Sunday, September 28, 2008

NYC Ed News From JW

Sept. 28, 2008
Hello, good afternoon,

I'm going to put the informational things up here at top, but I'm ending this email with some new sections because our profession is taking some major hits these days, and it's just very hard to keep quiet.

TRS investment funds
The Sep. 22 posting on the UFT website says little more than what I reported last week: they're impacted, yes, but each of the Funds "do not have significant exposure to any one company." I don't know if that helps much.

School TONE campaign (LOL)
The Sept.25 post on UFT website about its School TONE campaign says that "TONE" stands for "Teamwork and Organization: Necessary for Education." The main services it's pushing/offering to schools are saftey walks, incident analysis, review of the school's safety plan, violence prevention, crisis intervention, and training.
The UFT wants us to put up a poster on the UFT bulletin board in our schools about this thing, but I don't have the heart to do go along with this. If someone else wants to post it on the board, be my guest. I'll tell you where I stashed it. Schools all over are having trouble with their mean-spirited, under-experienced, easily bought, and seriously morally challenged administrations, and the UFT comes up with a School TONE campaign that addresses none of these issues? Give me a break.
I don't know of the ramifications of their encouraging us to file incident reports (online at or fax 212-677-6612). Principals don't like these, that's for sure. Diminishes their chance for bonuses, I should think.

More on Teamsters 237 two-year 4% — 4% deal I mentioned last email
James Eterno wrote an analysis of this deal and its implications for our next contract (Nov 2009). He writes:'
"While many people are surprised that a deal that sets a pattern would be struck amidst an ever worsening financial situation at the city, state and national levels, it is apparent that the city already budgeted in settlements for the civilian unions, including the UFT. According to this pattern, the UFT would receive a wage and benefit package that would be similar but slightly lower than what the uniformed unions negotiated. . . . There are no reported givebacks in the 237 deal or any of the current police and other uniform settlements."
He makes the point that if patterns are being set here, then the goal of our union would be to reverse the givebacks of the past few contracts. "The contract should not be exclusively about money," and later: "A contract that equals the pattern and gives nothing further away is not sufficient even in difficult economic times." People should be thinking how they can work collectively to get back what was given away — on top of the 4 + 4 that can be expected through pattern bargaining.

Press releases, and all that jazz
Weingarten "blasted" the DoE for spending millions on new teachers while "excessed veterans work as subs," according to Barr's Chapter Leader Weekly. You can read her press release for yourself, but I could ask:

What's in a name? That which we call a press release
By any other name would do as little.

The corporate strategies of Joel Klein will not go away until someone starts boning up on the historical gains of organized labor.

DoE is chastised by the State Ed Dept for poor record keeping in lowering class size (or not)
On Sept 15th, Leonie Haimson, a parent who started Class Size Matters some years ago to pressure the city for smaller classes, sent out a memo to her mailing list that included this information:
Class sizes and/or student-teacher ratio went up in nearly 54% of NYC schools despite millions of $ of additional state aid. The State Ed dept said that because of the DoE's sloppy reporting and poor performance, it is requiring more detailed reporting — laying out the specifics they're looking for — as well as certified audits. If the DoE can't document well enough this year, it will withhold additional money. Haimson says: "This sort of forthright statement is nearly unprecedented for the State Ed Dept, and is a real step forward in terms of accountability and transparency."

The mayor's forthcoming budget cuts
The mayor will be announcing his budget cuts this week, and there's a petition being circulated as to how the city can saved eucation dollars. This strikes me as a great list, and that's why I am bothering to let you know about this.

* Place a hiring freeze on DoE employees at Tweed HQ
* Cut ARIS ($80 mill. computer system to track test scores)
* Eliminate $80 mill. McGraw-Hill ACUITY contract that creates test prep factories grades 3-12
* End school progress reports (whose validity is suspect)
* Stop the K-2 standardized testing program ($400,000/yerar)
* End the Leadership Academy ($50 mill. over 5 years)
* Cut 2009 School Quality Review ($6.5 million plus travel and lodging to a Brit. company, CEA, to do them)
* Cut the "Think-Link" computerized warehouse ($1 mill.) to share ideas -- there's plenty of ideas, without paying a dime

Full statement here. You can write, and tell them your name/school/organization.

* * * EDITORIAL PAGE * * *

The burgeoning ATR crisis in the system is making many people nervous about one of the most important underpinnings of our profession: tenure. As Klein continues to maneuver people out of real positions with contractual agreements, fiscal changes, school closings, and some very questionable tactics in the judicial arena, the jury is still out on whether Weingarten collaborated on parts or all of this, or just keeps getting plain outwitted. In any case, there are some people in our union who do not even know what an ATR is. To me this is proof positive that the union has failed to make its case in the public square, and that tenure might well be the next in a long, long line of union givebacks.
Weingarten has said many times that our jobs are safe and she will not give up tenure, but what she has already given up in the name of "fighting" for us is huge. Here's one pretty comprehensive list. We never knew we'd be giving up any of these, until she went about giving them up, so who knows if she's negotiating away tenure at this point.
The chapter leader of Lafayette HS wrote this comment on a blog: "Following the events of the past week, it is obvious to me that the ATR situation will most likely drag on until the next mayor and chancellor take office. The UFT will NEVER allow the ATR's to be placed on unpaid leave. Klein will not negotiate in good faith."

Ednotes responded, and he's one of the savviest of the ed commentators nationwide:

Klein is perfectly willing to pay these people [excessed teachers, ATRs who haven't been placed] as a short term investment in getting what he wanted. The end to seniority and bumping, the biggest roadblock to his plan to undermine the public schools and the union. Once the UFT handed him that all he now has to do is close schools - and don't think there isn't a political not an educational goal in these closings, which by the way the UFT totally goes along with - no attempt to organize resistance, support parents and teachers who want to fight to keep them open.

So Klein will use public pressure to try to embarass the UFT into giving up the ATR's but you are right. The union doesn't have to do anything and they still will be paid.

Klein also gets to send senior teachers anywhere he wants to, smeothing he wanted from day 1. In fact, Klein can manipulate kids and resources to make a school fail and can close just about any school he wants to. Think: Schools with most senior teachers with highest salaries - those that are left - suddenly start getting kids like crazy without money

Then comes plan B. Klein puts pressure on the schools to get rid of them by hook or by crook by making them pay after a certain point. So we will see bad assignements, observations, pressure, maybe even longer commutes - and no parking of course. The people without the stomach for all this may very well take a buyout. Thus ATR's begin to disapeear with only the die hards hanging on.

The ATR issue may be more important to people like me (who are in it at the moment) than to other members. But this profession is OURS, and it is YOURS. The politics of this, and all the social engineering that's being done in the name of "accountability," "financial management," "quality teaching," and "controlling the unions" is something each member has to understand and grapple with for as long as one values the profession itself and your own integrity.

* * * OP ED PAGE * * *

As long as I mentioned accountability, here's something you might enjoy reading if it were not so fundamentally harmful to kids and communities. It was posted on Eduwonkette's blog (Skoolboy is a contributor), and in case you don't know Eduwonkette: she eats statistics for breakfast.

Could a Monkey Do a Better Job of Predicting Which Schools Show Student Progress in English Skills than the New York City DOE?

The title is self-explanatory, and I don't think I'll be spoiling anything by telling you the result of the contest, that the Monkey won 6 to 0.

Here's the final paragraph:

“Skoolboy will forego the cheap jokes about how a monkey could do a better job of managing New York City’s accountability system than the people currently in charge. On the whole, they’re smart, hard-working people, and ridiculing them is not likely to persuade them to change their behavior (as satisfying as it may be at particular moments.) But the system that they have designed and implemented is profoundly flawed, as this comical example illustrates, and it needs to change. Eduwonkette and I are going to keep hammering on this point, because it has such important consequences for students and for schools.”

Regards (and Happy New Year, to those who celebrate)


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