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.

Monday, November 27, 2017


One of the most loathsome figures who I met in the course of the school closing battle at Jamaica High School was John White. White was a Deputy Chancellor under Joel Klein who was sent to Jamaica HS in 2009 and again in 2010 to hold a Joint Public Hearing where he basically ignored everything the public had to say. White, Klein and their ilk basically started "public be damned education."

Looking back, I'm astonished at how naive we were to think that we would have a chance to stop the closing of Jamaica by appealing to reason and using accurate statistics to make our case. My friend and I were up in Deputy White's face at our Joint Public Hearing in 2010. We were arguing almost like an angry baseball manager that rules must be followed. Deputy White were not hearing a word we said. They closed Jamaica for the first time after a Panel for Educational Policy meeting that lasted until 3:00 in the morning on January 27, 2010 and then after a lawsuit stopped them temporarily did the same thing a year later. John White was completely deaf to what the people of the Jamaica community said to him. He and Klein had their minds made up and didn't want to be confused by any facts.

It was depressing to see John White become Commissioner of Education for Louisiana. Reverse karma for sure!

However, maybe the karma gods are coming around. (Nobody said karma power would be easy or fast.) Perhaps there is some justice as in the news this past week we learn that the New Orleans, Louisiana miracle, where the profiteers almost completely privatized the schools, has been shown to be a myth.. We also read today that John White's Louisiana has dropped from fourth worst to third worst state in the country when it comes to Advanced Placement passing statistics.

Thanks to Gary Rubinstein for doing the research to get us these statistics:

ap comparison 2014

Yes it would be nice to see John White take the heat for some dismal results.

Sunday, November 26, 2017


I'm up tonight in the process of grading three sets of final project term papers (Middle College HS works on a trimester model to align with our partners at LaGuardia Community College) and I am taking a break to look at some news. One of my Facebook friends who I worked with at Jamaica HS sent  this story from the Daily News out about students with guns at John Bowne HS.

Part of the article:
Two teens were found with guns in school after a brawl broke out in their Queens cafeteria over a girl, police said Monday.

In all, six John Bowne High School students were hauled off Friday to the 107th Precinct in Flushing, including one who was carrying a .40-caliber gun and the other a BB gun, police said.

Before fists flew, one of the 17-year-olds taunted another, boasting, “I want to fight you, I have a Glock, do you? Give me your hand. Feel it, feel it.”

School officials intervened and separated the two sparring groups. When police responded, they found a BB gun in the jacket pocket of the boy who claimed to have a Glock. He was arrested and charged with menacing, criminal possession of a weapon and harassment.

To show the state of the NYC schools in 2017, this story was no big deal as I didn't find out about it for a week.Why wasn't this all over the news? That says something right there.

OK, back from the news/blogging break to do some more grading before turning in. Anyone who says teachers have it easy should try this.

Friday, November 24, 2017


I was on the UFT Executive Board for a decade from 1997-2007 representing the high schools in opposition to Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus. I give my full support to the six bold members from MORE and New Action who are standing tall against Unity's 95 representatives today. If anything, Unity has gotten even more arrogant and less responsive to the rank and file since 2007.  The High School Division has been completely marginalised by UFT leadership.

In 2015, MORE and New Action coming together gave me some hope that we could be a little bit of a force at the Executive Board to at least embarrass Unity into doing something more than just going through the motions to support the membership.  I appear to have been a little too optimistic in that hope.

As Arthur Goldstein shows in his latest commentary on this week's Executive Board proceedings, on the issues of abusive principals, lower class sizes, and closing/reorganizing schools where UFT members have to reapply for our jobs, Unity is either not up to the task or is downright working against our interests.

Maximum class sizes of 34 in high school subject classes are way too high and the UFT cannot even force the DOE to hold to these caps. The Campaign for Fiscal Equity agreed to average class size limits of 25 for high schools that are in the law are as elusive as ever.

UFT HS VP Janella Hinds now says we must take responsibility for low performing schools. The UFT helps to decide who gets rehired in closing or reorganizing schools by having representatives on hiring committees. When I proposed that the UFT boycott the process in 2008, Unity was shocked as if I just asked for the UFT to endorse selling crack in school cafeterias. A union boycott is unthinkable to Unity. As Jonathan Halabi pointed out on Arthur's blog, the union once went on strike to stop a handful of members from being transferred. Now, they happily are part of the process of deciding which teachers get to stay or have to go from schools where the DOE decides we are the problem without any research based evidence to back up the claim that poor teaching is what causes schools to be so called "failing" schools.

As I have said before, there are two possible solutions that are each next to impossible to achieve:

1-Mobilize a massive rank and file movement to defeat Unity at the ballot box;


2-Get at least 100 activists to get about 65 signatures each on petitions to fragment the high schools into our own collective bargaining unit (union).

The frustration our high school reps are experiencing at the Executive Board further convinces me that Unity is not going to hear us in any meaningful way until they are threatened.

That can only work by getting information out to the schools. Social media is great but not sufficient.

Finally, all I have to say to the misguided folks who are salivating waiting for the US Supreme Court to rule in the Janus case that union dues are optional in the public sector is to be careful what you wish for. We need a union. We really need a union. We'll be even weaker without one or one where half of the members defect and go without any union for collective strength. You think the contracts and working conditions we live under are bad; you ain't seen nothing yet.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Harris Lirtzman sent me this very interesting set of numbers from the city's Independent Budget Office. It seems the group being hired the most in the last ten years by the Department of Education is paraprofessionals. I was a little surprised by these statistics, not by the lack of teacher hiring as charter schools are busting the UFT by taking our jobs and public school space, but that the para job title is growing. The reason is pre-k.

This is the introduction from the IBO:

As of June, the Department of Education had 131,199 full-time employees. More than 119,000 served in jobs under the broad classification of pedagogues, which includes roles such as principals, assistant principals, teachers, and teaching assistants also known as paraprofessionals. More than 12,000 additional education department staff members are classified as nonpedagogues who work in positions such as parent coordinators, family workers, and lunch room attendants. IBO has examined which categories of education department staffing have grown over the past decade.

010K20K30K40K50K60K70K80K90K100K110K02,3644,7277,0919,45511,81814,18216,54518,90921,27323,63626,000June 2007June 2008June 2009June 2010June 2011June 2012June 2013June 2014June 2015June 2016June 2017Pedagogues & NonpedagoguesParaprofessionals
Education Paraprofessionals

These should be astonishing numbers considering that NYC in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement was told by the State Legislature to reduce class sizes. IBO reports: "The number of personnel in pedagogic titles other than paraprofessionals increased by 512, or less than 1 percent over the last 10 years." Those 512 were probably principals and assistant principals brought on to staff new schools. Hiring more teachers would surely lower class sizes and the DOE would actually be abiding by the law.

Oh sorry, I forgot laws are for little people like teachers and paras; they do not apply to the administrators who run the school system in NYC.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


We sometimes actually convince our Union to do what is right. Last month we complained here about how the UFT Vice Presidents for High Schools Janella Hinds and Sterling Roberson went right around Chapter Leader Arthur Goldstein and arranged for a Meet the Vice Presidents meeting for Francis Lewis High School. This violated decades of UFT protocol which says that the Chapter Leader is the Union in the school.

We are happy to report this morning that yesterday in my email box was something from the HS Veeps saying that there would be Meet the Vice Presidents events at Queens Vocational on December 14, Martin Van Buren HS on January 11 and John Adams High School on February 1. The Francis Lewis event was cancelled.

Meanwhile, Arthur continues to fight for the membership at the UFT Executive Board. Here is a question and lack of an answer from his Executive Board report from last evening:

Arthur Goldstein—MORE—A year ago I came to this committee with a class size resolution. This was inspired largely by an arbitrator who felt the way to address class sizes was to relieve teachers from one C6 assignment a week, which I found idiotic. I was told the arbitrator had previously made more lucid decisions, so It wasn’t so bad.

Members of this board told me that we had made sacrifices to have class size written into the contract. They neglected to note that said sacrifices took place half a century ago, when many of us were either toddlers or not even born. I placed a piece in the Daily News about this.

I’ve taught oversized classes, and I can tell you that one additional planning period is not the support we need. Teachers need help right there in the classroom. That’s why, the following semester, that I proposed adding an extra teacher certified in the subject matter to each oversized class. That way, students could get more attention from both teachers. In the event schools were not as overcrowded as mine, teachers could send small groups with the other teacher to get caught up.

The following semester, the next arbitrator ruled for exactly that. Unfortunately, by the time it was enforced there were only days remaining in the school year. I was told there was now a new committee, and that we could use it before going to arbitration. I read enthusiastic reports from chapter leaders saying if the committee didn’t work out, that we could go to arbitrators.

This year I went for another class size hearing. This year, a new arbitrator ruled again that my people would get one day off from C6 assignments if they had oversized classes. Hey, it’s great that you have a committee. Maybe it’s great that you meet and do whatever you do. Certainly people like me, chapter leader of a school with chronic overcrowding and oversized classes, haven’t got the remotest notion. You regularly report neither to chapter leaders nor to this committee.

If we are in the same place as we were last year, maybe we should rethink this committee.
I have a few questions about this:

What are we going to do about rampant class size violations and ridiculous so-called plans of action? 
What are we doing to enforce the C4E ruling?
Will this body work with the high school reps to craft a resolution and/ or strategy?

Ellen Procida—says fewer than last year, can get number. Committee aware of request, but there may be people assigned to your school to help. It is my understanding ATRs may push into classes.

Schoor—We are open to meet with you.

As for Janella, did she really say that the UFT takes responsibility when schools close or are reorganized and staff have to reapply for their jobs? Maybe this is a misprint. Staff has virtually nothing to do with why schools supposedly fail. Forget poverty, lack of resources, misplaced resources, poor school leadership and much more, it's our responsibility?

From Arthur's report, this is the Question and Answer with Janella and New Action's Jonathan Halabi:

Jonathan Halabi—New Action—Teacher in Bronx for 20 years. At DeWitt Clinton people ask what they’ve done wrong that they have to apply for jobs again. 

Janella Hinds—Always difficult when we face these situations. I experienced school closure. We take responsibility even though it’s not necessarily our fault. UFT had to decide next step. Closure was possible. Idea of restaffing was then proposed. UFT negotiated terms of process. Both proposals disruptive, but we believe keeping schools intact was best alternative. Similar to “out of time.” Schools were not named thus, but were in similar situation. 

While Janella and Sterling are decent people, I very much doubt the members will be beating down the doors to get into the Meet the Vice Presidents meetings.

Sunday, November 19, 2017


Jennifer Berkshire has written a piece in that every teacher, parent and student in a public school as well as Democratic Party insiders should read.  Norm Scott says, "This article is so good I want to print it out and eat it." I kind of agree. The title and subtitle say it all:

How Education Reform Ate the Democratic Party
The Democrats and DeVos have more in common than they'd care to admit

In the article Berkshire meticulously tells the history of Democratic Party support for ed deform (privatization) from the early 1980s, when Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary started a crusade for teacher competency testing, right up through  the summer of 2017 when Success Academy Board Chair Dan Loeb compared teacher unions to the KKK. It's all here.

Loeb was certainly not coming from a point of view that is far off from establishment bipartisan elite thinking as Berkshire points out masterfully:

There’s another reason why we can’t dismiss Loeb’s view that teachers unions promote income inequality and serve as a barrier to progress of any sort as just another crackpot rich-bro outburst.

That’s because it’s now a key policy plank of responsible elite opinion almost everywhere. Flip back to The Economist—the bible of savvy, entrepreneurial-minded social criticism—circa 2012, and you’ll find Loeb’s screed rendered in assured magazine prose, minus the overt racist incitements. To wit: “no Wall Street financier has done as much damage to American social mobility as the teachers’ unions have.”

And where The Economist goes, influential “thought leaders” are sure to follow. So now, as America ponders the mounting economic disequlibriums that gave rise to the Trump insurgency, concerned plutocrats can all agree on one key article of faith: what is holding back the poor and minority children who figure so prominently in the glossy brochures of charter school advocates is not the legacy of racist housing policy or mass incarceration or a tax system that hoovers up an ever growing share of income into the pockets of the wealthy, but schoolteachers and their unions.

It was thus no great shock to see that, just weeks after Loeb apologized for his offensive language, attributing it to his passion for “education choice,” David Osborne, a professional Democratic party thinker who heads up something called the Reinventing America’s Schools Project at the Progressive Policy Institute, said essentially the same thing. On a swing through Philadelphia to promote his new book on the wonders of school privatization, Osborne told an interviewer that teachers unions belong in the same category with segregationist Alabama governor George Wallace. “They’re actually doing what George Wallace did, standing in the schoolhouse door, denying opportunity to poor minority kids.” To document their perfidy, Osborne cited the opposition of teachers unions in Massachusetts last year to Question Two—a ballot initiative proposing dramatic charter school expansion. Voters rejected the measure by nearly two to one—the same ratio, as it happens, by which wealthy pro-charter donors dwarfed the union spending that so upset Osborne.

Berkshire then writes an in-depth history showing how the Democratic Party has all along been involved in the war on public schools since 1982.

Redistribution and government intervention were out; investment and public-private partnerships were the way to go. Neoliberal man (there are no women included in Rothenberg’s account) was also convinced that he had found the answer to the nation’s economic malaise: education, or as he was apt to put it, investment in human capital. “Education equals growth is a neoliberal equation,” writes Rothenberg.

But this new cult of education wasn’t grounded in John Dewey’s vision of education-as-democracy, or in the recent civil-rights battles to extend the promise of public education to excluded African-American communities. No, these bold, results-oriented thinkers understood that in order to fuel economic growth, schools had to be retooled and aligned in concert with the needs of employers. The workers of the future would be prepared to compete nimbly in the knowledge-based post-industrial society of the present. For the stragglers still trapped in older, industrial-age models of enterprise and labor, re-training—another staple of the neoliberal vision—would set them on the path to greater prosperity.

Of course, not everyone was on board with the new program—yet. The teachers unions were impeding progress, but that was to be expected, writes Rothenberg, citing what he described as the development of an “education bureaucracy . . . counterproductive to the goals of the 1980s.” By the final pages of the book, he is exultant, concluding that “Neoliberalism is being internalized by the Democratic Party.” The party’s 1982 midterm convention in Philadelphia had come and gone with no call for national health insurance, a federal jobs program or a guaranteed annual income. By the next year, even the teachers unions appeared to be coming around; both endorsed a study of yet another cornerstone of the neoliberal vision for schools: merit pay.

Therein lies the problem: The AFT, NEA and certainly the UFT have gone along with just about every ridiculous school reform policy that have hurt their members. The unions are sheep in wolves' clothing put up by the reformers to give the story a villain.

You name it: school-wide bonuses (instead of calling it merit pay), closing or redesigning schools, charter schools (the UFT even started two of our own), test based teacher and student accountability and more have all been supported by the union. I want someone to find one major anti-public education policy the unions have resisted. Turning New Orleans into an almost fully charter school system, while the Black middle class in that city was decimated, was only possible because the unions hadn't resisted in a generation and could no longer put up a fight.

I will never forget when then UFT President Randi Weingarten from the podium at the Executive Board yelled at my friend Ed Beller and me because we didn't "get it" but how she understood the political situation in 2004. No, I did "get it" Randi. We needed to put up a real fight back then by threatening job actions just like we need to now.

Where was the great teachers' strike since the advent of school reform? It hasn't yet occurred (sorry Chicago and Seattle your strikes were bold but they have not changed the game) and now it might be too late.

The Union's strategy at the local, state and national level of making deals with the reformers and getting what we can has resulted in losses all over the place. When one wants to look at the cause of the demise of public education and the Democratic Party, part of the blame has to go to the unions for going along with school reform through the decades. It started with the sainted Al Shanker and only worsened with Sandra Feldman, Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew.

In NYC  back in 2003, NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein proposed gutting the teachers contract down to 8 pages. When a deal was finally reached in 2005 on a new UFT contract, Klein got much of what he wanted and all the UFT could do is say we did the best we could by not giving up everything in tough political times. It should be noted that 40 percent of the teachers did vote no on that contract. Little has changed since that time. Once a union moves backwards, the attacks will only get worse (see Loeb, Osborne, Economist quotes above).

Berkshire's only omission is she does not fault the unions for being willing partners in their own demise. Her conclusion, however, is spot on.

The irony is that the DeVos-Trump vision for fixing our schools is almost as unpopular as the GOP’s plan for health care; if there’s political ground to be gained with Trump supporters, the defense of public education is fertile territory. DeVos’ nomination sparked ferocious grassroots opposition, red and blue, and in a cabinet of rogues, she remains Trump’s most reviled official. Her signature issue—paying for private religious schools with taxpayer funds—has never been popular with voters, even in deep red states.

The problem is that the Democrats have little to offer that’s markedly different from what DeVos is selling. Teachers unions, regulation, and government schools are the problem, Democrats continue insisting into the void; deregulation, market competition and school choice are the fix. Four decades after the neo-Democrats set their sights on the education bureaucracy, the journey has reached its predictable destination: with a paler version of what the right has been offering all along.

When the Democrats next attempt to rouse the base of unionized teachers they count on to be their foot soldiers, they are sure to meet with disappointment. In once reliably blue states like Michigan and Wisconsin, the unions have been eviscerated. The right went all in to crush unions—not because they “impede social mobility,” but because they elect Democrats. That wager is now paying off handsomely.

All I can add is that the Democrats are better on education when they are an opposition party.

Have the Democrats learned their lesson on school reform that you don't eat your base? I hope so but I am skeptical. Too much money to be made from the reformers.

My fix:

1-Challenge every last Democrat in primaries who supports any version of school reform that includes charter schools, closing or redesigning schools, rating teachers based on how well students do on exams, school choice, merit pay, etc...

2-Reintroduce the idea of militant unions nationwide even in the face of the defections the Janus Supreme Court decision is likely to cause when union dues become optional. If the teacher unions fight to make substantial contractual gains instead of accepting more concessions, the unions will again win over the teachers and the public too if we fight for an agenda parents support (lower class sizes, age appropriate curriculum, safe schools, strong neighborhood schools, and more) in addition to what we must have (decent salaries, benefits, job security, autonomy in the classroom and more.

In short, we need to be the powerful force the right wing accuses us of being but we are not in reality.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


New principal Kayode Ayetiwa decided in his first year that the way to improve education at Humanities and the Arts Magnet High School in Queens was to go to war with any established teacher or other staff member who said anything critical about what his administration was doing to the school. This included making life miserable for the UFT Chapter leader and Delegate.

The numbers are in for 2016-17 and every school reformer knows these numbers are the gospel according to Joel Klein and Carmen Farina. The statistics at Humanities and the Arts reveal that retaliating against staff members who speak out against injustice on behalf of their colleagues does not lead to academic enhancements.

Look at the city averages and the Humanities and the Arts  figures for 2015-16 compared to 2016-17. Click on the 2016-17 School Quality Guide from the School's statistics page and there for everybody to see are some real eye openers on Ayetiwa's first year as leader of the school.

The College Readiness Rate:
4-Year College Readiness Index at Humanities and the Arts in 2015-16 was 10% below the average of similar schools and 24% below the citywide averages.

In 2016-17 the 4-Year College Readiness Index sunk to 13% below similar schools and 28% below the citywide average.

Student Achievement
In terms of student achievement, on a scale of 1-4 Humanities and the Arts had an overall score of  2.83 in 2015-16 under a different principal. This not too impressive number was .70 below the borough-wide average and .46 behind the citywide average. Things certainly were not ideal under now retired Principal Rosemary Omard but the school for the most part crept along. However under new Principal Ayetiwa, the total student achievement score fell to 2.63 in 2016-17. The 2.63 figure is .83 below the borough-wide average and .68 behind the citywide average.

To put it simply, the strategy of abusing the veteran staff members who were critical of Ayetiwa or Assistant Principals Mousa and Stergiopolous worsened the academic performance at Humanities and the Arts.

There are other statistics here that should make the central Department of Education look twice at this school's leadership but they more than likely won't. Let's examine the results of the surveys DOE gives out every year to staff, students and parents.

Rigorous Instruction under new Principal Ayetiwa went from 2.51 in 2015-16 before he arrived, on a scale of 1-4, down to 2.27 in 2016-17.

Ayetiwa pitting teachers against each other sent the Collaborative Teachers score down from 3.11 in 2015-16 to 2.27 in 2016-17.

The Supportive Environment score under new Principal Ayetiwa went down from 2.41 the year before he arrived all the way to 1.62.

Effective School Leadership plunged from 3.61 to 1.89 with Ayetiwa at the helm. A 1.72 drop on a 4 point scale is quite a drop for one year!

Trust slid down the ladder from 3.16 to 2.39 under Principal Ayetiwa's leadership.

Do you think someone at the DOE will take notice? 

Unfortunately, the way the school system works nowadays, Ayetiwa will probably be given a thumbs up from the Superintendent and the Chancellor for being tough on the staff. We have heard that he pressured teachers to give passing grades to students who rarely attended class to boost the school's numbers. 

Some teachers and others were fortunate enough to find positions at different schools and now speak of how they are able to breathe freely again at work. Other staff members were not so lucky and are facing charges or are ill. UFT support has been mostly about going through the motions.

My guess is we could repeat the Humanities and the Arts story in hundreds of schools throughout NYC and outside of New York as well.

Wisconsin provides the best laboratory after Scott Walker's Public Law 10 basically killed the once strong teacher unions in the state. We now have research showing that union busting led to lower high school test scores. It's not pretty.

From a paper by E. Jason Baron:

In general, I find that average student achievement in Wisconsin high schools decreased as a result of the union reform. Specifically, the reduction in union power associated with the law reduced scores in both the mathematics and science portions of the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE), the state’s standardized exam, by roughly 15% to 18% of a standard deviation. Quantile regression techniques reveal that the average reduction in test scores was entirely concentrated in schools at the bottom half of the conditional student achievement distribution. I find that test scores in these schools decreased by approximately 30% of a standard deviation, but find no evidence that the law impacted schools in the upper half of the achievement distribution. To understand the economic significance of these effects, one can compare their magnitude with that from the effect of a reduction in class size of eight students, which has been shown to increase student achievement by roughly 22% to 29% of a standard deviation (Angrist and Lavy, 1999; Krueger, 1999). 

I additionally show that lower test scores in low-performing schools are partially driven by an increase in the number of teacher retirements and a decrease in the quality of the teaching workforce. After the reform, changes in teacher compensation schemes across the state led to a sorting of high-quality teachers from low-performing schools to high-performing schools. This changed the teacher quality composition of Wisconsin school districts in a way that hindered student achievement in low-performing schools.

Driving teachers to retirement does not help student achievement. Forcing experienced personnel to transfer or harassing them to the point where they become ill does not help education either.

The war on teachers is not only hurting us and our families; it is impacting students in a negative way too.