Sunday, June 28, 2015

Is This Another Regents Cheating Scandal Involving A School Under Superintendent Amiee Horowitz?

In the New York Post today an article by Susan Edelman has exposed a potential Regents cheating scandal that involved Automotive High School.  According to the article students who failed the Living Environment and Algebra Regents in January, were allowed to appeal their grades and 5 of the 9 students were found to have passed one or the other Regents.  While I'm sure that Regents grade appeals are very common throughout the City, the question is who where the educators that re-graded the Regents test papers?

My understanding is that any appeal of a Regents grade is done by outside educators who have no affiliation with the school or subject to pressure from the District Superintendent.  However, according to the New York Post article an insider claimed the re-grading was done by a select group of teachers at Automotive High School appointed by the embattled Principal Caterina Lafergola.  The article included the following:

Automotive insiders said Lafergola instructed several teachers to go into a room and re-score the January exams in March.

Of course, the DOE disputed the claim and said that no Automotive High School teachers were involved in the re-grading.  Maybe the DOE should supply the names of the re-graders and their school affiliation to put the accusation to rest.  However, the DOE has not done so further fueling speculation of another Regents cheating scandal.

As for Superintendent Amiee Horowitz?  This is not the first time she has been linked in a Regents cheating scandal.  Remember, the  post I wrote about her earlier this year?  That's right, while Superintendent of District 20, she not only failed to look into a Regents cheating allegation but tried to take the license of a untenured teacher who was the whistle blower that she discontinued after the teacher reported the Regents cheating.  Interestingly, SCI eventually did investigate the Regents cheating and substantiated the discontinued teacher's accusation which resulted in 3020-a charges against the educator who was involved in the Regents cheating at the school.

While there is no proof that Superintendent Amiee Horowitz condones Regents cheating but if these new charges prove to be true, her failure again to take appropriate action against school administrators who have been implicated in the Regents cheating is very troubling and makes me wonder if she is competent to be a Superintendent.  Then again under the disappointing Chancellor, Carmen Farina. its cronyism over competence, when selecting who should be a Superintendent under her administration.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Is The DOE Using Different Standards When Evaluating ATRs? It Appears So.

A couple of years ago it was brought to my attention that the DOE had separated ATRs into two lists.  The first list were ATRs who were excessed from schools.  The second list are for ATRs who were disciplined or "U" rated.  I was never able to actually see these lists and didn't think much more about the lists or why the DOE would separate the ATRs since it had no relevance at that time since nobody was getting a permanent position anyway.  However, its now become obvious to me and many others that these lists still exist in some form or another and is being used to target the second group of ATRs to harass them until they resign or retire.

It seems to me, that after speaking to many ATRs, that the ones who won their 3020-a termination hearings or were "U" rated the previous couple of years were assigned ATR field supervisors (assassins) as early as September and were continually observed throughout the school year (one ATR claimed she had 19 visits).  While the ATRs who were excessed had either no ATR field supervisors or were observed one or two times during the school year.

I suspect the union is well aware of the different standards being used in observing the ATRs but has apparently done nothing to stop the harassment.  Maybe, they are actually encouraging this abuse of authority and hoping that some of the ATRs actually leave the system?  It's no secret that both the DOE and UFT want to "thin the herd" to the union the ATRs are an embarrassment and while they want them back into the classroom, they would be quite happy if they resigned or retired.  That's why the union leadership does not want an ATR Chapter Leader and prefers that they be disenfranchised by claiming their situation is temporary, despite some people being ATRs for nearly a decade!  As for the DOE?  They would fire all ATRs if they could and save $160 million dollars in the process.  Its no wonder the DOE has instituted policies that made ATRs a second class citizen and some practically an untouchable in their attempt to eliminate the ATR pool and the union is complicit by even allowing it to be part of the latest contract!

Letters have been written to the Chancellor and calls made to the Mayor to eliminate the ATR issue. However, these pleas have been met with unresponsive silence and for the next school year I see nothing changed in resolving the ongoing ATR problem that deprives students of "quality teachers" and drain $160 million dollars that could be used to reduced class sizes and the savings would add resources to the classroom but then its still "children last" when it comes to the DOE as ideology wins over what's best for the students in the New York City public schools.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The John Dewey Easy Pass Saga Continues As Students Graduate Unprepared Academically.

After a year and a half OSI investigation of grade fixing and phony credit recovery courses at John Dewey High School in Brooklyn.  The investigation is still ongoing which is very puzzling to me.  In fact, according to the Daily News, Chancellor Carmen Farina claims that the OSI investigation has failed to substantiate many of the allegations logged against Principal Kathleen Elvin and her administration but that the investigation is still ongoing.  I guess the ten teachers who cooperated in the OSI investigation exposing the grade fixing and phony credit recovery is not proof enough that academic fraud is being perpetrated to artificially increase the school's graduation rate at the expense of the student's education.

It seems that the school's "easy pass" system is geared to give struggling seniors essentially free credits so to graduate them despite being academically unprepared.  Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News exposed this in his article back in April and showed massive fraud when it came to awarding credits.  I also summarized the problems at John Dewey High School in my May post as well.  Since then the local CBS affiliate has reported that the DOE has decided to "circle the wagons" and protect the school's administration while allowing their highly questionable credit recovery system called "easy pass" by critics to artificially inflate the graduation rate. In fact, the local CBS affiliate has claimed that the Chancellor refuses to talk about why she has failed to remove the school's Principal and has now employed a personal bodyguard to shoo away their reporters who wanted her to explain her decision to leave the school administration in place.

It seems that the Principal Kathleen Elvin is very vindictive and according to the New York Post retaliated against staff by giving half the school's teachers failing grades.  Of the 101 teachers on staff, 16 were rated "ineffective" and 35 were rated "developing".  By contrast, only 8% of the teachers citywide were rated "ineffective or developing".  Interestingly the school was rated "effective" on the State tests but the terrible observation reports lowered the teacher evaluation grades.  One teacher was quoted that "She has a personal vendetta against the teachers and is using the observations as a weapon against the teachers to force them to leave or retire".  Interestingly, in the school snapshot a majority of teachers do not believe that the Principal is an effective manager and the union grievance director called the poor rating a "red flag".

This is just another case of a bad Principal being protected by the DOE and a Chancellor that can't see the forest for the trees as the OSI investigation drags on with no report of the alleged educational fraud at John Dewey High School in Brooklyn..

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The City's Use Of Uncertified Teachers Results In Poor Student Academic Achievement And That's A Crime.

This week I was grading the Earth Science Regents for many of the schools  in Queens.  During the grading, I observed two very important things.   First, approximately 33% of the graders were not certified in Earth Science yet they were selected to grade the Earth Science Regents and were even selected for per session grading.  Second, many of the schools graded that had poor Regents results had one thing in common.  Few of the school's students had a certified Earth Science teacher instructing them!  By contrast, schools that had a full complement of Earth Science teachers showed a much higher Regents passing percentage.   That got me thinking if some of these graders, who were uncertified in Earth Science, did not properly credit some student answers because of the grader's lack of knowledge of the subject and this resulted in the student received a failing 63% or 64% on the Regents rather than a passing grade of 65%? The question is how can the use of uncertified teachers instructing and grading students be condoned by the DOE leadership in their "children first" policy?   The simple answer is the DOE doesn't care.

An organization that really believes in putting student first would demand that every teacher be certified in the subject they are teaching in.  A teacher who has deep curriculum and subject knowledge is a prerequisite for real student academic achievement.  Moreover, a certified teacher provides the necessary information for a student to fully understand and not memorize subject material as is done in too many schools.  However, as I have traveled through the Queens high schools, I saw schools like Martin Van Buren, Richmond Hill, Long Island City, Newtown, and Bryant high schools without a certified Earth Science teacher on staff.   Further, many other schools had uncertified teachers teaching nearly full Earth Science schedules rather than hire the Earth Science teachers available in the ATR pool.

Many of the Bloomberg small schools had not emphasized Earth Science and pushed students to take Chemistry and Physics instead.  The result was disastrous as many students failed the higher level and much harder Sciences and eventually these schools had the teachers teaching Earth Science.  Now that many of these schools have Earth Science, they have not hired certified Earth Science teachers to teach it.  The DOE allows this by accepting the false claim that there are no Earth Science teachers available.  True, few newbie teachers are certified in Earth Science but in Queens alone there are 6 experienced Earth Science teachers in excess but because they are expensive, no school is willing to pick up their salary, thanks to "fair student funding".

When I hear that the disappointing Chancellor, Carmen Farina, wants "effective teachers in the classroom" I can only laugh because under the DOE its hiring the "cheapest and not the best teachers" that count and its all about the money and not what's best for the children's academic achievement that is most important. Until this policy changes the New York City schools are doomed for failure.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

ATR Field Assassins Deliver The Bad News Last Week.

All over the City, ATRs who rotate were handed their "unsatisfactory" ratings by the ATR field supervisor, otherwise known as the field assassin.  Many of these "U" ratings are undeserved and are based upon "flyby" observations that have little relevance to a real observation.

Too many times do I hear that ATRs are being observed and rated in classrooms that they have no knowledge of the students or their academic abilities.   Moreover, quite a few ATRs are being rated and observed outside their subject area.  Finally, the field assassin's "plan of assistance" is a farce and offers no real support to the ATR. In fact, its used as a weapon to terminate the ATR.

The field assassin claims they are there to assist the ATR in landing a permanent position and to support their pedagogy.  However, the truth is very much different.  Many of the field assassins impose impossible standards on the ATR, like requiring Danielson and Common Core requirements and demanding differentiation in the lesson plan when the ATR has no clue what the academic abilities of the students are.  Further, they demand "rigor" but if the lesson is too difficult for the students, the field assassin "U" rates the lesson.  Of course, if the lesson lacks "rigor", the lesson is "U" rated for not being rigorous enough.  A no-win situation.

To back up the field assassin's "U" ratings is their fraudulent "plan of assistance" that talks about differentiation, classroom management. and effective teaching but offers no real support to the ATR.  The "plan of assistance" is used as a tool to not only "U" rate but terminate the teacher under section 3020-a. While  both the DOE and UFT agree that "Teaching for the 21st Century" should be used to determine if the ATR is "satisfactory" or not, neither organization appears unwilling or unable to tell the field assassins that and they go about their business to unfairly "U" rate the ATRs using almost impossible standards for them to meet.

How in the world can an ATR be expected to control student learning or behaviors if they don't know the students names or have any ownership over their grade?  Moreover, many field assassins actually ask the classroom teacher to leave the room which in many troubled schools is a signal for the students to act up and refuse to do the assignment.  Finally, its very obvious that some field assassins are harassing the ATRs with multiple observations, just hoping and waiting for the ATR to slip up so they can start the "plan of assistance" tool for supporting termination in the 3020-a hearings down the road.

The UFT leadership must demand that the field assassins be eliminated and that ATRs be placed in schools where vacancies exist.  However, I'm not holding my breath waiting for our disconnected leadership to do what's right for it's members.  That would be too much to ask.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Uncaring DOE Forces Queens Chemistry And Physics Teachers To Grade In A Sweatbox.

Last year the Chemistry and Physics teachers in Queens were sent to William Cullen Bryant high school to grade.   The school is notorious for its horrible Leadership Academy Principal and for removing senior teachers on questionable 3020-a charges.   While these visiting teachers are not directly affected by the actions of this terrible Principal, she does determine where the teachers are doing the Regents grading.

Last year, she put the teachers in an non-air conditioned library, with no offer of liquids.  Moreover, the area has no parking available and the school has no parking lot.  While I might understand that the DOE might have made a mistake in selecting this location last year because they didn't investigate the situation, the fact that the DOE, for the second straight year, selected the same unacceptable grading location shows how uncaring the DOE are to teachers and their complaints.

One teacher told me that the DOE sent him an e-mail that to dress comfortably and bring water to the grading site and don't even think of bringing your car.  That means the DOE was well aware of the problems of selecting the William Cullen Bryant grading site and didn't care!  With so many high schools available that have both parking and air conditioning.  Bayside, Francis Lewis, Cardozo, Jamaica Campus, Springfield Gardens Campus, Martin Van Buren, John Bowne, Campus Magnet, Forest Hills, John Adams/Richmond Hill, Hugh School of Teaching, Maspeth, and Metropolitan high schools why Bryant?

The answer is simple.  The DOE does not care to make teachers comfortable.  Instead they make their lives difficult by the overwintering paperwork, inadequate resources, poor administrators, and terrible working conditions and the selection of Bryant high school is just another example of making a teacher's life as difficult as possible by the DOE.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Chancellor Carmen Farina Has No Clue What An Effective Teacher Is.

Since Carmen Farina has taken over at Chancellor of the New York City Public Schools she preaches to whomever would listen that she wants every child to have an effective teacher in the classroom.  It matters little to her whether her audience are principals, the media, teachers, or even at the secret February meeting with the 3020-a State arbitrators, NYSUT, and DOE lawyers.  Her message is the same;  "I want all students to have effective teachers instructing them".  Nice words if you ask me but as this post will point out the Chancellor fails to "practice what she preaches".

If the disappointing Chancellor really wanted to have effective teachers in the classroom she would be pushing policies that encourage principals to hire experienced teachers to cover their vacancies and implement polices that eliminated the ATR pool by giving schools an incentive to appoint an experienced ATR to their school.  However, Chancellor Carmen Farina has instead, continued the Bloomberg/Klein ideological policy called "education on the cheap" that shortchanges the schools of vital resources and deprives students of proper educational material for their classrooms.  Her freezing of the already tight  school budget for the 2014-15 school year, despite the City's economic recovery and more money sent to DOE Central is a prime example of the continuation of the Bloomberg/Klein policy to starve the schools and the classrooms in their "education on the cheap" policy.

Moreover, rather than save over $160 million dollars annually and place experienced teachers in vacancies, Carmen Farina continues the destructive "Fair Student Funding"(FSF) formula that not only shortchanges schools of proper funding for their students but forces principals to hire the "cheapest and not the best teachers" for their schools.  The result is the most needy students get the inexperienced teachers who suffer from their own steep learning curves in the classroom.  While 50% of new teachers leave the New York City classroom in five years, over 80% will leave the school they started at by that time.  With the Open Market Transfer System, a principal cannot keep an effective teacher if a better school offers that teacher a position.  Therefore, struggling schools suffer from high teacher turnover, which a recent study shows reduces student academic achievement, and lose their best teachers to higher achieving schools.The result is while highly experienced and effective teachers languish in the ATR pool, students in low achieving schools are subjected to many inexperienced teachers who lack the classroom skills to effectively teach and the few who become a "quality teacher" will leave for more comfortable classroom environments in a higher achieving school or district.

Finally, if Chancellor Carmen Farina was really serious about having effective teachers in the 
classroom, she would reduce class sizes to the State average, penalize schools that rely on teachers uncertified in the subject they are teaching in, and ensure that inclusion classes are not being abused by putting too many special education students in the class, a common abuse of Federal and State requirements.  Even in the New York Post, an article showed the problems of having an inexperienced and uncertified teacher instructing poor and minority students. More proof can be found Here!

When it come to Chancellor Carmen Farina she talks the talk but fails to walk the walk.She's shown to be more the problem than the solution.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The DOE Double Standard Continues Under Chancellor Carmen Farina.

Over the last eight years I have written various articles on the DOE "double standard" when disciplining teachers and administrators.  Our union leadership said this would stop with a new Mayor and Chancellor.  However, under the disappointing Chancellor Carmen Farina, the DOE "double standard" continues.  Today in the New York Post, there was an article that the City settled two sexual harassment suits against embattled Principal Howard Kwait for $275,000!  That's right!  The City paid off the two female assistant principals who allegedly suffered from unwanted sexual advances from the John Bowne High School Principal rather than fight the charges.

This was not the first time the City settled a harassment case against Principal Howard Kwait.  Back in 2012, a pregnant Assistant Principal was forced to leave the school and filed a lawsuit against Howard Kwait and the City, after reviewing the evidence, decided to settle that case as well. He also cost the City $225,000 for falsely arresting a student of cyber bullying, Finally, he was fined $4,500 by the Conflicts Of Interest Board for taking a vacation with a female subordinate.

Astonishingly, the DOE, who claims to have "zero tolerance" for any sexual misconduct has allowed Howard Kwait to remain as Principal, despite the three separate lawsuits that the City had to pay the victims to settle their cases.  Yes, this is the same DOE that put another Principal who was found guilty in a jury trial of harassing a female subordinate, in charge of Flushing High School.  If that is not enough?  How about the DOE's failure to remove Principal Carlos Borrero as he made sexual overtures to staff members and is subject to a federal lawsuit?  The ICEUFT blog has a more personal observation of the Principal.  Finally, who can forget the DOE's amnesia when it comes to Principal Namita Dwarka of Bryant High School?

Its obvious the DOE "double standard" continues when disciplining staff and administrators.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Field Assassins Are "U" Rating ATRs.

It has become increasingly obvious that the ATR field supervisors are "U" rating ATRs and preparing many of them for their 3020-a charges that inevitably will follow.  In some cases if the ATR didn't go to the Professional Development or committed a minor misconduct, the DOE will file 3020-a charges with only one "U" rating, if they believe they can convince the arbitrator that the teacher is both "incompetent and dangerous to the students".

You may ask how can the union leadership allow these phoney "flyby observations" to be used as a basis for terminating a teacher?.  Unfortunately, our disconnected union leadership doesn't seem to care.  Just look at what our union leadership agreed to with regard to the ATR in the last contract.
Now, our union leadership looks the other way while these field assassins observe ATRs in strange classrooms, with no information on the student abilities, not teaching in their subject area, and penalizes them for lesson plans left by the teacher that are not "rigorous" enough.

The DOE with our union leadership's blessing, is trying to reduce the ATR pool, not by putting the ATR back in the classroom where they belong, but instead by thinning the herd  with these "flyby observations" and unfairly giving the ATR a "U" rating.

While I watch the very obvious love affair between Chancellor Carmen Farina and UFT President Michael Mulgrew, the love does not extend to the teachers and especially the ATRs as the Chancellor is determined to terminate them and the UFT President ignores their demands for fair treatment and representation.

While its too late for this school year, please post the ATR field supervisors that "U" rated you in the last two school years. Knowledge is power and knowing which field assassins to avoid will help all ATRs in the next school year.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Teacher Inequality In Poor And Minority Schools Cointinues In New York State

Despite rhetoric from the Governor, NYSED, and the Chancellors of NYS and NYC, teacher inequality continues in the poor and minority schools of New York State.  In a report by the State conclusively shows that the poor and minority schools suffer from higher teacher turnover.  Moreover, these schools are staffed with inexperienced teachers, teachers not certified in the subjects they are teaching in, and have lower evaluation ratings than other schools.

The report goes on to show the familiar socioeconomic and racial disparity that the Race to the Top (RttT) was supposed to eliminate with an influx of $700 million dollars that is now all spent by the State with little educational result. Most disturbing is how teacher inequality continues in the schools with the highest percentage of poor and minority students, especially in the big cities.  In a takeaway from the report is the following statement.

In a quarter of schools with the highest percentage of poor and nonwhite students, more than 7 percent of teachers were in their first year, compared to less than 2 percent at the whitest and most affluent quartile of schools in 2013-14. And while less than 1 percent of teachers in those schools were deemed “not highly qualified” — because they lacked an appropriate college degree or teaching license — that rate was between 6.9 percent and 8.8 percent in less affluent schools.

How can these schools close the student academic achievement gap when these schools suffer from not only funding issues but staffing issues?  In fact, the report was able to link schools with a large percentage of "high needs" students with low-rated teachers (of course the teachers may have been low rated because they have high needs students based upon the junk Science of the Value Added Method),  According to the report, blacks are twice as likely to have "ineffective" teachers than white students. 

The report recommended that school districts recruit top-rated teachers to work in the lowest performing schools.  Good luck achieving that goal.  In New York City, the DOE is willing to give a teacher a measly  $5,000 and I believe no top rated teacher is willing to give up a position in a good school for such a small sum of pocket change and be exposed to an "ineffective" rating based upon the junk science of VAM for teaching "high needs" students. 

With a teacher shortage looming and few top college recruits willing to be a career teacher, look for the racial/income student academic achievement gap and teacher inequality to continue as the few top quality teachers will only work in the most academically sound learning environments that can only be found in the higher achieving schools.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

The 4% Withdrawal Rule Works In Retirement Under Any Scenario.

 Most retirees try to stay conservative in their investments and don't want any downside surprises therefore so much of their retirement income are in more stable income producing investments like CDs, bonds, or money market funds.  However, in this decade of low interest rates, where a  three year bank Certificate of Deposits gave you a paltry 1.2% and the ten year treasury bond gives a meager 2%, what is a saver to do for stable income?  Many financial planners are worried that with low interest rates, the 4% rule is no longer safe and are telling their clients that they may have to live on less retirement income to preserve their savings.  There is one planner who stated that a retiree cannot take out more than 1.8%, with inflation adjustments, yearly to ensure a 100% confidence that he or she will not run out of money.  In this doom and gloom environment is the 4% withdrawal, with inflation adjustments, still conservative enough to ensure that the retiree will not run out of money before they pass away?  The answer is yes!

The origin of the 4% withdrawal rule came about in a famous Trinity study in 1996 and updated in 2011 that showed that an inflation adjusted 4% withdrawal rate, with the proper asset allocation will allow the retiree to not run out of money during his or her lifetime.  The 4% rule is based upon the  running of over a hundred 30-year simulations from 1926 to 2014  and found that in the worst case scenario that a 4% withdrawal rate, adjusted for inflation, would last a lifetime, with a proper asset allocation.  The 4% withdrawal rate was established as a floor not as an average withdrawal rate and represents the worst case scenario.

For some reason, many financial planners forgot that the 4% withdrawal rule was the floor and in this low interest rate environment was telling their clients that they need to take less (3%) to ensure that their money does not run out.  Therefore, many retirees will probably end up living way to frugally and have three to five times their initial savings when they pass away.  In fact, an article by Michael Kitces showed that the average withdrawal rate for the entire scenarios is close to 6.5%!

As teachers with a TDA that gives us a fixed return of 7%, the low interest rate scenario is actually beneficial since inflation is only 2% (actually 1.29%) and that means that our TDA is appreciating.  However, in the long run we do need equities, be it mutual funds, ETFs or stocks to combat the eroding effects of inflation.  See my post on that Here.  Therefore, make sure you have asset producing equities as part of your retirement portfolio.  The suggested asset allocation is between 50% and 75% in equities.

Finally, if you see that your retirement fund is getting too large, say over 50% of the initial fund at retirement, it might be a good idea to ratchet up your withdrawals by a percentage point or from 4% to 5%, unless you want to leave an oversized inheritance to your heirs.  Its a good idea to check your portfolio yearly and rebalance it to ensure you are following the right path in your retirement journey.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Bringing Back The Neighborhood High Schools Is The Only Answer In Improvimg Our Struggling Schools.


Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina have a program to improve the struggling schools called the School Renewal Turnaround Program.  They include targeted funding, better oversight, and more programs for the high schools to turnaround them academically.  However, there are some very serious problems associated with these schools that the De Blasio administration has failed to address and I question their prospects for success, especially when it comes to the DOE's misguided school funding policy known as "education on the cheap".. Let's look at the major problems facing the Mayor's renewal high school program.

Student Population The renewal high schools have a very similar student population distribution.  A poor minority student cohort with a high percentage of "high needs" students.  These "high needs" students whether they are homeless, special education. English language learners, or behaviorally challenged,  are associated with low academic achievement.  How does the Mayor's renewal program address that problem?  If you were a parent of a high achieving student, would you send your child to one of these schools?  I think not.

Enrollment:  Many of these renewal schools are under populated and struggle to keep enrollment up.  In a previous post, I showed how many vacant student slots are available in these schools.  The less students, the less money is available to the renewal schools to add courses, services, and hiring quality teachers. Limiting the "over-the-counter- students" for these schools is a double edged sword since less enrollment means less funds for the schools.

Fair Student Funding:  The renewal schools are still subject to the 800 pound gorilla in the room and that is the DOE's ill advised  "fair student funding" and that ensures that the principals will still be forced to hire the "cheapest and not the best" teachers for their students.  That means high teacher turnover and an unstable learning environment.

Small Schools:  There are just too many small schools that offer limited courses, few extra curricular activities, and suffer from poor leadership.  Worse, these schools are always experiencing high teacher turnover with too many "newbie teachers" who may not have the pedagogy or classroom management skills to be an effective teacher.  These schools are always competing for enough students to fill their schools and many should not exist as a independent entity.  The result is too many schools are competing for a dwindling amount of academically preforming students not selected by the better schools.

Class Size:  Most schools, to save on money and hire fewer teachers have class sizes near the contract limit of 34 students.  This is much too large for proper learning in these struggling schools but for the DOE its always been about the budget and not about what's best for the students.

Longer School Day:  The renewal schools will have a one hour longer school day.  However, the DOE and UFT have not decided on the payment rate for teachers who work the extra hour.  Furthermore, how will the extra hour affect the mandated Professional Development requirements?  In other words, its still a work in progress to schedule the extra hour and how to incorporate it into a daily schedule.

The solution is to reimpose high school zoning, recombine the small schools, have significantly smaller class sizes (20-25 maximum), and bring back the large comprehensive neighborhood schools.  This will allow for more course selection and a better learning environment.  Moreover, eliminating the "fair student funding" will free up the schools in hiring the "quality teachers" necessary to improve student academic achievement.  Finally, each school should have a program magnet that attracts the academically performing students back to the school and provide the school with a solid foundation for attracting experienced teachers to the school and reduce the unacceptably high teacher turnover in the renewal schools.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Lew The Loser Gets It Wrong Again In His Fox Editorial.

Well, here is another wrong headed editorial by the anti-teacher and pro deformer Lew Lone. Vice President of the local New York station otherwise known as "Lew the Loser".  He opposes the renewal schools program and cites the Independent Budget Office report that believes hundreds of millions of dollars will be wasted by keeping the schools open.  Instead, Lew the Loser claims that the Bloomberg method of closing the struggling schools and open small schools was a proven success.

Lew the loser goes on to claim that the De Blasio administration is only keeping these 94 schools open to placate the teachers union and keep teachers employed. He claims that the short timeline, the dwindling enrollment, and the existing school performance makes it extremely difficult for these schools to turnaround and show measurable improvements by 2017.  Therefore, its best to close these schools now.

Lew the Loser of course has his own recommendations and they come right out of the education deform playbook.  They are:

  • Close the 94 schools and open small schools, with smaller class sizes, and effective teachers.
  • Open charter schools and eliminate the charter cap.
The first of Lew the Loser's recommendations has a real problem since the Bloomberg small schools that were created are not successful after the first few years when the DOE withdrawal the extra funding, the smaller class sizes, and the exclusion of "high needs" students to these schools.  Just take a look of my list of schools to avoid in my previous post.  Many of these schools are small schools that came from the closing of the large high schools at the old school Campus.  As for effective teachers?  Give me a break!  Most of the Bloomberg small schools suffer from poor leadership with "Leadership Academy Principals" running those schools and selecting a teaching staff based on cost not ability.  Many of these small schools have untenured staff with  high teacher turnover and no institutional memory.

The second recommendation is to open up more charter schools is simply a ploy to eliminate public education and destroy the teacher unions while making teaching an at will employee.  Just read this!  The problems with charter schools are too numerous to discuss in this post.  Suffice to say that most charter schools struggle academically and financially, take few "high needs" students, and suffer from extremely high teacher turnover.

While I am no fan of Chancellor Carmen Farina or Mayor Bill de Blasio's education policies, they are preferable to what Lew the Loser and his education deformer buddies have in mind for the New York City public schools.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Queens High Schools That Students And Teachers Avoid.

There are quite a number of high schools in Queens that students and teachers are avoiding at all costs.  Many of these schools are having enrollment problems and cannot attract academically proficient students.  The result is that these schools struggle to keep up their numbers and must accept the many "high needs" and the "over the counter"students who are academically behind their grade level.  Thanks to the Bloomberg Administration policies, we no longer have community high schools and these schools cannot attract the type of student necessary to raise the school's standards. One Principal of a struggling school stated the obvious.

“Enrollment is a big issue for us,” he said. “When your numbers are so low, it affects the money you’re bringing in, what you can do, your programs, your class size.”

After the first round of selections for the high schools by the 8th grade students, here is a list of schools that still have numerous vacancies because no student listed them in their top 12 choices.Topping the list are August Martin and John Adams high schools, along with the two remaining Campus Magnet schools not slated to close.

August Martin.........................................580
MSRT Magnet.........................................186
Humanities and Arts Magnet......................150
John Adams............................................415
Grover Cleavland.....................................245
Long Island City......................................205
Fredrick Douglas Academy VI......................85
Martin Van Buren....................................170
Queens Preparatory Academy....................115
Rockaway Collegiate.................................90
Rockaway Park.......................................130
Excelsior Preparatory Academy...................75
George Washington Carver.........................75

 Many of the schools listed are the Bloomberg created small schools that were carved out of the big comprehensive schools that were forced to close due to the DOE deliberately dumping a high concentration of "high needs" and "over the counter" students to ensure that they fail. By contrast, many of the sought after schools like Forest Hills, Francis Lewis, and Cardozo have no vacancies.  The entire citywide guide is Here.

Unless the De Blasio Administration reverses course and allows the high schools to become once again community based schools, the schools listed above, will always struggle to attract capable students to their schools. Combine that with the new teacher evaluation system, look for few quality teachers willing to work in such a challenging classroom environment.