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 »
New schools find themselves more likely to be identified as Focus schools on the state’s new Focus list.
A lot of middle schools have closed these past ten years in New York City and a whole lot more have opened up. In fact, nearly a third of our middle schools are new, and when we look at the higher need schools, the proportion jumps to 43%. These new schools opened as part of a reform agenda whose ideas are simple and familiar to all of us: empower principals to pick their staff and then focus “like a laser” on achievement. Hold the staff accountable; threaten schools with closure if they fail. And if you do that, the theory goes, they will be far more likely to succeed.
So how’s that working out?
Apparently not very well. The state has designated 100 middle schools in NYC as Focus schools. New schools are over-represented:
One third of the middle schools are new schools, but they represent 40% of the Focus list.
43% of the higher need middle schools are new, but they represent 58% of the higher-need schools on the Focus list
Details follow, but what this means is that, at least according to the state, once new schools reach high concentrations of high-need kids, they are overwhelmed by the same challenges as the old schools down the block. More »
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.”
In case you have not been paying attention, the mayor is vowing to dismantle about 30 school communities for reasons that pretty much no one can figure out. In fact, things have reached such a level of absurdity in New York that there are very few New Yorkers who actually believe that the campaign against our schools has anything to do with “school quality” or a desire to make things better for at-risk kids.
I mention this because in the face of such a situation, it seems ridiculous for me to continue my private crusade to correct the DOE’s misrepresentations about the schools that close and the new ones that rise up in their midst. The DOE mask, truly, is off. Still, even though no one in New York believes the mayor, New York City mayors often have national ambitions. It can’t hurt to set the record straight.
So, let’s look at a few big old schools and the new ones that replaced them in the same building. In particular let’s look at the schools’ comparative reading levels and comparative math. More »
Last week, Leo Casey gave Edwize readers the real story of Pascal Mauclair, whom the NY Post declared was the “at the bottom of the heap” when the DOE released the Teacher Data Reports to the press. The DOE gave Ms. Mauclair a “0” on her report, but the results seemed, to put it mildly, arbitrary. As Casey pointed out, Ms. Mauclair was graded on a small number (11) of high-need (ESL) students who were compared to other students learning in very different, departmentalized, classrooms. Aside from that, Ms. Mauclair has a reputation as an excellent teacher. As her principal said, “I would put my own child in her class.”
All this alone should be enough to clear Ms. Mauclair’s name. But this week fresh evidence shows that Ms. Mauclair’s report should be declared invalid altogether by the DOE.
In order to understand the problem with Ms. Mauclair’s report, you need to understand the important role of other-subject tests in the value-added formulas. When we think of a math report we think of the progress a teacher’s students make in math from the prior year to the current year, weighted for various factors, or variables, such as gender, poverty, attendance, and so on. But what we may not realize is that the most determinative variable is the student’s score from the other subject. In the case of a math report, for example, the prior year’s ELA score is generally considered a better predictor of the students’ next math score than are poverty, gender, or any of the other variables that the formulas factor in. More »
This morning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Dennis Walcott appeared at an American University forum with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and the mayors and school superintendents from Chicago and Los Angeles. A video of the forum is here.
Bloomberg defended giving out invalid and inaccurate Teacher Data Reports as providing “information” to parents, saying it was “arrogance” to suggest that peddling wildly inaccurate information was a bad idea.
He made a feeble attempt at backtracking from a prior statement that in his ideal world, he would fire half of the teachers and double class size. “Class size is important,” he opined, but not as important as other things such as teacher quality.
At the very end of the program, Bloomberg displayed his education acumen and keen political ear by declaring that “teaching to the test is exactly what we should do.” And in defense of this position, he invoked a Pete Seeger song, “Waist Deep In The Big Muddy.”
While Michael Bloomberg dedicated his youth to obtaining a Harvard Business School M.B.A., the best minds and hearts of his generation were fighting to end the war in Vietnam. With very little knowledge of that struggle, Bloomberg did not seem to realize that Seeger’s anthem (lyrics below) is actually a metaphor for the American political leaders who mired our nation into the Vietnam war, at every turn escalating the war and bringing us in deeper. Indeed, it is a metaphor that has considerable resonance for the “education reform” work of the NYC DoE under his administration. (Video and lyrics after the jump.) More »
[Editor's note: The author is a teacher at PS 122 in Queens.]
The recent release of NYC’s Teacher Data Reports has stirred up a wide range of responses from all of the relevant stakeholders in our city’s school system. As a teacher whose name was published in the local media with a corresponding characterization of “Below Average,” I am upset, angry, even demoralized. After a great deal of personal reflection, I felt compelled to reach out to fellow teachers and, especially, to the parents of the students I teach.
For me, it is important for people to know that I teach in the same school that I attended as a child; it is the same school that both of my siblings went to as well. As three children of immigrant parents, we owe a debt of gratitude to our alma mater, and I strongly feel that the experiences that we had at PS 122 were instrumental in paving the way to a life of higher education. Needless to say, I would do anything for my school.
Furthermore, it is critical for one to understand that all of my students meet the standards promulgated by New York State, and all but a small few actually exceed those standards. And yet, even though my students consistently outperform the vast majority of their peers throughout the city and state, the Teacher Data Report concludes that I am an ineffective teacher. More »
“I’ve heard over and over again from so many of the teachers that he doesn’t want anyone thinking about what his education legacy is because it’s in shambles,” Mr. Mulgrew said about the mayor. “And that’s how they feel. And I believe that they have a right to feel that way.”
“I think New York City has had enough with the teacher bashing, and we all know where that is coming from, and that’s the mayor,” he told reporters outside the school.
“I want to be very clear on this point of the story: The mayor and the city chose to go to court and not to fight the FOIL,” Mr. Mulgrew continued, referring to the Freedom of Information Law. “It was their responsibility to fight it and they said, ‘No, we would not do it.’ So they’ve done a great disservice to the school community, to the teachers, the parents, and everybody else.”
Motivation: How many of you have ever been excited to purchase an item, partake in an activity, or follow a course of action, only to find yourself disappointed by the outcome? Who would like to share the situation? Elicit a response or two. Why did you specifically make the decision that you did? What led you to make the decision?
SWUT: The best way for the individual not to be manipulated into making decisions not in their best interest is to understand propaganda techniques.
Step 1: Briefly discuss and elicit examples of the propaganda techniques found in Cuesta College’s “Recognizing Propaganda Techniques and Errors of Faulty Logic”
Have students work in groups of four or five to do a close reading (pen, pencil, and/or highlighter in hand to underline main ideas of each paragraph, write notes, and/or write questions/comments on doc) of DOE “Turnaround” doc, dated January 13, 2012.
Have roughly half of the students in each group answer the following questions:
(p.1) What evidence of additional support have you seen this year? Have support services and or programs increased or diminished this year?
(p.2) Based on the context of this paragraph, how does Walcott define meaningful system? Does the paragraph imply that the current evaluation system is meaningless?
(p.3) Does the misuse of the plural possessive form in the first sentence imply Walcott is performing poorly in his educational duties? Why would the specific “conditions the UFT insisted on” be left out of this document? Is there any evidence to show the replacement teacher would better serve our students?
(p.4) Is “real accountability” clearly defined? If so, what does it specifically mean? If not, why not?
(p.5) Does Bloomberg currently have the authority to carry out his plan? Why would the DOE hold back the details of their plan?
(p.6) What specifically will be used to screen the existing staff? What are “rigorous standards for student success”? Why is the term “significant portion” used? Is there an insignificant portion?
(p. 7) Does the DOE currently have the authority to carry out their plan? Is the approval of the plan presented here the only course of action in restoring the funding? What does the phrase “whatever it takes” mean? What details are provided to clarify “best equipped”?
Using one sentence, clearly describe the DOE’s plan to improve your educational experience at John Dewey High School.
Have the other half of students in each group use the DOE source doc to try to identify examples of the four propaganda techniques listed in“Recognizing Propaganda Techniques and Errors of Faulty Logic”
Have the groups discuss and share out their answers.
Closure: Exit slip: Other than the “turnaround” model, decide what other solutions are possible?
HW: What appropriate and viable means are available to students to influence major decisions made regarding their education?
The staff of Maxwell High School, which received an ‘A’ on this year’s School Progress Reports, and yet is still slated for closure by Mayor Bloomberg and the Department of Education, gave the superintendent who had come to the school to do a “pre-engagement” meeting all of their ‘A’s, and then stood up and walked out: there is nothing that the DOE can say about such a cynical political use of their school that they need to hear. Today’snewspapers talk about what is happening to Maxwell and another six schools — Brooklyn School for Global Studies in Brooklyn; Cobble Hill School for American Studies in Brooklyn; Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn; Harlem Renaissance High School in Manhattan; William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School in Brooklyn; and Intermediate School 136 Charles O. Dewey in Brooklyn — which received ‘B’s on their School Progress Reports.
How does the DOE decide which high schools to close? For the third straight year, and all claims to a nuanced review of quality aside, the schools the DOE chooses to shut are simply those that dare to teach the students with the city’s highest needs. There’s nothing terribly nuanced about it at all. (For previous years, see here and here).
It starts with this chart (and then gets worse).
Even though DOE claims that the Progress Report grades are demographically neutral, DOE did not fail a single high school with lowest concentrations of high-need students (that top 1/3 in dark green).1 And, though the D’s and F’s are spread across the bottom 2/3 (in blue and red), it was overwhelmingly the D’s and F’s with the highest needs that made the “pre-engagement” list — the short list from which DOE would ultimately choose the final closures. 65% of the highest-need D’s and F’s were put on the short list, but only 15% of the schools in the middle where the students on average had fewer challenges to overcome.
The New York City Department of Education is the largest public school system in the United States, serving about 1.1 million students in nearly 1,500 schools. It employs about 80,000 teachers. Joel I. Klein, the current chancellor, was appointed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in July 2002.
Real stories from the classrooms of new NYC public school teachers. Take a look.