Monday, May 29, 2017


As my generation hits retirement age and we leave the system, it looks like the government and the anti-public education zeolots have succeeded in demonizing teachers so that very few people want to enter the profession.

new york state's teacher shortage

As this NYSUT article makes clear, there is already a teaching shortage in certain certification areas.

In November 2013, SED [State Education department] reported the following statewide teacher shortage areas between 2010 and 2014: bilingual education, chemistry, CTE, earth science, English language learners, Languages other than English, library and school media specialist, physics, special education, special education – bilingual, special education – science certification, and technology education. In New York City, SED identified shortage areas that include the arts, biology, chemistry, CTE, English, health education, library media specialist and mathematics.

English is a shortage area in NYC?

As conditions in the classroom continue to deteriorate, the shortage should worsen unless there is another economic upheavel.

The answer from the SED and Regents will probably be to put in more alternative certification programs to make sure classrooms are covered. Classes will be filled with less qualified teachers.

Honestly, if a young relative came to you and asked if he/she should be a teacher, what would you tell him/her?

My mom was a teacher for over 30 years and was truly supportive when I told her I decided to teach. However, I don't see myself reacting with much enthusiasm if one of my own kids told me he or she wanted to pursue a career in the classroom.

Sunday, May 28, 2017


One of the more frustrating aspects of teaching in the modern world is the daily battle of the cell phone.

No matter what the teacher does, it is a real problem going up against the constant pulling out of phones in class. Personally, I have tried to go hard (sanctions for having a cellphone out that I can see), go easy (use them in class to look up signficant information), or go discreet (quietly nudge kids to put them away).

Unless the teacher is willing to really enforce the rules and has backup from administration/deans, this is not an easy one to win.

I am not at all startled in any way shape or form that a teacher has finally lost it when it comes to the battle of the phones.

This story came to me from my friend Marc Epstein from the NY Post:
A Harlem high school teacher was charged with assault for manhandling 17-year-old student who wouldn’t get off her cell phone, cops said.

The teacher, 44-year-old Abdu-Allah Torrence, asked the student to stop using her phone, and then grabbed her by the back of her neck and pulled her backwards when she didn’t do as he asked, according to police.

The student was taken from the Thurgood Marshall Academy for Learning and Social Change on W 135th St. to Harlem hospital at about 4 pm Tuesday, investigators said.

She was treated at the hospital and released.

Torrence was issued a desk appearance ticket for misdemeanor assault.

While I don't support what the teacher allegedly did (however, I would like to hear the teacher's side of the story), many of us have been put in situations with defiant kids on cell phones and other issues where we have to almost totally hold back as our authority has been greatly reduced, or even eliminated, in the 21st Century classroom. If there are toxic administrators thrown into this mix, the frustration level is making many teachers sick, or wanting to leave the system or both. Our job is now impossible in many schools.

Unlike many of the readers here, I don't believe it is realistic to go back to the Bloomberg citywide cellphone ban (parents and students would go ballistic) but I would like to see an enforceable disciplinary code. If opposition ever comes to power in the UFT, I would push for teachers having a real say over classroom and school discipline policies. I don't think the majority of parents would oppose that, nor would most of the students for that matter.

Have any of you ever asked the kids how they feel when some of their colleagues get away with virtually anything?

Friday, May 26, 2017


Comptroller Scott Stringer announced that the DOE can't account for $347 million it spent to wire middle schools for high speed internet. Stringer also said that a survey of teachers and principals showed that large numbers were not satisfied with their internet service at school.

This is from a Daily News piece:
The city Education Department has no record of how it spent $347 million earmarked to upgrade internet service at middle schools, an audit showed Sunday.

The department began to update its broadband technology by installing fiber optic cables and other components in all of its 503 middle schools in 2007.

The project was completed last year, but there are no documents showing how much it actually cost, project plans or progress reports, according to city Controller Scott Stringer.

In addition, many educators are frustrated by the service, according to a user-satisfaction survey Stringer’s office conducted.

All told, 33% of the 440 middle school principals and staff who responded said they were not satisfied with the internet service, 45% said the speed did not meet their instructional needs, and 25% said the service was inadequate.

“If we’re going to be the greatest city in the world in this century and the next, we have to prepare our kids for the future,” Stringer said.

“It’s pretty hard to engage a child when the video takes five minutes to load,” he added. “It’s not easy to spread joy and promote the love of learning if a child is at a laptop watching the spinning wheel of death for an extended period.”

The Department of Education comment on this story is a classic:
In response to the survey, department officials argued there was no need to improve the internet service.

They said “school-based respondents were confused by the phrasing of the auditors’ User Satisfaction Survey question about bandwidth upgrades.”

DOE wastes a fortune; educators are unhappy and the DOE replies that nothing is wrong.

OK so this story is really a "dog bites man" piece that Harris Lirtzman sent me.

Is anyone in the least bit surprised by the DOE wasting money or people in the schools being unhappy with their internet service?

Do any of our readers have any stories of wasted money or slow internet?

Thursday, May 25, 2017


Diane Ravitch has an exellent piece in the New Republic that everyone should read in which she blames the Democratic Party for their own demise when it comes to education.

Diane writes:
Listening to their cries of outrage, one might imagine that Democrats were America’s undisputed champions of public education. But the resistance to DeVos obscured an inconvenient truth: Democrats have been promoting a conservative “school reform” agenda for the past three decades. Some did it because they fell for the myths of “accountability” and “choice” as magic bullets for better schools. Some did it because “choice” has centrist appeal. Others sold out public schools for campaign contributions from the charter industry and its Wall Street patrons. Whatever the motivations, the upshot is clear: The Democratic Party has lost its way on public education. In a very real sense, Democrats paved the way for DeVos and her plans to privatize the school system.

Diane is 100% right on this but she leaves out another inconvenient truth: the weakened unions have continued to blindly support and almost never oppose Democrats, no matter how awful their public school records are.

Case in point: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

This is from Diane's piece:

As Democrats learned years ago, support for mandatory testing and charter schools opens fat wallets on Wall Street. Money guys love deregulation, testing and Big Data, and union-busting. In 2005, Obama served as the featured speaker at the inaugural gathering of Democrats for Education Reform, which bundles contributions to Democrats who back charter schools: Among its favorites have been those sharp DeVos critics George Miller, Michael Bennet, and Cory Booker. Conservative funders like the Walton Foundation also give generously to charter schools and liberal think tanks such as the Center for American Progress.

The money had its intended effect. When Andrew Cuomo decided to run for governor of New York, he learned that the way to raise cash was to go through the hedge funders at Democrats for Education Reform. They backed him lavishly, and Cuomo repaid them by becoming a hero of the charter movement. Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, often celebrated for his unvarnished liberalism, is another champion of the charter industry; some of its biggest funders live in his state. California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill to ban for-profit charters in the state, and has resisted efforts to make charters more accountable. As mayor of Oakland, he opened two charter schools.

If memory serves me correct, Zephyr Teachout primaried Andrew Cuomo in 2014. Where were the teacher unions? Did NYSUT or the UFT endorse her grassroots campaign? No, we stayed neutral allowing Cuomo to breeze to reelection and he hurt us badly the next year. For daring to stand up to the governor, Dick Iannuzzi and most of his leadership team at NYSUT were ousted by a UFT led hostile takeover in 2014.

How about former UFT President, now AFT President, Randi Weingarten suporting charter schools and then opening two UFT charter schools? (For the record I voted no on both.) She once told the UFT Executive Board that all ideas except for vouchers are on the table. 

Diane Ravitch writes a great critique of the Democrats but not blaming the unions for their support for so called school reform is a major omission. The big unions have gone along almost every step of the way with the right wing education policies.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Mayoral control of the NYC schools will expire next month unless the Legislature in Albany and the governor renew it. It looks like the Legislature will extend it. This is from Politico NY:

ASSEMBLY PASSES TWO-YEAR MAYORAL CONTROL EXTENDER — POLITICO New York’s Bill Mahoney: The Capitol began what has become an annual dance on Monday as the Assembly passed an extender of mayoral control of New York City public schools and Senate Republicans expressed concerns about the way the system has been working. The only difference in this session's debate was the way the Assembly's one-house measure was written. A bill introduced by Speaker Carl Heastie on Friday tied mayoral control to dozens of tax extenders, enabling the chamber to make the argument that the system is just as important to the smooth functioning of local governments as a county's ability to impose sales tax. "As I've said before, it wasn't our inclination to open up and add policy things for what we feel are straight extenders, and we look at mayoral control the same way," Heastie said before session. "I think that the children of the city of New York deserve more stability, and that's why if we put them in the extender bill and treat it like an extender, we'd like to give the mayor two years of stability with the city school system."

Heastie's measure passed 101-26 Monday with minimal debate. While there was generally strong support from the Democratic conference, some Democrats did express concerns about mayoral control. "No one person should have that kind of dictatorial power over 1.1 million children in New York City and the 24-plus billion-dollar budget," Assemblyman Charles Barron said. "The mayor has failed us in New York City ... It's about our children and our children are being failed by this flawed system of mayoral control. I vote in the negative." 

Senate Republicans on Monday said they are resisting an extension of mayoral control over New York City schools because of the city's "lack of detail" on education spending. "A fundamental shortcoming of this administration has been a lack of transparency and response to requests for information," Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, said in a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio. Flanagan said the city Department of Education should publish its reports in an Excel format, providing more details, particularly on how it spends the nearly $9 billion provided to it by the state. The GOP conference is calling for a building-by-building breakdown of state and federal education spending, as is required under education law, according to the letter. "Only once we have received this information will it allow a transparent and careful consideration of the equitable or inequitable distribution of funding, which is key to ensuring that over one million children receive the education they deserve," Flanagan wrote. — 

This seems more about torturing the mayor a little before the Senate gives in but I really wish the Republicans would stand their ground and allow the mayoral control law to expire next month.

I am not afraid to see the return of school boards under the 1996 school governance law.

I told Senator Leroy Comrie when a group of us met with him earlier this month that the mayor needs to have his power curtailed when it comes to the schools. The school system would revert to the 1996 law if the current law is allowed to expire in June.

More from Charles Barron in this piece from NY1 on the same issue.

"We don't need mayoral control," said Assemblyman Charles Barron of Brooklyn. "And don't talk to me about school boards being bad. Every other county has school boards except for New York City."

Some people who read this blog might not agree with Barron on many issues but on mayoral control and school boards he is right.

In the end, when Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein, the Republicans and the regular Democrats get together on school governance, there will more than likely be a deal with mayoral control extended for another year.

Monday, May 22, 2017


Correspondent Mike Schirtzer from MORE just texted that a question was asked tonight about the status of the Absent Teacher Reserves at the Executive Board.

UFT Secretary Howie Schoor said we're working with the DOE- we are bargaining - near an agreement - nothing to report now.

He added that we should have something next meeting- city wants a deal we want a deal, but can't bargain in public.

On our friends from the High School of Applied Communications, Borough Rep Ron Freiser said it's two or three teachers. We must talk to all of them. VP Janelle Hinds is going in.

Howie Schoor said steps are being taken but we need to get steps straight.

More on the meeting from NYC Educator.


Mayor Bill de Blasio received some very good news with the latest Quinnipiac Poll showing that he suddently has a 60% approval rating. This is up from 50% positive in February.

Beating corruption charges matters or maybe it was that UFT endorsement that caused the mayor's poll numbers to rise.

This is from Politico NY's story on the poll:

De Blasio, who is facing little in the way of opposition as he seeks re-election in November, also has majority support for his second-term bid, the poll shows. Fifty-seven percent of New York City voters say he deserves re-election, compared with 35 percent who believe he doesn’t.

If the election were held today, de Blasio would trounce his two declared Republican mayoral challengers, real estate executive Paul Massey and Staten Island Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis.

De Blasio would beat Massey by a 63-21 percent margin, and would beat Malliotakis by a 64-21 percent margin, the poll showed. 

Since he has no serious opposition for reelection, is this as good as it going to get for teachers and other union workers in the city?

As for who still opposes de Blasio, we go back to Politico:

Just 39 percent of white voters said they approve of the job de Blasio is doing as mayor, while 55 percent said they disapproved. 

Another recent poll from NY1-Baruch College contradicted those findings on white voters. NY1 had the mayor at 51% approval among whites.

Not to be outdone, Governor Andrew Cuomo's poll numbers are flying high too. He has a 69% approval rating from NYC according to the Quinnipiac's poll.

I guess we might be getting the early 2018 UFT-NYSUT endorsement for Cuomo soon.

What is fueling this increase in popularity for the mayor and governor? Being anti-Donald Trump seems to be all that a NY politician needs to do to gain public support.

Comptoller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James did well in the poll too.

Sunday, May 21, 2017


One of the more baffling aspects of dealing with the Department of Education is how sometimes rank and file members who try to fight back against abuse from administrators are put in no win situations.

A principal and/or assistant principal makes life miserable for a teacher by writing lousy observation reports, making up incidents or twisting them into knots to put letters in the teacher's file and then giving the teacher the worst possible classes to teach that the teacher did not request.

If the teacher grieves everything including the rotten program and files APPR complaints, then the DOE may tell them to cool it with so many complaints. The teacher is accused of being crazy because they fight everything and don't give the principal a chance.

On the other hand, if the teacher tries to work things out with the principal and does not grieve everything, the UFT will immediately ask the teacher why they did not grieve.

See the dilemma.

My advice for tenured teachers*, for what it is worth, is to try to have a conversation with administration to work out any issues but if that fails, then grieve, grieve and grieve some more if there are contractual violations.

File APPR complaints on any adverse observation. (Do not hesitate as we only have five school days from when an observation is issued to file an APPR complaint.)

Grieve programs that do not meet contractual guidelines. (Be really fast here as there is a two school day time limit to file.)

Don't wait for harassment to get out of control before fighting back.

Even if the initual grievances are lost at the school and Chancellor's level, do not be discouraged.  The powers that be expect teachers to give up. Be persistent and scream retaliation if there is pushback from administration because of filing grievances.

Don't worry about appearing grievance crazy. By fighting back, a teacher creates a record and a paper trail.

Final word: Save everything and be organized.

*There are ways for non-tenured teachers to fight back but it is not easy and often times requires a different approach.