Posts from March 2012
March 30, 2012
- A Lehman junior describes the inspiration behind his artistic depiction of “King Bloomberg.” (EdVox)
- Credibility of AJC’s investigation is questioned when compared to USA Today report. (Fresh Loaf)
- Fred Smith: The debates about the validity of test scores and how they are used are not new. (City Limits)
- Success Charter Network’s 2013 plans include District 2, where many schools are crowded. (DNA Info)
- The next Michelle Rhee could be a newly-elect 20-year-old school board member. (Scholastic)
- Students at International High School discuss their paths as part of Early College Week. (NYCAN)
- A reform group describes “greenhouse schools” where teachers stay and outcomes are good. (TNTP)
- For Women’s History Month, a look at how teaching is a feminine profession. (Shoulders of Giants)
- Republicans are becoming more vocal opponents to Obama’s education policies. (Our Future)
- Public education in America isn’t nearly as bad as media coverage makes it out to be. (Paul Farhi)
- Occupy the DOE was a natural spin-off for Zuccotti occupiers protesting privatization. (Indypendent)
March 30, 2012
For the first time, the United Federation of Teachers is suing one of the charter schools where it helped teachers to unionize. The union filed suit today against Merrick Academy Charter School, alleging that the school had not honored its commitment to increase the salaries of some teachers.
Teachers at Merrick Academy voted to make the United Federation of Teachers their exclusive bargaining agent in 2007—a process that made Merrick the first of several charter schools to unionize through the UFT’s campaign to bring the typically non-union schools under contract. The UFT and the school struggled to reach a contract agreement from day 1, and those struggles came to a head summer of 2010, when 11 teachers at the Queens school learned they’d been fired via a FedEx mailing.
In November 2011 the UFT and Merrick Academy agreed on a contract which included salary increases for the teachers. But after four months salaries have not increased, UFT Vice President for High Schools Leo Casey explained, so the union is suing the school over a breach of contract.
Casey said the teachers have not been given back-pay they are owed and are still waiting for their current salaries to be raised. He also said the union is notifying the Public Employee Relations Board about other contractual issues at the school, noting that teachers who represent the union are being punished with disciplinary letters and, in one case, suspension without pay. (more…)
March 30, 2012
The city and teachers union aren’t anywhere close to settling on new teacher evaluations. But if and when they do strike a deal, they might have to revisit a point of agreement.
Leo Casey, a teachers union official, told me recently that before negotiations broke down in December, the city and UFT had agreed that only students with a minimum attendance rate should be counted in teachers’ scores. Exactly what that rate would be was still up for discussion, Casey said, but everyone agreed on the basic principle that if students aren’t in class to learn, it’s not fair to hold teachers responsible for their learning.
It’s an outlook that teachers at schools under threat of closure have shared over and over. At Washington Irving High School, teachers protesting the city’s ultimately successful closure proposal argued that the school would have much stronger performance data if the city excluded the school’s many “long-term absences” from its progress report calculations.
It’s also a point that united Buffalo and its teachers union as they negotiated a new teacher evaluation system earlier this year for schools eligible for School Improvement Grants. In February, they settled on a system that would exclude chronically absent students from the student growth portion of evaluations.
But the State Education Department rejected that portion of their compromise. In the rejection letter, Education Commissioner John King explained that Buffalo’s evaluation system would have applied the attendance provision to the 20 percent of evaluations that the state controls, and that’s not allowed. But another problem, he wrote, was that the provision could be abused. (more…)
March 30, 2012
Poor students and their families should get the health care, counseling, and other services they need.
That idea sparked little dissent at a panel discussion Tuesday about students’ non-academic needs. But exactly how to deliver those services was up for debate.
Advocates of the “Broader, Bolder Approach” — a coalition that formed in 2008 to counter the “no excuses” message of former chancellor Joel Klein’s Education Equality Project — said responsibility for providing and paying for the services should fall to the city. But a top city official said it should be up to individual schools to assess their students’ needs and find ways to meet them.
The panel discussion took place at the Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Campus, a Washington Heights campus that works with the Children’s Aid Society, the social services provider that is launching its own school this fall to model a setting with “wraparound” services, and it was moderated by the CAS president, Rich Buery. It was hosted by the Campaign for Educational Equity, a think tank aimed at influencing policy, whose director, Michael Rebell, was one of four panelists.
Rebell stuck to an argument he has outlined before in policy papers and court documents as part of the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity case that resulted in new funds for city schools. Students have a constitutional right to receive access to more resources in schools, and it is the state and city’s responsibilities to provide them, he said. (more…)
March 30, 2012
- Education colleges are balking at joining a national program that aims to evaluate their quality. (WSJ)
- A grant for a health clinic at a Bronx campus has gone unused without city matching funds. (Daily News)
- A teacher at I.S. 339 has been removed after a student said she duct-taped him to his chair. (NBC NY)
- City schools will get nearly $300 million more than last year from the state’s budget. (Daily News)
- State lawmakers also okayed more than $1.5 million to restore Staten Island school bus service. (NY1)
- Closure hearings at three schools proposed for turnaround took very different tones. (GothamSchools)
- More on the city’s openness not to replace half of teachers at turnaround schools, as we reported. (NY1)
- Jeremy Lin says he enjoyed Stuyvesant HS students’ graduation request but can’t come. (Daily News)
- A watchdog group critiqued the city’s early budget, including on schools. (GothamSchools, SchoolBook)
- One in 88 American children has been diagnosed with autism, reflecting an unexplained increase. (WSJ)
- The long-term implications of the rise of e-books on students’ learning are not yet clear. (Times)
March 29, 2012
- Parents at a selective school are pushing back against increased special ed enrollment. (Insideschools)
- Suggestions for class treats when school rules prohibit cookies, cakes, and other sweets. (The Kitchn)
- The city could eliminate pre-K programs to make space for waitlisted in kindergarteners. (DNA Info)
- Elmo loves chancellor! in a photo the DOE snapped during a school tour. (NYCSchools Twitter)
- On the frustration teachers feel when a needy student simply disappears. (Miss Eyre/NYC Educator)
- Anthony Cody reflects on retention, not replacement, turned around his school. (Living in Dialogue)
- An early and prolific teacher-blogger has taken a buyout from his suburban school system. (Daily Kos)
- A list of the charter schools opening this fall; applications are due next week to all. (Insideschools)
- Teacher absenteeism is up in Atlanta, raising questions about mental health days. (Get Schooled)
- A Gates-funded study of teachers found 73 percent feel prepared to teach the Common Core. (CCW)
- A teacher describes the challenge of test-prepping for a moving target and a bell curve. (Ariel Sacks)
- A teacher launches a series about teaching academic language to ELLs. (No Sleep ‘Til Summer)
March 29, 2012
New York City’s release of teacher ratings last month stoked fierce debate over the role of evaluations in boosting student achievement and about whether the public should be privy to their results.
A panel discussion featuring former state education chief David Steiner; United Federation of Teachers Vice President Leo Casey; policy researchers; and Nick Lemann, dean of Columbia University’s journalism school tackled those issues this afternoon. The panel, part of a two-day long symposium on testing, was billed as a conversation about whether to make teacher ratings public, as New York City did with caveats last month and New York State is poised, at least legally, to do in the future.
But the panelists mostly skirted that issue, focusing instead on the bigger question of how current teacher evaluations can be improved upon — an issue that the state is grappling with as it rolls out new curriculum standards and prepares to impose a state-wide evaluation system.
Eric Nadelstern, a former top city Department of Education official who spoke from the audience, was the only person to speak out in favor of the data releases — or address the matter head on at all.
“Clearly the tests have to get better, but we can’t wait until they do before we use them to determine whether or not the adults are doing good work,” said Nadelstern, who led the city’s effort to create report cards for each school. “However imperfect the data, if we’re using it to make high stakes decisions about kids, shouldn’t we make that data available to the students, to the parents and to the public?” (more…)
March 29, 2012
The city’s early estimates of how much it will be spending on education next year are simultaneously too low and too high, according to an analysis released by the city’s Independent Budget Office today.
According to the IBO’s analysis, the city’s preliminary education budget overstates the total increase in Department of Education spending next year. But it also understates how much it will spend on 26 new charter schools that are set to open in September, according to the IBO, which pegs those schools’ costs at $51 million.
Overall, the report’s basic thrust is the same as in the IBO’s previous analysis of Mayor Bloomberg’s November financial plan: Spending on instruction is poised to fall as spending rises in other categories, such as pension and transportation costs.
On Tuesday, Chancellor Dennis Walcott explained to skeptical members of the City Council that the department expects a $64 million shortfall in the preliminary budget to disappear by the time the official budget is proposed in May. Between now and then, significant adjustments are likely.
Walcott also told the council that the department is committed to preventing any cuts to individual schools’ budgets, and the IBO’s report doesn’t affect that message, department officials said today. (more…)
March 29, 2012
Three schools facing the same fate — a federally prescribed school reform strategy known as “turnaround” — registered their opposition in very different ways at public hearings Wednesday evening.
The hearings are a required part of the city’s school closure process. In order to execute turnaround at 33 schools, qualifying them for a total of about $60 million in funding, the city must close and reopen the schools after changing their names and many of their teachers. Tuesday’s hearings were the first in a series that extends to April 19, a week before the Panel for Educational Policy is set to vote on the turnaround plans.
At Sheepshead Bay High School, students and staff argued that the school is doing well despite a challenging student population. At Automotive High School, teachers acknowledged that the school desperately needs help — but they said past failures gave them little confidence the city could deliver it. And the community struck an entirely different tone at Harlem Renaissance High School, which would only be lightly touched by turnaround’s most stringent requirements.
Harlem Renaissance High School
Opposition to turnaround was all in a name for students, parents, and teachers at Harlem Renaissance, a transfer high school that accepts students who have been unsuccessful at other schools.
A large portion of the school’s 200 students turned out for the hearing, and many of the people who testified said their top priority was maintaining the school’s name. A representative of the local community district testified that “Harlem” is an essential part of the name to preserve as the neighborhood continues to gentrify and change in character. Ajee Joyner, a senior, focused on the word “renaissance” and explained that she had learned it meant “rebirth” — a poignant definition for students who failed at or even dropped out of other schools.
“From the moment I walked through the doors, the theme of experiencing your own personal renaissance was constantly reinforced,” said Joyner. “Every staff member reminds us on a regular basis that we can become whatever we want if we allow ourselves to be reborn in our learning and our educational paths.”
Few schools’ turnaround protests appear to focus on the renaming requirement. But at Harlem Renaissance, that could be the biggest disruption because it won’t have to replace any teachers: 10 of the 18 teachers joined the staff in the last two years, so they would be counted as new under the federal rules about teacher replacement. (more…)
March 29, 2012
When leaders of the Children’s Aid Society set out to develop a charter school with wraparound social services for the Bronx’s neediest elementary school students, they understood the challenges before them.
Putting the social services in place would be complicated but in reach for the nonprofit group, which has connected service providers and offered its own programs for more than 150 years. And Drema Brown, the CAS official leading the project, would draw on her experience as a school principal to develop the school’s academic program.
But making sure that the Children’s Aid Society Community Charter School enrolled the highest-needs students would be a taller order — even though the school promised after-school programming, a longer school year, and a wealth of counselors that would be particularly helpful for them. A major reason is that charter schools’ admissions rules favor families with the stability and savvy to enter a lottery that takes place more than five months before the start of school.
“It is no secret that charter schools are having to deal with the idea that there is a selection process which would seem to prevent the kids who need it most from getting into the schools,” Gregory Morris, the assistant to CAS’s president, said earlier this year. “We’re going to use the foundations we’ve already laid to be certain that we’re going to increase the odds of kids who would be least likely to normally get into a school like this.”
So the group placed ads in bilingual publications and deployed staff who work with families around the Bronx to spread the word about the new school. Bilingual CAS social workers, canvassers, and caseworkers worked together to reach families who otherwise might have missed the chance to try for the charter school option.
Now, with less than a week to go until the school’s application deadline, it looks like CAS has gotten what it set out for. Of just over 300 applications the school has already received, 70 percent are from English language learners, nearly 70 percent are from single-parent households, and more than 20 percent are in the child welfare system, according to Brown. (more…)