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Bedford-Stuyvesant Community Working to Put Students First

Parents, teachers, and community members across New York City are working to give children the education they deserve with StudentsFirstNY. StudentsFirstNY currently has chapters in East Harlem, Crown Heights, East New York, Brownsville, and Bed-Stuy. According to Bed-Stuy Patch, the Bedford-Stuyvesant chapter meets every other week and is specifically working to raise awareness and boost the involvement among local parents.

Chandra Hayslett, director of communications at StudentsFirstNY, talked about the goals of the organization and its local chapters:

“We just want to make sure there’s a quality teacher in every classroom for students that don’t have them right now.”

StudentsFirstNY’s director of organizing, Tenicka Boyd, added that teachers and administrators should be open to performance evaluation in schools:

“Everyone should be held accountable, and no one in this system is above evaluation. We should be putting our best teachers, not our worst teachers in low-income communities... We should be giving more resources and not less resources.”

If you are a parent and would like to get involved, please email parents@studentsfirstny.org.

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Judge Says State Cannot Withhold Aid to City Schools Over Teacher Evaluation Impasse

In a preliminary injunction made public yesterday, a court ordered that the State cannot withhold $260 million in aid from NYC schools in response to the City and teachers' union failing to reach an agreement on a new teacher evaluation system.

The New York Times reported on the decision, saying:

"Justice Mendez, in a four-page decision made public on Thursday, ruled that “innocent children,” particularly the neediest among them, could be hurt by financial cuts, as the plaintiffs had argued. He also agreed with the plaintiffs’ central argument that the matter revolves around a child’s constitutional right to a sound basic education."

The article also quoted StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Micah Lasher, who highlighted Justice Mendez's comments that there were other avenues for ensuring teacher evaluation plans were implemented in districts across the state, and noted:

“The ruling is a huge deal, potentially jeopardizing a key part of the evaluation law affecting not just the city, but the whole state,” Mr. Lasher said. “But the governor could use the opportunity to figure out how to make teacher evaluations permanent without putting funds at risk.”

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Plan Would Let State Take Control of City’s Teacher Evaluation System

Yesterday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed that the state would seek to establish a new teacher evaluation system for New York City should leaders from the teachers' union and the City not be able to reach a negotiated agreement.

The New York Times reported on the Governor's announcement, outlining the key pieces, and noting:

"If the two sides remain deadlocked as of May 31, the measure proposed by Mr. Cuomo would empower John B. King Jr., the state’s education commissioner, to act as an arbitrator and impose a plan by June 1, state officials said. The city would have to put the plan into effect by Sept. 1, they said."

Through a budget amendment, the Governor will give New York State Education Commissioner King the discretion to design a plan for several years. More details of the exact legislation will come later today when the amendment is introduced.

The article also included a quote from StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Micah Lasher:

“I think this is a path out of the wilderness,” said Micah Lasher, the executive director of StudentsFirstNY, an education advocacy organization. “Cuomo has given the state the power to ensure an evaluation system permanently for New York City, bringing to a close what has been a three-year saga.”

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Read the statement from StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Micah Lasher in response to Governor Cuomo's announcement

Tweet @NYGovCuomo to thank him for pushing to implement an evaluation plan for NYC

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Cuomo Must Enact a Teacher Evaluation Plan for NYC

It appears that Governor Cuomo may be coming closer to enacting a teacher evaluation system for New York City public schools. According to the NY Daily News, Cuomo's plan would give Education Commissioner John King the responsibility of creating the evaluation program:

The governor appears to be focused on instructing King to construct an evaluation program that complies only with the laws as written. In other words, no additional grievance mechanisms, etc. That’s the way Cuomo must go, recognizing that he would secure essentially the same terms Blooomberg had sought.

The NY Daily News also provided a set of items for Governor Cuomo to include in future legislation on teacher evaluations:

Explicitly bar King from giving teachers the right to file grievances about this, that or the other aspect of how principals judge their performance.

Prohibit King from restricting the ability of principals to formally or informally observe teachers at work in the classroom, as well as from setting onerous rules for the paperwork that must precede and follow observations.

Order King to enact a system no later than June 1 in the event that Mulgrew and Bloomberg are still at loggerheads then. Waiting until Sept. 17, the date that’s been floating about, would delay the start of evaluations for yet another year.

Specify that King’s system would stay in effect indefinitely unless the union and this mayor or the next one come to terms on acceptable amendments.

Make the city’s children and taxpayers whole by delivering the $250 million in aid that’s now counted as lost.

    Tweet Governor Cuomo to urge him to use the State’s authority to implement a meaningful evaluation system for New York City.

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    There is a Clear Path to Better Teacher Evaluations for NYC

    Last month, after leaders from the teachers' union and City failed to reach an agreement on a new teacher evaluation system, Governor Cuomo proposed a new plan to break the standstill. If the two sides cannot come to an agreement soon, Governor Cuomo said the state will step in and implement a plan for NYC.

    An op-ed in today's New York Daily News by The New Teacher Project's Tim Daly lays out the specific steps the Governor must take to salvage the plan for meaningful teacher evaluations throughout the State:

    First, Cuomo must submit a budget amendment by Feb. 22 that empowers the state to impose its own evaluation system on any districts that are not complying with the evaluation law. This would ensure that the stalemate ends with the final budget passage by April 1.

    Second, Cuomo must commit to moving forward with the state’s system in New York City as soon as the budget goes into effect on April 1. There are signs that UFT President Michael Mulgrew wants to delay action until later this spring, after he has secured his own reelection.

    Finally, Cuomo should instruct the state Education Department to create the state-designed evaluation system right away. This system should be flexible enough that it could apply to any district, but it should include three important elements.

    Tweet Governor Cuomo to urge him to use the State’s authority to implement a meaningful evaluation system for New York City.

    Read the full op-ed.

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    Early Childhood Education Can Improve Student Performance Later

    Early childhood education is getting an increased amount of international attention. Recent studies have linked education in early years to improved student achievement later in life.

    According to The Economist, the most recent report on the long-term effects of early childhood education, conducted by the OECD, found the following:

    15-year-olds who attended pre-schools for more than a year performed better (even accounting for socioeconomic background) than those who had attended for only a year or not at all.

    There is some debate over the best way to deliver education to children in the early years of their lives, but according to The Economist, it’s clear that some of the greatest successes are occurring in places like New York City where politicians are leading the way:

    Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, is opening its first “cradle-to-kindergarten” school later this year for 130 under-fives from poor families, an idea copied from a similar scheme in Chicago. Pre-kindergarten enrolment has increased in New York from 40,000 a decade ago to 58,000 in 2012 and the mayor wants to add 4,000 full-day places in the most deprived areas of the city.

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    Michelle Rhee, CEO and Founder of StudentsFirst, Discusses the Need for Education Reform on the Daily Show

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    Bill Gates' Annual Letter Encourages an Investment in Better Teaching

    Today, Bill Gates released his annual letter. This year's focused on the importance of setting clear goals and measuring progress in all sectors, including our education system. According to Gates, we must have a stronger teacher evaluation system if we want to empower teachers and improve education. 

    The Gates Foundation supported the Measures of Effective Teaching project, involving dozens of researchers and nearly 3,000 teacher volunteers from seven U.S. public school districts who opened their classrooms to the Gates Foundation in an effort to improve the way schools measure great teaching. The results were released earlier this month. The project revealed that using multiple measures like classroom observation, student sturveys and growth in student achievement can provide a “reliable picture of a teacher’s strengths and areas for improvement than any one measure alone”

    Critics of a strong evaluation system believe it costs too much. However, according to the report it would only cost between 1.5 and 2% of the overall budget for teacher compensation and benefits to implement these measures.

    In his letter, Gates expresses support for a reliable system to measure and support effective teachers: 

    “The countries that have better education systems than the United States provide more teacher feedback than we do today, but I think it is possible to do even better than any country has done so far."

    Read the full op-ed by Bill Gates.

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    Study Reveals Many Brooklyn Schools Have High Percentage of "Unsatisfactory" Teachers

    A report recently released by StudentsFirstNY found that many Brooklyn schools have a high concentration of teachers with Unsatisfactory ratings. In fact, in 14 Brooklyn schools, 20% or more of the teachers were considered ineffective and two of these schools received A grades on City Education Department progress reports. The sad truth is that students in these schools are simply not getting the help they need. 

    StudentsFirstNY's Executive Director, Micah Lasher, spoke with the New York Daily News about the implications of these findings for New York City's students: 

    The high concentration of incompetent teachers cheats poor kids of a needed boost, argued Lasher whose advocacy group is pushing for a new teacher evaluation system for city schools.
    “Particularly for children who come into school with real hardships, high-quality teachers can make a difference in their life outcomes,” he said.”

    According to the New York Daily News, many of these schools are located in some of the poorest areas of Brooklyn:

    Seven schools are in economically stressed neighborhoods East New York, Cypress Hills, Brownsville or East Flatbush. At three schools many students live in nearby homeless shelters or housing projects.
    At seven, 90% or more of the kids get free or reduced-price lunch, as do 67% or more of the students at the other schools.

    Read the report “Unsatisfactory: The Distribution of Teacher Quality in New York City” (PDF).

    View an interactive map of NYC schools with the highest percentages of “Unsatisfactory” teachers.

    Read the full article. 

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    Report Shows Struggling Students Don't Get the Help They Need in the Classroom

    A new report shows underachieving, poor, and minority students are not getting the help they need in the classroom. The report, recently released by StudentsFirstNY, shows that these students are more likely to be taught by teachers who are considered "Unsatisfactory." StudentsFirstNY reveals that there is an unequal distribution of poor quality teachers in New York City public schools, leaving students who need the most help without effective educators. 

    Developing a new teacher evaluation system, one of ten recommendations brought forth by StudentsFirstNY in the report, could improve the number and distribution of quality teachers in New York City schools. 

    According to NY1 News, the Department of Education is already working to implement many of the report's recommendations. StudentsFirstNY's Executive Director, Micah Lasher, summarized those ideas:

    "Our report makes 10 recommendations focused on targeting efforts and resources at recruiting highly effective teachers into the schools that need them the most, retaining them so they stay in those classrooms, and ultimately making sure that the students who most need highly effective teachers are not saddled with ineffective educators," said StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Micah Lasher.

    Read the report “Unsatisfactory: The Distribution of Teacher Quality in New York City” (PDF).

    View an interactive map of NYC schools with the highest percentages of “Unsatisfactory” teachers.

    Read the full article.

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