Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, August 17, 2015

Teachers Should Think Long And Hard Before Working At "Struggling" Or "Persistently Struggling" Schools

NYSED has labeled 144 schools around the state "struggling" or "persistently struggling," with 62 of those schools located in NYC.

According to the NY Times article I linked to above, "struggling schools" have two years to make "demonstrable" improvement in graduation rates, test scores and attendance or be given over to "an outside receiver, like a nonprofit group, that will be chosen by the district superintendent or chancellor to oversee the schools."

The Times reports that "persistently struggling schools" have just one year to make the "demonstrable" improvement or be given over to an "an outside receiver, like a nonprofit group, that will be chosen by the district superintendent or chancellor to oversee the schools."

Teachers who currently work at any of the "struggling" or "persistently struggling" schools will have to reapply for their jobs.

Some will not be rehired and will either have to find other jobs in the system or become ATR's.

"Struggling" and "persistently struggling" schools will almost certainly be looking for new blood to replace some of the teachers who aren't rehired at those schools.

The UFT put out this statement regarding that part of the receivership plan:

The UFT is working to support the Renewal program, including by building teacher leadership in the schools and ensuring that all hiring is conducted by joint city-union committees.

Here's what may await any teacher who goes to work in one of these "struggling" or "persistently struggling" schools, per a comment left on another post here at Perdido Street School blog:

Graded regents this week with a teacher who taught at a specialized school. He told me about 5 years ago a friend left to take a job at one of the struggling schools where Math/Science teachers would get a 10k bonus for transferring there. After just 1 year they began phasing the school out and he became an ATR. While he eventually found a job in a decent school it is nothing compared to his original situation.

That's actually the best case scenario, where the teacher becomes an ATR but eventually gets another placement.

The worst case scenario?

Toiling forever after as an ATR (or at least until the UFT completes throwing the ATR's to the wolves and the program no longer exists per a future contract deal) or two-three years of consecutive "ineffective" ratings and a swift trip to the unemployment office.

Teachers should think long and hard about going to work at any of the "struggling" or "persistently struggling" schools on the receivership program list.

Despite Carmen Farina's desire to put asterisks next to the names of "highly effective" teachers who transfer to "struggling" or "persistently struggling" schools, the first people that will get thrown under the bus when these schools do not make the "demonstrable progress" timetable that the state wants will be the teachers.

And it won't matter what a teacher's evaluation rating was before she/he got to the "struggling" or "persistently struggling" school either, because the system is set up with a "What Have You Done For More Lately" gloss and teachers who get dinged as "developing" and "ineffective" at those schools will wear those ratings on their heads like scarlet letters no matter what their ratings were in the years before they got to the receivership schools.

Reformers pay lip service to wanting to reward so-called "excellent teachers" who go to work with the most vulnerable populations, but all it takes for an "excellent teacher" to become a "developing" or "ineffective teacher" is to work a year or two in a school with low test scores.

Reformers, including the governor of the state and the commissioner of NYSED, do not care what a teacher's rating was a few years before, they care only what the most recent rating was - and remember that two consecutive "ineffective" ratings will get you fired under Cuomo's latest APPR evaluation system iteration.

Reformers also constantly demonize "ineffective" teachers in the press, never once noting that maybe some of those "ineffective" teachers were actually "effective" or "highly effective" teachers who transferred into a school with low test scores and had their ratings implode as a result.

So if you're a teacher out there with an "effective" or a "highly effective" rating and you're thinking about going to bring your talents and skills to one of the receivership schools, think long and hard before you make the jump.

In a year or two, you could very well be a "developing" or "ineffective" teacher headed for the ATR pool.

Or, if we're looking at another mayor in two years who gets elected with the backing of the reform community, an ally of Eva Moskowitz and her ilk, you could be looking at a dried up ATR pool and instant unemployment.

The way the system is these days, the only way for a teacher to protect herself/himself is to think and act very carefully around employment decisions.

It doesn't take much to get demonized as "ineffective" and smeared with the "I" scarlet letter on your head - and if that"i" is on your head for two consecutive years, you could be out of a job.


  1. More broadly, who'd want to become a teacher anywhere? I don't teach in a struggling school (though its close) and the decision to come in to teaching ranks as the biggest mistake of my life. Financially, psychologically, etc. A toll is taken on the psyche when your profession is labeled as the reason for almost all the negative issues going on in our society, relentlessly, no matter how ridiculous. The volume of it and the incessant nature makes one a bit twitchy. It was a stupid call. At least working at amazon, you are probably paid well for the few years you survive....and then you can go get another job.

    The thing that isn't talked about so much, and should be, is that when a teacher is drummed out, for any reason really, they will never teach again in public school. It's an established, formalized, institutionalized, fully-legal blacklisting. So a public school teacher falling under the hatchet of reform faces a much steeper slope out of unemployment than does, say, a corporate person who gets fired. As always, the "accountability" and "disruption" on the corporate side is always somehow lighter than they want to impose on the public side.
    A fired teacher is DONE....the one thing they have prepared and trained for is no longer something they can tap on in their job search. (Unless they go to work at a desperate private school that will pay them like $19k a year.) Even admin....they leave or get booted somewhere, they get to become admin somewhere else (see Elia). No deep institutional, legal blacklisting for them! Even principals, AP's, Directors, etc in my district who have been let go for deep incompetence always get another job in Admin by the next school year in another district.

    So that's a thing and it matters. For teachers, our options become way way way limited after being fired. We are the ultimate tightrope safety nets.

  2. IF DB and Carmen really want to turn those schools around they will have to protect those teachers and admin from adverse ratings, with some kind of waiver. The problems with that includes admitting that it is the reality of a struggling school, not the "competence" of a teacher, that will create a rating, with 50% based on tests. Once that is admitted, it applies as a precedent, to every place. Unfortunately, the Reformers want most of the renewal schools to fail, with a few rare exceptions of success to provide the idea that "truly exceptional" teachers can make it work. This carrot will keep the process going. Of course the easiest way to fix a struggling school is to change the admission requirements and change the population, or to de-emphasize the impact of the testing on the the evaluation of the school and the staff.

  3. In Newark those of us working on sinking ships are also branded. After two years of Partially Effective ratings, teachers may be brought up on tenure charges. These teachers risk not only losing their jobs, but their teaching certifications may be revoked as well. The consequences are severe for playing one's school reform cards poorly.

    Abigail Shure

  4. True story. I work in an above average high school where I could easily close my eyes to the ridiculous requests by our dumb ass administrators, for the next 10 years. We're not on any list that's negative and we are a great school (student population wise) as we score great on all data, ie: grad rates, regents, etc. I was offered a few jobs elsewhere with much friendlier administration, better work conditions, and per session. However, these schools are missing the one main thing. The students! You see, at these schools, the kids are basically idiots and the data is low. I'm smart enough to realize that I should stay at my school for the sole purpose, APPR. I can nod my head yes all day and close my eyes for years upon years. No problem at all. Would I like to go to one of these more pathetic schools with moronic kids because I can have a little more fun with re staff and administration (like people smiling)? Sure! But U.S. It worth it? No way. I'm married with kids of my own. Not risking my 100K salary plus, to go to a lower functioning school when I can stay at my school and score Highly Effective or Effective year after year after year. ELA gave me 19 out of 20 last year for both State & Local. That's 38 out of 40. The other 60 I received 54 for a total of 92 which was the beginning of Highly Effective (92). This crosses my mind and crosses other intelligent teachers' minds who think properly. Survival is the name of the game. On the other hand, segregation is at its peak due to this. StudentsFirstNY and Cuomo have created this segregated system. There's plenty of "ineffective" teachers at ineffective schools that are t going anywhere. The funny thing is that if they do go somewhere, the next wave of teachers will be deemed ineffective as well. BUT NIT ME, I'm way to smart and experienced at D.O.E, Survivor Series Edition, N.Y.C., to fall for this. There are however teachers who make the mistake. Poor training on the UFT's part. There should be PD from the UFT on how not to go to a crappy school.

  5. Sorry for the above grammar errors.

  6. Oh, and if I could add one thing, I received a 53 on this years MOTP. So you know, what can I do? Leave? The scores are too high to leave. I will stay with my shitty bum administrators. I will outlast them anyway.

  7. As someone who works in Renewal School, I can say that teachers at other schools who are thinking about coming over should heed RBE's advice. We are sitting ducks, the sacrificial lambs of the new evaluation legislation. I don't see anyone, including our union, looking to protect us. Morale is in the pits. We are harassed by ineffective admins who never pass up an opportunity to let us know how much we suck. Despite the fact that we are good teachers, we will always be less than effective because most of our students choose not to learn. Any effective teacher who leaves a good school for a bad school is a fool. It's a career ending move.

  8. I work in a functioning NYC school - not great but no major problems, the kids are not amazing but if you work hard they do decently on the tests. I am considered HE at this place. I'd get a higher score at a better place and a lower at a worse place. End of tale. Very bad idea to move to a worse place - and I know it is hard to leave a bad place - I have worked in a few - but it is worth trying. This system does not currently reward that kind of altruism. Like many, I am trying to survive for about 5 more years and I hope things don't get worse. I really do enjoy working with my kids and colleagues! Yet, if the powers that be legislated away our 7% fixed and/or our pension I'd feel like the biggest fool on a professional level for staying in public school teaching. On an adult level those were the perks I agreed to - both of my parents are teachers, and various relatives too. Otherwise, should have gone to law school or something else. My heart goes out to all of us, in our different circumstances.

  9. I still haven't heard a definitive answer anywhere on whether or not teachers in receivership schools have the same job protections as everyone else (LIFO) or can be terminated. I remember reading Weingarten allowed that worst case scenario in Lowell, Massachusetts.

  10. To build on this great post, teachers in any semi-decent situation in NYC would be crazy to risk transfering to another school period. There are just too many career ruining posibilities. Worse kids, worse test scores, better kids but worse administration, an admin who is just out to get you, etc. Many of these issues you wouldn't even know about until it is too late. I know a teacher who transferred to BX Science during the crazy admin days thinking (wow BX Science this will be great). Then the admin when nuts and u rated half the department. Long story short, you just don't know how bad it can be in some of these places.

  11. I'm at an above average HS in Queens. Not #1 but definitely above average. Our APPR returns are really nice, I scored 18's from our math dep't in the 2013/14 school year. Anyhow, a younger teacher who I had become close with mentioned she was really trying to leave the school because the administration sucks. I explained that they all suck, but at least here you know you're protected because if your returns are 18's, you would only need 39 out of 60 points to score an Effective as the lowest possible Effective score is 75. You can be barely breathing and receive 39 out of 60. Anyway, she was persistent on leaving and in June, she scored her new position in a nearby HS with horrid data. The kids are pathetic and I tried explaining to her that it's really not about teaching anymore, it's about survival. She didn't listen and wound up leaving. She will start this September but she's in for a big big surprise come next October, when her mosl scores come back. She might do good within the 60 points but the other 40 (or 50 depending on eval structure) will kill her. If she gets I explained if she gets 12's, it would take her to 24 out of 40. She'd need 51 minimum, out of 60, to be at the lowest possible Effective rating. This system is designed to fail plenty of kids/teachers in plenty of schools. If you're in a good school, let the years pass and rest assured, the grass is not greener. This girl will be begging to come back.