calling for backup

With survey, UFT aims to quantify its Common Core complaints

The sharp complaints that UFT President Michael Mulgrew leveled a week ago at the city and state’s Common Core rollout were based on anecdotal reports, according to union officials.

Now the union is hoping to back up Mulgrew’s harsh words with the voices of more than 100,000 educators. Today, every UFT member received a survey by email asking them whether they have received the curriculum materials, professional development, and technology they need to tie their instruction to the new standards.

A message from Mulgrew that accompanied the survey signaled that the union is looking for problems.

“With this online UFT survey, we are gathering vital evidence of the DOE’’s lack of instructional support as we demand that the DOE provide you with the tools that you need to teach to the new standards,” he wrote. “We will use this evidence to do our own evaluation of the DOE’’s support of our work.”

The state is in the process of developing curriculum materials aligned to the Common Core, a move that few, if any, of the other 45 states that have adopted the new standards are making. In the city, the Department of Education has built some curriculum materials and recruited hundreds of educators to build more in an effort to give teachers a helping hand during the transition.

According to the department, nearly 30,000 people logged on to the “Common Core Library” of instructional materials last month, and the materials for one unit were downloaded more than a thousand times. Plus, a survey of teachers that the department administered last spring found that 80 percent said they had gotten feedback about how to integrate the new standards into their classroom.

But schools and teachers have started the year, the first that will end in Common Core-aligned exams, without a full complement of curriculum materials to drawn on that are tied to the standards. “Millions of students will be tested on a curriculum that was never supplied to their teachers,” Mulgrew told Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education reform commission last week.

The city says it is doing all it can to help teachers. But moments after Mulgrew spoke to the reform commission, the city official in charge of the Common Core rollout suggested that the city might be exhausting its capacity to give teachers what they need to implement the new standards well.

“We are bound to fall short if we raise the standards without investing in the support that educators need to meet this challenge,” Polakow-Suransky told the commission, according to his written statement.

In addition to asking about the Common Core, today’s survey also asked teachers about the city’s special education reforms, class size, and mentoring — all areas where the union has raised alarm before.

The UFT regularly surveys chapter leaders about policy issues, last year basing a report about the impact of budget cuts on their answers. But surveying all of its members is an unusual move, union officials said today.

The union’s message to members and survey is below:

It is no surprise that after years of incompetence, disrespect and denigrating attacks on our profession, the Department of Education has failed us yet again, this time by failing to provide the tools and instructional supports we need to teach to the new Common Core Learning Standards.

We entered into this profession to help children. The DOE is responsible for helping us help children, but failures such as this make it increasingly clear that the DOE instead stands in our way.

The Common Core Learning Standards are sets of concepts and skills that a child will need to master at each grade level. A curriculum aligned to these standards is what needs to be taught and it is the DOE’s responsibility to provide such curriculum. How we teach that curriculum — which is articulated in our lesson plans every day — is our responsibility.

With this online UFT survey, we are gathering vital evidence of the DOE’s lack of instructional support as we demand that the DOE provide you with the tools that you need to teach to the new standards. We will use this evidence to do our own evaluation of the DOE’s support of our work.

Begin the survey now »

This survey is strictly confidential. We will not identify you or your school without your express permission.

We will be sending a similar survey to members of our functional chapters by the end of this week. We will use the evidence we gather from these two surveys to do our own evaluation of the DOE’s support of our work in schools.

In solidarity,

Michael Mulgrew

School Name [optional]

School ID number (Ex: K123 or 123) [optional]
Uncertain of your school’s ID number? You can look it up on the DOE website by typing your school’s name in the “School Search” box. The code will appear in parentheses next to your school’s name.

School District *

Borough *

What grade level do you teach? *

Elementary school
Middle school
High school

What subject do you teach? *

Social Studies
All subjects

Are you licensed in special education? *


How many years of service do you have? *


Have you received any formal professional development in how to teach to the Common Core Learning Standards? *


Were you given curriculum aligned with the Common Core Learning Standards? *


Have you been asked by school administrators to write your own curriculum (e.g. units of study, curriculum bundles) aligned with the Common Core Learning Standards? *


In which areas do you NOT have adequate instructional supports to teach to the Common Core Learning Standards? [Check all that apply.] *

Reading materials
Subject-specific materials/equipment such as scientific calculators
Does not apply because my school provides adequate instructional supports

In which areas do you NOT have access to adequate instructional technology to teach to the Common Core Learning Standards? [Check all that apply.] *

Internet access
Does not apply because my school provides access to adequate instructional technology

How satisfied are you with the support you’ve received around teaching to the Common Core Learning Standards? *

Not satisfied
Somewhat satisfied
Very satisfied

Is your school able to provide the appropriate programs and mandated services to all English language learners in your class? *

Does not apply ― no ELLs in my school
Don’t know

In your opinion, are most of your students with disabilities receiving the supports and services to help them meet grade-level standards? *

Does not apply ― no students with IEPs in my school
Don’t know

Have you been pressured to change the IEP of one or more of your students for reasons unrelated to the individual student’s needs (e.g., budget, program availability, staff)? *

Does not apply

In which of the following areas does your school NOT have the adequate services to ensure that your students are ready to learn? [Check all that apply.] *

Health services
Social services
After-school programs
My school has adequate services in all these areas

In your opinion, are your class sizes so large that it interferes with your ability to reach all students?


Have you been assigned a formal mentor in your school?


This survey is strictly confidential, but we would like to identify a few respondents willing to do interviews with the New York Teacher or the media. Would you be willing to participate in an interview? *


defensor escolar

Memphis parent advocacy group trains first Spanish-speaking cohort

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Manuela Martinez (center left) and Lidia Sauceda (center right) are among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship.

Manuela Martinez doesn’t want Spanish-speaking families to get lost in the fast-changing education landscape in Memphis as the city’s Hispanic population continues to grow.

The mother of two students is among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship, a program that trains parents on local education issues.

“We want to be more informed,” said Martinez, whose children attend Shelby County Schools. “I didn’t know I had much of voice or could change things at my child’s school. But I’m learning a lot about schools in Memphis, and how I can be a bigger part.”

More than 200 Memphians have gone through the 10-week fellowship program since the parent advocacy group launched two years ago. The vast majority have been African-Americans.

The first Spanish-speaking cohort is completing a five-week program this month and marks a concerted effort to bridge racial barriers, said Sarah Carpenter, the organization’s executive director.

“Our mission is to make the powerless parent powerful …,” she said.

The city’s mostly black public schools have experienced a steady growth in Hispanic students since 1992 when only 286 attended the former Memphis City Schools. In 2015, the consolidated Shelby County Schools had 13,816 Hispanic children and teens, or 12.3 percent of the student population.

Lidia Sauceda came to Memphis from Mexico as a child; now she has two children who attend Shelby County Schools. Through Memphis Lift, she is learning about how to navigate Tennessee’s largest district in behalf of her family.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Hispanic parents attend a training with the Memphis Lift fellowship program.

“Latinos are afraid of talking, of standing up,” Sauceda said. “They’re so afraid they’re not going to be heard because of their legal status. But I will recommend this (fellowship) to parents. How do we want our kids to have a better education if we can’t dedicate time?”

The training includes lessons on local school options, how to speak publicly at a school board meeting, and how to advocate for your children if you believe they are being treated unfairly.

The first fellowship was led by Ian Buchanan, former director of community partnership for the state-run Achievement School District. Now the program is taught in-house, and the Spanish-speaking class is being led this month by Carmelita Hernandez, an alumna.

“No matter what language we speak, we want a high-quality education for our kids just like any other parent,” Hernandez said. “A good education leads to better opportunities.”

Stopping summer slide

On National Summer Learning Day, Memphis takes stock of programs for kids

PHOTO: Helen Carefoot
Torrence Echols, a rising first-grader in Memphis, builds a tower with giant legos at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on National Summer Learning Day.

When it comes to summer learning, it’s been a better year for Memphis, where a range of new programs have helped to stem learning loss that hits hard in communities with a high number of low-income students.

On Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland celebrated that work in conjunction with National Summer Learning Day and against the backdrop of the children’s reading room of the city’s main library.

He estimated that 10,000 children and teens are being reached this summer through learning programs spearheaded through Shelby County Schools, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Libraries, churches and nonprofit organizations across the community.

That’s a record-breaking number, Strickland says, in a city with a lot of students struggling to meet state and local reading targets.

Summer learning loss, also known as summer slide, is the tendency for students to lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained during the school year. It’s a large contributor to the achievement gap, since children from low-income families usually don’t get the same summer enrichment opportunities as their more affluent peers. Compounded year after year, the gap widens to the point that, by fifth grade, many students can be up to three years behind in math and reading.

But this summer for the first time, Shelby County Schools offered summer learning academies across the city for students most in need of intervention. And Memphis also received a slice of an $8.5 million state grant to provide summer literacy camps at nine Memphis schools through Tennessee’s Read to be Ready initiative.

Literacy Mid-South used Thursday’s event to encourage Memphians to “drop everything and read!”

The nonprofit, which is providing resources this summer through about 15 organizations in Greater Memphis, is challenging students to log 1,400 minutes of summertime reading, an amount that research shows can mitigate learning loss and even increase test scores.

Reading is a problem for many students in Memphis and across Tennessee. Less than a third of third-graders in Shelby County Schools read on grade level, and the district is working to boost that rate to 90 percent by 2025 under its Destination 2025 plan.

The city of Memphis, which does not fund local schools, has made Memphis Public Libraries the focal point of its education work. This summer, the library is offering programs on everything from STEM and robotics to art and test prep.

Parents are a critical component, helping their kids to take advantage of books, programs and services that counter the doldrums of summer learning.

Soon after the mayor left the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on Thursday, Tammy Echols arrived with her son, Torrence, a rising first-grader at Levi Elementary School. Echols said they visit regularly to read books and do computer and math games.

“We always do a lot of reading and we’re working on learning sight words,” Echols said as she watched her son build a tower out of giant Lego blocks. “Torrence is a learning child and it’s easy to forget what you just learned if you’re not constantly reinforcing.”

You can find summer learning resources for families from the National Summer Learning Association.