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.

Friday, November 17, 2017


We have been reporting for months on the IBEW strike against Charter Spectrum, the cable giant that used to be Time Warner Cable. The strike started in March and continues.

The city has generally supported the workers and is now starting the process to increase competition in the broadband sector.

The workers are spending $500,000 for a new ad campaign. They are fighting to retain their seniority rights. We totally support the IBEW strike.

Meanwhile, on Long Island the school bus drivers strike ended after  almost two weeks. Negotiations between TWU and the Baumann Bus Company along with a federal mediator ended in a tentative settlement. It looks like the workers and management here could not hold out any longer.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


 The city being the city and the DOE being the DOE means contracts are made to be broken as long as they are the ones benefiting by violating the agreements.

Case in point: the lump sum payments that most of us will have to wait until 2020 to be paid back in full for work we did from 2009-2011 that most other city workers received back from 2008-2010 and has been in their pay checks ever since.

If someone was on an unpaid leave in 2015 or this year, that person is a year behind in getting the payments and won't be made whole until 2021. If someone is sick or has a family emergency, tough luck. You cannot get a dime in advance. That is how the DOE negotiated this with the UFT. No exceptions, right? Well, um, no.

The DOE will give you the money in advance to pay them back if you owe the DOE money. To put it another way, you can have the money now as long as you give it right back.

From a friend:

 Remember we that were not on payroll in 2015 are one year behind in the cycle of retro payments. We are to be made whole in 2021. Therefore I was supposed to get 2015 in December actually. Well as it turns out if you owe the DOE money like I do for overpayment, the DOE gets you your retro on the fast track, hence my retro, in October - both years 2015 and 2017. They sent me an updated statement where they took out a large amount of money.

I wonder if this sets precedent. The UFT won't care.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Over at NYC Educator, Arthur Goldstein, Chapter Leader at Francis Lewis High School, has written what is now a recurring post on the uselessness of the class size grievance process. Principals know that the exceptions on oversize classes that are written into the contract can easily become the rule.

The solution arbitrators are offering is for teachers to be relieved of their professional assignment in exchange for having oversize classes. This is absurd as how is a teacher doing less tutoring or some other professional activity going to help students in overcrowded classes? Arthur pointed this out in his piece.

Francis Lewis isn't the only high school where oversize classes are a perpetual issue. According to Unity Caucus retiree Gene Mann in The Organizer, "Benjamin N. Cardozo High School has more oversized classes than any school in the city-252.  Chapter Leader Dino Sferrazza has been struggling with this issue ever since he took over from the previous Chapter Leader (me) in 2004.  (I only had 209 oversized classes in 2003-2004.)"

Clearly, the grievance process is broken when it comes to class sizes. (It is broken in other ways too but that is a story for another day.)

My guess is that teachers in other schools have given up when it comes to oversize classes. Grieving is a waste of time in terms of fixing oversize classes as long as administration refuses to budge. Principals are backed up by the Office of Labor Relations whose philosophy on labor-management relations can be summed up in five words "My principals, right or wrong."

The Department of Education has made a mockery of the system. They are prepared to accept whatever bad publicity Arthur, groups like Class Size Matters or the UFT may throw at them.They don't care about oversize classes or they would compel principals to respect class size limits as they often did in the late 1990s and early 2000s in the pre Joel Klein-Carmen Farina days.

I cannot accept that Fair Student Funding budgeting that penalizes schools monetarily for having a mostly senior staff is the only problem here. How is it that Middle College High School, which has an average teacher salary almost as high as Cardozo, manages to maintain mostly reasonable class sizes?  I have been at Middle College since 2014 and have never taught a class here with over 28 students in it. There have been no contractually oversize classes in this school since I arrived.

The spending priorities at places like Cardozo and Lewis are not the classroom. Jamaica HS was at one point a fairly large school but we usually managed to be in compliance on class sizes. It can be done.

The current grievance process to remedy oversize classes is a mess and with the current union leadership it is not likely to be fixed. The UFT holding case conferences after the DOE refuses to lower class sizes when arbitrators order them to be reduced is not the answer.

Bold steps are needed such as filing PERB charges and/or court cases against the Departmet of Ed for continually going against the spirit and letter of the contract and the law too for that matter.

That's right, the law is being violated. To settle the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, the Legislature set a 25 student average limit for high school class sizes.

While charges we would file would be winding through the legal system, we could be threatening walkouts as the overcrowding is educationally unsound as well as being a safety issue for staff and students. Let the DOE try to throw the Taylor law prohibition against strikes at us when we stand up for safe teaching and learning conditions.

As for the class size law., sorry, I forgot laws only apply to little people like teachers and students at the DOE.

Having the law apply to the DOE is a pipe dream. It would be possible if we had a union that fought union battles and didn't just go through the motions.

Yes I'm dreaming again of having a real union that will fight the good fight with every tool available to uphold teacher rights and advocate for the kids too. I need to wake up. We have the Unity Caucus controlled UFT. They will sit and talk with the DOE and do little if anything to fix the overcrowding in schools but will claim lots of victories.

Monday, November 13, 2017


Last Wednesday at the Delegate Assembly, UFT President Michael Mulgrew made a big deal about how we can use the contract and a joint letter from him and Chancellor Carmen Farina to take advantage of teacher autonomy over lesson plans. We posted the letter on Saturday. MORE sent it out too. We received a reply that shows how administrators can easily make an end run right around the letter and the contract to dictate teacher lesson plans.

This is from a highly respected chapter leader:

How do we reconcile the Joint Letter:
Although a supervisor may suggest elements to include in a lesson, lesson plans are by and for the use of the teacher. Their format and organization, including which elements are to be included, and whether to write the plans on paper or digitally are appropriately left to the discretion of the teacher.
With the MOTP: Domain 1: Planning and Preparation
1a: Demonstrating knowledge of content and pedagogy
1e: Designing coherent instruction
When these domains explicitly mention:
In Domain 1a:
•The teacher’s plans use inappropriate strategies for the discipline
•The teacher’s plans demonstrate awareness of possible student
misconceptions and how they can be addressed.
In Domain 1e:
•The plan for the lesson or unit is well structured, with reasonable
time allocations.
•Lesson plans differentiate for individual student needs
I understand that domains 1 & 4 make up 15% of our final rating, but I am afraid that some of our overzealous administrators will try to “bootstrap” a poor Domain 1 rating via lesson plans and then using that to bolster poor ratings in the other domains.
For example:
Your lesson plan did not include appropriate discipline strategies therefore 1a & 1e are ineffective. Therefore you could not create an environment of respect (2a) or manage student behavior (2d). This lack of respect also means that students cannot engage in learning (3c) and your assessment tools are weak (3d).
How do we prevent such an occasion from happening?
I say this because we had an afternoon election day session devoted to Domain 1 and the importance for our lesson plans to reflect this Domain.

The ICEBLOG answer is to bring the joint letter up in a consultation meeting and file individual APPR complaints so the principal is aware that this is a local and central union issue. Remember, we only have five school days from when we receive an observation to file an APPR complaint.

More importantly, we need to mobilize to lobby the state to get rid of Danielson and the entire teacher evaluation system and create something that is sane.

Sunday, November 12, 2017


This video shines the light in 2 minutes and 38 seconds on the Republican tax bill in a masterful way.

Corporations win-middle class, including teachers, lose. 

Pretty simple. 

Washington Representative Suzan DelBene is the one asking the direct questions.

Saturday, November 11, 2017



Dear Colleagues,

The Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers recognize that lesson plans are a professional responsibility.

Everything about our evaluation and development system is based upon the understanding that a constructive, professional process is the best way for colleagues to collaborate to help children learn. We all know that effective teaching requires authentic and thoughtful planning.  The development of lesson plans by and for the use of the teacher is a professional responsibility.  A teacher’s lesson plan is not the lesson itself. A lesson unfolds in the classroom as a teacher works with his or her students. Planning may be evaluated through observation of a lesson being taught, by the professional discussions that take place between teacher and supervisor and, of course, through discussion and review of the plan used to teach an observed lesson. The lesson plan cannot be evaluated in isolation but as a part of the planning cycle of the observed lesson.

Lesson plans are but one part of the process of creating and delivering quality instruction that engenders learning. How well students learn is what is most important.

Although a supervisor may suggest elements to include in a lesson, lesson plans are by and for the use of the teacher. Their format and organization, including which elements are to be included, and whether to write the plans on paper or digitally are appropriately left to the discretion of the teacher.  If the teacher was Ineffective, the supervisor and teacher will collaborate about different strategies. Lessons should be taught in a manner consistent with the school’s educational philosophy.

Lesson plans are part of the instructional planning process. As has long been the case, supervisors may continue to request and collect lesson plans; however, they may not be collected in a mechanical or routinized manner.

We know this clarification will help us work together to provide the best education for our students. We will continue to work toward our shared goal of making New York City’s public schools the best in the country.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Schools Chancellor Carmen FariƱa

Friday, November 10, 2017


The UFT is in uncharted water with the threat of the Janus Supreme Court decision coming in 2018 that will almost certainly make union dues optional in the public sector, including the UFT. Some who comment here are looking forward to the ruling so they can stop paying union dues and pocket the money while people like me feel opting out of a union is a terrible move that will make all of us vulnerable to losing many of what is left of our hard earned rights in the work place.

Long time activist Norm Scott encouraged me to get involved in helping to edit a newsletter called Another View in the UFT so that some of us who are critical of the Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's invitation only political party that runs the UFT) could put out something at UFT Delegate Assembly meetings. Norm, High School Executive Board members Mike Schirtzer and Arthur Goldstein and I put out our first issue at the Wednesday DA.

We were hoping that the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) would be doing this work but MORE is fully on board with Unity's campaign to get members to pledge to stay in the UFT and has at least for now pretty much ceased being openly critical of the UFT leadership in literature at the Delegate Assembly meetings or during the actual meetings.

Some of us disagree with this position. We feel we must continue reporting on how Unity Caucus is running the Union as sort of co-managers of the school system with the Department of Education and not as a real trade union. Norm called out the leadership on this the other night at the Executive Board in his brilliant speech in defense of teachers and against administrators who abuse our members.

Here from the NYC Educator summary of the meeting is an account of Norm's speech:

SpeakerNorm Scott—Speaks about NY Knicks and NY Jets.

Says he was first speaker here 15 years ago, spoke of abusive principals. Asked to defend chapter leaders, they opposed it in 1999. Every week we come here, and there are still abusive principals.

Spoke against principal tenure, was voted down. Sandy Feldman loved it, but said politically it was untenable. At that time they were willing to put something in paper, and had regular features about them. Last week Tottenville High School was here. Principal sounded like the Mooch.

Last year we got rid of two principals, CPE1 and (Townsend) Harris, where parents and students rose up. That’s what got those people out. Union had nothing to do with 50 people who came up, when CL was pulled, and when delegate was pulled.

What about teachers who don’t have 50 parents coming? We could rouse the 50 parents if we wanted to. State of fear exists in many schools because you (UFT leadership) won’t go public. Maybe there’s an arrangement with CSA. Union won’t step on too many toes.

And now we hear, from union, that teachers have to be held accountable. We need same for principals. We have almost zero say, despite committee, on how administrators are chosen. We need to hold them really accountable to parents and teachers at schools. They used to have fear of union.

When are you, leadership, going to be accountable? You say the DR is wonderful, when teachers say otherwise. You don’t hold principals or yourselves accountable, yet you say teachers should be observed 4 times a year instead of two.

Let’s see everyone accountable.

Schoor responds they are accountable every three years.

Every three years there is a UFT election that is essentially rigged because there is no way for a group opposed to the ruling Unity Caucus to have sufficient access to almost 200,000 UFT members spread out throughout the country to have enough meaningful contact with those members to win an election.

This blog documented this cold hard fact back in early October.

Is this the kind of union that the opposition MORE caucus wants us to pledge to remain in? There is basically zero accountability for the leadership and they fully know it. That is why the Union leadership fears Janus. They know that this will be the first chance active teachers and others have ever had to stop giving the UFT money.

I know we need a union as much now as ever but I am having a very difficult time seriously committing to encouraging people to pledge to give dues to anything run by Unity Caucus. The October 5 posting here explained how difficult it will be to fix the UFT from within and what it would take to accomplish the nearly impossible task of starting our own union by fragmenting the high schools (or any other division) from the UFT.  We hoped that people might be interested in taking up that cause in the high schools or working to fix the UFT.

There is some interest for starting a petition drive to decertify the UFT as the high school teachers bargaining agent and start a militant high school teachers' union but not nearly enough to be a threat to the Unity Caucus.

As for fixing the UFT from within, I see little or no growth in the opposition caucuses even though the six Executive Board members from MORE-NEW ACTION are doing a great job against the 95 strong Unity majority that all votes the same way on just about every matter before them.

We need people to step up and join us. The new newsletter is one way to tell members that we must do more than just pledge to say yes to staying in the UFT or complain on the blogs. However, it also needs to be read in the schools and not just online or at the DA.

Norm can have the last word:

The problem with MORE Lit is often an unwillingness to take on the union leadership or even mention Unity Caucus. MORE often has bigger ideas it wants to emphasize and wants to avoid coming off as negative. Like take its "Save Our Union" campaign which a minority in MORE feel is better left to the leadership because it puts MORE in the ticklish position of trying to be an opposition and critic - in theory - while in essence urging people to back the Unity party in power. (Some MORE people did show up to hand out a Save Our Union leaflet yesterday.)

I have no qualms about going after the union leadership and am withholding a blanket "Stay in the Union" pending some signs from the leadership of democratization. I am in my 51st year of UFT membership (and will remain a member) and over decades have seen too much on how the ruling party operates. Some of the younger MOREs may need a few more decades of seeing how they operate before they get riled up like me.

Howie Schoor's response to my speech (see Arthur's report) at the EB meeting the other day where I called on the UFT leadership to be held accountable for he failures to challenge awful principals more aggressively and for the climate of fear in so many schools was that they are held accountable every three years in the UFT elections.

I was already off the mic  -- I wondered how many teachers at Port Richmond and Flushing and Tottenville HS feel that way --- just wait until post Janus.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017


Today is the November Delegate Assembly. I apologize for any errors from my not so smartphone.

President's Report
President Mulgrew called political action director Paul Egan and his team up to celebrate 83% vote no on constitutional convention.  70% wanted it last year. Polls shifted as never seen before to 83% voting no yesterday.

We must keep momentum going to fight Janus Supreme Court case. Right wing wants to take our ability to fight back away from us. Voucher proposals defeated last night too.

We are sending water filters to Puerto Rico. Hard to believe in 2017 we have to do this. Sending directly to workers there who are sending directly to families.

Collection made for winter coat drive for Richard Mantell's campaign.

For Janus the door knocking campaign has started. Some members skeptical that it is really a UFT person. Getting results. Contact Leroy Barr if interested in knocking on doors. $1800 stipend for going door to door. Want on-site person to be the education coordinator on Janus in every school.

City Council did hearing on bullying. DOE made announcements on bullying and safety initiatives.  Info on surveys is there.  Supts do not look at this.

Schools that sheltered in did exactly what they are supposed to do during and after terrorist attack last week. UFT member assistance program helped safety agents who were first on scene.

Making progress on paid family leave. People who came before us made sacrifices to get benefits. Going to get this done in a smart way or it will get ugly with city. People fought for lower class size by foregoing raise. 1913 first teacher fired for getting pregnant. 2008 UFT sued to stop UFT member from getting fired for being pregnant. Progressive NYC not always progressive.

There are municipal unions whose contracts have expired in NYC. Must prepare. Must start a negotiating committee. Problem for unionized workers is uncertainty at federal level. Healthcare, education cuts and tax policy being discussed. If there are cuts, NYS takes a hit. Tax cuts will hurt us all. Expecting to hear givebacks being called for by the press. Putting together 250-350 member negotiating committee. Have a year remaining under current contract.

Since we are monitoring consultation, principals complaining to supts that they cannot run their buildings. We want to push back on their pushbacks.

Craziness on lesson plans. Some must have extra copies of lesson plans; others must have extra lesson plans on door. Teachers do not have to have a second copy of lesson plans. Lesson plan for teachers' use. Principals saying they need copy of lesson plans to do observations. Educationally unsound according to principals not to have a copy when doing an observation. We say it is not educationally sound to have oversize classes and children not getting services and lesson plans are for us.

Anyone who wants extra lesson plans in a folder on a door is a moron. Chancellor sent Mulgrew a letter on the policy. These idiots aren't fixing education. Sending out paperwork resolutions. Principals digging heals in.

Staff Director's Report

Leroy Barr gave a bunch of dates including next DA on Dec 6.

Question Period
Question: Admin wants rubric on every part of lesson. Is it excessive?
Mulgrew Answer: It is excessive. Get us info.

Q Tell Rachel Maddow about operation agua in Puerto Rico.
A We will have AFT do this.

Q Principal won't show us budget?
A It is a contractual right to see it anytime there are changes which is often. Strategize on how to handle it.

Q Janus more complicated than convention.  How do we get to people in a simple way on Janus?
A Tell people to pledge to stay in their union. Opponents will say to save dues and get a raise. They will take that away and more.

Q Principal assigning common planning to all preps. Sign in sheet. Principal says it is voluntary. How to motivate people to stand up to this?
A Sign in sheet makes it non voluntary. Get info to us.

Q Admin bullying by yelling at teachers in front of kids?
A Call anti bullying hotline. Not kidding. Always will have bad administrators. CSA accused DOE of not writing principals up before taking action. Keep campaign going.

Q City pumping money into anti bullying campaign. Our school near school where tragic stabbing occurred. Weapons found. Teachers, students scared. Is DOE going to do something?
A Superintendent can do this. We can put in request officially for people to come in about safety.

Raised $3079 for coats.

No motions.

Special Orders of Business
Resolution on 1960 strike anniversary. Mel Aaronson told Chicago Tribune every school was closed back then. 5000 did not come to work. Another 2000 called out sick. Strike for collective bargaining. It took another strike to get collective bargaining. Support thanking people who went on strike and pledge to keep fighting for rights in the future.

Peter Lamphere spoke for resolution but said we made gains without concessions back then and we should do the same with paid parental leave.

Resolution passed. 1960 strikers recognized.

Arthur Pepper retired. New welfare fund director.

Resolution to support DNA info and Gothamist writers. Billionaire owner shut down publications when writers voted to unionize.
Resolution passed.

That's all folks.


No need for mourning today. 83% voted against a constitutional convention for NYS.

Labor's mobilization was excellent. What a difference compared to 2016 election night, however anyone who floats with Janus looming is not being realistic.

Mulgrew's email
Dear James,
We did it — together!
The proposal on a state constitutional convention was soundly defeated.
The Vote NO campaign was a case study in how engaged and informed union members can mobilize to protect their rights and benefits. We are stronger when we stand united.
Six months ago, polls looked bleak but UFT members like you helped turned it around with good old-fashioned organizing work: chapter meetings on the constitutional convention; staffing phone banks; pledging to contact friends and family members; leafleting outside schools and door-knocking; sharing Vote NO graphics and videos on social media; wearing Vote NO buttons on coats; displaying Vote NO magnets on cars; and putting Vote NO signs on our lawns and in our windows.
The same forces we just defeated in the Vote NO campaign will be coming right back at public employees in the anti-union Janus vs. AFSCME lawsuit that is before the U.S. Supreme Court.
We can stop our enemies in their tracks even if the court rules in their favor, just like we did in the Vote NO campaign. But we must stick together. Paying union dues and contributing to COPE are how we keep our union strong — and protect our hard-won rights and benefits.
Again, thanks for helping to defeat a constitutional convention.

Michael Mulgrew
UFT President

Tuesday, November 07, 2017


I will have a difficult time being upset with tonight's election results because when I voted I saw a bulletin board at PS 191Q showing my daughter Kara and her friend Shivani were two of the students of the month for the third grade.

The UFT may be weak and inept; Democrats may be as awful or worse than Republicans to public school teachers and students; Donald Trump is President and there's plenty more to be negative about but two parents left the voting booth happy today.

Great job Kara and Shivani!

My kids Matthew and Kara with Shivani and Afrida at PS191 Halloween dance

We can worry about election results later.


I was asked repeatedly on Monday who I would be supporting for mayor. Let's just examine our choices:

Bill deBlasio is endorsed by the UFT even though the Mayor has been an almost complete disaster for teachers. Besides keeping most of the fervently anti-teacher Bloomberg people in place at the DOE, de Blasio gave teachers the worst monetary contract in my thirty-one years in the system while the city has enjoyed a very robust economy leading to healthy surplus revenue. While the Mayor is likely to be reelected, he can do it without my vote.

Republican Nicole Malliotakis is not a viable altnernative on education.

Nicole on charter schools:

A spokesman for her campaign said she is supportive of charters and school choice."

Sounds like a typical Republican which is bad news for teachers.

Her education platform talks about closing schools and replacing them with small schools.

Nicole Malliotakis will re-examine our city’s failing schools to determine which facilities need to close and be replaced with new, smaller schools, with more intensive instruction and a new administration.

Not exactly encouraging.

Bo Dietl is hard to take seriously.

That leaves Reform Party candidate Sal Albanese as the only semi-serious alternative for a protest vote.

The Chief Leader endorsed Sal, for what it's worth, calling for a "vote for character."

That might be enough for me.

Since there is little drama in the mayor's race as de Blasio is way ahead in the latest poll, I hope it doesn't hold down the turnout too much as the UFT is in a broad coalition calling for a NO vote on the Constitutional Convention which is on the back of the ballot. I support the Union's call for a no vote and helped distribute literature.