Posts tagged "stephen lazar"
October 26, 2012
Some of our most thought-provoking comments this week came in response to a first person account of starting a new school in the GothamSchools Community section.
In his post, teacher Stephen Lazar described his inner conflict over helping to start Harvest Collegiate High School this year. He believed in the new school, he wrote, but he knew that it would occupy space vacated by a school that was being closed. That school is Legacy High School, a struggling small school that will share its building space with Harvest in Union Square until it finished phasing out.
Lazar chose to join Harvest’s founding team, but still, he said, the question stymied him: Should a teacher help create a new school if he objects to the policy that led to its creation?
Commenters were divided in their answers.
“Former Turnaround Teacher” said that Lazar’s discomfort about his participation in the city’s reform effort is a common among educators at new schools and phase-out schools:
When I was looking to transfer at the end of the past school year I often faced a similar decision. I could not bring myself to apply to certain schools that I know where in current phase out buildings. However I did apply to some schools in buildings that had finished phasing out. When it comes down to it, in the current system unless you are lucky enough to get into the 20% or so of High Schools that are either specilized or the DOE for whatever… (more…)
March 21, 2012
“Don’t be nervous,” Academy for Young Writers’ history teacher Stephen Lazar told his 72 seniors last night. The seniors were buzzing around the warm cafeteria, prepping their final citizenship projects for the imminent arrival of evaluators, who would be assessing their work and knowledge. “They’re nervous to hear what you’re going to do with the world.”
The seniors had spent the last six weeks brainstorming problems that effect them and the world, researching different perspectives on those problems, articulating their own policy recommendations, delivering persuasive speeches about their point of views on the issues, and working in groups to compile all of the research and findings on display boards. The groups targeted problems ranging from gentrification to cyber bullying to prostitution.
Citizenship Night was the culmination of the Center for Civic Educations’ Project Citizen, a curriculum Lazar implemented to promote students’ responsible participation in government. Approximately 15 “civic-minded” evaluators – mostly teachers, a couple journalists, a few external education stakeholders – perused the 24 trifold poster boards, clipboards in hand, pushing students to articulate their problems and proposed policies.
On one side of the cafeteria, the group that weighed the pros and cons of legalizing prostitution was continuing the debate amongst themselves. (more…)
January 19, 2012
The agenda items before the Panel for Educational Policy Wednesday night were relatively uncontroversial. But that didn’t dissuade the teachers union from staging a mass protest.
The protest was aimed at Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to remove half of teachers at 33 low-performing schools, which he announced during his State of the City speech last week. It began when more than 100 members of the United Federation of Teachers flooded the front rows of Brooklyn Technical High School’s auditorium, breaking into chants of “Save Our Schools!” and blasting whistles to delay the meeting’s start.
Michael Mendel, a union official, took the microphone to lambaste the panel, which has approved hundreds of school closure proposals since Bloomberg gained control of the city’s schools in 2003.
“You should be removed from office,” Mendel said. “You are a disgrace to public education.”
Then, in the middle of the public comment period, the group of teachers stood up and walked out en masse.
Plans to close and reopen struggling schools won’t start appearing on the panel’s agenda until next month. Last night, the agenda focused instead on proposals to move or expand schools, including Community Roots Charter School and the Academy of Young Writers. (more…)
October 31, 2011
Attendance was down at schools across the city today, an annual Halloween phenomenon that teachers said is driven by rumors of gang violence.
Eighty-two percent of students came to school today citywide, well below the average daily rate of 92 percent, according to preliminary attendance data posted on the Department of Education’s website.
Attendance was lowest at high schools and in pockets of Brooklyn and the Bronx. At several schools where daily attendance averages about 75 percent, including Banana Kelly High School and Lehman High School in the Bronx, only about 40 percent of students showed up today.
Assemblyman Karim Camara told GothamSchools that parents reported low attendance in many Central Brooklyn schools. On Twitter, Brooklyn high school teacher Stephen Lazar said only 50 to 60 percent of his students had come to school today. Another teacher, Janine Whitman, said only 2 of her 12 students were in class this morning. ”We were missing many students AND teachers today!” wrote Mark Anderson, who teaches at an elementary school in the Bronx. (more…)
August 30, 2011
It’s a common refrain: Teachers say that high-stakes tests constrain them in the classroom.
At our “On Education” panel last week, high school history teacher Stephen Lazar said he would would trade a higher salary for freedom from the Regents exam his students must pass to graduate.
“I would give up any raise in a second if you told me that once I showed that I can get my kids to pass the Regents — which I’ve shown over the past six years — that I can throw [the tests] out the window … and then I can really teach [students] how to think,” he said.
But what if the exams aren’t as limiting as Lazar and other teachers say? What if they’re actually useful? That’s the argument that Ama Nyamekye, a former city schoolteacher, makes in the Community section today.
In “A Teacher Finds Good In Testing,” Nyamekye describes what happened when she stopped resisting the Regents exam and started learning from it. She writes:
I once dismissed standardized testing for its narrow focus on a discrete set of skills, but I learned that my self-made assignments were more problematic. It turned out they were skewed in my favor. I was better at teaching literary analysis than grammar and punctuation. When I started giving ongoing standardized assessments, I noticed that my students showed steady growth in literary analysis, but less growth in grammar and punctuation. I was teaching to my strengths instead of strengthening my weaknesses.
August 25, 2011
Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said she believes the city’s schools have improved, but urged the Department of Education should do more to prove that its test scores are “bulletproof.”
Tisch made the comment at this morning’s City Hall News and GothamSchools “On Education” panel: ”I think the city has an obligation to show the public that what they’ve done here is real,” she said, noting that she had “had conversations with the city on this issue.”
Department of Education Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky, who also sat on the panel, defended the department against the suggestion that cheating is widespread, noting that investigations substantiate very few cheating allegations. He said that the department plans to release a more complete accounting of its internal investigations into cheating allegations, similar to the one released earlier this week by the Special Commissioner of Investigation, an independent office.
But Polakow-Suransky also said that more could be done to tighten test controls and that the city “would welcome more scrutiny.” He told GothamSchools that the city has offered to chip in to help the state create a “distributed scoring system” whereby students’ Regents exams could be electronically sent to other schools to be graded by teachers with no relationship to them. Currently, teachers grade their own students’ exams.
That system would be the best option for preventing teachers from changing exam grades, Polakow-Suransky said, but the cost — which officials pegged as high as $20 million — is too much for New York City to undertake alone.
“I think the state has an obligation to pay for that,” he said. “We’ve offered to help with some of our Race to the Top money, and we’re looking into some models that we can begin to test in hopes that they will take it over statewide. That’s the real solution to this.” (more…)