ATRs, the unrepresented -- no elected representatives in the UFT

"The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected.
"To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another."
Thomas Paine, First Principles of Government

Sunday, April 19, 2015

President Mulgrew: Do something about these absurd ATR observations

Many school chapter leaders are aghast at potentially career jeopardizing observations under substituting conditions. Yet, the logic of the controversy eludes the union which still staunchly opposes elected Absent Teacher Reserve representatives. And remember that UFT secretary Michael Mendel firmly endorsed observations of ATRs back at their pilot program introduction in a few Brooklyn districts in 2011.

Observation is covered at length in Article 6 the NYC DOE-UFT Memorandum of Agreement for the 2014 contract. However, observation is discussed nowhere in Article 16, the section which for the first time contractually institutionalizes the ATR condition. It is agreed between the City and the Union that ATRs are under observation conditions in "Teaching for the 21st Century." 

Yet, some observers (Field Supervisors) are doing the following which are outside of contractually sanctioned conduct for observing ATRs, and thus are grievable actions:
*Mandating use of the Common Core State Standards (mentioned only once, and parenthetically in the contract)
*Refusing oral or written requests for formal pre- and post- observation conferences
*Using Peer Validators (teachers or administrators serving as evaluators of other teachers, they receive $16,000 from the City on top of their regular salary)

Observation issues:

Regular classroom teachers do not leave lesson plans.
The city and union policy is that ATRs should bring in their own content. Students protest that this is inappropriate for the subject of the class session. ATRs are left with just saying that they are just following orders from higher up and that students should cooperate with the intrusion of the ATR's lesson agenda instead of the subject of the period.

ATRs have been observed and negatively rated when teaching a lesson in a content are outside of their own content area license or grade level.

ATRs are being judged when teaching lessons with students they do not know. They have been deprived of federally mandated access to Individual Education Plans (IEPs), yet have been judged by evaluators on their capacity to properly differentiate lessons. Teachers are judged as to having rapport with students, but as teachers do not know the students this is not possible to the ideal extent.
Teachers are expected to have classroom management over the students but as the students know, ATRs lack the grade or disciplinary authority over the students.
Teachers have sought and have been denied the opportunity to shadow a teacher in their content area and to be observed in that class.

Room issues:
Teachers have been denied proper preparation access to rooms for the purpose of setting up rooms for observations.

Teachers have been denied access to classroom technology. In worst case situations they have been denied passwords. In other situations they were not given full introduction and access by technology persons upon their assignment to the school. Often, the technology is nominally operative, but is not accessible to the ATR under observation.

School order and discipline:
There is an escalating crisis from the unregulated use of cellphones in class. Students text each other, play music and videos, shoot pictures and videos of teachers.
Yet, in many schools administrators do not act to squelch their use. Yet, teachers are expected to come into class and command attention of students.
And let's get real: when you were in school how many kids really did the work that a sub gave? So, why should it be realistic to expect that today's students would act any differently?
Did you ever think that a teacher's career would rest on whether kids did “it doesn't count” class work.
Inappropriate evaluator backgrounds and observations vs. student safety

esides the whole idea of being rated on observations, supervisors are not familiar with our grade level/subject area/school operations.

Informals make no sense. We could be anywhere. I was criticized for not assessing in a 15-minute informal when I'll never see these children again.

Being expected to do a whole lesson with all the components in elementary schools with little children during last period when dismissal safety is the priority, or first period when they are arriving and removing winter outer clothing, is obviously a setup. As a parent, I would sue the DOE if I knew an observation took priority over my child's well-being.

Peer observations - Teachers don't want to be observed and critiqued. Is this a way of creating distrust between us and colleagues?

We have been told by the UFT to cover lesson plans if left by the classroom teacher. Supervisors want us to go beyond teachers' directions.

Ask teachers where they send their children to school and why. I would never put my child into this nonsense.

I have not had access to training in the reading and math programs being used now and it was implied that this was my fault. Plus, the Pearson reading program is so inappropriate that schools are discontinuing its use.

Have I said enough? I hope the UFT listens.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How will UFT president Mulgrew prevent more up-skirt teacher shots from going Facebook?

In case you missed this item in the New York Post, just days after mayor de Blasio lifted the cellphone ban, one Brooklyn high school student used his cellphone to shoot an up-skirt shot of his Spanish teacher. Subsequently, the photo went viral on Facebook. Fortunately, conscientious students reported the controversy to school authorities.

His mother? She defended her ninth grade son, saying that the teacher's skirt was provocative. The teacher's parents are threatening to sue the city.

Friday, April 3, 2015

What the UFT says about unfair observations

The UFT has sent word that any ATRs that feel that they have unfairly received U ratings should contact Amy Arundell [] or Mike Sill [].

And also remember that it was the UFT's Secretary, Michael Mendel, that said it was all proper for ATRs to be observed in subbing circumstances in Fall 2011, when the UFT agreed to the change from placement of ATRs to rotation of ATRs. Many ATRs are now facing termination after observations in these inappropriate settings. In a new precedent: ATRs are receiving termination letters well in advance of the end of the term in June.

The author at the Chaz blog wrote a very good analysis of Mendel's tenure in the UFT leadership. He took important steps that have been important setbacks for veteran teacher in general and ATRs in particular, on issues ranging from the seniority transfer, to Fair Student Funding, to dealings with the DOE.

Here is Michael Mendel's 2011 letter sanctioning the "trial" program of ATR observations in certain Brooklyn districts. Notice how the slippery slope of trial allowed this program to progress, with no review as to how the observers operated.

Below is Mendel's letter (with a few key points highlighted by NYCATR). Following the letter is ATR in Perm's response; he who forwards the message gets first dibs at trashing it. 
Dear colleague,
The UFT has been informed that the DOE will implement a new supervisory system for ATRs in Brooklyn community school districts (Districts 13-23 and 32) and Brooklyn high school superintendency (District 73). They have labeled it a pilot, though they did not indicate how or when the pilot would be evaluated; nor have they indicated if or when they would extend this system to other ATRs. We were informed about this plan, but had no input into it. I am writing to assure you that the union will continue to make sure that your rights as a UFT member are not violated and your professionalism as a teacher is respected
The DOE has created a new position, that of field supervisor, with the intent that field supervisors will provide some measure of evaluative continuity to the members whom they observe and to whom they provide professional feedback. They have done this because state law requires that all teachers must be evaluated and rated. 
As always, the UFT will monitor the implementation of this new system carefully to make sure that it is implemented appropriately (e.g., that members are observed on things like classroom management, and not on things like content when they are teaching out of license — in other words, things that make sense). We will address concerns that come up with the DOE immediately. Above all, we will continue to hold the DOE’s feet to the fire on the main tenet of the June ATR agreement, which is to fill all long-term absences and leaves with ATRS and to help members in the Absent Teacher Reserve find permanent positions. 
We know that you play a valuable role in virtually every city school, under often challenging circumstances, and that your contributions are often unrecognized. We are committed to ensuring that ATRs are treated like professionals and are working to make sure this new supervisory system does that. 
If you have questions or concerns, please contact your district representative or Amy Arundell at

ATR in Perm: The UFT's Michael Mendell issued a letter on the UFT's position on the ATR teacher evaluations. Shockingly, the area that visiting teachers routinely have the most trouble with, classroom management, is an area that Mendell thinks is fair game for evaluating teachers.

"We are committed to ensuring that ATRs are treated like professionals . . ." Yeah? Well, why are you letting us get evaluated on handling kids who we've just met minutes ago? School tone, set by administration, as to whether they discipline students in a timely fashion or whether they coddle them, is the greatest factor (aside from home upbringing) in how kids will react to even the sternest and most confident Classroom-Management-minded teacher.