Hello, ATRs are suing

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?