Monday, November 11, 2019

What Better Measures Student Achievement--Teacher Grades or Crappy Tests?

The NY Post is on the case of students who pass English and math but fail state tests. Evidently the only conclusion they can reach is that this is grade inflation. As usual, neither City Councilman Robert Holden, the fraud-alleging complainant, nor the paper has bothered to examine what is actually on those state tests.

The assumption, as usual, is that the state tests are the gold standard. This is odd, since just a few weeks ago, the Post was calling the NAEP the gold standard and saying its results were "final proof" of de Blasio's educational failure.

It's not surprising when a paper's editorial staff is out of sync with its reporting staff. I see it all the time. Daily News and NY Times editorials are generally no kinder to us than those of the Post. But the more I read the editorials, the more I think people who write them just ignore current events and grasp at whatever to support their already well-established prejudices. Good reasons, bad reasons--who cares as long as the points they wish are made?

I don't know very much about math, and I don't know very much about state math exams either. Perhaps the state math exams are the best standardized exams on earth. I doubt it, though, since they're based on Common Core, exemplified by David Coleman's core philosophy, "No one gives a shit what you think or feel." I won't begin to speculate what that portends for math, but it's extremely hard to see how that philosophy motivates living, breathing students. (People are not very important in David Coleman's world, and I can see why. I, for example, don't give a crap what he thinks or feels, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn he met many people with that opinion in his formative years.)

I'm a lot more familiar with English exams. The NY State English Regents is total crap. It doesn't measure reading or writing. I know students who've passed it with scores in the high 80s. Teaching them, I learned they were patently unable to construct a coherent sentence in English. I know students whose strategy to ace the multiple choice sections is to avoid the reading passage altogether and simply hunt for the answers.

It's hard for me to lend credence to an examination that actively discourages reading. It's hard for me to imagine any worthwhile writing being created by anyone who followed the Coleman philosophy. I certainly wouldn't want to read any such writing, and I can't imagine anyone other than Coleman who would. In fact, I have no enthusiasm whatsoever for reading what anyone at all writes on the English Regents exam. It does not elicit student thought or opinion, both of which interest me greatly. It gives two arguments and asks you to pick one. Create an argument yourself? Exercise independent thought? Take a passionate position on something, anything?

Nah. None of that.

Now it's entirely possible that some rogue English teacher somewhere encourages students to express themselves. It's entirely possible, in fact, that multiple English teachers have a feel for what good writing is. Not only that, it's entirely possible that English teachers with a mindset like that actually encourage it in their classes.

This is dangerous for a multitude of reasons. One is that a student might think good writing is something to aim for universally. Such a student could be taking the English Regents exam, have an actual idea, and express it. It's not that unusual for teenagers to have ideas. Some have very active minds and are thinking pretty much all the time. Of course, that can be inconvenient in the world of one-way test prep. What if they decide that you, the teacher, are wrong, and they persuasively explain why?

That very same troublesome spirit, when applied to the English Regents exam, could result in failure. In fact, I'm hearing that teachers seeking certification are now failing the certification test by expressing their opinions. This is not at all in the spirit of Common Core, which all the papers agreed to be the best thing since sliced bread.

We'll see whether the new standards change anything. Meanwhile, as far as I can see, the only thing the English Regents exam measures is the ability to deal with a pointless task. I have to admit, as a teacher, that's not remotely what I want to encourage in my students.

It may or may not be that these schools are juking the stats. I'd argue, though, that state tests and their results are neither here nor there in establishing that premise. To measure that, you'd need a yardstick that measured distance, as opposed to David Coleman's demeaning tinfoil-helmeted theories.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Portrait of Half an ATR

A few days back, I wrote about another attack on tenure, quite similar to many that had preceded it. Someone sent me this piece on ATRs, which somehow eluded my attention. The headline screams, "DOE spends $100M per year keeping excess teachers on the payroll."

The word "excess" suggests these teachers aren't needed, which is far from correct. In my experience, though, article writers don't get to choose titles.

This piece, unlike many others I've seen, doesn't single ATR teachers out for eternal infamy. However, there's quite a lot unsaid. For one thing, this mess was largely exacerbated by Bloomberg and his wasteful, unproductive school closures. Every time that happened, the staff had to reapply for jobs. Had I not transferred from John Adams back when I did, I'd probably be an ATR. It's largely just a matter of being in the wrong place at the right time.

Bloomberg's goal was not building up the ATR, but firing teachers en masse. He was not what you'd call coy about it either. He's spoken publicly of his idiotic notion to create classes of 70 and have the very best teachers run them. (After all, his kids didn't attend public schools, so why should he care?) A major contract demand for him was that UFT set a time limit on ATR teachers. This would've left many to lose their jobs for the offense of being in the wrong place at the right time. I'm very grateful UFT hung tough on that. Bloomberg would've fired half the teachers in NYC just to give Cathie Black a tax break on her penthouse. 

Though I'd rather see them placed, ATR teachers can be very useful. For example, in my school a teacher suffered a tragedy I won't go into. Because there happened to be an ATR available in that teacher's subject area, our students got uninterrupted instruction. When the teacher returned, all the classes had been taught the same lessons consistently, as opposed to having been covered by five different teachers who may or may not have been at the same point.

Every single class taught by an ATR teacher would otherwise have to be taught by a substitute teacher. I'm not a math expert, but if you allowed for the cost of substitute teachers for every single class taught by an ATR teacher, I'll bet that 100 million figure would be considerably lower. NYC pays the highest rate in our area for substitute teachers. (They're worth every penny. I have to cover classes from time to time, and it's more challenging teaching kids you don't know than kids you do.)

For a long time, if a principal didn't like you, all she had to do was press charges against you, have you go through a pointless 3020a hearing, and then say she didn't want you back. It seems fundamentally unfair to be charged with something, beat the charges, and lose your position anyway. Of course that was the entire point. I'm told that Carranza and Randy Asher have halted this practice, and principals are just that much less imperial nowadays. Superintendents now make these decisions. I'm sure they can make bad decisions too, but either way, that's not the fault of the teacher.

Then there's so-called Fair Student Funding, Bloomberg's idiotic notion that principals have to pay teachers out of the school budget. It actually encourages principals to hire newbies at half the price of experienced teachers. Then there's Bill Gates' reformy notion that no teacher improves after the first three years, and who knows how many Leadership Academy grads have been spoon-fed that nonsense? I can't speak for everyone, but for better or worse I'm the best teacher I've ever been right now. I learn from trial, error, and experiences. In my line of work, teaching kids from all over the globe, I have new experiences every year, every month, and every day.

Hey, if the NY Post thinks all these teachers should be in classrooms, I couldn't agree more. Put each and every one to work instead of leaving them in this outlandish and unnecessary purgatory.  Let's reduce class sizes for public school students systemwide. To create space, I'd be perfectly willing to toss Eva Moskowitz out on her million-dollar ass. How about you, Governor Cuomo? Why not forsake a few suitcases of cash and pull that law that says we have to pay her rent? That's what a real education lobbyist would do.

Where there's a will, there's a way.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

The Accursed DOE Webinar

Once again, we're mandated to take the sexual harassment webinar dreamed up by the geniuses at Tweed. You see, once Harvey Weinstein watches this he will completely alter his attitude and behavior. Once Donald Trump watches it he will no longer spout unspeakable vulgarities about women and publicly fantasize about dating his daughter. In fact, if only they had shown this webinar to all teachers a few years ago, the Post would not be writing about outrageous outliers and trying to tar the rest of us in the process.

Okay, that's not true. I took the webinar last year and I got the message. Report them. Report everyone. Call up and give names and numbers. While I hate seeing members rat one another out over things that are relatively meaningless, I don't have an issue with reporting outrageous behavior. Hey, if President Trump were my colleague, I'd report him in a Mar a Lago minute. Why wait until the Post puts up a piece about how some pervy teacher plans to grab women?

I got in very early today and tried to log in. I waited and waited, and nothing happened. A colleague tried the same. He got some message about timing out. You'd think they'd have learned something from the miserable rollout last year, but evidently the great minds at Tweed can't be bothered analyzing their mistakes from last year. Anything they do is Good Enough, if not Highly Effective. Teachers, generally assumed to be superhuman, are held to a higher standard.

That's not true only in the feeble minds of Tweedies. I myself figure if I have a job to do, I ought to get out of bed in the morning and do it. Not only that, but if I screw up, I look at why I screwed up. I either adjust or eliminate the lesson in which I did that, depending on whether or not it can be remediated. The DOE, on the other hand, is the Great and Mighty Oz, that must not be questioned.

After all, if your mother got you that cool admin job after you taught for two years, you must be smarter than I am. I mean, look at me. I've been teaching for 35 years now. Not only have I never attempted to become an administrator, but I've further never even bothered to go to administrator school.

If the people who ran this had a brain between them, they'd create options for us. They'd offer to show it to groups during PD sessions. That way, people could get it over with. They could get through it in one sitting, as opposed to depending on DOE bandwidth, up, down, in, out, gone and whatever. No one would have to start over again when the webinar failed to keep your place.

The ineptitude of this rollout, along with the total failure to analyze, let alone improve on what happened last year is inexcusable. If I screwed up on a task at work on this scale and decided to do it again, I would not be receiving a letter of commendation from my AP and principal. They would not tolerate it, and indeed they shouldn't. Likely they'd find someone else to do it next year, and they'd be entirely justified in doing so.

It's intolerable and unacceptable that the NYC Department of Education lacks this fundamental level of basic introspection. However, along with tens of thousands of my UFT colleagues, I'm entirely accustomed to it. I sent them an email:

Like last year, like my colleague across from me, and like thousands citywide, I am unable to log in to the required sexual harassment webinar. Last year it took me several months to get in. It's very disappointing we have to waste so much of our time trying to open a link. It's further disappointing you make no allowance for us to watch this in groups during our PD sessions.

Very sincerely, 

Arthur Goldstein


I got a form letter back, just like last year. It did nothing to resolve the issue, just like last year. I'll try and try, waste my time, and maybe complete this thing months from now.

We have a new chancellor with a new vision. But until the mayor allows him to make all the Bloomberg leftovers walk the plank, this is going to remain par for the course.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Another Day, Another Vilification of Teacher Tenure.

Sometimes there's so much to say, I'm puzzled just how to begin. I'll say this, though, We have a President of the United States who dozens of women have accused of rape, virtually wiping his ass with the US Constitution, attacking the free press, and the New York Post is attacking teacher tenure.

Here's the argument, which I've heard a million times, from Giuliani, to Bloomberg, to Campbell Brown and who knows who else--we found a few teachers accused of outrages and not fired, and therefore no teacher should have due process, otherwise known as tenure. This is akin to suggesting that Americans ought not to have trials or due process because sometimes guilty people go free. (Except for the guy in the White House, of course, who denies everything and anything and ought not to be charged with anything, let alone tried for anything. You see, any argument against him is "fake news.")

Here's part of one of the Post's awful stories:

The alleged victim recanted, officials said, but the city feared Miller enough to bar him from the classroom forever. His pay rose to $127,333 last year.

With no case, evidently, the city was expected to fire the teacher for no reason whatsoever. Nonetheless, it's an unpardonable sin that the teacher is getting paid. The fact that there's no case against him is neither here nor there.

Here's what you won't read in the New York Post, or from Campbell Brown, or from any local paper who prints these stories--there are a whole lot of teachers brought up on charges for little or no reason. I'm personally acquainted with some of them. Usually I can't write about them, but I did here. Most people facing outlandish charges don't want publicity. They're more concerned with protecting their livelihoods.

How many people lost their jobs for no reason? I'm thinking of one right now, and I can't tell you her story, even though I wrote it years ago. She's still fighting it and doesn't want it to come out until it's finished. Of course, I can't blame her. You won't be reading her story in the New York Post anytime soon.

I've been teaching for 35 years, and since my first, no one's ever accused me of being a bad teacher. Of course, if I were to call myself a pain in the ass, I don't think there'd be a whole lot of pushback from my current principal. Other principals are far more sensitive than he is. For example, at CPE 1, principal Monika Garg placed the chapter leader and delegate up on charges, likely for doing their jobs. Months later, after heroic pushback from the community, they were reinstated.

Do you know how many chapter leaders, delegates and teachers have been put up on frivolous charges without being reinstated? Do you know how many were suspended without pay for no good reason? Do you know how many paid thousands of dollars and suffered for months in rubber rooms for no good reason? Of course not. That's not Campbell Brown's beat.

I was not always an activist, and I was not always a blogger. However, I've been an ESL teacher for a long time. Once I had two students who were fluent in English, but illiterate. I happened to mention this to then-NY Times education columnist Michael Winerip, who mentioned it in a fax he sent the DOE. This placed a former principal of mine in a frenzy. He ranted about how ungrateful I was, though in fact he'd never lifted a finger to help me with anything whatsoever.

He then began a campaign of harassment, demanding I repeatedly meet him at the end of the day to discuss nothing. He dragged me into meetings where the sole topic was whose asses happened to be covered after my unspeakable transgression. (That would be everyone's, except mine. The two boys, in a spirit of cooperation, both dropped out of school, still illiterate, shortly thereafter.) He refused to buy books for my students. If he could have fired me, I have no doubt he'd have done so. I'm very grateful to be union, and I'm very grateful to have tenure. If people like the ones quoted in that article had their way, my career would have been over decades ago.

It's disappointing but predictable that the tabloids write the same story, over and over about the perfidy of teachers. How dare we not only show up every day to teach the children of New York City, but also demand not to be fired for no reason? We aren't perfect, but I make no apology for the job protections I have. I need them. Every teacher needs them.

It's beyond disappointing to see how poorly we're represented in the press. If Americans were smart, they'd make us a model for all, as opposed to vilifying us at every possible juncture.

Monday, November 04, 2019

UFT Executive Board November 4, 2019--A Lesson for an Arbitrator, and a Founder Speaks

6 PM Secretary LeRoy Barr welcomes us.

Speaker—Walter Rendone—As teacher I career changed, went into it for love of learning. Taught 15 years. At PS 24 in Riverdale. Was brought up on 3020a. Told I was not performing well. What changed from being a great teacher to being pushed out?

Aside from creating science curriculum, I was critical of principal, who was gambling on school hours. Principal only taught two years of HS, got AP principal, charged with corporal punishment and became principal.

I started to get written up. Left prep to move car. Small things were accumulated. They now tell me, after giving me G and T program, that I’m not doing well. Not sure what my position is, as I now make photocopies and carry boxes.

Have letter of support from 60 parents. Not sure what I’m supposed to do. Came here to pose question—is this normal? Should I sue this man? I want to protect other teachers. All of a sudden our school is constricted and hands are around my neck.

Once I touched a smart board during an exam by accident. Yet he then placed me in two testing grades and had me conduct state science exam. I read what they’re accusing me of, but I also know what the principal has done.

Does anyone have a similar story, or support? How can I exonerate myself and make my school the great school it should be?

Barr—Thanks speaker. This is not a Q and A session. Your borough rep is here. She will guide you through this process.

Minutes—approved.

President is not here tonight.

Barr— Make sure you vote and encourage others to do so. Members have rights to be released up to three hours. Some misinformation out there. If anybody notified by close of business Friday, they should be released. If that is an issue, please let us know.

CTU strike is over. Settled. Congratulations to our Chicago brothers and sister. We will meet November 18 and change Wall of Honor. We will have an event here. Suggesting we start at 5:30.

Moved, seconded. Passed.

Hall will open at 5:15 or 5:30. We will end early and move to lobby. People honored are Leo Hoenig, Carmen Alvarez, Frank Caruchi, Sandra March, Bob Ostrowsky, and Shelvy Young-Abrams.

Bronx parent conference Saturday 9 AM. Brooklyn parent conference Saturday 16 9 AM.


Questions

Arthur Goldstein—The new class size process has worked very well for our school. In fact, the only classes remaining oversized were music classes, which had been oversized for years. The arbitrator ruled that performing groups could remain oversized, but that music classes renamed “required music” for the purposes of the hearing were oversized.

Though we have a new process, the arbitrator still determines what we can do if the class sizes are not resolved. In our case, he directed that our teachers of oversized classes would be relieved from their C6 assignments two days a month.

Does anyone here know of a principal who would correct an oversized class rather than give C6 off two days a month? I wonder why an arbitrator would find that a reasonable remedy. I wonder whether they have any idea what it is to teach a class of 50. I’ve done it, and I think the arbitrator’s remedy is a cruel joke. I’m being kind when I use those words.

Can we make arbitrators teach classes of 50 before allowing them to make decisions on topics about which they clearly know nothing?

Barr—David Campbell is here.

Campbell—There is a change in remedies. Previously, the school would be given 5 days to comply, and then there would be a meeting where the DOE would offer an “action plan.” There were some discussions, but if they were found reasonable they were accepted.

Now the arbitrator, when they issue decision, gives remedy. One advantage is action plans didn’t amount to too much. Now they are rendered earlier. Yes we would like stronger remedies. They are tricky to find. C6 suggests teacher needs more time. That’s one way. We were disappointed with that outcome. Didn’t seem adequate. We want to fight for stronger remedies. Are open to ideas.

Reports from districts—

Rashad Brown—Youth empowerment dinner LGBQ students. Please purchase tickets.

Hector Ruiz—Latino caucus had fundraiser for disaster relief. Everyone had good time. We raised $5,000.

Camille Evy—Thanks boroughs for participation in aiding Hurricane Dorian victims. Have more items than we can ship.

Janella Hinds—On Thursday, had Future and Focus, 500 students and chaperones spoke with people from 40 different unions. Had fantastic time learning about labor movement collective bargaining, and pensions. Really good day.

Barr—Moment of silence for Lila Ezro. Worked for MAP for many years. Did a lot of work for UFT. Passed Friday.

David Kazansky—Was director of school safety, worked with her for 3 years. Was backbone of victim support program. We had many traumatic events. She also directed MAP, helped countless members with suicidal thoughts, drug and alcohol addiction. Made union and world better place.

Legislative report—Janella Hinds—Yesterday, pres. delegate workshop hosted by UFT and other unions. Tried to ID people who’d serve as delegates. Gave info. Fantastic turnout. Proud of work. Will bring people together for census November 18. Important for UFT and labor. Will have more info soon. Don’t forget to vote.

Barr—Resolution commemorating UFT strike.

George Altomari—Thanks us for remembering. 1960 strike started with fight for money respect and dignity. 1953, three young men and one woman in 126 Queens, went to begin careers. Al Shanker taught math. Thought we’d be supported.

Door opened and in came a tyrant. He opened the door and asked why there was so much noise, in a perfect classroom, full of participation. Called me out into the hall and complained. We decided we couldn’t stay and be treated this way. Same principal harassed Shanker. Asked him to pick up papers on floor in front of kids.

We decided they wouldn’t drive us out. Went to local 2, Teachers Guild. Told story. They said join the union. We did, that same week. Most schools didn’t have one member. We started organizing. Had details of strike. We knew nothing of importance is given—it must be taken. We fought for dignity.

I went on to high schools, organized Franklin K. Lane. We got help. People wanted us to be ready to help ourselves. District reps came from district chapters we organized so we could have a strike. Our number one demand was collective bargaining. We prepped in 1959. When you go that far, you don’t turn back easily.

November 7, 1960, day before election of John Kennedy. We used Delaney cards to organize. We used enemy’s ammunition. Red book had every district, school, principal. They were our computers.

We got money, yes, benefits, yes, but also dignity. I was strike chairman then. We were proud to be able to get so many people to fight for what they believed in. We got 5600 on strike and 2000 who called in. We had no safety net. Today you’d have a pension. Then you’d have nothing. They risked everything and the UFT is here. We now pass that on to you, and hope you don’t have to strike. But you’re ready to do it again. We know that. We are in solidarity, live it together, have to thank giants of the past that will be on the wall.

Barr—George is the last of the original officers of the UFT. I always learn something new from these stories. Never really put it in context of day before Kennedy was elected and what country was going through at that time. Had elected one of the most progressive presidents of all time. Asks founders to stand.

Resolution carries unanimously.

We are adjourned 6:42.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Unmeasurable

We all suffer through Danielson and her nonsense to one degree or another. Some of us have supervisors who aren't crazy, and honestly you can't ask for more than that. All of us feel the pressure regardless. Then there are the grades and tests. Not enough are passing. It must be your fault, says the supervisor. Well, it isn't my fault. All I do is walk around and pass judgment on you, so I have nothing to do with what those children experience.

It's tough, though. You want to be kind to everyone. You want to be kind to the boy who doesn't feel Fridays are an appropriate day for school. When he shows up to one of the two classes you teach him, you try to pay him some attention. The topic is what jobs are worth having. He tells you it doesn't make a difference as long as you make a lot of money. You tell him what if you wake up every morning and dread going in? Wouldn't that make you unhappy? Wouldn't it make a difference if you had a job you looked forward to?

You see him thinking. You've made a point he will consider. But he'll still cut your next class, because that's what he does. It's your fault. Sure you've called the phone number the school has, but it's actually his number. It's not like you have anything new to say to him about his attendance, and it's not like anything you say will alter his behavior. He may wake up and decide to do something differently at any moment, but it's likely not one coming soon.

Then there's the boy who used to be in special education in his home country. Who knows what they do in special education in that country, but every paper he hands you is either blank or filled with random words, likely as not copied from somewhere in the room. You wait for months while they evaluate him, or look for someone who speaks his language to do so. When students work in pairs, you hope there's an odd person out so you can pair with him. You know no one will get any work done with him. You wonder what happens when you get observed and he isn't participating. Of course it's because you're ineffective. There could be no other cause, even though you haven't got the remotest notion about his abilities, and knowing almost no English, he can't show you. Still, you get along with him, and hope someone who knows better than you can help him.

There's the girl with the Problem She Won't Talk About. She functions. She gets good test grades. She smiles. But she's absent. She shows up with a social worker. You haven't got a clue. But she can answer questions. She has good grades. When she's around she does the work. She's excellent. You must be highly effective. But what the hell is going on with this girl? Likely as not, you will never know.

Teachers come up to you every day. "Oh my gosh, they put a new student in my class and it's NOVEMBER." You find that funny, because you get new kids each and every day, up to and including June. People don't move to a new country while planning for the school year. Go figure. Your class starts out with 20 and ends up with 34. If you have a co-teacher, maybe it goes oversize. After all, there are 2 teachers.

There are still great kids who have amazing advanced senses of humor, and however limited their English they manage to express it. You look forward to seeing them every day and encouraging and appreciating them. Of course, this won't get you points on the observation. Of course, this won't help them to pass the tests that measure nothing of value.

Meanwhile, the geniuses in Albany sit in their thrones and make rules. Their new plan to decimate English instruction is working perfectly. Not only do they need fewer ESL teachers, since they've declared direct English instruction to be unimportant, but the kids are all passing the tests! It's a WIN-WIN! Thank goodness they had the foresight to design tests that measure nothing!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Teachers Should Write Education Editorials

The NY Post gets you coming and going. A few weeks ago, they were saying that the notion of dropping Regents exams represented a total lack of standards, and that the whole state was going to turn into the Wild West. Everyone was going to pass no matter what. That was the only reason they could imagine for moving away from these tests.

Evidently, these tests ranked somewhere near the Ten Commandments, and were so perfectly formed that any criticism of them, let alone movement away from them, was absolutely out of the question. The Post showed no evidence they were actually familiar with the tests.

In our school, we have an election day PD by some company that’s visited us before. The first time they came, they showed us two essays. One was written by some spoiled young woman who complained her parents sent her to Europe. Evidently it was boring. Another was written by a young man who made burgers at a beachside stand that summer and milked the experience for all the humor that could be found in it.

There we were, challenged by highly paid PD preppers to discern between art and crap. It was my distinct feeling that anyone who didn’t recognize the crap for what it was, well, that person ought not to be teaching writing. I understand why the school is engaging them, though. A lot of students cannot write their way out of a paper bag, and many are native English speakers.

Actually, I place the blame for that on the English Regents exam, which we’re urged to prep kids for. The English Regents exam is Common Core based, and thus formulated on David Coleman’s brilliant theory that no one gives a crap what you think or feel. Since we teach students to write based on that foundation, it’s no surprise whatsoever that they produce writing no one wants to read. The truth is, no one gives a crap about writing that has no heart, passion or feeling.

I’ve actually been told that some of our highest-performing students have written college essays that were not particularly impressive. Someone who works at a college told me when she read good essays, she had no idea whether students wrote them themselves. When she read bad ones, she knew they were real.

Given all that, the Post now cries and moans that the NAEP exams are the gold standard, and by that standard de Blasio has made no progress whatsoever, and that this is "final proof."  Given the state standards are crap, something that’s utterly eluded the Post, I’m not surprised. I’m also not remotely persuaded this is de Blasio’s fault. After all, it’s the geniuses in Albany who write the tests, without which our students can’t graduate. Instead of teaching kids how to write, let alone how to appreciate reading, we’re forced to teach them to deal with crap that will serve only one purpose—helping them pass the crappy tests.

If Michael Bloomberg were mayor, the Post would be praising him to the heavens. He’d be a genius for raising state test scores. The NAEP would be ignored. The thing that really gets the Post’s goat is all that “social justice” stuff.

Perish forbid that students like those I serve should be treated with dignity as a matter of course. No, let’s go on our merry way as the geniuses in Albany cut direct English instruction. Doubtless the NY State Regents and the editors of the NY Post could go to China tomorrow and ace their standardized tests with no help whatsoever.

I’ve had it with reading education editorials and op-eds by people who not only haven’t got the remotest notion what they’re talking about, but then go the extra mile and say any gosh darn thing that will reinforce their obvious and blatant prejudices.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Time for Voting

In case you live in a cave or just hadn't heard, there's a New York State law that says you can take up to three hours off from work in order to vote in your local election. There's a form that's been made available to chapter leaders.

You can find further info and download the form you need right here. 
 
There are reasons why you ought to do this, whether or not you think you actually need the time. I mean sure, you can wake up at 4 instead of 4:30 that morning, go to your local polling place, and hope that you're the only one who had that idea. Maybe you won't have to wait on line. Then you'll be able to go to work and not miss a moment of whatever PD administration is offering that day.

On the other hand, this is now your right. It's a right that wasn't handed down from Mount Olympus by Zeus. Like the right to vote, it's a relatively new development. Now here's the thing about rights--if you don't assert them, you haven't actually got them. For example, a lot of people have the right to vote, but a whole lot of people can't be bothered. Your vote really matters. Look at the recent Queens DA race that came down to the wire.

Not persuaded? Look at who's President of the United States. Admittedly, he won the election fair and square by every possible measure (except votes cast). But a lot of people who'd voted for Barack Obama didn't bother to get off their keesters to vote for Hillary. And why should they have? The polls all said Hillary was a shoo-in. I didn't love Hillary myself, but with a choice between her and Trump, I voted for her. If I hadn't, I'd feel guilty.

Look at the UFT Contract. There are schools Bloomberg started that are still full of untenured teachers. The principal says everyone's C6 assignment is doing teacher teams five days a week, and poof! You have an entire building full of teachers, all of whom are already frazzled and overworked beyond, doing something they universally detest five days a week. Sure, the contract says you can choose a C6, and the menu needs to be negotiated by the chapter, but maybe there's no chapter leader.Or maybe the principal picked someone and said, "You are the chapter leader," and no one ran against that person. Who knows?

Nonetheless, in a building where no one asserts or defends the collective bargaining agreement, there may as well not be one. In a building ruled by fear, there's not a whole lot of teacher voice. I'd argue that teacher voice is one thing that really makes a building special. Even the best principal can't clone everyone in his own image and expect good results. In fact, the best principal would know that and actively interact with disparate voice. It's the worst principal who treads all over everyone no matter what, and that's why we have checks and balances written into the contract.

Are the checks and balances perfect? Do they always work? Of course they don't. But they are there, and it behooves us all to use them. Do you want to be in good physical shape? Then you have to exercise, one way or another. Do you want to enjoy the rights you have? You have to exercise them too.

If I were you, I'd copy and paste the form below and submit it to my AP. Then I'd have the AP give it to the principal. Also, I'd do it by Friday, because unless you're coming in Sunday, that's the only way to get it in two days before the election. I already submitted mine last week, the first time I saw it.

Don't say you don't need it. You don't need to vote either. But every single one of us, every time we look at the news or turn on the TV, is acutely aware of what happens when we don't.

This is your right. Use it or lose it. There's no middle ground.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Failure Breeds Contempt, and Less Work

I was talking to a friend from another school who was outraged that he had to write IEPs and one of his acquaintances did not. This was by instruction of the supervisor. Did the person have special privileges? Was he related to the AP?

Actually, he just did such a terrible job of it that the AP didn't want to bother. The problem, of course, is that once something like that becomes public knowledge, maybe everyone will do it. That didn't happen, in this case. What happened was everyone sort of began to hate this guy for not doing the work they all busted their butts over.

In case you don't know it, special education teachers have a whole lot of extra paperwork issues in the form of IEPs, which I believe stands for individual education plan. Kids with special needs are not all the same. Some need one thing, some need others, and it's up to special education teachers to write and collaborate on these plans. It's a big job, and it's generally the C6 assignment of all special ed. teachers. Of course, they have other issues as well, including co-teaching. A special ed. teacher might have two co-teachers, requisite co-planning and still have to write IEPs.

Years ago, I was assigned to do lunch duty, which I did for a full year. The dean who ran the lunchroom placed me at the front door to do all the work. He placed himself at the back door and did almost none of the work. It was one fun-filled year. I remember reading an op-ed in the Times saying how lunch duty is wonderful because you can really get to know the kids. I got to know the ones who had fake programs, the boys who brought in girl's programs, and the ones who'd lie to me and say they needed to leave early.

Actually it was perhaps the single most unrewarding experience of my career, on par or worse with proctoring exams of students I don't know in subjects I don't understand. Because I took the job seriously and actually challenged the students who didn't belong there, I was not much-loved by the more troublesome students. This job became the opposite of fun, and I really never wanted to do it again.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the good job I did inspired administration to reward me with it twice in a row. At that time, there was a regulation that you could only get lunch duty once every six years. Evidently the union knew how teachers felt about regulating food fights and wrote that in. While I wasn't chapter leader, and while I wasn't yet active in union issues, I knew the rule. I told them they couldn't place me there again.

They moved me to the dean's office. There was certain paperwork the dean didn't like doing, so he passed it off to the school aide assigned to his office. My job, evidently, was to assist the school aide. Why they thought that necessary I couldn't tell you. She looked at the work the dean passed off to her, and passed it off to me.

I dutifully filled in whatever crap I was asked to, but it turns out my handwriting is so awful no one could read it. People asked me what things said for a while. Sometimes I could read it. Other times I couldn't. After a while they stopped asking me to do the work the aide was supposed to do for the dean. I sat there the rest of the year and wrote lesson plans.

Sometimes I don't understand why we're placed in these situations. Other times it looks like everyone is in them sometimes. Why does common sense remain among the least common of all the senses?

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Too Much Testing? City Has Simple Solution--More Testing

CPE1 is a progressive stronghold. They have a vibrant school community that stands up to nonsense. When an abusive principal started pressing charges against UFT activists and banning activist parents from their children's school, they screamed, and continued doing so. The principal was reassigned. For all I know, she's twiddling her thumbs at Tweed, in the company of other highly-compensated thumb-twiddlers.

CPE1 is among a small circle of city schools in which opt-out is a popular option.  They have over a 70% opt-out rate on state tests. The parents at CPE1 do not appear to believe that pointless testing, let alone teaching to pointless tests, is the way to help their children. Having spent a good part of last year teaching students, half of whom had already passed, how to deal with the abysmal English Regents exam, I understand completely.

The state, of course, overreacted. It rated CPE1 a "struggling school," despite appeals otherwise from the Chancellor. Yet the city, evidently in response to this rating, has decided to give more tests to CPE1 and Brooklyn Collaborative studies, which also had a high opt-out rate. I'm not sure that's a logical response. If my daughter refused to eat broccoli, my first response wouldn't be imposing the all-broccoli diet. Of course, I'm just a lowly parent and teacher, not among the few, the proud, who do Whatever It Is They Do at Tweed.

This comes in the wake of an effort to enact more testing citywide. I understand the chancellor's concerns, and I understand his interest in knowing how our students are progressing. What I really do not understand is exactly how a standardized test will be able to measure this, or why, given the low, low quality of tests written by "experts," anyone would believe they would show or tell us anything.

As I mentioned, last year I had a class of students, half of whom had tested out of ESL and passed the English Regents. Many of the students who'd managed that proved unable to compose a coherent sentence in English. This, evidently, is the kind of test produced when a bunch of geniuses get together, consult experts and psychometricians, and spend huge sums of money that could otherwise be used to create space for students to learn in reasonable class sizes. I'm in the most overcrowded school in Fun City, and even with an annex that may be completed within my lifetime, I don't expect we'll see significant easing of the situation.

Even if the state tests were excellent, which they are certainly not, there's no way to ensure they're aligned with what my school, your school, or any school is learning. The Regents exams, along with the 3-8 exams, are given at the end of the year. There is no possibility of remediating the alleged shortcomings of our students. Even if there were, given the meaningless nature of the tests with which I'm familiar, it hardly seems worth it.

Now we're faced with the possibility of facing quarterly "formative assessments." That's a way of saying it's a nice assessment, that you won't find it particularly burdensome or unpleasant. Call it what you wish. If the results come in and say that your students aren't doing well, you'd better believe scores of principals will be forcing teachers to get better test results.

This will, of course, lead to more teaching to the test. I can tell you, from years of experience, that teaching to the test does not lead to love of learning, passion for the subject matter, or much of anything beyond better passing rates. For years, I was tasked with teaching English Language Learners how to pass the English Regents exam, back when it actually measure writing. I spent the year having kids write until their hands were about to fall off.

My friend, a Chinese teacher, overheard and translated this:

I don't know what I can do. I can't pass the English Regents exam.

Maybe you should take Goldstein's class.

Why? Is it good?

No. It's horrible. But if you take it, you'll pass the Regents.

I can believe that. I never enjoyed teaching that class, and I understand that students wouldn't have enjoyed taking it. But its sole objective was showing students formulaic ways to meet the four writing tasks the test then demanded. Even having done so, these were particular writing tasks. I was acutely aware that I was teaching students how to pass the test, not how to write.

Other things I didn't teach were English conventions, since the Regents exam placed them at the very bottom of its writing rubric. The issue for them was passing a test, without which they couldn't graduate from high school. I really don't want to teach another class like that ever again, but you never know.

With quarterly city exams, it's entirely possible every single class will be like that. Given Danielson, test-prep classes could be a death knell for teacher ratings. I hope the chancellor reconsiders this initiative and chooses to rely on teacher grades. Studies show teacher grades are a better indicators of college success than standardized tests.

We're ready and willing to share our grades with you, Mr. Chancellor. Trust us. Just because the state deems us unfit to grade our own students doesn't mean we're a bunch of crooks. If we were a bunch of crooks, we're surely have higher salaries, you know, like the people from the state who make the rules.

Stop taking advice from the overpaid ex-principals at Tweed, Mr. Chancellor. We're the ones actually doing the work, and we know better.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Realizing A Vision

I've watched the Mulgrew-Carranza video five or six times. What they want is the moon, the sun, and the stars.

Now don't get me wrong--I want it too. I want it all. The issue, though, is how do we get there from here? How do we establish healthy working relationships with New York City supervisors, many of whom received training directly from Joel Klein's Leadership Academy?

Joel Klein most certainly didn't want to sing Kumbayah with the likes of me. Klein wanted to close my school and make me an ATR. As it happened, I'd already transferred to a school that got better grades than the one in which I used to work. I'm not stupid enough to think that was because of my sudden presence. It had a lot more to do with the neighborhood kids, who tended to get higher scores. Had I stayed where I was I'd be an ATR.

I transferred simply because my boss wanted me to work hours that would've precluded my second job teaching college. My transfer had nothing to do with school quality. It had to do with the transfer school being close to Queens College and having hours that would let me leave in time to do my second job. That way I could make the money I needed to pay my brand new mortgage. I happened to be very lucky, luckier than I'd imagined.

You see, my then-supervisor didn't care whether or not I could pay my mortgage. She told me that the Spanish teacher threw out too many kids, and I never threw out anyone. Therefore I was going to teach Spanish, not throw out kids, and she would spend less time dealing with kids who were thrown out. If not, I was gonna be on the late shift and lose my second job. The fact that I love teaching ESL, the fact that my English is way better than my Spanish--these were of no importance whatsoever. She needed her "me time," I had the Spanish license, and that was that.

As you surely know, there are plenty more where she came from.

When I became chapter leader, a teacher gave me all the emails for the department. After I sent the first email, another teacher in the same department approached me.

"I feel like I've been RAPED," she said.

"Oh my gosh,"  I said. "What happened?"

"You sent me an email, and I never gave you my address."

"I'm so sorry," I said. "Someone gave me a list. I'll never send you another email again."

"That's okay," she said. "You can send me more email."

That was taking passive-aggressive to a new level, I thought. Shortly thereafter, of course, she was promoted to supervisor.

As chapter leader, you see things other people don't. You ask questions.

"Why did you observe Ms. Finch on a half day when there were almost no students in the building? If you want to give her a chance, don't you think it would be better to see her when she had, you know, an actual class?"

Then the supervisor just says no, I'm not gonna do that. What's the point of even talking to people who think like that?

Tweed is full of people who think like that or worse. Schools, also, are full of Bloomberg leftovers. I know supervisors I trust absolutely. I know supervisors I trust almost absolutely. I know others who are good in some aspects, but funny in others. Then there are the ones who never, ever should have gotten those jobs.

Carranza and Mulgrew have a great idea. Still when Carranza fired or reassigned four people, the media was in a frenzy. What would they do if he suddenly decided that insane individuals ought not to be supervising teachers and fired them en masse? How many people who hate teachers and everything we stand for are still sitting in Tweed, drawing a salary for Whatever It Is They Do There? How many are working as supervisors of teachers?

Let's work together, improve our practice, and help the 1.1 million children who need our help, say Carranza and Mulgrew. How could anyone even begin to disagree with that.

There are a few people standing in the way of that vision.  How many do you know? Can we simply begin hiring people who aren't crazy and wait them out? Or do Bloomberg leftovers and Leadership Academy grads, like cockroaches and Rudy Giuliani, simply survive everything?

Can we work toward improving our craft, as opposed to living in perpetual fear and loathing? I certainly hope so. It's something worth striving for, worth fighting for. Is it gonna happen overnight? Of course not. But I figure a hundred thousand people who can teach 34 students at a time can do just about anything. We build a house brick by brick.

We just have to place them very carefully.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

This Year's Model

It's inevitable. Another new year, another new reformy trend. You need to give a mini-lesson that must be exactly ten minutes, NOT nine, NOT eleven. Then the children must sit on a rug while you read them a book. Never mind whatever that rug happens to be crawling with.

Also, you must have an aim on the board. It must be phrased as a statement. Also, it must be phrased as a question. You see, students are so dim that they cannot possibly understand what is going on unless you reduce it into eight or nine words.

Now don't get all uppity and start thinking. We don't do that here. Sure, if you have the best aim in the world and your lesson is total crap the aim won't help. And sure, if you fail to write an aim but your students find you totally enthralling, your lesson will be excellent. What I'm looking for here is the opportunity to walk by your classroom, not even set foot inside, and decide whether or not you suck. Aim? Doesn't suck. No aim? Sucks.

Also you need to begin with a DO NOW so that everyone is focused. They must sit down and get right to work. The DO NOW should take no more than five minutes. If it takes longer, not only does it suck, but you also suck. If I wanted to look at things that suck, I would've kept my job at Dunkin Donuts instead of having my mom get me this gig.

Also I've had it with that "reading" stuff. No one wants to sit and read, so let's not even pretend about that. From now on everyone will read no more than two paragraphs at a time, and when they do, they will answer at least five questions about whatever it was you made them read. And none of that fiction stuff, because we don't want them thinking deeply enough to empathize with fictional characters. Who knows what that could lead to? Next thing they'll be asking me questions at the Christmas assembly instead of singing along with whatever trite song I favor that year.

Also, it's of vital importance that we get some of those answers to questions on bulletin boards. And for goodness sake don't forget to put a rubric on the bulletin board, because no one can appreciate a bulletin board that doesn't have a rubric on it. Okay, maybe I exaggerate. I won't look at the frigging rubric, because it bores me to tears, and neither will anyone else, But if you don't put a rubric on the bulletin board, I'll put a letter in your file, bro, and that may lead to further disciplinary measures up to and including termination.

And now let's talk templates. What are templates? They're a combination of plates and temples. Or something. And I want you to follow the templates, because if you don't, you will be OUT OF COMPLIANCE and that means a disciplinary meeting. JESUS, WHY CAN"T YOU TEACHERS GET WITH THE PROGRAM? SHOW SOME FRIGGING INITIATIVE AND FIGURE IT OUT!!! AND I WANT EXIT TICKETS!!! DON'T GET ME STARTED ABOUT EXIT TICKETS!!! ANYONE WHO DOESN'T HAVE ONE WILL BE RATED SUPER DOUBLE SECRET INEFFECIVE!!!

Anyway I hope that clears things up. Portfolios? Yeah I know I said we needed them last year but portfolios are out. Let's get those templates happening. What are they? I don't know, okay? Just look them up on YouTube. That's what you do for everything else, isn't it? And have them on my desk in the morning.

That will be all.

Monday, October 21, 2019

UFT Executive Board October 21st--UFT and the Presidential Race

6:00 PM Secretary LeRoy Barr welcomes us.

No speakers

Minutes—approved

Barr—Shortened November 18th to observe changes to Wall of Honor, changed from November 4th. Starting at 5:30. All are welcome.

Adjust calendars—January 6th EB moved to January 13. Manhattan parent conference this Saturday. SI parent conference November 2. 8-2. Thanks us for coming out to Teacher Union Day. 


Question period—

Arthur Goldstein
—Yesterday at Teacher Union Day we watched Joe Biden promise us a grab bag of goodies. I can’t imagine any teacher not wanting to enact the programs he described. Yet he never mentioned privatization, which threatens so many public school districts. And though he frequently refers to his part in the Obama administration, he failed to do so yesterday.

Working teachers still feel Race to the Top, which imposed charters and test-based ratings on much of the country. While I’ve seen such ratings here help teachers, it’s only because so many city administrators are so wretchedly inept that a crap shoot is preferable to their judgment. Diane Ravitch wrote Obama gave GW Bush an extra term in education. Arne Duncan famously said Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to happen to NOLA education. We remember the near complete privatization of the city, and the virtual destruction of union there, pretty much blazing a trail for Betsy DeVos.

Maybe Joe Biden didn’t play a part in it, and maybe he didn’t support it, but I’ve never heard him say so. The Daily News referred to us as his supporters. Personally, I’d support him against Trump, but that doesn’t make me his supporter. The fact that we’ve thus far invited him and no one else lends credence to the paper’s assertion. The Times today, in a piece on Warren’s new education plan, says, “Ms. Warren and her Democratic rivals are vying for endorsements from teachers’ unions, which generally oppose the expansion of the charter sector.” I’d like them come and do their vying right here.

Is the United Federation of Teachers pursuing opportunities for members to hear from the other frontrunners, Sanders and Warren?

Barr—Daily News got facts wrong. We were clear that because Biden was available it no way means we are endorsing him. This in no way means we don’t want others to come. As soon as we can get them here, we will. We will have a report about the debate party. Goal is to make members as informed as possible. AFT wants people to work with people they want to work with. We want people’s time and talent devoted to any candidate they choose. It’s still early, many people on stage. Michael wants us to wait until the field narrows a bit, see who can be elected, who can beat Trump. Daily News did not get it right, and Arne Duncan was wretched.

Rashad Brown—Are we taking a position on city charter?

Barr—Will let Michael or others speak to that.

DeShanna Barker—Re—smaller schools—how can we support them? Often they are charged with same things as larger schools, and it doesn’t always work out. Prep periods and workloads are the same, but often times don’t have manpower. How can we support them?

Barr—These were created by Joel Klein to break up large schools. Found many members applied to specialty schools, wanted to be there, have had same issues for years. Many who signed up were willing to do some of that work. Difficult to lay foundation until school grows large enough. In terms of budget, these can be conversations between entire campus. Principals and CLs there can discuss how to put things back together and make some things work. We will talk about strategies and techniques they’ve been using.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew
—Thanks everyone for UFT events, ELL conference, AFT teacher leader group, Strides, and Teacher Union day, which went well. We are not endorsing anyone. Trying to reach goal we did in mayor’s race. We’re moving toward working with campaigns and telling them what we want on national level. Over weekend we were in contact with Warren campaign. They were waiting for K-12 plan to come out. When we do endorsement, we look at education, worker policy, health care, pharma, looking for more support and development of unions. We should be expert on that.

Most times, it’s not who you like the best. After that, you have to figure out who can actually win. Team and apparatus in place important. That will take a lot of our time. Going to AFT this week. UFT largest local by far, will play significant role, but decision will be based on criteria I said. Important that leading candidate came to us, and that public sees. Trying to find dates and times for others.

You have right to leave early or come late for election day. You must inform them it is state law, only for NY State residents. 3 hours. You have to have a race happening in your district to get release time. If you live in an NYC district, public advocate is up. Not sure about other counties. Make sure there is race in your district. Let us know if principals object.

We should be done with all class size arbitration by Thanksgiving. Planning what to do about curriculum and DOE. DRs and field reps will be trained. Talking to CEC reps about this and the census. Thanks everyone who volunteered last weekend. Good people saw UFT working with community and pushing public school system to greater heights.

Barr—Will send voting info to Exec Board and CLs.

Reports from Districts

Rich Mantel—I need winter jackets. We bring students from temporary housing here to UFT, for Thanksgiving, give them food, games, and when they leave, every one gets new winter jacket, gloves and a scarf. They cannot be more appreciative. This year our biggest sponsor can’t help up. We are behind. If you can help with clothing or money we would appreciate it. Bring to my office or borough offices. Mail, or we’ll pick it up. Must be new.

Serbia Silva—Thanks volunteers, coordinators, all who made it to two different events on Sunday. Thanks borough reps, leadership and everyone.

Sean Rockowitz—At last exec board I spoke to retiree sanitation workers, who offered to help with Thanksgiving drive. Will collect coats, hats, toys. SI UFT hosted event for PreK center new hires. Very well attended. Donated $1500.

Rich Mantel—Thanks SI retirees who’ve donated dozens of coats.

Rashad Brown
—First LGBTQ youth empowerment dinner, Corey Johnson and others, $75 for scholarship fund. Nov. 21.

Barr—wants everyone to participate. Wants Danny Dromm fund to have 30K. We want you there to come out and celebrate.

Legislative report—Brigitte Ryan—On behalf of political dept., thank you for yesterday. All was beautiful. Congratulates honorees. Ballot proposals—no position, but if you have questions, refer to political appointees in borough offices. Hosting a session October 23 9 AM, will talk with labor movement about census, child care crisis, rank and file services.

Will have presidential delegate training, Sunday November 3rd. Refer questions to Cassie Brugh cbrugh@uft.org

Resolution to support NYC Transit Workers—MaryJo Jenise—5 months without contract. Asks for support for our brothers and sisters. Strike would have terrible impact on people.

Passes Unanimously.

Motion to adjourn 6:38

Sunday, October 20, 2019

IO Classroom (formerly Skedula) Still Sucks

For a few years I've been using this app to record grades. Some of my colleagues keep a paper book too. I don't. I figure if Skedula wants the responsibility of recording grades for thousands of teachers, it's on them to protect them. Doing the work once, as opposed to twice, should be enough. After all, Skedula is taking in tons of money for their service, so they owe us, at least, minimum competency.

Alas, that's not what we're getting right now. For weeks, the averages seemed to be off. I got tales of woe from various colleagues. I couldn't help but notice when I gave a kid a grade of 90 on a homework assignment that his average went from around 90 to forty-something. I had to keep re-entering the grade. I don't remember what I did to correct it, but I finally managed to do so.

 Had I not been paying attention to the overall average (and I'm not exactly sure why I should have to do that) I could've gotten an irate call from a parent. Then perhaps I'd be called into the principal's office and need to explain why a kid who passed all his tests has a 40 average. That's hardly what I call service. If I wanted a computer program that assigned random averages for no reason, I'm sure I could design it myself. After all, I'm totally unqualified to write computer programs, so why wouldn't my product look like that?

I don't know exactly how much my school pays this company, but last I heard it was around ten thousand dollars a year. Hey, if I could make ten thousand dollars a year producing crappy software I might do it. It's certainly easier than, you know, working. I'm expected to show up, be on time, plan lessons, execute said lessons, and somehow improve the English of my students. If I were to just show up and dance, or read a book, or eat fifty hot dogs, there would be consequences. Of course, I'm not running a big company that takes millions of dollars from city schools.

IO Classroom really outdid itself this weekend, though. A friend of mine was behind on recording grades, and told me he was going to catch up Friday night, whatever it took. He tried to log on Friday night and here's the message he got:

Skedula is temporarily unavailable.
We are currently performing scheduled maintenance. Site will be offline from Friday Oct 18 6:00PM - Saturday Oct 19 6:00AM.
We apologize for any inconvenience

Interesting that they seemed unaware of their own name change. Everyone I know still calls it Skedula.  I guess they do too. Of course, it was very nice of them to apologize for any inconvenience. I'm sure my friend, who canceled his plans Friday night to catch up, found that very gratifying. I suppose, since they apologized,  he'd have no issue canceling his Saturday plans as well

Here's the thing, though--in our school, at least, grades are due Tuesday morning. So a week of getting bad averages and the unavailability of Skedula wasn't particularly helpful. As if that's not enough, Monday and Tuesday are Simchat Torah. Observant Jewish teachers will not only be out of school, but they also won't be inputting grades on those days.

Now I don't expect Skedula, or whatever they call themselves this week, to be expert on Jewish holidays. I do, however, expect them to have their program up when teachers need it. I expect them to be cognizant of when marking periods end, and to do whatever maintenance they need to do as far away from peak times as possible.

I've asked for an extension for our school, and I suppose we'll get one. This now becomes an inconvenience for administration, the very people who decide whether or not to pay Skedula for its services. That's pretty bad business, if you ask me.

I'm told that Skedula was designed by ex-teachers, and that it's now run by some company or other. The thing about Skedula that makes it attractive to administrators is that it plays well with Stars, which is what administrators record various statistics with. It's time for the city to open up the system to competition, and find more reliable and user-friendly apps from which to choose.

The choice of Skedula or go screw yourself is no longer viable.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Mr. Stein and the Superintendent

Mr. Stein was a very methodical and organized teacher. He had a system. Each class had several monitors who knew exactly what to do. His papers were all in the right place. You'd never see Mr. Stein frantically writing a lesson plan. He had them all ready, printed out, and sorted by date. The student monitors knew where they were, and they knew which ones to use for which classes.

Mr. Stein had the grading thing down pretty well too. He didn't need to look at papers. He had a great sense of who could and could not handle grading the papers. Of course he never let students grade their own classes. That would've been unfair. His classes were models of cooperation. No one ever called out, no one threw papers, and no one challenged him. He had a perfect system.

One day, the superintendent came to inspect the school. She walked around all day with the principal. They observed classes of every subject and level. She was not that happy in general, but when she saw Mr. Stein's class, she was delighted. She didn't usually tell teachers what she thought, but after the bell rang, she had to let him know that she thoroughly enjoyed his class. Unfortunately, toward the end of their conversation, he looked her directly in the eye and instantly turned to stone, right there in his polo shirt, his khakis, and his Skechers, all of which remained made of cotton.

Next period, the monitors came in and handed out the papers. There was a test that day, so the student monitors were very vigilant. One of them saw a student making some furtive movements, and decided to move him to a seat from which he absolutely could not copy.  There were no further incidents, and the entire period went on normally.

The next period, the student monitors managed to not only correct all the papers, but also to record all the grades on Skedula. Mr. Stein had given them his password. He was a fine judge of character and trusted them absolutely. The following day the monitors reviewed the entire test and took special care to go over items that many students had missed.

The student monitors were excited that Mr. Stein had trusted them with so much responsibility. They felt confident that he trusted them absolutely. In fact, he didn't even need to give them tips or suggestions anymore. Everything was running pretty well.

The following week, the assistant principal came in to observe Mr. Stein's class. She was really impressed. The students were interacting well, and everything seemed to happen of their own volition. They helped each other and cooperated well. She rated Mr. Stein highly effective.

A problem arose when a parent called to ask why her son had received 97 instead of 98. Though the secretary placed the letter in his mailbox, he never bothered to call back. This was unacceptable, thought the principal, who decided to call him in for a disciplinary meeting. A meeting was scheduled 48 hours later. Though the chapter leader showed up to represent him, Mr. Stein never showed.

The principal placed a letter in his file, but Mr. Stein never signed it. As the year went by, though, no further problems seemed to come up. The students did well, and by the end of the year had gotten excellent grades on the Regents exams.

The principal decided he'd been too tough on poor Mr. Stein, and placed a complimentary letter in his file, thanking him for all the good work he'd done that year. He was pretty disappointed when that ungrateful bastard decided not to sign and return it, but really, how could you question that sort of person? He was a weirdo alright, but he had a genius for making the students succeed.

When Mr. Stein didn't show up for graduation, the principal decided just to leave him alone. Sure it would've been nice for him to show up, but hey, the Stein guy wore the same clothes every day and managed to control his classes without lifting a finger. And he always stood right by the door to greet the students. Who was he to question Mr. Stein's methods? If they worked, they worked.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

UFT Delegate Assembly October 16--City Council Visits, We Support UAW and CTU

4:29 Michael Mulgrew, UFT President, welcomes us to our first DA of the year. Comments on everyone wearing pink,  says UFT raises a large amount of money to fight breast cancer. 

Mulgrew asks new union reps to stand. Thanks them for standing up, literally and figuratively. Says we fight and advocate for us and children. 

Mulgrew says we put money into training and programs, and calls City Council of NY a great partner. Says they trust us and understand money going to us is used for direct benefit of city students. Mentions programs supported with millions from City Council. Points out heads of education committee, finance committee, are UFT. Says speaker is particularly responsive. Says they understand what we’re doing, what our communities face. Our partnership changes children’s lives. Welcomes Corey Johnson, Danny Dromm, and Mark Trayger.

Corey Johnson—Thanks UFT members for having them here. Says they’re grateful for work we do. In these days, with such deep division, appreciates teachers helping children and being politically active.

Work very closely on funding BRAVE, Dial a Teacher, Teacher’s Choice, all ongoing collaborations. Working on system and department wide changes, like “fair student funding.” Many schools not getting what they need. Council added 125 million which brought some schools up to 90%.  DOE looking at changing formula. Can’t raise it on our own, need foundation aid from state, refers to CFE and demands they show us the money. Looks to raising foundation aid and improving conditions for special ed. students. Affects almost 20% of school system here.

Mulgrew—We have a lot of enemies looking to destroy our system. They say if NYC comes down entire country will fall. DeVos wants vouchers. We’re doing better than ever on achievement and dropout rates. Never hear enough. With city admin on way out, how do we move forward? NYC is under corrective action, can be used against us. What do you think we should be doing this year to move forward? How do we motivate DOE to stop power games and stupidity?

Danny Dromm—Was CL for 25 years. Remembers shaking hands with Shanker, worked with Feldman, Weigarten, feels like coming back to family. Proud of special ed. reporting bill. Was no accountability. I knew not every kid was getting services. First year we found only 60% were getting service. 35% partial, 5% none at all. Worked without bilingual counselor in my school for 25 years.  We got additional funding for testing facilities. Must hold DOE accountable. Up to 70%, but we still need to improve.

Curriculum—In 1984 were books written by Charlotte Frank. Those were all lost, and there is no, or very few curriculum guides available now. They say individualize, but they give nothing to individualize with. I can’t go on the net and find 34 lessons for a class.
Other focus is teaching of LGBTQ individuals. As teacher thank God I had tenure. Without it I wouldn’t be sitting here. Want everyone to know LGBT history is everyone’s history. We have put 1.8 million to ensure this type of program goes on. Get in touch with me or Eric Vaughan. We have funding. Bayard Rustin was honored by this union many years ago and everyone should know who he is.

Mark Treyger—You have the best education team in city Government, Danny Dromm and Corey Johnson. Greatest labor leader, President Michael Mulgrew. Good to be home at DA. I used to sit in the audience and see President from that lens, now see his ferocity and tenacity. Should out to city council committee staff. Seen system from multiple lenses, student, teacher, delegate, SLT, now council member chair of education committee. Thanks speaker and Danny for their help.

Remembers when DOE came to school with compliance checklists. Now it’s our turn. Now we have the clipboards. Tell us what you’re doing, IEPs aren’t recommendations, why isn’t AC in every classroom.

UFT one of most powerful organizing forces in NY. Some folks in state budget, rather than fund our schools, want to lecture. I went up, they said no one could see school budgets. We showed school allocation memos.

Three main streams of funding, federal, flat, state, insufficient, and city. Asked governor where is 1.4 billion for schools, 4 billion statewide? FSF very precious to schools. Flexible to hire key staff. Can hire people with that money. Majority are not at 100%. Lincoln HS short 900K. How many counselors, paras, music programs could they buy?

We said to admin that your paid parental leave policy was sickening. Members had to use sick days to care for children. Outrageous. Major step forward led by Mulgrew.

Special ed. is non-negotiable. Dealing with mandates. We need someone in DOE who knows rules. Their own person came to my hearing. I ask questions. Have DOK knowledge chart. Asked how many IEPs they have translated. They didn’t even know there was federal requirement. Let’s start with people who know what they’re doing. Let’s empower people who know more than them.

We must address social emotional needs of our kids to get them to perform academically. 1 million students, more NYPD agents than social workers counselors and paras combined. We need more of them.

We lifted freeze on social workers, Commitment to hire 200 in our schools. 

I still visit schools almost every week. Thrive wouldn’t come to schools. This council redirected 11 million from Thrive for consultants to 85 social workers.

Mulgrew—Asked them here because of work we’ve gotten done. Proud of our support for them. We’re supposed to do things together. These gentlemen stood up and said no. We thank you for all your support.

Johnson—President didn’t mention last year, at one point, one in ten children were deemed homeless. 110K in shelters, with relatives, tonight will be 80K in system. Almost 30K are under 18. We are richest city in world. Budget went from 73 billion to 93 billion. Unacceptable to have 100K homeless children. People who have to deal with this are teachers, trying to provide additional support for families who don’t have what they need. Want to recognize UFT has been working with us on issue. Easy to say we want affordable housing, but affordable to who? Not just housing, but education, school, work force and labor issue. We’ve been engaging with your president and leadership team so it doesn’t all fall on teachers. Thanks us for all the work we do for vulnerable children.

Treyger—You find out who your friends are when cameras are off. No greater friend too education than speaker Corey Johnson.

5:06 Mulgrew—We’re trying to implement new contract, make it real in schools. Words in paper are nothing more unless we use them. Last year started with consultation, this year with class size reduction rights. Knew DOE thought those new rights should just be words on page. DOE legal didn’t want to do anything. They like 400 schools doing arbitration for 7 or 8 months.

We asked you to engage. At this time last year 400 schools 2K classes. Day ten this year 350 schools 1500 classes. At next level, we bet superintendents wouldn’t want this going above them. Were able to make it major issue. Ten days went from 350 to 105. We used to have this going on for seven months. Today only 87 schools with oversized classes. Lowest number of oversized classes in October in history of UFT. Will get rest done by Thanksgiving.

Consultation—tripled number of schools who filed reports from 200 to 600. I use your consultation to determine what’s in mine. Best way for you to tell me. We know some idiot at DOE legal is telling principal to do something stupid. We need to know. We want your feedback on form, Want everything to pre-populate.

We need to move forward—we have issues with chancellor, mayor, but moving toward how we make schools better places. DOE trained principals on student removal process. Just because they’re trained doesn’t mean they’ll follow. Tell principal we’re here to work with you, but first and foremost we need system to educate kids in front of us. When students in crisis, or having bad day, we want a process so they don’t interrupt education of other students. Would principals ruin entire classroom because they don’t want discussion with irate parents?

We have changed state standards. Not just renaming of common core. Significant changes. Dozens of NYC teachers, hundreds of NYS teachers. Problem is principals haven’t been trained. Two other issues—2021 tests will be based on these. We are working with SED. Can’t tell schools what curriculum to use, can only set standards. Last year they called it “year of awareness.” No one seems to know about it.

Advanced literacy framework, Culturally responsive curriculum, and next generation standards from state. All single package. DOE had only voluntary training. Say everyone was trained but no one was. Says CRC different from states. ALF only one city engaged in, and only part of it. In ALC framework, says you cannot do anything moving forward, unless everyone has common understanding and PD in curriculum they are using. Should be a YEAR of PD in place before they have leadership team.

We will get into a war over this. Everyone at UFT has started training on all components. will roll out to you. Bureaucrats don’t care about our school system. they know they’re hurting children. They think Instructional Leadership Team will fix everything. They should’ve first given us curriculum and training, and we design lesson plans.

Told DOE two weeks ago, and immediately we got operational complaints. Teachers were sent standards by principal. Said make sure they are reflected in lesson plan as we move forward. Letting you all know this will be major campaign. If we have to hit streets and say DOE is ruining our schools, we will.

Next problem is corrective action plan on special ed. We have serious problems. NYSED says we’re severely and chronically out of compliance. System is basically if you can get away with it, do it. If principal says he has no money, bring it to DR. Superintendent will wave it to borough support center. BSC says we sent principal money, but can’t tell him what to do. That’s superintendent’s job. This system is probably why we have corrective action plan.

You’ll spend 800 million on computer system bound for garbage rather than give kids services they need. This is public. Who’s in charge of US DOE? DeVos said special ed. was state issue, was corrected because that’s civil rights. Do we want her associated with our school system?

We have to focus on all this. Changing things here to support in field. We are anti-DOE. We want to help and support schools. We want every district to have political action team. Will be very turbulent political system in two years. Our friends can’t remain in office.

Next year is census year. Do your neighbors understand how important it is? Bridges tunnels and roads, fed money. Health care? Feds? Education also very important. Money from fed needed.

Which city performed the worst on the census ten years ago? It was us. We had a 60% rate. We gave tens of billions back to feds. Average participation was 73%. We are partnering with very odd partners with this. Feds want to discourage participation and deter people in cities from filling it out. All residents should fill it out. George Washington wanted non-citizens to participate and encouraged it in a letter.

Every one of those dollars we send to feds comes back as 60 cents because we don’t deal with issue. Key is we need political action teams in each district. It’s community grassroots. Every district has a school, multiple schools. We will get major cooperation from admin and DOE to use schools.

PD committee in contract. Instruction leadership team is not.

Imagine schools want real grassroots process with parents of kids who will be in new schools. Want to customize to needs of stakeholders, not people above. Mayor wants preK for entire city before he leaves office. Kids in preK did better in tests. We’ve been saying so for 50 years. Give mayor credit. Thanks preK teachers.

Chicago Teacher Union, looking at strike Thursdays, about what they’re allowed to bargain, like class size. Auto workers came to tentative agreement. MTA problematic.

Probably closing down registration for Teacher Union Day. Lots of people coming this Sunday. We have 170 tables. Would like to move around. Same day as Strides day. Starting at 11.

Praises Serbia Silva for leading Strides.

VP Biden coming to teacher union day. We will not endorse. National endorsement from AFT. Asking locals to engage. Did a lot of work in summer. With 23, decided to wait until Fall. Waited until it got more serious. We are in conversations with multiple candidates, and want them to spend time with us here. We were able to schedule him so he came, but will bring others.

Looking for who can win, and who has educational policies we want. We are union of workers—health care and education. If those are correct, we look at who will win. About 20% of us want current occupant to stay. We look at our profession, how we keep livelihood, and who is best for working people.

Our endorsements are recommendations to you. Then you make your own determination.

5:41 LeRoy Barr—Saturday ELL workshop 8-3:30. UFT disaster relief supporting families on border, looking to work with Catholic Charities. You can donate at UFT.org. Please share. Friday Nov. 1, AFT Latino Caucus, Coquito fund raiser, Bronx UFT 4:30. UFT disaster relief also support Dorian victims. May donate at UFT.org. We will support students. Collecting items for relocated college students. LGBTQ dinner nov. 21. Raiding money for Danny Dromm scholarship fund. MS coat drive November 23rd. Next DA November 20.

Mulgrew—Probably will not get to resolutions today, due to city council piece.

Questions—

Q—Members asking how long to resolve safety complaint.

A—Five days. Bring it up in consultation at safety meeting. If not resolved, goes up the chain. Send it up. Blame me if you like.

Q—Spoke about political action. CLs asked to choose rep. What will role be?

A—We are talking about this. Don’t want CL doing everything. Let’s start here. You need to empower people. Someone who will go to district level meeting. PAC will be utilized for census. Good for local elections. Will interview candidates. Will see what happens and share it out at first. Someone you can trust to go to meeting and report.

Q—Can you say more about debt forgiveness? Problems in D75.

Started it last year. Had meetings. By summer did webinars. They are huge hit. Will put in CL update. We saved UFT members over 45 million dollars last year. Companies suck, will burn in hell, mislead people, multiple lawsuits against them. We thought would only be teachers under five years. We will make sure members get right info.

Q—We heard from council members about need for housing. Chicago issue is demand by teachers, took stand for public housing and lower class sizes. What are we going to do to support them? Donation? Wear red?

A—We take directions from them. They want a resolution. As we move forward, we will let them tell us what they want. We will have to do something more with housing here. We have homeless situation, and many of us can’t afford to live here anymore. We’ll first deal with homeless. DOE finally added 100 new bus routes for homeless children. Best we’ve gotten out of them. Anything more we’ve done on our own. Other crisis is members leaving because they can’t afford to live in city. Will push this in Albany. We will stay in touch with Chicago.

Q—Given competing proposals from presidential candidates, has UFT looked at various Medicare plans. How much will it cost us if insurance choice taken away.

A—Can’t answer in this time, but something has to change. Spending a lot of time negotiation health costs. To me, we have a problem. How long, as a union, can we keep no premium option. Every day we are in multiple fights. We have pharmacists help us go after drug companies. Costs are astronomical. We have to have this debate.

Q—Schools on CSI list—How can we get them off, and how can we educate Albany?

A—Had to be implemented by NYSED because of state law. We have good Board of Regents, with real educators. Used to be all business people. Don’t have commissioner. Have acting commissioner. We have complete cooperation and our state union says something has to change. State wants city to come up with plan. We know you’re dealing with it, but where is team from NYSED? Law has to be changed. We need to work with school community, not just say you’re bad, fix yourself.

Mulgrew—Time is up. We need motion to extend.

LeRoy Barr—point of order—Asks we do motion period for one motion for CTU, then others.

Mulgrew—Out of order.

Dave Pecoraro—Motion to extend 15 minutes for for motion period only.

Appears to be tied. Mulgrew has us stand and it passes.

Point of order—
 Pecora
ro—endorsement for Melinda Katz?

Mulgrew—We endorsed in primary.

Mike Sill—Motion to this month’s agenda—Be it resolved UFT support CTU as they prepare to go on strike.

Passes almost unanimously.
Pecoraro—Motion to endorse Melinda Kats for Queens County DA.

Passes.

George Altomare
—Resolution to support UAW in their strike.

Mulgrew—We have a tentative agreement. Already on agenda.

Altomare
—Wants UAW moved from 4 to 1 in resolution period.

passes

Movement to make CTU number two. So moved.

CL—Given fact that census tied to our funding, census should be mentioned and highlighted in UFT paper.

Mulgrew
—That is idea, not motion.

Resolution—
George Altomare
—This union strong because we’re here together. We had a strike for collective bargaining. UAW helped us. Backed us when we had nothing.

Motion to call question

Question called resolution passed.

Mike Sill—Everything George said applies to this.

Michael Freedman
calls question.

Question called resolution passed unanimously.  6:16 We are adjourned.