Tuesday, January 28, 2020

DIANE RAVITCH CAN'T UNDERSTAND FORMER LABOR LEADERS WORKING AGAINST TEACHERS

Andy Stern was the one time leader of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Diane Ravitch today is reporting on Stern joining the board of the Broad Foundation, a notoriously anti-public school anti- union organization.

Diane quotes from this piece in Splinter:
Stern developed a reputation as a business-friendly union leader, known for striking deals with companies that were often seen as too weak by many in the labor movement. Under the guise of modernization and growth, Stern seemed to lose his connection to the grassroots, radical, people-powered aspects of the union world. In 2010, The Nation quoted one union leader as saying, “Andy Stern leaves pretty much without a friend in the labor movement.”

Diane then writes about other labor leaders who are left to work against their former constituents:
George Parker was president of the Washington, D.C., teachers union at the time when Michelle Rhee became chancellor and started her famous campaign to crack down on teachers. At the end of his term in 2011, he teamed up with Rhee and spoke out against the same issues he had once championed. He went to work for Rhee’s Students First and joined her campaign for charters, vouchers, merit pay, and test-based evaluation. Now he works with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Paul Toner was vice-president, then president of the Massachusetts Teachers Union from 2006 to 2014. After his term ended, he joined the “reform” movement, as a Pahara-Aspen Institute Fellow, a graduate of the Broad Academy,  and currently executive director of the Gates-funded Teach Plus, which is generally pro-testing and anti-union (its CEO is John B. King Jr. and its board includes DFER favorite, former Congressman George Miller). 

Diane's conclusion:
Everyone has a right to change his or her mind. I did it myself. Still, I was not the leader of an organization; I was an individual who said, “I was wrong.” I admit that I don’t entirely understand how someone goes from being the president of a labor union to opposing the people they previously represented. 

I usually agree with just about everything Diane writes. Here, I  can clarify that it isn't that difficult to understand why union leaders switch sides. There are labor leaders who are careerists and becoming the president of a union gets a leader some power and money. It can be intoxicating and there are lucrative job opportunities available for these leaders outside of the union movement. I am not at all surprised that some succumb to these lures. Power, more so than representing members or a movement, is what motivates them.

The UFT-NYSUT-AFT takes care of its top level people financially so there really isn't a need to jump ship to cash in but would anybody be surprised if one of our union leaders takes a well paying gig that is anti-union after leaving union work? Former NYSUT Executive VP Alan Lubin is an exception but he kept getting money from the union after he left to start his own company.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

FBI INVESTIGATING NYC SCHOOLS (Updated on how to protect yourself and your colleagues)

Here is a portion of the latest from Sue Edelman in the NY Post:

The feds have started looking into allegations of widespread academic fraud in New York City schools, a Queens lawmaker says.

City Councilman Robert Holden met this month with officials in the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York after his call for a federal probe of “deep-rooted fraud” in the city Department of Education.

“I’m encouraged by my meeting with the US Attorney. His team is taking this seriously,” Holden told The Post.

FBI agents have already contacted several whistle-blowing teachers whose names he provided, Holden added.


I have stated repeatedly here that the UFT should get ahead of this and stop being a cheerleader for Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Those who think that the best course of action to take is to just go along and pass everyone may be in for a letdown as an update on the situation at Maspeth High School shows. It looks like they are attempting to turn a dean into the fall guy here.

From another Sue Edelman piece:

A Maspeth High School math teacher and dean who students say gave them answers on Regents exams and texted with them has been removed, The Post has learned.

Danny Sepulveda was escorted out of the Queens school in late December “due to an ongoing investigation,” the city Department of Education confirmed.

DOE officials said the investigation was “unrelated to academic fraud.”

But Sepulveda, 30, is one of several teachers who gave kids answers during Regents exams, according to statements given to investigators.

DOE officials say this is "unrelated to academic fraud." This may very well be true. It also may be the case that this teacher is a convenient scapegoat for the scandal at this school.

Many schools badly need integrity. I again suggest that every UFT Chapter that needs to should use Article 8B and 24 in the Contract to make sure there is some legitimacy in the grading process. I am copying in full below the piece we wrote in November on using the Contract to protect yourself and your colleagues. This becomes even more relevant now that it looks like the FBI is probing the schools.

YOU CAN FIGHT GRADE INFLATION/FRAUD BY USING THE UFT CONTRACT
I have been attempting for a long time to get the UFT members who read this blog to step up to the plate to take action in defense of teacher rights.  I haven't been overly successful for sure except for inducing comments. Unfortunately, anonymous comments here or comments on Facebook aren't going to do anything more than allow people to vent about horrible working conditions in many schools. For anyone who has a spine or wants to grow one, please don't comment but rather take action. The Contract is generally on our side when it comes to student grades. Let us now examine how to use it.

Article 8D. Students’ Grades
The teacher’s judgment in grading students is to be respected; therefore if the principal changes a student’s grade in any subject for a grading period, the principal shall notify the teacher of the reason for the change in writing.

We as the professionals are contractually entitled to judge students as we see fit (within guidelines) and a principal must inform a teacher of a grade change and put the reason for the change in writing. Administration must go on the written record to challenge a grade a teacher gives. If teachers have a school or departmental grading policy that they are adhering to, those teachers are on very solid ground contractually. It is important to document why any particular student received a certain grade. If someone is worried about being cited for not doing interventions, documenting contacts to guidance or home should be sufficient to have grades respected and it does not have to be multiple home contacts, especially if there are 34 students on a register.

I can already read the anonymous comments. I will save you the trouble.

"Anonymous said: If I assert my rights and give the students the grades they deserve, the principal and the assistant principal and maybe the superintendent will be in my room the next morning and I will be given all 1's on a setup Danielson observation."

Or

"Anonymous said: Are you crazy James? The day I grade honestly is the day I will have corporal punishment or some other charge thrown at me. No, I am going to play the game to survive."

Or

"Anonymous said: The kids don't do any work and don't show up and still pass. They feel entitled to freebies from the liberal government. I can't stop it so I'm opting out of the union instead of fighting for my rights. At least I'll have some extra money that I can put it in my TDA that only gets 7% (not 8.25%) interest because of the UFT."

Or

"Anonymous said: My principal requires us to contact parents every other day if we want to fail a student. It's easier to just pass them all.

Or

"Anonymous said: My chapter leader goes out for drinks every Friday with the principal. He won't do anything if I ask him to. My colleagues won't listen to me so I'm not doing anything."

Please spare me the above nobody will support me comments, thank you. I won't print them!

I agree with you that doing this alone might not be the smartest action if you do not have tenure, your principal is crazy, your chapter leader loves your insane principal, or you are devoid of even the slightest hint of a backbone. On the other hand, if a teacher asserted his/her rights over grades being respected and then received a negative observation, I would advise that teacher to file an APPR Complaint immediately in which I would counsel them to scream retaliation from the highest mountain peak to the chapter leader, the district representative, or if that doesn't get a response to Sue Edelman at the NY Post, to Councilman Robert Holden, and finally to ICEUFT where if you provide us with evidence, we would publish the name of the school and the principal if you are so inclined. I bet Norm (EdNotes) and Chaz would support you too.

I understand this is not easy. If you are reluctant to stand up for yourself by going at it alone as it might just be next to impossible, would you consider collective action? Workers should fight collectively.

If teachers want to fight grade inflation-fraud as a chapter, the Article 19 mandated UFT Consultation Committee meetings with the principal are a great place to raise grade inflation/fraud at the chapter level. Then, there is the often ignored Article 24 process. Again, from the Contract:

ARTICLE TWENTY-FOUR
PROFESSIONAL CONCILIATION
The Board and the Union agree that professional involvement of teachers in
educational issues should be encouraged. However, it is recognized that there may be
differences in professional judgment.
A. School Level

1. Where differences related to school-based decisions in one of the following areas
cannot be resolved, a conciliation process will be available to facilitate the resolution of
these differences:
a. Curriculum mandates
b. Textbook selection
c. Program offerings and scheduling
d. Student testing procedures and appraisal methodology
e. Pedagogical and instructional strategy, technique and methodology.

In order to utilize the conciliation process, the 
UFT chapter may request, through the
Union, the service of (a) person(s) identified as expert in conciliation. Selections of such
person(s) will be made by the Board and the Union from a list of conciliators mutually
agreed upon by the Board and the Union.

2. Within five school days, the Board Coordinator will contact the appropriate
superintendent who will promptly advise the Board Coordinator as to whether he/she will
directly address the issue.
a. If the issue is addressed by the superintendent, he/she should resolve it within ten
school days. If not resolved, the Board Coordinator will assign a conciliator at the end of
that period.
b. If the superintendent does not respond to the Board Coordinator or advises that
he/she is not addressing the issue, the Board Coordinator will assign a Conciliator within
five school days.

Notice that one of the issues that has to be addressed if a chapter asks for it is "Student testing procedures and appraisal methodology." Teachers are contractually entitled to a voice on testing and appraisal. If the standards at a school are nonexistent, as people here are constantly writing anonymously, then use the Article 24 process. Get it to the superintendent as fast as possible. Publicize it. I think chapters could very well be successful. Please no comments about the chapter leader sleeping with the principal. Get a group together and light a figurative spark under the chapter leader.

The Contract is there for members to utilize. The UFT should get ahead of the grade inflation/fraud issue instead of making nice-nice with management, particularly if the grade inflation/fraud is as widespread as readers here are leading us to believe.

For those who would rather hide in the corner and just play the game, this issue is not going away. Please read today's NY Post editorial.

The conclusion:
Bottom line: Most city kids aren’t getting the “sound, basic education” that courts have ruled the state Constitution requires. But it’s not, as past lawsuits have suggested, about the money: It’s about the DOE’s top-to-bottom complicity in hiding its failure.

Rather than face the truth, Mayor Bill de Blasio recently suggested, “There’s something wrong” with the National Assessment of Education Progress tests (the gold standard of US exams!) because they show no progress in city schools. In other words, he’d rather the fraud continue, so he can claim success.

Federal prosecutors spent years getting the goods on the city Housing Authority’s systematic coverup of its failures. Holden’s entirely right to ask for a similar exposé of the school system.

The forces that hate public schools like the NY Post Editorial Board are going to use grade inflation-fraud as another excuse to privatize the schools. We can and should get ahead of them by blaming the city and central Department of Education for the lack of integrity in certain schools as this is a top-down dictatorial type school system. We should be demanding that grade inflation is stopped and that integrity is restored to the schools. Empowering teachers is the way to accomplish this as it was done before former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his Chancellor Joel Klein basically destroyed teacher voice at the school level. UFT chapters were a very good check on the system before Bloomberg-Klein.

There is one major caveat here. I am asking for reasonable standards and responsible grading. I was often considered a rather easy grader but now my standards would be considered rigorous. I am definitely not condoning teachers who demand graduate school level work in a high school course and find every student lacking. We can start to restore some sanity by pushing for an easily enforceable seat time requirement for a student to receive credit. Joel Klein took the 90% attendance requirement to be promoted out of the Chancellor's Regulations. Let's insist that it be placed back in.

For those who think this can't be done legally, I submit a part of State Education Regulation 104.1:

Purpose:
(3) ensure sufficient pupil attendance at all scheduled periods of actual instruction or supervised study activities to permit such pupils to succeed at meeting the State learning standards.

And further down:
(v) a description of the school district, BOCES, charter school, county vocational education and extension board or nonpublic school policy regarding pupil attendance and a pupil's ability to receive course credit. Any board of education, board of cooperative educational services, charter school board or county vocational education and extension board that adopts a policy establishing a minimum standard of attendance in order for a pupil to be eligible for course credit shall have the authority to determine that a properly excused pupil absence, for which the pupil has performed any assigned make up work, shall not be counted as an absence for the purpose of determining the pupil's eligibility for course credit under such policy. In the event a board of education, board of cooperative educational services, charter school board or county vocational education and extension board adopts a minimum attendance standard as a component of its policy, such policy shall include a description of the notice to a pupil's parent(s) or person(s) in parental relation as well as the specific intervention strategies to be employed prior to the denial of course credit to the pupil for insufficient attendance.

Positive change can occur but more people have to step up and demand it.


Saturday, January 25, 2020

VERMONT AFT LATEST UNION TO ENDORSE SANDERS; WHAT ABOUT UFT?

AFT Vermont has endorsed Bernie Sanders for President (see below). Sanders is winning over more unions than any other Democratic candidate.

This is from Politico:

Most national unions haven’t picked a favorite yet in the Democratic presidential primary.

It’s been a boon for Bernie Sanders.

Rather than harming Sanders, a longtime labor ally who has promised to work to double union membership as president, the reluctance to offer endorsements at the national level has enabled more progressive-minded local unions and labor groups to come out in force for the Vermont senator.

Sanders has already racked up 11 labor endorsements, more than any of his Democratic rivals, most of which are from local, regional and statewide unions. And some are among the most powerful labor organizations in early-voting and Super Tuesday states.

"He’s picking up more labor endorsements because the national unions, almost without exception, have not made endorsements, which implicitly or explicitly sets the local and regional unions free,” said David Kusnet, a former speechwriter for Bill Clinton who co-authored a book with an ex-AFL-CIO president. “He has a lot of friends and fans and supporters in the union movement, and some of them are succeeding in pushing their local labor unions to endorse him.”

This includes large teachers unions including the second largest local in the country: the United Teachers of Los Angeles and the biggest independent teacher union in the country: the Clark County Education Association.

Of course, the UFT, NYSUT and the AFT are not among the unions supporting Bernie. After the UTLA Sanders' endorsement,  I put the odds at about 10 billion to 1 on the UFT backing Bernie in the primaries. Those odds have come down a bit as Bernie is now surging in the polls but I still see the UFT as one of the unions that may try to block Bernie. He wants workers empowered; the UFT leadership I don't believe strongly stands for this position. It's time for Bernie supporters to stop dithering and waiting and call for the UFT Delegates to take an up or down vote on a Sanders endorsement in the primary while it still means something.

Is there a UFT Delegate who supports Bernie who would raise a resolution for the UFT to endorse Bernie? His labor friendly Workplace Democracy plan is the most pro-worker proposal I have ever seen from a major party candidate for the White House. His Thurgood Marshall Education Plan is the best education program that any Democratic candidate has ever put forward. My favorite part of each:

  • Establish federal protections against the firing of workers for any reason other than “just cause.”  When Bernie is president he will fight to make sure workers cannot be fired “at will” and will sign a “just cause” law to protect workers and their constitutional right to speak out and organize in their workplaces.
  • Protect and expand collective bargaining rights and teacher tenure.

Here is what Bill Clinton's Secretary of Labor Robert Reich said of Sanders' labor backing in the Politico piece.

Robert Reich, who served as labor secretary under the Clinton administration, suggested that Sanders’ success stems from his work courting unions and their members, including by proposing to offer them advantages if Medicare for All passed. Under his plan, businesses whose workers have union-negotiated health care coverage would have to renegotiate their contracts if single-payer became the law of the land — and direct any windfall to the employees.

Our health plans which cost the city around $20,000 apiece annually would be replaced by Medicare for All. According to Sanders, our cost as middle class people would be a 4% tax so for someone making $100,000 after deductions, that's $4,000. Even if we double that figure to account for the city paying into the new system, we are talking $8,000. Add in the savings if a huge part of the Welfare Fund is replaced and we would be in good shape to get some real money back in our pay. Do you really care if your insurer is GHI or HIP or the federal government?

Here is how Bernie's Workplace Democracy Plan explains our refund:

A fair transition to Medicare for All: 

Bernie will require that resulting healthcare savings from union-negotiated plans result in wage increases and additional benefits for workers during the transition to Medicare for All. When Medicare for All is signed into law, companies with union negotiated health care plans would be required to enter into new contract negotiations overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Under this plan, all company savings that result from reduced health care contributions from Medicare for All will accrue equitably to workers in the form of increased wages or other benefits.  Furthermore, the plan will ensure that union-sponsored clinics and other providers are integrated within the Medicare for All system, and kept available for members. Unions will still be able to negotiate for and provide wrap-around services and other coverage not duplicative of the benefits established under Medicare for All.

If a UFT Delegate wants to collaborate in writing a proper Bernie endorsement resolution, I would be glad to assist.
 · 

***Endorsement of Senator Sanders for President***
AFT Vermont, a state-wide union representing five thousand higher education and  healthcare professionals, today endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for president following an overwhelming vote by the members who participated in the union's process.

The union emphasized Sen. Sanders's longtime and consistent support for working people and organized labor, which he has demonstrated by walking picket lines, supporting organizing drives and contract fights, and championing legislation to strengthen unions in the face of attacks on organized labor. The union also expressed deep support for the Senator’s broader policy agenda and track record, with a focus on legislation that lifts up the working class such as universal healthcare, making card check the law of the land, and tuition-free public colleges and universities.

"There are very few other elected officials who have done all that Bernie has done for AFT Vermont and the labor movement,” said Deb Snell, President of AFT Vermont. “Senator Sanders has always been a strong supporter of the goals of our union, including free college tuition, ending the nursing shortage, and raising the standard of living for all Vermonters. For this reason and many others, our union members voted decisively to endorse Senator Sanders as the next President of the United States."

“I’m honored to have the support of AFT Vermont,” said Sen. Sanders. “These educators and nurses are putting in the work every day to support Vermonters, and they deserve our support in return. We have the labor movement to thank for building this country’s middle class, and we must strengthen the middle class today by fortifying the power of organized labor in Vermont and across the country.”

In 2018, Sen. Sanders backed the UVMMC nurses in their strike, hosting a press conference with the union as well as calling into a rally to deliver words of encouragement and support to the nurses on strike. A strong, unwavering advocate for unions across all sectors, Sen. Sanders has the most thorough and extensive plan of any presidential hopeful to strengthen the rights of American workers and the labor movement, outlined in his Workplace Democracy Plan.

Friday, January 24, 2020

CARRANZA RESIGNATION WOULD NOT SOLVE SCHOOL SYSTEM'S MAIN PROBLEMS

I read the letter that the Queens Chronicle editors imagine Richard Carranza writing in which he tenders his resignation (see below).

Note to the Chronicle: Changing chancellors will not matter very much. The primary problem is a mayoral dictatorship over our NYC schools. As long as one unitary executive has complete power over our education system in this city, the schools will continue to be a no accountability zone. The main job of the school system will not be to educate kids but to make numbers look good for the mayor, even if it means fraud.

Bill de Blasio is a lame duck mayor. What does he care if the graduation rate the schools are producing is bogus and everyone knows it? The low stakes National Assessment of Education Progress scores are essentially flat. Young people are not suddenly getting smarter. They are just being pushed through to make the last two mayors look good. De Blasio will just keep repeating that NYC has the highest graduation rate ever and saying that we are investigating and dealing with a small number of cheaters.

In reality, the data driven obsession that started with Michael Bloomberg has just continued under de Blasio and his two chancellors who have kept the Bloomberg-Joel Klein bureaucratic, anti-teacher culture intact. The UFT has mostly been silent (forget the part of the editorial where they say the UFT is not happy). The Union is mainly quiet in my opinion because de Blasio answers Michael Mulgrew's phone calls and yes this mayor has been better on charter schools so Mulgrew talks about NYC as a model system. That is a big mistake but Mulgrew has even less accountability than the chancellor. Just read the comments here and you can see what a nightmare teaching has become for many teachers in NYC. Carranza is a symptom. The disease will continue to spread until there are some real checks and balances in the schools. The UFT used to be a powerful check. It no longer is. (The UFT won't be more effective if it is weakened by mass defections unless the dissidents start a new union so please spare me the comments on not paying dues.) 

It's up to us to scream and yell and do whatever we have to in order to make the UFT again a check by calling out what is going on instead of leaving it to Sue Edelman or Salim Algar at the NY Post or the Safety Agents' Union or the Council of Supervisors and Administrators.

The Chronicle editorial:

Rather than continuing to sow racial divisions, to walk out on aggrieved parents, to wink and nod at grade-fixing, to alienate elected officials and to allow little girls to get pummeled in the middle school cafeteria, New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza should resign. He’s welcome to do so by copying and pasting the following onto his letterhead and having it delivered.
Dear Mayor de Blasio (Bill),

It is with heavy heart that I write, but I have no choice.

As you know, when confronted by parents in Bayside, Queens, whose children had been assaulted by other students — one of them sexually, along with months of harassment — I turned tail and ran. I had to. Sure, this was at a meeting of the District 26 Community Education Council and there were cops in the room, but it was scary. I don’t know what these outerborough parents are capable of, and I’m the chancellor — I can’t let them touch a perfect hair on my head.

You saw the video of that girl getting a beatdown at MS 158. Man, she got pounded. That one teacher made a half-hearted attempt to grab her, but then he let her go and she just kept on going. That’s when she jumped onto and off the table to carry on the assault like some pro wrestler. It would have been nice if the teachers actually stopped her before she got back on the table to do that victory dance, but can you blame them? They’d get sued, and we’d just have to settle. Plus, we’re all about restorative justice, not stopping kids from doing what they please through physical measures.

So now we’ve got the teachers union saying the lack of discipline is lowering morale and making it harder to manage classes. The CEC put out an announcement that mocked me between the lines. Seven elected officials, from City Hall to Capitol Hill, issued a letter demanding answers.

I’ve got none, your honor. I’m an ideologue and I’m afraid.

Everything else is a mess, too. In nearby District 28, we’re trying to get Jamaica parents to let their kids be bused to Forest Hills and vice versa because we have to force desegregation. These people just keep moving into neighborhoods with other people who look like them! And when we come in and tell them there’s a better way, just put your 12-year-old on that city bus for a couple hours a day, they get all upset. We have to make a show of getting “community input,” but man, imposing change from above is stressful.

You saw how we failed to do that with the Specialized High School Admissions Test. Of course fewer Asian kids will get into the SHSAT schools if we make it so more black and Hispanic students do; we all know that. But those darn parents fought us and they won! Now if we want a more balanced enrollment, like it was years ago, we’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way, and improve the elementary and middle schools black and Hispanic kids attend. That’s hard!

And you know I have it on impeccable sources that when a Queens Chronicle editor asked Rep. Grace Meng if she thought I was dealing with the SHSAT from a position of good faith, there were about five seconds of silence before she said I had a lot of ground to make up for but she’s willing to work with me. The air was heavy in those moments!

We both know kids aren’t learning better than when I arrived. Graduation rates are up, but that’s because standards are down. If that wasn’t the reason, the kids would be doing better on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and they’re not. Think Maspeth High School is the only one where the staff helps kids cheat? Think again.

I couldn’t take the heat in Bayside, my friend, and I gotta head out. This whole town should be called Hell’s Kitchen!

Richard A. Carranza

Chancellor, New York City Department of Education

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

CUOMO CALLS FOR 3% INCREASE IN SCHOOL SPENDING

Yesterday Governor Andrew Cuomo presented his executive budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Many were worried that there would be a cut to education funding or aid to New York City because of a projected $6.1 billion gap in the state budget. Relax folks, the funding is coming to the schools, although nearly not as much as education advocates feel is necessary.

From City and State:

$178 billion: That’s Cuomo’s proposed total spending in the upcoming budget, a relatively small 1.2% increase over this year’s $176 billion budget, and well within Cuomo’s oft-stated pledge to keep growth below 2%.

$2.5 billion: Cuomo is once again assembling a so-called Medicaid Redesign Team, which he last did in 2011, with a goal in finding that much annual savings from the state’s administration of the federal health care program for low-income New Yorkers. It’s likely to be a difficult goal. State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a Medicaid audit last week finding ways to save only $800 million.

0: Cuomo promised “zero impact on local governments” from the Medicaid redesign – as long as those city and county governments stayed within a 3% cap on growth. It’s yet to be seen whether this will calm local leaders like de Blasio.

$826 million: The planned increase in local education spending, which Cuomo deemed the “largest foundation aid increase of my administration.” When Cuomo faced a $10 billion budget deficit in 2011, he actually cut school aid by $2.7 billion. This year, he promised no cuts, and proposed raising education spending to $28.5 billion – the largest line item in the budget.

3%: Despite the deficit, Cuomo hopes to increase both education and Medicaid spending by that much. “I don’t think any New Yorker would want to choose between health care and education, and I don’t think our government should either,” he said. Instead of enacting cuts, Cuomo said he plans to close the budget gap by reducing the rate of growth. 

Once the State Assembly and State Senate add some more by the April 1 budget deadline, it looks as though there will be no great changes or cuts. For education there should a decent amount of money coming to the school districts in fiscal year 2021. Just as in years past, I very much doubt that much, if any, of the increase in funding will find its way to the classroom in many schools in NYC.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

MS 158 PROBLEM ILLUSTRATES HOW INTEGRITY IS NOT VALUED UNDER MAYORAL CONTROL

In this day and age, trying to sweep school safety incidents under the carpet is bound to fail because cameras are ubiquitous. The video of the student beat-down of another pupil at MS 158 in Queens should shock everyone but won't surprise people who work in NYC schools.


Here is part of how the NY Post describes what happened:

Newly released video of an all-out punching, kicking, hair-pulling, girl-on-girl assault in the cafeteria of a Queens middle school is just the latest sign New York’s schools are out of control — and it has parents fuming, teachers wringing their hands and the schools chancellor literally walking the other way.

“I really don’t think he cares,” the mom of the victim in the caught-on-video cafeteria fight told The Post Friday, a day after Chancellor Richard Carranza walked out on her when she tried to confront him about the brawl at a town hall meeting for parents and teachers at the school.

“He didn’t say a word — he just sat there,” as she pleaded for action, said the mom, Katty Sterling, whose daughter was attacked at MS 158 in Bayside last week.

Later in the Post piece, a parent sort of feels for the teachers who witnessed the mayhem:

The kids are running the school, complained Jenny Suarez, the parent of a sixth-grader at the school.

“I see the teachers are just standing around not doing much. I guess they’re afraid of getting involved and losing their jobs,” she said.

QNS also has a story on last week's District 26 Town Hall.

Hundreds of concerned parents attended the standing-room-only event at M.S. 74 in Bayside, which began with prewritten questions read by members of Community Education Council (CEC) 26. But things took a turn after the father called out from the crowd requesting “just one minute” of time to speak.

The crowd yelled “answer this man,” and “let him speak,” urging the CEC and chancellor to give the parent time to express his concerns. QNS spoke to the father after the meeting, but we are withholding his name to protect the identity of his daughter.

“The school basically just covered it up and all I wanted to do was just talk. But I know they wouldn’t let me talk,” he said. “It’s just disconcerting.”

Further down:

Outraged mother Katty Sterling, whose daughter was involved in a physical altercation at M.S. 158 approached the stage and said that “nobody is doing anything” to reprimand the student who instigated the fight.

“The other student is sitting in school getting all the privileges and what is my daughter doing? Sitting at home, sick, getting traumatized,” yelled Sterling.

The chancellor and CEC members were seen conferring on stage before Aviles announced that the meeting would have to cut the meeting short. Aviles told QNS that the decision to end the town hall was the Department of Education’s decision and not the decision of the CEC.

Elected officials are involved too as they have written a letter to the Chancellor demanding answers. This is part of a QNS article on that letter:

The letter was authored by northeast Queens representatives Congresswoman Grace Meng, Councilmail Paul Vallone, Senator John Liu, Councilmen Barry Grodenchik and Peter Koo and Assemblymembers Nily Rozic and Ed Braunstein.

“These reported incidents are horrifying, and the apparent lack of action is deeply troubling and absolutely unacceptable,” said Meng. “No student should be subjected to harassment and violence at school. Our schools must be safe and welcoming environments for each and every student. When students are in school, they should be focused on learning, not worrying about their safety. Chancellor Carranza must immediately address the issues we’ve raised, and I await his reply to our letter. As the mother of two young boys who attend local public schools, I firmly believe that nothing is more important than ensuring the safety of our children.”

Having Senator John Liu as a signatory is rather ironic as Liu chairs the Senate's New York City Education Committee so he could have helped use the powers of the Senate in 2019 to end mayoral dictatorship over NYC schools. Instead, he and the rest of the Legislature renewed it through 2022.

The inevitable result of mayoral control is fraud. Teachers and administrators worry about losing our jobs. Therefore, we have to produce constantly improving statistics to make the mayor look good. In the end, we wind up with this kind of system where safety incidents are swept under the carpets while student grades and the graduation rates are artificially inflated so almost everyone passes.

The NY Post Editorial Board covered this topic and actually got it right:

 For the record, the [graduation] rate is up nearly 9 percentage points since de Blasio took office — but city students’ showing on the national “gold standard” test for educational achievement, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, is basically flat.

Their Conclusion:

For the city, and probably other school districts across the state, another factor [for rising graduation rates] is cheating by school administrators. De Blasio’s system can’t seem to go a year without some new grade-fixing or bogus “credit recovery” scandal surfacing in The Post, thanks mostly to outraged teachers.

What New York needs isn’t simply rising graduation rates, but rising numbers of seniors actually ready to go to college or start a career. Any “success” short of that is just a marketing ploy.

The arrogance from the Department of Education along with the phony numbers are only going to end when teachers and parents are again empowered, as we once were before mayoral control, to be a check on the system. Could you imagine a superintendent who was accountable to an elected school board walking out on parents like Carranza did last week? We could go a step in the right direction if the UFT would do its job and show members that their union is truly supportive but in the end as long as teacher and principal ratings are tied to student assessment results and schools are judged in part based on how few incidents they have, the cover-ups, grade as well as diploma inflation will just continue.

Ending mayoral control would bring some needed integrity back to the schools. It expires in 2022 and it will only take either the State Senate or Assembly to kill it forever. Why can't we have an elected school board or borough elected boards like just about every other community  has?




  1. P.S. To see how some teachers feel, please go to Chaz's School Daze and read his account on the lack of discipline and the comments.

Monday, January 20, 2020

UFT EXPLAINS YOUR RIGHTS

I copied this list below directly from Unity's Gene Mann's online publication for UFT activists called The Organizer. There are links to explanations for many rights UFT members have that are mostly not used according to what I read here in the comments and hear from around the system.

I highly recommend UFT members proceed directly to the grievance section for the harassment, intimidation, retaliation, and discrimination by supervisors part and then go to the Whistleblower protection section in the Other category to take advantage of these rights that have to be used to be effective. Member fears are legitimate but if we don't overcome them as a group, this job will never improve.


Absences
Certification
Class Size
Disciplinary Charges
· Summons
Excessing
Grievance
Health Benefits
Injured On The Job
Leaves Of Absence
Letter In The File
Observation & Evaluation
Per Session
Professional Activities
Program Preferences
Salary
· Salary
School-Based Option
Teaching
· Grades
Teaching Help
· Mentors
Tenure
· Tenure
Time
Transfers
Transit Programs
Shortage Areas
Environmental Health
School Safety
Supplies
School-Based Positions
Workload
Other
· Arrests