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Archive for December, 2012

Class Sizes Rise for Fifth Straight Year

Class sizes have risen for a fifth straight year across the school system, a new Department of Education report shows.

Overall, the increase was 1.6 percent, or an average four tenths of a student per class. High schools had the largest gain.

The department put the report out at the end of the day Friday, Dec. 15 — the same day as the Newtown, CT shootings — assuring it would get virtually no coverage.

But the facts are disturbing. Class sizes have been rising steadily in virtually every grade since the 2007-08 school year, with elementary grades hit particularly hard. The average 1st  grade class has 3.7 more students now than it did in 2007, and the average 3rd grade has 4.2 more children. Class sizes are a central concern for parents and teachers, while the mayor has said they could double as far as he was concerned.

In response to a recent UFT survey, 56 percent of teachers said their class sizes were so large that it interfered with their ability to reach all their students.


Encourage Students to Apply for UFT-Funded Scholarships

Each year the UFT awards $1 million in scholarships to academically excellent and financially eligible New York City public high school seniors through the Albert Shanker College Scholarship Fund. To receive a $5,000 scholarship from the fund, those selected must be accepted in a full-time, matriculated, degree-granting program at an accredited college or university. Encourage eligible students to take advantage of this great opportunity by applying for a scholarship. You can get more information and application materials on the UFT website. The deadline for schools to mail the application is Jan. 31, 2013.

New York Teacher

New York Teacher, Dec. 6, 2012Highlights from the latest issue of New York Teacher:

UCAN — and they do
UCAN. It stands for Uniting Communities and Neighborhoods, and it’s a new good-will project in the Bronx that has dozens of UFT members hammering or cleaning or beautifying or just playing games with children at a shelter.

Stress takes a holiday
Thanksgiving took on new meaning for the students and staff from PS/MS 105 in storm-ravaged Far Rockaway when their welcoming hosts at JHS 72 in Jamaica invited them to share a preholiday Community Feast — turkey and all the trimmings.

UFT creates hurricane hotline
A Hurricane Sandy hotline is now part of the UFT’s continuing and expanding outreach to members who need assistance in the wake of the devastating late-October storm.

Second Day of Action helps storm victims recover
Marking another UFT Day of Action on Saturday, Nov. 17, nearly 1,000 volunteers traveled to the city neighborhoods devastated by Hurricane Sandy or came to UFT headquarters to help stuff backpacks with supplies for displaced students.

Midwinter break shortened due to Sandy
State law and regulations mandate that New York City public school teachers make up three of the instructional days lost due to Hurricane Sandy. Schools will be open the last three days — Wednesday, Feb. 20, through Friday, Feb. 22 — of the city school system’s usual weeklong midwinter break.

Fighting the testing obsession
The push by so-called education reformers for increased testing of students in the nation’s public schools is facing growing opposition from concerned parents and committed educators who understand that high-stakes exams can never substitute for real student learning.

Academy not turning out good leaders
The city Department of Education has finally admitted that its Leadership Academy is not doing a good enough job of recruiting, developing and producing top-notch principals to lead New York City’s high-needs schools.

Leaving no child behind — for real this time
Policy advisers are calling on Obama to actually grapple with child poverty and its effects on students instead of tinkering with accountability measurement.

Supporting students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms
With the special education reform in full swing, many of us teachers — especially general education teachers — will find ourselves teaching students with disabilities and possibly collaborating with special education teachers.

No Suspension Left Behind

Were they the good old days or the bad old days? Back then, if a kid wanted to hang in the street, flop at home, or binge in some way, all he had to do was break a school rule to get suspended from the building for five days, maybe more. It was an “out of sight, out of mind” deal in which teacher and student got a hiatus from each other, equivalent to (though lacking moral equivalency) a vacation.

Then came the Alternate Learning Centers (ALCs). Suddenly, educational deprivation was no longer a viable tool for attitudinal correction. And the notion of building kids’ characters by temporarily starving them of communal learning opportunity began to go the way of Twinkies.

There are almost 40 ALCs citywide, located in all boroughs. They are longer or shorter-term suspension sites, depending on the cause of their suspension. These sites serve students who are on superintendent suspensions, not principal suspensions.

Superintendent suspensions for 2011-2012 declined by 12 percent from the previous year to 13,258. That represents just under one-fourth the number of principal suspensions for the same year.

Some ALCs have their own location; others share a school building, though their student populations don’t mingle. All of them are serious places for teaching and learning. Expectations are enforced with kindness and firmness. The atmosphere is not punitive, though no unreasonable excuses or “getting over” on authority are tolerated.

The students have been suspended but there is no suspension of the continuity of instruction. ALCs are not warehouses or receptacles for so-called “problem kids.” Regardless of a student’s length of stay and his age or academic level, he’s got a variety of curriculum-based material to study. More »

High School Progress Reports Weigh In — At 305 Excel Columns!

High School Progress Reports, which the Department of Education released on Nov. 26, have yet another new way to measure schools: the college and career readiness index, which now counts for 10 percent of a school’s grade.

As if the 2011 reports, at 205 columns of Excel data per school was not enough, the 2012 reports arrived on a 305-column spreadsheet, boasting 39 new columns of college and career readiness data points. That doesn’t count the “additional information,” 72 columns of supplemental data, in case the first 39 didn’t quite get at everything you wanted to know about college readiness.

Give them points for trying. But some of this data is going to wind up in “deleted items” and never get crunched.

Even the DOE didn’t try. It didn’t put out PowerPoint slides or anything that summarizes (or spins) the information.

So here are some general findings — calculations in most cases are by UFT, not DOE.

The three parts of the college readiness index show

  • 29 percent of students graduated “college ready” in 2012, meaning they scored at least 75 on the English Regents and 80 on the math, OR got at least 480 on their SATs. That is up from 25 percent last year.
  • 34 percent of students passed a “rigorous” exam, such as an AP, advanced Regents or CTE test.
  • 50 percent of recent graduates had enrolled in college after six months and 55 percent had done so after 18 months.

The DOE boasts that the new high schools  created under Mayor Bloomberg have higher grades than older high schools. Using data on 170 new schools created since 2002, we actually found college readiness is much higher in the “old” schools — 30 percent compared to 20 percent in the new schools — and the college and career readiness index was a full grade higher in the old schools.

While the DOE boasts that the new schools have higher progress report scores, the difference is slight. In addition, the graduation rate was slightly higher in the old schools this year by our calculations. (We excluded the separate transfer high schools list from our analysis.)

Comparison of Schools Created under Bloomberg and Older Schools

New Schools

Old Schools

Graduation Rate



% Students College Ready



College/Career Ready Score (Grade)

5.54 (C)

6.34 (B)

Progress Report Overall Score



Finally, one very encouraging finding:  though the official graduation rate won’t be out for months, it looks like the city came very close to a 70% on-time graduation rate for 2012, up from 65.5 percent in 2011, including August grads.

As for the remaining 300 or so Excel columns, data geeks can go here: http://schools.nyc.gov/Accountability/tools/report/default.htm