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Archive for July, 2009

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

Whitney Tilson, as quoted by Mike Petrilli on the Fordham Foundation’s Flypaper blog:

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard certain reformers denigrate “higher order thinking” and “problem solving” as just more union code words for an anti-accountability agenda.

Learning As Sport

Learning is all about motivation. Many students will race around a track in sheets of rain and howling wind. In any chosen athletic contest or training they will wring every ounce of energy from their psyche and body. They will not wait to be driven, but will drive themselves almost to collapse and be exhilarated by team loyalty and pride in their personal self-discipline. They will revere and obey the slaphappy coach who makes Marine drill instructors seem mellow by comparison as he bulldozes his students to victory over the limitations of others and of themselves.

Why will many of these same kids despise the classroom teacher for insisting they bring a pencil to school each day? More »

Stella D’Oro Rally Canceled

The rally planned for Wednesday has been canceled.

From stelladorostrike.com:

Great news! We now have reason to believe that Lance, Inc. has backed out of the deal to buy the Stella D’oro brand from Brynwood Partners!

This is a very important victory, although we cannot claim credit for it. Our efforts to pressure them and their investors probably had some impact, but no one can say for sure why they made their ultimate decision. But, whatever their reasons, it is wonderful news!

Given this recent development, the event at Barclays Capital this Wednesday has been canceled.

More »

A Blog With Attention Deficit Disorder?

First Sarah Palin announces that she will be pursuing her political career, post-governorship, on Twitter. Then Eduwonk’s Andy Rotherham announces that he, too, will be joining the Twitterati.

Maybe we just see everything through the eyes of the educator, but isn’t Twitter just a blog with attention deficit disorder?

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools: We’re Public, Except When We Ain’t

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has made no secret of its antipathy toward teacher unions and teacher voice in charter schools, despite the growing presence of unionized charter schools in the charter school world. In the month since the public announcement of the innovative Green Dot NY–UFT contract, their blog has been unable to bring themselves to even mention its existence in their daily round-up of news stories involving charter schools. Over the same period of time, it has managed to cover not only every other news story, but every anti-union opinion piece it can find.

It was with some interest then that we noted the appearance — and quick disappearance — of a NAPCS blog post on the subject of “Card Check” and Charters, submitted by NAPCS staffer and lawyer Tiffani Tatum. More »

Get A Life, Antonucci

It is well known that summer Fridays are a notoriously slow news time. Reporters and editors are often pushed to find creative attempts to fill empty pages and air space.

Professional anti-teacher union blogger Michael Antonucci seems to have his own summer doldrums when it comes to dreaming up new attacks on teacher unions. His latest endeavour is an effort to create some sort of story out of the UFT’s new summer office hours. Get a life, Antonucci: even anti-unionists must be able to find something more entertaining than our summer office hours. More »

Frank McCourt, Teacher and Unionist

The United Federation of Teachers mourns the passing of one of our own, Frank McCourt.

Before Frank became famous as the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Angela’s Ashes, Tis and Teacher Man, he was a teacher of English in New York City public high schools. For nearly thirty years, he taught writing in the classrooms of Staten Island’s McKee Vocational High School and Stuyvesant High School. He was an elected member of the UFT’s Delegate Assembly, and the 2006 winner of the union’s highest honor, the John Dewey Award. He served as the chairman of New Yorkers for Smaller Classes.

McCourt was always outspoken in his defense of New York City’s public school teachers and their union. More »

NY State Fails to Narrow Black-White Test Gap: NAEP

Both white and black students raised their math and reading achievement levels from 1992 to 2007, according to a new federal report, but New York was not among the states that narrowed the achievement gap between the races. In fact, few states narrowed their black-white test gaps in either grade or subject, despite the long years of No Child Left Behind.

“Scores have been increasing for both black and white students for the most part, but we do not see a lot of progress in closing the achievement gap,” Stuart Kerachsky, Acting Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, told reporters at the National Press Club on July 14.

In fourth-grade math, 15 states narrowed the gap, including many of the largest — California, Florida, New Jersey, Massachusetts and and Texas. But that was the highpoint. In eighth-grade math only four states closed that gap from 1990 to 2007; just three states narrowed the gap in fourth-grade reading; and no states at all showed any statistically significant improvement in the eighth-grade reading gap over the last two decades. More »

Health Care Reform

No need to do a verbal pirouette. Let’s state it outright without caveats: it is indeed a birthright for all Americans to have quality health care regardless of their station in society and circumstance of life. Anyone opposed to that should hang their heads in shame and not have the brass to attend a house of worship where principles of human dignity are in one way or other celebrated.

Thousands of years of social evolution, with all the gory sacrifices made unavoidable because of all manner of pig-headedness and false pride should have amounted by now to a more advanced civilization or at least a less nakedly greedy society. Yet radio hosts with one hundred million dollar contracts begrudge a worker laboring at two full-time floor-mopping jobs the means to obtain chemotherapy for her infant. Taxing them an extra dime would amount to redistribution of wealth and class envy, their two bugaboos of “socialism.” More »

Students, Respect, and the Learning Environment Surveys

New York City recently released the results for its Learning Environment Surveys, and they tell us something interesting about students and respect. The Department of Education administers the survey annually to parents, teachers, and secondary school students. The 410,000 students who completed the survey were asked to characterize their school experience by agreeing or disagreeing (or strongly agreeing/disagreeing) with various statements. Aggregate answers were then scored from 1-10.

Students reserved the lowest scores for issues of respect. More »

What the New Year Will Bring

[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.]

So I’ve been hibernating for a little while, getting used to the idea of being a classroom teacher for the first time. (Pet peeve: When my students found out I would be going to the classroom, they all said, “You’re going to be a real teacher next year?” I kept explaining, I’m a real teacher now, I just don’t have my own classroom!)

Slowly and painfully, I am getting used to the idea. Bonuses: No more coverages or suspension room ever again!

Many of the first grade teachers had their students write letters of greeting to their second grade teachers (hello, that would be me!). They are too cute not to share, and so here they are. I’m preserving their spelling and grammar, so you’ll just have to do your best to decipher them like any good second grade teacher would. More »

New York Teacher

Weingarten announces she will step down as UFT presidentHighlights from the latest issue of New York Teacher:

It was standing room only, overflowing with those who had come to say goodbye to and celebrate the leadership of Randi Weingarten, who was stepping down as UFT president.

Negotiations between the UFT and the city over pensions resulted in a big win — since approved by the June 24 Delegate Assembly — that preserves the union’s age 55 retirement plan and restores the traditional post-Labor Day school start for members.

The UFT and the Green Dot New York Charter School signed an agreement that UFT President Randi Weingarten said “is based on a very basic premise: Teacher professionalism is the surest path to sustained student achievement.” More »

Would you choose this teacher to guide your children?

That is what the far right-wing Family Research Council asks about Kevin Jennings, founder and former executive director of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network.

Well, since you asked, absolutely yes.

GLSEN has done admirable work in diversity education, and Jennings has been nominated as the new Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education for the Department’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, so the Family Research Council is out for blood. Jennings spoke at last spring’s Representative Assembly of NYSUT, and gave an absolutely dynamite speech.

If you agree that he is fit to guide your children, you might want to sign the GLSEN petition in support of Jennings.

UPDATE: A Fact Check at Think Progress demolishes the Family Research Council’s slanders against Jennings.

Weingarten on “The Brian Lehrer Show”

WNYCRandi Weingarten appeared on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” on Monday morning and spoke about the possible sunset of mayoral control (now a reality), among other topics.

[If the embedded audio player is not working, you can listen to the segment here.]