Posts tagged "Kim Sweet"
November 29, 2012
Mayoral candidates have only just started outlining their education policy agendas as campaign season heats up. But one advocacy group is stepping in to help them figure out what those platforms look like.
A+NYC, a new coalition formed earlier this year to shape policy in time for the 2013 mayoral election, launched an online “policy hub” today that includes research briefs on 20 education issues that the group wants to be the focus of debates in months to come. The coalition will eventually make policy recommendations once it is done hosting more than 60 local community meetings.
A+ NYC is made up of many of the same organizers who are behind New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, a union-backed coalition of advocacy organizations. Both groups are trying to influence what education policies the mayoral candidates implement, but while New Yorkers for Great Public Schools has held rallies and criticized its opponents, A+ NYC is seeking a quieter strategy.
That strategy began by recruiting 11 education non-profits to look at research topics of expertise and compile summary briefs on each one. Though the coalition was formed in the spirit of changing many policies established in the last 12 years, the summaries highlight research that occasionally supports Bloomberg initiatives, including special education reforms and the city’s wish to use student surveys on teacher evaluations.
In some instances, the briefs initially left out well-known research. The charter schools research brief omits findings from Macke Raymond’s 2010 CREDO report on New York City’s charter sector, which showed charter students scored higher on reading and math tests than district school peers. The brief instead highlights a 2009 study by Caroline Hoxby, which found similar gains made by charter school students, and notes that those findings were contested. (more…)
June 8, 2009
Just months after adjusting to the news that a schools official with no special education experience would be reviewing the city’s special education offerings, advocates for children with disabilities are now reeling from another shakeup: The news that the official, Garth Harries, is leaving the city.
The announcement today came after a months-long “listening tour” intended to teach Harries about the issues facing teachers and families of children with special needs. On the tour, Harries heard from anxious parents who explained from their point of view the nuances of an extremely complicated system.
“The special education community has invested a lot of time in bringing Garth up to speed,” said Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children of New York (where I used to work). “I hope all that time will not be lost.” (more…)
May 15, 2009
The head of the city’s special education division has announced that she is stepping down at the end of the school year, a surprise move that comes at a time when a top-to-bottom review of special education is underway.
Linda Wernikoff said her decision to retire is not related to the review or the changes its conclusion could bring to her department. “I think I’ve had a wonderful 35-year career here and I’m very proud of the work that we’ve done,” she told me. “Now I think it’s time that I need to try new things.”
Under Wernikoff’s leadership, the Department of Education has focused on reducing the proportion of children who are in special education-only classes, and the graduation rate for students with special needs has inched up, although it still remains quite low. Wernikoff, who began her career in 1974 as a speech teacher, told me she had no specific plans yet for her future, but she said, “Whatever I do will continue to be advocating for students with special needs.”
People that I spoke to today said Wernikoff’s departure will be a blow for the special education community. (more…)
January 16, 2009
Special education advocates are planning to criticize the Department of Education’s choice of official to spearhead a comprehensive review of special education in the city schools.
Kim Sweet, the executive director of Advocates for Children of New York (where I used to work when I wrote for Insideschools), told me this morning that she’s worried about what the review could mean for special education services, especially in light of the current economic conditions.
One major concern is that Garth Harries, who has been appointed to conduct the review, doesn’t have experience in special education. “The special education system is a complex system that to address a diverse and complicated set of student needs,” Sweet told me. “Garth Harries unfortunately does not have the experience to make decisions about it in an intelligent and sensitive way.”
She said the ARISE Coalition, which advocates for children with special needs, will speak out against Harries’ appointment.
Another issue, Sweet said, is that given the current budget shortfall, the department might be taking a hard look at special education simply to save money. (more…)
January 14, 2009
The Department of Education is signing a $54.9 million contract with a firm called MAXIMUS to streamline the way it tracks services for students with disabilities. Right now, a paper system tracks the process of diagnosing and giving services to special education students, with results that both special education advocates and the department say are poor.
The new system will allow administrators and teachers to track these documents in a single place online. It will also be costly: The five-year contract is for $54.9, and the DOE expects extra attached costs like internal training programs so that principals can use the database will cost an additional $23.7 million over five years.
The DOE press release that went out on this earlier today includes unusually glowing remarks from the special education advocate Kim Sweet, who as the executive director of Advocates for Children has often criticized the DOE for failing to serve special education students adequately
“The Department of Education desperately needs a new system for tracking special education data. Under the current system they are unable to track their performance in providing essential services ot students with disabilities with any kind of accuracy. A new data system is essential to helping the Departmetn of Education improve its delivery of special education services and, we hope, will be a key step to holding the Department of Education accountable for the education of this vulnerable population.”
The contract was not a no-bid but was competitively bid. A law firm helped the department negotiate it pro bono.
Here’s the full press release, below the jump: (more…)