Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween Special - Horror Stories From The ATR Pool.

Back in 2014 I wrote a post on the horror stories told to me from ATRs.  I have decided to repost the article.  Please enjoy.

Today is Halloween and  its time to reprint my Halloween special from last year on the various horror figures in the form of administrators, fellow educators, and of course those lovely students who make life miserable for the ATRs as they rotate from school to school. Added to the list is one more from this school year, Here is the reprint of my post from last year, with additions.  Hope you enjoy reading it.

Horror Stories From The ATR Pool.

With Halloween here, its time to recount some of the horror stories told to me by the ATRs in the last couple of years.

Freddy Kruger:
This nightmare started when an ATR, trying to go the extra yard in entertaining the class he was covering, by asking them to solve a math question, using a baseball analogy.  In describing the problem he used statistics commonly used in baseball.  However, one female student didn't understand the concept and he patiently explained the math problem to her.  When she still didn't get it, the teacher explained that since she really didn't understand baseball he could see her confusion in solving the Math problem.  The girl felt insulted and reported the ATR to the Principal who charged the ATR with gender discrimination and verbal abuse. The ATR ended up with a Letter To The File (LIF) and a "u rating" for the year.

An ATR covering a leave replacement was teaching a Science lesson when three girls decided to play "UNO" instead.  The teacher asked the girls to put the cards away three times.  However, the girls refused the teacher's request.  The Teacher went over to three girls and took the UNO cards away.  One girl refused to give up her pile and the teacher grabbed them from her hand.  In doing so he touched her hand in taking the UNO cards away.  The three girls went to the Principal and the teacher ended up being charged with corporal punishment and OSI was contacted.  The result was a LIF for the teacher and no disciplinary consequences for the three students who failed to do their work or follow the rules.

Michael Myers:
A student was feeling ill and the ATR, who was provisionally assigned to the school, told the student to go to the school clinic to be checked out.  The teacher was trying to do what's right by having qualified medical personal observe her and to ensure the child's illness was not contagious to her classmates.  The student refused to go and an argument ensued until the student reluctantly went to the school clinic.  Two weeks later the Principal held a disciplinary hearing and charged the teacher with verbal abuse (yelling)  and embarrassing the student in front of her classmates.  The  teacher ended up with a LIF and a "U rating" for the year.

An untenured ATR provisionally assigned to the school saw a poor performing student's Regents paper being marked separately from others and in another room and quickly realized that the teacher was violating State rules.  She asked the teacher why he had the student's Regents paper and was told to mind her own business.  She reported it first to the Assistant Principal and then the Principal of the alleged Regents violation.  However, it appears the Assistant Principal and Principal wanted this student out of the school and were in on it.  The untenured ATR's satisfactory observations in the Fall semester became "Unsatisfactory observations" after she reported the Regents violation, in the Spring semester.  She was discontinued at the end of the school year.

A certified regular education Math ATR was dumped into a self-contained Special Education class all day without any technology or lesson plans left for the classes and was told by the Assistant Principal to keep them entertained when he complained about the lack of appropriate work for the students.  He tried his best but the students were out of control and when the Assistant Principal walked in saw that the teacher was having trouble keeping them focused.  The Assistant Principal gave the ATR a "U observation" for poor classroom management.

Villain: (new)

 Then there was the field supervisor assassin who "U" rated a poor Science teacher covering a Spanish class and stated that the coverage lesson, left by the teacher, was not rigorous enough and the ATR should have prepared her own lesson instead rather than you the coverage lesson left for the class.  Moreover, the ATR's lack of understanding Spanish or the fact that this was the first time she was exposed to these students was not an excuse and resulted in the ATR getting a "U" observation and was the basis of her "U" rating.  You can read the entire villainous story here.

Frankenstein: (new)
 This year, there is an ATR who was covering for a leave replacement in a severe shortage area where there are no other ATRs available who are certified in that Regents subject area,  The ATR was threatened to be shot by a student.  The result?  The Frankenstein Principal removed the ATR from the school while the 125 students did not have a certified teacher available to replace the ATR for their Regents course.    What happened to the student who threatened to kill the ATR?   Despite the many witnesses to the threat, the school didn't even punish the student for the monstrous action of threatening to kill the ATR.

Count Dracula: (New)
This ATR was sent to a school with one of the worst principals in the system.  She found that many of her Special Education  students (maternity leave replacement) had major behavioral issues and when she tried to discipline them, the Principal filed corporal punishment charges against the ATR.  Yet, she was kept in the classroom to continue to teach for the rest of the year.  At the end of the school year the ATR received her 3020-a charges.

These are just a few of the many horror stories from the ATR pool.  If you have some stories to share, please send them to the comment section and I will publish them.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Why ATRs Voted No On The Contract.

Some people who have been critical of the union leadership, have decided to support the contract.  These well-respected bloggers are nyc educator, DOEnuts, and JD2715.  One thing all three have in common is that they are not ATRs. 

By contrast, all bloggers who are ATRs.  South Bronx Schools, ATR Adventures, and ATR NYC have voted no.  Moreover, ICEUFT, run by a retired ATR recommended a no vote.  Finally, I, as an ATR also voted no.

It's a pity that our usually reliable allies, while giving lip service in support of the ATRs, still voted yes for the contract, despite the contract not making any significant changes to the ATR pool.

Just to remind my readers here is what its like to be an ATR. Read the history of the ATR pool.

  • ATRs have no say in their placement and rotation.
  • ATRs must accept a provisional appointment, even when the school is unappealing.
  • ATRs are observed by field supervisors in a strange classroom with no knowledge of the students and no ability to affect their grade.. 
  • ATRs found innocent of 3020-a charges still has a "Scarlet Letter" attached to their file by the DOE as if their guilty..
  • ATRs realistically have little opportunity for per session.
  • If the ATRs survived their 3020-a hearing, they are considered "untouchables"  for vacancies.
  • Fair Student Funding makes it almost impossible for veteran teachers to  receive an offer for vacancies.
  • DOE continues to demonize ATRs and wants them  terminated.
Now you know why ATRs voted no.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Is The Renewal Program Working? I Think Not.

When the Renewal program was introduced by Chancellor Carmen Farina and Mayor Bill de Blasio.  There were 94 schools in the program.  All of them academically struggling.  Four years later, as the Renewal program is expected to end at the end of the school year, we see that 25% have escaped the Renewal program as they have improved enough academically.  25% have closed as they have academically failed, and 50% have remained in the Renewal program and their fate will be decided at the end of the school year.

At the high school level, no school has escaped the Renewal program due to academic improvement, while some have closed due to poor performance or lack of students applying.  The reasons for the failure are multiple.
  1. Lack of academically proficient students. 
  2. High teacher turnover.
  3. Inexperienced teachers.
  4. Low staff morale.
Is the Renewal program working?  Not at the high school level.  Read the Chalkbeat article.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly Of The Contract.

UFT members are voting for the new UFT contract and while I will vote no. I can understand some people voting for it.

  Let's look at the good:

  • Paraprofessionals get teacher "due process".
  • Paraprofessionals get a 5 and 15 year bonus.
  • Teachers get less formal observations.
  • Principals cannot retaliate (yeah right) against UFT members. 
 The bad:

  • Raises less than inflation. 2% annually vs.2.8% inflation.
  • No increase in the TDA interest rate from 7% to 8.25%.
  • Fair Student Funding still in effect.
  • Charlotte Danielson still in force. 
  • Class size limits remain unchanged. 
  • Health care givebacks.

The ugly:
  • No change in the ATR process
  • The DOE will continue to waste $130 million dollars yearly.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Teacher Absenteeism - More Proof Of The Hostile Environment Of NYC Schools.

Despite a new Mayor, the NYC classroom continues to be a hostile environment for teachers.  In a new report 20% of teachers were chronically absent (10 or more days) during the 2015-2016 school year.  In high poverty schools the percentage of teachers chronically absent was slightly, higher than more affluent communities.  However, the highest percentage of chronically absent teachers (25.2%) were found in the working class, immigrants communities that compose District 30 in Queens.  While the lowest (13.1%) was the diverse District 1 in Manhattan.  Last school year the DOE found that 14.8% of the teachers were chronically absent (11 or more days)..

With one fifth of NYC teachers chronically absent, this negatively affects student academic achievement and results in an unstable school climate.  The blame for the high teacher absenteeism rate lays on the doorstep of the DOE who appoint incompetent, vicious, and uncooperative principals, most from the infamous "Leadership Academy".  Moreover, the DOE implements policies that pit school administrators against staff.  Finally, the DOE is still dominated by Bloomberg holdovers who occupy important policy making positions  and have an "us against them" mentality when it comes to a lack of cooperation with teachers.

Despite a new Chancellor, the classroom teacher still thinks of the DOE as the enemy and not a  partner in educating children.  That's why there is such a high teacher absenteeism rate in the NYC schools.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Memorandum Of Understanding

Chalkbeat published the entire Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) contract between the City and the UFT.  Based on the MOU.   Here are the highlights.

  • Raises (2% per year) less than the inflation rate (2.8%).
  • No change in DOE hiring policy that discriminates against veteran teachers
  •  No decrease in class sizes limits
  • Charlotte Danielson still used.
  • ATRs permanently hired will not count on a school budget for the length of the contract.  Then what?
  • Still two or three lists of ATRs.and the Scarlet Letter will remain.
  •  On the first day of school. ATRs will be forced placed in vacancies
  • No "newbies" can be hired once the school year starts.
  • Paras get teacher "due process" and an increase in longevity raises.
  • Chapter Leaders can see a student's OORS report.
  • Expedited grievances pertaining to oversized classes.
  • Less observations for effective or highly effective teachers.
The major "giveback" was health care.  All "newbies" must be enrolled in HIP the first year.

 A searchable version of the MOU can be found Here.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Union Leadership Once Again Failed The ATRs.

The Union and the City has negotiated a new contract and once again the union leadership failed the ATRs.  According to what is known, the only change is that schools cannot hire "newbie teachers" once the school year starts instead of October 15th.    This change may allow some ATRs to snag a provisional position for the school year since some teachers may have taken another position in a better school at the last minute.  The result is that  these vacancies will be in the worst schools.

According to South Bronx Schools, the ATR salary will no longer affect a school's budget, if permanently hired for the length of the contract and a special program that will employ ATRs in running a small  learning group for struggling students.  However, I have not seen this identified.  In my opinion these changes on the margin will not reduce or eliminate the ATR issue.

Regardless, the union leadership failed to get the DOE to eliminate the school based Fair Student Funding that incentivizes principals to hire the "cheapest and not the best teachers" for their school.  Moreover, the union failed to get the DOE to change hiring procedures that would require schools to hire from the excessed teacher list in the District before hiring "newbies".  Finally, the union agreed to the DOE's forced placement and useless rotation of ATRs,

We still remain second class citizens.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Givebacks "R" Us.

Over the last twenty year our UFT leadership has kept contract negotiations secret from the members and has resulted n contracts that were short on raises and long on "givebacks".  After the UFT leadership negotiated the terrible 2005 contract that resulted in the members giving up time, days, and resulted in the ATR pool.  The giveback laden contract created such a backlash and resulted in the UFT leadership setting up a 300 person negotiating committee to make it seem like member input was important.  However, the 300 member committee was simply a fig leaf as behind closed doors the UFT leadership negotiated with the City without member participation.

Now that another contract is imminent, the UFT leadership is once again negotiating behind closed doors and we can expect raises that don't even equal the inflation rate and who knows what "givebacks" the union leadership will agree to that hurt members.  We already know there are health care "givebacks".

Because the union leadership keeps everything secret, members cannot object if they have no ides what is being negotiated until it is too late.

List of Givebacks:   

  • Elimination of the seniority transfer.system.
  • Creation of the ATR pool.
  • Creation and expansion of the "probable cause" provision.
  • Adding time and days to the school year.
  • Reinstating circular six requirements.
  • Reducing the TDA interest rate from 8.25% to 7%.
  • Agreed to allow the City to have their own 3020-a provisions.
  • Failed to stop the DOE from using the school based fair student funding that discriminates against veteran teachers.
  • Members can no longer can grieve a letter to the file.
  • Restrictions imposed on ATRs.
  • Increased the vesting period for retiree health benefits for newer members.
 Maybe the union leadership will surprise us and negotiate a contract with raises, at least equal to inflation and no "givebacks" but I'm not holding my breath.

Update:  Our union leadership negotiated a 2% annual raise for the members (7.5%/3.75 years).  This is significantly lower than the 2.8% inflation rate and the inflation rate is expected to go higher in the next two years. 

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Proof The DOE Does Not Care About Studemts.

The DOE claims that they care about students but the truth is the DOE only cares about themselves.  If the DOE really cared about the students, the DOE would fully fund the schools, reduce class sizes, and eliminate school-based fair student funding that forced principals to "hire the cheapest rather than the best teachers" for their school..

In addition, the DOE had a 2019 budget of $25,6 billio dollars and according to  the City Council..  in their report,  Despite less teachers hired, the DOE headcount went up,  Some of the increase was due to an expansion of Special Education services but the headcount at the Central Bureaucracy also increased.

The DOE has shortchanged students and teachers:
The Department of Education’s $15.8 billion PS budget supports a budgeted headcount of 133,021 full-time equivalent employees (FTE). Most DOE staff work in public schools, and most staff are teachers. Since Fiscal 2015, headcount at DOE has increased by 11,131 positions, for a total of 133,021 budgeted full-time positions in the Fiscal 2019 Preliminary Budget. However, the percent of teachers has steadily declined. In Fiscal 2019 budgeted teacher positions account for approximately two-thirds (64 percent) of all school-based staff but 58 percent of all DOE staff. Most of the headcount increase at DOE includes titles such as literacy coaches, special education support staff, social workers and universal pre-kindergarten teachers, all of which are not listed as teacher titles at DOE. The figure below shows DOE’s overall FTE headcount since Fiscal 2015 and the total number of teachers. However, we may see this trend begin to reverse as the Four-Month Actual headcount for Fiscal 2018 in the PMMR is indicating an increase of 152 teacher titles.

It appears the DOE rather spend money on headcount, especially in the Central Bureaucracy, rather than spend it on students and schools.  A prime example id that instead of building more classrooms, students are crammed into trailers that had only a life of ten years and now have toxic black mold. Here's how the DOE responded to parents about moldy trailers.

How many students get sick because they are being put into trailers that have lasted long past their lifespan?   The New York Post identified the problem and yet the DOE has done little but claim they are working on the trailer issue.  For the DOE its all talk and no action at the expense of the students and teachers who must suffer the consequences.

Friday, October 05, 2018

It Appears That Teacher Respect Is Making A Comeback

Over the past couple of year American altitudes toward teacher reputation and respect has been improving.    The Answer Sheet wrote an article that, using Time Magazine's cover page, showed how teachers were thought of at the beginning of the Obama Administration and what's happening presently.  Also, Education Week wrote a similar piece.

At the beginning of the Obama tenure as President, his administration embraced the education reform movement that demonize teachers.  Starting with his nomination of Arnie Duncan as Education Secretary, who single handedly destroyed the Chicago Public Schools that resulted in many schools closing and teachers terminated.   Then Obama blamed teachers in Rhode Island for the low test scores, conveniently ignoring that the high school he cited was composed of recent immigrants and English Language Learners.  Obama was a strong supporter of education reform and along with then Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his billionaire buddies like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and  the Walton family, decided to evaluate teacher competence by student test scores.

Washington D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee,  was the "rock star" of the reform movement.  She imposed a teacher evaluation system that entirely relied on test scores.  The result was that many Washington D.C.teachers were unfairly fired.  Moreover, the Obama administration bribed states to develop their own test-based teacher evaluation system by giving them money as they were cutting education funds due to the recession.  This was called Race to the Top   Finally, the reform movement had  the media as allies as teachers were the blame for all school ills.  An example was Time magazine's cover called "Rotten Apples", which demonized teachers.

When states adopted the education reform programs and they failed to improve student academic achievement, .the Obama administration backed away by not supplying additional funding as the President also facing reelection and realized that his ant-public school teacher and pro charter agenda was a political liability.  Of course his teacher evaluation systems were now part of every state's education policy.  By the last year of the Obama administration, Arnie Duncan was gone and the charter school miracle was a mirage.

The combination of a recession, the Obama administration, and the media,  teacher disrespect was at its peak.  Since 2000, teacher salaries were noncompetitive, when compared to other professions and even conservative parents now  support teacher demands for higher salaries, small classes, and more respect.  States like West Virginia,   Oklahoma, Washington, and Arizona saw teacher salaries increase and teacher respect becoming an  issue.

Let's hope that the teaching profession becomes a respected profession throughout the nation.

Monday, October 01, 2018

My Best Guess On What The Next Contract Will Include.

I suspect that the UFT will present it's members with a new contract quite soon.  The question is what will the new contract include?  Here are my best guesses.

  • A three year contract with raises averaging around 2% annually.  Probably back loaded with the lowest raise (1%) the first year and the highest raise (3%) for the final year of the contract. 
  • Only two observations yearly instead of four, at least for those educators who are "highly effective".
  • No change in the ATR rules. Therefore, look for 1,300+ ATRs at the beginning of the semester.  More teacher misconduct chargesmay be subject to the "probable cause" provision and therefore can be removed from payroll and have their health benefits suspended.
  • No change in the DOE hiring process and fair student funding.

There may be other changes but I doubt they will be beneficial to UFT members,  I just hope the union leadership does not allow for "givebacks" to the City.