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New York TeacherNovember 3, 2016

Volume LVIII, Number 3

Cover Stories

President's Perspective

Hillary Clinton for president

[[nid:4814; line-height: 20.8px; float: right; styleName:nyt_small]]The presidential election of 2016 is historic because we have an opportunity to elect the first woman president. But it’s historic for another reason. Never before has the Republican Party put forth a candidate so woefully unprepared for the office and so lacking in the demeanor and character necessary to lead the country.

The choice is clear: we must elect Hillary Clinton to be the nation’s next president.

Her experience as a former U.S. senator from New York and President Obama’s first secretary of state makes her eminently prepared for this difficult and demanding job. And she has been a longtime advocate for racial justice, educational opportunity, working families and health care. 

Her core beliefs would no doubt inform her selection to the U.S. Supreme Court for the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February. Senate Republicans have refused to hold hearings on President Obama’s nominee. Clinton in the first debate vowed to end the conservative majority on the court, while Donald Trump called Scalia a “hero” and promised to nominate someone in his mold. 

With three of the remaining eight members of the Supreme Court age 78 or older, the next president could very well determine the ideological makeup of the court for decades to come. As the anti-union Friedrichs case made clear to us, the makeup of the court matters a great deal. Our enemies have become expert in using the nation’s courts to drive far-reaching policy changes that empower corporate interests. 

Hillary Clinton has laid out a detailed education agenda that describes the problems and specifies remedies, evidencing her knowledge and longtime involvement in the field. She proposes elevating the profession of teaching with better training, support and salaries, and rebuilding our education infrastructure through school bonds to fix and modernize classrooms across the country. And she plans to put forth a $2 billion plan to help schools revise student disciplinary policies that excessively penalize African-American and Latino youth. 

As part of that effort, she has vowed to use the platform of her presidency to encourage states to use federal education funding to provide intervention services focused on social and emotional support for kids who act out — the kind of effort we have undertaken in our schools with the Positive Learning Collaborative. 

Trump lines up with those who seek to privatize public education. In one of his few policy pronouncements, Trump said in a September campaign speech that he would provide $20 billion in state block grants for a “school choice” program that would dramatically expand vouchers for private schools. He has said he would defund or eliminate the Department of Education, which provides Title I funds to schools serving students in poverty. Any discussion of Trump’s education record has to include Trump University, a bogus enterprise that bilked students who thought their hard-earned money would give them access to Trump’s real estate “secrets.” 

Clinton is a friend of the labor movement and understands the difference a union can make for all workers in terms of better wages, benefits and a voice on the job. She has been steadfast in defending collective-bargaining rights and pushing for an increase in the minimum wage. And she believes in a tax code that requires the nation’s wealthiest residents to pay their fair share of taxes.

By contrast, Trump has stiffed small businesses, refusing to pay what he promised for services and goods or paying substantially below what was agreed upon. He celebrates not paying taxes, the means by which the government pays for schools, roads, bridges and so much more. He calls profiting from the misery of working people who lost their homes in the Great Recession “good business.” He disparages teacher unions and has stated on the record that he is in favor of “right to work” laws that undermine unions. 

On the road to the Republican nomination, Donald Trump tapped into the anger and resentment of white, working-class men who have lost ground with…

widespread lack of curriculum in core

Widespread lack of curriculum in core subjects

More than a third of all New York City public schools are lacking curriculum in at least one core subject, according to a new UFT survey of chapter leaders.

More oversize classes in city high schools - chart

More oversize classes in city high schools

The number of oversize classes in elementary and middle schools is down for the second year in a row, but that welcome news is offset by a sharp rise in the city’s high school numbers.

Latest News

High school graduation rate reaches record high

The nationwide high school graduation rate has risen for the fourth consecutive year, according to recently released federal data.

National teacher prep rules announced

The U.S. Department of Education has released new regulations requiring states to issue yearly ratings for preparation programs for new K–12 teachers, determined in part by the academic performance of the students of the programs’ graduates.

Labor movement steps up support for Hillary Clinton

Ramping up efforts to elect Hillary Clinton, seven labor groups joined forces with For Our Future, a Democratic super PAC, and raised $60 million to mobilize working families for the presidential candidate in battleground states.

Chicago teachers avoid another strike

The Chicago Teachers Union narrowly averted a planned strike, announcing a tentative deal with Chicago Public Schools minutes before a midnight deadline on Oct. 10.
Mindy Rosier, a science teacher at P811 in Harlem, is thrilled to reach the vill

Feet of strength

For 10 days in early October, a dedicated group of teachers, parents and education advocates marched 150 miles from New York City to Albany. Their goal: to shine a spotlight on the state’s failure to properly fund public schools.

Feature Stories

Student Marcus Sutton (right) squares off against World Chess Champion Magnus Ca

Chess rules at this school

For students at chess-loving IS 318 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, nothing tops a visit by World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen. The 25-year-old Norwegian — who became a grandmaster at 13 and has held the world title since age 22 — looks like a rock star and was received like one by students on the school’s own championship-winning team on Sept. 23.

Carlsen was accompanied by Erna Solberg, the prime minister of Norway, but there were no questions for her until students were prodded by teachers. And then, their first question was, “Do you play chess?” (The answer was yes, but not well.)

Like Carlsen, students at IS 318 devote a lot of time to the game. “It’s the culture at this school and kids have the opportunity to spend huge amounts of time” playing, said full-time chess teacher Elizabeth Spiegel, who was once ranked No. 10 in the country among women.

Students on the team have won the junior high school national championships 12 times and the high school nationals once, the only middl…

Guidance counselor Cassandra Pitkin (left) and social worker Stephanie Liebowitz

Two of a kind

The guidance counselor and social worker at PS 203 in Queens believe in the same things, finish each other's sentences and walk the hallways in tandem. The school's successful character education program is a march of of the strength of their collaboration.

Noteworthy graduates: Paul Barbara
Noteworthy Graduates

Noteworthy graduates: Paul Barbara, emergency room physician

Paul Barbara says his science teacher at Staten Island Technical HS "taught me how to learn what I thought I’d never understand and how to complete a task.”

Around the UFT

Yona Adika (left), an occupational therapist in District 2, and UFT District 2 R

Calling (and more) for Clinton

In the month leading up to this critical presidential election, UFT members turned out at after-school phone banks in all five union borough offices and also made calls from home on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign. 

Gabriella Laskaris (right) is all smiles after picking up her tokens of recognit

District 29 tenure celebration

There were flowers, balloons, certificates and toasts of sparkling cider for 44 newly tenured teachers at a District 29 celebration of tenure on Oct. 20.

Red-letter day for readers

Melissa Rodriguez found a new use for a stroller. At her first First Book event sponsored by the UFT, with 1-year-old son Noel sitting in front, Rodriguez stuffed their allotment of 50 books behind him.
Adams (front, second from right) poses with representatives from the schools tha

Full STEAM ahead

More than 100 Brooklyn schools and Kingsborough Community College have received $26 million in grants from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams to enhance instruction in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics — better known as STEAM.

Welfare Fund Medical Learning Series seminar

UFT members found out how to tackle insomnia or help people kept awake at night by a partner’s snoring at a UFT Welfare Fund Medical Learning Series seminar on sleep disorders: Solutions to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep.

You Should Know

Secure Your Future

Social Security benefit gets slight increase

The Social Security Administration announced a cost-of-living adjustment of 0.3 percent in 2017, an increase that will affect more than 65 million Social Security and Supplemental Security Income recipients.


Carmen Alvarez, VP special education leads session

Changing role of the IEP teacher

The centrally funded IEP teacher role has been reenvisioned to focus on identifying and addressing learning issues before students are referred for evaluation.


The challenges of homelessness

Homelessness is affecting a growing number of children in New York City. When a family is homeless, school often becomes the only stable institution in a child’s life.


Core corrections

It’s heartening that teachers are part of the state’s process of writing the new Empire State Learning Standards to better reflect the knowledge and skills that children should be able to demonstrate at each grade. But so far, we know one thing for sure: There’s still work to do.
Editorial Cartoons

Teaching Resources

State certification

New state certification requirements

During the five-year period starting on July 1, 2016, professionally certified teachers and Level III certified paraprofessionals are required to collect a total of 100 professional development hours, now called Continuing Teacher and Leader Education (CTLE) hours.

Linking to Learning

Alternatives to the book report

So you’re thinking about assigning your class a book report. Consider the many alternatives.

Research shows

How class disruptions affect achievement

Exposure to even mild classroom disruptions lowers the academic achievement for all students in a class, including those who are highly motivated or top-performing, according to new research in the AERA Open journal.
Teacher to Teacher

Using annotation to strengthen reading

All social studies and English teachers need a strong, go-to reading strategy. I began my teaching career with the typical strategy of asking students questions about the reading.

Building Your Career

Building Your Career

Visual supports for nonverbal students

The K–2 students in my self-contained 6:1:1 class love our morning meetings.
New Teacher Diaries

Mad followers, DMs and how Jay Gatsby slid into his crush

As a first-year teacher, any concerns I had about teaching students so close to my age faded during a recent discussion about "The Great Gatsby" in my 11th-grade English class.

Retired Teachers News

US Supreme Court

Election of ‘Supreme’ importance

My whole life friends and colleagues have been trying to rescue me; to save me from myself — with limited success.

One colleague put me on a mailing list for a very conservative institution, I guess to purge my liberal soul. After a quick glance, I usually toss their mailings. But one caught my eye. It had to do with the Supreme Court vacancy and who would make the appointment after a new president is inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2017. The author began by saluting the late Justice Antonin Scalia for his support of original intent; that the words of the Constitution or any law must be read and implemented based on what they were understood to mean when written: the conservative insistence on textualism and originalism.

From its conservative perspective, the article presented a survey of issues that are expected to appear before the Supreme Court — an…