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Monday, March 31, 2014

Dan Weisberg: Dont Pay All Teachers The Same


How to keep great teachers

Retain the best.
There aren’t many things in life you can count on, but here’s one: Whenever it’s time for the city to negotiate a new contract with the United Federation of Teachers, the union will sound the alarm about teachers fleeing to the suburbs because of low salaries.
So it came as no surprise when, earlier this month, amid news that the two sides have begun working on a deal, the UFT released a report warning of a “mass exodus” of teachers in recent years, especially to suburban schools, and suggesting that the only solution is a big, across-the-board raise.
But there’s a big hole in the union’s logic. It turns out that the vast majority of the city’s 75,000-plus teachers actually aren’t going to the suburbs — or anywhere else, for that matter.
In 2012, my organization studied teacher retention in New York and three other large urban districts, and found that the city actually keeps close to 90% of its teachers every year and over 90% of its senior teachers. The UFT’s own report found virtually no turnover among the most experienced teachers, and asserted that only 12% of teachers who leave before retirement end up teaching in the suburbs (allegedly because of better salaries and working conditions, although the union offered no data to support that theory).
More importantly, the UFT isn’t asking the crucial question about teacher retention: Are the teachers who are leaving the ones we want to keep?
It’s a tragedy when a great teacher leaves a school, but research tells us that same school would actually be better off when a consistently ineffective teacher leaves. When you are retaining 90% of your teachers, what matters isn’t just how many teachers are leaving, but which teachers are leaving. Focusing on the overall retention rate without regard to performance is a little like reviewing a book based on its word count, instead of whether you enjoyed reading it.
Viewed on these terms, the city really does appear to have a teacher retention problem. Our research found that the city loses almost half of its very best teachers — ones so good that they are nearly impossible to replace — within the first five years of their careers.
At the same time, it keeps nearly all of its least effective teachers, leading to a situation where thousands of teachers in the city with more than seven years of experience struggle to get the same results as the average rookie teacher.
The good news is that Mayor de Blasio has said he wants to make retaining the city’s top teachers a “personal crusade.” But to deliver on that commitment, he will need to push the UFT to accept some major changes in the new teachers’ contract.
Consider teacher salaries. The UFT’s priority is ensuring the same treatment — and the same raises — for all its members, as though one teacher is as good as any other. However, if the goal is keeping more great teachers in the city’s classrooms, giving the same raise to everyone isn’t the best use of scarce taxpayer dollars.
Instead, the city should provide especially large increases for the group that is leaving too soon: outstanding teachers who are in the first five years of their careers. These teachers have a proven track record of success in the classroom but are earning $60,000 a year or less. A substantial raise could convince them to stay longer than they might otherwise.
We’ve seen that happen in cities like Washington, where the best teachers can earn six-figure salaries early in their careers. We found that almost none of D.C.’s best teachers leave over dissatisfaction with their compensation, whereas low pay was one of the top three reasons why great teachers leave New York City.
The city could afford larger raises for outstanding early-career teachers by giving smaller raises to veteran teachers — who are already making $80,000 or even $100,000 a year, and who rarely leave before they reach retirement age regardless of their salary — and to early-career teachers who haven’t yet become stars. The city can then lay the groundwork for ensuring that high-performing veterans receive future increases that recognize their extraordinary talent and experience.
De Blasio will have to do some hard bargaining with the UFT to change the city’s one-size-fits-all teacher pay scale in the upcoming contract. But if he’s serious about helping schools hold on to more of their best teachers, he can’t let this opportunity pass him by.
Let’s hope he has the courage to do what it takes to solve the city’s real teacher retention crisis.
Weisberg is executive vice president of TNTP, a national nonprofit organization focused on effective teaching. He formerly served as chief executive of labor policy at the city’s Department of Education.
Dan Weisberg

Teacher Shaunte Penniston Says That Principal Antonio K'Tori Harassed Her At PS 15

File under "Principals From Hell"

Betsy Combier
Shaunte Penniston
Teacher says she was harassed in school
Shaunte Penniston claims principal made advances and threatened her
Posted: Thursday, March 27, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 2:14 pm, Thu Mar 27, 2014.
Shaunte Penniston was excited for her interview to be a special education teacher at PS 15 in Springfield Gardens.
She arrived at the school and met with principal Antonio K’Tori and was invited to work as a teacher beginning on February 27, 2012.
According to Penniston, that’s when the problems started.
She claims during the week before classes would start, K’Tori, having known that Penniston had previously been married, entered her classroom and asked in a “flirtatious tone” if she was ever planning to get married again.
“He told me that we would be spending a lot of time with one another after school hours and that I shouldn’t get too close to certain teachers while I was working here,” Penniston said.
On the first day of school, Penniston said, K’Tori made an advance at her again by stopping a student in the hall and telling the child that she was pretty and asking if the student agreed.
“He also told me that he had the power to make my time there miserable but if I did what I was supposed to, I’d be fine,” she said.
The alleged advances continued and Penniston said she rebuffed each one. At the end of the year, K’Tori issued her a “D” or “doubtful” rating in her year-end review.
“He had never even sat in on one of my classes,” Penniston said. “There is no way he could have known what was going on in my class.”
Having since left PS 15, Penniston filed a lawsuit against the Department of Education and K’Tori for sexual harassment.
“When I wouldn’t take him up on his advances, he began threatening me,” she said. “And he had several teachers on his side, some of whom were romantically involved with him, who did everything he asked of them.”
The teacher claimed that in June 2012 K’Tori threw paper at her and in March 2012, in the presence of lead instructional specialist Renee Holstein and guidance counselor Eileen Ruzzolino, he said Penniston had no power because “she is a woman and that he had all the power because he is a man.”
Penniston’s lawsuit against K’Tori and the DOE was filed July 29, 2013. Vincent White, one of the attorneys handling Penniston’s case, said the lawsuit is still in the discovery phase, which can go on for more than a year and a half. That period involves gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses. White, who is part of the Jackson Heights-based law firm White, Ricotta & Marks, which deals with legal issues involving the workplace, said cases like Penniston’s are not uncommon, but that “in her case, it’s pretty extreme.”
White said the problem goes beyond the principal to the entire administration right up to the DOE, which he says is complicit.
“They forge this little kingdom inside the DOE and they think they can do what they want,” he said. “There are laws, and they have to be followed.”
Several years ago, the DOE, which reportedly called K’Tori “arrogant” and “self-centered,” unsuccessfully tried to fire him. The department would not respond to requests to comment on the principal or Penniston’s lawsuit.
While still employed at PS 15, Penniston went to District 29’s representative to the United Federation of Teachers, Joyce Schwartz, in June 2012. Two months later Schwartz and Penniston met with UFT special representative Sharon Ripley and Rona Frasier, director of the UFT’s Queens office. The three union officials were not surprised by the allegations and the lawsuit alleges that they knew Penniston’s looks were K’Tori’s “type.” Penniston requested a transfer from PS 15, saying that she was concerned for her safety.
Frasier made a phone call on her behalf and later returned to the meeting to say the transfer request was denied, Penniston said. The reps also informed her of further steps she could take toward ending the situation.
Penniston returned to PS 15 and received her assignments one week after the meeting.
“I’m bringing this forward because I don’t want this happening to another teacher and I want to be able to teach again,” Penniston said. “He took away that part of my life and I want that back. I love teaching, I always have, but what he did really had an affect on me.”
No one at PS 15, including K’Tori, would comment on the matter.

Boss ‘hot for teacher’

A Queens teacher has accused her boss, a veteran principal, of sexually harassing her on the job, The Post has learned.
PS 15 chief Antonio K’Tori — whom the Department of Education blasted as “arrogant” and “self-centered” when it unsuccessfully tried to fire him years ago — was accused of making inappropriate advances toward Shaunte Penniston, according to a complaint the 30-year-old teacher filed with the state’s Division of Human Rights last month.
In the complaint, Penniston said her new boss called her “pretty” and applauded her pending divorce and demanded that she abandon her social life to work late nights and weekends with him since she came to the Springville Gardens school in February. She claims that when she told him she couldn’t attend an evening school function because of prior obligations, K’Tori insisted, “Whatever little black dress you were going to wear to that event, you need to wear to mine.”
Penniston alleges that because she wouldn’t succumb to his advances, she was given two negative ratings without ever being observed in the classroom.
K’Tori , who works long hours and has been both celebrated and criticized for his work heading up three public schools since 1996, initially told The Post he was “unaware” of the recent claim against him.He then said he had been asked not to comment but that he had heard about the complaint. “I work at a job where people like to say and do many things,” he said by phone.