Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Renewal And Struggling Schools Get More Teach For America Two-Year Wonders.

Back in 2014 Chancellor Carmen Farina told the news media that the Renewal schools will be sent "highly effective" teachers.  Instead, the Renewal schools ended up hiring "newbies" instead.  Brooklyn's Automotive High School was the poster child of this failure to hire quality teachers.   Some of these "newbies" were from Teach For America (TFA) and few lasted beyond their two year commitment.

Fast forward to the upcoming 2017-18 school year and Teach For America claims it has increased the amount of college graduates, without a teaching degree into the New York City Public Schools.  According to Chalkbeat, TFA claims that 146 of their two year wonders have been offered positions in the 2017-18 school year.  That means that up to 4,762 children will be guinea pigs for an instructor with no education degree and classroom  experience.  Maybe Ms. Nicole Thomas's daughter will be fortunate enough to get one of these uncertified "newbies" as her teacher, complete with a five week training course on how to teach (lol)..

This is just another example of principals who hire these TFA "newbies" showing that they care more about their budget and control then  what's best for the students of the school/ 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

New York Post Continues Their Anti-Teacher Crusade.

In Today's New York Post, columnist Ben Kochman  penned an article claiming that the teacher choice of $250 was an election year ploy.  This is the very same newspaper who objected to the 2014 contract as being too generous, that saw the DeBlasio administration give the retro payments that the Bloomberg administration withheld from educators, while approving them for most everybody else.  It mattered little to the newspaper that due to "pattern bargaining" arbitrators would have ruled that the City broke this agreement and the City would have to payout within two weeks close to 3 billion dollars.   Let's not forget how the newspaper opposed the parking permits to teachers when it was the Principal's union that won the lawsuit.

When back in 2007 the Bloomberg administration gave City school teachers $250 for the year, the New York Post saw no problem then.  Yet in 2017, with the City budget surplus ranging from 3 to 6 billion dollars and the recession a distant memory, the New York Post bashes Bill de Blasio for giving teachers the same $250 dollars that Bloomberg did a decade earlier.

Instead of making a media issue of teacher choice money that is used by the teacher to buy classroom supplies for their students, a worthy use of funds.  The New York Post should be exposing the administrative bloat at Tweed that funds questionable consultant contracts, lack of transparency at the DOE on how money is allocated, and the under funding of the schools.  Maybe the newspaper could investigate the large class sizes and school overcrowding that the DOE not only allows but encourages, or the DOE policies that incentivizes principals to "hire the cheapest and not the best teachers" for their schools that hurt student academic achievement.  Finally, the newspaper could do an expose on the many principals like Steve Dorcely who had little or no teaching experience and are running their schools into the ground.

This is the same newspaper that complained loudly about the City putting 400 certified and experienced ATR teachers back into the classroom while supporting SUNY's attempt to place uncertified college graduates, with no education experience into a classroom.  What a bunch of hypocrites.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The DOE Wants Another Bite Of The Apple To Terminate Teachers.

Before 2009, the DOE had a policy that when a teacher won their 3020-a hearing but was fined for minor infractions, even a simple letter to the file, they were returned to their school and resumed their appointed position.  However, Chancellor Joel Klein and the Officer of Legal Services decided that principals did not have to take back their teachers who survived their 3020-a hearings. The result was that these teachers were dumped into the ATR pool, along with veteran teachers of closing schools (163 under Bloomberg), and excessed teachers from closing or reduced programs. The result was an explosion of ATRs that ranged from 1,300 to 1,800 educators. Once labeled, the DOE ensures that it sticks, no matter how many satisfactories or "effective ratings" the ATR receives.

Because of the ideological stand by Bloomberg and his Chancellors, the ATRs were subject to a dehumanization strategy through the media and education deformer groups, while the DOE was paying out over $150 million dollars annually at a time when school budgets were cut by 14%!  Instead of encouraging principals to hire certified veteran teachers the DOE encouraged principals to hire "newbies", by implementing the "fair student funding" policy (which is only 90% funded) that incentivizes schools to hire "the cheapest and not the best teachers" for their schools, commonly known as "education on the cheap".

Next, in 2012, another Bloomberg Chancellor, Dennis Walcott, known as the Mayor's poodle allowed a discipline flag to be placed in the file, on any educator who had a substantiated OSI or SCI investigation, even when the 3020-a charges were found not to be true by the State arbitrator. This was known as the "Scarlet Letter".  Despite promises by the UFT leadership to take this unfair labeling to PERB or to court, they failed to do so.  During the Walcott tenure the ATR pool was separated into two lists.  Those that were simply excessed due to closing schools or subjects and those that were disciplined or received an "ineffective" or "unsatisfactory" rating. Another way the DOE gets a "second bite of the apple".

Finally, the DOE's Office of Legal Services have found a novel way to get a "second bite of the apple".  Up until this previous school year the Office of Legal Services would include every trivial infraction as a specification in an educator's 3020-a charges and this was known as "throwing shit on the wall and hope enough sticks" to get the arbitrator to terminate the educator.  However, in the 2016-17 school year the Office of Legal Services came up with a better way to get a teacher terminated in the 3020-a hearings.  What the DOE does is only charge the teacher with some of the specifications and wait and see how the arbitrator rules.  In almost all cases the arbitrator will give the DOE something for their troubles like a small fine.  Now that the teacher is labeled the DOE will then hit the poor teacher with the rest of the charges and show the arbitrator that the teacher had a previous 3020-a and was fined and that shows the teacher cannot be rehabilitated.

The New York Post reported on one such case in today's paper and you can read it Here Moreover, NYC Educator wrote an article about the case in depth and is a must read.  Adding to the two articles is that the Principal is a Leadership Academy Principal who never had a full time teaching gig and was accused of  running an academic fraud factory.  In conclusion, ni the collective eyes of the DOE once charged you are always guilty and its their duty to find novel ways to terminate you by getting a second and even a third bite of the apple.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

If Chalkbeat Spoke To An ATR, Their Articles Don't Reflect It.

Over the last two weeks there has been a media frenzy about the City considering hiring ATRs to fill vacancies after October 15th.   The articles range from calling ATRs "unwanted" to "bad" teachers.  Not one article brings out the real culprit for the ATR pool. the DOE policy called "Fair Student Funding" that discriminates hiring of veteran teachers.

The media has gone out of their way to quote many education deformer groups and a parent who supports them but somehow can't seen to interview an ATR to get their side of the story.   This includes the education deformer and pro charter school online newspaper Chalkbeat.   According to Chalkbeat they claim that they cannot get answers to questions that would put statistics to the questions they want answered like:

  1. How many ATRs were subject to discipline?
  2. How many years of experience do the average ATR has?  
  3. What schools did ATRs last have a long-term or provisional appointment?
  4. How many years has the ATR been in the pool?
  5. What areas are the ATRs certified in?
Looking at the Chalkbeat questions it certainly appears that the online paper is trying to show that ATRs are terrible teachers, either due to being disciplined or have other negative factors like lack of useless and mind-numbing professional development and being highly experienced. Moreover, they also want to prove that high poverty, minority schools get  the ATRs.

Maybe, Chalkbeat should have asked these questions about the ATR pool instead.

  1. What is the average age and salary of the ATR pool?
  2. What is the average years of experience of teachers who transferred by the Open Market Transfer System?  What are the percentages?
  3. What is the the actual number in the ATR pool as of the start of the school year?
  4.  Why does the DOE keep two lists of ATRs?
  5. When will the DOE eliminate the "fair student funding" that incentivizes principals to hire "the cheapest and not the best teachers" for their school?
In all fairness Chalkbeat did try to contact me and I ignored them since my experience with sleazy education reporters like the Daily News Ben Chapman has shown me that they don;t care about the truth.  Their aim is to further demonize ATRs.  Case in point.  According to NYC Educator an ATR did speak to the same Chalkbeat reporter that tried to contact me and nothing he or she said seemed to be included in their latest ATR bashing article.  With the possible exception of Susan Edelman, I will have nothing to do with a news reporter.  Since they represent yellow journalism at its worst.

update:   ATR Life in Limbo spoke to Chalkbeat on Tuesday for an hour and set the reporter straight.  Let's see if Chalkbeat writes an article and without the anti-ATR spin.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Tweed Continues To Award Questionable Contracts.

The Daily News reported today that, very quietly, the DOE is set to award a $669,375 contract to an ex DOE administrator for a program that he developed as an employee for the City. In fact, the Ex DOE Administrator,  Joel Rose, called it "The School Of One" and the DOE allocated an astounding 9 million dollars to develop and fund the program.  The program has been shown to be a failure and a colossal waste of money as only 4 schools throughout the City are actually using the :School for One program.  Yet, the DOE is set to approve the renamed program. as a Math program called New Classrooms.

This is just an example of why it was necessary for Chancellor Carmen Farina to "clean house" of the Bloomberg policymakers at Tweed but failed to do so.  Hopefully,when the proposed contract goes to the PEP at the end of the month, the blatant "conflict of interest" and apparent favoritism will push the PEP to refuse to approve the contact. The statement by Leonie Hainson of Class Size Matters in the article is a must read and listed below.

 “The city is paying hundreds of thousands for these programs. Why do these things hang on at the Department of Education for no reason? These crony contracts,” said Leonie Haimson, founder of the advocacy group Class Size Matters. “It’s inexplicable.”

I certainly agree with Ms. Hainson

Sunday, August 06, 2017

On Retirement Our Last Year's Summer Pay Is Apparently Excluded.

When a New York City educator retires, usually at the end of the school year, the TRS calculates the Final Average Salary (FAS) of the last three school years.  However, the FAS does not include any additional pay over 10% of the FAS so as to not to drive up the educator's pension by taking unlimited overtime in the last year.  While that limitation is well known the next limitation to the educator's pension is not.

Educators at the end of the school year gets payments for the summer months of July and August.  These summer payments are not extra checks but represent earned wages from the previous two semesters that have been smoothed out so that educators receive bi-monthly checks throughout the calendar year.  However, it appears the TRS does not include the July and August payments when calculating the FAS.

The TRS has remained mum on the apparent shortchanging of their educator pension calculation and a lawsuit was filed in July of this year to force TRS to include the July and August payments.  While the amount that TRS shortchanges the educator varies widely,  I used retired teacher Irving Lieblich's pension calculation, as reported in the New York Post as the example.

According to Mr. Lieblich since he retired in June of 2011, he has been shortchanged on his pension by $241 his first year since they didn't include the summer months, when he made $93,656 as a 2011 base salary.  Instead, those two months were replaced by the 2010 base salary that saw him receive only $90,054.  Consequently, Mr. Lieblich is owed $1,446 according to his calculations since retiring.

Hopefully, Mr. Lieblich's lawsuit is successful and the TRS will include the two month summer pay when they calculate the educator's pension.. 

Friday, August 04, 2017

Union Proud But Not Proud Of Our Union.

I consider myself a proud union member and greatly appreciate what an effective union represents to their members.  At one time, under the effective Albert Shanker,  teachers were able to negotiate adequate raises, a salary scale that reflected seniority, generous health benefits, and work rules that limited the amount of students in a classroom.  This was a time when the City leaders were beholden to the powerful 81,000 strong teachers' union and came with hat in hand to curry union support and even a loan during the City's brush with bankruptcy in 1973.   That was then and this is now.

Our present ineffective union leadership has provided  little in the way for their members to be proud of   They have negotiated inferior or subpar contracts, going back to Sandra Feldman and continuing through Randi Weingarten and now Michael Mulgrew.  Just about every negotiated contract was short on money and contained various "givebacks".  Be it time, additional duties, hiring rules, reduced due process rights dealing with discipline, and expanding the definitions on verbal and physical abuse (A-420, A-421).  Just as important was the slow erosion of health benefits, both the eligibility at retirement and cost.  In addition, UFT members saw 1.25% of their TDA interest disappear., thanks to our union leadership.  While all other DOE employees receive 8.25% interest on their TDA balance, UFT members receive only 7%.  Finally, our union leadership is strangely quiet while the media attacks the ATRs and allows the DOE's Fair Student Funding policy to discriminate against the hiring of veteran teachers.

Our union leadership had promised to go to PERB or file a lawsuit on the DOE's practice of placing a flag on any member that had a substantiated OSI or SCI investigation, even when the accusations were found not to be true by the independent State Arbitrator!  I call this the Scarlet Letter.  Did the union  leadership follow through?  The answer is no!    Moreover, they allowed the ATR to become "a second class citizen" and refuses to include an ATR on their negotiating committee on ATR issues.  Finally, the union leadership refuses to put member interests first.  Rather, they use our COPE and dues money as they please without member input.  See examples Here and Here.

I am a proud union member and will support unions that represent their members.  However, in the last two decades, our weak union leadership seems to represent their own political and ideological interests rather than what's best for the members.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

My Response To The False Accusations Of Parent Nicole Thomas About ATRs.

I read the opinion piece of parent Nicole Thomas and realized it was simply an ATR bashing piece that consisted of lies, half truths, and was right out of the StudentFirst playbook.  Her article is simply false accusations.  Let's discuss what Ms. Thomas claimed she knows about ATRs and then the truth.

First, she claimed that ATRs are "unwanted" teachers.  While the "unwanted " is true, her reasons are false.  She claimed that the ATRs are "unwanted" because their bad teachers and she cited false statistics that showed that over 50% of the ATRs were rated unsatisfactory or had discipline issues.  Where did she get this false information?  Maybe it came from the StudentFirst organization since I know the DOE refuses to provide this information and the percentage is closer to 25%, according to a UFT source.

The truth of the matter ATRs are "unwanted" because of their high salaries, seniority, and institutional memory.The majority of ATRs are quality teachers and fully certified.  Principals won't hire them because they think of their budget and power and not what's best for the students.

Second, Ms. Thomas claims that most ATRs don't apply for classroom positions and if they were any good they would not be in the ATR pool for long.

The truth is that teachers in the ATR pool do apply for multiple positions but because of their salary, years of experience, and seniority,  principals refuse to interview or hire them.   Moreover,  Civil Service law will not allow for an ATR time limit and that was the condition the DOE agreed to when the ATR pool was created when the hiring rules were changed in 2006.  Maybe Ms. Thomas should read the DOE's "fair student funding" policy and see how the organization incentivizes schools to hire the "cheapest and not the best" teachers for their school.

Third, Ms.\Thomas seems to think that getting an ATR teacher would be terrible for her 5th grade child since one teacher at the school (not an ATR) was arrested and convicted, as if all ATRs are not only bad teachers but potentially are criminals.

The truth is that 75% of the ATRs have a "clean record", with no discipline issues.  Furthermore, many of the ATRs with so-called discipline issues were found to be minor or even frivolous by an independent State Arbitrator.  Again her statement is what StudentFirst would say, without data or real facts to back it up.

Finally, I truly hope that Ms. Thomas's child does not get an ATR for the vacancies at her school and gets a "newbie" teacher instead so her daughter can be the guinea pig for an inexperienced teacher who must struggle through a steep learning curve in classroom management issues, acquiring curriculum knowledge, while trying to learn the Art and Science of effective teaching. Maybe Nicole Thomas will realize she's just a pawn for the education deformers like StudentsFirst that put their ideology first and her child last.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

The DOE's Slogan Of Children First Rings Hollow.

The DOE will claim that everything they do is geared on putting the students first and when bloggers like me point out the hypocrisy of their "children first" claims, the DOE will simply ignore the inconvenient truth.  Let's look at why the DOE's claim that they put children first rings hollow.

Large Class Sizes:  New York City public schools have the largest class sizes in the State.  In some schools like Francis Lewis High School, almost all classes have the maximum 34 students.  Moreover, the school is vastly overcrowded with over 4,700 students crammed into a school that shooed have less than 3,000.  Moreover, try to walk on the second floor hallway between 4th and 5th period and you feel like your in a Japanese subway car at the peak of rush hour as bodies bump into you from all sides.  Finally, book-rooms with no windows and little ventilation are being used as classrooms.  Ask the students at Francis Lewis High School if the DOE is putting their needs first?
Parent Exclusion:  Since the Bloomberg years parent voices are deliberately ignored by the Chancellor and the Central Bureaucracy.  Just look at what happened at Townsend Harris High School and at Central Park East 1, where the DOE tried to ignore parents and only backed down when the media got hold of the story, The DOE is quite happy if parents remain clueless and quiet so they can do what's best for them and not what's best for the students/  The C-30 selection committee is a prime example of how little parent (and teacher) voice means as its simply a fig level for the Superintendent to pick his or her favorites as principals for the schools in the District.

Principal Hiring Practices:  The DOE implemented a policy called "fair student funding" that requires schools to pick up the salary of all school staff members.  The result was that principals were incentivized to hire "the cheapest and not the best teachers" for their school.  To penalize principals who dare hire a veteran teacher the DOE only funds the schools at 90% of their fair funding, despite a 6 billion dollar budget surplus for the City//

Uncertified Teachers: Far too many schools are using teachers uncertified in the subject they are required to teach.  At the high school level, Regents Earth Science is just as likely to have an uncertified teacher than one certifried to teach the course.  Moreover, many high schools shortchange Science students by going to a 4-1 from the State recommended 5-1 program.  The result is that City students experience lower Regents grades and a higher failure rate.  This is done to save on hiring scarce Science teachers.  This is certainly not putting children first.

The bottom line is when the DOE claims that they are putting children first, what they really mean is they are putting their ideological aims first and children last.  See nyc educator for a similar take on the DOE's children first policy.