Hello, ATRs are suing

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

ATRs' lawsuit on observation violations

Some ATRs are starting a class action suit on the issue of observations.

The lawsuit focuses on making a complaint contending that the DOE has violated the DOE-UFT contract regarding ATRs, specifically, on DOE violations of “Teaching for the 21st Century.” You can access the document here: http://www.uft.org/files/attachments/teaching-for-the-21st-century.pdf

The UFT has this page on observation rights as well: http://www.uft.org/doe-documents/observation-evaluation

There is a goal of January 28 for having names and grievances for starting a lawsuit. Those interested in joining should do so by contacting the email address below. Please email that address or the address at the top of this page for the problematic points that you should be noting.

Please send your name as a contact if you might be interested in joining this potential suit, to doeatreducators@gmail.com.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Six basic questions that neither Farina nor Mulgrew have had the sense to address about the coming closures of 3 Brooklyn schools

Now that three (3) "troubled schools" in Brooklyn will be closing next year for "under performance and under enrollment", why hasn't anyone put this complex question to

1) Where do these teachers go when they are excessed??
2)  If they will be placed, how can they be placed when there are over 
     1,500 ATRs still waiting for placement?
3)  If these teachers are leaving the "closing" schools for other placements in
     "vacancies", will ATRs be placed in that "coverage" (provisional positions)
      when the school officially closes?
4)   How can the ATR pool go down when the DOE/UFT is creating this cycle?
5)   During an election year, will anyone address this "dark secret"?
6)   Who will acquire the available space when the schools are closed - 
      charter or the other public school?

If these questions are already answered, and the newspapers haven't put 2+2 together for the QUANDARY that will arise in 2016-17, then this dilemma is not addressed in some plausible way!!

Keep in mind, the next salary increase happens in MAY 2016 and many of our ATRs are reaching salary levels that are going beyond the compensatory levels within school budgets. (Despite Principals being told, it's not coming from their budgets unless over the allotted "average teacher salary in the bldg) This will definitely put a major strain upon hiring any ATRs for 2016-17 budget levels. For example, those teacher reaching 15 yrs are now prime targets for being "over budget and over age" and the most senior teacher in some schools will be 13yrs, if that!!  Hence, where do these teachers start to find positions especially when majority of positions are not on the DOE website or advertised as expected.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

NJ ATR fought her set-up tenure termination and won

Earlier this year a Newark teacher fought her tenure termination and won in state arbitration. The infamous Cami Anderson, who had overseen schools in New York City correctional institutions, and then ruled Newark Public Schools, sought to tighten the pressure on our displaced teacher counterparts, "Educators Without Placements," (EWP). Remember that the righteous Anderson was driven out of office after intense protests by Newark Public Schools students.

Bob Braun's Ledger:

How Newark set up a tenured teacher to fail

Tenured Newark school teacher LaRhonda Ragland—a former member of the Alvin Ailey dance company and a New Jersey Nets cheerleader—was set up to fail  by the  state-run school administration, a state-appointed arbitrator has ruled. In a 41-page decision reinstating the teacher after the district tried to fire her, the arbitrator described how Ragland, a single mother with a teenaged child, was declared an “educator without placement” (EWP)  by the administration of superintendent Cami Anderson, then transferred from  Maple Avenue School to Arts High  where she was given non-teaching duties to perform. She was assigned to teach  only when administrators wanted to evaluate her–then gave her poor evaluations.
“The District set Respondent (Ragland) up to fail and simply marked time until it could file tenure charges against the teacher,” wrote state-appointed arbitrator, Timothy Brown.
Brown described how Ragland, who had appeared in the Off-Broadway show “Jam the Groove,” was made a hall-monitor and some-time substitute teacher of non-dance subjects at Arts High where administrators made it clear early on in her stay there that she was not welcome.  She was only evaluated for the few days she was assigned to teach high school-level dance classes, something she had  not done in her previous nine years in the Newark public schools.
“It is fiction to believe that Respondent would succeed in observations of
her teaching high school students at a high school devoted to the arts
when Respondent had previously taught dance only at the elementary
school level and had been assigned hall monitoring and substitute
teaching in non-dance subjects at the arts high school,” Brown concluded.
The arbitrator made it clear that the administration wanted Ragland to fail.
“By its actions and inactions….the District pursued a course of
conduct that assured that, rather than conduct observations of a dance teacher teaching a
dance class of the teacher’s students, the District could conduct observations of a
substitute teacher/hall-monitor attempting to teach students for whom the teacher had no
teacher-student relationship. The outcome of such observations were effectively
determined before they began….”
Throwing tenured teachers out of their jobs and making them EWPs has been a favorite strategy of the state administration under Anderson. By the beginning of this school year, Anderson had assigned more than 400 teachers to EWPs positions in the apparent hope that many would quit rather than be paid for doing nothing.
Many, however, did not quit and Ragland’s experiences shows what happens–they face being set up to fail by being assigned to jobs they are not trained to do.
The arbitrator also found the administration had no intention of helping Ragland overcome whatever problems she may have had in her difficult transition from an elementary school teacher to a EWPs position in high school. Such efforts to help teachers with alleged problems are required both by the new teacher tenure law and the district’s contract with the Newark Teachers Union (NTU).
“TEACHNJ”–the new teacher tenure law–”contemplates that, before he or she may be terminated from a teaching positions (sic), to improve the performance of the struggling teacher, such a teacher will receive a real – rather than feigned – prolonged effort to provide guidance and mentorship from the most advanced and knowledgeable educators in the teacher’s school: the principal and high-level administrators. Here, the District, through its administrators at Arts High School, predetermined that Respondent would never improve and could not be successfully reformed and arbitrarily withheld such efforts from Respondent, ” the arbitrator wrote.
Brown, the arbitrator, describes just how unwelcome the school administration made Ragland feel. He wrote, ” Only a week or two before her first observation,
Respondent was unambiguously advised in a disciplinary write-up from
principal (Lynn Irby-Jackson) that ‘…you are a EWPS teacher…you are not
an Arts High School dance teacher…’ Such
reflects Respondent’s status as an outsider at the school and the
Principal’s view that Respondent was not at the High School for
purposes of teaching dance.”
Brown also noted that the principal called Ragland “functionally illiterate” and said she was “outraged” that she was allowed to teach at Arts. Clearly, whatever the motive Anderson may have had for sending her to Arts as a EWP, Irby-Jackson didn’t want her there.
The NTU, which has represented Ragland and nearly a dozen other teachers brought up on tenure charges by Anderson, has won all its tenure cases this year and has repeatedly called on the superintendent and state Education Commissioner David Hespe to stop the efforts to fire tenured teachers,
The other cases were thrown out because Anderson insisted on using evaluations in both the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 years as admissible against teachers under the new anti-tenure bill, TEACHNJ. However, both law and regulations considered that first year to be a “pilot” year and evaluations conducted then could not be used.
Under the anti-tenure law, any teacher who receives two years of bad evaluations must be brought up on expedited tenure charges.
The arbitrator in the Ragland case cited that reason for dismissing the tenure charges against her but he also pointed out that the district failed any effort to try to help the teacher improve.  The efforts, he said, were “feigned,” and not real.
Ragland, 44, was raised in Chicago and began her dancing there. She moved east in 1993 and worked professionally as a dancer until 2005 when she was hired by the Newark public schools as a an alternate route teacher.
Robert Pickett, the West Orange lawyer who defended Ragland, called the arbitrator’s  decision “a major victory, not just for Ms.Ragland, but for all teachers who must rely on the new tenure law to keep their jobs.”
Pickett said he already has demanded that Ragland be reinstated “in a position that is consistent with her license and her experience.”
Ragland said she would not comment on the case.
(If events like this trouble you, you might consider signing this petition: If events like this trouble you, you might consider signing this petition: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/petition-for-the-resignation-1
Ras Baraka did).

Thursday, November 26, 2015

In the season of ATR liquidation, some sobering realities of how excessed teachers in other cities are much luckier

The DeBlasio-Farina liquidation of the ATRs via U ratings by field supervisors for ATR performances in subbing settings within student strangers, is in full swing, accelerated over the rates seen in Bloomberg's last term, as we've analyzed this month (for instance, here) and as the Chaz blog has reported here. The UFT? It is completely silent. As we've pointed out, its leadership backed observations as soon as rotation started in fall, 2011. Remember, Weingarten, yes, terrible for agreeing in 2005 to the end of the seniority transfer and agreeing in 2007 to Fair School Funding (aka Fair Student Funding), at least sued the DOE for age discrimination, and spoke forcefully of our worth as educators. Words you'll never hear in public from Michael Mulgrew or Leroy Barr.
Clearly, life is far worse for ATRs today, compared to the first two terms of Bloomberg.

The UFT loves to allude to excessed teachers' find a job in a few months or get terminated condition in Rahm Emanuel's Chicago. UFT really must thank their lucky stars that Chicago teachers are just a few months to "find a new job" after they get excessed from school closings or other causes. But the UFT is a just employing a deception that deflects from the rosier status for excessed teachers elsewhere in the nation. As you see from this linked comparative study of excessing nationally, the trend is that districts place teachers and that SENIORITY HELPS teachers.
This Thanksgiving, be conscious that even though you might "feel happy you have a job," keep in mind that the trend in many other U.S. cities is towards placement. This ultimately links with the observations issue, because is that there is NO parallel situation of veteran teachers observed out of license or in subbing situations and losing their licenses over this. Take time to carefully read this survey of over 100 cities and their teacher excessing practices. Visit the original site at the National Council for Teacher Quality to see the graphics. And remember: the NYC DOE places excessed paraprofessionals; so why can't the DOE return to pre-2011 practices? Have DOE outcomes really improved since the DOE adopted the rotation policy?
Remember; the U ratings for subbing performances are real: they are sending teachers into 3020a termination hearings.

From the NCTQ site:

April 2015: Transfers and Excessing

Welcome to the Teacher Trendline, NCTQ’s monthly newsletter designed just for school district officials (subscribe here). Each month we use data from NCTQ’sTeacher Contract Databaseto highlight the latest trends in school district policies and collective bargaining agreements nationwide. The database contains teacher policies from 118 school districts and two charter management organizations, including the 50 largest districts, the largest district in each state, Broad Prize winners, Gates investment districts and members of the Council of the Great City Schools. State-level teacher policies from all 50 states are also included.Send feedback to teachertrendline@nctq.org.
Whether by choice or circumstance, teachers change schools within districts regularly. This month's Teacher Trendline will examine what teachertransfers and excessing looks like in the 118 districts in the Teacher Contract Database.
Voluntary transfers are often initiated by teachers for personal or professional reasons. Teachers may want to transfer to another school for a wide variety of reasons, such as philosophical differences with a principal or a desire to teach in a school closer to home. For most teachers, there's little risk in seeking a voluntary transfer: until a transferring teacher has been assigned to a new position, he or she does not give up the old one.
In some districts, teachers who voluntarily transfer are given priority during the hiring process. While about half of the districts in the Teacher Contract Database do not address this issue in contract and/or board policy, 41 percent of districts give priority to internal transfers for vacant positions. 

 [See original article for chart.]

The eight districts that do not formally prioritize internal transfers over new hires for vacancies are Burlington (VT), Dayton (OH), Fargo,Fulton County (GA), Nashville, Newark, Prince William County and St. Paul.
The 49 districts that do give preference to internal transfers for vacancies sometimes face criticism around this practice because this prioritization can have the unintended consequence of prolonging the hiring process, pushing potential new hires out of districts’ human capital pipeline. Some districts try to avoid this challenge by getting a head start on the hiring process and/or limiting the time in which transferring teachers receive priority.
Boston, for example, provides a limited window of 10 days in which permanent teachers who are transferring can have priority in applications. Duval County (FL) gives priority to internal transfers until May 1. Voluntary transfers in Los Angeles only receive preference until April 15. In San Diego, internal transfers receive "priority consideration" for vacancies; however, in priority schools, positions not filled by February, relatively early in the hiring cycle, are opened to outside candidates.
As opposed to voluntary transfers, excessing is a process where teachers are involuntarily forced to move schools because they no longer have a position in their current school. Teachers are excessed when a school has to cut or change the composition of staff due to any number of issues including, but not limited to, a drop in student enrollment, budgetary cuts or programmatic changes.
Districts negotiate a number of ways to identify teachers for excessing, but the most common method found in collective bargaining agreements is still seniority. Of the districts in the Teacher Contract Database, nearly half (48 percent) use district-level seniority as the primary factor for excessing teachers. Another 16 percent use seniority in addition to other factors, like school need or teacher performance.
Only 13 percent of districts do not use seniority as either a primary or significant factor when excessing; of these districts, five percent use seniority as a tie-breaker if all other characteristics between two teachers are equal.

 [See original article for chart.]

West Ada (ID), one of the districts that use seniority to identify teachers for excessing, utilizes both school- and district-level seniority in the excessing process. In cases where there is a surplus of teachers within one school, West Ada teachers are identified for excessing based on building seniority; district seniority is used as a tiebreaker if all other factors are equal.
Placement after excessing
Usually, excessed teachers are not out of a job, as the district is contractually obligated to find them a new position.
Mutual consent, a process in which teachers and principals mutually agree on a teacher’s placement within a school through an interview process, is practiced in 12 districts in the Teacher Contract Database. Of those, Douglas County (CO) and Boston allow only tenured teachers to be a part of the mutual consent process.
In 14 districts, excessed teachers are placed in schools in order of their seniority based on their preferences. In the five districts where excessed teachers are placed in schools based on multiple factors, four of those districts (Cleveland, Jefferson County (KY), Kansas City (MO) andOklahoma City) use seniority as one of the factors for assigning excessed teachers to new schools.
 [See original article for chart.]
 When mutual consent is used to place excessed teachers into new positions, as it is in 12 districts in the Teacher Contract Database (Boston,Denver, District of Columbia, Douglas County (CO), Harrison District Two (CO), Minneapolis, Newark, Palm Beach County (FL),Polk County (FL), Providence, San Francisco and Seattle) there are times when teachers are left without a match. The policies for what happens to those teachers at that point in the process are listed in the table below.
 [See original article for chart.]

Monday, November 23, 2015

The field supervision program deceives on its pledge to help place teachers, so why does the UFT support the DOE's program?

The United Federation of Teachers backs the New York City DOE's observation program of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve. Read this 2011 post which reported the UFT's Secretary Michael Mendel's endorsement of observations of ATRs in rotation. Yet, the UFT ignores the fact that the field supervisors do not help ATRs find jobs, in spite of the script that field supervisors recite on their first meeting with ATRs under their supervision, “my job is to help find you a position.” The DOE and Unity-UFT cannot point to any evidence of how the field supervisor's work contributes to ATRs' finding positions. All together, the UFT is complicit with the DOE. Given the facts of the observation program in actual practice, the field supervisor's function is to harass veteran teachers into quitting. It is no wonder that ATRs are coming together for class action lawsuits.

If field supervisors are finding teachers to be satisfactory two, three, four years in a row, why are they not taking these assessments and using these judgments to help refer ATRs jobs for positions? As there are no sincere efforts to place ATRs, it is inherently evident DeBlasio-Farina are continuing Bloomberg's attack on senior teachers. Thus, term one of mayor DeBlasio's administration is to the right of the first two and a half terms of Mike Bloomberg's administration (that is, 2002-2011), when that mayor placed excessed teachers, guidance counselors, librarians, etc. 

So, the question is, why is the UFT so adamant about backing the field supervision program? It has never criticized the program in principle. The closest it has come to criticize the program has been when Amy Arundell has complained in yearly ATR informational meetings of a few bad apple field supervisors. The UFT has not sent to every ATR notice of their rights to be observed under the conditions of "Teaching for the 21 Century." The UFT has not posted notice of this on their website. True, the UFT has posted the document but it has failed to give the link the prominence that it warrants. Is it any wonder that the ICEUFT blog in "Queens UFT to ATRs: We'll Fight YOur Unsatisfactory Observations Only When Admin. Tries to Terminate You," called the observation program a colossal fraud? As the ICEUFT blog pointed out these observations violate the spirit of Article 8J of the contract. (Note that since that March 12, 2014 post it has become evident that the DeBlasio administration DOE has increased the rate of U-ratings based on observations. Furthermore, the DOE has initiated 3020a termination proceedings against many victims of these pedagogically unsound observations, with not a peep of protest from UnityUFT.)

It could be that the UFT is trying to play nice with the sister union, the supervisors' union. If the program field supervision/observing ATRs under substituting situations is eliminated, then the roving administrators stand to lose their positions. The UFT is known to play friendly with the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA). See, for example, this notice of a UFT/CSA District 26 social. The UFT's support for the field supervision program gives critical support for this jobs program for excessed and retired administrators. Shouldn't the UFT advocate for ATRs first and play chummy with the CSA second?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Proof that DOE/UFT expects ATRs to countermand administrators, and proof that the UFT advocates for the DOE, not for teachers or parents

There is clear proof that the DOE's field supervisors have given U ratings to ATRs out of license and has expected ATRs to usurp the authority of the local administration. The Chaz blog's “Halloween Special - Horror Stories From The ATR Pool” showed several examples of DOE professional misconduct toward ATRs. See the case of the science teacher U-rated doing a coverage in a foreign language class. This rating is outrageous. How can a teacher be rated on carrying out the lesson that was not their own creation, carrying out a lesson that is out of their professional license? The DOE took the position that the teacher should have switched from carrying out the lesson that the teacher left, and switched to a lesson that was in the subject within the teacher's license.

Additionally, the idea that teachers must interject with a lesson confounds the nature of teaching and learning. Lessons are given sequentially, in context of prior lessons building knowledge up to the current lesson. Concepts depend on a previous lesson. For example, there are classes a, b, c, d, e, f, g. Knowledge builds sequentially. The student in class “d” has been through classes a, b, c. The student would be bored with having to repeat a lesson. Yet, if the teacher is bringing in “g” or “h” the student is frustrated with a lesson that is sequentially too far along. This is why we see at the high school and college level the term, “prerequisite.” Certain topics are needed before others can be introduced. The DOE's insistence on teachers dropping in from above and interjecting their own topical agenda, displacing the agenda of students, fails to understand this fundamental point of pedagogy.

Also, there is the issue of Units. Besides the issue of lessons within a unit, there is the issue of lessons that are of different units. Despite the efforts of the city to have uniform unit schedules, it is obvious to ATRs that in all the subjects, math, science, social studies, foreign language, English, different schools and different teachers are in different units, following their own calendar. This is the United States, not France, where lessons all over the country are on identical topics, no matter the city or town. Here again, we see the DOE expects the ATR to drop in and deliver a lesson that is in great likelihood out of place. Foreign language students might not know the words on weather. Chemistry classes could be covering molecules instead of solvents. History classes could be covering Africa instead of India. ATRs are expected to capture the attention and cooperation of students. However, is the DOE considering that it is frustrating for students to be getting different topics from what they are expecting.

Isn't it clear that the obvious objective of the lesson, in the DOE's eyes, is not to carry out the local administration's lesson, but to carry out the ATR's own intruding lesson? This is an expectation that pressures the ATR to challenge and undercut the authority of the school, the authority of the teacher. And it misserves the students. Just as parents are recognizing that the point of standardized tests are not to judge students, but to judge teachers, parents ought to recognize that the DOE's aim is not to give students a substitute lesson, but to turn students into guinea pigs for a gotcha game against teachers. Why should students consent to being guinea pig tools of the DOE instead of students of the topic that they came to class for? Principals, the absent teachers, parents and students themselves ought to feel insulted and unrepresented in this absurd DOE policy.

The second outrage is that the UFT has backed the DOE at every step of this that should offend every one of the parties mentioned above. The UFT at the the once a year group forums for ATRs and in its instructions to ATRs backs the DOE in this mandate that the ATR intrude on the student's scheduled topic and intrusively bring in their own topic. The UFT has not taken the position of opposing field supervisors on principle, nor has it opposed on principle the idea that field supervisors can get away with observing teachers out of license. In its failure to oppose the observations it is obvious that the UFT is backing the DOE's position and opposing the ATRs' position.

Just why does the UFT support the DOE instead of its own members? Isn't this ironic, as the ATR UFT members are paying dues to an organization that backs central DOE, against the interests of the substituting teacher, the absent teacher, the local administrators, the students and the parents?

Is it any wonder that teachers are pursuing class action lawsuits against the DOE? Isn't it obvious that the union isn't representing them and that they are having to resort to representing themselves?

Monday, October 26, 2015

UFT to ATRs: your job in schools is to prep for the field supervisor; you need to advocate for yourselves

Another big topic at the UFT's official ATR meetings was observations and field supervisors.

For other topics this month in these meetings, see the postings here and here.

When you break down what the UFT's official representative says to us: your mission comes to this: your duty over all else is to be ready for demo lessons. The other tricky thing is that she is telling us that we have to do the UFT's and the DOE's work in correcting local administration misdeeds.

We are supposed to have demo lessons ready for use in case our field supervisor appears.  All UFT instructions to us are shaped around the eventuality that a field supervisor appears.
(Of course, this conflicts with the nominal purpose of our work: substituting for absent teachers in the absent teacher's subject. See this blog posting about how this naturally sets up a conflict with the students.)

Reflecting the steady theme that our main mission is to prepare for field supervisors is Amy Arundell's statement to one member that asked, how is it fair that we are judged on a lesson out of our subject, that another teacher has left, and how are we to be responsible for sub lessons that are imperfect? Her answer was that in the event that the students are distracted and off-task, then we should switch subjects and assignments and bring in our own sub lesson.

What is highly problematic is that we are judged on following certain guidelines given to ATRs. Yet, these guidelines are only distributed at the ATR meetings. And many ATRs were unaware of these meetings or the high value information disseminated at these meetings. These guidelines are not sent to all ATRs from the UFT or the DOE via email or US mail. They are not posted on the DOE or UFT websites. Wouldn't this call the absurdity and offensiveness for all to see if they were posted this way?

Thus, the DOE & the UFT treat these stipulations as the real contract. But only a fraction of the ATRs are at these ATR meetings. So, we are subject to what the DOE/UFT treat as the official contract, a contract that most ATRs are not informed of. Never mind that these stipulations of supplanting nominal class topics with our own lesson agendas or the overriding mission that we make all of our attention for the likelihood of being observed by the roving field supervisor are not in the general DOE-UFT contract or in the (between official contracts) periodically renegotiated DOE-UFT side agreements on ATRs.

Adding to the contradictory messages is the DOE/UFT line that the field supervisors are helping us find positions (which is why they ask us for our resumes). This is a highly doubtful mission of the field supervisors, because as all parties know, it is extremely rare for teachers to get placed, due to Fair School Funding, which Unity Caucus-UFT agreed to in 2007.  See this blogpost explaining how post-2018 contractual conditions drive principals to be risk-aversive and avoid hiring ATRs. With all of the observations happening it is more likely a Russian Roulette.

These are all serious concerns as the DOE has issued U ratings to ATRs based on sub setting observations.

As always comes up in these meetings the local (school) DOE administrators --usually at new, small schools-- violate the agreements. One of the most common violations is assigning ATRs to duties outside the contractual agreement, or duties such as standing hall duty if there is no sub assignment. The UFT rep at the meetings tells us that we must challenge the local administrators. This puts us in an awkward position. We could be brought up on insubordination charges or at least labeled as having a bad attitude.

Members will be relieved to know that two particular field supervisors have been removed, but the UFT cannot inform us who they are.

One major detail is that not all ATRs get field supervisors. A common thread among those getting them is that they are upper ranges of years with the DOE. It has been revealed by some retired principals that the DOE has certain spreadsheets flagging staff by salary, and that targeting is concentrated on higher salary staff. Another factor in play as to whether teachers get targeted by field supervisors is whether teachers have taken many sick days. This is problematic because this creates an inducement to not stay home and shield staff and students from one's illness. Also, it intimidates teachers and other excessed staff from giving attention to ailing children or parents. The latter is particularly a problem for the middle aged ATRs who are tending to rising needs of aging parents. What an awful thing to do- pressure people to keep a distance from parents in their parents' last years.

Basically, the UFT is telling us that we have to be our own advocate. In fact our appointed advocate has said so much: "You have to stand up for yourselves!"  This is problematic. The UFT must have high-level meetings with  the DOE to enforce these. When the DOE wants something done it makes sure all principals comply, such as training in security procedures. (By the way, parents would be interested in knowing that ATRs are routinely denied keys. In emergencies teachers are supposed to lock rooms. But this is not an option for ATRs, since they are usually denied keys.)

Besides, ATRs have enough stress, preparing for lessons for kids we don't know and trying to fit in, in alien territory, to have the added job of advocating for ourselves.

Hey, UFT, do your job and advocate for us. Don't expect us to do it.