Saturday, March 30, 2019

My Vote In The UFT Election

In the UFT election I voted for the person and not the caucus and that meant that I spent an hour  picking and choosing.  Here are my selections for the power positions on the ballot.

President:  Lydia Howrilka of the Solidarity Caucus

Lydia Howrilka  is a tireless worker and has made the Solidarity caucus relevant and no longer a one man show.  She was rubber roomed because she stood up for her rights and was discontinued before winning in Court and received a new position at another school.

By contrast, present UFT President Micheal Mulgrew is disconnected and arrogant.  He rather suck up to the Mayor and the Chancellor than give his members an adequate raise. The MORE candidate does not reflect UFT membership with MORE turning sharply left with it's Socialist/Communist social justice philosophy.

Executive Board: Arthur Goldstein and Micheal Shirtzer UNITY caucus and Johnathan Halabi New Action caucus. All three have demonstrated their ability to effectively advocate for the members and I'm proud to call them friends.

Secretary: Francesco Portelos Solidarity caucus.

Treasurer: James Calantjis Solidarity caucus.

I also voted for Janella Hinds  of UNITY for High School Academic Vice President and Michael Sill of UNITY for Assistant Secretary.  In addition, I voted for Jay Werner of Solidarity for Assistant Treasurer and Jia Lee of MORE for the Special Education position.

Obviously, for the useless and patronage delegate positions, I only selected the candidates I knew.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Should You Annuitize Your TDA?

One of the options teachers have is to annuitize the TDA when you retire.  There are two ways to annuitize.  The first, is to give it to an insurance company, which under current yields, give you approximately 6% for a 65 year old but be prepared to pay State and City taxes on the annuity.  The second,  is to leave the money with TRS which can give you an annuity, based on your retirement age and with no State and City taxes to pay.  The following annuity interest rate by TRS is as follows:

Age.......................Interest Rate


The difference between a private annuity of 6% and the TRS annuity of 10.42% for a 65 year old educator shows that the difference is due to the profit the private annuity charges while TRS does not charge for the annuity.

Most retirees do not annuitize but put the bulk of their TDA in the Fixed Income option that gives a guaranteed 7% annually.  By not annuirizing the TDA, the educator retains control of their money while annuitizing the TDA means the educator loses control of their savings and once the educator dies, their is no money available to their beneficiaries except for that money that remained from the educator's contributions, minus the money already paid out in the annuity.

Should you annuitize your TDA contributions when you retire?   That decision is up to the educator.  If you choose the annuity option then keep it in the TDA where you will get more for your money as long as you live a long life since when you die, so does the annuity.

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Real Reason Black And Latino Students Have Low acceptance Rates For The Specialized High Schools

Black and Latino students only had a 10.6% acceptance rate for the specialized high schools.  The question is why so low?  According to Susan Edelman's article, education experts cited three reasons.

  1. The reduction and elimination of gifted and talented programs in minority neighborhoods.
  2. The influx of East Asian immigrants who emphasized education.
  3. The introduction of test preparation courses.
Add to the above three reasons was the elimination of academic tracking that allowed high achieving students to benefit being in with other high achieving students, be it the gifted and talented classes in elementary school and Special Program classes in middle school.. These students were given advanced academic instruction and more academically difficult work to challenge their ability.

In the eighties, student advocates pressured the Board of Education to eliminate academic tracking and the result was that potentially high achieving students in poor minority schools no longer were given advanced academic courses since schools needed to pass as many students as possible and dumbed down the curriculum in both elementary and middle schools to achieve that passing rate.  This resulted in that poor, academically proficient Black and Latino students were at a disadvantage when it came to competing with manly middle class White and Asian schools.

Add to the disadvantage that poor Black and Latino students had due to the elimination of academic tracking, was the overall poor academic performance of their schools,  when compared to the middle class Asian and White schools in the better neighborhood where more academic challenging coursework were offered.  Then there was the test preparation courses that were offered and costs a thousand dollars or more that was not affordable to poor families.

While Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza want to integrate the specialized schools, using the Texas model. (top ten students of each middle school are automatically accepted), not all middle schools are the same.  Adding more Black and Latino students will result in less Asian and White students who are academically superior to those accepted and that's not fair either.

My solution would be to bring back academic tracking by having all elementary and middle schools to have gifted and talented and special programs that have academically challenging coursework that will increase Black and Latino acceptance rates in the specialized schools.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Inexperienced Teachers Are Correlated With Low Student Academic Achievement

It's no secret that the New York City Public School's hiring process incentivizes principals to hire cheap and inexperienced teachers under the discriminatory Fair Student Funding (fsf) program. Despite various studies that show that the more experience a teacher has, the better students perform academically.  Unfortunately,  the DOE ignores these studies and rather shortchange schools of funding (89% of fsf) and resources and push  to "HIRE THE CHEAPEST AND NOT THE BEST TEACHERS FOR THEIR SCHOOL".

A study by the Learning Policy Institute found that the more experience a teacher had the better academically the students did. In fact, the study found the following:

 Based on our review of 30 studies published within the last 15 years that analyze the effect of teaching experience on student outcomes in the United States and met our methodological criteria, we find that:

1. Teaching experience is positively associated with student achievement gains throughout a teacher’s career. Gains in teacher effectiveness associated with experience are most steep in teachers’ initial years, but continue to be significant as teachers reach the second, and often third, decades of their careers.

 2. As teachers gain experience, their students not only learn more, as measured by standardized tests, they are also more likely to do better on other measures of success, such as school attendance.

 3. Teachers’ effectiveness increases at a greater rate when they teach in a supportive and collegial working environment, and when they accumulate experience in the same grade level, subject, or district.

 4. More experienced teachers support greater student learning for their colleagues and the school as a whole, as well as for their own students.

Too bad, the DOE doesn't understand how important experienced teachers are to student academic achievement as they implement policies that encouraged the hiring of cheap "newbie" teachers.  The DOE give principals sole discretion in teacher hiring, while imposing severe financial limitations (fsf) is a colossal mistake and will only result in wide academic achievement gaps between different cohorts.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

No Bullying At Hillcrest High School - Yeah Right

Hillcrest High School is notorious for not reporting incidents and even received an award for being a "safe school".  Once again, Hillcrest High School has made the newspapers by not reporting one single incident of bullying, even when 18% of the student body admitted they were bullied by fellow classmates.

Hillcrest High School is not alone, 669 other schools joined them by not reporting any bullying incidents.  That is more than a third of the 1,600 schools in the NYC Public School System.

Hillcrest High School has been in the newspapers before.  One was an Assistant Principal who allegedly bedded female teachers in exchange for professional perks.  Another was the Principal who let students pass online courses without a teacher. Then there was the case of the "Vampire Girl", which was never reported since the Principal claimed it didn't happen in the building.

Hillcrest High School is only one of many schools that fail to report not only bullying incidents but other  other forms of violence and misbehavior as principals do not want their schools labeled as a problem school.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) Supports NYC Public Schools

We all know that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) is a dedicated Democrat Socialist and I have little in common with fringe left and tea party politicians, be it AOC or Ted Cruz of Texas.  However, there is one place that I agree with AOC and that is public education.

Despite the misleading New York Post headline, AOC is a strong supporter of public education. According to the article, AOC talked about improving NYC public schools.  “This issue is structural and it is systemic which means we need a solution just like with the Green New Deal, we need a solution on the scale of the problem", said the lawmaker.

She recalled her own experience with the NYC public school  in the Bronx which she was a dual language student and was falsely labeled as needing special education services until she was tested out of the program.  AOC's family moved to Westchester for a better education and only moved back into Jackson Heights, Queens after completing college.

Interestingly, AOC could never have been recruited to the charter schools since they refuse to take Special Education and English Language Learners and AOC knows that  While I oppose most every policy AOC supports, we are in agreement when it comes to public education.

Friday, March 15, 2019

NYC Public School Student Climate Change Walkout Were Mostly White Elites

I was watching both Channel 2 (CBS) and Channel 7 (ABC) and noticed that the vast majority of students who were protesting climate change were White.  Few minority students can be seen at the student protest. Moreover, many of the students identified themselves as coming from the specialized high schools and some of the more selective screened high schools in the City.

Interestingly, the schools who had their students attend the climate change protest made sure that the students reported to school first and only were allowed to leave after attendance was taken in the third period.  Therefore, the schools get full credit for funding for the day.

The NYC Public School system that is only 15% White, based on the pictures and the two television stations, the student protest was primarily consisted of White students from the Specialized and screened high schools.  The bottom line is that the protest consisted of the White elites and are not representative of the student body of the NYC public school system.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Inconvenient Truth On Why The Renewal School Program Was A Failure

The Renewal Schools program will be discontinued at the end of the school year due to their failure to achieve meaningful student academic improvement.  The question is why did the Renewal Schools fail to significantly improve student academic achievement despite throwing money and additional resources at those schools?  To me, the answer is simple, the additional money and resources did not go into the classroom but ended up with the hiring of additional administrators, consultants, and questionable professional development programs.

I believe that these are the causes for the Renewal School program's failure to improve student academic achievement.
  • Large Class Sizes:  Despite various studies that show lower class sizes are strongly correlated to improve academic achievement, most Renewal Schools had class sizes that were at contractual limits. 

  • High Teacher Turnover:  Renewal Schools suffer from a higher teacher turnover than the rest of the NYC school system.  This results in an unstable school environment and lower student academic achievement.
  • Hiring of inexperienced teachers:  The Renewal Schools were still subject to the DOE's misguided "fair student funding" and hired only untenured or "newbie" teachers to stretch their budget.  In fact then Chancellor Carmen Farina prohibited Renewal Schools to hire ATRs, many of them veteran quality teachers.  Talking about cutting off their nose to spite their face!
  • Renewal School's Poor Reputation:  It didn't take long for middle school parents to make sure that their academically achieving students did not include Renewal Schools on their list of high schools to attend.  The result was the Renewal high schools were a "dumping ground" for academically struggling students that nobody else wanted.
  •  No Neighborhood Input:  Since the Renewal Schools were subject to citywide open admissions and many of their student body came from other neighborhoods, local input was lacking, both because of neighborhood disinterest and the failure of school administrators to reach out to the community.
  •  Poor Leadership:  Schools with strong leadership is a must for schools to improve.  Unfortunately, many, if not all, schools had weak or incompetent leadership.  That includes the Principal and the conflicting and confusing administrative directives from above.  Moreover, many of the administrators were failed principals who found themselves in a position to guide the Renewal Schools principals on how to best run their schools.  What a waste of money and resources. For example having Amiee Horowitz put in charge of the program.
  • Cellphones In The Renewal Schools:  The use of cellphones in the Renewal Schools serve as a distraction and hurts student academic achievement.
To truly improve the academically struggling schools, eliminate  citywide open enrollment, by bringing back neighborhood schools and give the community a say in the running of the school,  significantly reduce class sizes, and hire more veteran teachers by allowing academically struggling schools a waiver from Fair Student Funding.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Student Discipline Is Out Of Control In NYC Schools

The Blasio administration crowed that suspensions were down 50% and restorative justice programs were a success.  The truth is that if you ask the teachers, their school student discipline is out of control and that principals cannot suspend a student without the DOE's approval.  Moreover, the restorative justice programs are a joke as the misbehaving students quickly realize that there is little consequence for their misbehavior.  Finally, the allowing of cellphones bring chaos and distractions to the classroom.  Even the usually clueless UFT President Michael Mulgrew agreed that student discipline in NYC schools are out of control.

When I first started teaching a student that curses at a teacher would be suspended.  A student threatened a teacher would be arrested, and a student who was insubordinate to a teacher would get after school suspension.  Now all three student actions result in no consequences.  Combine that with the DOE's "blame the teacher for everything" mindset and the poor quality of administrators, especially the Leadership Academy principals, and the result is a chaotic school environment.

Just read these articles Here and Here. and this teacher won a "substantial settlement" from the DOE because of misbehaving students and incompetent school administrators Here.

You can read some of my previous posts dealing with student discipline Here, Here and Here.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

NYC Reaches Its Charter School Cap

The remaining seven openings for charter schools in New York City has been tentatively filled by the SUNY's Board Of Trustees.  This means that, unless an existing charter school closes down, no new charter schools can be located in New York City.

With both the Assembly and Senate overwhelmingly Democrat, raising the charter school cap in New York City is out of the question and the existing 99 open slots for charters in New York State are not eligible to be located in New York City..   Even if Governor Andrew Cuomo supports raising the charter school cap, he will not get the State Legislature to agree to it..

Rather than rehash why charter schools are not the best environment for student academic achievement, just read my previous posts Here, Here, Here, and Here.

You can read all of my charter school posts Here.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Why Defined Pensions Are Great For Teachers.

One of the great benefits in being a teacher in New York State is the defined pension benefit we have.  For the 40% of state teachers that are vested for a pension, the pension benefit averages about $41,703 annually, that is 54% of the teachers final three year salary, not including Social Security and other retirement plans like a 403b program.  In other words, most New York State teachers can expect to enjoy a well funded retirement.

The defined benefit pension plan is mostly funded by the State's School Districts.  For most Tier IV employees, the vast majority of recent retirees, the employee only pays a 3% contribution for the first ten years and nothing thereafter.  That means the School Districts pay the lion's share to fund the pension.

The table below shows how much the School Districts are required to pay to adequately fund the teacher pension system.

Year.........School District Contribution


The estimated School District contribution is expected to be 8.86% for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

The NYC teacher pension plan is separate from the New York State Teachers pension plan but have similar employer contribution percentages.  For the 2018-19 fiscal year its 11.11%.

 As the existing Tier IV teachers retire and are replaced by Tier VI teachers, who are less likely to be vested or reach full retirement age, the next decade should see lower School District pension percentages needed to cover the cost as these Tier Vi teachers will be paying from 3.5% to 6% in employee contributions to their pensions.

I suspect by the next decade, new teachers will be under a defined contribution plan, where the School Districts will no longer need to worry about legacy costs as teachers will be required to self fund their pension going forward.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Michael Bloomberg's Real Education Legacy

When Michael Bloomberg was Mayor of New York City, he wanted to be known as the "education Mayor". However, the truth is that Mayor Bloomberg used "smoke and mirrors" to artificially raise the bogus graduation rate while student achievement hardly budged.  He also claimed that his polices narrowed the racial/income student achievement gap, which turned out to be fiction and caused Chancellor Joel Klein to resign when the State admitted that their tests were too easy to pass and adjusted the passing rate to better reflect reality.

If you want to read Michael Bloomberg's education legacy then read my posts Here, Here, Here, and Here.  Here is what Chalkbeat says about Michael Bloomberg and while I don't agree with them on his alleged accomplishments, it makes for informative reading.

Under Mayor Bloomberg, class sizes increased, large comprehensive high schools closed, and charter schools were favored over the neighborhood public schools, who were starved for funds.  He was the education reformers shinning star while hurting public school students.

Many of the existing problems came from Michael Bloomberg's policy for the City schools.  Like the ATR crisis. the closing of most of the large comprehensive highs school, the exclusion of parents from the process, and the implementation of fair student funding that encouraged principals to hire "the cheapest and not the best teachers" for their school. His legacy is still in force as many at Tweed are Bloomberg holdovers and the policies that made the DOE the enemy of the classroom teacher is still evident.

Michael Bloomberg's education legacy can be summed up in three words "children last...always".