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StudentsFirstNY Weekly Education News Roundup: September 8-13, 2013

In this week's news roundup: an uncertain future for NYC's charter schools after the primary election, the UFT's misguided lawsuit to stop charter school co-locations, and Teach for America's success in teaching students math.

NYC's Mayoral Election to Affect Charter School Growth // September 10, 2013

Education reformers are concerned about the future of charter school growth. Under the Bloomberg administration, charter schools have grown significantly and given NYC families more school choice. There are still thousands of families on charter school waiting lists, however, and Democratic mayoral frontrunner Bill de Blasio wants fewer charters, not more.

As DNAinfo reports:

Bloomberg's decision to allow charters to share space, or "co-locate," with district schools free of charge is widely credited with enabling the number of charters to balloon from 17 when he took office in 2002 to 183 this year. (There are 48 charters in The Bronx, second only to Brooklyn.)

[Schools Chancellor] Walcott on Monday echoed the administration's concern that the next mayor could reverse its pro-charter policies, which he said would deny parents the options they deserve.

"For any candidate to talk about choking off that type of choice is truly unfortunate," he said in the Story Avenue building now shared by Icahn 7 and P.S. 93.

UFT Lawsuit to Stop School Co-Locations is Misguided
New York Post // September 11, 2013

The United Federation of Teachers (UFT), led by President Mike Mulgrew has filed a lawsuit to stop the Bloomberg administration from siting schools for the 2014 school year, many of which would be co-located with other schools in the same building. Democrat Bill de Blasio, who won the Democratic primary for NYC mayor, supports the lawsuit, as does Bill Thompson, the UFT-endorsed candidate who finished second to de Blasio.

Charles Sahm from the Manhattan Institute penned an op-ed in the New York Post that critiqued the lawsuit and blasted the candidates for supporting the UFT on this issue. Sahm argued that siting schools a year in advace was normal, school co-location has existed for over a century in NYC, co-location did not lead to overcrowding, and students at small schools were more proficient than their peers at larger schools:

Bottom line: De Blasio, Thompson and Mulgrew's opposition to long-term planning and the successful charters and small schools created in the Bloomberg era is a grim sign for the future of the city's schools.

Joel Klein: NYC Needs an Education Reformer as Mayor
New York Daily News // September 9, 2013

This week, New Yorkers will go to the polls for the mayoral primary elections. Joel Klein, who served eight years as chancellor of NYC's public schools, wrote an op-ed in the New York Daily News bemoaning the lack of clarity on each candidate's positions on education:

We've heard plenty from the candidates about issues that almost no one would disagree with: providing universal pre-k and additional after-school and support services, for instance. But we've heard next to nothing from the candidates on what they would do to support ongoing education reform initiatives like expanding the number of excellent, innovative district and charter schools throughout the five boroughs and looking for other ways to give parents more quality educational options.


I hope that, before New Yorkers cast their ballots in November’s general election, both the Democratic and Republican candidates will tell us all what kind of education mayor they plan to be: one who will continue to move reform forward, or one who will take us back to the bureaucratic dysfunction of the past.

Michelle Rhee Urges NYC's Next Mayor to Follow Bloomberg's Lead
New York Daily News // September 8, 2013

Mayor Mike Bloomberg's 12 years in office are coming to a close, and New Yorkers will soon be voting on his replacement. Bloomberg has spent a lot of time revamping NYC's public schools, and education experts are mixed in interpreting the success of his reform measures and what direction NYC's next mayor should go in further fixing the public schools.

Five different education experts weighed in on these questions in a New York Daily News article. One of these experts, StudentsFirst founder Michelle Rhee, defended Mayor Bloomberg's policies and urged the next mayor to follow in his footsteps on education:

These reforms are working. Seeing them succeed will take time. And it will take leaders with the resolve to improve schools for all kids - a quality that is lacking in the race to replace Bloomberg.

There have been recent attempts to misrepresent the city's progress, but facts don't lie. The education system is dramatically different from the dysfunctional, unresponsive bureaucracy Bloomberg inherited. New Yorkers can't forget that.

Reversing Bloomberg's reforms would amount to nothing more than blowing in the wind - and that won't do children any good.

State Points to Amherst as Successful in Implementing New Systems
The Buffalo News // September 12, 2013

The Amherst School District, outside of Buffalo, is a model for how other districts should implement teacher evaluations and a tougher curriculum, according to New York State officials. According to The Buffalo News, the state is observing how Amherst has implemented these systems to try and help other school districts in the state:

In the Amherst Central School District, that has meant offering new courses to teachers, purchasing new technology and rewriting the curriculum to align it with the national Common Core standards.


"Everything they do, they do as a team, which caught my eye," said Robert M. Bennett, a member of the Board of Regents from Western New York. "They have implemented this very well. They viewed it as it was intended to be - professional development and to improve the craft of teaching."

Study: Teach For America is Effective in Teaching Students Math
GothamSchools // September 10, 2013

Math teachers that enter the profession through Teach for America helped raise student test scores. Teachers that entered the profession through the Teaching Fellows program did not see a similar boost in student math test scores.

These are the findings that research group Mathematica released earlier this week. According to GothamSchools, this latest study is part of a larger body of work that shows the effectiveness of the Teach for America program:

Looking at 8,500 students in multiple districts over two years, Mathematica found small but significant gains from having a Teach for America teacher. The average student in the study would have scored at the 27th percentile if assigned to a non-TFA teacher but scored in the 30th percentile if taught by a TFA math teacher, which the study's lead researcher, Melissa Clark, called "really nontrivial gains."

"The findings suggest that over the long term, continuing to fill a position with TFA teachers who depart after a few years would lead to higher student math achievement than filling the same position with a non-TFA teacher who would remain in the position and accumulate more teaching experience," Mathematica concluded.

Tips for Preparing Students for the Common Core Exams // September 12, 2013

The first Common Core test results for New York State have been released. The Common Core is here to stay, and the test preparation industry is preparing for an increase in parents requesting testing help for their students:

"The shift was made to ensure that all students were college ready," said Jamie Platzer, a third grade teacher at East Harlem's DREAM charter school and tutor with Teachers Who Tutor, which recently began offering services specifically tailored to the new Common Core standards.

"Accordingly, we are asking them to think critically as early as in kindergarten," she said. "In general, when parents ask how to best prepare their children for the Common Core the answer is to help their children to think more deeply and critically about everything they do." asked testing tutors for everyday tips that parents and students can best prepare for the Common Core. The tutors provide 10 simple tips for math, reading and general testing preparation.

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