Union Take on the New Schools Chancellor

Friday, November 12, 2010

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, offers his take on the next schools chancellor, Cathie Black.


Michael Mulgrew

Comments [48]

Batool from NYC

I don't get all the fuss. After all we are hiring, and if I may add rightly so, a manager to manage the schools, and not an educator to teach.

Nov. 24 2010 12:54 AM
Norma Vavolizza from Bronx

I, too, was appalled by Mr. Mulgrew's several grammatical mistakes. An "ouch" from Brian would have made me feel better!

Nov. 15 2010 09:53 AM
Craig Bishop from 10023

"Her and I..." REALLY? Our kids is doomed.

Nov. 13 2010 01:45 AM

What makes the error (and he made several other grammatical mistakes) even more embarrassing, is that Mr. Mulgrew was apparently a former Engish teacher as well as an English Lit major. One could have cut him a little slack if he had been a Math teacher. Ugh!

Nov. 12 2010 11:44 AM
Grace from Putnam

That the president of the UFT would utter the phrases " Her and I met" and "Us as a nation"
indicates just how dire the level of NYC's education professionals actually is.

Nov. 12 2010 11:11 AM

Cathy, thanks so much for pointing out the “her and I” gaff. I also winced at hearing it. In addition, (he made so many errors) Mr. Mulgrew said, "There's so many issues out there..." This misuse of the plural agreement is a pet peeve of mine. It should be “there're” if you want to use the contraction, or, preferably, “there are many issues.” It is no wonder that our children cannot speak standard English. Maybe we should have someone outside of education as commissioner...perhaps he or she would speak grammatically correct English.

Nov. 12 2010 11:05 AM
Mike from Manhattan

Brian from Hoboken, worry about your Hoboken schools that you say stink. NY spends about 1/2 $24,000 per student you quote. Schools are now being asked to overcome all the problems of society that affect children and youth without any power to solve them. Enough children come to school not ready to learn that they can disrupt the educational progress for all their classmates. These kids are no more responsible for their psychological damage than children who come to school not ready to learn because they are hungry are responsible for their malnutrition. But the way the system has been moving in the last 20 years is to allow damaged children to disrupt the classrooms and to blame the school for not educating them or their classmates. In the past these kids were abandoned to unskilled jobs and for 40 years after WWII that worked, now it doesn't. But the damage inflicted by poverty and street culture cannot be cured by schools for the vast majority of kids who are affect by it. Our social i.e. government systems need to treat the causes of problems of education because blaming the schools for the symptoms will do no good.

Nov. 12 2010 11:01 AM
Brian from Nj

Michael from NY, NY has a great point. When are people goingto realize that the noble goal of sending every student to college is a waste? Most European countries only allow entry into their university system if someone is truly qualified. In the US many colleges are
Teaching high school courses to their students who are trying to catch up. We should realize that these people are not going to be a lawyer or doctor but instead we should have a strong technical education system that teaches valuable technical skills.

Nov. 12 2010 10:57 AM
Jim Hicks from Kent, CT

Am I old-fashioned, or is it a bit discouraging that the president of the United Federation of Teachers, in commenting on the schools chancellor nominee, said "Her and I only met briefly"?

Cathy Black may not have a background in education, but she's educated.

Nov. 12 2010 10:49 AM

What other individuals were considered for the post of Schools Chancellor? Is there no one with a proper educational background, and administrative skills interested in this position?

And NO union experience...(!)
That's scary.

Students as customers...(?)
"Buyer Beware"

Nov. 12 2010 10:46 AM
S Cornell from NJ

Yes language is a powerful indicator of intent; however while I think the term "customer" is not something I would use to replace the word "student", I think it does connote consumption (in this case - education), and it reminds us that we should expect an excellent product and service for our money, just as a customer would expect.

Nov. 12 2010 10:43 AM
Michael from NY, NY

Look at our most successful competitor country that at all similar to the US--Germany. Germany has an excellent technical educational program that provides the skills necessary for the functioning of a technologically advanced society. They also have an excellent college/university system that educates people for the learned professions, including teaching in colleges and universities. They also have labor standards and regulations that make sure hiring for non-professional occupations is based fair and objective job related criteria and not a matter of connections. It is also a society that does not allow business to fire people at will. So taking a skilled labor job is not entering an employment lottery and most of their technical manufacturing capacity has not been sent to the minimum labor-cost areas of the world. That is also the main reason they were able to recover from the recession with less borrowing to stimulate business...they did not allow their domestic consumers to be impoverished and so the domestic demand continued at reasonable levels when foreign export demand declined.

Nov. 12 2010 10:39 AM
sTEVE from Rockland NY

language is a powerful indicator of intent.
Business= privatization, bottom lines, & profit margins.

Nov. 12 2010 10:31 AM
mc from Brooklyn

I think what many posters here are missing vis-a-vis other countries and education is that in most other countries a college track is a smaller club. I know people who live in Zurich. There if you complete high school it is almost like having an associate's degree here. Other kids are steered into what we might call vocational education. So when test scores are compared internationally it really is not an apples to apples. What Mulgrew meant, I believe, is that the stated goal here is to prepare everyone for college or the equivalent.

I like 11238's idea. Not customers: Citizens.

Nov. 12 2010 10:30 AM
Brian from Hoboken

The teachers union contributes to a highly dysfunctional culture in the DOE. NYC needs someone to break that culture.
As for the last caller, that refrain has been yelled for years. More money! Guess what? My local school board spends $24,000 per student and still stinks. Stop with that BS argument.

Nov. 12 2010 10:29 AM
dba from dba

Regarding the value-added nonsense through test scores: it is impossible to isolate the one variable that attributes a particular student score to a specific teacher. There are too many external variables that affect test scores and which teachers cannot control, e.g., socio-economic environment; natural ability since some students are simply brigher than others, a reality that is difficult to address politically; willingess of student to do homework and study, read, etc. The best teacher cannot overcome students who simply do not do the work. Learning begins at home and must continue at home after the school day is over.

Nov. 12 2010 10:29 AM
Mike from Park Slope

Fundamentally there are two reasons that the teacher reports should not be released to the public:

1) releasing what was private workplace data to the public is not going to help make the already prickly relationship between teachers and parents any easier,

2) Parents have no context or knowledge with which to interpret the data, and many public school parents are idiots. How is this data going to help them, except to make them even more confused or aggrieved?

Disclaimer: I am a parent of a kindergartener in Brooklyn.

Nov. 12 2010 10:28 AM
Johanna Lane from Brooklyn

Yes, I too am a little disturbed that the President of the UFT thinks that the US is the only country in the world who's producing students ready for a job or college at 17. WHAT??!!

Nov. 12 2010 10:27 AM
Johanna Lane

Yes, I too am a little disturbed that the President of the UFT thinks that the US is the only country in the world who's producing students ready for a job or college at 17. WHAT??!!

Nov. 12 2010 10:27 AM
Michael from NY, NY

Students are NOT customers. The customer knows what he or she wants and the vendor provides that commodity or service. In schools the society is the customer and educated individuals are the product. Pre-educated children are the raw product. The society not the students or even the parents are allowed to set the specifications, otherwise there could be no tests, no standards and only the elite, educated, non-psychologically damaged parents would have a chance to have their children educated.

Nov. 12 2010 10:26 AM

brian, how stupid that sounds, that we need to graduated and have every 17s years old student ready for college? he needs to re-evaluate that statetment...not all students are academic...and would have a hs diploma.

Nov. 12 2010 10:26 AM

this is what the people voted for

Nov. 12 2010 10:25 AM
Liz from Brooklyn

I agree that the focus on test prep is not the best- it definitely doesn't produce a love of education or a well rounded learning experience for students, in addition to test prep being fairly boring and joyless.

On the other hand, I really wish that teachers were putting their heads together to come up with alternative ideas for assessing kids. Do we not all agree that we need to know what kids are learning? The graduation rate in NYC is horrendous. Kids can be multiple grade levels behind. We're failing these kids.

When I was teaching in NYC schools, it seemed like the position of many of my colleagues was in opposition to... Instead of reacting with urgency and new ideas, I feel like the position of the union is to come out against a focus on testing, for example (which I agree with) but without providing alternatives, and without any urgency about solving the problem.

Nov. 12 2010 10:25 AM

concerned with the chancellor's grammar. 'her and I' not once but twice. then an 'us as a country'. bring on the publishing leader!

Nov. 12 2010 10:24 AM

Somebody has to say this.

Hearst has long been the ugly stepchild to Conde Nast. Anybody who has worked for both will tell you they work at Hearst in order to get a job at Conde. (Relatively terrible benefits and pay, for starters).

Also, she runs a business in an industry that is in crisis. Has she demonstrated innovation? Carving a path forward for the next 100 years? If so, what is that path?

Would like to see what has she done to deserve the respect Brian is giving her by assuming her competence.

Nov. 12 2010 10:24 AM
Will from Brooklyn

The problem with the "students-as-customers" model is that customers in the business model are independent actors who get to choose their service. Students in a public school system don't get to dictate to their teacher what they want to learn. That's the point. The teachers, on behalf of a more experienced society, are passing on the knowledge and wisdom of previous generations to the next, whether they are willing recipients of that knowledge or not. Customers walk away from services and goods and make bad choices all the time. Business models are not always best applied to education.

Nov. 12 2010 10:24 AM

No other country in the world is trying to educate their children for college or a career apart from the US? You need to get out more, Mr. Mulgrew. Most of the industrialized world isn't just trying -- they are succeeding. Public education in this country is a joke. In Japan, the best schools are ALL public. Private school is mostly a second-tier option for primary and secondary education.

Nov. 12 2010 10:23 AM
Marcos from The Bronx

Customers=Consumers that an owner or owners are seeking to profit off of.

I would much rather our children and their parents be regarded as clients in a not for profit community service.

Nov. 12 2010 10:23 AM
Susan from Upper West Side

Customers is definitely a bad thing when it comes to students because you get students like the one in the recent movie on Charter schools who actually, when you listen to one of her interviews, really selected the school because she didn't want to take Physical Education. My sister is a high school teacher in a continuation school in California. Because she really demands a lot of her students, she is not popular, but she is appreciated after her students finish her classes and realize that they actually learned something. The POPULAR teachers play movies and give away grades. The students pick the other teachers.

Nov. 12 2010 10:22 AM

in the business model and bloomberg's view, it's business that's the customer, right? whether satisfied or not. students are the product the school is producing, manufacturing to satisfy it's customers.
that's what's so pernicious about the whole business/free market as the solution to everything.

Nov. 12 2010 10:22 AM
Raul Rothblatt from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn 11238

Students should be thought of as CITIZENS, not customers.

Nov. 12 2010 10:21 AM
susy from Manhattan

I love this appointment. Bloomberg has been successful in other areas, professional and political (including achieving the mayorship) by using unorthodox methods, and he will be successful here.

This is a visionary, if unexpected, appointment. I hope people will give this extraordinary and proven manager an opportunity.

People resist change, but that doesn't mean change shouldn't happen.

Nov. 12 2010 10:21 AM
Felicia from Harlem

The "students as customers" analogy is utterly inappropriate. If I am serving a customer, I have to give the customer what they want, no matter how ridiculous or bad for them (first exhibit: McDonalds). As a teacher, I am expected to transform children into critical thinkers and good citizens--sometimes in ways they don't like.

WHY do we think the business model is the be all and end all of organization? Didn't the crash of 2008 teach us anything?

Nov. 12 2010 10:21 AM
Michaelene from Brooklyn

Sorry to say but it doesn't instill much confidence to hear Mulgrew himself speak as if he himself has limited education, at least in the area of grammar.

Nov. 12 2010 10:21 AM
David from Bronx

"Us as a country"
Again... really?
I say let her do it. It's about leadership and the skills associated with organization and management.
It's a smart choice, If she's a skilled leader.

Nov. 12 2010 10:21 AM
kali from nyc

"what no other country is doing"????

PLEASE.. many other developed countries are doing a far better job of educating their children than we are... kids in most other modern democracies, and even some countries in Asia, score much better in math and science tests.. on what planet is your guest on, Brian???

Nov. 12 2010 10:21 AM
David from Bronx

"Us as a country"
Again... really?
I say let her do it. It's about leadership and the skills associated with organization and management.
It's a smart choice, If she's a skilled leader.

Nov. 12 2010 10:20 AM
Edward from NJ

God forbid someone dares to show any humility. While she "gets up to speed" the schools will continue to be run by the same professionals who do it now. It's not as if everything will grind to a halt.

Nov. 12 2010 10:20 AM
Julian from South Bronx

Dropout factories? I live in a school district where 23.4% of black and Latino males drop out of high school (, p.18, CSD 8).

How on earth is a chancellor who didn't go to, much less stay in school supposed to get that population to believe that going to and staying in school is important? Just what kind of message is the Mayor trying to send? Sheesh, am I missing something else?

It is my heartfelt opinion that it is categorically imperative the the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education meet the education and experience requirements for the position. Otherwise 23.4% of black and Latino school age males in my neighborhood also deserve a waiver. And I know that at least one of them knows a good bit more about what is needed from a Chancellor than Ms. Black.

Nov. 12 2010 10:20 AM
darby clifford-rosengren from Helsinki Finland

The next step to student-as-customer is that 'the customer is always right' and this is not the case.

Nov. 12 2010 10:20 AM
Robert I. Caloras from Queens

As you know, Mayor Bloomberg has appointed Cathleen Black as the new NYC Schools Chancellor to succeed Joel Klein. This selection was shrouded in secrecy and as far as known, she was the only candidate. Such unique status is not a reflection of her abilities for this job, but, dare I say her being a part of the Bloomberg social and business network. The Mayor's choice is a corporate executive and magazine publisher, immersed in media experience, but without any education experience. Not surprisingly, neither she nor her children attended public school. In fact, she has acknowledged having zero knowledge of the public school system. The Mayor has chosen her for her management abilities, yet she has no experience with negotiating unions or working in the government. As such, she has no management experience that is related to being the Chancellor of our schools. Clearly, her background does not qualify her to lead a school system of 1.1 million public school students.

Given her lack of qualifications, pursuant to NY Education Law , § 3003.she must receive a waiver from Education Commissioner David Steiner. According to the law, a waiver is available to only those “whose exceptional training and experiences are the substantial equivalent of such requirements and qualify such persons for the duties of a superintendent of schools.” Based on Ms. Black's background, it is clear that she is not eligible for this waiver and her request must be denied.

Our current Chancellor also required a waiver due to his failure to meet the Law's requirements. However, at least he had attended NYC public schools and actually taught in a NYC school at one point in his career. As you know, during his terms many changes were wrought to our schools, and his impact will be debated for many years. However, what stands out to Community District Education Council 26 is that during his reign, school organizations changed four times in an effort to prevent the DOE from being held accountable, standard test scores and graduation rates were manipulated, principals were held accountable for things they had little control over, teachers were blamed for every problem in the education system, parents were prevented from being meaningful participants in their children's education, and students continued to suffer with crowded classrooms, to evaluations that obsessively rely on standardized tests, to doing too much standard test preparation work, and to learning by rote about a narrowed curriculum. To prevent this corruption of the education system, we must have a Chancellor who is not only a good manager, but an educator. If the Mayor would conduct an actual search beyond his comfort zone, a person with such qualifications can be found. Only with a Chancellor with these qualifications, will proper learning return to our schools.


Robert I. Caloras

Nov. 12 2010 10:19 AM

How about giving some history of who Cathie Black is?

Nov. 12 2010 10:16 AM
A Whitby from Brooklyn

As Bloomberg seems to like to have people with a different skill set than what one would expect in positions of power do you think he'll put a musician in charge of Bloomberg News, you know bring some creativity, non linear thinking...

Nov. 12 2010 10:16 AM

Who sez Bloomie has been "up to the job"? All he does is fudge numbers: crime stats; test scores-- damned lies and statistics.

Nov. 12 2010 10:14 AM
mc from Brooklyn

Once again we are being asked to "be patient." I was patient with Joel Klein until he dropped the ball on Special Ed students while he toggled back and forth on regions, districts, etc, etc. How are you supposed to "be patient" when you are talking about a 5 year old for whom a year is a huge fraction of his life? I'm just glad my kids are almost out.

Nov. 12 2010 10:14 AM
David from Bronx

He needs a little more education himself.
"Her and I met..."

Nov. 12 2010 10:13 AM
JR from Bronx

There's been a lot of comment and coverage -- rightly so -- of this bizarre and to many insulting new appointment to the DOE -- but please cover the other side of this story too: Klein's new job with News Corp. I try hard not to engage in conspiracy theory type thinking, but it's not exactly a secret that Rupert Murdoch wants to control as many of our channels of information as he can get his hands on, and squeeze out alternative voices. The thought of his agenda having a clear, old boys network pipeline into our city's curricular and information technology choices really terrifies me. And if that's not the point, why did Klein get the job? Obviously it's his connections to the city system, and I hope that his movements in his new job will be followed with great diligence, so we can see what Murdoch is going to be trying to sell the country's largest public school system.

Nov. 12 2010 10:12 AM
dba from nyc

This outrageous appointment displays staggering hypocrisy. After constant disparaging of teachers for their supposed incompetence due to a lack of qualifications, we must be patient while she "catches up to speed" on the issues?

Nov. 12 2010 10:12 AM

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