State and local education officials are preparing to work through the weekend on a teacher evaluation system that will be imposed on New York City, an outcome that resulted from years of failed labor talks between the city and its teachers union.
State Education Commissioner John King gets the final say on how city teachers will be evaluated using a process outlined earlier this month. He’ll formally start that process on Thursday, when officials from the Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers each have four hours to present their cases during arbitration hearings. The Council on School Supervisors and Superintendents, which represents principals, is slotted to present during a four-hour block on Friday morning.
King plans to release his plan, which is likely to borrow from each group’s proposal but does not have to, by Saturday afternoon.
City and union officials — and reporters — will then go into high gear to understand the process that King has devised, which will go into effect immediately for next year.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew said union staff who have been working on evaluations would be on hand Saturday to receive King’s plan as soon as it is released. The rest of the union’s leadership is planning to report to work at noon on Sunday, with the goal of completing analysis of the plan in time to get a message out to members on Monday. On Monday afternoon, the union has called a meeting with its Teacher Evaluation Negotiating Committee, a group of about 150 members who have provided occasional feedback during the extended negotiations over evaluations.
Mulgrew said he would outline the process in a message to members this week. But he said he was not concerned about Thursday’s audience with King, which he said would likely be “both a presentation and a cross-examination.”
“I’m very comfortable defending what we’re trying to do,” he said. ”If you can’t defend your position, you shouldn’t be there.”
Meanwhile, 11 advocacy groups that have supported the push for new evaluations that weigh student test scores are weighing in with last-minute tips for King.
“Nobody wants New York City to become the latest example of a school system that replaces an old, flawed evaluation system with an equally flawed new one,” the groups wrote in a letter sent to King on Tuesday. They outline four attributes they would like to see in a new evaluation system: a rubric with no more than 10 rating areas; an influence for student surveys; a reasonable administrative burden for teachers and principals; and “a fair, efficient appeals process.”
The requests seem equally likely to satisfy and distress both the city and the United Federation of Teachers. The union has rejected the idea of using student surveys to rate teachers, while the Bloomberg administration has sought to limit teachers’ ability to appeal low ratings.
The local and national groups that signed the letter are Democrats for Education Reform, Education Reform Now, Educators 4 Excellence—New York, Families for Excellent Schools, National Council on Teacher Quality, NYCAN, StudentsFirst NY, Students for Education Reform—New York, Teach Plus, TNTP, and Turnaround for Children.
GothamSchools is profiling the education policy advisors to each mayoral candidate.
When asked who advises Sal Albanese‘s mayoral campaign on education policy matters, communications director Todd Brogan pointed to the candidate himself.
An Italian immigrant who moved to Brooklyn at the age of eight, Albanese has been a student, teacher, and policy maker in the city’s schools, giving him a perspective that is unique among the crowded field of Democratic mayoral candidates.
Albanese said it was the city’s schools, libraries, and sports programs that helped elevate his family from the working class to the middle class.
“I want to do the same thing for future generations of New Yorkers. That’s why I’m running for mayor,” he said.
Albanese served on the City Council for 15 years in the 1980s and 1990s, sitting on the public safety, education, and transportation committees. Before that, he taught for 11 years, mostly at Park Slope’s John Jay High School, where he also earned his high school diploma. Albanese ran for mayor in 1997 and placed third in the Democratic primary.
In an interview at Albanese’s downtown Brooklyn headquarters, Albanese answered questions about school accountability, his greatest accomplishments as a city councilman, and some of his ideas for improving education in New York City.
In broad strokes, what would you do as mayor on education policy?
My emphasis would be on early intervention, creating a department for early learning and establishing pediatric wellness centers in lower income communities around the city. Because we now know that poverty causes stress and stress causes developmental issues. These young people are coming into our school buildings way behind at four or five years of age. I want to intervene early on. I want a multidisciplinary approach, with doctors, parents and teachers working together. As soon as a child is born. So when they come into our schools, they’re at the same par with middle class kids and upper class kids. Because it’s not an issue of IQ. It’s the fact that poverty is very stressful and overwhelms people. So these pediatric wellness centers will be a cornerstone of my administration because I think it’s political malpractice to not intervene early on.
The second thing I would focus on is teacher training and support. I want to make student teaching a real experience where you do intensive work, so at the end of your senior year of college, when you have that license, you come into schools prepared to teach. I was not [prepared.] I had a cursory experience as a student teacher at Springfield Garden High School. It was very intimidating when I walked into that school. I want to make sure every young person who comes into our system is well trained to teach from day one. Then for the next couple years, I want to provide mentors and support mechanisms and feedback so they can become better teachers.
What were your two biggest education policy accomplishments when you were on the City Council?
I worked hard with parent groups around the city. I published a report on parental involvement, which laid out a number of proposals to get parents involved in our schools, because they’re essential. It was well received by parent groups around city. I chaired a subcommittee on parental involvement. It worked to at least have a blue print for having principals make parental involvement a focal point of running a school instead of discouraging them to get involved. … That was something I was proud of.
The other aspect I’m proud of, I passed a law, which some people don’t like, but it created random drug testing for school bus drivers. Because that was not in effect then. And I think that helped to save lives.
Unfortunately, my involvement was limited to some of those peripheral issues because I didn’t chair the committee. I thought I should’ve been able to chair the committee because I was the only teacher on the committee, but because of my independence on the City Council, that really counted against me. Every single year I pushed hard for education funding when I was there to make sure it got the priority that it should have received.
What do you think of John Jay High School today?
It’s tough to make a comparison. Because in those days, large high schools were the rule of thumb. Today, it’s a mixed bag. A large high school could be as good as small schools. I think small schools have more of an advantage because you can get that personal touch between teachers and students and the principal. But there are large schools that function very, very well, as long as the resources are there. At John Jay when I went to school there, we didn’t have enough guidance counselors, but we had varied activities — there was a band, a football team, a sports program, an art program. Those are the things that have been cut. I’m not a big believer that the small model is the best. We have great examples of both, as long as resources are there and class size is manageable and facilities are up to snuff.
Have you seen anything positive on education policy in the last 12 years during Bloomberg’s administration?
They’ve done some good things. Especially, initially, his first two terms I think he treated teachers fairly when it came to contracts. And then all of a sudden, his third term, he’s just turned that around and made teachers scapegoats.
His first two terms, he did acknowledge that teachers have to be compensated fairly. We have to pay people enough so that they can live in the city and survive. He did raise salaries his first two terms. So I think that was a good thing. And I also believe that he made some effort to focus on early intervention, but not enough. I want to go further than that. I think he should have created a department for early learning. I know they were considering it, but they didn’t do it. So we’re still missing the boat when it comes to early intervention.
Your message seems to jive with what a lot of parents and teachers say they want. Why aren’t you polling better?
I’m still an unknown quantity. We have four months left before the election and people will get to know me, they’ll get to know my record. As I speak around the city, we’re generating more and more interest in our campaign. By Sept. 10, which is primary day, people will know the Sal Albanese record on education and we’re gonna draw a lot of support and I believe we’re gonna win the election. The polls now don’t mean anything. In 1977, there were seven candidates. [Former Mayor Ed] Koch and [Mario] Cuomo were below 5 percent in May and they ended up in a runoff.
Correction: This piece has been updated to reflect the correct title for Todd Brogan. He is the Albanese campaign’s communications director, not the campaign manager.
Each weekday morning, we search websites of various media, comb through RSS feeds and peruse Google alerts to bring you a roundup of the day’s top education headlines, in Colorado and across the country, by 8 a.m. If you’d like to suggest a story we’ve missed or a source we should add to the list, please email us at email@example.com.
“Whatever has happened this past year is done,” CPS chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett said to a roomful of politicians and business leaders at the City Club of Chicago on Tuesday. “It is a new beginning. We are putting the past behind us, it is time to turn the page.” She also announced a five-year plan called “Next Generation Chicago’s Children” but released few specifics about it, according to the Sun-Times.
LEAVING CHARTER BOARD: Embattled United Neighborhood Organization founder Juan Rangel will stay on as CEO but step down from the charter school operator's board of directors as the group tries to make changes to get state funding restored after allegations of nepotism and conflicts of interest in how contracts were awarded. (Tribune)
ONE LAST VOTE: In one of his last acts as a member of the Public Building Commission of Chicago, Juan Rangel, the chief executive officer of the United Neighborhood Organization, voted this month to approve spending $160 million for work at Chicago Public Schools that could benefit a key UNO contractor, according to documents obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
The graduation rate for CPS high school seniors is continuing a decade-long rise, with 63 percent expected to receive their diplomas at the end of this school year, officials announced Monday. (Tribune)
GRADUATION RATES: The district is touting an increase in the high school graduation rate to 63 percent, up from 61 percent a year ago.
KEEPING TRACK: CPS has promised to track all of the thousands of students who will be displaced as a result of school closings. As Catalyst Chicago reported in its spring issue of In Depth, CPS closed four schools last year and displaced 467 kindergarten through 7th-grade students Of those, it’s unclear what happened with 51 children.
In his first debate as a mayoral candidate, former congressman Anthony Weiner distinguished himself from his Democratic rivals and made it clear he was not going to tell the event’s organizers what they wanted to hear.
The debate Tuesday afternoon was organized by New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, a group that formed to oppose the Bloomberg administration’s school policies, and questions were tilted heavily toward the group’s agenda. Weiner and all the other Democratic candidates, except City Council Speaker Christine Quinn who dropped out over the weekend, answered questions from moderator Zakiyah Ansari, a parent activist and spokeswoman for NY-GPS.
Most of the candidates spent the debate reiterating positions they’ve taken in the past that fall close to what the group says it wants from the next mayor. They promised to refrain from closing schools and curbing school space-sharing arrangements, for example.
But Weiner stood apart from his competitors, both by rising each time he answered a question and by staking out unpopular positions. He was the only candidate to say he would not shift control of school discipline from the New York Police Department to principals and would not earmark special funding for arts education in schools.
He stood firm even where his stances have already drawn fire from groups aligned with NY-GPS. The first question of the debate was from student Cheyenne Smith, who asked Weiner about his priority to make it easier for schools to remove “troublesome students” from classrooms, a policy that critics have said could increase suspensions.
Smith asked, “Why would you focus on making it easier to suspend students instead of using proven effective ways to improve school safety and keep students in school?”
“The last thing you need is a disruptive child making it difficult for someone else to learn,” Weiner said. “We have to realize there’s a constituency among the kids that are in that classroom that want to learn and we have to make sure we at least focus on that group, like a laser beam, so that they can have their rights as well.”
Weiner also stood out from his competitors when it came to co-locations, a hot-button issue for advocacy groups who argue that charter schools moving into district schools has a negative effect on the district schools. Weiner said he would allow communities to decide how they want extra space in school buildings to be used.
Communities might choose to expand a school library, create a gifted and talented program, or open a charter school, he said, adding, ”I want the competition to be fair and let the best ideas win.”
At one point, Weiner did seem to get caught up in the anti-Bloomberg sentiment that swirled during the debate. Asked to say whether charter school operator Eva Moskowitz has gotten special treatment from the Bloomberg administration, the other candidates quickly said yes. But Weiner was confused. ”I have no bloody idea,” he said, to laughter. “Uh, sure. … It seems to be the answer of the day.”
Weiner fell in with the pack on several issues. All of the candidates said they would go to Albany to lobby Gov. Andrew Cuomo to give the city money it is supposed to have gotten because of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, which found that the city receives inadequate state funding. And he and Comptroller John Liu both said they were open to the idea of recreating the Chancellor’s District, which former Board of Education President Bill Thompson, who is also a mayoral candidate, has said was crucial to improving low-performing schools instead of closing them.
“Instead of giving up on those schools, we need to turn those schools around. A chancellor’s district would allow us to do that,” Thompson said. “It would allow us to be able to focus on increasing services to those schools, capping those schools, intensive curriculum, focus on teacher development.”
Even though questions were heavily tilted toward GPS’s agenda, several questions did push candidates to explain — albeit in 30-second intervals — their constructive vision for the city’s public schools. “Everyone has criticized standardized testing but hasn’t provided an alternative,” a student from Bronx International High School asked. “What’s yours?” Later, Ansari asked, “How would you reform special education?”
Liu said that under Bloomberg, a quarter of students who need special education services do not get those services. His solution involves integrating more special needs students into “so-called mainstream classrooms,” something that the Department of Education has done in recent years.
“It’s a balance of mainstreaming the kids and it’s a balance of maintaining the special needs classrooms,” Liu said.
After the debate, Ansari said she wanted to hear more from Weiner on his education policies, especially when it comes to how to improve low-performing high schools, for which none of the candidates have provided clear solutions.
“Some issues he was a little vague on,” she said. “If you’re going to do this… then you’ve got to get on it and play catch up, so to speak.”
After the debate, Monique Lindsay, who serves on the UFT parent outreach committee and is a member of the Coalition for Educational Justice, said about Weiner, “I think that everything he said is what we want to hear,” but added, “I think that his downfall is going to be that incident, the things he did two years ago.”
Below is the full audio from the event:
The state Capital Construction Assistance Board Tuesday worked its way through nearly 40 school construction and renovation applications, advancing a couple of dozen to the next stage but dashing the hopes of more than a dozen others.
Major projects that survived include:
But two large projects didn’t make the cut, including:
This year nearly 40 districts and about a dozen charter schools have submitted a total of more than 60 requests. Those bids total about $308 million in total project costs, including $228 million in state funds and $80 million in promised local matches.
The board’s staff is recommending spending up to $10 million in cash grants and a little more than $109.2 million total cost for larger projects that are financed with debt.
The nine-member board uses a complicated process to cull the applicants. Projects require a majority roll-call vote to advance to a short list, but projects die if they don’t gain a majority, don’t get a second or fail to spark a motion at all.
Projects that make the first cut are by no means guaranteed a spot on the final list because the board will make further cuts from the short lists, one for cash-funded jobs and one for debt-funded projects.
The board is scheduled to finish working through the full list Wednesday before it turns to the short lists. Get more details about this year’s BEST process in this previous EdNews story.
The city Department of Education thinks it has found software developers who are solving the perpetual problem of middle school math.
The department today announced four winners from its Gap App challenge — a competition inviting developers to submit programs that could help middle schools raise math scores, which remain stubbornly low. Developers submitted 200 apps to the challenge since it was first announced in January.
The developer of the “Best Instructional App,” KnowRe, has created an adaptive learning platform that offers Algebra 1 students different questions and challenges based on their previous answers.
In the “Best Administrative and Engagement App” category, top-rated developer Hapara has created an interface that lets teachers see their students’ work easily. “Our product is built exclusively on teacher and student feedback,” the group says in an informational video.
“There’s a lot of tools that have come and gone over the last decade that it felt like they didn’t talk to a teacher,” said Steve Kinney, a middle and high school programming teacher from Scholars Academy in Rockaway Park who served as one of the judges in the competition.
“This is the first time where it’s very explicit that we’re involving teachers in the process and we’re looking for apps that get back to the core of why anyone became a teacher, things that allow them to leverage technology, to work faster and more efficiently so they can focus their time on creating great lessons,” Kinney said.
Deputy Chancellor David Weiner said over the next two to three months, the department would work with schools in the Innovation Zone to pick which apps they want to implement. The iZone’s 250 schools, mostly middle and high schools that focus on personalized learning, will be able to pick from 164 apps of the 200 that met the contest qualifications.
How much the apps will cost to implement will depend on how many schools want to use the apps and which products they choose, Weiner said. But he said most of the apps are low cost and will only require schools to adapt existing technologies. Apps do not need to be used schoolwide and could just be used for certain subjects, classes, or teachers, Weiner said.
First-place winners each won $15,000 in cash, and second-place winners took home $5,000, prize money contributed by the Anthony Meyer Family Foundation. Each also received $6,000 in Amazon Web Service credits. The department also awarded honorable mentions in each categories.
The nine winning companies will demonstrate their apps live on Wednesday evening at the General Assembly at 902 Broadway.
Here’s a brief look at the winning companies and what they do.
Hapara (First place, Best Administrative and Engagement App)
Hapara, based in Palo Alto, Calif., optimizes Google Apps for schools by structuring Google Apps around classes and students.
LiveSchool (Second place, Best Administrative and Engagement App)
LiveSchool, based in Nashville, Tenn., allows teachers and administrators to record student behavior and manage numerous daily tasks, including attendance, participation, hallway monitoring, and assignment tracking.
KnowRe (First place, Best Instructional App)
KnowRe, based in New York City, assesses an individual’s strengths and weaknesses, personalizes a curriculum for each student’s focus areas adn engages students through game-like features, attractive graphics and social learning.
Mathalicious (Second place, Best Instructional App)
Mathalicious, based in Charlottesville, Va., helps creates lessons for educators that are aligned to Common Core standards through real-world topics and challenge students to think critically about the world.
In a 4-2 decision, the Colorado Supreme Court has overturned a district court decision in the Lobato v. State lawsuit and ruled that the state’s current school finance system is constitutional.
The decision quickly refocuses the broader school finance policy debate on the new funding formula proposed in Senate Bill 13-213, recently signed into law, and the $1 billion ballot measure that will be needed to support the new system.
Asked later Tuesday if the decision effectively closes the door on further school finance cases in the courts, lead plaintiffs’ lawyer Kathy Gebhardt said, “It could.” But, she added, “Reading between the lines, that was their [the justices'] intent.”The decision
“The public school financing system enacted by the General Assembly complies with the Colorado Constitution,” Justice Nancy Rice wrote at the beginning of the court’s 27-page ruling. “It is rationally related to the constitutional mandate that the General Assembly provide a ‘thorough and uniform’ system of public education. … It also affords local school districts control over locally-raised funds and therefore over ‘instruction in the public schools.’ … As such, the trial court erred when it declared the public school financing system unconstitutional. We accordingly reverse.”Learn more
Later in the ruling, Rice wrote, “While the trial court’s detailed findings of fact demonstrate that the current public school financing system might not be ideal policy, this Court’s task is not to determine ‘whether a better financing system could be devised, but rather to determine whether the system passes constitutional muster.’”
Rice was joined in the ruling by justices Brian Boatwright, Allison Eid and Nathan Coats. Chief Justice Michael Bender and Justice Gregory Hobbs dissented. Justice Monica Marquez, who earlier worked on the Lobato case while a member of the attorney general’s staff, did not participate in the case.
The ruling came less than three months after the court heard oral arguments in the case.The dissents
Bender and Hobbs each wrote dissenting opinions to the majority opinion, and each signed the other’s dissent.
In his 18-page dissent, Bender wrote, “Today, the majority abdicates this court’s responsibility to give meaningful effect to the Education Clause’s guarantee that all Colorado students receive a thorough and uniform education. In my view, a thorough and uniform system of education must include the availability of qualified teachers, up-to-date textbooks, access to modern technology, and safe and healthy facilities in which to learn. The record, however, reveals an education system that is fundamentally broken. … Colorado’s education system is, beyond any reasonable doubt, neither thorough nor uniform.”
The chief justice quoted extensively from the trial record about deficiencies in the state’s schools.
He wrote in in a footnote he would give the legislature five years to adopt a new system and would have continuing court supervision of those efforts.
Hobbs’ 20-page filing went deeply into the history of the state constitution, and he wrote, “In creating the ‘thorough and uniform’ requirement, the framers intended that the legislature would establish and maintain a complete and comprehensive system of public education that consistently affords Colorado children the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to participate fully in the opportunities and challenges of a dynamically growing state.”
He concluded, “As the record makes clear, it may take years – and significant effort – to reshape the current school finance system into one capable of supporting our rapidly growing and diversifying schools in compliance with the Education Clause’s mandate. Colorado should face this critical issue head-on.”Plaintiffs react
Taylor Lobato, a Center High School graduate who was one of the original plaintiffs in the case, said, “The door has been slammed in the faces of the children of Colorado. … It makes me sad; it makes me upset.”
George Welsh, superintendent of the Center schools, said the court’s decision means “the Legislature has permission to do more with less. … The court has decided they can’t help us … but the people can” if they elect lawmakers who support increased funding for schools. (Read more reaction here).The issues in the case
The central issue in Lobato was whether the current school funding system was “rationally related” to the state constitution’s requirement for a “thorough and uniform” system of public schools, and with the requirements of school-reform laws passed in recent years.
Plaintiffs also argued that the current finance system violates another constitutional provision guaranteeing local control of schools.
But the high court ruled, “A ‘thorough and uniform’ system of public education is of a quality marked by completeness, is comprehensive, and is consistent across the state.” That requirement “simply establishes the constitutional floor upon which the General Assembly must build its education policy,” according to the decision.
Citing its ruling in an earlier school funding case, the court held such a system “does not demand absolute equality in the state’s provision of education services, supplies, or expenditures.” The court also ruled that local control is not violated by the current system.
Attorney General John Suthers and his staff also argued consistently that school finance was the responsibility of the “political” branches of government – the legislature and the governor – and wasn’t an area of judicial review.
When it revived the Lobato case in 2009 the supreme court ruled that the courts did have jurisdiction – called “justiciability” in legal language. Monday’s majority opinion specifically stated that the court had not changed its mind on that issue.
Gebhardt said she wasn’t sure how to interpret the decision. “I don’t really know how to get in the heads of the justices. … I am a little concerned they set the bar so low,” she said, adding, “I read the opinion, and they didn’t give us any guideposts. … There’s no guidance in there as to what a thorough and uniform system is.”
She also said she was disappointed that “all of the facts and all of the evidence were completely disregarded.”Implications of the ruling
There could have been far-reaching implications if the court had upheld Rappaport’s decision, perhaps including major changes in education laws by the legislature and years of continuing court review.
Cost estimates presented during the five-week trial in 2011 projected that the state might need as much as an additional $4 billion a year to fund an education system based on true costs.
Critics of Rappaport’s ruling, including Gov. John Hickenlooper and legislative Republicans, warned that implementation of Rappaport’s decision could squeeze state spending for programs other than education and tie the legislature’s hands when setting budget priorities.
Such concerns appear to be off the table, given the court’s ruling. Because the case is based on state constitutional issues, there are no federal appeals possible. Gebhardt said the plaintiffs could ask the Colorado high court for a rehearing, but no decision has been made on doing that.
So, attention now turns to SB 13-213 and its accompanying ballot issue. (Proponents haven’t yet decided which version of the proposed tax increase to take to voters.)
While that plan proposes a significant increase in funding and major reallocations of how K-12 support is spent, it is not based on calculations of how much funding would be required to achieve the student competency goals contained in current state education policy.
Gebhardt, who has raised concerns in the past about SB 13-213, said Tuesday, “There are some good things in Sen. Johnston’s bill … there are some concerns.” She’s primarily concerned with a variation of the yet-to-be-submitted ballot measure that would alter Amendment 23, the current constitutional formula for funding schools. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver.Who’s who in Lobato
The defendants were Hickenlooper, the State Board of Education and education Commissioner Robert Hammond. They were represented by Attorney General John Suthers and his staff.
The plaintiffs had support in a dozen “friend of the court” briefs representing 28 organizations or groups of people, including the Colorado Education Association, the Colorado Association of School Boards, the Colorado Association of School Executives, the ACLU of Colorado and the Bell Policy Center. A friend of the court is referred to as “amicus curiae” in legal language.
A smaller number of amicus briefs were filed in support of the state’s case. Groups filing those briefs included the University of Colorado Board of Regents, three former governors, a coalition of business groups and two health care groups.History of the case
First filed in 2005, the case was thrown out first by a Denver District Court judge and then by the Colorado Court of Appeals. Both ruled the courts didn’t have jurisdiction over school finance.
The supreme court overturned those decisions in an October 2009 ruling, a decision that came to be know as Lobato I. A five-week trial was held starting in August 2011, followed by Rappaport’s ruling late that year.Reactions to Lobato ruling
Gov. John Hickenlooper – “We are complying to the requirements in the constitution. It doesn’t necessarily say that we have sufficient funding in education right now, and even after working hard to add additional funding this year to the construction of school buildings and the state education fund, we — clearly, I think most people would agree that we are underfunded in education. But I think what the Supreme Court said was that this was not the right way to increase that funding.”Full text of statement)
Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs – “The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision on the Lobato lawsuit is important to all of us; it affirms the constitutional authority of an elected legislative body to represent the people of this state. This is such a core tenet of our Constitution that I am surprised the court’s decision was not supported unanimously by the justices. The legislature is given the power to create a state budget for good reason – the people’s money needs to be protected from any group who would use the court system to bypass the Constitution.”
Kerrie Dallman, Colorado Education Association president – “It’s important to note the Supreme Court did not dispute that public education in Colorado would benefit from additional funding. Colorado students deserve a better-funded school system. That’s why our Legislature and Gov. Hickenlooper passed the Future School Finance Act. And that’s why our members will unite with a diverse coalition of groups dedicated to making public school investment a top priority in this state. Together, we will implore every community to do right by our kids this November and give them the resources they need to succeed.”
Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president – “The Colorado Supreme Court’s timorous decision today, abandoning the state to a dim future of inadequately educated citizenry, encapsulates the folly in failing to ensure, at a national level, an equitable and quality education for all. The public in Colorado can and should demand better of its public servants.”
Teacher Dolores Carbajal-Sandoval hustled around Schmitt Elementary Thursday evening, helping students get ready for the school’s annual talent show. It was the same day she was asked to sign papers indicating she understood that her teaching contract would not be renewed next year, and, in fact, she could never be considered again for a job in Denver Public Schools.
As she has done several times in recent days, Carbajal-Sandoval, a teacher for the past 18 years, cried as she put pen to paper.
Later that evening, describing the signature, she cried again.
“I still can’t believe it’s happening,” she said.
Carbajal-Sandoval, 56, began her teaching career in Denver before switching to Jefferson County, where she taught for 12 years. She then returned to Denver, where she got a job at Schmitt, which is five miles from her home.
Instead of joyful end-of-year parties, the ELA-S teacher and four other probationary teachers whose contracts were not renewed are wrapping up the year in a school plagued by conflict, concern and confusion.
The five Schmitt teachers are among 80 probationary teachers who were added to a “do not rehire” list, banning them from teaching in Denver. Henry Roman, head of the Denver Classroom Teachers Union, said Denver is the only Colorado district that has such a blacklist. Kristine Woolley, spokeswoman for the Colorado Association of School Boards, said her agency is unaware of districts with similar practices.
Change could be coming, however. Last week the Denver school board directed staff to come up with ways to soften the practice so that a teacher who was able to demonstrate competency later — set amount of time to be determined — could be rehired. The board is expected to discuss the changes in June. Whatever tweaks are made to the unofficial policy will apply to teachers affected by this year’s contract non-renewal decisions, including Carbajal-Sandoval.Hispanic parents at Schmitt remain concerned
But that doesn’t make the last few weeks with her students any easier. Hispanic families at Schmitt, in particular, are concerned and upset by the non-renewals. Families even kept about 100 kids — about a fourth of the school’s preschoolers through fifth-graders — home from school Tuesday in protest.
Vanessa Capia, 23, has two children and a younger sister at the school, where 97 percent of students qualify for free and reduced price lunch. She said the Hispanic community at the school has been meeting in local churches to talk about what’s happening. And they met with Principal Patty Gonzales this week. They are not appeased.
“I know those teachers aren’t going to come back,” Capia said. “I just wish things would change there. Schmitt used to be such a great school. It was such a united community. This year, there’s just something missing.”
Gonzales, in her first year as principal at Schmitt, could not be reached for comment.
School board member Andrea Merida represents southwest Denver where Schmitt is located and voted for the non-renewals last week after protesting the short amount of time the board had to consider the decision. Merida said she supports the parents, but said it seems the principal did not get the support she needed, either.
“This is clearly a case in which a first-year principal is not herself receiving support,” Merida said. “Therefore, it’s little wonder that the teachers weren’t being supported either. I am calling for a more direct support for new principals that currently our instructional superintendents cannot provide, and that is on-site, daily mentoring from veteran principals.”
“When a principal has to take up the reins of a high-needs school like Schmitt, there’s little wonder that basic things like conflict resolution or proactive support go out the window.”
District staff say the decision not to renew or to place a teacher on a “do not rehire” list is based on a body of evidence, including observation through LEAP (Denver’s teacher evaluation program), student achievement data, and interactions with colleagues and other team members. But there is no official policy governing these decisions.
Carbajal-Sandoval, who said she is nine hours away from earning a master’s degree in teaching culturally and linguistically diverse learners and special ed, said she was let go because Gonzales said she was a negative influence on colleagues.
Carbajal-Sandoval said she — along with other teachers at the school — did express major concerns about a Common Core State Standards pilot program implemented at their school without buy-in from staff. She complained that Spanish language assessments under the pilot were never ready in time to be useful.
But she said her LEAP scores were high.
“I feel like I have a lot of support in the school,” Carbajal-Sandoval said. “When everybody found out I was being non-renewed I received so many emails from my peers asking how this could have happened, and telling me we don’t believe you’re a negative influence.”
“I do believe it truly is a personality conflict,” she said. “She singled me out. I don’t believe she realized what would happen if she did that.”
Carbajal-Sandoval also acknowledged she wasn’t rated very high for her “professionalism” and was criticized for not reaching out to the community. But Carbajal-Sandoval said she gives her cell phone number to families, many of whom are Spanish speakers, and asks them to call or text any time with questions.Superintendent explains do-not-rehire practice
Superintendent Tom Boasberg said he understands these decisions are difficult but noted that individual teacher cases cannot be discussed because they’re personnel matters. But he said the bigger injustice would be to allow a low-performing teacher to remain a classroom.
Schmitt this year is rated green on the School Performance Framework, or “meets expectations” after being labeled “accredited on watch,” or yellow, in 2011 and 2010.
The decision not to rehire is not a principal’s decision alone, Boasberg said. In fact, he said all recommendations regarding eligibility for rehire are reviewed by the instructional superintendents, who also work closely with principals in making the determinations regarding both the non-renewal and the eligibility for rehire. Instructional superintendents also consult regularly with principals to set expectations for probationary teachers and regularly visit the classrooms of probationary teachers who may be non-renewed.
Boasberg said the “do not rehire” list has been around at least five years and he said he wasn’t sure of its origins. He said only 4 percent of all probationary teachers – and 1. 5 percent of all DPS teachers – end up on it. He said other district employees, such as lunchroom staff or bus drivers, can also be tagged.
“This is about significant performance concerns, not about fit,” Boasberg said. “If it’s a case where a teacher is not the right fit for a school, that’s not a do-not-rehire,” Boasberg said. “A person absolutely is eligible for rehire where there’s a better fit.”
Boasberg said staff are evaluating adjustments to the practice so it’s not so harsh and would give people a second chance if they can demonstrate improvement. But Boasberg said he doubted many teachers would exhibit “diametrically different performance” a few years later.
“It’s possible, but I would certainly not expect it in the majority of cases,” he said. “The worst answer for kids is when people aren’t performing well to bring them back.”
Interestingly, at least one of the teachers who did not get renewed this year in DPS said he has a shot at a teaching job at a STRIVE Prep charter school. Charters can hire those on the “do not rehire” list, Boasberg said.
Troy Holter, 45, a special ed teacher at Schmitt who originally came to Colorado from Arkansas to be a preacher then opted to earn a master’s degree in special education from University of Phoenix, did not get renewed and is also blacklisted.
He said he was surprised to learn he would not be renewed and would be banned from teaching in Denver.
“I thought they were trying to help me,” he said of district staff and observers. “It all seemed like positive feedback and trying to help me along.”
With a few more minutes to think, though, Holter said the observations didn’t always feel positive and described the interactions as “positive but awkward.”
“I felt very betrayed. I had some really hard-to-serve kids,” he said.
For now, Holter and Carbajal-Sandoval will keep showing up, teaching their kids until the last day of school. And then, that’s it.
The “Summer of Making and Connecting” isn’t about being at school — it’s about linking young people to their interests by using technology and other means to spark creativity and develop 21st century skills.
The summertime campaign, launched Tuesday in Washington, D.C., plans to engage thousands of people across the country and feature a growing roster of events and activities designed to make learning more relevant to young people, to real work and real life, and to the opportunities of the 21st century. Most activities will not take place in schools – even though the material learned can tie into next year’s school curriculum.
The campaign was announced as leaders in business and education met at the Re-Imagining Education Summit in Washington, D.C., hosted by the U.S. Department of Education and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
There’s already one event planned in Colorado. “Teaching with Technology” is a one-week inquiry-based workshop offered by the Colorado State University Writing Project, in association with the National Writing Project, held concurrently with their Save Our Stories project, June 10 to 14. Save Our Stories (SOS) is a writing and connected learning-focused workshop offered to area middle school grade English Language Learners in Fort Collins.
“Teaching with Technology” is designed to support teachers to inquiry into effective uses of a range of technologies to amplify student learning. They do this while also providing support for the work of the SOS students who are connecting throughout their communities to surface, document and share the history and everyday experiences of the Fort Collins Latino community.
For more information on the Summer of Making and Connecting and contact organizers to add events and projects, visit www.MakeSummer.org. To read or share ideas about the Summer of Making and Connecting, use the hashtag #MakeSummer.
A new report released by the widely-respected Institute of Medicine on Thursday recommends that schools provide students at least an hour of physical activity each day and that the U.S. Department of Education designate physical education as a core subject.
The report, called “Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School,” noted that only about half of children and youth meet the recommended daily minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity.
To help kids reach those levels, it recommended a “whole-of-school” approach, which would require involvement by teachers, principals, administrators, students and parents, as well as changes to the environment inside and outside the school building.
The report recommended that elementary school students get a half hour of physical education each day and that middle and high school students get 45 minutes of physical education each day. Students would also get other opportunities for physical activity through recess, exercise in the classroom, school-sponsored sports and active commuting to school.
Chicago Public Schools says this year, as it moves nearly 13,000 children from a record number of schools approved to close, it will track all its displaced students to see where they land, how they fare in their new school, and what the influx means for the new school, the Sun-Times reports.
PROTEST PICNIC: Dozens of CPS students and their families gathered on Memorial Day for a picnic at Millennium Park to protest school closings. The event was organized by parents, community members, and several local education activist organizations, including Raise Your Hand, Parents4Teachers and Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools. It featured a temporary art installation, letter-writing and paper-flower making to be delivered to elected officials this week. Letters from the event will urge Illinois legislators and Gov. Quinn to support the passage of the School Closing Moratorium bills HB3283 and SB1571 before the end of the legislative session on May 31. (ABC7News/press release)
ALSO: According to Raise Your Hand, a recent Freedom of Information Act request showed that, in making the decision to close schools, the BOE used no information about classrooms used for special education or other specialized programs and no information about grade-level enrollment at closing and receiving schools. They had no itemized analysis about operational or capital savings that they claimed would come from the closings. Independent estimates of savings itemized by school were less than half of CPS’s claimed estimates. (Press release)
INSTANT FAME: Asean Johnson, the 9-year-old third-grader who shot to celebrity last week when a video of him speaking at an anti-school closing rally went viral on YouTube, was profiled in Sunday's Tribune.
IN THE NATION
MORE AND BETTER LEARNING TIME: A dearth of good programs and district budget cuts are hurdles to providing quality extended-day programs for children, but charter schools and some traditional schools are still finding innovative ways to provide more and better learning time in Philadelphia Public Schools. Community schools are also part of the mix. Catalyst Chicago’s sister publication, the Philadelphia Notebook, devoted its new summer edition to the topic. It’s part of a multi-city reporting project on expanded learning time that includes Philadelphia, Catalyst Chicago, EdNews Colorado, Gotham Schools (New York City) and EdSource (California). Major funding was provided by the Ford Foundation.
SCHOOL NEWSPAPERS FADE AWAY: Fewer than one in eight of New York City’s public high schools reported having a newspaper or print journalism class in an informal survey this month by city education officials, who do not officially track the information. Many of these newspapers have been reduced to publishing a few times a year because of shrinking staffs, budget cuts and a new focus on core academic subjects. Some no longer come out in print at all, existing only as online papers or as scaled-down news blogs. (The New York Times)
Each weekday morning, we search websites of various media, comb through RSS feeds and peruse Google alerts to bring you a roundup of the day’s top education headlines, in Colorado and across the country, by 8 a.m. If you’d like to suggest a story we’ve missed or a source we should add to the list, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christine Quinn won’t attend today’s education forum organized by a group that opposes the Bloomberg administration’s school policies, but Anthony Weiner and an advocacy group that backs Bloomberg’s policies will.
The lineup for the debate that New Yorkers for Great Public Schools will host at New York University today changed several times over the weekend, with tweaks announced in a frenzied series of press releases.
“In Quinn’s absence, Weiner and other candidates will be able to rebut her public positions on key education issues,” the group said in a press advisory this morning.
The advisory appeared to confirm the expectation that Quinn, who received a chilly reception at a New Yorkers for Great Public Schools event last year, would not have an easy time if she did participate in today’s debate.
On Monday evening, the group announced that Weiner, who has kept up a blistering pace after declaring his candidacy last week, had confirmed his attendance. The candidate — who is trying to reenter public life after a sexting scandal — entered the race with much of his education platform unclear but has steadily been filling in the blanks since.
The confirmation came hours after the group announced that Quinn had bowed out of the event. “Her Campaign Says it Does Not Want to do a Debate on Education,” a press release from New Yorkers for Great Public Schools said.
Billy Easton, the Alliance for Quality Education executive director who is a spokesman for NY-GPS, told Politicker that Quinn had withdrawn from the event at 6 p.m. on Friday, three days before the group sent out an updated press advisory. He said she was “running away from an opportunity to defend her record on education.”
Quinn’s campaign said the candidate had never communicated what the press release alleged.
“The organizers were informed last week we would not be able to make this one work,” spokesman Mike Morey said. “We have never said to them or anyone else we would not debate education issues. In fact we’ve participated in two education debates this month alone, on top of a total of 44 debates and forums during the course of the campaign.”
It isn’t the first education event Quinn has missed. Early this month, she sat out a Brooklyn forum organized by ParentVoicesNY, a group that formed to oppose the increasing role of standardized testing, and moderated by Diane Ravitch, a vocal critic of the Bloomberg administration’s school policies. That forum was more of an “accountability session” for candidates to swear their fealty to specific ideas than an open exchange, attendees said.
New Yorkers for Great Public Schools is billing today’s event as the “first education debate” because of its format, which will include several rounds of questions and opportunities for candidates to respond to each other. A spokeswoman, the public school parent activist Zakiyah Ansari, is moderating.
But the expectation is that candidates who side with the group’s agenda will receive a warmer reception. The group wants an end to school closures, a moratorium on co-locations of charter schools in public school buildings, and a reduction on spending on education contracts — policies on which Quinn stands apart from many Democratic candidates either in principle or by degree.
Organizers from StudentsFirstNY, which is advocating to preserve the Bloomberg administration’s school policies, are planning to host parents inside the Kimmel Center before the debate to “urge [candidates] not to turn back the clock on education policy.” In a press release, the group said, “At previous forums, the candidates have expressed views that are concerning,” citing pledges that would change the Bloomberg administration’s accountability and weaken mayoral control.
The Colorado Supreme Court has voted 4-2 to overrule the 2011 Denver District Court decision that found the state’s school finance system unconstitutional, FOX31 reported Monday evening.
The television station reported that the opinion was available for a time Monday afternoon on the court’s website. No document was found later in the evening. The court usually releases opinions at 8 a.m. on Mondays, but the Lobato v. State ruling was scheduled for Tuesday release because of the holiday.
According to the document linked from the FOX31 article, the court’s opinion said: “The public school financing system enacted by the General Assembly complies with the Colorado Constitution. It is rationally related to the constitutional mandate that the General Assembly provide a ‘thorough and uniform’ system of public education. Colo. Const. art. IX, § 2 (the ‘Education Clause’). It also affords local school districts control over locally-raised funds and therefore over ‘instruction in the public schools.’ Colo. Const. art. IX, § 15 (the ‘Local Control Clause’). As such, the trial court erred when it declared the public school financing system unconstitutional. We accordingly reverse.”
The Colorado Supreme Court plans to issue its ruling on the landmark school funding adequacy case Lobato v. State on Tuesday.
The 2005 lawsuit hinges on the question of whether the current state funding system provides the “thorough and uniform” education guaranteed by the state Constitution. In 2011, Denver District Court Judge Sheila Rappaport ruled in favor of the group of parents who brought the suit and the state appealed. The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case in March.
Brush up on all of our past reporting the case here and we’ll have complete coverage of the ruling when it’s handed down.