Lynne Winderbaum takes down the new NYC Teacher Evaluation System and standardized test scores
I wish Governor Cuomo [link] and Mayor Bloomberg [link] were not on record as wanting to fire teachers. I wish that Race to the Top did not force unproven reforms on states in order to compete for a piece of the pie or be left empty-handed. Although some may disagree, there is a disquieting feeling among teachers that the goal of all of these changes to evaluation is to be able to fire them. Observations long ago ceased to be an exercise in training and improving classroom skills and became “gotcha” evidence to support getting rid of certain teachers (and not for their pedagogy in many cases but for their age, their union activities, their whistle blowing, their refusal to do things contrary to the contract, etc). This year, in the Bronx district that includes DeWitt Clinton High School, the superintendent has denied tenure to 100% of his probationary teachers! There is tremendous political pressure to hold teachers accountable and responsible for the poor outcomes that embarrass the mayor and the DOE. Plus the corporate environment that is in place at Tweed and in corporate run charters and affiliated small schools would be unrestrained if teachers become at-will employees.
That’s why forcing an “ineffective” rating on teachers based on unreliable and wildly varying test scores [link] is really an effort to make any and all teachers, including tenured teachers, vulnerable to firing. In the past, few teachers lost their licenses for u-ratings. They were made to change schools, they were fined, but they did not lose their livelihood. In this climate, that is no longer the intention. Just listen to what Cuomo, Bloomberg, the press, and the “reformers” are saying. “Bad” teachers are the problem and they must be fired, therefore they demanded a new evaluation plan. To add insult to injury, a new evaluation plan was foisted on teachers’ unions to avoid blame for a $700,000,000 loss of funding through Race to the Top grants.
So now we have one. We had thought that the state districts approved a new plan allowing for 40% of the rating to be based on test scores. The UFT was able to reduce that in a plan subjecting city teachers to a test score component of 20% while the union negotiated the rest based on what are called “multiple measures”. Now we see that Commissioner King has imposed a system where no other subcomponent can trump test scores [link]. It demands an “ineffective” rating based on test scores alone. It has not escaped notice that page 37 of the document states “In addition, the parties indicated in their testimony – consistent with legislative intent – that all teachers rated ineffective in both measures of student learning subcomponents must be determined to be ineffective regardless of their score on the Other Measures subcomponent”. The new law, 3012-c explains a mechanism by which teachers whose test scores fall in the lowest band cannot achieve enough points to be rated anything but “ineffective”. This codifies the fact that “multiple measures” will not come into play in a teacher’s evaluation if the discredited and inaccurate testing results fall below the designated level. In effect then, it is possible for a teacher’s evaluation to be based solely on test scores.
And even tenured teachers, who used to be innocent until proven guilty by DOE evidence, now must walk into a hearing in a system whose goal is to remove “bad” teachers and defend themselves or risk losing their certification to teach. The additional hurdle of a “validator” must be factored in and if that person turns thumbs down, the teacher is clearly at risk for firing.
No tenured teacher has ever had to face this threat. We served three years of probation to learn our craft and show that we have met the requirements for tenure and then, barring any clearly demonstrable evidence of incompetence in the classroom or misconduct, exclusive of unreliable test scores, we were safe from arbitrary and capricious risk to our jobs. And most of the good we do cannot be measured at all.
As veteran teachers know, and our students will attest, much of the growth and support we offer is intangible and cannot be quantified. This system only feeds the appetites of those non-educators who want to rid the system of staunch union teachers and eviscerate the fairness enshrined in collective bargaining agreements. It suits their vision of the future of public education where teachers are not skilled and caring professionals but employees who can be hired and fired as in the corporate world. We shall see if such a future attracts the best and the brightest to the profession. We shall see if it helps our students or improves outcomes.
by Lynne Winderbaum, retired ESL teacher, JFK HS, and former Bronx High School UFT District Rep
My next lessons will be in September, 2014
I taught three review lessons today. Review lessons. My school goes into finals tomorrow, state tests next week.
My next lessons will be in September, 2014. I have, in the interim, a sabbatical.
I’ll be taking rigorous math classes (I think a lawyer would tell me to say “rigorous,” that’s what the DoE wants). But I can do better. I’ll be taking hard math classes… no. I’ll be taking real math classes, at the City University Graduate Center.
I’ll also be developing myself professionally. Really, not on paper. I’m going to this conference, Math Circle stuff, with Sue, second week of July. (Think there’s still space, if you are interested.) I’ll be visiting schools where they do cool math things during the year.
I’ll be doing union stuff, out of my school (two members of my committee will be standing in for me in my school. busy year for that.)
And I’ll reflect on blogging; I keep wondering what to do with it.
And I’ll take a deep breath. It’ll do me good.
The teacher chooses.
1 formal, 3 drive-bys, one unannounced (these are minimums)
6 drive-bys, one unannounced (these are minimums).
Sounds like “gotcha” to me.
We’ll see the details when they are posted.
Notes by Donald March, chapter leader of Christopher Columbus HS
Bronx Mayoral Forum. May 8, 2013. Christine Quinn, Bill DeBlasio, Bill Thompson, John Liu
As has been the case at these forums or late, Christine Quinn arrives ahead
of the pack and is allowed to speak and take questions first. She is a rather
forceful speaker but could not shake the fact she presided over the City
Council when term limits were thrown out the window to allow the Mayor
to seek a third term. She tried to attain platitudes or favorability with the
crowd but a distinctive flat hollowness and mistrust plagued her debate
performance. In short, few if any, felt she was in the best interest of this
City, our children or of this Union. She strongly favors portfolio schools!
Following Ms. Quinn was Bill DeBlasio, Public Advocate of the City of New
York. A towering man whose voice and physique captured everyone’s
attention. He pointed out how he and the Mayor have fought being on the
opposing ends of most issues. He’s not for closing any more schools and
wants a moratorium. He hasn’t decided if he would like to continue with
Mayoral control but lambasted the selections of Klein, Black, and Walcott. He
even told the story of calling Cathie Black to have a face to face with her and
being told by her she did not have permission to speak with him! Bill wants
guaranteed kindergarten for all New Yorkers and three added hours of after-
school programs for middle schools. He is against co-mingling of schools in
large campus setting, especially if the new schools are charters. He wants
to tax the wealthy to pay for the extra services. He seemed supportive of a
more democratic approach to governing the City and was very favorable to
the outcomes desired by this Union.
The third debater was Bill Thompson who was as down to earth a person as it
gets. His style was to govern from the bottom up and did not hold back one
bit on his attacks on the Bloomberg administrations failings. He is strongly
pro child, parent, and teacher. He wants NY to be an education City and
not have an education Mayor. He is for Mayoral control but wants to pair
back the veto proof power of the Mayoral majority on the PEP Panel. He is
strongly against co-mingling of schools on campus’ like ours. In favor of a
moratorium on closing schools. He seems affable and was received warmly
by the crowd.
The fourth debater was John Liu, New York City Comptroller. An actuary
by trade and a graduate of Bronx Science. He seemed very at home with
the crowd, the issues and with the future of our pensions. He stated at any
given time, his office has between 10 and 15 on-going audits of Tweed. The
Mayor scrambles the numbers and uses editorial boards to cover the truth.
They have had Liu under continual investigation for four years and he freely
discussed the issues with being under such public scrutiny. He’s for limited
Mayoral control, a moratorium on school closings and more complete audits
of all areas of the Bloomberg Administration. He was well received despite of
the dark clouds that surround his campaign’s fundraising from 2009.
Best lines of the night….
“The Mayor fails to realize his view
- that there was no City of New York before him and there will be none after him -
has no basis in reality!”
– Bill DeBlasio
“Pension costs sky rocket Unions will bankrupt the City”
headline from 1914
– John Liu
Donald March was first elected chapter leader of Christopher Columbus HS for the 2001 – 2002 school year. I was his deputy for the first year. He is the longest continuously serving Bronx HS Chapter leader.
Which theorem does every schoolboy know? The Pythagorean Theorem, of course!
In a right triangle, in a plane, the sum of the squares of the legs equals the square of the hypotenuse. (The Scarecrow gets it wrong. He should have held out for a real brain. Or a slide rule.)
That’s for those who like their mathematical laws brief and symbolic.
So Friday I taught the theorem to my algebra classes. And tomorrow we will talk about today’s event: May 12 2013, 5/12/13, a calendar date that makes a Pythagorean triple
Of course we will waste spend considerable class time tomorrow moaning the fact that so few of us marked this special event, but cheerfully noticing that we get another chance in such a short time. And then we will engage in the tedious business of locating when else in our lifetimes we have allowed such a date to pass, without noticing, and when else in our lifetimes such a date will arrive, for us to celebrate.
Others may celebrate π Day, or 2π day, or e day (February 7, 2018, by my reckoning, a big day here if this blog still exists). A few years back I dismissed “square root day. But Pythagoras Days are neither so common as to be ho hum, nor so rare as to be once in a lifetime. I have long appreciated them.
Pythagoras day is clearly the prince of the mathematical holidays. I hope you enjoyed yours.
I know a little about complex numbers and complex functions. Just a little. And along the way I picked up a nice piece of compact notation: can be written instead as .
My question is a little one, but a historical one. When did this notation come into use, and where? If I pick up a text in another language, will I also find cis?
by Lynne Winderbaum
March 19 marked 4 years since 400 of us rallied against the abusive behavior of Iris Blige the “leader” who never taught a class herself and holds no teaching certification. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GsiWBO4AI4
I never thought that I’d be sitting here in 2013 and still writing about the injustice of keeping Iris Blige in a position of authority.
The catalyst that sparked the rally was the removal of beloved teacher Raqnel James. Ms. James was a veteran, tenured teacher with an unblemished satisfactory record. But she was more than satisfactory–she was dedicated to her students and one of their favorites. But Ms. James took one of Blige’s friends, Raquel Pottinger-Bird to court for being in arrears on rent owed to her. Pottinger-Bird was given a job by Iris Blige at Fordham Arts after being disciplined in Georgia for complicity in irregularities during standardized testing. Sheet1 – Macon.com The problem for Blige was that Ms. James had tenure. So how to get rid of her? One day Blige produced a letter threatening her life and the life of her child that she claimed was left for her by James. In this way, James could be criminally charged, deported to Jamaica, and out of Blige’s and Pottinger-Bird’s lives. Fortunately, James was granted permanent residence in the US and after three years of inexplicable postponements in the Bronx Criminal Court and three years of being out of work, she was finally found not guilty in December, 2011. There was never any evidence against her and why the case was not immediately dismissed is an interesting question that ties to why Iris Blige still gets away with this misbehavior. Interesting also is why there were no perjury charges forthcoming against Blige based on the sworn testimony about the alleged letter from the assistant principal who purportedly “found” the letter. James is now teaching again at a different school.
The Office of Special Investigations looked into charges that Ms. Blige threatened to withhold the diplomas of any students who participated into the after-school demonstration protesting the removal of Ms. James and abuse at the hands of Blige. She was also banning them from all senior activities. Blige had students pulled out of class and threatened with suspension. One was removed as editor of the school newspaper. The UFT obtained the names of 19 of these students and gave them to Investigator Robert Smalls. It was a clear violation of Chancellor’s Regulation A-421 prohibiting language that caused emotional distress. And these kids were frightened and crying when I spoke to them. There was no action by the Department of Education.
Since the time of the demonstration Iris Blige has been found guilty by the Department of Education of ordering her administrators to hand out career-threatening unsatisfactory ratings to teachers she wanted to remove before they ever observed their teaching! Their punishing rating was predetermined. For this dishonesty and abuse of power she was fined a mere $7500 and allowed to keep her job. That’s the price of ruined careers. http://gothamschools.org/2011/01/21/bronx-principal-keeps-her-job-after-imperiling-the-jobs-of-others/comment-page-1/
Rosa Hidalgo crossed paths with Iris Blige at a job fair one summer. Ms. Hidalgo had a young daughter but was willing to leave a successful administrative career in the private sector to “give back” to her community and become a teacher. Blige personally recruited her at the job fair and Hidalgo accepted a position. For two years and ten months (out of the required three probationary years) she was a satisfactory teacher. She had 100% passing rates for her students on the Spanish Regents. She took professional development classes on her own time and loved her job. As time for her tenure decision grew close, she was suddenly found unsatisfactory and had her probation discontinued. In layman’s terms, she was fired. I testified at her appeal of the firing. The reason Blige gave was that Hidalgo was not properly teaching a certain special education student in her class. At the hearing it came out that not only that student, but a dozen special education students were put in Hidalgo’s mainstream class by Blige in total violation of their IEPs and their rights to smaller classes and additional trained personnel in the classroom. The panel voted unanimously to overturn the discontinuance and return Ms. Hidalgo to her job. Again, one can ask how these things happen but the Superintendent, Elena Papaliberios, overturned the unanimous decision of the panel and upheld the termination of Ms. Hidalgo. Another loved and dedicated teacher removed. Her crime? She joined Dr. Virginia Barden on a UFT chapter committee. Union activity does not bring job security to a probationary teacher.
Blige’s school has received four years of A ratings, whatever that arbitrary figure has come to represent. But be it noted that the assistant principal who reported irregularities on Regents exams to the OSI was also removed and transferred out right after the investigators came to the school.
There are so many other stories and some of the teacher-victims bravely spoke in the video of the rally linked above.
Throughout it all, Iris Blige felt threatened by the Union and the climate of fear at Fordham Arts made it hard to find a strong figure to stand up for the suffering teachers. The first chapter leader, Rick Coscia, was also a well-loved teacher. Coming to the school with him for his hearing was like returning with a rock-star. Blige had him removed on mysterious charges and he spent two years out of the classroom. Lacking evidence of anything other than Iris Blige’s unsupported cheating allegation which was recanted by the assistant principal who was forced to “document” it, Coscia was finally and just as mysteriously released from captivity to resume his successful career at another school. One chapter leader disposed of! The next chapter leader was so afraid of Blige that when he wanted to file a grievance against her for a contract violation, he begged me to do it as UFT District Representative. When Dr. Virginia Barden became chapter leader, Blige met her match. Barden was fearless and stood up for her terrorized members. So Blige put her in a closet. Now she is another chapter leader who now has been removed as well. But Blige and her tyranny go on.
[Lynne Winderbaum, retired ESL teacher from JFK, longtime Chapter Leader, and through much of the Bloomberg years, our Bronx UFT HS District Representative, fought tirelessly against bullies like Blige.]