Monday, June 29, 2009

The DOE's Infamous Teacher Performance Unit Has Developed An "Action Plan" To Help Principals Terminate Teachers

Despite a severe recession and budget crunch the DOE has allocated 1.2 million dollars to hire a bunch of lawyers and retired Principals to work with Principals in terminating allegedly incompetent teachers. It is very difficult to terminate teachers when charged with incompetence in the 3020-a process. Usually, the administrators do a poor job documenting the incompetence and compound their problems by embellishing or lying about the teacher's ability in a hearing. Therefore, only about 7% of the teachers charged with incompetence are terminated. The rest usually end up with a small fine and are sent to another school.

Enter the Teacher Performance Unit (TPU) who the lawyers and retired Principals work for. The TPU's only purpose is to help the Principal to document the information and file 3020-a charges against the teacher. The first of these cases are now winding their way through the 3020-a process and it appears that the TPU directed cases are doing no better when it comes to terminating teachers. Therefore, the TPU has now come up with an "Action Plan" that will help administrators prove that the teachers are incompetent. The TPU "Action Plan" consists of the following components.

First, the administratrs must properly document the problems that the teacher is having. Just stating that the teacher is incompetent is not enough. This documentation includes.
  • Demand that the teacher's lesson plans for the week be given to the administrator on a weekly basis.
  • Compare the submitted lesson plan to what you observed and compose a written evaluation, including student work.
  • Do numerous informals and write them up.
  • Write "U" observations and suggest specific recommendations.
  • If teacher neglects or does not remedy the weaknesses then give the teacher a Letter-To-The-File (LIF) and work with the Principal on giving the teacher a "U" rating for the year.
Second, try to discourage the teacher from joining the Peer Intervention Program (PIP) since it takes time and few teachers will testify against their colleagues in the 3020-a hearings. However, strongly encourage the teacher to accept the PIP+ program since the PIP+ educator is selected from a (DOE paid) independent vendor and is more likely to come up with the appropriate decision on the teacher. In addition, the PIP+ educator is required to testify at a 3020-a hearing as a condition of their employment.

Finally, have the administrator develop a log of problems and issues with the teacher and assist the Principal in writing the Technical Assistance Committee (TAC) memo to terminate the teacher.

To all teachers: Do not accept PIP+!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

You Didn't Think Getting The Two Days Off Before Labor Day Were Free? Did You? Not With Randi Doing The Negotiating.

Unless you are living under a rock, the UFT and the Bloomberg administration came to an agreement that eroded "newbie teacher" pension and retiree health benefits and in return, we gained the two days before Labor Day. While, I don't really like having the union "eating its own" it is preferable than what Randi and gang did to us in 2005. When I first read the UFT press release I thought it was great that we got back the two days that we should have never given up until I read the ICE blog with James Eterno and the JD2718 blog I could not believe that for the two days the existing teachers will have to pay for them!

How are we going to pay for it? Simple. Our fixed income fund returns was reduced from 8.25% to the New York State minimum of 7%. This reduction of 1.25%, effective when the Governor signs off, is a significant loss of interest and will tempt participants to put their TDA money in more risky funds. The reduction in the TDA fixed income interest rate results in a 0.5% annual savings to the City. However, gaining the two days before Labor Day costs the City 1.08%. Therefore, we owe the City 0.58% which will be taken out of our pay raise in the next contract, probably by the end of the summer.

This wasn't in the UFT press release but is included in the actual agreement with the City and can be found here. Again the UFT has tried to mislead its members. Our union failed to mention part 5 of the agreement in their press release that spells out how all teachers will have to fund the two days by reducing the TDA fixed income interest rate and giving up part of a salary increase in the next contract.

You would think that giving up 2.5 billion dollars in health and pension benefits in the next 20 years would be enough to get back the two days before Labor Day. However, for the City and a compliant union it was obviously not.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Is Randi Wiengarten's Farewell Present A New Contract?

There are persistent rumors that Randi Weingarten has made a deal with Mayor Bloomberg on our next contract that starts on November 1, 2009. If the rumors are correct, the contract will include two 4% raises for the two year length of the contract. Furthermore, there will not be any givebacks or unfortunately, takebacks as well. The pattern has been set by both DC37 and the Police Sergeants union and once the pattern is set look for other City unions to fall into line, with minor variations.

The real question is why would Micheal Bloomberg give us 8% for two years when the City is scrounging for money? Simple, its the pattern stupid! However, it really isn't as simple as it seems. There appears to some political considerations that go with the contract agreement. First, look for the UFT to remain neutral in the mayoral race despite the overwhelming support for Thompson from the teachers. Second, Randi's apparent turnaround on the Mayoral control issue. Finally, look for the union to continue to be passive as Tweed continues to erode teacher due process rights and classroom discretion. Bloomberg can easily handle the expected criticism from the tabloids for two days as his popularity with them will limit any political damage.This contract agreement is expected to be signed during the summer when schools are closed and the media is less likely to concentrate on education issues.

My spies seem to think that there is also a good chance that we will see the resignation of Chancellor Klein once a deal is announced as he objects to the lack of givebacks, especially the ATR time limit he so desperately wants. While Mayor Bloomberg will not force him out, he won't be unhappy if Chancellor Klein resigns since he is universally disliked by parents, politicians, and teachers. Moreover, if Chancellor Klein indeed resigns look for Mayor Mike to put another pseudo reform non-educator into office. This new Chancellor will be more politically astute and pretend to listen to parents and teachers. However, don't look for any real classroom improvements to occur.

What happens after our next contract is over and Mayor Bloomberg is a lame duck? Any contract that would be proposed by the Mayor will be on the lines of the infamous and disgusting 2005 contract. Look for Tweed to demand tenure reductions such as an ATR time limit and unpaid suspensions of "rubber room" teachers. In addition, look for more school time, and for the secondary schools a sixth period of teaching. With a Randi lackey Michael Mulgrew in charge and with little political and negotiating experience I shutter at the thought of the year 2012 and beyond. By then I expect to retire, I hope .

Update - Late last night the first part of the contract has been put in place with the tentative agreement between the City and the UFT on pension and health benefits.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Principals Are Effectively Telling The ATRs To "Kiss My Ass" As They RefuseTo Hire Them

Last Tuesday many an ATR was invited to the citywide ATR job fair held in Washington Heights in Manhattan. Despite a few hundred ATRs showing up, very few teaching positions were available, even in alleged shortage areas like Special Education, Math, and Science. For example one elementary school Special Education teacher who had sent out 25 resumes to known vacancies in her borough was shocked to find only one of these vacancies were advertised at the job fair. In addition a high school Math teacher found only a few Math positions and most of them were in the middle schools.

It appears the Principals have bought into the propaganda from Tweed and falsely believe that the ATRs are "bad teachers" and don't want to hire them. I touched on this issue in an earlier post. Furthermore, it is no secret that the "Leadership Academy Principals" have been told not to hire senior teachers and to wait out the "Open Market Transfer System" which ends in early August. Moreover, these Principals will try to see if they can request an exception from Tweed in hiring "newbie teachers". Finally, many of the Principals are counting on Tweed to rescind their directive and that come late August they can hire the "newbie teachers" or at the very least the nontenured young teachers for their schools. Meanwhile, Pissed Off published a letter written to her by an ATR who is thinking of killing herself because of the disrespect the DOE is showing the ATRs.

If Tweed does not rescind their hiring directive, look for massive hiring in the schools as the Principals realize that they do not have enough teachers to meet their class size mandates. However, being the skeptic that I am. I see Tweed rescinding their "no hiring directive" and the schools will be hiring all those "newbie teachers" from Teach For America and the Teaching Fellows program.

I hope Tweed does not back down and allow Principals to hire the "newbie teachers" because if they do, look for the ATR ranks to reach 1500+ as more senior teachers join the ATR ranks because of school closing, excessing, or coming out of the "rubber rooms". Remember, it is not about the children or the money. It is about control. "Children Last" continues.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Bloomberg & Klein Love Affair With The Small Schools Have Resulted In The Destruction Of The Large Neighborhood Schools - What Else Is New?

All of a sudden the news media is bringing up the fact that the large neighborhood high schools are suffering as the influx of themed small schools and favored charter schools have dumped the unwanted and hardest to educate, special education and English language learners into the large traditional high schools. The result is large class sizes, lower graduation rates, and discipline problems. The New York Times, The Daily News, and Gotham Schools have published articles about this student dumping issue. In fact, I and other bloggers have brought up this issue for the last couple of years. For example back in June of 2006 I wrote a post complaining about this very issue. In addition, not only are these "at risk" students being dumped into the large neighborhood high schools but the small and charter schools are doing their best to exclude the "not ready for promotion eighth graders" but are promoted anyway. This process has resulted in massive overcrowding in the large traditional high schools as I reported previously Here. Now we have a report called the New Marketplace, which the New School for Management and Urban Policy published showing the damage that Mayor Mike and Chancellor Klein has done to the large neighborhood high schools. Marc Epstein, in his Daily News opinion piece also identified the tricks Tweed uses to massage the graduation statistics in these increasingly attacked schools that hide the escalating problems done to them by the Bloomberg/Klein policy initiatives that favor the small schools.

Again the DOE statistics on graduation rates are suspect as the small schools show a significant drop in their graduation rates when these schools are required to take their fair share of "at risk" students. Furthermore, these small schools suffer from high teacher turnover, increasingly larger class sizes, and an unstable administration which eventually reduces the effectiveness of the small schools. Finally, these schools will end up no better than the large schools they replaced and without the wide range of activities that a large traditional high school offers.

In other words, "Children Last" continues.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Senior Teachers Beware, The DOE Is Trying To Terminate You

As the end of the year approaches, most teachers look forward to the summer off as they try to unwind from the stress of the school year. However, there is a select group of senior teachers that have been targeted by their Principals and are being pressured to retire. The Principals have been briefed on what to do and say by the infamous Teacher Performance Unit (TPU) whose only purpose is to terminate the targeted teachers. Previously, Betsy Combier and I wrote about the apparent primary function of the TPU and how to combat this group of DOE lawyers and retired Principals. Since that time the TPU has became more focused on the techniques available to terminate teachers and to guide Principals in completing the task. In January of this year, I posted one such method. For example, this method has the TPU give the Principals a written form and script to pressure targeted teachers to retire by using a phony "carrot and stick" approach that threatens the teacher with losing not only their City license but their State license as well. The threat of the teacher losing his or her State license is an empty threat. Only teachers who are found guilty of criminal charges have their State teaching license removed. However, this does not stop the TPU from informing the Principals to include that threat when asking the teacher to resign. Furthermore, the Principal fails to inform the targeted teacher that if they sign the resignation agreement, the stipulation is that they irrevocably resign. The word irrevocably is a code word by the DOE to never rehire the targeted teacher for any DOE job, not even as a lowly-paid school aide. Of course, the Principal does not let the targeted teacher know this and when the poor teacher looks for part-time work with the DOE, they are rejected for employment. Surprise, surprise!

What is the script that the TPU gives the Principals to say to the teacher? It goes something like this.

" If the teacher signs the resignation paper, given 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 what is not included, is that the irrevocable resignation paper means 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".

The truth is that the targeted teacher will be reassigned and spend two years in the rubber room with full pay and benefits and still make the same deal, with the exception of changing the "U" to "S". Why would any teacher take this terrible deal and be forced to retire when he or she gets a two year fully paid sabbatical and still have the same deal given to the teacher by the DOE 3020-a attorney?

I have stated previously the District Representatives must inform the Chapter Leaders that this sleazy policy by the TPU and the Principals must be stopped by any legal means possible. That means all Chapter Leaders must tell their staff not to sign any resignation papers without understanding the consequences of their actions. To date the union seems to be reluctant to tackle this problem. Let's hope their attitude changes and every teacher is well informed before making a decision that can affect their future employment in education.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Where Is The SCI Investigation Of Chancellor Klein?

In the bizarro world of the DOE any physical contact between students and teachers is presumed to be corporal and/or sexual in nature. In fact the Principals tell the teachers "do not touch the students" because of the fear schools have of the DOE's perverted obsession with sexual misconduct and the biased & flawed SCI investigation that will substantiate it. However, there appears to be one person exempt from this presumption. Its our wonderful Chancellor, Joel Klein. Time and again he puts his hands on students and never is SCI called to investigate his actions. Whether it is a full frontal hug with reluctant female students at PS 123 in Harlem or the DOE defined inappropriate touching that teachers are subject to. He is of course the Chancellor and the rules apparently do not apply to him.

In Chancellor Joel Klein's witch hunt to go after teachers, many teachers (especially males) have been removed from the classroom for alleged inappropriate touching of a student's clothed shoulder, an elbow, and a lower arm above the wrist. In fact, Joel Klein's obsession with sexual issues is summarized in his famous statement about reassigned teachers found in Betsy Combier's blog was as follows:

"We did not vote to terminate you. We did vote to terminate a teacher in executive fact, we voted to terminate two teachers. It's perfectly consistent with the law.Many teachers have been charged with sexual activities and some are charged with corporal punishment..

It seems, as the three pictures obviously show, that our Chancellor is exempt from his own DOE regulations. In the first picture, the Chancellor's face is pressed into the girl's head as he hugs her. In the second picture Joel Klein is uncomfortably close to the girl and is shown starring at the girl (what is he starring at, the face?, chest?, or breast?) and ignoring the boy. In the third picture the Chancellor has his arm around the girl and his hand appears to be touching the girl's bear skin on the back and certainly the upper arm near the shoulder. Further, his body is pressed into the girl's body. While normal society may not see the Chancellor's actions as being sexual. I must point out it is under the Chancellor's own rules that when a teacher is accused of doing the very things the Chancellor is pictured doing, or even less, a SCI investigation is conducted of the alleged "sexual activities" and the teacher finds himself removed to the "rubber room".

Under the despotic regime of Chancellor Joel Klein (known as the kissing Chancellor by me) not only is the teacher presumed to be "guilty unless proven innocent" but everyday ordinary physical contact between the student and teacher can land the teacher in the "rubber room" and face a termination hearing for sexual misconduct. However, as I said previously, for Chancellor Joel Klein these rules do not apply. Its good to be the king!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The New York State Math Test For The Middle School - When A Level 1 Student Becomes A Level 3 Student

I usually complain about the DOE and to a lesser degree, the UFT in my posts. However, this post is reserved for the ridiculous travesty of the NYS sponsored middle school math test. It is common knowledge that the NYS Education Department has annually "dumbed-down" the State test so that the seventh/eighth grade math test appears equivalent to the third grade math test given years ago. What is even more disturbing is that the State has also changed the matrix so that a child who gets 22 out of 50 multiple choice questions (44%) correct will see his or her grade adjusted to 65%, and be labeled a level 3 student in Math. In my day 44% would qualify you as a student in need of improvement or level 1. I guess Tweed isn't the only organization that plays with the numbers.

Even the Daily News realized how easy the middle school math test has become when it published an article questioning the scores. Furthermore, to help the students even more, many teachers allowed the students to use their calculators in addition to constant coaching the students on what problems will be on the test. Is it any wonder that with level 1 students now labeled as level 3, that Mayor Mike and Chancellor Klein have crowed about improving student scores and the narrowing of the racial achievement gap?

The trend toward easier State tests are not limited to the middle schools. In the high schools the Algebra Regents required a student only answer correctly 17 of the multiple choice questions. Further, the students who knew how to use the calculator can correctly answer 13 of the 17 questions without even understanding the Math. Just guessing the rest of the multiple choice by selecting one number (for example 2) would get you the additional correct answers necessary to pass the Algebra Regents. Unbelievable, but true.

This trend to easier State tests may help the self-esteem of the students but has little effect on real students achievement, reducing remedial courses, and improved college graduation statistics. The State's "smoke & mirrors" testing does not result in real student academic improvement or reduce the racial achievement gap. Only low class sizes, experienced teachers, a stringent student discipline code, and adequate classroom resources are the answer for real student achievement.

Monday, June 08, 2009

My Report Card On How Tweed Has Failed The Students & Teachers In The Classroom

Now that I voted online for the UFT election survey of how well the NYC Department Of Education (DOE) did in helping the classroom, it is now time to publish my own report card on how Tweed has preformed in the classroom for the 2008-09 school year.

My report card is divided into five categories. They are:
  • Class Size
  • Discipline
  • Funding
  • The Classroom
  • Civil Rights (age discrimination & student segregation)
Class Size: Despite additional State money to reduce class size, Tweed has found ways around the mandates and the result has been little or no significant changes in class size. New York City continues to have the highest class sizes in New York State and the future under Bloomberg & Klein does not bode well for class size reductions. Grade "F".

Discipline: Tweed has turned their collective heads when it comes to student discipline. Many of the Principals fail to enforce the Chancellor's Regulations for fear of being labeled a "dangerous school". Best to ignore student violence, misbehaviour, and bullying then to get on Tweed's radar screen. The result is that the school staff is in mortal fear for their health and safety as well as low morale. While Treed looks the other way on student discipline the same cannot be said on disciplining teachers. Tweed takes a "zero tolerance policy" on teacher discipline. A student or administrator just needs to allege teacher misconduct and the teacher is assumed "guilty" and is removed to the "rubber room". Presently, there are 800+ teachers whom have been removed from the classroom throughout the city. This figure for teacher removal is the highest ever. Grade "F".

Funding: The NYC Public Schools have been told to cut the budget by 5% but with rising staff salaries, the effective cut is 8.5% for the typical school. However, the Tweed supported Charter Schools are exempt from the budget cuts and in fact Tweed allocated 1.2 billion dollars of scarce school construction funds to Charter Schools. Furthermore, look for only token cuts from Tweed's central bureaucracy with the bulk of the cuts occurring at the regional offices. Finally, the poor contracting of services and equipment by Tweed has caused massive cost overruns or more expensive equipment and of course, more money allocated to questionable services and equipment. See the Daily News article about it. Grade "F".

The Classroom: Many of the classrooms are in various state of disrepair, lack technology, and have antiquated furniture and blackboards. The Daily News piece by Arthur Goldstein states it best. Further, the classroom teacher must teach a "one-size-fits-all" program that is not appropriate for all students. Under Tweed's directives, the teacher must follow the program and there is no such thing as "let teachers teach" as they see fit for the best results of the children. The result is that many teachers are being charged with incompetence when the fault are the morons who allowed this program to be taught at all. Also, the mindless test preparation directive limits a whole academic education and student development. Moreover, the increased paperwork and the long hours teachers must spend to finish the paperwork increases the stress the teacher already suffers from. Finally, the continuing teacher disrespect by Tweed and the poor teacher morale earns Tweed a Grade "F".

Civil Rights: The 1400 ATRs and 800+ "rubber room" teachers are dominated by senior teachers most of them over 50 years of age. The Tweed policy is to hire "newbie teachers" for their "education on the cheap" policy through the discredited "fair student funding" program. Furthermore, many of the small and Charter schools have a less diverse student body then the neighborhood schools that they replaced and in some cases practice gender discrimination. In fact, Michael Myers of the NYC Civil Rights Collation wrote about it. This separation of the student body by cultural orientation, religion, and gender is contrary to our country's identity of inclusiveness and the City as a melting pot for all people. Grade "F".

No matter how you look at it, Tweed's policies have hurt the NYC Public Schools in general and the classroom in particular. Therefore, Tweed's overall final grade is? You guessed it a "F".

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Why A Teacher Should Never Accept The Phony PIP+ Program - Unless The Teacher Wants To Be Terminated

For teachers who have been targeted for incompetence, the procedure by the Principal is to first give "U" observations the first year and give a "U" rating for the year. The second year the "U" observations continue and the Principal offer the Peer Intervention Program (PIP). The Principal must offer PIP if the Principal is to file future 3020-a charges against the teacher. However, even if the PIP teacher does not find any significant problem with the targeted teacher's classroom instruction, the Principal will continue to order the APs to give "U" observations and for the second year, an annual "U" rating.

Because the PIP program is a union program to help the teacher, the PIP teacher usually gives favorable comments about the targeted teacher's teaching ability. The PIP program in conjunction with the poor write ups the administrators do make it very difficult to terminate a teacher for alleged incompetence. Hence the PIP+ program.

Enter the DOE's infamous Teacher Performance Unit (TPU) otherwise known as the "Gotcha Squad". The TPU is a 1.2 million dollar group of retired Principals and DOE lawyers who's only purpose is to terminate teachers by any means possible. One of the components of the TPU is to make sure that the targeted teacher be given the PIP+ program. Unlike the PIP program the PIP+ program is fully funded by the DOE and uses outside vendors to supply retired teachers, usually not affiliated with NYC to evaluate the targeted teacher. Since the vendor is dependent on the DOE for their funding, it makes sense that the teachers they hire for the PIP+ program will follow the Principal's wishes and help terminate the teacher. Admittedly, not all PIP+ teachers do this but enough do that over 75% (some say its 90%) of the teachers fail PIP+. Once the targeted teacher fails PIP+, the poor teacher is removed to the "rubber room" and given a third consecutive annual "U" rating. It goes without saying that if a PIP+ teacher is too favorable of the targeted teacher, and pisses off the Principal, they will not be selected by the vendor for future assignments. Therefore, the high failure rate under PIP+.

Once the targeted teacher fails PIP+, the Principal notifies the TPU unit who starts 3020-a termination procedures as found on this link The question becomes what should a targeted teacher do? The answer is simple. "DO NOT ACCEPT PIP+" Despite the union's approval of the PIP+ program under article 21G.9 (pgs 121-123) of the Contract, it is simply a means to terminate teachers. Why our union has bought into this DOE inspired termination process is quite simple. Our union leaders, who have not been in the classroom for decades, has lost touch with what really goes on in the schools. Furthermore, our union leaders are not affected by PIP+.

Shame on the DOE, for using a program that the only purpose is to terminate teachers. Shame on the Union that accepts this program and knows that failing it will add ammunition to the DOE in their efforts to terminate the teacher. Finally, shame on teachers that for a few pieces of gold are willing to help terminate their peers.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The City Has Allocated Scarce Buiding Funds To Help The Charter Schools While The Public Schools Suffer Budget Cuts

To my shock and horror I read a New York Post article that the City has quietly made available 3.8 billion dollars for Charter School construction and this money was taken from the traditional Public School construction funds. This allocation of money, despite a New York State prohibition in giving the Charter Schools any construction funds, was kept quiet since the NYC Public Schools are experiencing significant budget cuts and even staff layoffs. How can the City justify the shifting of Public Schools funds to Charter Schools during a financial crises and budget cuts at the Public Schools? Easy, when it comes to the NYC Public Schools they are the poor relation to the Charter Schools as Mayor Mike and Chancellor Klein practices their favorite policy, "children last".

Many of the NYC Public Schools are in various state of disrepair. Remember, the statement by Arthur Goldstein of Francis Lewis High School in which he said the following:

" My high school was built to hold 1,800 but enrolls 4,450 students. My kids sit in a crumbling trailer, with no technology and often no heat in the winter. So much for efficiency".

Wouldn't some of the City's school construction funds be better served to build an extension to the school and get rid of the trailers? Not according to Mayor Mike & Chancellor Klein. To them it is more important to fix up and build the Charter Schools then to allocate the badly needed funds to the traditional Public Schools. How many schools have disgusting bathrooms, broken furniture, and classrooms that need to be refurbished? How about the lack of equipment and air conditioning in many schools? What about school building improvements such as workable windows, doors, and floors? To the City that is not as important as to make sure their pride and joy, the Charter Schools, are supplied with the necessary building funds for them to succeed while starving the traditional Public Schools. "Children last" continues....