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Archive for January, 2012

An Open Letter to New York City Parents

[The following open letter from UFT President Michael Mulgrew to New York City parents ran as a full-page ad in the New York Daily News on Jan. 9.]

New York City is losing its teachers.

More than 66,000 have either resigned or retired since Mayor Bloomberg took control of the schools.

Teachers leave one of the toughest jobs in New York City for a variety of personal and professional reasons, but the most common single reason is a lack of support from supervisors and the Department of Education.

Teaching is a craft that is acquired over time, and teachers desperately want to improve their skills. That is why the United Federation of Teachers led the campaign to create a better teacher evaluation system, one that put a priority on helping all teachers do their job better. The UFT’s role was critical in creating the new system, and in going to Washington, D.C. to help get federal funds for it through the Race to the Top program. Starting last spring, many of our members with expertise in evaluation worked for months on the state subcommittees designing the new system.

We have been trying to work with the Bloomberg administration to iron out the final details of the new system, but the administration has refused to engage in meaningful talks about teacher and principal improvement. More »

The Politicization Of Educational Research

Last Friday, an analysis of the “value-added” contributions of public school teachers authored by a trio of economists, Harvard’s Raj Chetty and John Friedman and Columbia’s Jonah Rockoff, was unveiled with great fanfare, receiving prominent coverage by both the New York Times and the PBS’ Newshour. By all accounts, this study (hereafter, CFR) is both substantial, employing a database unprecedented in such work by its sheer size, and innovative in a number of new design elements and statistical measures. It appears that the large urban school district which is the subject of the CFR analysis is New York City, both because of the sheer size of the database (New York City is more than twice the size of the next largest school district, Los Angeles) and because of the fact that one of the co-authors, Rockoff, has a long history of working closely with the New York City Department of Education in the development and implementation of its now discredited and abandoned version of  value-added measures, the Teacher Data Reports.

Given the importance of such a study, the method and timing of its release to the media is of particular note. To date, the authors have only presented their analysis in seminars, the Times reports. They have yet to submit CFR to a peer reviewed journal for publication, as is the scholarly norm for the public distribution of such research — it is just now available as a working paper on Harvard and NBER web sites. More »

GothamSchools’ 2011 Year in Review

In case you missed it, GothamSchools posted on New Year’s Eve an encyclopedic, month-by-month recap of the year in NYC school news.

They also compiled a roundup of 2011 roundups and 2012 predictions.

Debating Teacher Pay

The latest New York Times Room for Debate feature asks, “Are Teachers Overpaid?”

David Z. Hambrick of Michigan State University concludes his piece with an appeal to common sense:

As a society, we have decided that it’s fine to pay a heart surgeon more than an electrician. We didn’t need to run a regression analysis to decide this — it’s important to keep the lights on, but only if there’s someone to keep them on for — and we don’t need to run a regression analysis to decide that we don’t pay teachers enough. A little arithmetic will do. In Michigan, where I live, the average starting salary for a teacher is about $35,000 for nine months. That works out to about $20 an hour. A bartender can make double that. Which job do you think is more important?