Posts tagged "reading list"
October 22, 2012
It’s a dilemma that thousands of city educators have faced in the last decade: Should they work in a new school, knowing that its existence was made possible by another school’s closure?
When high school social studies teacher (and teachers union activist) Stephen Lazar was confronted with the question last year, he chose to help start the new school — but not without strong reservations.
Today in the Community section, Lazar outlines the thinking that led him to Harvest Collegiate High School, which opened this year in the space being vacated by Legacy High School for Integrated Studies, which is in the first year of being phased out.
I’m excited for Harvest Collegiate High School to be born, but for that to happen, Legacy High School has to die. …
… I’m of two minds on whether or not good people should try to open new schools in New York City right now. On the one hand, it makes one complicit in the failed current “school reform” project; on the other hand, if schools are going to be opened anyway, it’s better that good people be part of that. I honestly don’t know which is right in the end and accept the judgment and criticism I get for my decision to side with the latter view.
Spoiler alert: Lazar writes that he believes that what gets taught, and how, is just as political as where teaching and learning take place. That means he is taking a stand he believes in by launching a new member of the Coalition of Essential Schools, even as he compromises his beliefs in another way.
October 9, 2012
That’s the theory behind “Practice Perfect,” the new e-book by Doug Lemov, managing director of the Uncommon Schools network of charter schools and author of “Teach Like a Champion,” a 2010 book with 49 concrete strategies for improving student engagement and classroom management. (GothamSchools’ Elizabeth Green wrote about Lemov and his approach in a 2010 New York Times Magazine story.)
“Practice Perfect” aims to provide similarly user-friendly ideas — 42 of them — for attaining incremental improvement. Lemov and his co-authors, two of Uncommon Schools’ top educators, say the strategies would be useful in any field — but they are particularly apropos for teachers, whose performance carries high stakes for their students and, increasingly, for themselves.
The city’s current teacher evaluation system lets educators know whether they are considered satisfactory, but it doesn’t tell them about their strengths and weaknesses in the classroom, or how to build on them. The city is piloting an observation model now that would give teachers more feedback about their performance.
But feedback is meaningless if it does not change practice. In an exclusive excerpt from “Practice Perfect” in the Community section today, Lemov outlines ways to make feedback more useful.
He describes testing out a teacher observation protocol in which teachers received one item of praise and one suggestion for improvement immediately after delivering a three-minute lesson — and then were required to repeat the lesson incorporating the feedback right away. Lemov writes:
One benefit of this structure was its implicit accountability: it was hard for teachers to ignore the feedback. For one thing, it was public. Six or seven people had heard them get it; they were explicitly asked to try it just a minute later. It would be egregious not to try it at all. (more…)
October 2, 2012
It’s not only the teachers union that is arguing that charter schools’ enrollment practices can influence their apparent test performance.
Unlike district schools, charter schools can choose whether to replace students who leave. Charter schools that do not practice “backfill” can end up posting scores that make it look like their performance is better — or worse — than it really is, argues the founding principal of Harlem Link Charter School, Steven Evangelista.
In the Community section, Evangelista explains that when schools opt not to fill empty seats, “survivorship bias” skews test scores toward the results of students who remain enrolled.
The bias renders test scores meaningless, even dangerous, if the scores are not presented alongside context about a school’s enrollment practices, he writes:
Strong schools take the time required to plan, assess, and tweak new initiatives until they become standard operating procedures. The lack of information provided alongside scores obscures this type of growth, creating perverse incentives for schools to “push out” students who are low performers and to “quick fix” by whittling down large original cohorts to smaller groups of survivors, uncompromised by new admittees.
Evangelista says Harlem Link replaces students who depart, knowing that test scores could be adversely affected, in order to keep its budget stable and fulfill its mission of serving needy students. Last year, he writes, the school got lucky: The students who left were, on average, lower-performing than the students who left the previous year, so the appearance of large test school gains was easy to come by.
It’s a phenomenon that the teachers union has been particularly eager to put onto the agenda. After the city released elementary and middle school progress reports for last year on Monday, the union distributed a fact sheet noting high student attrition rates at several top-scoring charter schools. At South Bronx Classical Charter School, for example, between 20 and 40 percent of students that originally enrolled left before they were tested, and no new students replaced them, the union pointed out. (more…)
September 5, 2012
That’s the main idea behind “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character,” the new book by Paul Tough. In the book, which came out this week, Tough expands on his 2011 New York Times Magazine article about city private and charter school educators’ efforts to figure out why some students thrive in college and beyond while others founder.
The educators’ conclusion was that students with certain habits of mind are more able to handle the challenges that college presents. They decided those habits should be taught — and measured, using a “character report card” that they developed. Tough documents this effort along with other initiatives and new research that support the theory that students possessed of strong character can overcome even staggering odds.
“How Children Succeed” is timely in New York City, where education officials have replaced high school graduation with college success as their top goal for students. The city is encouraging schools to target students’ “soft skills” but has no plans to introduce a character report card, officials say.
We’re inviting our readers to meet Tough and ask him about his book at an event we’re hosting on Sept. 29. Details are on our calendar.
To tide readers over, we’re offering an exclusive excerpt from Tough’s book in the Community section today. The section is from a chapter about the chess team at I.S. 318, which dominates national championships not just for middle schools but for high schools, too. Much of the chapter focuses on Elizabeth Spiegel, the school’s chess teacher, who pushes her students to develop many of the same character values that other educators are thinking systematically about how to teach.
“Teaching chess is really about teaching the habits that go along with thinking,” Spiegel explained to me one morning when I visited her classroom. “Like how to understand your mistakes and how to be more aware of your thought processes.”
September 4, 2012
Anderson chose to look for a new school after two years as a special education teacher at a struggling Bronx elementary school. In the Community section today, he explains what motivated his move — and argues that administrators at schools like the one he left could stem their annual teacher exodus just by being nice.
I can’t say that I am an “irreplaceable” teacher. But I do know that some of the teachers that I have worked with are, and that we have chosen to forsake our school.
The education policy group TNTP coined that term this summer in a report that calls for changes to teacher retention policies. The top 20 percent of teachers are “irreplaceables,” TNTP concluded, and yet they must be replaced far too often. Like many educators, I may take issue with some of the flashpoints of TNTP’s report — the aggrandizing term of “irreplaceable,” the focus on firing “low performers,” the notion of merit pay, or the idea that the wheat can even be separated from the chaff given the measures that currently exist.
But … the report got one critical point right: most teachers depart due to a failure in school leadership. As the report further notes (under “low-cost retention strategies”), the remedy for this failure can be heartrendingly easy: All it would often take to retain some effective teachers is a few positive words of recognition.
Not only were words of recognition absent at his old school, but teachers who should have been praised were criticized while teachers who declined to make the extra effort escaped censure, Anderson writes. The dynamic is reversed in his new school, he reports.
June 21, 2012
When Bryan Stromer started high school in 2009, few people knew that the Department of Education was on the verge of announcing a radical rethinking of how students with disabilities are included in city schools.
The next year, his school, the selective NYC Lab School, became one of 260 schools to pilot special education reforms that call on all schools to serve students no matter what disability they might have. Advocates for students with disabilities support the shift, but as the Department of Education prepares to expand the initiative citywide this fall, some are raising concerns.
Stromer, who has a disability and is the student representative on the Citywide Council on Special Education, is a steadfast defender of the reforms after living under them for two years. In the Community section, he writes about the changes that have taken place at his school that have allowed him and his classmates with disabilities to take greater advantage of what the school offers.
In my school, only a handful special education students decide to take more than one year of foreign language because the advanced courses do not offer the same level of support, but I knew that I wanted to continue taking Spanish. Participating in the pilot of the reform caused my school to look at special education as a service and not just a place and because of this I was able to request that my Spanish class be supported with an ICT teacher. Knowing that this Spanish class would be ICT-supported allowed my classmates with disabilities and I to be comfortable with taking on the risk of continuing our Spanish studies.
Read Stromer’s entire account in the Community section. And check out GothamSchools’ archives for more coverage of the special education reforms.
June 18, 2012
Before Sam McElroy became the iLearnNYC coordinator at Flushing High School, he was nervous about initiatives that moved at least part of the instructional program online.
McElroy, a special education teacher, had seen that lax regulations provided fertile grounds for online credit recovery to be abused, and he knew that some of his colleagues were concerned that “blended learning” is intended to render teachers unnecessary.
But after a year leading Flushing’s blended learning initiative, McElroy describes himself as a convert to blended learning. In the Community section today, he recounts what happened when he stopped using a prepackaged curriculum and started developing the online materials his students needed. He writes:
I found that the long-term advantages for my students far outweighed the early struggles. Students quickly learned to treat the equipment respectfully (in most cases), took to the routine, and stayed engaged in their work with little or no distractions throughout each class period. I was able to easily see who struggled with the content and spend significant time with them while other students worked at a faster pace. Managing the different paces was a challenge but also an opportunity to give the stronger students mini-projects while the other students continued in a unit. …
And most importantly, the platform helped me be a better teacher. In fact, I had the most satisfying year of my seven years teaching. I think my students did well on last week’s global history Regents exam, but regardless of test scores, my students clearly demonstrated tremendous academic progress and developed important new digital skills.
Read McElroy’s entire account of his blended learning ups and downs in the Community section. And check out our recent story about Olympus Academy, a transfer high school — also part of iLearnNYC — where every course uses blended learning.
June 11, 2012
Searching for an explanation behind their school’s mid-year physical education scheduling shakeup, two Staten Island student journalists arrived at a conclusion familiar to Department of Education insiders: It’s hard to know just how many P.E. courses students must take, and for how long.
Travis Dove and Juliana Zaloom, students at CSI High School for International Studies, launched their investigation in their journalism class after CSI seniors were thrust into extra P.E. classes last semester. Today, they share their report in the GothamSchools Community section.
The physical education scheduling conflicts could be due to mistakes by school administration and faculty. …
But the city Department of Education can also be blamed for its unclear handling of physical education. As it does not monitor schools’ physical education programs, some have not even been aware that there are requirements at all.
CSI High is not the only school to have reshuffled its physical education offerings in the middle of this year. An internal Department of Education audit released in February found that some principals had been unaware of crediting rules, particularly around P.E. (more…)
May 21, 2012
Jes Kruse, an English as a second language teacher at a Brooklyn high school, wanted to boost her students’ “fluency” — their ability to read and write accurately, quickly, and with comprehension.
So she turned to the topic her students know best: themselves. Students wrote personal essays, many drawing on the disasters or conflicts that led them to the United States. Then they read the essays aloud to senior citizens living in a local retirement home and wrote “reflection” papers about their conversations.
Kruse has shared some of the essays and reflections today in the GothamSchools Community section. Here’s a taste of what Emmanuelle Desmourses, an immigrant from Haiti, wrote in her reflection:
While I was at the nursing home I read aloud and asked” does my story affect your life”? One of them said, yes your story affected my life because when you finished reading it I felt so much pain about the event that happened to you. After I heard it I felt like it was me who was there during the earthquake. I asked one questions again “how did my story change your life? One of them answered me, yes your story change my life because after you read to us your story and you say how this moment was struggled for you and how you have courage to survive after that.
Kruse’s students will be reading aloud from their personal stories at the Crown Heights Library on Tuesday. They are also selling copies of a book of their essays, ”Stories That Changed Us Forever.” Proceeds from book sales will go into a scholarship fund for the students who worked on the project.
We love featuring students’ work. Let us know if you have students whose work deserves a wider audience.
May 15, 2012
For Abraham Moussako, a 2011 graduate, working on the student newspaper at Bronx High School of Science was an exercise in frustration.
Getting an article approved in your school newspaper covering an incident that garnered the institution bad publicity citywide is the sort of thing that probably would be a chore in any circumstance. But it was an even dicier situation at the [Science] Survey, where the administration took its power of prior review over the paper seriously.
Moussako’s description of several run-ins that he and other editors had with the school’s famously hands-on administration fans a longstanding debate about the role of school officials in reviewing student journalism. Reports from advocates of student journalism suggest that many city principals exercise their legal right to review and curb reporting that appears in school newspapers.
Bronx Science Principal Valerie Reidy is one of them. (more…)