Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Principal Of Jamaica High School Gets Caught As He Tries To Cheat His Way Into A Better Graduation Rate And The DOE Sees No Problem With That.

The New York Post shockingly wrote an article how the Principal of Jamaica High School, Walter Acham, directed the guidance office to give up to 12 additional credits for immigrants who entered Jamaica High School, regardless of the student's academic history in their own country. Yes, this is the same Principal who was repremanded by Chancellor Joel Klein for sending an October 1st, 2007 memo to staff on how to report an incident without calling 911.

I previously identified this disgusting practice of phony credits here. This is really academic fraud and is just an attempt by a Principal to artificially raise his graduation rate without providing the academic services for real student achievement. Once, this disgusting practice was exposed and the State was scheduled to visit the school, the phony credits were quickly removed from over 200 students that were given them in the first place.

Incredibly, Tweed defended the Principal's action to the New York Post by claiming that the school has a right to give up to 10 credits for "life skills". However, the condition for granting the credits are based upon stringent criteria for students who come from non-English speaking countries. In fact, according to the DOE regulations, the criteria is as follows:

Department rules say students can get up to 10 credits "for documented school attendance and residence in an other-than-English-speaking environment" through age 13. Without outside transcripts, there must be a "thorough review," including interviews and possible testing, said department spokesman Matthew Mittenthal.

Instead, Principal Walter Acham gave up to 12 credits to students who had spotty attendance records, and came from English speaking countries. Yes, this is the very same Walter Acham who challenged his staff in a facility meeting who questioned his poor decision- making ability by "taking them out to the woodshed". This threat was reported to Tweed, who took no action.

We all believe cheating is wrong. However, when Principals cheat by giving phony credits, manipulates with the dropout rates, and abuse the "credit recover program". The DOE sees nothing wrong with that kind of cheating in their ongoing effort in their "children last" polices.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Hypocrisy Of The DOE’s Office Of Legal Services Knows No Bounds As They Allow The “Worst Of The Worst” Teachers To Go Back Into The Classroom

How many times have we read in the newspapers how Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein only want “great teachers” in the NYC school system? Now we all know their definition of a “great teacher” is young , cheap, and disposable that is consistent with their “education on the cheap” program. However, the DOE’s Office Of Legal Services do not even bother to determine who are “great teachers” when looking into the allegations charged against the teacher. To these lawyers and their supervisor if the teacher is willing to make a deal and plead guilty, they will settle with the teacher and make them an ATR, and send them to a school.

Now, the great majority of teachers who take a settlement are probably hard working and good with the students who may have committed some form of minor misconduct that was embellished and twisted due to a Principal who just wanted them out of the school. Therefore, they decided that it was in their best interests to settle their case and get on with their lives. To these teachers it is worth the DOE extortion that results from settlements ($5,000 to $15,000 and worthless courses)and are no longer a “threat to the children”. However, there were a select few known as the “worst of the worst”. This group of teachers was taken out of the classroom for a myriad of issues but they all had one thing in common. These teachers were true screw-ups, knuckleheads, and in some cases, downright dangerous to themselves and others. Incredibly, the DOE’s Office Of Legal Services after filing 3020-a charges against this select group of teachers made a settlement with them, even when they had a “slam duck” termination case against these teachers. By contrast some of the best teachers I have known refused to submit to the DOE’s extortion request and were forced to defend themselves in the 3020-a termination hearings.

Let’s look at some of these “worst of the worst” teachers who have been sent back to the schools. Previously, I wrote about two of them, Ebony & Ivory, and nothing more needs to be said about them. Now to promote gender equality I now bring you “Mutt & Jeff”. The two teachers are not only a danger to the classroom but to themselves as well. Mutt, was removed for erratic behavior as well as time and attendance issues from his school. Reliability was a problem for “Mutt” while at his school. Once “Mutt” was reassigned and received his 3020-a charges his erratic behavior and attendance problem persisted to the point that “Mutt” was given numerous disciplinary letters to his file and two consecutive “U” ratings during his reassignment. His eyes seemed bloodshot and there were allegations of improper behaviors exhibited by him and noted by the Site supervisor in his disciplinary hearings. Suspicions of drug use, drinking, insubordination, and sexual harassment were only some of the accusations associated with “Mutt”. However, the DOE’s “Office Of Legal Services” does not care whether “Mutt” is incapable of teaching children or that he is a threat to himself and others. As long as “Mutt” is willing to pay a fine and take a course, back he went to another unsuspecting school who’s children will be exposed to this unstable character.

As for “Jeff” . This teacher is a total screwup. He was taken out of classroom for a myrid of issues. He had separate SCI and OSI investigations and before his removal, even the State of New York came from Albany to evaluate his teaching ability, he failed. His charges were so many that I could not even list them in this post. This teacher was one of the laziest individuals I knew. The students called him “Mr. Ditto” because he never taught only gave photocopies of work sheets. Had he not been taken out for misconduct when he was, he would have been taken out for incompetence by the end of that year of his reassignment. His behavior did not improve while reassigned. He used a phony handicap parking permit to park in handicapped spots and when caught he just shrugged his shoulders and continued to do it anyway. He had time and attendance issues both at his school and during the reassignment, and would sneak up to different floors to steal food from workshops given at the building he was reassigned to. “Jeff” was a real screwup and yet the DOE’s Office Of Legal Services” did not care about his lack of teaching ability and his ability to screwup, the only thing they cared about was the money.

I can only laugh when I hear how Mayor Mike and Chancellor Joel claim they want only “great teachers” in the system while closing their collective eyes to the hypocrites at the “Office Of Legal Services” who see no problem in putting the “worst of the worst” teachers back into the classroom and endanger the academic welfare of the unfortunate students who have them.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why Chancellor Joel Klein Deserves A Grade Of “F” When We Look At His Value-Added Grade.

In the uproar of the phony value-added grades for teachers that Chancellor Klein wants to publish, despite an agreement with the union that the scores would not be released and only be used to determine their applicability in the real world. It is only fair to rate our Chancellor on his value-added grade by his accomplishments or lack thereof of the students and staff.

Student Academic Achievement:

The latest numbers show that under Chancellor Joel Klein’s failed stewardship, the 2010 grades dropped and are no better then when he first took the Chancellor’s position in 2002. If we were to use the value-added formula on Joel Klein for the 2010 results, it would show that he is truly incompetent in raising student test scores. In fact, the passing rate dropped dramatically!

The Racial/Income Academic Achievement Gap:

The Chancellor, despite his false claims, has failed to narrow the racial/income achievement gap on his watch. According to the New York Daily News, the racial/income academic achievement gap has actually widened.

Class Size:

Despite State mandated funds to reduce class size under the CFE lawsuit settlement, class sizes have actually risen over the past two years and the Chancellor has threatened that even higher class sizes may loom in the future as more teachers leave the system and not be replaced. Thew Chancellor has failed to live up to the agreement to reduce class size.

Failure To Negotiate A Past Due Contract:

The teachers are now in their second year without a contract and Chancellor Klein appears uninterested to give a contract without major and unacceptable “givebacks”. Just look at his cockamamie contract proposal he send to the news media. Bad faith negotiations has always been the hallmark of the Joel Klein Administration and nothing changed as we are into the next school year. Here again, Joel Klein has failed to provide a proper contract proposal to the teachers.

Teacher Disrespect:

Another legacy of the Joel Klein Administration is the continued disrespect for teachers in the system. In Tweed’s top down approach, teacher input is not solicited or wanted and in his constant reorganization schemes that just cause chaos, and inefficiency, very few educators occupy the top positions at Tweed. It is believed that of the top people around the Chancellor, only one is an educator. The Chancellor fails to ask the teachers in the trenches what actually works in the classroom.

Budget Allocations:

The schools have suffered disproportionate budget cuts while Tweed see’s little or no reductions (in some cases increases in certain non-education offices). Because of the lack of transparency some of the so-called budget cuts from the central bureaucracy are really from regional offices who supply direct school support and services. The Chancellor has failed to show accountability and transparency to the budgeting process. The question is how many of Tweed's pet consultant programs are being cut?

Closing Schools:

The Chancellor failed to follow directions on how to close “failing schools” and his decision was overturned by the courts. The Chancellor’s incompetence in following directions has resulted in uncertainty and ridicule to his poor decision making prowess.

Lack Of Community/Parent Input In School Policies:

The Chancellor has, time and again, failed to involve parents and the community in decisions that affect them. Part of the DOE losing the lawsuit in closing schools was lack of community outreach and parental input.

In conclusion, I find that based upon the above factors that under the value-added method, Joel Klein is found lacking in academic improvement of the students under him and deemed incompetent and gets a failing grade of “F”. It looks like it'sis “PIP+” and eventual termination for the Chancellor.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Evil PIP+ Program Is A DOE Termination Program Plain And Simple. Believe It Or Not Our Union Leadership Supports It! Who’s Side Are They On?

In the October 13th 2007 contract which everybody thought was a good contract for the teachers a voluntary teacher improvement program was quietly slipped into the contract (Article 21J pg 123). This voluntary program was called the Peer Intervention Program Plus otherwise known as PIP+. The PIP+ program is supposed to follow the union-supported PIP program in which a union member mentors a struggling teacher and tries to correct any flaws in the teacher’s classroom management ability. If after PIP the mentor is unable to improve the teacher’s ability to run a classroom, the mentor tries to consuls the teacher out of the profession if necessary. However, in many cases the Principal pressures the teacher to take the PIP+ program with out either the teacher being given PIP or had satisfactory passed the PIP program. On the other hand the PIP+ individual can be either an ex classroom teacher or Administrator who is paid by a vendor, hired and paid for by the DOE to evaluate the teacher. The PIP+ program is enthusiastically promoted by both the DOE and the UFT leadership as a way to get rid of teachers deemed incompetent. The PIP+ program is not a teacher improvement program but a teacher termination program!

Before PIP+ came about, teachers charged with incompetence by the Principal were usually found guilty by the 3020-a Arbitrator and were fined $5,000 and forced to take a course in Classroom Management. The reason very few were terminated by Arbitrators was because the Administrators who targeted the teacher with incompetence charges were not considered “master teachers” and many of them were “mediocre teachers” at best themselves. The teachers who were terminated usually had companion charges such as insubordination, corporal punishment, verbal abuse, time & attendance, etc. Consequently, the termination rate for incompetence was extremely low. Along came the 2007 contract and Randi Weingarten and her non-teacher flunkies agreed with the DOE that it should become easier for Arbitrators to terminate teachers charged with incompetence. Therefore, the establishment of the infamous PIP+ program in the 2007 contract. The PIP+ educator is now considered an “expert witness” and the Arbitrators are seeing them as such. Therefore, the termination rate for teachers charged with incompetence is at least 75%, based on a limited sample. This is a far cry from the approximately 10% termination rate before PIP+. You might ask how could our union agree to this? Simple, the UFT leadership, who have not been in the classroom in ages, if ever, believe that if a teacher is charged with incompetence, it must be true. Additionally, the DOE formed a 1.2 million dollar Teacher Performance Unit (TPU) known as the gotcha squad” consisting of lawyers and retired principals to help terminate teachers charged with incompetence. Once, the NYSUT lawyers could fight hard for teachers charged with incompetence and if not win, at least make sure their client wasn’t terminated. Now the NYSUT attorneys believe that they are fighting an uneven battle as the burden of proof is shifted from the DOE to the teacher in these cases. One lawyer was quoted as saying “that it is like betting on a one legged man in a butt kicking contest when it comes to defending a PIP+ teacher". The sense of defeatism is evident as they are urging their clients who are charged with incompetence and had PIP+ to take a deal, any deal. What are the deals being offered? One year and resignation or two years and a $10,000 to $15,000 fine along with resignation. In all cases the PIP+ teacher must leave the system and never be hired back.

For the sake of clarity, let me explain how PIP+ works. The Principal targets a teacher for a variety of reasons and decides that the best way is to get the teacher out is through the incompetence procedure. The Principal will usually discourage the teacher from taking PIP, since the PIP teacher may tell the Principal that there is nothing wrong with the teacher and might help offset the PIP+ educator in the future 3020-a hearing. The Principal will then call in the teacher and Chapter Leader and inform the teacher that the teacher must take PIP+ or face charges of incompetence and removal from the classroom based upon the administrative observations. The Chapter Leader follows the guidance given by the District Representative who recommends taking PIP+ and this keeps the teacher in the classroom an extra six months. However, nine out of ten times the taking of PIP+ by the teacher is the death warrant for the teacher and termination is just a 3020-a hearing away. Let’s take a look at the limited statistics from the PIP+ program.

  • 3 out of 4 teachers who had PIP+ were terminated by the Arbitrators.

Chapter Leaders are the first line of defense and they must understand what the consequences of PIP+ means to the targeted teachers and encourage these teachers from taking what is in essence a termination program. Remember, the PIP+ program is a voluntary program and teachers cannot be charged for refusing to take PIP+. It is better for the teacher to be removed from the classroom six months earlier if it means they will be able to keep their job down the road. Remember, without PIP+ the DOE has no “expert witnesses” to testify against the teacher in the 3020-a hearings. As the elected representative, Chapter Leaders must protect their staff and that means recommending to teachers that taking PIP is a good thing but agreeing to PIP+ is agreeing to be terminated in the 3020-a hearing.

More information about the PIP+ vender contracts and a similar take on the PIP+ termination process can be found on Betsy Combier’s rubber room reporter blog.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

“D”Day" Approaches As Tweed Informs Principals That Any Vacancy They Have Must Be Filled Or Else - ATRs Beware Of The "Mandatory Interview"

Well, the day is finally arriving as principals who refused to hire ATRs for their vacancies and hoping that Tweed would give them an exemption to hire “newbie teachers” have been told in a Principals’ e-mail that any teaching vacancy will be charged against the school budget if not filled by the October 29th. Whether the DOE will actually do it is anybody’s guess but they do seem serious about filling the vacancies with the ATRs.

While some principals deliberately tried to hide the vacancies from the Open Market Transfer System and other principals were interviewing “newbie teachers” in the hope that Tweed would lift the hiring freeze at the last minute. Many of the vacancies are in bad neighborhoods, have geographic issues, no parking, student discipline problems, high teacher turnover, and worst of all an Administration from hell. In essence many of these vacancies are in schools that nobody wants to teach in and if you are an ATR, you do not have to take it if the school is not in your district!

Many an ATR have received e-mail notices from the DOE informing them that a “mandatory interview” is being set up with the principals of these troubled schools. While you may have little choice in going to this “mandatory interview” you do not have to take the position. In fact, it might be worth your time to e-mail the Principal and tell him or her that you believe your presence at the interview is a “waste of time” since you have no intention of accepting the position in a school that is not in the district. This will save time and effort and hopefully will get the Principal to realize it is a waste of time to interview you.

Don’t listen to the people who claim that the ATRs have a time limit. No such time limit exists. I know of a few people who have been ATRs for four years! Not only will our union not allow for the ATR time limit (see what happened to the union in Chicago when they allowed an ATR time limit, Here and Here) but the other unions see this as an attack on civil service protections and will never allow it. While our union leadership has taken a decidedly neutral position on these “mandatory interviews” in troubled schools, please realize that if you accept the position, you are stuck there for the entire school year and you might even lose your district rights if you don’t fight for it at the end of the school year.

Please, do not take a vacancy in a school outside your district unless you like the school and it is equivalent to the school you were excessed from. Remember, you are dealing from a position of strength, the DOE cannot force you to take a position out of your district and if you were under 3020-a charges and agreed to a settlement. Make sure in the settlement that you can only go back to your district.