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Archive for September, 2009

Closing the Harlem-Scarsdale Score Gap

Caroline Hoxby’s updated report on New York City’s charter schools uses a provocative construct: she finds that Harlem’s charter students are making standardized test score gains that put them on track to substantially close their achievement gap with Scarsdale.

Hoxby, a Hoover Institution fellow and Stanford professor who has published extensively on charter schools (favorably) and teacher unions (unfavorably), looked at students who won admittance by lottery to certain New York City charters and compared their performance to students who applied but were not admitted.

More »

Weingarten Calls Obama Ed Plans “Bush III”

AFT President Randi Weingarten joined other labor leaders in criticizing the Obama administration’s education policies as “Bush III,” reports the Washington Post. “It looks like the only strategies they have are charter schools and measurement,” Weingarten asserted. Jack Jennings, a president of the Center on Education Policy agreed, “Obama’s very much in a line of four consecutive presidents.”

Places to Go, Experiences to Share

[Editor's note: Viajante ambulante is the pseudonym of a second-year ESL teacher in a Queens middle school.]

During my first year of teaching, I took a trip to Cuba and started up a pen pal program between my students and Cuban students. Seeing how interested and curious my students became after I shared photos and stories from my travels, I’m really looking forward to sharing my experiences from this summer, which took me from New England to Israel, Egypt and Mexico.

I started my whirlwind vacation soon after the last day of school in June. I went to Burlington, Vermont where I was pleasantly surprised to see Lake Champlain. I had first heard about this pristine body of water as a student in 2nd-grade social studies at P.S. 4 in Staten Island. Seventeen years later, as I sat on a dock and looked out onto the dark-blue water, reflecting a gray evening sky, I smiled and wondered how many of my students will one day find themselves in one of the places I’ve shown them. More »

New Subway Cars for Transit Tech HS

This past spring, the UFT helped secure two new subway train cars for the students of Transit Tech High School. The MTA videotaped the delivery of the cars, and is featuring a story on that project as part of its September edition of Transit Transit News Magazine.

PS 22 Chorus Awarded $30,000 from VH1′s Save the Music

Staten Island’s widely-praised PS 22 Chorus, and its director Gregg Breinberg, are enjoying more high-profile attention, this time from VH1.

According to the Staten Island Advance:

Just last week, Breinberg’s fifth-grade chorus received a $30,000 check for PS 22’s new keyboard lab from VH1’s Save the Music Foundation. His choral crew was also featured on the network’s nationally-televised “VH1 Divas” concert, and got yet another shout-out from celebrity blogger heavyweight Perez Hilton. If this year’s set of tuneful pre-teens does anything close to last year’s, 2009-2010 will be far from slow.

Understandably, though, you have to start from somewhere, and before they can sing Lady Gaga, Tori Amos, Bjork, Fleetwood Mac, and more for hundreds of thousands of YouTube viewers, they have to learn to sing in unison.

“I have to keep reminding myself they’ve come further in their first two days than last year’s group did,” laughs Breinberg, whose wide grin and long hair can be glimpsed in the short camcorder videos that have made PS 22’s kids famous. “Teaching harmony to fifth graders can be like slow torture, but what these new kids lack in refinement, they make up for in enthusiasm.”

Read the full write-up here.

Hoxby’s Other “Stubborn Facts”

Stanford University economist Caroline Hoxby released yesterday an update to her 2007 study of charter schools in New York City.1 In the study, she compares the state examination results of students enrolled in the City’s charter schools (i.e. those students “lotteried-in”) to the results for those students who applied to a charter but were not selected for admission (i.e. the “lotteried-out”). In many respects, this is a good approach as it aims to account for the possibility that charters enroll more motivated families and that it is this motivation, rather than any particular charter school effect, that is the cause of stronger student achievement.

Hoxby’s findings are encouraging: by the third grade, the average charter school student was 5.8 points ahead of the lotteried-out counterpart in math and was 5.3 points ahead in English Language Arts.2 As Hoxby follows students’ achievement from 2001 to 2008, she also finds that the average charter school student gained 3.6 more points each year in math and 2.4 more points each year in ELA. For an average charter student continuously enrolled in grades four through eight, the effect is larger with annual gains of 5.0 points in math and 3.6 in ELA above the performance of the lotteried-out student. (Last year, nine charters enrolled students across all of these grades.)

To put this in some context, Hoxby explains that the difference between a student not meeting standard and meeting standard is about 31 points in math and 44 points in ELA. She also points out that, on average, students in neighboring and affluent Scarsdale typically out-perform students in New York City by 35 to 40 points. In this context, Hoxby claims that the compounded gains for an average student continuously enrolled in third to eighth grade in a charter nearly closes the “Harlem-to-Scarsdale” achievement gap and implies — going outside of her dataset — that the trend will continue.

Such a dramatically-presented conclusion is sure to feature prominently in charter advocates’ efforts to expand the number of charter schools across the city and state. And if it’s true, then why shouldn’t we? The answer actually depends on how policymakers weigh the goal of improved student achievement against other worthy goals, such as greater educational equity and meaningful diversity. And on these other objectives, nagging questions dog the charter sector. More »

In the News: Michael Mulgrew

Today’s New York Times has a profile of UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

And here’s a video from Sept. 17 when Mulgrew appeared on the “PIX11 News at 10” to help weatherman, and former teacher, Mr. G hand out school supplies to needy children.

Shanker Fellowship

The American Federation of Teachers in conjunction with the Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University seek applicants for The Albert Shanker Fellowship for Research In Education.  This research grant provides assistance for advanced graduate students and junior/senior faculty utilizing the American Federation of Teachers archives as well as collections related to educational history housed at the Walter P. Reuther Library in Detroit.  Two grants in the amount of $550 will be awarded in support of research. More »

Know Your Enemy

TAMIMENT LIBRARY BOOK TALK
by Nelson Lichtenstein
author of
The Retail Revolution:
How Wal-Mart Created A Brave New World of Business
Wednesday September 23rd, 2009
6:00pm – 8:00pm

Tamiment Library is located in Manhattan on the 10th floor of Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South (Between LaGuardia & University)
For more information contact Michael Nash
at Michael.Nash@nyu.edu or 212-998-2428

Why Due Process Remains Important

There was an ancient time, according to a story often heard in Tweed, when teachers needed due process to protect their academic freedom. This was the era of the Red Scare and the period of McCarthyism, times which are far in our past. Today’s teachers face no such threat and need no protection.

Danny Dromm tells a different story. Dromm, a 24 year veteran teacher in  New York City public schools and a ten year UFT Chapter Leader of PS 199 in Queens, courageously came out as an openly gay teacher in the early 1990s, during the Children of the Rainbow controversy. As a consequence, he was targeted by a virulently homophobic faction on the School Board of Community School District 24.

After winning last Tuesday’s Democratic primary, Dromm is today the presumptive City Councilperson for the  25th City Council district in Queens covering Woodside, Jackson Heights, Rego Park and Corona.

As Drumm told Wednesday’s Delegate Assembly, it was only tenure and the support of the UFT that turned back that effort by the homophobic school board members. Were it not for due process and for tenure, he would not be about to enter the City Council.

The Jitters

[Editor's note: miss brave is the pseudonym for a third-year elementary school teacher in Queens in her first year as a classroom teacher. She blogs at miss brave teaches nyc, where these posts originally appeared.]

Tuesday, Sept. 1

The past few mornings, I’ve been awake early, my mind buzzing with all the things I need to accomplish before school starts. Most of my tasks are mental — How many classroom jobs do I want to have? What will our morning routine look like? — and some of them are physical, like going to Staples to laminate my number line and gathering all the supplies I’ve accumulated and packed in around my apartment over the summer, like a squirrel hoarding nuts for the fall.

This morning, when the soon-to-be Mr. Brave asked why I was up so early, I told him it was because I was getting nervous. Mr. Brave served in the Army, and I asked him if he had ever been nervous in Iraq. More »

Video: Labor Day Parade

Hundreds of UFT members took to the streets for the city’s annual Labor Day parade on Sept. 12. Braving the elements they marched up Fifth avenue wearing T-shirts commemorating the union’s upcoming 50th anniversary.

National Journal Education Blog

National Journal Expert Blogs: EducationThe National Journal Online’s new education blog is worth taking a look at, and I swear I’d say that even if I weren’t posting there. What the journal has done is convene a permanent panel of ed experts from across the policy spectrum. Every week the Journal asks the panel a different question, and they respond. So far National Journal has covered topics like cash-for-scores, scalable school improvement, Race to the Top funds, and college graduation rates.

The panel includes major names in education like Linda-Darling Hammond, Arne Duncan, Randi Weingarten, Diane Ravitch, Chester Finn, and Rod Paige and all of them are posting. Just click on the link and scroll down to the question that interests you and see what everybody has to say. Check it every week.

Obama: Labor is Part of the Solution

President Obama addressed the AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention in Pittsburgh today, Sept. 15.

He spoke about the urgent need for health care reform and reiterated his support for the Employee Free Choice Act.

These are the reforms I’m proposing. These are the reforms labor has been championing. These are the reforms the American people need. And these are the reforms I intend to sign into law.

Quality, affordable health insurance. A world-class education. Good jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced. A strong labor movement. That’s how we’ll lift up hardworking families. That’s how we’ll grow our middle class. That’s how we’ll put opportunity within reach in the United States of America.

The AFL-CIO Now Blog has a recap, and a transcript of the speech is here.

We’re Thirty-Seventh!

In the World Health Organization’s ranking of health care systems worldwide.

Do you think the Fordham Foundation’s Flypaper blog will devote the next two weeks to a Health Olympics, explaining how our showing behind such powerhouses as San Marino and Malta means economic disaster for the United States? More »