Archive for December, 2011
Highlights from the Dec. 22 issue of New York Teacher:
Hard work for economic fairness pays off
UFT members, allies lead successful fight for first education funding increase from state in three years
Capping a yearlong political battle by the UFT and its labor and community allies for economic equity, the New York State Legislature on Dec. 6 passed legislation that brought a measure of fairness to the state tax code while providing a much-needed boost in education funding for next year.
Delegates thanked for role in long budget fight
“I can’t thank you all enough,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew told delegates at the Dec. 7 Delegate Assembly, of their role leading up to the state Legislature’s Dec. 6 agreement that will make the state tax system more progressive and earmark $800 million of the new revenue for schools statewide.
This is what democracy looks like
Thank you, UFT members, for all that you did to help win a more equitable tax structure in New York State and secure an additional $2 billion in revenue for next year’s budget. There is no way it would have happened without the incredibly hard work that the members of this great union did to fight for the children of our city.
Harlem school’s librarian brings role models to students through speaker series
“There is a sweet spirit in this place,” Dr. Cornel West, dressed in his trademark three-piece suit, pocket watch and scarf, told the packed audience of faculty, staff and students from Harlem’s Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing Arts and Frederick Douglass Academy II on Dec. 5. The Princeton University professor urged students to lead an examined life and to “love learning.”
Thousands take giant steps for working people
In a show of labor-union strength in New York City, 20,000 unionized workers, including thousands of UFT members, marched from Herald Square to Union Square on Dec. 1 to demand jobs and a fairer tax system for working Americans. Watching the teeming crowd, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the march was yet another example of “labor standing up for their families, neighbors and communities.” More »
Will Dobbie and Roland Fryer’s new study of 35 New York City charter schools attempts to find a preliminary answer to the question of how different practices within charters are correlated with student progress on math and ELA tests. In general, this study’s premise and methods represent a promising shift away from just looking at test scores to measure school quality; it acknowledges variations between charters and gets to the issue of what policies and practices are actually happening inside these schools.
The researchers looked at a wide variety of possible practices based on surveys of principals, interviews with teachers, visits to schools, and reviews of site visit reports from authorizers. The result was that they found five policies that were significantly correlated to increased test scores: “frequent teacher feedback, the use of data to guide instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased instructional time, and high expectations.” As Matt DiCarlo recently noted, the efficacy of some these factors in raising test scores — particularly increased instructional time — has also been supported in other studies.
The finding that’s getting the most attention, however, is their conclusion that “class size, per pupil expenditure, the fraction of teachers with no certification, and the fraction of teachers with an advanced degree” wasn’t positively correlated with test scores at these schools.
There are several problems with putting too much emphasis on either of these preliminary findings, however. More »
Last week, the DOE announced the final list of schools it wants to close, and attached to it came the usual press release designed to justify their continued implementation of a failed policy. The release was so clearly misleading that very few people in New York City would believe a single thing it has to say. But since the folks at Tweed have ambitions bigger than the five boroughs can contain, and because the rest of the country might actually believe them, a few corrections are in order. So here you go:
DOE says: “Un-screened high schools opened since 2002 continue to earn higher grades and have better graduation outcomes than un-screened high schools opened before 2002.”
First of all, the new schools are not unscreened. Under Bloomberg, the DOE instituted what it calls a ‘limited screen” policy, and that policy does not work well for many at risk kids. Limited screening gives first preference to students who have actively made themselves “known to the school.” After that, the preference goes to any student in the borough, rather than to kids from the neighborhood. To be known to the school students must attend an admissions fair or have put themselves forward by some other means. Like lottery admission systems, limited screening tends to bias in favor of families that are engaged in the process. In the case of limited screening though, that bias is exacerbated by the fact that the screening is embedded in a complex process that students must navigate, wherein they choose 12 schools and rank them. For a better understanding read Darwin or, more simply, see two New York Times articles, here and here. More »
The front page of today’s New York Times carries a devastating feature portrait of ‘virtual’ schooling, and the K-12 corporation founded by former Reagan Secretary of Education William Bennett which is making a financial killing off of indefensible ‘virtual’ charter schools. This is the unseemly reality of the future of American education advocated by Terry Moe in his Orwellian titled book, Liberating Learning.
David Montgomery, an esteemed historian of American labor, has died. Montgomery was a union organizer, blacklisted in the McCarthy years, before he became a professional historian. He never forget those roots: he was a powerful supporter of labor unions while at Yale University.
In the British Guardian, Eric Foner has a moving obituary.
Over the summer I posted the college-ready rates for old and new schools showing how the schools that were created under Michael Bloomberg actually have lower college-ready rates than the older schools with similar populations. The DOE college-ready rates are based upon how many students passed English and Math Regents with good grades (specifics on the data appears at the end of the post). We can accept this as a good measure or not, but in any case it is a viable measure in the eyes of DOE.
The DOE updated the college-ready information when it released the high school Progress Reports this autumn, so I ran the analysis again. The results are the same, or maybe even worse. College ready rates are low everywhere, but when we break the schools into deciles by level of need, and then compare new and old schools, we see that newer schools are having a harder time getting their students ready for college. Here, for example, are the four deciles that represent schools in the middle of the citywide need range.
Over at the Shanker Institute blog, Matt DiCarlo has done a great job sifting through the latest research on charter schools in a recent three-part series of blog posts. His first post looks at some of the latest data on charter schools’ impact on student achievement, and concludes that:
the endless back-and-forth about whether charter schools “work” — whether there is something about “charterness” that usually leads to fantastic results — has become a massive distraction in our education debates. The evidence makes it abundantly clear that that is not the case, and the goal at this point should be to look at the schools of both types that do well, figure out why, and use that information to improve all schools.
Matt follows his own advice in the second post, which reviews research which looks at what educational policies are implemented at the charter schools which do seem to have positive effects on student achievement. Examining a variety of studies over the past few years, he finds that
An emphasis on discipline seems to have some support, both in direct tests of associations as well as in a surface review of practices in high-profile charters. This might be something to which regular public schools should pay more attention, as the importance of a safe, orderly learning environment is well-established (see here). Needless to say, regular public schools would probably approach the details of these policies in a different way.
The strongest evidence, however, is that for extended time and perhaps tutoring (as well as the funding that enables these practices).
This does not match up particularly well with the rhetoric of “innovation.” If there are any consistent lessons from the charter experiment, at least in terms of test-based effects, they seem to tell us what we already know — that performance can be improved with more resources, more time and more attention. These interventions are not cheap or new, and they’re certainly not “charter-specific” in any way.