Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Maximum TDA Contribution Is Expected To Increase By $500 Next Year.

There's some good news on the financial front as the Federal Government has raised next year's maximum contribution to 401(k) plans to $18,500.  That is a $500 dollar increase from this year.  If you are 50 years of age or over, the federal government allows for "catch up" contributions of $6,000 dollars for a total maximum contribution of $24,500 dollars.

Our TDA is a cost efficient 403(b) plan and the same rules apply as for the 401(k) plans when it comes to the maximum contribution and "catch up"  funds.  Therefore, expect the TDA to raise the maximum contribution limit by the same $500 dollars.

Depending on your age, the maximum contribution limits are as follows:

Age.......................Maximum Contribution

under 50...........................$18.500
50 or older........................$24,500

Just a reminder.  We will be getting a raise (3%) in May and another 2% in June.  A good rule of thumb is for every raise, you should increase your TDA contribution by 1%.  Moreover, the TDA is tax differed and until age 70.5 it continues to appreciate tax free, until the Required Minimum Distribution kicks in.

For more information go to TRS online and my article on the TDA.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Our Union's Complicity In The ATR Crisis.

It's been over a decade since our union negotiated the terrible and "giveback" laden  2005 contract.  The union leadership has claimed that they're not responsible for the ATR crisis and blames it entirely on the DOE.  However, a UFT sponsored report " Case Study In Partisanship" shows the union's complicity in the creation of the ATR pool.

On page five of the above referenced UFT sponsored report the union was well aware of the potential damage the contract will cause excessed teacher and the potential discrimination of all veteran teachers..

"The UFT negotiating team warned the DOE before the 2005 contract was signed that the new Open Market Transfer System would result in a growing number of unassigned teachers (ATRs) but the DOE said it was prepared to pay the price for the changes it wanted.  The UFT raised concerns about the waste of money and talent but the DOE did not seem to be worried at the time".

Interestingly, the report states that the UFT leadership was getting more concerned about the potential effects on the ATRs and all veteran teachers with the DOE's school based "Fair Student Funding" budgeting process and on April 7, 2008 filed an age discrimination lawsuit, only to quietly drop it in negotiating the 2009 ATR Agreement a year later

The union leadership was well aware that the combination of the "givebacks" iin the 2005 contract and the Fair Student Funding budgeting process made the ATR pool top heavy with older veteran teachers.  In fact, according to the report, 81% of the teachers in the ATR pool were 40 years of age or older while for the UFT educators as a whole. it was only 57%. Fast forward to 2017 and the age of the ATR pool is still about the same while the average age of teachers is decreasing.

In 2006, 44% of the newly excessed teachers had between 0-3 years experience while 22% had 13 years or more.  The next year, only 25% of the teachers with 0-3 experience were still in the ATR pool while 42% of those with 13 years of experence were still in excess.  A complete reversal from the year before and proves that principals were discriminating against veteran teachers.

So when the union leadership tells you that they never expected the DOE to demonize the ATR pool, don't believe them.  They knew what the DOE was planning to do before the 2005 contract was signed and still they agreed to the DOE's demands that made the ATR pool what it is today.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

10% Of New York City's Students Are Homeless.

Despite the City having an economic Renaissance and a $6 billion dollar budget surplus,  the student homeless population continues to increase.  Of the 1.1 million students, approximately 140,000 are homeless or 10% of the student population.  In fact, there has been a 28% increase in student homelessness since Bill de Blasio became Mayor of New York City.  In the last 20 year period, between 1994 and 2014, there has been a 115% increase in sthe student homeless population and that has only increased in the last few years as it rose 22% in the 2015-2016 school year and another 6% in the 2015-2017 school year.

Obviously, the reason for the increased homeless population is due to an affordable housing shortage and the City still a attractive location for recent immigrants, many of then with limited English language skills,  In fact, Mayor Bill de Blasio has told Puerto Ricans that while their students are welcome to the New York City schools, their family better be able to have friends or relatives take in since the City has no housing to provide them with and the shelters are overcrowded as is..

Educationally, its a well known fact that homeless students experience higher dropout rates, lower graduation rates, and chronic absenteeism.  The ICPH study shows how homelessness affects student academic achievement.  Until the student homeless problem is solved, expecting real academic improvement is simply "smoke and mirrors".

In Queens schools the amount of homeless students vary by school district.  They are as follows:

District 24.............................4,186
District 25.............................2,020
District 26...............................945 
District 27............................3,164
District 28............................2,638
District 29............................2,782
District 30............................3,058


Friday, October 13, 2017

Chancellor Carmen Farina Hates ATRs.

Yesterday, Chancellor Carmen Farina told Chalkbeat that ATRs will not be placed in Renewal Schools and that ATRs who were subject to discipline would not be placed in any schools.  The interview with the Chancellor clearly shows that she hates ATRs and believes they are inferior teachers.  Moreover, it also shows how she believes that all ATRs who faced discipline, were guilty, even when an arbitrator, faced with the evidence, found that the teacher was not guilty of the charges.Finally, the Chancellor continues to vilify ATRs.

To me. its not surprising that the Chancellor feels the way she does since she was a Deputy Chancellor under Joel Klein and retained 80% of the Bloomberg policymakers when she was appointed Chancellor under Mayor Bill de Blasio.  Moreover, as Principal of PS 6 in Manhattan she pushed out 80% of the teachers in her school and as Chancellor she went to various schools to seek out poorly performing teachers and advised principals how to start a paper trail to terminate them.

As for the ATRs?  Chancellor Carmen Farina has made it clear that she shares the Bloomberg/Klein ideology that ATRs are "bad teachers"  and that the ATR pool must be drained by any means possible.  While few ATRs would want to work in a Renewal School and we ATRs can celebrate that we will not be dumped into these low performing schools.  I feel sorry for the students in those Renewal Schools who will continue to academically struggle as they experience high teacher turnover and a steady stream of "newbie" teachers that have a steep learning curve themselves. . In other words the Renewal Schools will continue to be separate and unequal when it comes to student and teacher quality.

The Chancellor did gave herself some wiggle room by saying that ATR hiring will be on a case by case basis and that principals will be able to accept or reject the ATR placement.  This seems to contradict what the DOE said about vacancies after October 15 in which principals would have no say in who the DOE sends the school from the ATR pool.

It seems to me that the Chancellor has made it clear she hates the ATRs and our union leadership continues to remain silent in rebutting the erroneous assumptions that ATRs are "inferior" or "bad" teachers.  Then again, the UFT leadership has never stood up for the ATRs so why would  I expect the unaccountable union leadership to do the right thing and stand up for their must vulnerable of members?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

SUNY Charter Board Approves The Use Of Inferior Instructors For Their Children.

Yesterday, SUNY's Charter Institute has approved a vastly inferior teacher certification process because their charter schools are having serious trouble hiring and retaining teachers.  Therefore, to rectify the teacher shortage issue, they have approved the use of non-certified instructors in their schools.  The SUNY certification process was criticized by the State Education Department's Commissioner and the Chancellor of the Board of Regents, also the UFT promised to file a lawsuit to stop the new regulations.  Read the entire New York Times article Here.  A slightly different take of the SUNY certification process can be found in Chalkbeat.

For people who are hired under the new SUNY charter school regulations, they are only allowed to teach in the SUNY charter schools and still must be State certified to teach elsewhere in New York State.  Therefore, these SUNY approved charter school teachers will be stuck working for these charter schools until they become State certified, if ever.

The new SUNY teacher certification regulations will allow their charter schools to hire cheap, unqualified, and inferior instructors to teach their charter school students and that's not what's best for their students but is apparently best for the SUNY charter school operators who want an endless supply of cheap and replaceable instructors.

Please read my article about this Here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Not All UFT Educators Who Worked In The 2009-10 School Years Get The Lump Sum Payments.

This Sunday UFT members will get their second 12.5% lump sum payment in their regular paycheck if they were on active service in the 2009 and 2010 school years.  The lump sum payments are money owed to us when then Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided not to abide by the City's collective bargaining pattern he negotiated with 75% of the other municipal unions that consisted of two 4% raises.  UFT President, Michael Mulgrew, negotiated a sweetheart deal for the City that resulted in the UFT members receiving a measly 1.4% raise annually for the seven year contract and delaying payment of the two 4% raises for years, with the last lump sum being paid out in 2020!

However, not all UFT members will be getting their lump sum payments.  Who will not be getting their lump sum payments?  Let me count the groups who will be screwed.

Tier VI Educators:
 Those Tier VI educators didn't join the UFT until after March 31st 2012 and along with those Tier IV educators who were hired after the 2009 and 2010 school years will not receive any lump sum payments.

Educators on Unpaid Leave:
Educators who were on maturity leave or other unpaid leaves in October of 2015 will not get their 2017 lump sum payments. Instead they will receive their 2015 lump sum payment instead and it will not include the two year interest accumulated for the delayed payment.  Educators who were under unpaid suspension and those that took time off for personal reasons fall into this category.

Educators Who Resigned or were Terminated:
Any UFT educator who resigned or were terminated will not get any lump sum payments, despite working those two years.  However, if the educator retires. (must be 55 years of age or older and vested), the lump sum patments will be paid out with other retires.  Obviously, if an educator is currently on unpaid leave, they will  not recieve this year's lump sum payment this year.

Educators who transferred to other City Jobs:
If an educator transfers to a non-UFT title, except if they joined the CSA, they will in effect has resigned and receive no lump sum payments.

Educators who have Died before October 1, 2017: 
If the educator died, their family or beneficiaries does not get the lump sum payments.

It would be interesting to find out how many UFT educators will not receive their well deserved lump sum payments because our union leadership decided to sacrifice them to make Mayor Bill de Blasio look good.


Sunday, October 08, 2017

Why Giving Principals Unlimited Authority Hurts Student Academic Achievement

In 2005 the UFT leadership under Randi Weingarten, irreversibly changed the dynamics of a school by agreeing to a contract that gave principals unlimited authority to run the schools as they saw fit.   This post is not about how terrible the "giveback" laden contract was but about how principals used and abused their newly won power to do as they pleased and how it hurt student academic achievement.

Principals were given unfettered authority to hire and fire as they pleased.  The result was that far too many schools hired newly minted teachers with little or no actual classroom experience and student academic achievement suffered as these "newbie" teachers had a steep learning curve themselves when it came to curriculum knowledge and classroom management issues.  Some schools like Maspeth High School in Queens has an entire staff of untenured teachers.  Moreover, many of the Bloomberg small schools have a majority of untenured teachers on staff.

The DOE policies encouraged principals to hire inexperienced teachers with their "fair student funding" that incentivized principals to "hire the cheapest and not the best teachers" for their schools.  Moreover, approximately 25% o0f all principals came from the infamous "Leadership Academy" many of them with limited classroom experience and were trained to be the CEO and not the instructional leader of their school.  Interestingly, where you find both Leadership Academy principals and an inexperienced teaching staff, student academic achievement suffers.

I once wrote the weakest link in the school system is the Superintendent.  In New York City this is especially true as the superintendents seem to get their position based upon who they know ands not what they know.  Just take a look at all the bad principals associated with Superintendent Juan Mendez, who has been indited by the feds for racial discrimination.   Many of the "bad principals" in Queens high schools wee either appointed by or protected by Mr. Mendez.  Again, student academic performance suffers as these "bad principals" experience high teacher turnover, an unstable school environment, and lack of collaboration.

The bottom line giving principals unlimited power only hurts student academic achievement.


Thursday, October 05, 2017

Why Are Teachers Absent More Than Other Workers? Its The Stress Stupid.

A clearly biased study published last month by the Charter friendly Thomas Fordham Institute found that public school teachers took off an average of 8 sick and or personal days each school year, compared to the average worker taking off 3.5 days a year.  The report failed to point out that stress in the classroom is a major factor in teacher absenteeism and teachers are usually surrounded by sick students/  In addition,  many a classroom teacher needs an occasional mental health day after dealing with up to 150 student personalities daily.

The report, while ignoring stress as a cause, blamed the high teacher absenteeism on their union's collective bargaining contract that gives the teacher an average of thirteen sick and personal days that a public school teacher gets every school year.

The author of the report, David Griffin, wrote a summary in the flypaper and called it the "Public Schools Billion-Hour Teacher Absenteeism Problem"and came up with a list of proposals to correct the teacher absenteeism issue.  They are as follows:

  • Reduce the amount of paid sick and personal days to between 8 and 10 from the average of thirteen days,
  • Eliminate "carrying over" sick and personal days.  In other words, use it or lose it at the end of the school year.
  • Have a qualified substitute teacher available.
  • Include chronic teacher absenteeism as a factor in the school's quality review report.
  • Eliminate union restrictions on all charter schools
Interestingly, the report shows that 28.3% of all public school teachers took eleven or more sick and personal days in a school year and were listed as "chronic absenteeism".  Moreover, the Fordham report showed that charter school teachers were less likely to be "chronically absent".  Maybe that's because many of these charter school teachers are quite young., and quit or were fired during the school year.  Finally, the report states that chronic student and teacher absenteeism are correlated and he believes that teacher absenteeism should be included in evaluating schools.  

Besides ignoring the stress factor, the report did not address the high teacher turnover in charter schools or the fact that many charter school teachers are not certified in the subject they are teaching in.  The bottom line, the report fails to account for stress and ignores the high teacher turnover and lack of certification issues associated with charter schools.and that makes me question the validity of the Fordham report.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Why Do Schools Realy Have High Teacher Turnover Rates?

The UFT and DOE set up a consultation committeee to identify and solve the issue of high teacher turnover.  For the Queens High Schools, on one side was the UFT who brought out that the primary issue was bad principals and identified a few.  While on the other side was the Superintendents who claimed it was because teachers left for the greener pastures of the suburbs, as if they don't see their principals as a problem.    The obvious disconnect between the two sides meant that nothing was accomplished.

The problem that neither the union or the DOE are willing to address is the low morale among teachers throughout the public school system.  Both the union and the DOE turn a blind eye to the serious morale issue among teachers and to address the low morale the following steps must be implemented.
  1. Stop blaming teachers for student failures beyond their control.
  2. Stop passing students who don't deserving to pass.
  3. Stop administrative harassment of teachers.
  4. All salaries will be centrally funded and by units, not actual salary.
  5. Eliminate school based Fair Student Funding.
  6. Let teachers teach the way they see as best for their students.
  7. Eliminate Charlotte Dainelson as a rubric.
  8. Stop targeting veteran teachers.
  9. Stop the ever increasing paperwork and data mining.
  10. Remove principals that have low teacher trust factors.
While bad principals and the suburbs will always affect teacher turnover, by implementing the above steps you can allieviate the high teacher turnover that plague far too many of our schools.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Weapon Seizures At Schools Increasing Under Mayor Bill De Blasio.

 Since Bill de Blasio became Mayor and weakened the student discipline code while allowing students to have cellphones in the schools, which has resulted in schools becoming more unsafe. The result is that more students are carrying weapons to school.  The New York Post reported that weapon seizures have increased by 3.3% since last year and 27% since Bill de Blasio became Mayor of Ne York City and weakened the student discipline code.

  According to the article there were 2,120 weapon seizures at New York City schools in the 2016-17 school year and compares to the 2,053 in the 2015-16 school year and 1,673 in the 2014-15 school year.  According to  Gregory Floyd, president of the school safety agents union, Teamsters Local 237, blamed a lax disciplinary system that discourages arrests and suspensions.
“They don’t arrest kids for these offenses, which means children are bringing weapons to protect themselves,” Floyd said.

Under Bill de Blasio as schools become increasingly unsafe and metal detectors are frowned upon by the Mayor (only 88 schools have them) students will continue to bring weapons to school and the stabbing at the Bronx school may no be an isolated incident going forward.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Why Doesn't TRS Update The Final Average Salary Monthly?

As many of you are aware the Teachers' Retirement System has had a major facelift to its online access system.  While some of the changes can be considered improvements, some of the other changes are not.  For example, the monthly unit increments for the TRS fixed rate return is missing under the new system that was readily available on the older system.  However, the most important omission in the new TRS system is the lack of an updated Final Average Salary (FAS) that was also available in the older system.

Since the new TRS system has been online the FAS listed is almost two years old.  Moreover, it does not include per session activities or 683 money for District 75 summer programs.  Finally, it is simply calculated on base salary with no adjustments.  I would think the so-called upgraded TRS system would have monthly updates of the member's FAS.  Instead they rely on the members to use their online calculator to estimate their pension which requires the member to make an educated guess of what his or her FAS is.

I have found the upgraded TRS online system to be disappointing and they should correct the issues I identified.  At this point the new TRS online system is a work in progress.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Maternity Leave Dilemma.

A petition to get the UFT to negotiate with the City on maternity leave was presented at the Executive Board meeting on Monday and the union leadership,while synthetic to the needs of the younger teachers, stated that the City has not been willing to offer a reasonable deal.

Evidence that the union was actually telling the truth is that the City has already imposed a maternity leave program on their mangers and the managers are very unhappy at the cost of this provision.  The City imposed maternity leave program cost the managers their 2017 raise of 0.47% and for senior managers they had to fork over two vacations days in exchange for the maternity leave.

Interestingly, the IBO did an analysis of the City's maternity leave cost on the managers and found that the City saved $5.8 million dollars the first year.  The reason was that the average age of the 8,279 managers under the program is 47 years of age and few (230 or 2.7%) were able to take advantage of the maternity leave program.  The IBO stated that only a few younger managers were able to take advantage of the program while all mangers were penalized by loss of raises and the senior managers with 15 or more years of experience and averaged 55 years of age lost two vacation days for a program that they probably cannot use.

When it comes to the unionized workforce, they are younger than the managers and replacing a person who takes maternity leave usually means paying overtime, rather than straight time/  Therefore, the City's terms would cost the unions too high a price for that "giveback" and so far no union has come to an agreement with the City. Until and unless the City decides that maternity leave should become a right and not a negotiated item in a contract, the prognosis for a maternity leave benefit remains bleak.

For those teachers, who were on maternity leave or other unpaid status,in October of 2015, they will finally get their first lump sum payout.  However, this year's lump sum payout will not be paid until October of 2018 for teachers who were on unpaid leave back in October of 2015.  Therefore,  each lump sum payment will be delayed one year and those teachers will not be whole until October of 2021 instead of 2020.You can thank the union leadership for screwing those teachers on unpaid leave, be it maternity leave or other unpaid leave.

Maybe the union can correct the many wrongs of the 2014 contract in a new contract and one place to start is to negotiate with the City to allow UFT members who were on unpaid leave status, such as maternity leave to be made whole again by giving them the lump sum payments at the time all other active members get theirs.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Queens Renewal High Schools Keep Losing Students.

In my last post I listed the "dirty dozen" high schools in Queens that had the highest student vacancies after the first round of high school selection in 2017 and prominently on that list were the Renewal Schools.  In fact, the top two schools were Renewal Schools.  They were Long Island City High School with 570 student vacancies and John Adams with 500 student vacancies.  In the top five was another two Renewal Schools, Flushing (230 vacancies) and August Martin (200 vacancies) High Schools.  The large amount of student vacancies at the Renewal Schools demonstrates that fewer and fewer students are applying for these academically struggling schools with an inexperienced teaching staff.

To show that the Renewal high schools have failed to attract students to their building I used the last three years of data (2015-17) of the student vacancies associated with the second round of high school choice associated with these struggling high schools.

High School...............2015...2016...2017

Long Island City..........373.....406.....570
John Adams................530.....411.....500
August Martin..............454.....303.....200
Martin Van Buren.........239.....129.....175
Pan American...............40......126.....110
Richmond Hill...............31.......62.......75

Interestingly, most of the Renewal high schools have seen their, already high student vacancy rate increase over the last three years.  Long Island City, Flushing, John Adams, Pan American, and Richmond Hill  shows an overall increase in student vacancies between 2015 and 2017.  Both August Martin and Martin Van Buren were downsized in the last two years and that accounts for their reduction in student vacancies since they are now a much smaller school in 2017 than they were in 2015.

It appears as the poor reputation of the Renewal High Schools has spread throughout the Borough of Queens, more parents and students are excluding these schools from their high school choice list and this forces the schools to either excess teachers or take the "over-the-counter-students" who are usually "high needs" with academic, behavior, or language issues.  The very type of student that the struggling Renewal schools that made them what they are today.

Chancellor Carmen Farina may claim that she sees the light at the end of the tunnel for the turnaround of the Renewal high schools but the light really is the oncoming locomotive about to destroy the Renewal School program as the schools continue to shed students and teachers.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Queens High Schools That Students Avoid.

One of the most informative data that tells a parent and child which schools to select and which one to avoid is the amount of vacancies a school has  Schools with vacancies are a warning sign that the school is not academically appropriate for an academically proficient child. While many Queens high schools still had vacancies after the first round, the largest amount of vacancies were reported at the Renewal High Schools and the schools located in Southeast Queens.  The list below are the "dirty dozen" of schools that had the largest amount of vacancies and should be avoided at all costs.

High School..................Vacancies

Long Island City................570
John Adams......................500
Grover Cleveland..............405
August Martin...................200
Martin Van Buren..............175
Humanities & Arts.............165
Rockaway Park..................130
William Cullen Bryant........120
Math, Science, Research....110

For all high schools in New York City ou can find the complete list for 2017 Here.  Also the previous lists for 2016 and 2015 can be found Here and Here.

The vacancies for August Martin was significantly reduced from last year due to the downsizing of the school, while the highest vacancies were associated with the Renewal Schools.  The highest amount of vacancies, relative to their size can be found at Campus Magnet which had a total of 425 vacancies as all four schools have had trouble attracting students due to their poor reputation.   The schools with many vacancies are prome candidates of receiving "over-the-counter" students who are usually "high needs" with limited academic or language skills/

To help you with your school selection search please read my posts about Queens high schools to avoid in 2016 and 2015 Here and Here.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The DOE Double Standard Continues Under Carmen Farina.

In today's New York Post there is an article by Susan Edelman on ex-Principal Marc Williams who resigned when investigated for a grade fixing scandal at the Secondary School of Journalism in Brooklyn.  After Mr. Williams resigned as Principal , the DOE gave him a new position as a "case manager" in their Human Resources division at a salary of $127,443. 

Unbelievable but true, despite a new Mayor and Chancellor, its still business as usual at the DOE as they continue to practice their "double standard" when it comes to disciplining principals.  If Mr. Williams was a teacher, he would be subject to 3020-a termination charges and if he resigned, the  DOE would place on his file "a do not hire" flag.  However, Mr. Williams was a Principal and was given a new position at a salary that is higher than the top rated senior teacher.

When will the "double standard" when it comes to disciplining principals end?  I'm certainly not holding my breath waiting for that day as long as the Bloomberg/Klein ideology continues to  permeate the halls of Tweed as Chancellor Carmen Farina retained 80% of the Bloomberg policymakers rather than "clean house" like she needed to do..

Friday, September 22, 2017

Chasing Yield - Why The TRS Fixed Income Fund Is Unbeatable.

We have been in a low interest rate environment since 1990 and the average inflation rate since 1990 is only 2.51% (Historically, since 1914, the average inflation rate is 3.34%).  Just ask your parents and grandparents how painful it is for them as they only get between 1% to 1.5% on a multi-year CD.  Money Market and short-term Bond funds are no better,  paying a meager 1% and 1.2% on an annual basis.  What does the risk adverse do to gain extra yield without taking a risk on the violable equity market?

For some people, they chase yield by buying international debt.  The problem is that the stable western countries like Europe, Japan, South Korea, Israel, and Canada pay yields of between 0.5% and 1.5%, not a good substitute to U.S. based instruments.  That means that investors who want more yields have to stick their toes into the Emerging Market debt market.  There you can find yields of between 4% and 26% and most funds average about 6%.  The problem is that the higher the yield, the more unstable the country is and a greater chance of default.

For example, Venezuela bonds gives the investor 26% yield but has had trouble paying the interest and most experts expect them to default.  If that happens, most Emerging Market debt funds will drop significantly as the country's bonds make up 4% of the market.  Moreover the 26% yield is almost 25% of the total yield of the Emerging Market debt funds.  Therefore, the funds total yield of around 6% would drop to 4.5%!

Listed below are some of the bond yields for Emerging Market debt countries included in Mutual Funds and ETFs.s.

Country.....................................Bond Yield

South Africa..................................8.48%

The four countries in boldface are known as the BRIC countries and averages a yield of 6.9% and can make up the major portion of some of the Emerging Market debt funds. Most funds do not have Iranian bonds due to U.S. sanctions.

As one can see the more politically unstable the country is, the higher the yield as there is real risk of the country defaulting.  In fact, its not uncommon for the Emerging Market debt funds to drop significantly as one or more countries fail to pay their debt and default. Furthermore, the fees range from almost 1% to 2% annually.

By contrast our TRS fixed income fund gives up a guaranteed 7% interest with no risk and no fees. For non-UFT members its 8.25%.  Now that the TRS is eliminating their Bond fund, a real dog, please transfer the money into the fixed income fund rather than the balanced fund that offers no real advantage in a low interest rate environment and contains risk that defeats the purpose of the risk adverse investor..

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Veteran Teachers Beware, Administrators Are Using Charlotte Danielson As A Weapon To Terminate You.

It appears to me that school administrators have been told that they must stay within the recession era budgets that the DOE has imposed on its public schools.  Most schools are only receiving 90% of their fair funding and principals are trying various cost saving strategies to stretch their budget.  One of the favorite tactics, especially with the Leadership Academy principals, are to target veteran teachers and either force them to retire or charge them with incompetence or misconduct in their 3020-a hearing.

The weapon of choice is Charlotte Dainelson that allows school administrators to unfairly evaluate teachers based upon 8 components that can be easily manipulated to make the teacher look "ineffective".  A case in point is the saga of teacher Donald Vanterpool, who was terminated, despite the fact he only had one "ineffective " rating.

Mr. Vanterpool was a veteran teacher who worked at a transfer school called Bushwick Community High School in Brooklyn.  People familiar with transfer high schools know that it's for over aged students (16 to 21 year old) who have been removed from their previous school(s).  Many of these students just want a minimum passing grade of 65%, while during little or no work.  Passing a Regents is not their priority.  Therefore, transfer high schools do poorly, compared to their State peers, who don't have these transfer schools.  The result is that even the best teachers can only expected a "developing" rating in their MOSL.

Back to Mr. Vanterpool, he received a "developing" rating in 2013-14 school year and an "ineffective" rating the following year.  Despite the union's claim that it takes two consecutive "ineffective" ratings to be charged under 3020-a, the truth is otherwise.  In the last year I know of two other veteran teachers who were charged under section 3020-a with only one "ineffective" rating.  Mr. Vanterpool's 3020-a arbitrator terminated Mr. Vanterpool, in part, because he failed to differentiate his lesson to the individual needs of the student.  Moreover, the arbitrator claimed Mr. Vanterpool failed to take advantage of the extensive professional development opportunities he was afforded..

While the burden of proof is supposed to be the DOE's with one "ineffective" rating,, in all three cases I know of the veteran teacher was either terminated or was pressured to retire so as not to lose the almost $50,000 in lump sum payments owed to them in the contract

Charlotte Dainelson is not a simple evaluation tool but a weapon to destroy the careers of veteran teachers and that's how I see it.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The DOE's Education On The Cheap Policy Academically Shortchanges The Students.

Over the years and certainly since the recession of 2008 the New York City Department Of Education (DOE) has shortchanged the schools with reduced budgets and lack of resources.  Worse, the DOE reuses to fund the schools based on their own Fair Student Funding, with most schools receiving only 90% of what they are allocated for. The result is that New York City's Public School students suffer academically due to the DOE's education on the cheap policy.

In my travels from school to school as an ATR I have noticed the many cost saving strategies school principals use to conserve resources.

First, the fair student funding formula incentivizes principals to :hire the cheapest and not the best teachers" for their school.  With "newbie teachers" who must learn classroom management skills, develop curriculum knowledge and master the Art and Science of teaching, students are simply guinea pigs to these teacher's steep learning curve and suffer academically.

Second, many of the Bloomberg small schools have a limited selection of courses and teachers. Electives are few and extracurricular activities are limited or non-existent Quite a few students complain about the lack of electives. Many schools only have one teacher teaching a subject and if a problem develops between a student and either a teacher or another student in the class, there is no option to put him or her into another class of the same subject.

Third, most schools no longer give Music as a course because of the cost of instruments and their upkeep.  The ATR pool is full of excessed Music teachers as the tight budgets makes Music a prime candidate to be eliminated from the school course selection, especially in the small schools.  The same goes for Health teachers as schools rather use a Physical Education teacher to teach Health than hire a certified Health teacher.

Fourth, most schools have reduced Science to a 4 to 1 program rather than the recommended 5 to 1 program for Regents level Science.  The elimination of the extra day allows schools to reduce their Science teaching staff.  However, the result has been a lowering of Regents passing rates and scores.  While it saves the schools money it hurts student academic achievement.  Only the DOE in New York State allows schools to use uncertified teachers for Regents Earth Science is just another example of putting budget first over the academic needs of the students.

Fifth, our class sizes are highest in the State and most classes are at contractual limits.  This has a negative effect on student academic achievement,

Finally, the DOE encouraged discrimination against veteran teachers has resulted in many highly experienced teachers tobe targeted and retire early which are then replaced by untested inexperienced teachers who usually leave their first hiring school within five years (about 80% according to a Chicago study) and leave the system.system entirely (50%).

The DOE's education on the cheap policy continues as real student academic achievement is a poor second to budget shenanigans by school principals and encouraged by the DOE. This allows the DOE to keep throwing money at their bloated Central Bureaucracy as the schools starve for resources and with tight budgets that do an injustice to their students.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The New York Post Editorial Board Continues Its Hypocrocy.

In today's New York Post, the Editorial Board claims that New York State Regents watered down the teacher certification requirements and rightly so.  The reason the State Regents eliminated one teacher certification test was the looming teacher shortage and the State Regents wanted more applicants to pass the teacher certification test.  However, the New York Post Editorial Board then should their true hypocrisy by supporting  the SUNY Charter Institute's teacher program that would allow uncertified and inferior teacher candidates to teach in SUNY Charter schools.  You can read my analysis of the SUNY proposal Here.

Teacher turnover is extremely high in Charter Schools and in New York State only a maximum of 15% of all charter school teachers can be uncertified.  By the end of the school year, due to teacher turnover caused by the long hours, inadequate pay, and lack of a social life beyond the charter school, many charter schools are out of compliance. The SUNY proposal would allow for a major lowering of teaching standards and increase the applicant pool of cheap and replaceable educators for their Charter Schools.

The bottom line is that the New York Post's Editorial Board's position is a hypocrisy.  First, they complain that New York State Regents has watered down their teacher certification requirements.  Then they recommend that the vastly inferior SUNY proposal be approved.  Go figure?  

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Bad Teacher Narrative.


Lately, the news media has been on a crusade about "bad teachers", especially the ATRs.  Be it Charkbeat, Daily News, Post,Times, or the Wall Street Journal, the one-sided articles blasting teachers appears all the rage.  All of a sudden the old Klein era Tweedies have articles that blast teachers. Be it the insufferable Eric Nadeelstern, The lying Daniel Weisberg, or the sleazy Marc Sternberg. Let's not forget about clueless patents like Nicole Thomas also.

Maybe if it was just confined to the education deformer groups and brainwashed parents, I could accept it.  However, Our own Chancellor, Carmen Farina, tells new teachers to stay away from the teacher lounge and don't listen to those veteran teachers and she admits she visits schools to ferret out bad teachers and pushes principals to start a paper trail to terminate them.  Even Governor Andrew Cuomo revamped the teacher evaluation system so that more teachers can be rated "ineffective" and the burden of proof was shifted to the teacher at their 3020-a hearing.

Instead of appreciating their veteran teachers, the education deformers, and their media and political allies rather continue the narrative of the bad teacher when the truth is the continued demonizing of teachers and their profession will simply hasten the day when we experience a teacher shortage as few college students will choose education, due to low morale, high teacher turnover, inferior pay, and lack of respect. The result is a lower student academic achievement and a continue3d achievement gap between different cohorts.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The ATR Incentive Failed To Achieve Its Goal To Drastically Reduce The ATR Pool.

At last night's Executive Board meeting the UFT leadership stated that 135 ATRs took the inferior buyout offer that the UFT secretly negotiated with the DOE, without ATR input..  This was significantly lower than the DOE's hopeful projections of 200 or more ATRs.  In fact, if you include the provisional appointments, who were also eligible for the buyout.  The 135 ATRs are only 10% of the over 1,300 ATRs who were eligible for the buyout,

Moreover, on any given year approximately 60 to 70  ATRs retire or resign, either due to age, years of service, or under 3020-a charges.  If we were to exclude those ATRs who were leaving anyway then the ATR incentive only encouraged 70 ATRs to take the incentive, who may have otherwise stayed.  That is only 5% of the ATR pool.

Finally, because of the union negotiated contract that allows the DOE not to pay the teacher his or her lump sum payments if the 3020-a arbitrator finds the educator guilty of termination, also encouraged some teachers to take the incentive, rather than risk losing up to $50,000 dollars of the money still owed to them.

While our union leadership will continue to claim a victory, when it came to the ATR incentive.  The fact is the ATR incentive was a failure since only between 5% and 10% of the educators in the ATR pool actually took it.   Maybe the next ATR incentive will be a year's salary and then you might see many in the ATR pool take the bait and take the money and run.

Monday, September 11, 2017

When Will The Union Sue The DOE On Their Scarlet Letter?

Back when Dennis Walcott became Chancellor, he decided that all teachers who had a substantiated OSI or SCI investigation, would have a discipline flag attached to their file.  This flag alerted principals not to hire these teachers.  It didn't matter that many of these teachers chose to go through their 3020-a hearings and the independent State arbitrator found them innocent of the DOE charges that were based upon the OSI or SCI report.  For example if OSI substantiated a corporal punishment charge and the arbitrator found no corporal punishment or if SCI substantiated sexual misconduct,but the arbitrator finds no sexual misconduct.  Why does the DOE act as if the teacher is still guilty of the charges that were dismissed by the arbitrator?

Both corporal punishment and sexual misconduct are termination offenses and arbitrators are automatically required to terminate the teacher.  However, charging a teacher with these serious offenses is not the same as be guilty of the charges.  The arbitrator must hear all the relevant evidence and any hearsay must be supported.  Teachers who are accused of these serious charges and are tenured can ask for an independent arbitrator to hear all the relevant evidence and make their decision based upon the preponderance of the relevant evidence.

Here are two examples of the DOE charging teachers with serious charges only to find the charges didn't stick once the evidence was presented and scrutinized..

Example 1:  A Social Studies teacher was accused of slamming his door on the hand of a student that broke the window in the door.  The student had a bloody hand and went to the school nurse.  The Principal reported it and OSI interviewed the student and, as it turned out a couple of his friends, as well as the school nurse.  The teacher was charged with corporal punishment and the case went to the arbitrator.  In the 3020-a hearing it came out that some other students in the teacher's class also saw the incident and told the teacher's attorney that the teacher didn't slam the door on the student's hand but  after the heated exchange between the teacher and the student, as the teacher closed the door, the student took his fist and slammed the door window, which caused the bloody hand.   Interestingly, there was a hallway camera which showed a blurry picture of the incident but tended to support what the teacher had claimed.   The arbitrator dismissed the corporal punishment charge but  gave the teacher a small fine for not deescalating the altercation.  Yet the teacher has a flag on his file for an accusation that wasn't true.

Example 2:  A Science teacher was accessed of sexual misconduct by allegedly propositioning a student by showing too much interest in getting her to pass the class,  It turned out that the student was having personal problems and that day was a :bad day"  Therefore, the student told the Principal that the teacher propositioned her,  SCI spoke to the student and also found from other students that the teacher was paying her more attention then most of the students.  The result was that SCI substantiated the charge.  During the 3020-a hearing the student reluctantly came in and admitted that the teacher did not proposition her but didn't like the intrusive manner of the teacher.  That teacher was found innocent of the sexual misconduct charge but also received a small fine for making the student uncomfortable. This teacher also has a flag on their file.

A pro-active union would never allow the administration to continue to punish teachers for charges that they were found innocent of  Yet our disconnected union leadership not only failed to file a lawsuit against the DOE's unfair policy that assumes teachers are guilty, even when the arbitrator found otherwise. but agreed to contract language that made hundreds of teachers ineligible to fill vacancies permanently.   The union leadership should be ashamed of themselves for sacrificing their members to curry favor with Tweed. It's unconscionable that our union allows innocent teachers to be punished year after year with the Scarlet Letter.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

For Newbie Teachers Its Sink Or Swim With No Lifeguard To Save Them.

The DOE has empowered principals to hire who they please and even with the elimination of the useless and money sucking Children First Networks, Superintendents have so far failed to oversee school hiring to ensure that all students have a certified teacher in each subject area.  The DOE policies like Fair Student Funding, tight school budgets, and the use of Danielson as a weapon against veteran teachers have resulted in many schools hiring "the cheapest and not the best teachers" for their schools. The result is a lack ofr veteran mentors for this inexperienced staff..

In many schools, the teaching staff is composed of young and inexperienced teachers and there are few veteran teachers to mentor or guide these inexperienced teachers on the skills necessary to survive in the New York City classroom.  When I started teaching, I was mentored by a senior Science teacher and in my first couple of years, as I struggled and ready to quit, many veteran teachers dropped in to provide advice and support.  The teacher room was a godsend as I could ask the veteran teachers questions and get answers on classroom management skills, pedagogy, and tap their extensive knowledge of the different teaching techniques that worked for them and of course, the ones that did not. Having a veteran staff was invaluable to a "newbie" like me and helped me become a better teacher and stay in the profession.

By contrast, the lack of veteran teachers in the schools means that new teachers are thrown into the New York City classroom and told its "sink or swim".  Well, without veteran teachers mentoring the "newbies" ,many sink.  Meaning they leave the NYC classroom and maybe even the teaching profession.

While novice doctors and lawyers are mentored by a senior colleague and don't operate or appear in court without first, assisting the veteran for a year or more so as to gain the necessary experience and confidence to eventually learn their craft  Nobody in their right mind would want a "newbie" doctor to operate on them or a "newbie" lawyer to defend them in court.  Yet, in NYC far too many "newbie" teachers are thrown into the classroom without the proper tools and subject to a steep learning curve that makes guinea pigs out of our children.  No wonder we have a low "college and career readiness" rate.

The bottom line, the NYC school system has too many inexperienced teachers and with fewer and fewer veteran teachers to mentor them.  Therefore,too many of them sink and take student academic achievement with them because the lifeguard, in the form of the veteran teacher is no longer on duty to save them.

Monday, September 04, 2017

A Utah High School Fines Students Who Show Up Late For Class.

Most schools I have been in the last decade have a similar problem.  Students taking their ever loving time to show up for class.  Even in the small schools, students can't seem to move quickly enough from one classroom to the next to make it on time to the classroom, despite being given 3 to 5 minutes to do so.

Well one Utah high school has decided to do something about it.  Students that show up late to class during the school day are fined.  The first offense is a warning.  The second offense cost the student $3 and every following lateness cost the student $5.  Students that cannot afford the fines will be given lunch detention and clean-up duties.   Interestingly, during the first two weeks of the school's lateness policy saw students getting to class on time and the hallways were empty as the late bell rang.  So far not one student has been fined and only a few warnings have been issued,  You can read the story Here.

Obviously parents and students were not too happy with the school's lateness policy and believe its too draconian.  However, school staff and administration are supportive of the lateness policy and the potential monetary penalty has, so far,  curbed student lateness and added more instruction time to the classroom.   It will be interesting if the policy lasts the year and how it affects student academic achievement.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Why NYC High School Students Have Terrible College And Career Readiness Rates.

There is no secret that the ever rising high school graduation rate does not result in increasing the college and career readiness rates that see 78% of high school graduates forced to take remedial courses in college.  The graduation rate increases every year and is now 72%.  However, the career and college readiness rates are stuck at 36% and if you excluded the screened and specialized high schools, its in the 20% range.  Here are some extreme examples.

The reason that the typical New York City High School graduate has such abysmal career and college readiness rates are due to many factors. In order of importance they are:

Social-economic factors:
80% of a student's academic growth can be attributed to the social-economic factors.  They are the child's family, community, and income.  Poor urban school districts and New York City are no exception, suffer from academic differences and struggle in college and a career as an adult.

Class Size:
New York City has the largest class sizes in the State and the DOE uses class size reduction funds to fund their own pet projects.  Class sizes have increased since 2008 and the DOE only funds the schools at 90% of their fair funding.  By contrast the DOE budget increases every year from 23.2 billion in 2014 to 29.2 billion dollars this school year. A 22% increase!

Teacher Recruitment and Retention:
The DOE has installed policies that incentivizes principals to hire "the cheapest and not the best" teachers for their school.  The result is the schools hire "newbie" teachers who have a steep learning curve and 80% leave their first school by year three.  Not good for a stable educational environment.  This DOE policy is known as "fair student funding" that's school-based and not fair whatsoever..   The use of Danielson as an evaluation toll and is used as a weapon against teachers pushes far too many teachers out of the City school system to pursue better opportunities in the suburbs and more respect in office work.

Academic Fraud:
The DOE allows high schools to manipulate the system by reducing Science from six days to five and physical education to three days from five.  Moreover, "credit recovery", grade changing, and scholarship requirements on teachers is really academic fraud.

Poor Administration:
Outside New York City most principals were long-term educators.  However, in the New York City schools over 20% of the Principals are from the Leadership Academy and many have little or no classroom experience as a teacher.  Finally, the Chancellor has discontinued the program but the damage has been done as many schools suffer from poor leadership, vindictive actions, especially against outspoken veteran teachers, and questionable academic policies.

The bottom line is until all the above issues are resolved, real student academic achievement is simply an illusion.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Why Alexandra Estrella, As Well As Others, Should Not Be A Superintendent.

I laugh when Chancellor Carmen Farina claims she only selects the best talent to be a Superintendent.  Yet, the Chancellor apparently selects Superintendents based upon political loyalties rather than for their educational knowledge.  In fact, I believe the Superintendents are the weakest link in the New York City school system.    Far too many of these Superintendents fail to remove terrible principals and look the other way when uncertified teachers are hired and teaching Regents courses that only hurts the students.  Just take a look at some of these Superintendents:

Amiee Horowitz:
 She is a close friend of the Chancellor and oversees the failing Renewal Schools as Superintendent;  Ms.. Horowitz, has been associated with some very questionable issues and you can read them Here and Here.

Juan Mendez:
Where do I start?  Since he became Superintendent he has protected some of the worst principals in Queens.  You can read it Here Moreover, Mr. Mendez is a defendant in a racial discrimination lawsuit brought by the federal government. yet he still is a Superintendent.

Lenon Murray:
This Queens District 29 Superintendent was arrested for repeatedly groping a female co-worker and was finally fired once the arrest occurred.  Unlike other educators who are not allowed to enter a DOE facility, Mr. Murray visits his office when he feels like it and a lawsuit was filed by the frightened female subordinate who must see him every time he appears at the office.

Estrella Alexandra:
Now we have Superintendent Estrella Alexandra, who was fined $3,000 by the City's Conflict Of Interest Board, for selling a teacher her house, while Principal of her school.  Yet, the Chancellor saw no problem making her Superintendent of District 4 in Harlem.  Yes, the very same Estrella Alexandra who selected and tried to protect Monika Garp as Principal of CPE1 and ignored protests by parents and teachers and even the Mayor before finally being forced by the Chancellor to remove the Principal from the school.  You can read the stories Here and Here. Interestingly, Daily News education reporter, Ben Chapman, once again, did not do his due diligence.  He failed to mention the Superintendent's involvement in the CPE1 fiasco and took the DOE pr spin which claimed she has a spotless record.  Another terrible reporting job by Ben Chapman.

The bottom line is that none of these Superintendents should be in the position they're in, especially Estrella Alexandra who has shown poor judgment and is not trusted by parents and teachers in her District.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

ATRs Do Not Even Need To Respond To Job Interviews Outside Their Borough.

Over the last two weeks I have received 8 job interviews for Earth Science positions.  They are from the Bronx (ugh), Brooklyn (scary), and Manhattan (no parking).  No job offer, mind you, just an interview.  Even if it was a job offer, I wouldn't take it out of Borough.  In addition, I received a job interview at William Cullen Bryant High School and since it occurs before the school year and the terrible reputation the school has, thanks to the Principal targeting veteran teachers, I also ignored that invitation as well.

There is a severe shortage of Earth Science teachers throughout the New York City school system and quite a few schools use uncertified teachers to teach the Regents course, unless the Superintendent requires the Principal to have all certified teachers for their Regents courses.  For years, when principals did as they pleased under the useless and money sucking Children First Networks,  the majority of schools had uncertified teachers teaching Regents courses. 

Unfortunately, many of us in the ATR pool will be "forced placed" by the DOE during the school year and if you have a license in Special Education, ESL, and Science, you are in danger of getting a "developing"  (if your lucky) or an :ineffective", so that the Principal is not stuck with your salary and seniority for years to come.

Remember, when the school year starts and out of Borough schools request your attendance at an interview, you can ignore their request, even if the District Representative encourages you to go to it.  Just say no, unless you really want the position..

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Do Not Apply To These Queens High Schools.

Now that the school year is a week away, here is a list of Queens High Schools that ATRs should try to stay clear of, if possible. Previously, blogger JD2718 had published a list of Bronx High Schools and you can find it here.

List of schools on my "do not apply" list.

High School....................................Reason
William Cullen Bryant.......................Principal
Cambria Heights Academy................Principal
Campus Magnet Schools..................Administration
Queens Preparatory Academy...........Principal
Applied Communications..................Principal
Gateway To The Health Sciences......Principal
Beach Channel Campus...................Administration
Queens Collegiate...........................Principal
Renewal Schools............................Academics
August Martin................................Academics
Far Rockaway Campus.....................Academics
Martin Van Buren............................Safety 
High School of Teaching...................Administration
Pathways To College.......................Safety/Academics

There are some other high schools that merit being on the list.  However, those schools recently changed principals so its unfair to include them on my "do not apply" list.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Long Island "Opt Out" Rates And Demographics.

Its no secret that "opt out" rates are demographically based, with low income, minority communities having low "opt out" rates while middle class and White communities having the highest "opt out" rates.  Statewide the "opt out" rate was 19% or 2% less than in 2016.  However, on Long Island the "opt out" rates were similar to the 2016 percentages.

What's very obvious from the tables below, the highest and lowest "opt out" rates were found in vastly different racial and income based communities.

Highest "opt out" rates

Rocky Point...................79%..............77%
Wading River................77%..............66%
East Islip......................73%.............71%

Lowest "opt out" rates

Central Islip..................12%...........16% 

In New York City, the 2017 "opt out" rate was 4%.

Interestingly, in heavily East Asian and high income communities,on the North Shore of Nassau County, the "opt out" rates were closer to those in the poor and minority communities the table below shows this. 

High Income "opt out" rates

Great Neck...................22%............20%

Since East Asian communities, as well as high income communities emphasis education, including tutors and after school educational opportunities, it makes sense that these high achieving communities will take the State tests rather than "opt out" since they are exposed to test prep courses during the school year...    This shows up in the State test passing rate of between 75% to 85% for these communities.  Compared that to single digits in places like Wyndanch and Hempstead.