Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Public Schools 1957 and 2007

I was e-mailed this very cute comparison between the public schools in 1957 and what they are like now. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

SCHOOL -- 1957 vs. 2007

Scenario : Jack goes quail hunting before school, pulls into school parking lot with shotgun in gun rack.
1957 - Vice Principal comes over, looks at Jack's shotgun, goes to his car and gets his shotgun to show Jack.
2007 - School goes into lock down, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.

Scenario: Johnny and Mark get into a fistfight after school.
1957 -
Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up buddies..
2007 - Police called, SWAT team arrives, arrests Johnny and Mark. Charge them with assault, both expelled even though Johnny started it.

Scenario: Jeffrey won't be still in class, disrupts other students.
1957 -
Jeffrey sent to office and given a good paddling by the Principal. Returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.
2007 - Jeffrey given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. Tested for ADD. School gets extra money from state because Jeffrey has a disability.

Scenario: Billy breaks a window in his neighbour's car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.
1957 -
Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.
2 007 - Billy's dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy removed to foster care and joins a gang. State psychologist tells Billy's sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy's mom has affair with psychologist.

Scenario: Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school .
1957 -
Mark shares aspirin with Principal out on the smoking dock.
2007 - Police called, Mark expelled from school for drug violations. Car searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario : Pedro fails high school English.
1957 -
Pedro goes to summer school, passes English, goes to college.
2007 - Pedro's cause is taken up by state. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files class action lawsuit against state school system and Pedro's English teacher. English banned from core curriculum. Pedro given diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.

Scenario: Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary. Mary hugs him to comfort him.
1957 -
In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing.
2007 - Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in State Prison. Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy!

As funny as the comparisons are, it's unfortunately true and an example of our public schools today.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Fox And The Scorpion

It is unreal how many times the UFT makes a deal with the DOE only to be "shocked" when the DOE reneges on the agreement. Of course these broken agreements destroys the trust between the two organizations and hurts the very students that we are mandated to improve academically. Is it any wonder that student scores have remained unchanged since beginning of the Kleinberg era?

The relationship between Randi Wiengarten's UFT and Joel Klein's DOE reminds me of the story of the fox and the scorpion. In the story the scorpion could not get across the river when he encountered a fox. Knowing the fox could swim across the river the scorpion asked the fox to carry him over to the other side. The fox, a cunning animal, said "that you are a scorpion and how do I know that if I carry you over the river you won't sting me"? The scorpion replied "why would I do that? If I sting you we both die". The fox thought about it and said hop on. As the fox was halfway to the other side, the scorpion stings the fox. As the fox feels the poison moving through his body he said "why did you sting me? We both are going to die now". The scorpion's response. "I stung you because that is what I am".

Look at all the agreements the UFT have with the DOE that were either altered, changed, or reneged on.

  • The fair student funding program that according to the UFT won't penalize older and highly-paid teachers. Guess again. The DOE is already looking to eliminate that agreement. Furthermore, in anticipation of the fair student funding changes, principals are already trying to hire lower-paid newbie or young teachers.
  • The seniority transfer program. The UFT's spin mister Leo Casey in Edwize told everybody that more teachers can transfer because the principals can no longer hide the open positions in the schools. What Leo Casey failed to tell us is that only the younger and lower-paid teachers were being hired under the open market transfer program. The older and highly-paid teachers were being added to the ATR ranks.
  • The reduction of ATR's and "rubber room" teachers. The UFT has assured it's ATR's and "rubber room" teachers that she is working on a deal to reduce their ranks in the Fall of 2007. The result? There have been no apparent reduction in either group.
  • Increased paperwork mandated by the DOE. Despite assurances by Joel and Randi, the paperwork for the classroom teachers have not been reduced, if anything it is still increasing and there appears to be no end in sight.
  • The establishment of the DOE "firing squad" that the UFT knew about but didn't object to until it hit the newspapers.
  • The 27/55 retirement program for newbie teachers resulting in a de facto Tier V pension plan. This new pension plan will save the city millions of dollars on the backs of these newbie teachers. Why not 25/55 for them? Wasn't this plan supposed to be revenue neutral?
  • The 60-90 day suspension without pay for non-criminal conduct. Randi Weingarten in a delegate assembly meeting told the DA that only teachers subject to felony arrest would be subject to this provision. However, many teachers have been suspended without pay or health benefits without the police every being called.
  • The "Holy Thursday" controversy. Despite an ongoing agreement that teachers are allowed to take off for religious observance, the DOE told principals that they don't have to allow teachers to take off. While the UFT did go to court and received a stay. The mere fact that the DOE has the gall to even try this is a show in bad faith and a continuation of their anti-teacher crusade.
It's time for the UFT to stop being the fox and stay away from the DOE scorpion. Cooperating with the scorpion just results in teachers getting stung time and again.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Dismanteling And Eventual Elimination Of Jamaica High School By The DOE

In the news lately has been the placement of a Bill Gates 6-12 school in part of Jamaica High School for the 2008-2009 school year. Once the crown jewel of the nation's schools, Jamaica High School has steadily went downhill academically and was listed as one of the "most dangerous schools" in the State last year. The school's academic downfall was aided and abetted by the deliberate policies of the DOE which systematically dumped too many students who were ill-prepared for high school into Jamaica High School. These not ready for high school students who normally would have gone to other schools, found these schools no longer were taking in students. The small schools that replaced them did not pick them up because they did not have to. Therefore, they were sent to an already struggling high school , Jamaica. Furthermore, Jamaica High School seemed to be DOE's favorite school when students released after being incarcerated needed to finish their education. Hence the school's nickname "Rikers Prep". After complaints by parents, students, and teachers, the DOE turned around and starved the school of students which resulted in drastic budget cuts. Further, over 170 students left the school after Jamaica High School was unfairly placed under "The Most Dangerous Schools" list.

The apparent dismantling of Jamaica High School and it's eventual destruction appears to be an ill-conceived plan to eliminate all the large traditional high schools by Tweed. First overcrowd them until they complain, then starve them and eventually dismantle them. It's happening at Jamaica and will happen to the other schools I'm sure the truncated Jamaica High School will be limited to fewer and fewer students as the Gates school grows and expands. It won't be long before the remains of Jamaica High School will be converted into small learning communities (i.e. Springfield Gardens, Far Rockaway, etc.). This transition will result in many veteran teachers leaving (voluntarily and involuntarily) the school and leaving an inexperienced teaching staff behind. A true recipe for failure. Just look at Springfield Gardens and Far Rockaway high schools.

I wish only the best for the staff of Jamaica High School and their shinning light, James Eterno, but I am glad that I am not there to experience the destruction of a proud school with a history of tradition and accomplishment.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Unholy Alliance Between The DOE & UFT Has Weakened Teacher DUE Process Rights Under The 3020-a Regulations

This is another article about the damage that the 2005 contract has on the classroom teacher and their consequences to the New York City Teaching Profession. This article deals with the unholy alliance between the DOE and UFT in weakening teacher due process rights under their agreed upon revision of the State 3020-a regulations. Under Article 21G of the contract the revised DOE/UFT 3020-a procedures are spelled out (except the hidden side agreements - an example of this is Appendix H of the "probable cause" section). The problem with this collective bargaining agreement between the DOE and UFT is it significantly weakens "due process" protections for tenured teachers. Why do I say this? Let's compare the State 3020-a law with the revised DOE/UFT 3020-a process.

First, selection of arbitrators: In the State 3020-a law a tenured teacher has the right to reject an arbitrator, if the teacher and lawyer believes the arbitrator shows a pattern of making decisions unfavorable to teachers. By comparison, the DOE/UFT 3020-a process does not allow a teacher and lawyer to reject the assigned arbitrator. In other words, the teacher is stuck even if the arbitrator has reached decisions that have been unfavorable to teachers. In addition, under the State 3020-a law for teachers accused of incompetence are allowed to select a three arbitrator panel. While the DOE/UFT 3020-a process does not. A tremendous disadvantage for the tenured teacher charged with incompetence. Furthermore, with the State 3020-a regulations an arbitrator can only hear one case every two years for any New York State school district. This was done so that the arbitrator was not pressured to compromise the decision due to financial reasons. Hearing one case every two years for any New York State school district makes the arbitrator immune to financial pressures that may affect the decision. However, in the DOE/UFT 3020-a process the arbitrators can hear more than ten cases every year. Since they get $1,800 per day and may work fifty days or more during the year they can make $90,000 if they work five days a month for ten months! Do you think these arbitrators are subject to pressure from both sides in their decision making? You bet they are! Wouldn't you? I'm not saying the arbitrators don't make the proper decisions but to keep their positions they must please both sides. Finally, under State 3020-a law there is little familiarity between the arbitrators, and lawyers. However, in the DOE/UFT 3020-a process the arbitrator is linked with a DOE and NYSUT lawyer who may work together for up to three years. This familiarity also may affect the arbitrator's decision-making. Remember if the arbitrator makes one or the other lawyers angry, their smooth working relationship is in jeopardy. Therefore, the arbitrator will tend to try to keep that relationship going at the expense of a truly fair decision.

Second, the "probable cause section". The State 3020-a law does not allow tenured teachers to be suspended without pay, unless convicted of a felony crime. However, the DOE/UFT 3020-a process does allow tenured teachers to be suspended for up to 90 days without pay and health benefits for non-criminal charges!

Third, the SCI investigation. there are no deals when a tenured teacher is subject to a Special Commissioner of Investigation ("SCI") review. If SCI substantiates even frivolous or minor alleged misconduct, then 3020-a charges are almost sure to follow. If 3020-a charges are filed the DOE & SCI have an unwritten side agreement that only the arbitrator can make the decision. No deals between the two lawyers can be negotiated. This unreasonable agreement just lengthens the 3020-a process and keeps teachers in "rubber rooms" for two years or more before their cases are finally heard. Under State 3020-a law there are no such agreements that I could find. While the UFT is not part of this agreement, they certainly have not objected to this. I wonder why?

That brings me to why I call the New York State 3020-a regulations law and the DOE/UFT regulations a process. There is some question if the DOE/UFT collective bargaining agreement on the 3020-a process violates the State constitution and federal "due process" rights. While I am not a lawyer and don't even pretend to understand why the DOE/UFT 3020-a process is possibly unconstitutional based upon either the New York State and Federal regulations, I do know that some people believe it does. Apparently in the teachers4action.com lawsuit this very issue came up and is under review. Hopefully, the State or Federal Courts eventually rules that the DOE/UFT 3020-a process is unconstitutional and that tenured teacher "due process" rights are restored.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Credit Recovery Program And The High School Graduation Rate

Over the last few years the four year graduation rate has inched up from 43% to close to 50%. However, how valid is the 50% graduation rate? We all know how DOE has spun school statistics to the point that only the local media think they are valid. People in education understand that statistics coming out of the DOE needs to be very closely scrutinized before they can be accepted.

This brings up the "credit recovery program" and how it affects the high school graduation rate.
The "credit recovery program" allows seniors (mostly) to get credit for courses that they never bothered to show up to or did no work in so that they can graduate. The "credit recovery system" is an uneven program that ranges from a student just doing three essays, to online instruction, to intensive winter or spring break classes. The New York Times describes some of these "credit recovery programs" Here.

It appears nobody has a handle on how much the "credit recovery system" affects the high school graduation rate. Not the State of New York, not Joel Klein's DOE, and not Randi Weingarten's UFT. Is it 1% or 10%? Who knows? However, with principals feeling more and more pressure to improve their school's graduation rate, be it to keep their jobs or to increase their bonus, does lead one to wonder how abusive is this practice. How many students are getting a free ride to graduation without doing the proper course work? Furthermore, are we talking about one class or many classes? Are we speaking about a good student that needs some help or the lazy and misbehaving student that the school administrators want to push out? Again, no real answers. It appears each school can set up their own "credit recovery program" with little or no supervision about it's content. Granted, these seniors still must achieve a "55" on their Regents exams to obtain a local diploma (no the "55" is not a typo, that is the score it takes to get a local diploma). However, is it really right for these students who chose not to attend class or do no work to get this break? According to the DOE yes. If it helps the DOE's graduation rate, they are all for it. In Tweed the ends justify the means.

By the way Andrew Wolf had a very interesting editorial in the New York Sun about why student scores are flat. Here

Thursday, April 10, 2008

My Philosophy On Why Child Advocates & Lawyers Are Destroying The New York City Public Schools

Educational bloggers and commenters are always trying to brand me with a political label. My friend, nyc educator thinks I am a right wing Republican while others (remember no slappz, & nyc parent?) have accused me of being a left wing Democrat. My philosophy is that of an independent thinker in action and deed. I can easily support Obama or McCain, who appeal to the independent voter like myself. My independent streak extends to our union. I am not a member of any of the caucuses, Unity, ICE, or TJC. However, I do have many ideas and will be happy to share them with you. My biggest complaint is how two special interests groups are destroying the New York City public schools.

The greatest problem with the New York City public school system are the influences of "child advocates and lawyers" . The "child advocates" have allowed the student to weld tremendous power and any disciplining of the student by the teacher can result in the teacher being brought up on charges. Further the "child advocates" mistakenly believe that all children can pass academic tests, if only the quality of teaching was better. The result is increasingly frustrated students who, instead of being put into a vocational setting, are dumped into an academic program that they have little chance to succeed in. The New York City public school system has responded to the "child advocates" by limiting the vocational schools and programs for these students. An example of this is Thomas Edison High School, once a vocational school that catered to students who were good with their hands, like an auto mechanic or technician. Presently, Thomas Edison is recruiting the mechanical and electrical engineer types rather than the vocational student. The auto mechanic student is relegated to either the few remaining and overcrowded vocational schools or an academic high school.

The "lawyers" who increasingly reside in the upper reaches of the central bureaucracy have responded to the "child advocates" by imposing regulations to make it difficult to discipline students while making it easy to discipline the teacher. A good example of this is the verbal abuse/corporal punishment part of the regulations. A student can curse or threaten a teacher and the worst that will happen to that student is a three day removal from the teacher's classroom. Even a physical assault will not suspend the student for more than a month or two. On the other hand if a teacher is alleged to have verbally belittled or embarrassed the student such as telling the student "your a liar" can get that teacher removed from the classroom for years and subject to termination. Why such a discrepancy between the student and teacher discipline codes? The lawyers are afraid that parents , encouraged by "child advocates" would sue. Therefore, it is easier to remove the teacher than discipline the student. What about the collateral damage done by the removal of the teacher to his/her students? That factor does not seem to be part of the equation. To the "lawyers" the removal of the teacher based upon a student allegation is more important than the academic well-being of the rest of the students. Is it any wonder that based upon national tests and State Regents that little academic progress has been attained since 2003?

I am not naive, I do know that there are many other factors that affect the New York City education system. However, in my opinion it is these two special interest groups "child advocates" and "lawyers" that makes teaching and learning so difficult for student and teacher alike.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

How The DOE Can Save Money The Next School Year

We all know that the DOE must reduce it's budget next year by 324 million dollars. That is a significant cut in the education budget and will mean tightening the financial belt for the schools. Where will these budget cuts fall on? If past experience is an indication, it will be on the schools and not the central bureaucracy. This year's cuts of 180 million dollars resulted in only 15 million dollars being cut from Tweed (maybe less if some consultant services budgeted for were discontinued or delayed), not the 100 million dollars originally claimed by the DOE. All the rest came from the schools with some large high schools getting over a $400,000 dollar budget cut. Painful is not the word. These budget cuts caused a reduction in tutoring programs, club activities, and after school programs. Meanwhile Tweed gave the "Quality Review" international consultants a 9% increase in their contract. The priorities by Tweed is very obvious to me, screw the schools but keep the central bureaucracy and their highly paid consultants satisfied. DOE's "Children Last" program continues unabated. An article by Dan Brown in the Huffington Post about the damage budget cuts have done to the schools can be found Here

The question is what happens net year? Where will the cuts be? Being realistic, I see DOE continuing to cut school budgets but hold the line for the central bureaucracy. Tweed might snip a consultant or two off the DOE money train. Just Tweed window dressing but nothing too significant.

For the next school year I believe the DOE can save significant funds if they follow my advice.

First, place all ATR's in schools and stop hiring newbie teachers until all excessed teachers are placed in the classroom. With 1000+ ATR's the DOE is not only wasting talent and experience but is paying almost 80 million dollars for these ATR's to be day-to-day subs or do clerical work.

Second, as I have stated previously, more and more teachers have been removed from the classroom and warehoused in "rubber rooms" . There is probably at least 800 such teachers, not included teachers that are taken out of the classroom and sitting in schools while waiting for reassignment to the "rubber rooms". Of the reassigned teachers, probably 10% belong there. However, the rest are there for false, minor, or frivolous misconduct charges or accused of incompetence because the administrator doesn't like them. How much money is wasted by the DOE? My best guess is 58 million dollars (this figure assumes that the 90% of the "rubber room" teachers do not belong there). That means 137 million dollars are wasted between the ATR's and the "rubber room" teachers!

Third, eliminate the principal leadership academy and the 17 million dollars that the DOE has allocated to continue it or some other principal development program next year. In a year where money is tight, how can the DOE justify spending an additional 17 million dollars on such a wasteful program that results in principals with little classroom experience.

Fourth, discontinue, disband, or don't even start these wasteful "Data Inquiry Teams" that spend precious money to collect data that is of little use to the schools.

Fifth, Severely cut down on the highly-paid consultant services that draw money away from the schools and their students. A case in point is the 80 million dollar AIRS supercomputer system that has not worked properly yet.

Sixth, ensure that the central bureaucracy get their fare share of budget cuts. Based upon this year you can't trust Tweed to fairly allocated budget cuts. Transparency is a must to show that the budget cuts are evenly distributed between the bureaucracy and the schools.

Finally, stop the "Tweed "Gotcha Squad" that will waste one million dollars on how to stop tenure and document teacher incompetence.

I don't pretend to know how much my recommendations will save but it would put a significant dent in the reduced budget given to the DOE by Bloomberg. Of course I don't expect any of my recommendations to be considered by the DOE. Therefore, the DOE's "Children Last" policy will continue as the schools and students suffer while the bureaucrats at Tweed are little affected.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Randi's Actions Are Incrementally Worsening The Teacher Profession

Randi Weingarten, in a New York Times puff piece was proud to point out how she wanted incremental and sustainable changes in the New York City education system, I did an investigation of these incremental changes she brought us and here is what I found.

First, Randi gave us the 192 day year for us. Including those wonderful two days in August. Yes, she certainly incrementally increased our work year.

Second, Randi gave us the extra 150 minutes of classroom time during the week. Thanks Randi for incrementally increasing our work day.

Third, Randi has allowed the DOE to incrementally increase the paperwork that the classroom teacher must do. Another promise Randi has kept.

Fourth, Randi has allowed the DOE to increase the number of "ATR" and "rubber room" teachers. Here again Randi has kept her promise to incrementally change the New York City education system.

Fifth, Randi agreed to incrementally increase teacher administrative duties such as cafeteria, hallway, and potty patrol. Way to go Randi.

Sixth, Randi has agreed with the DOE to incrementally increase the number of teachers, subject to a 90-day unpaid suspension and no health benefits based upon hearsay.

Seventh, there appears to have been an incremental increase in Letters-To-File (LIF) since we cannot grieve them anymore.

Finally, Randi has seen more and more teachers leave the system as she buys into the DOE's recruitment over retention policy. Yes Randi has kept her word in incrementally increasing the resignations of New York City teachers.

Some bloggers call Randi Weingarten a liar. However, in this case Randi has lived up to her promise to incremental and sustainable changes in the New York City educational system. Unfortunately, these incremental changes have worsened the New York City teacher profession but why should she care? Randi and her inner staff are not in the classroom and not subject to any of the incremental and sustainable actions that have affected the classroom teacher.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I AccuseThe Union Of Eroding Teacher Rights & What They Need To Do To Reverse It

I accuse the UFT of not protecting teacher rights. The retreat by this union under Randi Weingarten and her friends has made teaching in the classroom unbearable. That's assuming you are not an ATR or in the "rubber room". I do not come to my accusation lightly. I fact, I am very reluctant to write this article but I have had enough how we teachers are disrespected not only by the DOE and their media minions but by our own union leaders who look the other way as more and more mandates are dumped on the classroom teacher. I accuse this union of betraying it's members and demand that the union present my twelve point plan to allow teachers to teach with respect and dignity.

First, The union agreement to allow a non-educator to be chancellor was a mistake and needs to be ended. The chancellor controls the DOE budget priorities and his emphasis has been the hiring of more and more non-educators at the top levels at Tweed at the expense of the educator.

Second, mayoral control. Who in their right mind would allow one person (the mayor) to determine policy for an education system that he has no understanding of. This too must end. The two most powerful people who control the schools are both non-educators who are clueless what goes on in a classroom. How could a union allow this?

Third, The October 2005 contract disaster that made teaching in the classroom unbearable. The union must recover all the givebacks in the next contract. Not one but all! This terrible contract givebacks for you teachers who forgot what you gave up are listed below.
  • Increased workday - 150 more minutes a week in the classroom.
  • Longer work year - 192 days this year alone.
  • Elimination of grievances for Letters-In-File (LIF).
  • Elimination of the Seniority Transfer System.
  • Inclusion of administrative assignments - cafeteria, hallway, and bathroom duties.
  • The expansion of the number of ATR's.
  • The suspension of a teacher for up to 90 days without pay and health benefits based upon hearsay evidence.
Fourth, the union must stop allowing a steady increase of teachers reassigned to the "rubber rooms" based upon frivolous, or minor charges. The increase under Bloomberg and Klein went from 315 in March 2003 to 757 in October 2007. Rumors are that this number is still increasing as the "rubber rooms" are bursting at the seems.

Fifth, stop the recruitment over the retention of teachers approach. Our union seems more concerned with recruiting teachers than retaining teachers. Just look at the givebacks on the classroom teacher just so that our union could pay the newbie teacher a competitive salary. Is there any wonder that we have seen teacher resignations double to 4,600 last school year? How about those housing vouchers and loan forgiveness programs for newbie teachers?

Sixth, stop allowing the DOE to hire teachers from alternative certification programs (Teach for America & Teaching Fellows programs) as well as conducting an intergalactic job fair for foreign teachers while experienced teachers are relegated to be ATR's.

Seventh, The union's acceptance of the dismantling of the large traditional high school and the resulting overcrowding of the remaining large high schools is disgusting. To further spike the data the union looks the other way as small schools don't need to take special education and ELA students for the first two years. Further, these small schools can weed out the level one students with attendance and/or behavior problems. By the way where do you think these students end up? Right. the remaining large, increasingly overcrowded, traditional high schools.

Eight, The union's acceptance of weakened and non-enforcement of student discipline codes. The union should be demanding a strengthening of the student discipline code and bring charges against administrators who refuse to enforce these codes.

Ninth, Demand that the DOE culture of teacher disrespect end by requiring a fair and impartial investigation of any alleged teacher misconduct. presently, a principal can find any excuse to remove a teacher and the non-educators that are at Tweed assume the teacher is guilty until proven not guilty (you expected me to say innocent?. According to the DOE no teacher is innocent if accused).

Tenth, Go back to the State 3020-a process, where teachers have due process rights.

Eleventh, all excessed teachers must be placed before a school district would be allowed to hire a newbie teacher in that subject area.

Twelfth, make the Fair Student Formula (FSF) for the schools salary blind and does not give the lower salaried teacher an advantage as it does now.

Under Randi Weingarten and her staff the once-strong union has become reactive rather than pro-active. All I hear from our union leaders are talk, talk, talk, but little action. Under her leadership we have seen a deterioration of the classroom environment and teacher respect. It's time to stop the DOE micromanagement of the classroom and let teachers teach the way that is best for the students in that teacher's classroom