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New York TeacherDecember 4, 2014

Volume LVI, Number 4

Cover Stories

Mastering English through project-based learning

How many Americans say they took umpteen years of Spanish or French and cannot speak a word of it?

Teachers in New York City’s International High Schools, a dozen schools serving English language learners, would tell you that’s because for most Americans, their education did not hinge on mastering that second language. But non-English speakers entering city high schools don’t have a choice. They must rapidly acquire English to keep up with their subjects.

The way to do that, the teachers say, is for students to talk.

In a class of 25 students, in a 50-minute period, each student would speak for two minutes at most if the teacher never opened his or her mouth, notes Claire Sylvan, the executive director of the Internationals Network that oversees the schools. Over seven periods, that would add up to 14 minutes of talking a day.

“We don’t think that’s going to cut it,” Sylvan said. “All of our teachers learn how to create collaborative projects so the kids are doing most of the talking most of the time.”…

Leading from the classroom

Four new teacher leadership positions were made possible by a federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant that supports a career-ladder initiative now operating in 77 high-needs middle schools across the city.

Infographic: Equity and Fairness for All

Equity and Fairness for All

Charter schools educate fewer high-needs students, yet those that are housed in public school buildings get more capita government school aid. Plus, many charters benefit from hefty amounts of private money.

Latest News

Arbitrator to help resolve retiree retro issue

"An arbitrator has now said that our members should receive all the money they are entitled to," said Michael Mulgrew. "We accept his offer to quickly work out the details."

Invited educators, politicians and community leaders on Nov. 20 visited the musi

Power, promise of community schools showcased

The power and promise of community schools were on display on Nov. 20 as invited educators, politicians and community leaders got an in-depth tour of the Community Health Academy of the Heights (CHAH), one of the UFT’s 23 Community Learning Schools.

UFT hails mayor’s plan to fix struggling schools

Rejecting his predecessor’s practice of closing struggling schools and replacing them with smaller ones, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Nov. 3 unveiled a new blueprint for turning around 94 of the city's most troubled schools.
Charles Cogen Award winner Mona Romain (second from right) with Teachers’ Retire

Cogen winner Romain: Members must stay vigilant

In a fiery speech accepting the Charles Cogen Award, the union’s highest honor and the highlight of Teacher Union Day, Mona Romain told cheering colleagues, “The union is deep inside me.”

Speech and language therapist and Chapter Leader Sylvia Dadzie (second from left

UFT strong!

The UFT is stronger than ever.
That point was repeated often during the 54th annual Teacher Union Day ceremony, a day that honors those who participated in the first UFT strike on Nov. 7, 1960, and the union stalwarts of today.

Feature Stories

Anthony Abbriano and Charles Verdolino

A change for the better at Kingsborough

Teachers at Kingsborough Early College Secondary School in Brooklyn always prided themselves on their school’s commitment to professional development. At this grade 6–12 school with a unique model in which most students graduate with an associate’s degree, the staff had concentrated on the Common Core, the Danielson Framework for Teaching and other aspects of curriculum that would help their students become college-ready.

But professional development at Kingsborough had always been done in a traditional way — with an agenda determined by the school’s administration and conducted in a single session for the entire staff.

“We’ve had really successful PD,” said Thomas Wierzbowski, a 10th-grade English teacher and the school’s lead teacher. “But we were at a point where one PD for everybody really wasn’t effect…

Murrow HS Chapter Leader James Duncan during a music workshop

4 Brooklyn high schools combine forces

Four Brooklyn large high schools decided to do something different this year for Election Day professional development: they pooled their resources so that teachers and paraprofessionals got training in their specific subject areas while meeting colleagues from neighboring schools. 

Students at Emma Lazarus HS on the Lower East Side attempt to arrange strips of paper with single words or sentences into a coherent paragraph.

Success spoken here

Emma Lazarus HS on the Lower East Side has drawn national attention for its stunning success in teaching English language learners from low-income families. Teachers give students the scaffolding they need to master English at the same time that they tackle difficult high school subjects.

Member Spotlight

What I Do
Lindsay Orcutt

What I Do: Lindsay Orcutt, teacher of the blind and visually impaired

For 10 years, Orcutt has taught students from around the city who are blind or visually impaired strategies for learning and independence. "I tell them my job is to put myself out of a job," she says.

Around the UFT

NYCATA/UFT Artworks ’14 conference

Art educators caught up with her colleagues and gleaned ideas to take back to their schools at Artworks 2014, the 34th annual NYCATA conference on Oct. 25.

Welfare Fund’s annual breast cancer workshop

Annual mammograms and early detection can lead to the best outcomes for breast cancer treatment, the deputy physician-in-chief and director of breast cancer programs at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan told the nearly 100 who attended the annual breast cancer workshop at UFT headquarters.

UFT Veterans Committee marches in Veterans Day Parade

For the 15th straight year, members of the UFT Veterans Committee took part in the Veterans Day Parade in Manhattan on Nov. 11. “The crowds love the vets,” UFT Veterans Committee Chair John Garvey said. The only downer, he added, was “that the governor vetoed a pension legislation bill.”

Sushi chef, author does a cooking demo for families at PS 25, the Bronx

Myrna Connolly’s kindergarten students at PS 25 in the South Bronx gingerly sampled the seaweed but decided they liked the carrot wrap sushi that chef Tracy Griffith had prepared for them much better during her visit on Nov. 18.

Halloween fundraiser for teacher from PS 96, Manhattan

For one glorious night, Shirley Nieves pushed aside her pain and reveled in a circle of friends, family and former colleagues from PS 96 in East Harlem, who threw the beloved teacher a Halloween fundraiser for a lifesaving double lung transplant.

Your Rights and Benefits

Know Your Rights
Bloodborne diseases

Protecting yourself from bloodborne diseases, Part 1

Accidents, playground scrapes, bloody noses, fights, athletic injuries and violent episodes all have the potential for exposing you to a 


President's Perspective

Time to show what we can do

Our goal is to continue to work with the mayor and chancellor to show the public — in New York and beyond — what a great school system looks like and the role that empowered teachers have in building it


Never giving up on their students

"As long as there are students at this school, we are here to teach them." This is the sentiment echoed by educators at the 15 high schools citywide that are phasing out.


Renewal of possibility

To fully appreciate Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new strategy to help struggling schools, it helps to remember former Mayor Bloomberg’s approach.

An election without voters

Nearly three out of four registered voters in New York State stayed home on Election Day. Turnout — or the lack of turnout — has consequences. We are now left with a state Senate obligated to financiers who support unfettered expansion of charter schools.

Teaching Resources

Research shows

Chronic absenteeism and performance

New research confirms the link between chronic absenteeism — defined as a student not showing up on 18 or more days — and a school’s average test scores.

Teacher to Teacher

Connected educators know collaboration

Much like our 21st-century students, teachers today need be connected. As we become less isolated within the walls of our classrooms, opportunities to tune in and take learning into our own hands present themselves regularly — if we know where to look.

Building Your Career

Building Your Career

The Histogram wall

The Histogram wall in my social studies classroom is a play on Instagram.
New Teacher Diaries

Wait for the joy

Every new teacher will go through myriad emotions as they set out on their journeys. But it is joy that new teachers should wait for with bated breath.

Retired Teachers News

SHIP 2015 premium notices

The Supplemental Health Insurance Program’s 2015 premium notices will be sent in early January to retirees who have not elected to pay premiums via automatic pension deduction.

AFT working to protect pensions

The American Federation of Teachers is working “to reclaim the promise of a secure retirement and … to ensure that all Americans, after careers of hard work and service, are able to live independent, dignified lives.”