Monday, October 31, 2011

Hearings on the city's technology contracts; with hundreds of millions lost through waste and fraud

Today the NYC Council Contracts and Technology Committees held hearings about a new bill,  Int. 521A, that would require the city to report any contract whose cost has overrun by more than $500,000 or ten percent.

Of course, the city, in the person of Deputy Mayor Cass Holloway opposed the legislation, and claimed that it was unnecessary. [UPDATE: according to today's NY Times, the city doesn't oppose the goal of the legislation, but the amount of overruns that would trigger the report.]  Numerous city contracts, particularly those involving technology projects, that have run over into the billions of dollars. (See this excellent summary from Gotham Gazette.) Holloway also claimed to know nothing about the controversial $120 million Verizon contract, and why it was renewed this summer, despite the company's complicity in fraud against the DOE.

Henry Garrido of DC 37 gave powerful testimony as to how the city now had at least 521 contracts with consulting companies; fifty more than when (former) Deputy Mayor Goldsmith said they would bring more of this work in-house, after the huge CityTime scandal involving $80 million of stolen funds.  Garrido also said that he had a list of 1300 individual consultants who make an average of $400,000 per year off the city.  He revealed that the city had a new contract with a company called ChaCha Communications, for $28,000 per month for text messaging through 311; last month the city sent approximately 410 messages on the system, at $61 each.  But his most incisive point was how the city had abandoned a project that started in 2004 to train  city employees in technology skills, and instead is spending millions in federal grants training consultants instead.

Chris Shelton, Vice President of CWA District 1 testified on the $120 million Verizon contract; approved by the PEP in August even though Verizon had been found to have participated in fraud against the DOE, and had refused to pay back any of the money it took.  A few academic experts (I didn't catch their names) spoke about how to minimize waste and fraud by, among other things, avoiding huge projects and breaking them into smaller pieces as much as possible.

This is exactly the opposite of what the city did with the fraudulent Future Technology Associates contract, as Patrick Sullivan pointed out in 2009, and instead DOE officials appear to have purposely bundled lots of separate technology projects into one, facilitating the company's overcharging the city by millions of dollars, as later confirmed by Special Investigator Condon.
For more on this, and how the 2009 state legislation that revised school governance and that was supposed to bring more transparency and accountability to the DOE contracting process has completely failed, see my testimony below. It ends this way:
Mayoral control was widely justified as a result of a handful of Community School Boards that had embezzled funds or had hired relatives or friends to positions in schools.  Never mind that years before the adoption of mayoral control in 2002, these boards had already lost any power to hire staff or spend funds.  In any case, the profligacy, waste and fraud that has occurred in recent years under mayoral control have now far surpassed any two-bit corruption in past eras of NYC history.

Chancellors Klein, Walcott and other DOE officials have failed in their fiduciary responsibilities to taxpayers and our children; as have most of the members of the PEP.  But in a system of mayoral control, Mayor Bloomberg is the one individual ultimately responsible, by hiring incompetent and heedless administrators, and failing to ensure that there are robust mechanisms in place to prevent the theft of millions of dollars from our children’s schools, and from their futures.
Testimony on Contracts 10.31.11

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Free film Screening and discussion of Success Academy charter co-locations

Eva Moskowitz wants to bring her Success Charter Schools to District 15.  What does that mean for our neighborhood public schools?
What happens when charter schools are given space in
public school buildings?  Why is the DOE supporting charter schools and cutting the budgets for public schools?
Learn more by joining us for a screening of “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman”, produced by The Grassroots Education Movement.   Followed by a panel discussion featuring:  
  • Becky Alford, NEST program teacher & parent, PS 32; 
  •  Ina Pannell-St. Surin, MS 447 PTA Co-Vice President; 
  •  Khem Irby, 1st Vice President, District 13 CEC & co-founder of The MANY;  
  •  Leonie Haimson, parent & director of Class Size Matters;   
  •  Brian Jones, teacher at PS 261 & member of GEM

WHEN: Wednesday, Nov 9, 2011, 6:00 PM
WHERE: PS 261 Auditorium, 314 Pacific Street (between Smith & Hoyt), Brooklyn, NY

Here is a flyer you can post in your school. Sponsored by PS 261 Unite; contact for more information

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Last night at the Panel for Educational Policy, we occupied the DOE!

Last night was inspiring as, for once, the 99% had their say at a Panel for Educational Policy meeting. 

The meeting, supposed to be a presentation of the Common Core standards, was very quickly taken over by teachers, parents, students and education activists, some of them from Occupy Wall Street.  We used the "people's mic" to drown out the speeches of Chancellor Walcott and David Coleman, who soon exited the stage to give their lessons upstairs.

Most of us remained in the auditorium for another hour and a half, talking about the rising class sizes, the overemphasis on high stakes testing, the way real learning is being squeezed out of the classroom because of the repeated budget cuts and damaging priorities of the  1% , including Bloomberg, Bill Gates and the Walton family, who are setting policies for our schools against the priorities of the 99% and the needs of our kids.

And the rest of the country and the world were able to watch, via Live Stream Occupy Wall St.  See below.

Join us at the next Occupy DOE event: a People’s General Assembly on Public Education on Monday, Nov. 7th at Tweed at 5 PM, when we will create a People's Agenda for our Schools!

And please leave a comment about some of your favorite speakers.  I loved the little girl at about 16 minutes in.

occupynyc on Broadcast Live Free

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lynne Winderbaum on the destruction of large Bronx High Schools

Five major high schools in the Bronx received "Fs" today from the DOE; including the last remaining large schools in the borough.  Here is Glenn Tepper's story of the decline of Jane Addams Vocational High School, which was once the second highest performing school in the borough, but which was brought down by the Bloomberg administration's preferential treatment of the new small schools. Below is the account of the foreordained demise of DeWitt Clinton High School, another once excellent school, in the words of Lynne Winderbaum,  former UFT Bronx district leader:

I know you need no reminder of how the relentless march of high school closings in the Bronx have created higher concentrations of need in the remaining schools, setting them up for certain failure under the DOE's ice-cold matrix.
As the sadness of the phasing out of perfect examples of this systemic destruction such as Jamaica and Columbus begins to fade, now we see DeWitt Clinton on the list. Clinton is the last remaining intact comprehensive high school in the Bronx. It has been the last school to serve large populations of categories underserved in the new small high schools such as special education and ELL students. 
The demoralization that comes with this letter grade should be seen by a hard working, dedicated, and competent staff through the lens of a system that is determined to close all large high schools by giving them a disproportionately high-needs proportion of students, comparing them to arbitrary and unfair peer groups, declaring them failures, and creating a formula to justify their decision. 
They should hold their heads high (at least until they are thrown into the ATR pool) for the outcome was foreordained. Clinton has been severely overcrowded by the city's policies and suffered the largest budget cuts in the Bronx. They struggled valiantly to deal with all the city could throw at them while still doing their best to offer quality education and programs.
Clinton has worked diligently to provide services for their students and opportunities that small schools cannot. The principal, Geraldine Ambrosio, is one of the best in the borough. She is experienced, caring, knowledgeable, and guided by a drive to do what is best for her students and her school.  She has fought all the adversity that comes with being the last undivided comprehensive high school but the effort seems to be lost in what has become an inevitability--that all large high schools are in jeopardy. Ambrosio strove to keep a veteran faculty and hired excellent ATR's as the surrounding schools shed teachers. That made her a dinosaur. She will go, Clinton will close, and the story of "What will happen to the children this school served that will not receive the same services in the small schools?" will be written yet again. When they closed Monroe, Morris, Taft, Roosevelt, Evander, Stevenson, Walton, Columbus, and Kennedy, the displaced high needs students could find a home at Clinton. No more.
I know the time will come when the city will regret this--maybe after all of our students are in schools run by corporate board rooms. But right now the march to close all large high schools and ignore the voice of the communities they serve (just watch the faces of the PEP members as they vote on this issue) seems inexorable.
---Lynne Winderbaum

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Video: Yong Zhao on how high-stakes testing is damaging our schools

Check out Yong Zhao's terrific (and funny!) presentation on October 12, along with the question and answer session, co-sponsored by Class Size Matters, GEM, Time out From Testing, and Parents Across America.

Prof. Zhao is the nation's most eloquent critic of high-stakes testing and discusses how the current education reform agenda is taking our nation's schools in entirely wrong direction.

Dr. Yong Zhao speaks at "It's Time to Change the Stakes With Testing" from Grassroots Education Movement on Vimeo.

Dr. Yong Zhao QandA Oct. 12, 2011 from Grassroots Education Movement on Vimeo.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Kick-off of "Parents as Partners Week": Who is David Coleman and why should we care?

DOE officials are working hard, trying to persuade us that they now have a different attitude towards parents.  Next week is called “Parents as Partners” week, starting off with a meeting on Tuesday at Seward Park High School.  Though today’s DOE press release calls this “a conversation” with the Chancellor, the prescribed topic is the new Common Core standards, and parents will only be “allowed” to submit their questions on index cards.  Clearly, this will be no “conversation”.
In reality, the Common Core standards are being imposed from above, pushed by the Gates Foundation and others, with no proof of efficacy and no input from parents.
David Coleman, who is going to give a presentation on the CC, gave one last April to “educational leaders” hosted by SED; here are  videos and transcripts .  As reported in EdWeek: 
Working under a contract with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, an avid backer of the standards, David Coleman and Susan Pimentel wrote a pair of documents highlighting the key ideas of the standards and describing the qualities of instructional materials they consider a faithful reflection of them.
As of  August 2011, 44 states and the District of Columbus adopted the Common Core, in exchange for the promise of being considered for Duncan’s Race to the Top funds – though by law, the federal government is supposed to stay out of the business of prescribing curriculum.
While Coleman is credited as one of the primary authors of the ELA standards for grades K-8, he apparently has no experience of teaching students either in elementary or middle schools, though he does brag that he once attended PS 41 in Manhattan.  Here is his bio from the SED website:
Mr. Coleman's most recent initiative is Student Achievement Partners, LLC, an organization which assembles leading thinkers and researchers to design actions to substantially improve student achievement. In this process, rigorous policy analysis, research, and design are integrated to focus on the most significant outcomes for students. Student Achievement Partners serves foundations and school districts. Previously, Mr. Coleman founded the Grow Network acquired by McGrawHill in 2005 which has become the nation’s leader in assessment reporting and customized instructional materials. Mr. Coleman was a lecturer at the University of London before going to work in the pro bono education area of McKinsey & Company. He is a Rhodes Scholar and a graduate of Yale University, Oxford University and Cambridge University.
Coleman is also listed as on the board of The Equity Project, Zeke Vanderhoek’s hugely hyped but underperforming charter school; Vanderhoek bragged on 60 Minutes about firing teachers that the year before, he had gone to great lengths to recruit.  His mother is Elizabeth Coleman, president of Bennington College, who eliminated tenure in 1994 and fired one third of the faculty.
The details of the Common Core are beyond my level of expertise, but one fact stands out:  Coleman has rigidly prescribed that in grades K-5, at least half of the material read by students must be non-fiction, or what he calls “informational text”. 
 As pointed out by Susan Ohanian, he also disparaged the writing of personal narratives in his speech hosted by SED:
Do people know the two most popular forms of writing in the American high school today? …It is either the exposition of a personal opinion or it is the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with those two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people really don't give a sheet  about what you feel or what you think.” 
 Only the video shows that he pronounced the word “sheet” differently from the way SED chose to spell it.
Similarly, one could say the same about the attitude of DOE and SED towards parents.  Like so much else of they do, they want to inculcate us with the value of the CC, though they never bothered to ask us what we thought of it before adopting it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Parents shut out once again: Contracts for Excellence process in violation of state law

Check out this letter sent Wednesday to NY State Education Commissioner King, from the UFT, Class Size Matters,  NAACP & AQE, pointing out the numerous legal flaws as regards this year’s Contracts for Excellence (C4E) process.
The state and the city have together shut out parents and the public from any meaningful involvement in the formulation and implementation of the city’s overall C4E and class size reduction plan, contrary to law.  As the letter points out, the following are among the violations of law that have occurred this year:
·         The state asked to pre-approve the city’s proposed plan, before the public had a chance to see it or comment;
·         The city has failed to schedule borough hearings;
·         The entire comment, public review and approval is happening too late in the year, when most of the funding has already been allocated; making a mockery of the process set out in the law, that was supposed to take place last spring.
In addition, the city’s C4E proposed plan is supposed to be made publicly available well in advance of any hearings, and the DOE is supposed to do  outreach, to ensure that parents are able to be fully informed before commenting. 
And yet to my knowledge, the city’s C4E  plan has still not been made public and little or no parent outreach has been done, with CEC presentations due to start next week, aside from one page on the DOE website. 
We have prepared a power point and a sample resolution for Community Education Councils or PTAs to consider passing, about the city’s failure to reduce class size and the numerous flaws in the process this year. Please also let me know if you would be interested in having someone from Class Size Matters brief your CEC personally about the current situation with class size and the city’s violations of the C4E law.
Even worse, this year was  supposed to be the final year of the city’s five year class size reduction plan, as mandated by the state in 2007, and yet class sizes will be larger in all grades than when the law was first approved.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Which charters are flunking according to DOE's own metrics?

About two weeks ago, DOE officials released a list of twenty elementary and middle schools that they are considering closing.   According to the NY Times, “The schools on the list fit at least one of the following criteria: they got a D or F on their most recent progress report, or a C for a third consecutive year; they were on the state’s list of persistently low-achieving schools last year; or they received a C or D from the teams of state and city officials who were sent to review them.”

Interestingly, there is not a charter school on the list, even though according to another New York Times article , a higher percentage of charter schools got failing grades than district public schools:  13% received Ds or Fs, compared to 7% of non-charters.  Given that proportionally more charters are new and thus do not have school grades (the formula requires at least two years of data), this is not a great endorsement. 
So which charters should be considered for closure, according to DOE’s metrics?  The names of thirteen charter schools that meet the progress report criteria for possible closure is above.  (I also included one charter that got one D and then two Cs, since if three Cs cause a school to be put on the list, so should these grades.) 
Note the five charters in yellow; these are authorized by the NYC Chancellor, and thus could be closed down tomorrow if he wished.   There are three others authorized by SUNY, and five by the Regents.  But charters are rarely closed by means of poor academic performance, despite what their adherents might claim about their “increased accountability.”
Some caveats (as always);  the progress report grades are not to be trusted for many reasons, but particularly since they are primarily derived from one year’s test score gains or losses, which are highly erratic.  (See this post for more.) The formula itself may be incorrectly weighted.  The “D” received by the Icahn charter is especially dubious, and the Icahn director was quoted as saying that this low grade may result from the school enrolling more special needs children.  We know that in the past, schools were penalized  by having high populations of students with disabilities.
Mott Haven charter, also on the list above, serves an especially at –risk population of foster children and should not be evaluated according to the same formula as other schools. Finally, many charters have documented cases of pushing out children whom they believe will be low-performing, often have high levels of overall student attrition, and overemphasize test prep, none of which is captured in the progress reports.  Charters that refrain from such damaging policies, in comparison, should not be punished if they garner relatively low grades. 
Nevertheless, if the DOE is going to consider closing  district schools on the basis of low grades, they should  do the same with charters .
In addition, we have other reasons to doubt the quality of some of the charters listed above:
  • Merrick and La Cima received failing grades on the environment score, based on parent and teacher surveys.
  • Merrick has been involved in repeated scandals,  firing masses of teachers, while paying large management fees to Victory schools, a for-profit EMO.
  •    Harriet Tubman, run by the for-profit EdisonLearning Inc, has had consistently dismal test scores.
  •    Fahari Academy was reported for expelling a child with ADHD. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Former Achievement First parents speak out!

There is a fierce battle over whether an Achievement First charter school will open in Providence. RI-Can and the other Astroturf groups funded by the Walton Foundation and the hedge fund crowd are pushing hard, promoting the spread of this chain of charter schools.

As a public service, we are featuring the eloquent and stirring first-person accounts of two courageous and eloquent NYC parents, May Taliaferrow and Leslie-Ann Byfield, talking about what their children and other children endured at this charter school, known for its strict disciplinary policies and harsh treatment of students with disabilities. For more on Achievement First, see also this NY Post story, and this Facebook page.

The following videos, taken by Norman Scott of GEM, are outtakes from the terrific movie, The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman.

Please watch, if you have any question about these schools.

Achievement First Charter School Parents Speak Out: Why they removed their children Part 2 from Grassroots Education Movement on Vimeo.

Achievement First Charter School Parents Speak Out: Why they removed their children Part 3 from Grassroots Education Movement on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Which New Yorkers have the best interests of working people and children at heart?

See below video made by Darren Marelli of GEM, who interviewed NYC parents and teachers joining the Wall St. protesters on Wednesday.

As the NY Times points out, children are most hurt by the nation's cutbacks to social services:
"Children will be among those most harmed by the jobs crisis. The Economic Policy Institute, using data from the September report, has calculated that 278,000 teachers and other public school employees have lost their jobs since the recession began in December 2007. Over the same period, 48,000 new teaching jobs were needed to keep up with the increased enrollments but were never created. In all, public schools are now short 326,000 jobs. At a time when more and better education is seen as crucial to economic dynamism and competitiveness, larger class sizes and fewer teachers are the last thing the nation needs. Staffing reductions also mean that schools are less able to respond to the needs of poor children, whose ranks have increased by 2.3 million from 2008 to 2010."
Bloomberg has ruthlessly cut the education budget five times in the last three years, forcing the elimination of thousands of teaching positions rather than support raising taxes on millionaires.  As the richest one percent of New Yorkers gains more and more wealth, our ,ayor continues to be their biggest defender, favoring their interests over our children. Now, he is proposing yet another 2 percent mid year cuts to schools, with another 6 percent cut next year

Meanwhile, on Friday, Bloomberg laid off nearly 700 school aides and parent coordinators, the lowest paid DOE staffers who serve crucial roles in helping kids in high-poverty schools.  And on the same day, he had the nerve to criticize the protesters on Wall Street, as "trying to destroy the jobs of working people in this city."

From the video above, who do you think really has the best interests of working people and children at heart?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

DOE re lack of physical education in schools: what, me worry?

The NYC Comptroller released yet another devastating audit of DOE, this time on the lack of compliance with state regulations on the amount of physical education that students are supposed to receive in school.  Here is the  summary: here is the is the full report.

Shockingly, the audit found that not a single NYC school in their sample complied with state law when it came to fulfilling the state physical education requirements. This failure comes at a time of an obesity epidemic among children.
The DOE official response to the audit, which was included as an addendum, is even more shocking: 

Physical Education is a subject area much the same as math, science & language arts…Though the auditors remark upon the lack of a central Physical Education “monitoring” presence, for sound reasons the Department does not centrally “monitor” compliance with NY State instructional requirements in any subject area.  Rather, our long-held policy is to empower principals to select curricula that best suit their students’ needs & to implement State subject area requirements.

Furthermore, the suggestion for centralized monitoring without defining how that would be accomplished given the scope of the undertaking – 1,700 schools attended by roughly 1.1 million students – and the severe limitations on resources, is not useful.
This is quite a radical statement.  Here, the DOE claims it bears no responsibility to ensure that the public schools under its control comply with state law.  Of course, with all the huge amount spent on data collection, it would be fairly easy to monitor the frequency that students are assigned  physical education.  DOE officials could do this through sampling student transcripts alone, which the auditors examined to confirm statements from principals.
In addition, the auditors could find no evidence that DOE had ever directly communicated to principals the state regulations on phys ed, found that several schools had no gym teachers or gyms, and the DOE had not filed the required physical education plan with the state since 1982!
The disclaimer of all responsibility on the part of DOE is a horrific statement from a city agency completely under the mayor’s control since 2002, which Bloomberg pledged would lead to increased accountability as New Yorkers would finally know who was responsible for running our schools.
And now we have the DOE’s answer, even when it comes to the city school system's violation of state law regarding our children's health and education: don't blame us!
For more on the results of this audit, see the Daily News and  NY Times.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Video: NYC parent activists get a moment to challenge the corporate reform movement on Education Nation

Last week, NBC ran three days of programming called Education Nation, filmed at Rockefeller Plaza, which was primarily dominated by representatives from the corporate reform movement, who define accountability as more high-stakes testing and promote privatization through charter school expansion, both trends that in the view of many public school parents undermine our public schools and offer simplistic solutions to complex problems.

Many of the panelists and speakers were from organizations funded by the program's sponsors, which included the Gates and Broad Foundations, and echoed their pro-testing and pro-privatization views.  There was much talk about how we need "great principals" and "great teachers" and "great schools" with little realistic discussion of how we get there.  One panelist, Ralph Smith of the Annie Casey Foundation, offered a contrary thought:  that perhaps instead of relying on "greatness" we should build a system that enables ordinary people to be successful.

In general, there was little or no recognition of the frustration parents feel about the overwhelming obsession with standardized testing in our schools, the devastating impact of deep budget cuts and growing class sizes, and the way our voices have been increasingly shut out of the debate over education reform.   Even the panel on the role of parents included only one person who identified herself as a parent leader.  Rather than invite  any NYC parent to sit on the panel, Chancellor Walcott was included instead, despite the fact that the Bloomberg administration has consistently ignored parents and  treated our priorities with utter contempt.
This panel discussion, called Stepping Up: the Role of the Parent Advocate, focused  on the controversial proposal known as the “Parent Trigger", developed by the organization the Parent Revolution, which is headed by a Beverly Hills attorney named Ben Austin.  The Parent Revolution was started with funds from the Broad Foundation to encourage charter school expansion.  More information on this astroturf organization can be found on the Seattle 2010 blog, and on Diane Ravitch's blog Bridging Differences, where she calls the Parent Trigger "a stealth assault on public education."   ALEC, the secretive right-wing organization, has written a model Parent Trigger bill that has been introduced in state legislatures all over the nation, and reportedly, DFER and other pro-charter organizations are busy hiring staff to try to get a Parent Trigger bill passed here in NY state this session.  The Parent Trigger is particularly deceptive, because while it claims to empower parents, it is actually offering them only a limited number of damaging options, imposed from above. The Parents Across America position paper on the Parent Trigger is here.
At Education Nation, I challenged both Ben Austin and Dennis Walcott, pointing out that the Bloomberg administration as well as the US Department of Education have completely ignored our voices.  Most parents don’t want their schools closed or turned into charters, but yearn instead for their neighborhood public school to be strengthened with smaller classes and a well-rounded education, but this is not the choice they have been offered. 
Ben Austin responded with a sleazy attack that Parents Across America is entirely funded by the National Education Association, which is untrue.  (We received a $25,000 start up grant from the NEA, and have since raised money elsewhere, including a $5,000 gift from Diane Ravitch.)  I was followed shortly afterward by two other questioners, parent activists Mona Davids of the NYC Parents Union and Ocynthia Williams of the Coalition for Educational Justice.
But even during Ben Austin’s remarks the truth occasionally shone through.  He admitted that no parents want their schools closed, and that charter schools "are not remotely scaleable” – that is, they cannot be replicated on a large scale.  (Never mind that Walcott, who was sitting right next to him, appears to see both continued school closures and rapid charter expansion as the DOE’s top priority over the next two years.)
Other valuable moments on Education Nation were provided by Diane Ravitch during her debate with Geoffrey Canada.  Ravitch pointed out that Canada had fired his whole 6th grade class when they didn’t test well enough; countered by Canada’s misstatement that he had “closed” the school instead.  Also you should check out the student panel,  which, among many other issues, discussed how important class size is, in allowing  them to develop closer relationships with their teachers and enabling teachers to show how much they care.
Below is video of my remarks and Austin’s response; followed by the comments of Mona and Ocynthia.  The entire segment on the Power of a Parent Advocate is here.  And don't forget to check out the video of MisEducation Nation  that followed on Tuesday night.
Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters and Parents Across America on what most parents really want:

Mona Davids of NYC Parents Union on Ben Austin's divisive tactics and her version of the "Parent Trigger":

Ocynthia Williams of the Coalition for Educational Justice on the failure of Bloomberg administration and Chancellor Walcott to collaborate with parents:

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Karen Sprowal: My question and Prof. Noguera's response at MisEducation Nation

For more on the MisEducation Nation forum, held Sept. 27 with Diane Ravitch, Pedro Noguera, Brian Jones, and Leonie Haimson, sponsored by FAIR, see Julie Cavanagh’s report, GothamSchools article, and Peter Murphy of the NY Charter Schools Association.  Here is video of the entire forum; which was excellent.  Michael Fiorello asked a question to Pedro Noguera about his role in authorizing charter schools at 1hr 12 minutes in, and Karen’s question to Noguera and his response are at 1hr 26 minutes in.
There has been a lot of controversy raised about my question to Prof. Pedro Noguera and his response at the MisEducation Nation forum on Tuesday night.  I would like to clarify the issues as I see them.
My son, Matthew, was kicked out of Kindergarten in the fall of 2008 at the Harlem Success Charter.  It took a long time for me and Matthew to get over this experience, and for me to feel comfortable talking about it, but our story was recently documented in an article in the NY Times and further described by me on this blog
Eva Moskowitz has confirmed to the Times that my son was indeed asked to leave, as her school couldn’t “serve” him properly.  He was kicked out along with three other little Kindergarten boys the first few weeks of school. After the article about Matthew appeared in the Times, I have heard from many other parents whose children have suffered a similar fate at her schools.
I have since learned that this particular charter, along with most all the other ones in the Success charter chain, were  authorized and are supposed to be overseen by the SUNY charter committee, which is headed by Prof. Pedro Noguera of NYU.  I also learned that Prof. Noguera has made many comments about the need to hold charter schools accountable for just this sort of behavior.
For example, in an article that appeared in the West Side Spirit last year, about the controversy over putting a new Success charter school into the Brandeis HS building, questions were raised about whether these charters pushed out kids, and Prof. Noguera said that he didn’t believe that this practice had occurred at any of the Success charters:
Success’ critics almost invariably make the claim that the schools force or encourage children with learning disabilities or academic problems to leave the school in an effort to pump up the test scores—but there does not appear to be much evidence to support the accusation….Even Pedro Noguera, an education professor at New York University....said the accusation looks to be bogus.“I think it’s true of some charters, but I don’t think it’s true of hers,” said Noguera… Noguera, who thinks it may be a good thing if other schools feel competition from the new charter, said the Harlem academies do a great job helping students with individual needs and “are the best charters in the city.” 
Then in May, in an article in GothamSchools, Prof. Noguera said that if any charter school pushed out kids, it should be held accountable:

It really concerns me when I see that there’s some evidence that some of the charters are screening kids and have adopted measures to either screen or to push out students that are more challenging to serve,” Noguera said. “Because it’s creating this very unequal playing field between the charters and the public schools. So I think that the authorizers and the state need to be more vigilant in holding those schools accountable.”
So at the forum, I asked Prof. Noguera that if he thought that authorizers needed to be more “vigilant in holding those schools accountable,” as head of the committee that authorized the school that pushed out my child and many others, what he would do about it.
That’s when he responded that every five years, when the charter comes up for re-authorization, they will look at the attrition data.  First of all, it is very hard to track attrition, because the school doesn’t accurately report how many kids leave and enter the school each year.  But more importantly, I don’t think this reflects a properly “vigilant” attitude on his part.  He and the other authorizers shouldn’t sit back and wait five years, when kids are being hurt every day.
His other comments were no more reassuring.  He said DOE schools push out kids just as much as charters, which is not the experience I have had with Matthew’s new school.  To the contrary, they have been patient and wonderfully supportive, and given him extra help he needed to thrive, despite his ADHD.  Also, Prof. Noguera’s claim that he authorizes “high performing” charters is not relevant either, if they are “high performing” as a result of screening out and pushing out children like my son.
At the beginning of the forum, Prof. Noguera had also said that he cares about promoting more integration in our schools, and I agree.  But it is well-known that charters lead to more segregation – the opposite direction that we should be moving towards as a city.
When I spoke to him after the event, he smiled and nodded his head, but I didn’t get the sense that he was taking my concerns seriously. I went into more detail about how after winning the lottery for Harlem Success Academy,  Matthew was screened, deemed defective and kicked out of the school, all of this happening within his first month of school. Did he have any idea what this does emotionally to an at-risk five year old black boy in this society? Prof. Noguera didn’t seem to care or want to hear from me about this, even though I have saved a meticulous paper trail, revealing solid evidence of the practices used by this charter chain to “cherry pick.”
I shared with him that Eva Moskowitz had personally emailed to me to say that “HSA will not be good fit for my son,” but when I refused to take Matthew out, and requested a non-punitive educational plan for my son, we were treated in a manner that was reprehensible and illegal. Prof. Noguera graciously smiled, briefly listened and brushed me off again!
Even though I found a great public school for my son after he was pushed out, I think more of us need to be angry about how many children like my son Matthew are being marginalized and victimized by the charter school movement. When your actions and policies hurt children, especially those most at risk – it feels extremely personal!
There are now nine Success Academies, all co-located in NYC public school buildings, with three more authorized by SUNY, opening in 2012. As the chief authorizer for the Success Academy network, I wanted to know whether Prof. Noguera would hold Eva Moskowitz accountable. It was a fair question that deserved a direct answer.  And in his way, he gave it, and the answer was no.  As a black single parent, living in poverty, with a special needs son, I am offended. -- Karen Sprowal