Archives for category: NYC

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.

Gail Robinson writes about education in New York City. This post is about the fate of John Dewey High School in Brooklyn, about which I posted earlier.

In this article, published in June, she detailed the dreams and anticipated demise of John Dewey High School. Once it was seen as the cutting edge of progressive reform. Over time, the school became a dumping ground for students excluded from other schools, and city officials expected the school to die a quiet death. Dewey was one of 24 schools slated to close over the summer, but the execution was stayed by a judge.

But WAIT! I just received an email from an anonymous student who insists that John Dewey WILL NOT DIE.

He writes:

Hello Ms. Ravitch,

I am a student at John Dewey High School, as you may know, JDHS is one of the schools the NYCDOE abandoned and damaged by forcefully accepting unruly students that were rejected by Bloomberg’s smaller schools, and other unwanted academically deficient students. In 2007, John Dewey High School was named one of the Best High Schools in the United States by U.S. News & Report, even though the NYCDOE stripped funds that year. How coincidental that a year later, after Dewey forcefully accepts 400 academically deficient and unruly students causing discipline problems and overcrowding, there’s a gun scare. Then Dewey was placed on high alert, receives a C on the annual progress report, with graduation and safety rates plummeting. Obviously, this was all part of the NYCDOE and Bloomberg’s plan to destroy one of the ex-best high schools in the city. They tried, Ms. Ravitch. And just when they thought that they succeeded once again [since 2002] in destroying another school, Dewey gets back up on its feet and shows the DOE and Bloomberg how damn wrong they were. So very wrong.

Yes, I was that same student under the name “Rupert” that previously commented on your blog. Since the 2011-2012 high school progress reports have been released recently, I tell you with great satisfaction and joy that John Dewey High School’s graduation rate increased from 65.9% in 2011 to 72.4% in 2012! The college readiness rate also increased from 29.7% in 2011 to 35% in 2012! And last but not least, this school that the DOE considers “failing” received a high B for the 2011-2012 progress report, up from the C on the 2010-2011 progress report. Can you believe it? The NYCDOE neglects and bullies Dewey, it also strapped a lot of money from the school eliminating facilities and teachers (about $3 million) and yet the school improves!

Long story short, I go in depth on this issue like the little high school journalist I am. I have a blog titled “The Chronicles of a Dewey Student” in which I make monthly posts about education, like you do, Ms. Ravitch. Except mines are related to Dewey more per se, you can access my blog by clicking here.

I know that you may have a busy schedule, but please, please… Whenever you have time, please read this article I published on my blog The Road to Recovery: A B for John Dewey High School in which I visually but thoroughly speak about Dewey’s progress in depth in just ONE year! Please, please, whenever you have the time, it would mean so much to me and the Dewey community if you read it. Here’s the link to the article:

I use images and make comparisons from the 2010-2011 school year to the 2011-2012 school year, and the changes are so noticeable. It is jaw dropping how much progress a so-called “failing” school can make in just one year. Would you consider a 72% grad rate and 35% college readiness rate (above the city average), along with a high B on the progress report, failing?

I just hope you that when you finish reading my article, that you’ll share it on your blog, or even with colleagues, and even other blogs! Because this is something people throughout the nation must see! So they can see how ugly public education and bureaucracy in NYC can be. The worst part is that the NYCDOE is still ripping away funds from the school and expects more progress. I just hope my article gets the publicity it needs, in order for people to see and realize that John Dewey High School is NOT a failing school, nor has it ever been. It was just a failed attempt by the DOE to crush a beautiful school, well they didn’t win this time!

The teachers of John Dewey High School, and my experience attending this lovely special public school has molded me into a well rounded intellectual, and I plan on becoming a high school teacher. Most certainly, I plan to return to Dewey one day and teach here for the rest of my life. Something I never would have wanted to do, had I not attended Dewey. I love this school so much, and I hope you feel the same way.

Thank you for your time, and I sincerely hope that you had the time to read my article. Take care, and have a nice day. 🙂

Yours truly,
Random Dewey Student

Bruce Baker of Rutgers joins the honor roll, not as a champion of public education, but as a champion of honesty, accuracy and integrity.

Scholars must go where the evidence takes them, not where it is popular or politically expedient,

Today, Baker is outraged that the Néw York state education department continues to press for adoption of its flawed evaluation system.

He is outraged that the creators of the system–AIR–recognized its flaws, yet blessed it anyway.

He is outraged that the state and city of Néw York will force these flawed metrics on educators.

For his devotion to the best ideals of scholarship and his fearless championing of them, Bruce Baker joins the honor roll.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided that rating teachers by their test scores and publishing their names in the paper is the last hill he will stand on in his struggle to establish a legacy. He says it is time to hold teachers’ feet to the fire. He would rather cut the budget than let teachers “off the hook” on teacher evaluations.

The mayor is a busy man. We can’t expect him to know anything about education research. He is making his judgments based on his gut instincts. It’s a shame that no one at the New York City Department of Education will tell him that what he believes in doesn’t work. The teachers of English language learners, special education students and gifted students are likely to look like bad teachers. I’m guessing no one at Tweed has the nerve to speak up. They are all in awe of him.

As his third term dwindles down to its closing days, the public has lost confidence that he can reform the schools. In the latest poll, only 25% approved his stewardship of the schools.

I wish he would call me. I could help him.

A high school for at-risk students in Manhattan, now located in a beautiful state-of-the-art facility, will be relocated to make room for Eva Moskowitz’s charter empire to grow.

The students at Innovation Diploma Plus high school will be relocated to a 90-year-old school with no science labs or gym.

Success Academy recently raised its management fee to $2,000 per student. It has a wealthy and powerful board of directors. The city gives the charter chain free space in public school buildings wherever it wants, despite community protests. Success academy (formerly known as Harlem Success Academy) has recently expanded into middle-class and gentrifying neighborhoods, like affluent District 2 in Manhattan , Cobble Hill and Williamsburg in Brooklyn, and the Upper West Side of Manhattan.