Friday, March 30, 2007

Anti-Klein Demonstrations in Tajikistan

Dushanbe, Tajikistan, March 30 (GBN News): Numerous protests erupted around the country of Tajikistan today over the report that outgoing NY City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein would shortly be assuming the presidency of that country. As reported yesterday by GBN News, the Tajik President, Emomali Rakhmon, will become Schools Chancellor in New York, while Mr. Klein takes over the position of Tajik strongman. While reaction in New York remained muted, the Tajik people were not hesitant to make their feelings known.

Opposition appeared to center around Mr. Klein’s reputation for secrecy and his penchant for imposing his will without reaching for input from the people he serves. While the outgoing President, Mr. Rakhmon, is known for capricious and even ruthless decrees, people here at least seem to feel that he is free of pretense.

One Tajik, who refused to be quoted by name out of fear of repercussions from Mr. Klein, told GBN News, “Rakhmon may be a ruthless dictator, but everyone knows it and he’s right up front with it. But that Klein: He goes all over the city promising to listen when he’s already made up his mind. Then there are those CEC’s. You think our elections are a farce! At least we all get to vote.”

Another citizen quoted Abraham Lincoln: “I should prefer to live somewhere where despotism can be taken pure, without the base alloy of hypocrisy”. This woman went on to say, “I thought we lived in such a place. But now, to have Klein coming in like this … I’ll take the Soviets back any day!”

Amid the fear and confusion, some Tajiks preferred to make the best of the situation. At the Education Ministry, people lined up around the block to apply for a rumored $150,000 a year position of “Chief Family Engagement Officer”. And the country’s game manufacturer was already negotiating with Parker Brothers to develop a new game based on Mr. Klein’s regime. Still, the wide scope and intensity of the protests suggest that most people here feel New York got the better end of this deal.

the Mayor's hypocrisy and contempt for NYC parents

Two articles in today’s NY Sun re class size. First, re the state budget deal:

... lawmakers and Mr. Spitzer softened a demand by the Assembly that New York City lower its class-size average to the state median level over a four-year period, or risk losing billions of dollars in new funding. Although the exact wording is still being worked out, sources said Mayor Bloomberg will not be strictly required to lower class size by that amount, but will be forced to demonstrate that he is decreasing the burden on teachers.”

According to Albany insiders, apparently this is wrong and the final deal on class size has not yet been struck. It is clear, however, there will be 50 more charter schools for NYC.

Also, during his press conference yesterday, Bloomberg called the effort to require smaller classes with the additional state aid “individual union agendas and some ideological agendas when it comes to education...That is phenomenally dangerous, and hopefully that will not happen."

Randi Weingarten had a great answer: "If believing that helping kids by getting them the best teachers possible and reducing class sizes is ideological, then call me an ideologue on behalf of children."

Yet the Mayor's continued insistence that this is only the union's agenda is a slap in the face to all NYC public school parents, who in every public meeting this year and in every resolution they pass, have repeatedly told Bloomberg and Klein that they believe their kids desperately need smaller classes to succeed. To argue that this is only a UFT issue, and then to try to demonize Randi shows the Mayor's utter contempt for our very existence.

Instead, it is the Mayor’s education agenda, based on more charter schools, privatization, and untested radical funding schemes, which is relentlessly ideological and phenomenally dangerous.

When it comes to his own daughters, who attended private school, of course there’s nothing dangerous about ensuring that they were provided with class sizes of 15 students or less.

If NYC parents ask that their children be provided with what public school students in the rest of the state already receive – classes of 20-22 on average, it’s somehow dangerous.

I guess it’s only ideological to demand smaller classes when it comes to every one else's children but your own.

Check back here for an update on whether the Mayor and his well-paid minions have won their battle to deny our children the smaller classes that they need and deserve – and that according to the Court of Appeals is their constitutional right.

All I heard up in Albany this week was reports of the disinformation campaign the city’s lobbyists were spreading far and wide, in their effort to do everything they could to derail the effort to do the right thing by our kids.

Diane Ravitch on Randi Weingarten's re-election

On March 29, Randi Weingarten was re-elected as president of the United Federation of Teachers by an astonishing landslide, capturing 87% of the teachers' votes.

There are many reasons for the size of her victory, but I would single out these in particular: The fact that the New York Post and the New York Daily News regularly tried to demonize Weingarten made her a hero to rank-and-file teachers. They knew she was taking a beating in the editorial columns because of her defense of the union. If the Post and News had hoped to strengthen her position as the spokesperson for teachers in the New York City public schools, then they could not have done a better job.

Credit must also go to Chancellor Joel Klein, who kept hammering away at the union long after Mayor Bloomberg signed a long-term contract with the UFT last fall. The more that Chancellor Klein and his spokespersons continued to talk about how they were going to diminish tenure or introduce merit pay or do other things unilaterally that would either be rejected by the union or required its cooperation, the more they turned Weingarten into a champion of teachers' rights.

It was ironic that the Department of Education put out a press release claiming that it was starting its campaign to limit the granting of tenure on the same day that Weingarten was winning her big victory. What the Department did, in fact, was just to send out an electronic notice to principals about which teachers were supposed to be certified as qualified for tenure--or not. This is hardly deserving of a press release. The administration has been in charge of tenure review and approval since the day it took charge in September 2002. Why has it taken nearly five years for them to figure this out? The announcement seems to be an inadvertent admission by the administration that it has been asleep at the wheel all these years, not paying attention to its fundamental responsibility for the awarding of tenure to qualified teachers.

Diane Ravitch

Community Education Council in District 1 Opposes Restructuring, Calls for Smaller Class Sizes

At a press conference yesterday, the Mayor lashed out at proponents of smaller class sizes for our overcrowded schools. Perhaps he should read the resolution passed by these parent leaders elected to represent the parent agenda in District 1 of Manhattan and recognized by the Department of Ed. This resolution follows similar ones by the Citywide Council of High Schools, Stuyvesant High School and other elected parent bodies.



WHEREAS, District 1 has requested information regarding school-specific impacts and District structure along with other questions for which information or answers were not provided;

WHEREAS, This plan is being implemented in a reckless and hasty manner;

WHEREAS, After having reviewed the Department of Education's Children First: and Fair Student Funding Plan;

WHEREAS, By financially penalizing schools for having experienced teachers over time, will likely lead to a less qualified teaching force in our schools, which already have nearly double the attrition rate of teachers more than anywhere else in the state;

WHEREAS, Reaffirming the fact that some of our schools and classrooms in District 1 and city-wide are severely overcrowded and our children's quality of education is suffering from this ongoing crisis;

WHEREAS, Many schools are being penalized for low levels of achievement as a result of this overcrowding, which is out of their control;

WHEREAS, Research and our own experience in District 1 strongly indicates that reduced class size makes a big difference in a child's education, and will lead to higher overall graduation rates;

WHEREAS, the best way to retain effective and experienced teachers is to improve classroom conditions by lowering class size;

WHEREAS, Smaller classes has been one of the top priorities of District 1 parents, school leaders, teachers, New York City Council Members, Assembly Members and many constituents for the last twenty years;

WHEREAS, The state's highest court found that classes in NYC schools were too large in all grades to provide our children with their constitutional right to an adequate education;

WHEREAS, Despite claims from the Department of Education, state data shows that there has been little or no progress in reducing class size since that decision was written, and in some key subjects, class sizes have actually risen;

WHEREAS, An audit released last March by the State Comptroller's Office found that with $89 million in state funds targeted to create 1,586 additional classes to reduce class size, the city had only created 20, contrary to the language and intent of the law;

WHEREAS, Despite billions of dollars in added funds, the Department of Education does not intend to reduce average class size in any grade higher than 3rd, and to use only 2% of the extra funds for smaller classes;

WHEREAS, This would leave our children still deprived of the attention they need in classes that are up to 60% larger than the rest of the state; doubtlessly contributing to an unconscionably high dropout rate in our high schools, and a 43.5% four-year graduation rate according to the State Education department;

WHEREAS, Despite claims to the contrary, there is no independent evidence that in the last round of reorganization, $200 million was ever redirected directly into the classroom;

WHEREAS, As a result of that reorganization, thousands of special education students were not evaluated in a timely fashion and many were denied their right to mandated services, in accordance with the Federal Law, and the Department of Education also cut spending on
special education by $445 million in one year;

WHEREAS, the following year, despite claims that more funding was being driven to the classroom, total dollars spent on general education declined by $144 million;

WHEREAS, according to the Educational Priorities Panel, a smaller percentage of the overall budget has gone to instruction each year;

WHEREAS, the head count and salaries of Tweed employees has grown substantially, and continues to grow, with a projected increase of 12% in spending for Tweed staff next year;

WHEREAS, In contrast, our schools are still under-funded, and under this new system, up to half of all schools may have their budgets further cut, despite $1.1 billion in planned additional education spending next year and more than $5 billion over the next four years;

WHEREAS, The implementation of a similar proposal, supposed to make funding fairer, and more flexible caused one of the largest educational crises in Great Britain's history, with the threat of massive teacher lay-offs and children actually sent home from school after only four days of instruction, until an emergency supplementary bill to provide additional funding for schools could be passed;

WHEREAS, Sir Michael Barber, the Chief Education Advisor at the time for Prime Minister Tony Blair, is now a top consultant at Tweed, and helped devise this new proposal;

WHEREAS, There is no evidence of any school system in the world that has adopted weighted funding like the proposed Fair Student Funding, and has made significant progress in student achievement;

WHEREAS, Though DOE claims that many principals in the empowerment zone last year used their additional funding and flexibility to hire extra teachers to reduce class size, principals reported that they were simply sent more students by Tweed as a result, erasing any
chance of actually providing them with smaller classes;

WHEREAS, The administration has admitted this may have occurred in many instances, and yet refuses to promise that it will not happen again;

WHEREAS, For many middle and high school teachers, given their huge class sizes and teaching loads, just spending 5 minutes out of class conferring with each student, and another five minutes correcting his or her weekly homework would take an additional 40 hours per week;

WHEREAS, The Department of Education has just contracted with IBM for $80 million to produce a new data management system whose function and purpose is supposedly to help teachers individualize instruction to meet the needs of each student, and yet with class sizes of 30 or more in many schools, and teaching loads of 150-180 students, it will continue to be impossible for teachers to do so;

WHEREAS, The new accountability/grading system is also potentially dangerous, and may lead principals to discharge, transfer, suspend, and otherwise try to rid their schools of low-achieving students any way they can, since their jobs will depend upon raising test scores sufficiently;

WHEREAS, The data reported by Department of Education regarding class size, graduation rates, and many other measures is often inaccurate and unreliable, so the new formula for assessing the progress of schools will be based on similarly erroneous metrics;

WHEREAS, In trying to impose a new system citywide without adequate consultation, careful thought, or testing, education officials have previously caused grave problems, most recently as in the bus route fiasco;

WHEREAS, For all the above reasons and more, in numerous public meetings, parents and teachers have urged the Department of Education to stop this new reorganization from going forward, because of the substantial risk that rather than improving our schools, it will lead
to further chaos, instability, and budget cuts, and may result in class sizes growing even larger at many schools;

RESOLVED, That the Community Education Council in District One rejects the Department of Education's Children First proposal and calls upon the Mayor and Chancellor to designate that an adequate amount of CFE funds, be utilized to reduce class size in all grades throughout all
New York City public schools, so that our children will finally receive their right to an adequate education and a better chance in getting a quality education, by giving them a more solid foundation towards their future.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Tajik President To Become New Schools Chancellor

March 29, 2007 (GBN News): Emomali Rakhmon, currently President of Tajikstan, will soon become the New York City Schools Chancellor, replacing Joel Klein. In a surprise move, Mayor Bloomberg made the announcement today at a City Hall news conference. The Mayor praised the accomplishments of Mr. Klein, saying that he had done a “heckuva job”, but that it was “time for a change”.

Mayor Bloomberg did not offer any specific reasons as to why he had become disillusioned with Mr. Klein. However, sources said that the Mayor had come to realize that test scores and graduation rates were not going up as fast as desired, and he attributed this to "widespread defiance" of the Chancellor's ban on cell phones.

According to these sources, Mayor Bloomberg had read an article in yesterday’s New York Times about Mr. Rakhmon and felt that not only was his cell phone policy stricter than Mr. Klein’s, but his track record as Tajik strongman showed that he was capable of enforcing it. Among what the Times called a “series of idiosyncratic decrees”, Mr. Rakhmon has banned cell phones and cars for university students and ordered families to drop the Slavic “ov” from the names of new babies. The Mayor was also reportedly impressed that, as the Times put it, the Tajik president “won a third seven year term in November in a presidential election widely dismissed as a farce”.

Mayor Bloomberg dismissed criticism that President Rakhmon is a ruthless, autocratic dictator. “That’s what dictatorial control is all about”, the Mayor said. “Dictatorial control means dictatorial control, thank you very much. He is my representative, and he is going to do things that I believe in”. The Mayor added that Mr. Rakhmon should have no problems serving under him, stating, “We think alike.”

In what was termed a “lateral move”, the outgoing schools Chancellor is slated to replace Mr. Rakhmon as President of Tajikstan.

City Council: Stop the Restructuring

The press conference held by members of the City Council calling for a halt to the latest restructuring was well attended. See coverage from NY1, the Post and Sun. The Mayor emerged from City Hall only to walk quickly pass the assembled parents and councilmembers, pretending not to notice. Corinna Lindenberg of the Chancellors Parent Advisory Council (CPAC) is quoted in the Post.

The latest reorganization will simultaneously change the funding mechanism while eliminating the regional structures that support schools today. The changes will be city-wide with no pilots or trials. Many councilmembers remarked on the recklessness of the changes, all made without input from the Council, which has oversight responsibility for the schools under the City Charter.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Students Attempt to Defy Random Scanning

Many parents who oppose Mayor Bloomberg's cell phone ban probably wonder what would happen if their kids tried to defy the NYPD's random scanning patrols. Karim Lopez is an after-school coordinator at a South Bronx high school. Here is an account of events at his school last week, including his attempt to bring in observers from the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU).

And from the NYCLU press release issued today:

Students from a South Bronx high school who refused to walk through metal detectors to enter their school building were intimidated and threatened into complying with the scanning procedures last Wednesday, March 21st.

When one student refused scanning he was taken to the side, surrounded by up to five NYPD School Safety Agents (SSAs), and threatened with not being able to join his classmates. Faced with this intimidation, the student finally went along with the procedures. Another pair of teenaged boys who refused scanning was brought into a side room and questioned, at times without any adult present, about who had put them up to it. They were threatened with a week’s suspension if they did not agree to the search. For fear of jeopardizing their college careers, the students finally gave in. They were allowed to go to their classes two hours after arriving at the school.

There will be press conference Thursday at 4:30 in front of Tweed Courthouse (DoE). Participating with the NYCLU will be Social Action Youth, Uptown Youth for Peace and Justice, Sistas and Brothas United, Friends of Brook Park, For A Better Bronx and Sistas on the Rise.

Robert Jackson: Put the Public Back In Public Education

Robert Jackson, Chairman of the City Council Education Committee is joining 27 other councilmembers in calling for a postponement of Mayor Bloomberg's latest schools restructuring. A press conference will be held today at noon on the steps of city hall. In the video below, see Chairman Jackson talking about class size, graduation rates and the restructuring at the February 28th rally at St. Vartan's Cathedral.

New Visions Caves

NYC Public School Parents orginally told the story of how New Visions, an organization seeking to become one of the DoE's Partnership Support Organizations (PSO), was using its control of Gates Foundation grants to force schools to select it as a PSO. Today, Erin Einhorn of the Daily News reports they have backed down on this controversial practice:

Late yesterday, New Visions director Robert Hughes issued a statement saying all schools that qualify for grants will be entitled to them regardless of whether they hire New Visions. He declined to elaborate on why he had changed his mind.

While this decision is a positive development, the episode shines a harsh spotlight on the rushed preparations to eliminate the DoE regional support structures.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"Visions of Cash"

Today, intrepid reporter Erin Einhorn of the Daily News followed the trail of the story that we first broke on our blog last Wednesday, "A Free Choice for Principals?" In the article entitled "Visions of Cash", she describes how the organization New Visions is distributing Gates Foundation grants to new schools but has "decided to attach strings to the cash: It wants a payoff of sorts."

Officials at New Visions
have told principals at the start-up schools that they will not get any funding unless they also sign New Visions up as their PSO, or Partnership Support Organization, for the next five years, which means paying them substantial funds out of their limited school budgets.

A principal was quoted that she feels

"I thought, 'Oh, my God, what a huge conflict of interest,'" the principal said. "We have to join their PSO and pay them for support in order to get this grant that we qualified for?"

The Gates foundation refused to comment; a DOE spokesperson said that "it's too early to comment on what rules PSOs will be required to follow or whether New Visions had broken them."

Just like the
Children's First game, or the new Survivor version, this reflects the administration's way of making up the rules up as they go along, to make sure that no one will know what they are until it's too late! Luckily, in this case, the DOE may not be the final arbiter -- there are laws about this sort of thing.

In related news, the LISs (or Learning instructional supervisors, whose positions were established just a few years ago and are now being eliminated) are running scared. They have been reportedly warned by DOE officials in charge of the internal Learning Support Organizations that they will get jobs only if they persuade enough principals that they still supervise to sign up -- and promise to pay cold hard cash -- to the LSO.

A message from an insider at

"LISs and others seeking to stay employed have allegedly been told that their invitation to join an LSO will be dependent upon how many schools they bring in with them. Principals are reaching out to colleagues and friends across district and borough lines to put together networks. Parents seem to be out of the loop. The Chancellor made it clear that the choice of support organization is the PRINCIPALS alone."

Is this the sort of school system we want for our kids?

Monday, March 26, 2007

DOE Reorganizes Yet Again

March 26, 2007 (GBN News): The NY City Department of Education announced today yet another in a series of reorganizations, a new plan called, “Every School For Itself”. The move came as a bit of a surprise to most parents and educators, given that the previous initiative, “Children First”, has not yet been completely implemented. In response to a question as to why the abrupt change, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein told GBN News that this shows just how much the schools have improved under his leadership and that of Mayor Bloomberg. “To be able to change before changing”, the Chancellor said, “is the ultimate measure of success.”

Details of the new plan have not yet been fully developed, but will involve fierce competition among city schools for scarce resources. The plan will take effect April 1 according to the DOE statement. By that date, principals were to have made certain choices for their schools, which will determine their success or failure. What their options will be has also not yet been decided.

In a related story, Parker Brothers stock fell 10 points today amid concern over the fate of its new games, “Children First: A Game of Irony”, and “NCLB: The Game”, given that they were based on the last reorganization. Company spokesperson Brad Milton vowed that the game maker would keep up with the rapid changes. A new game is already being developed, Mr. Milton stated, which will be called, ”Survivor: New York City Schools”. However, it was feared that cost overruns due to the frequent need for redevelopment would render the game unaffordable to all but the very wealthy.

(With thanks to Dorothy Giglio)

"Smaller Classes Will Pay Big Dividends" - Daily News Op Ed

Writing in today's Daily News, Leonie Haimson, who blogs here at NYC Public School Parents, makes the case for smaller classes and combats the disinformation on this topic routinely offered by the Administration. As you read, it's helpful to have some concrete examples of how the Mayor's policies deny our children smaller classes.

Here is the story of a successful school, PS132, in the burgeoning neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The school looked to the DoE to help find space for its growing student body but found little support. From the NY Metro:
According to parents and staffers, the Dept. of Education has suggested the school may eventually need to end third, fourth and fifth grade altogether or consolidate the classes, upping the number of students in a class from 25 to 33. Teachers, however, say that would strain their approach, in which students sit in small groups on rugs and get individual instruction.
It's not just individual schools getting the brush-off. Queens Assemblyman Ivan C. Lafayette issued a press release following his disappointing meeting with Schools Chancellor Joel Klein on crowded schools in his district. Lafayette criticized Klein's failure to utilize the generous school construction funding made available by the Legislature. We covered this story in a post last week.

A number of PTA and citywide elected parent organizations have placed the DoE's failure to address class size at the center of their opposition to the latest reorganization. Consider the resolution issued by the Citywide Council on High Schools, which echoes the language of Stuyvesant High School's resolution.

Finally, parents have complained loudly and in person about class size problems in their schools. See our post on Joel Klein's visit to Staten Island or his series of sessions across the city.

It is clear that the Mayor and Chancellor will not address overcrowding. But parents who want smaller classes for their children can take the opportunity to appeal directly to the Governor and State Legislature.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


Teachers are asking to be heard wearing buttons at school that read HAVE YOU ASKED A TEACHER TODAY? Maybe we as parents should also be wearing buttons that say something along the lines of DO YOU CARE WHAT WE WANT FOR OUR CHILDREN TODAY? Interesting read at the UFT site...

Saturday, March 24, 2007


March 24, 2007 (GBN News): Due to the enormous pre-sale interest in the upcoming Parker Brothers game, “Children First: A Game of Irony”, based on the NYC school system, the company announced today that it is releasing a national version of the game. It will be called simply, “NCLB: The Game”, although in deference to President Bush, some are already calling it, “Is Our Children Learning?”

The new version will seem familiar to those who know the original game. It will feature many of the same lovable characters: Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein appear like apparitions on the board as they tout their “successes” around the country, and entire school systems go bankrupt as they hire high priced consultants like Alvarez and Marsal.

Players are all wealthy non-educators. They land on squares representing U.S cities, where they endeavor to wrest the local school systems from their elected Boards. Players are then expected to seek assistance from private consulting companies such as Edison Schools and IBM, to whom they pay a large part of their budgets for no-bid contracts. The Rules set numerous “standards” regarding the performance of the cities’ schools. As they pass “Go”, players try to collect enough money to meet these mandates. However, they cannot collect unless their school districts already meet the standards. If they do not, they may then draw “Blame” cards, with which they attempt to place responsibility on anyone but themselves.

The players wheel and deal, and must incessantly reorganize their cities’ school systems to divert attention away from their failures. While the game is challenging, it goes on until all players end up with a final score that “meets rigorous standards”. Thus, the game could go on without end. On the other hand, none of the players actually loses. The only losers appear to be the children themselves.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Unkindest Cut of All

March 23, 2007 (GBN News): Flush with their success in saving $12,000,000 by cutting out numerous school bus routes in New York City, the corporate "turnaround" firm of Alvarez and Marsal has now aimed their sights at a new cost saving target: school lunches. Starting April 1, the traditional "lunch period" will be eliminated from all New York City schools, to be replaced by an as yet undisclosed academic activity period. In announcing the change, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein lauded the new plan, stating that not only would this move eliminate a cost-ineffective program that had never turned a profit, but would add time to the academic day and thus improve test scores.

Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, as well as numerous parent advocates immediately criticized the planned elimination of the lunch period. In response, Mayor Bloomberg, when reached for comment, held that "Schools are for learning, not for eating". He added that the elimination of lunch would also obviate the necessity of students carrying cell phones to school. "We all know that the only reason parents want their kids to have cell phones is to call and ask what they want for dinner. With no lunch period, they'll be so hungry they won't care what's for dinner."

In a related story, The White House announced today that in a last ditch effort to salvage Iraq, the Halliburton reconstruction contract would be taken over by Alvarez and Marsal. According to spokesman Tony Snow, "If we can't beat [the insurgents] militarily, we'll cut their transportation and starve them out."

A fax today could change your children's lives!

Right now, in the Legislature, there is a proposal to require that the city be required to produce a plan that would lead to smaller classes in all grades, using a portion of the extra funds our schools will receive as a result of the Court's decision in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case.

Huge pressure is being put on our lawmakers from the Mayor and DOE to eliminate all language requiring smaller classes in our schools.

These provisions would be in this year's state budget, due only a week away, on April 1.

The meeting between Queens legislators and Chancellor Klein referred to below occurred because Queens parents, as well as public school parents citywide, continue to be agonized about the huge class sizes their kids are crammed into, with no significant improvement over the last four years and no relief in sight.

Despite the fact that our schools are projected to receive more than $5 billion in additional funds over the next four years, this administration has no plan to significantly reduce class size in any grade -- even though smaller classes are one of the few educational reforms that have been proven to work. For years into the future, our classes would remain the largest in the state by far and among the largest in the nation.

Indeed, NY state's highest court found that our kids were being deprived their constitutional right to an adequate education because of their excessive class sizes.

All public school parents have to do our part to tell our legislators that is their responsibility to make sure our kids have a fair chance to learn by providing them with the smaller classes that students in the rest of the state -- as well as the children of the Mayor and the Chancellor -- already receive.

To send a free fax to the Governor, click here.

To send a free fax to your Assembly member, click here.

To send a free fax to your State Senator, click here.

If you can, personalize the message. Tell them how your child is suffering, and why it is their responsibility to make sure that our schools reduce class size soon!

Children's First Game Update

After a document purporting to be a "contract" for schools Chancellor Joel Klein was finally revealed by the DOE, the game "Children First: A Game of Irony" has been reorganized once again. A new card has been added, if a bit belatedly:

Congratulations! This is to confirm your "contract" as NYC Schools Chancellor, effective five years ago. Tell your driver to take you past "Go" five times and collect $250,000 each time, plus benefits.

Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job! (oops, that's the FEMA guy. Oh well, same difference.)

Klein Says "No" To Smaller Classes

Smaller classes is one of the few policies widely recognized to improve student performance. So when powerful Queens Assemblyman, Deputy Assembly Speaker Ivan C. Lafayette raised the issue of overcrowding in Queens classrooms with Chancellor Joel Klein, he hardly expected the door to be slammed in his face. But according to a press release issued by Lafayette's office, that's precisely what happened:

Despite all of the rhetoric coming from City Hall and the New York City Department of Education, Chancellor Joel Klein made it clear to Deputy Speaker Ivan C. Lafayette (D – Jackson Heights) that there were no plans to utilize any additional state funding to reduce class size. Chancellor Klein told this to a group of Queens’ legislators at a meeting on Friday, March 16th at Tweed Courthouse, which is now the City Department of Education building.

The reason he gave was that in order to reduce class size, he would have to build new schools, meaning he would then have to hire 500 additional teachers. Chancellor Klein also said that he did not believe any teachers would even want to be placed in these new schools because they would be built in the most overcrowded areas, thereby intimating they were minority areas.

Lafayette's bulletin goes on to criticize Klein for failing to avail himself of funding mechanisms made available by the legislature for schools construction:

In 2005, it was the Assembly that pushed for and achieved legislative changes to the building aid formula cost allowance calculation for New York City. This change in the building aid formula, if utilized by New York City properly, will result in 60% of the cost for New York City schools over the next 5 years if the city proceeds with the 13 billion dollar capital plan, which seemingly has been abandoned.

To date the city has not taken the time to even understand the state capital formula that pays for a majority of the costs to repair existing schools as well as to build new schools,” stated Lafayette.

Under the old formula, the city would receive at most 25% of capital money for new school construction projects. Under the new formula, New York City will receive up to 60% reimbursement from the State for these projects.

Clearly Klein and Bloomberg have no real interest in pursuing the policies proven to improve student performance. And Klein's rationale for opposing smaller classes grows more and more bizarre. At the same time, Klein inexplicably alienates the very legislators who will decide whether to renew mayoral control of the schools when the current experiment ends in 2009.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

For God's sake, Stop! Look! Listen! Por Dios, ¡Pare! ¡Mire! ¡Escuche! Mon Dieu, Arretez! Voyez! Ecoutez!

Luis O. Reyes, Coordinator of the Coalition for Educational Excellence for English Language Learners (CEEELL), attended a meeting with Chancellor Klein on March 14, 2007, set up by the New York Immigration Coalition's Education Task Force (of which Luis is a member). NYIC had sought the meeting to get the chancellor's response to NYIC's “Education Policy Brief: State Funding, Accountability and Successful Strategies for ELL Students”. The Policy Brief is a blueprint to accompany the promised City and State funding increases for English Language Learner (ELL) students.

According to Luis, “the blueprint calls for a 1.0 ELL weighting, but just as importantly, it advocates for tracking of any new ELL funding to ensure that ELL students, their teachers and their parents benefit fully through quality instruction and support services, with public accountability for inputs and outcomes”.

NYIC had sent the document to the Chancellor and his senior staff including Deputy Chancellor Andrés Alonso and Ms. Maria Santos, in charge of the Office of English Language Learners. But the meeting the Chancellor granted, was with Garth Harries, the Director of the Office of New Schools and Brian Ellner, Senior Counselor to the Chancellor. And as Luis relates in this perspective on the meeting, the Chancellor had an entirely different agenda:

Asked to share his response to NYIC's ELL Funding Accountability Plan and its Immigrant/ELL Success Agenda, Chancellor Klein chose to focus, instead, on two major issues: his proposed Weighted Funding Formula and his New Small High Schools Initiative. He indicated he was surprised that we were not more supportive of his weighted funding formula proposals, which would provide different levels of increased funding for ELLs at the three different levels in the public schools. And, he asserted that the small high schools were critical because they provided options to high needs students (immigrant, minorities); and touted the International HS's with their "high concentration of talent and skills" on behalf of ELLs.

Most of the time was spent on the Chancellor's two issues. On the first, we responded to the first by noting the great difference in scale between the Governor's ELL budget proposal (an additional .5 weighting that would generate an unprecedented $350 million per year in additional ELL-generated funding for New York City) and the City's proposal (a weighting that ranges between $180-$300 per ELL pupil at the elementary level to $360-600 at the HS level). On the second issue, the Chancellor indicated there was a dispute about whether ELLs were proportionally represented in the small high schools. He felt they were. We felt they were not.

The bottom line, in my opinion, came down to whether or not we, the ELL/immigrant advocates, were on board with the Chancellor's initiatives or part of the opposition (what he has categorized elsewhere as the "defenders of the status-quo"). There was no owning up by the Chancellor nor his senior aides to the unwritten 2-year ELL exemption policy that has allowed many new small HS's to not admit ELLs. Nor did he respond to the issue of dismantling bilingual HS programs and leaving Haitian, Asian and Latino ELLs without equivalent options in his new small schools.

While the Chancellor did say that he was "cognizant of all the different issues", neither he nor Harries and Ellner engaged the people at the meeting regarding our comprehensive agenda. Instead, we were pushed to be cheerleaders for the Chancellor's initiatives, aked, in effect, to choose sides. Nor did the Chancellor acknowledge that a two-year $45,000 grant for ELLs to 10 new small HS's was a pittance, if not insulting, in the face of the true need.

I have to say that this was one of the most unsatisfying meetings I have attended with Chancellor Klein or with any Chancellor (and I go back 25 years now!). The truth is, that not engaging ELL/immigrant advocates on our terms, and expecting us to be defenders of his initiatives and proposals, is shortsighted, even patronizing. While understandable, given all the negative reaction to his reorganization plan, he is wrong to set himself up as the one and only champion of change. I believe he believes he's on the side of the angels, fighting for equity and real change.

Nevertheless, his tin-ear response to our advocacy on behalf of ELL/immigrants, leads me to the brink of despair. We did not arrive here yesterday; not even 5 years ago, when he was selected Chancellor by the Mayor. Many of us have been battling the Latino and ELL dropout crisis for longer than we care to say. We have grown older and tired (I speak for myself!) from presenting Chancellors with educational reform agendas premised on the need to respect our languages and cultures while insisting on real reform, real resources, and real results.

If there is one thing I would like to get across to Chancellor Klein, it is that we are neither hired help, nor unpaid flaks, and, certainly, not died-in-the-wool defenders of the status-quo. Do not patronize us! Engage us as partners, not supplicants. If you do not, you too will fail. And, if you do, so shall we. The best chance we have to make a difference will have been squandered.

For God's sake, Stop! Look! Listen! Por Dios, ¡Pare! ¡Mire! ¡Escuche! Mon Dieu, Arretez! Voyez! Ecoutez!

Luis O. Reyes


Coalition for Educational Excellence for English Language Learners (CEEELL)

March 16, 2007

Diane Ravitch Responds to the NY Post

The New York Post ran an editorial yesterday (March 21) called "Potemkin Protesters," claiming that parent opposition to the city's latest reorganization plan has been manufactured by the UFT and "the far-left Working Families Party" so as to "derail school reform." The gist of the editorial is that real parents support Chancellor Klein's agenda. The protesters who showed up at Monday's hearings, says the editorial, were not real New York City parents.

Did the editorial writers of the New York Post read the latest Quinnipiac poll? Do they know that 58% of the voters in New York City want an end to mayoral control and a return to an independent Board of Education? Do they know that after 4 plus years of mayoral control, 2/3 of New Yorkers say they are dissatisfied with the public schools? Do they know that 45% of public school parents say that Mayor Bloomberg's takeover of the public schools has been a failure? Do they know that 52% of public school parents told the pollsters that they disapprove of the way Joel Klein is handling his job as chancellor?

Since the New York Post did not bother to report the poll to their readers, perhaps they don't know about it. And that's why their editorial writers think that anyone who questions the latest reorganization of the reorganization is a shill from New Jersey, not a real public school parent.

Diane Ravitch.

Update: See Diane's piece on the Huffington Post

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"Children First" Game Rule Clarification

The post below, "A Free Choice for Principals?" requires a rule clarification for the new Monopoly-like game, "Children First: A Game of Irony":

According to the rules, if someone lands on one of your schools, they pay you but you must then kick back 10% to the support organization you have chosen. If you have not chosen a support organization, you collect nothing and also lose 10% of your budget due to your "ineffective leadership".

However, remember the "Chancellor" can change the rules of the game at any time. The only check on his power to do this is that he must first consult with the "real stakeholders": Edison Schools, New Visions, and Alvarez and Marsal.

A free choice for principals?

Under the proposed reorganization, the Department of Education is asking principals to choose a support organization – either an external Partnership Support Organization, (PSO), an internal DoE-led Learning Support Organization (LSO), or if their school becomes an empowerment school, they can draw on that network for support.

This initiative is being described as freeing up principals to choose the best services and deals possible from a range of possible sources – which of course, will have to be paid for out of their limited school budgets.

Here is an excerpt from a letter to principals by Joel Klein explaining the rationale:

As you know, an important priority of our Children First school reforms is making sure that all of our principals and school communities are held accountable for meeting rigorous goals for our students and are empowered to make the critical decisions about how best to succeed. You and your school community, not someone who works outside of your school, should determine what you need to be successful and you should have the resources and authority to make it happen. …. When you choose a School Support Organization, you and your school community have the chance to select the team that is best suited to help you, your staff, and your students succeed.

Not until mid-April are principals supposed to receive ”detailed information” about the services being offered by each organization, and in April and May, there are supposed to be a “series of citywide and borough forums to “meet representatives of the School Support Organizations, learn more about the packages of services each is offering, and make informed decisions.”

In the letter, Klein adds that is “too early for you to come to a conclusion about the most appropriate support organization for your school. The School Support Organizations are still in development and will be described to you in detail in the coming months. Any 'decision' to affiliate before these options are fully developed and made known to you would be premature and would very likely short-change your school and your students.”

In fact, the DOE has not yet officially chosen among the organizations that have applied to become PSOs, though New Visions confidently announces on its website that it will be one of them.

Yet in many cases, this choice appears to be more illusory than real.

A recent email from a top staffer at New Visions says they will delay giving out grants to the small schools with the Gates Foundation funds, until and unless these schools choose them as their PSO.

Here is an excerpt: “Remember, by signing this grant agreement you also agree to become a member of the New Visions Partner Support Organization. This is a clear stipulation for receiving funding support.

And, in case that wasn’t clear enough:. “Only after each of you signs on to our NV PSO will we be able to issue a grant implementation letter.

Is this an inventive kickback scheme on the part of New Visions, to ensure that funds keep flowing to their organization, in this case in the form of taxpayer dollars? Clearly this will restrict the ability of principals at the small schools to freely choose which PSO might be best for their needs, given the fact that they rely on Gates-funded grants to keep these schools going.

Comments anyone? Do you think the practice of forcing schools to choose New Visions as their Partnership support organization is unethical, illegal, or just business as usual, in the ruthless world that Tweed is intent on establishing in our public school system?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Parent Opposition to Restructuring

Tuesday's Daily News editorial contains more of the same anti-teacher and anti-parent ranting we’ve come to expect from the News editors. As an alternative viewpoint, we thought parents should hear from an elected parent leader. Below we offer some insights from David Bloomfield, President of the Citywide Council on High Schools. From David’s testimony on the restructuring before the City Council:

Many, many questions exist regarding the recently-announced restructuring of our public schools. All we have are speeches and press releases from which to divine the new direction. And surely there is much to look forward to in a system that promises accountability, principal discretion, central support rather than micro-management, assurances of greater teacher quality promoted through rigorous tenure review, and funding equity that encourages enrollment of students who might otherwise be marginalized. I and many others might get behind these changes if they were more thoroughly explained, if weaknesses were discussed in good faith, and if we thought this restructuring was more than the reform-of-the-day. The caprice with which these changes seem to have been formulated and peremptorily announced leaves many stakeholders on the sidelines when our hearts and minds are needed to move the system forward.

More recently, David testified on the Empowerment Schools aspect of the restructuring:

In their zeal to wring quick rewards from worthwhile reforms, the Mayor and Chancellor do themselves, their initiatives, and students great harm. To prevent organized opposition, they shut out parents and the larger community. They deride cautionary advice from educators as incrementalism. They do everything in their power to evade checks and balances, whether it is sole source contracting or telling this very body that it has no power to legislate on education.

Parent leaders like David are deliberately ignored by the editorialists at the News and Post, whose agenda is merely to blame the teachers union for everything wrong with our schools. For David's full testimony see these links on restructuring and empowerment schools. The CCHS passed this resolution in opposition to the restructuring on March 14th.

Boss Tweed's revenge?

Another irony in the rich history of Boss Tweed is that he was eventually brought down by Samuel J. Tilden, a reform-minded chairman of the Democratic state committee, NY Governor and a Presidential candidate.

Samuel Tilden would have become President, having won the popular vote and more electoral votes as well, if not for a lot of political shenanigans.

And now, more than 100 years later, Tweed appears to be having his revenge, as top DoE officials are closing down the school named after him -- despite the protests of teachers, parents, students and elected leaders.

The determination of top officials at Tweed to eliminate Tilden HS flies in the face of a positive quality review of the school only a few months ago.

The review pointed out the how how the principal's "efforts and leadership have received enthusiastic support from students, teachers, parents and her administrative staff" and that English language learners achieved a passing rate on their Regents exams 25.3% above similar schools and 16.8% higher than schools across the City. Also notable is that the school is one of the few places that offers bilingual classes to Haitian students. An excerpt:

"From the principal, whose open-door policy welcomes students at all times, to teachers and security personnel, a culture that values knowing and respecting all students is immediately observable."

The small schools that will open up in its place are allowed to exclude all ELL and special education students for up to two years -- where will all these children go?

See also this NY Times column about the situation at Tilden HS, and the website of the school's defenders who are trying to save it from being eliminated.

An update from John Lawhead, Tilden HS teacher: On Tuesday (March 20) we had a free-lance writer who's on assignment from Voice. She attempted to interview the principal. Melody Meyers of the DOE communications office refused to give permission for the principal to talk.

Also check out John's testimony before the City Council here.

When Boss Tweed Controlled the Public Schools

A contribution from Diane Ravitch:

Once in a while, someone complains about the fact that the Department of Education has its headquarters in the Tweed Courthouse, next to City Hall. This is really unfair, as you will see. Most people make the connection between the Tweed Courthouse and Boss William M. Tweed, the corrupt head of Tammany Hall. What they don't realize is that Boss Tweed served as a member of the elected New York City Board of Education from 1855 to 1857.

As his power grew, he decided that the Board of Education was a rich source of patronage. In 1869, Boss Tweed persuaded the state legislature to dismiss the elected Board of Education and replace it with an interim board that was appointed by the Tammany Mayor. Friends of Tammany cried that the independent Board was extravagant, spendthrift, etc. One of the first acts of the Tammany-appointed Board of Education was to measure classrooms and figure out how to squeeze more children into the same space.

In 1871, with Boss Tweed riding high, he amended the City Charter to change the Board of Education into the Department of Public Instruction. The legislature supported the change, and for two years--until the Tweed Ring was exposed--the public schools were operated by the Department of Public Instruction. Except for The New York Times, the other newspapers in the city commended the change, saying that it would bring the schools into a closer relationship with municipal government and would streamline their administration.

Once the Tweed Ring scandal broke, the legislature abolished the Department of Public Instruction and restored an independent Board of Education.

Anyone who wants to read further about the adventures of the Tweed Ring will find this account in more detail in my book "The Great School Wars, 1805-1973," pp. 92-99.

Diane Ravitch

More Toxic Schools on the Way

In January, the Mayor secured City Council approval to build four schools on a brownfield site in Mott Haven. Today, Metro reporter Patrick Arden describes the City's latest plan to reclaim a toxic site for a school, this time in the former Queens County Morgue. Here's what people in the neighborhood had to say:

"The site is contaminated,” said Robert Trabold, president of the community group Hillcrest Citizens for Neighborhood Preservation. “Over the years chemicals were dumped on the soil, and it’s in the groundwater. We said, ‘Well, what will parents think?’”

Mr Trabold asks "What will parents think?" but we know that's never a concern with the Administration that will build twice as many new stadium seats as school seats. Queens has the most overcrowded crowded schools in the City. But that simply means Queens parents will face another of the Mayor's false choices: crowded schools or schools on toxic sites. Here's a link to the full article.

Last November, Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff's staff issued strenuous denials when the NY Times reported that reclamation of toxic sites for school construction was a major component of the Mayor's sustainability effort. This school-in-a-morgue news doesn't make those denials any more believable. If Mayor Bloomberg can move heaven and earth for big real estate developments, why is it so hard to build schools?

Monday, March 19, 2007

A (Slightly Belated) Holiday Fantasy

We’ve all been particularly frustrated by the DOE lately, but parents take heart: Fantasies do sometimes come true, and maybe the holidays will just be a bit late this year: (The following appeared on the NY Education News Listserv last December)


Twas the day after Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa/…,when all around Tweed
Not a creature was stirring, no one to take heed.
Empty stockings were hung by the chimney without care,
It was clear that Alvarez and Marsal had already been there.

The city schoolchildren were nestled all snug in their beds,
Hoping to go back to school without dread,
Of large classes, high stakes testing and the ban on cell phones,
Never had parents and children felt so alone.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
That even Bloomberg and Klein would know something's the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

Three white figures – a ghostly cast
The ghosts of Districts Present, Future and Past.
District past was St. Louis, the present New York,
The ghost of the future, from District Court.

Oh, Bloomberg and Klein, the fates for you,
Will be in the hands of this ghostly crew.
If you don't heed the wishes of parents and kids,
Alvarez and Marsal will go out for bids!

Bloomberg and Klein just sprinted away
Too scared to face us another day
Twas clear they were frightened to the core
We won't have them to kick around any more.

Is The Spitzer School Budget Class Warfare?

State Senator Joseph Bruno has called the state funding scheme for public schools " class warfare." He and the GOP Senate majority oppose the formula proposed for our public schools, not because it would take money from the richest school districts (no district would lose money) but because it would allocate money on the basis of need, not greed. As a result, were the Spitzer proposal adopted, NYC's share of the education budget would rise above the 39% which it has traditionally been. All this was explained in an unusually clear way by Michael Cooper in the NY Times a few days ago. Can you stand more? Tuesday's Newsday has the current state of play of the Spitzer/Bruno school budget proposals.

Mr. Cooper omitted from his, otherwise excellent, article an analysis of how the current State funding formula impacts New York City. NYC and every other school district with lower income children and higher needs, end up paying higher tax rates to support worse schools while rich, suburban districts pay lower rates to support better ones. Money actually flows out of NYC to subsidize those better schools in richer districts as Larry Littlefield has pointed out in a series of links posts on "Room 8."

The GOP solution is to preserve the lock-step funding formula by adding some $500 million more to the budget to aid wealthier school districts. It's important to them that the rich not lose their proportion of state subsidy -- regardless of their need. Can you stand to read more? Try the Citizens Budget Commission long, but thoughtful and sadly, not yet dated, 2004 report on school funding -- a pdf file.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Criminalizing the Classroom -- and NYC students

The New York Civil Liberties Union has released a scathing critique of school policing practices, based on over 1,000 interviews and surveys, describing how NYC students have become criminalized as a consequence of overly aggressive policing operations, which in many instances, have led to less safety in schools rather than more.

The documented behavior of the police and School Safety Agents includes derogatory, abusive comments and conduct; intrusive searches; inappropriate sexual attention; physical abuse; and arrests of students for minor violations, or for nothing at all.

Countless armed NYPD officers along with thousands of SSAs patrol our schools every day -- the total number of whom constitute the tenth largest police force in the country -- more than Washington DC, Detroit, Baltimore and many other large cities. San Antonio has only half as many police per resident as NYC schools have per student.

Almost 100,000 students everyday are forced to endure scanners, bag-searches, and pat downs, with no probable cause -- and by personnel who are often abusive and arbitrarily confiscate their possessions, and never return them.

NYC is alone among the largest districts in the country in the manner in which police and agents are assigned to schools who are neither selected, trained or under the authority of the educators in the building, and as a result, our students are suffering.

Here is one story:

Statement of Biko Edwards, Samuel J. Tilden High School

Biko EdwardsIn January of this year I was late to Chemistry Lab because I had been talking with my math teacher after math class. As I was rushing to class, Val Lewis, the Assistant Principal for Security, stopped me in the hallway. Because I was worried that I would be late to Chemistry Lab, which has strict attendance requirements, I asked Officer Lewis let me keep going to class, and I told him that I had been talking with my math teacher. Officer Lewis didn't listen to my explanation and instead told me to go to the "focus room," where we have detention.

I kept begging to go to Chemistry Lab, and Officer Lewis got angry and threatened to send me to the principal's office. Then he ordered a police officer stationed at the school, Officer Rivera, to arrest me. Officer Rivera grabbed me and slammed me against a brick door divider, which cut my face. I was bleeding. Officer Rivera then sprayed Mace in my eyes and face, then called for back-up on his radio and handcuffed me.

Eventually they took me to the hospital, where I spent about two hours handcuffed to a chair and received some treatment for my injuries. Then they took me to the local precinct and to central booking. I missed the rest of my classes that day. Overall I spent more than 28 hours in police custody. I was also suspended for four days.

If it can happen like this in school, imagine what police officers could do to you outside if something like this happened…. Why are they arresting school kids while they're in school? Tensions between students, teachers, principals, and school safety agents wouldn't be as bad if SSAs would do more listening to students and less pushing them around.

Biko Edwards is from Crown Heights and is a seventeen-year-old eleventh-grader at Samuel J. Tilden High School in Brooklyn.

An update: in a similar vein, see the new report from NESRI, the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative, "Deprived of Dignity: The Degrading Treatment and Abusive discipline in New York City And Los Angeles Public Schools."

New Game Creates Furor

March 18, 2007 (GBN News): The controversial decision by the DOE to sell off PS 109 may be the result of a misunderstanding relating to the soon to be released Parker Brothers game, “Children First: A Game of Irony”. PS 109, a large, attractive school building on East 99th St., could have been used to ease the severe overcrowding in nearby schools. However, the DOE plans to sell the building for the price of $1.

According to sources, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein recently obtained an advance copy of the Monopoly-like game based on the NYC school system, and has been playing it incessantly with aides. Apparently, the Chancellor’s decision to sell off a “school” he had landed on in the game caused an over-zealous assistant to take him at his word and draw up sale papers to sell a real school. The aide, trained to act on the Chancellor’s orders without questioning, presented the sale papers to Mr. Klein, who, thinking it was part of the game, signed them.

Most educational observers agreed that this is the only possible explanation for the sale of PS 109. To sell such an ideal school building, especially for the bizarre price of $1, amidst the overcrowding plaguing the school system, is something even the current schools Chancellor could not have possibly done unless he either misunderstood or was totally divorced from reality.

In a related story, Reality filed for divorce this morning from schools Chancellor Klein, claiming that for all practical purposes, they were already divorced.

Friday, March 16, 2007

High School Parents Reject DoE Restructuring Plan

The Citywide Council on High Schools (CCHS), the elected representatives of parents and the entity mandated to advise the Schools Chancellor, passed this resolution March 14th in opposition to the proposed restructuring:

WHEREAS, having considered and reviewed the Department of Education’s Children First restructuring and Fair Student Funding Plan;

In view of the fact that the proposal focuses on overall structure rather than proven initiatives that directly impact the classroom, such as smaller class size;

Given that many details of the plan are still being determined;

Bearing in mind that the pilot Empowerment Zone is less than a year old and there has been no evaluation of the impact of creating Empowerment Schools on students’ academic achievement or on the funds available in these schools for teachers and academic programs;

With concern that restructuring of the entire school system following so soon upon the restructuring of 2003 will create destabilization and hardship for parents and students trying to obtain services similar to the chaos experienced at that time;

Noting that weighted student funding, as constituted in this plan, will create competition for scarce resources in the schools such that schools will have an incentive to hire lower-paid, inexperienced teachers and that other implications of the plan for schools’ budgets are not clearly spelled out;

Noting with regret that there was no input from parents or teachers in the planning of this proposal;

Therefore, be it RESOLVED that the Citywide Council on High Schools rejects the DOE Children First Proposal and calls upon the Mayor and the Chancellor to postpone implementation of this plan and immediately call public hearings on the priorities for education spending and restructuring of the New York City Public Schools.

DOE Plans For Failure

I have not perhaps properly appreciated the past work of Betsy Gotbaum. As NYC Parks Commissioner and Public Advocate, she'd seemed silent and accepting of Mayoral leadership whether the Mayor was David Dinkins or Michael Bloomberg. But see Leonie H's critique of this post in the comments (and mine) below.

However, in recent months, Ms. Gotbaum has come to life in a wonderful way, especially on issues related to education (But, to be fair, on other issues as well). Ms. Gotbaum has played an active and constructive role in the recent debates on the deplorable performance of Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein on issues from seized cell phones, bad bus routes and erratic mismanagement.

Most recently, Ms. Gotbaum has put together a powerful, damning presentation which shows how Mr. Bloomberg's Capital Plan for building new schools and classrooms assumes that half of our ninth graders will not become 12th graders. It's an excellent presentation (pdf file) well worth a click and careful review.

Some may complain that Ms. Gotbaum's energy stems from ambition for higher office (She's term-limited out in 2009). If so, I applaud her ambition.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Julian Fantechi, Playgirl's man of the year!

Finally, a blog entry with a photo -- and what a photo.

Check out the NYC public school teacher who was chosen as Playgirl's Man of the Year. Julian Fantechi, occupational therapist at PS 99 in Kew Gardens, whose story is in today's Daily News.

"People say to me you're a role model. You work with kids. And yes I am a role model," Fantechi told WCBS news. "And like I said I didn't do anything wrong. I live a healthy lifestyle. What do you say to teachers who smoke in front of the school? I think that's worse of a role model than posing in Playgirl."

Not much more to say -- except that after a complaint to his office, Special Investigator Condon cleared him from any wrongdoing, as Fantechi models on his own time and has fulfilled all his legal obligations as a teacher. Let's see if Chris Cerf is as lucky!

You Ask, We Get the Answers: More Info on “Children First” Game

March 15, 2007 (GBN News): Since we broke the story, GBN News has been inundated with inquiries about the prospective new Parker Brothers game, “Children First: A Game of Irony”, based on the NY City school system. (See previous GBN News article, “A New Game in Town”, March 10). The game has been shrouded in more secrecy than a DOE planning meeting, but one of our intrepid reporters has somehow been able to get hold of cards and a board from a prototype of the game. The game apparently comes with a warning informing users that the entire game is subject to reorganization and may become obsolete shortly after you buy it. However, owners of the computer version can download updates for what is termed a “nominal cost overrun”.

Following are a few examples of cards and board spaces from the game (players must amass “test points” to win):

• The school you are principal of scores in the bottom 10% of your district. Lose 100 test points and your job

• The school you are principal of scores in the top 10% of the district. Gain 100 test points but lose your job on the next turn for failure to meet higher expectations

• You must choose a “Learning Support Organization”. Whichever one you choose, lose 250 test points

• Go To Rubber Room. Go directly to Rubber Room. If you pass Go collect $200 but lose an indefinite number of turns

• Your 5 year old is given a Metro Card instead of a school bus. Lose one turn while Child Protective Service investigates you for endangering your child

• Your school bus route is cancelled: You cannot get to school, lose 100 test points

• You score “below standards” on your standardized tests. Lose 100 test points and a turn while you repeat the grade. Teacher and principal lose 200 points each for “leaving you behind”

• Cell phone confiscated. You cannot contact your parents when your train breaks down. Lose two turns while you wander the streets trying to find your way home

• Your class has 40 students. Teacher confuses you with the student in the next seat. Lose 50 test points

ARIS computer is down. Each player loses a turn

• “Get Out of Jail Free”: If you are a Tweed administrator you also receive 500 bonus points and a job offer at a high priced consulting firm with a lucrative DOE no-bid contract

• “Take a ride on the Reading First Railroad”. Lose a turn, the train already left

• Free Parking: Pay $250 fine for failure to dig your car out of the ice by the school. You didn’t think parking would really be free, did you?

• “Just Visiting”: The Mayor skips this space. He doesn’t do visits; he’s in Florida

• Advance token to the nearest “failing school”. If unowned, you can buy it from the DOE and turn it into a charter school.

A version of the game will also be available based on the St. Louis school district. The St. Louis version is similar to the New York game but if you land on the space labeled “Alvarez and Marsal”, you go bankrupt and have to start all over again.

Poll Results: No Confidence in Klein, End Mayoral Control

The latest survey released by the highly respected Quinnipiac University Polling Institute had good news for Mayor Mike Bloomberg and bad news for Chancellor Joel Klein.

The poll showed that 73% of New York City voters approve of Mayor Bloomberg. And it also showed only 33% approve of Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, while 43% of voters disapprove of the job he is doing.

In a survey released on March 14, the Mayor's popularity was near his all-time high rating of 75% in January 2007. Voters overwhelmingly disapproved of the "Mayor's handling of the school bus schedule change" (by 62-12%). But apparently that fiasco was just a minor blip in the Mayor's continuing popularity among New York City voters.

In the survey released by Quinnipiac today, there was considerable information about how voters view the Mayor's and Chancellor Klein's stewardship of the public schools.

By a 58-31% margin, voters want the return of an independent board of education to control the schools. When voters were asked whether mayoral control was successful, 39% think it has. But 58% want to remove control from the mayor's hands and turn it back to an independent board of education.

Only 19% of voters citywide are satisfied with the public schools; 64% are dissatisfied, including 63% of public school parents and 75% of black voters.

Chancellor Klein gets a resounding vote of no-confidence in this survey. Only 33% of voters approve of the job he is doing. As noted above, 43% disapprove. His disapproval ratings are highest among black voters (50%), in the Bronx (50%), in Brooklyn (48%), and among women voters (48%). The strongest disapproval rating--52%--is registered by parents of public school students. Chancellor Klein's highest popularity was recorded in February 2003 at 46%; his lowest was recorded in March 2007 at 33%.

When voters are asked how they feel about Mayor Bloomberg's handling of the public schools, his ratings are higher than Chancellor Klein's. 50% approve (among public school parents, the number drops to 47%). The mayor gets the highest approval (55%) from Republicans, voters in Queens (55%), and men (56%). He gets the highest disapproval rating (50%) from public school parents.

On the subject of who should control the schools, only 31% say that it should be the mayor. 58% say that it should be an independent Board of Education. The groups that most strongly support an independent Board of Education are Blacks (66%), Democrats (64%), women (64%), voters in the Bronx (62%), and public school parents (61%).

When asked who should control individual public schools--the principal, the neighborhood school board, or officials from the city department of education--voters overwhelmingly rejected the NYC Department of Education. 38% preferred a local board; 33% say the principal; and only 18% choose the NYC Department of Education. While voting groups were divided in their choice between the principal and a local school board, there was resounding agreement that the one group that should NOT control individual schools is Department of Education officials.

Let's hope that Mayor Bloomberg reads the poll results. Nearly five years into mayoral control, the public is not satisfied with the public schools. They don't trust the Department of Education that he created. They want an independent Board of Education. Attention must be paid.

Diane Ravitch