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Archive for August, 2012

Charter School Call-in Campaign is Building Momentum

Thank you to all of those who have reached out on behalf of New York City Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering and Construction Industries teachers. Our call-in campaign is building momentum and we need your continued support as we enter Week 4.

This week we are targeting board member Robert Burton to help demand justice for teachers at this charter school in the Bronx.

Teachers, parents and other community members are participating in this call-in campaign to support the teachers at AECI.

In January 2010, teachers at AECI formed a union to provide a positive and stable learning environment for their students. They have been working for two years without a contract. Meanwhile, AECI’s administration has engaged in a campaign of intimidation against teachers; they have suspended, terminated and otherwise disciplined union activists and supporters.

Call board member Robert Burton at 917-376-4182 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 »

Please report back to us through the campaign page above or our Facebook page and pass the word along to friends and colleagues.

Middle School Charters — Suspending Their Way to the Top

In June, School Stories published the names of the 10 charter schools with the highest suspension rates. Many of these were middle schools and three had suspension rates at least four times above the city average.

Highest Charter Suspense Rates

Now, the city test results are out, and two additional facts emerge about these schools.

First, students in these schools weren’t just suspended; they also disappeared. Specifically, as classes moved up from one grade to the next, the number of students in them got smaller and smaller. The average reduction was 15% between 5th and 6th grade alone, which is when the size of cohorts is most likely to shrink.

School Grade Span Change in number of students in cohort % Reduction in cohort
Harlem VIll. Acad. Ldrshp 5th (2011) to 6th (2012) 96 to 77 -20%
Bed Stuy Collegiate 5th (2011) to 6th (2012) 81 to 69 -15%
Kings Collegiate 5th (2011) to 6th (2012) 80 to 71 -11%

Classes shrink faster at these charters than as just about any other charters in the city. All three, in fact, rank in the top five citywide (and citywide the median reduction from 5th to 6th grade is 6%).1

The second thing we learn about these high-suspension schools from the latest testing results is that as students disappear the passing rates rise dramatically. The average gain between grades 5 and 6 was 21 percentage points.2

School Grade Span % Reduction in Cohort Increase in Number of Percentage Points (ELA) Change in Percent of Students ELA
Harlem VIll. Acad. Ldrshp 5th (2011) to 6th (2012) -20% plus 24 33% to 57%
Bed Stuy Collegiate 5th (2011) to 6th (2012) -15% plus 20 35% to 55%
Kings Collegiate 5th (2011) to 6th (2012) -11% plus 21 37% to 58%

So what’s the relationship between high suspension rates, shrinking cohorts and rising passing percentages?

The most benign way to tell that story is to claim that attrition and suspension have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Under this scenario, less school time for troubled kids is actually a good thing, so good in fact that these suspended kids experience terrific academic growth — much better than they otherwise would have — which accounts for the rising passing rates. True the cohorts are shrinking, but that’s only because other students, not these troubled students, are disappearing to lower grades-levels or other schools.3

Hmmm.

What seems more likely is that some students with behavioral problems, and possibly emotional disabilities, are being pushed out of these schools by repeat suspensions. If that’s the case, then the students who remain are generally those who arrived more ready to learn and then became even more so after seeing what quick work had been made of their more rambunctious peers. We don’t know if that that’s true, but we do know that many charter schools sanction this approach. In a report from the charter community itself, for example, the writers record what some charter operators see as the happy outcome that results from ridding schools of troublesome kids:

“…By this logic, schools should be full of students who share a common culture of learning, provided that the culture is not defined in an exclusive fashion … a student who leaves one school to find a better fit at another should be considered a success story.”

A success?

Was that how we were supposed to be measuring the success of charter schools?

Everyone who works in education understands just how hard it is to create the kinds of school cultures that keep kids focused on their education. And we do not have enough information to know for sure how many struggling students are pushed out of charters by a culture of punishment (though we do have anecdotal evidence). What we do know, however, is that these schools are public schools, and at public schools we take it as our mission to support every student who shows up at the door.

If these charters are suspending students right out of the school, we would not call that a success story.

We’d call it a disgrace.

1Another two middle school charters have similarly high attrition between grades 5 and 6, at 19% and 25%. All five belong to the same two charter networks: Uncommon Schools (the Collegiate schools) and Deborah Kenny’s Harlem Village. In fact, the seven schools with the highest attrition all belong to these networks.

2It should be noted that a fourth charter school, South Bronx Classical, followed the same pattern as these three middles schools — over four times the city average for suspensions, a 39% reduction in size of the cohort, and a 36 point increase in the passing rate. Because this post focuses on middle schools, I have omitted it from the main body of this text.

3While we don’t know for sure that shrinking cohorts indicate that students have left the school altogether, it seems much more likely that they have left than that they have been left back. When students are left back, we expect the class they join to rise in size — or at least to stay the same. But in these schools, the pattern is just the opposite — most cohorts shrink, including the ones that would be receiving students from shrinking cohorts. It seems likely therefore that numbers are shrinking because students left the school.

Keep Up the Fight for AECI Teachers

UFT ACTS Contract NowFor those who have already called-in this past two weeks, the educators at AECI thank you. We are certain our message was heard by the board and is having an effect, but we must keep up the pressure.

We want to ask you to once again call another board member to help demand fair treatment for teachers at this charter school in the Bronx.

Read our post from two weeks ago for the background on this campaign.

Call board member Maria M. Ramirez today at 917-807-2273 and tell her 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 »


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A Blood Libel

Recent days has seen a nasty tweet fight break out, as Mayor Bloomberg’s proxies – Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, StudentsFirst honcho and former Bloomberg Albany lobbyist Micah Lasher, and former television anchor Campbell Brown – have used the 140 character forum to launch a vicious slander that the UFT protects sexual predators, defending their return to the classroom.  Their argument is that since arbitrators who decide dismissal hearings against tenured teachers are jointly selected by the Department of Education and the UFT, they split the difference in decisions and do not fire teachers who have engaged in sexual misconduct or sexually inappropriate behavior. The only solution, they argue, is to overturn tenure and give the DoE the power of judge, jury and executioner.

The UFT has a position of zero tolerance on sexual misconduct, and we have negotiated in our contract the strongest penalties for sexual misconduct in any collective bargaining agreement in the state of New York. If an adult violates the trust that is at the heart of the educator-student relationship with an act of sexual misconduct or with sexually inappropriate behavior, dismissal is the only appropriate response.

The Mayor and his proxies know this well, and yet they have still mounted this campaign. More »