The reader raises an interesting point: "So he's for the money part, but against the transfer part."
I think though, to be fair to the Congressman and the rest of the Democratic Party, we've been extremely consistent in our desire to get the money without having to do any of the work for the city's children that accompanies it. This is not a flip-flop, just a consistently misguided policy stance.
The study is getting lots of attention from opponents of school choice, who argue that the data suggests things are just fine in public schools without charter schools, vouchers, or tax credits.
The Chalkboard agrees with NAPCS' Nelson Smith that it is important to remember these particular scores are an incomplete snap-shot. But the Chalkboard also agrees with EdWize's Leo Casey (UFT) that it's not good enough for charters to simply outperform their local districts. It is worth factoring-in a student's background when we look at New York-specific data so we determine what difference charter schools are making in the lives of our most vulnerable children.
Wouldn't it be interesting to see a New York version of this kind of study, and one that looks not just at one set of scores, but a progression that shows whether the charter school "movement" is a movement in the right direction for the kids who need charters the most? (Opponents who want to stop charters will always find something else to quibble with, but The Chalkboard thinks this measure should matter greatly to charter supporters, and to parents who are trying to find the best publicly-funded education for their children.)
Also in “math news that doesn’t add up” today: The NY Post’s Dave Andreatta notes that never before has the state required students to answer so few questions correctly on the Regents Math A exam as this year. Kids who took the exam last week only need 23 out of 84 points, or about 27%, to be told how wonderful they are.
NOTE: Please notice The Chalkboard’s remarkable restraint in not commenting on the, um, interesting photo the Post used to accompany this story.
This whole episode flies in the face of my longstanding theory that the competence of school administrators is directly correlated with the amount of money that is at stake. In NYC, for example, educrats have tremendous difficulty getting timely materials for NCLB tutoring to parents (because it means the city will have to pay for tutoring if anyone actually signs up) but when it comes to beating the bushes to get kids to return their free and reduced-price lunch forms (which brings in federal funds) the entire city Department of Ed becomes a model of sweat-equity and efficiency.
Maybe I was giving them too much credit?
Andrew, the founding director of Democracy Prep (the school opens its doors in Harlem next fall to 135 sixth graders, before eventually growing to be a 685-student grades 6-12 school) said he needed help from all corners of the community to make the school a success. After putting a dynamic leadership team together and months and months of planning, Andrew was ready to start getting things rolling by bringing on new supporters.
“Every single one of you knows people who are teachers, who are parents, and who run community organizations,” Andrew said, explaining why they had all been invited to the Friendraiser. “I’m deputizing you now to be spokespeople for Democracy Prep.”
That in a nutshell, is the essence of the Friendraiser. Show up, hear what the school is all about, volunteer to help, and then go forth and spread the word. As has become obvious to most school reformers, you need as many friends as humanly possible – politicians, donors, idea people, etc. – to survive in the rough and tumble educational and political climate.
Democracy Prep, which will provide students with a college-preparatory education grounded in civics, was authorized by the Board of Regents in December.
Some of those who attended the Friendraiser were no strangers to charter schools, but others came to hear about the concept and how they might help in turning around Harlem’s long-troubled schools. “You have the opportunity to be creative with a charter,” board member Dr. Robert North told the crowd. “But they also hold you accountable.”
The room for the Friendraiser was filled with food and drinks. Colorful posters aligned the walls explaining why the need exists for a school like Democracy Prep in Harlem, and how the school will work to fill that need. Supporters and politicians were given special red apples on a plaque to honor their help in getting the school started.
Politicians like Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Councilman Robert Jackson, and Assemblyman Keith Wright (all Democrats from Manhattan) turned out in person to show their support for the school. For Jackson, the newly appointed chairman of the Council Education Committee, it was about supporting a good school plan, not about supporting charter schools. “I’m not there on charters yet,” Jackson told a small crowd that gathered before the official celebration. (Jackson, a plaintiff in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, when asked about the case involving Dianne Payne, said he supported every parent’s right to fight for their kids.)
Others, like Rep. Charles Rangel (who serves as honorary chairman of the school’s board of directors) and newly sworn-in Councilwoman Inez Dickens sent along staffers to represent them. (Sen. David Paterson is also a supporter of the school, but he suddenly finds himself busier than usual.)
How valuable are these kinds of contacts? The representative from Inez Dickens’ office said on her way out that one of her first tasks of the year will be to help Democracy Prep find itself a school building.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Charter Chuck was nowhere to be found at this Friendraiser.
See the press release for the event here.
But this report from NYC's Education Priorities Panel on city education spending is a good example of how differently reasonable folks can look at the same big-picture budgeting issue. The report describes the following climate: 16,000 fewer city students for this school year (declining birth rates) coupled with a school budget that has grown by nearly 3/4 of a billion dollars in the last year. So again, just to be clear enrollment goes down, spending goes up.
Many charter school operators have been conditioned to think in terms that are the exact opposite, i.e. that dollars follow students, and as enrollment increases, spending follows accordingly. One longtime charter school person the other day told me she couldn't understand why so many people have trouble seeing that if students leave a school system, the cost of educating the child leaves along with them.
Many CCLs (Charter Cap Lovers) will note that it is much more complicated than that, but it is worth noting here how drastically different people are capable of viewing this phenomenon. On the one hand, there are those who think that actual enrollment should play a role in funding (a school with 10 kids gets less than a school with 20 kids.)
But on the other end of the spectrum on this debate are those like the EPP, which calls "reprehensible" the idea that funding for individual NYC schools would decrease if enrollment also decreased. Notes the EPP:
In the rest of the state, school district budget policies have resulted in
higher per-pupil expenditures and smaller class sizes whenever there is a
student enrollment decrease. Current city budget policies will not result in
these instructional improvements, but the reverse. Class sizes will not
decrease because enrollment decreases immediately result
in fewer teachers. Any school where student registers have declined will also face
difficult choices as to what out-of-classroom staff to eliminate, not just the reduction
of teaching staff.
To be fair, EPP makes a very interesting case in noting that state funding to NYC will continue to increase (and 3/4 of a billion dollars a year is quite an increase) when enrollment decreases, raising obvious questions about where it is all going (if spending at the school-level is decreasing due to enrollment.) Watch for these differing opinions and viewpoints over enrollment and spending patterns to get interesting very soon. Some districts that have been complaining about having to make payments to charter schools could just turn out to be spending much, much more per student in their own schools when all is said and done.
Then the annual fundraising letter/survey arrived at The Chalkboard's home from the Democratic National Committee. (The Chalkboard and his wife once gave money to the DNC during a very heady Crosby, Stills and Nash concert in Milwaukee in the early 90's. Long story, but now we get hounded with the fake "grassroots survey" every year, undoubtedly along with most left-leaning readers of this blog.)
(Note: The rest of this post is for Democrats only, especially if you attended meetings of the Kerry-Haters-For-Kerry club in 2004. Republicans, please skip ahead. This needn't concern you.)
This year's survey from Howard Dean lists three possible priorities for national Dems on the issue of education:
#8. Thinking about the issue of education, which of the following is your number one priority? Please select only one answer.
- Funding for early education programs like Head Start.
- Funding for elementary and middle school education to reduce class sizes.
- Funding for tuition aid programs to make college more affordable.
Good grief. Aside from the annoyingly limited options, is this fight between these factions for real? Thankfully, the whole survey thing is bogus. (You try telling Reg Weaver that surveys show the public isn't in synch with the NEA's legislative agenda! Weaver to DNC: "Surveys? We don't need no stinking surveys!") If the question is for real, however, it might not be too early to start predicting that Dems will once again get their backsides handed to them by Republicans on the education issue. For another look at the problem, click here.
Rick Hess also draws on the auto industry comparison in this book.
UPDATE: This was a pretty good exchange some time back on BuffaloPundit about the usual whining that goes on in places like Buffalo about the financial impact of charter schools.
We have challenges regarding student behavior. But to confuse recent behavioral
incidents with "order," which is a structural matter, and conclude that
there is an "educational crisis," is an overstatement.
Joseph is shocked, saddened, and dismayed that anyone would think that this kind of stuff is symptomatic of a larger problem, and makes perfectly clear she doesn’t believe charter schools will offer anything better. When Legislators from around the state start touring Albany’s charter schools and public schools to look for these “structural” differences, will all of the schools look exactly the same? Note: Parents seem to disagree with Joseph’s pronouncement in droves. But they are just stupid parents, apparently.
Little-known tip: Gang members really hate it when you make them break into small groups and write “mission statements.” May want to work that into the “fighting gangs by having workshops” model.
SIDE NOTE: How can you tell when a public school district is completely unraveling? When the superintendent and her assistant both have to have letters to the editor printed assuring taxpayers that they are not, uh, completely unraveling.
Mr. Spitzer, as the state's lawyer, could advise the governor - or the governor
could direct Mr. Spitzer - not to challenge Ms. Payne. The mother would then
only have to wait for Judge DeGrasse to rule one way or the other, avoiding a
protracted legal fight with all the powers of Albany. The state, the city, and
the courts have years to bicker about dollars. Rayshawn and Daquasia have one
shot at a real education. Governor Pataki and Attorney General Spitzer must not
stand in the way.
2.) The guy lives with his mom and sister. Zoinks!
3.) The NYC has no idea how long he has worked as a handyman in schools because custodians, by contract, can pretty much hire whoever they want. Sick!
Daily News version is here.
Said Bloomy: "It’s important for us to look at all the options that will improve education for our students. And in that vein, I also look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to explore the proposed education tax credit in the Executive Budget. It’s something that the Legislature should consider."
Plenty of folks are working to lift the cap, however. Lawmakers from both major parties and from all over the state held a press conference in Albany to urge common sense in lifting the cap:
"There should be no cap on charter schools. That's not taking anything away from public schools. That's competition," said Sen. Ruben Diaz, D-Bronx. Diaz was joined by a host of other politicians, many of whom are backing a bill to remove the cap entirely (Gov. Pataki has proposed pushing up the number of charters allowed from 100 to 250.)
Assemblymen: Sam Hoyt - D, Buffalo; Ruben Diaz Jr. - D, Bronx; Adriano Espaillatt - D, Washington Heights; Roger Green - D, Brooklyn; and Michael Benjamin - D, Bronx.
Senators: Marty Golden - R, Brooklyn; Jim Alesi - R, Rochester; Ray Meier, R, Utica; and Malcolm Smith, D, Queens.
Reporter Rick Karlin notes that the urgent push for more charter schools is coming from "black and Hispanic lawmakers and activists, who note that kids in their districts and neighborhoods disproportionately go to poor-performing public schools. They say such students should have options to switch schools that may offer alternatives." They have teamed up with Republicans who like the idea of school choice. Opposition is coming from educrats who want more cash for their troughs and teachers unions.
UPDATE: These guys aren't engaging in competition, they are draining public schools of badly-needed funds. Children Last.
UPDATE II: The UpstateBlog writes up this "future of school choice" in NY issue as well, and is particularly impressed with True North Rochester Preparatory Charter School trustee James Gleason's comments about finding new schooling alternatives so that student performance in urban areas will start to show some signs of life. The Democrat and Chronicle story on True North is here.
UPDATE III: Note in the Times Union story that a few pols like Assemblyman Ron Canestrari want a cap on the number of charter schools in Albany. This is extremely good news for kids who like to torment their teachers by grabbing their wigs and throwing them around the room.
Parents and teachers who think schools should be better than that should fugheddaboutit.
Eliot Spitzer has shown some hints of favoring education reform in the
past, and he even said he supports education tax credits in theory the other day
(which surely made Randi Weingarten's week worse). But Paterson, by virtue of
who he is and whom he represents, is indicative of a broader trend that should
trouble the teachers unions. Minority legislators in New York (all Democrats)
have been throwing more and more support behind charter schools as their
communities experience just how amazing some of the programs -- like KIPP and
Achievement First -- really are.
The unions can't hold the line against this for long. They're losing
more and more ground every year -- up to the point where, now, in 2006, we have
a Democratic gubernatorial candidate who supports tax credits and his
running-mate who supports charter schools.
Also, along the same lines, but written before the Paterson announcement this week, Tom Carroll writes in the Post that the possibility now exists for a "sea change in educational policy."
But not so fast. Randi Weingarten weighs in here on the proposed tuition tax credit. She doesn't dig it all that much.
While more than 90% of public school teachers made it to their schools during the strike, citywide, only 61% of the city’s public school students made it to the babysitting sessions/schools (31% of high schoolers showed up.) Not a whole lot of education happened. “We just went to the gym and played with some volleyballs,” one Stuyvesant High School student told NY1 at the time.
But some charter school teachers, administrators, and parents went all-out to make sure students wouldn’t miss a single minute of instruction time. “If you miss a day at our school, you are missing a lot of learning,” said Deborah Kenny, founder of Village Academies, which runs the Harlem Village Academy Charter School. Kenny mobilized her team to call the parents of all 160 students in the days before the strike to find out whether they had contingency plans in place. If the parents needed help, the school quickly found other families who lived nearby to form car pools, or traveling (usually by foot) teams of Village Academy students and chaperones.
“Many of our kids take cross-town buses or subways, so this was important to us,” Kenny said. “We tried to team parents up with other parents.” The message from the school to its families was clear: No matter what happens with the strike, we don’t want your children to miss a minute of class time.
The results were positive, in more ways than one. Student attendance during the strike was 80% and teacher attendance was 100%. “It was extraordinary,” Kenny said of the teachers’ dedication. “Some arrived in their cars at 5:30 a.m. and sat in their cars until the building opened.” Parents who didn’t even know other parents in their neighborhoods found they had bonded during the experience. “It was really an upbeat week, despite all that was happening with the strike,” Kenny said.
Attendance at the school usually averages 96%, and this sort of school-to-parent communication is commonplace throughout the year. Teachers, for example, are required to make regular telephone calls to parents to update them on their student’s progress.
Another write-up on the Village Academies can be found here. To see how teachers describe the school, click here.
RFK: Obviously I am completely in accord with the objectives of
the bill. All I wonder is whether we couldn't give further protections to the
child by certain requirements. Now what I ask is whether it would be possible to
have some kind of testing system at the end of a year or 2 years in which we
would see whether the money that had been invested in the school district of New
York City, or Denver, Colorado, or Jackson, Mississippi or whatever it might be
was coming up with a plan and program that made it worthwhile, and whether the
child, in fact, was gaining from the investment of these funds.
Expected to be approved today: Green Tech High (Albany), Carl Icahn Bronx North, North Rochester, and Achievement First – Bushwick.
Don’t miss these important paragraphs in the Albany Times-Union story on Green Tech High:
James Merriman, executive director of the Charter School Institute, which
advises the trustees, said the Albany city district has a poor record of serving
black and Hispanic high school students, who make up Green Tech's target group.
Citing a high dropout rate and poor test scores, Merriman said Albany
High School students "appear to have done worse" than those in other schools
across New York with similar socioeconomic and racial demographics.
Randy Daniels, a trustee and former New York secretary of state who is
seeking the Republican nomination for governor, agreed. "In a school district
that has demonstrated failure, generation after generation, it needs all the
competition it can get."
Already, two proposed schools made it through the rigorous authorization process and were deemed charter-worthy, but they had to be put on a theoretical waiting list in case the cap is lifted at some point: Carl Icahn School of Far Rockaway in Queens and the Collegiate Charter School of Brooklyn.
See the NY Post story here, and the NY Daily News story here.
I think she can make it the three blocks to KIPP Star to see what it's all
about. After that she can go next door to PS 125 to compare their 5th grade and
up thee blocks to the 6th grade at MS 172 Adam Clayton Powell for Law and Social
Justice (remind me to never allow a public school to be named after anyone I
love, it's a travesty to think of social justice as a place where 7% of 8th
graders can read on grade level). In all of one hour door-to-door from her
office, she'll have seen more than enough to get the point.
Where else should ASW head for the inside scoop? Write us at Thechalkboard@nycsa.org.
Reisenbach was closed by the state in 2004 because it failed to show high enough levels of academic achievement. It was extremely controversial at the time because it appeared that test scores for the school were on the rise, and because parents at the school had done their homework and determined that, despite the school’s shortcomings, it was still better than any of the traditional public schools in the area.
The Chalkboard only mentions this because of the curious op-ed piece that appeared in yesterday’s NY Times by professor Amy Stuart Wells. This line in particular made me want to get out the cyber measuring tape to remind myself what Stuart seemed to miss from right under her own nose: “…there is little evidence that charter schools are being held more accountable for student achievement than are regular public schools.”
Come again? If one were to draw a circle around the TC building, with a radius equal to the distance to the old Reisenbach building, how many public schools (that performed more poorly than Reisenbach) have failed the kids of Harlem for decades but have been allowed to remain open for business as usual? Hello, District 5! The entire district would have had its charter revoked back when Bucky Dent was making mincemeat out of the Bo-Sox.
Even charter skeptics like NYSUT (see below) hailed the “accountability” measures that kicked into gear when it came time to reauthorize Reisenbach’s charter after five years. (Headline on this NYSUT article: “State Holds First Three Charters Accountable.”) Does anyone really believe that charter school operators like Randi Weingarten and Eva Moskowitz aren’t going to be held more accountable for their charter schools than the average public school?
A couple of quick points on this piece:
-- Charter laws (and the culture of charter schooling) differ sharply from state to state. Decisions about what to do with New York’s charter school law should be based on New York’s experience, not the experience of other states with other laws and other styles of authorizing and accountability. Wells is using national data and anecdotes while making the case against more charter schools in New York. Here, even if you disagree with some of their decisions, you have to acknowledge that SUNY’s Charter Schools Institute has earned a national reputation for rigorous oversight, both at the application stage and for its charter renewals (and at all times in between.)
-- Regarding the AFT report on charter school performance, isn’t the official union-line supposed to be that the AFT had nothing - I mean nothing - to do with that report? That it was merely passing along information as a disinterested party for the public good? Even so, the AFT-funded EPI noted that both the AFT and the NY Times had “overinterpreted” one-year NAEP data.
-- If you follow Wells’ logic in the piece, New York State legislators should probably also ban high-quality suburban public schools from operating because they tend to attract fewer students who don’t know English (making the job that much harder for urban public schools) and because migration to the suburbs serves as “new kinds of sorting machines, leading to more racial or class segregation within local communities.” Why do charter schools get the blame from Wells on this front when suburban public schools (and the elite private schools that TC professors send their kids to) create this sort of effect all the time?
-- Why does Wells think New York State has become a playground for for-profit education management companies? Compared to states like Ohio, where the public financing of charter schools practically requires that chartering be done by for-profit operators, New York has been shockingly quiet in this regard. Again, she is advocating against lifting a charter cap in New York State based on a charter climate elsewhere. (Even so, for-profit operators are a drop in the overall charter school bucket nationwide.)
-- Wells does offer an important lesson that public school leaders should keep in mind: rather than focusing on the quantity of traditional public schools that will exist in the new world order, perhaps New York’s kids deserve more of a focus on quality public schools. To quote Wells, pay “more attention to the data than the rhetoric.” If you want to see how that’s done, watch closely the next time a charter school tries to get its charter renewed in the Empire State.
UPDATE: Our friends at the California Charter Schools Association note that the West Coast example (used as an argument for a charter cap in Albany, N.Y.) of the closing of the California Charter Academy doesn’t fit either. The chain of schools, which ended up staying open way too long because local authorizing school districts were making money off of them, were closed AFTER accountability measures were put in place at the request of the association and charter school leaders statewide. The CCSA also helped find seats for about 80% of the displaced charter students in higher-performing charter schools nearby. See L.A. Times story reprinted here.
Also in the weekend papers:
The Buffalo News says that parental choice should be the cap on charter schools.
The NY Times notes that Gov. Pataki’s proposal to give parents a $500 tax credit that could be used for tutoring or private school tuition is more popular in the Democratic-controlled Assembly than many observers expected. The story notes that these pols are responding to the frustrations of parents with the current state of education. Among the highlights of the Times’ story:
“We need to give parents options.” – Assemblyman Karim Camara, D-Brooklyn.
“Too often the money goes to the system. Seldom does it go to the parents and the children.” – Assemblyman Vito Lopez, (BDPB) Brooklyn Democratic Party Boss.
In Albany, the Catholic Diocese announced its plans over the weekend to close the St. James school at the end of this school year. They are hoping to steer students toward St. Casimir. This marks the ninth school closed by the diocese since 2002. See Albany Times-Union story here.
In New York, the Daily News finds once again that it is cheaper to buy books on Amazon.com than it is through the Department of Education’s purchasing system. Note to NYC charter schools: May want to check and re-check the math on any “back office” services the city provides. Caveat emptor, baby.
Other parts are more interesting: how much the school spends on board meetings, number of students who return to their districts, number of teachers returning to the school each year, and a list of all non-public sources of funding.
Charter schools are public schools, so this information is ripe for inspection. (The Chalkboard would be interested in some of this information as well, particularly to compare the cost of charter school board meetings with district Board of Education meetings.) Who knows what NYSUT – right now the biggest obstacle for the expansion of charter schools – will want to do with the information.
It would seem the two most obvious options for NYSUT would be to (1) use the worst information they can find as a hit-piece on charter schools, or (2) use the information to begin the process of more actively organizing charter school teachers. (The Chalkboard isn’t opposed to union shops in charter schools, particularly if charter schools aren’t treating teachers more like professionals than the local public school district does.)
There is also a third option: they could use the information for both (1) and (2) at the same time. Recent happenings at the national level suggest NYSUT could be planning to both fight fronts simultaneously. Mike Antonucci’s EIA Communique from last week notes (see Item 3) that American Federation of Teachers officers met recently to try to figure out what the heck to do about all these charter schools that are popping up everywhere. The union apparently will seek to further regulate charters at the local, state, and federal levels while simultaneously attempting to organize charter schools themselves, according to its house organ newsletter.
This union strategy makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Unions are huge businesses and this “if you can’t beat ‘em, then regulate and join ‘em” strategy could ultimately help the union’s membership (and revenues) grow. It particularly makes sense if you think in terms of the unions’ self-interest and the possibility that charters may be on the verge of achieving some sort of critical mass, one where it makes more business sense for the unions (i.e. it’s cheaper) to organize than it is to attempt to completely dismantle them, as has been the case. Hopefully, however, the high-stakes push to make numbers won’t turn charter schools into mirror images of the crappy public schools that reformers are trying to make extinct. (See Philip Livingston Middle School post below.)
Additional note: Remember the tension that exists within the unions on this issue when you consider what the UFT is doing in New York City with its new charter school. Plenty of union members aren’t exactly thrilled that the UFT is entering the charter school movement, regardless of the union leadership’s motivations. The Chalkboard continues to think chartering was an extremely gutsy move by Randi Weingarten and that the children of East New York are better off because they have a choice like the one the union is offering. Hopefully the UFT will help the charter movement better articulate precisely which part of the traditional school bureaucracy it is most happy to have left behind. Check out this update on the union’s new charter school by the Associated Press.
UPDATE FROM LAST WEEK: The UFT’s Leo Casey writes to take exception with this post, particularly the suggestion that adults in Nixzmary Brown’s school could have done more to help save her life. Writes Casey:
To say that "school employees who allowed her to miss more than 40 days of
school and who allowed bureaucrats to dither over the case," is really wrong,
not just because they did exactly what they were supposed to do - report the
case to ACS, which is responsible for acting on those referrals - again and
again, but because they are ordinary hard-working educators, who did their best
to serve the children placed in their care. They should not be used to make
political points. I can only imagine how they already feel, even though that
poor child's death was not a result of any failure on their
What do you think? Was there any more the adults at the school (and the regional and central offices) could have done? If you call ACS and NYPD and nothing happens, is there anything else you can do? Email firstname.lastname@example.org about this or anything else on your mind
An isolated incident? Hardly. Despite a “zero tolerance policy” instituted by school officials last spring, the school is one of only five in the entire state to meet the ridiculously watered-down definition of a “persistently dangerous” school under NCLB. (In the 2004-05 school year, Livingston tallied one case of arson, two intimidations with a weapon, and 14 weapons possession cases – not to mention stabbings and several fights off campus.)
Albany school officials obviously have a lot on their hands, and teachers in the district are no strangers to harassment. (Ed: These teachers need a union or something!) According to the Times Union story:
The Friday before Christmas, four Albany High School students were arrested
after they allegedly harassed a teacher in her classroom.
Two girls confronted the teacher, Johnsi Ingram, as she sat in her
classroom, police said. The girls were joined by two boys and the four
surrounded the veteran teacher, taunting her and touching her in front of her
class, police said.
The teacher's wig was taken off her head and tossed around. Ingram was able
to get away and reported the incident to school security.
The kicker: One of the girls accused of taking the teacher’s wig off and throwing it around the classroom is the daughter of an Albany Board of Ed member.
Note to teachers in Albany Public Schools: If you want to work in a public school where the kids don’t pin you in a corner and spit in your face, (not to mention not throwing your wig around the classroom like a football) New York's charter schools are always on the lookout for the best and brightest education professionals to participate in their exciting reform efforts.
Spitzer's Democratic challenger Thomas Suozzi says he also supports the tax credits. Republican candidate John Faso also supports the credits, and accused Spitzer of having to run his official statements on the issue past UFT President Randi Weingarten before he says anything to the press.
It will be interesting to see whether all of this talk about parent empowerment and school reform will have any impact on what happens with charter schools in the pending state budget. It will also be interesting to see what this gubernatorial race will mean for charter schools (or even better, what charter schools will mean for this gubernatorial race. Please email The Chalkboard (email@example.com) any time you hear candidates on the campaign trail talking about charter school issues.
Speaking of the CFE case: Eduwonk weighs in on an interesting development here. Attorney Eric Grannis, who is on the board of Bronx Prep Charter School and a co-founder of Girls Prep Charter School, is representing a Queens PTA president who has an interesting perspective on the case. NY Post story here.
Speaking of having to run everything past the UFT: New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has officially tapped Councilman Robert Jackson (a plaintiff in the CFE case) to serve as chairman of the council's Education Committee. Even before he got the nod, Jackson faced questions from the N.Y. Times about whether he was in Randi Weingarten's pocket. (Weingarten lobbied Quinn on Jackson's behalf.)
Look for Jackson in our upcoming feature on influential New Yorkers who opt to send their kids to private schools. (In fact, if you'd like to nominate someone for the list, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)
These days, everyone talks about empowering principals, teachers, and parents at the school level, but when push comes to shove (and mid- and upper-level bureaucrats face the prospect of giving up power and control) it ends up being more talk than action (i.e. it's not in the bureaucrats' self-interest to loosen the grip.) This is a major theme in my new book.
Why will this reorganization be any different? And why should teachers and parents be as optimistic as The Chalkboard thinks they should be this time around? If you listen carefully, you'll notice that Klein understands that you can't push power downward to the school level without a bunch of ball-busters on board. I'm talking about people who truly understand the concept of empowering entrepreneurial school leaders and staffs to control their destinies, and who can look into the eyes of well-respected big-wigs in the Department of Education and remind that they are not as powerful as they used to be in the old world order.
Remember, this plan requires rethinking how things work, i.e. the central and regional administrations exist to serve the educators, not the other way around, as is the current practice.
The best news coming out of this reorganization just may be the people Klein has brought on to help him move these bureaucratic mountains: Chris Cerf, a former Clinton administration staffer who most recently served as president and COO of Edison Schools (and a great guy, to boot) and the consulting firm Alvarez and Marsal, which was baptized in the cut-throat world of public school politics when it was hired to clean-house in the troubled and shockingly-bloated St. Louis Schools (and is now involved in restructuring the New Orleans schools.)
Read the NY Times story here, NY Post story here, NY Daily News here, and NY Sun here.
Speaking of KIPP, the Washington Post's Jay Matthews (the best out there in in terms of education writing) has signed a book deal to write about the KIPPsters, and writes this week about a new report tracking the performance of KIPP Nation.
Like headlines and stories in The Onion, this kind of thing generates chuckles because it is completely outrageous - yet it is still grounded in enough of a sliver of truth that it makes you spit out your coffee (or other beverage of choice) when you hear it.
Turns out we may have to stop joking, though, because the reality itself is starting to one-up the jokes. And if you believe this report in the alternative New York Press, it's getting rather sick. Columnist Azi Paybarah, providing a report on some of the interesting stuff that didn't get much coverage out of this week's Martin Luther King Jr. celebration because it was drowned out by Hillary Clinton's plantation comments, writes:
But the final and crowning tribute to King was delivered by United
Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, who came within a hair of
saying smaller class sizes could have saved Nixzmary Brown, the abused Brooklyn
girl who was beaten to death last week by her step-father.
"So my urgency is, you know, I know my members, reported, reported,
reported what happened to that child this week," Weingarten told the
churchgoers. "But what happens if we could, what happens if we have 20 kids in
our classes. You know what would happen. You know what would happen."
Seeming unable to get any kind of response from the crowd, which had been applauding,
yessing and standing up for other speakers, Weingarten added, "You know how much
we could connect and touch with kids. Not saying in a bad way. But touch
with kids and connect with kids if we had that input."
For those of you upstate who may have missed it, the story of 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown is one that has kept all of us in NYC up at night for the last week, as we wondered how so many adults (school employees who allowed her to miss more than 40 days of school and who allowed bureaucrats to dither over the case, cops and Administration for Children's Services employees who seemed to be more interested in attending their department's holiday parties last month than in saving the girl's life, clueless and uncaring relatives, etc.) allowed this long-tortured little girl to slip through the cracks. (Reports indicate Nixzmary's step-father tied her to a chair and made her eat human feces and cat food.)
The Chalkboard happens to personally prefer small classes that are under control to large out-of-control classes for his kids, but isn't this "smaller classes might have saved her" stuff a bit over the top? If the adults involved at all these levels (DOE, ACS, NYPD) are as clueless as they seem to be, would it matter if there were 5 kids in every class?
If state leaders are sincerely concerned about charter quality, they should look for “direct impact” and address problems that clearly affect quality. Rather than imposing artificial limits on growth, for example, state leaders will get more bang for their quality buck by working with authorizers to establish rigorous application processes, firm but supportive oversight mechanisms, and reliable, transparent processes for funding and renewal.
The report can be found here. A press release here.
Meanwhile, lots of commentary all over the papers on Gov. Pataki's budget. The New York Sun offers a sound reason for supporting the lifting of the cap on new charter schools: it will ensure that innovative school leaders won’t be pulled elsewhere, where there are more outlets for them to help children. Wrote the editors: “Now is precisely the time to lift it, before continued unavailability of charter slots encourages educational entrepreneurs to look elsewhere for more amenable locales in which to open charter schools. The governor has recognized this, and if New Yorkers are lucky the Legislature will, too.”
The New York Times worries that lifting the cap would lead to the creation of too many charter schools too soon, which the Old Gray Lady believes could be bad for quality. They also suggest that the proposed $500 tuition tax credit “has a micro chance of passing.” Meanwhile, in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Jeffrey Crane, superintendent of the West Irondequoit district, says he not only isn’t getting the warm fuzzie’s over Pataki’s charter school proposal, he thinks it is a bad idea to let parents have an education tax credit when that money could be spent better by bureaucrats. “I think it would better serve the children (and) the families if that money went directly to the school district to be used as determined by the local district,” he told the newspaper.
Local control... but not too local...
Stossel, if you remember, caused an uproar last Friday night on 20/20 (ABC) when he gave tests to rich suburban New Jersey kids and found they got their clocks cleaned by their counterparts overseas. To the chagrin of many dues-paying teachers nationwide, Stossel suggested in his report that the teachers unions and the public education monopoly were a huge part of the problem.
How do these Internet rumors get started? One reader notes it appears they started with Stossel himself, in this email to viewers. Stossel writes:
My intheclassroom.org videos are so popular in schools that last summer the
New York City teachers union said it wanted to give me its "highest award." Past
honorees include Mario Cuomo, Shirley Chisolm, Charles Schumer … The union also
asked me to speak at its February conference. I wonder what the union will think
about that after it sees what Friday's special says about its union rules. I
assume it wouldn't be so small-minded as to withdraw its invitation to me.
Casey is known for writing excruciatingly long (but often passionate and well-informed) diatribes on the union's blog, so it isn't clear why he didn't choose to label as "preposterous" the notion that the UFT wanted to have Stossel come and fire up its rank-and-file at a conference next month. It is certainly possible that Stossel is lying about his past conversations with UFT officials, but it could also be a case where some UFT honcho had a bit too much pinot grigio at some Manhattan function or other and started gushing to Stossel about how sexy his 1977 mustache is, and how it would be great if they could do more "collaborating" together for the good of Gotham's children.
The Chalkboard (who if asked by his children whether hallucinogens were a part of his past will deny, deny, deny) agrees with Casey on many of the points he makes in the Edwize post, particularly what happens when you park a camera outside a city high school and invite kids to cut loose. It doesn't make what the kids are saying wrong, but it certainly creates a circus-like atmosphere that doesn't always help the parents understand what is going on. The Chalkboard already noted some of the shortcomings in the 20/20 style of reporting here.
Read Casey's post here, along with the comments from union members attached to it, some of which are quite interesting, as is usually the case.
UPDATE: The Chalkboard happens to be a huge fan of Ravitch and never found her award to be as preposterous as some who actually prime the UFT's pump with their dues. (See this 2000 review I wrote of her book, Left Back.) And for those who wish to find out more information about how the UFT selects its John Dewey Award than even Mrs. Dewey would care to know, check back to the update on EdWize.
UPDATEII: Thanks to the folks at EdWize for noticing that Stossel has since taken his email referenced above down from the site. They suggest, and The Chalkboard agrees, that it is worth checking a Google cache (I'm currently pretending I even know what that means, just click on the colored part folks!) to see his actual UFT email.
- Cap Increase: Raises the cap in state law from 100 to 250 charter schools (allowing 100 more to be approved by the SUNY Trustees and 50 more approved by school districts and the Board of Regents).
- NYC Chancellor Schools: Provides for an unlimited number of charter schools authorized by the Chancellor of the New York City School District (i.e., removes Chancellor-approved charter schools from the cap).
- Building Aid: Charter schools will have access to state building aid in the same manner as ‘Special Act’ schools for building projects to be reimbursed by the state based on a regional formula. Charter schools will also be able to access financing and construction management services from the Dormitory Authority.
- Additional Authorizers: Nonprofit corporations will be authorized to approve charter schools, in addition to school districts.
Stay tuned. Now the real game begins.
Whether Clinton is right or wrong about her colleagues on the other side of The Statue of Freedom, she succeeded in creating a buzz and people today are debating the merits of her remarks. Too bad Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) didn't create a fraction of this current ruckus last fall when he compared kids in crappy Harlem public schools to the people who were left behind to die in New Orleans. Both are vivid and emotional images, and both deserve to be hashed out in the public square.
Not a lot new in the report for those who are seasoned veterans in education reform battles (or who read my new book with a similar title.) But Stossel has created quite a firestorm. The National Education Association, using "research" culled by the New Jersey Education Association, is emailing supporters to trash Stossel for speaking before groups that get money from the conservative Bradley Foundation, of Milwaukee. Thousands of people have even posted their responses to the report on Stossel's message board. Those responses are must-reads for anyone who wonders how polarized the education debate has become, as well as how frustratingly devoid of any serious substance commentators on both sides of the issue can be.
Worth noting: The New York City Department of Education appears to be so distraught about what happens inside its public school buildings that it refused to let Stossel and his crew inside any of its public classrooms. (In the city's defense, Washington DC allowed cameras into one of its best public high schools and found a history teacher using the game Monopoly to show that some nations are wealthier than others. Those DC kids understood what a complete joke the adults in charge of their education were and this "good" class was out of control.) Instead, we settle in NYC for interviews with city high school students outside their schools, where they describe their teachers as boring and incompetent. One NYC kid reported that his teacher told his students that he was only there for the health benefits. It makes for good stinging commentary, but if the public wants to get to the bottom of this mess it needs to understand just how bad (or good) its classroom instruction is.
Blogging about this powerful op-ed piece doesn't come close to doing it justice. Read the whole thing. McKee compares the shallowness of charter school critics to problems King himself described in his legendary 1963 "Letter from Birmingham Jail."
King wrote: "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will."
Though I understand there are deep-seated feelings that have fueled the debate over charter schools, I cannot accept that some choose to perceive me, or the school I represent, as an enemy of public education.
I have devoted my life to being an educator. Over the course of my career, I have taught in some of the toughest urban public schools in Seattle and California, working side by side with devoted, effective public school teachers and administrators who performed their jobs with commitment and pride. I have taught in Japan and served as principal of an International Baccalaureate school in Africa, working with students from many different countries and walks of life.
My experiences in schools here and abroad have confirmed for me a simple, universal truth.
For children to be able to achieve their greatest potential, they need a safe, orderly place to learn and a curriculum that challenges them to grow. The two elements of this "truth" -- safe learning environments and academic rigor -- are intertwined. One should not exist without the other. In Albany, however, these elements are at the center of an educational crisis that is directly impacting the lives of the city's children.
Again, give it a read. McKee argues that we can do better than the status quo and urges folks to move beyond a "shallow understanding" that stands in the way of creating better public schooling options for kids.
This time of year can be emotional for many people involved in school reform. Politicians love to use the holiday to call for drastic measures for schools (that seldom ever take root.) For most everyone involved in this stuff (across the political spectrum) King's dream of truly equal opportunity for ALL kids, regardless of their skin color and economic status, is a driving force. The issue of better schools and integration is a tricky one, and charter schools obviously play an important part in the discussion. See stories here, and here, and here.
UPDATE: The UFT's blog, EdWize, has an MLK post from a Bronx chapter leader here.
Obesity and poor eating habits are a real problem in Harlem. A 2002 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 78 percent of black women ages 20 to 74 were overweight, with more than 50 percent qualifying as obese. Geoffrey Canada, whose Harlem Children’s Zone runs the school, said students are weighed at the beginning and end of the year. Canada hopes to build a database that will let researchers measure how successful the school has been at keeping its charges fit and trim. He said it's too soon to tell if the school has made any headway.
One of the interesting facets of the Harlem Children’s Zone is that it targets a 60-block area of Manhattan and provides its young people with education options, as well as social and health programs. In fact, the comprehensive program has been so promising that the Rochester school district is interested in creating its own “Rochester Children’s Zone” to provide services to families on the northeast part of the city.
Note to the good people of Buffalo: What, exactly, were you thinking when you elected her?
Note to the rest of the Buffalo Board: This would probably be a pretty groovy time to change the official motto of the Buffalo schools to something other than: "Putting children and families first to ensure high academic achievement for all."
Possible new motto???: "Putting Phil Rumore first to ensure that no grownup ever has to pay the price for a generation of Buffalo kids who can't read."
Saving grace in all of this: The school district shouldn't be trusted to handle the task of chartering schools anyway. Putting the press that comes from these attacks on charters aside, charter applicants theoretically could still create dynamic new schooling options for kids by chartering through the state. Now we just have to deal with that unconscionable cap on the number of good public charter schools in the state...
Who knows where this will go. Whether it is a real attempt to give parents more educational choices, or merely a bargaining chip in the forthcoming state budget negotiations, it could be good news for charter school supporters. In places like Milwaukee, which had vouchers before a charter school law, charter schools often emerged as a "kinder, gentler" version of competition for the school system - especially since charter schools are still public.
Disclaimer: The Chalkboard is hosted by the New York Charter Schools Association (NYCSA) as a place where members, public education advocates and others can view and respond to informed commentary on timely public education and charter school issues. The views expressed here are not necessarily the official views of the NYCSA, its board, or of any of its individual charter school members. Anyone who claims otherwise is violating the spirit and purpose of this blog. To comment on anything you read here, or to offer tips, advice, comments, or complaints. please contact TheChalkboard.