Posts from Geoff Decker
May 16, 2013
Perhaps the candidates who showed up to Wednesday’s mayoral forum in a Harlem school auditorium thought they’d get a break when they saw who was asking the questions: a couple of high school kids.
But Michael Cummings and Alize-Jazel Smith, seniors at Democracy Prep Charter High School, turned out to be tough moderators. They shushed Bill Thompson when he spoke out of turn, politely interrupted Comptroller John Liu when his time was up, and pushed candidates to answer the questions they were asked if they had strayed off topic — as one candidate did often.
“So, Mr. McMillan, just to be specific,” said Cummings, referring to Jimmy McMillan, the perennial also-ran candidate of the Rent Is Too Damn High party. “Do you support or do you not support co-location inside school buildings for public schools and charter schools?” (more…)
May 15, 2013
A pair of Department of Education employees were separately warned this week for breaking city ethics laws, according to letters released today by an ethics board.
In one case, a special education teacher, Faith Walters, used names of 15 former students without permission in a book she published in 2011. The letter doesn’t name the book, but it appears to fit the description of a poetry book that sells on paperback for $15.99 on Amazon. The name of the author of the 67-page book is also Faith Walters and she describes herself as a New York City special education teacher.
In the book’s description, Walters said she was inspired by an experience she had when she first started teaching:
The memory of my first day of teaching will forever be in my mind of having an almost fatal experience of losing one of my eyes because of a flying chair that hit the wall just as I opened the classroom door of 15 students who appeared to be very angry and fearful. (more…)
May 15, 2013
It was already slim odds that education would get much action from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature this session after they increased school aid, funded several education grants, and amended the teacher evaluation law during budget negotiations in March.
But in the aftermath of a federal corruption dragnet that has brought down several lawmakers, any glimmer of hope that education could get some attention seems to have vanished.
“With this legislative session, with all the corruption, I would be surprised if anything gets passed,” said Mona Davids, who runs the New York City Parents Union, a parent advocacy group. State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, of Brooklyn, sponsored a bill to end mayoral control that Davids lobbied for. The bill’s long odds grew even longer after Montgomery’s named surfaced last week as one of seven lawmakers recorded in the home of former Senator Shirley Huntley, who was cooperating with investigators to reduce a prison sentence. Huntley was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for embezzling funds from a charity she ran.
Davids said she believed Montgomery, who has not been charged, has done nothing wrong. Still, she said she doubted the bill could proceed before the session ends on June 30. “It’s May, but it’s over,” Davids said. (more…)
May 15, 2013
- Charter school advocates touted record-high demand for seats. (GothamSchools, Post, Daily News)
- As charter demand increases, so have the seats — and chances that students get one. (Schoolbook)
- Joel Klein and Sol Stern say hardliners on the left and right should embrace the Common Core. (WSJ)
- Merryl Tisch’s support for Bill Thompson is a political break from her husband, James Tisch. (Post)
- The public spat between Eva Moskowitz and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio continued. (Daily News)
- Prince Harry helped a Harlem charter school launch a coaching program for youth. (DNAInfo)
- Parents want tuition paid back from a Catholic school shuttered abruptly for health violations. (NY1)
- New Jersey is considering legislation to require statewide full-day prekindergarten. (Star-Ledger)
- As testing season heats up, parents are grappling with idea that their young children cheat. (WSJ)
- Chancellor Walcott on why the state should pick his evaluation plan — not the union’s. (Daily News)
- Greek civil servants are striking over the government’s efforts to quash a teachers union strike. (Times)
May 10, 2013
On a night when education leaders offered a spirited defense of the policies they are trying to implement, an unusual voice emerged as the dissenter: Paul Vallas.
The Bridgeport, Conn. superintendent — who has served stints in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New Orleans and earned a reputation as a turnaround consultant for struggling districts with big budget gaps — said reforms he backed were at risk of collapsing “under the weight of how complicated we’re making it.”
“We’re working on the evaluation system right now,” Vallas said of Bridgeport. “And I’ll tell you, it is a nightmare.”
The peripatetic schools chief’s self-proclaimed “Nixon goes to China” moment came during the high-profile panel at the launch of the CUNY Institute for Education Policy, a think tank that former New York State Education Commissioner David Steiner is directing. (more…)
May 9, 2013
Two years removed from his post as New York State’s schools chief, David Steiner is back in his old office with his old job. But Albany gave Steiner, serving a second stint as dean of Hunter College’s School of Education, a vision for how education policy can and should be shaped.
That vision is coming into fruition today with the formal launch of the CUNY Institute for Education Policy, a nonpartisan think tank that Steiner is directing.
In an exclusive interview, Steiner described his vision for a one-stop shop for policy makers to seek guidance, education leaders to settle disputes, and reporters and members of the public to get the straight story about education policies. Speaking in his corner office at Hunter’s Lenox Hill campus, Steiner spoke carefully about the lessons he learned in Albany during a transformative tenure that included the overhaul of state tests, the adoption of Common Core Standards, and an ultimately successful bid for federal Race to the Top funding. And he shared insights about the craft of teaching and the challenge of being non-partisan in a highly polarized climate. (more…)
May 8, 2013
State Education Commissioner John King released details of the arbitration process meant to settle a longstanding dispute over teacher evaluations in New York City. The process, outlined in state law, will determine the city’s teacher evaluation system for the next school year.
The first part of the process, pre-hearing arbitration, gets kickstarted as soon as the city and the United Federation of Teachers electronically post separate evaluation plans to the state’s Review Room website, where districts have uploaded their evaluation plans as they complete them. The state wants to see the specific areas under dispute and will review position papers — limited to 20 pages in length — in which each side argues its respective stands.
Those materials are due at 11:59 p.m. today. Both sides say they’ll submit before the deadline, rather than submit a jointly negotiated deal.
The documents won’t be made public. The state has promised confidentiality because the plans are considered “unresolved issues pertaining to ongoing collective bargaining negotiations,” which are protected from public scrutiny. (more…)
May 8, 2013
Bill Thompson squelched any rumors that the latest education heavyweight to back his mayoral campaign could also be his pick to run the school system.
Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, who is chairing Thompson’s campaign, would not be a good fit to be the next New York City schools chancellor, Thompson said after an education forum in the Bronx Tuesday night.
“I don’t think that Chancellor Tisch is a lifelong educator,” Thompson said. ”I think she’s got a job that she’s more interested in. I don’t think that she has any interest in the New York City job.”
Ever since Tisch announced she would become the Thompson campaign’s top fundraiser and advocate, there have been whispers that Thompson might reward her with the top spot in the education department. By ruling her out as chancellor, Thompson puts those rumors to bed. He also offers more clarity about the qualifications he would look for if he gets to choose the next schools chief. (more…)
May 8, 2013
Mayoral candidates had to dig deep into history to unearth an unpleasant memory about the United Federation of Teachers at a schools forum in the Bronx on Tuesday night.
Asked to recall a time when they disagreed with the UFT, Bill Thompson and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn cited the union’s initial opposition to district centralization nearly 20 years ago.
Thompson at first praised the UFT’s role in the re-centralization, which shifted some hiring responsibilities to the chancellor and required changes to state law. Pressed to name a time that he disagreed with the UFT, Thompson said it was when the union obstructed the same shift.
“The resistance, before that, of the UFT to change the system that existed, to changing from decentralization, was a mistake,” he said. (more…)
May 7, 2013
With New York City on track to let yet another state deadline to come up with a teacher evaluation plan pass on Wednesday, it appears increasingly likely that State Education Commissioner John King will have to impose an evaluation system on the city’s schools.
But how to put that plan into action remains a question with few easy answers, according to a panel at a New York Bar Association event Monday evening.
The panel featured two education researchers who often disagree about some of the thorny issues around teacher evaluations; a principal who sees no need to slow down reforms; and a veteran teacher whose high school is exempt from high-stakes testing.
Despite their diverse perspectives, the panelists agreed that city educators are ill prepared to give and receive feedback. And even though the role of test scores has been a hot topic recently, the panelists honed in not on the role that measures of student performance will play in evaluations but on the more subjective elements required by the state’s evaluation law, such as observations. (more…)