Thursday, March 31, 2016

NEWS ON CHICAGO STRIKE, COMMON CORE & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES GETTING POOR GRADES ON K-12 EDUCATION

Tomorrow, April 1 is the one day Chicago Teacher Strike/Day of Action for the public schools.  Even though the corporate media is encouraging teachers to scab, my bet is on the Chicago Teachers Union to pull off a successful job action and shut the system down.

Here in New York, the controversy over Common Core continues. The empire state's preferred protest action is for parents to opt their kids out of taking the very flawed grade 3-8 exams. Juan Gonzales finds some hope for public education in the opt out movement. 

For in depth analysis read the Bianca Tanis-Mike Lillis, Michael O'Donnell piece at Bianca's blog showing how the Common Core college ready standards are fatally flawed.

A score of 1630 on the SAT is in the 66th percentile, which means that only 34% of test takers attain this score or higher. The College Board uses a score of 1550 for its own benchmark, a score in the 57th percentile.

This process should have raised concerns, as it reduces something as complex as whether or not a student is ready for college down to a single test score.  Were it this easy, no school would have an admissions office - a computer could make admissions decisions.

They then systematically destroy the testing system point-by-point.

Back to the national scene, Alternet's Steven Rosenfeld gives the presidential candidate failing grades on the issue of K-12 public education. He says the three Republicans want to privatize education while both Democrats send out mixed messages. He quotes Diane Ravitch throughout his piece.

I would argue that the term mixed messages is too kind. Bernie and Hillary have been talking out of both sides of their mouths when it comes to public schools, charter schools and testing.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

LESSON OF FRIEDRICHS IS THAT YOUR VOTE MATTERS

By now I'm sure most of you have already heard that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that public sector unions can continue to collect fair share (agency) fees from non members. The Friedrichs case has been decided in the union's favor in a 4-4 split decision. This in no way means that the well funded people who want to destroy unions and take away worker rights are done.  It just means that they will probably look for other cases to bring to the courts.

The Court's decision was concise to say the least in upholding a lower court ruling: "The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court."

It is quite clear, as we said in February, that the only reason the unions had a chance was because of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.  Had he lived, we almost certainly would have lost a 5-4 decision.

The lesson from all of this is that our votes really do matter as the balance on the Supreme Court, probably for a generation, will be decided by this year's presidential election. The election will also determine who will control the U.S. Senate which has to confirm the justices. Voting is important ladies and gentlemen.

For those who were hoping they wouldn't have to pay dues to a union they don't think represents them properly, rather than feeling down today it would be better if you join with us to campaign and vote for MORE-NEW ACTION and against Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus in the May UFT election. Mulgrew believes the union should not work to repeal an awful law that says tenured teachers should be guilty until proven innocent in dismissal hearings. That position is unacceptable. We can only change the law if you empower us to really fight it in Albany. In recent union elections most teachers have decided not to vote unfortunately. Don't leave it up to retirees, who vote in large numbers, to decide who will run the UFT.

Many of us have spent a great deal of time after school these days running around the city, first to get petitions signed to get hundreds of MORE-NEW ACTION candidates on the ballot, and now to distribute leaflets to tens of thousands of teachers promoting our slate. At the same time my wife and I still manage to fight grievances and help UFT members from all over the city who ask us to while  we are also still teaching and taking care of our family.  We ask for your support. Ballots will be mailed to your house in early May. Votes really matter in union elections, just like national elections.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

SCHOOL CALENDAR OUT FOR 2016-2017

A couple of weeks back the school calendar was released for New York City for the next school year.

For those planning their lives, teachers return to school on September 6, 2016 with the students returning on Thursday, September 8.

No Lunar New Year next year as it falls on a weekend but we get a day off on Monday, June 26th for Eid al-Fitr and then have to return to school for the final two days after that. It is good to see that Passover and Easter are once again back in alignment so there will be a decent spring break.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew told Delegates last week that we still have to negotiate how to use extended time for next school year but since the extra parent teacher nights are already included in the calendar, I guess the four conferences, not two, have already been agreed to.

The calendar is copied and pasted below.  Go to the link for all of the official information.  There is also a printer friendly version here.




The School Year Calendar mandates that school sessions begin for all students on Thursday, September 8, 2016 and ends on Wednesday June 28, 2017. It reflects that on Wednesday, September 7, 2016, Tuesday, November 8, 2016, and Thursday, June 8, 2017, students in all five boroughs will not be in attendance, but schools in all five boroughs will be scheduled for a Chancellor’s Conference Day for staff development related to the implementation of high learning standards and assessments.

The calendar must be adhered to without exception, unless notifications of subsequent changes are received pursuant to collective bargaining agreements or for other reasons, provided these other reasons are not inconsistent with collective bargaining or legal obligations.

2016 August 29 Monday The following staff report: Assistant Principals and school-based intermediate supervisors not designated to work an increased work year.

September 5 Monday Labor Day (schools closed)

September 6 Tuesday Teachers report (see section 5 below). Students will not be in attendance.

September 7 Wednesday Chancellor’s Conference Day for staff development. Students will not be in attendance.

September 8 Thursday School Session Begins For All Students. Early dismissal for non District 75 kindergarten students only. Partial school time for prekindergarten public school students.

September 9 Friday First full day for non-District 75 kindergarten students. Partial school time for pre-kindergarten public school students.

September 12 Monday Eid al-Adha (schools closed)

October 3 4 Monday & Tuesday Rosh Hashanah (schools closed)

October 10 Monday Columbus Day Observed (schools closed) October 12 Wednesday Yom Kippur (schools closed)

November 8 Tuesday Election Day. Chancellor’s Conference Day for staff development. Students will not be in attendance.

November 11 Friday Veterans Day (schools closed)

November 24 25 Thursday & Friday Thanksgiving Recess (schools closed)

December 26 - January 2, 2017 Monday – Monday Winter Recess (schools closed)

January 16 Monday Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (schools closed)

January 30 Monday Chancellor’s Conference Day for staff development in all non-D75 high schools. Non-D75 high school students will not be in attendance. All other students will be in attendance (see section 9 below for details on high school student attendance on January 30.)

January 31 Tuesday Spring term begins for high school students.

February 20-24 Monday – Friday Midwinter Recess (including Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday, observed) (schools closed)

April 10-18 Monday – Tuesday Spring Recess (including Passover and Good Friday) (schools closed)

May 29 Monday Memorial Day (schools closed)

June 8 Thursday Anniversary Day. Chancellor’s Conference Day for staff development. In all five boroughs students will not be in attendance.

June 12 Monday June Clerical Day for students in elementary school, middle school and D75 school programs. These students will not be in attendance.

June 23 Friday Regents Rating Day. In non-District 75 high schools, students will not be in attendance. All other students will be in attendance.

June 26 Monday Eid al-Fitr (schools closed)

June 28 Wednesday Last Day For All Students. Early dismissal of all students under the guidelines outlined in Section 13 below. Last day for all Classroom Teachers, Bilingual Teachers in School and Community Relations, Attendance Teachers, Nurses, Therapists, Laboratory Specialists and Technicians, and Paraprofessionals.

June 29 30 Thursday & Friday All other staff report except Classroom Teachers, Bilingual Teachers in School and Community Relations, Attendance Teachers, Nurses, Therapists, Laboratory Specialists and Technicians, and Paraprofessionals.

Monday, March 28, 2016

WHAT IS IN THE EDUCATION TRANSFORMATION ACT OF 2015 THAT UNITY WON'T FIGHT?

The Education Transformation Act of 2015 is a disgusting piece of legislation. In making the case that the UFT should oppose its repeal, UFT Vice President for Middle Schools Rich Mantell argued before UFT Delegates last week that we don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater as there are good parts to this law that we don't want to lose.

The ICE-UFT blog has looked at the law anew to see if there are any redeeming features in it.  Our analysis shows that out of eight subsections, maybe one or two parts could be kept and it wouldn't be horrible news but overall the provisions of this law are as overwhelmingly horrific for education and educators as we have stated.  Let's review each sub-part.

Sub-part A-500 scholarship awards for those looking for Masters Degrees in Education. This is nice but way too little to solve the pending teacher shortage as teachers continue to be bashed by the state and nationally.

Sub-part B-Raises the grade point average required to get into teaching programs in college. Increasing the requirements to enter teaching while cutting pensions and making the job a nightmare by an oppressive evaluation system is ridiculous. I guess the state is trying to ensure a teacher shortage so they can hire more teachers through alternative certification routes and pay us less.

Subpart C-Beginning in 2016-2017 teachers must register with the State Education Department and take 100 hours of continuing education.  I almost forgot about this one. 100 more hours of listening to edu-babble is certainly something I could do without. Registration is just another useless bureaucratic requirement that serves no useful function.

Subpart D-Extends probation for new teachers and principals to four years. How does this help anyone want to pursue a career in teaching? Three years of probation is quite enough thank you.

Subpart E-New evaluation system for teachers and principals. This is the evaluation system based on the matrix that makes student test results (junk science) count for half of our annual grade. It will be up to the State Commissioner of Education to set the minimum number of observations for each teacher. The outside observers observing us at least once a year are included in this provision too.

Subpart F-A testing reduction report must be done by the Chancellor of the Board of Regents. This had to be in by June of 2015 and is meaningless.

Subpart G-New dismissal procedures in 3020b hearings for tenured teachers. Expedited dismissal is in here.  Two years of ineffective ratings creates prima facie evidence of incompetence.  For those who are not up on their legal terms, here is the meaning of prima facie from Google: "based on the first impression: accepted as correct until proven otherwise." Teachers are guilty until proven innocent under the new procedures as we have maintained. Certain teachers will have to prove fraud to survive. Anyone who believes in rudimentary fairness must oppose subpart G. For those outside of New York City, this provision also compels a single arbitrator rather than a three person panel for dismissal hearings. New York City gave up the right to a three person panel some years back.

Subpart H-State takeover failing schools. This is the part that creates receivership where a receiver can be appointed who can basically throw out the collective bargaining agreement and force teachers to reapply for their jobs.

For a UFT vice president to state at the Delegate Assembly that we don't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater concerning this pile of garbage legislation shows that either the UFT leadership and their blind followers in the Unity Caucus are ignorant of the provisions of the law or they support them.

Either way, they do not deserve to remain in office. I would hope that the people in MORE and NEW ACTION would make this a big part of the election campaign.

Friday, March 25, 2016

UNITY DESPERATELY HANGING ON TO JUNK SCIENCE TEACHER EVALUATIONS

The differences between the two slates running in this year's UFT election could not be clearer.  The March Delegate Assembly called for Delegates to go on the record twice on where they stand on student assessment results being used as part of teacher evaluations.

MORE-NEW ACTION raised a resolution to oppose using student test scores to rate teachers. We also raised an amendment to another resolution to call for repeal of the horrific Education Transformation Act of 2015. On both resolutions, Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus majority at the DA voted yes to high stakes student assessments as part of teacher evaluations and MORE said no. Unity just wants new and improved assessments.

As NYC Educator pointed out in his latest piece, Unity's shiny new talking point is that they want principals not to have total control over evaluations. This takes real gall when one considers that Unity gave away our right to grieve unfair/inaccurate observations in 2005.  NYC Educator tears apart the Unity argument by simply saying that the old S or U system always placed the burden of proof in teacher dismissal hearings on management to show we were incompetent or had committed misconduct but that under the current law, after two ineffective ratings we are presumed to be incompetent.  We must prove with clear and convincing evidence we are not incompetent.  Our burden is very high indeed. In other words, we are guilty until proven innocent.

Unity claims this isn't bad because fewer teachers are rated ineffective now compared to how many teachers were rated unsatisfactory in the old system. Student test results actually can help our ratings. They can also hurt them as we pointed out here.  What Mulgrew never says in public is that teachers rated developing have now been brought up on incompetence charges and have been subject to dismissal hearings. Teachers rated developing are also forced to endure the humiliation of Teacher Improvement Plans and there is no way to challenge a developing rating.

Mulgrew did admit once again at the DA that the UFT has to fight like hell with many New York City principals.  He talked about a NYSUT Board of Directors meeting where presidents from smaller union locals who hadn't had someone rated unsatisfactory in forty years wanted to go back to the old evaluation system.  Mulgrew argued that NYC is different. If we take as a given that our president is right on this, we can agree that there has to be a check on administration put in the evaluation system.

Mulgrew thinks the right fix is to change the tests teachers are evaluated on to some kind of authentic assessment or student portfolios. Is he sure he wants to go down this road with the principals we fight like hell with in New York City?

The idea of alternative assessments sounds great and can work. We would test kids on how well they perform a task rather than on multiple choice exams. The analogy used on the link above was golf. Is it better to test kids by having them play a round of golf and see how they do or to give them a multiple choice test on the sport?  Obviously, the former sounds more authentic but if the kids don't score a hole in one or at least get on the green fast enough, the teacher gets the blame for the kid being a lousy golfer under Mulgrew's plan.  What if the student never practiced?  It's still the teacher's fault.

I work at Middle College High School, a consortium school.  We use mostly alternative assessments except for the English Regents.  The system works mainly because our Principal Linda Siegmund is very supportive of teachers and students.

If the Department of Education's principals from hell were put in charge of an authentic assessment program, it would be a total disaster for teachers and students. A devious principal could easily manipulate the system to make sure that teachers who they want to attack have their students saddled with impossible assessments. This has the potential of putting the junk science part of the evaluation system into overdrive.

Who is going to grade the portfolios and other authentic assessments?  Under Governor Andrew Cuomo, I very much doubt the law will allow the teachers of the students we teach to create the assessments or to grade them. There will be insane oversight. This could be a compliance nightmare in many schools. In the end it is still testing. It is still rating teachers on how well kids do on the assessments and does not take into account the outside factors that have much more to do with student achievement than anything we do in school.

To put it succinctly ask your local Unity Caucus true believer this simple question:

Do you think the Department of Education could implement a fair authentic assessment system throughout the New York City school system?

I think we can agree that mandating authentic assessment system-wide might be somewhat more difficult to implement properly than putting astronauts on Mars.  My guess is the Mars trip might happen sooner.

Progressive education can succeed but there is nothing dumber than forcing it down people's throats as New York City learned in the early Joel Klein years when Diana Lam tried to do just that. If authentic assessment is not mandated, then the alternative is the current unreliable/invalid common core tests, the Regents or other exams that were not designed to rate teachers. We're right back to junk science square one.

Which leads to this question: What would happen if we repeal the Education Transformation Act of 2015 as well as Education Law 3012c and return to the satisfactory-unsatisfactory evaluation system for teachers?

Right away the system would revert to one mandated observation per year for tenured teachers who have reached salary step 8B and Danielson observations would get thrown into the trash bin of failed educational ideas where they belong.  Would anyone miss the HEEDI rating scale? More importantly, the burden of proof in all dismissal hearings for tenured teachers would shift back to administration. That would put a major check on principal power that we currently do not have.

As for the annual rating being completely back in the hands of the principal, quite simply we could demand in contract negotiations that there be an expeditious process to grieve unfair/inaccurate observation reports and other material placed in our file, including being able to challenge supervisory judgment. Better still, let's put this process in the law.

The choice is clear in the UFT election:

Unity=Junk Science Teacher Evaluations

MORE-NEW ACTION=Rational Teacher Evaluations



Wednesday, March 23, 2016

LIVE BLOGGING FROM MARCH DA (Updated); UNITY VOTES TWICE TO KEEP TESTING AS PART OF OUR EVALUATIONS

Today (Wedensday) is the March Delegate Assembly.  Sorry in advance for smart phone errors (edited Thursday early).

President's Report
Mulgrew called for a moment of silence for victims of terrorism.

National
Supreme Court now divided 4-4. People know now who the people behind Friedrichs are. We will continue our Union Proud campaign. The agency fee issue will be decided if not now then soon.

People can work on Hillary Clinton campaign. AFT endorsed her.

State
Betty Rosa now Chancellor of Board of Regents. She was a teacher. We can work with State Ed Dept.

Un-timed tests: We are working with Chancellor Farina on meaning of students making progress so that we are not forcing kids to leave tests.

Lobby day: Large UFT contingent went to Albany.

We have had a rigorous discussion in NYSUT on changing evaluation law. Legislature wants to do this one. We have things like portfolios and authentic assessments. Other NYSUT locals want to go back to principals rating teachers exclusively. We want real learning to be part of evaluation. Some small locals want to use this too but others want to go back to principals having total control over rating teachers.

We want local control of evaluations.

Independent validators: We are trying to keep them in law.

100 hours PD not in for this year.

Artie Pepper on health agreement:
No premiums to our plans. We kept that from contract. We are meetings savings targets. This is a citywide agreement.

GHI still $15 for primary care copay. No copay if in Advantage Care.

Emergency room copay up to $150. Waived if admitted.

Internet doctor. Can Skype doctor for $15 copay. Called telemedicine.

Urgent care up to $50.

HIP : HIP preferred zero copay. Not in preferred network, $10 copay.

Discount for Weight-watchers.

As of July 1, zero copays for certain preventative things for GHI.

Mulgrew came back and thanked Artie.

Mulgrew continues:
Families for Excellent Schools says NYC public schools are unsafe and out of control.

Bad school year for charter schools. We fight with 4 chains of charter schools. NYC teachers public schools highest growth scores in state. Post and Daily News back to bashing us.

Arbitrations:
SESIS Arbitration 2
System can't be fixed. We expect to win a great deal of money again on this just like the first SESIS arbitration

Paras suspended without pay automatically if arrested. We are fighting that policy in arbitration too.

Family Leave
Pattern set by non union workers. Would cost us over $200 million. Mulgrew thinks we should keep pushing on this.

May 4
Celebration of school event. We need to talk about passion and promise for public education.

5K run Coney Island in April.

May 7
Spring conference. Chapter leaders designed PD.

President thanked officers for conferences on Saturdays.

He congratulated four teachers for achieving National Board Certification.

He recognized founders of UFT and sang happy birthday to UFT.

Staff Director Report
Union loud and proud campaign going on.

Staff Director Leroy Barr mentioned some other dates for upcoming events.

Ballots go out for UFT election on May 5. Please vote.

Question Period:
Q Social worker having work diverted to guidance counselor according to proposed regulations. What is UFT doing concerning social workers?
Mulgrew Answer: We don't support changes in regulations.  Some children need clinical intervention. Told state not to tie city's hands.

Q What is cost of family leave?
A If we follow plan set by non union city workers, we would give up .5% salary increase and give back two days.
That pattern not acceptable to UFT but we have a plan to propose to city.

Q What are we doing about other anti worker court cases?
A People opposed to us want a total free market system. Right wing has other cases. Free speech vs agency fee has to be decided. Even if Scalia is dead, we can't rest on this case.

Q Are alternate assessments still tied toward our MOSL?
A Waiting for answer from state. Our position is it should not be used for MOSL this year. However, if we don't use tests, then 100% of evaluation is up to principal.

Q What can people expect for state 20% on evaluation?
A Can't use state generated growth score. It will revert to principal's judgment or a different test

Q What happened to hard to staff school differential?
A Part of discussion with DOE along with what happens with extended time next year.

Motion Period
Lauren Cohen from MORE introduced a resolution to decouple testing from evaluation.

Two points of order on not allowing us to advertise MORE on our resolutions.  Both turned down by President.

Lauren said moratorium only covers one test. Others substituted. Value added is like a broken scale. It is always wrong. UFT should lead on saying judging teachers on student test scores is wrong. Connecticut de-linked the two successfully so there is precedent.

Emil Pietramonaco spoke against saying we could get something authentic. We don't want 100% principals judging us.

Unity voted resolution down but it did get some support. I would say around 30%.

Special orders of Business

Mel Aaronson motivated a recognition of 56th anniversary of UFT. It carried unanimously.

Resolution to support Professional Staff Congress was next (CUNY teachers).  They have been at impasse for years. We support PSC. Resolution was amended
by its maker to restore 1/2 billion dollar cut to CUNY.

It carried unanimously.

Receivership finally came up after months of waiting. Janella Hinds motivated the Unity resolution after offering a technical amendment. The UFT opposes receivership.

I was able to offer the MORE Amendment to repeal the entire law that created receivership.  My case was simple: Receivership is the law so the only way to get rid of it is to repeal the law. A friendly State Ed Department can only write regulations. The law that says teachers and others must reapply for their jobs is on the books. Teachers in Buffalo will be laid off if they aren't rehired by the receiver's committee regardless of seniority or tenure status. The only way to fix this is to repeal the law. Other parts of the law called the Education Transformation Act of 2015 which also includes test based teacher evaluations and at least 4 years to get tenure.

To get this law repealed we have the political wind at our back. The governor is unpopular on education and opt-out is going well. The parents are with us (and we also have a new Chancellor of the Board of Regents who seems friendly).

Vice President for Middle Schools Rich Mantel responded by saying we can't throw out the baby with the bath water.  There are good things in the law we don't want to lose.

We lost the vote by about 2 to 1 with some not voting at all.

Two more resolutions passed. One condemned Islamophobia and another supported the Chicago Teachers Union.

Final take on tonight: Unity voted in favor of student test results being used to evaluate teachers twice.

If anyone can find parts we like in the educational Transformation act, please tell us.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

NEW REGENTS CHANCELLOR ROSA GIVES US HOPE BUT LET'S NOT DANCE IN THE STREETS YET

Supporters of public education in New York State had their best day in long time yesterday with the election of Betty Rosa as the new Chancellor of the Board of Regents up in Albany. She received 15 votes with 2 abstentions. She told the Wall Street Journal that from her perspective as a parent she would opt her own kid out of this year's state tests.

Rosa's exact words:
“If I was a parent and I had a child who was taking these exams, and I looked at the conditions that exist, obviously I would say ‘Yes, I would opt out,’ ” she said in an interview. “Because I don’t think these are the right tests.”

She stood by these remarks at her introductory press conference on Monday.

This is a huge step forward from outgoing Chancellor Merryl Tisch who was a pro-privatization, pro-testing zealot. New Chancellor Rosa even won one of Leornie Haimson's Skinny Awards back in 2012.  I was fortunate enough to win a Skinny back in 2011. Backing from Leonie is not to be taken lightly. However, let's not celebrate prematurely that the battle for public education has been won.

Andrew Cuomo is still the governor.  He hasn't changed and suddenly become our friend. The pendulum may have swung in our favor recently but do not underestimate the forces that are aligned against the public schools. They have plenty of money and they are determined to privatize education.

The Education Transformation Act of 2015 remains on the books with teachers still scheduled to be rated 50% based on student test scores (it will just be a different test in many cases), at least four years of probation instead of three for new teachers to achieve tenure, and receivership for 5% of public schools each year that will be subject to state takeover where teachers can be dismissed without any due process in many cases.

Do the anti-privatization forces have a majority on the Board of Regents?  I am not sure. New Vice Chancellor T. Andrew Brown expressed opposition to parents opting their kids out of the state tests at the same press conference where Rosa made her remarks.

Even if we do get a majority on the Board of Regents, just as we have tried using the courts, don't think the anti-public school forces aren't going to bottle up any changes the Regents might come up with in court too. The anti-tenure lawsuit is still out there as is the anti-union Friedrichs case (I know Friedrichs is federal but you get the idea.).

We are not out of the woods yet by any means so this is not a time to let our guard down and stop pushing for the changes we need to take back our public schools from the forces that are trying to destroy us. Yesterday's election of Betty Rosa was a big step in the right direction but it is not the end of the fight by any means.

Monday, March 21, 2016

ASSEMBLYMAN KAMINSKY PROPOSES LEGISLATION TO FIX NYS K-12 EDUCATION



We finally have a concrete set of proposals we can work with to start the process of repairing the damage that has been done to education in New York State for the last eight years.  They came in this press release from State Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky from Long Island.

We have copied the entire press release from yesterday below. This is the beginning of a repair job many of us could live with.  Now it is time to put the pressure on the politicians for these proposals to become reality.  Not an easy job but at least we have a plan to "decouple teacher evaluations from test results, end over-testing, empower parents, create needed alternative pathways to graduation for students." Also, the package would "Repeal state takeover of failing schools..." 

Not everything I would like is in here but it is a pretty good start.

Here is the entire press release. Thanks to Stronger Together's Mike Lillis for sending this out.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 20, 2016
Contact: Halie Meyers, (516) 508-2115 and meyersh@assembly.state.ny.us
Assm. Kaminsky Introduces Education Reforms to Fix Damage Done by Common Core
Parent groups back Kaminsky plan to decouple teacher evaluations from test results, end over-testing, empower parents, create needed alternative pathways to graduation for students

Long Beach, NY – Assemblyman Kaminsky unveiled today major legislation to fix the damage done to New York schools by Common Core.

Parents, students, education advocates and community members joined Assm. Kaminsky in support of the bills, which will decouple teacher evaluations from test results, end over-testing, empower parents, and create a needed alternative pathway to graduation for students.

New York’s public school students and parents have endured years of unproductive, frustrating, wrongheaded attempts at improving our state’s education system,” Assm. Kaminsky said. “Instead of making our schools better, Common Core has added new barriers to a quality education by making it harder to learn, harder to teach, and burdening schools with lengthy, difficult tests that fail to adequately measure learning.

Assm. Kaminsky added: “In order to ensure that all New York’s children receive a high-quality education, these significant changes to Common Core and other education policies must be enacted immediately in order to ensure that each and every child has the best opportunity at receiving the education they deserve.”

Parent organizations praised Assm. Kaminsky’s legislation.
"As we work towards meaningful changes in our education system, our laws must be corrected to allow for this positive change in direction for our children's education," said Jeanette Deutermann, Founder of Long Island Opt-Out and Co-Founder of New York State Allies in Public Education (NYSAPE). "This legislation will allow for a move towards research based policies that parents and educators have fought so hard for. The legislature, Board of Regents, and State Education Department, have identified the significant problems that have grown out of misguided education reforms. This legislation is an absolute necessity to right the wrongs of the Education Transformation Act and bring child centered education back to our classrooms.”

"What Assemblyman Kaminsky has done here is about our children and something that parents have been advocating for," said Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director of NYSBATs. "As a public educator and parent I am grateful for his support and hope that all our lawmakers can get behind this for our children."

"Our children are the future of this State", said Betty Pilnick from Oceanside. "Without a high school diploma their options are limited at best. I stand together with Assemblyman Kaminsky and urge the legislature to immediately vote to allow my son the chance to obtain a diploma."

Assm. Kaminsky’s education package includes legislation to:

Immediately decouple teacher evaluations from test results and direct the Board of Regents to establish a committee to research and develop an alternate, research-based method for teacher evaluations, which will ensure that students and teachers both have better experiences in the classroom.

Repeal State Takeover of Failing Schools and put the school reform process back in the hands of local educators, parents, and other stakeholders who are in the best position to understand the specific needs of the school district.

Reduce testing by directing the Board of Regents to establish a committee to shorten the length of tests and find ways to increase their transparency. Additionally, tests would be given to students, parents and teachers so that they can be used to improve the manner in which teachers teach and students learn.

Create an alternate pathway to graduation by establishing a Career and Practical Education (CPE) pathway to a high school diploma which would provide a valuable alternative for students who do not wish to take – or are unable to pass – the Regents exams. By teaching practical life skills and training students for a career, a CPE pathway will better prepare all New York students for a future following high school.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

FIGHTING BACK AGAINST NEGATIVE OBSERVATIONS

Gene Mann writes the Organizer that he sends out weekly to UFT members.  This weekend Gene sent out excerpts from two arbitration decisions from last May where teachers won after filing what are now called APPR complaints against improper observations.

As with the previous evaluation system, teachers can really only fight against procedural mistakes that administrators make.  The two errors cited in the arbitration decisions copied below are common and should be addressed quickly when they occur if a teacher receives a bunch of 1 or 2 ratings on a Danielson observation.

Remember, teachers have to file APPR complaint within five school days of discovering a violation of the 2014 Memorandum of Agreement or the 2013 John King arbitration.

These excepts from the arbitration rulings are taken directly from Gene Mann's weekly newsletter.

Castillo (extracts)
Did the DOE violate Article 20, specifically paragraph of the 2014 Memorandum of Agreement ("MOA"and Commissioner John King's Order and Attachments ("Order and Attachments")by failing to provide feedback to the Grievant Rafael Castillo prior to issuing the observation report dated October 82014? If sowhat shall be the remedy?
 The relevant portion of paragraph siof the MOA reads as follows: 
Observation Cycle 
IFeedback following aobservation must be provided to the teachewithin fifteen (15) school days of the observationFeedback must be evidence-baseand aligneto thDanielsoRubric. 
 2. Evaluator forms shall be provided to the teacher no later than forty-five (45) school days following the observation. From the time an observation (formal or informal as defined by the Commissioner's Decision) is conducted until the time the teacher receives the evaluator form for that observationonly one (1) additional evaluativobservation (formaor informal) may be conducted. 
The decision:
Based on the express language in the 2013 Order and Attachments requiring that the observation report (evaluation form) be provided to the teacher "in additionto feedbackthe Arbitrator concludes that the language contemplates and requires that feedbackwhich can take a variety of formswill occur distinct from and prior to the signedfinal evaluation form which is what the Principal in this case transmitted to the Grievant.
Ulffe (extracts)
Did the Department of Education violate Article 20 of the parties' Memorandum of Agreement, Section 6 when it failed to provide Omar Ulffe with a rating for components 2a, 2d, 3b and 3d on his observation report for the lesson dated 5-13-15? If so, what shall be the remedy? 
The grievant, Omar Ulffe, was a fulltime teacher at Pathways College Preparatory School 259Q for the 2014-2015 school year with 3 years of service. He was observed informally on May 13, 2015 and his Evaluation Form 2 (Observation Report), signed by him on June 9, 2015, failed to rate components 2a, 2d, 3b and 3d. The Union contended that each component should have been rated as each one of these components is readily observable in any classroom observation. An Evaluator is expected to evaluate and score the teacher on each of the components of the Danielson 2013 Rubric unless there is no evidence. 
The decision:
….the Undersigned finds that an evaluator is required to rate any component that is observable during an observation. 
We are in the process of fighting two APPR complaints for people I know in Queens High Schools. One is using Castillo as a precedent while the other has found a different technicality. The best advice is to be quick to file the complaint as it cannot be overemphasized we only have five school days to grieve. Creating a paper trail is essential when defending ourselves. Look for procedural loopholes in the MOA or King's decision (the ones listed above are not the only ones by any means) and file online. Don't depend on the chapter leader to do this work.
We are not saying not to try to work things out with administration behind the scenes but teachers should back this up with an electronic paper trail.
Email us at ICEUFT@gmail.com if there are particular concerns.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

ARE TEACHERS AT OUR BEST WHEN WE FORGET THE CURRICULUM?



I got this on Facebook yesterday from the amazing Beth Dimino. It is from elementary-teacher.com but it kind of fits for high school teachers too.

As a high school social studies teacher, sometimes I like a great deal of structure and a detailed plan but when the class heads off on a tangent, we often head to places I didn't think were possible.  Some of my best teaching experiences happened when kids ended up talking about something completely different from what was in the lesson plan.

I'm often criticized by my friend Norm Scott for writing too much about union issues and not enough about teaching.  He is of course right as I am known to separate the two in my head and this blog mostly concerns the union stuff with an emphasis on standing up for teachers.

ICE and MORE have stressed repeatedly that our working conditions are the learning conditions for the students. Are we better teachers when we kind of have an idea and go with it or should we have detailed plans that we follow to the letter? In my early days we were encouraged to take chances but one of the consequences of fourteen years of the Bloomberg-Klein-Black-Walcott, de Blasio-Farina regimes is that many teachers are compelled to watch their backs and can't take those chances that many of us took for granted back in the nineties.

In my mind if we are to recover our profession, teacher autonomy is so necessary to regain.  I don't mean we should do anything and everything we want and ditch curriculum and structure but we need to be able to take risks in the classroom and not worry about some administrator playing gotcha every two minutes.  Sorry Norm, I couldn't help but bring it back to union rights.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

WALL STREET JOURNAL REPORTS AFT GAVE PRO DE BLASIO GROUP MONEY RIGHT BEFORE WE GOT OUR PATHETIC CONTRACT

My friends Pat Dobosz and Marc Epstein both sent out this piece from the Wall Street Journal on UFT President Michael Mulgrew's cozy relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The Journal ties the UFT getting a contract in 2014 to AFT President Randi Weingarten and UFT President Michael Mulgrew having lunch with the mayor and then the AFT donating $350,000 to a group backing de Blasio's agenda called Campaign for One New York. Right after that donation: presto, a contract.

Here's how the Journal describes it

The teachers union was the first municipal union to get a new contract in early 2014. Mr. de Blasio met for lunch on March 9 of that year with Mr. Mulgrew and Randi Weingarten, who heads the American Federation of Teachers, the union’s umbrella group.

On April 9, the national teachers union gave $350,000 to the Campaign for One New York, an organization that promotes Mr. de Blasio’s broader agenda. Three weeks later, the nine-year contract was announced. 

Am I to understand we had to send some bucks over to a pro de Blasio group in order to get our abysmal contract?  Maybe it wasn't a direct quid pro quo (AFT President Randi Weingarten is not that dumb), but we all know how "pay to play" in politics works. In return for our generosity with the mayor, couldn't we have received a little more?

No we could not. Instead, we established a record low for my twenty-nine years in the system municipal setting pattern (one city union settles on a salary increase and others get basically the same terms) of 10% raises in total over seven years (now 7 years and one month to pay for retiree lump sum retroactive money) with higher healthcare costs that are just now being implemented thrown in. The first two years of the nine year contract were just us receiving what other city unions got in the last round of bargaining from 2008-2010 that former Mayor Michael Bloomberg refused to give us.  We didn't receive that retroactive money right away in 2014 when the contract was signed. We are still waiting for most of the arrears which won't fully be paid to us until October of 2020. In addition, we gave away due process rights for Absent Teacher Reserves who miss two mandatory interviews.  They are now terminated and must fight to be put back on payroll.  We also agreed to endless Mondays and Tuesdays to waste time in most schools.

The Journal didn't mention the terms of the contract because I guess they are too low for them to report that the union had to "pay to play" for that kind of deal.

As for professional improvements under de Blasio, you be the judge if teachers are being treated better now than when Bloomberg was mayor.  I see little or no improvement in our working conditions.  In fact, they are probably worse now because the city is so cozy with the UFT so the union is more likely to let management have their way rather than putting up any sort of resistance.

For me to read that Mayor de Blasio has met more with Mulgrew "over the past two years than with any other registered lobbyist, city records show," is a farce.  We are the number one cheerleader for the mayor and our working conditions are still abysmal and not improving at all in my view.

Consider also the city's booming economy and we are being taken for a long ride by both city hall and the union leadership.

Either Mulgrew is completely inept or he is more interested in being partners with the mayor than representing our interests. Either way, we lose and will continue to lose if we don't vote in Jia Lee and the MORE-New Action slate in the upcoming election.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

NYS SENATE REPUBLICANS PUT HURDLES IN THE WAY OF EXTENSION OF MAYORAL CONTROL OF SCHOOLS

This piece from New York State of Politics shows that the Republican controlled New York State Senate is playing hardball with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio on extending mayoral control of New York City schools.

The GOP conference -- which has been at odds with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a liberal Democrat who in 2014 sought to flip the chamber to Democratic control -- rejected the extension "without prejudice" according to the resolution's language.

"Prior to granting any significant extension of this authority, the Senate believes public hearings should be held to assess the current structure and identify any possible areas of improvement including but not limited to creating heightened parental involvement in Community Education Councils and the Panel for Education Policy," the resolution states.

These senators worrying about parental involvement is beyond a joke.

The article notes that the GOP would not did not threaten this step when former Mayor Michael Bloomberg was funding their election campaigns but now it is a different story.

With that said, besides the mayor and Michael Mulgrew, would anyone shed a tear if mayoral control sunsets in June?

It's hard to see the Senate giving the power back to a combination of the Borough Presidents (5 appointees on the Board of Education) and the Mayor (2 appointees) but maybe the State Legislature does just that doing nothing, something they are quite adept at.

CHEERS FOR GILLIBRAND, JEERS FOR OTHER DEMOCRATS AND A PASS FOR SANDERS ON KING VOTE IN SENATE

This morning I woke up to the news that John King has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be the permanent Secretary of Education.  The vote was 49-40 with eleven senators not voting.

King was a disaster as Education Commissioner of New York State with his promotion of Common Core, charter schools, rating teachers and principals based on student test scores on flawed exams and all around deafness to parent concerns.  Stronger Together leader Beth Dimino accused King of child abuse in her famous 2013 attack on the Commissioner.  However, in the sometimes sick world of politics and the culture of Washington DC, King is the latest example of the phrase, "Screw up, move up." (I know there is a harsher word but this is a family blog.)

Certain advocates for public education such as retired award winning principal Carol Burris were urging us to tell senators to vote no on King's appointment and all but one Democrat ignored us.  A big jeer goes to all of the Democrats who voted to confirm King including New York's own Chuck Schumer and a few Republicans too who voted yea. We include in this jeer the so called progressive saint Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts.

A cheer goes out to the Republicans who voted against King's nomination for whatever reason. Diane Ravitch has called education politics "strange." This word certainly fits.

We save the biggest cheer for New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand who was the only Democrat in the Senate to vote against the King nomination.  We in New York who know King best are truly aware of how unqualified he is for the position and thank Senator Gillibrand for standing up to her party and President Obama to vote nay.  We should all send her a message of support.

As for the other saint of the progressive wing of the Democratic party Bernie Sanders, who isn't really a Democrat but is running for the nomination to be President of the United States as one, he passed on the King issue by not voting. I guess he can be forgiven for campaigning for president when there are important primaries today. Has anyone in the press pressured him on how he would have voted on the King appointment? I believe he voted to send the nomination to the full Senate from Committee.

The roll call vote on King:



U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 114th Congress - 2nd Session

as compiled through Senate LIS by the Senate Bill Clerk under the direction of the Secretary of the Senate

Vote Summary

Question: On the Nomination (Confirmation John B. King, of New York, to be Secretary of Education )
Vote Number: 36 Vote Date: March 14, 2016, 05:34 PM
Required For Majority: 1/2 Vote Result: Nomination Confirmed
Nomination Number: PN1152
Nomination Description: John B. King, of New York, to be Secretary of Education
Vote Counts:YEAs49
NAYs40
Not Voting11
Vote SummaryBy Senator NameBy Vote PositionBy Home State


Alphabetical by Senator Name
Alexander (R-TN), Yea
Ayotte (R-NH), Nay
Baldwin (D-WI), Yea
Barrasso (R-WY), Nay
Bennet (D-CO), Yea
Blumenthal (D-CT), Yea
Blunt (R-MO), Nay
Booker (D-NJ), Yea
Boozman (R-AR), Nay
Boxer (D-CA), Yea
Brown (D-OH), Not Voting
Burr (R-NC), Nay
Cantwell (D-WA), Yea
Capito (R-WV), Nay
Cardin (D-MD), Yea
Carper (D-DE), Yea
Casey (D-PA), Yea
Cassidy (R-LA), Yea
Coats (R-IN), Nay
Cochran (R-MS), Yea
Collins (R-ME), Yea
Coons (D-DE), Yea
Corker (R-TN), Nay
Cornyn (R-TX), Yea
Cotton (R-AR), Nay
Crapo (R-ID), Nay
Cruz (R-TX), Not Voting
Daines (R-MT), Nay
Donnelly (D-IN), Yea
Durbin (D-IL), Yea
Enzi (R-WY), Nay
Ernst (R-IA), Nay
Feinstein (D-CA), Yea
Fischer (R-NE), Nay
Flake (R-AZ), Not Voting
Franken (D-MN), Yea
Gardner (R-CO), Nay
Gillibrand (D-NY), Nay
Graham (R-SC), Nay
Grassley (R-IA), Nay
Hatch (R-UT), Yea
Heinrich (D-NM), Yea
Heitkamp (D-ND), Yea
Heller (R-NV), Nay
Hirono (D-HI), Yea
Hoeven (R-ND), Nay
Inhofe (R-OK), Nay
Isakson (R-GA), Nay
Johnson (R-WI), Nay
Kaine (D-VA), Yea
King (I-ME), Yea
Kirk (R-IL), Not Voting
Klobuchar (D-MN), Yea
Lankford (R-OK), Nay
Leahy (D-VT), Yea
Lee (R-UT), Nay
Manchin (D-WV), Yea
Markey (D-MA), Yea
McCain (R-AZ), Not Voting
McCaskill (D-MO), Yea
McConnell (R-KY), Yea
Menendez (D-NJ), Yea
Merkley (D-OR), Yea
Mikulski (D-MD), Yea
Moran (R-KS), Nay
Murkowski (R-AK), Nay
Murphy (D-CT), Yea
Murray (D-WA), Yea
Nelson (D-FL), Yea
Paul (R-KY), Nay
Perdue (R-GA), Nay
Peters (D-MI), Yea
Portman (R-OH), Not Voting
Reed (D-RI), Yea
Reid (D-NV), Yea
Risch (R-ID), Nay
Roberts (R-KS), Nay
Rounds (R-SD), Nay
Rubio (R-FL), Not Voting
Sanders (I-VT), Not Voting
Sasse (R-NE), Nay
Schatz (D-HI), Yea
Schumer (D-NY), Yea
Scott (R-SC), Nay
Sessions (R-AL), Not Voting
Shaheen (D-NH), Yea
Shelby (R-AL), Nay
Stabenow (D-MI), Yea
Sullivan (R-AK), Nay
Tester (D-MT), Yea
Thune (R-SD), Nay
Tillis (R-NC), Nay
Toomey (R-PA), Not Voting
Udall (D-NM), Yea
Vitter (R-LA), Nay
Warner (D-VA), Not Voting
Warren (D-MA), Yea
Whitehouse (D-RI), Yea
Wicker (R-MS), Nay
Wyden (D-OR), Yea
Vote SummaryBy Senator NameBy Vote PositionBy Home State


Grouped By Vote Position
YEAs ---49
Alexander (R-TN)
Baldwin (D-WI)
Bennet (D-CO)
Blumenthal (D-CT)
Booker (D-NJ)
Boxer (D-CA)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Cassidy (R-LA)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)
Coons (D-DE)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Donnelly (D-IN)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Franken (D-MN)
Hatch (R-UT)
Heinrich (D-NM)
Heitkamp (D-ND)
Hirono (D-HI)
Kaine (D-VA)
King (I-ME)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Leahy (D-VT)
Manchin (D-WV)
Markey (D-MA)
McCaskill (D-MO)
McConnell (R-KY)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murphy (D-CT)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Peters (D-MI)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Schatz (D-HI)
Schumer (D-NY)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Tester (D-MT)
Udall (D-NM)
Warren (D-MA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)
NAYs ---40
Ayotte (R-NH)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Blunt (R-MO)
Boozman (R-AR)
Burr (R-NC)
Capito (R-WV)
Coats (R-IN)
Corker (R-TN)
Cotton (R-AR)
Crapo (R-ID)
Daines (R-MT)
Enzi (R-WY)
Ernst (R-IA)
Fischer (R-NE)
Gardner (R-CO)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Heller (R-NV)
Hoeven (R-ND)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johnson (R-WI)
Lankford (R-OK)
Lee (R-UT)
Moran (R-KS)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Paul (R-KY)
Perdue (R-GA)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rounds (R-SD)
Sasse (R-NE)
Scott (R-SC)
Shelby (R-AL)
Sullivan (R-AK)
Thune (R-SD)
Tillis (R-NC)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)
Not Voting - 11
Brown (D-OH)
Cruz (R-TX)
Flake (R-AZ)
Kirk (R-IL)
McCain (R-AZ)
Portman (R-OH)
Rubio (R-FL)
Sanders (I-VT)
Sessions (R-AL)
Toomey (R-PA)
Warner (D-VA)
Vote SummaryBy Senator NameBy Vote PositionBy Home State


Grouped by Home State
Alabama:Sessions (R-AL), Not VotingShelby (R-AL), Nay
Alaska:Murkowski (R-AK), NaySullivan (R-AK), Nay
Arizona:Flake (R-AZ), Not VotingMcCain (R-AZ), Not Voting
Arkansas:Boozman (R-AR), NayCotton (R-AR), Nay
California:Boxer (D-CA), YeaFeinstein (D-CA), Yea
Colorado:Bennet (D-CO), YeaGardner (R-CO), Nay
Connecticut:Blumenthal (D-CT), YeaMurphy (D-CT), Yea
Delaware:Carper (D-DE), YeaCoons (D-DE), Yea
Florida:Nelson (D-FL), YeaRubio (R-FL), Not Voting
Georgia:Isakson (R-GA), NayPerdue (R-GA), Nay
Hawaii:Hirono (D-HI), YeaSchatz (D-HI), Yea
Idaho:Crapo (R-ID), NayRisch (R-ID), Nay
Illinois:Durbin (D-IL), YeaKirk (R-IL), Not Voting
Indiana:Coats (R-IN), NayDonnelly (D-IN), Yea
Iowa:Ernst (R-IA), NayGrassley (R-IA), Nay
Kansas:Moran (R-KS), NayRoberts (R-KS), Nay
Kentucky:McConnell (R-KY), YeaPaul (R-KY), Nay
Louisiana:Cassidy (R-LA), YeaVitter (R-LA), Nay
Maine:Collins (R-ME), YeaKing (I-ME), Yea
Maryland:Cardin (D-MD), YeaMikulski (D-MD), Yea
Massachusetts:Markey (D-MA), YeaWarren (D-MA), Yea
Michigan:Peters (D-MI), YeaStabenow (D-MI), Yea
Minnesota:Franken (D-MN), YeaKlobuchar (D-MN), Yea
Mississippi:Cochran (R-MS), YeaWicker (R-MS), Nay
Missouri:Blunt (R-MO), NayMcCaskill (D-MO), Yea
Montana:Daines (R-MT), NayTester (D-MT), Yea
Nebraska:Fischer (R-NE), NaySasse (R-NE), Nay
Nevada:Heller (R-NV), NayReid (D-NV), Yea
New Hampshire:Ayotte (R-NH), NayShaheen (D-NH), Yea
New Jersey:Booker (D-NJ), YeaMenendez (D-NJ), Yea
New Mexico:Heinrich (D-NM), YeaUdall (D-NM), Yea
New York:Gillibrand (D-NY), NaySchumer (D-NY), Yea
North Carolina:Burr (R-NC), NayTillis (R-NC), Nay
North Dakota:Heitkamp (D-ND), YeaHoeven (R-ND), Nay
Ohio:Brown (D-OH), Not VotingPortman (R-OH), Not Voting
Oklahoma:Inhofe (R-OK), NayLankford (R-OK), Nay
Oregon:Merkley (D-OR), YeaWyden (D-OR), Yea
Pennsylvania:Casey (D-PA), YeaToomey (R-PA), Not Voting
Rhode Island:Reed (D-RI), YeaWhitehouse (D-RI), Yea
South Carolina:Graham (R-SC), NayScott (R-SC), Nay
South Dakota:Rounds (R-SD), NayThune (R-SD), Nay
Tennessee:Alexander (R-TN), YeaCorker (R-TN), Nay
Texas:Cornyn (R-TX), YeaCruz (R-TX), Not Voting
Utah:Hatch (R-UT), YeaLee (R-UT), Nay
Vermont:Leahy (D-VT), YeaSanders (I-VT), Not Voting
Virginia:Kaine (D-VA), YeaWarner (D-VA), Not Voting
Washington:Cantwell (D-WA), YeaMurray (D-WA), Yea
West Virginia:Capito (R-WV), NayManchin (D-WV), Yea
Wisconsin:Baldwin (D-WI), YeaJohnson (R-WI), Nay
Wyoming:Barrasso (R-WY), NayEnzi (R-WY), Nay
Vote SummaryBy Senator NameBy Vote PositionBy Home State

Monday, March 14, 2016

STINGING CRITICISM OF DE BLASIO ON SCHOOLS FROM LEONIE HAIMSON

The Indeypendent published a review of Mayor Bill de Blasio's education policies written by Class Size Matters Director Leonie Haimson.

Leonie acknowledges that de Blasio and his Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina are not rushing to close schools or co-locate as many charter schools as their predecessor. That's the positive news. Then, Leonie goes on the attack.

First, she slams the literacy coaches being hired by Farina because this is not a research proven method to improve literacy and a similar program was already attempted by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg without success.

On lowering class sizes, Leonie is blunt in her criticism of the Department of Education.  She states: 

At the same time, the number of students in grades K-3 in classes of 30 or more continues to increase, with more than 48,000 students in the early grades in classes this large, and more than 350,000 students overall in classes this large. Class size reduction is a research-proven reform, and the top choice of parents on the Department of Education’s (DOE) own surveys. Despite this, the chancellor has repeatedly stated that she doesn’t consider class size reduction a priority.
This summer, the city also rejected the recommendations of its own appointed task force to align the school capacity formula with smaller classes. Despite a promise to the state to focus its efforts on lowering class size on the 93 struggling Renewal schools, we found that 40 percent did not lower class size and over 60 percent still have classes of 30 or more.
Leonie then takes on school budgets and notes how the city is only planning to fund schools at 91% of Fair Student Funding.  Leonie then crushes de Blasio on waste in contracts noting that the city is paying $2,291 an hour for consulting at Renewal Schools. That's somewhat higher than A teacher's hourly rate for per session. She then is critical of school overcrowding which she claims will only worsen as the city is not building enough schools to keep up with enrollment growth. 
Leonie then fires one last missile when she blasts de Blasio-Farina for appealing a lawsuit that parents and Public Advocate Letitia James won saying that School Leadership Team meetings must be open to the public to comply with the open meetings law.  The city is improperly arguing that the SLT's are only advisory so the open meetings law does not apply. State law contradicts this assertion.
Leonie concludes:
Though we won the lawsuit, the city is now appealing. This refusal to grant parents any real authority via their School Leadership Teams reflects a larger problem: the DOE is still excessively wedded to top-down policymaking, with far too little respect for the views of the parents and other stakeholder groups whose input will be critical to improving our schools.
We all have to be wary of so called progressives such as de Blasio saying they will improve our schools.  From my point of view as a classroom teacher, Leonie is absolutely correct.  Top-down management has not changed one iota from Bloomberg Klein to de Blasio-Farina.  That is sad news. 
The only people happy with the status quo seem to be the leadership of the UFT and the bureaucracy at DOE.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

FINALLY FEELING A LITTLE BERN ON EDUCATION*

I have been skeptical of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' education record because of his support in the U.S. Senate for the Murphy Amendment, which would've continued test and punish federal education policy.

Senator Sanders also recently voted to send former New York State Education Commissioner John King's nomination for Secretary of Education to the full U.S. Senate. Bernie's K-12 education record lately has not been very teacher friendly.

Part of me wonders if Bernie will just be the latest so called progressive to be all for public school teachers when running for office and then abandon us as soon as he/she is elected.  See Bill de Blasio for details.

Since we have been critical of Senator Sanders  when it comes to K-12 education, we must say we are impressed by this little Twitter quote that Sanders released as part of the Illinois primary campaign.




Bernie still needs to  give some form of the speech on public education that Bertis Downs recommended last month but bashing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, while supporting teachers and saying no to shutting down schools is a real step in our direction.


*Please note that this piece, and just about everything else here at the ICE-UFTblog, is purely the opinion of the author and does not necessarily in any way represent the views of ICE, Stronger Together or MORE.