Thursday, May 31, 2018


Parent activist Leonie Haimson asked me to write something for the New York City Parents Blog on Common Core. I responded by writing about a number of educational fads, including Common Core, that we teachers have had to endure since I started in the mid eighties.

Please go over there and read it and add your own stories on what you have been asked to do as a teacher.

UPDATE: I posted the above piece yesterday and then did not go back to the blog but a firestorm ensued when someone posted a comment that was critical of Michael Mulgrew's oped in yesterday's Daily News  on the high school admissions process.  The comment had a racial remark that was offensive but also copied Mulgrew's oped. I thought Mulgrew's piece was pretty much on target.

Here is a link to the oped and it is posted below so the comments that follow make sense.I deleted the comments that I thought were outright racist but here is my issue with pulling everything from the one or two people who are way to the right on the political spectrum and have racial views that most readers including me find abhorrent.

I am an ACLU type when it comes to free speech. I might hate what you are saying but you have a right to say it. I only step in when people write things that are outright offensive to a race or some group. Kids read this blog so it should stay on somewhat of a professional level as we are teachers. Also, you guys can be anonymous but I am not. My name or Jeff's name go on every posting.

Finally, much of this would not be an issue at all if people would just stay on topic which I will ask people to do once again.

Diversify N.Y. high schools now
MAY 31, 2018 | 5:00 AM

If New York City is going to have the first-class public education system it deserves, then the new chancellor and the city's Panel for Educational Policy need to tackle the widespread academic segregation in the city's high schools — a problem within their power to solve.

As repeated studies have pointed out, New York City public high schools are highly segregated by academic achievement, a situation that the current high school admissions process has not only permitted, but actually encouraged.

The Education Department's own study — the Parthenon report of 2008 — conclusively demonstrated that when high proportions of high-need students were concentrated in certain city high schools, it became much more difficult for their students to succeed and graduate.

For example, that study found that a black or Hispanic ninth-grade girl with median test scores and attendance had a significantly higher probability of graduating from high school as the proportion of academically challenged students in her school declined.

The problem identified in 2008 remains true today.

According to a new analysis by the United Federation of Teachers, students who scored 2.50 or below on eighth-grade state reading tests are clustered in about 100 of the city's roughly 400 high schools. Their average graduation rate is below 70%, ranging to as low as 40%. The roughly 300 remaining high schools show incoming average reading scores of 2.63 or better; their graduation rates range from 70% to 100%.
This segregation by academic achievement exists despite the student choice system instituted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein. In theory, that system was supposed to open up enrollment in schools across the city, with the exception of the schools that use the Specialized High School Admissions Test. But the reality is far different.

The application process itself — from the 600-page explanation booklet prepared annually by the Education Department to the hundreds of existing screens by attendance, interviews or neighborhood residence — serves to deter struggling students and families and to favor those who can figure out how to navigate its complexities.

There are specific steps the city can and should take:
• The system knows the achievement scores of every high school applicant and can compute how these would affect the achievement average of each school; the complex algorithm used to assign students should be tweaked to ensure that no schools develop an undue concentration of struggling students.

• The hundreds of high schools that use some kind of screening criteria must adapt those criteria to an "ed-option" formula — one that ensures that they will admit a proportion of students from across the achievement spectrum. At the same time, the Education Department must ensure that effective information about school options is provided to all low-income eighth-graders and their families.

• While admission to three exam-admission schools can only be changed by state legislation, the city has used the Specialized High School Admissions Test for five other schools not explicitly mentioned in the law. The city should immediately adopt a "Texas model" — upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court — that would open up enrollment in these five schools to a percentage of the high-ranking graduates of all middle schools throughout the city.

But even these steps are insufficient.

Given the penalties the system imposes based on test scores and similar measures, few schools actively seek to enroll academically struggling students. Only a small minority of schools make a specific effort to bring in students at all achievement levels. The chancellor should mandate that serving an academically diverse population is a significant measure of a principal's success.

The central office also needs to provide aggressive oversight — rather than the system's current laissez-faire management style — to ensure that advanced classes are available to the maximum number of students, and that all high schools offer high-quality facilities and a diverse choice of programs. The de Blasio administration's AP for All push is a good start, but it's not enough.

Properly managed, academic integration can have a dramatic effect on student success rates. A recent study in Stamford, Conn., showed student achievement increased across all groups in academically integrated schools, even as the racial achievement gap shrank.

City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza was recently quoted as asking: "Why are we segregating kids based on test scores?" It's a telling question, but not as important as this one: "What can we do to solve this problem?"

Luckily for our students, the answer is that we can do a great deal, and we can do it now.

Mulgrew is president of the United Federation of Teachers.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018


Assembywoman JoAnne Simon from Brooklyn has responded to our petition on She touts the Assembly Bill as a fix for what is wrong with teacher evaluations. Her response is copied in full below.

This is her email address if you want to set her straight about Danielson observations, HEDI and student test scores still being part of teacher evaluation even if their bill becomes law.

I write in response to your correspondence regarding NYS Teacher Evaluations.

There is legislation A.10475 that seeks to improve the evaluation system. This bill will allow school districts and teachers to negotiate an effective and fair evaluation system to meet the diverse needs of students and communities throughout the state. The legislation removes the mandate that state created or administered assessments be used to evaluate a teacher’s or principal’s performance. The Commissioner of Education would be required to promulgate regulations providing alternative assessments for districts that choose not to use state assessments. The bill eliminates the use of the state-provided growth model in a teacher or principal’s evaluation. All teachers would be required to have a student learning objective (SLO) consistent with a goal-setting processdetermined or developed by the Commissioner. The legislation also eliminates the use of certain rules to determine a teacher or a principal’s overall rating, and makes permanent provisions that prohibit ELA or math state assessments recorded in grades three through eight from being included in a student’s permanent record. By removing the assessment mandate, local school districts and teachers would be able to negotiate an evaluation system that better serves the needs of their students and community.

Be assured that I share your concerns regarding how our state evaluates the performance of our students and teachers. There is no one size fits all when it comes to teaching and we need to celebrate our diverse student body as the asset it is. It is past time to stop putting so much of our teachers’ energies into testing and let them teach our students.

Please do not hesitate to contact me again on matters of mutual concern.

Very truly yours, 

Jo Anne Simon 

Member of Assembly

Tuesday, May 29, 2018


Unless you have been hibernating in a cave the last year, you know that the Supreme Court is about to make their decision in the Janus v AFSCME case so that union dues will soon more than likely be optional in the public sector throughout the country. In 23 states unions collect fair share (or agency) fees from non-members because those non-members benefit from the wages and benefits that the unions negotiate. How should unions and union activists respond to a very different world after Janus when the fair share fees become optional and right wing media machine tells workers to give themselves a raise by opting out of their unions? The right hopes this can weaken the labor movement considerably.

I think there is a consensus that the unions will try to maintain as much of the status quo as they can by convincing members to stay with the union. However, what if the workers for whatever reason choose a different course in large numbers?

Michael Fiorillo sent me this long discussion from In These Times with three labor experts. Some thought provoking ideas for me came from Shaun Richman, a former AFT organizer. 

Here is an excerpt:
Shaun Richman: I had an article published in The Washington Post and I admit it was too cute by half partly because I was trying to amplify what I think was actually the strongest argument that AFSCME is making in the case itself, which is that the agency fee has historically been traded for the no strike clause and if you strike that there is the potential for quite a bit of chaos. So I wanted to put a little bit of fear to whoever might potentially have the ear of Chief Justice Roberts, as crazy as that may sound. But I also wanted to plant the seed of thinking for a few union rebels out there. If the Janus decision comes down as many of us fear then the proper response is to create chaos.
If the entire public sector goes right to work, unions will never look the same. So, then, the project of the left should be “what do we want them to look like?” and “what will drive the bosses craziest?” I've written about this before and Chris (Brooks from Labor Notes) has responded at In These Times. There are three things that I am suggesting will happen—two of which, and I think Chris agrees, are sort of inevitable and not particularly desirable. The third part is not inevitable and depends a lot on what we do as activists.
If we lose the agency fee, some unions will seek to go members-only in order to avoid the free rider problem, and that's a lousy motivation. I'm not encouraging that, but I think it's also inevitable. Once you have unions representing these workers over here but not those workers over there, it's also inevitable that you wind up with competitor unions vying for the unrepresented. And the first competitor unions are going to be conservative. These already exist. They're all over the South and they compete against the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and National Education Association (NEA) in many districts and they offer bare bones benefits and they promote themselves on “we're not going to support candidates who are in favor of abortions and we'll represent you if you have tenure issues.” That's also bad but also inevitable.
The third step, which is not inevitable but we need to consider in this moment, is at what point do new opposition groups break away from the existing formal union?  When do we just break the exclusive model and compete for members and workplace leadership? Can we get to a point where on the shop floor level you've got organizations vying for workers' dues money and loyalty based on who can take on the boss in a better fight or who can win a better deal on the basis of we're going to be less confrontational (which, I think, there are a lot of workers whom that appeals to as much as I don't like that idea)? But the chaos of the employer not being able to make one deal with one union that settles everything for three or five years—that's just the sort of chaos that the boss class deserves for having pursued this whole Friedrichs and now Janus strategy.
I very much doubt the competing unions arrangement is coming soon to NYC but what about the schools? Let's look a little closer at our situation.
We have a membership that has a fairly decent salary along with good benefits but in many schools those members have virtually no rights at work and not much union recourse either from the United Federation of Teachers. Too many teachers feel frustrated and completely powerless.
The conversation from the three experts moves on to a bit of a history lesson from Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University, that I think is kind of relevant to our situation in NYC. Read what she says about why people vote to dump their union:
...there is a long history in the public sector of independent unions, of company unions, acting as if exclusive representation didn't exist, where there would only be one member and employers would recognize the “union” establishing a contract bar so no other union could come in.
In the 1980s and 1990s, public sector unions assumed that they were winning decertification elections rather than the independent unions and discovered that they weren't. Soon enough they realized that the problem was that they weren't doing a good enough job of representing their members. Workers were not voting for the company unions, which were little more than law firms or insurance companies. They were voting against the poor representation.
Hey UFT Leadership:  I believe this is a big part of the message members are trying to get out to the world in the comments on this blog and elsewhere. People here respect the idea of a union but want one that has their back and represents them with everything they have. You have to do more than say that people are lucky they have a job. 
Richman again:
Humpty Dumpty is sitting on the wall and if Neil Gorsuch and John Roberts kick him off I am not particularly interested in being one of the king's horses and men trying to put him together again. At that point the system is fundamentally broken and we need new demands about what kind of system we want and new strategies about how we exploit the brokenness of the system to make them regret what they have done.
Exclusive representation—combined with agency fee and DFR (Duty to Fair Representation) —worked for a long time. But if you knock one piece out, it all falls apart. We shouldn't be pining for bygone days. We need to be thinking forward about what opportunities this creates. 
I still say to teachers and other educators in NYC that I would rather repair the UFT from within than start a all over but one never knows what the post Janus union world will bring.

Sunday, May 27, 2018


These three stories came to me in the last two days.

The first is a reply to a comment I made at NYC Educator from Arthur Goldstein:

This is a comment I made on a story where the chancellor spoke and answered questions at the UFT Executive Board in a closed session:

James Eterno • 20 hours ago
I have written about the DOE grievance game. It is rather obvious that the broken grievance process came up with Chancellor Carranza. This is clearly a strategy from DOE to tie up the process that the UFT has gone along with by basically playing the game and treating the process as if it is legitimate. The union could easily take the DOE to PERB or court multiple times for tying up the grievance process to make it basically meaningless which is what is going on when the DOE denies obvious cases as was documented in this post and I have witnessed too. When Chancellor Carranza goes back to his people and tells them how upset the teachers union is about the broken grievance process, he will hear from his corrupt managerial class. Will he side with his teachers? I hope so however it's been sixteen years of Klein, Black, Walcott, Farina. Turning that DOE anti-teacher culture around without a real fight may not be so easy but I will remain hopeful. If Carranza's Office of Labor Relations turns down some obvious Step II's, will the UFT publicize it and take him to PERB/Court or simply continue to declare more union victories since they can win open and shut cases in arbitration?

Now Arthur's reply:

NYC Educator Mod  James Eterno • 18 hours ago
I've got five obvious step twos about to go to arbitration. Probably six, actually. I have an APPR complaint hanging for a while now. Members are being made miserable through this wasteful and plainly disingenuous process. I would love to see it changed.

Grievance process totally broken as we have said. No fix in site.

Now this comment from a prior posting here in the ICEUFTblog. This is kind of wishful thinking about life as an ATR:

The ATR position is different in every school. I know it sucks in other schools but in my school it really is not so bad. The only con is that they have to cover different classes everyday. Which some people might see as a pro. They do get treated very poorly by the students. But then again, so do the teachers who are not ATRs. So, I count this as a neutral.

The pros are that they do not have any paperwork to do. They do not have to: project plan, unit plan, lesson plan, write student goals, write instructional adjustments for lessons, write out student improvement plans, communicate with parents, grade papers, use Skedula, keep student portfolios, write feedback, or do bulletin boards. They do not have any work to take home. They have no observations. They are in the building for 6 hours and 50 minutes and they are done for the day. They do not have a circular 6 assignment. Although they have to be in the school building, they do not have to attend meetings. They are not on grade teams, department teams, curriculum teams, inquiry teams, data teams, book study teams, leadership teams, discipline teams, safety committees, instructional leads, AP for All teams, Sp. Ed teams, or professional development teams.

I currently put in about 60 - 70 hours a week to get all my work done. I am tired. Making $100,000 for being a body in a school for 25 - 30 hours a week and having weekend and vacations with no school work, doesn't sound so bad to me.

My response:
James Eterno said...
If your union followed the contract, you would not be doing much of that stuff either 8:30. I don't know that project plan, student goals, student portfolios, instructional adjustments for students or any of those teams are contractually required. If administration tried to impose any of that in the schools I worked at, there would have been an immediate teacher rebellion.

You said ATRs do not get observed. Most have a field supervisor who observes them in classes where  ATR might not even know kids or subject. It can be impossible to be satisfactory. Try that.

Do people in the schools just keep their heads down and take the abuse? When told to do something that fairly obviously is not contractual, do they just bow their heads and say, "Yes Ma'am," to the principal. "Just please make my Danielson score high?" I can't imagine myself or my wife or our friends ever, ever acting like that.

Now for something that came in my email yesterday morning:
I’m in a decent school in NYC. Principal and AP’s actually work with the teachers. Low turnover school.

I know of an award winning teacher in another school who is on principal’s shit list because she dared to go to union about something. She wants to leave. This teacher has 16 years in.

The school I’m in has two vacancies (common branch) on Open Market. I mentioned the teacher to my principal. Told her this teacher has won awards. Principal says, “She’s too expensive for me.”  This is getting ridiculous.

The mistake this teacher made was contacting DR through the school’s gmail account. The principal at her current school monitors the emails sent and received.

If she can’t find another position the only way to leave is being brought up on charges, pray she doesn’t get terminated, and be placed in ATR pool. From what I’ve been told (a very reliable source) legal does not make any deals. All 3020-a’s are going to hearings. What’s the fucking point anymore? 

Oh God it's worse than I thought in the schools. Are these just isolated examples?

Is our view accurate that your life at work depends on who your supervisor is?

I have a possible response for all of the places considered to be hellholes:

How about organizing into a union? Oh wait, we already have one. It is called the United Federation of Teachers. Nothing will change until the rank and file forces the union to be a real union.

We have the power to do that if we only organize and take it.

Even if everyone leaves the UFT after Janus, what will you do to fight back then? Bow your head even lower but be thankful that you can keep your dues?

Please tell us what is out there and how widespread the abuse is.

Saturday, May 26, 2018


Diane Ravitch has one of the most influential blogs in support of public education. Diane is fully on board with getting rid of New York's teacher evaluation law.

Here and here are back to back posts from her blog from Friday. Diane puts so much upon her blog that if you aren't following closely, you can miss some really important material.

In the one called "It's Time to Reinvent Teacher Evaluation," Professor Ravitch cites scholarly work done by Rachel E. Gabriel and Sarah L. Woulfin of the University of Connecticut.

Ravitch writes:
Isn’t it time to redesign teacher evaluation? Most states are stuck with laws they wrote to apply for Race to the Top funding. Nearly a decade has passed. We now know that test-based evaluation has failed. Why are so many states and districts holding on to a failed strategy for evaluating teachers? Is it inertia? Apathy?

The model in use is obsolete. It failed. It is time to move on.
This blog totally agrees.

In the other piece, Professor Ravitch links to a piece from Jake Jacobs, a New York City Art Teacher.
Again from Ravitch:
Jake Jacobs, an art teacher in New York, commends Cynthia Nixon for calling for the repeal of New York State’s teacher evaluation law, which was imposed to comply with Race to the Top. After Nixon spoke out, the State Assembly cobbled together a pretend repeal of the law, which does not actually change anything since districts will still be required to use a test, but only a test approved by the state commissioner. Critics of the bill fear it will double the amount of testing by adding local tests to state tests.

At least, Nixon had the courage to call for a flat out repeal of a useless and ineffective method of evaluating teachers. 
As has this blog. If you have not yet done so, please spread the word to sign our petition (see right side of page or use link) to completely repeal the evaluation law in NYS.

I still think we have room to grow this little movement the readers of this blog initiated but we need everyone to pitch in.

I contacted Ms. Nixon's campaign but have yet to hear back from them on the teacher evaluation issue. I hope  someone with some insider knowledge can get them to listen to real life teachers.

Thursday, May 24, 2018


PS 25 in Brooklyn is a high achieving low enrollment school that Carmen Farina had the Panel for Educational Policy close on February 28 to make space for Eva Moskowitz and her Success Academy Charter schools.

The parents fought back and sued the DOE claiming that the Department of Education did not tell anyone how well the school is doing. They are among the highest achieving schools in the city. The suit also claims the city is ending a zoned school without following the law.

From their Memo of Law:
“Entirely eliminating a zoned school and without replacing it with another zoned school, leaving the families in this neighborhood without any zoned school that their children have the right to attend, as occurred in this instance, is the most radical change in zoning lines that can be conceived.”

Chancellor Richard Carranza could reverse course and save this school as parent activist Leonie Haimson is requesting in her Washington Post Open Letter to the Chancellor.

Here is an excerpt:
Chancellor Carranza: On Tuesday in hearings before the New York City Council, you spoke eloquently about how the city should be celebrating our successful public schools, rather than allowing others to denigrate them. In particular, you noted that you had seen some great teaching in Bed-Stuy schools. If you are serious about this, you should rescind the decision to close this school and instead celebrate its accomplishments.

The secret to PS 25's success is class sizes between 10 and 18. The city  looks like it is totally  afraid of this information being dispersed everywhere.

Under mayoral dictatorship of the schools, I don't see Chancellor Carranza having the ultimate authority to reverse course on PS 25 but one never knows. Maybe a judge will do it. Good luck in court PS 25.

There is one other fact about this year's expanded school closing list that is very troubling that I discovered in reading the city's answer to the lawsuit. Kids are being displaced this spring from closing elementary schools all over the city.

From the city's response from to the PS 25 lawsuit on page 15:
As of today’s date, parents and guardians of approximately 3,000 students – from closing schools – entering grades 1-5 do not know which school their children will be attending this fKall.  

Many Absent Teacher Reserves will be added to the ATR pool. Sad news indeed and totally unnecessary. The waste of money and talent continues at the DOE. Only the names change. Then again, maybe Carranza will bring some sanity to the system.

UPDATE: The Parents actually won yesterday in court.

From the NYC Public School Parents Blog:

Today in court, we won our temporary  restraining order to keep PS 25 open!

Judge Katherine Levine of the Kings County Supreme Court issued a decision from the bench that unless she has an epiphany in the next two weeks, the school will remain open next year and she will decide the complex legal merits of the case more carefully over the next few months.

The Chancellor and Mayor should back down here. I wonder if they will stand up to Eva.

Congratulations to this school community on their win, even if it is only temporary right now.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


As the fiscal year comes close to ending, the Independent Budget Office has issued a report and once again they are projecting city employees will get the 1% salary increases based on Mayor de Blasio's budget.

Here is what the IBO says in a section called Fiscal Pressure:
Another potential source of fiscal pressure is the need to renegotiate many of the labor contracts settled in the Mayor’s first term. Many of these contracts are expiring. The de Blasio Administration has set aside funds to cover 1 percent annual raises and stated that any additional benefits such as paid parental leave would require givebacks to offset the costs. If the Mayor moves away from this position as the contracts are settled it would be necessary to find millions of dollars not currently budgeted.

We are not expecting the Mayor to move away from the 1%. Only a militant labor movement could force his hand.

Meanwhile Comptroller Scott Stringer has issued a report on the DOE. DOE is on the Agency Watchlist. I'm not sure what that means but it sounds important.

From the Stringer report:
First announced in the Comptroller’s Preliminary Budget Presentation, the Agency Watch List spotlights City agencies – the Department of Correction (DOC), Department of Education (DOE), and homeless services – that raise the most budgetary concerns due to rapidly increased spending and meager measurable results. Reports, to be released quarterly, will review trends and recommend indicators that should be reported and monitored to evaluate the effectiveness of agency spending in achieving the Administration’s stated goals.

Now for some specifics from the Comptroller on DOE:
Since FY 2014, DOE central administration staffing has risen by nearly 21 percent. Through February 2018, the Department reports a total of 2,254 full-time positions in central administration, 387 more positions than at the end of FY 2014. The largest increases are in the Office of Strategic Coordination and Planning, the Division of Information and Instructional Technology, the Division of School Support and the Office of Special Education Initiatives, combining for 286 positions or nearly three-quarters of the overall increase.

In case you are wondering what, for example, the Division of School Support does, check this out. Gotta love bureaucracy. I wonder if the new Chancellor will reorganize the bureaucracy as that seems to be something they do regularly.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


I'm a little late to this blog party as Leonie Haimson at the NYC Parents Blog and Chaz have already posted on Sue Edelman's excellent piece on how principals sexually harassing teachers is usually unpunished by the NYC Department of Education. The UFT has passed a resolution to say there should be fair investigations. OK, but the UFT has been very silent about actual cases of sexual harassment that have merit. The NYC schools didn't always have a culture that looked the other way at sexual harassment among principals.

Back in the late 1990's we had a principal at Jamaica High School who was accused by two teachers of sexual harassment. The allegations were investigated in a timely manner by the Board of Education's Office of Equal Opportunity and the allegations were found to have merit in June. By the following September, the principal was reassigned to a district office. When the DOE under Mayor Bloomberg in 2003 tried to put this principal in another school, the public outcry forced them to backtrack almost immediately.

The Bloomberg-Chancellor Joel Klein theory that principals can do no wrong as long as they can produce higher test scores has led to this corrupt culture where just about anything goes for principals.

This leads to an important question: Why didn't the UFT expose these principals who were sexually harassing members?

That is answered by Shaunte Penniston, a teacher who sued for sexual harassment and has prevailed.

From Sue Edelman's piece in the NY Post:
Penniston complained to the teachers union, which did nothing, she told The Post. "My claims fell on deaf ears. They were waiting for me to be assaulted before taking any action. I felt like a sitting duck."

Yes, this is one example. However, can anyone find a school where the union came charging in like the cavalry to reign in a principal who was harassing UFT members and then publicized it to encourage teachers that they can fight back? Need we say anything more about the uselessness of the United Federation of Teachers in this decade.

I keep saying that we need a union and we certainly do.

The question is this: Do we even have one now?

Back in the nineties, the UFT supported our efforts to reign in the principal who was sexually harassing teachers.

Monday, May 21, 2018


We are getting help from the parents now on our petition to repeal the teacher evaluation law entirely.

Please read this blog post by parent activist Leonie Haimson at the NYC Parents Blog.

Here is a part of it:
A new bill, passed by the NYS Assembly and being considered by the NY Senate as S08301, would change the teacher evaluation system in the state for (at least) the fourth time since 2010.  Despite the claims of NYSUT, the state teacher union, a careful reading of the bill does not indicate that it would de-link teacher evaluations from student test scores.  

Instead, teacher evaluations would continue to be partially determined by student “growth scores,” which in turn would be based on “alternate assessments” as approved by the NYS Education Department or where desired locally, still based on the state exams.  Thus, the concerns expressed by the NY State School Boards  Association, the New York Council of School Superintendents and other education groups, that this bill, if passed, could mean even more testing for students, appears warranted, since the state exams will continue to be given anyway, as mandated by federal law. 

More discussion of the teacher evaluation issue, which NY State can’t seem to get right, is in an column written by Gary Stern of LoHud News,  in which he calls the system “a ghastly mistake that won't die.” Diane Ravitch argues that the currently teacher evaluation law, called APPR, should just be repealed, and the decision how to evaluate teachers should go back to the districts, as it was before the promise of Race to the Top funds lured the state to create a new system based in part on student test scores.  My view? If the law is not to be simply repealed, there should be hearings, public input and careful consideration as to what should replace this complex and unreliable mess of a system, rather than the current bill. 

Leonie then has Long Island parent activist Deborah Abramson-Brooks break down the flawed new bill in detail.

The parents also link to our petition. It has grown slowly but surely over the last six weeks. Keep it going folks. We are making a difference.

Does anyone have any ideas how we could spread the word even further?

Sunday, May 20, 2018


I saw the Tweet below from Reality Based Educator:

Crickets about APPR from .@UFT. Janus is coming, company union heads. Membership is restless and sick of your sellouts. Don't think you can quell it forever with propaganda and patronage. 

I am not betting against Michael Mulgrew and Randi Weingarten's Unity machine to basically scare people into paying UFT dues after Janus but you never know. We will soon find out for sure.

As I have said before, we need a union and I am very pro-union. I would rather fix our union from within. That said, if the fed up UFT members bolt from the UFT in droves, I hope they have a plan to organize themselves into a new labor union. Otherwise, I believe we will have lost the fight and we will have little left.

Saturday, May 19, 2018


At yesterday's ICEUFT meeting, a proposal was passed without much discussion (rare for ICEUFT) stating that ICEUFT takes a position that people who are part of ICEUFT are free to join and/or stay in any other organization of their choice.

To belong to the Independent Community of Educators (ICEUFT), one needs to be an advocate for UFT members and for the public schools. That is the litmus test.

As for a specific group, even as ICEUFT has suspended our support for the Movement of Rank and File Educators, we have no issue with any individual who wants to stay in both organizations.

Thursday, May 17, 2018


Arthur Goldstein's May Delegate Assembly Report is as usual required reading for anyone who is involved in any way with teaching in New York City. At the DA, UFT President Michael Mulgrew finally admitted that evaluations in NYC are "toxic". What a revelation?

Here are the Minutes from Arthur of part of Mulgrew's President's Report:
NYSUT RA was in Buffalo. Asks if they had a nice time. Seems to be growing solidarity across state. Everyone knows Janus. Bill passed that no one will mandate testing for evaluation. Governor supports. Assembly passed it. Comes down to Senate. NYSUT doing good job with this, wants nothing tied to it. About misuse of test scores. 

Consultation Committee with new chancellor. Says he’s very nice guy. You can be a really nice guy, but taking over that office is another issue. They want to know if we have to renegotiate. Law says we have a year. If moratorium (on using grade 3-8 tests in teacher ratings) lapses and we don’t have law, all teachers 50% standardized test scores. We have to take people out if they don’t vote for this. Whatever happens, it doesn’t matter. In NYC evaluation is toxic because it isn’t being used properly, and it’s getting worse. Members are observed day after they speak up about something, and admin who do that should be fired. Basis of law is about supporting work of people in classrooms. If professional admin perverts and twists it to lord over and beat people, they shouldn’t be allowed near children.

We don’t want to do anything about evaluation until we understand that this needs to stop. Some people are left alone, Some schools do this the right way, and every one of us wants to work in these schools, really talking about craft of education. Then, we have really bad people. Observation and evaluation should not be a benign activity. We should be in secure environment evaluation ourselves and letting others look at it.

Chancellor agreed if that’s what’s going on it’s no good. 

Our UFT President who two months ago said that the NYC evaluation system could "be a model statewide" now admits that it's "toxic" and that it is getting worse. Please don't comment that Mulgrew in February was talking about the choice of what growth model to use and not the observations. The whole system is flawed; the law the UFT and NYSUT are backing will only change what tests are used to evaluate us and won't do anything about Danielson observations. Mulgrew has finally figured out Danielson is not going well in NYC.

How many teachers have had to have their professional reputations and/or livelihoods ruined by Danielson observations before the President of their union finally admits that the observations are being used to get back at people who speak up?

This one sentence really struck me from Arthur's notes of Mulgrew's report: "Basis of law is about supporting work of people in classrooms. If professional admin perverts and twists it to lord over and beat people, they shouldn't be allowed near children."

Welcome to many NYC schools Mr. President! Where have you been the last five years?

I have some sad news for the President: The basis of the law is to fire teachers.

There are hundreds of administrators out there who are using the evaluation system to control teachers and don't give a hoot about improving or supporting instruction. They shouldn't be near children; Mulgrew is right. However one needs to ask:

What has the UFT done to reign them in?

The answer is next to nothing.

How about supporting repealing the evaluation law Mr. Mulgrew and starting from scratch? We have a petition asking for repeal (see right side of page or go here) that over 1,100 have signed and PS 8 has had a rally calling for the end of Danielson now!

Later in his report, Arthur once again cites something Mulgrew says that made me laugh so I didn't start screaming?

 Janus—All working hard. Don’t know what more we can do but will think of it. One to one conversations important. Door knocking has been great. Next piece membership teams. 

Don't know what more we can do?

How about acting like a real labor union leader for a change Mr. President and working for what the vast majority of your members want by getting rid of the evaluation system? That might convince some people to pay union dues to the UFT post Janus.

Here is a suggestion for right now: How about at the very least convincing the new nice guy Chancellor Carrranza to reduce the minimum number of annual observations to two like most of the districts in the rest of the state have? That would be rather easy to ask for now wouldn't it? If he is such a nice guy, maybe we could get those two observations per year in NYC. No need to change the law for that.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


Here is a cause everyone here can get behind. 50 people from PS 8 this morning were out in front of their school calling for an end to Danielson observations. "End Danielson Now" and "Teachers have had enough," they chanted. "Paras have had enough" was another chant. We agree. This action is a wonderful start. Other schools need to pick up on this.

Now it is time for all of us to come forward to join the effort to repeal the evaluation law and tell the world we have had ENOUGH!

Here is an account of this morning's action at PS 8 written by our partner in crime to kill the evaluation system Roseanne McCosh.

 The teacher elected to be CL next year is holding the END Danielson sign.  (Roseanne is holding the ENOUGH sign)

This morning approximately 50 UFT members stood in front of our school building for 10 minutes as an exercise in solidarity.  We decided at our last union meeting to start with a gathering in front just to show unity as union members. We didn't want to scare anyone away by getting too militant too quickly. 

A couple of signs were made by one teacher and when everyone saw them they quickly got on board with “End Danielson” and teachers have had “Enough.”  Once we realized everyone liked the ideas behind the signs we got everyone to chant, "End Danielson Now" "Teachers have had enough"  "Paras have had enough" "What have we had?  ENOUGH!" etc… 

My CL made a point that even though I wasn’t rated under Danielson I was leading the chant.  I then called out the names of the other staff members who, like me, are not rated under Danielson but still chanted. Teachers applauded these staff members and thanked them for showing solidarity.

We ended by entering the building together in a moment of silence to mourn our profession.  Mourning our profession is why we wore black.We are going to try to do this again next week.


The NY Times has a piece on music programs being done away with as big high schools are turned into a number of small high schools. Diane Ravitch picked up on it and hammered it beautifully.

Thank you Diane for mentioning Jamaica High School in her post.

Here are some of the main parts:
Today(Monday), the New York Times observed (too late to matter, too late to save Jamaica High Schoool in Queens or Christpher Columbus in the Bronx) that the Bloomberg-Klein decision to close large high schools and replace them with small schools has effectively destroyed successful music programs. The compensation is supposed to be that the graduation rate is higher in the small schools. But as I reported in my book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education,” the small schools enroll different students from the large schools they replaced. The neediest students are shuffled off elsewhere. 

The Times gives an incomplete picture:
Between 2002 and 2013, New York City closed 69 high schools, most of them large schools with thousands of students, and in their place opened new, smaller schools. Academically, these new schools inarguably serve students better. In 2009, the year before the city began closing Columbus, the school had a graduation rate of 37 percent. In 2017, the five small schools that occupy its former campus had a cumulative graduation rate of 81 percent.

This sounds real good but it doesn't tell the whole story. Diane just takes the article's claims apart piece by piece:
The students with cognitive disabilities are not in the new small schools. The English language learners, the newcomers who speak no English, are gone.
Schools that once enrolled 4,000 students now house five schools, each with an enrollment of 500 or less. Do the math. When you disappear 1500 of 4,000 students, it does wonders for your graduation rate!
You can deduce this from the article, but it is never spelled out plainly. The small schools are not enrolling the same students as the so-called “failing high schools” of 4,000. The subhead of the article reads: “Downside of Replacing City’s Big Failing Schools.” I suggest that the big high schools were not “failing.” They were enrolling every student who arrived at their door, without regard to language or disability.

This is not success. This is a deliberate culling of students that involves collateral damage, not only the shuffling off of the neediest students, but the deliberate killing of the arts, advanced classes, sports, and the very concept of comprehensive high school, all to be able to boast about higher graduation rates for those who survived. A PR trick.
Add in the grade inflation and sometimes academic fraud in many new small schools and you kind of have the whole story about how the small school miracle is basically fiction.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


It has been over a month since Richard Carranza took over as the Chancellor of the New York City schools. When he finally pulled sexual harasser principal Howard Kwait from John Bowne High School, some saw it as a sign that maybe the days of autocratic principal rule are numbered, particularly when it comes to sexual harassment.

Those that are saying that Kwait should be terminated, instead of just reassigned, should understand that the city more than likely settled all of the claims by paying the victims but admitting no wrong. Ergo, how can you charge and terminate him when they defended Kwait all along? They could charge anybody but he would have a reasonable defense. I strongly agree with my colleague Chaz who has repeatedly asserted that any teacher in such a position would have been removed from the classroom and probably fired after the first incident. There is a double standard at the Department of Education for teachers compared to administrators but maybe that is changing.

Further evidence that Carranza may be a different kind of leader comes from the Minutes of UFT Michael Mulgrew's President's Report from the April Delegate Assembly.

This is directly from the Minutes:
Mulgrew has spoken to him (Carranza) every day. Mulgrew  told him if he went to a school every day of the school year he would only have visited 10% of the schools in NYC. All of a sudden everyone wants to convince the new chancellor that they don't believe in anything except respecting and supporting all the people that work in the schools and that they have great relationships with the union. The DOE's tone has changed since the selection of the new chancellor.

Before anyone gets happy, let's recall that Mulgrew made similar kinds of statements after Mayor Michael Bloomberg was gone and Carmen Farina and Mayor Bill de Blasio took over the schools/.

This is from our January 2014 DA Report, the first after Bloomberg left office:
 The President noted a change in the relationship between the UFT and the people at the DOE.  Many of them have been apologizing to us for what they said they had to do during the Bloomberg years.
Unfortunately, nothing of any substance changed under Farina/de Blasio. Most readers here believe working conditions have actually worsened since de Blasio took over.

These are the three questions that Mulgrew should expect answers to:

  • Can Carranza recognize the morally bankrupt system he has inherited in many schools?

  • Can the chancellor change the culture at Tweed and turn it around to make it just a little bit pro-teacher or at least neutral?

  • Can Carranza reign in the principals and superintendents who believe power and control are their main priorities which has led to multiple cases of grade inflation and outright fraud to artificially boost the passing and graduation rates?

Answering that last question in an ethical way might make the mayor look bad so I don't see major change at Tweed but there is nothing wrong with hoping this chancellor has some integrity and wants to do what is right.

A more likely explanation for what happened to Kwait is that since sexual harassment is a topical issue, reassigning John Bowne's principal was necessary for public relations purposes since the chancellor has his own past on this issue and the mayor has been tone deaf on sexual harassment at the DOE as well. They had to do something. Removing Kwait was really low hanging fruit.

The "My administrators right or wrong" culture will probably march on mostly unabated at the DOE and the UFT will not fight it with any vigor. I will be glad to admit I am wrong in that prediction but I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, May 13, 2018


By now we all know the story of Howard Kwait, the now former principal at John Bowne High School known for sexually harassing female employees and grade fixing. After paying out $830,000 in claims against Kwait, the Department of Education has finally seen fit to transfer him to the central office, but not terminate him. Hey, he is a member of the administrator club so he is invincible.

Read Kwait's entire history as chronicled by Sue Edelman at the NY Post here.

Reaction among colleagues has been powerful.

From Patrick Walsh:
This is absolutely mad and completely consistent with how the NYC DOE disciplines degenerate or criminal administrators. Not only did this clown repeatedly engage in sexual harassment, and attempt to force fellow administrators to change the grades of students, he has already cost NYC taxpayers $600,000 with more likely to be paid out in continuing lawsuits. Consequence? He is reassigned, given make-work away from human contact, and allowed to keep his $157,000 salary. If a teacher acted in such a way or anything even approaching such a manner he or she would have been repeatedly humiliated by the NY Post, become a poster child of "reformers" and been, rightfully, fired. Hopefully, this outrageous story will provide non-teachers an insight into the cesspool that is the DOE.

I can't say it any better than Patrick did.

One of my Jamaica High School colleagues also worked at Bowne.
He was my principal for over 3 miserable years. I was an ATR forced to go there and he didn’t want to hire me so he made me life a living hell for over 3 years. I can’t believe he held onto his job for so long torturing so many people. I’m glad that the new chancellor removed him, but he deserves nothing less than firing and having all teaching and admin licenses revoked.  

What is so troubling is we all are fully aware that Kwait is most probably just the tip of the iceberg. Does anyone think he is the only DOE administrator who is getting away with deplorable behavior?

In the Daily News piece on sexual harassment at the DOE, they briefly mention Carlos Borrero from the High School for Community Leadership. That is one of the four schools that replaced Jamaica High School. Now Borerro only cost the city $60,00 according to the Daily News (pocket change compared to Kwait) but where is the UFT to reign him in or Kwait for that matter?

While I was there, we filed multiple grievances against Borrero on safety issues and coaching positions as he was the head of athletics for the campus. I recall one particular safety grievance that a group of women from Jamaica filed. Borrero refused to meet with them. He hid in his office at the time of the scheduled hearing and would only meet with someone from the Queens UFT. We resolved the grievance but I was not at all surprised when this story of the lawsuit came out that he told kids if they did well, he would take them to a strip club. We stood up to his bullying but when Jamaica was gone in 2014, he had a much freer reign.

You see UFT when you let strong chapters like Jamaica's be destroyed, you often get weak chapters or virtually no chapters when they are replaced.