Sunday, November 25, 2007
by James Eterno, Chapter Leader, Jamaica High School
The Chief Leader civil service newspaper reported last week that there was a substantial increase in the number of teachers rated unsatisfactory in NYC public schools. In 2006-07 there were 1,333 teachers rated unsatisfactory compared to 981 the previous year. This amounts to a 36% increase in U ratings over the span of just one year.
Of the 1,333 rated U last year, The Chief reported that 918 were tenured up from 662 the year before. This means the increase in tenured teachers rated U is 39% over that same one year period. Also, the number of teachers denied tenure more than doubled last year when compared to the previous year and the amount of teachers who had probation extended increased almost fourfold in 2006-07. While statistical changes over one year are hard to use scientifically, it is fairly clear that the Bloomberg-Klein administration armed for a full school year with a new Contract that severely weakened our rights (no more letter in file grievances, suspension without pay, etc...) is using its punitive provisions to unfairly blame teachers for problems in education. We cannot wait for another increase in U ratings before we fight back assertively.
When the attack on teachers comes to your school, your only defense is to be a strong Union Chapter. Union solidarity has been tried in many ways since Bloomberg and Klein took over control of the schools. In too many schools, the UFT Chapter is now a union in name only. The grassroots level UFT will be tested over and over again in the coming months as Klein's "gotcha" squad of prosecuting attorneys and the data driven accountability system will most likely lead to an acceleration of the unwarranted attacks on educators.
ICE urges all UFT members to aggressively enforce all Contractual rights immediately by filing and supporting grievances as well as taking whatever other actions are possible when the Contract is not adhered to by administration (see the November 19 post on this blog). If we do not stand up for each other and protect what rights we have left, the consequences will be dire. We must stick together by fighting collectively if we are to survive.
If members are in a Chapter where they do not believe they can get support from their Chapter Leader, then they need to form their own groups of UFT members and work together to uphold their collective rights. If anyone needs help, please contact ICE and we will do what we can to assist. If we show the Chancellor, the Mayor and UFT leadership that we are not going to take unwarranted attacks against us lying down, they will have to start to seriously reckon with us.
Don't expect Randi to bail us out. We must begin the counterattack ourselves at the school level and then force the UFT leadership to climb on board.
Monday, November 19, 2007
ICE To Randi:Fight Back for Real This Time
The "first I love you then I hate you, then I love you" saga between UFT President Randi Weingarten and the Bloomberg-Klein administration seems to be moving back to the "I hate you" mode. Chancellor Joel Klein announced last week the creation of a new witch hunt office of prosecuting attorneys whose job will be to help principals go after ineffective teachers. Randi wrote a response that she sent to Chapter Leaders where she names the new office the "gotcha unit" and she calls on Bloomberg and Klein to "retract it and...apologize to the hard working teachers of this city."
Randi is so incensed that she has decided to support U Rated Teachers who have called for a vigil at Tweed headquarters on November 26, the night of the next meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy. ICE endorses the vigil and is glad to have Randi's support. However if this is to be more than the usual public relations' push to show UFT members that she feels our pain, then it is time for the UFT leadership to finally come to the realization that there can be no collaboration with this administration and we must fight back for real. You see we've seen the "Randi is Angry" show before and we didn't like how it ended.
Just as Randi is ticked off now as Klein's "gotcha" squad is announced one day after dismal test score results from national tests are released, she was incensed in 2003 only a few months after the UFT supported Bloom-Klein's first school reform. Soon thereafter, Klein was attempting to micromanage everything including how teachers should use classroom rugs. Randi challenged Klein to teach and then there was the UFT's protest that the city should "Let teachers teach." There was a giant UFT rally at City Hall with that theme.
Then, there was the protracted Contract fight from 2003-2005 where Randi was angry with the proposal to have an eight page Contract that would have eliminated virtually all of our rights, but she still ignored strong warnings from ICE members of the Executive Board and went to non binding arbitration where the UFT lost. She ended up standing next to Klein for that famous kiss as she gave away so many of our rights in the 2005 Contract (longer day, school in August, no right to grieve file letters, return to hall and cafeteria patrol, suspension without pay based on Office of Special Investigations' Reports that are often biased against teachers, no more seniority or SBO transfers so schools have become Principal's patronage fiefdoms, no placement for excessed teachers and more) in exchange for salary increases that were the same as every other Municipal Union received except that we work more hours and get paid at the same rate for that extra time. Since then, it's been mostly a love fest as the next Contract was negotiated a year early.
There was the bus route change fiasco earlier this year. Bloom-Klein were having a real hard time as the UFT joined with parent organizations in opposing Klein's latest reorganization of the schools. A major rally was planned for the spring, but was cancelled when Klein made some minor changes to the reorganization that appeased Randi. By the start of this school year, she was joining with Bloom-Klein to say how smooth the opening was and the UFT had commercials on the radio urging collaboration between management and UFT Chapters. Simultaneously, Klein was rewriting rules for School Leadership Teams which were rendering Leadership teams powerless.
Now, Randi's furious one more time and demanding an apology from Bloom Klein over the "gotcha" team of prosecuting lawyers who are being sent in to help principals get rid of tenured teachers. Randi is supporting the vigil that U rated teachers had already planned and demanding an apology as well as the end of the "gotcha" squad. We are happy to see Randi supporting the vigil. However, Randi has gotten on and off the Bloomberg -Klein bandwagon so many times that it is quite difficult to figure out where she really stands.
Those of us who work in the schools have continually seen teaching and learning conditions deteriorate under Bloom-Klein. ICE has consistently opposed their anti-education, anti-union agenda and we have supported the parent groups opposing the administration. We have also called for an end to Mayoral Control of the schools to be replaced with real School Based Shared Decision Making between administration, parents and teachers with accountable oversight that is not tyrannical. Randi's support for the vigil and call for the apology are great but woefully inadequate. We need this to be the starting point to rebuild the UFT as a viable trade union.
Specifically, here is a ten point plan to revitalize the UFT which we would like implemented immediately:
1. Revitalize the trade union purposes of the UFT by sending out to the schools teams of UFT officials to encourage members to use the grievance process to protect our rights. No more officials coming to schools to push for the latest Department of Education "flavor of the month." Too many members feel little or no real union presence in their schools. That must change immediately if members are to have the confidence to stand up for their rights with rank and file actions.
2. The UFT created an award for Principals who collaborate with UFT Chapters; we would like to see an award and publicity in every issue of the NY Teacher for Chapters or individual members who stand up for their rights in the face of unwarranted attacks from administrators. Why should people be calling Norm Scott or ICE about their issues? They should be calling the UFT and the Union should be fighting assertively for its members.
3. Use the harassment provision of the Contract aggressively. Right now members are told to keep an extensive log before an intimidation/harassment case is lodged against a principal under Article 23 of the Contract. Why not make these cases routine as soon as the harassment of our members begins? Two negative file letters/observation reports should set a pattern and be enough for us to fight back and file a harassment/intimidation special complaint in most cases.
4. Encourage Chapter Leaders to tell their members that the Contract calls for us to be treated equitably and fairly (Article 22A) and if we are not, let's file grievances that are all moved forward quickly by the UFT and insist that the DOE follow time limits outlined in the Contract.
5. If the DOE refuses to hear grievances in a timely manner, let's go to court to force their hand.
6. Take the DOE to court or to the State Education Commissioner against U ratings that are unwarranted if the Chancellor will not overturn them. We have nothing to lose but our members must know that we are fighting for them with every weapon at our disposal.
7. Picket in front of schools where the UFT Chapter is not being respected by administration and call in the press.
8. Publicize the failures of management. For example, show how there is a huge problem with students who are mis-programmed in the high schools because there isn't enough time between the end of summer school and the start of the school year. Show examples of great teachers who can't get jobs because of a political hiring process that has turned schools into principal patronage fiefdoms. Tell the world about teachers who have PhDs who are watching students in cafeterias. Publicize how extra money that has been added to the education budget in NYC is not going to classrooms (Where are the lower class sizes from the CFE settlement?, etc...)
9. No more standing next to Bloom-Klein if they back off a little on their "gotcha" plan. We don't need any incremental gains. It's time to renounce their mismanagement of the schools and abuse of our members forever.
10. Demand an end to Mayoral Control of the schools. The system does not need to be fine tuned; it needs a major overhaul and now is the time to push for it as the law permitting the mayor unilateral control of city schools sunsets in 2009 and must be renewed by the State Legislature. We should not give a penny in UFT political contributions (COPE money) or any kind of support to any politician who does not oppose Mayoral control. It's time to mobilize our members to end it and not merely try to mend it.
We welcome our readers to add more suggestions to the list.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
At the November 7, 2007 Delegate Assembly Meeting, UFT President Randi Weingarten motivated two amendments to a resolution that basically criticized the report card grades that the Department of Education is giving schools. She made a long argument about how the UFT would oppose any school being closed based on the report card data and said she would support schools who want to challenge their grade with Union actions. She turned down a similar request on fighting school potential school closings with Union actions just three weeks earlier.
Specifically the first of Randi's "President's Amendments" called for alternative accountability measures that would be fair and more transparent than the report cards that came out last week that gave schools an overall grade of A to F.
The second amendment read as follows: "That, the UFT will support any school community that believes its score on the progress reports was not a fair or accurate reflection of the school's achievement or the hard work of it's educators; that support could involve appeals, demonstrations and other actions." This wording sounds somewhat familiar. A few weeks earlier at the October DA, Jeff Kauffman introduced two amendments to a resolution on Absent Teacher Reserves.
The original resolved clause in an October 18 DA resolution talked about a hiring freeze until all ATR's are placed in a regular position. ICE added two new resolved clauses as amendments to this resolution. The first one tried to strengthen the UFT's position on school closings so that the closing of schools would be banned until it was proven to be educationally sound. The second ICE amendment said: "Resolved, that the UFT use all available means including a publicity campaign, a mobilization of the membership, an appeal to the City Council, the State Legislature and the State Education Department to put maximum pressure on the Department of Education to implement the above Resolved clauses." The Unity Caucus majority turned down these amendments on October 18. Randi gave a speech saying we have lost the fight in court on schools being closed.
Fast forward three weeks and now Randi is writing her own amendments saying that the UFT will take strong actions to protect schools that feel they are being unjustly graded. Remember Chancellor Joel Klein has said that he would close schools based on negative report card grades. Thanks Randi, it's good to have you taking an ICE like position on fighting actively to oppose failing grades that could lead to the closing of schools.
We would gladly welcome Randi to take the ICE position on fighting to win back all of the horrific givebacks from the 2005 punitive Contract such as ending merit pay and starting school for us after Labor Day so schools can be fully prepared to open. In addition, we would welcome Randi's support to help us win back the right to grieve negative file letters and observations, bring back seniority and/or School Based Option Transfers and get us out of hall and cafeteria patrol as well as ending suspension without pay based on biased Office of Special Investigations Reports.
In other DA news, ICE had its own resolution to present on Merit Pay that we did not get a chance to bring forward at the November DA because Randi ran the clock out on the ten minute motion period, allowing just one motion to be brought up.
Members of ICE also pointed out that a resolution that would help mobilize UFT members to support disaster relief efforts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic left out victims of recent hurricanes in Mexico, Jamaica and other countries in the Caribbean. When this resolution was finally raised, there were very few delegates remaining in the hall and Jeff Kaufman called for a quorum (A quorum is the minimum amount of members necessary to conduct business and for UFT bodies that means 20%.) The quorum call was ignored by Special Assistant to the President Michael Mendel who at this time was chairing the meeting as Randi had left for another engagement. (We saw her about an hour later on NY1's Inside City Hall program.) The original resolution passed but Mendel did come to us after the meeting to assure members of ICE that he would draft a new resolution that would encompass all hurricane victims to be included in the UFT disaster relief efforts.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
By George N. Schmidt
Report Cards Spell Closings -- Welcome to Chicago
Colleagues and friends:
After reading the Sun story about the future fate of the "D" and "F" public
schools in New York City, my first thought was "Welcome to Chicago." We'll be
publishing a seven-part series on how Chicago has pioneered many of the most
odious aspects of No Child Left Behind since the imposition of the mayoral
dictatorship model of corporate "school reform" here in 1995. I'm starting the
series with a story about how many schools were closed, how many teachers were driven out of their professions, and how many kids (almost all black, here) were destroyed by that process, which began here in a big way in early 2002.
If you were to ask for two suggestions, here they are:
1. Fight like hell against any closings based on these rankings and sorting,
and fight like double hell against the system that is now in place to rank and
sort schools, but not capitalist exploitation in the community, as a way of
doing "accountability." Ultimately, our ruling class holds everyone but itself
2. Get all of the names, addresses, and other contact information of everyone
in every school before everyone is dispersed. Do not rely on professors or
other professional studiers of such things. In Chicago, a key component of the
destruction of more than 20 all-black schools (and their staffs, the majority
of whom in each case were black) required that the university people claim in
the press that they were going to "track" every child to make sure no one was
That was a lie, and I personally heard Tony Bryk (then at the University of
Chicago; now at Stanford) tell it to a reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times
during the press briefing that launched the school closings (for "failure")
iteration of corporation school reform here in 2002. Bryk, along with Melissa
Roderick and John Easton (all of the University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research) was a key player in covering up the destruction of so many children's lives in that process. The conflicts of interest for the three of them (at the time, Roderick and Easton were working for Chicago's Board of Education as well as for the Consortium, and Bryk's wife was head of a group that was getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts) was a small scale version of the contracting and corruption scandals elsewhere (like Reading First) in the current education world.
I would expect that BloomKlein will roll out some professors to assuage any
guilt about how they results will impact kids, and unless you are constantly
ready to challenge those professors (even the ones who talk sweetly and come
with a "progressive" pedigree) you will be weaker in this horrifying process.
I know you've already challenged some of the nonsense that's come with school semi-closings, like John Lawhead's work around the "small schoolsization" of Bushwick. There, too, you have to challenge the professors. Here in Chicago, Billy Ayers and Mike Klonsky's "Small Schools Network" got more than a half million in CPS contracts in the late 1990s to dismantle minority schools and often attack the local union leadership -- as at Bowen High School where I was union delegate. If you are mesmerized by people who write books and prance around in front of university seminars as "progressives", you're in for a terrible shock. But it will be the children who suffer most from this next and ugliest iteration of "school reform."
George N. Schmidt
Monday, November 05, 2007
What's wrong with making an extra $3,000 dollars?
By: Lisa North
As a union that represents the profession of educators, we have the responsibility to speak for the profession. What are we saying when we agree to a plan that will reward educators for test scores? The Bloomberg/Klein/Bush administrations believe the answer to improving urban education is for teachers to work harder to raise test scores. Despite our union leaders' claims that indicators like attendance, graduation rates, and parent surveys will be used, 85% of the bonus money will be based on scores. Our union, the voice of professional educators, has now signed on to that premise.
It is well known, as recently pointed out by Diane Ravitch, that test scores fluctuate from year to year based on how easy or hard they are (Daily News article 9/4/07). The UFT High Stakes Testing Committee spent a year studying the issue and concluded, "those who advocate for the misuse of student test scores to evaluate individuals, schools, and entire school systems are ignorant of or choose to ignore the fact that the makers of these tests never intended them to be used for those purposes."
Our union told us that by signing this bonus/merit pay program we avoided individual merit pay. Where is the line in the sand? Do we continue to make concession after concession until we have lost the battle for high quality education?
Improving urban education requires addressing the social and economic inequalities of our society. Our students need better health care, housing, and jobs for their parents. Our schools need more resources to lower class size, provide real time to collaborate on how best to improve teaching (not collaboration to raise test scores), high quality summer and after school programs in every school (not test prep programs), and high quality parent education programs.
School wide bonus/merit pay plans are a retreat in the face of this mission.