Monday, May 28, 2018

How To Improve Test Scores? Air Condition The Classroom.

Most teachers know that teaching in a hot room is not conducive to good teaching and student learning.  Of course school and DOE administrators would beg to differ since they have air conditioned offices.  Now there is a study that proves that overheated classrooms result in lower test scores and less student engagement.

In New York City , the majority of schools have no air conditioning in most of their classrooms.  Even when the classroom has an air conditioner, it is problematic whether it works or not.  In one school I was in this year, an administrator received a brand new air conditioner for his office and then "donated" his ten year old air conditioner, that didn't work very well to a non profit organization that supplied services to a couple of students outside the school.  While the air conditioner could not be used in the classroom, the "donated" air conditional would have been a welcome addition to the school's teacher work room which had no air conditioner.  Is it any wonder this administrator is not well liked by the staff.

This study should show that the New York City Department of Education  should give priority to upgrading every school's electrical system and install a working air conditioner in every classroom.  That will help improve effective teaching and student learner and maybe the test scores will legitimately improve. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Our Union Leadership Has Failed It's Members When It Comes To Negotiating A Contract.

Many of us know that our union leadership has failed it's members as they have negotiated contracts that contained massive "givebacks", inadequate raises, and deteriorating teacher autonomy in the classroom. Since the Bloomberg era teachers have seen many "givebacks" negotiated by our inept union leadership. While the City had highly experienced negotiators at their side, the union leadership relied on their own people, like Adam Ross to negotiate a contract.  One City Hall insider snickered that negotiating with the UFT is like a man fighting a boy, with the UFT being the boy.  No wonder our contracts are so pitiful.   Let's take a look on the many "givebacks" and inadequate raises each contract imposed on the members.

2005 Contract:
The mother of all bad contracts.  The October 2005 contract barely included raises that exceeded the rate of inflation.  The raises averaged 3.15% annually.while inflation was 3%. To get this raise the UFT leadership gave the City massive givebacks. This included the elimination of seniority transfer rights and the rise of the ATR crisis.  You can read it Here 
Second,  was the elimination of challenging disciplinary letters to the file, a major blow to teachers who are targeted by vindictive principals.  You can read it Here. Third, the 2005 contract negotiated more time in the teaching day and more days, including two days before Labor Day.  You can read it Here.  Fourth, probably the most nefarious part of the contract that allowed the DOE, using the "probable cause" wording in the contract,  to remove any educator accused by a student of sexual misconduct to be taken off payroll and health benefits, if an investigative agency substantiates it, based on the most flimsy of hearsay evidence.  This usually results in the educator being terminated through the 3020-a process.  Finally, the contract reimposed the onerous "Circular Six" requirements that basically took away our professional period.

2007 Contract:
While this contract was probably the best contract we received (a 7.1% increase for two years) it still included a couple of  "givebacks"  This included the expanding of the "probable cause" section to include some felonies.  Moreover, this contract was the begining of the DOE's Fair Student Funding" policy that discriminated against veteran teachers and caused the ATR pool to explode with over 2,500 at its peak.

The 2014 Contract:
This contract was short on raises, 10% for 7.1 years or averaged 1.41% annually.  True, it gives back our 2009-10 raises but most of us have to wait until 2020 to be made whole. Of course if you resign or die forget about those raises.  Here again the union agreed to "givebacks" by making it easier to fire ATRs and further expanded actions under the "probable cause" statue.

Now, our union leadership is in the process of negotiating a new contract.  Based on previous contracts look for raises that are less than 2% annually and more "givebacks".

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Bill Gates Ideas Are A Failure When It Comes To Public Eduction.

Over the last twenty years.  Bill Gates has used his vast fortune, reputation, and celebrity to push an education agenda that radically  changed the landscape.  His ideas was must sought after by education reformers, politicians, and even the AFT.  Remember Randi Weingarten , President of the AFT invited Bill Gates to be the keynote speaker at their convention. His many ideas were adopted by various administrations and States.  Most have proven to be failures and his latest idea is the Obama imposed teacher evaluation system is rapidly falling into disfavor and in some states has been eliminated.  Here are some of Bill Gates ideas that are no longer used in education.

First, was the small high schools that Bill Gates pushed and a decade later he admitted that it was a failure as they failed to show improved academic achievement.  Next, was making teachers accountable for student growth which was based on "junk Science" and high-states testing.  Now more and more Sates are moving away from this failed model.  Bill Gates also proposed that cameras be installed in the classroom. However, this idea was blocked by teachers who realized that the cameras would be used by administrators to spy on them and not to help students   Finally, Bill Gates convinced the Obama Administration to push a teacher evaluation system on the States by bribing them with federal money during the height of the recession. Here again the teacher evaluation system is failing students and discouraging teachers from staying in the low paying profession.

Presently, Bill Gates has decided that all students need a quality teacher.  However, when it comes yo defining a quality teacher, Mr. Gates is strangely silent.  Maybe because he knows that many urban and rural school districts hire "newbie" teachers and despite his "children first" statements, he knows that these teachers have a steep learning curve that makes their students guinea pigs.  He also believes that the graduation rate is a measure of success even when he admitted that far too many students graduate unprepared for the adult world.

Bill Gates may spend a billion dollars on public education (most go to charter school networks) but when it comes to teachers, he is the reason that their is a teacher shortage as they are being held unfairly accountable for student outcomes.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The DOE Policy That Protects Pervy Principals Is Finallly Exposed By The Media.

The DOE claims they have a "zero tolerance" policy when a teacher is accused of sexual misconduct against a student.  The presumption is that any sexually based allegations against a teacher requires their removal from the school and reassigned to a "rubber room" until their 3020-a termination hearing is scheduled.  In fact, any sexually based charges usually results in the teacher receiving a "probable cause" hearing within a month of the DOE substantiating the charges, usually based on merely hearsay evidence and the word of the student.  The result is that the teacher is taken off salary and health benefits for up to 90 days and usually results in the teacher's firing if the 3020-a arbitrator upholds the sexual misconduct charges.

By contrast, principals who are accused of sexual misconduct by a teacher or other subordinates will retain their position and any lawsuits brought by the teacher will be fought "tooth and nail" by the DOE in the courts and when the DOE finally loses, the lawsuit, the court case has lasted five or more years.  Therefore, by the time the DOE decides to take action against the Principal, they no longer can file 3020-a charges since there is a three year "statue of limitations" between the sexual misconduct and the DOE initiating charges against the Principal. This is done purposely by the DOE since they practice a "double standard" when they assume the Principal is innocent until proven guilty, while teachers who are assumed guilty and removed from the classroom.

The New York Post identified five principals who were accused of sexual misconduct and some of them are still principals while the rest were either demoted to an assistant principal position or reassigned to an administrative office.  None of them faced 3020-a charges.  Mona Davids President, of the NYC Parents Union said it best

“Clearly the DOE is protecting these principals by running out the clock on the statute of limitations,” Davids said. “They’re not good leaders, and they’re a danger to our kids. If an adult is not safe around that person, what makes you think a child is?”

If the principals were subject to the same DOE rules as teachers, the principals would be reassigned , pending substantiation of the charges and be subject to a 3020-a hearing within the three year statue of limitations.  No longer will the DOE's "double standard" protect principals who comment misconduct, sexual or otherwise, by running out the clock and retaining their salary and benefits despite being guilty of the charges.
For additional information read the NYC Public School Parents blog.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The NYC Small Schools Have Many Disadvanatages.


Being an ATR, I have first hand experience of the many disadvantages of the small school experience.  Unfortunately, for the students of these small schools they soon realize that the propaganda that the small high schools allow for a more family-like atmosphere and better academics (not true) pales in comparison of the many disadvantages associated wit the small high school experience.  Let's look at the many disadvantages of the small school experience.

Limited Curriculum:
Now that the small schools are under the same monetary limitations as all other schools which is about 90% of their fair funding, they cannot offer enough Advanced Placement or higher level courses to better prepare the student for college and students who do not like the teacher is stuck with him or her, .  Moreover, they lack flexibility and have limited choices beyond the State required courses.  Finally, in these small schools only one teacher may be certified to teach the subject.

Inexperienced Teachers:
Due to budgetary restrictions and DOE inspired hiring practices, many of the small schools have hired the "cheapest and not the best teachers" for the schools.  For many principals it's how much they can stretch their tight budget and veteran teachers are just too expensive.  Its common knowledge that there is a steep learning curve for "newbie" teachers and it takes 5 to 8 years for these teachers to master the Art of teaching.  That includes classroom management, curriculum knowledge, and social skills to work with a student population. In addition, the small schools are subject to high teacher turnover and an unstable school environment.

Lack of Extracurricular Activities:
Many of the small schools lack space for sports programs, may don't even have a gym!  Further, the limited funding means that schools must choose to offer either Art or Music but can't afford both,  Moreover,  physical education is limited to two or three days a week rather than everyday.Finally, programs like Dance, Literature, and clubs are almost non-existent in the small high schools.

Top Heavy In Administrators: 
Many of the small schools are top heavy in administrators with each small school having a Principal and between two and three assistant principals.  In the campus of a closed large comprehensive high school, the total amount of administrators to oversee 3,000 students was eight administrators, one Principal and seven assistant principals.  Now the four small schools that replaced it has fourteen administrators, four principals and ten assistant principals.  This does not include  administrative managers (coaches and financial managers etc.) assigned to the school who must pay for their services. The small schools are usually headed by  Leadership Academy Principal who have a reputation of not running a collaborative administration. 

Ask any high school student who go to these small high schools and they will tell you that they made a mistake because of the restrictions and limitations of the small school experience.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Why NYC's Small School Miracle Is A Mirage.

In Monday's New York Times there is an article on the lack of Music in many of the NYC small high schools that were created from the 69 large comprehensive high schools that Mayor Bloomberg closed.  While the article was accurate on the lack of a Music program, it only scratched the surface of the  problems with the small school miracle that Mayor Bloomberg and his education reformer administrators at the DOE claimed.  Let's examine the issues:

Graduation Rate:
The first thing the education reformers will bring up is the small school graduation rate increased substantially.  However, when you consider that the average small schools that came from the large comprehensive large schools had  only accepted a maximum enrollment of half the students of the closed large school, which students do you think were left out of the small schools?  The answer was the self contained Special Education students, the English Language Learners, and the students who had academic, behavioral, or attendance issues.  Moreover, the DOE ensured a higher graduation rate in the small schools by allowing these schools to exclude "high needs" students and while most large comprehensive high schools suffered from budget cuts that resulted in some schools receiving as little as 78% (Flushing high school for one) of their fair funding, the new small schools were fully funded at 100% and in some cases received extra funding of up to 50% more that their fair funding.  Finally, the DOE allowed these newly created small schools to keep their number of students down by excluding the "high needs" students and still be fully funded.  It's little wonder the first few graduating classes had a higher graduation rate. The cohorts were different from the cohort of the closed down large comprehensive high school it replaced.

As mention previously, the small schools that replaced the closed down large comprehensive schools were fully funded while the large comprehensive high schools were funded at between 78% to 82% of their fair funding.

Academic Fraud:
To keep up their graduation rate after the small schools were eventually required to take "high needs" students after a couple of years of excluding them.  The small schools were still allowed to exclude self contained students and English Language Learners who traditionally had low test scores and graduation rates.  The student cohorts became increasingly more like the large comprehensive schools they replaced.  Therefore school administrators resorted in "academic fraud" to jack up the graduation rate by giving struggling students "credit recovery" courses. and administrative inspired "scholarship guidelines" that linked a teacher's effectiveness to meeting the goal.  For example most school had a scholarship guideline of 80% passing of a teacher's roster, including no shows.  Failure to meet that goal could result in a teacher being rated "ineffective"  or  "unsatisfactory".  Furthermore, some principals would change grades from the teacher's failing to passing and would intimidate teachers, especially the untnured teacher to accept the changed grade.  Finally,  some schools go a step further by implementing a "blended learning" scheme that allowed all students to use online instruction rather than having a teacher instruct the student, they developed a blended learning program that had one teacher in charge of 50 or more students and the teacher was usually not certified in the subject and failed to provide adequate instructor.

The bottom line is that the first few years of the Bloomberg small schools they had a student cohort that was academically superior to the large comprehensive high school it replaced because the schools had small class sizes were fully funded, and excluded "high needs" students.  However, once the small schools had to accept the "high needs" students, have full class sizes, and were funded like every other school, the small school miracle became a mirage.  Even Bill Gates realized the small schools did not improve academic achievement.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Wiil Chancellor Carranza Remove More Terrible Principals?

One of the first constructive actions the new Chancellor, Richard Carranza has tackled head on was the removal of John Bowne's horn-dog Principal Howard Kwait who's had numerous accusations of sexual misconduct and harassment lodged against him.  According to the New York Post. Howard Kwait has cost the DOE $830,000 due to his inappropriate behavior told female subordinates.  This does not include the $4,500 he personally paid to the City's conflict of of interest board when he acceptable a paid vacation with a female subordinate.

Howard Kwait is not the only Principal that the new Chancellor should remove, let's look at another High School Principal Chancellor Carranza should remove in Queens.

The Principal is Namita Dawarka from William Cullen Bryant High School.  She has removed almost the entire veteran staff she inherited in 2012 by harassment, 3020-a charges, or forced retirement.  Moreover, she has been accursed of grade fixing and changing and manipulating classes so some students received double credits for the same course. Finally, she was accused of teat manipulation. You can read her actions.  Here, Here, Here, and Here. In addition, Principal Dwarka allegedly hid a sexual relationship between her handpicked Assistant Principal of Math and a student.  Despite the allegations when the AP of Math was shockingly released from reassignment she was reinstated as the AP of Math by Ms. Dawaka.

Beyond Ms. Dawarka, you can find a list of the worst Principals in Queens in a previous post.  Here. Then there is the biggest problem of them all.  The Superintendent, Juan Mendez, who either selected them, despite opposition (Judy Henry) or protected them (Juan Cruz), despite their alleged misconduct.  You can read it Here.   Finally, the New York Daily News listed a rouges gallery of DOE administrators accused of multiple sexual issues and are still employed.

The bottom line, Chancellor Richard Carranza cannot stop at one.  He must remove all those Principals that have low staff trust ratings and he must eliminate the "double standard" when it comes to disciplining administrators.  Moreover, he must ensure fair and independent investigations from the investigative agencies like OEO, OSI, and SCI. Especially when a subordinate accuses an administrator that they were sexual harassed and was not taken seriously by the DOE.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Most New Yorkers Believe Camen Farina's Tenure As Chancellor Was A Failure And I Agree.

The final poll on Carmen Farina's tenure as Chancellor of the New York City schools, most New Yorker's believe she was a failure.  In a Quninnipac poll 38% rated Carmen Farina's tenure as Chancellor as a failure, while 34% said she was successful.  This was a drop of 10% of Ms. Farina's approval rating since October of 2017.and shockingly was below Joel Klein' final approval rating of 46%..

I also believe that Carmen Farina's tenure as Chancellor was a failure and here's why.

Note: It took a new Chancellor to force the DOE to reassign John Browne Principal Howard Kwait as Carmen Farina failed to have him removed.  Read about him Here and Here.

The bottom line is that Carmen Farina's tenure as Chancellor of the New York City schools was a failure as she was part of the problem and not the solution when it came to improving the New York City schools.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

The DOE's Bloated Bureaucracy Eats Up 24% Of the Education Budget.

Yesterday, NYC Comptroller, Scott Stringer, blasted the DOE for its spending 24% of their budget on administrative costs.  This is over twice the national average of 11.1%.   Mr. Stringer cited the large class sizes, lack of resources for schools, and lack of adequate teacher hiring as factors that resulted with the funding shortfall of schools.  You can read it Here.

The almost recession era school budgets average 10% below their fair funding and the DOE inspired policies force principals to "hire the cheapest and not the best" teachers for their school.  Further, to make ends meet, the principals will try to have the maximum amount of students for each class, the largest in the State..  Finally, many schools would rather use "newbie" teachers who are not certified in the subject they are assigned to teach, rather than hire a more expensive qualified teacher in the subject.  This is widespread in the Bronx but many schools in the other Boroughs are also guilty of using unqualified teachers.  You can read many of my posts about the bloated DOE Bureaucracy under Tweed Money.

When the DOE Bureaucracy  claims its "children first" its not about the children in the New York City Public Schools but their own children who benefit from these DOE administrators high salaries and lack of accountability.  In fact, here is what Comptroller Scott Stringer said about the allocation of funds sent to the DOE.

 “The Department of Education is a spending boondoggle,” he said. “They spend 24 percent of the money on administrators instead of teachers instead of resources for the classrooms.”

  See the ICEUFT blog for their take.

Monday, May 07, 2018

The DOE Protects Violent Students And Punishes School Staff Who Try To Defend Themeselves.

Over the last few years I have been hearing more stories how the DOE will protect students who are violent while going after paraprofessionals and teachers who dare defend themselves by either restraining the student.or even yelling at the student to stop his or her disruptive behavior.

Under the Bill de Blasio administration, everybody knows the student discipline code has been drastically weakened and has resulted in fewer student suspensions.  On the other hand,  The DOE continues to assume school staff are guilty, when accusations are made against them by students.  This continues since the beginning of the Bloomberg era.  The result is that violent student behavior is not punished and staff are afraid to be physically and verbally discipline the violent student.

 The parents of the student was informed by the student that the para had assaulted him and contacted the Superintendent, who told the Principal to remove the para from the classroom, pending an investigation.  In this case  OSI asked the Principal to do the investigation and she found that the para did the right thing but after two months sitting in a small room and not allowed to leave until the school day was over (bathroom and lunch breaks excluded), he was transferred to another classroom.  What was the student's punishment?  None.
According to the DOE school staff accused by a student are assumed guilty and removed from the classroom.  Even when cleared they are not innocent and the false accusation is still sitting in a file at either OSI or SCI, just waiting, for another accusation so they can substantiate it by claiming a"pattern and practice".

Saturday, May 05, 2018

The Biggest Problems Facing Schools Nationally.

A national survey was done in 2002 that asked one simple question to parents.  What is the biggest problem facing your school.  Not surprisingly, the answer was under funding.  Below were the survey results.
  • Under funding.............23%
  • Lack of discipline.........17%
  • Drugs.........................13%
  • Violence...................... 9%
  • Lack of good teachers...8%
A similar national survey was done in 2017 and found little change to the data found in the 2002 survey .  They are as follows:However, this survey included the use of high stakes testing standards required by the Obama Administration for the education reform endorsed teacher evaluation system  that was not available in the original survey.
  • Under funding.............22%
  • Lack of discipline.........18%
  • State Standards............9%
  • Lack of good teachers...7%
  • Drugs...........................6%
  • Violence...................... 6%
Interestingly, despite the media reports of school violence and drug use, both are significantly less a problem for parents than in  2002.  However, the two major problems in the schools remain under funding and student discipline ,
  Is it any wonder that in the last two months we have seen four States, Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, and West Virginia suffer a teacher walkout demanding higher wages and more resources for the schools.   In three of the four States, Arizona, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, negotiations were successfully concluded with significant pay raises for teachers.  However, in Arizona, the State refused to add resources to the schools and only promised to rescind previous education cuts. In Colorado the jury is out whether the teachers will achieve heir goal.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

The New Action Caucus Contract Proposal Is One We Can All Support.

After I saw the MORE contract proposal which was strong on civil rights, diversity, and social justice and short on teacher justice, I decided I could not support MORE as they have lurched to the far left and supports many militant far left groups and approves work stoppages and job actions, despite the Taylor law that would cost educators two days pay for every one day of a work stoppage.  As for the mainstream "Unity" caucus?  ou can read it on South Bronx School blog. When it comes to the "Unity" caucus,  I hold little hope that they will negotiate a favorable contract, based on prior negotiated contracts  I don't expect a favorable wage contract with raises ranging from 1% to 2%. . less than the inflation rate.  Moreover, they negotiate secretly, without member input.  I can only hope that the UFT does not allow for any "givebacks" in the next contract.  As for the Educators 4 Excellence (E4E)?  They are a corporate reform "fifth column" and whatever they propose is not worthy for consideration.

That leaves the New Action caucus contract proposal and I liked what they are proposing.  They are strong on teacher justice, want to eliminate fair student funding, the ATR pool, reduce class size, and publicize abusive administrators.  Moreover, they propose raises above the rate of inflation and no "givebacks"!, Finally, they want a six week paid family leave.  Read South Bronx School blog for the actual list of the New Action contract demands.

The bottom line, the New Action contract proposals are teacher friendly and represents the interests of the classroom teacher.  The New Action contract proposal is far superior to the other caucuses and I am thinking strongly of joining the New Action caucus.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

The City Continues To Play Hardball With Unions On The Next Contract.

The Bill de Blasio administration continues to play hardball with the unions on the next contract.  According to the PBA and DC37, the City has only offered 1% raises and any extra wage hikes must be paid by "givebacks".  While family leave is a top priority for most of the unions, the City wants the unions to follow the City imposed family leave policy on their non union managers which resulted in a windfall for the City economically.  So far, no union has agreed to the City leave policy. A City Council analysis  found that an acceptable family leave proposal would cost the City $250 million dollars.  A sum the City can well afford with their $3 billion budget surplus.

The present day inflation rate is 2.10% and is expected to rise to close to 3% by the end of the calendar year and probably higher in the 2019 calendar year.  Therefore, just to keep up with the expected inflation rate, the unions shouldn't settle for anything less than two 3% raises, without "givebacks"and that  should be the floor.

Moreover, the City is, once again. demanding health care "givebacks".  Be it either higher co payments by employees or higher deductibles.   At this point, no union has or will agree to higher health care costs since they agreed to them on the previous contract.

Finally, the City has a 3 billion dollar surplus and giving unions across the board 3% raises (4% for uniformed employees) will not brake the bank.  For every 1% raise, the City pays $586 million dollars.  Therefore, for a 3% raise, it will cost the city $1.76 billion dollars the first year.  Given the slightly high rate for uniformed employees the total first year City payout is probably closer to $2 billion dollars.  That still leaves the City with a $1 billion dollar surplus. While the City payout will increase over the next two or three years, the economic growth of the City will aslo increase.  Therefore, the budget surplus should be at or more than the 2018 level.

The bottom line, the City can well afford to give it's hard working public sector employees a wage increase  that keeps pace with inflation.and a family leave policy tht's fair to all.