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.
Jenny Medina, in her Sunday New York Times article on class size, quotes Mayor Mike Bloomberg as calling class size “an interesting number.” “It’s the teacher looking a child in the eye, and teachers can look lots of children in the eye,” he said. “If you have to have smaller class size or better teachers, go with the better teachers every time." skoolboy thinks this is idiotic. “It’s the teacher looking a child in the eye”? What does that even mean? How much time has Mayor Mike spent looking children in the eye in real classrooms? Is looking children in the eye the key to good teaching? Somehow, I thought it was more complicated than that. No, Mayor Mike will go with “better teachers” over smaller classes every time—as if it’s all that easy to identify these better teachers. Then there’s the thorny problem that who is identified as a “better teacher” may depend on a teacher’s access to adequate resources—and a smaller class with fewer disruptive students may be such a resource.
The blue line represents parents grading the system an A or B; the green line is parents who gave it a D or F. To prove that parents — and especially poor parents — approve of the changes that Mayor Bloomberg has brought to the schools, his administration often cites data collected by a group called the Community Service Society, which every year conducts a survey of low-income families called "The Unheard Third." The troubling thing about this data is that it doesn't exist anywhere on the Internet. (When I referred to it earlier today, I just plucked the figures Klein cites.) Until now! Thanks to a spokeswoman at CSS who just called me back, I've got the numbers from all the surveys that asked a question about the school system since 2002. They tell a story that is encouraging, but less black and white than Klein has had it. "We don't want to paint such a rosy picture that people say, 'Oh, everything is good,' because it truly is not," the spokeswoman, Tracy Mumford, told me. The data suggest that more parents gave the school system a high A or B grade on the survey in 2007 than did so in 2002: The number is up to 35% from 22%. Less encouragingly, the percentage of families who grade the system an F, 11%, is still higher than the percentage who grade it an A, 9%, and the F percentage has been climbing since 2005. C remains the most common grade by far, and the portion of parents grading the schools a C has actually risen since 2002, by one percentage point. The figures also suggest that the path to higher satisfaction has been bumpy, with parent upset rising to a peak in 2005 — the same year Mayor Bloomberg won re-election. The result is that while the portion of parents giving D and F grades has fallen substantially since 2005, the change since 2002 is less dramatic. Here's one other way to look at the figures graphically, below the jump, plus a chart showing the raw numbers:
I believe that our current system of teacher certification requirements could be greatly improved. I think we should focus more on competency exams and less on required coursework, especially if that coursework has a questionable relationship to teacher effectiveness. Also, I think we should liberalize the ability of high-performing schools to make exceptions to any coursework-related certification requirements. When I debate this issue, perhaps the most common questions revolve around comparisons to doctors and lawyers. Would you go to a doctor who didn't go to medical school? Do you think lawyers shouldn't have to go to law school? Here are some of my thoughts on these questions. 1. In general, I don't have the option to see a doctor or lawyer who didn't go to professional school. (Lawyers, in a few states, can be admitted to the bar without completing law school, but this is uncommon.) Before the 20th century, I would have had more choices, but movements lead by the medical and law schools and by professionals who were concerned with excessive competition have managed to eliminate almost all alternative routes. (I recommend "The Social Transformation of American Medicine" by Paul Starr and "American Law in the 20th Century" by Lawrence Friedman for the gory details.) Here is some advice from one well-known lawyer who couldn't afford law school.
A new Marist poll asked voters if they approved of the mayor's handling of nine different areas, including education. His handling of the public schools may be second only to crime on Mayor Bloomberg's bragging list, but a new Marist poll finds that voters rate his handling of the schools second to last, below crime, security, taxes, and even public transportation. The portion of voters who approve of Bloomberg's schools policy, 40%, was higher only than the portion who approve of his handling of unemployment, 36%. By contrast, 71% of voters said they approve of the mayor's handling of crime, 50% said they approve of his economic development work, and 41% said they approve of his work with public transportation. Several of these policy areas generated higher approval ratings than the last time Marist asked these questions, in 2005. The approval rating on schools did not change, while the disapproval rating dropped one percentage point, to 52% from 53%. The poll adds to a small and decidedly mixed body of public opinion data on the school reforms Bloomberg undertook in 2002.
I grew up in a Pennsylvania town with a country club that didn’t admit blacks and Jews. The exclusion was taken for granted, even in these minority communities; there were no public protests or even public acknowledgment of the situation, and I think that over time it came to feel natural or normal. There were other choices for those blacks and Jews who wanted a place to swim, play golf, or play tennis. The country club didn’t seem to be in the domain of possible choices. My guess is that the black and Jewish members of the other clubs in town would have expressed satisfaction with their choices. But the fact is that blacks and Jews were excluded from the country club, even if they reported being satisfied with the clubs they chose. I was reminded of the country club when I read the U.S. Office of Civil Rights (OCR) disposition of David Bloomfield’s complaint about small high schools in New York City excluding students with disabilities and limited English proficient students. Based on data provided by the NYC DOE, the OCR determined that there was insufficient evidence that the DOE’s policy of an “optional waiting period” allowing new small high schools in New York City to defer admitting disabled students or students with limited English proficiency was excluding disabled and limited English proficient students from the new small high schools during the first three years of each small school’s existence. If the data that the DOE submitted to OCR hold up under closer scrutiny, that’s good news for rising ninth-grade students with disabilities and with limited English proficiency – although perhaps thin gruel for those disabled and LEP students in the past who sought entry to a small high school that did not welcome them. “Phase-in” policies often disadvantage some in the short-run in the hopes of benefiting more in the long-run, and there are legitimate arguments for and against such policies.
The national branch of our local teachers union apparently has decided that the story of the KIPP charter school network's alleged resistance to a unionizing drive is a national story. I just got a fancy memorandum from the American Federation of Teachers' press office addressed to "Education Writers." The memo, titled "KIPP AMP Unionization Facts," summarizes the story and offers to put journalists in touch with the Brooklyn teachers waging the campaign. It includes more detailed language describing one of the accusations than I had heard before: Under the guise of discussing testing, school leaders met with students and asked them for “dirt” on the teachers who favor unionization. As inappropriate as that is on its face, the meeting also took place during the school day, interfering with instructional time. This behavior does not fit into KIPP’s five pillars: high expectations, choice and commitment, more time, power to lead and focus on results. I called Dave Levin, the superintendent of New York City KIPP schools, for comment not too long ago but haven't heard back yet. Here's the full memo: