Saturday, April 27, 2013

Teacher Apathy Is The Root Cause For The Low Turnout In The UFT Elections.

The UFT elections are now over and the Unity caucus  overwhelmingly won with 77% of the vote, despite the hoopla generated by MORE.  As for MORE, I was disappointed by their weak showing, only getting 13% of the vote.  I guess most voting teachers did not subscribe to the "social justice" plank and MORE should seriously reconsider their "leftist philosophy" if they are to be a real opposition caucus" going forward. What was most disturbing about the UFT election was the apathy that resulted in only 25% of the members who actually voted.  That means that three out of four educators failed to even bothered to vote and that is disgraceful.  What is worse that the majority of votes mailed in were by non-active members.  That's right, 53% of the vote came from retirees and that is very disturbing.  While I have no position on whether retiree votes should count, I do know that when retirees vote in greater numbers than active members and are the majority of votes then something is wrong, very wrong with the election system.

What is wrong is the teacher apathy that permeates the rank and file and I saw it first hand when a Chapter Leader asked a senior teacher did he vote?  The response was that he was too busy, he had too many things on his plate and coaching tired him out, he is a physical education teacher.  When the Chapter Leader asked him how much time would it take to mark an "X" and select a caucus, his lame excuse was that "his wife misplaced the ballot and he doesn't know where it is".  I bet he threw it out. This very same teacher has been heard complaining that the union does not care about his "working conditions".  Notice, it was not teacher but his "working conditions" that he complained about and that is the problem with many teachers who believe it is all about them and not the profession.

 The bottom line is that many teachers didn't bother to vote, yet these very same teachers complain about how the union does not care about them.  What hypocrisy and that is a shame!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bill Gates Wants To Install Cameras In The Classroom. What Nonsense!

Apparently another of Mayor Bloomberg's billionaire buddies and education reform hero, Bill Gates is proposing that the nation's schools pay 5 billion dollars to install and monitor cameras in the classroom.  He is expected to announce his "cameras in the classroom" proposal on May 7th at the PBS education forum.

The Gates proposal follows up his many failed proposals such as "small schools" high-stakes testing"and "teacher quality" which has morphed into teacher accountability and scapegoating teachers.  While the education reformers continue to sing the praises of what "Bill Gates" proposes, money talks you know, the bottom line is that none of Bill Gates proposal has helped a child's academic outcome. Now, the clueless in the classroom billionaire has come up with the "cameras in the classroom" idea which he has apparently floated without success since 2011. 

In the world of Bill Gates the cameras will show which teacher is doing the job and help get rid of those teachers who are not doing the job.   George Orwell must have had Bill Gates in mind when he wrote "1984" except that it took until 2013 for "big brother" to invade the classroom.  I am sure Bill Gates will claim that his "cameras in the classroom" would improve student academic performance by identifying educational problems such as poorly behaved peers and proper remediation.  However, it will really be used to keep an eye on the teacher and the video will be used by the Administration to remove and terminate teachers who don't follow the education reformer developed rubric.  In other words what Bill Gates is proposing is technology to terminate teachers and not help student academic performance.

Bill Gates billions would be better spent providing wraparound services to "high needs" students and to "cameras in the classroom" proposal.
eliminate the effects of poverty on student learning.  Instead the misguided billionaire goes after the unreachable and unattainable goal of a quality teacher in every classroom without providing the salary and resources to attract the best and brightest to the profession. Instead his "cameras in the classroom" proposal will further discourage the hiring of quality teachers by treating them with disrespect and distrust and making teaching an unrewarding profession.

Just what we need another clueless billionaire who throws his wealth and power around to achieve his personal goals while not helping the children academically.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

My Grade For Chancellor Dennis Walcott's Tenure Is A "F" For Failure!

The Daily News asked some high profile people in the education field, some not even being educators, what grade would they give Chancellor Dennis Walcott?  Predictably, the education reformers gave him a passing grade while opponents to education reform gave him poor or failing grades.  Interestingly, the Daily News failed to interview teachers to get their opinion of the job Chancellor Dennis Walcott has done. However, if you read the education blogs of New York City teachers it is very obvious that there is a near unanimous agreement that the Chancellor would receive a failing grade.  Regardless of what UFT caucus you follow and support, MORE, New Action, or Unity, the Chancellor's job approval ratings are dismal.  In fact, if the Chancellor was a student, he would need to go to "summer school" because of his failing grade from teachers.

Why do the New York City teachers despise the Chancellor?  Let me count the ways.

First, and most importantly, the Chancellor blindly follows what the Mayor wants and not what is best for the students in the New York City schools.  The Chancellor's lack of independent thought and deed from the Mayor has resulted in calls that the Chancellor is Mayor Bloomberg's "sock poppet"and  "poodle".  Even when the Chancellor tries to deviate from the Mayor, like an ATR buyout or the teacher evaluation system, he quickly retreated when the Mayor objected to the proposals. When you care more about the Mayor's wishes then what is best for the students, that makes you an uncaring and clueless leader.

Second, Dennis Walcott has refused to spend $240 million dollars of much needed money that a judge ordered released to the NYC schools and imposed cutbacks in school resources as a consequence of his wrongheaded decision.   As a result class sizes have increased as teachers aren't being replaced and classes are merged.  In fact, class sizes have increased throughout the Chancellor's inept tenure.

Third, he has shown to be a hypocrite time and again as he practices a "double standard" between disciplining
administrators and teachers.  He wants to fire teachers based on mere accusations but fails to terminate administrators or managers who were found guilty of doing even worse! A Chancellor who has different rules for different people is a failure as a leader.

Fourth, the Chancellor has been blind to the complaints of teachers about the deteriorating classroom environment and the emphasis on test preparation at the expense of real learning.  His failure to stop the increasingly hostile classroom environment and his ignoring of teacher complaints is a major reason for his failure as a Chancellor.

Finally,  in 2012 the Chancellor and the Mayor made many mistakes when it came to their educational legacy and had a bad year.  Things have not gotten any better in 2013 as even the City's Independent Budget Office found fault with the Chancellor as their report showed that schools scheduled for closing were a "dumping ground for high needs students" and that under Walcott, the DOE has  starved these schools of resources.

In conclusion, Chancellor Dennis Walcott has been a failure as  a leader of the New York City schools and deserves the grade of "F".

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Mayor Bloomberg Proposes New Municipal Union Contracts - On His Terms.

Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway at the Citizens Budget Commission unexpectedly stated that the City is willing to negotiate raises for City workers which is a change from Mayor Bloomberg's "no raises without givebacks stance" from before.  This apparent change in the Mayor's attitude is his realization that he will go down in history as the only Mayor who left office leaving all municipal unions without a contract.  Moreover, he is very aware that the next Mayor will be under the gun to resolve these contracts, some like the teachers, that has been without a contract for four years!  He also realizes that the New Mayor will lay blame on him by claiming "he kicked the can down the road" and left the new Mayor with a mess. This will put a real crimp on Mayor Bloomberg's legacy

However, in Deputy Cas Holloway statement about a new contract Mayor Bloomberg did include two"conditions" to any union willing to negotiate a contract with the City.  First, he said that the contract cannot include any "retroactive raises" and that the union members will need to start paying a significant part of their health benefits.  Both "conditions" are non-starters and I highly doubt any union will seriously negotiate with the Bloomberg Administration since it has only eight months left in office.  Furthermore, the Mayor would like to establish a "new City pattern"  and ignore the old one with it's "retroactive raises", if he can only get one union (DC37?) to strike a deal with the City.  This way Mayor Bloomberg does not go down as the Mayor who refused to negotiate with his municipal employees and left the problem for the next Mayor to solve. Not a good thing for the Mayor's legacy as a financial genius.

I predict that no union will bother to negotiate with the Bloomberg Administration and wait until the new Mayor takes office, likely a Democrat who usually are more union friendly.   Considering that the City finances are slowly improving and the national recession is just a fading memory, it will be difficult for the new Mayor to plead poverty and refuse to negotiate a fair contract, complete with "retroactive raises" for the Municipal unions going forward.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What Is Mayor Bloomberg's Vision Of The New York City Public School System?

Last week when filling out my form to rate my school one question hit me.  The question was something to the effect "How do you rate the job the Chancellor is doing"?  Of  course like most everybody else I put down "VERY UNSATISFIED" and thought about why I felt that way about the Mayor's poodle. While the Chancellor, Dennis Walcott, may be a nice person, he really is the "sock puppet" of the Mayor and obediently follows the every whim of the Mayor.  A prime example is the $240 million dollars that the DOE lost when an agreement failed to be finalized for a teacher evaluation when the Mayor objected to Walcott's agreement to a two year sunset clause.  However, this post is not about the inept Chancellor, Dennis Walcott, but the educational vision of Mayor Bloomberg.

The Mayor's vision for the New York City Public Schools is to make teaching a temporary position with most teachers not lasting the ten years to be vested for a pension and the fifteen years necessary to get retiree health benefits.   He would eliminate tenure and require merit-based pay rather than step and longevity increases. He also would eliminate the 7% DOE contribution by the City to the TDA. Moreover, there would be no class size restrictions and in his vision a teacher would have up to 70 students and heaven help those hapless teachers who cannot show significant "student growth" based on "junk science".  As for teacher experience? The Mayor has already stated that teacher experience does not matter. The two year wonders from Teach for America and other alternate programs are just fine with him. Further, the Mayor wants the ability to fire teachers who are accused of "misconduct" despite an independent arbitrator who after carefully weighing the evidence found the accusation not credible. Finally, the Mayor's vision for the New York City public schools is to blame all the ills of the schools on their teachers and not the social-economic factors that is 80% of what affects a student's academic outcome. Accountability is for teachers and not his badly flawed education policies.

For Mayor Bloomberg, it's all about his educational legacy and to blame teachers for his educational  failures like the wide academic achievement gap and the low "career and college readiness rates".  When it com to the children of the New York City Public Schools it's about what's best for the  Mayor and not what is best for the children:.' For the billionaire Mayor it is his educational legacy first and the New York City Public School children last",

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Expect The Racial/Income Academic Achievement Gap To Widen With The New State Tests.

Last week the State and City admitted that they expect a 30% reduction in the  students passing rate of the new and harder "Common Core" tests.   In fact, Chancellor Dennis Walcott expects that up to 80% of the students in some districts who take the test will not be considered "proficient" . While all expect the scores to plummet, the most affected will be those "high poverty students" .

However, education officials have decided not to publicize the expected widening of the student academic achievement gap based upon income and race.  While all students will see scores plummet, look for the greatest drops to occur in schools that have a population that comes from high poverty areas.  Unfortunately, these high poverty areas have a large population of Black and Hispanic students and education officials expect that these students will experience the greatest drops in test scores.

These "high poverty students" suffer from common social problems, a lack of household resources (books, computers, a private room to study in, and in many cases a safe environment) and in many cases come from a single family household which means money is scarce and discipline may be lacking. Too many times the only food the children get is the free breakfast and lunch programs at school.  Regardless, the lack of effective academic intervention programs for these "high poverty students" will manifest itself into low test scores and result in a widening income/racial student academic achievement gap.

What a fitting way for the Bloomberg Administration to end their tenure, with low test scores and a widening income/racial student academic achievement gap.   The education Mayor?  What a joke. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Union Screws The ATRs Yet Again!

It has recently come to my attention that the union has decided that ATRs are required to accept a long-term leave assignment, even if the ATR feels that the assignment is "not the right fit".  This is a change in position from what the union originally told ATRs.  Previously, if the ATR did not want to accept a long-term leave assignment and was waiting for a vacancy, the union told them that the ATR had to agree "that it was a good fit", otherwise, the ATR can refuse the long-term leave replacement position since it did not lead to a permanent position.  However, it now appears that the union has changed their tune on this issue and has told teachers that they must accept long-term leave replacement positions even if they do not want them.

What brought this change on?  I can only speculate that the discovery of the number being 1475 ATRs by Fransesco Portelos at the end of 2012 and not the 831 that the union seemed to claim, has embarrassed the union leaders who have falsely stated that the weekly ATR rotation successfully exposed ATRs to more vacancies.  WHAT A CROCK OF SHIT!  The reality is that the ATR weekly rotation is a farce and the only ATRs getting picked up are the younger and less expensive ATRs.  Therefore, most of the ATRs are older and more expensive and have few opportunities to apply for the vacancies.  To make matters worse the ATR agreement allows schools to ignore seniority issues by seeking younger and less expensive ATRs who were most recently excessed.  The result is that ATRs who have been ATRs for two or more years are not likely to be interviewed for the vacancy.

Finally, the union's failure to include an ATR in the joint oversight committee and their general disrespect for ATRs by not allowing an ATR Chapter Leader points to the union's uncaring attitude to the most vulnerable members of the profession.  I am very disappointed that the union allows the ATR weekly rotation travesty to continue and  not provide the ATRs with their own representatives.  To me, this is a moral failure of our union to the needs and rights of the ATR s which, I might add, was responsible for the ATR crises in the first place. Is it any wonder why I have problems voting for the "Unity" caucus in the elections when they ignore the needs of its members?

Monday, April 08, 2013

The State And City Are Setting Up Teachers For Failure With The State's Common Core Tests.

This Spring, the State of New York has decided that their tests will be based upon the "Common Core standards".  While on the surface this seems to be a good idea, the problem is that New York City teachers have not been trained in using the "Common Core" and many have no or inadequate materials that can help them with the new standards.

The State has rolled out the new tests without funding the resources or materials for the "Common Core standards".  Even when the School Districts, unions, and parents complained about the lack of State funding, NYSED Commissioner John King stated that the "common core" materials were available on the State website, as if that was sufficient; It's not by a long shot. In fact, according to NYSUT, 70% of the teachers lack textbooks and materials required for the "Common Core" tests. According to the President of NYSUT Richard C. Iannuzzi, "no experienced teacher would test students without teaching them the materials, yet that is what the State is doing".

The DOE, with its 23 billion dollar budget and bloated bureaucracy has failed to provide any significant training for the "Common Core" tests. Now, after waiting patiently for the State and/or the City to provide training,  the UFT has belatedly taken upon itself to help teachers by providing information in a website called Share My Lesson.  However, for many teachers and their students it's "too little and too late" for this year's tests.  Even the State and City admit that the State test scores will be significantly lower than in the past. However, I predict when the actual scores come in and they are poor, guess who will be blamed?  Right you are, it's the teacher's fault!  I can see the New Yoirk Daily News and Post with blaring headlines and editorials blaming teachers for the poor test scores and the Mayor and Chancellor claiming that if only they had the power to fire "bad teachers" the scores would improve.

The bottom line is that look for the politicians and their media cronies to point fingers and blame the teachers for the poor results in the "Common Core" tests. It's always the teacher's fault.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Handicapping The UFT Elections

I pride myself on being independent and objective and have explored the policies and planks of the three UFT caucuses and have come to some decisions on who I will be voting for in the UFT election.  This post critiqued the different caucuses running in the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) elections and how I came to my decision.  I hope this guides many of you to make the right choices.

MORE:  This is a dynamic and vibrant organization and many of my favorite educators and bloggers are running under the MORE banner.  While I really want MORE to do well, their emphasis on the leftist dogma of "Social Justice" is very disturbing to me.   I suspect many educators who  are "moderate" like me  will have a problem with MORE's "Social Justice" part of their plank and is the main reason I cannot join MORE.  Nevertheless, MORE may be the first caucus that could garner enough votes in the high schools to capture a seat or two and maybe more since the hayday of ICE.

New Action:  This caucus, despite its leftist origin, has drifted into the center and is probably most closely aligned with my own philosophy.  While I really do understand why New Action "sold their soul" to Unity for some limited power, I would never have made such a deal and despite how closely I identify with the political goals of New Action, I cannot join an organization that sold their "soul to the devil".

Unity:  The most dominant caucus and likely winner.  However, the Unity caucus is a "top down organization" and fails to allow its members to vote on important matters that affect the classroom.  I have personally experienced the smug attitude and down right arrogance of the leaders and how they lack democracy and transparency when negotiating member rights.  .  Examples are the ATR crises which they created from that very same 2005 contract and then changed to make the ATR's life a living hell by rotating weekly to different schools, supporting the badly flawed "race to the top" program and allowing the DOE to use Charlotte Danielson's rubric which will have a detrimental effect on the classroom teacher. Who can forget the terrible 2005 contract that made teaching in the classroom a nightmare.  I could never join an organization that requires an oath that stifles dissent as a condition of advancement.

Listed below are my picks

President:  Julie Cavanagh - MORE  While Michael Mulgrew is a step up from Randi Weingarten, his failure to bring more democratic and transparent policies to better reflect member concerns was the determining factor.

Secretary:  Brian Jones - MORE  The co-star in" the inconvenient truth of Waiting for Superman" really impressed me and he deserves a chance to bring the union into another direction.

VP Special Education:  Carmen Alvarez - Unity.  She has done a great job and never replace what works.  District 75 in particular believe her advocacy has made their life easier and the driving force to get paid for working on SESIS.

Assistant Treasurer:  Michael Fiorillo - MORE  Few teachers are as intelligent and knowledgeable than Michael.  The other two cannot compare to Mr. Fiorillo.

Treasurer:  Camille Eterno - MORE  Mel Aaronson was a very effective Treasurer but has been long retired.  I want an active teacher who understands the present day realities of the classroom to handle my money.  Being married to James tells me she is a good decision maker.

Executive Board: - High School -

Jonathan Halabi -  New Action/Unity  He really tries and has been a dissenting voice in the past.
Kit Wainer - MORE Is an effective advocate for the classroom teacher.
James Eterno - MORE - The best there was, the best there is, and the best there ever will be.
Peter Lamphere - MORE.  We all know his story and I hope he wins.

Other people I will be voting for:

Amy Arundell - Unity.  She really helps teachers.  One of my heroes.
Peter Zucker - MORE.  A blogger and a fighter.
Rona Feiser - Unity.  A good person to have in your corner.
Norm Scott - MORE  A one person information center and that's important.
Debbie Saal - MORE. Great teacher, nuff said.
Richard Skibins - Unity One of the original bloggers.
Angela Artis: - Unity. She's always helpful, very knowledgeable.
Fransesco Portelos - MORE.  Rubberized and we need him to represent those teachers in trouble.

By default, I will be voting for MORE candidates when I have not identified a candidate because we need a change, despite their wrong headed "social justice" plank.  Remember, if you pick a caucus slate by putting an "X" on the first page and try to select candidates, you invalidate the entire ballot.  Therefore, either pick the candidates individually or select a caucus slate not both!

One last point is the absense from the UFT election process is the education deformer sock puppet and "fifth columnists" Educators 4 Excellence (E4E) and the reason is that they would have been exposed as a fraud with only the fringe (less than 100 TFA educators) who would actually vote for E4E. My advise to E4E just go away, your failure to participate in the election makes your organization irrelevant to New York City teachers.




No matter which caucus you support.....VOTE!

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Will School Cheating Increase With The Flawed NYS Teacher Evaluation System? I Believe It Will.

Now that the Atlanta cheating scandal has resulted in indictments of 35 educators and a clamor to haul in Michelle Rhee and her underlings for the phony scores at Washington D.C. The question is what prompted the cheating in the first place?  It was the emphasis on test scores!  Even in New York there is a suspicion that many schools manipulated test scores to raise their school grades while the City and State officials and investigators chose to ignore the numerous complaints    You can go back to June 2010 when blogger JD2715 wrote a very detailed and informational piece about how the inept and terrible DOE investigators ignored the cheating and financial abuses at JFK High School in the Bronx that went back seven years! Now here we are in  a dawn of a new day when teachers and principals will be evaluated, in part, by student test scores.  These suspect  test scores, known by many educators as "junk science", will result in many good teachers losing their jobs simply because of the students they end up with and not because oi their teaching ability.  With regard to testing itself, Erika  Christakis said the following in her insightful article in Time Magazine when  it came to the education reformer's obsession with testing as the basis for good instruction.

  "Even if we eliminate all the cheating, what remains is a broken system built on the dangerous misconception that testing is a proxy for actual teaching and learning. Somehow, along the path of good intentions, testing stopped being seen as a diagnostic tool to guide good instruction and became, instead, the instruction itself. It’s as if a patient were given a biopsy, learned she had cancer, and was then told that no further medical treatment was necessary. If that didn’t sound quite right, we could just fire the doctor who ordered the test or scratch out the patient’s results and mark “cured” in the file".

Teachers will refuse to take the hardest to reach academically, English language learners, or special education students, simply because these groups represent the lowest scoring groups and will adversly affect the teacher's ratings.  In the past a student who had problems with one teacher would end up with another teacher.  However, no teacher will jeopardize his or her career by taking students that will lower their evaluation scores.  In fact, I see teachers going to great lengths in excluding students who will lower their scores. Furthermore, some schools will try to exclude some of these students from the evaluation system due to attendance or by other means to help the Principal and who can blame them?

The pressure on both teachers and principals to cheat, once test scores are factored in, will result in accusations of cheating throughout the system just like Atlanta and Washington D.C.  I predict that the flawed New York State evaluation system which is a "work in progress", will end up crashing since you can't fix a plane while airborne as New York State officials claim they will do, without it crashing.  The problem is how many teachers will end up being terminated before the plane actually crashes and the New York State evaluation system is proven to be faulty?