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Archive for June, 2010

Two New Studies on Charter Schools and Test Scores:
What They Say, and What They Don’t Say

[Editor's note: This post was co-written by Rhonda Rosenberg and Tina Collins.]

In the past weeks, two new studies have come out about the impact of charter schools on math and reading test scores. One focuses on a small sample of students in a single school (Harlem Success Academy), the other on the students at 22 KIPP schools around the country (including the original KIPP Academy; STAR College Preparatory; AMP Academy; and Infinity Charter in NYC). Both were paid for by the schools they studied, and both conclude that the charter schools were more successful in raising test scores than local public schools.

However, both studies have methodological problems which make some of their conclusions questionable. Neither study fully accounts for the impact of charter schools’ lower proportions of English Language Learners and special education students, and both fail to distinguish between high needs special ed students and those with less severe learning challenges, and between students who receive free vs. reduced price lunches. More »

Class Dismissed

[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.]

After I dismissed my fifth graders for the final time last year, the school guidance counselor found me and said, “Mr. Foteah, I’ve never seen a fifth grade class leave like yours. On the last day of school, all the other students say, ‘Bye, teacher! Bye, teacher!’ But all of yours are in tears.”

Well, what can I say? I’m a sentimental guy, and I lay it on thick for the last day of school. Although the little rugrats may test my patience and nerves as the final day approaches, I’m not the kind of person to look at the last day as liberation. Sure, I look forward to the summer, and I enjoy the break from the stress, but I believe my job is about instilling memories that my kids won’t soon forget. And so, I look at the last day as one final blowout in celebration of our accomplishments as individuals and as a family. More »

UFT Press Conference on the 2010-11 School Calendar

On June 28, the UFT held a press conference concerning Chancellor Klein’s letter to parents on the issue of the school calendar and the opening day of schools in September.

Read Mulgrew’s statement after the jump. More »

New York Teacher

New York TeacherHighlights from the latest issue of New York Teacher:

UFTers were out in force on June 16, joining thousands of parents, community members and fellow city workers at City Hall to fight for the critical services that New Yorkers depend on. “If we don’t make education a priority, we are lost,” said Alice O’Neil, chapter leader of Food and Finance HS, who came to stand up for her school and her students.

With no state budget and Albany leaders passing emergency spending bills that keep the state government running, the mayor has cut school budgets for next year on the assumption that the deepest cuts to education being contemplated in Albany will come to pass. Meanwhile, teachers across the city are wondering what’s left to cut at their schools.

The UFT took the fight to prevent budget cuts to City Hall on June 7. “Letting these cuts go forward,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew told the City Council finance committee regarding the city’s plan to shrink school spending by up to 7 percent in many schools, “means turning our backs on children in ways not seen since 1976.” More »

Moments to Remember

[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.]

As the school year comes to a close, it is a particularly special time for my graduating fifth graders.

The three official rites of passage for the graduates in my school are: awards night, a dance, and the graduation ceremony itself. All are charged with emotions that run the gamut from pride to joy to sadness to curiosity. For an 11-year old, the last couple of weeks of fifth grade, knowing you’re at the end of your elementary career and ready to conquer the next phase of life, are really wonderful times.

Monday was awards night, and there was a palpable buzz in the classroom that day for the students who were invited to accept an award at night. They were anxious to get gussied up — the girls with their barrettes, the boys with their too-short ties. The fact that I resolutely refused to even give them a hint what awards they would receive only made the anticipation greater. More »

Endings and Beginnings

[Editor's note: Miss Brave is a third-year elementary school teacher in Queens in her first year as a classroom teacher. She blogs at miss brave teaches nyc, where this post originally appeared.]

I had a truly fantastic birthday at school. First and foremost, Julio’s mother gave me the greatest birthday gift of all by not sending Julio — my biggest problem student, a 2nd-grader prone to epic meltdowns and all manner of out-of-control behavior — to school on my birthday. As a result, it was a blessedly relaxing day, and I was genuinely touched by the gifts and the love my students gave me.

Of course, just when you’re least expecting it, the poop will hit the fan. When I arrived in the morning on our Brooklyn-Queens professional development day, I wasn’t expecting to find next year’s organization sheet in my mailbox … but it was there. With my heart pounding, I quickly scanned all the names of next year’s 2nd-grade teachers.

And my name … wasn’t among them. Apparently, my students aren’t the only ones moving to 3rd grade next year! More »

Rules of Survival

[Editor's note: Bronxteach is a third-year elementary school teacher. He blogs at bronxteach.com, where this post first appeared.]

Science project

Photo by evelynishere

One of the axioms I was told early in my teaching career was, “Don’t smile till Christmas.” And I suppose, to a certain extent, this cliché is a useful tool of survival for novice teachers. But based on recent experience, I don’t need advice on how to handle problems with the kids; I need help with the adults.

The general rule I have tried to follow since early on is, “Pick your battles.” This is definitely helpful in my third-grade classroom — should I bother arguing over pen vs. pencil? Is it worth addressing a kid who is overly fidgety on the rug? — but it is even more valuable for navigating school politics. Since my first year teaching I have found myself confronting issues large and small that made me uncomfortable. Deciding whether to voice my opinions was always a difficult choice. More »

Thousands Join ‘Save Our City’ Rally to Protest Budget Cuts

Highlights from yesterday’s rally at City Hall:

“Please Stop These Budget Cuts!”

City workers speak about how the mayor’s proposed budget cuts will affect our kids and our communities.

Additional videos after the jump.

More »

Save Our City Rally Today at City Hall

Save Our City Rally

Tabloid Watch

Rumor has it that the Daily News editorial page is under orders — when called by City Hall or Tweed — to ask only “how high” they need to jump, particularly if it gives the editorialists a chance to pursue their rabid anti-union agenda. But the editorial page apparently got its signals crossed over two issues that the UFT helped negotiate in Albany — a new teacher evaluation system and a charter school reform measure.

On May 27 the editorial page praised the approval of “a breakthrough plan to identify and weed out subpar teachers.” Then on May 29 the DN editorialists described the passage of the charter reform legislation backed by the the UFT and other groups as “a major victory” in “the battle for education reform.”

But just as the headlines in Pravda and Izvestia, the former Soviet newspapers, could easily be reversed to reflect changes in Russian policy, someone apparently decided that a mistake had been made. More »

Edwize Named “Best New Media” by NYC Labor Communicators

Metro New York Labor Communications Council AwardFor the second year in a row, Edwize took first place in the “Best New Media” category at the annual awards presentation of the Metro New York Labor Communications Council, held this year on June 11 at Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians.

The judges wrote: “This year, UFT took first prize again with its winning formula that gives real, live, flesh and blood teachers a chance to correspond about the trials and triumphs of a New York City school teacher.”

Thank you to the MLCC, and especially our writers, readers, and commenters.

At Charters, Struggling Students Vanish as Scores Rise [Updated]

Over at GothamSchools, Kim Gittleson sheds further light on the charter cohort attrition about which I recently posted. In that post I showed how students disappear at alarming rates from the testing cohorts of middle school charters. As students leave, the cohorts post ever rising passing percentages on state exams.

As I said then, I did not know whether the cohorts were shrinking because the students had been left back a grade or because they had left the school altogether. I also didn’t know the achievement levels of the students who were disappearing. Obviously, if failing students leave and passing students stay, then the passing percentage goes up but not necessarily student performance.

Gittleson helps us out. She looks at BEDS state data, which seems to show that some of these vanishing students were actually left back. Without more information one cannot be sure that these left-back students actually stayed in the school. Regardless of whether they did or did not, however, the sharply rising passing rates in the cohorts seem likely to be influenced by the removal of students with low scores. [UPDATED] More »

And the Webby Goes to… the PS 22 Chorus!

PS 22 Chorus Webby AwardCongratulations to the PS 22 Chorus of Graniteville, Staten Island, for being named Webby Artist of the Year.

The group officially broke into the mainstream this year, with their YouTube channel passing the 17 million viewer mark and the children appearing on Oprah, performing with Common and Queen Latifah on Good Morning America, and singing at the White House’s National Tree Lighting ceremony in December. They also became recording stars, singing on a new album by indie-rock darlings Passion Pit.

“With their talent, grace, and warmth, the kids of P.S. 22 Chorus have won the hearts of millions of fans worldwide,” said David-Michel Davies, executive director of The Webby Awards. “We’re thrilled to honor these outstanding young men and women for reminding us all about the joy and power of music.”

The chorus and their director, Gregg Breinberg, will be honored at the 14th Annual Webby Awards Celebration on June 14 in New York City.

Mulgrew on “Eye on New York”

UFT President Michael Mulgrew appeared on CBS 2’s “Eye on New York” on Sunday to discuss the budget cuts facing New York City public schools.