Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why Doesn't The Union Go After The PINI Principals Otherwise Known As The Principals From Hell?

Every time the New York Teacher newspaper comes out the union spotlights a Principal In Need Of Improvement (PINI). However, the union does little else about these PINI Principals. While I will never condone what Chapter Leader Francisco Gimbitos of MS328 in the Bronx did. I do understand his frustration at being targeted by an abusive administrator while the union did little or nothing to protect him or the teaching staff from the PINI Principal.

The "rubber rooms" are full of teachers who have been unfairly placed there by vindictive and abusive Principals on the union's PINI list. However, there are no consequences to the Principals when they remove a teacher. For these Principals it is not about the collateral damage done to the students when an effective teacher is removed, its about the control. Of the 640 teachers in the "rubber rooms" throughout the City, only 10% of these teachers probably belong there. Many of the most intelligent and outspoken teachers who dare stand up to the Principal find themselves removed from the school by Principals who retaliate for the teacher's whistileblowing or for disagreeing with the administrator's improper decisions. The PINI Principals are notorious for getting rid of staff and yet Tweed will look the other way when the union complains about the PINI Principals' practices.

The union needs to file PERB complaints against these "Principals from hell" and if necessary. take the complaints to the courts. Until there are serious consequences to these PINI Principals who abuse staff, they will continue to abuse their staff while the DOE does nothing.

"Children last" continues.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What Characteristics Make A Quality Teacher? According To The DOE It Is Not What You Think.

Time and again the DOE and their media puppets, the New York Daily News and New York Post, rant about how the New York City Public Schools need quality teachers to improve student academics. Of course the New York City Public Schools need more than quality teachers. For example, lower class sizes, a more stringent student discipline code, and giving the teacher a voice in the classroom are also needed. Since this article is about quality teachers, I will limit it to the quality teaching issue. I agree that quality teachers are needed in the schools. However, what you and I believe are the characteristics of a quality teacher is quite different than what Chancellor Joel Klein and his subordinates at Tweed thinks.

The common characteristics of a quality teacher are usually based on the teacher's ability and are as follows:

  1. Experienced. A minimum of three to five years in the classroom to master the profession.
  2. Good classroom management skills.
  3. Knowledge of the curriculum.
  4. Interacting with the students and helping them with their problems.
  5. Able to think independently and make good choices on academic issues.
  6. Willing to question decisions when it is against the best interests of the students.
However, Chancellor Joel Klein's definition of a quality teacher is far different. Let's look at what Tweed wants teaching the New York City Public School students.

  1. Cheap, and inexperienced teachers who will leave the system before they are vested.
  2. Poor classroom management skills but who cares? They will be leaving the system soon.
  3. A steep learning curve in understanding of the curriculum . See #2 above for the rest.
  4. Don't get involved with the students and always send them to the Guidance Councilor.
  5. Never make a decision without getting an Administrator's approval.
  6. Never question the Administrators even when they are wrong and hurts the students.
Joel Klein and his minions can speak about quality teaching all they want. However, what they say and the teachers they hire are not the same. Unless a quality teacher is defined as cheap, inexperienced, and never makes decisions. Then again this is the Kleinberg DOE where up is down, right is wrong, and good is bad. "Children Last" continues.

Friday, April 24, 2009

NYC Fails To Close The Education Gap Between Whites And Minorities. Chancellor Klein Blames The Teachers & Principals Not His Failed Education Policy

In a report by a management consulting group, McKinsey & Company, found that the academic gap between white and minoritygroups persists in New York City. The study by the business group stated the following:

In New York City, an analysis of 2007 federal test scores for fourth graders showed strikingly stratified achievement levels: While 6 percent of white students in city schools scored below a base achievement level on math, 31 percent of black students and 26 percent of Hispanic students did. In reading, 48 percent of black students and 49 percent of Hispanic students failed to reach that base level, but 19 percent of white students did.

The McKinsey report did not specify why the academic gap between whites and minorities persist. However, our non-educator Chancellor, Joel Klein, found the usual scapegoats. The New York Times reported on the Chancellor's comments about the report in yesterday's paper.

The New York City schools chancellor,
Joel I. Klein who introduced the findings at the National Press Club in Washington, said the study vindicated the idea that the root cause of test-score disparities was not poverty or family circumstances, but subpar teachers and principals.

Really? family history and poverty are not an issue? What planet is he from? Oh, I forgot he is from DOE's bizarre world where up is down, right is wrong, and bad is good. If Joel Klein's statements are even remotely true then one only needs to look at the failed education policy he and Bloomberg have imposed on the NYC Public Schools. Remember, Harry Truman stated "the buck stops here" when it came to important policy decisions. Unfortunately, in the bizarre world of the DOE it is easier for the decision makers to blame the people in the trenches than the leadership at Tweed. In other words, the Tweed motto is "pass the buck".

"Children Last" continues.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What Happend To Student Enrichment? There is None Because Of Tweed's Mindless Emphasis On Test Prep, Test Prep, & More Test Prep

When I was a student in the NYC Public Schools I looked forward to my teachers veering off curriculum occasionally and giving enrichment activities. Be it science fiction (star trek) , recreated historical events, math puzzles, or games. This was during a time when the BOE was run by a Chancellor who was an educator and allowed "teachers to teach" as they saw fit to best enhance the students' academic ability.

Like most students I found test preparation boring and it was the quality teacher that understood that it was important to entertain the students with stories and challenges that kept the student interest. Almost all educators understood the importance of enrichment activities if they are to get the most out of their students' academic ability. Even the successful Charter Schools require student enrichment as a necessary supplement to the curriculum.

Unfortunately, things have changed over the last decade. The BOE is now called the DOE and the Chancellor is now a lawyer and non-educator. In fact, only two people in Chancellor Joel Klein's inner circle are educators. This change at the top has resulted in a "top down management" and no longer allows "teachers to teach ". It is now constant test prep with little or no enrichment. The result is stagnant test scores when compared to the federal baseline test (NAEP) and unmotivated students. Of course Tweed does not blame themselves for the problems in the classroom. Instead the DOE blames the teachers. According to the DOE it is more important to hire inexperience (cheap) "newbie teachers" who have little classroom control and does not fully understand the curriculum rather than the experienced (expensive) quality teacher who can not only handle the classroom and knows the curriculum, but will have the time to teach enrichment activities to make the classroom interesting for the students.

I keep reading the newspapers telling us that the reason the students are not doing better is because of the teacher's union regulations. The reality is quite different. The "one-size-fit-all" approach in the classroom combined with the disrespect of the teaching profession, especially the classroom teacher, by the non-educators at Tweed and the "Leadership Academy" Principal are the reasons that students are not showing the desired academic improvement despite the resources given to the city schools.

Test preparation all day, every day is not the solution but is the problem when it comes to the lack of academic progress. Tweed's "children last" continues.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The DOE's Unfair Comparison Between The Charter Schools And The Public Schools

Time and again the New York Daily News and New York Post praise how Charter Schools are giving the minority children in the poorest neighborhoods a "choice" However, it is a choice for who? The astute parents with well-behaved children? Or is it the dysfunctional single parent who has a student with behavioral or attendance issues? Of course it is the former group that is given the "choice". Further, few Charter Schools accept English language learners or special education students, claiming they do not have the resources to meet their educational needs. The result is that the student body is highly selective and do not represent the community. Furthermore, the neighborhood school suffers by not only losing their top students but lose precious public school funding to the Charter School. Routinely, the Charter School students are selected after interviews with both the student and parents. Take for instance the Carl C. Icahn Charter School. According to the New York Daily News this Charter School only accepted 3% of the applicants. It also caps it's class size at 18, not 25 or 32 like in the Public Schools ( To see the Carl C. Icahn school's requirements you can go to their website). Interestingly, you will find parent and student requirements that cannot be enforced in the Public Schools. EdNotes Online states it best by challenging these Charter Schools to take the same student population as the Public School and see if they can get better results.

The Charter Schools have an unfair advantage because they are allowed to "skim the top" of the best students in the area and can impose discipline, attendance, and parent participation requirements as a condition for acceptance in the Charter Schools. It is a wonder that the Charter Schools don't do better since they have the better student and more involved parent. However, the Charter Schools suffer from an inexperienced teaching staff, high teacher turnover, and staff burnout. This limits academic progress to a degree because of the ever changing staff situation.

To compare the Charter Schools with the neighborhood Public School is unfair and for the DOE to do so is disingenuous.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Randi & Joel Do It Again - The UFT Secretly Dropped Their Age Discrimination Lawsuit When They Signed The Unenforceable ATR Agreement

It appears once again Randi Weingarten and Joel Klein negotiated an agreement that resulted in the UFT members getting the short end of the stick. JD2718 reports in his blog that an apparently secret agreement between the UFT and DOE resulted in the UFT dropping their age discrimination lawsuit as a part of the unenforceable ATR agreement that has so far resulted in only 16 ATRs given classroom assignments. Time and again the Joel Klein's DOE negotiates in "bad faith" with the UFT and refuses to live up to the negotiated agreements. Be it the ATRs, the "rubber room" or paperwork reductions. The reason is simple. Our union refuses to ensure that any agreement have enforceable provisions. Both sides leave enough "wiggle room" in the language to allow DOE to ignore the intent of these agreements.

According to JD2718 the age discrimination lawsuit was discussed at last Monday's Executive Board meeting and he summarizes the following:

At last Monday’s Executive Board meeting a question and follow-up about the UFT’s age discrimination revealed:

  • the suit was withdrawn, without prejudice, when the ATR side agreement was reached.
  • to refile the suit, the UFT would need to collect fresh information.
  • members individual suits were not withdrawn.

This is shocking. I was under the impression that the UFT dropped their original age discrimination lawsuit because of legal issues on the use of the data collected. In other words the NYSUT attorney didn't believe the age discrimination case would succeed based upon the information. Now it turns out that the UFT secretly bargained the age discrimination lawsuit away in the unenforceable ATR agreement. How come the UFT didn't report this as a part of the ATR Agreement in their press release? The reason is quite obvious to me. They were embarrassed and afraid to tell the teachers the truth that this is what the union gave up for the ATR agreement. Therefore, they kept the age discrimination lawsuit issue secret to the members. To my knowledge, no teacher who was part of the dropped age discrimination lawsuit was told the truth. They were all apparently told that the age discrimination case had no legal standing. Now that the truth is known, it now makes sense why the UFT is reluctant to file a new age discrimination lawsuit despite he influx of older teacher in the "rubber rooms" and the ATR ranks.

I can only say what my friend Woodlass said in her comments to the information provided in JD2718's article. SHAME, SHAME,. SHAME.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The New York Post's Lovefest With The Bloomberg Administration On Education Reform

Over the last two weeks you could not pick up the New York Post without an article or editorial trumpeting how the Bloomberg Administration has improved the academic scores and graduation rates of the New York City Public Schools. It didn't matter to the New York Post that many of the statistics were suspect and that the DOE lacked transparency. It didn't matter that mayoral control has ignored the parents, students, and teachers when they implement their destructive educational polices that leave all three groups powerless. Diane Ravitch, in her OpEd article in the New York Times describes what is really happening with Bloomberg's education system.

Diane Ravitch's article talks about how there is no independent analysis of the DOE generated data and a closer look at the statistics seem to tell a different story than the New York Post claims. For example take the high school graduation rates. How much of the so-called dramatic increase of graduates came because of the bogus and New York State discredited "credit recovery program" as well as the manipulation of the dropout statistics. Further questioning the graduation rate is the large percentage of NYC public school students who need remedial courses in college (83%). Back in September of 2008 I wrote an article about the lack of college preparation for the high school graduates. However, don't look for the New York Post to print the truth about the New York City Public Schools.

While Tweed continues to practice "Children Last" the New York Post just keeps on producing "puff pieces" of praise for Bloomberg's education policy. It just makes me sick.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The "Rubber Rooms" Are Filling Up With Older Teachers And Randi's Lawyer Claims There Is No Age Discrimination

Since my previous article on the age discrimination at the Queens Teacher' Reassignment Center (TRC). Things have been getting worse not better at the Queens TRC as more and more older teachers, most of them over the age of 50, have been sent to the "rubber room". Apparently, this is occurring citywide as all the "rubber rooms" are reporting an influx of older teachers at their sites. While Tweed gives the Principals the "green light" to remove older teachers Randi Weingarten's lawyer says there is no age discrimination issues. Adam Ross stated at a meeting in March that the union had looked into the age discrimination accusation and found no basis in the claim to file a lawsuit. Ron Isaac, to his credit, tried to bring up the age statistics that was given to him by the Queens TRC liaison, only to have the statistics dismissed by Adam Ross. Further, Leroy Barr, Randi's Chief of Staff, who was also at the March meeting and was aware of the ageism issue, said nothing.

How can our union allow the age discrimination to continue? Unfortunately, when the higher-ups pretend that there is no age discrimination and ignore the statistics that say otherwise, it is easy. With a union that fails to take seriously abuses by the DOE and allows Tweed to break any agreement that they see fit. One can only wonder when the UFT will draw a line in the sand and stand up for their members.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Why Are The Principals Not Hiring The ATRs For The Classroom? Its About The Control Stupid!

Once again our union was shocked that after negotiating an agreement with the DOE to give Principals a financial incentive to hire ATRs for classroom vacancies in November of 2008. Instead of hiring experienced ATRs for these classroom positions, the Principals hired "newbie teachers" for 95% of the openings. The Daily News reported that of the 311 vacancies only 16 ATRs were hired, compared to the 295 "newbie teachers" to fill the positions.

The union had negotiated in "good faith" with the DOE and thought it had a "win-win" proposal that would reward Principals who filled a classroom position with an experienced ATR and get a financial benefit to the school's budge. Granted, Tweed did not require the Principals to hire the ATRs and they could hire whomever they wanted. However, what Principal would not want to hire an experienced, veteran teacher while only paying a salary of a beginning teacher of $45,530? Further, if the fit was good for both the ATR and the Principal, Tweed would reimburse the school half the teachers salary ($22,765) for the first year. Even a skeptic like myself thought the union finally got one right. Wrong!

Little did I know that the Principals prized their control over the staff above the financial aspects of the school. In fact, the Principals attached so much importance to having total control that parent concerns and student academics were secondary to their goal of having complete control over the school. These Principals want a teacher to say "how high" when told to jump not "why"? How can a Principal justify hiring a "newbie teacher" with little knowledge in the curriculum and classroom management over an experienced teacher for the same price? Because the DOE said they can. This anti-educational practice can only be achieved if Tweed privately encouraged the Principals not to hire the ATRs, either through communications with the District Superintendents or the Lead Instructional Supervisors. Obviously, the Principals were given the green light to hire the "newbie teachers".

Unfortunately, the union has continuously failed to point out how this policy affects student learning to the newspapers and the newscasts. Why, has the union not brought up the Principal school control issue as a cause against student learning? You need to go ask them. The Tweed policy of encouraging the Principals to hire "newbie teachers" hurts the student's academics and is consistent with Tweed's "Children Last" program. Its too bad the union allows this to continue unchallenged.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Tweed Just Continues To Spend More Money On Non-Educational Items While The Schools Suffer

The City Controller, Bill Thompson found that the DOE has cost overruns of $700 million dollars for "goods & services" that, for the most part, are non-educational in nature. The New York Post article quoted Bill Thompson as saying "It's reprehensible that the Department of Education plays by its own rules and goes on some insane spending spree," Bill Thompson, is one of many officials at a City Council hearing who ripped what he called the department's lack of transparency.

Bill Thompson also attributed the "runaway" costs to the fact that one of every five department contracts that concluded in fiscal years 2007 and 2008 overran its original estimate by at least 25 percent.

He said that so far this fiscal year that figure had inched upward to 27 percent, taking money away vital education services.

"DOE's failure to accurately determine its expenditures prevents it from negotiating the best prices for goods and services, and is contrary to sound business practices," he wrote in a letter to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.

Where is the accountability? It is obviously not at Tweed where cost overruns, non-bid contracts, and highly-paid consultants are the rule while the schools starve for adequate funds to provide services for their students.

"Children Last" continues.