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Archive for August, 2009

New Deal Raw

According to a proposed update of the Texas high school history standards curriculum, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who brought us such programs as social security, does not qualify as a “significant political and social leader in the United States.” Accordingly they have done their duty as they see it and eliminated FDR from their list of such notables. They have, however, added Henry B. Gonzalez.

This tragic/comical lopping off of FDR’s legacy, as reported by Mary Ann Zehr in an Aug. 17 post on Curriculum Matters, illustrates the fallen state of historical truth when its presentation is entrusted to ideologues or ignorant patsies of one “wing” or another.

Striking FDR from the rolls of significant political and social leaders in American history is like dropping earth from the registry of inhabited planets or Queen Victoria from the rolodex of nineteenth century European female monarchs. More »

Putting the ACK! in August

[Editor’s note: miss brave is the pseudonym for a public school teacher in Queens going into her third year. She blogs at miss brave teaches nyc, where this post originally appeared.]

It always takes me about a month to adjust to the rhythm of the summer. For the first two weeks in July, I dream about school: it’s not over yet, it’s just begun, I’m getting excessed, I’m being moved to high school, you get the picture. And just when I’m settling into vacation, blam! August hits like a ton of bricks and I start having those back to school dreams. A few days ago I had the one where it’s the first day of school and my classroom is completely unfinished, and also it’s like the middle of first period and I have yet to pick up my class.

So I took that as a sign I should get my butt over to the school supply store. (Actually, if you really want to know, it went down like this: July 30 — I get an email from the UFT about our Teacher’s Choice allocation money for the coming school year. As always, we can start purchasing school supplies on August 1. Which I don’t, because I spent August 1 at the beach and a baseball game, because I have all the time in the world to purchase school supplies! August 2 — I have my bad dream about the unfinished classroom. August 3 — helloooooooooo, school supplies, I’ve been expecting you.) More »

New York Teacher

Highlights from the August issue of New York Teacher:

New teachers grow their skills at UFT Summer Series

Scores of new teachers accepted the UFT’s invitation to its 2009 Summer Series, designed to bring teachers in their first three years on the job together and to introduce them to the city’s local treasures, in this case the four borough botanical gardens.

[Browse other new teacher articles here.]

From the beginning, Michael Mulgrew wanted to work with at-risk kids, and at a very young age he embraced his mother’s most important piece of advice: Wherever you are, whatever you do, always help others. More »

The Best Year(s) of My Life

[Editor’s note: Bronxteach is the pseudonym of an elementary school teacher going into his third year. He blogs at bronxteach.com, where this post first appeared.]

A little more than two years ago I found myself trying to decide between New York City Teaching Fellows and a paralegal position at a law firm specializing in anti-trust law. They both seemed like good, albeit far different, opportunities. My ever-protective mom, a former teacher who got her start in East L.A., advised against Teaching Fellows. I myself weighed the benefits of excitement and “making a difference” against the likelihood that I would be embarking on the most difficult experience of my life. Ultimately, picturing myself numbed by boredom one month into work at my air-conditioned Manhattan office, I opted for Teaching Fellows.

Surely it would be an incredible challenge. Despite volunteer experience in high school and college as a mentor and tutor for “at-risk” youth, nothing had really prepared me to teach some of New York City’s poorest children. Still, I looked forward to the chance to gain “valuable life experience” as I saw it. In two years, I would look back at my time as a teacher with pride at what I had accomplished and the good I had done for the kids. Then, I would move on to whatever career I’d finally chosen.

Flash forward to October 2007. Things were not going well. More »

Social Promotion and High Stakes Tests

The mayor has announced that he is expanding his plan for ending social promotion. The problem with that plan isn’t the goal, but rather the means by which to reach it: by relying (can you guess?) on how well the student does on state exams. Over-reliance on test scores for high stakes decisions is never a good idea, but relying on them for decisions about social promotion seems especially ill-advised. Students must attain a Level 2 to be promoted, but as the Daily News pointed out students can reach that standard just by guessing. And, on Thursday, Diane Ravitch had this to say: More »

Espionage in the Learning Cell

Four high-definition closed circuit television cameras and microphones have been installed in the classrooms of each of hundreds of British schools and the authorities do not deny that they are determined to expand this surveillance on a massive scale.

They claim that the footage, of which the principal is in charge, is used primarily for the purpose of teacher training but that collateral benefits include the inhibiting of bullying and students’ false allegations against teachers.

The phrase “teacher training” is widely viewed as code for teachers’ forced acquiescence to principals’ micromanagement with the sovereign right of the principal to fire, without challenge, any teacher deemed noncompliant or incompetent for reasons that they need not articulate. More »

No “Speak Truth To Power” Moment: The Real Story Of Greed Behind The Anti-Teacher Union Attacks

When Eva Moskowitz and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal pile on in an attack on teacher unions, and Eduwonk’s Andy Rotherham, the National Association of Public Charter Schools and the Fordham Foundation’s Flypaper add their blogging imprimaturs, you know that this is not going to be a Mahatma Gandhi “speak truth to power” moment. What is remarkable is how much it has become a mirror image inverse, a “power attempts to silence truth” moment.

It hurts the interests of NYC school children, Moskowitz and the Wall Street Journal opine, when the UFT insists that those who do the work of classroom para-professionals in NYC public schools be paid the contractual salary and benefits of a para-professional and when the Baltimore Teachers’ Union insists that the teachers at a Baltimore KIPP school be paid their contractual salary. When teacher unions demand those contractual rates of pay and benefits, we are taking services away from students. Schools should be able to pay whatever the market will bear, the argument goes, and in tough economic times, the lower, the better. Make up for budget cuts in public schools by paying school employees less.

It’s time to say “enough is enough,” and tell the real story. More »

Meet the New President

Michael MulgrewMichael Mulgrew was elected President of the UFT in July 2009, effective August 1. Prior to his current position, Michael was elected Vice President for Career and Technical Education (CTE) High Schools in 2005 and became the union’s Chief Operating Officer in 2008.

A Staten Island native, Michael began his teaching career as a substitute at South Richmond High School IS/PS 25 instructing students with special needs. He also volunteered weekends at CUNY teaching kids computer skills. From the beginning, Michael wanted to work with at-risk kids, and at a very young age he embraced his mother’s most important piece of advice: Wherever you are, whatever you do, always help others. He has worked hard to pass that value on to his daughter and his nieces and nephews, and it has also helped shape his career. More »

Collaboration, Accountability, Community

In an opinion piece in yesterday’s Daily News, Randi Weingarten outlined the AFT’s priorities for education reform: establishing effective collaboration between educators and policy makers, finding fairer ways to evaluate teachers, and setting up community schools in those districts that would benefit most from them. She also put out a call to those who would rather attack teacher unions than work to improve education.

I have spent over a decade trying to improve and strengthen public education in New York City. It has been a labor of love and an honor. Last week, I stepped down as president of the United Federation of Teachers. In my new role as president of the American Federation of Teachers, the UFT’s national parent, I will be working with our leaders and members around the country — including my hometown — to put in place the programs, policies and innovative ideas that should help ensure that all of our children receive the education each of us would want for our own children.

This is the work that a strong, forward-looking union does and should be doing: working to promote proven programs and promising ideas that are good for kids and fair to teachers. What we should not be doing is spending time, energy and resources responding to attacks that serve only to demonize teachers and their unions.

Read the rest here.