Teaching Profession

N.Y.C. Teachers’ Union Designs English Curriculum

By Ann Bradley — September 18, 2002 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Underscoring that teaching and learning haven’t been forgotten as control of the New York City schools shifts to the mayor’s office, the city teachers’ union last week unveiled a curriculum for English/language arts.

Leaders of the United Federation of Teachers, joined by recently appointed Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein and several subdistrict superintendents, said the K-12 lessons were just what New York teachers need to make the critical connection between academic standards and assessments.

“We all want our children to achieve at high standards, but few are taking real action to make that happen,” Randi Weingarten, the president of the 140,000-member union, said. “We believed if we didn’t do it, it might not get done.”

The union undertook its UFT Learning Connection project three years ago, at a cost of $2 million from its treasury, in response to members’ cries for help in the classroom. The 1.1 million-student school system has no mandated curriculum, leaving decisions on how to meet state and city standards to its 32 community districts, approximately 1,100 schools, and individual teachers.

“We did it not out of altruism or to give ourselves more work, but because of such strong demand from our members,” said David Sherman, the vice president of the American Federation of Teachers affiliate.

The curriculum was billed as the first in the nation to be written by a teachers’ union, although other affiliates also have long histories of involvement in helping teachers grapple with what and how to teach. United Teachers Los Angeles, for example, has produced two books to help teachers learn to write English/language arts curriculum materials that are based on academic standards. Both are now in wide use in the Los Angeles district.

In New York, Mr. Sherman said, teachers with less than five years’ experience, in particular, were especially eager for help. Nearly half the city’s 80,000 teachers are inexperienced, and next year the proportion is expected to rise to more than half.

Mr. Klein, a former assistant U.S. attorney general named last month by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to run the city’s schools, endorsed the standards in a letter and with his appearance with union leaders at a press conference.

The curriculum-resource guides written by the union, he said, “provide rich resources that will support teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, and other school staff as they work to improve student achievement.”

Thematic Units

The guides for English/language arts are broken into four parts, covering grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. Teachers who use the material also will get a companion volume that gives an overview of the subject.

The union has created a CD-ROM version of the materials and plans to post them on its Web site. It is also seeking public and private funding to write lessons for mathematics, science, and social studies in the next two years.

Mr. Sherman said the books contain three thematic units for each grade level, each with about 20 lessons. He described them as “a structured, organized curriculum, but not prescriptive. This is not a script.”

Novice teachers can adopt the lessons wholesale, he said, while classroom veterans can adapt them.

To devise the curriculum, the union drew on its network of Teacher Centers, which are located in some 300 city schools to provide professional development. About 40 expert teachers came together in teams to write lesson plans, which were then aligned with city and state standards by consultants hired by the UFT.

The curriculum will be used in local districts that express an interest, Mr. Sherman said, noting that many of the city’s superintendents have affirmed the need for such specific lessons.

Mr. Klein’s support will be essential in gaining support for the materials, union officials said.

“What this says to the local superintendents is that this is something the chancellor supports, and therefore, the whole system supports,” Mr. Sherman said.

Related Tags:

Events

School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Creating Confident Readers: Why Differentiated Instruction is Equitable Instruction
Join us as we break down how differentiated instruction can advance your school’s literacy and equity goals.
Content provided by Lexia Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Download Downloadable: 5 Ways Principals Can Help With Teacher Burnout
This downloadable gives school leaders and teachers various ways to spot and treat teacher burnout.
1 min read
Silhouette of a woman with an icon of battery with low charge and icons such as a scribble line, dollar sign and lightning bolt floating around the blue background.
Canva
Teaching Profession Massages, Mammograms, and Dental Care: How One School Saves Teachers' Time
This Atlanta school offers unique onsite benefits to teachers to help them reduce stress.
3 min read
Employees learn more about health and wellness options during a mini benefits fair put on by The Lovett School in Atlanta on May 8, 2024.
Employees at the Lovett School in Atlanta meet with health benefits representatives during a mini benefits fair on May 8, 2024.
Erin Sintos for Education Week
Teaching Profession Opinion How Two Teachers Helped Me Weave a Dream
A journalist and debut book author dedicates her novel to two of her high school English teachers.
Anne Shaw Heinrich
3 min read
0524 heinrich opinion keller fs
N. Kurbatova / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Teaching Profession Data Average Teacher Pay Passes $70K. How Much Is It in Your State?
Teacher pay is growing faster than at any point since the Great Recession. But it's lower than a decade ago when accounting for inflation.
3 min read
Illustration of a man holding oversized money.
Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty