Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Executive Board Takeaway October 16, 2017---To Junk Science, or Not to Junk Science

There was much to digest at our last Executive Board meeting. I'm going to focus first on the resolution we proposed to oppose the current junk science APPR.

There were arguments presented against it. The primary argument, advanced by Jackie Bennett, was a blatant strawman. A strawman is when you argue against a point your adversary did not make. Bennett argued that we couldn't go back to giving principals 100% control over observations. There are issues with that, the primary being that we urged no such thing. I don't know whether or not Bennett actually read the resolution, but here's what it says verbatim:

Resolved, that UFT will form an evaluation committee that will endeavor to create and propose a rating system that is based on research and practice, as opposed to the system mandated by the current law. 

I'm trying to find the part that says we will give 100% authority to principals. Do you see it? Neither do I. It's pretty easy to win an argument when you mischaracterize what your opponent says. That's avoiding the argument, that's logical fallacy, and we have every right to expect better from those who represent us.

A better argument, made by Leroy Barr, was that there were around 3,000 unsatisfactory ratings, and fewer than 300 ineffectives. Let's look at that. Of course I'd rather see fewer negative ratings for teachers. On the other hand, New York State famously raises and lowers thresholds for tests, and tests are still a big part of teacher evaluation for many of us. Depending on the magnanimous nature of NYSED, for my money, is not a good bet. Will they alter thresholds so as to fire more teachers? Who knows?

Barr's argument works better if we ignore a few things. One is that developing ratings are generally perceived as negative by those who receive them. They come with Teacher Improvement Plans, which no one wants, and which can be extremely demoralizing no matter how many happy faces we paint on it. There's also the fact that two ineffective ratings place teachers on a path to 3020a, with burden of proof on them to prove they are not incompetent. Ask a lawyer how hard it is to prove a negative.

What Unity ignores is the elephant in the room. Granted, it's not in the room in which the Executive Board meets. But I work in a school every day, and I talk to teachers every day. Everyone hates the evaluation system, and it's not only teachers. Administrators, even reasonable ones, are burdened by it as well, and can barely keep up. Morale is as low as I've ever seen it, and the happy stats of few ineffectives have not bounced it back. Members who have comp-time jobs or work offsite plead with me to be placed back on the S and U system. Jackie Bennett knows this, because at least two requests from my building have crossed her desk.

A good argument, made by Bennett, is that there are many schools with vindictive and crazy administrators. I've seen this sort up close and personal, and I couldn't agree more. Bennett mentioned the adult ed. teachers who came to our committee, and their treatment has been abysmal. In cases like these, the matrix is likely to help teacher ratings. Likely it did for many teachers last year.

I think it was Michael Lillis, an upstate union president, who posted a comment here that sticks with me. Lillis said something like, "If your administrators are so bad that random junk science is an improvement on their judgment, your issue is not the evaluation system." I agree with that. Even in generally excellent schools like mine, crazy administrators can make peoples' lives a misery.

Here's the issue--crazy administrators are unacceptable. Unfortunately, they run rampant here in Fun City. And whether or not teachers end up rated ineffective, these administrators make their lives a misery. I've watched people have physical reactions to this, ranging from nervousness, to a-fib episodes, to death. This is not being addressed under the current APPR system. Abuse is rampant, and the fact that we need a junk science system to mitigate is outrageous. It would be far better to address the root cause of our ills.

Howard Schoor, for the third time in a row, had no answer for my question. In fact, the resolution they hated so much was at least an indirect result of his failure to answer my first question. I was pretty surprised when Michael Mulgrew, who had arrived pretty early, gave a direct answer. I was very glad to hear that we would not have to rely on lunch forms to get Title One this year, because that would be a disaster. Now I just need to find out how exactly we do get Title One.

No one on the dais responded to the ATRs who spoke, but KJ from New Action was pretty persistent when Schoor ducked his questions. He didn't really get an answer, but edged ever closer. Maybe I can learn something from KJ, but really, when no answer is forthcoming, elaboration on non-answers does not much help.

There was an impassioned plea from a theater teacher set adrift in an ocean of reforminess. What a shame that no one seems to need this sort of enrichment. This is what happens after decades of test scores posing as the Ten Commandments.

Monday, October 16, 2017

UFT Executive Board October 16, 2017--We Were Against APPR Before We Were For It

6 PM—Secretary Howard School welcomes us.

We have four speakers—all ATRs.

Aixa Rodriguez—ESL teacher and ATR, rated HE—No vacancies for ESL in Bronx HS—CR Part 154 makes courses double counted so there are no vacancies. Asks that stereotyping FSF, be challenged by UFT. Leads to rampant ageism.

August Leppelmeier—NYT maligned character of ATRs. Very unfair. Most ATRs excessed for downsizing. Somehow city isn’t placing ESL teachers. Those charged have been cleared. If not, they’d be fired. UFT needs to stand by concept that people are exonerated. Expects union to fight in press with ads, speak publicly, use social media. Has been going on since June. We expect more.

Gina Trent—English teacher for 17 years, mostly as ATR. Grateful UFT preserved salary and benefits. However, you should fight for more quality of life issues. Most of my colleagues envy ATR position. Disturbing. Many young people leave with health issues and stress. We need to try to get principals accountable where all teachers have no trust. We need to place pressure. We need to defend ATRs and senior teachers. Research suggests we are the most effective.

Karen Sklaire—ATR—15 year teacher of theater—excessed. HE until excess. No theater positions available. Say UFT said there was no union representation for ATRs. Second excess in 15 years. First time alone in a room for three years. Left and came back when recruited. Won RFK award in teaching, excessed two years later. Had opportunity to sub for six months—rejected by DOE. Have been assistant in 1st grade, making copies. Told by DOE can’t be placed. Told by union lucky to have job. Am pro union, has been nothing but a heartbreak. I just want to say it’s heartbreaking and I’m ready to leave. Condescending to say I’m lucky to have a job.  I don’t feel lucky. ATR system is failing. Better to not have a job than stay and feel humiliated. Schools won’t see me because I’m ATR with 15 years. Only people fighting for me are DOE theater program people.


President’s report—Mulgrew not here 6:13

LeRoy Barr—speaks of ELL conference—over 1200 members. Did leafleting at culinary ICE institute. Sunday, Making Strides walk. Good participation.

Friday—Pride committee’s first meeting. DA Wednesday. Wear pink. Sat Oct 21 Manhattan and SI parent conf. EB October 30th.


Kuljit S. Ahluwalia (KJ)New Action—Many people at mike mentioned constant maligning. How do we counter it?

Schoor—DOE wanted ATRs off payroll. We decided not to give up ATRs. Have supported them. Came up with buyout, accepted by 120 plus. Some will be assigned beginning this week, at least 200 for rest of year. We support them, will not give them up.

KJ—I didn’t hear an answer. What about the maligning?

Schoor—problem w press. Agenda to malign. Times article was terrible. Agenda of ed. board. We think shouting match in press will not resolve it. People in public do not support ATRs. That’s the conundrum. We support ATRs.

KJ—Seems to be a problem code for ATRs, even when exonerated.

Mike Sill—Director of Personnel—Difference between problem code, which no one working has. There is a flag. Difference may be immaterial. Flag says if principal wants to hire someone, may have 3020a, may have been discontinued. Will ask principal do you still want to hire this person. If principal says yes, the person can be hired. We tell people to be upfront about these things. If it doesn’t come up in interview, principal finds out later and may stop hiring.

KJ—How close to retirement were 120 plus people?

Sill—Almost everyone who took it retired. Don’t have exact number. Those retiring anyway were happy.

KJ—Not much of buyout if they were retiring anyway. Principals hiring ATRs with limited years, or those who are qualified?

Schoor—Court cases say anyone disciplined at all may be an ATR. People not innocent just because they weren’t fired. Language needs to be clarified.

Mike SchirtzerMORE—Emily James and Susan spoke on family leave. Update? UFT and NYSUT joint lawsuit against lowering of standards. Update?

Arthur GoldsteinMORE—Title One is vital to my school and many others. Without it, not only students will suffer, but we will likely see draconian cuts in staff. I know that no one here wants that. This is personal for me, because I teach ESL. Because of the insane regulation known as CR Part 154, it’s likely my brother and sister ESL teachers will be cut, and hapless students will sit in social studies classes, be expected to magically acquire English in them, and all we’ll be left to do is hope for the best.

I applaud the mayor’s initiative to offer free lunch in school, but it’s created another problem. Why should parents bother to fill in lunch forms when their kids will get free lunch anyway? Francis Lewis High School makes Title One, or sometimes not, by the skin of our teeth. If ten or twenty parents choose not to fill in the forms, all of our students and a good part of our staff will suffer. We cannot be the only school in that position.

I’m sure no one here wants that, and I’m sure the mayor doesn’t want that either. There are a few ways we could avoid that. One would be to require the lunch form as a precondition for participation in the free lunch program. I understand that may hurt kids if done too strictly, so we’d have to tread carefully.

Another would be to simply distribute the funds to all city schools rather than make us jump through hoops. The rules are bizarre. It’s very hard for me to understand why a Staten Island school needs 45% of students to qualify for Title One while Queens schools need 60. All due respect to Staten Islanders, that’s inequitable.

I’m certainly open to other suggestions.

I ask that we meet and work together to resolve this issue in a way that benefits both our students and our members.

Schoor—Thank you. Will get back to you.

Ashraya GuptaMORE—Immigrant liaison discussions?

Schoor—They haven’t gotten back to us. No hard answer

Gupta—In Nov. 2015, ask Teacher Retirement Board to divest from fossil fuels. What happened with that”

Dave Kazansky—What happened with that was after it was passed we went to TRS, crafted resolution. Consultant firms bid. We settled on company called Mercer. When process finished, work began, looked at portfolio, determined what we can do. They have presented twice with stages of analysis. Long process, dealing with billions, don’t want to move before we have research and science behind it. We will get a final report and make a decision. We are serious, and we were months ahead of other retirement systems. We will give info when we have it.

Schoor—please share final decision.

Jonathan HalabiNew Action—People got stubs, were very happy. I have gotten questions about dues. I paid them in 2011. Why are there more dues. What is answer for members?

Schoor—This board passed resolutions. Treated these payments as others such as TDA. Set dues to .85%. If they multiply gross by this, they’ll see it. Average $23 per person.

Halabi—Small schools when they started had money to buy equipment. We don’t have much space. Process for discarding functional obsolete equipment requires bids and takes forever. Was problem in past with throwing things out. Can anyone talk to chancellor about ridiculous regulations?

Schoor—We will ask DOE.

Marcus McArthurMORE—Works at transfer school. Had student come, was getting evicted from home. Has been press about homeless students. At all time high. We deal with this issue a lot. DOE is aware and is offering resources. Has UFT been in dialogue with DOE? Are there resources for us?

Schoor—Not sure if anyone has answer.

President's Report

Michael MulgrewTitle One--We would not support free lunch program until they said it was not based on lunch forms. Not based on lunch forms now. State has agreed NYC doesn’t have to do Title One through lunch forms.

Homelessness—Amazing that answer is always it’s up to school. Ridiculous answer. We have offered to work with DOE. Schools need after school HW programs. We work with non profits, but not DOE. DOE says they’ll check and get back to us. Doesn’t matter who admin is. DOE still has this mentality that it’s up to principal. It’s our system. If we have 100K homeless, we need plan. I will continue to advocate and push these issues

Saw school where principal didn’t know, and had no capability to help with these stresses. How can they achieve? I will push them. Constantly discussed.

SUNY Charter—We said we’d sue. Main issue—legally sets precedent, but NYSED should issue certificates. We are outraged at stupidity. Bad precedent that private entities do state licensing. It says they believe anyone can teach. They’re saying you don’t need to go to school, understand classroom management or anything. That is what they believe about education. They believe in scripted learning. We know they use it in Africa, and they want to bring it here. Union is problem for them. We use our lawyers with NYSUT lawyers to jointly file. We are confident. We expect to win.

Spoke with Emily James. Updated her. We’ve had two meetings, staff had two more with DOE. Another tomorrow. We will find out if they’re serious. There will be a cost, if we get there. We will decide. I don’t want this to be about I didn’t have it when I had children. This is about when time is right, we go and get it right. People gave us things they didn’t have. Each generation’s responsibility to add more rights. Hope we are at right time. It would say a lot to go from you’re fired if you’re pregnant to family leave.

Asks Serbia Silva to stand. We have 30 nurses in Puerto Rico. Leaving Wednesday. May go to Texas. Florida progressing. Huge burden on all of those members. In PR teacher building is hub for distribution. Spoke with governor and mayor. I would like to not have holiday party and make major contribution to those places. Right thing to do. So many people hurting. When we hurt from Sandy people came from all over to help us. This would say a lot. Asking them in lieu of coming to contribute to our disaster relief fund.

Mulgrew leaves 6:50

Report from districts.

Serbia Silva—Stands on behalf of Evelyn de Jesus. ELL event amazing. Evelyn thanks volunteers and staff. Second—same goes for Making Strides. Walked in five boroughs and LI. Thanks all volunteers.

Howard Sandel—Nurses—Rescue work—9/18, Maria made landfall on Dominica. We had nurses there up all night organizing. Set up 53 medical volunteers. Were there 7 days. Visited villages, cared for 818 patients, conducted home visits, distributed items across island. With help of this union we provided rescue workers with backpacks. She expresses gratitude to union. Will be stories in NY Teacher.

Nurses gave up two weeks vacation in PR, were not allowed to distribute supplies. Stuck in San Juan. Started Gofundme page. Finally moved. Showed people how to purify water.Thanks everyone.

Paul Egan—Says polls moving in right direction on Con Con, but still losing. We need everyone to have conversations. 14% turned out in September. That’s a disgrace. Talk to everyone November 7th. Fake news that no vote counts as yes. If you don’t vote, it doesn’t count. We’re not pushing on other ballot proposals.

Schoor—borough offices have signs?

Egan—In all borough offices. Put signs in windows of cars. Lawn signs available. Magnets are for cars, not refrigerators.

Special order of business—Nominations

Gregg Lundahl—Nominates Shamika Hunter Tisdale—CL, tenure advocate, part of APPR appeals, knows Danielson, trained arbitrator. She is a teacher and a teacher advocate. Has open mind. Recommend her for elementary.

Dolores Lozuponi—recommends Mary Atkinson. Worked in Manhattan as liaison for grievance dept.

Michelle Ferraro—Nominates Joanne Bolero. Advocates for members on daily basis.

Rashad Brown—nominates chapter advocate (missed name) very active. Would be strong voice.

Antonella Fuccio—Nominates Amy Arundell. Now Queensborough rep. Did many things. Would be asset because she has so much to offer.

Schoor—Any other nominations? Seeing none, if res. passes, I will give them the bad news that they have to be here. 


Resolution in support of aiding hurricane victims.

Karen Alford—feels like no motivation needed. I’d like us to add fires in CA to resolution. Funding will be used to help Napa, blue collar community that needs help. Asks for support.

Passes unanimously

Resolution to support climate justice, issues affect us all, affect unequally disadvantaged. Urges support.

Jonathan Halabi—New Action—By this vote we will be supporting march for climate justice on 28th.

Passes unanimously

Arthur GoldsteinMORE—Those of us in the schools every day hear one complaint above all others—the evaluation process. It’s like the Sword of Damocles, hanging over our heads each and every moment. Even those of us who have supervisors who aren’t insane feel the pressure.

High schools don’t NYSUT, we’re always happy when the rest of you go to conventions and do what we would’ve done. And in the case of the NYSUT resolution opposing APPR, we couldn’t agree more.

With Janus looming, it’s important that we send members the message that their concerns are our concerns. By voting to reaffirm the NYSUT resolution for which all of you voted, you will be sending that message.

I urge you to vote for this resolution, just as you did at NYSUT.

Note--entire resolution is posted here below notes.

Jackie Bennet—opposes—understands impetus. To return us to a world of principal supervisor judgment 100% would be mind bogglingly irresponsible. Lots of us get good ratings and think it’s great. For those teachers under high pressure, with high needs students. w principals who don’t like them, where we know principals are highly biased, we’d be irresponsible.

Half to go back to this EB. We had series of teachers who didn’t have other measure. Was distressing to hear how pressure of adult ed. world there was no way to counter, Now we have this thing, I know we want improvements. Everybody wants more choices. Have ability to create measures for teachers, like for art. To return to that system no way.

LeRoy Barr—rises to oppose—passed at NYSUT. We try to support POV and not dominate NYSUT. To that end, this passed. Question is what is best for UFT. Only 217 got ineffective, lowest ever. Were 3000 U ratings. Matrix based upon student performance. We want to do away with state tests. We want members to have opportunity to have credit for what took place from September to June. Student performance can be lots of things. Having it embedded helped us move from 3000 to 217. Do we want to prevent supervisors using it as punitive measure? I say we vote against.

Stuart Kaplan—moves to close debate.


Fails on party lines.

We are adjourned.

Follow this with Executive Board Takeaway.

Resolution reaffirming the UFT’s opposition to mandatory student performance measures in APPR
Whereas, UFT’s delegation to NYSUT unanimously approved a resolution to remove student performance from teacher evaluation; and, 
Whereas, New York law mandates that local districts negotiate into their collective bargaining agreements for a teacher evaluation regimen that mandates the use of student performance measures in a matrix to create a final evaluation score of a teacher; and:
Whereas, The previous law, 3012c, proved to be an evaluative tool that did not effectively or accurately evaluate teachers, and, in many cases, proved to produce invalid results.  Moreover, there is no evidence that the evaluation regimen improves student performance or teacher effectiveness;  and
Whereas, The current law, 3012d, continues to mandate the use of student performance measures as an evaluative tool to assess teacher quality in New York State,  with no evidence that it will improve student performance or teacher effectiveness; and
Whereas,  The American Statistical Association has found that “VAMs [Value-added measures] should be viewed within the context of quality improvement, which distinguishes aspects of quality that can be attributed to the system from those that can be attributed to individual teachers, teacher preparation programs, or schools. Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality.”;  and
Whereas, test scores and passing rates are subject to routine manipulation by the state; and 
Whereas,  The National Academy of Education Researchers has concluded that, “With respect to value-added measures of student achievement tied to individual teachers, current research suggests that high-stakes, individual-level decisions, or comparisons across highly dissimilar schools or student populations, should be avoided. Valid interpretations require aggregate-level data and should ensure that background factors – including overall classroom composition – are as similar as possible across groups being compared. In general, such measures should be used only in a low-stakes fashion when they are part of an integrated analysis of what the teacher is doing and who is being taught”; and
Whereas, 3012d requires that many UFT teachers be judged by test scores; and
Whereas, UFT teachers may see their evaluations suffer as a result of said evaluation; and,
Whereas, non-ESL teachers who teach groups of ELLs may see their ratings suffer as a result, thus discouraging them from serving this important part of our school population; and
Whereas, some teachers’ baseline results are tied to tests that are to be used neither for student nor teacher evaluation; and
Whereas, a teacher could be evaluated on a small portion of student tests, unreflective of the actual group taught by said teacher; and
Whereas, many UFT teachers are rated on results that have nothing to do with subjects they teach; and
Whereas, The report that is widely being used to promote the use of various methods of student performance in teacher evaluation, A Practical Guide to Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness, has found that using alternative student assessment measures, such as portfolios, “for summative or high-stakes assessment has not been validated,”; and
Whereas, The same report warns that classroom artifacts, for purposes of evaluation, requires that “more research is needed to verify the reliability and stability of rating, explore links to student achievement and validate the instruments in different contexts, before analysis of classroom artifacts should be considered a primary means for teacher evaluation”; and
Whereas, AFT President Randi Weingarten famously declared, “VAM is a sham; therefore be it
Resolved, that UFT in conjunction and in parallel with NYSUT will lobby local politicians to change law 3012-d to make student performance measures non-mandatory; and be it further
Resolved, that UFT will publish a cover article in NY Teacher explaining our opposition to mandatory student performance measures; and be it further
Resolved, that the UFT, in cooperation with NYSUT, will challenge in court the results of each UFT teacher whose ineffective rating is contingent upon flawed performance measures, and be it further
Resolved, that UFT will form an evaluation committee that will endeavor to create and propose a rating system that is based on research and practice, as opposed to the system mandated by the current law. 

ATRs Are the Golden Key for Reformies

Thanks to the blogger at ATR Adventures for alerting me to pieces I miss. This one, from the NY Post, is important for several reasons. First of all, it's important that they even bothered to speak with a real teacher and former ATR in the form of James Eterno. That's a step up from a lot of the nonsense I've seen on the same topic in Chalkbeat.

It's also important that the article attributed this demonstration, like others of its ilk, to a reformy astroturf group. In this case, it's charter-loving StudentsFirstNY, and offshoot of Michelle Rhee's group. Rhee, of course, has moved on to a gig that deals with actual fertilizer rather than what passes as information with her BFFs.

The big question, of course, is why the reformies are so preoccupied with the ATR, or Absent Teacher Reserve. Why, if they want to push privately run charter schools, do they even care whether or not we put these people to work?

I'd argue the answer is pretty basic. We are all ATRs waiting to happen. It's just a matter of being in the wrong place at the right time. I worked at John Adams High School for about seven years. It was just a simple twist of fate that I'm not there anymore. When Adams became a Renewal school, or whatever they were calling it that year, all the teachers had to reapply for their jobs. I recall reading the majority didn't bother. That could easily have been me. Or you.

Even the NY Times is piling on ATR teachers. I expected better from them, but I've been wrong before. Of course newspapers have unions, and they'd probably like them to go away. Who wants to deal with contracts when you could just cut pay, benefits, and rights? Once you do that, you can treat people any damn way you please, and keep more money for yourself. And that's directly relevant to us.

Right now, NY charter schools can certify their own teachers any way they want. It's a month of training, 40 hours in the classroom, or something, and then they are teachers, sort of. Charters have a turnover problem. They treat people like crap and people seem not to like it. People say it isn't sustainable if you want to, oh, get married, have children, live a life or anything like that.

This is tough for charter school bosses. In fact, I know charter teachers who've moved to public schools, and they aren't going back, ever. Despite all the things I write, and all the nonsense we endure, our jobs are a walk in the park compared to charter schools. Can you imagine having to take a cell phone home to answer questions after work? Imagine having to take bus rides to Albany at Eva's beck and call. Imagine having no contract, no rights, and no voice.

People who run charter schools have not only imagined, but also realized all those things. They see them as a prototype for all of us. They're reinforcing it with their limited certification. What if the charter teachers can't move to public school gigs? People with charter certification will be stuck. It's unlikely there's time to work in a charter and take night classes. After all, you have that phone to answer, and you've probably only slept eight minutes, what with making home visits and doing who knows what else.

The ATR was an egregious error in the 2005 contract, quite possibly the worst mistake the UFT ever made. We made a strong showing against the awful contract, but it wasn't good enough. The ATR is kind of our Achilles Heel. Bloomberg used it against us, demanding a time limit for ATRs. Leadership, to its credit, hung tough. Of course, this resulted in an inferior contract for us and a pattern that was the worst I've ever seen.

This notwithstanding, giving up the ATRs would place targets on all our backs. Close this school, close that school, wait a few months, and then fire everyone. Where do fired teachers go? Many I know have gone to charter schools. It's ironic that the people out marching against ATRs are perfectly OK with that.

Here's why it's OK--degrading and debasing middle class jobs is a win for the hedge funders and gazillioanaires who fund groups like StudentsFirst. They'll shed crocodile tears about how it's all about the children, but it's all about the money. Janus isn't enough for them. They want it all, they want it now, they want more, and they don't give a golly gosh darn if you go begging, eat cat food, or both.

That's the master plan, in fact. Crap jobs for you, crap jobs for the children they claim to love, no union, and bring back the good old days of the nineteenth century. Child labor isn't far behind.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Doing to the Times What the Times Does to ATR Teachers

Judith Miller was a reporter at the NY Times. She was known for "anti-Isiamic bias," and was famous for perpetrating the weapons of mass destruction nonsense that dragged us into a costly and endless involvement in Iraq. She was also involved in the disastrous matter of Valerie Plame. Though she acknowledged having used inaccurate sources, she went on to work for Fox News and Newsmax, likely offering the same crap she did at the Times.

Jayson Blair was famously caught fabricating sources, yet continued on writing. Blair wrote a book called Burning Down My Master's House, and people not only bought it, but also evidently read it. In the book, Blair revealed substance abuse, and revealed that he had committed said abuse before he left the NY Times.

Numerous columnists on the NY Times write baseless reformy nonsense. This includes Nicholas Kristof, who put forth the absurd notion that teacher certification was keeping Colin Powell and Meryl Streep from careers as teachers, though neither of them had expressed any remote interest in doing so. Kristof also thinks that students need to learn Spanish before they learn Chinese, as though no American child has Chinese family, or interest in learning the most-spoken language in the world.

NY Times Columnist Charles Blow thinks Eli Broad is fighting the good fight to "reform" education. Diane Ravitch deems him hopelessly misinformed, and says he relies on flawed information. He's one of several NY Times columnist who got on board with the Common Core lovefest the paper seemed to embrace.

Former food critic Frank Bruni was made a columnist, and writes a whole lot of nonsense about city teachers. He indulges in stereotype and says it's nearly impossible to fire teachers. Oddly, I know teachers who have been fired, and I'm just a lowly teacher, without nearly the resources of a NY Times reporter. Bruni relies on interviews with E4E folk for information, and that's good enough for him. Bruni relies on logical fallacy like appeal to authority to make his point.

Do you see what I'm doing here? I'm using stereotype to bash the NY Times. I'm giving you several examples, drawn from who knows how many, and painting a picture of the entire organization. This is the same as when people point to members of a religion, racial group, or nationality and attribute some quality to said group as a result. I'm an ESL teacher. I have taught students from every corner of the earth, from many religions and countries. One thing I've learned is that no stereotype is true.

Over at the NY Times, education reporter Kate Taylor has learned no such thing. Thus, she takes a handful of anecdotes about ATR teachers, places them all into a story, and paints the entire group with one brush. That's stereotype, that's logical fallacy, and make no mistake, that's what the Times is offering us as reporting.

This is no different from the trash we see in NY Post and Fox News editorials. I read education reporting all the time, and the Times is way behind the News and the Post. I remember, years ago, reading that the February break was a big loss for parents, because they'd have to find some way to care for their children. Unlike every single teacher in NY, the Times was unaware that NYC's preferred alternative to the week off was teachers going in for PD. There was no scenario under which the students were going to attend, but that didn't get in their way of demonizing the UFT.

This Times story is a disgraceful piece of trash. This is exactly how Campbell Brown made her career as a reformy, and the Times story is no better than any of the nonsense propagated in the tabloids by Brown. Kate Taylor should get in touch with her inner sense of shame, if indeed she has one.

Friday, October 13, 2017

I Took 48 CREDITS at Supervisor School and They NEVER ONCE Said Not to Smuggle Heroin into Prison!

You know, I can't believe this. I take an ENTIRE MASTER'S DEGREE in administration, I finally get the principal gig and not ONCE did anyone say anything about not smuggling heroin into prison. I mean, what's up with that?

Everyone does things when they're off work. I know this teacher who plays fiddle in bluegrass bands on weekends, and I mean, like everyone, I HATE that music, but you don't see me trying to have the teacher FIRED over it. Well, MAYBE I put a little-bitty letter in his file, but EVERYONE does THAT.

That's not what I'm all about. I mean, PROGRAMMING. Ask me anything about programming. I can do three classes in a row, but I don't do four or that stupid chapter leader is up and screaming bloody murder. I mean, what's the big deal? You'd think teaching FOUR classes in a row was gonna give someone a massive coronary or something. But NOOOOOO. It just won't do, because it's in the CONTRACT, and so I have to go and change not one, not two, but THREE programs to do it.

But take a look for SMUGGLING HEROIN into a PRISON. Do you see ONE stinking WORD about it? Of course you don't. But they nailed me for it, the bastards. Why? Because they're jealous of my power. They wish they could summon teachers to their offices but they can't.

Those teachers babble on about this and that, and they do nothing but complain about my work. I go in there with my iPad and tell them exactly why they suck and do they thank me? Do they ever once offer to wash my car? I mean, they could, just ONCE thank me for all the things I do for them. There's this little guy who teaches science. I always see him walking down the stairs. But I never push him. You'd think he'd thank me for that, but NOOOOOOOOOO!!! Too much trouble.

And there goes little Miss Sunshine. All the students love her. I saw her in the park last week, jogging with a bunch of kids. She was right by the pond and I could have easily tripped her. She would have gone flying into the water. But I didn't do it, because that's the kind of person I turned out to be. And again, not a WORD of thanks. What ingratitude.

Après moi le déluge, baby.  You think you're gonna find ANOTHER principal who will treat you so well? Not on your life. Do you have any idea how many of you I DIDN'T write up for no reason? Do any of you appreciate it? No, it's always, "How come I got a letter in my file for eating an apple in class?" Did any of you ONCE offer ME a piece of the apple? Yes, I LIKE apples. I was a teacher too, you know, for two whole years.

You want to fire me? Fine. I hope they send you the worst of the worst Leadership Academy principals. I hope she speaks in slogans no one understands. Mess with ME will you? You will regret this. Don't worry, I'll land on my feet. I'll just become principal of a charter school. They'll hire anyone and there are no stinking contracts so I can do whatever I want.

THEY won't fire me for smuggling an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny bag of heroin into a prison. And after I do a few years there, I'm coming BACK.

I'll get the LAST LAUGH, you worthless ungrateful wretches.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

In Which I Am Asked to Collaborate with David Cantor and the 74

Yesterday I got an email from Norm Scott, saying that David Cantor, former mouthpiece for the execrable former Chancellor Joel Klein, wanted him to comment on union dues. Norm declined, of course. Union dues are in the news, I suppose, because we're facing Janus and a "Right to Work" nation. I have a lot of issues with UFT leadership, but I don't remotely support that.

You see Cantor's new gig is working for the 74, the reformy website initiated by self-styled education expert Campbell Brown. Evidently Brown, who now works for Facebook, has turned over the reformy reins. I mean, someone has to spread the word about the perfidy of those of us who choose to spend our lives helping children, and I guess it's his turn.

I wondered who else Cantor would reach out to. I didn't have to wonder long.

Well, what can you say to that?

I mean, really, he talked to me. That's what he asked to do. What more could he want? I mean, I guess I could have told him some nonsense about dues. But honestly, here's what I think about union dues--they're like taxes. I'm paying my share.

Now if I didn't pay taxes, someone else would have to pay my share. In fact, that's kind of how America works. Rich people are so sensitive, if you touch them they'll probably break. That's why rich people pay so little in taxes. Cantor's old boss, Joel Klein, has doubtless raked in truckloads of cash working for Rupert Murdoch, and he needs do keep it. That's why we can't have universal health care. That's why we can't have a living wage. That's why college is unaffordable for so many of our students. Maybe Cantor has tons of cash too. Who knows? Reforminess tends to pay well, certainly better than teaching.

Anyway, because the rich people are so awfully sensitive, they need to siphon off funds from public schools, Thus they establish Moskowitz Academies where kids pee their pants rather than sacrifice one moment of test prep. (You know, because tests are way more important than basic biological functions.) Thus they establish cyber charters where maybe kids show and maybe they don't.

In any case, Cantor was not 100% satisfied with my answer:

Well, not everything can be enjoyable, I guess.

I mean jeez, talk about sleeping with the enemy. There's a court case called Janus designed to obliterate union and I've got reformies contacting me asking me to help them do it. My guess is he'll find some E4E type ready to demand more work for less pay. It's all about the children and that's why I'm willing to work 200 hours a week, be on call on my charter school cell phone until one AM, get up at four to go to PD, and get fired for no reason because I have no union.

Make no mistake, that's precisely the life the reformies have in mind for not only us, but our children as well.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Big Lie

It's the national pastime, you know. With Donald Trump as President, black is white, day is night, and up is down. No more waiting for Wacky Wednesday.

I once had a student hand me several unsolicited extra credit papers early in the term. One was about the delights of reading Shakespeare. Bear in mind that this was from an ESL class. I had been reading this girl's writing fairly consistently, and it wasn't hard for me to distinguish her writing from that of some hack on the internet. She absolutely expected me to give her credit. I declined.

Another student of mine wrote an A paper for an assistant principal who was teaching a class. I was in a department office when some students, who had the paper for some reason, showed it to me. I knew immediately it was 100% plagiarized. I took the paper, looked up the student's schedule, pulled her out of her class and told her if she had handed that to me, she'd have gotten an F.

"You're not gonna tell Ms. Grundy, " she said.

I told her no, but if I could recognize it others could too, and she wouldn't get away with it forever.

More recently a student gave me a medical note. This was a student I knew to cut class. The top of the paper had the name of a medical clinic, but no address or phone number. I also noticed that the signature was not live, but rather copied. If that weren't enough, I saw the student's handwriting in two places. It said __________________ was absent on ___________________. He had written his name in both places.

I told him I had a problem with these things and I was going to call the doctor. He said go ahead. So I looked up the number on my little computer, I called, and I found out that the clinic had no record of this student. I then brought him into the hall, where he explained that he had gone to that place, but just not on the day he was absent. This was also a lie, since the clinic had never heard of him.

I really don't understand this. The student could've just admitted that the note was false before I called. This would've saved me a lot of trouble. Now I'd have to write the thing up, call the parent, summon her to school and have a meeting. Had the student copped to what he'd done, I'd have marked him cutting and we'd be done with it.

Here's the thing--I am not terribly surprised that students cut class now and then. I was a teenager, and in retrospect I'm surprised I didn't cut more than I did. Actually most of my cuts were a result of classes being too early for me. Making that 8 AM health class was a challenge. How I passed it and graduated high school remains a mystery to me.

But if the teacher had asked me why I wasn't there, I'd have said I overslept. I wasn't proud of it or anything, but tt wasn't anything more than that. Why would I complicate the situation by lying about it? Why bother bringing in a phony note? And if I'd gotten caught, and the teacher had a phone in her hand, why would I tell her to go ahead and call? Could it be that the kid thought I was making an empty threat? Why would I do such a thing?

Evidently there is a school of thought that once you create a lie, you stick with it. If you get caught, you mitigate or adjust it so that it appears to be less of a lie, even if it isn't.

When I screw up, I just say I'm sorry and move on. I don't see the advantage of doing otherwise. I sometimes wonder whether I'm growing out of touch with our national culture. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

NYSUT, Where Officers Can Do Anything and Everything

Those wacky Revive NYSUT folks and their zany antics continue unabated. NYSUT used to have a Staff Director, whose duties included acting as a liaison between officers and staff. About a year ago, he retired. Rather than hire another one, Vice President Paul Pecorale took on his duties. This is interesting on multiple levels.

First of all, what is it that Paul Pecorale did every day before he was Staff Director? I mean, there you are making a quarter million dollars a year to do something. Whatever it is, though, you have time to do the entire job of another person. This indicates that at least one of these jobs didn't really merit a full salary. Which one? Both? Your guess is as good as mine. (I know Stronger Together proposed eliminating one officer job in the last election and ran for one fewer than Unity did.)

I'm just a lowly schoolteacher. With my job as chapter leader I get one period off teaching. With 300 members, it's not nearly enough to keep up. Fortunately I like being challenged, and I'm up for it. Nonetheless, for years now I've been offered a sixth class. Because ESL is a shortage area, I could make an extra 13K a year. Sure I'd like to make the money. But I can't figure out how I could keep up with what I already do with a sixth class. In fact, I have no idea how I keep up with what I do now.

Yet Paul Pecorale, earning over double my salary for a high profile job leading the state union, somehow has time to take on not just another class, but rather an entire other job. I always wonder what those people do. I didn't have to wonder what Lee Cutler did. He was endlessly running all over the state, making contact with teachers. He was much loved and came very close to putting a huge dent in the statewide Unity machine, largely controlled by the citywide Unity machine.

There were, of course, repercussions to the Revive NYSUT coup. For one, there's now a resistance group in the state union called Stronger Together. They were beaten back in the last election, but with shenanigans on high for all to see, they could do better. I had my issues with them when they didn't include MORE in their last campaign, but there are some real quality people in this resistance.

I know they are real quality because I've met them. Current President Andy Pallotta knows they're quality too. That's why he asked some of them to run with him in the 2014 coup before settling on the batch he eventually wound up with. The thing is, a lot of people Pallotta asked had loyalty to Lee Cutler and Dick Iannuzzi. Having spent time with both it's not hard to see why.

Let's drop personalities and take a look at what the Staff Director does. I don't know everything this person does, but one role my sources offered is as a liaison between staff and officers. This could be important. For example, if a staff member has an issue with the officers, that member doesn't have to face them directly. In that way, staff director is s a little like my job. A lot of chapter members, right or wrong, don't want to speak to the principal so they address him through me. Whatever the principal is good, bad or indifferent, he's the boss. A lot of people, being smarter than I am, wish to avoid being adversarial. That's one reason why, in city schools, we have chapter leaders.

Now imagine that the principal fired the chapter leader and appointed himself chapter leader. Whenever you have an issue with the principal, you can go talk to the principal. He will then relay your concerns to the principal, who will work something out with himself and issue a decision.

Hardly seems worth it, actually.

What this means, essentially, is that NYSUT staff have lost something of value. When you have an issue with the boss, it's always easier if you have a representative. That's one of the benefits of union.

Curiously, NYSUT seems to feel their employees don't merit this benefit. Ironic, ain't it?

Monday, October 09, 2017

Put a Letter in My Box

That was the advice I got from a former chapter leader. What do you do when you get advice like that? Me, I'd write a letter and put it in his box. I can't remember whether or not there was any follow up.

I do recall, though, that the main advice I got from the guy who I replaced was to say that to everyone and everything. "80% of them won't do it," he confided. I also recall the first time, as chapter leader, I had a UFT rep visit our school. She shared these very same words of wisdom with me. I'm thinking they likely came from on high.

When I became chapter leader I made it a point to get every email address I could. I opened a new gmail account and sorted the addresses by department so I could mail to one group at a time. I get email all the time and I answer it instantly. It comes to my phone and buzzes my watch. I figure it's my job to either respond to member queries, or find someone who can, but what do I know?

At UFT Executive Board they never tell me to put a letter in their box. (I don't even know whether or not they have boxes, and if they did their locations would probably be top secret.) I stand up and ask questions at virtually every meeting. At the last two, the response was some variation or other of, "We'll get back to you." When I cited Class Size Matters research on overcrowding, Howie Schoor questioned their assertion, based on DOE figures, that half of our students were in overcrowded conditions. He then said he'd get back to us. I've now had two reps from Class Size Matters offer to explain their research to the board. I told Howie the good news, but he hasn't seen fit to respond.

It's pretty clear to me that put a letter in my box is code for, "I'd rather not be bothered." I see increasing evidence this is unofficial leadership policy. It's telling that UFT's website offers no clue that members are free to address the Executive Board. It's only because the high school reps invite and enable people visiting that they've heard from so many abused teachers this year. I have no doubt the majority would rather approve the minutes, tell one another what a great job they're doing, eat the crappy sandwiches and go home twenty minutes later.

As for immediate action, I get mixed messages from UFT leadership On the one hand, I hear that we need to organize pre-Janus. The Constitutional Convention seems an ideal opportunity to foster that. I've got 300 members in my school. Thus far, after many meetings, I've amassed just six or seven buttons and two bumper magnets. I wore the button and every time someone asked about it I gave it away. I now have none. I got one bumper magnet at the citywide chapter leader meeting, and it's on my car. (The only reason it's still there is because I tend to park my car outside the building, so no one asks me about it.) My district rep. gave me one more, and I gave it away within minutes. I'm amazed that they've failed to utilize such a simple, consciousness-raising organizing tool effectively.

In fact, last week I stayed after the Queens chapter leader meeting for a con-con meeting. I already know about con-con. In fact, I recruited a whole lot of people to COPE, for the first time ever, so as to fight it. I went there specifically to collect swag I could distribute to members. Instead, I endured 30 minutes of a two-hour lecture, learned there were no more bumper magnets, and mercifully left before I had to hear the other 90.

As for organizing post-Janus, I'm just not sure. For me it's a moral imperative to pay union dues. But my most dreaded task as chapter leader is collecting $15 a head, per year, for our Sunshine Fund. Some people tell me the UFT didn't get them LIFO, the day came out of their bank, and therefore they aren't giving the union any more money. I tell them this money goes to a luncheon and gifts for members but they don't care. Some people tell me they have phone and electric bills. Some say they don't feel well-served by UFT but won't say why. I'm not confident they'll instantly agree if I ask they send $1200 a year to 52 Broadway.

A few weeks ago at Executive Board, some genius or other in leadership decided it would be a good idea to abridge our right to bring resolutions. It was odd because we weren't all that focused on resolutions. We had just come from a very positive meeting with HS VP Janella Hinds and were looking to work together. We walk out, go down to the meeting, and they essentially inform us we can go screw ourselves.

Here are a few things to ponder:

1. Technically, membership should guide the Delegate Assembly. The DA, theoretically, is the highest-ranking body in the UFT.  Executive Board should support th DA, and AdCom should support the Executive Board. In reality, AdCom makes most of the decisions for UFT and are never voted down by Executive Board or DA. 20,000 high school teachers have no democratically elected representation on AdCom.

2. NYSUT is the NY State teacher union.20,000 high school teachers have no democratically elected representation on NYSUT.

3. AFT is the national teacher union. 20,000 high school teachers have no democratically elected representation on AFT.

4. A whole lot of chapter leaders join the Unity Caucus. They all sign loyalty oaths and do as they're told. Many are motivated by patronage rather than activism. To be successful post-Janus, UFT needs to emphasize the latter over the former. Leadership is spectacularly unprepared to do that.

5. None of the high school reps have UFT jobs. We are activists, each and every one, doing the work regardless of what leadership does for us (or to us). Leadership seems to feel that spitting in our faces is somehow productive. Thus they demand advance notice of resolutions, even though we all teach full-time, come from all over the city and have very limited time to meet.

I've actually been trying to work with UFT leadership on multiple levels. I didn't attend the meeting with Janella just to pass the time. I have 500 other things I could be doing. I can't speak for the other high school EB members, but that anti-resolution resolution dialed my good will back by a good two years.

And hey, for every action there's a reaction. Unity doesn't consider things like that, and that's why we're facing, for example, Janus.

This was one of the stupidest moves I've ever seen, and stupid is not what's going to save the United Federation of Teachers. You want real activists to help and support you, UFT leadership? You might try treating us with a modicum of respect.

Otherwise, put a letter in my box.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

A Dog of a Situation

A few months ago, my daughter moved out of the house and took our dog Julio with her. There was not a whole lot I could do about it. She wanted a dog for years, and one birthday we relented and got one. I hadn't had a dog since I was a kid. I was very surprised about how quickly and thoroughly I bonded with him. I never knew how much I missed having a dog until we got one.

I spend a lot of time writing at home. That's what I'm doing right now, as a matter of fact. It's not spectacularly fun to hang out with someone who's writing, but Julio sat by my side every moment. Sometimes he would look at me imploringly with those big brown eyes, and that meant it was time to go out. I would stop whatever I was doing and oblige.

Julio spent a lot of his time on top of a love seat, zealously guarding our home. Whenever a squirrel ran by, he'd dutifully report. I'd ask him what it was, and he'd look at me just like in the picture above. I'd walk to the window and check it out. He was usually gratified that I did so, and calmed down. The only thing that really bothered him was big dogs. For reasons I can't fathom, big dogs required intense barking that didn't stop until they were a block away. I'm sure his bark was worse than his bite, because he never bit anyone.

I waited a few months before contemplating getting another dog. After all, you never know when a kid will turn around and come home. I took Julio's loss pretty hard and didn't want to go through it again anytime soon, so I decided to try to get a younger dog or a puppy. But I wasn't going to just go to a store like my daughter did.

Right after we got Julio, a friend of mine asked why I didn't go to a rescue. There are all these dogs wanting for homes, and I just went where my daughter found the dog, took out a credit card, and brought him home. I told her I had no idea about rescues, and that Julio needed us just as much as those rescue dogs did. But I also promised her that the next time I sought a dog I'd try to get a rescue.

Julio is a morkie, half Maltese and half Yorkie. Neither of these breeds sheds much, if at all, so they're considered hypoallergenic. My daughter has bad reactions to cats and some dogs, but she's fine with Julio. So we need another dog with that quality. In addition to Yorkies and Maltese, Schnauzers, Havanese, and Poodles have this quality. We want our daughter to be able to visit us without having an allergy attack.

The first place I looked was at a shelter five minutes from my house. There's a puppy we liked there, and I applied. I had to give references. They also wanted to do a home inspection. I told them fine, filled out a long application, and left. They said they would call the next day. I made a donation to them on line. Several weeks later, they haven't called us, and they haven't called our references.

A Facebook friend told me to use Petfinder. About a week after not hearing from the local rescue, I did. I've applied to four or five places. The last application I filled out was eight pages long. Yes we have an enclosed yard with a six foot fence. Yes our dog was neutered. No we won't leave the dog alone for long periods of time. No we won't leave the dog chained up outside. Yes you can come and do a surprise inspection. No we've never surrendered a dog before. No I can't think of a reason we'd surrender a dog. Yes we'll bring the dog back to you if we ever do that. No we've never had a dog hit by a car. Yes you can call our vet. What if I drop dead tomorrow? The dog goes to my wife and then my daughter.

So far, only one of the places has called our references. As it happens, it's the only place that hasn't got a dog we're interested in. I've got a line on a dog we like but this place doesn't have an online application. I printed it out and completed it, but thus far I have no idea where to bring it. Yes I've asked, and yes I will follow up. This place has actually gone to the trouble of contacting me via email, and that's more than any other place has done.

I worked for years as a musician. I can't remember the last time I did an audition, but I remember I hated them and they were not often productive. Very early we decided to make recordings so as to avoid them. You don't like the recording? Then you won't like us either and no we're not playing for free so you can make sure.  I feel like I've spent the last month in a perpetual audition.

I've read about puppy mills and I'm not going to the puppy store five minutes from my house, even though it would be very easy. I've also read about breeders who raise dogs in their homes and I've located one upstate New York that raises Yorkies. There seem to be a lot of them in Pennsylvania. I've traveled to Pennsylvania to play gigs that barely covered my expenses. I'd certainly go there to get a dog.

I'll keep trying the rescue route, but I won't wait forever. I kind of feel like bringing animals into your home and caring for them is a win-win. I won't patronize a puppy mill, but I can certainly understand why other people are driven to do so. It seems to me that some rescues, by blatantly ignoring those who reach out to them, have to be driving a whole lot of pet enthusiasts over to Puppy Palace. That's exactly what they're in business to avoid.

Friday, October 06, 2017

To PD or Not to PD?

These days a whole lot of teachers need a whole lot of special PD credit. It's called CTLE credit. Not everyone needs it. If I'm not mistaken, you don't need it for your initial certificate. Also if you're an antique like me with a permanent license you don't need it either.

But if you're in the great middle, you need those credits. You need 100 of them over five years. Now here's the thing--the DOE doesn't necessarily offer it. Technically, they are a vendor now, after a year of not being one. But they can't necessarily keep records. Having visited them many times, I wouldn't trust them to remember anything.  They also can't just get up and give classes without approval. They haven't bothered with the whole due diligence thing. You know, that's for teachers.

So when your principal gets up and says lateness is bad, that kids shouldn't be late, that you should tell them not to be late, and that the whole being late thing is just not okay, and when he explains that for ninety minutes, it doesn't mean you're gonna get the CTLE credit for it. You'll have to go out and get some yourself. You might even have to pay for it.

In fact, our principal sent out a list of CTLE courses during school hours. When I asked whether he was planning to release teachers to take these courses, he said, and I quote, "Yes." I was happily surprised. (Maybe this could start a trend.)

Now one of the super-wonderful things about the last contract, according to leadership, was that teachers would now have a voice in PD. There would be teacher-led PD, and it would no longer be a long lecture on exactly why students shouldn't be late. That sounds good, but it's not necessarily practical. In my school, for example, our PD committee offered teachers ten per-session hours to prepare PD. While I think that was a very fair offer, not many teachers responded.

But let's say they did. If that were to happen, a whole lot of teachers would sit through a PD that might not work for them. They would be frustrated. What am I doing here when I'm not getting the credit I need to keep my license? Do you want to get up in front of a crowd like that and tell them about the new program you're using in your class? Maybe they'll be polite. Maybe they won't. But that's what you call a tough crowd.

I was trained last summer, by UFT, to give CTLE hours in ESL. I did this because I thought that I'd be helping people who need them. But guess what? People who don't need CTLE hours are not necessarily thrilled by it. I got to hear all about that when I offered PD to my staff. A lot of people just don't want to do PD at all.

Now you could argue that, hey, PD is necessary because we need to learn constantly. We need to improve constantly. Nonetheless, I've been doing this for three decades, and I'd estimate, very conservatively, that 95% of it has been a waste of time. So I absolutely understand cynicism. Calling it CTLE doesn't necessarily make it worthwhile.

I spoke with a young teacher a few weeks ago who said that his school had particular needs, and that PD would be very helpful. He thought it was a way for teachers to support one another. That makes sense to me. In fact, it makes more sense than hitting people with sledge hammers and saying, "You will take this PD." The problem is there are a whole lot of sledge hammers out there. Some are CTLE and some aren't.

Finding really valuable PD is tough. What I need might not be what you need. The whole CTLE thing is kind of a buzzkill. It was difficult to begin with. But to tell people you need this particular sort of PD, to mandate it, and then not offer it, borders on insane. So very new teachers don't require PD at all, but may be in dire need of it. Teachers with newer certificates have dire need of CTLE credit but are unlikely to get it at work. The last group, people like me, may need something but don't require it at all.

Go ahead and try to persuade me that PD is valuable. My experience tells me it isn't. Placing the title CTLE on it won't change my mind. Actually I'd love to see valuable PD that addressed my concerns. Oddly, most of the things I worry about are outside of the classroom. The classroom itself is one of the most peaceful areas I know of. That's not to say my classroom isn't crazy, and that's not to say the craziness in my classroom isn't my fault. Nonetheless, it's one of my favorite places ever.

Outside of the classroom I spend an awful lot of time reading about problems I don't have, problems that don't exist, and what an awful person I am for taking money for my work. I hear about some of those things at PD. Sometimes I hear utter nonsense. Frequently, in fact.

I went this summer so I could help people. I don't want my members losing their licenses. If I can give them a few hours, I will. Now I can't just say what I say here and get them credit. And some of them might be bored out of their gourds. I'm practical, though. If I can help them get hours they need, I absolutely will.

Of course, the UFT idea of teacher-generated PD is smarter and better. But it's a hard sell when you lose your job without the CTLE. This is kind of a rock/ hard place situation.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

New and Improved--Now With Only Sixteen Dead (So Far)

Donald Trump went to Puerto Rico, a state that's been thoroughly devastated by a natural disaster, and spoke about how great things were. You've only had sixteen deaths (so far). Fantastic! After Katrina there were over a thousand! So what if your homes are ruined? So what if you have no electricity and no water? Look on the bright side! We're doing a fantastic job!

Trump always thinks he's doing a fantastic job. Our health care program is great! Tens of millions of Americans will be without health care, but it will be available to them. All they have to do is pay a little more. For ten or twenty thousand dollars a month, everyone will have health care. And really, what's that? I mean, I go golfing every weekend at one of my private clubs, and the government pays way more than that. So what's the big whoop?

Trump is always on top of problems. If there's terrorism, let's stop Muslims from coming into the country until we know what the hell is going on. His supporters cheer. But let's base the ban on national origin rather than religion, so we don't piss off our good friends in Saudi Arabia. Of course, when some white guy takes a machine gun and randomly murders people in a crowd, or when a whole lot of mass killings are actually done by white guys, we don't ban white guys from the country until we know what the hell is going on.

Of course anyone who's been watching Trump knows he lacks the sensitivity you'd generally find in a number two pencil. I try not to watch him too much because my stomach's getting progressively weaker these days. But there he is, tossing paper towels to the crowd. Maybe next he'll go to Las Vegas and toss band aids or something. Whatever he does, he'll still be who he is, and that alone is unconscionable on multiple levels.

Sometimes I'm at meetings and some administrator will say that 98% of the teachers in our school got ratings of effective or better. My mind immediately goes to those that didn't. I know they're hearing the same thing I am, and I can only imagine how they feel. Often I need not imagine and I hear about it first hand. How would you feel sitting there and hearing you're an aberration, part of the bottom two per cent?

What if you're rated ineffective? What if it happens twice and you now have to go to some arbitrator to prove you are not incompetent? What if you're required to do this based on a system you find incomprehensible? What if you're required to do this based on a system that virtually everyone finds incomprehensible? That's a tough mountain to climb. What if it's not you, but the system that's ineffective?

For the first two years of this system, I was rated effective. My supervisor rated me highly effective, but the test scores pulled me down. I regard the scores as nonsense, so I was pretty angry at first. Then I saw teachers rated ineffective who were pulled up to developing and I felt a little better about it. My loss was their gain, and the only difference between HE and E was the chance to get one fewer observation.

This year, because of the matrix, I got similar results and was rated HE. It doesn't make me feel like I'm a better teacher. It makes me feel like this particular system works marginally better for me, and also for a lot of teachers in my building. I will grant that the matrix is likely an improvement, and that ineffective-rated teachers may come up in schools like mine. Of course, if you're in a school that gets low test scores and you also have a crazy supervisor, that's gonna be a problem.

So when UFT announces how few teachers got negative ratings, I'm not ready to jump up and do the happy dance. Unfortunately, I know exactly how those people feel. It's bad when admin releases favorable numbers like that and you aren't among them. It could be worse when you get those numbers from the union. Are those teachers really ineffective? Who knows? This particular system certainly fails to conclusively establish anything. Will people be fired as a result of two consecutive ineffective ratings? They certainly will.

Will the reformies look at the low numbers of ineffective teachers under this system and say the reforms need to be even reformier?

Bet on it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

In 2017

I was at a meeting the other day where an administrator told me, “In 2017, we don’t do things like that.” The particulars of that discussion aren't  important. The fact is a lot of things have changed. I’m not the same teacher I was 20 years ago. I’m sensitive to what goes on around me and I evolve as necessary. I love using computers, for example, and ever since I was kicked out of the trailers I’ve been able to use them in my classroom.

Here’s the thing—I walked out of the meeting about what 2017 was like and directly into a classroom that was diabolical. The AC, which was fixed the previous day, no longer worked. I’m in the middle of a project. I’m working up to taking my classes to see Wicked on Broadway, courtesy of TDF. I therefore have to show my kids The Wizard of Oz and at least try to make them understand it. Try making anyone understand anything in a hundred degree humid room.

You’d think in 2017 you’d have air conditioning. I mean, how does anyone muster the audacity to lecture teachers on the way children should be treated and then dump them into hellish environments? If some kid got offended because I told him to sit down without the requisite happy smile and I therefore get a letter in my file, why don’t the assistant principal, the principal, the chancellor and the mayor get them when kids have to sit through lessons in rooms unfit for man or beast? And as if that isn’t enough, they challenge and lecture the girl who comes in a halter top with cutoffs split up to her belt loops. Given climate conditions, she’s the smartest person in the room. Instead of sending her home, they should make her valedictorian.

In 2017 we should know that teacher voice is a thing. It’s got various meanings and implications, but to me, teacher voice is how you choose to approach your job. It’s entirely possible that you do that in a completely different manner than I do. But that doesn’t suggest either of us is better or worse. Yet in 2017 we have a checklist. Teacher did or didn’t do this, that or the other thing. Therefore teacher is highly effective or teacher sucks. I’m sorry, but a competent administrator could write up a lesson and explain what is good and what could be improved, and do it without a cookie-cutter checklist. A competent administrator used to be a teacher, and has his or her own teacher voice. Maybe that voice could help other teachers.

Here’s the thing, though—In 2017, and you might want to sit down before you hear this, but in 2017 not all supervisors are competent. Some are small-minded and power obsessed. Some think they are smarter than they actually are. Some think there’s only one way to do things and can’t conceive that things could be done any other way. You have to use the green card and the red card to see if students understand. If you don’t, you suck and I’ll rate you ineffective. I knew a supervisor who thought that. Maybe, if administrators aren't capable of broader thinking, they should should be working at Burger King, where the mission is more clear-cut.

In fact, I knew a supervisor who had a member so on edge that every time he saw him, he had an a-fib episode. The following year, another member in the same department had a heart attack in the hall. That, of course, didn’t stop the supervisor from walking in her classroom on a half day when only eight students were in attendance, and giving her an awful writeup. The year after that he topped himself once again when a member he threatened to rate ineffective went home and died prematurely.

In the UF of T in 2017, there are seven elected members of the High School Executive Board. We are all from the opposition caucus. The Vice President is from the dominant caucus because in 2017 high school teachers are not allowed to select their own VP. And at the last Executive Board meeting, they changed the rules so that we have to place any resolutions on the tables 30 minutes before the meeting. That’s problematic because it’s anti-democratic. But there are other issues here.

In 2017, I’d be surprised if even a single Unity Executive Board member did not hold some paid position at UFT. At the very least they’re all delegates, voting at conventions where, in 2017, high school teachers have no democratically elected representation whatsoever. It’s a little different for us. In 2017, I travel from my non-air-conditioned classroom in Queens to 52 Broadway, and my fellow members come in from boroughs across the city.

Unlike the union leaders, we don’t have secretaries to run off copies. We don’t have people to run to the room and hand out stuff. As a matter of fact, in 2017, I’m not even sure whether we’re allowed to go up and enter the room thirty minutes before the meeting starts. Unity now says if we submit in advance, they'll print things up for us and distribute them. Here's the thing--given they outnumber us, and given they have voted everything we've presented down with the exception of one (which they cut to the bone), they're effectively asking that we give them advance notice of everything we do. In an already rigged system, that's an unfair advantage they neither need nor merit.

Regarding advance notice, they do nothing of the sort for us. They have the numbers to pass whatever, and our input is neither sought nor welcome. In fact we support virtually all they present, because we are not contrary for the sake of being so. They sprang the anti-democratic resolution on us without warning. Maybe they thought, given the time constraints, that like them, we wouldn't be able to respond. They were wrong.

It's easy to give a sincere response. It's harder to rationalize doing the wrong thing. If Unity can't think of appropriate ways to respond to resolutions that unequivocally support teachers and students, resolutions about class size and abusive administrators, in 2017, time is not the issue.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

I Don't Give a @$%&.

One day, Mr. Blister, a soon to retire member, and I were sitting at a table together. He told me, "Miss Treecrab gave me an observation. It's pretty bad. Fortunately I don't give a @$%&."

"I'm happy to hear that," I told him.

"I knew it was gonna be terrible," he said. "She came in at 9:25 and just kept shaking her head. She walked out at 9:38. She was still shaking her head. I knew it would be awful."

"Are you sure about the time?" I asked him.

"Yes," he said. "I looked at my watch."

"Then the observation is invalid," I told him. "She needs to stay at least fifteen minutes. Let's file a grievance."

"I would," he said. "It's just that I don't give a @$%&."

"Yes, but I do. Let's file a grievance."

"Okay," he said. "I'll do it as a personal favor to you. But I still don't give a @$%&."

"Thank you," I said. We filed a grievance and won. The observation was tossed.

I thought about that when I was counseling another member. He was very upset. I told him the story.

"Try to channel Mr. Blister," I told him.


"No, you're not getting it," I said. "Take a deep breath. Good. Now try it again."


"No. You need to channel Mr. Blister. Think about this," I said. "What's the opposite of love?"


"The opposite of love is not hate. It's indifference. Mr. Blister really didn't give a @$%& about that observation report. He would've been fine if they wrote 200 more. That's the approach you have to take."

I started making peaceful, calming gestures. After a while he got it.

"I don't give a @$%&," he said, finally with calm.

I hope he can keep that up. I probably wouldn't give that advice to a new teacher. But when you have enough years in, and you have Boy Wonder for a supervisor, it could be the best way to go.