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Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Farina-de Blasio Renewal Schools' Scandal

Another scandal reaches city newspapers. So tiring. When will Carmen Farina "retire"?

See my other articles on Renewal Schools' scandal.

and a recent article in the NY TIMES
Why One School Lives as Another Dies in the Same Building
Teaching math in NYC public schools? Don't get me started. My guru throughout the fuzzy math years was Elizabeth Carson, founder of NYC HOLD National. I attended District 2 meetings, math conferences, etc., etc. Then, two of my daughters got into Stuyvesant High School, where the math department had a separate curriculum and math placement exam for kids from District 2 or who had TERC/Everyday Math in middle school.

When my youngest daughter was at PS 6 with Principal Carmen Farina, she and her classmates brought home the most ridiculous c--- (rhymes with "wrap") for math I've ever seen. TERC math tells kids they cannot multiply numbers the classic way, they have to break down the numbers into small parts and add them. 16 X 19 + the number 16 added up 19 times. And then you were supposed to draw little hats over each transaction. I'm not a fan, as you can probably tell.

We parents got so angry - and the teachers were, too, but they told us privately that their "hands were tied" by Carmen - that we decided to tutor our kids ourselves or get a professional to do it. We cooked up a scheme that looked like this:
We would work on problems the traditional way, with multiplication and long division, then put the answer on the worksheet and draw the hats over the numbers added together. Then we erased the numbers several times to make it look like the work took a long time. It's called "fuzzy math", after all.

My daughter wrote something about this which the Riverdale Press published. I posted her statement in full on my website:
WHY TERC? Asks a 9 year old, Who Questions the Value of 'Fuzzy Math' For Her Future Academic Goals

After the publication in the Riverdale Press, she was removed from the math team at PS 6 by Carmen because "she did not know math". I immediately asked her if she wanted to take the test for the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth, she said yes, got in for both math and english, and got into NEST+M for grades 6-12, and the National Honor Society.  I have nothing to thank Carmen Farina for, as far as teaching math.

Carmen did pay to have me trained in Great Books, which I loved and worked with other parents in an after school program. So thanks for that, Carmen!

Betsy Combier

City’s ‘Renewal Program’ costs big bucks but shows few results

Bill de Blasio speaks to the graduates of the Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn
Mayor de Blasio vowed to “shake the foundations of New York City education” by showering 94 poorly performing public schools with taxpayer money to pay for an extra hour of daily instruction, special training for the teachers and extra social services for the kids.
Officially dubbed the “School Renewal Program,” de Blasio said he preferred a less-formal title when he announced the $150 million turnaround plan in November 2014

My name is simpler — it’s ‘No Bad Schools,’ ” he told a packed auditorium at East Harlem’s Coalition School for Social Change, one of those targeted for recovery.
Calling his vision a break from the past — when struggling schools were simply “written off” and shut down — de Blasio also said his hand-picked schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, had already started evaluating administrators “to make sure our school leadership begins improving immediately.”
But that’s not quite how it turned out.
With a three-year deadline looming, progress has been spotty at best and the Department of Education has already given up on 17 schools. It plans to continue the program in September with 78 schools, including one that was created by merging two it shut.
Some supporters have started questioning the program, which critics blast as a costly sinkhole that’s entered a death spiral.
“Failed schools don’t reinvent themselves,” said Eric Nadelstern, a former deputy schools chancellor for instruction under Mayor Mike Bloomberg and currently a professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College. “Education will only get well if we reward success and penalize failure. The Renewal program does exactly the opposite.”
The annual cost of the program has risen to $186.5 million this school year, with total spending through the 2018-2019 year estimated at $754.2 million, according to the latest figures from the Independent Budget Office.
The Department of Education will not say where all the money goes. The Post has learned that $8.5 million is paid to 72 Office of Renewal Schools “directors” and “instructional coaches.” Since last school year, another $3.7 million went to “leadership coaches,” including many retired principals, each making $660 to $1,400 a day.
Meanwhile, DOE statistics show that:
  • Total enrollment at the 86 Renewal schools currently open has plummeted nearly 25 percent — from 49,391 to 37,146 — since the 2013-2014 school year, before the program began.
  • Average per-student spending at each Renewal school is $14,632 this school year, up nearly 35 percent from $10,847 in 2013-2014 — and more than twice the cost of educating students at the elite Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech high schools.
  • Only three Renewal schools met all their improvement goals last school year, while 61 showed declines in at least one category and 13 fell in three or more — even after the Renewal schools were given three years to hit targets for which other schools only got one.
In recent weeks, the Department of Education has mounted a public-relations blitz to boost the Renewal schools, releasing preliminary data showing their average four-year graduation rate rose to 58.5 percent last year — then revising that number up to 59.3 percent and saying the increase from 2015 was more than twice the citywide average.
At a Feb. 10 news conference trumpeting the 4.8-point jump, de Blasio claimed it “proves that real impact is being made through the Renewal School initiative.”
But his administration had to admit that the dropout rate at Renewal schools rose to 18.6 percent last year, even as the citywide rate declined to a record low of 8.5 percent.
City Hall also ignored the fact that declining enrollment means the Renewal high schools actually graduated 18 percent fewer students — or 750 kids — than they did in 2014, before the program began.
Even worse, DOE statistics show the rate of “college readiness” among Renewal grads — defined as meeting CUNY standards for avoiding remedial classes — was just 12.3 percent last year, one-third the citywide average of 37 percent.
And while the citywide college-readiness rate has risen steadily over the past three years, the Renewal schools saw a slight overall dip last year, when 10 showed declines from 2015 and one — Leadership Institute, which is slated for closure — sank to a dismal 2 percent.
In addition, nine Renewal high schools have seen their college-readiness rates fall since 2014, before the turnaround program began. “What this year’s data really shows is that the de Blasio administration is simply lowering standards to boost graduation rates,” said Jeremiah Kittredge of Families for Excellent Schools, a pro-charter group.
“While that may help the mayor’s approval rating, it does nothing for the thousands of students trapped in his failing Renewal Schools program who are graduating woefully unprepared for college.”
Chancellor Fariña also penned a Feb. 1 op-ed in the Daily News claiming that “Renewal Schools are seeing real progress” and pointing in part to higher scores on state tests and lower numbers of suspensions.
She failed to note that the 2016 state Common Core exams had fewer questions and no time limits, with state Education Commissioner Maryellen Elia cautioning, “It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison with previous years.”
Last July, the Department of Education proposed a controversial new policy to further slash suspensions of students in kindergarten to second grade at all schools.The rules have not yet taken effect, officials said, but instead of being suspended unruly kids would face “positive” and “age-appropriate” discipline methods.
A teacher at one Renewal high school, Richmond Hill, said teachers also faced pressure from administrators to limit suspensions of older kids to improve statistics.
“The kids run the schools,” the teacher said. “They know they can get away with pretty much whatever they want at this point. We’re in a position where we either allow chaos in the classroom or have administrators get pissed. It’s an unwritten rule now: Just let it go.”
A former state education official who helped oversee low-performing schools called the Renewal program a “colossal waste of money.”
“At many of these schools, the bar was set so low, and some of them couldn’t get over the low bar. How pathetic,” the ex-official said.
Two union leaders who initially supported the Renewal plan have since soured on it.
Ernest Logan of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators was the first to break ranks. In January 2016, Logan wrote in his union’s newsletter that the DOE’s bureaucracy had turned the program into a “recipe for disaster” — then publicly denounced it at a November panel discussion, saying: “If I told you that we spent $14,000-plus a kid and you know what you only got is a 1 percent improvement, you’d run me out the country.”
United Federation of Teachers boss Michael Mulgrew said in January he was “clearly frustrated” by the lack of progress.
“Parents and teachers are leaving in droves. These schools are not being managed properly,” Mulgrew told NY1 News.
A retired educator familiar with the Renewal program blamed meddling by officials from the DOE’s seven Borough Field Support Centers, which Fariña established in 2015.
At the time, she claimed the 700-plus Support Center staffers would “ensure schools get the tailored supports they need,” including “teaching and learning, finance and human resources, operations, student services, special education and English language learners.”
But the source said, “These places are staffed by people who are not anywhere near experts in the field.
“In half the cases they were probably very good two-, three-, four-year teachers. But they’re not the people to be walking into a building telling [assistant principals] or principals what to do.”
The Class Size Matters advocacy group has also compiled data showing that about 40 percent of elementary and middle schools in the Renewal program — and nearly all of the high schools — have some classes with 30 or more students in them.
The group’s executive director, Leonie Haimson, called the situation “unconscionable” and noted how the DOE had repeatedly pledged to “focus class size reduction planning efforts on the School Renewal Program.”
“Because of the DOE’s refusal to reduce class size, the Renewal program is doomed to fail.”
DOE spokeswoman Toya Holness defended the program.“This is hard work, and there’s more to do, but students are making gains: graduation and attendance rates are up and chronic absenteeism, suspensions and serious incidents are down.”
Additional reporting by Selim Algar and Carl Campanile

Hidekel Reyes Lopez, a student at Borough of Manhattan Community College.

Going to a de Blasio ‘Renewal school’ didn’t prep me for college

For this aspiring doctor, attending one of Mayor de Blasio’s Renewal schools was the wrong prescription.
Hidekel Reyes Lopez, 18, decided to attend the HS for Health Careers and Sciences because it was convenient to her home in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood — and then a knee injury inspired her to pursue a career in orthopedics.
But despite its name, the school offered no specialized courses on health or medical professions, she said, and little in the way of science beyond the “very basic” classes required to graduate.
Even worse, the lackluster instruction left her unprepared when she got her high-school diploma last June and applied to CUNY’s Borough of Manhattan Community College — where she promptly failed the math-assessment test for incoming freshmen.
“I think they actually shouldn’t have graduated me,” she said of the city Department of Education.
“The next step after high school should be college, and if I wasn’t ready for college, I shouldn’t have been let go.”
The vivacious, athletic teen wound up spending two months last summer in “CUNY Start,” an intensive, 25-hour-a-week, remedial program where she learned the “four years of math that I didn’t get in high school.”
Grateful for the challenge, Lopez wound up getting a perfect score of 100 on her final math exam, she said.
Despite de Blasio’s vow that his School Renewal Program would “transform” the 94 low-performing schools targeted, Lopez noticed little impact at her high school after Hizzoner unveiled the plan in late 2014.
“For the most part it was the same. It didn’t really feel like a big change,” she said.
The most obvious differences, Lopez said, were an increase in the number of after-school clubs and a new health clinic.
And while she credited English teacher Lisa Brown with sparking a love of reading by introducing her to classic literature such as “The Catcher in the Rye,” Lopez said most of her classes were “very dull, very plain.”
Lopez also said her other instructors “just teach so students can pass the Regents” exams required for graduation, using old tests to guide the curriculum.
“They’re not really teaching so the students can learn, explore and go deep,” Lopez said. “I wanted to go deeper.”
While Lopez joined 70 percent of her classmates at Health Careers who graduated in four years, DOE statistics show a mere 10 percent scored high enough on standardized exams to enroll at CUNY without first taking remedial courses.
“Students are going into college unprepared,” Lopez said. ‘They don’t have a level of thinking that allows them to succeed.”

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