Over a year ago, the UFT submitted a Freedom of Information request for emails between Joel Klein and other top DoE brass, on the one hand, and the leaders of the New York City Charter School Center, the New York Charter School Association, Democrats for Education Reform and other leading supporters of corporate education reform. As it does with FOIL requests that do not suit their purposes, the DoE stonewalled the request. (Take note of the contrast with the DoE’s eagerness to release the Teacher Data Reports.) Last month, the UFT went to court, arguing that the DoE’s continual delays amounted to constructive denial of the FOIL law. Facing the inevitable, last Friday the DoE began to release the emails, sending several hundred to the UFT and the news media. Another 15,000 emails are still to come, so keep your eyes peeled on this one.
Here are some of the highlights of the emails just released. More »
It is perhaps fitting that the Department of Education’s feeble attempt to suggest that their efforts to purge the teaching staffs of the 22 Transformation and Restart schools involve the creation of truly new schools has come to focus on the most ephemeral element — a new name. In the joint meetings, staff, students and community all objected strenuously to the erasure of their schools’ history and heritage, but that means little to the ideologically hell-bent at Tweed and City Hall.
It is worth pointing out that these name changes, following on the closure of 140 DOE schools since the beginning of the Bloomberg era, has significantly changed the names of New York City schools. Pre-Bloomberg, school names reflected the city’s rich heritage of protest and social progress. Now, schools named after trade union leaders, civil rights leaders, democratic socialists, feminists and civic reformers have all had their names stripped from them, one by one, by the corporate reformers:
Trade Unionists: John Dewey, Samuel Gompers, Harry Van Arsdale.
Civil Rights Figures: Benjamin Banneker, Henry Highland Garnet, Martin Luther King, August Martin, Luis Muñoz Marín, Bayard Rustin, Paul Robeson, Dr. Betty Shabazz.
Democratic Socialists: John Dewey, Martin Luther King, Bayard Rustin, Norman Thomas.
Civic Reformers/Feminists: Jane Addams, Lucretia Mott.
Still alive on this endangered species list? A. Phillip Randolph and Fannie Lou Hamer.
Don’t forget to thank a teacher this week, especially on Tuesday, May 8 — National Educators Day.
In his Saturday Times column, Charles Blow thanks his mother, a veteran educator, and shares some refreshing, common-sense wisdom on teachers and teaching.
She showed me what a great teacher looked like: proud, exhausted, underpaid and overjoyed. For great teachers, the job is less a career than a calling. You don’t become a teacher to make a world of money. You become a teacher to make a world of difference. But hard work deserves a fair wage.
That’s why I have a hard time tolerating people who disproportionately blame teachers for our poor educational outcomes. I understand that not every teacher is a great one. But neither is every plumber, or every banker or every soldier. Why then should teachers be demonized so much?
A big part of the problem is that teachers have been so maligned in the national debate that it’s hard to attract our best and brightest to see it as a viable and rewarding career choice, even if they have a high aptitude and natural gift for it.
Join the UFT and LEGO Education for a day of creativity, teamwork and learning.
Learn how to successfully engage students in science, technology, engineering and math with LEGOs.
Hear how teachers are using LEGO Education solutions in the classroom and about the success their students are having.
Experience it first hand by attending one of the hands-on workshops.
Saturday, May 19
52 Broadway, 2nd floor
Morning session for elementary school educators is from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Afternoon session for middle school and high school educators is from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
In a major expose, the New York Times has revealed a trail of corruption, bribery and cover-up at the highest levels of Wal-Mart, a leading corporate funder of anti-union and anti-public education projects and initiatives.
The list of 2011 grantees of the Walton Family Foundation, Wal-Mart’s corporate foundation, reads like a veritable who’s who of corporate education reform efforts. Among the more prominent beneficiaries of Wal-Mart money are:
Michelle Rhee’s and Joel Klein’s StudentFirst
Eva Moskowitz’s Success Charter Network
Education Reform Now, the not for profit arm of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)
The New Teacher Project
Teach for America
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and the state charter school organizations in California, Floria, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, New York, New Jersey, and Ohio
Black Alliance for Educational Options
Center for Education Reform
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
Bellwether Education Partners
The Walton Family Foundation has also been a major funder of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, founded by blogger Jay Greene, who has been moved to sing the praises of Wal-Mart on occasion.
As a corporation, Wal-Mart has a long history of flouting American laws: it is the leading corporate violator of childlabor laws, of the Americans with Disabilities Act and civil rights laws prohibiting sex and race discrimination. Human Rights Watch produced a major 2007 report, Discounting Rights, detailing Wal-Mart’s exploitative treatment of its employees, as well as its violations of labor law.
No one has a better take on the now infamous pineapple-hare question than E. D. Hirsch:
“It’s clearly an allegory. The pineapple is the Department of Education. The hare is the student who is eagerly taking the test,” said Hirsch, author of “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know” and “The Knowledge Deficit.”
“The joke is supposed to be on the hare, because the questions are post-modern unanswerable,” he said. “But in fact the joke is on the pineapple, because the New York Daily News is going to eat it up.”
The powers that be at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate funded, right wing outfit that writes model legislation for state and local officials who apparently can’t write themselves, are feeling mighty sorry for themselves these days.
It seems that a confluence of different political events have exposed much of ALEC’s work and political agenda, revealing the connections among a number of their projects:
In the wake of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, ALEC’s role in writing and disseminating “stand your ground” gun laws which make armed individuals into judge, jury and executioner have drawn considerable public scrutiny, especially after it was learned that Florida officials originally cited one such law as a reason for not indicting George Zimmerman, the man who had shot Trayvon. (Special Prosecutor Angela Corey recently overrode that initial determination, and indicted Zimmerman for second degree murder.) Read Paul Krugman’s takedown. And don’t miss Shoot ‘Em Up Charlie’s story. More »
Today, Mayor Bloomberg and the NYC Department of Education released seven of the thirty-three schools they had been holding hostage.
The NYC DoE announced that it would not close the schools which had a grade of “A” or “B” on this year’s School Progress Reports – Maxwell High School, Harlem Renaissance High School, Intermediate School 136, Brooklyn School for Global Studies, Cobble Hill School of American Studies, Franklin D. Roosevelt High School, and William E. Grady High School.
Clearly, the growing opposition to Bloomberg’s reckless mass closure of public schools has taken its toll. The single-minded reliance upon mass closure of schools as their sole strategy demonstrates the exhaustion of educational ideas at City Hall and Tweed. And the embarrassment of closing schools that the NYC DoE itself had given high grades had become too high a price to bear.
But the school hostage crisis is not over. Twenty-six schools, including 12 other schools which do not meet the DoE’s own minimum criteria for closure, remain under the Tweed guillotine. And there is an agreement, signed by Chancellor Walcott and President Mulgrew, which places all of these schools in the Transformation and Restart models. That agreement must be followed.
So long as one school which does not deserve to be closed is held hostage by Bloomberg and the DoE, the UFT and all of NYC public school communities will continue the struggle to save them.
Last Wednesday, the New York City Department of Education (DoE) began holding public meetings for the 33 Transformation and Restart Schools that Mayor Bloomberg announced he would close in his State of the City speech. At the start of each meeting, a Deputy Chancellor reads out a prepared script which purportedly makes the case for closure. For 19 of those 33 schools, nearly 3 in 5, there is a glaring omission in the Orwellian accounts of their “deficiencies”: these schools do not meet the DoE’s own well-established standards for closure.
When the Scho0l Progress Reports were introduced five years ago, the NYC DoE decreed that the decision on whether or not to close a school would be henceforth be made on the basis of the school’s grade. Only those schools which received a “failing grade” — ‘F,’ ‘D’ or three consecutive ‘C’s — would be considered for closing. That scale cut a remarkably wide swath, as the Bloomberg-Klein DoE wanted an ample supply of schools to close: where else would consecutive ‘C’s constitute a failing grade? But whatever else you could say about this policy, it was a fixed and clear standard. Even when the DoE announced that it would grade elementary schools and middle schools on a curve, as too many were scoring ‘A’s and ‘B’s, it still held to this standard. (Since 85% of the grades for elementary and middle schools were derived from student scores on New York State’s standardized ELA and Math exams, school grades rocketed during the period of grade inflation on those exams.)
Bruce Springsteen wrote “41 shots” after the killing of an unarmed African immigrant, Amadou Diallo, in New York City. Here is Springsteen at a recent concert, performing the song, as he said, “for Trayvon.”
The following is the text of the UFT’s statement to the SUNY Board of Trustees on the revisions to the admissions preferences and processes of the schools in the Success Charter School network. Regrettably, the board approved the changes.
Today, the SUNY Board of Trustees is faced with a momentous decision on whether or not to approve the proposed revisions in the admissions policies of the charter schools in the Success Charter Network. These revisions are not minor, technical changes to the charters of the Success Academies. Rather, by eliminating the existing admissions preferences for at-risk students, the proposed revisions constitute a dramatic repudiation of what has been, until now, the Success Charter Network’s ostensible commitment to serve New York City’s students with the greatest need. For this very reason, the SUNY Board of Trustees must withhold approval of these changes. More »
On Sunday, my wife came home from church with a leaflet and a strange story.
Someone who was a tad bit reluctant to provide her name had passed out a leaflet and attempted to recruit members of her congregation to an organization of parents fighting for better schools, PTA Now. But it didn’t really seem like the PTAs she knew, the Parent-Teacher Association organized in your child’s school.
According to its web site, “Parents Taking Action (PTA) is a coalition of New York City parents who believe every child should have access to a great public school. We are standing up for our children, holding the Department of Education accountable and ensuring children are put ahead of special interests.”
A grass roots organization of public school parents? More »
On the Schoolbook blog of the New York Times, Philip Weinberg takes issue with my two Edwize posts (Part 1 and Part 2) on New York’s new teacher evaluation law. Weinberg is a principal of a New York City public high school and a supporter of the widely circulated Long Island principals’ letter criticizing the New York teacher evaluation law, and he writes that my posts are a response to that letter. On this point, he is simply wrong: even a cursory reading of the posts makes it clear that I did not discuss the letter, but rather set out to provide a comprehensive explanation of the more important and complex features of the new teacher evaluation framework. But Weinberg’s reading of the issues involving teacher evaluation is nonetheless worth addressing, as it brings much needed clarity to the underlying agenda of the principals’ letter. And since the UFT’s stance toward the Long Island principals’ letter is a frequent matter of speculation, it provides an opportunity to explain where we stand.
In his post, Weinberg writes:
My concern about the agreement is that a large portion of a teacher’s evaluation is to be taken out of the hands of principals. I am disturbed by this, not just because I think this will lead to inaccurate ratings and will pressure teachers in unproductive ways (it will), but also because I believe it speaks to a growing distrust of or disrespect for principals. I am surprised that the teachers’ union would trade a principal’s rating for that of a student’s test score, especially given the recent teacher data report debacle. Are most principals less fair or trustworthy than reductive data? I think not.
Weinberg goes on to cite approvingly Mayor Bloomberg’s forthright defense of the NYC DoE’s position that there should be no meaningful and substantive appeals of negative principal ratings on teacher evaluations: “The principals’ job is to decide who’s good, who’s bad,” Bloomberg had said. “It’s their judgment; that’s their job.” Weinberg then asks “Who could disagree?”
We at the UFT disagree. Weinberg’s complaint – that “a large portion of a teacher’s evaluation is to be taken out of the hands of principals” – is fundamentally correct. The new teacher evaluation framework checks and balances the principal’s role in the evaluation process. And, pace Weinberg and the Long Island principals, that is a good thing.
(This is the second of two posts on the new teacher evaluations. The first post focused on the overall scoring of the evaluations and the role of standardized exams.)
The recent agreement to clarify and refine the New York teacher evaluation law took up an issue that has a special importance for New York City public school educators– the appeals process for ineffective ratings on end-of-the-year summative evaluations. Readers of Edwize know that last December the ship of teacher evaluation negotiations for the 34 Transformation and Restart schools sunk on the rocky shoals of this very issue, when Mayor Bloomberg and the NYC Department of Education refused to negotiate a meaningful and substantive appeals process. For there to be renewed progress on those negotiations, as well as on the negotiations for the evaluations of all New York City public school educators, the issue of the appeal process had to be resolved.
The agreement settled the issue of the appeals process for New York City by guaranteeing vital and indispensable due process rights in the teacher evaluation process. With these rights, the educational integrity and fairness of the teacher evaluation process are secure.
To understand the importance of the appeals process, and why the agreement secured what New York public school teachers need from due process in such a process, we must first examine the background and context of this issue. More »