Collective Bargaining: How Might the UFT and the City Reach a Contract Settlement?

The NYC teacher contract ended on September 30th and the union and Department of Education/City have been “engaging” for months, an increasingly contentious relationship.  Once a contract is reached, and it will be reached, the same parties who argued over the terms of the contract will be enforcing/enacting the agreement; antagonists one day, cooperators the next.  Read an excellent discussion of current NBA negotiations here

Decades ago, for reasons that elude me, the union leaders choose three young activists to serve on the contract negotiations team, sociologists would call us “participant observers.”  Negotiations: meeting after meeting and lots of time waiting for the Department/City to respond and caucusing among themselves. What I learned was the process extends far beyond the parties at the negotiating table.

Under PERB procedures ability to pay and pattern bargaining play a core role in the process.  Ability to pay:  the cities economic condition and pattern bargaining: similar agreements.

The union would probably argue,

  • The impact of inflation, under the current contract teachers effectively have taken a pay cut due to inflation, the next contract must factor inflation, a raise over and above the rate of inflation.
  • The pool of prospective teachers and teacher preparation programs are shrinking at a time when retirements are increasing. See Here Today, Gone Tomorrow, the an AFT Report, chaired by Michael Mulgrew, UFT President.
  • Suburban districts pay far higher salaries than the City, the suburban districts both recruit new teachers and hire from among current NYC teachers, the only way to stem the flow is competitive salaries.

I’m sure there are additional arguments, if the parties cannot resolve the issues the dispute can move to the medication, fact-finding, impasse, arbitration route and the previous negotiations sessions are part of the record. You must craft your arguments carefully and backup with data, with evidence and potential witnesses.

The Department/City would probably argue,

  • The financial impact of the pandemic on the city was disastrous and the city has not recovered, Unemployment is high, tax revenue slow, businesses have abandoned offices and may never return, remote work may be the norm, federal COVID assistance is ending, and the city must prepare for difficult times.
  • The city may be on the cusp of a 2008 type recession, the State Comptroller is urging the city to plan for the worst, we are not filling vacancies, our 23-24 budget calls for a much thinner budget, and we simply don’t have the ability to pay.

Finding common ground is challenging, contract negotiations are an economic and a political exercise, underline political.

The world of media: print, online, blog, Twitter, Substack, Facebook, MSNBC, Fox, and on and on. The “public,” whatever that means is looking over everyone’s shoulder.

Does the public see teachers as caring individuals, risking their own health in schools at the height of the pandemic, folks who deserve to be fairly compensated or, overpaid and fleeing to the suburbs at 3 pm?  Will a “tough,” intransigent mayor defending the fiscal status of the city outweigh fairly compensating teachers?

At what point does the union begin running TV ads?  How does the mayor respond?  

In 1989 the UFT broke with precedent and endorsed a mayoral candidate in the primary, Sandy Feldman, the UFT president, ran a vigorous campaign leading Dinkins to victory both in the primary and the general election, against Rudy Giuliani, by a narrow margin. The UFT has elected a mayor.

For difficult to understand reasons Dinkins allowed the union contract to expire and fenced with union for two years. The UFT ran increasingly strong advertisements, picketed Gracie Mansion, and finally, a few months before the election Dinkins agreed to a contract in line with other city contracts. The UFT made no endorsement and Giuliani won in tight race.

Some excoriated the UFT; failing to endorse Dinkins was “shameful,” There is no way the membership would have supported a Dinkins endorsement after being ignored for two years.

The UFT elected a mayor in 89 (Dinkins by endorsement) and Giuliani in 93 (by no endorsement)

A lesson for Adams?

Does Adams drag out the negotiations, force the negotiations into arbitration and risk a 1993 reaction?

Hovering above the city are the powerbrokers, the ultimate deal-makers. In 1975 as the city began to slip into bankruptcy, Congress member Herman Badillo favored bankruptcy, Richard Ravitch, one of the powerbrokers, and future Lieutenant Governor played a major role in the “deal,” the UFT agreeing to the teacher pension fund loaning the city dollars to pay off bonds.

Are there powerbrokers in shadows today?

How can Adams and Mulgrew craft an agreement acceptable to union members, candidate Adams, the budget hawks and the populace in general?

Would the percent raise in the minor league baseball CBA be acceptable?

Teacher Unions Right to Strike: A Discussion

The teacher union in New York City (UFT) is embroiled in contract negotiations, under New York State law expired contracts remain in “full force and effect” until the successor contract is ratified, the negotiations could conclude tomorrow or drag on for many months.  All public employee contracts in NYC have expired; the police (PBA) have been without a successor contract for six years.  Public employee labor relations are governed by the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) usually referred to as the Taylor Law. Thousands of public employee unions with hundreds of thousands of members fall under the law.

In Los Angeles non-teaching staff, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, aides, etc, announced a three day strike (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday last week) and the Los Angeles Teacher Union (UTLA), in the process of negotiating a contract agreed not to cross picket line. On Wednesday both sides announced a settlement was reached and all staff returned on Friday.  The teacher contract remains unresolved.

At the last UFT Delegates Meeting a member moved to amend a motion by adding language to direct the UFT to pursue removing language from the Taylor Law that prohibits strikes. A union officer responded opposing the amendment: strikes, regardless of the law, remain an option, depending upon the situation. The motion was defeated.

The issues of teacher strike as a negotiating strategy continues to be debated see here and here.

Lets begin by looking across the nation, the right of teachers to form unions, bargain collectively and strike varies widely from state to state

Collective bargaining by public sector employees and therefore teachers is explicitly illegal in GeorgiaNorth CarolinaSouth CarolinaTexas, and Virginia. 12 states have explicitly stated that teacher strikes are legal. These states are AlaskaCaliforniaColoradoHawaiiIllinoisLouisianaMinnesotaMontanaOhioOregonPennsylvania, and Vermont.

The collective bargaining procedures under state law also vary widely:

*Thirty-four states use mediation, in which a third party attempts to broker an agreement between the two parties.

*Twenty-nine states use fact-finding procedures that allow an impartial panel to review both sides of the dispute, report their findings and occasionally make recommendations for settlement. Arbitration, in which an impartial party holds a formal hearing and determines a resolution, is similar to mediation, but the ruling of the third party is often binding and final.

*Twenty-one states provide for voluntary arbitration in which one side or the other can request a hearing. Three states mandate arbitration in which the two sides have to submit to a formal hearing.

State law regarding teacher strikes also varies widely:

Twenty-two states prohibit strikes and 13 states permit them. There are penalties for strikes in 13 states, which range from fines to dismissal to, in some cases, imprisonment.

How do the collective bargaining laws differ regarding strikes in California and New York?

From the California Teachers Association website,

 If labor/management are not able to reach agreement, they can pursue impasse options provided in state law that may lead to a settlement. There may be four impasse options, and one or all could be used to settle a dispute:

Mediation. An impartial neutral person facilitates dialogue between the parties to help them create and reach a resolution.

Fact-finding. A neutral third party hears presented evidence from the parties and makes a formal nonbinding recommendation to the parties. The parties can either accept or reject the recommendation.

Interest arbitration. A neutral arbitrator conducts a formal hearing, analyzes the information presented, and makes a formal binding decision.

Strike. The union engages in a concerted collective action, through which its members withhold services in order to achieve a settlement. With thousands of education employee contracts bargained each year, fewer than ten, on average, result in a strike.

The New York State process is similar: with a major difference, if the parties cannot resolve a contract the state will provide a mediator, if the parties with the assistance of a mediator fail to reach an agreement PERB will assign a Fact finder to identity the issues and if the process is at impasse an arbitrator will conduct a formal arbitration hearing and publish a non-binding decision, strikes are prohibited.

At the end of the process in California teachers can strike, in NYS strikes are prohibited with harsh penalties

Has the right to strike resulted in higher salaries?

NYC appears to have higher teacher salaries than LA  See LA here and NYC here.

Is changing the Taylor Law to permit strikes a possibility?

Jacobin and Left Voices, publications on the left urge taking on the state directly, striking, absorbing the penalties, and using the power in numbers to change the law  (Read her and here)

I’ve made my pilgrimage to the Federationist Wall, to honor the Communards, who were lined up along a wall and shot, change is incremental, one block at a time until the wall falls. I regard strikes as possibility only in dire circumstances.

The last NYC teacher strike was in September, 1975, after months of negotiation, on the verge of the beginning of the school year, the union was debating striking or extending the contract for a month, at the time the union had a “no contract, no work” policy. Precipitously, very precipitously, the city laid off 15,000 teachers and the union when on strike with cries, of, “We won’t come back until we all come back.” 

The City was planning to declare bankruptcy and walk away leaving the running of the City to a federal bankruptcy judge.

After a five day strike saner heads prevailed, the City and Union agreed, a shorter school day to allow schools to function with fewer teachers and the Union loaning the City money to avoid default. 

Under bankruptcy all contract benefits as well as health plans and pensions fall under the power of the bankruptcy judge. Read here and Detroit, who did declare bankruptcy here.

Read a “blow by blow” account of the brinksmanship barely averting bankruptcy here..

Public education is under assault, Florida is diverting $4 billion tax dollars to school vouchers, any parent can receive vouchers for charter, private or parochial schools, and, Texas is not far behind. State after state prohibiting what can be taught, what can be read, a return to the McCarthyism of the 50’s; the teaching profession is fighting in the trenches of the culture wars.

As COVID struck we learned about Zoom, Google Classroom and other platforms and there are numerous discussions re artificial intelligence replacing teachers..

The battle is over the survival of public education,

If we were able to remove Taylor Law penalties, btw, highly unlikely, we would face an assault from the right, who would be our allies? 

Fighting for contracts is at the core the role of unions; however, we shouldn’t concentrate our efforts on gaining the right to strike, to strike without onerous penalties; we should concentrate our efforts on improving the negotiating process within the Taylor Law.

Ability to Pay and Pattern Bargaining are not part of the law, in fact, they are malleable concepts, and currently are tipped in favor of management.  Read here

Yesterday Randy Weingarten gave a national speech ,

“Attacks on public education are not new. The difference today is that the attacks are intended to destroy it. To make it a battlefield, a political cudgel,” and, among a number of policies to  “ … renew and revive the teaching profession by treating educators as the professionals they are, with appropriate pay; time to plan and prepare for classes, to collaborate with colleagues, and to participate in meaningful professional development; and the power to make day-to-day classroom decisions.”

We have to build a crusade, teachers and parents and electeds and advocates to defend public education .or, we may not have a public education system to defend.

Bloomberg Buys a Governor: a Romance or a One-Night Stand?

During the election season my mailbox, my real, not e-mailbox is filled with election junk mail, I glance and discard into the strategically placed trashcan.

The last two days, not in election season I received classy flyers asking me to call my Assembly member to advocate for Governor Hochul’s budget and my TV screen has similar “asks,” I thought the Governor is spending a ton of money on probably a futile enterprise.

The “Three Men in a Room,” now two women and a man, plus the two women who chair the key committees will be thrashing out a budget.

When Hochul released her budget I mused about why she featured the removal of the charter school cap in her preliminary budget?  Why is she directly challenging teachers across the state?  (See my musings here)

The NY Times discovered former NYS Mayor Mike Bloomberg spent Five Million dollars on mailers to targeted electeds and tons of dollars on TV ads.

The slick campaign-style ads have been running on repeat during telecasts of “Jeopardy!” and March Madness basketball. They trumpet, at great expense, the agenda of New York’s governor, Kathy Hochul. And at the end of each, a tiny message says they are paid for by a vanilla-sounding group, American Opportunity.

But beneath a maze of shell groups and indirection, the real source of most of the funding for the mysterious new multimillion-dollar campaign to shape the state’s gargantuan budget is a familiar billionaire who once ran New York City and had all but disappeared from state politics: Michael R. Bloomberg.

(See NY Times here and Politico here)

Is it legal for Bloomberg to spend unlimited money?

The Supreme Court in Citizens United v FEC, in a 2010 decision held,

The court held 5-4 that the free speech clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for political campaigns by corporations, including nonprofit corporations, labor unions, and other associations.

(Read the decision here and detailed analysis here)

Bloomberg is one of the richest men in the world, his Bloomberg Philanthropies has donated billions to a host of causes; he did not contribute to Hochul’s campaign in 2022 although her opponent was a pro-gun, pro-Trumper.

Why is he pumping giga-dollars into her budget fight?

Bloomberg’s political career began on 9/11, primary day in New York City. As the horrendous day progressed the city cancelled the primary election and moved the election two weeks later. Under election rules if a candidate failed to get 40% of the vote a runoff election was required and Mark Green survived the bruising three election process, Bloomberg spent millions and defeated Green in a close race. (Review here).

He was a competent mayor, aloof from normal politics, except for schools. His schools chancellor, a lawyer with no educational experience battled with everyone and reconfigured the system numerous times, closed 150 schools and created over 400 small high schools and attempted to mirror Chicago, excessed teacher were given a specific number of months to find a job, if not they would be placed in layoff. The union vigorously and successfully fought Bloomberg and the Mayor fought back, the number of unsatisfactory ratings doubled and Bloomberg pushed for test scores playing a major role in teacher evaluation. While the teacher contract expired the Taylor Law provisions of the contract remained in “full force and effect until the successor contract is ratified.” Bloomberg third term was filled with increasing conflicts. He left office with his reputation diminished.

In November 2019 Bloomberg declared his candidacy for President: a bit of hubris? He decided not to participate in the early primaries and concentrate on Super Tuesday.

He financed his campaign personally and refused donations. He spent over five hundred million dollars of his own money on his campaign, one of the greatest single campaign expenditures in American history. His campaign heavily relied on advertising, including the use of nationally aired television ads, social media influencers, and billboards in high-visibility locations.

He never got beyond single digits and quickly dropped out.

Bloomberg Philanthropies has donated billions of dollars to a wide range of organizations, his educational philanthropic dollars restricted to charter schools.

Does his antipathy towards Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew motivate his charter school only generosity?

His largess to Holchul has aggravated the progressive political establishment.

The “one-house” budgets both call for increasing taxes for the richest New Yorkers,

Democratic state lawmakers are pushing for a tax increase on the wealthiest New Yorkers this year in the state budget negotiations as Gov. Kathy Hochul has touted her plan that does not seek hikes in the state’s personal income tax rates. 

Budget proposals made public Tuesday by Democrats in the state Senate would increase taxes on New Yorkers who earn more than $5 million a year. 

The positions will put lawmakers at odds with Hochul, whose $227 billion budget proposal does not increase the personal income tax rates and moves forward with reductions for middle-income earners. 

Both measures were released separately on Tuesday by Democrats in the state Senate and Assembly. But the proposals align on taxes: The plans would raise the personal income tax from 10.3% to 10.8% for New Yorkers who earn between $5 million and $25 million a year. 

The tax rate for people who earn more than $25 million would increase from 10.9% to 11.4% under the Democratic proposals. 

A referendum in Los Angeles passed placing a tax on sales of expensive homes, called the “Mansion Tax,” the public supports “taxing the rich.”

Maybe Mike is “carrying the water” for his homeboys?

Or, just bored.

The current budget cycle ends on Friday, March 31, and the Governor and the legislature can either come to a settlement or continue to skirmish, for days, or weeks, or months. In one year under Governor Patterson the budget fight wasn’t resolved until August. 

The Democrats have super majorities in both houses and can flex their muscles; the newly funded Buffalo Bills football stadium can run into unforeseen problems?

Two key committee chairs, Liz Kruger in the Senate and Helene Weinstein in the Assembly are tough, experienced negotiators.

Hochul can see this budget cycle as the key moment in her governorship.

Politics is a full contact sport. (Listen Yale Professor Joanne Freeman and Chris Hayes here)

Are Teacher Strikes Antiquated? How Should Teachers/Teacher Unions Respond to the Current Attacks on Teachers and Public Education?

At the monthly UFT Delegate Meeting a motion commemorating the creation of the union on Mach 16, 1960 was introduced. A delegate introduced an amendment, urging the union to work to change the state constitution and the Taylor Law to allow teacher strikes without penalties. A union officer responded; if a situation is urgent, the union will take any actions to respond, including strikes. The amending motion failed. (See continuing discussion here)

Are teacher strikes a viable tool to force resolution of conflicts?

A little history: the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) was created 63 years ago with the merger of two of over 100 teacher organizations. Teachers in New York have always been contentious, teacher organizations based on geography, religion, division and politics. The Teacher Guild akin to today’s Democratic Socialists and the Teacher Union, much further to the left, and the High School Teachers Association were bitter enemies.

As McCarthyism grew in the late forties teacher unions came under attack; considering the attacks on freedom of speech today, a little about the antecedents.

In 1949 the New York State legislature passed what became known as the Feinberg Law,

“a person employed as superintendent of schools, teacher or employee in the public schools, in any city or school district of the state, shall be removed from such position for the utterances of any treasonable or seditious word or words or the doing of any treasonable or seditious act or acts while holding such position.”

See a contemporary essay in the Harvard Crimson here

The challenge to the law moved through the courts and in 1952 the Supreme Court (6-3) sustained the law. (Read the decision, and dissents here)

In 1967, the Supreme Court reversed the decision (5-4) Read here and the NY Times wrote,

“In addition to those who were merely silenced nearly 400 teachers in New York City’s schools and college system lost their jobs directly or indirectly as a result of restrictive measures during the nearly fifteen years following the Court’s original decision.

But the impact was much more far-reaching than specific punishment meted out to a relatively few teachers. The real and last damage lay in the atmosphere of implied guilt, the mandated spying, and the straitjacket of uniformity that continued to a greater or less decree throughout the period. In the more enlightened climate of recent years, there has been some relaxation; but the threat was always present.”

Whether the Teacher Union was an arm of the Soviet State or fighting for the rights of teachers and students has been subject of debate for decades.

Clarence Taylor, Reds at the Blackboard: Communism, Civil Rights, and the New York City Teachers Union, 2013, wrote a sympathetic history, Read a review here.

The Gotham Center blog writes an excellent account of the Feinberg Law years (Read here); in 1973 a lawsuit was resolved with payments and pension service forsome of the dismissed teachers..

Are we seeing the revival of the Feinberg Law era across the nation?

After decades of internecine bickering the Teacher Guild and a faction in the High School Teachers Association merged to form the United Federation of Teachers (Read the story here)

In its first fifteen years the UFT went on strike fivet imes, one day strikes in 1960 and 1961, a thirteen day strike in 1967, the forty day Ocean Hill Brownsville strike in 1968 and a five day strike in 1975.  Strikes were tools to resolve disputes, and effective tools, two of the strikes were not about contract disputes, 1968 about school district firing teachers and 1975 the layoff of thousands of teachers.

You may agree, or not, “Change makes fools of us all, and we are living through an era of change.”

Public education is under attack, from Florida to Texas, unlimited vouchers, attacks on teacher unions and teachers; banning books in libraries, banning books in classrooms, from the New York State Governor, perhaps to the New York City Mayor.

Teachers and their unions need allies, Alliance for Quality Education, Class Size Matters, Diane Ravitch, elected officials at every level, school boards, parent associations, the public education universe.

The McCarthyite attacks were vicious and destroyed lives of dedicated, caring teachers and we are witnessing the revival today. Fighting for the right to strike will only isolate teacher unions from public school advocates, yes, in rare instances striking may be the only alternatives (1968, 1975); we need all of us, teachers, parents, civil rights organizations to fight back, to turn the tide.

To quote Benjamin Franklin, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, assuredly, we shall all hang separately,”

Governor Hochul and Charter Schools Why Has She Thrown Down the Gauntlet?

The State Constitution grants the governor wide authority in the budgeting process.

 … the governor shall submit to the legislature a budget containing a complete plan of expenditures proposed to be made before the close of the ensuing fiscal year and all moneys and revenues estimated to be available therefor, together with an explanation of the basis of such estimates and recommendations as to proposed legislation, if any, which the governor may deem necessary to provide moneys and revenues sufficient to meet such proposed expenditures. It shall also contain such other recommendations and information as the governor may deem proper and such additional information as may be required by law. 

In early January the governor, as per the Constitution, submits a budget, a plan, to the legislature, referred to as the executive budget; in early March both houses of the legislature release “one-house” budgets, the response of the legislature to the governor’s executive budget. By the end of the state fiscal year the state is required to have agreed to the budget for the fiscal year (4/1 – 3/31)

See the 166 page Executive Budget here

See Assembly One-House Budget here

See Senate “One-House Budget here

The Hochul pro-charter language is absent from the current one-house budgets.

The process is far from smooth, since the time of Governor Pataki, and affirmed by the courts, the powers of the legislature are limited. The dueling resulted in late budgets, sometimes days, other times months. In order to keep the state functioning the legislature passed “continuing resolutions” to allow the state to continue both pay its bills.  (See details here). The budget process can get messy, very messy; although Cuomo’s budgets were on time.

Additionally Governor Cuomo used the budget to pass otherwise controversial bills that wouldn’t have passed through the “regular business” process. In 2014 NYSUT, the state teacher union did not endorse Cuomo in the Democratic primary; they made no endorsement, in the following legislative session Cuomo increased teacher tenure from three years to four years in the budget process. Clearly Cuomo was a governor who would rather be feared than loved, probably a copy of The Prince at his bedside.

With the resignation of Cuomo in August, 2022 Hochul, a virtually unknown Lieutenant Governor assumed the Albany crown, In the subsequent legislative session the legislature made it clear, the state budget would only contain budget issues. And so it was. Hochul’s 2022 Executive Budget was stripped of non-budgetary items.

Hochul’s opponent in her first gubernatorial election was Lee Zeldin, a congressman from the Eastern End of Long Island and an unapologetically pro Trumper.  In the 2020 presidential election Biden received 61% of the vote, Trump 36%, an overwhelming victory.

While polling strongly favored Hochul as the race moved forward the race continued to narrow.  The New York State United Teachers, the state teachers union and especially the United Federation of Teachers, the New York City local “got out the troops,” phone banks, door knocking, all of the activities vital to winning elections Teachers live in every election district in the state and teachers vote, as do their families

Hochul won by 5.6%, in 2016 Cuomo won by 24%, and, votes from New York City made the difference.

Surprisingly, very surprisingly, the current, 23-24Hochul Executive Budget proposes,

  • Eliminate the regional cap on the number of charters that may be issued in New York City. This will grant New York City applicants access to 84 charters still available.
  • Permanently authorize the reissuance of any charter originally issued to a charter school that subsequently closed after July 1, 2015 due to surrender, revocation, termination or non-renewal. As of September 2022, the last public update from SED, there were 22 zombie charters, with 14 in NYC and 8 in the rest of the state.

Why would Hochul directly challenge teacher unions, especially the UFT after their vigorous, perhaps decisive, support of her candidacy? Why was she so ungrateful?

Both houses of the legislature have aggressively opposed her pro charter position.

Why is she challenging a core union position?


The “three persons in a room” process is a negotiation, one item is traded for another item; perhaps she is just using charter expansion as a bargaining chip,

Or, responding to her defeat over the selection of the top state judge by flexing her muscles and charter schools seemed like an option,

Or, she’s a “closet” charter zealot,

While her next election is way down in the line, 11/26, maybe she’s seeking to build a war chest, dollars from charter supporters, potential democratic candidates are already sniffing.

Winning back teacher unions will be difficult, and, unnecessary, why challenge them in the first case? Politics makes for strange bedfellows.

Some see her as way over her head; former Governor Eliot Spitzer picked David Patterson as Lieutenant Governor, and when Patterson replaced the disgraced Spitzer he was a disaster, a NY Magazine, read, Eliot’s Problem Child, maybe Cuomo’s revenge.

In the 1860s a New York State judge wrote in a decision, “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”

How will “Ability to Pay” and “Pattern Bargaining Impact UFT Contract Negotiations?

The Public Employee Relations Board, referred to by the acronym PERB is the state organization that sets the ground rules for union creation, union-management relations and collective bargaining. New York State is the most unionized state in the nation, especially public employees. There are thousands of public employee unions with hundreds of thousands of members. Seven hundred school districts across the state, 700 teacher unions; local, country, state, park and marine police, and on and on, all belong to unions, negotiate contracts, under guidelines set by PERB (See PERB website here) . Staff members of electeds in the Assembly and Senate are currently engaged in forming unions and getting recognition as the bargaining agents.

For decades unions fought for and finally achieved a key component of PERB rules, expired contracts remain in “full force and effect” until the successor contract is approved; as a result strikes are extremely rare.   Under PERB strikes are prohibited and if a union does strike the penalties are harsh, a fine of a days pay for each day on strike (2 for 1), suspension of tenure, substantial fines for the union as well as loss of dues check off for  a specific period of time. Any “concerted action” by union members, for example, a “sick out” is considered a strike.

If labor and management fail to reach an agreement, with approval of both sides, PERB will provide mediation, if mediation fails fact-finding, impasse and eventually non-binding arbitration, for uniformed services the arbitration is binding. PERB cannot force the parties to avail themselves of the processes, some disputes continue, unresolved, for years. (Read a recent award here)

The PBA, the NYC police union is in its sixth year without a contract, the arbitration/mediation process inches forward, see statement from PBA president here.

The mediation/fact-finding/arbitration process can take many months and while the final arbitration decision is not binding it is public and usually the basis of the final settlement.  The fact-finding process defines the bargaining positions of the parties, in the arbitration both parties introduce evidence and witnesses to buttress their positions, witnesses are cross examined, closing arguments, briefs, perhaps counter briefs, a lengthy process.

A long time ago I served on bargaining teams, at times a tortuous experience. Both sides exchange demands, yes, there are management demands as well as union demands. We actually sat across from each at the bargaining table “discussing” each demand. The common Department reply, “not a mandatory subject of collective bargaining,”  “a managerial prerogative.” occasionally, “can we write in contract language,” and, endless periods of time to caucus and discuss before the next session. A common disagreement was over “costing” a demand, does a union demand cost dollars?  The eventual agreement will be “percentages;” non-salary “cost” items reduce the actual salary settlement.  Class size is a cost item, for decades the UFT has been trying to limit class size, New York City class size is the highest in the state. For a few years in the 90s the City Council provided dollars to limit 9th grade class size in Math and English classes.  The new class size reduction law was a brilliant coup, in the waning hours of the session the Assembly and Senate bills were introduced, passed and an unelected governor, desperate for union endorsement signed.  Kudos!

As far as the dollar side of any collective bargaining agreement PERB uses “ability to pay” and “pattern bargaining,” as guides. Neither is clearly defined, does the pattern mean similar agreements among other city unions, among teachers unions within the region, teacher unions in comparable cities?  All of which have been part of negotiations over the years. “Ability to Pay” relates to the financial situation of the employer, does the fiscal situation of the employer allow for the increase, needless to say a contentious issue; teachers in Buffalo went without contract for decade, eventually negotiated a contract and once again is disputing an expired contract.

Almost every city union contract is expired and not surprisingly Adams chooses one of the weaker unions politically to settle with first.  The DC 37 agreement,

This tentative agreement on a five-year contract provides 3 percent annual raises for the first four years and 3.25 percent in the fifth year. The deal also includes a ratification bonus of $3,000 for employees active on the date the agreement is ratified. As part of this agreement, the city and DC 37 will also create a $70 million equity fund to support recruitment and retention.

A few weeks ago NYS Comptroller de Napoli, warned the City re upcoming budget gaps,

New York City’s $104.8 billion preliminary fiscal year (FY) 2024 budget has benefited from better-than-projected revenue collections, the reallocation of unused federal pandemic relief funds and savings initiatives, according to a report released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. DiNapoli’s office assumes that a number of the fiscal risks the city currently faces will continue, increasing the planned budget gap to about $8.9 billion in FY 2025 and $13.9 billion in FY 2027 (18% of city-fund revenues), even when adjusting for stronger revenue collections.

“The city’s steps to close future budget gaps recognize the need to achieve long-term budgetary balance,” DiNapoli said. “It also recognized higher-than-expected revenue from tax collections and the remainder of federal pandemic relief aid. The city should continue to identify efficiencies, build up reserves and monitor its delivery of services amid staffing challenges. Significant risks remain in the city’s financial plan, although its recent agreement with its largest labor union has helped clarify the risk over collective bargaining costs. The city should be more transparent on its strategies to address future issues and inform taxpayers on budgetary decisions.”

The Citizens Budget Commission, a non-partisan fiscally conservative organizaton sees the DC 37 tentative settlement as “very reasonable,” with “great challenges” down the road.

“The tentative New York City-District Council 37 contract announced today provides raises that are very reasonable given recent and anticipated inflation. The great challenge, however, still is how the City will pay for them.

The City’s budget gaps currently grow from $3.2 billion in fiscal year 2025 to $6.5 billion in fiscal year 2027. Assuming this tentative agreement sets the pattern for all other unions, these raises would cost approximately $16.2 billion more than currently budgeted over the contract period. Finally, as the City negotiates other agreements and works to identify how best to adapt to remote work and flexible schedules, it should take great caution not to add economic costs to other contracts if remote work options vary.”

Is the path forward a DC 37 settlement for all, or, are there other pathways?

PERB regulations offer the mediation, fact-finding, impasse, arbitration pathway, time consuming without any guarantees of outcomes, the arbitration report is not binding and we can’t predict the economy, will the clouds part or storms arise?

The UFT could argue, as it has in the past, that the “pattern” should not be restricted to other city unions, the City is competing with suburban school districts to both attract and retain teachers. For the past decade teacher preparation programs have attracted fewer and fewer students. A July, 2022 national report paints a bleak picture of recruitment and retention of teachers; for prospective teachers, salary is at the top of the list. See the “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” Report here. A key to recruiting and retaining “the best and brightest” workforce are salaries competitive with suburban school districts.

As far as “Ability to Pay” the nation is facing an uncertain economic future, economist Larry Summers is predicting a five year long recession  (Read here) while Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman  sees the current inflation as “transitory.”  Will FED imposed rising interest rates resolve inflation and at the same time increase unemployment and push the nation into a recession, or, as Krugman suggests we will recover relatively quickly ( Read “Can We Really Have a Soft Landing?” here)

Can we argue that the DC 37 settlement is a baseline and if the city economy reaches specific data points additional salary increases will activate?

Back in the dim past I was one of the arbitration advocates at the UFT and was arguing a case with a monetary remedy. The arbitrator was urging us to settle; however, the Department was offering far less than my client thought was fair.  A light bulb clicked, I suggested we convert the full amount of money into CAR days, no check but over 100 CAR days in the teacher’s account. The teacher was leery, her husband, an accountant loved the idea. The CAR days would grow in value and the Department didn’t have to cut a check: everyone was happy.  A few years later I offered the same settlement, the Department said “absolutely not, totally inappropriate.”

Creativity one day, negativity the next, the contract negotiation process is incredibly complex, highly “political” (“What will the Post say? What will the NY Times say?”) Lindsay despised the union and agreed to Tier 1, Shanker agreed to loan the City money to prevent a default, Adams is already preparing his run for a second term, with opposition on the left and the right, I think of Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken.”

Over the last weeks the UFT has run workshops in hundreds of schools to explain the negotiation process, and, the collect negotiating issues, in addition teachers are volunteering to serve on negotiation sub-committees and interact with the Department.

The UFT waited five years until Bloomberg was gone, and negotiated two reasonable contracts with a mayor they did not endorse, the PBA has waited six years for a mayor who they endorsed and was a PBA union member, so far, unsuccessful in negotiating a satisfactory contract.

My Ouija Board and Taro Cards have not been helpful.

Saving CUNY: Fighting the Good Fight – We Need You to Join the Fight

James Madison, in a single brief sentence defines politics, ambition counteracting ambition, In Federalist 51 Madison wrote,

Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

Each year the two houses of the state legislature, the governor and hordes of advocates battle over the size and scope of the state budget.

The state constitution grants the governor wide discretion, the budget must be balanced, expenses must be balanced against revenues, the governor sets the size of the budget and the governor proposes an executive budget. 

“…the governor shall submit to the legislature a budget containing a complete plan of expenditures proposed to be made before the close of the ensuing fiscal year and all moneys and revenues estimated to be available therefor, together with an explanation of the basis of such estimates and recommendations as to proposed legislation, if any, which the governor may deem necessary to provide moneys and revenues sufficient to meet such proposed expenditures. It shall also contain such other recommendations and information as the governor may deem proper and such additional information as may be required by law.” — New York State Constitution, Article VII, Section 2

In early January the governor released the executive budget (Read here) and a few weeks later the Ways and Means Committee of the Assembly, the “Yellow Book,” a more simplified explanation of the budget.

Last week joint meetings of committee members of the state legislative listened to testimony from various divisions of the state, including John King, the Chancellor of SUNY and Felix Matos-Rodriquez, the Chancellor of CUNY.

The week of March 13th both houses of the legislature will issue “one-house” budgets, and intense negotiations will occur. The “3 Men in a Room,” now one man, Carl Heastie, Speaker of the Assembly, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Majority Leader of the Senate and the Governor, with input from key committee chairs, will negotiate a budget and early in the morning of April 1, the legislature will begin to vote on the 23-24 budget.

The Higher Education budget, for unfathomable reasons, increased CUNY and SUNY tuition by 3% and other reductions- as a result CUNY is planning on a 5% cut in their 23-24 budget resulting in reductions in courses, staff, larger class sizes, and programs.

Over 1400 colleges are ranked by social mobility, colleges which move students from entering in poverty and entering the middle class within a decade of graduation, CUNY schools top the national list.  (See social mobility report here). Our CUNY colleges, 25 community and four year colleges are a key component in making NYC a world class city.

The future of our city, state and nation will be determined by our current college students. CUNY was free until fiscal crisis of 1975 and tuition has been increasing year by year

In the fall a coalition of advocacy organizations, the CUNY Rising Alliance, supported bills (“A New Deal for CUNY”) in the state legislature to make CUNY free again, the bills passed both house of the legislature and are NOT included in the governor’s budget (Read bills her)

What can we do to reverse the tuition increase and reductions in the proposed budget?

We can become citizen lobbyists and contact our Albany legislators.

Flooding e-mails boxes with letters demanding the governor and the legislators rescind tuition increases and funding cuts and move toward making CUNY free again.

The ambition of some to raise tuition and cuts budgets can be counteracted by all of us. In the words of Madison, Ambition counteracting ambition through our actions

Click here to send your letter:

One letter multiplied by thousands will make a difference

The Reading Wars: Balanced Literacy v Phonics, Rekindled

Chancellor Banks to teachers in 300 schools:  “I know you’ve worked hard for years, dedicated, caring; however, you’re responsible for children not learning to read, balanced literacy doesn’t work, we’re switching to phonics, we’ll provide professional development as soon as we figure it out.”  The Chancellor has decided to rekindle the Reading Wars.

For the past three years, during COVID, I’ve spent a lot of time with my six year old grandson, watched his parents teaching him letters, numbers, colors, shapes and the beginnings of reading between his playing race car driver, firefighter and with his trains.  He started to sound out the J-E-T-S on my t-shirt and jumped up and down shouting, JETS, JETS, JETS. Do children learn to read by sounding out letters or recognizing words? Or both? At least he was learning to root for the right team.

In 1955 a book was on the Best Seller list for thirty-seven weeks, the book: Why Johnny Can’t Read. (Read here)

 [The book] advocated the teaching of phonics, a method that teaches children the common letter-sound correspondences of English words and a handful of rules they can use which, together with the sounds, allows them to read the word.

Why Johnny Can’t Read was one of the first shots fired in what later became known as the “Reading Wars,” a series of public debates over how children best learn to read.

The Balanced Literacy folk [See Lucy Calkins, Reading and Writing Workshop Model here] is favored by most schools in New York City, in New York State curriculum decisions are left to schools/school districts.  Carmen Farina, the New York Chancellor from 2013 to 2019 was a strong supporter of Calkins Balanced Literacy.

As the Balanced Literacy and the Phonics folks tussled Congress funded the National Reading Panel and in 2000 issued a detailed report (Read here) and the term Science of Reading was born, the report supported phonics instruction. Since the report was released about thirty states, either through statute or regulation adopted a phonics model.

The Reading War has deep roots, in 2004 Sol Stern in City Journal,slammed non-educator Chancellor Klein,  “Klein repeatedly derided phonics as outmoded pedagogy that subjects children to boring and counter-productive ‘drill and kill’ instruction. Yet even as Klein was defending the progressive-ed party line in end-of-the-year press interviews, his own Department of Education team was writing a grant proposal for a “drill and kill” program that might bring almost $40 million in No Child Left Behind money to the city.”


In a science of reading framework, teachers start by teaching beginning readers the foundations of language in a structured progression—like how individual letters represent sounds, and how those sounds combine to make words. At the same time, teachers are helping students build their vocabulary and their knowledge about the world through read-alouds and conversations. Eventually, teachers help students weave these skills together like strands in a rope, allowing them to read more and more complex texts.

Most teachers in the United States weren’t trained in this framework. Instead, the majority say that they practice balanced literacy, a less structured approach that relies heavily on teacher choice and professional judgment. While the majority of students in balanced literacy classrooms receive some phonics instruction, it may not be taught in the explicit, systematic way that researchers have found to be most effective for developing foundational reading skills.

New York State traditionally leaves curriculum at the discretion of the school districts, although under the stewardship of John King the state adopted the Common Core Learning Standards, and the required grades 3-8 exams results moved from 2/3 proficient to 2/3 below proficient and the battle was on!

See my blog from 2013 here.

The testing opt out movement emerged, King moved on become the US Commissioner of Education and under Commissioner Elia the state began the move away from Common Core Learning Standards [Read here] to Next Generation Standards [Read here].  

The teaching of reading never arose as an interest at the state level.

In spite of the National Teaching Panel report phonics instruction lags.

John McWhorter, a professor of linguistics at Columbia University is a proponent of phonics based instruction (See an Atlantic article here and a NY Times article here.

McWhorter avers,

Scientific investigators of how children learn to read have proved repeatedly that phonics works better for more children.

Crucially, the method works well with poor as well as affluent children.

However, there is a persistent disconnect between the world of reading science and the world of people teaching children to read. Only 15 percent of programs training elementary-school teachers include actual instruction on how to teach children to read. There remain people who favor the whole word method, or a combination of whole word and phonics, or even no particular “method” at all.

Mayor Adams jumped on the phonics instruction train in May, 2022.

New York City will require all elementary schools to adopt a phonics-based reading program in the coming school year — a potentially seismic shift in how tens of thousands of public school students are taught to read.

“We’re going to start using a proven, phonics-based literacy curriculum that’s proven to help children read … This is our opportunity to really move the needle on something that has been impactful for our children for a long time.”

The “science of reading” stands in contrast to the “balanced literacy” theory that many teachers are exposed to in schools of education. That theory holds that students can learn to read through exposure to a wide range of books that appeal to them, without too much emphasis on technically complex texts or sounding out words.

Education Week, the weekly publication devotes an issue to the move to phonics and the multitude of questions,

A national movement seeks to change how reading is taught. Will it work?

More than half the states have passed laws or policies mandating a “science of reading” approach to early literacy.

In a sense, these mandates mark the end of one story—that of the activists and educators who have pushed forcefully for an evidence-backed approach to reading. But they’re only the beginning of another story—the monumental challenge of shifting teaching practices on the ground, classroom by classroom.

Are states providing enough coaching for teachers to feel comfortable with an approach still unfamiliar to many of them? Have they provided curriculum and teaching models in time? Are they selecting trainings and materials backed by science? Where is teaching truly changing and where are old habits still holding on?

Education Week has a series of stories about the Science of Reading movement here.

When the Science of Reading Goes Too Far”   (7/29/22) 

5 Insights in Getting the Science of Reading into Classrooms” (8/22/22)

While systematic, explicit instruction in these foundational word-reading skills is a key component of an evidence-based approach to reading instruction, the “science of reading” involves more than just phonics.

Experts say that students also need to have rich conversations to develop oral language, vocabulary, and critical thinking—even before they can read text. 

Daniel Willingham, a cognitive scientist, finds the science of reading team too didactic. In the Reading Mind (2017) Willingham explains the complexity of the learning to read process and how it is different from child to child.

Read Willingham’s comments on the science of reading here and a review of the Reading Mind here.

Eric Nadelstern, a deputy NYC chancellor during the Klein years and the founding principal of the first International High School, a school for new immigrants wrote in a letter to the editor in Hechinger Reports, [See full letter here]

While teaching reading is complex, learning to read doesn’t have to be. In schools where the primary learning methodology provides children the opportunity to work in small groups on interdisciplinary activities and projects designed to strengthen literacy skills, further knowledge, and deepen inquiry skills, all youngsters can progress to their full potential. In such classrooms, teachers guide and support rather than transmit and lecture. They understand that literacy skills and content study are inextricably linked, and that in the final analysis, learning is talking and teaching is listening.

Diane Ravitch questions the term “science of reading,”

Having studied the history of teaching reading and written about it, I believe that teachers must be prepared to meet the needs of students with an array of methods. Some children need phonics for beginning literacy. Some children start school already reading. I do not believe there is a “science of reading” anymore than there is a “science of teaching history” or a “science of teaching math.” Good teachers have a toolbox that includes but is not limited to phonics. Do what works with the goal of encouraging children to love learning.

Nancy Dunetz, an experienced teacher and staff developer agrees with Ravitch,

I am so tired of this. It is all politics-driven or capitalism-driven. I’m with Diane Ravitch. There is only ONE approach that makes sense, and that is an eclectic approach. Every child is different and learns differently. Good teachers know this.

The Reading Wars are a long way from resolution. Reading is a complex neurological function, we don’t know why one child acquires the skill faster than others, nature or nurture, we do know the skill of the teacher matters and we also know ineffective teaching strategies are difficult to extinguish in a teacher. Telling a teacher what you have been doing for years is wrong and we going to teach you a new approach are commonly seen as punishment. My “go to” reading expert tells me the skill of the teacher is the key element in the process,

Only the Lone Ranger can depend on silver bullets.

Is it time for New York City Charter Schools to be absorbed into a redesigned New York City School System?

In December, 1998 Governor Pataki bundled a salary increase for state legislators with the creation of the charter school law in a lame duck session of the state legislature.  Needless to say, both passed.

Now, twenty-five years later; has the law achieved its purposes? (See Charter School law here).

The law established two authorizers, the State Education Department and the SUNY Charter School Institute. The State Education Department created Charter School Frameworks. (See Charter School Frameworks) and are woefully understaffed and can’t monitor the well-intentioned Frameworks.

The charter school law requires charters schools to:

* Improve student learning and achievement;

*Increase learning opportunities for all students, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for students who are at-risk of academic failure;

*Encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods;

* Provide schools with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems by holding the schools established under this article accountable for meeting measurable student achievement results.

Again, have charter schools achieved the goals established in the law?

The law sets a cap on the number of charter schools in the state which includes a cap for New York City; the cap has been reached in New York City and Governor Hochul is supporting abolishing geographic caps, allowing about 85 new charters to be sited in New York City. (See numbers of charter schools here)

 The local school boards, called Community Education Councils have no role in the Charter School creation or siting process. Charter schools are either co-located in existing schools or placed in private sites; the rent paid by the city, the Charter Law was amended by Cuomo to add this section.

In his recent Albany testimony Mayor Adams, who has been a supporter of charter schools, opposed the lifting of the cap explaining the city could not afford the estimated billion dollars in rent for new charter schools.  In the June, 2021 mayoral primary candidate Adams received $6.9 million in “independent expenditures” from charter supporters.. Under Citizens United, a Supreme Court decision political contribution is speech and limitations on contributions would violate First Amendment rights.

There are two categories of charter schools: network schools, organizations that manage groups of charter schools, functioning, in effect, as school districts. for example, Success Academy, Achievement First,, Uncommon Schools,, Harlem Children’s Zone; the network charter schools are richly funded through philanthropy and the officers are well-compensated (See Success Academy here , Achievement First here. Eva Moskowitz is paid far more than Chancellor Banks)

Community charter schools, sometimes referred to as “Mom and Pop” schools; schools operated by local not-for-profits, schools that clearly have struggled, frequently not meeting the goals in their charter.

A few years ago I was at a forum; a public school parent and a charter school parent were involved in a discussion. The public school parent was arguing,

”Charter schools throw out kids who are discipline problems, don’t take kids with disabilities and English language learners and substitute test prep for meaningful instruction.”

The charter school parent responded, “That’s exactly why I send my children to charter schools.”

We need one school system, not competing systems,

 Again, have charter schools achieved the goals set out in the law?

Do charter schools, “Increase learning opportunities for all students, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for students who are at-risk of academic failure?”

Have charter schools Encourage (d) the use of different and innovative teaching methods?

 Have charter schools “Provide (d) schools with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems by holding the schools established under this article accountable for meeting measurable student achievement results?

The answer, clearly, is “no.”

If we define “students who are at risk of academic failure” as students with disabilities and English language learners the answer of a resounding “no.”  Charter schools enroll smaller numbers of at-risk students and try to accept students with easier to remediate handicaps. (See detailed analysis here)

There is no evidence of “innovative teaching methods,” au contraire, instruction is heavily test preparation dominated.

And, I fail to understand what change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems by holding the schools established under this article accountable for meeting measurable student achievement results means: all schools must meet “measurable student achievement results.”

What should happen to charter schools?

Inside the Department of Education there are 150 schools “managed” by charter management-like organization (CMO), a remnant of the last years of the Bloomberg administration, called the Affinity District. Six not-for-profits provide the same level of services as the charter school management organizations supra, or more. New Visions for Public Schools, the Urban Assembly, CUNY Affinity SchoolsOutward BoundInternationals Network and NY Performance Consortium.

Norm Fruchter at the MY Metro Center wrote in detail about the origins and function of the Affinity District (Read here).

The UFT contract supports school-based options, changes in Department of Education regulations and teacher union contractual requirements approved by the staff and the principal and Board and Union hierarchy. Additionally the Board and the Union created an initiative called PROSE (Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence.

PROSE is about school-level innovations. It offers schools the ability to alter some of the most basic parameters by which they function including the way teachers are hired, evaluated and supported; the way students and teachers are programmed; the handling of grievances; and certain city and state regulations. Schools in the program explore and implement a variety of innovations at their schools.

I propose that Charter School Networks be combined with the Affinity District within the Department of Education umbrella.

The Community Charter schools can either join an Affinity Network or come under the jurisdiction of their local school district.

Charter schools networks in New York City would become part of the Department of Education, albeit, if they choose, the ability to function in the Affinity District and/or under the PROSE initiative or simply as a school in a school district.

I realize a heavy lift, the mayoral control model has fruitlessly nibbled around the edges, the 1800 schools in New York City have been adrift for too long.

We need smaller, “thinner,” more manageable districts, with an emphasis on school and district-based decision-making.

Merging Charter networks and the Affinity networks would be a model for other school districts across the nation,

How can we accomplish this giant step?

It is likely that the legislature will explore alternatives to mayoral control after the passage of the budget. Last year that legislature resoundingly rejected Governor Hochul’s plan to grant a four year extension to mayoral control within the budgeting process. Post budget the legislature expanded the size of the PEP (Board of Education), adding parent members; however, the mayoral appointees are still a majority. The legislature should create a task force, with a sunset provision, to redesign school governance: empowering the local Community Education Councils, reconfiguring the PEP (Board), perhaps moving back to appointees by the Mayor (2), Borough Presidents (5), City Council (1) and Comptroller (1) and, begin the phase-out of charter schools.

We have a weakened governor and a progressive legislature with overwhelming democratic majorities, a moment in time to correct the error of 1998.

Teachers Are Not Meant to Be Martyrs: Why We Need to Give Educators More Power to Shape Policy: High School Graduation Requirements


 Every week I leaf through Education Week, a compilation of the issues of the day in the world of education across the nation.

An Education Week Opinion essay is especially timely [Teachers Are Not Meant to Be Martyrs: Why we need to give educators more power to shape policy]  as the state considers sweeping changes to high school graduation requirements in New York State.

Teachers need more power. They are the street-level bureaucrats carrying out the work on the ground. If policies are going to be successfully implemented in a practical context, then teachers need to be given the time and the space to reconcile the requirements with their own practice.

Policymakers need to recognize that policy does not operate in a vacuum. Policymakers need to make sure the bureaucrats on the ground have the time and resources to carry out new education objectives in a real-life context.

Teacher educator programs need to better prepare teachers for the onslaught of policy that they will face from all levels of governance. Teaching is a political process, and teachers enter the field unprepared for that reality.

Researchers need to recognize the need for more pragmatic research and advocacy on what happens when “the rubber meets the road.”

In short, teachers don’t need a seat at the table. Teachers need everyone, themselves included, to realize that they own the table.

Absolutely on target!

Remember the Common Core? The National Governors Association “adopted” the Common Core State Standards  (Read here), David Coleman, ironically currently head of the College Board, entwined in AP Afro-American History kafuffle; led the rollout, a disaster, critics on the “left” and the “right” and states who jumped to adopt, including NYS, backed away.  Sol Stern and Peter Wood debated the pros and cons, Read here

 The CCSS faded into the dustbin of history, NYS adopted Next Generation Standards, I call Common Core-lite (Read here) and unfortunately abandoned EngageNY, a compendium of teacher designed curriculum modules that were widely used around the nation.

 NAEP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, called the gold standard, assesses students in the 4th, 8th and high school every three years, NYS falls just below the 50th percentile of states and has languished there for over a decade. Oddly, the high school graduation rate has continued to increase every year over the same period, currently 87% of students graduate within 4 years, almost all with Regents diplomas.

The sharp difference between NAEP scores and ever increasing graduation rates is strangely similar to the ever increasing state test scores under Commission Mills.  Chancellor Tisch and the successor Commissioner Steiner asked two testing experts to explore, and

“Another member of the Regents, former New York City schools superintendent Betty Rosa, went further, claiming that she was told by a high-ranking department official that [Commissioner]Mills and [Director of Testing[ Abrams had lowered the cut scores on the 2009 math test. Rosa even lobbied unsuccessfully to delay the release of the scores until there was an independent investigation of possible test corruption.”

 Tisch and Steiner asked a Harvard professor to take a deep dive, (see the Koretz Report here) and found “score inflation” and “leniency” in setting cut scores.

 The current Graduation Measures process raises similar issues, if the NAEP scores remain in the doldrums and graduation rates continue to rise how do you explain? (See latest Graduation rates here)

 The state has established a number of safety nets, superintendent determinations and “scales” the scores on Regents exams, technical reports that once were available in a timely manner on-line are no longer available.

 If the state decouples Regents Exams from graduation or simply does away with Regents altogether will graduation rates jump?

 Why has the state entered a review of the high school graduation process?

 A glass half full type of person would say we should carefully parse graduation requirements from time to time, a glass half empty might say the goal is simply to increase graduation rates, One could argue even if the requirements are reduced a diploma is vital either to move on to higher education or the world of work.

 Maintaining high standards and raising graduation rates is challenging, especially when reading/math scores decline from the earliest grades

 The state of Utah and many private employers are removing a college diploma as a job requirement, (See here and here) a discussion for another day.

 The Blue Ribbon Commission announced, 64 members, only seven of whom appear to be classroom teachers, are meeting from now into the summer to craft recommendations to pass along to the Board of Regents.

 At the end of the process it’s the classroom teachers, the “street-level bureaucrats” who will be expected to carry out the changes.

 The core questions do not come from classroom practitioners, A Connecticut-based organization produced a literature review, the Comprehensive Center Network, provided a 167 page document (see here) addressing five questions, why should the core questions be determined by an external organization, shouldn’t the Board of Regents or the Commission determine the questions?

 The core questions will result in a wide range of replies and moving from general to specifics will be a contentious process,

1. What do you want all students to know and be able to do before they graduate?

2. How do you want all students to demonstrate such knowledge and skills, while capitalizing on their cultures, languages, and experiences?

3. How do you measure learning and achievement (as it pertains to the answers to #2 above) to ensure those measures are indicators of high school completion while enabling opportunities for ALL students to succeed?

4. How can measures of achievement accurately reflect the skills and knowledge of our special populations, such as students with disabilities and English language learners?

5. What course requirements or examinations will ensure that all students are prepared for college, careers, and civic engagement?

 Instead of attempting to answer the Five Questions supra, shouldn’t we be asking: why are other states are doing so well?  Why is NYS in the bottom half while Massachusetts is consistently in the top five states?

 Should we be concentrating on grades 9-12 or should we investigate K – 12?

 Is the extreme difference in funding a factor from district to district?   The difference in funding from high wealth to low wealth is substantial. How about a 6th Question: Should the NYS School Funding formula reflect the needs of students rather than the wealth of the school district?

 Over the last three decades Massachusetts has been consistently in the top five states in NAEP scores and requires an exit in the 10th grade, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Test  [MCAT], additionally  – content-rich curricula and a heavy dose teacher training  (See in depth discussion here)

 In Massachusetts students must earn a passing score on the grade 10 MCAS tests in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics, and one of the high schools Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) tests to meet their graduation requirement.

Students who do not pass the MCAS tests in grade 10 may take retests in grades 11 and 12 and beyond. Students may also be able to participate in an appeal process.

 The battle over the Common Core was not necessary, I watched Coleman on a webcast roll out the Common Core by teaching a lesson using the MLK Letter from the Birmingham jail, a magnificent document, at the end an audience of teachers asked questions, Coleman was, shall we say snarky; and the rollout went downhill from there.

 David Tyack and Larry Cuban in “Tinkering Towards Utopia” recount endless failed education reforms and point to a simple reason, teachers must be onboard.

 After the state dumped the Common Core they created what they call the Next Generation Standards.  A team of teachers spent part of a summer with State Education staff working on the standards and in the fall the state rolled out the draft, the teachers on the committee objected, they had not agreed to the document.

 I sat in on a subsequent meeting at the UFT, a group of the teachers who worked on the draft document and three members of the Board of Regents, Regents Cashin, Chin and Rosa, all experienced educators, listened to the teachers, who had a long list of criticisms, the draft was withdrawn, a few more months of meetings, and the final document was adopted without the Common Core fiasco.

Teachers need more power. They are the street-level bureaucrats carrying out the work on the ground. If policies are going to be successfully implemented in a practical context, then teachers need to be given the time and the space to reconcile the requirements with their own practice

Listen to Tom Lehrer on Mathematics: