Posts from January 2012
January 31, 2012
- To escape low-performing schools, parents across the city expend herculean efforts. (Insideschools)
- A school closure plan has turned Assemblyman Keith Wright against mayoral control. (Politicker NY)
- A member of the Absent Teacher Reserve landed a regular job at “a school as it should be.” (NYC ATR)
- A city teacher skewers the idea that education before “reform” was better for all. (Jose Vilson)
- Peeking into a writers’ workshop when all of the myriad pieces are working together. (Mr. Foteah)
- Chinatown schools report an annual influx of new students after the winter vacation. (SchoolBook)
- Science teachers (including GothamSchools alum Kelly Vaughan) turn to storytelling. (Dot Earth)
- Tougher accountability for charter school performance is emerging nationally. (Time/Hechinger)
- A technologist explores the coming frontier when teachers can be replaced by algorithms. (TechCrunch)
- From Chicago, a searchable map of schools and their arts programs. (Ingenuity Inc)
- Diane Ravitch wonders if President Obama knows the effect of Race to the Top. (Bridging Differences)
- Mike Petrilli: The study that proved the value of a teacher also proved the value of test scores. (Flypaper)
January 31, 2012
A press conference about the city’s school closure policy looked a lot like a campaign stop for four men eyeing 2013 mayoral runs.
Four leading mayoral candidates — Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, and former comptroller and 2009 mayoral runner-up Bill Thompson — spoke at the event on the steps of City Hall. The press conference was organized by the Coalition for Educational Justice, a nonprofit that has spearheaded protests against many of the 25 closures proposed this year.
Flanked by advocates and parents, the men echoed concerns outlined in a report CEJ released last week about the inclusion of students with special needs in new small schools. (That report responded to a report by an independent research firm that found the schools had increased students’ chances of graduating.) The candidates all said the Bloomberg administration had been too quick to close schools without trying other interventions and had “warehoused” high-needs students in schools that are now facing closure.
They also demanded that the city release details about what happened to students who had not yet graduated when their schools closed — information that is required by law to come out tomorrow.
But they stopped short of explaining how they would do things differently if they became mayor and gained control of the schools. The closest anyone got was Stringer, who took aim at an Achilles’ Heel for Bloomberg: the way the Department of Education engages parents and communities. (more…)
January 31, 2012
Across the city yesterday, high school teachers hunkered down for a day of extra training. Some sat in on sessions at their schools, while others scattered across the city for sessions held in the offices of educational consultants.
I stopped by the Midtown offices of Math for America, a fellowship program for math and science teachers, and saw teachers working on student work to better understand why they thought the way they did. Here’s what some said about some of the topics dominating the policy agenda these days (interviews edited for clarity and brevity):
Bill Lamonte, Millennium High School
Years: 10 (eight in New York City)
How long will you be a teacher for?
I may be a different case because I know I’ll be teaching until I die. But it is hard to see colleagues that start out putting in that time and then get frustrated and end up leaving.
I am challenged professionally, but some people don’t want to deal with the bureaucracy of the system. The DOE is a tough place. It’s very top-down. It’s hard. But if you have a supportive administration and you’re in a school that has ideals that you believe in, it’s easier to stay because you feel you can work with people and that you can actually make a difference.
Would you ever consider a school leadership position?
I know I’ll be teaching, but I steer clear of the administration path just because I see what happens to teachers when they become administrators. They take on another personality, in a way. Again, it’s very top-down, so they have to meet certain requirements themselves. In order to do that you have to put a lot of pressure on your teachers. When you have to have a checklist – are they doing this, this, and this? – I can see how it can become a struggle to balance.
Although I do find that a lot of schools struggle with having good administrators. There are a lot of weak principals out there. I’ve seen it first hand, especially at my old school in the Bronx. Luckily now I do feel that the administration is batter and that does make a huge difference. To feel supported in a school is really what’s going to keep a teacher there. (more…)
January 31, 2012
The Department of Education’s press office will be getting a new director in less than two weeks.
Natalie Ravitz, the department’s communications director since June 2010, is leaving to become chief of staff to Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of News Corporation. Her last day at the department will be Feb. 10.
Ravitz is following a well-worn path from the department to NewsCorp: Ex-schools chief Joel Klein, who was chancellor when Ravitz was hired, now heads the company’s growing education division. Last summer, Klein picked Kristen Kane, the department’s former chief operating officer, to become the division’s COO. He also acquired Wireless Generation, the technology company that developed and managed ARIS, the city’s school data warehouse.
After years in political communications, Ravitz arrived at the department during the summer of 2010 and shepherded its press operations through two abrupt changes in departmental leadership. She succeeded David Cantor, who held the job for longer than any of his predecessors before leaving for the private sector. (more…)
January 31, 2012
Is the school being closed, or is it staying open?
Parents repeated variations of that question often over the course of a two-hour-long meeting Department of Education officials held at William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School Monday evening to detail the city’s plan to overhaul the school.
The answer, they were told, was more complicated than a matter of semantics.
“This school is not being closed,” Aimee Horowitz, the school’s superintendent, told families, teachers, and the School Leadership Team in three meetings at the school over the course of the day.
But she also said a new school with a different name would be opening in the building in the fall, and just half of Grady’s current teachers would remain. Those are the conditions of the school improvement model known as “turnaround,” she explained.
Mayor Bloomberg announced earlier this month that the city would use turnaround at 33 struggling schools so that they could continue receiving federal funds even if the city and teachers union do not agree on new teacher evaluations. Since 2010, Grady had been undergoing a different federally mandated overhaul process, “transformation,” which relies on changing leadership, bringing in extra support services, and experimenting with longer school days and new teacher training.
The details Horowitz outlined were puzzling for several of the 40 parents and students who crowded into Grady’s cafeteria to learn about the turnaround plan.
“First you say in your speech that the school was going to do transformation. And then as you go on you started saying things like, this is going to be a new school. So where are we, which one should we believe?” said Ade Ajayi, whose son is a junior. “A lot of things are going to change. Teachers are going to change. We don’t even know if the name is going to be the same.” (more…)
January 31, 2012
- An initial review of NCLB waivers finds that states didn’t offer steep enough accountability promises. (AP)
- A report by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio finds problems with CTE schools. (GothamSchools, NY1)
- The city is lobbying Gov. Andrew Cuomo to change the state’s teacher evaluation law. (GS, Post, WSJ)
- Mayor Bloomberg sighed over a teacher who is earning a salary but not working in a classroom. (Post)
- A State Senate committee approved a bill to let houses of worship meet in school buildings. (Daily News)
- A Chelsea mother has emerged as a vocal ally for closing schools, from inside them. (GothamSchools)
- A Brownsville youth court allows adolescents to avoid jail in favor of restorative justice. (Daily News)
- The Wall Street Journal praises Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s aggressive school reform plan.
- Jindal is pushing school vouchers, tenure reform, and charter schools in a speech. (Times-Picayune)
January 30, 2012
- A report from a journalist who wasn’t shut out of Lehman’s first closure meeting. (Bronx Press Politics)
- The new voice of “Dora the Explorer” is a public school student from Sunnyside, Queens. (Post)
- The principal of Manhattan’s I.S. 89 is an avid tennis player and viewer who dislikes violent TV. (Times)
- Urban parents who homeschool say the choice represents the ultimate in differentiation. (Newsweek)
- For the first time, the city has published a full directory of elementary school programs. (Insideschools)
- A primer on the city’s new sex ed curriculum the day before its mandate kicks in. (WNYC/SchoolBook)
- Charter parent activist Mona Davids’s daughter says, “My mother is my lobbyist.” (NYStudentsFirst.org)
- An official with the city’s all-girls Public Prep charter schools is accused of stealing funds. (SchoolBook)
- Photos from a Cobble Hill school building as a charter school prepares to move in. (Inside Colocation)
- A city teacher laments that teachers are taught to “shut up and teach” without protest. (GS Community)
- Policy changes in the last few years have causedEast Village schools to become less diverse. (DNA Info)
- The Gates Foundation says characteristics, not size, make small schools succeed. (Impatient Optimists)
- The product of a Maryland district’s choice program on her mother’s non-ideological choices. (Atlantic)
January 30, 2012
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued his state budget speech two weeks ago, he offered a stark choice to districts and unions working on new teacher evaluations: agree, or face the consequences.
In Albany today, Chancellor Dennis Walcott suggested that the city would prefer the consequences — widely assumed to be an effort by Cuomo to use his budgeting process to impose new evaluations without the consent of local teachers unions
“I think the law, and the governor is so right about this, is broken,” Walcott said. “It’s not going to work as constructed.”
Walcott would not comment on the status of negotiations with the United Federation of Teachers but said that the issue dividing them — the appeals process for teachers rated ineffective — had not been solved.
Cuomo, who has said the 2010 evaluation law was “destined to fail,” seemed willing but not eager to expend political capital on changing the law when he delivered his budget address. He said he preferred districts and their unions to agree on a “protocol” for new evaluations within 30 days.
But, Cuomo said, “If they can’t do that then we’ll do it for them.”
Walcott’s comments reflect pessimism about the state of negotiations in the city just days after UFT President Michael Mulgrew praised Cuomo for his “intervention” to induce the city back to the table. Walcott said he was in Albany to lobby them about changing the law. (more…)
January 30, 2012
After dropping her two sons at their Chelsea elementary school one morning this fall, Mary Conway-Spiegel spent several minutes fiddling with the GPS in her black SUV before it spat out directions to her next stop: a high school 15 miles north, in the Wakefield section of the Bronx.
Conway-Spiegel had an appointment with Zenobia White, the principal of a secondary school whose middle grades faced closure by the Department of Education.
Conway-Spiegel had no connection to the school, the Academy for Scholarship and Entrepreneurship, before last October, when White responded to a surprise offer from Conway-Spiegel to help ASE combat the stigma of being on the city’s shortlist for school closures.
The offer came during a round of cold calls that has become an annual ritual for Conway-Spiegel, who has appointed herself surrogate class parent at some of the city’s most struggling schools. She defends them under the banner of a one-woman advocacy outfit, called the Partnership for Student Advocacy, and the mantra — repeated almost daily via Twitter — “There are no failing schools.” (more…)
January 30, 2012
Before enacting ambitious plans to expand Career and Technical Education offering in schools, the city should invest more in the struggling programs that already exist, a report by the public advocate Bill de Blasio’s office argues.
The report, released today, paints a grim picture of CTE in city schools as chronically underperforming and often unaligned to industries that are expanding, such as the health sciences and information technology. The report was fast-tracked after Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced plans to open 12 CTE schools by the end of his tenure earlier this month, de Blasio said.
The mayor convened a commission in 2008 to examine and improve CTE schools, but de Blasio said the task force’s recommendations have been largely ignored. He said he wanted to see the city invest more in systemic improvements and struggling schools, rather than impose a “one-size-fits-all” plan to shutter low-performing CTE schools.
“Maxwell High School has made steady progress, gotten an A rating under the department’s own rating system, and now they’re saying they’re going to close it. Makes no sense,” de Blasio said. ”Closure … does not guarantee that what comes next is going to be better. We should try to see if we can save the schools we have with a real intervention.”
The report finds: (more…)