Posts from December 2012
December 31, 2012
Jan. 1, 2012, dawned just as 2013 will tomorrow: with the city at odds with the UFT over teacher evaluations, under the threat of a bus strike, and in the process of closing down dozens of schools. But just because the city’s education news sometimes seems like it’s on a loop doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it.
Here are a dozen of the lessons we took away from the city’s schools this year:
1. The Department of Education can’t always get what it wants.
When the year opened, everyone expected the city and UFT to continue negotiating new teacher evaluations and unfreeze federal funds. But Mayor Bloomberg shocked New Yorkers by announcing that he would circumvent the requirement for new evaluations by closing and reopening the 33 schools using a federally prescribed overhaul process called “turnaround,” which would require many teachers to be replaced. The union’s opposition began immediately.
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo brokered an evaluations deal between the state teachers union, he also brokered a deal for New York City that resolved the appeals issue that torpedoed negotiations in the past. The city’s plan, which borrowed heavily from a program in New Haven, Conn., seemed to set the stage for Bloomberg to withdraw his divisive turnaround proposal. But he doubled down on it instead. (more…)
December 28, 2012
December 27, 2012
The United Federation of Teachers has not been bargaining over teacher evaluations in good faith, the city Department of Education charged in a labor complaint today.
The complaint comes a week after UFT President Michael Mulgrew announced he would halt negotiations until the department presented an implementation plan that satisfied the union. It also comes nearly a year to the day after the city called off a different round of teacher evaluation talks.
Filed with the Public Employees Review Board, the complaint accuses union officials of refusing to reach an evaluations deal unless the department promised to limit school closures, reduce paperwork for teachers, and award “economic credit” toward a future contract.
Under state law, those issues do not have to be discussed in order to devise a new evaluation system, which the city and union are under pressure to agree upon by Jan. 17. That’s the deadline that Gov. Andrew Cuomo set early a year ago for districts to adopt new evaluations or forgo increases in state school aid. (more…)
December 21, 2012
- New research on Head Start finds that academic and social gains taper by third grade. (Early Ed Watch)
- U.S. News’s annual list of the country’s best high schools again has many from New York. (U.S. News)
- A short film about students reveals stark differences between two Massachusetts high schools. (Reuters)
- An effort is underway to answer the tricky question of who controls Detroit’s schools. (District Dossier)
- A list of wishes for children in 2013 starts with policies that support families. (Nation via Answer Sheet)
- P.S. 22′s famous chorus paid tribute to Sandy Hook Elementary School with a song. (YouTube)
- A Christmas wish is for Common Core critics to agree that good curriculum is needed. (Core Knowledge)
- Are you looking for something to do over break? Here’s a list of free museums to visit. (Insideschools)
- If you’re a teacher, you might apply for a U.S. Department of Education fellowship for teachers. (USDOE)
- Or nominate a really great teacher you know for a $25,000 prize for teaching excellence. (TNTP)
- You can also make a tax-deductible donation to GothamSchools to support independent journalism.
- Like the city schools, we’re taking next week off. Stay tuned for our year-in-review and see you in 2013!
December 21, 2012
Yes, we took a brief — and temporary — break from our “Comments of the Week” feature, which our most ardent readers happily reminded us of. But we’re back with a few select comments from the past couple of weeks.
Last week, Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky’s Community Section post about the city’s vision to accelerate the leadership track for talented teachers drew a steady stream of criticism from readers. Smart and ambitious young teachers often appear to be ideal candidates to lead a school — at first, said A.S.Neill. But he said that the strategy does not hold up over time, since good leaders possess more than intellect and a good work ethic.
The problem is that the intangibles to those who look closely are not good. They are ambitious and bright, which later easily turns into arrogance. Although on the surface, they seem to get along with everyone and are polite, in fact, they lack interest in or skill with people (except close friends on the same fast track they are), and for that matter, do not appear to be interested all that much in students personally, except as an object to improve on a test in their upward career path. They are easily overconfident but make basic mistakes often with people. One could go on here, but the basic idea is that they are a disaster waiting to happen.
A good discussion on charter school autonomy in evaluating teachers followed last week’s story on the charter sector’s decision to ignore a request to submit teacher ratings to the state education department. (more…)
December 21, 2012
A week after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., the National Rifle Association came out today with its long-awaited response. The organization’s top lobbyist announced that the NRA would lobby Congress for funds to put armed officers in all schools and, until the funding comes through, would send armed guards to any school that requests one, free of charge.
Responses from New York education officials ranged from the blunt — “The NRA is wrong,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott said — to the enraged — City Council Speaker Christine Quinn called the comments “some of the most stupid, asinine, insensitive, ridiculous comments I have ever heard made in the public arena.” But they were all the same: Putting armed guards in schools won’t fly here.
The roundup of responses we’ve gotten is below. We’ll add to them as more responses roll in.
From principals union president Ernest Logan:
The NRA’s proposal in answer to the massacre at Sandy Hook School is so unbelievable and cynical that educators like me will have trouble responding to it with restraint. (more…)
December 21, 2012
The city opened up competitive bidding on contracts for more than 1,000 school bus routes today, moving forward with a plan that bus drivers have threatened to strike over for more than a year.
The labor dispute is over job protection for current drivers once the new contracts are awarded. The bus drivers’ union, the Amalgamated Transit Union’s Local 1181, wants a guarantee that current employees won’t lose their jobs regardless of which contractors win the bids. But the city, citing a New York State Court of Appeals decision last year, says it is legally prohibited from providing a protection in its new request for bids.
Last November, Local 1181 President Michael Cardiello said a strike was “likely” if the city refused to budge from its position. Cardiello hasn’t repeated the threat for nearly a year, and today Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the union’s demand “pointless”.
Bloomberg also issued a preemptive warning to parents and principals, saying there was a “strong possibility” of a work stoppage when students return to class in the new year.
“That would make it a lot harder for many students to get to school – and in a year when our students have already missed a week or more of school because of Hurricane Sandy – striking against our school children, we think, would be totally irresponsible,” Bloomberg said at a press conference. (more…)
December 21, 2012
Mayor Bloomberg has used his weekly radio appearance recently to charge the UFT with holding up teacher evaluation talks. Today, he didn’t mention the union at all.
Instead, it was Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who joined Bloomberg on the John Gambling Show, who cast blame on the union and its president, Michael Mulgrew, for blowing Walcott’s self-imposed deadline to make a deal.
“It’s really tough to negotiate when the UFT walks away from the table,” Walcott said. “Mr. Mulgrew has instructed his negotiators that they shouldn’t negotiate with us, at all — they shouldn’t even talk to us on other issues. … That’s tough to really operate from.”
He added, “We don’t have a clue what they want.”
That wasn’t quite true. Alarmed by a spate of reports from teachers about improper observations, Mulgrew did halt evaluation talks this week. But he set a clear condition for them to resume: an agreement on how new evaluations would be rolled out. He invited Walcott to negotiate about implementation, but no talks have yet taken place. (more…)
December 21, 2012
- Investigators found a teacher at the high-performing Anderson School made up scores. (Daily News)
- A critic of high-stakes testing says standardized exams contributed to the fraud at Anderson. (News)
- End-of-the-world hysteria prompted some school districts around the country to cancel classes. (Times)
- In an op-ed, Regent Roger Tilles says evaluations can’t take into account acts of heroism. (Newsday)
- School nurses were asked to do a survey with suggestive questions about sexuality. (GothamSchools)
- An elementary school helped a storm-battered high school rediscover some of its school spirit. (NY1)
- The city said Mulgrew is stalling on an evaluation deal because of internal union politics. (News)
- In an end-of-year speech, John Liu said top students should get a free ride to CUNY. (GothamSchools)
- A teacher was arrested after a probe found he had sex with one of his wife’s youth choir members. (Post)
- Normally quiet on gun control, unions are wading into the debate following Sandy Hook. (HuffPo)
December 20, 2012
The teachers union threatened legal action against the city today after school nurses complained about a survey that allowed them to characterize homosexuality a “perversion” and “disgusting.”
When school nurses logged into their Department of Education email earlier this week, they saw a request from the Office of School Health to complete a survey, titled “OSH High School Nurse Educational Needs Assessment” and hosted on the website SurveyMonkey.com.
The survey started out innocuously, asking respondents to note features of their schools, such as whether they have Gay-Straight Alliances or similar groups, and rate their knowledge of issues related to sexuality and confidence about discussing them with students.
But on the sixth page, the questions took a jarring turn. A series of eight questions probed, in blunt language, the nurses’ own attitudes about sexuality, asking them to rate how closely they agreed or disagreed with statements such as “Male homosexuality is a perversion” and “I think lesbians are disgusting.” Another question asked them to rate their agreement with the statement, “Just as in other species, male homosexuality is a natural expression of sexuality for men.” (more…)