Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Racial Gap Fails To Close - DOE's Children Last Program Continues

The DOE propaganda machine continues their spin on how they are improving minority student achievement. However, a national study by the Schott Foundation For Public Education has shown that the racial gap is not closing. Especially for the black male student. The New York Post reported that the percentage of black males that graduate from high school was only 32% in New York City while the white male student graduation rate was was 57%. New York City ranked a dismal 54th compared to the 67 large school districts surveyed. That means only 13 school districts ranked worse than NYC in the black male graduation rate. A quote by the president of the research group that did the study is quite telling.

"When you have a 32 percent graduation rate you're talking about the largest cadre of black male dropouts in the country - so it's a significant issue in New York."

Of course, the Kleinberg administration will tell us otherwise. They will claim that their policies are closing the racial gap and will continue to do so. I guess Tweed doesn't include black male students in their analysis. Interestingly, the research group complained about the availability and reliability of data from NYC in the footnotes of their report, when compared to the rest of the Nation. I guess when you spin statistics like Tweed does, it becomes difficult for organizations to obtain transparent and accurate data.

The Kleinberg "children last" program continues unchallenged in the New York City Public Schools.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Two-Faced DOE Propaganda Machine

During the Kleinberg administration the two-faced DOE propaganda machine has been working in overdrive as they have presented to the outside world how well they are improving the NYC public schools and if only they could rid themselves of Teacher tenure, they could achieve even better results. Tweed has spun statistics, lacks transparency on allocations, and ignore teacher input as they present their two-faced policy on the city schools. Let's look at the Tweed spin machine and the truth of what is going on in the NYC public schools.

  1. Student improvement: - The DOE has trumpeted the alleged improvement in student scores from the increasingly dumbed down State test where every State district did better. The reality is that the NAEP and SAT scores have remained unchanged since the Kleinberg administration took over the schools.
  2. Overcrowding & Large Class Sizes : - The DOE has stated time and again that they are addressing the overcrowding situation & large class sizes. They have also stated that large class sizes is not a problem for student learning. The reality is that many of the attractive public schools are grossly overcrowded, some having three times their capacity. In addition, NYC has the highest class sizes in the State. All independent studies show that the smaller the class size, the better the learning environment.
  3. Quality Teaching: - The DOE claims that they want quality teachers in the classroom. The reality is that many principals are hiring newbies and many of them from "TFA" and the "Teaching Fellows" program. Few of these teachers last the five years necessary to master the classroom environment and become a quality teacher.
  4. Recruitment Over Retention: - The DOE has spent time, money, and effort in recruiting teachers to the schools by intergalactic advertisements, giving tuition reimbursement, and rent subsidies. However, no such programs are available for teachers already in the system. Is it any wonder that over 4,600 teachers resigned in 2007? Look for it to be higher this year.
  5. Teacher Respect: - The DOE claims that they respect Teachers and that they give the classroom teacher the support they need. The reality is that Tweed fosters an atmosphere of teacher disrespect. How many teachers have found themselves teaching in trailers in overcrowded schools? Have inadequate supplies and support? Why is there n ATR crises? Overcrowded "rubber rooms"? Teacher respect? Not in the Kleinberg administration.
  6. Small Schools: - The DOE claims that small schools work and add to student improvement. However, the DOE allows the small schools to select the incoming student body and is allowed to exempt special education and ELA students for the first couple of years. In addition, they usually don,t take level 1 students who have attendance and disciplinary problems. Little wonder that the first few graduating classes have good results, when compared to the large comprehensive high schools. The reality is that these small schools are usually run by a "Leadership Academy Principal" with little classroom experience and they make a point of selecting inexperienced and inexpensive teachers to run the classrooms. Further, once the small schools are required to take the very students that they excluded when they formed, their graduation rates will reflect it.
  7. Large Comprehensive High Schools: - The DOE claims that it is to the advantage of the student to break down the large comprehensive high school into smaller /charter schools. The reality is that if the Large Comprehensive High School works, they grossly overcrowd it. If not, they allow the bottom feeders and the students excluded from the small schools to hasten the destruction of the school. What is left unsaid by the DOE is that the large comprehensive high school has a wide variety of courses, majors, and extracurricular activities, unavailable to the small/charter schools.
  8. Charter Schools: - The DOE claims the Charter Schools do much better than the neighborhood schools. However, they fail to mention that all Charter Schools have a parent interview and involvement program. Therefore, only those parents that bother to apply and agree to help the school have their children accepted. THE REALITY IS COMPARING CHARTER SCHOOLS TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD PUBLIC SCHOOL IS LIKE COMPARING APPLES TO ORANGES!
The two-faced DOE propaganda program needs to be blunted at every turn and the truth exposed.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What Is A False Accusation By An Administrator?

The UFT has championed the new agreement as a "win" for the teachers. However, I and many others beg to differ. This agreement is not a win for the teachers. Far from it, it's the UFT spinning it for the sake of saving face. Let's look at one of the unenforceable agreements that the UFT negotiated with the DOE, "false accusations by administrators".

One of the "wins" that the UFT claims in it's unenforceable agreement with the DOE is that the DOE will take disciplinary action against an administrator for knowingly making a "false accusation" against a teacher. Sounds good. Finally, the DOE will take action against administrators that make "false allegations". Right? Wrong! The key world here is knowingly! The DOE regulations state that a complainant made in "good faith" even if found to be unsubstantiated, will not be considered a "false accusation". To prove a knowingly "false accusation" is nearly impossible, based upon the DOE regulations. Let's take a couple of examples on why this is true. Note: The three cases below are a composite of various cases told to me and are not actual cases.

Example 1: A very popular teacher who also is not well-liked by an administrator, due to personal reasons, is taken out of the classroom as rumors circulate that the teacher is having an inappropriate relationship with a student. After an SCI investigation the rumor is unsubstantiated and a year later the teacher is sent back to the school. Is this a "false accusation"? The answer is no. According to the DOE regulations the Principal acted in "good faith" and is not subject to disciplinary action.

Example 2: An administrator claimed that she was informed by a parent that a teacher grabbed her child by the shoulders and arm and roughly pushed her into the seat. OSI investigated the alleged incident and could not substantiate the complaint. In fact, the student stated that all the teacher did was touch her shoulder and told her "to be quiet". The parent was interviewed and stated that I told the administrator that I would appreciate it if you tell the teacher not to embarrass my child in front of other children. Is this a "false allegation"? Of course not, just because the administrator may have twisted, perverted, and embellished the action, the incident still happened. Hence, it is not a knowingly a "false accusation".

Example 3: A student was sexually abused by a former boyfriend outside the school grounds and complained to an administrator about it. The administrator, after talking to the parent, decided not to report the incident. The student then told a teacher who followed procedures and reported it to guidance which reported it to ACS and NYPD. The administrator retaliated against the teacher, accussing the teacher of inappropriate behavior with students and had the teacher removed, pending an SCI investigation. Is this a "false accusation"? Not a chance, even if SCI cannot substantiate the accusation their report will give the complainant enough "wiggle room" so as not to cite the administrator of making a "false accusation". The key word is "knowingly". How do you prove this? The answer you can't. The result? Don't hold your breath waiting for the DOE to discipline administrators.

My opinion of thie UFT/DOE agreement?Take this agreement and shove it!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Why I Broke My Vow Not To Comment On Edwize

I broke an almost three year silence on commenting on Edwize after reading Ron Issac's article on the the recently negotiated agreement with the DOE on the Teachers Reassignment Center (TRC) commonly known as the "rubber room". I couldn't let the article and Ron Isaac's betrayal of the teachers he is supposed to represent go without responding to it. It is bad enough that the UFT keeps negotiating with the DOE at the expense of the teachers but it is worse when they brag how they helped the teachers when common sense suggests otherwise. The Ice blog and myself previously wrote a piece about how this settlement was not good for the teachers and can be found here.

First, I must comment on how most people think that the teachers reassigned to the TRC belong there. Nothing is farther from the truth. Most teachers are reassigned to the "rubber room" due to incompetent, vindictive, or insecure principals. Furthermore, ageism and salary are also a factor. Finally, the investigative process is one-sided and unfair, every teacher can be accussed oi misconduct or incompetence if the administration is out to get you. Since only 7% of the teachers, subject to 3020-a charges are actually terminated, the question is why make things easier for the DOE in their persecution of teachers? Leave it to the UFT in doing just that with their agreement with Tweed. Let's look at how Ron Issac spun the agreement.

  • The principals no longer need to show up at the 3020-a hearing but can testify from the comfort of their office where notes and reminders are sitting on their desk. Where is the teacher's due process rights? What happened to the right of facing your accuser? How is this a win Ron?
  • The disciplinary process that is one-sided and unfair, remains unchanged. Why didn't the union demand an independent investigation to determine if the teacher needs to be removed? If the DOE and UFT wanted to reduce the "rubber room" overcrowding they could have had an independent arbitrator review the existing cases to determine if they should be sent back to the classroom. How is this a win Ron when the process remains unchanged?
  • The adding of 8 arbitrators is a win for the DOE and a loss for the teachers. Three out of four teachers want the process to run as long as possible. Even Randi acknowledged this. The longer the hearing process goes, the fuzzier the memory, witnesses disappear, and the web of half-truths fall apart. Expediting the 3020-a hearing process not only saves the DOE money, but helps them in their case against the teacher. This further weakens the safeguards of teacher "due process" rights. This is another win Ron?
  • The unenforceabilty of any DOE decision that violates this agreement. The UFT does not have any enforceable authority if the DOE does not follow the agreement, and of course as history has shown, Tweed will only follow what they want to. Anything that is not enforceable is not worth the paper it's written on.
At one time Ron Issac fought the union and was respected for his advocacy for the teachers in need. However, since blogging with a phony name to support the terrible 2005 contract that has resulted in the problems we have today, Ron has become a shrill for the same people that he would rant about. Gone are the days Ron Issac was an advocate for the teachers. Now he is just one of the many Randi's cronies who does what's right for the union leaders and not for it's members. In my opinion Ron Issac rivals Leo Casey as a spin meister that is not worthy of the classroom teachers' respect.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The DOE Is Reading Our Blogs

It is good to know that the DOE is spending precious education money to have it's staff reading our blogs. Imagine, Kleinberg mandates cuts throughout the school system but they employ staff at Tweed to read our blogs! Norm of ednotes online doesn't think we are on their list. However, I beg to differ and believe many of us are on the ever changing list of 24 education bloggers that the DOE wastes precious time and money on. What is this group at Tweed called? Why, it's the "truth squad". It sounds like an oxymoron to me. How can an organization that twists, spins, and perverts information on a continuous basis know anything about the truth? How much extra money is assigned to this ridiculous group?

Where did the name "truth squad" come from? Well it seems to be the idea of that wonderful Deputy Chancellor, straight from the private school sector, Christopher Cerf. He was quoted as saying

"We try to keep track of what people are saying about us, and we respond periodically," a deputy schools chancellor, Christopher Cerf, who came up with the Truth Squad concept, said. "Because we believe in the truth."

I can't believe it, Tweed searching for the truth? Is this the same organization that allows lying administrators to do as they please in their schools? Is this the same organization who doesn't let the facts interfere in their investigation against a teacher? Is this the same organization that causes the ATR crises and overcrowded "rubber rooms" and blames it on the union? I think I get it. Since Tweed doesn't know what the truth is, they must form a "truth squad" to learn what the real truth is! By the way, the complete New York Sun article on the DOE "truth squad" by Elizabeth Green can be found here.

George Orwell would be happy to know that "big brother " is alive and well in the form of Tweed's "truth squad".

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

My Education Heroes And Those Nasty Villains

I was recently asked a question by a colleague who do I think are the heroes and the villains in educating the public school children of New York City. I have thought about it and have come up with my list. Excluding the real heroes, the teachers and paras in the classroom!

Heroes: The education bloggers who write about the flawed education policy by Kleinberg , called "children last". Special praise are given to nyc educator, ednotes online, and nyc public school parents as they keep us constantly updated on a daily basis.

My chapter leader who time and again took on the principals in my school and usually won because he knew the contract inside out and was able to intimidate these principals. He made sure we knew our rights and fought tooth and nail to ensure our rights were not violated. Without this chapter leader, life would be much more difficult for the staff in my school. A good chapter leader is a necessity for a school staff to work well in a school. However, there are some chapter leaders that are much too friendly with the principal and are kiss-ups. These chapter leaders need to be replaced for the school staff's own good.

Betsy Combier, an advocate who has taken up the cause of parents with children with disabilities and teachers unjustly accussed of misconduct or incompetence. Yes, she works part-time for Randi Weingarten at the UFT and she has her detractors, but this hasn't stopped her from representing teachers as they face 3020-a charges. She even attends their 3020-a hearings to assist the teacher's NYSUT or private attorney. She goes out of her way to help teachers in trouble.

Villains: Joel Klein and his cronies at Tweed. Never has there been a more anti-teacher group of non-educators that have caused such collateral damage to the classroom and the teaching profession with their "children last" program. Just look at the ATR crises and the overcrowded "rubber rooms" resulting from Tweed's misguided policies.

The investigative process, whether done by the Principal, OSI, or SCI, is biased and unfair. Their motto should be "Don't let the facts interfere with our version of the story".

The media, especially the New York Daily News and the New York Post. The newspapers rarely take an even-handed approach and blindly follows the DOE line.

The small schools that replace the closing of big schools that are a major cause of the ATR crisis.

Bully principals whom have been given a free hand by Tweed to wreck havoc on their teaching staff. This is especially true of the "Leadership Academy Principal" who has little or no classroom experience.

UFT's Unity caucus leaders that has lost touch with what is important to the average classroom teacher. Time and again Randi Weingarten and her insiders negotiate with the DOE and the results are usually bad for the teacher.

I would like comments on what your education heroes and villains are.

Thanks to Eduwonkette for the use of her clip art.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

UFT Negotiates A Deal With The DOE & The Teachers Are Screwed Yet Again

Just days after the school year ended the UFT negotiated away more due process rights of the very teachers the union is supposed to represent. Despite repeated protests by "rubber room" teachers that the UFT should not add arbitrators to speed up the process and demand a truly independent investigation system for determining whether a teacher needs to be removed. Randi ignored her own members and liaisons and has teamed-up with the DOE to speed up, not improve or reform, the teacher disciplinary process. Of course the UFT championed this agreement as a triumph for the teachers in their press release. However, the UFT spin machine doesn't tell the truth. A more accurate analysis of this agreement can be found on the ICE-UFT blog. Unfortunately, even the ICE-UFT blog didn't get it completely right. Let's see how the agreement will really affect the disciplinary process.

First, three out of four (75%) teachers reassigned to the "rubber room" DO NOT WANT THEIR CASES SPEEDILY RESOLVED! The longer it takes to get a 3020-a hearing, the harder it is for the DOE to prove their case against the teacher. Memories get fuzzy, stories change, and witnesses disappear. In many cases, an already weak case becomes that much weaker as the alleged evidence turns out to be hearsay or non-existent. Randi knows that it was in the accussed teacher's best interest to allow their case to take years to be heard. Why did she agree to a speedier hearing without real reform in the investigative process is another example of her giving in to Kleinberg at the expense of the teachers she is supposed to protect.

Second, the UFT failed to reform the disciplinary process There is no independent investigative process put into place despite repeated teacher complaints about unfair and biased investigations. Notice there is no mention of the investigations conducted by the Special Commissioner of Investigations (SCI) which has up to a year to write their report? The reason is that there is an unwritten agreement between Tweed and SCI that no settlements can be offered by the DOE lawyers no matter how frivolous the case is once SCI substantiated the alleged incident. The UFT/DOE agreement does not change this unholy agreement that causes long delays in the hearing process.

Third, the principal no longer needs to show up at the 3020-a hearing. That means the teacher no longer has the right to face his/her accuser. The principal can just phone it in from his office and keep notes around his desk to remind him of what he needs to say. Another erosion of teacher due process rights.

Finally, the DOE only agreed to review a Principal's decision to remove a teacher and unless you believe in the tooth fairy. If so, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. Very few of the Principal's decisions will be reversed by Tweed, given their anti-teacher bias. Further "general grounds" for removal is not defined and if the teacher is subject to an SCI investigation, which many are, the above agreement does not apply.

The UFT proclaimed that if an administrator makes a false allegation against a teacher they will be subject to disciplinary action. Yeah right! However, what about the administrator who takes an innocent action and perverts, embellishes, or twists it into misconduct. Does that fall under false accusations? Of course not.

The UFT/DOE agreement also reaffirms that a 3020-a pre-hearing be held and that teachers removed from their schools end up in their borough rubber room whenever possible. Both of these issues are already required and should not have been necessary in this agreement.

I agree with Jeff Kaufman of ICE that the UFT/DOE agreement is unenforceable by the UFT and is not in the best interests of the teachers. As for Randi Weingarten's statement that "justice delayed is justice denied" rings hollow as she agreed to further erode teacher due process rights.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Bully Principal

Since the Kleinberg era the New York City schools have seen less and less veteran teachers working their way into administration. Almost gone is the 10+ year veteran teacher who becomes an administrator and after 5+ years as an Assistant Principal is finally given a Principal's job. While not all these old-time principals were good, most of them did work with the school staff and didn't forget their roots as a veteran teacher. However, under the Kleinberg regime of terror, we now have the "Leadership Academy Principal, who are usually young, with little or no classroom experience, and have difficulty working with school staff.

These Leadership Academy Principals seem to have one characteristic in common. They have little interpersonal skills and "bully" the staff when they don't get their own way. These bully principals harass veteran teachers and will have them removed from the school when given the opportunity. Further, these bully principals will only hire newbie teachers and try to intimidate them to do what the principal wants. Many of these schools are small schools and have a staff that is almost entirely made up of inexperienced teachers. Finally, because the Leadership Academy principal is told to run the school as a business and to work with Tweed, there is no loyalty to the school staff and all incidents, no matter how trivial or minor, is promptly reported to Tweed.

Well, the New York City Public School cannot be run as a business. The students are not widgets and the teachers are not cogs. Every student is different and a teacher must adjust their teaching style, based upon student composition. No one style or model works for every classroom and veteran principals understand that. However, the Leadership Academy Principal obviously doesn't and they demand that their teachers follow the approved model or else. Is in any wonder that in these schools there is anecdotal evidence of an increase in "Letters-To-The-File" (LIF), greater teacher turnover, and low morale. Many of these bully principals have signed on to be "empowerment principals", meaning even less DOE oversight.

You would think that these bully principals would be removed by Tweed. However, the DOE is very slow in removing principals, unlike teachers, principals are presumed innocent and are given every opportunity to correct their problems and even when they are eventually removed from the school 3 to 5 years down the road, just like a bad penny they show up as a principal in another school to continue their regime of terror in that school. Even Chapter Leaders are not immune to the bully Principal. In the New York Teacher, Ron Issacs wrote an article that shows how easy it is to remove a teacher, even a Chapter Leader!

It is time for the UFT stop with the editorials and start suing these bully principals and force Tweed to retreat into a more reasonable stance on what actions allows a principal to remove a teacher. Our union's inaction has caused both the ATR crises and overcrowded "rubber rooms". I have said it again and again, principal abuses will continue until there is a consequence to their abusive actions.