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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Chalkbeat States That All ATRs are "Subpar"

Chalkbeat has stopped trying to get both sides to a story. Shame on them!!

I have written about the use of the word "subpar" many times on this blog, and here it comes again:

What is the definition of a "subpar" (or "ineffective") teacher?

Who created these definitions?

And, no matter who defines what "subpar" means, the fact is that there is no Standard of Teacher performance that properly  defines the term, either.

Remember, there are no facts in observations. (Elentuck v Green). Even NYC DOE General Counsel Courtenaye Jackson-Chase adheres to this ruling. What you see is defined by your opinions and belief system.

This story by Chalkbeat below is so biased, it should be rebutted by all ATRs who ever entered that pool of teacher/educators/Guidance Counselors, etc. The spin is astounding, as if the news written in such a way will force the ATRs out of the system....wait! So THAT's why the article was written!! Truthfulness and fair reporting had nothing to do with it.

I see now.

Betsy Combier
Tweed DOE Headquarters

Most ATR teachers who left system since new contract took buyouts, retired

In his fight to fend off the education policy proposals being pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said his administration is already cracking down on subpar teachers.
In particular, he has pointed to 290 or so teachers who have left the school system entirely between April 2014 and this February. They left the costly and controversial absent teacher reserve pool, and represent as many exits as the Bloomberg administration saw during the previous two years combined, city officials said.
“My administration is serious about teacher accountability,” de Blasio told state lawmakers last month while defending his plan for struggling schools. “We have moved 289 teachers out of the Absent Teacher Reserve – and out of the system – since April.”
New figures released Friday, along with documents obtained by Chalkbeat, offer new insight into why those teachers departed. They show that disciplinary processes, including new ones created by last year’s teacher contract, played a fairly small role, with only 21 of the teachers terminated after missing job interviews or for other reasons.
De Blasio has said recently that his administration prefers different strategies. Nearly 200 of those 289 teachers — who lost their permanent positions and couldn’t find new ones, but remained on the city’s payroll as substitutes — took buyouts last summer or retired this school year. Another 18 resigned, and 53 agreed to leave while facing charges of misconduct or incompetence.
In addition, no teachers had faced charges under a new, expedited termination process as of December 2014, according to a department document obtained by Chalkbeat. (That process requires a teacher to have logged formal complaints from two separate principals, something that could be unlikely to happen in the first months of the school year.)
The new figures brought renewed calls from advocates of Cuomo’s plans to change to state law that sets out the procedures for teacher termination.
“Instead of being part of the solution, this administration has thrown its hands up and resigned itself to working around a broken system,” said Jenny Sedlis, executive director of StudentsFirstNY.
But the absent teacher reserve has shrunk under de Blasio, in part because he did not close any schools last year. Under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the pool ballooned with teachers excessed from closing schools, costing the city an estimated $105 million in 2013.
City officials says the pool had about 1,000 teachers this February. More than 500 teachers were hired for full-time positions in the fall, according to the department document, and the pool had 280 fewer members at the start of this school year than last.
Now, the de Blasio administration is facing the same complicated process of removing the pool’s longtime members that has frustrated city leaders for years.
Testimony given in 2013 by Lawrence Becker, the department’s CEO of human resources, illustrates some the challenges. More than 300 teachers in the pool then had incompetence or misconduct charges against them substantiated, but were not allowed to be terminated. More than 200 had recently received an unsatisfactory rating, and more than 150 were licensed to teach “esoteric” subjects, making them difficult to place in schools. Formal disciplinary proceedings can last months and sometimes years.
On Thursday, de Blasio said that the best way to get around those problems is by avoiding formal procedures altogether. Instead, principals and department officials should focus on counseling subpar teachers to leave on their own, a strategy that Chancellor Carmen Fariña told Capital gives them an “opportunity to leave gracefully.” Some of the recent retirements and resignations were likely the result of that kind of strategic pressure, officials said.
“If you can counsel someone out voluntarily, skip all that process — ‘You don’t belong here anymore, you’re a good human being but you don’t belong here anymore, you’re not into it, you’re burned out, you can’t do what we need you to do in this day and age,’ whatever it is — if that person goes along willingly, that is the most efficient way to resolve the problem,” de Blasio said.
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, a close ally of de Blasio’s, has also acknowledged that the process for matching excessed teachers to schools that need them still needs work.
“The entire ATR process was so mismanaged by the Bloomberg administration that it will take years to sort out,” Mulgrew said.
Carmen Farina

The Fariña method of purging bad teachers

Carmen Fariña has been talking a lot about bad teachers recently.
The schools chancellor, who defined her first year on the job as a mission to restore “joy” and “respect” to the classroom, has, of late, been encouraging hundreds of city principals to identify and get rid of their weakest teachers.
“The teachers who are not up to the job, you’ve got to get them out the door,” Fariña said to a large group of high school principals at a conference in late February.
“Who are the teachers, if you had this wonderful grandchild, you would not want to see your grandchild in that teachers’ classroom,” Fariña told an audience of elementary school principals a few days earlier.
In an interview with Capital last week, Fariña said asking principals to weed out their weakest teachers has been her “first statement when I get into any school visit. ... I repeat it over and over again."
Removing ineffective teachers has been one of the Department of Education’s most intractable problems, and decades of mayors and chancellors have advanced their own reforms on how to get it done with the looming presence of the United Federation of Teachers.
Fariña has repeatedly said she believes new provisions in the U.F.T. contract will help get weak teachers out of the classroom, including moving teachers out of the Absent Teacher Reserve (A.T.R.), a controversial pool of teachers who have been removed from the classroom but remain on the payroll. Separately, the U.F.T. contract includes a new definition of sexual misconduct aimed at getting potentially dangerous teachers fired.
She’s also repeatedly reminded principals that teachers with two “ineffective” ratings can be removed from teaching more quickly.
But she’s also been promoting her own tried and true method for getting rid of bad teachers—relentless monitoring of problem teachers and rounds of conversations convincing teachers they are in the wrong profession. The desired result is settling on inventive alternatives for teachers willing to be cajoled, or forcing out the ones who aren't.
"There is an opportunity to leave gracefully or not so gracefully," Fariña told Capital. 
According to Fariña, and to well-documented Upper East folklore, that method was effective at P.S. 6, the Manhattan school Fariña ran in the 1990s, which has long been considered one of the city’s best public schools.
Now, she’s telling principals it can work for the city’s roughly 1,799 other public schools, too.
“I had three teachers who I went for total removal with,” Fariña told Capital of her tenure at P.S. 6.
She rattled off examples of other teachers for whom she found creative solutions.
She managed to get a six-month suspension for one of her weakest teachers, she remembered, and then won another suspension with a series of letters about the teacher’s performance.
“Then I got her out of the system,” Fariña said.
Another problem teacher struggled with every subject except for science, so Fariña secured her a job as a science teacher at a middle school. And still another teacher was good with children but not moving the needle for them academically, so Fariña convinced her to retire, then hired her back to work two days a week.
Asked to describe the Fariña method for pushing out bad teachers, the chancellor said, “It means you, as an administrator, have to be in that teachers’ classroom on a regular basis, keeping records, taking notes.”
Fariña has appointed a D.O.E. official whose primary role is instructing principals on how to properly write letters about certain teachers to keep in their files.
“I don’t think most ineffective teachers want to fail,” Fariña said, adding that principals should try “being blunt with them and saying ‘we don’t think this is your career.’”
Fariña has brought her P.S. 6 tips and tricks to the chancellorship, picking out struggling teachers during her frequent school visits and advising her principals on how to remove them.
Referencing a recent school visit, Fariña said, “I literally told the principal, ‘I will be back at the end of April, and so-and-so better not be here.’”
Another principal invited Fariña back to her school to show that a teacher Fariña was worried about had recently resigned.
But Fariña’s critics have said that despite her rhetoric, the chancellor has not done enough to ensure that ineffective and dangerous teachers are removed quickly.
"If chancellor Fariña and Mayor de Blasio are serious about getting bad teachers out of city classrooms, there is a simple solution: support Governor [Andrew] Cuomo's proposed education reforms,” Jenny Sedlis, executive director of the group StudentsFirst, one of the administration’s most frequent critics, said in a statement on Monday. “Instead they are bowing to special interest pressures, which is why they need to use empty rhetoric instead of taking real action."
Cuomo has proposed an expedited process for 3020-a cases, the legal forums for teachers accused of ineffectiveness or misconduct to plead their side. The governor has called the 3020-a process "broken." In some instances, a single case can drag on for years and cost tens of thousands of dollars. Of the three teachers she had to force out of the profession, Fariña admitted, “that took a lot of time.”
The new U.F.T. contract does not contain any substantive changes to the 3020-a process. 
Reform and pro-charter groups have accused the administration of being too accommodating of the U.F.T.; Fariña insisted the union was not interfering with her plans for firing ineffective teachers. “We have worked very collaboratively with the U.F.T.,” she said, adding, “If I’m getting pushback from the U.F.T. [on individual teachers] I or someone on my team is going to get involved.”
“We know that our relationship is partners when necessary, adversaries when necessary,” she said of the union.
At the three recent conferences, Fariña plied principals with some creative ways of moving weak teachers into new roles. “For those of you who are at large middle schools, consider giving up a full-time teaching position, and get a part-time reading specialist or specialist on organizational skills,” she said.
Fariña asked principals to play to teachers’ strengths, and suggested one way to get inventive with U.F.T. work rules. “Teachers have to work six hours and twenty minutes, but no one says what those hours have to be,” she told the middle school principals. “If you have teachers that are particularly good at helping struggling kids, having some of them come in earlier for the kids start their school day and having them leave earlier is perfectly okay.” Fariña added that she had five teachers use flexible scheduling at P.S. 6.
But she has been blunt about the end goal. Speaking before elementary school principals in February, she said, “we’re working very hard to make sure that two “ineffectives” in a row move teachers in a different direction. But it's your paperwork that’s going to make that happen, because you don’t want to say five years from now ‘I wish I had done that then.’”

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