Saturday, January 24, 2009

The DOE Double Standard Continues As Administrators Are Given A Free Pass When Threatening And Telling Second Graders To Lie

The DOE continues treating their Administrators quite differently when allegations of misconduct are found to have occurred. Take the case of the administrators at PS70 in the Bronx. In their zeal to file misconduct charges against a teacher, the Administrators allegedly interrogated 20 frightened second graders and forced them to write written statements about their teacher. They were also accused of threatening the students with suspensions if they told their parents and bribed them with promises about going to McDonald's. However, the Administrators' actions did not go unnoticed. The New York Post was contacted by an outraged parent and reported on it Here.

According to the New York Post article the Administrators involved appears to have violated Chancellor's regulations A-420 (corporal punishment) and A-421 (Verbal abuse). The Administrators' actions meet the A-420 definition of


Furthermore, there interrogation techniques of both threatening and bribing the students violated A-421 found below

"Verbal abuse is not corporal punishment but includes any language that tends to cause fear or physical or mental distress of a student".

Despite apparently violating the two Chancellor regulations, have these Administrators been removed from the school? Of course not. According to the DOE they are currently investigating the accusation. If this was a teacher? The "rubber room" awaits but because they are Administrators, they are presumed innocent and look for this to result in a verbal reprimand and a burial of any adverse actions against the Administrators.

The DOE double standard continues and the beat down of teachers just goes on.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Why The NYC Public Schools Will Continue To Fail As Long As Joel Klein & His Non-Educators At Tweed Are In Charge

I am truly sick of reading those subway signs that say that the NYC schools are improving when the truth is otherwise, Under Chancellor Klein's rule it has become increasingly difficult to effectively teach in the classroom and much needed money is used for a bloated overhead, a failed computer system, and the flavor of the day Charter/small schools. Under our anti-teacher Chancellor and his non-educator minions at Tweed all the alleged academic advances are based upon "smoke and mirrors". When the data is scrutinized, it is obvious that these phony academic advances are based upon dumbed-down New York State tests, restricting learning of other subjects outside of Math & English, and continuous test preparation. Even then there is still no academic improvement according to the national NAEP and SAT tests. Let's look at why I believe under Joel Klein there will be no improvement in real academic achievement in the New York City Schools.

Recruitment over Retention of Teachers: It is a well known fact that Joel Klein has encouraged schools to hire "newbie teachers" and uses the "fair student funding" formula to limit Principals in hiring experienced and highly paid teachers. Many of the small and Charter scho0ls are known to have staff that is almost entirely staffed by first and second year teachers.
The learning curve for these teachers are steep and combined with classroom management and curriculum problems make these teachers ineffective. Further, according to statistics less than 50% of the teachers will be in the New York City school system by their fifth year. Combined with the alternate certification programs such as "Teach for America" and "Teaching Fellows", many of these teachers are clueless in the classroom and the result is a poor student learning environment.

Leadership Academy Principals: Gone are the days when many Principals rose through the ranks from senior teacher, to become an Assistant Principal, and finally as a well-respected Principal. Now many of the Principals have little or no classroom experience and fail to understand what it is like in the classroom. These Principals cannot or will not work collaboratively with their teaching staff and with the Principal now having total control of their schools, it is run more as a dictatorship than as a smooth working relationship that improves both student and teacher morale.

Workshop Model and other One-Size-Fits-All Programs: Once the classroom was the teacher's domain. Only the teacher could decide the best way to reach her students academically. Now Treed treats the students as widgets and the teachers as cogs as if the schools are an assembly line. Many experienced teachers are forced to follow these wasteful and unimaginative programs under threat of insubordination or incompetence charges.

Large Class Size Problems: The New York City Schools have the largest class sizes in the State and despite winning a lawsuit to reduce class size. Klein has used the budget crises to ignore the court order. Rather than reduce class size, Tweed has continued to waste money on the $81 million dollar AIRS system that still doesn't work right, increased his accountability staff, and added more lawyers to file 3020-a charges to terminate teachers for alleged incompetence. An example of this is the $1 million dollar plus Teacher Performance Unit.

Small & Charter Schools: The start up costs for these schools wastes precious money when the school system is desperately short of funds to retain their existing programs and staff. In the long run most of these schools are destined to fail once the excluded students (ESL, Special Ed, and level one discipline problems) are required to be accepted by the school. These schools already experience high teacher turnover and lack experienced teachers with good classroom management skills.

Phony Graduation Rates: The DOE high school graduation rates do not reflect the real graduation rate. The DOE graduate includes the "credit recovery system" that allows students who fail to go to classes to give a couple of essays for a passing grade. Furthermore, today's Principals have changed many a failing grade to passing without the teacher's permission or knowledge to increase the school's graduation rate. Finally, these very same Principals pressure the teacher in giving a failing senior a passing grade to get the student out of the school.

Lack of Transparency at The DOE: It is well known that the DOE lacks transparency and accepts no input from parents, students, or teachers in their decision making. This lack of transparency allows the non-educators at Tweed to decide which of their pet programs can be pushed onto the schools and it does not matter that these programs don't help the students academically and costs the school much needed funds.

Poor Teacher Morale: Under Chancellor Joel Klein teacher morale is at an all time low with the Chancellor's Regulations restricting the disciplining of students while allowing student accusations to cause the removal and possible termination of the teacher. Further, the increase in paperwork allows the classroom teacher with little time to work on new and innovative ideas, even if they were allowed. Finally, the lack of a grievance threat allows the administrators to write as many Letters-To-The-File (LIF) without consequences.

Obama or no Obama, with Chancellor Joel Klein in charge, don't look for any improvement in improving the academics in the New York City Public School system.

Children Last continues......

Sunday, January 18, 2009

DOE's Children Last Program - When A Large School Is Closed & Replaced By Small Schools

Accountable Talk wrote about one of the DOE gimmicks in closing large high schools and bringing in small schools. Therefore, lets go a step further and look at what is happening at a closing large high school. Lets call the school Hoover High. Originally Hoover High was a struggling large comprehensive high school that serviced the low and working class neighborhood it was located in. With a student population of approximately 2,800 students, the school offered a comprehensive academic curriculum and various extra-curricular activities. This included a wide and varied sports program and many clubs. However, the non-educators at Tweed had other ideas for the academically struggling school. They decided to close the school and put four small schools in the building while still leaving the remaining students of Hoover High to graduate out of the closing school. This sharing of dwindling resources, as the total student population dropped to 900, bickering between administrators and staff resulted in a very unsettled transition and accusations of favoritism. Worse, was that the five Principals could not work together and many extra-curricular activities were starved for funding and many of these programs were eliminated. Even updating the school library and obtaining gym equipment could not be completed because of the bickering Principals. Moreover, the new schools have "Leadership Academy Principals" and almost all the teachers hired by these Principals were either Teach For America (TFA) or Teaching Fellows, all "newbie teachers". Very few experienced teachers wanted to or were selected by the insecure Principals to work in these new small schools. The result, a rise in student discipline issues, classroom management problems, and a high teacher turnover (see graphs above). Finally, the small schools have not only limited enrollment but limited course selection and with inexperienced teachers who don't understand the curriculum, many of them not certified in the subjects they are expected to teach in. These small schools are fated to be a dismal failure once the two year exemption of excluding special education, ELA, and disruptive level one eighth graders are eliminated.

The DOE rather than bring in more resources to the struggling Hoover High and strengthen the student discipline code to ensure disruptive students no longer could terrorize students and staff alike instead threw out the "baby with the bath water" with the establishment of the "flavor of the day" small schools at the expense of a truly comprehensive educational experience with the closing of Hoover High. Children Last continues.....

Thanks to Eduwonkette for the use of her graphs.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Why Are There No Consequences To The OSI & SCI Investigators When They Are Caught In A Lie By The Arbitrator?

In the 3020-a hearings the investigators from the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and the Special Commissioner of Investigations (SCI) come in and testify against the teacher. In many cases their testimony is tainted by their poor investigation techniques that intimidate and lead scared students to give inaccurate and embellished statements that can help terminate the teacher. Further, these investigators will deliberately change or distort statements and events and feel no remorse that they did this.

These biased and flawed OSI & SCI reports are used by the DOE to file 3020-a termination charges against teachers. However, if the teacher is tenured the teacher due process rights kick in and the DOE must prove these charges with real evidence. It is at the 3020-a hearing that the problems with the investigator reports are found. When the investigator reads his report the NYSUT lawyer can rebut the report's findings and in many cases, especially SCI reports, find real holes and even lies in it. However, while the Arbitrator can let the DOE lawyer know how displeased she is with the investigator's report. Nothing will happen to the investigator. How many times do I hear that the OSI or SCI investigator gets caught in their own contradictions by either the NYSUT lawyer and Arbitrator only to have the DOE brush it off as if it is nothing. If the teacher is caught in a lie, expect termination but if the investigators lie , well better luck next time.

By the way SCI has maintained time and again that they are an independent agency and are not beholden to the DOE. However, who pays the Special Commissioner Of Investigations his salary and the SCI investigator salaries? Right! The DOE. You can find it here. You just can't make this up.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The New Underhanded & Sleazy DOE Policy To Get Teachers To Resign On The Spot

The DOE in their never ending search to find ways to get veteran teachers to leave the system has came up with a new procedure to do just that. Tweed's Teacher Performance Unit (TPU). Otherwise known as the "firing squad" or gotcha squad" has come up with a sleazy procedure to railroad and pressure teachers accused of incompetance into resigning. The TPU has sent a resignation form to the Principals' that allows the teacher to resign on the spot and our union has not objected to this sleazy program. How does this new procedure to get rid of teachers work?

It starts with the Principal "U" rating the teacher for the first year. Then during the second year the Administration gives the poor teacher "U" observations. The teacher is given the Peer Intervention Program (PIP) and despite sometimes glowing reports, the Principal "U" rates the teacher for the second year. During the third year, the "U" observations pile up and the teacher is given the DOE termination program called PIP+. Usually given by an F status administrator or teacher who relies on the DOE supported income and won't go against the Principal. Finally, the Principal, with another administrator will call in the unsuspecting teacher, sometimes without the Chapter Leader since it is not a disciplinary hearing and offers the teacher a deal. The deal is as follows:

" If the teacher signs the resignation paper, handed to the teacher at the meeting, the Principal will remove the "U" ratings and give the teacher an "S" rating for the previous two years and the current year. Further, the DOE will give a neutral recommendation to other school systems. Finally, the teacher will be reassigned out of the school and be paid for the rest of the school year. Of course the resignation paper states that the teacher cannot work for the DOE ever again. If the teacher refuses to sign the resignation paper the Principal falsely claims that the teacher will be brought up on expedited 3020-a charges and go after not only the City license but the State license as well and that the teacher will be terminated before the school year is over."

This scare tactic frightens the teacher and without guidance some teachers sign their careers away. The reality is that if the teacher properly refuses to sign the resignation paper here is the most likely scenario that would ensue. The Principal will file 3020-a charges for incompetence and the teacher will be reassigned. In two to three months, maybe longer, the 3020 charges will be given to the teacher. Three to six months after receiving the charges the teacher will be assigned a NYSUT lawyer, free of charge, by the union and a 3020-a arbitrator will be assigned. Between six and 12 months after receiving the lawyer & arbitrator, the teacher will finally have a pre-hearing where it is quite likely the DOE lawyer will offer the teacher a settlement by paying a fine of between $2,500 -$6,000 and a course without going through a 3020-a hearing. If no such settlement is offered, expect the 3020-a hearing to last six months or more before it ends. Because transcripts from Albany are very slow in coming, an Arbitrator's decision could take another three month or more. That means from the time the teacher is reassigned from the school to the arbitrator's decision expect it to be a minimum of 20 months and in most cases it is over two years! Finally, very few teachers are terminated for incompetence and the teacher is eventually reassigned to another school as an ATR.

Why our union allows the DOE to get away with this deception is mind-boggling. The district reps should be telling the Chapter Leaders to make sure that no teacher sign a resignation paper and encourage them to fight the charges. Instead it seems that the union takes a neutral position and leaves the teacher on her own with no guidance and the likely scenario if the teacher does not sign the resignation paper. It appears to me the union is aiding and abetting Tweed's sleazy teacher resignation program by keeping the hapless and targeted teacher ignorant of their options if they fight the charges.

Shame on Tweed for their underhanded ways to pressure teachers to resign and the union for allowing this DOE program to exist without putting up a fight.

Note: I am pretty much disappointed that many of my fellow bloggers have not commented on this serious new development on how to get teachers to resign in the school. We need to put the union on notice that they must have meetings to inform teachers about this new DOE action plan. I understand that Edwize and Leo Casey could care less about the classroom teacher but we do care and this issue can affect us all!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

My New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year's and I have some personal and not so personal New Year's resolutions. My personal resolutions are:

  1. Lose fifteen pounds and exercise more.
  2. Be a more attentive husband.
  3. Keep my credit rating high.
  4. Listen more and react less to things I don't agree with.
  5. Get into Financial Planning as my next and final career change before retirement.

My not so personal resolutions deal with those anti-teacher villains Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg and their DOE cohorts. Further, to put our union leaders' feet to the fire by making sure teacher rights and due process are protected. No more givebacks or negotiations behind the backs of the rank and file.

  1. Keep my blog going and continue to show the problems with the DOE and UFT when teacher rights are abused.
  2. Identify the hypocrisy at the DOE and UFT (a full time job).
  3. Bring transparency to the process. It is the lack of transparency that allows the DOE and our union to ride roughshod over us.
  4. Change the Chancellor's Regulations to include Teacher rights in disciplinary matters.
  5. Stop the DOE abuse of the 3020-a process against teachers.
  6. Limit SCI investigations to felony/criminal issues or major misconduct that should be specifically defined. The witch hunts need to stop.
  7. Demand a truly independent investigation before a teacher is removed from a school, especially for Chapter Leaders.
  8. Allow teachers to determine the best method to educate their students in the classroom rather than the one-shoe-fits-all method that does not work.
  9. Allow a representative of all UFT caucuses to have input into any negotiations. This will ensure that the rank-and-file's wishes are accounted for.
  10. Bring back teacher input into school operations and staff selection.
  11. Have administrators be treated the same as teachers when under investigation.
  12. Make the union go after Principals from hell rather than just complaining about them.
  13. Bring back democratic elections for all union posts, especially for district reps.
I expect that my personal resolutions will be met. However, the not so personal resolutions will be an ongoing struggle and with all of us united maybe some of them will be realized.

Let's all hope 2009 will be a good year for the NYC public school teacher.