public school system. The rest of my students come from four public high schools and despite their obvious behaviour and academic problems, are forced to go back to their public schools. Let's see under the Chancellor's regulations you can't leave the school if you want to and the public school can't transfer you to another school if you are found to be a disruptive influence. How does this help the child? It doesn't of course.

Second, how can the DOE allow children to learn in non-air conditioned schools? I do notice all the administrators have air conditioners. Maybe the DOE should be using the money they claim their saving on central administration to air condition the summer schools. Oops, I forgot that money has already been allocated to the empowerment school principals not the classroom or it's students.

Third, class size in my classes are reasonable, 26, 28, 32. However, the Living Environment and Math A teachers have class sizes of 40+ each. What a wonderful learning environment for students who have academic problems as is.

Fourth, under the Chancellor's regulations in summer school the teacher cannot automatically expell a disruptive student. Instead an Administrator removes the student and sends the student back to the class the very next day. the student wins and the class loses.

Finally, the summer school program is the stepchild of the DOE funding activities. In particular, the high school students. Therefore, the high school students lack classroom supplies, up-to-date books, and a proper learning environment necessary for the majority of the students to succeed. The DOE would rather give money to Charter schools than use the funds to help prepare high school students who are in danger of not graduating by adequately funding the summer school program.

In conclusion, when it comes to the summer school program it's children last not first!