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Archive for July, 2012

Power Speaks Truth

For years, Bloomberg’s high school admission policies have been concentrating the city’s most at-risk students in certain schools. What with complex, market-driven enrollment policies on the one hand (which favor the families best equipped to negotiate the system), and high-stakes accountability systems on the other (which reward schools that teacher fewer at-risk kids), students have been disenfranchised by Bloomberg’s policies.

The UFT and others (see here, here, and here) have been pointing this out for years, and for just as long, the DOE has denied it. But now it turns out that even as Bloomberg makes his denials, he and the DOE have been scrambling for cover. NYS Education Commissioner John King has put on the pressure, and in May, the DOE sent him a letter claiming they would address the problem, noting that “concerns about situations where our choice-based system may be leading to an over-concentration of students with disabilities, English language learners and/or students that are performing below proficiency in certain schools.”

See an exposé on the issue here. As far as the changes themselves, well, as a parent advocate explains later in the report, it’s too little, too late.

Unionized Charter School Teachers Need Your Support

AECI teachers need your support
In January 2010, educators at the NYC Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industries (AECI) in the Bronx formed a union at their school to provide a positive and stable school culture for their students. Educators delivered letters to the school’s principal and board of directors that called for a more formal voice in school operations to “strengthen our school community and enhance the educational experience of our students, faculty and administrators.” A few months later the board formally recognized the union, and contract negations began.

Since then educators at the charter school have been working for two years without a contract. The teacher-led contract committee diligently attended all bargaining sessions in hopes of reaching a contract that would serve the interest of the entire school community. Negotiations reached impasse last winter.

Due to the stalled negotiations teachers salaries have been frozen and union activists have suffered harassment from the administration. AECI’s administration has engaged in a campaign of intimidation against teachers; they have suspended, terminated and otherwise disciplined union activists and supporters.

Educators at the school just want to focus on educating their students free from harassment and with a contract in place.

Want to stay informed?

Fill out my online form.

Call board member John Kwok today at 917-807-3502 718-482-4806 OR 718-482-4825 and tell him to respect teachers’ rights.

Demand that the board:

  • End all retaliation by administration against teachers and staff involved in the organizing and contract campaign.
  • Respect educators’ right to strengthen their school community by advocating for the best working conditions for teachers and learning conditions for students.
  • Negotiate a contract in good faith.

Go to the UFT’s campaign page for talking points and additional information »

Getting Past the DOE on the 2012 Test Results

[Editor’s note: This post was authored jointly by Maisie McAdoo and Rhonda Rosenberg.]

Mayor Bloomberg turned the announcement of the 2012 state test results into a promotional event for his “reforms” on Tuesday, despite the fact that an honest appraisal of the scores showed that city students as a group made only modest progress in both math and ELA.  The mayor’s presentation ignored or downplayed results that didn’t fit in with his triumphal narrative, including the fact that the racial achievement gap widened last year in a number of categories.

State officials, by contrast, didn’t even hold a press conference, and said publicly only that the statewide results (which mirrored the city’s) showed “some positive momentum” but left too many students unprepared.

The mayor, however, orchestrated a big press function and handed out a shameless PowerPoint that reported highly selective numbers and featured a comparison of charters and new schools founded during his tenure with “traditional” city schools — i.e. the vast majority of schools in the city system.

But the numbers are there for all to see. “His” charters and new schools combined underperform the average school, in fact (see especially slide 6), and they gained only one to two points more than the “traditional” schools in percentages of students meeting standards in math and less than a percentage point in students meeting standards in English. That, according to the mayor, was conclusive evidence for the success of his reforms. 

Please. If these test scores — and remember this was the testing round where 30 questions had to be disqualified, the same round that included the “pineapple” passage — if these scores are evidence of Bloomberg’s triumph as steward of the city school system, then pineapples can speak.

Here are some tables and charts on the 2012 tests that may sober up Hizzoner: More »

Democracy Prep and the “Same Kids” Myth

In general, charter advocates have become somewhat more responsible about acknowledging the impact of demographic differences in charter and district school enrollments on charters’ academic performance. The recent release of the New York City Charter School Center’s “State of the Sector” report is one example, and we had hoped that the existence of its database (which offers straightforward comparisons between enrollments at each New York City charter school compared to its Community School District) would help further efforts towards a more fully informed discussion of the role of charters in school reform.

Unfortunately, last week’s publication of a guest essay by American Enterprise Institute researcher Daniel Lautzenheiser in Rick Hess’ EdWeek column marks a return to the simplistic rhetoric and unsubstantiated assertions which Hess himself has warned are becoming too common among self-identified “reformers.” In “A Tale of Two Schools,” Lautzenheiser makes the claim that Democracy Prep’s high test scores come despite its enrollment of “the same kinds of students” as its academically struggling co-located school, the Academy of Collaborative Education (ACE). He offers no data to back up this assertion, other than the fact that the two schools share a building in Harlem. However, if he had taken a moment to check the Charter School Center’s database, he would have found that in 2010-11, Democracy Prep served fewer students who were eligible for free lunch, fewer students who required special education services, and fewer students who were English Language Learners than the average district school in its neighborhood.

Taking a closer look at Democracy Prep’s enrollment in comparison to ACE specifically (as we did in 2010) shows that other than the first year ACE opened, these patterns have been true throughout both schools’ existence. In addition, though Democracy Prep no longer publicly reports the type of services its Special Education students receive, evidence from 2008-09 showed that only 18% of its students with IEPs were mandated to be in self-contained classes, compared with 50% of Special Education students at ACE.

School Year
% Free Lunch
% Limited
% Special Ed
Academy of Collaborative Education 2008
Academy of Collaborative Education 2009
Academy of Collaborative Education 2010
Academy of Collaborative Education 2011
Democracy Preparatory Charter School 2008
Democracy Preparatory Charter School 2009
no public data
Democracy Preparatory Charter School 2010
Democracy Preparatory Charter School 2011

Sources: NY State Report Cards; NY State Charter SPED Invoices; NYC CSC Database

Researchers like Lautzenheiser who seek to hold up Democracy Prep as a model for district schools to follow should stop making the argument that such schools are succeeding with “the same students” without checking the data first to see if their claims are true. Criticizing the academic performance of the ACE school community while failing to recognize the greater challenges that community faces is not helpful in moving forward in finding ways to improve the educational experience for all the city’s children.

“Can We Please, Just Once, Have A Real Teacher?”

Another gem from The Onion. This point/counterpoint piece begins innocently enough with the earnest testimonial of an alumna of a TFA-esque program. It’s then completely upended by “fourth-grader” “Brandon Mendez” who “writes”:

You’ve got to be kidding me. How does this keep happening? I realize that as a fourth-grader I probably don’t have the best handle on the financial situation of my school district, but dealing with a new fresh-faced college graduate who doesn’t know what he or she is doing year after year is growing just a little bit tiresome. Seriously, can we get an actual teacher in here sometime in the next decade, please? That would be terrific.

But really, read the whole thing.

And, just for fun, here are some other Onion stories we’ve highlighted in the past:

Help Support Con Edison Workers at July 17 Rally & March

July 17, 2012 rally for a fair contractShow your support for Con Edison workers in their fight for a fair contract by attending a rally and march on Tuesday, July 17. UFT and its allies will be meeting at Con Edison headquarters at 4 p.m. for a rally that is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. The rally will be followed by a march to Union Square.

Members of Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers of America have been without a contract since June 30. Con Edison locked out the 8,500 workers on July 1 and cut off their health care benefits on July 3 at 5 p.m.