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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

NY State Students Are Not Ready For College

May 25, 2012

Albany’s Unkindest Cut of All

IN most states, top-ranked high school seniors are shoo-ins to attend their local state universities. But that’s not how it goes in New York these days. In one recent, glaring case, the valedictorian of a rural school district outside Rochester was rejected by a nearby State University of New York campus — not because her grades were too low, but because her high school didn’t offer the courses needed to compete for college admission.
Such stories are becoming increasingly common across New York State. Poor school districts are being forced to cut electives, remedial tutoring, foreign languages and other programs and services to balance budgets. Many schools in less prosperous areas face what the state commissioner of education calls “educational insolvency.”
The obvious losers are students, who will be less prepared for graduation, college and their careers. But ultimately, all New Yorkers will suffer as the lack of skilled workers becomes a long-term drain on economic activity across the state.
Only five years ago, the state committed to pumping $5.5 billion into classrooms, with 72 percent slated for the neediest schools, whether in urban, rural or suburban communities. This commitment, similar to those made in other states, came after 13 years of litigation by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, based on the state Constitution’s guarantee of a “sound, basic education” for all students. Unfortunately, that progressive commitment was abandoned as the state faced fiscal hard times.
New York started cutting education resources in 2009. The federal government stepped in that year with stimulus money directed at schools, which temporarily cushioned the blow, but was not enough to stop the onset of classroom cuts.
The problem grew worse in 2010 and 2011, when Albany made $2.7 billion in school aid cuts, resulting in the loss of 30,000 educators and increased class sizes at two-thirds of the state’s schools.
The program cuts ranged from summer school to Advanced Placement courses, but the cuts have been harshest in poor communities. Over all, cuts to poor and middle-class schools were two to three times larger per pupil than those imposed on wealthy schools.
For example, Poughkeepsie, with a student poverty rate of 80 percent, has cut its full-day kindergarten to a half day, while wealthy Jericho offers high school classes in fashion design and civil engineering. Scarsdale offers 22 Advanced Placement courses, while poor and rural Massena, in New York’s North Country, offers only two, even though many colleges now give A.P. courses greater weight than S.A.T. scores in admissions.
On top of the multiyear cuts, the state has made it harder for school districts to get more money. A new statewide cap on how high local revenues can be raised is further exacerbating educational inequities. The cap limits property tax hikes to 2 percent, which may sound fair but actually contributes to school inequality: the permitted tax increase raises a lot more revenue from million-dollar homes for wealthy schools than it raises on $100,000 homes for poorer schools. And a newly implemented cap on increases in state education aid means that even with a slight restoration of state aid this year, schools are still forced to make cuts.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has been the most vocal proponent both of cutting and capping state school aid and of capping local revenues. He has dismissed the impact that cuts and caps would have on schools — a position that becomes harder to maintain as district after district reports dire circumstances.
Simultaneously, Mr. Cuomo has been a proponent of trendy “market reforms,” like increasing the role of standardized tests in evaluating teachers and using the same tests to make school districts compete with one another for resources. These so-called reforms may be cheaper, but they are no substitute for the proven programs that are being cut.
Around the world, countries with the top-performing schools, like Finland, Singapore and Canada, all emphasize equity in school financing to provide added resources for schools in poorer communities. These international leaders also emphasize ensuring that all students have access to a high-quality curriculum and providing all teachers with support to continuously improve their skills — instead of forcing teachers and schools to compete for artificially limited pools of money.
Governor Cuomo has promoted himself as a leader in education policy. His mastery of Albany’s famously dysfunctional politics has made him one of the nation’s rising political stars. But the results in the classroom do not match his rhetoric — and unless our state government changes course on education funding policy, they never will.
Billy Easton is the executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Queens Democrat Rep. Gregory Meeks is Being Investigated By The Feds

Feds question Meeks over millions steered to Qns. nonprofit

Last Updated: 5:52 AM, July 29, 2012
Posted: 11:52 PM, July 28, 2012

Gregory Meeks

Federal investigators are scrutinizing millions in taxpayer dollars that Rep. Gregory Meeks steered to a Queens nonprofit.
The US Attorney’s Office recently issued a subpoena to the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. seeking information on federal funding secured by Meeks, a government source told The Post.
Fred Winters, a spokesman for Greater Jamaica, confirmed that the organization had received a subpoena and said it was not the target of the federal investigation. He refused to say who was.
Greater Jamaica has been a funding favorite of Meeks. His political mentor, the Rev. Floyd Flake, sits on the board.
Carlisle Towery, the president of Greater Jamaica, kicked in $1,000 in June to Meeks’ re-election campaign.
The Queens Democrat has arranged for numerous grants to the organization, including $9.2 million from the Federal Transit Administration to fix up a decrepit underpass below the Long Island Rail Road tracks and create a shopping arcade there.
Another $8.2 million in federal money is to go toward an extension of Atlantic Avenue.
The long-delayed underpass project was finally completed this spring, and Meeks appeared at a “lighting ceremony” with other officials to symbolically open the dark underpass. But the row of four newly built storefronts — a total of 5,500 square feet of space — sits empty.
Winters refused to answer questions about potential tenants.
Meeks also helped get $21 million in tax credits to create a complex of housing, retail shops and a hotel near the Jamaica LIRR station and JFK AirTrain stop. A deal with a hotel developer to build on the site fell through. The city’s Economic Development Corp. just sent out a request for development proposals for the land.
On Friday — days after Post inquiries about the project — Greater Jamaica issued a request for proposals (RFP) to develop a nearby building on Sutphin Boulevard that it purchased in 2004 with $2.7 million in taxpayer money from the Port Authority.
The building was once envisioned as a corporate headquarters for JetBlue Airways Corp. or other companies but now serves only as an occasional meeting space for Greater Jamaica. The PA was supposed to get its money back or take over the building if no development happened by 2008.
After a Post exposé in January, the PA demanded Greater Jamaica look for a developer or it would take the building by Aug. 20.
A PA spokeswoman said the agency was “disappointed” with Greater Jamaica’s progress and urged it to “expeditiously review the RFP responses and select a developer committed to developing this property and creating jobs.”
A spokeswoman for Meeks refused comment.
Meeks has long been the target of federal investigators. They began looking into him in 2010 after The Post reported his relationship with the New Direction Local Development Corp., a Queens charity he helped to found. The Post revealed that the group collected thousands of dollars for Hurricane Katrina victims and almost none of it made it to the victims.
The House Ethics Committee has an ongoing probe into Meeks over a $40,000 payment he received in 2007 from Queens businessman Edul Ahmad. Meeks didn’t report the payment on his yearly financial disclosure form. Ahmad was arrested in 2011 in connection with a $50 million mortgage fraud scheme.
Additional reporting by Alex Freeman

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The ATR System is NOT Rational

The post below is from David Hedges, editor of the blog Dedicated To All ATRS in NYC

David Hedges


A little homework, unless homework assignments are against the law...

Try this question out on people you know and on a few you don't:

"Do you think moving teachers from one school to a different school every week, for the whole year, is a wise way of running a school system?"

Psst: On the surface, it looks like a dumb question, but Bloomberg's DOE has been doing exactly that with its senior faculty members- the ones who were the most loyal to the profession, those who had stuck by the more challenging schools, even the schools were in serious academic trouble.  Teachers cannot wait for the DOE to help them.  The only "help" Bloomberg's DOE knows how to give is to close the schools and reassign the excessed teachers with degrading jobs as substitutes.  Is this the private sector's only contribution to public education?  Fire the teachers?  Turn the voters against the teachers?  Whisper sweet promises to the parents and use teachers as the scape-goat.  Scape-goating one part of the population while coddling the other, smacks of a dangerous precedent.  Perhaps the mayor isn't at fault: he's just encouraged by a group of grinning idiots?

After Bloomberg tires of blaming the teachers, might he go after the students, next, for spoiling his plans?  Grumpy Mike, stop blaming everybody else and look at your plan, from a civil, pragmatic point of view.  You wouldn't last an hour as an ATR.  I don't think you'd be making all kinds of political promises to Speaker Quinn to stay in the job as an ATR for an extra term, now would ya?

The people, the voters, the parents, and the students, need to get Bloomberg back on the collar.  His policies have run rabid.  He is far to insulated from the consequences of his decisions to be trusted as a decision maker for our future.  He's a boss, not an educator.  The essential question is, what have we learned about what politicians do when they get all the power they ask for?

Ask your friends.  Post their comments. 

Thank you.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Film Review: American Teacher

Film Review: American Teacher

| Wed Sep. 28, 2011 3:30 AM PDT

American Teacher

81 minutes
When Rhena Jasey decided to become a public-school teacher, her friends were appalled: "You went to Harvard!" she recalls them saying. "You should be a doctor or a lawyer." Jasey is one of four teachers profiled by director Vanessa Roth and coproducers Dave Eggers and Nínive Calegari as they address the hottest question in education reform: how to attract and retain great teachers? That, education experts agree, is the single most effective thing a school can do to boost student achievement. Real wages for teachers, the filmmakers argue, have been in a 30-year decline. One subject, a history teacher and coach, makes just $54,000 after 15 years on the job. He supplements that by driving a forklift—indeed, the film reports that 31 percent of US teachers take second jobs to get by. But instead of support, they get the blame for lackluster test scores. With more than half of the nation's 3.2 million public pedagogues coming up for retirement in the next decade, American Teacher succeeds in reframing education's abstract ideological battles in terms of kitchen-table realities.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

NYC DOE Mismanaged Test Scoring Process Wrongly Bars 7,000 Students From Attending Their Graduation

7,000 city students wrongly blocked from attending graduation


Last Updated: 10:40 AM, July 26, 2012
TOO LATE: Megan Marerra, with her eighth-grade diploma yesterday, missed her graduation ceremony.
Riyad Hasan
More than 7,000 city elementary- and middle-school students were wrongly barred from attending their graduation ceremonies this year because education officials mistakenly thought they had failed state exams.
Test scores announced last week revealed that the Department of Education had overestimated how many students had failed the exams and needed to attend summer school — but the reversal came only after students had already missed their class celebrations.
“I was looking forward to my graduation — I had a red, strapless dress picked out and sandals. I couldn’t wait to wear my cap and gown and graduate with all my friends,” said Bell Academy MS eighth-grader, Megan Marrera — who was barred from even sitting in the audience at her graduation last month.
“When they told me I wasn’t graduating, I was very sad. I felt like such a failure,” she added. “The day of the graduation, I was crying in bed.”
The 13-year-old was stunned to learn last week that she actually passed the English exam she had been told she failed — and should have been allowed to graduate with her Bayside classmates.
The news left her mother, Joyce, steamed over the injustice — particularly because her daughter worked extra hard to keep her grades up while dealing with a medical condition.
“I feel that Megan was robbed of seeing a milestone in her life, and that’s unforgivable,” she said. “There’s no way to go back to that day now.”
The city’s troubles with identifying failing students began after the state pushed back the date of its annual math and English exams two years ago — causing the release of scores to be delayed until after summer school starts.
The change forced the city to use preliminary scoring and rough estimates — rather than the actual results — to determine who didn’t pass the exams.
Critics say the inaccuracy of that method should have loosened the department’s strict policy that bars failing students from attending their graduation or stepping-up events.
“You’d rather err on the side of allowing somebody to experience that rather than take it away based on a marking error,” said a Brooklyn elementary school principal.
Department spokeswoman Erin Hughes said officials do allow principals some discretion with elementary school kids, “depending on the unique circumstance of an individual situation.” She said a vast majority of students wrongly identified as having failed the exam just barely passed it — so that they benefit from the extra instruction in summer school.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

UFT Wins Again In The Opposition To Schools' Turnaround

by Philissa Cramer and Rachel Cromidas, at 5:49 pm

UFT Attorney Adam Ross and VP Mike Mendel

The Bloomberg administration’s Hail Mary effort to shake up the staffs at 24 struggling schools fell short today when a State Supreme Court judge shot down the city’s request to move forward.
An arbitrator, Scott Buchheit, ruled late last month that the city’s hiring and firing decisions at the schools — key aspects of the Department of Education’s “turnaround” plans — violated the city’s contract with the teachers union. The schools were not closing, Buchheit ruled, so the city could not invoke article 18-D of the contract, which sets out staffing rules for schools that are shut down.
In a lawsuit filed quickly afterwards, the city contended that Buchheit had overstepped his bounds. Lobis signaled earlier this month that she thought the city was unlikely to win that argument when she rejected its request to be allowed to continue rehiring and replacing teachers at the schools while she considered its appeal.
Today, after listening to city and union lawyers lay out their cases for 45 minutes this afternoon, Lobis retired to her chambers with a warning that she might return with a decision today.
Seven minutes later, she emerged to say that she had come to a conclusion: The arbitrator’s decision would stand.
“I could spend weeks trying to tease out an erudite decision,” Lobis said, but she added that all parties sought a speedy resolution and the legal issues at stake were not complicated.
The city will appeal Lobis’s decision, according to a statement from Michael Cardozo, the city’s top lawyer.
Related Stories
“The mayor and chancellor will not allow failing schools to deprive our students of the high-quality education they deserve. Although we will of course comply with the judge’s ruling, we strongly disagree with it — and we will be appealing,” he said.
The appeal cannot be heard before the fall because the Appellate Division does not sit during the summer. That means that there is now no chance of further reversals to staffing decisions at the schools, and the arbitrator’s ruling that teachers and administrators who were cut loose can reclaim their positions will stand, according to Georgia Pestana, the city’s labor and employment law chief. She said the city’s appeal is aimed at clearing the way for the turnaround model to be used in the future.
“There’s not enough time to get it done for this fall. These schools have to be ready to be open in September,” Pestana said.
Opening successfully in the fall is likely to be a challenge for some of the schools. The turnaround tug-of-war has left many of the schools without a clear tally of who works in them or what their needs will be in September.
“It is now time to prepare the teachers, principals and school communities for the opening of school and we hope that the mayor will spend as much effort on helping struggling schools succeed as he does on his own political needs,” United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement.
The United Federation of Teachers’ top lawyer, Adam Ross, said after the hearing that the department could carry out different plans to improve the schools, including those that were underway at most of them before the city turned to turnaround.
“Most of what the DOE proposed to do for these turnaround plans were part of the DOE’s original ‘transformation’ and ‘restart’ plans, and there is absolutely nothing in the contracts that prevents them from implementing them,” Ross said. “We encourage the Department of Education to do what it can to help every school succeed. If they have actions they want to take in these schools, whether it be curriculum or other changes, they’re free to do so.”
Earlier today, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the department had taken a wait-and-see approach to planning for the schools.
“I have two plans in place and we’ve been operating waiting to see what the decisions will be. If we lose, we’ll put a plan in place. My staff have been working extremely hard and have been looking at a variety of scenarios, budget situations, staffing situations,” he told reporters while visiting a summer dance program in Washington Heights.
“The vision, the goals of the school, trying to create a new atmosphere at those schools — all those things will be pushed aside,” Walcott said. “Our goal is to make sure we provide a high-quality education for the 30,000 students who attend these schools. Unfortunately, that may not happen.”

Monday, July 23, 2012

Valerie Strauss: Can a Teacher Become Qualified in 5 weeks?

My answer to Ms. Strauss: Depends......but randomness cannot exist in public employment, so, my final answer is: "Not in public education".
Posted at 05:00 AM ET, 07/18/2012

Does 5 weeks of training make a teacher ‘highly qualified?’ — Updated

(Updated with House subcommittee vote)
Should someone with five weeks of teacher training be considered ahighly qualified teacher?
A U.S. House appropriations subcommittee approved legislation on Wednesday that extended for two more years the federal definition of a highly qualified teacher as including students still learning to be teachers and other people with very little training.

A Teach for America recruit gets classroom management training. (Ricky Carioti/THE WASHINGTON POST)
The nonprofit organization Teach for America places college graduates into high needs schools after giving them five weeks of training in a summer institute. The TFA corps members, who are required to give only a two-year commitment to teaching, can continue a master’s degree in education with selected schools while teaching.
Of course it doesn’t make any real sense that a new college graduate with five weeks of ed training or any student teacher should be considered highly qualified — because they aren’t. But federalofficials inexplicably partial to Teach for America have bestowed millions of dollars on the organization, and TFA has, not surprisingly, lobbied Congress for this legislation.
The reality is that teachers still in training are disproportionately concentrated in schools serving low-income students and students of color — the children who need the best teachers. This inequitable distribution disproportionately affects students with disabilities.
The satirical newspaper, the Onion, has a funny piece on Teach for America. The first part is ostensibly from a new college graduate who supposedly writes:

When I graduated college last year, I was certain I wanted to make a real difference in the world. After 17 years of education, I felt an obligation to share my knowledge and skills with those who needed it most.
After this past year, I believe I did just that. Working as a volunteer teacher helped me reach out to a new generation of underprivileged children in dire need of real guidance and care. Most of these kids had been abandoned by the system and, in some cases, even by their families, making me the only person who could really lead them through the turmoil....
The second part is supposedly written by a young student who had a Teach for America teacher:
You’ve got to be kidding me. How does this keep happening? I realize that as a fourth-grader I probably don’t have the best handle on the financial situation of my school district, but dealing with a new fresh-faced college graduate who doesn’t know what he or she is doing year after year is growing just a little bit tiresome. Seriously, can we get an actual teacher in here sometime in the next decade, please? That would be terrific.
Just once, it would be nice to walk into a classroom and see a teacher who has a real, honest-to-God degree in education and not a twentysomething English graduate trying to bolster a middling GPA and a sparse law school application. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a qualified educator who has experience standing up in front of a classroom and isn’t desperately trying to prove to herself that she’s a good person...
The No Child Left Behind law requires all classrooms to have highly qualified teachers, though the definition of just what those are has been debated for years.
In 2010, Congress approved legislation that defined “highly qualified teachers” as including students still in teacher training programs. There is an effort now among supporters to keep that definition on the books — even though the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals twice ruled that it violated No Child Left Behind because it did not fully meet a credential standard set in that law.
Last month the Senate Appropriations Committee was on its way to extending the federal definition but, after some protest, decided not to. Still there is support in the Senate to do so.
The House Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday approved legislation that would eliminate most of the funding for President Obama’s Race to the Top and other education programs — and would allow teachers in training to be considered highly qualified teachers through the 2014-15 school year.
The Obama administration has given waivers to more than half of the states, which allows them to ignore major parts of NCLB. That includes the highly qualified teacher provision, if they include student achievement in teacher evaluations.
However, there are other federal education funds, such as Title 1, tied to a highly qualified teacher provision.
Bottom line: The issue isn’t over.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Mike Bloomberg's Education Plan Is a Total Failure

The article below, printed by Bloomberg's ally The NY Daily News, tells only part of the story about the deliberate and malicious strategy of Mike Bloomberg to remove talented educators, both tenured and probationary, special needs children, and high poverty black and hispanic children from New York City public schools. At least the News is making a start in the right direction.
But watch out in the fall - the Bloomberg/Walcott/Corporation Counsel partnership will try to railroad the closing of the schools which won a temporary win in the Supreme Court.

Betcha I'm right. Prepare, expose, fight.

Betsy Combier

Bloomberg's new schools have failed thousands of city students 


Did more poorly on state reading tests than older schools with similar poverty rates


The signature Bloomberg administration reform of shutting down failing schools and replacing them with new schools has — itself — failed thousands of city students, a Daily News analysis finds.

The new schools opened under the mayor were supposed to have better teachers, better principals, and, ultimately, better test scores than the dysfunctional failure mills they were replacing.

But when The News examined 2012 state reading test scores for 154 public elementary and middle schools that have opened since Mayor Bloomberg took office, nearly 60% had passing rates that were lower than older schools with similar poverty rates.

The new schools also showed poor results in the city’s letter-grade rating system, which uses a complicated formula to compare schools with those that have similar demographics.
Of 133 new elementary and middle schools that got letter grades last year, 15% received D’s and F’s — far more than the city average, where just 10% of schools got the rock-bottom grades.

“It’s crazy,” said Tanya King, who helped wage a losing battle to save Brooklyn’s Academy of Business and Community Development, where her grandson was a student.
The school opened in 2005, then closed in 2012.

Tanya King

Instead of closing struggling schools and replacing them with something else that doesn’t work, King says, the city should help with extra resources to save the existing schools.
“You have the same children in the school,” she said. “What’s going to be the difference? Put in the services that are going to make the school better.”

Her grandson Donnovan Hicks, 11, will be transferred next fall for the seventh-grade into another Bloomberg-created school, Brooklyn’s Peace Academy, where just 13% passed the state reading exams this spring.

The News conducted its analysis by grouping 154 new schools into one of five poverty categories based on how many kids in the school were eligible last year to receive a free lunch. It then compared the percent of students who passed the state reading test in each school to the average passing rate for older schools in the same poverty group.

Of the 154 schools, 90 had lower passing rates than the average school in their group.
That translates to massive failure: Just 38% of students at elementary and middle schools created by the Bloomberg administration passed the reading exams, compared with 47% of students citywide.

The News analysis — which looked just at traditional public schools, not at charters — was not the kind of thorough academic study that could be used to draw absolute conclusions on the success of school closures, but three education experts said the method offers an important insight into the city’s reforms.

“This is additional evidence that these (new) schools are not performing better than their peer schools,” said NYU Prof. Robert Tobias, who led the city’s testing program before Bloomberg took office.

City officials defended their new schools, noting they serve students with higher needs than older schools and have improved at a faster rate in recent years.

“While there is still room to improve, these new schools’ proficiency rate is nearly double that of the schools they replaced in both math and English,” said Martin Kurzweil, senior executive director of the Education Department’s research, accountability and data office.
But critics of the administration say they would have hoped for better results.

“(The administration has) been focused on expanding school choice by creating small schools as the solution to school failure when they’re setting these schools up for failure,” said Coalition for Educational Justice parent leader Zakiyah Ansari.