Archives for category: New York City

If you recall, Eva Moskowitz was locked in a fierce battle with Mayor de Blasio and the City of New York over a pre-kindergarten program. The city said that the Success Academy charter chain could not have $700,000 in funding unless it signed the city contract, giving the city the right to oversee the program. Eva refused to sign the contract. She said that the city had no power over her charter schools, and that she should get the money without signing the contract. She sued the city, and the city won in court. Thirteen other charter schools signed the city’s contract without complaint.

But all was not lost. Eva still had a powerful friend in Albany: Governor Cuomo. It turns out that in the closing moments of the legislative session, Eva got what she wanted.

The New York Times reported today:

What the Success Academy charter school network could not get through the courts or from the New York State Education Department, it may get from the governor: the ability to run prekindergarten programs without oversight from New York City.

In the final hours of the legislative session this summer, as Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Assembly were pushing to get mayoral control of the city’s schools extended, the Republican-controlled Senate demanded some concessions for charter schools. It introduced a vague provision that appeared to grant the charter schools committee of the State University of New York’s board of trustees new powers to regulate the charter schools it oversees. Charter school supporters claimed that the provision would allow SUNY to waive requirements that limit the number of uncertified teachers that charter schools can employ.

But it turns out that the Senate Republicans, who have received substantial support from wealthy charter school supporters, had other goals in mind, as well.

In a letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo dated June 20, and not previously reported, the Senate majority leader, John J. Flanagan, wrote that the intent of the provision “was to provide SUNY with statutory authority to exempt charter schools from rules and regulations that were hampering innovative teaching and learning.”

He urged Mr. Cuomo to direct the SUNY Charter Schools Institute — the administrative entity that supports the work of the charter schools committee — to act quickly to take advantage of the provision. (Mr. Cuomo effectively controls the institute and the committee because he appoints a majority of the SUNY trustees.) Specifically, Mr. Flanagan said that SUNY should give teachers at its charter schools some time to get certified. He also asked that SUNY do something to help charter schools get space in public school buildings.

And Mr. Flanagan said that SUNY should do something about the problem of New York City’s universal prekindergarten program. “There are high-performing charters that have opted out of this program, because the regulatory burden imposed by the N.Y.C.D.O.E. was too high,” Mr. Flanagan wrote, referring to the city’s Education Department.

In fact, there is only one charter school leader who has opted out of the program after a major battle with the de Blasio administration: Success Academy’s founder, Eva S. Moskowitz.

Lesson: Whatever Eva wants, Eva gets.

This is a letter that I received:

I have been following you for the last 10 years and am in awe of your continued efforts to turn public education in the right direction.

I read your article this morning about a teacher who had had enough.

It could have been my story.

I am a retired NYC Department of Education pre-k teacher in an under represented community. I taught pre-k for 16 consecutive years in the same school. I was fortunate that I was able to introduce many innovative programs to support my students not just in academics but the more important social/emotional piece that schools often neglect.

I brought to my classroom American Sign Language, Yoga, Mindfulness, Cooking and Baking, Caterpillars into Butterflies and as much art and music as I could fit in a day.

My students thrived. Sadly, each year it became more and more difficult to protect my students from the “rigor” and academic push for 3 and 4 year olds.

This past year, I was evaluated by not just my supervisors but from NYC Instructional Coordinators, a Social Worker who came once a month and no longer worked with students and their families, but was there to teach me classroom management, and an Educational Coach who came to help me learn how to better assess my students.

In addition, NYC has contracted ECERS:

Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale.

The Instructional Coordinators returned to review the ECERS report on the premise of helping me attain a better rating the next year. They removed my television which I used to play videos for yoga and ASL for my students so they could see children their own age doing yoga and ASL.

They said ECERS did not allow more than 20 minutes a week for technology.

I tried to explain that the television was not technology but the television was removed.

They removed my oven because they believed it to be dangerous.

They removed my students yoga cushions because they said they were not sanitary despite the fact that they had washable covers.

The final blow came when in the ECERS report it stated that I had an inappropriate book; The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle.

The ECERS evaluator said it promoted violence and bullying because the grouchy ladybug wanted to fight.

Either she had never read the book or had read it and did not understand its value.

I no longer had any autonomy in my classroom and I could not in good conscience do what the IC’s and other outside people wanted me to do with my children.

It was a very difficult decision.

I had legacy families where I had taught 7 or 8 members of extended families.

Many families started teaching their children how to pronounce my name as soon as they were able to sit up.

My story is just one small grain of sand but I am confident that it is being replicated all over the country.

I left not because I was in an under represented community and not because many children had challenging issues but rather because the lack of support and understanding about what it means to be a teacher was draining the life out of me.

I am hopeful to continue to have a voice for children, particularly the ones that few want to teach.

If you post my story, please do not use my name.

Kate Taylor in the New York Times describes education legislation that was rushed through in the closing days of the legislative session in Albany. Quietly slipped in was a provision allowing charter schools to switch to a different authorizer that would be enable them to evade state regulations about certified teachers. The primary beneficiary is Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter chain, which is expanding rapidly and can’t find enough certified teachers, in part because of the expansion but also because of high teacher turnover in the chain.

In the fraught final hours of the legislative session on Friday, the Republicans in the State Senate agreed to give Mayor Bill de Blasio control of the New York City schools for one more year, but in return they demanded two provisions related to charter schools.

One made it easier for the schools to switch between charter-granting organizations. The second gave the charter schools committee of the State University of New York’s board of trustees — one of the two entities that can currently grant charters — the power “to promulgate regulations with respect to governance, structure and operations” of the schools it oversees.

The broadness of the language at first left something of a mystery as to what the provision was intended to accomplish and who might have wanted it.

A few days later, the mystery cleared up a bit.

Families for Excellent Schools, a charter school advocacy group that is closely tied to Eva S. Moskowitz, the founder of the Success Academy charter school network, sent an email to the leaders of several charter networks on Tuesday calling the provisions “a massive victory.” In particular, it said in the email, the SUNY-related bit of legislation meant that SUNY would be able to waive current requirements that limit the number of uncertified teachers that charter schools can employ.

In fact, the Senate had pushed for a provision that would have done that directly, by giving teachers at charter schools three years to become certified, but the Assembly, which is controlled by the Democrats, rejected it. After that explicit provision on teacher certification was taken out, the broader language appeared.

The three-year allowance had been a top priority for Ms. Moskowitz, who faces difficulty hiring enough teachers as she rapidly expands the number of Success Academy schools. Currently, under the state’s charter school law, a charter school cannot have more than 15 uncertified teachers. Success hires mostly young teachers. Many of them are uncertified when they begin and attend a master’s program managed by Success while they are teaching.

Apparently SA likes to take uncertified teachers and mold them, rather than certified teachers who may have their own ideas.

Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Success Academy, expressed support for the idea of giving charters flexibility on the certification rules. “To continue to deliver the strongest academic results for children, as well as exceptional chess, debate and art programs, schools must hire the most highly qualified teachers available and give them extensive training and support,” he said in a statement.

Success Academy claims it is creating a national model for inner-city education. No excuses and uncertified teachers.

In late night negotiations, rushing to finish the legislative session, the New York Legislature reached a package deal to extend mayoral control by only one year. Part of the package creates a parallel system for charter schools, which can switch authorizers and choose one (either the State University of New York or the Board of Regents) that will give them freedom from any regulations and standards that apply to public schools. In other words, there will be one set of rules for public schools, and no rules for charter schools. This will be the first time in New York state’s history that the Legislature has officially established a publicly-funded dual school system: One sector is subject to democratic control, the other is not. One must accept (or take responsibility for) all students, the other is free to accept and reject whichever students it wants.

A one-year extension, with few or no caveats, had seemed all but cemented when lawmakers went to bed on Thursday evening. But the morning found Mr. Flanagan pushing for the funding transparency requirement, followed by the charter-school provision in the afternoon. It would effectively create a parallel system of charter schools within the city, allowing “high-performing charter schools in good standing” to switch to join the State University of New York umbrella or the Board of Regents of the State Educational Department.

Not since the era preceding the Brown decision of 1954 has a state legislature so brazenly established a two-tier system of K-12 schools.

The leader of the State Senate, John Flanagan, has made no secret of his contempt for Mayor Bill de Blasio. De Blasio helped to raise money for Democrats running for the State Senate; had they won, the State Senate would be controlled by Democrats, not Republicans. Governor Cuomo has stabbed the mayor in the back repeatedly, because he doesn’t like to share the stage with any other prominent Democrat in the state. So, the mayor had a losing hand when he asked for a three-year extension of mayoral control.

When Mike Bloomberg asked for a six-year extension in 2009, the Legislature granted it. The State Senate loved Mayor Bloomberg, because he often contributed to individual Republicans running for re-election (three years later, in 2012, the Mayor gave $1 million to the Republican campaign fund for the state senate). When Mayor Bloomberg asked for a renewal of his unlimited power over the schools in 2009, he boasted of the dramatic increase in test scores that were a direct result of his control. However, a year later, the New York Board of Regents commissioned an independent study, which concluded that the New York State Education Department had lowered the passing mark every year and test scores across the state were inflated. When they were adjusted after this revelation, the dramatic gains disappeared. NAEP scores never confirmed the boasts by Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein about “historic gains.”

If anyone remembers what all these political maneuvers over control have to do with educating one million children, please remind me.

In a stunning setback for Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter chain, a judge ruled that the charters must submit to the city’s regulations for Pre-K if it expects to receive city funding. Moskowitz had sued to reject any city authority over her charter schools, even though nearly a dozen other charter schools agreed to sign the city’s contract for Pre-K.

Moskowitz vowed to appeal, insisting that she has a right to public funds without any oversight other than her authorizer, the State University of New York, which gives her free rein.

Campbell Brown, education expert and former journalist, excoriates Mayor de Blasio for failing to allow Success Academy to run a $700,000 pre-K program without any oversight from the entity supplying the money: the city.

Despite the fact that other charters signed the city’s contract, Success Academy refused to sign and is now abandoning the pre-K program because it will not answer to the city.

You see, Success Academy is so successful that the city has no right to expect it to sign the same contract that every other pre-K provider signed.

Note: there are many statistics in this article, but don’t believe them. Brown has never understood the Common Core cut points, which are aligned with the NAEP achievement levels. She continues to assert that all children should reach the NAEP proficient level. As the governing board of NAEP says clearly, “Proficiency is not grade level.” She obviously didn’t read the many suggested articles, some posted on government websites, that would have made this comprehensible to her.

Eva Moskowitz agreed to open a pre-K program on behalf of the City of New York. But she refused to sign the contract that other charter schools (and all public schools and facilities) agreed to sign. Eva said that the city was not her boss, even though the money for the program came from the city.

She refused to back down. She refused to sign the contract. She canceled the pre-K program, for the fall, which enrolled about 70 children at a cost to the city of about $700,000.

Success Academy Charter Schools Cancels Pre-K
After months of fighting with City Hall about a prekindergarten contract, Success Academy Charter Schools said Wednesday it was canceling its pre-K program for the fall.

For nearly a year the charter’s founder, Eva Moskowitz, has refused to sign a contract that New York City requires of providers who participate in its public pre-K program. She says it aims to exert too much control over her curriculum, daily schedule and field trips.

City officials have said that every other pre-K provider, including charter schools, signed the same basic contract, and doing so was a clear condition of joining the initiative. Expanding public preschool has been a key part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s agenda.

Ms. Moskowitz has said the charter oversight body at the State University of New York is the proper authority over her network. State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia ruled in the city’s favor in February, saying pre-K is a state-funded grant program, rather than part of the K-12 levels overseen by SUNY.

Ms. Moskowitz appealed to the state Supreme Court earlier this year, but said Wednesday that the court’s decision would come too late to open doors in August, and families of admitted children must scramble to find alternatives.

“It is unbelievably sad to tell parents and teachers that the courts won’t rescue our pre-K program from the mayor’s war on Success in time to open next year,” she said in a news release.

“The state upheld our important standards to ensure all programs are high quality,” Department of Education spokeswoman Devora Kaye said.

Success Academy started a prekindergarten program for 72 children in four classrooms last August, and planned to expand slightly for the next school year. A spokesman said about 3,000 children entered an admissions lottery for about 100 seats for the coming year.

Ms. Moskowitz and Mr. de Blasio have clashed repeatedly over the city’s obligation to provide space for charters and other issues. She said she hopes for a court victory so she can reopen prekindergarten classes in August 2017.

A spokesman said she is still seeking $720,000 reimbursement from the city for the current school year.

Arthur Goldstein has taught in the New York City public schools for more than 30 years. His blog is NYC Educator. He has been a frequent critic of the disruption and turmoil of the past fifteen years in the schools.

 

Michael Bloomberg is everywhere I look. A few weeks ago I went to see NYS Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa at George Washington Campus, nee George Washington High School. “Campus” means it’s been broken up into four smaller schools. If your test scores weren’t high enough for Mayor Mike, you got broken up. If they were good, like in my school, you got filled to 300% capacity.

 

 

Two miles south of my school is the Jamaica Campus, a building that looks exactly like the George Washington Campus. It used to be Jamaica High School, and it had, for my money, the smartest and best UFT chapter leader in New York City, James Eterno. It had a long history, and photos in the halls of the doughboys who’d attended, of the bowtie clad principal on the David Susskind Show, and a million things in between. Michael Bloomberg closed it based on false stats. James sent the corrected stats to then-Chancellor Joel Klein, and as far as I know, they’ve never even been disputed.

 

 

Michael Bloomberg renamed the Board of Education the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP). He controlled the majority of votes on the PEP, and when a couple of his appointees disagreed with him, he simply replaced them. Despite Patrick Sullivan’s persistent voice of sanity, they approved every school closing, every new school, every charter that Michael Bloomberg wanted. Mayoral Control is very much favored by prominent reformies like Bill Gates because it sidesteps all that messy, time-consuming democracy stuff.

 

 

Bill de Blasio wants mayoral control too, though I have no idea why. At first I was glad to see mayoral control in the hands of someone who appeared not to be insane, but I was quickly disappointed. Once de Blasio decided not to approve a few Moskowitz Academies, Andrew Cuomo moved to change the law. Now de Blasio had to pay Eva’s rent even if he doesn’t want her school. It was like the spirit of Michael Bloomberg had taken over Andrew Cuomo, who took to calling himself a “student lobbyist.” (Curiously, he hasn’t bothered lobbying for the billions of dollars the state owes NYC from the CFE lawsuit.)

 

 

Every time I look at the car I bought in May 2014 I think about Michael Bloomberg. By 2009, just about every union but teachers got an 8% raise. After a few years it adds up. In fact, by that time that raise would have more than paid for that car. But Mayor Mike passed it off to Bill de Blasio, who isn’t paying until 2020. The Mazda dealer was a nice guy, but would not agree to wait that long.

 

 

Many of Michael Bloomberg’s friends and cronies still sit at Tweed. Even Chancellor Carmen Fariña once worked for him. In fact, her predecessor, Dennis Walcott, was an alumni of my school. Our principal named our college office for him and now I feel like I have to wash my whole body with Brillo pad every time I set foot in there.

 

 

Mayor Bloomberg, with what was in effect mayoral dictatorship, used our city as a laboratory for reforminess, and used our children as guinea pigs. He gave no-bid contracts to all his pals, and if they left young children outside waiting hours for buses freezing days, well, too bad for them. He spent 95 million dollars on a computer system no one used. He boasted of being a regular guy, taking the subway to work, but had two SUVs pick him up at his townhouse because he didn’t like the stop closest to it.

 

 

But where we really feel his presence is in the tests. They are everywhere, and they mean everything. And though much of the state is rebelling against them, NYC lags far behind. Why? Because Michael Bloomberg set up a system, and this system has everything to do with Michael Bloomberg and nothing to do with community.

 

 

In Michael Bloomberg’s NYC, if you want to send your kid to a particular middle school, it may use test grades as criteria for admission. So if you opt your kid out of a test, too bad for you, and too bad for your kid. The city turns the wheel of fortune, and wherever your kid lands, that’s it.

 

 

This is in stark contrast to the rest of the state. Where I live, in Freeport NY, my kid goes to the same middle school no matter what grade she gets and whether or not she takes the test. We have a community, and we have a community school. Not only that, but we, the community, elect our school board and have genuine input into how it is run.

 

 

Michael Bloomberg wanted what he wanted, and he had all that money, so he was entitled to it. Old-fashioned democracy wasn’t efficient enough for him. Better that he should make all decisions, and if the voters twice voiced their preference for term limits, he’d change the law and buy himself another term anyway.

 

 

Thank God his polling must have revealed all his money couldn’t buy the presidency. Only one question remains.

 

 

What on earth do we have to do to exorcise his reformy ghost from New York City once and for all?

Experienced educator Arthur Goldstein recently visited the George Washington Campus in Manhatttan. It used to be the George Washington High School and had some famous graduates, but those days are gone. Now it is the G.W. Campus, containing multiple small schools, all schools of choice.

 

All high schools are now schools of choice, and there are hundreds of them. The student ranks 12 schools in order of his choice, and the school decides which students it wants. The middle schools are also schools of choice. You are not likely to get into your school of choice unless you can show your test scores.

 
The effect, of course, was to downplay any notion of community schools (thus downplaying any notion of community, valued by neither Gates nor Bloomberg). Parents now had “choice.” They could go to the Academy of Basket Weaving, the Academy of Coffee Drinking, or the Academy of Doing Really Good Stuff. Of course by the time they got there the principals who envisioned basket weaving, coffee drinking, or doing good stuff were often gone, and it was Just Another School, or more likely Just Another Floor of a School, as there were those three other schools to contend with. (Unless of course Moskowitz got in, in which case it was A Renovated Space Better Than Your Space.)

 

Last night I learned that middle schools in NYC also are Schools of Choice. I don’t know exactly why I learned this last night, because my friend Paul Rubin told me this months ago. I think I need to hear things more than once before they register with me, though. Anyway last night I heard from someone who told me that one of the schools her daughter might attend required test scores as a prerequisite. So if her family had decided to send their kid there, opt-out may not have been a good option.

 

I live in a little town in Long Island. My daughter went to our middle school, as did every public school student in our town. We are a community, and our community’s kids go to our community’s schools. If I opt my kid out, she goes to that school. If she scores high, low, or anywhere in between, she goes to that school.

 

Goldstein realized that the choice policy is an effective deterrent against opting out of tests. If you opt out, you won’t get into your school of choice. You might rank 12 schools, and get into your last choice, or end up with no school assignment and get sent wherever there is an opening, which might be an hour or more from your home, with a theme that has no interest for you.

Arthur Goldstein is a 32-year veteran of the New York City public s hools. He teaches ESL classes in a large, comprehensive high school, one of the few that was not broken into small schools by the Bloomberg administrations.

In this article, he explains why he opposes the city’s new discipline policies. Teachers are not allowed to suspend students no matter what they have done without permission from central. That permission, he expects, will never come.

Goldstein explains that in his 32 years of teaching, he has only once suspended a student. But he needs to know that this last-resort tool is available to him. He hopes he will never use it, but he believes his authority is undermined when this last resort is removed.

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