It's teacher hunting season!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

To NYS: Education should be last on public chopping block

Campaign to protect classrooms

Call or fax Albany to protect classrooms!

Budget talks in Albany are coming down to the wire.
Governor Paterson reconvened the State Legislature this week for a special session to close a midyear deficit of over $3 billion, and under consideration is a $223 million cut to New York City schools. Legislators will make a decision on a deficit reduction plan in a matter of days.
The UFT is prepared to work with lawmakers to meet the challenge. We have proposed alternative budget cuts that will help us get us through the immediate crisis. But we say
NO to cuts to the classroom and direct services to the classroom.
We need you to once again call or fax your local senator and assembly member and tell them: Protect the classroom!
Call the state Assembly at 518-455-4100, between 8 a.m. and midnight, Monday through Friday, and ask to speak to your local assembly member.
Don’t know who your assembly member is? Look it up here.
Call the state Senate at 518-455-2800, between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and ask to speak to your local senator.
Don’t know who your state senator is? Look it up here.
Send another fax to your state representatives to drive home the message that classrooms must be shielded. Go here to send a fax to Albany. (UFT site)
Urge your state legislators to protect classrooms from midyear cuts!

Michael Mulgrew
UFT President

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Coordinated media campaign against ATRs; separate, unequal schools in minority neighborhoods

Is anyone noticing that after a lock-step media campaign (particularly among the newspapers of New York City) on certain topics: about a year ago, against the Teacher Reassignment Centers / a.k.a. "Rubber Rooms" and their detainees, this summer, the imperative for renewing mayoral control for Michael Bloomberg, and most recently, the imperative for a) ending teacher tenure and b) eliminating the ATRs, the new cancer on New York City public education?

Additionally, where is the outcry among activists or the UFT over the DoE strategem that produced the ATR mess? Namely, I speak of the school decommissioning in minority neighborhoods, a school closure process that has eliminated access to a range of programs that continue to be available in schools in white and Asian middle class neighborhoods. From the break-up of established schools comes the creation of over 1,000 ATRs.

Generations ago, noble, principled activists put Plessy to challenge the segregation laws in transportation, backed legal challenges in Topeka, Kansas to end school segregation. Today, who is challenging New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein for his clear segregation of schools, most glaringly, the charter schools and the high schools? Worst served by these two systems are the special education students and the English Language Learners / a.k.a. English as a Special Language students. (I addressed this issue at greater length in an October posting.)

Policy-makers would be wary of constructing a school assignment pattern that explicitly excluded black students. But with the charter school system and the free-for-all competition pattern that the Department of Education has set forth in the 2000s in the Klein era, charter schools are starkly skewed in their demographics (more middle class families, exclusion of special education students and ELL (ESL) students by the exclusion of services for these students).

But here is where the paradox appears: the city has broken up schools, cast off teachers as ineffective, and has overwhelmingly transformed the curriculum of schools, all-the-while masking the failed curriculum with invalid increases in graduation. The flip-side of the tricky game of watered down Regents tests and increases in students' scores, as detailed by NYU education professor Diane Ravitch is a dirty secret of a failure to properly educate students.
Test results that are more properly fitting for contrast against test results in states beyond New York State, those from the NAEP, indicate flat performance rates in English and math.
(News late in the week just ended indicated that New York State students are performing worst in GED pass rates are the lowest in the nation.)
Throughout the curriculum there are profound flaws: in English the city pushes watered down standards of literature and student writing, teachers interested in teaching grammar are derided; in mathematics constructivist math is in vogue, whereby pre-adolescents are expected to create theories for math operations, teachers interested in emphasizing memorization of times tables are derided.
The result? High school graduates Johnny and Jane cannot perform at authentic eighth grade level standards. You want proof?: just see the reports on how the vast majority of New York City graduates in the CUNY colleges require remedial courses in English and math. (As WNYC's Beth Fertig reported last week, these courses actually deal with math at a level of the later years of middle school.)
In sum, the city breaks up schools and places blame on teachers; the city's curriculum fails the students, it gets away with blaming the teachers. The UFT and real education reform advocates (not the expensive consultants at Tweed) need to make the real case for education equity and they ought to oppose the castigation of experienced teachers for the hasty mistakes of the Department of Education. The media need to do a better job of speaking to people outside of the city administration and ill-informed think-tanks; they need to do a better job of connecting the dots to recognize the city's role in short-changing school-children's opportunity for a quality education (across the board, in Canarsie as well as in Bayside).

Friday, November 13, 2009

Flash leak of teacher contract negotiations: UFT to cave in on ATRs

News flash on the contract negotiations between the United Federation of Teachers and the New York City Department of Education:

The UFT is inclined to give in on the ATR (Absent Teacher Reserve) issue, in order to secure a four percent salary increase in the next contract. The leaked word is that the union would accede to the termination (firing, dismissal) of teachers who could not find permanent assignments after six months.

Public Schools Better than Charters Says DOE Progress Report Data

Public Schools Better than Charters Says DOE Progress Report Data

Posted using ShareThis

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Republicans increase seats on NYC Council

Republicans increased their seats on the New York City Council in the municipal elections of November 3, 2009. They will have five seats in the up-coming council when the 51 seat body commences its new term in 2010, an increase from the current three seats.

Traditionally, Republican seats on the council have been from Staten Island, central Queens (neighborhoods such as Middle Village) and southwestern Queens (areas such as Ozone Park and Howard Beach). In this election Peter Koo (District 20) is adding Flushing to that small number of neighborhoods represented by Republicans. News accounts have focused on his ethnicity. But they have ignored that he is a Republican; this is in contrast to other successful Chinese-American politicians (John Liu and Margaret Chin) in the city, who have up to this point won as Democrats. Another neighborhood in which a Republican is replacing a Democrat is Bayside. In this district Dan Halloran (District 19) is succeeding Tony Avella, who made an unsuccessful run for mayor in the primary this September 15. Republicans re-elected to the council this year are: Eric Ulrich (District 32), James Oddo (District 50), Vincent Ignizio (District 51).

A vacancy was also filled in the election. Miguel Martinez (District 10 in Washington Heights) resigned he seat earlier this year in a taint from corruption. He is succeeded by Ydanis Rodriguez. Like Martinez, he is one of the first elected members of local government originating from a Dominican-American heritage. The "Daily News" reported that "White City Council members the minority for first time ever after Tuesday elections". The News also noted that the council will also have the first two openly gay men from Queens (and I believe from the outer boroughs), Daniel Dromm (District 25) and Jimmy Van Bramer (District 26).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Two candidates -Davila, Griffith- challenge 2 incumbents that supported the term limits extension

New York City voters voted twice to support limits of two terms for the offices of mayor and city councillor. Yet several city council members supported the extension of term limits.

If you oppose those councillor's votes, you can vote them out on Tuesday, November 3, 2009. Here are the councillors and their opponents, running on the Working Families Party line with that party's endorsement:
Diana Reyna (District 34, in eastern Williamsburg, Bushwick in Brooklyn and western Ridgewood in Queens) (Click here for the district boundaries.) --challenged by Working Families Party nominee Maritza Davila

Albert Vann or Al Vann (District 36, in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights in Brooklyn.) (Click here for the district boundaries.) --challenged by Working Families Party nominee Mark Winston Griffith

Davila is a former aide to Williamsburg political powerhouse State Assemblyman Vito Lopez. She is also a community organizer, having established the Northern Bushwick Residents’ Association. Here is a biographical sketch by Aaron Short in the BushwickBK blog.

Griffith is the executive director of the Drum Major Institute, and is currently on leave, during the campaign.
WWRL radio host and New York Daily News columnist Errol Louis has repeatedly criticized Al Vann for his chronic absenteeism from the city council. Vann ranked an inglorious second place in absenteeism from votes, "A City Council Scorecard: Who's Engaged and Who's Not?", by Gotham Gazette.
Griffith received the endorsement recently of Al Sharpton and the Daily News.
The New York Times spotlighted the Vann-Griffith contest with a recent piece by Kareem Fahim this weekend, "Once a Young Turk, Now Challenged by One."

To see the break-down of city council votes on the term limit extension law, click on this link to NY1's site, "How They Voted: Council Members Tackle Term Limit Bill".

So, even if you are dejected over the lack of even resources in the Mike Bloomberg-Bill Thompson race for mayor matchup, you can still express your voice, to support candidates that oppose certain Democrats that caved in to the mayor's heavy-handed strong-arming of community organizations, media outlets and ultimately the city council to win an extension of the term limits law.