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Archive for June, 2012

Mulgrew: Our Strength And Unity Brought Hard-Won Victory

Dear colleagues,

I have some terrific news to share with you. We have blocked the Department of Education’s attempt to circumvent our contract and members’ rights in the 24 “turnaround” schools. The city’s political maneuver was doing untold harm to our students and school communities.

The DOE has tried to “close” these schools and immediately re-open them under new names. We never believed these were new schools and never believed this “closure” process was a viable way to improve these schools. It was clear to us that the mayor was advancing his political interests at the expense of the students, staff and parents of these schools.

The principals’ union, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, was our partner in this fight. After months of difficult litigation, an independent arbitrator ruled today that the DOE violated the UFT and CSA contracts, validating our belief that the “new” schools the DOE claims it was creating were in reality not new schools. The DOE was attempting to remove half the staff in each of these schools. The arbitrator, Scott Buchheit, ruled that all members working in these schools in June have the right to stay or return to their schools in September.

This hard-won victory is a testament to our strength and unity. Parents, students, teachers and supervisors all came together in this battle. We beat back the mayor’s best efforts to rip these schools apart and vilify their teachers. These 24 school communities will now have the opportunity to continue the hard work of helping their students reach their potential.

The arbitrator’s decision is focused on the question of whether or not the city’s actions violated our contracts. The larger issue, though, is that the centerpiece of the DOE’s school improvement strategy — closing struggling schools — does not work.

Parents, students and teachers need the DOE to fix struggling schools, rather than giving up on them. The UFT will continue to support these schools in every way possible.

Thank you again for everything you do for your students — and enjoy your summer.

Sincerely,
Michael Mulgrew

New York Teacher

New York Teacher, June 28, 2012Highlights from the June 28 issue of New York Teacher:

Hands off our evaluations!
In a victory for teacher privacy across the state, the state Legislature on June 21 passed legislation that restricts the public release of teacher evaluations, showing teachers the professional respect that the city did not.

Seeds of learning
Across the city, children are learning about the mysteries that are unlocked when a tiny seed is planted in the spring and grows into the food they eat at harvest time or blossoms into a rainbow of flowers. It’s Jack and the Beanstalk come true.

Contract talks headed to fact-finding
The UFT has started the fact-finding process after mediation with the Department of Education on the contract failed to resolve the serious differences between the two sides.

City grad rates stall, revealing weaknesses in Bloomberg reforms
Announcing the latest high school graduation rates on June 11, Mayor Bloomberg said the Class of 2011 “can smile again today,” while the chancellor congratulated a mayor who “changed lives.” N o one else was that upbeat. The 60.9 percent rate for the Class of 2011 was actually a small dip from 61 percent for the Class of 2010, as the state reported it, though the city got an uptick in the year-to-year comparison when it added in August graduates.

UFT joins thousands in march to end stop-and-frisk
Mulgrew: Bloomberg administration’s policy is racial profiling

Some 500 UFT members joined thousands more labor and community members for a June 17 silent march against the city’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy, which UFT President Michael Mulgrew and other critics denounced as unjust and discriminatory.

Mayor’s child care changes would bring ‘chaos’
EarlyLearn NYC would cost 2,300 provider jobs, 8,000 seats for children

The UFT, the family child care providers represented by the union and child care advocates are up in arms about major changes to city-subsidized child care set in motion by Mayor Bloomberg. Unless he is stopped, Bloomberg’s ambitious reorganization of the city’s child care services, dubbed EarlyLearn NYC, will go into effect on Oct. 1, leaving as many as 2,300 providers without work and thousands of young children forced into new child care settings.

‘Amazing’ Shanker Scholarship winners showed dedication, grit
The UFT honored 171 winners of the $1 million in scholarships given annually to college-bound students from low-income families who show academic promise.

What I do: Karen White, school social worker
Starting her career in September 2011, White works at PS 536 at PS 102 in the Bronx, where she was elected chapter leader this June.

Suspensions should be last resort, not first
The Department of Education held a hearing on June 5 at Stuyvesant HS to consider proposed changes to the student Discipline Code that are meant to reduce the number of offenses for which students could be suspended. But some critics say the code — even with the changes — is still too aggressive and does not adequately address racial disparities in suspensions.

State makes right call on teacher privacy
It took great political effort on the part of the UFT, NYSUT and Gov. Cuomo, but state legislators finally approved a bill that limits public disclosure of teacher evaluations.

The Amazing Work That UFT Providers Do

Tens of thousands of families depend on UFT family child care providers, who care and educate their children. The work they do is making a profound difference in the lives of those children every day, as evidenced by the three providers profiled in this video. But in the city’s budget negotiations, more than 14,000 child care slots have been put on the chopping block by the mayor.

Edwize Receives Award from NYC Labor Communicators

After receiving top honors three years in a row, Edwize took home Second Place in the Best Blog category at the annual awards presentation of the Metro New York Labor Communications Council last Friday, June 15 at the Murphy Institute. Our state affiliate NYSUT’s blog was awarded First Place. Congrats to the NYSUT team!

Here’s what the contest judges had to say about Edwize this year:

Edwize’s strength is in how damn smart the contributors are. Everyone who cares about ed policy and NYC education politics needs to read Edwize. It really sets the standard in smart union blogs.

LaborPress wrote about the the Metro convention here.

The Benefits of Extra Effort

[Mr. Foteah is the pseudonym of a fourth-year elementary school special education teacher in Queens. He blogs at From the Desk of Mr. Foteah, where this post first appeared.]

Nearly 10 months ago, I embarked on my fourth year of teaching. I started in September in my elementary school special education classroom feeling, for the first time, that I had something to prove. To that end, I found myself working longer, harder, and smarter than I have at any point in my career. I reaped the benefits in many areas. I learned a lot. These are some of my most valuable takeaways heading into the summer.

One size can’t/won’t/needn’t ever fit all. There was a decided shift in my philosophy this year that I’m not sure I anticipated. On some level, I had previously believed, “If it works for one, it should work for all.” This evolved to, “If it works for one, what about everyone else?”

I made a much more concerted effort to differentiate process, product and most importantly, expectations. Because of this, students were, much more frequently than in my previous classes, able to work at their own paces, on their own levels, without fear of embarrassment and with the satisfaction of being able to do well. More »

Disturbing Background for Founder of New “Charter Parents PAC”

Thomas Lopez-Pierre

Thomas Lopez-Pierre

The founder of the latest group to try to cash in on the big money flowing from Wall Street to New York City’s charter schools has a disturbing history. Potential donors and charter parents who received Thomas Lopez-Pierre’s recent email seeking $250,000 in donations to support his new “Harlem Charter School Parents PAC” (of which he will serve as treasurer and spokesman) should take a moment to Google his name before signing on. When they do, they’ll discover that Lopez-Pierre is also the creator of the Harlem Club, which became infamous a few years back for its founder’s misogynistic and classist descriptions of that organization’s mission and for his own beliefs about women’s place in the home and society:

Thomas Lopez-Pierre was looking for just the right men for the Harlem Club, a private social club for African-Americans and Latinos that he was forming in Manhattan.

For $5,000, mid-career professional men could become charter members; $2,500 would make them general members. But this club did not want just any moneyed men. Rap stars, Hollywood glitterati and professional athletes — what Mr. Lopez-Pierre labels the ”ghetto-fabulous crowd” — would not be welcome.

Women could join the Harlem Club, too. But only as associate members. And they had to be 35 or younger, unmarried, childless, college educated and willing to submit a head-to-toe photograph, to prevent unattractive women from making the cut … More »

Charters and Integration in the NYC Context

It’s always good to see issues of school segregation and integration back on the table as part of the education reform discussion; most recently, the discussion of this important reform goal was triggered in New York by Eva Moskowitz’s latest demand of the state that her chain of schools should be exempted from following the state charter law which requires that all charters serve high-needs students in proportions comparable to those of local schools. However, Moskowitz’s claim that her purpose in seeking this right to play by different rules than other charters is simply to expand school integration is deeply disingenuous. Paradoxically, she seemingly simultaneously wants to argue that she should be allowed to expand because her schools are successfully serving the same demographics of students as New York City’s district schools and to argue that her schools are better because, unlike many of the local district schools, they’re economically integrated. Conveniently, her new dedication to integration seems to have emerged just after the new law requiring greater demographic parity was passed.

Similarly, Moskowitz’s claims to the state that requirements that her chain’s schools recruit and retain high needs students provide “perverse incentives” to over-identify those students misses a key point. The three year limit she complains about is designed to counteract another “perverse incentive” built into the law — the temptation to target charter recruitment so that the lowest-need students from within the three target areas are disproportionately enrolled in lieu of students with greater needs, increasing the chances that charters will both be able to hit their enrollment targets and achieve higher test scores than schools which enroll the higher needs students within these groups (who are less likely to test out of the category). While over-identification of these students is an important issue, the solution is not to remove the part of the proposed policy which ensures that charters will be held accountable for serving students with the greatest needs. In Moskowitz’s case, her recent decision to drop preferences for “at risk students” from her lottery process indicates that these protections are especially important in ensuring accountability among the schools in her network. More »

Silent March to End Stop-and-Frisk this Sunday, June 17

End Stop and Frisk march, June 17, 2012This Sunday, June 17 — Father’s Day — join UFT members and civil rights, faith, labor and community groups in a silent march to protest New York City’s “stop-and-frisk” policy. Let’s stand together to show that New Yorkers refuse to let young men of color be victimized by racial profiling.

To march with the UFT contingent, sign up here »

Debunking the Harlem Village Academy ‘Miracle’

Harlem Village Academy is currently enjoying some media attention thanks to founder Deborah Kenny’s new book, Born to Rise. At the Teach For Us blog, Gary Rubinstein looks at the school’s most recent numbers and finds high student attrition (as we did two years ago) and alarming staff turnover.

When a school is truly great, teachers want to keep teaching there year after year.  So it should be telling that in this school over the past three years the amount of staff turnover was 2007-2008 53%, for 2008-2009, 38%, and for 2009-2010, a whopping 61%.  By comparison, the teacher attrition for the entire district in 2009-2010 was just 19%.

He also posts a letter from an outspoken former HVA teacher who writes, “No school with a 60% teacher turnover rate should be praised in the press as the model for other schools to follow.”

Student Attrition at Harlem Success Academy

A post this week at Insideschools.org raised some familiar questions about student attrition and test scores at Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Academy I.

Many uptown Manhattan parents hope that winning the lottery for a seat at Harlem Success Academy I will put their child on the path to academic achievement. But just because a child gets into Harlem Success does not mean he or she will complete 5th grade there. The school — part of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy network — has a high attrition rate, leading critics to charge that the school may push out low achieving or difficult students.

Harlem Success denies that’s the case, and says the attrition can be explained by children moving away–or even skipping a grade. Without better data from the state, it’s impossible to say who is right. But one thing is certain: Harlem Success loses a lot of kids between kindergarten and 5th grade.

In an email to Insideschools, our own Leo Casey wrote, “It may be significant that the bulk of the attrition at Harlem Success Academy 1 seems to have come in the tested grades.”

It Won’t Be Long Now

[Mr. Foteah is the pseudonym of a fourth-year elementary school special education teacher in Queens. He blogs at From the Desk of Mr. Foteah, where this post first appeared.]

It won’t be long now before the records are complete, the rooms cleaned, next year’s rosters distributed.

It won’t be long now before the last week of school, the last “Good morning!”, the last lunch, the last high-five, the last homework assignment.

It won’t be long now before the chairs are placed on the desks for the final time, the lights shut, the door closed, the goodbyes said, the tears shed.

And then, you know it won’t be long before we’re enjoying our summer break – maybe on the beach, maybe on the couch, maybe in a class – and the gnawing question, “What’s that kid up to right about now?” creeps into our heads.

It won’t be long before we shake loose the memories of anguish, unfairness, and difficulty our students dealt with and instead recall and revel in the memories of their greatest triumphs. No matter the individual’s adversity, surely we can reflect that every student grew in some way.

It won’t be long before we start saying, “I’m not ready to go back!” It won’t be long before there’s just one week left in the summer, one last late wake-up, one last barbecue, one last day available for anything we want.

No, it won’t be long before we’re back at it, new charges before us, eager for our ears, wanting for our words, hoping for our help. It won’t be long, indeed, before a new class comes to us, ready to learn, ready to prove, ready to show, ready to work.

And it won’t be long before we’re ready to go back and do a better job, because we commit to that every year and because we know we can always serve our students more effectively.

No, it won’t be long now.

What Public School Students are Entitled To

Watch this powerful video of Chicago parent and lawyer Matt Farmer addressing the Chicago Teachers Union at a rally last month.

Farmer cites an interview with Penny Pritzker, Chicago billionaire and board of education member, in which she says Chicago public school students are “entitled to get the skills in math, reading, and science so that they can be productive members of today’s work force,” and apparently not a curriculum rich in arts, music, foreign language and physical education like her own children enjoy at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.

Why Can’t These Students Hold Hands?

Powerful video on standing up to anti-gay bullying that our students should see.