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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Looking At Klein's "Accountability" Data and School Closings, Nothing Makes Sense

An excellent analysis of the NYC DOE "accountability" data -

Thanks, Jackie!

Also read Ed In The Apple:

School Closings: It’s Never the Kid’s Fault, Punishment Leads to Recidivism, If Some Of Us Have Figured It Out, We Can All Figure It Out, Let’s Learn From Each Other

Ignoring Accountability, but Closing Schools
Posted By Jackie Bennett, EDWIZE, January 2, 2010 @ 12:11 pm

NYC’s accountability system — Progress Reports and Quality Reviews — has cost the city millions and millions of dollars and wrought infinite havoc on the schools. Terrified of being closed if they don’t satisfy the formulas and rubrics, schools recast the work they do for children into work they do for the system. To satisfy the demands of the Progress Reports, schools teach to deeply flawed tests. To satisfy the demands of Quality Reviews, they place their limited resources (time, money, people) on grooming the dogs and ponies for the reviewer. That is an unavoidable consequence of high stakes cultures, and one that (in the case of QR) probably dismays some DoE’ers as much as us.

But dismay aside, the DoE is utterly invested in its accountability system. It has been the favorite child, and actually the only child, of Chancellor Klein. It is also the one he takes on the road with him when he visits other states. And the message is clear: We are going by the data in New York, and using the data in sophisticated ways in our accountability system. If a school can’t meet the standards of the Progress Reports and Quality Reviews, well then, we just might shut it down.

Which is why it comes as some surprise to me to discover that the DoE pretty much tossed out its own accountability system when it named the schools it wants to close [1] this year. We know this because for the first time, the DoE has been forced to provide the school communities with Educational Impact Statements (EIS). In them, the DoE must explain why it wants to close the school.

That DoE standard is comprised first and foremost of grades on the Progress Reports and Quality Reviews. Yet, though the standard brazenly asserts itself in the EIS, the DoE just as brazenly ignores it. In fact, of the twenty schools proposed for closure, fourteen scored above the basic criteria for being considered for closing (they did better, in other words). Nonetheless, if the DoE gets its way, then they will close.

Whether or not that ought to happen, I don’t know. I do know we are spending an awful lot of time on an accountability system that was tossed out in the end.

But let’s take a look at the EIS [2] for just one of the schools that the DoE hopes to close. Let’s compare it to the standard. In the EIS for The School for Community Research and Learning (SCRL), the DoE writes:

“Under the DOE’s accountability framework, schools that receive an overall grade of D or F on the Progress Report….”

[SCRL received a C this year and has never had a D or F.]

…[or] schools receiving a C for three years in a row…

[SCRL has not had three C’s. Last year it received a B.]

…and a score below Proficient on the Quality Review are subject to school improvement measures. If no significant progress is made over time, … closure is possible.

[SCRL has a “Proficient” on its Quality Review. Here are a few of the many fine things the Reviewer had to say:

•The high expectations of teachers, students and parents are in evidence in all aspects of the work of the school.
•Students in greatest need of improvement receive valuable support from the teachers and other staff and make good progress in their achievement levels.
•There are good communication systems, which engage parents as partners in their children’s education.
That report was written just two years ago. Last year, the school did not have a Quality Review because schools with B’s and “Proficient” were functioning well, and therefore were exempt.

This year, the DoE wants to close the school.

The DoE recognizes that it is ignoring its own accountability system and in fact says that for SCRL “the overall scores on the DOE’s accountability tools do not meet standard criteria for closure.”

Good point. Nonetheless, the school is slated for closure, and so to justify that closing, DoE does some reaching. With each reach the justification gets curiouser and curiouser, and then curiouser again.

First, DoE says that the school received a D on some sub-grades. But sub-grades are rolled into the overall grade. SCRL’s overall grade was a C. Closing a school for a failing sub-grade is like expelling a student because he failed in Math. Besides are all the other kids with sub-grade D’s getting expelled? (The answer’s no.)

Second, DoE says the problem is that the graduation rate is low.

Say what? What do we need Progress Reports for if we are going to resort to the crude raw numbers of graduation rates when it comes time to judge a school? Wasn’t that the point of all these formulas? To evaluate schools fairly against the challenges they face? SCRL serves one of the toughest populations in the city: 25% of its kids are special education. The Progress Reports are far from perfect, but no one believes it would be an improvement to simply close the schools according to their flat-out graduation rates. That suggestion would be laughable coming from the data-driven DoE, if it weren’t so serious for the communities involved.

And DoE’s final rationale: it “conducted an assessment of the school’s capacity to improve.” So, why exactly are we paying for Progress Reports and Quality Reviews, and turning the schools upside down to prepare for them if in the end, the school will be shut by a mysterious “assessment”?

What is true of decisions about SCRL’s proposed closing is true of a lot of the schools throughout the city. Of the 20 schools chosen for closing:

•Thirteen were found to be Proficient on the Quality Review
•None had an F and eight did not have a D either.
•Three did not have three C’s in a row.
And, by the way, six are in good standing with the State.

Ultimately, with SCRL — and in fact a lot of the schools that DoE wants to close — the decision seems arbitrary, or else based on the demographics of the students rather than the quality of the schools. The schools proposed for closing have on average significantly more vulnerable populations than the city in general, but are not necessarily the ones that have failed on Progress Reports and Quality Reviews.

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[1] schools it wants to close:

[2] look at the EIS:

The Closing of New York City Public Schools: A Case of “Persistently Failing DoE Management”

Posted By Leo Casey On December 13, 2009 @ 7:05 pm In Education, NYC DOE | Comments Disabled

With the last of the official announcements of the schools targeted for closure by Chancellor Klein, the final grim toll can be tallied. An unprecedented twenty-one schools have been told that the Department of Education will begin their phase out in September 2010. Fifteen of those schools — a completely disproportionate number — were high schools.*

With this wide swath of devastation, there can be no illusion that this is a process based on an educational calculus. The evidence simply tells a very different story: the Chancellor could not close significant numbers of Elementary and Middle Schools, once 97% of them scored A and B on School Progress Reports that so heavily weighted the wildly inflated and broken state exams. So Klein decided that to reach his targets, he would close high schools in much larger numbers. Among the high schools slated for closure are schools which are in good standing with the New York State Education Department and schools which are meeting their Annual Yearly Progress benchmarks under No Child Left Behind, as well as a school which just received the school-wide bonus. The list includes schools which never received a School Progress grade lower than C, and schools which actually improved on every measure in the School Progress Reports.

Why take a machete to New York City public high schools in this way? The reason is not difficult to decipher. The Chancellor needs a great deal of space in public school buildings to pursue his political and ideological agenda of creating and supporting new charter schools and new DoE schools. Since it had become politically untenable to create that space by closing large numbers of elementary and middle schools, the space would have to be found in high schools.

What is telling is that the one high school which received an F grade this year, Peace and Diversity Academy in the Bronx, was passed over when schools were chosen for closure. DoE representatives said that the school had been unfairly bounced [1] from location to location like a ping pong ball, and that this was the major cause of the school’s plummeting graduation rate. Of course, the DoE spokespersons puts these failures in the passive voice — the infamous ‘mistakes were made’ — in which no one takes actual responsibility for what was done wrong. In DoE-speak, accountability is a term that applies only to educators and schools, not educrats. Restore the active voice, however, and they are exactly right: what DoE officials at Tweed did to Peace and Diversity was inexcusable, and the school community should not be punished for the failures of DoE management.

But the same case can be made for high school after high school that were closed. In case after case, Tweed’s mismanagement was directly responsible for whatever trials and tribulations the school is experiencing. There are schools on that list that have had thoroughly incompetent and inept administrations, brought to the attention of Tweed by the UFT, schools where DoE officials acknowledged the problem and promised changes — only to fail to follow up. Now the school communities are being told that they need to bear the burden of Tweed’s failures.

Just as importantly, the DoE concentrated students with the greatest need in the schools slated for closure: high schools receiving an A grade had an average peer index of 2.53, while high schools receiving a D and F grade had an average peer index of 2.13 — a very robust and significant difference, with schools receiving a D and F grade bearing a far heavier concentration of need. [The 'peer index' is the DoE's own measure of the concentration of need: for high schools, it is based on the 8th grade ELA and Math exam scores, adjusted for the numbers of Special Education students and overage students.]

Equally significant is the contrast in students with special needs: when compared to schools receiving an A grade, schools receiving a D grade had nearly a third more special education students, with all of the additional number coming from students with the more severe learning disabilities. Schools receiving a D grade have, on average, four times as many students with the more severe learning disabilities.









Yet what extra supports has the DoE given these schools to aid their efforts to teach such concentrations of the highest needs students? Where are the funds for lower class size, the caps that keep the schools from being overcrowded, the assistance in establishing special programs to meet the needs of their student population, the provision of meaningful professional development?

What distinguishes the schools the Chancellor slated for closure from Peace and Diversity is not Tweed’s failures or the DoE’s responsibility for their current plight, but the fact that Peace and Diversity was a small school created on Joel Klein’s watch — it was one of the select circle Klein likes to call “my schools,” as if every public school should not belong to a Chancellor with a seven year tenure. When it comes to a high school created before Klein’s reign, be it large or small, Tweed accepts no responsibility for its management failures.


One school which is being slated for closure — Columbus High School in the Bronx — exemplifies the profound injustice that is being done to closing high school communities. Before Klein’s tenure and the creation of legions of small high schools in the Bronx, Columbus had a significant, but manageable concentration of high needs students. But as surrounding comprehensive high schools were closed and small schools which took very few high needs students opened, it was sent more and more high needs students. Today, nearly in 1 in every 5 students are English Language Learners [ELL], and nearly 1 in every 4 Columbus students are Special Education, with the bulk of these — 13% of the school’s population — in a more restrictive setting. Last year’s graduation cohort entered Columbus four years earlier with only 6% meeting ELA standards and only 14% meeting Math standards. The bottom third of the population sent to the school is made up entirely composed of students with scores of 1 on the state exams — far below standard.

By the DoE’s own peer index standard, Tweed created in Columbus High School the second highest concentration of need in New York City’s 400 high schools. But the peer index is calculated in a way that fails to capture a great deal of the need concentrated in Columbus, such that the true picture is much more dire than DoE statistics acknowledge. The peer index for high schools measures from 8th grade test scores, but a very significant portion of Columbus students have no 8th grade scores — in large part, these are ‘over the counter’ admissions spread out over the school year. They include recent immigrants who do not speak English and often have interrupted formal education in their native country, students returning from correctional institutions such as Rikers Island, and transfers from the citywide Special Education and Alternate High School districts. In short, these are students with the greatest need, but are largely unaccounted for in the peer index of the School Progress Reports. To have an idea just how many of these students Columbus receives, note that half of their students taking the ELA and Math Regents exams last year had no 8th grade scores and that last year Columbus received 360 over the counter admissions — over 25% of their total student register. ['Over the counter' admissions are a crucial measure of need not simply because those students are disproportionately drawn from the pools of highest need, but also because the way in which they are sent to a school, by dribs and drabs over the course of a school year, disrupts the school's program and schedule and deprives the students of the full term of instructions in their classes. Schools with admissions tests, screened programs and small high schools receive virtually no 'over the counter' admissions, leading to their concentration in large comprehensive high schools like Columbus.]

The ‘peer index’ also fails to distinguish between special needs students in the least restrictive environment and in a more restrictive environment, failing to take into account the greater challenge posed for high schools with large numbers of students with the most severe learning disabilities, such as is the case with Columbus.

If the c0ncentration of need were not bad enough, Tweed also overcrowded Columbus. When last year’s graduation cohort entered Columbus in the fall of 2004, Tweed had the school operating at 180% capacity. Since the building was being shared with small schools, this left Columbus with no choice but to go on back-to-back schedules: 7 AM to 12:30 PM, and 12:30 PM to 6 PM. The academic program was stripped down to the absolutely essential, and the extra-curricular activities were decimated. With the difficult schedules, truancy and cutting increased, as students skipped classes to go to jobs and pick-up siblings from their schools.

The top leadership of the DoE understood full well what they have been doing to Columbus. When Michelle Cahill [2] was Senior Counselor for Education Policy at the DoE, she commissioned a study [3] by the Parthenon Group [4] which examined, among other things, how different high schools performed with high needs students. They found that there was a tipping point at which the concentration of high needs students became so overwhelming that it created an obstacle virtually no school could completely overcome. When it comes to the high schools created in the last seven years which the Chancellor calls “my schools,” Tweed goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid such overwhelming concentrations of need. But not so for Columbus and other older high schools. At various time over the last five years, the UFT and others have raised with the DoE leadership the admissions policies that created this overwhelming concentration of need at Columbus High School, to no avail.

Last June, when the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs studied [5] the reform process in New York City’s public high schools, it found that the DoE’s creation of new schools had significant “collateral damage.” [6] The disproportionate concentrations of high needs students in closing schools were not redistributed, but deflected almost entirely to neighboring comprehensive high schools which then began to decline. If one looks at a map of the large comprehensive high schools just announced for closure, one can see that they are geographically proximate to schools that were closed in previous years: Maxwell proximate to Jefferson, Bushwick and Franklin K. Lane; Paul Robeson to Prospect Heights, Wingate, and Tilden; Norman Thomas to Martin Luther King and Park West; Beach Channel to Far Rockaway; Smith to South Bronx… and Columbus to Evander Childs and Adlai Stevenson.

But the tale of what Tweed did to Columbus is only half of the story. Faced with this challenge, most schools would have surrendered. Not Columbus. With an accomplished staff, a preeminent Teachers Center, and a caring, excellent leadership, they rolled up their sleeves and went to work: they would find a way to educate and care for whomever Tweed sent to them. The school reorganized into four small learning communities in the 9th and 10th grades, and created another program focused on career and educational future in the 11th and 12 grades. Special programs were created for students with particular challenges: ‘Boys to Men’ for male students with severe behavioral issues, ‘Women’s Empowerment’ for analogously situated female students and Renaissance Academy for students with substance abuse, teen pregnancy and physical abuse issues. They put together an ELL program to support the large numbers of ELLs they educate. Here is a powerful video [7] Columbus put together on its programs.

In its justification for its decision to close Columbus, the Department of Education points to absolute measures such as four year graduation rates and Regents passing. What it fails to provide is any context for those statistics. Tweed cites the fact that only 50% of last year’s graduation cohort met standards for ELA, but it neglects to point out that the school made dramatic progress, given that only 6% of that cohort met ELA standards when they entered the school. It makes much of the four graduation rate, but fails to note that Columbus sticks by its high needs students as long as it takes and graduate large numbers in 5, 6 and 7 years. Indeed, the latest 7 year graduation rates [8] [p. 24] shows Columbus at 81.5%, nearly ten percentage points better than the citywide average of 72.2%. Finally, it ignores the fact that the same flaws in the School Progress Reports that failed to account for the true depth of need created at Columbus by its admissions policies [the reliance upon 8th grade test scores] also meant that the school did not receive full progress credit for advancing those high needs students who did not take those exams — fully 1/2 of the Columbus cohort. The School Progress Reports simply do not provide an accurate grade of the excellent work down at Columbus HS.

In sum, when the DoE asserts [9] that “Christopher Columbus has shown a lack of capacity to improve student performance in significant and consistent ways,” it is not only dead wrong, but attempting to shift responsibility for the immense challenges and obstacles it created for a praiseworthy high school community.


What is particularly unfortunate about Chancellor Klein’s decision to target twenty-one schools for closure is that it is not simply the culmination of Tweed’s persistent management failures at those schools, but the breeding ground of yet more rounds of failure. All one has to do is read the DoE’s educational impact statements [10] to realize that it does not have any meaningful plans for replacing the high school seats it is eliminating through the closure of 15 high schools. If Chancellor Klein gets his way and these closures take place, there will be massive overcrowding once again at comprehensive high schools neighboring closing schools. Immense concentrations of high needs students will be sent to these schools, tipping them toward failure. In budgetary hard times, the Absent Teacher Reserve pool will be flooded by educators excessed from closing high schools, as they will not be able to find new high school positions.

What needs to be phased out are not New York City public schools, but the persistently failed management of the New York City Department of Education.


* For the sake of clarity, the list follows. [Since New Day Academy is a 6-12, it has been counted twice on some lists.]

PS 332, D23

ACE M344, D5
Middle School Grades of FREDERICK DOUGLAS III, D9


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[1] unfairly bounced:

[2] Michelle Cahill:

[3] a study:

[4] Parthenon Group:

[5] studied:

[6] “collateral damage.”:

[7] powerful video:

[8] 7 year graduation rates:

[9] asserts:

[10] educational impact statements:

A Personal Goodbye To The Tavern On The Green

I want to take a few seconds of your time to remember a great New York Institution, Tavern On The Green in Central Park.
When I heard that Tavern on the Green was in bankruptcy I was very sad because I knew the owner, Werner Leroy see below.. He was quite a character, and somebody that the minute you met him knew he was a Force. What do I mean by a "Force?"? Someone to be reckoned with; Someone who made a difference, and was not Afraid.

Werner Leroy

When I was the producer of the Cue TV magazine on Channel J I went to the opening of Tavern On The Green in 1976 with my camera crew. I saw Andy Warhol, and I asked him if I could videotape him for the camera. I said, "Just one word!" A few minutes later Mr. Warhol said exactly what I asked him: "One".
Nevertheless, Tavern On The Green is an icon, and I hope that the new owners respect the legacy that the 'old' Tavern has in New York City.

January 2, 2010
A Last New Year’s Eve Toast for Tavern on the Green

It ended as it all began, in a rush of light. But even the brilliance of its mirrored corridors, twinkling trees and shimmering heirloom chandeliers could not avert the bankruptcy blackout of Tavern on the Green.

And so there was a last waltz. With formidable revelry and not a few tears, some 1,700 New Year’s Eve celebrators paid $125 to $500 a person for the privilege of welcoming 2010 with a last, vast, rollicking hurrah for the landmark restaurant in Central Park.

It shuttered after 4 a.m. Friday for at least six weeks before facing an uncertain future: a new operator, a new décor and possibly even a new name.

“Obviously there is sadness here, but I think Warner would be very happy about how we finished this,” said Michael Desiderio, Tavern’s chief operating officer, referring to Warner LeRoy, the legendary restaurateur who reinvented it in 1976. “He gave a wonderful gift to New York, so in a way, this is a celebration.”

Shelley Clark, a spokeswoman, said that Jennifer Oz LeRoy, the 30-year-old chief executive of Tavern, was too distraught to attend, explaining that it would have been unseemly “for her to be celebrating when so many people would be out of work.”

Ms. LeRoy presided over the end of her family’s long reign after her father, Mr. LeRoy, died in 2001 at the age of 65. Some 20 million patrons have visited since 1976.

Given the historic import and sheer scope, it was the night’s most prominent celebration, said Andrew Fox, who heads, which hosted more than 40 New York parties on Thursday night.

There were 300 seated partygoers in the restaurant’s Park and Chestnut Rooms, and the remainder of the guests roved among the buffet tables, open bars, disc jockeys, jazz ensembles and strolling guitarists in the Crystal, Rafters and Terrace Rooms. By 10 p.m. every nook, cranny and crevice of Tavern was jammed.

Outside, in the run-up to midnight, an unending sleet-pelted line of limos at Warner LeRoy Place — the official name of the 67th Street extension to Tavern’s front door — delivered guests who queued in a slushy shuffle until they could enter the winter palace.

Inside, wreaths ringed the stained-glass windows. Lasers played on the Waterford chandeliers. Santa stockings dangled from the rafters. And holiday swags swathed the mirrored walls.

The party was a destination for some visitors at the sold-out event. “This is the last night to be part of the history,” said Judy Tucker, who traveled from Houston with her husband, Larry, just for the party because “it was the place to come to.”

Reminiscences were rampant. Anthony J. Micari, 68, and his 66-year-old wife, Maria, recalled their wedding — and reception for 130 — at Tavern on June 4, 1972. “We think it’s the most beautiful place in the world,” he said.

They were happily tucking into their menu of Hudson Valley foie gras, tataki bluefin tuna salad and rack of Colorado lamb.

“This really was the place to celebrate,” said Tony Musich, a retired telecommunications manager whose wife, Mary Ann, was a Tavern regular.

Even Mr. Desiderio shared his Tavern memories: He met his wife, Karen, in the restaurant 13 years ago, and “I grew up here,” he said.

There were, however, first-timers in the crowd. “I can’t believe it’s so big,” said Stephanie Stuart, navigating the corridors with Bob Stoddard, who had asked her out on what she said was “a great New Year’s date.” She had a sense that history was being made, “and in the future,” she said, “I think it will mean something to us that we were here.”

But if Tavern’s flameout was Champagne-rich, the restaurant’s outlook was grim.

In August the city awarded a 20-year license starting in 2010 to a new Tavern operator, Dean J. Poll, who runs the Boathouse restaurant in Central Park. Mr. Poll has yet to sign a contract with Tavern’s landlord, the Department of Parks and Recreation. His lawyer, Barry B. LePatner, said before New Year’s that “we expect to finalize an agreement with the city shortly,” but a key to that accord is a settlement with the powerful Hotel Trades Council, the union that represents some 400 Tavern employees. Negotiations are stalled.

And the restaurant’s vast assemblage of candelabras, samovars, weather vanes, sculptures, murals, prints, lighting fixtures, topiaries and other eccentric assets is to go on the auction block in a three-day sale at the restaurant by Guernsey’s auction house, scheduled to begin Jan. 13.

The assets of Tavern are being aggressively contested in two federal courts as hundreds of butchers, bakers, balloon artists and other purveyors try to keep alive their hopes for repayment. In dispute is even the ownership of its name.

Some Tavern staffers professed optimism despite the tear in the eye. “I fully believe this staff will return,” said Wendy Baranello, a 57-year-old server who has worked the tables at Tavern for 32 years. “We’ve had a good long run, and I think Mr. Poll will make it even longer.”

To another server, Jesus Montesano, the staff of Tavern “is a family,” he said, “and we hope we can keep our family together.”

The name-ownership issue has been a flash point in Tavern’s bankruptcy case because the name — which has been appraised at $19 million — is potentially the restaurant’s most valuable asset.

But early Friday morning, the restaurant still called Tavern on the Green was aglow in its swan song. And as the party-hardy partied on, Tavern on the Green did not go gentle into that good night. “It was about getting this night right,” said Mr. Desiderio, perhaps speaking for all of those who would rage, rage, against the dying of the light.