It's teacher hunting season!

Monday, December 14, 2009


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

In a sharply worded decision, yesterday, Justice Walter Tolub of New York Supreme Court rebuked the DOE for affirming a "U" rating given by an elementary school principal to a 20 year veteran when few of the procedural safeguards were followed. Jill Budnick, represented by private counsel, decided not to accept the rating and had claimed that she was targeted by the principal due to her seniority.

Justice Tolub found that the teacher evaluations and appeals of unsatisfactory ratings must be conducted in compliance with the formal procedures set forth primarily in two handbooks prepared by the Division of Human Resources, namely, "Rating Pedagogical Staff Members" and "The Appeal Process." The Handbook requires a Rating Officer (in this case, the school principal) to complete a thorough performance review for the academic year before rating the teacher (Section 11, at 3-4).

The Handbook states that the Rating Officer should make informal and formal classroom visits in order to improve and sustain effective teaching (Ex. 4, Section 1, A, at 1). A formal observation may consist of one full-period observation or a series of short visits by the principal (Section II, E, at 7). Discussion with the teacher before and after an observation must be built into the formal observation process, along with a post-observation conference and a written report, which should include prescriptive recommendations for professional growth where appropriate.
The Rating Officer must characterize each formal observation of the employee's performance Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory and indicate why this is so (Section 1, A, at 1). In arriving at the rating for a school year, the Rating Oficer should take into account all events and incidents manifesting professional growth, pupil guidance and instruction, and classroom management (Section, II, C, at 4). A U rating has serious implications, as it is a compelling reason to file charges against a tenured teacher and may affect the teacher's ability to obtain additional licenses and salary increments (Section II, G, at 9).

Reports of observations must be included in a teacher's official file and a teacher is permitted to append a letter or note of explanation or rebuttal to documents placed in the file (Ex. 4, Section 11, I, at 9-10). This appended material is considered part of the original document and should be permanently attached thereto (Section II, I, at lo). Any material to be placed in a teacher's file must include a notation that it is being placed in the file and a space for the teacher to sign and to indicate when he or she received a copy of the material.

Justice Tolub found that the rating officer did not provide pre and post observation conferences or any meaningful way to correct Budnick's alleged deficiencies. Additionally the Court noted that documents appended to the file letters were not included in the record on appeal and the appeals officer refused to mark into the record supportive letters from colleagues and other teachers.

The irregularities, according to the Court required that the U rating be vacated, an S rating be substituted and the DOE ordered to make the changes.

Rubber Room Teachers Sue Klein and NYC DoE

Saturday, December 05, 2009
Rubber Room Teachers Sue Klein and NYCDOE
Breaking Education News - For Immediate Release

Manhattan Attorney, Dr. Joy Hochstadt, Esq.
Files Class Action Lawsuit in Federal Court to
Close the NYC Dept of Education "Rubber Rooms"

from: "Village Voice," New York News Blog
Teachers Bring Suit Against Klein Over Rubber Rooms
By Roy Edroso, Tuesday, Dec. 1 2009
Click to above link for full "Village Voice" article link

And here, from Betsy Combier's NYC Rubber Room Reporter blog:
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Whistleblower PE Teacher Daniel Smith Sues the NYC BOE in Federal Court For Putting Him in the "Rubber Room" For More Than Two Years

Contact: Alan J. Wax (631) 873-8044
(631) 574-4433
or Todd Shapiro (516) 312-6573


NEW YORK (Nov. 12, 2009) -- Daniel Smith, the outspoken former Dewitt Clinton High School girls softball coach and Bronx high school gym teacher, is suing the New York City Department of Education to get out of one of the city’s infamous “rubber rooms.” Smith claims he’s been assigned to the rubber room for speaking out against school officials.
Click to link for full article

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ravitch chimes in on illusory reputation of Duncan and Chicago schools

The close them down, spill out the staff and rebuild them approach is under full swing in Chicago. The media loves a story of someone performing miracles in tough situations. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan received media accolades for his closing and reopening strategy in Chicago.
Maybe people should scratch the surface and engage in a bit more critical thinking, both as they research for the media and as they digest the media. As in the situation of George W. Bush and the alleged education miracles in 1990s Texas, we have a phony situation in Chicago. We should have learned our lesson then. The Texas reality was manipulation to produce attractive test scores.
As New York University professor Diane Ravitch tells us, the real record of Duncan's close-and-reopen schools strategy is unimpressive. It progressed with data frenzy, data manipulation and in the end, no improvement in the results.

The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago released a report ("Still Left Behind")
earlier this year that documented the lowered cut scores on Illinois's state tests, which gave the illusion of progress in Chicago. Chicago students are still far behind, and progress during Arne Duncan's tenure was meager. The report reaches these key findings:

"Most of Chicago's students drop out or fail. The vast majority of Chicago's elementary and high schools do not prepare their students for success in college and beyond.
. . .
Similarly, the scoring of the state tests in New York was dumbed down dramatically from 2006-2009, and it became possible for students to reach Level 2 by random guessing. Proficiency rates on state tests soared dramatically at the same time that the state's scores on NAEP remained flat. As a result of the state's dumbed-down tests, New York City's accountability system crashed, and 97 percent of all elementary and junior high schools were rated A or B because of their alleged gains on the state tests.
. . .
New York City and Chicago are two districts that adopted competitive business practices, aggressively closing down schools and spurring competition. What are the results? Grade inflation on state scores, but neither district saw significant improvement on NAEP since 2003. (NYC did get a gain for its 4th grade students in math in 2007, but not in 4th grade reading, 8th grade reading, or 8th grade math, and in 2009, the state's math scores were flat, which indicates that the city's were, as well.)

Living as we do in an age when test scores are so easily manipulated and so often fraudulent, we should proceed with caution before using them to determine the fate of students, teachers, principals, and schools.

The close and reopen strategy leads to the "failure" of other schools, as weaker students get pushed to the remaining large schools that are forced to take them, as told in this story on Adlai Stevenson in the Bronx, and this story on Richmond Hill in Queens. Once the crowded atmosphere weakens students enthusiasm and the gap between ninth grade enrollees and graduates increases, the Chancellor clamours for the schools to be shut down.
Jamaica High School's death knell has been sounded. See this post, on the planned closure of Jamaica and eight other schools. And this is stirring much activism in the activist teacher community. New York City Chancellor Joel Klein, fresh from Mayor Michael Bloomberg's weak victory is running forward with a growing list of schools to shut down.
We should peruse lists of shut down large comprehensive high schools. Lists here and here (Norm Scott's). It has been going on since the 1970s, with the closing of Julia Richman in Manhattan, and a new wave that began with the closing of Eastern District (Brooklyn), James Monroe (the Bronx) and Andrew Jackson (Queens), all in the mid-1990s. Serious study needs to be made: what good came of these closures? The residual schools in the same campuses have similar difficulties (e.g., Regents scores, graduation rates) as the earlier schools. If the record of closing down and reopening has made no profound progress, then we need to look to different strategies to improving education for the students in the city.

I have previously posted here and here about how the curriculum options for students are different in schools in minority neighborhoods, contrasted with schools in white neighborhoods. This pattern and the linked trend of school restructuring is exclusive to minority neighborhoods and is a massive civil rights class action lawsuit waiting to be launched.
A race to the top, to the best of aspirations, sounds nice on paper. The reality is that Duncan is pushing a poisonous plan that will encourage other school systems to pursue the same unfounded policies that has accomplished nothing in Chicago and in New York.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Poll: Which workplace TV show does you school remind you of?

In an more immediate sense, the physical structure of our schools reminds us of films such as "Up the Down Staircase" or the threats from students bring "The Blackboard Jungle" to mind. Or the quest for respect, as in "To Sir With Love," only the real world teacher's quest for respect from administrators, not just the Sidney Portier character's search for peace between students.

Our schools exude farce, pathos, irony, tragedy, scandal. The comedies in the poll at right come to mind as I think of the ... challenges ... as I put it, delicately, of working in New York City (NYC) public schools / the Board of Ed / the Department of Education.

Your vote in this online poll and your comments are most welcome.