Friday, June 28, 2013


Jamaica High School friends Jackie and Kathy Forrestal have been going through the archives trying to save important historical documents concerning  the school. When doing their research, they found this Op-Ed piece from 1933 in the Long Island Press.

The complaints haven't changed much in 80 years: low graduation numbers, inactive parents, poor curriculum, overpaid teachers, etc... The similarities are eerie. One major difference does stand out:

The solution to school problems in 1933 wasn't to close the school.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


CBS TV's Nancy Giles gives keynote speech

I was finally permitted to go back to Jamaica High School where I attended a wonderful graduation ceremony this morning.  It felt good not to have to grade Regents exams electronically so I was in a positive frame of mind at graduation. CBS's Nancy Giles - a Jamaica High School graduate - was the keynote speaker.  She walked us through time as she talked of Jamaica as it was and how disappointed she is to see it as five separate schools now.

A packed house at Jamaica's graduation

There was more to be happy about as three students that I taught this year gave outstanding speeches to the graduating class which was larger than originally expected which meant that our huge auditorium was mostly filled.

Julius Hiralal gives valedictory speech.

After the ceremony, I was asked to go with the students up to the roof (one of the highest points in Queens) to watch the graduates ring the school bell, an unbelievable annual tradition at Jamaica. Observing those pupils ring that old bell left the teachers and custodian who were lucky enough to be there with a great feeling. I don't know if Dennis Walcott, Michael Bloomberg, Joel Klein or any of the other people trying to ruin public education could ever understand the joy we feel at seeing students succeed. Education is not about data points on spread sheets; it's about real human beings.

After finishing with the festivities, there was a great deal of work to catch up on that I could not do in the last two weeks because of the exam grading, including having to help the teachers with union concerns.  It is very unsettling to be in a school that is phasing out (Jamaica has one more year to go unless a court saves us.) as staff downsizing is always in the air. This uneasy feeling grew worse when I saw some more of my students.

They told me that Regents grades are still missing. I taught Regents level US History and some of the students approached me to ask why their Regents grade for US History wasn't on their report cards. My explanation about the problems with electronic scoring was not very persuasive.

Imagine how you would feel if you worked hard for an entire year and took an exam and then when you expected to see the results on the report card, but instead you saw a blank spot where the Regents grade should be.

Students were allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony even though some kids still did not know if they had passed Regents exams to qualify for graduation.

I won't hold my breath waiting for people to be held accountable for the grading delays unless they can figure out a way to blame it on the teachers.

Another school year is behind us and it is one that I won't soon forget. With the new evaluation coming next year, I know I will need a good rest this summer.

Have a great summer everyone!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


I went  to Jamaica High School this morning (my regular school) hoping that there would be no more Regents grading.  However when I arrived at school, there was another important email from the Department of Education directing me to go to Cardozo High School to continue scoring the Regents in Global History.

I cleared up one of the many responsibilities I have remaining at Jamaica and then rushed back to my car to go over to Cardozo.  There was no need to hurry.

After reading exams until around 10:00 am, the following message appeared on the computer screen when I clicked for a new answer to mark: "All documents have been scored for this RIB."  I went to every other question and the same message appeared.  That line was on the computer for the rest of the day.  All of the other scorers had the same message on their computers.

Therefore, we had virtually nothing to grade after 10:00 am.  We spent hours further getting to know colleagues from other schools, talking about how the scoring system is such a mess and waiting to be released.  Then, toward the end of the day one of the administrators asked us if anyone wanted to stay for overtime (per session). I guess we didn't sit around with nothing much to do long enough. Maybe there are a few more papers that have been lost and now are found.

After ten days, perhaps the grading will be done by tonight.  We were supposed to be finished last Thursday but instead there was marking Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday (including in the evening) and Tuesday.

Interesting that instead of having Regents scores at school for the students and parents to look at, there was a message to call 311 to tell the city what they think of the new Regents scoring system.

I believe it is emblematic of much that is wrong with the school system.

Monday, June 24, 2013


Two days of reading Regents exams in Global History and US History over the weekend were not enough to complete the scoring so last evening the Department of Education sent emails to many teachers directing us to go back to scoring schools again today to grade exams.

Since school was back in session today, students had to be moved from computer rooms at Cardozo High School, where I was sent again.  We were joined by many teachers who were not at Cardozo last week as another center was closed.  It did not feel very good to watch as students were told to leave a room in the middle of a period to let the teachers mark exams.

In prior years, the entire grading process was done in two or three days back when we could grade at our own schools by hand instead of electronically.

We started the process for grading Regents at Cardozo High School, and other centers around the city, back on Friday, June 14.  Today is June 24 and it is not yet done.

This afternoon a few people stayed behind at Cardozo and they will be grading until nightfall for overtime (per session) pay.

Will this be enough to finish the job or will we be spending yet another day doing this tomorrow?  I have no idea but according to Gotham Schools, it should be done by Tuesday. (Nice to see our friend Mike Shirtzer quoted extensively.)

I made an appearance at Jamaica High School, my home school, this morning since I don't check my Department of Education email on the weekends. I had to check today if they had finished the scoring over the weekend. When I arrived at school, I read the email directing me back to Cardozo and had students ask me questions that I really could not adequately respond to because I had to leave. I also am having a very difficult time servicing UFT members as I'm not in the building to fulfill most of my chapter leader responsibilities.

The DOE didn't care that students were returning to school today so we couldn't provide them with any instruction.

The DOE also didn't bother to remember that teachers have other duties in the schools that we have to take care of such as helping students and parents with concerns that come up at the end of the year.

The DOE certainly didn't care about the pupils who are waiting around to find out if they graduated.

Here is a question to consider: How did we manage to grade the exams in less than half the time when we stayed at our own schools in prior years?

Even when we piloted a program last year where a number of Queens High schools graded together by hand (not electronically) at Forest Hills High School, how did we manage to finish the process in about the same time that it took us when we were at our own schools?

McCraw-Hill needs to hire some efficiency experts or better still let us grade the papers as we did in the past.  We were doing just fine.  Hopefully, a new mayor will cancel the McGraw-Hill contract.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


I am nowhere near the Regents scoring sites this weekend but the problems apparently are not yet resolved.  At last the NY Times has discovered that there is something wrong. This is from the Times piece:

"Erin Hughes, a spokeswoman for the city's Education Department, said the city would hire extra teachers for the weekend so that exams could be graded before the school year ends on Wednesday.  She said that the problem affected fewer than 3 percent of the roughly 57,000 seniors and that each year there was a relatively small number of students who received their scores, and their diplomas, after graduation ceremonies."

Is the DOE serious?  Can anyone remember scoring of Regents being delayed until after graduation?

In past years I recall the guidance people urging us as soon as exams ended for the scores of the seniors. Those tests could be pulled to score first to make sure graduation was not imperiled.  If someone did not pass, he/she was called in as soon as possible so that families could be informed in a timely manner.

Unfortunately now that we have people running the school system who have no idea what it is like to run a school, the students invariably lose out.  If we give the DOE the benefit of the doubt and say that it is not 3% but only 2% of students who are impacted by this snafu, that means 1,140 young people have been waiting around to find out if they graduated because of scoring delays.  In addition, spokeswoman Hughes is now pushing back the completion date of the grading until Wednesday.  I thought they said it would be done by Monday.

Comptroller John Liu is the only mayoral candidate that I know of who has called for a solution:

"It is unconscionable that students, families and schools should suffer through fake graduations because their Regents grades are unknown," Liu said.  "The more than $3 million paid to McGraw Hill should be returned to the city immediately, the grades students received on their regular final exams in these subject areas should be substituted for the Regents, and normal graduations should go on starting today and through the rest of the school year."

The quote is taken from a Gotham Schools piece on the scoring problems.  Gotham has been on this extensively throughout the week.

We agree with Liu as students should not have to pay the price for adult errors.

Friday, June 21, 2013


We have now been grading Global History and US History Regents exams for a full week at various grading sites around the city.  There may not be an end of this new and supposedly improved electronic grading process anywhere on the horizon.

The Department of Education and their private sector partners at McGraw-Hill cancelled per session (teacher overtime) marking for last night and tonight so many of us figured that the end might be coming.  That thinking could be off base.

After yet another day of reading papers, we were told we were nowhere near finished.  Teachers can come back to Cardozo and other centers for per session  to grade all weekend.  I don't think the DOE is expecting many volunteers as they told us at the end of the day to be ready to return to the scoring site for more grading on Monday, during the regular school day, if they can't finish over the weekend.

The problem with that is the students are supposed to be in attendance on Monday. Do we cover classes or do we grade? In addition, schools are having graduation ceremonies and teachers are being kept away to score exams.  Besides not having grades ready on time so students can know if they have met graduation requirements in a timely manner, can anyone justify not allowing teachers to be present to see their students graduating?

For the record, I will be spending the weekend with my family enjoying this beautiful weather.  I won't be giving up my time to rescue the DOE from their own incompetence. However, I feel very bad for the kids and have already suggested that students who were given a passing grade in the courses that correspond to the Regents should have the Regents mandate waived if that is all they need to complete their graduation requirements. Students should not have to pay for DOE bungling.  State Education Board of Regents Chancellor and co-chair of the Bill Thompson's campaign for mayor Merryl Tisch should have considered New York city's less than stellar record in implementing new programs (see SESIS) before her group banned teachers from scoring papers from our own schools.  Has anyone asked Ms. Tisch about this?

One more question: When we scored exams in our own schools, as we always did, can anyone remember it taking more than six school days to grade a set of exams?

In this new and improved current electronic grading system, even if one happens to be a fast reader, it often takes so long for papers to come up on the screen so it slows the grading down.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


We actually graded papers for most of the day today in social studies Regents marking at Cardozo.  It wasn't until after 1:00 pm that the machines said no more papers.

We had less time to sit around today waiting for more papers to be ready to score than on any of the previous days.

Also, the Daily News has finally noticed this latest DOE testing boondoggle.  A Post reporter also talked to me but he didn't seem that interested. My colleague Marc Epstein who has been lucky enough to be spared from this experience, has also written about it at Huffington.

Today was the day when scoring was supposed to finish for the two history exams.

Instead, we are being called back for tomorrow and some people will be working all weekend to try to catch up and complete the scoring.  Meanwhile, my work back at Jamaica is backing up, including attempting to prepare for the John King imposed new evaluation system.

The DOE has had over a week to try to straighten out this mess. It didn't take us this long to grade the papers in the schools before this latest Meryl Ticsch, Chancellor of the NYS Board of Regents, directed boondoggle.

Once again I repeat that it is unconscionable when kids lose out because of adult mistakes.

We will keep you posted.


Thanks to Ellen Fox for taking copious notes at the June Delegate Assembly as I couldn't attend because my nephew was graduating from high school.  If I missed something in this report that was important, it wasn't because the notes weren't detailed enough, the fault is mine.

President Michael Mulgrew asked for a moment of silence for two UFTers who had been passed away: Frank Giordano and Amy Simms.

There was then a request for a suspension of the rules to change the agenda to exclusively a presidents' report and political endorsements. This was rubber stamped by the Unity majority.

The UFT endorsed six candidates for the City Council.  There was no opposition to four of them.  However there was an objection to Margaret Chin from John Antush as she is not big advocate for the poor and there was another candidate who was fighting for working people in this race.  This argument was refuted by Political Director Paul Egan who said other unions support Chin and she is good on education issues.

The second candidate was Ari Kagan. Bernie Schwartz said Kagan was an opportunist who is running against a former UFT member.  Political Director Egan said that Kagan has been in the community for twenty years and he endorsed another UFT candidate and then the Unity majority voted for Kagan after debate was cut off.

Marjorie Stamberg reintroduced her resolution to vote against all Democrats and Republicans and have a workers' party.  It was rejected.

There was no discussion about the contingency resolution that allows the UFT to endorse more candidates over the summer as the DA is not scheduled to meet again until October. It passed.
                                      MULGREW REPORT & THOMPSON RESOLUTION
The June 12 rally was a great success according to Mulgrew.  This has been a long year with Hurricane Sandy so Mulgrew thanked the teachers for helping people get through it.  He also mentioned the Newtown massacre and he thanked teachers again for counseling people.  He then mentioned evaluations and said that we are the ones who kept the system afloat.  Come January 1 we get to make a fresh start. Mulgrew asked people to thank each other and the Delegates shook each other's hands and embraced.

Mulgrew announced that it's Secretary Michael Mendel's last Delegate Assembly.  Mendell addressed the body and Mulgrew thanked him for all he's done.

Mulgrew then talked about how we are engaging the members with the mayoral endorsement process.  He said the forums the UFT held in each borough showed that the candidates mostly refute Bloomberg. All the candidates are similar on education issues so making someone electable was a major factor in our decision.

Political Director Egan then spoke to the body about polling among the 600,000-650,000 likely voters. He repeated that all the major Democrats showed up at the forums and the UFT did entrance and exit polls as well as focus groups. The UFT met with candidates and their teams three times.  Candidates were vetted.

Mulgrew came back to say we want this campaign to really mean something. The last four years we have been under attack.  Mulgrew then called for the endorsement of Bill Thompson and an all out campaign to get him elected mayor.

Debate followed with someone from Richmond Hill HS putting up some caution flags.  A District 20 Chapter Leaderrose to talk about how Thompson would reduce the people on the Panel for Educational Policy. Mulgrew chimed in that Thompson was the only candidate who said that an ATR is a person in excess which doesn't mean he/she is a bad teacher.  This was followed by Ann Rosen supporting Thompson. There was a speaker who opposed Thompson.  His issues were that Thompson has said he won't raise taxes and that could mean layoffs.  The second objection was that Thompson is supported by Al D'Amato who we can never trust.  His final point was that Thompson is backed by Chancellor of the State Board of Regents Merryl Tisch who is the architect of most of the policies that we detest. (This one is compelling to me.) 

This speaker was followed by Secretary Michael Mendel who said that UFTers must speak as one united UFT as we are at a crossroads.  The question was then called.  Peter Lamphere tried to raise a point of order that the debate was one sided.  This was ruled out of order.  The vote was then held.  Thompson was endorsed by the Delegates and then he appeared out of nowhere and addressed the crowd.  (It is amazing how Thompson knew how this vote was going to go and a bunch of UFT for Thompson posters also magically appeared. I also got my first robo-call from Mulgrew a few minutes later in support of Thompson.  This endorsement was a big secret?  Yeah right. Bloggers all called it right last month.)

Thanks again Ellen.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


This morning, at the total fiasco known as social studies Regents marking, a clever person set an over/under time of 11:30 a.m. for when the computer system would break down.  He reasoned that it was a little better Tuesday as compared to Monday so progress was being made and should continue.  Well, he was wrong.

The computers said there were no more papers left to be scored around 10:00 a.m.  A little later we were told to log off and log back on again because everything would be up and running.  We all did this and were able to grade two or three student questions and then once again the machine said that we were done and it would not let us see any more papers.  This went on all day.

Click on a question, grade one or two papers and then the computer would freeze the person out of marking that question. Go to other questions and the system was closed.

By the afternoon we were told to leave and try again on Thursday morning.  Teachers were also offered per session (teacher overtime) if we would stay after school on Thursday and Friday afternoon and evening and then return again all weekend to grade exams.  I understand how some people need the money and will work the overtime but it is ridiculous for the Department of Education to ask us to bail them out because they could not get this system running properly.

Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson's campaign head Merryl Tisch, who is also the Chancellor of the State Board of Regents, is responsible for the decision to take Regents grading out of the hands of the teachers in our home schools and compel the exams to be marked by teachers in other schools.  She and her friend Mayor Bloomberg are responsible for this complete debacle.

Are any of our intrepid reporters asking Mr. Thompson about Tisch's responsibility in this mess?  John Liu or Bill deBlasio should do press conferences outside these scoring centers with students whose graduation is being delayed because of computer malfunctions.

Many students, teachers, counselors and principals will be quite angry in a couple of days when students are told their graduation is being held up because they did not pass the Global History and/or US History Regents exam.  These kids should not have to suffer because Michael Bloomberg expects everything to be privatized.  McGraw-Hill is setting this electronic grading system up and obviously they are not up to the job.

What should be done as a remedy?  If this is not repaired by the end of the week, any student who achieved a passing grade in Grade 10 global history or grade 11 US history should automatically be given Regents credit.  Why should children suffer for the mistakes of adults? Let the teacher's judgement prevail.

Every year parent activist Leonie Haimson gives out her Skinny Awards (opposite of billionaire Eli Broad prizes) to people who fight for public education.  This year's winners are bloggers Gary Rubinstein and Arthur Goldstein.  

Normally the UFT has strong representation at the Skinny Awards but I was informed that they were not there last night.  Arthur is the UFT Chapter Leader from Francis Lewis High School, the largest high school in the borough and Gary is a UFT member from Stuyvesant High school.  Why was the UFT missing last night from the ceremony to honor two of their own?  Could it be because neither Gary or Arthur are members of the ruling Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's party)?  I hope not.  I am confident that some had commitments but it would have been nice to see the UFT out to honor their people.

This ICEUFT blog salutes Gary RubInstein and Arthur Goldstein.  Congratulations guys! As a past Skinny winner myself, I can welcome you to this amazing education activist club.

Video is posted at Ed Notes.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


We wasted another half a day of potential marking this afternoon as apparently the folks at McGraw-Hill cannot scan and upload the test papers to our computers as fast as we can read them.  Therefore, teachers  graded for a few hours in the morning and then had to sit around for most of the rest of the day waiting for more papers to come on line ready to be scored.

After lunch we were able to score only a handful of papers and then everything shut down again so after waiting around for an hour for more papers to come online, we were sent home.  What a complete waste of time and taxpayers' money.

If we were back grading the old way at our schools, we would probably be finished scoring by now.  Think about the students who may need  to pass a Regents to graduate but because of the glitches in the new system, they might not be able to know if they have graduated by the time the graduation ceremonies take place.

Personally, I am content to hang around with this group of great teachers at Cardozo High School but this new electronic grading process is not working very well so far.

One more point on the grading fiasco. Part of it is truly a throwback to the Industrial Revolution. Our computers are monitored by administration so that they know exactly how many papers we have scored and what grades we are giving.  We were told to make sure we keep up. More than a few teachers related how we truly feel like factory workers.

I'll update you as the week goes on.

It looks like the UFT will endorse Bill Thompson for mayor. No surprise there.  After AFT President Randi Weingarten decided to support Thompson, the drama was gone.  Should we be supporting Thompson?

He is endorsed by the Chancellor of the Regents Meryl Tisch who runs his campaign.  Tisch is a main architect of much of the so called reforms that are slowly killing the teaching profession. Alphonse D'Amato, one of the biggest teacher bashing politicians of all time, also backs Thompson.

John Liu, Bill deBlasio or the Green Party seem like much better alternatives when it comes to supporting teacher issues.  Some will argue that it is more important for us to back a winner. What has endorsing pro business Democrats done for UFT members?  Didn't NYSUT endorse Andrew Cuomo?  Didn't teacher unions across the country  back Barrack Obama twice?  Didn't the UFT endorse George Pataki? Can someone find anything that our support for these politicians and others gained us?

Another excellent analysis of the new teacher evaluation system was done by our friend Chaz.  Chaz compares the validation process in the new system to Peer Intervention + which is part of the current UFT contract.  In PIP+ a non-Department of Education consultant comes and observes a teacher who has been rated unsatisfactory and is in danger of being charged with incompetence.  Chaz points out that in the PIP+ process, the so called neutral person sent in to help the teacher upholds the U rating in over 90
% of the cases and that evidence is used to terminate the teacher.

In the current system, teachers can say no to PIP+ and the burden of proof to show a teacher is incompetent remains with the Board of Education.  Under the new evaluation system, teachers rated ineffective for a year will be forced into a PIP+ type validation process in year two and if the teacher fails, there will be a presumption of incompetence and the teacher will have to prove he/she is not incompetent which will be next to impossible.

Chaz estimates that around 3,500 teachers will be fired after the second year under the new evaluation system.  I think the number will be lower only because the DOE will not have sufficient personnel or enough arbitration dates to handle the increased volume of termination hearings.  As much as the UFT is usually willing to concede, I don't see them that easily agreeing to expand the arbitration dates to fire people.and smart teachers will fight back by documenting everything.

I expect to see the Daily News and NY Post go after us again because the termination process is too slow. They will point out how many teachers are on termination row almost daily. Ultimately, as I see it the new evaluation system is so illogical and complicated that it will hopefully collapse under the weight of its ridiculousness. Or maybe Mulgrew is right and a new fair way to evaluate teachers will emerge under a new mayor.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Danielson: What We Lost – Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport

Danielson’s Framework for Effective Teaching has been widely criticized as an evaluative tool by many respected educators including, ironically enough, Charlotte Danielson, herself. Without going too much into the history of the Framework it’s important to note that the four domains of effective teaching are, allegedly, the full description of what makes a teacher effective. According to Danielson’s books the Framework describes aspects of teaching that are essential to effectiveness. Others have tried to create general descriptive systems to analyze professions but few, if any professions actually use these descriptions to evaluate performance. One of the reasons is that there are many ways to perform effectively professional. In fact one might say that the very nature of professionalism is to be able to adjust one’s strategies and tactics in different ways under different situations.

But, of course, John King has, with DOE and UFT approval, made this framework 60% of our evaluations. While the general notion of using such a framework in this way undermines our Contract it will become clearer as we go through the framework.

First up, component 2a. Danielson’s Framework is divided into 4 domains and 22 components. Domain 2 and 3, the “on stage” domains represent ¾ of our 60% or 45% of our total grade. This is due to the observable nature of these domains. Domain 1 and 4, dealing with planning and professional responsibilities, deal with components that are “off stage” and not directly observable and must be inferred to be measured (more about this in another post).

Getting back to 2a a teacher will, starting next year, be rated on the type of environment that he or she creates in the classroom through teacher and student interactions. The framework concludes that teachers who use respectful talk, read body language and maintain fairness will demonstrate effective teaching in this component. Clearly a classroom that has respectful students who are treated fairly will undoubtedly have a classroom that is conducive to learning and the teacher has a part in inculcating this environment. But to rate the teacher and thereby making her responsible for these outcomes is absurd. There are so many factors that go into student behavior including school culture, student backgrounds and administrative support that to leave a teacher “out there” under this component shows just how insane this framework is for evaluative purposes.

When I was first assigned to a yearlong suspension center for students in the Bronx who were found to have committed some pretty heinous infractions I was assigned as one of four teachers in the site. The students rotated from subject to subject in each of 4 rooms. My room and the science room were separated by a wall with windows so the science teacher and I could see each other’s classes. Half way through my class one of my students yelled out, “Hey look, they’re tying up Mr. M.” Sure enough the science teacher was being duct taped to his chair. After school safety released him all I could think about was that they were coming into my room next.

Would my “rapport” with these students permit me to actually teach? Would the lack of any administrative intervention contribute to my ability to maintain respect in my class?

While it is very unclear just how an evaluator would actually evaluate on this component it is pretty clear that being evaluated on this component undermines the spirit if not the letter of our contract. Does this mean that teachers working in what the DOE euphemistically calls “hard to staff” schools can never be effective?

Perhaps under the new system a teacher who learns not to sit in his chair to be duct taped might score some effective points.


The Regents marking started today with many social studies teachers from a number of schools being sent to Cardozo High School for all day marking of global history and US history tests on computer. Social studies teachers from around the city are being sent to selected schools to score exams. A private company was to have scanned all of the exams that students took last week onto computers by now.

This morning there was a problem after we marked for a couple of hours.  By 11:00 am there were no exams left to grade and we have once again been sent back to our home schools. It appears many of the exams have not been uploaded yet into the system.

Who said this would be a more efficient system for marking regents exams?

Perhaps it is time for teachers to count our miles for gas and ask the mayor for some reimbursement. At least he can give us metro-cards for our troubles so we can find buses or trains to take us back and forth between our home schools and these testing centers if there is going to be all of this down time this week while they iron out the kinks in this system.

I feel my carbon footprint growing  Mr. Mayor.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Danielson: What We Lost – The Lesson Plan

While the ink is drying on John King’s decision and our Union touts how great Danielson is as an evaluative tool it is becoming clearer just how much our current contract was changed without a single vote from one of our members. Of course there is much that will be decided and practice may be implemented in different ways in different schools but there are some changes which could cause major problems to future employment.

Under 8E of our contract a lesson plan is for the use of the teacher. Who knows what we gave up to get this provision in our contract but it was important enough to stop principals from routinely collecting lesson plans or forcing teachers to spend punishment time creating documents. An extraordinary example of the abuse was when a bilingual Chinese teacher who wrote her lesson plans in Chinese was given a letter to her file because the principal could not read the plan and would not allow her to translate it.

Similarly a more experienced teacher who has good command of her pedagogy need not write down every aspect of a lesson to demonstrate good planning where a newer teacher might need some prompts. It’s like going to a good friend’s house who has just moved upstate. The first visit you put his address in MapQuest and follow the detailed turns. By the fifth visit you’ve figured out shortcuts and don’t need a map.

Lesson planning is essential to effective teaching. Danielson recognizes this in Domain 1. But evidence of good lesson planning is how the lesson is preformed, not in a piece of paper a supervisor must rate you on.

Under Danielson 2 out of our 22 rated components specifically deal with the lesson plan, component 1e and 1f. Under component 1e, the lesson plan is mentioned as part of a teacher’s design for coherent instruction. Here a highly effective teacher will have a lesson plan that “clearly indicates the concepts taught in the last few lessons” and that “the teacher plans for his students to link the current lesson outcomes to those they previously learned." An effective teacher “reviews lesson plans with her principal; they are well structured, with pacing times and activities clearly indicated.” An ineffective “teacher’s lesson plans are written on sticky notes in his grade book.” Source:  Danielson 2013 Rubric-Adapted to New York Department of Education Framework for Teaching Components.

Similarly, component 1f, designing student assessments, appears to evaluate a lesson plan based on how well it “indicates correspondence between assessments and instructional outcomes.”

To be clear, both before King and Danielson and after King and Danielson you need a plan. It’s just now the plan is not for the teacher and it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve driven to your friend’s house; you better have a copy of the turn by turn directions or you may be rated ineffective.


Long Island Principal Carol Burris has examined Commissioner John King's ruling on NYC teacher evaluations and found it does not follow the law.

According to the analysis Burris did, a teacher can be rated effective on the two testing components, effective on the observations (other measures) and still receive an overall ineffective rating. 9 + 9 + 45 = 63!  9, 9 and 45 are all effective scores but a teacher needs 65 overall points to receive a grade of developing and avoid an annual ineffective (equal to unsatisfactory) rating.

Next year teachers will be rated highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective instead of the current satisfactory or unsatisfactory.  Two annual ineffective ratings in a row and there is a presumption of incompetence which will mean teachers will then be guilty until proven innocent when the DOE goes for termination.

Everyone needs to read the June 15 piece on Diane Ravitch's fantastic blog as this is unbelievable.

Where is the UFT on this?  It looks like they are too busy praising Dr. King's new evaluation system to have noticed any flaws.  UFT President Michael Mulgrew said: "The commissioner's plan is professional and fair and is designed to help teachers improve their skills throughout their careers."

Friday, June 14, 2013


There was no confidentiality agreement to sign this year on day one of Regents marking so I guess I'm free to talk about the experience.

Two of my colleagues and I from Jamaica High School were sent to Cardozo High School this morning to be trained on how to grade the Global History and Geography or United States History and Government Regents Exams.  Apparently, we don't know enough to figure out how to mark papers on our own and nobody at Jamaica can tell us how to do it even though our assistant principal had the training. Social studies teachers from all over were sent to a few central marking centers to grade.

The people at Cardozo High School were very nice and quite professional.  I have no complaints with the treatment there. In fact, I was elated to see old friends who had been excessed from Jamaica and others who I hadn't seen in a long while.

After we spent much of the morning reviewing how to score, we were sent to computer rooms to take a tutorial on how to read exams that have been scanned into a computer.  Thanks to somebody next to me I actually completed the lesson promptly.  Then, we were sent back to our home schools for the afternoon.

We have to return to Cardozo from Monday to Thursday next week to grade all day.  Now, here is a question for anybody who knows someone at Tweed: If the student test answers have been scanned on centralized computers, and we are using our DOE accounts to access them, why can't we stay in our own schools to grade them?  We don't have the actual papers; we are scoring electronically.  Our assistant principal could have told us how to grade and given us the computer tutorial.  Believe it or not, even at Jamaica we have computers.

We could grade papers from students from all over the city, that have been scanned onto centralized DOE computers, just as easily from a computer at Jamaica as one from Cardozo. We logged in like we do any DOE function. If we were back in our home schools, we would also still be available if our students came in to ask questions concerning other matters or if administration needed us for an emergency.

Is Tweed afraid we might cheat if we were in our own schools marking papers where we can't even see the names? Maybe they are worried that we could play some music while grading.  Administration at Jamaica could make sure we don't violate any rules.

If anyone has an answer, please tell us why we have to use computers at Cardozo instead of using computers in our home schools?

I want to repeat that I am not complaining about going to Cardozo.  I will gladly spend most of next week there but it seems extremely inefficient.  Consider this Mr. Bloomberg: How many gallons of gas were wasted with teachers driving back to their school today after the training?.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


I just returned home from the Muncipal Labor Committee Rally outside City Hall Park.  Turnout was OK and the people were spirited.

There was a healthy contingent of UFT people in the mix that included a group from the Movement of Rank and File Educators caucus who were handing out a MORE leaflet. There were also workers attending from many other municipal unions.

It was great to talk to old friends and make new ones but do these rallies accomplish anything besides allowing us to let off some steam?  Since all of the municipal unions are without labor contracts, a unified huge public gathering was a great idea. Rallies should not be called for the sake of having a rally but rather they should be used to build the labor movement.

A protest can be one way to encourage rank and file involvement so we can up the ante at a later date.  Do you see that occurring now that this event has passed? I hope so but I fear the bulk of the UFT's energy will be placed in political action to try to get a "friendly" mayor elected.

In my opinion teachers will need more than a protest and a political endorsement to win back the respect and rights we have forfeited over the last few years.

However, at least we had some fun this afternoon.

Sunday, June 02, 2013


Thanks to some friends for sending out Commissioner King's evaluation decision.  I have spent a great deal of time today reading the entire King ruling and so should everyone who reads this blog.

It is basically a convoluted, muddled mess of incoherent bureaucratic nonsense that most teachers, including me, will take a long time to figure out.

Upon first reading, it is abundantly clear that the the DOE clearly won the so called "arbitration".  Take for example the new arbitration days that have been added to address complaints that the DOE is not complying with the procedural requirements of the new teacher evaluation system.  The UFT is calling this a due process gain. I would disagree on that point and here's why.

The UFT gained 15 days for arbitrators to hear ten cases per day.  That means out of 75,000 teachers, 150 will be able to grieve to an arbitrator that procedures in the new system aren't being followed. Does that make any of you feel your due process rights have been expanded?

We'll have more to say when we study this in greater detail.  For now, people are asking if anything can be done.

Jeff Kaufman sent me the law and there is an appeal process if the UFT would choose to use it.  Here is the section of the law:

The UFT would have to argue that King exceeded his constitutional authority, which would be a tough standard to meet but otherwise expect a new universe when we return in the fall.
Reality Based Educator said it best in a comment on the piece that was posted this morning:
"The UFT can try and spin, but once the system is up next year and work- loads increase 100-fold and everyone is on edge about getting VAMMED or SLO'Ed or Danileson'ed, the spin won't matter."


State Education Commissioner John King has made his decision on NYC teacher evaluations.  We haven't seen the entire ruling yet but readers can see his press release below.

We were fairly certain Commissioner King was not going to issue a ruling favorable to teachers because the new teacher evaluation law is deeply flawed.  Unless he was a wise man who understood how the City is trying to get rid of as many teachers as possible, there truly was very little hope for much to come out of this so called arbitration that teachers would like.

Here is a quote from Chancellor Dennis Walcott, taken from, reacting to King's decision:  "I consider this a major victory for our students and our staff."

Here's a quote from UFT President Michael Mulgrew from a later Gotham piece: "I wanted a plan I thought was fair and more importantly followed the spirit of the law, and I think we have the beginning of that."

A reader can accuse me of selectively quoting but I think one can get the feel for the general sentiments of both sides from Walcott and Mulgrew's words and it's not good for teachers.

The question I have is: Where is the full decision?  It was supposed to be released on June 1.  Instead, all we have are press releases and email reactions. There is a great deal of speculation but we need to see the specific details to maybe find some silver linings in these ominous clouds.

For now this is the biggest part that should keep teachers awake at night:

"Teachers rated ineffective on student performance based on objective 
assessments must be rated ineffective overall. Teachers who are 
developing or ineffective will get assistance and support to improve 
performance. Teachers who remain ineffective can be removed from 

That is from the state's press release.  What it means is if the kids don't do well on whatever assessments they take that teachers are being judged on, it's bye, bye teaching career after two years.  

We already knew from the law that two years of ineffective ratings means a teacher is presumed to be incompetent. In the new 3020a process for termination of tenured teachers, the burden of proof will shift to the teacher to prove he/she is not incompetent.  This is a huge change.  In the current system, the burden of proof is on the Department of Education to prove a teacher is incompetent. (The ICE blog has complained about the UFT supporting this change in law for a long time.)

To put it another way, teachers will be guilty until proven innocent. The law effectively already limited tenure. The whole battle the last couple of years has been to see how easy or difficult it was going to be to get to that stage where a teacher is in a hearing where he/she is presumed to be incompetent. Mulgrew claims there are plenty of due process safeguards.  I hope he is right but I am very skeptical. 

It looks as though the only way a principal can save a teacher is by giving that teacher students to teach who the administration knows will show growth on the tests.

Examining the rest of King's evaluation framework, I don't see much for teachers to be happy about. Teachers will have either a minimum of four to six observations. Therefore, even if the students pass the tests, administration can still rate teachers ineffective.  In addition, student surveys will make up 5% of the annual evaluations.  

We still need to see the final ruling in its entirety to judge this completely but right now I would say people should be very concerned.

To add insult to injury, the UFT looks like it is mostly losing the evaluation war and we didn't even get the two 4% raises that most other city employees received years ago without givebacks. Instead, the UFT is in fact finding awaiting a non binding decision that Bloomberg will more than likely ignore and leave to the next mayor.

We do attempt to be fair here at ICE so here is UFT President Michael Mulgrew's full email to members followed by Commissioner King's press release.

Dear colleagues,

State Education Commissioner John King said New York City “is not going to fire its way to academic success” as he announced this afternoon a new evaluation system for K-12 teachers that will go into effect in September.

The commissioner’s plan is professional and fair and is designed to help teachers improve their skills throughout their careers.  It offers teachers a professional voice in the measures that their supervisors will use to rate them. And despite Mayor Bloomberg’s desire for a “gotcha” system, the new system puts in place stronger due process rights to protect teachers from harassment and from principals who don’t follow the rules. Our biggest concern, given this administration’s terrible track record, is implementation.

The new system came as the result of binding arbitration after the DOE failed to negotiate in good faith with us. In seven months we will have a new mayor, and we’ll have the opportunity in collective bargaining for our next contract to make changes to aspects that aren’t working.

For now, here are five key points about the new evaluation plan that you should know:
  1. Strong due process – Given Mayor Bloomberg’s desire to make teachers ‘at-will employees’ and this DOE’s track record of going after teachers, we fought for and won significant safeguards for you. For the first time, we have an independent panel to review teacher ratings that the union believes are based on principal harassment.  We can identify up to 13 percent of all ineffective ratings each year to challenge on grounds of harassment or other matters not related to job performance.  All teachers who receive an ineffective rating will have the benefit in the following year of an independent validator who will not be in the principal’s pocket. We also fought for and won additional arbitration slots that will allow teachers to challenge the process when they can show that supervisors were not following the rules.
  2. The complete Danielson rubric – Commissioner King ruled, following the UFT’s proposal, that principals must take into consideration all 22 components of the Danielson Framework for Teaching when rating a teacher. The DOE had wanted to cherry-pick only a small fraction – the most difficult ones. That means everything that you do for your students counts towards your rating, including artifacts of student learning and portfolios, planning and preparation, classroom environment and parent engagement strategies.
  3. Meaningful observations – Under this new agreement, teachers will be able to choose the form of observations that they want. One option available to you will require one formal observation, with pre- and post-observation conferences, as well as three informal observations. Teachers can also opt for six informal observations. Under both plans, at least one observation will be unannounced.  After every observation, you should receive written feedback, which is critical if an observation is to help you grow as a teacher and develop your skills.
  4. Teacher Voice - The new system will allow schools and teachers to customize the student learning portion of their evaluations. Each school will have a committee comprised of an equal number of teachers and administrators who will determine, along with the principal, which assessments each school will use. Only if no agreement can be reached at the school level will the default school-wide measures be used.
  5. Student surveys - The new system also includes a pilot of student surveys, which will not be for stakes in 2013-14. Commissioner King’s plan is that the surveys would eventually become 5 percent of the rating for teachers in grades 3-12. Experts have found that student surveys are not valid in high-stakes settings, and we will be looking at this very closely in the months ahead.
The DOE is already trying to spin King's announcement to its advantage. We will be working through Sunday to put together detailed information about the new plan so you’ll have it when you return to school on Monday.

Training the tens of thousands of teachers and administrators in our schools in the new system will not be easy. The Bloomberg administration has failed our schools for more than 11 years, and we can only hope that one of its last acts will be to work with us to implement this new system in the spirit in which it was designed.

Here is the bottom line: The new teacher evaluation system is designed to support, not punish, teachers and to help them develop throughout their careers. That is what we will be fighting for as this plan is implemented.

Michael Mulgrew


New York State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. today released his teacher and principal evaluation plan for New York City.  Legislation enacted earlier this year mandated that King impose an Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) plan for any district without an approved plan in place by May 29.  New York City is the only district in the state to fail to meet that deadline.  The APPR plan King announced today will remain in force through the 2016-2017 school year – and under state law, remains in place in perpetuity – unless and until a successor APPR agreement is reached through collective bargaining and is approved by the Commissioner.  King said the plan announced today following submissions and testimony from affected parties, will identify excellence, facilitate high-quality professional development for principals and teachers, and provide each principal with the autonomy to build a strong staff while protecting teachers against arbitrary and capricious actions. 

It's time,” King said.  ”The students have waited too long.  The plan I’m announcing today creates a multiple-measures evaluation system that’s fair for teachers and principals.  More important, it will help improve teaching and learning and give New York City students a much better opportunity to graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and careers. There are strong measures to help remove ineffective teachers and principals, but let’s be clear: New York is not going to fire its way to academic success.  The key to this plan is the training, support and professional development that must be put in place to help teachers and principals improve their practice.”

King congratulated Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Ernest Logan for their successful efforts to reach an agreement on a New York City principal evaluation plan, which is reflected in the plan imposed by the Commissioner.  Pressed and encouraged by the Commissioner throughout the arbitration hearing, both sides made meaningful compromises to reach a negotiated resolution.  King said the agreement will help principals improve their practice and ensure every school in the city is led by an effective leader.

King said, “Over the past 15 months, the real purpose of this evaluation reform has been lost in the drama surrounding the negotiations.  At the end of the day, this is all about helping teachers teach better so students can learn better.  This plan does that.  “The plan gives principals the tools they need to improve instruction in their schools.  It will help struggling teachers and principals get better and help good teachers and principals become great.  The plan builds on the strengths of the evaluation plan previously in place for principals in New York City.  And, for the first time, the City has an evaluation plan that recognizes excellent teachers who can serve as models and mentors for their colleagues.  The challenge is to bring the best teaching practices to every classroom in New York City.   Today, we’ve moved a little closer to that goal.”

In 2009, the New York State Board of Regents launched an ambitious reform agenda focused on the straightforward goal of ensuring all New York State students are prepared for college and career success.  The four pillars of the state's agenda are:

  • Implementing the Common Core standards
  • Building instructional data systems that support student success
  • Recruiting, developing, retaining, and rewarding effective teachers and principals
  • Turning around the lowest-achieving schools
In support of that agenda, in 2010 the Legislature adopted and the Governor signed into law Education Law Section 3012-c, a new law governing teacher and principal evaluations.  In recognition of New York’s leadership in education reform under Board of Regents Chancellor Tisch, the U.S. Department of Education awarded New York a nearly $700 million Race To The Top grant.  Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, the teacher and principal evaluation law was amended in 2012 to ensure greater rigor and effective implementation, including a requirement for the Commissioner to approve all evaluation plans (see Attachment A for details).

The New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) and its bargaining units failed to meet the statutory January 17, 2013 deadline to fully implement standards and procedures for conducting evaluations and as a result did not qualify for an increase in state aid for the 2012-2013 school year.  The state budget adopted earlier this year required any district that did not have an APPR plan in place on or before May 29, 2013, would have an evaluation plan imposed on it by the Commissioner after a  two-day arbitration proceeding.  Based on extensive evidence and the Commissioner’s judgment as to the best interest of the students in New York City, on June 1, 2013 the Commissioner imposed standards and procedures necessary to fully implement an APPR plan within the district.

Highlights of Commissioner King’s Plan for NYC Teachers:
State Growth
Note: Could increase to 25% if the Board of Regents approves a change to a value added model.
State-provided growth scores in grades 4-8Student Learning Objectives (SLOs)
  • For teachers in core subjects with state assessments, state assessments must be used
  • For teachers in core subjects without state assessments, NYC performance assessments reflective of the Common Core Standards must be used
  • For all other teachers, menu determined by NYSED
  • Student performance targets for SLOs approved by principals with input from teachers
Locally Selected Measures
Note: Could decrease to 15% if the Board of Regents approves a change to a value added model.
NYSED Menu of Options
  • School-based measures of student learning committee (4 members selected by principal, 4 members selected by UFT) to allow for both teacher and administrator input
  • Committee recommends measures to principal from menu determined by NYSED
  • Principal may reject recommendation and apply default school-wide measure
Other Measures: Observation Process60% for K-2 (and 3-12 Teachers in 2013-14)55% for 3-12 Teachers in 2014-15 and beyondDanielson (2013): 22 components must be observed annually via observations and teacher artifactsTeachers will have a choice between two options and indicate which option they have chosen at their initial planning conference in the beginning of the school year:
  • Option 1: (a) min. of 1 formal; (b) min. of 3 informal (at least 1 unannounced)
  • Option 2: min. of 6 informal (at least 1 unannounced)
Teacher may authorize observation by video
Other Measures: Surveys5% for 3-12 Teachers in 2014-15 and beyondTripod Student Surveys in Grades 3-12: City-wide pilot in 2013-14, full implementation in 2014-15 and beyond
AppealsGoverned by Education Law Section 3012-c(5-a)Chancellor’s Appeals:
  • Ineffective only
  • 4 hour maximum per session
  • Year-round (including summer months)
Panel Appeals (harassment or reasons not related to job performance): Limited to 13% of teachers rated ineffective (as determined by UFT)
Streamlined Process to Resolve APPR Compliance Issues15 expedited compliance issue resolution hearing days
  • Exclusive mechanism for resolving APPR procedural compliance issues
  • Shall not be used by an individual teacher to challenge that teacher’s annual professional performance review
Highlights of Commissioner King’s Plan for NYC Principals Imposed With Agreement of NYCDOE and the CSA:
State Growth
Note: Could increase to 25% if the Board of Regents approves a change to a value added model.
State-provided growth scores in schools with grades 4-8State-provided growth scores in high schoolsFor small number of principals without state-provided growth scores: Student Learning Objectives (SLOs)
  • State assessments (where applicable)
  • All others: NYCDOE and CSA collaborative decision-making process with 8/1 deadline; if no decision by 8/1,  NYC performance assessments reflective of the Common Core Standards
Locally Selected Measures
Note: Could decrease to 15% if the Board of Regents approves a change to a value added model.
Selected metrics from the NYC Progress Reports
Rubric for “Other Measures”
  • NYC Quality Review Rubric (2012-13)
  • Two supervisory visits by superintendent or designee (at least 1 unannounced)
  • Ineffective only
  • Hearing officer selected from a panel of experienced educators jointly appointed by NYCDOE and the CSA
  • Hearing officer makes recommendation to Chancellor who makes final decision
The Commissioner’s decision and the posted Review Room plans are scheduled to be available by 8:00 PM this evening.

Requirements of Education Law Section 3012-c (as amended in 2012)
Annual evaluations with regular feedback
  • Required for all teachers and principals
Clear rigorous expectations
  • NY State Teaching Standards
  • Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) Standards for principals
Multiple measures
  • 40% Student Performance (growth on state tests and/or other locally-selected measures)
  • 60% Other (observations, school visits, surveys, etc.):
-       A majority (at least 31 percent) of the 60 percent must be based on classroom observations by a principal or trained administrator.
-       There must be multiple observations and at least one observation must be unannounced.
Multiple Rating Levels
  • Highly Effective, Effective, Developing, Ineffective
  • Teachers rated ineffective on student performance based on objective assessments must be rated ineffective overall. Teachers who are developing or ineffective will get assistance and support to improve performance. Teachers who remain ineffective can be removed from classrooms.
Regular Feedback
  • Frequent, ongoing and linked to development opportunities
  • Factors into employment decisions, supplemental compensation
  • Appeals must be timely and expeditious and districts may terminate probationary teachers/principals or grant or deny tenure while an appeal is pending.
  • All evaluation plans are subject to review and approval by the Commissioner to ensure rigor, quality and consistency with standards.
  • The Commissioner has the authority to require corrective action, including the use of independent evaluators, when districts evaluate their teachers positively regardless of students’ academic progress.