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Bloomberg's Education Legacy a Key Issue in Mayoral Race

Over his three terms as mayor, Michael Bloomberg's education policies in New York City have become a model for reform around the country. While the city's mayoral candidates are criticizing the policies to score political points, StudentsFirst Founder and CEO Michelle Rhee offered her perspective on the race and the mayor's education legacy to the Associated Press: 

"I think that people are watching the race pretty carefully," Rhee said. "Mayor Bloomberg was really I think the mayor that put school reform on the map and really was the first mayor who was involved in driving reform in the city."

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Plan for Evaluating NYC's Teachers Uncertain

The new plan, revealed over the weekend, would empower principals in New York City schools to evaluate teachers and fire those educators deemed ineffective. It would also allow students to provide feedback and rate teachers.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the plan was largely supported by other mayoral candidates and received high praise from New York City’s current mayor:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg quickly hailed the new plan as a major victory for students, framing the change as the culmination of his work after nearly three terms in office. He said it was a "huge rebuff to the UFT's obstructionism and a great victory for our students."

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In Teacher Evaluation Plan, UFT Loses on All Major Demands

On Saturday, State Education Commissioner John King issued a teacher evaluation plan for New York City's public schools. For the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the state-imposed plan largely ignored their demands and sided with the New York City Department of Education, according to the New York Post:

The state denied the UFT's attempt to be part of a committee that would oversee the plan's implementation — arguing that the union's inclusion would only delay the removal of poor performers.

The union, headed by Michael Mulgrew, also failed to block the use of student surveys in the teacher-appraisal process. They will account for only 5 percent of the rating.

The state Education Department rejected a UFT push to allow instructors to have the final say over what measures of learning would be used to rate them, and instead gave that power to principals.

This state-imposed system will function for the next four years, and any new system can only be implemented with the approval of the New York City Department of Education.

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StudentsFirstNY Weekly Education News Roundup: May 27-31, 2013

In this week's education news: awaiting a state-imposed teacher evaluation system for NYC, summer school comes up short, charter school myths, high-needs students succeed in math, and school choice helps all NYC students.

State Education Commissioner Should Impose City-Endorsed Teacher Evaluation Plan
New York Daily News // May 31, 2013

State Education Commissioner John King must side with the students and demand a teacher evaluation system that raises the bar for New York City public school teachers, the New York Daily News writes in an op-ed:

"In keeping with his reputation as a reformer dedicated to getting far better results out of a hidebound education establishment, King must deliver a national model for identifying the best and the worst and helping those in the middle improve.

"King has championed introduction of the Common Core standards, which will raise the education bar. Teachers will be expected to inspire greater achievement than they ever have. His drive will fail without accountability. He will fail because the kids will fail. He must reach for success."

City Summer School Plan Comes Up Short
New York Post // May 31, 2013

Students enrolling in summer school can only earn up to two credits this summer instead of the usual three credits. According to the New York Post, this change will leave many students one credit short for graduation:

"Sloppy math by city education officials has left this year's summer-school calendar four days shorter than needed — making each high-school course six hours short of a full credit, leaders say.

"The abbreviated summer-school calendar has just 26 days for high-school students — down from the normal 30 — because of a later-than-usual starting date of July 8."

Charter School Myths Spread Before New York City Election
New York Daily News // May 30, 2013

Success Academy Charter Schools Founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz feels that many myths and falsehoods about charter schools are being circulated before the New York City mayoral election. In her New York Daily News op-ed, Moskowitz blames the teachers union for spreading misinformation as a means to influence the candidates:

No wonder, with Bloomberg's departure at hand, the union is making a desperate last-ditch effort to slow down the creation of charter schools. Seizing upon an untrue charge of favoritism, the union has asked the state Education Department to prohibit any more renovation of facilities at the schools I run. It also has demanded that officials institute new procedures that would allow the teachers union to tie up our renovations in red tape.

Perhaps the union will succeed in stopping some of our schools from opening. If so, that will be sad for the many students we had hoped to serve. But it's too late to stop the parent choice revolution that the Bloomberg administration has nurtured for 12 years.

For High-Needs Students, Easier to Raise Math Scores Than Reading Scores
The New York Times // May 29, 2013

According to The New York Times, evidence from across the country shows that high-needs students can catch up on math skills quickly while reading skills will still lag behind:

Students entering the fifth grade here [at Troy Prep Middle School in Albany] are often several years behind in both subjects, but last year, 100 percent of seventh graders scored at a level of proficient or advanced on state standardized math tests. In reading, by contrast, just over half of the seventh graders met comparable standards.

The results are similar across the 31 other schools in the Uncommon Schools network, which enrolls low-income students in Boston, New York City, Rochester and Newark. After attending an Uncommon school for two years, said Brett Peiser, the network’s chief executive, 86 percent of students score at a proficient or advanced level in math, while only about two thirds reach those levels in reading over the same period.

Expanding School Choice Will Help All New York City Students
SchoolBook // May 28, 2013

In an op-ed published in SchoolBook, former teacher Marc Sternberg discusses how hopeless his K-8 school was for students since the local high school was terrible. Now that New York City allows students to choose their high school, graduation rates have soared across the city:

"It was once a foregone conclusion that in America's largest city, graduation rates would never break 50 percent. Today, it's reached 65 percent, a record level. Among under-served populations, drop-out rates have been halved, while graduation rates have seen double-digit jumps. In 2005, only 40 percent of Black students and 37 percent of Hispanic students graduated in four years. Today, it's 60 percent and 59 percent respectively."

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State Education Commissioner King Must Step Up for NYC's Students

New York State Education Commissioner John King is set to reveal a plan this Saturday outlining how the Education Department will evaluate teachers going forward. After negotiations between New York City and the teachers’ union stalled, Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature determined that King would have to make a decision by June 1.

According to the New York Daily News, King now has the power to either maintain the status quo or allow the school system to make great progress:

In keeping with his reputation as a reformer dedicated to getting far better results out of a hidebound education establishment, King must deliver a national model for identifying the best and the worst and helping those in the middle improve.

He must be far more demanding than any of the teacher evaluation systems agreed to by the nearly 700 state school districts that are the weakened products of labor negotiations.

King’s rules must be concise so as to eliminate regulations that the union can use to challenge every step of an evaluation.

He must reach for success.

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New York State Teacher Evaluation Decision to Be Released by Saturday, June 1

Since New York City and the United Federation of Teachers could not reach an agreement on teacher evaluations, state Education Commissioner John King will make a decision by Saturday, June 1 on how to implement a new system.

Gotham Schools reports on King's plan to finish the process this weekend:

State Education Commissioner John King gets the final say on how city teachers will be evaluated using a process outlined earlier this month. He’ll formally start that process on Thursday, when officials from the Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers each have four hours to present their cases during arbitration hearings. The Council on School Supervisors and Superintendents, which represents principals, is slotted to present during a four-hour block on Friday morning.

King plans to release his plan, which is likely to borrow from each group’s proposal but does not have to, by Saturday afternoon.

City and union officials — and reporters — will then go into high gear to understand the process that King has devised, which will go into effect immediately for next year.

In addition to hearing from the city and the teachers union, King has already heard from a number of education reform groups, including StudentsFirstNY. In a letter to the education commissioner, StudentsFirstNY joined 10 other education reform groups in thanking him for his leadership on teacher evaluations and making recommendations for the new system. The letter reads in part:

The details of the system you impose will be critically important. If you make the right choices—based on the latest research and lessons from other evaluation systems across the country—teachers in New York City will finally get the regular feedback they deserve as professionals, and more students will get to learn from effective teachers who can prepare them for success in college and beyond.

If you simply split the difference between the two parties’ demands, however, you risk diluting the impact of the 2010 state law and making little improvement on the City’s current evaluation system, which rates nearly all teachers “satisfactory” and gives them little useful feedback.

Nobody wants New York City to become the latest example of a school system that replaces an old, flawed evaluation system with an equally flawed new one.

Read the full letter here.

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NY State Education Commissioner John King Weighs Teacher Evaluation Decision

New York state Education Commissioner John King has until Saturday to make a ruling on how to implement a new teacher evaluation system. In a column in the New York Post, Bob McManus outlines what's at stake for New York students:

It has fallen to King, by all accounts an honorable man, to settle by Saturday an issue that has vexed New York for years. Namely: how to get the state’s politically potent teachers unions to accept personal accountability as a bedrock principle of public-education reform.

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Charter School Myths Spread Before NYC Mayoral Election

In an opinion piece for the New York Daily News, Eva Moskowitz, the founder and CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools, claims that charter schools in New York City are being unfairly smeared before this fall's mayoral election. With Mayor Bloomberg leaving office at the end of the year, every Democratic candidate vying to replace him has accused these charter schools of receiving favorable treatment. Moskowitz says these claims are false and are part of a larger effort to push back against the growing City support for charter schools:

"Every year, more New Yorkers have children in charter schools or know someone who does. They are coming to understand the value of parent choice. This has brought us closer to a tipping point at which charter schools are strongly supported by most New Yorkers and don’t depend on a handful of forward-looking elected officials."

Moskowitz blames the United Federation of Teachers for spreading myths about New York City's charter schools. With Bloomberg's departure fast approaching, the teachers union sees an opportunity to stop charter schools from continuning to open across the city. She writes in the New York Daily News:

"Perhaps the union will succeed in stopping some of our schools from opening. If so, that will be sad for the many students we had hoped to serve. But it's too late to stop the parent choice revolution that the Bloomberg administration has nurtured for 12 years.

"Whether the union likes it or not, New York City's next mayor will inherit a vibrant network of charter schools whose growth is unstoppable — and that New York's voters are increasingly embracing."

Read the full opinion article here.

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In Mayoral Debate, Weiner Takes Stand on Education Issues

On Tuesday, Anthony Weiner participated in his first New York City mayoral debate. The debate, sponsored by New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, helped Weiner define his views on education policy. According to the New York Daily News, Weiner's was critical of several education policies championed by Mayor Bloomberg:

"He hit the mayor for focusing too much on charter schools - though he stopped short of joining some of his fellow Dems in calling for a moratorium on colocations - and on high-stakes tests. 'You can't look at a classroom and see a number, you can't look at a classroom and see a part in a machine,' he said, echoing many of the other Democrats' themes."

Weiner also took one position that was unpopular with the union-friendly crowd at the debate:

"He also proposed giving bonuses to top performing teachers who take jobs in struggling schools, even if 'I have to push back against the unions.'"

Glen Weiner, acting executive director for StudentsFirstNY, criticized the candidates for not supporting policies that have proven effective in the past:

"'We're not hearing how we're going to stand up to the special interests and make sure the best teachers are in front of our classrooms,' said acting executive director Glen Weiner."

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Expanding School Choice Will Help All New York City Students

New York City used to push students into schools based on ZIP code and income, relegating poor and minority students into terrible high schools. Marc Sternberg, a teacher at a low-performing K-8 school in the Bronx in the 1990s, saw this first-hand:

"A decade ago, that's what our school system looked like across the five boroughs. Operating under 32 unequal districts, instructional quality varied wildly between neighborhoods. Zip code – and income – often determined where students went to school. A child’s educational outcomes were largely pre-determined."

In 2003, however, the City Department of Education opened up the high school admissions process so all upcoming high school students could rank their top schools in order of preference. Ten years later, 75 percent of all students are in one of their top three choices. Graduation rates across the city are at a record 65 percent. The Black and Hispanic graduation rates are at 60 and 59 percent respectively - both figures have risen over 20 percent since 2005.

As Sternberg writes in School Book, the current City education policies are succeeding and must not be reversed now:

"There are some who believe that reversing the policies that brought us to this point would somehow improve our schools. I couldn't disagree more strongly. Our system is far from perfect; we have a long way to go to deliver for the 35 percent of our students – many from low-income, high-needs neighborhoods – who still fail to graduate. But our policies have triggered a remarkable transformation of a system once widely derided as unsalvageable."

Read the full opinion article here.

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