Archives for category: New York City

Earlier this year, Eva Moskowitz and the Wall Street hedge fund managers who support her NYC charter chain, Success Academy, thoroughly defeated Mayor Bill de Blasio. The mayor thought he could limit the expansion of her charters, even thought he could charge her rent for the use of public space, but her backers launched a $5 million negative advertising blitz against de Blasio.

Governor Cuomo, the recipient of nearly $1 million in campaign contributions from backers of Miskowitz’s charters, pledged his loyalty to her. The Néw York legislature quickly passed legislation guaranteeing her the right to expand, forbade the city from charging rent to charters, and required the city to pay the rent for private space for charter schools.

Here is the result, as reported in the Wall Street Journal and reposted by blogger Perdido Street.

“Lease documents show the city is paying almost $18,000 in rent for every student at the Success Academy that opened last month in Washington Heights, in the former Mother Cabrini High School.

“The Department of Education descriptions of the 10-year contracts, obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request, say the city will pay $39 a square foot in the coming three years for Success Academy Washington Heights and Success Academy Harlem Central; its analysis found a market range of $24 to $27 a square foot for comparable space. The rents will rise over time.”

“The rental fees come on top of $13,777 for every student that taxpayers provide to charters, which are publicly funded and independently operated.”

Says Perdido Street blogger:

“The city’s paying nearly $32,000 a student for Eva’s charters.

“That’s what Eva Moskowitz’s charter schools cost.”

Astonishing.

Gary Rubinstein, one of the best bloggers and thinkers about education in the nation, sends his daughter to the local public school in New York City. It is PS 163. The parents learned recently that a 20-story apartment building will be constructed within 50 feet of the school. The children will not be allowed in the playground during construction because of dust and toxins. The noise levels during school hours will be deafening.

The parents have complained but the Mayor and the Department of Education are unresponsive.

Gary asks for your help, especially if you live in New York City.

He writes:

“The parents have urged our local lawmakers to intervene and we are grateful to Mark Levine, Helen Rosenthal, and other city council people who are sponsoring bill number 420 which would require:

that noise shall not exceed 45 DB during normal school operating hours in any receiving classroom in any public or private preschool or primary or secondary school on lots that are within seventy-five feet from the construction site, and that noise levels at such schools sites shall be continuously monitored during normal school operating hours.

“With all the talk nowadays about putting students needs above ‘adult interests’ it is amazing that a common sense bill like this will require a lot of phone calls to the council people who have not yet agreed to support it. Parents from the school are currently making calls to the different council members, but the council members will be more likely to support this bill if they are getting calls from all over as this is something that will not just affect the kids in PS 163, but all the kids from all the other schools that may face a similar situation in the future.”

The parents have created a website.

Here is a list of City Council members and heir contact information.

This is a chance to put students first. Please help.

Mayor Bill de Blasio was elected as a progressive candidate. Much of his support came from critics of the Bloomberg-Klein regime and its hostility to teachers and even to public schools. The Bloomberg regime never stopped berating the system that it totally controlled for nearly a dozen years.

De Blasio selected veteran educator Carmen Farina as his chancellor, who promised to bring back “the joy of learning.” Unfortunately, the de Blasio administration has been slow to clean house. The Klein regime still controls large sectors of the education bureaucracy, including the infamous “gotcha” squad that is always on the alert for teacher misbehavior. True, the “gotcha” squad completely missed a high school teacher arrested for having sexual relations with several students at selective Brooklyn Technical High School, who is currently suspended with pay.

But the “gotcha” squad bagged a teacher who helped run a Kickstarter campaign for a student with cerebral palsy. This teacher was suspended without pay for 30 days for “theft of services,” having helped the campaign during school hours.

As Jim Dwyer, columnist for the New York Times reports:

“This is a story of an almost unfathomably mindless school bureaucracy at work: the crushing of an occupational therapist who had helped a young boy build a record of blazing success.

“The therapist, Deb Fisher, is now serving a suspension of 30 days without pay for official misconduct.

“Her crime?

“She raised money on Kickstarter for a program that she and the student, Aaron Philip, 13, created called This Ability Not Disability. An investigator with the Education Department’s Office of Special Investigations, Wei Liu, found that Ms. Fisher sent emails about the project during her workday at Public School 333, the Manhattan School for Children, and was thus guilty of “theft of services.”

“The school system has proved itself unable to dislodge failed or dangerous employees for years at a time.

“Ms. Fisher’s case seems to represent just the opposite: A person working to excel is being hammered by an investigative agency that began its hunt in search of cheating on tests and record-keeping irregularities. It found nothing of the sort. Instead, the investigation produced a misleading report, filled with holes, on the fund-raising effort.

“By omitting essential context, the report wrongly suggested that Ms. Fisher was a rogue employee, acting alone and in her own self-interest.

“In fact, the entire school, including the principal, was involved in the Kickstarter project, with regular email blasts counting down the fund-raising push. And the money was to be used not by Ms. Fisher, but by Aaron, who is writing a graphic book and making a short film about Tanda, a regular kid who is born with a pair of legs in a world where everybody else has a pair of wheels.

“Aaron has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to navigate the world. Ms. Fisher has worked with him since kindergarten.”

Chancellor Farina, it is time to fire the “gotcha” squad. It is time to replace Joel Klein’s legal team. It is time to clean house and install officials who share Mayor de Blasio’s vision and values.

The charter school industry plans a half-million dollar TV campaign this week in New York City, capped by a big rally later in the week. By closing their schools, they can turn out tens of thousands of children and parents, especially if their charter school directs them to show for the rally and provides buses to transport them.

What if the public schools held a rally for the 1.1 million children they enroll? What if their parents or guardians showed up too?

Then the politicians could compare a rally with 60,000 children and a rally with 1.1 million children?

Too bad the public schools can’t or won’t order their students to attend a rally. The charters school leaders do and will, thus magnifying their numbers and inflating their importance.

Talk about “no excuses”!

Blogger and retired teacher Norm Scott broke the story that Girls Prep Charter School in New York City posted a warning to parents about the dire consequences of arriving late to pick up their children. If the parent did not arrive by 3:45, the child would be taken to the local police precinct. Repeated failure to pick up on time would lead to a report to the city’s Administration for Children’s Services.

Referral to ACS might trigger an investigation of the parent and family. Chalkbeat picked up Scott’s report, based on an anonymous tip. ““You’re almost criminalizing parents. You’re calling them neglectful,” said Ocynthia Williams, an advocate with the Coalition for Educational Justice. “The bottom line is it’s a terrible policy for parent engagement at that school.”

Officials told Chalkbeat’s Geoffrey Decker that it was probably an idle threat. Girls Prep earlier came under criticism for offering $100 for referring students who remained enrolled at least three months.

Norm Scott ran another exposé of the same charter, posting a letter from a disgruntled parent, who claimed that the school was a “boot camp” that was training children in robotic behavior.

The New York City Parents Blog compiled the many complaints of parents and teachers about Daniel Bergner’s article about Eva Moskowitz. Bergner interviewed many critics, but he quoted only two: me and Michael Mulgrew of the UFT.

Unlike the magazine article, the post explains that the main reason Mayor de Blasio rejected Moskowitz’s efforts to expand within PS 149 was that it would cause the displacement of children with special needs, some of whom are severely disabled. It was ironic that the $5-6 million TV ad campaign that Eva’s Wall Street backers ran on her behalf last spring claimed that the Mayor was forcing SA children out of their schools by denying them space, when the reverse was true: Moskowitz wanted to increase the size of her school at the expense of children with disabilities.

The ad campaign paid off for Moskowitz. Many of the same Wall Street tycoons who backed Eva also funded Cuomo’s campaign, so of course Cuomo supported Eva and cut the ground out from under the Mayor’s feet, with the help of the legislature. Eva got free rent, the right to expand in public space, and other privileges. But this was not what you saw in the New York Times article.

Parent! Students! Teachers!Community members! JUST CAN’T WAIT

NYC SCHOOLS ARE OWED $2.5 BILLION DOLLARS!

New York State has abandoned the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, resulting in devastating classroom cuts every single year. This has meant the loss of arts & music programs, after-school, valuable teachers, guidance counselors, Advanced Placement courses, an increase in class sizes and more.

Join parents, elected officials, students to say #WeCantWait for the state to fund public schools!

* CITY HALL STEPS *

THURSDAY, SEPT. 18th, at 10AM

Take the 2, 3 to Park Place, or 4, 5, 6 to BK Bridge, or A, C to Chambers

Contact Maria Bautista, 212-328-9271, or maria@aqeny.org

Sincerely,

Maria Bautista

Campaign Coordinator

Alliance for Quality Education

maria@aqeny.org

maria.nygps@gmail.com

P: 212.328.9217

C: 347.622.9706

http://www.aqeny.org

The New York Times Magazine has a long article about Eva Moskowitz and her chain of charter schools in New York City. The charter chain was originally called Harlem Success Academy, but Moskowitz dropped the word “Harlem” when she decided to open new schools in gentrifying neighborhoods and wanted to attract white and middle-class families.

I spent a lot of time on the phone with the author, Daniel Bergner. When he asked why I was critical of Moskowitz, I said that what she does to get high test scores is not a model for public education or even for other charters. The high scores of her students is due to intensive test prep and attrition. She gets her initial group of students by holding a lottery, which in itself is a selection process because the least functional families don’t apply. She enrolls small proportions of students with disabilities and English language learners as compared to the neighborhood public school. And as time goes by, many students leave.

The only Success Academy school that has fully grown to grades 3-8 tested 116 3rd graders but only 32 8th graders. Three other Success Academy schools have grown to 6th grade. One tested 121 3rd graders but only 55 6th graders, another 106 3rd graders but only 68 6th graders, and the last 83 3rd graders but only 54 6th graders. Why the shrinking student body? When students left the school, they were not replaced by other incoming students. When the eighth grade students who scored well on the state test took the admissions test for the specialized high schools like Stuyvesant and Bronx Science, not one of them passed the test.

I also told Bergner that Success Academy charters have among the highest rates of teacher turnover every year, which would not happen if teachers enjoyed the work. Helen Zelon wrote in “City Limits”: “In Harlem Success Academies 1-4, the only schools for which the state posted turnover data, more than half of all teachers left the schools ahead of the 2013-14 school year. In one school, three out of four teachers departed.” I also told Bergner about a website called Glass Door, where many former teachers at SA charters expressed their candid views about an “oppressive” work climate at the school. As more of these negative reviews were posted, a new crop of favorable reviews were added, echoing the chain’s happy talk but not shedding light on why teachers don’t last long there.

Bergner argued every issue with me. He reiterated Success Academy’s talking points. He said that public schools lose as many students every year as SA charters; I replied that public schools don’t close their enrollment to new students. Again, defending SA, he said that closing new enrollments made sense because Moskowitz was “trying to build a culture,” and the culture would be disrupted by accepting new students after a certain grade. I responded that public schools might want to “build a culture” too, but they are not allowed to refuse new students who want to enroll in fourth grade or fifth grade or sixth grade or even in the middle of the year.

He did not think it mattered that none of her successful eighth grade students was able to pass the test for the specialized high schools, and he didn’t mention it in the article. Nor was he interested in teacher turnover or anything else that might reflect negatively on SA charters.

Subsequently I heard from his editor, who called to check the accuracy of the quotes by me. I had to change some of the language he attributed to me; for example, he quoted me defending “large government-run institutions,” when what I said was “public schools.” He was using SA’s framing of my views. I asked whether Bergner had included my main point about attrition, and the editor said no. I explained it to her and sent her supporting documentation.

This is the paragraph that appeared in Bergner’s article, which understates the significance of selective attrition while not mentioning SA’s policy of not accepting new students after a certain grade:

“On the topic of scores, the U.F.T. and Ravitch insist that Moskowitz’s numbers don’t hold up under scrutiny. Success Academy (like all charters), they say, possesses a demographic advantage over regular public schools, by serving somewhat fewer students with special needs, by teaching fewer students from the city’s most severely dysfunctional families and by using suspensions to push out underperforming students (an accusation that Success Academy vehemently denies). These are a few of the myriad factors that Mulgrew and Ravitch stress. But even taking these differences into account probably doesn’t come close to explaining away Success Academy’s results.”

This minimizes the stark differences in demographics when comparing her schools to neighborhood public schools. The Success Academy charters in Harlem have half as many English language learners as the Harlem public schools. The Harlem Success Academy 4 school, which has 500 students, has zero students with the highest special needs as compared to an average of 14.1% in Harlem public schools. This disparity is not accurately described as “somewhat fewer.” It is a very large disparity. Attrition rates are high, which would not be happening if the school was meeting the needs of students. As I wrote earlier this year:

“Moskowitz said [on the Morning Joe show on MSNBC], referring to the students in her schools, “we’ve had these children since kindergarten.” But she forgot to mention all the students who have left the school since kindergarten. Or the fact that Harlem Success Academy 4 suspends students at a rate 300 percent higher than the average in the district. Last year’s seventh grade class at Harlem Success Academy 1 had a 52.1 percent attrition rate since 2006-07. That’s more than half of the kindergarten students gone before they even graduate from middle school. Last year’s sixth grade class had a 45.2 percent attrition rate since 2006-07. That’s almost half of the kindergarten class gone and two more years left in middle school. In just four years Harlem Success Academy 4 has lost over 21 percent of its students. The pattern of students leaving is not random. Students with low test scores, English Language Learners, and special education students are most likely to disappear from the school’s roster. Large numbers of students disappear beginning in 3rd grade, but not in the earlier grades. No natural pattern of student mobility can explain the sudden disappearance of students at the grade when state testing just happens to begin.”

I have no personal grudge against Eva Moskowitz. On the few occasions when we have appeared together, we have had very cordial conversation. What I deeply oppose–and this is what I stressed to Bergner and he deliberately ignored–is that Success Academy is not a model for public education. No one expects that Bronx Science is a model because it does not have open doors; it admits only those who meets its standards, and they are high. Eva Moskowitz pretends that her schools get superior results with exactly the same population because of her superior methods, when in reality the success of her schools is built on a deliberate policy of winnowing out low-performing and nonconformist students.

Why did Bergner insist on obscuring this crucial difference between SA charter schools and public schools? Public schools can’t remove students with low scores. They can’t refuse to enroll students with severe disabilities and students who can’t read English. They can’t close their enrollment after a certain grade. Unless they have a stated policy of selective admissions, they must accept everyone who seeks to enroll, even if they arrive in February or March. Their doors must be open to all, without a lottery. It is not honest to pretend that public schools can imitate Moskowitz’s practice of selective attrition. And it is not honest to overlook that difference.

Helen Zelon of “City Limits” wonders why teacher turnover is so high in nyc charter schools.

She writes:

“According to data from the New York State Department of Education, charter schools in New York City lose far more teachers every year than their traditional school counterparts. In some schools, more than half of faculty “turn over” from one school year to the next, according to NYSED school report cards.

“Charter advocates at the New York City Charter School Center and at Success Academies, the city’s largest charter network, say that at least some of the turnover is due to movement within school networks—teachers moving up the leadership ladder, for example, or to seed the faculty of new schools, which have opened at a rapid clip in recent years.

“But even so, it’s hard to explain a churn of more than half the veteran faculty, which is the case at 15 percent of charter schools for which the state reports data….”

“The situation is not much better for veteran teachers, who are often the minority in charter schools: Of the 70 schools, 10 lost more than half of their veteran faculty in the ’11-’12 academic year; 24 schools saw more than 40 percent of experienced teachers exit.”

Zelon adds:

“Near the top of the turnover chart is the Success Academies system led by former Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz. With 22 schools and 10 new schools opening in August 2014, it is the city’s largest charter chain.

In Harlem Success Academies 1-4, the only schools for which the state posted turnover data, more than half of all teachers left the schools ahead of the 2013-14 school year. In one school, three out of four teachers departed.”

Spokespersons for HSA said the data were wrong.

Why is attrition so high? Long working hours; teacher burnout; TFA who made a two-year commitment and never intended to stay longer.

Eva Moskowitz has applied to the State University of New York‘s Charter School Institute for permission to open another 14 charter schools in New York City by 2016, a request that seems sure to be approved.

 

Chalkbeat reports:

 

“If Success’ proposal to open 14 new schools by 2016 is approved by the trustees of the SUNY Charter School Institute, the network will enroll about 35,698 students and cost the city more than $165 million (not including the cost of potential private space) by 2020, according to the application.

SUNY’s board is widely expected to authorize all 14 schools in a vote planned for October. SUNY has approved all of Success’ existing schools.”

 

To demonstrate its positive impact on nearby public schools, the Success application said that one Harlem school had begun hanging college pennants in its hallways, following a Success practice. In another example, a Success principal in the Bronx was sharing advice about instructional practices with a public school principal.

 

Given the fact that there is a charter cap in New York City, the rapid expansion of the Moskowitz chain may set off rivalry with other charters that find themselves frozen out by Success Academy.

 

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