Sunday, March 30, 2014

Crain's Joins The Media Bashing Of ATRs With A Highly Inaccurate Editorial.

Crain's NY Business has joined the newspaper bashing of ATRs by writing an editorial on why the ATRs should be terminated.  The editorial titled "Rubber room must hit the road".  Even from the title one can see how confused the editorial is since ATRs are not teachers awaiting discipline but teachers without a classroom.The editorial continues their inaccuracies by stating the following:

"The poster child for nonsensical job protection is something called the Absent Teacher Reserve also known as the "rubber room"".

The entire editorial confuses the ATR situation with the "rubber room" as if the ATRs are discipline problems despite the fact that over 60% never had a discipline charge logged against them and the other 40% went through the discipline process and were found to be innocent of any major discipline and were returned to the classroom with full rights as teachers.

The editorial includes the same deliberate inaccuracies and omissions that the other newspaper editorials do, like ignoring the effects of the "fair student funding" and the fact that principal budgets are constructed so that the schools are encouraged to hire the "cheapest" and not the "best teachers" for the school, and the targeting of schools for closure (163 of them).  It seems to me every metropolitan newspaper uses the same script.  Demonize the ATRs as unwanted or bad teachers and impose a time limit for them to get a position and then fire them without bothering to mention the underlying causes for the 2,000+ ATR pool in the first place.  Why bother telling the readers the truth? That only destroys the illusion that its the ATR's fault and not the bad policy decisions by the Bloomberg Administration and the DOE.  It's better to claim that no Principal want them rather than blame the polices set by the Bloomberg/Klein?Walcott tenure with the union being complicit to this perverse and costly predicament.

The entire Crain's article was reprinted on Betsy Combier's blog.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Is The DOE Giving Schools More Money To Hire "F" Status Administratrors To Observe Teachers?

I was at a school this week where the Principal informed the staff that the requirements under the Teacher Evaluation System has overwhelmed the administration of the school.  The Principal stated that the twenty-two different components of the Danielson Framework and the numerous observations (6 informals or 3 informals and one formal) has caused the school administration to fall badly behind their obligations in meeting the NYS requirements imposed by NYSED Commissioner John King. Therefore, the Principal has mysteriously obtained funding to pay for "F" status administrators to help her administration to observe the teachers and complete the observation requirements. 

The question is how can this or any other school hire "F status" administrators costing $300 daily which will result in costing the school close to a teacher's salary by the end of the school year? It seems to me that in the era of tight school budgets few principals can save that sum without withholding necessary resources for their school.  Therefore, where will the money come from to pay these "F status" administrators?  The only logical source of funding must come from the usually stingy DOE.

That's right, it appears the DOE is coming to the rescue of the school's administrative failure to properly observe the teachers by supplying funding to pay for these "F status" supervisors to observe teachers.  For the teachers at this school its a real problem since these "F status" administrators have no idea of the culture of the school, the student body, and familiarity with the teachers and they teaching style.  None of the teachers are happy with this development and are hoping the union does the right thing and files a grievance to stop this.

Whether the Principal hid the money while her school suffered from shortages of resources or was given the funds by the DOE?  The issue is shouldn't the extra money be used for the classroom and not for a "gotcha system" against teachers by "F status" supervisors that have no familiarity with the teachers they are observing? It appears the DOE "gotcha system" is alive and well at the DOE

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Will Mayor De Blasio Practice What He Preaches On Retaining Good Teachers In The NYC Classroom?

Mayor Bill de Blasio was interviewed by WNYC-FM about the New York City public schools and said that he will make it a "personal crusade" to keep and retain good teachers.  Interestingly, at the same time he was speaking to public radio there are over 2,000 teachers without a permanent classroom.  Many of these teachers are ""quality teachers" excessed from their schools during the Bloomberg years for various reasons and ended up in the ATR pool.  How can the new Mayor claim that he wants "good teachers" when he has all these excessed teachers deliberately being kept out of the classroom despite being "highly qualified and credentialed" as required by the No Child Left Behind act?  I hope the Mayor "practices what he preaches".

The exact quote by the Mayor is "I'm going to make this a personal crusade that we focus n attracting the  best teachers".  He further stated "of all the things that would affect the future of educationin our city, this is one of the most central".

Will the new Mayor be a man of his word?  If so, the first thing he must do is immediately eliminate the DOE's "fair student funding" that requires principals to hire the "cheapest" and not the "best teachers" for the classroom. In addition, all teacher salaries should be funded through DOE Central and not as part of the school budget with schools being allocated "units" rather than forcing the schools to take salary into consideration.   By placing many, if not all ATRs, back into the classroom, the Mayor is giving students the "quality teachers" they deserve rather than be used as guinea pigs for untested "newbies".

However, if the new Mayor and Chancellor bows to the Bloomberg ideology that permenat6es the DOE and their media allies and continue to demonize the ATRs by wasting $160 million annually while misusing the teaching talent by making them "glorified babysitters" ,  then it's not what's best for the children as he claims but what's best for the "status quo"  .

Will the new Mayor follow the Bloomberg ideology by falsely equating the "cheapest teacher" as being the "best teacher"?  Or will Bill de Blasio and Carmen Farina do what's right for the students and encourage principals to bring the ATRs back into the classroom where they will help reduce class sizes, provide quality instruction, and bring the classroom management skills that the "newbie teachers" lack and will not acquire for many years, assuming their still teaching. 

Let's see if Mayor Bill de Blasio actually "practices what he preaches".

Monday, March 24, 2014

As The Polar Vortex Finally Leaves Will A New Spring Finally Dawn On The DOE?

The end of a brutal and snowy winter is finally in sight and by week's end spring will appear and stay with us for the rest of the school year as the "polar vortex" finally retreats back to the Arctic,  At the same time the De Blasio administration is in the process of negotiating a contract, complete with "retroactive raises", a fairer teacher evaluation system, and a less hostile supervision. Yes, it appears a thawing in relations between the City and the union appears upon us. A real change from the frozen contract negotiations under the Bloomberg administration.

Unlike the "polar vortex" which lasted only three months, the icy reception that the Bloomberg administration has directed at teachers lasted 12 years!  During the Bloomberg/Klein/Walcott years we saw teacher disrespect increasing year after year while teacher rights were always under attack. Hopefully, Chancellor Carmen Farina will start her "spring cleaning" and send the DOE architects of the chilly Bloomberg years packing with the "polar vortex" .

Chancellor Carmen Farina has said that she intends to change the tone at the DOE, work on teacher retention, and collaborate with school staff for a better environment for student learning. However, it doesn't look like change is coming anytime soon since the new Chancellor has made few substantive changes of the Bloomberg DOE by keeping most of them in their positions and power base.

While the brutal cold of the "polar vortex" will be gone by next week, the chilly winds of the DOE's gotcha mentality"looks to remain in place for the remainder of the school year and maybe beyond.  While the new Chancellor talks a good game her actions have been disappointing to date.

A final note. While the new Chancellor met with parents, principals, and students.  She has made no effort to meet with teachers in the trenches.  Curious and disturbing that our new Chancellor has made no effort to meet with the very people she needs to get on her side of issues that are important to the school system.  I guess time will tell if Carmen Farina lives up to our expectations.  So far she has been disappointing.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Truth About ATRs That THe Media Deliberately Fails To Publish.

 Its starting again, the one-sided media onslaught of the ATR pool by again bringing up the so called viable option of an ATR time limit.  While, in the beginning of this latest round of media ATR bashing has not explicitly stated that ATR are "bad teachers" like the round before, we all know its coming.  First Charkbeat wrote an article about Chancellor Carmen Farina telling her audience that she will not "force place" ATRs.  However, if you read the article the writer does a very poor job of "fact checking" and took a very anti-ATR slant.  To say it was sloppy reporting is an understatement.  Today the Daily News editorial board asked for an iron-clad ATR time limit of one year.  I expect similar editorials from the Post, Times, and the Wall Street Journal to follow.  Its time to set the record straight on the DOE policies that have resulted in an ATR pool of 2,000 or more and why ATRs need to be placed back in the classroom next school year for the betterment of the students.

Tweed ideology:
The leadership at Tweed is permeated with the education reform ideology that the public school system can be run as a business model with students as widgets and teachers as cogs, while the Principal is the CEO of the school and being a business manager is more important than being an educator.  Combine that with the Bloomberg demonetization of the teaching profession that want a temporary non-pensionable teaching staff and the very willing media allies and the result is an attack on senior teachers. Only an ideologue can justify wasting 160 million dollars annually and misuse much-needed talent for the sake of an ideological cause that only hurts student academic achievement. The fact that Chancellor Carmen Farina has not done her necessary "spring cleaning" at the DOE and especially at Tweed is troubling.

Fair Student Funding:
The primary reason there are over 2,000 ATRs, including teachers, school secretaries, guidance counselors, social workers, and assistant principals is the "fair student funding"This is the most important reason there is an ATR crises. The "fair student funding" forces principals to hire the "cheapest" and not the "best teachers". According to UFT Michael Mulgrew no other school district in the nation uses the "fair student funding" the way the DOE does.

School Budget Cuts:
Since 2007 the NYC public schools have experienced a 14% decrease in their budgets.  Combine that they must now fund teacher salaries and pay for the useless and money sucking  "Children First Networks", principals are reluctant to hire veteran teachers.  With already tight budgets and scrounging for supplies, few principals will take on a high salaried teacher even if that's what's best for the students.

Closing Schools:
While there are to be no more closing schools, the damage has been done.  With 163 schools closed during the Bloomberg years, over half of the ATR pool are teachers from closed or closing schools. Their only fault is to have worked in a school targeted by the Bloomberg administration for their own nefarious purposes.  Unfortunately, the De Blasio administration has not reversed any of the closings that are in progress and even more teachers will be joining the ATR pool next year if nothing is done to change the situation.

Leadership Academy Principals:
Going hand-in-hand with the ideology at Tweed is the hiring of those "Leadership Academy Principals", many who had little or no classroom experience who naively believed the Bloomberg/Klein propaganda that ATRs are bad teachers. While Chancellor Carmen Farina has made changes to the "Leadership Academy" requirements, it still means that 19% of the present day principals in the NYC public schools are run by principals with little or no classroom experience and are unwilling to hire ATRs.

The Truth:
The truth about ATRs is that the ATR pool has many "highly qualified teachers" who are unfairly stigmatized by false allegations, ideology, and by a deliberate media misrepresentation of the issue. Sure some of the teachers in the ATR pool were subject to discipline due to alleged misconduct or incompetence.  However, if the alleged incompetence or misconduct were true, these teachers would have been terminated through the State 3020-a process.  However, the reason these teachers are still in the ATR pool and going from classroom to classroom is because the teachers were found to be innocent of these charges by the independent State arbitrator after carefully reviewing real and relevant evidence.  A fact, that the media never seems to mention in their articles and editorials.

The ATR pool is made up of mostly senior teachers with over fifteen years of experience and an average age in the 50s, based upon a small sampling done and published in my blog. Because of their age and salaries, applying to the Open Market Transfer System and going to the "useless job fairs" results in no interviews. The union claims there are only 900 ATRs, the truth is that there's over 2,000 ATRs when you include the ATRs who are covering for leave replacements, provisional vacancies for the year, and counting all the other excessed staff not assigned permanently to a school. Only the newly excessed, less experienced teachers are even able to be appointed to vacancies as the veteran, higher salaried teachers are just too expensive for the schools to consider.

Placing the ATRs back into the classroom where they belong is a win-win solution for the DOE as it will bring lower class sizes, deep curriculum knowledge, and good classroom management skills to improve student academic achievement. Many of the teachers in the ATR pool are "quality teachers" and our union most push back against the inaccurate media reporting about the ATR pool.  Hopefully, when a new contract is signed, the ATRs will be offered to the schools.  However, the only way principals will be able to hire an experienced ATR and improve their students academically, will be to eliminate the "fair student funding", have the teacher budget reverted back to the DOE Central as a unit and a hiring freeze until all excessed teachers in the district are "provisionally appointed" to a school.  This will mean no "forced placements" and allows the principal and the ATR to decide if they are a good fit for the school.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Union Needs To Take A Stand Against The Unfair ATR Field Supervisor Observations.

Previously, I wrote an article claiming that the DOE took an ATR field supervision pilot program in Brooklyn and extended it throughout the City which has resulted in many unfair "U observations" to ATRs.  When I first wrote the article I was only hearing rumors of some ATRs getting "U observations" and likely "U ratings".  Now I have been hearing numerous complaints about how the ATR field supervisors are observing teachers not in their content specialty or in classes that the ATR meets for the first time.  How unfair is that!.  Worse yet, some ATRs are being given "letters to their file"  by these very same field supervisors.  How can an ATR, who has no ownership of the students be observed?  Furthermore, how do you develop an improvement plan when the ATR is constantly rotating?

This week I was in a school that is considered to have poor academic issues and behavioral problems.  The other ATR I was with told me that his field supervisor, a retired Principal, was coming to observe him.  I told him that I didn't think it was a good idea for him to be observed in this school considering what we experienced there.  He assured me that the field supervisor was fair and would make sure he had one of the better classes to observe him in.  Yeah right, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

The day of the observation came and the field supervisor selected the 8th period class full of "out of control" 9th graders.  To make matters even worse, the ATR field supervisor told the classroom teacher to leave telling the classroom teacher, "I want to see how he handles the class without you there".  That's right the teacher was dumped into a class that the teacher never had before and was supposed to control a bunch of rowdy 9th graders as if he was their classroom teacher.

The result was that students walked around the room, walked out the door without permission, and took their cellphones out to text message or listen to music.  No matter what the ATR did, the students wouldn't listen to him.  After, the class was over, the field supervisor curtly told the ATR "you will be hearing from me next week".  He expects he will receive a "U observation" and a likely "U rating".  Interestingly. the next day the classroom teacher heard about the class behavior and told them how disappointed she was in them.  She told the students that the ATR was being observed and you probably hurt his chances to teach again.  The students were very remorseful and even the "knuckleheads" were sorry they acted badly.  However, the damage was done and now this ATR, who was set up by the field supervisor, will have to fight hard not to get a "U rating".

Why doesn't our union file a PERB complaint and expedited grievance to put a stop to this transitivity?  Is this the union's attempt to encourage ATR's to retire?  James Eterno in the ICEblog explained how useless the union was when he wanted to take a "U observation"  case further.  President Michael Mulgrew claims he sees a change in tone at the DOE.   Really?  I must be tone deaf since to me its the same old "gotcha game" practiced by the very same people who were in power during the vindictive Bloomberg/Klein/Walcott administration.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What's A Teacher's Monetary Value Really Worth?

Many people who have little clue how education works thinks that the teaching profession is just  "glorified babysitting of their children".  We get the summers off, only teach nine months out of the year, and, spend less than seven hours at school.  While the reality is that a teacher's day really is twelve hours a day between before class preparation and after school lesson planing, calling and writing parents, and unit development.  Moreover,many teachers spend large parts of their weekends on grading, correcting, and developing academic tasks for the week ahead.  This does not include the fact that teachers must maintain their certification by taking courses, getting their graduate degree, and pass their content specialty test.  Most intelligent people know that teaching is a high stress job and the summer and holidays are necessary to reduce the ever increasing stressful classroom environment and to recharge the batteries of teachers.  However, let's leave all that behind us and let's agree that teaching your child is "glorified babysitting" and concentrate on what is a teacher's value really is worth?

First, lets assume that teachers make the New York State minimum wage of $7.75 per hour to "babysit" each student under their supervision.  Since the teacher works six hours and fifty minutes daily and let's take off the 45 minute lunch period and you come out with $7.75 x 6.1 hours = $41.28 per day to "babysit the student".  However, the average class size for teachers are 30 students.  Therefore, its $41.28  must be  multiplied by the 30 students = $1,418 daily.  Where not finished just yet. Since the minimum school year is 180 days of instruction time the daily rate of $1,418 is multiplied by 180 days.  Therefore, the calculation is $1,418 x 180 = $255,240 annually  That's right, according to those non-educators who believe that teachers are simply "glorified babysitters for their children", by paying the teacher the minimum wage that "babysitters" get we are, at present, vastly underpaid by between 61% and 82% .

I propose that the union, in negotiating with the City, demand the State minimum wage that "babysitters" get.  Now that's what I call a raise appropriate of what the New York City teacher is really worth. This will make every teacher happy, even those traitors at Educators 4 Excellence who want "newbie teachers" to make the same as veteran teachers.  Give all teachers the minimum wage for each student they supervise and for those without a classroom  or teaching self-contained Special Education the default value will be used which is the average student classroom size in their District and grade level as not to penalize them.  Consequently, most teachers will be adequately compensated for "babysitting the children". Now that's a contract that I can support.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Don't Let School Administrators Make ATRs A Scapegoat For Their Student Behavior Problems.

In too many schools the administration, lead by Principal looks the other way when students misbehave.  In some of these schools the Principal will automatically take the word of the student over the teacher's and give the teacher a "letter to the file".  However, since the teachers have ownership over the student's grade, the student will usually think twice about misbehaving in the school for fear of failing the class and the Principal may not be willing to take the student's word as true considering the student's discipline history..   Unfortunately, under the twelve year Bloomberg administration onslaught to demonize the teaching profession and having willing allies in the media, the students grow up with little respect for their teachers.  To make matters even worse under the new "restorative discipline policy", students know there is little or no serious consequences by the school for their bad behavior.

In this environment of poor student discipline and school administrative inaction the ATR shows up for his or her weekly assignment at the school.  Once the ATR shows up in the classroom the misbehaving students of these schools will revert back to their normal behavior of walking into class late, fail to do any work, refuse requests by the ATR to follow the rules and in some cases antagonize the teacher and rile up his or her followers to be disobedient.  The result is usually a chaotic and noisy classroom.  The ATR, in trying to either maintain or reassert control as we are trained to do ends up in a confrontation with the misbehaving student.Sometimes this leads to an incident that has negative consequences to the ATR.

Too many times I have heard of ATRs who, in trying to maintain control of a chaotic classroom, confronts the misbehaving student  Guess which side the school administration takes in these altercations?  The misbehaving student who has a discipline record a mile long or the ATR?  You guessed it the misbehaving student.  The result is that the ATR  ends up being charged with either Corporal Punishment (Chancellors Regulation A-420) or Verbal Abuse (Chancellor's Regulation A-421). and  gets a "letter to the file" and a "U rating".

What can an ATR to do?  Its not easy, in the worst schools you can only hope the students don't destroy the classroom but try to talk to the class to do their work and "do the right thing".  However, in no case should the ATR confront a student or use language of a threatening, racial, or sexual manner.  Calling a student disrespectful or undisciplined is fine but don't tell them they are lazy, stupid, or ending up in prison.  That will earn you  "U rating" and never touch a student even if they are blocking you from closing the classroom door.  Just call the dean or an administrator.  Its not worth the chance that the student claimed you committed corporal punishment or worse.  Just wait for help, don't be a hero, it can cost you your job!

The DOE has made the ATR job a "babysitting position" your job is to hand out the work left by the classroom teacher, walk around the room and encourage the students to do the assignment and if they don't, they don't.  Be on time, and don't use your cellphone in class.  Nothing more is expected of you and don't add to the stress by going the extra mile.  The result could be disastrous.

 Remember one of my quotes in my blog is:
The DOE motto "Students lie.....except when it's about their teacher". Especially if you're an ATR!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Chancellor Carmen Farina Must Clean House At The DOE...Now!

Chancellor Carmen Farina has stumbled her way through the first 75 days of her tenure.  She experienced a "Cathie Black moment", backtracked on the charter school issue, and has not taken decisive action against the DOE leadership that protected principal Marcella Sills and other "bad principals".  Moreover, Ms. Farina is faced with the Bloomberg/Klein/Walcott toxic ideology that is pervasive throughout the highest levels of the DOE.  A case in point when the new Chancellor discussed with her staff about putting the ATRs back in the classroom, the DOE leadership immediately leaked it to the press so that the newspapers could write editorials calling the  ATRs "bad teachers".  In response, the Chancellor backed down, for now, about the ATRs returning to the classroom.

Chancellor Carmen Farina needs to understand that she must do a "spring cleaning" and get rid of the stench of the Bloomberg Era that permeates the DOE, especially at Tweed.  It's no secret that there is a legacy of mistrust between the DOE and the teachers in the classroom caused by the Bloomberg education policy.  Most teachers believe the DOE is the enemy and care little for what's best for the public school students.  Instead the classroom teachers believe the DOE has made teaching in the classroom a hostile experience.  Furthermore, teachers believe that the DOE has instituted a "gotcha system" that is trying to terminate or force veteran teachers out of the system "by any and all means possible".  This adversarial relationship must change and the only way it can happen is for the Chancellor to do a through "spring cleaning".  To expect the existing DOE leadership who have been indoctrinated for 12 years under the vile Bloomberg Administration to change course is naive.

The Chancellor should vastly reduce the 700 lawyers and 300 accountability experts that has greatly contributed to the "gotcha system mentality" at the DOE. An example of the vindictive mentality at the DOE is the persecution of superstar teacher and blogger, Fransesco Portelos, who wrote a spoof piece on "How to hack the DOE payroll portal and give yourself a raise". How did the DOE react to this spoof?  They filed a criminal complaint of "Official Misconduct" with the NYPD who asked Mr. Poirtelos to turn himself in and was eventually jailed for 33 hours.  The loads of paperwork and obscene data mining that takes up too much of a teacher's time and is basically a waste of resources is a direst result of all these useless "accountability experts" and the consultants that the DOE has employed. The Chancellor shoulkd take a page from the new Police Commissioner, William Bratton, who has forced three top NYPD officials to retire and moved around over one hundred top officers who couldn't be fired but are now encouraged to either resign or work in an entirely different position and away from their power source in a "do no harm" move..

Presently, the DOE acts as a "bully" when it comes to the teaching staff.  Carmen Farina can't simply"rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic"and expect that the very same people who treated the schools and the teachers with disrespect and as disposable cogs and the students as widgets in a perverse business model to earn the trust of parents, students, or teachers.   Only a complete "spring cleaning" by the Chancellor is necessary and instead of a staff of non-educators, only long-term successful educators should be at the highest levels at the DOE.  Moreover,  the Chancellor should streamline the bloated DOE Bureaucracy, reduce the use of the high-priced consultants and eliminate the useless and money sucking  "Children First Networks", the unaccountable accountability and legal units, and finally, the remainder of the "gang of eighteen" that still inhabits the highest levels of the DOE.

Its no secret that I consider Chancellor Carmen Farina a disappointment so far.  However, to be fair, this school year is a transition period and the real changes will be put in place by September of this year.  My advise to the Chancellor is to stay firm and bring the joy of teaching back to the classroom for the sake of the students and please don't praise "Common Core" when it doesn't work without a completely understood and tested curriculum that goes with it.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Contract, Teacher Retention, And The Upcominig Teacher Shortage.

Lost in the million dollar propaganda blitz by Eva Moskowitz and her allies in the Senate and Governor Andrew Cuomo is the coming shortage of teachers as many veteran teachers are expected to retire in the next five years and the new State requirements to be a teacher will discourage many would be teachers from joining the profession.  It certainly doesn't help when the ed deformers continue to demonize teachers and want teaching to be a stopgap job as it is in the charter schools. Presently NYC teachers are subject to an evaluation system that can lead to "ineffective ratings" and eventual termination based upon "junk science", where too many teachers leave the system, and as the recession continues to wane, fewer people will be interested in going through the increasingly difficult requirements to be certified by the State.While the New York City school system continues to have a teacher attrition rate of close to 5,000 annually, the new contract, whatever it will be, will probably increase the attrition rate as many veteran teachers take the money or service credits and leave the system for good. To stem the ever increasing teacher attrition rate the City realizes they must not only raise teacher salaries to competitive levels but reduce the hostile classroom environment that existed under the Bloomberg/Klein/Walcott administration and still exists now.  Only a combination of factors that includes significant pay hikes, classroom improvements, and teach respect will keep the veteran teachers from leaving the system.  A real balancing act to say the least.

That brings me to the contract being negotiated by the City and our union.  The New York Times reported that the De Blasio Administration has suggested a 9 year contract with the retroactive raises spread out for the nine years of the contract.  The good news is that we get our full "retroactive raises", the bad news its in drips and drabs and a few of us will be dead before we see it in our pension.  I prefer the City proposal to the PBA and exchange retroactive pay for service credit.  The problem giving service credit to teachers is the difficulty to hire enough certified teachers to replace them and the City would probably rely on Teach For America and Teaching Fellows to fill the gap. Having an influx of these untested and poorly trained "newbie teachers" is not conducive for improved student academic achievement.  Retaining veteran teachers not pushing them out should be the main objective for the City. Therefore, the contract being negotiated will probably be what the New York Times reported.  However, I do hold out some hope that the "retroactive raises" are only stretched out three years not nine.  Also maybe a limited "buyout option" that gives a person an extra two years of pension credit if they retire within a given time period.

I don't believe there will be an ATR pool next year as both the City and union needs the teachers back in the classroom to reduce class size and to provide the ever increasing ICT classes a second teacher in the classroom.  Furthermore, the ideological reason to waste 160 million dollars annually left with Bloomberg. To achieve this it will require the elimination of the "fair student funding" formula and an immediate hiring freeze until all the excessed teachers in a district is placed. Finally, I do believe the City and union will agree to a more reasonable teacher evaluation system that will make it less time consuming and appropriate for both the teacher and the administrator.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Has The De Blasio Administration Found A Solution To The Retroactive Pay Issue?

There is no secret that Mayor Bill de Blasio was saddled with 152 expired contracts as Mayor Bloomberg irresponsibly refused to negotiate with the municipal unions.  While the City's economic recovery smartly progresses with a surplus that increased another 225 million dollars above the previous surplus, primarily due to increased tax receipts and better economic conditions, its still a problem for the City. The March Comptroller report that shows the increased City surplus can be found here.   However, the "retroactive raises" alone from the previous "City pattern" for the teachers, supervisors, and nurses will be 3.5 billion dollars, wiping out this year's and most of next year's surplus.  Of course the City can pay the "retroactive raises" in yearly payments (three years) but still the City must negotiate with the other unions for the last three years and the total cost could approach 7 billion dollars! Now it seems that the De Blasio Administration has come up with a novel way to handle the irresponsible Bloomberg stance on municipal union contracts.

The PBA, in one of its blogs claimed that the De Blasio Administration has raised a "trial balloon" that would eliminate or severely limit "retroactive raises" by replacing the raises with years of service credit.  The City has proposed for the four years the police has been without a contract, the members would receive four years of service credit in liu of the "retroactive raises".  Part of the agreement would also require the police to pay a minimal part of their health benefits.  This would also free up the City to hire more "Tier 3" police as the more expensive  "Tier 2" members would retire. 

This novel approach may be applicable to some degree for teachers, who will be without a contract for five years.  Would the members be willing to give up all or a significant part of the "retroactive raises" for service credit?  Maybe, but the devil is in the details.  Will the deal include the two 4% raises?  or just the last three years?  How much of our health benefits would we pay?  1.5% or 25%?  Will there be adjustments to per session and coverage pay?  How about the ATRs and retirees?

To me, its very intriguing and I certainly would like the union to explore it and poll its members if the City wants to offer a similar package to the teachers.  Would you give up "retroactive raises" and pay some minimal health benefit costs for three, four, or five years of service credit?  Interesting to say the least.  Let's see how this actually plays out. We live in an interesting time.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Media Only Cares About The Elite 194 And Ignore The Many Severely Disabled Students At The Public School Who Will Be Displaced.

If you read all the media outlets in the Metropolitan area, one would think that the Eva Moskowitz's charter schools were taking over vacant space and not causing any negative consequences to the existing school.  That's far from the truth.  Besides taking precious funding from the public schools.  The Harlem Success Charter School #4 (middle school) will have 194 carefully selected students who survived the extremely high student attrition rate approaching 50%, to make it into the middle school.  To make sure the "elite 194" has enough space they will take over many areas that are used for the PS 149 "Special Education:" population such as    the Science, Art, and Music rooms and causing some services to be preformed in storage closets, hallways, and anywhere else the staff can squeeze into to give these Special Education students services that they are required, by law to have.

Had the City approved the Eva Moskowitz charter school for the "elite 194", it would make the PS 149 building at 132% of capacity.  How was the Bloomberg Administration going to get the building back to the 100% utilization rate? Let's just kick out the Special Education students in PS 149!  That's right, the most needy and severely disabled of students were to be removed from their only school they knew for the "elite 194".   Yet, except for Juan Gonzalez, no media outlet bothered to show what would happen to the Special Education students when the Harlem Success Academy charter school moved into the PS 149 building.

Where will the severely disabled students be bused to for their services?  Probably to the already overcrowded District 75 "Mickey Mantle school" on the West side of Manhattan which already lost space to Eva Moskowitz's Harlem Success Charter School #1.   Or to schools further downtown.  Did the Bloomberg Administration care what the community thought?  The answer is no of course.

I can't understand why the De Blasio Administration doesn't counterattack and show that Eva Moskowitz's Success charter schools are taking away space from the severely disabled students in the NYC public school system.  The very same "Special Education" students that will never be accepted to Eva's charter schools in the first place,  add these students with other no-entry students such as English Language Learners, and "high needs" students with academic, behavioral, and attendance issues.  Heaven forbid that Eva allows these students to attend her "elitist schools" and  take the State and National tests.  No way would any of these students make it to the "elite 194".  Only the best make it and goodbye to the rest.

Its too bad the other side of the charter school story is ignored by the media but its been that way for years and with Chancellor Carmen Farina bumbling her way through the school year, I expect nothing will change.

P.S. Leonie Haimson was on MSNBC last night and did a great job in presenting the case against charter schools.   You can find it on her blog NYC Public School Parents Here.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Where Is The DOE's Change of Tone? It Seems To Be The Same Old Song To Me.

When Mayor Bill de Blasio replaced the Bloomberg Administration, Michael Mulgrew claimed at the delegate assembly there was a change of tone at the DOE and that the leadership was apologizing for all their anti-teacher actions and demonizing of the profession.  Nice words, but when it has comes to actual deeds, there has been NO CHANGE IN HOW THE DOE TREATS THE TEACHERS! Every school I go to the teachers are under stress trying to fulfill the punitive Danielson rublic, the dubious rigor of Common Core, and the low morale.

I know it takes time to see changes and that this school year is a transition time between the punitive Bloomberg Administration and the De Blasio Administration.  However, Chancellor Carmen Farina has failed to make the changes necessary to instill confidence in her.  She has made few leadership or policy changes, made inappropriate statements, and backed down on the charter school issue.  Worse, it seems that she's taking no action against the DOE bloated bureaucracy and punitive leadership who protected "bad principals" and has apparently backed away from placing the ATRs in schools that could benefit the schools with extra teaching support by using them as "push in teachers" in their subject area or as co-teachers.

The result is that until the next school year the New York City Public School students will suffer from inadequate resources, inexperienced teachers, and worst of all, the lack of accountability by the DOE administrators, like the useless "Children First Networks" that simply suck up much needed funds that could go to the classroom instead.

Every school I go to have funding issues.  There's no money to fix broken smart boards that were placed in a middle of a blackboard, making instruction very difficult.  Many schools require teachers to supply their own copy paper and quite a few schools require teachers to buy their own classroom supplies.  Worse, in almost every school I walk into there are broken copy machines, lack of preventive maintenance, and wi-fi networks that don't have adequate bandwidth and are insufficient for use for classroom projects. Accountability for these problems are dumped on the schools while the bloated DOE bureaucracy denies any responsiblity for these problems.

Unless Chancellor Carmen Farina starts to do some major housecleaning, its not a change of tone that UFT President Michael Mulgrew claims he sees but the "same old song" when it comes to what's actually going on in the schools when it comes to the the dysfunctional, DOE with the children the real losers.

Friday, March 07, 2014

To Chancellor Camen Farina. How About Placing Eva Moskowitz's Schools In The Trailers?

Now that Chancellor Carmen Farina is trying to find a location to place one of Eva Moskowitz's charter schools, how about putting them in those decrepit, moldy, and dirty trailers that too many public school students are forced to learn in.  I believe that with all the money that Eva rakes in, she can either spruce them up or replace them entirely while paying appropriate rent for the privilege. Meanwhile the public school students can be placed in newly freed space in the schools that would have had charter schools squeezed into their building.

Interestingly all the media outlets, the Governor, and now Regent Meryl Tisch has asked that the City find an appropriate place for the charter schools.  Where were the media outlets and these people when the Bloomberg Administration put thousands of children in trailers that outlived their useful life year after year?  Many of these trailers are cramped, smelly, and require children to face the elements to travel to and from them.  However, I never read a complaint from the media and their editorial boards, about the trailers.  Did anyone hear the Governor, the Commissioner, or the Regents Board complain about the trailers?.

Another thing, had the Moskowitz Success Charter middle school moved into the PS 147 building in Central Harlem would have reduced space and displace students with disabilities as it was projected to have up to a 132% utilization capacity, a totally unacceptable use of building space for learning..  In other words the inclusion of 194 carefully selected students would displace the City's most needy students with disabilities.  While others would receive services in the hallways or common areas. How interesting that the media and the politicians don't seem, to mention that outrage?

The bottom line, all these charter schools should be paying rent for using the City school buildings and use the money to provide the proper resources and instruction that the Bloomberg Administration failed to do for the public school students..

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Its Starting To Look Like The End Of The Useless ATR Rotation System.

This week selected guidance counselors have received e-maIls from the DOE asking them if they want to be placed in one school for the rest of the school year.  Interestingly, the DOE email didn't say anything about being placed in their District or in their grade level.  However, this is an acknowledgement that the DOE is starting to think about what's best for the students and not the previous ideological policy that made the guidance counselors go weekly to different schools that didn't benefit anybody.  Add this to the CSA winning a grievance that stopped the DOE from rotating Assistant Principals monthly and we are now seeing a slow transition away from the useless and self destructive ATR rotation system.

I predict that the excessed teachers will all be "placed" in their District schools in September as there is an average of 5,000 vacancies that will allow for almost all of the 2,000 plus ATRs to fill a vacancy.  Without the ideological reason to waste $160 million dollars annually it makes little sense not to place the ATRs.  There will be some exceptions where the ATR has an obsolete or specialty license.  In those cases, the UFT and DOE should arrange for training to have these teachers get a subject license and become a "push in" or second teacher in a class until they are properly credentialed.

For this program to work the following issues must be resolved.  First, the "fair student funding formula" must be eliminated and the teacher salary reverts back to a "unit" .  The DOE pays for all teachers not the school as it presently does.  This eliminates the incentive for the Principal to hire the :cheapest" teacher and they can now hire the "best" teachers for the classroom.  Second, the DOE must impose a strict and complete "hiring freeze" until all the ATRs in their District are placed.  Any Principal caught hiding a vacancy will have the vacancy removed from the school and receive a "disciplinary letter" for educational malfeasance. To minimize "forced placements", the principals will be allowed to interview up to five ATRs in seniority order of that content specialty and must decide on the one that best fits the school culture.  To ensure the Principal is playing by the rules, failure to select one of the five ATRs will result in the school losing the vacancy for the school year., Finally, all ATRs hired should receive a "provisional contract" that allows both the teacher and Principal decide if "its a good fit".  Once both sides agree, the teacher will be automatically appointed and gain their building seniority.  In no case can the school and teacher sign a second "provisional contract" the following year.

Its common knowledge that the City and UFT will finalize a contract by June 30th.  Therefore, if the UFT insists on these few simple requirements, the schools will be getting an influx of experienced teachers, many of them  "quality teachers" that will help reduce the inequity of teachers in the school system and reduce class size.  To me its a win-win no matter how one looks at it.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Schools Who Hire Teach For America "Newbies" Are Not Doing What's Right For Their Students.

 Many of the NYC public schools and almost all the charter schools hire "Teach For America" (TFA) "two year wonders" because they are cheap and not because they are "quality teachers". In fact, hiring TFA "newbies" is simply hurting student academic achievement by not hiring the "quality teachers" necessary to improve student academic outcomes. To help the student academic achievement of the school, the Principal needs to hire experienced teachers not the TFA "newbies" .  Education reformers may say they are "quality teachers" but their simply "full of crap"..

The Gary Rubinstein blog states that over 80% of the TFA "newbies" leave the classroom after their fourth year of teaching.  In fact, the majority leave the classroom without ever achieving tenure. No wonder the TFA "newbies" are known as the "two year wonders".

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) states that a "highly qualified teacher" is properly credentialed in their subject area, has experience, and possess classroom management skills.   By contrast the TFA "newbies" are not credentialed, have no experience, except an inadequate five week training course, and usually has poor classroom management skills.

Despite the obvious problems associated with the TFA "newbies", the media, politicians and their education reformer friends will falsely proclaim that the TFA "newbies" are just as good as experienced teachers.  Didn't Mayor Bloomberg once say that teacher experience doesn't count?

The bottom line is you get what you pay for and if you practice "education on the cheap" by hiring TFA "newbie teachers" then as Principal of the school you have nobody to blame but yourselves when your hire a "two year wonder" from the TFA and can't understand why the TFA "newbie's" students don't improve academically.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

The Dark Side Of The Charter School Story.

The airwaves and newspapers are being bombarded with pro charter school commercials about how important they are for the children of New York City and don't take away parental choice.  However, what these commercials don't show is the dark side of the charter school story and the "uneven playing field" the charters enjoyed under the Bloomberg Administration that allowed them an increasing part of the DOE budget, facilities, and private access, while exempting them of oversight. This "gravy train" allowed charters to thrive and expand as Randi Weingarten failed to challenge then Chancellor Joel Klein on co-locating charter schools in public school buildings. Now that the De Blasio Administration has decided to take another look at the recent co-locations, he found that 9 of 45 were not appropriate and that 3 of Eva Moskowitz's Success Academies co-locations are to be revoked. Moreover, many of the charters will soon be paying rent that will result in another outcry from the charter schools and their supporters.  Finally, look for many of the rules that the charter schools were allowed to ignore, such as auditing and certified teachers to be imposed on the charter sector. 

Let's look at the dark side of the story about charter schools.  Many education reformers hail the charter schools as a step forward in education.  However, the reality is very different.  Overall, despite the claims,  charter schools are no more successful than their District schools and experience very high teacher turnover, usually most charter schools have a complete turnover in staff by the third year.  Furthermore, the charter schools expel students due to academic, behavioral, or attendance issues and fail to replace these students.  They also are accused of consoling out students by threatening to have them repeat a grade if they don't leave, especially when the student is going into a testable grade. Here sre some statistics about the Harlem Success charter school that provide some context to this issue.

83 students entered kindergarten in 2006-07, the school’s first year of operation. When that class reached 4th grade in 2010-11, it had only 53 students — a drop of 36 percent. Harlem Success also took in a 1st grade class with 73 students in 2006. When that group reached 5th grade, it too had shrunk appreciably — by 36 percent. The attrition accelerated as the classes advanced..... 

 For a more detailed review of Eva Moskowitz's charter school student attrition rate read Ed Notes online blog. In addition, the Chicago Public School system reported that the Chicago charter schools expel 12 times more students that the public schools and there is little reason to believe its any different for the NYC charter schools.

 Moreover, the charter schools focus on the testable subjects like English and Math to show artificially high test scores.  Many of these schools give little attention to a genuine total education of the student, its just "drill and kill" for the English and Math tests for the remaining students left in the school.  Additionally, the charter schools exclude Special Education and English Language Learners from their school by claiming they don't have the resources to provide the services they need. Finally, every dollar that the DOE gives to a charter school is one dollar less for the NYC public schools so its like "robbing Peter to pay Paul".

Once the charter schools are subject to the same rules and regulations that the public schools are subject to and has a representative and diverse student body (segregation in charter schools have always been a problem) a fairer comparison can be made between the district and charter schools.

In reality, the charter school miracle is simply "smoke and mirrors" and when their operation is scrutinized the "dark side" of this so called "miracle" shows a pattern of exclusion of "high needs" students, lack of a community representative student body, and a failure to provide a stable and certified teaching staff necessary to give a complete educational experience, not just constant and never ending "test preparation".  My other stories on charter schools can be found Here.