Archives For Michael Mulgrew

Dan Lupkin
UFT Chapter Leader
PS 58 – Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

What is a union for? Why do we belong to one? In these times of looming national “Right to Work” laws that are likely to impede or cripple the ability of labor unions to sustain themselves financially, it seems like a relevant question to ask ourselves. Is a union for Meet the President dinners? Patronage jobs in exchange for political loyalty? Social media campaigns? What are we getting in exchange for the hard-earned dues we pay to the UFT?

Protecting members from abuse by management is a core function, if not THE core function, of a labor union. If a chapter leader or delegate speaking out and organizing against an abusive administrator is subject to retaliation with impunity, what chance is there for a rank-and-file member to actually exercise their contractual rights? The abuse of staff, students, and parents that has been going on, unchecked, at Central Park East 1, an elementary school in East Harlem, is indicative of a union local decayed to the point of paralysis, and so out of touch with its membership and their concerns that it is approaching complete irrelevance. During the 4/19/17 UFT Delegate Assembly, a second attempt to introduce a resolution on behalf of the staff, parents, and students of the CPE1 was quashed by the UNITY caucus leadership of the UFT, who instructed their loyalty oath bound delegates to vote against even putting the pleas that the school’s elected delegate (himself the victim of multiple and scurrilous investigations in retaliation for his activism) were making on behalf of the embattled stakeholders on the agenda for the next meeting. Having briefly consulted with UFT President Michael Mulgrew, Bronx District Rep Howie Schorr listed a number of steps that the UFT had taken to address the issue, and said it was up to the Department of Education to fix the problem.
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Looking through the UFT’s guide to the new NYC teacher evaluation system, I find myself wondering how it’s being read by educators coming from schools that vary widely in terms of educator autonomy, pedagogical philosophy and levels of trust between administration and staff. We are being told that our evaluation system will require our full comprehension and maintenance of: measures of teacher practice observation option selection forms, evaluator forms, consistent update of class lists/rosters, observation options A, B, C, D, the Matrix, and MOSL options (project based learning assessments, student learning inventories, performance based assessments, and progress monitoring assessments), not to mention how this plays out for what people teach (elementary/middle/high school, alternative assessment, English as a New Language, content areas, etc).

It is easily overwhelming. We are still figuring out the last evaluation system and living through the most rapidly changing succession of teacher evaluations in history. The truth is, we are being led by our tails. There are only two things to know:

1)  We should be upset, very upset. These were closed negotiations that, yet again, involved very little, if any, teacher input in the discussion of a system that is purporting to improve student achievement. It should not be considered normal for dues paying members to be handed a deal without having any democratic process for input. Any active teacher working with students could explain the complexities of the work we do, including factors that are not in our control and which cannot be measured and quantified. This lack of teacher voice leads to the continual and misguided reliance on the use of invalid metrics we know as the value added model.

2) Teacher evaluations based on metrics with any high stakes involvement is all about perpetuating a lean production model that narrows our teaching and students’ learning. The corporate education reform agenda initiated its systematic attack on public schools by casting its teachers as the source of the problem. Our union leadership, in an effort to placate this aggressive attack on our profession, used the only strategy it knows: attempting to throw its weight around the proverbial table. Pandering  to the notion of teacher evaluation based on unfounded formulas of value added models, and doing this without acknowledging the casualties of the systemic attack thus far, is unacceptable.

The 240,000 opt outs across New York State triggered a move towards the current moratorium on the use of state standardized tests, not the negotiating of the UFT leadership as they often like to credit themselves with. The reason ENL teachers are still evaluated using the Common Core aligned NYSESLAT and teachers of students who get alternative assessments are evaluated by that is because there has not been a high percentage of opt outs for those tests.

In regard to the MoTP portion of our evaluation, please read James Eterno’s ICE Blog piece on the matter. We now have two more required observations in our agreement for tenured teachers beyond the two required by state law and practiced in most districts. In a climate of high stakes where many, if not most, of New York City’s teachers experience observations as “gotcha” opportunities for administrators to intimidate and demoralize, the increase does not promote space for continual growth in teaching practice.

It does not matter what MOSL option we choose- it becomes distorted when stakes are attached. Using performance based assessments or any tools we use to drive instruction for our students a huge problem! What kind of metric for teacher value will be attached to our authentic forms of assessment? How will they- those designated to make up the arbitrary percentages- determine the scores and how much value will be added?

As we already know, this evaluation deal has nothing to do with improving outcomes for our students but everything to do with creating a system that breaks us and our union to further the privatization agenda. It is political. This is not just a criticism of our leadership’s practices; this is a proposal to engage rank and file members in the process before it is truly too late.


Educator Letter to Support Immigrant New Yorkers

The overarching theme at 52 Broadway on Wednesday was paperwork. There’s a lot of paperwork, too much paperwork, paperwork is the scourge of civilization, and the number one concern of UFT members is paperwork. Principals are evil, among other reasons, because they don’t hand teachers paperwork filled with curriculum, scope and sequence. Mulgrew goes off on tangents, makes in jokes with his BFFs, but every road leads back to paperwork.

I’m sure there are abuses of paperwork. I’m sure there are abuses in making teachers write curriculum. I’ve seen them, and I’ve moved to correct them. Now, though, there is a form for that. I certainly hope it’s more effective and less restrictive than the APPR complaint form.

In my job, I get complaints all the time, from all sorts of people. In my building, at least, paperwork is not a particularly pressing concern. Members are more concerned with ratings. Why did this AP walk in and see things that didn’t happen? How come when a dozen kids raise their hands, on video, my supervisor sees only two? Why does he always observe me last period on Friday before vacation in my worst class? Can Mulgrew really get rid of crazy supervisors? That would be something good for everyone, even remaining supervisors who aren’t crazy.

Mulgrew shared some interesting news. We’re going to replace the test-based junk science in the APPR system (the one Mulgrew himself had a hand in writing and creating) with authentic measures, or it’s no deal. What will they be? Who knows? Portfolios perhaps. You may recall them rearing their heads maybe twenty years ago. You needed a portfolio for every student. It needed to be in the classroom at all times. If you didn’t have one it was the end of the world. Until the next year, when portfolios were out, passe, utterly without value.

And with the new matrix, the portfolios, or whatever the hell there is, will count for half your rating. This, evidently, will reduce the principal’s input to 50, rather than 60 percent (or perhaps less, with the magical outside observers who know nothing about you, your school, what you do, or who you teach). Of course Mulgrew vehemently denies that the matrix makes the junk science/ authentic ratings or whatever they may end up being 50 percent. But with only two axes, it’s hard for mathematically-challenged individuals such as myself to fathom why they don’t count for half. On the other hand, if they actually do not count for half, won’t the principal still have the lion’s share of control in evaluation?

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Mulgrew lets us know we are crazy for being CLs, and refers to school opening as “smooth.” Says budget is not so bad, and principals are lying if they say it is.
Primaries—poor turnout, but hedge funders always back candidates. This time they had a new group with a new name, with the same people funding it. Attacked UFT backed members—we were outspent 6 to 1 but won every race. Hedge funders accused union backed candidates of hating kids.

Says it’s important that parents know we are there for them. Speaks of three groups, Republicans, Dems, and so-called independent Dems who largely support Republicans.

Presidential race—UFT chooses candidates based on what’s best for union and professions. Says sometimes it’s simple. Trump has come out with educational platform, vouchers, charters, eliminate tenure, privatize public ed. Suggests no matter how low race gets it can get lower. Asks us to understand importance of it in term of work we do. Suggests Trump wants to abolish public education.

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Every year, large U.S. labor unions must submit form LM-2 to the U.S. Department of Labor, which includes information about salaries, assets etc… This is the current version of the form for the UFT.

Annual UFT Disclosure Form

by Jia Lee, Chapter Leader, The Earth School

MORE/New Action 2016 Candidate for President of the UFT

The Ensure Success for All Students Act retains the requirement for 95% of students to be subject to annual testing in grades 3-8, threatening funding if districts don’t comply or parents opt out.

Here is the disturbing email that all UFT members received on Tuesday, December 1, a day before the Federal HELP Senate Committee was to vote on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), called Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). UFT President Michael Mulgrew urges us to contact our senators to “Vote Yes” and I can only stare in shock at the screen.
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