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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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