Saturday, October 26, 2013
I was at one of the new schools that opened up three years ago in Southwest Queens and was shocked how young the teachers were at this school. In some cases the teachers must wear their name tags across their necks so as not to be mistaken for a student. An ATR Assistant Principal who was assigned to the school found that only two of the 30 teachers actually were tenured!
The school is semi-screened and has a very diverse student population with Hispanic, White, and Asian students. There are a sprinkling of Black students who travel from outside the area to the school. The school is strong on Latin and the Arts and accept students willing to take four years of Latin and Arts. This reduces the electives in the school for students who would like to take let's say Computer Science? This is another school that originally did not give Earth Science and required all the students to jump from Living Environment to Chemistry. Just like school #3 the administration believes "if you reach for the stars. you will succeed". However, they forget to build a spaceship to travel there.
The students are well-behaved and friendly. They were a pleasure to cover, unlike my previous school. There is ample parking near the school and while the "Leadership Academy Principal" was not friendly, the payroll Secretary was nice. The young and inexperienced staff was expected to volunteer their time, "free of charge", for after school programs such as tutoring or clubs. There is no Chapter Leader at the school since the staff is afraid of the Principal and nobody wants the position. There are stories that teachers who requested "per session" for additional assignments were "discontinued" in the last two years. That discourages teachers from demanding their rights. Therefore, the Principal reduces the school's grade by a full letter.
I was with three other ATRs, an ATR Assistant Principal, Social worker, and Guidance counselor. All were over 50 years of age. In my travels through four schools all the ATRs I met were over 45 years old. Yes, Amy Arundell, there certainly is age discrimination going on here. There were no hidden vacancies that I heard about at the school and the Physics teacher is now teaching Earth Science. Boy it sounds like School #3 in that respect.
The school is well run, the students follow the rules and are respectful, and the classes are small with no more than 25 students in each class. Would I like a position there! You bet I would, except I am tenured, experienced, over 30 years old, and would demand my rights to be paid for extra work. Therefore, applying for a position at the school is a waste of time.
Friday, October 18, 2013
This school is one of five Bloomberg small schools that replaced a large comprehensive neighborhood school that closed in Southeast Queens. These schools were supposed to be academically superior to the school they replaced. However, my experience at the campus tells me that all the DOE did was "to replace the deck chairs on the titanic". The school I was in call their students "scholars" but most of these students are anything but "scholars". The students are ill-behaved, disrespectful, disinterested academically, and disrupt the learning environment. In the Graphic Arts room that includes computers for the students to work on, I saw a bunch of boys looking at various guns and which ones were the best to hide in their clothes. I had to threaten them with the dean to get them back on task. This is a full scanning school but some students have figured a way to get there cellphones in. For some of the students it is a "pipeline to prison".
Academically, the school is failing with the "college readiness" number of 6.5% for the 2009-12 period and one teacher told me it is under 5% for the 2013 school year. An example how poorly even the best students do is that for the 2011-12 school year only 10% of the Physics students passed the Regents and 11% passed the Chemistry Regents. This school thought that all the students could jump from Living Environment to Chemistry. Well that's obviously not the case after seeing the terrible Regents scores and they are using the Physics teacher to teach two courses of Earth Science the school started this year.. Unfortunately, this error in thinking that making academically unprepared students take higher level Science would raise the students academically has caused many a student to suffer and fail needlessly.
The school is hiding an ART vacancy and is having an ATR Science teacher "babysitting" the Art students while the school has had an ART ATR in the building for the last month and she does teacher coverages, go figure the logic there? The school is one of the worst schools when it comes to staff respect for the Administration and is on Chaz's "do not apply" list.
The school did not provide a bathroom key and the Chapter Leader never introduced herself. The teachers' room has no UFT literature or informational pamflets from TRS. On the bright side, there is plenty of parking at the campus and the commute was easy.
Would I take a position at this school? "Hell no"!
Saturday, October 12, 2013
School #2 is a large comprehensive high school in central Queens with over 3,400 students jammed into the school. It had the most oversized classes in the City with an astonishing 400 of them. The Principal has been there for over a decade and has had his run-ins with investigators throughout the years. The school is a full time scanning school and no cell phones or other electronic devices are allowed into the school. In the last few years over 33% of the teachers, most of them senior staff, either left, resigned, or retired so that many of the staff have less than five years in the system. This year the DOE dumped an additional 300 over the counter (OTC) students into the school that contributed to the overcrowded classrooms as many of these OTC students were not selected by other schools and many others in the area were being downsized or closed. Contributing to the overcrowding problem is that many teachers are given full time comp time positions like Deans and advisers with no assigned classes. The overcrowding makes the classrooms somewhat unruly and noisy, not a good environment for learning.
The student population is somewhat diverse within equal number being of South Asian ancestry and of Afro based origin. There are a large minority of Hispanic students and isolated East Asian and White students but they are few in number. The halls are relatively quiet as the Deans do a good job keeping the students from hanging out. However, the school cannot attract the better students and according to the staff, even their Advanced Placement classes include many students that shouldn't be in them. In the more advanced classes there seems to be a 3 to 1 ratio of girls to boys. It appears that academically, the school has problems attracting males with good middle school grades. The lack of cell phones make teaching easier since it takes away the temptation from using them. Unfortunately, many of the students find other ways to pass the time and not do the work.
Parking is atrocious, especially on Monday and Tuesday. Teachers consider themselves lucky if they can park within a mile of the school. Many teachers simply take a car service or mass transit to get to work. That alone makes going to this school everyday an issue. Why the Principal didn't arrange for parking for his teachers as many other school did is a question that the school should address. Oh, by the way I never met the Chapter Leader nor did he(she?) bother to seek me out to let me know how the school works.
The school gets a passing grade but just barely. While I would accept a position at the school, I would not be happy about taking it.
Saturday, October 5, 2013
Yes, the Traveling ATR is back and ready to travel throughout the borough of Queens and to share my misadventures with the educators of New York City. It's been almost two years since I last appeared on this blog and demonstrated to the two schools willing to pick me up as a classroom teacher that I am an asset to the schools in question. However, thanks to the misguided "fair student funding" fiasco and short-sighted principals who don't know how important it is to have a "quality teacher" for their students, I find my self traveling in the ATR pool yet again.
I was assigned to a 200 student transfer school with a newly-minted "Leadership Academy Principal" who has no experience teaching in the New York City classroom. The staff are mostly tenured but only have between three to six years experience. The student body are "high needs" mostly overaged and under credited and are unmotivated. The teachers seem to be clueless about their fate under the teacher evaluation system and don't understand that the poor student growth scores, likely with these students, could result in many of the teachers getting an "ineffective rating".
There is no teachers' room for the school and bathroom keys were not provided to the three ATRs assigned to the school. The ATRs were given a table and a chair in the main hall to sit at when not covering classes. There was no safe or secure space to store our belongings. The staff and Principal treated us with respect and didn't abuse the ATRs during our stay there.
Most of the students have very low academic levels and act and dress "thuggish" . Many of these students are only looking to get the credits they need without putting in the work to succeed academically. The students know this is a "last chance school" and think that they can get away with just about anything as long as they show up to the school. Many of these students disappear after lunch and come to school as they please. This is "bad news" for the teachers because these types of students will get "low growth scores" and jeopardize their jobs.
The Principal replaced a highly popular Principal that was accused of financial issues and brought with him a very permissive policy called "restorative justice" that addresses student discipline by using meditation rather than progressive discipline and puts the teaching staff at risk. He believes in the "circle method" of discussion and has a non-profit agency to provide counseling and social services to the students. Many of these non-profit employees act and dress just like the students, not very professional if you ask me.There are no DOE guidance counselors to serve the students. The Principal is hiding an Earth Science vacancy and wants to hire a friend of his in January once his friend gets certified as a teacher.
The school is a tough school to teach in as they service "high needs" students with academic, behavioral, and attendance issues. While the Principal seems supportive, the nature of the student body makes teaching in this "last chance school" a dicey preposition and could lead to many "ineffective ratings" due to the State's student growth requirements. Von voyage and I wish the teaching staff well, they are going to need it.
Under no circumstances would I ever accept a position at this school, unless I want to be terminated.