Posts tagged "wayback wednesday"
April 17, 2013
Across the state, and in some New York City schools, pockets of students and parents are “opting out” of this month’s reading and math tests to protest the tests’ increasing stakes. In some school districts where officials openly shared the criticism, the tally of dissenters could be significant, according to early reports.
But while the opt-out movement has gotten renewed attention in the last two years, since the state began preparing for tougher new tests, it isn’t new. In 2001, at a time when state testing was confined to a few grades and was not used to assess students or teachers, two thirds of eighth-graders at Scarsdale Middle School in Westchester County refused to take the exams. Parents, educators, and local school officials had encouraged the boycott.
The New York Times reported at the time that the protest was logistically complex:
This was the first of several days of eighth-grade tests that parents had vowed to boycott in protest of what they see as a test prep culture and the lock-step instruction it engenders. … (more…)
August 8, 2012
Some city principals would like to see schools reduce their police presence.
But in 1958, principals couldn’t even get the police to swing by — a policy that might have driven one school leader to suicide.
That’s the story behind a series that appeared that year in the New York World Telegram & Sun. Masquerading as a teacher-hopeful, reporter George Allen landed a job at John Marshall Junior High School in Brooklyn, where violence among students the previous spring had driven Principal George Goldfarb to request a police presence.
Mayor Robert Wagner had for the previous year been resisting placing police around schools — there were 819 at the time — because of the unsavory images of armed officials who had tried to keep black students out of schools that were being integrated, according to the New York Daily News.
According to the Daily News,
George Goldfarb was 55 years old, 33 years in the system, and he was suffering the displeasure of his superiors. Personally, he very much wanted police in his school, where, among other things, a 13-year-old blind girl had recently been assaulted in a stairwell, and he had gone before the grand jury and said so out loud. This was, of course, directly contrary to stated Board of Ed policy, and he had been spoken to. At 10 a.m. Jan. 28, he was due before the jury again. Instead, he wearily climbed to the roof of his six-story Eastern Parkway apartment building and jumped. … (more…)
March 4, 2009
The actress Julia Stiles’ recent e-mail exchange with Chancellor Joel Klein started after she told him at an event that she hadn’t had any science classes in her public elementary school (Greenwich Village’s PS 3). Yesterday, New York Magazine’s Daily Intel blog published a message from someone who said Stiles fabricated the embarrassing story she told Klein, about how she couldn’t identify a beaker once she started at a fancy private school.
Could it be that Stiles really never had a science class in elementary school? A brand-new blog that purports to be by Stiles repeats the claim. And here’s another hint, from 1992, when Stiles would have been finishing fifth grade:
Schools Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez unveiled a plan yesterday to drastically overhaul science instruction in New York City’s public schools, including adding an extra year of laboratory science to high school requirements and more than doubling the number of science periods offered to elementary school students. …
The plan, which comes at a time when the school system is struggling with overcrowded classes and a shortage of supplies, does not include any estimate of its cost. Nor does it have a timetable. Mr. Fernandez said a team of school officials would now begin studying those aspects.
Mr. Fernandez’s vision will also demand radical changes in how teachers are trained and recruited; right now high schools cannot find enough licensed high school science teachers and elementary schools are hiring teachers who may have taken no college science. …
How have things changed since Stiles was in school? As the chair of the City Council’s education committee, everyone’s favorite charter school operator, Eva Moskowitz, made the sorry state of science education a top issue, getting the Department of Education’s head science administrator to give her program a barely passing grade in 2005. The city launched a $60 million science curriculum in 2007. But the test that would have measured its success is now two years overdue.
February 25, 2009
I recently wrote about a Flatbush mom who likes the fact that her son’s charter school frequently tests him so they can find out how to target his instruction. She said her son’s old school didn’t do this.
It might not have, but testing for the purpose of tailoring instruction to students’ needs is not a new innovation. In 1936, the New York Times ran an excited report about a conference where experts said that testing had been refined to the point where educators would be able to “determine accurately the studies that will fit the student’s particular needs and capacities.”
In some ways, the tests described at that 1936 conference, which took place at Columbia, are very different from those under debate right now: The wayback tests were meant to decide whether students should go on to college or to a trade. The point of the tests being debated in the comments section on GothamSchools and elsewhere is not to sort, but to avoid sorting by ensuring that all students can meet the same standards.
One similarity stands out, though: The Columbia experts said their post-war tests were so sophisticated that they “outstripped the ability of teachers to use them.” That’s a complaint I’ve heard from 21st century teachers, who say they spend so much time generating data about their students that they have too little time to determine how best to use the new information.
February 18, 2009
Teachers I know have jetted off to spend their midwinter recess in the Dominican Republic, New Orleans, and even a Trappist monastery in Virginia. But I bet they have no idea why they have the week off.
I thought the vacation was a way for the city to save on fuel costs during the dead of winter. In fact, the recess is the result of a deal cut in the early 1990s between the mayor and the teachers union at a time when, like now, the city was facing teacher layoffs. (The city also had a midwinter recess briefly during the fuel crisis of the 1970s to save on heating costs.)
From a 1992 New York Times article about the first midwinter recess:
The new winter vacation was an offshoot of a fiscal crisis that shook New York City in 1990.
Mayor David N. Dinkins had just reached agreement with the United Federation of Teachers, which offered him critical support in his election campaign, that provided them a 5.8 percent increase in wages and benefits when the bad news hit.
The settlement was immediately denounced by fiscal monitors and editorial writers, and a campaign was begun to roll back the increase, or at least defer them so that they would not affect the city’s fiscal standing. Mr. Fernandez was faced with a $95 million budget, which would have meant laying off 3,000 teachers.
Mr. Fernandez averted the layoffs by persuading the teachers to defer $40 million of their wage increase in exchange for, among other sweeteners, a winter break long sought by teachers, especially teachers who lived in the suburbs and whose children were already off from school the same week.
Chancellor Joseph Fernandez called the vacation “Kids Week” and encouraged schools and cultural institutions to offer special programs for children during the days off. But parents complained that it was hard to find child care during the surprise vacation.
February 11, 2009
Betsy Gotbaum, the current public advocate, has routinely directed her scrutiny toward the Department of Education.
This week, the city’s first public advocate, Mark Green, entered the race to take over for Gotbaum when she vacates the position at the end of this year. Green served from 1994 to 2001, and he paid attention to education, too — but he focused his efforts on what was then the Board of Education.
Mark Green, the city’s Public Advocate, sent a letter to Mr. Cortines on Friday asking that the board’s recycling regulations be adopted and released as soon as possible.
“It’s inexcusable that the Board of Education’s foot-dragging has gone on for five years,” Mr. Green said. “We can’t undo the board’s malfeasance, only hope that other governmental institutions do everything possible to accelerate the recycling programs.”
The battle to force the schools to recycle, by the way, is still being fought.
February 4, 2009
The newest hire on Mayor Bloomberg’s reelection team used to sit on the old Board of Education — as its student member.
Today, Andrea Batista Schlesinger announced that she was taking a leave as the executive director of the progressive Drum Major Institute to join the Bloomberg campaign as a policy adviser.
Fifteen years ago, Batista Schlesinger was a senior at Brooklyn’s Murrow High School, with aspirations to grow up and be schools chancellor. At the time, she was a vociferous advocate of student input who had just been elected the non-voting student member of the city’s Board of Education. From a November 1993 profile in the New York Times:
“The Board of Education treats students as children,” she said during an appearance this fall on “New York Closeup,” New York One’s public affairs program, “and I’m talking about 17-year-old students who are going on to college. If you really want the system to work well, you’re going to have to allow more student input.”
At a board meeting after the interview, Ms. Schlesinger heard Michael J. Petrides, the Staten Island representative, praise her performance. “Some of the rest of us on the board could learn a lot from Andrea,” Mr. Petrides said. “She was independent, she knew her constituency, she was marvelous to see. I was in awe.”
But all board members are not always happy with Ms. Schlesinger’s ideas. Ms. Schlesinger created a stir recently by challenging the rule that has excluded student members from participating in the board’s closed-door “executive session” meetings.
Batista Schlesinger’s Board of Education term was also the subject of a documentary, “Hear Us Now,” which is available for the modest sum of $195.
January 28, 2009
The city took on a massive school construction program in the 1930s with the help of the giant stimulus package called the New Deal. Between its inception in 1933 and when it was dismantled in 1941, the Public Works Administration added 2,500,000 seats in schools across the country. In fact, the PWA accounted for 70 percent of all school construction projects during that time.
At the end of 1934, the New York City Board of Education requested PWA funds to build 168 schools and additions in three years. The city didn’t end up pulling in $120 million from the PWA, but it did open or break ground on 104 school buildings between 1934 and 1939, providing seats for 180,000 children. (A similar number of seats were created in the earliest years of the 20th century.)
January 14, 2009
The man behind Bluejake, Jake Dobkin, took some pretty amazing photographs at an abandoned public school building in Harlem. He didn’t post the exact location, but I’m pretty sure it’s the old PS 186 building on 145th Street and Broadway. The school closed in the mid-1970s after parents protested unsafe conditions in the building and the city built a new school across the street. According to a 2007 New York Sun article, the city sold the building for $215,000 in 1986 (just over $400,000 today) to a Boys and Girls Club that promised to redevelop it but never did. Back in 2005, WNYC aired a story saying that Harlem teens were leading a campaign to draw attention to the school.
January 7, 2009
Chancellor Klein earns about six times the starting salary of a new New York City teacher. But back in 1898, the first superintendent of the city’s consolidated Board of Education, William H. Maxwell, was paid $8,000 — more than 13 times what female elementary school teachers earned. (Male teachers at the time had things a little easier: They were guaranteed a minimum of $720, or about 1/11th of Maxwell’s salary, compared to female teachers’ $600.)