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StudentsFirstNY Weekly Education News Roundup: September 23-27, 2013

In this week's education news: Charter schools rally to oppose Bill de Blasio, Governor Cuomo sets admissions to public teaching colleges and six NYC school receive a national award.

Opposition Builds Against de Blasio's Positions on Charter Schools
The American Interest // September 25, 2013

NYC Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio has said he would charge charter schools rent. Charter schools and their supporters strongly oppose such a policy, with some planning a protest in October to voice concerns.

The American Interest blog weighs in on the issue:

Charter supporters object to the change, which they say could force many to shut down or cut back on programs that benefit their students. It's a particularly potent concern in a city where rents are stratospherically expensive.

From our perspective, we are less concerned with whether charter schools have an unfair advantage over public schools than whether they succeed at offering students a solid education. If allowing charter schools to use mostly-empty buildings free of charge (which is, essentially, the same deal public schools themselves already have) frees up resources that help improve their students' performance, this is all to the good.

Showdown Looms Between de Blasio and Charter School Operators
New York Daily News // September 26, 2013

In early October, an estimated 10,000 charter school parents, teachers and students will march across the Brooklyn Bridge, calling on New York City's next mayor to keep charter schools operational in the city.

Charter schools are currently serving 70,000 students in New York City, and another 50,000 students are signed up on waitlists for available spots, the New York Daily News reports. But Bill de Blasio, the Democratic nominee for NYC mayor, has made it clear that he will force charter schools to pay rent and to stop co-locating in public school buildings:

If forced to pay rent in this pricey city, many charters - which are, after all, public schools - would be forced to move or shrink. Some might even be forced to close their doors. Ending co-locations would make it harder for new charters to find spaces that are suitable for teaching children.

Cuomo Sets Admissions Standards for SUNY Teacher Colleges
Albany Times Union // September 24, 2013

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York State will establish minimum admissions standards for the 17 teacher education programs run by the State Univeristy of New York (SUNY) system.

According to the Albany Times Union, the new standards will require all enrollees to have a 3.0 grade point average and high scores on the Graduate Record Examinations (GREs), although this score number has not yet been identified.

"The quality of New York's higher education system depends on having the best and brightest teachers in our classrooms teaching our students," Cuomo said in a statement. "These new admission requirements will help ensure that we are recruiting from exceptional candidates to educate our state's students."

Education Secretary Arne Duncan Discusses the Education Reform Movement
The New York Times // September 26, 2013

At a recent Business Roundtable event, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, former Indiana governor and current Purdue University president Mitch Daniels, and former Michigan governor John Engler discussed American education and the reform movement.

All three panelists agreed that while the U.S. is making progress on education thanks to reforms, the pace of progress needs to be accelerated.

As reported by The New York Times, Duncan addressed how some of the current debate over charter schools can hinder progress:

The battle is not traditional versus charter. We have one common enemy, and it's academic failure. Where charters are reducing academic failure and increasing graduation rates, and sending kids to college, we need to replicate that and learn from it and support it. Where do we have success? Where are parents and students voting with their feet - where you have 1,000 to 2,000 kids looking for that kind of option? They are telling us something. We've got to listen. We owe it to them to listen. Take those lessons into traditional schools. And where traditional schools are doing that same thing, we've got to listen.

Diane Ravitch's Book Attacking Education Reform Misses the Mark
U.S. News and World Report // September 23, 2013

Diane Ravitch's new book "Reign of Error" seeks to discredit the American education reform community. Ravitch is especially critical of charter schools and standardized testing, and she argues that we need to return our full focus back to enriching public schools.

Nina Rees, the president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, wrote an op-ed in the U.S. News and World Report to dismiss Ravitch's attacks. Rees argues that charter schools are helping prepare students against a global talent pool, charter schools are not amounting to a "corporate take-over" of schooling, and charter schools disproportionally serve low-income and minority students:

Ravitch closes her book with some common-sense ideas supported by many in the education reform community: expanded access to pre-natal care, higher quality early childhood education, focusing every school on a rich and balanced curriculum, reducing the focus on high-stakes testing and strengthening the teaching profession. But her dismissal of any efforts to improve our schools by demanding rigor and accountability and inviting the private sector (for profit or not) to partner with our schools to help them succeed is disingenuous at its best and harmful to American children at its worst.

Six NYC Schools Awarded the 2013 Blue Ribbon Award
NY1 News // September 24, 2013

Six NYC schools were awarded a 2013 Blue Ribbon Award, given out each year by the U.S. Department of Education for student excellence and academic achievement.

The six schools, according to NY1 News, are Jessie Isador Straus in Manhattan, Katherine R. Snyder School in Brooklyn,, P.S. 247 in Brooklyn, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in Queens, The North Hills School in Queens and The Alley Pond School in Queens.

Chancellor Dennis Walcott issued a statement, saying, "I congratulate the principals, students, teachers, and parents at these six schools for receiving this honor; it is a testament to all of their hard work and dedication to student achievement."

Two Teachers Explain Why They Chose to Have More Unannounced Observations
GothamSchools // September 25, 2013

Under the new teacher evaluation agreement, New York City public school teachers will be evaluated throughout the coming school year. Teachers have the option of choosing one pre-announced visit and three unannounced shorter visits or six unannounced shorter visits.

Two teachers, writing in GothamSchools, argue that the six unannounced and informal visits will be more authentic and allow teachers to receive more feedback on their teaching style:

We work to give specific, actionable feedback to our students so they might improve their skills and sets of academic knowledge. As teachers, we are also learners, and we want that kind of feedback from our administrators. We believe that more feedback delivered more frequently will make us better teachers. Frequent conversations with colleagues and administrators allow us to establish relationships with each another, which makes it possible to be more frank and honest in our self-assessment and assessment of one another.

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