Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Yet Again, The Independent Budget Office Shows That Closing Schools Have A Greater Percentage Of "High Needs" Students.

For the fourth time in as many years the City's Independent Budget Office (IBO) found that the DOE closing schools had a greater percentage of "high needs" students, defined as Special Education, English Language Learners, and low performing students.  In all cases these closing schools are primarily filled with a poor black student population living in poverty.

The large percentage of "high needs" students in these schools slated to close has even caught the eye of the State Department Of Education and Commissioner John King who complained that the DOE's enrollment policies created the unacceptably large percentage of "high needs" students in these schools.  His statement that criticized the DOE can be found here. Of course, the DOE put its own spin on the IBO report by claiming that they have provided additional resources to these schools but they failed anyway when compared to schools with similar student populations.  However, a NY1 analysis showed the DOE statement to be false, that  almost every elementary and middle school that have large percentage of students living in poverty and have large populations of "high needs" students fared poorly on both the State and National tests.  Only 6% of the "high needs" schools actually showed English and Math scores above the citywide average. I guess the spin never stops at the DOE.

The entire IBO report can be found at Gotham Schools and puts to rest the DOE's claim that poverty is not an indication of poor academic performance.  It's "children last"....always at the DOE.  Especially when it comes to poor black and needy students.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Bill Gates Is Wrong, The New York City Small Schools Do Not Work.

Bill Gates has realized that small schools do not work and wants to spent his billions on other educational initiatives like quality teaching, another murky and unworkable initiative  However, Bill Gates believes that the Bloomberg small schools did find success in New York City.  I guess if you take the DOE disinformation spin at face value you might think the same thing.

Thank goodness for teacher and blogger Marc Epstein who wrote a fantastic article on the mirage of the Bloomberg small schools. His article, titled "Small Schools Miracle Or Mirage?" debunks the theory that the Bloomberg small schools workThe Gates study points out the increased graduation rates of the Bloomberg small schools and the lower violence statistics given to them by the City.  Unfortunately the Gates study failed to show the low "college and career readiness" rates, the massive "credit recovery courses", the lack of experienced teachers, and the habit of these schools in not reporting school safety incidents since it would affect the school's grade. Furthermore, the Bloomberg small schools excluded English Language Learners and Special Education students and recruited outside the neighborhood to "stack the deck" in showing the illusion of success in these schools. 

Mr. Epstein brought up the example of the breaking up of Andrew Jackson High School into four small schools called  "Campus Magnet" and it resulted in no improvement in student academic achievement or reduce violence.  In fact, two of the schools are closing and one other has the most "Unsatisfactory" teacher ratings for any other high school the City!  The result is a large annual urnover of teachers in the school called "Math Science Research Tech Magnet" and an Administration from hell.

Worse, the "career and college readiness" rates for the Bloomberg small schools was a terrible 10.7% compared to an overall high school rate of 20,7% as of 2011.  Moreover, the limited curriculum and lack of extra-curricular activities bring with it a rigid education model that overwhelms the small school intimacy that is the selling point for many of these schools. For other problems and limitations of the Bloomberg small schools you can read my post Here.   . 

It is time to put tho rest that the myth that the Bloomberg small schools are a success.  In fact, they are a failure as they lack the amenities, quality teaching, and curriculum flexibility that the large comprehensive schools they replaced offered.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Where Did Educators 4 Excellence Get $250,000 To Air A Television Commercial?

I am puzzled how an organization that represents less than 1% of the teachers (a hundred or so) and that has no dues can afford to air a television commercial that cost $250,000?  Of course I m not so naive to think that Educators 4 Excellence (E4E) funded the television commercial themselves.  They probably obtained the funding from their masters and benefactors, the Gates foundation, Democrats for Education Reform, and Education Reform Now. This organization, made up of ex-Teach For America teachers, many who have already fled the classroom to do the bidding of the anti-teacher groups These anti-teacher groups (ed deformers) get their money from corporate hedge fund managers and billionaires who's main goal is to destroy public education as we know it.

The latest rally for E4E was a disappointment with few people showing up and the ones who did, were there for the "freebies".  How many were legitimate teachers who actually attended? Not many, if my sources are correct.  It would have been interesting if E4E participated in a legitimate election for union representatives and see if they could have gained a hundred or more votes.  I guess they were afraid that their lack of support from the rank and file would be exposed and that the media would realize that E4E is a fringe group and do not represent the teachers of New York City. I guess for E4E it was best to continue the fiction that they represent the teachers than having the general public know the truth.

I would really like to know the list of donors to E4E.  However, the organization refuses to show the world who funds them and how much.  They are a cancer to our profession and like all cancers, left ignored, they will kill the body.  These "fifth columnists " must be removed from our teaching profession.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

It's The Teacher's Fault

A student, lets call him "Kenny", comes from a high poverty family.  His father has long ago left the family and he is being raised with his three siblings by a mother who relies on government support to feed and clothe her family, despite working full time.  Unfortunately, her job is low wage and she struggles financially to keep her family together. Furthermore, she has little time or money to take her children on trips to expand their education.  In the house, there are no books, or adults around at night to tell them stories at bedtime.  Instead "Kenny" and his siblings entertain themselves watching television or hanging out with friends.

"Kenny" is having problems in school both academically and behaviorally. He reads at a grade level three grades below his peers and has an IEP for inappropriate behaviors which the school provides services for. However, despite the school giving "Kenny" free breakfast and lunch, he does not show up to take advantage of the free breakfast service.  You see "Kenny" fails to wake up to get to school on time since he stays up to 3am playing video games or watch television since his mother works the overnight shift and has to wake up "Kenny" when she arrives home at 9:00am.   Therefore, "Kenny" is habitually late and hungry as he enters school and has already missed his first three classes of the day.  In class he has poor work habits, does not do his homework, tests poorly, and falls to sleep on occasion.  Worse, he is extremely disruptive when awake and hassles the children next to him.  

Does "Kenny" sound like some of your students?  Of course he does.  We all have a "Kenny" or two in our classes but in some schools, especially, in high poverty neighborhoods. These high poverty schools have quite a few "Kennys" in their classes.  This makes teaching in the classroom of high poverty schools a challenge. Yet if you ask educational reform groups they claim that Kenny"s" academic difficulties is not the effects of poverty or family life  but  from "ineffective teachers".  These education reformers, led by Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee claim that poverty is "no excuse" for poor academic performance as they are deliberately blind to the effects of poverty on academic achievement.

Unfortunately, the education reform movements has deep pockets (Bill Gates) and have the support of politicians on both sides of the aisle.  Even President Obama, no friend of teachers, require a teacher evaluation system, complete with "junk science" as a condition to obtain federal dollars.  Is it any wonder that teacher satisfaction with their profession is at an all time low?  According to the latest data, the teacher job satisfaction rate has dropped an astounding 23% in the last five years.   This drop in teacher satisfaction rates can be attributed to the rise in non-educators in top education positions.  For example how many days has Arne Duncan taught in the classroom?  The right answer is "zero days".  The last four New York City Chancellors had to get waivers to do their job since they were not certified educators. Now hedge fund managers and politicians are the prime movers in opening up charter schools with high teacher turnover rates.

For the education reformers and the politicians that support them it is more convenient to scapegoat teachers and blame them for student academic shortfall than the high poverty family environment that is highly correlated to student achievement.  In other words, it is the teacher's fault.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Fallacy Of Charter School Academic Achievement.

The media claims that the answer to improving academic achievement in the New York City schools are more charter schools.  The education reformers falsely claim that charter schools give more students a chance for a quality education that the neighborhood public schools do not.  What a fallacy!  Even in "Waiting for Superman", the education reform propaganda film admits that every four out of five charter schools (80%) fail and eventually close down. What are the problem with charter schools?  Let me count the ways.

First, there is an extremely high teacher turnover with some schools seeing a complete teacher turnover within three years. In many charter schools the teachers are not even certified to teach the subject and may not even have a teaching license. Many fail to have curriculum knowledge and simply "teach to the test".

Second, the discipline code is so stringent that many students with behavior issues are expelled from the school and other students are counseled out for academic issues.  This is especially true in testing grades. For example the charter school will let the family know that if they don't remove their child from the school, the child will be "left back" to repeat the grade but if the family agrees to remove the child, they will allow the child to advance to the next grade when he or she enters the next school.

Third, The charter schools emphasis "test preparation" and concentrate on English and Math. Many parents complain about the lack of gym, art, music, and even Science and Social Studies  It is "testing over teaching" and students who are "English Language Learners" and Special Education students need not apply since the charter schools claim they lack resources to help these students. Quite a few charters have an application process that screens out students that need additional resources and the ones that slip through are counseled out.

Fourth, most charters demand parent participation as a condition of student acceptance.  Therefore, uninvolved parents will shy away from charters if they know that they must give time to the school.

Finally, the charter schools lack experienced Administrators and in "for profit schools" the school board who require that the school turn a profit.   It 's not unusual for a charter school to have three principals in a given year.The result is a high turnover of administrators as they are fired at will and a new group of administrators come in to try to bring their own plans to a sinking ship.

Just recently, a news article from Reuters showed how charter schools excluded undesirable students and is a must read.

In summary, the statement that "the grass is always greener on the other side" applies here but the truth is that with high staff turnover, draconian discipline policies and the narrow focus on test preparation make charter schools a poor educational option to the neighborhood public schools. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The DOE's New Testing Procedures Hurts The City's Most Vulnerable Students.

The nincompoops at the DOE has done it again.  In their ever consuming effort to make sure teachers are incapable to grade their own school's students, they have hurt the very students that they claim to protect.  English Language Learners and Special Education students have been unfairly been put at a disadvantage when it came to the January Regents test.   Schools that have a substantial number of the two groups, including some of the best large comprehensive schools in the City had a double digit reduction in passing rates since last year.  While those idiots at the DOE may claim that the poor showing reflects what happens when teachers objectively review the essays.  However, in reality the facts are very different.

First, the schools with large populations of English Language Learners (ELL) and Special Education Students had their English Regents sent to a different school where many of the teachers were English teachers with no experience in grading English Language Learners or Special Education Students/  Therefore, these teachers graded the paper as if the student was an English speaking student with no IEP.  A very unfair approach and detrimental to the academic achievement to these two groups.  I'm sure the DOE will claim that schools with a majority of one of these groups like Newcomers High School were graded by teachers with experience with English Language Learners.  However, many of the large comprehensive schools do not have majorities in ELL or Special Education students and were graded by English teachers with no or little experience with both groups this put these students at a competitive disadvantage.

Second, The very fact that the student name and school was included on the paper could lead to biased grading, either from a cultural perspective or just jealously between a good school academically and a grader from a school that does not have a good reputation academically. If you don't believe that this does not happen then I have a Bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.  It only takes one biased grader to affect a student's final score and make an otherwise passing grade to a failing grade. If the DOE was competent, they would have eliminated the name and school from the grader's view and simply provide the OSIS #.  Instead the DOE poor judgement put many deserving students in jeopardy to graduate and go to college.

Finally, since the Bloomberg small schools have relatively few ELL and Special Education students since these schools claim they lack the resources of the large comprehensive high schools to service these groups,  the small schools are less affected by the DOE decision to have other teachers grade their students. By contrast, the large comprehensive high schools are penalized and the more ELL and Special Education students, the greater the penalty to the school.

Now with common core being integrated into the curriculum, I can only see more poor results for ELL's and Special Education teachers.  Just imagine, who will want to teach either group if 25% of the teacher evaluation system is based upon a test that is biased against both cohorts. It is just another example of the DOE's disrespecting teachers and putting the most vulnerable of children last.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Another Disgusting Example Of DOE's Double Standard When Disciplining Administartors.

Here we go again.  The Daily News reported that a Bronx  junior high school "Leadership Academy Principal" Emmanuel Polanco used his alter ego as "El Siki" to produce a smut video that borders on "porn" and the DOE's response was to tell the newspaper that they will "investigate the accusation".  Yes, the Principal of the school was exposed as a champagne drinking, girl chasing, dirty dancing, sex machine in his music video,  Yet the DOE has left this Principal to run the school despite many of the students who have seen the video and chant "El Siki" as he roams the hallways.  It was reported that Emmanuel Polanco was investigated previously by SCI and OSI but it did not stop the DOE from making him a Principal.

The parents of students in the school are appalled by the video and want Emmanuel Polanco removed as he is a poor role model for the children.  One parent said the following:

Someone has to hold this guy accountable,” said Cecilia Donovan, whose daughter Ciara, 12, is a seventh-grader at the school. “It’s ridiculous what he’s doing there.”

Here is a 30 year old Principal that has limited teaching experience who has shown that he is a terrible role model and yet the DOE chooses to leave him in his position as a school leader.  Unbelievable but true.  By contrast the DOE saw no problem in terminating this guidance counselor for doing a lingerie photo shoot a decade ago when she was nineteen here..

This is just the latest example of the DOE "double standard" when disciplining staff and administrators.  Here are so many other examples of the DOE failing to discipline administrators and managers who committed misconduct.  Here, here, here, herehere, here, and here.

These examples clearly show the "double standard" at its worst.  However, nothing compares to this outrageous issue of this DOE non-action.  Yes, this Administrator was canned from a Catholic school for sexual misconduct, yet the DOE still hired him and refuses to remove him when confronted with the sexual misconduct issue at his previous school.

The DOE's "double standard" continues and until they treat administrators and managers the same as staff, their complaints about terminating staff for alleged misconduct must be taken with a grain of salt.  The DOE are hypocrites and do not use the same standards for disciplining their administrators and managers.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The Two Versions Of The Failed Teacher Evaluation Talks.There's The Truth And There's The Mayor's Version.

We all know that the State has taken away $240 million dollars of much needed school funding as the "teacher evaluation system" talks have failed.  The finger pointing for the failure comes from two sides the teachers union, supported by the principals union, State Commissioner John King, and the negotiators from the DOE who "shook hands" with the teachers union on a deal only to have Mayor Bloomberg blow it up. The other side is Mayor Bloomberg, his poodle, the Chancellor, Dennis Walcott, and the editorial boards of the New York Daily News, NY Post, and Fox 5 who relish blaming the  teachers and their union regardless on who was right.

It has become obvious that the union's version is the truth and that the Mayor's version is a lie.  Both UFT's Michael Mulgrew and Ernest Logan of the principals union said that they shook hands on a proposed agreement with top DOE officials  and NYSED Commissioner John King told the press that the DOE's draft proposal included a "two year sunset clause".  The very clause the Mayor claimed the DOE never agreed to and he would not accept.  In fact he called the over 90% of the State's approved teacher evaluation systems had an either one or two year "sunset clause" and the Mayor called them " a fraud".

Furthermore, when a State mediator was selected and the union apparently caved in to the termination of teachers found to be "ineffective" for the two year length of the teacher evaluation system, the Mayor instructed the DOE not to show up and mediation was cancelled. To make matters worse, the Mayor has just about insulted everybody who questioned his decision to shut down the "teacher evaluation system" talks, including gasp, the Governor himself. Finally, the Mayor has turned off just about everybody telling people that his purpose is to fire teachers and not make them better.  Not a recipe for success by having a union be cooperative when the expressed purpose by the one you are negotiating with is to fire their members.

Who is spinning the fairy tale?  Mayor Bloomberg'of course.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

How Many Members Does Educators 4 Excellence Really Have? Not Many I Guess.

The UFT elections are fast approaching and the three caucuses, "Unity" MORE' and "New Action" will be busy going to the schools and handing out leaflets on why they are best suited to lead the union in the future.  However, absent from the election process is the education reform puppet organization, Educators 4 Excellence (E4E).  The question is why aren't they running a slate of people in the UFT elections if they claim they represent teachers?  The answer to that question is very simple, it is because they are afraid that their organization will be exposed for what it is,  a front for outside education reform groups and not teachers.  I would bet that E4E would receive well less than a thousand votes, probably a hundred or so, or significantly less than 1% of the eligible voters and they know it.

For E4E it's better to mislead the ever complaint news media with the fiction that they represent teachers and not their education reform masters.  Therefore, it's not in E4E's best interest to participate in a democratic union election where they will be exposed as a "special interest group" on the fringe of union politics and represent only a very thin minority of "newbie teachers", most being the two year Teach For America wonders, who will be long gone from the classroom in five years.

Whichever caucus wins the UFT election, one of their first order of business should be to expose E4E as a "fifth column",  a phony organization that does not represent teachers but outside education reform groups who want to destroy public education.  Too long the UFT has ignored this cancerous tumor in the UFT body and it is time to surgically remove it by refusing to appear with E4E in any forum.  These forums simply gives E4E credibility that they do not deserve.  E4E had their chance to show their popularity with teachers by running in the election and failed the test.  Let them fade into history as simply a tool for outside education reform groups.