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Archive for the ‘NYC DOE’ Category

Waist Deep In The Big Muddy, And The Little Fool Says To Push On

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 »

Giving DOE an F on Teacher Data Reports, in Rhyme

[Editors' note: The author is a retired NYC public school teacher. She posts her poetry at prime time rhyme, where this poem first appeared.]

Ranking Teachers

In an ill-advised decision,
Educationally dumb,
New York City’s ranked its teachers,
Which defies the rule of thumb.

For the whole world now has access
To the way each teacher scored,
Though I thought humiliation
Was a means to be deplored.

Only math and English teachers
Bear the brunt of this new rule,
Which eliminates most pedagogues
Who work in every school.

What’s the basis of the rankings?
Well, it’s simple yet pathetic –
Results of standard city tests,
Supposedly prophetic.

A teacher may be patient, smart,
Creative or exciting;
She may inspire thinking minds
Or brilliant bursts of writing.

But all of that won’t mean a thing
If students’ scores are flat;
‘Cause politicians are convinced
Exams are where it’s at.

It doesn’t matter if the kids
Have problems or are poor;
The teacher is the one at fault
When there’s a sub-par score.

And now the public has the chance
To check each teacher’s name;
A ranking near the bottom means
They know just who to blame.

My question to the city is,
For teachers who scored low,
If branding them on websites
Is the proper way to go.

For people are so quick to judge
When labels are applied.
I know I’d feel like Hester Prynne,
With no place safe to hide.

Like educators everywhere,
I’m shocked, appalled, dismayed.
To those in charge who pushed this through,
You get a failing grade!

Speaking Out on Teacher Data Reports

[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 »

Mulgrew: Bloomberg’s Education Legacy is “In Shambles”

UFT President Michael Mulgrew expressed his and union members’ criticism of Mayor Bloomberg,  in the aftermath of the publication of controversial Teacher Data Reports, at a news conference held today outside PS 321 in Park Slope.

“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.”

Highlights of the Teacher Evaluation Agreement and
Details of the New Appeals Process

On Feb. 16, thanks to Governor Cuomo’s intervention, the UFT reached a groundbreaking agreement with the city on an appeals process for New York City teacher ratings that includes the third-party, independent validation of teacher ratings that the union insisted upon to ensure fairness. Today’s New York Times editorial calls it a “sound deal.”

Read on for highlights and details. More »

Analyzing Tweed’s Propaganda Sheet: A Lesson Plan

[Editor's note: The author is the UFT chapter leader at John Dewey HS.]

Aim: How can the ability to identify and understand basic propaganda techniques empower you to make better informed decisions?

Do Now: Read and briefly discuss with a partner “Recognizing Propaganda Techniques and Errors of Faulty Logic”

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”

Group Task/Differentiation:

  1. 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.
  2. Have roughly half of the students in each group answer the following questions:
    1. (p.1) What evidence of additional support have you seen this year? Have support services and or programs increased or diminished this year?
    2. (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?
    3. (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?
    4. (p.4) Is “real accountability” clearly defined? If so, what does it specifically mean? If not, why not?
    5. (p.5) Does Bloomberg currently have the authority to carry out his plan? Why would the DOE hold back the details of their plan?
    6. (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?
    7. (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”?
    8. Using one sentence, clearly describe the DOE’s plan to improve your educational experience at John Dewey High School.
  3. 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”
  4. 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?

‘A’ Stands For Axed By Bloomberg’s Political Agenda

The staff of Maxwell High SchoolThe 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’s newspapers 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.

Which Schools Close? Redux

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).

Which Schools Close? Redux, chart 1It 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.

And it gets worse. More »

In Bad Faith

There is but one conclusion that can be drawn from the NYC Department of Education’s last minute walk out of negotiations over a teacher evaluation system for 33 schools placed in the Transformation and Restart models: it was always Tweed’s intention to refuse to enter into an agreement for teacher evaluations.

Part of the evidence for this conclusion comes from the conduct of NYC DOE officials during negotiations. Throughout the month of December, the UFT made intensive efforts to bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion before the NYS Education Department’s deadline of December 31. Yet while UFT officers and staff canceled vacation plans to work on a potential agreement, key actors on the DOE side, such as the lawyer who writes up contractual agreements, were outside of New York City on vacation as the clock ticked down. More »

An Open Letter to New York City Parents

[The following open letter from UFT President Michael Mulgrew to New York City parents ran as a full-page ad in the New York Daily News on Jan. 9.]

New York City is losing its teachers.

More than 66,000 have either resigned or retired since Mayor Bloomberg took control of the schools.

Teachers leave one of the toughest jobs in New York City for a variety of personal and professional reasons, but the most common single reason is a lack of support from supervisors and the Department of Education.

Teaching is a craft that is acquired over time, and teachers desperately want to improve their skills. That is why the United Federation of Teachers led the campaign to create a better teacher evaluation system, one that put a priority on helping all teachers do their job better. The UFT’s role was critical in creating the new system, and in going to Washington, D.C. to help get federal funds for it through the Race to the Top program. Starting last spring, many of our members with expertise in evaluation worked for months on the state subcommittees designing the new system.

We have been trying to work with the Bloomberg administration to iron out the final details of the new system, but the administration has refused to engage in meaningful talks about teacher and principal improvement. More »

Closing Schools: DOE Spins Itself an Alternate Universe of Facts

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 »

Bloomberg’s New Schools of Choice Prepare Fewer Kids for College

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.

Percent of Students College Ready at Old and New Schools

More »

Meet the New Schools, Same as the Old Schools

Every year, Mayor Bloomberg’s DOE creates a new list of struggling schools. Once the schools have been identified, the DOE generally moves to shut them down.

This year of the 21 high schools have landed on Bloomberg’s latest struggling schools list, at least 8 (38%) are new schools that were opened on Bloomberg’s watch.

And, when you consider that Bloomberg’s new high schools represent about 40% of all existing high schools,1 you quickly realize that Bloomberg is shutting his new schools at about the same rate that he shuts the older ones. Put another way, this year, DOE is thinking of closing 5.4% of its new schools and 5.8% of its old.

Figure out the sense in that. But if you can’t (because I can’t), read on. More »

Beware of Bias in High School Progress Report Cards

The DOE would have us believe that the high school progress reports it released last week are a neutral evaluation tool where any school can do well irrespective of student demographics and characteristics. As proof it would point to its peer index metric which sorts schools into peer groups based on student characteristics and their eighth grade standardized test scores – the concept being that schools are compared to schools with similar students.

Unfortunately the system doesn’t work the way it was intended. The UFT’s Jackie Bennett first reported on this in early 2010. She found that high schools with high percentages of high need students (special education, ELL, overage for grade on entry) were consistently scored and graded lower than schools that didn’t have such students (here and here). That year the DOE announced it was changing its peer index calculation to better account for the student characteristics that could influence results. At that time, we were hopeful, but not optimistic, that progress report card grading would improve.

To determine whether our pessimism was justified, I subjected the progress report card performance, progress and overall scores for each of the past three years to a correlation analysis. The 2009 correlations were my base year or barometer for the level that caused the DOE to revise its peer index calculation. The 2010 correlations were a measure of whether the DOE’s adjustments were effective in removing the influence of student characteristics in the data. The correlations for this year’s data were run to show the degree to which any relationship might still exist. I found that the DOE’s peer index adjustments moderately reduced the bias in the report card scoring for 2010 but that in this year’s results the association returned and is close to or exceeds the 2009 levels that warranted adjustment. The table below shows the correlation results.

School’s Student Characteristic Correlation with Performance Score Correlation with Progress Score Correlation with Overall Score
2009
2010
2011
2009
2010
2011
2009
2010
2011
% Special Ed −.33** −.19** −.23** −.32** −.19** −.31** −.31** −.19** −.25**
% Self Contained No data −.28** −.28** No data −.21** −.34** No data −.26** −.32**
% Overage −.13* −.11* −.24** −.16** −.07 −.02 −.12* −.07 −.08
8th Grade Score .35** .34** .44*** .32** .18** .28** .27** .21** .29**
A single asterisk (*) indicate statistical significance at the p<.05 and a double asterisk (**) indicates significance at the p<.01 level. Statistical significance indicates that I am 95% or 99%, respectively, confident that the correlations don’t equal zero.1

More »

Blue Book Looks a Little Gray

The DOE’s annual 600-plus-page Enrollment–Capacity–Utilization Report 2009-10, universally known as the Blue Book, is the official word on how much space is available in every school in the city. But the results of an audit released today by the city comptroller show that the Blue Book data is inaccurate.

The particulars are a little technical, but the impact is not. The DOE uses the Blue Book to decide on co-locations. It is also used to assign students to a building, add grades, bring in special education programs, and determine the multi-billion-dollar capital spending plan.

But in 23 percent of school rooms that auditors checked on, the Blue Book either gave the wrong size or the wrong function. For example, the room was described as a resource room but was really being used as an office, or the room was reportedly big enough for 28 kids when actually it could only hold 20. More »