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Archive for January, 2010

Jan. 31 is the Deadline for UFT-Funded Scholarships

Albert Shanker College Scholarship Fund

A million dollar opportunity is a terrible thing to waste.

This year’s deadline, Jan. 31, is fast approaching for the UFT’s annual awarding of $1 million in total scholarships to academically excellent and financially eligible New York City public high school seniors through the Albert Shanker College Scholarship Fund.

To receive a $5,000 scholarship from the fund, those selected must be accepted in a full-time, matriculated, degree-granting program at an accredited college or university.

Visit the Scholarship Fund Web page for more information.

New York Teacher

New York TeacherHighlights from the Jan. 11 issue of New York Teacher:

After two years of sharply rising class sizes in the city’s public schools — despite hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding to reduce them — the UFT filed a lawsuit against the Department of Education and Chancellor Joel Klein on Jan. 5 to finally force them to comply with class-size reduction mandates.

Surrounded by city and state elected officials, and citing a new UFT report showing that New York City’s charter schools fail to serve the city’s neediest students, UFT President Michael Mulgrew used a Jan. 3 press conference to call for changes in the state charter school law.

Thousands of teachers, students, parents and community and political leaders are crowding public hearings for each of the 20 schools earmarked for closure by the DOE to demand that the threatened schools be fixed, not shut down. Hundreds of stakeholders are pulling no punches in their comments, charging the DOE with inequity, mismanagement and inconsistent standards in making closing decisions. More »

Fighting to Save Jamaica High School

UFT chapter leaders James Eterno of Jamaica HS and Arthur Goldstein of Francis Lewis HS lay out the case against closing Jamaica in this piece on GothamSchools.

On Jan. 7 NY1 ran a segment about Jamaica HS and the rally surrounding the recent community hearing on the school’s proposed closure:

NY1: Hundreds Rally To Keep Queens School Open

Promises Broken: A Tale Of The DoE’s Indifference To A Great School Serving Needy Children

In the hard scrabble streets that wind through the housing projects of Brooklyn’s Red Hook community, men and women still remember Patrick Daly, fifteen years after he lost his life in the service of their children. Fearless, Daly had sought out a student who had run from his school in distress. In his quest to protect one of his charges, Daly was caught in the crossfire of a gang shoot-out, and his lifeblood stained the center mall of the Red Hook Houses.

Inside PS 15, now named after Daly, an intrepid staff carry on his mission and his work. This is a school which serves a high needs community, with many students living in poverty, many English Language Learners and many Special Education students. By every measure, including the NYC Department of Education’s own [they have received an 'A' on their school progress report every year grades have been given], they meet that challenge successfully. The Patrick F. Daly School is a great school, of the sort that the Mayor and the Chancellor claim, in other contexts, they want every public school to be. More »

New York Charter School Association: For Profit, Not For Schools

In the heat of the Albany battle over the extension of the cap on the number of charter schools in New York State, the core agenda of the New York Charter School Association [NYCSA] has been stripped of all pretense. Faced with a set of reform proposals put forward by the UFT and elected officials to fix the broken charter school funding formula, NYCSA did not join in calls for reducing the funding lag,  for having funding follow high needs students living in poverty, English Language Learners and Special Education students and for moving the cost of TRS pensions off the books of charter schools. Fair funding for charter schools is simply not important to the right-wing ideologues at NYCSA.

No, rather than take on such vital issues for charter schools, NYCSA has been waging an all-out campaign on behalf of for profit charter management firms Victory Schools and National Heritage Academies and on behalf of NYC D0E Chancellor Joel Klein. Legislation proposed by State Senate leader John Sampson and State Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver would combine an increase on the cap with a prohibition of for profit involvement in charter schools and limits on the NYC DoE policy of capriciously siting charter schools in district buildings to the detriment of the public schools already using the space. NYCSA is so opposed to these measures that it has its publicists at the New York Post call for the defeat of a bill which would extend the charter cap to 400 schools.

Victory Schools is the outfit that is sucking up 25¢ of every public funding dollar that should go to the students of Merrick Academy. In an article published in this past Sunday’s Daily News, New Yorkers learned of the involvement of Victory in a scheme which had Victory owner Steven Klinsky sending thousands of campaign dollars to State Senator Malcolm Smith; in turn, Smith directed over $100,000 of public dollars to a Victory School which had paid over three-quarters of a million dollars in management fees to Victory. National Heritage Academies is the corporation which challenged the right of its New York employees to organize into a union and bargain collectively. These are the “good” corporate citizens for whom NYCSA is going to the wall.

Truth be told, the presence of for profit corporations and money from right-wing corporations such as Wal-Mart and hedge-fund operators such as Richard Gilder and Carl Icahn has had a corrupting influence on New York charter schools. Last Friday, the Albany Times-Union published an article on how the leading voice in the anti-union jeremiad on the editorial pages of the New York Post and New York Daily News, Thomas Carroll of Brighter Choice Charter Schools, had received tens of millions of dollars from these sources. With that sort of support, no wonder that he has made the promotion of their agenda into a full-time job.

It’s this simple. New York Charter School Association: for profit, not for schools.

UPDATE:

A sharp reader points out that Jeff Clark, the President and CEO National Heritage Academies, is on NYCSA’s Board of Trustees, and that Bill Phillips, current NYCSA President, worked for two for-profits, Beacon Education Management and SABIS Educational Systems, prior to leading NYCSA.

“They Can’t Stop Us”

The New York Times’ City Room blog has a post about Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical Education High School, one of 15 high schools targeted for closure by the DOE. Smith teacher Nathaniel Wight shot video of students in action and set it to music featuring lyrics written and rapped by Mark Noakes, an electrical company project manager with several colleagues who are Smith alumni.

For more information on the fight against school closings, including additional videos, links to Facebook groups and pages, and contact information for PEP members and elected officials, click here.

UPDATE: Watch more Smith videos here.

A Story of Broken Promises

[Editor's note: Versions of this piece appeared in community newspapers throughout the five boroughs. This is the Manhattan version.]

Tens of thousands of children across the city are crammed into overcrowded classrooms. Yet the city has received from the state more than three-quarters of a billion dollars in the past three years to lower class size. Despite this influx of funds — and the city’s promise in writing to use it to lower class size — class sizes have actually increased in New York City.

That is why the United Federation of Teachers, the NAACP, the Hispanic Federation and a coalition of other groups and individuals sued the city Department of Education earlier this month. Our lawsuit charges that despite a decline in overall student enrollment and the injection of more than $760 million in state funds from school years 2007-08 through 2009-10, class sizes have gone up by the largest amount in 11 years.

This $760 million was part of the state’s solution to an earlier case called the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which challenged how state education funding had shortchanged urban districts, including New York City. The new funds, under the guidelines known as Contracts for Excellence, came with the proviso that the city deliberately target funds to smaller classes.

New York City took that money, and then ignored its promise, permitting principals to spend the money on other things, including replacing funds lost to city budget cuts, a clear violation of the agreement with the state. More »

Citywide Council on High Schools: We Need A Moratorium On High School Phase-Outs

Tonight, the Citywide Council on High Schools of the New York City Department of Education voted unanimously to call for a moratorium on the phase out and eventual closure of New York City high schools.

Off and Writing

[Editor's note: Mr. Foteah is a second-year teacher in an elementary school in Queens. He blogs at The World As I See It, where this post originally appeared.]

As a teacher, I look to assign work through which students can make a deep personal investment. Every teacher knows that if work relates to a child’s world, their dedication to achieving success in the work will be that much greater.

Our Mosaic lesson today focused on cultivating thoughts that would motivate the students to capture photographs that spoke about them as members of the community. I shut the lights, asked them to put their heads down, close their eyes, and get comfortable. I prayed the phone or fire alarm wouldn’t ring and that no student would immaturely sabotage the meditation activity I was about to lead the class through. More »

News Bites to Barf For

Gagging or puking — what’s your pleasure? If neither, read no further. Better yet, stick it out and test your powers of mental digestion with two bites from a hard-to-swallow reality sandwich.

The Detroit News, on Dec. 13, reported that “impassioned parents demanded jail time for educators and district officials following the release of test scores that showed fourth and eighth graders had the worst math scores in the nation. Sharlonda Buckman, CEO of the Detroit Parent Network, called for jailing and lawsuits.”

Buckman’s wrath makes sense but not its target. There’s virtue in her passion but none in her argument. Educators should by all means guide her through her rage but by no means turn the other cheek to it. She has, not out of cowardice but rather from ignorance, subscribed to the vogue of deflecting all accountability to educators who have little or no role in setting policy or enforcing standards. More »

Mulgrew on “Inside City Hall”

UFT President Michael Mulgrew appeared on NY1′s “Inside City Hall” on Jan. 7. He spoke about charter schools, the Race to the Top application, this week’s class size lawsuit, and other issues.

Part 1:

Part 2 after the jump. More »

Closing Schools: For Vulnerable Students, a Lesson in Darwin

We already know that the DoE generally ignored its own accountability standard in choosing what schools it wants to close. This is especially troubling since the schools that made the list tend to serve the city’s most vulnerable students, students whose academic lives are already in freefall, and who arrive in need of intensive services if they are to be successful.

We see this right in the DoE data. Let’s compare the chosen high schools (mostly the DoE is closing high schools) to high schools citywide, and also to high schools with comparable accountability grades that will not close. What we see is that it does not seem to be the quality of the schools that drove the decision; it was the kids.

This seems true whether we compare these three groups according to the proportion of the population that needs Special Education services…

Percent Special Ed

…or by the 8th grade scores of the incoming students: More »

$760 Million For What? NYC DoE Sued For Violating Class Size Mandates In CFE Law

Today, a coalition of civil rights organizations, educational advocacy groups and the UFT filed a law suit against the NYC Department of Education and Joel Klein for failure to comply with New York State law under the Contract for Excellence and lower class size in New York City public schools. The lawsuit charges that despite a decline in overall student enrollment and the injection of more than $760 million in dedicated state funds  from school years 2007-08 through 2009-10, class sizes have actually increased in city schools.

Joining with the UFT in the lawsuit are the New York State Conference of the NAACP, the Hispanic Federation, Class Size Matters, the Alliance for Quality Education and parents of NYC public school students. Appearing in support of the law suit today were New York City Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, New York NAACP President Hazel Dukes and Hispanic Federation President Lillian Rodríguez López.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said, “New York City promised in writing that it would use specific funds to reduce class size.  It then turned around and ignored its promise, saying that school principals who supposedly work for the DOE simply decided to spend the money on other things — among them, to replace funds lost to city budget cuts. The result has been that class sizes have actually increased over 2007 in every grade.”

“Three-quarters of a billion dollars later, tens of thousands of New York City students are packed into classes that are higher than anywhere else in the state. Who is managing — or should I say mismanaging — this process?” More »

Three Questions

There will be the usual attempts to spin the publication of a new study on New York City charter schools by the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes [CREDO].  Let us accept, for purposes of argument, the claim that will issue forth from the usual quarters that the study demonstrates that New York City charter schools are doing a much better job of educating students than district schools.* Three questions follow logically: More »

Dumbing Down Trash Talk: DoE’s Cantor On The UFT’s Proposal For Charter School Reform

Chad OchocincoResponding to the UFT’s proposals for reform of the charter school law, the New York City Department of Education public relations flack David Cantor goes all Chad Ochocinco on us.

Cantor:

Once again the union is standing up for its members rather than kids by creating roadblocks and obstacles to the growth of charter schools, which definitive independent research, President Obama and the Regents have all said are crucial to our children’s future.  The union’s proposal to constrain charters risks undermining New York’s shot at winning hundreds of millions of Race to the Top dollars while thwarting the efforts of thousands of parents who are demanding these innovative schools for their children. The ultimate aim of the union’s proposal is to destroy or unionize all charters.

To borrow a felicitous turn of phrase from New York Times sportswriter Mike Tanier, Cantor’s Ochocinco impersonation is dumbing down trash talk.

And like Ochocinco’s performance last night, Cantor is ‘0’ for the game. He doesn’t even pretend to address the main issues raised in the UFT’s report — the failure of charter schools to educate their far share of the neediest students, the profiteering off public funds which should be going to the classroom, the lack of transparency and accountability, the need to fix the broken charter funding formula. No, in a completely transparent way, it’s all about Tweed’s agenda to make sure that charter schools are not union schools.

Perhaps it was all because of an injury to Cantor’s typing fingers, and we should be praying for his quick recovery.