Archives for category: New York City

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.

 

In Carmen Fariña’s short time on the job, she has ended promotion tied solely to test scores and eliminated school report cards based primarily on tests scores.

However, there are two critical areas in which state testing continues to deform and distort our children’s education.

Chancellor Fariña, we implore you to:

1. Direct all middle schools and high schools to eliminate the results of state standardized tests from their admissions criteria.

2. Fight at the state level to eliminate test scores as a measure of teacher effectiveness.

This petition was started by parents at PS 29 in Brooklyn, the very school were Carmen Fariña once taught. We join with public school parents and advocates across New York City and beyond to ask her to stand up and lead the transformation of the New York City public school system into a model of equity, fairness, and innovation.

As a legendary educator, Fariña knows that teachers are equipped with student work and assessments, which, in comparison to a flat test score, can provide far more accurate and comprehensive information with which to gauge students’ qualifications for school admissions. She also knows that volumes of evidence prove that using test scores is an ineffective way of measuring teachers’ competence.

Please add your name to the petition and share it.

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/chancellor-faria-lower.fb48?source=c.fb.ty&r_by=10785872

Thank you!

Michael Berman, Michelle Kupper, Jamie Mirabella, and Peter Rothberg

I did not write the following post. It was written by a high-level official at the New York City Department of Education who–for obvious reasons–requires anonymity. The story he tells is instructive. It is about how “reformers” claim victory by manipulating statistics. This is not an accusation directed at the de Blasio administration, but at their predecessors who regularly boasted that the new small high schools got better graduation rates that the large schools they replaced. The Gates Foundation bought this lie and has lauded its “success” in New York City.

 

 

 

 

Reformers Caught Lying. Again. This Time About Graduation Stats.

 

High school graduations are upon us. This is the time of year when parents, students, families, educators and communities celebrate the accomplishments of our high school seniors. It is a time to honor the work the graduates have done and to collectively share their hopes and dreams for the future.

 

At the same time, certain players in the world of education attempt to co-opt this time of year to propagandize for their favored reform policies. The latest example of this is a story about Frank McCourt High School, a small high school in New York City that “will send 97 percent of its first graduating class to college.” The story goes on to note that this school, along with 3 others, replaced a larger high school “which suffered from dismal academic and attendance records.” The reader is asked to believe one little and one big lie.

 

Let’s first take a look at the little lie. Does this school, in fact, have a 97% graduation/college going rate? The truth is that, on any reasonable calculation, it does not. According to the New York State data the cohort started with 100 freshmen. By sophomore year only 88 students remained. By junior year only 80. And by senior year only 69. Of these 69 survivors 67 are graduating. Seems more like a twisted version of the Hunger Games than a school for all students. One wonders: Where did the other 33 students go? Why does the media publicize such meaningless numbers without giving the full story? By now this trick should be well-known. A school that removes large numbers of students from its cohort should not be celebrated for its test scores or graduation rate. It is an artifact of arithmetic. If a school kicks out students with low test scores, it will have high test scores among the surviving students. If a school culls the students not on track to graduate it will have a high graduation rate among the surviving students.

 

Let’s move on to the big lie. Does this school, in fact, show that the reform strategy of closing large schools and replacing them with other smaller schools works? The full range of data show that it does not, as a number of facts pop-out.

 

There are 4 high schools co-located in the building that used to house Brandeis High School. One school, Innovation Diploma Plus (a “second-chance” school), had a 50.8% graduation rate last year. Another school, the Global Learning Collaborative, had a 52.7% graduation rate last year. Yet another school, the Urban Assembly School for Green Careers had a 39.8% graduation rate last year. We have already examined the claimed 97% graduation rate of the Frank McCourt High School, which also happens to screen its students before admissions.

 

The schools with the lower graduation rates retain almost all of their students. Unlike the school that boasts of its 97% graduation rate, the other three schools stay committed to all their students. Why do reformers refuse to evaluate schools based on their sticking with all their students? We know the answer. It is because charter schools and “miracle” schools will then be publicly exposed as largely frauds. So the metrics used to evaluate schools are deliberately constructed in ways that do not capture cohort retention in order to keep the myth alive. And the media agrees to overlook the tremendously high attrition rates at charter schools and other so-called “miracle” schools.

 

It may come as little surprise that the school with the lowest graduation rate has over 22% more English Language Learners, over 14% more students entering high school already overage, and over 40% more Black/Hispanic students than the school with the highest graduation rate.[i] This sheds some light on another reformer strategy. They like to tout free-market principles as they destroy community schools and create choice systems where students end up sorted into schools based on demographic characteristics and prior academic performance. This is not a solution. It does not improve education for all students. All it does is stick students in different containers, isolated from one another, thereby perpetuating a system of haves and have-nots. It is shocking that the reformers, who proclaim education the civil rights issue of our time, would support such an inequitable approach.

 

The total enrollment of all the high schools in the Brandeis High School building is 1,350 students. The shuttered school, Brandeis High School, had over 2,000 students. Where did the missing 600 students go? We know the answer. The missing 600 students were the more challenging students and students who did not get accepted to one of the small choice-in high schools. These students were deliberately sent to a specific group of, usually large, high schools that were then labeled “failures” too and shuttered. The Gates Foundation, an organization that has yet to meet a free-market education reform strategy it doesn’t like, has admitted that the national small school initiative was largely a failure. Despite this, MDRC, a research group in New York City, continues to publish Gates Foundation funded reports claiming that the small schools in New York City work.[ii]

 

It is now clear what New York City was doing during the Bloomberg era. Given the humungous size of the district they were able to play a shell game with students by passing the buck. Instead of figuring out how to reach the most challenging students and helping them succeed, the students were passed from school to school. This inevitably led to a domino effect of school closures. A shell game like this can be played in a district with almost 500 high schools, over two and half times as many as the next largest school district. Since there is a very long chain of dominos the “bad apple” students can be isolated into a specific group of schools making the remaining schools, which don’t accept those students, look good. But, as smaller districts have found out, it is not a workable long-term strategy when there is not an endless supply of schools to be used as sacrificial lambs.

 

Sooner or later the lies about numbers that reformers tell will catch up to them. Educators need to continue to advocate for approaches that are equitable and genuinely seek to improve the educational experience of all students. This includes developing curricula personalized for different students and improving wraparound services that extend beyond school walls. Ultimately, when the accounting fraud that is behind so many education reform initiatives collapses upon itself

 

[i] Frank McCourt has 55% Black/Hispanic students, 1% ELL students, 20.4% IEP students and .7% overage students. Global Learning has 90.3% Black/Hispanic students, 14.7% ELL students, 23% IEP students and 8.5% overage students. Green Careers has 95.6% Black/Hispanic students, 23.6% ELL students, 23.8 IEP students, and 15.15% overage students.

 

[ii] It is worth noting that the combined graduation rate of the 4 schools in the Brandies Building is 58.5% which is lower than the city-wide average of 72%.

Only one charter chain gets special treatment in New York City, and that is Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academies.

Principals have beenr told they had 24 hours to clear and clean the space where her schools will co-locate rent-free. The city hired hundreds of workers to get the space in order.

The 1 million children who attend public schools are second-class citizens.

Eva’s 7,000-10,000 students are extra-important and privileged. After all, Eva not only gets free public space, she may expand and kick out kids with disabilities if she wishes. Her billionaire friends on Wall Street control the legislature. She can hold a dinner and raise over $7 million on a single night.

Really, she should be chancellor and show what she can do to raise scores and work her miracles for all children. Why limit her magic to only those who win the lottery? Let her take responsibility for the kids with disabilities, the English-language learners, the homeless kids–all of them, not just the ones she chooses.

A report by the nonpartisan Independent Budget Office in New York City has found that the New York City public schools are experiencing extensive overcrowding, even as federal and state funding has diminished.

 

Nearly 450,000 students were enrolled in overcrowded buildings, defined as those at greater than 102.5 percent capacity, in the 2012-13 school year, the most recent covered by the report from the agency, the Independent Budget Office. The average class size is rising, too, particularly in the lower grades: The average elementary and middle school class had 25.5 children, up from 24.6 just two years before. This was true even as the total number of students in traditional and charter schools has hovered around 1.1 million for more than a decade, and as the city has created tens of thousands of new seats. Advocates have fought for years to get the city to use more state aid, known as Contracts for Excellence money, to reduce class sizes. Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, an advocacy group, said the problem of overcrowding persisted for several reasons. First, she said, the city has been in the habit of placing more than one school into the same building — known as co-location — which leads to classrooms’ being converted into administrative offices or specialty spaces. Also, she said, the number of teachers has dropped — a topic the Independent Budget Office report also touched upon. The report said the ranks of general education teachers declined by about 2,300 between 2010 and 2013, but it noted that the number of special education teachers rose by about 1,400 in the same period. Ms. Haimson said more than 330,000 students were in classes of 30 or more last year. “That really shows how extreme the situation has become,” she said.

 

The number of homeless children increased from 66,000 to 77,000. The number of principals soared as former Mayor Michael Bloomberg closed 102 schools and replaced them with 432  small schools, each of which has its own principal and administrative staff.

New York City and Néw York State have enthusiastically embraced the Common Core standards.

In the background, however, is a simmering–one might say boiling battle between literacy guru Lucy Calkins of Teachers College and Common Core architect David Coleman about teaching reading. Calkins supports balanced literacy, Coleman supports close reading.

The city and state adopted materials based on Coleman’s model lesson about teaching the Getysburg Address by analyzing the text.

Calkins described Coleman’s model as “a horrible lesson.” She called him “an expert in branding.” She points out that Coleman is not an educator and has never taught.

NYC Chancellor Carmen Farina has experience with balanced literacy. Her support may tilt the balance to Calkins, who has a devoted following and whose work was in favor during the Klein administration when Farina was deputy chancellor.

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