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Archive for February, 2010

The Dangers Of Market Fundamentalism

Al Gore in the New York Times on environmental issues:

The decisive victory of democratic capitalism over communism in the 1990s led to… a hubristic “bubble” of market fundamentalism that encouraged opponents of regulatory constraints to mount an aggressive effort to shift the internal boundary between the democracy sphere and the market sphere.

That is an observation perhaps even more applicable to the last two decades of education policy.

IBO Sheds Light On Charter School Funding

Funding equity is an important issue in education for one simple reason: it is a matter of educational justice for students. Unfortunately, in the world of educational politics, it is easy to lose sight of that bottom line. The politics of division that Chancellor Klein has pursued on the charter school front has claimed as part of its collateral damage rational, fact-based evaluation of charter school funding: as of late, there has been a great deal more heat than light in such discussions.

For many years, the only serious scholarly study of the subject was a 2004 paper, Charter School Funding in New York, authored by Jonathan Gyurko, now of the UFT, and Robin Jacobowitz of NYU. The websites of the New York City Charter School Center and the New York Charter School Association linked to this detailed evaluation of the complicated funding formula, and Charter School Center CEO Merriman commended it in a New York Times interview. Last year, during the bitter debates that accompanied the funding freezes of district and charter schools, Gyurko updated that analysison Edwize  here and here. He concluded that “with the recent shift of ‘categorical funds’ into state ‘foundation aid’ and the placement of many City charter schools in Board of Education facilities,” the “modest funding gaps” that existed in 2004 had been considerably reduced, leaving “little to no operating disparities.” More »

Eva: I want space for my charters.
Joel: Let me close some district schools.

It’s all in the Joel Klein-Eva Moskowitz emails, courtesy of Juan Gonzalez who tells the story in his Daily News column. More »

The Corporate Man’s Burden [Updated]

Poor James Merriman. As CEO of the New York City Charter School Center, the charter management organization here in the Big Apple, Merriman woke up to some bad news Monday morning. His main publicist, Thomas Carroll of the Brighter Choice chain of charter schools, had a little credibility issue. Ever since the UFT issued its Separate and Unequal report which demonstrated that New York charter schools were not serving their share of high needs students, Carroll had been given carte blanche access to the op-ed pages of the Daily News and the Post by the tabloid powers-that-be to claim otherwise. [See here, here, and here.] But now the authorizer of Carroll’s charter schools, the SUNY Charter School Institute, was issuing a scathing report that one of Carroll’s own charter schools had an illegal policy of denying admissions to students with special needs, with the goal of inflating the school’s standardized test scores.

What to do? While the common practice of charter management is to attack the bona fides of the bearers of bad news, such an approach would not work in the case of the Charter School Institute, an institution held in high regard in the New York charter world. So on the principle that the best defense is an offense, Merriman decided to attack — who else? — the UFT, and what he calls our “present obsession with precise demographic balancing between charter schools and district schools.” That is an Aesopian rendition of our view that all public schools — charter and district — should serve all students in their communities, and especially students with the greatest needs. More »

Leadership Academy Results — Nil

The federal Education Department’s What Works Clearinghouse just released a review of the city’s Leadership Academy, the principal training program that Joel Klein brought in with the help of “Neutron” Jack Welch, the former General Electric chairman.

Apparently it doesn’t work. More »

The Things I Believe (or, “What Do I Know? I’m Only a Teacher.”)

[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.]

My mother, a former principal, recently forwarded me this Edweek article, entitled “These Things We Believe.”

Although I’m still technically a neophyte, I empathize with and lift my voice in support of those teachers who are, according to the article, “so discouraged about the conditions under which they’re working and the daily criticism they’re hearing from political leaders, school reform groups, and media pundits who’ve identified teachers as the chief cause of public education’s problems.” In any school across this city, chances are the gripes are similar to those in my school, and many of them stem from our political “leadership.”

Too often it seems the public lacks any significant appreciation for the beleaguered teacher. Yet, the trick, implied in the article, is to insulate ourselves from the cacophony of insults directed toward us, and in spite of it, create atmospheres conducive to the success of our students and the sanity of their teachers. More »

Brighter Choice Charter Apologia Laid Bare

Shortly after the start of the new year, a group of elected officials joined the UFT to propose a package of legislative reforms designed to ensure that charter schools would be true public schools, educating all students.

At that time, Thomas Carroll, prolific charter advocate and long time champion of the far right in state politics, took to the pages of New York City tabloids to condemn our proposal. The idea that charter schools should educate all students, including those with the greatest need, was a poison pill, Carroll declared. It would force charters to adopt terrible admissions quotas. It was the work of Michael Mulgrew, our new UFT president, who is “a bare-knuckled trench-fighter” in Carroll’s book. More »

The Teaching Profession As Phoenix

Imagine that you have been a successful practicing pediatrician for many years and have retained your original idealism and smarts over all that time. You’re a great diagnostician with a “bedside manner” to match. You’ve sharpened your skills, deployed your intuition, kept up to speed on research and treatments, dog-eared your much-consulted Physicians’ Desk Reference, tapped the fruits of your experience, balanced empathy with detachment and volunteered pro bono to heal indigent patients who lack the means to fund the biannual new Lexus your peers expect you to drive. There have been no complaints and two generations of community residents swear by you.

Enter the inquisitors. More »

New York Teacher

New York TeacherHighlights from the Feb. 18 issue of New York Teacher:

During the toughest budget time lawmakers and taxpayers have seen in decades, the UFT’s message at the union’s annual kickoff legislative meeting in Albany, held on Feb. 2, was consistent: Keep the cuts away from kids.

While the city and state still struggle to deal with an economy in crisis, UFT President Michael Mulgrew insisted that lawmakers and city officials work together on a budget agreement that “protects the classroom at all times,” he said in testimony before Assembly and Senate committee meetings on Feb. 2 in Albany.

Calling Chancellor Joel Klein’s move to use student test scores in tenure decisions “another example of mismanagement,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said it underscored the need for a teacher evaluation system that teachers can trust. More »

Closing Maxwell Part II:
Accountability Ignored and Flawed in a Rush to Close a School

Maxwell HSSince Joel Klein’s new schools do not seem likely to take Maxwell’s neediest students, and since all that its current and future self-contained kids are guaranteed is an opportunity to apply, it seems fair to ask whether or not the community might be well-served by keeping the school open and building on its strengths. This is also a question worth asking because Maxwell is only one of fourteen high schools slated for closing, and the situation I am about to describe with Maxwell is typical of what we find when we look at other closing schools.

The DoE has created two accountability measures to determine school quality: Quality Reviews and Progress Reports.

Quality Review

Quality Reviews are on-site 2-day reviews of the school, performed by a different reviewer every year. For the past several years, the DoE has invested huge resources in its Quality Reviews. Though I don’t know the budget amounts, I do know something about what goes into shaping and implementing them. Over multiple meetings, standards of review are debated and fine-tuned every year. Senior instructional people are trained over several days in order to ensure inter-rater reliability. Reviewers, well-steeped in the philosophy and specifics then perform the reviews armed with standards, rubrics, templates, and on-going support.

Basically — ask anyone in the schools — Quality Review is a very big deal. More »

Burn That Book!

If you want to grasp the levels of “know nothingism” that is now in vogue on the American right, consider this post, which finds evidence of a communist conspiracy in the White House library books selected by Michelle Obama. [Hattip: Yglesias.]

The irony here is that if the author of this post knew something about the subject or even skimmed the books in question,  it would quickly become apparent that Nathan Glazer’s The Social Basis of American Communism is a rather well-known scholarly analysis from an anti-Communist perspective.

That brings to mind an urban legend regarding a leading American politician who inquired of his staff whether Olof Palme, the then Social Democratic Prime Minister of Sweden, was a Communist. “No, sir, he is an anti-Communist,” the reply came, drawing this retort: “I don’t care what kind of Communist he is.”

In the age of Sarah Palin, urban legends are transformed into real life.

If Education Is A Civil Rights Issue…

how come the record of the New York City Department of Education under Chancellor Klein has been so poor on issues of diversity and equity?

Klein is a outspoken advocate of the current fashion that schools should not be judged by their inputs, or what they put into the education of their students. Talk about the need for lower class size, and he will quickly counter that it is only outputs that matter. Outputs are hard data, such as student standardized test scores.

So what does the hard data show about the diversity and equity performance of the NYC Department of Education under Klein? More »

The Limits Of School Competition

Matt Yglesias has an interesting take on Schools and Competition. In reaction to the classic Milton Friedmanite celebration of unfettered laissez-faire markerts, he endorses a key point in the analysis of W. Bentley MacLeod and Miguel Urquiola:

if schools cannot select students based upon their ability, then a free market is indeed efficient and encourages entry by high productivity schools. However, if schools are allowed to select on ability, then competition leads to stratification by parental income, increased transmission of income inequality, and reduced student effort—in some cases lowering the accumulation of skill.

Yglesias then lauds charter school lotteries as an example of a student selection process which is not founded on student ability, and so yields a representative student population. Yet this supposition is not borne by the available evidence: the recent Separate and Unequal report of the UFT found, for example, that New York City charter school lotteries are drawing many fewer free lunch students living in poverty, English Language Learners and students with special needs than the district schools serving the same community. More »

Closing Maxwell High School Without a Plan

In posts over the past several weeks I have described how the DoE has stacked the deck against students in self-contained special education classes and the schools that serve them.

In terms of the schools, the DoE’s fancy high school Progress Reports are significantly biased against those that serve self-contained students. Making matters worse, when it chose what schools to close the DoE tossed out the results of the expensive and intensive Quality Reviews. The DoE did this even when reviewers found the schools were doing well for three years in a row, and they did it in spite of the fact that the reviews were supposed to play a key role in the DoE accountability standard.

In terms of the students, we know the DoE has not generally admitted self-contained students to the schools that replace the ones that are closing. These schools may serve IEP students with less severe disabilities (for example, students who need speech services or who can succeed in CTT classes), but they do not serve students with the more significant disabilities found in students in self-contained classes. Call it mismanagement, or call it a plan, the result has been to create two separate and unequal school systems within the regular public schools.

To understand how all this plays out, let’s look at just one school: W. H. Maxwell High School in Brooklyn. More »

New York Teacher

New York TeacherHighlights from the Feb. 4 issue of New York Teacher:

The UFT, joined by community and education advocates and city and state elected officials, filed a lawsuit on Feb. 1 charging that city school officials “studiously ignored” key provisions of the school governance law in its campaign to close 19 New York City schools. The suit asks the court to re-do the PEP vote that “unlawfully rubber-stamped” the closings.

Nearly 3,000 outraged parents, students, community leaders and educators packed the Brooklyn Technical HS auditorium on Jan. 26, where they urged the Panel for Educational Policy to reject the Department of Education’s proposal to close 19 schools.

Chanting “instruction not destruction” and “keep schools open,” more than 1,500 students, parents, educators and community advocates rallied against school closings outside Brooklyn Technical HS on Jan. 26. More »