Friday, May 24, 2019

The Commish and Me

Last Saturday I met NY State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia at the UFT Spring Conference. That's her on the left, UFT VP Evelyn de Jesus on the right, and Evelyn's ESL point person Katie K. looking very serious in the middle. I don't know who that tall guy is.

Whenever I get to meet education people from Albany, I talk Part 154, which has degraded education for ELLs and  frequently turned us, their teachers, into glorified school aides.

I told Elia we needed to fix it. She said yes, but we can't lower the standards. That was a pretty simple challenge. I told her I wanted to raise the standards. After all, Part 154, in conjunction with the outlandishly poor tests issued by the state, has lowered the standards so much they pretty much have to look up to see down.

I've written here and in the NY Daily News about the abysmal quality of state tests. Elia has to bear responsibility for this along with the Regents, who actually have the tests named after them. Of course they don't really write them. Instead, they pay thousands, hundreds of thousands, who knows how many dollars to have them written by "experts." You know, they call in a few teachers, but end up having them polished by psychometricians, who are much more qualified than we are. They're so qualified they write tests so crappy we couldn't even imagine them. Give me 90 minutes and I'll write a better test than either or both the NYSESLAT or the English Regents. 

The most recent iteration of Part 154 eliminates quite a bit of direct English instruction. At a minimum, it cuts 33% from beginners. For non-beginners, it can cut up to 100%. Elia told me that the state wanted all teachers familiar with strategies to reach ELLs. That's a great idea. I have no issue with that whatsoever. It's fine that the new CTLE requirements demand 15% of all PD relate to ELLs. It's not a bad idea to familiarize incoming teachers with language acquisition.

The issue I have is that, as far as I can tell, neither Elia nor the Regents have any familiarity with what language acquisition entails. One thing it requires, especially for older learners is time. Time is precisely what this iteration of Part 154 takes away from our students. This is because when we take 33% of direct English instruction from ELLs we replace it with nothing. When we take 100% of direct English instruction from ELLs, again, we replace it with nothing.

That's a matter of interpretation, of course. Here's mine--if you lose direct English instruction, it's replaced with a blended course, i.e., a social studies or English course taught by either a dually-certified teacher, or a subject teacher along with an ESL teacher. In theory, this class will combine subject matter and English instruction.

However, this class is given no more time than the class the ELL would have taken without the newer Part 154. So if it take 45 minutes to teach chapter 12 of To Kill a Mockingbird to native English speakers, it's supposed to take the same 45 minutes to teach it to ELLs. That's absurd, and you certainly don't need to be an expert to see why. There is no strategy to make English instantly comprehensible to people who don't yet understand it. There is no strategy to produce instant fluency.

When I teach ELLs, I spend a great deal of time on vocabulary. I have no idea how many PowerPoint and Keynote presentations I've written to introduce vocabulary. Here's something Albany doesn't know--it takes longer to teach vocabulary to people who know fewer words. I'd argue that's common sense, and I'd further argue that's something short supply in Albany. (Maybe something happens to you when you breathe in all those cement fumes.)

Let's go a little further. Not only do you need to learn the vocabulary, but you also need to learn how to use it. For example, you may be wearing a white shirt. In Spanish, though, you'd be wearing a shirt white, because they use adjectives differently than we do. In fact, they make adjectives plural. And then there are all those conventions. We usually tell stories in the past tense. There are all those irregular verbs. Does Albany expect us to teach them to integrated classes, wasting the time of students who already know them? Really?

Here's the thing--Albany is right that it's healthy to mix ELLs with native English speakers. They're right that kids will learn from their peers. But they are 100% wrong that the way to promote that is by killing direct English instruction. The fact is ELLs were already in those mixed classes before Albany allowed myopic, money-grubbing administrators to stop offering direct instruction. Albany has given ELLs absolutely nothing, and taken away their lifeline, sometimes the only classes they could actually follow and participate in.

In case you wonder why kids don't like school, it's frequently because they get the message school doesn't like them either. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

UFT Delegate Assembly May 22, 2019--Interesting Times

4:30 UFT President Michael Mulgrew welcomes us.

Asks for moment of silence for DR Marty Plotikin.

Asks us to support Puerto Rican teachers, by buying shirts.

Contract—Important we make words on page real. CLs have to make it work. Only way to push DOE is to utilize contract. We are doing better than in the past, but we want every school using their voice.

National
—Besides President, we have 24 Dems and 1 Republican running. Passed resolution at AFT—All state and local affiliates should have conversations with all candidates. Later we will look at an endorsement. Spring Conference Gillebrand came. Tuesday, in Houston will be Joe Biden. Last week in Philly Elizabeth Warren. Will see where it goes. Politics gets touchy. This body may be more politically active than most. For us, it’s about our profession, community, and ability to take care of families. We see this as educational process.

We don’t like what’s going on in DC. Hasn’t heard anyone call DeVos a great leader. Major tools of those fighting us—Chaos, confusion, conflicts. This is what admin is doing in DC. AFT events all over will show us where to engage. Too early now, but we will have these discussions.

Tough issues facing SCOTUS. Janus ruling part of coordinated plan. Attacks on workers, education and women. 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Ed. and now we’re seeing them push defunding of ed. 100th anniversary of suffragette movement, and unprecedented attack on women. Not just about abortions, but limiting women’s health care options. Who thought we’d discuss this in 2019?

We have to be smart. We have to educate people, and members. Have to embrace diversity, but not let them use these tools against us. Need to prepare in terms of letting members know importance of union. Specifically targeting NY State so unions will lose membership and political influence. There are positive sides. It’s May. Holidays coming.

They don’t want us having benefits.

Jeff Sorkin—Welfare Fund—Union important, for example, health benefits. Covers 400K lives. Past fiscal year prescription drugs, provided 111 million dollars. Dental benefit—86 million in benefits. When you retire you take out optional rider, we offset cost with 47 million per year. May be surpassed by parental leave.

We cover drugs no one else does. Gives examples that are hard to spell. Fund saves a lot on member behalf. Members and dependents use these meds.

Parental leave—2837 members have utilized. 74% female, 26% male—paid out 29 million so far.

Most members have GHI or HIP, as do other city workers. We negotiate together. You may not have premium but someone is paying—NY City. GHI ind—9K Fam—21K by city. HIP 9K  Fam 23K. Would love to pass on costs. We won’t allow that.

2019 Express Scripts contract will expire. We want to save money and provide same quality benefits. Coming close to 90 day fill at local pharmacies.

Mulgrew—Asked Jeff to do this because we are always having these conversations. We have a commission to look at how we can work together to bring costs down. Difficult. We supply more drugs than any other union. Costs are mind-boggling. I hate pharma companies. I love research, but we don’t like anyone in health care. All about profits. We don’t want them just passing on costs to us.

Told you we would fight with hospitals. No more non-profit locals. Like five families. I was in Albany, pushing patient protection act. Law passed because ER non-network physicians gave huge bills. State stopped this. Physicians in hospitals can no longer do that. But hospitals can. If you go to out of network hospital costs skyrocket. Some really bad actors. Pushing to say enough is enough.

Insurance company has to make deal with hospital, make us pay out of network costs. Insurance companies and hospitals are problem. We want it to be about patients. Hospital negotiating for 20% increase they don’t need. Telling carrier they will drop them and charge 50% more. Money would come from us. Trying to push patient protection bill. Hospital and insurance lobbies against us. We want hospital to function, but not huge bonuses for CEOs.

Colleagues from around state are paying higher premiums every time they go to negotiating table. Small raises, and more health care costs. Working with state union, MLC, and the city.

Charter schools
—Thought it would be quiet without GOP in charge. Charters pushing to raise cap. We all have kids waiting for schools, not only charters. Have to pay attention to this. Not all charters. We know those four chains and they aren’t our friends. Have decimated public ed in other states.

SED—We have a Regents on June 27 this year. You can’t have this. We have to be more diligent. They have reasons, but it’s not supposed to be about their bureaucracy. Should be about schools.

We have ideas about NYSUT RA, since it will be in Albany next five years.

Spring Conference—Great time, 2000 people, will have to start capping. Many elected officials. Had great conversation with three assemblywomen. Largest turnover of city council next election. Want UFT members elected. Amazing opportunity. Want to utilize all our assets and skills. Endorsed Farah Lewis in Brooklyn. Opponent said she supported charters, tax credits. Members were concerned. Lewis won, despite predictions otherwise. Happy we did things differently. We not only won, won by landslide.

City Council breakfast was here—almost all of them came.

Had to change name of Community schools to UCS.

Pushing Dial a Teacher, would like Teachers Choice permanent. DOE gets 32 billion and we still don’t get supplies. They get receipts, can audit. Speaker Corey Johnson agrees.

Lesson plan letter—available when someone tries to reinterpret. Went out to principals as well. Same exact letter word for word. Sick and tired of admin reinterpreting purpose of lesson plan. Trying to move observation and eval. should be at least able to clear this up.

They talk about how to improve instruction. Collecting lesson plans doesn’t do that. Just makes people mad and gives less time to write and change lessons. This will be part of training in September. DOE wants to talk about implementation of training. We asked about training itself. They brought out things they’ve been doing for years. Contract is about resetting culture. Why would we do things that we know don’t work? Danielson turned into weaponized nonsense.

We will not stop on this issue. Chancellor and Mulgrew told teams job is to come up with training.

New dean positions in new contract. Says shall be done by central posting, agreed upon. DOE wants principals to change however they wish. DOE sent this discussion to teachers by mistake. We will get a centrally agreed upon posting. If you have the budget, use it.

Calendar—December 23rd—Legal interpretation—we are strongly opposed—city has right to set calendar Tuesday after Labor Day to June 28. 23rd has never been used as report day. Very expensive to open a school for one day week. Makes no sense. Our issue is at state level. Regulation says a school needs to use minutes and not days. We did not agree, and don’t, because there is still a law that says there are days.

In NYC, there are some schools that don’t count some minutes. There is a reinterpretation. We are in midst of big fight right now. Calmer heads are saying this has to be straightened out, we think before school. We meet mandate under law is UFT position. We will have real conversation with Board of Regents, but they only meet once a month.

You need to pay attention to session time memo when it comes out on June 10th. You will see minimizing passing time, using homeroom as instructional, and maximizing instructional time. In original calendar, they weren’t even covering Passover. Believe with calmer heads we will get to a better agreement.

UFT has no official relationship with AFLEC. Don’t believe them when they say otherwise.

SBOs—Principal cannot tell you to do it. We will give you guidance. We can’t have an SBO to raise or lower hours. DOE would ask for money back. Clarity is important. Don’t hide it. Put it out.

Official ATR number 650, lowest in 15 years. For 30 years we had between 3 to 500 in excess. Went up to 2K. Down now. Please send consultation notes. Tracking number. Very happy to report 74% of schools now actively engaged in consultation. Makes huge difference. Principals have been told not to stop it.

Janus—Humbled and proud, but also glad election is over. It is my honor to be reelected. Didn't want to speak of this before.

Labor relations board in DC not very union-friendly lately. Didn’t do Janus prep because could be construed as electioneering. Non-membership 0.18%. That’s your work. We have to move a little faster to educate members.

Millions spent against us. Campaign active now. Strategy is to get people to fill out survey so they know how to get you to opt out.  They claim to be independent and objective, funded by Koch, Walton, DeVos. No independence whatsoever about these people. Door knocking upstate right now.

We want something to put on doors. We see union proud stickers everywhere. Had 3000 fee payers and 5300 new members. Now we are at 0.18%. That’s the work. They want us killed on health care, out of politics, but we don’t use union dues for that. We use COPE.

Love when they say union spent money. Don’t say they spent double, from wealthy donors. Trying to take our voice away. We won’t let them. They had a Janus event in NY and 7 people went.

Mindy Rosier stands for having picketed Betsy DeVos. There is video. DeVos didn’t have a good time walking in. We know what they’re up to. They put up fake unions with low dues. They use Julie Andrews in pic, who was a union member.

We will send out a lot of info. We have to be ready. We aren’t as prepared as last year, but will get there quickly. Must let them know what this is all about.

We will have access to new members. DOE supports us. Imagine if Bloomberg were mayor?

We have this challenge ahead. Members will be crazed, because it’s May and June. Will get you up to speed on Janus. Want 0.0% non membership.

LeRoy Barr
—June 1, Pride lunch. Scholarship for Danny Drumm. Leslie Uggams will be there. Glen Scarpelli. Collecting money for scholarships. Extra copies of chancellor lesson plan letter. District 26 has 100% consultation notes. Next DA June 12.

Questions—

Q—December 23—seems like we may stay longer next year. How many snow days? If we get it, will they want something back for 23rd?

A—Officially we have four snow days. Anomaly year. Muslim holidays in summer, others on Saturdays. Will be many years with one or zero snow days. If they want us to give up something, we will have a discussion. My position is no. Hoping to fix it a different way. When minutes issue came up, was concern for small districts that needed flexibility. Good with that, but don’t want NYC hurt. We have June and July Regents meetings. Hope to resolve and move forward.

Q—NYSESLAT—Can UFT revise or reform this. Four part untimed test. Very difficult. Held against schools. Have Muslim students taking it while fasting. Can we do anything?

A—Working on waiver. Being raised at state level. Open to fixing. State never put in waiver. Other states have. Focusing on Part 154. Have ELL working group. Will get it done.

Q—Health care, driven by profit—Our union has a position for single payer. What’s our position on single payer in NY State, and in presidential race?

A—For state, not for it, needs to be fixed on national level. Hasn’t been brought up yet. Issue at state level is amount of money would blow hole in state budget. Would not have enough money to run schools. We would lose our own health care system, would have to go into whatever state provides, would cause 43% increase in state taxes. Love idea of national single payer. Do not have a model yet. This will be one of top, if not top issue in presidential race. Number one issue in US is lack of affordable health care. At state level not smart. NY State, talking 300 billion dollar cost. Will be no state budget. We should cover 5% not covered and then fight in DC.

Q—If member injured, can fill out LODI, must be within 24 hours. Teacher slipped on floor, tore hamstring, rehab for months, thought she could come back, but couldn’t. Fortunately filled out form and had medical pension. This week teacher filled incident report. Told him to LODI form Principal refused to sign. What is recourse?

A—Send it to us. We had similar problem earlier this year. Principals were saying we had to prove causality. No such provision. Like we blindfold each other and push ourselves down stairs. Ridiculous. We don’t have to prove causality. If they think we did something reckless, they can work on it. But they can’t say they don’t approve it.

Beth Norton—We discussed decisions that say you need to state injury happened in school in line of duty. They can investigate and prove if they think there was reckless behavior. Send unsigned forms to bnorton@uft.org.

Motions—

No hands. closed.

Resolutions—

Nicole Puglia
—Endorse Michael McMann—public service 18 years, friend to schools and members. anti-bullying in schools, too good for drugs campaign, anti-date violence program in HS, supported attacked nurses, prosecuted attackers. Running unopposed.

Passes


Jeff Matt
—Speaks in support of Melinda Katz—strong ally for school communities in Queens. pushed tech upgrades, eliminating trailers, supported Townsend Harris and Forest Hills.

Passes

PS 25 remaining open.

Rashad Brown—50th anniversary Stonewall Riots—LGBQ discriminated against, people got sick and tired of being sick and tired. Still have long way to go, we have marriage equality, scholarship, but this year is world pride. Want to stand in support. Promote inclusion and awareness. Reception June 20. Pride march Queens June 2 Brooklyn June 8.

?—Rises in support, important we stick together no matter what background, orientation or belief, Urges support.

Passes.

We are adjourned 6:02.

Why Is Ben Sherman Still Principal?

If you are a leader, and virtually no one has any confidence in you, it's unlikely you'll stay in that position long. I'm a teacher, and while I'm not perfect, the kids are not quite lining up in my AP's office to tell her just how awful I am. In fact, when kids complain about teachers in my building, they sometimes get called to meetings to explain themselves. I know because I'm called to every single one of those meetings.

Sometimes teachers get in trouble, but I can't ever recall 90% of a teacher's students filing a complaint. That would be extraordinary. Of course I'm not a principal. Mike Bloomberg decided that principals could do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, however they wanted, and established a Leadership Academy to teach that principle (to principals). Evidently, Ben Sherman learned well.

I've been chapter leader under two principals. If a teacher were to expose himself to female colleagues while urinating, I'm trying to think how they'd react. What if that teacher made cracks to women about their appearance? Now imagine that the teacher slept in his car outside the school to stalk people coming in one morning. I'm pretty sure my first principal would move to have that teacher removed. My current principal, on the other hand, would also move to have that teacher removed. Truth be told, I'd be surprised to see any principal put up with that.

Now imagine the teacher allowed kids to smoke weed in the class, saying it's gonna be legal anyway, so what the hell. And then, of course, there are 90% of the students complaining about him. Though some might fear that teacher, no one respects him. I see 3020a in that teacher's future.

Of course, that teacher isn't a principal. Principals are above it all, somehow. You know, when you read that CPE 1 finally got rid of a vindictive small-minded principal you might think the principal would be shucking oysters somewhere. You'd be wrong. That principal is off working for the DOE, doing who knows what, and collecting more money than any working teacher in NY City for doing said who knows what. Some days I feel like doing who knows what, but instead I'm relegated to, you know, working.

In the case of Ben Sherman, though, they haven't even bothered to make him report to Tweed and do who knows what. Instead, they hired another principal, or superintendent, or someone to report to Forest Hills High School and supervise him or something. Hey, if I did all the things Sherman is accused of doing, there's no way they'd send someone to supervise me. They'd send me to a rubber room, or whatever they're calling those places these days, and I'd twiddle my thumbs while waiting for a hearing in which they'd try to fire me.

I don't know what it is that principals do, or what they have in their contracts that makes them bulletproof, but if your behavior is as bad as Sherman's is supposed to be, you ought not to be principal. You ought not to be a teacher. You ought to find a job more suited to your particular talent, like, say, a fascist dictator, or perhaps a bicycle seat.

Actually I don't know or care exactly where you place people who do things like that. I'd conjecture prisons are full of them. Nonetheless, I'd say a public school is about the last place someone like that ought to be working.

It's remarkable that the NYC DOE feels otherwise.

Monday, May 20, 2019

UFT Executive Board May 20, 2019--Why Are We Giving High-Stakes Tests to Fasting Students?

6 PM—Secretary Howard Schoor calls us to order.

Speakers

Speaker one—From Queens—Reads letter—Writing about Bronx Learning Center, out of desperation. All staff works together, but admin employs tactics to ensure division, toxic hostile environment. Some people barred from offices, relocated, causes discomfort. Some frightened to talk around admin. Discourages friendship. Says this place of work only. People working out of title, forced to test students, Students with low scores turned away. Long intake process, lasts over one day. Constantly tested before receiving adequate classroom instruction. Admin will merge ESL classes with basic ed. classes. Unlicensed, uncertified staff doing testing.

Speaker two—continues, imperative that people work in concert, Many documents must be shared, but work piles up and isn’t completed. Paras do same work as teachers and clerical staff. AP harasses rather than helps staff. No consideration of work or deadlines. Deadlines often impossible. Teachers untrained and unsupported. Revolving door for teachers. Staff members have to train and console one another. Formula for failure. We would like to do our jobs without constant fear of retaliation. Over 50 reservations. Inexperienced employees give bad instructions. Students must wait for assistance to generate EPI dollars. Students sign in and do not receive instruction, so that school can get EPI dollars.

Mulgrew is not here.

Minutes—approved.

LeRoy Barr—Staff director’s report—Great Spring Conference, chancellor spoke, sang, engaged with all. Better speech and hearing event 5/30. Support speech chapter. June 1 UFT Pride scholarship brunch, honoring Danny Drumm. DA May 22. EB, June 3.

Questions

Arthur Goldstein—
Given the new testing law, I’m wondering how you envision our MOSL being calculated. I’m assuming that teachers who’ve previously been mandatorily linked to their own students’ Regents exams will no longer be so, but correct me if I’m wrong. I know that test scores work better in some schools than others. I’m wondering how choices will be made. Will they be systemwide, schoolwide, or will individuals be able to determine their own MOSL?

Jackie Bennett—Law passed. Next regs will be written in June. Regs will be consistent. We no longer need to use any state test. You can if you want, but don’t have to. UFT will have to negotiate. Have to see what regs say. MOSL committees will still decide same way. Exact menu, no more required or forbidden. Details need to be negotiated with DOE first. Don’t think it will be a large change.

Lamar Hughes
—Congestion pricing plan—members want to know whether there’s been discussion on how members can be accommodated. People pay multiple fares.

Schoor—Won’t go into effect for two years. Legislature not sure what they’re doing or who will be exempted. Hope to be part of discussion. Will ask Mulgrew to address at DA.

Michael Friedman
—If you stay on FDR not subject to congestion pricing.

Jonathan Halabi
—ATR pool—How big is it?

Schoor—Below 1,000, will get Mike Sill to answer next time.

Halabi
—Are there closings or reductions to push it up?

Schoor
—Haven’t heard of any.

Halabi—Who is Mike Sill’s succesor?

Schoor—He’s not going anywhere. You get things added on. They don’t go away.

Halabi—CLs filing consultation online, How many?

Schoor—District 26 in Queens has 100%,

Debbie Poulos
—71% as of Friday have reported at least one. Over 1K schools.

Schoor
—We look at what schools bring.

Reports from Districts—

Nancy Miller—May 14 successful nurse lobby day. Joint coalition, 5 unions 1K nurses. Met assembly and Senate members. We need bills passed, nurse in every building, no mandatory overtime. Did not like buses.

Janella Hinds—Next Wednesday will be conference, middle schools, high schools, will give flyers. Students will have conversation about addiction.

Schoor
—HS Scholarship Awards 176 grads.

Howard Sandell—4/30 nurse celebration 300 people. Great celebrationThanks all who stopped by to say hello.

Rashad Brown
—June 1 is Pride brunch. Honoring Danny Drumm. 3 honorees.

Priscilla Castro—May 17 para celebration in Queens. Had principals, superintendent.

Dwayne ?—Was also celebration in Manhattan. June 21 will be boat ride. 15-20 seats left.

Tammy Miller—Family day care providers—May 11, 6 annual provider ceremony, great event, recognized 25 who offered extraordinary services. Anthony Harmon came.

Ellen Driesen—District 20 doing an event in MCU Park. Drinking Jr Highs together. Kids vaping in grades 2,3. Need awareness. Students will perform, Contest for signs and sayings. Tuesday June 28.

Rich Mantel
—Had 5K last Saturday. Wasn’t freezing or raining. Nice turnout. Raised money for disaster relief.

Legislative Report—Schoor—Want to challenge hospital bills. Follow that. DOE pays 16K per person, 20K per family.

Liz Perez
—Candidate we endorsed, Farah Lewis, won. June 25 will be primary to do all over. Please help June 25. They were very grateful to UFT.

UFT Election Report—Amy Arundell—Met May 8 to review certification of results. Will post document on UFT Website with minutes of our meeting. 197K ballots mailed. 47 received by deadline. 2500 didn’t make deadline. Election committee voted to accept and bring to EB for approval. One complaint filed, will be investigated by Howard Schoor.

Schoor—Dermot Myrie complained. Spoke with him. Complaint not specific enough. Met with him. Discussed his issues. Waiting for response. Tonight we will vote on accepting AAA certification. Will vote on complaint.

Halabi
—What was overall % turnout?

Schoor
—Election committee voted to accept.

Resolution to accept AAA Official Report.

Passes.

Arundell
—Thanks election committee. Thanks school based folks who came downtown 6 times to support us. Big commitment. Thanks everyone else.

Jeff Sorkin—Welfare Fund
—praises health benefits. Prescription drugs—111 million in 2018. Got rebates. Down from previous year. Second biggest dental 86 million. 3rd biggest—optional rider reimbursement—47 million. UFT covers many drugs others don’t, at great cost.

Parental leave—74% of claims for females, 29 million paid. Have been hiccups. Contact us with problems.

Express Scripts contract expires end of year. Will see if we can find additional cost savings. Only 3 providers that can help us. Want additional savings. Main focus 90 day maintenance fill at local pharmacy.

Resolution—Ramadam—Janella Hinds—Asks you support students observing Ramadam. Many educators called about students who had to take AP and NYSESLAT exams during Ramadam. Spoke with educators observing Ramadam. Drafted resolution for your consideration


Arthur Goldstein--Teenagers are perpetually hungry. It's ridiculous to ask them to take these tests while they're fasting.

Aqeel Williams—Happy to have put this together. I am fasting. When I was younger it was harder. Very important that we make sure kids have breakfast. Our children are not, they have pre-dawn meal, but that’s not good enough for children. Thanks Janella.

Passes

Opposes Alabama’s Illegal Abortion Law

LeRoy Barr—Woman will motivate on Wednesday. Not just Alabama. Other states too. For all who think voting wasn’t important, this is just one consequence. They promised to do this and they are delivering. Allows others to take a more conservative view, almost making them look reasonable, but they want to overturn Roe v. Wade. We need to organize, to support whatever activities that will follow. We are a union that is mostly women. People who are passing these laws are mostly men. How dare they try and tell a woman what to do with her own body? Asks for support.

Mary Atkinson—Amends 6th whereas—delete conservative from conservative misogynistic We have conservatives who are not misogynistic. 

Patricia Filomena
—Worked for abortion underground long time ago. Never thought I’d have to do this again. 25 white men voted for this law. State after state will alter law. President objects to Alabama, but wants to do away with Roe.

Ellen Driesen—Not just about Roe. Also about health care. If they cared about life they’d support health care, education, food.

Resolution, revised.

Passes

We are adjourned 7:04

Blogger's Day Off...

...but don't miss my piece on just how abysmal Regents exams are in today's Daily News.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Betsy and Me

by special guest Mindy Rosier

A few weeks ago, a little birdy informed me that Ms. Betsy DeVos herself would be traveling to NYC. After looking into this tip, it turned out that she would be receiving an award from the dreadful Manhattan Institute on May 1st, May Day, at Cipriani’s on 42nd Street.

As a lifelong New Yorker & a veteran special education teacher, I felt that it was very important to give Ms. DeVos a big Bronx cheer!! It had been awhile since I was part of a good protest and I was totally up for it.

Two years ago during Teacher Appreciation week, then-Speaker Paul Ryan visited NYC. He was here, not to visit any public schools, but rather to visit my other favorite education villain, Eva Moskowitz. Of all the co-located buildings with Success Academy to visit, he choose mine. My school building is where Success Academy began and that in itself is another story.

I contacted every one of my connections from Grassroot Orgs to Elected Officials to my union, The United Federation of Teachers. I was on the news, in the papers, and online. I was everywhere. I mean, how dare you visit a public school building, during Teacher Appreciation Week, and NOT visit the public school located in THAT building? How dare you miss all the hard work we do? 

If that weren’t enough, my school is D75, which means all of my students have special needs and many, if not most of our families receive Social Security benefit assistance. At that time, Ryan had his own view of Social Security benefits. What he proposed would have affected my students and their families for sure. I wanted nothing more that day than for him to look at the faces of our students who would be affected by those cuts. Those were my messages of the day. Apparently, I did such a good job with my messaging, that hundreds upon hundreds of people shut down that 118th street corner in Harlem.

Not only that, (and this is is my favorite part,) two of Ryan’s secret servicemen spoke to my at the time principal, requesting that I be nowhere around as I was deemed a “national security threat.”  I wear that honor like a badge! Ryan did wind up visiting one of our classes for about a minute and I like to think that I shamed him into doing so. However, later that day he was quoted in an article praising Moskowitz and her school with no mention of slumming it in ours. Of course, I reminded him and updated the reporter of that article. Here is one of the articles from that day. But I digress…

So May 1st had arrived! I was excited all day with my dress and my stomping-the-pavement boots. My Report Card sign was good to go and I had shared information on this action far and wide on social media. I couldn’t wait to join up with Rise and Resist, Revolting Lesbians, Raging Grannies, my brothers and sisters from the UFT, and several other grassroots orgs to simply share our feelings, and we so did! Turnout was amazing.

The majority of our group was on the 42nd St side of Cipriani’s. A faction from Rise and Resist decided to go around back in case Ms. Betsy wasn’t brave enough to face all of us all in the front. For over two hours we picketed around the front of Cipriani’s, continually chanting, loud and proud with all of our hearts! As expected, DeVos tried to sneak around the back. Key word here is “tried.” That faction that headed around the corner was successful in giving her that Bronx Cheer she so richly deserved.

Overall, we made our points loud and clear. When you buy your position, have very little knowledge about education/special education, try to implement hurtful policies, and make sweeping budget cuts to public education, you’d better have a thick skin. Regardless, you will be called out, loudly, and publicly...just like we did AND we will do again and again. If you do not like the attention your position brings, take a new one or resign. We’d be good either way.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Where the Dogs Are

If you're looking for me, you'll find me out on the Freeport Nautical Mile almost every morning at 5:30 AM. That guy on the left is Toby, looking askance for some reason or other. He comes with me. Actually he looks like he might be asking me to take him out. I can't read his mind, so I just read his face as best I can.

If you're a teacher, you might know what stress is. If you're a chapter leader, especially of a large school, you might know even better. There are a lot of ways to deal with stress. Some people meditate. Some get a punching bag. Some write blogs on the internet, or join Facebook groups.

Actually, I've done a few of those things myself. The thing that really makes me lose my stress, though, is walking with this little creature a few times a day for around 30 minutes.

I watch him walk, and stop, and smell absolutely everything and I wonder what's on his mind. Usually I figure it's pretty straightforward. A tree. Let me smell it and determine whether or not it's pee-worthy. Let me turn around five times before I decide exactly the right leg to raise at precisely the perfect angle. This doesn't work. That doesn't work. But this is perfect.

Sometimes it's a social outing. There are dogs Toby really likes. If he sees one of them, he'll stop walking and bound toward their direction. He used to be friendly with every dog, but the idiots who live across the street from me let their pit bull out unsupervised and he tried to attack Toby. I picked him up and shouted at the dog until he ran away. Teacher voice can be a very intimidating thing. Now Toby is sometimes scared of big dogs and barks at them before they can bark at him. I've gotten him to stop doing that most of the time, by saying, "Good boy," first, and giving him a treat when he's quiet.

Toby lived on the streets of Puerto Rico before Animal Lighthouse Rescue found him, brought him here, and gave him to me, so maybe he knows something I don't. I have no idea how this little guy got through Hurricane Maria. I got through Sandy, but that was a relative walk in the park. He's generally friendly, but if you try to cut the hair on his paws he can get outright hostile. 

We walk by a bunch of bars on the Nautical Mile, and there are always people at the entrances, showing people in, or maybe charging admission. Every one of them is friends with Toby, who thinks God placed them there so that they could pet him. For all I know, he's right. He's a lot more social than I am, saying hello to absolutely everyone who will look at him. I meet a lot more people now that I travel with him.

If you have a stressful job, I suggest you get a dog. They require less care than children but more than cats. But they kind of make you see the world through their eyes, which is a good thing if it's hard to juggle everything in front of your own.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Boy Wonder and the School of Hard Knocks

No one was more influential in Boy Wonder's life than his father. He knew everything. He always knew what to say and do. And he took no guff from anyone. At this point in Boy Wonder's life, he admired no one more than his father.

"DID YOU LEARN IT YET?" Pow! The back of the hand.

"HOW ABOUT NOW?" Smack! Yet again.

"UNDERSTAND IT NOW?" Bam! That made the point.

Boy Wonder learned things the hard way, but he learned them well. Once you make a decision, everyone has to follow without question. There is no negotiation. There is no discussion. Now he was in charge, and when he made a decision that was it.

The whiners in his department, always complaining about this and that. Why do I have four classes in a row? Why do I have to spend my free period going to meetings and listening to you talk every day? Why is the PD just you complaining about everyone in the department?

Worst of all, everyone was complaining about his new decision. The history curriculum would be taught by topic, rather than chronologically. And all these losers were having a hard time with it. Oh, we can't do that. Oh it's never been done before. Oh, the kids will never understand this. The kids would understand what he told them to understand.

Just thinking about it made him hungry. And there was a special at Burger King today. They had extra bacon on the Whoppers and if you bought two of them you got a free drink or something. Plus there was a machine there, so he could refill his drink as much as he wanted. Gallons of Coca Cola. It was already 12 o' clock, a great time to skip out and pretend there was business.

But what was this? An email saying that the staff had demanded professional conciliation? Article 24 of the contract? He was supposed to explain why he wanted it this way? Because he said so! That's why! That should be good enough for anyone.

He would show those bastards. He would rate them all ineffective. Plus he would save time. From now on, he'd write the observations from Burger King. He'd make notes on his iPad while eating, and kill two birds with one stone. Then, when he was good and ready, he'd sit in the classrooms and fill out the dates. This would show those bastards who's boss.

But on the other hand, he'd been rating them all ineffective anyway. Would they even notice? Sure they would, when he started writing things that hadn't actually happened. Let them complain. It would be his word against theirs, and they were a bunch of losers who couldn't even figure how to duck out for a quick cheeseburger. Good thing for them, because anyone he caught stealing time from the school would get a letter in their frigging files.

Now all he had to do was check the names on the professional conciliation complaint and put letters in their frigging files. He couldn't wait to go and tell Dad about it. After a few smacks, maybe Dad would say he was proud. But probably not.

It didn't matter. This was the way to show those bastards the way, and bastards need to be shown the way.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

NYC Should Run Its Own Schools

That's what David Bloomfield argues in the NY Daily News. Bloomfield says there ought not to be a state law determining how admissions are run in our specialized schools. He's absolutely right. Why on earth is the state making laws for New York City? The state's business is state business.

I haven't got a magic formula for working out the SHSAT mess. Bloomfield argues it ought to be phased in over time, and that third graders are now prepping for the SHSAT already. Maybe he's right, and maybe that's fair. I will say, though, that it's awful to make such young kids freak out over such a test. I hope there's some way we can make such things unnecessary.

Bloomfield's argument goes broader than just the SHSAT, if you ask me. I recall when our good friend John Flanagan pushed a bill to remove seniority protections for teachers in NYC. Not teachers in his district, mind you, because they could have voted against him, I suppose. The bill was only for city teachers. It's kind of beyond ridiculous that people who have no stake in our district can make decisions about it. While it's true that Bloomberg wanted this, he was clearly unable to get city legislators behind it. Of course, Bloomberg had all that money, so laws, rules and ethics don't apply to him.

More recently, there was a regulation passed the NYC would have to pay rent for charter schools it failed to approve. That's very tough for me to understand. For one thing, NYC had just elected a mayor who opposed charters. This would indicate that the people of NYC approved of that policy. Governor Cuomo, having taken various and sundry suitcases full of cash from charter enthusiasts, did not agree, Thus, the Senate and the Heavy Hearted Assembly voted to make NYC provide either space or rent for the likes of Eva Moskowitz.

This is how you overcome democracy. I'm a fan of democracy and I believe the voice of the people ought to be paramount. We've all seen what happened when the voice of the people is overridden. GW Bush becomes President. Donald Trump becomes President. Florida imposes what is in effect a poll tax on ex-convicts, as opposed to letting them vote, despite an overwhelming vote to allow them a voice. Closer to home, gazillionaire Michael Bloomberg bought himself a third term, despite voters not once but twice affirming term limits.

Still, democracy doesn't mean the people in Suffolk County get to select the representative who introduces bills that effect New York City. It ought to be the people who reside in New York City making those decisions. If the people in New York City want their children studying ways to get into Stuyvesant High School when they're only eight years old, let them have a referendum. If not, the city ought to figure out a way to admit its own kids to its own schools. The law is ridiculous, and if, as Bloomberg says, it's part of the mayoral control statute, let's look at that too. Why on earth is the state making statutes about mayoral control?

NY City has been around for a long time. It's old enough to make its own decisions, without the help of out-of-towners who presume to know what's best for us.

Monday, May 13, 2019

I'm Surprised I'm Surprised

It looks like, if you're Deputy Chancellor, you can send your kid to school anywhere you goshdarn please. While parents all over the city fret over where their kids are going, while there's a citywide brouhaha over the SHSAT, while scores that are supposedly under a moratorium may decide where your kid gets to go, some people don't have to follow any stinking rules.

Chancellor Richard Carranza’s top deputy has gotten her two youngest children into two of the city’s most selective and desirable middle schools — in one case, after the application period had ended, The Post has learned.

That's disappointing to me. Though I haven't seen the sort of changes I'd like to see in the DOE, I've seen Carranza speak several times, most recently last month at the UFT Team High School awards. This is a guy who's as smart as anyone, who speaks brilliantly, and who sincerely understands what it is to be a teacher. While he hasn't cleared the DOE of all the Bloomberg debris that clutters it, I'm surprised he'd put up with this. What I hear about him is he's a big picture guy, and that a lot of details elude him.

Of course, they didn't elude Sue Edelman at the Post, and while I don't work for the DOE, I could've told them this would happen. The timing is particularly bad as Carranza tries to fix the SHSAT. It's very much all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

In other news, here's a principal, already removed from his school, and more crap about him is coming out. The city's already on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars for sexual harassment, but when you're a scumbag principal, why restrict yourself to one area of scumbaggery? There are so many others to explore.

The new suit was filed by assistant principal Marc Einsohn, who said that in September 2017 he needed surgery for a stomach problem. Instead of accommodating Einsohn, Kwait assigned the assistant principal duties’ that required he remain on his feet for long periods of time, against doctor’s orders, according to the suit.
Kwait even went so far as to contact Einsohn’s doctor directly and demand his medical records, according to a complaint filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.


I worked for Mark Einsohn for a few years. I never had an issue with him. Of course, I never asked him to change student grades either, so I didn't hold a vendetta against him. One of the great things about being principal is no matter what outrages you commit, the DOE is always there with open arms.

In 2011 he had five substantiated claims noted in his file, including stealing food from the cafeteria and cursing at employees over the school’s handheld radio. He’s faced lawsuits dating back to 2008 alleging he discriminated against pregnant subordinates and sexually harassed a guidance counselor.

If you're caught doing things like these as a teacher, you'll be facing 3020a, and there's a good chance by this time next year you'll be working at Kinko's. But if you're a principal, they'll just bring you over to DOE, where you'll sit in a chair, shuffle papers, go to gala luncheons, or do whatever it is they do over there at Tweed.

Rules don't apply to Tweed employees or principals. The rules are for us, the little people, the teachers, the guidance counselors, the secretaries, the paraprofessionals...those of us in the trenches working with kids.

But isn't that the way of the world? Doesn't President Brokeahontus sit and tweet about how awful his enemies are, how their behavior can't be tolerated, and ignore absolutely everything he himself does? Doesn't he lie like the rest of us breathe?

It's tough to be a teacher. We're role models. We have to show kids there's a better way. When those above us are so obviously self-centered, self-important, and self-serving, they make our jobs that much harder. Do you wonder why teachers are so quick to question the decisions of administrators, particularly those when they're rating or disciplining us? Every teacher in the city can tell you stories like these that have yet to make the papers.

Wonder no more. Rules are for the little people.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Thank You, NYSED, for Your Standardized Test

So it's day six of NYSESLAT testing, supposedly to measure the English level of my students.  Once again there's no class for us. We just sit for yet another day and do the test. I'm stationed outside, perhaps to ensure no one escapes.

For the last decade, I've taught mostly beginners. A lot of my colleagues prefer teaching higher levels. I ask for lower ones and I generally get what I ask for. It's a win-win, in that I get what I want and my colleagues get what they want. At least it used to be.

As chapter leader of a large school, I teach four rather than five classes. For years I'd get two double-period classes of beginners. Last year, while I had one full section, my second section had only eight students. This year, I had only one section and taught an advanced class. This has proven educational, if nothing else.

Where had all my students gone? I found out this year. It turns out that most of the students in my advanced class don't belong there at all. I started the class out by giving them a novel called The Number One Ladies Detective Agency. It's a lovely book, utilizing simple language to express complex ideas and emotions. The last time I taught it, students loved it. This time it went over like a lead balloon.

I didn't really understand why at first. It was only when I started to focus more on their writing that I saw what was going on. Many of these students were unfamiliar with fundamental English conventions. There was no subject-verb agreement. There was no past tense. I understand a lot of people don't specifically teach these things, and that the idea is to teach it in context. I can deal with that, and I can do it. These kids had not done that, let alone much reading or writing.

If you look at the English Regents exam, there's a rubric. Using the conventions of standard English is right at the bottom of it, if I recall correctly. The important thing is the so-called close reading. That means, basically, you extract crap from one piece of writing and place it in your own words. On the bright side, you're supposed to explain what it means. However, changing the words of a sentence or two, to me at least, does not necessarily represent comprehension.

The NYSESLAT is like the little brother of the English Regents exam, and it seems to determine how Common Corey our students are. It most certainly does not determine how much English they know. Otherwise, my advanced class could've handled the novel, as my advanced classes in the past have. I would not have felt that more than half of my class was in dire need of taking my beginner's class. I do know that if these kids go to CUNY, they will get tested in English. They will fail and end up in remedial courses in community colleges. They will pay for the classes but receive no credit.

Why is this happening? The only conclusion I can come to is that NYSED wants to rid itself of the need for ESL teachers. After all, there''s been a shortage forever. By initiating Part 154, they've cut the need for us. All you need is a subject teacher with the magical 12  credits, and voila! We've met the requirements. And who cares what they actually know? I've seen students who write most awfully if at all, and they've gotten 80 or above on the English Regents exam. They're college and career ready, according to the rubric. Who cares if they're actually nothing of the sort?

There's a speaking test in which most speaking is done by the teacher. The students mostly read the text. If they can manage to change a word or two and reproduce the message, that's good enough for NY State to determine they can understand and produce verbal English. Whether or not they actually can is of no consequence whatsoever. 

The geniuses in Albany have rigged the game so as to make it convenient for themselves. I have seen no evidence that they give a golly gosh darn about my students, and forget about me and my colleagues. They are disgraceful, totally indifferent to the students I try to help. Now they wish to blame teachers for their outrageous misdeeds, and want us to take a few courses to make up for this. Evidently, because they know nothing about language acquisition, they've determined we must not either.

I can't believe these people are allowed to sit around cushy offices, make terrible baseless decisions, go to gala luncheons, and get away with this outrageous incompetence. Of course I'm just a lowly teacher sitting around administering tests. It's not my job to question them.

Too bad for them that I wasn't trained Common Core style. Too bad for them that I question what I see, as opposed to the paragraphs and lines to which their test may direct me. Too bad for them I see how utterly ineffective their methodology is. If they'd only take these shackles from my feet, I'd have a lot more time to show and encourage students how to do the same. That's not to mention I could easily teach them how to really write, and fundamental English skills, about which NY state couldn't care less.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Drat that NYSESLAT!

 (That's pronounced NIGH--suh--slat.)

I'm sitting outside the school auditorium. Things are pretty slow right now. Inside the auditorium a bazillion kids, many of them my students, are taking a test. I can hear a voice booming loudly talking about something or other. I'm trying to tune out because I have a blog to write.

This is the fifth day of classes I'm missing. You see, the geniuses in Albany don't just give any test. It's an extravaganza. I mean, there's the speaking test. Now that only takes twenty minutes, but each of us has to test maybe a million students. So it takes a long time. And it's pretty goshdarn tedious too, reading the same thing one million times.

Of course the students read it along with you. That's one reason why it's such a terrible test. Theoretically, you're testing their listening and speaking abilities. Actually, though, you need not listen at all. The entire script the teacher is reading is right there in front of you. And you know what? If you don't understand the question, all you need to do is read the script, change a word here and there, and then you've pretty much done it all.

And if that's not cool enough, there's often a second question that's almost identical to the first question. You can pretty much say the same thing and get the same result. Why? Well, it's hard to say what the geniuses in Albany were thinking when they decided to do that. Actually, they likely didn't make that decision at all. They just paid a bazillion dollars to some testing company to write this thing.

One of the really cool things about this test is, since the company got paid a mere bazillion dollars, they recycle half the test from year to year. So if you learned about Hammurabi's Code last year, you just have to talk about it again this year. Maybe you were really interested, so you checked it out on Wikepedia or something. More likely you weren't so you didn't. Nonetheless, I can only suppose NY State would've had to pay two bazillion dollars for an entirely new test, so therefore it's saving money.

I can't comment too much on what's going on right now because I lucked out. I'm sitting outside while several of my colleagues are in there listening to some tape or other. I have to tell students that the auditorium is closed. I have to tell colleagues no, I can't let you take your student out even if you have a Regents exam coming up. Would you let me pull the student from your Regents? No? Then I can't let you pull the student from the NYSESLAT either. It might be stupid, it might be poorly written, it might not determine anything of valdity, but it's required.

The kids not only have to listen to it, but they have to pay attention as well, Judging from what I'm hearing, it must be difficult. I'm sitting with a colleague and watching her eat corn. This, evidently, is a better use of my time than, you know, teaching. The truth is my dog could do a better job watching my colleague eat corn, and I'm pretty sure he'd take a keener interest.

Anyway, I have two more days of sitting out here, or in there, and doing something, or nothing, or whatever. Truth be told, I'd rather be teaching. 

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

MORE Alters Petition After People Signed It


Imagine signing a contract and having someone unilaterally change it. I mean, there's your signature, and they just go back and edit the contract so it fits their revised specs. A whole lot of people signed a petition asking for December 23rd to be replaced with a school day on June 27. MORE had not bothered to consult with a calendar, and thus failed to note that June 27th fell on a Saturday.

After I read their petition, I consulted a calendar. I noticed that June 27th fell on a Saturday, and that neither MORE nor Chalkbeat, which wrote a feature around this petition, had bothered to look this up. I wrote about this a few days ago. Evidently MORE got wind of the fact they were suggesting teachers and students come in on a Saturday.

Rather than withdraw the petition, which would be the honest thing to do, they simply changed the date on it. Simple, huh? However, that's a unilateral alteration of contract. Most people probably won't go back and notice that the thing they signed had been altered. I can't be sure, though, that people who agreed to come in the day after school was set to end would be willing to wait another weekend and come back just for a Monday.

After all, one of the stupidest things about us coming in on December 23rd is the creation of a one-day week. Anyone who teaches every day is acutely aware of the sort of attendance we can expect on December 23rd. That's why this day would be a waste of time. However, a whole lot of us come for one additional attendance day in June, and we all know how ridiculous that is. I teach ELLs, who attend at higher percentages than other groups, and I'll get three or four students in a class on that day.

After all, if I were a student, and I knew that I'd taken all my tests and the grades were in, it would be highly unlikely I'd bother to show my face in school again. I could go to the beach. I could see my friends. I could stay home and play Xbox. I could play with my phone all day without some crazy teacher screaming about how he was gonna confiscate my phone.

As for convenience, or lack thereof, I'm not persuaded that exchanging one wasted Monday for another is a net gain. It's hard to have confidence in people who fail to show due diligence, as MORE did when they wrote this petition. Chalkbeat didn't bother either. In fact, Chalkbeat's story still reflects the suggestion of extending the year to June 27th. Evidently MORE hasn't bothered to inform them of their unilateral decision to revise their already signed petition.

So now if you signed the petition, thinking you'd come in on a Thursday or something, or even approving of a Saturday, you've now offered to trade a frosty winter Monday for a sunny summer one.

 I've got a little experience with MORE. They tossed all my friends out, and called them "right-wingers" in an email that was sent to me. Maybe if you support Bernie over Jill Stein, you're a right-winger. I don't know.  But if you signed their petition, you're now asking the state to extend the school year into an extra week for another wasted day. If so, I hope that was what you signed up for.

Personally, I don't believe in wasted days at all. The day ought to be eliminated, full stop. As a parent, as a teacher, and as a unionist, I have better things to do. I sincerely hope you do as well.

Monday, May 06, 2019

UFT Executive Board May 6, 2019--Adult Ed.,Merry Christmas from Albany, and Pride

6:00 PM—Secretary Howard Schoor welcomes us.

Speaker—Fran Meyers—Adult ed—Nothing has changed—More U ratings, unjustified. Evaluation system rigged against older teachers. 20% U-rated all in Fed. anti-discrimination laws, in danger of losing CL on false charges. U-rated teachers barred from summer and after school. Former admin made statements about pressure to U-rate, acknowledge by Mulgrew. Mills still heavily involved.

In interests of chapter and students asking for investigation of corruption under Mills in evaluation. Asks for support.

Minutes—approved.

Mulgrew is not here.

LeRoy Barr—Concluded NYSUT RA, thanks for resolutions. All UFT reso approved. 5K run Saturday MCU Park 8:30 AM. That night, home day care providers awards at 52 Broadway 5 PM. Albert Shanker ceremony May 14 6 PM—scholarships. Spring Conference May 18. Please come out. EB May 20 DA May 22. UFT pride committee, D. Drumm brunch June 1st.

Questions

Arthur Goldstein—I know a lot of you were in Albany last weekend. I’m glad you all came back. I think there’s something in the water up there.

As you know, a few years back Albany declared us unfit to grade our own students’ state tests. That’s because they manipulate the cut scores year to year to achieve the results they want. Because they manipulate the scores to make them look however they wish, they assume we’ll do the same.

I’m spending last week and this week mostly outside the classroom administering a state test called the NYSESLAT, which has to be the worst test ever written. It places students who cannot compose a coherent sentence into advanced classes.

They’ve also virtually destroyed English instruction for newcomers via a revision of Part 154. Now, instead of people like me actually teach them English, they plant an ESL teacher in the back of a science classroom two days a week and hope for the best. Now, instead of fixing that, they want to make new teachers take a course in language acquisition.

Most recently, they’ve mandated that we come in on yet another day when few to no students will be in attendance. They now ask us to pretend to teach the students who won’t be there. So I have two questions.

First, can you give us an update on December 23rd? Second, can we form a rapid response team so as to preclude and/ or correct future fanciful innovations from the geniuses in Albany? Thank you in advance.

Schoor—still seeking alternatives to 12/23, but they didn’t violate contract. Looking at other ways to fix.

Jackie Bennet—Not as if there isn’t a process.. There is. We weigh in. People come up with things, NYSED presents them to Regents. There is a time period for input, questions. It’s a complicated state with varying opinions. We have a lot of relationships. When a regulation comes out we get it to as many people as we can and try to work with Regents to make things happen. Many other voices make it complicated.

Schoor—We have disagreements with state union sometimes. Even those in same union have differences. We are there though, thanks to Evelyn, who makes our voice heard.

Bennet—Everyone agrees on Part 154. Regs almost impossible to comply with. Much activity.

Jonathan Halabi—I know that you in Albany may not have seen, but charter resolution played well in class. 12/23—beginning to understand. If we can’t get passing time recounted will become a permanent problem. Are we looking to prevent this long term?

Schoor—Happened last year, we stopped it.  Minutes problem in middle and high schools. We have had discussions with state. Problem is with commissioner. We are in discussions. Some NYSUT people tried to count aidable days in August.

LeRoy Barr—Was a resolution. We spoke against it because we don’t want to open that door. Looking at passing time. Commissioner is pushing it. We are pushing back. Many people are ready to vote no confidence. We were close to that. NYSUT officers asked for time first. Based on time, broken tests, we may take this vote. Fight is not over. Will keep you posted. Awards given at NYSUT, Evelyn de Jesus, Joyce Magnus, others.

Halabi—I program high schools. Special ed. in small schools—rampant rewriting of IEPs causes issues, gives teachers 4 and 5 preps. Can we look to fix this?

Schoor—Issue has come up before. Posting for IEP teacher problematic. Changing of IEPs problematic. Will bring to Mary Jo Ginese.

Halabi
—Should be committee with programmers too.

Schoor—State hired 300 new psychologists to aid compliance.

Report from Districts


Patricia Filomena
—Pride committee having second annual scholarship lunch. Will award to student from each borough. Appreciate your support.

Legislative report—Schoor
—Working on patient protection act, pushing bill. We have city council race 45th coming up May 14. Phone banks opened in Brooklyn office. COPE collections up over last year. Political action important to us. Last year gave 4 million to NYSUT of 10.5 we collected.

SI DA endorsement—Donna Kola
—Mike McMann for DA, in public service 18 years, has endorsed him in past. Has no opponent. Has been in schools. Does a lot of work to educate on drugs. Epidemic in SI. Started program against opioids for schools and community. Introduced education program jointly with UFT. Has other programs against violence, and cruelty to animals. Recommends endorsement.

Schoor—Helped when we had nurse assaulted in hospital.

Kola—Has prosecuted people who commit these assaults.

Passes

Resolution in support of Melinda Katz in primary

Anthony Harmon
—Has invested 55 million in public schools, removed trailers, helped Townsend Harris get new principal. Urges endorsement.

Passes

Resolution commemorating 50th anniversary Stonewall riots—Rashad Brown—Many years LGBT community discriminated against, on June 28, were sick and tired of being sick and tired and stood up. 50 years later a little has changed but we have a long way to go. This year world pride taking place here in West Village. UFT champion of civil rights. We ask we rededicate ourselves to this cause, and commemorate event with reception. Wants to bring it to boroughs as well. Asks you support this. Pride committee meeting to plan reception, pending passage. Will bring guests.

Pat Crispino
—Asks you support resolution, and content by participating. Have experienced raids of gay bars. There was attitude from police, many of my friends were arrested. Many of use were not out. Please participate. This supports our students as well. Your presence makes a difference when we see your support. Hatred is back these days. Your presence matters. If people see you, they will appreciate your support. Highest rate of teen suicide still gay teens. Still very tough for them.

Passes

We are adjourned 6:39.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

More in Bad Ideas from MORE--Opening School Saturday, June 27th 2020

After MORE dumped all my friends in an effort to achieve ideological purity and cleanse itself, it managed to go from winning the high schools to winning nothing. (That's much deserved, because there's something repugnant about the whole ideological purity thing. It certainly precludes the entire notion of union, representing a diverse group with a profession in common.) On the bright side, it's a pretty low bar to improve on that. And yet, rather than do so, they've managed to come up with an idea that does nothing to address the issue.

I'm talking about December 23rd, the day we're supposed to come back, work one day, and take off the rest of the week. That's inconvenient. I don't want to do it, nor does any teacher, student, or even administrator I know. However, it's often inconvenient to come in, what with other exigencies, like walking the dog, reading a book, taking a nap, or going out somewhere. Yet day after day we go to work.

Inconvenient though going to work is, I don't complain about it. Truth be told, I like my job. I spend half the day helping kids, and the other half dealing with union issues. I can retire, but I can't retire. That's mostly because I remain fascinated with what I do every day. I understand that not everyone feels that way. One reason people lose that feeling is the lack of respect we get. That's exemplified in the idiotic train of thought that demands we come in an extra day for no reason.

The extra day is not going to fundamentally affect anyone's lifestyle. The worst thing about it, though, is that hundreds of thousands of kids won't even come in, and teachers will be stuck twiddling their thumbs, handing out busy work, or worst, doing things that will simply have to be repeated on days when students are actually present.

Now we in the high schools already have one useless day of class. Dennis Walcott, in his infinite wisdom, decided that we should all come in and teach one day in June after Regents exams were completed, observations were over, and all grades were in. So for a few years, I'll come in that day and meet a handful of kids who trek in. It's nice to talk to them and see them, but they'd be offended if I tried to teach them. Maybe they'd get up and walk out. Why shouldn't they? There'd be nothing I could do about it.

I live in Long Island. My daughter's school would close if anyone even whispered the word snow. Sometimes they'd ask her to come in on break days. Usually we'd be away, and there was no way I was gonna cancel our plans to send her to school. In retrospect, there was no irreversible damage caused if she attended school 179 rather than 180 days. Of course, I'm not a genius from Albany, so I'm in no positions to be making those determinations.

Here's one determination I can make--If it's a waste of time for kids to come in one day in June after all relevant work is completed, it's even more of a waste to have them come in for two days in June. While MORE has garnered a few thousand signatures to oppose December 23rd, I'm not sure all the signers read the last line.

I don't want to waste my time coming in for nothing on December 23rd. However, wasting my time coming in on June 27th is hardly an improvement. It just trades one waste of time for another.

And by the way, if that's not enough of an argument, June 27th, 2020 falls on a Saturday. It's telling that neither MORE Caucus nor Chalkbeat, which wrote a feature on this, could be bothered with consulting a calendar when writing about, you know, a calendar.

Friday, May 03, 2019

NYSED Fiddles While ELLs Are Ignored

I’d just like to express, for the record, that I find this article amazing. After virtually gutting direct English instruction for ELLs, NY State thinks giving a college course or two to potential teachers will somehow compensate. This is absolutely absurd. It is the official policy of UFT and NYSUT that ELLs need more, not less, direct instruction in English. It is remarkable, not to mention unconscionable, that NY State does not share that policy. 

It is supremely ironic that the state now proposes to instruct potential teachers about language acquisition. The most recent revision of Part 154 is abundant evidence that the state itself knows little or nothing about language acquisition.I don't know what the Regents do all day, but removing 33-100% of direct English instruction from high school English Language Learners is one of the very stupidest acts I've witnessed in education. I've been teaching in New York City since 1984, and believe me, I've seen stupid in virtually every flavor. 

Here's an example--there are few things quite so idiotic as New York State's notion that direct English instruction exists for the purpose of preparing students for core courses. Our job is improving student lives, not showing them how to pass tests. What do you think of doing when you think of learning a new language? I think of going to new places, and meeting and talking with new people. For my students, I think of them making friends, helping older family members, and learning how to live in the United States.

New York State takes a different approach. They think the reason we teach people the native language of the United States is so they can take tests. They actually state that the purpose of direct English instruction is to prepare student for "core subjects." You see, according to the people in charge of education in our state, we learn English so we can do better in social studies and math. That way, we can move toward the ultimate language activity--taking a state test.

Ironically, New York State tests, at least the ones I'm dealing with, are among the worst I've ever seen. I've spent most of the week giving a speaking and listening test, part of the NYSESLAT, which is supposed to help place ELLs. The problem with this test is it does not much involve speaking and listening. The students taking it have the text in front of them the entire time. How often do you have text in front of you when you are listening?

As for speaking, they are frequently extracting information from test in front of them. While the instructions say use your own words, there are a whole lot of words from which to borrow right in front of your face. This does not mimic actual speaking and listening, and that's just one reason ELLs are placed too high, almost always.

I used to teach two sections of beginners, students unfamiliar with English and its conventions. Now I teach one, and students who'd have ended in my beginning class are frequently in my advanced. Many are unable to use past tense in English. Many cannot compose a comprehensible sentence. And now that they're measured by an English Regents exam that does not really measure writing, they don't need to fret over things like that. 

In much of the state, only rank beginners are given direct English instruction. The state seems to feel that acquiring the English language is not a worthwhile pursuit. Take the kid, dump her into a classroom where they're reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and hope for the best. We'll sit an ESL teacher in the back of the classroom two days a week, give the teacher no consultation as to what's going on in the class, make no allowance for one on one time with this teacher, and that will solve everything.

Chalkbeat presents a ridiculous, rosy notion that we're gonna help ELLs by making future teachers take a course. Meanwhile, all over NY State, ELLs struggle to get by in school. Forget about getting by in life, because tests are all the state values.We've moved virtually all the way backward to sink or swim, and no one in NYSED seems to care at all.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

The Selling of Joe Biden--What Are Centrists in the Center Of?

I'm continually amazed at our political spectrum and how I see it represented. Americans overwhelmingly favor universal healthcare. We overwhelmingly favor a living wage for working people. We overwhelmingly favor free college for students who can use or need it. We overwhelmingly favor well-supported public schools and reasonable class sizes. Oddly, you wouldn't know that from looking at the news, or the cable networks, or almost anywhere.

Now I'm a Democrat, and I've been one since I first registered to vote. My parents were Democrats. Around our house, the common wisdom was that Democrats were the friends of people who had to work. I'd like to believe that, but it's not easy. I'm a working teacher, and I've seen a whole lot of Democrats that haven't been our friends. Even Barack Obama (dutifully served by Joe Biden), who's gained a saintly glow next to Donald Trump, failed to stand with labor and hired some of the worst education people in the country.

Now I keep reading about Joe Biden, who's the next in line, the inevitable, whose turn it is to run for President. You know, like Hillary. Like Al Gore. Like Robert Dole. Like John McCain and Jeb Bush. Do you see a common theme here? I do.

I remember Joe Biden at the Clarence Thomas hearings, giving short shrift to Anita Hill, who's probably the most credible witness I've ever seen. Now he's apologizing for how she was treated, but not for his treatment of her. Maybe it's escaped his attention that women now have the vote. Maybe he thinks if he nominates a woman for VP, people will forget about that. After all, it happened 28 years ago and I don't remember it at all.

Maybe he thinks Trump won't bring that up.  He's wrong. Maybe he thinks Trump will forget that he dropped out of the Presidential race in 1988 for plagiarizing and fibbing about his academic records. That should really turn out the teacher vote, as should his brother's charter school interests. Maybe he thinks it won't be all over the airwaves. As you can plainly see, I don't remember it at all.

Maybe Biden thinks no one will notice that he held big-money corporarate fundraisers immediately upon announcing, or that he took money from health care interests and opponents of net neutrality. After all, Americans want to continue going into bankruptcy for catastrophic medical emergency. How more American could that be? It doesn't happen anywhere else.

So then I come to this "centrist" label. What exactly is Biden in the center of? Americans overwhelmingly want medical insurance for all. We overwhelmingly want rich people, like Biden's supporters, to pay their fair share and stop buying politicians (like Biden). We want good public schools, not the privatized crap that Betsy DeVos and Joe's brother are trying to palm off on us.

Biden, is somewhere in the center. He's right smack in between Donald Trump's unbridled lunacy and the American people. The thing is, the center ought to be where we, the people, are. The center is where the votes come from. The center is where people stayed home when Hillary ran, and the center is what allowed Donald Trump to become President in our banana republic style Electoral College, the one Jimmy Carter never bothered to replicate when he was running all over the world showing people how to hold free elections.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to lose the center. If it comes to that, I might vote for Joe Biden against Donald Trump. Still, I'm not remotely persuaded enough people will get off their butts to vote for a man who's less inspiring than whatever said butts happen to be sitting on. I'm amazed that Democrats are remotely considering a candidate with so much obvious and undeniable baggage, let alone hyping him as the inevitable frontrunner. Stupid runs deep.

Don't forget to vote in the primary.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

NYSED, December 23rd, and Wasting Time and Money

 It was 1985 or 1986 that we had to come in on the first day of Passover. I was at John F. Kennedy High School. I went in, but most Jewish teachers did not. It was a disaster. We couldn't even show movies, because there were almost no teachers to sit in the classrooms with students.

I recall directing many students to go to the field, others going to the auditorium, and no classes whatsoever taking place. It was a complete and utter waste of time. I was a pretty new teacher, and I was pretty amused by the absurdity of it all. It appears that NYSED thinks days like that are a good idea.

Who knows what goes on in the hearts of administrators? Who knows if some even have them? I'm hearing that MaryEllen Elia wants to leave her imprint on the state, and one way of doing so is by not counting passing as part of the school day. Therefore we need to add more hours, and in this case those hours are added on December 23rd.

Not counting passing would be a good argument if schoolchildren and teachers were magically transported home during breaks. But it wouldn't be that good, because really, what can you do in just a few minutes anyway? Maybe if we had some Star Trek transporter technology to move from class to class we could eliminate the time. Otherwise it's school time.

"Profiles in Stupid" kind of describes how I feel about NYSED at this point. They give tests that are abysmal, they know less than nothing about language acquisition, and yet they set themselves up as authorities on everything.I've gotten a lot of feedback on my Executive Board notes, and some of it is really interesting. Some of it is predictable. There are a few points I'd like to address, though.

I've gotten a lot of messages saying Long Island does this and that. Well, Long Island doesn't do this or that. There are a whole lot of individual districts in Long Island, and each one is different. Some come in in late August. Some, like us, take off the Lunar New Year. None are on our schedule, and all do things differently. Some add in days to be used as snow days, and some return snow days at year's end. More frequently, in my experience at least, they have to add days to make up for excessive snow days. I never made my kid go on those days.

Some people have told me Long Island only works 180 days, and that snow days are built in. That can't be true. 180 is the minimum required by the state. If a district with 180 days took snow days, they'd need to make up every single one. Last year we had one snow day, and we took it. The year before we had two, and we took them. This coming year we have four, so it's ridiculous that we have to come in on the 23rd for a wasted day. I guess if you sit around in some fancy Albany office all the time, it's easy to imagine that working teachers do nothing all day, just like you.

Some people are arguing that 184 days are too many. I'm not sure about that. For one thing, I recall Mulgrew going on about how we only had two days, or one day. That suggests to me that usually we had more. My understanding is we are contracted to come in on a certain day and end at a certain day. The number of days varies with the number and location of holidays. When Jewish holidays fall on weekends, for example, we work more days in September. As far as I know, though, there is no good reason for us to go in on the 23rd.

When people tell me let's battle for fewer school days, or to get back unused snow days, I don't see that as a mountain I want to die on. There are reasons not to do that odd Monday, and they're not just my own selfishness in wanting to take an extra day off. An odd day like that is ridiculous. Multiple people have told me it's quite wasteful to open the schools for only one day, and as a teacher there are a whole lot of things I can't do on a day like that. If I know very few students are going to show, I won't be introducing new material. I won't be giving a test or reviewing one. If I do anything of importance I'll have to do it twice.

I don't show videos in my classses, except to support things I'm already doing. But a few times on Lunar New Year, when I had maybe three students, I was able to pull Netflix up (It's now blocked.) and show Wallace and Gromit to them. It just didn't make any sense to do anything else. I was glad when de Blasio declared it a school holiday and made us all stop wasting our time.

I hope UFT is able to talk sense to the brain trust in Albany. Even the DOE seems to agree with us, which is very odd.. Nonetheless, it's absolutely nuts. Can you imagine families having to roll back vacations by three days so their kid can sit in school doing nothing? Is that the vision of the geniuses in Albany?

It wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Monday, April 29, 2019

UFT Executive Board April 29, 2019--Adult Ed. in the House, and All About December 23rd

6:02 PM Secretary Howard Schoor welcomes us.

Speaker—Sarah Tyson Adult Ed.—chapter leader—Co workers under terrible burden for almost seven years. Here and seen injustice done by admin. Asks—Do you have our back? A few weeks ago I was in a CL training and I heard the president echo that UFT has our back. I’m wondering today.

Saw sign on subway about consumer and worker protection. We have your back. You say it, yet when I walk in sites and see tears, hear abusive charges. You have our back? I’m wondering.

What does it mean? I have your back. They say UFT is big org. They can do this, and that. Do you have adult ed’s back? It means you’re willing when I call on you, when I cry out. Are you willing and prepared to look out for someone? We want you to have our back, to be there when we call.

We don’t want to hear you brought this on yourself, you should’ve done this or that. We are calling out for help. We need your help. I’m reminded of song, lean on me. It says you just call on me when you need a hand, I will carry you on. Oh how I wish this could happen today and forever, that when we call on you we are not afraid of principal, of bad rating, we want to lean on the UFT. Can we lean on you today, Mr. Barr? We want to lean on you today.

I, the UFT, will help you carry on. We want to serve parents, immigrants, adult ed. Staff wants to carry on, but we need some help. I want someone to say help is on the way. I know this evening that together we are strong. We have to work together. We have to get the job done. Everybody in here has to come together and stop the injustice going on in adult ed.

Mark 24-5 says a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. We want to stand together and have each other’s backs.

Schoor—Will speak to Mr. Barr and see if he’s able to help you.

Minutes—approved

LeRoy Barr—May 11 middle school 5K run Coney Island. 50th Albert Shanker ceremony Tuesday May 14 I million in scholarships. Spring Conference May 18. DA May 22. EB May 6.

Questions

Arthur Goldstein—I should know better, but I’m still amazed at the DOE’s consistent indifference to teachers, students, and city resources. I can’t determine whether they act out of spite or stupidity so I’ll split the difference and assume it’s both.

High schools come back to work one day in June, after all the tests are over and all the grades are in. We come in and pretend students will show up. Evidently one day a year with few to no students is not sufficient for Bloomberg’s minions at the DOE, so this year they want us to come in Monday the 23rd of December. Teachers are going to be very lonely on that day. I’ll also point out that there are fewer holidays than this year or last, so there was absolutely no need to do that. It’s so stupid, in fact, that even Bloomberg’s DOE has never done it before.

Every teacher knows you can’t introduce anything new that day. Every teacher knows you can’t give a test, or even review one that day. Every teacher knows that whatever you do that day will have to be repeated some other day when students are actually present,. Maybe it will be a good day for sadistic Boy Wonder administrators looking to squeeze in a gratuitous negative observation. Maybe DOE is doing a happy dance over that, but we can do better than that for teachers and students.

There are four snow days next year. Aside from Sandy, we’ve never taken four snow days. Based on 30 years of precedent, people have already booked trips for this week. This feels like we’re giving something back and it needs to be fixed. Last time I looked, the school calendar was not the Ten Commandments. Is there any chance someone can talk sense to Tweed on this? I’ve seen the chancellor a few times, and he appears to be not insane.

Evelyn de Jesus
—On the case. Not DOE but NYSED. Commissioner started this. DOE and UFT agree. Trying to get it together. Have Regents meeting and we will be fighting that.

Schoor—SED said not only do you need days, but also hours.

De Jesus—What happens is commissioner doesn’t want to include passing time. Pressuring DOE. We are working on that. She feels we have to make it up.

Mike Schirtzer—Can you follow up on PD counting to CTLE?

De Jesus—We are. As you know we have professional learning teams, which will talk to PD teams, trying to work that out, and A plus, and you will get a report.

Jonathan Halabi—With BETA in Bronx, have we been able to deal with principal issues?

Eliu Lara
—Working together—principal has complied with most issues.

Halabi—Diversity resolution—issue in all of our high schools. Do we have date?

Janella HInds
—not yet.

Halabi—If we can’t fix 23rd, could I assume that we would ask to waive PD requirement day before vacation.

Schoor
—Article 6C part of contract. We have to try and resolve this, will cross if we come to it.

Duane Clark—moment of silence for Martin Plotkin, math teacher, DR. Was my mentor, staunch unionist. Held a funeral for education under Giuliani, drew thousands to demonstrate what he believed in. Will be sorely missed. Fought against injustice, greatest guy you’d ever know.

Pat Filomeno
—Also rises to ask for Vince Scaglioni, who writes, he was rock solid human being and union rep. Worked in best interests of members in very tough times. Gentle and generous person will be missed.

Michael Mulgrew—Calendar—Issue is they are "adhering to contract"--that's the nicest way I can say it. Reason you would never open on Monday is it makes no sense. We do not agree. There is ongoing problem with commissioner. At first they weren’t even covering Passover. We said this makes no sense. We will go and deal with problem in Albany. I don’t know if it will work. We are very upset about it. They should’ve fixed it. They are adhering to contract, have legal right.

Thanks SI office for Jeanine C. funeral. Was good to see communities.

Meeting with CEC president tonight. Talk about raising charter cap. We’re not having it. I will discuss this with CEC parents. We want to take away their free rent, we want transparency and accountability. We will push through rest of legislative session. NYSUT RA at end of week. Always gets interesting. We love our brothers and sisters across the state.

Hope you got well-deserved time off.

Reports from districts


David Kazansky—Living a life in Jewish politics May 9th, will be at 4 PM on 19th floor. Please attend.

Evelyn de Jesus—100 scholars won scholarships Saturday, discussed Puerto Rico, many seniors want to be teachers. Parade not just parade, about these scholarships. We hosted them and did workshops.

Tammy Miller—Saturday May 11 6th annual childcare providers ceremony. 6:15 start.

Doreen Berrios—Secretary CL—Thanks for permission to go to SRP conference. Event led by Shelvy Abrams. Great workshops.

George Altamari—Wants to ask we take calendar posters for labor history month.

Howard Sandel—tomorrow night kicks off celebration for nurses’ week. Please stop by from 6-9.

Arthur Goldstein--Two weeks ago we had the Team High School Awards, right in this room, and it looked a lot better than it does now. Everything was in a dark purple light. I brought several people from my school and we all had a great time. The chancellor gave a great speech, from a teacher's point of view. It was a great event. Looking forward to the next one.

Legislative report—Liz Perez—At last DA endorsed Farah Lewis. Doing phone banks, flyers, meetings. She knows what city council is about, opposes charters. Priorities housing, education and equity. Knows the system. Would be great person to have considering term limits. will protect us and our children. Please volunteer. Please call Brooklyn office and help. We start May 1st.

UFT Election ReportAmy Arundell—Two weeks ago had count, April 18. In folders are results. Preliminary. Unity slate won. Waiting for full report.

Schoor
—Will vote on official report. Will come in soon. Will accept or not.

We are adjourned. 6:39.