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StudentsFirstNY Weekly Education News Roundup: September 16-20, 2013

In this week's news roundup: Bill de Blasio wins the Democratic primary for NYC mayor, his progressive values are questioned on education, and Mayor Bloomberg touts NYC's top-performing public schools.

Why a True Progressive Shouldn't Vote for Bill de Blasio
Harvard Political Review // September 16, 2013

Bill de Blasio, the Democratic nominee for New York City mayor, bills himself as a champion of progressive causes. But when it comes to education, de Blasio has not been progressive at all.

New York City's charter school network has been successful in providing low-incomne students with a quality education that would otherwise have had no choice but to attend a failing public school. De Blasio, as an opinion writer in the Harvard Political Review notes, wants to dismantle everything that has made these schools successful:

There is simply no way that a candidate primarily interested in the best outcomes for poor children would be fighting the expansion of high quality schools. As a progressive, I find it incomprehensible that every Democrat in the city is not focused on how to expand this success to other schools.

UFT-Backed Democrat Bill Thompson Concedes in NYC Mayoral Primary
Politicker // September 16, 2013

Democrat Bill Thompson, with the endorsement of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), conceded the New York City Democratic mayoral primary to Bill de Blasio earlier this week.

According to Politicker, Thompson's failed candidacy is a blow to the UFT for several reasons: The UFT hadn't formally endorsed a candidate since 2001, had seen itself as a kingmaker in the mayoral election, and had spent nearly $3 million to push for Thompson in the primary:

When the United Federation of Teachers offered its coveted endorsement to Bill Thompson in June, it was seen as a game changer for the candidate. But the union's efforts came up short yet again, with Mr. Thompson conceding the contest today after placing a distant second.

This is not a new situation for the UFT, which chose to sit out the 2005 and 2009 races, and–as its critics like to point out-last backed a winning candidate in 1989.

The New York Post Ranks NYC's Top 50 Public Schools
New York Post // September 16, 2013

The New York Post has released rankings on NYC’s top 50 public schools.

For each school, the list provides statistics such as graduation rate and average SAT score, in addition to a brief description of its strengths. The Post calculated its rankings using the following data:

The Top 50 is based on the latest data for 4-year-graduation rate (weight: 10%); percent of students scoring over 85 on Regents Integrated Algebra and ELA exams (20%); number taking AP exams (7.5%) and percent scoring 3,4, or 5 (22.5%); number taking SAT (10%) and average total SAT scores (30%). Adjustments made for schools that offer college-level courses instead of AP and schools that assess students by portfolios instead of Regents exams.

Mayor Bloomberg Touts NYC's Top-Performing Schools
The New York Times // September 16, 2013

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and senior education officials spent Monday visiting the 22 New York City public schools that were in the state's top 25 performing schools on the recent Common Core exams. The majority of these high-performing schools either had selective admissions policies or were located in wealthy neighborhoods. However, as The New York Times reported, small schools opened under Mayor Bloomberg, which included schools in low-income minority neighborhoods, were still represented on this high-performing list:

On the whole, city students outperformed those in other large districts in the state, and the city's passing rate nearly matched the state's, even though the city has many students who are poor or not native English speakers.

"We have been closing the gap with the state for a few years now, and that just has not happened, to the best of my knowledge, in any other state where there are a lot of big cities," Mr. Bloomberg said.

New Book Shows Weak Arguments Against School Reform
New York Post // September 16, 2013

A new book from Diane Ravitch attacks the education reform movement using union talking points.

Ravitch's book, "Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to Public Schools," criticizes charter schools that give families more school choice, and longs for the days when teachers earning tenure was a foregone conclusion.

As Kyle Smith argues in the New York Post:

Her grievance-laden book simply ignores facts that teachers unions would prefer you not to know.

Though there is nothing magical about charter schools that guarantees their success, the good ones have achieved such spectacular results that it would be gross educational malpractice to ignore them.

Education Leaders Offer Tips for Implementing the Common Core
SmartBlog on Education // September 16, 2013

Michael Moody, the CEO of Insight Education Group, and Sharon Contreras, the superintendent of the Syracuse City School District, wrote an article for SmartBlog on Education about best to implement the new Common Core standards. In the most important point from the article, Contreras stated that the Common Core needed to be viewed as a curriculum to help students learn, not just a curriculum for a test:

In Syracuse, teachers generally understand that the common core is not about testing. However, nationally we've undermined our efforts with parents because we did not adequately explain the standards or address implementation with our families.

As a result, many parents interpret the [Common Core] as simply being about testing rather than being about learning. So we need to better communicate the value of the [Common Core] and help parents understand how these standards and the corresponding instructional shifts will ultimately prepare students for college and careers.

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