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StudentsFirstNY Sends Letter to State Education Commissioner Elia On The Recent Decision To Remove Nearly Half Of Schools From Failing Schools Transformation Program

March 17, 2016

Commissioner MaryEllen Elia
New York State Education Department
Education Building Room 111
89 Washington Avenue
Albany, New York 12234

Dear Commissioner Elia:

 We are very concerned about the State Education Department’s (SED) recent action that removed about half of the schools -- 70 schools -- from the state’s failing schools transformation program. We believe this action violates the law, and if not immediately reversed we will explore all available remedies. 

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StudentsFirstNY's Statement on Department of Education's Absent Teacher Reserve Data Dump

This afternoon, the NYC DOE released selected information about the status of the Absent Teacher Reserve since Mayor de Blasio took office. In response, StudentsFirstNY's Executive Director Jenny Sedlis said:
"Today’s Friday afternoon data dump seems to confirm what we’ve long suspected – Mayor de Blasio's administration is hiding the fact that it is sending unfit teachers back into the classrooms of the city’s most vulnerable children. The de Blasio administration is one of the least transparent in history and its smoke and mirror tactics are harming children. If the administration actually cared about protecting students, they would release the real information about the ATR pool that parents deserve to know." 
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StudentsFirstNY is a grassroots education advocacy organization dedicated to improving public schools throughout New York State.

 

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ICYMI: StudentsFirstNY and Assemblymember Michael Blake Convene Panel on How New York’s School System Can Best Serve Communities of Color

(Albany, NY) At the annual NYS Black & Puerto Rican Caucus Weekend, StudentsFirstNY teamed up with Assemblymember Michael Blake to host a panel discussion on how New York’s school system can best serve communities of color. Moderated by NYCAN Executive Director Derrell Bradford, the panel featured leaders in the education reform movement as well as public school parents from across the state.

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StudentsFirstNY Response to Mayor de Blasio's State of the City Address

"After two years of offering students nothing but empty rhetoric, tonight Bill de Blasio didn’t even offer that much. For a mayor who wants permanent control of city schools, it seems odd that Mayor de Blasio did not offer one new education proposal. New York City schoolchildren deserve a mayor who believes their needs are worth focusing on. Mayor de Blasio needs to stop horsing around and focus on getting our kids the quality education they deserve," said StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis.

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StudentsFirstNY Response to Mayor de Blasio's Budget Testimony Regarding Charter School Funding

This morning, Mayor de Blasio announced his opposition to Governor Cuomo's charter school funding proposal. StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis made the following statement in response to Mayor de Blasio's testimony:
 
"Governor Cuomo understands that all children are equal, and his budget proposal clearly demonstrates his commitment to fighting for all students. Mayor de Blasio, by contrast, doesn't seem to get that he has a responsibility to educate all kids. Mayor de Blasio shouldn't be advocating against charter students, most of whom come from the city's lowest income communities. It's time to start treating charter school students fairly," said StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis.
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StudentsFirstNY Statement on United Federation of Teachers Charter Schools Announcement

"There is already a mechanism in place to hold charter schools accountable; Mike Mulgrew should know this better than anyone because his was closed. Mike Mulgrew calling for more accountability for charter schools is like the Pony Express demanding faster service from FedEx. Our children deserve more high quality school choices, not more political posturing from union bosses. For Mulgrew to say this is his top priority is a joke -- his top priority should be improving the district schools that he runs," said StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis.

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StudentsFirstNY Statement on Governor Cuomo's 2016 State of the State and Budget Address

"Governor Cuomo's executive budget reflects his continued commitment to improving education in New York State. The Governor has laid down a strong marker that expands desperately needed quality school choices and supports high standards. The Governor is right in saying that parents need to have charters as a public school option and that New York must recruit and retain top teachers. Governor Cuomo has clearly heard parents' calls for higher quality schools for their children," said StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis.
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StudentsFirstNY Parent Advocates Call for Better School Options as Legislative Session Begins

(Albany, NY) Parent advocates from StudentsFirstNY, a leading education reform organization, came to Albany today to call attention to the need for better school options. With the 2016 legislative session just getting underway, parent advocates who live in low-income communities across New York City and have children who attend both district and charter schools wanted to make sure their voices were heard.

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StudentsFirstNY Statement on Recommendations from the Common Core Task Force

"The report from the Common Core Task Force shows that New York remains dedicated to high academic standards. The task force did a good job of engaging stakeholders and retaining the intent of Common Core while adjusting to the state's unique needs. Maintaining high standards and rigorous annual assessments is critical to ensuring parents know whether their children are being prepared for college and career," said StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis.
 
"The recommendations also include a temporary transition period where student test scores on state tests will not be used in teacher evaluations. We must get to a place where teachers are evaluated honestly and fairly based on whether children are actually learning. The old system that found virtually every educator effective when most students are below grade level did a disservice to children." 
 
During the transition, there are a number of things that must happen:
  • The task force has recommended that there shall be a transitional period but that there will be a return to the use of state test results in evaluations. New York must have a commitment to returning to the use of state test results as a significant factor in teacher and principal evaluations. 
  • The evaluation system must still be run using state test data, even if there are not consequences for teachers based on those results. Teachers and principals need evaluation results with state test data to improve teacher practice, and parents need that key information to make decisions for their children. The data should be made public so that policymakers can see whether children in low income communities of color are disproportionately saddled with ineffective teachers and so that comparisons can be made across schools. 
  • The State Education Department must audit districts that have major discrepancies between evaluation results and student performance on state tests. If the evaluations in this transition period bear no resemblance to student achievement on state tests, then the state must intervene.

 

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StudentsFirstNY is a grassroots education advocacy organization dedicated to improving public schools throughout New York State.

 

CONTACT:

Michael Nitzky

646-565-8184

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StudentsFirstNY Calls for Mayor de Blasio to Issue a Correction About School Closures in New York.

On NY1's Inside City Hall, Mayor Bill de Blasio misstated the results of the previous administration's school closures. StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis is calling on the Mayor to issue an immediate retraction of those comments saying quote: 

"Last night Mayor de Blasio claimed that closing failing schools doesn't work because it 'left kids in the lurch in all those transition years and a lot of those schools were not necessarily better.' Either Mayor de Blasio is lying to defend his own failed policies or he hasn't done his homework." 

"In November, the nonpartisan Research Alliance for New York City Schools presented findings from a rigorous analysis of school closures under Mayor Bloomberg, showing that graduation rates improved by 15-points for students who left and attendance and graduation rates improved for those who remained during the transition. Mayor de Blasio has no evidence to support his failed policies and so he's attempting to tear down the proven successes of his predecessor." 

"One such school that Mayor de Blasio highlighted as an example of the success of his renewal plan is Boys and Girls High School, but a close look reveals no such success. According the Department of Education's own website, 385 students are currently enrolled at the school, down from 648 in the 2014-15 school year and 940 in the year before that. Counseling out 60% of the students to cook the books does not make for a success, it should lead to an investigation." 

"Mayor de Blasio could stand to learn from the effectiveness of Mayor Bloomberg's policies, rather than lying to make his own look successful. Now that he's been presented with the facts, Mayor de Blasio must correct his statements on the results of school closures under the prior administration."

 

CONTACT:

Michael Nitzky

646-565-8184

 

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