Archives for category: New York City

Jan Resseger writes here about the damage that “portfolio districts” do to students, schools, and communities. The original concept for “portfolio districts” was developed by Paul Hill of the Gates-funded Center for Reinventing Public Educatuon at the University of Washington. The fundamental idea was that the school board would act like a stock portfolio manager, closing low-performing schools, replacing them with charter schools, keeping open the schools with high test scores. Students would choose where to go to school. The concept was adopted by many districts as the latest thing, and many beloved neighborhood schools serving black and brown communities were shuttered. If their replacement got low scores, it was also closed. The students were collateral damage.

She writes:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein launched this scheme in New York City by creating district-wide school choice, breaking up large comprehensive high schools into small schools with curricular specialties, encouraging the opening of a large number of charter schools, co-locating many schools—small specialty public schools along with charter schools—into the same buildings.  Those running the school district would consider all of these schools of choice as if they were investments in a stock portfolio. The district would hold on to the successful investments and phase out those whose test scores were low or which families didn’t choose.

Portfolio school reform has created collateral damage across the school districts which have experimented with the idea. After the Chicago Public Schools, another district managed by portfolio school reform theory, closed 50 schools at the end of the 2013 school year, the University of Chicago’s Consortium on School Research, and separately a University of Chicago sociologist, Eve Ewing tracked widespread community grieving when neighborhoods lost the public school institutions that had anchored their neighborhoods.

But there have been other kinds of collateral damage beyond the tragedy of school closures. In a new piece for the NY Times, Eliza Shapiro documents how district-wide school choice in New York City has contributed to inequity along with racial and segregation.

One problem is inequitable access to information. Parents who can afford to pay for consultants and who have the skills and position to understand how to navigate the system are able to privilege their own children with access to the schools widely thought to be desirable.  Shapiro explains: “There is a trick to getting to the front of the lines that clog sidewalks outside New York City’s top public high schools each fall. Parents who pay $200 for a newsletter compiled by a local admissions consultant know that they should arrive hours ahead of the scheduled start time for school tours. On a recent Tuesday, there were about a hundred mostly white parents queued up at 2:30 p.m. in the spitting rain outside of Beacon High School, some toting snacks and even a few folding chairs for the long wait. The doors of the highly selective, extremely popular school would not open for another two hours for the tour. Parents and students who arrived at the actual start time were in for a surprise. The line of several thousand people had wrapped around itself, stretching for three midtown Manhattan blocks.”

Resseger adds:

My own children graduated from a racially and economically diverse public high school in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.  Articles like Shapiro’s cause me to appreciate our family’s privilege in a way I had never really previously considered.  From the time they entered Kindergarten, our children knew they would someday go to the big high school at the corner of Cedar and Lee.  At a week-long summer music camp in our school district, middle school students play side-by-side with some of the members of the high school band and orchestra. Our daughter learned to know the high school tennis coach when he worked with younger students in the city recreation program. And the summer before his high school freshman year, our son, knowing that the high school cross country team worked out in a city park during August, went to the park and asked the coach if he could start working out with the team. High school for our children was a natural, predictable, and exciting transition. How lucky we were.

 

When Jan Resseger writes, she does so with authority and clarity.

In this essay, she explains why she will not vote for Michael Bloomberg, based on his record of disrespecting educators in New York City when he was mayor. Bloomberg as mayor employed all the same principles as No Child Left Behind: testing, accountability, school closings, charter schools, school choice, all based on “the business model.”

She writes:

Michael Bloomberg does have a long education record. Bloomberg served as New York City’s mayor from January of 2002 until December of 2013. In 2002, to accommodate his education agenda, Bloomberg got the state legislature to create mayoral governance of NYC’s public schools. In this role, Michael Bloomberg and his appointed schools chancellor, Joel Klein were among the fathers of what has become a national wave of corporate, accountability-based school reform. Bloomberg is a businessman, and Joel Klein was a very successful attorney. Neither had any experience as an educator. They took aggressive steps to run the NYC school district, with 1.1 million students, like a business. Their innovations included district-wide school choice, rapid expansion of charter schools, co-location of a bunch of small charter and traditional schools into what used to be comprehensive high schools, the phase out and closure of low-scoring schools, evaluation of schools by high stakes standardized test scores, the assignment of letter grades to schools based on their test scores, and a sort of merit pay bonus plan for teachers.

In her 2018 book, After the Education Wars, Andrea Gabor, the New York business journalist and journalism professor, comments on Bloomberg’s educational experiment: “The Bloomberg administration embraced the full panoply of education-reform remedies. It worshiped at the altar of standardized tests and all manner of quantitative analysis. The Bloomberg administration also had a penchant for reorganizations that seemed to create more disruption than continuous improvement among its 1.1 million students and 1,800 schools.” ( After the Education Wars, p. 75)

Gabor describes Bloomberg’s expansion of charter schools: “Harlem, in particular, has become the center of an unintentional educational experiment—one that has been replicated in neighborhoods and cities around the country.  During the Bloomberg years, when close to a quarter of students in the area were enrolled in charter schools, segregation increased, as did sizable across-the-board demographic disparities among the students who attended each type of school. An analysis of Bloomberg-era education department data revealed that public open-enrollment elementary and middle schools have double—and several have triple—the proportion of special needs kids of nearby charter schools. The children in New York’s traditional public schools are much poorer than their counterparts in charter schools. And public schools have far higher numbers of English language learners… In backing charter schools Bloomberg and other advocates pointed to one clear benefit: charters, it was widely accepted, would increase standardized test scores. However, years of studies showed little difference between the test-score performance of students in charter schools and those in public schools.” After the Education Wars, p. 95)

And there is more. Open the link and read it to understand why the “business model” did not work.

Almost 90% of American students attend public schools, subject to democratic control. 6% of American students are enrolled in privately managed charter schools. Under the leadership of Betsy DeVos, it is obvious that the promotion of both charters and vouchers is central to the education policy of the Trump administration.

Two Democratic senators who are candidates for president, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have released education plans that recommend an end to federal support for charter schools (currently $440 million), which DeVos has handed out to corporate charter chains like IDEA and KIPP.

Senator Cory Booker, having equivocated during the campaign about his previous zealous support for charters, vouchers, and Betsy DeVos, surprisingly reversed course and wrote an article in the New York Times, once again stating his support for charters.

Since Senator Booker is polling at less than 2% in the primaries, he may be looking past the election to restore his relationship with his funders, who love charter schools and were disappointed by his apparent defection from their cause.

Leonie Haimson writes here about Senator Booker’s curious use of the word “boogeyman” to belittle critics of charter schools.

She notes that reporters at the New York Times have also used that term to belittle charter critics. Then she googled and found that the same word has been used by charter defenders thousands of times.

Haimson points out that charters in NYC divert more than $2 billion each year from the public school system. That money might have been spent to meet crucial capital needs and to reduce class sizes.

Also, Senator Booker did not mention that the national NAACP passed a resolution in 2016 calling for a moratorium on charters.

There are many reasons to be critical of charters, including their diversion of funding from public schools, their private governance, their long and well-documented record of waste, fraud, and abuse.

To dismiss all criticism of charters as a fear of a boogeyman is cynical, to say the least, and serves only the interests of the charter industry.

 

 

New York City’s Department of Education launched a new initiative with old and failed ideas: more testing for schools with low scores.

Liat Olenick, a teacher of science in elementary school in the city, explains why more testing is a very bad idea. She says smaller classes would be far more valuable and effective.

Gary Rubinstein read a story in the local Rupert Murdoch newspaper saluting Eva Moskowitz’s charter chain for its high SAT scores, but then noticed how many students were in the senior class. (Billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch is a multimillion-dollar donor to the  Success Academy charter chain.)

What school advertises its SAT scores? Success Academy!

Gary noticed that of the students who started in second grade, nearly 70% did not make it to the senior year.

He writes:

The New York Post recently ran an editorial about the SAT scores of the Success Academy senior class of 2020.  Of all the different numbers they referenced, one that I took note of was 114 — the apparent number of students in the senior class.

The class of 2020 is the third graduating class of Success Academy.  The class of 2018 had 17 seniors out of a cohort of 73 first graders in 2006-2007.  The class of 2019 had 26 seniors out of a cohort of 83 kindergartners in 2006-2007.  Some of the class of 2019 were students who had been held back from the class of 2018 — probably in a comparable number to the number of 2019 students who will graduate this year.  So the 26 out of 83, or 31% persistence rate probably accounts for students who take an extra year to graduate.

For the class of 2020, things get a bit more complicated since in 2008 Success Academy did its first expansion and grew from one school, now called Harlem 1, into four schools now including Harlem 2, Harlem 3, and Harlem 4.  Some of the past records are incomplete for these schools, but when the 2020 cohort was in 2nd grade in 2009-2010, I find that there was a combined 353 students in the cohort.  By 6th grade, they were down to 263 students and by 9th grade it was 191.  In 10th grade they were 161 students and in 11th grade, 146.  And now, according to the New York Post article based on a Success Academy press release, they have 114 seniors.  So only 32% of the students who were there in second grade made it through their program.

Better test scores through attrition, a surefire formula for success!

I have had a long-running exchange with a wealthy pundit who gives six-figure amounts to Success Academy. He says they have found the secret sauce for educating all children in the New York City public schools, and for all schools everywhere. I ask him what should be done about the majority of students they accept who don’t survive. He seems to think they don’t matter. Only the strong survive. Or deserve to survive.

Today in the New York Times, columnist Charles Blow wrote a scathing critique of Bloomberg, based on his “stop and frisk” policy.

He wrote:

Let me plant the stake now: No black person — or Hispanic person or ally of people of color — should ever even consider voting for Michael Bloomberg in the primary. His expansion of the notoriously racist stop-and-frisk program in New York, which swept up millions of innocent New Yorkers, primarily young black and Hispanic men, is a complete and nonnegotiable deal killer.

Stop-and-frisk, pushed as a way to get guns and other contraband off the streets, became nothing short of a massive, enduring, city-sanctioned system of racial terror…

In 2002, the first year Bloomberg was mayor, 97,296 of these stops were recorded. They surged during Bloomberg’s tenure to a peak of 685,724 stops in 2011, near the end of his third term. Nearly 90 percent of the people who were stopped and frisked were innocent of any wrongdoing.

A New York Times analysis of stops on “eight odd blocks” in the overwhelmingly black neighborhood of Brownsville in Brooklyn found close to 52,000 stops over four years, which averaged out to “nearly one stop a year for every one of the 14,000 residents of these blocks.”

In 2009, there were more than 580,000 stop-and-frisks, a record at the time. Of those stopped, 55 percent were black, 32 percent Hispanic and only 10 percent white. Most were young, and almost all were male. Eighty-eight percent were innocent. For reference, according to the Census Bureau, there were about 300,000 black men between the ages of 13 and 34 living in the city that year.

Not only that, but those who were stopped had their names entered into a comprehensive police database, even if they were never accused of committing a crime. As Donna Lieberman, then the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in 2010, the database became a place “where millions of completely innocent, predominantly black and Latinos have been turned into permanent police suspects.”

The state outlawed the keeping of these electronic records on the innocent, over the strong objections of Bloomberg and his police chief…

Bloomberg’s crime argument was dubious. The Columbia Law School professor Jeffrey Fagan produced a report that became part of a class-action lawsuit against the city in 2010. It found that: “[s]eizures of weapons or contraband are extremely rare. Overall, guns are seized in less than 1 percent of all stops: 0.15 percent … Contraband, which may include weapons but also includes drugs or stolen property, is seized in 1.75 percent of all stops.”

As Fagan wrote, “The N.Y.P.D. stop-and-frisk tactics produce rates of seizures of guns or other contraband that are no greater than would be produced simply by chance…”

A federal judge ruled in 2013 that New York’s stop-and-frisk tactics violated the constitutional rights of racial minorities, calling it a “policy of indirect racial profiling.”

Yet, a little over a month before that ruling, Bloomberg said on a radio show, “I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little.” 

 

Chalkbeat reports that New York City will require the MAP test for 76 low-performing schools three times a year, in addition to the mandated state tests and interim assessments. This is the beginning of the city’s new plan to add a new barrage of tests. A spokesman for the department said the new test is not a test, it’s actually instruction.

This reminds me of the historic Garfield High School boycott of 2013, when the entire school staff refused to give the MAP, a computer-based test, because it was not aligned with their curriculum and they considered it a waste of time. The teachers won.

This decision suggests that the New York City Department of Education has no new ideas, and the Mayor and Chancellor Carranza are adding new tests because they can’t think of anything else to do.

 

Leonie Haimson and her colleagues Patrick Nevada and Emily Carrazana of Class Size Matters released a report on the cost that New York City pays for charter school facilities, even for richly endowed charters like Success Academy. The city is now spending more than $100 million a year to pay the rent for charters. This includes almost $15 million a year paying for rent where the charter or its management organization is the landlord!

In 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo advanced legislation that required the City to pay the rent for charter schools in private buildings when the city was unable to provide suitable space in public school buildings. At the time, he declared himself the champion of charter schools, which helped him raise campaign funds on Wall Street. Charter students are 4% of the state’s students, and 10% in the City.

Here is the press release:

On Monday, October 21, Class Size Matters released a new report revealing how the NYC Department of Education has spent more than $377 million on charter school facility costs from FY 2014 to FY 2019.  This amount includes both matching funds for facility upgrades for public schools, co-located with charter schools that spent more than $5000 for this purpose, and on paying the rent for new and expanding charter schools in private space. Nearly $15 million of that total since FY 2015 was spent by DOE to help charter schools to help pay for their space, even though their buildings are owned by their Charter Management Organization, affiliated foundation or LLC.

In FY 2019, DOE spent about $25 million last year on matching funds to public schools co-located with charter schools.  Yet between FY 2014 and FY 2019, more than $22 million in charter school expenditures on facility upgrades were not matched in 175 public schools that shared their buildings, according to spreadsheets provided by DOE, in apparent contradiction to astate law passed in 2010. By FY 2019, only one third of co-located DOE schools received their full complement of matching funds.  

The two schools which experienced the largest shortfalls were both District 75 schools that serve students with serious disabilities: Mickey Mantle School (M811), located in two sites in Harlem, which lacked $1.5 million, and P.S 368 (K368), located  in two sites in Brooklyn, which lacked about $1.2 million. All four sites are co-located with different branches of the Success Academy Charter schools.

Mindy Rosier is the UFT chapter delegate from Mickey Mantle School, which enrolls students with multiple disabilities, including autism, emotional/behavioral difficulties and/or significant language and communication disorders.  As Mindy pointed out, “The $1.5 million in matching funds for facility upgrades would have been incredibly helpful to our school.  Our District 3 site needs new wiring, since the internet is very slow, and much of our curriculum is online. Our site in District 4 needs new bathrooms and water fountains, and nine classrooms out of ten badly need repainting.”

The DOE currently holds leases for 12 private buildings that house 15 charter schools, with a cost to the city of $17.1 million during FY 2019 alone. In addition, there are 88 charter schools that receive a per student “lease subsidy” to help pay for their own private space, which has increased by 72 percent since FY 2017. In 2019, DOE was projected to spend about $83.6 million in lease subsidies for charter schools, with an estimated $50 million of that total reimbursed by the state.

By analyzing property records, charter school financial reports, and sales records, the authors found that the payments made by DOE included $14.8 million for eight charter schools which are housed in buildings owned by related parties of these schools, that is, their own Charter Management Organization or an affiliated LLC or foundation.  

For example, DOE provided lease subsidies of $2.2 million in FY 2019 for two Success Academy charter schools even though the Success CMO owns their space in the Hudson Yards complex on the west side of Manhattan, reportedly the most expensive real estate development in US history. In another case, the city paid $461,965 in lease subsidies in FY 2019 towards the rental costs of Beginning with Children II charter school, despite the fact that the Beginning with Children Foundation bought this Brooklyn building for only ten dollars in 2017 from the Pfizer Corporation. More examples are provided in the report.

Carol Burris, Executive Director of the Network for Public Education said: “It is outrageous that the taxpayers of New York City and the state are required to pay $2.2 million a year to house two Success Academy charter schools located in a building in the Hudson Yards that the Success Academy Charter Management Organization owns. And Success is not alone. This report documents eight charter schools for which taxpayers are footing the facilities bill in buildings owned by the charters themselves or affiliated organizations. The Network for Public Education has studied all of the various charter laws and their loopholes.  I have never seen any other that requires the district to cover the costs of private facilities like this one does. One wonders whether this is about educating children or building a real estate empire at taxpayer expense.” 

NYC has more than 500,000 students in overcrowded public-school buildings, as well as class sizes far higher on average than classes in the rest of the state.  Yet we are also the only district obligated to cover the cost of private space for charter schools, or offer them space in public school buildings,said Leonie Haimson, one of the co-authors of the report. “The cost of providing space for charter schools in private buildings has risen sharply over the last five years.  If the current trend continues, the amount spent annually may soon exceed the cost of the payments that the city spends to finance the construction of new public schools.”  

Concluded Diane Ravitch, celebrated education historian, “The findings of this report, if validated, should shock the conscience of the Governor and Legislature.  They should amend the law as soon as possible so that the city is no longer forced to subsidizethe acquisition of private space by charter schools, even as our public schools continue to be badly underfunded and overcrowded. “

The powerpoint can be downloaded here.

The document can be downloaded here.

Jeff Bryant writes here about the billionaires who corrupted the school leadership pipeline. Chief among them, of course, is billionaire Eli Broad, who created an unaccredited training program as a fast track for urban superintendents.

Bryant has collected stories about how superintendents who passed through the Broad program hire other graduates of the program and do business with others who are part of their network. The ethical breaches are numerous. The self-dealing and the stench of corruption is powerful.

Bryant begins with the story of a phone call from Eli Broad to one of his graduates:

It’s rare when goings-on in Kansas City schools make national headlines, but in 2011 the New York Times reported on the sudden departure of the district’s superintendent John Covington, who resigned unexpectedly with only a 30-day notice. Covington, who had promised to “transform” the long-troubled district, “looked like a silver bullet” for all the district’s woes, according to the Los Angeles Times. He had, in a little more than two years, quickly set about remaking the district’s administrative staff, closing nearly half the schools, revamping curriculum, and firing teachers while hiring Teach for America recruits.

The story of Covington’s sudden departure caught the attention of coastal papers no doubt because it perpetuated a common media narrative about hard-charging school leaders becoming victims of school districts’ supposed resistance to change and the notoriously short tenures of superintendents.

Although there may be some truth to that narrative, the main reason Covington left Kansas City was not because he was pushed out by job stress or an obstinate resistance. He left because a rich man offered him a job.

Following the reporting by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times about Covington’s unexpected resignation, news emerged from the Kansas City Star that days after he resigned, he took a position as the first chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan, a new state agency that, according to Michigan Radio, sought “radical” leadership to oversee low-performing schools in Detroit.

But at the time of Covington’s departure, it seemed no outlet could have described the exact circumstances under which he was lured away. That would come out years later in the Kansas City Star where reporter Joe Robertson described a conversation with Covington in which he admitted that squabbles with board members “had nothing to do” with his departure. What caused Covington’s exit, Robertson reported, was “a phone call from Spain.”

That call, Covington told Robertson, was what led to Covington’s departure from Kansas City—because it brought a message from billionaire philanthropist and major charter school booster Eli Broad. “John,” Broad reportedly said, “I need you to go to Detroit.”

It wasn’t the first time Covington, who was a 2008 graduate of a prestigious training academy funded through Broad’s foundation (the Broad Center), had come into contact with the billionaire’s name and clout. Broad was also the most significant private funder of the new Michigan program he summoned Covington to oversee, providing more than $6 million in funding from 2011 to 2013, according to the Detroit Free Press.

But Covington’s story is more than a single instance of a school leader doing a billionaire’s bidding. It sheds light on how decades of a school reform movement, financed by Broad and other philanthropists and embraced by politicians and policymakers of all political stripes, have shaped school leadership nationwide.

Charter advocates and funders—such as Broad, Bill Gates, some members of the Walton Family Foundation, John Chubb, and others who fought strongly for schools to adopt the management practices of private businesses—helped put into place a school leadership network whose members are very accomplished in advancing their own careers and the interests of private businesses while they rankle school boards, parents, and teachers.

Covington’s tenure at the Education Achievement Authority in Michigan was a disaster, and the EAA itself was a disaster that has been closed down.

Bryant compares the Broad superintendents to a cartel.

The actions of these leaders are often disruptive to communities, as school board members chafe at having their work undermined, teachers feel increasingly removed from decision making, and local citizens grow anxious at seeing their taxpayer dollars increasingly redirected out of schools and classrooms and into businesses whose products and services are of questionable value.

In fact, Broad superintendents have a very poor track record. They excel at disruption and alienating parents and teachers by their autocratic style. Despite their boasts, they don’t know how to improve education. They are not even skilled at management.

What they do best is advance themselves and make lucrative connections with related businesses owned by Broadie cronies.

 

Chalkbeat reports on a meeting in New York City where educators gathered to learn about the XQ-Robin Hood competition for “innovative” schools. First they watched a flashy video claiming that American high schools haven’t changed in 100 years, the usual disrupter claptrap. Then, after hearing that schools are obsolete, they were urged to reinvent them.

But XQ and education department officials included few specifics about what problems the city is hoping these schools will help solve, what future jobs they should be preparing students for, or the criteria that will be used to pick the winners. (Education historians have also disputed the idea that schools haven’t changed at all in the past century.)

Little has been said about where the new schools, 10 of which will be high schools, could be housed or how many students they will serve. Many educators in attendance said they were just learning about the competition for the first time and expressed interest in addressing basic needs, such as more social services and better support for students with disabilities — a contrast with much of the event’s rhetoric about reinventing school.

In the linked article, Historian Jack Schneider scoffed at the idea that high schools have been static for a century and are waiting for a billionaire to redesign them:

A century ago, teachers were largely untrained and oversaw very large classes in which rote memorization was the rule. Students brought their own books from home and the curriculum varied from school to school. Courses like zoology and technical drawing were common and classical languages still maintained a strong foothold. Students of color, when educated, were largely denied equal access, and special education did not exist. It was a different world.”

XQ is offering “only” $500,000 to reinvent the American high school, which is cheap-o because the last time XQ (Billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs) held a competition, she offered $10 million to the winners of her competition. Four have already failed. If they couldn’t reinvent the high school with $10 million, how does she expect NYC educators to do it for $500,000?

XQ offers advice about how to build a team for your innovative school. Only one educator needed.

Here is an innovative idea for Mrs. Jobs. Open a private school with no tuition. Demonstrate your best, most innovative ideas. Show the world the results of your innovation. Do you have any innovative ideas?