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Archive for November, 2009

EFCA: Keep Up the Fight

If workers keep their mouths shut, their noses clean and stop busting chops and bucking their bosses, they will, if management sees fit, be paid fairly so that, provided they are not ingrates or spendthrifts, they will do just fine being one paycheck ahead of eviction and the need to forage through dumpsters to find sustenance for their sick kid who is medically unattended because his parent’s employer is no believer in investing in cost-ineffective luxuries like health insurance.

That’s the credo of the business community and their shills in the Department of Commerce and the Republican Party.  That’s why the American Society of Employers has published a “toolkit” including links on “Warning Signs of Unionization,” and “Strategies to Stay Union Free.” More »

New York Teacher

New York TeacherHighlights from the Nov. 26 issue of New York Teacher:

At a time when workers’ benefits are eroding and becoming more costly nationwide, the UFT is enhancing the package of benefits offered by its Welfare Fund, UFT President Michael Mulgrew announced at the Nov. 18 Delegate Assembly.

With state midyear budget cuts up in the air as Gov. David Paterson and state lawmakers remained locked in disagreement, the outlook for school budgets remains murky.

To visit Elizabeth Josephson’s classroom at Island Academy, you go through the same routine, and checkpoints as someone visiting an inmate at Riker’s. She left teaching at college and private school to reach out to these students.

UFT delegates at their Nov. 18 meeting overwhelmingly approved a resolution that authorizes the union leadership to seek the intervention of the state’s Public Employment Relations Board if necessary. More »

The Charter Challenge

As the United Federation of Teachers heads toward our fiftieth anniversary in 2010, we find ourselves facing a challenge greater than any we confronted in the last half-century of our history. Our union has been tempered by many extraordinary struggles over these last five decades, but never have we seen what we are witnessing today: a direct assault on the public character of American education and on the very right of teachers to organize collectively in unions. While the UFT has withstood these attacks as well as any teacher union in the nation, it would be a serious mistake to look at developments in New Orleans and Washington DC and proclaim “it can not happen here.” If we fail to grasp the critical nature of this moment and mount an appropriate, vigorous response, it can and will happen here.

At the center of this challenge is the charter school movement. More »

The Day the Animals Escaped From the Zoo

[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 this post originally appeared.]

In response to my last post, in which I confessed to jumping up and down as my two most notoriously troublesome students changed schools, one of my readers wondered: “What ever will you post about now?”

Oh, I don’t know, how about the time there was a lizard in my classroom?!

Scene: Monday morning, second period. My kids are finishing coloring in some turkeys that a substitute teacher gave them last period. Everything is relatively, blessedly mellow. Then I hear a voice say: “Um, Miss Brave? There’s a lizard!”

I look. My eyes see, but they do not believe. Actually, at first I think, Who brought in a toy lizard and dropped it by the door?

Then the toy lizard scurries across the floor. Then I think: A lizard? Seriously? Why me? More »

UFT-Funded Scholarships

Albert Shanker College Scholarship Fund

Do you know a special high school senior in need of a scholarship?

Each year, the Albert Shanker College Scholarship Fund of the UFT proudly gives out nearly $1 million in undergraduate and graduate scholarships to academically excellent and financially eligible students from New York City public schools.

The deadline to apply for the 2010 scholarships is Jan. 31. Encourage students to apply today.

Visit the Scholarship Fund Web page for more information.

Did I Say That?

In his Nov. 19 Washington Post column, Jay Mathews spotlights the decline of research (term) papers as routine high school assignments and relates the experiences of a diligent history teacher, now retired, whose 3000 word term papers shrank over the years so that she finally ceased assigning them at all, begrudgingly bowing to the endemic decline in the ability and readiness of students to do the grunt work of note cards, paraphrasing direct quotations and linking them with transitions, footnotes, bibliographies, outlines and drafts.

The teacher, Doris Burton, described the term papers as “a regurgitated version of an encyclopedia.”

That might be putting it too kindly. Text vomiting implies that there has at least been partial processing of information.

Burton’s decision not to assign major research projects did not constitute dereliction of duty or abrogation of her profession’s commitment to feasible idealism as means to curry kids’ intellectual potential. It was not a case of “burnout.”

It was submission to an overwhelming reality: that we have kept kids ignorant of basic skills and found all kinds of excuses to justify it. More »

R.I.P. Mr. G

[Editor's note: Marie Boo is a school psychologist at PS 45 in Queens.]

“Brace yourself — I have bad news and you’re not going to believe it.”

The phone call came on the eve of Memorial Day last year from our school secretary. I listened in disbelief as she told me that our guidance counselor had died that afternoon. She explained that it appeared to be a sudden heart attack but I don’t really recall the rest of the conversation as I tried to absorb this horrific news. I kept thinking No…not Steve…it can’t be true…he was at work last week and seemed fine…his poor family…how will we tell the students? Then it hit me as I was telling my daughter about the call. I didn’t just lose a coworker; I just lost a very dear friend.

The next few days were the most difficult of my twenty-two-year career. As a member of the district crisis team for several years, I have had to report to other schools and assist staff and students cope with the loss of someone from their community. Now I had to call the crisis team and ask for assistance. With a constant lump in my throat I had to offer support and comfort to my own and I remember one moment when I thought, “Damn it Steve, you’re suppose to be here with me helping others deal with the death of someone else. It’s not supposed to be you.” More »

Honduran Workers Rehired Thanks to U.S. Students

United Students Against Sweatshops scored a big victory on behalf of 1200 Honduran workers who lost their jobs when Russell Athletic closed their plant in response to organizing efforts. Russell, owned by Fruit of the Loom, agreed to reopen the factory in Choloma, rehire the workers, recognize their union, and collectively bargain in good faith.

From the Times:

From the time Russell shut the factory last January, the anti-sweatshop coalition orchestrated a nationwide campaign against the company. Most important, the coalition, United Students Against Sweatshops, persuaded the administrations of Boston College, Columbia, Harvard, New York University, Stanford, Michigan, North Carolina and 89 other colleges and universities to sever or suspend their licensing agreements with Russell.

“For us, it was very important to receive the support of the universities,” Moises Alvarado, president of the union at the closed plant in Choloma, said by telephone on Tuesday. “We are impressed by the social conscience of the students in the United States.”

Making the Grade

[Editor’s note: Kansan in the Bronx is a second-year teacher in a Bronx middle school.]

There were a lot of things I was anxious about when I came out of the School of Ed. One was the switch from being the graded to being the grader. It was really an odd sensation to grade someone else’s work in black and white. All that time spent at a liberal undergraduate school attending vegan potluck dinners, talking about how terrible judging people can be, and now I was being paid to judge people every day.

It gets easier with time. At first you might pore over your grades for a very long time, thinking about how many points a student really deserves based on their effort and the demonstration of their comprehension of an idea. You might come up with rubrics for the littlest assignments to ensure fairness and award points to papers only after covering up their authors’ names. A lot of that will disappear under the sheer workload that is grading. Really, looking at students’ work takes forever! A very good friend of mine back in Kansas has more than 150 students on her rosters. Think about it: you assign a two-page paper in all of your classes and all of a sudden you have a 300-page novel to tear apart, comment on, revise and turn back to its many authors. Who has time for that? More »

What Happened to HR 676?

What Happened to HR 676?The Metro NY Labor Communications Council is sponsoring an “organized conversation” about health care reform tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 17, from 6-8 p.m., at the Center for Worker Education (CWE), CUNY, 25 Broadway, 7th floor auditorium.

View the flier here.

Participants include:

  • Bill Henning, 2nd vice president, CWA Local 1180
  • Janine Jackson, FAIR
  • Rev Earl Kooperkamp, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Harlem
  • Luella Toni Lewis, MD, president, Committee of Interns and Residents
  • Trudy Lieberman, CUNY School of Journalism
  • Hank Sheinkopf, political consultant
  • Nick Unger, AFL-CIO

Contribution: $5 / $3 seniors & unemployed / students free
Beverages and light refreshments will be served

“Thanks for Nothing!”

Everyday heroes are not always unsung. On occasion they actually get the recognition they deserve. If they performed their heroism while on “company time” and their unselfish deed conflicted with company policy and compromised productivity and the “bottom line,” they might not get the approbation from the front office, but at least there usually remains some media attention, even on a slow news day, or a “key to the city” to write home about.

Credit must be given, you might think, to a person whose split-second reaction to sudden danger, saves the lives of strangers.

Such a reflex, as much spiritual and physical, reveals and defines that person’s true character. Virtuous acts, especially when spontaneous and dramatic, are not done for glory, promotion, or an “employee of the month” citation. Although their reward is self-validation, even heroes like to be thanked, I am told.

Here is a summary of how three school bus drivers, under similar circumstances, were celebrated. More »

Budget Message from Michael Mulgrew

Call or fax Albany to protect classrooms!

Budget talks in Albany are coming down to the wire.

Governor Paterson reconvened the State Legislature this week for a special session to close a midyear deficit of over $3 billion, and under consideration is a $223 million cut to New York City schools. Legislators will make a decision on a deficit reduction plan in a matter of days.

The UFT is prepared to work with lawmakers to meet the challenge. We have proposed alternative budget cuts that will help us get us through the immediate crisis. But we say
NO to cuts to the classroom and direct services to the classroom
.

We need you to once again call or fax your local senator and assembly member and tell them: Protect the classroom! More »

Who Is Spiking The Water Fountain…

at the Fordham Foundation, and what are they putting in it?

We can think of a lot of ways to describe Kevin Carey’s advocacy of Keynsian economic policies, but Checker Finn’s characterization of “Stalinist” seems to border on the hallucinatory.

New York Teacher

New York TeacherHighlights from the Nov. 12 issue of New York Teacher:

53,000 members’ pension checks were returned quickly after a horrendous $189 million withdrawal, thanks to UFT and city demands.

At the 12th annual UFT Parent Conference on Oct. 31, some 3,000 parents eagerly soaked up information and ideas about how to help their children in school — and signed up in record numbers to advocate in the political arena for adequate education funding.

A sense of history, continuity and pride pervaded the UFT’s Teacher Union Day as more than 1,200 union activists gathered to honor their colleagues and leaders.

When it comes to special education, it seems principals are making excuses again. As of Nov. 9, 705 complaints were logged on the UFT online special education complaint form. More »

Peer Review? We Don’t Need No Stinking Peer Review!

When Caroline Hoxby published her report on How New York City’s Charter
Schools Affect Achievement
in September, its release was choreographed for maximum political effect. Within a matter of days, the Bloomberg campaign issued a call for the unfettered and unregulated expansion of charter schools across New York, citing the Hoxby report. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the New York Charter School Association were proclaiming that Hoxby’s analysis proved wrong the growing body of solid research showing that the academic performance of charter schools is mixed, including this authoritative Stanford study — with their own calls for the complete deregulation of charter schools in New York.

A crucial component of this choreography was the fact that the Hoxby report was issued without any peer review, a break with the commonly accepted standards for the publication of serious academic research. The absence of peer review was crucial because it meant that reporters, who do not have training in rigorous academic research based on complex statistical modeling, were in no position to question the reports’ methods and thus its conclusions. More »