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Week In Review
April 21, 2017
Week in review: A new Detroit schools boss — and (another) panic over closing threats
The episode illustrated just how on edge Detroit is when it comes to its schools — hardly an easy landscape for Vitti to enter.
van wert alert
April 19, 2017
Four things to know about Van Wert, the tiny Ohio school district where DeVos and Weingarten will form an uneasy duo
A small city in rural Ohio will host a high-stakes education summit on Thursday.
April 18, 2017
Randi Weingarten promises to ‘educate’ Betsy DeVos as AFT kicks off campaign against Trump agenda
She was there to kick off a campaign called Building Schools, Not Walls, just two days before she’s set to visit schools with U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
November 23, 2016
From ‘passionate’ hands-on advocate’ to ‘everything Donald Trump said is wrong in America’: The education world reacts to Betsy DeVos
What does the education world think about Betsy DeVos, the Michigan philanthropist and voucher advocate whom Donald Trump picked as his education secretary nominee?
back to the future
October 11, 2016
AFT freaked out after Joel Klein was rumored to join Hillary Clinton’s campaign, WikiLeaks email shows
"Joel may have been incredibly good in Bill Clinton's Justice Department, but he has a toxic reputation when it comes to education," Weingarten said.
June 11, 2015
De Blasio lauds CTE programs at union event, saying city will support their growth
"We are going to strengthen them and we are going to make them available to even more," de Blasio said of the city's career and technical education programs.
April 1, 2015
As NYSUT endorses testing opt-outs, city union holds back
After the head of the state teachers union urged parents this week to boycott the state tests, some are calling on the UFT to follow suit.
March 11, 2015
At widespread anti-Cuomo protests, parents and teachers to join hands
Pushback against Gov. Andrew Cuomo's education agenda sparked plans for rallies across the city.
August 11, 2014
Weingarten pushes state to release more test questions
The state released half of the questions from the 2014 state exams last week, but some people want more—including Randi Weingarten, president of the…
December 9, 2013
'Sometimes you're wrong:' Weingarten on de Blasio critique
UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, just days before the Nov. 5 mayoral election. Earlier today, we pointed out that some Democrats who supported one of Bill de Blasio's rivals during the mayoral primary were coming around to a campaign pledge they once panned. Another of those critics of Blasio's expanded pre-kindergarten access plan—which calls for an income tax hike on wealthy New Yorkers—was American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who endorsed Bill Thompson in the primary. In August, Weingarten held a conference call with reporters specifically to criticize the plan. “We need a mayor in the city of New York who will take this idea and actually get it done and not base it on a tax that may never materialize,” Weingarten said then, calling Thompson “a doer” and describing de Blasio as more of an idealist. But when asked today if she remained pessimistic about the plan, which requires state approval, Weingarten said she had been mistaken. “Sometimes you’re wrong, as I was during the campaign, when I suggested that Bill de Blasio couldn’t gain support in Albany for his early childhood education initiatives," Weingarten said in a statement.
December 9, 2013
Democrats change tone on de Blasio pre-K tax following victory
Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio reads to students at an East Harlem Head Start program. During the Democratic mayoral primary just a few months ago, Bill Thompson supporters were on an all-out crusade to discredit rival Bill de Blasio’s tax plan to fund expanded pre-Kindergarten. As the race heated up in late August, Thompson’s campaign even began dispensing elected officials and union leaders to join in the skepticism. But now that de Blasio has won the election, calling the victory a mandate from voters to follow through on his campaign tax pledge, those officials are backing off a bit. Staten Island State Senator Diane Savino told reporters in August that de Blasio was either ignorant or pandering if he thought higher taxes were the right way to fund pre-K. “We have enough money,” Savino said in August. “What we don’t have is flexibility in the state’s regulations about how we spend the money we already get.” But, as New York Daily News’ Ken Lovett first reported this morning, Savino seems to have warmed to the idea since de Blasio was elected. Responding more recently to an unsolicited suggestion that de Blasio reconsider his plan, Savino took to her Facebook page to defend it: "with all due respect to the all the advice givers, the DeBlasio plan is the better one for the city. it is not in the interest of any new program to constantly be dependent on Albany."
December 9, 2013
Democrats change their tone on pre-K tax plan following de Blasio victory
During the Democratic mayoral primary, Bill Thompson supporters were on an all-out crusade to discredit rival Bill de Blasio’s tax plan to fund expanded pre-Kindergarten. As the race heated up in late August, Thompson’s campaign even began dispensing elected officials and union leaders to join in the skepticism. “We need a mayor in the city of New York who will take this idea and actually get it done and not base it on a tax that may never materialize,” Weingarten told reporters in August, calling Thompson “a doer” and de Blasio an idealist. Staten Island State Senator Diane Savino told reporters de Blasio was either ignorant or pandering if he thought higher taxes were the right way to fund pre-K. “We have enough money,” Savino said in August. “What we don’t have is flexibility in the state’s regulations about how we spend the money we already get.”
November 5, 2013
Casting ballots a final exam for two aspiring education mayors
For the two leading candidates for mayor, voting this morning was something of a final exam — even though neither cast his vote at a school. "I feel like I'm taking a standardized test," Democrat Bill de Blasio said as he filled out the ballot at a library near his home in Park Slope. (De Blasio has pledged to "put the standardized testing machine in reverse" if he's elected.) In Brooklyn Heights, Republican Joe Lhota cast his ballot at the polling site at Congregation Mount Sinai. He said he was "very optimistic" about the election results, which are projected to have him losing to de Blasio by a potentially historic margin.
October 23, 2013
For Weingarten, New York's Common Core fight hits home
New York State Superintendent John King and AFT President Randi Weingarten speaking on a panel at an event hosted by Teaching Matters. At center, Teachers College professor Jeffrey Henig, who moderated. Randi Weingarten has been a national union boss for over three years, but her heart remains in the state that groomed her as a labor leader. So when California recently became the latest state to alter its testing policies amid reforms to learning standards and teacher evaluations, Weingarten said her thoughts turned to New York. "I get embarrassed when a state like California is figuring it out more than my beloved Empire State," Weingarten said Wednesday in a speech in midtown Manhattan, where she accepted an education award from the education nonprofit Teaching Matters. Weingarten twice referred to California, which moved a step closer to eliminating high-stakes tests for a year, while making her latest case for why New York should strip high stakes from state tests for teachers and students in order to focus on adopting Common Core learning standards. She also appeared on a panel discussion with Commissioner John King, whose handling of state education policies she has been critical of.
October 22, 2013
King to hit Harlem schools circuit with top Democratic lawmaker
Commissioner John King has a busy day scheduled in New York City tomorrow. First, King and Chancellor Merryl Tisch are meeting up in Harlem where they'll visit schools in the district of Assemblyman Keith Wright, a senior legislative member with influential positions in the state's Democratic Party. Wright will take them to P.S. 180 and Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing & Visual Arts, an embattled middle and high school that nearly closed last year and posted some of the lowest test scores in the state. In the afternoon, King will travel to midtown Manhattan for what could be a more tense encounter: a panel conversation with American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, one of his fiercest critics. The panel is hosted by Teaching Matters at The Harvard Club starting at 12 p.m. The events are scheduled on the day after King released evaluation data that showed barely any teachers received low ratings, which he said he hoped would ease concerns of teachers union leaders. For months, Weingarten and local union leaders called on King to hold off on tying high stakes to teacher evaluations until after schools fully adopted new Common Core learning standards, which students were tested on in April. Test scores plummeted and critics reprised calls for a moratorium in recent weeks. On Tuesday, the state teachers union said today that the evaluation data did not sway their concerns. "The state’s rushed implementation of Common Core and last April’s testing debacle call into question the use of these scores in any high-stakes decisions affecting individual teachers or students," said New York State United Teachers President Dick Iannuzzi. Such a change would require a change to state law, which would require support from legislators like Wright. In an interview today, Wright said he recognized that the issue was a "hot topic" but said such a change wasn't a priority among his parent constituents.
October 18, 2013
King unveils slate of new Common Core forums for parents
Less than a week after he called off parent meetings that he said were "co-opted by special interests," Commissioner John King announced a slate of new forums that will be moderated on different terms. The new meetings, like the old ones, are meant to address concerns around the state's transition to Common Core learning standards and the increased role of testing in schools, a contentious issue for parents who fear it's leading to narrowed curriculum and instruction. A dozen of the meetings, which will begin in Albany on Oct. 24 and take place over six weeks, will be hosted in partnership with state lawmakers who will moderate the forums. Another four events will be broadcast on local public television stations with studio audiences. The department didn't release additional details for the meetings on Friday. None are planned for New York City, but a spokesman said the department was "looking to cover many more communities." After he canceled the meetings late last week, accusing outside groups of trying to derail the original purpose, King came under intense criticism from parents, teachers and lawmakers, with some calling for his resignation. They said the decision was just the latest move that showed King's disinterest in hearing opposing views to his agenda.
August 26, 2013
As candidates squabble over universal pre-K funds, a fact check
Chancellor Dennis Walcott read to a group of 4-year-olds at the Bank Street Head Start center in November 2011. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten fueled mayoral candidate Bill Thompson's attacks on Public Advocate Bill de Blasio's plan to fund universal pre-kindergarten, calling Thompson a "doer" and de Blasio an idealist. "We need a mayor in the city of New York who will take this idea and actually get it done and not base it on a tax that may never materialize," Weingarten said during a call with reporters that the Thompson campaign arranged. Since last week, Thompson and his allies have been criticizing de Blasio's plan, which would raise taxes on New Yorkers earning over $500,000 a year to fund universal pre-K. They say de Blasio's plan relies too much on approval from Albany and does not consider that the state doesn't even use all of the state pre-K funding that it gets. Their first point is a fair one. De Blasio's plan would require legislative approval, a step he says would come readily but which could be a heavy lift. The New York Times cited this shortcoming to explain why it did not endorse de Blasio. But on the second point, about the unused state funding, Thompson's campaign's math does not add up. Calculating the true cost of expanding pre-K to all city 4-year-olds is a challenging task, pre-K advocates say, but no matter how the numbers are crunched, they suggest that the city would need more funding.
August 22, 2013
AFT reprising March on Washington appearance on 50th anniversary
Here’s the press release we just received: AFT to Highlight the Promise of Public Education at March on Washington EventsWASHINGTON— As it did in 1963, the American Federation of Teachers has joined other leading civil rights, labor and progressive organizations as a co-convener of this year’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and several surrounding events. Thousands of AFT members and leaders from more than a dozen states will gather on Aug. 24 in Washington, D.C., for the march, many of whom were at the original 1963 march. These members—who come from school districts like Chicago and Philadelphia—will highlight “reclaiming the promise of public education” as an important theme for this year’s march.
August 7, 2013
Weingarten warns other states about N.Y. test scores
Weingarten used New York State’s new test scores, the first to reflect student performance on exams tied to the Common Core learning standards, as…
August 2, 2013
Thompson to de Blasio: I don't owe the teachers union anything
Bill Thompson, the teachers union's preferred pick for mayor, said today that he owes no favors to the unions that endorsed him and criticized mayoral rival Bill de Blasio for suggesting otherwise. De Blasio said yesterday that, like Mayor Bloomberg, he has his "own independence" from the city's labor unions since he has failed to secure their support during the Democratic primary race. De Blasio suggested that as a result, he'd be more equipped to negotiate with those unions, all of which are without contracts and demanding retroactive raises. Full back pay for teachers would cost $3 billion. "I am unburdened by the support of the municipal labor unions," de Blasio said. This afternoon Thompson, whose campaign didn't immediately respond to the comments, issued a statement. "I saw Mr. de Blasio's comments yesterday, and I have to say we have a very different view of what leadership and governing and standing up for working people is all about," Thompson said. "Apparently he is now finally free to govern independently because he didn't get the union endorsements he campaigned for with such intensity."
July 18, 2013
What to expect from next week’s AFT conference
Via a press release from the American Federation of Teachers: On Monday, AFT President Randi Weingarten’s keynote speech will lay out…
May 22, 2013
As UFT endorsement nears, Weingarten supports Bill Thompson
Randi Weingarten testifying in 2009 at a mayoral control hearing as UFT president. Randi Weingarten is ramping up her support for Bill Thompson's mayoral bid, just days before her successor at the United Federation of Teachers is due to make an endorsement of his own. Weingarten, UFT president from 1998 to 2009 before moving on to head the union's national organization, is helping to host a Thompson fundraiser at Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch's home on June 12, according to an invitation that's being circulated to drum up support from women voters. Tisch is Thompson's campaign chair. Weingarten is one of more than three dozen women named on the invitation under the headline "Women for Thompson." (The invitation, which the Daily Politics first posted last week, is embedded below.) Weingarten worked closely with Thompson when he was president of the city's Board of Education, from 1996 to 2001, and counts him as a personal friend. She has previously donated to his campaign, as have other education heavyweights who have personal ties to the candidate. Weingarten is in South America visiting schools as part of her work with the American Federation of Teachers and did not respond to requests for comment. But a spokesman said, "She has great confidence in his character and abilities."
May 21, 2013
Weingarten responds to response to Weingarten
“I am disappointed but not surprised by your recent letter implicitly criticizing and blatantly distorting the AFT’s recent call for a moratorium on high-stakes…
May 10, 2013
Alone among policy heavyweights, Vallas conveys reform fears
On a night when education leaders offered a spirited defense of the policies they are trying to implement, an unusual voice emerged as the dissenter: Paul Vallas. The Bridgeport, Conn. superintendent — who has served stints in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New Orleans and earned a reputation as a turnaround consultant for struggling districts with big budget gaps — said reforms he backed were at risk of collapsing “under the weight of how complicated we’re making it.” “We’re working on the evaluation system right now," Vallas said of Bridgeport. "And I’ll tell you, it is a nightmare.” The peripatetic schools chief's self-proclaimed "Nixon goes to China" moment came during the high-profile panel at the launch of the CUNY Institute for Education Policy, a think tank that former New York State Education Commissioner David Steiner is directing.
May 2, 2013
Bloomberg pitches gloomy forecast for retroactive teacher pay
Bloomberg presents his final spending plan. Mayor Bloomberg said today that a deal to give teachers retroactive raises to make up for five years without a new contract would cost billions and cripple the city's financial stability. "It's just something the city can't possible afford," said Bloomberg, who made the remarks while presenting a $69.8 billion spending plan, the final proposal of his administration. Retroactive raises for the more than 100 municipal labor unions and organizations with expired contracts is a looming issue for the city's fiscal future and in the mayoral campaign to replace Bloomberg. Bloomberg has refused to negotiate new deals if it means the inclusion of the raises, which would total 8 percent for the city's 80,000 teachers. He estimated today that costs from retroactive teacher raises would be $3.8 billion in 2014 and $1 billion every year after. Raises for all city workers would cost a combined $7.8 billion in 2014 and $3 billion in subsequent years, he said.
April 30, 2013
Weingarten: Common Core should stay, but stakes should go
Wading in to the growing backlash against the Common Core standards today, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten called for a moratorium on using scores tied to the new standards to make important decisions. Weingarten made the proposal in a speech before business and civic leaders at the Association for a Better New York, days after students across the state completed tests aligned to the Common Core for the first time and months after local union leaders began sounding the alarm about the state's Common Core rollout. She praised the learning standards and said she did not oppose testing students on them. But she said a "failure of leadership" and a "broken accountability system" could derail the Common Core's chances of boosting student achievement in New York and beyond. States and districts frequently use test scores to decide which schools to close and students to retain. Increasingly, they are also using test scores to measure teachers' performance, a policy shift that Weingarten has supported but many of her members have not. Waiting at least a year before acting on the scores of Common Core-aligned tests would give students and teachers the chance to adjust to the higher standards and let states and districts assess whether the tests are yielding meaningful results, Weingarten said. "That's what assessment and accountability are supposed to be," she said. "You see if the whole shebang works, before you say it's ready for prime time."
April 30, 2013
Weingarten calling for moratorium on Common Core stakes
After dropping hints in interviews and public appearances for weeks, AFT President Randi Weingarten is formally weighing in on the backlash to the Common Core standards today by calling for a moratorium on consequences attached to Common Core test scores. Weingarten is making the proposal right now in a speech to business and civic leaders at the Association for a Better New York, a pit stop for public figures with new ideas to float. Among the high-profile audience members is state Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, who helped steer New York's adoption of the tougher standards and has defended the state's decision to test students on the standards before teachers had curriculum materials aligned to them. Weingarten is expressly saying that she is not opposed to testing students on the new standards, which emphasize critical thinking and problem solving skills. She just doesn't want states or districts to judge schools, teachers, or students according to the test scores. "When states and districts get the alignment right — moving from standards to curriculum to classrooms to feedback and improvement — student success will follow," Weingarten is saying, according to her prepared comments. "But until then, a moratorium on stakes is the only sensible course." The full text of the speech is below, and we'll have more complete coverage, including reactions from Tisch and others, later today.
April 19, 2013
At Common Core talk, a principal says his reality includes vomit
PHOTO: Megan QuitterJoseph McDonald, a professor at NYU Steinhardt, (pictured far left) moderated Friday morning's NYU Steinhardt Education Policy Breakfast Series Common Core discussion. From left to right: Randi Weingarten (American Federation of Teachers president); James Cibulka (president, National Council for Accreditation of Teaching Education); Okhee Lee (NYU Steinhardt professor) and Ramon Gonzalez (M.S. 223 principal). Principal Ramon Gonzalez has been a principal for ten years, but this week, he said, he's experienced a lot of firsts. "I've had my first experience of students vomiting on a test. After we cleaned off the test, we had to call testing security to make sure it was still valid," he said. "I have to tell you, I was happy to submit that test to the testing authorities."
April 5, 2013
Seven moments in UFT history maybe more pivotal than this one
<a href="http://gothamschools.org/tag/state-of-the-union">Read the whole series.</a> Even as many unions nationwide are struggling to retain their clout, the United Federation of Teachers is still flexing considerable muscle in New York City. But with a teacher evaluation deal still up in the air and Mayor Michael Bloomberg's last months in office approaching, the teachers union is nonetheless at a crossroads. Just how much the current moment translates into change for the UFT will not be clear for years. Other turning points in UFT history have been more obvious. Here are a few: 1960: The UFT is born out of rival factions Teachers Guild President Charles Cogen, addressing a rally in Manhattan, later became the UFT's first president. (Courtesy of UFT) The Teachers Guild, a group made up primarily of older teachers, and the more confrontational High School Teachers Association merged in 1960 to create the UFT. Relations between the two groups, which were not the only unions representing city teachers, had thawed after members picketed together the previous year. The UFT's future hegemony was not at all obvious then, as the union didn't have collective bargaining power until December 1961 and the Teachers Guild didn't dissolve until 1964. The UFT would play a crucial role in the education upheaval later that decade, including the 1968 teachers strike precipitated by the firing of teachers in Ocean Hill-Brownsville. 1968: Teachers strike for months
March 19, 2013
Bill Thompson bid gets help from high-profile education figures
Bill Thompson, center, is among four Democratic candidates jockeying for the endorsement of the United Federation of Teachers. Bill Thompson lags behind his Democratic rivals in fundraising, but he's out in front in one area of interest: support from high-profile education officials. As he has ramped up his fund-raising efforts in recent months, Thompson has raked in thousands of dollars in donations from notable public figures in education, including American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and, most recently, Matthew Goldstein, chancellor of the City University of New York, filings show. Weingarten, who worked closely with Thompson when the pair overlapped during previous city education posts more than a decade ago, gave $2,000 to his campaign in two installments on Jan. 10 and Jan. 11. Tisch contributed $4,950 — the maximum allowed by the city's campaign finance laws — to Thompson's six-month haul ending in January, which totaled more than $1 million.
February 27, 2013
Hinting at education platform, GOP's Joe Lhota backs merit pay
A screenshot from the Daily News' livestream coverage. Joe Lhota wants to bring performance-based pay for teachers to New York City finally and he thinks he can convince a union that's long been opposed to the idea. Making his debut on education in a forum hosted by the New York Daily News last night, Lhota said he would seek to replicate Newark's new merit pay system if he became mayor. He hailed the Bloomberg administration's record on education and aligned himself with the mayor on policies of closing low-performing schools and supporting charter schools. But he said the Bloomberg legacy was incomplete. "The one piece that's missing is working with the union for merit pay and changing their approach," Lhota said in an interview after the forum.
December 13, 2012
In new arrangement, teachers' pensions to fund infrastructure
President Bill Clinton was joined by AFT President Randi Weingarten (behind him) and other union and city officials today to announce a $1 billion investment of the city's teacher pension fund into Hurricane Sandy recovery projects. One billion dollars of the city's teacher pension fund will be used to finance construction and repair projects for city roads, bridges, and homes, President Bill Clinton and other officials announced Thursday. Clinton joined UFT President Michael Mulgrew, AFT President Randi Weingarten, City Comptroller John Liu, and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan to announce the pledge, which Clinton called “a remarkable commitment” to “properly rebuild in the aftermath of Sandy.” “This storm exposed weaknesses in our infrastructure that must not only be repaired, but we must rebuild in a different way,” said Donovan, who is now in charge of federal Sandy recovery efforts. This will be the first time the city’s teacher pension funds are used for infrastructure projects, Liu said, even though the idea has been around for years. “There’s always been apprehension about, is it going to work, is it potentially a vicious circle? So what I’ve seen is everybody is waiting for somebody else to do it, and therefore nobody does it. I’m very proud that, in this case, New York City is taking the lead,” Liu said after the announcement.
October 9, 2012
Opened to prove a point, UFT's charter school could be closed
The UFT Charter School’s secondary grades are housed at East New York’s J.H.S. 166. Both schools could face closure this year. The city…
June 14, 2012
Top UFT official to leave for union's Washington, D.C. think tank
United Federation of Teachers Vice President Leo Casey at a public hearing about Opportunity Charter School's charter renewal in November. A top United Federation of Teachers official who has been the union's leading intellectual voice in recent years is heading south. But he won't be going as far as Florida, a common destination for union members who retire. Instead, Leo Casey, the vice president of academic high schools since 2007, said today that is taking a new position this fall as the director of the Albert Shanker Institute in Washington, D.C. The institute is a research arm of the American Federation of Teachers, the national union to which the UFT belongs. In his role at the UFT, Casey has been both an intellectual and a seasoned activist. He has represented the union on various panels, forums, and debates on education policy and blogged prolifically for the union's news and opinion site, Edwize. But he has been just as comfortable protesting at public hearings, where he was known to deliver fiery speeches against school closures, co-locations, and other policies that the union opposed. In moving to the Albert Shanker Institute, a progressive think tank focused on education and labor policies, he will focus on research. Casey, a city teacher for 27 years, said that he hoped his legacy at the UFT would be of pushing against school reform that is driven by non-educators. "I think one of the most important things that has driven my time at the UFT is to provide a voice for classroom teachers and that far too much of education policy making today is in the hands of folks who don't understand what it's like to teach," Casey said. AFT President Randi Weingarten, a close friend and former colleague who helped hire him as a board member on the Shanker Institute, called Casey "an exquisite choice."
May 10, 2012
Bloomberg, Walcott join national coalition for more school time
A study of New York City charter schools that found a strong link between the amount of instructional time students got and their achievement is being held up as an evidence for a national push for longer school days. Roland Fryer, the Harvard University researcher who completed the study, found in a different investigation that student test scores inched up — by about .015 points per day of school — in years with few snow days. Fryer spoke during a press call this morning announcing the debut of the Time to Succeed Coalition, which is calling for schools to expand their day and year — an often controversial proposition. It also calls on schools to redesign the way they use time in order to beef up the curriculum and ensure students get a well-rounded education. The coalition's chairs are Chris Gabrieli, the longtime extended-day advocate who chairs the National Center on Time & Learning, and Ford Foundation president Luis Ubiñas. They have attracted more than 100 coalition members from across state, sector, and political lines, ranging from the CEO of Netflix to the president of the NAACP. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Chancellor Dennis Walcott, and State Education Commissioner John King have all signed on as well, committing to prioritize the expansion and redesign of school time in the coming years.
April 30, 2012
Cuomo names appointees to state education reform commission
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in January that he would convene a commission to set a course for reforming New York's schools, insiders said many members would likely come from out of state. That wasn't true when Cuomo revealed the composition of the commission in Albany today. All but a handful of the 20 commission members are based in New York, and about half are based in New York CIty. But the commission is still a far cry from the last panel Cuomo convened, a "think tank" of educators and advocates who advised the state in its bid to escape some federal accountability measures. Few of its members work in organizations that interact directly with children, even fewer are advocates, and there are no district representatives. There is also no parent advocate on the commission, even it is being asked to devise strategies to increase parent engagement. Instead, commission members are drawn from the highest levels of state government, the state and city university systems, and nonprofit organizations. They include State Education Commissioner John King, Assembly Education Committee Chair Catherine Nolan, and SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher. "It's very blue-ribbon," said CUNY education professor David Bloomfield about the panel's composition. "The establishment nature of the commission makes it less likely that they will come up with anti-establishment recommendations." Working under the leadership of chair Richard Parsons, a former head of CitiGroup and Time Warner; and top Cuomo deputies, they will have seven months to make recommendations about how to boost student achievement and make education spending more efficient. Cuomo said today that he wanted the recommendations to form "an action plan" for his administration.
April 30, 2012
Facing outcry from educators, Kenneth Cole to remove billboard
The Kenneth Cole billboard is visible from the West Side Highway, near 125th Street. Hundreds of angry educators from across the country seem to have taught the clothing retailer Kenneth Cole a lesson about diction—and union politics. Late last week we broke the news about a company billboard that invoked a loaded education policy issue using a slogan many teachers viewed as an attack on their profession. This weekend teachers and advocates responded, in a flurry of posts on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, and a petition 600 signatures strong, calling for a boycott of Cole's clothing company. Even national union leader Randi Weingarten waded into the fray with Twitter posts criticizing the company, which is headed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's brother-in-law. The company has now responded. This afternoon, Kenneth Cole Productions used Twitter to send a public message to the creator of the petition, a D.C. teacher-turned-activist, Sabrina Stevens Shupe, that it plans to remove the billboard. "We misrepresented the issue - one too complex for a billboard - and are taking it down," the company posted from its Twitter account,
March 15, 2012
UFT protesters create "cemetery" of Manhattan school closures
Present and former teachers from schools around the city that were targeted for closure rallied at Foley Square Thursday afternoon. Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew told teachers to dress for a funeral today. Teachers who worked at schools that the city has closed or is trying to close gathered at "Mayor Bloomberg's Cemetery" — actually Foley Square, in Lower Manhattan — to mourn the Bloomberg administration's school closure policies. Joined by about 60 union members, the teachers displayed pictures of tombstones etched with the names of schools the city has targeted for closure, including Bread and Roses High School, Legacy High School for Integrated Studies, Manhattan Theater Lab School.
October 12, 2011
Bruised by suit, advocates try persuasion to boost school funds
Panelists discuss a slate of new papers about school funding in New York at Teachers College Tuesday night. Michael Rebell led the Campaign for Fiscal Equity's landmark school finance lawsuit for 13 years, but for a long time the lawyer was conflicted about the case. He believed what he ultimately convinced the courts: that the state had given New York City schools less than their fair share of funding. But he was also persuaded by a counter-argument that he heard during the litigation: that more money wouldn't help schools whose biggest problem was poverty. And the lawsuit itself wasn't helping him reconcile the tension. "We have this adversary system for dealing with legal matters in our courts, where two warring sides take firm and opposite opinions," he said. "The truth is sometimes more complicated than that." Now, months after CFE laid off its last employee and the state trimmed the equity dollars for the second time, Rebell is trying a different approach to advocate for poor students. As the director of the Campaign for Educational Equity, a think tank housed at Columbia University's Teachers College, Rebell is setting out to win not a legal victory but the hearts and minds of policymakers. His first step: To solicit a set of academic papers, released this week and discussed at Teachers College Tuesday night, that make the case for what he calls "comprehensive educational equity." A main point of the papers is, as the CFE lawsuit contended and the New York Times reported earlier this week, that the state should give more to its schools — $4,750 per poor student, to be precise. But they also sketch out a policy platform that Rebell said could help close racial and class achievement gaps.
September 9, 2011
Ten years after 9/11, remembering New York City educators’ role in responding to tragedy
As the city commemorates the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, new attention is going to the largely unheralded role that educators played that day.
May 12, 2011
Thousands march from City Hall to Wall Street to oppose layoffs
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said the mayor should not have to lay off teachers given that Wall Street rebounded this year. CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the size of the rally. Thousands of people attended this afternoon's rally, according to multiple people who attended and other press accounts. Protesters came from multiple locations and then converged near Wall Street. Thousands of teachers joined elected officials in a symbolic march from City Hall to Wall Street this afternoon to protest Mayor Bloomberg's proposed budget cuts. “You took the money from us, now we’re going to where you sent the money,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, who helped lead the march along with national teachers union president Randi Weingarten and half a dozen City Council members. The march was designed to dramatize the argument that opponents of Bloomberg are making in response to his budget, which calls for laying off more than 4,000 teachers. In a year when Wall Street’s recovery contributed to a citywide surplus, they ask, why are teachers being laid off? “I never expected to come home to see New York act like Wisconsin,” Weingarten told the screaming crowd. Bloomberg has blamed the draconian budget on state cuts and pointed out that the surplus this year is not large enough to plug projected gaps next year — an assessment the Independent Budget Office seconded in a recent analysis.
March 7, 2011
Study: $75M teacher pay initiative did not improve achievement
New York City's heralded $75 million experiment in teacher incentive pay — deemed "transcendent" when it was announced in 2007 — did not increase student achievement at all, a new study by the Harvard economist Roland Fryer concludes. "If anything," Fryer writes of schools that participated in the program, "student achievement declined." Fryer and his team used state math and English test scores as the main indicator of academic achievement. Schools could distribute the bonus money based on individual teachers' results, but most did not. Most teachers received the average bonus of $3,000. The program, which was first funded by private foundations and then by taxpayer dollars, also had no impact on teacher behaviors that researchers measured. These included whether teachers stayed at their schools or in the city school district and how teachers described their job satisfaction and school quality in a survey. The program had only a "negligible" effect on a list of other measures that includes student attendance, behavioral problems, Regents exam scores, and high school graduation rates, the study found. The experiment targeted 200 high-need schools and 20,000 teachers between the 2007-2008 and 2009-2010 school years. The Bloomberg administration quietly discontinued it last year, turning back on the mayor's early vow to expand the program quickly. The program handed out bonuses based on the schools' results on the city's progress report cards. The report cards grade schools based primarily on how much progress they make in improving students' state test scores. A so-called "compensation team" at each school decided how to distribute the money — a maximum of $3,000 per teachers union member, if the school completely met its target, and $1,500 per union member if the school improved its report card score by 75%.
September 9, 2010
Before an edu film hits theaters, union leader goes on attack
Davis Guggenheim's education documentary "Waiting for Superman" doesn't come out for another two weeks, but teachers union president Randi Weingarten has already assumed a fighting stance. In an email sent to reporters yesterday — most likely in response to this NY Magazine review — Weingarten describes the movie as a moving, perhaps even emotionally manipulative, inaccurate portrayal of the public school system. She criticizes Guggenheim for his flattering portrayal of charter schools and goes so far as to say that most charter schools perform worse than district schools. They are "an escape hatch-sometimes superior, most often inferior," she writes. New York City's United Federation of Teachers runs a charter school in Brooklyn, which has recently received mixed performance reviews.
September 7, 2010
"Give it to me!" Klein says of D.C.'s teacher contract
Chancellor Joel Klein and city teachers union president Michael Mulgrew have been careful not to say too much in public about contract negotiations, which…
March 25, 2010
As ballots come in, a look at the teachers union elections
Tonight, as members of New York City's teachers union celebrate the union's 50th anniversary with a line up of political and labor celebrities, some of their members will be sitting at home or in schools filling out ballots. That's because the United Federation of Teachers is in the midst of an election for its president and governing executive board, as well as hundreds of other positions. To outsiders and even some teachers, UFT elections are a little puzzling. This year, there have been no stump speeches, no public debates, and the only tangible evidence that candidates are campaigning is the fliers distributed in teachers' school mailboxes and ads printed in the union's newspaper. The thousands of ballots counted on April 7 will decide the future leaders of America's largest union local, and one of the most influential in the state. The UFT's power to set education policy and craft pension deals in the city and statewide is so formidable, its former leader was once called "governor" in a newspaper editorial. And no matter how much the city detests the union's policies, even Mayor Bloomberg admitted today that "they are part of the solution."
March 1, 2010
We read the Moskowitz/Klein e-mails so that you don't have to
Joel Klein and Eva Moskowitz at the Harlem Success lottery in April 2009. (<em>GothamSchools</em>) There's a lot more than school siting and closures in the 77 pages of e-mails between Chancellor Joel Klein and charter school operator Eva Moskowitz. The e-mails, obtained by the Daily News, include a little bit of news — such as that Bill Clinton considered weighing in on the charter schools fight — and a lot of insight into the way Klein and Moskowitz think about the politics of education. We've read every word of the 150+ e-mails and have collected the highlights below. A PERSONAL CHALLENGE: Moskowitz puts her expansion goal in personal terms, in an April 2007 e-mail to Klein: "I plan to be educating 8,000 of your children by 2013." SHE DIDN'T LIKE THE TWEED WORKFORCE, EITHER. We know that district school leaders and parents often clashed with Garth Harries, the Tweed official who for years led efforts to insert small schools and charters into their buildings. Now we learn that Moskowitz fumed at him, too. On May 16, 2007, she praised a new Department of Education official, Tom Taratko, to Klein. "He got done in 2hrs what garth could not accomplish in 9 months," she declared, adding, "look out for him and hire more!!!!!" The more typical Tweed worker she describes this way: "maddening sluggishness and people afraid of their own shadows." POLITICKING FOR EXPANSION: In July 2007 Moskowitz described to Klein how she and her main financiers, John Petry and Joel Greenblatt, shored up support for her application to open three copies of the original Harlem Success Academy. They courted New York State Republican Committee chairman Ed Cox, who was at the time chairman of SUNY's charter board.
February 4, 2010
On linking test scores to tenure, a teachers union stands divided
Local teachers union president Michael Mulgrew appears to be at odds with his old boss, national union president Randi Weingarten, over the question of whether to link students’ test scores to teacher evaluations. In a speech delivered last month, Weingarten announced her newfound support for using test scores as a factor in deciding whether or not a teacher gets tenure. Following the speech, Mulgrew sent an email to United Federation of Teachers chapter leaders distancing himself from Weingarten's position. "Her proposals would require a climate of collaboration and trust that simply does not exist here," he wrote.
September 17, 2009
A Washington harbinger for New York ATR’s?
This is a bit old, but I just re-read the Washington Post’s story about the tentative contract agreement Michelle Rhee and Randi Weingarten…
August 18, 2009
Mulgrew's first move: Reel in veteran press flak Dick Riley
I got my first phone call from Dick Riley very soon after I started covering education at U.S. News & World Report. “Elizabeth, Dick…
August 7, 2009
The fruitful alliance of Arne Duncan and Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch and Arne Duncan. (Images via Creative Commons) The New York Post patted its own back today, hard, for helping the state renew the mayor's control of the public schools. The surprising thing is that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined in, thanking the newspaper, owned by the ambitious Rupert Murdoch, for its "leadership" and "thoughtfulness." New York City newspapers have a proud tradition of waging campaigns both on and off the editorial page, and then congratulating themselves when they hit their marks. But having a cabinet member for a sitting president join the cheering is more unusual. "I think that must be out of context, that Arne Duncan is giving the Post credit for mayoral control," the president of the principals' union, Ernest Logan, said when I called to ask his impression. The news series the Post ran extolling mayoral control Richard Colvin, who directs the Hechinger Institute for education journalism at Columbia University, said he found the whole news story baffling. "It reads like nothing I've ever seen. It reads like the worst kind of back-patting, self-congratulatory press release that has no perspective whatsoever," he said. Duncan's quote does illustrate a strange alliance that fought hard for mayoral control's renewal, Murdoch and the secretary of education among them.
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