April 4, 2009

The UFT's new directive: "Amputate!"

Pardon me while I roll over laughing at LeRoy Barr's paragraph in the Chapter Leaders Weekly on the UFT's new campaign to report special ed violations.

There is no excuse”: Urge members to report IEP violations

This week the UFT launched a new campaign to protect services for special education students. Already in the first week members have reported dozens of violations to the union’s new hotline and special Web section, and the campaign’s message is “report, report, report.” Special ed programs exist to ensure that all children, including those with disabilities and challenges get the assistance and services they need and deserve. With yet another reorganization of special ed on the horizon, the UFT has launched this proactive campaign to help ensure that students get the services, support and resources they need, called THERE IS NO EXCUSE. “Accept no excuse. Defend the IEP. It’s the law,” the campaign posters, flyers and Web site remind members . . .

Yeah, right.

While we all stand up to "report, report, report", Tweedites will swat us down with an armory of firepower — letters in the file, pop-in visits, U-observations and U-ratings, allegations from nowhere, 3020-a charges, police action, rubber room, you name it.

The city doesn't care one whit about special ed violations. The fact that the problem is endemic is proof positive they haven't been a high priority for them.

I can't believe the union is now asking teachers to do the dirty work. If this were not the BloomKlein era — more than that: the Jack Welch era — maybe we could all afford the luxury of defending the defenseless.

But with politicians so corrupt, and chancellors and many of the people around them so profoundly incapable of educating children, with a UFT that shows no sign of understanding what's bedeviling the whole system, Barr's call for action should fall on deaf ears: OURS. The only career you're about to lose is your own.

A couple of years ago I wrote a long letter to a principal and head of guidance about why on earth my register of 50 kids had 35 kids in it with specific needs: many had IEPs and were doing their major subjects in smaller classes, there were hearing impaired, those barely speaking English, four grades all mixed in with each other. I got no response to that letter, and no help either. They didn't even send me a para.

A year later when the situation remained virtually the same, I made some inquiries at the State level to see what percentage of special ed kids could be placed in a regular ed class. I got this response:
The state does not have any regulation on capping the number of students with disabilities who are mainstreamed. This might be a NYC DOE regulation/policy.
So I wrote to the special ed administrator at the city level to see if NYC had any policy on the numbers you can mainstream at one time. Turns out there weren't any caps at the city level either, but the person asked me if I wanted to pursue the matter further.

Here's my response . . . which I didn't have the guts at the time to send.
Thank you for your answer, and please don't bring the regional administrator in at this point because I am too afraid of retaliation at my school. I believe that if I do what you suggest, I will be perceived as a troublemaker, and I am not yet ready to take on that responsibility at this time.

My own career has taken strange and troublesome turns when at various times I took stances as chapter leader to help teachers and students alike (in class size issues, lack of textbooks, etc.)

I know I have the right — possibly even the obligation, for the students' sake — to check the IEPs of everyone in my classes, but I have not done this yet because I do not want to be hurt.

But I do want to know the DOE's position on this, and it is difficult for me to believe that there is no fixed policy, since UFT personnel did tell a colleague of mine that the ratio should be no more than 40-60%, and they must have gotten the number from somewhere.

I was hoping, therefore, that you could tell me — hypothetically! — whether 50% or more students who get their major subjects in small, self-contained classes 15:1 or 15:1:1 is a tolerable percentage when they are placed INSIDE of a total class register of between 45 and 50 students and no para. If one does the math, it means you can have close to DOUBLE the number of self-contained kids AS WELL AS 20 regular ed all in the same class! And no para. Furthermore, I think it is the case that other students have IEPs as well (resource room kids), but their class codes do not indicate that they are in self-contained classes.

I am concerned for everyone in these classrooms: the teacher, the spec. ed kids, and the regular ed students. The teacher is judged and held to the same standards as every other teacher in the building with smaller and far more homogeneous classes, even though he/she is responsible for educating potentially 50 kids 5 periods a day with no help from a para. This is very unfair and I have brought this up with the union. But it is also unfair to the kids coming from the self-contained classes who walk into these huge rooms with huge registers and know they have limited access to the teacher to help them through the work. Some of these kids just sit blankly, unable to do much else but stare into space; many just don't show up.

And lastly, I am concerned for the regular ed kids, who are not getting taught at the speeds or depths they should when the percentage of poorer learners and/or higher incidence of acting out behavior is so high.

As I say, I am concerned enough to ask you for clarification, but I am very afraid of retaliation and negative consequences if I take any specific action at the school, like requesting a whole bunch of IEPs and possibly getting involved with asking the school to enforce them.

I hope you can understand my fears and be able to give me some statement of DOE policy should the above hypothetical class make-up exist.

With appreciation for your time and kindest regards,

As I say, I did NOT send this letter, but the administrator could have easily found where I was working because she knew my name and subject. Did she make inquiries at my school on her own? Could it have contributed to my eventually being excessed? or my being blacklisted, or never having gotten an interview on the Open Market?

Coming back to Barr's email, here's what the union has to say about the protection they have in mind for us should we go about reporting, reporting, reporting:
You will also find information there on the city’s whistleblower law and how to seek coverage under it.

What chutzpah!

Our stupid, stupid union is now encouraging each of us educators on our very own to stand up to a whole army of hostile administrators, from Mayor Moneybags down through attorney general Klein to the lowest level of drone principals and APs, and start blowing whistles.

I fight the fight for kids and teachers, but I will not cut my legs off at the knees. Not at the behest of this union or any other.


Pissed Off said...

I've also stopped fighting for teachers that will not stand up for themselves.

Fully Employed Soviet Statistician said...

Woodlass. Comrad, You are quite incorrect in your concerns.

What's the big deal?

After all, comrade, the scores are increasing again!

Few in the position of power care that the DOE is not adequately providing for the students with special needs AND those same people are happy that UFT has failed over time for not being proactive on our behalf and the student's behalf for making lawmakers and the public aware of the problems. The UFT also fails to protect in the individual teachers who have too outspoken regarding this issue.

Those in power take great satisfaction that you and I further agree that teachers should exercise caution given the tendency for local UFT folks and local administrators to be collaborators. It brings great joy to them that each individual teacher needs to weigh how moral they want to be against how much they need their job especially given the current economic climate

Nevertheless since you want to deal with the truth for a while, I would like to make a related point here. I do not know how wide spread this is; I'm going to assume it's very. The so-called Least Restrict Environment laws together with the the current administration's Let's Spend the Least Amount of Money We Can Get Away with policies, together with the naive Let's Group Students Heterogeneously philosophy are in some part a significant cause in the vast dumbing down in education in this city. For example there are kids who are not considered limited enough to be placed in small-size classrooms, but instead are now classified as needing additional "Resources." Apparently it is legal to place several of these students in one class. In plain english, these kids have both moderate learning disabilities and serious self control issues. Neither the LD or the behavior issues are adequately addressed in the current model (and, to be clear, it's not for the lack of will or ability of the teachers). These student's problems inevitably cause the teacher to frequently slow down the pace of the class sometimes to a turtle's pace. However the teachers are asked to do the impossible: keep the "higher functioning" students from falling further and further behind.

So what do we do?

Take the prevailing attitude and say, "So what's the big deal?"

After all, comrade, the scores are increasing again!

Celebrate KIng Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein and our own local successes!! That's what!!

Have fun ! Join the gang! Blow your own horn these week.

Anonymous said...

Hard to believe the union is being criticized for asking members to collectively stand up for children -- that is what we have always done - that is what separates us as professionals. Around 35 years ago, an acquaintance of mine who was a senior union official, gave a interview to a syndicated columnist - was removed from his school (deemed a cause célèbre for freedom of speech for teachers) the union threatened to go out on strike. He was returned to the school. Yes there were consequences, but there is never gain without struggle. Folks who say shut-up and take it, cry in your beer over what they are doing to kids or colleagues - don't have a clue as to what trade unionism is in general and certainly not what it means to be a UFT member. What a shame. What a crime - we in UFT stand on the shoulders of giants but you have to have the spirit and the guts to climb up on those shoulders. Contracts protest your rights and at the UFT some of the rights for kids and parents - but they are only worth something when individuals stand up together to enforce those rights.

Woodlass said...

To Anon. 12:44 pm -- did you ever stand up and whistleblow?

I wrote this post out of much experience with "standing up." Got excessed twice, harassed on another occasion (until a DR put a stop to it -- that pawn principal was booted out a year later). Totally have no career now except for subbing. So don't come at any of us doing the dirty work and taking the knocks.

PS: Two years ago I stood up at a Chapter Leader meeting to say that it's hard to get teachers to stand up for rules they know are being broken because we get so battered by the DoE. The two DRs attacked me immediately, saying they didn't want that meeting to be used to talk about the negative side of standing up. How do you like them apples! I didn't. The union's position is a fake. They don't have the manpower, the arbitration hours, or the political will to defend the people who are willing to take the DoE on. What they'll do is maybe put a bandaid on the wound, but the limb you've lost ain't there anymore.

So we really get it both ways: from the DoE and the UFT. Just tell me the point of your being critical of this post?

Woodlass said...

Comrad, forgot to tell you how much I agree with your "Those in power" and "Nevertheless" paragraphs.

Anonymous said...

Hey Woodlass..Want to join my Ad Hoc committee for subs? We need dynamic outspoken and fearless people to defend substitute teachers when the union will not stand up to the D.O.E. on our behalf. I have found some fearless subs who will not only stand up to the D.O.E., but the UFT leadership as well..

Woodlass said...

I was just speaking about you guys to a reporter. Told them that the ATRs really put you out of business, at least in some schools.

You can contact me at excessed101@gmail.com.

proofoflife said...

Is it any wonder that the recent CL in the Bx. lost his cool! He was slated to go back into the RR. I have noticed the news has not published his grievance which was signed by 20 other teachers in his school. Several of my special education teachers have reported under NO EXCUSE campaign. Guess who will take the heat for this one? I better get those bandaids out!