Thursday, July 30, 2015

City Has A Record Budget Surplus Thanks To The Inferior Contract Negotiated By Our Union Leadership.

 It wasn't long ago when UFT President Michael Mulgrew pleaded with the membership to approve a substandard contract claiming the City had a limited amount of funds and if we refused, we would be sent to the "back of the line" and get less money.  The scare tactics worked and the members approved the contract with a  pitiful 1.4% annual raise for the ten year period from 2009-18, with much of the money back-loaded to as far as the year 2020!

Just yesterday, the City Comptroller, Scott Stringer told the press that the City has a whopping $5.9 billion dollar budget surplus and the City revenues have increased by 7% or 1% over the 2009-13 average of 6%.

Where did the budget surplus come from?  Partly from the economic recovery that greatly increased tax revenues and the cost savings from the public sector contracts that our UFT leadership rammed down the throats of City workers.  That's right, the City is experiencing record surpluses while freezing school budgets, fails to reduce class sizes, and continuing the Bloomberg tradition of  "education on the cheap" policies under Bill de Blasio.

What bothers me most is that most every economist predicted that the City was on track for a major economic recovery and even before De Blasio took office, the City budget was realizing an increase in revenue.  Yet our union leadership ignored the economic reality and wanted the new Mayor to look good as a tough negotiator.  Therefore, we all received an inferior contract. 

All I can say is "with a friend like Mickey Mulgrew protecting our profession, who needs enemies"?  For more information on the budget surplus and our union selling out the members, read the ICEUFT  blog .

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Why The City's School Renewal Program Is Bullshit!

With much fanfare the NYCDOE has rolled out a plan for the renewal schools to succeed.  The plan relies on unrealistic assumptions and clouded by the leftover Bloomberg ideology that staff turnover is a positive option, when it will negatively affect the school's future. Let's look at the issues and why success is not in the future of those schools.

First, and foremost, since there is no high school zoning anymore, high achieving students are allowed to apply to any public high school in the City.  What parent in their right mind would allow their high achieving child who lives in South Jamaica to attend, lets say August Martin High School, when the student can be accepted to a school like Forest Hills assuming the student does not get into a selective or screened school? For a renewal school to succeed, the present demographics of the student population needs to change and there is no way that will happen without high school zoning restrictions.

Second, many veteran teachers see the handwriting on the wall and are retiring or if they can, leave the renewal schools.  This means that the renewal schools are recruiting "newbies" who have little curriculum knowledge and no classroom management skills.  How does that instill confidence in the students who are guinea pigs as these teachers struggle their way through a curriculum and the steep learning curve that goes with a "newbie" teacher.

Third, few, if any veteran teachers would give up a good school, such as Francis Lewis, to work in a renewal school like Martin Van Buren for a mere $5,000!  Even if it was $50,000,  who would risk getting two consecutive "ineffectives" due to the low achieving student population, when the high-stakes testing is 50% of a teacher's evaluation? This doesn't even take into account the extra time and challenges that is required to teach in these renewal schools.

Finally, it seems that the Superintendent of the renewal schools, Amiee Horowitz, has allegedly told school administrators that she wants to get rid of as many teachers as possible to change the school culture from the failure they have experienced.  To school administrators that means pushing untenured and veteran teachers that they dislike out of the system by discontinuing them or giving then "ineffective" ratings.

With "fair student funding" still in force and the DOE's mistaken belief that exchanging veteran teachers with more compliant teachers,  many of them with little or no experience, will result in not better but worse results.  Will the renewal schools succeed?  Not in this lifetime unless the polices drastically changes. To me the City's school renewal plan its all bullshit!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

An Open Letter To Amiee Horowitz From A Discontinued Teacher.

 In my previous posts I have written about Superintendent Amiee Horowitz and how she has protected school administrators while going after whistle blowers.  If you need a refresher you can find the posts Here, Here, and Here.  Moreover, as Superintendent of the Renewal schools her mission is to terminate as many teachers as possible and replace them with "newbies" as these school will continue to struggle.  Now with the permission of the discontinued teacher, I will post that teacher's letter to Amiee Horowitz to appeal for his job.  Maybe Ms. Horowitz will do the right thing and overrule the Principal and give the two teachers a second chance but her history shows otherwise.  In fact, the new Solidarity caucus will be picketing her office at the end of August due to her anti-teacher bias, especially for whistle blowers.

July 19th, 2015

Dear Ms. Horowitz,

Hello Ms. Horowitz I am making one final request that you would kindly find some time in your schedule either this month or next where we would have the opportunity to briefly meet in your Staten Island office and discuss my situation. If you are unwilling to meet with me, or if I don’t hear back from you, then I’m not going to pursue this matter. I am in the process of moving on with my life, and my career. I am making this request to hopefully meet because I am in a somewhat depressed state as I look back at the four years that I’ve been teaching in the DOE at Richmond Hill, and all the experiences that I’ve had. I had initially planned on spending the rest of my teaching career in the city schools, and it’s very hard for me to accept the fact that’s it’s ended on a note like this after only four years of service. I just got married so it’s also been a disruption to the life of my spouse as well.

Ms. Horowitz as I mentioned to you in the last email, I understand that you are/were in the unfortunate position where you felt that you had to discontinue a certain number of teachers. I do not believe that the high volume of candidates up for tenure and the number of discontinuances that you had to grant and/or look over in a relatively short time allowed you to spend adequate time evaluating each person’s portfolio and statistics in their entirety. Ms. Horowitz I always look for the best in people, and I hope to believe that you are a decent person, and that you will do what’s fair and proper. This is why I believe that a visitation is so essential. Even if you are unwilling to reverse your decision on my behalf…at least you will have all the facts. 

With this letter I have attached a letter of recommendation that Mr. Ganesh wrote for me last year. I have also attached my observation reports from 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. I have attached my observational ratings under the Danielson system from last year 2013-2014. My overall score last year under this new system was a “77” I was “effective” in all three categories of local and state measurement.  I had wanted to achieve tenure very badly and (although most of us were granted extensions at the end of last year) I was willing to work all the more harder this year. 

Ms. Horowitz, the final piece of documentation that I have attached is my initial rating from this year where I scored a “2” out of “60” points. Ms. Horowitz with all due respect you must have questioned the gross inconsistency and believability of this score when evaluating my performance this year as compared to the last three years as something would appear seriously wrong. 

Ms. Horowitz at this point in time I have nothing to gain or lose by being truthful about my situation, and I am not going to misrepresent the facts or tell somebody simply what they want to hear. It is the very strong opinion of myself and others) that this year Mr. Ganesh felt that he needed to give a certain number of teachers poor ratings in order to increase the school’s statistics as well as for the protection of his own job security. Whatever the reason may be, my colleague and I were chosen as teachers to be targeted with poor ratings consequently leading up to both of our discontinuances. (Just like me, my colleague was also an effective teacher with a previously unblemished pedagogical record prior to the arrival of Ms. Peterson.) On numerous occasions Mr. Ganesh and Ms. Peterson (mostly Ms. Peterson) were dishonest in their accounts of what took place in my classroom during the observations. (I can very easily substantiate this claim by offering numerous sources of evidence.)

*I also want to make the point that I am not somebody who is oppositional to receiving poor ratings or feedback from supervisors. Perhaps one of my greatest strengths that I have always valued is being able to grow and self-evaluate based on collaboration and support from staff and supervisors. Unfortunately it was extremely obvious to me and everybody else who was aware of my situation that neither Mr. Ganesh nor Ms. Peterson had any intention of offering that support since their agenda seemed to be focused in precisely doing the opposite.

My next point goes to the heart of my initial argument. *Even if Mr. Ganesh were to see my situation differently which I’m sure would be his first line of defense, then may I offer that there was absolutely no support that was initiated by him and offered to me or my colleague this year.

If Mr. Ganesh truly was of the opinion and had a good faith basis to believe that somehow under very mysterious circumstances I went 180 degrees from being this “dedicated outstanding and fabulous teacher” in which he wrote a glorifying letter of recommendation suddenly mysteriously turning into this incompetent horrific teacher just a short time later….than what measure of support has he offered? The answer is none.

*At no point this year was I ever questioned or conferenced in a meeting initiated by Mr. Ganesh regarding “his” perception of the drastic turn that the quality of my lessons were allegedly taking.  *There was never any discussion had between myself and Mr. Ganesh over the possibility of discontinuance. *Every email I sent him addressing my concerns pertaining to my observations was completely ignored by him. *When I complained about the lack of support that I was receiving, and the way that I was being treated by Ms. Peterson, Mr. Ganesh did absolutely nothing nor even acknowledged that he got my complaint. *Other than observations, there was never any classroom visitations conducted by Mr. Ganesh or Ms. Peterson for the purpose of improving instruction. *There was never any modeling or demonstrations done by either of them despite the fact that I asked for this many times throughout the year. *Mr. Ganesh was hardly in my classroom this year. He spent a total of approximately 35 minutes in my classroom this entire year for two observations (one formal and one informal.)  *For the formal observation he spent a total of 15 minutes out of the 47 minutes of the period that he was in my classroom. Yet he spent the entire period in the classroom of other teachers when their formals were conducted. 

Most importantly, the timing of the observations and lack of feedback in a timely manner was a serious issue this year. When you started reviewing our portfolios towards the end of April there were only two observations that were conducted at that time for most people. For me and just about everybody else in my department, the observations themselves only started being conducted in the second half of the school year beginning in the late part of December and concluding by  mid- May. The first observation was written up as entirely “ineffective” but then feedback was given one month later. The second observation which was the formal was conducted at the very end of March and the feedback was again given to me about a month later. The patterns of allowing so much time to elapse absent teacher support in which Ms. Peterson and Mr. Ganesh chose to conduct these observations were in my view extremely unprofessional and non- conducive to any form of growth. *This of course assuming that their opinion about the quality of my lessons is correct.

The last and final point that I wish to make is the working relationship that the ISS department has had with Ms. Peterson this past year. I do not wish to sound slanderous or make any personal attacks, but Ms. Peterson’s attitude towards her staff, lack of knowledge, and unprofessionalism revealed to us all somebody who was highly unqualified to serve in her respective position as AP of ISS. Her substantial lack of knowledge of special education, vindictive nature, and her lack of empathy and abrasiveness towards her staff became the subject of great discussion amongst many staff members as well as students. Richmond Hill has its’ share of problems and the department was/is in need proper and professional leadership to ensure that we “as one” progress in a forward direction. (Not regress.) I say that because you might as well know that half the department is leaving specifically because of her. And the ISS department was a rather large one with close to 20 people. It was of very poor discretion of Mr. Ganesh to appoint her as AP when she had no immediate experience as AP of ISS prior to her appointment which was quite evident to us all in seeing how the department was being so severely mismanaged. 

What really hurts the most about this whole experience is the length that both supervisors were willing to stoop down to when creating this false case against my colleague and me. Never was there any single moment in time this year when either Mr. Ganesh or Ms. Peterson offered any sort of support or guidance. As responsible and dedicated teachers we were the ones who attempted to go to them for support and it absolutely sickens me that our efforts were used against us by them.

Both Ms. Peterson and Mr. Ganesh were well aware of the consistent initiatives that my colleague and I often took when seeking to get support, and right after my first “ineffective” observation that was conducted in December, I became extremely concerned over the arbitrariness and dis-alignment to Danielson that the initial observation contained. Nevertheless I “initiated” weekly support meetings with Ms. Peterson for two purposes. Number 1: to cover my basis, and number 2: to improve instruction. Ms. Peterson ignored my request for several weeks and then finally one month later up until the end of the school year we met for a total of 9 times. I became concerned because despite the arranged visitations there was no feedback of substance being given, and the “ineffectives” just continued coming.  I find it unlikely that the support sessions would have even been offered to us if we had not requested them in the first place considering how late in the year and sporadic the observations were when they were given. Perhaps if we hadn’t made this request, then the discontinuance would have been harder to grant.

It was absolutely disgusting to me beyond believe when I saw attached with the discontinuance letter  Ms. Peterson’s log sheet detailing “her” version of what took place at the meetings which was riddled with inaccuracies and misleading claims (which can easily be substantiated by me) used as evidence against me by her and Mr. Ganesh making it appear as though they offered support but we were just so horrible that their effort was in vein.  *My colleague and I both had several years of nothing but positive records and observational reports. We suddenly and unexpectedly started receiving nothing but ineffective ratings. As far as I know my colleague and I were the only two teachers in the entire ISS department who made arrangements to get weekly support. Despite our weekly visitations we were continuously and consistently rated “ineffective” and subsequently were the only two teachers in the department to be discontinued.

What are the chances of that happening? 

I’m sure Ms. Horowitz that you can appreciate our perception in that there was clearly an ulterior motive had here, and that we see something seriously wrong with what took place this year. I personally am having a tremendously (tremendous is a gross understatement) hard time believing that the actions of Mr. Ganesh and Ms. Peterson were undertaken in good faith.

I’ll even entertain the benefit of the doubt for a moment. Even if there was no wrong doing here, perhaps our scenarios are a testament to and speak volumes about the levels of incompetence displayed and inability in the proper coaching and mentorship of those in need exhibited by Mr. Ganesh and Ms. Peterson this entire year that just passed.

Ms. Horowitz, in conclusion I just want to mention that despite this very bad year, my experiences in my school have been positive for the vast majority of the time in the last four years that I’ve been there. I have had the pleasure of working with very good people. I have a tremendous respect for the majority of those in my line of work who are genuinely interested in changing the lives and minds of young people. Although my experience this year was not good, I am absolutely convinced that I consistently acted and displayed a level of professionalism, dedication, willingness to learn and grow, and deep commitment to my students and staff of whom I work with. Unfortunately this was not reciprocated. Of course I feel that my rating this year should be erased from my record (I am presently fighting to have that happen) and I should be re-appointed with tenure. Assuming that’s not going to me case, I would like to at least be granted another year of probation. This will make the process of leaving Richmond Hill and securing a position elsewhere exponentially easier. I also think that there should be at minimum an inquiry directed at Mr. Ganesh for his role and compliance in this situation. When examining all of the evidence we all just can’t help but believe that Mr. Ganesh knowingly and deliberately violated his position of power by intentionally misusing the Danielson framework to achieve personal gain. Ms. Peterson was complicit in his act. What has me deeply concerned, is that if he was willing and able to do this to us, then I see no reason why they’re not willing to do it to other teachers in the future.

If none of the above happen, than I may as well mention that my conscience is absolutely clear in knowing that I was discontinued due to circumstances beyond my immediate control and that I did absolutely everything that I possibility could to protect myself in such unfortunate times. I am happy to report that I have the love and support of those who knew of my situation, and unfortunately I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Ms. Horowtiz, I sincerely hope that you are able to say the same. 

Thank you for your time in reading my letter,

Just a final note.  Richmond Hill has a history of using teachers uncertified in the subject they are teaching in.  The school has over 25 Earth Science classes with no certified Earth Science teacher on staff and many other teachers assigned to subjects that they are not certified in.  How can anyone believe things will get better at this school?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Unity Caucus And The Borg Collective.

In the age of accountability, one of the more unaccountable organization is the UFT's "Unity caucus" who controls the union from top to bottom.  The "Unity caucus" has ensured that nobody can seriously threaten their complete domination of the union.  All leadership positions above the school's Chapter Leader are appointed by the "Unity caucus" leadership and even at the Chapter Leader level dissidents are challenged by a carefully selected opponent by the "Unity caucus" when they believe its in their best interest to win the seat. Yes, the very same  "Unity" leadership that gave us Dainelson, Common Core, APPR and declared victory at every step as teacher "due process" rights were being eroded away, piece by piece.

 In trying to find a similar organizational structure I stumbled upon the one that best fits the "Unity caucus", its the Borg collective from Star Trek the Next Generation TV series!  Yes the scary, evil, and extremely dangerous organization who's mission is to destroy civilization, while assimilating their distinctive characteristics to make the Borg collective stronger and more powerful. Why do I think they are similar?  Let's investigate.

First, there is no independent thought in the Borg collective, all decisions are controlled by the Borg Queen.  When was the last time anybody in the "Unity caucus" voted against Randi Weingarten or Michael Mulgrew when they demanded that they vote in favor for their position?

Second, when a member of the Borg collective show independent thought they are expelled from the collective or re-assimilated as a more compliant drone.  When a member of the "Unity caucus" disagrees with the leadership, they are expelled from the caucus or re-educated not to object.  There are persistent rumors that all "Unity caucus" members will be implanted with a vinculum so that the leadership can instantly communicate internally with its caucus drones.

Third, all Borg are required to tell outsiders that "resistance is futile", while the "Unity caucus" has their own loyalty oath that must be followed at all times.

Finally, the Borg will disregard civilizations that don't have any distinctive characteristics worthy of assimilation.  While the "Unity caucus" will only recruit outsiders they believe will enhanced their control over the membership.  All other outsiders are unworthy of admission into their cult organization.

Yes, the Borg is here in the guise of the "Unity caucus" and to all you dissidents? "Resistance is futile".

Friday, July 24, 2015

Science Education Is Lagging In The New York City Public High Schools.

Yesterday Chalkbeat summarized a report by The New School's Center For New York City's Affairs  and not surprisingly found that most New York City high schools had an inferior and inadequate Science curriculum.  Over the years I have been informing my readers how the New York City public high schools are short changing students in Science education.  My complaints have fallen on deaf ears at the uncaring DOE as they actually encourage school principals to eliminate many Science courses and to reduce others by a period a week in an effort to save on teacher salaries in their "education on the cheap" policy.  For example New York State Regents Science requires that there be five classes of instruction per week and one class of laboratory skills .  However, almost every New York City high school has reduced classroom instruction by 20%, or one class a week to meet their tight budget requirements.  Worse, is the lack of certified Earth Science teachers teaching the subject,  In most schools the Living Environment teacher is required to teach Earth Science and, as one could guess, the Regents results predictably are terrible.  The reason being that Living Environment teachers are life Science teachers not a physical Science teacher and have little understanding of the subject, be it Chemistry, Physics, or Earth Science.  Is it any wonder that 100 of the 600 high schools in the City had no students graduate with an advanced Regents diploma last school year?

Many of the Bloomberg small schools do not offer the courses necessary for students to obtain an advanced Regents diploma, be it Regents Earth Science, Chemistry, or Physics and in Math Algebra II.  In fact, these schools are simply diploma mills, graduating students who are not "college or career ready" academically.  Just 25 of the 600 high schools had 50% of all students who obtained an advanced Regents diploma while few poor and minority schools had no more than a handful, if any, students who earned an advanced Regents diploma.

While Asian and White students make up only 23% of the student population they accounted for 70% of all students who obtained an advanced Regents diploma.  By contrast, in the 100 schools that award no advanced Regents diploma, 92% of them were Black or Hispanic. For a complete list of all New York City High Schools that offers STEM related advanced Math and Science instruction and the ones that do not,  it can be found Here.

Maybe the DOE and the disappointing Chancellor will wake up and stop short-changing the New York City High School students on their Science education but I highly doubt it.   In the DOE Its still "children last"...Always!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

An Interview With Cleo Lacy

It has been years since I interviewed Cleo Lacy, then the propaganda minister of the UFT who's prime job was to protect the great leader and make crap look like steak.  Cleo defended the undefendable, the infamous 2005 "giveback" laden contract that gave us extra time, the ATR crisis, reduction of grievance rights, and the "fair student funding".  He also was one of the members of the secretive ATR committee that ignored the concerns of the ATRs.  In a previous interview he had wished they would all retire and leave. I decided it was time to interview Cleo Lacy once again.

Chaz:  Mr. Lacy, why did you leave the UFT for Washington?

Cleo Lacy:  Because the great leader needed me there since she cannot operate without me.

Chaz:  Didn't you think that your absence hurt the members?

Cleo Lacy:  Who gives a shit.  I was sick and tired of the whinny members.  They always wanted me to help them out.  I had more important work to do like protecting the great leader and getting more money.

Chaz:  Wait a second!  Your salary is paid by member dues, don't you think that the members are important?

Cleo Lacy:  Screw the members, just give me my much deserved money.

Chaz:  I see that the Great Leader jumped the gun and supported Hillary Clinton?

Cleo Lacy:  That's right.

Chaz:  Why didn't the Great Leader poll her membership before the endorsement?

Cleo Lacy: She did, she polled me, Mikey, and her inner circle.  That's all that counts.

Chaz:  Don't you believe the full membership should vote on an endorsement?

Cleo Lacy:  Screw the members.  They don't vote anyway.

Chaz:  I see where you think Common Core is the way to go.

Cleo Lacy:  Yeah but I'm pissed, I wanted to be known as the one to punch Common Core opponents in the face not Mikey.

Chaz:  I also see that you were against the "opt out" movement?

Cleo Lacy:  I'm a strong supporter of high-stakes testing since it doesn't affect me or the Great Leader and those parents who "opt out" don't know what they are doing.  Testing is good.

Chaz:  Now I see you are defending the union on not going after the class size issue?  Don't you believe lower class sizes are important for academic achievement?

Cleo Lacy:  Screw class sizes, the more students the merrier, when I taught in the classroom 20 years ago, I not only walked miles uphill both ways in a snowstorm but had full classes of eager and willing students who were thrilled to have me as a teacher. Come to think of it, most of the seats in my class were empty.  Don't publish this response to the question.

Chaz:  Is it true that you defended larger class sizes under PROSE?

Cleo Lacy: Its a lie!  A dammed lie!   Wait, let me talk to the Great Leader.  Oops, we support larger class sizes because the teachers want it for their PROSE school and they know best.

Chaz:  If Hillary wins will the Great Leader be Secretary of Education?

Cleo Lacy:  I hope so.  Then I can be the nation's propaganda minister and get another pension on the backs of the people.  Oops, I mean the voice of the people on education issues.

Chaz:  If that scenario occurs then you will have four pension when you retire?

Cleo Lacy:  Who's retiring?  Where else can I lie for a living, do little real work, and get overpaid?

Chaz:  Thank you for your time.

Cleo Lacy:  You welcome and screw you all.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Corrupt Investigations Continue.

Throughout the New York City high schools the pressure by school administrators to increase the graduation rate has resulted in academic fraud by graduating academically unprepared students by any means possible.  This is not an isolated problem identified in John Dewey and Flushing high schools but is widespread throughout the New York City school system.  Despite the more stringent "credit recovery" rules that the State requires and the DOE promised to implement, the DOE looked the other way as these abuses continued.

Even when, under media scrutiny,  the DOE will drag their feat in investigating "credit recovery" fraud.  Worse, is what's happening at Richmond Hill High School.  After the DOE was caught in a blatant lie that no teacher of the school was allowed to re-grade the Regents, it turns out that the school administration hand-picked some teachers to re-grade the Regents with predictable results.  What did the DOE do?  They sent SCI investigators into the school on the pretense to gather evidence to the potential cheating scandal but quickly morphed into a "witch hunt" to identify the whistle blower(s) who dared embarrass the DOE and even sent them to their homes!

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case, both OSI and SCI are really not interested in investigating administrative misconduct and many of their investigations seem to morph into identifying whistle-blowers with evidence obtained against the teacher used for disciplinary action.  To see how the two agencies work look at my corrupt investigations posts.

I do not or cannot trust these investigations and neither should you. You should never willingly talk to these people without a lawyer if its SCI and a union advocate if its OSI because whatever you say will be used against you since its not about the truth.

Friday, July 17, 2015

An Example Of The Danger In Being An ATR

When I rotated from school to school many teachers would pick my brain on various issues ranging from their pensions, work rules, discipline, or just simply to grip, lots of griping.  I would be greeted with "you're so lucky to be an ATR" .  They would say things like you don't have to comply with the punitive Charlotte Danielson rubric, or worry about the MOSUL,  the obscene amount of paperwork, blaming us for student failure, and the administrative  pressure to pass failing students.  In that regard they are right.  However, there is a down side in being an ATR. Just to name a few.

  • A stranger in a strange school.
  • Having no permanent location to call home.
  • No place to store your belongings.
  • Field supervisors who give you "fly by" observations.
  • Few per session opportunities.
 Besides the above list the worst is the reduced "due process" rights that ATR have, thanks to the 2014 contract that has resulted is many ATRs being given a "U" rating and some even terminated!  Weekly I hear from ATRs the injustices they experience and how poorly they are treated.  Be it no bathroom key, continuous hall or cafeteria duty, being given secretarial work, assigned six classes to teach with four of them in a row. Even if the ATR was to grieve it, the damage is done and refusing an assignment can lead to 3020-a insubordination charges.  While the DOE abuses the ATR our disconnected union leadership  twiddle their collective thumbs and does little to stop these abuses.

That brings me to an egregious action taken by one Principal against an ATR that has not only hurt the ATR, but shows how little the union cares about helping ATRs when targeted unfairly by a vindictive Principal.

 The ATR is a 28 year veteran of the system that joined the ATR pool when his school closed.  In his 28 years he never was disciplined and always received "satisfactory" ratings.  He is considered an elite Math teacher and many schools recruited him to cover their Math programs Townsand Harris and Cardozo were his latest schools.  However, due to his $100,000+ salary no school was willing to appoint him without changes to the "fair student funding" that discourages schools from hiring the best teachers for their students.

This year, the Math teacher rotated to a small high school in Central Queens and on his second day at the school was assigned to cover a class.  Unknown to the ATR, the school had a "zero tolerance" rule about student cellphone use and when one student asked the ATR if he can take a picture of him the ATR saw little problem and allowed it.  Unfortunately, at that very moment, a teacher was walking past the room and saw the student with the cellphone and told the Principal that the ATR was allowing the students to use their cellphones in class.  Rather than taking the ATR aside and telling him what the rules were, he held a disciplinary hearing and give the teacher a Letter to the File (LIF) for the alleged infraction.  That's right, a LIF for such a trivial action that really didn't even rate a counseling memo.

Because he received a LIF, the ATR automatically received a "U" rating, despite not having an unsatisfactory observation!  The undeserved "U" rating not only was an ego deflater to a teacher who in his 28 years of teaching never even had a "U" observation but hurt him monetarily as well.  You see, the Math teacher teaches Summer School and has been doing it for over two decades but because the DOE gave him a "U" rating, he could not teach summer school.  Interestingly, in a year where fewer and fewer teachers are teaching Summer School and Math programs were either cancelled or reduced due to a lack of qualified Math teachers available for the Summer, an elite teacher is excluded from teaching and help struggling students to pass and graduate.

The Math teacher will grieve the unfair "U" rating but since only 0.3% are reversed, he has already contacted a lawyer to file Article 78 charges against the DOE and while it will cost him $5,000 and time, he believes that its the only way to stop the DOE abuse of the ATRs since the union shows no interest in supporting the ATR.  I wish him well.

This is just another example of the hardships of being an ATR and why ideology is more important than what's best for the students at the DOE.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

More And More District 75 Teachers Have Stopped Working Summer School Due To The Stress Of The Teacher Evaluation System.

This summer a highly regarded District 75 school who had most of their teachers work the summer found, to their shock ,that a majority of the teachers refused to work over the summer.  This was despite the fact that these teachers get federal 683 money or 17.5% of their pay to work the six weeks. This is essentially double their salary for the summer school position.  The question is why did so many teachers opt out working the summer?  The simple answer is the increased stress due to the teacher evaluation system and its only going to get worse.

Starting last year, many teachers found out that the State and DOE were insisting that teachers instruct their students in Common Core and academics when many of the students don't have the ability to function independently in the world they exist in.  That's right District 75 teachers who used to teach "life skills" like taking their students to a supermarket and buy things by counting change are now being taught in the classroom Geometry and other academic subjects despite these students not being testable but are being tested anyway and their results are being used to evaluate their teacher.

Gone are the teaching of "life skills" such as counting change, dressing one self, taking mass transit, making simple meals, do domestic chores, and investigate their neighborhood.  Skills necessary to be a functioning adult,  Instead they are being taught about the Presidents,  using Geometry to determine angles, and read  non-fiction books.  Many of the District 75 students are incapable of doing the academics demanded by the SED and the DOE but the teachers are told to do it anyway.  Predictably, the results are terrible and many of the teachers saw their "highly effective" and "effective" ratings drop accordingly.

With the new, more punitive testing requirements imposed by the SED, their is a real danger that many District 75 teachers will be unfairly rated "developing" or even "ineffective" since the high-stakes test is 50% of a teacher's evaluation and these District 75 students will be assigned a grade, even the untestable ones if the State gets its way!

With the added stress of the Danielson rubric and the 50% high-stakes testing requirement for the teacher evaluation system, many District 75 teachers have decided not to work the summer as they prepare for the next school year with the real losers the special education students who lose their teachers for the summer months.

Children last...always. Especially the most needy!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Academic Fraud Is Common In The New York City High Schools.

I once wrote about how few students were "college ready" especially in poor and minority communities and was criticized by some for using a metric that really didn't determine the academic abilities of the students and their school.  While they may have a point the reason I used the "college and career readiness"  metric is because it cannot be easily manipulated by school principals unlike the graduation rates and credit accumulation metrics, the hallmark of the Michael Bloomberg era.  It seems now that Mayor Bill de Blasio has replaced Michael Bloomberg as Mayor of the City, the media has decided to question the "credit recovery" and graduation rates as if this was only an issue in the last two years and under Mayor Bill de Blasio.  Be it that it may, academic fraud has been around for the last decade when it came to the New York City high schools.

Its common knowledge that many of the New York City high schools have been using "credit recovery" programs that lacked "rigor" and even real instruction to pass along students and give them easy credits.  In fact, the State was so appalled by the bogus "credit recovery" programs the New York City high schools were using that they forced Chancellor Walcott in 2012 to make significant changes to the "credit recovery" programs and the abuses were to stop.  Remember this outrageous action?  how about this one?  And who can forget this? Of course the DOE looked the other way when schools apparently ignored the new standards. The result was many academically unprepared students were graduated despite not having the skills to succeed in the adult world.

In school after school I hear stories of undeserving students being graduated out by the use of bogus "credit recovery", Principal pressure, grading policy, and manipulating attendance.  Many "Leadership Academy Principals" demand an 85% passing rate, including students on a teacher's roster who refuse to attend class.  When the teacher objects, he or she is refused tenure or is given poor observation grades.  Moreover, attendance figures were manipulated in such a way as to show the student attended class when the student did not.  Finally, many principals require a minimum grade of 55% this ensures that if a student can pass a marking period, they can receive a passing grade for the entire year.  Its a wonder that the New York City High School graduation rate is not higher?

In today's New York Post we find another instance of the DOE looking the other way when it comes to Regents cheating and again Superintendent Amiee Horowitz is linked to having a school's teachers regrade the Regents.  After denying that a school's teachers were regrading the Regents, an email was published showing that at Richmond Hill it directed three teachers do do just that.  The DOE response?  Dead silence.  Is it any wonder that 78.3% of the students who go to CUNY have to take remediation?  What about the students who were pushed through without even the opportunity to develop the academic skills necessary to be productive adults?  To me this is academic fraud and the administrators involved should not only be fired but go to jail.

Academic fraud will continue in the New York City high schools regardless of who is in charge of the New York City schools until more stringent and academically appropriate rules are implemented in the future.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Chancellor Carmen Farina Fails Yet Again.

With much fanfare, educators in New York City looked forward to a new era now that Michael Bloomberg and his non-educators no longer were in charge at the DOE and installed policies that made teaching in the New York City classroom a more hostile environment.  Unfortunately, very little has changed when Mayor Bill de Blasio placed Carmen Farina in charge of the New York City schools.  Ms. Farina has basically followed the Bloomberg era policies and the few things she actually changed, like the elimination of the Children First Networks, and criteria for the Leadership Academy were the ideas of her arch nemesis,  Eric Nadelstern, who allegedly pushed her out and into retirement back in the early years of Chancellor Joel Klein's tenure.  When it came to other Bloomberg era policies, like the ATR crisis, fair student funding, education on the cheap, and large class sizes, nothing changed.  Yes, she gave Superintendents back their authority but some of her picks smacked of cronyism and not competence.   One of her primary goals was to remove the 400 principals she believed should not be running their schools.  However, saying it is one thing, doing it is another and in this she has failed miserably.

Take the latest travesty, the removal of Principal Kathleen Elvin of Dewey High School in Brooklyn.  Despite pleas from Dewey staff and allegations of credit accumulation fraud that resulted in a suspected large increase in graduation rates, Chancellor Carmen Farina failed to remove the Principal.  Interestingly, Principal Elvin was selected by then Superintendent Amiee Horowitz, who apparently ignored complaints by Dewey staff about Principal Elvin and her questionable policies before she moved on to head the renewal schools program.  Yes, the same Amiee Horowitz that discontinued a highly competent Science teacher who reported Regents cheating at her school.  The story is Here.

As far back as when Carmen Farina took over as Chancellor, she was apparently informed of the problems at John Dewey High School but chose to ignore it.  Instead, it was the John Dewey staff that contacted SCI, who dumped it to OSI for review.  OSI apparently sat on the case for over a year as the DOE was hoping the issue would blow over and let the Principal continue her reign of terror on veteran staff and the bloated graduation rate that made the DOE look like their policies were successful.  However, the Dewey staff, sensing that little was going to happen if they let OSI sit on the investigation, took it to the WCBS-TV and the New York Post who blow the phoney "credit recovery" program wide open.  The "credit recovery" scam was known as "easy pass" by students and staff alike and was a joke.

Interestingly, the DOE leadership kept the Principal in place, despite the media onslaught and Chancellor Carmen Farina even said that most of the accusations were unsubstantiated!  However, the media pressure was unrelenting from both WCBS-TV and the New York Post and OSI had no choice to complete and publish the investigation.  What was their conclusion? That much of the "credit recovery program" was a sham with no instruction and work that consisted of packets that in many cases were not completed.

Confronted with the overwhelming evidence of "credit recovery" fraud, Chancellor Carmen Farina changed her tune and now says that she has removed Principal Elvin and will fire her..  It only took eighteen months after the Chancellor was informed for Farina to very reluctantly remove Principal Elvin.  If she was a teacher how long would it have taken to remove her?  Probably one day.  As we see the DOE "double standard" remains alive and well under the disappointing Chancellor Carmen Farina who protected the Principal for eighteen months as too many students were graduated, unprepared academically and shows once again that she has failed the students of the New York City schools.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

The Mulgrew/Weingarten Sellout Of The Rank And File Will Result In Members Refusing To Pay Dues.

This post is an extension of the NYC Educator article dealing with the lack of democracy and ignoring the rights of many of the members by the UFT leadership.  The consequences next year may devastate the UFT when it comes to collecting dues from its increasingly alienated rank and file if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that dues are voluntary.  Under the "Unity" caucus with Randi Weingarten and now Michael Mulgrew as UFT President, the rank and file have been subject to massive "givebacks", a hostile classroom environment, reduced "due process rights", inferior contracts, and questionable spending of member funds for causes that have nothing to do with the classroom or teacher rights.

It was the "Unity" caucus that agreed to the punitive Danielson rubric that has made teaching in the classroom a horror and the support for Common Core that most educators are against.  In fact, Michael Mulgrew threatened to punch you in the face if you attack his beloved Common Core. Worse, the "Unity " caucus has supported the high-stakes testing, complete with the "junk science" that has made teaching "high needs" students and English Language Learners a ticket to "ineffectiveness".

Changes to the 3020-a:  First, under Weingarten the 3020-a law was streamlined in 2001 that eliminated the three arbitrator board for incompetence cases.  Furthermore, the nyc teacher was no longer allowed to pick an arbitrator from a list supplied by the State.  Instead the arbitrator was imposed by the DOE, with the approval of the UFT.

2005 Contract: That brings me to the terrible 2005 contract that brought us the ATR crisis, the probable cause suspension without pay or health benefits, and a longer school day for a raise that barely equaled the inflation rate! Our union leadership also agreed to the elimination of the seniority transfer, the grievance procedure of most letters to the file, and the reimposing of the circular six requirements.

Fair Student Funding: Part of the 2005 contract included the "fair student funding" that resulted in principals hiring the "cheapest and not the best teachers" for their schools.  When "fair student funding" was proposed by Chancellor Joel Klein, he didn't think that the UFT would agree to it and was willing to withdraw it if the union put up a fuss since it would leave veteran teachers without a position.  Shockingly, Randi Weingarten agreed to it, thinking that the DOE would never waste over $100 million dollars on teachers without a classroom.  How wrong she was.  The result is a group of mostly highly paid and older teachers, ranging from 1,400 to 2,400 who the DOE pays to rotate or temporarily replace other teachers.

2007 Contract:  While this contract was decent, it included two significant "givebacks".  The first was "Peer Intervention Plus"  known as PIP+ that resulted in a 90% termination rate for teachers who were fooled in taking this program, thinking it would help them continue teaching.  The other "giveback" was an expansion of the "probable cause" actions, including most felonies.

Reducing TDA Interest Rate: Randi Weingarten's final stab in the back in 2010 was to agree to the City's request to eliminate their contribution to the TDA by 1.25%.  Instead of receiving 8.25% that all the non-UFT members get, UFT members receive only7%.  Yes, we got back the two days before Labor Day but we should have never given it up in the first place in the infamous 2005 contract.

This ended Randi Weingarten's tenure as UFT President and ushered in Michael Mulgrew who brought with him a biting wit and promised improvements and respect for his members. His failure to finalize a contract with the City was expected but he unexpectedly supported the Obama administration's teacher evaluation system in 2010, despite member distrust of the Race to the Top (RttT) that tied test scores to teacher effectiveness and has proven to be a disaster.. Not a promising start to impress the membership.

Common Core:  If supporting the badly flawed teacher evaluation system was bad enough, his embracing of the Common Core was a slap in the face of all parents, students, and educators alike..  He even threatened in 2014 to "punch in the mouth" people who would dare take away his Common Core".

2014 Contract:  It goes without saying that Michael Mulgrew sold the rank and file a vastly inferior contract with a 1.4% raise for ten years and even that was extended for a month and a half to pay off his retiree friends.  All the retro payments were back-loaded as far down the road as to 2020.  Moreover, he agreed to a very significant "giveback" by making ATRs "second class citizens" with reduced "due process" rights.  Finally, his embracing of Chancellor Carmen Farina is disgusting as the rank and file suffer repeated insults from the DOE with excessive paperwork, large class sizes, weakening of student discipline policies, and the use of Charlotte Danielson as a punitive rubric and not as a guide.

The legacy of the "Unity" caucus under Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew can be summed up as a legacy of inferior contracts, continuing "givebacks", and unresponsiveness to member concerns.  If the U.S. Supreme Court rules against the union, how many members would be willing to voluntarily pay their $1,200 yearly dues to a union so unconcerned about its rank and file?  My guess would be somewhere about 20% or about the amount of active members who bothered to vote in the past UFT election.  However, don't worry Mikey, your 750 strong traveling companions and those that would sell their souls for a cushy union job will always be there to lick your boots and tell you what a wonderful leader you are.  Its just the rest of us you will have to convince and so far you have failed in that regard.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Michael Mulgrew's Grade Is An Ineffective.

Most teachers are evaluated and range from "highly effective" to "ineffective".  Therefore, its only fair to evaluate UFT President Michael Mulgrew for his work since Bill de Blasio became Mayor of New York City using the same rating criteria.  Mr. Mulgrew was rated on four major categories, contract negotiation, member rights, transparency,  and truthfulness.

Contract Negotiation:  Michael Mulgrew agreed to a very cheap contract that not only screwed his members but the rest of the city workforce by agreeing to as 10% raise for 7 years, or 1.4% annually.  He also back loaded the contract by giving us our retros from the 2009-10 time period as far down the road as  the year 2020!  The contract also included "givebacks" unlike other union contracts.  The "givebacks" included reduce due process rights for ATRs and no retros for teachers who resigned or were terminated.  Micheal Mulgrew falsely claimed that the City could not afford more and there would be no money left if we rejected the city's offer.  Of course, the city has reported record surpluses of billions of dollars because of the cheap contract that Michael Mulgrew negotiated. 

Member Rights:  The reduced "due process rights" of ATRs, negotiated by the union is legendary, with forced placements, forced resignations, mandatory interviews, and the tweaking of the 3020-a process that tips the scales against teachers who are teachers rated "ineffective" who now must prove they are not "ineffective" rather than the DOE having to prove they are.  Even teachers subject to the old 3020-a rules are discouraged from bringing in character witnesses and to wrap up the hearing right after the final date rather than wait for the transcripts to write a closing statement.   Mulgrew claims that he doesn't go after principals because they are fellow union members but has no qualms about funding an anti cop protest led by Al Sharpton. Finally, to date, the union has not bothered to publish the new contract book, I wonder why?

Transparency:  Under Michael Mulgrew, transparency and democracy is just a fiction.  This year Michael Mulgrew shut off the open mike when James Eterno was speaking about giving ATRs proper representation.  He also made sure his flunkies were strategically placed and recognized to support his agenda.  The Roberts rules were routinely ignored under Michael Mulgrew.  Moreover, when the ATRs clamored for their own chapter, Michael Mulgrew ignored their pleas and claimed that the ATRs are a temporary situation, despite some ATRs being one for almost a decade!

Truthfulness:  There are rumors that each "Unity" member must take an oath to support the leadership, no matter how the member felt.  Michael Mulgrew claims there is no such oath.  However, the entire 750 member "Unity" block votes in lockstep with what the leadership wants, be it at the delegate assembly, or at NYSUT.  As for Michael Mulgrew himself?  He declared victory when the NYSED required that 22 components of Danielson be used to evaluate teachers and then claimed victory again when it was reduced to 8 components, really?   In the latest teacher evaluation, Michael Mulgrew again claimed victory as he was given minor changes in the draconian teacher evaluation system that makes high-stakes testing 50% of a teacher's evaluation and even allowed the Democratic State Assembly to vote for it   Finally, he claims that there is a change of tone at the DOE but ask any classroom teacher if things have changed at their school?  The answer is no.

Using the above criteria of contract negotiation, member rights, transparency, and truthfulness, I find that our UFT President to be "ineffective".

Friday, July 03, 2015

Another School Year Ends With The Destructive Bloomberg Policies In Place.

When the Bloomberg administration left office, teachers throughout the five boroughs eagerly anticipated real change in the hostile classroom environment.  We hoped that the continued attacks and mandates on teachers from Tweed would end as the new Chancellor would replace the decade long Bloomberg era policymakers with real educators who understood what the classroom was about. Real change was coming to the DOE claimed our UFT President Micheal Mulgrew, and he sensed a new era of collaboration between the DOE and the union.  Unfortunately, the collaboration between our union leadership and the DOE did not extend to the staffs of the schools or the classroom teacher.

To me, real change is what is going on in the classroom and after a year and a half under Mayor Bill  de Blasio  and his disappointing Chancellor, Carmen Farina, very little has changed.  Let's look at the policies and practice under the DOE before and after the changeover and see how little has changed.

Class Sizes:  Under Bloomberg, class sizes rose over the years and despite Mayor De Blasio claiming he was going to reduce class sizes, the opposite occurred with no reduction in class sizes, the highest in the State.  Moreover, the latest City budget reduces funding to solve the school overcrowding problems, especially in Western Queens.

School Budgets: Shockingly,  Chancellor Carmen Farina froze the already tight school budgets, despite the rapidly improving City economy.  Worse, she left in place the bloated DOE bureaucracy with the emphasis on mindless data mining and accountability not to mention the ever increasing headcount of the legal division to prosecute teachers under 3020-a.   While more and more money went to the already bloated DOE bureaucracy, the schools, who had seen an average 14% reduction in funds since 2008, were starved for resources and were forced to beg their teachers to take an extra period to save on hiring in an effort to save money. In too many schools teachers uncertified in the subject were instructing students, usually with disastrous results.

DOE Policies:  The polices that the DOE implemented under Bloomberg resulted in increased paperwork, the ATR crises, and a funding method called "fair student funding" that forced schools to hire the "cheapest and not the best" teachers for their students have remained unchanged under the disappointing Chancellor.

Principals:  Despite Carmen Farina's claim that she will remove the system of 400 principals who shouldn't be in charge of the schools, few have actually been removed.  Just take a look at some of the principals in my blog or in the newspapers, they are still in charge of their schools.  Moreover, the infamous DOE "double standard" still exists when it comes to disciplining staff and school administrators.

While our UFT President hugs the Chancellor and claims a new era of cooperation between the UFT and DOE is here, the reality is very different.  When it comes to the classroom, its still a hostile environment and a "gotcha system".  Nothing has changed under the disappointing Chancellor as the destructive Bloomberg policies are still in place and experienced teachers are fleeing the system in greater numbers..