Join the GOOGLE +Rubber Room Community

Saturday, December 27, 2008

During the Disciplinary Process, A Tenured Teacher Must Be Paid

NYC BOE administrators and Principals are ordering teachers to teach subjects for which they are not certified, "or else". Principals gleefully will give a French class with 40 kids in it to a teacher certified to teach American History if this teacher is not 100% under his/her control and/or needs to be "taught a lesson".

In 1992, a teacher was suspended without pay by the Rhinebeck BOE for teaching out of license, and the teacher sued, winning his salary backpay at the Appeals level.

79 N.Y.2d 1, 588 N.E.2d 32, 580 N.Y.S.2d 134 (1992).
January 14, 1992
3 No. 263
Decided January 14, 1992
This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the New York Reports.
Ira Paul Rubtchinsky, for Appellant.
David S. Shaw, for Respondents.
New York State School Boards Association, amicus curiae .


On this appeal we are presented with the question left open by our decision in Matter of Smith v Board of Educ. and Matter of Cutler v Board of Educ. (65 NY2d 797). In that case, based on explicit statutory authorization in the Education Law, we concluded that the appellants, both of whom were tenured, but who had not obtained permanent certification after their provisional teaching certificates had expired, were not entitled to be paid their salaries during their suspension pursuant to section 3020-a of the Education Law for teaching without certification. We declined to reach the argument advanced by the respondent Board of Education in those cases -- that teachers who hold a teaching certificate outside of the area to which they have been assigned to teach are "unqualified" for the purposes of being paid pending the outcome of a hearing pursuant to Education Law § 3020-a (id. at 799). We now reject what is essentially the same argument advanced here by the Rhinebeck Central School District board and conclude that because there is no statutory authorization for withholding the pay of a tenured and certified teacher charged with lack of certification pending the determination of a section 3020-a proceeding where the teacher has been involuntarily reassigned to teach a subject area in which he or she is not certified, such teacher's pay may not be withheld.

Appellant David Winter was hired by respondent Board of Education for the Rhinebeck Central School District to teach Business Education and taught in that area from 1973 to 1989. He received certification in driver and safety education in 1971, and in commerce (business) in 1974. He became tenured in 1975. In 1989, his position as a high school business teacher was eliminated as part of respondent's reduction in force. Purportedly relying on section 2510 of the Education Law, respondent reassigned appellant to teach secondary science, a subject he was not certified to teach, and simultaneously informed him that proceedings pursuant to Education Law § 3020-a would be commenced against him due to his lack of certification to teach science. Respondent suspended appellant without pay pending the outcome of the section 3020-a proceeding. Pursuant to his collective bargaining agreement, appellant challenged the propriety of his involuntary reassignment under Education Law § 2510 through final and binding arbitration. He also commenced this Article 78 proceeding seeking reinstatement to a teaching position within his area of tenure and certification, back pay, current pay and continued pay pending the final determination of the disciplinary proceeding.

Supreme Court dismissed the petition to the extent that it sought reinstatement because that issue was then pending before an arbitrator. concluded, however, that the Board did not have the authority to suspend appellant without pay since appellant was certified in the area for which he was originally hired to teach, and his suspension was due to the Board's action in reassigning him to an area in which he lacked certification. That court directed the Board to pay appellant from the date of his suspension until the determination of the disciplinary proceeding.

The Appellate Division modified by reversing so much of Supreme Court's judgment as directed the Board to pay appellant during his suspension. Relying on our decision in Matter of Meliti v Nyquist (41 NY2d 183), the Appellate Division concluded that notwithstanding appellant's certification in the area for which he was originally hired to teach, he was not certified to teach in the area to which he had been reassigned, and therefore was "unqualified" to receive his salary pending the determination of the disciplinary proceeding. That court stated that a different holding would produce the "incongruous result" that "a teacher could be unqualified for the purposes of teaching in the educational area for which he was hired, but qualified for the purposes of drawing his pay while he was suspended from teaching" ( Matter of Winter v Board of Educ. , __ AD2d __, quoting Matter of Cutler v Board of Educ. of Poughkeepsie City School Dist. , 104 AD2d 988, affd 65 NY2d 797). Petitioner appeals pursuant to leave granted by this Court, arguing only the issue whether the Appellate Division erred in denying him pay during his suspension. We now reverse.

It is well-settled that compensation is a matter of such substantive right on the part of the teacher that it cannot be taken away except pursuant to explicit statutory or collective bargaining authorization (see Matter of Board of Educ. v Nyquist , 48 NY2d 97; Matter of Jerry v Board of Educ. , 35 NY2d 534, 541- 542; see also, , 488; Matter of Adlerstein v Board of Education , 64 NY2d 90, 98; Matter of Board of Educ. v Nyquist , 48 NY2d 97). The Board makes no claim that the applicable collective bargaining agreement authorizes it to withhold appellant's pay. However, relying on our decision in Matter of Meliti v Nyquist (supra), it contends that Education Law §§ 3001, 3009 and 3010 provide explicit statutory authorization for its action in withholding appellant's salary pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing pursuant to Education Law § 3020-a.

Both parties recognize that resolution of this issue turns on whether a teacher is "qualified" pursuant to Education Law § 3001. The Board argues, and the Appellate Division concluded, that a teacher who lacks certification in the subject to which he or she is assigned, in effect possesses no certificate at all and is therefore "unqualified" for the purpose of being paid pending the outcome of a section 3020-a disciplinary hearing; thus, our decision in Meliti is controlling. Appellant contends, on the other hand, that because there is no specific statutory authorization for suspending a tenured, certified teacher without pay, even though that teacher has been assigned to teach a subject in which he or she lacks certification, the general principle established in Matter of Jerry is controlling and he is entitled to be paid. We reject as inconsistent with the plain language of Education Law § 3001 the attempt to equate teacher certification, and hence, "qualification," with certification to teach in a specific subject area. Section 3001, entitled "Qualifications of Teachers," provides that "[n]o person shall be employed or authorized to teach in the public schools of this state who is * * * (2) Not in possession of a teacher's certificate * * * or a diploma issued on the completion of a course in a state college for teachers or state teachers college of this state." In Meliti (supra), where a tenured teacher who failed to acquire the requisite graduate credits to receive a permanent teaching certificate was suspended pursuant to Education Law § 3020-a on charges of teaching without certification after his provisional teaching certificate expired, we found in the confluence of sections 3001, 3009 and 3010 of the Education Law the explicit statutory authorization required by Jerry (supra). We held that the appellant in Meliti was not entitled to be paid during his suspension because section 3009(1) forbids the payment of school district monies to an "unqualified" teacher, and section 3010 makes it a misdemeanor for any school official to pay a salary to an "unqualified" teacher. We therefore concluded that "in the case of an uncertified teacher there is quite specific statutory prohibition against payment during suspension" ( Meliti , supra at 188 [emphasis added]; see also, Matter of Smith v Board of Educ. and Matter of Cutler v Board of Educ. , 65 NY2d 797, supra at 799).

Unlike the situation in Meliti , however, appellant Winter, holding certificates in business and driver education, was clearly certified to teach on the day he was suspended, and thus was "qualified" pursuant to Education Law § 3001 (see, Matter of Bali v Board of Educ. , 68 AD2d 360, 362-363 [Hancock, Jr., J.], appeal dismissed, 48 NY2d 630; cf. Matter of Smith v Board of Educ. and Matter of Cutler v Board of Educ. , supra at 799; Matter of Meliti v Nyquist , supra). It is evident that the Legislature, in enacting sections 3001, 3009 and 3010 of the Education Law, rather than requiring certification in a particular subject as a prerequisite for teacher "qualification," was concerned with prohibiting the hiring of persons for teaching positions who lacked minimum general qualifications, without regard to certification in any specific area. "Thus, for purposes of qualification under the statute, a teaching certificate has been equated with what can only be a requirement of qualification in the general area of teaching and not in any specific area; i.e., the possession of a 'diploma issued on the completion of a course in a state college for teachers or state teachers college of this state.' (Education Law, § 3001, subd 2)" ( Matter of Bali , supra at 363). In fact, appellant Winter was initially hired to teach the subject of high school business, an area in which he was certified to teach, and taught in that area continuously until respondent involuntarily reassigned him to teach secondary science.

The Board argues that regulations promulgated by the Commissioner of Education support its position that a teacher's lack of certification in his or her assigned area renders that teacher unqualified to teach pursuant to Education Law § 3001, and thus unqualified pursuant to sections 3009(1) and 3010 for the purpose of receiving a salary during the course of a section 3020-a disciplinary proceeding. However, consistent with the legislative purpose of ensuring that the state's teachers are generally qualified to teach, these regulations, by their terms, only apply to the initial hiring, or to the reemployment of a teacher, neither of which is the situation here. Pursuant to the provisions of sections 3006(3), 3009(1) and 3010 of the Education Law, the regulations provide that, except under certain enumerated conditions, "no uncertified teacher (any professional staff member not holding a valid certificate for the area or level to be served) may be employed by a board of education for the first time" (8A NYCRR 80.18[a] [emphasis added]). Similarly, 8A NYCRR 80.18(b) prohibits the reemployment of an uncertified teacher except under certain conditions. Inasmuch as appellant is neither being hired for the first time, nor being reemployed, these regulations are irrelevant to the resolution of the question before us.

Finally, we note the dissent's assertion that the respondent will prevail on the issue of whether petitioner's suspension was proper, because, under the Commisioner's regulations, the school district is not required to retain a teacher who lacks the "appropriate certification" (dissenting opinion at 4, citing 8A NYCRR 30.11). However, it is not at all clear that Education Law § 2510 authorizes a Board such as respondent to reassign teachers to areas in which they are uncertified, and on the basis of lack of certification, to bring charges against them under section 3020-a to remove them from employment. Section 2510 provides that when a board of education abolishes a position, the services of the teacher having the least seniority within the particular tenure area must be discontinued, and that teacher placed on a preferred list for appointment, in order of length of service, to a then-existing or subsequently occurring vacancy in an office or position similar to the one which such person filled without reduction in salary or increment (Education Law § 2510[2] and [3]). by the dissenters that Education Law § 2510 requires a school district to reassign a teacher whose position has been abolished to teach a subject that he is uncertified to teach finds no support in the statute. The statute does not require such a procedure, and whether it authorizes the scheme employed by respondent here is, at best, problemmatic. There appears to be no authority for respondent's practice of reassigning teachers to an area in which they are uncertified, and then charging the teacher with lack of certification in order to terminate his or her services (see, e.g., Matter of Steele v Board of Educ. , 53 AD2d 674, 675 [board of education could not circumvent the mandate of Education Law § 2510 by assigning petitioner to a position in an area of certification in which she was not likely to be certified and then dismissing her for lack of certification]).

Because there is no statutory authority to support the payless suspension of appellant pending the determination of the section 3020-a proceedings against him, we conclude that appellant is entitled to back pay from the date of his suspension and continued pay until such time as the disciplinary proceedings are concluded. Accordingly, the Appellate Division order, insofar as appealed from, should be reversed, with costs, and the judgment of Supreme Court, Dutchess County reinstated.


undetermined. staff for economic and educational reasons is authorized by Education Law § 2510, so long as it "acted in good faith" (dissenting opinion at 2) is not relevant to the issue before us. Rather, the question we must determine is whether explicit statutory authorization exists which entitles respondent to withhold compensation from a certified, tenured teacher during the pendency of discliplinary proceedings under Education Law § 3020-a ( Matter of Jerry , supra). Moreover, nothing in Jerry supports the dissent's assertion that our holding rested on "traditional notions of fairness explicit in the criminal law and the Civil Service Law," or on the ground that "teachers should not be punished by loss of pay unless and until it was shown that they were guilty of the alleged charges" (dissenting opinion at 4). dissent provide, as pertinent, that:

Nothing herein contained shall be construed to authorize * * * a board of education or board of cooperative educational services to place or retain * * * an individual in a position for which such individual does not possess appropriate certification in accordance with the provisions of Part 80 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education (Rules of the Board of Regents, 8A NYCRR 30.11) (emphasis added).
Since the petitioner here was placed in a position for which he does not possess the appropriate certification, it would appear that this regulation refutes, rather than supports the contentions of the dissent.

No. 263

SIMONS, J. (dissenting):

Petitioner concededly cannot teach any subject in which respondent school district has an available opening. In my view, therefore, he should not be paid during proceedings necessary to terminate his employment. Accordingly, I would affirm.

The question presented is whether the Jerry rule ( M/O Jerry v Bd. of Educ. , 35 NY2d 534), which requires a school district to pay a suspended teacher contesting disputed charges of misconduct, should be applied to require payment of teachers suspended because they are uncertified to fill the only teaching positions available to them. Its resolution requires us to strike the proper balance between the rights of tenured teachers and the efficient and economical operation of the school system. Ruling in favor of the teachers, the majority holds that Jerry should be extended to apply to the facts of this case. I disagree and because the matter has serious fiscal and legal consequences in these distressing economic times, I set forth my reasons in detail.

The circumstances have become increasingly familiar. Respondent school district, because of declining enrollments and budgetary constraints, eliminated one business department position, all driver education classes and all in-house supervision. Because of these cuts in curriculum, the Board voted a reduction in force. Its action was specifically authorized by section 2510 of the Education Law as long as it acted in good faith for legitimate economic and educational purposes (see, , 16-17; Matter of Lezette v Board of Educ. Hudson City School Dist. , 35 NY2d 272; Matter of Young v Board of Educ. of Cent. School Dist. No. 6, Town of Huntington , 35 NY2d 31).

Petitioner was certified to teach business and driver's education. Inasmuch as the driver's education classes were eliminated and the remaining business courses were assigned to a more senior teacher, there remained no positions available for which petitioner was qualified. Respondent could not summarily discontinue his services, however: section 2510[2] of the Education Law authorized petitioner to "bump" a teacher having less seniority within his tenure area, i.e., the general secondary school area. There were less senior teachers within his tenure area teaching subjects which petitioner was not certified to teach. Consequently, respondent had no choice but to discontinue a tenured and certified secondary science teacher, to assign petitioner to teach science, though he was not certified to teach the subject, and then to bring charges to remove him because he was incompetent (see, Matter of Lynch v Nyquist , 41 AD2d 363, 365, affd on opn below 34 NY2d 588).

Respondent suspended petitioner but it could remove him only pursuant to the formal procedure set forth in 3020-a of the Education Law and, accordingly, it instituted those proceedings. While the proceedings are pending, the Board will be required to pay a substitute to teach the subject assigned to petitioner. The court now holds that during this period, while petitioner is suspended, it must pay petitioner's salary as well. According to an investigative report of the New York School Board's Association contained in its amicus brief, the proceedings could last as long as two years and add litigation costs of approximately $100,000. Manifestly, the suspended teacher has no incentive to hasten this process or minimize its cost. Thus, what began as an effort by respondent to save public resources and to promote efficient, productive schools has produced neither, at least for the immediate future. Salary expenses have been doubled, litigation expenses incurred and science students will be taught by substitute teachers. One might reasonably ask what rule of law requires such waste of educational resources.

The authority relied upon is Matter of Jerry v Board of Educ. (35 NY2d 534, supra). In that case, we considered two appeals involving charges of teacher misconduct filed pursuant to 3020-a of the Education Law. A closely divided court held that absent specific statutory authorization, a teacher charged with misconduct could not be suspended without pay pending disciplinary hearings (Id. at 542).

The Jerry decision addressed proceedings involving contested charges which in one case dealt with a teacher's use of excessive physical force on students and in the other dealt with a teacher's improper sexual intimacies with an 18 year-old student. In view of the charged misconduct, a proper concern for possible harm to students made the teachers' suspension necessary but we required that they be paid during removal hearings because they had not yet been proved guilty. The decision reflected the notion that teachers should not be punished by loss of pay unless and until it was shown that they were guilty of the alleged charges, a view consistent with traditional notions of fairness explicit in the criminal law and the Civil Service Law (see, Criminal Procedure Law § 300.10[2]; Civil Service Law § 75[3]).

No similar concerns are involved in cases involving uncertified teachers. They must be suspended for the students' sake because they are unable to teach the subject matter. But there is no doubt about the outcome of the proceedings: respondent will prevail because, under the Commissioner's regulations, the school district is not required to retain a teacher who lacks the "appropriate certification" (8A NYCRR 30.11). Concededly, petitioner lacks such certification here, but the fact is easily established by reference to the records of the Education Department in any case. Although procedural regularity requires the School Board to establish that uncontested fact in a 3020-a hearing, the Board should not be required to pay petitioner while the proceedings are pending when he is not competent to teach any class available to him. The majority's decision does just that, however; it compels the School Board to pay a teacher who is not capable of performing any educational services for the district.

We have previously recognized that a School Board could suspend an uncertified teacher without pay in certain instances and that rule should be applied here. Following Jerry (supra), we held that suspension without pay was authorized if the teacher was uncertified in any area because the teacher was "unqualified" under Education Law §§ 3001[2], 3009[1] ( Matter of Meliti v Nyquist , 41 NY2d 183; Matter of Smith v Bd. of Educ. and Matter of Cutler v Bd. of Educ. , 65 NY2d 797). True, those decisions rested on the Jerry formulation; suspension without pay was warranted because there was statutory authority to support the result. The requirement has been imposed by judicial decision, however, and we should not extend it to cover these facts. There is no principled basis to permit suspension without pay of a teacher not competent to fill any teaching position but forbid suspension without pay of a teacher not competent to fill any teaching position available. I would not, therefore, require respondent to pay petitioner here.

There can be no question about the desirability of reasonable rules promoting teachers' job security. They enable school districts to maintain a stable and experienced staff and help attract competent people to the teaching profession. However, local school authorities possess substantial leeway to administer their affairs and reductions in force have been recognized by the Legislature and this Court as necessary steps to promote efficiency and economy in a school system (see, Education Law 2510; , supra). The circumstances presented here will recur increasingly and, as it now stands, in these difficult choices involving teacher benefits and fundamental educational concerns, teachers are to be unduly preferred over the efficient use of finite public resources to effectively educate our children.

Because the Court is not compelled to apply the Jerry rule to cases which do not involve allegations of teacher misconduct, and because the majority's decision extending it to this case seriously constricts a school board's ability to manage its affairs efficiently and economically, I vote to affirm.

Order, insofar as appealed from, reversed, with costs, and judgment of Supreme Court, Dutchess County, reinstated. Opinion by Judge Alexander. Chief Judge Wachtler and Judges Kaye and Hancock concur. Judges Simons dissents and votes to affirm in an opinion in which Judges Titone and Bellacosa concur.

Former Physics Teacher David Roemer Sued the NYC BOE and Lost

Physics Teacher David Roemer Sued the NYC BOE For Wrongful Termination in State and Federal Courts and Lost,but anyone who reads his story and all of his legal documents and exhibits can learn alot about due process and Constitutional law, and how the NYC BOE destroys lives and careers without probable cause.

Letter to:
New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct
Attn: Lee Kiklier

Departmental Disciplinary Committee
Supreme Court, Appellate Division
First Judicial Department
Attn: Sherry K. Cohen, Re: Docket No. 2006.1784

Dear Lee and Sherry:

Thank you both for your letters dated August 1 and September 6, 2006. Last week the Supreme Court of the United States denied my petition for a writ of certiorari to The United States Court of Appeals to the Second Circuit to review its irrational decision to dismiss without a trial my lawsuit against New York City Department of Education (“DOE”) for wrongful discharge.

The litigation began in November 1996 when I requested a hearing pursuant to New York Education Law § 3020-a of disciplinary charges filed against me by my supervisors. The story of what happened falls naturally into three parts.

Learner-centered Instruction
I began working as a physics teacher for the DOE at Midwood High School in Brooklyn, New York, in 1984. All of the teachers there used a highly-structured method of teaching that allowed a minimum of active student participation. In 1990, I was excessed and transferred to Erasmus Hall High School where I taught general science.

At the new school, I developed a different approach to teaching. Every day I gave students a handout that explained the science concepts for the day’s lesson. The handout also included questions, problems, and activities that students worked on in class. This method gave students multiple ways of learning the material. They could learn by listening to my presentation, by reading the explanation, by doing the activities, and by having one-on-one conversations with me or their classmates. It increased their responsibility for learning and it enabled students to learn at their own pace. I was inspired to adopt this method from the many workshops and seminars I attended.

In September 1994, I transferred to Edward R. Murrow High School, which was an academically strong school like Midwood High School. I used the method of teaching I developed for teaching general science to teach physics.

Students reacted negatively to my teaching and there were many complaints. Since I was presenting the material the same way I was presenting it at Midwood High School, where I was considered a satisfactory teacher, I gave no credence to the idea that I was not a good teacher. My theory is that the students were dissatisfied because I was making demands upon them in the classroom. Physics can be hard, and the students preferred listening to a teacher do physics problems than doing the problems themselves.

My supervisors in observation reports said that there was an unacceptable lack of learning in my classroom. If there was anything unfair or untrue in these reports I could have changed the objectionable statements by filing a grievance through my union, the United Federation of Teachers (“UFT”). However, I could not grieve the unsatisfactory ratings because they were deemed to be my supervisors’ opinions.

My theory is that my supervisors were prejudiced in favor of highly-structured teacher-dominated lessons and did not understand how little learning takes place in such lessons. Whether they would have rated my lessons as unsatisfactory if there were no complaints from students and parents, I do not know.

While I was getting unsatisfactory ratings, I ran into a supervisor whose workshops on teaching I participated in. I told him that his ideas about how to teach were getting me into trouble. Sizing the situation up in two seconds, he said, “You can’t always do what you want. Principals don’t like it and parents don’t like it.” He knew what was happening because it is an old and familiar story in New York City public high schools.

In the ordinary course of events, I would have either resigned from the DOE or requested a transfer to a school where I would teach general science. I had the option of attempting to improve my teaching by reverting to my former methods. However, I wanted to help students learn, not waste their time. I believe I could have been successful at a school where I had the support of the administration, but finding such a school would be difficult.

Conciliation Agreement
I did not resign or request a transfer because the DOE agreed to conciliate the method that should be used to teach physics and a conciliator was assigned. My supervisors, however, did not conciliate in good faith. In May 1995, I filed a grievance through the UFT against my supervisors. I also made it clear that my teaching would not change in September 1995. Instead of settling the dispute before the new school year, my supervisors gave me a teaching program and then filed disciplinary charges against me under New York Education Law § 3020-a. In a settlement, I agreed to be suspended without pay for two months and to give up my civil service appointment to Edward R. Murrow High School by transferring to another school.

Having to pay a penalty was unfair because my behavior was above reproach. By not resigning and by filing a grievance I was protecting the DOE’s interest in the method of teaching I developed from those more concerned with keeping the status quo than improving instruction. According to New York Education Law, only the members of an educational board can terminate a tenured teacher. The boards can do this only upon a written specification of charges and only for just cause. The charges my supervisors conspired to have filed against me were fraudulent because they covered up my grievance and the agreement to conciliate. The members of the board thought they were voting on a typical case of teacher incompetence.

DOE Failed to Implement the Settlement
The DOE did not implement the settlement, which was negotiated by my attorney and the DOE attorneys who filed the charges in the first place. The DOE may have done this because of animus against me for exercising my right to free speech. I was a member of the Science Committee of the UFT an outspoken critic of the DOE’s policies concerning discipline in schools and the science curriculum. I also addressed the members of the board on the day they voted publicly to ratify their private vote to terminate me. In my three-minute address, I described my method of teaching and compared it with the method of teaching advocated by my supervisors.

The hearing officer, under whose supervision the settlement was negotiated, proceeded with the hearing. Two more panel members, essentially volunteers with backgrounds in education, attended the hearings to make a panel of three. In June 1998, after seven days of hearings, the panel terminated me in a split decision. The minority panel member recommended that I be transferred to another school with no other penalty.

In the majority report, the hearing officer endeavored to explain why I was not suspended for a certain period of time and given a second chance, the usual penalty for incompetent teachers. Hearing officers terminate teachers for incompetence only in egregious cases. The reason for this is that tenured teachers are permanently assigned to a school. The only way a school can get rid of teachers it doesn’t want is to file disciplinary charges against them or put pressure on them to request a transfer.

I don’t think the hearing officer understood that the disagreement between me and my supervisors was only about teaching physics. There was no disagreement about teaching general science. Since there are about 50 times more general science classes than physics classes, I should have been returned to the classroom.

To summarize, my supervisors acted illegally in filing fraudulent charges against me, the DOE acted maliciously in not implementing the settlement, and the hearing officer acted mistakenly in terminating me.

Litigation is State and Federal Courts
I sued the DOE twice in the supreme court of New York State and once in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York for damages and to be reinstated. In these lawsuits, the New York City Law Department represented the DOE and perpetrated upon the state and federal courts the same fraud my supervisors perpetrated upon the DOE. My petition to the Supreme Court of the United States tells this sorry tale and is at

Petition DENIED

I’ll cooperate with any investigation the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct or the Departmental Disciplinary Committee decides to undertake in this matter.

Very truly yours,

David Roemer

David Roemer's request to have the NYC Law Department Removed as Counsel
New York Education Law

Class Dismissed by Mara Altman, Village Voice

Lousy teachers or just political victims: there's got to be a better way to settle teacher disputes than New York's rubber rooms
by Mara Altman, The Village Voice
April 24th, 2007 11:53 AM

Imagine that your boss wants you to sign a document accusing you of something you don't believe you did—a fireable offense like assaulting someone at work, for example—and your response is not only to refuse to sign, but to let loose a damning accusation that your boss was making up the allegation.
And, for good measure, you call your boss "fat."

Now, in just about any industry you can think of, this would not bode well for your continued employment. But in this case, we're not talking about just any kind of workplace, but perhaps the most dysfunctional employee-employer interface in the history of paychecks.

In other words, the New York City public school system.

When, three years ago, Georgia Argyris, a teacher, was presented with a letter accusing her of yanking the arm of a kindergartner at P.S. 50 in East Harlem, she let loose with a stream of accusations at her principal, Rebekah Mitchell, and added some unkind words about Mitchell's weight.

At another kind of job, Argyris might have called on a union representative to help her fend off what she considered baseless claims (she was denied one). Or she might have been immediately terminated after calling attention to her boss's waistline (she wasn't). Or at the least, the allegations against her, and her counterclaims, might have been reviewed in a timely manner by an impartial third party, someone who wasn't the recipient of Argyris's unwise outburst.

But no, this is the public school system, and there's only one way New York knows how to deal with teachers accused of bad behavior: send them off to a Kafkaesque holding pen, where taxpayers continue to pay their salaries for months as they wait for the glacial pace of what passes for justice, meted out by a sluggish school district and intransigent union.

Argyris, not formally charged with any wrongdoing, would spend the next year and a half in this limbo, paid by taxpayers to sit in a childless classroom with other teachers awaiting their own hearings.

It's not hard to see why teachers call this place the "rubber room," where they spend months—and even years, some simply waiting to see what they've been charged with.

The Department of Education, naturally, says that teachers end up for long periods in rubber rooms because their union—the United Federation of Teachers—has made it so difficult to fire lousy teachers.

The UFT, on the other hand, says that it's the DOE that abuses rubber rooms, sending teachers there that principals consider troublemakers. In other words, the union tends to see the rubber room system as the Guantánamo Bay of the school world, where political prisoners are sent by dictatorial principals. (Not surprisingly, the teachers doing time in rubber rooms we spoke to tended to agree with this view.)

Meanwhile, as teachers spend month after month reporting to mind-numbingly boring rooms waiting to be found incompetent (in some cases), or fit to return to teaching (in others), you pay. And pay.

The UFT and the DOE each claim no knowledge of the origin of rubber rooms. One longtime employee says they have existed since at least the late 1960s, but in a different form.

Teachers at that time who were accused of wrongdoing were reassigned to their district office where they were put to work—filing, typing up reports, and organizing data.

Today, teachers simply rot.

When Argyris reported to 333 Seventh Avenue in Manhattan , one of 13 rubber rooms the district euphemistically refers to as Reassignment Centers, she soon realized that her "job" now consisted of joining about 70 other reassigned teachers in daylong sessions of staring at a wall.

"I felt like a vegetable in a chair," she says.

Rubber room hours match that of a typical school day—Argyris would sign in at 8:30 a.m. and be released at 3:20 in the afternoon, with a 50-minute lunch break. Like something out of a dystopian fairy tale, however, this school had no children, just a few cafeteria workers, social workers, and custodians who shared the same lot.

In 2000, there were 385 teachers assigned to rubber rooms. Last month, that number had climbed to 662. Argyris, while she sat and stared at a wall, was paid $62,646 a year. The DOE pays about $33 million a year just in salaries to the teachers in rubber rooms—an amount that doesn't include the salaries of investigators working on the cases of rubber room teachers, the upkeep of the reassignment centers, or the substitute teachers who replace employees like Argyris.

Because teachers in rubber rooms are awaiting their cases to be heard, they aren't technically being punished. But they are restricted from numerous activities—they can't use MP3 players, telephones, or laptop computers. (Most flout those rules, however, and use various devices openly.)

Teachers say they soon learn that their peers are territorial and often cranky. One young teacher serving his fifth month tells the Voice the first thing he was told by a supervisor was not to sit in seats claimed by others. Fights have broken out over less, he was told.

"It's high school on steroids," he says. "Or maybe a mixture between a minimum security prison and a senior home."

To keep occupied, teachers read, play games like Scrabble or chess, or work on their screenplays. Art teachers work on paintings. Masters degrees get completed. Last year at the Seventh Avenue rubber room, a group of teachers taught each other to knit. Exercise is a popular activity.

Jeremy Garrett, a former teacher, has spent the last two years producing a film about rubber rooms by sneaking in cameras. He says he's known some teachers who actually didn't mind spending years doing little more than showing up every day for a paycheck. "There are people on the inside who are milking the system," Garrett says. "You'd have to expect that, though."

After a recent day of staring at walls, five teachers currently serving time at a rubber room met at a nearby coffee shop. For the benefit of a reporter, they had prepared freshly printed handouts and an agenda, activities they obviously missed. They gave a bullet-point outline, summarizing the reasons they had been reassigned. Each, not surprisingly, claimed to be in the rubber room on trivial or inflated charges.

The DOE, however, says that teachers are only sent to rubber rooms for serious reasons. Some teachers, the DOE says, need to be separated from children because they've been accused of harmful behavior, like sex offenses. Others are awaiting discipline after investigators have confirmed allegations of incompetence or misconduct. And others are in rubber rooms because they've been accused of crimes by outside agencies.

But Argyris, as she sat in the rubber room in 2004, had been given no official reason why she'd been sent there. Previous principals had given her high praise for her work with kindergartners. Lyle Walford, an interim principal who worked with Argyris, says that she was a "great teacher," but also assertive. "She's outspoken," Walford tells the Voice. "She doesn't take any guff from anyone."

A former model, Argyris looked young for her age. She claims that from the first day of Mitchell's arrival, the new principal disliked Argyris for some reason, and the accusations of yanking a child's arm was just part of a strategy to get rid of her. The district counters that Argyris had a record of poor attendance, was often late to class, and that Mitchell found herself having to cover for the kindergarten teacher.

Late into the second month of the 2004 school year, a mother of one of the kindergartners said that her daughter's coat was missing and that her arm had been pulled. The student was on Argyris's roster. Argyris maintains she was absent the day of the incident and that the student in question was in another teacher's class. The district, however, countered in a hearing that the records were clear—on the date of the incident, the student was in Argyris's class. Mitchell interviewed some children and concluded that Argyris had mishandled the child. But Jeff Huart, a UFT investigator, tells the Voice that the investigation wasn't so clear-cut. "All I do know is that a bona fide eyewitness said the kid was not hit," he says. "The mother and two other kids came back and said Argyris did not hit the kid."

Argyris had never been charged with misconduct before. "She was a well-respected kindergarten teacher and all of a sudden she is an evil person that deserves to be booted from the school?" says a veteran teacher with more than a decade experience at the school. "It doesn't make sense."

Mitchell asked Argyris to sign a letter admitting to roughing up the child, Argyris refused to sign, and that's when she made her outburst about the principal's size. The principal then reported the incident to the regional superintendent, and Argyris was reassigned to the Seventh Avenue rubber room. "She lunged toward me when I gave her the letter," Mitchell tells the Voice. "It's a serious allegation and it warranted her being reassigned." But before she left, Argyris secretly made an audiotape of a conversation she had with assistant principal Angela Camiolo, who, in a transcript of the tape, appears to express some sympathy for her.

Argyris went to the rubber room confused and upset. She says she constantly had the urge to cry. Every 10 minutes, she says, she'd get up and go to the bathroom. She composed a letter to Chancellor Joel Klein that was never answered. She called the union frequently and rarely got through.

Two months later, still awaiting formal charges, Argyris was scheduled for a grievance hearing over her allegations that she'd been falsely accused. Perhaps naively, she believed she could play her secretly recorded tape of the assistant principal expressing sympathy for her and then get to return to her kindergarten classroom. "That didn't happen," she says.

When Argyris revealed the presence of the tape, the meeting was immediately adjourned. (Mitchell later gave Camiolo a poor rating, and Camiolo has been demoted to a teaching job at another elementary school.)

After the aborted hearing, Argyris went back to the rubber room, where her mental state deteriorated. A therapist prescribed her antidepressants.

"I became a worthless lump that didn't do anything anymore," she says.

On a recent visit to 25 Chapel Street in Brooklyn, a Reassignment Center opened in 2005 and housing at least 100 occupants, a Voice reporter found teachers sitting on either side of a long room, just about wide enough for two Cadillacs to park side by side. The teachers looked sedated, like passengers after a cross-country flight, and the room was stuffy with a musty smell, as if the ventilation system hadn't been working right.

A food-delivery boy soon slipped through the door with a bag that smelled like greasy stir-fry. One woman wore a sweat suit, read a magazine, and had her feet up on a chair. Some were sleeping, their heads lulling against the wall, while others played chess and dominos or kept to themselves.

After a room supervisor discovered the intrusion, the reporter was forced out of the room into a hall, where several teachers were power-walking for exercise, but others soon gathered, anxious to speak about their experiences. "You can't use my name," one teacher said pleadingly. "There's a history of retribution. I have to pay my bills, pay for my child and for rent. This is the only job I've had my whole adult life and this is all happening before I'm proven guilty. We're all guilty, but did nothing wrong."

After about an hour, two suit-clad DOE employees arrived. "The head of human resources," one teacher murmured to the next. The crowd scattered. A few moments later, a guard came into the hall and asked the unapproved visitors to leave. When asked why, the guard just shrugged.

Most press mentions of the teachers exiled to the rubber room involve extreme cases that tend to inflame the tabloids. The Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI), an independent body headed by Richard Condon and designed to investigate wrongdoings in the DOE, posts press releases of teachers found guilty on its website, where they make for tab fodder.

On March 7, the SCI made public the case of 30-year-old Marcia Amsterdam, who engaged in sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old boy from her school. In another widely reported case, a teacher's lewd e-mails to a 16-year-old student produced six years of litigation (during which the teacher received $300,000 in compensation).

But out of 592 SCI investigations completed in 2006, only 259 were substantiated. The majority of cases are investigated by the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), which is part of the DOE and handles misdemeanor cases like incompetence and corporal punishment. "Before I was there, I thought this place was filled with thieves and molesters," one teacher tells the Voice. "There are people with quirks, but we're not all bad."

Even though many inside are still awaiting decisions, the rubber room has become synonymous with guilt. Some teachers are too embarrassed to tell close family members about their reassignment. One teacher, who has been inside for more than six months, tells the Voice he's managed to keep the truth from his wife.

Teacher advocates say the investigation process wouldn't be so mentally damaging if it could only be handled more quickly. The Voice spoke to teachers who had been serving time in rubber rooms from two months to three years. The DOE says it can't produce an average length of stay, because the district only started keeping track in 2005. According to their contract, teachers must be formally charged within six months of being reassigned or be returned to the classroom. But being charged can then add many more months as a case slowly works its way through a complicated process.

"The length of the process depends on the complexity of allegations and case," DOE spokeswoman Melody Meyer says. "Some investigations take days, others take months."

There are currently only 18 hearing officers handling misconduct cases. Each officer is contracted to meet only five times a month. The backlog of cases is immense.

"We have been saying for years that we want these people out of these places much more quickly," UFT president Randi Weingarten says. "There is no reason for them to be sitting six months or longer without charges being filed."

Hearing officers are chosen jointly by the DOE and the UFT, but are paid for by the New York State Education Department. With New York City officers making up to $1,900 a day, it's a lucrative part-time job, which some critics say leads these officers to overly compromising opinions. "You make a lot of money," says Julia Cohen, a lawyer who specializes in education law. "You want to satisfy both sides."

By July 2005, Argyris still hadn't heard any decisions from the December grievance hearing and the names and faces of her students grew vague in her mind. She had been transferred to a Livingston Street rubber room where she said one man routinely ate crumbs off the floor and where she saw a woman attack a man with a cane.

The Livingston Street rubber room was soon closed and Argyris was transferred to the Chapel Street facility, where the teachers had formed tight cliques. A daily spectacle, she says, was a young couple who had met during their reassignment and had converted a corner of the room into a small love nest, complete with air mattress, sleeping bags, small fridge, and a portable DVD player.

Argyris says that she found a companion too. But it didn't dawn on her, she says, that a teacher accused of telling a student he was going to throw the boy from a window might not make the best boyfriend.

In January 2006, Argyris filed a restraining order after her rubber room boyfriend beat her up. Photographs show that the whites of her eyes were stained red with blood. Black and blue marks ran the circumference of her neck.

Meanwhile, she passed her sixth-month mark in the rubber room without charges, but that milestone didn't, as her contract promised, put her back in a classroom. Instead, the UFT told her to keep showing up. But that was becoming more difficult. She started attending less frequently. And then, in February, she finally received formal charges—for her rubber room absences.

Because of Argyris's numerous absences (65 over the 18-month period), the DOE told her it planned to dock nine months of her salary. If she didn't agree, she would be fired. Instead, she hired a private attorney who drew up another settlement. She agreed to pay $2,500 and stipulated that if she accumulated another 55 minutes in tardiness, she would be automatically terminated.

The UFT was unhappy that Argyris had signed a private settlement with the district, but it's common for teachers to seek such agreements after they spend months in reassignment. The rubber rooms, in other words, wear them down. (In such settlements, the district collected $310,000 in fines last year.)
Edward Wolf, a lawyer, has made a living for almost two decades defending teachers. He says settling can be dangerous, because the teacher's name will never be cleared. "You're leaving your client with a dirty reputation," he says. "The teacher's got a rap sheet now and it's easy just to bump him off."

But the alternative—waiting for the hearing process to conclude—is increasingly a crapshoot. Last year, 200 teachers were charged with wrongdoing, but only eight were exonerated. Wolf said that five years ago it was common to win several consecutive cases, but now wins are rarer.

After her settlement, Argyris was still stuck in a rubber room. In March 2006, the UFT filed a special complaint on her behalf, charging that principal Mitchell had created a harassing work environment which had led to Argyris being reassigned. An arbitrator ultimately ruled against Argyris, saying that Mitchell had not harassed her.

But during preparations for the grievance hearing, to everyone's surprise, it was found that principal Mitchell had written a letter about a year and a half earlier—in January 2005—rescinding her original allegations that Argyris had yanked a child's arm.

"There was a document exonerating her," UFT investigator Huart says. "I was flabbergasted that this document even existed."

After 18 months in purgatory, Argyris was suddenly released from the rubber room. The teacher was told she could immediately return to her old school, as if nothing had ever been wrong.

Stunned and emotionally spent, Argyris was overwhelmed.

Just thinking of returning to school after so long an absence made Argyris dizzy.

Garrett, the documentary filmmaker, says he's seen several teachers come out of rubber rooms and experience difficulty assimilating to classrooms. "The amount of time you're away from your school indicates something bad to your colleagues," he said. "But really it's the inefficiency of the system."

Argyris shuddered at the idea of being under the supervision of the same woman who accused her of wrongdoing in the first place. "Why would they send me back to the school with that woman?" asked Argyris. "It's like they were setting me up to fail."

The first few days, Argyris failed to show up, which she attributes to feelings of intense anxiety. When she finally came to school, she was offered a third grade class instead of kindergarten, the grade she'd always taught. Argyris asked the union to provide an aide to accompany her in the room; she wanted a witness so that she couldn't be accused of corporal punishment again. The aide was denied, as was a transfer to a kindergarten classroom. Mitchell says Argyris's return was a disaster. "She usually spent the day sleeping in the teachers' lounge or went out in the neighborhood. I was often asked by parents who was the person screaming into the phone or lying in the teachers' lounge." A doctor recommended medical leave for Argyris, but as her medical issues were being resolved, Argyris surpassed the 55-minute tardy stipulation in her settlement agreement. She was terminated a little more than one month after returning to her school.

Her case won't die, however. The UFT and DOE continue to battle over the original allegations made against her. The DOE seemed incensed that the Voice was interested in the Argyris matter; it sent over records of a nine-year-old accusation that Argyris had made racially insensitive remarks to a district employee. Argyris denies the allegation, and was never disciplined for the incident. Repeatedly, DOE officials warned the Voice not to write about any aspect of the Argyris case.

Many teachers don't return to school after the rubber room—some retire; one woman the Voice talked to vowed to go to private schools; one young man said that when he was cleared he hoped to get a job in another state; another young teacher gave up after a few months in the rubber room and took up nursing.

But the DOE says that the numbers of teachers involved is small. "We're talking about 662 people out of a workforce of 80,000 teachers and roughly 6,000 administrators," Meyer says. "The vast majority is not affected."

The union, meanwhile, says that the rubber room system is preferable to the alternative: suspending teachers without pay until their cases were adjudicated. "There would be even more delays. Cases would drag on forever," Weingarten says. "We want these cases dealt with as soon as possible and not delayed for months and months . . . More than three years ago, I proposed creating a super-arbitrator system to clear the backlog of cases. The DOE rejected that."

Meanwhile, stuck with the rubber room system, life—or something like it—goes on in the city's reassignment centers. Jeremy Garrett, the former teacher who was sneaking into rubber rooms with videocameras to make his film, was arrested on April 18 when teachers objected to his presence. He was charged with criminal trespass.

And also last week, one teacher the Voice talked to, Ronald Mortensen Jr., a physical education teacher who worked with special education students, was run over and killed by a car on his lunch break. He was serving his second stint in the rubber room.

NAPTA: The Many Stages of Teacher Abuse

NAPTA stands for the "National Association for Prevention of Teacher Abuse, and founder Karen Horwitz is a good friend.
She knows the process that destroys teachers lives, not only in New York City, but throughout the United States, and has made a list of the stages of abuse that the destroyers use:

General Goal: Maintain an organization whereby the hierarchy has absolute power and neither the teachers nor the parents can interfere, thus hiding incompetence, maintaining lucrative positions, and control over the budget.

Methods/Goals-in order of intensity (Most teachers not aware it is intentional bullying until level 8.)

1. Avoid hiring older experienced teachers who are thinkers./Keep a staff of young revolving door teachers so roots and opinions won't establish.
2. Praise conformity./Staff of Stepford teachers who won't question anything.
3. Give perks to a small group of teachers that form first line of defense against other teachers./Create a barrier clique between administration and teachers by rewarding a few good soldiers who will serve as positive voice pieces for the administration.
4. Overload with work./Create inability to complain about issues - keep too busy.
5. Limit assistance with difficult children or purposely load certain teacher with difficult children./Create inability to complain about issues keep too busy to speak out.
6. Limit support with difficult parents and create barrier between teachers and parents./Attack self-esteem so won't feel empowered and won't trust their own thinking while eliminating parent allies from forming.
7. Place children of high profile parents with teachers who conform./Avoid having parents form allies with strong teachers.
8. Write up false reports./Flex muscles so teacher will know they are being controlled and will become confused.
9. Create files with false and negative reports; create separate file in case contract requires teacher is to be informed, and keep documents out of teacher's view./Build a case against teacher.
10.Threaten- directly or through rumors or innuendo by designated staff messengers./Create wall of fear to silence teacher.
11.Threaten others in presence./Set example; increase fear to point where teacher will report other.
12.Humiliate./Keep divergent thinker as dysfunctional as possible; weaken self esteem.
13.Torment./Affect psychological health so easier to control and teacher will quit.
14.Demonstrate clear demarcations between favored and unfavored staff;lower evaluations of teachers who befriend administration's target teachers./Encourage teachers to choose party line so undesirable teachers will quit.
15.Let union people know they must support administration./Avoid records that can be used against administration in case there is tenure hearing.
16.Ostracize - divide and conquer./Create system of quislings to force unwanted teacher out.
17.Suggest resigning to avoid termination./Hide bullying pattern from Board, save money on hearing, frighten teacher into last chance for any reference or future teaching jobs.
18.Banish with leave or ordered doctor visit, especially using testimony for fee psychiatrist./Use fear of psychological report to encourage resignation.
19.Terminate and settle with a gag order not to talk against district./Don't pay teacher so desperate teacher will give in.
20.Promise good reference; destroy reputation so they will never be in a position to bad mouth former district./Secretly inform other districts so teacher won't be hired elsewhere in area or even same city.
21.Politically control tenure hearing; submit altered documents; arrange for colleagues to give false testimony for status; call witnesses and directly and indirectly warn them; drive teacher to despair so she will give up./Good Ol Boy Network protects each other knowing the system depends on silencing - witness tampering and altered documents won't be noticed.
22.Politically control tenure decision. /stall/War of attrition: hope for natural death.
23.Threaten or entice union into selling out teacher./Guaranteed absolute power so no teacher will speak out.
24.Your guess is as good as mine.

Martha Stout's Book "The Paranoia Switch" and Ponerology, or the Science of Evil

Education in New York City
Comments by Arthur Miller, JD

As a former educator and newly designated rubber room detainee, I would like to bring to your attention for your reading pleasure and peace of mind, a new work by a renowned psychologist specializing in trauma treatment who has been on the staff of Harvard Medical School for over twenty-five years. Martha Stout Ph.D. has written a new book titled: The Paranoia Switch. This monumental work goes a long way in explaining how ruthless demagogues exploit the fear and paranoia of a traumatized population in order to control the "paranoia switches" that result in human paralysis, fear and ultimately the triumph of evil by those without a conscience.

A review by Harrison Koehli (see below) is relevant:

"In essence, traumatic events like terrorism overload the limbic system. The heightened response in that part of our brain called the amygdala which registers the emotional significance of the event, leads to decreased functioning in the hippocampus which usually prioritizes information and allows the higher brain to create coherent memories.

So traumatic events do not get integrated by the higher brain, but instead leave us with nonintegrated fragments of memory: isolated images and sensations. These memories can then be "triggered" by similar images and experiences."

In this way, ruthless and conscienceless leaders, administrators, CEO's, principals, chancellors, politicians, etc. can keep us in a state of vulnerable paranoia.

Using this model of human brain functioning and conditioning, consider the witch hunts which followed certain historical traumatic events like the formation of the KKK following the end of slavery, the illegal internment of over 100,000 loyal Japanese citizens during WWII, the McCarthy witch trials following WWII, the axis of evil that was created after 9/11, etc. and how these were used by fear mongers to create scapegoats that allowed power hungry leaders with visions of a "new society" to push the buttons on the "paranoia switches" that were installed into our brains during times of national crisis.

Professor Stout goes on to explain that entire populations are victimized and held captive by fear, paralysis and paranoia in much the same way the "battered wife syndrome" works. Individuals are targeted for harassment, abuse and humiliation by someone in a position of power and made to feel that their well-being and survival depends on their getting along with that same person --while they are shunned, isolated and ostracized by their peers and colleagues and made to feel powerless and hopeless. The abuse never ends, just gets more insufferable, intolerable and unbearable, until the victim finally becomes "uncooperative and insubordinate".

Ring a bell?!

And after you are humiliated and removed from your school by the functional illiterate former special ed students masquerading as the keystone cops (aka: The NYC BOE Office of Special Investigations, or OSI), who will believe you?

Does the only decent and honest member on the PEP panel (Patrick Sullivan - Ed.) with noticeable integrity have a clue as to the realpolotik of rubber room policy?

Does this phenomenon ring a bell with anyone?

The first thing Klein did after taking over was remove principal tenure by creating fear and paranoia that any principal can be fired at a moment's notice, at will. This fear and paranoia worked splendidly and resulted in absolute loyalty and obedience. Next, the former gym teachers and shop teachers who became appointed as principals by forming meretricious liaisons with strange bedfellows, were brainwashed into believing they were newly anointed corporate CEO's. This was the vestment equivalent of boots and uniforms.

So here we are eight years later. The best and the brightest teachers with proven track records will continue to flood the rubber rooms. The most incompetent principals and despicable human beings will continue to follow orders and use the "How To Get Rid of Tenured Teachers" manuals in furtherance of the agenda at Tweed. The most dysfunctional behavior disordered students are openly boasting: they can get any teacher fired any time. And they're right!!!

Did the workshop model result in improved literacy or classroom discipline? Have student academic performances honestly improved one iota? (On stat sheets it's "Alice Through The Looking Glass".) The Teaching Fellows are more dehumanized and demoralized than ever and quitting in droves. Did the geniuses at Tweed really think they knew something new? What do the teachers, students, parents and administrators in the best performing school systems on the planet (Scandinavia and Asia) know that we don't know?


All comments are welcome.

Arthur Miller, JD

See more below:

Limbic Warfare and Martha Stout's "Paranoia Switch"
A review by Harrison Koehli, Mon, 29 Oct 2007 17:36 EDT

Martha Stout's newest book, The Paranoia Switch, is a welcome addition to the new and growing science of ponerology: the study of the root causes and genesis of evil, on both the social and interpersonal levels. Stout uses her years of experience as a trauma therapist to clinically diagnose the sickness of our 'terror culture', and those who would manipulate this trauma for their own self-interest.

The paranoia switch

Traumatic events overload our limbic system. The heightened response of our amygdala, which registers the emotional significance of the event, leads to a decreased response in the hippocampus, which usually prioritizes information and allows the higher brain centers to create coherent memories, based on their emotional importance. So, traumatic events do not get integrated by the higher brain centers as true memories, but instead leave us with non-integrated fragments of memory: isolated images and sensations. These memories can then be "triggered" by similar images. In this way, a backfiring car can trigger a war vet into a state of paranoia. His "paranoia switch" has been flicked.

"Most overwhelming of all are traumatic experiences caused not by accident (unintended explosions or car crashes), or by "acts of God" (earthquakes, volcanoes, etc.), but rather by the deliberate acts of other people, acts such as assault, violent abduction, rape - or terrorism. It would seem that, for whatever reason, we are hardwired to be most fearful of harm when it threatens to occur maliciously, at the hands of our fellow human beings, and this special variety of fear is the most contagious of all." (62)

As Stout explains later in her book, fear brokers maintain their power through the exploitation of human weaknesses. Ironically, it is often the very people we are genetically "programmed" to fear (i.e. psychopathic individuals), that exploit this fear by focusing it on an arbitrary and convenient group. Hitler used anarchists, communists, and Jews. Bush is using "terrorists", Muslims, and critics of his policies.

Stout defines terrorism as "violence committed with the primary goal of manipulating the minds of the surviving population" (27). It creates a paranoia switch in our minds, or turns on an already existing one. Its "most cherished ambition is to affect us psychologically, to instill a sense of helplessness in the minds of individual citizens, and to steal, in wholesale grabs, from our collective store of hopefulness" (24).

It is in this way that terrorists (whether they be Western intelligence agency puppet masters or foreign "terrorist" patsies) are able to steer a battered public in the direction of their choice. However, we can make sure that terrorism does not work on our minds by being aware of its effects and its purpose, and the tactics of those who exploit it.

Limbic Resonance

Even though a terrorist attack directly affects only a very small portion of a population, the whole country can feel its effects. This phenomenon has its roots in our limbic system. "[T]he limbic system plays a dominant role in regulating our feelings, the accessibility of our memories, our motivations to act, our ability to make meaning of our experiences, and even our consciences" (77). "[C]onscience is a compelling feeling of obligation that is always based in our proclivity to bond with others... it is precisely our capacity to form emotional attachments that gives rise to moral character..." (75).

"[W]ith information from any or all of our senses, processed through the limbic system, we can perceive the internal state of another human being - her or his physiological and emotional status - to which we would otherwise be "blind." ... Not only does the limbic system allow us to perceive the emotions of others ... it functions, also, to align our emotions with those of the people around us, and vice versa." (78)

In this way, the trauma of a terrorist event is contagious. We are each affected by the emotional state of those around us; we all become traumatized. "[L]imbic resonance is one of the many reasons that personality, and especially character, should be primary considerations in choosing our leadership. For good or for ill, a high-profile leader can have a radiating emotional influence on large numbers of people" (83).

Machiavellian leaders are able to exploit this fact so well because they are psychopaths. They feel no pangs of conscience, no pain at the sight of a mutilated body. Nothing disturbs their cold, callous and unemotional nature.

Limbic War

When a leader chooses to exploit this contagion, rather than to calm and heal it, he is engaging in what Stout calls "limbic warfare." "If a leader chooses to focus the group's attention on the terrifying "others" - if he or she pounds the paranoia switch installed by trauma - the group's fear level is likely to remain over the top for a long time, and, whether or not he is competent, the leader's perceived authority will hold... [A]fter group trauma, large-scale social changes can be inaugurated, intentionally or not, by a handful of scaremongers who play to the anger and paranoia of a vulnerable population" (92-3, 95). It is at these key points in history that countries are ripe for pathocracy, a macrosocial disease that can last for decades - even centuries.

Stout identifies six stages of a limbic war:

1. Group Trauma: This takes the form of a national catastrophe, like 9/11, that "installs a nonconscious paranoia switch in the minds of a nation's citizens" (110).

2. Fear Brokers: Whether perpetrators (as is the case with 9/11) or merely opportunists (as was the case with Pearl Harbour), a small group of people will attempt to use this group fear to pursue their own agenda, repeatedly triggering the paranoia switch. Such frightened people "tend to be drawn to an authoritarian personality" for a leader (111). The rest of the steps depend on the success of this step.

3. Scapegoatism: The fear brokers will then contend that a specific group, usually innocent of the crime in question, is the responsible party. Such "successful scapegoatism slows the groups healing process to a crawl" (111). In this way, wars and hatred are initiated by the fear brokers' influence over the many.

4. Cultural Regression: With a concrete enemy to blame, such primitive instincts as lust for revenge can "crystallize." In this way, the fear brokers manipulate our moralizing tendencies. Separating the population into "patriots" and "traitors" (those who support the primitive response and those who do not) identifies and stigmatizes those who are not susceptible to the manipulations. Paranoia stifles dissent and creates an internal censor.

5. Recognition and Backlash: Eventually, people become aware of the insanity of such governments and their leaders are deposed. However, this may take decades. In this early stage, "protests begin, small and uneasy at the beginning, growing larger and bolder as time goes on" [e.g. the solidarity movements in Eastern Europe in the late 80s] (113). Unfortunately, these protests usually ignore the main issue - the psychological nature of such leaders - and focus on a side issue, e.g. McCarthy's alleged homosexuality or simply the corruption of such officials.

6. Regret and Forgetting: "As the original trauma-engendered fear beings to ease, often years later, we have difficulty recalling why we allowed ourselves to be so easily co-opted into an authoritarian agenda. Many of us are left in a state of dissonance and guilt, and this uncomfortable condition promotes forgetting..." (114).

Micro/Macro Scale

"[W]e can use the small social system of a highly dysfunctional couple to help explain the strange human allegiance to destructive authoritarians in general" (120). In an abusive relationship, the victim, paralyzed by constant fear, clings to the "protection" of the very person who terrorizes them. "A battered human being learns how not to "see" the egregious behavior of her authoritarian partner ... and how to construe empty minutiae as evidence that, somewhere deep down, her truly cares" (132).

The method involves three aspects: 1) a predisposition to fear (i.e., an already-existing paranoia switch), 2) isolation (i.e., the abuse occurs behind closed doors), 3) the conviction that because the world (in reality, the unhealthy relationship) is so fearful, loyalty to a protector (in reality, the abuser, and the creator of such fear) is necessary. When we lose the ability to recognize pathological behavior, this is the first criterion of the genesis of evil at any level; everything follows from this inability to accurately read objective reality.

"After all, our leaders, like our domestic partners, are supposed to be watching our backs, and when we have been terrorized, we will sometimes continue to assume that partners and leaders are so inclined, even in the face of life-threatening evidence that a particular spouse, or a certain leader, has no such caring motivation." (135) E.g., Mao "always promised to care for and protect the people he brutalized. They people believed him. Many of them believe him still" (136).

"[C]onstant fear generated by severe abuse draws and quarters families psychologically, separating even family members who are suffering the same destructive treatment at the hands of the same person. ... [C]hronic fear ... erodes and distorts human ties [which are only regained in the harsh period of pathocracy]." (149) "In a stressed democracy, when chronic fear is causing ties to break down anyway, influencing people to separate themselves according to the designations of liberal and conservative is not difficult to do." (150)

In this way, corrupt politicians can keep their enemy (i.e., the people) divided by focusing on side issues. While a population is busy infighting over gun control, abortion, religion, etc., the deviants in office can escape notice. If the people were aware of the manipulations being used on them by their leaders, such manipulations would prove ineffective. "Witnesses, and the clear light of day, are crucially important to our safety from abuse, and anathema to abusers. In The Wizard of Oz, the little man in the draped compartment, working the knobs to project the image of a gigantic, frightening wizard, shouts, "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!" - because he knows that, as soon as people pull back the drapes, the illusion will be over" (118). Wife abusers depend on the secrecy of their abuse, and do everything they can to keep it that way. In the same way, corrupt politicians use a controlled media to present their mask of sanity, operating behind a veneer of cheap propaganda and conduct their black-ops under "top secrecy".

Trojan Horse Politics

Stout identifies what she calls "cowbird politicians" after the bird that lays its eggs in another's nest to be nurtured by another. "A cowbird politician, who is interested only in acquiring and maintaining individual power, has few genuine convictions, either liberal or conservative, but many be ensconced in a traditional political party... The purloined "nest" serves as a power base and also as camouflage; we tend to honor party labels and not to look behind them, making pure self-interest difficult to see" (158). Lobaczewski deals with this phenomenon in much greater detail, pointing out that the cowbird politicians are often psychopaths (they are also called Machiavellian personalities), well-practiced in maintaining a façade (a mask of sanity) of deception, and at infiltrating social and political groups like "Trojan horses."

Stout identifies the various types of pathological types that aspire to power: the psychopaths, the vengeful, the ideologically obsessed, the neurotics, the psychotics. While Stout rightly points out that it is actions and not motivations that truly count, Lobaczewski has a more in depth understanding of the role of each different pathology. A brief summary: schizoids often provide the naïve and misguided ideology, paranoids are the first to gravitate towards leadership positions in ponerogenic groups, and psychopaths are the eventual inspirational source for the entire pathocratic system, occupying all positions of influence. Neurotics, ideologues, psychotics, are all minor, but important, players in such a system, even in positions of public leadership (look behind the veil of secrecy and you'll be sure to find a psychopathic éminence grise).

Stout points out that such leaders invariably attempt to shame their population, often with sex. Just as pathocrats manipulate normal people's innate tendencies to trust and to fear, they manipulate our moral nature with gross epithets, moralizing condemnations, and humiliating innuendo, that is, paramoralisms. Lenin called his opponents hucksters, servant-boys, and Judases. Bush has conspiracy theorists, terrorists, and traitors.

A Different Future

As Stout points out in her book, it is possible to overcome this process of ponerogenesis before it comes to full fruition in the form of pathocracy. But first, we must overcome the first criterion of ponerogenesis, that is, the inability to recognize pathological individuals and behaviours as pathological. Stout writes:

"In a democracy, a person displaying some or all of these behaviors would not be well tolerated under ordinary circumstances. Several of the ten characteristics [of fear brokers] are plainly unattractive and alienating. But, again, the behaviors are unattractive and alienating under certain conditions. Following a catastrophic national event, such as 9/11 in the United States, conditions are anything but ordinary. The people are traumatized, they long for someone to make them feel secure, and an ancient paranoia switch is once again waiting to snap on. Under these conditions, fear mongers thrive. Their characteristics are so hand in glove with the trauma reaction of the population that their identifying behaviors are scarcely "seen" at all. In short, after we have been thoroughly traumatized, we cannot see the devil." (186)

The fear brokers have an Achilles' heel: their psychopathic nature. When they are exposed as the petty con artists that they are, and their nature is understand scientifically and not emotionally, they cannot con us anymore. Dr. Stout, while perhaps not grasping the extent of the Bush regime's mendacity and ruthlessness (she seems to think that 9/11 was orchestrated and perpetrated by Muslim extremists, against all reason and evidence to the contrary), her work is an important addition to the growing body of knowledge falling under the heading Dr. Lobaczewski termed decades ago: Ponerology - The Science of Evil.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, fear took up residence in our minds.
- Martha Stout

Stout, Martha. The Paranoia Switch: How Terror Rewires Our Brains and Reshapes Our Behavior – and How We Can Reclaim Our Courage. New York: Sarah Crichton Books, 2007.

Recently, I have obtained the new book by Martha Stout, Ph.D, while browsing a local bookstore and this book has just been released this month. It was an interesting timing because this book has addressed how the traumatized event of 9/11 affected the American minds and how these minds were 'locked' on fear. By using her psychological and neuro-psychological research on fear and terror, Martha Stout wrote a very insightful book entitled The Paranoia Switch: How Terror Rewires Our Brains and Reshapes Our Behavior – and How We Can Reclaim Our Courage. Her work brings the reader to understand the nature of fear and terror, and how it was done to one's mind. There are nine chapters in this book, but it is composed of four parts: a personal struggle with fear, the phenomenon of terrorism, protection against future fear, and a new hope. Throughout The Paranoia Switch, there is an understanding about how politician leaders used people's fear by looking what are terrorism, limbic wars, and fear brokers.

The first chapter of Paranoia Switch introduces the reader the concepts of 'fear switch' and limbic resonance. The second chapter, "How Terrorism Works," brings the reader to understand the nature of terrorism and its use of fear. The third chapter focuses on how trauma affected the human brain. "Fearing As One" is a fourth chapter which brings forth a case study of Leena and the further understanding of limbic resonance. The next chapter, "The Limbic Wars," reveals how authoritarian political leaders use people's fear to achieve their personal agenda by looking at the six stages of the limbic wars. The parallel between domestic abuse and terrorism is discussed in the sixth chapter. The next two chapters address the political orientation as genetic component, the fear brokers and their ten behavioral characteristics. The last chapter, "Homeland Security," details the actions that one would need to uptake in order to get rid of one's fear.

We often hear this word, "terrorism," daily in our lives. We hear it on the radio, watch it on the news, read it in the newspapers, and we would feel the fear when this word is mentioned everywhere we go. In her book, Stout defined terrorism as "violence committed with the primary goal of manipulating the minds of the surviving population" (p. 27). So, why has terrorism becomes massive on global scale? It is because our fears are what fuels terrorism and our leaders are using our fears for their own selfish reasons. It is important for one to know, from reading this book, that terrorism does not always work unless it affects our minds. (p.24)

Stout pointed out that the United States was a 'habituated' country until that morning of September 11, 2001. It was not 'used' to being exposed to acts of terrorism as other countries have had done, and it has experienced a profound shock. United States has yet to develop a coping mechanism to 'short-circuit the paranoia switch.' So, instead, its paranoia switch is stuck and it is continuing to be 'stuck' as long as the U.S. politicians keep feeding the public's fear (p. 39).

Secondly, the Limbic Wars are described in the fifth chapter, which Stout has included the American examples of Ku Klux Klan, the World War II internment of Japanese-Americans, and McCarthyism. And, she has detailed the six stages of Limbic War, including group trauma, fear brokers, scapegoatism, cultural regression, recognition and backlash, and regret and forgetting (p. 109-114). Her discussion of the limbic system and limbic resonance are clearly understandable and so are their roles on fear.

Thirdly, Fear Brokers are power-hungry individuals who use the public's fear to pursue their private agenda (p. 110). Chapter Eight of Paranoia Switch outlined the ten behavioral characteristics of fear brokers. Stout pointed out that it is critical for the reader to identify and to know how to deal with the fear brokers. One of her suggestions was when one sees a fear broker speaking on television, to say to yourself: "that person wants to control me with fear" (p. 167).

Stout places a strong emphasis on responsibility for oneself when it comes to fear. She encourages the reader to have courage to face one's fear by putting into action from knowing how fear was manifested in themselves and how it was being used. Politicians are using fear to keep people in check and under their control, but it does not have to be that way. In regards to nations, Stout has pointed out:

If fear holds a democratic nation in thrall in the long term, causing the greater portion of its citizens to avoid thinking for themselves indefinitely, the best psychological prediction is that democracy will decline and eventually die. (p. 201)

She also stressed that by giving into fear, by letting it affect us, we are letting the the fear brokers (e.g., our authoritarian leaders) to control us. In a sense, we are letting them to control our paranoia switch.

By looking briefly at what are terrorism, limbic war and fear brokers from Martha Stout's The Paranoia Switch, there is an understanding about how politician leaders used public's fear to pursue their very own personal agenda. This book is most certainly insightful and essential. To understand how power-hungry and psychopathic leaders control the public's mind, Stout's Paranoia Switch will give you the answers. Stout's unique research has helped me to better understand the role of fear and terror in our lives. It is my humble opinion to recommend this book for the readers.

Respectfully, I give high praises to Martha Stout for her unique perspective and bringing her work to us.

You will find this book at:

Last edited by Zadius Sky (2007-09-22 18:20:42)

minimal-meandering blog

Are You a Teacher Needing Help? DON'T Ask your Attorney General

It is no secret to anyone who has been subject to, or an observer of, the willful malicious prosecution by NYC and NYS Superintendants/principals of good, honest people - teachers, para professionals, secretaries, custodians, etc - who follow the directive to be mandated reporters, that there are no consequences for the prosecutors. In fact, the laws of due process, open meetings, freedom of information (FOIL) and employment are routinely violated by administrators who know that they can be immunized by the Corporation Counsel (Law Department of the City of New York at 100 Church Street, NYC 10004). When the Law Department decides to indemnify an individual, this means that the defense in court of this person is paid for. See Indemnification. If the immunized person is a public employee, then, according to the law, this person can be represented in court pursuant to the individual working for a public agency and having done something while performing his/her duties as such. When an individual is immunized he/she is 'empowered' in an manner of being "held harmless":

"hold harmless:
In a contract, a promise by one party not to hold the other party responsible if the other party carries out the contract in a way that causes damage to the first party. For example, many leases include a hold harmless clause in which the tenant agrees not to sue the landlord if the tenant is injured due to the landlord’s failure to maintain the premises. In most states, these clauses are illegal in residential tenancies, but may be upheld in commercial settings."

The corporation counsel in New York City gives this privilege to anyone who the NYC Law Department wants to, and there is nothing that any taxpayer can do. I've tried. Martin Bowe, an Attorney who works for the Corporation Counsel, called me to say that he indemnified non-employees "because [he] wanted to".[direct quote taken from the tape].

A Model Agreement for indemnification of an employee of a corporation is posted above to show how companies can protect themselves from liability. We believe that the Corporation Counsel is violating the law by using the law to protect anyone from claims made against public employees and agencies, and are "coloring" the laws of indemnification/immunity. The same goes for Judges, who are more or less 'appointed' by the party machines. This is possible because in New York City, no taxpayer votes for the school board, and the Attorney General doesn't work for us, the public, but for the New York State Education Department (see letter sent to Dania Hall, above, when she asked for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's help).

As Dania points out on her blog in the article " Demand for School Chiefs Pushes Salaries Up" By FORD FESSENDEN, North Bellmore School District seems to reward Superintendants quite handsomely to color the law). There are never any consequences.

The UFT Wins Letter in File Lawsuits

The UFT sued the DOE for disciplining three teachers from PS 345 in Brooklyn who were given letters in their files without going through the 3020a process. NY Teacher reports:

Union wins letter-in-file suits
Jan 17, 2008 6:14 PM

Three State Supreme Court judges have ruled that the New York City Department of Education cannot place purely disciplinary letters in educators’ files without providing them the due process required by Article 3020a of the state Education Law.

The ruling involved teachers Daphna Gutman, Joyce Sticco, Evelyn Carillo and Darlene Jones Hardwick, all of whom teach at PS 345 in Brooklyn. When a fellow teacher at the school was investigated for possible improper acts involving students, each of the four teachers willingly cooperated with investigators from the office of Special Commissioner for Investigations Richard Condon. One even reached out on her own to contact the office when she learned of the investigation.

The four teachers told investigators they did not think that any of the acts that SCI later used as the bases of charges were improper.

When the SCI issued its report months later, it called not only for termination of the teacher under investigation but also for disciplinary action against each of the four teachers, alleging that they failed to report improper conduct. The principal met with each teacher and placed letters in their files reprimanding them.

The outraged teachers and their colleagues at the school asked the UFT to try to clear their names. The union went to court and sued the DOE for disciplining the teachers without going through the 3020a process. Their cases were separate and three judges heard them.

All three judges ruled that the DOE had to remove the letters from the file because they were purely disciplinary and did not recommend a change in behavior, did not threaten future discipline and were not simply observation reports. Because they were purely disciplinary in nature, the judges ruled that they could not be placed in the teachers’ files without following 3020a procedures.

The DOE has appealed the rulings.

“This ruling is a great victory for our members because it protects them from the arbitrary and capricious whims of autocratic administrators who would make educators scapegoats,” said UFT President Randi Weingarten. “It’s one thing to try to hold people accountable, but our members cooperated fully with investigators and did exactly what they were supposed to do. This ruling tells principals that they have to adhere to a process and follow the rules before attempting to assign blame and punish educators.”

Teacher Performance May Be Tied To Test Scores

January 21, 2008
New York Measuring Teachers by Test Scores

New York City has embarked on an ambitious experiment, yet to be announced, in which some 2,500 teachers are being measured on how much their students improve on annual standardized tests.

The move is so contentious that principals in some of the 140 schools participating have not told their teachers that they are being scrutinized based on student performance and improvement.

While officials say it is too early to determine how they will use the data, which is already being collected, they say it could eventually be used to help make decisions on teacher tenure or as a significant element in performance evaluations and bonuses. And they hold out the possibility that the ratings for individual teachers could be made public.

“If the only thing we do is make this data available to every person in the city — every teacher, every parent, every principal, and say do with it what you will — that will have been a powerful step forward,” said Chris Cerf, the deputy schools chancellor who is overseeing the project. “If you know as a parent what’s the deal, I think that whole aspect will change behavior.”

The effort comes as educators nationwide are struggling to figure out how to find, train and measure good teachers. Many education experts say that until teacher quality improves in urban schools, student performance is likely to stagnate and the achievement gap between white and minority students will never be closed. Other school systems, including those in Dallas and Houston as well as in the whole state of Tennessee, are also using student performance and improvement as factors in evaluating teachers.

The United Federation of Teachers, the city’s teachers’ union, has known about the experiment for months, but has not been told which schools are involved, because the Education Department has promised those principals confidentiality.

Randi Weingarten, the union president, said she had grave reservations about the project, and would fight if the city tried to use the information for tenure or formal evaluations or even publicized it. She and the city disagree over whether such moves would be allowed under the contract.

“There is no way that any of this current data could actually, fairly, honestly or with any integrity be used to isolate the contributions of an individual teacher,” Ms. Weingarten said. “If one permitted this, it would be one of the worst decisions of my professional life.”

New York invited principals from hundreds of elementary and middle schools with sufficient annual testing data to participate in the program, which will produce an elaborate stream of data on 2,500 teachers.

In 140 schools — a tenth of the roughly 1,400 in the system — teachers are being measured on how many students in their classes meet basic progress goals, how much student performance grows each year, and how that improvement compares with the performance of similar students with other teachers.

In another 140 schools, principals are being asked to make subjective evaluations of roughly the same number of teachers so officials can see if the two systems produce widely disparate results. New York City schools employ roughly 77,000 teachers. In all 280 schools, the principals agreed to participate in the program.

Deputy Chancellor Cerf said that how students performed on tests would not be the only factor considered in any system to rate teachers. All decisions will include personal circumstances and experiences, he said, but the point will be to put a focus on whether or not students are improving.

“This isn’t about how hard we try,” Mr. Cerf said. “This is about however you got here, are your students learning?”

Ms. Weingarten said the system was not needed. “Any real educator can know within five minutes of walking into a classroom if a teacher is effective,” she said. “These tests were never intended and have never been validated for the use of evaluating teachers.”

The experiment is in line with the city’s increasing use of standardized test scores to measure whether students are improving, and to judge school quality. A new bonus program for teachers and principals, as well as the letter grading system for schools unveiled last fall, are all linked to improvement in scores. Nationally, too, school systems are increasingly relying on these measures to judge schools.

Virtually all education experts agree that finding high-quality teachers is critical to improving student learning, particularly in high-poverty urban areas, where good teachers are usually more difficult to find. Recent research has found that the best teachers can help struggling students catch up to more advanced students within three years.

But experts are grappling with how to determine what makes a good teacher. Neither graduate programs in education schools nor previous academic records are reliable predictors, they say. The federal No Child Left Behind law requires that districts place a “highly qualified” teacher in every classroom, which typically means one who has completed a certification program, but this, too, is not necessarily a good indicator of quality.

“It seems hard to know who is going to be effective in the classroom until they are actually in the classroom,” said Thomas J. Kane, a professor of education and economics at Harvard, who is conducting several research projects on teacher quality in New York City, and who is involved in the new effort.

Mr. Kane said there was little evidence that teachers with the “right paper qualifications” were any more effective than those without them. “But most school districts spend very little time trying to assess how good teachers are in their first couple of years, when it is most important,” he said.

Nationwide, more than 95 percent of teachers receive tenure within their first three years of teaching, according to some studies. And once teachers receive tenure, it is extremely difficult to have them removed from classrooms.

In some sense, New York’s effort to judge teachers partly on their students’ improvement is a logical extension of the grading system for schools that was unveiled last fall, although officials adamantly say they have no plans to assign letter grades to individual teachers.

“I don’t think anyone here would embrace the formulaic use of even the most sophisticated instrument — you get tenure if this, you don’t get tenure if that,” Mr. Cerf said.

He added that the new effort was just one of several ways in which the city was exploring how to evaluate and improve teacher quality. In recent months, city officials have begun training new lawyers to help principals navigate the considerable red tape required to remove inadequate teachers.

They have increased recruiting efforts to attract talented teachers to hard-to-staff schools. And they are allowing schools to earn merit bonus pools to distribute to teachers based on test scores.

“This should simply be one more way to think about things,” said Frank A. Cimino, the principal of P.S. 193 in Brooklyn, who said he was participating in the experiment. “It is going to tell you some things you don’t know, but it will miss the other things that go on in a classroom.”

William Sanders, a researcher in North Carolina who was one of the first to begin evaluating teachers and schools based on student test score improvements, said that while such a system could be used to make broad judgments, it was difficult to use it with precision enough to find differences among teachers who are simply average.

“Can you distinguish the top teachers? Yes,” Mr. Sanders said. “Can you distinguish the bottom teachers? The answer is yes, too. But it would be risky to make decisions using information at the classroom level for teachers who are just in the middle. You might miss a lot that way.”

The city’s pilot program uses a statistical analysis to measure students’ previous-year test scores, their numbers of absences and whether they receive special education services or free lunch, as well as class size, among other factors.

Based on all those factors, that analysis then sets a “predicted gain” for a teacher’s class, which is measured against students’ actual gains to determine how much a teacher has contributed to students’ growth.

The two-page report for each teacher examines information both from one year and over three years. The information also compares the teacher with all other teachers in the city, and with teachers who have similar classrooms and experience levels. The second part of the report measures how well a teacher does with students with different skill levels, showing, for example, whether the teacher seems to work well with struggling students.

Mr. Cerf said officials expected to decide by the “early summer” whether they would use the analysis to evaluate individual teachers for tenure or other decisions, and if so, how they would do so. Such a decision would undoubtedly open up a legal battle with the teacher’s union.