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StudentsFirstNY Weekly Education News Roundup: October 21-25, 2013

In this week's education news: teacher evaluation data shows nearly all teachers were highly rated, a study finds that NYC's small schools are more likely to succeed over large schools, and a community in Queens rallies behind a school co-location plan.

Statewide Teacher Evaluations Should Not Be Further Delayed
Capital New York // October 22, 2013

On Tuesday, New York state released teacher evaluation data showing that 92 percent of all teachers statewide (exempting New York City) were rated as "highly effective" or "effective." Only one percent of teachers were rated as "ineffective."

Upon releasing the data, State Education Commissioner John King said that the results showed that teachers had no reason to fear the new teacher evaluations. The goal of the evaluations, he said, was to support teacher development and strive for continued improvement.

StudentsFirstNY's Executive Director Jenny Sedlis was more critical of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) union and their demand to delay implementation of teacher evaluations. In Capital New York, Sedlis questioned the union's position:

StudentsFirstNY, a pro-Common Core advocacy group, called the evaluation system a "powerful tool" and said aligning it to the Common Core exams was "the right decision." But the group pointed to the achievement gap between minorities and white students as evidence that further reform is necessary.

"NYSUT's call to slow down on accountability should be met with profound skepticism," Jenny Sedlis, the group's executive director, said in a statement.

Teacher Evaluations Show Need for Tougher Standards
New York Daily News // October 23, 2013

New York state released teacher evaluation data for all districts except New York City, the results were alarming. Half of all teachers received "highly effective" marks, and an additional 40 percent received "effective" marks. Only one percent of teachers statewide were rated as "ineffective."

As the New York Daily News wrote in an editorial, teachers unions were allowed to modify the evaluation standards before implementation. The results of this action are now abundantly clear - teachers are not being held accountable for poor student outcomes:

In a state where two-thirds of students flunked new reading and math tests, the super-duper [teacher] ratings are proof that district superintendents and teachers unions conspired to subvert accountability in favor of a gold-star stamping system.

The Daily News recommends that State Education Commissioner John King force districts into a system that at least attempts to hold teachers accountable for their students' achievement.

Parents Should Embrace Common Core's Tougher Standards
Democrat and Chronicle // October 22, 2013

Students in the United States are lagging behind their peers in other countries around the world. It's a story often heard in the news. But now that New York state is implementing a tougher curriculum called the Common Core, parents are complaining that the new standards are too difficult for their children.

Ursula Burns, the chairman and CEO of Xerox, writes about the hypocrisy between our lagging educational standards and the uproar over trying to improve student outcomes. In a column for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, she argues that a majority of students who apply to college are unprepared for the challenge, and applying the Common Core curriculum will help students be more prepared:

New York is one of the first states to link its standardized tests to Common Core standards; in fact, it did so in the first year that the standards were in place. Confusion, panic, and low scores inevitably followed. That doesn't mean we should turn back. It means we have more work to do.

Study Finds Smaller Schools Succeeding
New York Daily News // October 24, 2013

A new study has found that students at smaller NYC public high schools created by the Bloomberg administration were more likely to succeed than those attending larger city high schools. According to the NY Daily News, students at the smaller schools were 9% more likely to receive a diploma and 7% more likely to attend college.

The Daily News also reports that the study found students at smaller schools received additional time in the classroom each year:

The smaller schools and extra class time led to higher scores on all five major Regents exams and better college readiness rates, researchers found. "Attendance at one of New York's oversubscribed new small high schools boosts student achievement on a variety of measures," according to the report.

Bloomberg has created 654 such schools since he took office in 2002. The city has also closed - or is in the process of phasing out - 164 city schools for poor performance in that time.

Charter Schools Will Face Deficits if Forced to Pay Rent
New York Post // October 21, 2013

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."

Community Rallies Around Co-Location Plan in Queens Village
New York Daily News // October 22, 2013

Local elected officials and community residents are often in agreement in opposing school co-locations. However, Queens Village residents have chosen a different course and decided to support a plan to colocate a new school inside the struggling Martin Van Buren High School.

According to the New York Daily News, a new six-year school (the school will award high school diplomas and a two-year degree through Queensborough Community College) will open inside the Martin Van Buren High School building next fall. Community leaders are hoping the co-location will help rejuvenate the local high school:

Community leaders typically rally against the so-called co-locations, but parents at Martin Van Buren High School say they welcome a new option to sending their kids to a school with a 55% graduation rate and a "C" and a "D" on its last two report cards.

A Defense of Mayor Bloomberg's Education Record
The Atlantic // October 22, 2013

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.

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