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More Worksheets?

May 31, 2016 pm31 11:32 pm

It’s a point of pride for me…

That phrase should warn me that I’ve stepped outside of “rational”

… pride for me to use very few worksheets.

I think this year I’ve used fewer worksheets than any of my previous 17 years of teaching.

My first year – 1997 – I was a young teacher with some promise, and senior math teachers in my department tried to help me – not with my math, which was strong, but with classroom management, which was not. Estelle (her real name) visited my class – bedlam – and suggested that instead of writing out a long, lousy lesson plan, that I instead design a worksheet that contained all the problems I intended to do in class, plus some extras. She sat with me, I recall the daylight drifting across the table in the teachers’ room, we were alone, and laid out a row of four similar problems. “Do this on the board, do the next with them, and then ask them to do the third, faster students may try the fourth.” Then she started the next row, with four more problems, but with a new level of complexity (perhaps they included minus signs).

I had not, to that point, understood anyone’s advice about how to run a class. I was probably destined for one year and out – pretty common among new teachers in NYC in 1997, especially alternate certification (read – no student teaching). But Estelle’s advice was about how to construct a worksheet, with a logical progression. It was math. I picked up my pen and completed the work she had started. She praised the effort. I thought the lesson had been pedagogical – but it was a classroom management lesson, and it may have been the pivotal moment that kept me a teacher.

Worksheets were easier to design than lessons were to write in “Education School” format – so that was good. But all of a sudden, more kids were coming in and getting to work, paying attention. Damned if attendance didn’t even get a little better. In retrospect – it was Estelle’s Developmental Worksheets. Kids liked getting paper in their hand, with a clear expectation of what to work on. By my 3rd or 4th year, well-designed daily worksheets were my thing. I prettied them up, included homework assignments, challenge problems, starting typesetting them, but the basic structure stayed the same.

They were also my worksheets. I MADE them. But I started picking up bits of criticism about worksheet use, not directed to me, but directed to math teachers in general, about the lack of variety, dullness, repetition, the use of worksheets as a crutch. And I began cutting back. Which was easy, as I’d been overusing them. And cutting back more. And more. And I was still successful. It became a point of pride… and that’s where I got in trouble.

I realized these last two weeks, as I have occasionally gone for a worksheet of my own design, that I’d reduced sheets to a rarity. I’d also forgotten how well some kids respond to sheets. And in seeking variety, I had eliminated one form of lesson – I’d reduced variety.

Estelle’s Developmental Worksheet, is ironically, the mainstay of my lesson design. It’s just in the lesson now, and not on a sheet.

Next year some lessons will have worksheets. Not every day. But more than this year, or the previous year. A little variety should trump irrational pride.


Deciding not to Vote in UFT Elections – A Rational Choice?

May 30, 2016 pm31 10:49 pm

Pretend you check into a resort, plan on staying there three weeks. It’s an unusual place with an assortment of lodgings: a big hotel, some smaller hostels, bungalows, cabins… And there seem to be crazy guests running all over the grounds.  Turns out most guests are short term, like you, but there’s a reasonable number of long-termers.

One day there’s a huge ruckus over shuffleboard. One long-term group has agreed with management to slightly shorten the hours the courts are open, and the other, slightly more disheveled looking long-term group is angry and yelling. You move on, because the argument was weird, and you don’t play shuffleboard.  Maybe you’ll try to keep your distance, spend more time with short-termers.

Later that week there’s a todo about whether the hotel should be managed as one entity, or whether there should be one manager per floor. The calmer group likes the new plan, and it makes some sense, more personal. Not that it will matter to you, but they are fighting right outside your door, so you’re forced to think about it.

The next day some of the same people are fighting again – this time one of the pools, the nice outdoor one you prefer, is going to be cleaned more regularly – well that makes sense – but will be unavailable a few more hours each day. The disheveled group is angry again, and this time they have a point. The pool matters to you, but you are only here two more weeks anyway. And the calm group does all the talking with management anyway.

Few days later, they come around to your door with two petitions – one of them to get the windows replaced with better windows before winter, and the other to leave the windows alone, but lower room rates by 3%. The disheveled people are apoplectic. The windows are SOO important. And they have a point. And they were right about the pool. But you won’t be here in the winter, even if you feel bad for them, and that discount would be useful…  You sign for the lower rate.

Finally, with just a week left, you learn there will be a new liaison to management – one of the cleancut people, or one of the sad disheveled ones. You can go to the third floor to help make the choice, but it’s at the same time as when the pool is open, and you really need that swim.

It was a rational choice.

– – — — —– ——– ————- ——– —– — — – –

Obviously I’m thinking of many newer teachers. When many sit out the UFT election, I do not believe they are being apathetic. That implies that this stuff matters to them. I believe they are making a rational choice, a choice based on being a “short-termer” – someone with little invested in changing the system.

There are a lot of lousy reasons not to vote. Apathy is one of them. Feeling distant from the decision-making is another. Too many undelivered ballots is a third. And we can do better in all those areas.

And, honestly, both sides in this election did better outreach than in the past. Getting the teacher vote to move from 20% to 27% is a big deal – credit all around. And having the election committee run a serious, non-partisan Get out the Vote operation was impressive.

But what about those short-termers? How do we make voting – forget that. How do we make involvement in the union a rational choice for them?

It is something that both sides have an interest in addressing. There are plenty of issues that divide us. This one draws us together.

Retention. Better retention would help. But how we get there is not easy.

I started blogging in April, 2006.  Ten years and a month ago. For those of you who were counting. And guess what I wrote about first?  Retention. Maybe there were some ideas there worth thinking about. Take a look.




UFT Election Results – Mandates?

May 29, 2016 pm31 11:26 pm

Turnout was up in every division – but still far too low. If “I didn’t bother to return my ballot” was a candidate, he would have swept every office, every division.

Voters tend to be more involved, more active. Their voices should be heard. But let’s be careful about the responsibility to represent members (what the winners actually earned) and a mandate.

Let’s take a look. I’m going to use teacher votes only, since I am most certain of them.

President. This time Mulgrew got 16.2% of all eligible teachers, Jia Lee got 8.2%. 74.8% Not Voting.
Last election: Mulgrew 14.1%, Julie Kavanagh 4.6%, 81.3% Not Voting.  Time before Mulgrew 21.2%, Kit Wainer 3.4%, 75.4% Not Voting.

Elementary School Exec Board. This time Unity 19.8% to MORE/New Action 6.5%, with 73.1% not voting.
Last time Unity 15%, MORE 3.3%, New Action 1.6%, 80.1% not voting. Time before Unity 21%, New Action 2.6%, ICE/TJC 1.9%, Not Voting 74.5%.

Middle School Exec Board. This time Unity 14.7%, MORE/New Action 7.9%, Other 1.6%, Not Voting 75.8%.
Last time Unity 11%, MORE 3.7%, New Action 1.5%, 83.8% Not Voting. Time before Unity 16.9%, New Action 3.6%, ICE/TJC 2.1%, Not Voting 77.8%.

High School Exec Board. This time MORE/New Action 11.6%, Unity 10.5%, with 77.3% not voting.
Last time Unity/New Action 10.8%, MORE 7.5%, 81.7% not voting. Time before Unity/New Action 16.9%, ICE/TJC 6.9%, Not Voting 76.2%.

Participation in the elections has clearly improved, but it’s not enough. All of us, every caucus, have a strong interest in seeing even greater participation next time around. And I think that means greater participation in everyday union life in the schools. Which means inactive chapters need to become active. Inactive members have to get involved. And in schools without chapters, we have to help start them.

Especially in high schools, the break up of our traditional schools made it harder to maintain regular union functioning – which both makes our organizing efforts in the mini-schools more important, and serves as a reminder that we must be advocating the reassembly of some of our large high schools.


UFT Election 2016 – Good News Good News for MORE / New Action

May 27, 2016 pm31 11:21 pm
  1. We won the high schools. This was the race worth watching (no one knew the result in advance). Margin was just over 200 votes…
  2. Look at this….

In 2004, ICE/TJC had 1,239 elementary votes, NAC had 556, combined 1,795.
In 2007, ICE/TJC had 1,337 elementary votes, NAC had 562, combined 1,899.
In 2010, ICE/TJC had 703 elementary votes, NAC had 978, combined 1,681.
In 2013, MORE had 1,140 elementary votes, NAC had 534, combined 1,674.
In 2016, MORE/NAC had 2,306.
Together, we got the best result in over a decade.

In 2004, ICE/TJC had 422 middle school votes, NAC had 311, combined 733.
In 2007, ICE/TJC had 444 middle school votes, NAC had 273, combined 717.
In 2010, ICE/TJC had 248 middle school votes, NAC had 421, combined 669.
In 2013, MORE had 398 middle school votes, NAC had 161, combined 559.
In 2016, MORE/NAC had 882.
Together, we got the best result in over a decade.

In 2004, ICE/TJC had 1,417 high school votes, NAC had 700, combined 2,117.
In 2007, ICE/TJC had 1,524 high school  votes, NAC had 521, combined 2,045.
In 2010, ICE/TJC had 1,369 high school  votes, NAC had 774, combined 2,143.
In 2013, MORE had 1,430 high school  votes, NAC had 452, combined 1,882.
In 2016, MORE/NAC had 2,275.
Together, we got the best result in over a decade.

In 2004, ICE/TJC had 990 functional votes, NAC had 512, combined 1,502.
In 2007, ICE/TJC had 1,032 functional votes, NAC had 548, combined 1,580.
In 2010, ICE/TJC had 703 functional votes, NAC had 708, combined 1,411.
In 2013, MORE had 1,140 functional votes, NAC had 951, combined 2,091.
In 2016, MORE/NAC had 2,232.
Together, we got the best result in over a decade.

UFT Elections 2016 – Some initial results

May 27, 2016 pm31 10:42 pm

There was no slate report by division. Instead I used the lowest total of any candidate in that division
Grand total is rounded
Retiree totals are back-calculated. I ignored the cap on retiree votes. These retiree numbers are calculated, not real, and likely to be significantly off, and only marginally better than nothing.
The grand total may exclude several functional non-DoE or non-school titles. It also includes per diems, etc. This leaves, in my mind, some questions both about the functional and the retiree numbers I am reporting

Division Mailed Returned % Voting
Elementary 35606 10,026 28.2%
Middle 11197 2,856 25.5%
High School 19539 4,747 24.3%
Teacher Total 66,342 17,629 26.6%
Functional 46731 10,953 23.4%
InService Total 113,073 28,582 25.3%
Retirees (back calc) 62,991 24,464 38.8%
Grand Total 176,064 53,046 30.1%
Division Unity MORE/NAC Portelos Total slate-y
Elementary 7,040 2,306 222 9,568
Middle 1,649 882 178 2,709
High School 2,061 2,275 108 4,444
Teacher Total 10,750 5,463 508 16,721
Functional 7,651 2,232 323 10,206
InService Total 18,401 7,695 831 26,927
Retirees (back calc) 20,775 3,048 625 24,448
Grand Total 39,176 10,743 1,456 51,375
Division Unity MORE/NAC Portelos
Elementary 73.6% 24.1% 2.3%
Middle 60.9% 32.6% 6.6%
High School 46.4% 51.2% 2.4%
Teacher Total 64.3% 32.7% 3.0%
Functional 75.0% 21.9% 3.2%
InService Total 68.3% 28.6% 3.1%
Retirees (back calc) 85.0% 12.5% 2.6%
Grand Total 76.3% 20.9% 2.8%

UFT Election turnout – Results later today (day 2)

May 27, 2016 am31 7:54 am

UFT election results should be available this afternoon (Friday), not Thursday as I had originally believed. Yesterday I wrote about five things to look for (who wins high schools, did the generic and partisan Get out the Vote efforts reverse the trend of falling turnout, did Unity vote stop falling, would the combined opposition see a significant uptick, and would the middle schools become close).

We already have the answer to one question:  turnout improved to better than 2007 levels (though not 2004) in all teacher divisions – probably in functionals, too, though I am not certain we are comparing apples to apples there. The number of retirees voting increased, but I am uncertain of the percent.

I’ll talk more about all the numbers in the coming days, but this is what I wrote down yesterday (sorry no spreadsheet yet):


UFT Election Results Later Today – Five Things to Look for

May 26, 2016 am31 7:53 am

Turns out, I will be at the count. I will blog/tweet about results later. I will be at the New Action/MORE celebration around 6.

#1 Least important in the long run, but most immediately interesting – Who wins the high school division?  Unity’s totals over the last four elections have ranged from 1600 to 2900. The combined opposition (though never before actually combined) from 1800 to 2100. I really have no idea who will win, but expect it to be close.

#2 Most important in the long run:  Will turnout stop falling?  Will it begin to rise?  Teacher turnout has run from 32%, 23%, to 20%*. Will the decline continue?  The union did a reasonable job of generic get out the vote e-mails to chapter leaders.  I would consider anything from 20% and lower to be extremely concerning, and anything from 25% up to be a good sign (though the higher turnout, ironically, might make it less likely, this go-round, for MORE/New Action to take the high schools.)

#3 Will the combined opposition vote, now that New Action and MORE are running together, see an uptick?  The last four rounds, including 2010, the teacher vote for the opposition has been between 4400 and 4600.  That’s dead flat. MORE’s outreach on Opt Out, the combined campaign, with coordination and minimizing duplication, and some enthusiasm generated by a decade-long divide being bridged, that should make a difference. I would be disappointed with no increase.

#4 Has Unity halted their collapsing vote? Unity’s raw vote fell 25% or more in all divisions from 2004 to 2007 and 20% or more in all teacher divisions from 2007 to 2013*.  I think they will stop falling – their remaining voters are more hard-core.  But I’m not sure. They really don’t have a rational appeal, aside from the incumbency. But they benefit from generic GotV, and they have operatives who lean pretty hard on members.

#5 Will the middle schools be close?  Unity in the last few years has devoted some effort to reaching out to our most-neglected division – but the numbers involved are so small, and the 6 – 8 test pressure so great, there is a slight chance they have pushed this division into play.

* I exclude 2010 from trend numbers. There was a large uptick for Unity, and a switch from ICE/TJC to New Action – pretty clearly a result of teachers being excited for the fresh face replacing Weingarten.

Postscript? Will the write-in candidates’ votes be low enough to expose their irrelevance? Portelos got himself on the ballot, but didn’t make slate status because he couldn’t be bothered to help the rest of his team collect signatures. This is not an organization but an ego with followers.  Over 1000 I would be worried. 200-300 is about right.  Less than 200 and the “emPORer” has no clothes.


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