Posts from Christine Streich
October 26, 2012
It may have math and science in its name, but lately the Collegiate Institute of Math and Science in the Bronx is all about art.
Concerned that students weren’t receiving a well-rounded education, Principal Shadia Alverez decided this year to cut back on support staff — she has just one assistant principal when the student body of 650 would often warrant two — and hire Larry Minetti to teach four introductory art classes.
Minetti has taught on the Christopher Columbus Educational Campus for 17 years, until recently at Christopher Columbus High School, which is in the process of phasing out. Since starting at CIMS in September, he has already landed his students their first exhibition: On Dec. 6, Minetti and his students will hang as many as 200 pieces of student artwork in State Sen. Jeffrey Klein’s office in the Bronx.
But Minetti said he wants to teach students more than simply how to use artistic principles to create beautiful works of art. He always wants students to understand the interplay between art and their everyday lives, including in the other subjects they study.
GothamSchools spent Thursday morning in Minetti’s class, observing as students applied last week’s still life lesson on their own canvases and then speaking to Minetti about his instructional approach. As when we have chronicled other classes in the past, we’ve included the teacher’s commentary in block quotes beneath our observations.
10:08 a.m. Students filed into the art studio, whose walls are hand-painted with inspirational phrases and peppered with student work, and took their seats. In the middle of the room, a still life scene featuring two bottles, a paint can, a lemon, and a green apple was set up against both sides of a wooden board. The whiteboard at the front of the room displayed a hand-drawn replica of the still life scene, with the day’s aim and curriculum objectives written for the students to see. (more…)
October 12, 2012
A year ago, Brian Jones and other education activists crowded into a standing-room-only auditorium where city Department of Education officials were supposed to present new curriculum standards to parents.
Just moments after Chancellor Dennis Walcott began to deliver his opening remarks one member of the crowd stood up.
“Mic check,” he called out.
So began the first offensive of Occupy the DOE, an outgrowth of the Occupy Wall Street movement intended to wrest authority over the city’s schools out of the hands of the “1 percent” and into the “99 percent” of education stakeholders who are teachers, families, and students.
Minutes after the first interruption, Walcott and the other officials called off the meeting, retreating to smaller sessions in other parts of the building.
Supporters of the movement hailed the disruption as a victory and would soon stage protests at meetings througout the winter. But the demographic profile of the activists and their raucous tactics also alienated groups that had similar gripes about the city’s education policies.
A year later, the broader Occupy movement is in disarray, but the Department of Education is largely unchanged. Walcott remains in charge, mayoral control is still in place, and tests geared to the new standards are in development. But even though Occupy the DOE’s website has not been updated since May, activists say that, for better or worse, the movement has had a lasting impact on education advocacy in the city. (more…)
October 12, 2012
Principal Talana Bradley stood in front of her students on Thursday waving a copy of the day’s top news story, about the shooting of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan.
Yousafzai was shot by Taliban extremists because she advocated for women’s education in Pakistan, Bradley told the all-female student body at the Young Women’s Leadership School of Brooklyn.
“We take for granted being in a place that not only allows you to be educated but promotes success and greatness,” Bradley said.
Bradley’s exhortations kicked off the Williamsburg school’s celebration of the “International Day of the Girl,” a day that the United Nations designated last December. The school drew high-profile women to an event that 10th-grade student government members had spent nine months planning. (more…)
October 3, 2012
The city’s high school admissions process definitely seems more complex and competitive since Sergio Coria went through it 20 years ago.
Corio made the observation after spending more than four hours at the Citywide High School Fair at Brooklyn Technical High School on Sunday with his 13-year-old sister, Nicole.
“It’s a good eye-opener to see how many students you are competing with,” Sergio said about the fair, which more than 30,000 people attended over two days. “It’s a wake-up call on what you need to do and how you need to do it — you definitely can’t wait until the last minute.”
Nicole had already identified about a dozen schools in the city’s high school directory that seemed to speak to her interests in art, math, and science. But she said narrowing down her choices hadn’t yet given her much piece of mind.
“It’s scary: You don’t know if you’re going to get accepted, and then once you get there you don’t know if you’ll like the teachers,” she said. (more…)
September 27, 2012
A year after the State Education Department chided the city for failing to meet the needs of English language learners, city Department of Education officials say they have made important progress toward their goals.
That’s what Deputy Chancellor Corinne Rello-Anselmi told members of the City Council today during a hearing about the city’s progress toward fixing shortcomings in its ELL services. She reported that the city is on track to fulfill all of the promises it outlined in an ambitious remediation plan submitted to the state last year.
It was the first time the city had provided a public update about the Corrective Action Plan, which the state requested because of persistently low test scores and graduation outcomes for ELLs in city schools.
Today, Rello-Anselmi said the Department of Education has made significant strides, most significantly launching half of the 125 bilingual programs it promised to open by next year. One challenge facing the expansion of bilingual programs is a shortage of teachers certified to work in them, officials said. But they said the city was on track to staff the new programs because it is exempting the positions from hiring restrictions and offering to pay for training for current teachers who want to become certified in bilingual education or English as a second language instruction.
Department officials said the city was on track to hit the rest of the targets in its Corrective Action Plan, which include testing students’ language proficiency soon after they enroll and giving principals principals and staff more training about issues facing ELLs. (more…)
September 24, 2012
An eleventh-hour effort by the City Council in June to maintain funding for thousands of after-school spots achieved its intended purpose — but it also inadvertently created a two-tiered after-school system in which only some programs can strive to meet higher academic standards.
That’s the conclusion of a report released last week by the Independent Budget Office about Out of School Time, a Bloomberg administration initiative to streamline publicly funded after-school programming. The report finds that the city’s simultaneous efforts to reduce costs and boost quality in OST programs induced Bloomberg’s proposal to cut after-school spots dramatically this spring.
City funding for the program rose from $61 million in 2007 to $108 million in 2009, allowing the number of seats to grow substantially, according to the report. But this year, after half a dozen rounds of city budget cuts, the proposed budget for the program fell to $76 million.
At the same time, the city had embarked on an effort to raise standards in programs that had originally operated with offering “safe and developmentally appropriate environments” as its major goal. With an eye toward using OST programs to support academic instruction, the city told programs that they would have to hire “educational specialists” to develop curriculum and lessons — increasing the cost per participant by nearly 60 percent. The increase would required the number of slots to be cut in half, meaning about 26,000 children would have been shut out of OST programs this year. (more…)
September 20, 2012
Teachers at a school where hundreds of parents signed a petition against the principal this summer continued the protest today by boycotting Curriculum Night.
Teachers at New Explorations in Science, Technology, and Math, or NEST+M, announced the boycott via email this afternoon, telling parents that Principal Olga Livanis had not soothed relations with the staff after she surprised several of them with “unsatisfactory” ratings.
When parents arrived for the annual introduction to what their children would be learning this year at the citywide school for gifted and talented students, they were told that many teachers had stayed home and given a copy of the email announcing the boycott.
“I feel really awful to hear this,” said Angela Stokes, a former teacher whose daughter is a sophomore in NEST’s high school. “I had this idyllic idea about NEST being away from all the muck and the mire of the DOE. NEST is not immune, I’m finding out.”
Livanis has butted heads with parents and teachers since 2006, when she was installed as principal after the school’s founding leader was removed amid controversy and over some parents’ objections. In June, hundreds of parents registered official objections after several well liked teachers received the low ratings. Their petition, which was delivered to Department of Education officials, also called on Livanis to improve the way she communicates with members of the school community.
But two weeks into the new school year, teachers said today that there had been no changes. (more…)
September 14, 2012
The lights dimmed and the screen lit up with the face of an 8-year-old girl staring at a chalkboard and struggling to read the sentence written upon it. The camera flashed to the teacher sitting at her desk, texting on her cellphone and shopping for shoes on the computer.
“Try again,” the teacher said.
“I can’t,” she answered, and the scene ended.
The scene opens “Won’t Back Down,” a new film by Walden Media, the same company that produced the 2010 documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” which extolled charter schools. The advocacy group Educators 4 Excellence held a private advance screening of the movie for its members, all city teachers, Wednesday night at the Regal Cinemas in Union Square.
“Won’t Back Down” riffs off real-life parents’ efforts to turn a struggling California school into a non-unionized charter school.
The drama has come under scrutiny as it approaches its Sept. 28 release because of its harsh, and sometimes inaccurate, treatment of teachers unions. “This fictional portrayal, which makes the unions the culprit for all of the problems facing our schools, is divisive and demoralizes millions of great teachers,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten in a statement last month.
“We cannot pretend there’s not a debate around this movie,” said E4E’s New York Executive Director Jonathan Schleifer to the crowd before the movie began. “That’s why you’re here – you want to be informed.”
Sydney Morris, E4E’s co-founder and chief executive director, warned the crowd that the story told in the movie didn’t accurately mirror real events.
“It’s not in any way a perfect depiction of reality,” she said. “But it is a bold depiction of teachers as change agents — it shows what teacher empowerment and parent involvement could and should look like.” (more…)