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Archive for May, 2010

Global Citizen Conspiracy

Police were called in Idaho recently to contain protesters whose outrage was fueled by their belief that the International Baccalaureate program is linked to the United Nations, which to them is axiomatic with anti-Americanism.

The uprising was in the Hayden Lakes area. That’s a tiny enclave to accommodate such a big conspiracy theory.  For thirty years, until they were forced by court order to surrender their 20 acre compound to the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2001 as part of a punitive and compensatory award of damages, the Aryan Nations’ headquarters was in Hayden Lakes. More »

Vanishing Students, Rising Scores:
Middle School Charters Show Alarming Student Attrition Over Time

Much has been said about the high demand for charter schools in entrance lotteries, but little about the choices families make once their children are actually accepted. Looking at attrition rates is important because they may tell us about the choices parents make about their children’s schools. Attrition may also indicate that some students are encouraged to leave or have been expelled. And, if proficiency rates rise over time in schools with heavy attrition, those percentages may reflect the change in the student cohort, as well as or instead of academic progress.

I took a look at changes in the size of student ELA testing cohorts for the thirteen middle school charter s that have more than one year of data between 2006 and 2009.[1] Since all students in the testing cohort must take tests every year, I was able to determine whether cohorts shrink or grow over time.

As it turns out, high-performing charter middle schools in the New York City also have extremely high rates of attrition in their testing cohorts :

  • Eight of the thirteen schools have enough data to allow us to examine cohort size between 5th grade, when students enter, and 8th grade, when they graduate.[2] In four of these schools, more than 25% of the students vanished from the cohort. Of these four schools, three saw cohort declines of 30%, and one lost nearly 40%. All of these charters have been nationally or locally acclaimed as great schools that are in high demand. The average attrition for this group of eight is 23%. (charts follow.)
  • More »

“Stop the Cuts and Save our Schools”

The UFT’s new TV ad began airing Saturday, May 22. The ad asks parents, teachers and community members to call, write and e-mail their legislators to urge them to protect after-school programs, save schools from teacher layoffs and urges the “blame the teacher crowd and the Wall Street Hedge Funds behind them,” to stop playing politics with New York’s children.

For more information, go to ProtectingOurKids.org.

Further Evidence of the Need for Charter Reform

An article in today’s Times about charter schools across the state details the questionable financial dealings and conflicts of interest of some charters — further evidence of the need for greater accountability and transparency.

The problems underscore what many critics say is New York’s weak system for policing how charter schools, which are publicly financed but privately run, spend money.

Charters, for example, are not specifically prohibited by state law from hiring their own board members or employees as consultants. While the state comptroller’s office — the government’s fiscal watchdog — can audit public schools, it is barred by a court ruling from examining charter schools.

Good Schools for All Kids: Setting the Record Straight on Charter Reform

Who's for good schools for all kids?

Click on the image for a full size PDF.

The UFT placed a full-page ad in the May 24 issue of the Daily News as part of the union’s ongoing effort to set the record straight on charter school reform and counter the falsehoods being spread by the “blame the teacher” crowd and the Wall Street hedge funds behind them. The ad states, “We’re for schools that serve all students, regardless of their needs, that give parents a real voice, that benefit kids rather than profiteering investors.”

An Apology From a Teacher Who, It Turns Out, Doesn’t Know Everything

[Editor’s note: Mr. Foteah is a second-year teacher in an elementary school in Queens. He blogs at From the Desk of Mr. Foteah , where this post originally appeared.]

crumpled paperDear Gladys,

Today, when you were supposed to be reading your book, and while I was meeting with another student, I saw you writing something furiously. You are one of the few students in the class who regularly and dutifully records your thoughts on Post-its, and, when I excused myself from my conference to come see what you were doing, I expected to see just that. However, when I asked you what you were doing, you told me about your book. I listened, but continued to glance at what you were trying to hide under your arm. When I saw it, I was less than happy. You were doing last night’s homework, and I was livid.

I did not react as I should have. Taking your paper and crumpling it was inappropriate. Had I thought for a moment, instead of reacting instantly, I would have remembered that you are one of the most diligent, hard-working students in the class. I would have realized something was amiss. More »

New York Teacher

New York Teacher

Highlights from the May 20 issue of New York Teacher:

“The most dangerous thing this union faces today is the budget crisis,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew told delegates at their May 12 meeting as he discussed a new campaign, “For Our Kids,” to stop massive cutbacks.

Just one week before threatening to eliminate more than 6,400 teaching positions through layoffs and attrition to save money, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein named four new deputy chancellors, each of whom will make more money than most city commissioners.

“Blame Albany” was Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s mantra on May 6 as he unveiled his proposed executive budget, which calls for eliminating 6,400 teaching jobs — 4,400 through layoffs and the rest through attrition — to make up for a $1.3 billion shortfall in state aid to the city. More »

Mr. Merriman Goes To Buffalo

James Merriman, CEO of the charter management NYC Charter School Center and former head of charter school work at the Wal-Mart family foundation, was on the center’s blog this week, complaining that Diane Ravitch and teacher unions were not closely following and publicly declaiming on the education of English Language Learners in… Buffalo.

Why this 500 mile long march to discuss the status of the education of English Language Learners? Why not discuss the status of English Language Learners in New York City schools? After all, Merriman is based here, as is Ravitch and the UFT.

It certainly is the case that in New York City public schools, the state of the education of English Language Learners can only be described as deplorable — their high school graduation rates, their Regents examination passing rates and their proficiency rates on state ELA and Math exams lag far behind students for whom English is their native language. More than once, we have commented on the education of New York City English Language Learners here at Edwize, as has Diane Ravitch in many of her writings.

But Mr. Merriman goes to Buffalo, and not just because neither Ravitch nor the UFT could reasonably be expected to follow developments there closely or feel a particular obligation to comment upon them. You see, the Buffalo Public Schools are not run by Joel Klein, who just happens to be on the board of Merriman’s Charter School Center and is the most faithful ally of charter management in their battles to ensure that charter schools are non-union. No, the man from Wal-Mart would rather avoid comment on what is right under his nose in the field of English Language Learner education, while castigating those who address the issue before us.

Intellectual honesty begins at home.

Kings Collegiate Charter and IS 588: Setting the Record Straight

Since even the New York Times could not figure out how many students vanished from last year’s 6th grade class at Kings Collegiate Charter, let’s set the record straight: the number is 23, and the percent is 30. Thirty percent of the students vanished even as the percent of students deemed proficient rose… hmmm… 38 percentage points!… from one year to the next.

Which is why it would have been nice if after ushering Secretary Duncan in and out the front door of the (freshly painted) charter school, Mr. Klein had taken Duncan around the back where the students from the public school enter every day. These schools are co-located. True, the halls at IS 588 had not been freshly painted for the visit. But halls aside, Mr. Duncan might have seen a perfectly fine — perhaps even a wonderful — public school. Let’s compare. More »

Everything That The Hedge Fund World Doesn’t Understand About Teaching

Adapted from Dan Pink’s talk at the Renaissance Society of America.

The Anatomy Of A Cover-Up:
The NYC Department Of Education And Special Education In Charter Schools

As more light is shed on the education of students with special needs in New York City charter schools, it has become increasingly evident that the New York City Department of Education [NYC DoE] has flouted the local Freedom of Information Law in an effort to keep from the public view not just a full and accurate picture of the state of Special Education in charter schools, but also its own egregious failure to provide the most minimal oversight in that field.

Here is what we now know. In fall 2009, when the UFT started to compile and analyze the information which provided the basis for our report, Separate and Unequal: The Failure of New York City Charter Schools to Serve the City’s Neediest Students, we discovered that the most important data on Special Education in NYC charter schools had never been published and was not in the public realm. More »

Mulgrew Talks Evaluations, Budget on “Up Close”

UFT President Michael Mulgrew talks about school budget cuts and using multiple measures for teacher evaluations with Diana Williams on Channel 7’s award-winning “Up Close.”

Drawing Inspiration From the Best and the Worst

[Editor’s note: Little Miss Sunshine is a second-year teacher in an elementary school in Queens.]

As professional educators, most of us can point to that one great teacher who encouraged us to work hard, challenged us with new ideas and ultimately inspired us to follow this career path. But recently I started to think about that teacher’s opposite: the worst teacher I ever had, the one who brought me down and made me feel small.

I remember it clearly: I was sitting in my 3rd-grade classroom, front row center, working on a reading comprehension exercise, when Ms. G walked over to me and asked why I hadn’t answered any of the questions at the bottom of the page. More »

Lay Off, Mr. Chancellor!

In a letter, dated May 8, to school principals, Chancellor Klein laid out matters of budget and The New I-Zone.

Most incriminating of the motives and mindset of its malicious author, was the part bemoaning the current seniority for the layoff system.

That “last hired, first fired” principle has thrived for generations throughout the city, state and federal civil service system. It has of late been under all-out siege nationwide, especially against members of teacher unions. You don’t hear or read of it with respect to police officers, members of Congress, et al.

Chancellor Klein would like all principals, including those who never or hardly ever taught and whose expertise is based on a quickie leadership course and/or social networking skills or a fortuitous DNA link, to exercise life and death control over the careers of all educators, including those whose mastery and experience infinitely exceeds theirs. More »

Protesters Send Up Charter School Profiteers

Protesters send up charter school profiteers 1

Chanting slogans like “Profits, not pupils!” “We want money, not textbooks!” and “First the banks, then the schools!,” a large and spirited group of gaudily dressed faux hedge-funders expressed their enthusiasm for opening (and siphoning profits from) charter schools on May 4 at a rally in front of the New York City Charter School Center.

More photos after the jump. More »