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New York Teacher

New York Teacher, Dec. 22, 2011Highlights from the Dec. 22 issue of New York Teacher:

Hard work for economic fairness pays off
UFT members, allies lead successful fight for first education funding increase from state in three years
Capping a yearlong political battle by the UFT and its labor and community allies for economic equity, the New York State Legislature on Dec. 6 passed legislation that brought a measure of fairness to the state tax code while providing a much-needed boost in education funding for next year.

Delegates thanked for role in long budget fight
“I can’t thank you all enough,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew told delegates at the Dec. 7 Delegate Assembly, of their role leading up to the state Legislature’s Dec. 6 agreement that will make the state tax system more progressive and earmark $800 million of the new revenue for schools statewide.

This is what democracy looks like
Thank you, UFT members, for all that you did to help win a more equitable tax structure in New York State and secure an additional $2 billion in revenue for next year’s budget. There is no way it would have happened without the incredibly hard work that the members of this great union did to fight for the children of our city.

Special deliveries
Harlem school’s librarian brings role models to students through speaker series
“There is a sweet spirit in this place,” Dr. Cornel West, dressed in his trademark three-piece suit, pocket watch and scarf, told the packed audience of faculty, staff and students from Harlem’s Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing Arts and Frederick Douglass Academy II on Dec. 5. The Princeton University professor urged students to lead an examined life and to “love learning.”

Thousands take giant steps for working people
In a show of labor-union strength in New York City, 20,000 unionized workers, including thousands of UFT members, marched from Herald Square to Union Square on Dec. 1 to demand jobs and a fairer tax system for working Americans. Watching the teeming crowd, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the march was yet another example of “labor standing up for their families, neighbors and communities.” More »

A Closer Look at Charter Practices

Will Dobbie and Roland Fryer’s new study of 35 New York City charter schools attempts to find a preliminary answer to the question of how different practices within charters are correlated with student progress on math and ELA tests. In general, this study’s premise and methods represent a promising shift away from just looking at test scores to measure school quality; it acknowledges variations between charters and gets to the issue of what policies and practices are actually happening inside these schools.

The researchers looked at a wide variety of possible practices based on surveys of principals, interviews with teachers, visits to schools, and reviews of site visit reports from authorizers. The result was that they found five policies that were significantly correlated to increased test scores: “frequent teacher feedback, the use of data to guide instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased instructional time, and high expectations.” As Matt DiCarlo recently noted, the efficacy of some these factors in raising test scores — particularly increased instructional time — has also been supported in other studies.

The finding that’s getting the most attention, however, is their conclusion that “class size, per pupil expenditure, the fraction of teachers with no certification, and the fraction of teachers with an advanced degree” wasn’t positively correlated with test scores at these schools.

There are several problems with putting too much emphasis on either of these preliminary findings, however. More »

Closing Schools: DOE Spins Itself an Alternate Universe of Facts

Last week, the DOE announced the final list of schools it wants to close, and attached to it came the usual press release designed to justify their continued implementation of a failed policy. The release was so clearly misleading that very few people in New York City would believe a single thing it has to say. But since the folks at Tweed have ambitions bigger than the five boroughs can contain, and because the rest of the country might actually believe them, a few corrections are in order. So here you go:

DOE says: “Un-screened high schools opened since 2002 continue to earn higher grades and have better graduation outcomes than un-screened high schools opened before 2002.”

First of all, the new schools are not unscreened. Under Bloomberg, the DOE instituted what it calls a ‘limited screen” policy, and that policy does not work well for many at risk kids. Limited screening gives first preference to students who have actively made themselves “known to the school.” After that, the preference goes to any student in the borough, rather than to kids from the neighborhood. To be known to the school students must attend an admissions fair or have put themselves forward by some other means. Like lottery admission systems, limited screening tends to bias in favor of families that are engaged in the process. In the case of limited screening though, that bias is exacerbated by the fact that the screening is embedded in a complex process that students must navigate, wherein they choose 12 schools and rank them. For a better understanding read Darwin or, more simply, see two New York Times articles, here and here. More »

Financial Killings — And Educational Corpses

The front page of today’s New York Times carries a devastating feature portrait of ‘virtual’ schooling, and the K-12 corporation founded by former Reagan Secretary of Education William Bennett which is making a financial killing off of indefensible ‘virtual’ charter schools. This is the unseemly reality of the future of American education advocated by Terry Moe in his Orwellian titled book, Liberating Learning.

David Montgomery, 1927-2011

David Montgomery, an esteemed historian of American labor, has died. Montgomery was a union organizer, blacklisted in the McCarthy years, before he became a professional historian. He never forget those roots: he was a powerful supporter of labor unions while at Yale University.

In the British Guardian, Eric Foner has a moving obituary.

Bloomberg’s New Schools of Choice Prepare Fewer Kids for College

Over the summer I posted the college-ready rates for old and new schools showing how the schools that were created under Michael Bloomberg actually have lower college-ready rates than the older schools with similar populations. The DOE college-ready rates are based upon how many students passed English and Math Regents with good grades (specifics on the data appears at the end of the post). We can accept this as a good measure or not, but in any case it is a viable measure in the eyes of DOE.

The DOE updated the college-ready information when it released the high school Progress Reports this autumn, so I ran the analysis again. The results are the same, or maybe even worse. College ready rates are low everywhere, but when we break the schools into deciles by level of need, and then compare new and old schools, we see that newer schools are having a harder time getting their students ready for college. Here, for example, are the four deciles that represent schools in the middle of the citywide need range.

Percent of Students College Ready at Old and New Schools

More »

A Quick Overview of Recent Research on Charters

Over at the Shanker Institute blog, Matt DiCarlo has done a great job sifting through the latest research on charter schools in a recent three-part series of blog posts. His first post looks at some of the latest data on charter schools’ impact on student achievement, and concludes that:

the endless back-and-forth about whether charter schools “work” — whether there is something about “charterness” that usually leads to fantastic results — has become a massive distraction in our education debates. The evidence makes it abundantly clear that that is not the case, and the goal at this point should be to look at the schools of both types that do well, figure out why, and use that information to improve all schools.

Matt follows his own advice in the second post, which reviews research which looks at what educational policies are implemented at the charter schools which do seem to have positive effects on student achievement. Examining a variety of studies over the past few years, he finds that

An emphasis on discipline seems to have some support, both in direct tests of associations as well as in a surface review of practices in high-profile charters. This might be something to which regular public schools should pay more attention, as the importance of a safe, orderly learning environment is well-established (see here). Needless to say, regular public schools would probably approach the details of these policies in a different way.

The strongest evidence, however, is that for extended time and perhaps tutoring (as well as the funding that enables these practices).

This does not match up particularly well with the rhetoric of “innovation.” If there are any consistent lessons from the charter experiment, at least in terms of test-based effects, they seem to tell us what we already know — that performance can be improved with more resources, more time and more attention. These interventions are not cheap or new, and they’re certainly not “charter-specific” in any way.

More »

Teachers, the Other 1%

The Daily News has an op-ed that asks, “Does a corporate chief deserve to make in a day what our educators make in a year?”

I’d like to begin by thanking my teachers in the fifth, sixth and seventh grades, Mrs. Pulaski, Mr. Burke and Miss Elmer. They taught us percentages and showed us how to “round down,” which I am doing now. The U.S. population is 312,624,000, and we have 3,198,000 public school teachers, which computes to 1%.

But this is not the 1% composed of Wall Street fat cats, professional athletes, entertainers and other rich people. I guarantee there’s no overlap between the two groups. The average teacher today earns about $55,000. At least 75 CEOs earn that much in one day, every day, 365 days a year. According to the AFL-CIO’s “Executive PayWatch,” the CEO who ranked No. 75, David Cote of Honeywell, was paid $20,154,012, for a daily rate of $55,216.47.

New York Teacher

New York Teacher, Nov. 24, 2011Highlights from the Nov. 24 issue of New York Teacher:

An idea whose time has come can’t be evicted
30,000 rally in Foley Square as Occupy movement continues to focus attention on critical issues

Two days after being evicted from its home base in Zuccotti Park, the Occupy Wall Street movement roared its response on Nov. 17 as more than 30,000 workers, students and community members gathered in Foley Square to mark the movement’s two-month anniversary and call for jobs and economic justice.

‘Landslide’ victory in Ohio lauded
UFTers helped swing vote in favor of public-sector workers, Mulgrew says

UFT President Michael Mulgrew opened the Nov. 9 Delegate Assembly with some good news: in Ohio the previous day, voters turned back by a 61-39 percent margin an attempt to prevent public-sector workers from being able to bargain collectively.
He noted that 25 UFT retirees and staffers had been on the ground in Ohio, knocking on doors and making phone calls to talk about the issue and get out the vote.

Donovan re-elected Staten Island district attorney
UFT-endorsed candidate Dan Donovan was re-elected as district attorney for Staten Island on Election Day. Donovan, a Republican who became the borough’s DA in 2004, was re-elected for the second time with 70 percent of the vote. “Dan has a great record and educators did a great job backing him,” UFT Staten Island Representative Emil Pietromonaco said.

School secretaries feel the squeeze
School secretaries throughout the city are feeling overworked and under pressure as their ranks have thinned as secretaries leave and retire and are not replaced, according to UFT representatives. The number of school secretaries has dropped nearly 15 percent between October 2008, when there were 3,537, and this October, when there were only 3,047. More »

Thank a Teacher on Nov. 25, StoryCorps’ National Day of Listening

StoryCorps is asking everyone to take a few minutes to say thanks to a favorite teacher on the day after Thanksgiving.

Whether posting a memory to Facebook (@storycorps), thanking them on Twitter (@storycorps, #thankateacher), taping a tribute on YouTube or sending a ‘thank you’ card, the 2011 National Day of Listening will send a powerful and necessary message to teachers across the nation: they matter, and we as a nation are grateful for the impact they have on our lives.

You can also record a face-to-face interview with a teacher—or anyone else you’d like to honor for the National Day of Listening—using the the tools on this page.

Once you have participated, tell us about it on our Wall of Listening.

Meet the New Schools, Same as the Old Schools

Every year, Mayor Bloomberg’s DOE creates a new list of struggling schools. Once the schools have been identified, the DOE generally moves to shut them down.

This year of the 21 high schools have landed on Bloomberg’s latest struggling schools list, at least 8 (38%) are new schools that were opened on Bloomberg’s watch.

And, when you consider that Bloomberg’s new high schools represent about 40% of all existing high schools,1 you quickly realize that Bloomberg is shutting his new schools at about the same rate that he shuts the older ones. Put another way, this year, DOE is thinking of closing 5.4% of its new schools and 5.8% of its old.

Figure out the sense in that. But if you can’t (because I can’t), read on. More »

Blessings in Disguise

[Editor’s note: Miss Endurance is the pseudonym of a fourth-year teacher in an elementary school on Staten Island.]

It’s never a good sign when your principal calls during summer vacation.

In the summer of 2010 my world was turned upside down with seven words: “I have to move you to kindergarten.” Here I was, with just two years of teaching under my belt (teaching fourth and fifth grade), being forced to move to the “dungeon” (which is how the upper-grade teachers lovingly referred to the kindergarten floor). I panicked — I didn’t know the first thing about teaching four- and five-year-olds! But I really had no idea that a year later I’d be looking back on my kindergarten experience with fondness and a sense of accomplishment.

I felt ill-equipped for the job. I never considered myself a very patient person, and the idea of having to deal with things like “Johnny took my pencil!” and “I want my mommy!” made me break out into hives. I’m artistically challenged, and I dreaded kindergarten art projects. My biggest fear was selling my students short — it wasn’t their fault they had a newbie teacher.

On the first day of school the little ones looked about as scared as I was. I had done my best to prepare myself — I learned circle songs and absorbed as much as I could from the veteran teachers on the grade. Nevertheless, feelings of inadequacy haunted me every day.

Then, slowly but surely, I started to get into the swing of things. More »

Hawaiian Singer to Obama: “Occupy With Aloha”

“We’ll occupy the streets, we’ll occupy the courts, we’ll occupy the offices of you, till you do the bidding of the many, not the few.”

Hawaiian singer-songwriter Makana turned his gig playing dinner music for President Obama and Asia-Pacific leaders into a “subtle protest,” according to AFP, when he sang a 40-minute version of his new Occupy Wall Street-inspired song “We Are The Many.”

Makana, who goes by one name, was enlisted to play a luau, or Hawaiian feast, Saturday night for leaders assembled in Obama’s birthplace Honolulu for an annual summit that is formulating plans for a Pacific free-trade pact.

But in the midst of the dinner on the resort strip Waikiki Beach, he pulled open his jacket to reveal a T-shirt that read “Occupy with Aloha,” using the Hawaiian word whose various meanings include love and peace. He then sang a marathon version of his new song “We Are The Many.”

Class Warfare

Why Bloomberg is afraid of Occupy Wall Street:
“Through the tax code, there has been class warfare waged, and my class has won,” Buffett said. “It’s been a rout. You have seen a period where American workers generally have gone no place, and where the really super rich as a group increased their incomes five for one in this rarefied atmosphere.”

Labor Communicators to Host Panel Discussion on Nov. 16

The Changing Face of Militancy panel discussion, Nov. 16, 2011There was a time that labor unions and the communities they are part of only went their separate ways. That is no longer possible. Both have realized that in this economic climate alone they are easy pickings for the corporate entities that care only for profits and not one whit for the betterment of the society they seem to own.

Metro New York Labor Communications Council presents a discussion of today’s fight back and the coming together of natural allies.

Wednesday, November 16, 6-8 PM
Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies | SUNY Empire State
325 Hudson Street @ Vandam Street


  • Frances Fox Piven, Professor of political science and sociology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • Ava Farkas, Coordinator, Living Wage NYC Campaign
  • Rev. Que English, President, Senior Pastor, Bronx Christian Fellowship Church; Bronx Clergy Legislative Roundtable; member, Faith Caucus
    Living Wage NYC Campaign
  • Chuck Zlatkin, Legislative and Political Director,New York Metro Area Postal Union
  • Julio Pabon, President, South Bronx Community Organization


  • Bill Henning, Vice President, CWA Local 1180