Monday, August 3, 2009

Closing the Shoelace Tying Gap: UPDATED

This item from Gotham Schools caught my eye:

On the TA question, a teacher argues that leveling the playing field
by lowering it isn’t great for kids.

I checked the NY Times piece from July 30:

City education officials have angered hundreds of parents in recent weeks after cracking down on an informal system of hiring teaching assistants, in which nonunion members were paid hourly wages to assist teachers with reading, supervising recess, even tying shoelaces. Elementary schools on the Upper East Side and Upper West Side have routinely raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from parents to supplement their staff with these aides as their classrooms grew more crowded.

They would now have to do so under DOE supervision and must turn the money over to the DOE, which would have a role in doing background checks. I'm not sure this is such an outrageous demand. There also is the issue of going around union rules. There is a rumor there is some kind of collective bargaining agreement laying around all dusty somewhere.

Since the UFT made the complaint, they have taken a hammering. But school aides are not UFT people, though paraprofessionals are UFT. School aides belong to DC 37 (check the history books to review the hysteria when Al Shanker tried to poach on school aide territory in the early 70's and DC 37 head Victor Gotbaum's – yes, current NYC Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum's husband– more than nasty response, which led to a decade long rift).

Gotham linked to comments from the Teachable Moment blog:

We have to keep in mind that our goal is not just educational parity. Our goal is the best possible education for every student. That includes the rich kids. So while we should focus our efforts on raising the level of achievement for those on the bottom end of the spectrum, our efforts should not try to limit the options available to those on the top end.

This is a little disingenuous.

Who is going to tie the shoelaces of the kids in Bed-Stuy?

Throwing around "achievement" with shoelaces when in fact those of us who taught in urban schools found a shoelace tying gap does exist and has an impact on the so-called achievement gap. But people focused on the AG like focus solely on teacher quality while downplaying all the other gaps. Someone should come up with stats as to what percentage of kids in kindergarten in rich and poor neighborhoods need help in tying their shoelaces.

If rich schools are raising so much money from parents, let the NYCDOE try an experiment in at least some struggling schools they seem so eager to close by matching the highest level of money raised by rich schools and hiring many more classroom assistants. My guess is poor schools need twice as many as rich schools to be in the ballgame.

The Times reports there is a solution:

Under Mr. Klein’s proposal, essentially a technical change, the assistants would now be employed under the title of “substitute aide,” an existing departmental position that pays $12.30 an hour, with no benefits. The city’s current hiring freeze would not apply to them, as the positions would still be paid for with donations.

Mr. Klein made his proposal during a closed-door meeting with parent representatives from a dozen Manhattan schools, and three City Council members, Daniel R. Garodnick, Jessica Lappin and Gale A. Brewer. Michael Mulgrew, the newly elected president of the United Federation of Teachers, also attended.

Solution? Note how there were no parents from areas of the city which raise only a few hundred dollars. I agree with Teachable Moment that we would should raise the level of poor schools, something Joel Klein, that self-proclaimed civil rights advocate, did not do in this case. Also note that some guy named Mulgrew was at the meeting. (Wasn't he elected to something recently?) Do you think he even raised this issue? The UFT takes the narrowest view, so I think not.

There is no real solution until we close the shoelace tying gap.

Or Klein could just get every school a shoelace tying machine shown in the graphic above.


  1. I don't remember voting for Michael Mulgrew, nor do I remember an election. Didn't he get appointed by his predecessor?

  2. The 89 member Exec Bd voted the other day and I assume it was unanimous. He was the only candidate nominated though ICE tried to nominate James Eterno but you can't speak at EB meetings unless a member and the 8 New Action flunkies just sat on their hands.


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