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New UFT Contract Allows Dozens of City Schools to Experiment

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TWC News: New UFT Contract Allows Dozens of City Schools to Experiment
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Dozens of city schools have already been approved to experiment with the way they operate as allowed under the city's new contract with the teachers' union. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

The chancellor, the deputy mayor and the president of the teachers' union all said the same thing. They are shocked, and thrilled, at how many schools jumped at the chance, as First Deputy Chancellor Anthony Shorris put it, "to break the rules."

"To break the rules of the chancellor's regulations, to change the UFT contract, to build consensus at the school level that would allow for dramatic experimentation," Shorris said.

The new contract with the teachers' union allows up to 200 schools to bypass regulations as long as the teachers, principal, parent leaders, Department of Education and union are on board.

Already, 62 schools have been approved for a variety of exemptions, ranging from the hours teachers work to the number of students in each class to where they source the food served in the cafeteria.

"We have all sorts of different creative ideas coming from so many different schools," said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers.

"This is a more aggressive set of changes than is allowed anywhere in public education, including in most charter schools," Shorris said.

The DOE, though, has yet to release what it's actually approved for each of these 62 schools, so it's not yet possible to independently assess the potential impact of any of this.

In addition, charter school advocates immediately disputed the suggestion that this group of schools would have even a fraction of the freedom to innovate that charters have under state law.

What is known is that many of the schools set to take advantage of this new program are among those already engaged in creative work, with teachers and administrators well known for their commitment to innovation.

The list includes some of the most sought after schools in the city, like East Side Community, the Beacon School, the Brooklyn New School, the NYC iSchool and Mark Twain for the Gifted and Talented.

"The question was asked, 'What can we do to raise student achievement that we have never been able to do before?'" said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

Though when it comes to schools that are really struggling, the chancellor has yet to announce any plans despite an impending state deadline.

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