Posts from Rachel Cromidas
November 26, 2012
Boys and Girls High School’s latest progress report grade — an F, its second in a row — came as no surprise to its principal, Bernard Gassaway.
“We definitely fell short,” Gassaway said in a phone interview today. “When you get the progress report and you are surprised by it, that means you haven’t been looking at the numbers all along.”
But even though it is one of just four schools to score a second straight failing grade, Gassaway said he is not concerned about the future of the school, a Bedford-Stuyvesant institution revered by some neighborhood leaders despite posting graduation rates well below the city average in recent years.
“Closure is not an option,” he said. “I don’t think that’s an option that’s on the table. … I’m not entertaining any conversations about closure.”
Department of Education officials said they remain confident in Gassaway’s leadership. But at the same time, they are making Boys and Girls the subject of a formal conversation about closure for the first time.
The department has informed Gassaway that the high school is among 24 that will undergo “early engagement,” a process through which officials meet with community members to assess whether struggling schools are likely to improve or should be closed. (more…)
November 26, 2012
Seven high schools that the city tried in vain to close last year are among the two dozen that the Department of Education might move to shutter this year.
Department officials announced today that they had added 24 high schools to the list of schools they are considering closing. The schools join 36 elementary and middle schools already slated for “early engagement” meetings, the first step in the city’s school closure process. The department named those schools in October but postponed the meetings because of Hurricane Sandy.
The high schools were culled from 60 whose progress report scores made them eligible for closure under the city’s rules. Their test scores, attendance, graduation rates, and readiness for college do not measure up to city standards, according to Deputy Schools Chancellor Marc Sternberg, the department official who oversees school closures, who said the schools’ presence on the early engagement list indicates that they have deep problems to address.
“What we see in a school that can’t demonstrate the capacity to improve dramatically and to improve quickly is a calcification of the systems that lead to good schools,” Sternberg told reporters in a briefing on the reports this afternoon. “The adults are not communicating clearly and well with each other, there’s a lack of collaboration, a lack of organizational alignment that will enable the kind of instruction we know is important and necessary to lead to good outcomes.” (more…)
November 20, 2012
To help students whose homes and schools were damaged in Hurricane Sandy make up for the days of learning time they lost, the Department of Education is expanding its online course offerings to them.
Most schools have returned to working order since Sandy left dozens of them flooded or without power, and attendance is slowly rising. But department officials say they are concerned that students who missed many days of school, or continue to miss school because their home situations prevent them from getting to school, will fall behind.
The solution they’ve devised is to expand online courses that some schools are already offering to more students. The courses will be open to most students whose homes or schools were affected by the hurricane, and will count for credit towards graduation. The opportunity has the potential to reach students who otherwise might not be able to make up classwork they have missed during the school day. But it requires internet access, which many still lack.
“The goal is to help kids get as much instruction as possible,” said department spokeswoman Connie Pankratz. “We were able to build this up really quickly beause we had this platform already existing.” (more…)
November 20, 2012
When the five leading mayoral candidates were asked on Monday how they would select the next schools chancellor at a forum on city education policy, the presumed longshot had the most specific answer.
Newspaper publisher Tom Allon, who recently switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, was the only candidate to name names — and his shortlist contained an eclectic mix of people.
He started with Eric Nadelstern, a former Department of Education deputy who is bullish on school closures and other Bloomberg administration policies, then moved to Hunter College President Jennifer Raab before naming Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University education professor who has been critical of policies favored by the Bloomberg administration. To round out his list, he named John White, who became Louisiana’s school superintendent not long after leaving the city Department of Education in 2011.
Allon’s list elicited laugher and whoops of surprise from the audience, as well as a disapproving remark from Comptroller John Liu, who was sitting beside Allon on the stage. The forum was hosted by Manhattan Media, the company that Allon owns, with help from GothamSchools. (View the entire event.)
The one thing all of people on Allon’s list have in common is that they have experience working with schools and educators, which Mayor Bloomberg’s three chancellors have not had. Bloomberg’s first and longest-serving chancellor, Joel Klein, drew criticism because he had come from the corporate world, and most of the candidates were eager to say they would not make the same decision. Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and former comptroller Bill Thompson all promised to choose an educator to lead the schools.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was the only outlier. She said she did not think the next schools chancellor should necessarily have an education background. (more…)
November 16, 2012
- Education Secretary Arne Duncan said principal quality will be a second term priority. (Politics K-12)
- NJ Gov. Christie and teachers union chief Weingarten discuss the merit pay contract. (Morning Joe)
- Report: NJ’s teacher evaluation approach could be challenged by capacity limitations. (Hechinger)
- City & State calls NYSUT’s Dick Iannuzzi a ‘winner’ for giving $4.5 million to state senate races.
- A government report shows New Mexico’s salary tier system may be ineffective. (Teacher Beat)
- A performance group created a comic webseries about the teaching profession. (TEACHERS)
- Two New Jersey teachers share their Common Core curriculum ideas. (Learning Network Blog)
- USDOE is giving $50,000 to Aurora Public Schools to help shooting recovery efforts. (USDOE)
November 16, 2012
The number of suspensions that principals and superintendents handed out to students is down in the second year since the Department of Education was required to report the data publicly, but it’s still much higher than it was a decade ago.
City schools gave out 69,643 suspensions in the 2011-2012 school year, down from 73,441 in 2010-2011. As was the case last year, the vast majority of suspensions were principal suspensions, meaning students were not allowed to attend school for between one and five days. The number of principal suspensions declined slightly, from 58,386 to 56,385. The decline in the stricter superintendent suspensions was even more significant—those dropped from 15,055 in 2011 to 13,258 in 2012.
The data shows that a decline in suspensions preceded the department’s move to soften the discipline code by making fewer offenses grounds for suspension. Officials attributed the declines to efforts to reduce the penalties for minor behavioral problems and introduce more student-teacher conferences as alternatives to suspension.
“Many schools now are using conflict resolution and peer mediation, which has helped to address issues in a timely fashion,” said department spokeswoman Marge Feinberg. “We started implementing more and more training for these programs prior to 2012.” (more…)
November 15, 2012
Realizing that its strategies for stocking the city’s ever-expanding supply of schools with excellent principals have fallen short, the Department of Education is launching new programs aimed at slowing down the transition from teacher to administrator.
The largest of the new initiatives is the Teacher Leadership Program, aimed at developing leadership skills in hundreds of teachers who are still working in the classroom. Other initiatives are meant to prepare leaders to handle the special challenges of running middle schools and to capitalize on the leadership skills of principals who are already in the system.
And a foundation that helped the city underwrite a fast-track principal training program is now paying for educators to earn degrees in school administration at local universities.
“Most of our principal training work that we’ve done historically is focused on that last year before you become a principal,” Chief Academic Office Shael Polakow-Suransky said. “It’s the last step in the process, and what we’ve come to understand is that there [are] a lot of steps that happen before that in someone’s career. … We want to begin to do that kind of training.”
The new programs represent a strong shift away from the Bloomberg administration’s early approach to cultivating school leadership at a time when the city is losing about 150 principals a year, even as it has ramped up new school creation. Together with existing programs, they are set to produce 134 new principals and engage 300 teachers this year, according to the department. (more…)
November 13, 2012
If today’s attendance figures were a test of how well the city’s schools are rebounding from Hurricane Sandy, as Chancellor Dennis Walcott said they would be last week, then the city scored a 91 percent overall.
Even as 34 city schools remain unmoored from their damaged buildings, thousands more students showed up for classes today for the first time since the schools closed in October. At the same time, charitable efforts are shifting their focus toward replenishing those schools with basic supplies—most recently through a million dollar campaign, launched today, to supply students with backpacks and other supplies.
The city’s overall attendance rate is climbing, but schools in the areas that the hurricane hit the hardest are still struggling to fill their rosters. Of the fifteen schools that returned to their original buildings today, after relocating a week ago, Department of Education officials said about 77 percent showed up on average. And among the 37 relocated schools, two-thirds of students showed up—double the percentage from last week. (more…)
November 13, 2012
The city’s teachers union has been clamoring for more time for teachers to prepare for the elementary and middle school state tests, which will be aligned to new curriculum standards this spring. Not so for the city’s high school teachers, who have another year to prepare for new tests.
The Department of Education is requiring high school teachers to align two units each semester this year to the Common Core. But beyond that, some teachers have said that without assessments to plan backwards from, they are at a loss about how to proceed, while others view the extra year as license to delay making more substantive changes.
But some high school teachers are seeking out help with the Common Core now, reasoning that it’s smart to work with the new standards while there’s still time to troubleshoot before students face tests based on them.
For math teachers at 14 Bronx schools, support is coming from the network hired to support their schools, New Visions for Public Schools. With a $13 million, five-year innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Education and the help of the Silicon Valley Math Initiative, New Visions is piloting a Common Core-aligned ninth-grade algebra curriculum in the hopes that it will challenge students more and build teachers’ skills. (more…)
November 12, 2012
Much like the rest of New York City, for the last two weeks, we’ve been focused almost exclusively on Hurricane Sandy‘s effects on the city’s schools. Now, while Sandy’s aftermath will continue to be an education story for a long time, we’re also getting back to work on other stories that we’ve been following.
It feels like it was far more than three weeks ago that we were publishing stories about college-readiness rates, a city middle school initiative, and how the Department of Education does — or does not — use test scores.
If we needed a refresher, our guess is that our readers need one, too. So we created GothamSchools’ first-ever news quiz: