Monday, November 20, 2017

The Audacity of Eva

I'm sitting in my packed-to-the-gills high school right now, with 4700 students attending school in a building designed for about half that. We have rooms that are converted closets, rooms in which there are portable AC units that are so loud you an barely teach when they're on. A whole lot of teachers turn them off rather than utilize them.

Meanwhile, Eva Moskowitz, funded by hedge fund zillionaires, is crying that the city is discriminating against her students. Naturally I'm broken hearted that her private hot line to the chancellor no longer operates as previously, but that is chutzpah. For those unfamiliar with this term, it's when you murder your parents and plead mercy in court because you're an orphan.

In fact, Bill de Blasio ran on a platfrom opposing charters and supporting public schools. He's been elected overwhelmingly not once, but twice. While I don't support mayoral control, it's been doled out to him in dribs and drabs rather than for years at a time as it was to Bloomberg. That's specifically because he doesn't give charters a blank check, and it saddens me when he makes concessions to Moskowitz Academies so as to retain it.

Eva's just off of winning the right to not sign any stinking agreements when opening pre-Ks. That's nothing. In 2014 she got Governor Cuomo to pass a law saying that NYC had to provide rent to the likes of Eva when he denied her schools. That's not only outrageous, but also against the will of NYC voters.

I teach ELLs. I teach them when they've just arrived here. How many newcomers does Eva serve? I'd wager none. You can't just take a newcomer and set him up in a test prep factory. You have to teach him English first. In my building, we serve a whole lot of alternate assessment kids who will never graduate. They will never take the tests Eva has kids peeing their pants over. We sent them to local businesses and they are trained for work they can actually do. How many of those kids does Eva take?

We take everyone, and in exchange are packed to double capacity. We serve all children. If the city is discriminating against Eva, they're most certainly discriminating against us. My kids need and deserve more space. They need and deserve every advantage denied them by selective institutions like the Moskowitz Academies. Real public schools, the ones who follow rules, the ones who follow chancellor's regulations, the ones run by elected officials deserve first attention.

I say put Eva last in line.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Walking Around With a Gun to Your Head

That's how I'd feel if I were working in one of the so-called renewal schools. You have to graduate this many more students by such and such a date. Failure is not an option. Okay, it is an option, but if you exercise it, it's not because the students are impoverished. It's not because they lack homes. It's not because they haven't got health care or food. It's not because they have special needs. It's not because they don't actually speak English. It's not because of the lack of vision of the DOE, which is ready and willing to dump the entire staff.

After all, that proves they are willing to step up. It isn't like they are unwilling to blame the people who go to work every day in these beleaguered institutions. No, they stand right up and say, "You all suck and we aren't afraid to admit it." Then they close the schools and make everyone reapply for their jobs before they sit their asses right back in ergonomic chairs in their air-conditioned offices. Doubtless they discuss their boldness in dealing with the issues at gala luncheons all over the city.

No, the only reason that the school could possibly have a low graduation rate is because, as the mayor and chancellor boldly proclaim, that the UFT members all suck. And again, the DOE, right up to the tippety top are not afraid to stand up and say, "This situation is because you all suck." Otherwise, why would the remedy be having them all reapply for their jobs? That's the underlying logic behind this. Certainly none of the factors I mentioned are addressed in the reshuffling of staff. The only genuine mitigating factor I see in this preposterous exercise is that UFT members have the option of not reapplying, and stepping off of the blame game train.

I applaud this bold approach. It's fantastic that the city is unafraid to step up and blame someone else for everything that goes wrong. There's nothing more American than standing up and declaring, "This is your fault." I have to say, though, that it kind of clashes with the vision Mayor de Blasio laid out when he first ran. I remember the tale of two cities, one inhabited by wealthy demagogues like Michael Bloomberg, and another for, you know, regular people struggling to get by.

This was evident nowhere more than in the wholesale closure of public schools undertaken by the Bloomberg administration. Every high school in the Bronx was terrible, evidently, and needed to be renamed and restaffed. The issue was not that test scores predicted nothing but zip code, even though they did. No, the only reason that a Bronx high school didn't perform as well as Great Neck was not affluence or lack thereof. It was that the teachers sucked and all needed to be made ATRs.

Interestingly, one of the schools in the article is called Automotive High School. I wonder whether they still teach about autos in that school. They used to teach about them in my school, and in the last school I was in. They don't anymore. You see, the goal of high school is to place every student without exception into college. That's because there is no value in trades that don't require college. There's no value in auto repair, or plumbing, or construction, or being an electrician.

The fact that we offer none of our students preparation for trades that don't require higher education is another non-factor in why students don't graduate. It doesn't matter that a whole lot of people in these trades make excellent livings, and it doesn't matter that people attracted to such professions may not excel in the classes the geniuses in Albany have decided everyone has to take.

No, the mayor, the chancellor, and every single apparatchik at the DOE has determined that the only factor that needs addressing is the relative suckiness of UFT members. By shuffling us around like cogs, they will solve each and every outside factor without addressing a single one. Clearly I lack this overarching vision.

That's why I'll never make it as a DOE administrator.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The UFT Committee of 300

Someone told me yesterday that, as a member of the Executive Board, I am automatically on the Committee of 300, tasked with the negotiation of the UFT Contract. I'm torn between being honored, confused, or confounded.

It's nice to earn a place in such an important decision-making body. But then, I've been observing UFT leadership for around 12 years, and democracy is not their particular strong suit. It's great that they include opposition voices in something as fundamental as contract negotiations, but will they really listen? Do they even have to?

On the Executive Board I watch them vote in lockstep. The voice comes from on high, or more accurately from one of the microphones, and they instantly oppose dumping the evaluation system. It doesn't matter if they all supported dumping it at NYSUT. They instantly oppose reducing the minimum number of observations to 2, as per state law. They instantly oppose placing teeth in the class size regulations. After all, there's a committee, so all these violations must not even be happening.

It's nice to form committees, but it's no substitute for, you know, doing stuff. I'm not personally persuaded that the 300-member committee makes the decisions. Let's say, for example, that 200 of the 300 members are from Unity, and have all signed loyalty oaths. What are the chances the other 100 of us could persuade them? Let's say there are 250 of them and 50 of us. Let's give a more accurate estimate of 290 to 10. How do you think the vote's gonna go?

Let's say I'm on that committee with my fellow high school Exec. Board members, and leadership proposes More Work for Less Pay. The upside is we will win public support. People are sick of seeing prosperous schoolteachers riding around in their 89 Hondas, and once they see us working extra time for less money they will rally to our cause. Here's the thing--the media hates us and everything we stand for. They'll call it a cynical publicity stunt. Best case scenario--the Post will praise it for a week, then go back to vilifying us. That's what happened in 05.

And we'll argue precedent. But what difference will that make? The call will go out to support the More Work for Less Pay contract. If we don't sign it we'll have to get behind 160 other unions and wait. The cupboard is bare. There is no God-given right to More Work for Less Pay. If we don't accept this it could be terrible.

Meanwhile, we're sitting on the committee. We aren't allowed to reveal that we're discussing More Work for Less Pay. Then, when it comes out, they say, "We discussed this with the Committee of 300. We voted on it. The Committee contained members of the opposition and overwhelmingly favored More Work for Less Pay. After all, it's the best we could do. The mayor demanded even More Work for even Less Pay, but we stood firm. That's the kind of guys we turned out to be."

I'm not sure about the whole Committee thing. If I can't reveal what happened, and if I could be characterized as having supported the More Work for Less Pay Contract, it seems kind of pointless.  On the other hand, turning it down would be rejecting a chance to vote. I tend to vote every chance I get.

What would you do if you were me?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Class Size Conundrum

Last year I brought a class size resolution to the UFT Executive Board. Of course they voted it down, because it's overkill. Of course the contract says there are 34 students per high school class, and 50 years ago they gave up something or other to have it enshrined in writing. That ought to be good enough for anyone.

The only issue, as far as I can see, is that the DOE has no respect whatsoever for the contract. There are oversized classes all over the city. UFT leadership seems not to perceive that as a flaw. After all, it says, right there in black and white, that we have limits. So what's the big deal?

Of course, there are exceptions. If you teach PE or music, you could have up to 50. And if you work in a school like mine you might have not five, but ten classes. You see, the geniuses in Albany have decreed that it's OK to give PE every other day. So there you are, with 500 students, and some AP demanding you differentiate instruction even though it's largely impossible for a standard human to even learn the students' names.

That's OK, isn't it? No? Well, it isn't really fair of me to imply that leadership is doing nothing about it. When I complained about it, they pointed out that they had started a committee, with the DOE, where they, you know, talk about stuff. And they made it a point to let me know that my school, which has been in violation of class size rules forever, was one of the schools they talk about.

What exactly they say I don't know. After all, I'm just a lowly chapter leader and member of the Executive Board representing city high schools. Why would they include me in discussions involving my high school? They're talking about it with someone, somewhere, and that should be good enough for me. But it isn't. Last year I placed an article in the Daily News about how some genius arbitrator had decided that relieving teachers of their C6 assignment one day a week was sufficient to compensate for class size issues.

Of course, now that there was a UFT committee sitting around talking about something, somewhere, with someone, everything would be completely different. In fact, for the second half of last year, the "action plan" entailed placing a licensed teacher in each oversized class to help the teacher and students out. This was not perfect, but made a lot of sense to me.

However, last month I went back, and what do you think the learned arbitrator suggested? He suggested that any teacher in our school with an oversized class would be relieved from the C6 assignment one day a week. That's absurd. Oversized classes are very tough to deal with. In fact, 34 is already the highest class size in the state. Going beyond that is unconscionable. We're moving backward rather than forward, and there are no viable consequences for violating the contract.

It's nice that a bunch of people from UFT and DOE are sitting around somewhere drinking coffee. But from the perspective of a chapter leader and class size advocate, it's clear to me that the committee has had no effect whatsoever on class size issues.

It's kind of remarkable that a city that claims to place children first, always, thinks that providing children with less tutoring will somehow make up for their utter disrespect for one thing we know to be effective--reasonable class sizes.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

UFT Executive Board Takeaway November 6th

The last Executive Board meeting went by pretty quickly. Since we didn't have a resolution for Unity to vilify and vote down, we ended relatively early. There are just a few things of note.

One was Norm Scott's improvised speech, largely suggesting that nothing has changed in 15 years vis a vis abusive administrators. I'd agree with that. It's problematic that week after week teachers come to explain how they're being reassigned and harassed. The only time that the Unity faithful acknowledge these things is when they show up.

They say we've visited this or that school a hundred times. The problem is that the teachers are still standing there telling the same old tales. When we try to pass resolutions to at least publicize these things, we're told they're too extreme. After all, CSA is a union, so we're all union. This notwithstanding, it's hard to rationalize staying silent while our people are being abused.

I've been asking questions every week but the last one, and getting no answers whatsoever. Clearly, though they know better than we do about everything, they still don't know everything. Howard Schoor, however, took a stab at answering my question from two weeks ago. Here it is:

Arthur Goldstein—MORE—In our last meeting, you repeatedly cited a figure of 3,000 teachers receiving U ratings. We would like to know exactly what year that was. We would also like to know how many of those teachers were tenured, and how many were dismissed. Finally, we would like to know exactly how many of these teachers had the burden of proof on them during 3020a.  I’d also like to point out that so far, none of my questions have received an answer. Thank you.

Schoor—We’re not entitled to that info. Check Chalkbeat.
 

I have to say I was astonished at this answer.  Check Chalkbeat. As a matter of fact, I did, and I didn't find that information. Schoor, a week after this preposterous suggestion, had this to say:

Schoor—(in response to part of my question last week as to which year there were 3,000 U-ratings, among other things) offers these figures 2010—11 2017 U ratings   2011-12—2006   2005-6—981 ratings.

In fairness, I have to say he answered my question about when there were 3,000 U ratings. Evidently it was never. As for how many were tenured, and how many were dismissed, I guess we're back to checking Chalkbeat. In any case, he's not talking. As for how many had the burden of proof on them at 3020a, that would be zero. That's a new feature of this evaluation system. You try getting up in front of some arbitrator and proving you are not incompetent.

If we don't know the consequences of the U ratings, we can't simply say there were fewer ineffective ratings and thus determine the new system is better. As a matter of fact, the comparison between U and I ratings is incomplete. After all, we now have the "Developing" rating. While this is not necessarily going to get you fired (though it can), it's certainly demoralizing to have an improvement plan imposed. I know teachers who got rated developing solely due to test scores, you know, the things that make the new system so groovy and cool.

It's a little disturbing that you need only scratch the surface to see the tenuous nature of leadership's claims. How do you round off 2017 to 3000? How do you ignore the consequences of the ratings? How do you expect no one to question your claims? I guess it's easy, if only everyone has signed a loyalty oath

The message of leadership is pretty clear. Everything is wonderful all the time, we know best, and we never, ever make a mistake. For example, the reports from districts seem to include only the wonderful events hosted around the city. Abysmal situations like those at Tottenville or CPE 1 would be wholly ignored if we weren't there, dragging people up to tell the world what's going on.

But, given Janus, it's not a good time to question leadership. Before that, given Cuomo, it wasn't a good time. Given Bloomberg, it wasn't a good time. Given Giuliani, it wasn't a good time. Actually it's never a good time. It's particularly egregious because they clearly haven't got answers, and as far as I can determine, never have.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Blogger's Day Off...

...but please check out my piece on how NY State is destroying ESL instruction live now at Gotham Gazette.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Questions for UFT Doorknockers

I understand there's a door-knocking campaign to encourage union membership. I believe in union, I will absolutely pay dues no matter what, but there are things I'm not sure about. This is one of the reasons why I'm not an active doorknocker. The other is that I'm altogether busy and haven't even got the time to do the things I already do. How I find time to write this blog, for example, I have no idea.

Question one is why high school teachers are not allowed to elect their own Vice President. We have different jobs and different needs than elementary teachers, nurses, paraprofessionals and everyone else in the union. You'd think that would allow us to select our own leader, but it's not. After Michael Shulman had the audacity to defeat them, once, thirty years ago, the changed the rules. I'd argue they rigged the election so that they couldn't lose. I've made that argument on this page many times, and I've never heard even a whiff of defense. Therefore we 20,000 NYC high school teachers have zero representation on AdCom, which makes decisions that are automatically voted up by the loyalty oath bound Unity faithful.

Question number two is why we pay dues to NYSUT and AFT when we have no representation there either. All NYSUT and AFT reps are selected "at large," just like the high school VP. A few years back I went to the AFT convention in Minnesota, on my own dime. I got in a long Twitter discussion with one of the Unity reps saying we had no voice. He said, "I'm a high school teacher." I said yes, you are, but a majority of your fellow high school teachers voted against you. I can't remember what he said back.

As if that isn't enough, there's a Unity equivalent, the Progressive Caucus or something, that meets at the AFT convention. I sat in the hall while every single UFT rep sat and was told how to vote. Vote yes on this, no on that, and this one we don't care about so you may vote as you wish. I'm trying to determine how exactly that represents the priorities of high school teachers, or indeed UFT rank and file.

If you haven't seen James Eterno's post on the ICE blog, you should check it out. He's very much in the same mindset. Yes, it's a moral imperative to pay union dues. We are part of a community, and we have to pay our fair share. But how do I knock on doors and ask people to support a system that treats us like second-class citizens?

I live in Long Island, so I don't anticipate the doorknockers coming anytime soon. Of course, I'm not part of the inner circle that plans these things, and no one elected by my brothers and sisters in city high schools is either. Leadership knows what's good for us, and they don't need to solicit our rogue opinions, thank you very much.

I think we deserve answers to these questions. This notwithstanding, high school teachers elected me to the UFT Executive Board, and I haven't gotten a single answer to a question all year.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Charter Schools: Rules Are for the Little People

I'm not surprised to read about charters that don't do well. There are a whole lot of them. In many states, it doesn't matter how they do. In this state, they're supposed to be somewhat accountable. NYC has closed almost every large high school it had, and the one I work in stands as an aberration. How did we survive Bloomberg? No one knows. He overloaded us to 200% capacity, and while we came down, we're back up again.

In any case, here's a story about a charter that failed to achieve those all-important test scores. The charter, though, seems to think that's no reason to shut them down. Why, you ask? Let me quote from the piece:

School officials and parents filed a lawsuit, claiming the education department’s decision was too focused on test scores and didn’t take into account that more than half its students have disabilities.

That's a pretty shocking explanation. I'm not saying it isn't a valid explanation, just that it's shocking. It's shocking because we've always known that schools targeted for closure had high numbers of students with disabilities, ELLs, and children of poverty. Arne Duncan did a happy dance at the chance to close a school full of ELLs in Rhode Island.

What happens when they close schools? Lots of times charters come in. Their job is to work their magic on these kids. Public school teachers are all self-serving incompetents. They only care about themselves and aren't about the children. Therefore we should close them and replace them with privately run charters, because they're run by business people who know better. Except in this case, when they don't.

I've been watching school closures all over the city for years, and they were generally done for test scores. The closing of Jamaica High School is particularly clear in my memory, since it was done based on demonstrably false statistics. An entire community rose up, repeatedly, and spoke to the DOE, which turned a deaf ear. A historic institution, a pillar of the community went down.

The charter school, instead of rousing the community, hired a PR firm that used to work for Ivanka Trump. I'm not sure whether the one with the "K" is the daughter or the ex-wife, but I'm certain her PR firm doesn't come cheap. Here's the thing--school closures are for the little people. Destruction of communities are for the little people.

Private charters can take private money and hire private PR firms. The people who run charters aren't subject to things like regulation, because that's also for the little people. We're on a mission to do better than those awful public schools, and we're willing to be judged by test scores. However, if we don't pull it off, we're also willing to fight to stay open.

There's a double standard in these United States. People like Michael Bloomberg, Joel Klein and Betsy DeVos seem to hate public schools. They're a monopoly, they're terrible, we can do better, blah, blah, blah. So let's close them, let's break them up into little schools, let's rename them, and let's shuffle the kids around like so many playing cards. Let's make the teachers reapply for their jobs. Let's make them wander the school system forever as permanent subs, and if that doesn't sufficiently demoralize them, let's mobilize the media to demonize them so we can fire them.

Make no mistake, charters can do any damn thing they want. When they get caught on the disingenuous nature of their very premise, that they do better on test scores than public schools, they just reach into their unnaturally deep pockets and say, "We don't need no stinking standards." That's why Eva doesn't have to make the agreement that all the other schools did to establish city pre-K.

Rules are for the little people. And the public schools.


Thanks to Harris.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

To CTLE or Not to CTLE?

That's the question, but if you need the hours you really have no choice. The DOE dropped the ball early on while Fariña was focusing on what a beautiful day it was. After all, if Macy's is open, who gives a crap whether or not teachers are getting the PD the state requires? Not the NYC Department of Education, evidently.

UFT picked up some of the slack when the UFT Teacher Center became a provider. I arranged to create one in my school. If yours hasn't got one, I'd suggest you have your chapter leader look into it. UFT also had a whole bunch of people trained to offer services, and I was one of them. I'm qualified to give CTLE training in ESL, which pretty much everyone needs.

The state has this thing about standards. I understand that having the principal scream for 90 minutes about how people shouldn't be late is not particularly helpful. Maybe the state understands that too. Nonetheless, they've unleashed a monster.

Yesterday we were allotted a block of time to do online instruction or video. This proved difficult, because we were given a list of websites that provided instruction. Some were CTLE and some were not. However, most of them utilized YouTube video, and that is blocked in our building. We were lucky in that we found one that was not.

A colleague picked out a CTLE course, and I sat and watched it with her. I recall very little about it. The only thing I really remember is a glowing intro, and breaking to some woman who had some idea that she was selling. It was all about somecrap.com, and how this particular crap was the key to student reading.

It was clearly a sales pitch for whatever crap she was selling, but if you sat through this particular infomercial and took some quiz, you could have the CTLE credit. All in all, I'd just as soon listen to the principal scream at me about how kids shouldn't be late. You know, she had a revolutionary idea, and it was gonna change everything, but it was a blatant sales pitch. If this is why the geniuses in Albany changed the way teachers got PD credit, I'd argue that maybe it's they who need to have principals scream at them for 90 minutes about why students shouldn't be late.

I volunteered at a UFT ELL event a few weeks ago. A friend of mine was going to come, but she discovered a whole bunch of crap on the internet she could use instead of, you know, going places and/ or doing stuff. Why not sit at home, watch whatever it is, get the credit, and be done with it? I don't blame her.

I'm not a big advocate of PD, as the overwhelming majority I've attended has been a waste of time. But if you're gonna bother with it, you might as well make it, you know, useful. I went to the UFT training because I thought I could help people get the credit. It turns out, though, that a whole lot of people are so jaded they don't even bother to pretend to pay attention. I understand. I've been guilty of that too. Having the tables turned on me was illuminating. One guy was looking at his phone and quickly placed a paper in front of it, pretending to pay attention. Most people didn't even bother pretending.

I haven't got a great answer. My colleague on the Executive Board, Marcus McArthur, suggested that teachers in his school had a good idea what they wanted, and could help each other. Sadly, that won't get them the credits they need to keep their licenses. But still, that beats the hell out of the nonsense I saw online.

Whether or not we ever get PD to be worthwhile, it would be fantastic if we could work it into school hours. I don't know anyone who wants to spend an extra 100 hours listening to anything. Sometimes people who work for UFT tell me they want to learn more to expand their practice. Sometimes, I listen to them say these things and wonder why they stopped practicing if that's what they really want.

I think teachers just want an easier way to deal. The way to do that is for DOE, UFT, or both to arrange this CTLE stuff during school hours. If there are gonna be Teacher Torture Tuesdays, they ought to carry the credit the state demands.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Getting Out of the Classroom

I've been giving a lot of thought to that concept of late. Norm Scott was on fire at the generally staid Executive Board meeting last night, and excoriated crazy administrators, of which there are many. How many times have you gotten bad advice from administrators? I sit in meetings with them all the time, and I get a very good picture of who's on the ball and who isn't.

Once I sat for forty minutes while an administrator lectured a teacher on the virtues of formative assessment. In short, this entailed equipping students with cards of red and green. When the students understood, they'd hold up green cards, When they didn't, they'd hold up red cards. I honestly couldn't see why this method was any better than asking, "Does everyone understand?" Kids nod, you move on and hope for the best, and who knows what's really happening? But hey, use the cards and you're highly effective. Don't, and you suck.

Anyone who harbors an ambition to get out of the classroom ought not to be a teacher. The best administrators I know love being in the classroom. They're thrilled to work with kids and want to do so more often. These are inspirational leaders, and these are people to whom you pay attention. Alas, they're not the only ones around here doing this job.

There are the others, the ones who don't want to do this job but have it anyway. They're the ones who hear about some outlandish thing like the cards and determine it's the only way to teach. And indeed, it may be the only way they know. After all, the classroom was such a terrible place they had to get out. How do you think people like that feel about skilled teachers who do the job? How do they feel about imaginative individuals who create classes they couldn't?

Norm spoke of communities rising up at CPE 1 and Townsend Harris. This was what removed two principals who never should have had the job. There are plenty of communities that don't rise up as well. I thought it was foolish when Howard Schoor gave all the credit to Michael Mulgrew for improvements at CPE 1. If I were Mulgrew, I wouldn't want that credit, because with it comes all the blame for all the vindictive and crazy principals still sitting at their jobs.

In fact, a whole lot of UFT employees have gotten out of the classroom. Eight days ago I listened to a bunch of people who never taught under this system tell us how wonderful it was. They say they're in schools, but who knows what that means? Do they visit the Unity chapter leaders to find that yes, this is still the best of all possible worlds? Do they ask the ones to whom they've given patronage gigs how good the system they negotiated is?

Whatever they hear is not remotely what I hear. At our UFT meeting today, teachers wondered why leadership didn't endorse our initiative to reduce minimum to two, as per state law. Further observation could be reserved for teachers needing more support, or better ratings. I don't buy the argument that it's difficult to fabricate multiple observations. Liars are fairly consistent. Once people break my trust, I expect them to lie all the time.

We had a chance to have a leader who was in the classroom under Danielson. In fact, the high school teachers chose James Eterno as Vice President. Because Unity cannot tolerate dissenting points of view, because they know what's good for us, and because they know everything, they rigged the system so as to disenfranchise high school teachers. And rather than work with us, they sneer and go on doing What They've Always Done, because it's the only thing they know how to do.

That's pathetic. If you can't figure out how to work with anyone who hasn't signed a loyalty oath to never question you, you have no business being a teacher, let alone a union leader.

With Janus on the horizon, that's where we stand. I hope some Unity leader knocks on my door, but I'm not holding my breath. It's for lowly teachers to do the work of perpetuating the Unity machine in the name of preserving the union.

I believe in union. I don't believe in leadership that sneaks around behind my back for no good reason. I don't believe in paying dues to NYSUT and AFT but having no representation. I'm particularly upset at my 20,000 high school brothers and sisters being shut out of the leadership of our own union.

What does leadership say to that? Who knows? The silence is deafening.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Executive Board November 6th--3,000 U Ratings Magically Become 2,000 U Ratings

Secretary Howard Schoor welcomes us.

Speaker—Norm Scott—Speaks about NY Knicks and NY Jets.

Says he was first speaker here 15 years ago, spoke of abusive principals. Asked to defend chapter leaders, they opposed it in 1999. Every week we come here, and there are still abusive principals.

Spoke against principal tenure, was voted down. Sandy Feldman loved it, but said politically it was untenable. At that time they were willing to put something in paper, and had regular features about them. Last week Tottenville High School was here. Principal sounded like the Mooch.

Last year we got rid of two principals, CPE1 and Harris, where parents and students rose up. That’s what got those people out. Union had nothing to do with 50 people who came up, when CL was pulled, and when delegate was pulled.

What about teachers who don’t have 50 parents coming? We could rouse the 50 parents if we wanted to. State of fear exists in many schools because you won’t go public. Maybe there’s an arrangement with CSA. Union won’t step on too many toes.

And now we hear, from union, that teachers have to be held accountable. We need same for principals. We have almost zero say, despite committee, on how administrators are chosen. We need to hold them really accountable to parents and teachers at schools. They used to have fear of union.

When are you, leadership, going to be accountable? You say the DR is wonderful, when teachers say otherwise. You don’t hold principals or yourselves accountable, yet you say teachers should be observed 4 times a year instead of two.

Let’s see everyone accountable.

Schoor responds they are accountable every three years.

Minutes—approved.

Mulgrew Is not here.

LeRoy Barr—Tomorrow is election day. Let’s keep the tide going. We believe we will win tomorrow. See you at polls. DA Wednesday. Will be celebration for Bob Ostrowsky. Bronx parent conference Nov. 18. Next EB Nov. 20.

Jeff Povalitus—School Safety—Last Wed. turned corner with incident on W. Side Highway. If it weren’t for police in Stuyvesant it would have been a lot worse. Pay attention to protocols. Staff must be aware. Shelter in is important. Lockdowns are important.

Shelter in and grand larcenies are big problems. Can’t take things for granted. Secure your belongings. We had one today $1000.

Overall incidents are up. Biggest is reckless endangerment. When teachers, deans, school aides break up fights. Teachers get hit. Last time were 700 incidents, this year 852. Tells us members don’t report enough. Only ones that report are victims. Important for teachers to report, gives us a pulse. Report everything.

I’m in schools 3, 4 days a week. Lots of anger on streets and in schools.  Not like when we grew up. Kids are out 2-3 in the morning, go in with little or no sleep. Schools mirror communities. No one wants to talk about what takes place—gang involvement and recruitment. From lack of structure in home.

We try to address things every day, we put out fires. I am accessible, will visit schools. Kids need as much support as possible. They are not necessarily getting it.

Jonathan HalabiNew Action—What training do we hold for schools.

Povalitus—We have a training tomorrow. We also have one safety liaison per borough. We try to get members to report. People don’t, but if you see something, say something.

Questions

Schoor—(in response to part of my question last week as to which year there were 3,000 U-ratings, among other things) offers these figures 2010—11 2017 U ratings   2011-12—2006   2005-6—981 ratings.

Ashraya GuptaMORE—Excited about door knocking. What other avenues can we use to reach out?

Paul Egan—Trying to have conversations. One way is going to homes. We will develop a much more abridged workplace conversation with AFT. Will train people at workplace.

Marcus McArthurMORE—Any large demonstrations or coordinated acts leading up to Janus?  What will we do before that happens? How do we show that right to work is something we won’t tolerate?

Schoor— President sent email on paid parental leave. May do demonstration for that. Depends on decision

Adam ?—Opt in or opt out, or will all agency fee be revoked?

Schoor—Right now you have to opt out. Court may eliminate that, or more likely will eliminate right to deduct agency fee.

McArthur—Is anything proactive being planned from national labor movement?

Janella Hinds—AFL CIO resolved against Janus, for public ed and need for organizing. They say it’s important to show labor’s force. We expect national demonstrations—being planned, not just public sector. 50th anniversary of MLK’s assassination—we will talk about his role as labor leader.

Reports from Districts—

?—AFT Latino Caucus event. Proceeds will buy in home purifiers. We need help, will unite us.

Evelyn de Jesus—Sept 20 hurricane hit. 47 days later people don’t have water. We have 3 centers, feeding 700-1000 per day. We have a group looking at water filters. Goal to get them to villages. For $2000, they can bathe and drink water for a month. People dying. 900 unofficial burning bodies. People drinking bad water. We want to help children who have PTSD. We need to bring water to children and families.

Janella Hinds—You heard about impact of Oct. 31 attack. Solidarity shown among adults. Could have walked into horror. Many UFT members and others kept children safe and in building until 7 PM. Investigations being conducted there now. Important to acknowledge leaders in that building, including CL. Thanks to all who visited next day and provided support. Some of them experienced 9/11 and remembered.

Carmen Alvarez—2 aides in bus were injured. DR was in building, made sure all were taken care of.

Mindy Bordnemann—knows Stuyvesant was in news, but surrounding schools also had teachers and kids in school until 7. Kept kids calm, did great job.

George Altomare—Professional aspect of members’ lives continued while that happened. Had workshops two Saturdays. Has posters for 37 years of conferences.

Legislative report—Paul Egan—Football talk—100 years ago today women got right to vote. We haven’t come far, because less that 25% of our legislature is made of women, who are 51%. People don’t vote. People died for right to vote. Tomorrow, make sure you get out and get everyone else out.

There are other elections beside Con Con. City council, mayor public advocate up. I’m not confident of anything, given last year. Don’t take positive polls for granted.

We will be fighting on federal level, where President pays off friends on the backs of teachers. More concerned about taking away $250 tax deduction to give it to billionaire friends. This fight will be national.

Please vote.

Resolution to support DNA Info and Gothamist

Janella Hinds—All employees terminated, clear attack on NYC employees who chose to organize. Provided local news in cities, and lost jobs. Lost access to their writing, ability to share what is happening in cities. We went to city hall and protested today. Asks for support.

Passes unanimously

We are adjourned.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

A Conversation

Me, in hall with student: Are you OK?

Student: I don't feel good.

Me: Go to the nurse.

Student: No. I don't want to go to the nurse.

Me. Then you have to do the work.

Student: I don't want to do the work.

Me: Here are your choices: You can do the work or go to the nurse.

Student: No.

Me: OK. You can do the work, you can go to the nurse, or I can call your house.

Student: I'll do the work.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

NY Times Endorses Low Standards

For years I have noticed that the NY Times has the very worst education reporting in the city. I often disagree with the editorials in the News and the Post, but their reporting often contradicts what appears on their op-ed pages. Sometimes I wonder whether the editorial writers read their own reporting. Since Times reporting is so frequently timid and wishy-washy, I guess their editorial writers follow it, except the great piece that exposed the Moskowitz Academies.

Their piece today is utter nonsense of the same variety put forth by Nicholas Kristof, who bemoaned the fact that Merryl Streep and Colin Powell were unqualified to teach in public schools. The fact that they had never expressed to remotest desire to do that, let alone take the spectacular pay cut that would accompany that decision, never entered his mind. If it did, it certainly never entered his column.

The Times criticizes teacher training programs. I will admit that I took some crappy and useless courses when getting my Master's. But I also took great courses in my subject area, courses that gave me a very good understanding of language acquisition, bilingualism, and the structure of the English language. We all kind of implicity understand its structure but never really have to think about it.

The Times thinks I don't need that sort of training even though I use it absolutely every day in my work. Here's what the Times thinks:

New York’s high-performing charter schools have long complained that rules requiring them to hire state-certified teachers make it difficult to find high-quality applicants in high-demand specialties like math, science and special education. They tell of sorting through hundreds of candidates to fill a few positions, only to find that the strongest candidates have no interest in working in the low-income communities where charters are typically located.

Curiously, it's escaped the Times' notice that public school teachers work in every single one of those communities without exception. And if we take this paragraph at face value, it clearly states that the strongest candidates have no desire to teach at these charters. Why is that? Is it because of the neighborhoods they're in? Or could it possibly be that they don't wish to work under substandard conditions in Moskowitz test-prep factories? Maybe they don't feel like giving scripted lessons and wish to develop their own teacher voice.

The new rules will allow charter schools that receive SUNY approval to recruit people who have college degrees in areas other than education as well as 3.0 averages for training programs that consist of a month of instruction and a week of practice teaching. Exceptions could be made for musicians or other artists who lack degrees but have been widely recognized in their fields. 

Finally, a chance for Merryl Streep and Colin Powell to become NYC teachers. The only issue is that they've never applied. Well, you can't have everything. The Times goes on:

In its general outlines, the training regime resembles the highly successful Teaching Fellows program, under which New York City recruits college graduates and people who are changing careers to work in schools serving low-income children.

Except for the fact that Teaching Fellows eventually needed to get Master's degrees and meet state standards for certification.  Oopzie. Well, the Times doesn't always vet its sources all that closely.

Maybe the Times editorial writers followed a similar program. 30 days of reading newspapers, a month writing a few things, and who cares if your ideas are fundamentally unsound? Hey, let's stop wasting time with all that medical school, buy a few stethescopes, and let the Doctor Fellows work on NY Times editorial writers. And if it doesn't work out, the Times can always hire a Lawyer Fellow to mess around with a lawsuit. Are lawsuits two-piece or three-piece suits? Who cares?

The important thing is giving them a chance.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Boy Wonder Reassigns a Teacher

After all this time I can finally take a deep breath. Old Ms. Hazelton, the wretched harridan who always asks me questions at meetings and gets all smug when I don't answer is finally gone! No more, "Oh, can you we come in your classroom and watch you teach that?" No more, "Gee, could you give a demonstration of those techniques for us all to observe." No more, "Why don't you come into my class and demonstrate that for me and my students?"

Man I had it up to here with that nonsense. But I lucked out last year. First, she got cancer. Then it metamorphosed or something. Then she needed this procedure, and she needed that procedure, and the coolest things started to happen. Parent called me and asked why she was absent so much! I knew it was a good idea to make her teach the Regents courses this year, even though she hadn't taught them in a decade! And boy did it pay off!

No, Mr. Parent, I have no idea why she's been out for six days.
No, Mr. Grandfather, I'm as shocked as you are that she was absent the week before the exam.

Man I am a genius. I mean, I felt this coming on. It was just the earth communicating with me.  I was at one with nature. I feel perfectly serene and at peace with the universe. I feel every vibration, and each vibrations gives me yet another sign. Man, I could really go for one of those Whopperinos at Burger King. What a great idea to put a Whopper in a burrito. That's the kind of thing I would have thought of if I were working there.

So when everyone comes in, I'll be all, "No, I'm sorry. Ms. Hazelton won't be coming back." And they'll be all, "Why? What happened?" And I'll be all, "Well, I can't really discuss it." Another one bites the dust, and another notch in my belt.

They will PISS THEIR PANTS! It will be a thing of wonder and beauty. They just fall, one after another. One has heart palpitations, another has a heart attack right in the hall, one drops dead and now this! What could be better? Yeah, I'm bad. Yeah this could happen to you. I'm like a ninja. I swoop down, you see nothing. Then, just like that, you are HISTORY, BABY!

Who's gonna turn down that voluntary mandatory meeting now, bitches? Oh, you're busy? Oh, you have kids at home? What, you've got the sniffles? Oh, too bad. You remember what happened to Ms. Hazelton, don't you? Yeah what a shame.

Chapter Leader can bitch and moan from now until Doomsday, but legal says once they go out, they never go back in. This is a definite Feather in My Cap. The ground will tremble where I trod, and the lowly teachers will make way for me. This is the pinochle of my success, the wind beneath my wings, the straw that broke the camel's back.

From these lofty heights, I can see everyone below me. I am bound to make principal once they notice how many tenured teachers I sent away. Man I could really go for some Popeye's chicken right about now. Let me just lock up my office, slip out, and drive away. No one realizes how clever I was to turn down my parking spot. They all think it was for the handicapped teacher, so I'm a hero, but actually it was so no one could tell when I was out. It's inconvenient walking three blocks to the car but it's worth it when I leave an hour or two early every day.

Top of the world, baby!

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Executive Board Takeaway October 30th--UFT's Top Secret Info Source

It was a fun-filled night down at 52. I barely know where to start. Howard Schoor offered his condolences to the five new members of the Executive Board. I'm always amused by comments on what an ordeal these meetings are, and they've been occurring more frequently lately. I guess it must be painful to answer questions from people who work in schools each and every day. As a chapter leader, I do that as a matter of course. Come Janus, entrenched leadership had best learn some new tricks.

Thus far this year, Schoor has answered none of my questions, so it must be excruciating for him even to listen. It's, "We'll get back to you," and they don't. Or, "Someone will address that at the next meeting," and no one does. But the very best answer I've gotten was this week. I asked a question about the much-ballyhooed 3,000 U ratings I keep hearing about. I had a little help with this question from a very prominent APPR opponent. Here is our exchange:


Arthur Goldstein—MORE—In our last meeting, you repeatedly cited a figure of 3,000 teachers receiving U ratings. We would like to know exactly what year that was. We would also like to know how many of those teachers were tenured, and how many were dismissed. Finally, we would like to know exactly how many of these teachers had the burden of proof on them during 3020a.  I’d also like to point out that so far, none of my questions have received an answer. Thank you.
Schoor—We’re not entitled to that info. Check Chalkbeat.  

Check Chalkbeat, because we don't know stuff like that. He actually said that, out loud, in a public forum. They can't even tell us when it happened.

Now here's my next question, which I won't bother asking Schoor. If they don't know what year this was, and they don't know how many members were tenured or dismissed, how the hell do they muster the audacity to say it was a better year last year? With 217 ineffective ratings last year it may have been, but ultimately they can't prove it. The number is not wholly relevant until the consequences are spelled out. However, I know the answer to the last question. How many of those U-rated teachers had the burden of proof on them during 3020a?

That number would be zero. If last year's numbers were any higher than that, this particular figure does not represent improvement.

We brought forth a resolution to lower the number of observations.  It contained this line:


Whereas, there are many teachers for whom two observations should be sufficient...

We meant that teachers who were effective or higher ought not to need more observations.  Perhaps we could've been more explicit. But I'd argue we did that in the Resolved:


Resolved, that UFT will encourage further observation only for teachers in need of additional support...

This suggests, to me at least, that additional observations would be used to improve ratings. More than one person from Unity suggested that this would result in fewer chances for teachers to do well. Our resolution suggested the opposite. In retrospect, I wonder whether they bothered to read it before attacking it.

However, the first argument against it came from LeRoy Barr, who did not take a position for or against. I was sitting with KJ from New Action, and I bet him a dollar that LeRoy would bring up the 300 member committee that helps negotiate the contract. I walked out one dollar richer.

Several people from Unity approached me and told me I'd be on the committee. From what I've heard, the committee is top secret and you can't tell anyone what happens. If I recall correctly, in 2014 they voted up the Memorandum of Agreement before anyone had actually seen it. I guess it's good that they include opposition on the committee. However, as someone who visits the Executive Board every two weeks, I'm acutely aware of what happens when you're outnumbered 20 to 1 by people who vote against you as easily as they draw breath. A 300-member committee seems just unwieldy enough to allow leadership to do Any Damn Thing They Please without undesirables getting in A Word Edgewise.

After LeRoy's argument, they threw the kitchen sink at us. We have all these protections, they have to document all this stuff, and whatever. Our resolution opposed absolutely none of those things, and none are related to number of observations. Principals could do whatever they wanted, they said. This is the strawman they toss out whenever anyone opposes APPR. Nonetheless, I'd argue vindictive supervisors can still do whatever they wish. I spoke of a video lesson in which I observed proof of a supervisor fabricating. Things like this happen all the time when you have supervisors like that. Someone told me it's difficult to do consistently, but as I watched a whole department terrorized by a lunatic over a few years, it seemed entirely plausible to me.

Over at Banana Kelly a principal got caught making up observations. I know someone who got a bad rating as a result. Now if I were making up observations, I'd write them glowing so no one would complain. On the other hand, how many undiscovered Banana Kellies are out there? How many teachers are too terrorized to object? Judging from the number of abuse stories I hear via Exec. Board and email, I'm gonna guess--a lot.

A whole bunch of teachers got up and described Tottenville High School as a veritable hellhole. Leadership said they visited a bunch of times. They did not actually focus on what changed when they did. Having listened to the teachers, I'm not entirely persuaded what leadership did was Highly Effective.

Jonathan Halabi asked about an Adult Ed. teacher who was hounded out by lunatics and fired. He wanted to know if we could do anything to retrieve her retro pay lump sum payment. You know, that's the money you earned years ago that you don't get until 2020. But it's not retro pay (presumably because so many people who did the work don't get it). We were told if she won her case she would get it. That implies if she loses she won't. Jonathan wanted to know if we'd go the extra mile for her. Evidently we will not.

This deal we made for the 2014 contract shut out a whole lot of people--anyone who resigned, died or was fired. I have to suppose that's a great savings to the city. Sure, Mayor de Blasio, pay us off in dribs and drabs, and half the people won't get to the point where they get any money. We're due larger payments in 2018, 2019, and 2020. This is not encouraging when we consider that our contract expires next year.

In fact, if that isn't discouraging enough, Mulgrew told us that all things budgetary are pretty dire. The state can't depend on the fed and the city can't depend on the state. I have no reason to doubt his word. When you consider that PBA is being offered 4.25% over four years, entirely funded by givebacks, things do not look particularly rosy for us. The smart thing to do would be wait out the police, but if the city estabishes a crap pattern with us or DC37, the cops won't get all that far.

As we face a right to work nation, UFT leadership has decided to refuse to answer questions from the only democratically elected representatives of high schools. They've decided that four observations is better than two. The fact that I don't know a single working teacher not on UFT payroll who agrees is neither here nor there. They've controlled everything for 50 years and their primary message appears to be, "Don't pay attention to that man behind the curtain."

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The Sitting Dead

Some days there's just nothing you can do. I mean, they are there. You can see them. But where are their minds?

I understand, of course. I can't remember how many days I spent, in high school, surreptitiously staring at the girl next to me and wondering whether she liked me. I wasn't really sure what to do beyond that.

The thing is, though, that my teachers weren't required to elicit participation. I had a bio teacher who had one of those things, an opaque projector I think, and every day he'd project notes on the board. He would stand there in his white lab coat, stroke his beard, and ask, "Is everyone finished copying?" When he determined we were done, he'd place a new page up and begin again. (If I had the notes, I could've taught that class, knowing nothing about the subject.)

I was sitting next to Donna Coe. She was gorgeous. She had long brown hair and seemed to dislike the class as much as I did. But she paid better attention than I did and passed all the tests. I did not. I remember the last two weeks of school I walked around with a red Barrron's review book, learning all I would ever know about biology. I retained it long enough to get a 68 on the Regents. At that time, in that high school, if you passed the Regents, you passed for the year. Donna Coe found a boyfriend who went to college and shattered all my dreams. But at least (and I don't generally go around boasting about this)  I graduated high school. Otherwise I'd probably have to teach in a charter school.

When you teach language, it isn't enough to place notes on the board and have students copy. In fact, I'd argue it's never enough to have students copy. As I heard a college student once say to another who questioned the value of an in-class assignment, "It's a class. You have to do something." I subscribe to that philosophy.

As a teacher of English as a second language, I do get students who are reluctant to learn. There are a lot of reasons that could happen. One is being dragged here against your will. It's nothing short of traumatic to leave your friends and extended family behind. It's pretty hard to be in a place with a strange language you don't understand. One way to deal could be to cling to people who speak your first language, make no friends who don't, and hope your parents will come to their senses and move back, like now.

Another issue is that, in some places, going to school is optional, or at least somehow difficult. Thus we have some Students with Interrupted Formal Education, or SIFE students. Sometimes the school system has labeled them thus, and sometimes not. I notice that more of them are boys than girls, and wonder whether their parents put them to work rather than sent them to school. I had one student whose father told me that, in his country, if you didn't sign the kid up by a certain date, he couldn't go to school. I understood that, but I thought if it happened to me it would happen once. It happened to this parent at least five times in a row.

Usually I will have one or two such students in a classroom. This year I have a class with a more significant number. If I aim toward them, I will lose half the class. Of course if I don't, the other half will almost certainly fail. So it's kind of a tough spot. I was thinking about splitting the class and offering two distinct curriculums, with different tests for students in each group. I've never done that before and I don't know whether it will work. Yesterday a few of them surprised me and did better on a test, so I think I'll hold off on that for a while.

In any case, for me, the Sitting Dead is never a good option. Doubtless Charlotte Danielson would have them dancing in the aisles, even the kids who haven't been educated in their first languages. Alas I, a mere mortal, cannot pull that off every day.