human capital

UFT wants city to reconsider Teaching Fellows program

UFT President Michael Mulgrew is urging the de Blasio administration to reconsider the city’s flagship teacher training program after a union survey found that few graduates say their preparation was “excellent.”

Just 5 percent of teachers who answered the union’s survey said their training through the city’s Teaching Fellows program was “excellent,” compared to 21 percent of graduates of education schools.

And while 18 percent of education school graduates called their training “poor” or “fair,” that figure was nearly 50 percent for Teaching Fellows.

The findings were based on responses to a wide-ranging survey that the union sent to 2,500 randomly selected members. It received more than 800 responses, including from 81 Teaching Fellows and 636 teachers who came through traditional pathways. (The number of Teach for America teachers who answered the survey was too small to generate a finding, the union said.)

Since 2000, the Teaching Fellows program has placed new teachers, many entering their second careers, in high-need classrooms after a summer of intensive training. Then the fellows teach full-time while also working toward master’s degrees in traditional education schools. In contrast, graduates of education schools have previously committed to careers in the classroom and have had at least one full year of training, including a stint as a student teacher.

The Department of Education pays TNTP, a nonprofit group that also lobbies on teacher quality issues including in favor of evaluations that consider student test scores, to operate the Teaching Fellows program. Now, the union wants the city to reconsider that contract.

“Teaching in our schools is tough job, particularly if you feel that your training program didn’t really prepare you for the challenges of a New York City classroom,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement. “Given the millions of dollars that the Bloomberg administration spent on this contract, I hope the new leadership at Tweed makes it part of its review of all the Bloomberg-era deals, many of which have years to run.”

Noting that current and former fellows comprise more than 9,000 of the city’s teachers, a TNTP spokeswoman criticized the survey as offering “little insight about how the Fellows actually feel about their preparation.”

“A response rate below one percent is unlikely to be indicative of Fellows at-large or to stand up to scientific scrutiny,” said the spokeswoman, who also pointed to studies that showed the program’s graduates improved student learning more than those of traditional programs.

(Teaching Fellows make up 11 percent of the city’s teaching force and about 10 percent of the survey respondents. But the number of Teaching Fellows who responded to the survey reflected less than 1 percent of the 9,000 graduates of the program teaching in city schools right now.)

The finding comes as Chancellor Carmen Fariña is poised to reshape the ways that the city prepares new teachers. While Fariña has said little about teacher training since taking office at the beginning of the year, she has emphasized the value of experience in other areas, most notably setting a new experience requirement for school administrators. She has also pledged to build stronger relationships with local schools of education as the city adjusts its teacher hiring needs to reflect its pre-kindergarten expansion plan.

The survey was wide-ranging and covered the Common Core standards, teaching conditions, and education policy questions, according to a spokesman for the union, Dick Riley. Its aim was to establish a set of questions that could be asked of teachers annually, and more results will be published in the union’s newspaper, Riley said.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”