Friday, February 12, 2010

JW Email 15


The district chapter leaders meeting was not held this month, so I do not have information to send you from that, but there is an unusually large amount of info in the Chapter Leaders Weekly that you might want to know about. I'm paraphrasing some of it, but quoted material will be in blue. So, I'll stay off the diabolical issue of school closings, protests, contract and protests for this one email, and base everything on that Weekly — except for one message about the rubber rooms:


Remix had a very important forum last night on Rubber Rooms, and you can hear it if you go their website, along with one they did on the same subject now in their archives. (The link is now on the front page of Remix, but if they update it, search "Rubber Room.")

It's a long show, but valuable. I consider myself up on the rubber room debacle, but there is information in this program that is new to me and unfortunately horrible. It is moderated by Ms Blue, who poses questions to teachers, Radio Rahim, Betsy Combier, and callers from out of state who are horrified at the reasons why NYC teachers are placed there. Lots of aspects on this whole issue: politics, race, degradation and demonization, ageism, financing, branding, lawsuits, big money, illegality, etc. It's not vacation reading, but it might get you angry enough to . . . protest. (Sorry, I said I wasn't going to use that word this time.)

And this note: Check out this map for the distribution of new charters and closed and closing schools.

I suspect I'll be sending another email this weekend, in which I will not be able to avoid the subjects specifically omitted in this one.

Continued apologies for not desiring to proof these too aggressively before sending, and best regards,




Broad principles they're planning to change over the next two years:

  1. The overwhelming majority of children with disabilities should attend the schools they would attend if they did not have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).
  2. IEPs should emphasize long-term educational outcomes.
  3. Schools should have the curricular, instructional, and scheduling flexibility to meet the diverse needs of students with disabilities. In return, schools will be held accountable for improving outcomes.
  4. Schools must be active partners with parents of students with disabilities.

What does the UFT want to do? They're going to present a resolution at the next DA to "to develop an oversight committee representing important stakeholders as the DOE proceeds to develop and implement its proposed reforms." Oversight committees should actually have the power to do something, which the UFT does not, so I don't know what the point is of setting something like this up. What they should have done is withheld support for mayoral control until he stopped these violations and gave parents back a voice in determining what's best for the children's education.

Essentially, the managers of the UFT fuss about something they don't like, but in the absence of any action with teeth, they basically succumb, which is tantamount in my opinion to collaboration.

It's like the Paperwork Overload campaign. The union built a "paperwork committee" into the 2006 contract, in Art. VIII on Educational Reform:

I. Reduction of Paperwork
1. Committees composed equally of representatives of the Board and the Union shall be established at the central, district and division levels to review and reduce unnecessary paperwork required of employees. Any proposed additional paperwork shall be reviewed by the appropriate level committee and such committee may make recommendations to the Chancellor, community superintendent or division head as appropriate. The Board shall not act unreasonably on the committee’s recommendations.

then made a big deal about it in the spring of 2007 with a survey, and pushed it again in a DA resolution a year later (Jan 08). Nothing has come of any of this that I can see. In fact, at my school they're trying to turn some of the teachers into scribes, demanding that they to transfer attendance data into a separate file, probably for Quality Review purposes and for zero added value in the teaching of our kids. We are already taking student attendance probably twice: on the bubble sheets and for our own personal records. If we have HS homerooms, we do it a third time. If I were asked for this third (in some cases fourth) version, I would just turn over xeroxes of my attendance records and ask them to find someone else to extract the data — or pay me per session.

PS: I know teachers are caving on these demands all over town. The union has stopped making solidarity a priority, and we all suffer for it.


The weekly also says: "Be sure that your school has the staff to service special ed students. . . With the budget crunch, some principals might try to cut corners on special education and seek to excess paraprofessionals who can provide the needed services to special ed students or leave vacancies unfilled."

I have way too much to say about special ed violations, but it's not just a matter of the present budget cuts. Kids inside and outside the special ed classifications are not getting the learning services they need. The UFT is acting as if this were a recent thing, but we know certain things are going on all the time.

I have said before that I am not so willing to go to the UFT website to report spec. ed violations, because I was told that there would be no whistleblower protection for me if I did. What I just found out is that some people are reporting such violations to 311 - which accepts anonymous reports, or even second-hand ones (like asking a friend to call something in for you, perhaps from a phonebooth). If the 311 responder feels like looking into the charge, he might start an investigation. The person who told me this knows of cases where this happened.


No word yet of an incentive, nor of the DoE cutting loose its high-paid consultants. But the CL Weekly does say that we are at the beginning of the budget process, the final city budget to be adopted in June. This sentence does irritate me: "We will continue to work as we always have to protect, the schools and the children in New York City." Maybe it's a typo, but I don't want to pay dues for the UFT to go off protecting the schools and children in NYC. I want to pay them to protect my job and the quality of my workday.


I'll just quote this as is:

"In May, the DOE will grade math and ELA standardized tests. Some will be done after school, with graders receiving per session pay. But due to the budgetary constraints, we anticipate most scoring will be done during the school day, as principals must pay for per session from their own diminishing budgets. The UFT continues to demand that the DOE use qualified non-classroom teachers or those in the absent teacher reserve (ATR) pool before they pull any classroom teacher and disrupt instruction. A recent Principal’s Weekly points out, “This year, qualified ATRs will be included in the list of teachers you can designate to score.” Under no circumstances should a principal use a mandated service provider if this results in the cancellation or curtailment of mandated services for students. Chapter leaders and their consultation committees should seek involvement in making such decisions."


Responsibilities and limitations on assignments are in Art.VII of the contract. If you have issues, the UFT says contact Rosemarie Thomposon, Guid. Counselor CL, 212-598-7776. (What they can or are willing to do for you is beyond me.)


The UFT is telling us again NOT to use our DoE email address to conduct union business. They're not saying to keep off DoE computers when you're doing union business, just avoid using the DoE email addresses. I can only think that this is because "unknown" people have access to what we may be writing. What other reason could there be? Union business is, after all, part of our profession, as much as the DoE would prefer us not to have a union at all.


This notice really makes my blood boil, but doesn't seem to bother the union at all. TDRs, according to the DoE, "are designed to measure teachers’ contribution to their students’ learning. . . based on student performance on the Jan. and March 2009 state standardized tests." Teachers should really start protesting about that "complex statistical formula" they use to compute scores in math and ELA for each teacher "based on whether students fell short of or exceeded their predicted test score gains, and by how much". There is no reason I can think of that the union is sending this notice to us WITHOUT COMMENT on how fundamentally unfounded and distorted these statistics must BY DEFINITION be.

As I said before: Collaboration.

TAX BREAK FOR EDUCATORS (who do their own taxes, that is)

From the Web site of the Internal Revenue Service: “If you are an eligible educator, you can deduct up to $250 of your unreimbursed expenses (otherwise deductible trade or business expenses) you paid or incurred for books, supplies, computer equipment (including related software and services), other equipment, and supplementary materials that you use in the classroom. For courses in health and physical education, expenses for supplies are qualified expenses only if they are related to athletics. You can deduct these expenses even if you do not itemize deductions on Form 1040, Schedule A.” For more, visit their Web site here.


As with the Workshop Model (kids teaching kids about what they know nothing about), no textbooks, and kids don't need foreign language or the arts, it now seems teaching to modalities — a PD subject much in vogue these days — is cute, but unsubstantiated:

"Teaching to learning modalities doesn't help: Everyone know that when students learns in their preferred modality (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic), they learn better. Except that everyone is wrong, according to a study reported in eSchool News (free registration required). A study by four cognitive scientists for the American Psychological Association reviewing thousands of studies attempting to show the usefulness of teaching to learning modalities found that not one could scientifically establish the method's effectiveness. Noting that many administrators ask teachers to differentiate instruction for their students, the scientists said using learning modalities as a way to differentiate was not warranted. Said one, “I certainly wouldn't recommend spending time and money on an idea that isn't evidence-based.”


"Flattery will get you nowhere: Parents and teachers who over-praise their kids do more harm than good, according to Britain’s Daily Mail. California’s Stanford University found, in a study, that students who are over-praised lose motivation, become risk-averse, and make less effort. Moreover, grades can suffer, perhaps due to perceived pressure to achieve."

We coulda told them all this . . . if they'd only listen to us once in a while.

CERTIFICATION STATUS LETTERS: some teachers still have problems, and some have resolved them. Letters will go out to both groups this month, but CLs are supposed to let people know. If you're still in danger of losing your certification, follow the DoE instructions in that letter or contact the UFT for help.


. . . but I haven't tested used it, so just passing on this notice: "School facilities data now public: The Principals’ Facilities Web site has been renamed the School Facilities Summary Web site and can now be accessed by the public. This site gathers facilities data in one place, annual building condition assessment surveys; capacity and utilization data; past and current capital plan projects; facility requests for inclusion in the capital plan; School Stat school cleanliness ratings and district/citywide comparisons; building repair requests; and custodial engineer building maintenance plans."


You have to register to keep getting them as of March 1st. "Here are step-by-step instructions for accessing the portal, and here are instructions for registering to keep getting paper pay stubs. To avoid any interruption in the printing of pay stubs, members must opt in by Feb. 19. Otherwise, employees wishing paper stubs will have to print them from the Payroll Portal. Members will also be able to switch their preference for pay stub suppression at any time; the process will take one or two pay periods depending on payroll closing dates."


Distributions to Tier I and II members part of the settlement will see payments credited to their Increased-Take-Home Pay accounts (ITHP) on next statement (the QPP statement for the lst quarter of 2010). You'll get a letter if you're in the "class."


Other stuff you can write me for if you wish: scientists for your classroom, maternity workshops, low-cost PD, concerts, Bodies Exhibition free on Teacher Tuesdays.


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