Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I Can't Believe it!.......But.

When I look at the New York City Public School System there are things that are being done that's hard to believe but its true.  What follows is a list of items that" I  can't believe it.... but"

That the DOE wastes $160 million dollars every school year by not placing excessed teachers, guidance counselors, and social workers in the overcrowded classrooms in the New York City schools.

That the news media  fails to take Mayor Bloomberg to task when his policies have resulted in rising class sizes, a 14% reduction in school budgets since 2007, and a phoney graduation rate that is significantly inflated  by the bogus "credit recovery system".

That Tweed can keep a straight face by using the slogan "children first, always" when its really Mayor Bloomberg first all the time.

That principals are hiring the cheapest teachers they can recruit and claim they were the best candidates for their schools.

That both the DOE and UFT bury their collective heads in the sand and allow teachers uncertified in subjects they are  teaching  in while excessed teachers in the subject area are treated as wandering gypsies..

That Chancellor Dennis Walcott has "zero tolerance" for staff sexual misconduct but hires a principal who was found guilty in a court of "sexual harassment".

That some naive parents really buy the false propaganda that "newbie teachers" are "quality teachers" that education reformers justify in their public education on the cheap agenda.

That some people don't understand why Bill de Blasio has a 45% lead over Joe Lhota

That the newspapers can't understand why the municipal unions are angry with Mayor Bloomberg and have embraced Bill de Blasio, the anti-Bloomberg for Mayor.

That the UFT leadership praises the flawed NYS Teacher evaluation System, complete with "junk science" that can cause a teacher to be 'ineffective" while rejecting it for their own charter school.

That Mayor Bloomberg considers his education policy a success while the racial/income achievement gap is actually wider than before he took office.

I'm sure there are many more "I can't believe it...but" these are the ones I am most familiar with.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Was Michael Mendel A Hero Or Villain? It Depends On Who You Ask.

Long time UFT leader and insider Michael Mendel has retired and the union leadership, probably using member dues or COPE money, gave him a grand sendoff.  In an invitation only event, speaker after speaker sung the praises of what Michael Mendel meant to the union and its members.  Interestingly some DOE members were invited such as head of Human Resources, Larry Becker, or should I say his co-conspirator on the secretive ATR committee?  Absent from this event were the over 2,000+ ATRs who's invitations must have been lost in the mail.  This list of lost invitations included the countless teachers guidance counselors, and social workers who were forced to retire because they couldn't handle the weekly rotations and the uncertainly associated with going to different schools on a weekly basis. My fellow blogger and friend JD2718 wrote an interesting post that put Michael Mandel in a very good light and would consider him a "hero". However, many others might have a very different opinion and some may even consider him a "villain".  What is the legacy of Michael Mendel?  It depends on who you ask.  Let's look at some of the issues that bring into question Michael Mendel's legacy.

First, he was a major factor in the union's terrible 2005 contract that was laden with "givebacks", a reduction in "due process rights", and more time for a raise that barely kept up with the inflation rate at the time.  While Leo Casey and Randi Weingarten were publicly criticized for the horrible 2005 contract and took much of the heat. Mr. Mendel was part of the negotiations and must shares blame for it.

Second, he was a stern defender of the very same 2005 contract that resulted in the ATR crisis, elimination of seniority transfer rights, and Civil Service bumping rights, reimposing lunchroom and hall duties, and the elimination of the right to grieve letters to the file.

Third, he failed to fight the DOE's flawed "fair student funding" that swelled the ranks of the ATRs with senior teachers and was insulted when people would ask why the union allowed such a travesty to happen.

Fourth, Mr. Mendel, it turns out, was the primary UFT representative in the DOE/UFT secretive ATR committee (Amy Arundell was the other UFT member).  However, few beyond the leadership knew of his role on the committee and when ATRs wanted to know who was on the committee and who to send comments or complaints to it was referred to the District Reps. Why were the people on the ATR committee and their decisions shrouded in secrecy with no input from the affected ATRs?.  Did Mr. Mendel talk to any of the ATRs to get their opinion?  I know of no one, including myself, that he ever reached out to find out what the problems were.  It has only become known recently to some of the ATRs that Mr Mendel and his DOE co-conspirator who was the DOE Human Resources Director Larry Becker, were on the ATR committee and who jointly came up with the ridiculous and failed weekly rotation that has disillusioned many an ATR.

Finally, where was Mr. Mendel when reports of principals using teachers who were uncertified in the subject area that they were teaching in were coming to him from various Districts?  How about the many unfilled vacancies that when reported by ATRs and Chapter Leaders that were not responded to?

Michael Mendel was an advocate and a loyal union man but when it came to the "teachers in the trenches" and especially the ATRs he had some serious shortcomings.  A "hero"?  No way.  He was secretive, unapproachable to the members, and didn't reach out to the ATRs but he certainly was not a "villain".  Have a very nice retirement and a long life Mr. Mendel.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Why The Bloomberg Small Schools Are Really A Failure.

Two very prestigious schools Duke and MIT published a study that showed that 151 Bloomberg small schools were academically better than the large schools that they competed with.  The study showed that the Bloomberg small schools graduated 9% more students than the large schools and that 7% more attended college.  However, there is a back story to these slight academic improvements at the Bloomberg small schools.  The report failed to present the whole picture and assumed the Bloomberg small schools and the large schools had the same "cohort relationship".  The truth is there are significant differences between the Bloomberg small schools and the large schools.

Let's look at what these differences are:

High Needs Students:  the Bloomberg small schools have a history of excluding "high needs students".  In fact, for years it was DOE policy to exempt the "high needs students" such as English Language Learners, Special Education, and behaviorally challenged students to the Bloomberg small schools and dumping them into the large high schools. By excluding these "high needs students" the schools increase the graduation and college attending percentage rates.

Over The Counter Students:  Few, if any "over the counter students" are placed in the Bloomberg small schools.  These "over the counter students" are composed many of recent immigrants, students released from incarceration or suspension centers, and students not selected by any schools either due to parent indifference or attendance issues. These students historically has not fared well in school and are placed in the large high schools.

Administrative Pressure:  The Bloomberg small schools have a majority of inexperienced and young teachers who seek tenure and are unlikely to fail students for fear of not receiving tenure or being discontinued.  By contrast the large schools have tenured and experienced teachers and are more likely to give their students the deserved grade.

Student Screening:  While the report claimed that the schools were selected that did not have a "screening policy", it failed to take into account the unofficial selection process that these "Bloomberg small schools that discourage parents of students who need additional services by claiming they don't have the resources such as a one-to-one paraprofessional and self-contained classes.

Smaller class sizes:  Most, if not all the classes in the Bloomberg small schools have class sizes that are significantly lower than the large schools and lower class sizes are related to a better academic learning environment in the classroom.

Funding:  The Bloomberg small schools are fully funded with some schools getting more than their fair share while the large schools are only getting 80-90% of the funds they need.

The real question is why didn't the Bloomberg small schools didn't do better when compared to the large high schools given their uneven playing field created by the DOE since the DOE provided the Bloomberg small schools with so many advantages?  The answer probably lies with the quality of administration , the lack of an experienced teaching staff, and inflexible student schedules and lack of extracurricular activities  I wrote about this Here.  It's important that people read the Annenberg study to realize how the Bloomberg Administration "stacked the deck" against the large high schools.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The New York City 3020-a Process Part 1 - The Process Itself.

This post is part 1 of a six part series on the State tenured teacher disciplinary process as it applies to New York City.  At this point a little history of the 3020-a process itself and how it applies to New York City.

Originally, the New York City 3020-a process was the same as the State.  That is the School District filed 3020-a charges and the teacher would appeal to the State for a hearing on the charges.  The State would send a list of Arbitrators to both the teacher and the School District and have them agree to one on the list.  If the teacher rejects the Arbitrators on the list, a new and final list of Arbitrators will be given and one must be selected or the State will select the Arbitrator.  In teacher incompetence cases, a three judge panel will be selected and determine the proper "award" (penalty) for the School District.   However, in  2000 and again in 2005, the UFT and DOE decided to have their own version of the 3020-a process with a minimum of twenty Arbitrators jointly selected to hear all tenured teacher disciplinary and incompetence cases.  These Arbitrators were renewed yearly if both sides were satisfied with the Arbitrator decisions. Furthermore, only in New York City can a teacher be taken off payroll and health benefits if either OSI or SCI substantiates an accusation of non-felonious behavior such as sexual misconduct.  I have spoken about this terrible travesty of justice previously and can be found Here and Here.

The NYCDOE always go for termination when they file 3020-a charges against a tenured teacher and will remove a teacher once 3020-a papers are served, sometimes when the teacher is in the classroom teaching a class!  Of course for more serious accusations against a student, the teacher is usually removed from the school awaiting the outcome of the investigation and 3020-a hearing.  Unfortunately, some high profiled teachers and bloggers find themselves removed from their schools even if they are not a threat to the students.

Tenured teachers served with the 3020-a charges must go immediately to the union Borough office and have the Special Representative file an appeal within 10 days of receipt of the DOE charges.  Otherwise, the tenured teacher can be terminated at the next PEP meeting.  The next step can take up to six months or longer as an Arbitrator is assigned to the case.  At the same time NYSUT will assign a lawyer to represent you, free of charge.  I recommend you meet with your NYSUT lawyer and see if you connect with the lawyer.  If you decide on a private lawyer it will cost you $5,000 or more.  Within six months your 3020-a hearing will start.  The time can vary depending on the amount of Arbitrators that are on the panel (presently 19),  Usually it takes about 3 months for the Arbitrator to mail the parties the "award".

If the teacher is not terminated (61% are not), the teacher will find herself in the ATR pool, no matter what the "award" is.  It is highly unlikely that any NYC teacher is "acquitted" (4%) because of the tendency for the Arbitrators to give the DOE something for spending the time and money to try to terminate the teacher ($250,000 or more).  If there was a substaintiated OSI or SCI investigation, even when a teacher is found innocent of these charges, the teacher's file includes a bright red flag" that tells principals not to hire them.  So even when you win your 3020-a hearing the DOE makes sure you lose by claiming your guilty anyway.

Most 3020-a hearings are closed but the teacher has the right to have an open and public hearing however the NYSUT attorneys  will almost always recommend against having an open hearing.  Therefore, the final decision to have an open and public hearing is up to the teacher.  Finally, under 3020-a the DOE can only go back three years from the date of the charges.  However, it doesn't stop the DOE to bring up previous disciplinary issues even if they cannot  be used in the hearing.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

What Are The Characteristics Of A Quality Teacher?

Most educators, parents, students, and teachers  know that a "quality teacher" is important to a student's academic achievement.  However, the term "quality teacher" means different things to different people.  For example Mayor Bloomberg thinks a "quality teacher" is a low salaried temporary instructor who will leave the teaching profession before they earn a pension.  For education reformers like the misguided "Bill Gates" its the teacher that uses the "drill and kill" method to achieve good results on "high stakes testing".  For education reformers like Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, and Dennis Walcott it's those teachers that are willing to toe the administrative line without complaint or be fired.  Of course the majority of us know what the characteristics of a "quality teacher" is.

What are the characteristics of a "quality teacher"?  They are listed below.

  • A personal and emotional connection with the students.
  • A deep knowledge of curriculum.
  • Good classroom management skills.
  • Repeated and demostrated student academic achievement.
  • Respected by the students. as knowledgeable and caring about them.
However, our nation's politicians, lead by Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin has falsely defined a "quality teacher" as a "newbie" from alternate teacher certification programs such as the "two year wonders" from Teach For America and the "one and done" Teaching Follows program. How can "newbies" be considered "quality teachers"?  Easy, if there is enough political pressure by school districts who practice "education on the cheap" policy and try to fool the parents by hiring inexpensive teachers with little or no classroom experience as "quality teachers".  This absurdity is taken to the extreme in Chicago where many teachers lost their job as schools closed but the Chicago school system encouraged the schools to hire "newbie teachers" from Teach For America while senior teachers went on the unemployment lines.  If  Mayor Bloomberg had his way, the same would be true in New York City.

Our children deserve "quality teachers" along with small classes sizes, adequate resources, and supportive administration to academically succeed  To falsely claim that recruiting college graduates with 3.0 grade point averages who are clueless about what it takes to be a good teacher and for most is simply a "stepping stone" to bigger and better positions is not what's best for the children.  This leads to a sub-par education and an unstable school environment due to staff turnover. 

The fallacy that "newbie teachers", especially from alternate certification programs like Teach For America, are "quality teachers" must be exposed as a fraud on our children.  A "quality teacher" is a teacher that meets the characteristics I have outlined and we all know to be true.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

An ATR Open Letter To The DOE, Principals, And The UFT.

Dear fellow educators of the New York City School System I write this letter to tell you about my fellow ATRs you seem so determined to demonize, ignore, and refuse to hire,  We are experienced teachers that have a "passion for teaching" and "wanting to make a difference" by motivating our students to succeed in life.  However, we find ourselves displaced as teachers traveling from week to week to different schools and find our considerable talents wasted as "babysitters".  We come from closed and downsized schools or were accused of actions that were found to be false and as punishment we were excessed out of the classroom and sent to the ever growing ATR pool.

To the principals:  You should be falling over each other to hire ATRs, we are experienced, have good classroom management skills, and deep curriculum knowledge.   You claim you want the "best teachers", instead you hire untested "newbies" or inexpensive and usually not tenured teachers.  Instead of maximizing your students' academic potential they are simply "guinea pigs" for teachers that have not mastered the teaching skills and are subject to a steep learning curve themselves.  I ask you, would you have your child operated on by an inexperienced or new surgeon or an experienced surgeon with a good track record?

Yes, I know its primarily about the salary (age and seniority issues are also a factor) and that the misguided "fair student funding" formula makes it difficult to hire "quality teachers" but I need to remind you that your schools "student growth" scores will affect your own job performance numbers.  Its in both you and your students best interest to hire the "best teachers" available and not the cheapest if you want to keep your Principal's position.

To The Department Of Education:  Stop with the slogan "children first....Always".  Your actions speak for themselves.  You have cut school budgets by 14% since 2007 and your "fair student funding": formula makes it difficult for principals to hire the "best teachers". If you really want to help the students then have a separate budget line for teachers and make them a "unit".  Principals will be happy to hire ATRs knowing they are experienced and will improve student outcomes in the school.  In fact give the principals an incentive like the one in 2009 where the principals are paying the salary of a new teacher with the DOE picking up the rest.

It makes no educational sense to have over 2,000 ATRs and pay $160 million dollars while class sizes are the highest in a decade.  Finally, is it more important to maintain a faulty ideology and force schools to hire untested and teachers from alternate certification programs like the two year Teach For America wonders or the "one and done" Teaching Fellows than retaining and appreciating the experienced teachers necessary for the best student academic achievement?

To The United Federation Of Teachers:  Be pro-active.  Make sure students are being taught by teachers certified in that subject area.    Stop putting your head in the sand and pretend its not happening, we all know it is and having teachers teaching a subject they are not certified to teach only hurts the students.  Moreover, put the DOE's feet to the fire and threaten an age discrimination lawsuit.  Yes, Amy, there really is age discrimination even if you can't see it. How about spending our COPE funds on an effective commercial that show the DOE's policy of recruitment over retention restricts schools from having the "quality teachers" our students need. The union really needs to expose the DOE's "children first" policy as a fraud.

All three groups need to do the "right thing" and maximize the potential for student academic growth by putting the ATRs back in the classroom where they belong. Its about what's best for the children.  Right?  Right!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Education Is Being Downgraded At Cardozo High School Because Of Their Budget Problems.

In a previous post I wrote that one of the most sought after high schools in the City was found with a $400,000 shortfall and the DOE required that the school cut its budget to make up for the shortfall.  That resulted in the school excessing over 20 teachers and overcrowded and uncovered classrooms at the beginning of the school year. Tweed rather than make the Principal accountable for his poor financial decisions decided to keep the Principal and hurt the students of the school instead. 

By the October 6th deadline there were 385 oversized classes and 18 uncovered classrooms.  Since that time the school has scrambled to correct the situation at Cardozo with only about twenty overcrowded classrooms and two uncovered classes.  However, the cost to the student's education is significant.  Here are just some of the changes that hurt the student's academic achievement.

Science:  Living Environment, Earth Science, and Chemistry classes have been reduced from five instructional days and a laboratory requirement to four instructional days.  Unfortunately, for the students the State Regents is based upon five instructional days not four!  When the Earth Science instructional days were reduiced to four instructional days two years ago the Regents passing percentage dropped to 40% and was even worse last year.  The same thing is expected for Chemistry.

Advanced Placement:  All Advanced Placement courses were reduced from two sessions of instruction daily to one class per day.  This 50% reduction in instruction time will result in less college credit for the students who's scores are compared to the rest of the nation where the students take two classes daily.

Sixth Period Teaching:  Many teachers are teaching six periods and studies have shown that teachers who are overloaded with that many classes wear down and are not as "effective".  This is a bad time for teachers to take an extra class as their student scores will affect their own grade as a teacher.

Rotating Teachers: A few classes have no permanent teacher and weekly ATRs are being used to
provide supervision to the students who are suffering from unstable  conditions and academic neglect.  In one first period Math class a students told his parent that the few students who show up supervise themselves since no teacher has been assigned to the class.

When it comes to the DOE leadership at Tweed its their ideology first and "children last.....Always".

  Oh, by the way, the DOE did offer to add teachers to the school if the school was willing to take the students coming out of incarceration and suspension centers as part of the deal, I was told the school said no and I can't blame them.

Friday, October 11, 2013

My Impressions Of The Queens ATR Meeting

On Thursday October 10th the UFT held an informational meeting with teachers in excess at the Queens UFT headquaters.  The meeting started off with UFT Special Representative Dermot Smyth who told the approximately 100 ATRs that they should be appreciative to the union that thanks to the UFT, you are getting paid and have health benefits.  Mr. Smyth further claimed Mayor Bloomberg would have given them a contract if they agreed to impose an ATR time limit.  Interestingly, Mr. Smyth failed to mention it was the UFT in the first place who gave up bumping and seniority rights that caused the ATR crisis in the first place.  I guess he forgot to mention that small point.  He also stated that the ATR rotation system was to eliminate the 4,800 teachers the Bloomberg threatened to layoff,  Of course by then the City lost the "last in, first out" (LIFO) battle and he wasn't laying off his "newbies", so it was a bluff that the UFT, for their own reasons bought into.  Mr Smyth would be real good writing fiction or at least revisionist history.  Oh, by the way Mr. Smyth is the UFT person to contact if you are being abused as an ATR in the Queens schools.  Good luck on that.

After hearing Dermot Smyth spinning the ATR crisis to the point that it made us all dizzy, I could swear that some ATRs were barfing in their napkins,  it was UFT Special Representative Amy Arundell's turn to make her case to an increasingly skeptical crowd.  Amy spoke effectively and for the most part factually as she explained how the ATR system worked, or at least should work.  Ms. Arundell repeated that the City was willing to give us a contract if we agreed to a four month ATR time limit, the UFT refused to even discuss it.  She stated the ATR time limit is a deal breaker and repeated that the union is not willing to agree to any time limit  (I guess they saw what happened in Chicago and Washington D.C.).  She also claimed that the DOE algorithm is based upon potential vacancies sent to the DOE and while its not perfect it was an attempt to match schools with skills, (how has that been working?  Not good if you ask me).

Ms. Arundell did explain that there is no hiring freeze and principals can hire whom they please and not hire ATRs if they so choose as long as they're willing to go through hoops and loads of DOE paperwork.  The only thing principals cannot do is to hire a per-Diem sub for a long-term position and if a principal tries to do it the UFT will inform the DOE of the violation and it will be quickly handled.  She also told the ATRs that they are only required to do the work the appointed teachers do that means that ATRs are not required to do hall or cafeteria duty if the teachers in the school don't do it.  Moreover, if an ATR is not left lessons then the ATR should use the lesson plan that is in their subject area even if the class is not say Art and the ATR is an Art teacher.  Amy also explained that if a school offers the ATR a long-term position (vacancies or leave replacements) the ATR cannot refuse the assignment.  Finally, Amy Arundell stated that its not only the salary but the seniority issue complicates ATRs from getting jobs since if a principal appoints an ATR to a position the ATR's seniority would leap over less senior teachers in the school if building excessing occurs.  That's why they came up with the "provisional contract".  Amy also said that all rotating ATRs will either get an "S" or "U" (usually for time and attendance).

Ms. Arundell touched on the future and is hopeful for a new direction for the ATRs. She told the ATRs that the union is going to try to convince the new Administration to eliminate the "Fair student funding" and make teachers a unit and not based upon actual salary.  This will probably eliminate the ATR crisis. I hope she's right.

Did Amy spin?  Yes, like the 50% retention rate by schools that offer ATRs a "provisional contract"  Anybody I know, and I know over 125 ATRs personally , only 2 ever received a position the next year after signing the "provisional contract".  For the principals its all about the money in that second year.  She also couldn't believe her own eyes that there were less than five of 100 hundred ATRs who were under the age of 40 at the meeting, no age discrimination in the ATR pool.  In fact, she seemed quite upset when I said it at the meeting and refused to acknowledge the obvious.but then I didn't expect anything different.  Finally, she explained that the DOE algorithm is a good thing since Principals were using ATRs for free for the school year without paying for them.  She forgot to add that "we decided to rotate the ATRs weekly and make their lives a living hell so that principals could not get free labor".  I guess that slipped her mind.

I must admit overall Amy Arundell was very effective, informative, and interesting and I guess I could handle the little bit of spin that was part of her presentation.  I'm glad I went.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Why Didn't The Union File An Unfair Labor Practice And A PERB Complaint On The DOE's Discrimination Of Senior Teachers? Its Because They Didn't Care.

Two of the questions I keep getting from teachers is "why didn't the union file an unfair labor practice?"  and "how come the union never filed a lawsuit?"when the DOE implemented the "fair (unfair) student funding" formula that discriminates against senior teachers?  The simple answer is that the union leadership didn't care that's why.

If the union had cared not only would they have filed an unfair labor practice with the NLRB and a PERB complaint with the State but would had taken the offensive against the Bloomberg/Klein/Walcott tyranny by going to the mass media by showing that their ideological policies were actually hurting the students.

For example, the union could have produced a commercial showing how important it is for students to have a "quality teacher" in the classroom and that many "quality teachers" find themselves without a classroom because the "fair (unfair) student funding" formula forces principals to hire the cheapest and not the best teachers.  Study after study shows that a "quality teacher" is the most important part of a student's academic development in school.  However, the consequences of the Bloomberg education policy and the  reduction of school budgets by 14% in the last six years requires schools to look for the most inexpensive teachers rather than the "quality teachers" that are needed for students to succeed.

If your child needed surgery would you want an untested surgeon in her first year in practice to preform the operation or a veteran surgeon who has done thousands of the same type of operations?  The answer is very obvious, the veteran surgeon!  The same is true for your child's education as it takes an experienced teacher to get the maximum academic achievement out of them.  We're sure you wouldn't want your child to be the educational  "guinea pig" by getting an untested and inexperienced teacher who is subject to a "steep learning curve"instructing them.

The fact that our union remains strangely quiet and has taken no action against the DOE policy of dumping senior teachers into the ATR pool while encouraging principals to hire untested teachers because they are cheap speaks loudly that our union is part of the problem and not the solution to this discrimination against senior teachers and the ideological policy of Tweed that results in a "children last" program for the New York City Public Schools.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

The ATR Crisis, Oversized Classes, And Teachers Teaching A Sixth Period.

We all know there is an ATR crisis with over 2,000 ATRs not assigned to permanent positions throughout the New York City schools. What is probably more puzzling is with so many ATRs traveling from school to school weekly how can there be oversized classes?  In Queens Hillcrest High School has 400 and Cardoza has 385 oversized classes!  Throughout the City there are over 6,300 oversizred classes, the highest in over a decade.  Since 2007 the average school has lost 14% of their budget while charter schools increasingly gobble up more and more of the DOE funds at the expense of the public schools. The number of oversized classes even  would be higher if the schools didn't encourage teachers to take a "sixth class".  In my previous two schools almost 25% of the teachers were teaching a "sixth class" because principals found it to be more economical to pay a teacher the extra money than to hire another teacher.  In multi-session schools one of the tricks that principals do is to assign the teacher the "sixth class" at either the beginning or end of the teacher's schedule so they only have to pay the pro rated per session rate ($31.48) rather than the teacher's actual salary which would be near $50 a period for senior teachers, not including the 7% TDA interest contribution the City is required to pay.

At Cardozo High School the Principal has experienced an astounding $400,000 shortfall along with 18 uncovered classes (classes with no assigned teacher).  When the Principal requested ATRs to help reduce the overcrowded classrooms and uncovered classes, the DOE refused!   Yes the very same people who has the slogan "children first....Always".  Instead they told the hapless Principal to find another way.  The Principal had to do the unthinkable, after getting as many teachers as possible to volunteer to take a "sixth period class", he reduced the Advanced Placement classes from two periods, the standard in the country, to one period daily.  This freed up enough teachers to cover the uncovered classes but has put the students looking for college credit in a terrible academic position or as the late comedian Heni Youngman stated "its like a one legged man in a butt kicking contest".  These students will be at a competitive disadvantage when compared to their peers and few will get the scores necessary to earn college credit for the course.

Why didn't the DOE assign the ATRs to the school?  The reason is simple, the DOE wants the school
to pay for the extra teachers on their galaxy budget since they are not filling vacancies or long term leaves.  Of course the school is broke and already is in a $400,000 hole.  It doesn't matter that the school had already reduced one period of Earth Science and Living Environment weekly by making it a 4-1 course  instead of a 5-1 program it was intended to be nor does it matter that the school reduced the  two period Advanced Placement courses to one period daily. For the DOE it's not about what's best for the school's students its what's best for the ideology coming from from Tweed that drives the stringent and unfair budget requirements that lead to the crowded classrooms and unreasonably high class sizes.  Even a public demonstration by Cardozo students, parents, and teachers failed to move the DOE to help the school.

You would think if the Principal was at fault they would simply replace him and provide the extra funding needed to help the school meet this crisis.  But no, the DOE would rather hurt the students then provide the necessary resources to meet the budgetary crisis.  For the DOE and their leadership at Tweed it's "children last.......Always".

Update:  Thanks to NYC Educator who wrote me that  ESL, Science, and Special Education teachers who pick up a sixth period have that period  paid for by the central office and does not even come out of the school's budget.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Joke Of The Day When It Comes To Education.

Mayor Bloomberg:
  • "I am the education  Mayor".
  • "Teacher experience is not necessary"
  • "We can double class sizes and reduce teachers by a half and improve student academic performance".
Chancellor Dennis Walcott:
  • "I'm independent minded"
  • "I can be a fair arbitrator for teacher misconduct cases".
  • "We only want the best teachers for the City's students".
Tweed (DOE):
  • "It's children first......Always".
  • "Public school teachers cannot grade their own tests but Charter school teachers can".
  • "School budgets are adequate and increasing class size and overcrowding is not a problem".
Ex Chancellor Joel Klein:
  •  "Poverty is no excuse".
  •  "I grew up in poverty".
Ex Chancellor Cathie Black:
  • "I have the ability and experience to run the NYC schools".
  • "Can't they just use birth control and stop having children"?
Education Reformers:
  •  "A quality teacher is more important than the socioeconomic conditions in which a child is brought up in".
  • "Class size is not a factor in student learning".
Teach For America:
  • "Our teachers are quality teachers after completing a five week training course".
 NYSED Commissioner John King:

  • "The New York State Teaching Evaluation System is a great way to measure a teacher's effectiveness".
Campbell Brown:
  • "All teachers accused of sexual misconduct are guilty and should be fired".
Educators 4 Excellence:
  •  "We represent teachers and want to improve the teaching profession".
Bill Gates:
  • "High stakes testing is what's best for the student learning".
  • "Standardized tests are the best indicator for teacher quality".
 Daily News and New York Post:

  • "We publish fair and well-researched articles on the New York City schools".
Leadership Academy Principals:
  •   "Experience in the classroom is not necessary to be a school leader".
Arnie Duncan:
  • "I underatand what the challanges are in the classroom". 
  • " High stakes standardized tests are a fair method to evaluate student learning and teacher effectiveness".
UFT President Michael Mulgrew:

  • "The NYS teacher evaluation system is a win for our teachers".

Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Collusion And Inaction By The UFT And DOE Is The Major Cause Of The ATR Crises.

We all know that the deal between UFT President Randi Weingarten and Chancellor Joel Klein that resulted in the infamous 2005 contract resulted in the ATR crises that has lasted for seven years.  Randi's "deal with the devil" has resulted in over 2,000 teachers being displaced, ever larger class sizes, and more overcrowded classrooms throughout the City.  When you hear from the UFT leadership they claim that once Mayor Bloomberg leaves office, the ATR crises will disappear.  However,  I am not entirely confident that the UFT leadership can be trusted to do the right thing.

Over the last couple of years I watched how principals failed to hire ATRs even when there are vacancies in their schools.  These principals would rather hire teachers who are not certified in the subject area rather than hire an ATR.  I will give you two examples of this.

Example 1:  Queens Vocational High School had four Earth Science openings in the 2012-13 school year but according the Principal she could only find one teacher to hire.  Really?  I did apply to Queens Vocational High School that year on the Open Market Transfer System and NEVER RECEIVED A RESPONSE!!!!  My colleague told me that he never received a "mandatory interview request" from Queens Vocational during the school year as he traveled from school to school.  for the 2012-13 school year.  How do I know that the school needed four Earth Science teachers, the Principal Melissa Burg admitted it to New York 1!!!! 

The question is if there were between 12 to 15 Earth Science classes without a certified Earth Science teacher teaching the students, who taught them? My best guess is that it were Living Environment (Biology) teachers and this summer when I marked the Earth Science Regents I met one of them and he told me that they only had one licensed Earth Science teacher and that the other teachers had to split their schedule between the two sciences.  Is Queens Vocational High School an exception?  I fear not, its more common then you might think.

Example 2: Richmond Hill High School during the 2011-12 school year had 16, yes 16 Earth Science classes being taught by teachers not certified in Earth Science.  In fact two Living Environment teachers were teaching full Earth Science programs with a math teacher given two classes of Earth Science!

In the second example I notified two bloggers who also are Chapter Leaders who passed this information to both the District Representative and the UFT Leadership.  The result?  No action whatsoever.  Did the union leadership even bother to alert the DOE that these schools were violating the collective bargaining contract?  Maybe they did, or maybe they didn't bother?

 It matters little because our union seems to be in collusion with the DOE and violations of the contract results in no
action or remediation as the over 2,000 displaced teachers are sent weekly to "babysit"  for absent teachers while "uncertified newbies" are gobbled up by principals who care more about their budget then having a properly certified and quality teacher in the classroom..

"Children first"?  not according to these principals who rather have inexpensive "newbies" than quality teachers.   Why does the UFT and the DOE ignore  the apparent violations of the collective bargaining contract,  you need to ask them.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The ATR Bill Of Rights

Being one of over 2,000 teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) is not the most pleasant of positions.  The "ATR Agreement" is bypassed whenever possible by the DOE and our union seems powerless to enforce it. The ATRs must travel weekly to different schools within their district and are treated with disinterest or outright contempt by the school they are assigned to.  The ATR program consist of senior and higher paid teachers as principals refuse to hire them due to budget constraints imposed by the DOE using the "fair student funding" formula that discriminates against senior teachers.  Over the years I have heard many stories from the other ATRs I have encountered.  Therefore, this post spells out the "rights" that the ATR has as they go weekly to the different schools in their district.

First, and foremost an ATR has the same rights as any appointed teacher in the school that they are assigned to.  That means that the ATR is required only to do the duties the teachers are allowed to do by contract.  They are as follows:
  • Classroom instruction.
  • One period of hall or cafeteria duty but not both!
  • Other circular 6 duties (one period) when not given hall or cafeteria duty.
  • Attendance or Library
Any other duties such as secretarial or administrative duties are not appropriate and can be refused if you don't want to be assigned to it.  Contact the school's Chapter Leader if you believe you are given an assignment that is not part of the teacher's contract.

Many schools try to give the ATRs six classes.  The only time this is appropriate is when the teacher's schedule is a block schedule when every other day is a sixth period.  However, the school should give you a four period schedule the next day to compensate for it.  If the school insists that you cover six classes, let the administration know that you will be glad to do it if they pay you for the sixth period and threaten to file a grievance if they refuse,  This is enough for the school to take away the sixth period class.

In multi-sesson schools the ATR should be given one time period.  Insist that the schools adheres to the one time period.  If the school requires it, but most don't, you are to attend teacher meetings during the professional period.  However, you are required to attend open school night.

During the school year you will be contacted by various schools for a "mandatory interview" for a leave replacement or vacancy.  You are only required to attend a "mandatory interview" if its in your school district.  However, be polite and e-mail the Principal back that you are not interested in leaving your school district.  If you take a position outside your district, you have only one year to ask to be reinstated to your old district.

 All ATRs should have a bathroom, classroom, and elevator key and if the school has a parking lot, the ATR has the same rights as appointed teachers to use it if it's " first come first serve".  Moreover, if the teacher's room is locked a key should also be provided to the ATR by the school. Additionally, no ATR assigned to a scanned school should go through scanning, even if school safety insists. Finally, the school must provide a safe location for the ATR's belongings.

In some cases you will be provisionally appointed to a vacancy and at the end of May the Principal will call you into a meeting and tell you that they will not offer you the position after all.  Over 90% of the ATRs that sign these provisional agreements find themselves back into the ATR pool.   The reason being that in the first year the ATR's salary does not affect the school's budget but if the school decides to keep the ATR, assuming the ATR agrees to stay at the school, the ATR's salary gets put into the school's average teacher salary and reduces the Principal's budget.  Therefore, its goodbye to the ATR and the DOE points to this lack of retention as their basis of their false clam that the ATRs are "bad teachers".

There are many schools that the ATR should not go to.  I listed those Queens High Schools here. 
While the union will insist you have no choice but to accept a position offered to you in your district.  A simple e-mail or phone call to the Principal informing him or her that you believe that you are not a good fit for their school is sufficient for the Principal to look for another ATR.  It doesn't always work but its worth a shot.

In a year where the badly flawed teacher evaluation system is a "work in progress" when a simple state test can make a quality teacher "ineffective" because of the "high needs" students assigned to the teacher and the unworkable Danielson Framework just adds to the already stressful classroom environment, its good to be an ATR so try to enjoy your time traveling to the different schools in your district and get your satisfactory rating at the end of the school year.

Have a nice year.