The school week was short in length, but it began with a splash here, with a report on the tenuous status of the politically-charged UFT Charter School. The story stirred critical commentary from readers on the role that teachers unions could — and should — play in school management and accountability.
When it opened in 2005, then- President Randi Weingarten declared that the UFT Charter School would become a proof point that the union contract was not a barrier to success. But seven years in, the school is now one of the lowest-performing in the city.
Commenters were divided on how to assign blame for the school’s demise. “BB” argued that the school’s label as a unionized school was besides the point:
Poverty, crime, massive class sizes, lack of parental engagement, high staff turnover, lack of teaching resources, and non-experienced educational leaders are the real cause of most of the problems schools face in this country.
The difference, “Danny” responded, was that assuming full responsibility for school’s management put the union a position where it was directly accountable for school performance:
[T]his school was run, from the top to the bottom, by the UFT, whereas regular district schools are run by the NYC DOE, with only the teacher side influenced by the UFT-DOE contract…The charter gave the UFT a chance to show what they could do if they were calling ALL the district-level shots.
And with the political stakes so high, “NYC Teacher” said the union’s lack commitment to the school’s long-term success was a missed opportunity:
[I]f the UFT put it’s name on the school they should have done everything possible to make sure that school succeeded. There may be lots of contributing factors but still it’s an embarrassment, one that we really don’t need when the charter wonks are looking to drag the unions down already.
A commenter named “Former Teacher” took UFT President Michael Mulgrew to task for giving the school an emphatic vote of confidence:
Really? You’re happy with what you see at a failing school? Expectations should be far higher for staff and students. No one should be happy with the progress that schools is making.
Reviewers from the UFT Charter School’s authorizer, SUNY Charter School Institute, visited the school this week and Barbara Morgan, a former New York City Department of Education spokeswoman (now with New Jersey State Education Department) took to Twitter to highlight the authorizer’s role in charter renewal: