During the common summer lull in August, followers of education issues and news have revisited some ongoing debates. WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show recently re-aired and took a closer look at the debate sparked by Diane Ravitch and Michelle Rhee's opposing schools of thought when it comes to education reform. Ravitch, an education research professor at NYU, expresses the frustration that some teachers feel about standardized testing. Rhee, on the other hand, focuses on the notion that improving teacher quality is key to fixing our education system.
SchoolBook offered up further details on the debate:
Rhee decried the results of a study that ranked the United States 25th in education internationally. But in an online rebuttal, Ms. Ravitch argued the rankings did not take into account the most serious factor affecting performance - poverty.
StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Micah Lasher talked to Fox 5 News about the inappropriateness of a union chief’s use of the term “blood libel.” United Federation of Teachers President Leo Casey used the derogatory term to describe how he felt after former CNN White House Correspondent Campbell Brown said that the union was protecting tenured educators who have been found guilty of sexual misconduct.
According to Fox 5 News, Lasher was outraged by the use of the term, which appeared in a blog post:
The blog is titled "Blood LIbel" and it asserts that Lasher, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and former CNN anchor Campbell Brown - among others - slandered the UFT.
Dropout Nation Examines AFT Exec Leo Casey's Response to Criticism of the Union's Handling of Teacher Misconduct
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) took aim at Campbell Brown, former CNN anchor, after she inserted herself into the public conversation surrounding teacher misconduct in classrooms. Leo Casey, Vice President of the AFT's New York City affiliate, accused Brown - along with Howard Wolfson of Mayor Bloomberg's office and Micah Lasher of StudentsFirstNY - of committing "blood libel" for their critiques of the AFT's handling of teacher misconduct.
Dropout Nation took a closer look at Casey's accusation:
Neither Brown, nor the other reformers mentioned by Casey have said accused all teachers of engaging in such misconduct. What they have rightfully said is that the AFT (along with the National Education Association) aid and abet bad behavior by defending policies and processes that make it difficult for school leaders to actually lead their schools — including the ability to hire and fire teachers who are criminally or educationally incompetent — and dishonor the good and great teachers who work hard each and every day to help all of our children get the high-quality education they need and deserve.
Teachers unions have a renewed interest in the Chancellor's District, an initiative that placed a group of struggling schools under the supervision of central office, and are saying the Education Department should bring it back.
In the NY Daily News, StudentsFirstNY's Raysa Rodriguez points out that there are certain negative effects of the chancellor's District that would be seen if it were brought back today:
By focusing on just a few dozen schools out of more than 1,300, the then-Board of Education sent a message to the rest of the system that mediocrity, or even failure, would be tolerated. And even within the Chancellor’s District schools, there was a notion that actions of the bureaucracy, not educators on the ground, would determine success or failure.
In a recent op-ed published by the New York Post, StudentsFirstNY's Anna Hall talks about learning first-hand - as a former teacher, UFT chapter chair, and principal - that the most important factor in a child's succcess is the quality of his or her teacher. The leadership team at the Bronx Academy of Letters works with new teachers to develop skills and invest in their growth as educators.
Hall discussed the program further, saying:
Developing this team hasn’t been easy — union regulations and the rules that govern teachers’ certification, evaluation, tenure and opportunities for advancement often defy research and common sense. But our investment has paid off: Our most effective teachers have generally stayed with us for four to seven years.
StudentsFirstNY's Anna Hall is set to testify before Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Education Reform Commission. GothamSchools previewed her prepared testimony, which will focus on policies to improve teacher quality and issue a call for an end to tenure and seniority-based layoffs:
She’ll also propose letting districts decide what teachers need to do to get certified before they are allowed to lead a class room. And to help recruit and retain high quality teachers, Hall says that districts should be allowed to forgive new teachers’ college loans and offer
Testifying before Gov. Cuomo’s Education Reform Commission, NYC Public School Principal Anna Hall today delivered a crystal-clear message that any true reform of the state’s education system needs to start at the head of the class.
At the Commission’s New York City public hearing, Hall, who will be joining StudentsFirstNY next month as the Director of Education, urged the task force to tackle the issue of teacher quality to ensure schools can recruit, retain and reward excellent educators.
“Nothing that goes on within a school makes as much difference for kids as the quality of the teachers in their classroom,” Hall testified. “We should remove the barriers to entry for aspiring teachers and pay new teachers more. We also need to retain those who turn out to be stars.”
Specific recommendations include:
Accelerating the rate of recruitment by establishing alternative pathways to teacher certification;
State matching funds for district money spent on retaining and rewarding top teaching talent;
Supporting school leaders in evaluating teachers rigorously and moving those who are ineffective out of the classroom, including eliminating or scaling back automatic and universal tenure.
Hall’s expertise comes from nearly a decade of experience in New York City’s public schools. She currently serves as principal of the Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters, where she was part of the founding class of teachers in 2003. As principal, Hall achieved and maintained the high school graduation rate to 80% and the college application/acceptance rate to 95%. She also developed a new teacher evaluation and coaching system.
In the coming months and years, StudentFirstNY will aggressively advocate for an array of initiatives to recruit and retain excellent teachers, with the goal of boosting educational outcomes for all New York Students.
Governor Cuomo's newly formed Education Reform Commission met for the first time on Tuesday, July 26, and determined that they will strive to reach a "consensus" on a plan for improving New York State public schools.
In an op-ed published by the NY Daily News, Executive Director, Micah Lasher, calls on the commission to boldy confront problems and focus on improving teacher quality:
Incremental change won't help the countless children in New York State who aren’t getting a quality education. Our graduation rate is 39th in the nation; our per-pupil spending is tops. New York's students need Cuomo and this [newly formed state education reform] commission to boldly confront problems that have gone unaddressed for years precisely because they are controversial.
StudentsFirstNY founder Michelle Rhee sat down with WNYC's Brian Lehrer to discuss her goals for the new advocacy organization. According to WNYC, Rhee hopes to influence the politics surrounding education reform in New York.
Rhee told WNYC the following about the newly formed StudentsFirstNY:
"The primary focus of StudentsFirstNY is to make sure that all policies developed at both the state and local level are ones that are focused on the best interests of kids. For far too long in this city and in this state, the way that education policy has been developed is largely thinking about the interests of adults. The missing link in that is that there has not been an advocacy group yet that has been focused on kids."
The launch of StudentsFirstNY, the state version of Michelle Rhee's national education reform organization, was officially announced on Wednesday, April 4. The new organization was featured in the New York Times and has generated buzz amongst New Yorkers and others.
According to NYCSA's The Chalkboard, StudentsFirstNY should be welcomed to New York:
A reform group like StudentsFirstNY can play a key role in such legislative battles, which are never-ending. New York State's institutional forces against reform are a big challenge for any organization, so it's welcome news to see Michelle Rhee plant the StudentsFirst flag in New York. Congratulations to her and Micah Lasher as they move forward.