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.
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.
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
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."
Responding to growing calls from advocates, educators and parents from across the state, StudentsFirstNY today announced the launch of its efforts to mobilize the supermajority of New Yorkers who support the change necessary to dramatically improve our public schools.
Already 100,000 members strong in New York, StudentsFirstNY will organize parents, students, teachers and concerned citizens to play an active role in the education debate at the State and local level. And with a board of nationally recognized educational trailblazers and political and philanthropic leaders, the organization is poised to build on successful reform efforts in recent years and galvanize a grassroots movement for better educational opportunities.
“New York State and New York City are at a crossroads in the journey for quality schools – and our kids can’t afford to wait any longer for change that puts their interests, not the special interests, first,” said StudentsFirst Founder and CEO Michelle Rhee. “We believe in the power of public education to change students’ lives, but right now, too many of our kids are failed by a broken status quo. Our fight is their fight.”
The StudentsFirstNY Board includes: Douglas Band (Counselor to President Clinton and Co-CEO, Teneo); Paul Tudor Jones (Chairman and CEO, Tudor Investment Corporation and Founder of the Robin Hood Foundation); Peter D. Kiernan (Chairman and CEO, Kiernan Ventures); Joel I. Klein (Executive Vice President, News Corporation and fmr. Chancellor of the NYC Department of Education); Hon. Edward I. Koch (Partner, Bryan Cave LLP and fmr. NYC Mayor); Kenneth G. Langone (Chairman, President and CEO, Invemed Associates, Inc.); Daniel S. Loeb (Founder and CEO, Third Point LLC); Rafael Mayer (Managing Partner, Khronos LLC); Eva S. Moskowitz (Founder and Chief Executive, Success Charter Network, and fmr. NYC Councilmember); Lisette Nieves (Professor at Brooklyn College and founder of Year Up NY); Michelle A. Rhee (Founder and CEO, StudentsFirst); Dan Senor (Senior Advisor, Elliott Management and Adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies, Council on Foreign Relations); and Jane Viau (New York State Teacher of the Year 2009-2010).
“The fight for education reform begins with parents who demand better schools for their children,” said former New York City Schools Chancellor and StudentsFirstNY Board Chair Joel Klein. “We will give voice to the overwhelming majority of parents who aren’t satisfied with the status quo and won’t rest until they get something better.”
StudentsFirst has already driven change across the nation. The organization’s more than one million members have achieved more than fifty policy reforms in eight states that educate roughly ten million students. StudentsFirst’s advocacy has led to the expansion of high-performing charter schools, the establishment of merit-pay systems to reward great teachers and the end of laws mandating seniority-based layoffs.
“I know from my own experience that the caliber of the individuals who stand in front of the classroom is the key ingredient when it comes to the success of students,” said StudentsFirstNY Board member Jane Viau, who taught for nine years at the Frederick Douglas Academy and was named New York State Teacher of the Year in 2009-2010, and now teaches algebra and Advanced Placement Statistics at KIPP NYC College Preparatory High School. “We want to ensure every child has a great teacher.”
To lead the StudentsFirstNY effort, the board has tapped Micah Lasher, currently the City of New York’s Legislative Director in Albany, who will depart City Hall to become the organization’s Executive Director.
“We can and must do better for New York’s kids, and millions of New Yorkers know, first-hand, the kind of change we need,” said Lasher, who, before becoming the City’s Legislative Director, served as Executive Director of External Affairs for the NYC Department of Education. “Our mission is to galvanize scores of parents and citizens across the State so that our leaders make the changes we need to deliver on the great promise of public education.”
To buttress StudentsFirstNY’s efforts, reform groups from across the state will coalesce under the newly formed New York State Education Reform Council. Co-chaired by Micah Lasher and Joe Williams, head of Democrats for Education Reform, the formation of this coalition will unite advocates for change as never before.
“It’s time for all of us to take things to the next level in New York,” said Williams. “Bringing reform groups together under one umbrella will allow us to pool our assets and ensure we have a single, resonating voice to achieve reforms that will have a positive and lasting impact on our students’ education.”
The New York State Education Reform Council includes Democrats for Education Reform, StudentsFirstNY, Buffalo ReformED, Parents Making a Difference, NYCan, Families for Excellent Schools, New York City Charter School Center, Educators for Excellence, New York State Charter School Association and Students for Education Reform.