Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Brooklyn Journalists Offer Smart Education Coverage
In an encouraging trend, two Brooklyn publications are covering public education with smart, well-researched articles that go well beyond what's provided by the mainstream media.
At the popular blog and newsletter Brooklyn Based, editor Nicole Davis has launched her education coverage with both an update on the PS9 situation and an in-depth primer on co-locations. Let's hope Davis continues to focus her considerable skills on education.
Writing the Report Card column at the Brooklyn Rail, Liza Featherstone has become a must-read for parents and policy-makers alike. See her articles on technology in education here and the surprisingly poor reviews DOE has given charters here.
For the latter article, Featherstone unearthed a DOE document that dropped some bombshells about Democracy Prep's review, including the finding that “few lessons required higher-order thinking skills or deep analysis of concepts.” When I asked Chancellor Walcott and Deputy Chancellor Sternberg at the PEP why we were clearing Board of Ed space to expand a school that can't teach critical thinking they were speechless. Eventually Sternberg responded with an offer to visit Democracy Prep.
Visit Brooklyn Rail and Brooklyn Based.
Two important education laws requiring more transparency from DOE passed today!
Good news; the DOE says they will comply with these two laws, according to this report in GothamSchools: Bills will hold DOE’s feet to fire on discharge, graduation rates
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Ellen McHugh on last night's meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy
It was 6 o'clock on a Tuesday and there were plenty of police to watch as the irregular crowed hustled into the auditorium at Prospect Heights High School. Here were the charter school folks in yellow hats, being herded over to the front left of the auditorium. Here, on the right side of the auditorium, were the card waving public school parents. Competing signs read "Stop Privatization" or "My Child has Rights Too". In the front, seated on the aisle was Hazel Dukes of the NAACP, ready for all comers, amid others wearing yellow coats and hats emblazoned with NAACP.
From my point of view, the PEP members weren't in any rush to get on the stage. In fact the meeting started late. It was closer to 6:20 when the panel began to sit. Hours later, I would understand their reluctance to begin the long night. No matter how well padded you are, and I am, it hurts to sit for that long. As the role call began, various members of the DOE staff took their seats and then the Chancellor descended from the stage to talk in the well of the auditorium. He had a little mike trouble but overcame that quickly. He gave his report with high lights about the new date for the start of the school year in September and a few remarks about the positive affects of seeing so many graduations and being so proud of the schools he is working for every day in this great honor of the Chancellor-ship.
A questioner on the PEP [Patrick Sullivan] asked about the recent CEC elections and inquired about new run offs. The Chancellor deferred to Ms Hall, who gave an answer..I think. It was hard to hear her over the snickers and snorts of audience and it had been announced that she did have laryngitis. But, it is my understanding that there will be run offs on Tuesday and Wednesday June 28 and 29 and results will be announced on or before Friday, July 1, the date the CECs officially take office.
On we went to the reading of the proposed co-locations. It seemed to be a chore for Best; he seemed bored and exasperated by the long and detailed list of schools. Then the floor was opened up to comments. Speakers were directed to one of two mikes on the floor, one with green tape and one with yellow tape around the stem, and called up by number. The first speaker began the evening by asking why these co-locations were being re-introduced when there had already been votes. Didn't that violate the law? Others got up and protested the co-locations, decrying the squeeze on the public schools. Parents and teachers and CEC members were passionate in their dismay at the number and type of co-locations. Schools were loosing libraries and play-yards. A few, such as the co-location of P 188 m and Girls Prep, were praised for the work put in by the entire community surrounding the school. It was, for a while, a crowd without controversy.
As the evening wore on, more and more people were asking the PEP to vote NO on these proposals. Students from one alternative school were eloquent in their requests to keep the school untouched by charter school controversy. A principal of another school asked why her school had been chosen when a year ago they were denied the right to expand because there was no room....and by the very same Office of Portfolio Development
A few folks from charters got up and talked about the NAACP again. Hazel tracked them down to the back of the auditorium. Eva, in the meantime, had disappeared from sight. Police came into the audience and threatened to remove one young man who had called out. All of sudden, the Chancellor called for a 5 minute break. Folks drifted around the auditorium and eventually out the doors. Many never came back and the crowd was noticeably thinner.
Having been at other co-location hearings, the night was beginning to seem odd to me. At 9:20 PM there were, as yet, no rush of pro-charter school parents or staff at the mikes. One CEC member had accused the UFT of manipulation in the lawsuit against charters. Another person had supported the proposals, but this was totally unlike any other charter/public school location hearing I had ever been to before. Then, at close to 9:30, three hours into the meeting, I realized what was happening. All of a sudden parents from the charter schools began to appear at the mikes. The strategy became oh so clear: talk last and leave the PEP with the sounds of support for co-locations ringing in their ears. But a few of the more resilient public school supporters also realized the strategy and began to speak out at the mikes.
Once the PEP members reappeared on the stage, more speakers were called to the mikes. Some speakers had their mikes cut off at two minutes, no matter where they were in their comments. There were a few tense moments when a parent from one of the charters starting yelling..."How dare you? How dare you?" She called out a few times but her objections were drowned in cat calls. Finally, after six hours the vote was called. But, wait, there were questions from the panel members. An exasperated sigh from the Chair of the meeting was heard by all.
The vote proceeded: 8 for, 4 against; 8 for, 2 against, 2 abstentions; 8 for, 4 against; 8 for, 2 against, 2 abstentions....monotony began to set in, some folks began to yell Puppet! Puppet!....and then Michael Best announced, in a tired but triumphant voice, the resolutions pass. It was anticlimactic.It was also late, my backside was sore, my legs were trembly, my head hurt. Had I developed diabetes while I was there?
Then I realized that they were about to discuss the budget and play the power point. I never left any place so fast!
Good night Prospect Heights. Good night police men. Good night PEP. Good night reporters. Good night Hazel. Good night guys and gals. I'm outta here. --- Ellen Mc Hugh, Citywide Council on Special Education
Saturday, June 25, 2011
A sample of 311 acknowledgements of parents' calls on the budget cuts
CALLER HAVE 2 CHILDREN IN CITY PUBLIC SCHOOL. CLASSES ARE WAY TOO BIG. CHILDREN ARE IN HIGH SCHOOL. THEY DON'T HAVE ENOUGH GOOD WORK TO DO BECAUSE THE TEACHER DOESN'T HAVE TIME TO GRADE ALL THE STUDENT'S WORK. CALLER STATES THAT LAYING OFF TEACHERS WOULD MAKE THINGS EVEN WORSE.
What the city budget deal means for our kids
In essence, the deal came about because the city finally acknowledged what the many have long warned: Bloomberg's failed policies and the worsening conditions in our schools have persuaded even more teachers to leave voluntarily than usual, which mitigated the need for layoffs.
Nearly half of the 6,100 teaching positions that the budget cuts would eliminate will still be lost -- an estimated 2,600 -- through attrition, and these teachers will not be replaced, despite rising enrollment. This will certainly lead to the fourth year in a row of increased class sizes in our schools and probably even sharper increases than have occurred in more than a decade.
Children in the early grades will experience the worst of it, as Kindergarten enrollment is rising especially fast. Grades K-3 will suffer the largest class sizes in twelve years--with an even larger class size equity gap between NYC children and those in the rest of the state.
All this, despite Bloomberg’s original campaign promise to reduce class sizes in grades K-3, a court decision in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case and state law passed in 2007 requiring that the city lower class size in all grades, several audits showing DOE misusing millions of dollars of state class size funds, and a growing body of research indicating that smaller classes lead to more learning, narrow the achievement gap, and are a significant determinant of success later in life.
Another problem with this deal is it sets the stage for yet another budget battle next year; in which the interests of children will again be pitted against those of powerful millionaires as well as Tweed bureaucrats with flawed priorities.
As parents, we need to redouble our efforts to pressure our political leaders, including the Governor, the Mayor and the Speaker of the City Council, to adequately fund our schools and provide NYC children with their right to smaller classes and an equitable chance to learn.
More on the budget deal at NYT, NY1, Daily News, GothamSchools and DNA info. The last includes a quote from me.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Ivan Smalley, third grader, and his letter to Mayor Bloomberg
Dear Mayor Bloomberg,
I don't think firing all the teachers will help save money. When you fire teachers it disapproves education and learning.
My mom told me that you are firing 5 teachers in my school and I hope that one of the teachers that is getting fired is not my next year teacher. What happened? I didn't get my neo 2 [classroom laptop] until the end of the school year. I hope you change your mind about firing the teachers.
Sincerely, Ivan Smalley
The last act of a potentially tragic drama: for your kids, make three calls today!
Here is the email I got after I called 311, acknowledging my complaint; feel free to post yours in the comments section, but make the call now!
From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, June 24, 2011 12:41 PM
Subject: City of New York Auto Acknowledgment Correspondence # 1-1-662625007
Dear LEONIE HIMSON:
Thank you for contacting the City of New York. Your message has been forwarded to the appropriate agency for review and handling.
For future reference, your service request number is 1-1-662625007.
The City of New York
This is an auto-generated system message. Please do not reply to this message. Messages received through this address are not processed. Thank you.
The information you have provided is as follows:
Form: Customer Comment
Name: LEONIE HIMSON
Street Address: 124 WAVERLY PLACE
City, State Zip: NEW YORK, NY 10011
CALLER SAYS IF THE MAYOR ILLIMINATES THE 6000 TEACHING POSITIONS SHE WILL HOLD HIM PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR HURTING OUR KIDS. HE WILL NEVER RECOVER HIS REPUTTATION
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Yesterday's court hearings in the school closure/co-location lawsuit
Chuck Moerdler, Stroock’s senior litigator, started by saying he had only three main points: One, that the case could be streamlined, because DOE agrees that they need approval from the State Education Department before they can close 12 out of the 19 schools; and yet they have not even filed any applications to do so, as the State Education Commissioner confirmed just that morning.
Second, last year, there was an signed agreement between the UFT and DOE to provide extra help to these schools, as part of settling the previous lawsuit, including an “education plan” that would provide them with more teachers in the ATR pool (absent teacher reserve) and support in myriad ways.
Whether or not that agreement was a binding contract, there was an “obligation of good faith” that DOE had utterly failed to live up to. At Beach Channel HS, for example, the DOE agreed to send 11 ATR teachers , but two never showed up, and another was “illegally” asked to teach special needs students. At Columbus HS, twenty five classes in the fall did not have a single teacher, and the single ATR teacher they sent was only qualified to teach typing and stenography (!) which the school does not offer. At Jamaica HS, where they were supposed to provide a Teacher Center, the principal received an email about this on June 10, only a few weeks ago, following nearly a full school year of non-action.
Third, as to the charter co-locations: DOE put boilerplate language into the Building Utilizations Plans, they were empty of content until the UFT/NAACP lawsuit was filed; they are still rewriting the BUPS and redoing all the hearings to try to repair the deficiencies, but they are still not adequate.
In any case, these BUPs are “ wholesale revisions,” and according to state law, any “significant” revision of a building plan requires a new six-month waiting period before the start of the next school year when the co-location can occur. It is now far too late in the year. Moerdler went through a litany of some of the unfair and inequitable co-locations that are still being contemplated, with children at the district schools losing equitable access to bathrooms, libraries, gyms, etc. He argued that the “city of NY which has betrayed” these schools by their failed promises, and that the NYC DOE has one goal only: “the destruction of free public education in New York City.”
The city’s attorney, Chlarens Orsland, was up next. He said that the DOE was “working with State Education Department” to ensure they would get approval to close these 12 schools and that they expected a decision by July 31. The other seven schools (ironically those not on the state’s failing list) can be closed without the state’s approval. He denied that there was any agreement with set timelines to provide extra support to these schools; and cited an affidavit from former Chancellor Joel Klein, who disputed the UFT’s interpretation of this agreement.
( Klein’s affidavit says that the “agreement was never intended to be a mechanism to limit or forestall any of the DOE’s determinations as to the necessity of closing or co-locating schools. Rather, the portion of the letter agreement providing for the Education Plan was a mechanism to ensure that the 19 schools, which had a history of poor performance and student outcomes, received additional resources to enrich the students’ educational experience.”)
As Orsland put it, the Chancellor wanted to make the educational plans for these schools as “robust as possible,” but there were no start dates or milestones attached, and thus the DOE is in “compliance.” Could the DOE have gone quicker? Perhaps; but their failure to do so should not stop them from closing these schools anyway. (Subsequently, Moerdler contradicted the attorney’s claim that there was no timetable, by reading aloud from the document, which said these steps would occur during the 2010-2011 school year.)
As to the co-location issue, the UFT is “misreading” the education law; the state legislature clearly wanted the DOE to be able to revise BUP’s and EIS’s in response to public input; and not to delay these co-locations from taking place.It simply “doesn’t make sense” to expect them to “wait another six months” if they rewrote the plans according to the comments they received at hearings. The Chancellor believes that charter school should be encouraged in any building that there is available space, and they have found appropriate buildings where they can be “accommodated.”
Last, Andrew Dunlap, from Kirkland & Ellis argued on behalf of the charter schools. Dunlap said that the new BUPs addressed the concerns cited in the original UFT complaint, but they had just received new affidavits citing problems with the new BUPs, and hadn’t had time to rebut them. The Judge gently rebuked him, pointing out that by continually revising these plans, it was the DOE’s fault for creating a “moving target,” and when do you stop the clock?
Dunlap soldiered on, saying that many of the allegations in the new affidavits were incorrect, and the fact that the DOE had dropped three charters from the lawsuit (the two Promise Academies and Girls Prep) showed that they had no case in these other instances as well. In any case, the lawsuit should have been filed earlier in February, which would have given them more time to revise the BUPs; now if the plaintiffs win their case, these charter schools won’t be able to open their doors in the fall, and this would risk their “survival.”
He complained that some of the schools had offered employment to teachers who are moving across the country to take these jobs. (What about our 4100 NYC teachers, who are threatened with losing their jobs?) Dunlap then went on about the unfortunate fate of the Kindergarten and 1st graders who have applied to attend the “Teaching Firms of America” charter in Bed Stuy, at PS/IS 308 where there is lots of room to accommodate them. (Apparently the parents at that school do not agree.)
Judge Feinman responded sternly that if these charter schools do not open, “the fault lies with the DOE or the city,” and it is not his job "to say that charters are good or bad, if co-locations are good or bad” but to make sure that the law is followed.
There was a short round of rebuttal from both sides, but that was basically it. Then a different attorney got up to argue against the Brandeis HS co-location; he seemed to want the judge to stop last night's Brandeis co-location hearings from occurring, and/or the PEP vote next week, which the judge refused to do. Feinman did order that any construction to accommodate the charter, Upper West Success, should not occur until July 1, by which time presumably the judge will decide the outcome of these cases.
For more newsclips on the hearings, see GothamSchools, Post, Times, NY1, WNYC.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Julie Cavanagh and Khem Irby on the new film, An Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman
Fact-checking Beth Fertig on the charter co-location issue
First of all, co-located charters like Harlem Success are getting more public funding per student than regular public schools; see the recent IBO study on this. This doesn’t even count the millions of dollars that they privately raise. It’s astonishing to me that charter advocates are still proclaiming this myth, no less reporters letting them repeat it without any rebuttal.
If you count the lower need level of the students enrolled in charters, as this report did, the disproportion in public funding is even greater, since charter schools have smaller proportions of ELL and poor students.
Secondly, if HSA charters feel squeezed, why not get their own space? With the millions Eva has raised, she could afford it. Finally, there are many claims about the larger class sizes at HSA charters. What’s rarely mentioned is that Eva ensures that there are at least two teachers in every classroom.
There's no doubt sharing isn't always easy, but charter parents accuse the teachers union and the NAACP of inflaming the situation. They note that the Success Academy renovated the playground for everyone at PS 149.
No one who has been paying attention to the fierce battles over co-locations in recent years would believe that the UFT or the NAACP could possible “inflame” the situation. All the lawsuit has done is to provide parents in the co-located schools a weapon to fight for the rights of their children not to be unfairly deprived of adequate space to learn. And the playground is a huge issue for the parents and kids at PS 149 – HSA came in, and without their consent, tore up the playground and installed an Astroturf soccer field which deprived the 149 kids of their baseball playing area. See Juan Gonzalez on this.
More broadly, why is it that this article and others like it do not mention the prospective loss of the PS 149 art room, the fact that there is no space for special needs students to get their services, that their counseling room has to share space with the PTA room separated only by a curtain, or that the D75 school is now forced to have gym on the auditorium stage?
If you have other observations about the effects of this or other co-locations, you can email Fertig at email@example.com
Monday, June 20, 2011
CityTime, heckuva job, Bloomie! Some quotes from Mayor Mike
For all the problems with Citytime, “ it will save us money once it gets going." (Dec 2010).
Friday, June 17, 2011
Twenty thousand parents beg Bloomberg: restore the cuts!
How can Bloomberg ignore our pleas to restore these devastating cuts to our schools? Does he really want to go down in history as the mayor who put kids last? He claims to care about parent choice when it comes to charters, but then ignores the DOE's own surveys that show that the top priority of parents is for smaller classes, and instead threatens to impose the largest increases in class size in over thirty years.
Is he acting in the interest of 1.1 million school children; or does he care more about protecting the wallets of NYC's estimated 700,000 millionaires? Watch the NY1 report!
Thursday, June 16, 2011
NYC kids on why we love our teachers!
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Yelena Siwinski confronts Walcott on class size
What a travesty! I include the real caps below, contrasted with the CFE goals in the city's class size reduction plan.
I walked into a moderately attended CEC 22 meeting where Walcott spoke for a few minutes with the usual rhetoric which I couldn't even write down because it was so meaningless. Then came time for questions and answers. The first woman asked about charter schools and how could we give public schools equal money. Walcott said that he was trying to calm down the divisiveness between charter schools and public schools and that he believed parents should have a choice and charter could be more flexible since many of them weren't unionized, etc. etc. He said that the UFT law suit just brought all that up again.
Walcott talks bupkis
He also mentioned that charters shared the building equitably and that they used the BUP (Building Utilization Plan) to decide where the charters could go. There was another person before me and then it was my turn. First I mentioned that I had been to the CDEC meeting last week and had shown a portion of the film "The Inconvenient..." and that I would be back in September to show the film in its entirety.
I said that it was produced by the Grassroots Education Movement and that it would be good for the chancellor to view it because he wasn't telling all the facts such as the BUP doesn't take into account all the services the children are mandated and that kids were receiving them in hallways, closets, and stairwells. Also equity might seem like 50-50 between the charter and the public school but there might be 300 kids in the charter and 600 kids in the public school. I told the audience to find out the facts that went beyond the smooth rhetoric they were being told.
Then I mentioned that I had 2 college educated daughters and that the chancellor had mentioned that we need to get our kids "college ready". I said that one of the main questions that are asked when looking at college was how big the class sizes were. At a good college it is usually 1:16 or 1:18 but definitely less than 1:20. By now I was really addressing the audience. Then I stressed that this was for an 18, 19 20 year old and that we have 5 year olds with bigger class sizes! Then I mentioned that Walcott was recently asked the class size limits and that he didn't know them. I asked if he could tell them to us now. He proceeded to harp on when he had been asked the question. I actually forgot but knew that I had read it recently and that the point was what was his answer today. He then struggled and said that the class size limit for kindergarten was 23. I told him he was wrong and sat down.
Another super-mugging? NY State Education Department to award $27 no-bid contract to Joel Klein and Rupert Murdoch
Sign the petition in support of the NAACP, and MSBNC video
Then sign the petition supporting the NAACP and their insistence that all children be provided with an equitable chance to learn. The way the co-locations have been handled in NYC is shocking; with charter kids receiving preferential treatment at every turn.
In general, the co-locations have been a disaster, given our chronic overcrowding, with class sizes rising and children losing access to art rooms, libraries and gyms. Our special needs students have been treated the worst, often pushed into hallways and closets. Go sign the petition now!
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
We're not giving up on our kids' future!
Sponsored by Staten Islanders for Real Budget Solutions & Against Budget Cuts, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
The mayor's unconscionable cuts and where more than $1 billion could be found
Check our NYC Council testimony about the unconscionable budget cuts that the mayor has proposed that would led to the elimination of 6,000 teaching positions and the sharpest increases in class size in over thirty years.
Also see our proposals below where more than $1 billion in funds could be found to prevent these devastating cuts, assembled from suggestions from the Independent Budget Office, the City Council, parents and other advocacy groups, as well as my own. Here they are as a handy pdf.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Comments urging the state to reject the application of Flex charter school
UPDATE: See this article at DNA info about growing opposition from parents and elected officials to Flex charter school, and how the NY State Education Dept,. responsible for deciding whether to approve it, did not even show up at the mandated hearings.
- Flex intends to contract with K12 Inc. for curriculum, instruction, assessments and other services. K12 Inc. is the largest for-profit online charter chain in the nation, and has a poor record of results, as evidenced in a national study from respected researchers, and also in a major expose published in Business Week last week. In general, online learning for grades K-12 has little or no backing in the research.
- It is clear from their disclosure forms that prospective Flex board members were handpicked by K12 Inc. executives, a practice frowned upon by experts who promote greater charter accountability, including Greg Richmond, head of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.
- There are additional potential conflicts of interest in this application that cannot be ignored. The prospective board members claim that the school will have no contractual relationship with K12 Inc., apparently to evade the new state law that bans new charters managed by for-profit operations. At the same time, they write in their disclosure forms that for this reason, they do not have to reveal any financial interest in K12 Inc. or personal or financial relationship with the company and its employees.
- Unresolved problems related to the digital divide are also evident in the charter school’s application, and students who attend Flex will be severely disadvantaged if they have no access to the internet or computers to access their homework or lessons from home.
- The Flex application shows little or no outreach to the community and no evidence of community support, which is required by the new state law.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
NAACP and their supporters fight back for all our kids!
Shame on Eva Moskowitz, who closed her charter chain of Success Academy charters for the morning, forcing parents to attend the anti-NAACP rally along with their children. This fact was never mentioned in the mainstream media, including in the NY Times . Meanwhile, privately-run charter schools also get more public funding from the city, including free space and services, from the city than our public schools.
The NAACP Strikes Back from Grassroots Education Movement on Vimeo.
Obama Reelection Effort & Duncan Education Agenda Will Clash in Charlotte
Today's NY Times covers the rebuilding of Obama's election campaign machine. The campaign has its sights set on important swing states like North Carolina:
The campaign sees possibilities for gains, for example, around Charlotte, N.C., which is where Mr. Obama chose to hold his party’s nominating convention next year, a decision that aides said signaled how serious they are about competing in North Carolina.The problem Obama faces is that Charlotte is already a battleground for education policy, with local grassroots group, and Parents Across America affiliate, Mecklenburg ACTS (Area Coming Together for Schools) fighting Arne Duncan-style "reforms" including increased high stakes testing and pay for performance.
In the Charlotte Observer, public school parents Pamela Grundy and Carol Sawyer blast wasteful and destructive high stakes tests:
Duncan drew new criticism this week when he lashed out at Diane Ravitch in a shameless attack piece from Mike Bloomberg's new media operation. The nomination convention should prove only to highlight how the policies of the education secretary, and the man himself, have become anathema to public school parents and teachers.
The corporate and government leaders who are driving the national movement to transform American education have decided - despite a lack of supporting evidence - that one way to "fix" our education system is to upend the way that teachers are promoted and paid, with a heavy emphasis on how students perform on standardized tests.
Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools is at the forefront of this effort, working in conjunction with the Gates Foundation and the federal government to develop a systemwide pay-for-performance plan. CMS has already spent millions on this system, including almost $2 million to design more than 50 new standardized tests. In next year's budget, which calls for laying off almost 600 teachers, CMS has set aside $2.9 million for pay for performance - money that would save 50 of those jobs.