Saturday, September 30, 2017

UFT Leadership Says Everything Is Wonderful and If You Don't Agree You Are Crazy

Ever since I've been reading NY Teacher, that's been the official message. Every evaluation system has been wonderful, this is the best possible scenario in the best possible world, and we're doing a great job. A case in point is this article, discussing the lump-sum retro payment members will be receiving in October:

Because you have a union that fights for you, eligible members are entitled to be compensated for the two 4 percent raises that former Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave to members of some municipal unions in 2009 and 2010 but refused to give to public school educators and other city employees at the time.

Of course there is another side to that.  Before we even look at it, let's take a look at that first phrase. "Because you have a union..." I often argue that we are the union. A lot of people say to me the union did this or that. I tell them you are the union, or we are the union. In fact I've heard Mulgrew say that too. But when there's something worth boasting about, we have a union. The leaders or officials have done this or that wonderful thing for us.

If we're going to look at it that way, let's change the angle a bit. Because you have a union that's willing to wait years for what NYPD and FDNY got in 2008, you still haven't received 75% of the money that's owed you. Furthermore, the city has been sitting on it interest free and will continue to do so for another three years.

There were other things the union you "have" could've done for you while Bloomberg was mayor. For one thing, it could've opposed the disaster that was mayoral control. Under that system, high schools all over the city were closed. Smaller schools and charters popped up in their spaces, sometimes staffed will all newbies. There are still schools with no chapter leaders and effectively no chapters. There are still schools in which the UFT Contract is a quaint afterthought while principals run roughshod and do any damn thing they please. (Also, the union you "have" supported mayoral control a second time after it was proven to be an unmitigated disaster.)

I'm glad there were fewer ineffective ratings. I'm glad there were more highly effective ratings. Sadly, that doesn't diminish the pressure teachers feel, the pressure I hear about absolutely every day on my job. No one understands what the hell MOSL means. While there may be a possibility of some teachers using portfolios or something, that's a whole lot of extra work and no one really understands how it will be used or interpreted. This is a high pressure job and anyone who doesn't understand that hasn't been in a classroom for a while.

The UFT line is the alternative is total principal power under S and U. That may be, but no one under the S and U system ever faced a 3020a hearing with the burden of proof on them. Having to prove you are not incompetent is a high standard indeed. And while District Reps and UFT officials can lecture you on how bad that system is, none of them teach more than one class. All of them are rated S and U. If that system is so terrible, why did they insure that they'd be subject to it?

I have people asking me to be on S and U system. How can I teach one class and get rated that way?  I haven't got an answer. In our building, we haven't got any .8 comp-time positions. If we did, people would fight for them for sure. I don't know a single teacher not on UFT payroll who likes Advance and Danielson. As for MOSL, it's far from perfect. In my own building, non-ESL teachers who teach classes with many ELLs see their scores fall below effective. Who will want to teach ELLs if it causes their scores to drop?

In fact, NYSUT opposes the APPR system. They wrote that position into official policy via resolution. UFT leadership voted unanimously for the resolution, yet tells us that it is wonderful. When I ask whether or not they support the resolution they unanimously supported, the response is they'll get back to me. 

Here's the thing--the rating system changes. Teaching conditions change. You and I change. Our families change. Our friends come and go. Politics change. Janus will bring change.

But the message of UFT leadership never changes. I know, because more often than not, I'm on the receiving end. Everything is wonderful and if you don't agree you must be crazy. If I were leadership, I'd try tweaking that message a little before Janus.

Of course I'm not leadership. I am UFT. I don't expect leadership to realize that either.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Exec. Board September 25 Takeaway--The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

So last Monday was a mixed bag. Let's get to the good. I was inspired by the women who spoke on child care. They managed to gather 80,000 signatures in support. Mulgrew spoke well, and said he would use that to work for us. He also said that he wouldn't settle for a crap deal like the one imposed on the non-union workers. I have the feeling that any agreement we hammer out would apply not only to us, but to other unions as well.

I was fascinated to hear that the women didn't know about Executive Board, had no idea it existed, and that there was nothing at to even suggest it was possible to visit and speak. Things must've been great over there before we not only showed up and started asking questions, but also started inviting others. Secretary Howard Schoor, last year, showed amusement over questions, making jokes about them. On September 25, his position was, "If you hate someone, have them run for Executive Board." Hilarity notwithstanding, it speaks volumes on how some in Unity feel about having to endure free speech from rank and file twice a month before climbing back onto their pedestals.

Two years ago, some woman from Unity told everyone at the DA that women on maternity leave, and everyone on leave would have to wait for the "big magical chest" to open before they got the last payment. Now, it sounds like they will get that payment this year, this year's payment next year, and everything else a year later. Did anyone know that when they voted for the 2014 contract? I sure didn't. Not only is there no maternity benefit, but there's also an effective maternity tax. Unity voted it up before even seeing the MOA, which made no mention of it anyway. (Then, in case anyone has forgotten, there are those raised medical copays no one knew about when we voted.)

Adult ed. is alive and kicking, and Mulgrew spoke in unequivocal support. Of course the adult ed. situation has been going on for some time, and we heard from them last year as well. Let's hope that a meeting with the chancellor might do something to curb the terrible leadership she imposed on these teachers. Of course, words aren't deeds so we shall see. Mulgrew stayed over a half hour, which I've never seen before. Are we moving toward a situation where the President stays for the entire meeting? Probably not. If I were him, I wouldn't want direct credit for the way Executive Board is run.

There was much talk of a District Rep. who members suggested did not rep the district all that well. Howie Schoor characterized it as personal attack. If those stories were true, I'd want to tell them too. I have heard UFT people telling others they still had a job so they were alright. I knew one who, upon a complaint from someone suffering from cancer, astutely pointed out she was alive and somehow expected her to be consoled by that. I haven't heard the outright negative statements like you're screwed or something, but I know how I'd react if people spoke to me like that. You'd probably be reading about it here.

I presented research done by Class Size Matters and based on DOE stats. Schoor questioned its validity rather than addressing it. In a way, I don't blame him. Class size is out of control, and overcrowding is epidemic. UFT can form committees and study groups from now until Doomsday and the problems won't go away. It's nice that we placed class size into the contract half a century ago, but an update is long overdue. It behooves union leadership to address this crucial issue and they are failing utterly. (Schoor also claimed never to have heard of the 2014 law requiring de Blasio to pay rent for charters, which pretty much made my eyes roll to the back of my head.)

Despite all the grievance hearings I've attended (and I attend them twice yearly), the problem is getting worse. Some of the arbitrators are troglodytes, and it's frightening to imagine the future of UFT members can be in their hands. A week ago, a $2400 a day arbitrator ruled that it was OK for principals to cut up old programs the day before last in June, stick them in mailboxes and say they'd given complete programs. That was his learned interpretation of article 7A1. Imagine what would happen if your principal asked for your lesson plan and you gave him one from last year. Meanwhile, at class size hearings, brilliant arbitrators rule that if you have oversized classes, you get one day off from C6. That way the kids in oversized classes get less tutoring, so it's a WIN-WIN!

I'm still waiting for an answer to my question from the first meeting--whether UFT supports the NYSUT opposition to APPR, the resolution for which they voted unanimously. It's odd, because I've heard from leadership how wonderful this system is, how wonderful the system before that was, and how wonderful the system before that was. It's like everything that happens is the bestest thing ever, I know we said last year's was the bestest thing ever, but this year's bestest is even bester. Teacher morale, ironically, gets lower each and every year, despite how bestest it gets. And yet they voted to oppose this bestest of the best. Go figure.

I was surprised to hear Jackie Bennett defend using 7th grade scores as baselines for 8th grade teachers. These are tests for which there is a statewide moratorium. They don't count for the 7th grade teachers either. They are basically treated as meaningless by the state, and boycotted by a whole lot of students. But there you go--Unity voted against test-based evaluation but is pretty bullish on using the most discredited tests in the state as a baseline to judge teachers.

It was pretty ugly when they moved to the resolution about resolutions. I was shocked they felt the need to further restrict us. It's not like it's a fair fight to begin with. It's not like we have anything resembling proportional representation. It's not like anyone at Adcom represents those of us who voted. It's not like we have any vote or voice in NYSUT or AFT, to whom we pay dues. You'd think they'd be happy with that. But that's not enough for them.

They vote down absolutely everything we bring just because we brought it. But that's not enough. Evidently, they need more time to try to muster arguments against things that are often not even debatable.

With one word from the dais, they all vote as they're told, and upon request, argue for it passionately. After all, there are those after school gigs and such they've literally signed a loyalty oath for. The free trips to Schenectady. All you have to do is get up and say ATRs are delighted to dump their careers immediately for 50 thousand bucks, or it's empowering when members are guilty until proven innocent at 3020a.

Unity makes the rules and may change them at will, as Howard Schoor pointed out. If I can go to a forum in which I'm outnumbered 19 to 1 twice a month, where they vote against us just for the sake of voting against us, I can adjust to whatever.

For me, it's ironic, because I just came off of bringing in a resolution through a UFT official, having it blended with their own, personally motivating the resolution and having it passed unanimously. I am more than happy to work like that. But if that's not good enough for them I can also write a resolution in ten minutes. I can make copies, leave them around the tables at 5:30 and make them vote down things that teachers want, twice monthly. I'm flexible like that. I can do other things too. I have a lot of ideas.

All I can tell you is that if I were a union head facing Janus, I would move to increase democracy rather than suppress it. I would move to heed member voice rather than acquire better earplugs so as to avoid hearing it. I would embrace activism rather than build walls around it.

Here's my tip of the week--bet dimes to dollars that come Janus, NYPD and FDNY keep a far higher percentage of members than we do.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Chapter Leader Citywide Meeting

Mulgrew wishes us a happy school year.

Moment of silence for student. CL passed this year. Bob Ostrowski passed.

New CLs stand, are applauded.

Mulgrew says we are as crazy as they are but we like it because we make a difference.

Puerto Rico is a disaster. We have donated and helped AFT. Have helped in Texas and Florida. UFT has office in Florida, and our retirees are largest local.

Puerto Rico is Katrina happening again for US citizens. UFT organized Puerto Rican teacher association. UFT organizer there now, and we worry anyone we send there will have to be saved. Are coordinating with mayor and governor. Feds should take care of PR, but we won’t leave our family members and connections in their hands.

Trying to use teacher association building as distribution point, but FEMA is doing nothing. Hospitals lack diesels for generators and President tweets they need to pay their bills. We can’t get supplies to people who need them because feds don’t do their job.

Collection is taken for Puerto Rico.

Mulgrew says second arbitration on SESIS completed. First was because people worked outside school day, and it was impossible to work during day. They had records of every minute spent on SESIS. Second was about failure to make SESIS easier to work with. Caused undue burden on those who interacted with it. Settlement based on anyone who used it. Checks coming, majority 9/29, some 10/6, retirees being worked out. Minimum requirement you have to have averaged 5 minutes per week on SESIS. Some did all SESIS work in school and took all other work home.

Lump sum payment due in October. If you received it last time, will be more, because continues to compound and gain.

Consultation—Everything this year is about consultation.

Paperwork process now empowered. Almost 400 worksites got paperwork changes because CLs followed process.

According to DOE, every admin is respective and collaborative. There are some pretty atrocious admins who swear they’re collaborative. Wants consultation agendas reported to UFT. If some things are not being resolved, you can report what’s happening at our consultations. Worked well for us because I could show chancellor principals and supes were lying to her. Records of consultations show principals knew about things.

We can’t have admin slip into bad habits. Even after consultation, some admin falls back into bad habits. They’re all on record.

Chancellor says she will get all superintendent consultation records. Important they have ours. Consultation is about school wide issues. Individual grievances should be dealt with privately.

Important issue is class sizes. Many don’t get resolved until February, March or even April. There are very few real exceptions. Only person who can deem it exception is us with them. We are using this as a primary issue. They always say they’re fixing it morning of hearing. Everyone agreed that was stupid. Chancellor says principals are to fix class size grievances. Must be agenda item in consultation.

I bet they don’t care what chancellor says and will do whatever the hell they please. Use paperwork and class sizes. If principal doesn’t schedule consultation, contact district rep.

Family leave—We’ve been trying for 2 years. Teachers started petition and I love it. I’ve made numerous proposals, but city wants to make money off of us for it. Managers in NYC “were granted” family leave. They have no union. It was forced upon them and it cost them a fortune. If they could’ve voted on it they would’ve voted it down.

We are using this to push forward. We will pay for what the benefit costs. Mayor says he wants city workers to have it. Since announcement, zero workers have gotten it, because they insist on ridiculous things where they profit from us. If they don’t settle it we will go on a campaign and push it. City talks like superintendents and principals.

Some members say they already had babies so don’t do anything. It’s called a union, not a union that only wants to do what’s in my interest and no one else’s.

Members gave up something to get class sizes in their contract. They made that decision and thank God they did. In the past, there was no enforceable grievance.

We will do this fairly, and we will not be hoodwinked. We need to take this opportunity Last mayor probably thought you have a baby and you’re fired

CTLE hours—2.5 years ago, in Albany, teachers said they wanted to be treated like professionals, fought over eval, and some people were required to do professional hours. We got number down to 100 over five years. Kicked in last year. We asked DOE to come up with a plan so everyone could get them during school year. City didn’t care. We became a certified provider.

Now, DOE is trying to work with us. They need to work with us but they know what’s best, at all times. We helped them become a certified vendor. State requires that you submit and get approval of a curriculum. You must show instructor is CTLE certified, keep attendance records. DOE knows, but says it isn’t their responsibility and they won’t do it. Fear is that four years from now there will be members who did hours with school and they won’t be able to prove they’ve met requirement. They will have summer to fix or lose certification.

We’re working, again, with DOE. We have to pay instructors. We keep accounts for members who do hours through us. We can pull up records and send them to state with them or for them. Would prefer we didn’t have to do that. We charge small fee because we pay people to work. 85 people volunteered over summer to become certified. UFT charges because they built this and had to pay instructors.

Goal is to create PD for everyone in schools. Monday PD not certified because DOE won’t do paperwork. They say they’re looking into that, and meanwhile we have to take care of member needs. Four years from now, we may need two week crash courses for 100 hours. SED doesn’t care, will blame school districts. We will do what we can, but we have to push DOE harder.

How many principals are doing meaningful PD? SED wants to know too. DOE wants no responsibility. Teachers are DOE employees and are their responsibility. CLs need to give correct info. Much bad info out there.

Teacher evaluation—our favorite topic for last 8 years—within one year of RttT, districts were using new evaluations. States needed the money. Politically, test scores were the fad. Problem I had was passing percentage. Made me nuts, because we always had standardized testing and were looked upon as horrible. Rest of state doesn’t teach same children we do. How long would some of our colleagues around state last in our classrooms?

Remember when we recruited teachers? Many couldn’t understand how children were allowed to act certain ways and left quickly.

There were no good old days of teacher evaluation. Ratings were based on how principal thought of teacher. Did nothing to help us develop.

Decided if we were going to move forward it had to be about growth—where does a child come in and where does he leave? That is what validates our work, not whether he can pass a test. Not same work teaching AP and at-risk. If it’s about test score, I’m putting myself at risk by teaching at risk.

Bloomberg presented a formula to us that said 85% was about passing a test. They didn’t know about variables for special ed. They used one variable and did not consider different disabilities. They were all business majors. We continued that fight. Test scores should not be only thing we measure. We pushed authentic student learning when Cuomo’s rating plummeted.

We do not want to go back to when principal decides if he likes me or not and gives a U or an S. We wanted something that gave a true understanding of what we do, and needed a check and balance against the principal.

If there is evidence about student learning, and principal says I’m bad, then principal’s word is not valid. City would never agree. Mentions matrix, to applause. Blogs said matrix would kill us. I read all the blogs. We have a lot of smart people. We got this into the law because we won the argument in Albany.

I know it looks a little weird, and I heard all the jokes, and said just wait until it kicks in. I know we were onto something because now they don’t want to negotiate overall rating. They want just MOTS. We say no, they must use overall rating. We are not gloating.

When this started 8 years ago, my own experience was there was no support. The only reason I’m still a teacher is because of a teacher I shared a room with. He said I needed help. We don’t have a system that helps people understand how difficult our profession is. We force administrators to do observation in a way that they have to talk about our craft. We take children at all different levels in September and we move them. It’s not about a test. I wanted to validate what we do in NYC.

DOE is way behind on how to do observations correctly. Some schools have collaborative processes.

25.88% highly effective this year. Up from 22.
71.1% effective down from 81.
2.68% developing down from 6%
.34% ineffective down from 1%

(Note--I'm told last year's figures add up to 110%. This could easily be because I copied wrong.)

Post will lose its mind, say we hoodwinked them. Some people want to go back to “good old days.” We took journey and figured out basis was student growth. For first time, NYC outperforms rest of state of NY. We’re better at it because we have more experience with children with disabilities and ELLs. Those are areas of growth. Are those kids being educated in schools that say they’re better than us?

Wrote an op-ed about Moskowitz, who says she’s 100% about everything. Her oldest class is a junior class, claiming 100%. Started with 78 kids. Now there are 18. If your school did that, you’d be looking at closure.

Teacher asks what happened to other kids, Mulgrew—we have them, and we’re happy to have them. Says this happens in every Moskowitz cohort. Compare her to our school system. You’re not 100% when you lose 75%, you’re 25%.

Constitutional Convention—Vote No. Tells us take bumper magnets. Asks about lawn signs. Wants pictures of members with lawn signs.

Did town hall at church, standing room only, people screamed liar. This is not about greater voting rights, or more ethics. We have ways to do that without it. Everything we do have is in jeopardy if we get this. People have spent tens of millions of dollars against us. They’ve come after us everywhere. Do you think they’re going to preserve the greenlands, strengthen social safety net?

They will attack pensions.  There will be millions against us. Proud to say I’m protecting pensions. Not something we are given, but something we earned. In NY every worker has a right to unionize and collectively bargain.

Only 17% of people voted in primary.

Monday SCOTUS goes into session. They will be hearing JANUS, which will make US “right to work” country. Has happened in other states. Takes away ability to get decent working conditions and pay. Only reason we have what we do is because of strength of union. In every right to work state more and more is being taken away. Their conditions are getting worse. Paying more for health care and getting less services. We could lose ability to advocate for public education.

We are now outperforming state, grad rate higher, dropout rate lower.

CC first, then Janus. Let’s use tools—paperwork. Let’s hold principal’s feet to fire in consultation. Part of agreement. Don’t care about personality.

Last, we have many brand new teachers. We had lowest number of vacancies. You have to take them, hold them, squeeze them and love them. We have new teacher program. Came in during summer. Got 1500, need to find 3000 more. They need help with the profession. Bring to borough offices. We will help.

Longest report I will give this year, next DA October. Wear pink.

Mulgrew says we raised over $5,000 for Puerto Rico.

Q—Can we wear black November 7th?

M—What if we win? Let’s come up with a color.

Q—My chapter says since duties, responsibilities growing online it’s adding work. Would it be possible to bargain for two prep periods.

M—I’m game for it. I’ll ask for three. I agree. Certain schools have cracked code and made life easier.

Q—Our school’s under massive construction, draping over building. With heat, has been horrendous. I know de B spoke about AC. What about electrical work required?

M—We’re working with city council. This is negotiations. We posed this to them. I said schools first, not DOE offices.

Q—We now have literacy coaches, but nothing on their responsibilities, especially if they consider themselves admin.

M—They are not administrators. We’ve had numerous attempts by admin to use them that way.

Q—English teachers want to know why their choice is algebra Regents when they teach English.

M—Talk to Jackie Bennett. We track this every year. We look at how MOSL decisions affect final ratings. Schools that choose only one measure probably making mistake.

Q—Rumor is CC is on back of ballot and if you don’t check it’s automatic yes.

M—Not happening. It’s a rumor. Prop one is on back of ballot.

Q—Any prospects on better parking? Permits good for only certain spots.

M—Howie Schoor will negotiate with DOT. Post lost their minds over permits. Was because of legal action taken against city. They only have to honor designated parking. We don’t have enough. Some schools have none. Only way to get more parking is through City Council and DOT. People in neighborhoods don’t like people getting more parking.

Q—When Sandy hit, was huge increase, 8% in school population. Many displaced families. Given hurricane season we may see influx from Texas, Florida, PR.. Can we lobby to push back census, so we don’t eat costs after 10/31?

M—We expect large # from PR to NYC. We need to put this on the table right now. I will make sure we start doing that.

Q—something about CTLE.

M—We’ve given more CTLE hours than anyone, and our largest group is paras. We’re creating more para-centered PD. We’re trying to help them because they don’t have time.

Wishes us great school year.

One Thing After Another

My friend teaches social studies. He's not having the best of years. For one thing, he has a class of 41. He teaches them in a non-air-conditioned classroom. I've also been teaching in one of those. It's less than optimal on humid 96-degree days like those we've been having lately. This year I don't personally have any oversized classes, but getting the attention of dozens of teenagers in the miserable heat is challenging. To be honest, it's challenging for me to do my job at all like that.

I mean, this is 2017 and the DOE still has something called "air-conditioning season." I don't remember when it begins and ends, but I do remember it's about arbitrary dates rather than actual weather conditions. When you work for the DOE, weather conditions can be the least of your concerns.

41 students is a lot. As if that weren't enough, my friend's class is an ICT class. That means it's a mix of general and special ed., and of course he has a co-teacher to support the special ed. students. There's a max of 12 in an ICT class, but of course his has 14. He also has two ELLs in the room, so there's an ESL teacher in there to support them on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That way the school can say those two kids are served in English, despite the fact that they have exactly the same amount of time to learn about the Declaration of Independence as the American kids. Except the whole Tuesday-Thursday thing means they aren't really being served, even under the ridiculous Part 154 regs. Correction--my friend tells me an ESL teacher sitting in the class two days a week is sufficient under Part 154. Never mind that the students gave up an ESL class for that and instead are learning nothing whatsoever

But hey, if that school can get away with serving ELLs half the time they're required to, even though the fact is they aren't served at all, more power to them. I mean, really, does anyone think an ESL teacher lurking about is gonna make kids who don't speak English keep up with those who do? Only the geniuses in Albany are smart enough to do that.

My friend also complains about the matrix. He says the teachers in his school are frustrated with it. They tell the chapter leader, "You figure this stuff out and get back to us." I'm a little surprised by that. To tell you the truth, after years of rolling evaluation systems, the matrix is the first thing I've ever understood. I mean, you get a chart, your here on this axis, there on another, you point your finger, and there you are. Does this indicate validity? Who knows? But at least you kind of know where you stand, on the chart at least.

A lot of his friends don't care that the chart is superficially comprehensible. For one thing, they probably haven't looked closely enough to notice. They look at the rating and if it's effective or higher, they praise Jesus and move on. One more year without freaking out over being fired for no reason. One more year without an oppressive TIP plan in which I have to sit with people who rated me poorly for no reason and jump through hoops for them. And that's assuming they know the consequences of unfavorable ratings, which who knows whether they do?

Each year there's a new rating system. Each year UFT leadership tells us it's the bestest thing ever. Yes, last year's program was also the bestest thing ever, but now we've improved it. And leadership wonders why their message doesn't resonate. The problem is this--if last year's system was crap, and the year before's system was crap, and you were over the moon with both, it doesn't follow that we're gonna jump up and down over this year's system.

Mulgrew spoke well at the Executive Board the other night. This notwithstanding, when he praises the "growth" section of the rating, neither I nor any working teacher has the remotest notion what it means. We're looking at some test score compared to some other test score by a computer. Even when you look at the extended explanation you have no idea what the hell it means.

In my school, ratings were more or less the same in MOSL for all teachers until this year. Now it's different. If you score 15 you are effective. If you score 14 you are developing, and therefore you suck. I know, leadership will say developing doesn't suck, but teachers I know who get that score don't see it that way. Fortunately, in my building most people who got that were brought up by supervisor ratings. But what if you're in a school or system dominated by insane supervisors? Sit at the Exec. Board a few times and you'll hear about them.

When change comes every year we become wary. Sometimes it's change for change's sake, which is one of the worst rationales of which I can conceive. Other times you see Andrew Cuomo on TV saying we need change because the current system, the one I advocated and championed, is "baloney." Why? Because not enough teachers were fired. We need a system that will fire more teachers, he suggests, and it's in the pages of every paper and on every nightly news broadcast.

And as UFT leadership tells us how wonderful that system is, they marvel that we don't buy it without question. So what do they do?

The other day at the Executive Board, leadership and their Unity ducklings rubber-stamped a resolution to restrict resolutions. Maybe that will make them go away. What's going to go away, if they aren't careful, is the United Federation of Teachers.

Because ironically, though they expect us to casually deal with regular and radical change, they can't deal with any whatsoever.

Monday, September 25, 2017

UFT Executive Board September 25, 2017--We Support Adult Ed., Maternity Leave, Puerto Rico, Florida, and Texas. Overcrowding? Class Sizes? Democracy? Meh.

Secretary Howard Schoor welcomes us.

Betty ?—Adult Ed. ex CL—speaks of fight in adult ed., says union has given good attention. Says 12 teachers who were pushed out have testified, urges leaders to watch video. Says teachers were magnificent. Says Danny Drumm watched and complimented teachers. Says Sterling Roberson wants more input from adult ed. teachers and that is a very welcome statement.

Reads statement from 1992 as example of participating chapter, asks for return to that. Thanks Mulgrew for involvement. Says he listens.

Lisa Miller—discontinued in 2016. Says UFT failed to address issues. Says concerns were responded with “So what. YOu’re getting a paycheck” Says grievances were discouraged. Says help was not forthcoming. Says UFT DR defended U ratings. Says DR told her she was done, offered no help. U ratings have been overturned, but DR did not inform members of regs. Says member concerns were neglected.

Schoor asks her to stop, characterizes her as giving personal attacks, says fallures are all of ours. Unity applauds.

Nancy Simon
—Recently retired. Wants to speak of dire situation of adult ed, teachers. Speaks of Supe. Rosemarie Mills. Says U ratings over four years are terrible. Says 15-16 numbers are unavailable, FOI request denied. Pattern increased each year. K-12 1% in recent years. Adult ed—7, 9, unavailable, 14%. Unconfirmed source says pre-Mills U rating was 2%. Asks that union increase attention to end hostile and unfair practices.

Schoor—second report in a row from adult ed.

Emily James and Susan Hinton
—Brooklyn Prep HS—Began petition about maternity leave

6:15—Mulgrew arrives

-80K signatures. 2012—financial downfall involved with pregnancy. Story not unique. Many women have gone through this. Some now scared to start family. Some left profession because they could not fit motherhood in. 684 pages of comments. Shouldn’t be choice between teaching and motherhood. Many don’t have enough days to cover. Having baby not sickness. Days shouldn’t be used for this.

Also gender inequality. Men retire with more days than women. Babies don’t sleep. Penalizing mothers for when they or babies are sick is not bad just for moms, but for all. We dedicate lives to caring for children, and when we want to care for our own no one is there for us.

Babies benefit immensely from having their moms with them. Let’s not let moms, babies or anyone down. We are 80K strong.

Susan Hinton—We started last May, when UFT spoke of parking permits. This was not top of our list. Union needs to get serious, actively seek out input. We don’t know what’s happening. We need paid parental leave for all parents. Years have gone by, we could’ve negotiated, UFT needs to step up. We can’t have people going right back to work. Every day we wait is a bad deal.

We know it’s complicated, we know it takes sacrifice. We are willing to give something up. I’m not having any more kids, but I’m willing to give up. Not surprised UFT doesn’t know how important it is. UFT has never asked. Didn’t even know these meetings happened until last week.
My union doesn’t know what my interests are. We want three things.

We want this on agenda at next meeting.
We want it on website so members know.
We need to know what members want. UFT should survey. I’ve never seen one.

We feel like there’s little effort. Maybe you’re doing something, but we don’t know what. Coming back in two weeks to check.

Schoor—Thanks them for coming.


President’s Report—-

Mulgrew—Thanks teachers for petition. Made sure it got to city hall. Have given city numerous proposals. Mayor said he would make sure city had it. Not one city unionized employee had it. Those who do paid too much. Says city profits off their adding members to family.

Says that’s what they want from us. Agrees with NY Post. Says OLR not being truthful. Will take petition. Says they will figure it out. Will not allow them to do what happened to city managers. Like paying $75 for a Big Mac. Mayor said two years ago he wanted this. No one has it. City always wants more. Says union believes in this. Looks forward to this. OLR now says it will equalize, but is profiting from managers. We analyzed it. Were happy. UFT has created benefits from Welfare Fund. Mayor’s agencies have dropped the ball. We will move forward, emphatic thanks for petitions. Will get it done one way or other.

We won’t agree to bad terms. Will not be fleeced.

Adult ed—Bad rating numbers way up. We will meet next week. They say these people did this, but problem is lack of leadership. We understand professions change. When you come in and say you’re all horrible and we have to change all programs it won’t work. You disrespect people. You don’t know what happened before. Maybe teachers were also frustrated.

You didn’t offer to help. They send in morons who call everything horrible and promise great changes. They need to be stopped. This has boiled all the way up. Good chancellor wants meeting. We want to be respectful. We know she now understands there is issue with leadership. We’ve had some success and will keep fighting for individuals.

We are here to help them make this best program in country, but can’t do it with current leadership.

Hurricanes—Asks nurses to stand. Thanks them for what they do in Florida. They go to disaster zones, volunteer.

Thanks Evelyn de Jesus for organizing teacher in PR. Says they are sending things and people there. Says we need places before we send more people, or they will need rescue.

Sept. 29—SESIS check coming. First arb. about out of workday. Had every minute anyone logged on. Second was based on promised improvements. Was part of arbitration, and didn’t happen. This was about frustration and anger of people dealing with it. Will be based on how much time you spent on SESIS. Some people had to do other work at home.

QBANK 10/6, will be other dates.
We will do report Wed. about ratings. System has gotten better in favor of teacher. NY Post will write about how we scammed system. It had to be about student growth. We always heard about dropouts and college readiness. Now we measure growth. Different from Bloomberg’s formula. DOE didn’t know there were different kinds of special ed.

Says we outgrow everyone. Largest number of children with greatest challenges. Now we say we outperform everyone. Thanks us. Asks about lawn signs.

Mulgrew leaves 6:46

LeRoy Barr—Speaks about events—I miss first few minutes. Adds to Mulgrew’s comments. Wed. CL meeting. Oct. 14 ELL symposium. 10/16 EB. 28—CL training.


Jonathan Halabi
New Action—For evaluations, is it a deal with state not to use 3-8 tests? If city uses 8 as baseline, isn’t that a problem?

Jackie Bennet
—Yes, continuing moratorium, but they are used in baselines. No matter what DOE puts in baseline, fairest thing is something graded across system. Fair because not based on passing rates, but similarity. Fairest single thing, because compared to students across city is state tests.

Mike SchirzerMORE—Asks about retro pay for people on maternity leave. Getting different messages from HR and borough offices.

Howie Schoor
—lump sum payments, not retro pay.

Adam Ross
—If you were on unpaid leave for last lump sum payment and are active now, You will get first lump sum payment and will be one year behind. All payments one year later.

Arthur Goldstein
MORE—Class Size Matters reports that over 550,000 students, more than half of the children we serve, are studying under overcrowded conditions. I know this well because in my school, designed to serve 2400, we are closer to 4700.

I also understand that between 2004 and 2013 Bloomberg claimed to have created 100,000 net seats. However, about 55,000 of those recreated seats that he’d lost, and almost all of the remaining ones went to charters. NYC public schoolchildren saw a real net gain of only about 2,300 seats.

DOE used to report historic and target rates of utilization. In this way we were able to analyze specific trends. However, the Blue Book now reports only the target formula. We no longer know how many seats are gained or lost. We also don’t know how many seats go to charters in lieu of public school students.

What are we going to do to ensure the students we serve have sufficient space to learn? I see Moskowitz and her BFFs in the press every day. Why aren’t we demanding the same or more than she is? Why aren’t I reading that as Eva demands space, more than half of our students haven’t got it?

Finally, could this board please have regular reports on what strategies we are using to alleviate overcrowding and reduce class size, and what progress we are making toward those goals?

Howie Schoor
—Not sure numbers you’re quoting are accurate. We will report next time.

We then discussed how de Blasio had to pay for charters as a result of a 2014 law.  Schoor says he has never heard of it.

Marcus McArthurMORE— Asks about special ed. Says his school has been dancing back and forth about whether they’d be compensated for SESIS work. We do about 30 IEPs each a year. Takes a lot of time. Work has to be done in isolation. What can we tell admin about giving us enough time to complete work or pay us?

Carmen Alvarez—Always have been issues. Typical DOE answer is you need to give up other things if you want more time for IEPs. We used to have programs and principals would give money. Now we have SESIS. Put work outside of work day.

Group impacted most was speech, OT, PT, had to enter notes every day. For teachers, you have PD time. This is time for teachers to input in SESIS. Will be admin and prep period. Don’t do all IEPs in June. Spread them out. Rolling annual review for a reason. Difficult in HS, but there are a lot of committees that can be used to negotiate time. Should have time during work day for you to enter info.

I will help. Reach out to me.

Howie Schoor—We do not have any agreement for payment going forward.

Report from districts

Serbia Silva
—E. Harlem impacted by DACA repeal. We will have forum tomorrow at five. Will raffle 50 free legal consultations. 10/15 Making Strides Walk. Pink day.

Karen Allford—Disaster relief—just as many requests as we have, we have volunteers. Not enough infrastructure for us to send people but we are working on it. Have collected 26K for Texas and Florida. Last Friday we started collecting and now have 10K for Puerto Rico.

LeRoy Barr
—Addendum—with all summer meetings we had over adult ed., Patty Christino sat by my side. I work with a lot of people. People don’t see all the work we do. Every opportunity we have to lift up member work—I want to celebrate her work.

Priscilla Castro
introduces new DR David Dorga

Legislative report—

Paul Egan—Speaks of football, locking arms and kneeling—

Says there are lawn signs, asks us to use them. Will have car magnets.

Primary election—21 races, won 18. All incumbents won. That’s reality of NY. Turnout was 14%. That’s why they win. 86% of people couldn’t be bothered. Wants message out. Doesn’t want to hear crap from anyone if CC gets through because of low figures. NYC will get turnout because of mayoral race. No excuses. We know who votes. We get who we get because no one gives a damn. This really really matters.

We have enough density to elect all 51 members of city council if we turn out and vote. We need to find people who want to run. There will be 43 open seats. Let’s find 43 people, win 26.

Vote November 7th.

George Altomare—In Oct. Italian American Culture and History Month. We have posters. We have a magazine with events. When we in UFT go anywhere people listen. Says vote no.

LeRoy Barr—vacancies on Exec. Board—announcing tonight. 4 at large, two elementary. Nominations next meeting.

A resolution is introduced demanding that any resolutions be placed on tables 30 minutes before meeting.

Vince Gagli—too often those of us who want to deliberate don’t get opportunity

Arthur GoldsteinMORE—I am flattered that the 95 of you are so confounded by the seven of us that you need to curtail the few privileges we enjoy. I regret you are unable to muster persuasive responses when we raise resolutions. We are prohibited from electing our own Vice President, and this is just one more example of anti-democracy. Resolutions are regularly handed out on the spot at the DA and there are far fewer people here. This is not the way to go in the age of Janus.

Sterling Roberson—Idea is to ensure that the process in which we collaborate, provide common ground, get things done collectively. Last minute does not give people opportunity to discuss at length, undermines way for us to be effective. supports.

Jonathan Halabi
New Action— accepting this is good faith. Hopes everyone here gets message from this.

Mike SchirtzerMORE—Goes against Robert’s Rules. Against rules of democracy.

 Schoor—body has right to amend rules as it sees fit.

Schirtzer—We don’t make anti-union anti teacher resolutions. We get here late.

Howie Schoor—We are lenient.

Schirtzer—In schools it’s tough.

Carmen Alvarez—Calls question

Passes on party lines

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Public Schools Explode as Politicians Sell Out to Moskowitz

My jaw falls to the floor every time I read of the demands of the Moskowitz Brigade. Thousands of letters are directed at Mayor Bill de Blasio because Moskowitz needs more space. Moskowitz just wrote a book trashing people who dared disagree with the Moskowitz Mission. Her supporters, so-called Families for Excellent Schools, spout racist comments and commit acts that are ethically dubious, at best, and that means nothing.

In fact, 550,000 students in NYC attend school under overcrowded conditions. I don't have to look far to see how that works. My home school runs at 200% capacity and currently holds almost 4700 students, more than ever. The city had an agreement with us that we made eight years ago and violates it with abandon. We were supposed to carefully check the credentials of students applying to our bursting-at-the-seams school, but now the city lets anyone with an affidavit saying they live there attend.

What does that mean for us and the students attending our school? For one thing, it means chronically oversized classes. I have to go twice a year to protest them, but the UFT Contract has holes in it so big a Mac Truck could drive through them. How long do classes remain oversized? In our school, forever.

The last time I counted, there were 101 oversized classes in my school. That's better than the 260 I counted the previous week, but far from what we're allowed. That number, in case I haven't been clear, is zero. That's the number at which we serve students best. That's the number at which teachers perform the best they can under our agreement.

We have a cafeteria that's standing room only. We have students sitting on filthy mats instead of real tables. I have never seen our student cafeteria so overcrowded. Our students now get gym only on alternating days. And by "gym," I don't mean gymnasium. A whole lot of our students are scheduled outside. This means that the two days a week they are scheduled for gym are subject to weather conditions. Raining? Too bad for you. Freezing? Your "gym" is closed.

Last September some moron arbitrator ruled that teachers in my school with oversized classes could get one day off from their building assignment. DOE lawyers and administrators probably did a happy dance. They could have as many oversized classes as they liked and paid nothing for it. And hey, if the oversized classroom teachers were special ed., they still had to write their IEPs. Maybe their C6 was tutoring. What a great idea to offer even less support to students already in oversized classes. That arbitrator really earned that $1600 a day.

Moskowitz Academies don't need no stinking rules. You want them to sign some agreement before they run pre-K. Screw you. We'll take the money, but we don't follow no rules. You think it's abusive when we make students pee their pants doing test prep? Go to hell, Chancellor's regulations don't apply to us. You don't like racist comments from our leaders? Piss off. Rules are for the little people.

How do they get away with this? Bill de Blasio ran as the anti-Bloomberg. But charters give millions to pols, including Governor Andrew Cuomo. In 2014, bought-and-paid-for pols made a law that charters could not only expand as much as they wanted, but also the city would be compelled to pay their rent. You see, charters can pay Moskowitz half a million a year, they can raise millions from gazillionaires, they can move entire networks to Albany on school days, they can make up their own rules, but they can't pay rent. That's beyond the pale.

Due to Cuomo's insane law, about which I don't recall UFT leadership raising a peep at the time, Eva can do any damn thing she wants. Meanwhile, my students are stuck learning outside, in closets, in bizarre spaces, and who knows what comes next. Until each and every public school student is taken care of, Moskowitz ought not to get another dime.

Of course I don't write the rules. The people who do are paid off by Eva's BFFs. That's what we call democracy in America circa 2017.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Ethics Shmethics and the Charter School Biz

Over at reformy Chalkbeat, it's all Moskowitz, all the time. So when Moskowitz Academy leaders claim they aren't accountable for the offensive comments of their funders, you find out about it right away. Charters love to refer to themselves as "public charter schools" even though they aren't subject to, you know, public accountability or rules or laws. When Eva faced an agreement to license pre-K, rather than sign it, she fought it until she didn't have to follow it.

Actually, the only time charters are public is when it comes time to pay for them. If you or I were to test-prep kids until they peed their pants, we'd likely be subject to chancellor's regulations over corporal punishment. If it were your kid or mine, maybe we'd be at the school complaining. The teacher who let it happen at a public school would face a letter to file or 3020a. Over at Eva's place, maybe the teacher would get a promotion and the kid would make the "got to go" list.

Hey, if Moskowitz Academies want people who make offensive racial statements to run the company, that's their prerogative. The mayor can complain all he wants, but they're answerable to no one. Racism? Give me a break. We're a private company and we do any goshdarn thing we please.

Over in Massachusetts there's even more fun brewing. Ever wonder where so-called Families for Excellent Schools gets all that money to pay people to trash us in the media? It's a mystery, right? Well, the Boston Globe has a little piece of the story:

When Paul Sagan, chairman of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, faced calls for his resignation last September after it was revealed that he had donated $100,000 to a ballot campaign pushing the expansion of charter schools, Governor Charlie Baker leapt to his defense, calling it a “nothing burger.”
But at the time, Sagan was keeping a secret from the public: A month earlier he had donated nearly $500,000 to the nonprofit Families for Excellent Schools — Advocacy, which was quietly soliciting donations and then funneling them to the ballot campaign.

You see how that works? You're ostensibly a public servant, but since you're also a gazillionaire, you back privatizing public schools. After all, where's the profit in public schools? Can you open up a public school and pay the likes of Eva Moskowitz a half million a year? Can Betsy DeVos and her BFFs make money off of public schools? Nah.

So what if Sagan hid a half a million bucks. It was for charter schools, and rules don't apply to charter schools. Rules are for public schools. Except, of course, when it comes to rules about taking money. Then, charter schools are public schools with their hand out. Also, when they're criticized for anything whatsoever, they're public schools. You see how that works?

Wonder what's gonna happen to Sagan. I expect what will happen is less than what would happen to you or me if we took a $25 gift from one of our students.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sanders Lite Cooks Up a New Position

In an effort to reframe his image, Andy Cuomo is backing single payer health care. During the last year or two, Governor Andy has been edging back from the corporate scumbag persona he's been cultivating ever since he first ran for Governor. You'll recall that he ran on a platform of going after unions. It was a priority of his to make sure that working people didn't end up making too much money. You can take stands like that when you're running against a frothing at the mouth lunatic like Carl Paladino.

Andy's father Mario was famous for taking a principled stand against the death penalty. New Yorkers got tired of that and swept him out of office in favor of George Pataki. Andy took a different tack when he came in and took a principled stand against a millionaire's tax. After all, someone has to stand up for all those poor millionaires who don't feel like contributing to the public good. Of course, as Andy put his finger up to the wind to see which way it's blowing, his opinion has shifted. Because what are principles if you can't adjust them to suit the situation?

As for education, Andy Cuomo always knew what side his bread was buttered on. When the suitcases of cash came in from the various astroturf groups, Andy took his cue and stood with Moskowitz at some rally or other. After all, with all that money, they must be doing something right. And everyone knows it's expensive to buy yourself another term as governor. So you do what you have to do.

Another thing readers of this blog will remember Cuomo for is the evaluation system we all endure. Now there are two versions of this system. The first, of course, was the one Cuomo brought forth when Bloomberg was pushing a bill to kill teacher seniority in NYC. This was sponsored by our much-beloved Senator Flanagan, who felt it was important to stop this scourge. Not in his district, of course, because he needs votes out there. Cuomo came riding to our rescue, with the promise that this system would fire a whole bunch of teachers anyway.

Of course that didn't work out the way Andy had hoped. Not enough teachers got fired, and it's well-known that the only way to improve the world is to fire a bunch of teachers. I mean, who the hell do they think they are going out day after day and trying to help children? In America, we have no respect for people who not only do that, but also have the audacity to want to be paid for it. For goodness sake, they're the reason those millionaires have to pay taxes, and it's an outrage to take money from them. After all, they're very sensitive, and if you touch them they might break.

So Andy called it "baloney" and sought a more vindictive approach. Because he was a "student lobbyist" and what student doesn't want to see teachers fired? But much to the disappointment of the New York Post editorial staff, the wind shifted and Cuomo stopped trashing teachers as much. UFT leadership, for my money, was too cozy with him the last time he ran. We declined to support Zephyr Teachout in her twin attempts to oppose him.

More recently, Cuomo has backed off from reforminess. The wind shifted, and it's likely UFT and NYSUT will support his next bid. With Cuomo's limited free college program, and with his support for universal health care, he's positioning himself for a 2020 presidential bid. UFT leadership doesn't ask for my advice, but here it is nonethless--Cuomo has no moral center. He'll take any position that's convenient.

I'm glad he's pulled back from overt hostility, but I know he sways any way the wind blows. Counting on Cuomo is folly. He'll smile to our faces and stab us in the back in a New York minute. Trust him as far as you can throw him, or face the consequences.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Reformy Chalkbeat Peddles the Moskowitz Book

A few years ago, I used to write for Chalkbeat, nee Gotham Schools. I wrote a review of Diane Ravitch's book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, which I loved. There was a very lively comment section, and for reasons not shared with me, Chalkbeat deleted it. I recall that UFT employee Peter Goodman counseled me in the comments that there could be repercussions for expressing myself. I'm a chapter leader, and I advise people all the time. I'm trying to think of a circumstance under which I'd do that in a public forum, and my mind is a blank.

Someone else questioned why the post went up when it did. Evidently it was during school hours. Someone from Chalkbeat had to explain that they put up the posts, not the guest writers. I was, of course, let go by Chalkbeat when my point of view failed to jibe with their mission, ostensibly to show all points of view without bias. You know, Fair and Balanced. Except the pro-teacher, pro-public education point of view, which somehow didn't fit. Go figure.

When Diane Ravitch wrote a book, they allowed me, a guest, to review it. But when Eva Moskowitz wrote a book, they get one of their paid writers to do a feature. After all, Ravitch is only the most outspoken and thoughtful living advocate of public education, so dump her on one of the guests. Moskowitz is a charter chain mogul, and thus merits Chalkbeat's undivided attention.

It's all about values. What do we learn about the Moskowitz book?

Moskowitz really wants you to know she’s human.
Well, that's illuminating. It never occurred to me to point out that Ravitch was human. I've seen her speak several times, and she's never made a big deal about it, so I didn't either. I mean, don't get me wrong, I adore animals. I'm particularly fond of dogs. Nonetheless, I've known very few who could write books. There is this extraordinary canine named Thor Michaelson who runs a spirited campaign against vacuums, but even Michaelson has yet to paw his autobiography. When he does,
maybe I'll write, "Michaelson really wants you to know he's a dog."

Of course, this could be figurative. It could just be that she wants to come off as less cold and calculating. I mean, when you let kids pee their pants, when you drag your students, their parents and your staff to Albany to campaign for your own cause, when you have a privileged relationship with a reformy chancellor, when you make lists of students who've "got to go," you may get, you know, an unfavorable rep. Maybe she wants you to know she's human, but let's face it, a dog wouldn't do any of those things. Maybe being human is nothing to boast about after all. In any case, you won't be reading about those things in reformy Chalkbeat. Instead, you'll read that, "Chalkbeat tried to understand why Moskowitz was such a lightning rod." This notwithstanding, it might be obvious to those who get their information from places other than Chalkbeat.

After reading a story by Juan Gonzalez, instead of asking, "Holy crap, how does she get away with this?" reformy Chalkbeat wonders why everyone is ganging up on poor Eva Moskowitz. That's the kind of coverage you get when Gates and Walmart subsidize the education press. You get "theories" as to why Moskowitz might be a controversial figure.

Look, I'm sure if I wrote a book about myself, I'd try to make myself look good too. But I'm just a lowly public school teacher, not a charter school mogul. That's why reformy Chalkbeat would never focus on the likes of me. Or you. Or the overwhelming majority of students who we, not Eva Moskowitz, serve.

What's next for Eva Moskowitz? Reformy minds want to know, and Reformy Chalkbeat is more than happy to oblige.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Open Up Another Can of Teachers

Chaz has a great piece pointing out the hypocrisy of the NY Post editorial board, which cries bloody murder when teacher certification requirements are reduced, but also supports charter schools who basically want to hire just about anybody. You know, it's too inconvenient to run around looking for certified teachers, so basically let us certify anyone we feel like.

I read that over at Eva's place teachers don't write lesson plans. They have them, they give them to you, and you do any goshdarn thing they tell you to. There's no scrambling for the right textbook. There's no worrying whether you should skip this part or emphasize that. You just look at what day it is and do whatever the hell they tell you to do. Teacher voice? Give me a break.

And hey, if that's not enough, the gazillionaire who runs Netflix wants to just stick every kid in front of a computer, and expand charter schools like they've never been expanded before. He uses New Orleans as a model, where 90% are charterized. I'm surprised it isn't 100. So basically, teachers become non-unionized, at-will employees doing any damn thing they're told. That's a great role model for our children, of course, if you want them to become non-unionized, at-will employees doing any damn thing they're told.

I think this is one of the last really good jobs there is. It's not because the pay is fabulous or the hours are short. Like a whole lot of my colleagues, I work well beyond what the clock requires. Honestly, though, the day they tell me they have scripted lesson plans for me to follow will probably be the day I retire. Let them teach a monkey to read and get him to do the job. A big plus would be they could pay him in bananas.

There's this steady drip, drip as teachers become less teachers and more technicians. Sit the kid in front of the computer and have the computer decide what chapter she's on or what question she gets to answer. That way she'll get a better score on the test that measures the questions the computer has decided to ask. And sure, it's not exactly fun to learn that way, but it's probably not fun working at Walmart either. The people who run Walmart probably fund all this reforminess for that very reason.

And while this wave has not yet enveloped NYC public schools as a whole, there are plenty of principals obsessing over it. After all, the principals get rated too. In case you're wondering why you're assigned to some teacher team, New York City has decided that teacher teams are the bestest thing since sliced bread, and that your principal sucks if your school hasn't got them.

In our school, we gave up one day of C6 for teacher team, and in exchange we got one day back for teacher-directed Other Professional Work. It seemed a fair exchange, and our members voted for it overwhelmingly as part of an SBO. In other schools with weak or no union presence the principal just says, "Everyone is doing a teacher team one period a day," and that's pretty much it, And in charters? Hey, when Eva comes in and says everyone is going on a bus to Albany tomorrow you don't bring up your carsickness. You ask Eva for permission to use the bathroom on the coach bus while the kids do homework. Or maybe you puke on the floor, just as the kids pee their pants.

Who knows?

Actually we should have high standards for our teachers. If we don't, it means we don't have high standards for our children either. We also need to preserve this profession as one of people serving people. I don't want to place kids in little cubicles with computers working out little problems to prepare them for tests. It's not my job to teach them how to adapt to cubicles. I already have a job. I complain an awful lot, but never about actual teaching, and never about the kids I serve.

We need to model a better way for children. We do that not by making them little tin soldiers, and certainly not by being bigger tin soldiers ourselves.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

A Study in Stupid

There's an NPR piece about how Spanish speakers take longer to learn English than their Chinese counterparts. It's one of the stupidest things I've ever read. I've been working as a New York City teacher for over thirty years, and I've read more memos from more administrators than I can count, so that's saying something.

For one thing, it's based completely on test scores. To believe this, you'd have to assume that the scores are valid. That's a big ask. Here in NY, we have a test called the NYSESLAT. I was teaching an advanced class, determined by test scores, and the first thing I did was give a diagnostic essay. I did not make the students read a non-fiction passage about different types of cement and have them respond via multiple choice answers. I gave them something much simpler. I told them to write about what they did during summer break, or indeed anything else they wanted to write about.

Half of my students failed to use past tense even once. This is a distinct drawback when recounting a story. Yet somehow the very expensive NYSESLAT did not detect it. A whole lot of them neglected subject-verb agreement, a common thing among ELLs. After all, why bother with that little s marker when you only need it with third person? These things are pretty noticeable in writing, though, and if you did these things in a college entrance essay, I could easily imagine your getting bounced to remedial classes.

Several of my students could not produce more than two sentences. Yet they were on the cusp of proficiency, according to these tests, presumably created by experts. My improvised diagnostic says they were wrong. I also spoke with the students, and was not persuaded they'd hit any level resembling advanced. Of course, NY State doesn't say advanced. They say, "transitioning," or "expanding," for reasons that elude me utterly. But when you place these "transitioning" students in advanced classes, they're likely to lose opportunities to practice the basic English conventions they'll need to write successfully in college.

It's too bad, because we ESL teachers could certainly teach that stuff if students were placed properly, and if CR Part 154 hadn't reduced us to assistant teachers. Hey, it's not my fault if those kids are reading To Kill a Mockingbird and I'm just standing around helping with the impossible vocabulary.

Now the study does mention poverty, and that's certainly a factor in academic achievement or lack thereof. But to attribute lack of academic achievement to a particular language is nothing but bigotry and ignorance. If I've learned one thing from decades of teaching ESL, it's that no stereotype is valid. I've seen members of every group excel, and I've seen members of every group fail. I've seen ambition and laziness, excellence and failure in every group I've served.

It's offensive and idiotic to equate achievement with language. It not only assumes validity in tests that are likely total crap, but also falsely attributes its scores, low, high, or whatever, to language spoken. This is the kind of crap I expect to see on Fox and Friends. It's sorely disappointing to find it on NPR.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Executive Board Takeaway, September 11, 2017

As you can see from my headline, I was very happy we were able to agree on supporting DACA. As an ESL teacher, I'm highly prejudiced in favor of newcomers. As an American, I'm well aware that our country is mostly made of newcomers, and that diversity is a huge part of what's good about us. Of course, the worst thing about us is Donald Trump, a national disgrace, and you never know just what awful thing he's gonna try next until he up and does it. Trump often says he has sympathy for dreamers, but as Norm Scott always says, "Watch what they do, not what they say."

What he's done is an abomination. It turned out that we and Unity had the same thought at the same time, and the resolution we passed used wording from both. Hopefully we'll be able to do more things like that.

Then, of course, there are differences. We proposed letting prospective teachers know about turnover rates in schools. That's an important factor, and in fact we heard firsthand about a school whose turnover reached 85%. Several Unity voices opposed it, including LeRoy Barr. Barr said that this was not the only factor we had to consider. If that's the case, I'm confident that my high school Exec. Board colleagues would be happy to release all relevant data.

This notwithstanding, an 85% turnover rates suggests to me, at least, that holy crap something is very wrong indeed. I wouldn't want to work there on a bet. We often criticize charters with high turnover rates. If Moskowitz Academies are so fabulous and wonderful, and little Disney birds are tweeting sweet songs as the kids pee their pants, why do teachers leave in such great numbers? Isn't there something wrong if a public school does even worse than a Moskowitz Academy? And if there is some great rationale why the school is worth working in even though 85% of the staff didn't think so, shouldn't we know what it is?

I was pretty surprised to see NYSUT finally taking an unequivocal stand against APPR. I have heard no such talk from UFT leadership. I know that they attend the NYSUT conventions, I know that they have the very largest voting bloc in NYSUT, and I find it extremely hard to believe that NYSUT could pass resolutions to that effect without UFT support. In fact, if there were any doubt, the article says the resolutions were "approved unanimously."

Yet when I asked whether or not UFT supported these positions I could not get a straight answer. They'll get back to me, they said. For my money, the worst part of APPR is the possibility that teachers have the burden of proof on them at 3020a. In our justice system, you're innocent until proven guilty. Thus, the mind boggles as to why, when teachers are twice rated ineffective, likely as not on junk science, they are compelled to prove they are not guilty. Ask a lawyer how easy that is. Ask Shari Lederman how valid those scores are. Ask Stacy Isaacson.

It would certainly be better to work out something that's, you know, not insane. Could our union leadership manage such a thing with a re-elected de Blasio administration? Would term limits free de Blasio to dump the Bloomberg leftovers sitting in Tweed? If Carmen goes could we work out a system to support and retain teachers rather than fire them?

Can we somehow leverage Andy Cuomo's desire to look like Sanders lite rather than Bloomberg redux? Could we, at the very least, lessen the number of required observations to two? Moves like that would go a long way toward fewer anxiety attacks and meltdowns among working teachers.

I'm an optimist. Whenever Unity wants to talk to us about making real progress for real teachers, I'm open. And with Janus coming up, moving in that direction looks like nothing less than a win-win.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

ESL Teachers--An Endangered Species

When the geniuses in Albany put their heads together they can really come up with some inventive notions. Of course one of my faves is the new form of Part 154. This one suggests that newcomers can learn English simply by sitting in a subject class taught by anyone who's taken the magical 12 ESL credits. Once the chemistry teacher has those credits, she can teach not only chemistry, but also English. And she can do it in the same time it takes one of her non-magical colleagues to teach chemistry to American-born students.

I met a Spanish teacher who was also certified in ESL. Her supervisor asked her if she would mind, since she had the dual certification, if they recorded her Spanish students as being served in ESL. How cool is that? You're in a class, studying Spanish, and officially learning English too. After all, a whole lot of Spanish words look just like English words. Can anyone say desperation? Just change some letters, add an accent mark, and you're there.

You know what's odd? In that school, Spanish language is a subject, but English language isn't. I mean, why do you even need a Spanish class? Why not just have the social studies teacher get certified in Spanish, and then say the students learned Spanish by being in his class? You see, that's not allowed in New York State. Evidently, the only language that can be learned by means of magic is English. 

So here's the thing--imagine I'm a principal. I get a science teacher, a math teacher, a social studies teacher, and an English teacher to get the magical twelve credits. Then I just place every newcomer in one of their classes. Voila! They are served. That's good enough for New York State. All I have to do is get them one period of English while they're beginners. And guess what? Students who can't write more than two sentences in English can test advanced in the NYSESLAT.

So let's say I have a thousand ELLs in my school. If each of them passes through one magic teacher a day, I probably don't need any ESL teachers at all. Well, maybe one. But since they're magically learning English in their math classes, who cares what actually happens?

With so-called Fair Student Funding, principals have to make a lot of decisions about who they hire, and who they don't. Why bother hiring anyone to teach newcomers English when the geniuses in Albany have declared that will happen via magic? After all, don't they receive salaries higher than lowly teachers? Don't they have comfortable air-conditioned offices from which they issue their fiats? Don't they have impressive titles? What more are you gonna want?

I have been siting on the UFT Executive Board now for a year. I've heard tales of incredible behavior by principals. I don't doubt there are some so cynical they'll do whatever just to save a few bucks. Look at the one I wrote about before who wanted the kids to get English credit for attending a Spanish class. I sincerely doubt that's the worst of it.

It's 2017. We know how to help newcomers. It's really important that we fix Part 154. The notion that we ought not to give direct instruction in English is simply one of the stupidest things I've ever heard. We can do better, and it's hard to imagine any way we could do worse.

Monday, September 11, 2017

UFT Executive Board September 11, 2017--UFT Defends DACA and Dreamers

Howard Schoor welcomes us—6 PM—


Roberta Pikse—Adult Ed.—In June dismissed with no reason after 16 years. Never got U rating before. Got 2 U observations last year. Year end U rating. Dismissed via email. Teaching adults very different. Many uncertified teachers working. Many U ratings this year by new principals. All appointed by Rosemarie Mills.

Had meeting of 20 teachers, most of whom never had U ratings before. She’s waiting on grievance. Mismanagement destroying program. Asks EB for support. Asks for info on how many teachers let go, and how many U ratings. Asks for resolution against harassment. If they can mistreat us, will mistreat you.

Dianne Jenkins—Adult Ed.—Number of students who vitally need adult ed.—those who don’t have HS, English skills, tech skills. 40,000 per year. Rosemarie Mills, from day one, put us on notice they are in a battle and she planned to win. She had no experience in adult ed. Nor do those she hired. Staff rude, walks into classrooms, stop lessons and harass in front of students.  Teachers walking on eggshells expecting U ratings and discontinuance. They serve parents of K-12 schools. Need able help. Asks for help.

Fran Myers—Adult Ed.—Mills knows what’s going on in chapter more than we do. We need info on discontinuance and percentages to strategize. Demand transparency.

Sean Ahern—2011 DA passed reso on teacher diversity. 40% decline in black teachers. Shanker Institute published study. Feb. 2016 asked DA about follow up. L. Barr gave report on initiatives. One was Men Teach. Promised 1000 teachers of color. Any info on success—can they share with membership? Filed FOIA on recent hiring. Have 120 pages of reports. Will share. Doesn’t appear anything changed since 2014. We need more than spin, UFT should ID cause of problem. Should take leading role. T

Schoor—J. Hinds will look at it.

?—School founded six years ago to teach construction trades, was happy place. Were productive. Sent students into trades making more than college grads. Principal was removed. Don’t know why. Joyce Polfis new principal. 21 of his colleagues left willingly, out of 30. It’s like a different school. We look the same, but we aren’t. If everyone who wanted to leave did, there might be only 6 left. I returned to support students. This was done by design. Principal encouraged open market. his shows disregard for well-being of our students and community in S. Bronx. We had the attention of the mayor, teachers looked forward to coming to work, and kids would stay late. Clear we have crisis of leadership.

Peter Roman—Adult Ed—Has Action committee—has been under attack for 5 years. Numbers shrinking each year, not by accident. Has intimidated every CL. Discipline hearings increased, CLs rated ineffective. 20-30 annual U ratings, and also discontinuances. Observations used to meet quotas of hostility. Mills breaks or bends every rule. We feel let down by union and betrayed by DOE. Vacuum in chapter leadership. Mills will install candidate of her choosing. Need to reconfigure and expand CL position, provide mechanism for AE committee to meet, asks for own DR. No one should suffer so long with supe with unchecked power and entrenched backing of DOE

Schoor—We have brought this up with DOE. LeRoy Barr has led meetings. We will meet on Thursday. Some ratings overturned, issues resolved. Will continue to focus on chapter.

Emil P.—Comes to speak about passing of Bob Ostrowski. On Exec. Board for long time. Was a DR, a borough rep. for two boroughs. Had a unique ability. Best listener I ever met. Was a skill. Was a good guy. Would resolve problems. Read everything. Was Assistant Sec. Did all he could do to help. Was my mentor. Had finger in everything. We discussed Yankee and Met fans. Yankee fans demand excellence, and expect all wins. Met fans stay home with hats on backwards and believe they can will team to win. Worked twice. We should all try harder to listen.

Moment of silence.

Schoor—If anyone wants to speak later about him, please do.

Minutes—approved. (Mugrew is here)

President’s Report—Michael Mulgrew thanks us for being here. Thanks those who supported Bob and his family. Tough loss for us.

This year will be challenging. Constitutional Convention and Janus, and we have to move public ed. forward. Concerted effort to weaken workers rights and destroy public ed. alive and well. They want to weaken us to when workers were just pawns. Wednesday you will see people come out for CC, same people who fund Janus. They want cheap, no-benefit workers.

Told DOE we have to move forward. We can’t have blowups at certain schools. CBA gives us right to consult. We have to put things on record. Thanks Adult Ed. We are holding DOE accountable, but we all have to do this. CL can now go online and share consultation with principal. If things aren’t worked out at school level, district has to do it. Things resolved via paperwork complaints. Bad principals don’t want info out. We have to use tools in contract.

We will get involved when things aren’t resolved at school level. Contract is agreement, and they agreed to it.

Next step—we don’t want legal process stalled. We want every workplace positive and collaborative. Chancellor agrees about consultation.

Asks we tell everyone to use contract, especially with consultation. Let them know things will go about their heads.

If this local is greatly weakened, public ed. will go bye-bye.

Urges us to vote tomorrow, and in general. We will really push CC after tomorrow. Everyone in schools knows to vote no.

Much improvement on standards for ELLs and special education. Still have a way to go. Problems with early childhood.

Thanks all who came out for Labor Day. Bus broke down but we hired another. We waited for the bus and let everyone else through. Left no one behind. Said a lot about us.

UFT has largest union in Florida, thanks those who helped.

6:38 Mulgrew leaves

LeRoy Barr—busy summer. Harlem week, West Indian Day Parade, Labor Day Parade, thanks everyone. Asks for moment for 9/11 victims. CL meeting coming up, Oct 14, UFT ELL symposiums, Oct. 15 UFT Strides walk. Next Wed., DA, everyone wear pink.

Schoor—Thanks Barr for bringing up 9/11. Moment of silence


Mike SchirtzerMORE—Budgeting problems—schools with veteran staffs and no Title One are being hurt. Little to no money for extra activities and enrichment. Is there anything we’re looking to do? Mulgrew said we’re the only “Fair Student Funding” system.”

Schoor—We got money for you last year, will do so again. Will work for other schools.

Arthur GoldsteinMORE—I was a little surprised to read in NYSUT United that they oppose APPR and want local control. I’ve felt that way since its inception, as have the American Statistical Association, Diane Ravitch, Carol Burris, and a significant number of activist NY State principals. When we voiced this, we’ve been told at multiple levels of UFT meetings, that if we didn’t support APPR, we must support total power for principals. We don’t.

I’d argue the most egregious part of these laws is the advent of members losing the presumption of innocence, with burden of proof on the teacher. I’d argue guilty until proven innocent is fundamentally un-American. I’ve been to hearings and seen firing under this system.

Here’s my question—does UFT leadership agree with the NYSUT position that localities ought to negotiate APPR? If so, can we oppose burden of proof on members?

Schoor—In discussions. Can’t answer right now. Hopefully soon.

Ashraya GuptaMORE—are we negotiating leave for anyone having or adopting a child, or for family leave? State offering program that can be used for family leave. What’s on table?

Schoor—State law doesn’t affect us. We are negotiating with DOE. Adam Ross will address.

Ross—Trying to mirror in child acquisition. Trying to match what mayor got, at brutal price, from non-unionized workers. Mayor now asking too much. We don’t want to pay too much. Negotiations continuing.

Gupta—Status of immigrant advisors—seems vital to support DACA. Will help/

Schoor—Not finalized yet.

Gupta—Paperwork due October 5th. Would be helpful if we can support them.

Marcus McArthurMORE—Transfer high schools—I work in one—We serve students from all over city that may have struggled. We deal with kids who haven’t passed exams, who are homeless, former dropouts. At end of year we learned state, for ESSA requirements, might be changing way we are evaluated, specifically that 67% need to graduate or we might be shut down or taken over. Only 4 citywide meet criteria of 57. What’s status of discussions?

Janella Hinds—We participate in think tank along w NYSUT. We were concerned about these things, about ELLs, about students in poverty. Sat on committees, discussed accountability and assessment. Wanted to ensure fairness, and no harm done to schools. We believe our voices have been heard, will continue to advocate for all our schools.

Jackie Bennett—Also we yelled and screamed about this issue at public hearings. Issue is state commissioner is new, doesn’t understand about transfer schools. Have to be part of process. Should be human look as well as number look. We will be out in front of things that don’t make sense. Won’t be just numbers. Will have to wait and see.

Kuljit S. AhluwaliaNew Action—There’s talk of targeting senior teachers. We cost more. Can we see if bad ratings are given by age. How can we protect due process?

Schoor—We looked at those numbers and didn’t find a lawsuit. About 135 ATRs took buyout.

Ellen Procida—Won first SESIS arbitration, wasn’t fixed, and now 33 million is set aside for SESIS work. Not same as before. 37K plus members will get money. Will be link to correct issues. Will be email tonight if we have non DOE email, otherwise paper letter. 50 to 10K dollars.

Reports from Districts—

?—on Florida. Reaching out. UFT and AFT sent update. 7500 messages went out. Waiting to see what happens. Retirees called members around country. Found that folks picked up phone, asked to patch them through to pols, 60% said yes. Also working on CC, and with AFT organizing.

Eliu Lara—Thanks people who helped give laptops and printers to students. Got support from state. Raffled metro cards. Got school community together and had great event.

Janella Hinds—Thanks for Labor Day Parade on behalf of NYC Labor Day Council. Great that UFT was at end of parade. Thanks all who participated. August 3rd, EB passed reso supporting Spectrum workers, striking 5 months. Will be an event soon, will give details.

Schoor—Thanks Mike Schirtzer for bringing up.

Alan Abrams—Had principal/ CL consultation so that extra work wouldn’t be added. Used contract empowerment notes given by Debbie Poulos.

Schoor—Debbie Poulos put out cheat sheet on paperwork.

Sterling Roberson—Over summer UFT and NYIT help entrepreneurial program, used mixed reality, not yet on market. Many students participated, very successful. Thanks Barr and Hickey. Provided food and Chromebooks. Useful in social studies—students walk through ancient environments. Enhances instruction. Will continue.

Karen Allford—UFT busy in summer. New Teacher week in August, saw 1800 new teachers, here, Brooklyn and Bronx. Mulgrew spoke, Chancellor was here. Teacher Center had classroom sessions, behavior management and IEPs.

Still collecting for disaster relief. Working with AFT.

Reshad Brown—Pride committee—250 marched in parade. Thanks everyone who came out.

Carmen Alvarez—UFT Education Forum for educators and parents. Right after Trump decided not to support DACA. Can use tools to fight attacks on schools and students. Here, Thursday Sept. 14, 4 30 to 6 30.  Needed now. Will send flier.

Khierra Kersey-Heggs—Class size person, grievance dept., Thanks DRs and CLs for getting numbers in quickly. Please do so next Thursday, and Sept. 20, before 4 day weekend. Important they come in early as possible.

Mike Friedman—Says student watched what was happening as towers went down, now is living in US, we serve them, very proud.

Paul Egan—Legislative Report—various soccer and football talk—

Jonathan HalabiNew Action—Says many of us are boycotting NFL

Egan—politics—Good legislative session, got great funding. Teacher’s Choice up to 250. Asks that we spend it so as not to lose it. Dial a Teacher funded at level we asked. Tomorrow is primary day, please vote. Last time turnout was 18% in competitive year. May be lower this year.

Interesting things—senate resignation—Dan Squadron. Democratic committees will meet. 3 candidates out there. Could be anyone.

In LI, Sherriff’s race. Phil Boyle GOP Senator may win. Would resign Senate and open up election where Democratic performance is high.

Focused on Constitutional Convention. No one wants to give up pension, but won’t be enough. We need to vote beyond our borders, call, email, text friends. Have produced postcard. Fill in names of five people you’ll talk to, and UFT will send it back to you. All NY State will vote, we need them all

Resolution on supporting DACA

Arthur GoldsteinMORE—Evelyn de Jesus is not here so she asked me to speak to this. No one speaks like Evelyn, but I’ll do my best.

We all come from somewhere. My grandfather came here on a boat from Russia when he was 13 years old. Maybe he read on the Statue of Liberty “Give us your tired, your poor.” One of Trump’s people said that was written later. But a lot of things were written later. We had to wait until later to address slavery. We had to wait until later to give women the vote. We’re still waiting for the President to be elected by the will of the people, and I’m pretty sure few here would object if we did that later.

Donald Trump does one thing after another, and just when you think there is no more bottom of the barrel left to scrape, he outdoes himself. I was pretty shocked when he targeted 800,000 kids who spent virtually their entire lives here. He told them not to worry, that everything will be great, but he says that about absolutely everything he does. We’re gonna throw tens of millions of Americans off of health care, and it will be great.

I’ve told this body several times that corporate astroturf groups are not real advocates for children. Those of us in this room who wake up each and every morning to serve the city’s children, we are the real advocates, and this resolution is just one example of our advocacy. We are the ones who really place students first. The fact that both of our caucuses conceived of this at pretty much the same time is good evidence of that.

We stand for 1.1 million students in NYC, and we have to stand every dreamer in the USA.  I urge you to vote for this resolution.

Passes unanimously.

Resolution on assisting teachers who assist in transfers

Jonathan HalabiNew Action—calls for us to encourage members who are transferring to do due diligence, and asks us to publish names of schools with high turnover. We just heard of a school with over 50% turnover, and there are others. In E. Bronx, Westchester Square Academy, only 6 of 40 returned.

People transfer without knowing what’s going on. They need the info. Crucial info is whether or not it has stability. Some don’t. Our members need to know. 50% is a red flag. In one school 85% left. Those coming in didn’t have that info. We also need to remind people they have obligation to do due diligence.

LeRoy Barr—Speaks against. We study this. This is only one data point. There are lots of data you can collect. This number, absent context, can be misleading. Things shift. In the end, best way to determine where members can go is for them to contact DRs and borough offices.

Mike SchirzerMORE—We’re only speaking of schools with exceptional turnover. Over 50% is a lot. Gene Mann does this in Queens as part of an email. Being done on small scale.

Eliu Lara—Speaks against. For many reasons people transfer and that’s why we have Open Market. We want to know reasons.

Rashad Brown—calls question.

Resolution fails on party lines.

We are adjourned.