Archive for the ‘NYC DOE’ Category
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 »
[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 »
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 »
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.
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 »
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
|% Special Ed
|% Self Contained
|8th Grade Score
|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
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 »
According to data recently released by the city, students graduating from the high schools created under Bloomberg are less prepared for college than the students in older schools with similar populations. In fact, on average, older schools outperform newer ones by 40%. Even though students in newer schools are less prepared for college, they are being awarded classroom credits more quickly. Credit accumulation matters for Bloomberg’s high-stakes accountability formulas. College-readiness does not.
The college ready data was released in June, and it is based upon the percent of students who earned a minimum of 75 on the English Regents and a minimum of 80 in math. It’s not that the Regents are such great tests, or that they necessarily assess what students need to for college. But students below those 75/80 benchmarks are far more likely to need remedial classes once they get there. (Of course, if — as the city plans — higher grades on the Regents become part of school accountability, those grades will mean less and less in future years).
I broke all high schools into ten groups of similar schools, and then compared old and new schools in each group. Here are the results:
An agreement reached by New York City and the UFT will ensure that no New York City public school teacher will be laid off in the next year, Mayor Bloomberg, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and UFT President Michael Mulgrew announced on June 24.
The agreement with the UFT includes financial savings to the city generated by redeployment of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool and a one-year suspension of study sabbaticals, along with additional resources from the City Council and the Department of Education.
The agreement forestalls the possibility – raised by Mayor Bloomberg in both the January Financial Plan and the Executive Budget in May – that the city budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011 would require the layoffs of more than 4,000 teachers.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew said: “I want to thank all the parties involved in this agreement for their willingness to come together to prevent the harm that would come to our students from a massive loss of public school teachers. In particular I’d like to cite the key role played by Council Speaker Christine Quinn and her members and staff, along with Chancellor Dennis Walcott and the DOE officials who worked with us to find ways to prevent what could have been a disaster for our schools.”
The UFT has agreed to procedures that will make it possible for the 1,200 teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool to be used more efficiently to fill long and short-term vacancies in their school districts. Such use is designed to save much of the money the DOE now spends on “per diem” substitutes to fill these vacancies.
The one-year suspension of study sabbaticals – which will take effect in the 2012-13 school year – will save the DOE the cost of teachers on these academic leaves. Teachers on one-year approved study sabbaticals receive 70 percent of their regular salaries.
Read The New York Times story for more details.
When New York City laid off 15,000 teachers in the 1970s in response to a fiscal crisis, most never returned, even when they were called back. Class sizes swelled, and then became the “new normal.” Even after the economy recovered, the school system found it difficult to recruit new teachers, who were fearful about job security.
Now the city administration is poised to repeat the error-scarred past, according to a new report [PDF] released today from Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s office. Only a week remains until the city adopts its next budget, de Blasio warns. We should heed the lessons and not endanger another generation of students.
“[I]t is essential to remember how difficult it will be to shield future students from the damage of those cuts, even well after the onset of a strong economic recovery,” according to the report, “How Teacher Layoffs Could Set Back Schools for Years to Come.” When the city eventually recalled 9,000 teachers in 1978-79, only 2,360 actually agreed to return. The “vast brain drain” meant the city for years afterwards had a disproportionately inexperienced teacher workforce, much larger classes than the rest of the state and in many ways a second-class public education system. Is this what we’re facing, again?
In Friday’s Washington Post NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous explains why the NAACP, the UFT and others are suing the DOE.
This lawsuit was filed for the most common reasons we have sued boards of education across the decades: Students are being grossly mistreated, their parents are being deeply disrespected and the entire community stands to suffer.
There are two issues we are particularly concerned about.
First, the city has located charter schools under the same roofs as traditional public schools in a way that is unfair and unjust. Their poor handling has led to many complaints from our members and their neighbors, including:
- Students in the traditional public school must now eat lunch at 10 a.m. so that charter school students can enjoy lunch at noon.
- The “regular school’s children” had library access for a little over four hours so that the “new charter school’s kids” could have access for almost seven.
- “Traditional school students” were moved to a basement, where they were next to the boiler room, to make room for their charter school peers, and teachers of the regular students were forced to teach in the halls due to lack of space.
We are asking that the court require the city to follow state law and handle these shared space situations equitably.
Second, inequitable co-locations exacerbate the problem created by the city’s persistent failure to follow the law and engage parents before making major changes. New York state law requires the city to involve parents before announcing its intention to shut down a school or make way for a charter to share a school’s space.
The message from the DOE to its schools is loud and clear: educate our city’s most vulnerable students, and we will come after you. This May, it looks like they did it again.
But to understand what happened in May, we have to travel back to last spring.
In spring 2010, the DOE made choices about high schools that had landed on a federal watch list for persistently low achieving (PLA) schools. For each school, the DOE had to choose a so-called reform model. Not all schools needed to be placed in a model immediately, however, and though phase-out (closing) was one option, the feds did not require it.
Ultimately, the DOE divided the schools into three groups, purportedly basing its decisions on the potential of each school to improve. One group would be given support through “transformation,” a federal reform model. Another group would be slated for closure. In the third group were schools for which DOE made no immediate decision.
So which high schools did the DOE choose for closure? The ones with horrible, terrible, teachers and rotten programs, and miserable principals? That’s what the DOE would have the public think. These are “failing” schools, the DOE says. These schools are “failing our kids.”
But the reality is something different. Almost without exception, the schools DOE has moved to close over the past few years were those that serve the highest concentrations of at-risk students. Now, all the PLA schools serve large numbers of these students, but some serve more than others, and those are the schools DOE moved to close. The schools DOE selected to support, meanwhile, were the ones that had the lowest relative needs overall. The rest — the undecided schools — fell in the middle.
The charts below illustrate last year’s situation. More »
A few weeks ago I posted a report on Edwize about biases in last year’s Teacher Data Reports. Teachers of high performing math students are 35 times more likely to fall at the bottom of the teacher ranking than at the top. 
Shortly after that, the DOE placed a document on its website that asserts that “…teachers of high-performing students are as likely to have high value-added scores as low value-added scores.”
To me, call me crazy, this is unlikely to be true. First of all DOE charts found in the very same document seem to contradict that (more on that in a minute). What’s more, DOE used a broad definition of “teachers of high-performing students,” and also included some reports that were so unreliable they were not issued to teachers. Let’s go through this step by step. More »
At minimum, the DOE’s Teacher Data Reports are biased against teachers who work with high-performing students.
And the DOE seems to be doing everything it can to make sure that teachers and the public never find that out.
The bias is (to my eyes, anyway) huge. In elementary schools, for example, teachers who work with high-performing math students are 40 times more likely to fall in the bottom 5% of all teachers than in the top. Those findings come from information found on last year’s Teacher Data Reports,  but with an apparent eye to a possible public release and with clear contempt for the teachers they are supposed to support, this year the DOE decided to simply leave it out. 
The specific information missing from the new reports is the proficiency scores, namely the average test scores of students prior to taking the class, and the average when they left. By leaving it out, DOE dispenses with all pretenses that the Reports are designed to be useful for teachers. But the omission also allows the DOE to keep the focus right on the number it wants the potential public to see: the teacher’s percentile, free of any kind of context whatsoever. Were the students in the teacher’s class high or low performing? We won’t know. How much did their scores change? We won’t know that either. And how much better were the so-called “better” teachers, and how much worse the worst? Without proficiency scores, we simply will not know.
From a DOE that has professed the “public’s right to know,” it’s pretty shabby treatment. More »
City Hall Press Release
MAYOR BLOOMBERG APPOINTS CATHIE BLACK – HISTORY-MAKING BUSINESS LEADER WITH PROVEN EXPERTISE MAKING GREAT ORGANIZATIONS EVEN BETTER – CHANCELLOR OF NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Black’s 15 Years Leading Hearst Magazines, 8 Years Building USA Today and 4 As the First Woman Publisher of a Major Weekly – New York – Key Preparation for One of the Toughest Management Jobs at Any Level of Government
Cathie Black was an inspired choice by Mayor Bloomberg to replace Chancellor Joel Klein
New York Daily News editorial, November 10, 2010
And, shame, they will cry, because Black has never been an educator or educrat, let alone spent a career moldering under the weight of cannot-do, excuse-every-failure edujargon.
By our lights, it’s just fine that Black, a successful media executive, will bring private-sector perspective and high management skill to the task for bettering the minds of 1.1 million students.
She comes from a culture that demands innovation and performance. And wouldn’t that be a good thing to have in the city’s 1,400 schools… More »