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Archive for 2008

More Press For The Little Chorus That Could

PS 22 Chorus

The widely-praised PS 22 Chorus of Graniteville, Staten Island, was the subject of a Dec. 26 New York Times write-up.

If you’re not familiar with the elementary school chorus and their versions of songs by Coldplay, Tori Amos, Nina Simone, and Bjork, join the thousands of others who have watched their online videos and made YouTube stars out of these fifth-graders and their director, Gregg Breinberg.

The PS 22 Chorus blog chronicles the group’s activities, which recently included performing for Congressman-elect Michael McMahon’s unofficial swearing-in ceremony on Staten Island, and bringing holiday cheer to residents of a nursing home.

Times Backs Employee Free Choice Act

The New York Times editorial board today argues for the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act and praises Obama’s choice for labor secretary, Rep. Hilda Solis, while wondering whether Obama will give her the necessary clout to oversee a forceful labor agenda during a recession.

They strike a hopeful tone, noting that “Mr. Obama’s creation of a task force on middle-class issues, to be led by Vice President-elect Joseph Biden and including Ms. Solis and other high-ranking officials, is an encouraging sign that labor issues will not be given short shrift.” More »

The Gift Of Solidarity

At the AFL-CIO blog, the Reverend Nelson Johnson reflects on solidarity as the Christmas gift we give ourselves.

The Perfect Gift For Teacher

[Editor’s note: They Call Me Teacher is the pseudonym of a first-year teacher in an elementary school in the Bronx. She blogs at They Call Me Teacher where this post originally appeared.]


Monday, as we walked our students out, a few of them started mentioning gifts and talking of the holiday party that would fill our afternoon on Tuesday, the last day before winter break. One boy, who engulfs so much of our energy and focus but somehow makes up for it by constantly making us laugh with his serious, yet silly comments, had decided he’d get my team teacher a chocolate chip cupcake.

One teacher down, and now to figure out the perfect gift for me. As we walked down the stairs he stopped and turned around.

“Whatchu want? A lamp?”

Tempting! But instead I told him a cupcake would make me happy too. Just the thought of this young man carrying a lamp for his teacher through the school was enough to make us laugh all the way back to the classroom.

No Civic Duty on Company Time

When teachers are summoned for jury duty they should postpone their service until their vacation and take it then. That would demonstrate professionalism and save the taxpayers money. This proposal, which doesn’t even rise to the level of an April Fools’ Day joke, comes from the City Council, which has otherwise been on the right side on so many issues concerning teachers. More »

Attitude Adjustment

From Bob Herbert’s New York Times column:

Teachers and autoworkers are two very different cornerstones of American society, but they are cornerstones nonetheless. Our attitudes toward them are a reflection of our attitudes toward working people in general. If we see teachers and autoworkers as our enemies, we are in serious need of an attitude adjustment.

C Is Not For Cookie

[Editor’s note: miss brave is the pseudonym for a second-year elementary school teacher in Queens. She blogs at miss brave teaches nyc, where this post originally appeared.]

Recently my AP came to see me. I was wary, because I thought she was coming to switch around my reading groups, but it wasn’t that. Instead, it was worse: She came to ask me why some of my kids’ reading levels didn’t go up.

She was especially interested in my students who are still reading at level B, who are primarily non-English speakers. She kept asking if I was sure they weren’t ready for C, as if I wasn’t keeping track of their abilities and they had magically developed a robust sight word vocabulary and decoding skills overnight. More »

Value-Added Accountability Requires Context

For every human problem, there is a neat, simple solution; and it is always wrong.
H. L. Mencken

Before Obama’s announcement of Arne Duncan as his choice for Secretary of Education, newspapers and blogs were full of accusations that teacher unions obstruct “real” education reform. The most notable criticism came from David Brooks of the New York Times, but there were others as well. Scratch the surface of these criticisms and they generally boil down to one issue: whether or not administrations should be able to fire and reward teachers based on how well their students do on standardized tests. Education reductionists say they should. The rest of the education world (and not just unions by a long shot) says, “Great sound bite. Tempting. But not a good idea.”

So, why is that? More »

Where Did You Come From?

[Editor’s note: American-Chick-Lit is the pseudonym of a second-year teacher in a high school in the Bronx.]

Our school has tried to align the curriculum across subjects, and because of that, my English students have gone from acting out The Crucible to listening to slave song lyrics to reading our latest novel, My Ántonia. We’ve been trudging along from the 1600s to the 1700s to the late 1800s.

My Ántonia gets us as near to today as 1908. To me, it makes sense.

When we read about the witch trials of Salem, students were seeing videos and reading articles about these very events in their history class. The idea is to keep a similar timeline in both English and History courses, thus giving students a better context for the things about which they’re learning. It took lots of careful planning and collaborating from last school year through this summer, and we aimed to set this plan into motion in September. More »

Rally to Save MS 399

Students, parents, teachers, and union representatives rallied before the start of the school day on Dec. 17 to protest against plans to close MS 399, the Elizabeth Barrett Browning School, in the Bronx.

In the Spirit and To the Letter

A letter in the current New York Teacher has both struck my fancy and hit a nerve so I shall respond to it speaking only for myself.

Rosie Canty makes some superb observations about the difficulties that qualified teachers encounter in their efforts to get hired, the nature of what constitutes qualifications that truly prepare prospective teachers for the realities they will face, and the arguments favoring experienced versus novice teachers on the job. She also notes the concerns of teachers seeking transfers on the basis of hardship and the dangers of cronyism outweighing merit as the determinating factor of who gets hired for a specific position. There’s a lot of insight and wise counsel in this short letter. More »

Obama Taps Duncan for Education Secretary

President-elect Barack Obama announced on Dec. 16 his nomination of Arne Duncan, Chicago schools superintendent, for secretary of education.

In response to the news, Randi Weingarten released the following statement:

We are pleased that President-elect Barack Obama has selected Arne Duncan as his education secretary nominee. The position is as important as any other in the cabinet, particularly because the decisions we make today about education affect our children’s future as well as the health and well-being of our national democracy.

As Chicago schools’ chief executive officer, Duncan has shown a genuine commitment to what we see as the essential priorities for an incoming education secretary. There may be times when we will differ, but we believe we will agree fully that America’s students and teachers need an education secretary committed to focusing on real solutions for closing the achievement gap and providing every child with a rigorous, well-rounded education that prepares him or her for college, work and life.

More »

Two Demonstrations

Tomorrow, Wednesday, Dec. 17, Randi Weingarten, elected officials, and others will join teachers and staff at MS 399 in the Bronx in a demonstration against plans to close the school. The demonstration will commence at 7:30 a.m.

Then at 9:30 a.m., home child care providers will rally on the steps of City Hall to press for state-mandated pay raises. The Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) has refused to pay the higher wages owed to the city’s 28,000 providers since October 2007.


From the Working Families Party:

Dear WFP Supporter,

It’s official: 158,891. That’s how many votes were cast for Barack Obama on the Working Families Party line in New York — 25,000 more than the WFP got for John Kerry in 2004.

Together, we’re building something real — a party that can take on the big fights for working families and win.

More »

The Saga Continues!

[Editor’s note: miss brave is the pseudonym for a second-year elementary school teacher in Queens. She blogs at miss brave teaches nyc, where this post originally appeared.]

I wish I were talking about some great movie sequel, but I am referring, of course, to our assessments. As my loyal readers know, I spent the majority of November working like a dog to administer and grade these assessments, despite the fact that we had neither entered nor analyzed nor utilized the data from the last round of assessments. And, against all odds, I prevailed!

Or, so I thought. More »