Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Mayor's Poodle, Chancellor Dennis Walcott, Demostrates Why He Is Clueless About The Classroom.

The Mayor's poodle, Chancellor Dennis Walcott, held a press conference where he stated that he will close 50 poorly preforming middle schools and replace them with Charter schools and new public schools. He will use the "turnaround model" which means replacing the leadership and 50% of the teaching staff, while leaving the students in the schools. UFT President MIchael Mulgrew responded to the Chancellor's speech by claiming " that all you are doing is rearranging the deck chairs". However, the most serious aspect of the Chancellor's middle school proposal will result in 2,000 more ATRs or a doubling of the current ATR population. Furthermore, the Chancellor apparently has the right to decide which teachers to keep based upon some obscure and undefined merit selection process. Since the Mayor has already stated that the "best teachers are our new teachers" and experience does not count in teaching, guess which teachers will be retained by the "turnaround schools"? Moreover, how many public school teachers will actually accept assignments in the new Charter schools? Not many, if any, since many of these Charter schools do not have the union benefits and teacher "due process" that the public school teachers do. That means some of the "turnaround schools" that become Charter schools will replace their entire teaching staff! Who will replace the teachers that leave or excessed from those schools? Well. the Chancellor already has solved this problem. He stated that the entire class of "Teaching Fellows", with their five weeks of training will be sent to the "turnaround schools". Yes, for the Mayor's poodle, Chancellor Dennis Walcott, the "best teachers" are those"newbie teachers" that cost the least amount of money. In other words its "education on the cheap".

I can just picture what will happen in a classroom as the "newbie teaching fellow" is confronted by the unruly middle school students who were largely responsible for the problems of the school in the first place. The "Teaching Fellow", with no classroom management skills, working in a new and challenging, if not hostile environment, and struggling with a new curriculum is just what the Chancellor ordered to improve these schools. Yeah right! If you really believe that "newbie teachers" are the answer then I have a Bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Besides putting the entire recruiting class of "Teaching Fellows" in the "turnaround schools" some of the schools will be the first middle schools to participate in the online based IZONE, where students are essentially self-taught on computers with little teacher guidance. Even in the carefully selected high schools this technology based online program has received mixed reviews at best. Now the Chancellor and his minions naively believe that technology alone will succeed by making immature children responsible in a self-taught program that requires the academic discipline which many of them do not have. Finally, to make matters worse, the already large class sizes will continue as the Chancellor has no intention of lowering class size, an integral part of improving student academic achievement.

Let's see, the Chancellor expects improvements by replacing experienced teachers with poorly trained "newbie teachers" and in the IZONE schools no teacher, keeping large class sizes, and ignoring the social-economic problems these students are exposed to outside the school environment which is the primary cause of the problems with the failing schools. To me that is simply a fantasy and it shows how clueless the Chancellor really is about the what goes on in the classroom.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The New York City Schools Are Not Adequately Preparing High School Graduates For The "Real World" And That Is A Major Problem.

The DOE propaganda machine is working full time in presenting the most optimistic face on the high school graduation rate and national SAT scores. Tweed went to great lengths to show that their pseudo education reform under the Bloomberg Administration was working as the high school graduation rate has risen to 61% and the SAT scores improved, especially for Hispanics. However, the truth is very different and disturbing. The majority of New York City Public School graduates are not ready for the "real world", especially Black and Hispanic students. The 2011 SAT scores have shown a widening racial academic achievement gap in the New York City high schools and no DOE playing with the statistics can dispute the numbers. On the whole, NYC SAT scores have declined a measly one point since 2007. However, when you look into the numbers and break it down by racial classifications it shows the ever widening racial academic achievement gap. Since 2007 here is how each group's SAT score have changed.
  • Asians...... +29 points
  • Whites........ + 9 points
  • Hispanics... -17 points
  • Blacks........ -27 points
Furthermore, the College Board has said that a SAT benchmark of 1,550 demonstrates college success. For Whites & Asians approximately half meet that benchmark while Hispanics and Blacks average well below the benchmark.

SAT Benchmark for College Success (1,550 points).

  1. Whites 1,529 points
  2. Asians 1,522 points
  3. Hispanics 1,228 points
  4. Blacks 1,215 points
New York State uses a different measure for college and career readiness and found only one out of five New York City Public School students were "college ready". What the racial breakdown is for both measures are a closely held secret and I cannot find it in the data. However, it is very obvious that under the Bloomberg Administration, student academic achievement has been non-existent and any academic improvements are simply an illusion.

That brings me to the issue is the DOE really training high school students to the "real world"? Unfortunately, the answer is a very loud no! In the "real world" employees need to be reliable, dependable, and trustworthy. However, the DOE discounts all these attributes when pushing students through to graduation. First, the DOE encourages principals to use bogus "credit recovery programs" that simply requires the student to take an online course and Google the answers. Remember this outrageous action? Second, the DOE pushed to eliminate the "seat time" requirement and shove even more unprepared students to graduation. Finally, administrators pressured teachers to pass failing students to improve the school's report card. The result is students are jettisoned into the "real world" without the necessary skills to succeed. Many of them not only unprepared academically to work in the "real world" but were unreliable, not dependable, and worst of all untrustworthy. The lessons they learned from their high school experience was that one did not need to work hard academically to graduate so why do I need to work hard now?

Gone are the days when school officials demanded that students do their best and give that extra effort to succeed academically and become a productive adult in the "real world". At Tweed it is more about the numbers who graduate, be it by using bogus "credit recovery" programs, or online courses from home, and not whether these graduates are academically or emotionally ready for the "real world". For the DOE it is not "children first" but to massage the statistics to make it appear they are succeeding when the reality shows that the students are really failing when it comes to the adult world of college and employment.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

How Does One Define A "Quality Teacher"? To The Various Groups It Means Many Different Things.

Everybody wants a "quality teacher" in the classroom. It doesn't matter if you are a traditional educator or an education reformer, a "quality teacher" is an important element for successful student academic achievement. The problem lies with the definition of what is a "quality teacher"?

Most people in education believe that a "quality teacher" is a teacher that rises student academic achievement and is a dependable and reliable presence in the classroom. However, beyond these general elements there is a wide difference of opinion on the specifics of what is a "quality teacher"?

Pseudo Education Reform:
It is easy to discount this group. The Bloomberg/Klein/Walcott political rhetoric that the "best teachers" are the young and cheap teachers, many of them recruited from alternate teaching programs like the "Teaching Fellows" or "Teach For America" who seem to disappear from teaching a few years down the road (E4E leadership are a prime example). For these politicians it is simply "education on the cheap" and a temporary, replaceable teaching staff means low salaries and no vesting rights for pensions and retiree health benefits. I am sure you all remember Mayor Bloomberg's press conference where he called experienced teachers irrelevant. These pseudo education reformers are simply people who want to reduce public education expenditures by encouraging Charter schools, reducing funding to public schools, and eliminating union protections.

Education Reformers:
For many education reformers the "quality teacher" is by far the most important factor in student learning. These same education reformers ignore class sizes, social-economic issues, Administrative competence, and lack of school resources as factors in student academic achievement. Furthermore, these education reformers blame teacher unions for many of the problems in schools. For example, they claim that teachers have "tenure for life", knowing full well that teachers accused of incompetence or misconduct can be terminated at an Administrative hearing in front of an impartial Arbitrator where the school board can present their case against the teacher. To most of us this is called "due process". Furthermore, the education reformers claim that teachers get automatic tenure. Again, this is a lie. Tenure can only be granted by an Administrator after three years of satisfactory service. Tenure can be denied or a teacher's probation can be extended until the Principal is satisfied that the teacher deserves tenure. Therefore, tenure is awarded not automatic and tenured teachers can still be terminated if the school district presents sufficient evidence to prove teacher incompetence or misconduct. Many education reformers support Charter schools and vouchers and believe that technology is a way to improve student academic achievement. Some of these reformers even believe that technology can replace teachers and support online learning as a way to improve student learning. In New York City $50 million dollars are being wasted in the izone program where almost all student learning is done online with little or no teacher interaction and at best has been received mixed reviews by schools who are part of the program. In fact, in Minnesota there are more dropouts in these online learning schools than regular public schools.To the education reformers a "quality teacher" is a teacher that raises student scores on standardized tests (test prep), and are always available day and night for student needs. Moreover, a "quality teacher" is a teacher willing to take over many non-teaching duties, without added compensation and does not hide behind the union contract. That is why the education reformers love Charter schools since teachers must do additional duties besides teaching, work an extended day and year, and have little "due process" in hiring/firing decisions. Of course the education reformers ignore the high teacher turnover and burnout that comes with their definition of a "quality teacher".

Traditional Educators:
The vast majority of educators who came from the classroom understand that education can be improved by slowly and carefully incorporating new ideas and testing them in the classroom. For example technology can aid teaching by supporting a lesson rather than replacing the lesson with its own. For the traditional educator a "quality teacher" is a teacher that not only know the curriculum but can go deeper into what each lesson means to student learning. Further, the "quality teacher" has the ability to tailor his or her lesson to best help the students in maximizing their academic improvement. In other words, "let teachers teach" A "quality teacher" can enhance the curriculum by telling his or her students a story that shows how a lesson comes alive and why it is important to understand the significance of the subject taught to the student. A "quality teacher" has the ability to place the student into the lesson taught and actually experience the academic significance in the real world. An example is to teach lower grades the significance of Math by using money to buy food to eat, buy toys, and save. For many traditional educators, a "quality teacher" is a teacher that can successfully impart knowledge, cares for the students, and can handle classroom management issues to maximize student academic achievement. Additionally, manageable class sizes, adequate resources, and Administrative support are all an integral part of being a "quality teacher".

The bottom line is a "quality teacher" is a one of the many important elements of student academic achievement. However, the definition of a "quality teacher" is very different for the different groups who dominate education policy and that is the major problem in shaping a truly effective education policy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Difference Between Smart Principals And Stupid Principals When Hiring Teachers For Their Vacancies.

Over the summer I applied to ten vacancies in my subject area and received not one interview. I had no better luck at the DOE "job fairs", as many of the interviewers (principals, assistant principals, deans, school secretaries? Who knows?) simply had a tag that said "interviewer". Was it my breath? Could it be I had body odor? Maybe it was the way I dressed? Of course the real reason was my age and salary. That brings me to the title of this post. "The difference between smart principals and stupid principals when hiring teachers for their vacancies".

Stupid principals, many of them "Leadership Academy Principals" (17% of the total Principal population) hired the most inexpensive teacher they could recruit, preferably one or two year novice and untenured teachers. Failing that, the stupid principals would hire "newbie teachers" from the alternate certification programs (Teach for America, Teaching Fellows) by falsely claiming that the available ATRs did not fit the school's vision. These stupid principals are now saddled with teachers that have little or no classroom experience, incomplete knowledge of the curriculum, and non-existent classroom management skills. In other words the stupid principals are "penny wise and dollar foolish" as they make the children guinea pigs and expose them to poor teaching as these "newbie/novice teachers" blunder their way through a school year while academically hurting the students that they are supposed to help. Occasionally, one of these teachers turns out to be a "diamond in the rough" and will eventually become a "quality teacher" but at what cost to student learning as many of these "newbies" can't teach and academically harm the children under his or her care?

Smart principals on the other hand hire few "newbie teachers" and wait to fill the vacancies once the school year starts. These principals interview ATRs during the first week or two and weed out the ones that don't seem to click. Some principals require the teacher to do a demonstration lesson in front of a live class to see how the interaction between the teacher and the class works. Furthermore, smart principals also know that the ATRs are free to them and it gives both sides a chance to see if it is a good fit. In fact the ATR saves the school money since Tweed actually picks up the salary for the school year. True, what happens the next year? Hopefully, the ATR and the smart Principal finds that the ATR is an asset to the school and will find a way to add the ATR to the budget. Potentially, it could be a win-win for all as the smart Principal gets a "quality teacher" the students advance academically, and the ATR can finally show the skills acquired through the years.

For the stupid principals it is "children last" as the school and the students are exposed to an unknown factor in helping them to achieve academic achievement. By contrast, for the smart Principal it is "children first" as the school obtains an experienced "quality teacher" at little or no cost to the school and if it works out, a win for all, especially the students.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The DOE "Job Fair" Was Like Going To An Oldies Convention But Without The Music. What A Waste Of Time.

I went to the mandatory DOE "job fair" for ATRs at the Brooklyn Museum and I felt I was at an oldies convention with almost all the teachers there being in their 40's, 50's and 60's. Only WCBS-FM was missing to supply the music. Conspicuous by their absence were young teachers. Of course the young teachers in excess were quickly gobbled up in the "Open Market Transfer System" and the "job fairs" over the summer as principals were looking for the cheapest, not "quality teachers" to fill their vacancies. What happened to the DOE's slogan of "children first"?

In my subject, which is considered a shortage area, I could found no Queens high schools looking to fill the position at the "oldies convention" oops I mean the DOE "job fair". Only a transfer school and a closing high school both in Brooklyn had openings in my field. On the positive side I did meet old friends I haven't seen in a year or two, including many who were excessed from my old high school. Normally, seeing so many excessed teachers my age could be depressing. However, meeting many of my peers and hearing their stories actually made for interesting conversation as we compared our futile search for jobs only to find how the principals were hiring "Teaching Fellows" and the "Teach For America" candidates and getting exemptions for the bogus "DOE hiring freeze" despite not having any teaching experience. I guess you can call it "education on the cheap".

If I were the DOE I would be very embarrassed about the "job fair". The preponderance of senior teachers, many of them "quality teachers" the DOE claims they need in the schools submitted resumes to the very few schools that seem to fit. In fact, almost half the seats where schools were supposed to be at the "job fair" were empty as the schools didn't bother to show up!. Moreover, the vast majority of the ATRs found few if any positions in their district or even Borough. To say it was "slim pickings" would be an understatement. The DOE should be ashamed of this travesty and the union has a lot of explaining to do in being part of it. Even the DOE promise of free parking was a lie as many of us were forced to pay between $5-$9 dollars to the museum parking lot even after showing them the paper we were at the "job fair". Of course, this is the DOE and lying to the teachers are just part of the game to disillusion us into resigning. Fat chance of that happening.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The DOE's Effort To Improve Student Academic Achievement Is Doomed To Fail With The Present Policies In Place.

The DOE keeps coining up with various strategies and policies that they claim will be the "be all and end all" method to improve student academic achievement. Be it the "Workshop model", the "fair student funding" formula, or the "teacher data reports". Just to name a few. However, the results have been less then impressive with only minuscule or no improvement in the decade. Worse, has been the wide and at times a widening academic achievement gap due to both race and income over the last decade. In Tweed's never ending quest to throw good money after questionable programs with little or no academic value, the Central Bureaucracy has seen an explosion of Administrative positions. Between 2003 and 2010 Tweed grew from 1,322 positions to 2,286 employees, an astounding 70% increase! According to a New York Post article there has been an increase of over 16,360 positions in this decade in the DOE while teacher positions have been reduced by 8,000 over the last three years. The result has been large class sizes, experienced teachers without a position, and the influx of unproven and untested people who came from alternate certification programs such as "Teach For America" and the "Teaching Fellows". These programs allowed principals to bring in cheap and warm bodies to fill classroom vacancies without and real preparation to teach in the most challenging environment. This is "children first"? Worse yet was the closing of large comprehensive high schools and the mass excessing of "quality teachers" only to be replaced with small themed schools that are top heavy with administrators and staffed by"newbie teachers". Finally, unrelenting test preparation (teaching to the test) was the mainstay of school grades and students were drilled to do English and Math at the expense of the other subjects. In fact many parents complained about the DOE's narrow focus on the two testing subjects and were ignored, a hallmark of Bloomberg/Klein Administration. All of these issues made it nearly impossible to significantly raise student achievement or to narrow the racial/income academic achievement gap.

What are the solutions to improving the student academic achievement gap? Here are some suggestions that work.

Reduce Class Sizes:

Over the last few years class sizes has risen dramatically as 8,000 teachers have left the system. The increase in New York City large class sizes, the largest in the State, results in more noise, less individualized instruction, and adds to classroom stress. Only the Ed Deformers believe that class sizes don't matter. Just ask any parent, teacher, and student if class size matters; You will get a loud and unanimous yes to that subject.

A Quality Teacher In Every Classroom:

There is no doubt that a "quality teacher" is one of the two most important school-based aspects in improving student academic achievement; The other being class size. However, due to school budget cuts and financial pressure on principals to hire the cheapest teacher due to the "fair student funding" formula, the Bloomberg Administration's definition of a "quality teacher" is much different than everybody else. To the Bloomberg Administration a "quality teacher" is the young and inexpensive teacher that you can abuse and burn out before they ever became vested. To Tweed, recruitment of "newbie teachers" were more important then retention of their existing teachers. Is it any wonder that tenure acceptance rates have dropped drastically this year while the ATR crises just gets worse with almost 2,000 experienced teachers without a classroom position to call their own?

Eliminate The "Fair Student Funding" Formula:

The "fair student funding" formula has resulted in an up to 20% reduction in some schools while not appreciably increased the budget in the low wealth schools that it was intended to help. The result is to force principals to "hire on the cheap" when it comes to teachers and senior teachers are almost guaranteed not to be hired for vacancies at the schools. Furthermore, the inclusion of the actual teacher salaries in the school's budget rather than as a unit is also a disincentive for principals who would want to hire an experienced teacher for his or her classroom and do what is best for the students.

Place ATRs in All Vacancies And Give The Schools An Incentive To Have Them:

The DOE created the ATR mess by closing over one hundred schools, allowing principals to file frivolous or embellished charges against teachers to remove them from their school, and to encourage principals to hire the "newbie teacher" and grant them exemptions to a hiring freeze that have gaps that you can drive a truck through.

If the DOE really wants to improve student academic performance, then the recommendations I made need to be followed. To me that is really "children first".

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"Breaking News" - The "Rubber Room" Is Alive And Well At Tweed!

I have been informed that Tweed has started a new "rubber room" on the twelfth floor in the Chambers Street building where all 3020-a teacher termination hearings are held. My source told me that he saw chairs squeezed together and lined up against two walls with teachers sitting on them, apparently doing nothing, day after day. My source actually spoke to some of them and they told him that they were informed that they were reassigned out of the schools and to report to this location.

At first, I thought my source was playing a joke on me but my union source admitted that the DOE is indeed reassigning selected teachers to a temporary reassignment location while they figure out whether to pursue 3020-a charges against these individuals. According to my union source, the DOE always maintained the right to reassign teachers on a temporary basis while they investigate potentially serious allegations. So much for the "rubber room agreement" that was supposed to abolish the "rubber rooms" once and for all.

While it might be true that this new "rubber room" may only be temporary, as my union source claimed, it still is very disturbing that some teachers must travel long distances from the outer Boroughs to Downtown Manhattan simply because of an unproven accusation made against that educator. The least they should do is have them report to their "Children First Network" Offices where they can be given meaningful work while waiting for their cases to be finished.

Is this just another example of the DOE reneging on an agreement with our union? It certainly looks like it to me.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Tale Of Two Teachers Who Went To A Hiring Hall And Why The ATR Crises Is Just Getting Worse For Senior Teachers.

Two teachers wrote about their experiences at a DOE "job fair" and the very different results they ended up with shows why the DOE has no intention of solving the ATR crises.

The first teacher is Marc Epstein, a senior teacher with twenty years of teaching experience and who has been considered a "master teacher" and mentor for many new teachers in his old school. If Marc's name seems familiar, it is because his articles have been published in various newspapers, including the prestigious Washington Post, has appeared on the O'Reily Factor, and is a Huffington Post blogger. Marc and I taught in the same school for ten years and he has taught every social studies course offered by the school including Advanced Placement courses in History and Government. He is the "gold standard" when teaching to students and preparing them for college.

When Marc was excessed from Jamaica High School he applied to many vacancies on the "Open Market System" and received not one interview. He then went to an August "job fair" and found few vacancies for Social Studies teachers and of course, no interviews. Marc Epstein's own words can be found on the NYC ATR blog.

By contrast, I present you with four year Social Studies teacher Collin Lawrence who taught Global Studies and wrote some very insightful and entertaining articles in the Gotham Schools Community Section about his struggles at the Brooklyn Arts Academy. He decided to leave teaching after the DOE refused his request to take a one year leave of absence and this made it more difficult, in theory, to apply for a position since he would be considered an outside teacher and there is (or was?) a job freeze for Social Studies teachers. He also went to a "job fair" in August and had eight interviews and two job offers. He chose a school in Manhattan. What hiring freeze?

Why can't an extraordinary teacher like Marc Epstein not even get an interview while an up and coming great teacher (maybe) Collin Lawrence gets interviews galore and can pick between job offers despite resigning from the DOE a year earlier? Unfortunately, the answer is very simple, it is about money and age for principals who are hiring not what is best for the students in their schools. You see Marc Epstein makes $90,000 dollars annually and is in his 50s while Collin Lawrence is around 30 and makes $50,000 annually. Get the message?

The DOE has encouraged principals to hire based upon their budget and will even penalize them financially for hiring the Marc Epsteins of the world. Moreover, the DOE now appears to be looking the other way when principals hire teachers in subject areas that have a job freeze, like the Manhattan Principal that hired Collin Lawrence. The DOE seems not to take the apparent violation of the hiring freeze as something they are doing anything about at least at present since there is no pressure from our union to explain it. More disturbingly, is the union's silence about d the DOE's demonetization of senior teachers (more about our union's silence in my next post).

Finally, I don't want my readers to think I am criticizing Collin Lawrence. I do believe, given time (another 3-4 years), Collin Lawrence will be a "quality teacher" and someday may even be the "master teacher" that every one of us aspire to be and that Marc Epstein is.

Monday, September 12, 2011

We Finally Know Why Student Academic Achievement Is So Poor. It's SpongeBob and Apple Juice!

There has been an increasingly bitter debate on why it has been difficult to raise student academic achievement. For the educators, except for E4E, it is large class sizes, lack of funding, high teacher turnover, and lapsed student discipline. Moreover, students in poverty had a much lower academic achievement than higher income children, allowing or a large academic achievement gap. For the Education reformers,, the no "excuses crowd", made up of billionaires, hedge fund managers, and politicians blame the teacher unions, and bad educators for the failure to raise the academic achievement of students, especially the students who live in poverty. However, it now appears that both groups are wrong.

Yes, it now seems that SpongeBob and Apple Juice are the real villains of why student academic achievement is lacking. A study done by the University of Virgina on sixty 4-year-olds show exposure to SpongeBob cartoons reduced their attention span and destroyed brain cells. Furthermore, it now turns out the the levels of Arsenic in Apple juice are much higher than in water. Some evidence suggest that Arsenic reduces the IQs of children and can cause learning difficulties.

Boy did I get it wrong. I really thought it was poverty, community, and parents. In addition to large class sizes, high teacher turnover, lack of resources, and poor discipline for the reason for our failure to improve student academic achievement when all along it was SpongeBob and Apple juice who are the cause of the failure to raise student academic achievement.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The DOE Is Encouraging Principals To Hire TF and TFA Teachers While Experienced Teachers Are Not Even Granted Interviews. "Children First". Really?

It is becoming increasingly clear that Tweed's efforts to vilify ATRs as lazy, incompetent, and bad teachers along with severe budget cuts at schools (17.4% since 2008) have had the desired effect. Few experienced ATRs are being offered positions as principals do what is best for themselves and not what is best for the students in the school. The DOE "job fairs" are mostly a joke and only the worst schools that experience high teacher turnover, and transfer schools regularly show up and hope to pick off the youngest and possibly untenured teachers to fill their needs.

Privately, principals will tell you that they would just love to have experienced teachers in the classroom but their budget and the "fair student funding formula" makes it next to impossible for them to hire them. Even "Leadership Academy principals" have found that some experienced teachers are necessary if only to show the "newbie teachers" what teaching is about and act as a mentor. However, unless the DOE offers financial incentives to hire ATRs, principals will not hire them for their vacancies. In fact, since Tweed relaxed the hiring restrictions almost all schools are simply going through the motions of looking at ATRs only to hire Teach For America (TFA} or Teaching Fellows (TF) teachers by falsely claiming the ATR teachers don't meet the needs of the school.

NYC Comptroller John Liu published some data that shows how the DOE wastes money by not properly placing ATRs in vacant positions. Here. Is it any wonder that ATRs believe they are discriminated when applying for vacancies in the NYC schools? For the schools it is a financial disincentive to hire senior teachers because of the salary.

Presently, their are 1,940 ATRs in the system and the DOE, in its uncaring and incompetent ATR placement process has elementary school ATRs in high schools, high school ATRs teaching 2nd grade and shop teachers ATRs in schools with no shop courses. Should we trust these people with our future? I don't think so.

What is needed is a new ATR Agreement between the union and the DOE that encourages principals to hire ATRs in vacancies. This agreement should include the following.

  • Ensure a school cannot hire a "new teacher" if there is a teacher in excess in the license area in the District.
  • Union oversight on any DOE granted exemptions to principals who claim that excessed teachers cannot properly fill the vacancy.
  • Eliminate the "fair student funding formula" that penalizes principals who want to hire experienced teachers.
Without incentives for schools to hire experienced teachers, very little progress can be made on the ATR issue and class sizes will just keep on increasing.

For the DOE, "children first" is properly placing ATRs in the right schools and encourage principals to fill their vacancies with the best, not the cheapest teacher qualified for the position.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The DOE Is Already Violating The New ATR Agreement By Not Giving The Most Senior ATRs First Shot To Fill A Position In Their Subject Area.

One of the provisions in the ATR Agreement between the union and the DOE was that any vacancies or long-term placement would first be offered to the most senior ATR in the District and in their subject area. However, already the DOE has seemed to violate this most important provision by putting less senior ATRs in these positions in violation of the ATR agreement. How do I know this? It just happened to me!

I had inquired about a recently opened position in my subject area in a struggling school and contacted the school on my own time to arrange an interview to see if I can fill the position. I met with the Assistant Principal who was very happy to interview me and the interview went well. However, as the interview was winding down with the Administrator to my shock he said the following" I would give you a chance if the ATR Tweed sent me doesn't work out". The ATR the Administrator was referring to is somebody I know and has half the seniority that I do. How can the less senior ATR be given first dibs on an open position when the DOE and union claimed the following in the ATR Agreement:

"When one or more vacancies occur the DOE will send the most senior Excessed Employee in the District/Superintendency with the appropriate license to the school{s) for consideration for placement, except the DOE shall not be required to send Excessed Employees who have already been sent to a school for consideration of placement pursuant to the paragraph".

Here is proof positive that the DOE has violated the ATR Agreement and where is our union's response on this apparent violation of the Agreement? You guessed it, "we are looking into it". I am not holding my breath.

Just another example how ATRs are being treated by both the DOE and our union.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Queens High School Statistics Show The Disconnect Between Graduation Rates And The Students' Readiness For College And Employment.

The Bloomberg Administration claims with much fanfare how the high school graduation rate has increased over the years. However, educators in the know that the apparent improvement in the graduation rates are really a function of the increased use of "credit recovery" programs, massaging the dropout rate, and principals who are empowered to change student grades to graduate them. However, the increased graduation rates come with a real downside, that 75% of the NYC high school gradates are not ready for college or employment without remediation.

In Queens the disconnect between high school graduation rates and "college and employment readiness" is highlighted in many of the schools and are listed below. To be "college ready" the student must achieve a 75% on the English Regents and a 80% on the Math Regents. These numbers are for June and August of 2010 and the list only includes schools who had at least 60 graduates.

Queens high schools with the lowest percentage of “college readiness” graduates

School Graduated(#) College Readiness(#) College Readiness(%)

North Queens Community HS 62 0 0.0%

Far Rockaway High School* 164 4 2.4%

Beach Channel High School* 389 10 2.6%

August Martin High School 288 8 2.8%

Queens Academy High School 141 7 5.0%

Jamaica High School* 334 29 7.4%

John Adams High School 808 65 8.0%

Queens Preparatory Academy 95 8 8.4%

Flushing High School 588 50 8.5%

Flushing International HS 86 8 9.3%

Richmond Hill High School 867 81 9.3%

HS of Law & Public Service 171 16 9.4%

Arts & Business HS 187 18 9.6%

John Bowne High School 688 73 10.3%

Queens Vocational & Technical 271 29 10.7%

Newtown High School 773 85 11.0%

Hillcrest High School 766 102 13.3%

Martin Van Buren HS 755 104 13.8%

Campus Magnet 202 29 14.3%

Grover Cleveland HS 703 110 15.6%

Long Island City HS 718 127 17.7%

Newcomers High School 214 38 17.8%

Queens High School Of Teaching 201 55 19.6%

Channel View School Of Research 71 14 19.7%

* Closing schools

By contrast here are the Queens high schools with the highest "college readiness and employment scores.

Queens high schools with the highest percentage of “college readiness” graduates

School Graduated(#) College Readiness(#) College Readiness(%)

Townsend Harris HS** 278 276 99.3%

Queens HS For The Sciences** 107 100 93.7%

Fiorello LaGuardia HS 646 487 75.4%

Queens Gateway For Health 117 67 57.3%

Bayside High school 902 454 50.3%

Frank Sinatra School Of The Arts** 171 45 49.7%

Francis Lewis High School 1209 564 46.7%

Benjamin Cardozo High School 981 458 46.7%

Thomas Edison High School 819 352 43.0%

Forest Hills High School 959 370 38.6%

Aviation High School 368 127 34.5%

Bryant High School 810 195 24.1%

Robert F. Wagner HS 95 22 23.2%

HS or Construction Trades 177 39 22.0%

Robert F. Kennedy HS 159 35 22.0%

** Specialized schools.

The complete list can be found on the New York City Public School Parent blog here.

If you really want to improve academic achievement in schools we need to reduce, not increase class size, ensure that the best and not the cheapest teachers are in the classroom, and give teachers the ability to teach what is best for the classroom and not using the "one size fits all" method that may not be best for their students.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

If I Was The Chancellor It Will Really Be "Children First" Not "Tweed First, Children Last" As It Is Now.

It is September and the beginning of a new school year but unfortunately, we have the same old failed system run by those non-educators at Tweed along with a puppet Chancellor, the Mayor's poodle, Dennis Walcott. For people who had hoped for change with the new Chancellor, they have been disappointed yet again. The Chancellor has adopted all the failed policies of Joel Klein, and Mayor Bloomberg. That had me thinking about what would I do if I became Chancellor of the New York City Schools.

First, and immediately, I would restore the 13.7% cuts to the schools and reduce class size for better student learning. I would use the CFE State money to achieve that purpose. Presently, the DOE uses the money for other purposes. Furthermore, I would eliminate the "fair student funding" formula that penalizes almost all schools and at some middle class schools have resulted in a 20% reduction of much needed funding. (Interestingly, Charter schools are exempt from the "fair student funding" formula. I wonder why?) The teachers would come from the 1,940 ATRs, many of them experienced and quality teachers who just want a chance to get back into a classroom in their district. This would wisely allocate the $125 million dollars that is presently being wasted by the present Chancellor.

Second, eliminate the 62 "Children First Networks" (CFN) and their clusters and give the Administrative responsibility back to the District Superintendents. Realistically, you can eliminate many layers of bureaucracy and reduce the headcount by up to 75% with the elimination of the CFNs and their clusters. Moreover, no longer will many of these positions at the CFNs be put on the school budgets unless the schools and their "School Based Leadership Team" unanimously agree to fund the position. Presently, many principals complain that precious funds are being siphoned away to pay for increasing levels of bureaucracy at the CFNs. Here are some examples of this.

Third, hire an independent efficiency expert by competitive bidding, to identify administrative bloat, redundancy, and unnecessary positions at the DOE Central Bureaucracy. This should include scrutinizing consultant contracts, as well as assigning a numerical grade on each and every contract that affects the school system and in particular, the classroom. No longer will money be wasted in hiring questionable positions. We all remember this.

Fourth, bring back schools as neighborhood schools and ensure that struggling schools get extra resources to help those schools succeed. Instead of closing the schools the schools would get a crisis group of "great educators" (principals and teachers) who will observe, model, and review school safety and discipline procedures. Rewrite the Chancellor Regulations on A-420 and A-421 to give more leeway for school staff to discipline students without fear of retribution and termination. Presently, any school staff member can be brought up on 3020-a charges for a nasty look, a stare, a word, or for any physical contact. Only serious verbal abuse or corporal punishment should and will be subject to discipline.

Fifth, stop the destructive practice of co-locating Charter schools with existing schools. No longer will Charter schools exclude students with disabilities or English language learners. These Charter schools will have the same representation of student diversity as the neighborhood school. Moreover, if Charter schools are found to consul out struggling students rather than provide the services the student needs, the Chancellor has the right, no the obligation, to reduce or even suspend funding to the school.

Finally, restructure Tweed and put a majority of educators in the leadership positions. Presently, there is only one educator in the Chancellor's inner circle. Is it any wonder that there is a disconnect between Tweed and the schools?

Also on my agenda would be the elimination of the "double standard" between disciplining teachers and administrators, no funding of the infamous "Principal Leadership Academy" and requiring a minimum of 10 years of classroom teaching before an educator can become a Principal. In addition, there will be no hiring of outside teachers unless there are no teacher in excess available in that subject area and administrators found to have violated the rules, or abused their staff will be subject to termination.

As Chancellor I will reduce class size, put experienced teachers back into the classroom, and reduce the bloat at the DOE. This is what I call "children first" and so would you.

Hmmm Chancellor Chaz. It has a nice ring to it.