Tuesday, April 29, 2008

City fails to reduce class size with $153 million; Comptroller to investigate

See the new report, produced by an independent consultant for the UFT, showing that based on DOE’s own data, the city has utterly failed to reduce class size with the $153 million in state funds targeted for this purpose -- and that in one third of schools receiving class size reduction funds, class sizes actually increased. Comptroller Thompson said he would audit the use of these funds to see how they were actually spent.

The city’s utter failure to reduce class size is a direct result of a lack of leadership, commitment and accountability on the part of the DOE.

At the current glacial rate of decline, it will be 10 to 30 years before the city reaches its state-mandated targets of 20 on average in grades K-3 and 23 in other grades. More findings from the report:

  • At 43 percent of all K-8 schools citywide, class sizes increased.
  • In large high schools with 1,500-plus students, there were four more students per class on average than in small schools with fewer than 1,500 students.
  • Little progress was made even in the city’s low-performing city elementary and middle schools (SINI/SRAP), which need smaller classes most desperately; 51 percent saw some decreases in class size but 42 percent saw larger classes.
  • In the city’s failing middle schools, class sizes remain larger than the citywide averages.
  • Among the 309 K-8 schools that were given class size funds, the more money that was allocated for this purpose, the more likely it was that class sizes increased rather than decreased.
  • Districts 10, 20, 24 and 25 had among the largest classes yet all were in the bottom half for reducing class size this year. Conversely, the top five districts for reducing class size (18, 6, 19, 5 and 17) all had smaller than average class sizes to begin with.

See the coverage in the Daily News: 153M can't uncram classes; NY Post : FAILING TO 'CUT' CLASS; NY Sun: Comptroller To Probe City's Class-Size Reduction Effort; and NY1; Advocates Argue Schools Are Not Reducing Class Sizes.

In the NY Times, the findings were buried in a longer piece about the fact that another $80 million has been wasted in the ATR system devised by Joel Klein – in which teachers who were “excessed” through no fault of their own because of school closings and the like would no longer be automatically reassigned to other schools but would be held in an “absent reserve” at full pay until they could find new jobs.

In the new “open market” system, principals have to pay out of their school budget for every teacher they hire, and the more experienced the teacher, the more he or she costs -- so there’s a built-in disincentive against doing so. In the past, principals were given budgets that automatically covered the cost of their staff, no matter what their experience level, but this is no longer the case.

I filed a Freedom of Information request for the data on the ATRs and as of October, there were 800 of these teachers. Many of them are highly skilled, and should instead have been assigned to classes at no cost to principals to reduce class size. The city, of course, would rather have them sit around doing nothing so they can eventually lay them off.

The teachers on absent reserve, along with another 800, sitting idle for years in the rubber rooms, many of them without ever being formally charged with misconduct, as well as the explosion of out of classroom positions such as “data coaches” and “senior achievement facilitators” have led to huge inefficiencies in the system, that Klein et al should be held accountable for.

The city’s response to the new findings? The DOE doesn’t deny that class sizes may have gone up in one third of schools receiving class size reduction funding -- but insist that “schoolwide averages mask targeted class size reductions in key courses like math.” So a school could lower class size in math, but raise class sizes in English, Social Studies and Science? What do you think: is this what our kids need? Is this what the State intended when they ordered NYC to reduce class size?


Anonymous said...
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NYC Educator said...

Sorry, but let's give credit where credit is due--the ATR system was signed off upon not only by Joel Klein, but also by the UFT, which decided to take whatever scraps PERB tossed it. And the 3rd reorg, the one that really hits ATR teachers hard, was specifically endorsed by UFT President Randi Weingarten.

The ATR problems were entirely predictable, and were widely predicted. Tweedies love punching bags that deflect their shortcomings, and Ms. Weingarten made it Christmas for them all year round. That's why she's so admired by Rod "The NEA is a terrorist organization" Paige.

I'm told her party boasts of that endorsement in its literature. They can boast of having supported and enabled mayoral control, too, because there's no question whatsoever that's what they did.

AprilH said...

Thanks for this post
I couldn't agree with you more that the ATRs should be allowed to teach as a way to reduce class sizes. In addition to the ATR, there are about 130 teachers from the most recent cohort of teaching fellows who don't have permanent teaching positions as well.