Thursday, April 27, 2017

Class Size Regulations v. Reality

I've been chapter leader for eight years now, and at least six times a year I need to go through our 50 plus page master schedule and identify oversized classes. I'm not particularly drawn to spreadsheets, and it isn't exactly fun for me. But it's my job nonetheless, so I do it.

Most years we have a handful of oversized classes, and we work it out one way or another. Sometimes they rule against me, saying this or that class isn't subject to the Contract. In the fall, some arbitrator decided we should just keep all the oversized classes, but that teachers would get one day off from their C6 assignments, e.g. tutoring. This struck me as so absurd that I wrote an op-ed for the Daily News over it.

I see simplicity as a virtue, and I admire writers who are able to make points simply. Though my job sometimes requires it, I do not much love wading through convoluted nonsense. Therefore when the Contract says there shall be no more than 34 students in a high school class, I interpret it to mean just that. If there are 35, you move one out.

But the Contract cites various exceptions, and if you don't meet them and are oversized anyway, it specifies that there should be a "plan of action." As I mentioned, last Fall, that was relief from one C6 period per week. To me, that seemed more like a plan of inaction. I mean, the problem was oversized classes. How on earth does granting me one additional weekly prep period make the class smaller? How does reducing my tutoring load help me to give more attention to my students?

This semester was a little better. The arbitrator did the right thing, and told our school, among others, to just fix the class sizes. I thought we had finally achieved something.  But it's a month in and nothing has happened. Now they tell me there's something called a "compliance call." This phrase is not in the UFT Contract.

Evidently, though, if you follow all the rules, if you get a favorable ruling, there is this extra step. Who knew? So the principal sits around and does nothing. What's the consequence for this? There is none, of course. Where does this stuff even come from?

In my school, it appears to me that compliance is possible. In other schools, there is no space, there are no rooms, and there are fewer options. What kind of system admits children to school when there is no place to put them? Even now the mayor is planning to expand pre-K and is giving no thought to the number of additional seats that will entail. Even now the Moskowitz machine is taking up even more space as teachers, students, and communities are displaced to make room for test-prep factories that toss out kids who don't get the grade, literally.

So here's my question--how do you bargain in good faith and make agreements with people when rules and rulings mean nothing? How do you make deals with people who have no regard for rules they themselves have already agreed to?  If they won't follow them anyway, why bother? What's the point of SBOs and PROSE in a system that can't or won't follow minimum standards in serving children?

What's the point of spending time examining and rewriting rules that only bind one side? How are they helpful? In fact, if they apply to only one side of the table, they're not only useless to us and our students, but also counter-productive.

I never heard of a compliance call. Maybe when that doesn't work, they'll go out and sacrifice a goat to the god of bureaucracy.  That would make as much sense as anything I've seen this year.
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