Tuesday, February 20, 2018
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
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
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
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 Here. The 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
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
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
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.