The United Federation of Teachers won’t wait for a new mayor to expand the school model that the union says could be key to boosting student success.
This fall, at least nine and possibly as many as 12 schools across all five boroughs will turn into “community schools,” offering a full range of social services to students and their families. They will join the half-dozen schools that already transitioned to the model this year, using a combination of union, city, and private funding.
The UFT has made the community schools model a priority in the lead-up to the city’s mayoral election. Touting the model as one that could mitigate against the many obstacles to academic achievement that poor children face, the union organized several trips to Cincinnati, where all district schools use partnerships with businesses and non-profits to provide an array of supports including early childhood education, classes for adults, food banks, and health, dental, and vision services.
Four leading Democratic candidates for mayor accompanied union officials on those trips, as did State Education Commissioner John King and elected officials and educators from across the city. All of the candidates who took the trips have said they are committed to expanding the model in New York City. And Gov. Andrew Cuomo built $15 million in competitive grants into the state budget for schools to add community services.
But even before the state funds begin flowing or a new mayor takes office, the union is going ahead with an expansion. It opened applications to schools earlier this year and recently selected nine from the nearly 50 that applied to join the second round of the program. Now, union officials are considering bringing even more schools on board.
“There were some schools that were very, very motivated so we’re revisiting their applications,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “We’re always willing to go to schools where we think this could be useful to them.”
Mulgrew said the union had overhauled the application process since last year after a rocky start to the program, when some schools expected the union to handle all of the heavy lifting and keep paying for services indefinitely.
“We realized after two months we had not correctly framed the vision of it. They just thought they were going to get help and money,” Mulgrew said. “This is about teaching the school community how to analyze what your needs are, but the path has to be to self-sustainability.”
The union’s position is that there are sufficient service providers in the city to meet many students’ needs, but they do not work where students and their families need them most. The community schools program gives each participating school a coordinator whose job is to figure out what families need and work with existing service providers to help them relocate some of their efforts to the school building. Union officials act as a citywide broker, connecting coordinators with the service providers they request.
In the revamped application process, schools won points if they could show they understood the model, had ideas for implementation, boasted good relationship between teachers and administrators; and already managed their space and partnerships creatively. Only schools where at least 60 percent of students are eligible for free lunch could apply. The top 20 applicants made their case further in hourlong interviews.
The schools that came out on top are P.S. 83 and the International School for Liberal Arts High School in the Bronx; P.S. 1 in Manhattan; P.S. 65 in Queens and the Queens High School for Information, Research, and Technology; P.S. 335 and M.S. 584, which share a Brooklyn building; and P.S. 78 and P.S. 14, which share a building on Staten Island.
The six schools that joined the program this year also opted to continue it for a second year. Two of the schools are launching vision clinics, something Mulgrew said had not been planned for them until the school coordinators raised the idea.
Last year, the $600,000 in startup funding came from the union, the City Council, and the Partnership for New York City. Another funder, Trinity Wall Street, pitched in another $150,000 midyear. Union officials said they were still working to line up funding sources for the program’s second year but that they hoped that the City Council and the Partnership for New York City would continue to show support.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn is among the mayoral candidates who have touted the community schools model, and Mulgrew pointed to two other council members, Melissa Mark-Viverito and Debbie Rose, who had also traveled to Cincinnati.
With the model seeming likely to be poised for an even larger expansion in the near future, Mulgrew said he was glad the union could grow its community schools program slowly and cautiously to start.
“I don’t think that this is a fit for every school,” he said. “We have to make sure that we are doing this work correctly. We have to make sure we don’t just expand this for political purposes.”
Still, Mulgrew said, the possibilities of what could happen if the city’s next mayor believes in the community schools model are exciting. Right now, he said, city school construction doesn’t take non-academic services into account, and city agencies aren’t told that they must work together with the Department of Education.
“That would be a huge barrier to overcome — if we had a mayor directing them to cooperate,” Mulgrew said.
He added, “This is what has frustrated me about the whole city — there are a lot of services, and they really want to try to help, and there’s no one trying to connect it all.”
With the United Federation of Teachers due to endorse a mayoral candidate in just three weeks, its members are — like all New Yorkers — divided over whom to stand behind.
The union uploaded the cover of the new issue of New York Teacher, its newspaper for members, to Facebook on Wednesday, asking, “Who should we choose?” Teachers and others quickly responded with more than 100 comments that fell all over the electoral map.
“Liu. He was pro teacher and Union before he was Comptroller and not running for mayor like they all are now, feeding teachers what they want to hear,” wrote David Pambianchi.
“I teach in the Flushing area, and Liu was always very supportive of our school when he was councilman. I’d back him if I thought he had a shot to win. Too much scandal around him,” wrote Gary Malone. “I’d say Thompson or Deblasio.”
“Sal Albanese! A candidate that was a teacher and understands our concerns!” wrote Elle Ercolino. A few minutes later, Margaret DePaula wrote, “I did not like Albanese’s attitude at the Forum yesterday, he just kept harping on ‘Well since I am the only one who has ever been in a classroom.’”
One surprise, perhaps, was how many UFT members said they hope the union backs Anthony Weiner, who is mounting a comeback bid after resigning from Congress in 2011 because of a sexting scandal. An unscientific tally of positive comments found three for Albanese 12 for John Liu; 13 for Bill Thompson 13; and 18 Bill de Blasio. Weiner was mentioned positively 21 times.
“If we can forgive Weiner, he would be the most beneficial to our union,” wrote Jared Yapkowitz.
The only option to get the nod more often was some version of “Anyone but Quinn,” referring to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has worked closely with Mayor Bloomberg and has pledged to continue to some of his education policies.
Some members questioned the union’s decision to back a candidate, which it did not do in 2009.
“I do not think we should endorse anyone!” wrote Rosie Rossito. “You have thousands of members who do not all want the same candidate — what gives the union the right to back one candidate on behalf of all of us?”
To some, the dissent comes as no surprise.
“The UFT endorsement doesn’t mean what it used to mean,” said Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform. “In the past, everybody was made to believe that it was their duty to follow the UFT president into battle. It’s harder to believe that now. They’re all over the map.”
But the union’s power remains formidable. Whoever gets the UFT’s endorsement will immediately have access to union dollars and a fleet of supporters willing to do the legwork — or phone calls from Florida — that any campaign needs to be successful. Responding to the original question the UFT’s Facebook post posed, Nilda Dontaine wrote, “You mean, who should we make. The UFT VOTES!”
A group of city officials, educators and members of the justice system are determined to make lowering school suspensions and arrests a high city priority.
The 45-member School-Justice Partnership task force led by a former state judge released a report Thursday that recommends the next mayor encourage all agencies and the court system to work together to reduce suspensions, summonses and student arrests.
The report, which took two years to complete, was presented to an audience of about 150 at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where mayoral candidate Bill Thompson also made an appearance to support the recommendations.
Advocates have long clamored for less punitive approaches to school discipline. The report offers specific recommendations like schools using positive discipline strategies rather than suspensions and school safety agents responding only to criminal behavior and not minor misdemeanors that would overhaul the entire discipline system.
Its recommendations were based on data that nearly three of every four of the 882 arrests in the 2012 school year were for misdemeanors and students as young as 11 were being arrested.
The report also said from the 2006 school year to the 2012 school year, suspensions increased by 40 percent, but that number doesn’t take into account the recent sharp decrease of suspensions after a new, less punitive discipline code was put into place.
Spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said the department, which is a member of the task force, has “enacted programs to address incidents and student behavioral issues before they escalate.” She cited a 36 percent decline in total suspensions from July to December 2012 compared to the previous year, while also acknowledging that the department could do more to get schools to choose disciplinary approaches that don’t rely on suspensions.
Dignity in Schools’ Liz Sullivan, who was on the task force, said after the event she and other advocates think returning school safety control to principals was an important next step, but “the task force wasn’t ready to take that step in the report.” She said the focus of the report was about protocol and first steps schools can take so eventually a police presence won’t be needed in schools any more.
Thompson, who was the president of the city Board of Education from 1996 to 2011, reminded the audience that he oversaw the transfer of the Office of School Safety from the Department of Education to the police department because “the truth was, we weren’t doing as good of a job as we could have.” He said Mayor Michael Bloomberg had ignored the memorandum of understanding he struck with police department, leading to the high rate of suspensions the district is seeing now.
“I remember being very specific. I didn’t want to see young people arrested for some of the things I had done when I was a New York City public school students. Things like pushing, things like minor fist fights. We didn’t want to see young people wind up with records because of that.”
For the second time since becoming the Department of Education’s official data monitor, the city’s Independent Budget Office has released a mountain of numbers.
The latest version of the IBO’s Public School Indicators” report compiles data about student demographics, space-sharing arrangements, budget allocations, principal and teacher characteristics, and student performance. While much of the data has appeared elsewhere, the new report collects multiple datasets in one place.
Not much has changed dramatically since the IBO’s first indicators report, released in September 2011. But the new version of the report relies on data that the IBO says was more accurate than the data it was given in 2011 and updates the facts and figures to include data from the 2011-2012 school year.
The new version also includes information for the first time about graduates of one of the city’s newest principal training programs.
Of the Leadership in Education Apprenticeship Program’s 68 graduates in 2012, 25 became principals in the system. They were slightly more likely than graduates of other programs to work in schools with relatively few poor students, and significantly less likely to be women.
Among the many other highlights:
The IBO first gained access to Department of Education data after state legislators designated the office as a watchdog scrutinizing student achievement and financial information in the 2009 law reauthorizing mayoral control. Its analysis was meant to serve as a check on Mayor Bloomberg’s power to control data about school performance and the system overall. But recently, UFT President Michael Mulgrew has said more needs to be done to scrutinize the department’s claims.
Raymond Damonico, the IBO’s director of education research, supervised the report’s creation.
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.
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 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.
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.
A year after the Department of Education substantially revised its discipline code to favor less punitive responses to student misbehavior, advocates say a new round of revisions misses an opportunity to improve school climate further.
Last year, in sweeping changes, the department reduced penalties for minor misbehavior, introduced some alternatives to suspensions, and eliminated suspensions altogether for the city’s youngest students. The proposed changes to the discipline code for next year are more incremental, highlighting some discipline strategies that could replace suspension and clarifying that in-school discipline should not cause students to miss instructional time.
“We continued this same strong message about progressive discipline and we want to continue to reinforce a range of disciplinary and guidance supports so schools can develop a progressive approach,” said Marge Feinberg, a department spokeswoman.
The main addition to the code is specific language about how to ensure that students with special needs are disciplined appropriately. Special education advocates have expressed concerns about the possibility that discipline would fall disproportionately on students with students disabilities as the city asks schools to mainstream the students more often.
But advocates for more substantial overhauls to the way city schools handle discipline say the department still has not gone far enough. Los Angeles recently eliminated suspensions for much nonviolent misbehavior, and in a statement, the Dignity in Schools Campaign — which has long pushed for less punitive school discipline policies — questioned why New York City had not taken the same step.
“All of our schools have requirements on everything else, like attendance, classes, graduation rates, keeping a school open or closed. And our schools follow these requirements,” said Shikha Rawat, a youth leader with the campaign. “So it’s hard to understand as students why we can’t have a Discipline Code that requires guidance interventions before deciding on a suspension. That kind of requirement would improve school attendance, graduation rates and help with all the other things schools are required to do.”
The city still allows for short-term suspensions for infractions that include behavior such as disobeying school safety agents or breaking the Department of Education’s internet use policy. For more egregious behavior, suspensions can be even longer.
“We feel that long-term suspensions don’t really get at the cause of the issue and really don’t help students,” said Shoshi Chadbury, a Dignity in Schools coordinator.
The department will hold a public hearing about the code on June 6 at Stuyvesant High School and release a final version in August, to go into effect for the 2013-2014 school year.
As Lamont Sadler moonwalked up to the microphone, his classmates clapped and cheered for their senior class president.
“When I say hee hee, you say ow!” Sadler yelled to the auditorium full of students and teachers who chanted in reply.
The exuberant display was part of Uncommon Charter High School’s “signing day” on Thursday to celebrate the college acceptances that its first graduating class of 28 students nabbed. The students were individually recognized for their achievements, walked across the stage to a song of their choice, and then announced what college they would attend in the fall. While on stage, students also signed a contract that promised they would succeed in and graduate from college.
The ritual was one of the last for the students who formed Uncommon’s first ninth-grade class when the school opened in 2009, bringing together graduates of the charter network’s multiple Brooklyn schools. Another charter network, Achievement First, opened a high school for the graduates of its middle schools the same year in the same building — and held a similar ceremony for its 31 graduating seniors on Wednesday. (A third network, KIPP, also opened its high school in 2009, in Harlem. It held a stepping up ceremony on Tuesday.)
Both schools originally started with more students. Of Uncommon’s 39 original ninth-graders, eight moved or transferred out of the school, and another three will remain enrolled next year. At Achievement First, student attrition was steeper: The school went from 61 ninth-graders to 32 graduating seniors. A spokeswoman for the network, whose New York City schools have drawn criticism for having overly harsh rules, said attrition had been highest in the school’s first year, when it lacked many of the programs and activities it now has.
For the students who are graduating, the payoff is significant. All of the students in both schools were accepted to college and plan to attend this fall. Many will be members of the first generation in their family to attend college.
Achievement First made getting into college a graduation requirement, and the 32 seniors were accepted to 216 colleges and universities, including Williams College, Howard University, Syracuse University, Lafayette College, and several schools in the SUNY and CUNY networks. Sabrina Dawson, the school’s college counselor, helped students schools that offer financial aid and support for first-generation college students, then coached them through the application process and a senior-year “College Readiness Seminar.”
Uncommon’s 28 seniors submitted 429 applications to 138 different colleges. During the ceremony, the 12th grade team lead Nour Goda introduced each of the students. She said when Nicollete Francisco was asked to give 100 percent, she gives 110 – Francisco announced she would attend the University of Bridgeport. Kinyanna Evans walked to “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson and announced she would be attending DePaw University. Ashley Heard, who started the first fashion show at UCHS, walked to “Thrift Shop” and announced she’d be attending York College.
Senior Justin Colon received a full ride to Vanderbilt University while Kevin Ozoria, who was accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also received a full scholarship, to Dartmouth College, which is in the Ivy League.
“I never thought that I would be worthy of going to high institutions like these,” Ozorio said.
Sadler, who announced he would attend State University of New York at Oswego, said he wouldn’t be where he is today without his high school.
“I was so used to not being in a classroom at my old school, I used to run around hallways and do whatever I wanted to,” said Sadler, who started at an Uncommon school in the fifth grade.
He admitted that it took him a while to adjust to Uncommon’s strict rules, but he said he likes the school now because he’s been able to “make it his own.”
“It’s surreal that everyone here is going to college,” he said. “You always hear about college since fifth grade … since the first day of school until now. And now that you’re actually going to college and that it’s not a question in your mind … that’s the best part.”
Starting today, the Department of Education plans to release annual reports about teacher retention that detail — by their performance ratings — which teachers resign, retire, stay on, are fired, or are promoted.
“Having detailed information about teacher performance and retention at their fingertips will better enable our principals to develop staff and retain our best and brightest,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement.
The “Smart Retention” reports were inspired by a report released last year by TNTP, a group that advocates for aggressive changes to hiring and firing practices in public schools. The TNTP report, called the “Irreplaceables,” found that weak and strong teachers leave school districts at roughly the same rate and argued that districts could adopt low-cost strategies to hold on to top performers.
The reports cite the TNTP study and show retention and attrition patterns by their growth scores, which the state is calculating for some teachers, and their ratings under the city’s current evaluation system. Principals can also see the “exit paths” for the different categories of teachers, look at how their schools’ patterns have changed over time, and compare what happens at their school to what happens across the city.
“Any principal in New York who is looking at their data, this is all things they’ve seen before,” said Anne Martin Williams, the department official leading their development, when she premiered a draft of the Smart Retention report to a group of district and charter school leaders in March. “But it’s never been in one place like this, with resources attached to it.”
Those resources include a tip sheet about recognizing and rewarding top teachers, in keeping with a teacher appreciation prize that the city launched this year. “Customize recognition strategies to individual teachers’ interests and personalities,” reads one tip on the sheet, which comes with a sample “Kudos” form originally used by a Michigan community college.
Williams said the department would also give principals information about existing resources around how to usher “consistently low-performing” teachers out of their schools. “A lot of principals use the resources a lot and some don’t at all,” she said.
After rising for six years, the number of teachers awarded “unsatisfactory” ratings fell last year. That was supposed to be the last time teachers were rated under the old evaluation system, but because the city and its teachers union never agreed on a new evaluation system, teachers will receive “satisfactory” and “unsatisfactory” ratings one last time this year. Next week, State Education Commissioner John King is set to impose an evaluation system on the city for next year that factors student performance into teachers’ ratings.
Next year, the retention reports will reflect the new ratings. “As the citywide evaluation work evolves we will obviously have more detailed information about teacher performance (based on multiple measures) which will provide for greater ability for schools to understand relationship between retention and teacher effectiveness,” said a department spokeswoman, Erin Hughes.
The department has made accountability for principals paramount for years, factoring their compliance with various mandates into their annual ratings. But principals won’t be expected to hit any particular retention targets, Hughes said.
“When and if we have a teacher evaluation deal we’ll have a lot better information about teachers,” Williams said in March. “This year our goal is to change the conversation, create new vocabulary, and put some resources in principals’ hands.”
A sample report is below: