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March 13, March 17, May 26: me/school

May 27, 2020 pm31 11:50 pm

Friday, March 13. That morning was an activity day at our school, “SpringFest”. The school play (I’m the advisor) had also been scheduled for that morning, but Lehman College shut the theater the previous day. Plus, two of our actors, without understudies, were not feeling well (I don’t think it was COVID).

During SpringFest several of us distributed a petition, addressed to de blasio, Carranza, and Mulgrew and everyone signed.

And then we had remote parent teacher conferences (we’d SBO’ed that date – it was not the citywide date). Most teachers made their calls from home, but I stuck around. It was surreal.

The day ended at 3. This photo must be about 3:15.


The Mayor kept insisting he would keep schools open – Thursday, Friday (above), Saturday, Sunday, and finally Sunday afternoon, as he lost ally after ally, de blasio finally surrendered to the pressure. Students would stop going to school, but teachers were assigned in-school training for remote teaching Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

We will never know how the sickout planned for Monday would have gone. But teachers were nervous about their safety, even going in without kids.

The training itself was strange. There was no pre-packaged pd. No one knew how to do what we were about to try to do. The few people who had a clue were actual teachers. And even they mostly knew enough for their own class. Teachers who did not know much about what they were doing helped others who knew less, but we were all guided by central DoE staff who knew literally nothing. Staff learned how to use Zoom (which Carranza then banned 17 days later, and just unbanned in May). And we stumbled through the day, trying to maintain “social distancing” which we were just starting to learn about.

I focused on a few basics I thought I would need to teach remotely. And after that, why come back and put myself at more risk?

I took a photo of myself and left after the first day, and did not return.

Fast forward nine week. (with five weeks left). We know more. We will make it to the end. We are wiser. But exhausted.

The parking lot next to my school is a COVID-19 testing site, with state troopers and orderly lines of cars.

Our garden is overgrown. Litter is accumulating.

This is yesterday. And I am so ready to move on.

Getting a conversation going about September

May 25, 2020 pm31 8:59 pm

What will September look like? What needs to happen for us to be safe enough to go into school? If we are remote, based on our experience so far, what would you do the same? What would you change up? Does a hybrid model make sense? Testing? Live lessons?

We had a chapter meeting coming up. And so, in preparation, I sent out a survey. It was explicitly NOT to tabulate, but to stimulate thought processes: “This is a “thought survey” – questions are to think about and to discuss.” This was not a vote. We were not in a position to set even school policy, let alone DoE policy. But it was good to bat around possibilities, concerns, insights.

The chapter meeting discussion, scheduled for half an hour, ran a full hour. And some people submitted their responses. I had not expected that. That was not my plan. Others asked if we could share the results with each other.  So I rewrote the survey to incorporate points people made in the discussion, and redistributed it. (I will tabulate results, but, internally, for my chapter only.)

The survey was a good way to get discussion going. So I’m sharing the original, and the updated versions (if you would like a word document version, let me know):


Original Survey


Mid-May, 2020

This is a “thought survey” – questions are to think about and to discuss.  UFT members in several schools are doing these.

For each question, choose the best answer, or answers, or think of your own.

I would prefer not to return to work in the building until:

  • There is a vaccine
  • Medical experts say it safe
  • One particular person says it is safe – who?   ___________________
  • I get the sense that there are many fewer people getting sick
  • I’m ok going back as soon as it is opened

Necessary safety measures include:

  • Everyone is tested
  • Masks
  • Shields
  • Gloves
  • Temperature testing

I would prefer not to return to work in the building until social distancing (six feet):

  • is possible at all times
  • is possible at most times, including the classroom, but not all times
  • is possible at all times, but less than 6 feet is ok
  • social distancing is not important to me

If we could see our students, in our classrooms, once a week, but remote teach at other times, and maintain social distancing (a hybrid model)

  • I would not want this – too complicated
  • I would not want this – sounds rushed/don’t trust the distancing
  • I would not want this – wait until we could open properly
  • I would want this

While we are remote, which live methods do you use?

  • Live lessons – mandatory
  • Live lessons – recorded for viewing later
  • Live Discussions
  • Live Tutoring/Review sessions/Extra Help
  • Live Office Hours
  • Other
  • None of the Above

While we are remote, which live methods do you like?

  • Live lessons – mandatory
  • Live lessons – recorded for viewing later
  • Live Discussions
  • Live Tutoring/Review sessions/Extra Help
  • Live Office Hours
  • Other
  • None of the Above

If we are teaching remotely September – December – what changes would you want to make?


Revised/Expanded Survey

Survey – Revised

Mid-May, 2020

This survey is voluntary. The responses will be shared with HSAS UFT members only.

For each question, choose the best answer, or answers, or think of your own. Feel free to ignore questions that are not relevant or interesting.

I would prefer not to return to work in the building until:

  • There is a vaccine
  • Medical experts say it safe
  • One particular person says it is safe – who?   ___________________
  • I get the sense that there are many fewer people getting sick
  • I’m ok going back as soon as it is opened

Necessary safety measures include:

  • Everyone is tested
  • Masks
  • Shields for adults
  • Shields for kids
  • Gloves
  • Temperature testing

When it comes to cleaning I am most concerned with

  • How thorough the cleaning will be before we return
  • How thorough the regular cleaning will be once we return
  • Specific training for the cleaners

I would prefer not to return to work in the building until social distancing (six feet):

  • is possible at all times
  • is possible at most times, including the classroom, but not all times
  • is possible at all times, but less than 6 feet is ok
  • social distancing is not important to me

If we could see our students, in our classrooms, once a week, but remote teach at other times, and maintain social distancing (a hybrid model)

  • I would not want this – too complicated
  • I would not want this – sounds rushed/don’t trust the distancing
  • I would not want this – wait until we could open properly
  • I would want this

There has been talk about other hybrid models. Which of these might make sense:

  • Separate AM/PM groups of kids
  • Alternating A and B days
  • More face to face time with younger students (9th, maybe 10th)

While we are remote, which live methods do you use?

  • Live lessons – mandatory
  • Live lessons – recorded for viewing later
  • Live Discussions
  • Live Tutoring/Review sessions/Extra Help
  • Live Office Hours
  • None of the Above

Which live methods would you choose for your classes, if we teach remotely next year?

  • Live lessons – mandatory
  • Live lessons – recorded for viewing later
  • Live Discussions
  • Live Tutoring/Review sessions/Extra Help
  • Live Office Hours
  • None of the Above


  • The DoE should plan as if we are going to go back to school in September
  • The DoE should plan as if we are teaching remotely in September
  • The DoE should make plans for either contingency
  • The DoE should make a decision (presumably remote) now, to take away the uncertainty

Live Teaching approaches

  • It is good if each teacher / class has its own best approach to live teaching
  • It is good if the school has a schoolwide policy on live teaching
  • I am okay with what others do, as long as I can do what is best for my classes
  • I would like time to be set aside for each teacher to use for live teaching, and then let them choose how to use it

Remote scheduling

  • If we are remote, I would like a set daily time for each of my classes
  • If we are remote, I would like a set daily time, but don’t expect kids in regular class groups
  • If we are remote, I would like a set weekly time for each of my classes
  • If we are remote, I would like a set weekly time, but don’t expect kids in regular classes
  • The way we are now is fine.

Where do you fall on the question of remote tests?

  • No multiple choice
  • Has to be essays
  • Not worth doing them
  • They should be timed
  • They should be untimed

How have you modified deadlines?

  • Late the same day is ok
  • Usually give a few more days
  • Give about double the normal time
  • Barely maintain any deadlines

How important is it to get students back into the building? Are there compromises we would make to achieve that?


Who knows how to teach remotely?

May 25, 2020 pm31 12:35 pm

For the past nine weeks 70,000 New York City teachers have been teaching remotely. So have, I don’t know, three million more? across the US. But I know more about New York City.

So who doesn’t know how to teach remotely? Pretty much anyone who has not tried it. Mayors and Governors and Presidents, Members of Congress, State Legislators, Senators… None of them really have a clue – which, by the way, our governor has demonstrated quite adequately.

Who else doesn’t know how to teach remotely?  I’d say pretty much every school system administrator, including the vast majority of principals and assistant principals. And also 100% of central administrators, at least here in New York City. They’ve thrown all the planning on us, and then while we are figuring things out throw us curves. Not only do they lack knowledge that would be useful to us in figuring out remote teaching, they lack empathy.

And then there’s us. Teachers. Trying to teach remotely. There are teachers out there who were already doing “flipped classrooms” or lots of video lessons. They had an easier adjustment. But even they could not anticipate the variety of problems students would have with the technology at home – without the “safety net” of in-class discussions. Some teachers were already familiar with Zoom or Google Meet Ups, which was an advantage. But most of us were new.

In the “planning week” (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, after schools shut for students) we came up with something. Actually, a lot of somethings. It seems like there were hundreds of approaches, maybe thousands of variations.

And then reality hit. Most of our plans? Nah, didn’t work. The technology wasn’t up to it. Or the kids couldn’t deal with the mandatory tech issues. Or the DoE did not make tech available as they had promised. Or the DoE changed what software we were to use. Or it was just TOO MUCH. Or we learned later that grading online can be complicated and slow and overwhelming. Or we learned that our interactions with students were very different from what we expected. Or we needed to leave more time to deal with social/emotional interactions.

Teachers have been revising, and revising, and revising again. If we were building a house, what we have today would look better than what we started with late March – but better is relative. Imagine safety pins, paper clips, nailed on boards and tar paper… glue… newspapers… This is like the famous “repair an aircraft while in flight” – except we did not start with something that flies. More like throwing supplies off a cliff, and trying to assemble something that flies before they hit bottom.

That’s why messages from politicians, other teachers, or union leaders that seem to say “we’ve got this” really piss me off. We are getting better. And maybe a few teachers “got this.” But most of us don’t. We are better than two months ago, we have some ideas for going forward, but we are not there, we are not nearly there.

In answer to “Who knows how to teach remotely?” I would answer “No one, yet. Teachers are getting there, some faster than others. The politicians and educrats need to listen to teachers.”

What next?

If we are still teaching remotely in September, we need to do it more thoughtfully.

Hmm. That sounds like we were not being thoughtful in the Spring. Nothing could be further from the truth. We tried as best we could, but Cuomo and de Blasio and Carranza did not give us a chance.

If we are still teaching remotely in September, we need to be assigned time to plan. Not rushed time. Real time.

They could have given us the time in June, but they are awfully late for that now (as a significant number of teachers have already planned their classes through mid- to late June.) Actually, they could have given us time off in June, to make up for surprise-cancelling April break (Cuomo), and then taking away the religious holidays on top of that (Cuomo and/or de Blasio).

By the way, the four days in our Cumulative Absence Reserve do not make up for the seven days, nor for the unnecessary stress. Did I mention lack of empathy?

How about designating a few days in June for contingency planning?  And then, if we are opening remote or hybrid, the first week in September for remote planning?

I’m not sure that’s enough.

What kind of planning? What parameters?

As we experience our first tastes of remote teaching, it is becoming apparent that there are huge shifts in pedagogy, and shifts in content. Many of our in-person activities don’t work. Lessons designed around whole class discussion, where we expect kids to adjust as they hear other ideas – those don’t work the same, or don’t work at all. Entire units need replanning. And the quantity of material taught has to be adjusted downward.

And assessment has to change, for almost every teacher, for almost every class. Some of us will move to no testing. Others will adopt an interesting variety of platforms. More projects. And assessment may move in directions that none of us anticipate today.

This is not just lesson replanning. This is rewriting curricula. It is not a one day task. It’s probably not a one-week task.

On top of that, those of us teaching tested grades or classes that end in a Regents Exam – we need to know how Chancellor Betty Rosa and the Regents will adjust what is being tested.

Which will mean curriculum redesign.

You know what’s worse? Not knowing. Not knowing if we will start remote. How long we will go remote. If we will transition from Remote –> Hybrid –> Live.

As we learn, we really should have time to adjust our plans. We are not looking to avoid work. But we want to be in a place where we can do our best for our students. Andrew Cuomo, bill de blasio, Richard Carranza – does that matter to you? Do you care how well our students are being served? We do.



TDA: Sustainable (continues Socially Responsive) Fund

May 23, 2020 pm31 12:22 pm

The Socially Responsive Fund started in July 2008 (with a unit value of $10). There were several funds started at the same time. How has it fared?

At first glance, it seems to have slightly but consistently outperformed the Diversified Equity Fund. More interestingly, it set a new high in January 2020, and stands ABOVE that point in May 2020, today. I do not know why. I am not a financial analyst.

New York City teachers who contribute to a TDA have several choices of funds.

Quick note – the Socially Responsive Fund was ended and a Sustainable Fund started last October (2019). I do not know the difference. Funds were automatically moved from the former to the latter.

I previously posted a graph of the Diversified Fund, and compared it to a fixed investment. Since there are no fixed “units” I matched them arbitrarily at January 2010.  This time I will make all three equal at July 2008.

Notice, this is not analysis. I am not a financial analyst. For one thing, no one has the option of buying in at July 2008 – that’s long past. And no one buys in all at once – meaning there is not really a “correct date” to set the funds equal for the sake of comparison.

Anyway, two graphs, one with the actual unit values, the second scaled to make them equal July 2008:

And the raw data (the fixed values are set at $18 in January 2000. This is arbitrary on my part)

Date Diversified Fund Unit Values Fixed Socially Responsive
Jan-00 $74.220 $18.00
Feb-00 $71.086 $18.12
Mar-00 $71.665 $18.24
Apr-00 $76.533 $18.37
May-00 $73.769 $18.50
Jun-00 $71.763 $18.63
Jul-00 $73.669 $18.76
Aug-00 $72.281 $18.89
Sep-00 $76.444 $19.02
Oct-00 $72.885 $19.15
Nov-00 $71.865 $19.28
Dec-00 $66.328 $19.41
Jan-01 $67.534 $19.54
Feb-01 $69.120 $19.67
Mar-01 $63.228 $19.81
Apr-01 $59.113 $19.95
May-01 $63.277 $20.09
Jun-01 $63.336 $20.23
Jul-01 $61.900 $20.37
Aug-01 $60.945 $20.51
Sep-01 $57.696 $20.65
Oct-01 $52.638 $20.79
Nov-01 $53.766 $20.93
Dec-01 $57.135 $21.07
Jan-02 $57.709 $21.21
Feb-02 $56.530 $21.36
Mar-02 $55.518 $21.51
Apr-02 $57.547 $21.66
May-02 $55.073 $21.81
Jun-02 $54.528 $21.96
Jul-02 $50.928 $22.11
Aug-02 $46.829 $22.26
Sep-02 $46.952 $22.41
Oct-02 $42.026 $22.56
Nov-02 $45.038 $22.72
Dec-02 $47.348 $22.88
Jan-03 $44.843 $23.04
Feb-03 $43.846 $23.20
Mar-03 $42.624 $23.36
Apr-03 $42.752 $23.52
May-03 $46.057 $23.68
Jun-03 $48.607 $23.84
Jul-03 $49.115 $24.00
Aug-03 $49.698 $24.17
Sep-03 $50.575 $24.34
Oct-03 $50.311 $24.51
Nov-03 $52.934 $24.68
Dec-03 $53.522 $24.85
Jan-04 $55.993 $25.02
Feb-04 $56.928 $25.19
Mar-04 $57.611 $25.36
Apr-04 $57.003 $25.53
May-04 $55.520 $25.71
Jun-04 $55.947 $25.89
Jul-04 $56.883 $26.07
Aug-04 $54.801 $26.25
Sep-04 $54.914 $26.43
Oct-04 $55.703 $26.61
Nov-04 $56.503 $26.79
Dec-04 $58.976 $26.97
Jan-05 $60.909 $27.16
Feb-05 $59.282 $27.35
Mar-05 $60.546 $27.54
Apr-05 $59.243 $27.73
May-05 $57.824 $27.92
Jun-05 $59.463 $28.11
Jul-05 $59.684 $28.30
Aug-05 $61.706 $28.49
Sep-05 $61.408 $28.69
Oct-05 $62.071 $28.89
Nov-05 $60.611 $29.09
Dec-05 $62.582 $29.29
Jan-06 $63.038 $29.49
Feb-06 $65.061 $29.69
Mar-06 $64.864 $29.89
Apr-06 $65.757 $30.10
May-06 $66.618 $30.31
Jun-06 $64.315 $30.52
Jul-06 $64.128 $30.73
Aug-06 $64.037 $30.94
Sep-06 $65.387 $31.15
Oct-06 $66.430 $31.36
Nov-06 $68.431 $31.58
Dec-06 $69.661 $31.80
Jan-07 $70.413 $32.02
Feb-07 $71.280 $32.24
Mar-07 $70.152 $32.46
Apr-07 $70.788 $32.68
May-07 $73.261 $32.90
Jun-07 $75.354 $33.13
Jul-07 $74.093 $33.36
Aug-07 $71.679 $33.59
Sep-07 $72.005 $33.82
Oct-07 $74.399 $34.05
Nov-07 $75.726 $34.28
Dec-07 $72.353 $34.52
Jan-08 $71.460 $34.76
Feb-08 $66.717 $35.00
Mar-08 $65.133 $35.24
Apr-08 $64.299 $35.48
May-08 $67.195 $35.72
Jun-08 $68.275 $35.97
Jul-08 $62.888 $36.22 $10.000
Aug-08 $61.869 $36.47 $9.892
Sep-08 $61.936 $36.72 $9.963
Oct-08 $55.357 $36.97 $9.177
Nov-08 $45.089 $37.22 $8.041
Dec-08 $41.509 $37.48 $7.529
Jan-09 $42.493 $37.74 $7.479
Feb-09 $39.175 $38.00 $7.167
Mar-09 $35.364 $38.26 $6.844
Apr-09 $37.945 $38.52 $7.113
May-09 $41.505 $38.78 $7.565
Jun-09 $43.979 $39.05 $7.877
Jul-09 $44.033 $39.32 $7.768
Aug-09 $47.180 $39.59 $8.264
Sep-09 $48.744 $39.86 $8.338
Oct-09 $50.532 $40.13 $8.734
Nov-09 $49.387 $40.41 $8.455
Dec-09 $51.621 $40.69 $8.713
Jan-10 $52.629 $40.93 $9.059
Feb-10 $50.713 $41.17 $8.804
Mar-10 $51.840 $41.41 $9.139
Apr-10 $54.716 $41.65 $9.543
May-10 $55.347 $41.89 $9.883
Jun-10 $50.806 $42.13 $9.155
Jul-10 $48.310 $42.38 $8.810
Aug-10 $51.433 $42.63 $9.202
Sep-10 $49.212 $42.88 $8.716
Oct-10 $53.481 $43.13 $9.500
Nov-10 $55.253 $43.38 $9.938
Dec-10 $54.825 $43.63 $9.972
Jan-11 $58.207 $43.88 $10.577
Feb-11 $59.246 $44.14 $10.712
Mar-11 $61.050 $44.40 $11.176
Apr-11 $80.881 $44.66 $11.189
May-11 $62.750 $44.92 $11.505
Jun-11 $61.897 $45.18 $11.368
Jul-11 $60.624 $45.44 $11.076
Aug-11 $59.225 $45.71 $10.689
Sep-11 $55.426 $45.98 $10.075
Oct-11 $51.100 $46.25 $9.208
Nov-11 $56.249 $46.52 $9.979
Dec-11 $55.541 $46.79 $10.085
Jan-12 $55.630 $47.06 $9.998
Feb-12 $58.119 $47.33 $10.263
Mar-12 $60.467 $47.61 $10.700
Apr-12 $61.719 $47.89 $10.939
May-12 $61.156 $48.17 $10.693
Jun-12 $57.035 $48.45 $9.909
Jul-12 $59.120 $48.73 $10.120
Aug-12 $59.543 $49.01 $10.159
Sep-12 $60.744 $49.30 $10.443
Oct-12 $62.048 $49.59 $10.543
Nov-12 $61.110 $49.88 $10.365
Dec-12 $61.532 $50.17 $10.562
Jan-13 $62.174 $50.46 $10.624
Feb-13 $65.154 $50.75 $11.332
Mar-13 $65.582 $51.05 $11.706
Apr-13 $67.617 $51.35 $12.109
May-13 $68.781 $51.65 $12.061
Jun-13 $69.567 $51.95 $12.306
Jul-13 $68.243 $52.25 $12.224
Aug-13 $71.550 $52.55 $12.777
Sep-13 $69.543 $52.86 $12.454
Oct-13 $72.107 $53.17 $12.993
Nov-13 $74.633 $53.48 $13.496
Dec-13 $76.199 $53.79 $13.746
Jan-14 $77.656 $54.10 $14.061
Feb-14 $75.061 $54.42 $13.288
Mar-14 $78.365 $54.74 $14.032
Apr-14 $78.382 $55.06 $14.035
May-14 $78.290 $55.38 $13.949
Jun-14 $79.626 $55.70 $14.184
Jul-14 $81.078 $56.02 $14.469
Aug-14 $79.251 $56.35 $14.099
Sep-14 $81.499 $56.68 $14.533
Oct-14 $79.271 $57.01 $14.359
Nov-14 $80.542 $57.34 $14.566
Dec-14 $82.029 $57.67 $14.932
Jan-15 $81.363 $58.01 $14.926
Feb-15 $79.846 $58.35 $14.538
Mar-15 $83.661 $58.69 $15.184
Apr-15 $82.492 $59.03 $15.046
May-15 $82.918 $59.37 $14.993
Jun-15 $83.538 $59.72 $15.096
Jul-15 $81.738 $60.07 $14.760
Aug-15 $82.668 $60.42 $14.913
Sep-15 $77.419 $60.77 $14.033
Oct-15 $74.680 $61.12 $13.710
Nov-15 $79.632 $61.48 $14.632
Dec-15 $79.588 $61.84 $14.599
Jan-16 $77.773 $62.20 $14.349
Feb-16 $73.218 $62.56 $13.402
Mar-16 $72.947 $62.92 $13.465
Apr-16 $77.546 $63.29 $14.379
May-16 $77.866 $63.66 $14.362
Jun-16 $78.512 $64.03 $14.571
Jul-16 $78.102 $64.40 $14.323
Aug-16 $81.078 $64.78 $14.938
Sep-16 $80.958 $65.16 $14.968
Oct-16 $81.042 $65.54 $14.881
Nov-16 $78.955 $65.92 $14.534
Dec-16 $81.062 $66.30 $15.026
Jan-17 $82.351 $66.69 $15.227
Feb-17 $83.973 $67.08 $15.702
Mar-17 $86.227 $67.47 $16.099
Apr-17 $86.533 $67.86 $16.067
May-17 $87.440 $68.26 $16.055
Jun-17 $88.399 $68.66 $16.415
Jul-17 $88.681 $69.06 $16.308
Aug-17 $90.261 $69.46 $16.531
Sep-17 $90.080 $69.87 $16.285
Oct-17 $91.800 $70.28 $16.596
Nov-17 $93.288 $70.69 $16.714
Dec-17 $95.100 $71.10 $17.125
Jan-18 $95.898 $71.51 $17.322
Feb-18 $100.326 $71.93 $18.216
Mar-18 $96.212 $72.35 $17.606
Apr-18 $94.245 $72.77 $17.260
May-18 $94.459 $73.19 $17.251
Jun-18 $95.640 $73.62 $17.584
Jul-18 $95.605 $74.05 $17.711
Aug-18 $98.198 $74.48 $18.113
Sep-18 $100.006 $74.91 $18.539
Oct-18 $99.877 $75.35 $18.333
Nov-18 $92.192 $75.79 $16.959
Dec-18 $93.484 $76.23 $17.480
Jan-19 $85.504 $76.67 $15.786
Feb-19 $92.173 $77.12 $16.910
Mar-19 $94.744 $77.57 $17.398
Apr-19 $95.432 $78.02 $17.436
May-19 $98.700 $78.48 $17.892
Jun-19 $92.578 $78.94 $16.694
Jul-19 $98.450 $79.40 $17.608
Aug-19 $98.938 $79.86 $17.950
Sep-19 $96.264 $80.33 $17.452
Oct-19 $97.765 $80.80 $17.796
Nov-19 $99.678 $81.27 $17.812
Dec-19 $102.435 $81.74 $18.444
Jan-20 $105.276 $82.22 $18.871
Feb-20 $104.047 $82.70 $19.178
Mar-20 $95.393 $83.18 $18.049
Apr-20 $81.142 $83.67 $16.396
May-20 $90.415 $84.16 $18.926

Yesterday’s Town Hall

May 22, 2020 pm31 2:46 pm

A friend took notes

Here they are

(I know other versions are out there)


May 21, 2020 @ 3:15 pm 

Michael Mulgrew, speaker, then member Q&A




    • Many thanks to everyone; things are constantly changing 
    • We are definitely OFF Memorial Day (1st official day off since Feb. break)


  • Spring Break:


      •  UFT challenged; it got ugly.  CAR days are in but still seeking full compensation 
      • Still seeking full compensation for those 7 days
      • Was the peak of the virus in terms of loss of life (68 UFT members/ 54 from the retired chapter)
      • Possible future action regarding these deaths
    • Received our raise and should have budgets shortly
    • THE BIG TWO QUESTIONS:  How to we ensure our safety/ How do we protect our livelihoods (economy) 
    • Last Few Days? How do teachers “close up shop” safely?  Guidance pending? 


  • Summer school:


      • 6 weeks remote learning
      • Postings go live tomorrow (May 22)
      • Will include clear definitions of remote learning nomenclature (Ex: “synchronous” “asynchronous” with protection from labor management
      • Very clear that these terms are only during this emergency situation 
      • Delay in summer school information was the city’s fault 
      • A massive amount of students; WILL STUDENTS COME?
      • How many teachers will we need?


  • SEPTEMBER:  3 possibilities


      • 1. There is a vaccine/ cure and we return normally (unlikely)
      • 2. Full remote learning (definite possibility as more city children get sick
      • 3.  A hybrid of remote and in-building learning


  • HYBRID Thoughts (part time in school/ part time remote) 


      • Staggered schedules?
      • Schools in cohorts, like A/ B/ C…  2 cohorts/ building/ day?
      • Have to analyze building space; shared spaces, 
      • Teacher focus groups already planning– inspiring ideas already happening
      • What needs to be done before teachers and students can return to school buildings? 
      • Will follow CDC guidelines, not DOE or Tweed
      • Which teachers will be remote vs. in school? 
      • Schools cannot be programmed by Central. Each school building is too unique.
      • Likely a whole new workflow will emerge; a whole new way of teaching and learning 




        • Petitioning city council that education budgets NOT be cut 
        • Huge national fight already; AFT first organization to petition the government to save school budgets
        • Most state budgets are coming out July 1; NY’s came out April 1.  Government is putting out cuts soon.
        • Cuomo seems to want to wait for Senate budget first
        • Huge political game; really disgusting how they talk about how importance education is, then take away funding
      • SAFETY 
        • Do all kids need masks?  What about temperature checks
        • Each school needs/will have a dedicated NURSE
        • CLASS SIZES need to be smaller ⇒ MORE teachers needed not less (yet hiring freeze?)
        • Suggested having wills/ healthcare proxies in place just in case


  • Federal aid package that has passed the House and goes to McConnell and Senate soon
  • Petition says it MUST include monies for teachers/ education without loopholes
  • Text ‘LIFELINE’ to 306-44 to “sign” the virtual petition




  • Q&A


    • Q: When will we know which method of teaching for September?
    • A: Board of Ed already a month behind/ no one is making decisions; UFT predicts a hybrid method (subject to change, of course); Already planning for it and will be following CDC guidelines; certain staff will be doing full time remote: hopefully BY THE THIRD WEEK IN JUNE


    • Q: What about D75 schools?  (bad reception; question skipped) 
    • A: They are being thought about and planned for. 


    • Q: When will we get an updated calendar?
    • A: UFT/ DOE agreed about it a month ago; DOE refusing to release it, afraid that “something will change” (of course it will).  Need a calendar ASAP to be able to do SBO votes/ Comp Time positions; CAN vote on Comp Time positions now, but many chapters prefer to do their votes all together. 


    • Q:(from a nurse at a Regional Enrichment Center) What’s up with the RECs during the summer?
    • A: Can pull most back;  A need to rotate people out/ seek volunteers to stay in; NO ONE will be forced to work through the summer


    • Q: What about teacher evaluations? Observations?  What about the non tenured/ tenure process?
    • A: SED says no teacher evaluations; People CAN still get tenure and less continuances this year.  SED needs an executive order to waive evaluations; Cuomo must pass it; would need a “waiver” but can’t do evaluations without changing the contractual agreements


      • Q:  Should we have some sort of “Day of Action” to drum up support for THE HEROES ACT? Social media blast?


  • A; Sure, and love the enthusiasm! 



      • Q: D75: so hard to keep students with very severe needs apart; impossible to not share toys/ supplies


  • A: We will hear from these sites to help discover what is realistic; similar issues to early childhood learning 



    • Q: Remote Learning for September:  Are there checklists?  Guidelines to follow?
    • A: How can there be checklists? Working on those definitions of terms (mentioned previously) to help clarify what can and can’t be asked of us.  Remote learning can’t and doesn’t function like a “traditional school day”. Impossible to insist what everyone must do.  Checklists sound like they would come out of DOE central and not from the UFT, because we need teachers to last through the year and not burn out!


    • Q:  How will accommodations be made for members with underlying conditions?
    • A: Criteria will be put into place. Remote/ vs. in-person. Schools will have to do some social distancing, but it is still a gathering of people, which will always carry some risks.  We will get our safety intel from CDC and science, not Tweed.


    • Q: Teachers who are parents; how do we handle conflicts between our work/ kid’s school schedules?
    • A:  We will all have to do our best. There WILL be problems to work out.  Daycare systems will be in place for essential workers, as teachers are. 

A new syndrome, renamed

May 20, 2020 pm31 4:00 pm

We are very concerned with the sudden emergence of a set of inflammatory symptoms in children infected with COVID-19.

Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome has recently been reported in youngsters – from infants through teenagers. It was first reported in New York City, where there are several deaths associated with it. It looks like another disease – Kawasaki.

The name of the syndrome was Pediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (PMIS). Unfortunately New York City is full of bureaucrats who like to pronounce acronyms – and after being met with snickers for saying “PMIS is rising rapidly” (try reading that out loud) they changed what they call it (notice the name of the pdf) to the hard-to-pronounce-like-a-sex-joke Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children or MIS-C.

Buffoon – Bumbler – Brilliant?

May 19, 2020 pm31 3:44 pm

Trump the buffoon, de Blasio the bumbler, but Cuomo’s been brilliant?
Not so fast!

The nightly news version, the press conference version, that fits.

Trump blusters, brags, bullies. He exudes confidence in his intellect and abilities, despite ample evidence to the contrary.

He really wants to be good at this, he wants to sound official, and somber, and caring, but de Blasio’s meandering, whining, pleading, plodding press conferences inspire mostly sighs.

Cuomo stands out. He’s punchy. He’s sharp. He’s confident. He’s cogent. He cares. He’s realistic.

Donald the Buffoon, Bill the Bumbler, and Brilliant Andrew. Case closed?

Not so fast.

When the bar is set at “not completely insane” Cuomo clears it pretty easily. But we should not be using such a low bar.

Cuomo grabbed more emergency powers than were reasonable, and then abused them: to cut aid to localities (schools and health care) and to take revenge on political opponents.

But the crisis, right? Hasn’t he been a shining light in the storm? Well, no. Take an hour, read this Propublica piece. (might take you 20 minutes, took me 40, deserves an hour). Or, here, let me pull out some highlights. The article contrasts the response in NY State and California, with a lot about NYC and San Francisco, as well. Cuomo and de Blasio get blasted. Strangely, de Blasio, even with criticism, comes off better than he does from his press conferences. Another low bar.

Anyway, skim the highlights, and then go read the full piece.

Two Coasts. One Virus. How New York Suffered Nearly 10 Times the Number of Deaths as California.

On March 17, de Blasio suggested a “shelter in place” order as in California. Cuomo blocked it: ““shelter-in-place” sounded like it was a response to a nuclear apocalypse. Moreover, Cuomo said, he alone had the power to order such a measure.” The order came five days later. With exponential growth, and a doubling time of less than five days, that delay may have doubled the total number of New York deaths.

“No later than Feb. 28, federal officials warned the country that a deadly pandemic was inevitable. It is from that point forward, they say, that any individual state’s actions should be judged.” But ““Governors don’t do global pandemics,” Cuomo said.”

“While New York’s formal pandemic response plan underscores the need for seamless communication between state and local officials, the state Health Department broke off routine sharing of information and strategy with its city counterpart in February”

The article is not kind to de Blasio either: “For his part, de Blasio spent critical weeks spurning his own Health Department’s increasingly urgent belief that trying to contain the spread of the virus was a fool’s errand. The clear need, as early as late February, was to move to an all-out effort at not being overrun by the disease, which meant closing things down and restricting people’s movements.”

The disconnect between de Blasio and his own Health Department played out — perhaps decisively — in late February and early March. The events of those days have been reconstructed through notes kept at the time by the city official alarmed by what they were seeing — the diminishment and disregarding of one of the world’s most respected local health departments. The official’s notes show that late February was the first opportunity for de Blasio to have absorbed what his department was warning about. It didn’t go well. “He said all the wrong things,” the official wrote after a Feb. 26 news conference.

All eyes are on the federal government’s lack of stockpile (and rightly so). But the article points out Cuomo’s responsibility: “New York’s pandemic preparedness and response plan, first created in 2006 and running to hundreds of pages, predicted the state’s health care system would be overwhelmed in such a situation, and it highlighted two vital necessities: a robust and up-to-date state stockpile of emergency equipment and protective gear, and a mechanism for quickly expanding the number of hospital beds available. Despite repeated requests, New York state health officials would not say what was in the state’s stockpile at the start of 2020, but it clearly wasn’t adequate.”

But while the state’s plan makes clear its obligation to be adequately prepared, Cuomo over many weeks sought to portray the federal government as the culprit for the crisis in shortages of protective gear and medical equipment such as ventilators.

As for expanding hospital capacity, it was not until March 16 that Cuomo designated a task force to engineer greater numbers of beds, demanding a 50% increase in capacity in 24 hours. “You could make an argument that it should have happened a month before,” said Michael Dowling, the chief executive officer of Northwell Health, the largest hospital organization in the state and one of the health care leaders Cuomo appointed to the task force.

The state’s performance once New York fell under siege from the disease has also been challenged. State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker — one of a half-dozen advisers who made up Cuomo’s brain trust during the crisis — has been pilloried by the local press for his decision to allow nursing home residents who tested positive for the disease to be returned to those homes. The administration reversed its position this week.

Meanwhile, the New York State Nurses Association has sued the state Health Department and its commissioner for failing to adequately equip front-line medical workers with protective wear and allowing hospitals to order nurses sickened by the virus back to work.

…when the March 2 news of community spread surfaced in New Rochelle, Cuomo urged calm. The state, he proudly noted, had successfully confronted a wide variety of health scares over the years. “We are fully coordinated, and we are fully mobilized, and we are fully prepared to deal with the situation as it develops,” Cuomo said. “This isn’t our first rodeo.”



Retiring Advanced Placement

May 18, 2020 pm31 4:07 pm

The College Board cannot plan a test, give a test, guarantee fairness, catch cheaters, or tell the truth.

This has been a rough week for them, with the AP Fiasco, and a long time coming. Even favorable coverage bends unfavorable.

Let’s run through the list:

  • They get schools to give appropriate space for free, and crumble when forced to come up with something themselves. They made no attempt to guarantee an appropriate environment for test-takers.
  • They get schools to plan administration for free, and when left to their own devices, fail. There were student taking tests at midnight. And at 2AM. And at 4AM.
  • They count on teachers to proctor and prevent cheating. Left to their own devices, they insult everyone with bullying “Don’t Cheat you Cheaters!” threats (which are as ineffective as they are insulting), pretend to be teens and try to entrap students (and are instantly found out), and fail to prevent actual cheating (as a google trends search of “how do you find an integral,” “progressive era,” “angular momentum,” or “active transport” quickly reveals).
  • They fail to develop an app (students know how to use apps), fail to obtain sufficient bandwidth, and then lie through their teeth, blaming teenagers when the teenagers actually followed the directions.
  • And instead of rectifying their mistake, they rescheduled exams for June – including rescheduling some at conflicting times.

What do we need these clowns for?


There are many “AP Curricula” out there – we can continue using them without these clowns being involved. Schools and districts may also have their own high level courses – or courses that should have been considered “high level” but were not considered so without the AP imprimatur.


Hell, most teachers in my school know ±1 what their students will score.

Or even better, forget the tests. AP exams are way before the end of the year… replace them with performance-based assessment of projects or original writing, or research or creative work. This could be better than APs. Can you imagine students spending time applying their knowledge, rather than cramming? And we get more time to do the work. No one will want to go back.


We have a moment. Now is the time to move to get the College Board out of our public schools.

We should carefully examine ANY private company that is intruding into public education.

We will look back on this, years from now, and wonder why it took so long.


TDA: Diversified, Fixed – 2000-20

May 17, 2020 am31 9:29 am

The Diversified Fund Unit Values are available on the TRS website. I put them into a chart starting in 2010, and I got asked to push it back.

The fixed return was 8.25% until December 11, 2009, when it dropped to 7%. Here’s the deal that delegates voted overwhelmingly for. The UFT used to have the story on its website, but they cleared out their archives. I kind of care, because Jack Miller took a FANTASTIC photo of me speaking in opposition (below) but I also care because documentation of history matters. Norm wrote two lines about it, but that’s not the same thing.

Anyhow, there’s something challenging about making this chart – where to index the fixed?  Make the two amounts equal in January 2000 would give one impression – and I think that would be the default. But I chose to show them as equal January 2010. In any case it is the comparative shapes, rather than raw numbers, that are of interest. Also, and I am not an analyst, this is an ongoing investment, so you don’t drop your money in at the beginning and watch. In other words – I’ve made a somewhat pretty picture, but the analysis is probably much more complicated.

And here’s the raw data (to be proofread or analyzed, or anything you like)

Date Diversified Fund Unit Values Fixed
Jan-00 $74.220 $23.14
Feb-00 $71.086 $23.30
Mar-00 $71.665 $23.46
Apr-00 $76.533 $23.62
May-00 $73.769 $23.78
Jun-00 $71.763 $23.94
Jul-00 $73.669 $24.10
Aug-00 $72.281 $24.27
Sep-00 $76.444 $24.44
Oct-00 $72.885 $24.61
Nov-00 $71.865 $24.78
Dec-00 $66.328 $24.95
Jan-01 $67.534 $25.12
Feb-01 $69.120 $25.29
Mar-01 $63.228 $25.46
Apr-01 $59.113 $25.64
May-01 $63.277 $25.82
Jun-01 $63.336 $26.00
Jul-01 $61.900 $26.18
Aug-01 $60.945 $26.36
Sep-01 $57.696 $26.54
Oct-01 $52.638 $26.72
Nov-01 $53.766 $26.90
Dec-01 $57.135 $27.08
Jan-02 $57.709 $27.27
Feb-02 $56.530 $27.46
Mar-02 $55.518 $27.65
Apr-02 $57.547 $27.84
May-02 $55.073 $28.03
Jun-02 $54.528 $28.22
Jul-02 $50.928 $28.41
Aug-02 $46.829 $28.61
Sep-02 $46.952 $28.81
Oct-02 $42.026 $29.01
Nov-02 $45.038 $29.21
Dec-02 $47.348 $29.41
Jan-03 $44.843 $29.61
Feb-03 $43.846 $29.81
Mar-03 $42.624 $30.01
Apr-03 $42.752 $30.22
May-03 $46.057 $30.43
Jun-03 $48.607 $30.64
Jul-03 $49.115 $30.85
Aug-03 $49.698 $31.06
Sep-03 $50.575 $31.27
Oct-03 $50.311 $31.48
Nov-03 $52.934 $31.70
Dec-03 $53.522 $31.92
Jan-04 $55.993 $32.14
Feb-04 $56.928 $32.36
Mar-04 $57.611 $32.58
Apr-04 $57.003 $32.80
May-04 $55.520 $33.03
Jun-04 $55.947 $33.26
Jul-04 $56.883 $33.49
Aug-04 $54.801 $33.72
Sep-04 $54.914 $33.95
Oct-04 $55.703 $34.18
Nov-04 $56.503 $34.41
Dec-04 $58.976 $34.65
Jan-05 $60.909 $34.89
Feb-05 $59.282 $35.13
Mar-05 $60.546 $35.37
Apr-05 $59.243 $35.61
May-05 $57.824 $35.85
Jun-05 $59.463 $36.10
Jul-05 $59.684 $36.35
Aug-05 $61.706 $36.60
Sep-05 $61.408 $36.85
Oct-05 $62.071 $37.10
Nov-05 $60.611 $37.36
Dec-05 $62.582 $37.62
Jan-06 $63.038 $37.88
Feb-06 $65.061 $38.14
Mar-06 $64.864 $38.40
Apr-06 $65.757 $38.66
May-06 $66.618 $38.93
Jun-06 $64.315 $39.20
Jul-06 $64.128 $39.47
Aug-06 $64.037 $39.74
Sep-06 $65.387 $40.01
Oct-06 $66.430 $40.29
Nov-06 $68.431 $40.57
Dec-06 $69.661 $40.85
Jan-07 $70.413 $41.13
Feb-07 $71.280 $41.41
Mar-07 $70.152 $41.69
Apr-07 $70.788 $41.98
May-07 $73.261 $42.27
Jun-07 $75.354 $42.56
Jul-07 $74.093 $42.85
Aug-07 $71.679 $43.14
Sep-07 $72.005 $43.44
Oct-07 $74.399 $43.74
Nov-07 $75.726 $44.04
Dec-07 $72.353 $44.34
Jan-08 $71.460 $44.64
Feb-08 $66.717 $44.95
Mar-08 $65.133 $45.26
Apr-08 $64.299 $45.57
May-08 $67.195 $45.88
Jun-08 $68.275 $46.20
Jul-08 $62.888 $46.52
Aug-08 $61.869 $46.84
Sep-08 $61.936 $47.16
Oct-08 $55.357 $47.48
Nov-08 $45.089 $47.81
Dec-08 $41.509 $48.14
Jan-09 $42.493 $48.47
Feb-09 $39.175 $48.80
Mar-09 $35.364 $49.14
Apr-09 $37.945 $49.48
May-09 $41.505 $49.82
Jun-09 $43.979 $50.16
Jul-09 $44.033 $50.50
Aug-09 $47.180 $50.85
Sep-09 $48.744 $51.20
Oct-09 $50.532 $51.55
Nov-09 $49.387 $51.90
Dec-09 $51.621 $52.26
Jan-10 $52.629 $52.56
Feb-10 $50.713 $52.87
Mar-10 $51.840 $53.18
Apr-10 $54.716 $53.49
May-10 $55.347 $53.80
Jun-10 $50.806 $54.11
Jul-10 $48.310 $54.43
Aug-10 $51.433 $54.75
Sep-10 $49.212 $55.07
Oct-10 $53.481 $55.39
Nov-10 $55.253 $55.71
Dec-10 $54.825 $56.03
Jan-11 $58.207 $56.36
Feb-11 $59.246 $56.69
Mar-11 $61.050 $57.02
Apr-11 $80.881 $57.35
May-11 $62.750 $57.68
Jun-11 $61.897 $58.02
Jul-11 $60.624 $58.36
Aug-11 $59.225 $58.70
Sep-11 $55.426 $59.04
Oct-11 $51.100 $59.38
Nov-11 $56.249 $59.73
Dec-11 $55.541 $60.08
Jan-12 $55.630 $60.43
Feb-12 $58.119 $60.78
Mar-12 $60.467 $61.13
Apr-12 $61.719 $61.49
May-12 $61.156 $61.85
Jun-12 $57.035 $62.21
Jul-12 $59.120 $62.57
Aug-12 $59.543 $62.93
Sep-12 $60.744 $63.30
Oct-12 $62.048 $63.67
Nov-12 $61.110 $64.04
Dec-12 $61.532 $64.41
Jan-13 $62.174 $64.79
Feb-13 $65.154 $65.17
Mar-13 $65.582 $65.55
Apr-13 $67.617 $65.93
May-13 $68.781 $66.31
Jun-13 $69.567 $66.70
Jul-13 $68.243 $67.09
Aug-13 $71.550 $67.48
Sep-13 $69.543 $67.87
Oct-13 $72.107 $68.27
Nov-13 $74.633 $68.67
Dec-13 $76.199 $69.07
Jan-14 $77.656 $69.47
Feb-14 $75.061 $69.88
Mar-14 $78.365 $70.29
Apr-14 $78.382 $70.70
May-14 $78.290 $71.11
Jun-14 $79.626 $71.52
Jul-14 $81.078 $71.94
Aug-14 $79.251 $72.36
Sep-14 $81.499 $72.78
Oct-14 $79.271 $73.20
Nov-14 $80.542 $73.63
Dec-14 $82.029 $74.06
Jan-15 $81.363 $74.49
Feb-15 $79.846 $74.92
Mar-15 $83.661 $75.36
Apr-15 $82.492 $75.80
May-15 $82.918 $76.24
Jun-15 $83.538 $76.68
Jul-15 $81.738 $77.13
Aug-15 $82.668 $77.58
Sep-15 $77.419 $78.03
Oct-15 $74.680 $78.49
Nov-15 $79.632 $78.95
Dec-15 $79.588 $79.41
Jan-16 $77.773 $79.87
Feb-16 $73.218 $80.34
Mar-16 $72.947 $80.81
Apr-16 $77.546 $81.28
May-16 $77.866 $81.75
Jun-16 $78.512 $82.23
Jul-16 $78.102 $82.71
Aug-16 $81.078 $83.19
Sep-16 $80.958 $83.68
Oct-16 $81.042 $84.17
Nov-16 $78.955 $84.66
Dec-16 $81.062 $85.15
Jan-17 $82.351 $85.65
Feb-17 $83.973 $86.15
Mar-17 $86.227 $86.65
Apr-17 $86.533 $87.16
May-17 $87.440 $87.67
Jun-17 $88.399 $88.18
Jul-17 $88.681 $88.69
Aug-17 $90.261 $89.21
Sep-17 $90.080 $89.73
Oct-17 $91.800 $90.25
Nov-17 $93.288 $90.78
Dec-17 $95.100 $91.31
Jan-18 $95.898 $91.84
Feb-18 $100.326 $92.38
Mar-18 $96.212 $92.92
Apr-18 $94.245 $93.46
May-18 $94.459 $94.01
Jun-18 $95.640 $94.56
Jul-18 $95.605 $95.11
Aug-18 $98.198 $95.66
Sep-18 $100.006 $96.22
Oct-18 $99.877 $96.78
Nov-18 $92.192 $97.34
Dec-18 $93.484 $97.91
Jan-19 $85.504 $98.48
Feb-19 $92.173 $99.05
Mar-19 $94.744 $99.63
Apr-19 $95.432 $100.21
May-19 $98.700 $100.79
Jun-19 $92.578 $101.38
Jul-19 $98.450 $101.97
Aug-19 $98.938 $102.56
Sep-19 $96.264 $103.16
Oct-19 $97.765 $103.76
Nov-19 $99.678 $104.37
Dec-19 $102.435 $104.98
Jan-20 $105.276 $105.59
Feb-20 $104.047 $106.21
Mar-20 $95.393 $106.83
Apr-20 $81.142 $107.45


The College Board: Incompetent, Cruel, and Greedy

May 16, 2020 pm31 1:10 pm

1. The College Board routinely steals space, labor, and know-how from our public schools and local school districts for administration of Advanced Placement Exams. This year, they were not able to, and the test administration was plagued by problems. I wrote a bit about that yesterday. If they ever come back in our schools, they should be paying for the space, labor, and know-how.

2. Mercedes Schneider, a dedicated education blogger from Louisiana (I met her for a second at one of Leonie Haimson’s Skinny Awards dinners several years ago) has long been on the trail these scoundrels, and their President, David Coleman. The College Board is closely associated with its Advanced Placement Exams, as well as with the Common Core.

Mercedes has a great post, running through AP “technical glitches” mostly through student tweets, and the College Board’s pathetic responses. I’ve copied some of the good stuff, but click over there and read the whole thing. She does a great job.

Major point: the College Board goofed. They did not get enough “servers” or “band-width” and because of that kids could not upload jpegs or pdfs or photos or whatever – and worse, once they were done and clicked the button – the College Board did not accept their work.

Next major point: the College Board lied and blamed the kids, the victims, for not updating their browsers (which had worked fine during the test runs.)

Last major point: the College Board lied and said 99% of the tests went fine – omitting those who did not even try – and supplying the 99% number before they could have known – and when anecdotal responses from the field indicate a much higher incomplete or unsuccessful submission rate.

3. A Pod-caster (is that a real thing?) interviews a teacher from a school in Abu Dhabi (Nate Bowling) who make a lot of interesting points, but I pick up on three:

  • international students took the exams synchronously with US students. Students in Abu Dhabi had to sit for an exam at midnight; students in Singapore at 4AM
  • The College Board claimed that they surveyed test-takers in advance about their access to technology, and said they had an overwhelmingly favorable response. Of course they omit that only those with good access to technology responded…
  • Students who do have good access to technology, especially in poorer, crowded homes, might not have access to quiet, individual space. Imagine taking a high stakes test in a room with constant activity

4. The College Board put out big scary messages about not cheating. They get a 1*. Human proctors, trained teachers, year after year do a fine job. Districts should be compensated for their time, and for the substitutes that need to be hired. But how do I know the College Board did not do a good job? Word of mouth? Or do the cheaters leave tracks?

The double peak for angular momentum? There are two physics exams.

Some highlights from Mercedes Schneider’s tweet compendium:

sreeprakash n@sreepi My son had problem submitting Question 2 of AP Comp Sci today. I dont believe it could be browser issue or any issue with our computer when he could submit response to Question 1. This happened when there was 5 minutes left to submit.
Mary V@MedievalMaryQ 1/3 of my daughter’s class. I never took AP calc, but I’m fairly certain 33% > 1% — and every one of them had problems uploading the first question but not the second. But sure, blame the kids; no reason they should avoid extra stress right now.
Cbk@cbk1377 My son had a current browser. He was able to submit the answer to 1st question for calc bc (jpeg format) but 2nd one would not go through. Could it be your server couldn’t handle the volume of submissions at the end? Can you provide them with a backup solution to submit answers?
You should go to the blog and read them all. But I’ll end with one more:
@CollegeBoard While more than 99% of students successfully submitted their AP Exam responses yesterday, some who didn’t told us they had trouble cutting and pasting their responses. We took a closer look and found that outdated browsers were a primary cause of these challenges.

anam@lilanammanam Then why were the demos successful???

AP Snafus / Why is the College Board in our Schools?

May 15, 2020 pm31 2:32 pm

In the midst of this pandemic it became clear that the College Board, a private company, could not use its favorite space for AP examinations: public schools across the country.

Why does the AP like using public school space, paid for by local governments, and not its own private space?

Let’s start by asking, what does the College Board pay school systems to use their space?  Oh, and what does it pay school systems for cancelling classes?  And I guess, what does it pay to families for having their children’s classes cancelled?

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

The College Board steals from families and local governments across the country. But the cost is built in. It’s hidden. But it is real.

The College Board also could not use its favorite proctors. Who do they use to proctor their exams? How do they pay them?

Public School teachers. And the College Board does not pay them. Local school districts pay the College Board’s proctors.

Are these unemployed teachers?

Nope. These teachers have their own classes. While they are proctoring, their classes are not being taught by their regular teachers. They are being taught by subs.

Who pays for the subs? Who compensates the public school students for not getting their regular lessons?

Local school districts. And no one.

The College Board steals from families and local governments across the country. But the cost is built in. It’s hidden. But it is real.

But COVID interrupted the College Board’s larceny. They were desperate – not only were they losing tens of millions of dollars of free labor and free space – their customer base was at stake. What would happen if schools, kids, teachers and families were not tied tightly to the importance of the tests this not for profit (but wink wink) company produces?

The College Board cobbled together a substitute. Instead of three hour exams, 45 minute exams. No proctors. And they hoped – not for the best – but for minimal negative publicity. Why should kids take these pretend exams? They started backing out. And the College Board, concerned for its own future, decided to make the exams free (of course they were still not paying for proctors or space).


Why were these ever anything more than 45 minute tests? (hint – $$$)

Essays are easier to upload than math work (Maybe 10% of calculus exams were lost to problems uploading – apparently the College Board tweeted additional instructions a few minutes prior to the exam. Bad move guys. Eventually they agreed to give kids another try in June.  But they also blamed the kids.

Here’s some details from a report from Houston:

“With the AP physics, AP government and AP calculus tests, server issues or delays, connection drops and broken links from the e-ticket, which allows the students to log onto the tests successfully.”

College Board, which administers the tests, said their servers never came close to crashing and less than 1 percent of the more than 1 million students who have taken the tests so far encountered technical difficulties.

Firat said they’re spinning those numbers and they aren’t taking responsibility for the glitches.

“Unfortunately, College Board has done nothing but to say it’s not us, it’s you, and that shows a lot of incompetence and uncare for the students and the families at this time,” Firat said.

Here’s something from the Bay:

Ava Osborn, a senior at Oakland Tech who took her AP physics test on Tuesday, was also confounded by the online testing system and could not get answers when her completed test failed to process correctly.

“We spent two hours on hold with the College Board, and the woman on the phone basically said she couldn’t help me,” Osborn said. “I still haven’t been able to file for the makeup test.”

The College Board said on Tuesday that approximately 1% of the more than 1 million students who took the exams, given in 38 subjects, encountered technical difficulties.

That’s roughly 10,000 kids who prepared, paid $94 each and sat through the 45-minute online program.

Jones said she doesn’t believe the 1% number is accurate.

“There’s absolutely no way they could know how many people had problems,” she said. “It’s a blind statement from them that shows they have no empathy for the kids who worked so hard to take these tests.”

The College Board did not respond to The Chronicle’s requests for further comment.

And a report from suburban Chicago:

“Yesterday, “I took the AP Calculus BC exam,” said Hadlaw. “Monday, I took the AP Physics, C mechanics and AP C physics electricity and magnetism test.

“I got an email from my teacher yesterday saying that most of my class had to fill out the retake form, and presumably it’s because they ran into the exact same issue that I ran into,” Hadlaw said.

The Superintendent of District 207 said more than 7% of their students had problems. It’s another issue for students during an already stressful year.

“It’s causing consternation this spring for students who have already missed their graduations, they’re going to miss their graduations, miss proms, miss senior events, miss sporting events,” said Wallace.

He thinks the College Board should have skipped testing this year and adjusted for the situation students are in.

They did a “freebie” to hold onto their market, and did not worry about quality.  And certainly did not worry about the kids. Kind of like their connection to Common Core.

Let’s get them out of our schools. Or at least make them pay to get in.




The 70th Time is the Charm – Virtual UFT Delegate Assembly

May 13, 2020 pm31 9:57 pm

After my 69th call I switched back to my e-mail. I had a new message from my Borough Rep, with a new number, and instructions. And on call #70 I joined the May 2020 UFT Delegate Assembly, already in progress.

– – — — —– ——– ————- ——————— ————- ——– —– — — – –

Earlier in the day I had mixed feelings. I like going to live DAs. Sometimes their is corridor business. I can always schmooze. People save me seats (I’m usually late) Kate, or Eliu, used to be Alan or Lynne. Annette. We used to sit together. When I started out Dave and Cathy. Lately Arthur. But this wouldn’t be a live DA. It would be on the phone. With no one to shush my bad jokes. Or my loud jokes. And the phone’s not fun.

But I had some work. I put two resolutions onto the list to be considered – This one on protecting us from the DoE I will probably try for again in June unless the leadership has already adopted something similar – not a shock that it wasn’t gotten to – bottom of the list (#12). But they were also moving two political endorsements – and one of them I planned on speaking against.

– – — — —– ——– ————- ——————— ————- ——– —– — — – –

I have temporarily relocated north. My signal is spotty. So I preprogrammed the number in my phone, copied the code onto the phone’s notepad, and hopped in my car. Four miles ENE, by the highway on-ramp, there’s a pretty wide strip. And good signal. That’s where I was headed. Perfect day, opened the windows. And turned off the car. Then turned it on. How quickly was I going to run my battery down?  Charge it, and idle? Or drain it? It was just after 4. I was going to keep changing my mind over the next two hours.

I brought my talking points up on my phone. I hadn’t written sentences, but the notes would work. The Brooklyn machine candidate had pushed everyone else off the ballot. The details, how Cuomo helped, that was too far into the weeds. But I was going to talk about Sandy, and about the machine candidate. And I would make sure that one name was more prominently mentioned. And that I tied this kind of garbage NYC politics to voter suppression. They really are first cousins. Plus Sandy is more than progressive, she’s radical. And Bella, who rarely advises me, advised me. Other organizations were just staying out of the special election. The UFT should too.

– – — — —– ——– ————- ——————— ————- ——– —– — — – –

And then it was 4:16. I’d let the minutes slip. I made my first call. Busy. My second. Busy. Third? You can guess. I found a pattern. Call number 6 got through, but I flubbed the number. And then back to the first pattern. See this?

I tweeted to @UFT – nothing. I emailed by DR, cc’ed my borough rep, VP, and Sill and Barr. I kept calling. Michael SIll wrote back with a different number to try. Now I could get through, but my code was being rejected. I kept trying

. 30… 35… 38 calls. I asked on FaceBook if anyone was having problems. Some were, some were in. Someone offered to put me on a zoom call so I could listen – but I wanted in. I wrote back to the UFT officials, and kept trying. And trying. And… Calls 68 and 69 were at 4:54. I checked my email. My borough rep had written back, with a new number for me to try. I dialed at 4:58, and was in at 4:59.  That was call #70

50 + 2 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 2 + 1 = 70

– – — — —– ——– ————- ——————— ————- ——– —– — — – –

Mulgrew was giving his report. I’ve been following closely, so there was not much new. And I’m not much of one to take notes, not on his talks, where he circles back and leaves thoughts half-said so often. And when the windows were down it got loud. But when they were up the sun heated the car quickly. I tried to be not too distracted, though I may have missed things. But I did jot this down – it must have struck me:  “Need to customize social distancing to your building.” I guess I thought that might be a Big Deal.

Mulgrew’s last remarks were to recognize that some people had difficulty logging on, and that we (UFT) would goof and correct our mistakes. That’s what teachers do. He apologized. I’m quick to blame him when he’s wrong. So I have an obligation to pause now and to recognize that Mulgrew’s apology was genuine, and that I appreciated it. Then came the question period. I also did not write down the questions. But they are often the most informative part of the Delegate Assembly – especially when most of the questions are not plants.

Then the motions. A Unity stalwart ate up half the ten minutes motivating a reso in support of the US Postal Service – like how much time to motivate apple pie?  I missed not having people next to me. I would have predicted that she would eat up time. Might have run a pool on how many minutes. And then we voted to put it on next month’s agenda by 96% – 4%. It was kind of cool phone voting by pushing a button. And nice getting an actual count. I noticed a motorcycle in the weeds, on the opposite side of the road. Rider just sitting there. The next two resos failed to get on – one by a wide margin. The third by 49% – 50%. The guy announcing the votes, Rasheed, had the coolest voice at the DA. He should have been doing a late night FM album only show. Time was up – and we were not even close to my resolution #12.

– – — — —– ——– ————- ——————— ————- ——– —– — — – –

There were two resolutions, both to endorse in a special election for City Council. The first passed without opposition – 92% – 8%. The second they were endorsing the Brooklyn machine candidate. There was no one else, since the machine had knocked the others, including progressive community activist Sandy Nurse, off the ballot. I pushed the button to get on the speaker’s line. I had a little trouble. The Brooklyn Political Action Director motivated the machine candidate.

A DR spoke first, supporting the candidate. Another Unity exec board member spoke next. And then they called me. I was uncomfortable, sitting in the car, parked, for two hours, and asked Mulgrew how he was doing, forgetting that not all the delegates were sitting in cars trying to figure out whether to keep the engine on or off. He was fine, but didn’t like not seeing the delegates.

And then I talked a little about Sandy Nurse, that she shared our values, how she was a fine progressive community activist, housing, food, LGBTQ, how the machine’d knocked her off the ballot, and how unions, progressive organizations, and other politicians were withholding endorsement until the regular election. And that we should not endorse the machine candidate.

Ryan Bruckenthal, followed by supporting those points, and talking about how dirty the machine was. And Marv Reiskin backed the leadership. Marv used to be Political Action Director, now heads the retiree chapter. Big gun, I guess. His speech included that the machine candidate was the only one left. And that she was a public school parent – a claim that only one million New York women (and a similar number of men) could make.

In the end it didn’t matter, as the leadership wanted to go with the machine, and they prevailed 74% – 26%.

– – — — —– ——– ————- ——————— ————- ——– —– — — – –

I trust the technical stuff will be better next month. The modifications of the rules are problematic. Points of Information are generally misused. But Points of Order are not. And Points of Personal Privilege are rarely used, and in my experience, always justified.

We had nothing that needed amending, but amendments are an important part of discussion. We need to find a way to get them back in.

But the times are off. Questions are very useful. They should not be limited to 15 minutes. Honestly, at every DA they could do half an hour of questions, and that would be time well-spent. Motions directed to the agenda – and this would not have got mine up – but there needs to be more time. And Unity, if they hate a resolution, vote for it not to get on the agenda. The use of the thinly-disguised filibuster is wrong – not that anyone besides Unity could stop it.

And as we’ve learned during remote teaching, everything takes longer. I wouldn’t propose shortening the president’s report – delegates want that information. I think we should recognize that we conduct the business of the union one time each month, and that an hour 45 minutes right now is not adequate.

NYCDoE did not protect us in March – How can we trust them in September?

May 12, 2020 pm31 12:45 pm

In March the NYC Department of Education violated protocols by not shutting schools with COVID-19 and cleaning them. They stifled reporting. They hid what was going on.

We knew that the NYC Department of Education unconscionably delayed closing schools – that was really bill de blasio. That’s not what I am writing about. That’s a policy disagreement (they were wrong).

I am writing about teachers reporting that they had confirmed COVID-19, and the DoE making up rules so they could pretend that the case was not properly confirmed, and keeping the schools open. They broke their own rules. And while an ultimate investigation might serve up a fall guy, that’s not what I care about right now. No, I care about September.

Because in September it is possible that our schools will, in one form or another, reopen. In September there will be rules in place to keep us safe. But how do we trust the DoE, who just two months ago broke rules and put lives at risk?

It’s not just here. The NEA just shared out this article from Texas:  what do we do if they tell us to go in, but we are not safe?

Now, there is a UFT Delegate Assembly tomorrow. It is virtual, which will be weird. I don’t know if I would get called on if it were a live DA. But I am going to try.

I think, to help keep us safe, the Department of Education should have to show up, a real person – at a school where the staff/chapter think they are at risk. No more burying safety reports. No remote bureaucrat sending us in to get sick. Come in, explain that it is safe. We can use the UFT to monitor that they are not violating the rules.

Here’s what I submitted (to be added to next month’s agenda)


Submitted for the June Agenda


Safety Enforcement Mechanism for COVID in Our Buildings

Whereas the COVID-19 Crisis reached New York City this winter; and

Whereas in the first half of March of this year the NYC Department of Education resisted calls to close our buildings; and

Whereas guidelines in place required certain schools to be closed for a day and disinfected; and

Whereas the Department of Education appears not to have closed certain schools for a day and disinfected them when required to; and

Whereas the United Federation of Teachers is currently considering measures to ensure the safety of our members, other adults, and students when school buildings reopen, conceivably in September; and

Whereas the United Federation of Teacher’s proud history includes keeping members out of hazardous conditions, famously during the asbestos crisis;

Therefore be it resolved that the United Federation of Teachers will make it a priority in negotiations with the NYC Department of Education that no one be required to enter a building when there is question about their safety; and be it further

Resolved that United Federation of Teachers chapter-based safety committees and consultation committees will be involved in all decisions to open and close those respective chapters; and be it further

Resolved that the United Federation of Teachers will make it a priority in negotiations with the NYC Department of Education that if the Department of Education believes a building to be safe, when members do not, that they be compelled to send a representative from outside the building to that building, and that representative give presentations in the building to staff, explaining how the DoE determined it was safe to enter the building, and that a UFT representative from outside the school will stay with the DoE rep to monitor their activity and ensure compliance; and be it further

Resolved that United Federation of Teachers will continue to insist on measures to keep our members, other adults, and students safe.

Halfway Home – Remote Teaching – NYC – May 11

May 11, 2020 pm31 2:37 pm

On March 12 we saw students in class. That was Thursday. Friday was a special day in my school – we still saw students, but not regular classes, and attendance was down. And then – no more. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday the next week were PD. And classes resumed, remotely, Monday March 23. That was 49 days ago. And there are only 46 days until June 26. We are more than halfway.

Tough things I have learned so far

  • Being on a computer for a full day is exhausting.
  • “Remote teaching” is not the same as regular teaching. We work more, less effectively, and don’t get as far.
  • Technology has lots of issues – many that we had not thought of.
  • Principals who were unreasonable in person are unreasonable remotely. I have not heard even one case of an abusive admin becoming mellower in this process.
  • Electronic paperwork can be worse than paper paperwork.

On the brighter side

  • It’s ok to slow down.
  • Taking things a week at a time is not only smart, it’s also gotten us through 8 of 15 weeks.
  • We have gotten at least a little better at organizing our systems. I mean, at least I have. But I think most of us have.

This can get me to June 26. But worries for September

  • What will September bring?
    • Schools open?
    • Schools remote?
    • Schools hybrid?
  • How can I program without knowing what school will look like?
  • How will we stay safe in September?
  • How will the union protect us in September?

That last one brings up some real questions about the UFT.

  • What went wrong in mid-March?
  • How can crisis response be improved?
  • How can communication be improved?

Because communication IS improving, and because we are not facing an immediate crisis, I can relax, a bit, here. But these questions matter.

Seven weeks until June 26. But then ten and a half weeks until Labor Day.




TDA / Diversified Fund and Fixed / 2010 – 2020

May 10, 2020 am31 11:29 am

The world right now is horrible. I’m taking a break by displaying some numbers that some of my colleagues might find interesting. It should not be hard to expand this to other funds, and to expand it back (maybe to 2000), and maybe to fit in inflation as well. It is an exercise – I am not analyzing the numbers – I am not qualified.

I started fixed at 50 even – once I have more stuff in, I’ll pick a common starting date and starting value.

TDA Unit Values

May 10, 2020 am31 12:25 am

And now for something quite different.

Corona pounded the stock market, and naturally those who have Tax Deferred Annuities in the market also felt it (or more likely, saw it. This is future money for in-service members)

The fund that I usually hear about, I’m guessing the most popular, is Diversified Equity. In January it was over $105, and in April just over $81 – about a 23% drop.  But let’s add some historical context. To start with, one year ago it was at $95. (I’ve left off the pennies).  But let’s chart it out for a few years.

The comparison with inflation may not be useful, but $52.69 in 2010 money would be about $62.17 today.

Look, I wanted to make a chart. I’m not sure how to interpret it. That’s a lot of gain wiped out in a short time, but in the long term?

The raw data:

Unit Value
Date Diversified Fund Unit Values
Jan-10 $52.629
Feb-10 $50.713
Mar-10 $51.840
Apr-10 $54.716
May-10 $55.347
Jun-10 $50.806
Jul-10 $48.310
Aug-10 $51.433
Sep-10 $49.212
Oct-10 $53.481
Nov-10 $55.253
Dec-10 $54.825
Jan-11 $58.207
Feb-11 $59.246
Mar-11 $61.050
Apr-11 $80.881
May-11 $62.750
Jun-11 $61.897
Jul-11 $60.624
Aug-11 $59.225
Sep-11 $55.426
Oct-11 $51.100
Nov-11 $56.249
Dec-11 $55.541
Jan-12 $55.630
Feb-12 $58.119
Mar-12 $60.467
Apr-12 $61.719
May-12 $61.156
Jun-12 $57.035
Jul-12 $59.120
Aug-12 $59.543
Sep-12 $60.744
Oct-12 $62.048
Nov-12 $61.110
Dec-12 $61.532
Jan-13 $62.174
Feb-13 $65.154
Mar-13 $65.582
Apr-13 $67.617
May-13 $68.781
Jun-13 $69.567
Jul-13 $68.243
Aug-13 $71.550
Sep-13 $69.543
Oct-13 $72.107
Nov-13 $74.633
Dec-13 $76.199
Jan-14 $77.656
Feb-14 $75.061
Mar-14 $78.365
Apr-14 $78.382
May-14 $78.290
Jun-14 $79.626
Jul-14 $81.078
Aug-14 $79.251
Sep-14 $81.499
Oct-14 $79.271
Nov-14 $80.542
Dec-14 $82.029
Jan-15 $81.363
Feb-15 $79.846
Mar-15 $83.661
Apr-15 $82.492
May-15 $82.918
Jun-15 $83.538
Jul-15 $81.738
Aug-15 $82.668
Sep-15 $77.419
Oct-15 $74.680
Nov-15 $79.632
Dec-15 $79.588
Jan-16 $77.773
Feb-16 $73.218
Mar-16 $72.947
Apr-16 $77.546
May-16 $77.866
Jun-16 $78.512
Jul-16 $78.102
Aug-16 $81.078
Sep-16 $80.958
Oct-16 $81.042
Nov-16 $78.955
Dec-16 $81.062
Jan-17 $82.351
Feb-17 $83.973
Mar-17 $86.227
Apr-17 $86.533
May-17 $87.440
Jun-17 $88.399
Jul-17 $88.681
Aug-17 $90.261
Sep-17 $90.080
Oct-17 $91.800
Nov-17 $93.288
Dec-17 $95.100
Jan-18 $95.898
Feb-18 $100.326
Mar-18 $96.212
Apr-18 $94.245
May-18 $94.459
Jun-18 $95.640
Jul-18 $95.605
Aug-18 $98.198
Sep-18 $100.006
Oct-18 $99.877
Nov-18 $92.192
Dec-18 $93.484
Jan-19 $85.504
Feb-19 $92.173
Mar-19 $94.744
Apr-19 $95.432
May-19 $98.700
Jun-19 $92.578
Jul-19 $98.450
Aug-19 $98.938
Sep-19 $96.264
Oct-19 $97.765
Nov-19 $99.678
Dec-19 $102.435
Jan-20 $105.276
Feb-20 $104.047
Mar-20 $95.393
Apr-20 $81.142

Next Year State needs to design different tests (or cancel them again)

May 7, 2020 pm31 2:03 pm

Reimagine this: remote learning goes slower, less effectively, than real teaching and learning.

And there is a real chance that this mode of “school” will continue into the next school year.

Ramifications? They abound. Vision for what this looks like? Andrew Cuomo brought in Bill Gates. Mistake. Gates has never gotten anything in education right. (Sign this survey; and read this for more background).

Teacher Tests

I want to focus on tests. Some teachers are still giving them. Others have stopped.

Me? I stopped giving tests two years ago, but I was giving one class quizzes right through early March. I stopped.

Most teachers stopped testing and quizzing. Some teachers shifted to take-home tests. When I was a student I preferred tests, which were actually tests, to take-home tests, which were homework assignments that got graded like tests. But that was me.

Teachers are trying to figure things out. Actual tests on one or another of those on-line platforms. Take-home tests. Papers instead of tests. Other graded assignments. Projects.

“Sit in rows and keep your eyes on your own paper” tests can’t be done, so we will muddle through with something else. And if we had to figure it out for next year, we would keep muddling through, probably a little better, because most of us goof, learn, and adjust.

State Tests

But that’s teachers. How about the state? New York State gives lots of tests. Poorly-constructed, high-stakes, mandatory tests. What’s going to happen to them?

This year, they are canceled. ELA and Math. Science. Grades 3 – 8. The Regents (high school exams). Lots of them. All canceled.

But what if this crisis continues into the next school year? Could New York State, one of the slowest in the country to order the school buildings closed for the term, New York State which has struggled to make bad tests worse, New York State whose governor didn’t even bother putting a K-12 educator on the reopening panel, could this state design tests that kids could take at home?  Clearly not.

But they could copy a smarter state. Let’s just suppose they do that, that Andrew Cuomo says “we are not smart enough to design state tests that could be taken at home, but we will wait for Kansas or Oregon and copy them.” They could do that.

But getting a test-taking platform is probably the easy part. Say they get it. What will they test?

Standards vs Content

For those of you who haven’t been paying close attention, or are not from New York, this has become a tricky question. New York State does not have required content, it has “standards” – nebulously defined lists of skills kids should possess.

New York State teachers often look at sample exams or previous exams to figure out what the content should be – we want the content we should teach. New York State does not oblige.

They do not even offer us curricula – claiming that curriculum is a local decision. (Actually, I don’t think they are good enough to put together curriculum, so we may be catching a break there; there’s sometimes benefit to ignoring a lie).

Remote Teaching ≠ Real Teaching

One obvious difference is that we “cover” less material. Just. No. Way. To go at the same speed. If you are teaching 75% of what you normally teach, wow, I’m impressed. If you are teaching 100% of what you normally teach, stop sneaking into school – you’re putting yourself and your students at risk. Me, I’m teaching around 50-60% – and it’s more like I’m guiding my students through self-teaching.

In any case, if we were to do this next year, for a full year, we would be teaching less content than we normally teach. That’s clear and obvious.

So what do we teach?

In September, as we lay out our units for the year, what should we teach? Part of our calculation will be based on what the State intends to test in March or April or May or June. It is reasonable for us to want to know what the Board of Regents wants us to do. It is reasonable for us to want the NYS Education Department to tell us what they will test. And it is reasonable for us to expect the answers.

So what will they test?

I love living in a state where there are lots of smart people, but where they are massively outnumbered by decision makers. If New York State tests kids next Spring, and if remote learning has been the norm for a large chunk of the year, most kids will not have learned what kids normally learn by test time. Will New York State’s Education Department revise the tests?  I think they’d have to. Will they tell us in September?

At least we have the Oneida Lake approach to content in New York. (here’s where I would normally say a mile wide and an inch deep, but New York State has this great lake – huge, freezes over every winter – 21 miles long, 22 feet deep – that’s as close as you are going to get in the real world, and no mistake, it’s in New York State). It’s probably possible to chop off parts of each course without doing massive damage.

Are the people at SED clever enough to remove content (or standards) from each of our courses, and leave the remainder at least a slightly coherent whole? I am asking the question, because it has to be asked. I am not holding my breath waiting for an answer.

One option that bears consideration – maybe remote teaching does not lend itself to standardized testing? Maybe we should continue this year’s “pause” indefinitely? I think I’d be ok with that.

Teacher Support Week

May 6, 2020 am31 6:20 am

Isn’t it Teacher Appreciation Week?  I actually like when my colleagues, students, parents, other teachers, and my supervisors let me know I’m appreciated.

And, not to let the moment pass – for any teacher reading this, I truly appreciate how hard you are working, under really lousy conditions. Day-to-day it is frustrating, but we know, we do.

But I got a note from Carranza. We all did. It wasn’t personal (it couldn’t be, no blame for that). He is grateful for our work, proud of what we do, and thanks us. And it pissed me off. I don’t mind getting thanked. I am furious not to be supported.

Look, we are all angry and frustrated with the circumstances that the Coronavirus has thrown us into. Is it fair to blame Carranza? For most of what has happened, no. But let’s just talk about support.

  • On March 17 – 19, he directed us to report to schools to plan for remote instruction. Where was the guidance for what we were supposed to produce?
  • On March 17 – 19 teachers were exploring on-line platforms. Where was the guidance for which platforms would be not allowed? (Most teachers chose Zoom, greatest functionality, most features, easiest to set-up, easiest to use.  April 3 we learned that the DoE would ban it, immediately, via text. Apparently lawyers did that. April 6 we were officially informed we would need to phase it out).
  • Remote learning takes different planning. Where was his guidance to principals to allow teachers more planning time?
  • Remote teaching takes enormous amounts of time to grade. Where was his directive to principals to allow X hours each day for planning and grading?  “Teachers will need at least 2 hours more than during normal times to plan and grade” That would have been supportive. But I think the number should be bigger than that.
  • When was Carranza going to crack down on principals who are demanding unreasonable work from teachers?

If he really wanted to show his appreciation, he would make it possible for us to do our jobs with reasonable expectations, and without unreasonable demands. Carranza could show appreciation for the job we do by doing his.



May 5, 2020 pm31 3:15 pm

Eric Chasanoff blogged. About New York City schools. About Queens schools. About high schools. About pensions. About teaching science. About being in the ATR pool. About the UFT. About the Department of Education. About the issues that teachers face.

Eric was dedicated to his students and the profession and his colleagues. He blogged because it was important, because he had a message, because these things mattered. When the interests of teachers were at stake, he was not afraid of stirring up trouble. For Chaz, right was right.

Our blogs started around the same time. The 2005 UFT – DoE contract had awful concessions, and blogs were new, and a bunch of us got pulled in at the same time. I think he was the first who acknowledged by presence.

I remember when I first met Eric, he ran up to me in a diner on the west side. “Jonathan!” He knew me. But I looked confused. “It’s Eric!” Still confused. We had been reading each other’s blogs for five years. And I didn’t know his first name. Hard to recognize him without his light blue background. Even lately, when I went to e-mail him, I type Chaz and wonder why nothing pops up. Happened 3 days ago, when I wrote him, concerned because he hadn’t blogged in a week.

Eric and I often agreed, and often disagreed. But we respected each other. When the UFT leadership refused to create an ATR chapter, and I was on the Exec Board, we had back and forth over what we could get them to agree to. He was not satisfied with what I got passed, nor should he have been. But he did help shape what we got. Just last year I was honored to get his endorsement in the last UFT election.

The universe of active NYC Public School teacher/bloggers is shifting, and not very big. Eric was a major part of it, for over a decade. I mourn his passing. He will be missed.

Eric Chasanoff 1951 – 2020

Chaz’s School Daze 2006 – 2020

How can I fish without the hook?

May 4, 2020 am31 10:21 am

“I’m a showman. That’s my teaching style. How can I fish without the hook?”
– W.O. Former student, current teacher

Last night a friend asked:

So, what makes it more work and harder with the distance learning? Is it just unorganized? More paper work for you?

W.O. nailed it. Succinct. I go on wordier.  Here’s how I answered:

if I sit near you, and you ask me a question, I can understand from your question what you are thinking –
I can “sense” what your misconception is, and ask you a question that points you in the right direction, then confirm that you’ve “got it’
I’m good at that. And it doesn’t happen on line
I can ask a question, and hands go up – but I can read the body language in the room – are most of the kids on board? all of them? And I can adjust speed, spend extra time, or push ahead
Now, no body language
Grading – a pile of 100 quizzes, 20 – 45 minutes – depending
now the equivalent sort of assignment? At least 3 – 4 hours, maybe more
everything is a click, a download, a wait, another click
reading on the impossible screens
Grading – typing the grade, typing comments
another click to send the comment
another click to return the work
And planning – If I am going to teach a lesson – at this point 5 – 10 minutes, usually 5, to jot notes about what I need to do. Maybe I pre-plan a key example or two
Now, I need notes for the kids to read. That 10 minute lesson can take 1 – 2 hours to write out with all the details in place

I’ll add that I’m learning an inferior platform – that I have emails coming in on multiple accounts – and that tracking them takes work. In a classroom response, I can check if the child understands, and we can continue the conversation until that happens – but via e-mail I have to wait – and there’s no face to face verification.

And to top if off, all of this, exhausting and draining – and the students are learning a lot less.

I’ve written about this before –

Hello Sunshine

May 3, 2020 am31 11:51 am

Do you keep social distance? (Don’t get too close). Wear a mask? (don’t go uncovered) Cover your cough? (don’t spread droplets). There’s probably a lot of things you don’t do. Good for you!

Here’s two things you CAN DO.

Get some sunshine. Be safe while you are doing it, but do it. I want to say at least __ minutes a day, but I don’t know how many. Healthline says 10 – 30 minutes. And I don’t know if they know, but they have a better chance of knowing than me. Get at least 10 minutes of sunshine a day (at a safe distance). The sun will improve your mood. It will help you produce Vitamin D.  It’ll get you off your butt. Being healthier is not a vaccine, but it helps. You can do this. Every day. Stay safe. But 10 minutes of sun.

Say Hello. Ask “how are you doing?” Set a goal. One person a day. Two. Go crazy – four. Ask. Stop. Listen to the answer. Even if they are bad, they had a chance to speak. To be listened to. They’ll feel a little better. You just did good. Think about that while you feel the sun on your face.

And check it out – good song. Remember Aretha Franklin?

Six Feet in Schools just Will Not Work

May 2, 2020 pm31 4:13 pm

What will it take to reopen schools?

A vaccine and a cure?  that would mean a long time. We would have to do some real work on making remote learning more productive than it is now. There are definitely people who are thinking we will wait that long. Not me.

“Flatten the curve” – that was designed to avoid the crush of cases all at once, when the ERs or ICU beds, or doctors, or ventilators, etc, etc, could not keep up with demand. We flattened the curve somewhat, not enough, people died, many fewer than if we had done nothing. But we are past that, or passing that point, in NYC.

We will be, in the not distant future, ready to open with precautions. But what will those precautions be? And specifically in schools, are there enough precautions to be ok to open? Or will schools be an exception (among many exceptions)?

Masks – not a problem in the real world. Not a problem in schools.

Sick – stay home. The advice is right. And with those new-fangled thermometers they can at least check temperatures before someone comes in – to any building, including a school. But we should be mindful about the time this takes.

Testing – the tests need to be better – and yes, it makes sense to test everyone at the start of the year. Do we have enough tests? Are they good enough? I think the answer to both of those will be yes, but not today. By August.

Reaction Protocols when Covid-19 shows up at a school – there needs to a disinfecting protocol that is followed. Schools probably need to be shut (does 24 hours do it?) The entire school community needs to be notified. The UFT leadership needs to play an active role in enforcing notification, and protecting staff from entering a building if the DoE tries to ignore protocols. We cannot have a repeat of March.

Wash your hands – here’s a place where schools have some operational issues and some facilities issues. Are there enough sinks in the building? Is there a real soap replenishment cycle? And if there’s not enough sinks, can enough hand sanitizer stations be installed? Further, making these things available is probably not enough. How do we ensure that hands are being washed frequently enough? I’m not talking about monitors (gross) but about dedicated time to allow it to occur. And with distancing requirements, that might be a significant bit of time.

(The Department of Education should already be procuring the hand sanitizer stations. No doubt in my mind, they haven’t even thought of it).

Cover your cough – should be enforced through social pressure

Sanitize surfaces – that’s a change in how school cleaning is done, and how often. More staff? Different supplies?

No large gatherings. In the real world, some of this is obvious. Movie theaters? Sporting events (for spectators)? Broadway shows? Clubs? But do schools fall into this category?

Social distancing. That’s 6 feet. The elephant in the room is that you can’t get another elephant in there.

What does six feet look like in a school?  I’m going to discuss my school, 13 classrooms, 400 students. YMMV

Let’s consider, when it is not possible to maintain six feet, is the problem momentary, or longer?

Entering school. Perfectly lined up, single file, 6 feet between, that’s almost half a mile.  (There are other schools on the block – the single file line thing won’t work like that. Maybe a designated area in the parking lot with a 6 foot switchback line?

Lockers. OK, I can’t do this. Maybe no locker use?

Hallway. Our hall (singular) could handle one line in each direction. (that’s where the lockers are, but assume we don’t use them). I think we could work out a change of class routine, with momentary violations, but not for 400 students (our hallway gets crowded). I think the hall is 150 feet or so. Could we get a line (with some staging?) of 50 in each direction?  Maybe.

Classrooms. Ours are small. There is a range, but 22×24 I think is somewhere in there. We could just about squeeze 11 – 15 students in – but 10 might be more like it. Call that 130 students.

130 students would mean we violate social distancing minimums during class change. Even if we staggered the changes, we would have concentrations near doors leaving or entering.  And the time for changes would need to go from the current 3 minutes to maybe 10, to allow unbunched passing. Maybe more than 10. 15?

With those numbers, we could rotate, and see three groups of students, maybe three times every two weeks.

But wait, we have four grades? How could we run the classes that each kid needs at the right time?

I haven’t discussed art. or pe. lunch in the classrooms is fine for everyone who brings lunch. WIll there be school lunch?

Look, every building is a little different, but needing 3 independent sessions sounds about right. And 4 might be more manageable for 4 grades. And I’m not sure what good that does parents who need to work.

I don’t think there is a way to maintain 6 feet all day, but 6 as a guideline with momentary lapses might be possible.

But I didn’t discuss teaching. How do I check a kid’s work?  How does a teacher hand out a test?  How do we do a million little things that teachers do with students every day?

I noticed two bloggers attacked this with questions I like:  Arthur and Peter.

But here’s the reality:  there’s no way to run in-person school with the 6 foot guideline.


Threatened Cuts to Education Demand a different Response

April 30, 2020 pm30 1:54 pm

Trump and McConnell won’t send money to the states.  What does that mean for our schools?

Cuomo’s first pandemic, he’s treating it like a candy store during a blackout. And not like Mario who would have been helping out the storekeeper, Andy’s helping himself. Who raised him? Dumping Bernie from the ballot, getting the Working Families Party off the ballot (the way he tried before, but a judge saw through his illegal scheme), promoting the interests of his big donor pals (his reopening committee is over 50% businessmen, mostly big business.  And no teachers. Out of 116 people. Except for Dennis Walcott, who I don’t think counts). He’s cutting medicare! But his deepest cuts:  to localities, which will be universally, schools.

And then, outdone as usual, but still trying, bill de blasio. He and his chancellor have proposed an unconscionably high level of cuts to the schools (which will be cuts mostly to the classroom) while maintaining wasteful contracts, bloat at Tweed, unnecessary levels of administration, and lawyers (lots).  He’s keeping money where it can’t help kids, and taking it from where the kids need it.

And central administration is less useful than usual. Teachers (and principals) figured out various ways to do remote teaching. Most of it functions, but not so great. A lot of it sucks. We had to do this under pressure, because we had to run “classes” – and when we noticed mistakes, we had to try to make corrections under pressure. And Central’s contribution? Failure to distribute IPads (and why IPads instead of cheap laptops?). Banning the most popular platform (that they had let us train ourselves on). Announcing a new much-anticipated grading scheme, which accomplishes almost nothing, except annoying us. And handing out resources for remote teaching THIS WEEK, to teachers who are knee deep in remote teaching.

Central administration has been late, has been incompetent, has been an impediment. But Carranza thinks they are vital.

And back to Cuomo and de blasio, which one of these two is responsible for siphoning off public school money to privates and charters, when there’s not enough for public school? Not to let Trump and De Vos off the hook – but today they are in a position to turn off money – not force anti-education policy changes (wouldn’t they wish).

The threats today are massive. They are coming from all three layers of government. Cuomo points at Trump, but at the same time he kicks us as hard as he possibly can. Trump in turn is performing for his base, who delight when he turns on New York. And de blasio? I can’t even.

That is why our response has been so massive? But what response?  I see some newspaper columns. That’s not enough, guys. This is not business as usual. Where are the petitions, the campaigns, the phone calls, the email drives? Where are the virtual phone banks getting members and parents involved?  Where is the outreach in solidarity with the rent cancelation and tax the billionaires community groups? Where is the recognition that this time is unlike any we have experienced.

Where is the semi-threatening potential job action language? (even if you would never follow through). Well, we have that, in the form of pronouncements from leaders. But has there been any preparation? Any involvement of membership? Any sign that the membership will be mobilized, for anything?

The strength of a union lies in its potential for collective action. We must begin to wield this power. The threats today are far greater than at any time since you became teachers. You need to toss “business as usual” out the window, or allow someone else to lead.


Sneezes and Grades

April 29, 2020 pm30 12:09 pm

So your friend is certain he can get you to sneeze. A huge sneeze. A tremendous sneeze. He grinds some black pepper fine, wafts it into the air. You feel the sneeze start to build up. You tense up. He’s quite pleased with himself as he continues wafting. You feel the tension build, the sneeze is coming, you’re both waiting for it, he keeps wafting, you are telling him “just watch, it’s going to be huge.” A crowd gathers. Anticipation (and pepper) are in the air and… and, wait?

What happened?  Tension’s gone. Nose tickled for a second there. Was that it? You tell him perplexed “I think I sneezed” – he looks disappointed (as does everyone who has started to pay attention). “My nose tickled” They look sad. You correct your tone “I sneezed.” He smiles. “It was a tremendous sneeze!”

Now, everyone knows you are lying, but your friend is a good friend, and smiles bigger, and pretends to believe you. Here, let me stop trying to describe the situation, I have the friend’s words:

As we work to get through this crisis, the DOE, in consultation with the UFT and parent groups, decided that a standardized grading policy was necessary this year. The policy it designed recognizes the work that students have done, both in the classroom and during distance learning, while being sensitive to the challenges that many of our students and their families have faced during this pandemic….

We think this new policy strikes the right balance by incorporating the concerns of parents and educators at all grade levels.

Stay healthy and safe.

Michael Mulgrew's Signature

How I’m Teaching Remotely during this Crisis

April 27, 2020 pm30 11:25 pm

Once a week, back in February, a small group of juniors and seniors would bring bag lunches into Room 133. Every Tuesday. They’d take out their lunches. I’d take out mine. I’d pass out a snack – often Croatian wafers with mocha or hazelnut filling (no allergies in the room). And then we would start.

The class? I was calling it Axiomatic Arithmetic. Goal? To construct the real number system, using, for high school, fairly formal language. I wanted to make sure they got a big gulp of history along the way. And proof. I wanted to walk away with all 12 students better at understanding proof, and with some experience constructing proofs. We did some history. Learned about Peano. Picked a least bad text (doesn’t really do what I wanted, but first few chapters are heavy on proof for the naturals, integers, and rationals, and almost within their grasp). Started. Paused to relearn arithmetic (base 4, but using four strange symbols, to make it strange and make them think). Worked through Peano’s axioms. Paused to do some easier (advanced high school) proofs by induction. Now we have defined addition, and are proving associativity and commutativity tomorrow….  Yes, March 19 I wrote, and asked who wanted to continue, lunch time class, so completely voluntary. Eleven of twelve signed back up. We are down to ten now. And the live class once a week? Not so different from sitting in Room 133, except not being in 133. Great group, by the way.

Once a week, back in February, a smaller group of juniors and seniors…  Same idea, different day. Set Theory, using the primary source-heavy MAA intro to Set Theory. And lunch time, Monday, just like we were in school, we meet and have a live discussion as we carefully move through the text, dwell on the language and notation, and attempt exercises and proofs.

But those are extra classes for me. My primary teaching this term is precalculus. Four sections. 101 dalma.., er, students. Before the crisis I had an interesting set-up. Homework assigned four days a week. Graded for completeness, not correctness. It was their job to correct (by asking others, by putting on the board). A few projects. And quizzes once or twice a week. The quizzes only counted if they were at least 80% right (no major errors), but could be retaken, for full credit, as many times as necessary. Could be taken? Nah. I required it.

Cool system, crushed by Corona.

So what now?

Each Monday I post reading from the text, with exercises. I attempted to provide additional notes, the kind that I would supply during a real lesson. But they are much easier to put on the board than on paper. To cover for me not being there, I needed to supply the kind of detail that I would only offer if I saw a kid with “that look” that told me they needed more. And trying to cover every question, they were just taking me a long time to write. A 20 minute lesson I might scratch out in 4-5 minutes, was taking me an hour and a half to write. I couldn’t keep up. And dropped the attempt.

Each Friday I announce which of the problems from the week I will collect for grading. And then the homework comes in. Slowly. Two-thirds exactly when due. More over the weekend. But I take everything – no idea what is going on in their real lives. And then, grading on line! How many clicks to open? Math handwriting can be bad on paper. But try reading on a screen! Why does Google Classroom have a defective zoom in feature? Comments are typed for each error or defect, whether or not it led to a deduction. Send the comment. Record the grade. Return the assignment. If the grade is low, assign replacement problems. A stack of 100 (ok, 101), should take me 20-30 minutes. Now? 3 – 4 hours.

During the week I was running office hours, 8 – 10 each morning. Coffee with me. Over “vacation” I broke the time up into half-hour activities. I am continuing that. Each student should show up at least once a week, for at least 15 minutes. As a minimum I can check in, listen to how they are doing – life, school work. I ask about food and sunlight and exercise. Not sure why, but they seem like good questions. Here’s my “office hours” schedule for this week:

Those requizzes are left overs from before the crisis. They are awkward to run, but there’s a few kids with older quizzes, and if they want to make them up (which they should) I feel an obligation to allow them. “Current Data” is just what it sounds like. I share and we review some source data, and talk about mathematical models, and politics or next steps, if that’s the direction they want to go in. “Complex” is an extra topic, for students who want a little more math. DeMoivre, if you wanted to know. Puzzles are logic, Games are probably anagrams of student names. One of my students can rearrange her letters into Magic Lit Zone, which is a pretty cool anagram. And the graphing covers this week’s material. I’ll give instructions for anyone who needs them, and run little mini-lessons to get them started.

I am trying hard. But I am not getting very much done – certainly less than in a live class.

There are things I cannot do. I can’t watch a student, and understand they are getting stuck. I can’t listen to a wrong answer, and diagnose the misunderstanding on the spot, and help the child repair it themselves. The stuff I am best at, not available.

What I can do goes slower. I am collecting very little, and am overwhelmed by the time grading it. Tracking attendance live is far, far easier (I count the kids in each class, and conclude “all here!” or “two out – who is missing?” My little mini-lessons take more time than full lessons, and cover a fraction of the ground.

I do NOT have this figured out. I am not sure that this is even sustainable – I may need to slow it down a bit more.

Set Theory and Arithmetic, with tiny groups of highly motivated students – no issue. Live class, once a week. Doing nearly the work we would have done live. Kids absolutely are earning their quarter credits.

But precalculus? I’ll strip out some topics – and we will go to late June – and it still will be a shadow of the real course.

I am not figuring out “remote teaching” – I’m learning to cope with it. And know what?  If I had to do a full term of this, I would need to sit down and think really, really hard, and talk to a bunch of really smart people. Not close to there yet. But at least next time, if there is one, we would be planning in advance.