At Wednesday's April Delegate Assembly, UFT President Michael Mulgrew painted an overall rosy picture of the state of public education here in New York City. Is he right?
Mulgrew described a school system that we should celebrate and show off to the world. Mulgrew's Unity Caucus majority did concede there are a few issues; they even passed a resolution to take up the cause of discontinued probationary teachers in a small way. Other than that, Mulgrew basically called New York schools a model for the country to emulate. Here is my account of Mulgrew's reporting of the state of the schools here in NYC:
May 4 national day for teachers. NYC using day to celebrate how we are moving public education ahead here. NYC leading the way in how you make public education work.
Maybe I didn't hear right. I checked with the NYC Educator minutes of the DA and here is how he described the same part of the meeting:
May 4th--Wants parents and teachers to simultaneously do events nationwide. Says we've already done this in NYC, and that we meet with many varied groups. Says while LA is ground zero for charters, but in NYC we will move public education by being respectful and working together: says there are 100 schools now cooperating.
The overall picture I get month-after-month from President Mulgrew is that the New York City schools are generally in much better shape under Bill de Blasio and Carmen Farina compared to the Michael Bloomberg-Joel Klein-Kathy Black-Dennis Walcott days.
Yet when I leave the meetings and go home, my inbox and voicemail are usually filled with teachers and other UFT members desperately seeking help. At best teachers are overwhelmed with paperwork mandates. Many are forced to spend an average of two to three hours an evening working on daily lesson plans because they are worried about when the administrator with the computer is next going to appear at the classroom door to write them up using the Danielson rubric which makes it simple to give out developing or ineffective ratings. Others are spending multiple hours a day working on IEP's or other mandates and still others are being forced to do multiple professional assignments. Absent Teacher Reserves are being harassed on a daily basis with ridiculous observations for classes they are just covering.
In addition, the DOE admits there are credit recovery programs that are out of control. Student discipline in many places is an out of date concept, class sizes are as high as ever and abusive/incompetent principal power is basically unchecked by the UFT. There are reports of teachers leaving in the middle of the year rather than face another day of this.
As for charter schools, I saw Ed Notes reporting on a public school being closed in New York City this week and it will be replaced by a charter school. MORE was there at the Panel for Education Policy meeting to stand up for the public school but I don't see any official UFT presence in Norm's account.
I could go on-and-on but you get the picture.
So who is right?
Is Mulgrew correct that teaching in NYC is a very challenging job but the school system is moving ahead and is a model for the nation to follow so let's celebrate our schools on May 4?
Are the pro-public school critics right that nothing much has improved since de Blasio-Farina replaced Bloomberg-Klein-Black-Walcott and the school system is still in very poor shape with most teachers under siege?
Have a wonderful holiday everyone! The nine week stretch between midwinter recess and spring break this year has been a grind for sure.