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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Implicit Bias. Everyone Has It

Everyone has it. Implicit bias. Something that triggers a feeling inside which has no basis in fact, but defines the way that you see the world around you. I was told about the website below,, by an arbitrator who is on the 3020-a panel. He said he recognized me as a true advocate. Quite an honor!

Excellent reading! I've included some additional resources, below.

What is your bias?

Betsy Combier
Editor, ADVOCATZ blog
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials


What it is:

Thoughts and feelings are “implicit” if we are unaware of them or mistaken about their nature. We have a bias when, rather than being neutral, we have a preference for (or aversion to) a person or group of people. Thus, we use the term “implicit bias” to describe when we have attitudes towards people or associate stereotypes with them without our conscious knowledge. A fairly commonplace example of this is seen in studies that show that white people will frequently associate criminality with black people without even realizing they’re doing it.

Why it matters:

The mind sciences have found that most of our actions occur without our conscious thoughts, allowing us to function in our extraordinarily complex world. This means, however, that our implicit biases often predict how we’ll behave more accurately than our conscious values. Multiple studies have also found that those with higher implicit bias levels against black people are more likely to categorize non-weapons as weapons (such as a phone for a gun, or a comb for a knife), and in computer simulations are more likely to shoot an unarmed person. Similarly, white physicians who implicitly associated black patients with being “less cooperative” were less likely to refer black patients with acute coronary symptoms for thrombolysis for specific medical care.

What can be done about it:

Social scientists are in the early stages of determining how to “debias.” It is clear that media and culture makers have a role to play by ceasing to perpetuate stereotypes in news and popular culture. In the meantime, institutions and individuals can identify risk areas where our implicit biases may affect our behaviors and judgments. Instituting specific procedures of decision making and training people to be mindful of the risks of implicit bias can help us avoid acting according to biases that are contrary to our conscious values and beliefs.
Implicit bias is a universal phenomenon, not limited by race, gender, or even country of origin. Take this test to see how it works for you: Implicit Bias Test

Learn more:

Implicit Bias sits at the core of our previously published reports. Most recently, Transforming Perception documents how implicit bias shapes the lives of black men and boys, and Telling Our Own Story: The Role of Narrative in Racial Healing integrates implicit bias insights with a discussion of how narrative can work to undo the harms of discrimination.
See also:


What it is:

“Explicit bias” refers to the attitudes and beliefs we have about a person or group on a conscious level. Much of the time, these biases and their expression arise as the direct result of a perceived threat. When people feel threatened, they are more likely to draw group boundaries to distinguish themselves from others.

Why it’s important:

People are more likely to express explicit biases when they perceive an individual or group to be a threat to their well being. Research has shown that white people are more likely to express anti-Muslim prejudice when they perceive national security to be at risk and express more negative attitudes towards Asian Americans when they perceive an economic threat. When people perceive their biases to be valid, they are more likely to justify unfair treatment or even violence. This unfair treatment can have long-term negative impacts on its victims’ physical and mental health.

What can be done about it:

Expressions of explicit of bias (discrimination, hate speech, etc.) occur as the result of deliberate thought. Thus, they can be consciously regulated. People are more motivated to control their biases if there are social norms in place which dictate that prejudice is not socially acceptable. As we start forming our biases at an early age, it is important that we reinforce norms in our homes, schools, and in the media that promote respect for one’s own and other groups. Research shows that emphasizing a common group identity (such as “we are all Americans”) can help reduce interracial tensions that may arise between majority and minority ethnic groups in the U.S. Also, when conducted under the right conditions, studies show intergroup contact between people of different races can increase trust and reduce the anxiety that underlies bias.

Learn more:

More information about explicit bias and the way it shapes the lives of black men and boys can be found in our report Transforming Perception.

Could implicit bias be influencing your management style?

FAKE NEWS: Undue Process

Another anti-tenure report has hit the news: Undue Process 

The Thomas Fordham Institute likes fake news, commonly known for years as yellow journalism. I believe that reports like Undue Process are dangerous because the writing reflects anti-tenure political thinking that is based upon numbers. Its always about money. If an employee has tenure, then he/she has, most often than not, spent more years in the public school system than someone who has probationary status. This means that the tenured employee has a higher salary and a higher pension. That's what the anti-tenure policies are hoping to stop.

People are not numbers!!

I have to admit that I laughed when I saw the title and subtitle,
"Why Bad Teachers in Twenty-Five Diverse Districts Rarely Get Fired".

So whose "undue process" are the authors talking about? Are they saying that teachers do not have due process if twenty-five diverse districts can't fire those who are "bad"? Whose defining the word "bad", and what evidence do they have? If a principal doesn't like a teacher for some random - or, in too many cases, for a discriminatory reason that they are Black, women, Jewish or disabled - reason, this principal can observe this teacher and conclude out of thin air that he/she is "bad" and put them in a 3020-a hearing for so-called "incompetence". This is a word defined solely on the subjective opinions of an administrator focused on terminating the targeted teacher, and the process almost always is successful. I would say that 95% of teachers or staff charged with "incompetency" are terminated, and I can say this because I have been participating in 3020-a arbitration as an advocate for the charged person for more than 17 years.

If I believed that 3020-a arbitration is always a lost cause I would not have spent all these years doing my best to win my clients the right to continue their employment. There is a formula for winning these hearings after charges of incompetency are served on the tenured educator. This formula involves investigating the backstory of all witnesses testifying for the Department, and finding whatever facts can be used to uncredibilize (my word - means "make not credible") his/her testimony.

Anyway, the title at least started me reading further, so I guess it made the point.

The danger is their writing spurs on policymakers who know that bad news travels far and sells widely. The public likes to hear what we as a society are doing, and how terrible tenured teachers are. Alarmingly, most of the time the people they are describing as "bad" are not bad at all.

What the heck is the best definition of "bad"? It's an adjective and a subjective opinion of something or someone. I might believe that someone is "bad" if I see this person with my own eyes harm another person, animal, bird, or any living creature, for no reason. Otherwise, an investigation is called for that satisfies my standard of proof. We all have our own standard which we do not always acknowledge, and sometimes this leads to prejudice when we have a lower standard of proof for someone or some group based upon general characteristics such as race, religion, gender, disability, nationality, etc. We must all watch for that. All individuals are unique and should be treated as such.

But getting to know someone who is charged with something is hard to do, because by the time the person is charged, there is little time to figure out what the real facts are. But you gotta do the research. Truly listening to someone tell you his/her life story, what happened in their career, who the bad guys are, etc., all involves first, interest, and second, time. 

Many are terminated at 3020-a simply because they are not defended adequately by their NYSUT or private lawyer or team (I am not a lawyer, but work on 3020-as as a paralegal, which is permitted in arbitration). I might as well say that I think the team I have assembled for doing 3020-a cases is the best, and my background information and closing arguments are untouchable by any private lawyer. This is my opinion and this is my blog, so live with it. We care.

Also, if you are disabled and/or do not speak English well, you can be terminated, unless you have proper defenses. Of course, the charges against your language and disability are covered up by other allegations, but you can dig up the real reason for being charged, and must do so, in my opinion. The whole scenario of one arbitrator judging you by seeing you in a small room for 1 - 10 days, or the length of the hearing, is absurd. The arbitrators are chosen by the UFT and the DOE but are not neutral. Some are more able to hear facts than others, but there is always an implicit bias.

Nonetheless, 3020-a is winnable if the defense is strong. And, the defenders must know what to do. Unfortunately, not many people are interested in spending 20-30 hours listening and researching a person's life in order to find solutions to problems that are disrupting that life. I do that.

When I was hired by the UFT to find out who was in the rubber rooms, I was ridiculed by Jim Callahan, the NY Teacher reporter who also worked with me at the UFT then turned on me because I know that he despised anyone who ended up in the rubber room, and told everyone "they are all guilty". I was hired for 14 hours/week, but it turned into 90 hours/week as I was the only one who went to the rubber rooms every day and spent all day talking to members about their cases.

There is a national goal right now to take away job protections for teachers, because if they continue to get tenure, supposedly, our children in public schools will continue to suffer.


In New York State, tenure is public policy.

Why? Because our state legislators know that children need stability. When a teacher is in a classroom, the first thing that must be established is some kind of trust. The children need to know that they are safe, and the person keeping them safe is their teacher. Children, especially in elementary grades, need to know that their teacher will be there when they arrive at school.

As noted by New York's Court of Appeals in Ricca v. Board of Ed. of the City Sch. Dist, 47 N.Y.2d 385, 418 N.Y.S.2d 345 (1979):
"The tenure system is not an arbitrary mechanism designed to allow a school board to readily evade its mandate by the creation of technical obstacles . ... Rather it is a legislative expression of a firm public policy determination that the interests of the public in the education of our youth can best be served by a system designed to foster academic freedom in our schools and to protect competent teachers from the abuses they might be subjected to if they could be dismissed at the whim of their supervisors. In order to effectuate these convergent purposes, it is necessary to construe the tenure system broadly in favor of the teacher, and to strictly police procedures which might result in the corruption of that system by manipulation of the requirements for tenure."

Public policy is also to give immunity to all judges in the Courts. Same as teacher tenure, except that for judges, there really is no way to get them removed for being "bad" unless some high-powered politician or prosecutor decides to do it.
When I write the closing argument for a 3020-a I always strenuously argue for public policy and tenure protections because each and every case is a mix of truth and lies created to end the career of a tenured person - an individual with a family, a house, a career. Bills. Mortgages. Medical needs.

That is why every case is unique and deserves to be studied and every memo, letter, email, piece of information should be integrated into the record. 3020-a arbitration is, in my 14-year experience, a war against the destruction of tenure rights. That being said, every case is unique and special in its own way. Despite my being involved in about 60 cases since 2003, every case is different and must be looked at as if all the parts are new. Every Respondent, or charged DOE employee, is different. No two people bring to the 3020-a the same case, because no two people are alike.

I am very different from my identical twin sister. Nothing about our lives have any similarity except we both have children. That's it.

The general public loves hearing about how and when corrupt politicians get arrested for hurting the very same community members who put them into office. Public corruption is everywhere.

How does corruption and fraud in public office get to be so pervasive? One reason, of course, is that sheep people, or sheeple, believe the fake news that the politician spews out in order to win votes. My mom watched ABC News, and that was The Truth of the matter. I tried to convince her that truth may not be what she was seeing, but my efforts were in vain. Strange, because my dad was a fact person, he was Assistant Attorney General for the State of New York under Louis Lefkowitz, 20+ years.

Why people believe certain things and not others, or certain individuals and not others, is way beyond my pay grade. All I'm saying is that I do not believe anything until is see the facts first hand. I love the internet, but I sift facts out and it is time-consuming. This must be done, and hopefully, some people may follow me because they think that I have sifted through the information web for them adequately.

For all these reasons, Undue Process is fake news, but even the authors gave a crumb of truth, as seen in the NY POST article (re-posted below):

"While decrying needless bureaucratic delays that allow inept instructors to remain in front of students, Griffith stressed that the overwhelming number of city teachers are diligent and effective.
“We’re not talking about,” he said. “We’re not saying most teachers are ineffective. They very hard and are doing a good job on the whole. We’re talking about 2 to 4 percent who are demonstrably ineffective.”
Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

Why Bad Teachers in Twenty-Five Diverse Districts Rarely Get Fired
  1. Does tenure protect veteran teachers from performance-based dismissal?
  2. How long does it take to dismiss an ineffective veteran teacher?
  3. How vulnerable is an ineffective veteran teacher’s dismissal to challenge?
They then used this framework to gauge the difficulty of dismissing ineffective veteran teachers in twenty-five diverse districts.
As shown in the table below, not one district in our sample has an easy process in place for dismissing an ineffective veteran teacher. Rather, the data suggest that significant barriers to dismissal remain in place in every district that we examined.
Across the country, most districts and states continue to confer lifetime tenure on teachers, weak teachers still take years to dismiss if they achieve tenured status, and any attempt to dismiss an ineffective veteran teacher remains vulnerable to costly challenges at every stage in the process—from evaluation, to remediation, to the dismissal decision, and beyond. Consequently, in most districts and schools, dismissing an ineffective veteran teacher remains far harder than is healthy for children, schools, taxpayers—and the teaching profession itself.

It’s basically impossible to fire a New York City school teacher

It’s the city that never sacks.
New York City is one of the hardest places in the nation to fire ineffective public-school teachers, according to a new study.
A report by the Thomas Fordham Institute found that, out of 25 school districts across the country, only San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago make it more onerous to boot failing instructors than New York City.
“Once teachers are granted tenure, the dismissal timeline is protracted, and the dismissal itself is extremely vulnerable to challenge,” the conservative-leaning think tank concluded.
Its report — titled “Undue Process: Why Bad Teachers in 25 Diverse Districts Rarely Get Fired” — said New York City administrators face nearly prohibitive hurdles when trying to terminate staffers who repeatedly fail to make the grade.
At a minimum, it takes two years to dismiss a tenured city teacher, according to the report.
“And that’s the best-case scenario,” said one of the study’s authors, David Griffith. “But two years is already far too long — it usually doesn’t take two years to fire someone who isn’t doing an in most industries.”
Even after they’ve been marked for termination, instructors can drag out the process internally or through court action, the report said.
City teachers must be observed at least eight times over the course of two years in order for termination proceedings to take place — and they can fight negative findings at every step, Griffith said.
“Principals are already extremely overburdened,” he said. “It’s already a tough job. If you’re a principal and you know there’s ­really no chance to dismiss a teacher or it’s going to take hours and hours of your time, why bother in the first place.”
But United Federation of Teachers union boss Michael Mulgrew ripped the report, arguing that it ignored systemic flaws that send even the best instructors fleeing
“Hundreds of teachers depart the New York City public schools every year based on their professional performance — failure to maintain, disciplinary
action and similar reasons,” he said.
“But every year, thousands of teachers in good standing leave of their own volition because the system has failed to provide the supports they need to effectively help the students in their classrooms. That’s the real scandal that critics like the Thomas Fordham Institute ignore.”
The UFT also argued that the study used flawed and inaccurate information to reach its conclusions.
The termination process has been steadily shortening, the UFT said, with a median duration of 105 days between the issuance of charges and a settlement.
While decrying needless bureaucratic delays that allow inept instructors to remain in front of students, Griffith stressed that the overwhelming number of city teachers are diligent and effective.
“We’re not talking about,” he said. “We’re not saying most teachers are ineffective. They very hard and are doing a good job on the whole. We’re talking about 2 to 4 percent who are demonstrably ineffective.”
He added, however, that “dismissing that bottom slice can ­really dramatically improve student achievement. It’s small but very important.”