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March 6, 2018
Top school choice group advising Puerto Rico on controversial efforts to expand charters and vouchers
EdChoice, a group that backs school vouchers, is preparing to help Puerto Rico officials expand school choice, or what critics there have called “privatization.”
January 30, 2018
Cary Kennedy ‘aligns with all of our issues and values,’ teachers union president says in endorsement
Former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy has made increasing teacher pay a key part of her educational platform.
DeVos on offense
January 16, 2018
DeVos criticizes Bush-Obama policies, saying it’s time to overhaul conventional schooling
One era of federal involvement in education is over, Betsy DeVos said Tuesday, in some of her most expansive public remarks since taking over the department last year.
Ending the churn
October 19, 2017
A splintered system and lack of teachers have created instability for Detroit schools. Now, leaders are craving solutions.
Liberal school choice laws, a decentralized school system and a shrinking pool of available teachers have so destabilized the teacher labor force that many school leaders say they’re constantly looking for new educators to hire
Week In Review
October 6, 2017
Week In Review: Count Day pizza, ‘Burger King’ money, and a teachers union spy
The slushies, ice cream, and raffle prizes that schools across the state used this week to lure students to school on Count Day…
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.
July 27, 2016
Teachers brave heat to vent anger over ALEC’s influence on Indiana education laws
Most of their complaints focused on the state’s private school tuition voucher program.
February 16, 2015
Ritz rallies supporters against efforts to limit her power at Statehouse
Gov. Mike Pence, Republican legislators and his appointed State Board of Education's refusal to respect Ritz's authority as state superintendent — including targeting her in several bills this year aimed at removing her from leading the Indiana State Board of Education — is what prompted the Indiana Coalition for Public Education to plan the rally.
July 3, 2014
NEA president: Current testing system “will crumble”
The president of the National Education Association Wednesday called for a massive reduction in the amount of student testing and predicted accountability systems based on such assessments “will crumble.”
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.
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.
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 the…
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 24, 2013
AFT social media site joins growing list of free curriculum aids
Adam Feinberg, a high school global studies teacher, posted the most documents of any New York City teacher on ShareMyLesson.com, a new union social media website. It was more than just altruism that drove Adam Feinberg to post hundreds of instructional materials online for his colleagues around the world to use. There was also, he hoped, a wedding gift waiting for him when he was done. Feinberg, a global studies teacher at the Secondary School for Law in Brooklyn, was jockeying for a vacation prize that American Federation of Teachers offered to the teacher who posted the most documents to ShareMyLesson.com, the union's new curriculum-sharing website. Feinberg's tally of over 300 worksheets, lesson plans, and slideshows won him $5,000 to pay for his European honeymoon. The website, which the AFT launched in partnership with the British publishing company TSL Education last year, is part of a growing online ecosystem that has emerged in recent years as educators across the country confront the challenge of transitioning to new Common Core standards. Existing curriculum materials are not aligned to the new standards, which emphasis text skills, non-fiction, and critical thinking.
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.
April 23, 2010
After opting in, KIPP staff vote themselves out of teachers union
KIPP New York City's logo, from its web site. Middle school teachers at a KIPP charter school in Brooklyn asked the state this week to let them split from the city teachers union, more than a year after teachers at the same school voted to unionize. The union plans to fight the decision, saying that a group of teachers remain committed to becoming United Federation of Teachers members. Sixteen staff members signed the petition to break from the UFT. The petition was spearheaded by a guidance counselor named Dameon Clay, his attorney said. Staff who signed the petition include classroom teachers as well as social workers, the dean of teaching and learning, an operations manager, and the office manager. I couldn't reach any of the teachers for comment, but Lyle Zuckerman, the attorney representing Clay, said the decision was a judgment about how the teachers could best help themselves and their students. "I think they've come to the conclusion that their goals and the educational mission of the school is just going to best be served by them having a direct relationship with the school's administration," Zuckerman said. When they first voted to unionize, teachers at KIPP AMP said they wanted to “create a more sustainable culture so that we can better serve our students and reduce teacher turnover.” At least three teachers who had formed the initial organizing committee at the school are now signing the petition to break from the union. One is Kashi Nelson, a classroom teacher who also sends her daughter to KIPP AMP and who explained her reversal to Alexander Russo last year.
July 13, 2009
On D.C. stage, Weingarten urges officials to work with unions
From Randi Weingarten's speech to a national union conference in D.C., where she is now being joined by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at a town hall-style meeting: I hope you're as outraged as I am when our critics say that unions are part of the problem, not the solution; that we are only in it for ourselves; that we represent adults against kids; and that we are a selfish special interest set against the public interest. We won't let them take away our jobs. We won't let them cut our pay. We won't let them plunder our pensions. And I will be damned if I let them define who we are. Because nobody-nobody-goes into teaching to feather his or her own nest. And this union, which proudly works on its members' behalf, has always been about something bigger. That is why we fight-24/7/365-for the social and economic conditions that will help our students do better in school. Apparently pins being handed out to members say "with us, not to us." The conference, called QuEST, focuses on best practices for teaching and learning. Weingarten is the president of the American Federation of Teachers, and her term as president of the New York City union expires at the end of the month. Her full prepared remarks are below:
July 10, 2009
A group of 28 sets out to make a fair teacher evaluation system
A group of 28 teachers, administrators, and policymakers have taken on a lofty summer assignment: They plan to come up with an ideal teacher evaluation system, or at least a report explaining the "essential elements" of one, and to do it by the fall. The effort is the latest in a string of reports and announcements focusing on the way teachers are evaluated, a process that has been called broken by everyone from teachers union officials to The New Teacher Project, a nonprofit created by Michelle Rhee. A report by The New Teacher Project called evaluation systems "largely meaningless," and the American Federation of Teachers union has launched an internal working group to build its own recommendations for what comprises a fair evaluation system. A novel nonprofit called Hope Street Group is behind the effort to involve educators in the debate. Created in 2003 as a volunteer-only experiment, Hope Street Group now has a full-time staff that works to build "coalitions of the reasonable" around domestic policy questions by gathering diverse groups of people to solve them together.
July 9, 2009
Obama official to New York: Change your tenure law or else
PHOTO: Kayleigh SkinnerJoanne Weiss The Obama administration official in charge of an educational innovation fund yesterday issued a warning to a New York audience: Unless the state legislature revises a law now on the books about teacher tenure, the state could lose out on the $4.35 billion fund she controls. Joanne Weiss said the Obama administration aims to reward states that use student achievement as a "predominant" part of teacher evaluations with the extra stimulus funds — and pass over those that don't. New York state law currently bans using student data as a factor in tenure decisions. Test scores aren't everything, Weiss said. "But it seems illogical and indefensible to assume that those aren't part of the solution at all," she said, echoing nearly word-for-word Education Secretary Arne Duncan's remarks last week to the National Education Association. The pessimism about New York's policies is a departure from Duncan's tone during a visit to New York City in February, when he was cheery about the state's chances in the competition. Duncan also briefly mentioned New York as one of several states whose firewalls around student and teacher data need to come down in a recent speech, and he indicated that New York's cap on charter schools may also hurt the state's chances at a slice of the stimulus pie. Weiss, who worked at the New Schools Venture Fund before heading to Washington, said the "disadvantage" of the tenure law to New York could be counterbalanced by efforts here that the Obama administration admires. She praised a New York City program that is evaluating individual teachers based on their students' test scores. One strength of the program, Weiss said, is that city teachers generally accept the evaluations as an accurate and fair assessment of their performance.
June 24, 2009
With tears in her eyes, Weingarten says goodbye to New York
Teachers union president Randi Weingarten made her New York City goodbye official tonight before a standing-room-only audience of union delegates. The group gave her two standing ovations and spontaneous cheers, including one woman who proclaimed, "You're my hero!" Weingarten said that her resignation from the United Federation of Teachers presidency will be effective on July 31st. For roughly one year, Weingarten has been president of both the United Federation of Teachers local union and the national American Federation of Teachers — “even though each job is more than full-time, deserving 24/7 attention,” she said. Citing the need for each union to have its own full-time president, she said she was stepping aside “to ensure a smooth transition for the UFT.” Weingarten has said that she favors handing the reins of the New York City union to Michael Mulgrew, who now serves as chief operating officer. The union's executive board will decide who to name interim president in the next month.
May 18, 2009
Weingarten: Stimulus money should fund community schools
The special pot of federal stimulus dollars for schools known as the “Race to the Top” money should go toward extra services outside of education,…
May 1, 2009
Foundation-, union-led "innovation fund" is seeking grantees
Four major foundations that have for years poured resources into growing charter schools this week announced that they are also giving money to the American Federation of Teachers, the national teachers union. Their donations are paying for an "Innovation Fund" that would let teachers pilot reforms in their own schools. Along with representatives of the Gates, Broad, Ford, and Mott foundations, Randi Weingarten announced the fund's creation at an event in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. (Weingarten is the head of the AFT as well as New York City's local union.) An informative video the AFT produced from the event is below the jump. Contrary to what some critics have charged, unions are a natural engine for innovation because they can insulate their members from retribution if their risks don't pan out, Weingarten said on Tuesday. "Collective bargaining allows teachers to take well-considered risks," she said. "If teachers are afraid to do something outside the norm because their evaluations or their jobs are on the line, they may be less inclined to give change a chance." Now, the AFT is asking local affiliates to suggest projects for the first round of Innovation Fund grants. Priority will go to projects that aim to develop new compensation and evaluation systems for teachers, or projects that extend learning time for students. If I know nothing else, I know that GothamSchools readers are full of ideas about how to improve schools. What do you think the Innovation Fund should support? Leave a comment with your suggestions.
February 23, 2009
Union launches "BE NICE" campaign against KIPP founders
Part of the flier the union sent out today. In its campaign to unionize a KIPP charter school in Brooklyn, the national American Federation of Teachers union has a new target: other teachers in the wide KIPP network. The AFT today reached out to KIPP teachers from San Jose to D.C. to Boston, asking them to join an e-mail campaign to urge the charter network's co-founders to recognize the union. The saga began earlier this year, when 15 teachers at the Brooklyn school, called KIPP AMP, told school officials that they want to form a union with the help of the local United Federation of Teachers. They said a union would help them feel more secure in their jobs and have a stronger say in building their school. KIPP leaders, who have traditionally touted their freedom from teachers unions as a strength, because it allows them to hire and fire as they please, could have recognized the union and worked with it. Instead, they have hedged — and even indicated they might fight back against the teachers or drop their affiliation with the Brooklyn school. A state labor board is now considering the teachers' petitions. (And the group of teachers, meanwhile, has swelled to 16 from 15.) The fliers sent today ask KIPP teachers to send e-mail messages to KIPP's co-founders, Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg, asking them to recognize the union — and offer teachers tips on how they could form a union themselves. Titled "BE NICE," a riff on the KIPP motto, "Work Hard. Be Nice," the fliers narrate the story of how Levin and Feinberg founded KIPP 14 years ago. "They put good ideas together with hard work and a relentless drive," the flier says. "They also worked for supportive administrators who gave Dave and Mike the power they wanted to start a new program." The flier goes on: Today in Brooklyn, a dedicated group of KIPP teachers and parents want the same thing and they're forming a union and PTA to have a stronger voice. They're asking for the power to add their own knowledge to the program and to sustain the school's success. Full flier is below the jump.
December 17, 2008
How far from complete are the city's efforts to expand pre-K?
Talking about Barack Obama's hopes for expanding early childhood education (school for 3- and 4-year-olds) Sam Dillon reports in the Times this morning that, despite efforts to make pre-kindergarten available, New York State's efforts are "far from complete." How far? Pretty far. There are two areas to pay attention to: access (how many 4-year-olds are actually enrolled in programs) and quality (are the programs doing real teaching or simply baby-sitting?). Let's start with access. New York City advocates told me last year that they estimate demand for pre-kindergarten in the city at about 75,000 4-year-olds. Yet the number of 4-year-olds who are taking part so far this year is 54,000. That represents a steady increase from years past, the Department of Education's director of early childhood education, Recy B. Dunn, just told me in a telephone interview. But it's still far away from universal — and it's also below the number of seats the state agreed to pay for this year, 60,000, a package that would cost just over $230 million, Dunn said. The picture statewide is arguably bleaker. Winnie Hu of the Times reported last year that only 38% of 4-year-olds in the state participated in programs.
November 26, 2008
Mass. charter school unionizes under AFT, in a first for the state
Teachers at a small charter school in Brighton, Massachusetts, have decided to unionize under the American Federation of Teachers union, the Boston Globe reports. The teachers reportedly had complaints about management — which is interesting also because the school leader, Diana Lam, appears to be the same Diana Lam who was ousted as Joel Klein's first deputy chancellor in a nepotism scandal. This is a clear victory for the AFT, which has been campaigning to bring charter school teachers under its fold in New York and nationally. But is it a loss for the charter school world and, more importantly, for children? Charter leaders in Massachusetts are reacting with vocal concern, much more than I saw raised here when a few charter schools unionized. Here, charter leaders have quietly sought to counteract union efforts to organize teachers, offering information on the downsides as well as the up-sides of unionization, but supporters have also welcomed warmly a unionized charter school, Green Dot, to the Bronx. The Globe quotes the school's board chairwoman, Stephanie Perrin
November 6, 2008
Randi Weingarten on Joel Klein as Ed Sec: "an old rumor"
Chancellor Joel Klein smiled when reporters asked him what he thought about being mentioned in yesterday's Washington Post as a possible Secretary of Education for Barack Obama. (He was mentioned twice: in a news story and in this column by Ruth Marcus.) The president of the teachers union, Randi Weingarten, who was recently named head of a national teachers union, probably had a different expression on her face. She called the mention of Klein an "old rumor" that surfaced because Klein is friends with Washington reporters who don't know the day-to-day realities of the city schools. She suggested that Klein would be a poor choice for Secretary of Education. "This is a period of time where everybody has to step up and share responsibility," she said. "One of the reasons that the teachers in New York City are deeply troubled about Joel Klein is because he’s had a history of being a lightning rod."
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