Sunday, June 30, 2013

Will Heads Roll At Tweed Due To The Regents Fiasco? Don't Count On It.

The DOE's ill-advised Regents grading policy by outsourcing the scoring to a private consultant for a three year contract worth $9.6 million dollars has been a colossal failure and waste of money to the school system.  Unlike the rest of the State, where they trust their teachers, the schools marked their own Regents. The City, on the other hand, didn't trust their teachers and went one step beyond and required all schools to outsource the Regents scoring.  Of course the charter schools were exempt since there is no cheating going on at the charter schools, lol. 

The result of DOE's Regents grading fiasco was that the final grading of the Global and U.S. History Regents were not finished until school had finished.  The Living Environment grading didn't end until the last day of school and many physics exams were incorrectly labeled "invalid".  James Eterno in the ICEblog documented what he experienced as he was sent from Jamaica High School to Cardozo for grading only to do virtually nothing for days on end.  Furthermore, teachers were offered "per session pay" ($41.98/hr) to work on Saturday and Sunday as well as into the evening.

One of my favorite stories was the case of one Brooklyn Living Environment teacher who received a "discontinuance" of employment and the DOE threatened to take her teaching license when she was given her letter of termination the previous day.  However, the very same teacher was asked by the DOE to come back the next week to continue marking and given "per session pay" to work into the night.  Unbelievable, but true. You just can't make this thing up.

This fiasco by the DOE, orchestrated by those non-educators by Tweed has caused uncertainty,
aggravation, and anger among parents, students, teachers, and school administrators alike.  Imagine graduating without knowing if you actually passed the Regents and embarrassing family and friends when it turns out that the student failed?

Will heads roll at Tweed because of the Regents grading fiasco?  Remember, they are not held accountable.  Therefore, look for the DOE  to remain unscathed by their incompetence.  If I had to give them a grade it's "INEFFECTIVE"!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Chancellor Walcott, First Clean Up Your Own House Before You Complain About Teachers.

Unfortunately, the rag, the Daily Snooze, oops I mean the Daily News has once again went after teachers that were accused of "sexual misconduct" but were found by an independent Arbitrator to have committed no such thing.  To Walcott and Bloomberg it doesn't matter if there is evidence to support the accusation.  Just being accused is good enough for them. Evidence?  who needs any damn evidence, if the student or administrator says the teacher did it then it's off with their heads!

At this point I would like to clarify that any teacher found guilty of "sexual misconduct" by an Arbitrator is automatically terminated.  In fact. here is what the UFT/DOE contract states on being found guilty of "sexual misconduct".

  In 3020-a proceedings, a mandatory  penalty of discharge shall apply to any tenured pedagogue a) found by a hearing officer to have engaged in sexual misconduct or b) who have pleaded guilty to or been found guilty of criminal charges for such conduct.

That's right!  The independent Arbitrator must terminate the teacher if that teacher is found guilty of "sexual misconduct".  Unfortunately, our Chancellor is not intelligent enough to understand that evidence is required and hearsay or gossip are not evidence.  Moreover, he fails to differentiate between a teacher having sexual intercourse with a student and a teacher that touches a clothed shoulder of a student to reassure her.  To him it's all the same. He wants the right to fire them all!

Presently, the Chancellor can terminate his DOE employees without a hearing if they are accused of "sexual misconduct" but has failed to do so.  For example take the case of DOE CEO John Shea who was accused by two females of "sexual misconduct" and have federal lawsuits against him.  What action did the Chancellor take?  None!  How about the two leadership academy principals who also have been accused of misconduct of a sexual nature.  Anissa Chalmers, and Emmanuel Polanco.  They are still principals of their schools!  If that's not enough how about the case of acting Principal John Case Jr who was found by OEO to have sexually harrasses female subordinates and students at the school.  In defending Mr Chase, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the following.

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

That's right!  Our zero tolerance Chancellor for teachers is quite tolerant when it comes to his managers and administrators.  What a hypocrite and a phony. It's a good thing that he only has 188 days left in his tenure and we finally get an educator that truly understands education and what goes on in the classroom and not the walls of Tweed and City Hall.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

To Me It's Students First! And It's Not Simply A Slogan.

A couple of days before the Earth Science Regents I discovered that three of my students at the school had not taken the Earth Science laboratory practical.  I then spoke to the other teachers and found that approximately eight students did not take the laboratory practical and were in danger of failing the Regents.  I spoke to my Assistant Principal about holding a special laboratory practical the day before the Regents.  To my delight, the Assistant Principal was supportive and we then started to call the students to have them come in to take the laboratory practical.  All were contacted except for one of  my students.  When I couldn't contact her, let's call her "Cindy", I was about to give up when her guidance counselor informed me that "Cindy" needed the Earth Science Regents to get an advanced Regents diploma.  Otherwise, she would get a regular Regents diploma.

What was I to do?  The three phone numbers given to me by the guidance counselor and the nurse's office did not work.  The number "Cindy" gave me was also not working.  See "Cindy" is a recent immigrant   only coming to the country two years ago and apparently moves quite frequently.  I then did some investigative work and started calling a couple of students who I saw were friendly with "Cindy".  However, they had no contact with "Cindy" except in  school since she had no cellphone.   Just when I was about to give up, I remembered a boy she liked talking to outside my classroom and tracked down his name. On a hunch I called his house and asked him if he can contact "Cindy" and tell her to come in for the laboratory practical.  He told me that he couldn't contact "Cindy" but he knew a distant relative that "Cindy" used to live with and maybe she would know.  About two hours later, I received a phone call from the relative and since she only spoke Mandarin, I had my Mandarin speaking lab tech translate about how important it was for "Cindy" to came in and take the laboratory practical.

To make a long story short, "Cindy" did come in and take the Earth Science laboratory practical and yes, I am quite happy to say that"Cindy passed the Earth Science Regents"!  I feel good that I went "over and above the call of duty" to see that a student of mine was given every chance to achieve mastery in her academic career.  Maybe that one action does not make me "highly effective" but I can tell you it feels wonderful to know you made a difference and helped her receive her advanced Regents diploma.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

My Best Guess On What The Retroactive Raises For UFT Members Will Be.

There is widespread talk about how inevitable it is for the next Mayor to settle with the three unions when Bloomberg unwisely decided "to kick the can down the road" and forced the new administration to settle the issue.  The question is how much will UFT members actually receive if all four years of retroactive pay is included?  While I cannot predict what the term of the final contract will be, I am taking the UFT at their word that "full retroactive pay" will be their bottom line.  Therefore, I did assume full retroactive pay in my calculations.

2009-10: There is a consensus that whomever is Mayor will "bite the bullet" and give us the "City pattern" which are two 4% raises.  However, since these contracts are four years behind schedule and the average New York City inflation rate is 2.32% for the time period between 2009 and 2013, the City will need to cough up a 12.7% pay raise for each UFT member.  However, we still owe the City 0.58% from the June 2009 agreement that traded the two days before Labor Day by having our TDA reduced to 7% along with other "givebacks".  Therefore, accounting for the inflation rate, we actually owe the City 0.593%.  Consequently, the City owes us 12.11% in retroactive raises for the 2009-10 contract.

2011-12: This contract is more problematic since it will depend on many factors such as the City's finances and the next "City pattern".  However, I assumed optimistically that we will get a pact similar to the New York City inflation rate (2,32%) for each of the two years and with "retroactivity" factored in, we should receive a 5.5% salary adjustment for the 2011-12 contract period.

Consequently, the total "retroactive raises" for UFT members should be 17.6%.  That means that a teacher at the top of the payroll scale would receive a raise of $17,685 for a top pay  of $117,658 still far below the New York suburbs. While the "newbies" will see the starting salary increase from $45,530 to $53,543, in line with the surrounding suburbs.

Regardless of who is Mayor, these contracts will include "retroactive pay" and we should all look forward for the end of the Bloomberg destructive education policy and the demonizing of our profession.  What better way to celebrate than with a much deserved significant pays raise that will go a long way to heal our wounds.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Unsatisfactory Observation Of Deputy Chancelllor Shael Polakow-Suransky's Presentation Of The Teacher Evaluation System.

One very unlucky high school in Queens was subjected to a professional development day that was straight out of hell.  The primary part was for the school's unfortunate teachers to listen and see a very boring and hard to understand presentation by Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky about the teacher evaluation system and the Danielson framework.  The school's teachers were forced to listen to a two hour lecture that bored them silly.  By the end of the video presentation, teachers were more confused then ever.  In fact one Assistant Principal said that if he was to rate the Deputy Chancellor's presentation, he would give him an "unsatisfactory observation".

Teachers I spoke to said that his presentation put them to sleep, made them laugh with ironic humor because of how bad it was, and the audience were just wishing when would it be over.  Imagine, the Deputy Chancellor of the Division of Academics, Performance, and Support putting the entire school's teaching staff to sleep and bored to death.  Is it any wonder that the Assistant Principal would have given the Deputy Chancellor an "unsatisfactory observation"?  

The good news is that the days are numbered for the leadership at Tweed and a hopefully, a more sympathetic leadership takes control in less than 200 days. Many of the people in power positions at the DOE will be forced to resign or leave for jobs with the ed deformer organizations.   Let's hope that the other schools will not be subject to the boring and terrible presentation by the soon-departing Shael Polakow-Suransky. We suffer enough than sit through a presentation that has been universally panned by teachers and assistant principals who saw it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Comptroller John Liu Says That He Would Honor The Previous "City Pattern" And Gets My Vote For Mayor.

On June 12th, in an interview  Democratic candidate Comptroller John Liu made it clear that he would honor the previous "City pattern" for the teachers (UFT), supervisors (CSA), and  nurses (NYSNA).  The three unions that were shafted by Mayor Bloomberg.  Mr. Liu is the only candidate to agree to give the "City pattern", two 4% raises to the three unions.  Mr. Liu went on to say his previous statement that the retroactive raises would need to be negotiated on the City's financial condition was with regard to the retroactive 2011-12 contracts and not the 2009-10 contracts. In fact, Mr Liu has shown that he would review and rollback the more controversial aspects of Mayor Bloomberg's school policy.such as control of the PEP and changes to Mayoral control.

Mr Liu also took on the charter school movement by making those schools pay rent to City buildings and opposes co-locations.  Mr Liu  also showed his willingness to eliminate the phony school grades and his auditing of the useless "Children First Networks", that siphon money from the schools that they are supposed to serve.

It was  Comptroller John Liu who exposed all the consultant corruption in the schools and the City that Bill Thompson failed to do.  The big prize being the "CityTime  payroll timekeeping project". Finally, John Liu has proven to be a friend of the New York City Public Schools by donating computers to  a special education school in his district when the DOE refused and giving technology to a large high school that the DOE shortchanged.  Mr. Liu has stated that he can save $15 billion by cutting unnecessary consultants and contracting that is a hallmark of the Bloomberg Administration.  This would easily pay for union raises and increase the police force by 5,000.

Mr Liu has been endorsed by DC 37, Communication Workers of America, the Elecirical Workers and many other smaller unions.   Therefore, the UFT should follow their lead and endorse Comptroller Liu for Mayor.


Monday, June 17, 2013

The Evaluator For The Teacher Evaluation System And PIP+.

 One of the more ominous aspects of the newly imposed teacher evaluation system is the requirement of an evaluator for the "ineffective teacher". The new teacher evaluation system will provide an "evaluator" for the "unlucky 87%" who were rated "ineffective" by the DOE.  These "evaluators" will evaluate and try to improve the teaching ability of the "ineffective teachers".  This sound good and UFT Michael Mulgrew considered it a win for the union.  However, the new "evaluators" will be come from independent companies that are paid by the DOE.  Sounds familiar?  It should be because that is how the Peer Intervention Program Plus (PIP+) works.  Yes, the very same PIP+ that has resulted in a greater than a 90% rate upholding teacher incompetence.

The problem with having an "evaluator"  is that just like the PIP+ person. the "evaluator" will not actually model an effective lesson for the teacher in the teacher's class or provide real guidance to the teacher on handling classroom management.  Instead the "evaluator" will evaluate the teacher and give suggestions without actually showing the teacher what works and what doesn't for the class. Worse, the "evaluator" will report back to the Principal and the teacher will have no clue what was discussed.

Based upon the latest pilot study, approximately 6% of all  teachers were rated "ineffective".  That means in the New York City schools of 72,000 teachers, .that 4,320 teachers annually will be rated "ineffective" and since 87% of them will end up with an "evaluator" and if the PIP+ statistics (92%) are any indicator, then it is quite possible that the average annual teacher termination rate would be around 3,500.

Finally, unlike PIP+ which is voluntary, even ifr the union didn't tell you that, the teacher evaluation system "evaluator" is required and it gives the DOE an opportunity to rid themselves of both good and bad teachers and despite what Commissioner John King said./  The DOE will try to fire their way into academic success and ultimately fail as usual.  If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it is a duck and the "evaluator" is simply PIP+ by another name.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The DOE Exempts Charter Schools From Its Rule On In-House Regents Grading.

This year the DOE has mandated that all Regents be graded outside the schools and by a central grading group unaffiliated with the school.   While that seems fair since the New York Post did expose that the schools that sent out their Regents grades last year showed a significant reduction in scores.  Now all schools will have their Regents graded outside the school.  Sounds like the DOE is being fair right?  Except the DOE has quietly exempted the charter schools from the new Regents grading requirement.  That's correct,  The charter schools will be grading their own Regents in-house.

The question is why did the DOE exempt the charter schools from the new Regents requirement to outsource the grading?   The only possible answer is that the DOE intentionally want the potential grade inflation that are associated with in-house grading to show that the charter schools are doing well when compared to the public schools.  To me, there is no other explanation.

 In other words, while the  DOE will not tolerate potential grade inflation and even cheating from the public schools in Regents scoring and therefore it was outsouced but it's all right for the charter schools to continue to be exempt from the DOE rules when it comes to grading the Regents.

Thanks to the Gary Rubinstein blog for exposing another case of the DOE favoritism for charter schools, be it co-location, student discipline,  or educational requirements  at the expense of the public schools and their students.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Why Teacher Tenure Is Important - The Unfortunate Case Of Paraprofessional Sheila De La Cruz

I have been following the unfortunate case of Sheila De La Cruz and the lesson I learned is why teacher tenure is so important.  The New York Post printed an article of Ms. De La Cruz appealing her firing after receiving a "due consideration hearing" which is simply a termination proceeding.  You see paraprofessionals have no tenure and when accused by a student of inappropriate actions, are usually in danger of losing his or her job.

What was Ms. Cruz accused of?  She sent too many calls and text messages with the high school special education student she was working with.  According to the investigation there were 57 such calls and texts.  However, before you think that there were too many, you should know the student is a difficult child with many absences which resulted in Ms. De La Cruz to text or call the boy about his absences and behavior.  In fact, part of Ms. Cruz's job was to provide "outreach" to the student which means texting and contacting the student and the house.  Moreover, once the boy got hold of Ms.De La  Cruz's cell phone he downloaded a picture of Ms. Cruz wearing only a thong and showing her bare back, nothing any more revealing than what the New York Post and Daily News publish almost daily.  Therefore, many of those calls and texts were about the student's demand of $3,000 for not notifying his mother. 

The only fault Ms. De La Cruz did was not reporting the theft of the photo immediately since the photo did not expose any inappropriate parts of her body. Her timely reporting of the theft may have not resulted in her termination.  Regardless, why she was terminated when there was no sexual touching or propositioning is troubling and in the "kangaroo court" of the DOE you are guilty and never innocent.

That brings me to the "teacher evaluation system" where two consecutive "ineffective ratings" will result in almost automatic termination of the teacher since the burden of proof will be on the teacher to show that they are not "ineffective" and only the lucky 13% will have an independent Arbitrator to show that their "ineffective rating" was unjust.  As for the other 87%?  Just read about what happened to Ms. Sheila De La Cruz to see their fate.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

The DOE Admits That Poverty Affects Student Academic Achievement, Despite Their Rhetoric That It Doesn't.

The New York Post published an article that stated that 150  schools who had their Regents graded outside their schools showed a significant decline in passing rates ranging from 6.7% in Living Environment to 3.9% for U.S. History.  Smaller drops were reported for English 2.1% and Math 1.7%.   More disturbingly were the large drops in the following schools:
  •  Choir Academy of Harlem -34%
  • Brooklyn Theatre Arts  HS -24%
  • Victory Collegiate HS        -23%
  • School For Social Change -20%
  • Science Skills HS            -19%
At the Brooklyn Theatre Arts High School in Canarsie in 2011 77% of the students passed the U.S. History Regents in 2011 but when the 2012 Regents were graded outside the school, only 21% passed the Regents.  The same happened at the Choir Academy of Harlem, where in 2011 66% passed compared to 13% in 2012.

These incredible drops were found after New York City, under pressure from the State about shady scoring practices, selected the 150 schools to be scored centrally rather than have the scoring done in the school.  While the average reduction in passing rates of the 150 schools were not terrible, with the exceptions listed above, the reductions were significant.   While some of the drops can be attributed to teachers sympathetic to their school's students and are able to understand the student's intent in writing the essays and the use of English teachers grading ESL students, the incredably large drops in some schools can only mean one thing.  Yes, these schools had some very questionable scoring methods to boost the student passing rates on the Regents.  In other words, the school cheated!

Interestingly, TWEED who blame teachers and not poverty or their asinine policies on poor student academic achievement blamed the astoundingly large drop in Regents passing scores in these high schools on their high poverty student population.  In other words they admit that poverty affects student academic achievement despite their rhetoric  I guess student poverty only counts when it brings into question the DOE's letter grades and learning environment surveys.

The bottom line is now that all high schools will have their Regents graded independently, outside the school, how much will the Regents grade drop Citywide?  I predict it will be significant and the largest drops will occur in high poverty schools as poverty does matter in a student's academic achievement.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Union Attemps To Make Lemonade Out Of A Lemon And Fails When It Came To The Teacher Evaluation System.

I almost laughed out loud when I read Michael Mulgrew's letter telling us how we won in the battle with the DOE on teacher evaluations.  According to the Mulgrew memo we enhanced our "due process rights",  a choice how many observations we are subject to,  have 22 instead of the DOE seven rubrics that a teacher must demonstrate in their lesson,  a weaker student survey score, and finally a teacher rated "ineffective" will have an evaluator. Let's take each union victory claim and see if it stands up to scrutiny.

"Due Process Rights":  Yes, the State agreed with the UFT appeals process but this process is in front of a DOE kangaroo court that, in the past, upholds almost 100% of the "U" ratings.  Only the "lucky 13%" will have an independent Arbitrator look at the "ineffective ratings"  With the new teacher evaluation system two consecutive "ineffective ratings" will almost surly result in termination since "the burden of proof "will be on the teacher and not how it is presently under State 3020-a law, where "the burden of proof "is on the DOE. Enhanced?  I think not.

Observations:  The two choices allows for the administration to do an unannounced observation and is a "gotcha  moment" by administrators to catch teachers unprepared.  Furthermore, there will be more observations then before and if the teacher is stupid enough to allow the administration to videotape their lesson then that teacher deserves to be terminated. Finally, the Principal has up to 90 days to write an e-mail of the observation and does not require the Principal to have an in-person discussion.  If anybody believes this is a win, they are delusional or on drugs.

Danielson Framework:  How can anybody believe that having an administrator rate you on 22 specific rubrics using the Dainelson Framework is a win is unbelievable.  The Danielson Framework will result in many teachers being terminated as the DOE will use the most stringent and rigorous interpretation to destroy a teacher's career. Some win!

Student Surveys:  Interesting how John King allowed student surveys to be part of the teacher evaluation but refused to have teacher surveys used for a Principal evaluation.  That's a real win right Michael?

The evaluator: Michael Mulgrew hailed this as a win but the evaluator seems more like PIP+ and past statistics show an over 90% termination rate under PIP+.  I hope we don't have many more wins like that Mr. Mulgrew?

Let the union spin the defeat and claim that the lemon is really lemonade but the truth is it has a bitter taste in my mouth and no amount of sugar will convince me that it wasn't a DOE win and a UFT loss.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Why Experience Counts When Hiring Teachers.

It's time for the Open Market Transfer System (OMTS) when teachers look for positions that better suit them or just looking for a change of scenery. Unfortunately, in the last two terms of the Bloomberg Administration few experienced teachers were considered by principals for their vacancies and "who can blame them"?  Since experienced teachers cost more money to the school, thanks to the unfair "fair student funding formula" imposed on the schools by the DOE. However, these principals are being "short sighted" and  doing a disservice to the students of their school when they practice "education on the cheap" by hiring inexperienced or "newbie teachers" instead of the "best teachers" to meet the ever increasing academic requirements such as "Common Core".

Why is it important for principals to hire experienced teachers?  Let me count the ways.

First, it's important for a teacher to have a deep knowledge of the curriculum he or she is teaching.  Without this understanding of the topic, the teacher can only scratch the surface and make it more difficult for the students to succeed academically, especially with "Common Core" being implemented in the schools.

Second, An experienced teacher has a track record and any Principal who cares to investigate the teacher's ability in the classroom can easily do so and decide if that teacher is appropriate for their school.  Inexperienced and "newbie teachers" do not have such a track record and when a Principal hires an inexperienced teacher for their school it's a "crap-shoot" to say the least and a good 50% of the time it will be "snake eyes" with th students losing...

Third, the most difficult part of teaching is "classroom management" and it takes years for inexperienced teachers to master the skills necessary to maintain discipline in the classroom. On the other hand, experienced teachers have "been their and done that" and are usually proficient in the difficult art of "classroom management".

Fourth, no Principal wants their students to become "guinea pigs" as the inexperienced teacher struggles through an unfamiliar curriculum and try to maintain classroom discipline at the same time. This steep learning curve for the teacher puts the students at a disadvantage academically to their peers who are fortunate to have an experienced teacher.  However, many principals do just that by hiring the inexperienced teacher, usually becuse of their school's budget.

Finally, an experienced teacher brings maturity and stability to the school and their experience can be used to mentor the inexperienced teacher in the many complicated skills it takes to run a classroom.

To New York City principals, the question I ask you?  Do you want the "best" or "cheapest"  teachers to lead the school's students and which would you want for your own children?  Ponder my question carefully when you are tempted to hire an inexperienced  teacher to save a few shekels.  Remember the saying "penny wise dollar foolish" when you play the game that will result in hurting student academic outcomes, known to all as  "education on the cheap"