Tuesday, July 30, 2019


New York City public employees have to respect  the PBA campaign against the mayor, whatever you think of the police. The PBA is following Mayor Bill de Blasio around on the presidential campaign trail to publicize how poorly the mayor treats NYC city workers.

The picture taken from the NY Post is from outside the theater in Detroit where the Democratic presidential  candidates' debate is taking place tonight.

Higher healthcare costs for city workers, raises that don't beat inflation but the mayor takes care of himself with a hefty increase.

I can't disagree with anything on the truck.

Sunday, July 28, 2019


Each year the Department of Education distributes a Learning Environment Survey to staff, students and parents.  I have no idea what they do with the results but Gene Mann from  Unity Caucus goes through the numbers for principals in Queens. He found that roughly 50 score a failing grade of below 65% when rated by staff in 2017-18. The results are in the current edition of Gene's email newsletter called The Organizer. We have copied the entire section below.

We thank Gene for doing painstaking work of sifting through the data. Notice that he points out that the NY Post, not the Chancellor, is calling out the principals.  But why isn't Gene's list featured on the front page of the UFT's NY Teacher? Don't you think it is the UFT's job to expose principals who can't work well with teachers and other employees?

The DOE surveys can be manipulated by savvy administrators to get better results. I have seen this done. That said, if around 50 in one borough score well below average with their staff, we can make an educated guess that there are hundreds of principals citywide who are not respected by their faculties.

While it is impractical to call for the wholesale removal of hundreds of principals, a push to reempower UFT members at the school level should be a top UFT priority. We need more than just Chapter Committees involved.

Teachers and others who assert their rights must feel the UFT has their backs completely. Changing that UFT culture is a difficult job that must be done.

From The Organizer:
Annotated Vacancy List
By popular request I’m expanding the list to include Districts 75, 79, and 97 as well as pre-K for the borough of Queens.  The “Principal” column is based on the four questions teachers answered about their principals on the 2017-2018 School Survey. 2018-2019 results will not be published until later in the summer. There is no score for schools which have had a leadership change since the most recent published survey, such as John Bowne and Forest Hills High Schools. The city average score is 83.12%.  Principals score as high as 100% in some cases; negatives fall to the 20s.  

School Survey and Chronically Low-Rated Principals
Each August I crunch all the numbers for the teacher-principal ratings in the School Survey on four questions:
I feel respected by the principal at this school.
The principal at this school is an effective manager who makes the school run smoothly.
The principal has confidence in the expertise of the teachers at this school.
I trust the principal at his or her word.
It amazes me that some principals score as low as 60 points below the city average year after year.  How can anyone think principals are doing acceptable jobs if their workforce thinks that they are poor, untrustworthy leaders with no respect for or from their teachers?  

I’m often asked if chancellors make a difference (and I’ve been through every one since Harvey Scribner).  Most have not.  I think it strange that Chancellor Carranza’s attention has been drawn to other issues than the daily running of “his” 1800 or so schools.  It seems we have to trust more in The New York Post (Heaven help me!) to call out bad principals than the Chancellor’s office.

The following schools have principals who received grades lower than 65% on the last survey (in ascending order from the very lowest).
Queens High School for the Sciences at York College
M.S. 053 Brian Piccolo
Young Women's Leadership School, Astoria
Queens Academy High School
The 30th Avenue School (G&T Citywide)
Irwin Altman Middle School 172
Frederick Douglass Academy VI High School
P.S. 082 Hammond
M.S. 158 Marie Curie
P.S. 162 John Golden
P.S. 219 Paul Klapper
J.H.S. 210 Elizabeth Blackwell
William Cullen Bryant High School
Queens Metropolitan High School
P.S. 007 Louis F. Simeone
PS 80  The Thurgood Marshall Magnet School of Multimedia and Communication
J.H.S. 190 Russell Sage
I.S. 204 Oliver W. Holmes
Goldie Maple Academy
Queens High School of Teaching, Liberal Arts and the Sciences
Catherine & Count Basie Middle School 72
BELL Academy
P.S. 045 Clarence Witherspoon
P.S. 043
P.S. 070
P.S. 035 Nathaniel Woodhull
P.S. 58 - The School of Heroes
P.S. 171 Peter G. Van Alst
P.S. 131 Abigail Adams
Civic Leadership Academy
Queens Gateway to Health Sciences Secondary School
P.S. 102 Bayview
P.S. 183 Dr. Richard R. Green
P.S. 254 - The Rosa Parks School
P.S. 174 William Sidney Mount
P.S. 098 The Douglaston School
P.S. 024 Andrew Jackson
P.S. 054 Hillside
Knowledge and Power Preparatory Academy VI
P.S. 134 Hollis
P.S. 127 Aerospace Science Magnet School
P.S. 139 Rego Park
P.S. 186 Castlewood
P.S. 163 Flushing Heights
Pioneer Academy
P.S./I.S. 295
P.S. 088 Seneca
P.S. Q086
East-West School of International Studies

Friday, July 26, 2019


Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders gave a major speech focusing in large part on education in front of a huge teachers union. Of course it was not the UFT but the United Teachers of Los Angeles. Diane Ravitch introduced Sanders. Her introduction unfortunately is not on the video but Ravitch support is significant as Bernie's education plan looks like what Diane and others on our side have been advocating and Ravitch is advising him on education.

Bernie's speech rips into privately run charter schools and their lack of union representation. He lashes out at growing segregation in charter schools and he supports a moratorium on federal funding going to new charter schools. He then calls for charter accountability. Sanders says he supports $60,000 a year minimum pay for public school teachers along with cost of living adjustments, tripling of Title I funding and more.

I know, I can already see the comments about how we can't afford any of this. I'd like to ask a question: Isn't it nice to be pandered to instead of villified? If 1/10 of what Sanders is proposing becomes reality, if he just takes on the charters, we will be in better shape than we have been in decades.

Are we going to see Bernie invited to speak at the first UFT Delegate Assembly in October?  Don't bet on it. The reality is that on public education Bernie is way ahead of the other candidates. Read his education plan. If you are not willing to support him because he is too far to the left, demand other Democratic candidates endorse his education plan.

Meanwhile back here in Queens, there is absolutely no astonishment that it looks like Melinda Katz with the backing of the Democratic Party machine will win the recount over progressive Tiffany Caban in the Democratic primary for Queens District Attorney. For full disclosure here, I have nothing against Katz who in my Jamaica High School centric view of the world was very good to us but I like seeing the Queens machine, just like the Unity Caucus machine, dented.

From the Queens Chronicle:

Borough President Melinda Katz will be the likely winner of the laborious hand recount of ballots cast in the Queens district attorney’s race, a lawyer for her opponent, insurgent Tiffany Cabán, said Thursday.

He predicted the margin will be 50-60 votes when the tally is certified early next week by the Board of Elections.

“This is a step in the process that will now go to court,” said Jerry Goldfeder, the election lawyer for the Cabán campaign.

As he spoke to reporters, the final ballots of more than 91,000 votes cast last month in the primary election were being tabulated, marking the end of a grueling, three-week review.

The battle is expected to move now to Queens County state Supreme Court on Aug. 6, where a specially appointed judge from Brooklyn is expected to rule on the validity of more than 200 disputed ballots.

Katz, nevertheless, declared victory in the race shortly after the hand count ended. 

 “Now that every valid vote has been counted and recounted, the results confirm once again that the people of Queens have chosen Melinda Katz as the Democratic nominee for District Attorney,” said Andrew Kirtzman, a spokesman for Katz.

The recount that began July 10 in a BOE storage facility in Middle Village ended just a little after 11 a.m. when the last ballot — it was marked as a vote for Katz — was recorded and returned to storage.

“I want to emphasize that this race is not over,” Cabán told reporters outside the recount facility.

“We are going to continue to fight to make sure that every single vote is counted.

“There are hundred of ballots cast by registered and eligible Queens Democrats that were wrongly invalidated. 

“Our campaign will be in court to protect Queens voters from being disenfranchised.”

At issue will be two sets of disputed ballots totalling around 200 votes, enough to sway the final outcome.

The Cabán campaign is asking the judge to validate 114 affidavit ballots that were never opened by the BOE because the voters failed to fill out a line declaring their party affiliation as Democrat.
Can't wait to see the UFT take credit for this one.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


Having taught in both a traditional Regents high school and in a consortium school (only English Regents, projects replace other four), I see many arguments on both sides of the debate on possibly abolishing the Regents Exams as a high school graduation requirement in NYS. However, the exams are really besides the point. There are deeper issues that must be addressed whether the Regents stay or go.

Let us take a look at scrapping the exams. This is taken from The Times Union:

ALBANY — Taking "the Regents," one of the oldest academic exam systems in the country, has been a right of passage for high school students in New York for generations.

That may soon change as the state Board of Regents considers scrapping the high school Regents exam requirement as part of an effort to improve the state's graduation rates and better define the significance of a New York high school diploma.

This fall, a commission convened by state Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa will meet to examine — among other questions — "to what degree requiring passage of Regents exams improves student achievement, graduation rates and college readiness," Rosa announced at the Board of Regents' July meeting.

Rethinking the tests builds on the Board of Regents recent effort to create more avenues for students to graduate aside from take the exams.

While graduation rates have inched up in recent years, gaps in achievement persist for students of color, students with disabilities, English language learners, and low-income students, Rosa noted.

"Simply put, the system is not working for everyone, and too many students — particularly our most vulnerable students — are leaving high school without a diploma," she wrote in a February column for an online site accessible to New York State School Boards Association.

New York is among 11 states that require students to pass an exit exam to graduate. Many are questioning the practice amid a growing debate over the effectiveness of the exam to evaluate proficiency and its impact on graduation rates.

The Regents Exams don't test all that well and their conversion charts on grading mean a student can do "iny meany my nemo" to pick answers and still have a good chance to pass on some exams. In addition, having attended marking sessions for years, particularly when schools, teachers and principals are now rated in large part on Regents results, the pressure to pass students is enormous.

I thought my own standards were rather  "holistic" but there were times I couldn't believe what was an acceptable answer. To be truly open, there were teachers on the frugal side who gave every answer a 0 or 1 out of a possible 5 points in social studies but there is less of that now that teacher ratings are tied to the Regents scores. Please don't tell me about how norming goes on to ensure grade objectivity. The grading is subjective when it is not in the multiple choice sections.

Taking it as a given that the Regents are flawed, replacing them with project based assessments is an invitation for rampant grade hyperinflation. Consortium schools can't be scaled up. Those kids want to attend those schools generally.

My fear is something readers here comment on all the time. If we take away virtually every standard including the Regents Exams, high school diplomas that teachers continually complain are meaningless will become even more so. We all know an ambitious administrator can easily intimidate teachers into passing almost every student. Imagine the pressure on portfolio grading. "The kid wrote a sentence; he is a genius so pass him."

Teachers and the UFT in NYC are too weak to uphold any standards unlike before the Regents became mandatory exit exams in 1996. In those days of yore, many teachers would refuse to change grades and would battle it out with administration. From what I have read here, those days are long since gone. We also had the Regents Competency Tests as a backup in the eighties and nineties and beyond in special education.

Before we can seriously discuss exit exams, integrity needs to be restored to NYC schools and class sizes need to be lowered. (Class size is a different post.) As a first step toward returning some ethics, there needs to be a student attendance requirement for course credit to be granted. How can a pupil pass who misses 75 days of a 90 day semester? I understand extenuating circumstances but exceptions have become the rule in many schools. Missing all of a term's classwork can't be acceptable. (Sitting at a computer to make up a semester's worth of work in a few days does not count to recover the credit.)

Teachers need to be held safe harmless on teacher ratings if students do not attend class or if they do not complete assignments. Under current conditions, teachers are often blamed if kids miss class or do not do work while in class. If a real troubled student or a few are placed in a class, teachers who need help enforcing rules are many times told we have classroom management problems. Accountability has become a one way street only for teachers in many schools. It is amazing anyone still drops out as the system bends over backwards to accommodate students with alternate ways to pass. We are not doing those kids any favors by pushing them through, almost no matter what. When they get to college, they are extremely disadvantaged. That won't change if we go to portfolios instead of Regents.

Until a simple change is implemented that puts some responsibility on students along with providing better learning conditions, the academic fraud will continue and worsen. Ending the Regents will just accelerate the process in the name of boosting graduation rates.

Please no comments here on the race of the students being the problem. There is ZERO scientific evidence that race has anything to do with natural intelligence. If someone would like to blame any race, gender or nationality,  please cite some scholarly evidence to back your point. The principal forcing you to pass students who happen to be mostly from one background or another is not scientific evidence. It is not the fault of a child that he/she is passed while barely being able to read. It is the administrators, teachers and our union who have allowed this to continue.

Sunday, July 21, 2019


I was going through a list of pertinent questions on education that the Network for Public Education Action recommends we ask candidates for office at town halls.

Take a look at these questions on testing:

High-stakes Testing

  • Do you believe in annual, federally mandated testing as required by ESSA?

  • Should testing results be used to determine school takeovers and closures?

  • Do you believe that teachers should be evaluated by student test scores? (If they say yes or as part of multiple measures) What evidence do you have to show that is an effective way to evaluate teachers in light of most of the research that says it does not work?

  • Do you believe that student test scores should be used to determine teacher salaries? In other words, do you believe in merit pay?
If you are wondering why few politicians will answer all of these questions as most teachers would probably like, part of the answer is to examine the positions of UFT-AFT leadership on testing.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew as far as I know supports federally mandated testing and opposes parents opting their children out from state tests. He also has not opposed too many school reorganizations that displace teachers over the last few years. UFT policy for a long time was to support closing schools. School closings and reorganizations are often based on low student test scores. The UFT didn't lift a finger against school closings until opposition forces in the union stood up and protested loudly. Even then we had to do most of our fighting locally. Our contract actually endorses closing schools in its preamble.

On the question of rating teachers based on student test scores, Mulgrew may be one of the biggest proponents in the country for using student test scores to evaluate teachers. Research be damned.

As for merit pay, the UFT under now AFT President Randi Weingarten participated in a merit pay program for a few years based mostly on student test scores. It was schoolwide, not individual, so Randi claimed it would lead to cooperation. This merit pay was so idiotic that even the deformers in management in NYC abandoned it.

The Network for Public  Education is way ahead of the UFT-NYSUT-AFT when it comes to opposing high stakes testing. If people ever wonder why many so called progressive politicians take anti-teacher positions on certain education issues, it looks like they are just echoing union leaders and of course their big bucks contributors (who also give money to our unions in some cases) rather than listening to rank and file educators.

Thursday, July 18, 2019


One of the media myths I find most perplexing is the one about the powerful teachers union. It is trotted out constantly in the press.

The latest example is an editorial in Newsday on the resignation of State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia.

Here is a major excerpt:
Elia was the pick of a very different chancellor, stalwart education reformer Merryl Tisch, and got the job in 2015 when Regents were trying to calm red-hot controversies over the Common Core curriculum, testing opt-outs and teacher evaluations.

Elia was often aligned with her predecessor, John King, who left the post for a spot with the federal Department of Education on a wave of parent and educator fury.

But Tisch left a few months after tapping Elia and was soon replaced by Betty Rosa, a longtime New York City educator supported by the New York State United Teachers who was firmly at odds with Tisch on every hot-button issue. And each set of Regents appointments since, which come from the NYSUT-influenced State Assembly, have moved the board closer to the union’s highly critical point of view on state standardized tests, teacher evaluations tied to student growth on such tests and firm, traditional high school diploma requirements and other issues pushed by reformers.

So what next? NYSUT, which is nearly undefeated in political battles over the past five years, is expected to have a big say in the selection of Elia’s replacement, which is likely to take about nine months.

Education leaders who support the kinds of reforms NYSUT has battled clearly need not apply.

If NYSUT is so strong, then why are teachers going back to work still facing invalid Danielson observations as well as ratings based on unreliable student test results on exams that were never meant to evaluate teachers? Why is it still four years (or more) of probation for new teachers? Why are teachers and others still on Tier VI where young teachers fresh out of college have to work 41 years to qualify for a full pension that is lower than Tier IV? Why is Common Core, or whatever they call it, still in use?

Oh and why do teachers in NYC still have to work on December 23 for the first time ever when it falls on a Monday? UFT President Michael Mulgrew told us this was a State Education Department issue.

Either NYSUT isn't all that powerful and the Regents are not in our pocket or the state union does not represent the rank and file, and kids for that matter, very well.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


No news yet from Albany on December 23 still being a school day in NYC but there was news out of the July Regents meeting as Mary Ellen Elia resigned as New York State Education Commissioner.  This came as a surprise to many.

Some reaction from Chalkbeat NY:

Elia earned encouraging words about her tenure from the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, which represents New York City principals,  the state Council of School Superintendents, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office. The state teachers union, which had recently been criticizing the state over testing snafus, largely looked toward the future and “a new commissioner with a deep background in public school classrooms.” 

Personally, I see Elia as another test and punish administrator basically. She won't be missed.

Full NYSUT statement:
As Commissioner Elia’s tenure comes to a close, we wish her well in her future endeavors. We look forward to engaging with the Board of Regents as the search for the next commissioner begins and ensuring that the voices of hundreds of thousands of educators across New York State are heard throughout the process. We look forward to working closely with the next commissioner to fix the broken state testing system for children in grades 3-8 and on our mission to cultivate the next generation of highly qualified, dedicated educators. Selecting a new commissioner with a deep background in public school classrooms will go a long way toward achieving these critical goals.”

New York State Allies for Public Education put out a press release. Here it is:

As New York Closes the Door on Commissioner Elia’s Corporate Reform Agenda, NYSAPE Urges the Board of Regents to Include All Stakeholders When Choosing Our Next Commissioner

MaryEllen Elia was the wrong choice for NY in 2015 when she was appointed as Commissioner by the Board of Regents and former Regent Chancellor Merryl Tisch. The Commissioner continued to demonstrate throughout her tenure an unwillingness to move beyond her corporate reform agenda, resulting in NYSAPE’s repeated call for her resignation. The children of NY deserve a state education leader who will put their well-being at the forefront of all education policies.

“In 2015, NYSAPE sounded the alarms when Commissioner Elia was recruited by national and local education leaders to run NY’s education department as she did in Florida, with privatizing, common core, and high stakes testing, as her main priorities.  As the new leadership and education philosophy of the Board of Regents shifted towards child-centered learning, Commissioner Elia was focused on creating a culture of fear, misinformation, and intimidation throughout NYS school districts,” said Jeanette Deutermann, co-founder of NYSAPE and founder of Long Island Opt Out.

“Under Commissioner Elia’s direction, our children and schools continued to endure abusive, excessive testing, developmentally inappropriate state standards and data privacy breaches.  At every turn, Elia circumvented the Board of Regents and failed to steer public education policies in the right direction,” said Lisa Rudley, Westchester public school parent, Executive Director and co-founder of NYSAPE.

“The student privacy regulations just released by the State Education Department were the last straw,” said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters and co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.  “After waiting five years for NY Education § 2-d  to be enforced, state officials just proposed regulations that would allow contractors to sell and use personal student data for marketing purposes, in direct violation of the language of the law. And she has failed to deliver any of the annual reports required since 2014 that would detail the progress in following up on data breaches and parental privacy complaints.”

“We urge the Board of Regents to work with parents, advocates and other stakeholder groups in appointing the next Commissioner. Our children deserve a Commissioner who will move past the current test-and-punish regime, and towards a whole-child education and project-based learning,” said Chris Cerrone, a Western NY school board member, teacher and a co-founder of NYSAPE.

“The New York State Education Department under Commissioner Elia was never straight with parents regarding the state's high-stakes testing program. Rather than present neutral information, the department engaged in deceptive practices, including creating PR "toolkits" designed to persuade families of the legitimacy of the tests, even though a growing number of respected educators and researchers have questioned their effectiveness. I hope her successor will be more focused on equity and partnering with schools rather than punishing them,” Kemala Karmen, co-founder of NYC Opt Out.

Elia repeatedly feigned inclusivity, exaggerating stakeholder input, such as the role of teachers in creating standardized exams, the ESSA implementation workshops where a popular Opportunity Dashboard was stealthily removed, and the “public” comments on teacher evaluations which were never made public. Elia also never responded to requests asking for the research showing the scientific validity of standardized testing, nor would she make public the invisible scoring formulas which make the results unverifiable,” said public school parent and NYC educator Jake Jacobs.

New York must get it right this time. The children of New York and our public schools can’t afford to wait any longer for the education leadership they deserve.

NYSAPE is a grassroots coalition with over 70 parent and educator groups across the state.


Monday, July 15, 2019


Michael Mulgrew made a big deal about how the problem of school being open in NYC on December 23 for the first time ever when the 23rd falls on a Monday was a state issue. This seems a bit weird as every New York State school district where we looked at 2019-20 school calendars has off that day except one: NYC. We are alone.

Mulgrew's weak excuse to the Delegate Assembly was that NYC doesn't have enough instructional hours based on new state regulations. That makes no sense as we have four extra days built into the upcoming year's calendar so it seems we have adequate instructional time to meet state mandates and still have December 23rd off. Mulgrew told the DA that cooler heads should prevail here as the Regents have a June and July meeting. The June meeting has passed and the July meeting of the Regents is today and tomorrow.

As of now there is no NYC calendar change for 2019-20. School is open in NYC on Monday, December 23. We have been on this story since April. It is a UFT giveback for sure.

Is there any movement or discussion on altering the NYC calendar up in Albany or was all of Mulgrew's bluster just mendacity to make us think he is doing something? I hope it is the former. I really do.

If anyone has updated information. please send it out.

Saturday, July 13, 2019


In a move that is mildly shocking, the AFT did not turn over a teachers union election in Baltimore, Maryland even though the longtime incumbent,  who we are told was very mainstream AFT, lost.

From the REAL news network:
American Federation of Teachers (AFT) upheld former middle school teacher’s Diamonté Brown’s stunning victory to lead Baltimore Teachers Union (BTU) today. Back in May, Brown upset the Progressive Caucus slate headed by incumbent Marietta English who was seeking her ninth term only to have those results challenged.

The election’s record turnout, “was a powerful affirmation of our union as a democratic organization and over 1700 members stood up to have their voices heard,” Brown said at a press conference about the victory this afternoon, flanked by members of her coalition, Baltimore Movement of Rank and File Educators (BMORE) and Caucus of Educators for Democracy and Equity (CEDE).

The best part of this story for me is the Unity Caucus apologists are always claiming how well NYC teachers are paid so that means the UFT leadership must be doing a great job. Baltimore educators, according to the Baltimore Sun, "have the highest starting salary in the region and the second highest in the state, after Montgomery County." Baltimore Teachers Union reached a contract agreement last year that covered the last two school years giving teachers 2.5% raises in a city where administrative waste and greed in the schools may even be worse than in NYC.

Salaries are not everything when it comes to being a union leader. Working conditions matter.

Also, notice how a coalition came together to win in Baltimore. It is nice to see opposition groups working together.

Friday, July 12, 2019


I have been taking a little break from blogging this week. There is an ICEUFT meeting today in Manhattan at 2:30 P.M. I will be attending. Email if you want to come. Maybe we will have some news.

Watching the national news I found AOC's questioning of Fed Chair Jerome Powell to be very interesting. She noted how the Phillips Curve linking lower unemployment with higher inflation no longer seemed valid. She was attempting to move the conversation in a direction to talk about a higher minimum wage but Powell would not go there.

At least some of the reason why even with low unemployment, there is little inflationary pressure has to do with the decline of unions in the USA.  Decoupling low unemployment with higher inflation looks to be happening in many countries so neo-liberal policy of taking away worker power may be succeeding in many places across the globe. Don't get me wrong, I am not calling for runaway inflation, just living wages for working people. Inflation would not get out of control it appears if workers, including teachers, make decent money.

Monday, July 08, 2019


The National Education Association voted down a proposal to make opposition to charter school expansion a condition for its 2020 presidential endorsement. If this had passed, it could have compelled a move toward public schools in the race for the Democratic nomination for president. Its rejection by the NEA could mean the NEA and AFT are leaning toward a safe middle of the road endorsement for POTUS.

I am not surprised by the vote but it is not good news for public schools.

This is from Politico:


A day after applauding Sen. Bernie Sanders' call to pause charter school expansion, the union voted against making such opposition a condition of its endorsement.

—The vote could signal how tricky this issue may be for unions. While they have blamed charter school growth in some states for taking money away from traditional public schools, some charter school teachers are members of unions.

—Sanders (I-Vt.), one of 10 candidates who participated in the group’s forum on Friday, came out swinging against charter schools, citing his proposal to end federal funding for for-profit charter schools and to place a moratorium on all new charter schools until they can be studied. Union members also applauded when New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said “no federal funding for charter schools.” See our takeaways from the forum.

—The defeated business item would have required candidates seeking an endorsement to publicly oppose all charter school expansion. The item says that would mean repudiating the policies of the former and current education secretaries, Arne Duncan and Betsy DeVos, while offering the rationale that charter schools’ purpose is to “cheapen education and strip young people and their families of the right to a public education.”

Saturday, July 06, 2019


The piece below by Long Island parent activist Jeanette Deutermann  is essential reading for understanding why there must be opposition to Michael Mulgrew and his Unity Caucus within the UFT. Last month it appears Mulgrew killed a bill that would have made opting out of state tests much easier for students and parents across NYS.

Mulgrew is the main proponent of our teacher evaluation system because it leaves half of teacher ratings to student test (assessment) scores. He believes that helps more teachers than it hurts. We have shown with strong evidence that the ratings don't matter when it comes to charging or dismissing teachers but the UFT continues to tout testing.

An Unforgivable Betrayal

6 years. 6 years I, we, have been working alongside teachers and union leaders to try to make a difference for NYS children caught in the middle of politics, greed, and power struggles. Every year, I personally spend the two months leading up to the tests reading through hundreds of horror stories sent to me by desperate parents trying to do what should be a simple action: opt out of state assessments. For some of us, opting out is as simple as receiving notification by our school districts that we have this right, filling out a simple form, turning it in, and protecting our children from multiple hours and weeks of meaningless testing. For many parents, this process begins with schools telling them they in fact do not have this right. They are told if they opt out they will be held back, will fail, won’t get into middle school, high school, or even college. They are threatened with CPS and calls to immigration. During testing their opt out children are harassed, reprimanded and bullied by administrators trying to set an example. They are excluded from pizza parties, candy gifts, and school carnivals. The adults in these situations completely lose their moral compass, and the children become the targets. It is sad and unconscionable. And more importantly, completely preventable.

This year we had a breakthrough that could have ended these grueling months of horror stories and interventions. We had a Senator willing to step up, and we had a bill. This was the bill we had dreamed about. One that would make it illegal to treat kids in this manner. This bill didn’t address the larger challenge of over-testing, the chronic problems with the curriculum, or the eroding data privacy. But IT WOULD HAVE PROTECTED CHILDREN. So simple, yet so profound.

Months ago began the hard work of drafting the bill, finding just the right sponsors, and getting the word out that this was the bill that hundreds of thousands of parents wanted our elected officials to pass. Senator [Robert] Jackson and his team worked tirelessly to get this right. NYSAPE (New York State Allies for Public Education) put out an action alert calling on parents and teachers to send letters to legislators telling them to support the bill and sign on. As momentum was growing, the political games began.

Let me be clear. I’m rank and file all the way. I’m the daughter of a NYSUT unionist and the sister of two more. I have made lifelong friends with local union leaders and members across the state. NYSUT members make up half of my organization and sit on my steering committees. It is because of these teachers that the absolute duplicity of their union makes me speak so loudly against it right now. They deserve a union that represents them and their children. They deserve one that will operate with democratic transparency. We all deserve that.

It’s no secret that I am not a Michael Mulgrew fan. I have witnessed the complete and utter lack of democracy that is the current teacher’s union. The union is run by voting. The majority wins. But what looks democratic on the surface hides the ugly truth. The UFT (city caucus run by Mulgrew) has the votes to control the union. The RA [NYSUT Representative Assembly] (where voting takes place) is held in places that many members of smaller locals can not afford to get to or are willing to travel to. The UFT delegates ALWAYS show up. There are caucuses within the UFT, such as MORE, desperately trying to make a difference and change the leadership, but even that is a battle that may never be won. I attended an RA once, to witness first hand the block voting, noise signals, and complete domination by the UFT/Mulgrew. It was heartbreaking. My only face to face meeting with Mulgrew ended with him refusing to back down on keeping testing as the major piece of the
evaluation system because he believed, taking it out of the hands of administrators, even if it placed it on the backs of kids, was preferable. I had heard very early on with this student protection bill that Mulgrew, who very publicly, and very often, has spoken out against opting out, would not allow this bill to pass. Our hope was that [NYSUT President] Andy Pallotta would in fact come to realize that not supporting a student protection opt out bill would be a PR nightmare and he would instead lead with his moral compass rather than what he was told to do, regardless of the consequences from UFT. We had been conversing with NYSUT’s VP, who assured us on several occasions that NYSUT was in full support of the bill and NYSUT’s “lobbyists have been lobbying in support of this bill”. For what it is worth, I absolutely believe she PERSONALLY was behind us and this bill. But as we know, that makes no difference in the larger picture of roles within the organization. This “support” was contrary to what we were hearing from legislators. In fact, they weren’t hearing ANYTHING from NYSUT about the bill, and most believed NYSUT was NOT supporting the bill. We kept asking, and asking for this support in writing FOR MONTHS. Not once were we told that support was contingent on an amendment. Funny thing is, the bill sponsors, who would be the ones to make changes and amendments, weren’t told that either. This wasn’t the first time either. A few years ago we worked with Todd Kaminsky on reversing some of the most damaging aspects of the Education Transformation Act. Those bills were also killed, mostly in part because NYSUT made it clear to legislators that they would not support. Mulgrew’s insistence on keeping testing in the evaluation matrix was again the reasoning.

The night before the last day of session this week we had a miracle. The Senate passed the bill, and we heard word that the Governor would sign if it passed the Assembly. The kids in NY were about to have their win! Here’s the way it works at the end of session if bills make it to the last day and are ready for a floor vote, they can pass. If a person or organization wants to kill a bill, but they don’t want to take the fall for killing it, they propose amendments on the last day. It happens ALL THE TIME. And that’s exactly what happened here. NYSUT realized this thing could pass. This is the only part I will guess at - Mulgrew must have made some calls to the Assembly and NYSUT, throwing his weight around. What we know for a fact: Suddenly Benedetto, who had to be the one to bring it to a floor vote, indicated he would ONLY do so if NYSUT put their verbal support in writing. This is cowardly and a huge red flag of just how little the voices of constituents matter. Benedetto should lose his Assembly seat for that. NYSUT now had a problem. They had been called out as the last remaining factor for months and years of work that culminated in this bill getting passed. I’ll admit, the amendment was a genius idea. The language of the amendment protected schools against a threat that the Regents already eliminated when they removed the Title I funding ties to participation in our NYS ESSA plan. It wasn’t an amendment that made sense, as there is currently no law or regulation at the state or federal level that puts Title I money in jeopardy, nor does NYS have ANY jurisdiction over federal Title I money, but man that sounds plausible!! And it makes them look like they’re the only ones who thought enough about children in poverty!! Win win! Best yet, it can’t be done because it’s too late AND it’s not based in any current law or regulation issue!! And added plus is that everyday parents and teachers don’t know enough about ESSA and Title I to challenge them. I have already seen local members believe the justification of killing this exceptional and desperately needed law, defending the action.

NYSUT has made a big showy campaign of “Correct the Tests!”, and collecting testing horror stories. Yet, when the opportunity arose that would eliminate the source of many of those stories and protect children in EVERY corner of NYS, they instead chose to sabotage our kids. This is unforgivable. I will personally be sending Andy Pallotta, [NYSUT VP]Jolene DiBrango, and Michael Mulgrew each and every heartbreaking story that comes to my inbox, so they can see first hand what they have supported and encouraged by killing this bill. I encourage all of you to do the same. The stories are listed on the Long Island Opt Out and NYSAPE websites. Pick a few out and send them along. Maybe it will have an impact, maybe it won’t.

Rank and file will still be my friends, my colleagues, and my family. Perhaps we can still make important changes in spite of the obstacles that NYSUT leadership places in our way. Onward.

Thursday, July 04, 2019


Thanks to Pat Dobosz for sending out a detailed article from Gothamist on Lisa Mars being reassigned from LaGuardia High School where she is no longer the principal. The Gothamist story is very detailed.

Let's get the basics first:

On June 24th, shortly after she sent an email to students saying she’d be skipping this year’s graduation, it was reported that Dr. Lisa Mars, the embattled principal of the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, was finally stepping down after six years.

Mars cited “personal reasons” for her absence at graduation, and Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Mark Cannizzaro told The Wall Street Journal that she had already been considering a new position. But her departure as principal came after years of protests by LaGuardia students, parents, and teachers, including an hours-long sit-in hundreds of students staged on May 31st.
Okay, so now let's dig a little deeper:

“A lot of news sources are turning this into, ‘We don’t want to learn or take advanced classes,’” says Cali Greenbaum, who served as tech theater rep in LaGuardia’s student government before graduating last month. “That’s not true. We want a good education; we just want an even focus on academics and the arts.”
Unlike at other specialized high schools in New York City, LaGuardia—which evolved from the High School of Performing Arts, the inspiration for the movie and TV series Fame, and which has produced dozens of well-known graduates, including actor Timothée Chalamet, comedian Michael Che, and rapper/actor Awkwafina—does not use standardized test scores as its basis for admission. Instead, prospective students are assessed based on an audition or art portfolio and their middle-school academic record.

But since Mars's arrival in 2013, according to a report by NBC New York, any student who fails to get an 80 or better in any core academic subject (English, math, science, or social studies) in middle school is summarily rejected, regardless of artistic talent.
It's a requirement that Mars's opponents say only ends up penalizing students who failed to attend middle schools with strong academic support systems. “Who are any of us in middle school?” asks Lauren Kinhan, whose daughter recently graduated from LaGuardia. “I would like to think that at 13 and 14 years old, you still have a chance to go to LaGuardia, regardless of what zip code you live in.”
In fact, complaints about the admissions process becoming less arts-focused surfaced years before Mars's arrival. Joseph Cassidy, then the principal of a middle school that sent many students to LaGuardia, lamented such changes in a 2000 New York Times article. “Fifteen years ago [in 1985], it seemed LaGuardia would take the brilliant graffiti artist who didn't have good grades,” he said. “In the last five to ten years, they're also taking into account grades and attendance.”

At the same time, LaGuardia’s black population dropped and its Asian population increased dramatically. In 1989, the student body was about 37 percent white, 34 percent black, 19 percent Hispanic, and 9 percent Asian; by 1999, it was roughly 37 percent white, 25 percent black, 21 percent Hispanic, and 16 percent Asian. Today, it is around 46 percent white, 18 percent Hispanic, 19 percent Asian, 7 percent multiracial—and only 10 percent black, in a city that is 24 percent black.
LaGuardia’s decreasing diversity is particularly distressing to those who graduated in the 1990s, when the school was more racially mixed. Natalie DeVito, who graduated from LaGuardia in 1992, recalls being friends with Alexis Cruz, “a Puerto Rican kid from the Bronx” who has acted professionally since age 9.

Let's hear the teacher angle on the "sociopathic" principal:
At the same time, parents, students, and graduates have complained that Mars' administration instilled what [recent graduate Christina] Lok calls “a sense of fear” and DeVito describes as “threats and bullying.” Many teachers left the school during Mars’ tenure, DeVito says, and others would only voice complaints anonymously because they “feared retribution.”

Dr. Paula Washington, an alumna, LaGuardia parent, LaGuardia teacher, and union chapter leader who will retire in January 2020, describes Mars as “charming, beautiful, and sociopathic.” She says the former principal had threatened parents and teachers who challenged her, including by convincing one teacher that she had the power to withhold her pension.
LaGuardia, Washington says, should foster different kinds of intelligence. So what if a child shows great artistic promise but has weak grades in certain academic subjects, she asks: “We’re teachers; we can help them.”

Shortly before the May sit-in, Washington organized a vote in which 119 LaGuardia teachers cast a vote of “no confidence” in Mars’ commitment to support and foster the school’s dual mission. (Only 15 supported the principal.) In 2017, the music teachers had revolted against cutbacks imposed by Mars, issuing a blistering joint statement that read, in part, “If your intention is to further erode morale, accelerate faculty turnover, and sabotage our dual mission by phasing out music, then your actions make sense.”

The good news is that the Vote of No Confidence succeeded at LaGuardia just as it did at Forest Hills High School where the Principal was also reassigned. United UFT Chapters have power. This is proven over and over. The struggle within each UFT Chapter is to not let administrators successfully divide and conquer the staff but instead to work as a unified force to the maximum extent possible. It doesn't have to be 100% support for the Chapter but a strong majority needs to work to oppose the principal's policies if they are not seen as beneficial to the school community.

Finally, these principals who are removed from their buildings are not losing their jobs. They end up with administrative jobs in the Department of Education and do quite well. We are not calling for  termination hearings except for the most egregious cases. The disciplinary process, including termination, should be used judiciously for all titles and not to settle personal or political scores. Do you hear that principal apologists?

Tuesday, July 02, 2019


I saw this article in The Chief Leader civil service newspaper. City Comptroller Scott Stringer is proposing starting a teacher residency program to slow the growing retention crisis in NYC which is a main cause of a growing teacher shortage. Our friend Chaz covered it too.

From the Chief:
City Comptroller Scott Stringer has called on the Department of Education to introduce a large-scale residency program that would add 1,000 Teachers to city public schools in order to combat growing problems with Teacher retention.

Teacher turnover and attrition have become a “crisis,” according to a report released by the Comptroller’s Office June 24. Of the 4,600 teachers hired during the 2012-13 school year, 41 percent were no longer working for the DOE by 2018. Citywide, the turnover rate was 15 percent.

That churn contributed to city public schools having a less-experienced workforce: almost a third of Teachers in the system had less than five years on the job, the report noted. Studies have shown that more-experienced Teachers are more effective. A Teacher shortage affecting the entire state has also exacerbated the staffing woes.

The report showed that less than 30 percent of city Teachers who were surveyed believed they were very well-prepared to lead a class after finishing their courses. Some teaching programs required as little as 40 days as classroom training. Mr. Stringer believed that providing Teachers more on-the-job experience before they’re hired would encourage them to stay.

Teacher residencies are not a bad idea but if experience matters, why are there hundreds of Absent Teacher Reserves, mostly experienced, without regular classrooms? I can't get too enthusiastic about teacher residencies under current NYC education conditions.