Log in  |  Search

Archive for April, 2011

Talking About Race, Teachers And Schools:
How I Found Myself Featured In Right Wing Conspiracy Theory [UPDATED]

On Monday I opened up an email forwarded to me by a friend, and found Wall Street hedge fund manager and Democrats for Education Reform honcho Whitney Tilson madly hyperventilating. Here it is, exactly as it was sent to Tilson’s education reform listserv:

One of the leaders of the UFT in NYC, Leo Casey, recently played the race card against TFA, which is both shameful and ridiculous, as TFAers are 40% minority!  40% of Harvard’s graduating black seniors applied to TFA – and Casey is saying THIS?!

Leo Casey, vice president the New York City United Federation of Teachers, seems to believe that TFA is somehow bad because too many of the teachers are white. The film clip of his comments comes from EAGtv:

The teaching force in New York City has become steadily whiter under [Mayor Michael] Bloomberg and [former schools Chancellor Joel] Klein and it is connected I think in significant measure to the use of groups like Teach for America which are significantly whiter than the teaching force.

Yes, at the socialist-organized Left Forum, Casey tossed the race card on the table, accusing Teach For America of “whitening” New York City public schools. More »

The Story of a Successful Non-Charter School in New York City

New York Times MagazineA thought-provoking article about a successful district middle school in the Bronx in a recent issue of the New York Times Magazine has led to some interesting public responses from charter advocates in New York. As the article notes, this school’s principal and teachers combine innovative teaching and learning (such as a dual-language immersion program for its high proportion of English Language Learners) with a firm commitment to serving all students who want to come — even if, unlike at charters, those students arrive in the middle of the year or as transfers in upper grades.

One of the most negative reactions to the piece has come from former Chancellor Joel Klein, who (in an email exchange with the reporter) responded defensively to the article’s implied criticism of his own administration’s support for charters:

[A]re you saying that, by dint of applying to a charter, a family is more ambitious and motivated? That suggests that, ipso facto, families who are ambitious and motivated about their kid’s education chose charters (rather than traditional public schools like 223). I doubt there is any basis to support that inference but, if you’re right, that would be quite an argument for replacing all traditional public schools with charters, including 223, because those ‘who are ambitious and motivated’ for their children want a charter.

I would argue that Klein is being somewhat disingenuous here in his shock at the idea that charters might attract more “ambitious and motivated” parents. More »

New York Teacher

New York TeacherHighlights from the April 28 issue of New York Teacher:

The battle against crippling cuts
10,000 union workers turn out to “take our country back”

“Twenty years from now,” thundered UFT President Michael Mulgrew, “teachers will be teaching about how one percent of the country tried to take the country away from the rest of us …You will be part of that story.” Mulgrew delivered these rousing words to more than 10,000 cheering union members during a mid-day rally at Times Square on April 9.

Everyday hero: Mr. Porton’s classroom, where students are ‘safe and the possibilities endless’
“I represent senior teachers, who the Department of Education thinks are mummified and collecting dust rather than educating students,” said Thomas Porton, one of only 10 winners nationwide of the 2011 Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards and the only winner from New York City. Porton has been teaching at Monroe HS in the Soundview section of the South Bronx for 42 years.

Black out, Walcott in as chancellor
Mulgrew hopes change is an opportunity to shelve failed policies

After only three tumultuous months on the job, embattled Schools Chancellor Cathie Black resigned on April 7. She was replaced by Dennis Walcott, a former Board of Education president and now top aide to the mayor on educational issues. At a press conference at City Hall, Bloomberg said that he and Black met that morning and had “mutually agreed” that she should step down. More »

A New Breed of Lord Haw Haw

The Lord knows best. Lord Hutton, a former secretary of state and the current head of a government-established commission charged with the sacred duty of reducing the costs of public sector pensions in Britain, works in mysterious ways.

He determined that people are now living too long to justify a continuation of the existing pension setup and they should be required to live well beyond the encroachment of geriatric age to qualify for these pensions.

Mr. Lord Hutton thinks the age of 68 sounds about right for a minimum retirement age. That new pension would be less for many teachers because the lord advocates a career average arrangement rather than one based on a teacher’s final salary.

Implementation of his recommendations would mean a 25 percent cut in the value of the average teacher’s pension, according to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, one of several teachers unions in Britain. More »

“We’ve had a huge problem with teachers’ unions…”

We’ve had a huge problem with teachers’ unions… Charter schools are certainly one option to try to solve the union situation.

Who do you imagine saying that?

Michael Bloomberg? Joel Klein? Peter Murphy of the New York Charter School Association? James Merriman of the New York City Charter School Center? Michelle Rhee? Chris Christie? Scott Walker? The Wal-Mart Walton Family Foundation? The list could go on, but the truth is that none of the ‘usual suspects’ voiced these words.  They were spoken by a woman with a name you most likely have never heard before: Mayra Pineda.

Pineda works for the Honduras regime that took power with a 2009 military coup d’êtat against the democratically elected president, José Manuel Zelaya. She’s the former Honduran counsel general to the United States.

Honduran teacher unions led the resistance to the 2009 military coup d’êtat and have waged a valiant fight for the restoration of democracy in the Central American nation. They are indeed a “huge problem” for the current regime, which mentions nothing about the purpose of the wave of teacher union strikes since 2009 while bemoaning their impact upon schools. More »

New Study Confirms UFT Report’s Findings on ELLs in Charters

The Journal of School Choice recently published an article in which researchers Jack Buckley and Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj confirmed the UFT’s findings in 2010 that charter schools in New York City enrolled a lower proportion of limited English proficient (LEP) students than the average district school in 2007-08. Overall, they find that among the city’s charters from 2006-2008, “in the case of the LEP proportions, there is a large group of schools with very few, a handful with a larger proportion, and perhaps 1-3 schools, depending on the year, with a large share of LEP students.”

This report provides a valuable complement to our findings in Separate and Unequal, both in its examination of two additional years of data and in its use of sophisticated statistical formulas to account for possible errors in the numbers of LEP students that charters report to the state each year. As this chart from the article shows, even when the researchers controlled for that possibility, the proportion of LEP students in most charters in the city fell well below the district average (represented by the solid line on the graph).

Proportion of LEP students in NYC charter schools, 2006-2008

More »

Poverty In All Its Richness

Poverty can gravely impact student learning. That’s not an original insight, of course. It’s as obvious as anything can be, except to many folks who have reaped the benefits of privilege; they often play down the destructive effects of privation.

The latest evidence of poverty’s destructive power is reflected in a survey of teachers conducted in England and reported by the BBC. Some stats:

  • “More than 85 percent of survey respondents (627 participated) said they believed that poverty had a negative impact on the well-being of pupils they taught.
  • Of the above, “80 percent said students came to school tired, 73 percent said they arrived hungry and 67 percent said they wore worn-out clothes…”
  • “71 percent said pupils living in poverty lacked confidence, and 65 percent said they missed out on activities outside school…”

Of surveyed teachers, 80 percent associated poverty with underachievement and inability to concentrate. The lack of computer access was cited also.

Teachers noted some disturbing images from their actual experience: More »

A Teacher’s Guide For Those With Short Memories

City Hall Press Release


Black’s 15 Years Leading Hearst Magazines, 8 Years Building USA Today and 4 As the First Woman Publisher of a Major Weekly – New York – Key Preparation for One of the Toughest Management Jobs at Any Level of Government

Cathie Black was an inspired choice by Mayor Bloomberg to replace Chancellor Joel Klein
New York Daily News editorial, November 10, 2010

And, shame, they will cry, because Black has never been an educator or educrat, let alone spent a career moldering under the weight of cannot-do, excuse-every-failure edujargon.

By our lights, it’s just fine that Black, a successful media executive, will bring private-sector perspective and high management skill to the task for bettering the minds of 1.1 million students.

She comes from a culture that demands innovation and performance. And wouldn’t that be a good thing to have in the city’s 1,400 schools… More »

New York Teacher

New York TeacherHighlights from the April 14 issue of New York Teacher:

Harsh state budget sets stage for city funding battles: Mayor still calling for layoffs, while Silver cites other options
City schools will get a total funding cut of $510 million next year under the most austere state budget in more than a decade. The cut is the third to education in as many years, as the recession’s aftermath continues to pressure state budgets around the country. Just what the state budget cuts mean for New York City remains in sharp dispute.

Fight to the finish
With a harsh state budget settled, the city budget battle is now heating up, including the education budget. Members throughout the five boroughs participated in an array of different actions to prevent layoffs and save school funding for the city’s kids.

Solace in a strange land: Arab teens find nurturing figure in amazing paraprofessional
Teenagers who come to the United States with interrupted formal education, different customs and an alphabet and language that have little in common with English are settling in with help from their paraprofessional at Brooklyn’s MS 2. More »

Truth, Justice, and the American Way

Superman[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.]

I allow my students to bring small toys to school. The toys help keep them out of trouble at lunch with necessary imaginative diversions that they don’t get in school otherwise. They also lend a sense of security to the students, knowing they’ve got something genuinely their own in school with them.

The other day, one of my students picked up one of the toys off the floor. It apparently never got back into Donald’s bag after lunch, and he had left. She held up a small Superman figure and told me it belonged to Donald. I asked her to leave it on my desk and told her I’d return it to him. This was last week.

Today, I was doing a little desk straightening, and my eyes fell upon Superman, arms stretched toward the sky, plastic cape frozen in a flap behind his chiseled shoulders. I picked up the little toy, balanced it on a couple of things on my desk trying to get him to stand. I couldn’t do it, so finally, I propped him on a pencil holder. Superman tipped forward toward his prone flying position, and I said to myself, “Somehow, that works.” More »

Tweed’s Three-Card Monte: At-Risk Kids and Closing Schools

Concentration of Students Entering Overage, Neighborhood New Vs ClosingConcentration of Students Needing Self-Contained Classes, Neighborhood New vs ClosingIn Queens, the two large schools the DoE has targeted for closure admit overage students at about four times the rate of new schools in the same neighborhood. In Brooklyn, the rate is three to one, and in the Bronx it is double.1 If we look at a second very high-risk group (students in self-contained classes), the disparities are even greater.

These are huge differences in very at-risk populations, yet they are undiscussed by DoE and unknown to the press. These differences are all the more astounding because DoE has claimed it closed older schools and opened new ones to serve these very students. Over and over, the justification is the same: large schools are failing the students most at risk, and those students deserve a smaller school.

Yet here we are a few years down the line, and in neighborhood after neighborhood we find that the new schools do not admit the students they were supposedly designed to serve. More »

An Old Schtick

Recently, we received an odd comment to a February 22 post on a rally supporting Wisconsin unions:

I met some wonderful Socialists and Communists at this rally…so good that Teachers can stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in social justice! Cant wait for the next one!

It is unusual to receive comments more than a month after a post was published, and the message was a bit bizarre, so we googled the email of the person who left it. It turns out that bona1173@yahoo.com was one of the emails used in the smear of Shirley Sherrod, the civil rights movement veteran and former USDA official who had her speech to the NAACP edited to misrepresent her as a racist.

Whatever your real name is, Bona1173, your schtick is really old.


There has been a cavalcade of postmortems in the aftermath of Cathie Black’s resignation. Certainly she was her own worst enemy, yet she bore the burden of an even worse enemy: the principles and policies that she was forced to inherit and defend, probably not against her own better, even suppressed, judgment. Her 17-percent approval rating is widely construed as a vote of no-confidence in her as a leader. But was it not also a vote of condemnation, or at least robust skepticism, of the convictions and rabid anti-union policies of her predecessor. Is it not possible that only 17 percent of those questioned in the reliable and scientific Marist poll are now embracing the much trumpeted, and now largely discredited, so-called “reforms”?

Let’s not forget that 61 percent of parents with kids in public schools think that the union, so dumped on by City Hall and Tweed, are predominantly a force for good in this city. And our public schools are rated even higher by parents whose kids attend our public schools than they are by parents with no such personal experience whose judgment is clouded by the cataract of City Hall’s press office. The tide is turning against lies and bullying. That’s what the data says and we know that data is the love object of City Hall and, at least until yesterday, Tweed.

Chancellor Walcott: look not only at the data, but through it. A world of truth, some of it quite splendid, will open up and invite your friendship.

Educators and the NBA

Amar'e StoudemireIn an April 2 article in the sports pages of the New York Post, Brian Lewis writes, speaking of the New York Knicks star player Amar’e Stoudemire, “Stoudemire has appeared to wear down of late, after… logging the most minutes he has in his career. He’s averaging a career-high 37 minutes, well over his lifetime norm of 34, and it has taken a toll…. That’s why [Coach] D’Antoni acknowledged some rest… would serve his All-Star big man well.”

Just three minutes can make so much difference? Yes, of course. Because of the intense concentration of energy and all-consuming nature of the work.

Educators are in many respects like athletes. Not in terms of calories burned per paid hour on the job but in terms of emotional and psychic expenditure. The wear and tear on the total self is unsurpassed by any other demanding line of work. More »

Yo, Miss: Drawings from the Trenches — Teaching Always Involves Juggling Priorities

[Editor’s note: Lisa Wilde is an English teacher at John V. Lindsay Wildcat Academy, a second-chance charter high school in Lower Manhattan. “Yo, Miss” is a graphic memoir she is writing and drawing about her experiences at the school. From time to time Edwize will post images from her forthcoming book, which tracks the eponymous Miss and eight of her (fictionalized) students over the course of a school year. Click on the image for a larger version.]

Teaching Always Involves Juggling Priorities

See all “Yo Miss” excerpts here »