Sunday, December 30, 2012

The State's Junk Science Exposed!

In the ever continuing teacher evaluation system conflict between the DOE and the UFT.  One aspect that both sides agree is the use of the New York State Value Added Measurement (VAM) algorithm to account for either 20% or 25% of the overall teacher evaluation.  In a previous pilot study using the VAM in New York City's teacher data reports had resulted in errors as large as 87% for English and 75% for Math!  Yet the State still insist to use this "junk science" to evaluate teachers. Unbelievable but true.

While a few people really understand the VAM algorithm, there is a consensus that teachers who teach in high poverty schools with English Language Learners and Special Education students will be at a disadvantage when the VAM is used to evaluate the teacher..

The teachers most negatively affected by the VAM will be those teachers who have "high needs students" which includes the following cohorts:

  • High poverty students.
  • Academically & behaviorally challenged students .
  • Special education & English Language Learners.
  • Dysfunctional families and homelessness.
Another issue is the student attendance problem.  There are rumors that the DOE and the UFT have come to an agreement that only those students with attendance rates of 90% or higher will be used in the teacher evaluation system.  Assuming this is true, that seems to be reasonable. However, what if the DOE reneges on this agreement as they have repeatedly done in the past?  I certainly would not trust the DOE on the attendance issue since the State has refused to support the attendance rate issue in the Buffalo dispute and the DOE's real objective is to terminate as many teachers as possible..

Finally, the VAM will pit teacher against teacher as no teacher will accept "high need students" transferred from another class during the school year without an iron-clad guarantee that the student's academic progress is not included in the teacher's evaluation.

I cannot see how the VAM accounts for real student growth.  Certainly it does not account for real student learning or achievement and does not account for some of the intangibles like this

In summary, the VAM algorithm that will be used for the teacher evaluation is inaccurate, unreliable, and meaningless and with too many fudge factors. For further details on the NYS VAM algorithm please see Gary Rubinstein's blog. Why would any sane person agree to link their job performance to this "junk science"?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Stupid Mistakes That Mayor Bloomberg And Chancellor Walcott Made in 2012.

It is time to recap the year 2012 and remember the stupid mistakes that Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott has made for the past year. Let's start with the first month of the year.

January - Mayor Bloomberg had a temper tantrum when he couldn't get his way and terminate 100% of the teachers found to be "ineffective" under the proposed teacher evaluation system. I guess 87% was not enough for Mayor moneybags..The Mayor instituted the "turnaround model" that would throw 50% of the staff into the ATR pool and leave the renamed school with a multitude of "newbie teachers", a recipe for educational disaster. The union files a lawsuit and won which resulted in a 58 million dollar loss of much needed funding for the NYC schools. What a knucklehead!

February -  During this month Chancellor Walcott, despite being told that the Teacher Data Reports (TDRs) had large errors and were inaccurate, allowed them to be published anyway.  What ever little good will the Chancellor had with teachers was permanently lost and while it did embarrass some teachers it showed how politicized the DOE was and even parents were up in arms against the Chancellor for publishing such meaningless data while refusing to release FOIL data about his own employees..

March -  Dennis Walcott's DOE decided that many common and everyday words would be eliminated from school tests.  Such inflammatory worlds as evolution, dinosaur, and forty-eight other commonly used words were not to be used in tests for third to eighth grades.  How did our Chancellor responded to this idiocy?

Chancellor Dennis Walcott says lists of banned words are common. “This is not just New York,” he said. “This is across the country.”  What a leader! 

April -Mayor Bloomberg claims that independent Arbitrators would "give a serial ax murder a slap on the wrist".  What an idiotic statement and yet the Daily News failed to take the Mayor to task for ranting such nonsense.

May -Chancellor Dennis Walcott proposed a "generous buyout" for ATRs but forgot to clear it with the Mayor and let it drop.  Good thing he did since his idea of a "generous buyout" was not too generous.  The average ATR buyout would be $14,000 and the maximum was $25,000, not very generous at all.

June - The Racial/Income student achievement gap is as wide as ever under the Mayor and Chancellor as their policies show no improvement in overall student learning.

July -In fact the racial student achievement gap has actually widened!

August - The Jamaica High School fiasco shows that under Chancellor Walcott "children first" rings hollow.

September -High school SAT scores actually fall under Chancellor Dennis Walcott's tenure.

October - After more bad news on his educational policy, Mayor Bloomberg's statement before superstorm Sandy hit that the City is well prepared for it and he will be sending City workers to neighboring communities since Sandy will have a less of an impact that tropical storm Irene. Of course, the opposite was true.

November -Mayor Bloomberg blames teachers and not his failed policies that ignore poverty for his poor educational results, despite evidence to the contrary.  What a phoney!

December -Chancellor Dennis Walcott's tenure is marked with failure as he practices a "double standard" and is a hypocrite to boot.

The future - It looks increasingly clear that the City will lose an additional $250 million dollars in State aid since there is no Teacher Evaluation System (TES) due to the Mayor's stubbornness when it came to the appeals process.  In summary, the educational leadership of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Dennis Walcott in 2012 has been a failure and more educational disappointment is expected for 2013.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Santa Claus Is Terminated By The DOE For Conduct Unbecoming A Teacher.

Santa Claus had landed a job as a teacher in Global Studies and Geography since he had first hand knowledge of the globe. Better yet, the school had to pay him only a salary of $45,530 dollars for all his knowledge of the world. He eventually received tenure and was on his way to a rewarding career as he not only gave children presents during Christmas but educate them about the world as a teacher.   However, storm clouds were brewing under the clueless Chancellor Dennis Walcott and his perverse definition of sexual misconduct. Santa was in real trouble as his affectionate and caring actions were considered "sexual in nature" by the Grand Inquisitor and his SCI investigators.  Their biased report, full of out of context statements, bogus accusations, and frivolous actions was enough to file 3020-a charges against Santa Claus who was eventually terminated. The trash media had a field day, the Post and Daily News, labeled poor Santa as "perv Claus".  What did Santa Claus actually do?  I'm glad you asked.  Here are the charges against Santa Claus.

  • Calling school girls "hoes".
  • Telling schoolchildren to sit on his lap.
  • Asking the children if they were "naughty or nice"?
  • Threatening them with a lump of coal in their stockings.
  • Letting the students know that he will be breaking into their houses.
Santa Claus  was immediately removed from the classroom and sent to his local CFN "rubber room" where he languished for a month before he was summoned to a "probable cause" hearing where he was suspended without pay and health benefits.  Below is Santa Clause's 3020-a hearing at the point that Santa is cross examined by the DOE lawyer.

 The DOE lawyer asks Santa Claus why he kept telling the girls in the class that they are Hoes? Santa Claus responds by saying "I said Ho, Ho, Ho. Not that they are Hoes". The DOE lawyer states that Hoe and Ho are the same and the girls complained that they believed he was calling them Hoes.  The DOE lawyer asks Santa Claus why did he want to know what sexual deeds did the girls do?  Santa replied that he meant naughty as nice not sexual things. The DOE lawyer then brings up why did he threaten them with coal in their stockings if they didn't act nice? Santa Claus responds: "That is my way to encourage them to do the right things in life". The DOE lawyer states that sounds like you are scaring them. Santa Claus responds. "I was trying to get them to be good". The DOE lawyer then asked "haven't you asked the students to sit on your lap"? Santa Claus responds. "Yes".  Don't you think that is a sexual act?  Santa replied "no it is just a show of affection" The DOE lawyer asked Santa "didn't you tell the children that they will not get presents if they don't behave"?  Santa replied "yes". The DOE lawyer then asks didn't you tell the children that you will break into their house when they are sleeping? Santa Claus responds. "Yes, but only on Christmas Eve". So you admit to threatening them with breaking and entering into their homes? Santa Claus responds. "I guess so". Finally, is it true that you tried to bribe the children with presents if they sat on your lap?
Santa Claus responds. "I was not trying to bribe them". 

In his closing statement the DOE lawyer states the following. The DOE has proved his case that Santa Claus is guilty of the following offenses.
  1. Sexual misconduct of a verbal nature in calling the girls Hoes.
  2. Sexual misconduct of a physical nature by forcing the children to sit on his lap.
  3. Corporal Punishment by threatening them with a lump of coal in their stockings,
  4. Verbal Abuse by threatening them with no presents for being naughty.
  5. Felony criminal charge of "breaking & entering" and "bribing" the children
The Arbitrator, under pressure from the DOE, found poor Santa guilty of all charges and terminated him 30 days after the closing statements.  Now poor Santa can never work for the DOE again.  Too bad he wasn't a DOE manager, he would have kept his job.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Chancellor Walcott's Ultimatium To The Union. No Teacher Evaluation System, Look For The World To End.

A major historic event is less than two days away.  No it's not the fiscal cliff.  Not even the Mayan Apocalypse.  It is Chancellor Dennis Walcott's ultimatum that if by Friday, December 21st, the union does not cave in an agree to a flawed teacher evaluation system, then he will cut school budgets and not replace teachers who leave the system.  Notice, he does not mention cutting the Central Bureaucracy at Tweed or the wasteful consultant services, or the elimination of failed administrators in the worthless "Children First Networks"?  Rather, the Chancellor tries to hurt the very children he is supposed to protect by cutting the funding of the already stared schools who already lack badly needed resources and threaten to increase already large class sizes.

Interestingly, the Chancellor failed to mention that the potential $250 million dollar cut is only 1% of the total education budget of $23.2 billion dollars.  It would seem incredible that the bloated bureaucracy at Tweed could not absorb a 1% drop in revenue which is not really a drop but a withholding of additional funds by the State for the next school year which may not even be legal.

It is to be seen if our union actually caves in and gives the DOE the very flawed teacher evaluation system, complete with junk science, a rigid rubric that has 57 components, and low scores for teachers who teach difficult children.  If the union does cave to the City and State, it just may be an apocalypse for the City's underpaid and disrespected teaching staff.

Note: Michael Mulgrew's letter to Chancellor Dennis Walcott means its doomsday for the DOE on the teacher evaluation system at their self-imposed deadline:  Let's hope there is none until Bloomberg and his poodle are gone.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Christmas Party Is Cancelled As The School Prepares To Close.

In my previous school last year.  I saw staff morale sag and was so low that even the usually oblivious student body was concerned about the teachers and their future.  The school is Flushing High School and it is on the list of closing schools as they received another "D" rating despite having a new Principal.

This Principal , instead of working with the staff, she actually made life more difficult for the staff.  First, she closed the back door of the school and makes the staff walk three blocks up and around to the front of the school.  Second she forbid teachers to send students to the attendance office, which is located in the basement and forces teachers to walk four and even five floors just to drop off their attendance folder at the end of the day. Finally, she has made little secret of her desire to get rid of many teachers she doesn't want in the school.  The result has been an increase of unsatisfactory observations to teachers or so the rumor mill says.  However, the worst part about this Principal is that she was the one who decided who to keep (untenured and lead teachers) and who to jettison out of her school.  The problem was when Mayor Bloomberg lost the "turnaround school" battle, the teachers she didn't want are now part of her school staff.

The Principal now has a staff where morale is at "rock bottom" with many teachers knowing that the Principal doesn't want them in her school.  Yet this clueless Principal who is resented by many of the staff, decided to hold a Christmas party.  Guess what?  Nobody wanted to go!  Therefore, the Principal had to cancel the Christmas party due to lack of interest.

My question to the Principal is simple.  "Did you really believe that your staff would ever forgive you for your actions in the 18D process"?  If she believed "bygones be bygones" then she must be taking the same substance that the previous Principal had in his car when he was arrested.  No one will ever forget how your selection of teachers were politically motivated and not what was best for the students in the school.  Even the "teacher of the year" was jettisoned while an untenured teacher with a mediocre reputation who could not even function during the 18D interview process and was retained.

I do not respect principals who would rather hire untested newbie teachers over experienced veterans and allow their students to be guinea pigs as these untenured and newbie teachers struggle to see if they can teach effectively.  For these principals it is about their political wishes than what is best for the school's students and the Flushing High School Principal is more about one of those principals. Another example of the DOE's "children last " policy.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Chancellor's Tenure Has Been A Failure As He Refuses To Remove Managers And Administrators Who Commit Serious Misconduct.

During the inept tenure of Chancellor Dennis Walcott we have seen no significant improvement in student academic achievement, poor college and career readiness rates, and a wide racial/income academic achievement gap.  Moreover, the Chancellor has shown no independent thought and  obediently obeys the Mayor's every demand.  Hence my nickname of him as "Bloomberg's poodle". However, his biggest failure is his reluctance to take action on administrators and managers who commit serious misconduct. His failure to remove and replace wayward DOE administrators and managers under him demonstrates to the rank and file that there is a "double standard" and anything the Chancellor says must be taken with a "grain of salt".  Let's look at the Chancellor's failure to take action against his administrators and managers.

CEO John Shea:  there are two federal lawsuits claiming he oversaw or participated in sexual harassment of female employees and allegedly underpaid them. The accusation is that he ran a "frat boy" organization and yet the Chancellor refuses to remove Mr. Shea.

Principal Linda Hill: She has been accused of misappropriating $40,000 in school funds and "double dipping" by being in two places at once. She has also been accused of not clocking in on her per session time card and hand writing the times herself.  She has also looked the other way when it comes to her Assistant Principal committed "corporal punishment". Yet the Chancellor has closed his eyes to the alleged misconduct by Principal Linda Hill and her administrative cronies.

Ex-Principal John Chase Jr: This Principal was eventually demoted to an Assistant Principal after OEO found him guilty to the charges against him under Chancellor's regulation A-830 of sexual harassment against female employees.  Furthermore, he apparently tried to solicit a relationship with a 15 year old girl.  Yet the Chancellor said the following of that disturbing allegation.

On the new allegation, he said, “Just because an accusation is made doesn’t mean a person is guilty.”

Really now!  The Chancellor didn't seem to have the same opinion of teachers, especially the 16 teachers who he pronounced guilty despite the decision of independent arbitrators who found no sexual misconduct.  What a phoney and hypocrite he is.  There are others and you can find them Here

The Chancellor has not only been a failure academically but in ignoring the legal remedies available for administrators and managers who have committed misconduct.  Is it any wonder that we teachers have no faith in the decision making of Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

Friday, December 14, 2012

DOE CEO John Shea Once Again Is Accused Of Sexual Misconduct And The DOE Does Nothing About It.

In another case of the hypocrisy at Tweed, a second women has filed a federal lawsuit of sexual harassment against DOE top Manager John Shea for making highly inappropriate sexual remarks and showing her pictures of him in a skimpy bathing suit and putting the picture close to her face.  Yet the DOE ignores the hostile "frat boy" atmosphere that rules under Mr. Shea and makes females uncomfortable and leaves Mr. Shea in his $182,000 position. Yes, this is the same hypocritical DOE who removes teachers, tries to suspend them without pay, and files 3020-a charges to terminate them on the mere unfounded suggestion of sexual misconduct.  Yet when it comes to one of their top managers it is "innocent until proven guilty" and even if  guilty, it is
"boys will be boys".

Previously John Shea was accused by another female employee that he commented on their bodies and rated them as "doable" if he wanted to have sexual intercourse with them. In 2011, Shea described one DOE attorney as “hot” and declared that he “would do her,” the complaint states.   As for those female employees who don't measure up?  Especially those with tummy fat?  They shouldn't  be allowed to wear women's clothes that revel their "muffin tops". How disgusting.  Now there are two federal lawsuits dealing, in part, with sexual harassment with John Shea prominently named in both lawsuits.  What hypocrisy by the DOE when they profess "zero tolerance" for any innocent action that somebody might find it to be sexual in nature when it comes to school staff but ignore their own rules when a top manger commits sexual misconduct.

The hypocrites at the DOE should be ashamed of themselves for their blatant "double standard" in the John Shea sexual harassment federal  lawsuits.  Chancellor Walcott, what John Shea did is sexual misconduct, why don't you fire him?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Principal Linda Hill, Just Another Bad Principal That The DOE Refuses to Remove Despite Accusations Of Financial Mismanagement.

If you are familiar with the Franscesco Portelos saga, you know that this teacher was removed from his school, IS 49 in Staten Island after he made accusations about financial mismanagement at the school.  According to Mr Portelos the Principal didn't produce a time card, digitally clocked but filled in the per session times by hand.  According to Mr, Portelos the NYC Auditor General in 2011 found $40,000 in financial deficiencies under Principal's Hill watch and questions about "double dipping".  This is the same principal who called a student who was seriously hurt in a book throwing incident that damaged his spleen and cause him to get an operation to remove it, "Spleen boy" and was not even reprimanded by the DOE.

To tell you how disrespected Principal Linda Hill is the staff voted in a "rubberized" teacher she railroaded out of the school as the "Chapter Leader".  Right Franscesco Portelos!  No other school has done this and you must conclude that the school teaching staff harbor such deep disrespect for the Principal that they elkected a "rubber room" teacher as "Chapter Leader".

The question is how can the DOE keep a Principal in charge of a school that the staff disrespects to the point of electing a teacher not in the school as "Chapter Leader"?  Furthermore, shouldn't the DOE remove the Principal for the  alleged $40,000 financial irregularity found by the City?  How about the alleged "double dipping" can one Principal be at two places at once?  Even Houdini can't  wiggle out of that box. Yet the DOE closes their collective eyes when it comes to the investigation of Principal Linda Hill while percecuting teacher Francesco Portelos.

Just another case of the DOE "double standard" in protecting a "bad Principal" at the expense of the school's students and staff in their ever continuing program of "children last".

Saturday, December 08, 2012

To My Union: No Contract, No Teacher Evaluation System.

It appears that the UFT might be caving in to the City and State pressure and will sign a teacher evaluation system, once some minor "sticking points" are ironed out without negotiating a long overdue teachers' contract.  This is totally unacceptable to me and many of the rank and file.  We are only a handful of unions that were refused the "City pattern", the two 4% raises that all the other City unions received and for our union to surrender their only real bargaining chip for a teacher evaluation system that nobody likes or wants is unbelievable.

I agree with nyc educator, Accountable Talk, NYCDOEnuts, and Ednotes online that the proposed teacher evaluation system should not be implemented but scrapped altogether.  For the DOE it simply is a "gotcha program" that could result in 20% of the teachers rated "ineffective" based upon a previous pilot study using  "junk science" that is proposed for the teacher evaluation system. Furthermore, it will be easy for the Administration to abuse the Dainelson program rubric agreed upon for use by the DOE and our union to further increase teacher "ineffective" ratings.

The "value added measurement" (VAM)  that is 20% of the teacher evaluation system is simply "junk science" and discriminates against teachers who have high needs and economically disadvantaged students.  Even the State admits that they must use an "adjustment factor" to account for English Language Learners, Special Education, and Economically disadvantaged students in the VAM calculation and admits that the "adjustment factor" is a work in progress and may not accurately reflect real academic outcomes.

I can just see how a vindictive Administrator would push some of the worst preforming and behaving students into a class which will disrupt the learning environment for the teacher he or she does not like or want and switch higher achieving students into a class of a teacher she likes.  The potential for abuse is very real and the teacher evaluation system would be the nail in the coffin of the targeted teacher.  Remember, only 13%^ of those teachers rated "ineffective" would have real "due process" while the other 87% should be looking for another job.  Therefore, the teacher evaluation system is really a termination program that an Administrator can manipulate to remove a teacher he or she wants out of the school.

We should not be held hostage by the City and State when the DOE budget is 22 billion dollars and withholding a measly $250 million dollars of extra funding is a drop in a bucket and can be easily absorbed by the Tweed bureaucracy, assuming the State follows through and actually withholds the extra money.  No contract, no teacher evaluation system.  Hear that Michael Mulgrew? Better yet how about letting the members vote on it?

Thursday, December 06, 2012

District 23 Choice Program Is Simply Rearranging The Deck Chairs On The Titanic.

The Ocean Hill-Brownsville District, now known as District 23 has decided to allow the students of the District to attend their school of choice within the District.  Yes this is the same District that played racial politics and tried to fire all the white and Jewish teachers that resulted in the  teachers strike back in 1968.  Now the equally misguided District 23 officials believe that allowing the district's students to go to the school of their choice will solve the academic achievement problems.  Fat chance of that happening.

While the idea may seem to be reasonable at the surface, the problems associated with intra district choice are many.  First, it may cause some schools to be overcrowded while others will be underutilized and in danger of either closing or be replaced by a Charter school.  Second, it will increase transportation costs as children will no longer be able to walk to or from their neighborhood school and require transportation services..  Finally,  the student choice option does not address the real cause of poor student academic achievement and that is poverty,

For example, no matter what grades the District 23 schools received by the DOE, all the schools had an under 50% pass rate on the English and Math tests!   Even the lone "A" rated school had a terrible English passing rate of 35.2% and an equally dismal Math passing rate of 40.9%. This shows that it is not the school, Principal, or teachers that are the problem but the community.  In particular, the main cause is poverty. It's poverty and unless the City declares war on poverty by providing the necessary resources, nothing will significantly change the student academic failure rate of District 23.

That brings me to Marc Epstein's article on how the City has tried and failed when it comes to student choice for the high schools and how they ignored the root cause for the poor "college and career readiness rates" and that is poverty and its effects on a student's academic achievement, especially in neighborhoods like Ocean Hill-Brownsville.  While he focuses on the high schools, it is the same problem no matter what grade the student is in.

To do it right, the City must declare war on poverty by keeping families together, encourage major economic job growth, and provide social wraparound services and once that is accomplished then and only then will District 23 see significant academic improvement in student outcomes.  Otherwise, it is simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

The Typical Education4Excellence Member - Clueless

I just laughed when blogger South Bronx School showed a video of an Educators4Excellence (E4E) member at their youth rally holding a sign supporting the "teacher evaluation system" at today's demonstration who was obviously clueless of what he was supporting.  First the interviewer asked this E4E member to explain the  "Value Added Measurement"  part of the "teacher evaluation system".  He seemed befuddled and said he couldn't right now. The second question asked by the interviewer to the increasingly uncomfortable E4E member was what "Value Added Measurement" means.  He mumbled something incomprehensible but did not even attempt to know what it meant.  Finally, the interviewer asked this totally clueless E4E member if he understood the math behind the "Value Added Measurement" , by now he was completely dumbfounded and did not respond at all.

I truly hope this clueless E4E member is not a teacher but simply an E4E non-educator that was looking for some free doughnuts.  However, if he is a teacher, I feel very sorry for the students in his classroom who must be embarrassed that their teacher is in support of a program that he knows nothing about.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Is The Union About To Screw Us Again When It Comes To The Teacher Evaluation System?

Up until a few days ago I and many other people believed that before a teacher evaluation system could be put in place, the City and the UFT must negotiate a contract.  However, a blogger "Ed the Apple", aka Peter Goodman has stated in Gotham Schools that the UFT does not have to have a new contract in place to implement the teacher evaluation system. According to this retired UFT official with close ties to the existing leadership, the union only has to make it an Amendment to the existing contract by using Article 8-J of the existing contract as the basis for the teacher evaluation Amendment.

I do not believe that Peter Goodman would have commented on this issue the way he did on the Gotham News blog without prior knowledge on what the UFT leadership is planning to do about the teacher evaluation issue.  I assume that Mr. Goodman's comments are a strong indication that the union will once again ignore the wishes of its rank and file and negotiate with the City to implement the horrendous teacher evaluation system as an Amendment of the existing contract and not a comprehensive new contract that would include the two 4% retroactive raises owed to us,

I agree with nyc educator that our union should not approve  an inferior teacher evaluation system that includes "junk science", a way around tenure, and "due process rights" and will be used by the DOE as a termination program rather than as a teacher improvement program.  Furthermore, why will only a mere 13% of the teachers accused of being "ineffective" under the proposed system have real "due process"?  Should the other 87% of teachers just resign?  Moreover, who selects the lucky 13%?  Assuming that the union keeps this in the implemented teacher evaluation system which the DOE objects to.  Finally, how will the union protect teachers who are given students who have attendance and academic issues by vindictive administrators to ensure that they test poorly and affect the teacher's evaluation scores? 

If this teacher evaluation system comes to pass without a new contract, substantial safeguards against Administrator abuse, and most for all, without rank and file input, the union should be thrown out of the leadership positions as they no longer represent the people who they are supposed to protect.  Hear that Michael Mulgrew?

  Please read nyc eductors article on the teacher evaluation trap.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Why The High School Letter Grades Given By The DOE Are Just Garbage

I read with amusement the high school letter grades given to the NYC high schools and realized how these letter grades are simply a sham.  How can high schools that have single digit "college and career readiness rates" receive an "A" grade?  I can't imagine that schools could get a high grade with so few of their graduates prepared for college and high skilled jobs?  Furthermore, I question the methodology used to give the schools a grade and how it is weighted,  The DOE methodology uses some very nebulous metrics such as Student progress (55 points), Student performance (20 points), and School environment (15 points) with the final 10 points coming from the "College and career readiness scores".  In addition, the DOE artificially can raise the school's overall grade by giving the school credit for reducing the student achievement gap .for high-need students (16 points).  How the DOE came up with these metrics is beyond my understanding after reading the Educator Guide describing them.  Worse, I see no way for the DOE to ensure the data has not been massaged by the school, in other words an unscrupulous Principal could "game the system" to ensure his or her school received credit that on closer examination was undeserved.  For example giving massive "credit recovery credits" to raise graduation rates, or granting credits for service to improve student progress, and pressuring teachers, students, and parents to affect the School environment scores. Moreover, the mere fact the the school knows when the evaluators are coming makes it a farce. Is it any wonder that these schools with less than 5% college readiness rates were graded "A"?  A list of these low preforming high schools who received an "A" grade are listed below.

School for Excellence (Bronx)
Unity Center for Urban Technologies (Manhattan)
El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice (Brooklyn)
Pan-American International High School (Bronx)
Frances Perkins Academy (Brooklyn)
The Facing History School (Manhattan)

More incredibility is that the high school in Brooklyn, FDNY School For Fire and Life Safety,had not one graduate who was college ready but still earned a "B" grade.  Just unbelievable.

I can only use the old saying "garbage in, garbage out" when it come to the DOE grading system for the NYC high schools.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

How The Misguided DOE School Choice Policy Caused The Destruction Of The Neighborhood High Schools.

It is no secret that a student entering high school can apply to any school they want to attend, no matter how far the school is from the student's community.  The elimination of zoning requirements has resulted in many of the neighborhood high schools in poor communities to struggle and eventually fail as they cannot attract academically successful students. Interestingly, the Mayor blamed the school failures on poor teaching and not the real villain, his policy of "school choice" that former Chancellor Joel Klein implemented during his disastrous tenure that ended in 2010.

Before the Mayor's "school choice" policy, the neighborhood high schools were always guaranteed a decent amount of  academically successful students, even in the most poverty-ridden communities since they were zoned for their neighborhood school. These students were not only role models for entering students who saw how successful they were academically and the respect the school's staff and Administration had for them but also as a stabilizing influence to the student body and the school.  With these higher achieving students at the school, advanced and difficult courses such as college level courses, Physics, Calculus, and College now, along with various Advanced Placement courses were offered.  The result was that there was greater student participation in extracurricular activities such as sports, clubs, and  most importantly community  pride in seeing students graduating from their neighborhood school.  However, once the Bloomberg/Klein "school choice" policy was implemented, the higher achieving students no longer applied to their zoned high school and these schools became a dumping ground for struggling students.  The result was the elimination of higher level courses in Math, Science, and Social Studies. Students graduating with Advanced Regents diplomas were in single digits in many of these schools and even graduation rates were tainted by a massive amount of bogus "credit recovery" courses that resulted in some outrageous actions.  Furthermore, many of these struggling students must travel for up to two hours to get to a school willing to accept them if they do not want to go to their failing neighborhood school.  For example quite a few students from Southeast Queens and even the Rockaway Pennensula travel long distances just to go to another failing school in far northern Queens just so not to go to their neighborhood failing school. This over reliance of mass transit brings me to a very insightful article Marc Epstein wrote for the Huffington Post about how many middle and high school students must take an ancient and creaky mass transit system to get to their school and how Hurricane Sandy has damaged the infrastructure.  Is it any wonder that for these struggling students that high absenteeism and failure is a constant companion?

The disconnect of students, especially high achieving students with their neighborhood schools is a recipe for failure and when these schools fail the blame should be squarely laid upon the people who allowed it to happen, the Bloomberg Administration and their destructive policies and no one else.

Update:  The New York Post's article on Murry Bergtraum High School is a prime example how the Bloomberg Administration's "school choice" has lead to the destruction of this once proud school.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

My Annual Golden Turkey Awards For 2012

It is another year and along with NFL football and family gatherings, there is our Thanksgiving meal where turkey is the main attraction.  It's also the time when I identify my recipients of the annual golden turkey award for saying or doing stupid things when it comes to education, so here are my very deserving recipients.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew for quickly agreeing with the DOE to eliminate our winter vacation while failing math in the process.  How Michael Mulgrew came up with 182 days when the school calendar shows 184 is beyond me.  If you have any doubts about what Michael Mulgrew did without any input from the rank and file, just read NYC educator and the ICEblog.  What a Wuss and a recipient of a golden turkey award.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg for costing the City $58 million dollars for his ill-advised and spiteful "turnaround" proposal that would close 24 schools and send over a thousand teachers into the ATR pool. His failure to improve NYC public schools and continued attacks on teachers makes him an annual recipient of the golden turkey award.

Chancellor Dennis Walcott, otherwise known as the Mayor's poodle has been inept and his so-called initiatives have been shown to be a failure.  There has been no academic progress under his tenure and  nobody expects there to be.  An easy selection for my annual golden  turkey award.

Former Flushing Principal Carl Hudson who not only was removed as Principal from Flushing High School that he ran into the ground but was arrested for drug possession outside the school but don't worry the DOE probably placed him in a position at one of the useless CFN's.  Another worthy recipient of a golden turkey award.

I am sure there are many more deserving recipients of the turkey award but I limited it to the four very deserving individuals that have hurt teachers and education in the 2012 year.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why Doesn't The DOE Hold Superintendent Yolanda Torres Accountable For Her Failure In District 7?

The worst preforming NYC District according to the State is District 7, where only 25% of the student population are proficient in reading.  This abysmal statistic is even worse than nearby District 9 where parents protested the neglect by the DOE of their District.  Yet, despite the academic failure in District 7, the Superintendent, Yolanda Torres, has not been held accountable by the DOE.  How come?  Time and again the DOE claims "no excuses" when teachers and principals claim that poverty is a major factor in student academic achievement and closes the schools  However, I guess accountability is not required by the DOE if you run a failing District like District 7, the worst preforming District in New York City.. 

This is just another case of DOE hypocrisy and "double standard" when it concerns top level administrators who fail in their academic duty to motive the District's students.  I guess for the DOE there are plenty of excuses why they don't hold Superintendent Yolanda Torres accountable for her academic failure. Please read blogger South Bronx Schools on the Administrative failure in District 7 here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Michael Mulgrew Is A Wuss!

UFT President Michael Mulgrew showed how spineless and uncaring he is about the rank and file by caving in to Chancellor Dennis Walcott's demand that teachers and other UFT staff must give up their winter break to make up the four days that the students were unable to report to school.  The UFT President's surrender to the DOE came without any consultation with the people affected by this terrible decision and despite the fact that we still would have worked the State minimum of 180 days if there are no snow days. How he came up with only 182 days in the school year instead of the actual 184 days to justify taking away our winter break is just typical DOE fuzzy math that our union bought into.

I, for one, thought Michael Mulgrew had more intestinal fortitude than the wuss, Randi Weingarten.  However, I see that I am wrong.  Michael Mulgrew is a wuss who rather follow the dictates of the DOE then what his members want.  I no longer have faith in Michael Mulgrew's inept leadership and hope we have a real leader to replace him when the next election occurs.  For people who do not know what a Wuss is, here is the definition.

Wuss:   A person of dual sissiness. This is actually a combination word. The person this word describes is not only a wuss, he is part wimp and part puss.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mr. Mayor, Child Poverty Is The Primary Cause For Student Academic Failure Not Their Teachers.

Ex Chancellor Joel Klein and his education reformer friends, which includes hedge fund managers, profiteers, and misguided billionaires such as Bill Gates will tell the media that it's "excellent teachers" and not eliminating poverty that closes the student academic achievement gap. While not true,  unfortunately, they have the ear of many influential politicians such as President Obama, Chris Cristie, Andrew Cuomo and of cause Mayor moneybags himself, Michael Bloomberg.  The reason that these politicians believe the education reformer myth that "excellent teachers" can eliminate the student academic achievement gap is that poverty, the real reason for the student academic achievement gap, is difficult to fix. In fact poverty is actually increasing!

A case in point, he latest poverty statistics for New York City has shown an increase in the City's poverty rate to 20.9% in 2011 up from 20.1% in 2010.  Worse the NYC Public School child poverty rate is an astounding 69% based upon the 2010 figures and might exceed 70% once the 2011 poverty rate numbers are analyzed. In fact 48 schools in the city had student poverty rates of 97% or higher and coincidentally, they have the lowest student academic achievement.  It needs to be noted that the devastation of the superstorm Sandy could increase the student poverty rate when next year's statistics are finalized. Study after study has linked child poverty to poor academic achievement, yet this is a blind spot for education reform groups who simply ignore the poverty issue with their "no excuses" mantra.. The simple reason that Education Reformers ignore poverty is that they realize that there is little they can do about poverty without a massive influx of resources and wraparound services which costs money.  Instead the education reformers look for the cheap way out by falsely claiming that an "excellent teacher" would erase the effects of poverty.   Moreover, by playing the "excellent teacher" card it allows politicians like Mayor Bloomberg to camouflage his dislike for experienced teachers, who cost the City money, pensions, and retiree health benefits, by trying to get rid of seniority and tenure under his education reform agenda.  His real objective to have replaceable and non-tenured teachers who last less than five years and don't have pensions is provided cover with the education reforms he professes to embrace. The reality is it is all about saving money.not helping children.

 Poverty, and its effects are the cause of poor academic achievement and the large student achievement gap, not teachers.  Mr. Mayor, stop blaming teachers for the widening academic achievement gap and blame yourself for your failure to reduce the City's poverty rate.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My Cooperative Learning And Testing Class

I am in a an excellent school, with great students, wonderful peers and a very supportive Administration.  However, even in the best schools there will always be students who have difficulty handling the academic and behavioral discipline of a school environment.  The school, to their credit, has tried various measures to encourage these potential dropouts to finish school and earn a high school diploma.  One way is to create a class environment that separates them from the rest of the student body and give them classes that earn them credits needed to graduate high school.  These classes are for seniors or super seniors who failed in the regular school session.  These "last chance" classes for these struggling students and for the most part, the students do understand and appreciate this final chance to graduate with the rest of the school.  Unfortunately, these classes have been only partially successful as many of these students fail to live up to the academic and/or behavioral discipline that is necessary for graduation.
I have one of these classes and in a roster of 34, I have between 12 to 15 who show up on a regular basis.  For the most part, these students are seniors or super seniors who want to get the credits they need to graduate.  However, unlike my other classes, these students suffer from terrible work habits developed over their last 4 to 6 years of secondary school and maybe back to elementary school.  Moreover, since many of them are 18 or older, they have part time jobs or children care duties that interfere with their school attendance. Many of them lack self-esteem and believe nobody cares about them.  The question is how do you get the students to buy into education when the reason they are in the class in the first place is their lack of enthusiasm for education?

There are no real answers to that education question, except to show them that you really do care about their future.  I have found that I am able to reach them by showing that I care about their well-being and listen to their problems.  They respond in kind by trying to do the right thing such as behaving and doing work.  However, a caring teacher is only half the battle for these students to succeed academically. The second part is much more difficult and that is to change their terrible work habits that has been their problem for many years.  A common theme for these students is to do as little work as possible and hope the teacher gives them a 65%.  Unfortunately, many teachers did not pass these students and give up on them during the previous years and in turn, the students gave up on themselves.

At first, I tried to teach my senior class like the rest of my classes and realized that the students were not willing or capable of working like my other classes.  They needed to be given more worksheets and work together in solving problems.  While some teachers may see this, giving out worksheets, is a lazy way to teach, I have found that for this group of students, that giving them worksheets, along with good instruction and making sure the worksheets are rigorous and relevant allowed the students to work in teams and to complete their tasks.  Moreover, I found that giving them a test that allows hem to work together achieved much greater results academically then having them take the test individually.  While I admit their are some drawbacks to this "cooperative testing" approach but at this stage it seems to working.  The students appear more confident academically and their behavioral issues are less. 

While my approach is a "work in progress". I believe it is working and the students have better work habits, are showing academic improvement and with few behavioral issues. Most importantly, attendance is stabilizing and it is good to see the students showing up most every day and willing to work.   I can only hope these little steps by my students academically results in a big step for them, that is graduating in the school.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Excellent Teacher And The Clueless DOE.

The DOE has time and again claimed that education reform is necessary because they want only "excellent teachers" to instruct the City's students.  Of course the DOE is clueless to what an excellent teacher is.  The DOE's real motive is their "education on the cheap" policies. For Tweed an excellent teacher is an inexpensive and untenured teacher that will not be in the profession long enough to get a pension or retiree health benefits.  In fact Mayor Bloomberg discounted teacher experience by saying teacher experience is not important to student learning. If the DOE really wanted the best teachers in the schools, the first thing they would do is allow principals to hire the "best teachers" and not the cheapest teachers as they are forced to do now.  Previously principals were able to hire the "best teachers" because all teachers cost the same to the school.  The result was that the principals could hire teachers who they believed would be best for the school's students.  However, under Mayor Bloomberg's ex-Chancellor, Joel Klein, came "fair student funding" that hamstrung principals in who they can hire.

Before "fair student funding" fiasco teachers were units and schools could hire who they pleased as long as they didn't exceed the total units allocated to the school.  Therefore, many principals would try to recruit more experienced teachers to instruct the school's students since they know that the "best teachers" are experienced teachers.  The result was that the better schools would end up with the excellent teachers, while the poorly preforming and ineptly Administrated schools would see a merry-go-round of "newbie teachers" and poor student academic outcomes.  The solution of this teacher inequality would have been to encourage experienced teachers to end their stellar careers at these struggling schools by giving them a monetary motive. Chancellor Rudy Crew, the last Chancellor that actually was an educator, came up with the Chancellor's District that paid teachers 15% more money to teach smaller classes in these struggling schools in return for a slightly longer day and with greater teacher resources.  While it was not a complete success, it did bring experienced teachers to these schools and more importantly, did raise the academic achievement of the school's students. Unfortunately, the Bloomberg/Klein Administration in 2003 put an end to the Chancellor's District and these struggling schools and their students were no longer exposed to these top quality experienced teachers.  The result was a new merry-go-around of "newbie teachers" and student academic outcomes plumeted.  Now these schools are based upon a top-down imposed "drill and kill" strategy that replaced real learning with mind-numbing test preparation. Is it any wonder that these struggling schools are either now closed or in danger of closing?

Once, the "fair student funding" fiasco was implemented by Joel Klein's DOE, combined with the terrible 2005 contract that eliminated the requirement that all excessed teachers in a District must be placed before outside teachers can be hired, it became virtually impossible for a Principal to hire an experienced teacher without taking a significant budget hit.  Even replacing one experienced teacher with another could be tricky budget wise since the original teacher's salary may have been "grandfathered" while the replacement is not. This is especially true during the last few years with increasingly tight school budgets and DOE top-down requirements that schools spent a significant part of their budget for non-school based support systems such as the wasteful and unnecessary Children First Networks.

A prime example of the academic failure is the Bloomberg small schools that only seem to have "newbie" and untenured teachers that leave the schools in three to five years.  Many of these small schools are lead by  "Leadership Academy Principals" who have little classroom experience themselves and are encouraged by Tweed to hire the cheapest teachers to stretch their budget  The result is that parents and students who like the idea of small learning communities, instead found large class sizes, a rigid curriculum, and worse, untested and inexperienced teachers who suffered from a steep learning curve when it came to curriculum knowledge and had poor classroom management skills.  The over reliance of inexperienced teachers in these small schools  hurt student academic achievement and collectively the Bloomberg small schools have  terrible "college and career readiness scores" to show for it, averaging an abysmal 10 7% compared to 20.7% for the large comprehensive high schools.

It is too bad that the non-educators at Tweed cannot recognize what good teaching is but what do you expect when eighteen of the twenty top people at Tweed never taught in the classroom themselves?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The DOE Inequalities Of Providing Transportation Services To The Students In The Rockaway Pennnsula.

I read with much amusement the schoolbook article on how the Principal of the elitist Scholar's Academy praised the DOE for providing yellow school buses to transport his students to their temporary digs in East New York and had an attendance rate of 60%.  By contrast, many of the schools in the Rockaway Peninsula had inadequate transportation provided by the DOE to other schools and District 27 had an overall attendance rate of 20% which includes other less affected communities like Howard Beach, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, Jamaica, and Ozone Park !   Some Rockaway schools' attendance rates were in the single digits The question is how did the elitist Scholars Academy get yellow school buses from the DOE while the rest of the Rockaway Peninsula schools did not have enough?   The answer is very clear to me and that is that the DOE plays favorites and has different rules for different schools.  Let's compare Scholars Academy with a typical Far Rockaway school  such as Rockaway Collegiate which is part of the Far Rockaway Campus.

Scholars Academy.................White/Asian........................Black/Latino
                                      64%                                    35%

Rockaway Collegiate..........White/Asian..............Black/Latino
                                               8%                            88%     

It is obvious from the statistics that Scholars Academy has a majority White and Asian student body.  Moreover,  the school only takes students who scored 3's and 4's on the math and reading tests.  Furthermore,  these students are also screened for absences and punctuality as well before they are accepted into Scholars Academy. Furthermore, only 35% of the students qualify for free lunch meaning that the majority of students come from middle class households. Finally the schools "college readiness scores" is 90%. By contrast, Rockaway Collegiate has 60% of their students qualifying for free lunch which shows that the majority of the school's students live in poverty. Finally, the "college readiness score" is a terrible 3.4%.

Despite all the Bloomberg, Walcott, and Tweed propaganda machine claims that it is "children first".  When it comes to the Rockaway Peninsula it is the "privileged children first" and as for the rest?  They can find their own way to schools that are many miles away can't they?

update:  After reading blogger Doenuts commets and talking to a few other people at the Rockaway Complex, they told me that many of the high school students were encouraged to take public transportation because of fears that there were not enough buses available for the first week.  Still it would appear the DOE showed favoritism to Scholars Academy in allocating buses to the schools.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

New York City And Long Island Are Forced To Ration Gas As They Are Not Receiving Their Fair Share Of Gasoline.

Odd and even gasoline rationing is being implemented in New York City and Long Island because of the severe gasoline shortage for the area.  It turns out that the often quoted 62% figure was based upon faulty methodology and the actual gasoline supplies to gas stations are a paltry 38% in thee NYC and Long Island regions.   According to Mayor Bloomberg only 25% of gas stations in New York City are open. No wonder there are long gas lines!  The Governor owes all the motorists of New York City and Long Island an apology since it was not drivers topping off their gas tanks but the many gas stations that had no supply of gasoline to sell.

Now it seems the Governor's optimistic forecast that gas lines will disappear by the end of the week is wishful thinking.  Instead the federal energy agency expects gasoline shortages to persist for the rest of the month. Their excuse that too many refiners are either shut down or operating at reduced capacity rings hallow as the rest of the tri-state region has seen adequate gas supplies and no gas lines as a result.  In fact the Department of Energy stated that 72% of the gas stations are open and pumping gasoline as of today.  Well if 72% of the gas stations have gasoline in the NYC Metropolitan area than the Mayor's 38% for NYC and Long Island shows that outside the two areas, there is nearly 100% availability of gas, yet they get the gasoline from the same refineries as NYC and Long Island. How could that be if the same refiners serve the various regions?

I believe there is something very fishy going on here and an investigation needs to be done to find out who or whom are diverting gasoline supplies away from New York City and Long Island that has caused the gas shortage and long lines and no gasoline rationing for New York City and Long Island when there should be none. 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Governor Andrew Cuomo Unfairly Blames Drivers For The Gasoline Shortage.

In a Tuesday afternoon news conference, Governor Andrew Cuomo blamed panicky drivers for the long gas lines in the New York City Metropolitan area.  However, the real problem is that the gasoline distribution system is broken.  At my school in Queens there are six high volume gas stations within walking distance and only one of them had gasoline and they were limiting it to $20 per vehicle.   Further, when I returned to my Long Island community the five gas stations in the area had no gasoline!  That means of the eleven gas stations I saw, only one had gasoline for sale despite all the stations having kept their electricity throughout Hurricane Sandy.

The real problem is that these gas stations are not getting gasoline delivered to their dry gas pumps.  If we are to take the Governor's word that there is plenty of gasoline available at the refineries and fully loaded tankers are coming into New York Harbor continuously, then the gasoline supply problem is the lack of trucks delivering gasoline to the community gas stations. Is it any wonder that what little gasoline is delivered to a community gas station, drivers quickly line up?  If all the gas stations received deliveries of gasoline, there would be no panicky drivers and long gas lines.

Governor Cuomo, it is not panicky drivers but the lack of gasoline deliveries that has caused the long gasoline lines. 

Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Biggest Losers After Hurricane Sandy.

After Hurricane Sandy has wrecked damage to the New York Metropolitan area, there are no winners, well maybe President Obama got a bounce being in New Jersey with Governor Christie.  However, there are many losers.  Here is my list of the biggest losers.

People on the Eastern Shore of Staten Island and the Rockaway Peninsula:
Ten thousand people have been left homeless due to the storm surge, strong winds, and fire.  Both areas look like they will not being returning to normal anytime soon.  To a lesser degree, many people near the water on the South shore of Long Island and the New Jersey Coast also saw their houses either flooded or taken off their foundations by the storm surge. However, nothing like the damage and destruction experienced by the two communities.

Thousands of People now jobless:
Many businesses have been destroyed due to the storm surge and flooding and thousands of people lost their jobs for the foreseeable future. In the Rockarway Peninsula almost every business were affected and many may never open again.

Over one million people lost power on Long Island and the Rockaway Peninsula and as of tonight, There still are 400,000 people without power, including almost all of the Rockaway Peninsula.  The failure of LIPA to have strengthened their electrical grid system after being devastated by Hurricane Gloria in 1985 is unacceptable.  

Gasoline Distribution System:
Only the NYC Metropolitan area has experienced a gasoline shortage.  Gasoline is plentiful in areas that were harder hit than NYC, like Atlantic City.  In fact New Jersey Governor Christie stated that south of I-195, gas was plentiful and North of I-84 the same was true in New York and Connecticut.

Chancellor Dennis Walcott:
The only time he has appeared in this crisis is when he is standing behind the Mayor in his press conference.  The Chancellor has been relegated to being a non-entity and it was under his inept leadership that principals and teachers were sent an email at 12 midnight by the DOE  to tell the time to show up in school at 10am to do nothing the next day.

Overall, we all are losers but these are the biggest losers of them all.