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Archive for the ‘Other Topics’ Category

When students miss school for family trips

Should a child miss school for a family vacation? It’s a tough question that Jessica Lahey explored in a recent New York Times column.

I’m a parent and a teacher, so I’m of two minds on this issue,” Lahey writes. “I have taken my children out of school for family events and other trips we deemed valuable enough to warrant a school absence. On the other hand, I am also an educator, and I have seen the havoc these absences can wreak on students and their teachers. It takes a lot of time to pre-plan for student absences, to package work that will approximate missed lessons, chase children down for that work, and invest extra one-on-one time in makeup sessions.”

Some teachers told Lahey that the such absences require them to prepare materials before the student goes away, or help the student catch up on his or her return. One educator told Lahey that technology could lessen the disruption: “Tech is not a replacement for teachers in those family trips, but it does become an extended connection for the student,” he wrote.

Lahey quotes some common sense from an Ontario psychologist who came up with the mnemonic FLAG – for frequency, length, ability and grade – to guide parent and teachers on this issue:

How frequent are the vacation absences? Parents send the wrong signal about their commitment to education if they remove the child from class too often.

How long is the absence? Too many days away might produce a learning setback for some children that they will struggle to overcome.

Does the child have the ability to catch up? Depending on the child’s temperament, the absence may produce anxiety about missing class lessons.

Missing several days in 3rd grade is very different from missing several days in high school. Take into account the child’s grade.

Striking the right balance between family time and the classroom can be tricky. Tell us your thoughts.


U.S. Teachers Paid Less, Work Longer, than OECD Average

A new report by the leading organization for international education data finds that public school teachers in the United States earn only about two-thirds of what similarly-educated U.S. workers earn, while teachers in most of the rest of the developed world earn 80 to 89 percent of their peer professionals.

In addition, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, a member organization of 34 countries across Europe, South America, and the Far East, found that U.S. teacher salaries increased only about 3 percent between 2000 and 2011, compared with a 17 to 20 percent increase for teachers in other developed countries.

Public elementary school teachers in the U.S. worked an average of 1,097 hours in 2011, almost 40 percent more than the 790 hours for the average teacher in the OECD countries. U.S. high school teachers worked 1,051 hours, some 60 percent more than the 664 hours for upper secondary level teachers in other OECD countries.

Other education indicators in the OECD report, Education At A Glance 2013, found troubling news at both the beginning and late stages of U.S. education.

Just half of 3-year-olds and 78 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in some kind of early childhood education in the United States, compared with OECD averages of 68 percent of 3-year-olds and 85 percent of 4-year-olds. At the upper end of education, what the report reveals is that college attainment amongst all U.S. adults ages 25 to 64 puts us fifth in the world, but zeroing in on just 24 to 34 year olds — young adults — pushes the U.S. rank to 12th.

Finally, the proportion of young adults who were “NEET” (“not employed or in education or training”) increased between 2008 and 2011, to 15.9 percent of youth ages 15 to 29, a shade higher than the OECD average, which includes economically devastated countries like Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy.

In other words, the U.S. education system, while mighty, is slipping or standing still, while Korea, Japan, the Russian Federation and Ireland surge ahead in the percentages of its populations that are college educated; Spain, Mexico, France and Belgium enroll far more young children in pre-primary education; and Australia, Israel, Poland and even Portugal have raised teacher pay significantly while U.S. teachers have seen almost nothing for a decade.

Is this any way to run an education system?

The NYC Teacher Unionist Behind “Strange Fruit”

NPR’s Morning Edition today had the fascinating story of Abel Meeropol, the New York City teacher unionist and social activist who penned “Strange Fruit,” one of Billie Holiday’s most haunting and powerful recordings.

Meeropol, who graduated from the Bronx’s Dewitt Clinton HS in 1921 and later taught English there for 17 years, wrote the poem after seeing a photo of a lynching. It was first printed in a teachers union publication. He set it to music, and it eventually made its way to Billie Holiday.

But here’s where his story really gets interesting: He was also the adoptive father of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg’s two sons.

Robert Meeropol [né Rosenberg] says that in the months following his parents’ execution, it was unclear who would take care of him and his brother. It was the height of McCarthyism. Even family members were fearful of being in any way associated with the Rosenbergs or Communism.

Then, at a Christmas party at the home of W.E.B. Du Bois, the boys were introduced to Abel and Anne Meeropol. A few weeks later, they were living with them.

Read the rest at NPR.org »

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 »

“Bully” Gets Wider Release

The new documentary film “Bully,” directed by Sundance- and Emmy-award winning filmmaker Lee Hirsch, will see a wider release starting today thanks to a new PG-13 version that contains fewer expletives than the unrated version that has been screening at handful of theaters in NYC and LA.

The movie follows five students over the course of the 2009-10 school year. Find showtimes near you »

Have you seen the film? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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.

Trove of Old Report Cards: “400 Little Dramas Sketched Out On Cardstock”

A Slate writer on Sunday posted the first two articles in a series about a trove of report cards from a girls’ vocational school in New York City that he discovered in the basement of an old school building. It sounds like there will be some fascinating stories from his efforts to to learn more about what happened to the school’s graduates — some of whom may be the grandparents of today’s teachers and students:

I opened one of the drawers and was surprised to find hundreds, maybe thousands, of old report cards. Oddly, they were not for Stuyvesant High students. They were all for teenaged girls who’d attended some sort of trade school back in the early 1900s. Many of the report cards featured small photographs of the students, and most of them were loaded with unusually vivid commentary about everything from the students’ study habits to their personal appearance (one girl, who apparently had red hair, was described as a “real carrot-head”), all rendered in impossibly perfect fountain-pen script. I was immediately smitten.


Isn’t it awful how we are sometimes more persuaded or at least entertained by style than we are by substance? Doesn’t it make you feel guilty and isn’t it like a chemical addiction? Ideas that repel us can grab and hold our attention just because they are conveyed with panache. We may, for instance, be loyal listeners of radio talk show hosts or television pundits who we know perfectly well are completely in the wrong over practically any issue. And we may find those who share our views to be crashing bores. That must explain why almost all major talk show hosts are reactionaries and libertarians.

Though we may be riveted by their pretensions and narcissism, and though one of their favorite targets of abuse is public school educators and our unions, we don’t change the channel, the ratings show. Many of these “personalities” seem incapable of embarrassment and will engage and shout down audience participants who are far more expert than they are, for they feel entitled to pass as experts on everything under the sun, just because they gab for a maximum of a couple of hours in front of a microphone. More »

Ocean Hill-Brownsville Panel Discussion at Museum of the City of New York

Ocean Hill-Brownsville

On Thursday, Aug. 19, at 6:30 p.m., the Museum of the City of New York will host a panel discussion on the Ocean Hill-Brownsville strike of 1968.

The Strike That Changed New York: Ocean Hill-Brownsville, the Politics of Education, & Race Relations in New York City, will feature Clarence Taylor, professor and author of Knocking At Our Own Door: Milton A. Galamison and the Struggle to Integrate New York City Schools, and Jerald Podair, professor and author of The Strike That Changed New York: Blacks, Whites, and the Ocean Hill-Brownsville Crisis, who will discuss the crisis and its aftermath with the Reverend Herbert Oliver, Chairman of the Ocean Hill-Brownsville local school board, and other participants from both sides of the struggle. Presented in conjunction with the exhibition America’s Mayor: John V. Lindsay and the Reinvention of New York. Reservations required. $6, museum members; $12, non-members; $8, seniors and students. Purchase tickets »

Global Citizen Conspiracy

Police were called in Idaho recently to contain protesters whose outrage was fueled by their belief that the International Baccalaureate program is linked to the United Nations, which to them is axiomatic with anti-Americanism.

The uprising was in the Hayden Lakes area. That’s a tiny enclave to accommodate such a big conspiracy theory.  For thirty years, until they were forced by court order to surrender their 20 acre compound to the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2001 as part of a punitive and compensatory award of damages, the Aryan Nations’ headquarters was in Hayden Lakes. More »

Video: Child Care is Essential to New York’s Recovery

In a new video, the UFT Family Child Care Providers remind us that to keep New Yorkers working, families need affordable, reliable child care; and that cutting child care subsidies for working New Yorkers is not a viable way for lawmakers to help close the state’s budget gap.

Sign Petition to Save Student MetroCards

In December, the MTA announced plans to cut student MetroCards as part of a package of budget cuts, a move strongly opposed by the UFT. Without the free passes, a half million New York City school children will be left to finance their own way to school.

On March 17, students from the Urban Youth Collaborative and Students for Transportation Justice will meet with the chairman of the MTA, Jay Walder, to urge him to work with Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson to save their MetroCards.

The Working Families Party has put together a “teachers and parents petition” that the students will take along to the meeting. They want to walk in with thousands of teachers and parents at their back, to make clear to the MTA — and the media — how important free student MetroCards really are.

Please take a minute to sign this online petition and share it with other teachers, parents or family members of students who might be interested.


More »

Leadership Academy Results — Nil

The federal Education Department’s What Works Clearinghouse just released a review of the city’s Leadership Academy, the principal training program that Joel Klein brought in with the help of “Neutron” Jack Welch, the former General Electric chairman.

Apparently it doesn’t work. More »

“Thanks for Nothing!”

Everyday heroes are not always unsung. On occasion they actually get the recognition they deserve. If they performed their heroism while on “company time” and their unselfish deed conflicted with company policy and compromised productivity and the “bottom line,” they might not get the approbation from the front office, but at least there usually remains some media attention, even on a slow news day, or a “key to the city” to write home about.

Credit must be given, you might think, to a person whose split-second reaction to sudden danger, saves the lives of strangers.

Such a reflex, as much spiritual and physical, reveals and defines that person’s true character. Virtuous acts, especially when spontaneous and dramatic, are not done for glory, promotion, or an “employee of the month” citation. Although their reward is self-validation, even heroes like to be thanked, I am told.

Here is a summary of how three school bus drivers, under similar circumstances, were celebrated. More »

Health Care Reform/Rehab

Health care reform is at a climactic crossroads.  Necessity should speak for itself. But sometimes it needs vocal coaches.

Although the crush of medical bills is the prime cause of individual bankruptcy (and the catastrophic collateral damage it does to families) in this country, and despite our nation’s lagging far behind several dozen other countries (including many less wealthy than we are) in many indicators of health care quality, (such as longevity and infant mortality), and even though not a single major political party in any of these other democratic nations has ever proposed the elimination of their existing national health system, millions of gullible Americans have been suckered by reactionary special interests into practically equating a government-sponsored health care option with the worst excesses of Marxism.

What rot!

Their resistance to proposed health care reform is macabre, not patriotic. More »