Nov 24, 2008

TAGNYC Comments Delivered at the ATR RALLY November 24, 2008

The ATR agreement between the DOE and the UFT is a ruse, a defense to be used during the next round of contract talks that will justify the termination of ATRs as a “rational yielding to market forces.” Klein and Randi are laying a “reasonable” foundation for letting go of teachers who don’t past muster. A teacher today said to me about Randi “It’s in her purview to stop this.” Well, she is not willing to stop the destruction of teaching as a career so that has to be recognized once and for all. She and Klein came to this agreement so let us ask them a question not answered by this agreement: A question that does not erode any ETHICAL exercise of principal autonomy. What public criteria will be used by a principal to determine that an ATR does not ‘pass muster” and thus, is not competent to fill a position. What criteria will be used to, let’s say, determine that a newly minted teaching fellow or a Teach for America newbie will be better able to carry out the duties required by a particular position. If this agreement is to have any teeth, it must require that principals justify their reasoning for hiring decisions when an ATR career is at stake. Parents of students in NYC’s premier public schools, or in schools in Great Neck, Scarsdale, etc. would never countenance the substitution of a less qualified for a more qualified teacher. They would be up in arms. Indeed, most of these schools don’t want to hear from candidates with less than three years teaching experience. However, it has been decided that for a segment of our NYC student population the novice teacher is fine because after all, when you teach to the test and lower your standards you don’t need much professional training. TAGNYC asked Klein and his Panel last Monday “Why not just hire high school graduates?” I can remember when I was a teacher trainer in the Chancellor’s District- the SURR schools. We were at a campus wide social studies meeting in the old Eastern District H.S. I vividly recall the uproar- an absolute uproar- that ensued when the Superintendent’s social studies consultant told the teachers not to spend more than three days on the French Revolution. Teach the French Revolution, with its causes, happenings, and effects in 3 days! Today in our inner city schools they are probably mandated to give it one day. A different concept of education. The experienced teacher need not apply.

So a parent who wants their child to have a valid education has to ask “What is different in the schools today? Why is there such a turn around in teaching staff - teachers functioning as ATRS, teachers pushed into Reassignment Centers, teachers who retire because they can’t take the harassment of score-driven, business model principals, or the non-teaching they are supposed to sign onto.” These are questions parents must start asking because your children are being cheated royally. The New York Post writes that 83% of students going to the community colleges need remedial training.

Bloomberg, Klein, and those who enable them are widening the educational divide. We must organize to call attention to this latest societal assault on the minority poor and to demand that Randi do something.

Don’t turn teaching into community service. Let it remain a profession of competent educators.

Nov 17, 2008

November 17, 2008 TAGNYC Statement to the Panel for Educational Policy (P.E.P.) the NYC DOE

P.E.P. November 17, 2008 Teacher Advocacy Group NYC

Mr. Michael Best, Counsel for DOE, acting for Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein: I have here the last word on my Freedom of Information request- seemingly. You and your legal department have not complied with the law-if law implies truth and justice. Your legalese explanation as to WHY you can not respond to my request for information - well, I expected no less from a Department of Education that treats law, standards of ethics, and the truth with contempt.

We try to understand WHY: What end is deserving of the destruction of competent teachers’ careers, OR the teaching of our students to lie giving them credit for courses they did not take or complete, OR setting up authorized cheat sessions wherein students are given completed science labs to copy, OR humiliating teachers and sapping the initiative of good students by implementing the credit recovery abomination?

Teachers are turned into ATRs so that their positions can be taken over by novices who leave after one or two years or who stay on to ‘teach to the test’. Why not just hire high school graduates?

Teachers are sent to Reassignment Centers on ridiculous charges. Check the number of music, art, Special Ed teachers and whistle blowers in these Centers. Competent they certainly are- but they suffer, not their unethical principals.

Let me read a bit of an email I got from a teacher I worked with and who left after two years – a certified and very talented teacher. She now works in another state.
“Can you believe that the principals at the schools I work with are not trying to drive teachers out? They actually have a rapport with them....It's really strange to me. I told one of them that I am kind
of fearful of administrators after working in NYC and watching how they haress the teachers. One told me that she had heard the horror stories.”


Put back into the classroom: Respect, Authority, and the EXPERIENCED, COMPETENT TEACHER.

Sep 15, 2008

P.E.P. Meeting September 15, 08 TAGNYC Statement

Tonight the Teacher Advocacy Group NYC starts a new year of bearing witness- and testimony- to the ongoing abuse of competent teachers under this current administration. This abuse is requisite to the ongoing academic fraud, growing nepotism, and administrative incompetence within the inner city schools.
The NY Post reports that 82% of the community colleges entering classes need remedial services. This ugly statistic 7 years into the current ‘educational reform’! Note I say ‘current’. Look back over the past 50 years. Always a new educational model- always the same results. Nothing happens within our neediest schools. Nothing real, nothing substantive, nothing enduring. And always the same bogeyman, the same scapegoat- the teacher.
You state that you need to get ‘the best teachers’ from the best colleges/universities. Review the history of MLK Law, Advocacy and Community Justice. Teachers with degrees from the University of Michigan, Williams College, NYU, Tufts, the U of Washington- just for beginners- all gone within the past three years. These were teachers with two to three years experience. As one teacher said “I can’t return to that toxic environment.” Another teacher said “I can take it from one end, (students or administration) but not from both”. And this is happening throughout the system.
Your teachers are being driven out because they are critical of what is going on in the schools and/or because they cost too much. Your teachers are voluntarily leaving because the conditions within the schools are abominable- not the least of which is forcing teachers to prostitute themselves and their professionalism through testing, testing, testing: through rote teaching not critical thinking teaching: through subjecting them to harassment for holding to high expectations, and through the horrendous credit recovery program.
Rote teaching, pushing kids through with credit recovery were not good enough for your public school experience Chancellor Klein. Why is it good enough for the inner city schools?
Credit recovery, the dumbing down of tests, etc. create a false and hurtful solution. It does not solve the problem. The problem will not be solved until it is acknowledged. The problem is NOT the teachers.

May 20, 2008

TAGNYC Statement at P.E.P. Meeting of May 19, 2008

Every month, the Board of Education, which now calls itself the Panel on Educational Policy, meets in public hearings. The public is invited to speak. Anyone desiring to address the Panel must sign up prior to the beginning of the meeting and is allowed two minutes to speak during the Public Comment portion of the meeting.
TAGNYC has been a constant presence at these meetings. We are unyielding in our
criticism of Bloomberg/Klein’s treatment of teachers and misuse of the educational system for political advantage. We take our message straight to the top- Klein is always in attendance.
Below is our statement delivered at the P.E.P. meeting of May 19, 2008.

The P.E.P. meeting of April 14th was truly amazing. Amazing in the eyes of the Teacher Advocacy Group NYC for three reasons:
First reason: The chilling testimony given by the psychologists working in the NYC schools. Their testimony was absolute in its indictment of the Mayor, Chancellor, and P.E.P.’s knowing disregard for the thousands upon thousands of special needs students of NYC. It proves the truth that most teachers know: The past seven years have not been about the kids.
Second reason: That the press did not pick up the psychologists’ stories and keep them on the front page of every newspaper in the City. But then, the Bloomberg/Klein administration did not issue the psychologists’ stories as a press release to the compliant and seemingly defeated press!
Thirdly, at the end of the meeting, a panel member told the TAG representative that her manner was not conducive to winning over the Panel. Perhaps you misunderstand why we come to these meetings. As representatives of the Teacher Advocacy Group NYC we are not here to woo, but to stand before this mike to tell you again and again that academic fraud is rife within the schools; to tell you that testing is a tool for individuals’ political advancement but it is dumbing down the students; to tell you that the credit recovery program is an affront to teachers and to the students who strive. To tell you that the credit recovery program, along with the outrageous scoring of Regents, along with organizing students at the end of the year to ‘make up’ mandated science labs by having them copy completed labs, along with giving credit to students for classes they did not take, along with all the other academic fraud, is social promotion, is pushing kids through, is teaching our students that lying is the way to get ahead in the world. Maybe that is the business model - a model not known for positive character formation.
Klein (Keeper of the Clock) Thank you. Your two minutes are up

May 2, 2008

Advice to 3020a Participants

The Bloomberg-Klein Administration is using the 3020a hearing as a way of removing teachers from their schools. Perhaps teachers will be returned to schools as ATRs after settlements or hearings. This also is part of the strategy because exits are being planned for the ATRs. An easy way to remove a teacher from his/her school is to charge incompetence. TAGNYC, along with every teacher, knows this. Randi Weingarten knows this. TAGNYC will speak out to expose this horrendous practice. The UFT will not.
OSI agents are complaining that principals are using OSI to remove teachers. If you fall in this category, demand charges immediately, demand to see incident reports, witness statements, and demand a hearing- and then demand an apology.

Advice to 3020a Participants:
1. Do not be in a hurry to retire or resign. Have your hearing.
2. Do not be in a hurry to settle. Have your hearing.
3. Demand a defense built on “disparate treatment”.*
4. Demand a public hearing. Do not be persuaded to have a private hearing.
5. Exercise your right to subpoena witnesses.
6. Demand a ‘bill of particulars’.**
7. Script your own defense-know what questions you want asked of both your witnesses and the DOE witnesses.
8. Bring every bit of documentation possible to your defense- lesson plans, students’ work, etc. Submit everything as evidence.
9. Demand that the arbitrator apply the criteria of “credibility” to your case.***
10. Demand a definition of incompetence:
a. 3020a law and Klein define incompetence as being unable or unwilling to do your job
11. Demand a definition of “your job” from the DOE and from the arbitrator.
12. Demand a definition of ‘unable and “unwilling”.
13. Demand credible evidence of being “unable and unwilling”.
14. Demand that incompetence be proven.
15. Get in writing the rational for any fine that is levied or offered as a settlement.
16. Remember- defend on disparate treatment, disparate treatment, disparate treatment.
Although historically the term is used to denote unequal treatment based on race, religion, gender, etc., 3020a participants can use it to defend against their unequal treatment-: Did the principal hold the 3020a person to a standard (employment practices) to which other teachers were not held and which standard resulted in awarding u-ratings in an ‘unequal’ fashion? Yes, the UFT should have been monitoring if one of their members was receiving unequal treatment. That is what a labor union does. It is not a question of going after its own members. It is the principle that all members be treated equally.
**bill of particulars- A written statement that is submitted by a plaintiff at the request of a defendant, giving the defendant detailed information concerning the claims or charges made against him or her.
***credibility- Who do you believe? On what basis does the arbitrator believe the DOE’s assertion of incompetence over the documented career of the accused teacher?

DO NOT EXPECT the DOE to provide anything you request. The DOE refuses to respond to lawyers’ requests for information in the 3020a hearings. Ask for the information anyway. Build a case.
DO EXPECT AND DEMAND that arbitrators’ judgments and rulings reflect adherence to their Code of Professional Ethics.


Apr 3, 2008

Weingarten: Failed Labor Leader

Weingarten: Failed Labor Leader

Randi Weingarten is looking to her new career as head of the AFT. That much larger pool of teachers must understand what they are getting. A failed labor leader. Randi, through her position, is in an excellent position to advocate for children and to negotiate health and welfare benefits for her membership. How well she performs either of these two functions demands future critical evaluation. What we address here is her inability to function as a labor leader. Make no mistake. Teachers are members of the labor force. We are not independent contractors or consultants able to individually control our own terms and conditions of employment. And the most important condition of employment is the right to remain employed. Remain in the profession we chose. Ms. Weingarten does not want to be seen as the protector of teachers’ job rights: The press and the public would label her a “protector of incompetents.” But the teachers who are being forced out of their jobs- the ATRS, the whistle-blowers, the questioners, the teachers who dared to exercise their transfer rights, and the teachers who make too much money, - are not incompetents. These teachers are the scapegoats being used to further Bloomberg, Klein, and yes, Randi Weingarten’s political ambitions.
Weingarten has proven she does not have the stomach to advocate for teachers’ rights to their jobs. She has colluded in turning NYC teachers into at-will employees. Her defense for doing so- “The UFT was not strong enough to fight.”
Questions TAGNYC has for Randi Weingarten:
1. Why did you not educate your membership about the implications of the givebacks in the 2005 contract? You and your lawyers knew the possible if not probable consequences. You can’t blame the membership for running to take the money since you did not do your job in educating the membership. Labor leaders don’t invoke the adage “Buyer beware” when the ‘buyer’ is the membership.
2. Will you admit that you feared for the careers of the more senior teachers in the wake of the 2005 contract and the empowerment of principals? Will you admit that you communicated this fear to your district reps? You hoped Bloomberg-Klein would go easy on the senior teachers. You lost and we lost. Labor leaders should never “depend upon the kindness of strangers.”
3. Why did you not rally the members to make a stand against Bloomberg-Klein? 80,000 plus teachers in your corner and you did nothing to get them on the street (strikes weren’t necessary- why not mass protests during rush hours, etc)? Oh, right, you were and are afraid of antagonizing the public. Too cautious to be a labor leader.
4. Why do you tell your members “Wait until 2009?” You see 2009 as a time when friends of ‘labor’ come back into office. How courageous! Who can’t ‘lead’ when times are good and ears are sympathetic. You failed to lead in tough times. Too many of NYC teachers- the competent teachers- have, and are suffering the devastating consequences of your failed leadership in the run-up to 2009. Will many of these teachers be employed in 2009?
5. Why do you hide behind the 3020a process? Rather than using the law as the pretext for not intervening, why are you not railing against the farce of the 3020a process?
6. Why don’t you state publicly what is said privately by district reps, chapter chair people, and OSI: Frivolous charges of incompetence, verbal, corporal, and sexual abuse are being used by principals to remove competent teachers from their schools?
7. Why have you not led your members in vocal, body-on-the line protests against the absurdity of turning competent teachers into ATRs? Why won’t you admit loudly and publicly that the ATR paradigm is the road to unemployment for high salaried, competent teachers?
8. Why have you not led your members in vocal, body-on-the-line protests against the willful destruction of competent teachers’ careers by incompetent, insecure, and unethical principals?
9. Who is defending your teachers in the schools? Do you know that most of your chapter chair people and district reps have abdicated the duty to advocate? Do you know of the despair being felt by teachers who know they don’t have a union willing or able to defend them within the schools?
10. How do you reconcile your claim to be an advocate for the students when their teachers- new hires and senior teachers- are stampeding out of the NYC school system?
11. On a NY1 news show last week, in criticism of the budget cuts, you chastised Klein and advised him to “Show some leadership in tough times.” Ms. Weingarten, how have you shown leadership in protecting your competent teachers during the tough Bloomberg-Klein times?
Teachers are urged to email Ms Weingarten with any of these or other questions. IT IS PAST TIME FOR HER RESPONSE. Not an opt ed piece but a question and answer format where Ms. Weingarten does not control the floor, or the questions asked, or the time allotted to each response.