Latest News

SFNY's Micah Lasher: A textbook failure of leadership

In a New York Daily News Op-Ed, StudentsFirstNY's Executive Director Micah Lasher discusses failing results of the UFT-run charter school and what it means for the credibility of the union's philosophy going forward.

Sadly, after seven years of having complete control, the UFT's charter school "dropped from a “C” back down to a “D” on the city’s annual progress report released this month" and its "results have consistently ranked among the lowest in the charter sector and the city." The op-ed continues, noting:

"Since 2009-10, the school’s proficiency rates have not surpassed 48% in math or 34% in English. Even in its best years, it never scored above the bottom quarter of New York City’s charter schools in math — or the bottom half in English."

Lasher notes that "anyone who cares about student achievement wanted this school to succeed… But it did not succeed" and that:

"Voters should remember this fact as they weigh how much credibility to give the UFT’s rhetoric on improving public schools: When given seven years to show New York how to craft a great school, it didn’t even come close."

Read the full Op-Ed.


Video: Brooklyn Charter School Run by AFT Encounters Problems


Opened to prove a point, UFT's charter school could be closed

GothamSchools reports on the failing performance of the nation's first union-run charter school, the UFT Charter School.

The article highlighted some findings about the union's management of the school, saying:

"…Seven years into its existence, the nation’s first union-run school is one of the lowest-performing schools in the city. Fewer than a third of students are reading on grade level, and the math proficiency rate among eighth-graders is less than half the city average."

It continues, noting:

"Of the 13 schools authorized by the institute up for renewal this year, the UFT Charter School has the worst track record, according to the report.

In fact, according to the report, the UFT Charter School is the only school up for renewal actually performing worse than its district, District 19, as a whole, even though its students are, on average, less needy."

When interviewed about the results, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said, “I go to that school and I’m very, very happy with what we see.”

Read the full article.


#EdReform in #Debate2012

Written by: Aaron Kinnari, Director of New Media, StudentsFirstNY

President Obama and Governor Romney discussed a lot of issues in the first presidential debate, but there was one topic that stood out online: education.

According to an analysis from VoterTide, education was the most tweeted topic of the night, with 11,679 education tweets mentioning President Obama and 22,249 education tweets mentioning Governor Romney. In all, tweets related to education represented 24% and 33% of all total tweets mentioning each candidate, respectively.

Source: VoterTide via USA Today.

During the debate, both candidates offered several points on the importance of making education for the future of our country. President Obama discussed advances made by his administration’s “Race to the Top,” program, saying:

“We've got to improve our education system and we've made enormous progress drawing on ideas both from Democrats and Republicans that are already starting to show gains in some of the toughest to deal with schools. We've got a program called Race to the Top that has prompted reforms in 46 states around the country, raising standards, improving how we train teachers.” - @BarackObama

And Governor Romney pointed out the necessity for local, state and federal governments to work together to build a powerful education system, noting:

“Education is key, particularly the future of our economy… The primary responsibility for education is -- is, of course, at the state and local level. But the federal government also can play a very important role.” - @MittRomney

The candidates spent the majority of time discussing a wide-range of other issues, but the fact that the education discussion eclipsed those topics online represents an incredible display of digital passion for the issue.

And it also presents a great opportunity for education reformers to organize across multiple digital platforms. Our new website provides valuable tools and resources for various education topics, and our Twitter and Facebook pages are a great source of updates about developments in the education reform space.

We have to continue to use these platforms to drive the discussion on the importance of quality teachers and great schools for our kids. On Twitter, #edreform is a popular hashtag to use when tweeting about education reform, and @StudentsFirstNY has set up #EDNY for Twitter conversations around education in New York.

I hope you’ll follow StudentsFirstNY on Twitter and Facebook, and if you’re interested in becoming even more involved as a Digital Organizer, please e-mail


Teachers union President Michael Mulgrew's skewed observations

A New York Daily News editorial says UFT's President Michael Mulgrew offered an unfair, incomplete picture of the negotiations around teacher evaluations. The editorial noted Mulgrew offered skewed facts about teacher turnover, neglecting to point out that "the teacher attrition rate fell from 15% in 2003 to 8% by mid-2011."

Moreover, NYDN says Mulgrew's claim to have lead the fight for legislative approval on a new teacher evaluation system was "laughable" and that if he continues "this level of intransigence over even the basics" a deal between the City and the UFT by the deadline would be unlikely -- resulting in NYC students losing $300 million in funding.

Read the full NYDN editorial.

Sign the petition urging school district and union leaders to implement a comprehensive evaluation system.


SFNY's Anna Hall: Quality Teachers Help Our Kids Succeed

I know everyone is focused on the presidential debate tonight, so you may have missed a troubling op-ed in today’s Daily News by Michael Mulgrew, the president of United Federation of Teachers (UFT).

While it was encouraging to hear Mr. Mulgrew confirm his faith in the importance of robust evaluations – I couldn’t agree more that the state’s framework “represents a revolution in the way teachers are to be mentored, developed, and rated” – his failure to acknowledge either the UFT’s historic reluctance to accept meaningful evaluations or its current unwillingness to negotiate the terms of a new system was deeply disappointing.

In his piece, Mr. Mulgrew cites the number of teachers who have left the system under the Mayor as evidence that the City has failed to adequately support its educators – and points to high attrition rates as the “real crisis” in teaching in our city. In fact, teacher attrition rates under Mayor Bloomberg have been cut nearly in half – from 11.9 percent in the 2001/2002 school year to 6.6 percent in 2010/2011 school year.

But more broadly, Mr. Mulgrew’s argument misses the point. What’s at issue here isn’t teacher turnover – it’s teacher quality.

Our students desperately need more effective teachers in our classrooms. That means we need to invest strategically in recruiting the best and brightest to our schools. We need to create systems for coaching and development that will help new teachers accelerate their growth and experienced teachers refine their craft. We need to recognize and reward high levels of achievement in teaching – so that our strongest teachers have powerful incentives to stay in the classroom.

For nearly a decade, the union has consistently blocked efforts to make these proposals possible or meaningful. The UFT’s current resistance to negotiating a deal for a robust teacher evaluation system is only the latest chapter in this long, sad history.

Take, for example, what Mr. Mulgrew acknowledges as the two primary sticking points in the agreement: unannounced, brief observations and timely feedback. Mr. Mulgrew characterizes the first as “drive-by” observations, and claims that they don’t give principals enough information to accurately coach or rate a teacher. If the city was arguing for a rating system based only on informal, unannounced visits that might be a compelling point. But the city hasn’t made any such argument – nor does the framework proposed by the state allow for it. Great principals know that both effective coaching and fair evaluation of teachers rely on a broad collection of data – traditional formal observations, frequent (announced and otherwise) short visits, planning and coaching conferences, and regular reviews of student progress and achievement. The model evaluation plans approved by the state reflect this structure.

Mr. Mulgrew’s opposition to negotiating a similar plan here in New York City – particularly his insistence that unannounced visits cannot factor into ratings – presents the troubling notion that he thinks his members have something to hide. Or that focused, honest evaluation is something teachers need to be protected from, particularly if it could result in any ineffective teachers losing their jobs. In practice, most teachers crave more feedback, not less – and are eager for opportunities to grow. If it is to be effective, the City’s new plan should offer minimal restrictions on observations – either around prior notice, frequency, or duration – other than to insist that school leaders and teachers use the data that comes from them to improve practice and support final ratings.

The other issue Mr. Mulgrew raises is over the time principals have to provide feedback from their observations to the teacher. This is essential – the chief goal of observations is to help teachers identify ways to improve. But an insistence that that feedback must be provided in person, in pre-scheduled conferences, and after every visit doesn’t acknowledge either the realities of a daily school schedule or even best practices around teacher coaching and development. Great coaching, like great teaching, should be targeted to the needs of individuals. In order to do that, principals need the space to deliver feedback – via conversations, emails, conferences – in the ways that best support the development of their teachers. And if ratings are to truly reflect a teacher’s growth and performance level, at the end of the year, when principals sit down to determine final ratings, they need the ability to factor in the outcomes of all of those observations and conversations into their decision.

What is most alarming about Mr. Mulgrew’s argument is that he seems to again be attempting to build in as much bureaucracy as possible – with the sole purpose of making it difficult for any teacher to be rated ineffective, and if they are, to make it as difficult as possible for that rating to stick. In his conclusion, Mr. Mulgrew writes that the "first priority" of an evaluation system should be helping all teachers improve. Here I offer a small amendment. The first priority of teacher evaluation systems – and, in fact, of all education policy – is to make sure our kids have access to the best possible education.

And if that truly is our first priority, then we need to focus on a system that will both help developing teachers improve and, yes, move the most ineffective teachers out of the classroom. And we most certainly can’t afford to hold up an improved (though not perfect) evaluation system and the $300 million tied to it, over demands for more bureaucratic process.


Substitutes Chalk It Up in "Won't Back Down"

Movie critic Rex Reed gives the parent empowerment movie “Won’t Back Down” three out of four stars. In one of the more thoughtful reviews of the movie, Reed details the film’s strengths and shortcomings, ultimately praising it as deserving “serious attention.”

Reed says:

“The movie is going to be controversial, depending on how you feel about labor unions. My feeling is that the schoolroom is no place for political agendas, and all that matters is how good a movie it is. And it is pretty good…it’s a film that deserves to be seen, savored, debated and given serious attention.”


A Full House of Parents that "Won't Back Down"

Last week, StudentsFirstNY hosted a screening of the new film "Won’t Back Down."

There was a lot of clapping, cheering and crying. But mostly, there was a lot of energy in the theater. Parents from across New York were inspired and motivated, ready to demand transformative education reforms for their children.

After the movie, I met Charlie and his mom – a single mother from Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Often times, she told me, education decisions were being made by special interest groups who fail to put students interest above all else. She was so excited that there was finally a neighborhood organizing effort that gave her a voice.

This was a mother who was engaged – a mother who works late nights and who wants a better education for her son than the one she received. She wants choice. She wants a good school with great teachers. She wants what I want for my own daughter – what we all want as parents.

We’re working for that mom, and for the moms and dads across New York who want a great education for their children. But we need your help.

There are a number of ways you can help our kids succeed. I hope you’ll visit our action page today, add your name to a petition and send a message to your elected officials.


Rhee: "Obama's Money on Education Has Been Well-spent"

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Video: Teachers Discuss Education Reform and Putting Students First

Teachers talk about the importance of putting students first and how we can reform education in America.


Join StudentsFirstNY

Connect With Us

New Report