Posts from Rachel Cromidas
December 10, 2012
Student opinion surveys seem unlikely to play a role in the city’s teacher evaluation system, even as research suggests that they can provide valuable information.
The city Department of Education piloted student surveys as part of its preparation for new teacher evaluations, and the head of the state’s teachers union says student feedback could be useful in helping to rate teachers. But city union officials say they are staunchly opposed to incorporating student feedback in teacher evaluations because the information could be skewed and could encourage teachers to put student approval ahead of student learning.
But what do students think about what they can contribute to teacher evaluations? The students GothamSchools surveyed last week at a reception for award-winning math and science teachers had mixed opinions about whether their peers could accurately judge the quality of their teachers.
Should student survey results factor into teacher evaluations?
“I think some students would be negative because they have anger against a certain teacher, so when it comes time, they might put bad stuff. But at the same time, as students, we are able to look at what teachers are able to bring to the table in terms of skills and personalities.” —Raymond John, senior at Gotham Professional Arts Academy (more…)
December 7, 2012
A principal chosen to lead improvement at Banana Kelly High School has resigned, months after being shot by a BB gun outside the school.
Antonio Arocho stepped down this week, adding a second abrupt leadership change to Banana Kelly’s recent history of dramatic ups and downs. He is now working as an assistant principal at the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics in East Harlem.
While the move represents a demotion, Arocho’s resignation was voluntary, according to Department of Education spokewoman Connie Pankratz, who said the decision to leave was motivated by “personal reasons.”
Earlier this fall, Arocho had been shot with a BB pellet one morning before school, DNAInfo reported in October. A student had also doused him and more than a dozen classmates with pepper-spray in December 2011. (more…)
December 6, 2012
For months, city and union officials have been expressing optimism about reaching a deal on new teacher evaluations by a state deadline in January — with some road bumps, of course. But what is keeping the two sides from reaching an agreement has not been clear.
That has started to change in the last week, as Department of Education officials have spoken publicly on multiple occasions about sticky issues that are still being worked out. The issues include how often observations should take place, what the observations should focus on, and when to schedule hearings of teachers who want to appeal low ratings.
Union officials have declined to comment on open issues, saying that they did not want to discuss negotiations while they are ongoing. But a top official said that no issue would be considered fully closed until the entire evaluation system is set.
David Weiner, the deputy chancellor in charge of teacher quality, stressed that the issues were “not sticking points” when he spoke with teachers at an event last week hosted by the advocacy group Educators 4 Excellence, which supports new evaluations. Department officials made the same assurance Wednesday morning after a panel discussion about teacher evaluations held at the Manhattan Institute, the politically conservative think thank.
Instead, they said, the issues are simply very complicated to resolve. (more…)
December 4, 2012
For the third time in a year, students and teachers at Herbert H. Lehman High School lined up Monday night to tell city officials why the school should remain open.
They were there a year ago, when the city first shortlisted the school for possible closure. And they were back there this spring for a spate of meetings and protests over the city’s plan to close and reopen the school according to a federally prescribed overhaul process — a process Lehman only narrowly escaped.
Yesterday evening, Department of Education officials returned to Lehman to warn that closure is on the horizon again.
At an emotional “early engagement” meeting—a meeting between officials, school staff, community members that is the first step in the closure process—current and former teachers and students defended the large, East Bronx school, arguing that the Department of Education’s reform policies are to blame for Lehman’s decline. Department officials have held early engagement meetings at Lehman twice before, but the school ultimately remained open.
In a presentation at the beginning of the meeting, principal Rose Lobianco said the school is already on the slow and steady path to improvement, thanks to the creation of a small learning academy structure that splits students into several “academies,” with their own assistant principal leaders, based on academic interest. (more…)
December 3, 2012
As the Department of Education begins holding meetings at the high schools officials are considering closing, some of the schools are tapping into decades-worth of alumni ties and institutional memory to defend themselves.
Representatives of Boys and Girls High School, Juan Morel Campos Secondary School, and DeWitt Clinton High School have put out press releases encouraging families, community members and the press to attend the department’s “early engagement” meetings at their schools this week.
At the meetings, which are typically closed to the public, superintendents and other department officials will listen to teachers, families and administrators describe their schools’ strengths and the challenges they face. The meetings are a required first step in the process by which the city initiates school closures under state law.
The department typically recommends closure for about half of the schools that undergo early engagement each year, but the process by which officials narrow down the preliminary hit list is murky. School communities are expected to make the case that their schools should stay open, despite low graduation rates and other issues, and demonstrate that they have the capacity to make dramatic improvements. (more…)
November 30, 2012
At Harry S. Truman High School, juniors in an honors English class arrange their desks in concentric circles to discuss Marxist and feminist theory in the American literary canon.
At Central Park East High School, students taking the Mt. Sinai Careers course develop research projects on the health sciences while interning in hospital departments like pediatrics, orthopedics, and Mt. Sinai’s morgue.
And at East Side Community School, seniors compare ancient Greek tragedies.
The courses are as challenging as any Advanced Placement class, their teachers say: To pass, students must demonstrate not only deep knowledge but also the kind of critical thinking required for success in college. But last year, when the Department of Education moved toward giving high schools credit in their annual letter grade for exposing students to college-level work, the courses did not count.
This year, they are among 52 courses in city high schools to get the department’s “college and career preparatory” stamp of approval, meaning that students who pass them typically stay in college after many ill-prepared students drop out. (more…)
November 29, 2012
- Louisiana may forgo new textbooks because of Common Core alignment issues. (Curriculum Matters)
- Teacher: The UFT should secure pay raises in exchange for an evaluation deal. (NYC Educator)
- Some Indiana parents have pulled their kids out of school over bullying concerns. (HuffPo)
- The Campaign for Fiscal Equity may reopen a lawsuit over education funding. (NYC PS Parents)
- Doug Harris’s teacher evaluation proposal merits a closer look from states. (Quick and the Ed)
- Joel Klein is among education company leaders supporting Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush’s policies. (CNBC)
- A bill to let Chicago school closings happen later awaits Gov. Quinn’s decision. (Catalyst Chicago)
November 27, 2012
Last year, the Department of Education withheld progress reports from seven schools because their data raised red flags.
At the time, officials said the irregularities could have been caused by innocuous reporting errors. But they said the suspicious data could also reflect cheating. The department makes important decisions about which schools should be closed, and which principals should receive pay boosts, based on the progress reports.
Investigations were launched. And a year later, all but one of the schools have new progress reports, released yesterday, but still don’t have their 2010-2011 reports.
At a briefing on this year’s progress report release, department officials said those investigations are still unresolved, and they’re opening up a new one at a Bronx high school accused of fudging its numbers.
“The goal of the investigation is to get it right,” Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky said, explaining why the investigators have so far taken more than a year to look into the irregularities. “We’re going to take the time we need to get it right.” (more…)
November 26, 2012
- Chicago’s new schools chief says she may put a 5-year moratorium on closures. (Catalyst Chicago)
- A former educator makes the case for Common Core classes with more narrative nonfiction. (Times)
- Teacher: schools become “community hubs” during disasters like Hurricane Sandy. (Schoolbook)
- A children’s book illustrator decries the decrease in funding for public arts education.(Atlantic)
- Brooklyn’s Urban Dove Charter School use sports topics to engage students in classes. (SI)
- Bryan Stromer reflects on college process while coping with mother’s cancer diagnosis. (The Choice)
- Problems underlying federal education reform agenda could grow worse in second term. (Dissent)
November 26, 2012
At a briefing on the latest high school progress report grades this afternoon, Department of Education officials touted the small boost in the number of schools receiving the best grades, but warned that the high grades might not be fully warranted.
It wasn’t easy for schools to keep their graduation rates or progress grades up this year. For the first time, most students were required to pass five Regents exams before graduating, and schools’ college readiness rates were factored into their overall progress scores. Still, 72 percent of schools received As and Bs—up from 64.4 percent last year.
Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky told reporters that the gains showed that schools were able to meet the new challenges before them.
“When you set a high bar and you give people time as you phase it in, people rise to the challenge,” he said. ” I think it’s a real accomplishment … but we’re very interested in getting schools to push higher.”
But that could mean raising the threshold for a good progress report grade—necessary to stay off the city’s list of schools it might close—for the second time since the progress reports were designed in 2007.
“If everyone’s reached the goal that we’ve set, then we typically up it because we want to push people to keep striving higher,” Polakow-Suransky said. If that happens, he added, the department will announce the new cut-off point this winter, giving schools time to reset their expectations. (more…)