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School Year Starts for Many with Missing Teaching Materials, Union Says

By Amy Zimmer | September 10, 2013 12:14pm
 More than a millon students returned to school Monday.
Students Head Back to School
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BROOKLYN — Many city school teachers started a year filled with a new curriculum based on Common Core standards and a revamped evaluation system without having received their new textbooks, according to union officials.

In District 20, for example, at least 18 of 39 schools were missing new materials, according to that district’s United Federation of Teachers representative. The area includes Borough Park, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Sunset Park.

Schools in the neighboring District 21, which covers Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Bensonhurst, also complained of having incomplete materials going into the first day of school, its UFT district leader Judy Gerowitz said.

“Teachers were very uptight and concerned. Principals were concerned, too, because they ordered the materials,” she said. “Teachers want to do the best they can. Unfortunately, their hands are tied with the new curriculum.”

Out of 29 schools she reached out to in her district, 16 responded, Gerowitz said. Thirteen of those had either no English Language Arts or no math books, or perhaps had only a teachers’ edition and no student workbooks, she said.

Only three had received both the ELA and math materials.

Some principals simply told teachers to find strong lessons from last year, Gerowitz said. Other schools told teachers to go online and download materials from the publishers’ websites.

One teacher from an elementary school in Far Rockaway who hadn’t received text books told DNAinfo New York that her school asked teachers to print out materials. But the school was short on paper and ink.

“The DOE promised to have the curriculum in the teachers’ hands by the start of schools. They have not kept that promise,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement Monday.

“We have complaints from schools across the city, in every borough, that teachers still don’t have the tools they need.”

A Department of Education spokeswoman said Monday that 80,000 textbooks that schools ordered through the DOE hadn't yet been delivered, but she declined to specify which schools. The spokeswoman promised that all schools would have their books by Tuesday.

“The department is making the largest delivery of new textbooks for students in city history,” DOE spokeswoman Erin Hughes said, explaining that of roughly 1.58 million new textbooks, more than 1.5 million had already been delivered.

Most schools opted to order textbooks recommended by the DOE, according to WNYC's Schoolbook, which included Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's "Go Math" program for elementary schools and Pearson's "Connected Math Program 3" for the middle schools.

For English, many schools opted for Pearson's "Connected Math Program 3" for the middle grades. For English, many schools selected Pearson's "ReadyGen" for elementary school and Scholastic's "Codex" for grades six through eight.

All publishers, with the exception of Scholastic, made materials available online over the summer to help teachers plan, Hughes said, adding that all Scholastic materials were delivered in early August.