Sunday, December 31, 2017


Mike Schirtzer reached out last night hoping that the UFT would join in helping the clothing drive in the Bronx for the survivors of Thursday's deadly fire. No need to wait for a UFT answer, we are asking people to do what they can for these people. If you are in the Bronx or can get there today, please donate a coat or some clothing.

Church of Saint Martin of Tours
2239 Crotona Avenue (E. 182nd St/Garden Street)

Sunday 12/31, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Mike's email to UFT officials:

Hello friends,

I know you all are as saddened and disturbed as we are by the tragic fire in the Bronx. Would it be possible for UFT to send out a message via text and email to our members about this clothing drive in The Bronx which is being sponsored by the Mayor's office, FDNY, NYPD and several other city agencies? 

I know it is late notice and other drives may come, but this seems like something that is urgent.

If there is anything you all would suggest we can do on our end please let us know.

Thank you folks and sorry to have to reach out under these circumstances

Mike Schirtzer

Saturday, December 30, 2017


I often wonder when I write the blog who is reading it. Sometimes, I am a little startled that we go beyond the target audience: UFT members, other public school teachers, public school activists and union supporters.

One of our readers who has commented a couple of times is libertarian Mike Antonucci who to me is quite anti-union and particularly against the teachers' unions he follows religiously. Norm Scott often cites Antonucci to see what the other side of the political spectrum is thinking. Mike and I have one point in common: We both don't think much of our union's leaders.

Anyway, Mike did a "Top Ten Most Memorable Teacher Union Quotes for 2017" for a cite I care not to link to and guess who made the list? The ICEUFT blog was right there at number 8. I don't know whether to be satisfied or enraged but here is the quote that made this top ten list:

 8. “[UFT’s ruling Unity Caucus] will come out and call anyone pushing a fragmentation drive real nasty names long before it ever got to the stage where there is a new union. I would expect they would say anyone signing or spreading a petition to make a separate bargaining unit was Hitler, Mussolini, the devil, and maybe Stalin all rolled into one.” — James Eterno, United Federation of Teachers chapter leader, curbing any enthusiasm for the idea of splitting off a high school teachers union from UFT. (Oct. 5, ICEUFT Blog)

Well no Mike, I am not trying to curb any enthusiasm for splitting off a high school teachers union. I'm being realistic. I want people to know what they are up against in challenging the Unity Caucus. I would be enthusiastic if there were enough teachers who wanted to activate themselves to defeat Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus at the ballot box or if a sufficient number of high school teachers (over 6,000 out of 20,000) were willing to sign petitions to start a separate bargaining unit for high school teachers.

Mike Antonucci does have a sense of humor. The other time he linked to us was when the AFT endorsed Hillary Clinton back in 2015. The ICEblog said back then: "AFT President Randi Weingarten's Executive Council coming out for Hillary was about as surprising as a 7-eleven store having a slurpee machine."

OK, so I admit I do like when someone gets my sense of humor. Randi once criticized me at the Executive Board for my sarcasm. I guess I should be happy to be cited by anyone, even the right wingers, but why can't more of our target audience hear us and rise up to overthrow the Unity Caucus machine? That would make me one of the most fired up people on earth.

Friday, December 29, 2017


Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will swear in Mayor Bill de Blasio for the Mayor's second term on Monday, January 1, 2018. Former President Bill Clinton swore the mayor in for his first term back in 2014.

I'm not quite sure if Bernie coming to town for de Blasio is good news or bad news. Sanders being seen with Governor Andrew Cuomo as he introduced "free" college tuition for public colleges in NYS and coming back on Monday for the Mayor's second inauguration shows that Bernie is really serious about courting mainstream Democrats for his likely 2020 run for the presidency.

Cuomo and de Blasio want to be seen with the progressive Saint Bernie to show their authentic left wing credentials if either of these two decide to run for the oval office. The thought of either the Governor or Mayor as POTUS is I guess a bit less nauseating than the current occupant of the White House getting another four years.

No matter how we slice this, it's kind of creepy Bernie playing to the Democratic establishment or de Blasio and Cuomo playing to the left wing base of the Democratic Party. Cuomo has been anti-public schools and anti-labor from the start and de Blasio has only been slightly better.

I've kind of liked Sanders but always felt he should be a much stronger supporter of K-12 public education so I do not count myself as an enthusiastic Bernie fan but my wife and I did vote for him in the primary in 2016.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


No real surprises in the city's Independent Budget Office report in December. The report paintsy a stable financial picture for NYC but notes there could be trouble ahead because of the Trump tax cuts and budget. Thanks to Harris Lirtzman for sending me the report.

On the city surplus:
Based on IBO’s analysis of tax revenues and spending as presented under the Mayor’s plan, along with our own updated economic forecast, we estimate the city will have $1.2 billion in additional city-generated revenue offset by some additional spending, enough to end the current fiscal year with a surplus of $1.0 billion.

Further along we are told: 
IBO’s 2018 surplus estimate does not include the $1.45 billion currently allocated for two reserves within the fiscal year 2018 budget—these reserves are currently counted as expenditures but do not support any specific spending needs. 

Translation, the city is expected to end the year with about $2.5 billion that they are not speding.

We also learn from the IBO report that the NYC economy is growing but not at a torrid pace. Wall Street is doing just fine. IBO does see storm clouds ahead mainly because of the federal budget and the tax changes.

The IBO says this about municipal labor contracts:
Perhaps the most immediate threat to balancing the city’s budget is the impending cost of settling contracts with the city’s municipal labor unions. Currently, over 100,000 full-time city employees, approximately 33 percent of the city’s full-time workforce, are working under the terms of expired contracts, including the city’s largest union, District Council 37. By the end of calendar year 2018 contracts covering nearly 90 percent of the city’s full-time workforce will have expired, including the contract for the United Federation of Teachers. 

The de Blasio Administration has set aside $631 million in the current fiscal year increasing to $2.4 billion by 2021 to cover the costs of potential labor settlements. IBO estimates that for each 1 percent increase in annual wages the city would spend an additional $121 million in the current fiscal year and slightly over $1.1 billion in 2021. 

The de Blasio Administration has taken the position that it is willing to be flexible on the extent of future wage increases only if the unions are willing to pay for them with givebacks that would reduce city expenditures. After giving back over $1.4 billion in concessions over the last four years for health care savings through increases in co-pays, higher premiums, and eligibility audits, in order to secure wage increases during the previous round of contract negotiations, the city’s labor unions may be galvanized in their efforts to seek greater wage increases with fewer givebacks in the coming negotiations. The Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, representing some 23,000 fulltime police officers, has already rejected the city’s contract offers and requested that all negotiations be handled through binding arbitration.

Fear not IBO, DC 37 or the UFT are usually willing to settle for less and one of the two unions will most likely set a low pattern that other city workers, including the PBA, will be stuck with. We predicted it last month as did the Chief and we expect a pattern will be established at some point in 2018, probably sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


1,800 members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers have been on strike against Charter Spectrum since March. The strike is still going on.

Here is the latest from the NYC Cable Truth blog.


99.5% of Local 3 members also voted to extend benefits checks to the striking workers. The strike has gone on so long that their unemployment benefits are running out.

Labor solidarity is not dead.

Monday, December 25, 2017


The ICEBLOG wishes all of you a Merry Christmas and for those who don't celebrate a great holiday season. I am waiting for my kids to wake up and for the chaos to begin as they open their gifts.

Christmas morning is truly one of the joyful moments of parenthood. Since my kids are eight and three, this is one of the best mornings of the year.

I'm having a difficult time this morning thinking about the school wars and the uncertain times ahead with the Janus Supreme Court decision coming in 2018. The Court in all likelihood will make the public sector a place where union dues are optional throughout the United States based on free speech grounds.

We now know that oral arguments in Janus will be held on February 26, 2018. The unions should lose the case within a few months after that.

The question now is how will the public sector unions survive after the decision? Judging from comments here, many UFT members would say bye, bye UFT if, or should I say when, given the opportunity.

We need a union folks, as much now as ever. I understand that people despise our union's leaders but for a look at what life in the United States is like without unions, please read this piece in the Washington Post which basically describes the present and future of our country without pensions.

The unions in New York State came together and preserved our pensions this year in November by convincing a huge majority of voters to reject by a huge margin a constitutional convention that could have put our pensions at risk. If we can harness that energy in 2018, maybe we can actually revitalize the union movement.

That's enough for today as the kids are about to wake up so enjoy the day.

Saturday, December 23, 2017


If you can stand one more story on Chancellor Carmen Farina's retirement, here goes. Some of you are hopeful that the streak of of anti-teacher Chancellors might finally be ending when Farina leaves. Here is a comment from Mayor Bill de Blasio's press conference, where Farina officially announced she was leaving, that should give all cause for concern:

"I'm thrilled with what Carmen's achieved and I want to just deepen what she has started, de Blasio said on Thursday. "Am I looking for something we don't have? No."

Could this mayor possibly be more out of touch with the school system he controls?

It looks like it will be more of the same so I'm not optimistic about the next Chancellor. Are you?

Friday, December 22, 2017


On Tuesday we wrote about Carmen Farina's imminent departure as NYC Schools Chancellor.In response, Reality Based Educator, a famous now very part time blogger, commented. UFT President Michael Mulgrew also put out a statement. Read them both and see whether a teacher in the schools or the UFT President has it right.

From Mulgrew:
UFT President Michael Mulgrew issued the following statement:

Carmen has a lot to be proud of during her tenure. Her decades of experience in the system gave her a deep understanding of how our schools work. She managed the historic introduction of universal pre-K and oversaw significant gains in student achievement from test scores to high school graduation rates. We wish her well.

From Reality Based Educator:
Carmen Farina said she wanted to bring "joy" back to the classroom.

Has there been any time that schools have been more stressful environments than they are now?

We are under constant Danielson driveby threats. Lesson plan and special education mandates have teachers spending hours a night getting ready for those possible Danielson drivebys. When the drive-bys occur, teachers are getting slammed for not hitting the unreasonable and/or impossible benchmarks on the Danielson rubric. The pressure teachers are under has been passed on to the students. Everything is about "rigor" and lo and behold any teacher who isn't teaching a "rigorous" lesson when the drive-by comes. And yet, students are suffering emotionally under all this stress, resulting in increased depression, bullying and self-harm incidents. The guidance counselors, understaffed as always, can't deal with the increased emotional and psychological problems students are experiencing because all of their time is spent on the ever-increasing academic mandates and tracking measures they have to engage in to make sure those are met. More and more pressure is being put on teachers to not only teach "rigorous" lessons, but also address the social and emotional needs of students - and yet, with the ever-increasing mandates, the time spent on lesson planning, the exhaustion teachers are experiencing from all the added pressure and stress, there is simply no ability to do this.

Carmen Farina is to blame for much the horror that is the NYC school system. De Blasio deserves more blame, however, because he hired her and supported her through her reign of terror/error. Like you, James, I have little hope that de Blasio will pick somebody who makes the system better. Instead we will get some Broadie who will continue to reign with a Blame Teachers First mentality.

In the end, at least Farina is gone. I do have one parting thought about Farina: I hope she experiences the same "joy" in her retirement that she brought to NYC schools during her chancellorship.

She deserves no less than that.

As usual, the ICEBlog leaves it to our readers to make an informed decision on who is correct.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


The disastrous four year reign of Carmen Farina as Chancellor of the New York City schools will soon be ending.

From NBC News NY:
The head of the nation's largest school district is stepping down, city government sources tell News 4 New York.

New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña plans to announce her departure from the city Department of Education after four years on the job on Thursday, according to the sources.

Fariña, 74, will leave the post after four years overseeing the school system that educates more than 1 million students a year and implementing several of Mayor de Blasio's educational policies and campaign promises, including universal pre-K for city kids.

Her departure is not a surprise to City Hall: Fariña had planned on retiring to Florida in 2013 but was coaxed into taking on the role by the then-newly elected mayor. City government sources said the mayor's office is already conducting a nationwide search for Fariña's replacement.

I have no confidence that the search will lead to a decent Chancellor who would need to expose the mess New York City schools are.

The last decent Chancellor was Rudy Crew who left back in 1999. Since then we have had viscous/incompetent Chancellors. I thought it might be fun if we rank the 1999-2017 Chancellors from bad to worse, to worst.

Here are my rankings:
Fifth From the Bottom: Cathy Black-At least we had some laughs during her incompetent 95 days.

Fourth Worst: Harold O Levy-Clueless Harold started the management knows all model at the Board of Education in settling the 2002 UFT contract. I can't think of much positive he did.

Third Worst: DennisWalcott-A lightweight lackey of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Really adept at closing schools and now runs away when someone from Jamaica High School asked him why he closed a perfectly viable school.

Runner-up Worst Chancellor: Carmen Farina-The only one of the five who was an educator and should have known better but she proved to be just another teacher bashing hack for city hall now under Bill de Blasio.

And the winner of the ICEBLOG Worst Chancellor of all time: Of course it's Joel Klein. Klein favored charter schools over the public schools he was in charge of. He had no idea how to run what was a partially functional public school system he inherited. By leaving alone schools that were getting good scores, he basically brought us academic apartheid as the middle class schools were free to do as they like but schools in poorer areas either were closed or most were forced to inflate grades and statistics to survive.

Klein was the architect along with Randi Weingarten of the disastrous 2005 contract that led to school closing mania. Klein is also responsible for the anti-seniority fair student funding system. He truly left a legacy of grade inflation, closing schools and generally hating teachers that still is the culture at what is now the Department of Education.


The City/Department of Education continues to treat teachers and the schools with nothing but contempt. We learned on Monday night at the UFT Executive Board that the city is still trying to make all of us pay more money for a paid parental leave benefit than they will grant in benefits.

We also found out that the city is going to close multiple schools rather than giving them the proper supports they need such as lower class sizes. UFT Secretary Howie Schoor actually admitted to the Executive Board that we disagree with some of the closings. That is as close as we have gotten to an objection from our union's leaders.

 On the same day, however, another public employee union in the city, The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, announced they were sending members out to Iowa to remind the public who Mayor Bill de Blasio really is. They are protesting his speech to progressives telling them that de Blasio is not pro-labor.

From the NY Post:
“Our members are making this trip to tell progressives in Iowa and across the country about the real Bill de Blasio. He says he’s a friend of working people, but when it comes to his own employees, he is anti-worker and anti-union,” said Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch.

“If he is going to stand up before Iowa voters and union members and promise he’s a friend to labor, then he needs to earn it.”

  Wake up UFT: Bill de Blasio is not our friend.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


MORE'S Mike Schirtzer sent this out as Arthur Goldstein couldn't make it but Arthur did put up his own spoof of a meeting which was not too far off. The real report is right here.

Open Mike

No speakers-everyone is bitterly disappointed says (UFT Secretary Howie) Schoor.

Ex bd and adcom Minutes approved.

President will not be here

Staff director Leroy Barr is
Barr-upcoming Wednesday 6-8pm emergency tax protest sponsored by Manhattan borough president and Scott Stringer- at John Jay college
Asking people to come out
Final vote by Congress on tax package may be this week.
Rewards the rich takes away from middle class

Contract committee is meeting 1/10 all members of ex bd are on.
Must sign confidentiality agreement.
Will hear foundation and where we are going.
Next ex bd is 1/8.

Mike- Ctle/PD hours can hours we do in school count? Will the doe train our people in the schools?- UFT is licensed we don’t know  Doe plan, they can bring in UFT, but they do not have any formalized plan yet
Class size violations- How many oversized classes are there?- Need report- DOE sent us numbers-next ex bd we will report back.
Maternity/parental leave- demonstration possible, no progress, we will not take a bad deal. Every formula they show up with benefits city, hurts us, we need numbers that are fair and work for us. If we don’t get something soon we’ll take action.

Kj- consolidation, staff will go by excess rules.
One school may be working well, another isn’t- we are in agreement with doe- small schools made during Bloomberg admin, 2 JHS in same building, better to combine and cut down on administration. We will propose combining excess lists. Get full list.
We had people in those schools this morning that are being closed or consolidated to speak with our members.
Some of those we agree with doe, some we do not.

Jonathan- Janella and I formed a committee on specialized schools, Janella testified in front of city council on integration- can we consider task force on high school admission process which sets up schools and children to be winner or losers.
Janella answers – I participated on diversity task force set up by mayor- it will be up and running for next year on diversity, access, and equity. We will cover admissions process, there will be DoE offcials and students along with me on this committee. We need to figure out pathway and what admissions will look like.

District report
Howie Schoor:
We now represent people who work in borough offices for DOE, over 90% yes vote.
City managers-lost on parental leave, that’s why they came with us. They got 2 and 2 percent raises, they lost holidays, so we got them a lot of things back. Happy about approval contract. Over half of chapter came in person at borough offices and they really appreciated UFT. If we weren’t here DOE would do same things to our members and take stuff from us too. Thanks everyone who helped. They are great people and smart. They will have a chapter leader. DOE is not very happy, this is their managers.

Mel –treasurer-something nice in tax law, part of the proposed tax bill was tax profits of pensions, which would have taken money from us and our pensions. We fought and kept that provision out, that bill passed, but pensions will be safe.

Paul Egan-legislative report- Paul mentions how Eagles beat Giants.
We want a speaker of the city council that we can work with,. Before Christmas we will know who it is. Looks like someone from Queens or Bronx. That will be in place before we come back.

Ex bd vacancies
Dwayne Clark nominates  Sung lee CL of community school, very active-comes to every event, rallies, great asset to UFT- he is young and engergetic –young dad wants to stay active. Great asset to elementary division.
Hereby elected since no other nominees.

Leroy Barr nominates Elizabeth Perez. She started as bilingual teacher at PS 160, worked tirelessly at UFT, served as special rep and political action coordinator and now is leader of Brooklyn office. She is taking on tyranny of administrators and modified many of their behaviors.
Hereby elected since no other nominees.

Jonathan New Action nominates Kate Martin Bridge.
She is a math teacher and chapter leader, was a NYS auditor before that, has been active as a delegate, has been helpful in those that have been excessed. Stepped in as CL for small school. Previously served as HS ex bd member.
Hereby elected since no other nominees.

Sunday, December 17, 2017


Pollsters are not normally known for their senses of humor but Quinipiac University did a poll where they asked voters this question:

What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of President Trump? (Numbers are not percentages. Figures show the number of times each response was given. This table reports only words that were mentioned at least five times.)
idiot        53
liar         44
incompetent  36
leader       35
strong       35
asshole      26
great        21
moron        19
arrogant     18
disgusting   17
unqualified  16
crazy        15
bold         14
buffoon      12
dangerous    12
ignorant     12
corrupt      11
dishonest    11
honest       11
racist       11
businessman  10
different    10
stupid       10
business      9
change        9
egotistical   9
fraud         9
good          9
narcissist    9
president     9
American      8
jerk          8
trying        8
unstable      8
awesome       7
bombastic     7
disaster      7
pig           7
childish      6
dumb          6
evil          6
joke          6
powerful      6
courageous    5
disgrace      5
fantastic     5
hard-worker   5
insane        5

Some of the answers are quite funny. I notice that intelligent did not make the list. Maybe Americans are seeing things kind of clearly these days.

The same poll shows that Trump is 20 points underwater with a 37% approval rating as opposed to 57% disapproval. No surprise there.

I thought instead of doing this as just another Trump bashing piece (too easy), that it would be interesting to ask the readers of this blog the same question on the first word that comes to mind on one of Donald Trump's most notable critics, Michael Mulgrew.

It's your turn readers. Say whatever you want. Don't be restricted by the words that describe Trump.

I will pass right now as I don't want to influence anyone one way or another.

Please comment. We are looking for a strong, if unscientific, sample.

What is the first word that comes to your mind when you think of President Mulgrew?

Saturday, December 16, 2017


I was thinking while writing about consortium schools twice this past week about what makes a successful high school. Having worked in a traditional high school for 28 years and now three in a consortium school, I believe I kind of know what works.

What do all high schools need? Figuring out the answer isn't rocket science. I can break it down to three main concepts that would make the difference:

1- A collaborative, respectful teaching and learning environment.

Administration, teachers, other staff and students must value each other as working together for a common goal.

Mutual respect works so much better than fear as a motivator.

Eductator experience has to be seen as an asset instead of a liability.

2-Lower class sizes and reasonable guidance caseloads.

25 maximum in a class (like the law says should be the average) so we actually have ample time to get to know the students as people, give them real individual attention and meticulously read rough drafts and revisions of those lengthy term papers we want done that will prepare kids for college.

Guidance caseloads of no more than 200 per counselor so counselors can do actual counseling and not mostly paperwork and emergencies.

3- An enforceable discipline code.

Students do need to know there are real consequences for their actions.

These very reasonable goals could actually be achieved. Instead of rewarding principals for results that are invariably made up in too many schools under current rules, give administration incentives for establishing a work environment where the above conditions are present. You then might witness more of those top scores being achieved for real.

Friday, December 15, 2017


Yesterday while reading Ed Notes, I was intrigued by part of Andrea Gabor's AlterNet article that went into great detail to criticize Elizabeth Green's puff piece praising Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy.

While Moskowitz uses harsh, rigid discipline to motivate her scholars (students) and then councils out those who can't cope with such rigid methods, another group of public schools is doing quite well by taking the completely opposite approach.

Here is part of Gabor's piece:

Charter advocates ignore public-school success stories hiding in plain sight
Forty years ago, it was the successful reforms initiated by Tony Alvarado, best known for his superintendency of New York City’s District 2 and 4, and the founding of the small-, progressive-schools movement by Debbie Meier, the first educator to win a MacArthur genius grant, that grabbed education-reform headlines. It was that movement Sy Fliegel wrote about in his book A Miracle in Harlem.

That experiment lives on in the New York Performance Standards Consortium, a group of schools that has won exemptions from standardized tests, but that has racked up far higher graduation rates and college matriculation rates than traditional public schools. Among students who started a consortium high school in 2010, 77 percent graduated in four years, versus 68 percent for all New York City students. (The vast majority of consortium schools are in New York City.) Among those who became high school freshmen in 2008, 82 percent graduated by 2014, compared with 73 percent citywide.

Green’s Chalkbeat published this about the consortium schools: “The graduation rates are especially high for students with disabilities and English language learners. Nearly 70 percent of ELLs in consortium schools graduate on time, according to the report, compared to about 40 percent across the city. And half of students with disabilities in the consortium schools graduate on time, compared with fewer than a quarter citywide.”

Today there are close to 40 consortium high schools, the vast majority in New York City. In addition, there are numerous elementary- and middle-schools that emulate the consortium schools—comprising an informal network that is far larger, and of longer duration, than Success Academy.

My question for Elizabeth Green: Why does she rate Success Academy above the consortium high schools, and their like-minded elementary and middle schools, especially given that they have survived, indeed thrived, despite the very bureaucracy that Green, rightly, decries?

The consortium and like-minded schools are noteworthy in other respects: Whereas urban charter networks like Success Academy traditionally have been highly segregated, consortium schools aimed to integrate their classrooms from the beginning, and were successful. Nor do consortium schools engage in creaming.

What makes these schools successful is not only their progressive pedagogy, but also they’re collaborative approach to school improvement—one that gives voice to both teachers and students.

I can back up Gabor 100% after spending three years at Middle College High School. We have a collaborative atmosphere between staff and administration. Our kids generally do well at LaGuardia Community College where they take classes throughout their high school years. We don't "cream" either as many of our students have IEP's.

I'm not sure if the consortium model could be scaled up but I would definitely like to see it expanded, including into some larger high schools. Consortium schools do have a working formula. It is a reasonable alternative to the charters.

Thursday, December 14, 2017


I found this piece from the Education Law Center quite interesting.

Education Law Center (ELC) has joined the legal team in NYSER v. State, a major school funding lawsuit pending in the Supreme Court of New York County. The case was filed in 2014 by parents in New York City and Syracuse, as well as statewide organizations and community groups, to compel New York State to fulfill its constitutional obligation to adequately fund the public schools.

In an amended complaint filed December 11, parents from the Schenectady, Gouverneur and Central Islip school districts joined the NYSER litigation. The inclusion of these school districts expands the case to include urban, rural and suburban communities across the state.

At the heart of the NYSER case is the State’s failure to fund the 2007 Foundation Aid Formula, enacted by the Legislature in the wake of the Court of Appeals landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State (CFE) rulings. After a decade of deep funding cuts, then minimal increases in aid, the State remains an estimated $4 billion below its funding obligations to districts under the Formula. 

Read the rest for sure. I'm told NYC is being shortchanged $3 billion by the state.

The problem is the courts are notoriously slow. The original Campaign for Fiscal Equity suit was filed in the early nineties and settled in 2007. Still no justice and it's almost 2018.

Also, if this case is settled, I hope they write it in very strong language that any additional aid must go to the classroom or direct guidance services and have penalties for districts that are not only financial if money does not get to the classroom.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Harris Lirtzman worked for the City Comptroller and he was also Deputy State Comptroller. I think it is fair to say he is an expert on government finances.

Harris has been kind enough to figure out approximately what paid family leave would cost all teachers based on what the city managers are paying for the benefit and other statistics. He used the city managers' numbers and then did a comparison using the size of the teaching force. His projections are based on the Gina Bellafonte column in the NY Times and other information that is available to the public. They should be taken as an approximation and not literally.

For those who do not wish to go through the specifics on the numbers, the cost to all of us for the paid family leave benefit for 12 weeks at full salary should be a loss of about $6.96 from our semi-monthly paychecks.

Again, please note this number is an approximation and should not be taken as exact. The cost might even be less if non-teachers in the UFT are included in the pool as the majority of non-teachers are paraprofessionals who would drive the cost down. However, it might be a little higher too since teachers are probably younger on average than the city managers and thus might be more likely to use the benefit. However, in all cases, we don't need to lose half of our sick bank, the February break or much at all for new parents to receive a paid leave benefit.

What surprised me about the figures is the average teachers salary is $66,000. Considering we currently top out at over $113,000 a year and start at $54,000, the teaching force is very inexperienced. That explains a great deal about how our union and our employer look down upon us veterans. That is a story for another post.

Here are the details on the cost of paid family leave from Harris:

I thought it was time to put some numbers to all this disembodied talk about give-backs or having women teachers pay for parental leave themselves.  These estimates are based partly on information in the Gina Bellafonte column I sent you and other publicly available sources:

1. Number of non-unionized City employees (20,000) who used parental leave since it became effective in December 2015= 436 or 2.2%So, assume 218 or 1.1% per year.

2. Number of NYC teachers= 75,000

3. Number of NYC teachers who might use parental leave per year= 75,000 x 0.011% = 825 teachers/year

4. Average salary of NYC teacher= $66,000.

5. Approximate annual payroll of NYC teachers= $4.95 billion.

6. Annual cost to City to provide parental leave to UFT members= 825 x $66,000 x 12/52= $12,565,384

7. Cost of parental leave per NYC school teacher=$12,565,384/75,000= $167/year or $13.91/month or $3.48/week.

8. Cost of parental leave for every teacher who thought she/he would want it and paid annually into a reserve fund of some sort= $12,565,384/218= $57,639/year or $4,803/month or $1,200/week.  OK, let’s assume the teacher would pay the cost over three years so $19,213/year or $1,601/month or $400/week.


  • This is nothing but the “law of large numbers” applied to parental leave.  We apply the “law of large numbers” to most things that have social and economic utility but which cost a lot of money—it’s the reason why we each pay a relatively small amount of our salaries to pay for health care for everyone rather than requiring only those smart enough to know when they’re going to get sick to pay for it themselves.
  • The actual cost may be more or less.  It’s possible that more teachers are women than in the sample from non-unionized City employees. It’s probable that younger teachers will take parental leave and it's possible that there are more young teachers than in the sample.  But young teachers are paid a lot less than the average salary.  Hard to know how this would all cross-cut. Let’s assume it costs twice as much—double the figures in Line Nos. 7 and 8.
  • The managers paid by perhaps twice what the two year experience with parental leave seems to cost per the Bellafonte column.
I don’t know what the usual practice is for calculating the cost of a “give-back” in City labor negotiations. If it’s the cost of a new benefit against the total existing payroll then the give-back would be $12.6 million/$4.95 billion= 0.25% which seems reasonable and is about half the cost that the managers paid.  If it’s the cost of the give-back against the cost of the annual raise then it would be a large number.  I’m guessing it’s the first…

Monday, December 11, 2017


It has been three years now since I have been working at Middle College High School at LaGuardia Community College. After the bitter phase out of Jamaica High School ended in 2014, I never thought I would ever have any chance to again be content in a NYC teaching job.

However, after working for three years in an enlightened atmosphere featuring wonderful kids, a great staff and a supportive administration, I can say that teaching in NYC can be enjoyable. It is not perfect at Middle College by any means but teachers can apply our craft in a friendly environment.

We work on a trimester model so today I met different groups of students. I saw familiar faces and some new ones.

Believe it or not, after 31 years of teaching I still get that adrenaline rush on the first day of a new school term. Only the DOE-UFT nonsense has me jaded.

The House I coteach decorated our classroom door for the holiday season.

I write about Middle College not to boast that I landed on my feet but to say that this kind of educational setting should be a model that schools should strive to achieve.

Saturday, December 09, 2017


We have this article from the UFT on paperwork in the weekly Chapter Leader Update. It follows the Principal's union, the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, sending something out to their members basically telling them they can do whatever they want with paperwork. Thanks to the person who commented who sent the CSA missive.

From CSA to Principals:

Paperwork Reduction

Please be advised of the following clarification that your superintendent may have already shared with you regarding DOE/UFT paperwork agreement:

Last year the DOE and UFT reached several resolutions regarding individual school issues under the Paperwork Standards. The UFT subsequently distributed a document summarizing last year’s resolutions.

The only resolution that applies to all schools is the resolution regarding Other Professional Work – which was announced in the September 6 edition of Principals' Weekly. All other resolutions are non-precedental and do not apply to any other school.
If you have a paperwork complaint and the union is citing a prior resolution or distributing the UFT summary of resolutions to principals, please be advised that the prior resolution is not binding on your school and should only be considered as an example as a potential resolution; each resolution is school-specific and tailored to the program/needs of the school. Please contact your superintendent for clarification.

The DOE is committed to reducing redundant and excessive paperwork and below are a few highlights of the standards:
Schools may adopt only one school-based system for tracking student attendance (not including SESIS) in addition to the DOE source attendance system, except when expressly required by law/grant. Schools may select Skedula as the one system and require all staff to use Skedula.

Staff may be required to use Atlas or other comparable program, as well as create curriculum maps and other planning documents, as part of professional development work on Mondays or common planning time during professional activity assignments.

Lesson Plans may be collected and copied in a non-routinized manner and must be accessible to supervisors for review during observations (evaluative and non-evaluative).

Classroom bulletin boards are useful instructional tools. Bulletin boards should never be evaluated using a rubric and only in-room bulletin boards may be part of a teacher’s evaluation.

Educators and related service providers are not required to print collections or binders of documents that are available in electronic databases however educators may be required to maintain records of student progress in a manner that is organized and accessible for review, parent engagement, and professional conversations with supervisors

From the UFT weekly Chapter Leader Update:
An updated paperwork and Other Professional Work manual
When principals mandate paperwork that a member believes violates the paperwork standards negotiated by the Department of Education and the UFT in 2015, the chapter leader should file a paperwork reduction reporting form. The same form is now used for concerns about the assignment of duties during the 35 minutes allotted each week for Other Professional Work (OPW). The UFT has updated its Resolving Paperwork and Other Professional Work Issues Guide, which spells out the new reporting procedures and resolution process. The manual is permanently housed under the Paperwork tab in the chapter leader section of the website. Chapter leaders were able to resolve many paperwork and OPW issues in the 2016–17 school year by using the union’s new reporting process. That school year, the union went to arbitration to contest the fact that principals were assigning teachers to activities on a regular basis during OPW time. As part of the settlement of that arbitration, we have a stipulation of settlement that the DOE has shared with all principals. The stipulation clarifies the use of this time: “On an as-needed basis, principals can direct teachers or paraprofessionals to activities on the list but as per the contract, this direction cannot be done on a regular basis and must be the exception rather than the rule.” According to the paperwork standards, OPW time “shall not generate excessive or redundant paperwork or electronic work.” If you have a paperwork or OPW issue in your school, use this online form to report the issue to the UFT.

Notice there are specifics from CSA and a mostly general outline from the UFT with very few specifics.You be the judge on who is doing a better job of looking out for their membership.

Thursday, December 07, 2017


In an otherwise rather uneventful Delegate Assembly meeting on Wednesday, the UFT basically revealed to us that the framework for the next contracts for all city unionized workers will probably be hammered out by two groups. One is DC 37 whose contract is up in 2017 and they are in serious talks with the city. The other group is the Municipal Labor Committee, an umbrella group of all public sector unions in the city, who will be negotiating health benefits with the city for the next round of collective bargaining.

The city is in a rush to settle with DC 37 so they won't have to deal with the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association who are heading for talks with a mediator and then probably arbitration. The PBA has a very strong case that police officers in NYC are paid much less than their colleagues in the suburbs. They won't get far in arbitration, however, because the city will settle up with a weak union such as DC 37 or the UFT to set a pattern for raises and then  negotiators for the other unions will be basically stuck with that pattern. Arbitrators will use the pattern too if a union reaches an impasse with the city.

The PBA and other uniform unions usually get up to 1% over the civilian pattern but the pattern sets the framework for all unionized municipal workers as it has done for over forty years.

For those wondering what is on the table, DC 37 and UFT President Michael Mulgrew have pretty much told us what the parameters are. DC 37 has a letter out that is also on their blog that the UFT gave out to the Delegates yesterday. It shows where their negotiations stand. Mulgrew in his report to the DA gave us more information.

We learned from our President that the city is crying poverty (no surprise there) because of the tax reform bill in DC that will lead to budget cuts for NYC. We also found out that the state pattern is about 2% raises per year.

It's interesting how Mulgrew didn't even mention that the stock market is setting record highs and the city is doing very well financially. It was all gloom and doom from the chair.

We also found out from DC 37 that they are seeking a three year contract and that the city wants another $2.4 billion in healthcare savings from the MLC. We saved the city over $3 billion in the last round.

ICE-UFTBLOG predicts that DC 37 will have a contract in the next few months that will set a pattern for city workers of around 2% a year and there will be more healthcare givebacks. To put it another way, we will pay for much of our raise. Our contract will be done on time and it will mirror DC 37. Also, the UFT will soon agree to paid family leave paid for with a slightly smaller raise for all of us that will adhere to the state law  that set a pattern in the private sector.

Some highlights from the DC 37 blog:
Union wants a three-year contract.
The union’s 13 demands include a three-year agreement with a fair wage increase.

“We are looking to improve our standard of living,” David Paskin, DC 37’s director of research and negotiations said, commenting on the union’s overarching concern in these negotiations.

Paskin noted that members feel under a lot of financial pressure because of high rents, rising food and transportation expenses, and skyrocketing drug prices. Members are also anxious about their future because of the nationwide attack on public employee pensions and benefits, Paskin said.
The negotiations committee members met in caucus before the session to discuss the demands and the union’s bargaining strategy. They caucused again after they met with city negotiators to review Linn’s responses and to continue to evaluate the bargaining climate.

Linn said he would respond formally to the demands at the next bargaining session. But he did share his initial take on the demands with the union’s negotiating team, which includes the council’s executive officers and local union presidents.

Health care will be a major topic of discussion as the union aims to protect the benefit while the city seeks a three-year agreement with municipal unions to find $2.4 billion in health-care savings. City unions agreed to a $3.4 billion saving plan linked to the last round of bargaining, which helped fund DC 37’s 2010-17 contract.

Garrido is urging the Municipal Labor Committee — which bargains health care on behalf of all city unions — to hammer out a savings plan with the city. Without an agreement on health-care, negotiations will likely be more complicated because the city would not have a clear picture of its future financial commitments.

Linn expressed concern about the city’s $88 billion obligation for retiree benefits. In response, Garrido said, “Don’t mess with our retirees. They have paid their dues.”

The union’s demands include getting rid of the reduced hiring rate. Other demands include paid family leave; an annuity plan into which the city would contribute $5 a day; funding to reduce pay inequities; a floating holiday; an increase of meal and mileage allowances, and an increase in the city’s welfare fund contribution for each member and retiree.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017


Wednesday, December 6 is the Delegate Assembly. All apologies for errors on not so smartphone. I did edit a bit at home.

Mulgrew Report
Moment of silence for two members who recently passed.

Randi arrested for civil disobedience for protesting DACA.

Tax bill which will likely pass will be the biggest transfer of wealth to rich. Tax credits for buying yachts in the bill but cuts to children's healthcare. Enemies want smallest government possible. Enemies think we are all selfish and greedy but we did not get into this profession based on selfishness and greed. We will go after anyone politically who tries to destroy us.

January state budget time. State will adjust budget based on federal issues. We will see what governor will do. State must still submit an ESSA plan. Close to new set of standards. Regents have 3 year plan. Educate, build curriculum, train teachers. Well thought out plan. We are doing it right this time.

Tenure case
City and state working with us. Opponents arguing that Legislature should make it more difficult to get tenure.

Consultations have angered CSA. CSA newsletter says principals can violate UFT contract. UFT paperwork document being showed to principals. We are arguing some paperwork demands are stupid.

DC37 started bargaining for next round of contracts. Federal tax plan will lead to huge cuts at state and city levels.  We set pattern for last round. We got contractual back pay from Bloomberg years. PBA also negotiating. State pattern is around 2%. 300-350 person UFT Negotiating Committee being formed. More than enough people want to be on it. We will meet in January.

UFT is willing to help DOE do this.  DOE is working with us on PD hours.

Paid Parental Leave
We are talking to DOE and city on this. We know what cost is. We are not Seattle where this benefit was given for free by city. We are working on it and it is moving forward.

District 16 got chapter leader back in school. District 19 Superintendent brought under control by using consultation.

May or June is when decision is likely to come out. Use time to educate membership.

What will happen? Right wing has commercials in right to work states telling people they don't have to join union. (Mulgrew showed some of the anti union commercials.) Right will use wedge issues to divide us. Koch brothers people doing door knocking campaign. We are doing our door knocking campaign. Next phase is to have membership team to handle Janus issue in every work-site.

Right is saying to save dues money but it will cost us later when we are eating cat food. Membership committee should have one person for every ten members. Make sure it is representative of chapter. Paras, old and young should be on committee. Need to talk face to face. Are people saying no to union or are members not getting the information? It must be a group effort in every school to educate members. Opportunity in this process. Members will have to endure a lot of pain if right succeeds. Right thinks they have already won. We will protect our profession. They don't know what's coming.

Staff Director's Report
Leroy Barr gave some dates including next DA which will be January 17th.

Question Period
Question: Eva Moskowitz bemoaning lack of space. What can we do to pressure her?
Mulgrew answer: Her 100% success is actually 23% because of  attrition. Eva going to state legislature to get more colocated space. She has powerful friends in DC. We want charter schools accountable for entire cohorts like we are.

Q Lab specialist CL asks about IDC and regular Democrats getting back together?
A Mulgrew thinks deal will get done but Democrats are still a minority. Still have a Brooklyn senator sitting by himself with Republicans. We should have a chance of gaining seats next year.

Q Question about baby showers?
A We believe we should have paid parental leave. Must take unpaid leave or use CAR days for birth mothers to get time. All families who have a child should have time to bond with kid and recover from childbirth.  Important for adoptive parents too. It is not being selfish to want this. We will not get this for free. Another union could get it and set a pattern. It might cost us more. We want to do it quickly.

Q Evaluations, can we for next contract try to negotiate to have something besides Danielson to evaluate us?
A Yes.

Q Can we have commercials to counter anti-union commercials?
A We will do that as part of campaign.

Motion Period
Family leave motion raised by MORE calling for paid family leave without givebacks for next month's agenda.

Dan Lumpkin motivated it by saying that UFT has made progress from where we were before on this issue. Must do more. Need transparency in negotiations  Rumor mill is spreading misinformation. Need to hear about bargaining.  People should see what is going on.

Point of information: Have we ever had open negotiations?
Mulgrew Answer: Not that I know of.

Point of information: What is on the table now?
Mulgrew won't answer so questioner Mike Schirtzer turns it into a parliamentary inquiry.
Answer: Parliamentarian said it is not a parliamentary inquiry. I asked about it being a point of information and made a point of order to that effect. Mulgrew answered by admitting he was out of order but we don't do negotiations in public because it would be used against us. (He answered Mike's question indirectly).

Resolution was voted down.

Special Order of Business
Resolution saying UFT opposes current Republican tax reform bills.
It passed unanimously after wording was put in that updated and clarified it.

That's all folks.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017


By adding up Arthur Goldstein's Executive Board Report from last night along with the latest update from the Chief-Leader on the Policeman's Benevolent Association negotiations with the city, we can put one plus one together to conclude that the framework raise for all city workers will be settled in the not too distant future. It won't matter if the UFT has a 300 person negotiating committee or no committee at all. We can ask for the world or ask for next to nothing. The pattern will rule.

Before delving into details on the current state of city union contracts, we have to explain pattern bargaining where the city settles on a length and annual percentage rate increase (or lack thereof) with one of its many municipal unions and it sets a pattern. Subsequently, all other unions are basically locked into that pattern and receive the same raise (or lack thereof). Pattern bargaining has been upheld again and again by arbitration panels. It's the main reason why our salaries lag behind most of the suburbs. We are compared to other city workers and not teachers in Yonkers when the city negotiates our contracts. Police officers are also set side by side with other city workers and it is why they are paid less than suburban officers.

Where do negotiations for the next round of contracts stand today?

The PBA is trying desperately to have their contract settled by an arbitration panel before another union sets a pattern. In my humble opinion, the city will never let this happen. The Chief is reporting this week that a mediator is being assigned to PBA negotiations. Since the police officers have a very good case that they are paid less than suburban officers, the PBA wants to go first and set the city pattern.  They need to get to arbitration before another city union settles. However, the city knows this and they are already talking to DC 37 as we learned from UFT President Michael Mulgrew in his report to the Executive Board from Monday evening.

According to Arthur's minutes, here is a summary of the negotiations:

DC37 is negotiating. Not looking for much.

We can bank on the city settling with DC37 or another weak union like the UFT before the PBA gets to arbitration. Thus there will be a pattern established that every city union worker will be stuck with.

Please do not ask what DC 37 "not looking for much" means. I have no clue. We can speculate that it means around 2% a year or less but we really don't know.

All we know is that there is a good chance that there will be a pattern raise set in the next few months that will be used to determine the next UFT contract. On the bright side, I don't think we will have to wait eleven years to get our money like we are currently waiting until 2020 in the current contract to be paid back in full for work we did in 2009.

Monday, December 04, 2017


When I write about the UFT pushing for paid family leave, I am still somewhat surprised by some of the negative comments. The main argument seems to be that having a family is a choice so pay for it yourself.

I can counter that point very easily by saying if we follow that logic, we should end the tax deduction and tax credits for children. Having children is a choice. Take it a step further,why bother educating these children that people choose to have? Why not pay for education yourself parents? By the logic of some people commenting, we should not have public schools nor our jobs. We could end up as a society discouraging children. Children are a major financial liability these days, unlike in an agrarian society, but I am sure glad my parents decided to take on the burden. My parents were both teachers and I wish they had a paid benefit to take care of my brother, sister and me.

Please review some expert research showing that infants bonding with their parents is good for all of us.

If we are willing as a society to accept that paid family leave is a good idea, which New York State has already done in the private sector, the question is how do we pay for it? Since public sector unions in NY have absolutely no credible strike threat, we basically do collective begging and have to give something to get anything. I wonder if people opposing the benefit would be willing to go on strike for anything? What would you strike for? Since a strike for any reason is unthinkable and paid family leave is coming, let's talk cost.

The price the city managers paid was .47% from their raise along with giving up two vacation days. That turned out to be way too expensive as they paid $8 million for $2 million worth of benefits. Therefore, unless Mulgrew is dumber than we think, the cost to us will be significantly lower than what the city managers paid.

Nobody is going to lose their lump sum payments or have their sick bank days cut in half unless UFT generosity is even greater than we think it is but we are going to give back something. My guess is it will be a slightly smaller salary increase in the next contract.

My two kids are beyond the age where I can take advantage of this benefit but I can see myself supporting paid family leave if the price is neutral. That said, the city can afford to give us this benefit free of charge but will not because the city unions including the UFT are so weak that we have no leverage.

People can cry here all they want about not wanting to pay a dime for motherhood, but paid family leave is coming. All we can do is push for the lowest possible cost so the city does not gain from giving parents this benefit.

Sunday, December 03, 2017


The cover of the December 7, 2017 NY Teacher is about paid parental leave and there is a major action alert in the latest Chapter Leader Update (see below). The UFT is clearly emphasizing the need to win this benefit.

I am for paid parental leave without givebacks but I think it will come in the form of a lower raise in the next contract. UFT will tout it is another major victory but we all know we will be paying for it. In the end I doubt we will be paying a major price (loss of sick bank days or the .47% city managers gave back along with two vacation days) to get the paid parental leave.

Organize a school “baby shower” for members to share parental leave stories

Take action  To raise awareness about the need for paid parental leave for UFT members, we’re asking you, as chapter leader, to organize a “baby shower” at your school in December. Make a special outreach to members in your school who are pregnant, who adopted a child, or who gave birth to a child while working in New York City public schools and ask them to share with fellow members their personal experiences with the DOE’s current parental leave policy. Here is a fact sheet about the current policy that you can share with your members. Give members who attend the baby shower the opportunity to fill out a card saying why paid parental leave matters to them. You may download and print copies of this card or pick up cards at your UFT borough office. Then, post these cards on your UFT bulletin board. Take photos of the most compelling individual cards — and of your bulletin board display — and send them (large size) to so we can share them. Sign up to let us know you are organizing a baby shower.
Please be respectful if you want to comment here.

Saturday, December 02, 2017


Teachers received their $250 Teacher's Choice money in the November 30 paychecks. We have until January 14, 2018 to spend the money. Don't forget those accountability forms too. Make sure to save those receipts which is trouble for some.

Here are the details from the December 1, 2017 Chapter Leader Newsletter.

Teacher’s Choice spending deadline is approaching

Alert your members that Jan. 14 is the deadline for spending Teacher’s Choice funds. Eligible UFT members should have received their Teacher’s Choice allotments ($250 for teachers and other amounts for other eligible titles) in their Nov. 30 paychecks. Members should submit their receipts, along with the Teacher’s Choice Accountability Form  detailing their purchases, by Jan. 14 to their principal or to their payroll secretary. If a member received Teacher’s Choice funds and does not file an accountability form with the required receipts by the Jan. 14 deadline, that member will be obligated to pay back the money to the DOE. Educators in the ATR pool should submit their receipts to the administration of the school to which they are assigned on Jan. 19, 2018. For more detailed information about the Teacher’s Choice program, go to the Teacher’s Choice section of the UFT website.

Friday, December 01, 2017


The Union leadership is attempting to get members involved in their union by asking us to be part of the giant 300 person Negotiating Committee that will hammer out the 2018 contract with the city. Our contract expires in one year.

For anyone who is so inclined, I say go right ahead but don't be under any illusions that you will be involved in any actual give and take over the contract.  I speak from experience. I served on the Negotiating Committee for the last two contracts. I can tell you without any equivocation that there were no discussions between the rank and file on the committee and the city or the Department of Education. That is all done behind the scenes by the union leadership and the city and DOE.

Even when the committee was broken into a smaller group that actually met across the bargaining table from the city, UFT President Michael Mulgrew did almost all of the talking. I can say I was able to get a few days off from school to go down to UFT HQ where Mulgrew made some fairly weak demands and then the next time the city came back and made demands to basically eviscerate the UFT contract and then we all went home.  A little later we found out we were at impasse.

When the Negotiating Committee actually met amongst ourselves, it was like a mini Delegate Assembly with Mulgrew giving a report and then we asked questions.

We dissidents did question why we were making such weak demands while the city wanted everything back from us but Mulgrew said our demands were robust.

We didn't have much of a role in making up the contract surveys that were sent to the members which had questions like: Would you favor lower class sizes if it meant getting a smaller raise? Not many are going to say yes to that.

We can make some educated guesses on UFT priorities from the surveys. Since the UFT is pushing for paid family leave these days, expect a question such as: Should parents be able to get paid time off to care for families? You won't see this: Should parents get paid family leave if it means a smaller overall raise?

I hope some of you take the UFT up on the offer and join the Negotiating Committee. It will be dominated by Mulgrew's Unity Caucus where they never disagree with their leader. A few strong dissidents in the room could at least make it interesting. I wouldn't worry about the confidentiality agreement you need to sign. The city or DOE will leak out enough so you can write about what is on the table.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


It's not just in NYC where school administrators pressure teachers to pass every kid with a pulse so they can award high school diplomas to any teen who occasionally drops by a high school. Washington DC is guilty of setting up a diploma mill high school too as this story from shows.

An investigation by WAMU and NPR has found that Ballou High School’s administration graduated dozens of students despite high rates of unexcused absences. WAMU and NPR reviewed hundreds of pages of Ballou’s attendance records, class rosters and emails after a DCPS employee shared the private documents. The documents showed that half of the graduates missed more than three months of school last year, unexcused. One in five students was absent more than present — missing more than 90 days of school.

Further down:
“I’ve never seen kids in the 12th grade that couldn’t read and write,” said (Brian) Butcher, (a history teacher) who has more than two decades of teaching experience in low-performing schools from New York City to Florida. But he saw students like that at Ballou — and it wasn’t just one or two.

The piece continues:

A pressure to pass students

WAMU and NPR talked to nearly a dozen current and recent Ballou teachers as well as four recent graduates who told the same story: teachers felt pressure from administration to pass chronically absent students, and students knew the school administration would do as much as possible to get them to graduation.

“It’s oppressive to the kids because you’re giving them a false sense of success,” said a current Ballou teacher who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her job.

Another current Ballou teacher, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “To not prepare them is not ethical.”

Morgan Williams, who taught health and physical education at Ballou last year, says the lack of expectations sets students up for future failure.

“If I knew I could skip the whole semester and still pass, why would I try?” Williams said. “They’re not prepared to succeed.”

We are obviously not alone here in NYC high schools in being told to pass everyone. This is really sad. The real needed school reform is to bring back some integrity to many schools even if it means a lower graduation rate. So what if every student is accepted to college if they can't read. We are truly setting them up for failure.

Thanks to my friend Marc Epstein for originally sending me the story.