Thursday, January 18, 2018

Ballou High School Where The Graduation Rate Was All Smoke And Mirrors.

Ballou High School in Washington D.C. is a school with a deep poverty minority student body and has historically struggled academically, with a low graduation rate.  However, in 2017 Ballou High School dramatically improved their graduation rate and every graduate was accepted to college.  The school's success became a national sensation of how real education reform can improve even the worst academically struggling school.  However, NPR did an expose of the 2017 graduation class and found some very disturbing issues that questioned that success.

Unexcused Absences:
The majority of graduating seniors in 2017 missed more than six weeks of school due to unexcused absences.   Moreover,  33 students had unexcused absences of 90 days or more ot of 180 school days.  Of the 164 graduating seniors in 2017, only 23 students had less than 30 unexcused absences. The Washington D.C. public schools policy is that if a student misses class more than 30 days, the student should fail the course.  If the District followed it's own policy than 141 graduating seniors should have failed the courses and not graduate.

High Teacher Turnover:
Ballou High School suffered the highest teacher turnover in the City with 25% of the teachers leaving the school by the end of the 2016-17 school year, many of them in the middle of the term.  Most of the teachers who left cited low morale, administrative pressure to pass undeserving students, and poor student discipline.According to an internal memo only 57 seniors were on track to graduate in April.  The remaining 107 seniors were given massive amount of credit recovery and projects to meet their graduation requirements, despite the fact that many students did not qualify for credit recovery since they didn't bother to show up to their classes.

College Ready:
While its true that all 164 2017 graduates were accepted to college only 16 actually enrolled.  The main reason was the dismally low test scores. Only 9% passed the English test and 0% passed the Math test. Even the students realized that they were unprepared for college.

The Principal of the school has been reassigned and the school district has launched an investigation but will anything change?  Probably not, once the media scrutiny disappears.  Ballou high school will continue to graduate unprepared students where the graduation rate is all smoke and mirrors.

Monday, January 15, 2018

How Much Should A NYC Teacher Be Saving Yearly For Retirement?

Being a NYC teacher can result in a very comfortable retirement, if the teacher invests wisely and makes it to full retirement age.   We have a pension, a 403(b) plan, and Social Security.  All three are exempt from New York State and Local taxes.  Assuming a teacher works 25 years and retires at 62, they will receive 50% of their Final Average Salary (FAS), less if they select a spouse to get part of the pension (about 40%).  NYC teachers will also get Social Security, starting as early as 62 (reduced benefit).  The combination of the two will probably account for 50% or more of the teacher's retirement income.  The remaining 50% will come from the teacher's various savings accounts.  For NYC teachers that may be primarily their TDA,

A July 2011 study by Financial Researcher Wade D. Plau showed that if a person saved an average of 16.62% of their salary annually, that person will have saved the equivalent of 50% of his or her necessary retirement income. Add that to our pension and Social Security and the NYC teacher can expect to achieve a 100% replacement income in retirement  Therefore, if the NYC teacher can last to their full retirement age of 62 or 63, they can expect a financially conformable retirement.

Of course there are a couple of cavorts.   First, how many NYC teachers will reach their full retirement age?  According to a study which I used in a previous post, only 33% of Tier 1-IV teachers in NYC reached that goal.  With the punitive teacher evaluation system and Charlotte Danielson being used to determine teacher effectiveness and the vastly inferior Tier VI pension plan, the percentage of teachers reaching their full retirement age is probably closer to the teens for newer teachers.

Another issue is the improving economy.  Fewer college graduates are going into the low paying education field and even less want to be a classroom teacher. Moreover, many existing teachers leave the high stress classroom environment for greener pastures, be it to the suburbs or outside of the education field.  Finally, the poor quality of NYC school administrators and the lax student discipline rules makes teaching in the NYC classroom a hostile environment.  Consequently, few newer teachers will stick it out for the long term despite the rewards of a comfortable retirement 20 to 30 years down the road.

The bottom line, if you can make it to full retirement age, the NYC teacher will have a financially comfortable retirement but realistically we are talking about the minority of teachers that can stick it out and are  smart enough to save at least 16.62% of their paycheck.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The DOE's Double Standard Continues - The Case Of Principal Emmanuel Polanco of JHS 80.

Susan Edelman of the New York Post penned a scathing article about how Principal Emmanuel Polanco has bullied the students and staff and that under his administration one teacher was quoted as saying.   “It’s not about the kids,” she said. “It’s about administrators who lie, cover-up the violence, and don’t provide proper supervision.”.

This is the same Emmanuel Polanco, who had limited classroom experience but was promoted to principal through the Leadership Academy program who made a racy video, ending with him in bed with a women.  What kind of role model is he?   As expected, the DOE buried the investigation and quietly allowed Mr. Polanco to continue to run his school.  Please read my previous post for the link to the video and Mr. Polanco's alleged misdeeds.

Now it seems that Mr. Polanco is being accused of bullying students and staff.  This explains why the majority of teachers are untenured, strongly suggesting that the school suffers from high teacher turnover.  Moreover, Mr. Polanco  has allegedly shoved a student against a stairway wall and jabbed his fingers into the student's chest.  He and or his administration also authorized that the student be handcuffed, behind his back,  by school safety when he questioned a procedure during a fire drill.  Mr. Polamco was also accused by others as well.

From what I have read and heard Mr. Polanco has apparently violated Chancellor's regulations A-420, corporal punishment and A-421 verbal abuse.  Yet, Mr. Polanco remains Principal at the school.  If Mr. Polanco was a teacher he would have been removed from the school and sent to a reassignment center waiting for his 3020-a charges.  However, Mr. Polanco is a Principal and the DOE presumes him innocent as they continue with their investigation which has probably been predetermined to find him innocent or if substantiated, will be once again buried as he remains Principal.  In other words, the DOE's "double standard" when disciplining teachers and administrators continues.

How bad is JHS 80 in the Bronx?  They have dismally poor test scores in English and Math and just read the letters to the New York Post that a teacher encouraged her seventh grades to write.  The letters contain numerous misspelled words, poor grammar, and vulgarity.  You can read them Here.

Update:  The City Council is now investigating the Principal and the school and wants to know why the DOE closed the investigation of Mr. Polanco's actions.

Friday, January 12, 2018

When Statistics Lie.

Mark Twain once said "there are lies, dammed lies, and statistics".  The DOE, principals, and teachers have taken that saying to heart to falsely show student academic progress.  Let's look at how each group uses statistics to show student academic achievement when the truth is otherwise.

Department Of Education::
The DOE is the biggest abuser of false statistics.  For example, the DOE budget increases every year but more and more of the money goes to the Central Bureaucracy and not to the students.  The schools still suffer from the recession era budgets and are underfunded by between 10%to 13% of their fair funding, while the DOE's budget increase every year.  Until recently, they had a motto called "children first...Always" when the truth is the schools are starved for resources and many schools are overcrowded with the largest class sizes in the State.  Moreover, the DOE will falsely claim that all their teachers are certified but far too many are teaching subjects they are not certified to teach.  Finally, they will loudly program they have the highest graduation rate ever but they ignore the fact that only one in five ever complete an associates degree in college and even less for a four year bachelor's degree.

Probably the biggest abuser of fake statistics.  They are the reason so many students graduate unprepared for higher education or the adult world.  They run "diploma mills" where many students are pushed out by massive doses of credit recovery courses, pressuring teachers to pass failing students with a 65%, or change grades, despite objections from the teachers. Academic fraud by these principals are ignored by the DOE and most principals realize their are no consequences for their actions.

Teachers in many of these diploma mill schools must meet scholarship goals, passing 80% of their roster and must show that they kept a running log to demonstrate how hey contacted the parent and other steps taken to get the student to pass the class.  This administrative pressure forces the teacher to take the easiest road possible to achieve an effective rating, that is to pass as many st6udents as possible to meet the school's administrative goals.  Furthermore, in many Living Environment classes, teachers can artificially raise their Regents passing rate by barring struggling students from taking the Regents.  The result is that many of the students pass the class but gets no Regents credit.  Finally, in some schools teachers will pass the student if they just show up to class since the teacher must meet the above mentioned scholarship goal.

Can statistics lie?  you better believe they can.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Michael Bloomberg's Failed Education Policy.

One of the great fictions are that the general public was made to believe that Michael Bloomberg improved education in the New York City Public Schools.   Even last week I heard a reporter ask the ex-mayor what was his greatest achievement and Michael Bloomberg replied that he changed and improved the school system.  He cited an increase in graduation rates, removal of teachers who were either incompetent or committed some form of misconduct, allowed principals to hire who they pleased,and the closing of failing large comprehensive schools and replacing them with more successful small schools. What Michael Bloomberg failed to mention was how he starved the schools of money.  In his third term most schools were only funded at between 82% to 85% of the resources they were allocated to receive. By contrast, his new small schools were fully funded at 100% of there fair funding and even one school received 150% of what they should have received.  Rather than rehash all the negative issues.  You can read my post Here.

If you are an education deformer or a charter school operator,, Michael Bloomberg was a great education Mayor.  However, if you are a public school parent, student, or teacher, then Michael Bloomberg was a terrible education Mayor.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The History Of The ATR Pool.


Before the implementation of the terrible, "giveback laden" 2005 contract, excessed teachers were given priority and must be placed in vacancies in their District before principals can hire from the outside.  In fact, most excessed teachers were give a list of up to six vacancies and could select the one the best suited them.  Moreover, since, all teachers were considered units, salary was not a factor.   Hiring a veteran teacher had  advantages since they possessed classroom management skills, curriculum knowledge, and institutional memory.  the schools were happy to get them  Sure, principals tried to hide vacancies, sometimes in vain, and waited until all excessed teachers in the District were placed, before filling the vacancies.  However, the bottom line was, except from obsolete titles like a typing teacher, all excessed teachers were placed in the vacancies as permanent employees of that school.

Thanks to our disconnected union leadership, they negotiated away two vital programs that allowed the DOE to create the ATR pool.  The first was the seniority transfer system that allowed veteran teachers to bump untenured teachers if they wanted the position.  The second and most important program the union agreed to eliminate was the right to bump less senior teachers if the veteran  teacher's job was eliminated.  This is a basic program for all Civil Service employees and the union agreed to this on the condition that the newly created ATR cannot be fired for not having a classroom position.  The DOE eagerly agreed to the condition and from day one in every contract negotiation the DOE has tried to renege on the deal by asking for an ATR time limit.  Failing to achieve their goal of obtaining an ATR time limit, they have gone to great lengths to tell the media that the ATRs are "bad" or "unwanted " teachers.   Now that the DOE is sick and tired of shelling out $150 million dollars annually for the ATR pool, the DOE's decade long disparaging of the ATRs has made it difficult to place them.

Fast on the heels of the terrible 2005 contract was the implementation of the destructive school based fair student funding (fsf) that penalizes schools who hire veteran teachers since under the fsf the average actual salary of the school is used and it incentives principals to "hire the cheapest and not the best teachers" for their school. Moreover, with schools funded at 85% of their fair funding, raised to 90% (apparently its only 87%( this school year, this further pushes principals to hire as cheap as possible.  The union leadership know full well what fsf meant to the ATR pool as an influx of veteran teachers were excessed due to the 162 closing schools and reduced programs as the new small Bloomberg schools that replaced the larger schools hired mostly a "newbie" teaching staff and few veteran teachers were selected.  At it's peak the ATR pool was close to 2,400 educators.

Over the years the DOE has tried to offer incentives to principals and buyouts to ATRs with limited success.  The two ATR buyouts were so inadequate only a total of 226 teachers actually took the buyouts and almost all of them were retiring anyway!  As for the incentives, the only one that had a significant impact was the November 2009 incentive that allowed principals to hire ATRs and only be responsible for the salary of a "newbie" teacher. This also coincided with a hiring freeze.

Over the years the ATR pool has slowly diminished as ATRs have retired and until next school year there were few school closings.  However, with two large high schools having staff reapplying for their positions and 14 school closings, the ATR pool will probably increase from the 1,202 at the beginning of this school year.  One negative change for the Caren Faina years was that the DOE set up three lists of ATRs.  The first were from closing schools and programs and were the only ones offered by the DOE to be hired by schools.  The second list where for ATRs who received unsatisfactory or ineffective ratings and the final list were ATRs who won their 3020-a hearings and were excluded from the hiring list by the DOE, unless there was no other ATR available in the subject are in the Borough.

What the future holds for the ATR pool is in question. Will the new Chancellor eliminate the fsf and force schools to absorb the ATRs or will it continue as is.  Only time will tell.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Leadership Academy Principal Emmanuel Polanco Is In The News Again.

The Leadership Academy Principal of JHS 80 in the Bronx, Emmanual Polanco, also known as "El Siki" in his racy video is in the news again.  This time staff members have contacted the UFT, DOE, and even the FBI to investigate his wrongdoings at the school.  Before I go into the New York Post article, Principal Polanco was previously highlighted by the New York Daily News and my post.  You can find both Here.  You can see his racy YouTube video Here.  Moreover, he was accused of trying to push out a veteran teacher by calling her "Shrek" and refused to provide training.  Finally, he was also accused of discrimination by favoring and hiring younger Hispanic teachers.

In today's New York Post there is an article that shows the various problems at JHS 80, many of them attributed to the Principal, Ennanuel Polanco.  Let's identify the issues at the school.

Student Discipline:
Violence and fighting are rampant;  unqualified cronies — including a paraprofessional who has acted as a dean — serve in key positions; disruptive students face few consequences.

Covering up assaults:
In one outrageous case The DOE says it is investigating a November incident in which two eighth-grade boys allegedly lifted a sixth-grader by his arms and legs, and dropped him on his head, causing him to pass out and convulse.

A staff member told the FBI and the DOE that administrators delayed calling an ambulance, then forced the eighth-graders and a teacher who witnessed the cruelty to give statements calling it an accident.  “They lied to the parents,” the distraught staffer told an FBI hotline. “Someone’s child is going to die if nothing is done.”  Kids have cut themselves and others — during class, the source said.

Discrimination and Favoritism: 
The Principal is known to discriminate against veteran and outspoken teachers and to favor young Hispanic teachers, giving a young Hispanic Paraprofessional a Dean's position when it requires that the position to be a teacher.  he majority of teachers at the school are untenured and teacher turnover appears to be high, am indicator of an unstable school environment.

Why does the school struggle academically?  Just look at the Principal since the buck stops with him. WCBS-TV did a story on the school and you can find it Here.