Sunday, November 29, 2015

In The DOE Its Still All About The Graduation Rate Not The Student's Education.

Once again the New York Post exposes academic fraud in the New York City Public Schools.  This time it's the Principal of DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx.  According to the Post article, the Principal,  Santiago Taveras, is accused to have changed grades from failing to passing, despite no sign off from the teachers, all in an attempt to artificially raise the school's anemic graduation rate.  Is Mr Traveras alone in this academic fraud?  No! I'm sure if the Special Commissioner of Investigations (SCI) really was on the ball, they would find dozens of principals committing similar academic fraud.

The interesting part of the Post article is that the present Principal was a Deputy Chancellor under Klein and resigned after Cathie Black took over.  Mr. Traveras was the DOE executioner that closed many of the comprehensive high schools and sat impassivelyat hearings as parents, students, and teachers pleaded with him to keep their school open.  He tried his hand in private industry but decided (or was pushed out) to come back to the DOE who, in the closing months of the Bloomberg Administration, Chancellor Dennis Walcott  offered him the Executive  Principal's job at DeWitt Clinton High School, a renewal school.  Unfortunately, Mr. Traveras brings with him some heavy baggage from his Bloomberg years such as the policy in artificially raising the graduation rate by any means possible to achieve a high letter grade and scholarship over real education, a hallmark of the Bloomberg years.

Making Santiago Traveras a Principal at a renewal school is more the problem than a solution as he uses the same old academic fraud tricks ;like changing grades, questionable credit recovery, and pressuring teachers to pass undeserving students by demanding a high scholarship percentage.  Moreover, his trust factor by staff is below average and the college readiness rate is 19%.  Not an encouraging number to me. Finally, under Principal Santiago Traveras, the school has utterly failed to close the academic achievement gap and despite his Bloomberg inspired policies, the school's graduation rate is  only 46%!

While SCI is currently investigating the alleged academic fraud at DeWitt Clinton High School, the DOE has chosen to leave Mr. Traveras in place as its Principal which just goes to prove the more things change the more they stay the same when it comes to the DOE.

Friday, November 27, 2015

How Much Is Your Pension Reduced By Taking A Loan Out At Retirement?

Some educators believe its a good idea to take a loan from their pension just before retirement and use that money to fund a large ticket item or invest it into the equity market.  These educators can take up to 75% of their pension money (QPP) out of the pension system and still get a good pension.  However, before an educator should take money out of their pension contribution, they should know how much their pension would be reduced on an annual basis.

Since most educators who want a full pension retire at 60 or later and want to get Medicare (65) and Social Security (62 to 70), I used the range from 60 to 70 years of age to calculate the amount an educator's pension will be reduced by taking out a loan just before retirement.

Age....Annual Reduction Factor.....% Reduced per $1000

FRA   Full Retirement Age and Reduced Social Security.
MED  Medicare
FSS   Full Social Security.
MSS  Maximum Social Security (32% greater than FSS).

 Let's look at three examples and how each would have their pension reduced by taking out a loan just before retirement,

For example let's look at educator #1,  She has reached retirement age of 62 years old and gets a full 25 year pension ($50,000).  She takes the maximum pension, with no beneficiaries.  However, she decides to take 75% of her QPP ($40,000) and use it to put a down payment on a retirement condo in Florida.

Pension - (QPP loan x % reduced) = Adjusted pension.

$50,000 - ($40,000 x 6.133%) = $47,547 .

 Therefore, her pension is permanently reduced by $2,453 annually. Moreover, unless the educator puts the QPP money she withdrew in a tax deferred account (IRA), she would need to pay taxes on the money.  Consequently, short term gain will result in long term pain from a reduced pension during her lifetime.

Then there is educator #2  who is 66 years old and he waited so that he could retire with full Social Security benefits.  He worked 20 years as a second career teacher and decided to rollover 50% of his QPP to an IRA so as not to be taxed on the withdrawal.. He will use the IRA to fund a custodial account for his grandchildren.  He took the option (option #1) that gives his spouse 100% of his pension if he dies.  Therefore, his pension is as follows:

(Pension x 0.85) - (QPP loan x % reduced) = Adjusted pension

($40,000 x 0.85) - ($20,000 x 6,885%)  =  $32,623

Therefore, his pension will be permanently reduced by $1,377 annually.

Finally, there is educator #3.  She has 30 years in the system and retires at the ripe age of 70.  She takes the maximum 75% QPP loan which, in her case is $50,000.  She wants to use the money to travel the world and doesn't care about reducing her pension or the tax consequences since she waited to this age to collect Social Security and will be subject to the RMD anyway next year.  She has no beneficiaries.

Pension - (QPP loan x % reduced) = Adjusted pension

$60,000 -($50,000 x 7.898%) = $56,051

Therefore her pension will be permanently reduced by $3,949 annually.

All three educator FAS was assumed to be $100,000 for simplicity.

I take no position on the taking of a QPP loan at retirement.  It's a personal decision that every educator must decide on.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Winners Of The 2015 Golden Turkey Award.

Today is Thanksgiving and its time for my annual turkey award for those leaders who have hurt education and made the classroom environment an unwelcome place to be. This year features a three time winner, an increasingly unpopular Governor, and a Mayor who can't seem to live up to his promises.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew:
Michael Mulgrew has done little to  gain member confidence and his arrogance when it comes to member complaints by trashing their e-mails has made him and his Unity caucus increasingly unaccountable for their actions.  Under Mulgrew the "Unity oath" is more important than member concerns and his support of Common Core and the APPR while refusing to support the growing "opt out" movement is at odds with teachers, the majority of the UFT.  Moreover, his cozy relationship with Carmen Farina and the failure to get the Chancellor to significantly change the DOE's "gotcha system" is proof positive of Mr. Mulgrew's uncaring attitude toward his membership.  Finally, his treatment of the ATRs by not only agreeing to make them second class citizens but has allowed the DOE to unleash the ATR field assassins on the ATRs to get them to resign or retire is unacceptable to many.  When was the last time Michael Mulgrew took the bull by the horns?  Instead he sits back and watches his members get gored.  This makes Michael Mulgrew a three time winner of the golden turkey award. A more complete analysis of Michael Mulgrew can be found in my series Here.

Governor Andrew Cuomo:
The Governor's onslaught on the teaching profession ended with the most punitive teacher evaluation system in the nation which allowed the "junk science" in the form of the "Value Added  Method" to account for 50% of a teachers grade. The result was an increased "opt out" movement and an erosion of the Governor's status in polls.  The fact that these high-stakes Common Core based tests did not count for the students.but only for teachers was a red flag for concerned parents who realized that teachers would forgo total education instruction in favor of the "drill and kill" test preparation for English and Math.  The result was an ever growing "opt out" movement and dissatisfaction with the Governor. Now the Governor is quickly backtracking and may eliminate his teacher evaluation tie-in  using VAM entirely.

Mayor Bill de Blasio:
To say the Mayor has been a disappointment is an understatement.  His failure to reduce class size and overcrowding is a glaring example of his inept administration.  Furthermore, the Mayor has lost the public relations war with the Charter schools and was made impotent by the pro-charter Governor. Under Bill de Blasio's handpicked Chancellor the Bloomberg era policies remain intact and the policymakers that gave us "fair student funding" and the "gotcha" system that's still in force.  Finally, the vastly inferior contract that he and Michael Mulgrew agreed to has allowed the City to have a $6 billion dollar surplus while resources remain scarce and school budgets frozen from the recession years as the Bloomberg education on the cheap policy continues under Bill de Blasio.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Has The Union Leadership Sold The ATRs Out?

I am increasingly concerned over the fate of many ATRs in rotation as they are being increasingly harassed by the DOE to include Danielson, Common Core, and rigor in their lesson, despite the ATR being subject to "the teaching for the 21st century"  Article 8j in the contract.  When ATRs complain to the union leadership about the unrealistic expectations that the ATR field supervisors assassins require, the union leadership just shrugs their collective shoulders and do nothing to help the ATR.

There are too many people contacting me about their field assassins giving them "Unsatisfactory" observations.  These field assassins find fault with the ATR for not giving a coherent lesson (Dainelson), classroom management, or rigor.  It matters little that in far too many cases the ATR is only providing the work the classroom teacher has left.  Since the ATR does not know the students and has no ownership of their grades, it is unrealistic to expect students to be well behaved and engaged in the assignment unless you are in one of the top schools in the city.  Yet the ATR field assassins demand this impossible task.  Moreover, if am incident with a student occurs and the building Principal gives the ATR a Letter-To-The-File, it automatically triggers an "Unsatisfactory" rating for that year!  Despite the ATR having satisfactory observations throughout the school year.  That means that the ATR cannot teach summer school, do per session grading, and other income producing activities in the DOE.  Finally, if the ATR takes more than ten sick days in any one year, the ATR will be rated "Unsatisfactory" by the field supervisor unless the ATR took FILMA (unpaid family leave).  I already know three ATRs who were rated "Unsatisfactory" for taking more than 10 sick days and one of them had 150 sick days in his CAR!

It appears to me that the UFT is not only looking the other way when it comes to the abusive ATR field assassins but is quietly supporting the DOE in their attempt to demoralize, defame, and destroy the ATRs and force them to either retire or resign by making them second class citizens and allowing the ATR field assassins to demand unrealistic expectations and when the ATR cannot possibly deliver, "U rate" them and possibly terminate them with two consecutive "Unsatisfactory" rating.

With friends like our union leadership, who needs enemies when you are a rotating ATR?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The DOE Double Standard Continues Under Renewal Superintendent Amiee Horowitz.

Here will go again!  Another scandal has been exposed under renewal Superintendent Amiee Horowitz as she allowed a removed Principal, due to her alleged sexual misconduct with school personnel and a child's parent. to teach English at the nearly all male Automotive High School.  Yes, the very same Automotive High School that the DOE falsely promised to hire a top quality teaching staff only to fill the vacant positions with "newbie teachers" with no classroom experience and it seems a teacher who should not have any contact with students due to her alleged sexual misconduct.

The story starts with the then Leadership Academy Principal of Robert Wagner High School,  Annie Schmutz Selfullah being removed from her position as various allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced between her and a student's parent as well as other people inside the school. While you can say that they are all adults except that sex in the school is considered extreme misconduct and should have resulted in her firing, especially in the DOE's alleged zero tolerance policy that is not enforced for administrators. Moreover, her affair with a student's parent is unseemly.  The DOE removed the Principal but did not file 3020-a charges and said that she will never be put in a position that exposes her to children.  Yeah, right?

Now it appears the DOE quietly allowed Superintendent Amiee Horowitz and the embittered Principal of Automotive High School to quietly hire the ex-Principal as an English teacher.  Unfortunately, for the troubled school the students checked on her and found the sex scandal.   Ms. Selfullah left the classroom and ran out of the building when confronted with her past by her students.  The DOE claimed it was a mistake that Ms. Selfullah was assigned as a teacher.  However, one must think that a competent Superintendent and Principal would have done some checking and realized that Ms. Selfullah should not be with students.  Therefore, the blame lies with the renewal Superintendent Amiee Horowitz and the Principal of Automotive High School, Lafergola who did not do their "due diligence" or just ignored Ms, Selfullah's alleged sexual misconduct.  Either way, they are both culpable for the disgraceful action of putting, as the New York Post states "a cougar in a den of cubs".

Just another poor decision made by renewal Superintendent  Amiee Horowitz but then we all have learned that seems to be the a recurring pattern in her inept administration.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Why The NYU Study On The Closed Schools, When Replaced By Small Schools, Is Fatally Flawed.

This week, NYU released a study showing that students fared better with the closing of the many large comprehensive high schools and replaced by the Bloomberg small schools. The basis for the study's conclusion was the increased graduation rate from the small schools when compared to the closed schools.  However, the study is fatally flawed since the graduation rate is a bogus parameter and easily manipulated by the school Principal to allow students to graduate academically unprepared for college and career.  Let's look at how schools manipulate the graduation rate.

First, a little history.  During the 2002-08 time period the study looked at 29 closed high schools and the results for future students who instead went to the Bloomberg small schools which showed a 15% increase in the graduation rate.  However, the study admits that students who fled these closing schools did worse then the ones who stayed and graduated,  Moreover, these students who fled were academically behind their peers in the new schools they transferred to.

Credit Recovery:
During the time period the study covered there was an explosion of credit recovery courses that artificially increased a struggling student's credit accumulation.  Even the State finally saw the abuse of the credit recovery system and required the City to put an end to it in 2012.  The primary beneficiaries were the Bloomberg small schools who needed to have a high graduation rate to show how successful they were.  Therefore, they gave struggling students loads of "credit recovery" courses, many of them were bogus.  You can read some of the stories, Here, Here, and Here.

Principal Pressure:
The Bloomberg small schools were notorious in hiring "newbie teachers"  and since these teachers lacked tenure, they were pressured to pass along the school's struggling students.  Teachers who failed too many of their students were discontinued due to scholarship issues and were banned from working at the DOE.  This message resonated loud and clear with the inexperienced staff and resulted in high graduation rates despite these students academically unable to succeed in college or careers.

Student Selection: 
To ensure the Bloomberg small schools would succeed they opened with some very significant advantages like excluding many ELL;s and Special Education students the first few years of their operation.  Further, they limited "high needs" students (namely level 1's) and were given 110% of the resources allocated to the school of similar size and student demographics.   These significant advantages were, in contrast to the higher levels of "high needs" , ELL's, and Special Education students that were in the soon to be closed large comprehensive large schools.  Moreover, these soon to be closed schools were starved for resources and averaged 80% of what similar large comprehensive schools received.  The Bloomberg small school I am in for this year is a prime example as they were once a high achieving school in the mid 2000's, when it first opened.  and now they struggle to get even mediocre, students to go to the school as their funding advantage disappeared and they could no longer exclude students. The resulting influx of "high needs" students has destabilized the school environment.

When you put the three aspects together, the bogus "credit recovery" programs, Principal pressure to  graduate academically unprepared students, and the deliberate advantages that the Bloomberg administration bestowed on his newly created schools, you basically are getting a higher graduation rate at these small schools, when compared to the closed large comprehensive schools.  However, what's more telling is the low college and career readiness scores that show that many of the Bloomberg small school are graduating students who are unprepared for college or careers in the adult world. That's why the NYU report is fatally flawed.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

School Overcrowding And Larger Class Sizes Is The Hallmark Of The De Blasio Administration.

Despite assurances and campaign promises by Bill de Blasio to reduce class size and build more classrooms to alleviate school overcrowding, it turns out that class sizes have actually risen and school overcrowding continues unabated.

First, the New York City Public School Parents blog shows that class sizes have actually rose during the first two years of the De Blasio/Farina Administration.  According to the blog, the DOE's own 2014-15 data shows that class sizes rose 0.1 to an average of 26.4 students per classroom from the previous school year and since the 2007-08 school year, the average class size has increased an astounding 8.32%.

Second, there are 540,000 students who are attending overcrowded public schools or about 50% of the New York City Public School students.  Worse are the schools in the immigrant communities where for every 1% increase in the immigrant population, there is a need for 100 more classroom seats.  Unfortunately, the City only projects to add 33,000 seats when the minimum needed is 49,000 and some groups claim it should be 100,000 new seats to account for the under counting of illegal these largely immigrant communities.

Finally, unreasonably tight school budgets that average 14% lower than in 2007-08 and kept frozen the last two years despite the City's 6 Billion dollar surplus along with the unfair fair student funding  continued school overcrowding and large class sizes will make student academic achievement a struggle.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

It May Be A Different Administration But When It Comes To Teacher Discipline, It's The Same Old DOE!

The end of the Bloomberg administration was greeted with universal joy by the teachers and other staff members of the New York City Public Schools.  Even principals, except for the Leadership Academy graduates, were happy to get rid of the Bloomberg policies that hurt their schools.  However, educator joy has been replaced by a realization that for the schools little has changed.  The class sizes have remained unreasonably high, school budgets were frozen at the  recession levels of 2012, paperwork has not been reduced and even increased for Special Education teachers, and  much of the Bloomberg policymakers are still in charge.  When it comes to teacher discipline, the amount of 3020-a hearing have remained essentially unchanged from the last years of the Bloomberg administration.

The DOE's Office of Legal Services will go to great lengths to terminate a teacher by embellishing, perverting, lying, and falsifying innocent actions into serious misconduct. This is typical of this office during the Bloomberg years and unless the teacher was willing to fight the 3020-a charges, many were not and took a settlement to retire, resign, or plead guilty to keep their job and be thrown into the ATR pool, they would be reassigned for a year or more waiting to defend themselves and require the DOE to prove their case. Unfortunately, only 4% are found innocent since the State Arbitrators are appointed to one year terms and either the DOE or UFT can refuse to reappoint the Arbitrator.  Therefore, the Arbitrator will usually give a fine to teachers even when the DOE did not prove their case.  On the other hand, about 8% of the educators are terminated but when you add the resignations and forced retirements, the number jumps to 55%!  Our out of touch leader, Michael Mulgrew, promised a new tone at the DOE, instead we see that Chancellor Carmen Farina, is part of the problem and not the solution as she retained the Bloomberg 300 in their policy making positions. Is it any wonder that the classroom teacher sees little change in the "gotcha mentality" coming from the DOE?

Now the New York Post reports on a 60 year old teacher who was forced to resign under the threat of termination by the DOE.  The teacher, a 29 year teacher who was legally blind and walks with a cane was charged under 3020-a with DOE trumped up charges of drinking alcohol and sexual harassment.  What did this teacher do?  A parent thought she smelled alcohol on the teacher's breath when it turned out that he had a bad breath issue and used Listerine, which is alcohol based (25%).  Yet, the DOE didn't buy it.  The Office of Legal Services believed the parent and reassigned the teacher to the "rubber room" yes, they still exist.  The DOE eventually charged the teacher under section 3020-a with drinking alcohol on school grounds and added sexual harassment charges to boot.  What was the sexual harassment? . The teacher was joking with a group of moms and asked them who wants a blind date with me?  Even if he wasn't joking, what's wrong with one adult asking another for a date? The teacher retired hoping that his good name will remain undamaged.  However, if he tries to get a job with the DOE or DOE provider, he will find he cannot be hired since the DOE will have put a "do not hire" flag on his file.

This is just another of the many questionable cases the DOE's Office of Legal Services brings to intimidate teachers and force them to retire or resign rather then going through long and demoralizing 3020-a hearing where your moral character is made out to be a cross between "Jack the Ripper" and "Typhoid Mary" besides being a danger to the children.  It may be a new administration but for teachers in the trenches facing discipline, it's still the same old DOE.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Why Aren't Parents Being Held Accountable For Their Child's Absenteeism?

The New York Post published an article that showed that many Elementary and Middle School students were chronically absent.  Every study shows that children who are absent from school for a period of time  are likely to fail and drop out in high school.  However, unlike high school, parents weld the most influence on their child and allowing their child to be absent is their fault and nobody else. 

According to the article PS 396 in East New York Brooklyn had an astounding 58% of its students were chronically absent last year.  Other schools with high absenteeism rates were PS 50 and PS 123 in Harlem at 50% and at PS 112 in the Bronx 47% were chronically absent. All of these schools are in the poorest neighborhoods in the city and have a 100% minority population. Overall there were 127 elementary and middle schools that had 40% of their students defined as chronically absent.  Is it any wonder that these schools academically struggle?  In fact, Researchers have long noted a correlation between school attendance and academic performance, and 18 schools with the most absentee students have landed on the city and state list of academic laggards.

Blaming educators, be in school principals, teachers, and support staff for the academic failure of these students is not only unfair but wrong and not holding parents accountable is the primary cause for student academic failure in the elementary and middle school years.  Its time for politicians to stop blaming educators and make parents and guardians accountable for their child's high absentee rate and poor academic achievement.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The College Acceptance Rate Increase Hides The Fact That Most NYC High School Graduates Are Not College Ready.

The Bill De Blasio and Carmen Farina Administration were greeted with some good news that there was a bump upward that high school graduates were applying for college and career occupations in higher numbers.  According to the New York Daily News, 53% of New York City high school graduates applied to college, vocational schools, or civil service careers.  This is an increase of 2% over the year before and was hailed by Chancellor Carmen Farina.  However, if one looks deeper into the number there are some very disturbing issues that are buried in the so called good news.

First, applying and being accepted does not mean they actually finish and in far too many cases many drop or fail out before completing their education. In a study done by NYU in 2014 only 36% of all New York City high school graduates ( 25% for CUNY Community Colleges) that entered college received a 2 or 4 year degree

Second, the increase in remedial course work to 78.3% of all high school graduates who attained CUNY Community College is highly disheartening, meaning that many high school graduates are given worthless credits (credit recovery) to push them out and help devalue the high school diploma and the colleges know it..

Finally, the college recruiters are well aware that many New York City high schools give free or easy credits to pad a student's transcript. It's no secret that the college Math, English, and Writing tests to prospective students are given to identify students who were educationally deficient and most take these no credit remedial courses before doing college level course work.  In the last known study over 22% of New York City high school graduates needed triple remediation before taking college courses and few of these students persevered to complete a degree but by then its not a public school problem..

Until the remedial course work is no longer necessary, many colleges will question the educational value of the New York City high school diploma.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Media Bias Against The "Opt Out" Movement.

If you read the various newspaper editorials, they would have you believe that the growing anger against the Common Core based high-stakes testing is spearheaded by the teacher unions and a few parent advocates,  despite the poll that parents blamed hated these tests and are against them by a 2 to 1 magin!  These editorials claim that the State's faulty roll out of the Common Core based high-stakes testing simply needs to be fine-tuned and not what it really needs a complete overhaul.   Moreover, they applaud the Cuomo inspired punitive teacher evaluation system and ignore the fact that one of the very same newspapers showed that 75% of the parents "opted out" their child because of the teacher tie-in.

The recurring theme by the newspaper editorial boards is that the teacher evaluation system is a wonderful way to hold teachers accountable for 50% of a student's test score despite the fact that a teacher only accounts for between 1% to 14% of a student's academic growth.  That the newspapers ignore this inconvenient truth is perfectly fine with them.  Who in their right mind believes that one teacher can account for 50% of a student's academic growth when various studies show that 80% of a child's academic achievement is based on social-economic factors?  Moreover, the Value Added Method (VAM) has proven to be unreliable with errors so large that a teacher could be rated "highly effective" one year and "ineffective" the next?  No wonder the VAM is known as Junk Science!

Despite the newspaper editorial boards the anger against high-stakes testing and the punitive teacher tie-in will continue to increase and the 20% of students who "opted out" last year is expected to rise this Spring and just maybe our politicians will finally see the light and demand a complete overhaul of the teacher evaluation system and eliminate the insane Common Core testing regime that has fueled anger and contempt from parents and educators alike throughout the State.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

The Peaceful Classroom Needs Administrative Support.

Far too often school administrators blame the classroom teacher for the chaos they observe when they look through the classroom door or walk into a classroom.  The result is usually a strong lecture and maybe a letter to the file which could result in more serious consequences.   Sure, some teachers, especially "newbies" have poor classroom management skills and 50% usually are gone from the classroom within five years.  However, much of the classroom management issues can be laid squarely on the school polices that administrators use that result in the unruly classroom.

Many schools refuse to take action against badly behaved students who regularly disrupt the classroom and put into place a bewildering step by step procedure that makes it next to impossible to remove am unruly student from the classroom.  The result is that the student continues their bad behavior and in many cases disrupts and distracts the rest of the students from learning.   While suspending a student may not be the answer, keeping them in the classroom to regularly disrupt the classroom and make learning a problem is certainly not a solution either but that is what many New York City schools continue to do.

Keeping the badly behaved and disrupted student in class is a morale breaker for teachers and for the majority of students who want to learn.  Yet, school administrators are unwilling to remove these unruly students by deflecting blame for the situation on the poor teacher.  In many schools students are showing up late to class, be it the first or eighth period, since the student knows there is no consequence for being late to class.  Even when caught in the hallway, they are shooed into their classroom without any penalty.  Furthermore,  when the teacher calls home, assuming the phone number is correct, at the high school level most parents and guardians have already given up in disciplining their lovely darlings and have little influence on their behavior or study habits.

The problem is exacerbated by the school administration's response to continued problems by a select group of unruly students who then arrange a mediation session which always seems to occur during a teacher's lunch period or after school and usually results in little change in the student's behavior.  Some people call this restorative justice but in my experience it has had little real effect on student behavior.  The students believe, and correctly so, that restorative justice is a joke.  Furthermore. the assigning of self-contained students in large class sizes and dumping academically and emotionally unprepared students into these classes is a disaster and adds to the behavior problem, which continues unabated under the Bill de Blasio Administration.

 In many of the Bloomberg small schools, there are no self-contained classes but since these struggling schools must keep their student population numbers up or lose funding, they take in increasingly large numbers of level one students who, in a large school, would be put into a self-contained classroom with individualized instruction.  However, in the Bloomberg small schools there are no self-contained classrooms and that means that these academically and behaviorally struggling students will be dumped into classes with 33 other students and little individual instruction.  The inevitable consequence will be frustration, helplessness, poor academic grades, and bad behavior.  Yet, the school administration will blame the teacher and not their own short-sighted and failed school policies when dealing with these unruly students.

Unless the school administration collaborates with and not dictates to the teachers in trying to achieve a peaceful classroom, real academic achievement is simply an illusion.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

My "Got To Go" List.

After reading about the Fort Greene Success Academy's "got to go" list, I decided to make up my own "got to go" list if our teaching profession would become that respected and admired profession it once was.  What follows is my "got to go" list.

Michael Mulgrew:
As President of the UFT, Michael Mulgrew has been a huge failure  He has followed in the footsteps of the great appeaser, Randi Weingarten that  has made the teaching in the New York City schools a living hell with "giveback" laden contracts that were short on money and back-loaded, and long on promises that have failed to materialize.  Michael Mulgrew supports the Common Core, the teacher evaluation system, opposed the "opt out" movement, allowed ATRs to become second class citizens, and according to an ex-insider, allegedly fails to address e-mails sent to him by the members.  Michael Mulgrew leads the disconnected leadership that has not made the teaching profession better but worse under his and Randi's tenure.

Chancellor Carmen Farina:
Known as the disappointing Chancellor,  Carmen Farina came in with great promise and it was hoped that she would "clean house" and get rid of the ideological Bloomberg policymakers.  However, except for replacing a few top people the Bloomberg 300 remained in their policy-making positions and the "gotcha" system at Tweed continues.  Moreover, the infamous "fair student funding" remains in place and the bloated DOE Bureaucracy continues to spend money on their pet projects and paying the high-priced consultants rather than funding schools.  Finally, she has frozen school budgets, failed to reduce class size, maintained the ATR pool,  and failed to hire "effective teachers" for the renewal schools.  She has proven to be more the problem than the solution.

Leadership Academy Principals:
Chancellor Carmen Farina claimed that 400 principals should not be running their schools, many of them from the infamous "Leadership Academy".  However, few were removed and the DOE's Bloomberg 300 protects them.  Some examples are Namita Dwarka and Jose Cruz.  Despite all the issues associated with them and their schools they still are in charge!  Unfortunately, 20% of the schools have a "Leadership Academy Principal", it would be extremely difficult to remove them all but the Chancellor could have at least started with the list in my principals to avoid post

ATR Field Supervisors:
A waste of money and their only purpose is to harass ATRs into resigning or retiring.  The  money can be better spent in giving schools the chance to hire ATRs by giving them an extra teaching position rather than hire these assassins.

Educators 4 Excellence: 
The sock puppets and stooges of education reform groups such as Democrats for Education Reform and StudentsFirst while being funded by Bill Gates.  This fringe group consists mostly of "newbie" teachers and many from Teach For America. Few last beyond two years or receive tenure before leaving for greener pastures.  The sooner they disappear the better.

Useless Professional Development: 
I can confidently say all the Monday and Tuesday Professional Development has been a waste of time as it rotates around Common Core and rigor. None of the PD has made me a better teacher or anyone else for that matter.  The time could be better served by tutoring students who want and need extra help.

Despite assurances by Michael Mulgrew and Carmen Farina that unecessary paperwork would be eliminated, the opposite is true.  The DOE and State have, if anything, increased the paperwork requirements in their single-minded quest for more data mining.   In fact ask the District 75 schools how much paperwork they must do on their own time, just to keep up with the special education requirements imposed by the City and State on the teacher.  In one school the Principal told the teachers to have their paraprofessionals run the class so that the paperwork can get done.

Governor Cuomo:
The governor's ill-advised punitive teacher evaluation system and the "opt out" movement has caused his education policy to drag down his poll numbers with only 28% supporting it.  If this continues he will be going and he will no longer be on my "got to go" list.

This is my "got to go" list and you are invited to recommend and add to it in my comment section.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Eva Moscowitz Wants Special Treatment For Her Schools.

Last week was not a good week for Eva Moscowitz and her Harlem Success Academy Schools.  First. there was the PBS story about the student expulsions and then the New York Times wrote a damming article on the Success Academy discipline policy that pushes out misbehaving and academically struggling students.  In fact, one of her schools, the Fort Greene Success Academy had a "got to go" list of 16 students the school wanted to push out.  Was the Principal fired for having such a list?  Of course not since this is the standard operating procedure for the Success Academy Network.  The only difference was the Fort Greene Principal was stupid enough to write the "got to go" list and gave it to staff.

If that wasn't bad enough, Eva Moscowitz has refused to allow for the New York City vetting process for opening a pre-k program.  Of the 277 applications, including other charter operators, only the Success Academy Network has refused to be vetted and has threatened to file a lawsuit claiming they are exempt from New York City requirements and wants public money while not being held accountable.

Obviously, Eva Moscowitz thinks she still has Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein in charge who allowed her to ignore DOE and NYC regulations, requirements, and rules.and open up new schools with public funding but no oversight and do as she pleased.  Even when it meant pushing out traditional public schools or forcing special education services to be given in hallways or book rooms.  Yes, she has Governor Andrew Cuomo on her side but as his poll numbers slide and his disastrous and punitive education policy is proving to be a rock tied to a drowning man, he has decided to downplay his support of her.  Therefore, the newly empowered Bill de Blasio has flexed his muscles and put the screws to Eva Moscowitz and has refused to allow her space in existing public schools.

The miracle at Eva Moscowitz's Success Academy of high test scores hides the very dark side of these scores, that is the constant test prep, the pushing out of "high need students" and the increasingly smaller class sizes as the network refuses to backfill leaving students.  The lack of  scrutiny by t5he Bloomberg Administration is a thing of the past and its about time that the Success Charter School Network be subject to the same oversight that all New York City schools should be whether they are public or charter.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

The Real Problems In The New York City Public Schools.

In the New York Daily News today, Sol Stern wrote an opinion piece on the problems with the New York City Public Schools.  While I agreed with his part on the use of the useless and ideologically driven Lucy Calkins progressive model of learning that then Deputy Chancellors Diana Lamm and Carmen Farina championed, yes the same Carmen Farina who is known as the disappointing Chancellor of today. However, he also blamed the teachers union contract and their lock-step pay  raises as a major impediment for the failure of the public schools. What he failed to address was the large class sizes, the DOE policy that encourages principals to hire" the cheapest and not the best teachers for their school", and the deteriorating quality of school administrators, many of them coming from the failed "Leadership Academy".  Finally, Sol Stern failed to point out the bloated DOE budget that dramatically increases every year while school budgets remain frozen at 2012 levels and are 14% below the pre-recession 2008 levels.

Class Size:  
Probably the most important factor in improving student academic achievement as the lower class sizes that allow for more individual instruction. a less noisy environment, and the ability of a teacher to properly evaluation each student in a timely matter.  Unfortunately New York City Public Schools have the highest class sizes in the State and despite assurance that class size would go down during the Bill de Blasio Administration, it hasn't.

Quality Teachers:
In 2005 the DOE imposed the "fair student funding" policy on the schools which forced principals to seriously consider, salary before hiring a teacher.  By 2008 as school budgets tightened and money was scarce, the principals were forced to hire "newbie" teachers to stretch their budget.   Some worked out, most did not or left the school soon after (84% of the teachers were no longer teaching in the same school they started in five years later).  The high teacher turnover and steep learning curve meant less effective teachers and spelled disaster for the unfortunate students exposed to this unstable school environment.

One of the little talked about problems with the New York City Public Schools is the poor quality of principals who are in charge of their schools.  The Leadership Academy taught educators that they should be the CEO of their school and accepted applicants with little or no classroom experience.  While Carmen Farina has made it more difficult to apply without the proper educational credentials, she has made exceptions.  Regardless, 20% of the principals in the New York City Public Schools are "Leadership Academy principals".  Worse, is the DOE continues to protect these bad, dangerous, and vindictive principals, despite the many problems associated with their school oversight.  Just look at the allegations against Principal Namita Dwarka of William Cullen Bryant High School in Queens and the many problems there, yet she is still in charge.  Even in today's the New York Post reported on another vindictive action her administration did to a thirty year veteran teacher.

Merit Pay:
Sol Stern falls into the trap that if only merit pay was implemented, then teachers would work harder and the students will achieve academic success.  Yet Mr. Stern fails to show any evidence that merit pay works in the last century and the reason for that is there is no study that showed merit pay improved teacher and student performance!  The reason is that there is a flawed assumption that dangling a few thousand dollars will make teachers work harder.  The fact is that most teachers want their children to succeed and work very hard to help them. Giving them a couple of thousand dollars will not make teachers work any harder.

Bloated DOE Bureaucracy:
While already tight school budgets have remain frozen since 2012 and "fair student funding" has limited principals to hiring inexperienced teachers to sacrifice quality for quantity, the Central Bureaucracy continues to consume more and more money. while forcing the schools to pick up more of the cost for the school support staff that was once part of the DOE Central Bureaucracy.  For this school year (2016) the DOE budget is 27.2 billion dollars while it was only 19.2 billion dollars in 2012.  That means there was a 42% increased in funds coming to the DOE while school budgets remained frozen during the same time period.  Just imagine if the schools received a 42% increase.  They could hire experienced teachers, reduce class sizes, and provide additional resources.

Poverty & Family:
Let's not forget that the 500 pound gorilla in the schools, the deep poverty and dysfunctional family that is a major reason why many students struggle academically and until those two issues are addressed and solved, the others only add to the lack of student academic achievement.

Mr. Stern maybe you need to rethink your article and see what the real problems are in the New York City Public Schools.