Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"Be happy you have a job" -- The true national trends in teacher displacement and placement

The main phrase that we're told over and over is "Be happy that you have a job. Everywhere else, teachers in your position lose their job in a few months." Not true. Actually, cities such as Chicago and Washington, D.C., are more the exception to the rule, as we see in a very informative webpage. The percentage that dismiss displaced teachers, "ATRs" in the New York City Department of Education, is quite low. And it is also revealing that in most places seniority protects displaced teachers. In New York City it works against displaced staff, as the group of ACRs and ATRs is blatantly lopsided against older, longer tenured staff.

The article is from a site which is targeted towards administrators, the National Council on Teacher Quality, The article, "Tr3 Trends: Teacher Excessing and Placement", from the site, surveys 114 districts, including Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York City, Washington D.C., and smaller districts such as Little Rock. It doesn't address the issue of evaluation of teachers while out of the classroom in an excessed status. Notice that in other cities seniority protects senior teachers in other cities, yet New York City is one place where seniority works as a penalty against teachers.

The contrast of better situations for excessed teachers in other cities suggests that we should be armed with this knowledge as the NYC DOE and the UFT move forward with contract negotiations as well as negotiations over ATR status.

These patterns can be overlapping and include:
1. districts that use performance and other factors in deciding whether to retain teachers
2. districts that lay off teachers
3. districts that hire without consideration of seniority (27% of the survey), includes Chicago, Dallas, Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York.
4. apparently, LA & NYC are two of seven districts that place teachers in sub work pools until they are placed in a school.
5. 34 districts (29.8% of the survey, and including Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, St. Paul and St. Louis) have the district assign the teachers back into schools.
6. four districts (including Cleveland, Las Vegas, Little Rock and Spokane) allow teachers to choose positions based on seniority.
7. only six districts are in the worst category: five districts lay-off teachers or place them on un-paid leave (this includes Chicago teachers after 10 months); another, Washington, D.C. gives options of resignation, buy-out or eventual termination after a year if the teacher is unable to find a job.
8. about half the surveyed districts (65 of 114) do not address the issue of what to do with teachers that cannot find jobs.

Here's the article, Tr3 Trends: Teacher Excessing and Placement. Go to the original page link, for the charts on the teacher displacement and assignment trends.

PDQ: Pretty Darn Quick Blog
Tr3 Trends: Teacher Excessing and Placement


In this month's Tr3 Trends, we take a look at teacher excessing: what factors determine which teachers to excess, how excessed teachers are assigned to schools, and what happens to excessed teachers who cannot find new assignments. 

But first, what is excessing and how is excessing different from a layoff? 

Excessing is the shifting of teachers from one school to another that results from a school reducing the size of its faculty due to a drop in student enrollment, a change in budget, programmatic changes, or because the school is being closed, redesigned or phased out.  Unlike being laid off, teachers who are excessed are still employees of the district and, in most cases, are still entitled to a teaching position at a school, but just not the same school that they left.

We've analyzed scores of excessing policies in districts' contracts and board policies.  Here are the trends that stand out:

In over half of Tr3 districts, seniority is the primary factor considered in excessing decisions.  

Only five districts--Denver, Douglas County (CO), Cypress-Fairbanks (TX), New Orleans, and Louisiana Recovery District--use performance to select teachers to excess without considering seniority.  Three districts--Wake County (NC), Baltimore County, and St. Louis--only consider the best interests and needs of the school or district.  Many districts look at a variety of factors when making excessing decisions. Washington, D.C., for example, uses a rubric with four different factors, of which seniority can only account for up to 10%. 
The "other factors" districts use to make excessing decisions run the gamut from diversity factors to extracurricular responsibilities.

We also looked at how excessed teachers were matched with new placements.

In about a third of the districts, principals or other site-based administrators choose which excessed teachers to hire, as opposed to being placed on the basis of seniority status or assigned by the district's HR office.
Thirty-one out of the 114 districts in our database use "mutual consent" to hire excessed teachers, which allows principals to interview and hire teachers of their choosing without regard to seniority. Los AngelesNew YorkMiami-DadeChicagoDallasFort Worth, and Minneapolis all use this approach.

Duval County (FL)St. PaulSacramentoSt. Louis, and Pittsburgh are a few of the districts in which Human Resources places excessed teachers in schools without seeking input from the principal--at least according to the teachers' contract.
In Cleveland, Clark County (NV)Spokane, and Little Rock, teachers are allowed to choose placements based on their seniority.
In only six districts in our database, teachers are exited out of the school system--via layoffs, unpaid leave, early retirement, or buyouts--if they are excessed and then unable to secure a new assignment.  In most districts, excessing does not lead to layoffs. 
The six districts include Clark County (NV) and Manchester (NH), which lay off teachers unable to find positions after they are excessed.  These districts' contracts do not specify how long teachers have before they are laid off.

Little RockChicago, and Douglas County (CO) give teachers temporary assignments (in Little Rock they serve as substitutes) and then if they are still unable to find permanent positions, they are laid off or placed on unpaid leave.  In Chicago, teachers have 10 months to find a position and in Douglas they have 12 months.  Little Rock's contract does not specify how long teachers have to find a position.

In Washington, D.C. excessed teachers unable to find placements are given three options:
  • They can immediately receive a $25,000 buyout,
  • They can elect early retirement, or
  • They can accept a year-long temporary assignment and continue looking for a position.  If they cannot find another position within that year they will be laid off.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Educator sets the record straight to Daily News on editorial's falsehoods about ATRs

An ATR writes to the Daily News editorial board after their deceptive March 23 editorial maligning the professional worth of ATRs.

Dear Editorial Board,

  It is disheartening to continually read your editorials expressing falsehoods in disparaging ATRs (excessed teachers).

   You do not have the facts when you state ATRs are unable to find positions. It is common knowledge principals are refusing to permanently hire ATRs because of their higher salaries that are charged to their budgets. In addition, since Sept. 2011, when ATRs began weekly rotations, principals have used ATRs "provisionally", to fill vacancies. However, the ATR is then let go at the end of the semester (goes back to the ATR pool) and the school hires a new teacher. In this manner, the school saves money two ways, as provisional hires (ATRs) are charged at a small rate to the budget and a new teacher is hired at a starting salary.

  The above can be proven by submitting a FOIL for the number of ATRs that have been appointed to positions (not provisionally hired) since Sept. 2011.

   ATRs are teachers who have many years of experience and are therefore valuable resources to the system. To claim principals don't want them because they cannot teach is absurd. Consider also the excessed guidance counselors, librarians,social workers,etc, who cannot find positions.

  In conclusion, teachers are employed by the Department of Education and not any particular school. They should be placed in vacancies before new hires. They should be given the opportunity to teach and be evaluated like other teachers and not pre-judged through biased opinions.

James Calantjis

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A look at what's creating the 83% jump in teachers with mid-career resignations

Amidst the Daily News' disinformation campaign of lies and deceptions about the role and qualifications of ATRs (soundly rebutted in the Chaz blog's Truth About ATRs post earlier this week), the UFT newspaper on March 6 presented some facts, data on NYC DOE teacher resignations in recent years. Resignations of teachers with few years in the system decreased. On the other hand, the paper noted that resignations of mid-career teachers showed a marked jump. The article's table shows an 83% increase in resignations in teachers with 6-15 years in the system, from 496 teachers in 2008 to 907 in 2014.

There are patterns behind the scene that should be recognized. The stats in the article don't mention that tenure is being granted more rarely. Barely over fifty percent of teachers are being granted tenure.

And behind the big increase in resignations by 6-15 year teachers are forced resignations by teachers in the 3020a process, including teachers being hit with dubious rubber room charges. For those that doubt such an idea, there is a report from Houston's Fox station on how students are hosting video tutorials coaching other students on how to fire teachers. Teachers are wondering what exactly the UFT is planning, in the current contract negotiations, to reign in the Leadership Academy principals that are more concerned with vindictiveness than educational leadership.

Another question is how many teachers in the 6-15 year and over 15 year categories were ATRs that were driven out by the humiliating, hostile work environment of weekly rotation or the very dubious U ratings of ATR observations with students the teachers just met, an issue that has received much attention at the Chaz blog and the ICE-UFT blog recently.

When you see 20% or more in teaching staff turn-over at certain schools, every year, you have to ask not whether it's just the teachers, or is it something about the school itself that creates so many resignations or terminations. Across the system, the high number of resignations in recent years reflect exhaustion over working conditions: record high class sizes, how the schools are run and unrealistically high workload expectations, all of which had made teaching a more and more stressful and time-devouring job.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Star art teacher Part II: filling in after a safety-violating AP to be

In our last installment we read of how a Max Beckmann Fellowship awardee's wisdom and experience was snubbed. In this second report by the star ATR art teacher, we read of his experiences filling in an AP-to be leaves behind a room filled with safety violations. And is the new DOE resisting putting ATRs back into the classroom?

When I reported to one secondary school, the secretary asked if I were the art teacher they were told would be coming to the school. I replied I was and she said she had a program for me to assume. The staff and students of the school had just returned to the campus after being displaced by Hurricane Sandy, but without the art teacher who got a position as an AP with another school in the same building. I saw this as an opportunity to help students in a meaningful way.

My initial enthusiasm was dampened by the very first class, a group of 7th graders. One student went right to a jar of paint and threw it on the floor. It was acrylic paint which is hard to remove especially from clothes if left to dry. That day, I set about securing materials. I found unlocked in that art room easily available to the students: serrated blade knives (steak knives, I believe), permanent markers, acrylic paint, x-acto blades, electric jigsaws, cans of mosaic tiles, and other materials that normally would be locked up.

It took nearly a week to get keys to the cabinets so that I could make sure these and other items were safely out of reach and I could only do that by appealing to the custodians. That week I was stopped by security because they detected metal implements in my bag. Yes, I had to go through scanning. I had brought in a screwdriver and pair of pliers to remove a coathook sticking out from a cabinet by the door. It was mounted at eye-level for a young person. Security allowed those tools when I explained what I needed them for.

As troubling as the unsafe condition of the room was the program itself. There were double period enrichment classes for 6th-graders, but the Juniors met only once a week. Altogether, the program necessitated nine different curricula. It took over a week to get rosters for the enrichment classes and I was only able to get a printout of where all students had to go for the enrichment classes and sort out which were mine, but when I did I found that there were over forty students enrolled in one of the classes. I contacted the person serving as guidance counselor about this irregularity and she explained that she thought art was a specialty subject like gym and could have up to fifty students. Now the students could also change which enrichment class they were to attend the very day they were to go to a class by informing "guidance" they wished to switch.

I had support from the Dean and an AP and was able to get students' phone numbers. Unfortunately, due to Sandy, the phones didn't work properly. Staff contacted administrators on their cell phones and I was only able to use school phones for parental contacts the last few days I was there. The behavior of all classes from the sixth-graders to the Juniors was horrible with countless instances of purposeful destruction and lying. Students constantly reminded me that I was only a substitute, not a real teacher and that they would fix it so I would lose my job. After all, this was an "A" school.

During that time, I produced lessons and had projects I thought appropriate. Students were guided by rubrics in the expectations of those projects. I left behind the work the students accomplished graded during the three weeks graded according to the rubric and a record of each student's daily participation during the time I conducted classes there as well as  a recommended grade for each student. Whoever would assume responsibility for the program had my grade book. But I think what was most emblematic of my time there is the memory of a sixth-grader who kept throwing paper at a girl's face. I tried to talk to him in the hall. When that didn't have the desired effect, I called in the dean. As well a parent coordinator was present as this sixth grade boy said he wasn't going to stop doing whatever he wanted because he just didn't give a f*ck.

This school did receive a grade of "A" from the DOE.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Star art teacher, Beckmann Fellow, now ATR, his expertise snubbed

Star art teacher and Max Beckmann Fellowship awardee, now ATR, his expertise snubbed. In New York City, America's Art Capital, the city DOE says it wants the best and brightest. As the Chaz blogger noted, in truth, things look otherwise.

I remember covering an art teacher at one school. The school's other art teacher was puttering around in the shared art room as art teachers are wont to do. I was helping a girl with the proportions of the human face and told her that the eyes are situated as if they sat upon a line halfway between the top of the head and the tip of the chin. The art teacher nearly shouted, "No, they aren't; the eyes are dead center in the head" and produced a xerox from a how-to-draw book for young children instructing kids to put the eyes in the center. I didn't tell her that I've had a Master's degree in Art since 1977, I was a Max Beckmann Fellow at the Brooklyn Museum, and I showed at The Drawing Center in Soho. By the way, my drawings are of the human figure. I bit my tongue.

Another time, I was being interviewed to fill in for an art teacher on maternity leave. I had to wait in the art room a few minutes and looked at the perspective renderings on display. In spite of numerous and glaring errors, all the students received grades in the high 90's. When the head of the art department asked what I would do next for this group of students who were pursuing a special sequence meant to be a springboard into design, I told her that I would probably revisit linear perspective as the student examples showed even the best were clearly deficient in their understanding. I mentioned that I had a profound understanding of linear perspective and had found ways of explaining it to students that would enable better results to which the head of the department explained that these children were low performing students thus implying that they weren't capable of understanding linear perspective. I countered that I had met with success with the students at Franklin K. Lane High School, a school closed for poor performance. I wasn't picked to fill the vacancy.

Another time I was surprised to see my assignment for the upcoming week had been changed Friday evening. I went to the new assignment Monday morning and produced a copy of the email directing me there. The secretary found some irony in the fact that the administration had just retained a per-diem substitute to cover an art teacher vacancy that would possibly last the rest of the year. I was directed to be with and assist the substitute teacher who was to conduct a class on computer graphics. She started them by directing them to go to The Brooklyn Children's Museum website for the art activities that could be found there. The few days that I didn't have coverages and spent helping in the computer room convinced me that the teacher had only a shallow understanding of the Photoshop program she was "teaching". I did bring this to the attention of the UFT.

I was surprised at one school by an assignment labeled "Tutoring". It was my job to make sure that the students completed a three page packet called the Art Project. The task for one page was to fill in a Venn diagram outlining the similarities and differences between Manet and Monet. Another page had an article about Rodin and students were to complete questions showing that they understood what they had read. The last page held a simple crossword puzzle of art terms. I tried to stop students from simply copying other students' answers and urged them to at least read and decide from themselves, but the students countered that it didn't matter because nothing was ever corrected. After the once-a-week, end-of-the-day, 45-minute tutoring class was over, I brought the folder holding the packets into the main office to deposit it in a large cardboard carton labeled The Art Project along with the other dozens of folders of packets allowing the students to get art credit. This was business as usual for this school.

There have been many more such incidents sharing the common theme of serving students poorly. It is no surprise that the state audit of New York City schools found art education in America's art capital wanting.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

An ATR's letter to Farina makes clear the inaneness of the ATR observation system

An ATR's letter explains the "Twilight Zone" farce that the NYC DOE's rotation system is; just consider also how ridiculous the ATR observation system is under these same circumstances.

March 8, 2014

Dear Chancellor Farina:

Picture this if you will: you are scheduled for elbow surgery with the renowned surgeon Dr. Robert J. Meislin at NYU Langone Medical Center. Dr. Meislin is scheduled to perform an ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, otherwise known as a Tommy John surgery, on your right elbow. Without this surgery, you may never be able to hold a pen again. But you’re not worried, Dr. Meislin is very experienced.

The morning of the surgery, as you are being wheeled into the operating room, you find out that Dr. Meislin was in an accident and will not be operating but they have found a replacement. A fine proctologist will be performing your surgery but that’s alright, they’re both medical doctors.

Was that you we heard screaming as you hailed a cab, still wearing your hospital gown, on the corner of 1st Avenue and 30th: “That OR scheduling nurse doesn’t know her ASS from her ELBOW”?

Sounds farfetched? Well, to parents in the NYC school system, that’s exactly what is happening. Teachers who have been trained in one subject or at one level are being sent into schools and being told to teach subjects (and then being observed doing so) in things they have no idea how to do. They have no materials, no lesson plans, no IEPs, no training. High school math teachers teaching pre-k; business teachers teaching science; bilingual classes being taught by teachers who don’t speak Spanish. You get the idea. Is this in the students’ best interests, the teachers’, the city’s? If your child was in this class, what would you think?

Cynthia Shub, ATR

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Teacher Settles Age Case for $90,000 Against New York City Department of Education

From an online press release site, March 7, 2014. Not intended necessarily as an endorsement for any law firm. For informational purposes.

    NEW YORK, NY, March 07, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- A male elementary school teacher, who was fired at age 62, settled his federal age discrimination case at mediation, shortly before the case was scheduled to be tried.

Plaintiff, who holds a Master of Arts degree in childhood education, began his employment in 2006 as a public school teacher in the Bronx. After completing two years successfully, he was given an unsatisfactory rating and recommended for termination. This unsatisfactory rating came after complaining to the school's Principal that younger teachers were getting favorable assignments. The school Principal's recommendation was mitigated to an extension of probation for another year. When Plaintiff's school was closed for failure to meet minimum requirements, Plaintiff was transferred to another school where he received a satisfactory evaluation. The new Principal based on pressure from the District Superintendent was forced to give two quick evaluations which were deemed unsatisfactory and Plaintiff's tenure was denied and he was termination from employment.

As it was clear in the depositions of the Principal and District Superintendent, the Department of Education varied from its own rules and standards and the evaluations were flawed and biased.

Plaintiff was represented by Philip Taubman, of Taubman Kimelman & Soroka, LLP. One of the best known employment firms in New York, specializing in all matters of employment discrimination including sexual harassment litigation.