Thursday, January 31, 2013

Do ATR Guidance Counselors Need To Prepare Lesson Plans? Yes They Do!

This year guidance counselors and social workers are being send weekly to schools which makes no sense to me..  How can a school use a guidance counselor that has no experience with the school's student and be expected to do their job?  The answer is that they can't.  Therefore, the schools are using these guidance counselors as co-teachers in the classroom, push in/out teachers, and day to day teachers in the classroom and yes! They are required to have a lesson plan!.  What a waste of talent!  Just like teachers it's the highly-paid veterans that are being sent weekly to different schools.  Age discrimination?  I think so.

I thought it was terrible that the DOE and UFT agreed to waste the services of "great veteran teachers" by making them day to day subs but to use guidance counselors as glorified substitute teachers is ridiculous and  a massive waste of talent. How, in this time of tight City budgets, can the DOE be paying up to 160 million dollars yearly for ATRs while allowing principals to hire "newbies" with no experience with students. Worse, some principals were using the guidance counselors as paras until the UFT complained about using them inappropriately.

It's time that the union get a commitment from the Mayoral hopefuls that they will end "fair student funding" and bring back the unit system for a school's staff.  Furthermore,  eliminate the ATR pool entirely by requiring principals to hire excessed staff before a "newbie" can be hired by the school.  For the union to fail to receive such commitments along with a moratorium on closing schools and a contract with full retroactive raises as the minimum requirements for these mayoral candidates to get our support is a union that is not representing its members.  Nothing less is acceptable.

Monday, January 28, 2013

How To Survive An Observation As An ATR.

There is a rumor going around that the field (ATR) supervisors are giving ATRs an "unsatisfactory observation".   This has made many ATRs uneasy and believe that they will be the first to go when the union eventually allows a "teacher evaluation system" to be implemented. While I do not believe that there is a coordinated effort by the field supervisors to "U" rate the ATR, I do believe that some field supervisors are looking to get the ATR if they can.   Therefore, since the union refuses to give guidance to the ATR on  how to handle a class on a daily basis. This post discusses the best way to minimize getting a "U" rating.

General Rules For ATRs In The Classroom:

There is no regulation that stops a school Administrator from observing an ATR and I am sure in rare cases an Administrator would do a "walk through" just to make sure the class is not unruly.  However, the school Administrators are too busy to do a full observation since they will need to write it up and have a post-observation meeting.  Therefore, the ATR must not get angry, upset, or lazy when they are covering classes.  The ATR simply needs to do their job and nothing more.  I recommend that the ATR should do the following when filling in for a classroom teacher on a daily basis.

  • Make sure the teacher left work for the class, if not, you should have a generic lesson plan that covers the period.  It doesn't matter that  you have a Math lesson and covering an English class, give them the Math lesson unless another staff member has a more appropriate lesson to give you.  I tried to have a generic lesson for English, Math, Social Studies, and Science in my book bag when I covered a class on a daily basis.
  • Tell the class that the rules are "no card playing, electronics, and disruptive behavior, otherwise I will call the Dean to escort you to their office".  For the most part, this works and the class will not be unruly.
  • Inform the class that you are a "troubleshooter" and not a substitute teacher.  Your job is to observe any academic or behavior issues and report the student's name to the Principal who will contact the parents.  The majority of students may not believe you but they will be reluctant to call your bluff.
If a school Administrator does show up, use his or her arrival in the classroom to your advantage.  In the couple of cases that the school Administrator did show up, I told the class the following.  "Mr/Ms Administrator is here to observe the class and to make sure you are doing your work and let's make sure Mr/Ms. Administrator has no reason to call your parents".  The few times it happened to me it worked well.

Full Observation By A Field (ATR) Supervisor:

Usually, but not always, the field supervisor will contact the ATR and tell the teacher that he will be at the school to observe the ATR. This should be considered an informal observation since there is no pre-observation conference.  However, if you do not request a pre-observation conference, then the field supervisor can claim it's a formal observation.  Therefore, request a pre-observation conference by e-mail and if one is not held, then it can only be an informal observation.  Realistically, the field supervisor can only observe the ATR on the teacher's classroom management skills since it is highly unlikely that you are teaching in your subject area when the field supervisor shows up for the observation.  Therefore, it is very important to follow the suggestions in this post.

  • Make sure the students are engaged in the lesson that the teacher or you have them doing.It is extremely important that you walk around the room to make sure the students are doing their work.
  • Be friendly but authoritative, tone is very important and students positively respond to a teacher that takes control of the classroom.
  •  Let a student help with the attendance and make sure the headcount of present students are correct.
These suggestions along with the recommendations, listed previously, should minimize the chances of an ATR receiving a "U" rating.  I would like additional input on other survival techniques that ATRs are using to ensure that they do not get a "U" rating.

Note: By contract, the informal observation cannot be used in the 3020-a hearing against a teacher.  However, there is no regulations stopping a DOE lawyer from submitting the informal observation at the hearing and having an Administrator discuss it.  While it is true that the Arbitrator cannot use the "informal observation" as a basis for the "award", many still do and you cannot unhear what was heard by the arbitrators that do not use the "informal observation" as a basis for the "award".  Moreover, the courts have already ruled that "informal observations" can be used as a basis for  "U" ratings  this case shows just such a situation.

Friday, January 25, 2013

What Do Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Cuomo, And NYS Education Commissioner King Have In Common? It's NYC Children Last.

In the last month the students of the NYC Public Schools have seen funding to the school system cut or threatened to be cut by over a billion dollars by the various actions of three politicians in New York State.  Who are these three stooges who want to hurt the children? ?

  The first stooger  (Moe) is Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has already cost the NYC school system over a billion dollars all by himself.  The latest being "his way or the highway" approach on the teacher evaluation system that will cost the NYC 240 million dollars of State funds in the next school year. The Mayor prides himself as the "ultimate reformer" and the "education Mayor" but his real agenda is to fire teachers and break the teachers union, especially those veteran teachers that dare receive a pension and retiree health benefits.

Next, stooger  (Larry) is Governor Andrew Cuomo who pressured the UFT and NYSUT to agree to a teacher evaluation system that included "junk science" that was as much as 40% of a teacher's final grade.  It was the Governor who demanded a teacher evaluation system or lose $250 million dollars of State aid.  While not an education reformer himself, he is sympathetic to many of the education reformer aims and cannot be trusted to do what is right for the students of NYC.  A better look on how Education Reform is affecting the country and the NYC schools can be found in Marc Epstein's column in the Huffington Post here) . The Governor's self-proclaimed "student advocate" title is a joke as he  authorized the removal of  250 million dollars of State aid to the NYC students. Worse, in his new budget proposal he extends the penalty and this has raised an objection from the powerful leader of the State Assembly, Stanley Silver, who believes he is penalizing the NYC students.

Finally, there is the third stooger (Curly), the NYSED Commissioner John King, who has told the City that he will authorize the stopping of Title 1" Federal funds to the New York City schools if the City and the union cannot agree on a teacher evaluation program by February 14th.  A cold heart indeed.

It is a pity that these three politicians believe that their political agendas are more important than the children's education they pretend are so important to them.  In my book they are the "three stooges" but when it comes to hurting the NYC students nobody is laughing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

It Appears That The ATR Agreement Is A Failure.

Back in June 2011, the UFT and DOE crafted an ATR Agreement that required principals to hire ATRs for vacancies and long-term (30 days or greater) leaves that existed in their school.  However, the DOE chose to thumb their collective nose at the ATR Agreement and ignored union complaints about principals violating the ATR Agreement.  Like almost all UFT/DOE agreements, the ATR Agreement lacked enforceability and the union eventually filed a grievance that the DOE was not living up to their part of the ATR Agreement.  Despite massive principal violations, the ATR population shrank to 831 by April of 2012, thanks to a two-year DOE hiring freeze.   In the fall the DOE, not wanting the Arbitrator to rule against them, agreed to enforce the ATR Agreement and told principals that they must staff their long-term positions and vacancies with ATRs.  According to Michael Mulgrew, there will be few ATRs whom would travel weekly to different schools with the implementation of the DOE enforced ATR Agreement.  How wrong he was.  What he didn't take into account was the DOE's lifting the hiring freeze and principals still refusing to comply with the ATR Agreement and suffered no consequences for their actions by the DOE. The result is that the ATR pool jumped to 1475 as of the winter of 2012-13 from 831 at the beginning of the Spring in the 2011-12 school year.

The increase of ATRs this school year can be attributed to the DOE's lifting of a hiring freeze which resulted in the hiring of 3,500 teachers.  According to Michael Mulgrew at the January 17th Delegate Assembly, already 1,000 of these new hires have left the system.  However, did ATRs replace these 1,000 teachers?  The answer is no and it is very evident that the principals have ignored the ATR Agreement and continue to do as they please. While the union seems to be too busy with the teacher evaluation issue to publicly complain about the apparent violation and non-compliance of the ATR Agreement by the DOE, the abuse to the ATR rights continues.

While it is far too late to see a significant change in both our union and DOE policy with regard to the ATR.  I can only hope that when the union negotiates a contract with the next Mayor, it should require that all ATRs be placed into classroom positions and use the November 2008 ATR incentive that allowed Principals to hire ATRs at "newbie teacher" salaries with the DOE picking up the difference.

Thanks to blogger Francesco Portelos for stumbling upon the spike in ATRs for this school year.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mayor Bloomberg Hates Teachers Even When It Hurts The Children.

The latest attack on New York City teachers by Mayor Bloomberg has yet again cost the City a minimum of $250 million dollars and possibly more.  The expected budget shortfall will be felt by the schools who will probably not be able to hire teachers to fill vacancies and result in even larger class sizes, already the highest in the State. According to the union, already 1,000 of the 3,500 teachers hired this year have left the NYC schools and more can reasonably be expected to leave.Was the mayor's action an isolated act or is it something far more?  The answer is quite simple to me.  The Mayor wants to break the teacher's union and teacher "due process rights" and he will cost the City millions, maybe even billions of dollars to achieve his goal.  Lets see what the Mayor has done to attack NYC teachers and cost the City a billion dollars or more in the process.

The Absent Teacher Reserve: One of the many unfortunate byproducts of the terrible 2005 contract was the elimination of seniority rights, or bumping.  Even worse was the elimination of the requirement that principals were required to pick up any teacher who was excessed in their District if that teacher was certified in the subject area where the vacancy existed.  Sure, many principals were allowed to hide 50% of these vacancies and waited until there was no excessed teacher available in the District so that they can hire whom they pleased.  However, there was a risk in doing that by the Principal but still most excessed teachers obtained a position by the start of the next school year.  Once the bumping requirements were eliminated, the DOE found that they were paying approximately $150 million dollars annually since 2006 for teachers who have no classroom positions.

Fair Student Funding: The Bloomberg Administration imposed a new budget formula when it came to school staff that severely penalizes principals who wanted to hire the "best teachers" for their students. The "fair student funding" required that the actual salaries of teachers be part of the budget.  While they modified it somewhat by using the "average salary" of the teachers at a school rather than the actual salary.  However, to many principals it still cost them real dollars and in an era of tight and ever tightening budgets, the "fair student funding" is a disincentive for hiring experienced teachers.  Is it any wonder that the ATR list are full of senior teachers who make $80,000 or more?  Previously, schools would compete for these senior teachers because of their deep knowledge in curriculum and classroom management skills since the schools simply counted the amount of teachers the schools needs and a teacher was considered a unit, regardless of their salary.  The result was the schools would try to get the "best teachers" for their school since the teacher's salary was not counted against the school's budget. This change happened during the time of tight budgets and with most schools losing an average of 13.4% in funding that made hiring "good teachers" a luxury that most principals felt they could not afford even if hiring them would have been best for their students.

The Mayor's LIFO Bill.The Mayor's hatred for teachers, especially veteran teachers, was very evident in his submission of a "Last in, First out", (LIFO) bill for New York City teachers only.  It is rumored  that he spent nearly a million dollars of his own money to get the Republican-controlled State Senate to pass it.  The fact that the Mayor's LIFO bill would only affect NYC teachers speaks volumes of his hatred of our union and our profession.  Fortunately, it never came to a vote in the Democratic-controlled State Assembly and died in committee  How much money did the DOE use to mobilize support for the Mayor's Bill?  Millions of dollars I would guess.  This came at the time of ever shrinking school budgets and ever increasing class sizes in NYC schools.

Turnaround School Program: During the contentious teacher evaluation talks, Mayor Bloomberg had a temper tantrum when he didn't get his way on the "ineffective" teacher appeals process (he wanted all teachers rated "ineffective" fired not the 87% negotiated) and listed 33 schools (later reduced to 24) that were "restart" or "transformation" schools and required them to go through the more draconian "turnaround" process.  The  "turnaround" program allowed the Mayor to remove at least 50% of the existing school staff and if they were teachers, dump them into the ATR pool.  In the 18D process one new principal was advised by their CFN to bring in as much "new blood" (newbie teachers") as possible and in the school I interviewed in only the lead teachers and all non tenured teachers were selected.  Of course the Mayor's hatred for senior teachers blinded him to the contract violation and both an Arbitrator and judge ruled against the Mayor and it cost the DOE an addition $34 million dollars of lost funds.

Failure To Approve The Teacher Evaluation System:  Now, the Mayor demanded that the Teacher Evaluation System not have a "sunset provision", despite the fact the State agreed to one for all other New York State school districts and did so in the DOE/UFT draft proposal.  The reason for the Mayor's objection?  He claimed he cannot fire teachers if there is a "sunset provision".  Yes, firing teachers is the prime reason to have a teacher evaluation system not improving teacher quality, or what is best for the City's students.  The Mayor's hatred for teachers will cost the City another $250 million dollars of extra State funding and cause the DOE to lose control of hundreds of million dollars more that is channeled by the State from the federal government to the City.

While, there are many more examples of the Bloomberg Administration wasting or losing money such as a failure to obtain Medicaid reinburshment for schools ($100 million dollars), the Citytime scandel ($700 million dollars), and the bloated technology consultant contracts that is almost a billion dollars of the DOE's budget while the school wi-fi systems are either antiquated or non-existent. These are not anti-teacher and were not included in this post.  Moreover, if anybody doesn't think that the Mayor's attack on the school bus drivers is not related to his frustration against the teacher union that has stopped him from achieving his education goals?  I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

How does Mayor Bloomberg hate teachers?  Let me count the ways.

  • ATR pool.                 
  • Fair Student Funding.
  • LIFO bill
  • "Turnaround" program.
  • Teacher evaluation system.
The lack of adequate resources, experienced teachers, and ever increasing class sizes just hurts the children and puts the students last when it comes to what the Mayor wants.

The total loss of funds to the New York City school system?  Probably over a billion dollars in the last five years.  Mr. Mayor I guess you really have a billion reasons to hate teachers don't you?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Mayor Bloomberg & Chancellor Walcott Caught In A Big Lie!

It now seems likely that there will be no teacher evaluation system, at least until after the UFT election in March.  Despite the union and the DOE coming to an understanding on what the teacher evaluation system will have.  Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott vetoed the proposal, primarily because the Mayor demanded no "sunset provision" and the Chancellor apparently didn't like the enhanced and expedited grievance provision after allowing his Tweed administrators to approve it.

At first, it was difficult to know who was telling the truth our union leadership who keeps secret any agreements until it is too late to object and likes to keep its members clueless to what is actually going on or the Mayor, who is known to lie time and again based upon his political calculations.  However, it has become increasingly clear during the day that the Mayor has lied and the Chancellor is trying to claim no agreement was made despite the CSA president Ernest Logan saying there was one with the DOE until the Mayor intervened.  Furthermore, State Education Commissioner John King admitted that the draft sent to him by the DOE contained the "sunset provision".  Read Leo Casey's article about the last minute negotiations here.

Apparently, the Mayor squashed the UFT/DOE agreement when he found out that the two sides agreed to the "sunset provision" of two years at which time the two sides could revisit the results of the Teacher Evaluation System and make the necessary changes to ensure that the system is fair.  Instead the Mayor demanded that the Teacher Evaluation System be made permanent with only changes being made by the DOE, with the UFT having only an advisory role in the process.  In other words, a teacher termination program, especially for highly-paid veteran teachers.  In the Mayor's world it is "his way or the highway".

The Chancellor, in a letter to the Principals, made no mention of the "sunset provision" but claimed that he disapproved of it because it reduced Principal decision-making and took away their authority.  The letter can be found at Gotham Schools   Moreover, the Chancellor does vaguely admit that a Principal Evaluation System was agreed upon but he claimed that the DOE needed both agreements not just one. Finally, the DOE tried to sneak in at the last  minute, a scoring rubric that would maximize teacher "ineffective" ratings and gave the union only 24 hours to analyze the numbers. yet the Chancellor parroted the Mayor's complaint that it was the union that added the revised information and delaying the process. Realistically, the Chancellor is simply the Mayor's poodle and whatever the Mayor says is what the Chancellor does and if that means to lie on demand, so be it.

It now turns out that over 90% of the State approved Teacher Evaluation System has a "one year sunset provision".  Not the two years offered by the UFT, and the Mayor  called those one year sunset provisions a "sham".  However, no school district in the State has agreed to an indefinite time period.  Yet the Mayor demands one so that his legacy would be to put in place a permanent teacher termination program. Not now, not later, not ever!

It is time to move away from the destructive Teacher Evaluation System" that incorporates "junk science", student growth factors that are undefined, and will adversely affect teachers with a challenging population. Our union should start from scratch with the next Mayor and start with a new contract that contains the "City pattern",  including full retroactive pay before agreeing to any Teacher Evaluation System.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Delegate Assembly Needs To Vote No Tomorrow.

As the teacher evaluation negotiations go down to the wire, I fully expect that our union leaders will cave to the Mayor and agree to a teacher evaluation system that will result in thousands of terminations two years down the road.  It appears more and more likely that Mulgrew and company will capitulate to the DOE and put many of its members in danger of losing their job.

Since I assume the teacher evaluation system will be implemented in the 2013-14 school year, it will probably take until 2015 for the results to be reviewed and analyzed.  While I have no clue what the results will be.  I can make an education guess that 20% of the teachers are in danger of getting a rating of "ineffective" and a good 87%  of them can kiss their job goodbye.

How can any right thinking person allow their members to be exposed to "junk science", a rigorous and punitive rubric using Danielson's Framework which even the author objects to, and the poor understanding of how the teacher evaluation system works by the administrators. If the union was so confident that the members support them, then why not bring it up to a rank and file vote?  At a minimum, the union should demand that the Bloomberg Administration give the "City pattern" with full retroactive raises as part of the terrible teacher evaluation deal which really needs to be voted down.

I am asking that the Delegate Assembly to vote with their members interests at heart and not what the Leadership tells them to do and say "NO" to a teacher termination program that destroys tenure tenure an "due process rights".

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Is The Mayor Finally Declaring War On Poverty?

In today's New York Post, Michael Goodwin wrote an article that suggests that Mayor Bloomberg's next crusade, after smoking, sugared sodas, and teacher tenure will be a war on poverty.  Yes poverty, and in particular, the majority of women in the City that have children out of wedlock, in other words lacking fathers.  According to the article an astonishing 70% of the women in the Bronx bring up their children without a father in the household and in New York State an equally disappointing 66% of Black children are raised by only one parent.and the number is approximately 80% in New York City!  Moreover, the City's poverty rate has risen yet again to 20.9% from 18.4% in 2008. Yet the Mayor has time and again blamed teachers for failing to educate children in high poverty communities.

In addition, with the issuance of an EBT debit card, it makes it easier to misuse it.. The EBT debit card supplies poor families with cash and food stamp benefits.  However,  a study has shown that some of the recipients have been using the EBT debit card for things like Gambling, Strip Clubs, Bars, and  Porn stores.  Is it any wonder that many of the children who live with single mothers get no financial support from their biological fathers?  This assumes that the mothers actually use the EBT card appropriately themselves. an optimistic assumption indeed..

I have posted articles on the lack of fathers in the household before and you can find them Here, Here, and Here. In addition here are some other disturbing statistics dealing with fatherless homes.

    * 63 percent of youth suicides are from fatherless homes
    * 90 percent of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
    * 85 percent of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes
    * 80 percent of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes
    * 71 percent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes
    * 75 percent of all adolescent patients in chemical-abuse centers come from fatherless homes
    * 85 percent of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes

It appears the Mayor, who has for years failed to acknowledge that poverty and lack of farther responsibility is the cause for poor student outcomes, is now facing reality that poverty and lack of fathers is a primary cause of poor student academic achievement  Too bad the Mayor came to this conclusion has come much to late for his educational legacy, which is a disaster and will be known more for closing schools and approving Charter schools than any real academic achievement. Maybe had he declared war on poverty in his first term, the schools would show a narrowing of the income/racial student academic achievement gap and more successful student outcomes and he could have proudly claimed to be the "education Mayor".

Friday, January 11, 2013

But Can They Teach?

It is interesting how education reformers praise Teach for America (TFA) which brings graduates from the top colleges to teach in high poverty areas, including New York City.    However, in the next breath these same reformers complain that many of these very same high poverty schools have the most teachers rated "unsatisfactory".  I would not be surprised that an analysis would show that many of the "unsatisfactory" teachers were TFA teachers.  Moreover, the combination of TFA teachers with "Leadership Academy Principals" is a recipe for disaster and I wouldn't be surprised if a closer look at these schools showed just that.

Many of the TFA teachers last just two years and use their limited teaching experience to "jump start" their career in business, law, or Administration.  They are increasingly looked at as "temporary teachers" and never gain the necessary experience to obtain the  curriculum knowledge and classroom management skills to gain tenure or spend enough time in the classroom to be considered a "great teacher". Examples of this are found in the leaders of the "Educators 4 Excellence (E4E) organization, founded by Bill Gates, and other hedge fund managers. These "fifth columnists" seem to move out of the classroom as quickly as possible and many are not even there long enough to be granted tenure.  However, this does not stop them from claiming how they know what is best for our schools and students.  What a joke!  In New York City these TFA graduates obtain all, of seven weeks of training and nobody, except for Mayor Bloomberg and his poodle, Chancellor Walcott, really believe they make a difference.  We all know they are simply warm bodies to throw in front of a classroom with a low enough salary that principals could afford on their tight budgets.

Schools with large amount of TFA teachers are unstable and provide no lasting academic impact on the community and their children.  The constant teacher turnover makes it virtually impossible for students to thrive in such an unstable school environment.  In fact, one outstanding educator who is known to favor issues advocated by the education reform movement has now realized that the TFA with its  temporary teacher turnover is "the problem and not the solution" when it comes to raising the academic achievement of high poverty schools.

Teaching is as much an art as it is a skill .  While, I do not question the intelligence of these TFA teachers, I will say this it takes anywhere between three and eight years to gain teaching mastery in the classroom.  Since these teachers spend three or less years in the classroom, they never achieve mastory in the classroom and never will become the "great teachers" that the education reformers claim they want.

The question we should be asking to the TFA teachers is "but can you teach for the long term and make a difference"?  It appears, for the most part, the answer is a resounding no!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Why We Should Not Support Christine Quinn For Mayor.

Absent from the many politicians and the Mayoral candidates at the UFT and CSA press conference about the inappropriate and inflammable remarks comparing the UFT to the NRA made by Mayor Bloomberg on Friday was Christine Quinn.  This is just another example why the union would be making a mistake in supporting Christine Quinn for Mayor.  To support Christine Quinn is agreeing to elect "Bloomberg Lite" and very little would change with her in office.

It wasn't long ago that Christine Quinn stayed strangely quiet when the Bloomberg bill to eliminate "first in, last out" for NYC teachers rammed its way through the State Senate in 2011  It was only when Ms. Quinn realized  about that the "Bloomberg bill" was not being voted on by the State Assembly and Governor Cuomo did not support it did she change her mind.  In fact when the union had a rally, she failed to show up to support the union and go against the Mayor even after the "Bloomberg bill" was destined to die.  I wonder why?

Ms. Quinn also remained quiet about the closing of many schools and his ill-fated "turnaround program" over the last couple of years.  She was almost always at his side and very rarely took an opposite view from the Mayor.  While, Ms. Quinn will probably distance herself from the Mayor as his lame duck status makes him a liability, especially on education.  Look for her mayoral tenure to embrace many of the Bloomberg policies such as Charter schools, top-down management, and closing schools.  Or as many call it "Bloomberg Lite".

I don't for a second believe Mayor Bloomberg would not support her Mayoral ambitions.  His looking for other candidates is simply a ploy to show that Christine Quinn is not a Bloomberg crony and help her show that she is her own person.  Really?  I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.  Yes Catherine Quinn has criticized the Mayor's remarks but that is part of the plan to show that she is independent of the Mayor.  However, the truth is very different.  She is nothing more than one of his cronies.

If Christine Quinn is really her own person then let her pledge that she will negotiate a contract with the UFT that reflects the "City pattern" and full retroactive raises with no givebacks.   Moreover, stop the destructive and community busting Charter co-locations, and finally stop closing schools.  Any agreement that falls short of these requirements are unacceptable.  

Sunday, January 06, 2013

A Closer Look At What Happens When A Teacher Is Accused Of Incompetence.

I have read today's New York Post article called "The Dance Of The Lemons" and believe people deserve a closer and more accurate explanation at what actually happens when a teacher is accused of incompetence.  As the liaison of the Queens "rubber room" for three years, I have seen well over a hundred teachers who were accused of "incompetence" and until the union-approved infamous PIP+ program was implemented, the DOE did make deals with many of the teachers who were brought up on 3020-a charges for incompetence simply because it was time consuming and difficult to prove a teacher was actually incompetent.  The average fine the DOE negotiated with these teachers was $5,000 dollars and a course on classroom management.  The reason why the DOE lawyers made these deals with teachers accused of incompetence lies with the fact that many of the charges were brought by principals who lack expertize in the classroom themselves.  This is especially true about the "Leadership Academy Principals" For example, the school Administration would claim a Science teacher is incompetent but have no Science Administrator testify as a witness against the teacher.  Without an "expert witness" to testify against the teacher, the independent Administrator would not agree to terminate the teacher.  Therefore, it was easier to make a deal with the teacher than go through a six month to a year or more in a 3020-a hearing knowing that termination was a remote possibility.

However, everything changed when the UFT and DOE agreed to a voluntary program called PIP+ in the October 13, 2007 contract. found under Article 21.J (page 123).  This program was supposed to allow for an independent evaluation of the teacher by an "expert" on teaching.  Unfortunately. the PIP+ program turned out to be a teacher termination program, with an over 90% failure rate!  While a few enlightened Chapter Leaders have told their staff not to take PIP+ and may have saved that teacher his or her job, many of the CLs follow the union's lead in advising their members to take PIP+ to give them an extra six months in the classroom without realizing that it will almost always end up in the teacher's termination.  Too bad since an Arbitrator has already ruled that a teacher's failure to take PIP+ cannot be used in a 3020-a hearing.

That brings me to the present.  The New York Post article claims that of the 166 teachers brought up of 3020-a incompetence charges in the last two years, the DOE managed to get rid of 117 from the DOE payroll, or 70%. I suspect that most of  the teachers that kept their positions (49) never took PIP+  and therefore were not faced with an "expert witness" against them in the 3020-a hearing.  The rest either were terminated in the 3020-a hearing (29), resigned, or retired in a settlement (88).

With regard to the settlements.  According to the New York Post article, it makes it sound that these teachers who agree to settlements can be hired again by the DOE.  However, the truth is very different.  In the settlement, the DOE lawyers clearly state in writing that the teacher has "irrevocably" retired or resigned their position.  This triggers a "do not hire" designation for the teacher's file who cannot even work as a substitute teacher for the DOE.  Yes, the "U" ratings are changed to "S" but these are internal ratings and are not given out to other school districts and if a school district would simply check with the State they will find that the teacher had 3020-a charges for incompetence and now can not even get a Principal recommendation from the last school he or she taught at,  just a neutral DOE letter stating the teacher worked for them for a certain time period.  It is very easy for the school district to add 2+2 and come up with the fact that the teacher settled the charges against them by resigning from the DOE.

While, a smattering of these teachers have found positions in Charter and Private schools (I know three), it is only because these schools only asked the State if the person has a "criminal record".  However, most schools and their districts usually asked the State if the teacher has been disciplined (3020-a charges) and inquired about the outcome?  Do you really think they will hire that teacher?

The  New York Post article "dance of the lemons" is deceiving since the statement referred to principals who told a teacher that they would be rated "unsatisfactory" unless they transferred to another school.  That is not the case when the DOE offers settlements for teachers accused of incompetence since their are no other schools that would take them and no way to get back on the DOE payroll.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Why My Union Is Important.

I believe that in this day and age, being part of a union is very important. While I may question the UFT's advocacy mission, especially spending money on non-teacher issues. For example looking at what the UFT's "Unity" caucus has spent on non-member items like giving $50,800 to AL Sharpton's National Action Network, while he supports the ed deformers and Charter Schools. Furthermore, I am unhappy that our union may be allegedly running a $72 million dollar deficit, or as one article so claims, while giving the City a billion dollars of pension money to help it recover from hurricane Sandy at a time when the Mayor refuses to give UFT members a raise!  Is it any wonder I object to our union's caucuses who advocate "social justice" issues?

In saying this, I can't imagine what our plight would be without a union.  In 2012 our union stood up for teachers time and again.  First, they filed a grievance that overturned Mayor Bloomberg's vindictive "turnaround program" that would have dumped a thousand teachers into the ATR pool.  Next the union forced the DOE to require the principals to hire ATRs for their long-term leave and vacancies as stated by the ATR Agreement. Finally, the DOE will now be required to pay special education teachers their actual salary, not per session,when they spent evenings and weekends doing SESIS work.

If we didn't have a union, just think of what the Mayor would impose on us.

  • End of "first in, last out".
  • Reducing "sick time".
  • Automatic removal from salary and benefits when accused.
  • Health benefit premiums would dramatically increase.
  • Eliminate the 7% TDA dividend..
  • Teachers would be required to abide by new working conditions like a sixth classroom period instead of a preparation period.
  • Elimination or restricting teacher tenure and adding more time.
  • Loss of "due process" rights.
While I may not be happy with the lack of transparency and "top-down" advocacy of our union or the "social justice" issues that the two leading caucuses emphasis, I still believe that a flawed union is still much better than no union at all. Therefore, when our union is attacked from the outside, or from the cancerous tumor on the inside, I will be there to support my union, body and soul.

A reminder to our union:  I expect that the UFT should insist that any Mayoral candidate pledge that they will honor the "City pattern" and the long-held practice of retroactive raises.  Without such a pledge the union should actively campaign against that candidate.  No other course of action would be acceptable. It is time we flex our collective muscles on this issue and not wuss out.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

My Predictions For 2013.

Now that 2012 is over and a new year of 2013 starts. Here are my predictions for the NYC teaching profession and they are pessimistic.

Teacher Evaluation System:  I predict that before the end of the school year, the City and UFT will agree to hammer out a teacher evaluation system, under the threat of losing $250 million dollars of State aid (A measly 1% of the existing DOE budget that will remain untouched).  While the union will stand its ground on the January 17th deadline the State will allow the two sides to keep negotiating and release the money as long as an agreement is implemented for the 2013-14 school year.  Therefore, look for the teacher evaluation system, complete with "junk science", a punitive use of the Danielson framework, and an estimated 20% teacher "ineffective" rating for the 2013-14 school year.

PERB Decision: The DOE's PERB complaint that the union negotiated in "bad faith" will be thrown out as frivolous.  As for the contract, the three Arbitrator panel's decision about the contract will be issued during the summer when their will be less media publicity and will probably side with the union, for the most part.  The City's contention that they used the two 4% raises to avert layoffs of teachers will be rejected by the panel since the union never agreed to it  as required by the Taylor Law provisions.  In addition, the  Arbitrators will remind the City of the Mayor's failure to follow the "City pattern"  as he did with the other unions.

Union Election: Look for Michael Mulgrew and Unity to easily win the election.  Their only competition will be the newly formed caucus MORE.  However, MORE seems to be drifting more and more to the left, no pun intended.  More's emphasis seems to be "social justice" and not teacher based issues which will cause many teachers who have been disenfranchised by "Unity" to think twice about voting for MORE. Personalty, I would never vote for TJC because of their emphasis on the "social justice" issues.  However, as ICE and TJC have now merged, the "social justice" issues of TJC appears to have won out over the more teacher-centered ICE as the main platform for MORE. I predict that many teachers will probably sit out the election and result in another landslide victory for "Unity" and that is too bad. It will be interesting to see if those "fifth columnists" E4E actually runs in the elections.  It will be even more interesting to see how many real supporters they have?

Contract:  Look for the Mayor to ignore the PERB decision on the contract and "kick the can down the road" for the next Mayor.  Remember, the PERB decision is "non-binding" and both sides can ignore the conclusions.  However, the next Mayor will probably use the PERB decision as a basis for the contract sometime in the Spring of 2014.

Mayoral Election: As much as I hope it is not true, look for Christine Quinn to be our next Mayor.  Yes the same Christine Quinn who followed the Mayor's destructive education policy and is known as "Bloomberg Lite".  While she we probably stamp her mark on the NYC schools by selecting a new Chancellor and make cosmetic changes to the useless "CFN"s.  She will not change the DOE Charter School policy or the closing of schools in the City.  I hope I am wrong but at this time, I do not see anybody as a real opponent to Christine Quinn.  However, the union will finally receive a contract and let's hope it includes the well-deserved 4% retroactive raisers we were deprived of by Mayor Bloomberg.

ATR Buyout:  Look for the ATR issue to be resolved.  No new Mayor will waste 160 million dollars yearly and will reabsorb the ATRs into vacancies. Probably bringing back the 2009 agreement that allowed principals to hire ATRs at "newbie" salaries with the DOE picking up the rest.  As part of the negotiations look for an ATR buyout that will be more generous than Chancellor Walcott proposal and then withdrew after the Mayor objected to it. Probably closer to the six month UFT proposal.

There may be some other significant predictions I have missed but these are the most important and only time will tell if these predictions come true.