pipeline problems

To teach teachers how to code, UFT launches training course

An organization founded to tackle one shortage area in computer science education is teaming up with the teachers union to address another.

Girls Who Code, whose founder Reshma Saujani is running for citywide office this year, launched last year to address stark gender inequities that exist in computer science, one of the many job markets in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) where women are underrepresented. The organization’s eight-week curriculum began last summer with 20 girls and will expand to 160 this summer, with new programs in Detroit and San Francisco as well.

The organization will also be lending its curriculum out to help train a small group of 20 teachers, the United Federation of Teachers announced this week. The union is trying to keep pace with the evolving demands in career and technical education and union chief Michael Mulgrew said one challenge is retaining young math and science teachers, who leave “because we don’t give them something engaging to do.”

“We’re going to make the difference by doing it where it really counts, which is training the teachers so they can bring it inside of the classroom because that’s where the students are,” Mulgrew said this week at an event announcing the pilot, called “Teachers Who Code”.

The pilot, a one-week training course hosted by the technology company AppNexus, is the latest effort underway to prepare students for job openings in the STEM field. In New York State alone, nearly 500,000 STEM-related jobs are projected to be created by 2018, the bulk of which are in computer science,  according to a report published last year.

Separately, the city is also training 40 teachers in 20 schools that next fall will launch career and technical education programs with software engineering tracks. The programs include classes in coding, fashion design, and mobile applications, and are designed to award graduating students with state-accredited diplomas that certify they can work in the expanding technology job market.

One goal of the program, officials said, was to double the number of underrepresented students who take Advanced Placement computer science exams. Just 30 percent of the 452 students who took last year’s exam were girls, who normally make up nearly 60 percent of all A.P. test-takers.

Mulgrew appeared at the event with Saujani, who also happens to be running for public advocate, a closely-contested race that the union has yet to endorse in. But union officials went out of their way to note that the appearance with Saujani was not a sign of which way they’re leaning.

“This is not an endorsement,” Mulgrew said jokingly — and unprompted.

Still, Mulgrew had glowing things to say about the work Saujani has done with Girls Who Code, which relies heavily on partnerships with large companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter, Goldman Sachs and IBM.

“A lot of people come into this building with ideas and it’s really about getting the press release,” Mulgrew said, referring to the steady stream of elected officials who seek the union’s support for their education proposals.

Saujani, who first approached the UFT two years ago about training teachers, was different, Mulgrew said.

“I’m so happy that we get to stand here today and say you kept your word,” Mulgrew said. “It’s been everything you said you’d do and we’re so happy that we are partnered with you and your team on this.”

Saujani said she had a shared interest in helping out the union. Early on, she said, she realized that Girls Who Code would not be successful “unless we have more teachers” to do the job.

“You can’t solve the pipeline problem without the teachers union,” Saujani added.


call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”