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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

UFT, NYSUT Fight to Keep Tenure in New York State Supreme Court

How I wish the UFT and NYSUT meant what they said today:

“For the past 10 years, teachers have been demonized across the country,” he said. “You can’t demonize people and expect them to say, ‘hit me again.’ We’ve got to end this reign of terror.”
- Attorney Charles Moerdler
When I worked for the UFT 2007-2010, I was told not to question the investigations of any agency, OSI, SCI, OEO. I asked: "How can we defend members' rights if we do not question the tactics and conclusions of investigators who either do not know what they are doing, or deliberately choose to make false claims into facts?"

I was told to be quiet. Me? Quiet? Not when someone's rights are at stake.

Ergo, I do not work for the UFT anymore.

Betsy Combier, Editor
President, ADVOCATZ

Michael Rebell: The Anti-Tenure Lawsuit In NYC Will Fail, and Why

 Mona Davids' Attorneys Withdraw From The Anti-Tenure Lawsuit

The Frivolous Case of NYC Parent Mona Davids v Tenure

 A Select Few Make A Profit Off of the California Vergara Lawsuit on the End of Tenure Rights For Teachers

NYC DOE Press Office Issues A Press Release on ATRs

Unions call for dismissal of anti-tenure lawsuit

Lawyers for the city, the state, the UFT and its state affiliate NYSUT asked a Staten Island judge on Aug. 25 to dismiss the lawsuit to abolish tenure brought by TV personality Campbell Brown and others on the grounds that the state Legislature has dealt with many of the issues in play.
The union lawyers argued that Brown and her group were bent on destroying teachers’ due process rights under the guise of education reform. “Creating a climate that demonizes teachers does not help children and it does not improve education,” said Charles Moerdler, a partner at the law firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, which is representing the UFT, after the hearing.
Charles Moerdler
The lawsuit, filed in 2014 after plaintiffs in California won a similar lawsuit at the lower court level, charges that teacher tenure deprives New York children of a sound, basic education, as guaranteed in the state constitution. 
“It would be unprecedented to say public employees can have no job protection,” said Richard Casagrande, the NYSUT general counsel, in his oral argument in court. “This is a political attack that says if we just take away teacher rights, we’ll improve education.”
General Counsel Richard E. Casagrande
The UFT and NYSUT joined city and state attorneys in arguing that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the state Legislature this spring significantly altered the statute governing tenure and the teacher evaluation and discipline process. For new hires, the standard probationary period is now four years and teachers will usually need three years of Effective or Highly Effective ratings to earn tenure; and teacher disciplinary proceedings have been further expedited. 
Their remarks were made during oral arguments before Justice Philip G. Minardo in a packed courtroom of the Richmond County Supreme Court on Staten Island. Minardo reserved his decision for a later date after hearing passionate arguments from — and asking pointed questions to — both sides.
Minardo grilled the union representatives on the details of the legislative changes, but saved some of his toughest questions for Jay Lefkowitz, the lawyer for the plaintiffs.
State Supreme Court Justice Philip G. Minardo and Dr. Marianne LaBarbera, sitting and John Minardo and
Kathryn Krause Rooney at the couple's wedding reception in the Richmond County Country Club, Dongan Hills. (Courtesy/Joey G. Making Memories) February 2015
Lefkowitz argued that the lawsuit should proceed because changes in the law merely “tweaked” existing laws. He also insisted that the teacher evaluation process was based on “soft factors” or subjective observations instead of “hard metrics.”
The judge reminded him that evaluations are based in part on student performance on tests as well as observations, which may indeed be subjective. “Subjectivity has a place in all professions, does it not?” he asked.
During the hearing and afterwards in remarks to the press, Moerdler drew a direct connection between attacks on teachers and the news of a nationwide teacher shortage.
“For the past 10 years, teachers have been demonized across the country,” he said. “You can’t demonize people and expect them to say, ‘hit me again.’ We’ve got to end this reign of terror.”

California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Streamlines Teacher Misconduct Investigations

Here in NYC, the Department of Education took care of speedy investigations many years ago - really, how long does it take to make up false accusations and get a few employees to say they are true (or lose their jobs) in order to terminate someone else?

Not long. And NYC is a mess - the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), Special Commissioner For Investigations (SCI) and the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) are as corrupt as any agency can get, running rampant without anyone controlling or overseeing their actions (and I mean the Department of Investigations). Do NOT call any of the organizations if you or any family members work for the Department of Education. Report wrong-doing to someone outside the system, to me, or to the police.

But wait! Didn't I post a story on this blog in 2013 about this same matter?
Yep, sure did:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Betsy Combier, Editor
President, ADVOCATZ

Secret Emails About Office of Special Investigations Being in Chaos


Marking a big turnaround managing teacher misconduct

(Calif.) Three years after a critical audit found the average teacher misconduct case could take 22 months to resolve, state officials reported last week that timeline has been cut almost in half.
In 2011, the state auditor reported that a typical educator discipline case could take 683 days to mature from the initial investigatory stage to action by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
During the 2014-15 school year, the agency reported that the average case took only 392 days to travel through the system.
The new efficiency is the result of streamlining procedures and delegating some decisions either to CTC’s executive director or to a secondary misconduct panel, the Committee of Credentials.
The commission, which serves as the state's standards board for educator training and professional conduct, came under fire after auditors found more than 12,000 misconduct cases unprocessed during the summer of 2009.
Part of that backlog were less serious complaints that had been set intentionally aside, but officials also acknowledged inefficiencies in the manner that agency staff undertook investigations – especially on cases where violations were not likely to result in any disciplinary action.
Nanette Rufo, director of the CTC’s division of professional practices, noted in a report to the board that the year-end caseload had gone from 4,133 in 2010-11 to 2,357 in 2014-15.
Reports of arrests and prosecutions – known as RAP sheets – accounted for a total of 1,757 cases last year, down from 1,971 recorded last year and 2,200 in 2012-13.
The largest category of misconduct was alcohol-related, accounting for 2,290 cases – down from 2,409 in 2013-14 and 2,408 reported in 2012-13.
Joshua Speaks, spokesman for the CTC, (pictured at left) said the agency had to engage in a comprehensive reevaluation of how misconduct cases were processed in order to drive the new efficiencies.
“This evaluation identified delays in our process, outdated policies and procedures, and insufficient internal workload tracking,” he said. “In response, the Division of Professional Practices added key new management and staff positions, expanding by about 20 percent; updated their processes and the policies governing them; and trained existing and new staff on these changes. They also created new internal reports to give staff and management better tools for tracking cases and create greater accountability within the division.”
A key chokepoint in the process is the appeal that a credential-holder can make. Under state law, after the CTC has made its determination and issued a sanction, that decision can have the case heard by an Administrative Law judge.
The credentialing commission is represented in the appeal trial by the state Attorney General, which has been challenged to keep up with the recent growth in caseload. The number of appeals requested has jumped from 60 in 2011-12 to 199 in 2014-15.
To help reduce the burden, CTC’s legal office has made a special effort to negotiate settlements before a case goes to trial.
The governor also agreed to augment the CTC’s budget with another $3.9 million to help cover the cost of appealed cases.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Its A Fact: Attaching High Stakes To Standardized Tests Decreases Whatever Validity The Tests Might Have

An Update On High Stakes Test Cheating Stories

POSTED BY  ON FRI, AUG 21, 2015 AT 5:00 PM


Arizona is getting ready to go all in on last year's AzMERIT scores. We already know the overall passing rates for the state. Scores are down from the AIMS test. And we know why: because the bar was intentionally set higher. But we have yet to learn the individual school scores. Before we see the scores, though, we have a pretty good idea which schools will be the high fliers—schools that draw students from high income families—and which will be criticized for failing their children—schools that draw students from lower income families. But which schools will beat the odds? We won't know that for awhile, nor should we feel confident those "Why can't other schools be that successful?" results actually reflect student achievement.

Here's something that, as Donald Rumsfeld might say, is a known known: Attaching high stakes to standardized tests decreases whatever validity the tests might otherwise have. If the test results are important enough, schools and teachers will find all kinds of legitimate ways to help students get higher scores than if they weren't coached. Take, for an example, oh, say, me. When I was teaching in Oregon during the first few years of our high stakes state tests, I'm reasonably sure I helped a number of students just make it over the passing line on their 10th grade writing tets by teaching them the best way to approach the writing sample. I tried to make them better writers in the process, but if I hadn't given them approaches focused on boosting their scores, some passing students wouldn't have made the cut.

And then there are the illegal ways of raising student scores that involve cheating, not by students but by teachers and/or administrators. How often does it happen? The probable answer is, it happens far more often than we know about.

Here are some cases of proven and possible cheating which have made the news:

Atlanta, Georgia. The biggest cheating scandal in the country was in the Atlanta schools, where eleven educators were found guilty of cheating and eight of them went to prison. That should have been enough to scare every other Atlanta teacher straight, but it doesn't looks like it did.

When a jury convicted 11 former Atlanta educators in a test-cheating conspiracy in the spring, some education experts thought it may signal the end of high-profile academic misconduct cases for the 49,000-student school system.

But the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported on multiple cases of possible improper grading practices in recent months, "including cases of principals pressured to alter grades; retaliation against those who balked; and supervisors allegedly ignoring or implicitly approving the signs of cheating," the Associated Press writes.Why would the latest group of cheaters be so stupid after seeing what happened to some of their colleagues? Well, if they had cheated before and didn't do it this time, the significantly lower test scores would be a smoking gun pointing to earlier test fixing, and maybe they were under so much pressure to get those scores up and keep them up, they felt they had to continue regardless of the risk.

Before the scandal broke, I should add, Atlanta schools were considered some of the most successful in the country because of their high test scores. They got an award from Ed Sec Arne Duncan.

New York City. Teachers College Community School in Harlem, connected with the prestigious teachers college, was getting raves for the work it was doing with poor kids, until it was accused of cheating.
The principal of a popular elementary school in Harlem acknowledged that she forged answers on students’ state English exams in April because the students had not finished the tests, according to a memorandum released Monday by the New York City Education Department.The tragic aftermath of the principal's admission is, she took her own life.

In response to problems across the district, the New York City Department of Education iscreating a task force to focus on test-related problems. New York state keeps a database of allegations of test fraud in public schools, district and charter, and parochial schools. It lists 670 allegations between the 2002-3 school year and the 2010-11 school year, though there's no information about how many of those were followed up or proven.

Whitehall, NY. The scores of seventh and eighth grade students have been invalidated at a district school because of problems with test security. It's not clear if there was any test tampering, but two tenured teachers were put on leave and the district wants to fire them.

Philadelphia, PA. A multi-year investigation of cheating recently added two more educators to the list of those who have been disciplined. A total of 53 district schools are being looked at because of suspicious erasure patterns on tests and large gains on the schools' test scores.

Arizona. In Nogales, Wade Carpenter Middle School was accused of cheating on the AIMS test. An independent investigation concluded that, yes, cheating by adults took place. Who did it? The investigation wasn't able to find out for sure, but evidence points away from teachers and district officials and toward a library media specialist and a guidance counselor. Before the cheating was discovered, the school bragged that it was the top Title 1 school in the country, and other Arizona schools with students from low income families were asked, "If Nogales can do it, why can't you?"

How many other Arizona schools have used illegal methods—as opposed to the legal and encouraged methods of teaching to the test—to boost student scores? No one knows, but seven schools were cited by the Department of Education as having suspicious patterns of erasures on their AIMS tests. I haven't seen any follow up about investigations, but it's unlikely these allegations were cooked up. More likely, they're a sampling of what's happening at other schools in Arizona — and schools around the country.

My two conclusions from the cheating stories I've read are: (1) High stakes tests can  lead educators to unscrupulous behavior they would have thought themselves incapable of, simply because the stakes are so high for them as individuals as well as for their schools and school districts; and (2) Standout success stories of schools defying the odds and getting higher-than-expected test scores should be viewed with an appropriate level of skepticism. They may mean a school is doing a fantastic job with its students, or they may mean the school is doing a good job of creating scores that give an inflated picture of student achievement.

Former NYC Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott Is Appointed a Monitor For the East Ramapo School District

Dennis Walcott

DOE Appoints Dennis Walcott to Lead Monitor Team in East Ramapo
Baruch Horowitz

The new monitor for the East Ramapo School district, Dennis Walcott, discussed his new position today on the Brian Lehrer radio program.
MaryEllen Elia
Walcott, a former chancellor of New York City schools, was joined by New York State education commissioner MaryEllen Elia who recently appointed him to the job of overseeing the long-contentious East Ramapo school district. They both spoke about their hopes to accomplish their mission and how they plan to go about it.
Listen:Audio Player
Walcott said his goal is to analyze the district and to assure the improvement of education for all students. He also acknowledged that part of this task will involve “separating fact from fiction,” and to parse through the different opinions in East Ramapo.
A former teacher who grew up in Queens, Mr. Walcott will be part of a three-person panel to oversee an expert team of three experts to study the district’s operations for four months and offer recommendations to the school board and the Board of Regents.
In his role as Monitor, Walcott is supported by Dr. Monica George-Fields, an expert in teaching and learning and school turnaround, and Dr. John W. Sipple of Cornell University, who has a background in education policy and finance and will be supported by experts in state education finance. Walcott’s team will report directly to Commissioner Elia and will be a regular presence in the district with the authority to monitor district operations, including fiscal and operational management and educational programming.
Walcott’s team will provide guidance, make recommendations and propose actions for improvement to the school district and to the State Education Department, to ensure that students have access to appropriate programs and services and that the district is on a path to fiscal and programmatic stability, as well as review the allocation of State resources to the district and make findings or recommendations as to any necessary modifications.
Mr. Walcott and his team will also maintain a regular presence in the district, including meetings with the Board, district staff, and members of the community, and will provide regular feedback, progress reports and updates to the State Education Department and the district.
You can listen to the entire radio show program here:

Friday, August 21, 2015

"Persistently Dangerous" is a Label no Principal Wants, and All Hide

What Principals and the Office of Special Investigations do when there is a violent incident involving students, is file a report that makes the teacher the perpetrator, so that the school does NOT get reported to New York State and put into the VADIR list.

The teacher is then put onto suspension for causing harm to a child, and then brought to 3020-a to be removed from the school.

If this makes sense to you, then...

Betsy Combier, Editor
President, ADVOCATZ

DOE Kept Info on 'Dangerous' UWS School Secret, Officials Say

By Emily Frost | August 20, 2015 7:19pm
UPPER WEST SIDE — After the state department of education labeled a neighborhood school  "persistently dangerous," local leaders claimed the city mismanaged the entire process — from hiding the data and advising the principal not to appeal the designation to not informing parents.
P.S. 191, a K-8 school on West 61st Street, was deemed "persistently dangerous" this summer by the state Education Department, which took into account incidents reported by the school over the last two years, officials said. 
At the end of the 2013-2014 school year, the number of incidents reported at P.S. 191 and their severity forced state officials to warn the city Department of Education that it could be designated a "persistently dangerous school" (PDS) if the pattern repeated itself the following year.

Therapist Debra Fisher Gets Her Name Cleared and Her Absurd Punishment For Helping a Student, Reversed

 Debra Fisher's punishment for helping a student was outrageous.

Luckily, the public was able to force the New York City Department of Education to do the right thing.

Betsy Combier, Editor
President, ADVOCATZ

NYC education officials reverse school therapist’s punishment for effort to help needy student

Ben Chapman, NY Daily News 

Manhattan Public School 333 therapist Debra Fisher was suspended without pay for sending an email during work hours to raise cash for a needy student. Officials have overturned her punishment, reinstating her pay and wiping the case from her record.

Education department officials have reversed the punishment of a city school therapist who was suspended over a fund-raiser she created to help a student.

Manhattan Public School 333 therapist Debra Fisher got into trouble for sending an email during work hours to raise cash for a needy student in October.

Fisher, a 10-year veteran of the city schools, was suspended from her job without pay for 30 days over the incident, prompting outrage from families across the city.

On Thursday, education officials overturned Fisher’s punishment, reinstating her pay and wiping the case from her record.

“Now I can stop fighting this madness and focus on the kids,” Fisher said. “I can’t wait to get back to work and be the best therapist I can be. That’s all I ever wanted.”


On Monday, a report from the city’s Special Commissioner of Investigation found an Education Department investigator made inaccurate statements and drew the wrong conclusions in his probe of Fisher.

Department spokeswoman Devora Kaye said Fisher will suffer no official negative consequences over the case.

“We regret the suspension caused as a result of this investigation, and we are pleased to resolve the situation,” said Kaye.

Fisher said she would drop a suit to recover her pay and have the incident removed from her records, since the city has already done so.

They Done Her Wrong

Ed. Dept. ripped over suspension of good-hearted school therapist

Monday, August 17, 2015, 8:50 PM


City investigators ripped Education Department officials Monday for blowing a probe of a Manhattan school therapist who was suspended for trying to help one of her students.

The scathing report from the city’s Special Commissioner of Investigation found an Education Department investigator made inaccurate statements and drew the wrong conclusions in his probe last year of Public School 333 therapist Debra Fisher.

“I’m glad to be vindicated,” said Fisher, 56, a 10-year veteran of the city schools, who was suspended from her job without pay for 30 days over the incident. “But the system needs a lot of work to be fixed.”


Fisher grabbed headlines in October when she got into trouble for sending an email during work hours for a fundraiser to help a student.

Fisher had set up a Kickstarter fundraising drive aimed at helping PS 333 student Aaron Philip, 14, put together a book and film to help other disabled kids — an official work project she said the school enthusiastically approved.

But when Education Department investigators — probing an unrelated complaint against Fisher from a co-worker — discovered her work on the fund-raiser, they suspended her for using work time and equipment for non-work purposes.

Aaron’s father, Petrone Philip, didn’t return a call for comment.

Fisher, who makes about $5,000 a month, returned to work after her suspension, but she filed a suit for back pay for the time she was suspended and to have the incident removed from her disciplinary file. The suit is still active.

Major Flaws Found in Inquiry That Led to Suspension of Public-School Therapist


For sheer bureaucratic folly, it would be hard to top the suspension last year of a devoted occupational therapist in the public school system who showed children in wheelchairs how to get places.

The therapist, Debra Fisher, created an art therapy program for disabled children. She helped one family move from a homeless shelter to an apartment that was wheelchair accessible, arranged swimming lessons for a boy who couldn’t walk, and gave workshops for other educators on assisting children who have special needs. One of her prize students at the Manhattan School for Children on the Upper West Side, a boy born with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair to travel, gave a talk at Tumblr about a blog that Ms. Fisher encouraged him to write. Now he has written a book that will be published by HarperCollins.

Ms. Fisher was hard-driving — she contacted me at least a dozen times about finding an apartment for the homeless family — and accomplished, as is apparent from a 2014 TedX lecture.

But last year, Ms. Fisher was suspended for 30 days without pay, charged with “theft of services” and conflict of interest.

What did the “theft” involve?

Supposedly sending fund-raising emails on school time to help the boy raise money for his book.

And the conflict of interest?

Ms. Fisher had a weekend job at the Children’s Museum of the Arts, guiding its staff members on how children with limited use of their arms or legs could take part in museum art projects. As it happened, some families from her school were also involved with the museum, and an investigator with a disciplinary arm of New York City’sDepartment of Education concluded that they must have put in the fix for Ms. Fisher to be hired there.

The investigator’s report was jammed with mistakes, omitted context — for instance, you would never have known from the report that the school principal had directly approved the fund-raising and other worthy activities of Ms. Fisher — and twisted statements made by people at the museum to create an illusion of conflict in entirely innocent circumstances. In fact, parents had nothing to do with Ms. Fisher’s hiring there. Still, a report that was untrue in every significant detail led to her suspension.

On Monday, the city’s Department of Investigation said those findings were factually wrong and the result of unprofessional work, and recommended wholesale changes to the branch of the Education Department that allowed such shoddy work to be issued. The new report noted that the person who conducted the investigation had no meaningful supervision, and had even recommended that Ms. Fisher be fired. Most egregious, the student writing the book said the investigator pressed him not to be protective of Ms. Fisher and told him not to speak with his father about the interview.

Yet the suspension of Ms. Fisher was not simply the work of one obsessive Javert, or one broken arm of the bureaucracy. “I took the mandate of Chancellor Carmen Fariña to heart — to put the needs of the children first,” Ms. Fisher said on Monday. “Somewhere along the way, I was sure that people’s better angels would prevail. But no one said this person is trying her best, and has no infractions.”

From the principal on the front line, to Chancellor Fariña, to the United Federation of Teachers, every person in authority who had a chance to stop a reckless process either rubber-stamped false charges, or waved them on without vigorous objection.

What does the Education Department make of this new narrative?

It is overhauling the division and procedures that produced the flawed charges against Ms. Fisher, according to Devora Kaye, the department’s spokeswoman.

What of Ms. Fisher, who was summarily ordered out of her school for 30 days — without a word of explanation to the students she worked with — and lost her pay and health insurance for that period?

“The suspension of Debra Fisher is under review,” Ms. Kaye said.

As well it should be.

“This was a thoroughly botched investigation by a thoroughly dysfunctional system that resulted in a miscarriage of justice,” said Joel Kurtzberg, a former teacher who is now a partner in the law firm Cahill Gordon & Reindel. He represented Ms. Fisher in a court case to overturn the suspension. “We’re hoping the city will react appropriately.”

Email: Twitter: @jimdwyernyt

Investigator questions competency of DOE’s grade-fixing probers

, NY POST, August 18, 2015

Richard Condon
Special Schools Investigator Richard Condon issued a blistering report Monday questioning the competency of the Department of Education’s in-house investigative squad — the same unit looking into allegations of test-rigging uncovered by The Post.
In a scathing 19-page letter to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, Condon concluded that DOE investigator Wei Liu conducted a shoddy conflicts-of-interest probe of Debra Fisher, a veteran therapist at the Manhattan School for Children, which serves special-needs kids.
Even more troubling, Condon said, was that Liu’s bosses at the DOE Office of Special Investigations provided almost no supervision and simply rubber-stamped his findings.
Top brass admitted they did little more in some instances than look for grammatical errors in Liu’s reports.
“The findings of an investigation which recommends the termination of someone’s employment should be subjected to an oversight and review process that includes more than checking for grammar and punctuation,” Condon wrote.
School officials refused to provide Liu’s resume to show he was qualified for the post he held.
Liu had recommended Fisher be fired for, among other things, soliciting funds for a needy student during school hours.
Fariña upheld the findings, but decided to suspend Fisher for one month without pay instead of getting rid of her entirely.
Condon had his own investigators re-interview Liu’s witnesses. They complained that he had erroneously reported or mischaracterized their statements.
As a result, Condon said, Liu came up with “inaccurate conclusions” that “did not meet professional standards.”
Liu resigned in April.
Joel Kurtzberg, a lawyer for Fisher, said Condon’s findings vindicate her. “The report confirms what we’ve been saying all along,” he said.
The Department of Education said it is overhauling practices at its investigative unit, which has been assigned to examine test-rigging charges spotlighted by The Post.
“Every case will now have an attorney reviewing and drafting the final investigative reports,” said Fariña spokeswoman Devora Kaye.