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May 31, 2013
To teach teachers how to code, UFT launches training course
An organization founded to tackle one shortage area in computer science education is teaming up with the teachers union to address another. Girls Who Code, whose founder Reshma Saujani is running for citywide office this year, launched last year to address stark gender inequities that exist in computer science, one of the many job markets in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) where women are underrepresented. The organization's eight-week curriculum began last summer with 20 girls and will expand to 160 this summer, with new programs in Detroit and San Francisco as well. The organization will also be lending its curriculum out to help train a small group of 20 teachers, the United Federation of Teachers announced this week. The union is trying to keep pace with the evolving demands in career and technical education and union chief Michael Mulgrew said one challenge is retaining young math and science teachers, who leave "because we don't give them something engaging to do." "We're going to make the difference by doing it where it really counts, which is training the teachers so they can bring it inside of the classroom because that's where the students are," Mulgrew said this week at an event announcing the pilot, called "Teachers Who Code".
May 31, 2013
UFT picks nine more schools that will add web of social services
UFT President Michael Mulgrew visited the health clinic at Sunset Park High School, one of six community schools this year, on the first day of school. The union is adding up to a dozen additional schools to the program for the fall. The United Federation of Teachers won't wait for a new mayor to expand the school model that the union says could be key to boosting student success. This fall, at least nine and possibly as many as 12 schools across all five boroughs will turn into "community schools," offering a full range of social services to students and their families. They will join the half-dozen schools that already transitioned to the model this year, using a combination of union, city, and private funding. The UFT has made the community schools model a priority in the lead-up to the city's mayoral election. Touting the model as one that could mitigate against the many obstacles to academic achievement that poor children face, the union organized several trips to Cincinnati, where all district schools use partnerships with businesses and non-profits to provide an array of supports including early childhood education, classes for adults, food banks, and health, dental, and vision services.
May 29, 2013
As evaluations process kicks into final stages, King gets advice
State and local education officials are preparing to work through the weekend on a teacher evaluation system that will be imposed on New York City, an outcome that resulted from years of failed labor talks between the city and its teachers union. State Education Commissioner John King gets the final say on how city teachers will be evaluated using a process outlined earlier this month. He'll formally start that process on Thursday, when officials from the Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers each have four hours to present their cases during arbitration hearings. The Council on School Supervisors and Superintendents, which represents principals, is slotted to present during a four-hour block on Friday morning. King plans to release his plan, which is likely to borrow from each group's proposal but does not have to, by Saturday afternoon. City and union officials — and reporters — will then go into high gear to understand the process that King has devised, which will go into effect immediately for next year.
May 20, 2013
Extra pay for principals who heard Walcott speech is questioned
City principals who heard Chancellor Dennis Walcott deliver a stemwinding political speech on Saturday will get an extra day of summer vacation to make up for it. This year, for the first time, the Department of Education told principals that they could take a day off during the summer to compensate for attending the citywide principals conference, held Saturday at Brooklyn Technical High School. "To encourage attendance, any principal who attends the conference will receive one compensation day that can be used between June 27 and August 30," the department's weekly bulletin to principals said for at least the last two weeks. The tradeoff isn't sitting right with some, including UFT President Michael Mulgrew, whose union frequently battles the department to ensure that teachers are paid for time they spend working outside of the regular school day. Mulgrew cited the prohibition on city workers participating in political activity on the job. "You're using taxpayer dollars to pay New York City workers to come in and listen to you do a political rant," Mulgrew said. "It's at least inappropriate, but it really borders on questionable ethics."
May 15, 2013
Promising "an education city," Thompson sets schools agenda
Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson presented his education policy platform in a speech Wednesday at NYU. When former comptroller Bill Thompson took the stage at the United Federation of Teachers conference on Saturday, he joined fellow mayoral candidates in criticizing Mayor Bloomberg's education record. But Thompson, the former president of the city's Board of Education who ran against Bloomberg is 2009, took a more measured approach when putting together his formal education platform. He outlined the platform today in a policy speech at New York University, becoming the first candidate to set out a complete education agenda. Thompson's platform — which skimmed over some important issues — reflects ample criticism of Bloomberg administration education policies. He reiterated a commitment to avoid school closures, promised to "lead with teachers" rather than threaten them, vowed to involve parents in policy making, and pledged to reduce schools' emphasis on testing. But it also signals that Thompson would expand, not end, many of Bloomberg's school policies.
May 13, 2013
Candidates vie for UFT support, with varying degrees of success
Six mayoral candidates attended the United Federation of Teachers mayoral debate Saturday during the union's spring conference. Left to right: Bill Thompson, Adolfo Carrión, Jr., Christine Quinn, Bill de Blasio, Sal Albanese and John Liu. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn fought hard to distance herself from the Bloomberg administration during a mayoral debate hosted by the teachers union on Saturday, but she could not escape being the only candidate to be booed by union members angry at the mayor's education policies. When UFT officials asked the mayoral candidates at the teachers union's spring conference whether they believed the next chancellor needs to be an educator, Quinn's answer stood out from the chorus of "yes" responses. "Not necessarily," she said. It was not a new stance for Quinn, who has said for months that she believes a qualified non-educator could successfully lead the school system. But when she cited as someone who fit the bill U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, whose agenda overlaps with Bloomberg's, she drew loud boos from the crowd. It was a major misstep for Quinn, the Democratic frontrunner, as she worked to hit the right notes during the United Federation of Teachers' mayoral debate, which came a month before the union — one of the city's most powerful political forces — plans to endorse a mayoral candidate for the first time since 2001.
April 29, 2013
In UFT presidential election, retirees cast more than half of votes
More than half of the votes in last week's United Federation of Teachers leadership election came from retired union members, according to a final vote tally that the union released today. The complete count, released three days after the election, showed 19,808 votes for president from people who currently work in schools and 21,813 from retired members. The distribution reflects longstanding trends in union voting that were accelerated by dramatically lower turnout and a policy change that increased the weight of retirees' votes. Retirees make up a potent, and unusual, voting bloc in the UFT, one of the only labor unions in the country that allows retired members to continue to vote in union elections. They turn out in droves and almost always cast their ballots for the union's leadership. This year's election was no outlier, with 38 percent of retirees returning their ballots, compared to just 17 percent of active members.
April 25, 2013
New salvos in light fixture war between UFT and Eva Moskowitz
Parents and lawyers filed suit last year against Cobble Hill Success Academy, which the city now says replaced light fixtures in its shared building last summer without city permission. Tension between the teachers union and Success Academy Charter Schools operator Eva Moskowitz reached a new high — or low — today, with each side accusing the other of jeopardizing children's safety. UFT President Michael Mulgrew said Moskowitz had violated city construction rules, while Moskowitz connected the behavior of union workers to December's devastating school shooting in Newtown, Conn. The charged rhetoric stems from a dispute over light fixtures in the Brooklyn building that Success Academy shares with three other schools. Last week, the UFT joined Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a mayoral candidate, in calling for an investigation into how Success Academy's Cobble Hill school was rid of light fixtures containing toxic PCBs while the other schools in the building continued to have the lights. De Blasio alleged that the department had given Moskowitz's school preferential treatment. As it turns out, de Blasio was wrong. The department did not remove the lights from Success Academy's portion of the building — Success Academy simply had the lights removed in the course of other renovations, without the city's approval. (Moskowitz has said before that a benefit of running a charter school is that she has to pass through less red tape to get the light bulbs she likes.)
April 25, 2013
UFT President Michael Mulgrew reelected with 84 percent of vote
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew was reelected for a second full term today. Julie Cavanagh, who ran against Mulgrew, toasted other members of the MORE Caucus at a party after the vote. A drop in voter turnout and a stronger showing by an opposition group did not keep United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew from cruising to a second full term as union president today. Mulgrew was reelected with 84 percent of the vote over Julie Cavanagh, a candidate from an opposition group within the union. According to the union, he received 34,919 votes out of 41,681 that the American Arbitration Association counted today, with about 3 percent of ballots remaining to be tallied. In 2010, Mulgrew won his first full term by an even larger margin: 91 percent.
April 25, 2013
Ballot count, "like watching paint dry," underway in UFT election
P.S. 15 teacher Julie Cavanagh, seen during a campaign stop earlier this year, ran against UFT President Michael Mulgrew in this year's union elections, whose winners will be announced today. The United Federation of Teachers' internal election season comes to a close today when a vote count decides who will be the union's leader for the next three years. Current President Michael Mulgrew is expected to win another term easily, after garnering 91 percent of the vote three years ago. But more than 90 other positions are also being filled, many with significant decision-making power. The vote also offers an opportunity to gauge dissent within the union at a potentially pivotal moment for education in the city. The vote count is taking place at a Holiday Inn on 57th Street in Manhattan, where about 70 employees of the American Arbitration Association are processing ballots that have rolled in by mail from UFT members across the country. The UFT's elections committee decided that only union members can attend the public vote, according to Jeff Zaino, vice president of AAA, which handles elections for unions across the country. Representatives of each of the union's internal parties are on hand to observe the process.
April 12, 2013
Q&A: UFT chief Mulgrew readies his union for a “seismic shift”
UFT President Michael Mulgrew addresses Florida’s Retired Teacher Chapter at the chapter's annual luncheon. (Photo by Miller Photography)United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew runs the largest teachers union local in the country, representing the teachers of New York City. Like many teachers union affiliates nationwide, the UFT has been sparring with policymakers over issues such as merit pay, school closures, and charter schools, which pose a threat to union strength and which union leaders argue harm public education. Even as some national experts predict that teacher union power is waning, the UFT has won victories and its political influence remains strong. The Hechinger Report and GothamSchools spoke with Mulgrew at the union’s headquarters near Wall Street in downtown Manhattan about the biggest challenges facing the union and what the future looks like for the UFT. What was the biggest challenge you thought the union was facing when you started this job?
March 21, 2013
Teacher eval law changes could ease city-labor dispute (again)
For the second year in a row, legislators are revising the state's teacher evaluation law in part because of New York City's difficulties in complying with it. The legislature is expected to insert new language into the law to clarify that plans stay in effect even after they expire, according to officials briefed on the budget legislation, which has not been finalized. Concerns that a negotiated plan would default back to the current system was one reason talks between the Bloomberg administration and the United Federation of Teachers broke down earlier this year. The change would ensure that, moving forward, no districts could ever be without an evaluation system. To enforce that teachers are being evaluated according to the system, a new state aid penalty will be imposed on districts that fail to implement their plans.
March 5, 2013
As UFT elections get underway, dissenters face an uphill climb
P.S. 15 teacher Julie Cavanagh, speaking to teachers at Murry Bergtraum High School last week, is running against UFT President Michael Mulgrew in this year's union elections. It's been nearly three years since Michael Mulgrew was elected to his first full term at the helm of the United Federation of Teachers, which means election season has arrived for the city's teachers union. As would-be candidates work to meet Wednesday's deadline to collect the signatures they need to get on the ballots in April, we'll be keeping you up to date on Mulgrew's re-election bid and about what to expect from the changing union landscape. What is clear is that there won't be much suspense in the race for UFT president, as Mulgrew will almost certainly coast to a second full term. He's backed by the union's longtime dominant party, Unity, whose presidential candidate typically wins by a landslide. Three years ago, Mulgrew received 91 percent of the vote. The unified support that the union's leadership typically receives is one of many ways that the union has remained powerful in the face of threats. In other ways, too, the elections are about more than Mulgrew. There will be hundreds of positions on the ballot, including 90 executive board positions and delegates to the national and state unions, many with significant ability to impact decision-making. The vote totals also offer an opportunity to gauge dissent within the union — and this year, the dissenters are working hard to harness their power.
February 28, 2013
Newly hatched Common Core curriculums get city endorsement
For the first time since 2003, the Department of Education has revised its curriculum recommendations for schools. The new recommendations are meant to guide schools through the myriad curriculum options on the market to those that best reflect new learning standards known as the Common Core. Students across the state are set to take math and reading tests aligned to the tougher new standards in April. After scrutinizing 40 programs produced by 19 companies that met the city's basic standards, teachers and Department of Education officials endorsed elementary and middle school reading and math programs from three of the largest publishing companies, including Pearson, which is also producing the state tests. The city is also encouraging schools to consider adopting literacy curriculums that the state hired two nonprofit organizations, Core Knowledge and Expeditionary Learning, to produce. Schools don't have to take the department's advice. They can use other curriculum programs, including the ones that they have already been using, or create their own materials. Currently, about 70 percent of schools opt to use the city's recommended curriculums, which for most schools were originally required a decade ago in one of former chancellor Joel Klein's earliest initiatives. Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew, who has criticized the city and state for holding teachers accountable for adapting to the Common Core without giving them a curriculum based on the standards, said today's announcement represented a major step forward.
February 26, 2013
UFT Charter School to stay open with conditions and co-location
Students read books at the UFT Charter School, which narrowly escaped closure today. The struggling school will be allowed to stay open for at least another two years. The UFT Charter School received a two-year lifeline today, thanks in part to a city policy that the teachers union has opposed in the past. The Department of Education's proposal to move the school's struggling middle grades under the same roof as the elementary school next year was an important reason that authorizers voted to renew the school's charter for two more years, state officials said today. The school now faces an automatic "death penalty" in 2015 if academic performance doesn't improve. "I don't want to have another round of this," said Joseph Belluck, chairman of SUNY's Charter Schools Committee. "Now is their time to show they can do this."
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