Thursday, December 18, 2014


You knew it was going to happen that if too many teachers were rated effective or highly effective in the new evaluation system that our enemies would look to make the system harsher.  It is no surprise that there is talk from Albany about changing the teacher evaluation law as Perdido Street School has been reporting. (His reporting has been great.)

It looks like the Governor and State Education Department are going to want some kind of quota of at least 5% of teachers being rated ineffective when they move to amend the teacher evaluation law next year.

During UFT President Michael Mulgrew's President's Report at Wednesday's Delegate Assembly, he gave away what will probably be the UFT/NYSUT legislative strategy for the year ahead. We will argue that the teacher evaluation system is fine the way it is in NYC.  The rest of the state may be flawed but ours is first rate. The UFT will advocate for the status quo.

It is the usual failed negotiating strategy of asking for nothing while our enemies seek major concessions and then settling for new givebacks that are not quite as bad as the ones originally proposed.  Instead, the union should be asking to scrap the whole system based on junk science to move the center of gravity in our direction.  You can be pretty sure we won't make such a move. 


I had family commitments that kept me away from the visitor's section at the December Delegate Assembly but the very capable Megan Moskop from MORE took notes.  We thank her for doing this.  It is not an easy job as UFT President Michael Mulgrew often jumps all over the place as he gives his lengthy report.

President’s Report

US will start to normalize relations with Cuba.
Cuomo will ban fracking.

Nationally- not much going on. Senate- no shutdown of government. Republicans have figured out that it isn’t a good play. AFT is closely examining legislation.

Justice for all March in DC- UFT sent 10 buses. ½ were members, ½ were NAACP and community members. As far as these issues go, we have to be able to voice our opinions in a respectful way. We have different opinions and we need to show people on the outside that what happened in Ferguson is not what we want to happen in NYC. We need to have a place to have a respectful conversation.  The NY Post- you can’t say they’re wrong on everything and right on this.  We have to be respectful and peaceful. We have and will work with NYPD; we work inside communities. For that to work, it has to be respectful in both ways. At the school level, we do great work with NYPD, why is that never in the paper? The issue here is for us to move forward and discuss issues that are uncomfortable in a respectful way. We need to do that.  

I (Mulgrew) met a group from Ferguson in DC- it was painful, those young adults had so much anger and felt that more needed to be done and it shouldn’t just be peaceful. Everything that we tried to make sure did not happen, it was clear to me that we made the right decision.  A young person said, “I’m a peaceful demonstrator and I've been shot with rubber bullets 28 times.” In NYC the police are being respectful of the demonstrators. There will be generations of what we’ve lived through- mistrust. We’ve handled it better than ever before.

Our job as a union is to help people through difficult times. The day after the Garner Decision, we had conversations in classrooms to help our students with their anger. Yes, people want change, and as people who care for children, we have to rise above, keeping things respectful. Overall, our focus has to be on moving forward respectfully.

Rallies will continue; this has caused an important conversation. Respectful conversation to make our communities a better place.

UFT Members (Which ones? I wonder.) have been having meetings with state legislative reps from NYC.  All the reps have been visited by the charter school industry already. Mulgrew met with newly elected assembly people here yesterday.

Teacher Evaluation- In the news today. Results are “odd” in the rest of the state. John King thinks NYC’s system is more reliable than elsewhere.

Growth scores are complicated things, but we have folks who get it. “They told me this was the right thing to do.” We’re trying to figure out a way to simplify it, but this seems to work. Our system is complicated, but it works. We’ve never had this low a number of ineffective teachers. Across the state, the numbers are higher.  The Governor announced today that he wants to re-open the law and make eval more rigorous. We’re going to have to push the facts through on this one. Eval should be about helping people improve. 7% of teachers are developing in NYC. That means we have close to 6,000 on improvement plans. (Eterno's note: Is that something to brag about?) That’s new.  And highly effective, we now have a career ladder. We have to work on how to develop that more.  Our system is working.Check and balance in the law. We submitted plans across the state, SED could have said no to make us change it. John King approved ALL the plans.

Now we’ll have another fight over eval since the law is being re-opened. This is why we met with the assembly-members. We’re also working on mayoral control, and the charter cap.

Now, Legislature will push for a quota system (i.e. 10% of teachers are ineffective no matter what.) This goes against what we’re doing in NYC, because it makes us all competing against each other- which is not what we want. This will be one of our big fights.

(Megan's Note:Then why do we have a career ladder that is “competitive” for pay? I wonder.)

The governor is basically saying that the unions hoodwinked everyone with teacher eval. Small school districts were told to develop their own growth formulas, and many didn't have capacity to do it well.
Why do people think that if only 40% of the kids pass the test, only 40% of teachers are effective?  That doesn’t make sense, and we need to be talking about it, especially those of us who teach hard-to-serve populations (newcomer ELLs, etc).  Using student achievement for eval isn’t something we like, but student achievement is part of our responsibility. With multiple measures, it can be okay. We took a difficult situation, and we did the right thing.

Tenure lawsuit- We filed for dismissal. They submitted their answer, and we replied. Now we are waiting to see. What just happened around teacher eval will be part of the media campaign.

Renewal Schools- We had a meeting, and the PROSE team is also working with the renewal schools. The need index formula that Bloomberg created shows that the renewal schools are almost directly the 94 neediest schools in the city. We’ve asked those schools to come up with a plan (we want to be pro-active, and have already helped them advocate for things.) Huge change in policy under this mayor- not closing, giving money, schools can change schedules, teachers can work a longer day if they want.

District 75, 79- same sort of approach there. We want to create a plan. Chancellor is announcing a new structure for the system soon. Usually these districts are left out, but now we want to take 75 and 79 and get them out front- have asked them to “come up with a plan” for needed supports. Most are numerous programs inside of schools. These are our most challenging students, and they need the most support.

Press conference last week around class size. Group of lawyers/parents won court case “campaign for fiscal equity” ---NYC would get $$ from the state that was owed. Then the economy collapsed. Now, its booming, but we still haven’t gotten the court settlement that mentions reducing class size.  Now we are advocating for K-3 classes no bigger than 15. Funding would come from taxing luxury condos with out-of-state owners (who don’t live in the city and pay taxes).  The Daily News and NY Post have attacked the union on this, citing invalid studies that say “class size doesn’t matter, poverty has nothing to do with educational outcomes.”

We need to be focused on “research” and “facts” from people who study education, and we need to be sharing those with lawmakers so they are not just hearing from Gates-funded foundations and corporate CEOs.

We have voice, we have a contract, let’s use it! Schools need to have active PD and consultation committees. Plan to implement contract is moving. By the end of this school year, there will be improvement in all sorts of things.

Happy Holidays.

Staff Report- Leroy Barr
This past week:
-Big Apple Classic leadership summit. College Fair at Barclays Center.
-Coalition for Homeless Holiday Celebration
-Tomorrow: Kwanzaa celebration at 4:30. All are invited.
-Next DA: January 14th.

Mulgrew puts on a singing hat and announces that he wants to make a segment of the DA about contract implementation- we’ll hear from PROSE people 1st.

Question- Lots of teachers have complained about admin e-mailing them outside of work time and mandating responses. Can admin do that?
Mulgrew Answer: No. We’re going to have to start grappling more with electronic communication. The best way for us to do this is to share what people are doing well and what is working. Some teachers set this up really well during the first weeks of school. Some people are using tech to make their lives easier and if we don't want to deal with that we’re being foolish.

Question: Farina has spoken about more funding, extending workday for middle schools. How will that be implemented?
Answer: I think I covered this in my report. If you want to extend learning time, you can change schedules or come up with a program that teachers buy into and are compensated for. A school decision. Maybe we should come up with some models for changing the schedules to extend learning time and change programming positively.

Question: Can the DOE and UFT work together to re-open teacher cafeterias?
Answer: Who wants that? DC37 has to man it. Teachers didn’t eat the food in those cafeterias and that’s what closed a lot of them.  What about the “fun” lunchroom program? Maybe we should have that for teachers.

Question: Thank you for the fabulous hat. Main office should have a UFT member payroll secretary and pupil personnel secretary, right? Is there a way for principals to circumvent that?
Answer: This has been a huge problem, we did an arbitration and we won. DOE lost that arbitration and set it up so that no one could become a licensed secretary. This happened to other civil service agencies too. So since they didn’t give the exam they outsourced the work. Contact Laura Tamboro. There is a new process for hiring secretaries. We’ll send it out in the CL alert.

Question- Principal is sending people for psych evals, other CL was shipped out, now that he is filing grievances, he is getting rated ineffective. Numbers are low for developing and ineffectives, but in his struggling school, this is not the case.
Answer: Talk to Leroy. We will do something about this.

Question- We need a reading specialist.
Answer: Okay. We’re talking about that.

Question: Group of us want to stop contraction and elimination of low-level students from that program. We would like to be in on the project for 75 and 79.

Answer: Great. We want to get more people involved in that.

Question: What are we actually doing to fight for class size, etc on a larger scale for all the issues that we’re facing?
Answer: That’s why we’re meeting with the assembly. We want to target what we’re fighting for. We’ve given people talking points, we’ll push that out before the “state of the state.” We have a “for” and “against” agenda.

**Megan's question (which she didn’t get called on to ask): How have members been involved in the creation of that political agenda? What is it exactly and where can we read it? How can we get involved in shaping it or sharing it?  Will the UFT be organizing members to go to charter school hearings and Moskowitz’s press conference?  I’ve signed up online for the political action committee, and have heard nothing.**

Retiree Back Pay
Mulgrew said he forgot to report on the arbitration about retiree back-pay. That is progressing, and retirees who retired at the end of last year should expect to see $ in February.

Resolution #1 In Response to the Grand Jury Decision in the Case of the Death of Eric Garner
(rally last week in DC, ongoing work here.)


Amended- by Sebastian Natera- to add “public school parent”  and “systemic racism and police brutality.”

Abe Levine- we can’t use the word racist, because it has been used by our opponents against us, and that could happen again. This wasn’t about race.

Leroy Barr- supports amendment regarding use of the word parent.  Speaks against second amendment. “I represent every member of this union,”  and we don’t want this to become a splitter issue- regardless of how we may feel individually. Where can, we find common ground to move forward- everyone needs to agree that something is not right, and something must change. People want their grievances heard, and they want them addressed. We should stay away from language that would split this union. The goal is to come through this together because we have other issues we must deal with. We have other issues that will be just as big as this.

Someone called the question (made a motion to end the debate which carried).  

Amendment 1=passed

Amendment 2= did not pass.  There were a few votes in support, and many more votes against the amendment. There also appeared to be many abstentions. These were not called for.  

Attempted point of order that was ignored. (Those who raised it were called out of order, and told that points of order are not allowed to be raised during the vote.)

Resolution Carried.

Resolution #2 In Support of More Accurate Cola Adjustments to Social Security

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


The numbers are out for the first year where New York City teachers were rated under the new teacher evaluation system and they show that New York State teachers outside of New York City fared better than teachers in the city in 2013-14.  Outside of NYC, 58.2% of the teachers received highly effective ratings while only 9.2% in the city were given a highly effective grade.  Outside of NYC, 97.5% of teachers were rated highly effective or effective.  The numbers in NYC were lower. 

Nevertheless, UFT President Michael Mulgrew is claiming victory (see below) as only 8.2% of city teachers were rated ineffective or developing in 2013-14.  However, outside of the city only 2.4% received negative ratings. 1.2% of city teachers received a rating of ineffective while only .7% statewide were rated ineffective and only .4% outside of NYC got the lowest score.

Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch was not happy with the results.  Here is a quote taken from

"The ratings show there's much more work to do to strengthen the evaluation system," Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said in a news release. "There's a real contrast between how our students are performing and how their teachers and principals are evaluated." 

I think Mulgrew's victory dance may be just a little premature as how does he explain that New York City teachers were three times as likely to be rated ineffective as teachers in the rest of the state? I still believe the evaluation system will be used to eventually fail more than 1.2% of city teachers.  In addition, the extra observations are producing needless anxiety among teachers.

The 1.2% rated ineffective are now in year two status and if they don't get at least developing this year, the burden of proof will shift to the teachers in termination hearings. To put it another way, they will be basically defenseless. The number of teachers terminated for incompetence may rise significantly soon.  However, I hope Mulgrew is right that "we have a strong foundation for an evaluation system which...can help teachers improve throughout their careers."

The vast majority of teachers I talk to think the new system is a huge bureaucratic pain in the neck that will not improve their teaching practice.

One more interesting point: According to the report, "NYC: 62,184 Teachers Reported."  That means over 10,000 teachers were not rated in the new system.  Are there that many teachers who teach one or no classes, are assigned to district offices or are ATRs?

Mulgrew's letter is printed in its entirety.

Dear James,

In 2010, when the new teacher evaluation system was created by state law, we said that we would never agree to a “gotcha” or a gaming system. The first-year results are now in: that did not happen.

In New York City, according to state Education Department data for the 2013-14 school year, 9.2 percent of teachers were rated highly effective, 82.5 percent were rated effective, 7.0 percent were rated developing and 1.2 percent were rated ineffective. These results show that the previous mayor did not get his way. We now have a strong foundation for an evaluation system which — if we properly implement it and if we use the new voice we gained in our contract — can help teachers improve throughout their careers.

I’m proud of the work that our teachers have done. Teaching is one of the most difficult jobs there is, and teaching in a large, urban system like New York City is especially hard. Our teachers deserve an evaluation system that is fair, helps them identify their relative strengths and weaknesses, provides targeted support for teachers who are struggling, and gives opportunities for those who are at the top of their game to share their expertise with their colleagues.

Thank you for taking on one of the toughest — but also one of the most rewarding — jobs. Happy holidays!

Michael Mulgrew
Michael Mulgrew

Saturday, December 13, 2014


At last month's PEP meeting, where I spoke to the Panel and Chancellor Carmen Farina, a reporter from the Epoch Times approached me.  He talked to Francesco Portelos and me after the meeting. 

I have attached his story which was recently in Epoch Times.  The tone of the overall piece is fine and I can't complain about how I am portrayed.  The only line attributed to me that is inaccurate is where the reporter paraphrases me talking about the dozens who were excessed from Jamaica and then writing that only one found a permanent job.  I was talking about the final eight who were left in the last year. Of the final eight teachers at Jamaica, one has found a permanent position, while three retired, three are now in leave replacement jobs and one is rotating.

There was some criticism of ATRs in the Epoch Times article. We didn't get a chance to respond so I will do that here.

In defense of my fellow ATRs, rotating to different schools and covering classes can be very depressing.  I can definitely understand why a teacher who may be a star feels the need to change his/her mindset to survive as an ATR.  Getting attached to kids and a school might not necessarily lead to an ATR obtaining a position and if someone is in a good school, it is quite disheartening when one has to move on after a few weeks. It is very easy to become jaded and to say to oneself, "Let me just do the minimum necessary to survive in this system where I am thought of as an inferior teacher by my employer; I'll save the bulk of my energy for other parts of my life." 

In reality, finding a regular job is often a matter of just being at the right place at the right time when there is an opening.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Eleven supervisor unions for uniform services in New York City have agreed to a deal with Mayor Bill de Blasio for contracts that exceed the pattern set by the UFT for this round of bargaining. 

Here are some details from Capital New York:

The 11,900 supervisors will be paid 11 percent, compounded, over six years and seven months. The first raise will take effect in the final month of the contract's first year. By comparison, the United Federation of Teachers and other unions that have already settled got 10 percent, compounded, over seven years.

The deal announced tonight covers all uniform supervisors other than the Sergeants Benevolent Association...

During a press conference this evening with labor leaders and members of his senior staff, de Blasio said the uniform supervisors are getting paid more than other municipal employees, such as teachers, because their jobs are more dangerous.

We don't begrudge them the money but we still don't understand why the UFT didn't wait for the uniforms to establish a pattern which would have more than likely been better than the dismal pattern  the UFT set in May or the one just agreed to by the supervisors. Maybe we should have gone to the back of the line and let someone else go first.

In addition, I don't see anywhere where unions such as the police Captains, Detectives and Lieutenants will have to be absent reserves; nor can I find anything about any of these unions having to wait until 2020 to receive their retroactive raises. Finally, there is no zero % year in this deal as the first increase is paid toward the end of the first year.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014


NYC Educator has put up two excellent posts in the last few days as he usually does.  One is on class size where he tells the world how class size grievances are basically useless.  The 34 maximum for students in a class in the high schools is more like a suggestion.

The second piece is on Absent Teacher Reserves.  NYC Educator describes how ATRs  have for the most part been abandoned by our union in addition to our employer.  I have a not so novel idea for Chancellor Carmen Farina on how she can deal with both problems:


It is easy and could be done at virtually no cost to the city.  Let's say there is a high school with 55 oversize classes.  Send 11 ATRS to that school and give them five classes each and presto there are no more oversize classes.

I know; I know you are going to tell me that there isn't enough space in some of these buildings to make new classes.  The solution here is not that complex either as the DOE would just need to use the ATRS as push in teachers.  We could team teach.  Interviews could be conducted with actual teachers to make sure these are good matches.

Just some simple ideas that might work educationally so they will probably never happen.

Monday, December 08, 2014


For those of you who are following my travelogue around the high schools of Queens, I have some news. I am being taken off the Absent Teacher Reserve Rotation train wreck by Middle College High School for the rest of the 2014-15 school year.

Middle College was one of the schools I wandered through this fall.  Apparently, I did something right there as they called me in for an interview for a Leave Replacement Teacher position.  I don't know how to say thank you enough to Principal Linda Siegmund and her faculty for rescuing me from ATR rotations to let me actually teach again. The new trimester starts today.  Middle College is a very progressive school that I am looking forward to working in.

It is nice not to have to wonder from day-to-day and week-to-week what classes I will be given and what schools I will be sent to in the Michael Mulgrew, Carmen Farina traveling circus known as the ATR Rotation.

As excited as I am to have a fresh start somewhere, make no mistake about it I am still an ATR.  This position is temporary so in September chances are I will be right back pounding the pavement looking for a job and quite possibly in rotation again. Decades of experience means next to nothing.

Is this any way to treat close to 2,000 professionals who are in rotation or in temporary assignments?  We have spent the last 5-10-20-30 years or more dedicating our professional lives to the students of New York City. Our reward is to be bounced around like a tennis ball and denied a chance to vote for our own union representatives at the school level.

Saturday, December 06, 2014


The Council of Supervisors and Administrators (CSA is the union for principals and assistant principals) has settled their contract.  They basically accepted the same terms as the UFT.  This is what the city's press release says:

"The proposed nine-year, one-month, 15-day contract with CSA would begin, retroactively, on March 6, 2010 and expire on April 20, 2019 and include an average of 2 percent per year in raises over the life of the contract."

In addition, CSA members will get back pay for the two annual 4% raises from the last round of collective bargaining that former Mayor Michael Bloomberg denied to them.  Those payments will be stretched out through 2021. Those who go from UFT to administrator will get the back pay. That was supposedly a sticking point.

Here is my favorite part of the press release:

"Even after the City’s budget factored in the pattern settlement for the first time since the contracts were left open in 2009, out-year gaps remained well below the historical average under prior administrations."

Translation: The city has plenty of money and the unions could have done better in this round of bargaining. 

The city always forecasts a dire budget picture for the future (the out years) and then amazingly money appears and things are fine.  This happens in good times and even sometimes in bad times. 

As the economic outlook keeps improving now that we seem to be fully emerging from the Great Recession, it took some really poor negotiating skills on the part of municipal labor to get us where we are. 

Who set that municipal labor pattern of 10% increases over 7 years and waiting for years to receive back pay from the last round of bargaining with the city?  The UFT of course.  We are certainly doing our part to balance the books and keep inflation in check.

One other point: I read the press release kind of quickly but I didn't see where the interest for CSA members who are in the fixed TDA was being reduced from 8.25% to 7% like the UFT agreed to do in 2009 but maybe I missed it.  Or perhaps that was an exclusive UFT giveback.