PD over Parents and Students

June 25, 2014 — 10 Comments

By Norm Scott and Mike Schirtzer

The calls have been coming in from parents and childcare-takers all over the city who are beginning to realize how the new contract will change their lives as the school day gets readjusted in many schools.

They tell us there is growing outrage as word spreads. And since parents are being told that teachers are supposed to vote on School Based Options (SBO’s) in the schools, some parents are placing the blame squarely on the teachers and the UFT – even more so than on the DOE and the principals, who often just plain lie to the parents, saying that teachers voted that way. The truth is Chancellor Farina has mandated 80 minutes of Professional Development (PD) a week or 100 minutes should a school choose to deviate from the default schedule. Teachers and administration have no choice of offering any extended time (what was called tutoring, student mentoring, 37.5, or Academic Intervention Services depending on your school). The new built in Parent Engagement time can not be used for tutoring either.
In one case, the UFT district represnattive  told parents the entire district was using the default model of 8AM start time and 2:20 end time so the teachers can get their PD in by 4PM. Parents do not care about PD, neither do most teachers. There wasn’t a teacher anywhere begging for more PD in a new contract. Most PDs will be focused on Common Core, Danielson, MOSL, or other failed initiatives.  PD’s throughout the city very rarely focus on good pedagogical practices nor are they led by experienced teachers. Thanks to the Bloomberg/Klein era most new administrators who are leading these PDs have less than 5 years class-room experience, how can we expect them to lead effective PD’s? Instead teachers will be forced to write curriculum and units based on the untested, unproven, developmentally inappropriate standards. Other PDs will be focused on aligning lessons with the check box rubrics created by Charleotte Danielson and her 6 months of teaching. None of this will have a positive impact on the students we teach

Let me say this as I have been and will continue to do: When the UFT goes along with the Farina (and most ed deformers) mantra that the key to improving education is Professional Development, they accept the “teacher blame” argument. Of course everyone can improve — and the best PD is watching others teach — but blanket PD is like expecting a gourmet meal at McDonalds.

Then there are stories where the chapter leader didn’t even offer teachers the option of an SBO and just did what the principal wanted. So the teachers feel betrayed too — but it is really their fault — maybe a lesson for those who have their heads in the sand.

At the June 11, 2014 Delegate Assembly, Mulgrew spoke about the Vergara decision. How important it was to work with parents and how proud he was of the work the UFT was doing with parents. If the Unity/UFT leadership didn’t have a tin ear they would have figured out a way to get some parent leaders, at the very least, involved in proposed negotiations. But they didn’t even get regular teachers involved, so this is the spillover of closed door contract negotiations.  Parents accustomed to extended days will now being paying for childcare out of their pockets. Students and their parents who can not afford to pay for extra help or small group instruction are now being left out in the cold. This is clearly not a way of winning over parents to be on the side of the UFT.

Parents feel they have been totally shut out of the process. I wonder where they’ll stand when we see Vergara, coming soon, to New York?

10 responses to PD over Parents and Students

    Joseph Behrman June 25, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Sorry, just because teachers have not requested PD doesn’t mean it is not needed. PD in the past driven by administrators who know less about teaching than the teachers they administer is also not the answer.

    Teachers have often complained about the lack of common planning time. This is especially true in the Middle and High School. The bulk of the professional development time can be used as common planning time or at least should be allowed to be used as such. Then, for example, English and Social Studies teachers can collaborate together to come up with lessons to cover both areas. Special needs teachers can collaborate to develop IEP’s and lessons to fit the IEP’s of their students. ICT teachers can use the time to plan lessons they will use together in the classes they teach.

    Teachers in the building whom have developed model lessons that work for them can demonstrate these lessons and share ideas with other colleagues during this time.

    As far as parents being upset because the tutoring time has been taken away. In most of the high schools I visited very few students attended tutoring since it was not mandated. I don’t see parents in the schools getting upset because Monday through Thursday the 37 minute tutoring time has shortened the day. Most of the students were leaving school after the last period or not showing up before the first period for tutoring anyway. I don’t know if this lack of tutoring time will adversely affect elementary schools. Also, the Federal government under the “no child left behind” I believe is still providing money for Title 1 schools so that their students can get free tutoring from various private companies. If this is not so, ignore the comment. However, if it is so, I know this resource is being underutilized.

    My next comment is regarding The Charlotte Danielson model. Unfortunately, the last administration under Bloomberg, Klein and Walcott used this model as a gotcha against teachers. I fully understand why teachers are upset about it. However, if used as a way to help teachers, especially the inexperienced teachers improve their craft, then this model can be very useful. We have a new administration under DeBlasio and Farina. They talk about respecting teachers and our work in the classroom. Farina has stated she wants to bring the joy back in teaching for teachers. Our union should hold them to their word. One way would be to provide resources so administrators and other staff can get the proper training to utilize the Danielson models to help teachers, not blame teachers.

    I am aware that I sound very idealistic. However, under a new administration that appears to now be more teacher friendly we need to give them a chance. As a union we have an opportunity to remind them of their promises to us when they don’t keep them. In fact as union members it is our duty to let administrators clearly know when their practices against teachers is hurting the students. We also have to let the public know this.


      Yes, we must continue speaking the truth about what’s really happening in our schools. I am an elementary school teacher in D19 (East New York, Brooklyn). We used to have free tutoring offered by private companies like Brienza, but that no longer happens at my school. Some parents of elementary school students are upset that extended day will no longer be used for tutoring. I have mixed feelings about it. I’d rather be with the kids than in PD, however I do not want to use that time for test prep. At many schools, tutoring time has become test prep and it’s a chore for both teachers and students. Katie Lapham, active MORE member


      Farina has not fired or curtailed the gotchya squad. There is no new tone. Farina does not have me fooled.


        I’m with you – our Quality Review was the usual dog + pony show, no listening, checking off boxes about CCSS crap and unhelpful negative feedback without any solutions, suggestions or recognition of “joy” anywhere to be found.

        I know Farina is new and that there is over a decade of inertia with these horrible superintendents, but we should have seen some action (tone?) by now filtering down to the schools.

    Joseph Behrman June 30, 2014 at 12:08 pm


    What is needed is direct evidence that the change in administration has not changed the attitude of administrators. If Farina is a wolf in sheep’s clothing or as you say she does not have you fooled, then it is up to our union to expose the fraud. If Unity Caucus refuses, then More expose Unity Caucus for this lack of support for our members. However the evidence has to be specific. Where are teachers be harassed? How are they being harassed? How badly are the schools functioning where the harassment is occurring?

    Mayor De Blasio calls himself a Progressive who favors union involvement to insure fair wages. Our union is one of the strongest unions in the country. Tea Partiers and other right wing conservative groups along with the education reformers (deformers) want to show that the progressive movement along with the unions supported by this movement are a major cause of the demise in education in this country. They support Charters and other private entities to compete with public schools in the name of reform. What they really want to do is profit by creating the for-profit education institutions to replace public schools and the unions.

    I haven’t stated anything that we all don’t know already. However, if we cannot improve our schools in the next four years under a so-called education friendly Mayor and Chancellor, the attacks against educators in this city and state will be far worse than anything we ever experienced. The for-profit education pundits will simply cite that union friendly city and state administrators continue to support failing schools despite the additional money that may be poured into the system. They will cite our 18% increase in wages from 2009 to 2018 as money spent to prop a UFT union that continues to support a bad education system.

    I truly believe that Mayor De Blasio is a progressive and wants to support teachers. However, the system is huge. Without our input, he cannot know all that is right or wrong with the system. Therefore, as I said earlier, if Farina is wrong for the job because she continues to support Bloomberg practices that have destroyed the education system in the city these past 12 years, then she must be exposed with clear evidence. Then we must demand that De Blasio replace her.


    The chancellor means real PDs where we talk about teaching not compliance and Danielson. We need to start a boycott of these Danielson Evaluation PD’s they are a complete disrespect to the practice and art of teaching, and a complete waste of time. We need to vocally inform Ms. Farina that this is what is taking place and redefine the concept of a PD as sharing best practice and talking only about improving actual teaching. Compliance with Danielson is the death of good teaching, engaged learning and any creativity in the classroom!


      We agree, Lisa. Danielson PD has been excessive and limits opportunities for real collaboration. It’s all about creating curriculum to fulfill the Danielson components so as to crank out as many “highly effective” teachers as possible. It’s like test prep for our students.

    Joseph Behrman July 8, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    It is important for educators (teachers and administrators) to read Danielson’s book on teacher evaluation. It is designed to identify areas teachers need to develop their pedagogy. It is also designed to show how teachers can be helped to meet the needs of their children. Sharing best practices is very much a part of the Danielson model. I think administrators need PD on how best to use the Danielson model to help their teachers. It should not be a model to simply point out the weaknesses of each teacher they supervise.

    Our profession has been blasted with Common Core Standards. In New York City and throughout the state, the standards have been poorly introduced to the staff and students. The result has been widespread misery for all educators and the students. This is not the fault of the standards. It is the fault of leaders of education on the state and national level for demanding that standards be implemented without providing curriculum. The standards actually go along with what educators have often requested.
    More depth in units of study and more opportunities for students to learn how to learn rather than spoon feed them facts. With proper curriculum the Common Core Standards may truly improve our educational system. The same is true for the Danielson model. When used properly, it can help our profession improve the way we present material to our students.


      Danielson can and should be used as one guide in helping teachers improve their practice. However, it should not be used as the only rubric in evaluating a teacher’s practice (60% of the overall rating). It narrows and standardizes our pedagogy. Also, administrators are overwhelmed with observations and burdened with paperwork. Teachers have complained that their observations feel rushed and that some of the results (scores) don’t accurately reflect what goes on in the classroom. We agree, the implementation of the Danielson Framework has been flawed.
      Your comment about the Common Core implies that teachers have just been spoon-feeding facts to students. This is untrue; critical, in-depth thinking has always taken place in our classrooms. MORE opposes the Common Core State Standards. Among other reasons, they are inextricably linked to an unreliable testing program and they have resulted in developmentally inappropriate and uninspiring curriculum such as Pearson’s ReadyGEN for ELA. The standards also limit teachers’ freedom to teach and students’ freedom to learn; one size does not fit all. Please read our statement on the Common Core. Thanks, MORE

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