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Friday, April 18, 2014

Sol Stern Responds To Diane Ravitch

The Real Common Core Story
A response to Diane Ravitch and others
17 April 2014
I couldn’t miss the eye-catching headline on Diane Ravitch’s influential blog: “Schneider Schools Sol Stern on the Common Core.” Mercedes Schneider, a Louisiana teacher, is one of Ravitch’s loyal allies in the education-reform wars. Ravitch thinks she’s a great investigator and often cites her work. Actually, what Schneider excels at is promulgating conspiracy theories and using guilt-by-association to discredit those with whom she disagrees—such as supporters of the Common Core State Standards, whom she accuses of being duped and bribed by a corporate, anti-public school conspiracy led by Bill Gates, with an assist from President Barack Obama.
Schneider’s denunciation of one of my recent articles defending the Common Core characteristically didn’t engage with my arguments, but it did provide a list of my nefarious “connections” and “involvements” with conservative organizations. With trumpets blaring, Schneider announced that the Manhattan Institute, where I am a senior fellow, has “a board of trustees noticeably heavy on hedge fund managers” and that “it should come as no surprise that MI promotes ‘economic choice’; ‘market-oriented policies,’ and ‘free market ideas.’” (Schneider doesn’t seem to have noticed that most supporters of free markets in education actually oppose the Common Core.) She also levies the bizarre allegation that “MI is a cousin to the [conservative] American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).” In another feat of investigative journalism, Schneider offers an inside scoop about me and my wife: “Stern is not a teacher, nor has he ever been a teacher. But he is married to a Manhattan, NY, high school teacher. Not sure if she is under the so-called Common Core State Standards (CCSS).” And I’m not sure what that even means.
Another of my defects, according to Schneider, is that I have written favorably about E.D. Hirsch’s Core Knowledge curriculum. She doesn’t explain what’s wrong with the Hirsch curriculum but instead alleges that Core Knowledge “was purchased by Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify in 2013.” If that were true, it would be considered a hanging offense in Schneider and Ravitch’s leftist circles, because Amplify is a “for-profit” company and Rupert Murdoch is, you know, Rupert Murdoch. But the Murdoch allegation is false. Schneider probably borrowed it from Ravitch, who published it on her blog last year before retracting the claim when confronted with the truth—that the Core Knowledge curriculum was licensed to Amplify for the sole purpose of distributing it to schools around the country (a good thing for American children.)
Normally, it wouldn’t occur to me to respond to Schneider’s fact-deprived attack—except that it appeared on Ravitch’s blog, which reaches tens of thousands of readers on some days. Ravitch is also the leader of a new left-wing education movement that has effectively exploited parental and teacher discontent with the Common Core Standards. It says something significant about the cause Ravitch now champions that she approves of Schneider’s methods and uses them herself in criticizing my politically incorrect views on education reform.
Like Schneider, Ravitch believes that readers need to know the highlights of my life story and my affiliations in order to evaluate properly my position on the Common Core. She begins by noting that we first met when we were fellows at the Manhattan Institute, which is true. She then goes on to assert as an uncontested fact that after serving as “an editor at the leftwing Ramparts” in the 1960s, I “had a political-ideological conversion experience” and “became a zealous conservative.” My transition from leftist radicalism toward a rather moderate conservatism took place gradually over many years and involved several important issues, including the defense of Israel, education, racial politics, and the failures of the welfare state. Tagging me as a “zealous” conservative is a calculated move on Ravitch’s part. I am no more zealous about conservative ideas than Ravitch was when she served in the administration of the first President Bush. Like her, I support gay rights, abortion rights, and other liberal positions. Indeed, if I really were a zealous conservative, I probably wouldn’t support the Common Core.
Dredging up my political loyalties from almost a half-century ago and my subsequent shift in thinking hardly seems relevant to understanding my views on the Common Core. Yet it does reveal Ravitch’s hypocrisy. I plead guilty to having flip-flopped once, from leftism to conservatism. But Ravitch has flip-flopped twice, from liberalism to conservatism and then all the way back beyond liberalism to her embrace of leftist doctrines—including her much-repeated claim that America’s “one percent,” the corporate elite, are now engaged in a conspiracy to dismantle or privatize the nation’s public schools.
Ravitch’s hypocrisy is even more pronounced when you consider her current fulminations against the Common Core Standards. Her two main (but contradictory) complaints are, first, that the standards are part of a “billionaire boys’ club” plot to destroy the public schools and, second, that the Obama administration is using the standards to impose a nationalized curriculum on the public schools. The irony in all of this is that, if I had to name one individual who, from 1988 to 2008, did the most to encourage education policymakers to support national standards and curriculum, it would be Diane Ravitch.
As a deputy education secretary in the George H.W. Bush administration, Ravitch’s main assignment was to use the federal government’s bully pulpit to push for national standards. She subsequently wrote a book for the Brookings Institution titled National Standards in American Education: A Citizen’s Guide. Ravitch insists that there is no inconsistency here, since she had only supported “voluntary” standards, whereas the Common Core, she says, represents a federal mandate (because the Obama administration awarded funds to some states for adopting the standards). But adopting the Common Core remains voluntary. Five states initially declined to adopt, and more are likely to discard them in the near future. None will suffer federal penalties for doing so.
Moreover, Ravitch has never confronted the most glaring contradiction stemming from her long-time advocacy of national standards. On November 7, 2005, she published a widely discussed (and brilliant) op-ed in the New York Times declaring that “Americans must recognize that we need national standards, national tests and a national curriculum.” (Emphasis added.) Ravitch expressed frustration with the failure of President George W. Bush to follow up on the efforts of the previous Bush and Clinton administrations to move toward national standards and national tests. Because of the Republican Party’s “philosophy of localism,” wrote Ravitch, Bush “adopted a strategy of ‘50 states, 50 standards, 50 tests,’” which failed to bring about improvements in the schools. Ravitch cited the poor results of that year’s federal NAEP tests to support her contention that the “varying state standards and tests are inadequate,” and that there would be no improvement in students’ academic performance as long as the administration continued to follow “a strategy of letting the states choose their own standards and tests.” Nor, Ravitch concluded, “will we reach that goal [of academic improvement] if we pretend that mathematics taught in Alaska or Iowa is profoundly different from the mathematics taught in Maine or Florida, or for that matter, in Japan and Hungary.” Ravitch never used the word “voluntary” to qualify her support for national standards and tests, so it’s hard to take seriously the rationalization she has since offered for opposing the Common Core.
But even more remarkable was Ravitch’s unequivocal endorsement of a national curriculum. The curriculum issue has always been the third rail in any discussion of national education standards in the United States. (Most other industrialized nations have national curriculums.) That’s not only because of the Republican Party’s “philosophy of localism” in education, as Ravitch noted, but also because U.S. education law clearly prohibits the federal government from “exercising control” over the development of curriculum by states or school districts. With that restriction in mind, the authors of the Common Core included specific language saying that the standards were not to be regarded as a curriculum and, moreover, that each state should develop its own grade-by-grade curriculum materials aligned with the standards.
With her endorsement of a national curriculum, as well as national standards and tests, Ravitch was arguably even more “zealous” than other champions of standards reform at the time. And because of her reputation as one of the nation’s most esteemed education scholars, her Timesarticle provided encouragement to the Washington-based organizations—including the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers—that were beginning to push for the adoption of national standards, and whose efforts led a few years later to the creation of the Common Core. Borrowing from Ravitch, these groups argued that the United States couldn’t improve the public schools if it continued to follow a strategy of “50 states, 50 standards, 50 tests.”
In her recent blog post, Ravitch wrote that she wasn’t “sure that Stern understands the Common Core standards.” Specifically, she faulted me for “think[ing] that the Common Core implements the ideas of E.D. Hirsch Jr.” I have never made such a claim. What I didwrite, almost two years ago, was that the Common Core Standards deserved support—among other reasons, because they were “creating a historic opportunity to introduce Hirsch’s curriculum to many more schools and classrooms.” So far, some progress has been made along those lines: New York State has made the Core Knowledge English Language Arts curriculum for the early grades available to all schools; 71 New York City elementary schools are using the Core Knowledge curriculum; the Louisiana Education Department has designated Core Knowledge as the preferred curriculum for the state’s elementary schools; and Amplify will soon distribute the Core Knowledge curriculum on electronic tablets to classrooms around the country.
In my writing, I have suggested that education reformers of all stripes could help convince states and districts to adopt Core Knowledge or some variant of the Hirsch curriculum as part of their implementation of the Common Core Standards. I had once hoped that Diane Ravitch would do so—despite her generally negative opinion of the Common Core—because for almost her entire professional life, she has been a fervent advocate of Core Knowledge and, more recently, an advocate for a national curriculum in the United States. Instead, she has decided that it would be better for American education if the Common Core were brought down entirely. And after a quarter-century of supporting Core Knowledge (including serving on its board), Ravitch has suddenly discovered that Hirsch’s early-grade curriculum is “developmentally inappropriate” for young children.
If Diane Ravitch and other anti-Common Core campaigners on both the left and right succeed in their destructive mission, we will go right back to “50 states, 50 standards, 50 tests.” Ravitch and her allies can then celebrate their political victory—but the children in America’s schools will be the losers.

NYC Charters Win Two Court Cases

Eva Moskowitz

Two wins for NYC charter schools: Teachers union's suit nixed, Mayor de Blasio backs school-sharing

A judge on Tuesday tossed out a lawsuit brought by the United Federation of Teachers to block the opening of 13 charter schools in September that are sharing space with existing public schools, including seven charters run by former city councilwoman Eva Moskowitz. Meanwhile, the city’s Law Department defended 36 other co-located schools challenged by Public Advocate Letitia James.

Thursday, April 17, 2014, 10:36 PM

City charter schools scored a pair of legal victories this week as the teachers union lost an anti-charter lawsuit and Mayor de Blasio defended controversial school-sharing plans approved under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

On Tuesday, a judge tossed out a suit brought by the United Federation of Teachers to block the opening of 13 charter schools in September, including seven charters run by former city councilwoman Eva Moskowitz.

The union had argued Bloomberg improperly pushed through the co-locations, which place a charter in the same facility as an existing public school. The space-sharing would make teachers’ jobs harder, the UFT said.

But Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Alexander Hunter ruled the union had not exhausted “all administrative remedies” before filing the suit, and that “there is no basis for the claim that the proposals were issued prematurely.”

A spokeswoman for the teachers union said they were reviewing the decision.

It was the latest win for Moskowitz, who last month saw de Blasio allow three of her charter schools to open after the mayor initially wanted to block them.

The longtime political foe of the teachers union praised the judge's decision. "For years, the teachers union has tried to block charter schools no matter the cost to children," said Moskowitz. "Thankfully, the court put the interests of children first."

Meanwhile, in another lawsuit rooted in the final days of the Bloomberg era, the city’s Law Department vigorously defended 36 other co-locations challenged by Public Advocate Letitia James.

The Department of Education’s Panel for Educational Policy approved the arrangements in a series of meeting late last year — before de Blasio took office.

In new court papers, city attorney Zachary Carter argued the co-locations were approved “in full compliance with education law” and in a timely manner.

On the campaign trail, de Blasio (pictured above)  had called the co-location plans “a cynical effort to lock communities into permanent changes while ignoring community voices.”

Arthur Schwartz, (left) an attorney for James and the coalition of advocacy groups that brought the suit, noted the change in tone.

“It’s disappointing the mayor isn’t using the lawsuit to revisit the overcrowding issue that has enraged parents across the city who were hoping he would be their ally,” Schwartz said.

 But de Blasio spokesman Wiley Norvell said the 36 co-locations had been vetted and were not improper in any way.

“Our job is to give every child a great education, and we are confident we can implement these co-locations without negatively impacting the learning of children already in those buildings,” Norvell said.

The suit has pitted James against her political ally, de Blasio.

A spokeswoman for James signaled she isn’t backing down.

“Public Advocate James’ principled position remains consistent: Forced co-locations must not move forward without parents’ input or when they result in overcrowding, students being warehoused in trailers, loss of space for special education and physical education, and elementary students being mixed with high school students,” the spokeswoman said.

Both suits were an example of de Blasio’s effort to ensure his power over education policy, said Brooklyn College and City University of New York education professor David Bloomfield.

“The city wants to maintain its authority. They don’t want to be ruled by a court or the public advocate or the teachers union,” he said. “These developments strengthen the authority of the city.”

Sunday, April 13, 2014

In NYC, Criticizing The Department of Education or Making the DOE look "Bad" in Any Way is a Crime

Any parent, child, teacher or administrator who says the DOE stinks, gets punished. If you are a child, and you dispute what a principal says or refuse to write a statement condemning your favorite teacher to a rubber room, you will be threatened with a failing grade, with statements to the effect that your family may be harmed, and/or you may be suspended to an alternative location for no valid reason. The principal may accuse your parents of abuse and call the Administration for Children's Services to have you put into foster care.

If you are a parent, all of your children will be tormented in their classrooms, and SOHO reports will be written that will be forever held against you. You will never see these reports. You may be barred from entering the school, even for Parent-Teacher Conferences.

If you are a teacher, you will be discontinued (if you are not tenured) and put into a rubber room if you are a tenured professional. Why are you removed from your classroom? So that investigators can create false charges against you without your knowledge and consent. This has always, in my opinion, been the purpose of the rubber rooms/ATR pool.

If you are an administrator you are given a promotion to the Children's First Network, demoted to an AP status, or given a school out of control so that you have no chance of making a good impression upon anyone.

My first experience with how much the DOE hates being made a fool of came in 2000, when I spoke up about the theft at Booker T. Washington MS 54 by the Principal, Lawrence ("Larry") Lynch. I was the PTA President. I was called a liar, a thief, and a child abuser, publicly. But I would not succumb to their lies, so they - the DOE -  and their so-called thugs/investigators went after my children.

Then I met David Pakter in 2003, and he told me about the rubber room (25 Chapel Street, Brooklyn) at which he was re-assigned, and I started visiting the teachers there. Then David was charged with 3020-a, and he demanded an open and public hearing so that I could attend. NYSUT Attorney Chris Callagy was his attorney (pictured at left, Betsy Combier and Chris Callegy, photo taken by David Pakter).

Evidently the Department had a problem with David and I publicly making fun of the Department, because suddenly David was charged with making the Department of Education "look bad". This was the first time that I had heard of such a 3020-a charge. David and I spoke with Randi Weingarten, President of the UFT, about it and she agreed with us. She called over to the DOE, demanding that they drop this charge, and the charge was dismissed.

Now, the DOE is again attacking anyone who makes them look bad. I guess because I don't work for them I have not yet received my punishment for my exercise of free speech, but this has not been the case with several teachers who recently publicized the attacks by DOE thugs. Cindy Mauro and Alini Brito, Francesco Portelos and Lydia Howrilka were all charged with making the DOE look bad and were to be fired for getting the attention of media (Lydia was fired because she is not tenured and has no right to a due process hearing known as 3020-a). Francesco and Lydia (see story below) were arrested.

You cant make this stuff up.

Betsy Combier

Lydia Howrilka

Bronx teacher thrown in jail after criticizing principal


A Bronx teacher who criticized her boss got a hard lesson recently when she was thrown in jail.
Lydia Howrilka, 24, of the Academy for Language and Technology HS, was fired last July by Principal Arisleyda Urena, who called her ineffective.
Howrilka sued and filed a complaint alleging Urena improperly raffled off iPads and other costly prizes for kids. The claim prompted a DOE probe.
Howrilka sent an e-mail asking about her treatment to Urena and Chancellor Carmen Fariña — and to some 40 other city and state education officials and city politicians.
She got a call from the NYPD asking her to surrender on Urena’s charge of aggravated harassment.
Howrilka spent seven hours in the 84th Precinct house before being moved to Brooklyn’s Central Booking.
After seven more hours, a court officer said the DA had dismissed the charge.
“I believe it was done to intimidate,” she said. “And I’m concerned it will have a chilling effect on other whistleblowers.”
Urena’s lawyer, Tim Parlatore, said his client called cops “because of repeated, unwanted e-mails and communications.”
Also tossed in the klink was Francesco Portelos, a technology teacher at IS 49 Berta A. Dreyfus on Staten Island, who was yanked from his classroom two years ago, after launching a blog accusing Principal Linda Hall of violating rules. The outcome of his termination hearing on charges of insubordination and other alleged misconduct is pending.
Portelos, 35, who collects a $75,796 salary, wrote a satirical blog post on Feb. 24 saying he had hacked into the DOE’s payroll system with the password “kittensRcute,” and given himself a raise.
“Ridiculous story? Yes it is,” he wrote in the same post, adding “the truth is I can’t hack and never have.”
But the DOE’s chief information security officer, Desmond White, filed a complaint of official misconduct.
The police report asks, “Is Victim fearful of their safety/life?” White apparently answered “YES.”
Portelos spent 33 hours in custody, sleeping on the floor of a crowded cell next to a toilet, he said, before the DA dropped the charge.
The DOE made no apology. “We believe Mr. Portelos acted inappropriately with a post on his blog, and we notified the NYPD out of an abundance of caution,” a spokesman said.

Lydia Howrilka's  letter March 11, 2014
Teacher needs answers over treatment by DOE
An open letter to city Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña:
This letter is in regard to my investigations with the Office of Special Investigations in the city Department of Education and my still pending investigation and charges from a school-based investigation.
I was a teacher for the DOE. Teaching had been my passion since I was a young girl, and I am a proud graduate of Hunter College’s School of Education. I worked in District 9, at the Academy for Language and Technology in the Bronx.
Principal Arisleyda Ureña hired me in August 2012 to teach social studies. I stayed late almost every day crafting rigorous and engaging lessons, working with my colleagues to improve the outcomes for our English language learners and organizing school-wide events in my role as student government faculty adviser.
On June 17, 2013, I received a letter from Cristina Jimenez stating that I had been reassigned from my position. I spent the final eight school days of the academic year sitting in a reassignment center at 1 Fordham Plaza. Neither Ureña, any staff member from ALT’s Children First Network, any investigator from the Office of Special Investigations, nor any lawyer from DOE told me why I was reassigned. I did not speak with an investigator upon arrival or during my stay there.
On July 15, 2013, I was discontinued from probationary service. Prior to this discontinuance, I had received a job offer from a secondary school outside District 9 in early July 2013. The new principal’s CFN human resources manager was unable to attach me to the job and informed me that I had been “red flagged” in the system.
I went to OSI July 25, 2013, and spoke to Henry Gomez as a walk-in when Gomez was doing intake. I wanted to know whether I was under investigation. Gomez was professional and looked up the case to see which OSI investigator was handling my case. Gomez informed me that OSI had no information as to what is going on with my case because it had been downgraded to a local, school-based investigation.
It has been more than seven months since an investigation was first opened on me. I have not received any charges to date. I have neither spoken to Ureña, interim acting Principal Jose Viñales, Superintendent Carron Staple, any DOE investigator regarding my case, nor Senior Field Counsel Gillian Kost. On Nov. 1, 2013, Ureña resigned from her position as principal of the Academy for Language and Technology.
How does this affect my case? Is it still open? Were my “charges” found to be unsubstantiated or not?
On Nov. 8, 2013, Katherine Rodi sent me an e-mail explaining to me that my termination from the DOE will “trigger” a review if I have a “valid job offer.” A copy of Rodi’s e-mail reads as follows:
“Ms. Howrilka,
“Mr. Hearn and Mr. Condon are not involved with the clearance process within the DOE.
“As I have told you and your representatives before, your termination from the DOE will trigger a review if you have a valid job offer. Until you have a valid job offer, your file will not be reviewed. There is no “flag” on your record beyond your termination.
“Katherine Rodi
“Director of Employee Relations
Rodi; Lawrence Becker, the chief executive officer of the Division of Human Resources and Talent; and the Office of Personnel Investigation are unwilling to respond to my questions regarding my school-based investigation, but during an interview with OPI Investigator Laurie Vazquez, she informed me that the reason why I had been unable to accept a job with another DOE school in early July was because of the OSI/school-based investigation which had placed a “block” on my record and prevented the second principal from hiring me.
This “block” made it impossible for the principal to enter my credentials through Galaxy and trigger OPI to re-open and re-evaluate my case.
I am requesting a meeting with you and other appropriate school officials regarding my OSI and school-based investigations. What charges had I been accused of that warranted my removal from ALT June 17, 2013, in the middle of proctoring a Regents exam?
Since I have neither met with an investigator, an administrator, nor another DOE official regarding my charges in seven months, this removal and subsequent silence are violations of my constitutional right to due process.

Lydia Howrilka
Floral Park

A Look Back at 2012 and the ATR Mess

Let's summarize the ATR mess for those readers who still do not know what NYC is talking about. Mayor Bloomberg wanted an end to tenure for teachers. He did several things to make sure this happened, such as deceiving teachers brought to 3020-a hearings that they had no right to oppose the procedure used to charge them.

But the arbitrators did not terminate everyone, and the Rubber Rooms became a public relations nightmare and Bloomberg had to close them.  A second way to remove tenured teachers was to create a pool of professional, tenured teachers who were not fired at 3020-a or whose Principals could not create enough false charges to bring to a 3020-a trial. These professional tenured teachers were pushed into a rudderless ship called "Absent Teacher Reserve" or "ATR" status where they have no UFT chapter leader and basically no rights to any part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (UFT contract).

These gypsies go from school to school, assigned to classes outside their license area and told to teach children they know nothing about. Where is the UFT? According to a source, the UFT suggested rotating teachers as substitutes and the DOE agreed to do this. According to the Commissioner's Regulations Regulations 80-5.3, a superintendent may allow a teacher to teach in a certification/license area outside of his or her own for no more than five classroom hours per week. This practice is known as “incidental teaching,” and, according to the state guidelines, it is acceptable only “when no certified or qualified teacher is available after extensive and documented recruitment.”

Even a bathroom key is a problem. ATRs are assigned security desk duty, cafeteria and hallway bathroom access monitoring, Xeroxing, etc. Principals don't respect them, and the kids don't either.

Now, the DOE has sent in a new troop to observe these ATR transients: Field Supervisors. These people observe the ATRs as they try to teach a curriculum they know nothing about to children who they have only met that day, or a day or two prior. Most certainly this process has nothing to do with helping children learn anything. The entire observation/evaluation process has been overturned.

How does this make sense? And, please notice that the UFT is a partner with the DOE in setting all of this up and doing nothing to protect members.

The new rubber room is worse than the old. Remember, I have said all along, the "rubber room is not a place, but a process."

Betsy Combier

Below is a very good post on NYC ATR from August 2012 on a third way that Bloomberg made professional tenured teachers into trash, by closing schools and making teachers re-apply for their jobs. Then, all a principal has to do is sift through the most senior teachers with the highest salaries, and make up a reason not to hire them back. Easy.

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.

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. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Arts Education is Missing in NYC Low-Income Neighborhoods, Says Comptroller Scott Stringer

Scott Stringer
 Maybe Carmen Farina could contribute money from the Annenberg Challenge From The Arts and Center For Arts Education?

Betsy Combier

Arts Education Lacking in Low-Income Areas of New York City, Report Says


New York City’s comptroller plans to release a report on Monday quantifying what student advocates have long suspected: that many public schools in the city do not offer any kind of arts education, and that the lack of arts instruction disproportionately affects low-income neighborhoods.

With a mayor and a schools chancellor at the beginning of their terms, the comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, said he hoped the report would push the city to dedicate more money to art teachers and classrooms and become more transparent about how arts education resources are distributed across the schools. The report, using Education Department data, shows that 20 percent of public schools lack any arts teachers, including roughly one out of seven middle and high schools, even though state law requires arts instruction for middle and high school students.

“We treat arts classroom space the way we treat janitorial space — it’s just expendable. And it shouldn’t be,” Mr. Stringer said in an interview on Sunday, noting that instruction in the arts is associated with higher student grades and rates of college enrollment. “This is not a toolshed or a closet; this is where the next great artist or musician is going to happen.”

The shortage is disproportionately acute in low-income areas like the South Bronx and central Brooklyn, according to the report. More than 42 percent of the schools that do not have state-certified arts teachers are clustered in those areas.

Mr. Stringer said supplying a full-time, state-certified art teacher to every school that does not have one would cost about $26 million, which represents about a tenth of a penny for every dollar spent by the Education Department.

Between 2006 and 2013, spending on arts supplies and equipment dropped by 84 percent, the report said. When money is tight, arts education is often one of the first subjects to be sidelined, the report noted. It said the trend had accelerated as schools focused more on meeting accountability standards, shifting their resources from subjects seen as nonessential, like arts, to preparation for English and math tests. Arts, in the report, includes both visual and performing arts.

That conclusion is likely to add fuel to the backlash against accountability testing, which under the previous mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, was used to help determine public schools’ progress and whether they should be closed. After the previous comptroller, John C. Liu, found in 2011 that city schools were not providing enough physical education, principals blamed the pressure to dedicate already-scarce resources to test preparation.

Already, elected officials have responded by softening the emphasis on student test scores. State legislators limited the amount of time schools could spend on test preparation as part of this year’s budget deal, and the new mayor, Bill de Blasio, opposes Mr. Bloomberg’s focus on test scores.

“We’ve spent so much time over the last 10 years teaching to the test, and lost in the shuffle was arts teachers, arts curriculum and arts space,” Mr. Stringer said.

Mr. Stringer is calling for the Education Department to include information about schools’ art teachers, classrooms and partnerships with cultural organizations — or their lack — in the school progress reports that the city issues every year. The progress reports list other measurements, like student test scores and attendance rates, and under Mr. Bloomberg they played a large role in determining which schools would be closed.

To allow parents to see what arts instruction schools are offering, the comptroller’s website will feature a searchable database of the data in the report, Mr. Stringer said. A similar drive for transparency led the City Council to pass legislation in December requiring the city to disclose such data regularly.

The report also recommends putting financing for arts instruction on a separate budget line and expanding partnerships between the city’s cultural organizations and its schools. And the report calls for the school system to preserve the amount of space dedicated to arts instruction when schools are co-located with other public or charter schools.

With charter schools given generous space guarantees in public school buildings in the state budget, such a “no net loss” policy may prove tricky, but Mr. Stringer insisted that it was important enough that it should be nonnegotiable.

The report garnered an enthusiastic response from Carmen Fariña, the new schools chancellor, some of whose former students have recalled studying art history in her class. “We will work to provide schools with the support they need to offer dedicated art classes that our students deserve,” she said in a statement.

She, in turn, received a vote of confidence from Eric G. Pryor, the executive director of the Center for Arts Education, which has pushed the city to provide more arts education financing.

“With new city leadership committed to equity, and a new chancellor who understands the importance of arts instruction, we now have an excellent opportunity to ensure students receive the well-rounded education promised to them by state law,” he said in a statement.

The De Blasio Coverups Continue Under the Watchful Eyes of Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter

Zachary Carter

By Azi Paybarah 12:18 p.m. | Apr. 11, 2014
De Blasio official on transparency ‘in the abstract,’ and in practice

When Mayor Bill de Blasio was asked last week about his administration's unexplained delays in responding to Freedom of Information Law requests filed by reporters, he said that he was not "a lawyer" but that his staff was following the law.
This morning, the city's top lawyer briefly touched on the issue of transparency, saying that it's not so easy to throw the doors open and let everyone see everything.
“The trick is, I think most of us favor transparency in the abstract until your outbox is being gored,” said the city corporation counsel Zachary Charter. “Obviously we would support anything that, consistent with other important values, increases transparency.”
Carter made the comment in response to a question following a speech at New York Law School. Afterward, Carter told reporters that the issue of transparency is “more complicated because you have to make sure the information that is being disclosed—I think that people who are sincerely committed to transparency can still take into account the impact that it could have an impact on other things we value, like privacy, like the fact that certain kinds of inter-government communications should be confidential in order [to allow] candid conversation among people in government.”
De Blasio’s responsiveness to FOIL requests came under scrutiny following his administration's handling of requests for information related to the arrest and release of one of his supporters earlier this year.
The supporter, Bishop Orlando Findlayter, was arrested Feb. 10 in Brooklyn after police officers spotted him making a left turn without signaling. They later found he was driving with expired insurance and an outstanding warrant which, it turns out, was for failing to show up to court to deal with a civil disobedience arrest at a protest about immigration reform in 2013.
The mayor called a top NYPD spokesperson to inquire about Findlayter, who was an early campaign endorser. The NYPD released Findlayter that evening and he attended a clergy breakfast de Blasio hosted the following morning.
The incident raised questions about the level of discretion local police officials have in detaining people with outsanding warrants, and what role City Hall played in expediting the release of the mayor's ally. The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the mayor's phone call on behalf of Findlayter, also wrote that City Hall officials sent emails to the department the night of the bishop's arrest.
Hours after Capital published a story describing some de Blasio's FOIL delays, his administration responded to several news outlets' requests for information about Findlayter—without handing over any information.
Records sought by Capital included communications between City Hall officials and the New York Police Department related to the Feb. 10 arrest of Findlayter, as well as the arrest reportOther outlets also sought communications City Hall officials received from the public about Findlayter's arrest.
Asked this morning if City Hall should release communications sent to the NYPD related to Findlayter, Carter politely declined to comment, saying the Freedom of Information Law is complex, and not something he is directly working on.

 Bishop Orlando Findlayter at the New Hope Christian Fellowship Church. He was arrested because a failure to
pay his car insurance led to a license suspension and he also had two outstanding warrants from an immigration protest.

Mayor De Blasio set a bad precedent by making a call to the NYPD to "talk" about his friend Rev. Findlayter, and then telling him to not talk about it. The new monitor of the NYPD should investigate. This is a matter of public interest. Meanwhile, if a person you know is arrested, call the Mayor's office and ask them to call the police to set your friend/relative/other, free.

Betsy Combier



Bishop Orlando Findlayter, an early supporter of Bill de Blasio’s campaign
for mayor, after giving a sermon in Brooklyn on Sunday morning. Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times