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January 13, 2009
The raw materials of KIPP teachers' unionizing efforts
Per request, I’m uploading the letters the KIPP charter school teachers in Brooklyn wrote explaining their decision to form a union. A tiny, wonderful…
January 13, 2009
Citing high turnover, Brooklyn KIPP teachers are unionizing
The logo from KIPP AMP's ##http://www.kippamp.org/home/index.asp##web site##. If I hadn't spent the last several hours in a meeting, I would have conveyed this dramatic news sooner: Teachers at one of the country's most prominent charter school networks, KIPP, have decided to buck their board members' skeptical attitudes towards teachers unions — and organize. Fifteen of 20 teachers at KIPP AMP in Brooklyn, a middle school, today sent a letter to the school's board of trustees declaring their intention to form a union with the United Federation of Teachers. The president of the union, Randi Weingarten, signed the letter. In letters to fellow city teachers, the KIPP AMP teachers explain that they want to "create a more sustainable culture so that we can better serve our students and reduce teacher turnover." They said they're asking for a "basic contract" that sounds, in their short description, kind of like the slim, tenure-less Green Dot contract: Administrators would have to prove "just cause" before firing a teacher, and discipline would follow a graduate scale, including measures to support struggling teachers. The union also announced today that teachers at a second KIPP charter school, KIPP Infinity, would like to enter collective bargaining talks. KIPP Infinity's teachers were already represented by the union, in an agreement that guaranteed them health insurance and other benefits, but now want to negotiate a job contract. In a letter released today, UFT official Michael Mendel asked KIPP Infinity's board for detailed information on the school's employees and their salary and benefits details. The two moves represents a dramatic victory for the UFT, which has been campaigning to bring charter school teachers into its fold for at least the last year.
January 12, 2009
What it looks like when an urban public school teacher is fired
Something has happened to the charter school teacher who blogs at Mildly Melancholy that almost never happens at traditional public schools: She has been forced…
December 18, 2008
All the pre-teens are knitting, a charter school teacher says
Teacher-blogger Mildly Melancholy notices a trend at her charter school: knitting is infecting the grade like the chickenpox! All kinds of kids are interested,…
December 16, 2008
Does Arne Duncan use a computer? His office says yes he does
A commenter named Scott raised readers' eyebrows by declaring that Obama's choice for education secretary, Arne Duncan, doesn't use a computer. Scott added, intriguingly, that: "His secretary prints out the emails he receives, he writes the response and the secretary responds. The man literally does not know how to use a computer." Not exactly, according to two spokesmen I just talked to at the Chicago public schools headquarters. It is true, they said, that Duncan sometimes has his assistant, a woman named Maribel, print out his e-mail messages for him. But he does have a computer, and he sometimes reads his own e-mail with it. He also carries a Blackberry. Said spokesman Mike Vaughn: "He’s out at schools all the time, meeting with principals and meeting with administrators, meeting with kids and teachers, various meetings throughout the city. He does not spend a whole lot of time at his desk. But there are times when he sits at his desk and reads his emails, there’s times that he responds to them with Maribel, there's times that he responds with his Blackberry." Another spokesman, Malon Edwards, said Duncan has championed bringing technology to education.
December 2, 2008
What should a conference on charter schools discuss?
A national charter school advocacy group is looking for help in creating its summer conference in D.C. Have an idea for a good session topic?…
November 26, 2008
As school year began, officials retreated north to discuss future
From an invitation advertising the retreat. Here's an interesting picture of how things happen at the Department of Education. A while ago, a source told me about a retreat he attended at a hotel in Westchester, where the Department of Education invited a bunch of education people — especially small school and charter school leaders — to a hotel for a two-day community-building experience. An invitation had promised discussion of "The Future of Our Work," including a run-down of the successes and challenges of the Bloomberg administration's school efforts. Successes included the fast expansion of small and charter schools, which the invitation concluded are out-performing traditional district schools and the reorganization of the school system with "schools at the center." Challenges included the financial "sustainability" of partner groups that assist the schools; the requirement of sharing facilities with traditional public schools; and "Human Capital development." There was also a lot of worrying about what is probably a bigger potential obstacle: The possibility that, come 2009, when the state Legislature votes on whether to keep, abolish, or alter mayoral control of the public schools, the system could be organized in a completely different way. There was no question on which side the Department of Education stood. At the end of the first day, a group that is fighting for the preservation of mayoral control of the public schools, but which has said it has no formal ties to the Bloomberg administration, spoke about its political plans. Chancellor Joel Klein also gave a speech passionately declaring that the successes that have happened would endangered if mayoral control was abolished.
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 19, 2008
A Times Square gathering to tell Obama: Choose charters!
A thousand or more New York City charter school parents are expected to gather in Times Square tonight to urge Barack Obama to send…
November 17, 2008
Turning Sasha and Malia school watch into a political opportunity
First family-elect. (Via Flickr.) Last night on "60 Minutes," during her first interview as First Lady-elect, Michelle Obama was asked how she will decide where to send her daughters to school. "We want that to be a personal process," she said. Democrats for Education Reform, the lobbying group I profiled last week, is looking at the Obamas' choice through a political lens. DFER wants the president-elect and his wife to consider sending their daughters to charter schools — and, barring that, to support charter schools, a top DFER issue. The group is also asking charter school parents to plead with the Obamas, by mailing in a form letter:
October 31, 2008
Kevin Parker loves charters, but not Bloomberg public schools
State Senator Kevin Parker of Brooklyn meets with charter school students at the Brooklyn Museum of Art last night (Philissa Cramer/GothamSchools) Charter school boosters are often seen throwing compliments at Mayor Bloomberg. So yesterday it was a little surprising to hear a state senator, Kevin Parker, in one breath sing the charter gospel and in the next lambaste the Bloomberg administration for its management of the public schools. At Brooklyn Charter School Night yesterday, Parker told me that his position isn't really a contradiction. Everything he loves about charter schools, he said — their freedom from bureaucratic restrictions, their creative spirit — is absent from traditional public schools. And he said that charter schools' long waiting lists reflect families' frustrations with district-run public schools.
October 31, 2008
Charter school kids to City Council: term extension helps schools
I mentioned in a previous post that two charter school students from Harlem were among those testifying in favor of extending term limits at the City Council earlier this month. Their school head, Seth Andrew of Democracy Prep, sent me their testimonies, which he said they drafted on their own, on blank pieces of paper, by hand. Andrew said the students had the opportunity to testify either for or against extending term limits. Both came out in favor. (Not a surprise, since Andrew also said that his students testified at the invitation of James Merriman, the executive director of the New York City Center for Charter School Excellence and a political ally of Mayor Bloomberg.) The testimonies are worth a read. Here's how seventh-grader Daniel Clarke Jr. explained the connection between term limits and education: Well, this chancellor has made a lot of progress in seven years, but he’s not done…YET. My school goes from grade 6 to 8 right now, but we are supposed to grow all the way to grade 12. Unfortunately, we can’t do this without a public school building, and this chancellor says he wants to give us one. He wants to close bad traditional schools and grow good ones like mine. If you pass this bill, my school will have a chance to take me all the way to college. If you don’t, the progress can’t continue and my school might not be able to grow. But I deserve a great high school, and there aren’t any others in my neighborhood like Democracy Prep that are open to all kids. Term limits prevent my family from having a choice, both in schools and in mayors and what we need are more choices, not fewer. This bill is not about Mayor Bloomberg or the City Council; it is about giving our community choice, voice, and progress for the kids of New York City. Thank you for Listening, I’m Daniel Clark Jr. The full testimonies are after the jump.
October 29, 2008
Anthony Weiner will speak to charter school leaders tomorrow
Anthony Weiner William Thompson Jr., the comptroller, might not be the only mayoral hopeful jumping into the education conversation. Tomorrow night, Anthony Weiner,…
October 10, 2008
Newark’s “new paternalism” reduces teacher to tears
NorthStar Academy students with author R.L. Stine Remember those “paternalistic” schools — since rechristened “no excuses schools” — that David Whitman wrote…
October 10, 2008
TEP Charter model sparks debate among educators
Posts about The Equity Project (TEP) Charter School — that's the one where teachers will make $125,000 — brought out strong feelings from educators and advocates both at the New York Times Lesson Plans blog and here at GothamSchools. In our comments, Leonie Haimson, a leading advocate for smaller classes in the city's public schools, points out that TEP will save money partly by putting 30 students in a class (the TEP website does say this, although not in the section aimed at educators). She points to comments at the Times where teachers question the priorities of the TEP model. Alex, for example, suggests cutting the salary to $75,000 and drastically reducing class size with the extra funds. GothamSchools commenter Maria Escalan worries that dividing up administrative responsibilities among teachers will end up overburdening them: Our principal who kept experimenting with different reforms on our already successful school had the brillant idea of letting teachers assume lots more responsibility outside of the normal teaching activities. The consequence was that a lot of my colleagues expended a lot of time and energy on activities that were not instructional and the quality of their teaching suffered. I think it's worth noting that the TEP plan is to give each teacher a single clearly-defined "whole school service" role, ranging from dean of discipline to events coordinator to parent and community involvement coordinator. It's not just asking people to step up as needed, which, in my experience, usually results in a few teachers taking on way too much. And, contrary to the belief of at least one Times commenter, custodial duties are not among the listed whole school service jobs. In exchange for the higher salaries, TEP expects teachers to work a longer day,
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