Posts from April 2012
April 25, 2012
A week ago, as I walked into Flushing High School to start my day, there was a strange energy in the air — a mixture of anxiety and strangely, a little optimism. In the mailroom there was a colorful bulletin board of pictures from a recent rally held by teachers and students on the sidewalk (more…)
April 25, 2012
Last week, hundreds of parents, teachers, and students crowded Long Island City High School’s auditorium for a hearing about the school’s planned “turnaround.” On Tuesday evening, just a dozen parents attended a meeting to hear directly from the Department of Education’s latest pick to run the revamped school.
Gathered in the school’s band room, they learned that Vivian Selenikas, the proposed school leader, speaks four languages (English, Spanish, Greek and Italian. They found that she started her career in the 1980s as a Spanish teacher at Richmond Hill High School, another school on the turnaround list. And they learned that she believes careful curriculum planning will lift Long Island City out of a slump of low attendance (the rate last year was 80 percent) and poor city progress report grades.
They also learned that Selenikas is not afraid to stand up and cha-cha. When the school’s cheerleading coach led parents through impromptu dance exercises at the end of the Parent Association meeting, Selenikas joined in.
As a Queens network leader, Selenikas is no stranger to the large high school on Broadway, which required help from her and other Department of Education officials last year to resolve massive scheduling problems.
“It’s important that someone who knew the community and knew the needs of this neighborhood helped to move the school forward, should the decision be made that Long Island City will no longer be Long Island City,” she said.
But many parents say they are worried that the city is not planning adequately for turnaround. Some say they are wary of the abrupt leadership change, which would be the third in less than four years. The current principal, Maria Mamo-Vacacela, came under fire last year for overhauling most students’ schedules two months into the academic year. (more…)
April 25, 2012
- A reading passage on the state test also showed up in a prep curriculum some schools use. (Daily News)
- The state warned about errors on math tests that start today. (GothamSchools, Post, NY1, Daily News)
- A new poll shows New Yorkers want their next mayor to adopt different education policies. (SchoolBook)
- As states create new teacher evaluations, they are grappling with how to rate special ed teachers. (AP)
- The Department of Education’s Young Men’s Initiative program is off to a slow start. (GothamSchools)
- Parents say they’ll occupy Cobble Hill’s P.S. 29 if the city does not slow asbestos cleanup. (Daily News)
- A state board approved an unusual bid for five Success Charter schools to share a set of trustees. (NY1)
- The board also tabled a vote about the Success network to increase its management fees. (Daily News)
- Michael Benjamin: Kids have been dealing with talking fruit for years on TV, so why not on tests? (Post)
- Los Angeles is moving to revoke the charter of a school accused of mishandling discipline. (L.A. Times)
April 24, 2012
- Philadelphia’s cash-strapped school district is making radical cuts. (Naked City, Notebook, Flypaper)
- A South African leader weighed in on unionization at a city charter named for his father. (SchoolBook)
- Diane Ravitch launched a blog to escape Twitter’s constraints; she’s already posted 6 times. (DR’s Blog)
- Two Neighborhood School students are pleading for their library to stay open amid cuts. (The Lo-Down)
- A teacher at DeWitt Clinton High School reflects on changes to the state’s pension system. (Marketplace)
- A teacher wonders why her high school students don’t attend free field trips. (Miss Eyre/NYC Educator)
- A Brooklyn high school principal says the city’s high schools need more testing, not less. (SchoolBook)
- Amid feedback, SUNY’s Charter Schools Institute tabled a vote on Success’s fees. (NYC P.S. Parents)
- Principals are still concerned about the amount of time teachers will spend grading. (SchoolBook)
- A teacher set to share space with a Success school recalls a visit from construction. (Inside Co-Location)
- In a Pineapple-inspired fable, the animals didn’t eat the pundit with undigestible ideas. (Aaron Pallas)
- A teacher and his colleagues worry about the ninth grade’s collective apathy. (Urban Teacher’s Ed)
- “A dog that keeps digging holes … wants to be a gardener, right?” based on the ELA exam. (Gawker)
- Law students have been training students at J.H.S. 22 about Fourth Amendment rights. (SchoolBook)
- The national teacher of the year is a seventh-grade English teacher from California. (Huffington Post)
- The promise and problems with Common Core implementation get a wave of press attention. (EdWeek)
April 24, 2012
Two of the state math exams that students are set to start taking on Wednesday have errors, the State Education Department advised principals today.
On the fourth-grade exam, one question has two correct answers, the department warned. The eighth-grade test contains one question with no correct answer at all.
The admission comes as educators and parents are on high alert about the tests after the embarrassing revelation that the state’s eighth-grade reading exam included a revised and seemingly nonsensical literary passage whose moral was “pineapples don’t wear sleeves.” Together, the episodes have raised concerns about Pearson, the company that is in the first year of a five-year, $32 million contract to produce tests for New York State.
A spokesman for the department said the mistakes amounted only to typographical errors. But critics of the state’s testing program say the state is holding Pearson to a lower standard than it holds students. (more…)
April 24, 2012
Since Mayor Bloomberg announced plans to “turn around” dozens of struggling schools during his State of the City speech in January, the city has hammered out specifics while holding two rounds of raucous meetings at each of the schools that could be overhauled.
Meanwhile, community members, politicians, and union officials have argued against turnaround at rally after rally — even as the city’s plans evolved. On Thursday, they will air those arguments one more time as the Panel for Educational Policy — which has never rejected a city proposal — sits down to hear public testimony and then vote on 26 turnaround plans.
In two posts, we will summarize how the city got here, what turnaround entails, and what could happen after Thursday. First, some recent history:
What exactly is turnaround, anyway?
Turnaround is one of four federally prescribed school overhaul strategies that cities can adopt to qualify for School Improvement Grants. The SIG program was developed to entice states and school districts to improve the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools after U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan committed to funding overhauls. The program has gotten mixed reviews across the country but still has sent school districts into a frenzy trying to win scarce funds, which can amount to millions of dollars per school for three years.
If districts want the funds, they must select one of the four strategies for each school on the list. They can close the schools and disperse their students; partner them with nonprofit groups or turn them into charter schools under “restart”; add new resources and programs under “transformation”; or choose turnaround. (more…)
April 24, 2012
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott wanted attendees at the Mayor’s Young Men’s Initiative Summit to know that even programs with the best intentions can be tricky to execute.
This lesson, he said, would be particularly important for city officials as they implement a sweeping new initiative to address the educational and economic disparities between male students of color and their peers.
Walcott stopped by the day-long summit to represent the Department of Education, which is leading up the Expanded Success Initiative, one of several prongs of the Bloomberg administration’s Young Men’s Initiative. At a cost of $24 million, the project will bring researchers into schools that are succeeding with male students of color. But nearly nine months after it was announced, the department still hasn’t picked which schools to show off.
The city has assembled a shortlist of 81 eligible schools and will by the end of May pick 40 who want to participate — and receive a $250,000 bonus. To be eligible, a school must have a four-year graduation rate above 65 percent, an A or B on its most recent progress report, and a student body where at least 35 percent are black or Latino males and 60 percent are qualified for free or reduced-price lunch. It must also promise to implement even more aggressive strategies to help black and Latino male students.
When he announced the Young Men’s Initiative in August, Mayor Bloomberg promised swift changes to schools serving the highest proportions of black and Latino students. Already, the department has begun giving high schools extra credit when those students make progress. Schools have started to benefit from a literacy program and a middle school mentoring initiative, neither of which the department is administering. But the Expanded Success Initiative has been slow to start. (more…)
April 24, 2012
- The Regents are proposing an alternative to the five-Regents-exam graduation requirement. (NY1, Post)
- Juan Gonzalez: The state could approve higher payments to the Success Charter Network. (Daily News)
- More teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve are finding jobs under a rotation system. (SchoolBook)
- The state promised not to edit reading passages that appear on tests in a familiar vow. (GothamSchools)
- Michael Powell: Bushwick Community High School’s public closure hearing was moving to all. (Times)
- The Post criticizes the state for considering dropping a test requirement instead of holding firm to it.
- Parents at Cobble Hill’s P.S. 29 want the city to wait until later to remove asbestos. (NY1, Daily News)
- A Harlem student who broke both of his knees in January took the exams in the hospital. (Daily News)
- Newark’s superintendent, Cami Anderson, will be paid $247,000 a year plus bonuses. (N.J. Spotlight)
- Several recent Nobel Peace Prize winners visited Chicago public schools on Monday. (Times)
April 23, 2012
- The grading of state tests has begun along with complaints about how it’s done. (NYC P.S. Parents)
- A city teacher says she’s uncomfortable with rules barring public talk about test content. (Ariel Sacks)
- An Albany principal says N.Y. shouldn’t need a survey to learn its tests are too long. (Common Ground)
- Teacher Will Johnson says setting “Student Learning Objectives” has downsides. (GS Community)
- A student apologizes to his teacher 40 years after inexplicably offending him. (Oregonian)
- A principal who is coaching again calls for more student-administrator interaction. (Practical Theory)
- A first-grade father describes the fraught responsibility of providing class snacks. (Insideschools)
- Andy Rotherham lists three obstacles to education reform, starting with money-sugarcoating. (Atlantic)
- The quest for additional investigators for school cases has hit papers as help wanted ads. (NYCDOEnuts)
- Jean McTavish, a transfer school principal, got in trouble in school for not pledging to the flag. (DNA Info)
- McTavish has also opted her own children out of New Jersey’s state tests this year. (NYC P.S. Parents)
- The principal of P.S. 112 in the Bronx dishes on how it felt when the school earned a D. (SchoolBook)
- A national expert on high school dropouts says online credit recovery can be too easy. (Class Struggle)
- A Teachers College prof says college students might be overdiagnosed as underprepared. (Economix)
April 23, 2012
Responding to criticism about the now-famous “Hare and the Pineapple” story that appeared on last week’s eighth-grade reading test, state education officials today made a promise: State tests will no longer include literary works that have been revised.
“We will use only authentic passages, passages that have been published and not edited,” Kristen Huff, a senior fellow for testing, told members of the Board of Regents during their monthly meeting this morning.
If Huff’s promise sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Exactly a decade ago, then-State Education Commissioner Richard Mills made the same vow.
”It is important that we use literature on the tests without changes in the passages,” Mills said at the time, according to a report in the New York Times. ”I have looked carefully at the Education Department’s current practices and the concerns of the writers and have directed that these changes be made.”
Mills was reacting to an expose, engineered by an assiduous Brooklyn parent, that showed that the English Regents exam taken by high school students across the state contained oddly edited passages. The editing had stripped the texts of “virtually any reference to race, religion, ethnicity, sex, nudity, alcohol, even the mildest profanity and just about anything that might offend someone for some reason,” the Times reported in 2002. (more…)