Monday, March 30, 2015
It appears that Governor Andrew Cuomo won big time in the budget as he gets many of the things he wanted in the teacher evaluation system. Not surprisingly, UFT Michael Mulgrew claimed victory for increased school aid and a delay in other issues in the Governor's education agenda. However, the teachers are the real losers. I guess for our disconnected UFT leadership its like Hamas claiming victory after the Israeli-Gaza conflict because they were left standing despite the devastation around them. Let's see what we lost under the proposed teacher evaluation system.
First, The Governor gets an additional year tacked on to a teacher's tenure, to four years. Moreover, in three of the four years, the teacher must be either "effective" or "highly effective" to be awarded tenure.
Second, the State will decide when a failing school closes down, not the City or school district.
Third, the State and not the school district will decide on the new teacher evaluation system, meaning that the high-stakes testing will be half of a teacher evaluation and an "ineffective" on this portion will automatically make the teacher either "ineffective" or "developing"..
Fourth, two consecutive "ineffective ratings" results in automatic disciplinary charges and three "ineffective rating" results in automatic termination.
Fifth, independent observers will be employed for part of a teacher's observation at cost to the school district. See how well this has worked for the ATRs?
Sixth, No union approval is necessary for implementing the new teacher evaluation system. It can and will be imposed on the teachers unions by the State.
Finally, all other unresolved issues will be given to the NYSED to develop a plan to implement them. Yes, the very same NYSED who will be subject to intense pressure from the Governor to follow his education agenda.
Already, there is a looming teacher shortage, as few college students are going into education and fewer yet into the classroom. Good luck getting good teachers for the New York City Public Schools as the higher paying suburbs, with better working conditions, and academically accomplished students will out compete the City for the dwindling supply of these "quality teachers". Of course, as UFT Michael Mulgrew continues to proclaims victory, the demoralization of the teaching profession just gets worse. Clueless politicians will continue to blame the teachers for student academic failure as the City struggles and fails to attract the necessary teaching talent necessary to raise student academic achievement.
The bottom line, is that accountability is for teachers and not the NYSED or the Governor.
Saturday, March 28, 2015
The hedge fund financed and supported Governor has proposed an education agenda that comes straight out of the corporate deformer playbook that intends to destroy the unions and make the classroom teacher a temporary occupation. Of course, the ultimate goal is to make teaching a temporary profession with no pension and retiree health benefits and making "due process" a joke. Now that the recession is receding, the ranks of teachers are thinning with fewer and fewer candidates going into teaching and the boomer teachers retiring in droves due to the continued demonetization of the profession, you would think the Governor would want to attract highly skilled applicants to teach in New York State. However, that's not the case and this has not stopped the Governor in attacking teachers and trying to remove as many teachers as possible, despite the looming teacher shortage.
The Perdido Street blog published the 22 point breakdown of the Governor's education agenda and 11 of them are downright dangerous to teachers and their students, I hope to explain why.
- Adjust the APPR sub-components to be 50 points on state tests and 50 points on Other Measures.
- Thirty-five points of Other Measures will be determined by independent evaluators.
- Have the state set the scoring bands for both student growth and observations.
- If a teacher is rated ineffective in either portion, then the total score cannot be effective or highly effective.
- Tenure granted when a teacher achieves five consecutive years of effective or highly effective ratings.
- Expedited hearings (maximum time of 60 days) extended to cases of accused physical or sexual abuse of a child. Teacher’s charged with abuse will be suspended without pay pending the outcome of the hearing. If a teacher is convicted of a violent felony against a child, he/she will automatically have his/her certification revoked.
- If a teacher receives two ineffective ratings in a row, the teacher would only be able to rebut this strong indication of incompetence by “clear and convincing evidence” that the calculation of one of the ratings was fraudulent.
- Eliminate the legal requirement that districts must attempt to “rehabilitate” teachers who are incompetent or engage in misconduct.
- Remove the requirement that children must testify in person. Allow them to testify via sworn written or video statements.
- When a school is determined to be failing for three years, a non-profit, another school district, or a turnaround expert must take over the school. This is similar to the Massachusetts Model. New York has 178 “priority schools".
- Raise the charter school cap from 460 to 560 and make it statewide not restricted by region. New York City only has 24 charter applications remaining under its cap;
- Pass the $100 million Education Tax Credit for public and private scholarships to promote choice in education.
To try to ensure the Governor gets his way, he has dangled an extra $1.1 billion dollars or 4.8% to the school districts. Of course, he owns the very same school districts $7 billion dollars.
Friday, March 27, 2015
Tomorrow there will be demonstrations throughout the State against the Governor's education agenda. The biggest one will be held in front of the Governor's Office at 633 3rd avenue at 41st. To join the demonstration, enter at 3rd avenue and 36th street at noon. While I have my differences with my union leadership, I will close ranks when it comes from outside corporate deformers and hedge fund managers who are funding the Governor and in return, his education agenda is simply an attack on teachers.
The Governor has claimed he is a "student lobbyist". However, he has withheld $7 billion dollars to the City and State schools, despite a State surplus and is trying to blackmail the State legislature by holding increased school funding to his corporate deformer education agenda. Unfortunately, for the Governor, his demonetization of teachers and withholding of billions of dollars to schools have backfired. His poll rating are dropping like a rock with only 28% of the general public supporting his education agenda. For public school parents its 21%. Worse for the Governor, when it came to who the general public supports, they support the teachers unions by 55% to 28% when it comes to education. Both the Democratic controlled Assembly and the Republican controlled Senate have balked at including the Governor's agenda in the budget.
The planned demonstrations should further deteriorate Cuomo's popularity and if followed up with hard hitting television ads, will eventually force the Governor to abandon his quest for higher office and look for other issues to champion rather than butt heads with real educators and the students who trust them.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
When our union leadership was telling the media that they now had a friend ruining the DOE in Carmen Farina and life would become easier for teachers. However, I was highly skeptical. Yes the very same leadership, who's President threatened to punch you in the face if you dare oppose Common Core, and is strangely silent on the "opt out" movement that many teacher support, except for the E4E fifth columnists.
At first, the disappointing Chancellor committed to reducing the obnoxious paperwork requirements, to bring a different tone to the DOE, and eliminate the antagonism at Tweed to the teaching staff. However, fourteen months into her tenure as Chancellor, nothing has changed for the classroom teacher. Most of the Bloomberg 300 are still in policy making positions at Tweed, the double standard between disciplining principals and teachers continue, her school budgets and class sizes remain frozen when compared to the Bloomberg third term, and her comments about teachers would make Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg proud.
Just yesterday she told the press that she approves having administrators harass teachers by observing them many times until the targeted teacher resigns or retires. Her words were, according to Charkbeat are below:
She said the principal must weed out unmotivated or unsatisfactory teachers by documenting their performance problems and advising them to look for jobs elsewhere. After they stopped by the classroom of a teacher whom Hernandez said she had concerns about, Fariña told her to observe the teacher “many, many more times a day.”
After the tour, Fariña explained that principals can use such methods to convince teachers who are not a good fit for a school to leave.
This is not the first time she went after teachers. Remember what she said to the newly hired teachers not to hang out in the teachers room and listen to the disgruntled veteran teachers. You can find it Here. Finally, her insistence in making ATRs second class citizens in the contract proves her dislike for the "due process rights" for teachers.
To me Carmen Farina is no different than the other three Chancellors who blamed teachers for every ill of the school system and refuse to hold themselves accountable for their poor decisions that hurts the students. Too bad our disconnected leadership prefers to ignore the damage Chancellor Carmen Farina is doing to the members but then again its politics over what's best for the classroom.
Sunday, March 22, 2015
The New York Daily News ran a series about the New York City schools that was biased and supported Governor Cuomo's badly flawed education agenda. However, in one of their articles, they did touch on a subject that they, and other media outlets have deliberately ignored in the past. That is the influx of "newbie teachers" and the use of teachers forced to teach in subjects they're are not certified in. Maspeth High School had an astounding 88% of their teachers who had less than three years of experience while Banana Kelly had 69% of their teaching staff with less than three years of experience.
The Daily News article reported that there were 21 NYC schools that had over 50% of their teaching staff with less than three years of experience and are probably nontenured as well. Worse yet, are the amount of classes being taught by teachers who are not qualified to teach the subject. According to the Daily News and my own experience in traveling in the Queens high schools, this is a common problem and the more pervasive the practice, the lower the school's academic achievement ends up to be. Even the DOE admitted to the Daily News that many schools use their Living Environment teachers (Biology) to teach Earth Science (Physical Science) and the results are uniformly disappointing with the majority of these students who have these uncertified teachers, failing the Earth Science Regents. Remember my article on Excelsior Prepatory High School where the school decided to not give the over 100 students the Earth Science Regents rather than hire an Earth Science teacher? How's that putting children first?
The question is why does the DOE and the UFT allow our NYC Public School students to be exposed to uncertified teachers instructing in subject areas that they have no business teaching in? The answer its the DOE's "education on the cheap" policy. That's right, if you think its about what's best for the students, than you probably believe in the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny, and yes, Santa Claus. The truth is that the DOE imposed a destructive budgeting practice on the schools that's called "fair student funding" that forces principals to hire the "cheapest and not the best teachers" for their school. Add that to the 14% budget cut since 2008 and the rise of the "Leadership Academy Principals", with little actual classroom experience and you have a receipt for educational disaster. I have written about this travesty previously and it can be found Here. Finally, many schools try to save money by assigning phantom teachers to courses and force the unfortunate students to take an online or blended learning course. Remember this? Or in today's New York Post.
Its too bad the Daily News didn't bother to dig deeper into this issue but then they would have found out the real truth that its what's best for a school's budget than what's best for the students in the DOE's "education on the cheap" policy and that would bring into question the validity of the Governor's education agenda and their "blaming the teachers theme" for the school system's many problems.
Saturday, March 21, 2015
- There are 1,000 ATRs still rotating as of February of 2015.
- 289 ATRs left the system since April of 2014.
- 100 of the 289 ATRs left due to retirement.
- 97 took the ATR buyout (most were retiring anyway).
- 53 ATRs resigned under disciplinary charges.
- 19 ATRs were terminated due to missing interviews (10) or time and attendance issues (9).
- 18 ATRs simply resigned.
- 2 ATRs were discontinued.
What's left unsaid by the obviously biased Chalkbeat article is that the majority of ATR teachers who found a long-term placement or leave replacement (estimated to be about 1,400) in the schools are not appointed but are simply placeholders for principals to hire cheaper "newbie teachers" during the summer when the DOE allows unlimited hiring. Few ATRs are offered permanent positions and if the ATR has ten or more years of experience and makes $75,000 a year or more, the chances of being permanently hired are slim and none. Until the DOE changes how the schools are funded, the ATR issue will continue to exist and over 100 million dollars a year will be wasted on a failed ideology rather than use the money for the classroom for more resources, reduce class size, and hire qualified and certified teachers to truly help the students. Of course if you only talk to the education reformers like StudentsFirst or E4E, of course you will insinuate that the ATRs are "subpar" or "ineffective". Better to ignore the issues and slant it to make it seem that the ATRs are the problem and not the failed ideology that has resulted in the waste of talent and money at the expense of the students.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
The Scholarship Requirement Artificially Raises The Graduation Rate And Cheapens The Diploma Of NYC High School Graduates.
Over the Bloomberg/Klein years the high school graduation rate jumped significantly and of course the Mayor and Chancellor claimed their education policy was a success. In fact, the Chancellor proudly stated that "a zip code was no excuse for failure" as the dumbed down State tests narrowed the racial achievement gap. However, it all collapsed in 2010 when it became obvious that many students were getting free credits through a bogus "credit recovery system" and Principal pressure to obtain a high letter grade for their school and receive a bonus as well. Moreover, the State re-cut the State test to more realistic levels and the racial achievement gap actually widened!
Under State pressure the "credit recovery system" was strengthened to include more meaningful work and a stringent requirement for eligibility, the easy credits became harder to justify and principals needed to find another way to maintain their graduation rate. The answer was a scholarship requirement. In many schools administrators tell their teachers they want a minimum of 80% of a teacher/s students to pass their class. Otherwise, the administrator will threaten to give the teacher a low grade on the observations and if not tenured, result in a discontinuance of employment, This scholarship requirement usually included student "no-shows", meaning that if a student shows up most of the time, the teacher is pressured to pass the student to meet the scholarship demand. I experienced this first hand during the 2011-12 school year at Flushing High School where your effectiveness was based upon your student passing rate. In my travels to the various high schools many teachers told me about the pressure their under to meet the scholarship requirements. Its a rare teacher that refuses to abide by the administrator demands to pass undeserving students just to meet the scholarship requirements of the school. In one school at Campus Magnet, the Principal allegedly demands a 90% scholarship and this school is known for giving one third of the teachers an unsatisfactory or ineffective rating. The result is that the students run the school with little fear of failing.
I feel sorry for the students who work hard and achieve good grades who must be frustrated that their poor performing classmates are allowed to pass their classes without bothering to open a book or do any work, except to show up, Is it any wonder that a New York City High School diploma is greeted with great skepticism by colleges?
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Parents Should Join The "Opt Out" Movement And Stop The NYSED From Hurting Their Children With Junk Science.
More and more parents are joining the "opt out" movement and not having their children subject to these high stakes tests that instill fear and loathing into the students. These high stakes tests are based upon "junk science" and are developed without classroom teacher participation. Even the State realized how irrelevant these tests are by agreeing not to use them for student promotion decisions. However, these high stakes standardized tests that corporate reformers and our Governor loves and wants will be part of a student's permanent record and will be used as ammunition against the child in placement decisions.
Furthermore, while the high stakes tests will not be used against students for promotion decisions it will be used to grade teachers despite the American Statistical Association finding the "Value Added Model" (VAM) was not a fair or reliable indicator of a teacher's contribution to a student's growth. They found that a teacher accounted for only between 1% to 14% of a student's academic growth and that the use of high stakes tests, as presently used, is inappropriate.
Moreover, teachers who had "high needs students", languished and were more likely to be found "ineffective" due to the fudge factors used in the "junk science" in the VAM. Award winning Principal Carol Burns continues to find more and more problems with the New York State teacher evaluation system and you can read it here.
Finally, the more parents who "opt out" the already unreliable data associated with the test will become even less so and irrelevant until NYSED finally realizes that the data is unusable and they abandon the VAM altogether. Interestingly, our disconnected union leadership is ambivalent to the "opt out" movement, rather than be in the forefront and supporting this movement and that's a real shame.
Remember, by "opting out" you will not subject your child to the fear and loathing of this useless test and help convince New York State develop a test that takes into account the interests of all parties not the corporate reformers that simply want to destroy public education and privatize it as a money making enterprise at the expense of the children.
Sunday, March 15, 2015
Under pressure from the Obama Administration and approved by Mayor Bill de Blasio, there is a new, more lenient discipline policy for disruptive students in the New York City Public Schools. No longer can principals suspend misbehaving students without DOE Central approving the suspension. Instead, the new policy is to set up "Restorative Justice" meetings to encourage the wayward student to mend their ways. No longer can a teacher remove a disrespectful student from the classroom but must endure the student harassment and classroom disruptions.
In some schools, the administration has gone so far as to set up peer courts and restorative justice circles instead of discipline, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Worse, the misbehaving students quickly realize there is little consequence for their bad behavior and feel free to continue or even escalate their misdeeds at the expense of his or her classmates and teachers. The result is an out of control school.
In school after school I have heard horror stories about students threatening or cursing at their teachers with no punishment. Sadly, these administrators simply tell the teachers that the student has a difficult family life or their IEP allows for such behavior and they must be compassionate and forgiving. The result is the student continues to disrupt the classroom and the powerlessness of the teacher to enforce discipline results in a chaotic classroom. Is it any wonder that many of these schools cannot retain their teaching staff?
Added to the lax discipline code, is the continued micromanaging of the classroom teacher who no longer has complete control of their classroom. In too many schools, students arrive late to class since the administration requires the teacher to let them in , take their cell phones out when they please with little fear of the phones being taken away, and add that to the well founded fear that any altercation with a student can result in the teacher being subject to discipline and even termination discourages the teacher from enforcing classroom discipline.!
In addition, the teacher is subject to frequent observations from administrators, thanks to the punitive teacher evaluation system and the data mining requirements imposed by the DOE results in unnecessary and excessive paperwork and adds to the stress in the classroom.
The lax discipline policy combined with the hostile classroom environment makes an already stressful occupation even more so. Already there are fewer perspective teachers entering the teaching field and with teacher control being continually eroded, it will only get worse.Its a disaster waiting to happen.
Friday, March 13, 2015
Mayor Bill de Blaio announced earlier in the week the appointment of Aimee Horowitz as the new Executive Superintendent of the School Renewal Program. While the Mayor and other politicians gave Ms. Horowitz glowing acclaim, there is another, darker side to Aimee Horowitz.
Back in 2013, Aimee Horowitz was Superintendent of District 20 and participated in the discontinuance of a untenured teacher who had tried to inform the Superintendent of Regents cheating at her Brooklyn High School. While a Superintendent's job is to discontinue teachers without tenure that don't measure up, this one was different. This teacher was a whistle blower and was being retaliated against. The teacher had cc'd the Superintendent on the letters she wrote to the Principal detailing the Regents cheating she observed and reported to the Assistant Principal. Yet, the teacher was never contacted by Aimee Horowitz, despite the seriousness of the accusations. You can read the teacher's story Here.
To make matters worse, the untenured teacher was told by the Principal that the Superintendent was not only going to discontinue the teacher but would recommend to the State to go after her license for "professional misconduct". I guess for being a whistle blower. In fact, in the discontinuance letter signed by Aimee Horowitz to the teacher, the Superintendent wrote that she will recommend a C-31 which is a license revocation action which was apparently dropped right before the Office of Appeals and Review hearing when the DOE knew they could not prove there was any teacher misconduct. Interestingly, SCI become involved after the NY Post published an article on the case and did do an investigation which substantiated that Regents cheating did occur. However, the report has not been issued or even completed and nobody knows who was found to have participated in the Regents cheating scandal. However, the administrators are still in their positions at the high school. By the way, SCI failed to interview the untenured teacher which is quite puzzling since she was the one who blew the whistle on the Regents cheating in the first place.
The untenured teacher filed an Article 78 and had a process server give a subpena to Superintendent Aimee Horowitz. Instead of being a professional and accept the subpena, she had a "hissy fit" and refused to accept the subpena from the server and had to be restrained by her assistant. The subpena had to be mailed to her.
You would think as a Superintendent, when a Regents cheating complaint was mailed to your office, you would have at least interviewed the teacher to determine the seriousness of the allegation and see what action needs to be taken. Instead Superintendent Horowitz chose to let the Principal handle it. Yes, the very same Principal that might have been complicit in the Regents cheating scandal. When a high UFT official spoke to the Superintendent about the teacher and the charges , Aimee Horowitz allegedly told the UFT official that its her job to support her principals and their decisions. Obviously, the truth is not as important to Aimee Horowitz then closing ranks to protect her principals at the expense of the students and staff at the schools she supervised.
To me, a true professional would investigate the accusations, fairly evaluate complaints and take action when deemed necessary. Unfortunately, Aimee Horowitz appears lacking in that expertize. However, it didn't stop her from being promoted. Now that she is in charge of the NYC Renewal schools, I feel sorry for the staff, especially the teachers. It appears that cronyism still rules at the DOE at the expense of competence and the losers are the NYC schools.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
In the schools that I have rotated to this year, the professional development time has been of no value. Its usually about planning or student essay writing evaluations and a chore not to fall asleep. While I know this was Chancellor Carmen Farina's idea, the UFT should not let it continue beyond the school year. since they must agree to the extension.
Few teachers look forward to the professional development and are counting the minutes until it ends so that they can flee the school and do more meaningful activities. Maybe if the professional development involved the most efficient use of technology in the classroom, or how to better use online grade books, the use of the Microsoft Office suite, and other interesting teacher-directed activities. Instead its administrator directed boring chores.
The best use of the time is to add it back to the classroom or use it for small group tutoring for struggling students at the end of the school day. This brain numbing professional development requirement just makes our teaching duties that much worse. Being forced and coerced into professional development makes it a losing proposition. Let's get rid of the professional development requirement and fast!
Saturday, March 07, 2015
Back in 2012, the DOE decided that any teacher who was subject to a DOE investigation (SCI, OSI, OEO) and found to be substantiated will have a "problem code" attached to their file. It mattered little that if the teacher decided to go through with their 3020-a hearing and the independent arbitrator found that the DOE investigation was flawed and found no serious misconduct, the DOE still kept the "problem code" on the teacher's file. At the time the UFT leadership objected and claimed they will take it to PERB. However, the UFT leadership failed to pursue the PERB complaint. The question is why did they quietly drop their promise to file a PERB complaint, or did they ever really intend to fire one in the first place?
The union's failure to protect their members shows up yet again, be it the second class status of the ATRs, reassigned teachers put on ice in a different borough, or the labeling of the unfair "problem codes". Our union's failure to remove the "Scarlet Letter" from their member files is a disgrace and must be corrected.
As a member with one of those "problem codes" on my file. I will be more than happy to be the test case, if the union leadership wants to challenge the unfair DOE designation that has damaged many member chances from obtaining a position. However, I doubt that the disconnected leadership will do the right thing and file their long promised PERB complaint.
There is no direct way to know if you have a problem code on your file, unless the Principal or payroll Secretary is kind enough to show it to you on their computer screen. However, you can go to the DOE's payroll portal that a member can access. Go to Salary History and you will see just below your 2013-14 rating the word "problem". If that appears on your Salary History and something is listed next to it, you probably have been "problem coded" on your file. Remember, this goes back to at least 2002 so an incident that happened more than a decade ago is deemed as current under the DOE.
Thursday, March 05, 2015
In many schools, there were over 50% absences of students and staff and little learning was done. But then again it isn't about learning it's about babysitting and feeding the students. Learning is secondary to supervising the students. Maybe the school staff should be required to take a "babysitting course" that the various libraries give as a Professional Development requirement since on days like this we are simply babysitters.
It appears not to matter who the Mayor and Chancellor is, When it comes to protecting the children in hazardous weather conditions, its more important to open the schools and babysitting them then keeping them safe.
Tuesday, March 03, 2015
In my travels to various schools, I am shocked to find out how little teachers know about the benefits in contributing to their Tax Deferred Annuity Fund (TDA). Some teachers know that the TDA includes various stock funds, a bond fund, and a fixed income fund that pays 7% in annual interest. However, when it comes to understanding that contributing to the TDA not only allows the money to accumulate tax deferred (no money is taxed until you decide to take the money out) but also reduces the present income taxes! Therefore, I decided to take a look at two teachers, one contributes to her TDA while the other does not.
Example: There are two teachers, both single, living in New York City, and each making $80,000 a year. Teacher #1 does not contribute to the TDA while teacher #2 contributes a modest $200 a paycheck to the TDA that reduces her taxable income by $4,800 to $75,200.
Teacher #1: Salary $80,000, Federal Tax = 20% or $15,863
NYS Tax = 6.65% or $5,320
NYC Tax = 3.65% or $2,800
Total Tax =30.30% or $23,983
Teacher #2: Salary $80,000 Federal Tax = 18% or $14,663
NYS Tax = 6.45% or $4,521
NYC Tax = 3.30% or $2,625
Total Tax =27.75% or $22,909
The tax rates come from the Federal, State, and City tax tables and shows that by contributing to the TDA, the teacher reduces her effective income tax by 2.55% and more importantly, saves her approximately $1,074 in Federal, State, and City income taxes. Now you know why you should contribute to your TDA, it reduces the amount of taxes you pay!
Sunday, March 01, 2015
In our society fewer people are getting married and many children are being raised in a one parent (mainly mother) household. While this troubling trend has become more acceptable in Western society, its not, for the most part, best for the family unit. Long-term marriage offers many advantages when compared to unmarried family units. These advantages are as follows:
A committed relationship that two adults share with each other, under the same roof, gives their children a "head start" in being successful. It doesn't matter if its between a man and woman or a same sex couple. The bottom line is that their children will be better for it.
An interesting study shows that men benefit greatly when marrying and staying with a women. It seems that married men enjoy better health and live longer since the women usually prods the man to take better care of themselves and go to the doctor when feeling poorly. Marriage also benefits women who feel they have a partner that lends them emotional support and giving them the feeling of responsibility in keeping their partner healthy.
It appears, for the most part, a long-term stable marriage benefits the entire family. Too bad we seem to be going into an opposite direction when it comes to marriage. This might be one of the areas that we need to explore and reverse the trend if we are to reduce poverty and see better academic outcomes for the children.