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Archive for 2011

Stand for Freedom March & Rally on Dec. 10

This year, two-thirds of state legislatures have introduced laws that undermine the right to vote. Early voting and Sunday voting are under attack. Photo ID requirements will introduce the first financial and document barrier to voting since the poll tax.

Join a coalition of labor unions and community organizations as we rally to protect our voting rights on Saturday, Dec. 10, United Nations’ Human Rights Day.

11 a.m.: March from the offices of the Koch brothers, major funders of anti-voting measures, located at 61st Street and Madison Avenue.

12 noon: Rally at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at the United Nations located at East 47th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan.

See the flier for more details »

New York Teacher

New York Teacher, Nov. 10, 2011Highlights from the Nov. 10 issue of New York Teacher:

Plan in works to improve pension fund returns
UFT President Michael Mulgrew, City Comptroller John Liu, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other municipal union leaders announced an agreement in principle on Oct. 27 to create a new investment advisory board that will oversee the investment process for all five New York City pension funds.

Enough is enough!
UFT survey finds great damage done to schools

Standing with teachers and families in front of PS 1 in Manhattan’s Chinatown on Nov. 1, UFT President Michael Mulgrew revealed the results of a new UFT survey that confirms the devastating effects of three years of budget cuts on the city’s schools.

Gym dandies
Mighty Miler program helps teachers fill schools’ physical education voids

Teachers are launching their own initiatives to step into the breach created by the Department of Education’s failure to comply with state requirements for physical activity in city schools. With 40 percent of city schoolchildren overweight or obese, teachers have started Mighty Miler walking, jogging and running clubs that take place before, after and during school.

Bad-times budgets cut to the bone
Budget cuts reported in percentages are troubling enough, but budget cuts reported in the words of teachers in the schools convey the flesh-and-blood wounds that cuts can cause. A new UFT survey of chapter leaders showed teachers fear for their students’ futures as class sizes ballooned over three years and schools lost tutoring, academic intervention services, enrichment classes and support staff. More »

DFER: Lemmings Are Us

Michael Winerip’s New York Times column on the implementation of Tennessee’s teacher evaluation system, “In Tennessee, Following the Rules for Evaluations Off a Cliff,” provides a picture of how wrong a teacher evaluation system can go when it is focused more on the quantity than the quality of lesson observations, and when the value-added measures on standardized tests are treated as the Holy Grail.

The response of DFER? Don’t even think about deviating one inch from the mad rush toward that cliff.

We’re Not Broke

This video from The Story of Stuff Project asks: “Why is there always enough money for the “dinosaur economy” — from Big Oil to bailouts to big banks — but when it comes to building a better future we’re supposedly broke?”

Ohio Speaks, Loud And Clear

The union-busting law of Ohio Governor Kasich and his Tea Party Republicans, which took away public sector workers’ rights to have a union and bargain collectively, is going down to crushing defeat. The margin has been 63% for repeal, 37% for keeping the law for the last hour.

Standing Up For Workers’ Rights in Ohio

UFT Legislative Representative Michael Davoli was in Ohio this weekend helping to get the word out to voters that a NO vote on ballot Issue 2 this Election Day is a vote to protect the collective bargaining rights of working Ohioans. He wrote about his experience.

Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011, 6:11 p.m. Oh, what a day to be in Ohio. Today was an absolutely beautiful day to be knocking on doors for an incredibly important cause. The temperature reached into the low sixties, the sun was shining all day, the colors of the fall leaves were peaking and the people were friendly. After landing in Cincinnati late Friday afternoon we headed over to the Ohio AFL-CIO campaign headquarters for a campaign briefing with the AFT campaign staff. There we met up with some of our brothers and sisters from NYSUT locals across New York State who have been out in Ohio for a few days. After getting a late dinner at a classic Cincinnati rib joint it was time to hit the sack in preparation for a few big days of campaigning.

UFT Parent and Community Liaison Nick Cruz signs a "We Are Ohio" pledge at campaign headquarters.

Saturday morning started bright and earlier for the nine of us from New York. After grabbing a quick breakfast we headed over to the IBEW office where over one hundred labor volunteers from across the country were preparing to knock on doors. This was it. This was ground zero for the labor movement in Ohio and the nation. This was where union members — from teachers to police to firefighters and municipal employees — were going to make their stand against the forces of corporate America who were trying to break the backs of working people. We were here to help fight back. More »

NYC Labor Chorus 20th Anniversary Concert, Nov. 5

NYC Labor Chorus 20th anniversary concertThe New York City Labor Chorus, with 75 members representing over 20 labor unions and district councils, will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a performance at Town Hall this Saturday, Nov. 5. See the flier for more information.

From a History of Violence, Real Results

Writing for Slate, Yale history professor Beverly Gage argues that Occupy Wall Street should take a cue from the American labor movement:

More ominously, protesters in many cities now face the prospect of sustained police crackdowns, from the hassles of permitting and noise ordinances to the violence that erupted last week in Oakland. There, police used tear gas, flash grenades, and rubber bullets to attack protesters near city hall. One of those bullets fractured the skull of Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, leaving him hospitalized in critical condition. Since then, Olsen has become the chief symbol of Occupy’s new reality: Going up against Wall Street, it turns out, is serious business. And the more serious the Occupy movement gets, the more official and near-lethal hostility it’s likely to encounter.

As they sort out what to do next, the Occupiers might take a page from the history of American labor, the only social movement that has ever made a real dent in the nation’s extremes of wealth and poverty. For more than half a century, between the 1870s and the 1930s, labor organizers and strikers regularly faced levels of violence all but unimaginable to modern-day activists. They nonetheless managed to create a movement that changed the nation’s economic institutions and reshaped ideas about wealth, inequality, and Wall Street power. Along the way, they also helped to launch the modern civil liberties ethos, insisting that the fight to tame capitalism went hand in hand with the right to free speech.

More »

Edwize, UFT.org, New York Teacher Win Awards

New York Teacher, March 4, 2010The International Labor Communications Assocation held its annual convention in Seattle in late September, and the UFT received several honors at the organization’s awards ceremony.

The UFT’s website, uft.org, won first prize in the “Best Design” category for websites, and Edwize took home first in the “Best Web-Based Journal” category for the second year in a row.

The New York Teacher also garnered several accolades, including first prize for “Best Series of Articles” (the “War on Truth” series) and “Best Cover or Front Page” (“DOE Pits Parents Against Parents,” at right). A UFT editorial cartoon, “NY State Test Progress Victory Parade,” won second place for “Best Cartoon”; “The school that never closes” won third for “Best Feature Story.”

The awards were for work done in 2010. Here is a complete list of winners.

Beware of Bias in High School Progress Report Cards

The DOE would have us believe that the high school progress reports it released last week are a neutral evaluation tool where any school can do well irrespective of student demographics and characteristics. As proof it would point to its peer index metric which sorts schools into peer groups based on student characteristics and their eighth grade standardized test scores – the concept being that schools are compared to schools with similar students.

Unfortunately the system doesn’t work the way it was intended. The UFT’s Jackie Bennett first reported on this in early 2010. She found that high schools with high percentages of high need students (special education, ELL, overage for grade on entry) were consistently scored and graded lower than schools that didn’t have such students (here and here). That year the DOE announced it was changing its peer index calculation to better account for the student characteristics that could influence results. At that time, we were hopeful, but not optimistic, that progress report card grading would improve.

To determine whether our pessimism was justified, I subjected the progress report card performance, progress and overall scores for each of the past three years to a correlation analysis. The 2009 correlations were my base year or barometer for the level that caused the DOE to revise its peer index calculation. The 2010 correlations were a measure of whether the DOE’s adjustments were effective in removing the influence of student characteristics in the data. The correlations for this year’s data were run to show the degree to which any relationship might still exist. I found that the DOE’s peer index adjustments moderately reduced the bias in the report card scoring for 2010 but that in this year’s results the association returned and is close to or exceeds the 2009 levels that warranted adjustment. The table below shows the correlation results.

School’s Student Characteristic Correlation with Performance Score Correlation with Progress Score Correlation with Overall Score
% Special Ed −.33** −.19** −.23** −.32** −.19** −.31** −.31** −.19** −.25**
% Self Contained No data −.28** −.28** No data −.21** −.34** No data −.26** −.32**
% Overage −.13* −.11* −.24** −.16** −.07 −.02 −.12* −.07 −.08
8th Grade Score .35** .34** .44*** .32** .18** .28** .27** .21** .29**
A single asterisk (*) indicate statistical significance at the p<.05 and a double asterisk (**) indicates significance at the p<.01 level. Statistical significance indicates that I am 95% or 99%, respectively, confident that the correlations don’t equal zero.1

More »

New York Teacher

New York Teacher, Oct. 27, 2011Highlights from the Oct. 27 issue of New York Teacher:

Be BRAVE against bullying
UFT announces a new campaign
With many political supporters and plenty of press, the UFT launched a new campaign, called Be BRAVE Against Bullying, on Oct. 19. The multifaceted campaign aims at changing school culture so that bullying is recognized for what it is — and not tolerated.

UFT launches anti-bullying hotline
“Every single child has a right to go to school without being intimidated or harassed, and every parent has the right to know that their child can go to school safely,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said at a press conference at City Hall on Oct. 19 to announce a new anti-bullying hotline. The confidential hotline, staffed by licensed counselors, operates weekdays from 2:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

UFT joins D.C. event to reaffirm King’s commitment
Three-thousand UFT members joined tens of thousands of other trade unions, civil rights and community activists on Oct. 15 for a march and rally reaffirming Martin Luther King Jr.’s commitment to jobs and justice and inaugurating the imposing carved stone memorial commemorating his life and legacy.

Walking tall
Making Strides against Breast Cancer
UFTers did it again and in style. Under blue skies and bright sunshine, thousands proudly walked in the annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk on Oct. 16 carrying the blue-and-white UFT banner in all five boroughs plus Jones Beach. The participation of 1,000 UFT members in the Bronx was a special tribute to Annette Carlucci, teacher, chapter leader and high school representative who died from breast cancer during the summer. More »

“Parent Power” Documentary Premieres Nov. 3

When a group of Bronx parents discovered that only 17% of their children could read at grade level, they launched a campaign to improve their local elementary school. That campaign evolved into a citywide coalition, uniting thousands of parents from African American and Latino neighborhoods across the city, to bring a quality education to NYC’s children. “Parent Power” tells their story.

There will be a panel discussion following the screening; AFT President Randi Weingarten is among the scheduled panelists.

Date: Thursday, Nov. 3
Time: 6 p.m.
Location: NYU’s Cantor Film Center, 36 E. 8th St., Manhattan
RSVP: Register for the premiere online »

Pity the Poor Millionaires

Michael Mulgrew has an op-ed in today’s Daily News on why the State Senate and Assembly must extend the state tax on upper-income earners.

Hedge fund magnate John Paulson — who reportedly made $5 billion personally last year — reacted recently to Occupy Wall Street protesters by talking about how much the top 1% of New York City families pay in income taxes. What he didn’t talk about was how the same 1% made nearly half (44%) of all the income in the city, or that when all state and local taxes are taken into account, the richest taxpayers in fact pay a lower percentage of their total income in taxes than do people in the middle.

Meanwhile, with unemployment levels stubbornly high, median family income declining and public services under budget pressure, times are getting tougher for almost everyone else.

Public school class sizes in New York City — already far higher than in surrounding communities — are getting bigger still. Our annual survey in September showed that an estimated one-quarter of the city’s public school children were in one or more oversize classes as the school year began. After-school programs are disappearing. Art and music have become things of the past in our schools. Hundreds of school aides are on the unemployment line.

More »

Why We Can’t Fire Our Way to Urban School Reform

A recent SchoolBook article on the high teacher turnover at one of Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Schools raises an important question in the debate over improving urban schools — how can we stop corporate education reform’s focus on “getting rid of bad teachers” from creating a level of instability in school staffing that hurts our city’s students?

The case of turnover in the Harlem Success schools is only the latest example of this issue, but it’s a striking one. Over a third of the teachers at Harlem Success 3 have chosen to leave the school in the past few months, a decision Moskowitz describes as “frankly, unethical.” At the same time, however, Moskowitz chooses to employ her staff with a policy of “at will employment” rather than a negotiated contract. Under this model, she and her principals have the right to terminate teachers’ service at the school at any time, for any reason. In fact, Steven Brill’s Class Warfare describes the case of one new teacher who was “forced out” only a few months into the school year when a young principal at Harlem Success decided she wasn’t a “good fit” for the school.

The deep irony here is that in this view of “ethical” teacher turnover, Moskowitz and her staff believe that they should have sole control over determining whether a teacher is a good fit for the school — but in the article, teachers’ stated reasons for voluntarily leaving seem thoughtful and professional: More »

The One Percent And Us

We Are the 99 PercentOver the last few weeks, a small team of New York City building inspectors descended upon UFT headquarters, responding to a mysterious 311 call. Our building has been placed under police surveillance, and at times police have been posted as guards at our doors.

The One Percent appears to be a tad bit irritated by the UFT’s support for the Occupy Wall Street movement. We were one of the unions who took the lead in organizing the October 5th rally and march which brought out thousands of New York’s working people to express their solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. UFT President Mulgrew has been at Zuccotti Park a number of times, speaking to the assembly, and was joined by AFT President Weingarten on one occasion. Our headquarters are a few blocks away from Zuccotti, and we have provided space for meetings of different groups supporting OWS. We have also given over a major section of our street level space to storage for OWS, for donations of materials and supplies sent to them and for the stowing of personal belongings on the morning when Bloomberg threatened to “cleanse” Zuccotti. This was the space that the building inspectors suddenly needed to inspect.

Oh, and last weekend, we sent forty sandwiches left from our conference for charter school educators over to Zuccotti. I had not thought much of that donation until Fox Business Network senior correspondent Charles Gasparino called the UFT on Monday. It seems that Gasparino had visited Zuccotti over the weekend and decided that it was a haven for communists. And he had witnessed the masses at Zuccotti eating our sandwiches. Why, he demanded to know, was the UFT providing sustenance to violent revolutionaries? Confronted with the results of Gasparino’s crackerjack investigative reporting, I decided that it is time to confess. Yes, I authorized that sandwich smuggling operation. More »