Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Bloomberg Small Schools Are Doing A Disservice To Self Contained Special Education Students.


There have been pros and cons when breaking up large comprehensive high school and make three to six small schools on the campus.  The pros would be closer relationship between students and staff, assuming staff stays at the school which is problematic.  A higher graduation rate (but not college readiness) and a more focused student centered environment.  The cons are limited course curricula, high teacher turnover and usually an inexperienced teaching staff in low income communities, and .lack of resources for the neediest of students.  However, the biggest negative are those Special Education students who need a self-contained environment.  Be it 12-1-1 or 8-1-1.  Instead most of the Bloomberg small high schools have no self-contained classrooms and these Special Education students are dumped into a ICT classes with class sizes as high as 34 students.

The DOE will claim that they are mandated to put Special Education students in the "least restrictive environment" but many students need a self contained classroom, where he or she gets more intensive academic and behavioral support.  This is just another example of the DOE's "education on the cheap" policy at the expense of the Special Education student.

Ask any teacher at the high school level how many potential self-contained Special Education students will pass the end of year Regents.  How about close to zero!  Yet, the Bloomberg small schools dumped these high needs students in ICT classes of up to 34 students.

The villain is the DOE and their "no excuses" philosophy when it comes to the teacher evaluation system and combined with their "education on the cheap" policy and you have a recipe for failure and that's what happens in school after schools in the small school universe in New York City.

The bottom line is that the DOE treats self-contained Special Education students a disservice when they dumped them in ICT classes.  For these "high needs" students the DOE's child last policy hurts their academic achievement.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Will The DOE Protect "F" Status Field Supervisors From ATR Lawsuits? Maybe Or Maybe Not.

It has come to my attention that a teacher, who became an ATR, filed a lawsuit against the Principal and the Principal's Advisor.  Of course the Principal was protected as a DOE employee from personal liability.  However, the DOE appointed advisor was not an active employee but was defined as a consultant.  The result was the Principal's advisor was not protected by the DOE from liability.  The result was the consultant had to hire his own lawyer on his own dime.  Moreover, he ended up paying the teacher $25,000 and his own lawyer as well..

This brings me to the field supervisors (assassins).  Most of the field supervisors are retired Principals or Assistant principals.  The are hired on an "F" status basis and are considered contract employees.  Therefore, its possible that if the ATR, who feels they were unjustly evaluated by one of these "F" status field supervisors, if the ATR files a lawsuit its possible that the "F" status field supervisor would not be protected from liability by the DOE.  If that is the case, then the "F" status field supervisor would have to hire their own lawyer.

I cannot say for sure that is the case, but based on the Bronx case it might be worth the effort to sue the "F" status field supervisor and see if the DOE decides to protect them.  Ir the DOE does not protect them from liability, the result would be the eventual elimination of the "F" status field supervisors since the money they receive is not worth the risk of a lawsuit.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

How Will The Union Leadership Respond To The Janus Decision?

Before the end of the school year it's expected the Supreme Court in a 5 to 4 decision will rule in favor of Janus and dues will become voluntary not mandatory.  The result will be that approximately 20% of the teachers will refuse to allow the union to take out their dues from their paycheck.

The union leadership wants to get the State Legislature to allow for the State to work out a mandatory dues program but with the State Senate controlled by the Republicans, that seems to be wishful thinking.  Without State intervention, the union has developed two strategies to encourage members to pay their dues.  The first, is a door knocking campaign that will have loyal members of the "Unity caucus"  knock on every members door to exchange personal stories about how the union helped them to convince the member to pay their dues,  The second,  is to establish membership meeting at every school to tell active school staff why it's important to continue to pay dues to keep the union strong and effective.

In Michigan, when the State eliminate the mandatory dues for public sector unions, the dropout rate was 20%.  Despite a strong effort by teacher unions to get members to pay their dues, still 18% dropped out.  Obviously, the Michigan law is much more relevant to what will happen in New York State than what happened in Wisconsin, where union collective bargaining rights were eliminated that resulted in reduction of teacher benefits and limited pay raises amd have caused a severe teacher shortage in the State.  You can read my post on Why New York State Is Not Wisconsin.

One group the union will most certainly lose are the ATRs.  While they amount to only 2% of all teachers, they are a vocal group.  Moreover, many ex-ATRs still harbor resentment to the union leadership on how they were treated by the union during their time being excessed.  Finally, all the teachers who were forced out of the closing schools to look for new positions were not happy with the union's inability to fight the DOE by taking action.  Instead the union acquiesced to the DOE school closing policy.

Another group that might not pay voluntary dues are the veteran teachers who know how the union leadership has allowed the DOE to impose policies that discrimate against them, like Fair Student Funding and tight school budgets that penalizes principals who hire veteran teachers.

Maybe after the Janus decision the union will start to treat their members as customers and provide them the services they pay for rather than looking at them as a nuisance since they are required to pay their dues.  How much will the union downsize after the Janus decision?  Only time will tell but downsize they must since a 20% cut in dues will require many jobs to be eliminated at the union.

Note:  An audit done by Comptroller Scott Stringer  found that the Department of Education escalated their spending on its Central Bureaucracy and was put on his "watch list".  Here is what he said.

Stringer red-flagged the school system, where he found central administration staff has soared by 24 percent since 2012 — double the 12 percent rate of teachers.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

What Grade Would You Give Chancellor Carmen Farina?

Chancellor Carmen Farina told the news media that she would give herself a grade of "B+" for achievement and an "A+" for effort..  She pointed out her success in increasing the bogus graduation rate, the implementation of the pre-K program, and increased parent engagement.  The Chancellor also claimed how she went to numerous schools and reached out to teachers.  Moreover, she is pleased of the work she has done as Chancellor.

I for one maintain that her overall grade is a "D" for disappointing.  Here is why.

  1. Carmen Farina retained 80% of the Bloomberg policymakers at the DOE and few of the destructive Bloomberg policies were changed.  Fair student funding, 3020-a charges, and large class sizes continued to exist with the new Chancellor.  Let's not forget Charlotte Danielson, recession era school budgets, and the ATR pool remained under her administration.
  2. She curried favor with our disconnected union leadership but treated veteran teachers with contempt.  She stated that when she visited schools, she was looking to identify "bad teachers" and told principals how to start a paper trail to remove them.
  3. Chancellor Carmen Farina failed to remove the 400 principals she claimed should not be running their schools and allowed the DOE "double standard" to continue when disciplining principals.
  4. Her insistence that teachers be subject to 90 minutes of useless Professional Development and her failure to reduce paperwork hurt teacher morale.
  5. Carmen Farina's greatest failure is that she allowed the teachers of the system to look at the DOE as the enemy not as a partner when it came to education.
Overall, while Chancellor Carmen Farina did some good things, like requiring more school experience for Leadership Academy principals and her opposition to charter schools.  Her many faults and failures earn her a grade of "D" for disappointing.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Principal Quality Is A Major Factor Why Schools Struggle Academically.

When I was a student I used to buy Marvel comic books and "Archie" for my younger sister   One of the characters in the Archie comic book was the Riverdale high school Principal, Mr. Weatherbee. In the comic book Mr. Weatherbee was looked at as the instructional leader of the school and was highly respected for his integrity by both staff and students.

Mr. Weatherbee was a composite of the many old time and long-term educators who started out as a teacher for a decade or more and worked his way up to eventually become a Principal.  Mr. Weatherbee was educationally, .all knowing and mentored his staff. He was highly respected head of the school.

Fast forward to the present day New York City schools and few principals followed the path of Mr. Weatherbee.  Over 25% of the present day principals are graduates from the infamous "Leadership Academy" and until 2015, many graduates had minimal.classroom teaching experience and quite a few never achieved tenure as a teacher.  Even when Chancellor Carmen Farina changed the rules and required that educators have a minimum of seven years of school experience (from three and not necessarily in the classroom).  However, there were exceptions and people already in the program were grandfathered in   Therefore, a greater percentage of newly minted principals running their schools came from the "Leadership Academy".

These "Leadership Academy" principals, were accepted in the program based upon who they knew, not what they knew.  It was not uncommon that the teacher was accepted to the "Leadership Academy" by a recommendation of a Superintendent or a DOE official at Tweed.  The result was these principals didn't think of themselves as instructional leaders but as the CEO of their school.  Many practiced a top down management approach and collaboration with the school staff was seen as an inconvenience and a bar from implementing polices that the Principal wants to employ.

 These "Leadership Academy" principals were known to bully staff and were encouraged to run the school as they pleased by the DOE.  Is it any wonder that New York City has over half the State's 3020-a cases when New York City teachers make up only 30% of all teachers in New York State?
While there are many factors why schools struggle academically.  Poverty, segregation, teaching experience, and student discipline policies.  A major factor is also poor administration and the Principal. Maybe the new Chancellor will release the fatal flaw in improving academically struggling schools.  The poor quality of recently appointed principals from the "Leadership Academy".

Saturday, February 17, 2018

To Join The ATR Class Action Lawsuit It Has Been Extended To February 28th.

The potential class action lawsuit against the DOE for their discriminatory treatment of the ATRs has been extended to February 28th.  To join the lawsuit it cost $250.  Attorney Bryan Glass has agreed to file the lawsuit and he has an excellent reputation.  Mr. Glass has worked for both the DOE and NYSUT as an attorney both prosecuting and representing teachers at their 3020-a discipline hearings.

The class action lawsuit will show that the DOE discriminated against veteran excessed teachers by implementing policies that penalized schools who hired a veteran teacher.  Providing field supervisors who gave out bogus observations on ATRs who were assigned classes where they didn't know the students and had no ability to affect their grades . Refused to allow ATRs who came out of discipline to be hired by a school, despite being found innocent of the major charges against them.  Made it difficult for ATRs to apply for per session grading and other activities. 

You can read the summary at Glass Krakower​ LLP

The link can be found Here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Why New York State Is Not Wisconsin.

The UFT leadership has been using scare tactics that if Janus is upheld by the Supreme Court, our collective bargaining rights and pensions could be in danger.  They point to what happened in Wisconsin in 2011 as the example.

Wisconsin passed Act 10 that eliminated all union negotiating rights, except for raises limited to the inflation rate.  That meant that all other issues like health benefits, job protections, and work rules were non-negotiable,  The result is that union power was significantly eroded and despite still being able to negotiate limited raises, the raises have been smaller and even making teaching jobs non-competitive and resulted in high teacher turnover.  You can read what ACT 10 did to educators Here.

Wisconsin's Act 10 eliminated collective bargaining and saw a significant reduction in union membership.  One study showed a reduction of 40%!  Since Act 10 allows members to "opt out" of paying union dues and many members did so.

By contrast, New York State is a union friendly state and collective bargaining will still be in force, regardless of the Janus decision.  While theoretically if the Republicans somehow take over all three branches in New York State, and try to change the rules is always possible.  The likelihood of this happening is slim since the State Assembly has always been dominated by the Democrats. Moreover, any changes in the State Constitution will have to wait another twenty years for the next Constitutional Convention.  Finally, any legislative changes would also be subject to court challenges that could ne tied up in the courts for years.

The bottom line is that what happened in Wisconsin will not happen in New York State, regardless of the Janus decision.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Flushing High School, How The DOE Destroyed A Potentially Great Neighborhood School.

Very soon, the entire staff of Flushing High School will reapply for their jobs thorough the 18D process that is simply a fig leaf for the DOE and Principal to choose who they want.  Not what's best for the students of the school.   The 18D process usually includes a committee that consists of three DOE employees, the Principal, a representative from Tweed, and another DOE representative, either from the Superintendent's office or an assistant principal from the school.  The other two come from the UFT, usually the District Representative and another from the Borough office.  The result is usually a 3 to 2 vote with the DOE holding the majority.

Because of Fair Student Funding and recession era school budgets, the 50% of staff members selected usually consists of the cheapest teachers and most of the lower paid employees like paraprofessionals, school aides, and support service personnel.  The only veteran teachers selected are the lead teacher of each subject area, while the rest are usually not selected.  The result is the majority of teachers selected are usually untenured and the rest will be new to the system.  Most veteran teachers will be jettisoned to the ATR pool.  The result is far less than 50% of the teachers will find themselves back at the school in their position next year.

The DOE decided that teachers are the blame for the poor results at Flushing High School and not the administration or the students.  Flushing High School has had six principals since 2011 and each one of them had issues.  One was  arrested with drugs near the school.  Another was found guilty by a jury for sexual harassment and retaliation, a third alienated the entire staff and fled to the suburbs.  The only one that lasted more than a year was removed for trying to interfere with teacher surveys and stopped a student newspaper from being published.  Let's not forget some of his questionable academic policies.   His claim to fame was calling the principal's job at the school like the "hunger games"You can read some of the issues with the previous principals Here, Here, and  Here.

 When it comes to the school, the student body is unrepresentative of the community.  Flushing High School is in the middle of Flashing's Chinatown and the neighborhood surrounding the school is 85% East Asian.   However, the school's student body is 80% Black and Hispanic with Asians only representing 17% of the student body.  Eliminate the South Asian students and the East Asian percentage is probably in the single digits.  I taught at the school in the 2011-12 school year and it was a real hellhole.  Read my post HereThe majority of Black and Hispanic students that go to Flushing High School live many mikes from the school and can take up to two hours to arrive at the school from Southeast Queens or Elmhurst.  Showing up late or not at all is a common problem at the school.  Combine that with the large "high needs" population and it's no wonder that the academic problems persist at the school.

How does the DOE expect the school to improve with a relatively inexperienced staff and the same student body?  The answer is they don't.  The DOE just wants to reduce school salaries and push veteran teachers out of the system.  It's not about what's best for the students.

Friday, February 09, 2018

The Racial\Income Achievement Gap Is As Wide As Ever

New York State and City published the latest graduation rates for the 2016-17 school year and both inched higher.  More about the bogus graduation rates is in a later post.   This post will concentrate on the racial/income achievement gap which is unacceptably wide.

The latest data from the New York State Education Department found that the academic achievement gap between White and Asian students and Black and Hispanic students was 20%,  Moreover, graduation rates for English Language Learners, who are mostly Black or Hispanic and low income, actually declined.  The schools with the lowest graduation rates in the State were in low income urban districts who tend to have a high percentage of "high needs" students, primarily low income Black and Hispanic students.

In another report the older a student gets, the wider the racial achievement gap.  A study reported by Chalkbeat found that while Black and Hispanic student started out slightly behind their White and Asian peers, the achievement gap became larger as the students went into higher grades.  In particular Black boys fell furthest behind and girls did better than boys.

The report came up with the following conclusions:

  • Black and Hispanics started out behuind.
  • Black students lost ground as they got older.
  • Hispanic students did slightly better.
  • By eigth grade Asian students did the best.
  • Black boys came out on the bottom.
  • Girls did better than boys.
Looking at the data is disturbing and for Black boys it seems the school to prison pipeline is not just a saying but a reality as Black boys struggle through high school and never acquire the necessary skills to be successful in higher education or the working world. Is it any wonder that the minority communities have trouble becoming financially independent and keeping the family intact. The bottom line, after two decades of trying to eliminate the racial\income achievement gap, little progress has been made in doing so and that means poverty in the low income, minority communities will continue..

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Our Disconnected Union Leadership Praises Chancellor Carmen Farina. What Were They Smoking?

It.s obvious that our disconnected union leadership does not listen to the classroom teacher and the hostile environment we operate in under the DOE.  In the latest edition of the New York Teacher, the union's propaganda newspaper,  their editorial page praises Chancellor Carmen Farina for her bringing back sanity to the New York City schools.  Moreover, the editorial goes on to say she brought "dignity" and "respect" to teachers.  Finally, the editorial goes on to say that the Chancellor urged collaboration within and across schools.  If you read the editorial you would be led to believe that Chancellor Carmen Farina was the solution to the Bloomberg appointed Chancellors.  The truth is that Chancellor Carmen Farina was part of the problem and not the solution Let's look why.

First, Chancellor Carmen Farina retained 80% of the Bloomberg policymakers and kept most of the destructive DOE programs intact, like Fair Student Funding, Charlotte Danielson, and the ATR pool.

Second, class sizes actually rose under Chancellor Carmen Farina and she funded schools at 87% to 90% of their fair funding.

Third, she failed to remove vindictive and or incompetent principals while teachers facing 3020-a hearings were as high as during the Bloomberg era.

Fourth, by her own admission when she visited schools, she was looking for poorly performing teachers.  Furthermore,  under her veteran teachers are targeted for removal and termination.

Fifth, She has made ATRs who were disciplined second class citizens.

Finally, Chancellor Carmen Farina has allowed the DOE Central Bureaucracy to remain bloated as schools scrounge for resources.

From a vantage point of the classroom teacher, Carmen Farina was just a continuation of the destructive policies from the Bloomberg Administration.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Will There Be Another ATR Buyout? Yes, No, Maybe.

Now that we are in the second semester of the 2017-18 school year and yet  another ATR incentive has been a failure.  The latest published data showed that only 41 ATRs were placed in vacancies, out of 1,202 at the start of the school year. While a few more may have landed permanent positions since December, the percentage of ATRs being offered a vacancy is in the single percentages.  The question is with the previous failures of the ATR incentives and the inadequate buyout packages, will the DOE propose another ATR buyout at the end of the school year?

Over the decade, the ATR pool has slowly been drained, from 2,400 at it's peak in 2008 to 1,200 this school year.  This draining is due to two primary reasons.   The first was that few schools actually closed in the last four years under Mayor Bill de Blasio and second, the average age and experience in the ATR pool is in their 50's and with eighteen years of experience.  This places them near retirement age and experience, especially the 25/55 option that many applied for.  Therefore, over the years many ATRs retired and few were replaced in the pool.  This allowed the DOE and UFT to falsely claim that they were making progress in reducing the ATR pool.  The truth is far different.

Sure two ATR buyouts resulted in approximately 220 ATRs who took the bait but almost all of the ATRs were retiring anyway!  The only way to really drain the ATR pool would be to eliminate Fair Student Funding and take staff salary considerations out of the hands of the principals.  Better, yet bring back the hiring policy that was in existence for decades that gave excessed teachers first dibs on vacancies and allowed for bumping of untenured teachers.

Back to any potential ATR buyout.  There could be one since the ATR pool is expected to swell with the closing of 14 schools and the merging of five other schools.  Moreover, two large high schools will be sending a significant number of teachers into the ATR pool as they are forced to reapply for their jobs.  The last thing the DOE and UFT want is an increase in the ATR pool. A buyout might help eliminate any increase in the ATR pool.

On the other hand, there might not be an ATR buyout since the two previous buyouts failed to significantly reduce the ATR pool.  Furthermore,  both organizations will not count ATRs in provisional positions as ATRs, even that they will be back into the ATR pool at the end of the school year.

Maybe, if a new contract is hammered out by the end of the school year, a new ATR buyout might be included in it, or maybe not.  Only time will tell.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Bogus High School Graduation Rates Are Nationwide.


It's common knowledge that the New York City's high school graduation rates are bogus and few students make it through college or obtain high paying jobs that can support a family.  Unfortunately, the bogus graduation rates are not confined to New York City.  It's a nationwide problem.  Take Washington D.C.  public schools for example.

On Oct. 28, 2015, the D.C. Public Schools district put out a statement lauding itself with this headline: “DC Public Schools Continues Momentum as the Fastest Improving Urban School District in the Country.”  That tale is looking a lot less remarkable in the wake of revelations that educators and administrators, feeling pressure from their bosses to boost graduation rates and student performance, allowed many students who did not have the requisite qualifications to graduate. An example is Ballou High School.

 A city study — undertaken after media reports revealed the situation — found that more than 900 of 2,758 students who graduated from a D.C. public school last year either failed to attend enough classes or improperly took makeup classes. At one campus, Anacostia High in Southeast Washington, nearly 70 percent of the 106 graduates received 2017 diplomas despite violating some aspect of city graduation policy.

This was the result of the education reform movement that pressured school administrators to commit academic fraud to show the "miracle"   Reformers refused to admit, at least publicly, that there are no “miracles” in education. Student success takes hard work by young people and their teachers and parents, and it takes work not just around school policy but also with housing and health and fiscal and transportation policy.

In Washington D.C. like all urban school districts, standardized test scores — which are highly correlated to Zip code and family income — did indeed dramatically rise over the past decade. But officials didn’t like to mention that proficiency rates of D.C. students would still be considered failing in a high-performing district or that a wide achievement gap persists between white students and black and Hispanic students. Some in the District also say that test scores rose because the percentage of white students — who traditionally do better on standardized tests — has grown in District schools in recent years.

In Washington D.C. there was a cheating scandal and academic fraud goes hand in hand with education reforms and while scho0ol districts nationwide report higher graduation rates, the "miracle" is just a mirage as these students drop out in college do to their lack of educational ability.

You can read the Washington Post article Here.