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Fixing The Books, Not The Systemic Failures

Imagine a teacher who, on the first day of class, told his students that no matter how well they performed, 5% of them would fail the course and another 10% would eke by with ‘D’s. And that no matter how poorly they did, 25% would receive ‘A’s.

That teacher is Joel Klein, and the students are New York City elementary and middle public schools. Klein just announced [see here and here], that no matter how they performed — good, bad or indifferent — 5% of the schools would fail on the School Progress Reports, 10% would receive a ‘D’ grade and 25% would receive an ‘A’ grade.

Why would Klein do what no educator with integrity would do? Because the goal here is not educational. It is political. What this change does is ensure that he will have 5% to 15% of the schools eligible for closure. And having been through a year when Tweed continually amended Educational Impact Statements and offered ex post facto justifications for failing to follow its own standards in closing schools, he is now intent that he will have schools with the appropriate scores to close.

Only a persistently failing management of a school system could determine that its schools were failures, before one piece of its data was in.

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11 Comments:

  • 1 Phyllis C. Murray
    · Jan 31, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Reflections on the “Key Ingredient “for Community Schools

    By Phyllis C. Murray

    ” Here is the top key ingredient for community schools according to the Children’s Aid Society: Education First–While the community school concept offers a revolutionary vision of the role a school can play within the community, its primary goal should be the education of children. The school’s core instructional program needs to be strong and effective if the extended services of the community are to achieve maximum results. Extended learning opportunities should serve to enrich and support the learning that takes place during the school day. Furthermore, the enriched health and social services of the school are all designed to ensure that children are emotionally, socially and physically supported so that they can focus on learning and developing to their full potential.’From:Are community schools too good for children?Filed under: Education by Maisie

    As educators we know that the “key ingredient” for community schools is adequate funding for instructional programs, extended learning opportunities, and enriched health and social services. Effective teachers also know that often they must use their own personal resources to create classroom environments which are viable; write proposals to fund extended learning opportunities; and lobby in Albany to secure better health and safety conditions. Then teachers must lobby for additional psychologists, social workers, and guidance counselors.

    The failure of local and state governments to provide funding to economically poor citizens and their schools would otherwise compromise the teachers’ efforts and the future of this great nation. The truly dedicated educators have seen miracles happen daily for years as their students’ dreams were realized. Fortunately, this is not a new phenomenon throughout the nation. Good teachers have always made a difference in the lives of their students. Case in point:

    Directly after the Emancipation Proclamation “the exceptionally gifted rose above the staggering obstacle of quasi-freedom,” said Martin Luther King at the UFT Spring Conference in 1964. “It is precisely because education is a road to equality and citizenship that it has been made more elusive for Negroes than many other rights. The warding off of Negroes from equal education is part of the historical design to submerge him in second class status.” And today we can see this happening as the rich-poor gap is allowed to widen in NYC, New Orleans, Alabama, Mississippi, and even Washington, DC, the nation’s capital.

    King reminded UFTers in 1964 that: “education for all Americans, white and black, has always been inadequate. The richest nation on earth has never allocated enough of its abundant resources to build sufficient schools, to compensate adequately its teachers, and to surround them with the prestige their work justifies.” Therefore, when we read the “Rich-Poor Gap Widens” not only for individuals but for schools in general,” we cannot be surprised.”More economists are drawing the conclusions that a good education is one of the gateways to wealth creation for individuals as well as for nations.” (Education Trust) Yet, benign neglect seems to be the mantra of many in political office who turn their backs on the ones who need quality education the most as the budget cuts cut-away at the dollars earmarked for public education.

    The Campaign for Fiscal Equity has become a prime example of how the state was not providing adequate funding to NYC Public Schools. And as educators, we know that the resources needed to implement new programs designed by the city are inadequate. Thus, we were not surprised to learn that “New York also stands out for neglecting to fairly fund poor and minority school districts. New York spends $2,280 less per student in its poorest districts than its does on students educated in its wealthiest school districts. Even after New York was ordered to deal with these funding gaps, policy makers have failed to take action.” (Education Trust Report 2005)

    John Hendrik Clarke said, “History is a clock. It tells us where we are, but more importantly, what we must be.’ If we are the union, we must continue to fight for equity for all. And as members of The Keep the Promises Coalition, we must continue to keep the pressure on legislators from Albany, NY to Washington, DC. Our quest must be to secure public schools that reflect democracy in action because… the children are waiting for the City of New York to fix and not close their schools.
    Phyllis C. Murray
    UFT Chapter Leader P.S. 75X

  • 2 Patricia Musial
    · Jan 31, 2010 at 9:04 am

    The difference between then and now is your esteemed DREAM TEAM from Tweed has no morals, values or ethics. Klein has hired the white shirts or shall we say ex Wall Streeters eager to cash in short term, before the market rebounds, who have no idea, nor do they care about the children or human beings in general. These guys robbed people because of their Wll Street antics and found a perfect opportunity to rob the kids of their educations. This is despicable and reprehensible. The fact that it is allowed to go forward is disgusting. This has to be stopped and we must band together to stop these people who have no regard for human life or the advancement of society.

  • 3 Jack Israel
    · Jan 31, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Students are not widgets and schools are not factories. Teaching is an art not a science. That being said, why wouldn’t a corporate manager like Bloomberg use his un-checked power to weaken the UFT and to drown out dissenting parental voices? It is a strategy right out of the Glided Age. What I would propose, what I demand is transparency because sunshine is the best disinfectant. Currently, Klein and his spokespeople’s statements are treated by the NYT in a manner reminiscent to the way Dick Chaney’s pre and post Iraqi invasion missives about (WMB) were treated by Judith Miller, as gospel. Obviously, if you inundate a school with special needs, and recently arriving ELL students and offer little to no support, the stats will suffer. One unambiguous example is how the Mayor brags about ending social promotion. However, once a student reaches high school, if the student doesn’t’ graduate in 4 years, your school and your staff are deemed failures. The 4-year graduation rate is just one obvious example of the practice of cherry picking stats to achieve a pre-conceived goal. The 4 year graduation rates are a statistic that indisputably should and must be scrutinized if one is to derive any accurate implication from it.

    Jack Israel – Teacher

  • 4 Sunday links. « Fred Klonsky's blog
    · Jan 31, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    [...] Leo Casey goes after Joel Kline. This time because the NY schools boss has created a policy which predicts which kids will fail and which will succeed. Maybe Joel can pull a quarter out of your ear as well. [...]

  • 5 bronxactivist
    · Jan 31, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Lets apply the principle the DOE has applied to closing schools in practical terms.
    Baseball players have rules they must adhere to for the game of baseball to be played but all of a sudden the rules are changed in the middle of the game. Even kids playing in the playground know this is not fair and will refuse to play a game where the rules keep changing. The fans will be confused and so would the players so instead of baseball being a enjoyable experience it turns into a confusing tailspin.
    There should be clear rules and expectations so that all the players and stakeholders in the system know what they need to do.
    This reminds me of the New York Times article in Sundays newspaper that states Princeton Universities policy having caps on how many students are allowed to receive A’s in the classroom. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/31/education/31princeton.html?scp=2&sq=princeton%20university&st=cse ) This is unfair and is punitive to students. Many of Princeton students are not getting the high paying jobs as a result of the University wide policy.
    Fixing the system is what needs to be done we were all taught that the point of assessment is to discover weaknesses therefore we can improve. When an assessment is unfair people tend to cheat on the test. Allow the statistical models being used that come up with school scores be made public and allow public input. Also there should be public commenting on any rule changes before they occur. Transparency is important because it allows many people to tweak the system to serve the public.
    I am talking about public comment that will be listened to and reviewed. I am not speaking about PEP public hearings where they always vote on the side of the DOE no matter what the public says. I am speaking about true hearings where the change of policy can occur. The Panel for Educational Policy should have 2 members of each stake holding group parents, teachers, students, DOE. They should all be elected by their representative groups to have a democrat panel not a rubber stamp that will allow the DOE to keep changing policies at will.
    If the DOE had nothing to hide they would allow the independent auditing of their running of the system at all levels and should be forced to create cost-benefit analysis of its policies by institutions that are non-partisan.

  • 6 Michael Fiorillo
    · Feb 2, 2010 at 7:19 am

    Mr. Caseys’s post accurately points out the flaws in the DOE’s school rating “system.” However, it erroneously attributes them to mismanagement, as if Tweed might change the error of its ways if they were better informed, or if some slightly more competent managers were brought in.

    The harsher reality is that, based on their intentions to fragment, dismantle and ultimately privatize huge chunks of the public school system, Tweed is actually quite successful. The issue is not (just) incompetence, but malice, toward teachers, students, parents, communities and the very concept of public education.

    Two further, related points:

    – until the UFT openly educates its membership about the hostile takeover of public education that is occurring in NYC and nationally, the union’s response will be piecemeal and ineffectual. Recent events confirm this, as well the catastrophic bankruptcy of Randi Weingarten’s policy of “collaboration” (her word, not mine) with those who seek to destroy public education and bust the union.

    – Second, it’s long overdue that the UFT acknowledge reality and go on the offensive against the mayor, and not hide behind the fiction that Klein is responsible for our problems. This is both strategically and politically the proper course. Bloomberg is well on his way to becoming the most hated mayor since Lindsey, and has publicly stated that DOE employees work at his pleasure. Why the reluctance to call him out on it?

  • 7 The People versus Bloomberg/Klein: The Courts Will Decide Closing School Issue. Shouldn’t Parents, Communities, Advocates, Principals and Teachers Collaborate on Developing School Evalaution Metrics? Is Closing Schools, Once Again, Punishing the Mos
    · Feb 2, 2010 at 10:26 am

    [...]   The Department is holding a series of feed back sessions  over the next few weeks.   The union scoffs and sees the changes as simply closing more schools.   Why are we closing schools at this moment? [...]

  • 8 Phyllis C. Murray
    · Feb 2, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Hold Fast to Dreams: Farewell Bigotry of Low Expectations

    How was it possible for Morehouse University to produce such impressive alumni as: Martin Luther King, Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Lerone Bennett, Shelton “Spike” Lee, Dr. David Satcher, Maynard Jackson, Attorney Tyrone Means, Julian Bond, and James Nabrit from ever strata of society?

    Perhaps the difference is that someone had a dream for each one of these men before they could dream. That someone might have been a teacher. And once the student reached Morehouse, “From the first day on campus, he was told he was destined for greatness and could achieve no less.” Errin Hehmen AP

    There are teachers today, who like pioneer Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1950), have “invested in a human soul “knowing that “it could be a diamond in the rough.” Because true educators know that diamonds, like our students, come in every hue.

    Michael Lomax, UNCF believes in the myriad possibilities of making miracles happen in classrooms. When Lomax said: “There is this beacon out there that says if you create a challenging, demanding, yet nurturing and supportive environment, if you show these young men the possibilities and you discipline them to realize those possibilities, you can turn these statistics about black men around.” It is obvious that the “bigotry of low expectations” and “benign neglect” have no place in our classrooms or nation.

    We know good teachers do have an enormous impact on student achievement. The teachers are the keepers of the dreams. And that fact is exactly what educators have known all along as they strive to teach often against the ever rising insurmountable odds. And, there are many success stories in New York City as students reach their goals and realize the dreams that they can now call their own.

    Yes, “…teachers are the single most important factor in how much students learn ….” Education Trust .
    Therefore educators must say:

    “Bring me all of your dreams,
    you dreamers,
    Bring me all your heart melodies,
    that I may wrap them in a blue cloud cloth,
    Away from the too rough fingers of the world.

    Langston Hughes “The Dream Keeper”

    Phyllis C. Murray,
    Chapter Leader P.S. 75X
    District 8

  • 9 Leo Casey
    · Feb 4, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Michael:

    I think that you are trying to construct a political difference out of semantics. If you feel that there is a purpose in that exercise, you are free to engage in it, but from where I sit it is an expression of the narcissism of small political differences that plagues much of the left. Its purpose seems to be to somehow construct a case that the UFT and its leadership is not completely in the struggle against Bloomberg’s and Klein’s school closures and efforts to privatize public education, when the rest of the world sees that we plainly are. Indeed, you are one of a very select group in NYC if you honestly believe that the union is not going toe-to-toe with the mayor over this.

    Klein is Chancellor of NYC Public Schools. It is his responsibility to lead and nurture successful schools, to improve and support struggling schools, and not to engage in reckless, arbitrary mass closures. The entire rhetorical point of the phrase “persistently failed management” is to take the phrasing he uses against schools and to turn it around, placing the responsibility back squarely where it belongs — on him. His intention is, quite frankly, irrelevant: he has failed at his job, period.

  • 10 foru wetch
    · Feb 6, 2010 at 11:03 am

    Now the testing craze has finally gone too far. PS 58Q is giving midterms to all classes in all subjects next week. Yes, KINDERGARDEN through grade 6.

  • 11 Paul Rubin
    · Feb 13, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    If the state actually lives up to their statements and makes the standardized tests substantially more challenging, the vast majority of schools would receive D’s and F’s in the next round of Progress Reports so designating a specific percentage of A’s, B’s, C’s, etc. also serves the purpose of protecting the Mayor and Chancellor from an even more embarrassing debacle. Some of you aren’t looking at the big picture in that respect.

    The bottom line remains the same though. A system that only considers test results as important results in a system that does nothing other than teach to the test narrowing the curriculum as to be meaningless. We will raise a generation of oval shaped bubblers, not intelligent problem solvers.

    The UFT sat on the sidelines in this last election and allowed the Mayor to buy the election. Now it’s a little disingenuous to whine about things when he does what he has always promised to do and after 8 years shown himself willing to do.