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A Defense of Mayor Bloomberg's Education Record

Paul Hill, the founder of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, has written an exhaustive article on what Mayor Bloomberg's administration did well in helping improve education in New York City and what the next mayor should do to build off of Bloomberg's legacy.

In The Atlantic, Hill argues that Bloomberg has helped raise graduation rates, open small schools and charter school that have proven to be effective, expand school choice options and distribute funds across schools more evenly, among many other achievements:

Bill de Blasio, the likely next New York City mayor, has made a lot of promises about public education. No additional charter schools; no free space for many charter schools educating city kids; less reliance on student test performance to judge schools; and a moratorium on the closure of low-performing schools. Though these pledges have come piecemeal, together they would dismantle the reforms Michael Bloomberg implemented during his 12 years as mayor. Before this happens, it’s worth looking at what Bloomberg’s policies have accomplished and what is at risk if they are tossed out.

This essay will show what has been accomplished - how children have benefited from Bloomberg’s education policies and how the system has changed in positive ways.

Read the full story here.

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John King Deserves Our Thanks, Not Our Jeers

New York State Education Commissioner John King has recently been under fire from critics for his role in helping the state adopt teacher evaluations and implement the Common Core curriculum. Last week, King was shouted down at a town hall meeting in Poughkeepsie.

In a New York Daily News editorial, the paper strongly defended King, calling him one of the best education commissioners the state had ever had. They argued that the reforms he had championed were necessary toward improving student outcomes and teacher quality in New York state's public schools:

King's only "crime" was to place New York at the vanguard of Common Core implementation. His courage in driving the critical reform, and tying it to teacher evaluations, is a chief reason why New York won $700 million in federal Race to the Top education funding.

Adoption of the Common Core standards required a forthright acknowledgement that the previously accepted benchmarks of success were severely deficient.

That's why scores on this year's reading and math standardized tests dropped precipitously - because students were asked to master tougher material that will be critical to their ultimate success in college or a career. That overdue reckoning has caused consternation among parents and teachers who'd rather stick their heads in the playground sand rather than discover what students really are and aren't learning.

Read the full editorial here.

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Charter Schools Will Face Deficits if Forced to Pay Rent

Charter school operators are crunching the numbers to see how a potential Mayor Bill de Blasio would impact their bottom line. The results are not pretty.

According to the New York Post, charter school operators are looking at hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in new expenses each school year if they are forced to pay rent.

An example from Public Prep charter schools in Manhattan and the Bronx:

Public Prep, which operates three all-girls charters schools on the Lower East Side and in the South Bronx, said rent could add $1.5 million in new expense to its $14 million budget - an increase of more than 10 percent.

"If we're charged rent, the impact would be on the families. Either we're closing or we're significantly reducing our academic programs - art, science and music, which we think is crucial to a well-rounded education," said executive director Ian Rowe. "It's not well thought out."

Read the full article here.

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How the Teachers Union Can Rebuild To Become a Force for Students

Alan Singer, a social studies educator at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, describes himself as "pro-public education, pro-teacher, pro-student, and pro-union." But lately, he feels that teachers unions have lost their way by working on self-promotion instead of student learning. He wants to see teachers unions across the country rebuild themselves into organizations that always put students first over their own financial interests.

Singer, writing in the Huffington Post, is especially critical of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). He took issue with their endorsement of Bill Thompson in the NYC mayoral primary election because he viewed Thompson as the most likely candidate to award the UFT billions in back pay dating to 2008:

While teachers and municipal workers deserve a raise, there certainly were more pressing educational issues in New York City and the nation facing students and parents -- and I argue facing teachers as well. They include school closings, charter schools, teacher assessments, and poor performance on new standardized tests, especially by black and latino students. My own experience with the leadership of the UFT during the past four decades is that while they consistently promote better education for students, especially when they are negotiating new contracts for teachers and want parental support, they inevitably drop all other demands in exchange for a pay raise, or in this case, for retroactive pay.

Read the full opinion article here.

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StudentsFirstNY Weekly Education News Roundup: October 13-18, 2013

In this week's education news: a study finds teacher evaluations improve teacher quality, Mayor Bloomberg encourages more charter schools to open in NYC, and state education officials respond to over-testing concerns.

New Study Finds Teacher Evalutions Improve Teacher Quality
The New York Times // October 17, 2013

New York City begins using teacher evaluations this school year, but cities such as Washington D.C. have been using a teacher evaluation system for several years. Michelle Rhee, the CEO and founder of StudentsFirst, helped establish Impact, a contentious student evaluation program for the entire D.C. public school system.

A new study finds that Impact is helping improve teacher quality in Washington D.C.'s public schools. According to David Leonhardt in The New York Times, the findings show that in a large public school system such as NYC's, teacher evaluations are raising teacher quality and weeding out low-performing teachers:

The study found that Impact caused more low-performing teachers to leave the school system than otherwise would have been expected. The program also seemed to improve teaching quality - as measured by classroom observations and test scores - of teachers with both strong and weak evaluation scores.

"High-powered incentives linked to multiple indicators of teacher performance can substantially improve the measured performance of the teaching work force," conclude the researchers, Thomas Dee of Stanford University's Graduate School of Education and James Wyckoff of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. Evaluation programs, they add, can bring "substantive and long-term educational and economic benefits" both by “avoiding the career-long retention of the lowest-performing teachers and through broad increases in teacher performance."

Eva Moskowitz Should Be Considered for Schools Chancellor
New York Daily News // October 14, 2013

Diane Ravitch, an anti-education reform advocate, mockingly suggested that Bill de Blasio should choose Eva Moskowitz for NYC schools chancellor if he's elected mayor. But in an opinion article for the New York Daily News, the Manhattan Institute's Charles Sahm says the off-hand suggestion should be a serious consideration for both mayoral candidates.

Moskowitz, a member of the StudentsFirstNY Board of Directors, founded the Success Academy network of charter schools. On the Common Core tests, 82 percent of Success Academy students passed the math standards and 58 percent past the English standards, well above state and NYC averages. Sahm argues that Moskowitz gets results that the City should try and replicate in all public schools:

Instead of denigrating Moskowitz, de Blasio should be asking: What lessons can we learn from the success of her schools? How can we incorporate the basic tenets of her schools - more instructional time, high-quality teachers, use of data to drive instruction and extra help for those students who fall behind, parent involvement, a culture of discipline, rigor, and high expectations - in all schools? (Some of these reforms would require modifications to the teachers' contract, but perhaps de Blasio could convince the union to reimagine what is possible.)

Bloomberg Administration Encourages Charter Schools to Open or Expand
New York Post // October 14, 2013

Before leaving office, the Bloomberg administration is encouraging 23 charter schools to open or expand in NYC. The Department of Education wants to continue expanding school choice for parents and students while it is still possible. Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio has indicated he would significantly slow charter school growth if elected.

As reported by the New York Post:

Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott defended the 11th-hour actions as smart, sound planning to provide parents and kids with more options, and reward achievement.

"Over the last decade, we've transformed the landscape in city schools, giving parents more high-performing options than ever before and delivering historic gains for our students," said DOE spokesman Devon Puglia.

"When public schools — be they district or charter — are delivering resounding results, we want to ensure their success continues."

Mayor Bloomberg Must Approve New Charter Schools Now
New York Observer // October 17, 2013

Mike Bloomberg's 12 years as New York City mayor will come to an end on December 31st. From an education standpoint, his tenure is most notable for the large expansion of charter schools across the city. Today, there are 183 charter schools operating inside city limits.

Democrat Bill de Blasio is the leading candidate to replace Bloomberg as mayor, and de Blasio has made it clear that he will support the City's public schools at the expense of the growing charter school movement. In an editorial, the New York Observer says that the Bloomberg Administration must move now to approve as many charter schools as possible before the end of the year:

Make no mistake about it: Under a Mayor de Blasio, the charter revolution would come to an end, and it will be back to business as usual in public education - all the more reason to get moving on new or expanded charters right now.

NY Education Officials Hear Concerns on Over-Testing
The Wall Street Journal // October 18, 2013

New York State education officials have acknowledged concerns from parents, teachers, and principals that students not be over-tested. The tests are a key measure for New York state's teacher evaluation law, which New York City is implementing this year.

The Wall Street Journal reports on a recent statement from New York Education Commissioner John King Jr:

State Education Commissioner John King Jr. told superintendents, parents and teachers Tuesday at a meeting in Oyster Bay that the state had tried over the summer to make sure districts knew that pretests weren't required.

"We are worried about the climate of potential over-testing and too much test prep," he said. He said districts should try to do the minimum amount of testing necessary to figure out whether students are learning. "To the extent that we have assessments that are not contributing, we should try to eliminate them," he said.

In New York, the law says about 40% of the teacher-grading systems must be based on various test scores or other measures of gauging whether students learned in class, and the remaining 60% based on more subjective measures, such as classroom visits by principals.

Teachers Union and Education Advocates Collaborate on Teacher Conferences
GothamSchools // October 18, 2013

The Coalition for Education Justice and the United Federation of Teachers are working together on how to utilize funds for extra parent-teacher conferences. The NYC Department of Education is setting aside $5 million for extra parent-teacher conferences specifically for students with lower performance on state test scores.

GothamSchools reports:

Details of how the conferences will be implemented were emailed to principals Wednesday night. The city will provide schools with money based on the number of fourth through eighth graders who received level 1s and 2s on last year's state exams. Schools will be free to use that money to help schedule 30-minute meetings with parents of those students, and potentially school-wide explanatory meetings as well.

Those involved with the negotiations said that could mean paying teachers for after-school or Saturday sessions, rearranging tutoring services to free up some teachers during scheduled school time, or another scheduling configuration. In an unusual move, schools will be also be able to request sending students home after an additional half day, as most schools already do for parent-teacher conferences.

Stark Difference Between de Blasio and Lhota on Charter Schools
New York Post // October 13, 2013

Last week, thousands of charter school supporters marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to focus the mayoral debate on the stark education policy differences between Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota. After the march, the focus goes toward shining a light on these stark differences.

In an editorial, the New York Post writes that the choice for mayor could not be more clear:

One candidate would kill charters, while the other would increase them. Choices do not get more clear than this.

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NY Education Officials Hear Concerns on Over-Testing

New York State education officials have acknowledged concerns from parents, teachers, and principals that students not be over-tested.

The tests are a key measure for New York state’s teacher evaluation law, which New York City is implementing this year.

The Wall Street Journal reports on a recent statement from New York Education Commissioner John King Jr:

State Education Commissioner John King Jr. told superintendents, parents and teachers Tuesday at a meeting in Oyster Bay that the state had tried over the summer to make sure districts knew that pretests weren't required.

"We are worried about the climate of potential over-testing and too much test prep," he said. He said districts should try to do the minimum amount of testing necessary to figure out whether students are learning. "To the extent that we have assessments that are not contributing, we should try to eliminate them," he said.

In New York, the law says about 40% of the teacher-grading systems must be based on various test scores or other measures of gauging whether students learned in class, and the remaining 60% based on more subjective measures, such as classroom visits by principals.

Share

Teachers Union and Education Advocates Collaborate on Teacher Conferences

The Coalition for Education Justice, United Federation of Teachers and the Department of Education are working together on how to utilize funds for extra parent-teacher conferences. The NYC Department of Education is setting aside $5 million for extra parent-teacher conferences specifically for students with lower performance on state test scores.

GothamSchools reports:

Details of how the conferences will be implemented were emailed to principals Wednesday night. The city will provide schools with money based on the number of fourth through eighth graders who received level 1s and 2s on last year’s state exams. Schools will be free to use that money to help schedule 30-minute meetings with parents of those students, and potentially school-wide explanatory meetings as well.

Those involved with the negotiations said that could mean paying teachers for after-school or Saturday sessions, rearranging tutoring services to free up some teachers during scheduled school time, or another scheduling configuration. In an unusual move, schools will be also be able to request sending students home after an additional half day, as most schools already do for parent-teacher conferences.

Share

Opinion: How New York Teachers Unions Are Like the Tea Party

Teachers unions are attempting to stop much-needed reform for NYC’s teacher evaluations and the shift to Common Core standards, a move that hurts students and their families.

TNTP President Tim Daly argues in a blog post that teachers union tactics mirror those of recent Tea Party exploits. Daly says that the unions are simply stalling on implementing already-passed policies that will help give every student at every school the education they deserve:

See if this sounds familiar: A groundbreaking policy passed years ago is provoking aggressive objections on the eve of its implementation. Its opponents are demanding a temporary delay—ostensibly to ensure better implementation, but really to buy time to completely derail the policy. In fact, these opponents are even willing to hold an entirely separate policy hostage until they get their way on the first policy.

No, I’m not talking about the Tea Party’s failed effort to extract a delay in Obamacare as a ransom for funding the federal government. I’m actually describing the efforts of teachers unions to delay much-needed improvements in teacher evaluations in New York. If they don’t get their way, they’re threatening to blow up the Common Core State Standards.

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New Study Finds Teacher Evalutions Improve Teacher Quality

New York City begins using teacher evaluations this school year, but cities such as Washington D.C. have been using a teacher evaluation system for several years. Michelle Rhee, the CEO and founder of StudentsFirst, helped establish Impact, a contentious student evaluation program for the entire D.C. public school system.

A new study finds that Impact is making a positive impact on teacher quality in Washington's public schools. According to David Leonhardt in The New York Times, the findings show that in a large public school system such as NYC's, teacher evaluations are raising teacher quality and weeding out low-performing teachers:

The study found that Impact caused more low-performing teachers to leave the school system than otherwise would have been expected. The program also seemed to improve teaching quality - as measured by classroom observations and test scores - of teachers with both strong and weak evaluation scores.

"High-powered incentives linked to multiple indicators of teacher performance can substantially improve the measured performance of the teaching work force," conclude the researchers, Thomas Dee of Stanford University's Graduate School of Education and James Wyckoff of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. Evaluation programs, they add, can bring "substantive and long-term educational and economic benefits" both by “avoiding the career-long retention of the lowest-performing teachers and through broad increases in teacher performance."

Read the full article here.

Share

Mayor Bloomberg Must Approve New Charter Schools Now

Mike Bloomberg's 12 years as New York City mayor will come to an end on December 31st. From an education standpoint, his tenure is most notable for the large expansion of charter schools across the city. Today, there are 183 charter schools operating inside city limits.

Democrat Bill de Blasio is the leading candidate to replace Bloomberg as mayor, and de Blasio has made it clear that he will support the City's public schools at the expense of the growing charter school movement. In an editorial, the New York Observer says that the Bloomberg Administration must move now to approve as many charter schools as possible before the end of the year:

Make no mistake about it: Under a Mayor de Blasio, the charter revolution would come to an end, and it will be back to business as usual in public education - all the more reason to get moving on new or expanded charters right now.

Read the full editorial here.

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