Posts from March 2012
March 27, 2012
Schools across the city will go short-staffed for 15 days starting as soon as next month’s state tests conclude.
As happens every year, the Department of Education is asking schools to send teachers to help grade the tests. But this year, the scoring period is 50 percent longer — 15 days instead of 10 last year — and it’s largely taking place during the school day. The changes mean schools will lose more teaching time than in the past.
Schools with more test-taking students are required to send more teachers. So a school with under 100 test-taking students will lose just one teacher from late April through early May, but a school with more than 1,100 test-takers will have to send eight to centralized grading centers.
Anna Allanbrook, principal of the Brooklyn New School, is responsible for contributing five teachers for grading this year. She has decided to send teachers that work as support staff, to keep classroom teachers inside the classroom. While she won’t need to shell out money for substitute teachers by distributing staff in this way, she is still at a loss.
“It costs me time because they’re not doing what they’re normally doing,” Allanbrook said. “I often wonder if they put all that money into something else if it would improve student performance.”
The tests have undergone changes this year to make them longer and include “field” questions that are aligned to new Common Core standards but won’t factor into students’ scores. Allanbrook said she thought the changes could prove burdensome for young students.
But the experimental questions will be graded by machines, not teachers, and the longer test is not the reason for the extended scoring period, said DOE officials. Instead, they blamed the change on budget cuts and a lack of aid from the state. (more…)
March 27, 2012
A married couple could soon be barred from working in the Department of Education after investigators found that the husband arranged a job for his wife even though she was not qualified to hold it.
Investigators in the office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation found that Angel Namnum, a former deputy superintendent who earned $190,000 in the department’s finance division at Tweed Courthouse headquarters, had arranged for his wife, Rosa Castillo, to be given a job in a Bronx office that he supervised.
Castillo underwent an accelerated hiring process before landing a $50,000 “community coordinator” job that had not previously been vacant. Her new colleagues quickly realized that she could not handle her responsibilities:
[Seniors Grants Officer Maite] Villanueva explained that Castillo barely spoke English, although command of the English language was required for her position because she dealt with school personnel and issued permits. Villanueva said that Castillo had no computer skills and the office was at a disadvantage while Castillo was being taught basic computer skills. Villanueva added that Castillo did not understand e-mail and was unable to respond to internal or external messages.
Namnum will no longer work for the city after today and Castillo will face a disciplinary hearing next week, Department of Education officials said today. (more…)
March 27, 2012
Teachers should be paid more — but they should have to prove their value before getting big raises or better positions.
That’s a central idea of a paper about teacher pay released today by the teacher advocacy group Educators 4 Excellence. The group convened a 16-teacher policy team last fall to study past and current experiments in teacher pay, survey city teachers about their views, and come up with recommendations about how to change the way city teachers are paid.
Currently, city teachers earn a starting salary of $45,530 and see their pay rise in small increments each year and as they accumulate additional credentials such as a master’s degree. Large salary jumps come late in teachers’ careers or when they move into administrative positions.
The group’s recommendations include increasing the starting salary by a third; creating a “career ladder” so teachers can be rewarded for strong performance without leaving the classroom; introducing bonuses for teachers who receive top ratings on new teacher evaluations; and paying more to draw teachers to hard-to-staff subjects, such as science or special education.
Educators 4 Excellence is aligned with school reform groups that have battled the teachers union in the past, and some of the group’s previous reports have influenced city and state policy proposals. But the teacher pay report does not side neatly with either Mayor Bloomberg or the UFT. It does not call for merit pay tied to student test scores, which Bloomberg has supported and the city teachers union has said it would never accept, nor does it support Bloomberg’s recent proposal to offer permanent pay raises to teachers who earn top ratings on new evaluations. But it also does not call for union-backed school-wide bonuses of the type distributed under a city program that was aborted after it did not lead to increases in student performance.
“We are not interested in replicating failed experiments. As teachers, we already work hard, and we know that more pay will not make us work harder,” reads the report. “But we do want to be recognized for our successes. We want to build up our supply of excellent teachers by recruiting and retaining professionals who might otherwise choose other fields.” (more…)
March 27, 2012
- The city and state jointly came up with a list of topics that shouldn’t be broached on state tests. (Post)
- Legislators won’t use the budget to shield teacher ratings from public view. (GothamSchools, Daily News)
- But some lawmakers said the issue of privacy could come up during a separate legislative session. (Post)
- Some parents say they want to know the outcomes of the state’s new teacher evaluation system. (Post)
- The Post and Daily News say the fight shows teachers unions’ influence, even though their position lost.
- The city has updated its list of schools with lights leaking toxic PCBs, and 149 buildings are on it. (NY1)
- A personal look at Bushwick Community High School, a transfer school that could close. (Times)
- The city won’t let Canarsie’s I.S. 211 grow; a charter school is set to move into the space. (Daily News)
- Students at several schools, including Hillcrest High, are competing in a monologue competition. (NY1)
- Chancellor Dennis Walcott got a warm welcome during his visit to Curtis High School. (S.I. Advance)
- City private schools are using data about parents’ wealth to intensify fund-raising pitches. (Times)
March 26, 2012
- Teacher Mike Albertson traces the recent history of Flushing HS, which could close. (Music and Beyond)
- A former city principal, now a top D.C. schools official, was fined for a conflict of interest. (GS Scribd)
- The Manhattan principal who created a teacher dress code now has one for students, too. (DNA Info)
- Across the country, dual-language instruction — classrooms in two tongues — is on the rise. (Ed Week)
- A teacher describes running a mock United Nations with new immigrants. (No Sleep ‘Til Summer)
- D.C.’s teacher rating system suggests that teachers improve at first, then plateau. (D.C. Schools Insider)
- The principal of Brooklyn’s P.S. 186 says teachers created their own Common Core tasks. (SchoolBook)
- More evidence that D.C. teachers suffer when their students’ previous teachers cheat. (Class Struggle)
- New York got low marks on Race to the Top transparency but high marks on data use. (Politics K-12)
- In a collaboration with Youth Communication, Anthony describes being the new kid. (GS Community)
- A teacher says what she would do if state tests weren’t school days away. (On the Shoulders of Giants)
- City Councilman Brad Lander issued a report showing more students in crowded classes. (SchoolBook)
- A former city teacher is suing, saying she was fired because of 15-year-old pictures. (Courthouse News)
- Another look at the soon-to-open city high school that focuses on software development. (Mashable)
March 26, 2012
With a final deal on the 2012-2013 state budget imminent, legislators were racing to hash out the last of several education rifts in a series of closed door negotiations on Monday.
State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos announced today that he would not stand in the way of releasing teacher data ratings, rebuffing earlier reports that senate lawmakers were considering aligning with the Assembly on the issue. The state teachers union had heavily lobbied senators to back a law that would have either banned or restricted the release of any teacher performance data tied to their evaluations.
“There were discussions in terms of seeing if there was a way you could balance the parents’ right to know and some sort of [teacher] privacy rights, but there’s no resolution of that, so it will stay as it is,” Skelos said outside the Senate chamber this afternoon, according to the Daily News.
Other budgetary loose ends related to education also began to firm up as the day went along. Cuomo struck a deal on how much of the increased state aid should be tied to competitive grants, the Times Union reported. In his preliminary budget, Gov. Cuomo proposed $250 million in competitive grants as part of a proposed $800 million state aid increase. That was met with opposition from lawmakers in both houses and the deal reached Monday reduced Cuomo’s grant total to $50 million, which State Education Commissioner John King advocated for in January.
March 26, 2012
Two more New York State school districts will have their federal funding restored after adopting new teacher evaluations for this school year, State Education Commissioner John King announced today.
In January, King cut off the funds, known as School Improvement Grants, to 10 districts that had been receiving them to help overhaul low-performing schools. The districts had not adequately complied with a Dec. 31 deadline to adopt new evaluations for teachers in those schools, King said.
But after the state’s teacher evaluation deal in February, five districts refined their applications sufficiently to have their funding restored. Today, two more districts — Yonkers and Roosevelt — got their funding back. The announcement means that just three districts, including New York City, are still shut out of funding for the year. The city was supposed to get almost $60 million this year through the grant program.
The other two districts that haven’t met the state’s requirements for this year are Greenburgh 11 and Buffalo. Greenburgh 11, a tiny school district that serves only students with special needs, has been silent on the issue of teacher evaluations all year. Buffalo, on the other hand, devolved into conflict this month after King rejected an evaluations agreement between the city and its teachers union, saying that their plan to exclude the scores of chronically absent students was unacceptable. (more…)
March 26, 2012
An analysis of nearly 15,000 districts’ test scores turned up suspicious patterns that suggested that some cheating might be taking place in New York City schools.
The analysis was conducted by a team of reporters and researchers at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the newspaper that covered last year’s revelations about a far-ranging cheating scandal in Atlanta’s schools. The team looked at changes in students’ test scores from year to year, reasoning that large increases or decreases in groups of students’ test scores would be unlikely without an unusual intervention such as cheating.
The analysis does not identify instances of cheating, only places and times when cheating is considered more likely to have occurred.
Most of New York’s 32 school districts fell well within the normal range, with around 5 percent of classes showing unusually large score climbs or falls. But in a few places, the analysis detected swings in more than 10 percent of classes, a level that experts told the AJC team was highly improbable under normal circumstances.
In Brooklyn’s District 16, for example, 7.95 to 12.82 percent of classes between 2009 and 2011 showed suspicious test score swings. Between 2008 and 2011, the percentage of classes flagged in Manhattan’s District 2, which includes many middle-class students, ranged from 7.41 to 12.5 — significantly higher than in neighboring districts. (more…)
March 26, 2012
This piece originally appeared in Represent magazine and is reprinted in collaboration with Youth Communication.
“School is right around the corner,” my aunt said on an unusually chilly August day two summers ago. She tried to sound casual, but I could hear the slight urgency in her voice.
“So?” I replied.
“So, shouldn’t you be registering or something? (more…)
March 26, 2012
- State lawmakers are in discussions about how to shield teacher ratings from the public. (Daily News)
- The teachers union is pushing lawmakers to restore funding for teacher support centers. (SchoolBook)
- The state wants the makers of new tests to avoid uncomfortable topics, such as birthdays. (Post)
- The reporters who found cheating in Atlanta found 200 other districts have suspect scores, too. (AJC)
- Chancellor Walcott reassured charter school operators that he would encourage their schools. (AP)
- Some Teaching Fellows say the city should revamp the 12-year-old training program. (Daily News)
- More weapons are being confiscated in city schools, but fewer of them are guns. (Post)
- City students and teachers are in the thick of preparations for this year’s state tests. (NY1)
- The Post says recent news about New York’s graduation rate gains shouldn’t be celebrated.
- Some city parents are trying to time their pregnancies to optimize their private school chances. (Post)
- Across the country, school districts are opting out of serving ammonia-treated beef. (Times)
- Some in Connecticut are concerned about charter schools that serve only very needy students. (WSJ)
- Michael Winerip: A fight over a district’s web access reveals a murky underworld of web filters. (Times)
Last week on GothamSchools:
- A Bronx teacher offers a semester-long training course on “assimilation” into college culture. (Friday)
- The city is bulking up programs that train teachers for schools undergoing radical reforms. (Friday)
- Three schools that were set to close next year have been showing signs of life and fight. (Thursday)
- The city’s teacher hiring landscape appears more open than at any time in recent years. (Wednesday)
- Students at a Brooklyn high school showcased their studies in democratic participation. (Wednesday)
- Educators in Manhattan’s District 2 discussed the transition to Common Core standards. (Wednesday)
- A new feature to showcase findings of education researchers started with college readiness. (Tuesday)
- Some teachers told officials that the Common Core standards have come on too quickly. (Monday)