Dave Levin

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New York

A new graduate school of education, Relay, to open next fall

The logo of Teacher U, whose founders will create a stand-alone graduate school of education called Relay. The founders of Teacher U, the nonprofit organization that developed a novel way of preparing teachers for low-income schools, will create their own graduate school of education, following a vote by the Board of Regents last week. The new Relay School of Education will be the first stand-alone graduate school of education to open in New York since 1916, when Bank Street College of Education was founded, and the first in memory to prepare teachers while they are serving full-time in classrooms. The new institution will open its doors next fall; current Teacher U students will remain enrolled at their partner school of education, the City University of New York's Hunter College. The Regents' decision inserts a new model for preparing K-12 teachers into New York's education landscape. Unlike alternative certification programs such as Teach for America and the New York City Teaching Fellows, Relay will not rely on existing colleges to provide its teachers with coursework required for certification; the new graduate school of education will design and deliver all of those courses itself. And Relay will likely take teachers who come into the school system through alternative programs like TFA. Meanwhile, unlike most traditional schools of education, Relay will make training teachers its sole priority and will make proven student learning gains a requirement of receiving a Master's degree. The new school has already generated opposition from several existing schools of education, including from a top official at CUNY. In formal responses to the Teacher U group's proposal, leaders of existing schools cited concerns about quality and the fact that, as officials at Fordham University put it, a new graduate school of education would be "duplicative in a market with sufficient program offerings," according to a summary of concerns(PDF) made public by the Regents. The Board of Regents approved the proposal with a unanimous vote and one abstention last week nevertheless, said Tom Dunn, a spokesman for the state education department. He added that State Education Commissioner David Steiner, who helped form Teacher U in his last job as dean of the school of education at Hunter College, recused himself from discussions about the application. During recent visits to Teacher U's current program, instruction topics ranged from how to tailor reading discussions to the racial and class backgrounds of students to how to write on a white board without covering your face with your writing arm. Much of Teacher U's curriculum is devoted to passing on lessons learned by teachers at the charter schools that founded Teacher U, such as those collected by Uncommon Schools managing director Doug Lemov in his book Teach Like a Champion.
New York

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.
New York

Union: KIPP charter leaders are waging an intimidation campaign

The city teachers union is accusing the elite KIPP charter school network of waging an intimidation campaign against teachers who are trying to unionize. The dispute began in January, when teachers at a Brooklyn KIPP school shocked the charter school world by petitioning to join the powerful United Federation of Teachers. At the time, Dave Levin, KIPP’s cofounder and the superintendent of its New York City schools, indicated that he was open to working with the union — even though many KIPP supporters oppose working with unions, which they argue block schools’ ability to teach at-risk urban students by imposing strict work rules on schools. (KIPP stands for the Knowledge is Power Program.) Now, the union is accusing Levin of urging teachers not to unionize and painting a bleak picture of what will happen if they do. The accusations are cataloged in two complaints the UFT sent to the state labor board in the last nine days arguing that KIPP is improperly blocking teachers’ ability to unionize. The latest complaint, filed Wednesday, adds to complaints first aired in a Sunday New York Times story reporting that KIPP is resisting the teachers' organizing drive. The complaints accuse a KIPP human resources official of telling teachers that he is concerned that the Brooklyn school will lose its affiliation with the KIPP network if they organize; they accuse the school's founding principal, Ky Adderley, of sitting in the hallway every day to monitor teachers, and they accuse Levin of making a rare attendance at a staff meeting to encourage teachers to reverse their decision to unionize. Levin and a KIPP spokesman did not return telephone messages requesting comment today.
New York

Could KIPP unionization pave a new path for teacher tenure?

There are a lot of questions floating around about the KIPP schools' unionization, which, according to two major players, was a surprise even to Dave Levin, KIPP's cofounder and the superintendent of New York City KIPP schools. People are guessing at exactly how high is turnover at KIPP AMP. (Levin told me this morning that he doesn't know the exact data but promised to get back to me.) They're wondering whether more elite charter schools will unionize next. (Open question, though charter teachers across the city were contacted about joining up with the union last year.) The most important thing to follow, I think, is what kind of labor contract the KIPP teachers end up negotiating. How will the contract handle job protection? Will it go the extreme route of a virtual job for life, or will it allow for discrimination between effective and ineffective teachers? If it does the latter, what will be the definition of an "effective" teacher? I got some hints of what's to come — or at least what the union wants — in a conversation with Randi Weingarten, the union president, yesterday. Weingarten said she is not in favor of offering "tenure" that means a "job for life." Instead, she said that a contract should force administrators to prove that they have "just cause" before they let an employee go. "Just cause" can mean the extreme case of, say, having sex with a student. Weingarten said that it can also mean the trickier matter of incompetence. Here's how Weingarten explained "just cause" to me: Tenure has been interpreted very, very differently. But it shouldn’t be. Tenure was never intended to be a job for life. Tenure is supposed to be a process, due process, so that you promote excellence and you guide against arbitrariness. What this sounds a lot like is the contract that Green Dot charter school teachers have in Los Angeles, finding a sweet spot between the extreme of so much job protection that bad teachers stay in the profession and so little that teachers feel constantly threatened.
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