Thursday, March 31, 2016

DA Takeaway March 2016

It was very important at the last DA that Arthur Pepper get up and explain to us why it was a great thing to have raised our copays. After all, Michael Mulgrew goes to one of those places with no copay, so he doesn't have to pay at all. Evidently that's reason for celebration. If there aren't any near you, well, too bad. The Great Leader has his and the rest of you can all go to hell.

Of course, along with that comes the usual Unity talking points about what we didn't give up. We aren't paying a portion of our health care out of our paychecks, and it's therefore irrelevant that we are paying more out of pocket when we see a specialist. It doesn't matter that we have to pay 50 bucks instead of 15 to visit the now ubiquitous urgent care facilities. Because with UFT Unity, everything is always good, we're in the best of all possible worlds, and nothing could be better. You're paying the money here and not there, and after all, that is the only thing that matters.

Oh and by the way, we have no idea what future savings will be required under the agreement our Great Leader made. Maybe next year it will double and triple again, but that will be okay because you won't be paying out of your paycheck. And once you are paying out of your paycheck, that will be okay because you aren't paying more out of your paycheck. The only thing we can be sure of is whatever happens, it will be a great victory for UFT Unity.

I've written quite a bit about this over the last few weeks, but I was frankly amazed that Unity would not reject using junk science to rate teachers. The Unity talking point, which is ridiculous, is that MORE wants principals to have absolute power. Evidently, the argument is that if we don't have junk science principals will have total control. Well, principals already have total control, and can say any damn thing they like or invent. I have seen fabricated evaluations written by small minded vindictive administrators. I've actually had video evidence otherwise, but under this system it's just fine for supervisors to make up any damn thing they like.

Perish forbid we should reject it after Mulgrew endorsed it, because then most of the people in the DA would lose that free trip to Schenectady they'd been hankering for. So UFT Unity killed a motion to reject junk science under the black and white fallacy that the only alternative to teachers being rated by virtual coin tosses was total principal control.

I continue to be amazed that UFT Unity can refuse to oppose the new evaluation law, the one that ups junk science to 50%. This is the one that brings outside evaluators to write us up. The assumption, I suppose, is that our supervisors may like us or something and therefore write good things about us. That, of course, would be terrible. So Mulgrew told us what a great job the validators did. Doubtless you're all doing cartwheels when you hear that they turned thumbs down on only 70% of those they observed. Another great Unity victory!

Of course there was no mention of the fact that everyone who received that thumbs down will now be getting a 3020a where the burden of proof is on them. Can you imagine having to prove you are not incompetent?  But UFT Unity doesn't think about that stuff, and they don't want you to think about it either. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. And if the new Heavy Hearts law means 100% of teachers deemed incompetent will be guilty until proven innocent, that's just fine with UFT Unity, who refuse to oppose it. After all, Mulgrew thanked them for it, and you can't have him saying something is wonderful and then saying it isn't. Unless, of course, he does, and then whatever other thing he suggested will become wonderful too. That's what you have to believe when you sign a loyalty oath.

Family leave is another touchy subject. Mulgrew spoke about what the non-unionized workers took, and said it wasn't acceptable for UFT. Then he kind of sniffed around and said he knew what we wanted. This, of course, was yet another inscrutable secret that he can't share with us lowly union members. After all, we haven't got his vision or imagination. Which one of us would have taken the money every other union got in 2009 and arranged for us to get it in 2020 with no interest? That takes a special kind of leader.

Tired of being represented by some smug condescending bald guy from Staten Island? Then I urge you strongly to replace him come May.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What, Me Worry?

Hey folks. It's me, your old pal Mikey Mulgrew. Hey, watch it there or I'll punch you in the face and push it in the dirt. Nah! Just joshing! I never really liked that Common Core stuff anyway. Now that the state is gonna change the name and offer the same old stuff I'm sure it's gonna be better. Remember now that this is because of our opposition to Common Core, even though we never said we opposed it at the time. But we have people who are very smart, so we've planned this all along.

And let me tell you something about the opt-out crowd. Sure, they made it inconvenient for the state after 20% of NY kids opted out. And sure, there might be more here. But we've done a lot of secret work behind the scenes. You know, a lot of cloak and dagger type stuff we can't tell you about. In fact, we do all sorts of things we never tell you about. Take my advice. They are terrific. They are beautiful. They are the best. Sorry I can't fill you in on any of the details, but I assure you I have a crack team at HQ doing great work I can never tell any of you about until it's time for me to take credit. Yeah, that's the ticket.

And hey, we won Friedrichs! All of our top secret strategizing and mobilizing sure paid off. The Court voted 4-4, which sounds like a tie but really isn't. And hey, I gotta tell you, I'm really kind of breathing a sigh of relief. I mean, it ain't cheap paying for 52 Broadway, not to mention the 800 Unity loyalty oath signers I have to drag all over the world with me. I mean, it's like eleven bucks for just a beer at the NY Hilton. And don't get me started on the steakhouses in Albany. Of course COPE paid for that, so I can assure you all you got stuck for was the eleven dollar beers. And, of course, all the food and transportation of the 800 people who vote any damn way I say with no regard whatsoever for what you want and/ or need. But it's all part of my secret plan to accomplish things I can't tell you about. Unless of course they happen in which case I'll be happy to take credit for them. Unless they're bad in which case I had no part whatsoever.

So anyhoo, whew! Where would we be without all that dues money? 52 has been pretty good to us. I mean, who would pay for that Hillary Clinton campaign office if not you guys? And for gosh sakes, who do you think pays for the bananas we serve the folks at the DA, while we save sandwiches and stuff for the Unity and NYSUT folks upstairs?

Anyhoo, it's not like I'm gonna have to live on a teacher salary anytime soon. But that's not the big takeaway here. The fact is, under Michael Mulgrew and the Unity Caucus leadership, NYC is not a right to work city. Now I ask you, can those dirtbags over at MORE make that claim? Of course they can't. They're probably sitting around right now drinking cheap wine and plotting some way to get rid of teachers being evaluated by test scores, after all my hard work making sure that would be part of NY State law. Anyway, you won't catch me or my crew drinking cheap wine anytime soon.

So remember, Unity will protect the system that means you won't be judged 100% by principals. You will be judged by 40% test scores, and while they are completely unreliable, a crap shoot if you will, at least they aren't principals. Are they more or less unreliable than principals? Hey I don't know but we have very smart people in the UFT who will figure it out.

And don't pay any attention to those Gloomy Guses on the blogs, the ones I never read, who say you're now guilty until proven innocent over at 3020a. I mean, sure, you are, but since fewer of you are going there, what's the deal? I mean, sure, more of you will end up getting fired, but hey, them's the breaks. And anyway, if you're smart enough to join Unity, maybe we can get you a gig sitting around in some office somewhere doing whatever those people in the offices do.

So remember, a thousand points of light, no severe disasters for over three years, retro isn't a God-given right, and vote for us for another three years of what you've had for the last two.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Sit While You Wait

I, for one, am pretty happy to see NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña acknowledging instances in which she might opt out her own kids. One is if the kid were a special education student who couldn't possibly keep up with the test requirements. Of course such a kid ought not to be taking a high stakes test, and indeed I've read reports of such kids taking them for many hours. Here's an anonymous complaint that was sent to opt-out activist Jeanette Deutermann:

I am a NYC teacher and I support the opt-out movement and will opt my own children out when the time comes. I proctored a practice ELA exam on Tuesday for the first time since it became untimed. One of my 3rd grade students with Special Needs sat with a 9 question test (6 multiple choice 3 short answer) for 4 hours and 50 minutes. From 9 am-1:50 pm she "worked productively" and continued to say she wasn't done. Lunch was brought to her in the testing room. It was child abuse, plain and simple. I am writing you for fear of retaliation in my workplace since this story pertains to my job and I imagine Ms. Fariña would not approve of me sharing it on social media. I don't know what else to say as there really isn't anything more to say other than repeat what I stated earlier. It's child abuse. The passages and questions were ridiculously inappropriate. Most adults would have had difficulty answering the questions.
 Consider not only the story, but also the fact that the teacher is too fearful to be identified. And this is where we are in NYC in 2016, even as the monopoly Unity Caucus celebrates our evaluation system. No child should have to go through such abuse, and Unity Caucus has repeatedly failed to support our cause, choosing to exercise talking points about how we could lose money if too many kids like the one above were to opt out.

The other category Fariña mentioned was newly arrived immigrants. That touched me a little as those are the kids I see every day of my working life. Of course they shouldn't be taking standardized tests until they acquire English. But that's a long process, and it's severely hindered by NY State's Part 154, which has reduced direct English instruction to high school students by a factor of 33-100%, depending on just how indifferent principals are to these students and their unique needs. It is also dependent on budget, and NY principals are not precisely rolling in cash these days.

I would love to see Carmen Fariña really stand up for these kids, but unfortunately that's yet to happen. I remain hopeful, of course. (I'm on a secret mission to get the UFT to oppose Part 154, and should anything come of it, I'll let you know. Again, I'm hopeful.)

But here's the thing. I think more students should opt-out than just those two groups. I'd use another two groups if I were to identify them. Specifically, I would opt-out male and female students. For anyone who doesn't fall into one of those categories, opting out could be optional. I'm very broad-minded, so I'm OK with that.

There's one more factor I'd like to bring up though. Parents don't need my OK, and with all due respect, they don't need the OK of Carmen Fariña either. It's up to them to opt out their kids or not. There are factors in NYC that make it a little more difficult. A big one is the lack of UFT support. In districts that have union presidents who support opt-out, they tend to work with parents and organize. Sadly, that's lacking here, but you'll soon have a chance to do something about it.

My hope is that both Carmen Fariña and Mike Mulgrew come to their senses and support opt-out wholeheartedly, as Regents Commissioner Betty A. Rosa just did. I hope you won't label me cynical when I tell you I shall certainly sit while I wait for that to happen.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Boy Wonder Goes to a Teacher Improvement Meeting

Oh my gosh, that Chapter Leader is such a son of a bitch. How can he sit there, so smug, in front of the principal, mind you, and criticize my decisions. I wrote that Teacher Improvement Plan, it's the very best of the two I've written, and he has the audacity to question my judgement. It's, oh, the teacher should have input into her own improvement plan. What's up with that? Like, if she knew what to do, why the hell is she here in the first place? And how is someone that old supposed to make a judgment anyway?

And now with the questions.

"How many formative observations of Ms. Feinstein did you do this year?"

What? What the hell kind of question is that? It's none of his damn business how many I did! Calm down. Just say something.

"I don't recall," I say.

"I do," he says. "You did exactly zero."

How dare he? I jump on this.

"You can't say that!" I say. "You don't know how many I did!"

He turns to the old bat Feinstein and asks, "How many times did Mr. Wonder formatively observe you?"

"Zero," she says.

That bitch! How dare she speak of me in that tone of voice! I will get the last word here.

"Well, if you had an issue with the way I handled Ms. Feinstein, you haven't come to speak to me about it in a long time."

"I don't find talking to you a productive use of my time, Mr. Wonder," he says. The bastard!

I zing him. "Well, you've made that quite clear."

Jesus, this principal is beyond useless. Why doesn't he shut this guy up? Put a letter in his file. Throw him out a window for chrissake. Here I am, doing the work of the angels, and he just sits there. Is he gonna make me actually do these formative observations? Like I have nothing better to do? One day I'll be his boss and he will pay for failing to back me up.

Now Chapter Leader is going on and on about how I pick on people, how I don't have a good relationship, and all sorts of other nonsense. Holy crap, I can't stand to hear this one moment longer.

"I think Ms. Feinstein and I have a very good working relationship. We get along very well."

"You rated her ineffective. You placed her in the worst rooms in the building. She doesn't even want to talk to you. You think that's getting along very well?"

Christ the arrogance of this guy. I've been doing this job for two years, and I taught for three years before that. I have experience, and all he has is that big mouth. Man, if he were in my department I'd let him know what's what. I'd write the damn observation before I even went into the classroom, I'd get someone who understands all that damn Danielson crap to check it for me, and wham! He'd find out what happens to people who mess with me!

Jeez how long is this meeting gonna go on? I could use one of those protein shakes. Chocolate? Maybe strawberry. Oh my gosh, they want to make changes to the TIP. Am I gonna have to type this stuff again? The principal wants me to do formative observations? What the hell difference does he think that's gonna make? Like I hadn't made up my mind about that old broad the first time I laid eyes on her.

Oh man this job sucks. I cannot wait until I am principal. Things are gonna be different for sure. I will get back at Feinstein and my whole damn disloyal department. They'll see what happens when people step out of line.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Quote of the Week

"You must have some incredibly bad Principals, if a 50% random evaluation is a good thing." ~Michael Lillis, President, Lakeland Federation of Teachers

I'm gonna agree that's the case, although it doesn't really buttress UFT Unity's disingenuous and idiotic argument that MORE wants principals to have 100% control over evaluation. In fact, even under the junk science system, a vindictive principal can sink the rating of any teacher. Here's an exchange in which a Unity member agrees with me:

Now of course Michael is correct that a principal could sink a rating under the S/U system. And it may indeed have happened more often. The tremendous distinction, which neither he nor any of his Unity pals was able to address in a reasonable fashion, is that under the current system teachers bear the burden of proof. It used to be that principals had to prove teachers were incompetent. Under UFT Unity's beloved junk science system, teachers need to prove they are not incompetent.

In case it's not clear what that implies, think back on all the times you read in the tabloids about how tough it was to fire teachers. Personally, and I'm confident I speak for MORE/ New Action on this point, I think removing the livelihood of a working teacher ought to be difficult. If it was tough to fire teachers under the old system, it will be tough to defend teachers under the new system. Therefore, if I am to follow the logic of UFT Unity, they're good with the burden of proof being on teachers. And if you follow the logic of history, it will be very tough for teachers to win at 3020a.

So I decided to give Unity a taste of their own medicine:

Now I've made this point before, but Mike Lillis has made me think a step further. If, in fact, we have a preponderance of vindictive and small-minded administrators, who enabled that? I'm gonna have to say it was UFT Unity. After all, they've been in power for over a half a century, and have rigged the game so dissenting voices are totally shut out in NYSUT and AFT.

Why the hell hasn't UFT Unity done anything to stop the flow of insane administrators? Why did they, despite lip service against Bloomberg, enable his mayoral control not once, but twice? Diane Ravitch wrote that mayoral control was a tool of the Billionaire Boy's Club to shut out community control. Why the hell did our union leadership enable that at all? Even worse, after demanding a few changes before its renewal and failing to get them, why did they endorse it a second time?

In 50 years, there's been plenty of time to demand and/ or enact changes for the better. Why hasn't UFT leadership been in the forefront of demanding administrators who aren't insane? Aren't administrators supposed to support us, rather than target, vilify and fire us? Isn't 50 years enough time to have made at least a little progress?

Of course not. UFT Unity is all about "solutions-based unionism," which basically means getting in bed with the reformies a little bit at a time. And what has our process of appeasement bought us?

We're now facing lawsuits to not only take away our tenure, but also to make the USA a right to work country for public employees. Reformies are not dissuaded or satisfied by concessions. They just smell our weakness and are even more emboldened to go in for the kill.

That's why we have targets on our backs, and that's why the UFT now has to run a campaign to educate teachers on the most basic concepts of unionism.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Elia Calls Teacher Encouragement of Opt-out Unethical

It's funny to be lectured by the likes of reformy MaryEllen Elia, who took boatloads of Gates money in Florida to promote programs that ultimately didn't work. Nonetheless, it's not that unusual. After all, her esteemed predecessor, Reformy John King, called parents and teachers "special interests" and managed to weasel his way up to US Secretary of Education.

Now, of course, we have a Regents Commissioner who says she'd opt her own child out if she got a chance. This is remarkable. Will Regent Roger Tilles, who talks a big game against reforminess but votes any damn way Cuomo says begin to exercise what he contends to be his conscience? That remains to be seen.

But what should teachers do? This teacher, the one writing this, certainly supports opt-out, and would encourage others to do so too. I think opt-out is the only force that's caused Cuomo to temper his draconian positions, or at least to grant lip service to it. Michael Mulgrew can stand up and take credit for it, but I've heard him at the DA not only declining to support opt-out, but also spreading appeals to fear about the money we'd lose were it to become popular in NYC. He sounds as reformy as anyone when he talks that talk.

Now if I felt it were unethical to encourage opt-out, I wouldn't be writing this. In fact, I think it's imperative that we do this. For one thing, despite Mulgrew patting himself on the back, the "moratorium" is not only temporary, but has little to no effect on a whole lot of teachers. I teach high school, and it has no effect whatsoever on us. Like most opt-out supporters, I have very low expectations for Cuomo's board rewriting standards, and I fully expect to see Common Core with a new name. Mulgrew can talk all he wants about teacher input, but he said the same thing about Common Core before offering to punch us all in the face if we opposed it.

Now I do draw the line somewhere. I would not talk opt-out in my classroom, ever. I don't think it's my place to influence my students directly. I'd have a different approach at a PTA meeting, though. Parents may get their info from the papers, which have a distinct slant. They may get info from principals, who delicately threaten those who don't participate. Or they may have no info whatsoever and not even realize that's an option.

Of course, in high school it's kind of a moot point. My students cannot graduate without passing Regents exams, whether they're Common Core or not. I certainly wish that were an option. I teach ELLs, and the English Regents exam in all its iterations has proven inappropriate for them. I spent several year prepping ELLs for this test. Oddly, I found I was able to get a lot of them to pass, and therefore graduate. But I did this by teaching them how to pass a single test at the exclusion of just about everything else. Kids who passed the Regents that way would be likely to need remedial classes if they entered CUNY, and that could limit their prospects to community colleges. But at least they got out of the place where they were required to learn skills that weren't good for much other than passing a single test.

Opt-out is the heart and soul of education in NY, and we can rejoice that we finally have a prominent voice in a position of power that is not insane. UFT leadership will not stand and oppose junk science testing. UFT leadership will not stand and oppose the worst education law I've seen in my lifetime, and Michael Mulgrew actually thanked the legislature for passing it.

MORE is running an opt-out activist for President of the UFT. MORE is forging alliances with Stronger Together, a huge conglomeration of state locals that were shut out when Mulgrew decided to dump NYSUT leadership. I never understood what union could be until I met Beth Dimino, Brian St. Pierre, and people all over the state who opposed reforminess in all its ugly forms.

We can be a union like that too, if enough of us rise up and overturn the Unity monopoly this May 5th. I'm ready.

Are you?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

UFT Unity's Shiny New Talking Point

I actually blogged something very close to this a few days ago, but after hearing Mulgrew harp on it at the DA, after hearing it was mentioned before I showed up at a CL meeting, and after seeing tweets like the one below, I'm gonna address it directly.

First of all, this is a strawman, a logical fallacy. I have never, ever heard anyone from MORE say they want principals to have total control over evaluation. What MORE says is precisely what Diane Ravitch does, to wit, that teachers ought not to be rated by junk science. And that, frankly, is the only thing there is other than principal evaluations.

The other Unity talking point, one some Unity person threw at me on Twitter earlier today, is that there are only 700 double I rated teachers, down from 2,000 U rated teachers. I suppose that is from the last year they have records, but who really knows where they get that stuff from? Anyway, let's suppose they are correct. There is still a problem here.

Back in the bad old days when the principal had total control over evaluation, when that nasty principal sought to remove you via 3020a he had to prove you were incompetent. He had to make a case and demonstrate before an arbitrator that the stuff he wrote had validity. And that was a tough mountain to climb. That was why those mean old principals were so rarely successful.

Under the plan that Unity wants us to fall in love with, a double I-rated teacher has to prove he is not incompetent. That's a tough mountain to climb too, except it will be you climbing it instead of the principal. Now sure, there is the UFT Rat Squad, and if they say you're doing a swell job, the burden of proof will revert back to the principal. In fact, Unity will proudly declare they do just that 30% of the time. So what does that mean?

That means that 70% of the time, UFT teachers have the burden of proof on them. Compare that to the S-U system, when that happened precisely zero percent of the time.  And if that isn't enough, under the new Cuomo education law, the one the UFT declined to oppose, the one Mulgrew thanked the legislature for passing, we may not even get the dubious benefit of the UFT Rat Squad. Mulgrew says he's working on it, but as his caucus misrepresents MORE's position, it also condemns "small locals." That's code for Stronger Together, the new caucus in NYSUT that opposes the reformy nonsense Mulgrew and his BFFs have enabled for us.

And again, that non-principal evaluation stuff that Unity seems so proud of? It's VAM junk science. The American Statistical Association has determined that teachers move test scores by a factor of 1-14%. Yet in our evaluations, it counts 40%, and next year could count 50. And who knows? Maybe they help you out. In my high-performing school, I have seen members brought up from developing to effective, particularly the first year. It appears to me the supervisors wised up somewhat the second year, though, and started giving lower ratings to that lucky few. I could be wrong. But what difference does it make whether I am or not when our ratings are largely based on a crapshoot?

I know a person from another school who got an ineffective rating due solely to test scores. She was not precisely doing a jig over the new system. I'm sure she's not the only one. But if she is, she is one too many.

I am personally flabbergasted that this is the best talking point the highly compensated minds at Unity could muster. Back to the drawing board, fellas.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

DA Report March 2016—UFT Declines to Oppose Junk Science or 3012c (the Cuomo/ Heavy Hearts Evaluation Law)

Mulgrew welcomes us. Asks for moment of silence for terror victims..

President’s Report


President Obama named SCOTUS prospect. We understand impact of Friedrichs. We will do an activist alert. Has spoken with Schemer, who says GOP always plays games and wants to keep SCOTUS. Senate needs to do their job and start process. Says many GOP pols have said good things about this candidate. Says he supports labor.

Presidential campaign—now at point where we know that endorsements are what’s in best interests of union. Is danger if either of two front-running GOP candidates win. Says Cruz wants voucher system.  Trump’s advisor is Carl Eichen, who advocates private marketplace for public education. Says they both oppose union.

NY State primary April 19th. UFT has endorsed Hillary. Thanks retirees for their work and support. Says we cannot allow GOP to win White House. Says they don’t believe in pensions, health care or union. Says there is Hillary HQ on floor 12 of UFT HQ. Says he has a lot of volunteers.

Says SCOTUS has just come out with first 4-4- tie. Says leadership very worried about Friedrichs. Mulgrew says our activists all understand Friedrichs. Says we will ID everyone behind Friedrichs. Says they cold called thousands of teachers to find 10 plaintiffs. Recommends we all read Dark Money


As of April 1st, Betty Rosa from Bronx will be Regents Chancellor. Says we have good relationship with her. Says it’s great to have a Regents leaders who’s actually been in a classroom.

Albany very tied up with minimum wage. Budget need to be tied up by next week. Enrollment equity legislation for charter schools will move right after minimum wage.

Asks if people understand what untimed tests means. Says administrators should be in charge of untimed tests and judge whether or not children “continue to make progress.”

Says Lobby Day was great. Scattered applause. Says, If not tests, then what handout made big splash. Says we have lobbied to change law. Says legislature is sick and tired of constantly changing teacher eval. laws. Says we want to propose authentic student learning, e.g. portfolios, but other locals want to go back to nothing except the principal wants to be in charge of our evaluation. Says our issue is how we keep checks and balance on our administrators.

We do not like the use of the tests, BUT we went from 2000 people rated ineffective to 700. Says UFT will never support reversion to S and U system. Says we want more checks and balances than we have with current testing. Says small locals want to just go back, that people say they have arrangements, but we fight like hell all the time with principals. Says we don’t have an agreement but we have proposals. Says 115 locals have agreements for next year. Says we will change teacher eval. for what’s right for kids, but recommends local control.

Says we are working to keep our “independent validators” as opposed to visiting evaluators. Says that system is not fair to us in NYC, and there is a $130 million price tag for this. Says provisional regs have gone out and 100 hours of PD will not go into effect this school year.

Invites Arthur Pepper up to talk health care. Demands applause several times.

Arthur Pepper

Says he spoke to DA two years ago about savings. Says there is no premium and he is proud to say that. Says we are meeting all our goals. Says many people pay over 10% of cost of health coverage, which would be $1600 a year for GHI users. Says it affects all city employees.

Says we’re looking for access. First thing we did was make sure no copay change for primary care physicians. There are 36 sites with Advantage Care zero copay.

Says many years ago we instituted $50 copay for ER. Members were freaked out. Says people stopped using ER for daily care. Says that’s our highest ticket item so we raised copay to $150, but if you are admitted fee is waived.

Says they are using “telemedicine.” You will be able to go on the internet and call or Skype a physician for $15 copay. Doctor can call in a prescription, via org called Amwell. Info will come in April. Will be able to issue notes.

Urgent care cost is $50. It’s almost as expensive as an ER visit and they make a lot of money, he says.

Zocdoc is great app, and will show you GHI doctors who are available.

First time we have two tiers in HIP—Preferred plan, zero copay, non-preferred, $10.

Subsidizing costs for Weight Watchers 15 per month, or 7 online.

As of July 1st, certain preventive care procedures, mammograms, colonoscopies, some drugs, zero copay.

Advises us to stay healthy.


Says our next fight is with hospitals, who overcharge outrageously for tests and blood work. Says some members misuse ER, but UFT members like to go to the doctor, and we go more than anyone. Says that’s good thing.

Says us getting this, and meeting our goals, means AP did great job.


Families for Excellent Schools, attacking public schools as unsafe. Using data from a state reporting system. Says even John King said this system was inappropriate. Says they forgot to look at charters through that system. While we have 150% increase, they have 450% increase. Says he’s happy NY Post is attacking UFT.

Says it’s been bad year for charters. Says we don’t like four major chains because they are funded by people who want to destroy public education. Says highest performing teachers in NY State are those in NYC.

Says state is now looking at need, and we’re outperforming. When we look at need, we’re outperforming even more. So FES will continue to attack us and their little cronies, the Post and the News, will print whatever they ask.

Says SESIS arbitration is winding down, and SESIS needs to go. Says it can’t be fixed. Says we may have further info Monday.

Says now if paraprofessional is arrested is automatically suspended without pay, and UFT will fight it.

We are now negotiating on family leave. Says hypothetically a pattern has been set. Important we get it done. Pattern set is they lose two work days or work two additional, lose half percent pay increase. Says all those years we didn’t get a contract for not selling out ATRs. Says if it came down to what non-unionized employees did, how would we deal with it? Says we will keep pushing.

Talks about May 4th. Public education event day. Says when it gets warm we have to celebrate our schools. Says we want it all grassroots. Asks we sign up. Gets almost no response whatsoever.

Announces week off at end of April. Again little applause. Announces various other events.

Brings up four teachers who’ve achieved national board certification. Much applause. Mulgrew asks for more and gets it. Says they’ve gone above and beyond.

Has union founders stand. Says March is UFT birthday month and leads DA in singing of Happy Birthday to us.

Leroy Barr

Speaks of Union Loud and Proud campaign, urges us to hang up posters. April 16th UFT 5K run. Talks of raffle.

UFT elections in 5 weeks. Ballots go out May 5th. Urges us all to vote then and in November, and on primary day.

High School awards Friday April 15th, Next DA April 20th.


Delegate—Social work relegated to guidance—how will UFT support social workers?

Says we do not support this. We need more counselors, social workers, and psychologists. Says he testified on school discipline. Says this shouldn’t be legislated. Says we went from zero tolerance to zero discipline. Says fewer than 10% of children need clinical intervention, not guidance talk. Says our hands can’t be tide. A voice behind me cries, “Taze them.”

CL—How much will family leave cost us?

If, if, hypothetically we follow pattern set by non-unionized, we’d work two more days and give up .5% of our raise. He would not feel comfortable bringing that to membership. Says some people don’t want to give up anything, but others want it right now. Says we will be strong in our position, and what other workers did is not acceptable to us.

CL—Says there are cases similar to Friedrichs. What can we do about them?

Says folks who did this had a long-term plan, are very smart. Says Citizens United is part of it. They want free market system where no one tells them about environment, workforce, or taxes. Says there needs to be a decision if fair share requirement is infringement on freedom of speech. Says if they lose Friedrichs they will just bring forth another case. Won’t go away until it’s settled by SCOTUS. Says we cannot give up because of Scalia’s death.

Delegate—Says we’re very lucky that Common Core is gone. Mulgrew says, “Yup.” Says if it was developmentally inappropriate for gen. ed. kids, it’s worse for special ed. Will new tests still count toward MOSL for alternate assessment?

Mulgrew says UFT thinks no, but we don’t know. Says much time was wasted on tedious portfolios. Says we will see how new system goes, and teachers will evaluate it. Says new things should not be used for MOSL when there is no vetting of process. Says without tests, alternate assessment teachers could be 100% evaluated by principal.

CL—What can people expect for 20% MOSL for this year?

We have hundreds of systems in NYC. SED says no state generated growth scores, but some schools didn’t use it anyway. For this year, ratings will revert back to principals in charge—local MOSL may be 20 with 80% principal determined (if I understood correctly). Says we just had fight to get out state generated growth scores. Too many schools to give simple answer.

CL—Hard to staff schools differential?

Talking with DOE, says Monday and Tuesday scenario sunsets in June. Says everyone loves it. Says differential is part of discussions, but city doesn’t name schools.


Lauren Cohen—motion for next month—being handed out.

Delinking testing from evaluation (!)

Writer's fashion note--Lauren’s hair is no longer blue.--Correction--Saw Lauren up close later and there are indeed blue highlights.

James Vasquez—Can we advertise whatever we wish on leaflets?

Mulgrew—We have no position on this.

Lauren—Welcomes Betty Rosa, looks forward to changes. Says ed. decisions should be in hands of experts. Says eval. law will be in place after moratorium expires, and it applies only to certain tests. Value-added has been discredited by ASA, unreliable measure, not designed for this purpose. Provides checks and balances, but still broken.

As advocates for our profession, UFT should be out front to say this is wrong, doesn’t work, has deleterious effect on us and our students. Precedent for this in CT. Asks body to consider next month.

UFT Sec—Says we have window with 4 year moratorium. We have to be careful not to say we don’t want this, but rather to say what we want. Says saying this is no good doesn’t solve this problem, and if we have nothing else it will be 100% principal evaluation. Says we need to define what it should be. Not in favor. Says we need to look for way.

Motion fails.

Mulgrew moves to close motion periods.


Anniversary celebration—honoring 56th Anniversary of birth of UFT. No speakers against.

Motion passes.

Supporting PSC--Bloomberg didn't want to negotiate with us, and PSC has no contract now. We should support them against CUNY management. Mayor and Governor will support, but CUNY management refuses. Asks that we support PSC.

Dave Pecoraro asks for amendment to reverse budget cuts.

Passes as amended.

Janella Hinds--Wants to amend resolution opposing state receivership. Saying there will likely always be schools in receivership, as opposed to 5% of schools. Janella says UFT on record opposing this, demands support for Buffalo and rebukes Elia. Asks for support of amended resolution.

James Eterno--Moves to amend. Asks that UFT make repeal of Ed. Transformation Act and 3012c main legislative goal and urges NYSUT to do the same.

Wants to add teeth to this resolution, and actively oppose the law, in that we try to repeal it. Says we need to get rid of this disgusting law and what it does. Says our friends upstate will face layoffs as a result of this. Says people may have to reapply for positions and be laid off. Says this doubled down on testing being part of evaluation, made four year tenure, and made two ineffectives ruin for a teachers. Says political winds are at our back. We must get rid of receivership and wretched law.

Rich Mantel--against amendment. Say ETA much broader than just receivership. Says you can't just wipe everything out, must do it some other way. Says we are working to change things. Can't just throw out baby with bathwater. Must figure it out the right way. Throwing everything out not right way to do it.

Jonathan Halabi--Rises in strong support of both amendments. Says we have one chance to do things right. Will we pull receivership or not? Will we take that law out or not? You need to vote for this amendment.

Question called.

Second amendment voted down.

First amendment passes.

Resolution passes

Evelyn de Jesus--support of Chicago Teacher Union

Compares Rahm to Bloomberg, speaks of April 1st demonstration by CTU. Asks we support CTU.

Resolution passes.

Islamophopia Resolution

Emil P.--Says it's hard to believe we have to discuss this. Denying people entry to US based on religion is unbelievable. People came here for religious freedom. Asks for support against discrimination against Muslims.

CL proposes it doesn't go far enough. Is called out of order, then offers amendment.

Resolves that the UFT strongly condemns the actions of all those who threaten the national imperative of acceptance of others.  Says it should express our affirmative belief and not name GOP candidates, that we should condemn anyone who makes such statements.

Discussion from 19th floor over whether word should be "have" or "has." 6:05.

Stuart Kaplan--Call question.

Resolution passes as amendment.

Mulgrew says Happy Easter, Happy Purim, and opens raffle.

Was S and U Better Than the Current System?

For me, that isn't much of a question, but I'm told at the last chapter leader meeting a speaker said the current system was an improvement over the old S and U system. I was late, which is probably for the best since I'd certainly have argued that point. Of course, with the overwhelming majority of my fellow chapter leaders having signed loyalty oaths for those free trips and after school gigs, no one at all would have stood with me.

Now the argument, which I've heard before, is that the principal could have written any damn thing and given a teacher a U in the past. That's true. Another argument is that fewer teachers got rated double ineffective than double unsastisfactory. I suppose that's true too. But that's where that argument ends. Ask anyone who's been rated double ineffective and tossed to the wolves by the UFT Rat Squad (sporting a 70% conviction rate, last I heard). Those people are facing unprecedented 3020a dismissal hearings in which the burden of proof is on them. To wit, the city need not prove these teachers are incompetent. Rather, these teachers need prove they are not incompetent.  For my money, that's guilty until proven innocent, and fundamentally anti-American.

First of all, it's very clear to me, in the hands of a competent supervisor, that the old observation format was superior to the current one. My former co-blogger Arwen wrote a great post illustrating this. Unfortunately, not all supervisors are competent. I once did an elaborate values game in a class and was observed. My supervisor asked me for my source, and plagiarized the instructions rather than write anything. She then rated the lesson satisfactory. Of course she was totally incompetent, but under the new system she'd still be totally incompetent. But if she did rate you badly, for whatever reason, she'd have to prove you were incompetent.

Things are different now. You get rated by a rubric, which ostensibly makes things fair, but really doesn't. You could have my old incompetent supervisor, or a host of current ones, and they can pretty much write any damn thing that suits their fancy as long as they can rationalize it via the rubric. Now what if they just make up a bunch of stuff that didn't actually happen? In that case, your recourse, the APPR complaint, just won't do. In fact, if your supervisor writes you up for standing on your head and singing Sweet Adeline, you won't get to address the fact that it didn't happen until and unless you're appealing an ineffective rating.

I know this very well because I watched a video of a lesson a colleague gave, and the genius who observed it got a whole lot wrong, but that didn't matter. We only got the observation tossed because the rocket scientist observer failed to rate student behavior. Now imagine that happened to you, and you knew the supervisor's limitations. Would you be chomping at the bit to file another APPR complaint? Let's say the supervisor is small minded and vindictive, and let's say the supervisor actually knows Sweet Adeline. He could write any damn thing, and unless you were fortunate enough to be rated ineffective, there would be nothing you could do about it.

Now UFT leadership will say effective, highly effective and developing are all the same, but the fact is they are not.  I will grant there's not a whole lot of difference between HE and E other than the possibility of being observed three times rather than four. But a developing rating carries with it a Teacher Improvement Plan, or TIP, as we in the biz call it.

Now imagine your supervisor is a troglodyte and has rated you developing for no good reason. Imagine having to sit with that supervisor and listen to him pontificate about why you suck and what exactly you have to do to not suck so much. Now I'll grant the UFT folk that this is better than being fired, but it's miserable and degrading, and I know people going through it. None of them will agree that there is no difference between HE, E, and D.

Now here's the thing--people who work for the UFT don't need to think like us. Special reps don't teach at all and district reps teach one class. Some of the UFT officers teach one class too. None of them are rated by the new system. In fact, they are all rated S or U and I've yet to hear a single one of them complain of how awful it is. In fact, if it's so awful, why aren't they up in arms demanding to be rated by the Danielson rubric?

Because, like when Arne Duncan, Andrew Cuomo and John King push programs for our kids they wouldn't subject their own to, what's good enough for us is simply not good enough for them. And hey, if any UFT employee wishes to prove me wrong, go right ahead.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A New Regents Chancellor

Betty A. Rosa has been elected NY Regents Chancellor, and she's been quoted saying if she had school age kids, she's opt them out of testing. I love this column in the NY Post predicting it's the end of Western Civilization. It's like it's written by a 12-year-old. Reforminess is finished, it says. The teacher unions have taken over and they're gonna ruin everything. No more judging teachers on tests, it says.

You gotta love a publication that finds writers with no ties whatsoever to reality and has them say whatever they want whenever they want. One apparent voice of reason infects their power structure and it's the end of the world. They print an article as well thought out as the rants of a child demanding candy at the supermarket and present it as state of the art. In fact, the article even admits that all the nonsense perpetrated by Bloomberg produced little in the way of results, and by results I mean the increased test scores that appear to be the only thing this writer values.

I'm very happy that someone who appears not to be insane has been appointed to a position of power, but I'm afraid I can't accept the position that Cuomo has bent to popular demand. Cuomo doesn't give a damn about popular demand except as it impacts perception. That's why he initiated rules that appear to give ground on his awful education law but in fact do not. Most of us are still judged by the same invalid test scores as before, and kids are still taking the same rigged tests whether they count or not. That they have more time to spend on testing is not precisely a victory.

Now I hope that Betty Rosa is able to affect positive changes, but there is a power structure in place, headed by Andrew Cuomo, that is owned lock, stock and barrel by his reformy campaign contributors. On the positive side, the opt-out crowd has not been snookered by Cuomo's superficial moves.

I hope the Post writer really believes all the nonsense he wrote, but whether or not that's true, some of his readers will buy it. We have a country of people willing to believe that a man who paints his name on skyscrapers and planes is a man of the people. In an environment like that, juvenile rantings passing as op-eds are not precisely a hard sell.

I hope Rosa will be able to change the discourse and direction of education and I wish her all the best. In a time when good news is rare, this is a ray of light. Let's enjoy the good news, but let's not kid ourselves that a scumbag like Andrew Cuomo can change his stripes unless his owners change theirs. The NY Post article is a pretty clear indicator they've done no such thing.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Boy Wonder Reaches Out to the Department

It is with the deepest reverence that I compose this potentially perspicacious missive. To the entirety of you. Please accept my fond wishes. For a results-based period, and a values-oriented termination of our most recent quarter-month.

Inasmuch as we are embarking upon a renewed and reinvitalized marking period, it is of uttermost desirability. To enlighten one and all about several select upcoming occasions.

This is why I've decided, after much deep contemplation, to initiate mandatory voluntary meetings. So that we may reflect on our practice. On Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays the entire department will assemble. For mandatory voluntary meetings. I shall assign each of you. To a proactive working group, and you will examine student work to determine precisely why you failed to make it better.

To aid in this pursuit, I will meet each of you individually and explain exactly what you've done wrong so far. I have an entire book full of low inference notes highlighting your shortcomings. I will not allow them to block the advancement of my career our department.

Each week I shall notify you. Of my impending week’s voluntary mandatory meeting itinerary, unless I do not, in which case you shall be required to submit it for my approval three days in advance. Anyone failing to do so shall receive a counseling memo. Though mandatory meetings are strictly voluntary, itineraries are required. Attendance shall be taken and lateness will not be tolerated. Tardiness, I’m crestfallen to speculate, may not be in the finest interests of our Historically Unambiguous Department Mission.

Several of you have sent frivolous musings about child care, medical appointments, and in one isolated case, something known as "me time." I am then, ergo, of the understanding that several of you will not be in attendance during our impending series of mandatory voluntary meetings. The purpose of which was to contemplate the ongoing authentication of our preprofessional market output. For the uninitiated, this could spell the further understanding of topics germane to our fragmentation guidelines. It is, therefore, indispensable. Anyone not in attendance at mandatory voluntary meetings clearly has no interest in being rated effective or higher, and anyone on a TIP shall be required to attend additional mandatory voluntary meetings on weekends.

Were we not to have been approaching this crossroads, through the utilization of high impact practices, with a laser like focus on a balanced literacy program, we will begin to approach a Zone of Proximity to our objectives. Thus, by implementing holistic career maps, we can embark on a new and revolutionary pathway toward not only self-realization, but also the career and college readiness that our young scholars aspire toward.

This notwithstanding, we need to prioritize our action-based initiatives in order to deploy socio-economic defying best practices in assessment. This is why we need outcome-based action plans which generate paradigms, or pairs of dimes, whichever proves to be of greater value to the evaluated cohort.

In order to promote higher order thinking, via accountable talk, it’s of pivotal importance that we engage in formative assessment on an eight-minutely basis. As this shall be a topic, the mandatory voluntary meetings are not to be scoffed at.

And were I to conjecture as to the consequences of absence at the mandatory voluntary meetings, which shall be informal but bell to bell nonetheless, I’d venture only this. The incipient evaluation system shall be of considerably increased challenge for those of us who have not familiarized ourselves with the scaffolding of top-down cooperative working methodologies.

To those individuals who’ve failed to engage in school-based interactive mandatory voluntary pursuits, I’d caution that during observations there may be unfortunate action-based outcomes. Therefore I expect to see each and every one of you at the thrice weekly mandatory voluntary meetings, as my experience strongly suggests real-world pedagogy smiles at our construction-infused technological risk takers.

Did we have clarity now?

Best and convivial regards,

  Mr. Wonder

Friday, March 18, 2016

Shroud of the Loud Proud Crowd

To the left is a piece that I hung up on our UFT bulletin board.  There's a much better one, actually, with a picture of a sole protester labeled "You" and another with a crowd labeled, "You with your union." I love that one and talked another chapter leader into giving me his copy.

Here's the thing, though. The last time I went boots on the ground with UFT was the labor day parade. And I think the time before that was some protest against Cuomo not primarily organized by UFT. While the Heavy Hearts Assembly was pondering the worst evaluation system we'd ever heard of, Mulgrew told us we wouldn't focus on it. Rather, he said, we'd focus on the budget. And when the Heavy Hearts passed the worst education law I'd ever seen in my life, Mulgrew thanked them.

So here we find ourselves with a union that needs to go all the way back to step one, reminding members that it's better to have a union than to not have a union. And the truth is the only reason they even bothered with that was the Friedrichs case, which placed dues collection in dire jeopardy. The chances of Friedrichs passing, after Scalia's passing, are down quite a bit, but leadership is continuing this campaign. I suppose that's wise, because the fact is the reformies are never going to give up. Just like the tax credit/ voucher bill that raises its ugly head each year in New York, they'll keep coming after us by any means necessary.

But what got us to this point? How on earth did we assemble tens of thousands of teachers, few to none of whom really understand the concept of union?  Well, there are a few reasons.

One is the givebacks. UFT Unity leadership never met a giveback it didn't like. At one point, senior teachers were placed in other schools when they got bumped. For a few years, they could even choose where they landed. Now, they're at the mercy of 30-year-old principals with eyes for nothing but the bottom line. And those teachers are now subject to second-tier due process, pretty much at the whim of roving ATR supervisors. I recently met one with all the charm and subtlety of a barracuda. I could go on, but I'll spare you for now.

Another is the fact that we really are not represented in leadership. The Unity winner-take-all system ensures that every delegate to NYSUT and AFT has signed a loyalty oath and will represent leadership, quite frequently at the expense of membership. So you can grumble about teacher torture Mondays and Tuesdays, but the fact is after six years of nothing Mulgrew was able to bamboozle an utterly demoralized membership into voting up one of the worst pieces of crap they'd ever proposed. He said we didn't have a God-given right to retro, and that if we'd turned down this stinker we'd have to get behind 151 other unions. The fact is it's very difficult to imagine any of them negotiating anything quite as bad as 10% over 7 years, the lowest pattern I've ever heard of.

Finally, there is the cynicism that makes 83% of working teachers toss their election ballots in the trash. Of course that's engendered by the above factors, and it's hard even for me to comprehend the point of voting in what is essentially a rigged election. It's just this lifelong habit of voting every chance I get that keeps me doing it.

Now here's the thing--signs and slogans are not gonna change anything. For a sorely needed sea change in membership, there's gonna have to be a revolutionary movement in the outlook of leadership. As far as I can tell, with the fossilized mindset that dominates UFT, that's not gonna happen. In fact, it didn't even occur to them to educate membership on the value of union until it found itself in peril. That peril, of course, was the result of years of appeasement to reformies, who will never stop until we are dead, buried, and the ground salted above us so nothing can flower.

If Unity wins the May election, it will be a hollow victory. It will mean they can continue sitting in their offices and negotiating the same substandard drek we've come to expect. The only way they can energize membership will be by energizing themselves, waking up to find the vitality and urgency in which they are so sorely lacking.

I don't think Mulgrew has it in him, and I'd say the same for the overwhelming majority of his oath-signing minions. And the next time another Friedrichs come along, we'll be back to square one explaining why the UFT is more than a pair of eyeglasses every other year.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

I See the Light

For years my vision failed me little by little. It wasn't really that bad, but when it got to the point where I didn't recognize colleagues and students walking down the hall, it became problematic.

"Why didn't you say hello to me, Mister?"

"What's wrong with that guy. He thinks he's too good for us."

Sometimes, I'd greet people with the wrong name. I've learned the hard way that people tend to kind of hate that. So I decided I would cal the UFT, get my voucher, and go get the eyeglass benefit I'd heard so much about. There was really no choice other than that or continue to offend everyone I see every day.

The optometrist got me all hooked up. He said I had issues with distance, and that while I could probably drive without glasses, they would solve my problem of recognizing faces. And he was right! I could see faces in great detail. It turned out a whole lot of my students were not as fuzzy as I'd previously believed. It was amazing!

But then I started to have issues. Students would bring me notes and I couldn't read them. I'd open a book and try to teach from it but all the letters became blurry all of a sudden. It was embarrassing. Now I don't like to be boastful, but I happen to be a high school graduate and I've been reading at least since ninth grade. But you wouldn't know it to look at me. So I started taking off the glasses and the people I failed to recognize started getting mad at me again.

It was really a question of values. I mean, here I was, an English teacher who couldn't read. How was that gonna look? What would Charlottle Danielson have to say about that? On the other hand, if you're a chapter leader people get pretty pissed off at you when you can't tell who it is they are. The truth is all people look pretty much the same when they're fuzzy. I was able to tell men and women apart with pretty fair accuracy, but that didn't seem high enough a standard.

Now at that time I had a friend who knew everything, or at least pretended to. I explained my issue and he directed me to dispense with the free optometrist visit from UFT and to see an ophthalmologist. I went to the one I'd been taking my daughter to, because she had an office full of wind-up toys that were very cool. I paid a GHI copay and she stuck these drops in my eyes, which I suppose make for a more accurate reading. I certainly hope they did, because when I left her office I was so sensitive to light that it's a wonder I managed to drive home in one piece. In fact I stopped at a diner even though I wasn't really hungry because I was afraid to stay on the road.

The opthamologist hooked me up with progressive lenses, and told me to buy them at Costco. She said the Costco lab did an amazing job for her patients and that all the chain glasses stores overcharged. I've found that to be true, actually, in speaking with my colleagues. Some of them had paid double what I did, for single vision lenses, and mine actually turn into sunglasses when I'm outside. This very much impressed and confused my students before I was kicked out of the trailers.

So I'm gonna suggest to you, my brother and sister teachers, that you visit an ophthalmologist, even if there's a co-pay, and that you shop at union-friendly Costco for glasses. It's really worked for me. Not only can I see faces from far away, but I can also read. I assure you the reading thing is something administrators value in an English teacher.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Batty as Bedbugs

Few things incite quite as much panic as bedbugs. People will discard some of their most valued possessions if they're proven to be infested. And there have been several cases of bedbugs in NYC schools. In fact, there's a protocol for dealing with them.

Now you don't want to be the boy (or girl) who cried bedbug. And if you do cry, try not to do it in front of 34 kids. The whole insane panic thing will likely not serve anyone very well.

In any case, simply seeing the actual critter is not gonna do it for you. If you want the DOE to marshal their vast bed of knowledge against this scourge, you're gonna have to prove you saw it. One way to do this by sending them the actual bug, which I'm not gonna advocate. For one thing, who knows what happens to the bug between the time it goes into the envelope and gets out? For another, I know dozens of horror stories about things sent to the DOE that simply disappeared. That's why you send anything and everything to them return receipt requested.

Your other alternative is to photograph the little critters and send photos to the DOE. They likely won't bother to lose them because you can always resend them. And it's always better for them to deal with it immediately than for you to call one of the tabloids and embarrass them even further. Who really knows what goes on between the ears of DOE operatives? But still, that seems the best way to deal with it.

Should you succeed at persuading them there are bedbugs in your building, they will send their crack employees over to do whatever it is they do. Your custodians won't do this particular gig. Hopefully, they will eradicate the little bugs, buggers, or whatever they are and you won't need a return visit.

Whatever you do, don't crush the little things and flush them. Then you'll have no evidence to give the DOE folk, and they won't follow up. You'll be stuck freaking out over little bugs that may or may not still be around.

I'm not completely sure it's a good policy, but I do understand the DOE not wanting to send exterminators all over the place based on hearsay. I'm fortunate enough to have no idea what bedbugs look like and I hope to stay that way.

But one of the strongest characteristics of this job is never knowing exactly what's gonna happen next. While I certainly hope this isn't the next thing that happens to you, if it is, I hope this little post has prepared you in some small way.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Magic Formula

Sue Edelman has a piece in the Post about how several schools have avoided takeover. Evidently whether or not a school gets taken over entails graduation rates, Regents passing rates, and whether or not you are in the bottom 5% of schools. So these schools dodged a bullet, but the article suggests they are still not doing that well.

I wonder what the difference is between a school in the bottom 5%, which appears to be bad, and the bottom 6%, which somehow is not. What makes schools only in the bottom 7% so much better? I can't really say, but I guess if you live by the numbers, you die by the numbers.

When you reaize that test scores pretty much all coincide with income or lack thereof, you might determine we should simply close all schools that poor people attend. Under that model, which is pretty much status quo anyway, we could judge the students by income. For example, we could find out how many students qualified for free lunch and simply expel them. That'll get those test scores up in a hurry.

Of course the solution to so-called failing schools, according to Governor Cuomo, is to place them under receivership. Let the state run them. That's worked out fabulously in Roosevelt New York, just a few miles north of my home in Freeport. A young woman who took my blood pressure at a doctor's office went there, and told me many stories of what the high school was like under state control. I'm surprised my blood pressure didn't spike right then and there.

Now the state does not necessarily have to take over these schools with high percentages of poor people. Perhaps we could let Eva Moskowitz in to work her magic. Of course, a lot of charters have not done so well under that particular paradigm. Locke High School was taken over by Green Dot, Randi Weingarten's favorite charter chain (UFT partnered with them to bring them to NYC), and they didn't fare all that well.

But the important thing is to take these schools away from their communities, which are too poor to have or run their own schools. And once we get rid of that bottom 5%, there'll be another bottom 5% to worry about. Maybe if we keep attacking public schools 5% at a time, eventually there'll be so few left that the hedge funders will be able to drown union in a bathtub or something. That's something folks like Broad, Gates, and the Walmart heirs have wet dreams about.

Until and unless we attack poverty, like Finland did, there are going to be a whole lot of schools our insane system deems failing on the basis of tests that may or may not measure what's important.

It's too bad we've been vilified and libeled so widely and for so long. I'm no genius, but I can write tests for my kids a whole lot better than the companies getting paid millions to assess them.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Boy Wonder

Oh no. Here comes that damn Chapter Leader again. What the hell is it he’s looking for this time? Jesus, when is that guy gonna retire?  Look how old he is. Why oh why do you have to be AP before you become principal? I could do the principal's job better than him in my sleep.

And there he goes again, this stupid Chapter Leader blathering about that damn Mrs. Feinstein. She’s not feeling well, she just got back from the stroke she suffered in the classroom, blah, blah, blah. Nothing but excuses. I knew it. Like it was me who gave her the stroke.

This is what happens when you work with old people. This one has heart palpitations, that one has high blood pressure, someone else collapsed in the hall. Like it's my fault all these losers can't take the heat. Unbelievable. I'll weed 'em out if this principal won't.

I sat in my office with Feinstein for 45 minutes telling her what she did wrong and she said nothing. Nothing! Not even a thank you for my advice. Just sat there writing notes. I told her about how she never does formative assessment, and how any competent teacher does formative assessment at least every eight minutes. I told her about the green cards and the red cards and how the kids should hold them up after every question, and not even a thank you. Old people don't appreciate a thing.

Then she goes crying to the Chapter Leader, this slippery lying bastard standing here wasting my time when I could be eating a sandwich or something. I wonder what they have in the cafeteria. I could do with a PB and J, but I wish they'd stop putting it on that whole wheat bread. Bloomberg was a great mayor except for that whole wheat crap. If I get to be mayor I'll put that white bread right back there, first thing.

Let me tell you, next year that broad is going from the trailer, to the third floor, back to the trailer, and back to the third floor on the other side of the building. She's gonna have to be Speedy Gonzalez just to get to class on time and if she's one nanosecond late I'll put a letter in her file. People are gonna know what happens to teachers who mess with me.

When I’m principal I won’t put up with this nonsense. If you can’t do the job, you’re out. There really should be a mandatory retirement age, like 50 or something. And when I’m superintendent I’ll show those principals what you do with whiners. You don’t hear me whining, even though I’m stuck in this crap job for at least two more years. Two years! Unbelievable. Me! If I were running this school right now we wouldn't be wasting our time with this crap. I'd let these losers know I'm not to be trifled with.

And now Chapter Leader is all, oh, why did you observe her on the half day when there were only eight kids in the class? How were they supposed to work on the project when all their partners decided to take the day off? Like it’s my fault she failed to motivate the kids to come that day. And it’s, oh, half the kids in the school didn’t show up. Like it’s my fault that all the teachers don’t care enough to make their students come to school. Where's the accountability?

When I’m principal, if teachers don’t get the kids to come on half days, heads will roll. You won’t see me mincing words. If your kids are not here on Monday, you don’t come Tuesday. And any teacher who doesn’t show up for mandatory voluntary meetings after school won’t be showing up at all.

And oh my gosh now he wants me not to count that observation, and to make it formative. Formative? What is up with this guy? Does he think I have time to do observations for nothing? After I wrote it up and everything? Like I haven’t got a life? Unbelievable. No way is there gonna be a chapter leader like this one when I have my own school. I'll pick a chapter leader who will lead the right way, by doing exactly what I say.

Oh, and this is rich. The principal said he would observe her instead of me. Sure. Like he’s gonna bother to observe this loser. And I’m supposed to just believe the Chapter Leader that he said this. Just take his word. Like I was born yesterday and I don’t know that everybody lies. Let me nod my head and pretend I’m thinking about it. Otherwise this conversation will take even longer.

Oh my gosh listen to this. Chapter Leader is asking me to imagine she were my mother and had to go through this. This takes the cake. Where does he come up with this stuff? Does he think I just got off the tomato truck from New Jersey? I can’t wait to run my own school. No way will I listen to this crap.

One day soon I’m gonna crawl out of this dump. I’m gonna be principal of my own little school and pick all the teachers. They’ll do any damn thing I ask and the Chapter Leader will do what I say, when I say, keep the bastards in line, or he’ll find himself out on his ass just like this old broad I have to keep hearing about. How much longer is he going to go on with this nonsense? Why didn’t I set my phone to ring so I could walk away and get the hell out of this conversation?

I guess I have to keep acting like I’m listening, because that’s what you do in this job. Let me give it two more minutes. God do I hate this job. I wish I could get out today. But just a few more years and I’m outta here. And the teachers I picked are gonna come with me. This principal can keep the rest of these losers.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Choice to Do Nothing

Blogger Sean Crowley asks why more Buffalo students don't opt out, and I have the same question about NYC students. For one thing, UFT leadership has not exactly supported opt-out. I've watched Michael Mulgrew make the same funding threats as our reformy friends in Albany and DC. Leadership pays lip service to parental choice, but doesn't promote it in any way, shape, or form.

Lately we've been getting victory messages from leadership, which is nothing new. UFT Unity smells victory everywhere. When we are judged by all components of Danielson, we win. When we are judged by fewer, we win. When we get a transfer plan that allows teachers to choose schools, we win. When we lose that plan and make displaced teachers wandering gypsies, we win. When we negotiate second-tier due process, when we get money eleven years after most of our union brothers and sisters, when we make a terrible evaluation system even worse, when our health benefits become more costly with no end in sight, we win again.

Personally, I think leadership is hard of smelling. One of the most recent victories it's smelled was that of Cuomo's moratorium on testing, which professional reporters interpret as an end to junk science ratings. Of course it's nothing of the sort, but rather a temporary delay in counting selected elementary tests. In any case, other junk science will take its place, as per state law. The other victory, of course, is a revision of the Common Core standards. Those of us who follow such things, like Professor Nicholas Tampio, strongly suspect it will result in superficial changes, a new name, and the same old close reading crap for our children and students.

As you see, I am not nearly as impressed by these changes as leadership. I think this is a snow job perpetrated by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is wholly owned by reformy privatizers who donate millions to his campaign. Cuomo has no moral center, and frankly, I have to wonder whether or not our leadership has one either. Of course they can claim credit for these inconsequential changes, and paint them as a victory, but I'm not fooled.

The fact is these changes were inspired by the opt-out movement, and believe me, they aren't fooled either. Jeanette Deutermann, Beth Dimino, and Jia Lee, among many others, are not giving up anytime soon. UFT leadership, having never been on board, has nothing to give up anyway. I suppose it's pretty easy for them to declare victory based on shallow gestures they had no part in, a lot easier than taking a stand for working teachers and the children they serve.

The title of this piece refers to a new and fraudulent movement the reformies are pushing, one mentioned in Sean's piece. There's new "opt-in" talk, designed to diminish the good work of advocates for students and reasonable education. Their argument is that 80% of our kids opted in to testing.

That argument is absurd. Sitting for the status quo is not a choice unless you know there is an alternative. I'd bet dimes to dollars that most families in NYC send their kids to school and have no idea they have a right to opt out of anything. It's different in communities on Long Island, pretty much the epicenter of opt-out, Long Island unionists and parents are keyed into this a whole lot more than those in NYC. That's a direct factor of the UFT leadership keeping its collective head purposely in the sand.

I hope they pull it out. I will send them positive vibes, but just in case that doesn't work out, I'm running against them with MORE/ New Action. Vote for us and it will be just that much harder for them to keep pretending we don't exist.

Friday, March 11, 2016

A Thief in the Night

You never know. They're the Spanish Inquisition and the Red Scare all in one. They sneak in and they hope you do something wrong. If you don't, they just make something up. How else can they justify sitting in an office all day and reading all that email? It's not like they're actually doing something. I mean, you're in that classroom every day doing battle with Valentina, the 14-year-old who's smarter than you are and not afraid to let the whole world know it. How will you avoid confrontation with her today?

Because you know if you slip up for just one moment, the Boy Wonder will zip in unseen with his iPad and write you up in low inference notes. He has those special supervisor glasses and if twenty kids raise their hands he sees only five. If there are ten, he sees two. Five and under he sees zero. And what can you do? It's your word against his. You are a lowly teacher and he is a defender of truth, justice, motherhood and the American Way. You can't file a winning APPR complaint simply because he sees things that don't happen, doesn't see things that do happen, and the voices in his head don't coincide with objective reality. 

When do you think he’ll come after you for the post ob, you wonder? Will he approach you while you're in the classroom? Every time he walks in there you shake. You know he's carrying a box of nails, and every edgewise glance  is gonna be another one in your coffin. Sure, Mulgrew says that only a few hundred ended up with double ineffectives, but you feel it, the target on your back. It only takes two arrows in a row and approval from the rat squad. In fact, under the new APPR coming next year they may not even need a rat squad.

Mulgrew, your President, says everything is fine and we've discarded the war paint. But the only time you remember Mulgrew going to war was when it was with you, when he was gonna punch you in the face for opposing Common Core. And you felt like you were getting it from both sides. And no one knows what's going on because the papers don't even know what they're talking about.

In December the state Board of Regents, based on the recommendations of Cuomo’s Common Core task force, put a moratorium on the use of test scores in teacher evaluations.

Of course that's only true for some Common Core exams given in elementary school, and you don't teach elementary school so too bad for you. Everything is pretty much the same and you will be judged on the same test scores you were judged on last year. Except they will now count 50%. The only upside is a total stranger who knows nothing about you or your students will be coming in, and perhaps he or she will give you a fairer shot than Boy Wonder. Who knows?

It's nice that Mulgrew is feeling all warm and fuzzy, but the pressure hasn't stopped for you. Maybe if you were wearing a suit and sitting in a fancy office at 52 Broadway you'd be feeling the love, but for you it's nonstop tension and pressure.

Maybe you can take that actuary gig. It's not like working with kids, but since all they want you to do is test prep, you aren't really doing that anyway. Oh my gosh here comes the Boy Wonder again with his iPad.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tell Her Something Bad

NYC high schools are doing parent-teacher night tonight. Here's a piece I published at Gotham Schools about just such a night on March 19, 2010.

I was at parent-teacher conferences when one of my very best students walked in with her mom. I can’t speak Chinese, but a former student of mine, also from China, was in the room and volunteered to translate for me. I told Mom her daughter was wonderful, that she was learning fast and doing great. I told her if she were my daughter I’d be very proud. 

But Mom was not happy.

She asked, through my ex-student, why I didn’t teach like they did in China. Why wasn’t I giving extensive vocabulary lists for her daughter to memorize? Why wasn’t I giving her daughter the SAT words she’d be tested on? Why wasn’t I giving books full of those words? Well, I said, she’s only just arrived here, and I don’t think that’s what she needs just now.

“You can’t tell Chinese parents anything,” confided my young translator, her hand covering her mouth.

So I tried something else. I said the girl had only been here four months, and that she loved speaking English. I told her she was making jokes in English, that she was very happy, and that I didn’t want to change anything. Mom talked for a long time, and gesticulated wildly.

“Tell her the names of some books with SAT words,” translated my former student.

I said that was not what she needed right now. She should read newspapers, perhaps. Maybe she could find things that interested her and write about them. Does she like dancing? Singing? Playing Parcheesi? She should start by reading about what she likes.

My translator gave me a frustrated look. I was clearly a slow learner.

I turned to Mom and told her if her daughter were my daughter, I’d get big sandwich signs and walk down the street beating a bass drum, announcing to the world she was mine. My translator duly reported my comments. Then Mom talked for a long time.

My translator sat and thought for a moment. Then she turned to me. The hand went over the mouth again. “Tell her something bad,” she instructed.

I said the girl was doing great. Her test scores were merely good, but I gave her extra credit for enthusiastic participation. I love seeing kids love English, I said. She’s good, she’s wonderful, she’s excellent, blah, blah, blah …

My translator gave me a look that clearly indicated it was time for me to shut up. “If you don’t tell her something bad,” she informed me, “she will never leave.”

I got another idea. I explained to Mom that I was largely the grammar teacher, and that my student’s other teacher was actually the reading teacher. Mom thanked me and purposefully shuffled on to introduce her proposals to my colleague. We watched her leave.

“I know what Chinese parents are like,” confided my translator, nodding with great earnestness.

“Are your parents like that?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “My mother lets me do anything I want.”

So much for stereotypes — and what does my young translator want to do?

I asked her.

Turns out, she wants to be an ESL teacher, like me. She says she wants to teach the American way, not the Chinese way. She’s smart, quick-witted, and she’ll be a very good teacher.

I’ve no doubt she’ll know exactly what to say at parent-teacher conferences.