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Archive for February, 2012

The True Story of Pascale Mauclair

Within hours of the publication of the Teacher Data Reports (TDRs) last Friday, the UFT began to hear stories of teachers and their families being hounded by news reporters from the New York Post.

On Friday evening, New York Post reporters appeared at the door of the father of Pascale Mauclair, a sixth grade teacher at P.S. 11, the Kathryn Phelan School, which is located in the Woodside section of Queens. They told Mauclair’s father that his daughter was one of the worst teachers in New York City, based solely on the TDR reports, and that they were looking to  interview her. They then made their way to Mauclair’s home, where she told them that she did not want to comment on the matter. The Post reporters rang Mauclair’s bell and knocked on her window all Saturday morning. She finally called the police, who told the reporters that since they were inside her private housing development, they were on private property and had to leave. The reporters rang the bell again, leading to a second visit from the police and a final warning to leave. Later, Mauclair’s neighbors told her that that the Post reporters had been asking them questions about her.

More »

Mulgrew: Bloomberg’s Education Legacy is “In Shambles”

UFT President Michael Mulgrew expressed his and union members’ criticism of Mayor Bloomberg,  in the aftermath of the publication of controversial Teacher Data Reports, at a news conference held today outside PS 321 in Park Slope.

“I’ve heard over and over again from so many of the teachers that he doesn’t want anyone thinking about what his education legacy is because it’s in shambles,” Mr. Mulgrew said about the mayor. “And that’s how they feel. And I believe that they have a right to feel that way.”

“I think New York City has had enough with the teacher bashing, and we all know where that is coming from, and that’s the mayor,” he told reporters outside the school.

“I want to be very clear on this point of the story: The mayor and the city chose to go to court and not to fight the FOIL,” Mr. Mulgrew continued, referring to the Freedom of Information Law. “It was their responsibility to fight it and they said, ‘No, we would not do it.’ So they’ve done a great disservice to the school community, to the teachers, the parents, and everybody else.”

Getting the Story Wrong on Teacher Data Reports:
An Open Letter from a 5th-Grade Teacher

My heart sank when I found out. I was checking the news and a chill went down my back. My morale died. “Why?” you may ask. Well, let me start with a notable quote from a classic movie, “The Paper,” by the character Michael McDougal (played by Randy Quaid):

We run stupid headlines because we think they’re funny. We run maimings on the front page because we got good art. And I spend three weeks bitching about my car because it sells papers. But at least it’s the truth. As far as I can remeber we never ever, ever knowingly got a story wrong, until tonight.

I had since believed this represented an unwritten creed of the news media. Perhaps my view was incorrect, or perhaps the media has changed in its rush to keep up with the Internet. In either case I have been proven wrong.

It was ruled by a judge that the media — as it demanded — can release names of teachers with their grades from the 2008-2009 Teacher Data Reports. As many teachers falling at the low end of the scoring spectrum must also feel, I know my grade will paint an ugly and unfair portrait of my teaching career. More »

Black History Month Forum this Sunday, Feb. 26

Black America — A Prescription for the Future

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Sunday, Feb. 26
2–6 p.m.
515 Malcolm X Boulevard, New York, NY

Panel discussion with

Moderator Jerold Podair, history professor, Lawrence College; author of Bayard Rustin, American Dreamer

and panelists

  • Dr. William Julius Wilson, noted author and distinguished professor of sociology, Harvard University
  • Dr. Bernard Anderson, economics professor emeritus, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; former asst. secretary of labor in the Clinton Administration
  • Rev. Al Sharpton, PoliticNation, MSNBC
  • Rick Kahlenberg, senior fellow, Century Foundation
  • Richard Trumka, president, AFL-CIO
  • Velma Murphy Hill, civil rights and labor activist, Summary and Closing

Reception to follow.

Sponsored by the NYC Central Labor Council, Amalgamated Bank, Metro New York A. Philip Randolph Institute, Amalgamated Transit Union.

Setting The Record Straight On Teacher Evaluations:
Scoring and the Role of Standardized Exams

(This is the first of two posts on the new teacher evaluations, focusing on the overall scoring of the evaluations and the role of standardized exams. The second post will take up the question of appeals.)

The 2010 law that established a new framework for the evaluation of New York educators was a complex piece of legislation, and last week’s agreement to clarify and refine that law with additional legislation added another layer to that complexity. The complexity is unavoidable. It is important to have evaluations based on multiple measures of teacher effectiveness, just as it is important to evaluate students based on multiple measures of their learning: more measures and more forms of evidence produce more robust, more accurate and fairer evaluations. Further, multiple measures allowed New York to avoid placing inordinate weight on standardized exams and value-added algorithms, as other states have done to very negative consequences. And it was essential that the bulk of the evaluations be established locally through collective bargaining, with the law only providing a general framework. These objectives necessarily led to a high level of complexity.

But with that complexity, New York is on the road to teacher evaluations that will engage educators in meaningful professional dialogue, provide them with essential supports, and give them the tools to hone their craft. With evaluations based on multiple measures, evaluations will be more comprehensive, more accurate and fairer, and in sharp contrast to other states such as Florida and Tennessee, the role of standardized testing in the evaluation will be minimized. With collective bargaining playing a key role in the shaping of “on the ground” evaluations, teacher unions have the input that will allow us to protect the educational integrity and fairness of the evaluation process.

Unfortunately, complexity has provided a fertile ground for commentaries on the New York teacher evaluation framework that reach alarmist conclusions, with arguments built on a foundation of misinformation and groundless speculation. More »

Highlights of the Teacher Evaluation Agreement and
Details of the New Appeals Process

On Feb. 16, thanks to Governor Cuomo’s intervention, the UFT reached a groundbreaking agreement with the city on an appeals process for New York City teacher ratings that includes the third-party, independent validation of teacher ratings that the union insisted upon to ensure fairness. Today’s New York Times editorial calls it a “sound deal.”

Read on for highlights and details. More »

A Different Kind of Turnaround

New Teacher Diaries contributor Mr. Foteah writes that a positive change in his attitude toward a difficult student quickly resulted in a positive change in the student’s attitude in the classroom.

I thought about the majority of my interactions with this student and realized just how negative they were. So, I’ve gone in completely the other direction with this guy and have turned on the happy, bubbly positiveness.

Every day when he walks in, I tell him how thrilled I am to see him, saying things like, “I am SO happy to see you!” I always make sure to give him a high-five or fist-bump when he comes in. (Originally, I thought I might choke on the words. Now, I am genuinely excited for him and his Angry Birds hat to walk in each morning). In exchange he might give me a salute or a, “Yeah!” He comes in now and gets right down to business. Instead of being among the last to unpack, he is among the first.

In one week, he has gone from frequently being angry to frequently being happy. He is more invested in his work and more receptive to what I say. He seems to be focusing more, and I’ve noticed him looking to me in times of distress, finally understanding that I care and want to help him.

To Catch a Plagiarist


Pirillo & Fitz

[Editor’s note: Señorita in the City is the pseudonym of a fifth-year teacher in a high school in Manhattan. She blogs at senoritainthecity.com where a version of this post first appeared.]

Recently I found myself identifying with these words spoken by Liam Neeson’s character in the movie “Taken”: “What I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills that I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.”

Now, my teaching career is not yet “very long,” but I have honed some particular skills during my years in the classroom. Spotting plagiarism is one of them. More »

New UFT TV Ad Showcases Teachers’ Hard Work

The 30-second spot features four teachers, and concludes with a message from UFT President Michael Mulgrew: “Work with us for better schools and a brighter future for all our students.”

Finding Purpose, and NYC, at Washington Irving HS

[Editor’s note: The author is a social studies teacher at Washington Irving HS, Manhattan. He delivered the following speech at the Jan. 31 public hearing on Irving’s proposed closure.]

I began teaching at Washington Irving in the fall of 2002, not knowing a thing about what I was in for. I had moved to New York from Chicago a few months before, and before that I had been in San Francisco. As well, I had never been inside a public school. After two days, I felt sure I would fail the students and myself. After two years I thought I could last a couple more years maybe. Now I look back and see how this experience of teaching at Irving has sustained me and given me purpose. As well, it answered this question: what is New York City?

My whole life I had been in awe of New York, amazed by it, and when I moved here I thought, I’ll finally understand what New York means. I went to Midtown, hated it. Went to Coney Island, loved it, but it felt like 1898 mixed with desperation. Went to Ellis Island, the ocean was beautiful, the halls were inspirational. But where was this New York I needed to find? The bridges amazed me, Brooklyn neighborhoods reminded me of the other cities I had lived in, or had those reminded me, in retrospect, of Brooklyn?

Finally, I realized New York wasn’t in any of those places the way I hungered for it. But New York, the New York I needed, was right in front of me, in my classroom. These kids come from all over, the Heights, East New York, Q-Boro, Parkchester and the Lower East Side. I even taught kids from Staten Island — they grew up where Wu-Tang grew up: Shaolin, my friends.

My students are the New York I searched for. More »

New York Teacher

New York Teacher, Feb. 2, 2012Highlights from the Feb. 2 issue of New York Teacher:

Schools with high-needs students most likely to face ax
Ten years into Bloomberg’s education reforms, the New York City school system has come full circle and is now shutting down new high schools at the same rate as old ones. High schools established by Bloomberg represent about 40 percent of all existing high schools and 38 percent of the high schools on the closing list.

PS 22, Brooklyn: Principal blamed for plummeting enrollment
For more than five years, the Department of Education has turned a deaf ear to the persistent complaints of the staff that PS 22 Principal Carlen Padmore-Gateau has harassed, humiliated and driven teachers out of the Prospect Park school. According to District 17 Representative Rick King, more than 50 staff members and two assistant principals have been forced out.

PS 215, Queens: Crippled by cuts
The staff and parents of Far Rockaway’s PS 215 — one of the 25 schools on the mayor’s original hit list for this year — paint a picture of a school crippled by four years in a row of budget cuts. Like most of the other schools targeted by the mayor, PS 215, located in a historically neglected outlying neighborhood, serves a high-needs population.

Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Manhattan: ‘This is not a lost school’
A Harlem institution with 111 years behind it, Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing and Visual Arts may have narrowly escaped being closed outright by the Department of Education this year, but the school must now battle to save its middle grades from the DOE’s ax — and battling it is. More »