Monday, November 20, 2017

The Disconnect Between Graduation Rates And College Readiness - 2017



























We all know that principals can and do manipulate the graduation rate.   Credit recovery, grade changing, administration pressure on teachers, and school scholarship requirements (80% or more passing per class) or a combination of them all.  The result is an artificially bogus graduation rate as far too many schools graduate students unprepared for the real world.  Therefore, to determine if  unscreened Queens high schools are really diploma mills or truly giving their students a real world class education, I have developed the annual metric for the 2016-17 school year that takes the graduation rate and divides it by the "college and career readiness rate"  as defined by New York City  The New York State rates are lower..

High schools that have a ratio below "1.5" are in blue and giving their students a world class education while high schools with ratios greater than "2" are listed in red and yellow and are simply diploma mills. Parents should make sure their academically achieving students should stay away from them.  This year's metric was lowered since the Algebra Regents rubric and cut scores was made easier to achieve higher grades and the English Regents was found also to be easier than previous years.  It appears the "college ready" scores went up by an average of between ten and fifteen points, primarily due to the lower cut scores in Math and an easier test in English.

The list is based on the 2016-17 school year.

School...........................Graduation Rate.....College Ready

Cambria Heights Academy........86%.....................27% 
Academy of Medical Tech..........73%.....................27% 
Fredrick Douglas Academy VI....47%.....................13%
QIRT.........................................81%.....................25%
Rockaway Park.........................72%.....................16%
Humanities and Arts.................68%.....................19%
August Martin...........................63%....................20% 
Rockaway Collegiate.................66%....................23% 
Martin Van Buren......................61%....................31%
 Flushing..................................60%....................22%
Pathways College.......'.............66%....................26%
Hillside Arts & Letters...............84%....................36%
Law Enforcement.....................80%....................20%
Science, Research, and Tech.....71%....................26%
Excelsior Prep..........................71%....................25% 
 George Washington Carver......78%...................35%
 John Adams............................71%...................32%
Newtown.................................71%....................36%
Queens Prep...........................70%....................36%
Channel View..........................93%....................55% 

Grover Cleveland.....................63%....................32% 
 R
ichmond Hill..........................69%...................38%
Long Island City.......................66% ..................37%
John Bowne............................77%....................40%
Applied Communications.........82%....................42%
Robert  H. Goddard..................93%....................56%
Hillcrest..................................73%....................38%
Queens HS of Teaching............91%....................51%
Writers Academy.....................90%....................51%
Information & Technology.......84%....................46%
Community Leadership............91%....................47%
Queens Collegiate...................80%....................51%
Robert F. Kennedy...................81%....................47% 
Arts And Business...................90%....................59% 
William Cullen Bryant..............72%....................49%
 Queens Vocational..................84%....................54%
 TV & Media.............................98%....................63%
Metropolitan HS......................86%....................68% 
Middle College HS...................73%.....................56%
World Journalism....................97%....................61%
Robert Wagner........................93%....................66%
Civic Leadership......................96%...................66% 
Maspeth HS............................98%....................63%
Forest Hills.............................88%...................71%
Bayside..................................97%...................78%
East-West...............................93%...................72%
Cardozo..................................91%...................72%
Thomas Edison........................89%...................70%
Francis Lewis..........................89%...................78%
Finance & Enterprise...............97%...................84% 


 The citywide "college ready" average is 46%.

Obviously, the lowest rated schools are "diploma mills" and for the most part, are located in Southeast Queens or are "Renewal schools".  By contrast the best schools are located in two areas  Northeast Queens and the Long Island City/Astoria area.  The Bloomberg small schools in the Far Rockaway and Beach Channel campuses inhabit most of the top positions with the worst matrices on the list, while the worst school metric is by Rockaway Park Environmental Sustainability with a metric of 4.5.. By contrast, the best two schools remain Finance and Enterprise and Francis Lewis, when it comes to the metric.

The takeaway is that all the high schools in the Far Rockaway, Beach Channel, and Campus Magnet campuses are academic failures and the Springfield Gardens campus is not far behind.  Moreover, the Jamaica Educational Complex is showing gradual deterioration with one school already failing and the one of the other two unscreened schools showing a significant drop.

While my metric is not perfect it serves as a useful guide for parents who want the right Queens high schools for their academically proficient student. You can see the metrics for the last two years Here and Here.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Loss Of Collective Barganing Hurts Teacher Retention. And Student Academic Achievement.

















Its been six years since Wisconsin eliminated collective bargaining rights for civil servants, known as Act 10.  This included teachers, and it has resulted in significant changes to teacher recruitment and retention throughout the state.  Here are some of the findings.

Benefits Drop:
Teachers saw a sharp drop in benefits, averaging 21%.  This includes Health Care and Pensions.  The reduction in benefits has also affected school districts to attract the best and brightest to the teaching profession.

Teacher Salaries Less:
Since the passage of Act 10, the average medium teacher salary has been reduced by 2.6%  In rural areas the low teacher salaries has experienced an outflow of new teachers with 25% leaving the district within five years.

Teachers Leaving The Profession:
Before the passage of Act 10, the average rate of teachers leaving the profession was 6.4%.  Since Act 10's passage the average leave rate is 8.8%.  The result is a less experienced teaching staff for many school districts.

Teachers Jumping To Other School Districts:
Before the passage of Act 10, teachers transferring between once school district to another was only 1.3%.  Since Act 10's passage the transfer rate has shot up to 3.4%, a 262% increase!  The result is that poorer and rural school districts quickly lose their best teachers to richer and suburban school districts who can offer more money and better benefits.

Union Representation Decreasing:
In 2011, before the passage of Act 10, the union participation rate was 16.1% in 2016 it has decreased to only 9%   Wisconsin has become a "right to work state" and unions are struggling to stay relevant.

Student Academic Achievement Hurt: 
A study has shown that the loss of teacher collective bargaining rights have affected student academic achievement.  Chalkbeat published the report and can be found Here.  The reduction was more significant in low achieving schools in poor urban and rural areas who are having trouble retaining teachers.


In the years since Act 10 passed, Brey said her union has adapted by becoming more active on the local level, and offering more training and other services to make membership more appealing for teachers.

Our Disconnected Union Leadership:
You would think with the almost certain elimination of dues checkoff for unions, starting the next school year, our union would be trying to reach out to the members by being proactive.  Like eliminating Fair Student Funding, The ending of the ATR pool by placing all excessed teachers in vacancies in their district before other teachers can be hired.  Push to remove vindictive principals, and remove Charlotte Danielson as a rubric for teacher evaluation. Instead, our disconnected union leadership ignores the opposition at the Executive Board and the Delegate Assembly and vote, based on the leadership's wishes and not what's best for the members.

I would not be surprised that the union will see a vast reduction in dues collected , maybe over a 50% reduction and all ATRs will no longer pay the dues since they and we feel unrepresented.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Tale Of Two Schools And Their Cellphone Use.



























When Mayor Bill de Blasio consolidated his control of the New York City Public Schools he eliminated the cellphone ban and gave principals the option to impose their own rules of cellphone use.  The result was that some students obeyed the rules and others did not.  This post is a tale of two schools.  School A is a high achieving specialized school while school 2 is a high poverty low achieving school.  How has the cellphone policy worked at both schools?

First, the reason Bill de Blasio lifted the cellphone ban was that his son, who went to Brooklyn Tech convinced him that students only would use their phones when absolutely necessary. Of course we teachers know the truth, that cellphones are a distraction and harms academic achievement.  Most Principals tried to set up reasonable cellphone use, limiting them to school cafeterias.   However, this policy quickly changed to prohibiting cellphone use in classrooms and relied on the teachers to enforce the rules as the administration failed or refused to do their job when it came to cellphones.  The result is that in most high schools cellphone usage is a failure, be it in the hallways or the classrooms.

In school A, a specialized high school, students follow the cellphone rules and only use them in the school cafeteria, seldom does one see a student walking in the hallways with a cellphone and rarely does a teacher need to tell students to put their cellphones away in class. Obviously, these high achieving students care about their grades and realize that using a cellphone in class could result in reduced grades and lower academic achievement.

By contrast, school  B, the high poverty and low achieving student body, Renewal Schools are one example, have their cellphones out almost all the time.  Be it in the classroom or the hallways.  Any rules the administration imposed on student cellphone use are ignored once the school let''s the student with the cellphone into the building, and students realize that their is little or no consequences to violating the cellphone rules.  Moreover, with far too many administrations relying on teachers to enforce the rule, the teacher must spend countless minutes of instructional time disciplining students for using their cellphone.  Eventually, the teacher tire of this battle and simply goes on with the lesson while the students continue to look at at their cellphone and are distracted by what they see.  The result is the student fails to take proper notes and learn the subject/

The bottom line the New York City Public Schools should reimpose the banning of cellphones in the schools.  Read my previous posts HereHere and Here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Difference Between An Ineffective And Unsatisfactory Rating























I have been following the nyc educator blog with great interest and in a couple of his posts he mention that he asked the UFT leadership various questions about how many members received an "Ineffective" and "Unsatisfactory"  rating.   The reason nyc educator brought up the issue is that the UFT leadership, in trying to sell how wonderful the teacher evaluation system (APPR) is, compared to the old "S" and "U" system.  It's like trying to sell a broken down mule as a race horse.

According to the UFT there were 3,000 annual unsatisfactory observations.under the old "S" and "U" system, compared to only 217 ineffective ratings last year.  The problem is that its like comparing apples and oranges.   Under the old "S" and "U" system a teacher can get an "unsatisfactory" rating for many different reasons by simply getting a letter to their file for that year, despite being rated an effective teacher,  For example a teacher has an altercation with a student and despite the student being the aggressor,  the Principal dumps a letter in the file for corporal punishment on the teacher who was just trying to defend himself.   The result is an unsatisfactory rating for that year.  Another example is that the Principal told a teacher to do lunch duty, even when no teacher was assigned lunch duty as their circular six assignment.  The teacher said no and was charged with insubordination and a letter to the file which gave the Principal the right to give the teacher an unsatisfactory rating.  Many ATRs received an unsatisfactory rating simply by getting a letter to the file for trivial  offenses like making a silly joke, or showing up late to a classroom in a new school.

By contrast an "ineffective" rating is based solely on the pedagogy and not on alleged misconduct.  An ineffective rating is determined by the teacher's classroom ability and how well his or her students growth factor is, based upon the "junk science" of high stakes testing.

Of the 3,000 unsatisfactory ratings (it turns out to be 2,000).  How many were based on incompetence and how many for alleged misconduct?   Moreover, an unsatisfactory rating still keeps the burden of proof on the DOE in any 3020-a cases.  On the other hand, ineffective ratings are entirely based on alleged teacher incompetence and the burden of proof is now on the hapless teacher to prove he or she is not incompetent.  A high bar to jump over.

In conclusion. comparing unsatisfactory ratings with ineffective ratings is more like comparing a misdemeanor with a felony.  They are both negative but one is so much worse than the other.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Just Another Ethically Challenged Principal.






















In today's New York Post, Susan Edelman has an article about another ethically challenged Principal, Onethea Swinton,  who is the intern acting Principal of Port Richmond High School in Staten Island.  According to the article, Ms. Swinton is using a Pennsylvania address to register her car, despite actually living in Staten Island.  If that was the only issue with Ms. Swinton I would not be writing this post.  However, Ms. Swinton has quite a bit of controversy surrounding her. In her previous stint at Brooklyn's Secondary School For Journalism, based upon limited data she was rated poorly at a 1.33 with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best.

First, apparently the Pennsylvania address Ms. Swinton uses is for a Tanya John who is an education vender that Ms. Swinton hires to provide student services, for the two schools she has been made Principal of. According to the Post article, Ms. Swinton saves up to $4,000 a year on automobile insurance by using the Pennsylvania address that is listed to Tanya and Kirk John and not her own Staten Island address where her Lexus was spotted by the newspaper.

Second, check the blog "Don't Tread On Educators" and you will find negative comments galore about Ms. Swinton  You can read them here.

Third, as Intern acting Principal she has riled up parents, students and teachers when she eliminated a prized honors program and sowed confusion with the student body due to the schedule and course  changes.

Interestingly, at a Town Hall meeting on October 5th, Chancellor, Carmen Farina, defended Ms. Swinton, what else is new?  According to the Chancellor,  all principals deserve an adjustment period and the parents should give Ms. Swinton more time before complaining.

Finally, according to the teachers at Port Richmond High School, Ms. Swinton tried to impose a new grading policy that would allow most students to graduate unprepared for the adult world and college and it was rescinded only when the staff objected and threatened to expose it to the public.

Just what a struggling school needs an ethically challenged Principal.  Where do they get these people from?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Rules Of Thumb For Retirement Decisions.





















Over the years I have heard various rules of thumb for teachers who want to reach their safe and secure retirement goals.  These rules of thumb include the combination of age and years, asset allocation, amount to withdraw, doubling their money, and amount to save.  This post will explain each rule of thumb that teachers might want to use to plan their retirement.  Remember, these rules of thumb are only simple guides and not ironclad guarantees.

Savings Rate:  The savings rate necessary to ensure a safe and secure retirement in the future is 15%, excluding pension and social security and approximately 10% when you include the two.  For younger teachers,every time they receive a raise in their salary, add 1% to the savings rate.  That includes both step raises and contractual raises.

Asset Allocation and Age:
For teachers the rule of 120 is usually recommended.  That is taking 120 minus your age and that is what should be invested in equities and the rest in a Fixed Income or Bond Fund.  For example, if you're 40 years of age, then its 120 - 40 = 80% equities/ On the other hand if your 70 years of age, its 120-70 = 50% equities.  For the risk adverse, you can substitute 100 rather than 120,  which is what was commonly used before 2010. A simple method is to use your age to determine the percentage of bonds and other fixed income instruments.  Age 65 = 65% bonds and other fixed income options.

Doubling Your Money:
The rule of 72 is commonly used for long-term investments, based upon historical average rate of return.  Obviously, if your investments exceed the historical average, you will double your money at a faster rate.  The ule of 72 is as follows:  72 /7% = 10.28 years.  I used the TDA's Fixed Fund of 7% since 65% of all TDA funds are in this option.  The rule of 114 is used to triple your money and the rule of 144 is used to quadruple your money.

Retirement Date:
Obviously, its different for different educators.  However, a general rule of thumb used by accounts for civil servents is the rule of 88.  Any combination of age and years worked towards a pension that equals 88 is when an educator should retire.  According to prople who follow this rule, beyond the number, the financial incentive rapidly diminishes. Playing with various retirement scenarios the rule of 88 seems to work, for the most part.  For example, if a teacher retires at 62 with 26 years in, the combination equals 88 and that is the time to retire.  Does it work for all scenarios?  Obviously not but its a fair estimation of when an educator should retire.

Withdrawal Rate:
A conservative withdrawal rate once you retire, is called the 4%  rule.  The 4% rule has proven to have worked under various scenarios and is used as a first withdrawal method.  The 4% rule allows for the retiree to withdraw 4% of his or her total investment and adjust it for inflation year after year.  For example assume a total investment of one million dollars.  The 4% rules allows the retire to withderawal $40,000 that year/  If inflation rises 3% the next year then the retiree can withdraw the $40,000 plus the inflation rate the next year.  For example, 3% of $40,000 is 1,200.  Therefore,the inflation adjusted withdrawal is $41,200.  If the next year the inflation rate remains at 3% then the following year's withdraw would be $41,200 x1.03% = $42,436.

These rules of thumb are simply guides and not the final say for saving, selecting a retirement date, and withdrawing your money. 










Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The TDA Fixed Rate Fund Is A Winner!
















In New York City, teachers are known as"the smartest", due to their educational requirements that require a masters degree to achieve tenure and passing a content specialty test.  Of course I question that designation based upon teachers voting, time and again, for the same old disconnected union leadership who negotiate inadequate contracts, provide massive "givebacks" and fail to include member concerns when negotiating with the DOE.  A case in point the requirement of four to six observations when the rest of the State only needs to have two observations and the use of the punitive Danielson rubric.  However, there is one item that makes us teachers "the smartest", that is contributing to our Teachers Deferred Annuity (TDA) Fixed Income option.

Why do I say the teachers are "the smartest"?  Easy, the TDA Fixed Income option give the educator a fixed rate of 7% for UFT members and 8.25% for non-UFT educators.   With inflation running a little over 2% and money market funds giving a measly 1%, the no-fee Fixed Income Fund is a godsend and a windfall for educators who contribute to it.

According to the conservative and anti-union Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) the TDA's Fixed Income Option is attracting more and more educator money and in the last report in 2015, the percentage of TDA funds in the Fixed Income Option has risen to 65% of the total TDA contribution.  Compare that to 38% in 2006 and 25% at the creation of th Fixed Income option. Moreover, as of 2016, the average TDA balance was $325,000 and at 7% interest the UFT member can supplement their pension by taking out $22,750 annually.

While I sometimes question the designation as "the smartest", there is no doubt that educators who contribute to the TDA's Fixed Income option are "the smartest".