Thursday, December 8, 2016

Grading UFT Leadership on Class Size: When Ed Notes Called for Zero Tolerance on over-sized classes - Oct. 2000

The class size issue has gotten buried in all the ed reformy crap over the past 20 years. Arthur Goldstein, CL of Francis Lewis HS had a recent experience in his school with the UFT class size provisions of the contract and is bringing the issue back on the agenda. I revisit a reso I brought to the DA in Oct. 2000 which passed unanimously. Shows how meaningless it can be to get stuff passed and then ignored. Arthur raised the issue at Monday's Ex bd meeting.

Arthur Goldstein--MORE-- at Dec. 5 UFT Ex Bd meeting:
At this juncture it’s vitally important that we support our members, our students and our community.

Last week I learned that Deborah M. Gaines, an arbitrator who gets paid $1600 a day, found it reasonable that Francis Lewis High School teachers with oversized classes be released from one C6 assignment per week. She also found it reasonable that Forest Hills High School teachers be released from on C6 assignment per week per oversized class. Thus, if I have two oversized classes, I’m relieved from one C6 assignment. If a Forest Hills teacher has two oversized classes, she’s relieved from two C6 assignments.

First, it’s ridiculous to think it’s easier to teach two oversized classes at 214% capacity Lewis than at Forest Hills. Second, it’s ridiculous to contend the DOE-sponsored “action plan” of releasing teachers from C6 assignments makes up in any way for oversized classes. Teachers don’t need a period off from tutoring when they have oversized classes. Students in oversized classes don’t need less tutoring either. The DOE, which claims to place “Children first, always,” clearly doesn’t give a golly gosh darn about our working conditions, which are student learning conditions.

More importantly, this remedy tells principals everywhere they can make as many oversized classes as they wish with no consequence. Why should they care if teachers give one fewer day of tutoring when they can create fewer classes with impunity and save thousands of dollars by cramming students in like sardines? Today I went and counted, found 33 oversized classes, filed five grievances and got eight corrected. That is eight more than the arbitrator managed to fix and I’m on day one.

An action plan needs to address and discourage oversized classes. This does neither, and in fact tells principals they can abuse the Contract, us, and our students with impunity. Let's let members know with absolute clarity that we don’t play this game.

I ask that the UFT let both members and the DOE know we absolutely oppose oversized classes and will not tolerate nonsense like this. I ask the United Federation of Teachers to make sure Deborah M. Gaines never get another contract as arbitrator.

Also how many oversized classes are there in the city as we speak, and what’s our plan moving forward?

Schoor—We will get an answer. Grievance department not here.

Janella Hinds
—Grievance department is reviewing this situation. We are evaluating this plan for Lewis. 
Arthur Goldstein at NYC Educator has been writing about the class size travails at his school, Francis Lewis HS, one of the largest and more overcrowded schools in the city. Here is his most recent report: Class Size in the UFT Contract which details some of the faults in the UFT contract class size provisions.

As a member of various opposition parties in the UFT since 1970, we always had to battle the leadership on the class size issue. At the very least we wanted to see the loopholes closed. But they seemed perfectly happy with the status quo and nothing will change until the contract changes. But the leadership has not fought for contract changes since the late 60s.

In between caucuses when I did Ed Notes as an independent, I made class size a major issue -- which was how I came into contact with Leonie Haimson after a delegate asked me if I was associated with her - and we should all donate to
Class Size Matters - Please give to Class Size Matters.

At the October, 2000 Del Ass - if memory is correct - Hillary appeared to get our support for her run for the Senate - and Randi was in a great mood after Hillary left and the meeting began.

She called on me in the new motion period and as I began to speak she told me to come up to the podium and use her mic --- unprecedented before and since I believe -- I would say that was the height of our relationship -- within months it began to deteriorate as Randi grew more undemocratic and began to push ed deform policies.

With Randi signaling support, Unity people voted to support my reso and it passed unanimously. (Of course they voted as told.) The NY Teacher printed the list around January 2001 and also the next year but that may have been it.

Here is the reso - and I think the NY Teacher should continue to print oversized class lists every year -- Dec/January is not a bad time to do it because all adjustments have been made.

Here is a reprint from my proposal in the October 2000 Ed Notes. The reason I called for the 4th grade reduction was because the city council had passed limits for grades 1-3 and I felt I was being reasonable by pushing for gradualism - at the very least let's do a grade a year - and remember, the city was flush with money at that time. I think Arthur may revisit the reso below with some modifications. Forcing the leadership to be accountable for publishing over class size lists will bring more attention to the issue.

My Oct. 2000 reso calling for the NY Teacher to print a list of every over-class size in the city
Class Size Matters
I know of a class that started the year with 39 children It is time for our union to take a position of Zero Tolerance for such high class sizes. It is just not acceptable for us to allow any teacher to work under such conditions. 

It is clear to anyone who has been a classroom teacher that class size is the single most important working condition. But if low class size is important to teachers, it is even more important to children. Despite its weaknesses, our contract does more to protect children that any educational directive from the board of education (a fact our union should be stressing.) When is the last time a board official said to a teacher: We just can’t allow so many children in a class. I will look for any available personnel currently not in the classroom to relieve that burden? It’s funny how the arrow of accountability only runs in one direction. 

Beyond our contract, early childhood teach- ers are protected by class size caps (passed by the city council) in early grades. These caps end at grade 3. Thus, class size rises dramatically in grade 4 (one of the crucial testing grades.) This causes all sorts of problems. If there are 3 classes in the 3rd grade, they get squeezed into 2. Children who are used to a certain level of attention no longer get it. Because of the testing pressure and the change in class size, many teachers try to avoid teaching 4th grade.
For years we assumed that attempts would be made to extend these caps grade by grade. But momentum seems to have faded. Now would be an appropriate time to renew calls for the extension of capping

Here is a proposal to deal with these issues: Resolved: The union will compile a list from every school and district listing all classes with more than 32 children and the reason why the class size limit is exceeded (space, class size loophole, grievance not properly filed, etc.) A report will be issued and a discussion held at the December Delegate Assembly. The New York Teacher will print the list as a way to focus attention on this issue.

And be it further resolved that the UFT will call on the city council to place caps on the 4th grade. 

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