Friday, July 27, 2012

Goodbye 'Master Teachers'. We Hardly Ever Knew You

Do you remember last year, when the DOE sent out letters and emails inviting teachers to apply for Master Teacher positions at the restart and transformation schools? A lot has happened since then. When the DOE & UFT couldn't agree on an evaluation system for these schools, SED pulled the plug on the Federal Improvement Grants and Bloomberg tried to switch the model to Turnaround (partly as a way to keep the grant money).

We all know the results of that, don't we? Turnaround as it was tried by Bloomberg, was shot down. But what happened to those Master Teachers and Turnaround Teachers? Check out the letter the DOE sent them this week; they're under the bus. 

Turnaround and Master Teachers received this: Dear Master Teacher,
We are writing to update you on the status of the Master and Turnaround Teacher program for the next school year. As you may know, these positions will not continue for the 2012- 2013 school year and we wanted to ensure that you have clear information on your next steps for the coming year.
The UFT and DOE have agreed that Master and Turnaround Teachers will take their rightful place in seniority order on the school’s Table of Organization as a regular teacher unless one of the following options apply and you choose to exercise it:
· If there is a vacancy in your license area at your prior school, you will have a right to return to that the vacancy until school opening only; it is the teacher’s choice whether or not to take this option.
· If you and your current principal agree, then you may go into excess rather than staying at the school. Master and Turnaround Teachers going into excess may choose to go into excess in the current district or the district of their prior school. Decisions must be made by August 7, 2012.
· All Master Teachers and Turnaround Teachers will be invited to join the central Lead Teacher pool. Teachers in the central Lead Teacher pool may apply for and be selected into available Lead Teacher positions citywide through August 7, 2012.
· Consistent with the rights of all teachers, Master Teachers and Turnaround Teachers may seek a position at a new school via the Open Market through August 7, 2012.
To facilitate your transition, we ask that you indicate your preferences for next year by completing this short survey by August 1, 2012. Should you not respond to the survey, you will assume a position in your current school’s Table of Organization.

This is what happens when policy -and the politics that go with it on the local level- shifts twice in two years. good, earnest people wind up having their careers set back at least a bit. This is the business model! And those schools? Still in need of improvement.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

5 Things You May Not Know About the Christine Rubino Case

Here are five things you may not know about the whole Christine Rubino case:

1. Her case set an important PERB precedent that significantly limited the privacy of teachers. Because of this decision, statements that public employees make from their home on Facebook (even only to their 'Facebook friends') are now legally seen as publicly made comments. What we now say on Facebook is just as public as if we were to say it on TV or any other public forum.

2. Her case set another important PERB precedent; one that significantly limited the free speech of teachers: Because of Randi Lowitt's decisions, nothing we say on Facebook -if we reference our job or our students- is protected by the first amendment. Ms. Lowitt referred to this as the "teacher's hat" threshold. If we're discussing something that is a matter of public discussion, yet where our 'teacher's hat' by referencing our students, the first amendment doesnt' protect us.

3. The New York State Supreme Court agrees with the limited privacy and limited speech precedents set by Randi Lowitt's PERB decision. When she 'overturned' Ms. Lowitt's decision last February, Judge Barbara Jaffe did not overturn Randi Lowitt's 'findings' that limit free speech and privacy for teachers. In fact, the only thing she overturned in her decision was the actual punishment. She let the other findings stand.

4. The only 'teachers' rights' issue Ms. Rubino is fighting for with her appeal next month is the right to be fairly penalize for committing an infraction.  She's trying to fight for those First Amendment assertions, but a full fledged fight would take much more money, time and resources than any member of the middle class could possibly afford). All she just wants is to be fairly penalized so that she can get back to work.

5. According to Betsy Combier's 'Parent Advocates' blog -and another person- the students that she had originally vented over with her comments in the first place went on to middle school, where ...wait for it ... they were involved in the blinding of another little boy in the cafeteria. -an incident that shocked the whole city last June. I won't suggest any significance to that whatsoever. You can decide whether there is for yourself.  I just thought it  might be something you that ... may not know about the whole Christine Rubino case.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Another Arbitration Ruling Is Overturned By the Courts

This is becoming a trend!

A district 75 teacher and dean notified the guidance counselor about a student's suicide note instead of notifying the principal. The dean then turned the note over to the father -instead of keeping it with the school.

The DOE charged her with conduct unbecoming of a teacher (3020-a proceedings in DOE parlance).  Yes, you read that correctly. 

She was found guilty of interfering with a DOE investigation (because the note wasn't kept, but was given to the father instead)

The punishment? A $7,000 fine!!

Now outside the DOE, interfering with the police is only punishable by a $1,000 fine. So, naturally, the teacher got a lawyer and she did what more and more teachers are doing with these unfair harsh arbitrator decisions: She sued the DOE.

The decision? The judged agreed! The court ruled that the fine was harsh and excessive and sent it back to the arbitrator for a more humane penalty.

Or should I say human?

A $7,000 fine for giving the note to the father.  When the same charge in court would have brought only a $1,000 fine

Should teachers be held to a legal standard that is even higher than the average citizen?

The answer is clearly no. But  the NYCDOE doesn't seem to think so. And if you want that protection, you'll have to pay for a lawyer and fight for it in court.

Read the court ruling here. It tells the whole sordid tale.

Or read the post from The Assailed Teacher's blog for a more complete picture.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sure, But It's Not a Reorg

Let's review:
1. The DOE has undergone two full bore reorganizations since 2003.
2. In 2010, the DOE underwent what Gotham Schools called a third, although they wouldn't call it that.
3. This year, New York State submitted a NCLB Waiver application that would have NYC schools measure their data and reach AYP along different school districts, as opposed to one continuous school district, the way it is now. See the piece Geoff Decker from Gotham Schools wrote here. Please pay special attention to this passage here
New York City ...  will not be evaluated as one entire district, according to a provision. Instead, each of the city’s 32 districts would be evaluated based on state test scores for its schools
Common sense says that the networks -which run across the whole city, won't fit within the structure of the new accountability system (not that that's definitive. It's NYC, common sense sort of takes a back seat here).

4. This year, after the waiver application piece was published, a few Network leaders surprisingly took jobs as principals -a clear demotion in my opinion. This handsome guy caught wind of it through the rumor mill and published this post suggesting the possibility of another reorganization. It became the most viewed post ever of his blog. He didn't  want to get into what Google Analytic said about how many of those page views came from IP addresses within the NYCDOE (as I recall, teachers were on vacation when this post was published. Administrators (such as network people weren't), but it was a lot.

5. Rumors in June about network people being afraid that an ax was coming sometime within the month of July. Three rumors in all, but all through the one same 'friend', so no one published anything about it. I really don't care that much about it, because their reorg doesn't have much to do with my job, but the romors now bare mentioning because ...

6. ... just yesterday,  Francesco Portelos   observed network people (with UFT protections) entering the ATR, which Norm Scott published on his blog (here)

But wait, there's more! some of the network people took to Scott's comment section. One of them revealed what I believe to be the mother of hints as to what exactly is happening within the networks:
This all stems from NY State's lack of recognition of the network structure and only recognizing districts 
So the comment obviously points to the NCLB waiver (not recognizing the NYCDOE's (controversial) move away from geographic districts and to these networks) as the reason for THIS ALL happening.

But would a few UFT people entering the ATR from the networks constitute THIS ALL?

It seems absolutely clear to me that something more is coming, that that commenter at least feels that something more is coming is only backed up by a few very powerful hints: 1)measurement by district (dissing the networks) 2) some leaders jumping ship (to take on very difficult schools) 3) people already being placed in excess.

Sure, but it's not a reorg,

And they're not keeping it secret because they want to avoid giving too much opportunity to community leaders who have been locked out of the process for over ten years.

And I don't have a belly and Santa Claus is real and, oh, by the way, the city really wants to sell the Brooklyn Bridge (I know how to contact the broker).

The only thing that would upset me about a re org like this would be a democratic government hiding it from a city filled with stakeholders. Other than that, I truly don't care, but the writing is so clearly on the wall at this point. There IS a reorg coming and the DOE/city WANTS to keep it from public discussion.

That guy should have done a post called "things that make you go 'duh'"

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It's Important To Remember

That while there is a war on teaching, there is, in fact, a process happening in our society where the 'better half' is  able to provide opportunities for their children that 'other half' is not.

 This David brooks piece says it all. It's called an opportunity gap. And while the piece speaks more about society's commitment to the underclass, and less about schools', the points he raises have obvious wide reaching effects on our profession, our work and our students.

It's also important to remember that virtually everyone involved in education from a care-giver perspective is from the better half.

And maybe it's important to note that not much is being done about it as long as this polarizing debate within our profession rages on.

Well, I'm off take my daughter swim lessons, then gymnastics and her private pre-school's summer program!

Take care.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Few Notes About the Word Cloud

It's actually called a tag cloud. Read about it here. I'm not going to bother explaining why I made sure some names were larger than others. I'm not being snarky. I just don't think it matters. Instead, I just wanted to briefly describe some of the names most folks may not be familiar with. If there's a name that isn't described, you'll have to Google it. Some of the names are so obvious I don't think I should have to describe them -yeah, I'm totally being snarky (sorry! I"m usually not!!).

Anyway, in case you didn't know:

Socrates - Was the first teacher in the western world. Also the first one to be put to death (for teaching)
Plato - Established the gymnasia
Aristotle - Listen, he taught Alexander the Great. What more needs to be said?
St. Thomas Aquinas - Established Catholic School education
Mao Ze-dong - It's a little known fact that, as a general, Mao made sure his army taught Chinese peasants how to read and how to use better farming techniques. That's right, he created the first successful education system where the underclass became literate and had an occupational skill. He would have made a good Chancellor. That puts him on my list.
Bishop Mclaughlin - As the head of NYC's Archdiocese, he forcefully demanded equal public education for the city's underclass citizens (at the time, a social status occupied by his Catholic parishioners). He wasn't the last angry person to rail the establishment, but he sure was the first.
Jon Stewart Mill - Toward the end of his career, he argued for a publicly supported, compulsory education for all -a fairly debatable topic during his period of time.
Burke Noted how public education strengthens our social culture
Pestalozzi -He was a precursors to Dewey and Montessori. He wrote about how children should learn through activity (It's always an Italian who thinks of these great ideas. Hey, did you know the Helicopter, Hand-glider and Submarine were all invented by Italians too? mhmm!).
Hutchins _Thank him for the 'Chicago Model' -the idea that a liberal education should be taught and that learning should be measured by testing (somewhere, some psychometrician is thanking this guy for inventing their science). He would love NYS Regents Exams and VAM.

You can't have this word cloud, but you can have one just like it (here)

Friday, July 6, 2012

First Post

What does one say on a first post. Well. I'm me and this is my new blog.
More to come I guess.