Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year to One and All

from our entire staff!

Friday, December 30, 2016

On Evlauation--the Devil is in the Details

I'm in a high-performing school. I realize that's not the norm in Fun City. Given that, though,  there are some ways the new evaluation system may work for my members. For one thing, as our test scores are not generally bad, we may be able to use them in lieu of the time-consuming and mystifying portfolios and projects offered as an alternative. On the other hand, in a lot of places that probably won't work, and you're stuck doing who knows what just to survive as a teacher.

Of course I could be wrong. Who knows what Bloomberg bringback Carmen FariƱa, who deems blasting blizzards beautiful if Macy's is open, has up her sleeve? Tests can be and are manipulated, and she or the state could make sure they don't work in anyone's favor. Last I heard, ESL teachers like me were forced to use the NYSESLAT test as a measure. This test has nothing whatsoever to do with what I teach. Last week I identified a student with no idea how to use past tense in English who tested proficient. That's ridiculous.

On the plus side, a lot of teachers in my building were rated highly effective by supervisors but just effective by test scores. They were therefore rated effective overall. Under the matrix, if nothing changes, these teachers will be rated highly effective overall. They will thus have only three drive-bys over which to agonize rather than four. I don't know about you, but I have no problem allowing colleagues into my room at any time to observe my classes. I'm happy to discuss what works and what doesn't with them, so the peer observation is no issue for me. I let every student observer come in whenever they wish, and would do the same for my peers whether or not the system called for it.

As for administrators, UFT leaders either don't know or don't care what this system puts people through, even those who do well. They don't understand the constant stress. They don't have to worry about having their jobs on the line year in and year out. The only thing they have to worry about are mean old bloggers who persist in telling the truth, and they clearly don't let truth get in the way of their prime message--that everything is wonderful no matter what actually happens.

Of course relative wonderfulness can change too, even without the acknowledgement of leadership. I heard from a UFT Unity source that the DOE was running around doing norming earlier this school year, and that the overarching message was to rate teachers lower. I know for a fact that DOE people were in my school observing math. Though the teachers achieved excellent scores as a matter of course, the DOE said the teachers were ineffective anyway. I can't comment intelligently on what on earth DOE wants to see in math classes, but after decades of watching them close schools and fire teachers over test scores it's certainly ironic to see them bitching over excellent test results.

Then there is the matter of getting approval. One thing that is unquestionably a good idea is getting a waiver from the outside observers. This particular aspect of Cuomo's law was enacted because in NY State schools are the enemy, not to be trusted. That's why teachers are no longer allowed to grade their own students on Regents exams. The state takes us for a bunch of self-serving crooks who will manipulate our stats to make ourselves look good. They also assume supervisors will rate their teachers well to make themselves look good. This is because the state manipulates test scores as a matter of course to prove whatever it wishes to prove and therefore assumes everyone else is as crooked as they are.

So will we get the waiver on outside observers? If we do, will it be for the duration of our agreement or will it come back to bite us in our collective ass? Who knows? Probably UFT, but they haven't told me yet.

Of course I also realize that a system that works for our building is not a system that works. In fact, if we do well and nearby schools do not, it might argue for schools developing their own systems rather than being judged by the cookie cutter that is the new Cuomo law. The elephant in the room, as usual, is administration.

Micheal Mulgrew can stand up at the DA in front of God and everybody and shout to the skies that we are now protected from vindictive administrators. However, he also said that about the last iteration of the junk science law. I have seen people harassed and made miserable, and I have seen people fired under that law. I have seen small-minded vindictive administrators drive people from cardiac episodes to full blown heart attacks in school hallways. I've seen cancer patients driven out of buildings to face 3020a. I've seen victims of administrative abuse die prematurely. And I've concurrently been lectured by union hacks that if I didn't like the system I was therefore advocating for principals to have total control.

Here's the thing, though--I never saw morale so low as it's been under the new system. UFT Unity leaders, none of whom live under this system, can pat themselves on the back from here to eternity, but teachers were indisputably happier under the S/ U system. I certainly agree with UFT Unity that vindictive administrators are an issue. I therefore have to wonder why we don't address that. Why don't we get our asses off those seats at the table and insist that administrators support rather than harass UFT members? Why don't we dust off Special Circular 28 and insist that those who'd lecture us on how to do our jobs ought to show us that they can practice what they preach?

I've been told it would be unfair to make supervisors give demo lessons, because the fact is classes vary a lot, and there's no way to guarantee students in any given class would react well to lessons. That's absolutely true. But it's also absolutely true for every teacher working in New York City schools under the Danielson rubric. In fact I know supervisors who I've observed, and they were excellent. I also know supervisors who show such poor judgment in dealing with people that they couldn't possibly be good teachers. And these supervisors show absolute confidence as they trash working teachers. If they're as omniscient as they present themselves, let them open up their classrooms to be laboratories. Let us video them so we can more faithfully emulate the remarkable techniques they know perfectly.

Of course that's not gonna happen. Of course UFT leadership didn't make it part of the agreement. As far as I know, like fewer observations, they didn't even ask for it. Like all working teachers who haven't signed a loyalty oath, leadership didn't bother consulting me on this process. At best, we have an improved junk science system that will snag fewer teachers for no reason.

That said, being judged by better quality junk science is nothing for teachers to get excited about. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Zero Tolerance for Paladino, But Let's Pretend Trump Doesn't Exist

Today I received an email from NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta. It demanded the removal of the vile racist Carl Paladino from the Buffalo School Board. I am personally not a fan of vile racism, and I'd be happy to see Carl gone yesterday. This notwithstanding, it's no surprise that Paladino spews toxic bigotry, and the fact is we've known about it for years.

There's a petition to remove Paladino, and the email asks you to sign it. I'd already done so, and if you haven't, you may do so right here. We are public servants, and as such it behooves us to have zero tolerance for racism and bigotry of any kind. How can we serve New York's children unless we fight those who'd discriminate against them based on their skin color, nationality, sex, or religion?

We are advocates for children, and as such we fight the good fight.

Unless, of course, we're UFT leadership. Then it's a different story. UFT leadership is determined not to even mention the name of racist President-elect Donald J. Trump. Instead, we are to attribute his hatred and bias to the Presidential Election.

I could draw a lot of conclusions about people who are afraid to say what we all know. In their defense, they'd say they are concerned about alienating the Trump voters. Evidently they are less concerned about alienating those of us who find racism, sexism and bigotry unconscionable. They are less concerned about alienating UFT high school teachers, who chose candidates who believe in speaking forthrightly and naming names. They are less concerned about alienating 11,000 UFT voters who oppose the counterproductive "seat at the table" politics that brought us President Donald J. Trump.

Before one of the first Executive Board meetings I attended, I was approached by a teacher who asked about leaving the union. I told him there was some paperwork involved, but he could easily do it. He then told me he didn't want to pay dues. I told him to vote for Donald Trump and he said he would. That's who UFT leadership is concerned about appeasing.

You and me, not so much.

Meanwhile, as we contemplate the coming new year, here's a poem:

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Fun Never Stops

In our vastly overcrowded multi-session school, to accommodate things like PD and other things in the UFT Memorandum of Agreement, we run a 9 period day. We still teach five periods, but everyone tutors once a week. On Thursdays I tutor period 1. Though I arrive very early almost every day, I always forget. My co-teacher, who is much smarter and better-looking than I will ever be, always reminds me.

Last Thursday I told her I had an aversion to doing stuff, but she said there was just some stuff you have to do, so I went. After that I taught periods two and three. Period four I made a phone call to from someone at UFT to discuss our overcrowding and oversized classes, and then managed to grab lunch in the last fifteen or twenty minutes. We still have a school teacher cafeteria, for some reason or other. There was a time when they were constantly under threat of closure, and I sometimes sent out messages to members in my weekly to please patronize it.

Period five I had a disciplinary meeting. That's my least favorite thing to do. I hate when members are in trouble. Sometimes I'm able to help and sometimes I'm not. It depends on a lot of things. But I never like seeing people in trouble. It's particularly disturbing when there's no reason for it.

Period six our UFT consultation committee met with the principal. We mostly discussed the class size issue, as we've already gone to the arbitrator and they keep popping up. We're at 42 and rising, a few dozen more than we had when I visited the arbitrator way back in October. (You remember October, don't you? That was the month when we kept getting days off for holidays I somehow didn't expect.)  In any case, the arbitrator thinks relieving someone from one C6 a week is a reasonable "plan of action" for class size, she gets paid $1600 a day to be so utterly without a clue, and now I've sent the new oversized classes back to her. Maybe it's because I need to find out if it's possible for the DOE and her to come up with an even worse idea. Who knows? On the other hand, maybe the DOE will realize such nonsense does not remotely reflect placing, "Children First, Always." Or maybe the arbitrator will have a lucid moment. (What? Stuff happens.)

Period 7 and 8 I taught. During period 7 a kid I told to stop wearing his hat in my class wore his hat in my class. Not only that, but he left his phone right out there on his desk. Sometimes I have phones confiscated. I mostly do it when kids make a point of letting me know they don't give a golly gosh darn about one thing or another. I called the dean's office. I got a call back from them that no one was responding. So I left my co-teacher to review the homework and went downstairs to seek out someone. (I don't handle phones. I think it's better to show no anger whatsoever and just make them disappear.) I walked into the principal's office to ask where the deans were, and I was a little surprised when he said he would just deal with it himself.

So I went back up to the room with the principal, who took out the kid, his hat and his phone. I told the principal I didn't want to throw the kid out, but just the hat and phone. But you know how principals can be, and this principal wanted to have a discussion with the kid. This bothered me a little, because I absolutely hate to toss kids out of my classes. I always figure that means they win, because it kind of shows that I can't deal with whatever it is I'm supposed to deal with. But I was able to rationalize this one because it wasn't actually me throwing him out, the principal insisted, and he's the principal so what the hell.

Period 7 and 8 ended, but then I remembered a secretary telling me there was a disciplinary meeting period 9, and that she had sent me an email. I never got the promised email, but I went down anyway, only to have the secretary tell me that the meeting was actually for the next day. So I sat down, opened my laptop, and edited the notes someone took at our chapter committee meeting. Right around the time I finished an AP walked in. I asked her what the meeting was about and she was running somewhere so I ran with her until she could tell me.

On the way home I called the member with whom we had the Friday meeting. I have no idea how I ever existed without Bluetooth. As soon as I got home I walked my dog. I told him all about my day and he seemed fine with it.

So I guess I was too.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of UFT Leadership's Evaluation System

We now have another evaluation system, the third or fourth in as many years. Who can even keep track? There's a handy-dandy UFT explanation, with which lowly teachers like me are supposed to discern what the hell is actually going on. In many ways, it raises more questions than it answers, but you have to expect as much from a system that's been essentially made up of whole cloth, that's never been researched or tested anywhere.

The Good--Test scores reflect little more than zip code and percentage of special needs. Therefore, when we forcefully inject test scores into teacher evaluation, we condemn those with large numbers of ELLs, IEPs, and various issues to bad ratings. The option of portfolios, or project-based learning or whatever, while it has its flaws, may prove beneficial.  This may work better for teachers I know who got acceptable ratings by supervisors but were dragged down via test scores. Mulgrew can stand on his pedestal and preach of how rarely this happens, but if you're the one to whom it happens, that's cold comfort indeed. As someone who represents them, I can tell you that statistics mean little or nothing to people whose careers are under attack for no good reason. The fewer people caught in this miserable trap, the better.

The Bad--Again, this system has never been tested anywhere. There is no research whatsoever, anywhere, to suggest there is any validity to it. We have no idea what will happen to teachers like those I mentioned above (or whether it will adversely effect those who previously did well). I  certainly hope fewer of them are caught in the junk science web. But even if that happens, it doesn't argue to the validity of this system. It only means it sucks a little less than the other one.

UFT failed utterly to address a major issue with teachers I speak to on a regular basis, to wit, the number of observations.  Even in my school, one in which most administrators are not insane, teachers live in dread of the random drive-by. For those with administrators who are out of their frigging minds, it's a nightmare. Who knows what they see, since objective reality plays no part in it? When 12 hands go up, why do they see only two? Will they now act because you objected to the counseling memo placed in your file for no good reason? Who knows? It's the same crapshoot it was under the old S/ U system, Danielson means nothing, and even if you have incontrovertible video evidence you can't effectively object to the fictional aspect until and unless you're up for 3020a.

Fewer observations would not only relieve some of the terror of UFT members, but would also give administrators some incentive not to be assholes. If you observed two classes and found them to be OK, you'd be finished. If you wanted to be an asshole and ruin someone's life for no reason, a better system would require you to do more observations and more work. It would require you to do more writing. In my experience, supervisors who are incompetent at writing often need to assert themselves via bad observations. A system that required more work to screw people might dissuade that.

The Ugly--I call it the "UFT Leadership's" system because working teachers had no say in it. That's a disgrace. It behooves a union, particularly one whose dues will soon be optional, to consider member voices.

I have no idea who conceived of this system. I don't believe it was Michael Mulgrew because he cannot even sit through an Executive Board meeting, let alone hear new ideas or freely discuss them with elected high school Executive Board members. What I do know is that neither the Executive Board nor the Delegate Assembly, let alone rank and file, got to vote on these matters. I also know that no one who hasn't signed a loyalty oath had any part in crafting this plan. We can therefore never know whether anything but self-interest had any part in the decision to accept it.

We also now know the utterly predictable reaction to evaluation systems from our enemies. They wasted no time in getting their message out. From the Daily News:

"This is a scheme to rate every teacher effective, cooked up by Mayor de Blasio's biggest donors and it's a major setback for students," said StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis.

Of course, like everything that comes out of her well-compensated mouth, this is utter nonsense. But it's important because when StudentsFirstNY, and DFER, and Moskowitz agent Families for Excellent Schools, and all the other crabgrass orgs move suitcases full of cash into the campaign coffers of tinhorn politicians like Governor Andrew Cuomo, they move him to once again pretend he cares about public education. This, in fact, is why he called the first evaluation system "baloney" and pushed a new one down the throats of our spineless Heavy Hearted Assembly. The only reason we may get away without the idiotic "outside observers" is because of the determination and persistence of the opt-out movement (which earns no respect at all from UFT leadership).

So the risk, if this helps teachers at all, is that yet another system comes down the pike to rate teachers poorly. This appears to have played no part whatsoever in UFT Unity's game, which never considers the long-term.

I guess they're happy high up on the 14th floor of 52 Broadway, doing whatever it is they do up there. But I have no idea how they're planning to pay the rent if they don't start considering those of us who do the actual work day after day.

Monday, December 26, 2016

UFT Leadership--We Don't Teach, but We Know What's Best for Teachers

Someone sent me the following passage, in reference to something or other I posted in Facebook about Trump:
"On the sixth day of Hate Week, after the processions, the speeches, the shouting, the singing, the banners, the posters, the films, the rolling of drums and squealing of trumpets, the tramp of marching feet--after six days of this, when the great orgasm was quivering to its climax and the general hatred of Eurasia had boiled up--at just this moment it had been announced that Oceania was not after all at war with Eurasia. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Eurasia was an ally.

"There was, of course, no admission that any change had taken place. Merely it became known, with extreme suddenness and everywhere at once, that Eastasia and not Eurasia was the enemy."

That's an amazing image, isn't it? And yet, here we are, in version three of an evaluation system firmly rooted in junk science. Our newest version allows non-test-based ratings, but they themselves have never been tested, they have never been studied, they have never been proven, and there is absolutely zero evidence of their validity. Will they help teachers? Who knows? And as James Eterno so ably pointed out, the state requires only two annual observations, yet we largely have a minimum of four. Why? UFT can't be bothered to tell us. Who are we, anyway? Why should we get a vote in UFT deals if we haven't agreed to like them in advance?

Of course, that doesn't sway the loyalty-oath signers on the UFT Facebook page. They, in fact, have agreed, in writing no less, to like whatever leadership tells them to. As usual, though it's never, ever been tested or used, it's a great victory. These are the same people who stood up to fight crediting Donald Trump with being Donald Trump. These are the same people who stood against enforcing class size regulations and instead embraced a ridiculous non-action from the grievance department. And make no mistake, they have no core convictions or beliefs beyond doing whatever the hell Leroy Barr says. Mulgrew? Who knows? He can't even sit through a meeting attended by anyone who hasn't signed the oath.

And make no mistake, Mulgrew and Barr won't be evaluated via junk science. They won't have oversized classes because they don't teach at all. Nor will the "special representatives," whatever the hell that title means. And while the UFT VPs and district reps will say they're teachers just like you, they are not. They teach one class per day, and as such are exempt from Danielson. They are rated S or U, just as we were before the changes they tout as improvements. If they really wanted to walk the walk, they'd insist to be rated just as we are. Better sit while you wait for that to happen.

And regarding the quote above, remember that UFT declared its seniority transfer program to be a great victory. It was, too, and I was able to use it to escape from a vindictive and short-sighted AP.  Yet they've replaced it with a system that creates ATRs, and Mulgrew has no problem telling the DA it's a great victory because more transfers take place.

Don't look at those thousands of ATRs behind that curtain. 

Then there are the ever-shifting stories about the components in Danielson. We won because we got all 22 of them and Bloomberg only wanted seven or eight. We won because we got only seven or eight and there used to be 22. So what if there are hundreds or thousands of oversized classes and we won't even reveal the number? We won a process in which 19 of 1800 schools can sit around and talk about them, and if that doesn't work we can always go back to the idiot arbitrators who let this system fester and rot in the first place. Plus oath-signing several chapter leaders on UFT payroll think it's a fabulous idea so what more are you gonna want?

UFT leadership is excellent at doublespeak. They're fabulous at excluding high schools utterly from all decisions.

As for leadership itself, they haven't got a clue. They don't do this job, they haven't done it in years, and there's no evidence they give a golly gosh darn about those of us who do.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Friday, December 23, 2016

Does UFT Unity Support Mom and Apple Pie?

Not necessarily. For one thing, they just voted down a class size resolution. They generated a lot of pseudo-argument that didn't make any sense, but what it comes down to is they haven't got the wherewithal to enforce a fundamental concept of our Contract--that class sizes are limited.

They pay lip service to the fact that they gave up money, 50 years ago, and perhaps it's true. But that's not at all relevant or important. Every teacher knows how hard it is to deal with an oversized class, but that doesn't phase anyone hanging around 52 Broadway, or any hanger-on on UFT payroll.

I asked how many oversized classes still remained in New York City. Instead of answering, they sent out the head of the grievance department to tell me she was scheduling some meetings somewhere that may or may not accomplish something sometime. You can imagine how much better my members must feel. Sure, their classes are oversized, but some UFT rep is having a meeting somewhere, sometime, maybe, and that makes everything better. It's a great honor to pay that person's salary and expense account.

For a while, I was seriously thinking of bringing the following to Executive Board or DA. I've decided against it, but if anyone else wants to borrow it and have them vote it down, have at it. It's an extreme modification of the original resolution, but I dropped the demand we not rehire any arbitrator who makes insane decisions on class size. You see, UFT leadership seems to feel if an arbitrator had a lucid moment in the distant past, whatever they follow it with in the future is absolutely hunky-dory. Also I made sure not to mention Donald Trump.

At the moment I wrote it, it seemed funny to me. But what UFT leadership did is not funny at all. It's not really necessary to make UFT Unity vote against Mom and apple pie because, in fact, they already have.

                                          Mom and Apple Pie Resolution

WHEREAS, the United Federation of Teachers absolutely supports motherhood; and

WHEREAS, many members of the United Federation of Teachers are mothers, and

WHEREAS, mothers are parents, and NYC parents have overwhelmingly stated, when surveyed, that class size is the most important factor in the education of their children; and

WHEREAS, we love apple pie; and

WHEREAS, we therefore wish to share it with our students, and

WHEREAS, the smaller their class sizes are the more pie they will get, be it therefore,

RESOLVED, that the United Federation of Teachers will vigorously enforce existing contractual class size regulations, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the United Federation of Teachers will advocate with the Mayor and the Chancellor to adhere to class size caps of 28 students in grades 1-3, as was done in earlier years; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the United Federation of Teachers will lobby the City Council to create a dedicated funding stream to lower class sizes, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT will advocate with the Council to appoint a Commission to improve the school planning and siting process, as Class Size Matters and Make the Road have proposed, so that sufficient school space is built along with development and not years afterwards, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT will publish lists of oversized classes and arbitrators’ resolutions as a matter of course in NY Teacher, and that UFT will have a standing committee dedicated to monitoring and correcting class size violations citywide.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

To COPE or Not to COPE?

I've been paying into COPE for a number of years now, at five bucks a paycheck. For a while, the UFT was hanging tough against the evaluation system. I was pretty happy they were finally showing a little backbone, so I invited a COPE rep to our school. He showed up over an hour late, leaving me to pretty much improvise our meeting. While he only managed to sign me and one of my delegates, he did field a few questions. One was when the hell are we gonna get a raise?

He said that Michael Mulgrew was very smart, and not to worry. He said that we would get our raise, because without it Bloomberg could not get an evaluation system. This statement hung with my members, and as you may recall, Mulgrew dumped the evaluation system into the hands of John King some time before we got a contract.  Members still come up to me asking to bring that guy back so they can throw stuff at him. I have thus far declined to do so.

But there is a vote on a Constitutional Convention coming up next year, and I think it's important we oppose that. I have searched for an organization that opposes it and found none. So the only game in town is COPE. I had been inclined to do a drive in my school at the end of January but my reservations get stronger each and every week.

Of course there are always the good folks who run NYSUT, who buy tables at Cuomo fundraisers, who give to Flanagan and his GOP buds. You know, the ones who said they opposed Common Core when they ran, but then said it was this or anarchy, the folks who said they opposed Cuomo but failed utterly to do so, the folks who said they opposed APPR but failed to do that too. In fact, the only legislative victory they can claim is the one that ensures them double pensions so they don't screw themselves the way they screwed Lee Cutler.

That was kind of a constant. And then, of course, there is their odd vision of strategic planning, which included pulling out all the stops for Hillary Clinton when she was running against Bernie Sanders. A lot of us wondered why we were endorsing someone who had the temerity to lecture us about "public charter schools," among other things. There is the massive and chronic failures to endorse a winning mayoral candidate.

I have a lot of friends around the state who swear they'll never put another dime into COPE. They're horrified by the unresponsiveness of NYSUT leadership, among other things. As a New York City high school teacher, I find it even more objectionable because I have no vote or voice in NYSUT. Why should my money go to fund them, and how can I ask my members to invest their hard-earned pay into an organization that doesn't even pretend to represent them?

The turning point, for me, was when I brought a class size resolution to the UFT and they essentially told me, my school,  tens of thousands of my colleagues, and 1.1 million students to go screw ourselves. I mean, if their objection was to the clause about the arbitrator, as they said, they could have moved to strike it. Clearly they objected to the entire thing, and nothing reinforced that to me more than their repetition of class size matters, but. Once someone says but you can safely disregard  everything and anything that precedes it.

Bottom line is I absolutely agree that we ought to stop the constitutional convention. But if anyone can screw up a campaign to stop it, it's the leadership of NYSUT and the United Federation of Teachers. Still, it's the only game in town as far as financing the anti-Constitutional Convention campaign.

So I'm on the fence, and man it can be painful sitting on a fence. What would you do if you were me?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Don't Laugh at the Probationers--You May Be Juggling Portfolios Too, and Soon

 Mulgrew says that we'll hear about the new evaluation system any moment now. I'm going off that topic for a few paragraphs, but I promise I'll come back to it.

Our school sent 21 probationary teachers to a tenure workshop last week. They all went and listened to our superintendent, our third superintendent in three years, tell them exactly what she wanted to see in their tenure folder, or whatever it is they are supposed to do before they get it. I myself am not acutely aware because it's been a while since I got tenure. Nonetheless, I'm sure I'll be dispensing a lot of apologies if next year we get a fourth superintendent with a fourth and distinct list of demands.

In fact, it took me a lot longer to get tenure than it took my colleagues. That's because I started out as an English teacher, but spent very little time actually teaching English. My first semester I taught four preps of English, but my supervisor shortly gave me one ESL class, so that I had five preps the very first semester I ever taught. That was a pretty tough gig. I distinctly remember being asked if I'd like to teach ESL, asking, "What's ESL?" and being told, "Give it a try."

Of course I had no idea about anything regarding the UFT Contract, and my first contact with union was with the chapter leader, who approached me in the men's room, handed me a postcard and said, "Psst, wanna join the union?" At the time the principal of Lehman High School was Robert Leder, and teachers were leaving in droves. I wasn't a drove, but I left too, and in retrospect, I'm really glad I did.

Anyway, new teachers sometimes complain to me about putting together portfolios and of the extra work it entails. I tell them that I'm sorry, but they really have to do it. I know they have enough to do, and I know well how much harder it is to do the day by day of teaching when you have little to no experience. I remember spending hours after school writing lesson plans, and I also remember back then that we were required to write weekly capsule plans. I had to churn out 25 of those a week, and it was no fun at all. And then when I rejected my first English appointment and decided that I wanted to be an ESL teacher, I lost a few years toward tenure. I think I lost another waiting for the city to give a test, which was a thing back then.

Personally, I'm grateful I don't have to put together some tenure portfolio. I've paid my dues and I lived through the craziness of my first few years. I'd rather no one had to go through such nonsense, but I'm glad mine is over.

Or is it?

If we're gonna be rated by portfolios and/ or projects, we'd better polish up both of them. It's funny, right after Michael Mulgrew tells teachers he's had it with excessive paperwork, that we're gonna have to come up with portfolios, something we've never had to do. This, of course, is between meetings and PD and teacher teams and hoping not to get a drive-by observation from some Boy Wonder supervisor, we have nothing to do but collect lesson plans and put them in some folder. Thanks for filling all that free time I didn't know what to do with! What's better than more paperwork?

Who on earth knows what will be judged or by whom? Are we looking for pictures? Original ideas? Grammar? Who knows? You can't use the same old tests, because Mulgrew is against them this year. And to be clear, I'm not against tests. I'm against standardized tests, particularly those that don't measure anything resembling what I actually teach (like the one on which I was last rated).

Mulgrew speaks of "authentic" learning measures. He speaks of a great new evaluation system that, alas, none of us have ever seen. What will it be like? Of course the specifics have been top-secret so far, so I'm not privy to them. Do they consult with real working teachers who haven't signed loyalty oaths to support whatever Mulgrew tells them to? Who knows? Given my experience with UFT leadership, I suspect not.

But what if we now have to put together portfolios every year? I suppose, to someone like Mulgrew who doesn't teach and hasn't in years, that doesn't seem like much of an imposition. After all, he won't have to do it.  Nor will any of the UFT officers making the decisions. Nor will your district reps. They teach, at most, one class, and as such are exempt from the evaluation system. They get rated S or U, and have no personal stake in how it affects you or me.

And if it's not portfolios, maybe it's projects. And if you aren't rating them, someone else is. Who will that be? Only Mulgrew knows, and so far he hasn't shared it with us lowly footsoldiers.

Now I want you to imagine your 170 students, 200 if you have a sixth class, or up to 500 if you're a PE teacher on an alternate day schedule. There you are with your 170-500 portfolios, or maybe one big old portfolio containing continually updated records of your 170-500 students, and you now have to not only find a place to physically keep them, but you also have to monitor them and check that whatever the hell it is you are supposed to produce is in there. Sounds like fun, doesn't it? And if you're a probationer, you also have whatever they want from you for tenure to handle. Of course they could be digital, which means you'd store them on DOE computers, and as someone who uses them regularly, even with a Mac genius tech guy in my building, I say good luck with that.

Mulgrew also talks about teacher-created tests being used, but discusses how teachers grading their own tests is ridiculed. I have no idea what on earth he envisions, or what the geniuses sitting around 52 envisioned for him, but here's what I know for sure--it's not based on science, research, or practice. UFT leadership has a decades-long history of bad decisions and worsening working conditions for teachers. Every time I think morale has bottomed out, some new and baseless directive comes down the pike to make it seep even lower.

By the end of the week, or maybe even today, we will know what monstrosity Mulgrew has in mind. Again, he won't be rated by it and neither will any UFT officers, district reps, or special reps. If they teach at all, they're still rated on the old S and U system, you know, the one that didn't cause teachers to have nervous breakdowns and heart attacks. Though they claim to hate that system, they in fact negotiated so that they themselves would be rated by it anyway, because leadership.

And also because in today's UFT, some animals are still more equal than others.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

UFT Executive Board Takeaway

It was really a remarkable night on Monday. I learned a lot. First of all, I learned that, if you're in the Unity Caucus, you don't need no stinking rules. Only Executive Board members are supposed to speak for and against resolutions. But that doesn't matter, because the head of the Grievance Department, Ellen Procedo, got up and spoke against the class size resolution I introduced.

That was perfectly fine until Jonathan Halabi from New Action rose and quietly pointed out that Ms. Procedo was not a member. She then huddled with LeRoy Barr, who got up and utterly misrepresented one of the RESOLVED points. I can only suppose that this was the best argument either of them was able to muster. Barr stated the resolution said we would fire any arbitrator who disagreed with us. Here is what the resolution states, exactly:

RESOLVED, that the United Federation of Teachers will not consider reappointment of any arbitrator who allows for violations to persist indefinitely and instead makes irrelevant rulings on class size that do not benefit students or teachers...

That does not say what Barr says it did. I got up and said as much, but it did not much matter to the loyalty oath signers, who sit at the meetings like placeholders and wait for Barr to signal to them how they are to vote. While this was indeed the best argument they could invent on the spot, it's what you call a strawman, a logical fallacy. That's when you misrepresent your opponent's argument, putting words into his mouth and hope that he defends an argument he never made. So logic played no part whatsoever here.

The important part was to reject the premise that we should vigorously defend our contract, and the meticulously crafted resolution. For one thing, it contained a whole lot of history on class sizes. It spoke to how reasonable class sizes help our students. It spoke to the systemic failure of UFT to address class sizes, and the preposterous things that passed for "plans of action." It spoke to how existing city class sizes violate New York State law. But we're just about to endorse the mayor, and he might get mad if we were to stand up for the students we are paid to serve (not to mention working UFT teachers).

Barr also made the argument that the UFT was a bold union because we wrote class sizes into our contract, at the expense of money and benefits. He neglected to point out that this happened over 50 years ago and has never been revisited, though this was written right into the resolution. I don't know how old Barr is, but if was even alive at the time this happened, he was likely as not in kindergarten. No one from current leadership has ever pushed class sizes in any way, and the argument about money is ludicrous. These are the same people who told us the "cupboard was bare" and we couldn't get the money NYPD got in 2009 until 2020, interest free. This argument further disregards the CFE lawsuit and the state law it inspired.

Another really interesting argument, from some Unity loyalist or other, was that class sizes got fixed in his school and that the system therefore worked. Now I guess he's right if his school is the only standard by which we judge 1,800 NYC schools.  Of course, anyone with a rudimentary concept of logic would not accept that argument either.

There was an interesting argument set forth by Howard Schoor, the secretary. He objected to our bringing motions at the last moment, because they couldn't give them enough attention. Oddly, that is what UFT Unity does all the time, as a matter of course, We show up at the Executive Board and there are their resolutions, all copied and typed out. We get no advance notice whatsoever of what they are. But again, rules don't apply to them so they can do whatever the hell they please. In fact, after we vote on them they can just change them the very next day, so as not to offend Donald Trump supporters. Perish forbid we should condemn a thin-skinned, narcissistic, juvenile, pathological, lying weasel like that. Someone might object.

I happen to know that the other resolution, the one supporting sending UFT members to DC, was previewed by Unity, which slashed the guts out of it before my very eyes. As they cut, I crumpled my copy and tossed it on the floor. Gone was each and every reference to Donald Trump, and we were no longer going to DC to protest him. We were, I suppose, going to protest The Presidential Election. I can only suppose we are to attribute the surge in hate crime to that, rather than Donald J. Trump.

One Unity member stood up and said, "Let's just cut the whole thing." This made me reflexively laugh out loud, though it had that effect on no one else in the room. She came up to me later and tried to explain. I said, "That's OK, I thought it was hilarious." She told me how rude I was and walked away angry.

LeRoy Barr, memorably, said we would eventually be permitted to utter the Trump name, and that we would engage him the same way we engaged Obama. I absolutely believe we will, which is to say, not at all. For eight years Barack Obama proved himself to be the worst education president ever. After four years, the UFT endorsed him. After he pushed charters and junk science ratings all over the country, after he made the lives of many UFT members, among others, a misery, we endorsed him.

Barack Obama hired Arne Duncan, who said that Hurricane Katrina was the bestest thing ever to happen to New Orleans education. He ridiculed white soccer moms, implying their kids were not very smart. If I publicly said something as idiotic as that I'd be up on charges, facing the loss of my career. But UFT not only said and did nothing whatsoever, they also endorsed him with no preconditions. To thank us, he made John King, reviled all over NY State, Secretary of Education.

So I have faith UFT and AFT leadership will engage Trump the way they engaged Obama--not at all. They didn't hesitate to endorse Clinton, another big charter cheerleader, and didn't ask her to modify her positions in any way. That she selected a longtime corporate reformy as her campaign manager mattered neither one way nor the other.

Then there was the matter of the mayoral endorsement. As though it were not already a predetermined conclusion that UFT will be endorsing Bill de Blasio, given that Randi Weingarten just held a fundraiser for him, they announced they had formed a committee to discuss the endorsement. They did not bother to ask any of the elected high school delegates to participate, because screw us, we aren't Unity. Nor did they bother to ask anyone from New Action or MORE, because screw the 11,000 UFT voters who supported us.

The important thing is to let the leadership decide, and they will do so with no input from us whatsoever, because we aren't Trump supporters, and our opinions therefore do not matter.

UFT Leadership Checklist

Do Not Offend

1. Trump supporters
2. Mayor de Blasio

OK to Offend

1. Class size advocates
2. public school parents
3. public school students
4. UFT high school teachers
5. all other UFT teachers
6. the opt-out movement

Monday, December 19, 2016

UFT Executive Board--Class Size Matters BUT....

 Note--I spoke in support of the Class Size resolution  and defended it when it was misrepresented from the dais with a ridiculous strawman argument. I did not take notes while I myself was speaking, and they are absent from this report. I will have much more to say about it very soon.

Secretary Howard Schoor—welcomes us, said there are no speakers.

Approval of minutes—accepted.

President’s Report—Mulgrew is not here

Staff director’s report—also not here

Question—in response to my question last week. Ellen Procida, grievance dept.—Gives background on class size—When we first negotiated there was a list of exceptions. In 1996 board was continually relying on exceptions. Argued they were becoming the rule, and now cannot be relied on for more than two terms.

Now schools can rely on them for two years, and they then have five days to come into compliance or propose an action plan. Arbitrator may find it reasonable or not.

Last year, we decided that action plans were becoming the norm. We chose a school in SI to try to get them to say action plans cannot be the rule. Arbitrator told union and board to come up with resolution. Part of resolution was that we have now created class size labor management committee. Between day 13 and 20 Board and UFT will meet. We are meeting Wednesday, with list of 19 schools. Language requires people with authority attend. Will try to come up with long and short term solutions.

If we come up with something it’s good, if not we can still go to arbitration. This school year 478 schools, 220 scheduled for arbitration, but # of classes down.

Mulgrew arrives, 6:10

Staff director’s report

LeRoyBarr—Chapter leader stipends go out this week, will get before new year. Albert Shanker scholarships applications due by first of year. Exec Board January 9th.

Michael Mulgrew—permit approved for march on Washington, we had already reserved buses, 150 slots ready to go. Evaluation deadline this week. Trying to get it done, Very close. Important to us that if we measure student learning it must be measured on what we are already teaching. Based on existing curriculum. We have groups of schools that have done this work and believe we can pass in terms of rigor, with portfolios and self-generated tests. Thinks we will be done this week, and will get info out. Will be borough meetings before next DA.

Wishes us happy holidays. Says we will need a rest. Thank you all.

6:16 Mulgrew leaves

Schoor—mayoral endorsement committee meeting tomorrow.

Marcus McArthur
MORE—abusive administrators—We have had several good meetings. First, what movement have we made on individual cases. Second, one thing we didn’t come to consensus on was whether we would publish names of chronically abusive admin. Can we let members know we are fighting for them?

LeRoy Barr—We did meet and out of five or 6 schools that came up, I am aware of every situation. We are continuing to fight back. I went to troubled school, CSA and DOE and superintendent showed up. I can tell you all stakeholders were at table, and people are trying to do a reset, mostly about relationships. Potential is for things to be better. We will continue.

About putting names in paper, we’ve done it before, but every situation is different. If we have to get to that point, we will, but first we’re trying to work with people to resolve issues. Nothing off the table.

Evelyn de Jesus—I work with Ls, just want to add I will be visiting 391. They have a lot of Ls and we will look at language acquisition policy and try to help and support.

Jay Futterman
—Para rep, last two weeks members ask about PD hours.

De Jesus—My department can do PD, DOE not approved, we will do modules with AFT and build team. List online at Teach NY. If they bring someone in from outside you have to check. IN UFT my dept. and the Teacher Center. We can go to your school if you need it. Building capacity. Contact my office. Law says 5 years from July 2016.

Kuljit AhluwaliaNew Action—Teacher’s choice—shorter window this year. Why?

Schoor—Doesn’t know, will find out.

DeJesus—started in August and it’s about the same time. They have to get everything in.

Jonathan HalabiNew Action—We’ve spoken about abusive admin, but in news last week was another serious issue—incompetent admin at superintendent level. Knew fully well AP in Bronx was abusive, appointed Jahoda to be IA Principal of Townsend Harris. Predictably, alienated faculty, chapter, students and parents. Elaine Lindsey showed incompetence and gross disregard for those in her care. When deputy came in students organized sit in. well behaved. Deputy superintendent belittled, berated, argued. When people at that level are that incompetent we need to say something—

Schoor—Brought it to deputy chancellors, said they never heard of it, in interim forwarded press releases. They are now aware. We are on record in opposition.

Rona Freiser—At Queens UFT we have been involved since it began. When she was brought in bells and whistles went off. We were there and talking with superintendent. We were appalled. Alerted central. Great school, alumni irate, some politicians. 100 parents at PTA unanimously voted for removal of both principal and Elaine Lindsey. We are working with CL. Has article 2 grievance tomorrow. We won’t leave that school w/o satisfaction.

Janella Hinds—James Vasquez, Anthony Klug and I visited. Watched students do homework while they protested. We support them, their parents and alumni. We will stay with them until the end.

Reports from Districts

Janella Hinds—On Saturday HS Division hosted bowling party with students in temp housing with WIN program. Many never bowled before. Was great for those of us who attended. Had great time. Delegates generosity made us able to give them gift cards and movie tickets. Look forward to academic work with them.

Schoor—Told deputy chancellors I didn’t understand how this could happen to one of very best schools. No answer.

Legislative Report
Paul Egan—Reports on football. Politics—In Senate District 5 Marcellino won by 1500 votes. Going into senate with 31 GOP 24 democratic, 7 IDC, one Simka Felder available to highest bidder. IDC could put Dems in charge, don’t hold your breath. COPE numbers increased, must keep on pushing, fewer than half contribute.

Constitutional convention could be dire. Better not to trust folks in Albany. PowerPoint available for use in schools. Over 70% of NYers have no idea what it is about.

Teacher’s choice—please spend money or it goes back. Hurts lobbying.


Creation of teacher cafes at every NYC Public School

Janella Hinds—We have seen in many schools elimination of UFT cafes. Perfectly beautiful spaces and during Bloomberg admi were told they weren't viable. People need space. This speaks to need for that space for duty free lunch. Ask for your support.

Schoor—Anyone want to speak against? No. Question called.

Passes unanimously.

Resolution in support of undocumented—

Evelyn de Jesus—Many look like me, or are related to me. Mayor promised NYC would be sanctuary city. We will advocate on behalf of our 345K children. Please approve this.

No one against.

Passes unanimously

I introduce class size resolution.

Speaker against—Ellen Procedo—Not because class size isn’t important. We have people working on this. What we do not understand is—We are aware of school that is raised. Compliance call scheduled for Thursday. To correct is not the arbitrator’s action plan. It’s the board’s plan.

LeRoy Barr—Rises against. Not us saying class size is not important. We look at something saying that if an arbitrator rules against us we should have the arbitrator removed. That arbitrator may have ruled in our favor. We have very strong language in our contract. We are one of very few unions that has bargained for and has language in our contract. We bargained for it, gave up raises, gave up benefits. You see this in terms of hundreds of grievances we file. We are not standing in support of class sizes

?—Worked in grievance dept. Wants to address one whereas—describes plans of action—not one type of action plan. In some cases a teacher may be relieved of a C6. Paras may be assigned to support teachers. ATRs may be assigned. Based on what DOE can do, if school can’t open a new class, too bad. Labor management committee selected 19 schools. We have opportunity to discuss these 19 schools. All stakeholders involved. Doesn’t make sense to dismiss arbitrators due to bad decisions. This arbitrator brought us lesson plan decision.

Janathan HalabiNew Action—Resolution seems to have two big parts, one is class size. Look at question of class size in general. First resolved talks about vigorously enforcing existing contract. Other resolved discuss research over years and we have CFE decision that Bloomberg subverted. Getting us back on right horse trying to make class sizes smaller is the more important thing. This is main thrust and worthwhile.

Sean Rockowitz—Says process works. My school is in compliance. Joint Labor Committee designed to oppose.

Resolution fails.

Resolution on Joint Labor Contingent—

Ashraya GuptaMORE—We’re already doing this. Important we name the things we believe in.  Glad we are reserving 150 seats, but we should build on a chapter level. In addition to sending folks to DC we want to advocate against bigotry and for our students. Important to think about members who can’t go, but want to be active. This resolution does that so I hope you will support it.

Paul Egan—To avoid an argument that has taken a lot of time, would like to amend, get rid of 1, 3, 4, 5, and last line in 6. Gets us into quagmire we don’t need. Let’s keep it simple clean, and not get distracted.

LeRoy Barr—Wants to strike word all, also strike everything in its power to defend. We have to be careful when we say “all.” We can’t send all of our members and families. Have to be careful with language. We support going down, but need to make technical changes.

Ellen Driesen—Wants to strike whole thing. (I laugh out loud.) Thinks it needs to be reworked, and not on the fly.

Schoor—If you have motions and give them at last moment it needs very careful attention.

Janella Hinds
—In favor of both amendments. Builds on Respect for All Resolution. Important that we do that work. Important we do that work in DC and here. We can cut to chase and eliminate polarizing statements.

Marcus McArthurMORE—Obviously the elephant in room is there is polarization in our union and country. We debated including Trump’s name. Same issue we’re dealing with tonight. We can’t sweep it under rug. We don’t need to demonize anyone, everyone is complex in political decision, but facts of who Trump will nominate say he will undermine interests of all UFT members. For us to engage our members is something that we need to commit to. They need to understand implications of his presidency.

Leroy Barr—Believes Marcus is correct and we will have to go after Trump. Being so close to cycle, to emotional reaction, we need to use this as education process. When Obama was elected I was proud to take my son to vote. Obama did things not in best interests of education. Still proud he was President but we called him out. Let’s understand what really happened and why people did what they did so we can connect with them again instead of pushing them away.

I believe over next four years you will have ample opportunity to say Trump’s name. We will engage him the same way we engaged Obama.

Resolution on Class Sizes Rejected by UFT Executive Board.

I have 35 oversized classes in my school, but Unity thinks "the system works," as one person said because it worked for his school. What a disgrace. We support reasonable class sizes, BUT...

WHEREAS, the UFT contractual class size limits have not been reduced for over half a century; and

WHEREAS, since those limits were first negotiated, the benefits of class size reduction have been proven through rigorous evidence to improve student learning, reduce disciplinary problems, boost graduation rates, and lessen teacher attrition; and

WHEREAS, in 2003, NY state’s highest court ruled in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) lawsuit that NYC public school students were denied their constitutional right to a sound basic education, based in part because their class sizes were too large; and

WHEREAS, to settle the CFE lawsuit, a state law was passed in 2007 called the Contracts for Excellence law that required NYC to reduce class sizes in all grades; and

WHEREAS, instead of lowering class size, class sizes have increased sharply since 2007; and

WHEREAS, according to the Independent Budget Office, we lost nearly 9000 general education K-12 teaching positions between 2007 and 2013; and

WHEREAS, since 2011, the DOE no longer recognizes a “side agreement” with the UFT which had existed for more than a decade to cap class sizes in grades 1-3 at 28, so class sizes have risen to 30 or more in these grades in many schools; and

WHEREAS, on day 6 of the school year this fall, there were over 5000 classes that violated the UFT limits; and

WHEREAS, on day 10, there were still more than 2500 classes that violated the UFT limits, more than the previous year; and

WHEREAS, 1,145 high school classrooms had more students than the contractual limit, up from 803 last year, meaning that their class sizes were 35 or more; and

WHEREAS, even now, there are many classes that violate these limits, with 35 alone in Francis Lewis HS; and

WHEREAS, arbitrators have recently been approving “plans of action” that do not remotely address class size but instead, allow for an extra period for teachers to be exempted from C6 duty, which does not enable us to give students more individual attention; and

WHEREAS, many NYC high school teachers are assigned to six classes, which means that they are responsible for teaching as many as 200 students a semester or more; and

WHEREAS, teachers are evaluated by measures of student learning, and studies show more learning occurs the smaller the class size; and

WHEREAS, New York City already has the largest class sizes in the state; and

WHEREAS, New York City teachers are compared to other teachers elsewhere in the state while our classes are larger, making these comparisons unfair; and

WHEREAS, all students benefit from smaller classes, but especially low-income students, students of color, and English Language Learners, who experience twice the benefit from class size reduction; and

WHEREAS, in a 2014 UFT survey 99 percent of NYC teachers said that reducing class size would be the most effective reform to improve student outcomes – far outstripping any other strategy; and

WHEREAS, many schools are too overcrowded to reduce class size and the current capital plan will fulfill at most 59 percent of the DOE’s own estimate of the need for new school seats, based on existing overcrowding and projected enrollment increases; and

WHEREAS, the current capital plan and school capacity formula is pegged to larger classes in grades 4-12 than exist on average currently and much larger than are optimal; and

WHEREAS, with increased and rapid residential development the city is likely to fall further behind in terms of school capacity, be it therefore;

RESOLVED, that the United Federation of Teachers will vigorously enforce existing contractual class size regulations, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the United Federation of Teachers will advocate with the Mayor and the Chancellor to adhere to class size caps of 28 students in grades 1-3, as was done in earlier years; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the United Federation of Teachers will lobby the City Council to create a dedicated funding stream to lower class sizes, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the United Federation of Teachers will not consider reappointment of any arbitrator who allows for violations to persist indefinitely and instead makes irrelevant rulings on class size that do not benefit students or teachers; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT will advocate with the Council to appoint a Commission to improve the school planning and siting process, as Class Size Matters and Make the Road have proposed, so that sufficient school space is built along with development and not years afterwards, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the UFT will publish lists of oversized classes and arbitrators’ resolutions as a matter of course in NY Teacher, and that UFT will have a standing committee dedicated to monitoring and correcting class size violations citywide.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Day in the Life

My day Friday did not start well. In my morning class is a young computer genius. Every time I mess something up on the computer, he calmly walks up, pushes a button, and all my problems disappear. Naturally I resent his being smarter than me when he is only 13 years old. Who the hell does he think he is anyway?

As if that weren't enough, he's learning English way faster than he's supposed to. For example, the other day I wrote a DO NOW assignment, and rather than simply answering it, as the other students did, he decided to challenge me. Here is the assignment:

DO NOW--Mr. Goldstein thinks you should study 200 hours a week. Is that a good idea? Why or why not?

It's a simple enough question. Yes or no, and give a reason. But instead of simply answering, he comes up with questions for me. Can you imagine? And not only that, but his use of English was pretty much perfect, which is also outrageous, because he's a beginning ELL. So here's what he says to me;

"Let's pretend there are 24 hours in a day. And let's pretend there are 7 days in a week. That means there are only 168 hours in a week."

You can see why I was upset. First of all, it's an English class. Now here is this kid, showing no respect at all, and doing math in English class. That's pretty goshdarn disrespectful if you ask me. Then, when I explain to him that I'm going to fail him for no reason, he tells me I can't do that. Can you imagine the audacity? Speaking to your teacher like that?

But that's not all. Later in the day, my co-teacher told me I have to do stuff. Now I'm pretty busy, and I haven't always got time to do stuff. After all, I have a lot of stuff to do, and when am I gonna find the time to do even more stuff?

Later, I'm in the department office, and I see my friend the Italian teacher. I recount all the injustices I've dealt with that day, and explain to her that I'm mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. She's sympathetic and understands all the outrages I've suffered. I tell her since I represent all the teachers in the building I need someone to represent me, and she says yes, she'll do it.

So we go in to see the AP, and I explain to her that my co-teacher is asking me to do stuff, and that I don't want to do it. And no way should I have to do it, since I do enough stuff already. Then my advocate speaks up.

"Well it depends on what stuff she's asking you to do."

What? That wasn't what we just discussed. I look at her, incredulous. What happened to my unflapping advocate, the one who was gonna defend my rights no matter what? I give her a quizzical look. She responds.

"Well, depending on what the stuff is, it might hurt someone if you don't do it."

Wow, with an advocate like that, I may as well represent myself. What's up with all these conditions? We hadn't discussed modifying my demands in any way whatsoever.

"Wait a minute," I protest. "Are you trying to tell me there are consequences for my actions? That's unacceptable."

I walk out in protest. There's just so much one teacher can put up with in one day.

Friday, December 16, 2016

DA Takeaway--Through the Looking Glass with UFT Unity

Given the volume of outlandish and contradictory statements from the Unity loyalty oath signers, it was very hard to take notes quietly at the DA the other day. Mulgrew opened with sexist statements about Betsy DeVos, calling her, "our own beauty," before launching into ridicule of her name. This mirrored the UFT Unity Twitter feed, which took down a tweet or two after being called on them right here on this blog. You can still see what they said, though. (In fairness, there was later a PowerPoint with actual information.)

Mulgrew then drew us into his dream world, effusively praising the new evaluation system which, alas, has not only never been tested, but also does not yet even exist.  Mulgrew, who has never taught a single class under any evaluation system he negotiated, spoke with complete confidence about "authentic" measures that would be used to evaluate our teaching. He is no longer using the phrase "growth model," but continues to contend that growth can be measured via portfolios or project-based learning.

Remember that this is the same Mulgrew who boasted of taking part in writing the law that brought all this nonsense upon us in the first place. This is the same Mulgrew that called the system wonderful when Reformy John King created it, with his blessing, the same Mulgrew who ridiculed those of us, including Diane Ravitch and the American Statistical Association, who labeled it junk science. This is the same Mulgrew who boasted of getting every aspect of Danielson in as opposed to the seven or eight Bloomberg wanted, and the same Mulgrew who later boasted of getting it reduced to seven or eight, like Bloomberg wanted, after he was gone. This is the same Mulgrew who boasted of getting artifacts in, and then of getting them out.

Mulgrew is now saying, even though he deemed test-score ratings wonderful when they came out, that we will not use tests to rate teachers. He has finally concluded, as many of us did long ago, that this would result in teaching to the test. He says, though, that some teachers love being rated on tests. It's really remarkable that we're basically advocating a crap shoot because it's that risky to have administrators evaluate us. With such an absolute lack of faith in the ability of administrators, you'd think they'd want to do something about that, but they refuse to move on our resolution addressing it. Somehow it's OK to shout to the skies about how unfair they are, but wildly undiplomatic to take general action on it. 

Again, there is no research or practice to support anything Mulgrew says. I have no idea whatsoever how projects or portfolios will be rated or who will rate them. Mulgrew spoke derisively of those who ridicule us that we will actually grade the work ourselves. On the other hand, unlike Mulgrew, I'm a teacher and I actually spend hours grading things. I wonder, if we are not grading the work, who is? Is it the supervisors, the ones who he wants to make sure don't rate us? Is it the geniuses up in Albany? People from other schools? Space aliens? Who knows? Mulgrew, right on the heels of the most catastrophic failure in our union's history, continues to speak with total confidence, and we are expected to trust him absolutely and hope for the best.

Despite the punitive evaluation system pushed by Governor Cuomo, Mulgrew says he continues to support us. It's obvious to me, at least, that Cuomo is a creature of convenience who will do or say anything at any moment to advance his own personal ambition. Mulgrew mentioned in passing extending the moratorium he claims we are responsible for, but which actually was put in place to try to appease the statewide opt-out movement. Though Mulgrew claims to be meeting with parents, and I hear he is, he then said that it was dangerous for more than 5% of New Yorkers to refuse the test. This is no different from what he has been saying since opt-out appeared.

We then came to the discussion of the Resolution for Respect for All People. The history of this resolution is pretty interesting, to me at least. I wanted to jointly initiate such a resolution with Unity, so rather than write it, I proposed it to leadership. They said they'd get back to me. Days later, at an Executive Board meeting, where I rose to promote this idea, they had the resolution already written, with no input from us. (So much for trying to cooperate with Unity.)

This notwithstanding, the resolution was very good. With a few adjustments from Ashraya Gupta of MORE, all of the high school reps supported it enthusiastically. The next day, though, instead of crediting Donald Trump with his racism, bigotry, and misogyny, it was edited to attribute this to "the Presidential Election" instead. This was, of course, absurd (and still is).

Peter Lamphere of MORE rose at the DA to restore Trump's name. Mulgrew, ever the student of Robert's Rules, called on several Unity Caucus members to speak against it and never once asked for a voice of support, and it wasn't as though there weren't any. I saw several close to me with hands raised, ready to speak. One Unity member said it was obvious this was about Trump, so there was no need to add his name. LeRoy Barr, though, said we couldn't place his name because we were trying to get everyone on board, including Trump supporters.

I have to say Barr is a gifted speaker, passionate and persuasive. I saw him speak in Minnesota at the AFT Convention and he was great. Here, he spoke off the cuff and was just as effective. Yet he contradicted the other loyalty oath signers by saying we didn't want to alienate the Trump supporters. So which is it? Is it so obvious that we're talking about Trump that we need not name him, or is it important that we refrain from speaking his name so that the Trump voters continue paying dues once He Who Shall Not Be Named makes the United States a "Right to Work" nation? There is, of course, a third possibility--that UFT leadership thinks Trump voters are too stupid to attribute the racism to Trump. Maybe Unity assumes they will think it was Hillary or Bernie Sanders who advocated grabbing women "by the pussy." Who knows what goes on in those top-secret Unity meetings?

All I know is that they rise to support whatever they're told to. I was pretty surprised when Barr touted debate at the Executive Board as a reason to stifle it at the DA. While I did appreciate his willingness to enable it, and while that certainly sets him apart from Mulgrew, who can't even be bothered to sit through his own Executive Board meetings, the fact is the result of any Executive Board debate is a foregone conclusion. There are seven of us elected by UFT high schools against the will of leadership, and 95 loyalty oath signers who must vote and speak as told.

There is no logical reason to withhold criticism of the execrable and anti-democratic Donald Trump. However, anti-democracy is a quality that Trump and UFT Unity share. This, sadly, is just one of the qualities very likely to result in our losing on the NY Constitutional Convention, and maybe the pensions for which we've worked our entire careers. Another is our dogged insistence on falling down well before anyone has even pushed us.

The very worst quality of UFT Unity leadership, though, is that they just bet the farm on a candidate who stood for nothing, lost the farm, and still can't bring themselves to take clear and principled stands on issues that, debate notwithstanding, aren't even debatable. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

December Delegate Assembly--Everyone Knows Resolution Is About Trump, But Let's Not Say So and Offend Anyone

President’s Report

National—Mulgrew says he’s not a therapist and is counseling people. Says he’s been to many meetings. Says he wants to calm people and we will come up with a plan. Says he can’t curse. Says cabinet of Trump, everyone put in charge hates what he’s put in charge of. Says Putz, in charge of DOL doesn’t believe in minimum wage or worker’s right. EPA head doesn’t believe in global warning and thinks his agency impedes business.

Exxon is Sec. of State. “Our own beauty,” Miss DeVos. Ridicules pronunciation of her name. Her life about privatizing ed. minimizing worker’s rights, but she’s not worst. Glad we are laughing so I don’t have to do therapy.

Are members getting this in their schools, what’s happening? Says those who voted for Trump are now coming to him saying they were mistaken.

Shows slides, Moskowitz got 300K from DeVos. Says Eva turned down ed. post because of pay cut, picked DeVos. Gave 400K to Campbell Brown. 100K alliance school choice. 4.8 million to right wing super PACS.

Says you know what’s coming. We have done analysis. Will they incentivize by holding Title One hostage? Would require dismantling of last spring’s law. Is infighting among GOP. Will not be top agenda item.

Says majority GOP Congress have been pissed off about using incentive to influence state policy. Will they continue to not believe in it? We don’t know. We think we have 18-24 months before Friedrichs-like case hits SCOTUS.

We will be defunded or under attack. If not policy, then defunding.

Activities around inauguration day—no permits around mall for days, unprecedented. They will issue permits, we don’t know where. There may be demos in NYC. We will get people to DC, but will be more activity in NYC.

State—Governor continues to support us at this moment. Who thought we’d be saying that two years ago? He’s criticized Trump a lot now. Union has created research paper on DeVos, we want it on their radar her main goal dismantle public ed. We are starting to strategize, are talking to everyone. Want a positive piece on public ed. and a negative attack against DeVos. People love their own public schools countrywide. Will use that.

Civil rights community say NYC schools moving forward. Now people want to get rid of it and they are upset. Revenues for state slightly down. Will see where that goes.

We know we will get a bag of crap monthly from DC. We cannot, while that is happening, afford a Constitutional Convention. Our members don’t understand what it means. Will be inundated with money coming into this state. Must educate members.

Says they will sell CC with greater environmental protections.

Shows PowerPoint, will attack workers, rights, pensions, education and environment. Speaks of NJ and IL and that they are in crisis because state didn’t make payments, though workers did. This is because they don’t have a constitutional protection.

Billionaires, reformies, corporate interests, and right wing pols want CC. Some small groups won’t understand implications, motivation might be good. They are wrong.

Must be put to vote every 20 years, with yes, every aspect up for possible change. Strategy is we vote no.

With yes vote, State senate districts would get delegates, with staff and 80K each. 100 million dollars minimum. Could run for six months, two years, whatever. Will set own rules. This would drag our our fight.

Amendments would go to statewide vote.

Says we can’t fight feds and state at same time. Vouchers illegal in NY. Could change. Won’t say vouchers, will call it choice. Says fact-less reporting is rule of thumb. Would like to know if they teach that in college.

Last in 1967, wasteful and harmful. 77, 97, rejected. Asks we speak to all to reject it. We just saw what happened when misinformed people vote against own interests.

Will not dismantle ESSA now, doesn’t mean they won’t get to it. Great flexibility, test scores not mandated. Working in Albany, have concerns, NYS needs to take advantage of flexibility in ESSA law. Very close to finalizing evaluation agreement.

If we have an agreement now that no longer uses test scores, what happens when school lives and dies by test scores? Only in our evaluation for two years, but Bloomberg made it sole factor, schools were all about tests. We fought to get changes and are moving it where we want it. Moving in positive place. If state system based on test scores we are back in crazy world.

If this doesn’t work we will get on social media. I’ve been meeting with parents across state, we want eval. based on whole child, what we do. If eval is test score that says that’s all we care about. Says no one does programs in great way because we get no credit for it. If we put it in system we will get real action at school level instead of lip service from bunch of hacks.

City—Evaluation—31st headed right at us. DOE, CSA, and us, We have stuck through giving teachers real voice in this process. Flexibility in observations, not too much. What does student learning mean? If you want to measure real student learning tie it to what we are actually teaching, do each day. Not to outside assessment we have to prep for. Not authentic.

Want members to feel good about focusing on what’s actual taught. That is basis for “authentic student measurements.” Says we are sick of tests. Measuring growth of what student has learned. Says schools that use portfolios and project-based learning base things on what’s being taught.

Says if it’s tied to real curriculum we will get it passed. Says people ask “What are teachers gonna do, grade their own papers?” Mulgrew says as long as kids are in classroom they will learn. Says tests based on what we teach are fine. Some subjects lend themselves toward portfolio, like music art. Must have standardized practice on how to collect these things.

Piece not up for negotiation, in state law, is matrix. Says you will be very thankful it is in state law. Fairest thing ever. When done right it is teacher performance. Says we will do borough based trainings. If not done next week I will walk away. Will say I don’t care if we lose the money because you’re all a joke.

Principals don’t like matrix because it takes their discretion away. Every principal knows how many points they can mess with you on. Magic number is 24. Will be no score anymore. If student learning isn’t ineffective neither are you.

Very late in year for agreement. No changes to whatever observations you picked for this year. Will figure out guidance for MOSL committees. Will be different.

Exec. Board putting together a committee, a task force, looking at next mayoral race. Many unions have already endorsed de Blasio, including sanitation. Got rid of crap equipment and bought right stuff for them. Barr and Schoor will handle. 5:09 ends.

Staff Director’s Report

LeRoy Barr—Teacher’s Choice deadline Jan. 15, forms 20th. School lunch cards push free lunch for all program. Stigma to free lunch. Bill will go from 11 to 20 billion remove stigma. Want universal free and healthy meals.

Coalition for homeless event, kids from around city came. Saturday partnering to help homeless women and families. Next DA Jan. 18th. Wishes us happy holidays and new year.


Mulgrew asks if they have horrible green peas at lunch.

CL—CTLE credits—will DOE get approval?

Not yet. We don’t run DOE. Our responsibility is to members, so we became approved. Can call teacher center or Evelyn de Jesus for approved hours. They aren’t doing their job. 5 years to get hours.

With our contract, we get PD. We agreed teachers should give some. Why should people go if they aren’t certified?

Remember when we had no time for training? We now have less time in classroom so we get training. If a group of schools would like people trained by us, could we do that?

DeJesus—We are doing it now for Ls. Building it out.

Mulgrew—Would you send someone from your staff for training for certification?

Yes, says crowd.

CL—Cuomo did about face, what can UFT do to influence him to reign in independent dems who function as GOP?

Not sure. They can do what they like. Says they were played as marks by DeVos. Says we aren’t happy with dem performance and he’ll probably get this on a blog somewhere. Will get some phone calls later probably.

Q—Portability—Can they do that without ESSA, and will opt-out movement hinder us?

Opt-out now really dangerous, they will enforce 5% provision. They want to defund us. If we give them a reason….ESSA says we still must give standardized test and info must be public. Said civil rights community was very strong on that. Says feds have right to withhold Title one funding.

Q—Can they tie funding to child and bypass school?

That’s how they argue for vouchers. Not something we want to even discuss. Would violate state constitution. You clearly read up on this.

CL Bryant—Concerned about eval. Why can’t teacher have choice of evaluations. Why can’t we have choice of whether we use test or not?

Especially doesn’t work with principal like yours. We need to shine light on bad admin. Other side has to agree to flexibility. But there will be some if we do it right. Trying to give more definitive voice to MOSL committee. We don’t believe standardized test scores should be used but some teachers like it better than administrators. Would like to make Regents optional standard. Says some schools would want to use test scores, they’ve treated them well. Warned that test scores can vary. If you choose them, test becomes entire focus.


NYC Schools should be sanctuaries for all students, resolution. UFT will not allow ICE on campus. Will defend those threatened. Will set up committees for rapid response and outreach. Committees will assemble to shut down affected schools, mobilize mass actions.

Dave Pecoraro—last paragraph violation of Taylor Law.

Pro—We need rapid response, we are biggest and most powerful union, need to do what we need to do. We know what it means when people are loaded onto buses and taken away.

Howard Schoor—asks we vote against this. Says we’re pushing for immigrant liaison in every school. Want to see if this works. Have to give them chance. Also some resolveds not “doable.” We don’t control police and one violates Taylor Law. Would put members in jeopardy.

Does not pass.

Mulgrew—spoke to mayor and governor, and says if this happens there will be arrests of UFT members and president. Says individual must make decision.

Rich Mantel
—Middle school VP—About DeVos. Opposition to her appointment. We will work with partners to press her rejection.



Resolution in support of Meaningful Teacher Induction—Carmen Alvarez—thousands of teachers come and go, many special ed. Mentor teachers can help. Let’s institute something already required by law and make it work also toward retention. UFT will urge principals to give an additional year of mentorship.

Delegate—speaks in favor. Knows we lose many in first 3-5 years. Vital we do all we can to support newest teachers, those not quite ready. Mulgrew calls another, does not seek voice against.

Delegate—Moves to amend—add “ensuring time for a mentor.”

Questions called.

Amendment, resolution pass.

Resolution in support of Consent Ed.—Janella Hinds—Refers to Access Hollywood conversation, thinking about sexual violence—We can think differently about how to engage and support our students to prevent sexual violence and support survivors. Expands DOE respect for all initiative. Wants conversations about relationships in healthy and respectful manner.

Question called.


Resolution in Opposition to a Constitutional Convention

Mel Aaronson
—I voted against them since 57, urges every person to vote against CC. Simple referendum. Dangerous to public employees.  Not only about us. Only 24% of working people belong to unions. If only they vote our way, we can’t win. Now, 60% of public support this and we must overcome it. Tell your family tonight to vote no in November. Tell colleagues tomorrow. You know why.

CL—Says teachers are unaware. Says we must let them know.

Passes unanimously

Resolution Calling for Respect for All Peopl

Sterling Roberson
—Impact of recent election, rhetoric of “one of our candidates” based on race, religion, etc,, goes against what we believe in. We understand in NYC impact it has had on schools, crime. violence. We need to recognize, regardless of political affiliations that we have to respect each and every one of us. Fighting privatization, vouchers. We have history of ensuring we meet those obligations. Asks for support.

Peter Lamphere—MORE—Moves to amend.

Replace “presidential election campaign” with Donald Trump’s election campaign. Resolution originally presented as I proposed. After exec. board voted to approve, was changed. We have a fight on our hands. Sterling is right, we need to educate members. We should specify source of this rhetoric. We need to be clear where it’s coming from and what we need to do to fight it. If we shy away we’re doing a disservice to our members. We know GOP alone doesn’t attack ed. but shying away from confronting Trump is a mistake, wrong foot to start four year battle.

CL—Rises in opposition to amendment. Important we don’t focus on man Thinks it’s obvious. You have to remember many of our members voted for Trump. Must focus on issues, not man.

CL—Stands in opposition to amendment. We need to have respect for all, Need to not alienate our own members. We don’t want his name on it. Everyone knows what that is and we don’t need to be blatantly insulting.

LeRoy Barr—speaks against amendment. Says we voted several times and debated based on his motion. Another vote took place. There were three votes. There was full democracy. Says it’s position of strength to respect members voice and vote. Says we need all our troops behind us. Is it important enough to alienate our people. Says something Trump said resonated. Says if we disrespect it again we will lose every battle.

Much applause for LeRoy.

Dave Pecoraro moves that DA be extended.


Moves debate be closed.

Amendement fails.

Resolution passes.

Mulgrew says we have a lot of work ahead of us. Wishes us a great break. Says when we come back, we are going to war.