Friday, July 29, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Ticket to the ATR Pool

I'm a masochist at heart, so I actually check my DOE email in the summer. Usually there's nothing there except the usual notice that the server will be down Sunday morning at 6AM. (Oh no! Now what will I do?)

If you check yours, you've seen the new DOE "opportunity" to become a Master Teacher or Turnaround Teacher in one of the schools that the DOE has called failing. In exchange for 100 extra hours and some duties, teacher who qualify work and mentor at these schools and receive extra compensation--30% if you land the Master Teacher gig, and 15% of you become a turnaround teacher.

It sounds like a good deal. The UFT endorsed it and calls it a start toward creating a career ladder for teachers (BTW--why do we need this? Are we abandoning salary steps and longevity?). And in these financial times, a 30% hike in pay sounds pretty appealing. If you're at the top step, like me, you could make an additional $30,000 a year. So what's not to love?

The devil seems to be in the details, as usual. Take a look at the language in the posting:

Master Teachers receive additional compensation of 30% over and above applicable annual salary for up to two years contingent upon the selected candidate: a) remaining in the school through the 2012-2013 school year; and b) maintaining a rating of “highly effective” for each year starting in the 2011-12 school year.

The first condition seems pretty easy. The second one, not so much. It appears you would have to achieve a "highly effective" rating for both years of working in a failing school or you'll be out the door. How that rating will be determined still hasn't been agreed to by the DOE and UFT.

You may say, "So what? I'll take the chance. Even if they boot me after the first year, I've made a lot more money. If I get a good rating, I'll make it through both years."

True, but in either case, the sword of Damocles hanging over your is this: What happens if you're dismissed after one year, or when your two year term is over? Where do you go? I've looked over these postings and there is no mention of what happens to you after your stint is up.

If you had retention rights and could just return to your old school, I'd say this is a wonderful opportunity. On the other hand, if you had retention rights, I'm pretty sure they'd mention it somewhere in the job posting.

What will most likely happen is that after one or two years, you'll be sent to find a job in the Open Market. If you can't get one (and trust me on this one--you can't), you will likely get sent to the ATR pool where you can do sub work for the rest of your career. That career ladder you want to climb will come crashing to the ground.

Of course, if you're a young teacher, you may want to go for this. You only need one year of teaching experience to apply (now that's what we call setting the bar really high!). As such, you don't even need tenure to become a master teacher.

My advice is stay the hell away from this "opportunity". I know quite a few ATRs who got there because their position was eliminated. You don't want to join them.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Welcome Aboard, Miss Rim!

I'd like to welcome Miss Rim to the NYC education blogosphere, and urge all of you to drop by her blog. She works in a D75 school so her insights into teaching should prove to be a valuable addition. It's refreshing to hear from a young teacher who isn't a shill for the E4E crowd. One thing that caught my eye immediately was her second post, which ended thusly:

For more veteran teachers, don't write one of us off immediately, for every Rueben Brosbe and E4E douche, there is another that really wants to be a good teacher - and we want your ideas, your support and sometimes your shoulder.

This is my kind of blogger! I hope everyone stops by and read her stuff:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Battle of the Asshats

Ruben Brosbe
Michelle Costa


In what could be a sign of an imminent implosion at A4E, Asshat Extraordinaire Michelle Costa has called on fellow Asshat Ruben Brosbe to be fired.

If you don't remember Michelle Costa, she's the teacher at Aspirations Diploma Plus High School who wrote an article calling for "ineffective" teachers to be fired. She also collaborated on the A4E white paper which basically said the same thing. Assuming that she meant what she said, there can be no doubt that she is calling for fellow Asshat Ruben Brosbe to be terminated. Of course, she didn't say that out loud, but looking at her position papers, there is no other conclusion we can reach.

For example, in her article in The Brooklyn Paper, she said, "...while most teachers give it their all, there are sadly some who can’t raise the bar for their students." This describes Ruben perfectly. His dismal TDR scores, along with a critique from his principal that claims a "disconnect" between what he knows and his ability to execute in his classroom, clearly show that he has not raised the bar for his students and should be fired.

Michelle continues lambasting Ruben in the A4E white paper looking for alternatives to seniority based layoffs. In it, she and her fellow Asshats claim that, "...without considering performance in layoffs, many highly effective teachers will be lost, while less effective teachers remain in the classroom. We can tell whether teachers are likely to be great within four years of their entering the classroom." Ruben has now completed his fourth year, and in addition to his lousy TDR scores, he has twice been denied tenure.

It will be interesting to see who wins this battle. Do the Asshats really believe in what they say? If so, Ruben should go. I'm sure Michelle would agree.

Well, I'm not 100% sure. It's quite possible that Michelle Costa was also denied tenure. You see, every single one of the eight teachers up for tenure at Michelle's school was denied. She graduated from GWU in 2008, so it's quite likely that this past year was her third year of teaching, which would have made her eligible for tenure. If so, she, like Ruben, was denied.

Hmm. Maybe this isn't a battle so much after all. Maybe it's a reckoning.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Charity Begins...Well, Everywhere But Here

The Times reported Thursday that Mayor4Life Michael Bloomberg will give 50 million dollars to the Sierra Club to assist them in their efforts to close down coal plants across the United States. Mr. Bloomberg believes that this will help reduce greenhouse gasses. The Times also reported that Bloomberg gave an additional 20 million dollars earlier this year to C40, "a group of cities around the world that are trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to prepare for the growing impact of global warming."

So Bloomberg is, essentially, tossing money about in an effort to replace dirty energy with clean energy. There's nothing wrong with that, is there?

Well, no. As far as I am concerned, clean energy is the way to go, and I hope President Obama, after he's done sucking up to the Tea Party, will actually get around to creating those clean energy jobs he's talked about since he first burst onto the political scene.

The combined 70 million the mayor has scattered to cities throughout the world to create clean energy is something of an ironic number, however, as the DOE wants the city to spend 70 million tax payer dollars on dirty oil to burn in NYC public schools. But don't worry. The dirty oil should be gone by the year 2030.

As may many of us. As may many children who attend these schools.

Sure, Bloomberg can spend his money however he wants. It's just a little galling that he's spending 50 million on cities across the country to make their air cleaner, but not a dime to help end the practice of burning dirty oil in NYC public schools. Isn't he the education mayor?

For context, Bloomberg could easily have spend another 50 million--or more--to convert schools to cleaner energy instead of allowing us to breathe toxic soot for the next 19 years. In fact, he could give away 50 million dollars a day for more than a year and still be richer than you or I could ever dream of.

It feels to me as if Bloomberg has embraced his lame duck status and begun to shift his focus to a more national and global point of view. How else can you explain his spending so much to clean the air everywhere else but here? He's dropped hundreds of millions to get himself elected, so 50 million to buy himself some goodwill nationally seems a drop in the bucket.

One of our favorite education writers, Arthur Goldstein, was all over this issue in the Huffington Post. You should give it a read.

Wipe the soot out of your eyes first.

They have no clean air? Let them breathe soot.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ruben Brosbe, The Musical! Or, How To Succeed In The Teaching Business Without Really Trying

It was inevitable! After the roaring success of his low TDR scores made him the Toast of the Post, and his extended tenure made him a Daily News Notable, E4E Productions is proud to bring you (drum roll....)

Ruben Brosbe, the Musical!

We can't give away too many spoilers, but we can tell you some of the exciting plot line! A young man named Ruben Brosbe wants to become a great teacher, but realizes he has none of the skills it takes to be one. Discouraged and about to quit, a fellow unsuccessful teacher slips him a book called How To Succeed in the Teaching Business Without Really Trying, by Doug Lemov and Mel Brooks. The book tells him that there's no need to bother with all those teacher-ish things, like writing and executing good lessons. No, all he needs to succeed is to seize on the anti-teacher sentiments brewed up by the ed deform movement, and become their poster boy! This strategy actually allows our hero to succeed by failing. Ruben starts blogging, shilling for E4E and Gotham Schools, and stabbing his fellow teachers in the back at every turn. He becomes a folk hero to the local dailies. Nothing can stop him now!

Or can it? After a round of vicious self-flagellation lands Ruben a flattering cover story in the Times Magazine, his fellow teachers confront him in the men's room and threaten to expose the fact that one of Ruben's students actually learned something. Dismayed, Ruben tries to restore his lack of confidence in one of the musicals most rousing numbers, I Don't Believe In You. As he stares in the mirror, he croons to himself:

Now there you are,
Yes, there's that face!
That face no one can trust!
It might embarrass you to hear me say it,
But say it I must! Say it I must!
You've got the dull, brown eyes
of a failure without a full deck!
Yet there's that hipster beard
looking weirder than all holy heck!
I don't believe in you!
I don't believe in you!

With his self-doubt fully restored, Ruben goes on a bender of negative posting. He blogs his every mistake. He bemoans his every misstep. Still, it seems unsatisfying. He's about to tender his resignation but first he goes off to drown his sorrows. By chance, he tells his troubles to a group of young teachers standing at the bar. Upon hearing this story, the leader of this group, Evan Stone, pulls out a copy of How To Succeed in the Teaching Business Without Really Trying. Ruben realizes he has found soul-mates in his E4E friends and resolves to join them. This leads to the rousing finale, The Brotherhood of Scabs:

Now you may join the Elks my friends,
And I may join the Shriners,
And other men may carry cards,
As members of the Diners.
Still others wear a golden key,
Or small Greek letter pin,
But we all need to wear Asshats,
before we can get in...into the...

Brotherhood of scabs,
The malevolent brotherhood of scabs,
Ignoble ties that bind our lips to Klein's behind,
A great big brotherhood of scabs!

(Chorus joins in, donning hipster beards and Asshats)

Your E4E membership is free!
Keep downing all the free drinks you can!
Oh we're so proud to be,
Failing so miserably!
In this great brotherhood of scabs!

(Curtain falls)

So far, the musical has gotten rave reviews:

"This play will run for years! And then I'll extend it another two years!"--Ruben's principal.

"If you see only one ed deform musical this year, see this one! I'll buy everyone drinks!" --Bill Gates

"I almost cried, but I have no human empathy! Or tear ducts!" --Michelle Rhee, Students First

"I don't know. I tried really hard, but in the end, I think I sucked in this role!"--Ruben

With this kind of success/failure, can "Ruben Brosbe On Ice" be far behind?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ruben Brosbe Uses Occam's Razor To Cut Himself Some Slack

OK. It official. Ruben Brosbe, award winning blogger, darling of Gotham Schools, and hero in his own mind, was denied tenure, for the second time. He will now embark on his 5th year in the NYC Public Schools.

Ruben wasn't the only one denied tenure, of course. A bunch of other E4E people, like the teachers at Aspirations HS, also had their tenure decisions extended. There's talk that E4E will be officially renamed "Extensions4Educators".

The irony, of course, is that these E4E folks are the very ones who advocated for stricter tenure requirements. Well done, E4E folks! Congratulations!

What struck me most about his "Occam's Razor" post is that Ruben decided the simplest solution to his denial of tenure is just that he isn't good enough yet. Actually, I could respect that kind of stance--if it were genuine. But Ruben leads up to this realization by giving us many, many excuses, such as:

  • The superintendent is making it tougher to get tenure (which is what E4E wanted).
  • It's difficult to earn tenure in a new school.
  • His TDR was flagged because he scored so low (again, something that E4E wanted).
  • The principal's decision was beyond her control (which assumes she wanted to grant Ruben tenure, but did not. There is no evidence presented to support this).
  • Fifteen of his students started as level 1, and many were ELLs (welcome to NY, Ruben!).
  • Four of his students required special education services (welcome to NY, Ruben!).
  • He didn't take criticism from the principal well.
  • He might have poisoned his relationship with the principal.
  • Something on his blog might have upset his superiors.
  • His previous principal would have given him tenure (but how could this be when we know these decisions are based on data and supervisors are always fair?).

That's a lot of excuses to give his readers before he comes to the conclusion that the fault lies not in his stars, but in himself.

I think the most telling part of his piece, however, was this: My principal told me she saw a “disconnect” between what I understood and how I put it into practice in the classroom. Swallowing my pride for a second, I could see it was true. A critical step between the planning of my lessons and their instruction was missing, and as a result, lessons sometimes lost their way.

I don't believe that Ruben understand what a harsh criticism this really is. Ruben has had four years to learn how to execute lessons effectively, but has not. What his principal actually is saying is, "You seem to understand the nuts and bolts of lesson planning, but you aren't a very good teacher." That's why he was denied tenure.

Just how bad is Ruben? Honestly, I don't know. Let me put it to you this way, though. He carries water for the DOE and Joel Klein. He published his own crappy Teacher Data Report score in the New York Post to help them advance their agenda of publishing all teacher scores. He helped write the white paper that would have effectively ended seniority, which was Mayor4Life's wet dream. He stabbed his colleagues in the back at every conceivable turn and wrote about it for GS. And with all this major sucking up, he was still denied tenure.


Let's not forget that in Ruben's little white paper, he and his E4E cronies wanted to give the city the ability to lay off any teacher who had gotten a U rating in the last five years. Meanwhile, Ruben has had four years to prove he deserves his job, and has failed to do so.

One of the tenets of E4E, as adroitly pointed out by NYC Educator, is that teachers don't improve after the third year. While I don't believe that for a moment, I can tell you one thing: I have never seen a mediocre teacher improve dramatically after the third year. From all indications, Ruben is, at best, a mediocre teacher and it is highly unlikely that his FIFTH year will make him into a teaching superstar--you know, the kind of excellent teacher that E4E says everyone deserves.

So why is Ruben still teaching? How many years should the grotesque science experiment that is his teaching career be allowed to go on before his principal pulls the plug? How many students have to be subjected to his mediocrity before someone stops him?

And GothamSchools should be asking itself why they are giving such a broad forum to someone who has proven, year after year, that he really isn't a very good teacher.

So do us all a favor, Ruben. Instead of using Occam's Razor to cut yourself some slack, use it to cut your ties with the teaching profession.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Asshats Grab Their Ankles While Ruben Brosbe Gets Into the Fetal Position

It seems that bad karma is coming to bite some of the members of Asshats4Education right where they hang their hats.

Apparently, many principals and superintendents are denying or extending tenure. According to a piece in Gotham Schools, many teachers are having their tenure decisions extended--and there is no limit to how many times tenure can be extended (maybe the DOE plans on denying tenure until teachers are ready to retire).

The Asshats, who SO wanted data to be a part of the decision on who to fire in case of layoffs, are some of the very people who are having their tenure decisions deferred or denied because of sub-par data. For example, at PS 61 in Queens, none of the teachers for whom data reports were issued received tenure.

Here's the wrenchingly ironic (and given her membership in Asshats4Education, delicious) tale of tenure for Asshat Samantha Love of Aspirations High School, who had her tenure decision extended:

Along with some of her colleagues, Love and other teachers at Aspirations are members of Educators 4 Excellence, the group of young teachers that advocates for tougher evaluations and changes to layoff rules. “I do believe we should be examining our personal effectiveness, and I don’t think [tenure] should just be a given,” she said. “But the way the process is being carried out is not an objective assessment.

Really, Samantha Love? You and your cronies lobby for rules that could only weaken teachers' rights and protections, and you complain when it happens to you??? Didn't your beloved Asshats plead for an end to seniority protections so that senior teachers could be laid off based upon their performance on the very sort of "objective assessments" that you now whine about? You WANTED value-added scores to cost senior teachers their jobs, and you have the nerve to complain that the self-same data has prevented you from earning tenure? Karma is a real bitch, isn't it?

And where is Asshat Extraordinaire and award winning blogger Ruben Brosbe in all this? Ruben is the guy who tried to sell out his colleagues in the NY Post by claiming that teacher data should be made public. He even posted his own dismal scores for all the world to see (he did, however, wisely become a 3rd grade teacher as they currently do not receive teacher data reports). Did HE receive tenure, or did he receive an extension to his 5th year? Despite his calls for transparency on Gotham Schools, and a promise to discuss his tenure status, he has suddenly disappeared. One assumes he is huddled somewhere in the fetal position, sucking his thumb, wondering how the Asshats could have been so wrong.

Or maybe Ruben DID get his tenure, despite his lousy results. It wouldn't surprise me, as the DOE has been known to reward its loyal toads.

If you're curious, as I am, click on over to Gotham and ask Ruben for yourself. There are many of us discussing this issue over there.

Members of Asshats--just so you know--now that A4E has let you down with a thud, the UFT would love to have you back. We may not be offering free drinks, but we will fight like hell for you. Even for Samantha Love.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Requiem for a Bad Program

Teacher's Choice is dead, my friends. And I am here not to praise TC, but to bury it.

It was a tragically flawed program from the get-go. Even at its highest point, when classroom teachers were given $260 a year to spend, it was woefully inadequate. Think about it. A high school or middle school teacher with 150 students received less than two dollars per student, and that was when the program was at its highest.

Since then, it has been whittled down to a paltry $110, or less than a buck a kid per year for many teachers. With that money, teachers were told to do miracles. It was supposed to buy enough chart paper to last a year (at about $20 for a pad of 40 sheets, that was an impossibility). Need copies? Admins would tell you to go to Staples for them, or to buy ink and paper for your own printer, and charge it up to TC. Most of us were required to purchase "portfolios" (i.e., legal size file folders) for our classes, at about $25 a box. By the time we were done spending that $110, it often came closer to $1000, at least for me.

You can bet that employees at Bloomberg, Inc. are swimming in paper clips and sticky notes. His Mayorship wouldn't dream of making his other employees buy their own supplies. He treats them like professionals. Teachers? Well, who the hell cares about teachers? If we love kids so much, we'll skip that vacation we planned in order to buy our poverty-stricken students those oh-so-important composition books.

In this current budget, which gives $900 million to computer contractors, not a cent could be spared for supplies for teachers, so the program was cut. That should have been the end of it. But Mulgrew decided to make the following statement: “Our members always dig into their own pockets for the supplies their students need; next year, while the city carries over a multi-billion dollar surplus and millionaires get a tax break, teachers will have to dig even deeper.”

Come again? We have to dig into our own pockets? Why? Why isn't Mulgrew screaming from the mountaintops that if Bloomberg wants results, he has to at least supply us with #2 pencils for all the additional testing our kids will be doing.

In fact, Mulgrew should be out there telling teachers not to spend a dime--not one thin dime--of our own money on school supplies. At a time when Mayor4Life has denied us the 4% raise that he gave other unions, and has chosen instead to freeze our salaries for the last two years without a single sit down at the negotiating a time when he threatened to lay off 4100 of us and settled for 2600 jobs that will not be coming a time when he has tried to hack away at seniority, tenure, pension, and health care a time when CityTime has stolen 600 million dollars from this city and the mayor applauded the job they Mulgrew sets up the expectation that teachers should spend more on supplies out of our own pockets? Is he out of his mind?

Teacher's Choice is dead, and good riddance to bad rubbish, say I. But if we, as a union, step up and spend our own money because the "education mayor" is too cheap to give us the basics we need to get the job done, we will be expected to do this every year.

Instead, we need to say no. No more money from our pockets while Bloomberg spends 900 million on "contractors" or pays millions of our tax dollars to Rupert Murdoch and Joel Klein in no bid contracts. Nuh uh. No way. I'll live without chalk and chart paper. But I can't live with the idea that the billionaires are feasting on our tax dollars while we have to go begging for rubber bands.