It's teacher hunting season!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Teachers Vicki Soto, Kaitlin Roig, Both Real Heros, One a Martyr in Newtown, Connecticut

In this era of shaming of teachers, people should extend their greatest appreciation to public school teachers and other school personnel who zealously shielded or guarded students from the gunman in yesterday's shooting at the Sandy Hook elementary school, in suburban Newtown, Fairfield County, Connecticut. The heroism of these teachers should give pause to those making a career of attacking teachers.
Teacher Victoria Soto made the ultimate sacrifice for her students. The New York Daily News reported that the first-grade teacher put herself between her students and the shooter, shielding them from his bullets. She hid her students in closets. In the end, she was a victim to the killer's bullets. She told the shooter that her students were in the gym. He shot her and moved on. As the children were hiding in the closet, they survived.
She had been a dedicated teacher. Her only complaint, a neighbor said, was her long commute from her Stratford home. Just earlier that day, she had visited the school librarian, looking for a book for her class, on the things that animals can do.

* * *

ABC News broadcast lengthy excerpts of an interview with first-grade teacher Kaitlin Roig. She saved her students by locking them with her in the classroom's bathroom, pulling a file cabinet to additionally block the door.

Roig and her colleagues are union members and career teachers. Let this not be forgotten, along with their valiant courage and heroism in selflessly protecting the children.

South Bronx School blogger writes on the need to put the valiance of these teachers in the perspective of how they are evaluated, as well as Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst's exploiting the tragedy to say that the attack strengthened the group's resolve to reform Connecticut schools:
Our children are our most valuable assets, and we lost too many of them today. . . .
But events like these also strengthen our resolve to do exactly that -- improve schools for children and thereby improve entire communities. The entire StudentsFirst organization -- including the members of our team in Connecticut -- recommit ourselves to that mission today . . . .
[--Rhee's StudentsFirst Facebook site]
[Perhaps Rhee's vulgar Freudian slip of seeing children as assets for corporate schemes will be her McCarthy v. Army that will prompt people to ask, Have you no shame?]
Both these teachers are heroes in their own way. Both these teachers did something extraordinary that cannot be measured with a test, with a piece of paper, with an observation. They did something that none of us put in their situation have no idea what we would do.

If their acts (and I am not omitting any other acts of bravery yesterday, just only know of these two thus far), are the ultimate acts, the very definition of effective teachers, what then would have become of them if they were subject to VAM as whether or not they are effective.

Now, I do not know what the new evaluation system in Connecticut consists of. I can only speak for what is coming or might come in NYC. [Ed.: read this post at NYCDOENUTS.] But what these teachers showed is what happens in schools all over the country in one way or another every day. Intangibles that are so subjective there is no way to measure.
Recounting these teachers' heroism, the Perdido Street School blog similarly put the valiance of teachers against the larger backdrop of the societal attack on teachers.
Reading these details, I couldn't help but wonder, will these acts of heroism be taken into account by Governor Malloy and his education reformers when they calculate the value-added measurements for these teachers?

I also couldn't help but ask myself, how many hedge fund managers/education reformers would selflessly sacrifice themselves to try and save children the way these educators did?

Most days, the media and the politicians are busy trashing teachers as lazy, greedy incompetents in need of a little "fire" to their feet to motivate them

But yesterday you saw the dedication and sacrifice and love that teachers in this country have for their students.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Researcher finds 95,000 NYPD Stop & Frisks Unconstitutional / Stop & Frisk to be Big Issue in 2013 Vote

According to a new report analyzing stop-and-frisk data made public by the New York Police Department, 95,000 stops were unconstitutional. MORE

At Capital New York, By Azi Paybarah, December 12, 2012 4:44 pm
According to a new report analyzing stop-and-frisk data made public by the New York Police Department, 95,000 stops appear to have been unconstitutional.

The report released today is from the Center for Constitution Rights and professor Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia University, a critic of stop-and-frisk who is currently part of a class-action lawsuit against the city.

The report says that "based on the information recorded on NYPD stop-and-frisk forms by police officers themselves, more than 95,000 stops lacked reasonable articulable suspicion and therefore violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures."

Asked about that claim, MYPD spokesman Paul Browne responded by email, "Stops save lives and they comport with descriptions provided by victims of violent crime."
Go to Capital NY for the conclusion of the article.
One of the more telling findings about the upcoming New York mayoral race in a new Quinnipiac poll of city residents is buried deep within the survey. MORE

At Capital New York, By Blake Zeff, November 21, 2012 12:42 pm

The article on a Quinnipiac University poll begins with the usual concerns of which candidate's ahead (the poll shows Quinn the first choice of 32 percent, versus 10, 9, 5, and 4, respectively for Bill Thompson, Bill de Blasio, John Liu, and Scott Stringer). However, this poll was taken before Stringer quit the mayoral race.

Yet, it closes with a note on how stop and frisk is heavily opposed by Democratic, African-American and Latino voters.
A more telling finding in the poll, in my view, regards police practices. New Yorkers strongly support the performance of police commissioner Ray Kelly (68-23) and that of the NYPD as a whole (62-31), but they sharply oppose stop-and-frisk tactics (by 53-42) that have mostly targeted black and Hispanic men. This dichotomy indicates that the disapproval of stop-and-frisk is not merely a proxy or byproduct of blind hatred toward (or even dissatisfaction with) the police department, but rather, a stand-alone concern about which there is very real discontent.

Dig deeper into the stop-and-frisk question, and the numbers are even more telling: Democrats oppose the practice by 62-33, black voters by 70-28, and Hispanic voters by 64-33.

Don’t think this has escaped the attention of the candidates and their campaigns. If you’re a Democrat running for mayor in 2013, this is an issue you must address if you want to connect with the base of your party.

New Yorkers have plenty of positive things to say about Michael Bloomberg’s tenure. Impressively, 57 percent think his health initiatives have either been right or have not gone "far enough.” Nearly two thirds are somewhat or very satisfied with the way things are going in the city today.

Stop-and-frisk is a glaring exception. I’d expect we’ll be hearing a lot about this from the candidates in 2013.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

'Stop buying this rag:' Mayoral candidates react to a 'New York Post' cartoon | Capital New York

'Stop buying this rag:' Mayoral candidates react to a 'New York Post' cartoon | Capital New York
"The four major Democratic candidates for mayor denounced a New York Post cartoon depicting the sex life of Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, who was revealed last week to have written an essay 33 years ago titled "I am a lesbian."

The candidates appeared at Al Sharpton's National Action Network on Saturday morning (before "Saturday Night Live" made a reference to the de Blasios in the "Weekend Update" segment)."

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Fed. Court: NYC Board of Education Discriminated Against Black, Latino Teachers

On February 5, 2012, a U.S. District Court ruled that the New York City Board of Education discriminated against black and Latino educators. This case dealt with certification exams and dismissals of teachers in the 1990s. This case does not deal with the steep decline in percentage of black and Latino teachers in the last decade under mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Board's successor, the Department of Education. Here is the story, covered in Thomson Reuters, reported December 5, 2012, by Nate Diamond: NYC discriminated against black, Latino teachers: court
NEW YORK, Dec 5 (Reuters) - New York City's Board of Education discriminated against black and Latino teachers by requiring them to pass a standardized test that wasn't properly validated to become licensed to teach in the city's schools, a U.S. judge ruled on Wednesday.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood in Manhattan came in a long-running class action. The ruling permits the plaintiffs to seek the appointment of a monitor to evaluate whether the current version of the test has any of the invalid provisions in place from 1996 to 2000.

At the same time, Wood decertified the class of plaintiffs insofar as it was seeking back pay. The decision follows a landmark 2011 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Wal-Mart Stores Inc v. Dukes, which limited the ability of plaintiffs to group together in class actions.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said Wood's ruling left the door open for teachers who took the test and number in the hundreds if not thousands to seek damages individually or for the court to certify smaller classes.

Wednesday's ruling marked the latest instance of a federal judge taking issue with New York City employment tests. A federal judge in Brooklyn in March ordered the city to pay up to $128.7 million after finding New York City Fire Department exams had "discriminatory effects" on minority applicants from 1999 to 2007.

"These are two major federal court decisions invalidating public employment tests," said Baher Azmy, the legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents the plaintiffs in both cases.

Eamonn Foley, a lawyer with the New York City Law Department, in a statement said the judge was correct to decertify the class with regard to its back pay and injunctive relief demands and that the city didn't break the law with regard to its use of an earlier test.

"The city is reviewing its options with regard to the remaining portions of the decision," he said.


The lawsuit was filed in 1996 by four teachers -- three black and one Latina -- who claimed that the testing practices of the New York State Education Department and the New York City Board of Education were discriminatory.

To gain permanent licenses, the teachers had to pass the National Teacher Core Battery exam, which the state began using in 1984, and its successor, the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test, introduced in 1993. A newer version of the LAST has been in place since 2000 and wasn't at issue, the decision said.

The lawsuit claimed that white teachers passed at a higher rate than blacks and Latinos and that the exam had a disparate impact. First-time black and Latino takers of the LAST passed at 57.9 percent and 55.1 percent, compared to a 90.25 percent pass rate for whites, the plaintiffs said in a 2003 filing.

Those who failed the exam lost their conditional licenses. As a result, they could only work as substitute teachers and had lower salaries, benefits and seniority, the plaintiffs said.

About 8,000 to 15,000 teachers have suffered demotion, termination, reduced pay and other losses because they failed the tests, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights. The center's Web site did not provide a time frame for that statistic.

The city contended the exam was job-related, but Wood found that the test wasn't properly validated.

In granting the motion to decertify the class related to monetary damages for back pay, Wood said the class could remain intact for the purpose of seeking a court finding that the board violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Damages could, though, still be in play, said Joshua Sohn, a lawyer at DLA Piper working pro bono for the plaintiffs. How the damages would be determined will be the subject of a response from the plaintiffs the court requested by Dec. 13.

"(The decision) leaves the possibility to certify subclasses for damages, or we could propose some other framework to get there," Sohn said.

A status conference is scheduled for Jan. 10.

Since the case was filed, it has wound its way through the courts and passed through four judges.

A class of plaintiffs was certified in 2001 by former U.S. district judge Constance Baker Motley in Manhattan, the second judge to oversee the case after receiving it from Judge Deborah Batts. Following a five-month bench trial in 2003, the judge found the city and state's use of the exam did not violate Title VII.

In 2006, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Motley's findings. The appeals court tossed the teachers' claims against the state, leaving just the city as a defendant.

Motley died in 2005 before the 2nd Circuit ruled, so the case was later reassigned to Judge Sydney Stein. It was then transferred again, this time to Wood in 2009.

The case is Gulino v. Board of Education, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 96-08414.

For Gulino: Joshua Sohn, DLA Piper.

For the New York City Board of Education: Eamonn Foley, New York City Law Department.

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SIGNIFICANCE FOR ACTION GOING FORWARD The JD Journal reported December 7 that the decision opens the way for inquiries as to whether current exams contain invalidated portions:
Though the ruling came in favour of the plaintiffs in a class action, and it allows the plaintiffs ways to evaluate whether the current version of the test still contains the invalid provisions used from 1996 to 2000, the judge decertified the class, because it was seeking back pay.

The story in

The Bed-Stuy Patch reported December 7 that New York City could be on the hook for $455 million:
"City on Hook For $455M After Judge Rules Bias on Teacher Exam: The city will pay about $455 million in damages to over 2,000 victims."
The affected teachers – anywhere from 2,000 to 3,500 – will not be entitled to back-pay, the judge also ruled.

During a court hearing on Jan. 10, the teachers are expected to discuss the filing of a separate action to seek compensation from the city.

The $445 million payout, a figure projected by the DOE in a 2011 fiscal report, would be more than triple the $128 million that the city will be paying out to minority FDNY applications, stemming from a similar case of entrance-exam discrimination.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Support Hurricane Sandy Victims with Fun at Shakespeare with Benefits

SHAKESPEARE WITH BENEFITS Monday Dec. 17 at 7:30PM at The West End Theatre on 86th St & West End.

All proceeds go to SANDY RELIEF via NY Cares.

Special guests are Olympia Dukakis & John Christopher Jones. See you on Monday Dec 17."

1 train to 86th Street Station