Archives for category: New York City

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education, wrote “a short history” of the rise and meteoric fall of Seth Andrews. He founded a no-excuses charter chain called Democracy Prep, which received adulatory praise from the media and millions of dollars in grants from foundations and the federal government. He moved in the top Ed reform circles. He knew all the key players. He was one of them.

After Andrews invited Leonie to tour his charter school, she wrote:

I found him an intriguing character, obsessively throwing a rubber ball against the wall while we walked through the halls of the school, and never taking off his baseball hat though the network had a rigid dress code for students, who were forbidden to wear hats, wear the wrong color socks or the wrong kind of belt.  When we were touring the school, he stopped one student in the hall and berated her for having her Uggs showing. I wondered how long he would last at his own charter school before being suspended or pushed out.  I later learned that his baseball hat was something of a calling card for Seth, and it is even mentioned in the indictment document.

Democracy Prep  is a “no excuses” charter chain, known for its strict disciplinary practices and high attrition rates.  I questioned him about their demerit system which called for keeping students after school for small lapses of behavior, to sit in a room silently, without being able to read or do homework.

But then he was arrested for embezzlement of more than $200,000 from the bank accounts of the charter he founded. His schools were allegedly teaching civic virtue. He is not an exemplar of civic virtue, nor of following the rigid rules he set for his students.

Leonie Haimson assesses Bill de Blasio’s record on education after eight years as Maor of New York City. He succeeded Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who served for 12 years and completely upended the schools, first, by getting the state legislature to give the mayor total control of the city’s public schools, then by closing scores of schools and replacing them with hundreds of small schools and charter schools. De Blasio had served on a local school board and offered the hope of restoring stability and ending Bloomberg’s era of constant disruption. (New York City has a two-term limit for its mayor but Bloomberg persuaded the City Council to make an exception for him and themselves).

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, reviews de Blasio’s record here.

She begins:

When he first ran for Mayor, Bill de Blasio portrayed himself as a leader who would make a host of progressive changes in our schools. He promised to be a far different leader than Michael Bloomberg, who had expanded high-stakes testing, proceeded to grade teachers and schools primarily via test scores, closed dozens of public schools displacing thousands of students, and helped charter schools expand in their place.

Bloomberg and his schools chancellors had done all this by ignoring community opposition, and despite any tangible evidence that this was the right way to improve education, particularly for disadvantaged students. Though Bloomberg had promised during his campaign to lower New York City schools’ excessive class sizes, they increased sharply during his administration, and by the time he left office he said he would “double the class size” if he could, and that would be “a good deal for the students.”

De Blasio said he would do things differently: to listen to and be responsive to parent and community concerns, de-emphasize test scores, and focus on improving public schools rather than providing space and funding to help charter schools expand. Instead of closing schools, he pledged to increase equity and strengthen learning conditions, including by lowering class sizes.

And yet his record on each of these issues was decidedly mixed. He did attain his primary goal in education – to provide universal, publicly-funded pre-kindergarten to every four-year-old, but in a manner that could have been better achieved, as will be discussed later.

There were some bright spots in the de Blasio record, including the Community Schools initiative, begun in the fall of 2014, in which schools partnered with community-based organizations to provide after-school programs, mental health supports, and other resources. By 2018, more than 200 community schools had been established. An independent study found that in these schools, there were lower rates of chronic absenteeism, more students graduating on time, and in elementary and middle schools, higher math scores and fewer disciplinary referrals.

Open the link to read the rest of this important article.

This statement by a student was published anonymously at Reddit. He wanted to explain what is happening in his school in regards to COVID. The situation, as he puts it, is “beyond control.” There are many absences, students as well as teachers. There is very little learning going on. The writer makes clear that he hates remote learning, but given the conditions in the school, he thinks remote learning is preferable to no learning.

The article has created quite a buzz. It has thus far received more than 5,000 comments, mostly from other students, reporting on their schools, but also from teachers. Meanwhile, the new Mayor, Eric Adams, assures the public that all is well.

The statement begins like this:

I’d like to preface this by stating that remote learning was absolutely detrimental to the mental health of myself, my friends, and my peers at school. Despite this, the present conditions within schools necessitates a temporary return to remote learning; if not because of public health, then because of learning loss.

A story of my day:

– I arrived at school and promptly went to Study Hall. I knew that some of my teachers would be absent because they had announced it on Google Classroom earlier in the day. At our school there is a board in front of the auditorium with the list of teachers and seating sections for students within study hall: today there were 14 absent teachers 1st period. There are 11 seatable sections within the auditorium … THREE CLASSES sat on the stage. Study hall has become a super spreader event — I’ll get to this in a moment.

– Second period I had another absent teacher. More of the same from 1st period. It was around this time that 25% of kids, including myself, realized that there were no rules being enforced outside of attendance at the start of the period, and that cutting class was ridiculously easy. We left — there was functionally no learning occurring within study hall, and health conditions were safer outside of the auditorium. It was well beyond max capacity.

Open the link and read the rest.

Some schools are managing very well with in-person learning. Others are not. Schools cannot make up for “learning loss” if there is no instruction going on.

An important point to bear in mind. For everyone, this is an unprecedented time. We are in the midst of a global pandemic. None of us has lived through one before. No one knows what will happen a week or a month or six months from now. We follow the science, protect health and life as best we can, don’t take risks, and hope it ends soon. Odds are COVID will become less virulent, manageable with vaccines, and fade into the long list of diseases from which we must protect ourselves. Maybe next winter, the doctors will remind us to get a flu shot and a COVID shot. Meanwhile, we do the best we can.

This message came from an educator who studies racial equity:

From: Being Blackatkipp <beingbipocatkipp@gmail.com>

Subject:Being Black at KIPP


To whom it may concern,

BeingblackatKIPP is an Instagram account that was created in the wake of the George Floyd social reckoning. During this time, I was empowered to also seek change in the KIPP network of public charter schools. I had witnessed first hands for many years how white supremacy culture and politics were deeply engrained in this network. I knew from my own experience how policies that aimed to police black and brown bodies and create distrust among the community re-traumatized the very groups of people KIPP claimed to serve.

Once the Instagram page launched the accounts of abuse, racism, and discrimination began to pour in from all corners of the country.

Most recently we have been covering a situation that took place in KIPP NYC. KIPP NYC has a long history of abuse against children that is well known in the alumni community but has received little to no media coverage. Most recently Jesus Concepcion was arrested by the FBI for sexual assault of minors while he was the orchestra teacher under David Levin in the KIPP Academy school in the Bronx. Many previous students alleged that and other leaders knew of Mr. Conceptions’ behavior as he was allowed to have a private bedroom attached to the music room where girls would often be taken to. It has taken 20 years for justice to reach those kids.

Today, in 2021 history is repeating itself in KIPP NYC. This month Cesar Sanchez a decorated science teacher at the KIPP Washington Heights campus was arrested for sexual misconduct towards a minor. What’s most alarming is that Cesar had previously been suspended for misconduct with a student. The principal at his school Danny Swersky had also been suspended for failing to report the misconduct. Both men were allowed to come back to the school where Cesar allegedly continued to groom and abuse middle school girls. On the Instagram page, we have posted voice recordings as well as first-hand written accounts of things Cesar would do to his middle school students. He would notice a child without a bra in a tank top and have the class do jumping jacks as students notice him become visibly “excited”. He would follow students on snap chat, a social platform famous for disappearing messages to further manipulate students in secrecy. He would touch himself in front of students. One student even alleged he asked her if she had her nipples pierced and also showed his nipple tattoo to students. All this was going on, despite other staff allegedly alerting the principal of his behavior. Their concerns fell to deaf ears.

KIPP has a strong clique/mob mentality. Once you are in with leadership you can do no wrong. Cesar was married to another KIPP principal who used to work with his current principal Danny Swersky. The conflict of interest influenced the situation and kept Cesar employed until the police were involved.

Please take time to review the evidence on the beingblackatkipp page on Instagram. This story deserved to be investigated, This community deserves justice and children should not have to be anxious for their return to school. While Cesar has been arrested, the principal who allegedly failed to report him is still set to lead in that school. Our communities deserve better.

I thank you for your time and consideration.

Happy New Year.

Gary Rubinstein, a math teacher at Stuyvesant High School, has no patience for overblown claims. For a few years, he maintained a website devoted to debunking the spurious claims of “miracle schools,” such as those that claimed 100% graduation rates of their seniors but neglected to admit the high attrition that occurred before senior year.

He inevitably had to review the chain called Eagle Academy, which was founded by David Banks, who is Mayor-elect Eric Adams’ choice to be Chancellor of the New York City public schools. The Eagle Academy has six schools, one in each of the city’s five boroughs, and one in Newark.

Gary reviewed public records for the data, and he wondered why none of the city’s media had done what he did.

He writes:

Before Eric Adams was the next mayor of New York City, he was the borough president of Brooklyn. In that capacity, he worked with David Banks to create ‘The Brooklyn Nine’ where Banks would share some of the best practices from Eagle Academy to improve nine schools in Brooklyn. There is a short documentary about Eagle Academy on HBO currently called ‘The Infamous Future’ , similar to Waiting For Superman, made a few years ago in which Eric Adams says that the practices of Eagle Academy should be used in more schools so that they become ‘The Brooklyn 90’ and then ‘The Brooklyn 900′ and eventually the entire school system can replicate the success of Banks’ Eagle Academies. So this gives us some idea of what to expect in the next 4 or 8 years with Adams as Mayor and Banks as Chancellor.

Gary Rubinstein writes here about the new leadership of the New York City Department of Education.

He begins:

Eric Adams will become the next Mayor of New York City on January 1st. He will hire David Banks as the new schools Chancellor. And Banks will bring in Dan Weisberg as his top deputy.

Dan Weisberg

Unfortunately Dan Weisberg is one of the most dangerous people in the country who could rise to be the second highest ranking administrator in New York City…

In the article from Chalkbeat, NY, Alex Zimmerman tries hard to sugarcoat the background of this controversial pick. He writes:

He has tapped Dan Weisberg — who runs an organization focused on teacher quality and handled labor issues under Mayor Michael Bloomberg — to be his top deputy. That move is likely to raise eyebrows with the city’s teachers union, which has previously clashed with Weisberg.

So what is this “organization focused on teacher quality”? Well it is TNTP which once stood for The New Teacher Project. TNTP was founded by Michelle Rhee in 1997. What started out as a Teach For America type program for training career changers to become teachers quickly became an education reform propaganda organization. In 2009 they got into funding ‘research’ and their first publication was called ‘The Widget Effect’ which argued the benefits of merit pay for teachers based on standardized test scores. This publication is still often quoted despite very shoddy statistical practices. Dan Weisberg was the lead author of ‘The Widget Effect.’ More recently they put out something called “The Opportunity Myth” about how most teachers have low expectations because they do activities that don’t completely adhere to the researcher’s interpretation of the Common Core Standards.

Fifteen years ago there were plenty of Michelle Rhee type reformers in leadership positions in school districts around the country. As that brand of reform failed to deliver results, those reformers took positions in think tanks where they could make a lot more money but where they would not have such direct power over school systems.

Back in the Bloomberg/Klein days, people like Weisberg would celebrate judicial rulings where parents would fight to not have their children’s schools shut down. Charter schools, in the wake of ‘Waiting For Superman’, were supposedly proving that all you needed to turn around a school was to staff them with non-unionized teachers. Teacher bashing was all the rage, they even had their own Walton funded movie flop ‘Won’t Back Down.’

But things are different now. Reformers are not as brazen as they once were. The charter bubble has burst a bit, though Bloomberg has $750 million that says he can revive it. But it will be hard. With the failures of projects like The Achievement District in Tennessee, it will a a tougher sell to say that we need to replicate their accomplishments. Back in the day, there would be so much talk of charters that were beating the odds with 100% graduation rates or 100% college acceptance rates. Those stores were debunked so often that even The74 hardly runs stories like that anymore. Does anyone know whatever happened to KIPP? The only charter chain that can even claim to get good test scores is Success Academy, and even reformers hardly like to talk about them since they boot (or discourage from enrolling) so many kids who might bring down their precious test scores.

So where does a teacher basher fit into the current system? As a New York City teacher with two kids in the system, I’m a bit scared to find out.

Gary follows up with anti-teacher, anti-union tweets by Weisberg, as well as congratulatory tweets from the hardcore reformers.

Hold on, tight, NYC teachers. You are in for a rough ride.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, is one of the nation’s most persistent advocates of class size reduction. She is the voice of many parents in New York City, who regularly tell pollsters that their number 1 wish for their children is smaller classes. Now that the city’s public schools anticipate a new infusion of funds, Haimson and many parents are pressing to get a commitment from the city to reduce class sizes.

She writes in The Nation:

New York City public schools are often as crushed as the subway during rush hour, with literally thousands of students forced to learn in overstuffed classrooms—sitting side by side, elbows knocking into each other, or sometimes leaning against the wall or resting on a radiator. Even in the age of Covid-19, hallways are so jam-packed it can be hard for students to get to their next class.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way—and, if the city’s mayor and the City Council speaker would pass a crucial piece of legislation limiting class sizes in New York’s public schools, it wouldn’t have to continue. But as the end of the council’s term ticks closer, the two are standing in the way of a popular bill, adding a new and frustrating chapter to a drama that’s been playing out for decades.

New York City parents and educators have been calling for smaller class sizes since at least the 1960s. In 2003, the state’s highest court agreed with them. It concluded that class sizes were too large to provide students with their right, guaranteed by the state Constitution, to a sound basic education. It found that the plaintiffs, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, “presented measurable proof” that New York City schools have “excessive class sizes, and that class size affects learning.” It concluded:“The number of children in these straits is large enough to represent a systemic failure.”

To remedy this and other inequities, the court ordered that the state provide more funding to high-needs districts, and in 2007, the state passed a law requiring New York City to use these funds to lower class size. But then the Great Recession hit, and the full state funding never materialized. Class sizes actually increased.

Today, classes in the city’s public schools are larger than they were in 2003—especially in the early grades. Before the pandemic hit in 2020, more than 330,000 students—roughly a third of the school population—were crammed into classes of 30 or more. On average, classes in the city’s public schools are 15 percent to 30 percent larger than they are in the rest of the state. While both Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio, the city’s most recent mayors, promised to address this critical inequity during their campaigns, both failed to follow through once elected.

Now, the pandemic has brought the perennial problem of class size into sharper focus, as the need for social distancing has made smaller classes more critical than ever. At the same time, Covid-19 has helped bring unprecedented resources that could be used to address the issue: Over the next three years, the city is due to receive an additional $8 billion in federal and state funds for our schools.

The federal funds are meant to help the city improve both the health and safety of the classroom environment—goals that smaller classes could help achieve. The state funds—which amount to $1.3 billion in additional annual aid, due to be phased in over three years—represent the long-overdue fulfillment of the mandate of the CFE case.

Together, these funds represent a remarkable opportunity, one the City Council recognized when it proposed that a substantial portion of them be allocated toward reducing class size. But the mayor balked. So the council’s education chair, Mark Treyger, introduced Int. 2374 in July, a bill that would effectively phase in smaller classes over three years. It would do this by increasing the per student square footage required in classrooms, ranging from about 18 to 26, depending on the grade level and room size.

The legislation currently has 41 cosponsors out of 50 members—a supermajority that could overturn the mayor’s likely veto. Yet the vote on this bill has been delayed by Speaker Corey Johnson, despite the fact that there are fewer than two weeks before the council adjourns for the year and a new one takes over in January.

Read on to review the research supporting the value of class size reduction as the most important and effective reform that schools should enact.

Why is City Council Chair Corey Johnson blocking this crucial measure?

In 1996, a group of Black and Hispanic teachers sued the City of New York for requiring them to pass tests that were, they said, racially discriminatory and not relevant to their work. The city will be required to pay nearly $600 million to the 350 plaintiffs, a sum that might rise to nearly $2 billion. The state was dropped from the lawsuit in 2006, even though it imposed the tests as requirements on the city.

A massive decades-long lawsuit against New York City over the use of two teaching certification tests is winding to a conclusion, with nearly $660 million and pension benefits in damages awarded to plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit claiming the tests were discriminatory against Black and Latino teachers and prevented them from achieving full seniority, pay and benefits.

The city could be further liable for hundreds of millions of dollars more in damages yet to be determined, with an estimated maximum payout of about $1.8 billion for the 4,700 plaintiffs in the Gulino v Board of Education class action suit — in what city officials say is the highest amount of damages that New York City has ever paid.

In 1996, three teachers filed the lawsuit against the city and state education departments, claiming that the mandated certification tests—the National Teacher Examination (NTE) and its successor the Liberal Arts & Sciences Test (LAST)—had a “disparate impact on African-American and Latino test takers.”

White test-takers passed the tests 83.7% of the time while Black test takers passed at 43.9% and Latino test takers passed at 40.3% of the time, according to the complaint.

No matter what subject a New York City teacher taught—whether it was preschool, special education, or athletics—they were required to pass these certification tests, which have been described as covering “scientific, mathematical, and technological processes; historical and social scientific awareness; artistic expression and the humanities; communication and research skills; and written analysis and expression.”

“The test obviously didn’t test anything relevant to the jobs that people were doing or being hired to do. But the city used it in many cases to demote people,” said Joshua Sohn, the plaintiffs’ lead lawyer.

Teachers who didn’t pass were paid less, denied full pension, and many were relegated to substitute status, according to a court brief filed with the Second Circuit of Appeals in 2007: “Even though they never achieved a passing score on the LAST, many teachers continued teaching full-time in the City’s schools for many years, albeit at salaries well below that of their certified colleagues. And those teachers who ultimately achieved a passing score, remained at a salary step level far below that of their colleagues with equivalent seniority in the City school system. In practice then, the City and State used the LAST not to determine whether teachers should be allowed to teach, but rather to determine their level of compensation and benefits.”

Naftuli Moster is the Founder and Executive Director of YAFFED, a nonprofit organization focused on improving secular education in ultra-Orthodox yeshivas. He is a graduate of a New York yeshiva, and he became convinced after he finished that he had been denied a full education. He blames officials in New York City and New York State for ignoring the needs of Yeshiva students to avoid offending politically powerful orthodox Jewish communities.

Moster writes:

Students in many ultra-Orthodox yeshivas face educational neglect. NYSED must stop the delays.

It may sound shocking in this day and age, but many ultra-Orthodox schools in New York are actively violating state law by providing little to no secular instruction in topics like English, math, science, and history—and New York officials have stalled and stymied action to address this educational neglect at every turn.

What started as an allegation by a small group of grassroots activists has since been confirmed by the New York City Department of Education, which found that 26 of the 28 yeshivas they investigated did not meet the minimum standards. Hasidic boys in elementary and middle school receive a maximum of 90 minutes of secular education a day, and in high school they receive none whatsoever. (Girls in these same communities tend to receive more secular education because they are barred from studying Talmud and because they are groomed to be the breadwinner, so their husbands can continue studying Torah.)

After years of considering a proposal to increase oversight of New York’s nonpublic schools—the first real chance at reform since this issue came to the fore in 2015 —the New York State Education Department (NYSED) balked. In May 2021, after intense pressure from private school entities, NYSED quietly disclosed to the Board of Regents that they would be scrapping proposed regulations, which had been under consideration since 2019 and would have increased oversight of the state’s nonpublic schools, ensuring that they provide students with a basic education. New regulations are supposed to be developed this fall, but since they were not discussed in the October Board of Regents monthly meeting, the timeline seems to be delayed once again.

This development is unacceptable. Since the alarm was first sounded about the lack of secular studies in Hasidic yeshivas, leaders of these same schools have taken every opportunity they can to smear advocates and spread misinformation about what really goes on in their institutions. Their tactics have contributed to the years of stalling of any meaningful reforms, leaving students to suffer the consequences of no real secular education, and limited college and career prospects.

And, this student population is on the rise. Our report shows how the Hasidic population only continues to grow, and with that, so does the impact of this issue. Hasidic students already make up 20.5 percent of the nonpublic school students in New York, with over 90,000 students enrolled in Hasidic schools in 2018-2019. In Brooklyn, it is projected that by 2030, 23 to 37 percent of all school-age children will be Hasidic.

This means that each passing year, more students will miss out on a basic education. Many finish their schooling with about the equivalent of a third or fourth-grade education and never learn even basic sciences or history. Where is the equity in that?

Of course, NYSED should follow through and develop meaningful regulations that would enforce subject matter requirements and time allotment standards. But NYSED cannot act as if, in the absence of new regulations, they are powerless to enforce any kind of educational standards. There are long-standing regulations about how to deal with complaints against nonpublic schools in New York. NYSED must use its existing authority to ensure that children attending ultra-Orthodox yeshivas are getting the education to which they are entitled under the New York State Constitution. A new school year is already underway, and there is no time to waste.

It is shameful that NYSED is failing to live up to its self-proclaimed vision to “provide leadership for a system that yields the best educated people in the world” out of fear they might upset private school leadership. The students themselves—the very people that NYSED is supposed to support—are bearing the brunt of this crisis. NYSED must step up to do the job they are entrusted to do, and that taxpayers pay them to do.

Betty Rosa, Commissioner of NYSED, has an opportunity to be a real leader here and ensure strong regulations are adopted. And, while policies are being crafted and revised, she must use NYSED’s existing authority to take any corrective actions necessary against schools that are failing their students. She can leave an indelible mark on New York State education policy, finally putting an end to the injustice ultra-Orthodox students have faced for generations.

On October 27, the New York City Council Committee on Education held a hearing on a bill to reduce class size. The chairman of the committee is Mark Treyger, a former teacher. The city’s Department of Education opposes the bill, based on the strain on facilities (there is never a problem finding space for a new charter school).

I testified in favor of class size reduction, along with Regent Kathy Cashin (a former teacher, principal, and superintendent), as well as a number of parent advocates and Leonie Haimson, CEO of Class Size Matters.

Here is my statement, tailored to fit a 2-minute time limit.

I should have added this additional point.

Some people have said to me, “When I was in school, we had 40 or 50 kids in a class. Why do kids today need classes any smaller.?”

Answer: In those old days, schools operated on the principle of sink or swim. Those who couldn’t keep up either flunked or dropped out. Now we expect all students to finish high school. That can’t happen if class sizes are so large that children who struggle are overlooked.”