Posts from 2010
December 31, 2010
It’s the last day of 2010 and we’re flipping back our calendars to the very beginning for a look at the education goings-on of this past year and what they bode for the future. That is, tomorrow.
The year began with a 20-day race through public hearings on the city’s plans to close 19 schools. At Beach Channel High School, Jamaica and Columbus high schools, in front of Mayor Bloomberg’s house, Metropolitan Corporate Academy, and other schools (but not Kappa II), teachers, parents, and students rallied against the closure plans. Yet the mayoral appointees on the citywide Panel for Educational Policy, at a meeting that lasted until 4 a.m., voted to approve closing all of the schools.
Meanwhile, in Albany, legislators were negotiating changes to state law that would improve the state’s chances in the Race to the Top competition, which offered millions of federal dollars in exchange for education reforms. Gov. Paterson proposed eliminating the charter school cap altogether, in accordance with the Obama Administration’s preferences, and lawmakers spent the day of Race to the Top’s deadline trying — and ultimately failing — to reach an agreement. The state submitted its bid anyway, initially refusing to release it and ultimately revealing a host of long-shot promises and bizarre furniture requests. (more…)
December 23, 2010
- A judge will hear arguments today on whether Cathie Black can be chancellor. (NY1, AP)
- Joel Klein’s final missive to principals urged ending the ATR pool altogether. (GothamSchools)
- The mastermind of the CityTime project had previously been probed for fraud. (Daily News)
- Former teacher who did sex work says “reassignment” means paid time to write her memoir. (NY Post)
- Kaya Henderson, Rhee’s successor, isn’t sure whether she wants the job full time. (WUSA9)
- A former Newark education aide will be D.C.’s deputy mayor for education. (D.C. Schools Insider)
- The 50 states’ pension funds collectively share a trillion-dollar hole. (60 Minutes)
- A settlement in Philly protects bullied English language learners in bias cases. (Inquirer)
- Madeleine Sackler’s “Lottery” film about education may be an Oscar contender. (WSJ)
- Cathie Black will be gone by Easter and other 2011 education predictions. (Flypaper)
- A theater teacher highlighted by the union newspaper loses her job. (Dewey21C)
- Is cooperation between networks the next generation of the charter school idea? (Eduwonk)
- Value-added-based bonuses leave out Houston’s non-core subject teachers. (District Administrator)
- Twenty percent of incoming military recruits can’t meet basic academic standards. (Ed Week)
- The most courageous act is to use facts, not faith, to evaluate policies. (Larry Cuban)
- Diane Ravitch wins an academic honor named after Moynihan. (Bridging Differences)
We’re taking the rest of the year off. Happy holidays, enjoy the break, and check in for breaking news if it happens.
December 23, 2010
In a nostalgic final missive to city principals this week, outgoing Chancellor Joel Klein suggested three things to do once he’s gone.
He urged lawmakers to end the last-in first-out process of teacher layoffs, pushed for an end to the Absent Teacher Reserve pool, and underlined his belief in the importance of closing struggling schools.
Klein’s statement that “we have to eliminate the ATR pool” ratchets up the city’s position on the pool of teachers — city teachers who lose their positions, don’t find new ones, but stay on the city payroll anyway. Previously, the city has asked the union, in contract negotiations, to add a limit to the amount of time a teacher can spend in the reserve pool. That would make the pool smaller, but it would not cause it to disappear altogether.
Describing the costs of keeping those teachers on the city payroll as exceeding $100 million a year, Klein argues:
We cannot afford it, and it’s wrong to keep paying this money. It amounts to supporting more than a thousand teachers who either don’t care to, or can’t, find a job, even though our school system hires literally thousands of teachers each year. That’s money that could be spent on teachers that we desperately want and need.
Klein also describes teacher layoffs as a sure thing. “I wish it were otherwise, but the economics of our state and city make this virtually impossible to avoid,” he writes.
The Bloomberg administration has a history of being bullish on layoffs in order to push for the end of the state law regulating how teachers lose their jobs. Klein reiterates that case in his letter:
If we have layoffs, it’s unconscionable to use the last-hired, first-fired rule that currently governs. By definition, such a rule means that quality counts for zero. Our children cannot afford that kind of approach. They need the best teachers, not those who are longest serving. (If you had to have surgery, would you want the longest-serving surgeon or the best one?) This doesn’t mean that many of our longest-serving teachers aren’t among the best, but this is not an area for “group think.” We need individual determinations of teacher effectiveness to decide who stays and who doesn’t.
Klein also quoted his favorite T.S. Eliot poem, “Little Gidding,” excerpting four cryptic lines that seem to summarize his “odyssey” as something more complex than a straight line of a progress:
We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.
Other curious lines from the poem:
… Either you had no purpose
Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured
And is altered in fulfilment. …
December 22, 2010
At 9:30 this morning, the principal of the Ron Brown Academy in Brooklyn stood in her school’s auditorium, watching a fight break out.
Across from her, a tall girl in a tight pink shirt slapped at the girl in front of her. Three other girls grabbed the tall one’s arms and kicked at her legs. The girls broke apart as two boys doing cartwheels chased them off stage.
The principal, Celeste Douglas, broke into applause. She was watching the teenagers — who had grins plastered to their faces, and whose fight moves had been carefully choreographed by their teachers — perform their winter dance routine.
“Music makes me feel free,” said Justin, one of the dancers, after the performance. He is a seventh grader at Ron Brown, a middle school in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Music has also provided the school with an opportunity to improve its test scores, boost attendance and jump off the state’s watch list.
An unusual solution
When Douglas first arrived at Ron Brown Academy in 2006, she found a school in crisis.
Attendance hovered just above 80 percent, students performed poorly on standardized tests, and the previous spring, state officials had put the school on the SURR list of the lowest performing schools in New York. Douglas had three years to improve the school or risk seeing it shut down.
Faced with low performance and small budgets, other schools have cut extra programming and reinforced ELA and math skills. “One of the first things to get cut in schools is the arts program. I felt a lot of pressure to do the same thing,” Douglas said today, sitting in her office, a space decorated with pictures of her students’ performances and trophies of their successes.
December 22, 2010
A collection of independent research measuring the impact of Chancellor Joel Klein’s reforms on the city’s school system will be published next spring. But before that happens, you can listen to some of the researchers online.
Five of them are faculty at New York University’s Steinhardt School and Tim Farrell, a public affairs officer for NYU, has recorded conversations with them and posted them online.
In the first recording, Professors Leanna Stiefel and Amy Ellen Schwartz look at one of Klein’s major policy decisions: the implementation of a weighted funding formula. They find that the new formula only had a significant impact on high schools, but left little imprint on elementary and middle schools.
In 2007, Klein instituted Fair Student Funding: a program that would give schools money based on the needs of the students they serve.
December 22, 2010
- Newark asked every household what to do with Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million schools gift. (WSJ)
- The EPA’s plan to screen city schools for toxins doesn’t have the city’s approval. (Times)
- The city is snatching up sites for schools where development has stalled in the recession. (Times)
- Restructuring struggling schools only works when better teachers are brought in. (L.A. Times)
- Making changes to the city’s juvenile justice system won’t be easy. (WNYC)
- Page 6′s Cindy Adams predicts a one-day teachers’ strike in 2011. (Post)
December 21, 2010
- Three quarters of American high school students now have to take exit exams. (EdWeek)
- The Senate nearly lifted the limit on how many schools a district can “transform.” (Ed Money)
- Spending Race to the Top funds on iPads isn’t the way to get better results. (Rick Hess)
- A list of things charter schools probably won’t tell you about themselves. (Smart Money)
- Part two of NY1′s year end coverage: a look at how the teachers union fared. (NY1)
- Randi Weingarten asked Rhode Island’s governor to intervene in Central Falls HS. (AP)
- Ruben Brosbe: Test-prep is a disservice to students, even if they’re better prepared for tests. (GS)
- John Wilson talks to Stephen Sawchuk about leaving the NEA after ten years. (EdWeek)
- Nearly a fourth of students trying to join the Army fail its test of basic math and reading skills. (AP)
- In a series on teacher tenure, Alexander Hoffman begins by defining his terms. (More Thoughtful)
December 21, 2010
At the heart of the city’s major courtroom loss to the union earlier this year over school closures were 19 short documents — the “educational impact statements” that the city used to make its case for shuttering schools.
Now, the city has given those documents a makeover. But a review of last year’s and this year’s versions of the EIS for one school — Beach Channel High School in Rockaway, Queens — shows that while the reinvented statements are vastly more informative, they still skirt many of the points cited by critics opposed to closing the schools.
When a panel of judges blocked the closures last year, they acknowledged that the law gives city officials little guidance on what to include in the documents but does give them the discretion to close schools they believe are failing. But, as a panel of appellate court judges wrote, officials “abused that discretion by limiting the information they provided to the obvious — that students at phased-out schools would be accommodated at other schools to be determined.”
The revamped documents are city officials’ effort to cover their bases and go beyond “the obvious.” It’s still unclear how critics of last year’s process will greet the new statements. Union officials have said that they intend to pay close attention to how this year’s school closures unfold and possibly lobby Albany to change the process altogether. (more…)
December 21, 2010
Here’s a reminder of exactly how much can change in a year.
Though Chancellor Joel Klein now says that he told Mayor Bloomberg he would stay through the mayor’s second term and leave in the third, that wasn’t what the public heard at the time.
Nearly a year ago, Klein sat down for an interview with NY1 education reporter Lindsey Christ to talk about what Bloomberg’s third term would bring for the city’s schools. Here’s a snippet of the dialogue:
Christ: Are you planning on staying on for the next four years as chancellor? There’ve been a lot of rumors that you might move on…
Klein: I have no plans. I plan to stay here and be the chancellor. I’ve always said it’s the best job I could ever hope for. Working for this mayor has been a real privilege for me and so long as the mayor would like me to stay and fight for the children of New York, I plan to do so.
Many Department of Education employees have also said that Klein gave them no indication that he planned to leave. And yet a year later and Klein is on his way out. He said goodbye to Department of Education employees last week and when the schools reopen January 3, it will be under Chancellor Cathie Black.
December 21, 2010
A friend of mine who teaches at another school shared a quote recently which he heard from an early childhood specialist: “Just because a famine is coming, doesn’t mean you starve the child.” The woman made the comment in regards to the misguided approach some schools are taking to push test (more…)