Tuesday, August 30, 2016


This PIX 11 news feature on two enthusiastic new teachers who started last year and gave up pretty much accurately describes what teaching is like in an average New York City high school in 2016.

Totally disillusioned, they both quit. They contacted PIX11 News to tell their story, provided we conceal their identities. They both spoke about having dreamed of being a teacher, getting degrees in Education and the excitement they felt before starting their jobs last fall.

What happened to their dreams? Reality got in the way. One of the teachers, who we'll call Ray, says "I was struck with an object the first day of school. I've been hit in the face. I've had objects thrown at me. I've been generally verbally and physically abused from day one."

The second teacher, we'll call her Susan, had a similar experience. "There were kids in my class that were so misbehaved and crazy, running around, screaming at me, cursing at me. The first day that I kicked them out of my class, I was told that I was not allowed to do that. They got brought back to my class and their behavior didn't change. Ray and Susan both complain of getting no support from the school Principal, Jason Wagner. "He doesn't care about teachers. He doesn't care as long as he looks good and there's nothing on paper or there's no points against him," says Susan.

Ray says none of the other administrators do anything to deal with the misbehavior because they are afraid of Principal Wagner. "He uses bullying, intimidation and harassment techniques against everyone." They both complain "there is no disciplinary action against the students whatsoever. All the burden is placed on the teachers." Susan says the teachers have no power. "You know, 20 plus staples in a cup of coffee, zero punishment. Zero punishment for the door being knocked down. I've been pushed by kids, cursed out on a weekly basis. Nothing I can do about it."

I am sure from the reports that come to ICE that these are not two isolated experiences of young teachers who just had difficulty with classroom management. This report could be repeated in many hundreds of New York City public schools. This is the state of our profession in too many schools at the current time.

New teachers as a work in progress is nothing new. The difference in New York City between now and the past is that a young instructor having problems before Michael Bloomberg became mayor could talk to senior colleagues and/or the UFT Chapter Leader who could file safety grievances and the Principal would have to answer some difficult questions. Now administration laughs at the UFT and does whatever it wants. Many senior teachers end up as Absent Teacher Reserves as mass school closings mean there are few veterans who know the ropes in most newer schools so there is no place for newbies to turn to for help.

The Union in the past was a very good check on principal unfettered power in a very complex system. It no longer is so students and teachers are often placed in serious danger. The lax standards in too many schools apply to academics as well as safety according to reports coming in here.

The situation is awful in a plethora of schools. I disagree with some of the people who comment here who think it is hopeless. I still feel we can build a union again from the ground up that will be the force it once was. Empowering teachers is a necessary, if next to impossible, task that must be completed if the schools are to be saved.

Saturday, August 27, 2016


Our friend Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters is asking people to write letters demanding the Department of Education in New York City comply with the law by lowering class sizes. Class sizes were supposed to average 25 in the high schools and fewer in the middle and elementary levels by 2011.

EdNotes picked up on Leonie's criticism of AFT President Randi Weingarten not even mentioning lower class size as a part of the program to improve schools. Norm says the UFT abandoned the lower class size fight forty years ago.

This blog wrote about lower class size last November and at other times over the years. Nothing changes on class size so below we are repeating our piece from 2015.

The ICE-Blog asks readers to write to the city to tell the mayor and chancellor it is time to start complying with the law and lowering class sizes. You might want to send a copy to Michael Mulgrew and Randi Weingarten too. Union leadership has basically abandoned lower class sizes too.


To settle the Campaign for Fiscal Equity Lawsuit where parents successfully claimed in the 1990s that NYC schools were chronically underfunded by the state, the Contract for Excellence was agreed to. Class size limits in this 2007 state legislative settlement for NYC were supposed to average 20 for grades K-3, 22 for grades 3-8 and 25 for 9-12 by 2011.  This is the law.

Before the settlement, lower class sizes were also a goal put in the UFT Contract in Article 8L which says in part: "With regard to the long term recommendations of the 2005 Fact Finders made subject to adequate CFE funding, the parties shall establish a Labor Management Committee to discuss the following issues:...d) a program for the reduction of class size in all grades and divisions."  Absurd parts of Article 8L such as school wide merit pay have managed to come and go since then.

Remember lower class sizes for the city were supposed to be achieved by 2011 according to the law. Why haven't class sizes been lowered anywhere near CFE levels?

The fiscal crisis is long since past as the city and state budget surpluses show. Certainly, paying those paltry raises of 10% over 7 years for teachers and other city workers isn't causing the city to go broke. The main reason class size levels are way too high in my opinion is that our not so brave UFT leaders won't do anything more than give lip service to lowering class size. The Union calls it progress when there are only 5,485 classes over the traditional class size limits that range from 32-34 in grades 1-12.  My daughter's grade one class has 28.  This is outrageous.  Kids get very little individual attention in these huge classes.

The reality of life in 21st Century America is that laws are for "little people" like teachers and public school students in the city.  Teachers must be evaluated using ridiculous cookie cutter Danielson rubrics and invalid/unreliable student test scores.  If we object, the law is thrown in our faces by the UFT. Our students must sit in large classes because when it comes to lower class sizes, leaders like Dennis Walcott, Joel Klein and Carmen Farina can just take the law and ignore it.  And what does our union do? Ask us for more COPE money so public schools can continue to be mistreated by the politicians.

Thursday, August 25, 2016


We finally know the dollar amount teachers get to spend for Teacher's Choice this year. It is $148. Save those receipts. You can spend the money between August 1, 2016 and January 15, 2017.

Last year we were entitled to $121. It is funny how the UFT is claiming a 27.5% increase in the program in their article on Teacher's Choice but their text to us says we are receiving 21% more as compared to last year. A comment yesterday pointed this out on this blog.

Are we just that ungrateful?

In October when you remember you will not be getting another dime back from the huge loan we gave to New York City of money other municipal union workers received between 2008 and 2010, just know your union worked so diligently to get you a $27 increase to spend on supplies this year.

We can surely wait another year to get another 12.5% of our money back from the loan we made to our beloved city and be patient until 2020 to be paid back in full with no interest. We can take pride in the fact that the city has so much extra revenue. Maybe they can use some of the money to hire more lawyers to up the number of teachers they fire or fine.

What a system? Please allow me to put the sarcasm aside and wish I had a union fighting for us rather than telling us the city is broke and we are lucky to have a job.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


The Gallup people just made the not so remarkable discovery that we don't measure students properly in schools.

From an article with the title "Bringing Education Back to Its Roots."

We've created a system for stuffing things into students -- facts, figures and content -- but not pulling things out -- their innate potential, the things they want to do and be. We are what we measure, but are we measuring all of the things that we value?

Brandon Busteed, Executive Director of Education and Workforce Development at Gallup, raised this question in his keynote address on June 30 at the Education Commission of the States' 2016 National Forum on Education Policy.

Busteed discussed how we focus on simple metrics -- grades, test scores and graduation rates -- but this doesn't capture the full picture of success. We aren't paying attention to the other things that equate to success; it's not all explained by test scores, but we teach our students and parents that they are all that matter.

His solution, unsurprisingly, is not more testing but project based learning.

For those who want to read how the public feels about education these days, Gallup has a poll.

Some commentary on both of the above pieces can be found here.

As for test scores, ACT results are down. In my limited experience I can say students who do project based learning aren't necessarily the best SAT/ACT test takers as they don't do much test prep. Therefore, I don't see the country going far in the project based learning direction in the near future. However, students who don't concentrate on standardized testing can still do very well in college.

Monday, August 22, 2016


The California State Supreme Court in a close  4-3 decision has let stand an appeals court decision that keeps tenure and seniority rights for teachers in the state.

In the original Vergara case, a trial judge ruled in 2014 that tenure and seniority rights for teachers were a violation of the California State Constitution but on appeal the deicision was overturned by a unanimous 3-0 appeals court judgment this past April. The California Supreme Court refused to hear the case thus keeping tenure and seniority protections for teachers. This was a significant case as the right wing has copy-cat cases in other states including New York.

Tenure and seniority protections have been weakened in New York but I would probably be unemployed if they didn't exist as my school was closed in 2014. I have spent most of the last two years as a provisional teacher.

Teacher unions have now dodged the bullet twice this year with the California courts upholding tenure and seniority along with the Friedrichs US Supreme Court decision where mandatory agency fee payments for non-union members were upheld by a split US Supreme Court in a 4-4 vote. If Justice Scalia didn't die last February, we almost certainly would have lost and we would be in a different world now. 

A ninth Supreme Court justice needs to be appointed and another will more than likely retire soon enough so the presidential election is quite important. Since the judges Donald Trump said he would nominate would more than likely be anti-union and anti-public education, voting against Trump is a no-brainer if ever there was one for public school teachers and parents. 

Like it or not, liberal judges tend to be a bit kinder to us. 

The people who want to destroy us aren't stopping. They have lots of money and will just pop up somewhere else.

"This decision falls short of the binding mandate for change that California voters, students, parents and educators had hoped for, but the issues at the heart of Vergara are not going away - and neither are we, " Students Matter said in a statement.

This quote came from The74, an anti union site.

Sunday, August 21, 2016


One of the most controversial programs Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina have implemented in schools is restorative justice. This is where students who violate the discipline code can talk about what they have done instead of being punished.

For a positive look on the process, see here.  There is an altercation but instead of suspending the kids who fight, they meet to talk about what happened with a trained mediator to try to reach an understanding.

Critics complain this is "touchy-feely alternative punishment."  Not Surprisingly, this quote is from the NY Post. They argue schools are less safe under this approach and cite national statistics to make the case.

What does this have to do with Walmart?

The retail giant with their short staffing business approach has a major crime problem at many of its stores. Walmart is a huge drain on local police resources in numerous communities. Their solution is restorative justice. I am not kidding. This is from Time:

To combat crime and ease the burden on law enforcement, Walmart has begun a novel experiment: deal with shoplifters internally by meting out its own version of law and order through an initiative called "Restorative Justice." The idea is to give some accused shoplifters, such as first-time offenders, the option of completing an online remedial program designed to deter through education, rather than jail time.

The program, which offenders must pay an undisclosed sum to take but doesn't involve the police, employs an approach sometimes found in schools and prisons, which emphasizes rehabilitation and reconciliation between offender and the community. Walmart spokesperson Brian Nick says the initiative is reducing police runs requiring officers to come to Walmart and "hopefully giving people a second chance."

Restorative justice is a favored policy of some on the left while Walmart epitomizes the right. The left and right have actually come together here on an alternative to punishment.

Oh the irony! Is this the ultimate Kumbaya moment?

My opinion for what it's worth is restorative justice can only work in schools if teachers buy in and if kids still know there are real consequences if they misbehave. Once students know restorative justice can be used to play the system and even to blame teachers, it will fail. Forcing restorative justice on schools is a mistake.

As for Walmart, they hate the government except when they use and abuse it. I will leave it to Time again:

There are questions about Walmart's role in the crime at its stores. The company has expanded over the years with a deliberately lean staffing model, potentially leaving the stores vulnerable to shoplifting, says Burt Flickinger, managing director at Strategic Resource Group, a retail consulting firm. The company has historically tried to keep labor costs as low as possible, an approach that goes back to the store's founding, and Flickinger says that has meant relying heavily on local police departments for store security. He estimates that there are 400,000 fewer Walmart workers in the U.S. today compared with 10 years ago, potentially leaving stores even more vulnerable to crime.

Carmen Farina and Walmart certainly have short staffing classrooms and stores in common.

Further down Time reports on the third party that administers the restorative justice at Walmart:

The San Francisco City Attorney is currently suing one of Walmart's third-party vendors responsible for administering restorative justice courses-Corrective Education Company-for overcharging people accused of shoplifting and falsely imprisoning them while they're taking the course. The lawsuit alleges that some retailers take suspected shoplifters "to a secluded area in the back of the store" to show them a video produced by CED. One woman was reportedly asked to pay $500 to take CEC's course after she was accused of stealing items worth $6.97 from a Goodwill Industries store.

Oh well I guess Kumbaya may have to wait a little longer as Walmart is still trying to stick it to shoplifters while the Department of Education uses restorative justice to mistreat staff. Since Walmart certainly agrees with mistreating employees, maybe there is room for some collaboration between the two in this area.

Friday, August 19, 2016


Here at the ICEUFT blog, we have a diverse readership which covers the political spectrum. It still surprises me somewhat that there are conservative teachers who comment here as the right considers public education and teacher unions to be a major adversary and my perspective is obviously pro-union.

In spite of our rank and file political differences, we still need to be unified where we can be because the forces that want to destroy public education and unions are working diligently to privatize the system thereby finishing us off. We have been on defense for years. I truly believe that only by standing together as a militant union in pursuit of common goals can we save our profession. Unfortunately, we are stuck with an unaccountable UFT leadership that controls our union so getting members to support a militant union is an uphill struggle. It still has to be done somehow.

Why is it so necessary? Union power comes from a fully engaged rank and file willing to do what it takes to advance our interests. Leaders without a membership that is willing and able to stand up for ourselves are toothless. Democracy is an essential ingredient in strengthening the unions by empowering members to feel their voice matters. Alternet's Simon Greer and Andy Potter describe it this way:

Inside their unions, working people build a place where the left and the right, the radical and reactionary and the liberal and conservative elements of our society coexist, and out of them a new politics can be born. It is a common good politics that contends we are better together and at our best when family, work and place are at the center of our shared commitments. This comes out of the real-life union experience of deeply held values passed on from generation to generation

It is in unions that a communal spirit wins out over a narrow self-interest. In unions, working people hone a sense of obligation to one another. In unions, working people build a fierce loyalty to a vision of a shared economy that honors and respects them, and where labor is treated with dignity.

This is why unions are public enemy number one to the modern conservative movement. As Corey Robin states in his thoughtful piece on conservatism:

Modern American conservatism, I've long held, has succeeded. It essentially destroyed the labor movement, which was, in conservatism's most recent incarnation in response to the New Deal, its original enemy.

We will not be holding the so called liberal Democrats blameless for union weakness either. This quote from Blue Collar Buzz in Labor Press sums it up nicely:

“Stockholm Syndrome” is the very disturbing psychological phenomenon where victims come to bond with their abusers over time — and according to Andrew Tillett-Saks, an organizer with Unite Here Local 217, it’s a great way to describe Labor’s dysfunctional relationship with Democratic Party elites who continually come up short for American working men and women.

Unions are in trouble but are we done? Let's take as a given that both major political parties are not our friends and the minor parties are not electable. However, bringing the camaraderie back that Greer and Potter talked about is certainly possible as the Verizon strike showed in the private sector earlier this year.

Can union solidarity and militancy be attained at the United Federation of Teachers?

We are a huge local with almost 200,000 members and a leadership that realistically cannot be defeated in an election so has virtually no accountability. The leadership from Unity Caucus requires a loyalty oath from party members to support whatever leadership tells them to support. Unity relies on a top-down system of governance. They keep their members in line by rewarding complete loyalty with union jobs and free trips to conventions. They tell dissenters to leave the caucus. Unity seems more interested in protecting the institution of the union rather than the members they serve.

From reports that come in here, it seems the UFT at the chapter level in most schools is as defeated as Robin says unions are and there is a sense among teachers that there is nothing we can do about contract violations at the school level. Therefore, the UFT is irrelevant to most members unless they want dental forms or something like that. Hiding out until retirement seems to be the best way for teachers to survive in most schools. There certainly are active chapters out there but it seems they are the exception.

Why pay union dues then if it is that hopeless?

That is a question most teachers probably grapple with in New York City and is seen on some of the comments on this blog. Some teachers wanted us to lose the Friedrichs Supreme Court case so they would not have to pay union dues. I was not one of those people as our lame union is better than one that is dead. We survived Friedrichs but we are still too weak to matter much as our defeats on the evaluation systems and the substandard 2014 contract show. We have to rebuild the union from the ground up. We need to reboot at the chapter level, district level and the divisional level (high school, middle school elementary, non-teachers). 

Can the union be repaired so that it can actually mobilize its members under its current structure where the Unity monopoly can't be broken (winning 7 High School Executive Board seats on a 102 seat Executive Board doesn't count)? I have been attempting to work within the system with opposition groups for two decades, including serving for a decade on the UFT Executive Board, and have had only limited success. 

I would certainly appreciate it if readers (left, center, right, apolitical) would help out by telling us how you think the UFT can be mended or what we should do if our union is too bureaucratic to ever be a militant force in the real world.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Donald Trump wants school choice, merit pay for teachers, and ending tenure policies that hurt good teachers and reward bad teachers. Oh and he is pushing those charter schools. He says students and parents first. It sounds like Joel Klein.

Let's just repeat bad policy that has not worked and will not succeed.

Any public school teacher who votes for Trump needs more help than this blog could possibly give them. I'm no big Hillary Clinton fan either on education and other issues including foreign policy but at least we have a prayer with Hillary.

See Trump's education remarks for yourself.


The members of the Professional Staff Congress easily voted to ratify their new contract which basically gives them the Mulgrew pattern of around 10% salary increases for 7 years. This piece from Labor Press outlines the terms of the deal and the voting results. The PSC represents teachers at the City University of New York

In terms of beating the pattern, PSC President Barbara Bowen pointed to gains in the workplace:

According to Labor Press:

CUNY will be required to consider all adjuncts who have taught at least two three-credit classes a semester for the last five years for three-year appointments—in which it must pay them or find them alternative work if no teaching spots are available.

Having to "consider" someone for a three year appointment after five years of teaching at least two classes a semester does not seem like a huge gain.

On other issues, Bowen stated:

“We won big structural changes in the workplace.” In addition to the three-year appointments for adjuncts, the contract also gives them fully paid individual health insurance. Professional staff in “non-promotional” positions, such as counselors and financial-aid advisers, will gain opportunities for both pay increases and having their job titles upgraded, the PSC says. And the deal also “includes a binding commitment by management” to reduce the teaching load for full-time faculty by the equivalent of one-three-credit course “by a specific time: the ratification of the next contract.”

The next contract has a reduced teaching load. This sounds good but I wonder if it is cost free as it does not have to be implemented until the next contract is ratified.

The terms don't look that great to this outsider but the PSC members jumped at this deal with 94% of the 13,000 professors voting to ratify and 86% of the adjuncts in the 25,000 member union voting yes.

Those numbers make our 25% no vote by teachers on the UFT contract not look so bad. Then again, I don't see anywhere that  PSC members will have to wait until 2020 to get their retroactive money.

Monday, August 15, 2016


Diane Ravitch has endorsed Peter Magistrale for New York State Senate in his race against the leader of the Republicans in the Senate, John Flanagan. It is great to see Ravitch go where our statewide union NYSUT refused to.

Here is some of what Ravitch said in explaining her endorsement:

The biggest obstacle to political, social, and educational reform in New York State is Senator John Flanagan from...Long Island. Flanagan succeeded Dean Skelos as Republican majority leader of the State Senate after Skelos was convicted on various counts. Flanagan is a major supporter of corporate reform, especially charter schools and vouchers. He is no friend of public education.

This fall he faces a challenge from a highly qualified Democrat in his district: Peter Magistrale. Peter is working closely with parent leaders on Long Island who understand the problems and needs of the public schools. He will fight for us and with us.

Please reach out and help him!

This blog does not speak for ICE as a whole but the ICEUFT blog agrees completely with Professor Ravitch and supports Magistrale to defeat Flanagan.

Sunday, August 14, 2016


The New York State United Teachers made their political endorsements for Congress and the New York State Legislature last week.

I am somewhat surprised that NYSUT is backing members of the Independent Democratic Conference who go along with the Republicans to make up the Senate majority that has worked to hurt the public schools, teachers and students.

In a NYSUT article about the endorsements, here is how the leadership described the process:

NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta said the NYSUT endorsement process "is truly a grassroots, organic process, with PAC members and local presidents surveying their own members in their own communities about who they wished to see NYSUT support in this year's elctions," Pallotta said. "Those candidates who earned NYSUT's endorsement have won the backing in their home communities."

This statement about this being a "grassroots, organic process" seems odd as I also received two Facebook postings from Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association's President Beth Dimino which directly contradict Pallotta's explanation of the process.

From Beth Dimino
NYSUT members-this is important.

NYSUT members...
It's important for you to know that Tuesday, in the Long Island room, presidents voted to NOT endorse Flanagan, LaValle and Marcellino. We did this because these three men have consistently voted against public schools, teachers and students. We presented candidates for NYSUT to endorse who are running in the election this November against these three incumbents. INSTEAD...The NYSUT Board of Directors overturned our recommendations and decided to allow NYSUT to endorse LaValle. Further, Andy Pallotta brought Senator Flanagan into the Board of Directors meeting to influence their vote. Your NYSUT contributions paid for this BS! Only in NYSUT Folks, only in NYSUT.

Here is a follow-up message from Beth:

Just some additional information NYSUT Members...

You have true friends in the BOD room. The Suffolk PAC and Suffolk BOD Members fought like crazy to get a NO Endorsement for Flanagan, Marcellino and LaValle. I stood and fought with them in the President's room and other BOD Members reported back to me that they fought valiantly in the PAC and BOD rooms. So you ask: How was the regional decision made by the Presidents from that region, made by the PAC from that region, made by the BOD Members from that region overturned? Well, Folks, NYSUT is run by the largest five locals in the state. They don't have to listen to any of the other locals because they have the votes to overturn the regions. What does that mean for you and I? We have NO VOICE on the Statewide level or the NATIONAL level, and that is precisely why NOT one member of the PJSTA contributes to vote cope.

The leaders of NYSUT and AFT count on this advantage every time they spend our money, change our resolutions, have relationships with the deformers, and make decisions the rank and file DO NOT agree with!

The only way to change this is for every local to send a delegate to the RA this April so we can vote the bums out!

To be clear, NYSUT did not endorse the anti-teacher Republican Senate head John Flanagan (2nd District) or Long Island Senator Carl Marcellino (5th District). They are staying neutral in these races but by not endorsing their opponents, they are in effect giving them an unofficial nod.

For historical examples of this, see the UFT not opposing Mayor Bloomberg's opponent Bill Thompson in 2009 or NYSUT not endorsing Zephyr Teachout in the 2014 Democratic Primary for governor against Andrew Cuomo. Union neutrality is not really being neutral.

We are stuck paying dues to the UFT, the largest local in NYSUT and the AFT. In the UFT, as we have explained, there is zero real accountability.

Friday, August 12, 2016


I just got through a quick read of New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer's latest budget report which is called Comments on New York City's Fiscal Year 2017 Adopted Budget. I wanted to see what the 2016 end of the year NYC surplus was but it seems to have magically transformed into a "$4 billion prepayment at the end of FY (Fiscal Year) 2016." Is that another term for surplus?

Could the city have spared a billion or two so educators would not have to wait until 2020 to get fully paid for work we did from 2009-2011? I think so.

Here is part of a section called Budget Cushion:

The $3.994 billion prepayment together with the $500 million deposit to the RHBT and the $1.5 billion in the FY 2017 General and Capital Stabilization Reserve increases the City’s budget cushion at the start of the FY 2017 to $9.4 billion. The cushion is $900 million more than at this point last fiscal year. This is the third consecutive year in which the City has added to the cushion. 

The Comptroller then proceeds to say that the cushion is not large enough. Stringer seems to be taking a cautiously pessimistic view of the economy. It is interesting to note that I cannot find anything in the report projecting any worry about huge increases in the city's labor costs through 2020. The thought of unions getting any kind of sizable salary hikes isn't even on the city's radar.

Neither the Mayor or Comptroller ever seem to thank city workers for being so good to them.

It is almost a guarantee that there will be hard times for the city when municipal labor contracts expire, particularly ours in 2018. At that time expect the UFT President to once again declare that the city's cupboard is bare.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Politico New York has a very interesting piece on the UFT starting to keep their distance from the Mayor. Obviously, everyone knows Mayor Bill de Blasio is in big trouble politically. The UFT can read polls and look at corruption investigations. Forget the speculation for a moment and let's stick to the official statements cited in the piece:

From UFT President Michael Mulgrew:

"It would be strange if there were never any disagreements," he said. "At times, even if we agree on goals, we will have different ideas on how to get there. And if our teachers and members are not getting the supports they need, we have and will continue to speak out. What’s different now, as opposed to the prior administration, is we can sit down and talk it out."
The response from the DOE:

"There are times when the Chancellor and the UFT agree, and times when they do not," Devora Kaye, a spokeswoman for the DOE, said in a statement. "The bottom line is that her sole priority is providing an equitable and excellent education for all students, supporting teachers so they can be successful and improving the quality of our schools. The Chancellor's is laser focused on this, and her door is always open to have a dialogue."

The issues cited by Politico where the UFT disagrees with the administration are on revising the discipline code to stop suspensions for K-grade 2 students and how the DOE is implementing the Renewal Schools program.

Mulgrew is quoted as saying, "We are concerned that some of last year's drop in suspensions of children under the age of eight was fueled by school administrators' fears they would face repercussions if they continued to issue suspensions."

You gotta love this guy who is out defending Counsel of Supervisors and Administrators members more than his own.

On class size, don't expect much from the UFT President. This section of the Politico piece refers to a time before the supposed rift with de Blasio:

A peak moment of city-union unity came last fall, when Mulgrew repeatedly declined to criticize de Blasio or Fariña at a press conference highlighting concerns about large class size. Though Fariña has largely dismissed class size as an issue — she’s gone so far as to say that too-small classes may be a bigger issue than too-large classes — Mulgrew insisted the chancellor had more important things to think about than his union’s own top advocacy priority.

"As the chancellor just basically reorganized the largest school system in the country, I understand she has a lot of different priorities," he said at the time.

I'm not buying that there is any big feud. Carmen Farina as Chancellor has done nothing to restore trust of those of us who work in the classroom. Mulgrew should have been screaming out loud in opposition when she refused to clear out most of the Bloomberg holdovers from central DOE headquarters.

Has anyone seen any change in the classroom since de Blasio became mayor? Many people I talk to think it is worse with the end of the cell phone ban.

To these eyes, the political wind direction is influencing the UFT. Corruption investigations are not helping the Mayor. If de Blasio goes down, Mulgrew wants to be on the Scott Stringer bandwagon as early as possible because the alternatives are all awful even though I can't find many out there who trust the Comptroller.

Stringer did beat Eva Moskowitz for Borough President in Manhattan in 2005 and then put Patrick Sullivan on the Panel for Educational policy who stood up to Joel Klein, Cathy Black and Dennis Walcott but Stringer caved to Joel Klein when he had his chance when Mayoral control of the schools briefly expired in 2009.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Sunday, August 07, 2016


Many Americans are interested in poll results for the presidential election. We have little idea what a Hillary Clinton presidency will look like for public education (her foreign policy is hawkish), but the thought of Donald Trump with the nuclear codes might be too much for most Americans. This election is a lesser of the evils choice for millions (Hillary will pick better Supreme Court Justices) so why not take a look beyond 2016. 2017 will be a mayoral election year. Sorry but there's not much to look forward to next year either in NYC.

How is Mayor Bill de Blasio doing with the public? Not too well according to the latest from Quinnipiac. The mayor's approval rating is stuck at 42%, virtually unchanged from the 41% approval rating he had in May.

On schools by a 65%-23% margin, the poll respondents say the mayor should share control of the schools with other public officials. Mayoral control is not that popular these days.

From the press release on the poll:
Voters disapprove 66-27 percent of the way Mayor Bill de Blasio is handling public schools and only 25 percent are satisfied with public schools, with 60 percent dissatisfied, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) Unversity Poll finds.

Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina has a not so robust 33% approval rating according to Quinnipiac. Outgoing Police Commissioner William Bratton has a 57% approval rating by comparison.

On charter schools, 45% want more charter schools while 48% said the number should stay the same or decrease.

The scary number for us was when people were asked where they would send their children to school and by a 51%-37% margin poll respondents picked charter schools over public schools.

The first comment on a Chalkbeat article on recent test score results explains the charter school advantage: get rid of the kids who might bring down test scores

" Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz dismissed the rising scores at traditional district schools since they mirrored the state’s more closely and could thus be explained by the test changes, she argued. To “find real improvement,” she wrote in the New York Daily News, officials should look to charter schools instead."
I wish some news organizations would take Ms. Moskowitz up on her insistence they should "look to charter schools" instead.
This year, Success Academy Bed Stuy 1 had 54 students who tested proficient in 5th grade, a DECREASE from the 57 4th graders who tested proficient last year in 4th grade. But their 5th grade class had a "passing rates" on the state ELA exam that was nearly 20 points HIGHER than the passing rate those same students had as 4th graders the year before
How could that be? Because 17 students -- 23% of the class! -- disappeared from that 4th grade testing cohort before they took 5th grade exams. 17 students go missing and the number of non-proficient students dropped from 16 to 2. Are we supposed to believe that's just a coincidence? Ignore the elephant in the room and pretend that despite having FEWER proficient students in the 5th grade, the school somehow has a secret sauce for turning struggling students into scholars?
It's a shame the press will never take Ms. Moskowitz up on her offer and ask her where 23% of the students went. And why - if she claims she just failed them all and forced them to repeat a grade - the class below would also have decreased in size instead of becoming much larger to accommodate all those 17 students missing?
And the press will most likely never ask her how it is that the 5th grade had only 56 students when at the start of 3rd grade 2 years previously, that class began with 93 students.
Chalkbeat writes: "Charter schools are part of the answer". Not if the "answer" is pushing their low-performing students back to public schools. In that case, they are part of the PROBLEM. And if there was reporting of actual attrition rates of at-risk kids at high performing charters over a period of years, that would be very evident to all.

We'll end this on a positive note for the mayor. While his poll numbers are low, potential challengers Christine Quinn from the right and the more progressive Scott Stringer would lose by wide margins to de Blasio according to Quinnipiac.

If the choice is de Blasio or a right wing Democrat like Quinn, we are once again facing the lesser of the evils as the mayor has certainly not done much to improve the schools.

Friday, August 05, 2016


If you haven't yet done so, get over to the NYC Parents Blog and closely read Class Size Matters Director Leonie Haimson's full blown criticism of the city and state boasting about increases in state test scores.

Leonie titles her piece, "Evidence grows we are entering a new era of mass delusion and test score inflation - including cut score manipulation."

She destroys the so called increase in state test scores. Here is some of her evidence:

Yet as we see NYC did not match the State scores on the NAEPs, in 2013 or 2015, in any subject. This creates even more doubt on the reliability of the state metrics and provides evidence that we have entered a new era of test score inflation.

Yet another reason to doubt ANY comparisons between city and state scores or proficiency rates is that 95% of the state's districts had more than 5% opt out rates -- and the 95% participation rate is supposedly required for accurate conclusions. Meanwhile, NYC's opt out rate remained relatively low at 2.4% -- which makes any comparisons between NYC and the rest of the state even more questionable.

But perhaps the smoking gun is this: the state cut scores much lower this year, with far lower raw scores translated into higher scale scores which were then equated with higher Proficiency levels, meaning Level 3 or above.

Here is Leonie's conclusion:

So yet again, we have a Mayor using these unreliable and possibly invalid test results to "prove" that Mayoral control works and using it for his political advantage. Again, we have a State Commissioner who says the results show that the state's educational "reforms" are leading to more learning. Again the NYC Chancellor and UFT president are drinking the koolaid, to justify their preferred policies. This time, in addition, the charter schools are also touting the results to "prove" their superiority. Will we have to wait years until a new commissioner until the state admits the truth, as we did last time when Rick Mills was replaced by David Steiner?

For those interested in UFT President Michael Mulgrew's response to the test results, here is his statement in its entirety

I want to thank the teachers, students and parents for all their hard work. With a common sense approach to education, we are seeing results. We know test scores are just one indicator of all the great work going on in our public schools. There is still more to do, but we are moving in the right direction.

For more union spin, read this UFT article touting the test results. Around paragraph 14, after comparing results from last year to this year, the UFT spin-doctor finally admits, "The 2016 assessments were shorter this year and students productively working were allowed to complete their exams without time constraints. (State Commissioner Mary Ellen) Elia said those changes made an 'apples-to-apples' comparison with previous years impossible."

Who would you rather have speaking for you: Leonie Haimson or the UFT?

Tuesday, August 02, 2016


I hope people are enjoying their summer vacation. There is a long school year ahead of us.

For those who want to witness pseudo-democracy live, the dates of the UFT's Executive Board and Delegate Assembly meetings are listed below. UFT members can attend as observers.

The dinners at the Executive Board are traditionally quite tasty. (The food at the Brooklyn UFT is excellent if a meeting is moved over to that borough.) The Executive Board meetings start at 6:00 pm and are usually held at 52 Broadway in Manhattan. UFT members can speak once a term during the open mic period for from 1-10 minutes before meetings start but don't expect much reaction.

Since there are 7 non-Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's faction of the UFT) endorsed candidates on the 102 member Executive Board for the first time since 2007, the meetings might actually be somewhat interesting.

The DA starts at 4:15 pm and those meetings are also usually held at 52 Broadway in Manhattan. Nothing but some fruits and coffee for refreshment normally and I'm not sure if there is anything for visitors up on the 19th floor DA visitors' section. Every member should witness at least one DA in their career. The President's Report takes up most of the meeting followed by a report from the Staff Director, a few questions, new motions and some special orders of business (resolutions approved by the leadership) rubber stamped by the Delegates.

The DA is the highest policy-making body in the UFT according to the UFT Constitution but the Department of Labor ruled last year that they don't make much policy. Voting is done by raising voting cards.

The best parts of the DA are when something logical like not supporting Andrew Cuomo's reelection comes up and Unity Caucus members are forced to obey their loyalty oath and oppose the motion because the leadership has not approved an anti-Cuomo motion. Many of the Unity Delegates barely raise their cards on these issues. One Unity Chapter Leader told me he just looks up to see how the Staff Director (head of Unity Caucus) votes and he follows.

We thank newly elected Executive Board member Mike Schirtzer from MORE for sending out this list of dates.

Executive Board Dates                                              Delegate Assembly Dates
All on Mondays                                                          All on Wednesdays

September 19, 26                                                     September 14 (Citywide Chapter Leaders)

October 17, 24                                                         October 19

November 14, 28                                                     November 9

December 5, 19                                                       December 14

January (2017) 9, 23                                               January 11

February 6, 27                                                        February 8

March 13, 27                                                          March 22

April 3, 24                                                              April 19

May 8, 22                                                              May 10

June 5, 19                                                              June 14

Monday, August 01, 2016


The NYC fiscal year starts on July 1. We know there is an increase in Teacher's Choice agreed to by the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio so teachers can spend a little more on school supplies for their classrooms this year compared to last year's $122. How much is the increase?

We don't know even though the budget year is well under way. Read the email below from the UFT that I received this morning. We can spend our unspecified amount and start saving receipts today.

Let me see if I get this? The city has a budget but one full month into the fiscal year the Department of Education can't figure out how much individual teachers get to spend and won't know until September. This looks like just a little more DOE incompetence.

Why isn't the UFT criticizing the DOE on this matter?

Dear James,

We hope you are enjoying your summer. We want to remind you that today,
August 1, you can begin purchasing materials for your classroom using
Teacher's Choice funding.

Thanks to your advocacy efforts, we won a 27.5% overall increase in Teacher's Choice 
funding in the new city budget to help cover your out-of-pocket expenses in the 2016-17
school year. Through social media and member lobbying, you helped to show the City
Council the direct impact of Teacher's Choice on student learning.

Last year, teachers received $122 in Teacher's Choice. We won't know the precise 
amount that each teacher will receive this school year until September. The increase
this year will help to offset some of your spending on school supplies.

Remember to save your receipts! As in previous years, you will need to submit
receipts as proof of purchase along with the DOE's Statement of 
Purpose/Accountability form in early 2017.

To learn more about Teacher's Choice please see the Teacher's Choice section of 
the UFT website.


LeRoy Barr and Ellie Engler
Staff Directors