Thursday, August 27, 2009

What Chancellor Joel Klein Wants In The Next Contract - To Terminate The ATRs After Nine Months!

Chancellor Joel Klein, from the beginning, has developed a single minded approach to solve the ATR problem which he created in the infamous 2005 contract. That is to terminate the ATR! As well all know the terrible 2005 contract allowed principals to hire "newbie teachers" rather than excessed teachers in the subject field and Tweed further encouraged this hiring by implementing a flawed version of the "fair student funding" formula that actually penalize principals who hire experienced senior teachers. Hence, the ATR crises. Now Joel Klein was quoted in the biased anti-teacher New Yorker Rubber Room article as saying the following:

The teachers’-union contract comes up for renewal in October, and Klein told me that he plans to push for a time limit of nine months or a year for reserve teachers to find new positions, after which they would be removed from the payroll. “If you can’t find a job by then, it’s a pretty good indicator that you’re not looking or you’re not qualified,” he said.

If that doesn't tell you about Joel Klein's evil intention of what he wants to do with the ATRs, then I guess you don't understand English. Furthermore, the article also writes about Joel Klein's philosophy for hiring "newbie teachers" .

Until this year, the city was hiring as many as five thousand new teachers annually to fill vacancies, while the teachers on the reserve list stayed there. This meant that, in keeping with Klein’s goals, new blood was coming into the schools—recruits from Teach for America or from fellowship programs, as well as those who enter the profession the conventional way.

Since there are at least 2,000 ATRs in the system (as of August 22nd) the ATRs represent a powerful force and they must contact our new non-elected President, Michael Mulgrew and let him know that giving a time limit to ATRs is a tenure issue and is not negotiable in this and any other contract. Hear that Mike?

Note: If you click on to the picture on the top right (the guillotine), this is what Klein wants to do to the ATR.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Another Clueless Non-Educator Who Thinks He Knows What's Best For The Classroom

In an editorial in the U.S. News & World Report, Editor-in-Chief Mortimer B. Zuckerman has embraced the pseudo education reform movement by blaming the problem of student academic achievement on teachers. He stated in the editorial that "better teachers are the key for student academic improvement". Mr. Zuckerman, like all educational reformers, ignores, smaller class sizes, teacher innovation, and stringent student discipline codes as major factors in improving the classroom academics. Instead Mr. Zuckerman states that technology is the key to increase teaching effectiveness. He calls it technology teaching.

While I do agree that some technology is good to aid the teacher, it is not the answer in making a good teacher. To show how ignorants Mr. Zuckerman is about the urban classroom, he assumes that the classes should have large flastscreen monitors with whiteboards on either side. Further, the technology will be set up to interact with a school server that can access all the lesson planes for every subject. This would also include video presentations, dramatizations, and an Internet interface. Nice idea except for one important fact. Who pays for it? And where is the large amount of money coming from? As for technology making a teacher a better teacher? IMaybe it can make a teacher marginally better. On the other hand, many teachers will use technology as a crutch and weaken their teaching abilities.

The characteristics for a "quality teacher" is quite simple. First, the teacher must have small class sizes, Second, the teacher must know the curriculum like the back of their hand. Third, let the teacher be the master of his or her classroom, not the administrators. Finally, the teacher must demonstrate skills in classroom management and punish misbehaving students with reasonable penalties. For a teacher to be a quality teacher, the above skills must be mastered and that takes a minimum of 3 to 5 years and in many cases longer. Is it any wonder that in New York City 50% of the new teachers quit within the first five years?

Time and again teachers are excluded in education forums and policy decisions. Both the AFT and NEA must ensure that classroom teachers are represented in all National issues that affect the classroom. Education policy should be left to educators who understand the classroom not politicians, journalists, or lawyers who are clueless when it comes to the academic needs of the students.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The UFT's "300" Negotiating Committee Must Stand Their Ground, Not Allow Any "Givebacks", And Resolve The Ever Growing ATR Crises

I admit I am a complex person. On one hand I am highly suspicious of the motives of Bloomberg and Klein's intent on the City's Public Schools and at the same time I am naive when it comes to our union leaders who proclaim time and again "victory", when negotiating with either the Bloomberg Administration and Tweed on education issues. My knee jerk reaction was to give Randi Weingarten and her lackeys the benefit of the doubt that the union negotiations were successful and was a win for the members. Of course, the reality was much different.. Time and again, while the UFT negotiated in good faith, Tweed would simply ignore the signed agreements since they lacked enforceability. Examples of this are the ATR agreement and the "rubber room" agreement. More ominous are the secret side agreements the UFT signed off om. An example of this is Appendix H of the "probable cause" agreement that allows the DOE to suspend teachers without pay or health benefits for up to 90 days simply on a hearsay statement! Now in the latest agreement signed with the City, our union negotiators have given up some of our retirement rights and there is a disturbing rumor that an unpublished side agreement was part of the negotiations that will force retirees to remove their money from the fixed income fund, despite denials by TRS and union leaders. Even the Financial Planner, Joel Frank, reported this in the Chief in the July 24, 2009 edition.

Now we are in the process of finishing the next contract (the parameters were decided on during the last days of Randi Weingarten) and the committee of "300" theoretically can make sure that the new contract will not have any "givebacks" and "secret side agreements that screws the members. I believe, with a mensch like James Eterno on the committee, I expect that the union will "stand their ground" and resolve the ever worsening ATR crises (2,340 ATRs as of August) and require that excessed ATRs be placed by subject area before "newbie teachers" can be hired.

To the 300. Please don't let our union leaders dupe you in approving an inferior contract that allows "givebacks", no matter how minor they appear to be. Further, the contract must be ironclad enforceable. History has shown that you can't trust Mayor Mike and Chancellor Klein so please don't expect them to live up to any agreement that lacks enforceability.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

If The Students Are Improving, Then Why Are They Still Ill Prepared Academically As They Enter High School?

The Bloomberg/Klein propaganda machine on how the New York City Public School System has improved under their leadership has even convinced many of their critics that there has been some academic improvement. The critics just don't like the methods used to achieve the alleged academic improvement such as "social promotion". The Bloomberg Administration points out that there are less level 1 students and fewer students are required to go to summer school to advance to the next grade. While I do not support "social promotion" I, like many educators, do question the tactics used to artificially improve a level one student to be promoted to the next grade. In other words, the academic progress claimed by the Bloomberg Administration is all "smoke and mirrors".

The basis for improving a level 1 student to at least a level 2 is not based on academic achievement but relies on increasingly "dumbed down" State tests and matrices, numbing test preparation at the expense of a well-rounded educational program, and a liberal interpretation of grading the tests that raise the scores of the students taking them. Previously, I wrote a post on how some level 1 students actually graded out as level 3 students in the middle school State Math test.

While I am in contact with many elementary and middle school teachers who have told me how the State tests are a "joke", I am most familiar with the high school setting. At the high schools, many of the ninth grade teachers complain how unprepared both academically, and behaviorally the ninth freshmen classes are. The teachers attribute this to poor academic skills and lack of discipline as they enter the more mature High School environment. These teachers don't blame the middle school teachers but question the administrative dictates of both the Principals and the District Superintendents that looked the other way on student misbehavior but go all out on alleged employee misconduct, no matter how frivolous it is. Is it any wonder that teachers are reluctant to discipline unruly students when it could lead to corporal punishment and verbal abuse charges against the teacher? Furthermore, because of the idiotic school grade program by Tweed, School administrators are under intense pressure to raise student scores and not report violence which destroys teacher morale and control of their classroom.

How bad has the State tests been "dumbed down"? Even the normally pro-Bloomberg/Klein Daily News questioned the State tests Here, Here, and Here. Further, the New York Post had decided to actually publish Diane Ravitch's opinion piece that showed how failing students were passed along by the DOE because of the State test scoring method. Moreover, the new Board of Regents Chancellor,Merryl Tisch, has stated that the State tests are too easy and must be toughened. Let's see if the baseline federal NAEP and SAT scores show improvement. If they do, then the Bloomberg/Klein flawed education approach may be finally working, if poorly, but if the approach doesn't work, then let's expose the phony education reforms of Bloomberg and the immediate firing of Joel Klein and his non-educators at Tweed along with their "children last" program.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Legacy Of Randi Weingarten- Our Union Rolled Over And Played Dead To The DOE And Now We Have An ATR Crises And Overcrowded "Rubber Rooms"

Before Randi Weingarten became President of the UFT, there were few, if any ATRs and the "rubber rooms" were populated by between 80 and 100 teachers annually. However, as Randi Weingarten leaves the UFT we have both an ATR crises with 2,340 ATRs and overcrowded "rubber rooms" that have over 700 teachers in them. Both of these problems can be traced back to the infamous 2005 contract that allowed the DOE to hire "newbie teachers" rather than fill the position with an excessed teacher. The result was that when Principals had a vacancy they no longer had to fill it with an excessed teacher and could hire whomever the Principal wanted. This resulted in not only the creation of the ATR ranks but senior teachers found themselves reassigned out of the classroom as Principals saw an opportunity to remove them based on frivolous charges, knowing that they can then hire a "newbie teacher" for less money.

Furthermore, Randi Weingarten allowed Tweed to bring in the "fair student funding" program that penalized schools who hired senior teachers which further added to the ATR ranks. Finally, the union failed to object when the DOE allowed schools to take a teacher off their budget after only 60 days when they sent the teacher to the "rubber room". This has become a salary dump for many Principals who want to cut their budget.

Time and again Randi Weingarten signed unenforceable agreements with Joel Klein (ATR agreement, "rubber room" agreement ) and was "shocked" when Tweed reneged and ignored the agreements. Moreover, under Randi's watch teachers have lost control of their classrooms, experienced a loss of "due process" in the disciplinary hearings, and most importantly, has allowed the DOE to impose whatever "flavor of the day" program they were sold by consultants which resulted in more charges of incompetence as Principals blame the teachers when "high needs students" could not do the work even when the program was not suited for them.

While I hold little hope that Mike Mulgrew will lead the union into a pro-active organization, I do wish that our appointed President goes on the offensive and holds the DOE's feet to the fire by getting some takebacks in the next contract. I can dream, can't I?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

When A Hiring Freeze Is Not Really A Hiring Freeze - Tweed Allows Principals To Hire More "Newbie Teachers" As The ATR Ranks Continue To Increase

During the month of July, Tweed, despite Chancellor Joel Klein's e-mail message to the Principals, has loosened the hiring restrictions from a total hiring freeze (except for the new small schools) to allowing schools to hire Science and Special Education teachers. Eventually, I look for Joel Klein to also allow the hiring of Math teachers as the Open Market System ends next week. It was only in the late Spring when the Chancellor told the Principals that they must hire from the excessed teacher list, "no exceptions", However, I was told by some Principals that they were privately informed from top administrators that they should "sit tight" if they were unhappy with the hiring freeze since it was likely that Tweed would either rescind or loosen the hiring freeze by mid-August. I even wrote about this in a previous post. Would Chancellor Joel Klein lie about enforcing the hiring freeze for the 2009-10 school year? Apparently he did. Why else were principals told by their supervisors not to panic and wait out the hiring freeze?. It might have been wishful thinking on the part of the administrators. However, I believe that somebody knew something and it usually comes from the top, in this case Chancellor Joel Klein.

A little History is needed here. Joel Klein notified Principals of the hiring freeze on May 6th and this was reported by both Gotham News and the New York Times. However, given the lack of respect that Bloomberg and Klein have for excessed teachers and the vile propaganda from Tweed and their media puppets that convinced many a Principal not to consider an ATR for the vacancies. The result was the schools were not actively recruiting the ATRs. I also posted an article on how many of the Principals feel about the ATRs.

Now, after the budget cuts and the lack of hiring existing ATRs, there are now 2,340 excessed teachers without a classroom. This does not include the approximately 800 "rubber room" teachers where 90% will eventually find themselves as ATRs during this or the next school year. According to the DOE there are 2,400 teacher vacancies. However, many of these vacancies are in schools that have one or more of the following problems. High teacher turnover, lack of enforcement of student discipline codes, bad neighborhoods, no parking, or have "principals from hell" (the UFT call them PINI principals). Therefore, the ATRs are unwilling to place their health and safety with these schools. Look for the ATR ranks to go down but I suspect that by the beginning of the 2009-10 school year the ATR ranks to be close to 1500 as Principals are reluctant to hire them and the ATRs will opt not to go to schools that can jeopardize their teaching career.