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StudentsFirstNY Weekly Education News Roundup: September 1-6, 2013

In this week's news roundup: Bill de Blasio's threat to charter schools, Governor Cuomo wants to close failing schools, and teachers are not being held accountable in NYC.

Bill de Blasio's Threats to Charter Schools Will Hurt New York Families
New York Post // September 4, 2013

New York City's mayoral primary elections are less than a week away, and Democrat Bill de Blasio is leading all candidates in the polls. Eva Moskowitz, the CEO of the Success Academy Charter School network, wrote an opinion piece for the New York Post about how de Blasio as mayor would be devastating for the City's education system. She argues that many NYC families enroll their children in charter schools since no other quality public school options are available. And de Blasio wants to take that away. Moskowitz writes:

"But charters get less funding than traditional public schools — $2,000 less per student, according to the Independent Budget Office. The disparity is even greater for charters serving needy students.

"The problem is that charter schools get no facilities funding, just operating money. That's why Mayor Bloomberg lets charters use excess public-school space for free.

"But de Blasio wants to charge charter schools rent. Even though they are public schools by law. Even though they get no facilities funding. The rent will therefore come out of each school's operating budget, which is supposed to pay for things like teacher salaries and instructional materials."

NYC Teachers Outperforming the Rest of the State
NY1 News // September 6, 2013

Teachers in NYC are outperforming those in the rest of New York, according to state data. According to New York 1, 11 percent of NYC teachers were rated highly effective this year, while just five percent were given the same rating in the rest of the state:

"On the low end, 7 percent of city teaches are 'developing,' compared to 13 percent elsewhere, and just 4 percent are ineffective, compared to 7 percent statewide. The majority of teachers, in both the city and state, are judged effective."

Governor Cuomo Says Failing Schools Must Close
New York Daily News // September 3, 2013

The closure of failing schools in NYC has given students and parents better choices for a quality education. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently stated his own belief on the importance of closing poorly performing schools across the state. The New York Daily News reports:

"Cuomo said options for failing schools include a takeover by the state or a takeover by a charter school.

"'I don't want Albany to sit there and tell communities how to run their schools but I do feel comfortable sitting in Albany and saying failing schools is not an option,' Cuomo said.

"Since 2002, the Bloomberg administration has shuttered 164 struggling schools and replaced them with 656 smaller ones."

Cuomo to Set Benchmarks for State Schools
The Buffalo News // September 5, 2013

Governor Andrew Cuomo is turning his attention to many of New York State's failing schools. Without revealing specific information - Cuomo said he would unveil his education reform plan in January's State of the State address - the Governor did say that he intends to set benchmarks for school standards, according to The Buffalo News:

"Wherever the bar for school or district 'failure' gets set, he said, his plan would likely have local communities decide how they want to change the governance of schools that don't measure up. The one thing local communities will not be allowed to do is nothing.

"You can have a state policy that says, if you get under this grade you fail, but then say to a locality, 'You have to do something about your failing schools. Here are options, and I'm not going to tell you what to do, but you have to do something,'" Cuomo said."

Teacher Accountability is Lacking in NYC's Schools
New York Post // September 1, 2013

With the Common Core test results available online, parents are becoming more and more informed on how their children are performing in school. But as the New York Post argues, these parents know very little about how well these teachers are performing in the classroom.

Students only have access to the ratings of the teachers they had this past year and are not allowed to see how good or bad their teachers may be for the upcoming school year. This is deliberate: the New York State Legislature passed a law that limited disclosure requirements for teacher performance data, much to the chagrin of Mayor Mike Bloomberg:

"So we are left with a highly perverse dynamic: The more you, the New York taxpayer, are required to fork over for public education, the less you will know about what you are getting for your money. Hardly a way to run an enterprise that now adds up to $25 billion in the New York City budget alone."

Next NYC Mayor Must Call for Accountability in Schools
The New York Times // September 5, 2013

Geoffrey Canada, the president and CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone and member of StudentsFirstNY's board of directors, urged New York City's next mayor to live up to Mayor Bloomberg's efforts to redirect the City's schools. Bloomberg, who took over mayoral control of NYC's public schools, has worked to close failing schools, expand charter school networks, hold teachers accountable and set strong evaluation standards. Canada wrote in The New York Times:

"Mayor Bloomberg had the courage to support the exposure of how unprepared many of our students are for college. For all of us in education, these new Common Core exam results are a wake-up call — and the thing about a wake-up call is you have to wake up. The next mayor must put together an action plan so principals and teachers have the materials and the authority to create a rigorous educational experience for our kids.

"The next mayor will find that improving the education of our students will be the toughest job he or she will take on. It will call for real courage and real accountability, but it must be job No. 1."

Schools Chancellor Walcott Discusses Education Improvements in NYC
GothamSchools // September 5, 2013

With NYC's mayoral election nearing, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott recently reflected on the progress made during Mayor Mike Bloomberg's administration.

Walcott noted the accomplishments in improved school safety and higher graduation rates, while also warning that current candidates must not turn back the clock on this progress. GothamSchools reports on Walcott's remarks:

"'There are powerful adults whose control over our students' education was loosened when Michael Bloomberg became mayor. They are now vying to regain their grip,' Walcott said.

"Though Walcott didn't mention any candidates by name, he called out those who advocated changes using 'euphemisms for some very bad ideas'—namely, allowing more local control of schools, reducing emphasis on high-stakes testing, and calling for a moratorium on school closures and co-locations.

"'Unions, activists and candidates they support this year have been calling for a moratorium on replacing failing schools. How dare they. How dare they fail our students by calling for a moratorium on schools that are failing our students?' Walcott said. 'Replacing failing schools with small schools and charters have worked, and they’ve worked over and over again.'"

Majority of Parents Are Satisfied With Public Schools
New York Daily News // September 5, 2013

NYC's Department of Education released the 2013 School Survey of parents, and 95 percent of parents responded to say that they were satisfied with their child's education. This figure is up from 94 percent a year ago. According to the New York Daily News, the top concerns of parents were all initiatives the Bloomberg administration was working to fix:

"The top requests from parents for improvements to city schools included smaller classes, more preparation for state exams and more hands-on learning for students.

"Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the survey’s mostly rosy results reflected gains city schools have made thanks to reforms enacted by Mayor Bloomberg since 2002."

NYC's teachers were less pleased with the Bloomberg administration - only half of teachers surveyed were satisfied with Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Walcott.

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