Posts from Liz Goodwin
May 21, 2009
An effort to move state tests later in the year is gaining momentum, following a state Education Department survey that shows wide support among teachers for the change. More than 80 percent of nearly 23,000 parents, teachers, and school administrators the department surveyed this spring said they favor at least some rescheduling of the tests, and the state Board of Regents could implement a change as soon as the 2010-2011 school year, a member said.
Right now, students take English tests in January and math tests in March, but critics have said the timing doesn’t give teachers enough time to bring students up to grade level. The early testing also makes it difficult to use test scores to evaluate teachers’ effectiveness.
The Board of Regents, the state board that sets education policy, requested the survey. Betty Rosa, a Regents member from the Bronx, said that the Regents are likely to propose a change in the timing of tests for the 2010-2011 school year. “All the members have been very, very united on this front,” Rosa said.
Merryl Tisch, the new Regents chancellor, did not return several requests for comment. (more…)
May 20, 2009
The Department of Education doesn’t want healthy children who attend the as-of-now 19 schools closed because of swine flu fears to sit idly while they stay home. To keep them occupied, the DOE has made available optional “learn at home” activity guides, and Chancellor Joel Klein is urging everyone to participate.
The guides were compiled in short order by the DOE’s teaching and learning department and can be picked up in four locations or downloaded from the department’s Web site. Updated guides and a packet of work for high school students will be posted as soon as tonight, according to a DOE spokeswoman.
Chancellor Klein told reporters yesterday that he would like students who are able to complete the voluntary schoolwork. “I hope this is not viewed as a holiday,” he said.
The guides include daily schedules that break down four hours of learning into small blocks: 45 minutes each for English and math and half an hour each for vocabulary and science. Another hour and a half is divided evenly among fitness and health, arts and sampling educational television shows (one suggestion is Animal Planet’s “Meerkat Manor”) and Web sites. (more…)
May 19, 2009
Elected parent leaders in Manhattan are asking the city to reverse multiple school decisions, including ones that the city has used to manage severe overcrowding in many neighborhood schools, because they say they should have been involved in making the decisions. The demand comes in a lawsuit filed yesterday, the second in three months against the Department of Education over its adherence to state law that requires parent groups to be consulted before some decisions are made.
Members of the Community Education Council for District 2, which includes the Upper East Side and most of Manhattan below Central Park, say the city violated the law by not consulting them when it made decisions about opening and closing schools and how students were assigned to district schools. With the city teachers union, they filed a lawsuit yesterday over about a dozen cases in recent years where the DOE failed to consult the CEC about major zoning changes (one case dates back to 2001).
The suit details the ways council members say the DOE brusquely informed them of its “unilateral” decisions after they had been made. Among them:
- The parent council learned about the closing of Bayard Rustin High School in Chelsea by looking at the DOE’s Web site, parents allege.
- It learned of the opening of another school via an e-mail from DOE official John White: “Good morning. Please see new addition of Quest to Learn School.” (more…)
May 18, 2009
A day after a Queens assistant principal died from swine flu, the teachers union says it is monitoring 40 schools where higher-than-normal numbers of children are calling in sick. The United Federation of Teachers said today it is launching a hotline to keep track of the disease.
The union’s watch list doubled in size over the weekend, spokesman Ron Davis told GothamSchools. At least four more schools were closed today, bringing the total number of closed schools up to 14, according to the Department of Education. Davis said the list of 40 schools includes some that have already been closed.
The union is using its hotline as an information source for people to call in and learn which schools are closed in their district. Union chapter leaders will report to the hotline daily about absentee numbers for students and teachers at their schools. (Each district in Queens, where the epidemic appears to be centered, has its own number; the other boroughs have one number each.)
The UFT gave the Department of Education and the Department of Health the list of at-risk schools today, Davis said. The two city agencies decide together which schools should close.
Davis said teachers are remaining calm. “There are teachers out there who are obviously concerned but our teachers as a rule don’t panic,” he said.
The mayor addressed the disease’s spread in a press conference today, saying that it’s possible more schools could close this week.
May 13, 2009
A vocal supporter of mayoral control says that though he’s an economist, it’s tough for him to base his belief in the school governance structure on numbers.
Marcus Winters, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research who has touted Mayor Bloomberg’s school reforms in newspaper op/eds and academic papers, says mayoral control is the best way to govern schools because it provides more accountability for education reforms — but he can’t prove that using test scores.
“It makes me a little queasy to talk about researching positive effects of mayoral control,” Winters said today in a meeting with reporters about the governance structure. He said it’s “inappropriate” to draw a correlation between student performance and mayoral control because mayoral control is a broad governance structure, not a specific reform. “It’s really difficult to study because there’s a period before mayoral control and a period after, but other things have changed in the world besides mayoral control in that time,” he said. (more…)
May 12, 2009
A bill introduced in Albany last week could limit The State University of New York’s (SUNY) power to certify charter schools, empowering the Board of Regents to veto the university’s recommendations for which schools should be allowed to open. New Board of Regents head Merryl Tisch is leading the charge for the change, and United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told GothamSchools today she supports the bill.
“SUNY as an entity is not sensitive to issues in the communities here,” Tisch told the Daily News. (A call to Tisch’s office has not yet been returned).
Currently, the state’s Board of Regents, which is one of three boards that can authorize city charter schools, reviews SUNY’s authorizations but cannot prevent the SUNY-approved schools from opening. The Board has disagreed with SUNY’s charters two thirds of the time since 2007. While the Regents can’t block those schools from opening, they do have the power to revoke the charters of SUNY schools that drop below their standards.
The bill was introduced by Assembly Education Chair Catherine Nolan last week and is described as a way to standardize and streamline the chartering process. Critics of the bill argue that SUNY’s charter schools outperform other charters and that consolidating the power to authorize charters would mean fewer charter schools in the city. It’s unclear how much of a chance the bill has to pass, though charter advocates say they plan to work vigilantly to prevent it from becoming law.
United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten defended Nolan’s and the Regents’ stance, even though SUNY is the UFT’s charter authorizer.
“If you really want to have top to bottom and bottom to top accountability you should have one statewide entity authorizing charters, not two,” she said. “We are always looking for ways to save money and be more efficient and having one statewide authorizer is probably best.” (more…)
May 11, 2009
Spurred by a series of meetings held by Queens’ borough president, charter school administrators, parents and students are gathering at The Renaissance Charter School in Queens to dispel “misinformation” about their schools in a discussion on Wednesday night. Queens is far from the center of the city’s charter school debate, which has been raging in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but with the opening of two new charters in as many years, and increased attention to the issue city-wide, some parents and elected officials have voiced their opposition to the schools.
Nicholas Tishuk, the Director of Programs and Accountability at Renaissance and the organizer of the event, said that the discussion is the beginning of an “information campaign” targeted at charter school critics. Principals of two other Queens’ charter schools, VOICE and OWN, will participate in the panel.
Tishuk has been attending Queens Borough President Helen Marshall’s monthly Advisory Board meetings, where he said charter schools dominate the conversation. (Marshall said in February she has ” fought against charter schools.”) He invited some of the most outspoken critics at Marshall’s meetings to Wednesday’s discussion, hoping to show them that charter schools aren’t “this big bad thing.”
“We’re all mom and pop schools here,” Tishuk said. “We’re all single-standing schools that are not ‘invading’ communities.” Tishuk wants to address complaints that charter schools take away funding from regular schools, aren’t connected to communities, and counsel out “problem kids”—none of which apply to Queens’ schools, he says.
Queens will have six charter schools next fall, including the city’s biggest, Our World Neighborhood Charter School. VOICE charter school started in 2008, and Growing Up Green, in Long Island City, opens this fall. VOICE is using a Department of Education school location for now, while the borough’s other charter schools occupy their own space. In Brooklyn and Manhattan, charter schools taking over public school space is a hot-button issue, one that has mostly been avoided in Queens. (more…)
May 6, 2009
A crowd of shell-shocked parents gathered outside City Hall this afternoon, angry that the Department of Education hasn’t found seats for the hundreds of rising kindergarten students who have been placed on waiting lists for next year at their local public schools.
The waiting lists, which include 273 names in just two Manhattan districts, mean that families in baby- and building-boom areas like the Upper East Side, the Upper West Side, and Greenwich Village could find themselves unable to secure a spot at their neighborhood school’s kindergarten.
The lists attracted extra attention yesterday after news leaked that the city was considering closing or relocating prekindergarten classes at two Greenwich Village elementary schools, PS 3 and PS 41, in order to make room for kindergartners.
Parents at the rally said they felt confused and powerless. “As far as I can tell, I don’t have a Plan B — other than home school or moving to Jersey,” said Jay Douglas, whose 4-year-old son is number 42 on a waiting list for PS 187 in Washington Heights.
Elected officials joined the parents at City Hall today to criticize city officials for not planning ahead to meet the demand for spots in public schools. Scott Stringer, Manhattan’s borough president, said the DOE is “closing its eyes” to a widespread capacity problem, warning that taxpaying parents will pack up and move, taking their kids and tax dollars somewhere else if they can’t enroll in their local public school. (more…)
May 6, 2009
With the deadline for next year’s city budget looming, elected officials are eyeing early-childhood centers slated to be cut under Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed budget as a key reduction to reverse. More than a dozen officials, including two mayoral candidates and three out of five borough presidents, decried the possible cuts today at a City Hall rally alongside hundreds of parents and workers associated with the centers.
The proposal would cut the budgets of early-childhood programs and replace kindergarten programs currently operated outside of the school system with Department of Education kindergarten classes. The city says that moving the kindergartens is necessary in order to save the Administration for Children’s Services $15 million.
But parents today said that the current programs cover the burden of child-care in a way that schools, which end at 3 p.m. and are shuttered on holidays, cannot. The programs at risk of being shut are operated out of ACS, the city’s social services arm for children, as part of larger daycare operations. Head Start, the early childhood program, is also slated to see its budget slashed by 3 percent.
Desiree Jean-Mary said she is upset that her son, Joshua, who attends a Head Start program in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, might not be able to continue there next year when he enters kindergarten. Right now, Jean-Mary, who has two other children, picks Joshua up at 5 p.m. after her job as a home health aide is over for the day. “It would be really hard if I had to find somewhere else for him to go — I don’t want that,” she said. (more…)
May 5, 2009
A state lawmaker who has vocally opposed Mayor Bloomberg’s control of city schools announced today that he plans to introduce a bill laying out an alternative governing structure for school system. Assemblyman James Brennan wants New York City’s school governance structure to look more like that of Boston, where mayoral control faces built-in “checks and balances,” his office announced today.
Under Brennan’s proposal, which the Post first reported last week, the city’s Board of Education, currently known as the Panel for Educational Policy, would retain its balance of seven mayoral appointees and one appointee each from the five borough presidents. But the mayor’s appointees would have to come from a pool of 14 names nominated by a 13-person panel representing a wide range of constituencies, including parents, teachers, administrators, the business community, and others. The mayor would also be allowed to appoint members of the nominating committee.
The complicated nominating system resembles the one proposed in March by Comptroller William Thompson, who is running for mayor.
Brennan’s bill is likely to end up being largely symbolic, even as the deadline for state lawmakers to decide the fate of mayoral control is now just eight weeks away, according to Peter Goodman, a longtime United Federation of Teachers member who worked on the UFT’s proposal for revamping mayoral control. (more…)