Sunday, February 28, 2016

Another Principal Missing In Action While Nepotism Is The Rule On The School's Payroll.

Here we go again.  Yet, another failing Bloomberg small school, with a Leadership Academy Principal, has been exposed for its many failings.  Despite a tepid 56% graduation rate, only 4% were "college ready".  That metric ratio is an astounding 14 when any number over 3 is a school that is a graduation mill and not providing an educational focus on real learning.  The school is the Urban Assembly of Music and Art in Brooklyn with only 387 students.  You can see their school snapshot here.  You can compare the poor performance of this school with the metric ratios of all the Queens high schools and realize that the school would be in the bottom three, if in was located in Queens.

Once again, the New York Post has exposed a school administration for their lack of leadership and in this case, practicing nepotism at the expense of the students' education. The Principal, Paul Thompson,  is rarely seen by students and staff and according to the New York Post article jumped from being a substitute teacher at Bard Early College High School right to being a Principal, thanks to the infamous Leadership Academy, political considerations, and favoritism. The majority of the teaching staff is untenured and turnover is an issue as the school is unable to retain quality teachers. Worse, is that under the school's business manager, nepotism appears to be the rule.

According to the New York Post article, business manager Alma Encarnacion has hired four relatives, including her daughter as parent coordinator, Adam Collado, a cousin by marriage,  Amy Rosa, a niece, and Diana Hernandez, Amy's cousin.  Under Business Manager Alma Encarnacion, its all in the family at the school.

Finally,  teachers have complained that the school Principal has demanded an 80% passing rate and there are are accusations that attendance figures have been altered to show students attending class when they have been missing for weeks and even months since every day a student is absent, costs the school money.  According to the school snapshot not one student in the school received college credit for their Advanced Placement course and the Principal is missing in action when it comes to real leadership, all the hallmarks of a failing school.

The DOE has promised to investigate the situation at the school but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the final report since DOE investigators tend to cover up any embarrassing findings that could snare higher ups. To me its business as usual.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The DOE And UFT Change The ATR Field Supervisor Rules To Help Terminate ATRs.

Quietly, and with little publicity, the DOE has issued new guidelines on how field supervisors (assassins) can recommend to the Superintendent that the "U" rated ATR should be subject to the 3020-a termination hearings.  Previously, the guidelines contained language how field assassins were required to help support the ATR in their pedagogy and assist them in obtaining a position.  The reality was the field assassins offered little or no assistance and are useless in helping ATRs obtain a position.  At best the field assassins were just an inconvenience and at worst were there to "U" rate the ATRs and encourage them to resign or retire.

This year, for the first time, selected ATRs who received two consecutive "U" ratings and who had previously gone through the 3020-a process were served with their 3020-a termination charges for incompetence.  These carefully selected ATRs were the test cases to see if the State arbitrators would terminate these ATRs, based upon flyby observations in classrooms where the ATR did not know the students, had no ownership of their grade, and had no clue if their students were ESL, had an IEP, or were academically on grade level.  So far, to my knowledge, the State arbitrators have not terminated any of these ATRs and have questioned the fairness of the "U" ratings and the lack of real support givin to the ATRs.  While most of the test cases have not resulted in a verdict, the majority of the ATRs appear to have escaped termination.  Thanks, in large part to the field assassin guidelines.

However, starting this semester, the field assassin guidelines have been changed to help the DOE terminate ATRs.  The revised guideline now states the following:

 Take a look at the second paragraph that allows the field assassins to recommend termination to the Superintendent.  This is a change from the previous guideline that did not include this paragraph and only contained information supporting the pedagogy and placement of the ATR.

The question is was the UFT complicit in this ominous change in language?  Of course they were!  The fact that the UFT leadership has remained quiet about this change tells everybody that the UFT has agreed to this guideline change to terminate more ATRs.  If the UFT leadership had opposed it, they would have put a stop to it since the DOE and UFT must jointly approve any changes in the ATR agreement as implemented in the June 2014 contract.

For the ATRs its bad enough that the DOE wants to terminate us but it seems the UFT leadership is helping the DOE thin the ATR herd by stabbing us in the back.  Thanks, to Betsy Combier who first alerted me to the change in the DOE policy to help terminate ATRs.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Teacher Quality And Minority Schools - Its The Student Discipline Issue!

Yesterday Chalkbeat published an article that showed that minority schools have less qualified teachers, suffer from high teacher turnover, lack a Masters degree, and are less likely to be certified in the core subjects.  The report inferred that racism may play a part  in the teacher inequality issue.  However, in my opinion, its about the student discipline policies and not the color of the student's skin that affect teacher quality.

While its hard to ignore the fact that some students grow up with crime, violence, dysfunctional families, and poverty which shows up in the school as student misbehavior.  It doesn't mean that all children disrespect adult authority,  Most students find the school as a "safe haven" and social outlet where they can confide their problems with sympathetic adults.  In fact, it's usually a few students that exhibit continuous disruptive behaviors and interfere with student learning in the classroom.  Even Democratic Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, has in the past called Black kids "Super-predators" and refused to apologize when confronted with that statement this week.  Therefore, it is important for a school to have a firm, fair, but strict discipline policy to dispel the myth of a bad kid.. 

Unfortunately, far too many schools don't have a consistent student discipline policy and a few have subscribed to the failed restorative justice approach that the students think is a joke.  The result is a school out of control and quality teachers will either flee the school at their first opportunity, or leave the profession entirely.  .

If a school is to retain and nurture quality teachers, the administration must have the back of their teachers and not stab the in the back and blame the teacher rather than discipline the student.  A school with a firm, fair, and strict discipline policy and a supportive administration will retain quality teachers no matter the student population.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

School Diversity And Reality.

The big push by Chancellor Carmen Farina is to try to diversify schools but how do you do this without forced integration which was declared illegal by the Supreme Court back in 2007?  Trying to diversify a school is a very tricky issue.  You don't want to scare off middle income families, manly White, by encouraging them to send their child to a school with low test grades and that cater to low-income minority students from the housing projects.  Moreover, by establishing a quota system as some elementary schools are trying to do has resulted in failure when tried in the past.  The end result was that many middle class families will just send their children to the local parochial or private school, defeating the purpose.  Finally,  no right-thinking parent from well to do households will allow their elementary school child to be bused to a lower performing school outside the neighborhood when their child's friends are going to the higher-performing neighborhood school?  Not many parents will allow their elementary school child to be a guinea pig just to satisfy someone's idea of social engineering.

That brings me to school choice.  Many districts allow parents to select their school and many middle class parents select schools with high test scores and low poverty rates that has caused clustering in specific schools. Few, if any, parent would gamble their child's education and well-being by having them travel outside the safety of their community  for lower quality schools., How will the diversity forces encourage the middle class parents to take a chance in integrating a lower performing school?  Unfortunately,  there is no real solution to this thorny diversity issue.  Even when one or two schools succeed in becoming diverse, they usually tip the other way by ending up to attracting many of the middle class families to the school and crowding out the low-income minority student.  Brooklyn is a prime example where a school that is majority middle-class and white is located a couple of blocks from a near 100% minority school who are usually low income and struggle with low test scores. How do you force middle class families to send their children to these low performing schools?  You can't!

At the high school level, school choice is real and any student can apply to any school in the City.  However, look at our high schools, few are diverse.  Some in Northeastern Queens, Southern Staten Island, and parts of Brooklyn are. Otherwise, most of the city high schools are near 100% minority or, when it comes to highly screened and specialized schools, majority Asian/White.  School choice is a joke when it comes to Southeastern Queens where my school is located in a solidly middle to working class community, with no low income projects in the area.  Yet, many of the students in the four schools that inhabit the Campus find that the majority of their students live in Far Rockaway, South Jamaica, and Rochdale Village, all two bus rides from the campus.  Had the Bloomberg Administration retained zoned schools, the Campus would have retained the student population of the community rather than scrounge for low-achieving and over-the-counter students who are usually "high needs".  Three of the four schools in the Campus were short between 75 to 130 students for their freshman class this year and took far too many level one students just to meet the numbers.

The reality of the situation while income and racial diversity is a worthy goal but achieving diversity in the New York City schools is simply a pipe dream.   Bbringing back the neighborhood schools while attacking the poverty issue is a better approach to improve our schools in the long run, even if we cannot solve the school diversity issue...

Monday, February 22, 2016

When Mutual Consent Is Not Mutual When It Comes To The ATR.

I keep hearing from "Unity" how they negotiated a wonderful contract back in June 2014 that also made the ATRs a "second class citizen".  To "Unity" leadership it was how they saved the ATRs their jobs and afforded the ATRs an opportunity to fill vacancies that could eventually lead to permanent appointments.  However, the truth is so very different.  First, it was then UFT Vice President, Michael Mendel, who proposed to the DOE the ATR rotation system that the DOE eagerly embraced it making the ATRs a "stranger in a strange land" as they rotate from school to school without a bathroom key, a place to store their belongings, and in many cases no place to park their car.  To add to the ATR misery, the UFT allowed the DOE to assign field supervisors assassins to unfairly give ATRs "U" ratings when teaching in a classroom where they do not know the students, have no ownership of their grade, little support from the school administration,and have no clue if they have an IEP or their academic abilities.  The UFT leadership encouraged the DOE to assign these field assassins to thin the ATR herd and the first few ATRs are in the process of awaiting their 3020-a termination decisions presently.

For elementary and middle school teachers, the UFT leadership also agreed to allow the DOE to assign these teachers to temporary provisional assignments outside their district and the DOE has made liberal use of this UFT concession by arbitrarily assigning many of these teachers from one district in the borough to a less desirable school in another school district despite the fact that there are ATRs available within the district.  Some of these ATRs who find themselves in temporary provisional assignments, lasting 6 to 12 weeks travel for two hours or more and affect child care, parking issues, and after school activities such as coaching and tutoring for per session pay.  Despite these major issues, the UFT leadership has refused to address these problems or file for any travel hardships on behalf of the ATRs.  Its almost as if the UFT leadership is in cahoots with the DOE in encouraging the ATRs to be abused and to resign or retire in frustration.

That brings me to the "Mutual Consent" that the DOE proudly proclaims as a success.  The Mutual Consent provision is only advantages to Principals as they can take or reject the ATR.  However, the ATR cannot refuse a placement even when it is not a "good fit" as long as the Principal insist that the ATR take the position.  .To me Mutual Consent means both the Principal and ATR agree not a one-sided decision by the Principal.  Where is the UFT leadership on this abuse of the Mutual Consent provision?  They tell the ATR its just too bad and must take the position, if offered.

A Foil request by Solidarity showed that there are actually 2,197 ATRs without a permanent position not the 1,083 that the DOE and UFT claim.  The 1,083 are ATRs still in rotation and not provisionally assigned.  The only ATRs offered permanent positions are newly excessed untenured ATRs, because they cost less.  As for the veteran ATRs?  They are only offered temporary provisional or provisional assignments which end no later than June 28th and will find themselves in the ATR pool the next school year.  How many of these provisionally placed ATRs were forced placed?  I bet, the majority as there is no Mutual Consent when it comes to being an ATR as you cannot refuse a placement without negative consequences.

With the UFT leadership as our alleged protectors the ATRs must realize that they care little about us except to collect our $1,300 yearly dues to fuel their patronage mill, while schools continue to hire untested "newbies" and untenured teachers as the UFT leadership twiddle their collective thumbs and eagerly collect their $1,300 annual dues from them while keeping the ATRs without a permanent placement which is just fine with them.

Friday, February 12, 2016

You Want My Dues. Then Stop Selling Us Out And Do The Following!

Unless you have been hiding under a rock and far too many teachers do so.  There is a UFT election coming up.  The four UFT caucuses are "Unity", MORE, New Action, and Solidarity. In this round MORE and New Action will be nominating a joint slate.  Regardless who wins, if the union loses Friedrichs, dues will no longer be mandatory.  However, for the winning caucus to obtain my $1,300 dues they must first do the following:

  1. No top-down management where member interests are now ignored and even ridiculed.
  2. Making ATRs whole again, no more second class citizen crap.
  3. Show that its teacher justice and stop muddling the message with the social justice bullshit.
  4. Democratize all positions above Chapter Leader in a secret ballot.  No more appointments!
  5. Require the DOE to honor the contract when it comes to travel hardships, reassignments, and rotations of elementary and middle school teachers in the ATR pool.
  6. Demand a fair and impartial investigation.
 My requests are simple and most members would agree with me that we need a more democratic and responsive union.  No longer should our union leadership sells us out every disappointing contract. Remember, the union who most closely meets my six items above will be getting my vote in the upcoming elections and the dues that come with it.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Renewal Superintendency, Run By Favoritism And Not Competence

The New York Post wrote another article showing that Superintendent Amiee Horowitz was more interested in hiring her friends than competent educators to run her renewal Superintendency.  To her its favoritism over competence and it shows with the conflicting orders given to school principals on how to improve their schools.  Is it any wonder that Renewal school principals are picking up "newbie" and untenured teachers in droves, since they're easier to blame and discontinue when the schools continue to struggle, despite receiving more money than most schools and can afford to hire higher salaried teachers.

Yes, this is the same Amiee Horowitz who ignored Regents cheating at a Brooklyn high school but discontinued the untenured teacher who filed the complaint.  In fact, she tried to have the DOE file a section 31 action to take her teaching license but the DOE realized no such action was warranted.  You can read the story here.  Moreover, its under Amiee Horowitz where the vast majority of teachers hired by the renewal schools were novice teachers.  

All you need to read are the posts I have written about Amiee Horowitz and its easy to see its not about student academic achievement, its about  who she likes and not what's best for the students.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Maspeth High School, DOE Credit Cards, And Marcella Sills.

Give the New York Post reporter Susan Edelman credit, she is the only education reporter that does not buy into the education deformer narrative that students don't need more resources and smaller class sizes, just better teachers to eliminate the academic achievement gap.   Susan Eldelman fully understands that its the underhanded, unaccountable, and sleazy DOE bureaucrats at Tweed along with the poor quality of principals they select to run the schools that are a major reason for the educational deficiencies that many public schools experience in New York City and not "ineffective teachers".

In today's article, Susan Edelman wrote about how the administration of Maspeth High School is requiring students, where 69% of their families are considered poor, to buy their English books,  Moreover, the Principal of Maspeth high school is on the "dirty dozen" list of principals that teachers don't trust in Queens.  If that isn't enough, Maspeth High School has the highest percentage of untenured teachers at 83%.  The staff is so young that they must wear name tags to differentiate them from the seniors of the school.  Moreover, I have been told that many of the teachers are forced to do extra unpaid duties at the school and the previous Chapter Leader was discontinued by the Principal when he tried to enforce contract provisions on the administration and protect the staff from arbitrary actions. Read last summer's article on Maspeth by nyc educator.

What has the DOE did about this?  Nothing, absolutely nothing!   Where is OSI or SCI?  Oh, I forgot, its not about teachers but a favored Principal appointed by his Tweed superiors.   Therefore, let's not investigate it or risk having to substantiate the apparently illegal and immoral actions by the school administration. You can see Maspeth High School's latest snapshot Here.

Finally, and quietly, on January 22nd, almost 2 years after being reluctantly removed by Chancellor Carmen Farina, due to pressure by the media, from her position by the DOE ex-Principal Marcella Sills was terminated by her 3020-a arbitrator due to extreme misconduct.  Remember her story when she was Principal at PS 106 in Far Rockaway which was known as "the school of no"?

Friday, February 05, 2016

One Renewal School's Bogus Rubric To Give Failing Students A Passing Grade.

I was contacted by a teacher who decided to blow the whistle on how his school makes it virtually impossible to fail the students at the renewal school he works in.  If a student shows up once and awhile to class, he cannot get a grade of below 55%.   Worse, they devalue subject area knowledge to 30% of their grade. That means students who are academically lacking can pass by simply obtaining points from the other four areas. Let's take a look at the renewal school's classroom grading policy,

Classroom Grading Policy


Personal Responsibility..............10%
Social Responsibility..................10%'
Critical Thinking........................20%
Academic Knowledge................30%

Notice it does not add up to 100% and affords the school the 10% "wiggle room" to raise a 55% grade to 65% and pass the academically undeserving student.

For example, a hypothetical student named Carmen takes a course in English and shows up when she feels like it.  Carmen refuses to do her homework but does take notes when she attends class.  Moreover, when she does show up she is relatively well-behaved and that she does exhibit some social responsibility by cooperating with classmates on tasks.  Finally, she communicates and has shown some basic critical thinking skills.  Before we look at Carmen's final grade let's see how many points she obtained without the academic component.

Personal Responsibility..............5%
Social Responsibility.................5%'
Critical Thinking......................20%

Academically, Carmen constantly fails her tests and quizzes and after a curve, her average academic grade is 50%.  Therefore, when you add the 15% to the 50% from the other four habits, Carmen gets a passing grade of 65%.  Even if Carmen falls short, there is always the additional 10% "wiggle room" the school can award the student to ensure she passes the course.

Devaluing a diploma is academic fraud but at least one renewal school only cares about their credit accumulation and graduation rate and not the academic achievement for their students or the fact that they are pushing out students who are academically unprepared.

Note: in today's New York Post, ant-teacher Carl Campanile published an article that showed an increase in graduation rates for the renewal schools. However, as shown above, the graduation rate is not based upon academic achievement but a rubric that makes it difficult for teachers to fail students who bother to show up, while doing little actual work.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

The DOE Finds 36 High Schools Abuse The Credit Recovery Program. Or Did They?

The DOE's task force on cheating quietly found that 36 high schools abused the "credit recovery" programs but in typical DOE fashion, refused to identify any of the 36 high schools and protecting wayward principals from public scrutiny.

Apparently, the DOE wrote a report that identified 36 high schools that inappropriately used the "credit recovery" program and recommended corrective action be taken.  However, the report has not been made public and without a detailed review of the findings there is little way to know if the principals of these 36 schools were found to have inappropriately give out "free credits" or that the abuses were minor and did not significantly affect the credit accumulation of the students involved?

The problem is that the DOE has so far refused to make the anti-cheating task force report available to the media or general public.  Therefore, one must take the report's conclusion with suspicion.  Maybe, if an independent task force had prepared the report, I might believe it.  However, the DOE has time and again found nothing wrong only to find major problems that the DOE ignored.

The Deputy Chancellor claims they were proactive but without a detailed inspection of the report and the data that went into the conclusions, there is no way to determine the accuracy and truthfulness of the conclusions.

Monday, February 01, 2016

In Defense Of A Discontinued Teacher

In yesterday's New  York Post there was a story about a teacher accused of sexually abusing students who ended up being discontinued by the DOE.  Before I go into the story let me tell you that there should be "zero tolerance" of proven sexual misconduct between a teacher and a student and they should be arrested and terminated while losing their teaching license.  However, as I have previously written, the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and the Special Commissioner of Investigations (SCI) will almost always substantiate sexual misconduct charges if a student complains that the teacher touched him or her inappropriately.  I should know because SCI substantiated such a complaint against me only to have the 3020-a arbitrator, faced with real and relevant evidence and an ever-changing story by the student involved,  rightly ruled that no sexual misconduct happened.

Back to the story, the discontinued teacher was accused by four different students (both boys and girls) of touching them inappropriately and sexually.  If the charges were remotely true then why wasn't the teacher arrested by the NYPD sex crimes unit?  Obviously, an adult accused of sexually touching a minor gives the police "probable cause" to arrest the adult.   Especially, as one boy claimed he engaged in oral sex with the teacher.  Could the reason be that the NYPD looked into the accusations and decided the students were not credible?  I certainly think this might be the case. However, since the default by OSI and SCI is that the teacher is guilty of the allegation, they didn't need "probable cause" to substantiate the accusations, despite the questionable credibility of the students.

According to the teacher,  who was not tenured and teaching Special Education students, the four students complained after he called their homes to tell their parents about their unruly behavior.  Could the four students have conspired to make up the sexual abuse allegations as revenge?  Maybe, and I wouldn't discount that possibility.  The fact the teacher was not arrested tells me that the NYPD did not believe the student allegations makes me question the student's accusations.

The New York Post article also claimed one boy was crying when telling his story to the SCI investigators.  Was he crying because he was alone with two strange detectives and was stressed and scared of being caught in a lie?  Or was he crying due to the alleged abuse?  I don't know the answer to this but again, why didn't the NYPD arrest the teacher, even if it was to simply arraign him?  When the male teacher from Brooklyn Tech was found to have committed sexual misconduct, he went to jail.  So did the female gym teacher at Grover Cleveland.  Yet, the NYPD did not arrest this teacher?

Being a recipient of SCI's flawed and corrupt investigations, I am highly suspicious of the SCI report on the discontinued Special Education teacher since the NYPD chose not to arrest the teacher, despite the allegations lodged against him.  If he really did it, he should count his lucky stars that he is not in jail but my own experience tells me that he was simply an unfortunate example of the overzealous SCI investigative process.