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Wednesday, 02 June 2010 09:27

No teacher layoffs for next year

Thousands of New York City teachers' jobs will be spared, but the city will eliminate pay raises for all teachers and principals for the next two years, Mayor Bloomberg announced earlier today.

“Laying off thousands of teachers is simply not the answer. It would devastate the school system and erase much of the great progress we’ve made – and all the hard work we’ve put into turning our schools around. There is simply nothing more important to a child’s education than a first-rate teacher," Bloomberg said in his statement.

Responding to the news, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew lauded the decision to avoid teacher layoffs but disputed Bloomberg's authority to block salary increases. New York City teachers have been working without a contract since their latest one expired on October 31, 2009.

In a statement released late morning, Mulgrew said that Bloomberg "does NOT have the power to unilaterally decide on the teachers’ contract, and we have reached NO agreement on his proposal to freeze teacher pay. If the mayor has concrete ideas on the next contract, he and his representatives should bring them to the bargaining table at the Public Employment Relations Board, where our contract is currently in mediation."

The mayor's decision to keep jobs but block pay raises was made based on proposed cuts in State education aid but without the certainty of hard numbers because of stalled budget talks in the State Legislature.

"Our schools simply can’t wait any longer. Principals are already far past the point in the calendar when they must plan for the upcoming school year, and they need to know what kind of resources they can count on," Bloomberg said.

You can read Mayor Bloomberg's full statement here and UFT President Michael Mulgrew's statement here.

More news coverage here, here and here.

UPDATE:  Principals will be getting their 2010-11 budgets today, which will take into account the two-year wage freeze for teachers and principals announced by Mayor Bloomberg.

In a lengthy email to principals, Chancellor Joel I. Klein discussed cost-cutting features embedded in the new school budgets, including a continuation of last year's teacher hiring restrictions.  Principals will not be able to recruit teachers from outside the system to fill vacant positions.

Klein confirmed that there are immediate exceptions to the hiring restriction in the areas of special education, bilingual special education and speech. He will discuss the 2010-11 budgets with principals in detail during an interactive Webcast scheduled for tomorrow.

Read the full text of Chancellor Klein's email to principals at Gothamschools.

UPDATE - June 9, 2010: The Department of Education relaxed its teacher hiring restrictions less than a week after releasing the 2010-11 school budgets.  The revised hiring guidelines posted on Monday, June 7 permit new schools in their first three years of operation "to hire externally for up to 40% of their teaching vacancies."  The exception only applies to teaching positions in middle and high school grades. No schools, including new ones, are permitted to hire teachers from outside the system to fill vacancies in common branch (elementary school) or early childhood grades. The guidelines also permit 6 - 12 schools that have at least two more grades to phase in to hire externally to fill 40% of its teaching vacancies "in their expansion grade(s) only."

The DOE is continuing its exceptions to hiring restrictions for teacher recruitment in select subject areas including, special education, bilingual special education, speech improvement and bilingual subject areas other than those involving  early childhood or common branch Spanish bilingual  instruction. 

All other teaching vacancies must be filled by candidates excessed or transferring from other schools within the system.

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sdsds.jpgAnxiety and uncertainty continues to grow as principals grapple with the bad news that cuts to next year's school budgets are likely to be "sustantially larger" than the 4.9 percent slash in funding they absorbed this year.  The only good news in recent weeks was the DOE's decision not to charge individual school budgets for the costs of their unpaid school lunches.  The DOE reversed course two days after Insideschools first broke the story.

Schools will bear the brunt of the looming $500 million cut in school aid from Albany, Chancellor Joel I. Klein warned in testimony before the City Council on Monday. Teachers will be the hardest hit, with over 5000 projected to lose their jobs, while central staff positions will be reduced by a modest 245 positions.

Also at risk of being cut or scaled back are parent coordinator positions in high schools, school lunch options, middle school busing and high school internship and work-readiness programs.

In our last poll we asked our readers to imagine the worst -- massive teacher layoffs -- and consider who should make the decision about which teachers stay and which teachers go. Over 700 readers weighed in, but there was no clear consensus on should have the final say about layoffs. A majority of readers -- 53% -- believe that individual schools should decide, but even these voters were split, with 26% overall wanting principals to decide exclusively and another 27% wanting parents and teachers to have a say too.

Roughly a quarter -- 24% -- of all readers don't want seniority to be disregarded, preferring the LIFO (last in, first out) method be used, which would eliminate the jobs of teachers with the least work experience in the system.

The least, but not insignificant percentage -- 20 % -- agree with Chancellor Klein's preference to start with the 1600 teachers with "unsatisfactory" ratings and the 1000 teachers in the "excess" pool who have been unable to find a teaching job in schools this past year.

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The Panel for Educational Policy is scheduled to vote on several school co-locations at its monthly meeting tomorrow, May 18. Also on the agenda for the May meeting are a slew of Department of Education (DOE) contracts, including one for new teacher recruitment at the cost of nearly 5 million dollars.

More co-locations and a school expansion up for a vote

The Bronx Success Academy 1, the latest addition to the Success Academy network of charter schools, is slated to open in the PS 30 building in September, 2010.  In  Manhattan, the Hamilton Heights School will re-locate to the PS 153 building in  September, 2010.  While in Queens, the Queens Gateway to Health Sciences School, which  currently serves grades 7 through 12, will add a 6th grade beginning September, 2011.

Also up for a vote at the May PEP meeting is the proposed relocation of Clinton School for Artists and Writers.  As reported by Insideschools.org in March, the Clinton School was originally slated to move from its longtime home in the PS 11 building to PS 33.   When that plan drew criticism because it would displace PS 138, a special education program, the DOE switched gears, deciding to move Clinton to the American Sign Language and Dual Language Secondary School (PS 47) while construction is being completed on Clinton's new, permanent facility on East 15th Street.

For months, parents and staff at PS 47 have protested the proposed co-location over concern that the influx of more students into the building would infringe on the open space that PS 47's  students need to see each other sign.  Fueling their argument is a recent report by the UFT, claiming that adding another school to the PS 47 building would create serious safety hazards.

New teacher recruitment contract

While city schools are bracing for steep  budget cuts and teacher layoffs, the DOE is planning to spend  nearly 5 million dollars on new teacher recruitment.  Among the 26 DOE contracts up for a vote by the PEP at its May meeting is one with  The New Teacher Project, "to recruit, select, train and provide job search support to non-traditional candidates to become public school teachers as part of the New York City Teaching Fellow's Program," according to PEP records.

The Daily News reported that The New Teacher Project, which has contracted with the city since 2000 to recruit New York City Teaching Fellows, was paid 2.8 million last year to recruit 705 teachers.

Despite looming layoffs, there is a shortage of teachers in certain subject areas. In his webinar with prinicpals last week, Chancellor Joel I. Klein said that there is a need to hire teachers to serve special education students and possibly English language learners.

The PEP meets tomorrow, May 18 at 6 p.m. at Long Island City High School. You can view a list of the proposed changes to school utilization that are up for a vote, as well as links to the Educational Impact Statements here.

What are your thoughts on the proposed co-locations? Should the DOE spend money on new teacher recruitment when thousands of teacher jobs are at risk of being cut?  Please comment below.

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The state's education department and teachers' unions have reached an agreement that will change the way teachers are evaluated. Under the new system, teacher' ratings would be linked to how well their students perform on state and local tests, as well as other factors. The agreement, which is subject to approval by the State Legislature, was timed to bolster New York's chances in the second round of Race to the Top federal funding.

In the current system, teachers are rated either satisfactory or unsatisfactory. In the new system, teachers would be given one of four ratings annually -- highly effective, effective, developing, and ineffective. And, apparently, it would become easier to fire teachers who are rated "ineffective" for two years in a row.

Initially, the new agreement will impact English, math and common branch (elementary school license) teachers in grades 4 through 8 . In 2012, the new evaluation standards will apply to all classroom teachers, regardless of subject or grade.

Still unclear is what the agreement means for the city's students. At the very least, according to The Times article, it means more testing:

"Teachers would be measured on a 100-point scale, with 20 percent points based on how much students improve on the standardized state exams. Another 20 percent would be based on local tests, which would have to be developed by each school system [emphasis added]. After two years, 25 percent would be based on the state exams and 15 percent would come from the local tests. "

It was just a few years ago that the city did away with its own version of standardized tests (given to 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th-graders) after the No Child Left Behind Act mandated that the states test all students. The new plan sounds like a return to the city tests.

What do you think about tying student test scores to teacher evaluations? And how does the prospect of more standardized tests strike you?

Please comment below.

 

 

Published in News and views
Monday, 10 May 2010 07:58

Poll: Teacher layoffs -- who decides?

Mayor Bloomberg last week announced his 2011 fiscal budget and the outlook for the city's school teachers -- and its classrooms --is grim. The budget calls for the elimination of 6,414 teachers --4,419 would be laid off and another 1,995 jobs would go unfilled. The final count will be determined only when the state issues its budget -- now more than a month overdue. The mayor's budget was based on Governor Paterson's call for $400 million in cuts to New York City schools.

There has been much debate about the teachers union "last in, first out" rule which essentially means that teachers with the most seniority remain in the classrooms, while the most recent hires, get fired. Those hardest hit will be the districts with the most new teachers: poor districts including District 7 in the Bronx, and fast-growing richer ones, such as District 2 in Manhattan.

In April, two Democratic state lawmakers introduced a bill calling for schools, not union rules, to determine which teachers stay and which go. Under the bill, a committee of parents, teachers, and administrators at each school would decide who gets laid off.

In a New York Post editorial, Chancellor Klein suggests that teacher layoffs should begin with the 1,600 teachers who have "unsatisfactory ratings"and the 1,000 teachers who have been unable to find jobs for a year and are in an "excess pool". "Beyond that," he writes, " principals would make decisions based on three universally agreed-upon, clear criteria: teacher attendance, student progress and quality of teaching."

We'd like to know what you think. If these cuts become a certainty, they will affect all classrooms, with the average elementary school class growing by as much as three students, The Times reported.

If thousands of teachers are going to be laid off, who should decide which teachers should go and which should stay.

Take our poll! And comment below.

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Think of the best teacher you have ever had. She convinced you you could do it. He visited your home when something went wrong. She gave you hard feedback on an essay. He spoke to you with great respect. She engaged and pushed your thinking, and made you "smarter."

How would you want him or her to be evaluated? Educators and policymakers across the country are considering legislation that could make standardized test scores one of the only -- if not THE only-- measures of teacher effectiveness. While I think it is clear that our teacher evaluation system currently does not reflect what we know about good teacher practice, I know that I am not alone in believing this should not be the only measure.

But, it begs the question: what would a better system look like? A national conversation is just getting started on this topic. There was a recent agreement between Superintendent Michelle Rhee of Washington DC with their teachers' union about a new evaluation system; in New York City, there are working groups and studies underway to increase the effectiveness of the system, especially considering that the use of test scores to evaluate teacher performance is linked to billions of Federal dollars through the Race to the Top competition.

If I could design the perfect teacher evaluation system ( is anyone asking principals and teachers to do this?)  I would include: relationship-building with adults and students, grades and test scores, ability to collaborate, reflectiveness and consistent effort to improve, curriculum and unit planning, among others. I would require teachers to self-evaluate yearly, and to provide a continually developing portfolio of their work.

In my opinion, the best teacher evaluation system would ensure that teachers learn how to be reflective enough in their practice that they hold themselves accountable for high standards and high student achievement, just as the best possible outcome for students is intrinsic motivation towards success.

What would you include in a teacher evaluation system? Why?

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Thursday, 15 April 2010 10:06

Rubber rooms to be abolished

The City and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT ) the union representing the New York City's more than 80.000 members, reached an agreement today to close the city's notorious Rubber Rooms, where teachers awaiting disposition of charges against them languish while the system stalls. Under the agreement, the teachers will now be assigned to clerical duty, either in central offices or schools.

The new agreement includes other key changes:

  • More arbitrators hired to expedite the hearing process, which now can take years to play out.
  • Formal charges of misconduct must be made within 60 days, or teachers will return to classrooms.
  • Formal charges of incompetence must be made within 10 days.

The city has agreed to clear up backlogged cases by the end of the year.

Teachers in rubber rooms receive full salary while waiting for their case to come to a hearing. Assigning accused teachers to work in offices is a return to former practice where they were usually assigned to district offices to perform non-teaching assignments.

For details, see the Department of Education website.

And let us know what you think of the plan in comments below. Do you know any teachers who have been spending time in rubber rooms?

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While the New York City Department of Education faces up to $1.2 billion in budget cuts, rookie teachers across the city are fearing the loss of their jobs due to seniority rules, a policy known as "last in, first out."

However, a bill sponsored by two Democratic state lawmakers aims to rewrite these standards to make layoff decisions more equitable. If passed, each New York City school would be tasked with forming a collective of administrators, teachers, and parents to decide which teachers should be laid off.

The 8,500 expected layoffs will be most concentrated in Manhattan's District 2 and the South Bronx's District 7. District 2, one of the city's wealthiest, will lose 19% of its teaching force; District 7, one of its poorest, will lost 21%

"Experience matters, but it cannot be the sole or even principal factor considered in layoff decisions," said Chancellor Klein in a statement last month.

Read more in today's New York Times.

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Wednesday, 16 September 2009 12:12

Klein pressures schools to hire excessed teachers

Last spring we reported that the Department of Education issued a ban on hiring new teachers due to budget cuts. Instead, principals were urged to hire teachers from the pool of excessed teachers -- those who lost their jobs due to schools closing, or staff cuts, but who continue to receive a full salary, even though they are not in the classroom.

A week into the new school year, Chancellor Klein reiterated his call for principals to hire excessed teachers. In his weekly letter to principals, Klein said there are 1,500 teachers in the excessed pool, 500 more than last year. "This is a fiscal liability in this budget climate, and we must reduce it," he writes. He goes on to point out there are 1,100 teacher vacancies in the city's schools.

Klein imposed a hiring deadline of Oct. 30 and insists that most vacancies be filled with "internal staff." For those schools which are unable to fill the positions by that date, the DOE "may be be forced to take back the dollars budgeted for those positions to pay for the increase in teachers in the excess pool."

These mandates fly in the face of the mayor and chancellor's moves to grant more autonomy to principals; however, Klein maintains they are necessary to "control costs." "Nobody dislikes this situation more than I do," Klein writes. "Limiting your hiring freedom goes against what I stand for, but because of the economic reality we must control costs and protect our schools from deeper budget cuts.

According to WABC News, Klein would like to negotiate a time limit for how long teachers can stay in the reserve pool when the teachers' union contract comes up for renewal in October. But before then, there will be hiring fairs in all boroughs. The fairs are mandatory for all excessed teachers; principals are strongly encouraged to attend.

Since these are just the latest in a series of hiring fairs, it may be that the teachers in the pool do not meet the requirements of the schools looking for teachers. With the already steep budget cuts, and higher class size all around, principals may not welcome the added pressure of choosing from a limited pool of applicants.

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Thursday, 27 August 2009 05:23

Putting gift cards to good use

GothamSchools led us to a post on The New York Times Bits Blog about a partnership between two innovative websites that allows you to turn unused gift cards into donations for schools.

According to Plastic Jungle, which buys, sells and trades gift cards, the average American household has around $400 worth in unused cards. Plastic Jungle's users typically exchange cards for crash or a credit at Amazon.com, but now they have another option: allied with DonorsChoose.org, the site allows users to donate the face value of a gift card to schools in need.

Back in 2007, our blogger Jennifer Freeman introduced us to DonorsChoose, which offers public school teachers the opportunity to post their needs for classroom projects in the hopes of receiving funding. You can browse the project requests and donate to the cause of your choice -- and thanks to Plastic Jungle, not just with your credit card, but with your unused gift cards, too!

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