Teacher Data Reports: The Right Intentions & Wrong Strategies of New York’s Teachers Union

February 1st, 2011 · 5 Comments

By Jude Soto

In New York City, the United of Federation of Teachers (UFT) has another fight on its hands. On January 10, a judge denied the United Federation of Teachers request to block the release of Teacher Data Reports under the Freedom of Information Act. The union’s response has been expected, appeal the ruling and keep the legal challenge going. This is a short sighted strategy however, and if the union really wants to prevent the reputation of teachers from being sullied it must change its tactics and adopt of more teacher-centered and less lawyer-centered approach.

First, the union should end all legal challenges to the release of the reports. As the lawsuit drags on, many New Yorkers are beginning to see the actions as work of a core group of out of touch misanthropes that are attempting to use America’s notoriously Byzantine courts as a way to short change America’s children. The fact is, in all likelihood the union will lose the appeal, and the reports will be released anyway.

Second, with money saved from ending all legal challenges, a publicity campaign must be undertaken. A strategic and carefully crafted media blitz would raise awareness of the fact that parents and teachers have much in common, in terms of hopes for their children. For example, parents and teachers both desire smaller class size, increased funding for schools, more resources inside of the classroom and less money wasted on outside contractors.

Finally, the union itself must make a greater move to mobilize its members. Instead of simply sending us a drab magazine once a year, the union must make an effort to keep teachers abreast of ways to make themselves, and the common goals they share with parents, heard to others. Teachers should be encouraged to write letters to congressmen, mail comments to newspapers, or comment on blogs. I am a regular contributor for, but my union had nothing to do with me writing these articles. All my union has done for mobilization has been to send me a graying newspaper once a week with the latest school our leader has visited.

Simple steps centering on the needs of parents and teachers must be taken in order to prevent our union from being seen as a reactive group of fools opposed to any sort of progress. By ending a legal challenge that is doomed to failure, a more assertive union can aggressively challenge the natural advantage – money and the bully pulpit – enjoyed by the anti-teacher Mayor Bloomberg and public schools chancellor Cathie Black.

Jude Soto has been a teacher in a low-income public high school in New York City since 2004. A native New Yorker, Soto has an M.A. in history fromBrooklyn College. Outside of the academic world, his pursuits include traveling, weightlifting, and long distance running.

Tags: Education · Labor Relations · Media

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 HispanicPundit // Feb 2, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    For example, parents and teachers both desire smaller class size, increased funding for schools, more resources inside of the classroom and less money wasted on outside contractors.

    You know what I yearn for? It’s that claims by teachers unions must be backed by empirical research. The fact that smaller class size, increased funding for schools, and “more resources inside of the classroom” improves educational outcomes is a myth(atleast at todays marginal levels), promulgated by the unions.

    And of course it’s one they would fully stand behind: after all, what does “smaller classrooms” really mean? More teachers! More union dues! What does more education funding really mean? More teachers, more union dues! Same with all their other requirements.

    I have a new found hope for educational reform. The advent of charter schools, vouchers, and other breaks from the teachers union monopoly (lets not forget that the teachers union fought tooth and nail against all of these reforms – thank god for Republicans!) has taught us a lot about what works and what doesn’t. It’s becoming a lot harder for unions to claim to be both teacher advocates and students advocates – the public at large now is starting to realize, that students need their own advocates.

  • 2 Luis Sanchez // Feb 5, 2011 at 2:25 am

    As a teacher myself, I know that I can control and teach a smaller group of students easier than a larger group. I have about 25 students per class. If 15 more students were added per class, then I would have a tougher time. In addition, I would have to spend additional time grading papers and inputting grades into the computer. Smaller class sizes would definitely help.

  • 3 Luis Sanchez // Feb 5, 2011 at 2:38 am

    The area that often gets neglected is the social promotion of students. Students in K-8th are not held accountable for anything in California. They can go to school, get free nutrition and lunch, do zero work, and get a zero on every single test and still move on to the next grade level. I teach 7th grade and I have students that came to my class reading at the 1st grade level. These students should not have been allowed to leave the 2nd grade without mastering that material.

    Its no wonder that the dropout rate is so high, and why the pass rate on the High School Exit Exam (9th/10th grade level test) for those who graduate is so low.

    The reality is that in under-developed countries with poorer conditions in schools (such as outdoor classrooms with no desks), students in many cases are held accountable for learning – meaning they are retained in a grade level if they do not pass, or they have to pass an exit exam before promoting to the next grade level.

    Teaching is such an important job in the world and teachers are not honored as they should be. Teachers have to deal with these issues, and need their union to do so.

    -are paid low (in comparison to other professions of the same education level),
    -are so busy teaching in a room with 25 students for most of the day (with very little time for planning and grading),
    – are constantly being threatened with decreased benefits (because of rising health care costs) to the point that they have to hold rally’s and strikes to get the media attention
    – are blamed when students do not perform when the students themselves know that they are not held accountable
    – are threatened with layoffs
    – are threatened with increased class sizes

    If teachers were respected and these issues did not exist in our society, then the union could focus on other important issues: such as ending the practice of social promotion.

  • 4 HispanicPundit // Feb 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    What a surprise: a teacher arguing for higher pay, more respect, and a general defense of the status quo.

    I argue for what has been shown to work: charter schools, voucher systems, and a general movement towards more competition within the school system. Monopolies have historically been bad. Government monopolies are the worse. What we have in our education system today is essentially a government monopoly. Its lack of quality is no surprise.

  • 5 Luis Sanchez // Feb 11, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    HispanicPundit: Not a general defense of the status quo at all.

    You need to teach first and then you can talk about the status quo from a more informed perspective.

    If you are not a teacher, then you need to listen to those who are teachers working with students in room all day on a day to day basis.

    Even if you are not a teacher, you would appreciate this view: It is unacceptable to allow a student, born in this country, that reads at the 1st grade level into the 7th grade. This is the status and this is wrong.

    This student reading at the 1st grade level, should be in 2nd grade until they pass the 2nd grade, or test out of that level.

    The STUDENTS need to be held accountable whether they have vouchers, are in private schools, charter schools, or public schools.

    Students take a 80 minute test and finish it in 5 minutes by filling in any series of bubble patterns without looking at the questions, and their teachers are held accountable in the LA Times and by various “educational reformers.” This is the status quo. The status quo needs to change. The students need to be held accountable for something … shouldn’t they?

    Even in the most underdeveloped foreign nations, teachers are respected, and students must pass their classes before going to the next grade level, or pass an exit exam before being promoted. Why can’t we do that here?

    Is it because some claim that there are teachers in the US that are bad, so therefore the students should be able to slide until they are 16 and just dropout? What kind of BS is that?

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