It's teacher hunting season!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Updated: The Friday Afternoon Massacre, Bullying Bosses, Slow-Killing Stress and Teachers (Especially Those in New York)

UPDATE: A partial account of the hit-list of the 33 schools to shut-down appears at the bottom of this post. I welcome leads as to the full list.
Friday Afternoon Bronx Massacre: At his Friday the 13th of January speech at the educational complex of the defunct Morris High school, the Bronx, Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to ATR-ize half the teachers at some 33 turnaround high schools in Fall, 2012. Here is the list in Gotham Schools, from last fall.
The list of the 33 high schools, in all the boroughs except Staten Island, and concentrated in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan; report grades range from C to F.

News items such as this point to the stresses of being a teacher in the current era.
Thanks to for this tip from MSNBC
"Your bullying boss may be slowly killing you: 41 percent of American workers having been psychologically harassed at work," Stephanie Pappas, January 12, 2012
An excerpt from the opening:
If you spend your workday avoiding an abusive boss, tiptoeing around co-workers who talk behind your back, or eating lunch alone because you've been ostracized from your cubicle mates, you may be the victim of workplace bullying. New research suggests that you're not alone, especially if you're struggling to cope.

Employees with abusive bosses often deal with the situation in ways that inadvertently make them feel worse, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Stress Management. That's bad news, as research suggests that workplace abuse is linked to stress — and stress is linked to a laundry list of mental and physical ailments, including higher body weight and heart disease.

In at least one extreme case, workplace bullying has even been linked to suicide, much as schoolyard bullying has been linked to a rash of suicides among young people.

Bullying is "a form of abuse which carries tremendous health harm," said Gary Namie, a social psychologist who directs the Workplace Bullying Institute. "That's how you distinguish it from tough management or any of the other cutesy ways people use to diminish it." . . . .
The stress of the bullying may itself lead to bad decision-making, Namie said. A 2009 study in the journal Science found that stressed-out rats fail to adapt to changes in their environment. A portion of the stressed rats' brains, the dorsomedial striatum, actually shrunk compared with that region in relaxed rats. The findings suggest that stress may actually re-wire the brain, creating a decision-making rut. The same may occur in bullied workers, Namie said.

"This is why a person can't make quality decisions," he said. "They can't even consider alternatives. Just like a battered spouse, they don't even perceive alternatives to their situations when they're stressed and depressed and under attack." . . .

Hierarchical organization --sound familiar-- can contribute to the bullying problem
Hierarchical organizations such as the military tend to have higher rates of bullying, Herschcovis said, as do places where the environment is highly competitive.

"Definitely the organizational context contributes," Herschcovis said.

The personality of the bully is often key, with some research suggesting that childhood bullies become bullies as adults, she said. Targets of bullying are often socially anxious, have low self-esteem, or have personality traits such as narcissism, Herschcovis said. "We don't want to blame the victim, but we recognize this more and more as a relationship" between the bully and the target, she said.

Little research has been done on how to deal with abusive bosses or bullying co-workers. In mild cases, where a boss may not realize how their behavior is coming across, direct confrontation might work, Yagil said. One research-based program that seems to have potential is called the Civility, Respect and Engagement at Work project, Herschcovis said. That program has been shown to improve workplace civility, reduce cynicism and improve job satisfaction and trust among employees, she said. The program has employees discuss rudeness and incivility in their workplace and make plans to improve. [ 8 Tactics to Bust the Office Bully ]

For workers experiencing bullying, Herschcovis recommended reporting specific behavior to higher-ups, as well as examining one's own behavior. Sometimes victims inadvertently contribute to the bullying relationship, she said. Namie cautioned that victims should proceed with care, however, as there are no anti-bullying workplace laws on the books in the U.S.

"HR [human resources] has no power or clout to make senior management stop," Namie said. "Without the laws, they're not mandated to make policies, and without the mandate, they don’t know what to do."

Since 2003, 21 states have introduced some version of anti-bullying bills, but none have yet passed. Twelve states have legislation pending in 2012, according to

And see this undated piece which carries special attention to the particular challenges of teaching in schools in the New York City Department of Education:
"The New School Bullies: It’s not just kids who are pushing each other around. Adults who act like bullies can poison the entire school culture."
“I have witnessed administrators publicly humiliating both older teachers and new ones. The teachers that the administration didn’t like would be made to feel so uncomfortable that even if they had tenure they would want to leave of their own accord,” reports a tenured former teacher who started out as a NYC Teaching Fellow and taught K–6 in a rough-and-tumble school in the South Bronx. (Like several sources in this story, he chose to remain anonymous.)

The following is the clincher of how the DOE via the principal can sink a targeted teacher; will the UFT call the city out on this bias against a teacher? Proponents of merit pay must consider the the gaping holes providing opportunities for administrator bias in setting up a teacher with the weaker students. The teacher evaluation algorithms should, but they probably do not consider whether students have tardiness patterns, poor attendance, a tendency to use the bathroom pass and hang out in the hallway, whether the students refuse to stop talking, whether the administration fails to take away distracting personal electronics. The algorithms might have consideration of the students literacy and numeracy skills. Will the UFT note these factors in the coming tsunami of negative evaluations to weed out the teachers to become ATRs at the 33 schools?
“The best method of achieving this would be to stack all the poorly behaved children together and place them in those teachers’ classes. This also created a lot of jealousy among teachers, producing a very negative atmosphere, which in turn ended up hurting the children.”

Some schools are, simply, pressure cookers. Students come in with a multitude of issues—language barriers, malnutrition, learning disabilities, lack of educational support at home—and principals and teachers are overwhelmed. It’s no excuse for bullying, but it explains why abuse can happen more often here. . . .
The Trickle-Down Effect
In New York City’s smaller, reconstituted schools, the ranks are filled with eager, young Teaching Fellows or Teach For America members, says a former teacher turned staff developer who works with principals and teachers on classroom management and effective leadership. The principals have been rigorously selected, she says, but “it’s extremely challenging to open a new school, especially one that serves so many children at risk. Most principals have tremendous demands made upon them and not nearly enough support staff or resources. Successful new principals typically work 12-hour days, or even longer, or they start to drown.”

The mad push to find a fix means stress at all levels, the staff developer notes. “There’s a real trickle-down effect. One school in Brooklyn I work with is under tremendous stress. The principal may be removed. She explodes, and teachers feel belittled; they have a sense of unease, a constant feeling that their jobs are on the line. And the superintendent has been bullying [the principal], is on her to improve.”

“These schools are struggling to raise achievement, and everyone feels this crazy pressure,” she continues. “Schools don’t have a lot of time to prove themselves. When I was teaching, I was considered a model teacher, even though my test scores were not great. The tone was very different, that you couldn’t transform kids’ scores overnight. There’s been a huge shift, and you would expect to see a lot more bullying.”

Dave Staiger, a social studies teacher at Phoenix High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan, can attest to this. At a school where he taught previously, “I had an assistant principal who tried to pressure us to cheat on administering a standardized test. The teachers involved were all close and united, and they stood up to her and stopped it. So, like a union, that unity among staff can prevent bullying.”

This begs a question about Katy Independent School District: Is the district reluctant to remove the principal because she is, indeed, improving scores? District spokesman Steve Stanford defended the principal’s actions at Golbow Elementary, telling Houston Chronicle reporter Helen Eriksen in April that “although there has been turnover … there is no evidence that it is having a negative impact on student learning. To the contrary, there is evidence student learning is improving.”

That may be—though critics point to the extra resources this principal has been given—but at what cost? Golbow parent Alana MousaviDin wrote to the Chronicle: “What used to be a fun, loving, and exciting place for our children has since become a disgrace. The atmosphere has become somber, the employees work robotically.... Teachers who are dearly loved, needed, and appreciated are disappearing, and while new teachers are coming in, they are not allowed to teach with the panache and innovation that they are fully capable of. Our children are suffering.”

This begs another set of questions: How often do teachers feel united enough and secure enough to stand up and refuse an administrator? And what do they do when they’ve already stood up, and then been shut down?

Both Sides of the Union Coin
Partly, it depends on where you are. In states with strong teachers unions and a precedent for transparency, you stand a better chance of being heard and supported. But the union brand is no silver bullet. “The union hardly did much,” says the former South Bronx teacher, “but they made you feel like they could.”

Staiger agrees: “Unions and tenure give teachers some but not complete protection from being mistreated by administrators.”

The union did step up—eventually—when special education teacher Kimani Brown was placed in one of New York City’s “rubber rooms” (where disciplined teachers go to await a verdict) after questioning whether his principal, Marian Bowden, at Brooklyn’s MS 393 was following the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and providing adequate services for special-needs students. The United Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit on Brown’s behalf in 2008 and the principal resigned—but not until Brown had languished in a rubber room for a year and a half.

Randi Weingarten, then president of the UFT, said, “This is a clear case of a principal retaliating against an educator who had the nerve to stand up for his students. This principal needs to understand her role should be that of a leader, not a bully or tyrant.”

For school reformers, there is the other side of the union coin. The very protections that unions have in place for teachers can hamstring innovation and make change difficult if not impossible. Surprisingly, they can also create a different sort of bullying.

“At a small Manhattan school where I was working, the principal was perceived as very weak, and a group of teachers got together and tried to bully him,” says the NYC staff developer. “The principal was attempting to change the schedule to make room for a more flexible working environment and professional development. One teacher who didn’t agree with the bullying went against those touting union rules, and they ostracized her.”

“Part of the way to achieve results with new, smaller schools is to extend the school day slightly, ask more of teachers,” she adds. “Some teachers don’t object because there’s an unwritten understanding you’re making a commitment to go above and beyond to make the school work.”
PARTIAL LIST OF THE 33 TURNAROUND MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOLS. Special thanks to for posting this. The Times has not posted the turnaround hitlist; the DOE has this scrupulously hidden.
The following is the original turnaround list from 2011. I welcome leads on the remaining schools to bring this number to 33.
09X339 IS 339
10X391 MS 391
Source: "Author Topic: Two of Astorias High Schools are designated to be "transformed" or "restarted"
Another inventory, courtesy Leonie Haimson:
Breaking this down further, there are 13 schools proposed for conversion from Transformation to Turnaround.
Bronx: Banana Kelly High School Herbert H. Lehman High School J.H.S. 22 Jordan L. Mott M.S. 391 Angelo Patri Middle School Brooklyn: Cobble Hill School of American Studies Franklin D. Roosevelt High School John Ericsson Middle School 126 School for Global Studies William E. Grady Vocational High School Queens: Flushing High School Long Island City High School William Cullen Bryant High School Fourteen Restart model schools would convert to the Turnaround model. Those schools would continue relationships with their education partnership organizations (E.P.O.); the partnerships are formed to provide help to schoo l administrators to improve academic performance. The 14 schools are: Bronx: Bronx High School of Business J.H.S. 80 Mosholu Parkway
Brooklyn: Automotive High School Bushwick Community High School I.S. 136 Charles O. Dewey J.H.S. 166 George Gershwin John Dewey High School Sheepshead Bay High School
Manhattan: Bread and Roses Integrated Arts High School
Queens: August Martin High School Grover Cleveland High School John Adams High School Newtown High School Richmond Hill High School
That’s only 27 low-performing schools. How did the city get to 33? It added six more persistently low-achieving schools to the Turnaround model:
Bronx: Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical High School Fordham Leadership Academy J.H.S. 142 John Philip Sousa
Brooklyn: W. H. Maxwell Career and Technical High School
Manhattan: Harlem Renaissance High School High School of Graphic Communication Arts
Two schools, Washington Irving High School in Manhattan and Grace Dodge Career and Technical High School in the Bronx, were taken off the improvement list earlier this school year and put on the list to be outright closed.
And these four struggling schools will continue with the Transformation model because the city says they show signs of progress:
Brooklyn: Boys and Girls High School
Manhattan: Chelsea Career and Technical Education High School Unity Center for Urban Technologies
Queens: Queens Vocational and Technical High School
Lastly, four charter schools — three of them in the same network — have had their charters revoked or not renewed, and will close. The charters are: Peninsula Preparatory Academy Charter School in Rockaway, Queens Williamsburg Charter High School in Brooklyn Believe Northside Charter High School in Greenpoint, Brooklyn Believe Southside Charter School in Greenpoint, Brooklyn
The Williamsburg and two Greenpoint charters are all in the Believe network overseen by the same group of people, and the city and state’s actions means that charter network has been shut down.
Have questions about the breakdown or the process? Ask and we will try to get answers.
Elbert Chu is a student at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and a SchoolBook intern. Follow him on Twitter @elbertchu.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Why is the DOE Eager for Classroom Photos of Our School-children?

Just what is the New York City Department of Education doing soliciting photographing rights of students?
In the days before Bloomberg Education Inc., the Board of Education days, children were only occasionally used as backdrops by politicians. But now, one might argue that the NYC DOE is pimping the schoolkids to be used for a continuing stream of children promo pieces trumpeting the glory of the work of "the education mayor."
The children's images are being used on the DOE's website. To what purpose do the images serve? Of course, to manipulate emotions to make people feel support for mayor Michael Bloomberg's destructive policies.
The above photo permission release form has been issued in schools this year. But why the sudden urgency to ramp up the number of photos of kids at school? The mayor's approval rating in the education area has sunk to a low of 34 percent, lower than his overall rating of 45 percent: See the September 6, 2011 New York Times story, "New Yorkers Say Mayor Has Not Improved Schools."
And additional bad press for the mayor's standing and legacy has been the recent news that the middle class students have stagnated or fallen: See last week in the New York Daily News, January 8, 2012, "No improvement in test scores for middle-income kids during Bloomberg years: Sharp decline in 8th-grade reading results compared to other cities; math scores stagnate."
Parents should refuse to cooperate with the promotion transmission belt for mayor Bloomberg's self-promotion.
(Here is the Spanish version of the parent's release form.)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

UPDATES: Stressful Teaching Climate Driving Away Teacher Applicants

No surprise:

The news is replete with stories of worsening stresses on teachers and intimidating working conditions: for example, the increasing focus on teaching as test prep, and reading through the lines that standardized test cheating scandals could reflect wide patterns of administrators' creating conditions that foster cheating out of desperation. From Atlanta came a story that a teacher had to crawl under a table at a faculty meeting because her test scores were low: " . . . at Fain Elementary School, the principal forced a teacher to crawl under a table in a faculty meeting because that teacher’s students’ test scores were low."
Add the media trend of teacher-blaming, and more college students will recognize that teaching is a low-status profession, whose instability does not make it a reliable career path.
(Thanks to Chaz for the above cartoon.)

So no surprise that we see these stories:
From Murfreesboro [Tennessee] Post, January 3, 2012: "Teacher evaluation system to be evaluated"
The evaluations are adding to teachers' already high stress level, [George] Fitzhugh [a member of the Tennessee House Education Committee] said, causing early retirement of some valued educators and possibly even turning away potential excellent teachers.

"I know from talking to administrators at colleges that they've had sort of a dip in their enrollment," he said. "One particular president indicated to me that he thought it had to do with some of those folks who wanted to go into the education field and were having second thoughts."

From the Los Angeles Times, April 3, 2011:
National University, a nonprofit, multi-campus school that offers mainly online credential classes, reports that enrollment in its teacher training courses has dropped about 30% since 2006. The school's monthlong class terms make it vulnerable to headlines; education dean Carl Beyer said he noticed a small uptick in enrollment in the fall, followed by a decline as word spread of state budget cutbacks.

John Rosales in NEA Today, "How Bad Education Policies Demoralize Teachers", February 7, 2012
--with reference to Doris Santoro academic article abstracted below.
This added piece from Ed in the Apple blog, January 27, 2012:
Teacher Evaluation is Wack! We Will Be Driving Dedicated, Caring Teachers Away from the Schools and Kids That Need Them the Most
And on May 31, 2011 the New York Times published this composition by veteran elementary school teacher, Francesca Burns:

Driving Away the Best Teachers

My View: When did teacher bashing become the new national pastime?
By Sam Chaltain, Special to CNN

NEAToday's Rosales cited Doris Santoro's (Bowdoin College) article which distinguished regular stress and the realization of increasing-"reform"-driven changes in the profession:
American Journal of Education, Vol. 118, No. 1., 1, November 2011, Good Teaching in Difficult Times: Demoralization in the Pursuit of Good Work

The abstract of Santoro's article follows:
In these difficult times of reform/bashing, teachers find it difficult to find moral worth in the work that they do.
What happens when experienced teachers who are fueled by the moral dimension of teaching find that they can no longer access the moral rewards of the work? Consistent and persistent frustrations in accessing the moral rewards of teaching requires a new concept to describe teachers who feel they no longer can do good work or teach “right.” Too often, this phenomenon of frustration in the pursuit of good teaching is described as burnout. Although the terms “burnout” and “demoralization” have been used synonymously, it is better to consider the two phenomena as related but conceptually distinct. Burnout may be an appropriate diagnosis in some cases where individual teachers’ personal resources cannot meet the challenge of the difficulties presented by the work. However, the burnout explanation fails to account for situations where the conditions of teaching change so dramatically that moral rewards, previously available in ever-challenging work, are now inaccessible. In this instance, the phenomenon is better termed demoralization. Through an empirical case study and philosophical analysis, this article shows that accessing the moral dimension of teaching is not only about cultivating individual teachers’ dispositions toward good work but structuring the work to enable practitioners to do good within its domain. In this model, teacher attrition does not necessarily reflect a lack of commitment, preparedness, competence, or hardiness on the part of the practitioner. Rather, teacher attrition is analyzed from the perspective of whether teachers find moral value in the kind of work they are asked to perform.

Teaching is an intellectual and moral practice fraught with contradictions, impediments, and challenges both quotidian and extraordinary. Despite the long-standing challenges inherent in teachers’ work, current federal policies in the United States have affected public school teachers and their classrooms in ways previously unimaginable (Kukla-Acevedo 2009, 450–51). This federal oversight affects high-poverty schools most significantly where policies are tied to essential funding and sanctions that include possible reorganization and school closure (Valli and Buese 2007; Valli et al. 2008). Recently, the Los Angeles Times published an investigative report that included the names of individual teachers and their “valued-added” ratings based on the newspaper’s analysis of standardized tests results (“Los Angeles Teacher Ratings” 2010). The New York City Department of Education is currently in a court battle with the city’s teachers’ union as to whether it can release teacher ratings to the press (Otterman 2010). Federal funding mandates require adoption of “scientifically based” instructional strategies that frequently involve curricular materials with scripted lessons that teachers must follow (No Child Left Behind Act [NCLB] 2001). “Fidelity” to the mandated scope and sequence of commercially produced curriculum is often accompanied by school-based administrative oversight that can be as picayune as ensuring uniform standards of bulletin board design. All professions periodically go through periods of crisis, or difficult times, and teaching is in the midst of one now. This article provides new vocabulary to describe a phenomenon made visible in this crisis that is too frequently attributed to the weakness of individual teachers or is accepted fatalistically as a symptom of teaching in high-poverty schools. It renders a conceptual distinction between “burnout” and what the author terms “demoralization.”

Through analysis of research on the moral dimension of teaching and its relation to teacher recruitment, retention, and attrition, a case of one teacher, and philosophical inquiry into the concepts of burnout and demoralization, this article addresses the question: What happens when experienced teachers who are fueled by the moral dimension of teaching find that they can no longer access the moral rewards embedded in the work? The moral rewards of teaching are activated when educators feel that they are doing what is right in terms of one’s students, the teaching profession, and themselves.1 The moral rewards discussed here encompass the moral and ethical dimensions of teaching. The ethical dimension involves teachers pursuing the good life in their professional and personal endeavors. In relation to the ethical, teachers might ask, “How is what I am doing bettering the world or my self?” The moral dimension harnesses sanctioned and prohibited activities. For instance, teachers might wonder, “Is this approach a good method for teaching my class given what I know about best practices?” The ethical and the moral are often intertwined. For instance, violating moral principles (engaging in practices that seem wrong to the practitioner) may affect one’s ethical life (the practitioner may sense a diminishment of his or her goodness as a teacher and a person).2 Although it is impossible to enumerate the goods that could be counted as moral rewards, when teachers find that they can answer in the affirmative to the questions—Is this work worthwhile? Am I engaging in good teaching?—they are reaping the moral rewards of the practice of teaching. How teachers elaborate on why the work is worthwhile and why they are engaging in good teaching may be inflected by personal factors, but the work itself is what makes these rewards available. These rewards are internal to the practice of teaching rather than the possession of individual teachers.3 This article puts forth an argument that the moral rewards embedded in the teaching profession are endangered in these difficult times.

Too often, the inability to access the moral rewards of teaching is misdiagnosed as burnout. This article shows that it is better to conceive of the foreclosure of the moral rewards as demoralization. Although Farber (1984) has used burnout and demoralization synonymously, it is necessary to consider the two phenomena as related but conceptually distinct. As will be examined below, burnout may be an appropriate diagnosis in some cases where individual teachers’ personal resources cannot meet the challenge of the difficulties presented by the work. However, the “burnout” explanation fails to account for situations where the conditions of teaching change so dramatically that the moral rewards, previously available in ever-challenging work, are now inaccessible. In this case, the phenomenon is better termed “demoralization.” Consistent and persistent frustrations in accessing the moral rewards of teaching requires a new concept to describe teachers who feel they no longer can do good work or teach “right.”

Difficult times in a profession provide an opportunity to articulate what is fundamental to the work. Although many researchers have focused on the individual attributes that contribute to teachers’ ability to tolerate the challenges of the profession, fewer have examined how the quality of the work itself—the practice of teaching—affects teacher attrition. Shifting the analysis of teacher attrition from individual teachers’ characteristics (burnout) to the practice of teaching (demoralization) provides a new perspective on teacher retention that relies less on individual teacher psychology and more on an analysis of the state of the profession. It shows that accessing the moral dimension of teaching is not only about cultivating individual teachers’ dispositions toward good work but also structuring the work to enable practitioners to do good within its domain. In this model, teacher attrition does not necessarily reflect a lack of commitment, preparedness, competence, or hardiness on the part of the practitioner. Rather, teacher attrition is analyzed from the perspective of whether teachers find moral value in the actual work they are asked to perform.