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Archive for January, 2011

Education is Not a Business

Here’s the trailer for a new education documentary featuring Diane Ravitch:

More information available at ExposureRoom.com.

Snow Job

As the final flakes of a severe snowstorm fell on the city last week, Chancellor Black (perhaps with a meteorologist to keep her education expert company in the shadows) bucked the century-old tradition of acting with common sense and care for children’s safety and ruled that all public schools would be open as usual.

She appears not to have considered whether an accommodation, such as a two-hour delayed opening, might have been conducive to more normal attendance, considering the challenges of adjustments for parents and the logistical problems of educators getting to work and parking or even climbing over still unplowed streets and snowdrifts to access public transportation.

The decision to open the schools was released after 5 a.m. That was insufficient allowance, especially since some school leaders have insisted that they be notified of absences long before the scheduled start of the instructional day.

Many suburban public and private schools there and in the city were closed. Why? Do they care less about kids? Are they less serious about education? Aw c’mon! More »

The Snow Day That Wasn’t

A third-year teacher and blogger (known on this site as Kansan in the Bronx) writes on his blog that most of the students in his school stayed home after this week’s snow storm:

On Wednesday there was an undeclared snow day for seventy percent of our student body. As the doors opened up, in walked a single student of the thirty in my homeroom class. It was pretty surreal and set the stage for a day when everyone felt a bit confused and somewhat ripped off.

Help Preserve the Legacy of Bronx High Schools

Morris High School

Morris High School (via NYPL Digital Gallery)

The Bronx UFT has launched the Bronx High Schools Historical Preservation Project.

As the NYC Department of Education continues to dismantle the large high schools in the Bronx with no regard for the history and legacy of these educational landmarks, the Bronx UFT is looking to you to help us preserve that rich history.

Somewhere hiding in your school or home is a treasure trove of historical items that needs to be preserved and displayed. If we don’t work to save them, the proud tradition of these Bronx high schools will be lost forever.

For more information and to find out how you can be a part of this project, visit our Facebook page or send us an email at bxhsproject@gmail.com.

The NYC Money Pit

The Village Voice has an in-depth piece on the expensive and disastrous CityTime automated payroll system roundly blasted by labor leaders last month.

In March [2010], Bloomberg made his admission that the project was a “disaster,” but insisted such projects were rarely successful. A few days later, he said he wished he had “focused on it more.”

On March 26, [Daily News columnist Juan] Gonzalez reported that the CityTime project manager made $650,000 in 2009, and there were 39 other people making at least $500,000 a year. He noted that the city laid off 510 public school aides to save $12 million, while earmarking $24 million to pay CityTime consultants.

“How can anyone justify firing $18,000-a-year school aides while hiring half-a-million-dollar computer geeks who can’t even deliver a good product?” Gonzalez wondered.

But Bloomberg’s people continued to defend the need for the project and granted it an extension through September.

Celebrating Public Schools: PS 226

The UFT profiles Brooklyn’s PS 226, the latest in our new video series about New York City’s incredible public schools. With its richly diverse student population (16 different languages are spoken by students) and its deeply collaborative staff, PS 226 is a thriving school community.

The Value of Value-Added

If you were not only fluent in English, but even an actual master of the language, you’d be clueless as to the meaning of “value-added” as bandied about by spinners in the education debates. That is no accident. It is exactly what many “reformers” (another word that has not only lost its luster but much of its original denotation) want and depend upon. The use of words to obscure intent rather than to clarify it was not pioneered by them. It dates from long before the last century when totalitarian regimes perfected it as a diabolical form of propaganda art.

In the current stream, indeed spiral of debate, “value-added” is tightly linked to the inflammatory but rational-sounding battle cry of “merit pay.” After all, exists there a man or woman who could dare argue against the principle of compensation based on quality? Increasingly, people have discovered, sometimes the hard way, the importance of keeping their intellectual guard up, but there are still throngs of folks in red and blue states alike who are vulnerable to being duped by seductive yet tainted arguments and will rally to “reform” precepts, no matter how ludicrously flawed.

Not surprisingly, the results from highly-respected independent researchers has, for the most part, vindicated the informed and felt convictions that drive dedicated educators all along. A post on the Shanker blog, which also appeared on “Valerie Strauss’ Answer Sheet” in the Washington Post, reflecting on the education scene in 2010, cites the conclusion of the National Center on Performance Incentives that students’ test scores bore no relationship to whether or not their teachers were eligible for bonuses. The same conclusion was achieved based on scientifically produced data in a Mathematica study of Chicago’s TAP program. More »

Celebrating Public Schools: PS 107

The UFT profiles PS 107 in Flushing, Queens as part of a new video series about the amazing work going on in our public schools today. The school, which is home to a diverse population of more than 900 students, prides itself on its forward-thinking programs and the strong collaboration between teachers and administrators.

It’s What We Do

NYSUT has launched a statewide radio ad campaign designed to remind New Yorkers that the union is made up of their friends and neighbors who accomplish remarkable things every day in their classrooms and communities. Read the press release here.

How Do We Identify Great Teachers? A New Report Offers Some Ideas

A thought-provoking new report about teacher assessment was recently released, and hopefully will serve as a voice of moderation in the debates over value-added scores and changing tenure standards which are currently raging in New York and elsewhere. Sponsored by the National Education Policy Center, “Getting Teacher Assessment Right: What Policy-Makers Can Learn From Research” provides a great overview of recent scholarship on teacher evaluation (the author reviewed almost 300 studies). It argues for a more nuanced view of what makes someone a “good teacher,” urging policy-makers to move beyond test scores in their effort to ensure that all students have great instructors.

One of author Patricia Hinchey’s most powerful points is about the need to examine multiple measures of what makes someone a great teacher. Student test scores are one way of measuring teacher “effectiveness,” she notes, but tell us very little about what characteristics are typical of effective teachers or what teaching strategies they use (their “quality” and “performance.”)

Teacher quality refers to teacher characteristics such as education, experience, and beliefs. Teacher performance refers to what a teacher does, both inside and outside the classroom, and includes such elements as classroom interaction with students and collaborative activity with parents and others in the school community. Teacher effectiveness refers to teacher influence on student learning and includes such elements as student test scores and student motivation.

More »

Robert Reich: The Shameful Attack on Public Employees

From Robert Reich’s website:

In 1968, 1,300 sanitation workers in Memphis went on strike. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to support them. That was where he lost his life. Eventually Memphis heard the grievances of its sanitation workers. And in subsequent years millions of public employees across the nation have benefited from the job protections they’ve earned.

But now the right is going after public employees.

Public servants are convenient scapegoats. More »

New Year’s Resolutions

2011 glasses[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.]

So a year has come and gone and I’m now starting to feel like more of a veteran than a newbie. As always, I try to take time to reflect on the past and set goals for the future — what better time than just as a new year is beginning.

Last year, I wrote 10 New Year’s Resolutions, and I think I managed to do about eight of them at least partially. I still need to work on giving captivating motivations at the beginning of each lesson, staying on top of grading, and planning farther ahead, but I know I am doing so much better on all of those things than I was when I wrote those resolutions. I have become much more confident in the classroom and teaching is truly starting to become fun. I am able to joke around more and make fun of how nerdy I am in front of my students. I think it makes them more comfortable liking science and school in general.

Now it is time to make new goals for this coming year. Here’s what I have come up with: More »

With Children, Wonders Never Cease

[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.]

The helter-skelter nature of my classroom and the unpredictability of my weekly schedule at school forced me to be away from our word study program, Words Their Way, for several weeks. A few weeks ago, I returned to it, and, having done so, may have potentially stumbled, quite accidentally, onto what could be a major breakthrough for Donald (who, by now, you may know fairly well).

Words Their Way is a program that requires students to sort pictures and words according to patterns. Our sort this week was words with the ending patterns -en, -eg, and -et. Having been inspired by a visit to a colleague’s room a few weeks ago, I remembered how she printed the black and white images for the teacher sort (used to model and practice with the kids), and then colored the pictures in lively, engaging colors. Of course, I always use the teacher sort, but this week was the first time I took time out to color them.

As I was doing that, I was struck by my own inspiration. Knowing how much trouble my kids have had deciphering new patterns, and realizing the words are often foreign to English Language Learners (e.g., peg, jet, hen), I decided to color-code the words. I colored all the -en words yellow, the -et words pink, and the -eg words orange. This made it easier for students to see who was holding a given pattern in their hands, which put everyone further ahead going into the independent work than they have been all year.

During the work session, I watched from across the room as my para walked over to Donald with three distinctly colored markers and colored the headings -et, -eg, and -en. I walked over to observe, and then suggested to Donald that he may want to try to find all the -et words and color them the same color. He did, excitedly. Then, once we established the sound -et makes, he was able to, slowly but accurately, read the words “wet,” “pet,” “net,” and “jet.” I was amazed. This young man has done nothing remotely close to this level of work in Words Their Way all year, but here he was reading words like it was his job. More »