Sunday, March 31, 2019

Why I'm Voting for Unity Caucus, and Why You Should Too

For the last three years I've been on the UFT Executive Board. We worked very hard to win these seats, and I've been focused on trying to make things better for UFT members. We had a small group that worked together pretty well for the most part.

One thing we always knew was that to get anything done we needed to work with Unity. Unity is the overwhelming majority in the room, and without their votes, absolutely everything is DOA. That's not going to change, and a big reason for that is the state of the opposition. What exactly is that?

We have one caucus that wants nothing to do with any others. We have one caucus with which no other will associate. We have another, the one for which I have the most affinity, that finds itself dominated by retirees. There are good individuals in all these groups, but union is not about individuals. It's about our group, the United Federation of Teachers.

We have individuals who deem it's their life's work to oppose anything the UFT accomplishes, be it good, bad or otherwise. Though I really hope not, that may have been me at one time. I have always hated being characterized as someone who is reflexively contrary. It's not a good look, and certainly not who I am now. 

We have made important steps forward over the last year, and I'm proud to have played some small part in that. Getting parental leave was wonderful, and members in my school were jubilant hearing about it. I watched Emily James speak, I saw Michael Mulgrew promise to win it, and shortly thereafter I saw it happen.

I wish parental leave had been around when I needed it, but I'm glad to see my colleagues availing themselves of it, which they've now done multiple times. Like everything created by humans, it is not perfect, and it could be better. But most of the arguments against it are desperate and/ or idiotic. (Some are downright offensive, like the notion that I didn't have it, so you shouldn't either.)

We won fewer observations. This is significant for a whole lot of us. Having the observations hang over your head all the time is daunting, even if only 1% end up rated ineffective. Fixing it for 85% of tenured teachers is a quality of life improvement for many of the teachers with whom I speak, even the ones who aspire to be administrators. Of course many of the same people who loudly demanded it opposed the contract that won it, but that's how it goes

And then there is that contract. This contract contained no givebacks. You could argue that having first year city employees use HIP is a giveback, but they are getting full medical coverage, unlike a whole lot of Americans. If they last one year, they have access to other choices. This is not much of a hardship, and it beats the hell out of all of us paying premiums. Could they have negotiated something better? Perhaps. I wasn't there and I haven't got a time machine to fix it anyway.

This contract was pretty straightforward. We got the pattern, and we don't have to wait for it. Are we getting rich off of it? Certainly not. If that's your goal, you're in the wrong line of work. Also, if you've been following UFT history, there is one way to beat the pattern. The way to beat the pattern is via givebacks. I hate givebacks, and I'd argue we gave back so much in 2005 that we have nothing more to even offer.

Some of the same people who complain there isn't enough money in this contract also maintain it's unacceptable because we didn't get back what we lost in 2005. It's an odd contradiction. We want more money, but we don't want to give back anything. We also want to reverse all the things we got money for in 2005, but we don't want to accept less money. These positions are not productive in negotiation. Personally, I'd be happy to forgo raises to get back 2005 rights. I'd be happy to give back money to negotiate lower class sizes. I'm certain, though, that places me in a distinct minority.

There are those who say we can strike and win all of those things. Those people are wrong. I was just speaking to a teacher who told me he and his wife clear about a quarter million dollars a year. He was imagining their faces on the cover of a tabloid, along with their salaries. While NYC is expensive, we are not working three jobs to get by. We are not selling our blood to put food on the table, and we are not laying out tens of thousands annually for health insurance. There may be a time to strike, but now is not that time.

Then there is Unity. Anything I've been able to accomplish has been with Unity support. I've written at least three resolutions that were passed in some form or another. The first two were with the cooperation of UFT Academic HS VP Janella Hinds. Both times, I speedily wrote resolutions, sent them to her, and she sent them back much improved within fifteen minutes. I'm a little picky about writing, so it's no small thing for me to admit that. Janella is super smart, I'm honored to work with her, and I'm honored to be on the high school team with her.

I've also worked closely with Education VP Evelyn de Jesus. Evelyn will call me and say let's go to
picket in Long Island, let's go to the Puerto Rican Day parade and give free stuff to children, let's go to Albany and testify about Part 154, or let's go to the NYSABE meeting and talk to the Regents about the ELLs we serve. If she ever sleeps I don't know when. She will stay up all hours negotiating, not giving up until she's sure we get, for example, fewer observations. Evelyn is one of those people who you meet once and never forget. She is a force of nature. I pity the person in her way if she's intent on doing something.

The first person from Unity to reach out to me in a substantive way was Amy Arundell (who certainly doesn't want me writing about her, but it's too late now). Amy called me one morning out of the blue and demanded that I help an ATR teacher who was having trouble getting placed. I was impressed that she had no fear reaching out to a blogger (me) who was generally hostile to her caucus. I was able to help get this teacher placed, and I now work with this teacher (and several other former ATR teachers) every day. Amy's been my go-to for years now when teachers outside my school contact me for support. Sometimes she's been able to fix their problems, sometimes not, but she always tries.

If I can make one change in my career, I will push back on the cynical and hurful Part 154, the regulation that robs my students of much-needed instruction and threatens the jobs of my brother and sister ESL teachers. I've tried very hard to do this on my own. I've written about it on multiple forums, and I've even been on TV talking about it. If this is going to be fixed, it's going to be fixed with UFT cooperation. It's gonna be a long haul and it's gonna take more than teachers writing angry blogs.

Of course I've been that angry teacher-blogger. I'm still that, but I'm also chapter leader of a very large school. I see the value of working together for common goals. Opposition has been patently unable to do that, and that's precisely why there are three distinct opposition caucuses. It's hard, often impossible, for people to accomplish things on their own. Unity reached out to me and my brother Mike Schirtzer, saying they wanted to work with us. They didn't demand anything, and they specifically asked we continue to challenge them.

Who's going to affect change, in our union and out? That will be those of us who look at what's going on now and think of ways to make it better. That will be those of us willing to put aside petty squabbles and work toward common goals. That will be those of us who look to the future, who look at what our students and children need, who look at what we need, and work together to find ways to get there.

This is a new era for unionism. This is a time to battle for our future, for positive change. It makes absolute sense to work with people in a position to make that happen. On this astral plane, the people in that position are those in the Unity Caucus. I'm going to work with them to amplify teacher voice, to serve our students better, and help get what working Americans want and need.

So I'm running with Unity Caucus this year. I ask that you vote for not only me, not only Mike Schirtzer, but also for the people who are going to help us overcome all the nonsense that's going to be hurled against us in the wake of Janus. It's coming, and it will be a barrage of big money against us and all working people. That includes our students and children, because they'll soon be working people too.

We will fight them and we will win. Check the Unity Caucus box on your ballot and drop it in the mail right now.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The SAT and Me

I didn't really have strong feelings about this test one way or another until yesterday, when it took up almost all of my time. I was scheduled to proctor between 8 and 10. I went to the library, where they told me I'd be testing one student who needed to be read to. We went up to a room where envelopes were being distributed and stood around for a while. One by one, kids were matched to teachers, who walked away to do whatever it was they were going to do.

In the end, a bunch of colleagues and I were still standing there. We were sent down to a reserve room, where we sat around for two hours in case someone had to go to the bathroom. As far as I recall, the only person who did was me. Then we were released, and I focused on other things for a while. I don't recall what they were, because an hour or so later the complaints started coming in.

It turns out that, somehow, no one bothered relieving a whole lot of people who were on the 8-10 shift. People found me and said their friends were sitting for a whole lot of time beyond when they were supposed to be relieved. I ran around and couldn't find administrators who could help. I relieved several teachers myself, who said things like, "Do I need to come back?" I said no, you've already done more than you were supposed to.

Somehow I got relieved more quickly than my colleagues. I filed a grievance, but the very best that can do is prevent another fiasco next time, if there is a next time A real grievance process would allow you to go back in time and correct the issues before they happened. (I may bring that up at the next Executive Board meeting.)

You are, under the UFT Collective Bargaining Agreement, allowed to be programmed for up to three consecutive classes, or four consecutive activities. So you may, for example, have three classes and a tutoring period in a row. But you can't be given another assignment directly after that. I'm not sure whether proctoring is considered a class or not. You are, after all, in a classroom and supervising students. Regardless, you shouldn't have to do anything for over four hours without a break. (Surely DOE legal will disagree, and insist teachers should work 200 hours a day, but they get paid to spout baseless nonsense. In many ways, it certainly beats working for a living.)

Then there are these special needs kids, the ones who get time and a half and are read to. I was reading math problems to one. He asked me if I could explain them. That would be problematic, what with it being a test and everything. I told him the truth, which was that I didn't understand the questions either. The best I could do was read them. I was pretty happy I wasn't taking the test. I do recall that when I took the SAT, a million years ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth, that I did much better on the English section than on the math.

I later met up with the teacher who I'd relieved.  She told me the student had been asking for food. Teenagers tend to get hungry at times. He asked her if she knew whether anyone was bringing anything. She told him she didn't know. I know, though, that no one did. She also told me that he finished one part before time, and well before time-and-a-half. When that happened, she and the student had to sit there like scarecrows waiting for the time she marked in the book. NO, you may NOT go ahead, even if you're the only student in the classroom.

I don't really know whether the student understood that part or not, because at some point in the math, he told me he was just guessing the answers and had no idea what they were. That was really disturbing to me. This young man has to sit here for six hours, hungry and miserable. He's taking a test he doesn't understand, and being made to sit for, I don't know, six hours of absolute tedium. To me, this seemed not only idiotic, but outright cruel.

Of course, I'm not one of the geniuses who designs this test. I'm also not one of the geniuses who decided every high school student in NY City should take it. I don't know this young man. He seemed perfectly lucid to me. Were I in his place, I'd likely have the same questions and frustrations he did. I certainly don't know math any better than he does. Nonetheless, I think it's worse somehow to deprive teenagers of food. I eat breakfast in the morning. Lots of teenagers find that uncool, even thought they surely need the calories more than I do.

I don't believe the SAT can magically determine who does and does not belong in college. I don't believe knowing or not knowing a bunch of mathematical terms demonstrates your college readiness or lack thereof. Regardless, I would never, ever put that kid through what he went through. Then I think about another few dozen kids who, likely as not, are doing the same. It's pretty terrible.

That's nonsense. Plenty of municipalities with real school boards, as opposed to our fake one, manage to deliver the SAT to students. Maybe, if this mayor really wanted to change things, he could deliver tests to those who ought to take them. Maybe he could examine all the other crappy tests our kids are required to take and say, "Hey, what the hell is this all about?"

If Bill de Blasio really had mayoral control, he'd be able to tell Eva Moskowitz and her test-prep till you pee your pants to take a long walk of a short Hudson Pier. Instead, she's paying herself over half a million a year, courtesy of NYC taxpayers.

I don't want any student to miss out on college. But I don't want students wasting their time on excruciating, pointless activities either. Maybe that's why I'm a teacher instead of a politician.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Kamala Kash

Several of my colleagues have been asking me about Kamala Harris's plan to boost teacher pay by an average of $13,500.  I, for one, am delighted to see a candidate pandering to teachers, and I'd like to see this become a trend. One of the things that disappointed me most about Hillary 2016 was her lack of pandering. I was at the AFT convention that year and she blurted out something about how we could "learn from public charter schools." I wondered what a "public charter school" even was. I wondered what we could learn from them other than your stats go up when you take only kids you want and dump those you don't.

Now if you just sit around and think, "Wow, I'm gonna get an extra 13.5K if I vote for Kamala," well, she's won you over for sure. There are a few details the headlines leave out:

Under Harris’ plan, the federal government would provide 10% of the funding needed to close the pay gap for teachers and then incentivize states to increase teacher pay through a federal match. For every $1 a state invests in raising teacher pay, the federal government would invest $3 “until the teacher pay gap is entirely closed by the end of Harris’ first term.” Teachers in high-need schools that disproportionately serve students of color would receive more of a pay hike, an effort to improve teacher recruitment and retention.

Let's try and unpack that, and feel free to correct me if I'm misunderstanding. If the average teacher pay is 50K and your state only pays 45, Kamala's plan gives $500 to your state to give you a 5K raise. I'm supposing after that, the state would be responsible for 25% of whatever the pay was raised. So they pay a thousand dollars to get you the 5K raise. Would legislators in W. Virginia and Oklahoma go for that?

What about relatively highly-paid teachers in NY? Would we get anything whatsoever? Would it be determined that we are already sufficiently compensated? What if the government grant were to disappear? Would the state still be obligated to pay us the difference, or would it be in some special place in the contract, where if federal funds disappeared our salaries would go down?

For many years, whenever state aid would go up, Giuliani would reduce city aid by an equivalent amount. Could municipalities find ways to take Kamala Kash and lower their own contributions? I'm sure they'll be plotting ways to take that money and use it for something more important, like tax cuts for gazillionaires who need them not at all. 

Hopefully that won't happen. Nonetheless, here's something that really makes me nervous:

My feeling is, if Arne Duncan supports it, there must be something wrong with it. Arne never talked like that when he was in a position to do something about it.  I mean, isn't he the guy who blackmailed states into using junk science and establishing charter schools? Isn't he the guy who said if you don't buy into this nonsense, you don't get federal funds for your cash-starved state? Could Kamala have reforminess on her mind? I actually have no evidence for any of this, guilt by association is a logical fallacy, and I have no idea whether or not Kamala even knows who Arne is.

But since he loves it so much, you gotta ask, will there be strings attached to Kamala Kash? If there are, she can keep the money. Teachers here and nationwide are stretched pretty much as far as we can go. Few hang in this job beyond the first few years, and no that isn't because it's an easy gig that just anyone can handle.

I've seen a lot of talk about how this is a setup for AFT to endorse her. I don't know if that's true. For one thing, I don't see her as a top candidate, though perhaps she's a strong contender for VP. I will say this, though--If there is some sort of setup, it's a significant improvement that the candidate is pandering to us. If that's the plan, I want more. I want to see them trying to out-pander one another and promise funding for lower class sizes, adequate school facilities, and hot, cold and vodka in the teacher rooms.

Because you know what? They all kind of suck on education. If Randi Weingarten is indeed hidden behind a bush somewhere manipulating candidates, I hope she's prepared to manipulate well more than one of them. There's room for improvement on all (except Cory Booker, who's actually Betsy DeVos with a tie).

Monday, March 25, 2019

UFT Executive Board March 25, 2019--Forest Hills in the House, and UFT Condemns Teacher Assault in Indiana

6 PM—Secretary Howard Schoor welcomes us.


From Forest Hills High School

Adam Bergstein
—chapter leader—Wants to say what’s happening—A month ago voted no confidence by 90% of 215 voters. That vote invigorated staff. Empowered and motivated them. Now is sense of urgency, driven by passion to fix and save FHHS. Staff used to be apathetic. Tyrannical principal fixed that. Over two years, staff because sick and tired of being sick and tired. Staff is now voice or reason and tenacity, reaches out to chancellor and superintendent. UFT helped on regular basis. Amy Arundell and Janella Hinds and LeRoy Barr helped foster this movement and empower us.

We have a sense of confidence, and desire to remove principal. Have removed superintendent. Great that staff is willing to put themselves out. The “don’t tell anyone” that chapter leaders hear so frequently is gone. Wanted to take school back and continue positive environment principal did not allow.

New superintendent working to get things back on track. Have added more deans. Trying to negotiate clubs and activities back. Superintendent is willing to work with staff, not obsessed with unilateral motives. We want Michael Mulgrew to come as celebration when principal is gone. We want school where it’s been for decades. We are still fighting, and we will be here on April 12 to celebrate. Thanks to union for help.


Moment of silence for Sheryl Moraldi

Staff Director—LeRoy Barr
—Over 100 people for para luncheon Saturday. Great events. Middle school luncheon Saturday 9-3. Sunday Herstory brunch 10 AM. NY Social studies conference April 13. HS awards on April 12. Exec. board April 8.

Reports from Districts—Shelby Abrams—Thanks everyone for support Saturday. Was a carnival, did many things. Welfare fund showed up. Everyone greeted, felt at home, will return. Thanks everyone.

Schoor—Al Shanker insisted we support organization of paras, would have quit if we hadn’t.

David Kazansky
—Thanks people for Purim costume party, will be Passover Labor Seder April 9.

Amy Arundell
—Week ago Friday Queens HS bowling event 40 schools, 200 people, half high schools in Queens. Had tables for certification, supported teacher centers, saw schools new to participation. Great event. Maspeth HS won.

President’s Report—Michael Mulgrew
—Thanks Shelvy for para event. Was a lot of fun. Schools, students, carnival booths, well done.

Thanks Adam from FH for coming. Key we strategize as other side lies and obfuscates. Thanks them for staying on path.

Headed into last week of budget, short on revenue. Next year’s can be much worse. Revenue trending down. SALT package is having an effect. Not easy for New Yorkers doing taxes. We were attacked, in complete alignment with governor here. Bad on us and 9 other states as we support forty others. At least now Congress is on our side.

APPR is pivotal, passed both houses, all matched, want to get through. But this is Albany, so we keep an eye on it.

Health care, hospitalization, constant challenge. Out of network hospitals charge whatever they like. NY State law says we can’t question it. We are not here to enrich hospitals as they double CEO bonuses. We want members to have binding arbitration process to question bills.

We are focused on teacher eval and funding for schools based on need.

City—We are arguing about student discipline. They are now having a real conversation with us. They want to suspend all suspensions, which we know won’t work. We cannot base policies only on children who act out.

City budget right after this. State budget ends Sunday or Monday, and then we go into City Council budget. We want to change culture of observations and eval. I will be harsher on Tweed, because they don’t help, thinks schools there to serve them when opposite is true. Important week for us.

New Director of Grievance—David Campbell
New Political Director—Cassie Pruh
New Attorney—Beth Norton

Thanks people who took new positions.


Jonathan Halabi—Update on BETA—Bronx Academy, and with new contract, and extra arbitration days, do we have initial priorities of how we use them?

David Campbell
—Just bring them. Ideally we can schedule them faster. Ones that effect more people are priority. We have many more slots with class size agreement, so we can bring smaller ones, quicker.

Eliu Lara—Spent hour and a half at BETA. Majority of supplies done. Visited superintendent, says he will contact assistant, make sure this gets done.

Special order of business—

Modify student form to add veteran status

Don Nobles—I can tell you how difficult it is for a serviceperson to come back. Veterans don’t know what’s available to them. We just want a check off. Is parent a veteran? When it’s checked yes, it means parents get letters advising them of rights. Will be code so children get benefits if entitled. Almost no cost for this. Simply makes sense.

Evelyn de Jesus
—Rises in support. Wants to support Don for work with veterans. UFT working for rights of veterans to get respect and help they need. I learned a lot today about veterans. Children can use parents’ GI Bill for college. Principal told us he had no idea how many kids had parents who were vets. Wants to protect legacies.

Kate Martin Bridge—As a family, my cousins were able to use GI Bill. Uncle died as result of disease incurred in war. Father served. Should allow for those of us who were affected to help.

—You want to help implement program?

Martin Bridge—Other people would like to help.

Schoor—Will vote on existing resolution and see if CSA will allow for and/ or other trained personnel.


Appropriate accountability measures for transfer schools

Pat Crespino—These schools take kids other schools want gone. Every one will be on state list if allowed. UFT will continue to work with NYSED to develop provisions that make sense. We have 11 transfer schools on state lists. Please support

J. Halabi—Rises in hesitant support—Should go much further. Worked in Columbus. Earlier versions were used, principal moved people from school to school, which resulted in high schools closing. Accountability measures hurt schools with students of color. Is weapon against us, not objective. When Brooklyn Tech got F, city refigured it. Shouldn’t be used against transfer schools. Should extend to other schools unfairly threatened.


Resolution to oppose weapons in school based safety drills

Whereas, Indiana teachers were assaulted with plastic pellets in something called an "active shooter drill,”  and;

Whereas, in actual assaults, teachers have saved student lives, and;

Whereas, in the course of doing so, some teachers have sacrificed their own lives, and;

Whereas, it’s of no benefit whatsoever to terrorize people in schools, be it therefore

Resolved, that the United Federation of Teachers categorically opposes the use of weapons of any sort against teachers, students, or anyone present in schools in drills or any school-sponsored activities.

Arthur Goldstein
—As teachers, we tolerate a lot from children. It’s our job to help them learn so they’ll know better next time. We expect more from adults. In Indiana, a bunch of administrative geniuses decided to assault working teachers with plastic pellets, causing welts, bruises and cuts, not to mention the moment of terror wondering whether or not the weapons were actually lethal.. Twice a month we all hear about more crazy things from Bloomberg’s leftovers, who’ve infested our school system. Let’s tell them in advance how we feel about this, and let’s teach them it’s unconscionable and absolutely unacceptable. I urge you to pass this resolution.


We are adjourned

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Can This Happen Here?

Some geniuses in Indiana thought it would be a cool idea, during an "active shooter drill," to actually shoot teachers. They decided to be sports about the whole thing and used non-lethal bullets. However, just because they didn't kill the teachers, don't assume they didn't injure them:

Teachers at an elementary school in Indiana were left with bruises, welts, and in some cases bloody and broken skin during an active shooter drill in January where they were shot multiple times with plastic pellets.

You don't believe this stuff until you see it, but once you do it makes sense. After all, in the United States, when there's a mass shooing in a school, you'd think we'd move to keep lethal weapons from criminals. You'd think wrong, of course. You can still get an AR-15 if you feel like shooting up a school. No, in America the conversation becomes about arming teachers.

This is in stark contrast to New Zealand and Australia, which reacted to atrocities by banning the weapons that caused them. So it's not a huge jump to imagine some troglodyte deciding to physically assault teachers to impose his idiotic philosophy upon them. There are a lot of crazy people around. A fair portion of them are educational administrators. Did the administrators in Indiana know this was going to happen? It appears so, because they seemed to be fine with it:

"They shot all of us across our backs," the teacher, who did not wish to be identified, told the newspaper. "It hurt so bad."
The school's Facebook page posted a photo on Jan. 4, thanking the White County Sheriff's Department for training its staff members. "Safety is priority at ML!" the post said.

Except they weren't exactly fine with it:

The teachers were instructed not to tell the others what had happened inside the room, and the sheriff's department did not warn any of the participants about what was going to happen, according to the ISTA.

So if safety is a priority, and the Sheriff's Department merits thanks, what's the big secret? Someone knew something was amiss. If the training was such a big success, and the sheriff's department merited thanks for their great work, why were the teachers asked to keep quiet? (Not to mention, why the hell are they physically injuring teachers if safety is a priority?)

So you tell yourself, here in liberal New York, these things can't happen. But then you read about what's going on in Forest Hills High School. You read about what happened at CPE1. You read about what happened at Townsend Harris.  You read about still-sitting principals getting away with whatever. The DOE seems to keep these people on payroll no matter what they do.

In fact, you look around and we have an entire legal department, instituted by Bloomberg, that exists only to tell principals they can do whatever the hell they please whether or not they violate our Collective Bargaining Agreement. You see that supposedly progressive Mayor de Blasio has not only failed to remove them, but has also chosen to ignore the fact that they deny virtually every grievance at Step Two regardless of merit. You see the new chancellor allowing his signature to be appended to preposterous decisions.

I don't know about you, but with Bloomberg's morally bankrupt leftovers still stocking Tweed, there's very little that would surprise me.  Is Mayor Bill de Blasio going to let them outlast him? Will Chancellor Carranza allow them to remain as his legacy to New York City students and teachers?

Only time will tell.

Friday, March 22, 2019

NY State Regents--No Reading Necessary for Reading Exercise

The more I work with the NY State English Regents exam, the more I hate it. A big part of it is multiple choice questions, which I generally do not like or use on tests I write. From speaking with people who've taught this to ELLs before, I'm beginning to understand this is the toughest part of the test for them. They're able to master the pseudo-writing for the other parts by memorizing simplistic formulas, but if there are four answers, they really have to pick the right one.

There are strategies. For example, if it says the answer is on lines 5-8, you can underline them and focus right there. In fact, you can underline all the lines to which the questions refer, and then ignore the rest of the piece utterly. It's a real time-saver, and several of my students have figured this out. A lot of my students are from China. From what I hear, testing is a big thing over there. Perhaps my students have looked at these things from angles I'd never have imagined.

One thing I'd never have imagined is a reading test that doesn't require reading. Yet that's precisely what we have here. I think there was one question about overall theme that may have required a quick scan or so, but for the most part it was look at these lines in isolation and don't fret about the rest.

I'm one of those old-fashioned English teachers who thinks it's our job to inspire children. It seems to me that I ought to be trying to instill a love of language in my students. I want them to love speaking it, hearing it, reading it, and writing it. That's not how David "No one gives a crap what you think or feel" Coleman envisioned Common Core, and whatever they call the test this year, it's still Common Core.

As if that's not enough, I have a whole bunch of students who've studied this test before. Some have passed, and some haven't. But all have taken practice tests, likely as not the ones I'm giving them. So if I pull a set of ten questions and use it for a quiz, for all I know, they've seen and reviewed it before. A colleague suggested I write my own, but I'm not doing that. I don't mind writing materials for my classes, and I do it frequently. But I'm not going to spend my prep time preparing crap.

Also, I'm in half a classroom with the kids sitting at tables of four. The only way I can give a quiz without cheating becoming the national pastime is by putting up dividers. While the dividers preclude a lot of copying, they're far from ideal. This is because no matter where I am, I can't see 80% of my students. How hard would it be to pull up the answers, available on the net, on your phone, and just hide it whenever that awful teacher comes by?

Here's how far I will go with that--The next time I give a ten question quiz, I will rewrite the answers in a different order. I will then check for students who gave the series of answers that's on the test. If anyone has the test answers, I'll be a little suspicious.

I can do this stuff, and I will do this stuff. I'll bet a lot of English teachers come up doing this stuff. I'd wager some have known nothing else. Sadder still, we have children who've known nothing else. This is work for me, and that's it. Taking the test is work for them, and that's it. Of course I've done a lot of other things. I've seen some supervisors who mistake studying the Regents exam for studying English.

How pathetic is it that New York State brings up our children to value prose and poetry not at all, and instead has them indulge in the drudgery this test dumps over their heads? If I were a NY State Regent and my name were attached to a test like this, I'd have trouble sleeping at night.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

UFT DA March 20, 2019--Time to Shoot Tweed Into Space

4:33—UFT President Michael Mulgrew welcomes us.

Spring officially starts at 5:58.

Moment of silence for founding mother of union, Ray Frankel. Did so many things and continued to work until very recently.

National—Budget proposal from White House—overall 12% cut in public ed. Private school choice programs. Even cut special olympics program. 207 billion cut to student assistance. Title 1,2, cut, 3 eliminated. Title 4 not killed because they want to arm teachers. Cut health care programs, Medicaid, Medicare, healthy work force. Wants to permanently extend tax laws that benefit high income US residents.

Important we continue to work with our nationally elected leaders. Schumer trying to stop it, but they want to gut public ed. Monday we lobbied for funding. Colleagues in other states helping with funding our future. Had we been in alignment with what feds are doing, would be terrible. We must let them know in NY we are funding ed, health care.

People angry upset. NY being targeted. Feds dropped priority of tunnel to NJ, and we are target of feds. Budget for state is tough, though we’ve pushed back on some things.

Great feedback on Lobby Day from elected reps. Spoke about teacher evaluation. Bill passed, in governor’s budget. Optimistic, but it’s Albany. On revenue, not as optimistic. State revenue moving downward according to di Napoli. Big issue is how much and does it go to need, foundational aid. Will be tough. Hoping Assembly and Senate increase by 1.6 billion, but numbers not there right now.

Pied a terre tax might pass. Loophole given to non-residents who buy condos. Trying to close. That can help. If trend continues, we will have much more serious problem next year, problem we haven’t had since 2008, when thousands of NY teachers lost jobs.

Mayoral control—holding hearings. We believe in it, don’t want school boards, but changes need to be made. Came up with them years ago. When Bloomberg left, people thought things would change. Didn’t happen. More money, better policies, but parent and community engagement has not improved. Parents say we gave chance, but didn’t get better. DOE nods, but does nothing.

NYC—DOE angry because I testified—We give funding to schools when you give it to us, but money gets stuck in DOE and doesn’t show in schools. DOE diseased, will never become well again, have to get rid of it, though we like chancellor.

Proud of Bronx plan, but think of what we had to do. Needed to be empowered. We had to negotiate in collective bargaining so school community could design plan and DOE could support it. We knew, without it, that DOE would never listen to a school. Chancellor says he wants changes, we see them, but urgency for us is more than for them. DOE wants to wait out chancellor.

Every time we have new issue, they hire consultants, study for months, have plan, have team. They all talk for months, then come to us. No one talks to schools, ever. That’s their problem. They have to go. Disease is their culture.

Principal’s weekly wants STARS in alignment with SESIS. Not make sure children get services they need. They say compliance is high, but it’s because they mandate alignment with SESIS. Would actual info match what school is doing for child? Instead of dealing with situation, useless people say look, we did our job.

Discipline—our position is simple. About allowing us to do work we need to do inside classrooms. We need to be able to do interventions. We need better systems in place, not sending kid to play in iPad all day and send back tomorrow. We should not be suspending students of color at this rate. We have our own program, which mostly precludes suspensions.

What happens to children who are victims, who have education impeded? Playing on iPad doesn’t help. We need evaluation for not only teachers, but also students. Can’t just pin this to instructional problems. We need clinical psychologists and social workers who can immediately evaluate students on site. Not enough counselors either.

I can find psychologists right now, but instead they want to debate.

We just rolled out new safety standards, and more than half CLs have been trained. Jeff Povalitis made plan to make this happen. You need to be trained in standards.

Consultation notes—Please put them in. Many more now doing it. Not everyone, though. We need to push to get there. You can empower yourselves and principals will pay attention. Long way to go.

Specialized high schools—Results have everyone talking about them. We understand this was messed up, were making inroads, but we have to do better. On simplest level—who thinks it’s good idea to measure anyone by single test? We don’t believe in that. Now it’s highly politicized. Just want adults to get out of the way and say if child has shown school community he or she can perform at high level, should be considered. NYC only school system to use single test for admission. Want to respect all communities.

Class size—We now have new language. Says there is a finite time for them to clean up. It worked. We have some schools with bigger issues, but all have been resolved except one school that wants to go to arbitration. Will see in September, but most people fixed.

Para luncheon, 50th anniversary, this Saturday.

Contract implementation—Safety moving, A plus credits coming, no longer have to use college credits for MA plus 30. Will be list. Might be PD, CTLE, or developed by us. Must be in place in September. Teachers can get up to six credits in A plus next year. Probably over 50K credits we have to offer. Are in meetings to develop catalogue.

Observations and evaluation—September should be training on what observation means in NYC schools. Finally got DOE—Every school should have basic instructional practices in place, and school should be able to analyze students, select curriculum, and align PD with this. We will update at future DAs.

We do more PD and training than any other entity, want to be accredited by State Ed. Dept., instead of making people go to private college. Most demonstrate we’ve already proven with a successful course. Need 20 people to teach, will offer CTLE and A plus, hopefully.

Nurses in SI North, probably handing strike notice across table. Be aware in SI and NJ we may be asking for help. Negotiations getting nastier as hospitals make more money. We help them get funding, they get 10% increases, additional billions, and CEOs double bonuses, to 8 million average. At negotiating table, they want fewer nurses. Nurses understand quality of care based on number of nurses. Employer doesn’t like to pay for care, only wants to profit. We may have a chapter on strike on April 1st.

Debt clinics UFT running, which we are paying for, for members only, There is debt relief program for us. We sued at national level, but not enough. We asked law firm to help. Found a company and we built program. We can now offer to help them understand and take them through process of getting them to better place. Did soft opening, beginning in December. Saw significant results. People paying much less.

We pushed for debt forgiveness for teachers and nurses. Doubled registration for next month. Completely full. Members showing up in droves, standing room only. We are seeing major changes in people’s lives. Teacher who paid 1100 a month, heading to bankruptcy, is now down to 400, paid off in ten rather than 30 years. We have waiting lists. We have people retiring this year, still paying loans. Want to make sure that never happens again.

LeRoy Barr—Para luncheon Saturday, want big turnout for 50th anniversary. Following weekend middle school conference, March 30. Last Saturday, elementary school conference, packed house. March 31 Herstory brunch, women’s history, 10-2, honoring Ray Frankel. CL training April 6-7. Please participate. Labor Seder April 9th 5:30-7:30. Academic HS April 12 4 PM.

—Ballots go out Monday March 25th. We need everyone to vote. Turn out the vote. Don’t put it away. Next DA April 17.


Q—NY State has holiday bill with six new holidays. How will that impact our calendar? Will we lose breaks?

A—I understand need to respect holidays, but if bill passes, we’re screwed, We have longest school year because we have more holidays. Would have to teach before or after school year. This year we had one snow day. Used it. Will be a problem if it passes. DOE would come to us and say they want February week. I gave up on St. Patrick’s Day recognition. We will make sure anyone can take day for observation. Sometimes numbers are numbers. Either we give up Feb, or add time. Can’t break state law.

Q—Erasmus campus in papers, one of my 10th graders shot in entrance of his building, Wrong place, wrong time. It doesn’t get easier. Like city being on fire. Fire Dept. can’t help. Got many calls from members in tears. Reached out to DR James Duncan, called from vacation. Called borough office. Reached out to MAP services. Did great work. Never saw better proof of value of union.

On Monday, when we showed up, kids needed us. No one sit’s in that student’s desk, even after a month. DOE sent two people in suits to badger principal about safety precautions. Asked for extra counselors, but MAPP was there for us, 10 AM Monday morning, there for hours, for all of us. Stayed in close touch. Only two grief counselors for 1600 schools. We need more than that. Shouldn’t be on union. DOE should send people.

Can we pressure DOE to get more, and can you hire more MAPP counselors?

A—MAPP program has been doing God’s work for 8 years. Happened as a result of rash of suicides. I’m frustrated with city. Helped a little, but never wanted to partner. Our members, but their employees. Teachers who used MAPP contacted us. Counselors volunteered, went to schools.

Now superintendents call us. When we pointed it out to DOE they said their crisis teams respond, wasn’t true, and then they designated untrained people as crisis teams. When they show up, they screw things up, get in the way, look officious, and talk about safety. Was part of our last negotiations. I tell city they have responsibility to employees. MAPP counselors have huge caseloads.

Maybe we should campaign to mayor. Why are we only union with which they don’t collaborate? They think teachers don’t have problems. They think we have summers off therefore we don’t need paid parental leave. We will hire more MAPP counselors.

Q—Signed on to letter urging Amazon to come back, in spirit of democracy, why didn’t you survey members?

A—When Amazon said there would be no unionized workers we said that would be a problem. Amazon realized it was a mistake and was backtracking. They knew workforce would have to be unionized. We had a plan for LIC school, wanted substantive support for education. Worked with other union leaders to try and put that together. We signed on, though there was huge possibility they would not be here. We demanded union representation and more support for schools.


Howard Sandell—UFT nurses—Resolution for today—in support of nurses at SI hospital. Submitted 10 day notice to strike,

Passes—on agenda

Motion period closed

Mel Aronson—Ray Frankel passed away. This union would not be what it is today if not for her and others that founded our union. Please pass a resolution to honor her work and memory by keeping this union strong and vital.

George Altomari—I worked closely with her. She’d work until 11 PM night after night. Always in background. There are members that don’t get the glory, but are glorious. We have to recognize the quiet people who do so much for this union.

LeRoy Barr—Wanted to raise my voice for Ray Frankel. She was involved in all our elections. She wants to not just to get it done, but also to do it right. I learned a lot from her. She was one of our first chapter leader. Term wasn’t created by UFT, but by Teacher’s Guild. When they were organizing on west side of Manhattan, they all went to her school so we could organize UFT. She is an original, one of the reasons we are here, why we have rights and power, and we should commit to doing what we have to do for next Ray Frankel.

Resolution passes unanimously.

Janella Hinds—Rises to motivate resolution number two, calling for human trafficking prevention training. People are physically abused, in servitude, and this grows. Our young people are being forced into this. One common denominator for our youth is school. Education will help us support students and prevent expansion.
Resolution passes unanimously.

Howard Sandel—UFT Nurses
—Rises in support of SI nurses. Nurses have been part of union for 40 years. Nurses represented by this union provide care in all five boroughs to give most advanced care available. We have given ten day strike notice.

Asks UFT to stand in solidarity, asks that no one crosses picket lines.

Passes unanimously.

Thanks us. 5:54. Four minutes to Spring.

The Ghost of Campbell Brown

No more shall it haunt working teachers day to day.Washed-up newscaster Campbell Brown's final attack on teacher tenure looks like it's dead in the water in Minnesota, after having failed in California. In fact, it appears she may have given up on reforminess altogether and gone to work for Facebook or something. 

I don't know why the reformies don't hang around these days. Maybe, after a while you just get bored of saving the world from those awful people who spend their days teaching America's children. I mean, what kind of person would do that when you could work for CNN, or wherever it was Campbell Brown worked before her services were no longer required?

What do you do after having been a reformy? And even if the news media writes daily articles about how reformy you are, and how all the teachers suck, does it pay? Well, you can start a reformy website or something and get extensive coverage over at Chalkbeat, but where do you go from there? Once the last remnant of your effort to kill teacher tenure goes down in Minnesota, and the papers are no longer coming to you to ask which teachers suck, how much they suck, and why they suck, the novelty is worn out.

Uber-reformy Michelle Rhee is now selling fertilizer, which is pretty much what she was always selling anyway. A bunch of the teachers she fired have gotten their jobs back. It looks like they're getting over 5 million in back pay too. And what's going on with StudentsFirst? You barely even read about them in reformy Chalkbeat anymore. 

Now every teacher knows what students first means. It means teachers last. It means go work for a charter school with no union, no job security, no rights, take home a cell phone, answer questions about homework until 11 PM, then get two hours sleep and go back at 5 AM or whatever. Because that's how you put students first.

The thing is, these reformies all make a lot more money than we do. Why aren't they putting students first? Why on earth is Eva Moskowitz clearing over a half a million bucks a year and not putting students first? I mean, if she really put students first, she'd work for minimum wage, go in at 5 AM, scrub the floors, make breakfast for every kid in the building, teach ten classes in a row, stay after school to help the kids, then stay up all night answering those homework questions.

Instead, she's going to gala luncheons, going to visit Donald Trump, and running a small empire with schools that don't have to follow any stinking Chancellor's Regulations. If kids pee themselves in a Moskowitz Academy, that's not corporal punishment. It's just test prep. You or I would be facing dismissal and have Campbell Brown or someone trashing us in the tabloids. Instead, Eva gets glowing notices in the op-eds and gives herself another raise. 

You know, it's funny how the reformies expect us to spend 200 hours a week doing test prep, sit up all night answering phone calls, get fired, find another job in an even worse charter school, and start all over with no credit for years of experience. Meanwhile, they sit around in Manhattan apartments no teacher could afford, take lavish vacations, and make NYC taxpayers pay rent on their private little cash cows.

You know what? Maybe it's time for reformies to practice what they preach. I don't really want to work 200 hours a week. I don't want my kids, or yours to do that. I certainly don't want my students to do that. But hey, a real reformy would set an example.

I'll sit while I wait for them to do it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Dear Colleagues:

         Vote for Unity Caucus Slate            
Keep Francis Lewis on 
UFT Executive Board

First, I thank you for the honor of allowing me to represent you for these last ten years. I look forward to continuing to do so both in and out of our building.

I’ve been on UFT Executive Board for three years now. The first time I opened my mouth there was to protest our overcrowding. As a direct result, we will get an annex, which will somewhat relieve the issue.

This has been a good year for us. Mike Shirtzer, who now joins me on this slate, and I were able to push two very significant improvements for UFT members.

Mike brought Emily James to Executive Board. Emily had a petition with 80,000 signatures on it demanding parental leave. After she spoke, UFT President Michael Mulgrew promised to follow up, and within months, we had an agreement.

Last summer I was on the UFT contract committee. The number one complaint I get is that we are too frequently observed. I therefore quietly pushed for two observations. I was greatly supported by Vice Presidents Evelyn de Jesus and Janella Hinds, and ultimately by Mulgrew.This proved to be the last thing hanging in contract negotiations, but UFT hung tough until the last moment, and now 85% of tenured teachers will only need two observations.

I want to keep working with the people who’ve supported us. If elected, I will continue to represent you not only on UFT Executive Board, but also on NYSUT and AFT, where Unity has placed me as a delegate. Therefore I ask you to vote for me, and the entire Unity Slate, by checking the Unity slate box on your ballot.

Best regards.


Monday, March 18, 2019

Misogynists Run Amuck

Here's a great piece about what might happen if more teachers were men. You look around, all over the country, and see teachers treated like third-class citizens. The writer cites a particularly outrageous practice in her own state:
Over the past few years, the Kentucky government has “borrowed” funds from teacher pensions and then refused to give it back. To be clear, this is money the teachers have paid into the system, themselves, for their own retirement, and the state has essentially stolen it.

That's not really unique, unfortunately. We have a contract with our employers, an agreement that we will work for so long and then be eligible for pensions. State after state violates these agreements. New Jersey and Illinois spring to mind. They may or may not brazenly steal the money, but they're failing to contribute their part, even though we contribute ours.

How is it that politicians can stand up in front of God and everybody and make absurd pronouncements like, "I like teachers. I just don't like teacher unions." Who do they thing teacher unions are? Are they armies of recalcitrant bullfrogs? Last I looked, there were teachers in teacher unions.

So you have to ask yourself, would politicians around the country muster the audacity to treat us like this if were were mostly male? I'm gonna say probably not. I hear politicians cavalierly refer to teaching as a "part time job," and excoriate us for having summers off. Do you think those red state governors could get up in front of 34 teenagers five times a day and do this job? I don't. You can't just get up in front of them like they're a Fox News audience and make stuff up until they leave you alone.

When I was very young, most families were one-income. My father worked, and my mother didn't. The guy across the street from us had a job at a Taystee Bread factory. He had a wife and five kids and owned his own house. He probably made more than teachers did. And although now many more women work, and not nearly as many men could support their families on one income, the old prejudices remain. The writer of the piece says, if more teachers were men:

Teachers would make more money. Salaries would be higher across the field because it would be widely assumed and accepted that “teachers need to make a living to support a family!” This is how the pay gap still exists in our wider economy. But it is a fact that wages remain low in predominantly female professions, such as teaching, nursing and childcare. These are critical skills and services, without which society would collapse on itself; and yet, because we value women less, we pay less for their work. 

I'm struck by the childcare model as well. I have family members working for minimum wage taking care of children. Meanwhile my nephew, in his twenties, was just offered a job managing childcare facilities. His mom runs one, and the woman who's charged with inspecting it saw fit to offer him this job. Although he lives with his mom, he's never worked for her, and he has no experience whatsoever in child care. Neither my sister-in-law nor anyone who actually works for her, all women, got this job offer.

In the United States, we're still unable to pass the Equal Rights Amendment and guarantee that women will be paid the same as men for performing the same service. We have a President who demeans women in the most outrageous fashion. We have a bunch of states disenfranchising voters of color, and in Florida, where the people passed a referendum to return voting rights to felons, the Republican governor is going to do everything in his power to thwart their will.

Sometimes I feel like we're moving backward. How are we gonna turn the tide?

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Leadership Ain't for the Faint of Heart

I've been chapter leader of a large school for almost ten years now. It's changed my life in many ways, mostly for the better. I did not actually want the job. Someone I respected greatly told me I had to do it, and I went for it. I ran against three opponents, and was pretty surprised when I won. I was even more surprised when I started to love the job.

People don't anticipate everything that comes with leadership. Whatever you do, someone is going to be against it. Nothing pleases everyone. If you're a teacher, maybe you're used to that in some way. Some kid will be mad at you for something. It feels different from adults somehow. Everything feels different from adults somehow.

Admittedly, I've got little right to complain. I have been giving as good as I get, likely worse, since well before I put up this blog in 2005. I can find fault in a whole lot of things (and I can write about those things faster each year). Lately I try not to get dragged into every online squabble there is. So little time, and I'd rather walk my dog for the most part. As time goes by, I'm a little more selective, and hopefully a little more thoughtful. But you can't please everyone.

This has been a most unusual year for me. Though opposition hasn't been particularly good to my friends or me, I still pay attention. When they clamored for fewer observations I knew it was a good idea. In fact, they didn't need to remind me. The all-intrusive observation machine has been the number one complaint in my ear for several years. It was a no-brainer for me to push for it on the contract committee. I'm happy that 85% of tenured teachers will have an easier time of it, and proud to have played some small part.

When I read a blog asking why NY Teacher didn't cover Forest Hills I thought it was a valid question. So I made some calls and asked if I could write a piece about it. I know a few Forest Hills teachers, and I'd already been writing about it anyway. I had some help and did it. I didn't expect thanks from opposition, but I didn't expect gratuitous swipes either.

The swipes got a little nasty in the comments on the UFT Facebook page. This page had influenced me in the past. For example, when the march for Eric Garner was happening on Staten Island I had no plans to go. But the comments on the UFT Facebook page disturbed me so much I made it a point to be there. I couldn't help but peek when my piece went up. There were an awful lot of comments in support of the Forest Hills staff. But not all.

"Propaganda," screamed one comment. That wasn't sufficient, so the commenter added:

I guess I must be a UFT shill. I'm UFT, and I support UFT absolutely. However, I don't work for UFT. I'm a teacher, in the classroom every day. I don't know whether NY Teacher pays for articles or not. I don't really care either. If I were in this for the money, I wouldn't have been writing this blog for fourteen years. In my capacity as UFT shill I'm on UFT Executive Board, and I don't get paid for that either.

Another comment got a little more personal:
propaganda at its best, UFT unity understand 10,000 of teachers are getting abused across the Doe. Elections are up so they pick one unlucky admin whos known for abuse and set up this huge show. They turn Auther away from more and his blog fans to help the show continue. Why is the admin still there???? The abuse is still going to continue across the for and Ben is still admin vote out unity 

For the record, Unity didn't turn me away from MORE. MORE never supported our work, barely showed at our meetings, ejected all my friends, and labeled our victory a disaster. When MORE dumped us, Unity invited some of us in. We were specifically asked to keep challenging them at Executive Board, and we were asked to sign nothing whatsoever.

There are a lot of teachers being abused. That's undeniable. If they want to stand up, I support them. I can tell you from personal experience that standing up against abusive administrators is not a fun thing to do. It's frequently time consuming and frustrating, and there's no guarantee of victory either. We've brought a whole lot of abused teachers to Executive Board. Some, not all, have had good results. If not, it isn't because we aren't trying.

It's not that UFT leadership isn't trying either. If there's anything they can do, they'll do it. When I need help I get it. It's problematic when people think only leadership should act, that Michael Mulgrew should fly into the school like Superman, break through a brick wall, and beat the crap out of your principal. (The VPs, I guess, should then come in and start kicking him while he's down.)

When real change happens, it happens differently. We've seen remarkable successes at CPE1 and Townsend Harris. In both cases, it was not central, but rather the school communities that rose up. UFT offered support, just as it's doing with Forest Hills. Why isn't the principal out of Forest Hills? Ask the chancellor. I did, at the end of the article I wrote. Mulgrew doesn't hire and fire principals, nor does any teacher union president I've ever heard of.

I see situations and look at ways I can make them better. In this case I wrote the article. At the moment I have a friend translating it into Spanish so we can release it elsewhere. Have I got an absolute solution? No I have not. But there are always things you can do.

I'm always open to suggestions. I'm pro-activism. But activism, for me at least, is a two-way street, and it emanates from the grassroots. I encourage it. At this time, though, standing outside 52 Broadway and throwing rocks is not my preferred MO.

Friday, March 15, 2019

You Can't Stay Mad At Me

That's my dog Toby in the picture. Sometimes he frustrates me. I want to let him loose in the park to play with his friends, but he'll stick his nose in the grass and eat something gross. I chase him all over, but he's a lot faster than I am. I can't catch him until and unless he wants to be caught. Then he looks at me, with those eyes, and they say, "You can't stay mad at me." He's right.

A student said exactly those words to me the other day. It wasn't her fault. It was mine. She comes in late a lot. I want to say something harsh to her but she looks at me and I can't. She hasn't got a bad intention in her entire body. So I told her, "I can't stay mad at you." This puts me at an extreme disadvantage in my mad plot to manipulate her into showing up on time. Now, every time I begin to open my mouth, she says, "You can't stay mad at me." And she knows she's right.

So now it's the end of the first semester and she needs a grade. Her average is not so good, particularly since she screwed up on an in-class writing project by not showing up and never finishing it. I will probably give her 60 instead of 65. I'm hoping that, rather that having me get mad, she will get mad enough to pass the class and teach me a valuable lesson. It's a tossup, really.

She says it's not her fault that she's late. She says her mom drives her to school and sleeps until the last possible moment. My student says she gets up on time but has to wait for mom to drive. What's really bad here is I tend to believe her. I call her mom periodically and she shows up on time for a few days. Then things happen, and she's late.

It's not working out well for this student. This semester I've moved a little away from testing toward in-class projects. The real problem with in-class projects is you can't do them if you're not in class. Now I could have students write at home, which would make sense in a lot of ways. Why should students have to sit and write in the classroom when they could just do it at home?

Here's why--my students tend to get help when they write at home. Sometimes they use Google Translate. That's a big mistake, as the translations are invariably awful. I've realized, though, with me walking around and helping people, I've let at least one student bring in a Google Translate document and have me correct it. A more common issue is getting people who speak English to help. When that happens, I have no idea whose writing I'm actually reading. How can I help you write when what I'm reading was written by your girlfriend?

I've seen worse with kids who have paid tutors. Sometimes these paid tutors just do my students' homework for them. This might help them out on projects, but if I give a test these kids are dead in the water. I can understand people wanting to tutor for money. I can't understand how on earth tutors who do homework for kids think they're helping. I've often told parents to fire tutors.

The very worst thing I've seen has been with students who go to after-school academies. I once had a girl who was failing my class, doing little or nothing, and I knew she could do better. She said she didn't have time to do homework because she had to go to the hogwon. That's the Korean word for academy, I guess. I told her I'd call her parents and tell them to stop making her go there. No, she said, she loved it. Evidently it had become her social life somehow. I don't remember whether I called her parents, but I recall feeling very sorry they were paying all that money for nothing.

I can't stay mad at my student. But I can't pass her either, until and unless she starts showing up on time, and a little more frequently. Hopefully we'll find a way to fix this. At least it will be easier than teaching Toby not to eat gross stuff when he's loose in the park.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Secret Sauce

A colleague tells me she has mastered Danielson. I was kind of surprised to hear this talk, as opposed to the litany of complaints to which I'm accustomed. She says that she uses the same method to deal post-Danielson as she used pre-Danielson. What's the secret?

She claims she's taught her students that, whenever an observer comes in, they are to raise their right hands if they know the answer to a question, and their left hands if they do not. She says she regularly practices this and has a code phrase she uses when she wants students to enter the left hand-right hand mode. I can't write what it is because I don't want an administrator to identify it. It's an innocuous phrase that anyone might say at any time, so you'll have to come up with your own if you choose to go this route.

I've been hearing complaints about Danielson for years. How does it possibly apply to PE? How does it apply to resource room? How can one rubric judge every single class ever given? I once urged an administrator to give model classes, since administrators are supposed to know everything and would always do everything perfectly. The administrator told me that wouldn't be reliable, since you can't predict how one class would do at any given time. The administrator was absolutely right, of course, but no teacher can really predict how each and every class is gonna go either.

My colleague says I'm absolutely wrong, though I have to say she's the only person I know who says that. She says administrators come in and are amazed at the level of participation. The teacher says the students all know she may call on them if they have their left hand up, and must be prepared to say something. She says she gets rated highly effective all the time, and is regularly praised for her level of participation and engagement.

To me, this sounds too good to be true, though my colleague swears by it. I don't think I could get my students to act like this, and I'm not at all sure I'd want to if I could. For one thing, my students don't know a whole lot of English. It would be difficult to explain this concept to them. Even worse, for me at least, it would be very difficult to rationalize it to them, let alone myself.

But hey, if it works for her, more power to her. I wonder if it could just be that she's very good at what she does. For students to cooperate like that, they must like her. She says she gives them participation credit for doing this. I'm not sure that would suffice for everyone. Some kids don't care even a little about things like that. Yesterday, a student came to my classroom door, said hello, and announced that he was cutting the class. Then, he went and cut the class. I wonder what Danielson would've said about that. Was I supposed to go to the door and drag the kid in? That could be construed as corporal punishment. Also, for all I know, the kid is stronger than I am and it wouldn't work anyway.

I'm not going to bother trying to do this. Do you think a teacher could take this system and make it work? Do you think it would work for you? Are you gonna try it?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Blogger's Day Off...

...but you can read my article on the struggles at Forest Hills High School in this month's NY Teacher.

Monday, March 11, 2019

UFT Executive Board March 11, 2019--An Hour of Fun

6:00 Secretary Howard Schoor welcomes us.

Speaker—Maurice Blackman—Essex St. Academy—Inspired that early UFT leaders were pacifists. I too am against violence. This is why I teach. Our works counteract it. Our system helps many, but has also failed many. High stakes tests cater to a small faction of our students. This is a form of violence our students experience. It is unacceptable.

UFT has history of acting powerfully. Your support is important. UFT is voice of educators not only in bargaining but in other ways. We need equity, restorative rather than punitive measures. In my work I’ve learned this generation demands more in education than previous. We serve 1.1 million students in some of the most separate but unequal schools in the country,

Integration is more than moving bodies around. Culturally responsive ed. is urgent. We can use work developed in NYU. What if all black and LatinX students had the same opportunities as others? Look at, run by several exec. directiors, students. Non-profit, affiliated with NY appleseed.. Thorough and equitable. Our schools guarantee free and appropriate education. What is UFT doing to honor this?

Our work is building character and inspiring curiosity. Hope UFT will support students who look to us and rely on us.

Schoor—We will look into that, maybe give our people your name so you can be involved.


President’s message—Michael Mulgrew—One house budgets happening today. Revenue issue. Lobby day perfectly timed, it seems. Just about full. Thanks those who registered. Having a tiff with city over discipline policies. Hate when NY Post agrees with me.

Everything you do in school is about classroom. If you are looking at it from afar you have wrong POV. We can’t have way over the top suspensions of students of color, but you can’t simply say make it difficult to suspend. So this is not working out.

If I am a teacher in the classroom and a student picks up a chair, what am I to do? If whole policy is only about child who picked up chair and no one else, we have an issue. What about child who got hit, and parent hears offender not suspended. Parents could resort to charters to be “safe.”

Bills in Albany to ban suspensions and mandate restorative justice. We train teachers in that but it is only one tool in toolbox, not something that fixes everything. In schools that use it, trained by us, suspension down 82%. Those schools can now ID students who need clinical intervention. These people ought not to be integrated into our schools. Will discuss with city.

In Albany, it’s a revenue issue according to de Napoli. Also bad policies. Single payer sounds great and we support it nationally but could preclude an education budget. We can’t take away health care and education. Difficult piece as we move forward.

CLs are putting in consultation, but we add a few hundred a week. If you aren’t doing consultation and reporting it to UFT we know members not having voices heard. We will have a real hard discussion because it will be time. CLs said they wanted these tools, useless if you don’t use them. Would like to report at end of month.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

LeRoy Barr—Friday asking that you celebrate 59th anniversary of UFT. Early childhood conference Saturday. Next week para luncheon. Want a great turnout. March 30 middle school conf. 31 Herstory brunch. Ballots go out March 25. Asking you to press members to look for ballots, vote right away and send back. EB March 25.

Schoor—Answer is they’re still working on it. Question about X 213. DOE regular answer.

Space—brought up to DOE—charters have form for space—said they do that because it’s the law. Law doesn’t prevent them from doing for us, say they’re looking into its


Jonathan Halabi—X 213—Did officers go to school.

Schoor—Yes, but principal puts sign on door stating personal emergency, and doesn’t see us.

Eliu Lara—We’ve been working with school for a while. Constant communication with supe. Will be there on 21st. Goal is to make sure we move school forward, resolve issues.

Schoor—Deputy chancellor said it was unacceptable. First paperwork issue to hit central committee. Checked budget, they have money, and DOE says they’ll do something.

Halabi—School advisory group yet?

Janella Hinds—Not yet.

Halabi—Fordham Leadership Academy—high turnover because of toxic environment. CL is friend of principal, new teacher, also COSA. Principal did not reveal during fact-finding that she’s married to Roberto Hernandez, involved in plan. Not revealing that, with CL who doesn’t rep members, this school slipped into Bronx plan. Was a mistake. We need to look from the classroom, not 14th floor. How can we remove this school from plan and protect members?

Schoor—Committee reviewed all schools that applied. We don’t pick CLs. CL and principal have tp agree to it. Asking Rich Mantel to explain.

Rich Mantel—We did look at turnover rates. Was a cutoff. School had high turnover and that’s why we put it in program. Met cutoff. Ran it by DR as well. Roberto did admit his wife was principal. We can’t remove school because principal is related to someone in DOE. Contract is still in effect. More voice now. We will watch them. They are on radar as all schools in plan. We think it will work out.

Eliu Lara—That school has a co chapter leader too. Was renewal school, receivership, so many are no longer in school. If I see the issue we will deal with it. If they let me know, we will take care of it.

Mike Schirtzer—Re NY Post and Mulgrew’s response—idea that students can initiate investigation on a teacher, perhaps falsify report. Student has to get permission from parent to go to museum, but not to launch an investigation. Maybe we should think about it. If you need permission to see dinosaur, maybe parents should see complaints first. Sometimes principals don’t want context, say UFT member did this. Context is important. Can’t just say teacher raised voice. Might have been trying to stop fight. Should we think about parental consent for these reports, or DOE mandating context?

Schoor—OEO, SCI and OSI investigate. SCI most dangerous. Outside agency. We use lawyers with them. I can’t answer. We will ask our safety people and lawyers to report on investigatory bodies. Connected with what Mulgrew was talking about.

Arthur Goldstein
—We have an interesting situation in Queens. We have a principal said sleep in front of the school to check who shows up early, who seems to find pot smoking in the halls to be a subject of enduring hilarity, who appears neither to shut his bathroom door or open his office door, who thinks one to one tutoring is wasteful, who rides the halls on a unicycle and juggles, and who puts forward the notion that he’s principal and therefore can do any golly gosh darn thing he likes.

I’m very happy that UFT Forest Hills is fighting the good fight. Still, we have a lot of other principals and assistant principals who are less flamboyant but equally undesirable. As long as we have administrators like that we’ll have assessment issues, whether we use S and U, Danielson, or whatever new things come down the pike. As long as we have people with visions, that preclude perceiving what’s actually going on we’ll have a flawed evaluation system. How are going to address the issue of unreliable, disingenuous, and vindictive administrators going forward?

Schoor—We have some people here who have had and will continue to have problems. When they hit the papers things change. Parents have organized and members have organized. New superintendent there. DOE wants to do something but they have issues. Principal has rights they  say. We will continue to fight that fight. We had good resolution on CPE and Townsend Harris. You can read about our success in NY Teacher.

Sang Lee—elementary—What is union’s position on death of SESIS?

Schoor—About time, should have happened years ago. State is asking city for info, and city is looking into it. Can’t give them what they want because SESIS doesn’t allow it. Couldn’t get UFT to do extra paperwork. New system won’t be there for at least a year. SESIS could never do what they wanted. We won arbitrations over it, but city has to do reporting. We will be involved in new process.

Kate Martin Bridge—SESIS not dead yet, is it? Will we get training?

Schoor—No. it isnt. We will get training.

Kate Martin Bridge—Will we survey members?

Schoor—We will be involved and make sure it’s a success. When they work with us, they succeed. How many of our members are on paid parental leave?

A—Have paid out 20 billion so far. Not sure of number of members.

Reports from districts

Tom Murphy—RTC—Feb 28 40th annual luncheon, Mulgrew spoke, FL association pres. spoke.

David Kazansky—In schools are petitions for Debra Penney’s re-election. Must be signed and returned before April.

Priscilla Castro
—Last month D75 had great team building. Bowling 40 of 60 CLs went.

Rosemarie Thompson—CL school counselors—thanks everyone for support.

George Altomari—Apri 13 will be annual UFT social studies conference. Has been around for a long time. Have had nobel prize winners speak. Mario Celenti, pres. NY State AFL-CIO this year.

Schoor—Mulgrew wants to confirm Monday is Lobby Day. 1000 people going.

Resolution for prevention training of human trafficking.

Janella HInds
—Affects many different communities. We have schools where young people trafficked for servitude, sex, labor. We want wide ranging prevention training to all our educators to protect our students. Asks for support.

Kate Martin Bridge—Corrects line.

Passes unanimously

UFT Election Report—Amy Arundell—Election committee met Feb. 28. UFT staff brought all submitted petitions for review. Two things came up. A caucus submitted xerox copies. Same exact petitions for a number of candidates. Was no official request for this. I was asked, and said it was original signatures only. Committee decided not to accept these petitions. Was not a number that impacted caucus’s slate statue.

Mike Shulman—was 13.

Arundell—One person only voted to accept. A caucus had petitions electronically signed, Again, no motion was ever presented prior to being submitted, therefore no other caucus had opportunity to utilize this technology. Motion was passed not to accept with one person voting against. Again, a handful, did not affect slate status. Election committee voted to accept all other petitions.

Four caucuses have slate designation.

Last Thursday, March 7, we had a draw for ballot order. For each section of ballot, we drew order. Ballot can now be printed.

Suggestions for election “dos.” Create a tree on a bulletin board and every time someone reports put a leaf. Similarly a thermometer. Asks the union to print I voted stickers, relying on self-reporting.

Halabi—How are individual petitions scrutinized?

—Reps of caucuses took a look. Membership checked status. Made sure people were in correct division. Did not check every signature, but did spot checks.

Schoor—We will vote separately on xerox and electronic.

Xerox—in favor of not accepting.

Electronic—in favor of not accepting.


Vote on accepting totality of report.


Motion to accept report.

7 PM We are adjourned.