Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The UFT Needs To Stop Negotiating With The City & The DOE On Any "Teacher Evaluation System" Until Mayor Bloomberg Is Out Of Office.

Amid the public fiasco of the publishing of the inaccurate and error-filled teacher TDRs and the admission by the New York State Education Department (SED) that present state law will allow teacher grades to be made public, the UFT needs to cease any negotiations dealing with the "teacher evaluation system" and anything else with the City until Mayor Bloomberg leaves office. When will the UFT understand that dealing with the devil only gets you burned? Already today Gotham News reported that the City has started to proceed with the "Turnaround" for 33 schools even if the State SED does not approve of the City's proposal. A potential increase of 1,750 ATRs and another waste of $100 million dollars.

This Mayor has led the attack against New York City teachers by scapegoating them time and again and blaming them for all the ills that affect the New York City Public School System. He takes no responsibility for the lack of academic achievement, increasing class sizes, reduced resources, and outrageous consultant and technology budgets that starve the schools and hurt the children. Instead of fixing what is wrong with the schools, the Bloomberg Administration plays politics with his closing schools proposal. and seems to enjoy in humiliating teachers. Why would our union want to negotiate anything with this Mayor who scapegoat teachers for his failed education reform polices? Let's look at what his failures has been.

  • Failure to improve student academic achievement and narrowing the gap.
  • Bogus "graduation rates" aided by phony "credit recovery" programs.
  • Creating 1,000 ATRS who should be teaching in a classroom.
  • The infamous LIFO bill that failed to pass in the State Assembly.
  • Closing of schools and warehousing struggling students in targeted schools.
  • His refusal to give teachers & administrators the "city pattern" contract.
  • Rising class sizes and less teachers in the system (8,000).
  • Significant shrinking of school budgets (13.7% in the last three years).

I beg our union to cease all negotiations with the City and DOE until Mayor Bloomberg is out of office since any agreement will be bad for teachers and worse for the students they serve.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Humiliating Teachers By Publishing Their Scores Based Upon Faulty Tests, Will Result In An Exodus Of Teachers And Hurt Student Academic Achievement.

The news media has had a field day in attacking New York City teachers by publishing their bogus TDR's despite the large errors associated with them. The errors associated with these TDRs are so large (53 for English and 35 for Math) that makes the TDRs meaningless. Worse, the maximum TDR error was calculated to be to be 87 for English and 75 for Math, yet the news media think these numbers actually mean something. Furthermore, the latest school year used for the TDRs was for 2009-10, almost two years ago. Yet the News media has jumped on the teacher bashing bandwagon by publishing articles like this. Now that all teachers will be receiving a numerical grade for their evaluations starting next year, look for the news media to FOIL the scores of every teacher in the State since a precedent has been set. Yes, the UFT and NYSUT claim that these numbers cannot be FOILED but don't count on that to be true.

Imagine, all teacher scores, which are a work in progress, will now be published by the local newspapers and open up the educators to ridicule and shame despite the flawed, and questionable assumptions used in the score. Just look at today's New York Post.The result will be that many teachers will flee the profession and as the economy recovers, there will be few people who will want to work as a teacher, knowing that their grades will be published for all to see. What sane person would work in this "climate of fear"? Look at the great article that nyc educator wrote about this issue. Better yet, read the article that Carol Corbett Burns wrote
about the consequences to students in poor and resource starved school districts.

It is hard enough being a teacher, now it will be worse as we will be"teaching to the test", try to select students based upon attendance, and behaviors, tutor only our own students, and refuse to accept difficult students from other classes, least we get artificially low scores and be humiliated in the media. More importantly, look for an increase in cheating as teachers look the other way while their students copy off each other. I guess Mayor Bloomberg will eventually get his way as the New York City teaching profession will be a low-paying, temporary position with very few getting tenure and only a select few actually getting a pension while the children that need "experienced quality teachers" will never get them and suffer academically.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Has The UFT Leadership Failed Us Again? I Believe They Have!

I have been trying to absorb all the information about the pros and cons of the "teacher evaluation system" and believe that the final product will result in a tremendous increase in teachers being rated "ineffective" and eventually terminated. In particular, I see senior teachers being the ones most at risk as they are when it came to the ATR issue. While it is true what union propagandist, Leo Casey, said in his Edwize article that much of the "teacher evaluation system" needs to be "collectively bargained" with the union before it can take effect, the reality is the union will allow the DOE to effectively eliminate tenure as we know it.

Reading Leo Casey's defense of the union's approval of the "teacher evaluation system" reminds me of his infamous defense of the terrible 2005 contract that he tried to convince us was good for the classroom teachers. History has showed otherwise. Rather than go into detail of the faults of the "teacher evaluation system", please read Accountable Talk, the ICEUFT blog, and nyc educator. I might add that many New York State Principals oppose the use of the "teacher evaluation system". Why would our union and NYSUT cave in to an obviously flawed system?

I will blog more about the specifics of the "teacher evaluation system" as I digest all the information and try to come out with a more reasoned analysis that links everything together.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The "Teacher Evaluation System" Is A Win For The State, City, and Union. However, the Losers Are The Teachers And The Students.

The approval of the "teacher evaluation system" has been hailed by the State and City as a success and will allow principals to grade teachers in four categories, "highly effective", "effective", "developing", and yes, the all important "ineffective" rating. The union also congratulated themselves by ensuring that some semblance of "due process" was retained in the agreed upon version. At least for the 13% that the union chooses to fight for. However, to the teachers in the trenches it is the beginning of the end for teachers who want to make a career of teaching and believe that a student should be exposed to "total learning". Instead, teachers will be teaching to the test, trying to recruit the "best students" (no attendance, behavioral, or academically challenged students wanted), and instead of collaborating with fellow teachers to help all the students in the subject area, look to them as competitors which can only hurt the most needy of students.

The fact the all the education reformers, even those "fifth columnists at E4E" praised the deal is proof enough the "teacher evaluation system," is terrible for the classroom teacher. Worse, will be the effects on the students, instead of being taught about a topic and provide enrichment to make the learning of the topic interesting and understandable the student will be subject to endless test preparation and get to dislike school as boring and unbearable. Instead of a total learning experience, these students will receive a narrowly focused education linked to questionable tests that will not allow for real student academic growth. Finally, the lack of teacher collaboration means that students who are being taught by struggling teachers will not be able to receive help from the other teachers since the "teacher evaluation system" pits one teacher against another. No longer will a teacher offer to tutor other teachers students knowing that if she succeeds in improving his academic standing, it could work against her when that student's improvement will be credited to his classroom teacher who is then compared to the teacher's own students.

This "teacher evaluation system" will lower, the already low teacher morale, force a destructive competition between teachers, and eliminate collaboration between colleagues, necessary to help all the students. The losers are truly the teachers and their students with this untested, poorly organized, and potentially abusive procedure that will leave both teachers and their students behind.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Failure To Enforce Student Discipline Codes By The Administration Is The Main Cause Why Schools Fail.

I am in a Transformation/Restart school and am treated very well by the AP who is willing to ignore my lack of technology in my lesson plans. Yes, I know how to use the technology but I am in three rooms and two floors and refuse to lug around equipment that takes 10 minutes or more to set up, However, the Bloomberg threat to eliminate up to 50% of the teaching staff has caused the already low morale to plummet to a level that is affecting the students. I already have had some of my students ask me if I will really be here for the rest of the school year and are worried that they will get teachers who never taught in the classroom next year. One student told her classmates in my class about a "newbie" teacher that she had this year who can't teach and quit two weeks ago, leaving the students knowing little and with day to day substitute teachers. The school caught a real break, they just hired an excellent teacher from the ATR ranks and my student thinks he is great.

While teacher morale is at an all time low, the real problem is the lack of enforced student discipline at the school. This school has expanded their student body greatly by taking many students who have questionable academic skills and documented behavioral problems. These students tend to walk the halls, walk into the classroom way late and refuse to do any work when they do show up. Some will tell the classroom teacher to "shut up" when the teacher asks the student to open his or her notebook. Others are using their cellphone or Ipad and ignore the teacher. Cursing out a teacher is not a rare event and if the student does not actually threaten the teacher, the Administration looks the other way. I suspect that many of the Transformation/Restart schools suffer from the same problems with the Administration's failure to support student discipline codes and bury their heads in the sand of denial. Even a once great school like Martin Van Buren is failing due to the poor school Administration. Moreover, the failure of the screened and small schools to take these students worsen the situation.

Since the Bloomberg/Walcott Administration wants to close all the Transformation/Restart schools and keep the existing student body, it would be like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic but far worse as the "newbie teachers" who take over will be in for a culture shock and quit in droves during the school year, even further destabilizing these once great schools and hurting the students the Administration claims to care so much about in their "children last" program.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Bloomberg/Walcott Administration's Goal Is For Everybody To Get A High School Diploma, Even A Dog Could By Using The Bogus Online Programs.

The Bloomberg/Walcott Administration continues to destroy the New York Public Schools by using any means possible to close the large comprehensive high schools by warehousing the most vulnerable of students with high educational needs in those schools and then blame the schools for failing the already failing students dumped into these schools. Now, the Bloomberg/Walcott Administration is expanding online education, be it bogus "credit recovery programs" or a "school of one". Soon all who reach high school will be getting a high school diploma. Even the DOE's Lisa Nielsen advocates online learning using the IZONE and wrote a guide for high school students on how to opt out of school and use online learning at home. All these programs use technology as a crutch and not an aid for learning. Worse, these programs are subject to abuse as there is little oversight to ensure the student is actually doing the work.

That brings me to the Bloomberg/Walcott Administration's goal to achieve a 100% graduation rate by the time they are booted out of office. While the 100% graduation rate is a worthy goal, it should not be at the expense of real learning and with the rapid explosion of online course work, that is what is happening. The Administration must have received inspiration from the State of Texas as they awarded a dog who took online courses with a high school diploma. Quite a smart dog I say, I'm sure the dog did her classwork all by herself too, just like all the students who take those online courses that has shot up all over the New York City school system. If that is not enough, the Bloomberg/Walcott Administration can send these students who are obviously not prepared for work or college here. Of course, to my knowledge no dog or cat for that matter have received a high school diploma in NYC but the potential of abuse of the online learning process is real and makes most educators wonder if the City only cares about awarding diplomas without proof that the student achieved academic success necessary to survive the adult world.

In the Bloomberg/Walcott Administration anybody taking online courses can earn a worthless high school diploma, even a dog, as what happened in Texas. The education Mayor claim is just a sick joke in his failed "smoke and mirrors" education policy.

Friday, February 10, 2012

I Believe That High School Student Opinions Should Be Part Of Any "Teacher Evaluation System". Why Doesn't the DOE, State, and UFT Advocate For It?

In the battle between the DOE and UFT over the "teacher evaluation system", neither side advocates one of the most important aspects of what makes a "quality teacher". That is what the students think of their teacher? While I understand that student input at the elementary and middle school level would be heavily influenced by the teacher and would not be an appropriate group to make a teacher evaluation. However, high school students usually have the maturity to make rational decisions and are not afraid to speak their mind. Therefore, any part of the "teacher evaluation process" should include input from high school students. Governor Andrew Cuomo claims he will be the "student lobbyist" but he also has ignored any student input into the "teacher evaluation process" he threatens to implement, some "student lobbyist" ! Further, the DOE claims it is "children first" but they too ignore student input about their teachers as well. Only those fifth columnists from E4E has included a student input into the "teacher evaluation process" and that would be a minuscule 5%. I believe that for the high schools, the minimum student input should be 25% since these students are with the teacher 45 minutes every day. Wouldn't these students have a better idea about how good their teacher is? Having Assistant Principals do six observations yearly using a framework that can be abused or perverted and a State test that is of questionable value as the basis of wherever a teacher is "effective or not" is subject to abuse of the process by the Administration. Even 1,330 Principals, 30% of all New York State principals, have signed a petition to delay the "teacher evaluation system". Unfortunately, very few New York City Principals have signed the petition, about 10%.

The question is why don't the various education entities want to include student input in the "teacher evaluation system" is very clear. The student input portion cannot be predicted by any of them and would reduce Administrative control of the "teacher evaluation process". For example let's say a teacher tends to run a relaxed classroom, so that occasionally a student is looking at her cellphone or another student is not writing down all his notes. However, the teacher gets higher passing grades on tests and the students respond well to her teaching style. An Assistant Principal, using the "Danielson Framework" could find numerous weaknesses of the teacher. However, the students really like and respect the teacher and it shows up on their grades. Without the student input the Assistant Principal could reasonably give the teacher an "ineffective or developing" grade, despite her students doing well on tests. With a student input component, the Assistant Principal would be required to give the teacher an "effective" rating. Of course the opposite may be true and that is a risk that every teacher should be aware of.

What questions should be asked in the student survey about their teachers and what percentage of student responses in a class would be considered significant would need to be worked out. However, without real student input, the "teacher evaluation system" will be based upon a few observations by Administrators who can abuse the "Danilson framework" to come up with any rating that want.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Does The DOE Really Dump "Low Achieving Students" Into The Large Struggling Schools? You Better Believe That They Do!

I am now in one of those large struggling schools that Mayor Bloomberg has threatened to make a "turnaround school" and eliminate 50% or more of the teaching staff. However, unlike the real "closing schools" the Mayor and his poodle the Chancellor wants to retain the students and the Administration, To me it appears to be a bluff or a sham. I personally don't believe he can do this and if he tried it will probably end up in court. The real question is how did these schools end up struggling in the first place? Much of the cause can be blamed on the DOE's policy that eliminated neighborhood high schools and that allows many of the small and themed schools to exclude students with disabilities, attendance issues, and behavior problems forcing these already struggling students to travel long distances to schools that already struggle with an increasingly challenged student population.

My school is located in Northern Queens and mass transit to the school is somewhat limited. However, when I was going over the address lists of my students I was shocked how many of them came from far Southeastern Queens. I even had one from Far Rockaway! Not surprisingly many of these students travel two hours or longer to get to school and are having trouble academically achieving success. I wonder why? I spoke to two of those students, I will call them "Jack and Jill". They informed me that none of the small schools at Campus Magnet and Springfield Gardens would accept them. "Jack" admitted to me that he hung around with the "wrong crowd" and didn't show up to the middle school all the time and his grades reflected it. "Jill" told me that she was an 'English Language Learner" in middle school and she had a tough time learning English and was placed in an English speaking class with only a hour of language training a week. Therefore, she did poorly on tests. I'm sure if I asked the others, the ones who show up, I would get similar responses. "Jack's" mother even went to the local District Office when no school selected him and was told to reapply to the large high schools in Queens since that was his best chance and he ended up traveling over two hours each way, to get to school. "Jill's" parents simply did as was told by her middle school and she ended in a school that makes her take two buses and a train and takes almost two hours to get to school. Is it any wonder that many of these children are sleepy, tired, frustrated, and feel abandoned by the school system? What responsible entity forces struggling students who had problems in their middle schools to travel long distances and in the dark just to go to a high school that accepts them? Yet that is what the DOE does as they eliminated zoning for the neighborhood high schools and sentenced many of the most vulnerable students to long commutes and dangerous conditions just to get an education.

I am sick and tired of hearing and reading the propaganda on how the Bloomberg /Walcott Administration is improving the schools when the truth is quite the opposite. In fact, they are leaving many struggling students behind. While the DOE's slogan may say "children first" their actions show that the all the struggling children are being left behind in their "children last" policy.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

The Dark Underside Of The U.S. Jobs Report & The Future Of The National And The New York City Teaching Profession.

On Friday, there was a surprising and very encouraging economic jobs report that appears to show that the United States economy was starting the upward part of the economic "U curve". The stock market rose to three year highs and the fears of the "double dip recession" appears to be over. However, most of the increased jobs came from three lower wages areas. Health care, retail, and hospitality & leisure. What still remained flat was the middle class professions such as technology, teaching, and financial services. Only professional positions to show gains were accounting and engineering. The public sector work force continued to decline with a reduction of 14,000 jobs countrywide. This increases the total public employment job loss to 276,000 since last year, excluding education and the postal service.

The latest numbers for eduction showed a loss of 24,400 teaching positions nationwide this school year and since hiring and layoffs occur during the summer, no real change is anticipated until the summer of 2012. Many Long Island School Districts expect additional layoffs for the 2012-13 school year and that assumes the State does not renege on anticipated increases in school aid, something the State has done over the years. In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg's new budget spares teacher layoffs for the 2012-13 school year. However, he will not replace teachers who will leave the system at year end. Since the projected "attrition rate" is usually 2,500 and could be even higher as many teachers are refused tenure and leave the City schools in frustration. In the Mayor's goal to reduce the number of teachers and increase class sizes, he has already achieved a reduction of 8,000 teachers in the last three years and with at least another 2,500 teachers leaving the system and not replaced, look for that number to approach or even exceed 11,000 or 14% of the 2008 teaching force while the NYC student population continues to increase.

Throughout the nation teaching positions are being eliminated as education is being squeezed with all public employment. Even in a recession proof State like Texas almost every school district experience significant teacher layoffs with 10,000 teaching positions gone this school. year and last due to "layoffs and attrition". Overall, over the last three years nationwide 280,000 education jobs have been eliminated and more are expected for the next school year.

Back to New York City, look for the number of teachers to be further reduced due to "attrition" until Bloomberg is out of office in January of 2014 or 697 days from now. That means one more year of the Mayor increasing class sizes before the nightmare is over in his "children last" policy.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Teacher Morale Is At A New Low As The Bullies, Cuomo, Bloomberg, King, And Walcott Try To Destroy The Teaching Profession.

One of the slogans that go around schools is "stop bullying". Posters, advertisements, and even the WWE superstar wrestlers have commercials that condemn "bullying". However, over the last couple of years Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg, SED Commissioner King, and Chancellor Walcott have been trying to "bully" the teacher unions (NYSUT & UFT) in their attempt to break the unions. You can even add President Obama and his education head, Arnie Duncan, to the list of "bullies".

The Governor has threatened to withhold school aid increases if the school districts fail to implement his very flawed and untested "teacher evaluation system". Moreover, the Governor has threatened to implement his own "teacher evaluation system" if the unions and the school districts cannot agree to a process. He even told NYSUT to drop their lawsuit which a State judge upheld when the Governor's ill-advised decision to increase the "teacher evaluation system" to include a 40% testing requirement. His SED Commissioner, King has already withdrawn $58 million from New York City and $69 million from the rest of the State when the school districts and the unions failed to implement an approved "teacher evaluation system" that would destroy teacher tenure.

Mayor Bloomberg has made no secret of his contempt for the New York City teaching profession and how he would just love to destroy the UFT. Furthermore, his ideal teaching force would be half the teachers with class sizes reaching 70 students! Moreover, the Mayor's goal is to have a young and replaceable teaching staff that would never be tenured or vested for a pension. His contempt for teachers has resulted in the City failing to negotiate a contract with the teachers union and a continuing demand to impose a time limit on the ATRs that his hand-picked previous Chancellor, Joel Klein, created in the first place. His present Chancellor, Dennis Walcott, simply is the Mayor's pet poodle and whines about needing "exceptional teachers" but fails to define what "exceptional is. Rather than sit down with the UFT on a use of an independent Arbitration process his representatives walk out of talks and wants Commissioner King to approve the DOE proposal without union input. Just unbelievable but that is what bullies do when they don't get their way.

Now the Mayor wants to take 33 restart/transformation schools to become "turnaround schools" and create nearly 4,000 ATRs list costing the City $300 million annually. The morale in the teaching workforce is terrible and getting worse as teachers believe they are under attack and dread the "gotcha system" that the DOE wants to impose on the teaching workforce. Except for those fifth columnists at E4E and their naive TFA followers (a couple of hundred at best), teachers realize that once you are over 40 and make $75,000 annually, you are a target for the DOE.

The DOE motto really is that "the beatings will continue until morale improves". In their "children last" policy.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The "Peer Effect" And DOE's Setting Up Targeted High Schools For Failure.

The Bill Gates sponsored MRDC study has once again falsely claimed that Bloomberg's small schools outperformed the closed large school they replaced. However, if one looks closely at the data the MRDC used to demonstrate their conclusions, you can find some very obvious flaws in the study.

First, and I must say most importantly, is the "peer effect". In the closed and closing high schools the DOE has been and are "warehousing" students with disabilities and self-contained special education students into these schools. Even the State Regents Chancellor, Meryl Tisch, has said as much here. When you put a significant amount of special needs students, especially ones with behavior and attendance issues, it will destabilize the school. Even the "good students" will realize that the school is becoming an unsafe and non-stable environment and start acting up as well. The impact of the "peer effect" on teenagers is a given and when a school gets too many struggling students, it will affect the student body. The study by NYC Community for Change shows this when it came to the self-contained students. Table 1 in the report found that the closed schools averaged almost 12% self-contained students of the school's student population while the small schools that replaced them averaged less than 4%! Moreover, under Chancellor Joel Klein these small schools were allowed to exclude special needs students in the school's first two years as policy during the 2005-2009 school years.

Second, many of the small schools have small class sizes, while the closed and targeted high schools are programed for 34 students, the contractual limit. Even many education reformers admit that class size does matter. Some of the principals of the more successful small schools have credited their academic achievement to small class sizes.

Third, the eighth grade attendance figures between the students going to the closed high schools and the small schools show a 10% difference for the class of 2006, with the lower figure at the soon to be closed high schools. That means that the small schools used attendance as a means to determine which student to select.

Fourth, the Annenberg Study debunks the assumptions used to justify the MRDC study and questions the success of these small schools. More information can be found on the NYC Public School Parents blog here.

Finally, the so called "unscreened small schools" are really screened. They ask for the student's grades, attendance and want recommendations from teachers and Administrators. Jennifer Jennigs reported this in her observations at three of these schools.

My observations revealed that many schools used applications, mandatory information sessions, and much stronger language to deter unwanted applicants. For example, 12 unscreened schools shared a similar application requiring that students provide the most recent report card and two letters of recommendation, one from an eighth-grade teacher and one from a guidance counselor, assistant principal, or principal. The application also asked for the student’s test scores, retention history, and involvement in advanced courses during the eighth grade. Finally, the application included additional questions requiring a narrative response….

The district’s application system provided opportunities for unscreened schools to choose higher achieving students. Through this computer system, each school received a list of students applying to the school, although the school did not know whether the student ranked it, for example, 1st or 12th. ….

In conclusion, the Bloomberg/Wallcott small schools are not a success that they falsely claim but a result of steering and "warehousing" the most difficult of students into closing and struggling schools. It is like comparing "apples and oranges". It is time the media exposed this travesty. For the DOE it is "children last"...always.