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Pay Now or Pay Later

At the end of the second marking period my Assistant Principal used to call us in one by one and question us about pass/fail rates in our classes. Why did I fail so many kids? I explained that while I was working on my ESP powers: I had not yet perfected them and unfortunately I was not successful with the kids who weren’t in class. Did you call the absentees? Sorry, my Star Trek Universal Translator wasn’t working and I was a little rusty in Croatian, Uzbek and Mandarin. By the way, I asked, “Why did it take a month to complete program changes? Why wasn’t 9th grade class size significantly lower? Why did the counselors have humongous student loads?”

For a fourteen year old a high school can be a frightening place: threats of violence, demanding classes and total anonymity. The student becomes a faceless, nameless OSIS number in a sea of students. It is not surprising that a quarter to a third of high school kids are absent every day … and not the same kids. How many high school students are absent more than twenty days a term?

On a citywide basis only a third of students enter high school having met standards in ELA and Mathematics. At Franklin K. Lane High School : only 13% enter 9th grade at standard. 42% of the students enter overage, 43% of students in the school are 9th grader by credit and it is not surprising that the average daily attendance this year to date is 61.1%. (All data comes from Department of Education School Report Cards)

Far Rockaway High School even has a higher hill to climb: only eleven per cent of students enter having met ELA and Math standards, 38% enter overage and 40.3% of the school is 9th grade by credit.

We could name school after school with the same handicap, overage entering classes made up of 80-90% of students who have not met ELA/Math standards. You would think the Department would target entering 9th grade classes: a three week Summer Bridge program, significantly lower 9th grade class size, teams of 9th grade teachers with common planning time, counselors with reasonable case loads, close relationships with Social Service agencies, Community and Faith Based Organizations.

Instead the elves at Tweed mandated a single, inflexible method of instruction and spent three years demeaning teachers in a mean-spirited contract struggle.

The ATS system (Automate the Schools) collects a range of attendance data and can manipulate it into sundry reports. With a push of a button ATS can tell you how many 407 Reports have been generated (excessive absence), how many LTAs (long term absences) exist. It’s obvious: once the student is out the door it’s too late: a classic example of a reactive approach to a problem. We need proactive approaches: we could save student academic lives if we spent the money as the student entered the school door not as he was walking out the door. Pay now or pay later.



  • 1 Schoolgal
    · Nov 30, 2005 at 7:53 pm

    Hi Leo,

    Sorry to use this post to ask a question, but since no one has posted yet and I forgot your email and phone # you gave me, I will take a shot.

    I read that principals can implement lunch duty by Feb. 1st. My principal started 2 weeks ago and put a brand new cluster on duty 5 times a week with the blessing of our CC. I though it was in leiu of the professional period. She has not lost this professional period so she still gets 6 preps, but today she told me she wasn’t happy with the arrangement. Is this legal?

    As for the extended Mondays, my principal is still selecting all the activities so she successfully dismantled the Professional Development Committee our District Rep told us to set up. Our DR never responded to our pleas for help.

    When can we legally start reworking our bulletin boards? Everyone is telling me Dec. 1st.

  • 2 Schoolgal
    · Nov 30, 2005 at 7:55 pm

    Sorry it turned into a few questions. :)

  • 3 Chaz
    · Nov 30, 2005 at 8:07 pm


    I agree with you. This is simply DOE’s one-size-fits-all mentality. Already they are working hard to make the 37.5 tutoring time into a sixth class. However, we need the UFT to take the offensive rather than react to DOE’s mindless directives.

  • 4 redhog
    · Nov 30, 2005 at 11:27 pm

    There was a very informative meeting this afternoon at the Queens UFT office, at which Randi gave comprehensive and practical answers to this overall question. I think there is ample reason for us all to be encouraged, even heartened. However, we must each of us do our part. We must help the Union help us defend our rights. We must be knowledgeable, courageous, and unified. I expect there will be a full report soon in NY Teacher or some official letter or other communication.

  • 5 oldpro
    · Dec 1, 2005 at 8:13 am

    Flash: NYPOST Only 18% or NYC High School Grads earn a regents diploma. Bloomberg says that is too low. If we extract eight or nine of the top schools(they all get regents diplomas) then NOBODY is getting one. Amazing the whole system is directing kids toward these diplomas and 50 % drop out and 18% get one.
    Which means that the entire system is serving less than 10% of the students.
    If we eliminate the tops schools. Fewer than 2% are being served.


  • 6 Schoolgal
    · Dec 3, 2005 at 11:49 am

    Sorry Redhog,

    At our union meeting, our CC warned tenured teachers if they get 2 U ratings in a row, we are out the door. And she encouraged the new teachers to follow all admins rules. BTW she attended the same meeting you did.

    The tenured teachers in my school have no backbone and cannot be changed by a new CC. The reality is the future of this union, I am sad to say, is powerless unless Randi herself leads from above. She can no longer expect, as her letter we all received stated, to have the rank and file make the first move. With CCs like mine and the mind-set of new teachers who are afraid of their own shadow, she needs to have a better plan of action. Otherwise she is the George W. to our Iraq.

  • 7 Chaz
    · Dec 4, 2005 at 5:38 pm


    I agree with schoolgal. Teachers are looking for the union to take charge not appealing to teachers to help the union. Why do we pay dues for?

    Instead of whining the union should be challanging the DOE on their attack on the classroom teacher. Randi looks like the village idiot in the newspapers with her complaint about the DOE implementing the contract she agreed to. Randi should be fighting about the defination of tutoring and micromanagement.

    She gave us a bad contract and now she wants our help? Please I am getting sick of this.