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Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Alfred North Whitehead English mathemetician and philosopher (1861-1947). 

Thanks to Diane Ravitch for bringing this quotation to light. 

Who said it? (#2)

Good morning, boys and girls.  Time for another round of "Who Said It?" Here is today's quotation:
"No educational system is possible unless every question directly asked of a pupil at any examination is either framed or modified by the actual teacher of that pupil in that subject. The external assessor may report on the curriculum or on the performance of the pupils, but never should be allowed to ask the pupil a question which has not been strictly supervised by the actual teacher, or at least inspired by a long conference with him."
Who said it?
     a. Diane Ravitch
     b. Michelle Rhee
     c. Leonie Haimson
     d. Alfred North Whitehead

Click here for the answer. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Needle in the Haystack Department

Hidden like a needle in a haystack in an excellent Gotham Schools article about the monitoring of standardized tests for cheating in New York City public schools:
Monitors did not visit charter schools in 2012.

Geoff Decker, the author of the article, writes in a comment that he has asked for an official explanation for the absence of monitoring in charter schools, but has not yet received an answer.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Who said it?

In honor of all those who think that "irreplaceable" teachers can be created by putting some "best and brightest" twenty-two year-olds through a few weeks of training, we offer a multiple-choice quiz.  

Who said the following? 
There is nothing that training cannot do. Nothing is above its reach or below it. It can turn bad morals to good, good morals to bad; it can destroy principles, it can re-create them; it can debase angels to men and lift men to angelship. And it can do any one of these miracles in a year -- even in six months.
a. Michelle Rhee  
b. Wendy Kopp
c. Mark Twain 
d. Arne Duncan

Click here for the answer. 

Answer:  Mark Twain, in an essay entitled "As Regards Patriotism." 

Those who answered incorrectly will be expelled from Teachers for America and will have to begin their careers as lawyers or hedge-fund managers two years earlier than expected. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Why Our Students' Behavior is So Miserable

There are many reasons why the behavior of so many New York City students is miserable, disrespectful, inappropriate, and downright disgusting.  I am too humble to say that I know all the reasons, or even that I know which is the primary reason.  I do know that one of the reasons has been elegantly stated by a blogger named Jersey Jazzman: 

Our kids are inundated by consumerist-driven messages from the minute they open their eyes. They are subjected to loud, bright, crass, violent, inappropriate, inhumane, sexualized, disrespectful, intolerant media in a wide variety of delivery systems. This constant crush of sound and images is capable of dangerously desensitizing them to the real world - a world where they must learn to collaborate, to question, to evaluate, to empathize, and to respect each other.
Click here to read the complete article.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A House of Mirrors, in Which the Former ATR Finds Herself in a Different Kind of Limbo

NYCATR's star contibutor, Life in Limbo, has done it again: she's managed to get stuck under a low-lying limbo pole, with her poison pencil intact. 

To the regular ATR readers and Friends of ATRs, I hope your summer is going well. 

To the newly-minted ATRs, I hope that your fall down the rabbit hole provides a soft landing and there is a Mad Hatter waiting there with a very strong Margarita just for you (ask for a second, you’re going to need it). 

So, after two years in the ATR pool and a year in a REAL position (at a completely insane and out-of-control school, but let’s not mention that-- oops, too late), why am I here writing for an ATR blog? Good question. I mean, I am a fully appointed teacher who had a satisfactory year by all accounts, right? Life in Limbo should be, for all intents and purposes, out of limbo. Right?? 


Wrong. Apparently, there is more than one type of limbo when you are in DOE Wonderland. 

Let’s turn the clock back all the way to… May. You know, when you get to fill out your preference sheet? Yeah, that time period. I filled out mine requesting a job in my actual license area first, then requesting the job I already had as my second. When tentative assignments came out in June, I was informed that I was (most likely) going to have the same assignment next year. Ok, I thought, this is as good as it’s going to get in this crazy place and I love my colleagues, so yeah, I can handle that. 

Teachers line up for a job fair in September, 2011. 
So I am happily going about my business this summer–schlepping my kids to camp, swim lessons, and basically going with the flow, appreciating that no mandatory, but useless, “Job Fairs” are in my future for the first time in three years. 

Then I get a text message. A colleague tells me that she stopped at school to introduce herself to the new (Leadership Academy) principal and that she got a chance to peek at the new organization sheet for the 12-13 school year. 

My name was not on it. This puzzles me. 

I did not receive an excess letter. 

I did not receive an e-mail, phone call, or smoke signal indicating that I am in excess. 

There was no indication that ANY excessing was necessary under our last principal back at the end of the year. 

HR Connect still lists me as appointed to my school and NOT in excess. 

An e-mail to my AP has not been returned. 

Now, you may be asking, Why not just call and ask? In a universe devoid of absurdity, that would make sense. But this is the DOE, and we all went through the looking glass the day we signed on. So the obvious becomes, clearly, the last reasonable option. 

IF I seek to correct the mistake, then I face being in a situation where I am dealing with a first-time principal with little actual teaching experience (I Googled) in a completely out-of-control school where there have been few, if any, actual consequences for disruptive behavior. I am facing a Leadership Academy principal who has never been a principal before, and who is likely in the building to perform one of two functions: to either drive the school in to the ground so it can be put on the closure list, OR, to get this school “under control” by beating up on teachers so the building can look like a “success” story. Neither scenario puts me or my colleagues in a winning (or even tenable) position. Seems like ten months of torture is on the menu regardless of which is true. 

So I am now tempted to keep this under wraps. At this point, traveling from school to school weekly seems like a better deal than ten months of torture under a Learning Academy principal and the Common Core. In an odd way, given the options, the ATR is the better deal. Now I agree, they both completely suck, but at least the ATR option doesn’t require all the extra hours, paperwork, and “accountability”. 

If my job is going to suck either way, I’ll take the suckage that requires less work.

Monday, August 13, 2012

GEM/ATR Committee: Protect pre-Turnaround ATR teachers

The GEM/ATR Committee has issued a statement in response to the recent arbitrator's decision that saved hundreds of teachers from being assigned to the ATR pool. The Committee's statement is presented here verbatim; only the occasional bold typeface is the addition of NYCATR.

August 11, 2012

1) The UFT is to be applauded for its efforts to defeat the DOE's efforts to vilify veteran teachers and send teachers in the 24 turnaround schools into the ATR pool. The arbitrator said that the DOE was wrong in making teachers reapply for their positions.

However, we call upon the president to extend the same commitment of protection to teachers that have been excessed prior to this June.

This tactic of closing down schools is an old one under Bloomberg, Klein, Black and Walcott. The only thing that is different with the present instance is that the DOE was trying to close schools and circumvent the messy PEP process that resulted in organized community opposition and lawsuits.

There is now court precedent on our side. In New York State on July 24, Judge Joan Lobis sustained the arbitrator’s position by saying that teachers’ contracts must be respected. (290 82nd 338) In Louisiana on June 20, Judge Ethel Simms Julien used the same reasoning to say that 7,000 post-Katrina school employees were wrongly fired in New Orleans. (As this last example is in another state, this can be deemed “persuasive” in a legal argument application for our state.)

While the teachers in the 24 turnaround schools have been saved, it is important to not forget the teachers new to the ATR pool from schools that the DOE has successfully shut down and the prior generation of ATRs. The UFT must insist on a hiring freeze until ATRs have been placed, as it did on September 12, 2007.* 

The excessed teachers are not the causes for "failing schools." The schools the DOE targets for closure disproportionately have low income students, high percentages of special education and ELL students.

1-a) Stop the Lockout
It's time that Mulgrew and the UFT defend all of the ATRs and fight for their placement, just as hard as they fought for the preservation of the positions of the teachers in the 24 schools slated for "closing." 

ATRs are being locked out of positions.
i) ATRs go unhired while novice teachers, many fresh out of college or education school, are placed in positions. We call for the termination of the new replacement workers and for their replacement by ATRs.
ii) Adding insult to injury, workers with the title of teacher are the one class of UFT professional that is forced on a weekly sojourn. The DOE is placing guidance counselors, social workers, librarians and paraprofessionals in full-school year assignments. 
iii) ATRs are asked during job interviews to demonstrate their competency in new teaching protocols: Common Core, workshop model, Danielson Method. Novice teachers are given preferential treatment with summer training in these areas. We call for the termination of novice training and for the offering of training to ATRs.

1-b) No to ending careers with buy-outs
The UFT leadership’s talk of a buy-out is a caving in to the DOE's harassment of ATRs. Mulgrew did not defend the ATRs' teaching integrity when the DOE spoke of the ATRs as dead-weight during the May news reports of buy-out talks.

1-c) No to observations of ATRs
Observations of ATRs beginning in the 2011-2012 are another product of a side agreement to contracts. It is inappropriate for teachers to be observed with students that they have just met, with students that know that the lesson is just a sample lesson.

2) No more side-agreements to contracts
The UFT must stop making agreements to the status of ATRs outside of the contract process. In these side agreements the city is biting off, in piecemeal fashion, contract protections of senior teachers. As an example, on April 15, 2010, and in the summer of 2011 the DOE and the UFT made an ATR agreement without any input from ATRs or other rank and file members of the UFT. These side agreements are made without the sort of membership vote to which contracts are subjected. Yet, the agreements carry the same powerful weight that contracts carry.

3) Dues equity for ATRs: Elected reps of ATRs’ choosing
Furthermore, the UFT must stop its opposition to the ATRs' practice of their electoral rights. ATRs have no venue by which to vote for representatives that come from their ranks to express their interests. Other distinctive groups, such as paraprofessionals and career and technical school teachers have their special divisions. ATRs, with ranks at an estimated 830, equal the size of teaching staffs at about ten large schools put together. For the reasons of parity, ATRs must have elected representatives at the boro level. 

The UFT held during the 2011 to 2012 year that ATRs could vote in whatever school that they were serving for a given week. This is disingenuous. How can an ATR within a few days size up the main issues at a given school and properly weigh the strengths and weaknesses of two or three candidates at the school? It is further unfair to the staff in the school in question. ATRs, as outsiders, in close races could tip elections, affecting the outcome for the staff to be represented at that school. 

The UFT needs to recognize that we are not in a temporary status. It knows, full well, that principals are not inclined to hire them, due to their senior salary level. There is no valid rationale in opposing chapters and representatives with the argument that giving ATRs representation will institutionalize their status. Given that many ATRs have been in this status for more than two years, they already have an institutionalized status by default.

*"Dispelling rumors that their jobs might be in jeopardy, Weingarten made clear that teachers who find themselves working as ATRs maintain their salary benefits and cannot be fired or laid off thanks to a job-security guarantee that the UFT secured in the 2005 contract.
"At a Sept. 12 [2007] labor-management meeting that Weingarten requested on the treatment of excessed teachers, UFT officials called for a moratorium on new hiring until vacancies are filled by current ATRs in the district or high school superintendency provided they have the appropriate license.
"'Filling vacancies with ATRs meets both federal and state requirements related to having a 'highly qualified teacher' in every classroom,' said Weingarten.'"
"DOE officials agreed at the Sept. 12 meeting to modify the new school financing system to encourage principals to hire ATRs. The school will get filled for the first year as if the teacher were a new hire and for the second year at 50 percent of the teacher's actual salary before assuming the cost of the actual salary before assuming the cost of the teacher's actual salary in the teacher's third year at the school.
"UFT officials also urged the DOE, in the next open market transfer period, to require that principals grant interviews, in seniority order, to ATRs with the appropriate license to fill vacancies before new recruits are interviewed or hired. Principals should also be required to put in writing why the ATR was nor hired for the position, the union said.
"The UFT also demanded that all ATRs be allowed access to all DOE job fairs. The union made the demand after receiving word that the DOE barred ATRs from attending job fairs for prospective new teachers last spring." New York Teacher, Sept. 20, 2007. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

No Interviews for ATR Teachers at Fort Hamilton H.S.

Alexander Hamilton was one of this country's earliest financial geniuses.  Jo Ann Chester, the Principal of Fort Hamilton High School, which is named after old Alex, also seems to have a way with dollars and cents.  She has been accused of a complex scheme of underpaying more than a dozen teachers at her school. 

Jo Ann Chester (second from left)  accepts a check
 for $250,000 from State Senator Marty Golden (L).  
If that's not dastardly enough, Ms. Chester also figured out a way to circumvent the DOE's requirement that teachers from the ATR should be interviewed for any open positions. Gotham Schools reports: 
A union source said Chester had not interviewed a single member of the Absent Teacher Reserve for vacant positions, even after the city began requiring schools to interview any teacher in the pool who put in an application for an open position. 

By making it appear that full-time teachers were assigned to every class, the school avoided being assigned members of the ATR pool in the last year, after the city began cycling them weekly into schools with vacancies. 

The city wants principals to hire ATRs whenever possible, because their salaries are already on the city payroll. But schools that hire the teachers, who lost their positions when their schools shrunk or closed, must foot the bill for their salaries. It is less expensive for principals to pick up brand-new teachers whenever possible.

Click here for the full story.