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Saturday, November 26, 2011

The UFT keeps its promises by publishing them

I would like to believe in the UFT.  I would really love to feel in my heart that they stand behind me and all other New York City teachers with all their strength.   Alas, I find myself feeling like Winston Smith in Orwell's 1984--I desperately want to believe that a man holding up four fingers is really holding up five, but I can't deny the reality in front of my eyes.  

On November 9, the UFT posted on its website a resolution regarding the teachers of the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR).  It included the following:
RESOLVED that the New York Teacher will run an article on teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, including how teachers became part of the ATR.
Has the UFT kept its promise?  Only in the measliest sense of the word.  Yes, an article was published, on page 3 of the November 24th edition of the New York Teacher.  It consisted of a very brief summary of the resolution mentioned above, including the promise to publish an article about the ATR in the New York Teacher.  In other words, the UFT is keeping its promise to publish an article about the ATR by publishing its promise to publish an article about the ATR.  Does that sound like Orwellian doublespeak?  You bet it does.

I'll bet I know the answer to a few other questions, too:
* Why was this article on page 3, and not on page 1 or 2?
* Why did this little four-inch report on the ATR have to share space with news about four other UFT resolutions, none of which relate to the ATR issue?
* Why did this article get the headline "ATR measure breezes through," as if the ATR is not a contentious issue that has inspired hundreds of teachers to attend raucous meetings and has inspired one UFT official to deliver a  "demagogic rant" in opposition to a resolution that was proposed on behalf of ATR teachers? 
* And, finally, why didn't this article contain--as promised previously by the UFT--any information on "how teachers became part of the ATR"?
Could it be that the UFT wants this little ATR nuisance to quietly fade away?  Could it be that the UFT has nothing meaningful to say to a group of over 1,000 teachers who were sold like a mess of pottage so that King Bloomberg wouldn't lay off any teachers?  Could it really be that the UFT leadership believes that their job begins and ends with saving jobs, but the quality of those jobs is none of their business? 

What do you say, dear readers?

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Forbes's Mystery

Thomas Forbes, a veteran NYCATR correspondent, sent us this small but important report.  It contains some good news, and a gnawing question.

I have been sent to three nice high schools in Manhattan the last three weeks: the N.Y.C. Museum School and the N.Y.C. Lab School for Collaborative Studies (in the same building on 17th Street) and now the Institute for Collaborative Education (in the old Stuyvesant building). I was in the same building about a month ago at the High School for Health Professions and Human Services. All have motivated students, and teachers and students are happy despite mediocre administrations. 

A little isle of tranquility in a turbulent sea
They are out of the path of all this Bloomberg nonsense and you do not feel the uncomfortable pressure that exists in many schools. I am trying to understand how these little pockets of positive school environments exist. My 20 years in education has been in the less functional schools with a high percentage of very high needs kids. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cancer Patient U-rated for Excessive Absence

Here's the latest from our well-traveled contributor, Darla.

I spent last week at the High School of Research, otherwise known as The High School of Collegiate Studies. While there I met a great staff, and the teachers were very nice and helpful. 

The Principal, on the other hand, was rude. I was assigned the SAVE room, which was a storage closet. The payroll secretary kept a close eye on my coming and going. The students were fine and respectful, except for a few who had to make a point of being immature and nasty. Overall, it was a quiet week, very boring and lousy parking. 

An example of what a lovely Principal she is? I was informed that she U-rated a teacher for being absent one time above the limit of 10.  The women had breast cancer and was going for chemotherapy.

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Dinner with Teachers

A recent article in the UFT's Edwize blog contained an erudite analysis of statistics regarding the DOE's policy of closing schools it considers to be failing.  The article also contained this very insightful way of looking at the DOE's "accomplishments" over the last ten years:

Have you ever had dinner with a bunch of teachers and there’s one non-teacher, some luckless spouse, at the table with you? The teachers are busy trading secrets of the trade, and the non-teacher is glancing at his watch. For the non-teacher, it’s a long night. For DOE it’s been a long ten years.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gypsy Teacher goes Tech Hi

 Here's the latest from one of NYCATR's roving reporters, Gypsy Teacher.
This week went by in a flash. That is because I was at Staten Island Technical High School. It is a specialized school where students have to take a test to be accepted. 

The first day I was the library assistant and then I was given classes for the rest of the week. Almost every day I was given 6 classes but it was a cake walk. The students were given "real" work to do and they did it. No one was disrespectful and no one had their pants around their thighs. The teachers seemed pleasant but I usually stayed in the room I was assigned to. Every teacher has a computer in their classroom so I usually checked my mail or played games on my lunch period. The parking is abundant and if you want you can walk a couple of blocks to Hylan Boulevard where you wil find supermarkets, delis, and other stores. 

I wish I could have stayed in this school longer but, alas, I am being sent another another journey next week--this time for 8 days!  I'll be going to Brooklyn Tech which has 9 floors. I don't take elevators so this should be interesting. If I have a heart attack on the job is that considered a work related incident? And since parking is ridiculous in downtown Brooklyn I will probably have to put my car in a lot. The teachers that work there probably have parking passes which as ATRs we are not privvy to...whatever! At least once I get there I figure the kids should be good!

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Need a REAL teacher? Call an ATR!

A fourth-grade class at PS 68 has been covered for weeks by per-diem substitutes.  When parent-teacher conferences came along last night, however, the principal realized that he needed a real teacher to speak to the parents.  He didn't call in the Marines.  He called an ATR teacher, named Rod,  who tells the story below.

Today I was asked to cover parent/teacher conferences at PS68. Their regular 4th grade teacher is out for five weeks on medical leave. The class has had day-to-day subs since then. Today, they needed a "real" teacher to deal with parents, report cards, explanations of test results and, of course, a work schedule that extends beyond the time required of a substitute. 

Well, the parents are upset. Their kids are falling behind, they claimed. Why aren't they putting a regular teacher like me in until the leave is over? They haven't had homework for three weeks. I think they confided in me because the kids who came with their parents were really excited about their day with me, reading and doing some fun school work for a change. They also saw a teacher with experience and a concern for their kids education.

I told them to speak to the AP. There are options…Oh, like me. I asked the Chapter Leader and he said the administration is too busy to deal with it and takes the easy way out. Too busy to run the school?

How sad for the kids, parents and me. I felt good, like a real teacher today, the first time since last year, teaching this class, getting them to shape up and talking with their parents. I would gladly stay, unlike some who suggest we don't want the responsibility . The DOE needs to look into poor management of schools like this. Stop blaming us. The UFT, too...Someone, please speak up!

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gypsy Teacher gets the cold shoulder

As I was walking to cover my classes-of-the-day at my school-of-the-week, I saw a familiar face smiling at me. I couldn't place him at first but I smiled back. He introduced himself to me and when I introduced myself I saw his smile slipping. He is the man that I begged to help me through emails and phone calls when they sent me to a school more than an hour from my house. After he failed to help me, I never heard from him again or had any contact with him until today. 

Anyway, I began to talk about the plight of the ATRs and how we are being sent to schools far and wide, most with no vacancies. He agreed that the plight of the teachers in District 76 was appalling. When I asked if a remedy was near, he heed and hawed and said that it would mean an informal agreement between the UFT and the DOE.

As I prodded him further he seemed to close down and look for an escape. "I have to teach my class," he said to me, as I continued to question him on what the UFT was doing to help the ATRs.  He just threw out something about Mulgrew playing politics which I didn't understand.

Then somehow we approached the topic of a class action age discrimination suit against the DOE and he stated we would never win and it would crumble in court. "Why?" I asked. He mentioned something about statistics; again I didn't understand. Maybe this ATR business is making me dumb but I just think he wasn't making much sense.

Anyway, he was inching away as I brought up the fact that principals are still using long-term or day-to-day subs to fill vacancies.  A case in point is my grievance, in which a day-to-day sub is working a full position that should be mine.  "Did you email Amy Arundell?" I told him the UFT was told by me AND others of subs in positions and still NOTHING is being done! 

Finally, he escaped into the men's room. I waited for him and asked him point blank why he was avoiding me and he just said he had to go teach his class, as he left me standing there frustrated and angry! Seems I feel this way a lot lately!

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

The UFT 1% turns a deaf ear

Remember the letter that Philip Nobile wrote to all the UFT bigwigs about the two-hour commute from Brooklyn to Staten Island that the DOE was subjecting him to?  You forgot?  It seems that the UFT forgot it about it also, since none of their top leaders chose to answer Nobile's plea for help.  Here is Nobile's post mortem on this sorry story:

Sad to say, but no surprise, none of the UFT 1 percent responded to my plea re ATRs condemned to hardship commutes. Apparently, Mulgrew et al. have other things on their mind. 

Thomas Bennett
Still, there is light at the end of the tunnel. BASIS rep Tom Bennett says that our complaints have not gone unheard:

"I certainly agree and echo your sentiments. The District 76 situation is a disgrace. We are certainly making this case in conversations with the DOE, and we’re hopeful that there are a few sane people left on the other side. I’ll let you know if I hear any good news."

Bennett told me later on the phone that some S.I. principals have been accommodating. So on Friday I called the faraway McCown Expeditionary School on the Island, this week's assignment, and said that I would be unable (i.e., adverse) to make the monastic 7:45am start. 

"Could you make it by 8:30?" I was asked. That I could do. I urge ATRS to follow the same route for the time being.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Michael Mendel's "Hissy Fit"

NYCATR is proud to present yet another account of the UFT Delegate Assembly meeting that took place on November 9, 2011. This account was written by a representative of Teachers for a Just Contract, a group that presented a resolution to "solve the ATR Crisis."

All three accounts of the meeting agree on one point in particular: UFT Secretary Michael Mendel is not in a hurry to help the members of the Absent Teacher Reserve. 

The big news was Unity’s response to the GEM-TJC resolution. Megan Behrent, a delegate from FDR High School, who is active in several rank and file groups, made a motion for the body to put this resolution on the December agenda for discussion and a vote. As she read each demand, there was applause from some of the delegates. 

Resolution to Solve the ATR Crisis 

Resolved: The UFT will mobilize all members to rally at Tweed & City Hall at the earliest possible date, to demand: 

1. Until Every ATR within a license has a position, no new hiring in that license. 

2. ATRs with arcane licenses, or licenses in which there are few positions, be allowed to recertify in new licenses without loss of tenure or seniority. Those who have comparable and valid state licenses should be grandfathered into those state licenses.  
3. Audit principals’ hiring for possible race and age discrimination. 
4. Restore the contractual right of excessed teachers to the closest vacancy in their license.

UFT Secretary Michael Mendel
President Mulgrew then recognized UFT Secretary Michael Mendel to speak against the motion. 

Mendel’s performance could be described as a hissy fit, or of following the adage that “the best defense is a good offense.” He charged that the resolution was full of untruths and inaccuracies. He picked on the fourth demand, claiming that excessed teachers had never had such a right. His delivery was so excited and disorganized, that some listeners thought he said that before the 2005 contract, excessed teachers could be sent anyplace in the city. Others thought he meant something else.

Before the 2005 contract, there were many provisions of Contract Article 17 - Retention, Excessing and Layoff - that gave teachers the right to be placed in nearby vacancies. For example, in the 2000 contract, Article 17B, Rule 5 states, “To minimize the movement of personnel, excessed teachers shall be assigned within the district to appropriate openings and vacancies.” Rule 6, which applies when there is no vacancy within the district, states, “Where possible, the wishes of the teacher will be taken into account in his/her placement by the Central Board.” 

The fourth demand of the resolution summarizes the complex of rights that existed before 2005, expressing the essence and gist of these rights: teachers had the right to be placed in the nearest vacancy. Before the 2005 contract, when excessed teachers were placed, they automatically became appointed to their new school. (However, they retained a “right of return” to their former school if a position opened for them within a year.) 

(To complicate this issue, similar provisions still exist in the current contract. But they have been rendered void by the June 2011 agreement. But even before June 2011, the introduction of the “open market” system for filling vacancies (Article 18) in the 2005 contract had changed their meaning. Excessed teachers were no longer appointed to the school where they were placed. They remained ATRs unless the principal chose to appoint them: only through the open market system of hiring could they be appointed.) 

Mendel’s attack of apoplexy was not caused by semantics, by the resolution saying “closest” instead of the lengthy jargon of the contract. Mendel is one of the UFT’s most knowledgeable about the contract. He knows very well that, in practice, these provisions indeed gave teachers the right to the nearest vacancy. 

He also attacked the second demand, saying that no one had ever had these rights. Which is a strange argument: a labor movement that does not fight for new rights is a dying movement (which, not coincidentally, is exactly what the U.S. labor movement today is). He also said that a demonstration at Tweed would be inappropriate for such a demand, since these are state rules. However, many times the union has gotten changes in state law, for example, in pension contributions, by winning City support for them in negotiations. 

So Mendel’s substantive criticisms of the resolution are, upon examination, at best weak and at worst picayune. So, what’s up with the hysteria?

Mendel’s hysterics were an attempt to make up for the weakness of his arguments. He was successful. Even independents in the assembly were swayed by the show of emotion, even though they couldn’t follow exactly what he was saying. They assumed it was based on deep feeling, not a calculated move to distract from lack of substance. He was, figurative speaking, jumping up and down yelling “Look out! Watch out! Don’t vote for this! It’s terrible! It’s full of misinformation!” His goal was to defeat the resolution, because it meant the UFT would have to lead a struggle on behalf of the ATRs, and the UFT leadership lacks the will for that. At the risk of being simplistic, no one in the UFT leadership is an ATR, or even runs the risk of being an ATR. The leadership has nothing to gain from undertaking this battle.

But it goes further. Mendel wasn’t just intent upon defeating this resolution. His cries of “wrong!” and “not true!” were meant to discredit the opposition as unreliable, people whose ignorance is dangerous to the union. That’s meant to distract members from whose policies really are dangerous to the union.

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Once again, the New York Teacher fails to report on the ATR

Once again, NYCATR presents you with an empty box, this one found on a streetcorner in Brooklyn, reposing among lovely fallen leaves and less-lovely bags of garbage.  The empty box represents, again, the number of words that the latest edition of the UFT's New York Teacher devoted to the Absent Teacher Reserve.  

Have no fear, however.  The UFT has passed a resolution in which they promise "that the New York Teacher will run an article on teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, including how teachers became part of the ATR."  The resolution also promises the following:

*the United Federation of Teachers will direct its chapters and Chapter Leaders to reach out to members of the Absent Teacher Reserve who are assigned to their schools, to welcome them, and to support them;  

*the UFT [will] demand that the DOE create a protocol for Principals so that UFT members going into a school for the first time will be treated professionally and given the information for that particular school necessary to perform their duties;  

*the United Federation of Teachers will continue to educate Chapter Leaders about the rights of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, and direct its chapters and Chapter Leaders to continue to proactively protect those rights, and to intervene if those rights are being infringed upon by administration, as the ATR may be justifiably reluctant or fearful of speaking up; 

*the United Federation of Teachers has always and will always stand for the dignity of all UFT members.

Friday, November 11, 2011

"Demagogic Rant" by Michael Mendel

Marjorie Stamberg sent us a report about the latest UFT Delegate Assembly meeting on Wednesday, November 9.  We excerpted the parts that are of particular relevance to ATR teachers and their supporters. 

[During question period], most of the questions revolved around the delegates’ concerns for the situation with the ATRs. Now, those who are not picked up by a school which agrees to provisionally pay for them, are going from week to week to a different school. This is tremendously stressful.

A delegate from Madison High School asked about the procedure for ATRs in D 75.

Too bad the UFT doesn't protect the voting
rights of ATR teachers, who are disenfranchised
from UFT elections. 

I again raised the issue of the disenfranchisement of ATRs, saying that there are over 1000 teachers who do not now have the right to vote in any union election because they are not assigned to a school and they do not have their own functional chapter election.

Megan Beherent, a delegate from the Roosevelt HS campus put up a motion: Resolution to Solve the ATR Crisis, for a vote at the next DA. This called for:
1) a job freeze in every license area where there are ATRs who could fill the position;
2) for ATRs to be able to certify in new license areas without loss of tenure; 
3) to audit the DOE hiring for age and race discrimination; 
 4) to restore the contractual right of excessed teachers to the closest vacancy in their license.

UFT Secretary Michael Mendel
There was much support as the motion was  read. However UFT Secretary Mike Mendel opened up with a demagogic rant (my description), saying the points in the motion were not true and advising the delegates to vote it down, which happened.

(The points under dispute were subsequently argued in the hallway with Mendel, who then ceded that the contract did in fact specify excessing rights for teachers in closing schools, however, not to the “closest vacancy” but “within the district.” Mendel’s intervention was purposefully designed to “send a message” to the delegates who follow the lead of Unity Caucus to vote the motion down from appearing on next month's agenda, which they did.)

A motion put up by New Action Caucus reasserting “Dignity for all teachers” was passed. This proposed various support measures for the ATRs but did not address the systemic issue that the ATR pool will continue to grow as long as the DOE is on a school-closing campaign, and until the rights of seniority transfer and excessing transfer have been restored.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Business as usual at the UFT Delegate Assembly

The good folks at the GEM/ATR Committee sent us these tidbits of ATR-related news from the meeting of the UFT's Delegate Assembly on Wednesday, November 9.  The full report appears on the ICE-UFT blog.  

A question was asked about ATRs in District 75 being sent all over the city as it is a citywide district. The answer from Mulgrew was that people should contact the UFT if there are abuses.

The next question was about placing ATRs. The answer was that 212 have been placed.

A question from Marjorie Stamberg was about ATRs voting. The answer was that all members have a right to vote and that the Election Committee was examining the issue. (I didn't even know the Election Committee was active.)

Next up was the motion period. Megan Beherent from TJC (Teachers for a Just Contract) raised a resolution for next month that the UFT mobilize its members to rally for:
1-no new hiring until all ATRs in a license are placed;
2-re-certifying people without loss of tenure in arcane licences
3-auditing DOE hiring for age and race discrimination
4-restoring contractual right to closest vacancy.
There was some discussion about what rights excessed teachers 
previously had but Secretary Michael Mendel spoke against this motion saying that the makers of the motion misinterpreted what is going on. He stated that in the past people were placed anywhere in the city and that is no longer the case; he also argued that to re-certify people without going through the legal process would be unprecedented. After his strong plea the resolution failed to get on next month's agenda.

ATR teacher asked to surrender her driver's license to obtain a bathroom key

Here's the latest from NYCATR's ever-popular Gypsy Teacher. 

I was placed at McKee Vocational High School on Staten Island for this week's stint. The school is a vocational high school but unfortunately does not offer a program in my license area.

Truthfully, when I first saw that I was placed at this school I was a bit worried since the rep around the teacher water cooler was that the school is NOT GOOD. It is good though--as much as any city school can claim to be. The classes I covered were a bit noisy but the students were mostly well behaved and respectful. Many of the "shop" classes are double period classes and one day I had 6 classes (3 double periods) but then the next day I had 4 (2 double periods) and the last day I was given only 3 classes to cover. The aide who gave me my program was very nice. I obtained a bathroom key but had to leave my Costco card with her to be picked up at the end of the day as collateral. At first, she requested my license but I balked at that, fearful it may be lost; hence my Costco card was left.

The parking is horrendous and I was forced to put my car in the Municipal Lot which was thankfully only $7 and a block away. One day I was lucky enough to obtain a spot. The school is 5 floors and as a non-elevator person, my legs got a workout. The teacher's lounge is on the 5th floor and offers coffee, bagels and muffins in the morning. There are delis in the area but I chose to bring my lunch.

I never was introduced to the principal or AP. The teachers and staff were very friendly and I have learned to make friends quickly so I have people to eat lunch with. I always need to talk to adults during the day or I will go batty! The school is clean but HOT. The radiators blasted throughout the day and I don't know why since the temperatures were near 70! Someone said the principal is always cold; I am the opposite.

All in all I would not mind working at this school. And my legs would be rock hard! Truthfully, as I pass through schools and meet with former students who transferred I miss having my own class. I miss TEACHING. I don't miss the paper work...yet.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Is the DOE poised to crown an ATR King?

Is the DOE about to appoint an executive to oversee the Absent Teacher Reserve?  An anonymous commentor to NYCATR, and an email correspondent, both  report that today they met a man named Ralph Granieri (sp.?) who said that he will become the King of the ATR.

Does anyone know who this fellow is?  Is there any truth to this rumor?

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

GEM/ATR flyer targets UFT delegates

The GEM/ATR Committee is gearing up for the UFT Delegate Assembly that will be held tomorrow, November 9. The Committee has prepared a flyer, shown below, that it will distribute to delegates as they enter or exit the meeting. Volunteers are requested to make copies of the flier and to distribute them, at UFT central headquarters, 52 Broadway, at the peak times of 3:30-4:30 and 5:30-6:00.


ATRs will gather Nov. 16 at 5PM at the Skylight Diner (34th St and 9th Avenue)

On Oct. 22, almost 40 ATRs gathered at the first meeting called by the GEMATR committee, exhilarated at the opportunity to share their stories and strategies with others, something they felt they had not been able to do at the UFT borough ATR meetings. There was discussion of forming committees - publicity, legal, UFT liaison, etc. and a call for a follow-up meeting. Since then, ATRs have shuffled to different schools each week and have been issuing great reports on the blogs. While 10% have been offered provisional jobs, there are still an estimated 1200 left and with 49 schools on the DOE (don't fix schools, close them) chopping block, we can expect a massive influx of new ATRs next year.

It was clear to everyone in the room that only by organizing ATRs into an effective force could their interests be defended. And that could only happen by reaching out to other ATRs and the rest of the teaching corps to educate them – the forty must grow into 400. Since then, the GEMATR committee has received daily requests asking to join the GEMATR Google group. If your only sources of information are the D.O.E dispatches from Tweed, the UFT newspaper or the compliant mass media, you are not getting the whole picture.

Some amazing blogs by ATR are out there:,, (each week the ATR brilliantly issues his own rating of the school he was at),, and The amount of information about the schools ATRs visit offers a snapshot of the school system that is proving embarrassing for Bloomberg.

Help fight off the destructive actions of the DOE done in the name of "school reform", as well as the poor decisions of the UFT leadership resulting in the loss of job protections and the unwarranted closure of over 100 of high schools (& middle schools) over the objections of parents, students, alumni, teachers, community, etc.
  • Ask ATRs to sign up for the GEMATR google group at
  • Support the resolution on ATRs co-sponsored by TJC and GEM during the new motion period.
  • Pass the word to ATRs: Attend the Nov. 16 meeting, 5PM, at the Skylight Diner (34th St and 9th Ave.)

The Grassroots Education Movement ATR Committee:

Monday, November 7, 2011

A History of Failed Reform, by Marc Epstein

NYCATR don't take garbage from nobody, but we do take articles that our contributors have previously published in major, national outlets. This one, by the Ronin Teacher, Marc Epstein, was recently published by the Washington Post

If you follow newspaper accounts about school reform, you can't help but notice that various school reforms that have inundated public education over the past decade of mayoral control of the New York City public schools have failed.

Would you buy a used car from these men?

For years we heard that under the leadership of former Chancellor Joel Klein, appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, corporate-driven school reform had achieved big improvements in standardized test scores.

The boast that reading and math scores had achieved miraculous breakthroughs vanished when Harvard Professor Dan Koretz did a study for the Board of Regents, indicating that the examinations were ineffective. In response to the study, the Board of Regents recalibrated the scores downward. The education miracle was a mirage.

That wasn't the end of the bad news. The New York Times reported that 75 percent of the incoming freshmen to New York's community colleges required remedial instruction.

In another Times article detailing one of those remedial programs, Michael Winerip quoted Nikita Thomas, a forlorn freshman at LaGuardia Community College who had graduated from Bedford Stuyvesant Tech High School. Thomas was compelled to take remedial courses in reading, writing, and math. "Passing the Regents [exams] don't mean nothing.The main focus in high school is to get to graduate; it makes the school look good."

Another signature component of Bloomberg's reforms--small school performance, principal empowerment, and school staffing--can now be included on the list of failures.

Breaking up comprehensive high schools and replacing them with four or more small schools inside the old high school buildings was supposed to be the magic bullet that reversed decades of abysmal graduation rates. This was the thinking that prompted Bill Gates to support the concept with hundreds of millions of his philanthropic dollars.

When Gates abandoned the concept because of meager results and exorbitant costs, former chancellor Joel Klein continued his costly agenda, claiming that New York City was the exception to this failed idea. Klein cited none other than Gates to prove his point. His defense of small schools appeared in a Forbes opinion commentary in 2008:

The Microsoft founder acknowledged that one of the foundation's signature efforts during the past decade--helping to create new small schools across the country--had not significantly improved student achievement in most of those schools. Gates cited one significant exception: New York City.
Here, new small schools have replaced chronically failing institutions, and, in many cases, have dramatically turned around student performance. Gates praised these schools for achieving graduation rates consistently above 75%--often twice the rate of the schools they replaced and nearly 20 points higher than the citywide average. Fifteen percent of all students drop out of school here, while only 5% of those from new small schools do.
These claims have vanished along with Klein, who now runs the education arm at News Corp. According to an analysis by Rachel Monahan of the New York Daily News, the small schools created by Bloomberg prepare students for college at a rate far below the traditional schools, although the small schools can claim higher graduation rates.

"On average, the new schools graduate roughly 70% of students in four years. But just 12% of students who graduate are prepared for college. In contrast, similar schools founded before Mayor Bloomberg assumed office graduate on average 64% of students-- but 17% are college-ready." When confronted with these numbers, the current schools chancellor, Dennis Walcott, admitted the system had to do better and that the students were up to the task.

But the latest news on student performance would indicate that being college ready is the least of the education mayor's problems. The just-released National Assessment of Educational Progress scores for fourth and eighth graders indicates that New York's reading scores remained flat, while math performance declined. New York has the distinction of being the only state in the country to post a decline!

If the Bloomberg-Klein emphasis had been on ensuring that students were "middle school ready," we wouldn't be discussing meaningless high school diplomas and remedial college courses.

So when Newt Gingrich applauded Joel Klein's "brilliant" performance as chancellor at an education forum attended by four of the Republican presidential candidates and hosted by Klein and Paul Gigot, the Wall Street Journal's editorial page editor, it's apparent that the participants neither knew nor cared much about the actual results that school reform has visited on the nation's largest school system.

The business model of school reform was supposed to be the guiding principle informing the multiple reorganizations of the state's largest bureaucracy that employs over 100,000 people. Smashing the old culture was imperative for Bloomberg, who proclaimed that he wanted to be remembered as the education mayor.

To that end, principals were given unprecedented control over their schools, including the hiring of teachers. But reformers encouraged hiring young, lower-paid, teachers over more senior faculty on the faulty assumption that the veterans were ineffective (not to mention more highly paid).

As a result the system has become clogged with roaming senior faculty members who've been evicted from the obsolete high schools. Instead of placing them in other classrooms a rational manner, they have been labeled deadwood and incompetent by Bloomberg, while the myth of the younger, more vibrant and successful teacher has been perpetuated.

The small school results should have put an end to this fiction, since new teachers mostly staff the small schools. Instead, the lunacy of having over 1,000 teachers travel to a new school each week, and attend mandated interviews in schools that won't hire them because they are too "expensive," continues.

In another age, revelations that school reforms are little more than a series of phony claims that cost an extra $100 billion in taxpayer money would have resulted in some sort of political retribution. There would be cries for repealing the mayor's dictatorial control of the schools, or cries for an investigation. Today, this is a one-horse political town.

Six years ago ,The New York Times asked Tom Wolfe to comment on Mayor Mike Bloomberg's proposal to build a multi-billion dollar football-Olympic Stadium over Manhattan's West Side rail yards.

The project never got off the ground. The opposition was too fierce for even Bloomberg's considerable political clout and personal fortune to overcome.

But Wolfe's take on New York is well worth noting if you want to make sense of the chaos that has come to define the New York City school system.

Wolfe argued, tongue in cheek, that even though the stadium project was a wildly indulgent waste of money that could best be used elsewhere, we should go ahead with it anyway since New York has ceased to be a city that really produces anything.

Tom Wolfe
For all intents and purposes, it has become a giant amusement park. "Twenty-first century New York," wrote Wolfe, "is fast becoming what Marshall McLuhan saw almost forty years ago: a one industry town, strictly the pleasure dome business, with a single sales pitch, 'You're Gonna Love Gothamland.' "

If you accept Wolfe's view, and I do, you can begin to understand Bloomberg's seemingly endless dismantling of the public schools over the past 10 years as one big Gothamland extravaganza. Education has nothing to do with it.

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Darla reflects on her travels

Darla, the author of the popular "Darla's ATR Travel Guide," sent in this reflection upon her travels. 

The Verrazano Bridge, soon to be renamed ATR Crossing

As an ATR from Staten Island I have only been at one Staten Island school out of all of my selections, while I see that the Brooklyn ATRs are sent to Staten Island. I am not stupid nor are any of us, and when we are told that the computer is the one that selects, we know that that is pure B.S. 

We need to make a chart of who is going where and with which license.

I am an English teacher. Only two out of all the schools to which I was sent had an English vacancy--Boys and Girls and New Dorp, to which I applied 3 times with no response. I understand that New Dorp only wants new teachers. 

I am going to Automotive High School next week and they said they have an English vacancy.

The High School for Journalism needs an Earth Science teacher.

El Puente has no openings, nor did the ACORN School of Global Studies. 

We need to keep track of our travels.

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gypsy Teacher enjoys Concord grapes

NYCATR's Gypsy Teacher reports from her latest weekly assignment:

This week I was placed at Concord. This school is a small alternative high school on Staten Island. The school is very small and only has 12 teachers. So what does the DOE do? Send 2 ATRs! 

Anyway, this is the first time the principal ever sat down with me and asked me my qualifications and how I may fit into the school if there ever is a vacancy. I don't know if he was pulling my leg but at least an effort was made. 

Since the school was so small we spent the time talking and reading in the teacher's lounge. It was very boring. I did cover a few classes in which the students were well behaved and most did the work assigned.The school is clean and there is a deli a couple of blocks away. Parking is excellent. The staff were very nice. So far, I seem to be very lucky that in every school I have been in the staff were very nice and even the administration were very pleasant. I would love to work at this school. Oh, and a bonus is that Friday is a half day for the students and the teachers get out an hour earlier after a staff meeting.

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ATR Resolution to be Presented at November 9 Delegate Assembly

The following was distributed through the  GEM/ATR email group at

This coming Wednesday, November 9, Teachers for a Just Contract will be trying for the second month in a row to get the floor to move the resolution below, co-sponsored with Grassroots Education Movement (GEM). We are asking for help in copying and distributing the resolution. If you are able to make copies and/or come to the Delegate Assembly, please contact TJC at The Delegate Assembly is located at UFT Headquarters, 52 Broadway, Manhattan. The meeting begins at around 4:15. People are needed for distribution from around 3:30 pm until around 5 pm.

Resolution to Solve the ATR Crisis
November 2011
For Next Month’s Agenda

Resolved: The UFT will mobilize all members to rally at Tweed & City Hall at the earliest possible date, to demand:

1. Until Every ATR within a license has a position, no new hiring in that license.

2. ATRs with arcane licenses, or licenses in which there are few positions, be allowed to recertify in new licenses without loss of tenure or seniority. Those who have comparable and valid state licenses should be grandfathered into those state licenses. 

3. Audit principals’ hiring for possible race and age discrimination.

4. Restore the contractual right of excessed teachers to the closest vacancy in their license.