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Jessica Glazer

Readers’ choices: Our 10 most-read news stories from 2014

Chalkbeat readers have spoken: The new contract between the city and the teachers’ union was the biggest story of 2014.

In fact, coverage of the United Federation of Teachers’ contract deal so dominated our most-read list that we just combined the week of stories into one entry. The rest of the year’s biggest stories hit on the big themes of the year, including the transition to Carmen Fariña’s leadership, testing anxiety, debates over the Common Core standards, and the city’s special education reforms.

Here’s the full list. If you’re in the mood to reminisce, check out our wrap-up of lessons learned. Happy 2015!

10. On August 11: Special-education overhaul leaves students less isolated, but schools struggle to keep up

“Over the past four years, the city has overhauled the way it educates nearly one-fifth of its public school students – those with disabilities – a group so large it outnumbers the entire Dallas school district.

Parents and teachers who have watched students languish in special-education classrooms have embraced the city’s new drive toward inclusion, which is backed by research and federal law … But there is little data available about how the new policies have impacted students, even as some critics question whether they are always in students’ best interests.”

9. On Oct. 1: Six city schools earn Blue Ribbon honors

“Six city schools earned Blue Ribbon honors today from the U.S. Department of Education, a recognition based on state test scores and success at reducing achievement gaps.”

8. On Feb. 20: Carmen Fariña’s game plan to undo (and redo) the Bloomberg years


Patrick Wall

“Mayor Bill de Blasio has tasked schools chancellor Carmen Fariña with helping to extend the Department of Education in new ways—first and foremost through the city’s much-hyped expansion of pre-kindergarten.

But as she settles into her job, Fariña is simultaneously focused on turning back the clock.”

7. On March 11: The quieter charter school divide

“As rancorous charter school space debates continue to dominate the headlines, another lower-profile round of discussion about who attends the schools is just beginning.

Some schools, seeking to fulfill a larger mission and bolster their finances, fill those spots by calling students off of their waiting lists. Other schools focus on teaching the students who remain, avoiding a potential drop in test scores and the social and academic disruption of adding new students.”

6. On April 3: Teachers review English exams in online forum, and it’s not pretty

“The reviews are in, and students found this year’s state English exams ‘stressful,’ ‘exhausting,’ ‘confusing,’ and ‘soul crushing,’ according to mostly anonymous comments by educators on a new testing feedback site.”

5. On April 29: Regents extend ‘safety net’ for new teacher certification test after union lobbying


“Aspiring New York State teachers won’t have to pass a new, tougher certification test this year or next year, thanks to a Board of Regents vote on Tuesday that resulted from last-minute negotiations with the state teachers union.

The ‘safety net’ deal means that teacher candidates in graduate schools of education will have to pass the new, video-based assessment starting in the 2015-2016 academic year.”

4. On Aug. 15: Ten top 10s from the city’s 2014 test scores

“The city’s test scores in math and English inched up in 2014, but overall proficiency remained low after the second year of Common Core-aligned tests. But in a system with more than 1,200 elementary and middle schools, there are dozens of outliers on both sides of the performance spectrum.”

3. On April 24: How Lucy Calkins, literacy guru and Fariña ally, is fighting to define Common Core teaching

“Now, Fariña has the power to reimagine the way educators across the city teach reading and writing in the age of the Common Core. Already, the chancellor has promised a top-to-bottom review of the city’s recommended curriculums. And to lead a citywide Common Core literacy training next month, her administration brought in Calkins’ group.

But some critics say that parts of Calkins’ approach and the Common Core are incompatible. The prospect that Fariña’s ascension could expand Calkins’ influence over the school system has already unsettled some of of them, including New York University education professor Susan Neuman.”

2. On April 7: 10 city high schools make national list of ‘most challenging’

“The Washington Post’s annual ranking of high schools where students take challenging courses includes 10 operated by New York City.”

1. From April 30 to May 6: Career ladder, fewer eval metrics, and face time with parents in teacher contract, sources say; the unofficial announcement; the UFT’s highlights; back pay details; salary ranges; the ATR ‘buyout’

Teachers union President Michael Mulgrew (center) has raised concerns with Chancellor Carmen Fariña (right) about principals who have nearly abandoned suspensions, as well as there being too little teacher training as schools transition to alternative discipline systems.

Rob Bennett for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio

The details of the agreement didn’t stay under wraps for long:

“’The wait is over!’

That’s how the United Federation of Teachers has announced details around the tentative contract agreement it has reached with the city. The announcement was posted on its website Thursday before the union and City Hall began spreading the news.

Bonus: Our most-read First Person piece, Mark Anderson’s How teaching students with special needs makes me a better teacher for everyone

“For some parents, the idea of having their child educated in the same classroom as a student with a disability can be off-putting … But educating children who don’t have special needs in the same classroom as those who do, which happens more and more because of recent special education reforms, can be an opportunity for greater learning for all students—if teachers get creative.”