Wednesday, March 28, 2012


It appears the teachers in Buffalo, who have been without a contract for eight years, are hanging tough on opposing the new evaluation system.  Buffalo's teachers would not give much ground on the absurdity of rating teachers based on students who don't show up.  The union came to an agreement with the district where school wide student absenteeism had to be figured into the rating system for teachers.

When they reached this agreement with the district on evaluations, the union according to what I read then sent it to the membership.  This is right from the Buffalo News: "Teachers in every school in the district cast ballots on the proposed agreement earlier in the day; the delegates' vote was to be the final deciding factor by the union."  They emailed the agreement to members.  Why doesn't that happen in NYC on these important changes to our working conditions?

In the end State Education Commissioner John King rejected the Buffalo deal and they will lose some funding.  The point here, however, is that there are unions in New York State that are willing to stand up for their members and take risks.

We will be pulling for the Buffalo teachers if and when they fight King's move in court .

Sunday, March 18, 2012


No spin from NYSUT or Leo Casey or President Mulgrew on the legislation to stick anyone hired in April or thereafter with a Tier VI pension.  (Tell any paras that haven't joined the TRS to do so immediately.)  This is another crushing defeat for working people that will yield no savings today as current employees and retirees are not impacted.

For those yet to be hired, the legislature and governor wiped away virtually all of the pension gains we made over the last thirty years.  A new teacher or new state employee will have to work until they are sixty three to receive a full pension which will only be 55% of final average salary according to what I read.  Final average salary has been increased from the average of the last five years of employment instead of three.

I remember when I started working and all of the people who were on Tier I told those of us who were on Tier IV how horrible our pension was.  Now we will have to face the Tier VI people and tell them they are in it for the real long haul if they want to make teaching a career. It is the same for other civil servants across New York State.

Think about a twenty-two year old new college graduate who wants to become a teacher.  That person will have to work forty-one years to qualify for a full pension. This is not a very pleasant prospect.

With the attack on teachers and other public employees continuing unabated, could anyone encourage a young person to get into this line of work?

What about those COPE contributions?  We don't seem to have much influence with the legislature these days.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Should teachers be held accountable for student test score gains even if the students don't show up for class?  Yes says the NYC DOE and the State Education Department but the teachers in Buffalo are putting up a resistance to the absurd notion that teachers have to drag kids out of bed and into class.

Teachers already worry about our evaluations because one never knows how kids will act when we are observed.  We don't control many of the variables that are involved in rating us. It will be much worse under the new system and there will be weakened due process.

We salute the teachers in Buffalo, and their supporters in the press, for fighting back against the ridiculous new proposed system and of course we are following closely what the Long Island principals are doing to oppose basing our rating in part on student test scores too.  It should be the UFT leading this fight.

In other news, Jamaica High School teachers and former teachers can certainly write.

Marc Epstein's latest piece on Bloomberg's legacy packs a mean punch.  You can read it at Huffington. By the way, Marc is no longer a ronin teacher as we grieved his excessing and won.  He is back at Jamaica at least for this semester.

Also, former colleague Brett Rosenthal wrote a fine piece for the Washington Post.  Brett currently is an assistant principal working for Carol Burris.  She is the woman who is leading the fight against the new evaluation system.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


The March Delegate Assembly was totally uneventful. In the usual marathon President's Report, Michael Mulgrew was in full spin cycle.  He said that the Teacher Data Reports in the future may or may not be open to Freedom of Information Act requests when 20% of some teachers' annual review is based on student gains in standardized test scores.

Mulgrew spent a great deal of his time then defending the appeal system that he agreed to for the new evaluation system.  The President first emphasized that the new evaluation system has not gone into effect but that there is an agreement on the appeals.  He also was emphatic that 20% of the new evaluation system will be based on student growth in test scores but that another 20% that is based on student growth and the other 60% that is based on observations and peer review and maybe other factors must be negotiated by the City and the UFT.

Then Mulgrew went into details on the appeals process.  He said that currently 99.6% of teachers lose their Unsatisfactory rating appeals in the Bloomberg era but that in pre-Bloomberg times 10-15% of teachers had their U ratings overturned in a given year.  He added that this is why the UFT agreed to allow up to 13% of those who receive ineffective ratings in the new system, when it is implemented, to appeal to an independent three person panel.  He said that these would not be reviews based on performance but rather would be reserved for teachers who receive ineffective ratings based upon being harassed by Principals because they are Chapter Leaders, other union activists or whistle blowers.

He then told us that the other 87% of those who are stuck with an ineffective rating would be observed by independent validators who are not current employees of the DOE or UFT but would have to visit the ineffective teacher three times to validate the ineffective rating.  He felt this would be a good protection for teachers.

We believe otherwise as the program looks remarkably like Peer Intervention Plus Program where outside people not employed by UFT or DOE rubber stamp the Principal's findings most of the time.  Mulgrew mentioned that if the validator concludes that the teacher is not ineffective then if the DOE wants to dismiss that teacher, then they still would carry the burden of proof in a termination hearing.

(Those teachers who have their ineffective ratings  validated will then have to prove they are not ineffective [virtually impossible to do] in the new 3020A process to keep their jobs.  We predict many people will be rated ineffective twice and validators will validate most of them and then there will be a huge backlog of people waiting to have their termination hearings.  The only thing that might save people is that there might not be enough lawyers or arbitrators available to fire so many people.)

UFT spin is that the new system is an improvement.  In reality, it fundamentally weakens tenure to the point where in the future we are all vulnerable if this ever goes into effect.  Our hope is people will collectively rise to oppose it.

Mulgrew went on to say that the Mayor is not happy with the evaluation system so he will just continue to close as many schools as he can in his last 21 months in office as he tries to become a national figure.  Mulgrew told us about the polls that have the mayor's approval rating on the schools at around 21% and the UFT's approval rating around 60%.  He said the mayor knows he can't fire teachers en masse but that his stand plays well nationally.

Mulgew then said that there is legislation in Albany that is being sponsored by Assemblyman Keith Wright, that the UFT has a resolution supporting, that would make the Community Education Council have to approve any new co-location of a school in a current school building. (I wanted to ask why the UFT has no resolution on another bill in Albany to put major checks on school closings but as usual I wasn't recognized.  It is a question worth pursuing.)

The President then told us that the City is not getting Medicaid reimbursements to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.  He then segued into talking about SESIS, reporting that assistant principals were testifying on behalf of the UFT in the SESIS grievance, although the DOE says the major issues have been fixed.

He then read a letter from a CEC member in support of teachers. Mulgrew concluded his report by talking about how he addressed a Council of Supervisors and Administrators lunch event over the weekend.

Leroy Barr then gave the Staff Director's Report where he talked about an upcoming Para event and a March 15 Day of solidarity.  Mulgrew came back to tell everyone to call Albany at (877) 255-9417 to oppose a Tier 6 pension.  He said that we have paid for every benefit we have.

He then reported on how Joel Klein was served with a subpoena to testify in a suit filed last May opposed to school closings from 2011.  A judge denied the UFT an injunction to stop the closings of many schools (including my school) last July but that he did let the case go forward.  Mulgrew said the lawyers were lining up to try to question Klein.

Questions concerned the independent validators.  Mulgrew said that possibly retirees could do the job.  He talked about counter attacking on closing schools but that we need the law changed in Albany to stop the mayor.

I again need to point out that he didn't say why the UFT had no resolution to support a change in the state law on school closings.  The other resolutions were all non controversial and all passed unanimously.

Finally, a Chapter Leader that I respect told me he reads my monthly DA reports so he knows the DA is a waste of time. While I agree with him essentially, I don't agree with non Unity people not showing up. If every Chapter Leader and Delegate who are not part of Unity Caucus would attend meetings, it probably would be a totally different union. People need to be active.

Sunday, March 04, 2012


The NY Times and Daily News have great pieces on the folly of rating teachers by student test scores. They are written by teachers.  Julie Cavanagh is a teacher who received a highly effective teacher data report but she showed how rating teachers based on growth in student test scores is ridiculous because of a number of factors.  She calls for lower class sizes.  Julie is someone who I know well from being a fellow honoree at Leonie Haimson's Skinny Awards last year.  Julie is also one of the stars of the GEM movie "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman.

The Times published an opinion column the other day, critical of the new evaluation system, written by fellow chapter leader Arthur Goldstein and today there is an excellent piece penned by teacher Willam Johnson called Confessions of a Bad Teacher. Johnson takes on the current unsatisfactory rating system and argues that teachers become poorer instructors when administration is on their backs.  I couldn't agree more. He calls for equitable funding and claims we cannot even talk about basing our evaluations on student achievement until we distribute education money fairly.

These are three opinion articles well worth reading.  I'm almost surprised they were published considering the anti-teacher climate that has taken over the political discourse these days.  Enjoy them everyone.

Thursday, March 01, 2012


We criticized Leo Casey last week when we felt he was trying to sell us a lousy evaluation agreement as a professional gain.  If the UFT reaches a final agreement with Bloomberg on a new evaluation system, then tenure will be weakened considerably.  However, we also are not shy about complementing Leo and the UFT leadership when they do right by members.

Certainly Leo and the UFT leadership's defense of teachers in the aftermath  of Teacher Data Report release  is exactly what the UFT should be doing in response to publication of what is unscientific junk.  Rating teachers on how much value they add to their students based on invalid tests is wrong in so many ways. Leo's advocacy for a teacher the NY Post tried to shame because she had a low score on student growth in her TDR was terrific.  The NY Post hit a new low when they sent reporters to basically stalk this fine teacher, Pascale Mauclair, who received low ratings.

Maybe now people will understand that these TDR's with huge margins of error are a completely useless way to rate teachers. Hopefully, the thought of having an annual release of how students in a particular teacher's class do on standardized tests or other assessments will energize teachers to stand up and collectively oppose any new evaluation system that links student test scores to teacher job performance.

In other news, the Educational Impact Statements for the PLA schools the DOE wants to close on June 30 are in the process of being released and these statements are more absurd than ever.  Basically, they blame teachers for everything. Does anyone really believe that replacing at least half of the staff in these schools will lead to better education? April 26 is when the PEP will be voting to close these schools and reopening them the following day. We should all be there to say to stop this madness

We need to fight to end mayoral destruction of the public school system now before there is nothing left.