Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Sponsored by the Horowitz Center
A Panel Discussion with
Pedro Noguera, Diane Ravitch, Amy Stuart Wells
Moderated by Beth Fertig
Tuesday April 7, 2009, 7:00-9:00 PM
Kimball Lounge, First Floor
Kimball Building, corner of Waverly Place and Greene St., entry on Greene
Free and Open to the Public
RSVP not necessary but appreciated
The Moderator, Beth Fertig is a Senior Reporter as WNYC Public Radio, and is the author of the forthcoming book, Why cant U teach me 2 read?: Three Students and a Mayor Put Our Schools to the Test.
Pedro Noguera is a Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning and Director of the Metro Center in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. A sociologist by training, much of his scholarly and practical work has focused on urban education, in particular the need for quality education for all students and on narrowing the achievement gap in education. He is a prolific author whose work regularly appears in In Motion Magazine as well as in professional journals in education. Among his recent books are City Schools and the American Dream: Fulfilling the Promise of Public Education, and a couple of co-edited volumes, Beyond Resistance: Youth Activism and Community Change, and Unfinished Business: Closing the Achievement Gap in Our Schools.
Diane Ravitch, Research Professor of Education at NYU, has written numerous books in the history of education including The Troubled Crusade: American Education: 1945-1980. She served as an Assistant Secretary of Education and was a fellow at the Brookings Institution where she edited its Papers on Education Policy. Her most recent books include The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn. She and Deborah Meier carry on a public dialogue/debate in their joint blog, "Bridging Differences,"
Amy Stuart Wells is a Professor of Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. She writes about educational policy in such areas as race and education with a more specific focus on school desegregation, school choice, charter schools. She is co-author of Both Sides Now: The Story of School Desegregation’s Graduates, and has co-edited a number of books including Bringing Equity Back: Research for a New Era in Educational Policy Making, and Where Charter School Policy Fails: The Problems of Accountability and Equity. Among the honors and awards she has received are several fellowships including one at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and another at the Russell Sage Foundation.
Photo ID required to enter building; wheel-chair accessible
For additional information contact Allen Hunter firstname.lastname@example.org
Co-Sponsored by the Center for Multicultural Education and Programs at NYU, and the Metro Center and the Graduate Student Organization
in the Steinhardt School, NYU.
Orleans School Board suspends teacher raises, allows larger classes
by Sarah Carr, The Times-Picayune
Monday March 30, 2009, 9:59 PM
Faced with an estimated $13 million deficit, the Orleans Parish School Board voted Monday night to increase the maximum student-to-teacher ratio in the district's five schools next year and to suspend cost-of-living salary increases for employees.
The vote on class-size limits keeps the district in line with state guidelines governing class size. But it represents a significant change from the two-year period after Hurricane Katrina, when the district staffed classrooms at a 20:1 student-to-teacher ratio. The new maximum works out to about 26:1 at the elementary level and about 30:1 in the upper grades.
This year, the elementary school ratio is 24:1, while the high schools are at 26:1, according to the director of human resources for the district.
Orleans Parish Schools Superintendent Darryl Kilbert said, "We are not saying that all classrooms will be at these (new) numbers."
He said the move simply sets a higher cap. But the vote does suggest that class sizes may continue to inch up in the fall. District officials said they no longer have the money for the lower student-to-teacher ratios, although it's unclear at this point in the budgeting process how much money will be saved through the change.
The suspension of the cost-of-living increase will save the district about $336,000. For most teachers, the increases total about 2 percent of their annual salary, and they have been offered annually for the first 29 years of employment.
The school district announced at a news conference in February that the deficit stems from a weakening economy and unique financial obligations left from the dramatic downsizing of the district post-Katrina. The district has $6 million in "legacy costs" it must pay annually, such as health care expenses linked to when the school system was much larger.
The district also is carrying about $450 million in long-term debt, part of which the state-run Recovery School District makes payments toward retiring.
Before Katrina, the Orleans School Board ran more than 100 schools. But now -- with a state takeover of many schools and the chartering of dozens of others -- it directly controls only five. District officials have appealed publicly for help in crafting legislative relief from having to bear the brunt of millions of dollars in costs inherited from the past.
In addition to the changes in the pay-increase schedule and class sizes, the school board will require its schools to use a "zero-based budgeting" process for next year. That means they must build budgets from scratch instead of assuming that past spending levels will be sustained.
The school board plans to review fringe benefits and holiday policies this month in search of more savings. Kilbert said that, if necessary, the district will cut staff positions. But he called that option "a last resort" that would not go before the board until May.
Monday, March 30, 2009
How Bill Gates Would Repair Our Schools
By Fred Hiatt
Monday, March 30, 2009; A17
You might call it the Obama-Duncan-Gates-Rhee philosophy of education reform.
Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder turned full-time philanthropist, visited The Post last week to talk, among other things, about how to improve schools for the nation's poorest children.
That so many children in this country cannot live up to their potential because they are born in poverty and attend terrible schools is one of the nation's greatest scandals, as Gates pointed out in his recent letter from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (Disclosure: Melinda Gates is on The Washington Post Co. board of directors.) "Only 71 percent of kids graduate from high school within four years, and for minorities the numbers are even worse -- 58 percent for Hispanics and 55 percent for African Americans," he wrote. "If the decline in childhood deaths [in developing countries] is one of the most positive statistics ever, these are some of the most negative."
The foundation has spent about $4 billion seeking to improve high schools and promote college access since 2000, along the way gaining valuable experience on what does and doesn't work. Based on those lessons, Gates names two priorities: helping successful charter school organizations, such as KIPP, replicate as quickly as possible; and improving teacher effectiveness at every other school.
In both cases, institutions stand in the way. School boards resist the expansion of charter schools. Teachers unions resist measuring and rewarding effectiveness. In fact, Gates said, evidence shows no connection between teaching quality and most of the measures used in contracts to determine pay. Seniority, holding a master's degree or teacher's certification, and even, below 10th grade, having deep knowledge of a subject -- these all are mostly irrelevant. It follows that some of the money devoted to rewarding teachers who get higher degrees and to pensions accessible only to those who stay 10 or more years should go instead to keeping the best teachers from leaving in their fourth or fifth years.
One purpose of measurement would be to deploy the best teachers to the neediest schools, and pay them accordingly; another, to fire the worst teachers. But the main point, Gates said, is that effective teaching can be taught: "The biggest part is taking the people who want to be good -- and helping them."
President Obama and his education secretary, former Chicago school superintendent Arne Duncan, are on the same wavelength. During an electronic town hall forum at the White House on Thursday, Obama cited as his priorities pre-K education, charter schools and teacher effectiveness.
Obama and Duncan both stress that teachers shouldn't be judged on standardized tests alone, but they want better standardized tests to measure how much a student improves in a year, so that teachers can be rewarded or held accountable. Like Gates -- with whom Obama had discussed teacher effectiveness the day before his town hall meeting -- they want more emphasis on helping teachers who want to improve. But they also believe that ineffective teachers shouldn't be retained automatically, as is usually the case now. "And it can't be impossible to move out bad teachers, because that brings -- that makes everybody depressed in a school," Obama said, " . . . and it makes it harder for the teachers who are inheriting these kids the next year. . . ."
As it happens, these are the principles that D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is seeking to bring to Washington schools. Like Obama, she says that she wants to work with, not against, teachers. But so far their union has done everything it can to block her, including preventing District teachers from voting on her proposals. The union, among other differences, wants performance judged school-wide, not -- as most reformers would say -- on a mixture of school and individual teacher performance. Union locals, controlled by long-serving teachers, also, not surprisingly, tend to favor pay and pension structures that reward long-serving teachers, not the best strategy to attract the brightest from a generation that doesn't envision spending 20 or 30 years with one employer.
During a visit to The Post at the beginning of this month, Duncan, without commenting directly on the D.C. contract talks, endorsed Rhee's approach.
"We have to reward excellence," Duncan said. "Reward, incent, spotlight excellence -- which is what she's trying to do. We also have to make it easier to get rid of teachers when learning isn't happening.
"The pendulum in the country has swung too far to adults," Duncan added. "She's trying to swing the pendulum back." Maybe the winds blowing from the White House will help Rhee push the pendulum toward an emphasis on children first.
Kenneth J. Bernstein
Sunday, March 29, 2009
March 20-22, 2009
Bill Maher Reveals His Ignorance...Again
The Myth of the "Powerful" Teachers' Union
By DAVID MACARAY
There’s a myth circulating out there that not only threatens to ruin the reputation of America’s school teachers, but has the potential to side-track any realistic hopes of education reform. It’s the assertion that “powerful” teachers’ unions are responsible for the decline of public education in the United States in general, and California in particular.
Propagators of this myth claim that the reason test scores of American children have sunk so low in recent years is because our public school teachers are too incompetent and lazy to provide adequate instruction.
Moreover, because the teachers’ unions are so domineering and evil—because their leaders will do anything to maintain union hegemony, including not allowing demonstrably inferior teachers to be fired—school administrators are powerless to act.
You hear these charges everywhere. Arianna Huffington, the late-to-the-party liberal and celebrity blogger, has been echoing such claims for years. For Huffington to be riffing on the state of public education is, in itself, remarkable, given that she lives in Brentwood, her daughters attend prestigious private schools, and the closest she’s ever come to an inner-city school was the day she accidentally drove by one, causing her to hastily lock the doors and windows of her Prius and speed away.
On Friday, March 13, comedian and uber-liberal Bill Maher joined the attack on his HBO show. In one of his signature tirades, Maher, a California resident, railed against the “powerful” California teachers’ union, accusing it of contributing to the crisis in public education by not allowing the school district to remove incompetent teachers.
Maher came armed with statistics. He noted with dismay that the U.S. ranked 35th in the world in math, 29th in science, and that barely 50% of California’s public school pupils manage to graduate from high school. He blamed the teachers for this.
Although every teacher in the LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District), has a college degree and a teaching credential and managed to survive the scrutiny of a lengthy probationary period, Maher piously maintained that these teachers were unqualified to run a classroom.
Granted, Maher is a professional comic trolling for laughs, and not a “social scientist” dispensing wisdom, so we shouldn’t be looking to this man for enlightenment. Still, considering his liberal creds (from the environment to civil liberties to corporate mischief to drug law reform), it was demoralizing to hear someone this hip say something so stupid and simplistic.
Maher made a huge deal of the fact that, because of the union’s protective shield, less than 1% of California’s tenured/post-probationary teachers get fired. Although this ratio clearly outraged him (he appeared visibly upset by it), had he taken five minutes to research the subject, he’d have realized that this figure represents the national average—with or without unions.
In Georgia, where 92.5% of the teachers are non-union, only 0.5% of tenured/post-probationary teachers get fired. In South Carolina, where 100% of the teachers are non-union, it’s 0.32%. And in North Carolina, where 97.7% are non-union, a miniscule .03% of tenured/post-probationary teachers get fired—the exact same percentage as California.
An even more startling comparison: In California, with its “powerful” teachers’ union, school administrators fire, on average, 6.91% of its probationary teachers. In non-union North Carolina, that figure is only 1.38%. California is actually tougher on prospective candidates.
So, despite Maher’s display of civic pride and self-righteous indignation (“We need to bust this union,” he declared), he was utterly mistaken. The statistics not only don’t support his argument, they contradict it.
Fact: During the 1950s and 1960s, California’s public school system was routinely ranked among the nation’s finest. You can look it up. More significantly, the teachers in those classrooms were union members. The same teachers who were winning those awards for excellence belonged to the “powerful” teachers’ union. Let that sink in a moment: Good schools, good teachers, big union.
Which raises the question: Has anything else changed in California (and the rest of the country, for that matter) in the last 40 years to lead one to believe there might be causes other than labor unions to explain the drop in graduation rates? Have there been any significant changes in, say, cultural attitudes or demographics?
For openers, how about the disintegration of the American family and the decline in parental supervision/involvement? Being a good student requires discipline, application and, perhaps, a certain level of respect for authority. Have we witnessed any “breakdowns” in these areas over the last 40 years?
Or how about the rise in urban poverty? Or the hollowing-out of the middle-class (the average worker hasn’t received a pay increase, in real dollars, since 1973)? Or the assimilation of non-English-speaking immigrants? Or the decrease in per capita funding on California public education? Or the chaos created by school boards arbitrarily mandating wholesale changes in “educational ideology” every two years (LAUSD has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on consultants)?
Ask any teacher, child psychologist, sociologist, or real estate agent, and they’ll tell you the same thing: As a general rule, good schools are found in good neighborhoods, and bad schools are found in bad neighborhoods. Simple as that.
Moreover, people know this “formula” to be true. Not only is the promise of good schools one reason why people with kids buy homes in good neighborhoods, it’s not uncommon for parents in California to lie about their home addresses in order to get their children assigned to better schools.
An experiment: Try moving those “good” teachers from decent school districts—where the kids show up each day, on time, prepared, bright-eyed and attentive, having completed their homework, having eaten a nutritious breakfast, etc.—to one of those South Central LA shit-holes, where crime is rampant, neighborhoods are ravaged, families are in crisis, and 40% of the students live in foster care.
See if these “good” teachers, by virtue of their innate “classroom abilities,” are able to improve the test scores of these stunted, overmatched and underprivileged kids. See if these “good” teachers can do what a generation of parents themselves, and society itself, can’t seem to do; see if the graduation rates in these depressed communities rise significantly.
And, as part of that same experiment, move the “incompetent” teachers to these healthy, self-sustaining districts and see if the students in these schools don’t continue to score significantly higher, even with the “bad” teachers now running the show.
Fact: Oregon has a good public school system. So do South Dakota, Vermont, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Maine and Washington, among others. Is that because the folks living in these states are exceptionally bright? Is it because their teachers are extraordinarily talented?
Or is it because these school districts are stable, relatively homogeneous, and don’t face a fraction of the challenges facing California?
For the record, the teachers in these aforementioned good schools are overwhelmingly unionized. Oregon and Washington teachers are 100% unionized; Wisconsin is 98%; Connecticut is 98%; etc.
Also, comparing the scores of American students in foreign countries is a bit misleading. The United States was not only the first nation in the world to offer free public education, it was the first to make it compulsory.
In the U.S., by law, you must attend school until at least age 16 (some states have even higher age requirements). That means our national average is going to incorporate test scores of every kid from every background in every neighborhood in the country.
In India (where I once lived and worked), great emphasis is placed on education; accordingly, India has a decent school system, one that scores well. But school attendance is not mandatory. Indeed, India has 400 million people who are illiterate. One wonders what their national test scores would be if those many millions who can’t read or write were factored in.
Fact: Teachers can be fired. Who honestly believes a teachers’ union—whether in California, Oregon or Connecticut—has the authority to insist that management keep unqualified teachers? Since when does a labor union dictate to management? Since when does the hired help tell the bosses what to do? The accusation is absurd on its face.
Fact: During the first two years of employment, any teacher in the LAUSD can be fired for any reason, with no recourse to union representation and no access to the grievance procedure. Two full years. If the district doesn’t like you for any reason, they fire you. No union. No grievance. Nothing. Could any arrangement be more favorable to management?
Yet, the myth persists, the myth of the Unqualified Teacher. Instead of identifying the real problems facing California’s schools (daunting as they may be), and trying to solve them, people stubbornly insist that thousands of our teachers—every one of them college-educated, credentialed, and having survived two years of scrutiny—need to be fired.
Let’s be clear; no one is suggesting that all teachers are “excellent.” Obviously, you’re going to find marginal workers in any profession. But, realistically, how many “bad” teachers could there be?
Surely, America’s colleges, universities, and credentialing system can’t be so hideously flawed that we no longer trust their output—that our teachers aren’t worth a damn. Moreover, if it’s the unions who are protecting them, why does South Carolina—where 100% of the teachers are non-union—fire only one-third of one-percent of them?
Fact: The fault for unqualified teachers remaining on the payroll lies entirely with the school administrators. These overpaid, $120,000 a year, gutless bureaucrats want us to believe that we live in a world turned upside down. A world where, fantastically, the bosses answer to the employees.
Arguably, the problems facing America’s public schools are staggering. But because politicians are essentially spineless—fearful of doing or saying anything that would risk antagonizing their “base”—they refuse to address the real issues. Instead, they play little mind-games with the voters. It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s where we stand.
And if television personalities like Arianna Huffington and Bill Maher honestly believe all this anti-union propaganda being circulated, they’re more gullible than we thought.
David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright (“Borneo Bob,” “Larva Boy”) and writer, was a former labor union rep. He can be reached at email@example.com
CONTROLLED PRAISE: MIKE TOUTS HIS ED.-REFORM SUCCESS
By BRENDAN SCOTT in Albany and CARL CAMPANILE in NY
March 26, 2009
Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday that under his administration, the city has "changed public education as we know it" -- and predicted a deal will be reached with state lawmakers to renew mayoral control of the schools.
Bloomberg made the bold declaration with United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten by his side at an event in the Capitol. The duo jointly lobbied Gov. Paterson and state legislative leaders to make sure the city gets its appropriate share of education funding.
The joint appearance came on the same day The Post published comments by Schools Chancellor Joel Klein slamming Weingarten and the teachers union for a plan that would loosen mayoral control over educational policy.
The state law that granted City Hall authority over the schools expires on June 30.
Both Bloomberg and Weingarten clearly tried to defuse tension over the issue yesterday, stressing how they have worked together to improve education.
"The agreements that we've reached together on lots of things are some of the most creative agreements that have been reached in education throughout the country," Weingarten gushed.
Bloomberg, who is seeking a third term, ticked off what he described as major educational accomplishments under his and his handpicked chancellor's tenure -- with support from the UFT.
"I'm a big proponent of mayoral control. But I think the real answer here is if you take a look at the last seven years, the reforms in the city -- of the city working with the UFT -- have changed public education as we know it," Bloomberg said.
"We are the bellwether for how you can help all children get a good education. We have a long way to go, but today, test scores are dramatically higher. Graduation rates are dramatically higher.
"Teachers in New York City are now paid for the first time roughly comparable with what they can get in the suburbs. That's never been done before."
Bloomberg added that more teachers are coming to New York from across the country because the city school system "is the place to be."
He added that all public schools get equitable per-capita funding and "that wasn't done before."
As for the debate over mayoral control of the schools, Bloomberg said, "Every time in the past, we've come to an agreement that's benefited the kids, and I see no reason why we won't this time . . . [Klein's and Weingarten's] job is to fight, and then we will come together."
Class Size Matters
124 Waverly Pl.
New York, NY 10011
Please make a tax-deductible contribution to Class Size Matters now!
Date: Saturday, March 28, 2009, 5:31 PM
Al Sharpton's National Action Network's (NAN)annual gathering has a major focus on education (see below) and the benefits of Mayoral Control and Charter Schools. NAN is part of the national "Education Equality Project" which is funded by the Bloomberg-Klein types.
DC37, BNYEE and the NY Coalition for Neighborhood School Control have put out a call for all antimayoral control forces to join us in an emergency meeting...
Monday 30 March at 6pm at DC37 (125 Barclay & West Side Hiway)
...to plan an "informational rally" for either Thursday or Friday at the Sheraton Hotel (actually across the street). We can't let the Sharptons of the world run their hustles unchecked-- especially when it's about our children's future. The Learn NY and Education Equality Project have gone unchallenged for such a long time that they feel confident that they can win over the majority of NY's citizens with there multimillion dollar smoke and mirrors hype machine.
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FROM: http://www.educatio nequalityproject .org/page/ s/NANconvention
THE NAN CONVENTION
Join us in New York City on April 2nd and 3rd as leaders like U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigoso, Washington D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, and former U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings discuss how to close the achievement gap in our public schools and restore the civil rights of children to an equal education.
The event, which is part of the National Action Network’s annual convention, will be co-sponsored by EEP. It brings together leaders from government, nonprofits, and the business world to discuss today’s pressing civil rights issues. The discussion will focus on the building blocks we can put in place today to close the achievement gap.
NAN Convention Details:
Sheraton Hotel & Towers (811 7th Ave., NY, NY)
All events are free and open to the public; please register
Thursday, April 2nd
10:00 -11:00 am: Plenary Session: Arne Duncan, United States Secretary of Education
6:00 - 7:30 pm: American Conversation: Reverend Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich
Friday, April 3rd: Education Equality Project Day
10-11:30 am: "How to ensure a high-quality education for your child"
Joe Williams, Democrats For Ed Reform
Ginny Ford, Executive Director of D.C. Parents for School Choice [PRO CHARTER]
Kyesha Bennett, Harlem Parents United [PRO CHARTER]
Bill Jackson, GreatSchools. net
11:30 am - 2:30 pm: Luncheon - A Conversation on Education
Reverend Al Sharpton – President/Founder, National Action Network
Joel Klein – Chancellor of New York City Public Schools
James Mtume – Radio Personality
Margaret Spellings - Former United States Secretary of Education
Adrian Fenty – Mayor, Washington, DC
Mike Bloomberg – Mayor, New York City
Antonio Villaraigoso – Mayor, Los Angeles
Kevin Johnson – Mayor, Sacramento
Claudio Sanchez –National Public Radio
4:00-5:30 pm: Panel: "Schools that work"
Kevin Chavous, Former Chair of the Washington D.C. Council Education Committee
David Whitman, Author of Sweating the Small Stuff
Jarvis Sanford, Principal of Dodge Renaissance School
Ben Chavis, Principal of American Indian Public Charter School in Oakland
Ryan Hill, TEAM Academy
Steve Barr – Green Dot Schools
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s. e. anderson is author of "The Black Holocaust for Beginners"
Social Activism is not a hobby: it's a Lifestyle lasting a Lifetime
http://blackeducato r.blogspot. com
We hope you can join the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at this education policy forum, which will include a research presentation followed by open discussion with teachers, principals, parents, youth, professors, scholars, organizers, advocates and policymakers.
Community Organizing and Engagement
Annenberg Institute for School Reform
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Their website is http://espvision.org/. Here's an article on some of the stuff they've done recently: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/401643_naacp27.html.
Their guiding values and principles, as they may be of interest to us in NYC:
Guiding Values & Principles
In its commitment to justice, equity, democracy, equality, civic duty and a cohesive community of parents, educators and students, ESP Vision works under the following guiding principles:
Education is a priority. - There is enough money in Seattle, Washington State and the United States to fully fund education for all students, and our society that must act quickly to re-prioritize education spending Education is about learning for all, not test scores.
- Students deserve to be recognized for what they learn and how they have progressed holistically.
Therefore, ESP Vision eschews the misguided view that the consideration of math and reading scores should be the centerpiece of school evaluation -- a very limited view into student learning. In addition, ESP Vision considers the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) to be discriminatory towards young people of color, low-income students, students with alternative learning styles and English language learners.
Education is about equity, and the best way to achieve this is through investing in quality public education. - The most effective way to deliver a quality education to all students is through the public schools. Seattle schools should reinvest in smaller class size, culturally relevant education, individualized learning and continued professional development and other support for teachers.
In continued commitment a broader vision of equity in our school district and quality education for all students, ESP Vision fights for Seattle Public Schools in the following ways:
Educate the public about the history of Seattle Public Schools, best practices in education, what other cities are doing, what initiatives will support public education, what has and hasn't worked in Seattle and the overall benefits of a thriving public education system.
Keep communication lines open between community members and elected officials and propose better solutions to school shuttering through successful, well-researched alternatives informed by community input
Mobilize and build coalition with educator, student, parent and civil rights groups, taking legal action, organizing citywide demonstrations, campaigns and protests
Identify and support new, promising leaders representing our communities to elect into public office
Through our work, ESP Vision supports:
Full mandated state and federal funding
Creativity and resourcefulness in applying funds to our schools
Equitable distribution of resources in Seattle Public Schools
A more democratic and inclusive leadership model for Seattle schools
Teacher and parent groups/unions
Smaller class sizes and culturally-responsive curricula
NAACP in filing a discrimination lawsuit on behalf of students of color
@ The LGBT Community Center (208 W. 13th St.
A Glimpse at Beyond Tolerance 3
Participants will be traveling in smaller groups to attend each of 4 workshops: Starting and Maintaining GSAs, Lobby 101 for Educators, Our Rights and the Chancellor’s Regulations, and Organizing for National Day of Silence. They are scheduled to run concurrently during the different“periods” of the day. The lunch hour will be a time for networking and making connections with other educators and representatives from sponsoring organizations.
Schedule for the Day
10:15-10:30 Welcome Announcements
10:45-11:45 1st Period
11:45-12:45 2nd Period
12:45- 1:45 Lunch
1:45- 2:45 3rd Period
2:45- 3:45 4th Period
3:45- 4:00 Homeroom
We have to evaluate what we do constantly and assess our impact. It is one thing to know we have rights but are we willing or have a burning desire to fight and defend those rights today? Before you enter your school building everyday, have at least one thing in mind to do to show that willingness or that burning desire. After you leave the school building everyday, ask yourself what was the one thing you did that contributed to the defense of our rights? Are you actively recruiting members for the listserv or not?
Our greatest imperfection in the grassroots is the idea of just sitting on the sidelines and complain. Get your feet wet by referring colleagues to the listserv so they may join. We are sharing with you information about perspectives and actions that you will not ever find in the official UFT Newspaper or Website. That means we are no longer at the mercy of the Union bureaucracy for information. That’s very empowering. You may share information on the listserv directly or send us your feedback privately just the same to firstname.lastname@example.org or (for librarians to email@example.com).
Since we cannot expect the UFT bureaucracy to change, it is our responsibility to bring about the changes we would like to see in our Union. A good way to start taking this responsibility is through concrete actions, discussions, dialogue, and brainstorming. The time is now to shed the old and create or build the new. Let’s do it now!
Conference on NYC SCHOOL CLOSINGS – March 28, 2009)
To Teachers, Counselors, Other Affected UFT Personnel, and Allies:
This coming Saturday we have an opportunity to join with other educators in a forum dedicated to halting the destruction of public school education and our jobs. Creation of ATRs, the crowding of the Temporary Reassignment Centers, the closing of the large schools is part of a strategic plan with one purpose. This ‘purpose’ will be the focus of the Saturday forum.
Below is the flyer for the event. Hope to see you there.
Stop NYC SCHOOL CLOSINGS
March 28, Saturday
John Jay College
Room 1311 North Hall Building
445 W 59th St. Manhattan A,C,D,B,1 trains to 59th street N,R,W trains to 57th street
Speakers & Strategy Brainstorming on:
o NYC School Closings Debacle
o A.T.R. Teacher Abuse
o High Stakes Testing Madness
For more info: 718-601-4901
After more than six years of mayoral control, hundreds of schools are labeled failing or near-failing, dozens are being closed as a matter of routine "reorganization", testing is taking over our classrooms, and more than a thousand teachers are being pushed out of the system, all without democratic input from parents, educators or the students they serve. A well-publicized program of rating schools with A-F grades based on standardized tests (drawing criticism from independent experts) means a bad grade can lead to the extinction of a school, leaving a staff with no guaranteed teaching positions.
New Yorkers involved in education are increasingly demanding an end to the school closings and high stakes testing madness while also demanding full-time teaching jobs for dislocated teachers (ATRs). In the past three months people have protested the announced phasing-out of their schools, demonstrated to defend ATR rights and fought to end high stakes testing. School staff, parents, and students have joined to condemn the destruction of school communities and educational programs they value. The targeted schools serve the most vulnerable working class communities and communities of color.
Look, no one wants to be part of a lousy school. This is our labor and our education, not a mad laboratory for free-market experiments. Schools can't be improved by remote control. Learning must be preparation for life, not for the next standardized test. Stop stripping away the resources we need for a rich school experience. No parent wants their child in a test prep factory where little real thinking is expected and children are treated as if they are "standardized." No one thinks it’s a good idea to force experienced educators out of the field because they cost too much. Give the parents, teachers and school communities a real voice. Give those who work in the schools the role of involvement in planning and decision-making that matters. Our experience in a school community should count for something. Let us finish what we start.
We are a group of new and veteran educators holding an issues-oriented conference and strategy conference. Speakers will provide an analysis of the interests that benefit from the standardized testing and school-reorganization juggernaut, while connecting the dots between the closing schools, ATR and testing issues. Discussion will take place in breakout sessions around how to create resistance.
* Independent Community of Educators – ICE/UFT
* New York Collective of Radical Educators – NYCORE
* Department of Latin American and Latina/o Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Endorsers: ATRs-School Closings Committee of ICE/UFT, Justice Not Just Tests (JNJT), Federacion de Maestros de Puerto Rico – Support Committee of NY, Teachers for a Just Contract - TJC/UFT, Teacher Advocacy Group NYC – TAGNYC, Teachers Unite, People Power Coalition, Center for Immigrant Families
Conference to Defend Public Education
STOP School Closings, ATR Abuse, & High Stakes Testing
Two important things happened today. A UFT delegate from the Bronx, and an ATR, has written a powerful support letter on ATRs to Mike Mendel, backing up our efforts for Monday. You can read it below.
Also today in the Daily News, reporter Meredith Kolodner has an important article on ATRS. It's entitled "Many Veteran Teachers Left Out in Cold for Sub Spots." According to this article, there are now 1,740 ATRs in the system. And so far a grand total of 16 teachers have been hired under the side agreement. Sixteen! She also makes the point that about 600 ATRs are not even eligible under the Side Agreement. The article is attached here.
Hats off to Meredith for her reporting, but why do we only find out about these astounding figures from the newspaper? The union has these figures, or has a way to get them, now that everything is linked to Galaxy. We need to renew our call for a moratorium on all new hiring till all ATRs who want positions get them.
Here is her letter:
I am writing to tell you how much I support the letter Marjorie Stamberg wrote you yesterday about the ATR situation.
The side agreement (discussed in her no. 5 below) never was a solution for ATRs like me at the time, who were excessed from their schools and remained on their schools' budgets.
All of the other points — and I probably could add more, like ATRs being formally observed, which violates both the intent and the procedures outlined in the current contract for those who are acting as daily subs or teaching out of license — are real and valid.
I want to say also that the ATR wine-and-cheese party cum discussion with Randi down at HQ which was scheduled expressly to conflict with the ATR march and rally at Tweed was in exceedingly bad taste. Randi's denying the ATRs and their advocates a proper event with her full support from beginning to end was tantamount to a slap in the face. We are dues-paying members and that should never have happened once she agreed to a rally in the first place.
March 19, 2009
TO: Michael Mendel UFT Secretary
As you may know, I have booked some time at the E-Board on March 23 for us to raise a number of concerns on the (lack of) implementation of the ATR Side Agreement. It’s been 4 months since the memorandum was signed, and what are the results? Our information is not comprehensive, certainly, but we have conducted surveys and talked with enough teachers to be concerned. Thus far we do not know of a single teacher who has been given an assignment based on this agreement.
Moreover, numerous schools, including a bunch of the big high schools are now on the chopping block and slated to close, either this June or next. This means ever more ATRs. And, as one teacher pointed out, since this is a "side agreement" to the existing contract, what happens in the next contract?
There are many specific concerns and questions. Briefly summarized, they involve
* Principals, district superintendents and other administrators who seem clueless (wilfully or otherwise) about hiring under the Side Agreement. (And why not, if they can continue having a teacher in school on Central's payroll?) The special subsidies don’t seem to have enticed many principals thus far.
* What regulations exist for the use of ATR teachers to fill permanent positions out of license, often with no training or PD for the positions they are filling? What about observations in these situations? No single answer ever surfaces about these detailed and critical questions.
* The contract defines an assigned position of 5 teaching periods, yet ATRs in this situation are now not able to grieve lack of appointment.
* In January the DOE sent out a detailed guide to principals to implementing the Side Agreement--the "Excessed Staff Selection System” (ESSS). This is helpful in that now there is a central list of ATRs by license area, linked to Galaxy, available to principals looking for teachers. The CSA had said they needed this, because principals didn't even know who the ATRs were, even if they wished to hire them.
* But the ESSS restates that neither the Side Agreement nor any subsidies apply to teachers who are ATRs in the schools where they were excessed from. Many teachers are in this category. What is being done to assist these teachers?
* The "Message from the Chancellor" on page 2 of the ESSS memo insists that principals have the sole right to hire whom they want and states the chancellor "would never want you to hire anyone for your school who you do not believe will make a positive contribution to student learning." Since virtually all ATRs are fully certified, experienced, S-rated teachers, what is the purpose of this language? It can only be read as giving the principals the "correct" language to reject ATR applicants, and not end up in court or on the carpet somewhere.
* If I understand the provisions of the ESSS correctly, teachers excessed this coming June will not be eligible for incentive subsidies until November of 2009, at which point the principal can hire them as provisionals – that is not give them permanent assignments. So they’re still ATRs at the mercy of the principal.
* The UFT has been assisting ATR teachers to make webcams and post resumes and videos on line. We have serious questions about age discrimination in the use of these videos as a job search tool.
* Now with excess staff lists linked to Galaxy, the UFT should be able to monitor how many ATRs have been given assignments, or not. We request that information be made available to union members.
* It is clear that as long as principals have the “sole right” to hire, they will manipulate any agreement. The only real solution to this question is to restore seniority transfer rights to the contract. That should be a central demand of the 2009 struggle.
In closing, may I remind you of our conversation at the end of the February Delegate Assembly? I asked you if several of us could come and speak with you about our questions. I repeated that Mike Mulgrew had told us that you are the UFT “point man” on these questions. You rudely said you wouldn’t meet with us, and we should “e-mail” any questions. So here is the e-mail.
Daily News Article from Marjorie
Principals passing downsized veteran teachers over for substitute teaching openings
BY Meredith Kolodner
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Friday, March 20th 2009, 4:00 AM
Despite a deal aimed at getting principals to employ veteran teachers whose full-time slots were cut, most are still hiring from outside the system, according to Department of Education data.
The veteran teachers, who earn an average of $70,000, are currently working as subs, while the new teachers earn about $45,000.
Since November, when principals were offered cash incentives by the DOE to hire the subs, only 16 of them were added to school payrolls.
During the same time period, 295 brand-new teachers were hired into the system.
"It seems like it's still all about who you know," said Camille LoParrino, who became one of the subs after a reading program she worked with was canceled.
"I'm starting to get a little worried," said the 20-year veteran reading specialist, who said she has a good rating as a reading coach at the Globe School for Environmental Research in the Bronx.
The number of teachers whom the agreement had targeted jumped to 1,173 from 973, a 17% increase.
The overall pool, from which not all were eligible for the deal made between the teachers union and the city, grew to 1,740 from 1,711.
The DOE is spending more than $99.4 million to pay the salaries of the veteran teachers working as subs.
The city also is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars more for the roughly 320 other extra school employees, including secretaries and guidance counselors.
The pact let principals hire from the pool, with many teaching full time. The Education Department picked up the difference between a starting teacher's salary and the hired teacher's actual first-year pay.
That subsidy continues at a reduced amount for the next seven years. The school also gets a one-time bonus of about $22,500.
A DOE spokeswoman said it was too early to tell whether the incentive program was working.
"Principals do the bulk of their hiring during the summer months," said Ann Forte.
Most of the targeted teachers lost their jobs after enrollment at their schools dropped or their school closed.
United Federation of Teachers CEO Michael Mulgrew said budgets were limiting hiring.
"We will be asking where the hires have been made and whether they were in shortage areas or not," he said.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Mar. 24, 2009
We were pretty effective last night in making the point at the E Board that an ATR crisis is looming, and the UFT's boosting the Side Agreement has done virtually nothing. We had two speakers, myself and Dr. Lezanne Edmond.
I had with me all the points people had sent in, but was given one and half minutes (stretched to two!), so I could only touch on the high points. I handed out the Daily News article (of March 20th) with the devastating figures that there are now 1,740 ATRs. Of these, a grand total of 16 ATRs have been hired under the side agreement, while 295 brand new teachers were hired! The Side Agreement is like putting a band-aid on a bursting artery.
The union has voted for a moratorium on hiring until all teachers who want positions are assigned -- I insisted that we need to act on this now, we cannot wait until September. And there will be far more ATRs with a number of big high schools closings. Finally, I said that the ATR situation threatens the whole union -- the Board of Ed wants a large number of people in a teacher reserve so they can fight to get rid of our no-layoff clause,
Dr Lezanne Edmond, who is a literacy specialist, and one of our ATR teachers from District 79 spoke next. She said the school system should be a mix of experienced and new teachers, with new instructors receiving guidance from the experienced ones. Instead, right now it appears that teachers are being pitted against one another and the union seems not be protecting us and working with us.
She said that many large schools are closing, adding to the ranks of the already swollen ranks of ATRs. "It is beyond me why an ad for a non-union charter school is advertised in our union paper! We pay dues for the union to protect us and right now they need to do a great deal more!"
The response --- as usual, for most of these time-servers, it was chomping on catered dinner, supplied with our union dues, and stone faces around the room. Mike Mendel spoke to me later saying cagily that they're "working on it." He had two excuses -- 1) that the Daily News figure of 1,740 is deceptive because it includes counselors, secretaries and other school staff, and 2) that a lot of ATRs don't want assignments.
I replied that the fact that not just teachers are ATRs makes this crisis even more severe. And that the UFT motion for a hiring freeze specifically states "until all ATRs who want them get positions." So that is a non-issue.
I told Mendel that many ATRs have lots of specific questions about the invidual situations. The the DOE is playing it fast and loose, making it up as they go along, and the teachers are getting the run-around from the UFT officers when they try to get help. Mendel insisted "any ATR who e-mails" him will get an indvidual response. Take this for what it's worth, but now that he's said this publicly, we should hold him to it.
So I would say, e-mail him with all of the issues that have been raised -- principals who are clueless about the side agreement; teachers not receiving surveys; teachers teaching 5 classes, but not assigned; teachers not receiving the dubious "bonus pay"; teachers teaching dangerous shop classes without license and without training; teachesr used as subs and then observed in these positions; F-status teachers being placed in classes where ATRs are there to be hired, and many more.
Mike Mendel's e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org, the phone is 212 777 7500.
Also, please let us know if your questions get addressed.
So, next steps? Whatever the UFT leadership is working on, they will not be challenging the basic framework that keeps creating more and more ATRs. I will set up a meeting as soon as possible, with plans to go to the Delegate Assembly to demand the union as a whole act to insist on a hiring moratorium. That's going to take mobilization. We will also raise these issues at the conference sponsored by ICE and NYCORE this Saturday, March 30 on closing schools, ATR teachers, high stakes testing, and privatization which will be held at John Jay College in Manhattan from 12 to 3.
When the union gave up seniority transfers in the disastrous 2005 contract, it opened the sluice gate for the Bloomberg/Klein to drive this truck through. The DOE wants a reserve pool, as a pressure point to end tenure and get rid of the no-layoff clause in the contract. That's why one big part of our fightback has to be to restore seniority rights in the contract.
Also we know that the AFT crisis was allowed to simmer and stew in the UFT until we engaged the issue in a strong united way, school by school. And we know we have to keep doing that.
students have much of it correct. As a school activist
in San Diego Unified (a much larger district than SF or
Oakland) I have been involved in organizing and
advocating for improvements at both the school site
level at my daughters non charter public grade school
and large district wide campaigns around curriculum and
some that grew out of high school student activism. I
have long been opposed to charter schools for the very
reasons these authors state. And yet, after years of
struggle in a district and local school that can only
be called broken and dysfunctional bordering on
incompetent, I have had to eat my words and put my
daughter in a public charter school. It is true that
many if not most of the charter schools have some
shenanigans in their enrollment. I visited one charter
school that was lilly white and in San Diego that's
almost impossible. However the charter school my
daughter attends is minority white and their lottery
system has been audited. The school is only a
percentage point or two away from a title one school.
It is as the authors suggest though, a self selected
What the authors fail to mention is the fact that the
broader public school system is not working at all.
Our children get one education, shall we parents
sacrifice our kids to a system that takes these
children, many from the families the authors describe
as parent 1 and turn their kids into the bored &
ignored? Many of these children need to escape a fate
that might await them if they don't land in a happy
child friendly place that stimulates their brains and
actually excites them about learning. The problem is
the schools, not the parents who flee schools that only
offer a curriculum reduced to pabulum & a look the
other way attitude about student behaviors. There are
huge numbers of parents who will refuse to accept this.
Do I want a fabulous learning environment for all
children? Hell yes! And I will fight for this at
every turn. Don't get me wrong non-charter public
schools do have families that are very involved,
teachers that care and administrators that get it. But
something is wrong when these parents, teachers and
administrators continue to have their efforts rebuffed
or are frustrated at every turn. Non Charter public
schools can work very well but these schools are fewer
and farther between and if I can't find one of those
I'm forced to find alternatives while still working as
an activist and advocate for a decent education for all
children. Some of the better charter schools might
lead the way.
A parent in
San Diego, CA
Monday, March 23, 2009
I suggest that others reply to Nick Kristof's latest misguided attack on teachers in the widely read (including, I am sure, by Obama's folks and others) op-ed in today's NY Times. He throws his support behind Michelle Rhee of DC. This is his second article in support of school reform on the Bloomberg-Klein-Rhee model.
My reply (to his blog) appears below. Letters to the editor of the NY Times are also called for. Although the media, including the Times, are generally biased against union folks in general, and against teachers in particular, we cannot remain silent at such a time.
Note that blog comments become increasingly irrelevant as the comments pile up, while comments for newspaper articles (where allowed, online) now often close in a day or so. The early comments are usually displayed right below the column or blog entry, and so are widely read. So time is of the essence in replying.
I could find no place for comment on the op-ed online, and so went to Kristof's blog. Both links appear below.
My reply reflects my own experience, that may, of course, differ from that of others. But it is important that journalists, at least, receive input from teachers. That means all of us.
Our stories remain untold, while the myths perpetuated by others come to be regarded as facts. The online blogs offer us an opportunity. Despite any filtering carried out by hired help, some of our comments are bound to reach a wide audience, including newspaper editors and reporters.
If your opinion differs from mine, or if you think I have not included, or emphasized sufficiently, things you consider more important, please write to the NY Times, using the comments section in Kristof's blog (second link blow) or by writing a letter to the editor.
I have a propensity for length, which may irritate and lose all but the most scholarly. Condense my arguments, if you concur with them, and write.
Letters to the editor must, of course, be brief. Blog comments may be longer.
Please forward to others if you think fit.
Dear Nick Kristof,
I have followed, for years, your columns, and have admired your crusading zeal, bringing to light issues of basic justice that we may not otherwise hear about in the mainstream media.
Now you have entered into a field, however, in which your column perpetuates a longstanding fallacy, which I have explained below.
In addition to the "War against Drugs", and the "War against Terrorism", which have created much more havoc and misery than they have alleviated, do we really now need a "War against Bad Teachers", as being instigated by Michelle Rhee, and basically endorsed in your blog and your column?
I write, not as one who is distant from all of this, but rather, as one who has been unwittingly engaged, for two decades, in the trenches of the more real war -- that of defending whatever remains of integrity in K-12 education from the onslaughts of social pathologies on the one hand, and of corrupt or zealot administrators on the other. At stake, is not only the integrity of our discipline, that of teaching, but the futures of our students.
When I say that I, and millions of others like me, ordinary teachers in our public schools, are engaged in this battle, this does not mean that we are all activists, hurling rhetoric, let alone firebombs. It means, mainly, that we leave for work at 6 am or earlier, work through the whole school day, and then continue our work, often with only an hour or so of rest, till midnight.
And this continues through the school year, ending (for those who are not forced, by economic necessity, to teach summer school) only in the blessed summer break. And this schedule has been ongoing, for many of us, for decades.
This is not an exaggeration. It is a reality. What keeps us going, other than the monetary compensation, which has often been meager, but necessary for survival, is the satisfaction we get from doing a good job, and from helping our students. As we begin to lose these basic, intrinsic rewards, we falter and lose confidence. And we leave, or are driven out -- or we continue, like our students, in a state of discouragement regarding our daily work.
You have correctly identified the poor quality of education in many of our schools, especially in urban, minority areas, as one of the greatest threats to our collective survival and well being.
However, if we are to adopt even a quasi-scientific problem-solving approach, there are at least six initial steps in resolving a problem:
(a) the acknowledgement and identification of the problem;
-- for example, "Students in many public schools are not learning necessary knowledge and
(b) the formulation of an hypothesis as to the main cause(s) of the problem;
-- for example, "The problem stems, in large part, from poor teaching techniques."
(c) the testing of this hypothesis, in a rigorous fashion;
(d) the falsification (as is usually the case) or confirmation of the initial hypothesis;
(e) either the discarding or modification of the hypothesis, if proved false or inadequate,
or else a reassurance as to its validity, if confirmed;
(f1) a search, next, for a different hypothesis, that may be more accurate, as to the main cause(s) of the
(f2) an attempt, next, to solve the problem based on the confirmed hypothesis.
Many of the difficulties that the public schools systems have faced from attempts at reform stem from the fact that politicians and the educational establishment have skipped, by and large, steps (e) through (f), those of testing and either honestly confirming or discarding the hypothesis, and proceeded, out of impatience, ignorance or carelessness, to step (f2) -- that of taking steps that are based on the (untested) hypothesis.
This is, of course, only when they have had the guts and energy (or been compelled) to at least take steps (a) and (b) -- that of acknowledging the problem and of formulating a hypothesis. But this has occurred, every few years or so, over several decades. Unfortunately, each time, it has only compounded the problem, rendering it more intractable.
This is not an abstract exercise in logic. It has affected, firstly, hundreds of millions of students, and, secondly, millions of teachers. The conditions that led to the initial demise of the quality of public education, along with the attempts at "reform" that have periodically caused chaos and further demise, have resulted in a double tragedy -- the major one affecting the sincere students, and the minor one affecting the sincere teachers.
After long and careful observation of conditions in many schools in New York city, ranging from Brooklyn Technical High School to those much more troubled, both as a regular teacher, for sixteen years (of many science subjects, with a license in physics and general science) as well as a substitute, on family leave for six years, working both as a sub-teacher and a sub-para, I can say, with some measure of confidence, the following:
The root cause of the problems faced by many schools in the city are social pathologies that enter into the classroom and hallways, as well as being present, in the first place, in the communities and homes. These make it nearly impossible for effective teaching and learning to proceed in the classes, and for students to put in the study and work at home needed to succeed. The causes for these pathologies are historical in nature.
However, they are transmittable, being acquired, for example, by new immigrants and others over relatively brief periods of time. As such, they are probably treatable and reversible, but not by either coercive methods or by denial or blame-shifting. This is "hard problem", one that cannot be solved by easy measures. It calls for a rethinking of basic assumptions, much as does our current fiscal crisis.
In addition to these social illnesses, there have always been structural problems in the schools. These have worsened from neglect. These include issues such as:
-- severe shortage of time;
-- excessive class size;
-- disregard for necessary sequence and prerequisites;
-- disregard for students' basic right to choose and specialize, especially in their final three years, as they prepare for work and college;
-- excessive workload on teachers and students who are sincere;
-- lack of two-way communication channels between classrooms and policy makers, resulting in lack of feedback necessary for timely course corrections;
-- the expansion of special education to accommodate increasing numbers of children;
-- the disposal of vocational and other alternative educational streams;
-- etc., etc., etc.
Furthermore, as the social pathologies take over a school or a school system that is unprepared to deal with them, and is unable, publicly, to even address these issues, and as both students and teachers consequently suffer, a point is reached where discouragement sets in, in all quarters.
In this atmosphere, the scum floats to the top. The corrupt, the zealot, the ambitious and the evil thrive, while those who are honest and decent, mind their own business and concentrate on their work find themselves increasingly in trouble.
Some, including many administrators who have fled the classrooms rather rapidly (as did Chancellors Rhee of DC and Klein of New York), even to the point of obscenity, give up rather easily, or opt for jumping on bandwagons.
Others, such as dedicated teachers who have had some success and attained confidence, and students who have had similar experiences, along with those who are just naive and sincere and "don't know better", persevere for longer periods. There are teachers, for example, who resist intimidation by those in the system, including supervisors, who are lazy, corrupt, or unscrupulously ambitious. And yet such teachers are eventually hounded out. For these, this principled. but painful, resistance may last to the bitter end, and leave them with careers, and even lives, torn to shreds.
Students in poor areas are as capable of learning as are those in affluent ones. However, two things are often lacking:
(a) the belief (that comes from small successes achieved by diligence and perseverance) among students that they can learn, and from teachers, that they can teach, topics that may appear difficult;
(b) the conditions under which these small successes can be achieved, which include an atmosphere relatively free of distractions and interruptions, in which students can concentrate, and teachers can teach and help those that need help.
Those who wish to bring about meaningful reform of failing public schools would do well to figure out how to best conserve and accrue these two necessary, increasingly rare and yet undervalued, elements of education.
I will end with an anecdote. I met, once, a retired Chemistry teacher, whom I had known at Brooklyn Technical, who was boasting about the techniques he had used in his Advanced Placement and Regents Chemistry classes. He noted that his students had had a 95% plus passing rate in the NY State Regents examinations.
As I had taught at his school as well as in others, and had noted that, despite my valiant efforts, the results had been rather different, I asked him whether he had taught Chemistry recently at other schools. He replied that he had taught Regents Chemistry one summer at Lafayette High School in Brooklyn, a school I myself had subbed in and knew was headed downwards at the time.
I asked him how his students had done in Lafayette. He told me that only one of his 30 students had passed the NY State Regents Chemistry examination that August. And the one who had passed, he was candid enough to inform me, was a girl who had mistakenly been programmed into his class, as she had taken and passed the Chemistry Regents before!
I admired his honesty at telling me this, but was also puzzled why (assuming he knew in advance, as the girl would surely tend to try and tell him) he had allowed her to suffer through the summer in his sweltering class. But I did not pursue the matter at the time. Of course, the thought occurred to me that, had he done what was right, his percentage would have fallen, from his proud 95%+ at Brooklyn Tech, not just to a measly 3%, but to a miserable 0% at Lafayette.
(Of course, there could be legitimate reasons for the girl taking the Regents again -- for instance, not passing the class, for whatever reason, while passing the state exam, as may (rarely) happen, in which case it is up to the school to decide whether she should still take the class again or not.)
The point of this story is -- same highly qualified teacher, drastically different result.
I recount this anecdote, not to negate any possibility of improving teaching and learning in schools, such as Lafayette, where average student performance plunged as the neighborhood demographics changed, but rather to rebut those who say such change could be accomplished by replacing the teaching staff with better trained and qualified teachers. It is possible to greatly enhance the learning that takes place in such schools -- but not by replacing staff, especially experienced staff.
I should note, that even in its declining years, Lafayette High School in Brooklyn still had staff (as well as many students) that were remarkable in their levels of achievement and diligence. I say this because I subbed there, in science, mainly, and was astonished at the students taking Regents and A.P. Physics, whom I found were highly competent, as was their teacher -- who was later forced out (as were several other Physics teachers of my acquaintance in Brooklyn's high schools) for her fighting spirit.
In my experience, it took me about three years of teaching a particular subject (even my own -- Physics, in which I have a Ph.D.) before I got it about right -- smoothing out rough edges, figuring out where students' weaknesses lay, fixing illogicalities or gaps in the syllabus that sometimes became apparent to me only from students' questions, calibrating the pace at which I taught different topics, redoing handouts, tests, etc., etc.
In conversations with other teachers, I found that many concurred. There is no substitute for this kind of experience.
And the three years I quoted are sufficient to ensure good teaching and learning only if the student population, and the curriculum, including prior requisite classes, all remain relatively steady -- as is rarely the case.
Teachers have to constantly readjust their teaching to deal with all these things, along with terrible distractions such as freshly mandated teaching methods (often puerile in the extreme) and disruptive behavior from misplaced students, with no real support.
In sum, there is much work to be done in the public school system. But, unless we want yet another Vietnam or Iraq, we need to talk, and listen carefully to, not just swiftly promoted generals, like Michelle Rhee, but the troops on the ground.
2009 March 22nd, Sunday
Brooklyn, New York
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Are you a teacher who asks:
How can I be both an instructional leader and a teacher activist?
How do teachers organize with NYC communities for social justice?
What does the UFT have to do with social justice?
What is the history of public schools in New York City?
Register today for Teachers Unite's Teacher Activist Course! You can
sign up for any combination of Sessions 1, 2, 3 and 4.
For more information, and for full course descriptions:
Session 1: Education Reform, Social Justice and Teachers Unions
Saturday, April 25, 2009, 10:00 a.m. ? 4:00 p.m.
Session 2: Organizing to Build Power for Change
Saturday, May 2, 2009, 10:00 a.m. ? 4:00 p.m.
Session 3: Effective outreach and organizing
Saturday, May 9, 10:00 a.m. ? 2:00 p.m.
Session 4: Who controls the public school system in New York City?:
A brief history of the city's schools
Saturday, May 30th, 10:00 a.m. ? 4:00 p.m.
Lunch is included in all sessions.
Teacher Activist Course sessions are free for Teachers Unite members.
Sliding scale registration fee per session for non-members: $25 - $75
Please visit: http://www.teachersunite.net/register for information
John Jay High School (Brooklyn)
South Bronx High School (Bronx)
Martin Luther King High School (Manhattan)
Morris High School (Bronx)
Bushwick High School (Brooklyn)
George Wingate High School (Brooklyn)
Prospect Heights High School (Brooklyn)
Theodore Roosevelt High School (Bronx)
William Howard Taft High School (Bronx)
Park West High School (Manhattan)
Seward Park High School (Manhattan)
Harry Van Arsdale High School (Brooklyn)
Thomas Jefferson High School (Brooklyn)
Springfield Gardens High School (Queens)
Evander Childs High School (Bronx)
Walton High School (Bronx)
Adlai Stevenson High School (Bronx)
Lafayette High School (Brooklyn)
South Shore High School (Brooklyn)
Samuel J. Tilden High School (Brooklyn)
Canarsie High School (Brooklyn)
Far Rockaway High School (Queens)
Bayard Rustin High School (Manhattan)
Louis Brandeis High School (Manhattan)
Franklin K. Lane (Brooklyn)
Below is a FYI report of recent developments in the San Francisco City Teachers Union UESF.
This Sunday at 3pm opposition candidates for the local 420 elections will be meeting to finalize campaign flyers and video Internet presentations at Evelyn's house.
This coming Thursday and Friday there will be wine , cheese and refreshment mixer at Evelyn's home, 5281 Washington Place (off Union Blvd) to give union members the chance to talk to the candidates .
Donations will also be collected to offset campaign expenses. Jim Hamilton, St Louis
Union reform challenge in S.F.
Andy Libson, a science teacher and building representative at Mission High School in San Francisco, explains why activists in his union are challenging incumbent officers in upcoming elections.
March 18, 2009
Members of United Educators of San Francisco at a 2006 rally (Michael McCauslin)Members of United Educators of San Francisco at a 2006 rally (Michael McCauslin)
SPRING IS coming. Only for those of us in public education in California, spring isn't a time of renewal and growth, but of pink slips, consolidations and threats of school closures.
But this week in San Francisco, a group of educators have found a reason to celebrate, despite the plans of politicians like Mayor Gavin Newsom, who is threatening to restrict "rainy day" funds set aside for maintaining public services, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is calling for the most draconian cuts in education in decades.
On March 19, activist teachers, paraprofessionals, substitutes and counselors will throw a party (and raise some money) to officially launch a reform caucus within United Educators of San Francisco (UESF).
The caucus is called Educators for a Democratic Union (EDU). EDU will field a slate of candidates in upcoming union elections. Our caucus brings together long-term union activists, progressive education activists around the group Teachers for Social Justice, and a layer of new UESF union activists who would like to see a more inclusive, dynamic and aggressive UESF to face the challenges of a period that even Barack Obama describes as the most difficult since the 1930s.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
EDU will be meeting March 19 at El Rio, 3158 Mission St., past Cesar Chavez in San Francisco. We urge all UESF members, and brothers and sisters across the city and the Bay Area to join us.
Find out more about EDU's fight at theEducators for a Democratic Union Web site, or email@example.com.
The battles ahead will require a fighting, democratic union that can mobilize its members and their allies. Unfortunately, that is not the kind of union we currently have.
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THE CURRENT UESF leadership, the Progressive Leadership Caucus (PLC), operates neither transparently nor democratically. It took a several-months-long fight by members of EDU on the floor of the union's assembly to force UESF leaders to send a proposal for a dues change to the entire membership for a vote. That should be automatic.
Beyond getting the money designated for education in the city's rainy day fund, few UESF members know what the union leaders' strategy for fighting the budget cuts is. With good reason--because there isn't one.
The PLC leadership will make much of the modest raises for teachers (the biggest raises go to new teachers with master's degrees and PhDs) under Proposition A--the ballot measure passed in June 2008 that set aside tax money for public education. But what many educators don't know is that no money went to the wages of our lowest-paid educators, paraprofessionals.
Moreover, Proposition A also made major changes to our contract. These include an extension of our workday by adding up to 18 additional hours of professional development hours per school year. The legislation also strengthened the hand of administrators to evaluate and dismiss teachers, and introduce divisive "combat pay" for hard-to-fill schools like mine, Mission High School.
We need a union that fights for all its members--and that doesn't change our working conditions without the full consultation of the membership and ratification by membership vote. This is Basic Unionism 101--and PLC is getting, at best, a "D."
What's more, the current UESF leadership is either unable or unwilling to answer the hard questions we face today.
Will public education thrive, or face dramatic cuts and school closures? Will our working conditions improve, or will we face increased class sizes and workloads due to layoffs? Will the lives of the parents and students we serve become ever more desperate? Or can we reach out to them and join them in a fight not only to defend public education, but for fully funded social services to support the communities we work and live in?
Ask these questions of most politicians, Democrat or Republican, and you'll get BS answers stressing the need for "belt-tightening" and "shared sacrifice." It's interesting how those workers who didn't get to "share" the benefits of a California economy that tripled in size over the last 30 years are now suddenly asked to "share" the pain of an economic downturn.
Politicians have been cutting public education in California for decades, and now they have an economic crisis to use as an excuse for even deeper cuts. Worse, many unions around the state and across the country are falling for this line.
But those of us forming EDU have an entirely different vision of what's possible today. We believe that it's possible not only to fully fund public education, but to fund all social services adequately.
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OUR SOLUTION is simple: Tax the rich.
Currently, the lowest-paid workers in California pay the highest rate of taxes (when you combine income and sales taxes), and the richest 20 percent pay the lowest tax rate. This is totally unjust and needs to be completely reversed. In addition, over half the corporations in California pay no taxes whatsoever.
The reality is that the current California state budget crisis is less the result of a recession and more a result of 30 years of shared criminality between California politicians and the California elite. This must end.
Those of us in EDU know this will not happen without a struggle. The rich in California are hoping--and planning--to push the costs of this crisis onto us as well. Making fully funded education a reality will take a fight. EDU knows that it will take an entirely different type of union to make this goal a reality. EDU believes we need a union where the vast majority of its members are aware of the issues we face and knows our collective strategy for dealing with them.
We need a union that calls on all its members to defend the rights of each and every member, including our most vulnerable--the paraprofessionals and substitute teachers. We need a union that doesn't stop at passing resolutions in support of important social justice issues, but actually organizes in support of them. We need a union that defends the rights of immigrants and stands up for the rights of our LGBT brothers and sisters. We also need a union that actually prioritizes union involvement in the movements to end the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
To its credit, PLC has supported resolutions and rallies for immigrant rights and opposed the war in Iraq, even though these initiatives were largely originated by those of us in EDU.
What UESF members may not know is that the PLC leadership will brook absolutely no `criticism of Israel. Even during the recent decimation of Gaza that killed more than 1,440 Palestinians, the PLC was unwilling to condemn Israeli aggression without first blaming Palestinians for resisting Israel's sanctions and aggression. Members may agree or disagree on these positions in the union, but we need a union leadership committed to making members aware that these debates even exist.
We in EDU know an informed membership is at the heart of building a strong union. EDU believes we need a union whose strength is located at the base--where each worksite has a knowledgeable and organized Union Building Committee capable of defending its own interests, and of uniting across our school district to stop school closures or layoffs of paraprofessionals.
Why does all this matter? Because in EDU, we believe that building a strong, member-driven union is at the heart of realizing the demand for fully funded public education. That's why we also oppose charter schools and merit pay. These policies are destructive to public education and to the unions that support public education.
Creating a public education system that we can all be proud of will not be easy. It will not take place without a struggle--and will not happen without the combined action of UESF membership, other public sector unions and the students and families we serve.
Win or lose this election, those of us in EDU are committed to forming a rank-and-file organization within our union that is committed to rebuilding our union from the bottom up. That is why we urge all UESF members who want share this vision (or want to hear more about our plans) to join EDU and join us on March 19 at El Rio at 3158 Mission St. for our launch meeting.
EDU stands for much more than just stopping the bleeding that's destroying our livelihood, our schools and our communities. EDU stands for building a fighting union that can be a central part of winning fully funded schools and public services. That's the change we believe in--and it's a fight worth waging and winning.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
August 03, 2009 - August 05, 2009
Elementary and Middle School Exams
August 06, 2009
Elementary and Middle School Summer Instructional Program
Administrative/Portfolio Day (optional)
August 11, 2009
Latest instructional end date for high school students
August 12, 2009 - August 14, 2009
High School Summer Instructional Program
Regents and RCT Examinations
August 31, 2009
The following staff report: Assistant Principals and school-based intermediate supervisors not designated to work an increased work year
September 03, 2009
Chancellor’s Conference Day for staff development related to the Regents High Learning Standards and Assessments
Chancellor’s Conference Day for staff development related to the Regents High Learning Standards and Assessments. Classroom Teachers, Bilingual Teachers in School and Community Relations, Guidance Counselors, Attendance Teachers, Nurses, Therapists, Laboratory Specialists and Technicians, Educational Paraprofessionals (except for School Secretaries, Psychologists and Social Workers) report for a Professional Day - General staff orientation. School Secretaries, Psychologists and Social Workers report for a regular work day. Employees in titles not listed should consult the applicable collective bargaining agreement. Students will not be in attendance.
September 04, 2009
Chancellor’s Conference Day for staff development related to the Regents High Learning Standards and Assessments
Chancellor’s Conference Day for staff development related to the Regents High Learning Standards and Assessments (regular work day for School Secretaries, psychologists, and Social Workers). Students will not be in attendance.
September 07, 2009
No School / Offices Closed
September 08, 2009
All Students: First Day of School
SCHOOL SESSIONS BEGIN FOR ALL STUDENTS. EARLY DISMISSAL FOR NON-DISTRICT 75 KINDERGARTEN STUDENTS ONLY.
September 09, 2009
Early Dismissal for non-District 75 Kindergarten Students Only
September 28, 2009
No School / Offices Open
October 12, 2009
No School / Offices Closed
November 03, 2009
Chancellor’s Conference Day for staff development. Students will not be in attendance.
November 11, 2009
No School / Offices Closed
November 26, 2009 - November 27, 2009
No School / Offices Closed. Students return to school on Monday, November 30, 2009.
December 24, 2009 - December 25, 2009
No School / Offices Closed. Students return to school on Monday, January 4, 2010.
December 28, 2009 - December 30, 2009
No School / Offices Open. Students return to school on Monday, January 4, 2010.
December 31, 2009 - January 01, 2010
No School / Offices Closed. Students return to school on Monday, January 4, 2010.
January 18, 2010
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
No School / Offices Closed
January 26, 2010 - January 29, 2010
February 01, 2010
Fall Term ends for high school students. Chancellor’s Conference Day for staff development in all high schools. All other students will be in attendance.
No high school students will be in attendance, with the exception of high school level students in District 75 (these students will be in attendance on February 1). The high school spring term begins on Tuesday, February 2 with a full day of instruction.
February 02, 2010
Spring term begins for high school students
February 15, 2010 - February 19, 2010
Midwinter Recess (including Washington's Birthday). Students return to school Monday, February 22, 2010.
March 29, 2010 - April 06, 2010
Spring Recess (including Good Friday, Easter and Passover); students return to school on Wednesday, April 7.
May 31, 2010
Memorial Day Observed
No School / Offices Closed
June 10, 2010
Chancellor’s Conference Day for staff development
School staff report to work if required by their collective bargaining agreement. Students IN ALL FIVE BOROUGHS will NOT be in attendance.
June 15, 2010 - June 23, 2010
Grades 9-12 and eligible grade 8 students.
June 24, 2010
Regents Rating Day
In non-District 75 high schools having to administer Regents Exams from June 15 through June 23, students will not be in attendance on Regents Rating Day, Thursday, June 24.
June 25, 2010
LAST DAY FOR ALL STUDENTS
An early dismissal of students is to be scheduled on this day.
June 28, 2010
Last day for all Classroom Teachers, Bilingual Teachers in School and Community Relations, Attendance Teachers, Nurses, Therapists, Laboratory Specialists and Technicians, and last day for Paraprofessionals. Students will not be in attendance.
June 29, 2010 - June 30, 2010
All other staff report except Classroom Teachers, Bilingual Teachers in School and Community Relations, Attendance Teachers, Nurses, Therapists, Laboratory Specialists and Technicians, and Paraprofessionals.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Making the Grade
Can AFT president Randi Weingarten satisfy teachers and reformers at the same time?
Andrew J. Rotherham and Richard Whitmire, The New Republic Published: Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Randi Weingarten, the notoriously feisty president of the second-largest national teachers' union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), received a hero's welcome at the National Press Club last November. In her speech, she vowed to give ear to almost any tough-minded school reform, and, in a line that thrilled many reformers, promised that the AFT will not protect incompetent teachers: "Teachers are the first to say, 'Let's get incompetent teachers out of the classroom.'"
Weingarten would seem to be donning the reformist mantle of a previous AFT president, Al Shanker, a highly regarded reformer who shook up pro-union liberals by reminding everyone that tough school discipline and achievement standards were civil rights fundamentals. But an approach that worked during Shanker's tenure is more difficult now, with the reformers and unionists pitched in a bare-knuckled fight that is not about lofty, system-changing goals as much as about the thorny specifics of state and local education policy. Caught up in a contentious situation with the Washington, D.C. school system that has challenged her reformist credentials, Weingarten's attempt to satisfy both sides of the debate is being put to the test--the result of which could dictate the future of education reform across the country.
Fairly or unfairly, Washington, D.C. has become ground zero for the national school reform debate. D.C. spends more money on education than most other cities but still sees only nine percent of its freshman students graduating from college within five years of leaving high school. Michelle Rhee, a hard-charging and high-profile reformer now serving as the chancellor of the city's schools, has taken on the system with a strong hand, vowing to ramp up teacher-training and shuffle low-performing teachers out of the system. Her offer to teachers, buttressed by pledged funding from several foundations, is this: Give up tenure, and you will receive dramatic salary boosts measured in tens of thousands of dollars--or keep tenure protections, your salary increases will be far smaller, and you will still be subject to dismissal if you fail to reach performance standards.
The Washington Teachers Union (WTU) at first seemed willing to work with Rhee to craft a deal on her two-track system. But, in the end, the WTU rejected the offer without even putting it to a vote of teachers. Rhee certainly made some mistakes in the process, most notably failing to produce a detailed plan for how teachers would be evaluated, but that's not what scotched the deal. Rather, compromise with Rhee, who has become such a touchstone that both candidates mentioned her in the last presidential debate of the 2008 campaign, became toxic in teachers' union circles.
When exactly Weingarten got directly involved in the Washington negotiations remains a matter of some debate, but there is no doubt that she has been deeply involved and that a counter-offer submitted to Rhee in late January by the WTU comes with her approval. As her Press Club speech would suggest, Weingarten is open to firing bad teachers. But the counter-offer, which hasn't been made public, would complicate rather than streamline that process in D.C. Among those who have seen the details, there are two views about what it means for the negotiations. Some say it is what it appears to be--at odds with the spirit of what Weingarten promised in her Press Club speech, wrapping teachers even more tightly in tenure protections and extending the termination process. Others say that in the coded language of labor negotiations it's actually a signal from Weingarten that she's open to negotiating and moving in Rhee's direction if Rhee can give her the necessary political cover. If adopted as currently proposed, however, Rhee's hurry-up reforms would be throttled back to a glacial pace and students would suffer.
Weingarten's supporters say that, because of the politics and Rhee's take-no-prisoners style, D.C. is not a fair test of her reform commitment. But her actions in New York, where she formerly served as president of the local AFT affiliate, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), may suggest a pattern. While New York school reformers praise her political skills and acumen and admit they were often beaten fair and square, many note that, while Weingarten was emerging as a national reform leader, she was vigorously fighting a variety of reforms in the state. She worked against the state's original charter-school law and also against efforts to lift the cap on the number of charter schools unless that move could be tied to union-friendly concessions. And she resisted efforts to significantly address the pool of teachers who could not find jobs in the city schools but were nonetheless still on the payroll, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars annually.
Critics also point to some of her actions in New York that are seemingly at odds with school improvement efforts. In 2006, the district's convoluted dismissal process, negotiated by the UFT, allowed only eight teacher firings for incompetence (out of 55,000 tenured teachers). And she lobbied the New York legislature to pass a law prohibiting, at least for two years, the use of student testing data in making decisions about whether public school teachers should be granted tenure.
It's not that Weingarten is duplicitous. On the contrary, by all accounts she is sincere in her desire to improve American public education, as well as to restore her union to the position of national respect it held when Shanker was at the helm. The reality, however, is that Weingarten represents a teaching force fearful of reform. As a result, she juggles public reformist speeches and pitches to the increasingly powerful school reform movement with behind-the-scenes jabs like the protectionist counter-offer made to Rhee and the various policy fights in New York.
There's still a way for Weingarten to square the circle in D.C. If she's wise, Weingarten will see what Shanker likely would have concluded: Rhee is not the enemy. Rhee faces an array of independent charter schools that now educate more than a third of the District's public school students. If Rhee can't compete with charter operators who can fire incompetent teachers, the local teachers' union will become irrelevant, because there will be few unionized public schools left in the district. Giving Rhee the tools she needs may strike fear into the WTU, but in the long run it helps them maintain the one thing that the union can't live without: members. The Al Shanker move in this situation would be to save the WTU from itself, helping put in place the kind of bold reforms it will take to turn cities like Washington around. It won't be a popular move among her union colleagues, but, if Weingarten fails in D.C., she could lose any national cachet she's won as a mediator between the unions and the reformers.
And that would be bad news for reformers, too. Weingarten's balancing act should not obscure the fact that she is among the most reformist union leaders on the national scene today and certainly the most influential; her success or failure will have a broader impact on school reform and education politics nationally. Nor would the biggest national union, the National Education Association (NEA), fill the gap Weingarten would leave. It's hard to find an elected official or policy analyst in Washington who won't privately acknowledge that the NEA is bereft of real ideas about how to improve schools, whereas Weingarten is at least full of ideology-bucking plans.
But, as the D.C. example shows, even a politician and tactician as good as Weingarten won't be able to forever serve the dual masters of a change-averse union and the national imperative to fix our urban public schools and improve public schools overall. A lot more than Weingarten's reputation rides on how she manages her way through the tension.
Andrew J. Rotherham, co-founder and publisher of Education Sector, blogs at Eduwonk.com. Richard Whitmire, president of the National Education Writers Association, blogs at whyboysfail.com.
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