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Archive for January, 2011

Value Added: An Essay Contest for Teachers

The UFT is holding an essay contest for NYC public school teachers.

You’ve got 500 words. Now enter a UFT essay contest and tell Chancellor Cathie Black about all the value you add to the lives of students! What work do you do every day? What makes you so special? What do you do that often gets lost in all the talk about “reform” and “accountability”?

We will print the winning essays in the New York Teacher and post them on the UFT website. Winners will also receive a ticket (a $225 value) to the Sixth Annual PBS Celebration of Teaching and Learning at the New York Hilton on Saturday, March 19. Three lucky grand prize winners will also participate in a panel discussion at the Celebration with UFT President Michael Mulgrew and other educational leaders.

Mail your essays to: Essay, 52 Broadway, New York, NY 10004, Attention: Joseph Colletti. You can also email your essays to jcolletti@uft.org, but embed your essay in the actual email, as attachments don’t always open. Double-space, keep it to no more than 500 words, and please do not send any photos, articles, drawings or other materials with your essay. We cannot return essays. Be sure to include your name, address, school address and a personal phone number and personal (non-DOE) email with the essay.

The entry deadline is Feb. 25.

How Not to Close a School

EdVox has a must-read first-person account of what it’s like to be a student in a high school being “phased out” by the DOE. The author, Melissa Kissoon, is a recent graduate of Franklin K. Lane High School in Brooklyn, which stopped accepting freshman in 2007 and will graduate its last seniors this year:

There is no longer school pride, there is no drive to be there, there is no encouragement to pass, there are no familiar teachers, there are no resources around to help us pass. All that remains is a push, a push out of the school by any means possible.

I graduated and I’m in college now. But I look back at the last four years of my life and I feel robbed of my high school experience. My school was no longer MY school; I was basically being kicked out of a school that made a promise to support me and give me all I need to pass.

Closing Schools: Making Room for Charters

Closing Schools: Making Room for Charters

Over at uft.org, the union has posted a series of eye-opening Google Maps mashups:

Most of the 122 schools that the Department of Education has already closed or is planning to close are located in the neighborhoods where the city’s 125 charter schools are concentrated: the South Bronx, Harlem and central Brooklyn. This may be a coincidence, but it certainly doesn’t look like one.

If you map all the charters over the already-closed 97 schools and the 25 planned closings, they show a disturbing pattern that disproportionately affects communities of color and poor neighborhoods.

And many of the closing schools are not failing. They just serve high-needs kids, many of whom have not received the level of services they require to succeed.

The January Regents, Ctd

ScantronOn Monday we posted Ms. Socrates’ thoughts ahead of this week’s Regents exams. Yesterday, she followed up on her blog, writing that she was ecstatic that her one student taking the Earth Science Regents passed with flying colors.

And Bronx chapter leader JD2718 has an update, including a State Ed. Dept. memo, on the fate of the Regents exams canceled because of the Jan. 27 snow day.

Michael Mulgrew on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show”

Radio host Brian Lehrer spoke with UFT President Michael Mulgrew on Jan. 27 about the messages to educators in President Obama’s State of the Union address and Mayor Bloomberg’s State of the City.

Listen to the segment using the audio player below:

Thank a Teacher

The city’s third annual Thank a Teacher Campaign gives public school students, parents, and alumni a chance to thank their teachers for the impact they have had on their lives. The UFT and the DOE are asking current students and graduates to write up to 200 words about a special teacher and submit the short essay online. A photograph, drawing or painting of the teacher can be submitted along with the short essay. Responses will be posted on the DOE’s website and teachers who are “thanked” will receive certificates honoring their contribution.

Reinventing the Teacher

[Editor’s note: Mr. Foteah is a third-year teacher in an elementary school in Queens. He blogs at From the Desk of Mr. Foteah, where this post originally appeared.]

In my first two years as a teacher, I worked with upper grade general education classes. This year, I’m in a different world in two ways: I’m teaching primary grades, and mine is a special education class.

Since early January, I’ve been in a bit of a transitional phase.

I felt from the start that if I could rein in student behavior, encourage positive socialization with peers and others throughout the school community, and help develop my students’ independence, I would consider the year a success. These things have happened. My students are usually free of behavior issues (other than the minor infractions that are typical of any 6-year old). They are polite and helpful toward one another. If a child falls, the whole class asks, without my prompting, “Are you okay?” If someone drops their supplies, the entire class descends to the floor to pick them up. By and large, the students are much more independent than the beginning of the year, using the flow of the day to determine what materials they need for the next period, bringing things to the office with a partner, and advocating for their needs in the classroom.

All of this is necessary, but still, I hesitate to say this year has been a total success. It seems I may have been so caught up in developing these skills that I neglected to attend to the academic ones. Oops. More »

Lay Off What’s Fair

Judge William F. Highberger, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, ruled last week that teacher layoffs in 750 affected schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, must, according to the Los Angeles Times, “be spread more equitably.” In other words, the use of seniority as the criterion for teacher layoffs must be restricted.

The LAUSD’s $400 million budget hole may threaten thousands of teaching positions.

Even if fiscal austerity were not a necessity or even at issue, the total war against the cornerstones of civil service and the bedrock of unionism would still be waged under a crazy quilt of different pretexts. Incendiary legislation is pending in many states, sparked by the ugly mischief of a gaggle of nefarious sponsors, to abolish not only seniority, but the remnants of tenure and the vestiges of due process.

Mayor Bloomberg, the cocky cock-and-bull governor across the Hudson, and sinister cohorts from the moneyed sectors have subscribed to the fallacy that job protections for teachers and constitutional rights of children are mutually exclusive. A teacher who needs not fear for his career every waking (and sometimes slumbering) moment is somehow a menace to kids, they conclude. More »

What If We Treated Doctors The Way We Treat Teachers?

In a revealing thought experiment over at the Huffington Post, education professor Shaun Johnson takes some common education reform proposals and translates them into the medical profession. His conclusion:

What if we indeed held doctors and other professionals to the same bloat and condescension that we currently hold teachers? I can predict some of the responses that physicians might make: “We can’t control what our patients do or eat outside of our offices to maintain minimum levels of health. Also, these variables — BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure — are limited and don’t adequately measure a healthy person. And one other thing, you can’t expect us to be evaluated based on all patients equally, regardless of family history, poverty, and other complications.” As an educator, my sentiments exactly!

AFT Report by Kenneth Feinberg Suggests Improved Disciplinary Procedure

Tapped previously for objective recommendations on distributing compensation relating to both the BP oil spill and the 9/11 attacks, lawyer Kenneth Feinberg has produced a report for the AFT suggesting a 100-day timetable for fairly settling disciplinary charges against tenured teachers, reports Education Week. The report calls for “objective criteria, rather than vague and subjective allegations,” a 100-day timetable for resolution from initial charge to final decision, and an initial screening both to eliminate meritless charges, on the one hand, and on the other to try and informally settle those with merit without a lengthy hearing process. Weingarten has indicated support for the proposal, which will come up for formal approval by the AFT’s executive council in February.

The AFT press release is after the jump. More »

The January Regents

Scantron[Editor’s note: Ms. Socrates is a second-year science teacher in a high school in Brooklyn. She blogs at Teacher’s Diary where this post originally appeared.]

The January Regents exams are being administered this week. When I first heard that New York was considering nixing the January Regents, I was dead-set against it. I felt that students should be given every opportunity to make up the exams they failed in the past — I figured the more chances they had, the more likely they would be to pass.

However, since this is now the second January Regents week I will experience, I am becoming more ambivalent about the whole affair. More »

Immigration Reform Panel Discussion on Monday, Jan. 24

Immigration Reform:
What’s Next?

Monday, January 24, 6 p.m.

Professional Staff Congress
61 Broadway, 16th Fl.
(btwn. Wall St. & Exchange Pl.)


  • click here for flyer
  • click here for Change to Win / AFL-CIO Framework for Immigration Reform (April 2009)

Join the Metro NY Labor Communications Council on Monday, Jan. 24 for a conversation with panelists

Javier CastañoJavier Castaño, Director, queenslatino.com

May ChenMay Chen, Chair, NYS Immigrant Action Fund, former VP, UNITE

Angeline EcheverríaAngeline Echeverría, Director of organizing support, La Fuente

Bob LedwithBob Ledwith, Business Manager/FST Local 46 Metallic Lathers & Vice President of NYC Building Trades

Moderated by
Esther KaplanEsther Kaplan, Investigative Editor, The Nation Institute


Ralph Phillips[Editor’s note: Miss Brave is a fourth-year elementary school teacher in Queens. She blogs at miss brave teaches nyc, where this post originally appeared.]

On any given day, I might find myself frustrated by a number of things that go on in my classroom. I’ve written before about minor calamities (broken pencils! lost folders!) and major ones (suicide threats! thrown chairs!). For the most part, those incidents — like many things that happen when you become a teacher — had nothing to do with my actual teaching ability, but rather my ability to not jump out a window in the face of overwhelming despair.

Lately, though, I’ve noticed something that does make me worry about my teaching ability: A number of my students, during mini lessons, are deeply engaged. Deeply engaged, that is, with various activities other than paying attention to my mini lesson. They are drawing on their folders. They are playing with their fingers, or with the person’s hair in front of them. They are, in short, paying so little attention to the lesson that they are not even bothering to pretend to pay attention by staring at a space approximately above my head.

Over the years, I’ve tried a number of methods for bringing these students back to earth. More »

Two Thoughtful Posts on Charters from the Shanker Blog

Policy expert Matthew DiCarlo has been posting some terrific analyses of education policy research and news over at the Shanker Institute’s new blog.  Two of my favorites this month were his overview of the “Year in Research on Market-Based Reform” and this week’s commentary on the Christie administration’s recent claims that the New Jersey’s charters are doing a better job than their district schools, which the governor used to justify a significant expansion of the number of charter schools in the state.

As Matt notes, the media coverage of the latter story has completely missed the point that the Christie administration’s latest report made no effort to consider whether the state’s charter schools were enrolling the same kinds of students (in terms of students with special needs and students eligible for free lunch) as their local district schools.

In contrast, education researcher Bruce Baker has pointed out that as of 2008-09, the state’s own data showed that:

  1. New Jersey charter schools generally serve smaller shares of children qualifying for free lunch than schools in their host district and schools in their immediate surroundings.
  2. New Jersey charter schools serve very few children with disabilities.
  3. New Jersey charter school performance, like charter school performance elsewhere, is a mixed bag. Some of the highest performers are simply not comparable to traditional public schools in their districts because they serve such different student populations (far fewer low income children and few or no special education students). So, even if we found that these schools produced greater gains for their students than similar students would have achieved in the traditional public schools, we could not sort out whether that effect came from school quality differences or from peer group differences (which doesn’t matter from the parent perspective, but does from the policy perspective).

Even strong charter advocates such as the policy-makers at the New York City Department of Education take some student demographics into account in assigning performance grades to local charter schools — the Christie administration’s deliberate decision not to do so reflects poorly on how seriously they take their claims that they only want to do what’s best for the state’s neediest students.

UPDATE (Jan. 24, 2011): Bruce Baker just updated the statistics about NJ charter school demographics on his blog.

Voices of PS 114

Teachers at PS 114 in Brooklyn are speaking out about their school. In just a few weeks, the Panel for Education Policy will decide whether or not to close the building. As you will see, the staff makes a compelling case about why closure is absolutely the wrong thing to do.