Monday, October 31, 2016

How Do The Renewal Schools Compare To The Old Chancellor's District?

What are the chances that the Renewal Schools will improve student academic achievement?  To see if these schools can really succeed, I decided to take Mr. Peabody's  "way back machine"  to 1996 when Chancellor Rudy Crew, frustrated with the poor results from many schools who had too many high poverty, special education, and homeless students, decided to take the bull by the horns and tackle the problem.  He took the lowest performing schools and made it his own district called the Chancellor's District.  Fifty-eight elementary and middle schools were selected to be part of this new district, along with fourteen high schools. These schools were part of the seven year experiment to show that additional funding and class size limitations could result in the narrowing of the student academic achievement gap.

The Chancellor's District had mixed success before Chancellor Joel Klein shut the district down in 2003.  However, before the Bloomberg administration eliminated the Chancellor's District, the schools did show a narrowing of the academic achievement gap in English, primarily because more funding and resources were concentrated in the literacy field.  However, disappointingly, there was little significant improvement when it came to the Math scores. Despite promises by Joel Klein to continue to provide the additional resources under his "Children First" program, the schools were quietly put back into their community districts and the promised resources never materialized.

The Chancellor's District had a program called "A Model For Excellence" that included the following components.
  1.  Class sizes were capped at 20 for K-3 and 25 for the higher grades.
  2.  School day was extended by 20 minutes and the year an extra week.
  3. Small group after school tutoring and other activities till 6pm.
  4. Each school had an on-site teacher center and a teacher specialist.
  5. Student services were $2,400 per student higher than other struggling schools.
  6. All teachers must be certified in the subject they were teaching.
  7. Additional Professional Development and Supervisors
In addition, to attract veteran teachers, the Chancellor's District offered them an additional 15% of their salary to work in the schools.  The result was an influx of veteran teachers to work in these schools.  However, I must point out that many of these teachers were Tier I and only worked in these schools for a year or two to enhance their pension.  The result was the Chancellor's District experienced a continuous teacher turnover yearly.

This brings me to the Renewal Schools and their requirements.

  1. Class sizes capped at contractual limits (25-33 students).
  2. School day extended an additional 40-45 minutes.
  3. Similar to the Chancellor's District.
  4. No on-site teacher center or specialist, coaches instead.
  5. Subject to the school's "fair student funding" requirements.
  6. Mostly "newbies" hired, some not certified in the teaching subject.
  7. Same as the Chancellor's District.
 Unlike the Chancellor's District, the Renewal Schools are unable to attract veteran teachers since the only monetary enhancement is to work an extra 45-50 minutes at per session rate and only those days that the class is actually being held.  No holiday pay or TDA contributions are allowed.

When one compares the requirements and their mixed academic results of the Chancellor's District to the Renewal School requirements which seems less attractive for both teachers and students, the projected academic improvements appears to be wishful thinking.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Why Teachers Quit The Profession.

Its no secret that teacher morale has plummeted, that widespread teacher shortages are a fact of life nationwide,  Even in New York City, the Bronx has more vacancies than teachers certified in the subject.  This has prompted our State Commissioner to propose that school districts allow the hiring of uncertified teachers from out of state to fill the vacancies.  The question is why are so many teachers quitting?  The reasons are many and until the education reform organizations lose power as the Obama administration is replaced by a more sympathetic administration, the exodus of teachers from the profession will continue and the shortages will get worse.

A 2012 MetLife survey showed that teacher satisfaction has dropped from 62% in 2008 to 39% in 2012 and I'm sure this number is even lower in 2016.  In addition, 13% of the teachers leave the schools or the profession annually.  Worse, in the most needy poverty-striken urban schools, 80% of the teachers leave their original school within five years and these schools lose 25% of their staff yearly.  This high teacher turnover and attrition is hurting public education and most severely affects "high needs" students in deep poverty schools..  Its also not helpful that teacher pensions are unfairly blamed for State budget issues and the education reform organizations want to eliminate teacher tenure and make it a temporary job with no defined pension and retiree health benefits.

For example in New York City just take a look at our Renewal schools?  They are a dumping ground for struggling students and few veteran teachers would even apply to teach there. Teacher attrition is high as "newbies" are hired and overwhelmed by the additional responsibility and accountability heaped on them in these academically struggling schools.  How many of them will still be there in 5 years?  Probably not many.  These high teacher attrition rates are a norm for far too many high poverty schools in New York City and many of the reasons for the high turnover rate can be mitigated but the DOE closes its collective eyes to these remedies since it would have to remove poor administrators and provide adequate targeted academic support and resources to the schools.

Much of the reason for the rise in teacher dissatisfaction and attrition can be linked to President Barack Obama's education policy, implemented by his basketball playing buddy Arnie Duncan who ran the Education Department.  The two crafted a 4.3 billion dollar program that was called "Race to the top" that forced States to develop a  Bill Gates inspired teacher evaluation program, heavy on high-stakes testing, if they wanted funding and to receive a waiver from meeting the more onerous provisions of the  "No Child Left Behind" act. This included using the Common Core, even when there were no curriculum developed for it and teachers not trained to use it.   Moreover, the Obama administration encouraged states to approve charter schools as a condition to obtain the extra funding under his "Race to the top" program.  The result was a doubling of charter schools during the Obama administration, from 3% of the total student population to 6%.   Finally. the teacher evaluation system had to have a termination requirement that was linked to student growth despite studies that showed the unreliably of using student teat scores to determine student growth and linking it to teacher effectiveness, the Obama administration insisted on such linkage.

Hopefully, as the teacher preparation majors continue to shrink and the teacher shortage deepens, the pendulum will swing away from the education reform organizations and their media allies which blame the teachers on societies ills and give it the respect the profession deserves.  Just maybe, the students won't be asking what happen to their teacher?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Horror Stories That Hurt Student Academic Achievement This Halloween.

As we approach Halloween, its "trick or treat" time for the kiddies.  However, when it comes to the New York City Public Schools, its all about tricking the students and their parents rather than treating them to a good education. Thanks to the DOE and Chancellor Carmen Farina, the schools remain underfunded, short on teachers, and continue to have the largest class sizes in the State.  Here are some villainous actions the schools and the DOE has done to their students.

 A middle school in District 24, with a significant immigrant population from Latin America had hired provisionally a bilingual ATR guidance counselor to service this needy population.  The guidance counselor has loads of experience and her ESL extension on her license gave her the ability to better serve the students and their parents.  The Principal, rather than hire this person, hired a friend of the Principal's sister instead.  The "newbie" has no school experience, is not fluent in Spanish and has no bilingual extension.  The joke is on the students because its what's best for the Principal and not for her neediest students.

 A high achieving high school in District 28 found out that the DOE will no longer pay for the "sixth period" classes  and the school would need to pay for them out of their own budget.  The Principal's response?  He eliminated all Science Advanced Placement courses and reduced electives to save on teacher hiring.  The riddle is how can these high achieving students, having fewer options, can advance in their field of interest and help their college ambitions?

 A high school in District 29, that saw an exodus of over 50% of their staff this school year, had a 0% passing rate in Regents Chemistry,  The Principal decided to hire a Physics teacher who hasn't quite mastered to English language to teach two classes of Regents Physics and one class of Advanced Placement Physics.  Quite a trick to expect students who couldn't pass Chemistry to pass the much harder Physics Regents. Moreover, this school needed twice as many over the counter students as the other schools in the campus just to stay afloat  More level 1 students and higher level courses is a two-faced policy that's doomed to fail.

This high school in District 24 is known for an infamous Principal that has one of the lowest staff trust factors in Queens.  She targets veteran teachers and has numerous investigations dealing with her running of her struggling school.  She is poison to ATRs who dare complain about the school,   I have been told that 5 ATRs were subject to discipline in the first semester last year alone..  This school made the papers for academic fraud, financial mismanagement, and age discrimination. Yet, the DOE refuses to take action against this Principal.  How this situation is good for student academic achievement is beyond me and she is poison to any teacher who dares to fight back.

The "Leadership Academy Principals" that put their petty and vindictive behavior above the academic needs of their students.  School after school run by these principals have untenured staffs, high teacher turnover, and an unstable school environment that hurts the academic needs of their students.

The bloated Renewal School administrative staff, led by Superintendent Amiee Horowitz who are moistly rejects due to discipline or poor performance in their previous positions.  This high salaried staff provides little leadership to the Renewal schools but demand accountability to show improvement while not being held accountable themselves.

The DOE claims that they must essentially freeze school budgets and keep the schools underfunded  They only give the schools 89% of Fair Student Funding and even when they grant the schools a measly 3% raise, they take things away like forcing the schools to self fund a "sixth period" that eats up the increase.  Yet the DOE budget has increased by 54% since 2008 as they must pay for a bloated bureaucracy and questionable consultant services.  As the students suffer from lack of resources and large class sizes that hurt academic achievement, the DOE says "feed me more"!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Our TDA Is Cost Efficient With Low Administrative Fees And That's Good News.

I have been getting calls and emails about contributing to our 403(b) (TDA) program after the New York Times published an article on the high fees charged to teachers in their 403(b) plans. According to the article far too many teachers have 403(b) plans that charge between 2% to 3% administrative fees and this does not include the underlying fees for the investment product that range from a minuscule 0.15% to over 1%.  Worse, if the 403(b) is wrapped into a variable annuity, there could be a surrender fee of 6% or more, just to escape the 403(b). Even our State and National unions, NYSUT and NEA offer supplemental 403(b) plans that have high fees and back in 2006 NYSUT was actually taken to task for the high fees they charged.

Despite the nationwide horror stories about teacher 403(b) plans, the good news is that our 403(b) (TDA) plan is one of the most cost efficient 403(b) plans in the nation.  Our administrative cost is only 0.15% and the underlying bond and stock funds have low cost fees as well.  According to an article about New York City pensions, the underlying investment costs range from 0.08% for domestic stocks, 0.14% for bonds,.and 0.28% for international stocks.  Since few teachers participate in the bond fund and the 40% of the teachers that invest in stocks funds usually invest in domestic stocks, the total TDA fee is probably close to 0.25%.  By the way, there is no administrative or investment fee for the fixed income option in the TDA which consists of 60% of the total contributions .

There are some downsides to our TDA, like it does not allow for a Roth option and it takes three months to re-balance the portfolio to name just a couple.   Otherwise, one of the best way to save and supplement your retirement is to contribute to your TDA as much as you can for a healthy and happy life after you leave the job market.  If you have additional money to invest, think about the City's 457 plan or open up an IRA with no-load and low fee mutual funds or ETF's.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

In The DOE, Its Children Last...Always.

Every time I used to go on the DOE website I would see their recently discontinued slogan of "Children First....Always." However, the DOE's actions when it comes to the students of the classroom is far different then their slogan claimed. . Let's look at the DOE action that support my position that its really "Children Last".

First, the DOE has failed to fully fund the schools since 2008 in their "education on the cheap" policy.  Presently, the schools get 89% of their Fair Student Funding (fsf) and that is a measly 3% increase since Bill de Blasio took office in 2014.  At present, the schools can expect no better than an additional 3% increase in their budgets going forward, 92% of the fsf.. This despite the City having a 6 billion dollar surplus.

Second, Despite Mayor Bill de Blasio's promise to lower class sizes, the DOE has failed to do so.  In fact, class sizes have actually risen since he took office and selected the disappointing Carmen Farina as Chancellor. More disturbingly, the biggest increase in class size is in the early years K-2 and New York City has the highest K-12 class sizes in New York State.

Third, The DOE continues to wast over $100 million dollars by refusing to put the 1,300 ATRs back into the classroom for ideological reasons. Add that to the cost of field supervisors, many of them "F" status,  and the administrative cost at DOE Central to run the ATR program and the number is closer to $110 million dollars. Think about how that money could be better spent in the classroom with veteran teachers?

Fourth, The rise of the "Leadership Academy Principal".  About 25% of all principals in the system, correlates with a decrease in Principal quality and incompetent instructional leadership.  Unfortunately, these principals were trained to be the CEO of their school rather than be an instructional role model as the more experienced principals were.  The result is that these principals hide vacancies, reduce Regents Science instruction, and fail to provide mandated services for Special Education and English Language Learners.  Some even use uncertified teachers as the DOE looks the other way.  These principals practice "penny wise, dollar foolish" polices that only hurt student academic achievement.

Finally, despite promises to reduce the Bureaucratic Bloat at the DOE, nothing has changed.  DOE Central has way to many lawyers, managers, consultants,and accountability experts that suck up scarce resources.  While school budgets remain underfunded and essential frozen, the DOE will be getting $29.6 billion dollars in FY 2017.  This is a 28% increase since Bill de Blasio became Mayor and is 54% higher than the $19.2 million dollar DOE budget in 2008.

Next time you go on the DOE website and their long used slogan remember, just look at the checklist above and realize their real action plan is "Children Last....Always."

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Why I Would Never Work For This Hindu Goddess?

I have posted a couple times my list of "bad principals" and back in August of 2015 on the list is a middle school principal from Queens Rushell White.of Q 226.  Principal White has been identified in the news papers many times. HereHere, Here, Here,and Here.  She is not trusted by veteran staff members and has a reputation of going after teachers.  According to the school snapshot  only 50% of the staff trust her, one of the lowest in Queens. The average citywide is 86%

The  reasons why I would not work for Rushell White are as follows:

  1. I am a white male.
  2. I am Jewish.
  3. I am a veteran teacher.
  4. The school gives too many negative ratings.
  5.  3020-a charges are common.
Please read carefully Betsy Combier's blog to see how Principal Rushell White operates and tell me if you would want a position in that school?  For more information about Principal Rushell White read the comments from "Don't Tread On Educators".

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly When It Comes To The Unity Leadership.

I have been highly critical of our disconnected union leadership and rightly so.  Our union leadership has given us inferior contracts that are short on money and loaded with "givebacks".  They agreed to allow the DOE to impose a school-based "Fair Student Funding" (fsf) formula that forces schools to "hire the cheapest and not the best" teachers for their schools.  Agreed to reduce our TDA interest from 8.25% to 7% and forcing Tier V and VI teachers to have 15 years of service to receive retiree health benefits, and let's not forget how they conspired with the DOE to make ATRs second class citizens. I could go on but you get the message.  In complaining about our disconnected union leadership under "Unity caucus"  there are some real benefits to have a union representing your rights.

The Good:
Our union can collectively bargain to retain our due process rights and influence legislative action that benefit our profession.  By collectively bargain we are stronger together.  Just imagine if we didn't have a union to protect us against Mayor Bloomberg assault on teachers like the elimination of "First in, last out" , there would be no class size limitations,  forget our "due  process rights", and tenure would be replaced by an arbitrary and capricious dismissal policy that the DOE uses for untenured teachers and "U" rating appeals.  Moreover, our union supplies NYSUT attorneys and advocates to represent our interests and gives us guidance when confronted by the corrupt investigators.  Finally, having a strong union makes it harder for their members to be bullied or abused by vindictive administrators.

The Bad:
Our dues continue to go up, year after year, as the "Unity" bureaucracy continues to expand and a new group (25 or more) of high salaried friends of our Unity leadership has been established, I believe they are Chapter Leader advocates (how are they different from District Reps?).  Is it any wonder that our dues are increasing yearly?  Besides the bloated bureaucracy, all members must sign the "Unity oath" and provide a $75 dollar check to stay as a member in good standing as well as to blindly vote how the leadership tells them to, even when its against the best interests of their members. Let's not forget about COPE that is used for political action that's supposed to be on behalf of the members but seems to be used for actions that have no member input, benefit, or agreement?

The Ugly:
The union's treatment of the ATRs is ugly.  Our disconnected union leadership allows the DOE to sic field assassins on the ATRs, which has led to a rise in 3020-a termination cases and ignore the hiring of 5,700 new teachers this year while more than 1,300 ATRs languish in a rotation pool while also refuses to allow them a functional chapter to represent their interests.  No other Municipal union allowed their excessed members to be treated the way our union has allowed the DOE to abuse the ATRs.    Then there is Michael Mulgrew's continued "love affair" with Chancellor Carmen Farina while she goes from school to school and tells principals her top priority is to get rid of their "bad teachers".  Finally, the union's involvement with racial arsonist like Al Sharpton and giving priority to Bill de Blasio's interests which results in continued large class sizes, inadequate funding  and  inferior instructional time (Science) , over their own membership requirements of lower class sizes, full funding, and adequate instructional tine for the students.

The bottom line is that I rather have a union than not have one but it would be nice if we had a union that was more responsive to their members than to their favorite political causes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

How Is The ATR Financial Inicentive Working? Not Too Well So Far.

At the beginning of October the DOE informed principals they can hire ATRs at a steep financial discount for the next three years. The schools get the ATR for free this year, at half price the second year, and at 75% the third year.  Of course, the ATR is at full price thereafter and must be placed into their rightful seniority rank in case of school excessing. Since that time, two weeks later a grand total of 20 ATRs have been snapped up by the schools.   That's right out of 1,304 ATRs only 20 have been offered permanent positions for the mathematically challenged only 1.5% have obtained permanent employment. Of course, there is no guarantee that the 20 placements came from the 1,304 rotating ATRs, some may have been provisionally assigned and were converted to a permanent position so the percentage may be even less than 1.5%.

There is no secret that the schools have hidden vacancies and for one reason or another failed or deliberately decided not to fill them while waiting for the perfect candidate.  Now its October and schools have found that they must fill their vacancies and cannot hire from the outside until the second semester.  Moreover, especially in the Bronx and the many high poverty struggling schools, they find themselves desperately seeking teachers to replace the recently hired who have already quit and getting no nibbles.  Add that to a shortage of teaching candidates as more college graduates are abandoning teaching as a career and a looming teacher shortage is just down the road.

One would think the DOE's ATR incentive would have schools falling all over themselves to hire ATRs but the truth be told the DOE has done such a wonderful job demonizing ATRs as bad and unwanted teachers that with their encouragement, have enlisted the education reformers and media  to push for  an end of  "last in, first out", for New York City teachers while demanding a time limit for ATRs when they know quite well that the DOE$'s own hiring policies penalize schools that hires a veteran teacher. Without a stick the DOE's carrot has no consequences for the schools if they reject the DOE's offer.

As more of the recently hired "newbies" quit or are terminated due to hostile classroom environment, student discipline issues, and more respected and lucrative employment elsewhere (about 50% quit within five years) maybe, just maybe, the ATR financial incentive might gain traction but I'm not holding my breath since 25% of the schools have Leadership Academy principals and they are brainwashed in believing that ATRs will contaminate their younger and untenured teaching staff and don't even bother to interview ATRs, least not hire them.

Will the ATR financial incentive reduce the ATR pool?  Only time will tell but only if the DOE also employs a stick with the carrot.

Note:  The ATR incentive is for teachers only and not for other UFT members.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Renewal Schools Are Sucking Up Money Thanks To Amiee Horowitz's Bloated Bureaucray.

The New York Post has an article that details the bloated Bureaucracy that runs the Renewal school program.  Astonishingly the DOE pays $12.7 million dollars annually for questionable administrative support with little or no significant impact upon the students and the classroom. The "college and career readiness" rates are stuck in the low teens.

Lead by Chancellor Carmen Farina's hack, Amiee Horowitz who I have written about previously Here, Here, and Here, the Renewal schools have been a disaster, with many of them losing students, have low attendance rates, and poor academic results. For more about Amiee Horowitz  you can read it Here, Here, and Here as well.

Teachers who are unfortunate enough to work in these Renewal schools are under tremendous stress as these bureaucrats demand accountability while not being held accountable themselves.  Teachers have no real prep periods as they are required to meet and plan with colleagues and are pressured to work an extra period whether they want to or not.  Class sizes have risen, despite the loss of students as the Renewal schools continue to lose or excess teachers. How these Renewal schools can attract academically achieving students and quality teachers is beyond comprehension as the Renewal Bureaucracy sucks up scarce resources while providing little in the way of classroom improvements to the "high needs" student populations of the Renewal schools.

Reading the New York Post article about the bloated Bureaucracy does not surprise me one bit.  The schools are destined to fail unless they can attract better students and teachers and not blow money on their bloated Bureaucracy as they continue to do.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

To The UFT. You've Got To Be Kidding Me!

Believe it or not, our UFT leadership is in collusion with the DOE when it comes to the ATR issue.  Both the DOE and UFT pretend that they want to get ATRs placed permanently in schools.  Yet, as they go through the fiction of how to place ATRs in the schools, both agree to harass the ATRs by giving then field supervisors (assassins) to "U' rate them and come up with the useless rotation system that makes the ATR "a stranger in a strange land."  The result is that the ATRs are glorified babysitters until they become demoralized and resign or retire.

Over the last couple of years the DOE would pretend to help ATRs land permanent positions by giving them no-credit workshops like resume writing, Common Core lesson planning and other useless and worthless clinics that resulted in a complete waste of time as none of them helped ATRs  land permanent positions.  Now our disconnected union leadership has joined the DOE in providing  a no-credit workshop for high school ATRs called "Success Strategies for ATRs"  The UFT workshop promises to maximize the talents, best practices, and communication skills to increase your chances of landing a permanent position and for all this the ATR only has to pay $10 for this privilege.  The entire UFT workshop is listed below.

Thursday Oct 20High school teachers in the Absent Reserve pool are invited to a workshop  "Success Strategies for ATRs."  The event will be held from 4 to 6 pm at UFT headquarters, 52 Broadway.  Participants will explore ways to obtain a permenent position that will maximize their talents and interests.  Best practices will be shared for effective communication, resume writing, and interviewing techniques and for navigating temporary assignments.  A $10 fee is required to participate.  Members will not receive CTLE hours for this workshop.  

This UFT workshop is not only a waste of time but to have the audacity to charge a $10 fee is over the top in providing false hope that it will land a veteran ATR a permanent position.  Because of the DOE's school-based fair student funding formula and Principal autonomy, the chances of a veteran ATR landing a permanent position, is like a one legged man winning an ass kicking contest.

If the UFT really wanted to get ATRs permanently back in the classroom they should force the DOE to stop hiring outside the District until all excessed ATRs are selected in their content specialty and if that means spending money for commercials showing how an experienced teacher helps student academic achievement and/or filing a lawsuit due to age discrimination or violations to PERB, that's what's necessary to get the DOE to resolve the issue not these useless workshops that accomplishes nothing and only gives ATRs false hope that.the light at the end of the ATR tunnel is not an oncoming train.

To the UFT leadership, Leroy Barr, Amy Arundell, and Janella Hinds, its an "urban myth" to believe that this UFT workshop will actually help high school ATRs get a permanent position. If you truly believe that then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The DOE's Claim They Are Draining The ATR Pool Is Really A Slow Leak.

The DOE finally published the October ATR pool total of 1,306 and it was much higher than the September value of 1,167.  This is a 12% increase over the beginning of the school year after the schools had to complete their excessing of staff last week.  Moreover, this number does not include ATRs who are covering provisional and long-term leave replacements that probably number in the many hundreds.  Despite the DOE claim that they are draining the ATR pool, It's a very slow drain at best and is not based on ATRs finding positions but due to retirements, terminations (thanks to the abusive field supervisors), and resignations.  If you take away the 97 ATRs who took the 2014 buyout, the DOE's claim of a 21% reduction in ATRs since 2013 is much more like 16%.

The reason the DOE is unable to eliminate the ATR pool is of their own making, steeped in the Bloomberg/Klein ideology of getting rid of veteran teachers and their "education on the cheap" program.  Since the Civil Service laws of the State requires the DOE to layoff based on total seniority under "first in, last out".  They cannot simply impose a time limit on the ATRs who average 23 years of experience and are immune to be laid off if such a mass layoff was required by the DOE.

Instead the DOE and their media allies, along with the education reform organizations will continue the fiction that ATRs are "unwanted" or "poorly-performing" teachers when the real reason is the school based "fair student funding" (fsf) formula that penalizes schools who hire veteran teachers and forces principals to "hire the cheapest and not the best teachers" for their schools.  To make matters worse, the DOE only funds the schools at 86% of their fsf. and will only rise to 92% next school year. Add that to the ever increasing number of Leadership Academy principals (~25%) running the schools and you can see that their staff consists of untenured or "newbie" teachers for the most part.

It would be nice if our disconnected union leadership would explain to the media why ATRs are not being picked up for permanent positions because of the policies the DOE employ that discourage schools from hiring veteran teachers.  Instead our union leaders stay quiet and let the general public believe that the ATRs are "bad teachers" and that's just not right.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The DOE Motto, Out With The Old And In With The New.

The DOE has made it virtually impossible for veteran teachers to transfer from one school to another by their continued use of the "fair student funding" fiasco.  Now that the Open Market Transfer System (OMTS) is history this year and principals, who are not savvy or crooked enough to play the game, must hire an ATR for their vacancies or long-term leave replacements.   Let's see how the new ATR hiring process works out?  I hold little hope that principals will hire them permanently, even at bargain basement prices, due to the seniority and institutional memory issues. Instead the principals will be spending this school year trying to find ways to get rid of their veteran teachers and replace them next school year with inexpensive "newbies:".

Look for principals to continue to give many "ineffective" observations to their senior teachers and those who ended up with a "developing rating" will be observed frequently to ensure their Teacher Improvement Plan (TIP) will be stringently followed. Already I am hearing too many highly experienced teachers complaining that they are being picked on and set up for failure. People at the 3020-a hearings are telling me there has been an uptick of senior teachers (20 or more years of experience) who are under termination charges.  Whether that is true or not, its a perception that seems to be going around the New York City education community. Interestingly, I have seen and heard about too many of my colleagues who have either been terminated, charged, or in their 3020-a termination hearings in the last two years and this leads credence to what I have been told.

I would just love for the DOE and UFT provide the OMTS statistics of who transferred from one school to another by age, experience, and tenure status.   However, we all know what it would show and even if somebody would FOIL the information, I believe the DOE would stall, delay, and claim its unavailable or protected since they want to avoid the embarrassment of being accused of discrimination in their "out with the old and in with the new" policy in their "children last" program.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Why I'm Not Voting For President.

Over the last two months I have been wrestling with my decision on who to vote for.  Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?  After watching the two terrible debate performances by the both of them and the obvious character flaws both have, I have decided to vote for neither one of these unworthy candidates. Listed below are my reasons why.

Hillary Clinton:

She is untrustworthy, a liar, and  her track record shows a pattern of deceit and denial when caught in the act. Examples are the leaked transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs in which she said she must show a public face to the general public but privately can have a different point of view when supporting her donors.  In other words, she is deceitful and untrustworthy.  Then there is the private email server and the deleted emails some classified.  Least one forgets her Clinton Foundation, which apparently used a  "pay for play" scheme to reward donors, (see the Haiti article) many of them foreign, to get influence to the State Department through Secretary Clinton.  Finally, she flipped flopped on trade and lied about not calling the Pacific Trade Pact the "gold standard" for trade agreements.

Donald Trump:

Where do I begin?  He shoots from the hip and is short on specifics, acts like a teenager like his locker room banter, (high school sports team). Then there is his failure to focus on his opponent as if he is in a boxing ring and focuses on the crowd not the other boxer (Gold Star parents, Miss Venezuela, etc).,  His ever lengthening enemies list in his own party and instead of making nice and listening to advise, he attacks everyone of them as if he has a scatter gun and ends up damaging his party and himself as well,  Calling Donald Trump a demigod would be an appropriate description of hm and he is unfit by temperament to be President.

Past History:

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has a checkered history to say the least. Hillary's go back to her support of her husband thru his many affairs and blaming the Monica Lewinsky affair on the Republicans and not her husband.  Who can forget Benghazi?  When she falsely blamed an anti-Muslim video for the spontaneous uprising and didn't have enough protection for the American Embassy. to repel the planned Answar al-Sharia attack.  Let's not forget Whitewater as that scheme almost led to a criminal indictment for both Bill and Hillary Clinton back in Arkansas in 1992

 As for Donald Trump?  There were multiple bankruptcies, two failed marriages, alleged cheating, a history of disrespecting women, and his abuse of the tax system to pay little or no taxes.  Let's not forget that his treatment of his employees was far from exemplary.

Other Candidates:

What about the third party candidates?  Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party supports private schools, wants to starve public schools of money, eliminate Social Security, and worker rights.  Add that to his failure to articulate a foreign policy, what is Aleppo? and you have a candidate that is not presidential and does not get my vote.  That leaves Jill Stein of the Green Party.  Unfortunately, she believes vaccinations causes Autism, is a member of the anti-Semitic BDS movement, and has no real understanding of the economy. Not getting my vote either.

The bottom line is that I will not be voting for the presidential candidate since all of them are not worthy of my vote.  Please don't tell me that one is the "lesser of the two evils".  As far as I'm concerned they are all unqualified to be President of our great country.

For the record I am an independent voter who, as a teacher, voted for Bill Clinton 1n 1992 and 1996, George Bush in 2000, and 2004, and Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

The Renewal Schools Just Keep On Losing Students.

The Renewal schools that the Department of Education (DOE) keep pouring money into keeps on losing students as savvy parents refuse to send their children to these acaddemically struggling schools.  Even with all the wraparound services the DOE supplies these schools, they still continue to lose students.  The result is that the Renewal schools end up with few academically proficient students and no sane "quality teacher" would ever apply to the Renewal schools with all the additional accountability requirements and the added stress associated with these struggling schools.  Yet our clueless Chancellor would have everyone believe that "quality teachers" are applying to work in the Renewal schools in her own fantasy world.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Renewal schools keep on losing students, especially the high schools.  The DOE's response is that things will be getting better and more students will be going to these schools in the future. Of course they said that in 2014.  How is the DOE going to do this?  They will allow the Renewal schools to recruit more students for specialized programs like culinary and sports medicine.  Unfortunately, the culinary class at one school had ten students enrolled in the picture in the Wall Street Journal article and that does not make a dent in recruiting academically achieving students to these struggling schools.

I'm not optimistic that things will change for the better for the Renewal schools as they cannot attract "quality teachers", suffer from high teacher turnover with an inexperienced staff, and fail to improve their academic performance as they cannot encourage academically achieving students to select these struggling schools.  To try to stem the loss of students and keep their numbers up, the DOE is now allowing the Renewal schools to accept over-the-counter students, many of them "high needs".

For the high schools, only bringing back the neighborhood school zones will improve the Renewal school's academic performance as high school free choice means that  no academically achieving student will select these struggling schools and the Renewal schools will continue to lose students and be an academic failure.

Friday, October 07, 2016

The New DOE Plan To Get Principals To Hire ATRs Is Doomed To Fail.

The DOE and UFT apparently couldn't come to an agreement on a new ATR agreement and the 2011 ATR Agreement is now back in force, except for the weekly rotation being monthly.  No mandatory interviews, no expedited 3020-a hearing for ill-defined "unprofessional behavior",  no automatic resignation for missing the first two days of a new assignment or missing two mandatory interviews, and no being treated as second class citizens. Most ATRs are jumping with joy as the 2014 ATR Agreement is no more.  Despite the DOE/UFT propaganda that there are less ATRs in the system (1,162), the truth is that when you add the ATRs in provisional appointments or temporary leave replacements, there has been little change in the total amount of educators without a permanent position.

True, the DOE has pushed their field supervisors to "U" rate rotating ATRs and force them to resign, retire, or be terminated but they are replaced by the continued downsizing at the renewal schools as these struggling schools continue to lose students and cannot attract the students from the community and are not allowed to take over-the-counter students.  The result is more teachers are excessed into the ATR pool from these struggling schools. This school year the schools hired over 5,700 teachers, most of them "newbies", to fill their vacancies.  Yet the ATR pool remains stable as few experienced ATRs were even given interviews for these positions.

Now the DOE with or without UFT consultation, has decided to offer principals an incentive to hire the ATRs.  According to the Principal's weakly, the DOE incentive is as follows.

Effective October 5, schools in districts 1-32 that hire Centrally-funded excessed teachers on a regular, permanent (not provisional) basis during the 2016–17 school year, will be eligible for an allocation to subsidize the cost of the teacher to the school. For each of the first three years that the teacher remains at the school, the school will receive the following allocations, reflected in the TO in Galaxy:

§  In Year 1 (FY 17), schools will receive funding for 100% of the cost of the teacher;

§  In Year 2 (FY 18), the funding will cover 50% of the cost of the teacher;

§  In Year 3 (FY 19), the funding will cover 25% of the cost of the teacher; and

§  In Year 4, the school is responsible for the full cost of the teacher.
       On the surface one would think that the schools would jump at the chance to get a highly experienced ATR for the classroom for free the first year and at half price the second year?  The problem is the DOE proposed a similar incentive the last two years that included getting the ATR at half price the first year, free for the second year, and at the school's average teacher salary for the length of the contract (2018).  The result?  Few, if any veteran teachers were offered permanent positions and in some ways the last incentive was a better deal for the schools then this proposal.  Why didn't principals jump at the chance to get an experienced teacher for cheap you asked?

T   The reason is quite simple really.  First,  once an ATR takes a permanent position, he or she takes their rightful rank in the school's seniority system and if there is excessing the ATR would probably have seniority over less experienced school staff who would then be excessed.  Second, in schools with Leadership Academy principals the veteran teacher is dangerous due to their institutional memory on how collaborative schools work.  Third, the ugly head of age discrimination is a real concern as many principals want younger teachers they can abuse rather than veteran teachers who can sniff out bullshit when presented to them.  Finally, once the ATR is in a permanent position, only a 3020-a hearing in front of an independent arbitrator can result in the teacher's removal from the school.  A headache that some principals rather not go through if they don't need to.

T    The latest DOE incentive to encourage principals to hire an ATR is inadequate and is doomed to fail for the reasons I listed above.  Let the union and the DOE show me otherwise with real statistics and not unsupported statements. The only way the DOE can get principals to hire ATRs is to completely ban schools in the District from hiring new teacher until all the ATRs in that subject area are placed.  Principals who try to hide their vacancies would be penalized by either eliminating the hidden vacancy from the school's budget and/or take disciplinary action against the Principal.  Then you will see the schools falling all over themselves in recruiting and hiring from the ATR pool with only a handful of educators with obsolete licenses left in a vastly reduced ATR pool..


Thursday, October 06, 2016

Why You Should Put As Much Money As Possible In The TDA.

One of the greatest perks we have as UFT members is the Tax Deferred Annuity (TDA).  How good is our TDA?  Well, most Financial Advisors, are shocked and jealous that the Fixed Income Option pays a guaranteed 7% return on the TDA principal (non UFT members in the DOE receive 8.25%).  With historically low interests rates (1%) and banks and money markets struggling to give 0.25% on short-term funds and 1% for longer term treasures like CD's, the TDA's 7% interest rate is an unbelievable windfall for UFT members. Even the Citizens Budget Commission (CBC), a conservative watchdog group has complained about it.

According to the CBC report there are 137,000 participants in the TDA (this includes CSA, DOE, and UFT) with 51,000 being retirees while only 3,000 of them are currently drawing income from the TDA.  The 3,000 figure is hard to believe since most of the retirees I know either take a percentage of their TDA or annualized it.  Furthermore, at 70.5 years of age the retirees must take the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from their TDA.  I must assume they are talking about the TDA principal and not the total TDA amount.

Because the TDA fixed income option is giving participants an effective interest rate of 6% over present day inflation, its no wonder that 60% of all TDA funds are in the fixed income fund.  Moreover, as of last year, the average TDA member had $325,000 socked away at retirement.  At 7%, this generated a yearly return of $22,750 without touching the TDA principal.  Quite a chunk of change to add to your average yearly pension of $45,000.

Combine the generous interest rate of 7% with the fact that for New York State residents, the TDA pays no State or City tax and the 7% windfall is effectively a tremendous tax haven to shelter income from the State and Local tax agencies. Moreover, since the TDA is tax deferred, no federal taxes are paid until you start withdrawing it at retirement and only that amount you actually withdraw or forced to by the RMD.

My recommendation is contribute to the TDA as much as possible as it reduces your taxable income, exempt from State and Local taxes on withdrawal if you reside in New York State, and take advantage of the 7% interest rate that the Fixed Income Fund gives you. in our low interest rate environment.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Don't Expect Retro Lump Sum Payments This October.

I have been getting far too many inquires about how much lump sum retro payments are we getting this October?  Unfortunately,  the answer is we are not getting any retro lump sum payments this year.  That's right, despite the City having a 6 billion dollar surplus, our union drank the City Kool-ade of having no money and agreed to skip the 2016 retro lump sum payment to 2017 to save the City money.

This is not the only thing that our union leadership decided to put the City's interests ahead of their members.  They allowed the City to extend our contract 45 days to pay for all the larger than expected retirements in June 2014 rather than have the City use their budget surplus.  Moreover, they agreed to give a vastly inferior contract of a 10% raise for 7.12 years or a 1.40% yearly increase in our base pay and made enemies of many of our fellow unions, especially the uniformed unions who realized it became a "City pattern" and were stuck with a contract short on money and long on years.  In addition, our health  benefits became more expensive with just about all co-payments rose dramatically and using a hospital emergency room becoming prohibitive.  Finally, our union was the only one to allow "givebacks" that made ATRs second class citizens with reduced due process rights.

If you want your retro lump sum  payments in the future than please don't do the following.  Resign, get terminated, take a leave without pay for that year (including maternity leave), or die.  Please read my "winners and losers" post.  It certainly appears that our union leadership care more about what's best for the City than what's best for our their members.  So remember, when you get your October 15th 2016 check and it doesn't include any retro money money, that's because, our union leadership cared more about what the City wanted then their own members.and that's why you are not getting a lump sum retro payment this year.

Monday, October 03, 2016

The Truth About The ATR Pool.

I am sick and tired of reading erroneous media articles about ATRs on how they are "bad or unwanted teachers" and that there should be a time limit to be hired for a permanent position without attempting to understand the obstacles placed by the DOE on the ATRs in obtaining a permanent position.  Let's speak the truth about the ATR pool.

First, one can be an ATR for their entire career and the DOE cannot impose a time limit on them.  The ATRs are protected by the union contract and for all the abuse our union leadership has allowed the DOE to do to us.  Field supervisors, rotation, forced placements, reduced due process rights, and general disrespect.  The one thing they will not cede to the DOE is an ATR time limit.  Even if our union leadership tried to give the City the right to impose an ATR time limit, New York State civil service law would stop them in their tracks as it requires that any layoff would be seniority based and if the DOE tried to layoff ATRs they would be in violation of civil service law and in particular State Education Law 2588 which Mayor Bloomberg tried and failed to get rescinded. I know of an ATR who has been an ATR for a decade and he expects to retire as an ATR a decade from now.   Finally, if the union did allow for an ATR time limit in a future contract (highly unlikely) all other City and State unions would immediately file a lawsuit calming it violates State law and make our union a pariah to the rest of the unions.

Second, the majority of ATRs were excessed due to closing schools (162 under Mayor Bloomberg) or reduced classes in their subject area.  Only 23% were ATRs due to 3020-a discipline charges and had won their termination hearings.  The ATRs were people unlucky enough to have picked a school targeted for closing by the Bloomberg Administration (32%) or in a subject area program that was either eliminated or reduced (39%).

Third, schools don't like picking up ATRs for two reasons, their salary and seniority not that they are "bad teachers".  That is a myth started by then Chancellor Joel Klein and continues under the news media, deformer organizations, and E4E.  The DOE, for their own political purposes use this propaganda to keep the ATR pool a thousand plus strong year after year and is willing to waste $100 million dollars or more to suit their ideological philosophy..

Fourth, the Fair Student Funding (fsf) used by the schools penalizes principals who hire veteran teachers.  The faf  forces principals to hire the "cheapest and not the best teachers" for their schools.  Its little wonder that the average ATR has 23 years of experience and 53 years of age since they are too expensive for many schools to permanently hire.

Fifth, the rise of the Leadership Academy Principals in which are taught to be the CEO of their school and they don't want veteran teachers who have institutional memory on what its like to effectively and collaboratively run a school . There are fewer and fewer instructional leaders who appreciate the institutional memory and classroom experience veteran teachers bring with them.

Finally, the DOE promotes an "education on the cheap" policy with school budgets 14% below what fsf requires, limiting Regents Science programs to 4 classes of instruction instead of five as the rest of the State has, putting too many students with IEP's in ICT classes, and make sure they have the maximum contractual limit on class sizes, all to save on teachers they need to hire. In addition, schools rather give their existing teachers a sixth class or put teachers not certified in the subject area than hire an additional teacher.

So when you hear or read that ATRs are "bad teachers" you just need to read this post to know the truth,

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Just Another Example Of A DOE Official Being Stupid.

For teachers in the trenches, we all know that the DOE proposes policies and programs that has a negative impact on schools.  Be it tight school budgets (86% funded) while the City has a 6 billion dollar surplus and more money is being used by the bloated DOE Central Bureaucracy at the expense of the schools and their students. Now we have another example how a top DOE official ignored pleas from two Jewish coaches and refused to reschedule games slated for the eve of the Jewish high holy day of Yum Kippur.

The DOE official is Brenda Morgan, sports coordinator of the PSAL told both coaches that they either get a qualified replacement or forfeit the game.  The entire story can be found in today's New York Post. Apparently, the PSAL has showed little sympathy for students and coaches like in 2011 when the PSAL forced sixteen girls volleyball teams to forfeit their season opener and six the first two games because they were unable to send the PSAL a final roster one week before the season began.   Who was in charge you ask?  Why it was the very same Brenda Morgan who penalized the students since the previous commissioner allowed the schools to submit a completed roster as late as the day of the season opener because it was difficult for the schools to allocate the necessary gym time before schools officially opened to make the girls eligible for league play.

Apparently Brenda Morgan is more interested in upholding the rules and cares little about the hardship to coaches and their players.  As a decade long coach I was fortunate enough to have a commissioner who would work with the coaches and a forfeit was a rare occurrence, usually because of a lack of eligible players.  My Commissioner was more interested in making sure the games get played and if that meant bending the rules, so be it.  Unfortunately, the Brenda Morgan's of the world at the PSAL are sticklers for the rules and if it causes a forfeit and hurts the players?  Well, that's just too bad.

The good news is that the bad publicity and the article in the New York Post about her made Brenda Morgan reconsider her terrible decision and has reluctantly agreed to postpone (reschedule?) the games. Maybe Ms. Morgan should be reminded that it's children first...Always.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

DOE Continues Their Destructive Fair Student Funding At The Expense Of The Students.

Back in 2005, when Randi Weingarten allowed Chancellor Joel Klein to give principals complete control of their budget, one of the most destructive aspects of this new policy was the "Fair Student Funding" (FSF) that was imposed on the schools in 2007 as part of the budget process.  The fsf in conjunction with the elimination of seniority bumping rights and closing schools (162 under Mayor Michael Bloomberg) caused an explosion of excessed teachers.  At last count there are still 1,162 teachers without a classroom, which does not include ATRs who are provisionally appointed or covering a long-term leave. By contrast, this year the schools hired over 5,700 "newbies" who have no classroom experience rather than hiring an experienced classroom teacher.

Why would principals rather hire a "newbie" who must learn classroom management, curriculum, and the culture of the New York City classroom over a teacher who has mastered these skills?  The answer is the fsf.   You see the fsf penalizes schools who hire experienced teachers as the higher a teacher's salary the less money the school has to supply the resources to give to the staff.  The DOE will claim that many school districts nationwide use fsf and that is correct but only New York City makes it school based rather than district based as the rest of the country does.  The result is that principals are forced to "hire the cheapest and not the best teachers" for their school.

To exacerbate the problem, after the 2008 recession, Mayor Bloomberg cut the school budget and the average school received only 86 % of their fsf..  Some of the large comprehensive schools were cut even more as one school in Queens, slated for eventual closing but did not received only 78% of their fsf.  By contrast the new Bloomberg small schools, to ensure they succeed, received 100% of their fsf and the newest schools even more than 100%  (one school received 160% according to the IBO report).  Eight year later, Mayor Bill de Blasio has a 6 billion dollar surplus, yet this year's budget is still only 89% of the fsf and is only expected to increase to 92% of the fsf.  The good news is not only is the school budget increasing, but the schools should all be getting the same percentage of the fsf, no more winners (Bloomberg small schools) and losers (large comprehensive schools). However, the fsf still hurts the schools and the students by penalizing principals who hire veteran teachers.

The blame lies with Mayor Bill de Blasio and his Chancellor, Carmen Farina, who has retained 80% of the Bloomberg policymakers at the DOE and allowed the bloated Central Bureaucracy to continue to suck up funds that could be better spent on school based student services or lower class sizes.  However, at the DOE its still ideology first and children last...always.