Posts from Sarah Darville
July 27, 2011
In a stark departure from tradition, more than 40 percent of city teachers up for tenure this year did not get it.
Just over 5,200 teachers were up for tenure this year. Of them, 58 percent received tenure and 3 percent were denied it, effectively barring them from working in city schools. The remaining portion — 39 percent — had their probationary periods extended for another year.
The number of extensions inched up in 2010 to 8 percent, but skyrocketed this year after the Department of Education revamped the tenure evaluation process in an effort to make the protection tougher to receive.
Yet the rate of tenure denials actually fell slightly from last year, from about 3.3 percent in 2010 to 2.7 percent in 2011, or 151 teachers, despite Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s insistence that the figures were the first step toward “ending tenure as we know it.”
The numbers, which Bloomberg touted at a press conference today, confirm anecdotal reports pointing to a sharp rise in the number of probation extensions under the new system. Before last year, that option was rarely used and the vast majority of teachers received tenure almost as a formality. (more…)
July 22, 2011
Being able to move forward with plans to close and co-locate schools isn’t enough for Mayor Michael Bloomberg — he said this morning that the UFT and NAACP should feel ashamed for trying to stop the changes.
Bloomberg used his weekly appearance on “The John Gambling Show” to celebrate yesterday’s late-night decision by Judge Paul Feinman to allow the city to move ahead with 22 school closures and 15 charter school co-locations. The UFT and NAACP sued in May to stop the closure and co-locations.
“There are thousands of families whose children have been in limbo because of this lawsuit, and now we can give them a clear direction. This is a big victory for the kids, and I think those that brought the suit should be ashamed of themselves. There’s no other way to phrase it,” Bloomberg said.
UFT officials bristled at the suggestion, saying that the lawsuit — which will now move into a new phase — was meant to address inequities introduced by Bloomberg’s school policies.
“If there is any shame in this matter, it belongs to the mayor and the administration that sat back and made no attempt to help schools and students that were struggling, an administration that favored charter schools while it ignored the needs of public school students,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement.
The radio show’s segment on education began this way: (more…)
July 20, 2011
Advocates are worried that the city’s new evaluation system could penalize teachers of students with special needs.
The nonprofit organization Advocates for Children of New York recently released a fact sheet calling on parents to ask how the new system, which will be piloted in more schools next year, will affect those teachers.
Sixty percent of the new evaluations is based on subjective measures like principal observations, and the other 40 percent is based on student test scores. AFC’s concern is that teachers who work with high-needs students will be at a disadvantage because they likely won’t see the gains in test scores that other teachers will.
That will make it more difficult to earn a high evaluation score, lowering the incentive for teachers to take on students with disabilities and English Language Learners.
“Teachers are basically going to be looking at lower test scores, and lower evaluations because they’re so heavily reliant on test scores,” said Maggie Moroff, special education policy coordinator for AFC. “We’re worried that they will be teaching more to the test in those classes.” (more…)
July 15, 2011
When the first graduates of Green Dot Charter High School move on to college next year, the school’s founder is hoping to manage two more schools in the Bronx.
Steve Barr’s renamed organization, Future is Now Schools, is planning to take over a middle school and a high school in the South Bronx in fall 2012. But unlike in Green Dot’s model, Future is Now wants the two schools to remain district schools, not become charter schools.
That model, which the group announced in March, still requires complicated negotiations over teacher contracts, and especially teacher evaluations, where the city and Future is Now differ greatly. For now, FIN is growing its staff, developing curriculum, and continuing its three-way negotiations with the UFT and the city.
“We’ve made good progress and have come to a general agreement on the form of an evaluation system that is based on Green Dot’s,” said Gideon Stein, FIN’s president. “The difficulty has been all of the other priorities that the DOE and the city have.”
FIN’s most recent hire strengthens the group’s alignment with one of the DOE’s top priorities: Pushing models that blend online and in-person instruction through the two-year-old Innovation Zone. This week, Barr brought on Daniel Gohl, who was previously in charge of innovation efforts in Newark’s public school system, as the company’s chief academic officer. (more…)
July 13, 2011
The fight over the state’s new teacher evaluations has focused on the 40 percent to be based on student test scores. But the other 60 percent, based on subjective measures like principal observations, could be just as tough.
That’s according to one teacher reporting from a school piloting the city’s stricter guidelines for classroom observations.
Commenting in our Community section yesterday, a reader posting as HS Biology Teacher said that system “seems to be designed to make it extremely easy to rate any teacher ineffective if the principal wants to.”
The DOE has drafted a rubric for rating classroom observations, but it is very tough. To be rated effective (3), you need to really hit every competency on the rubric during each full-period observation… and that is extremely difficult given the language of the rubric. (more…)
July 8, 2011
People on both sides of the charter school fight are not happy about a hefty City Council earmark that’s going to the teachers union’s charter school.
The funding, sponsored by City Councilman Erik Dilan and approved last month in the council’s annual capital budget allocations, gives the union $2 million to develop a plan for moving its charter school out of the two East New York buildings it shares and into space of its own.
The announcement comes as charter schools and their critics are locked in fierce debate over how the city funds and allocates space to charter schools. That dispute is central to a lawsuit, filed in May by the UFT and NAACP, that seeks to stop 16 charter schools from opening, moving, or expanding.
The lawsuit alleges that some charter schools receive disproportionate public resources, and some of its backers say the City Council earmark is another example.
Teacher activist Norm Scott called the funding “a double outrage, maybe a triple outrage.” (more…)
July 7, 2011
Tamjid Chowdhury, this year’s valedictorian of Christopher Columbus High School, said in his graduation speech that the fight to save his school from closing had ironically provided some of his favorite memories.
“It was one time I was awed by the sense of unity in the school,” he said of the rallies.
For teachers and staff at the Bronx school, another year under the threat of closure has ended with stories of coming together to improve.
The unity extended beyond protests at public meetings. Without anyone asking them to, a group of teachers at the school spent the year huddling together to redesign the school’s curriculum.
“We knew if anything good was going to come out of this year, we would have to generate it, and we would have to execute it,” said Christine Rowland, an English teacher who also works for the UFT.
City officials tried to close Columbus this year and last year, and they want Columbus phased out by 2014 to open a new school in the building. Teachers have tried to save the school multiple times by rallying behind efforts to convert Columbus into a charter school, and Columbus remains at the center of the lawsuit filed by the teachers union and the NAACP to stop school closures.
“It’s a really big blow to our psyche,” said Larry Minetti, an art teacher who has taught at Columbus for 16 years. (more…)
July 6, 2011
“Everything about this school has improved. Everything.”
Geraldine Maione, principal of William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School in Brighton Beach, does not hesitate when asked about the trajectory of her school.
Maione just finished her first year at Grady, where she was greeted with a staff weary of leadership changes, a curriculum that has see-sawed between emphasizing traditional academics and the school’s signature “shops,” and a D grade on its 2009-10 progress report.
She was also given $1.4 million of additional “transformation” money through the federal government’s program to improve low-achieving schools.
At the end of her first year, staff members say they’ve felt the impact of Maione’s leadership and the additional funds—though it is unclear if the school is yet making the academic gains it needs to avoid facing closure in the future.
The transformation money helped pay for an array of cosmetic changes to the building and school trips to colleges throughout New York state, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC.
The entrance area was repainted from black and white to maroon and yellow, the school colors. The front doors are now framed by planters, filled with flowers, that double as benches. Murals featuring civil rights leaders and faces of current students fill once-blank hallway walls. (more…)
June 30, 2011
A judge today opened the door for construction to start at Brandeis Educational Complex in preparation for a charter school to move into the building.
The hearing was a part of the lawsuit filed by Brandeis parents to stop Upper West Success Academy from opening in the Brandeis campus, which is currently home to five high schools.
The city has said that it needs four weeks to prepare the building for Upper West Success, which would be the only elementary school in the building. Since teachers are set to begin work on August 2 and classes start August 24, construction on an elementary-only cafeteria and multipurpose room would need to begin immediately.
Judge Paul Feinman chose not to extend the temporary restraining order against those plans, saying that it made sense to allow some construction to begin in case the co-location was given a green light.
“I don’t see what harm there is to allow construction on the first floor to move forward,” he said. (more…)
June 29, 2011
Things are looking grim for Alpha School.
Despite the East New York alternative program’s last-minute attempts to convince the state agency that it had made a wrong decision, Alpha School will not be funded by the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services next year.
Until last week, the program’s director, Barry Addison, had been in talks with OASAS commissioners and had been told to “sit tight.” But yesterday an agency official called to tell Addison, or Mr. B, of their final decision not to restore funding.
“They said, well, a decision was made, and they had closed their budget gap partly with closing me down,” he said. “There was nothing left for me to say.”
One of the city’s GED Plus programs, Alpha School graduated 32 students with GED diplomas last week. It has also garnered widespread community support, from officers in Brooklyn’s 75th precinct and politicians like State Sen. John Sampson.
Mr. B says he’ll spend the summer trying to find private-sector funds to open the school’s doors again in six weeks.
“It’s not what I do, I just don’t know how to reach out to philanthropists,” he said. “But if I’m going to do anything, I have to reach out.”