Archives for category: NYC

New York City parents charge that Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academies are underenrolled and should be placed on probation instead of awarded 14 new charters.

Here is the parents’ press release:

PRESS RELEASE
EMBARGOED UNTIL 12:30 PM, WEDS OCT 8, 2014

CONTACTS:
Brooke Dunn Parker
646 543 4492 brookedunnparker@gmail.com
Noah E. Gotbaum
917 658 3213 ngotbaum@cec3.org

Empty Seats, Phony “Waitlists,” and a Shocking Lack of Oversight: Newly Uncovered Charter Enrollment Data Sparks Parent Leaders to Demand Moratorium on ALL Charter Approvals Until SUNY & Charters Are Audited; Insist on Immediate Probation for Out-of-Compliance Success Academies

Data Shows Failure to Meet Mandated Enrollment Targets at More Than Two Thirds of Success Academy Charter Schools—and No Consequences from the SUNY Charter Institute and Trustees Charged with Charter School Oversight

Local public school parents have unearthed evidence that more than two-thirds of Success Academy charter schools were under-enrolled in 2013-14, rendering the charter chain’s oft touted claims of “high demand” and “waitlists” demonstrably false. Four of the schools were so profoundly under-enrolled that SUNY, which in its role as overseer of the state’s charter schools is charged with closing schools that fall below 80% of their targeted enrollment, would have been legally obliged to take action. Yet none of the under-enrolled Success Academies were even placed on probation—a clear dereliction of duty on SUNY’s part.

This revelation is particularly egregious as it coincides with today’s expected rubberstamp vote by the SUNY Trustees to approve 17 more charter schools, 14 of which are new Success Academies.

In the face of this evidence of massive under-enrollment and of SUNY’s lack of accountability, elected parent leaders from the city’s Community Education Councils are gathering on the steps of Tweed Courthouse together with fellow public school parent activists*, City Council Education Chair Daniel Dromm, and additional City Council members to publicly address the SUNY Charter Institute and Trustees with an important question:

Why are you authorizing the opening of more charter schools, and in particular Success Academies, when the evidence shows that Success cannot even fill seats in its existing schools?

The parents assembled are calling for:

· a full and independent investigation of SUNY to ascertain that the charter authorizer is adhering to the law

· an independent audit by the NYC Comptroller of the enrollment, attrition, suspension and expulsion rates, particularly for high-needs students, at all charter schools to determine how widespread missed (legally mandated) targets are

· a moratorium on all new charter approvals, renewals, and expansions until the above investigation and audits are completed

· immediate probation for the four Success Academies under-enrolled by more than 20% (as is mandated by their charter agreements and by State law).

Kari Steeves, who self identifies as “Class Parent for Rm. 308,” described what drove parents to undertake the research, write a letter to the trustees and comptroller, and spend days organizing to get the word out: “We are real parents, on our own time and impetus, speaking for what NYC public school parents really want. We don’t want seats at a charter school, and these numbers show neither do the vast majority of parents. Charters are being foisted upon us without community input or request, and their low enrollment, especially as compared with the overcrowding of our schools, shows that we want the resources devoted to making room for all kids at public schools.”

Public school parent Brooke Parker, whose research through the School Construction Authority’s “Blue Book” brought the enrollment data to light, remarked, “This is just the tip of the iceberg. SUNY has knowingly withheld enrollment data for charter schools from the taxpaying public—even though taxpayer dollars bankroll charters. If we had open access to enrollment information, I am convinced that we would find that even more charter schools have been allowed to open, remain open, and even expand despite their inability to meet enrollment targets. That’s outrageous. And illegal.”

Naila Rosario, president of Brooklyn’s Community Education Council 15, added, “I was already concerned that marketing might be what was creating so-called charter ‘demand.’ After all, our bus stops and subway stations are plastered with ads for charters; our mailboxes overflow with their glossy brochures. Now it seems that even with all that marketing, Success couldn’t fill its seats. By contrast, the waitlist for my child’s school, like those of many other district public schools, is ridiculously long and REAL.”

The discovery that SUNY has concealed important enrollment data and authorized out-of-compliance charter management organizations to open still more schools is the latest in a string of abuses of the public trust. Just last week, a Daily News reporter revealed that the charter authorizers had allowed a Michigan-based charter operator to overcharge the city by $250K for rent for a single Brooklyn school. And there has long been evidence that charters do not serve the students they are required to by law, particularly English language learners and special needs students.

Miriam Farer, who serves on Upper Manhattan’s Community Education Council 6, declared, “I applaud the parents who dug up this information, but let’s get real. It is not the job of parents and reporters to keep SUNY honest. I join with other public school parents and community leaders to demand that Comptroller Scott Stringer investigate the SUNY charter school authorizers, whom we believe to have violated the public trust by failing to safeguard precious education tax dollars. We also demand a moratorium on new charter school approvals, renewals, and expansions until SUNY has proven that it is not breaking the law and all schools are equitably funded.”

Some highlights from the research (sources on attached Fact Sheet):

• Of the 18 Success Academy charter schools open in the 2013-14 school year, more than two thirds (13) were under-enrolled.

• On average, schools in the SA network were under-enrolled by 7.6%

• In 2013-14 school year, 4 of SA’s 18 schools were severely under-enrolled—by 22%-33%:

Success Academy Charter School – Ft. Greene: -29%

Success Academy Charter School – Crown Heights: -22%
Success Academy Charter School – Hell’s Kitchen: -27%
Success Academy Charter School – Union Square: -33%

*including representatives from WAGPOPS!, Make The Road, and NYCpublic

###

The Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia, just released a report describing the ways that co-location of multiple schools into the same building reduces educational equity. The report is called “THE EFFECTS OF CO-LOCATION ON NEW YORK CITY’S ABILITY TO PROVIDE ALL STUDENTS A SOUND BASIC EDUCATION.”

Co-location was a primary goal of the Bloomberg administration, which closed many large schools and opened many small schools. Today, almost 2/3 of the city’s schools are co-located: “In 2013, 1,150 (63%) of the city’s 1,818 schools were co-located. Charter schools made up 10% of co-located schools (115); the other 90% were traditional public schools.”

Many of the small, co-located schools “suffer from inadequate facilities, oversized classes and instructional groupings, inadequate course offerings, insufficient student supports, and inadequate extracurricular activities….” In many cases, these conditions violate state statutory, regulatory, and constitutional requirements.”

The report spells out in detail how these conditions limit students’ educational opportunities.

Small elementary schools are unable to provide adequate instructional time in the arts, science, or physical education.

Some high schools were unable to provide basic chemistry or physics classes, or foreign language classes

No school was able to provide the academic intervention services to which students were entitled.

Many middle and high schools were unable to provide required arts courses.

Many lacked the support staff for struggling readers or English language learners or others in need of extra time and attention.

These, and many more shortages of staff and resources, short-change children.

Co-locations have meant that many children do not get the academic opportunities or the social services they need.

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Arthur Goldstein is a high school English teacher and chapter chair of the United Federation of Teachers at Francis Lewis High School. He is part of the opposition to the Unity Caucus that leads his union, the UFT in New York City. In response to my post praising the recent contract agreement between New York City and the UFT, Goldstein wrote this dissent:

 

************

 

It’s been almost six years since NYC teachers have received a raise. This was particularly frustrating since most NYC employees received twin raises of 4% in the 2008-2010 round of pattern bargaining. While they got more money with no givebacks, our leadership helped craft the junk-science based NY APPR law. The entire state got a junk-science based evaluation system. We were told the beauty of it was that it could be negotiated, but when that didn’t work out leadership allowed John King to write it for us.

 

Now there is an agreement, but UFT members will receive not only the retro money, but also the salary raises almost a decade later than FDNY, NYPD, or DSNY. Being a teacher, I don’t know a whole lot about money. Still, I’m fairly certain that money has more value in 2010 than 2020, when we will finally be made whole. It’s plainly disingenuous to argue we have parity with the other unions.

 

 

There are other issues in this contract that are troubling. Paramount to me is that of due process for ATR teachers. The UFT agreed in 2005 to create the Absent Teacher Reserve. The UFT had supported mayoral control, which helped enable the massive school closures favored by Bloomberg, and rather than insist teachers in closing schools be placed in classrooms, it made them wandering subs, covering for absent teachers. They now wander from school to school, week to week. They are vilified and stereotyped in the media on a regular basis.

 

I’ve worked with and advocated for several ATR teachers. I can assure you, despite the nonsense propagated by self-styled expert Campbell Brown, that those teachers were guilty of nothing more than either being in the wrong school at the right time, or being targeted for no good reason . Under our new system, any ATR teacher accused by two principals of ineffective behavior will receive an expedited one-day 3020a hearing, after which this person may be fired on the spot. I fail to see why ATR teachers should have fewer due process rights than I do.

 

As for Ms. Campbell Brown, apparently there is hat tip in the agreement to her:

 

The rules also expand the definition of sexual misconduct, which will make it easier for the city to fire teachers for actions like inappropriate touching or texting, officials said.

 

I can’t really say whether or not this rule is reasonable, since neither I nor anyone who voted on this agreement has actually seen it. Generally, it would be shocking that a 300-member contract committee could approve an agreement it hadn’t seen. However since the overwhelming majority of that committee were members of the elite, invitation-only UFT Unity Caucus, and had signed an oath promising to support whatever leadership told them to, it would not be surprising to me if they had nominated a cheese sandwich for President of the United States.

 

We’re also looking at a program that strongly smells of merit pay, something that’s been tried and failed in the US for about a century. This is the UFT’s second flirtation with such a program, and like the last one, discarded as a failure, it is presented as not merit pay.

 

Another mysterious issue in the proposal is this:

 

Under the tentative deal, collaborative school communities will have new opportunities to innovate outside the confines of the UFT contract and DOE regulations. A new program known as Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence (PROSE) will give educators in participating schools greater voice in decision-making and a chance to experiment with new strategies.

 

This sounds very much like the original concept of charter schools, and we all know where that has led us. I’m wary of anything with “excellence” in the title, because it clearly implies those of us who do not participate somehow oppose excellence. Also, there is a clear implication in such programs that our Contract somehow hinders excellence, which I do not believe.

 

My experience and observation suggests schools do better with strong principals and strong chapter leaders being adversarial when necessary, but working together when it benefits the school. I’ve also observed schools with little or no union presence having programs imposed on them that are less than productive, and I can certainly envision that happening here.

 

I’m further puzzled by several things UFT President Michael Mulgrew wrote us when he announced the agreement.

 

The union won major changes, including a focus on eight instead of 22 Danielson components and a better system for rating teachers in non-tested subjects.

 

I have heard directly from union sources that they’d insisted on focusing on all of Danielson, and that making them focus on all aspects was a great victory. Apparently making them focus on fewer factors is also a victory. We shall see what happens with non-tested subjects.

 

A more substantive improvement might have been to let supervisors off the hook from so many observations. If a competent supervisor observes a teacher doing a good job, and receives no complaints about that teacher, the supervisor ought not to have to revisit that teacher 3 to 5 additional times that year. Supervisors ought to be focusing their attention on supporting teachers who actually need their help.
We succeeded in eliminating time-consuming teaching artifacts.

 

Again, union sources have told me directly that the inclusion of artifacts was a great union victory, empowering teachers. Apparently the exclusion is also a victory. When the union does one thing, it’s a great victory. When they do the opposite, it’s another great victory. I’m troubled by that.

 

Moving forward, fellow educators — rather than consultants or other third parties — will serve as the “validators” brought in the next year to review the work of a teacher rated ineffective.

 

In 3020a hearings, in which teachers can be fired, the burden of proof has traditionally been on the DOE to establish teacher incompetence. The validators would have had the option of placing the burden on teachers to establish they were not incompetent, a very high hurdle. Now, though this practice has never even been tested, with no evidence whatsoever, it is deemed to be improved. I would not wish to ever sit in judgment of my colleagues as to whether or not the city should have to establish their incompetence. I would question the motives of any colleague who would.

 

I fail to see why my brother and sister UFT members deserve any less financial consideration than those in other municipal unions. As for the other factors in this contract, the devil is in the details. Thus far we haven’t seen them, but history suggests a lack of foresight in insular UFT leadership, which has supported allowing teachers to become ATRs, charter schools, co-locations, the NYS APPR law, junk science teacher rating, Common Core, and mayoral control, none of which have helped public school teachers, parents or children.

 

Finally, I’m not particularly proud that we’re set to impose a pattern for all other city unions that will not allow them even to keep up with inflation for the next 7 years. If the best we can do is worsen conditions for our brother and sister unionists, we’re not doing our jobs very well at all.

With the likely election of Democrat Bill de Blasio as mayor of Néw York City, the educrats at Bloomberg’s Department of Education are updating their resumes and starting to pack their bags.

First to jump ship is Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg, who is moving to Arkansas to help the Walton Family Foundation in its quest to replace public schools with vouchers and charter schools.

This article, written before the Democratic primary (which de Blasio won) explains why the DOE will no longer need Mr. Sternberg’s inestimable services:

“Two days ago NYC Mayoral Candidate de Blasio (the frontrunner for Tuesday’s Democratic primary) announced his support for a moratorium on ‘co-locating’ charter schools into buildings already occupied by neighborhood schools. If ‘co-locating’ sounds reasonable, well it’s because the practice was given a deceptively anodyne title.

“NYC co-locations are really hostile takeovers (sometime in whole, sometimes in part) of zoned neighorhood schools. Kids attending then’co-located’ neighborhood schools are kicked out of their classrooms and forced into yet more crowded classrooms. Charter schools don’t pay rent, often get the best facilities, and cherry pick the use of ‘shared space’. They often reject students who don’t fit in their managers’ model of the right sort of student.”

Apparently Sternberg will keep pushing those co-locations in NYC until the day he moves to Arkansas. The Bloomberg administration has a long list of co-locations that it expects to approve next month.

It is time for de Blasio to assert that the last-minute efforts of Bloomberg’s lame-duck Panel on Educational Policy to give as much space as possible to charter operators will be subject to a moratorium on January 1, when a new day begins for Néw York City

A reader writes:

yes, yes! As a black educator and unfortunately a TFA alum who has now been a teacher for 15 years, I don’t understand why Obama and Booker have embraced this corporate style of reform. I worked tirelessly to elect Obama but I continue to find his governance particularly his stance on education and civil rights disappointing. I will not do the same for Booker and I hope that the teacher’s union does not endorse him. Booker does not have grassroots support, many Newark residents see the destruction he has wreaked on their schools and do not support him. He is the darling of the media and white liberal/moderate crowd as well as hedge funds and business community. We all know that TFA and the privatization movement it has spawned is directly responsible for the decline in the black middle class. Black female educators have been disproportionately impacted by layoffs and “evaluations.” Obama as the first black president and Booker as the heir to this legacy and possible contender for higher office should recognize this and change their position on what’s right for schools before it is too late. They should support public schools, community schools and educators. Sometimes it feels like we (anti-reformers) are screaming at people like Obama and Booker through a sound proof glass door. They can see us, we can see them but they can’t hear us and they won’t open the door because they don’t want to hear the truth.

The politicians won’t rest until they can fire more teachers. John King is their man. He has the system that mo one undestands but that is guaranteed to find some teachers to fire.

The politicians know that if they fire a bunch of teachers, it will surely lead to higher achievement and will close the achievement gap. The fact that it has never happened anywhere doesn’t faze them. What has evidence got to do with it? The important thing is to fire enough teachers to satisfy the politicians.

I have said it before and I will say it again: evaluating teachers by test scores is junk science.

When Sidwell Friends and Fieldston and Exeter do it, then we will know it has merit. Until then, it is politically motivated nonsense.

Yesterday I wrote about the championship chess team at I.S. 318 in Brooklyn, which needs $20,000 to travel to tournaments and remain in competition. The after school funding that keeps the program alive was cut by the New York City Department of Education.

I thought you would enjoy watching the segment on “The Daily Show” when Jon Stewart interviewed the producer and one of the students who are featured in the film.

My favorite moment is when the student, Pobo, says spontaneously, “I love my teachers!” And the audience breaks into applause because they love their teachers too.

John Galvin, the assistant principal at 318 in charge of the chess program, has been reading this blog. John, give us a name and address, and we will do some fund-raising for our chess program.

As this article in the New York Times explains, elementary schoolchildren are frightened by the tests that start this week, based on the Common Core.

The article points out that neither the students nor the teachers are prepared. Some of the material was never taught. “But the standards are so new that many New York schools have yet to fully adopt new curriculums — including reading material, lesson plans and exercises — to match. And the textbook industry has not completely caught up either. State and city officials have urged teachers over the last year to begin working in some elements of new curriculums, and have offered lesson plans and tutorials on official Web sites. But they acknowledge that scores will most likely fall from last year’s levels.”

Merryl Tisch, who head the state Board of Regents, toured a school and heard about how upset the students.

“Believe me, I relate to test anxiety,” she said during a visit last week to the Academy of Arts and Letters in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, one of several schools that city and state education officials visited to express support for the new tests. “We can’t wait,” she said. “We have to just jump into the deep end.”

“We” have to jump into the deep end? No, your child must.

Think about it. As a parent, would you throw your child into the deep end, even if he or she can’t swim?

Opt out.

Teachers often feel powerless in the face of the assaults against their profession. Often they are directed to do things that they know are educational malpractice, and they have no choice but to comply.

The best way to resist is through collective action, like the testing boycott of the Seattle teachers. One person standing alone is admirable but will be fired. What is necessary is for entire faculties to speak as one. Think of the Chicago Teachers Union. Their detractors changed the state law to prevent them from striking, raising the requirement for a strike vote to 75%. Their enemies, organized by Jonah Edelman of the notorious Stand for Children, and paid for by the equity investors of Chicago, thought that 75% would make a strike impossible.

But CTU patiently educated, mobilized, and organized. When the vote came, more than 90% of the members authorized the strike. And the strike was supported by parents, who understood that the teachers were fighting for their children.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us all that mass protests could defeat big money and political power. He taught us not to be afraid. He taught us the power of collective action by the powerless. Together, in concert, when justice is on your side, mass action cannot be defeated.

A new book gathers stories about stories of courage in response to the attacks on teachers and on public education. This article profiles one teacher who organized his colleagues to resist a merit pay plan in New York City. Why resist a plan that would produce more money for teachers? Because it would harm students.

If all of us showed courage whenever possible, if all of us worked together to alert the public to educational malpractice, we could stop it.

Oh, and the merit pay plan that the city designed and implemented, the one described in the link? It failed and was canceled after a three-year trial and more than $50 million wasted.

While I was watching the television coverage of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, an ad came on that was very upsetting. Sponsored by StudentsFirst ad, it was a typically deceptive TV ad depicting teachers and parents who demand that teachers be evaluated by test scores. It implies that teachers are slackers and need a swift kick to get to work. If they are evaluated, they claim, this will have a revolutionary effect on the schools.

Showing this anti-teacher ad at this moment in time was utterly tasteless. Just as we are watching stories about teachers and a principal and school psychologist who were gunned down protecting little children, we have to see this tawdry ad. Given the timing, it is political pornography.

The ad is meretricious. It does not mention that the city published the names and ratings of thousands of teachers a year ago, generating anger and controversy, not any wonderful transformation. The ratings a year ago were rife with error, but all that is now forgotten in the new push to get tough with teachers.

Who are those teachers and parents in the ad with no last names? Are they paid actors? If they believe what they say, why no last names? Why no school names?

Does StudentsFirst know that most of New York City’s charter schools have refused to submit to the teacher evaluation system? May we expect to see a TV attack ad demanding that charter schools adopt the same test-based evaluation system that Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg want? Or is it only for public schools?

Andrea Gabor wrote an excellent post providing the context for ad and the stand-off between the New York City United Federation of Teachers and the city (and state). She writes:

“Governor Cuomo has threatened to withhold funding if the city and the union cannot come to an agreement by January. And Mayor Bloomberg has said that he would rather lose the money than compromise on the evaluations.

“The StudentsFirst ad and the mayor’s tough talk highlight one of several problems with the teacher-evaluation debate. While employee evaluations work when they are part of a system-wide effort at continuous improvement, they are often counterproductive when used as a cudgel against employees.

The cheerful-sounding teachers in the StudentsFirst ad not withstanding, everything about the teacher-evaluation debate has been framed in punitive terms.”

Not only has the debate been framed in punitive terms, but as Gabor points out, VAM is rife with technical issues. As I have written repeatedly on this blog, VAM is so inaccurate and unstable that it is junk science. And as Bruce Baker has written again and again, teachers with the neediest students are likely to get worse ratings than those with “easier” students.

No wonder charter schools in New York City refuse to submit their teacher ratings.

The issue now is whether the governor and the mayor, with the help of StudentsFirst, can beat the union into agreeing to a process for evaluating teachers that is demonstrably harmful and demoralizing to its members, that does nothing to improve education, and that is guaranteed to waste many millions of dollars.

Frankly, StudentsFirst should have had the decency to stop their attacks on public school teachers until the public had gotten over the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. At long last, have they no decency?

*UPDATE: Micah Lasher of StudentsFirstNY informed that the organization asked the city’s television stations on Monday morning to pull the ad, in light of the tragedy. I saw it on CNN or MSNBC on Monday night. Someone goofed. I appreciate the clarification.

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