Friday, December 16, 2005

A very untraditional public school in Oakland

The top-performing middle school in Oakland is the American Indian Public Charter School, a profile of which appears in today's San Francisco Chronicle. His style couldn't be more different from everything I've learned so far at NYU, and is basically the polar opposite of the charter schools I work with. There may be a lot of reasons this school is succeeding, and the back-to-basics and harsh discipline may not be the foremost among them. But it is an interesting article.

Key grafs:

Chavis admitted that he's prompted students to leave, saying that his method isn't for everyone. He said his target demographic is "ghetto, poor kids."

"I don't use that middle-class rhetoric. I don't believe in building self-esteem, fundraising, parent involvement," Chavis said. "My system is not for middle-class, upper-class whites."

Don't speak Spanish here

This is an unbelievable story out of Kansas City, Kansas, that I somehow missed last week. According to the Washington Post, a 16 year-old Mexican kid was suspended for speaking Spanish in the hallway of his high school. Even if you believe in English-only instruction at schools (I don't because I think schools should offer a variety of options to help all kinds of learners (including native English speakers that might want to be in a dual language class), and because I think it can be really valuable to teach immigrant kids that grow up here to read and write Spanish), this is crossing the line. Prohibiting the expression of some cultures even when it does not disrupt sends the wrong message to kids (that some cultures are not valued as much as others), and it is racist. Does anyone think that a kid speaking a European language in the hall would have been sent home? I try not to get too discouraged by all the anti-immigrant (really, anti-Hispanic) language being thrown around by Republicans in the House because I know that the reality on the ground is much more complex (Kansas allows undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition to local colleges, for example), but this kind of stuff is depressing.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Battle over In-State Tuition and Immigrants in California

The LA Times reports that a group of out-of-state students are suing California's public universities over the policy that lets undocumented students that attended high school in California pay in-state tuition. Of course, the anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Reform is behind it, but a similar lawsuit filed by the group failed in Kansas a couple of months ago, so hopefully this won't go anywhere. The number of undocumented students actually taking advantage of the in-state tuition in California is very low, and it makes no sense to me to bar bright immigrant kids from college just because their parents came here illegally. But then again, many Republicans in the House seem to be poised to end birthright citizenship in order to "crack down" on undocumented immigration. If they are serious about doing something to fix the broken immigration system, they should start listening to their buddies in big business.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Native Americans were . . .

I came across a display by the after school program at the community center where I work occasionally. The kids, who are 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade, created a mini "museum" on an American Indian tribe for thanksgiving. I was standing there thinking how nice it was for the program to have the kids think about the outside world for a change (I find that a lot of my kids rarely leave New York or even Queens) when I noticed that all the "facts" about the American Indians were in the past tense - "Native Americans were connected with nature" was one of the worst. I have a big problem with the tendency to romanticize American Indians because it leads to stuff like this - the complete removal of Indians from the present day. It's particularly bad because New York City has the largest concentration of American Indians in any city in the United States. There are a couple of nice art exhibits by New York American Indians at the Smithsonian downtown, and I really wish I sent my kids there during the field trip to the Staten Island Ferry.

Friday, December 09, 2005

6 new charters to be approved

New York Daily News -
Regents to OK 6 charter schools

Friday, December 9th, 2005

The State Board of Regents is expected today to approve six new charter schools - leaving only eight more slots in the state for charters.
Mayor Bloomberg, Gov. Pataki and other charter supporters have called on the Legislature to eliminate or raise the 100-charter-school cap - a move that Albany insiders say is in the works - but the issue remains controversial. Detractors say charters draw resources from regular public schools.

Charters are taxpayer-funded schools that operate outside the regular public school system. In New York City, there are 12,000 kids in 47 charters.

Students in many of those schools have earned higher test scores than their peers in regular schools, generating interest from parents and enthusiasm from educators.

There are 20 charter applications now vying for the eight remaining slots. Dozens more are in the works across the state. The Regents will select four of those schools. The State University of New York will choose the other four. Both votes are expected in January.

The six charters expected to be approved today include two in Harlem, two in Brooklyn, one in the Bronx and one in Buffalo.

Erin Einhorn

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

"We're all the children of immigrants"

So says James Oddo, a Republican Councilmember from Staten Island, explaining his opposition to the Education Equity Act, which would mandate the Dept. of Education and schools to translate for non-English speaking parents. Oddo, and a few other councilmembers that oppose the bill (the NY Sun article below reports that it will almost certainly pass soon), argue that such a bill would take the incentive away from parents to learn English.

I've written about the Education Equity Act a number of times before, but this line of reasoning really makes me mad. I have a number of parents from the after school program that are taking ESL classes at night (after working all day), and I can guarantee that they would still be there even if trying to talk to a teacher or school official about their kid wasn't a nightmare, which it is right now despite Bloomberg's Translation Unit. These parents do want to participate in their child's school, but they also want to help their kids with homework, deal with everyday issues and get better jobs, and this won't change if the Education Equity Act passes.

Council Translation Services Effort Faces Education Dept. Opposition
BY DEBORAH KOLBEN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
December 7, 2005

A $20 million plan to mandate translation services in eight languages for parents of immigrant children in New York City will be opposed by the city's Department of Education if, as expected, it passes the full City Council this month.

The bill approved by the Education Committee and known as the "Education Equity Act," has been welcomed by immigrant groups as a matter of "civil rights." They say parents are being shut out of their children's education because they cannot understand report cards, parent teacher conferences, and other school meetings. Some opponents of the bill have criticized the cost and say that it provides no incentive for parents to learn English.

Now the Department of Education has warned that the City Council could be stepping outside its jurisdiction. Under state law, only the Department of Education or Albany can legislate matters that are "educational or pedagogic," a spokeswoman for the department, Kelly Devers, said.

"While we agree with the goal of effectively communicating to non-English-speaking parents, and believe that the bill is aligned with our recently announced expansion of efforts in this area, we have serious concerns with the practical implications of the bill, including its funding," she said.

Andrew Friedman, the director of a Brooklyn immigrant advocacy group, Make the Road By Walking, argued differently: "These are parents who have a ton of desires to see their children succeed academically; and they really had the schoolhouse door slammed in their face." The law would require translation and interpretation services in the top languages spoken in New York City, including Russian, Haitian Creole, Urdu, Arabic, and Chinese. More than one in three New Yorkers are foreign-born, according to 2000 census data.

Last summer, the city established a new $10 million translation unit for schools to pay for interpreters and translation of some documents. Half of the funding is given directly to schools.

The Education Equity Act would go further in specifying when and for what meetings schools would have to provide interpreters and what materials they would have to translate.

Schools with growing numbers of immigrant families have been struggling to reach out to parents. At P.S. 226 in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, many parents speak only Russian, Urdu, Hindi, or Chinese. The principal, Stephen Porter, said that this year the school received about $27,000 to provide translation and interpreters. He has often had to rely on students to translate for their parents, but that is less than ideal: "When a child is interpreting; you don't know if
they're telling the truth or if they're bending it to their benefit."

The three council Republicans are leading the charge against the Education Equity Act. Mayor Bloomberg is likely to veto the bill if it passes.

The Republican minority leader, James Oddo, sent out letters yesterday along with seven other council members encouraging their colleagues to vote "no." The letter includes a quotation from a 1999 State of the Union address by President Clinton about the importance of immigrants
learning English.

"We're all the children of immigrants," Mr. Oddo told The New York Sun. "I understand the importance of parental involvement, but not at the expense of the English language."

Preschool is cool

Out of hibernation to give you a link to this article about the Perry Preschool study.

Key paragraphs:

The landmark study of Perry Preschool tracked a group of poor African American youngsters from when they attended pre-kindergarten in Ypsilanti, Mich., in the early 1960s until they were well into middle age.

The findings are astonishing: a $17 return to the individual and society for every dollar spent on their early education. Those who went to Perry were considerably more likely than children who didn't attend preschool to have graduated from high school and married, significantly less likely to have gone to prison multiple times and to have been on welfare. They're earning an average of $20,800 a year. That's 25% more than similar children who lacked the preschool experience — enough of a difference to lift them above the poverty line.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

It's not looking good for my 8th graders

The NY Times reports today that fewer than one in 10 black and Hispanic kids in NYC graduate with a Regents Diploma. I'll try not to think about that while I'm helping my kids (almost all of whom are black and Hispanic) fill out their applications today and tomorrow.

Real Solutions on Immigration

Great common sense op-ed by Douglass Massey in the Washington Post that everyone should read now that Bush and some Republicans seem determined to make immigration a wedge issue.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

High Expectations

As part of the after school program for 8th graders, I've been trying to get the kids (and parents) to take the high school application process seriously since September. I've had a couple of workshops, taken trips to local high schools and have spent a lot time talking about it with individual kids, but it wasn't until this week (applications are due this Friday) that everyone seemed to find the high school book. So it's been crazy this week talking to dozens of kids that want to go to a good high school but really have no idea what they're doing. The process of choosing a high school is incredibly complicated for a good student, and most of my kids are LEP or have really bad grades and test scores from 7th grade (which is what the high schools look at).

So instead of telling my kids that they can go to the really nice high schools, I'm forced to find ones that take students with lower test scores. New York seems to provide options to kids like this because of all the small schools that are opening up, but it feels terrible to dissuade them from applying to wonderful schools like Townsend Harris (I do have one girl who might get in, which would be really great). I just finished reading Kozol's "Ordinary Resurrections" about the South Bronx and he discusses the problems he has with the more realistic expectations held by educators and social workers that he respects. He feels like even though many kids in poor neighborhoods won't make it to college, it's wrong to limit their opportunities by assuming that they can't be doctors and lawyers (for example). I agree with him, even as I find myself succumbing to the same pressures. I know that going to a neighborhood school isn't the worst thing in the world for my 8th graders, and I'm getting ready to take them on college visits to show them that I expect them to be serious in high school. But I also know that going to college from some of these high schools will be tough for them. It's a tough battle, but hopefully some of these kids will find their way in whatever high school they get into.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

DREAM Act Reintroduced

I haven't seen anything in the big papers about this, but the DREAM Act was re-introduced yesterday (see the National Council of La Raza press release about it here). And here is an excellent article in the NY Sun about immigrant kids with college degrees forced to work low-wage jobs because of their undocumented status.

College Grads Who Are Illegal Immigrants Face Barren Job MarketBY DANIELA
GERSON - Staff Reporter of the SunNovember 22, 2005URL:

Each year, thousands of New York City students earn college degreesand yet have no possibility of finding work. The reason is not a lackof job offers, but because they are illegal immigrants."We have people who graduate at the top of their classes and they can't get jobs," the director of the City University of New York's Citizenship and Immigration Project, Allan Wernick, said yesterday at a City Council hearing. By recent counts, he said, there are 3,000 undocumented students in the CUNY system. Nationally, 65,000 illegal immigrant students are thought to graduate from high school each year. Alfredo, an illegal immigrant who is a senior at Baruch College, is facing the prospect of graduating this spring with a degree in business administration and no potential to work legally. At 10, his parents brought him to Long Island from Guatemala, but it was onlyyears later that he realized the implications of being illegal. "Inever thought it was such
a big issue until I started hitting theroadblocks," the 21-year-old said, noting
that teachers began tonominate him for awards he could not accept without a
Social Securitynumber. On Friday, a glimmer of hope appeared for immigrants such
as Alfredo. The Senate reintroduced legislation that would grant students
the opportunity to become permanent legal residents. If President Bush signs it by
the end of 2006, the bill, known as the Dream Act, would allow students to
receive temporary legal status when they graduate from high school. Upon
completing their studies or military service, the immigrants could then apply for
permanent legal status.
Additionally, the legislation would increase the number of statesoffering instate tuition to undocumented students and make more financial aid available. Unlike most other states across the country, schools in New York offer in-state tuition to immigrant students who have lived in the state, regardless of status.However, even the $4,000 tuition for senior colleges in the CUNYsystem or $2,800 for junior colleges can be a stretch for some immigrants. A teacher with dozens of undocumented students at Flushing High School in Queens, Martha Cruz, said some of her best students could not join their peers in college because their illegal status bars them from most forms of financial aid."I have one who graduated with over an 83 average and he's working at McDonald's because he wants to save to go to college, plus he has to help out at home," Ms. Cruz said. "If they continue to be undocumented they will work menial jobs." In Alfredo's case, his parents rented out two rooms in their Long Island house so he could attend Baruch. Unable to work legally while in college, he has helped cover his educationfees by working at restaurants for under-the-table pay.The evident humanitarian and economic case for providing students who had no choice in immigrating illegally to America with a chance to study and work make it a fairly popular bill. Critics, nonetheless, say it is a
sugar-coated amnesty rewarding illegality. Still, the Dream Act is generally
considered the immigrationlegislation most likely to pass next term. Senators
Clinton andSchumer were both cosigners of the initial bill but have not
yetsigned on to the reintroduced bill.For Alfredo, who is heading a campaign
with the CUNY Senate's newlyformed immigration committee to bring attention to
the issue, theDream Act is a question of practicality. "Without it there's
really nofuture for me. Even though I will have a bachelor's degree, I'm
goingto have to work some low-wage job," he said. "It makes sense forAmerica to
let me participate as much as I can."November 22, 2005 Edition >

Friday, November 18, 2005

Sending Immigrant Kids Back Home

Interesting NY Sun article about Chinese immigrant mothers in NYC sending their babies back to China because they can't afford childcare in the city, are afraid to apply for subsidized childcare if they're undocumented, and because they're working too much. The kids usually come back to start school here, but have trouble learning English and adjusting to the US. The Latino families I work with generally don't have the option of sending their kids home (or just don't want to), but they seem to really struggle to find childcare when both parents work.

It should be worth it to Bloomy to make an effort to provide affordable childcare for immigrant families, if only to start investing now in these kids' futures. No reason to focus all the attention on test scores in elementary and middle school when some immigrant kids are being left behind a lot earlier.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

new orleans school takeover .. ?

Just wanted to make sure that everyone knew about this big story: the Louisiana legislature approved Gov. Blanco's proposed state takeover of many New Orleans schools. Commentary to come ...

Monday, November 14, 2005


This just in from my professor:

Sent Monday, November 14, 2005 8:53 pm
Subject Tuesday meeting place

Yes, we have a place to meet tomorrow:

McDonald's ... they will allow us to meet upstairs so even if they have that area blocked off when you go in - fear not - they are expecting us and our discussion of Dewey.

Nutrition aside, please try to buy something as you come in..... as thanks....

Now THERE's an ethical dilemma for you. I haven't stepped into a McDonalds in many, many years. Not that I really have a choice in the matter. But an interesting question still: which is worse, patronizing a university that union-busts, or patronizing one of the more evil companies in the world?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

El Seviche

My school recently had its annual "Multicultural Festival", which actually turned out to be really nice. Most of the immigrant students in the after school program produced some great displays about their native countries, but it was the work of the kids who barely remembered being out of the U.S. that was particularly interesting. Some of them really got into looking up information and recalling tiny details of their old house or relatives. For these kids, it seemed, food was the most direct connection to their homeland - a Peruvian kid wrote a long, detailed essay about how his family in Lima prepares El Seviche (a typical seafood dish from South America usually spelled Ceviche), and a kid from Honduras drew a nice picture of a rice and beans plate that was his favorite. One kid who left Mexico when he was four was frustrated and a little embarrassed for most of one afternoon because he couldn't remember much about his village, but later talked to me for a long time about how much he loved thinking about the desert and the wide-open spaces in Mexico.

There have been a lot of problems with ethnic and racial tensions in the school recently (more on that in the next post), but it was really nice to see so many of the kids show some pride and emotion when talking about their countries.

Monday, November 07, 2005

More always enlightening

Paul Krugman, one of the school of bloggers' favorite columnists, writes about healthcare in his column today.

It's one of our favorite topics too (past posts here and here), so I'll risk whatever consequences it may bring and post excerpts from the column for those of you not graced with Times Select.

Here's the nut graf:

The funny thing is that the solution - national health insurance, available to everyone - is obvious. But to see the obvious we'll have to overcome pride - the unwarranted belief that America has nothing to learn from other countries - and prejudice - the equally unwarranted belief, driven by ideology, that private insurance is more efficient than public insurance.

Huhhhh?? He explains further:

The journal Health Affairs recently published the results of a survey of the medical experience of "sicker adults" in six countries, including Canada, Britain, Germany and the United States. The responses don't support claims about superior service from the U.S. system. It's true that Americans generally have shorter waits for elective surgery than Canadians or Britons, although German waits are even shorter. But Americans do worse by some important measures: we find it harder than citizens of other advanced countries to see a doctor when we need one, and our system is more, not less, rife with medical errors.

Above all, Americans are far more likely than others to forgo treatment because they can't afford it. Forty percent of the Americans surveyed failed to fill a prescription because of cost. A third were deterred by cost from seeing a doctor when sick or from getting recommended tests or follow-up.

Krugman, I have observed this phenomenon in my own employer-provided health insurance plan. In fact, it has been nearly impossible to find a doctor who actually exists and who will see me. Why is this?

The U.S. system is much more bureaucratic, with much higher administrative costs, than those of other countries, because private insurers and other players work hard at trying not to pay for medical care. And our fragmented system is unable to bargain with drug companies and other suppliers for lower prices.

Always enlightening

zwichenzug has a good analysis of the importance of the NYU grad worker strike.

Friday, November 04, 2005

academia's corporate apologists strike again

Dear NYU Student,

The United Auto Workers union has announced that it has decided to proceed with a “strike.” I want to reassure you that classes will continue to go forward and we will do our best to minimize the impact of any disruption the UAW may cause.

As you know, the University entered into a contract with the UAW in 2001, the first and only private university to do so. We had choices, but we decided to enter into a contract because the union committed – in writing – not to interfere with NYU’s academic decision-making. Regrettably, they broke that promise. In so doing, they damaged a genuine opportunity for partnership. Remarks from the union leadership, as recently as this past week, establish that they continue to believe that grievances of academic decisions, including who should be appointed to teach, are appropriate.

Still, in August we proposed a new agreement: recognition of the UAW as the bargaining agent for our graduate students on economic matters (stipends, health care, employment conditions), but not academic matters. We made this proposal to bridge the goals important to the University and the UAW. The union unambiguously rejected the proposal.

We have tried to find a way to make it work with the UAW, twice. At some point, one must turn from trying to mend an imperfect past and towards creating a better future.

So, we have implemented increases in stipends ($1000 per year for three years), and a commitment to an “evergreen” look ahead to enable graduate students to know the financial aid support three years in advance. A committee of graduate student representatives has begun work on a new grievance procedure and a rights-and-responsibility compact.

The UAW is now threatening to disrupt classes. In moving forward after the UAW rejected our proposal, the University was aware that the UAW might threaten class disruptions. You are entitled to ask “Is this worth it?” The answer to that question lies not in whether the autoworkers union chooses to disrupt classes, but in whether the University’s decision advances or erodes NYU’s long-term efforts to achieve academic excellence. Along with many others on campus, I believe it will advance them.

NYU values the freedom to express differences of opinion. In an academic environment, however, disrupting classes is not an appropriate form of expression. An academic institution and its faculty must be committed to classes going forward, to teaching and learning continuing, and to supporting all its students – including its graduate assistants – as they pursue their education. In a community of scholars, this is our vocation, and it is the right course. Despite what may happen over the coming days, we cherish all of our students. We will remain committed to them, to their studies, and to their scholarly aspirations, and to your academic progress.

David McLaughlin, Provost

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Get on the bus ..

.. is hosting this week's carnival.

NYU grad students to strike

The NYU graduate employees have voted to strike. The professor who teaches my "Inquiries into Teaching and Learning" class told us that if they strike, she will not cross the picket line, and we'll have class off-campus. She's an adjunct, and apparently adjuncts went on strike at NYU a few years ago, although I'm not sure if that has anything to do with her decision to move class.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Blaming Ilegal Immigrants

I got a hold of this survey that the Republican National Congressional Committee is sending out. It's awful and dehumanizing, and resorts to scare tactics (see words like "flood", "uncontrolled illegal immigration", etc). This is discouraging when some Republicans are currently sponsoring good bills that begin to deal with the problem, and I think it also shows that the vocal extremists will continue to define Republican policy in areas other than Supreme Court nominations. I hope this means that they will lose the votes of moderates and the business community, because the ideas put forth in this survey are ridiculous and will do nothing to solve the problems in our immigration system.

The mayoral debate

"Look, I'm not running to be the mayor of the fourth grade. I'm running to be the mayor of all the grades."

- Freddy Ferrer, in the debate with Bloomy last night. Apparently it was one of the only good jabs he had at Bloomy.

Bonus observation: Has anyone else noticed that both Bloomy and Freddy strikingly resemble woodland creatures?


Not signing up for SES

The NY Post reported on Saturday that more than 84 percent of poor students in NYC have not signed up for free SES tutoring. This number is astounding, but it doesn't really surprise me after what I've seen at my school. Even though the school has actually done a decent job of distributing materials and providing information sessions this year, I have talked to a number of parents that still have no idea what SES is (this probably occurs either because a lot of parents never visit the school, or because immigrant parents receive almost no information in their native language). So schools and the DOE have to do a better job of explaining SES, particularly to immigrant parents. Bloomy's new translation office is up and running, and it seems to be doing some good work, but it needs to get moving on big projects like this. For instance, the school provided a Spanish translator at the SES fair, but the DOE really should have had translators for several Asian languages.

The other problem with SES is that when parents do understand and come in to sign their kids up, they are immediately attacked by the for-profit company that has set up shop in and around the school. It's a confusing process anyway, and I think it is being made worse by the cutthroat competition among providers. The word may be getting out more because of the resources from the for-profit companies, but it's obviously not sinking in. Maybe all the providers should take a deep breath and remember that the kids really need the extra help with all the focus on testing. But parents have to be involved in the decision, not just hit up for their signature on the provider form, in order for the kids to get the help.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Maple Syrup!

Last night, everywhere I went I smelled maple syrup. I thought someone had spilled some on the subway and I had sat in it, but I couldn't find the source.

Then, in today's New York Post, I read this:


A peculiar and mysterious smell enveloped lower Manhattan for several hours last night, sparking dozens of 311 calls, authorities said.

Pedestrians around City Hall claimed there was an overpowering smell reminiscent of pancakes or maple syrup.

"A significant number of calls came in to the 311 system," said Jared Bernstein, a spokesman for the city's Office of Emergency Management. "We are taking it very seriously — in this day and age we take everything seriously."

Bernstein said city officials were working — with a variety of state and federal officials — to determine where the smell originated.

Update: Gothamist is on the case. (Check out all the comments!)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Ravitching and moaning

You would think I'd had enough of education historian Diane Ravitch in my social studies education classes (she usually plays the role of villain). But no! Ravitch opines today on religious freedom in the NY Post and on NY State tests/NAEP discrepancies in the NY Daily News.

Business AND goverment facing a crisis of confidence?


The public's view of the government has eroded over the past year and its view of business corporations is now at the lowest level in two decades. The public's rating for the federal government has fallen from 59% favorable last year to 45% now, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The favorable view of business corporations is also at 45%.

- Associated Press
Emphasis added. This is a big, big deal. Public confidence in business is waning (things like this don't help) AND public confidence in goverment is waning (things like this certainly don't help).

What does this mean? Organized labor may be due for a comeback ...

It's ........

Carnival time.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The School of Bloggers are on the map!

The education-related blogging map, that is. We thought it was pretty cool when we became a slithering reptile in the blogging ecosystem, and were also very excited to learn that we were the number 23 education-related blog in the world*, but making it onto This Week in Education's BlogMap** was truly memorable. Now, go put yourselves on the map!

*Out of 26
**Which we did by signing ourselves up here.

interesting charter development

"UFT willing to barter on charters." NY Daily News reports.

Friday, October 21, 2005

NYU Grad students to strike?

Dear NYU Student –

By now many of you are aware that the United Auto Workers is publicly discussing a job action involving graduate assistants (GAs) at NYU in the near future.

In our opinion, the Auto Workers union is embarking on a regrettable and unfortunate course: regrettable because it fails to respect the significance of your efforts to pursue your education, and unfortunate because such an action will not result in recognition of the UAW to represent our graduate assistants.

We understand that the possibility of a job action is the last thing you need at this point in the school year. We want to reassure you that the University will maintain your academic progress.


The United Auto Workers union has been publicly discussing the prospects of engaging in a job action for quite some time; accordingly, the University has been planning for this possibility. Regardless of whether or not some GAs strike, the University will remain open, and you should plan on attending your classes and participating in your regularly scheduled activities. We have been faculty members and administrators at NYU for decades, and we believe that our faculty colleagues, recognizing the professional responsibility that accompanies the trust you have placed in NYU to educate you, will hold classes, and ensure your academic progress.

If there is a disruption, you will promptly hear from your school’s dean, who will provide you with further information and give you contact information should you have any concerns or questions.

We cannot promise you there will be no disruptions, but we are working hard to ensure that they are minimal. We believe that a large majority of GAs will continue to fulfill their teaching responsibilities. The University and its deans, faculty, and administrators will do whatever is necessary to guarantee that your hard work this semester is not put at risk, that your academic program and course work will be completed, and that those of you who are scheduled to graduate will do so.


John Sexton David McLaughlin
President Provost

Thursday, October 20, 2005

blame the immigrants!

It's bad enough that they're bringing perversion into New York City. Now they're responsible for flagging NAEP progress too!:
In an interview, Ms. Spellings called attention to the improvement in math by fourth graders. She said the less robust increases and outright declines in some reading scores were understandable in part, because the nations schools are assimilating huge numbers of immigrants.
"We have more non-native speakers, there are lots of so-called at-risk, hard-to-educate students, and in spite of that, steady progress is being made," she said. "We're on the right track with No Child Left Behind."
When the program isn't educating the "hard-to-educate" students, maybe you need to rethink the program.

Steven Sanders resigning

Education committee chairman and charter school roadblock-thrower Steven Sanders is leaving the legislature:

Longest Tenured Assembly Education Chairman Retires
Associated Press
October 20, 2005

ALBANY, N.Y. - The state assembly education committee chairman, Steven Sanders, announced yesterday he will retire from the chamber after 28 years.

Mr. Sanders, a Manhattan Democrat, was the influential chairman of the committee for 11 years. He was the longest tenured chairman for that post.

Mr. Sanders, 54, said he is resigning effective January 1 for "personal and family considerations."

"My time in the state Assembly has been incredibly rewarding, and I thank Speaker Silver for his leadership and personal friendship," Mr. Sanders said yesterday. Mr. Sanders helped lead the state to historic increases in state school aid since 1995, exceeding the increased aid often proposed in Governor Pataki's executive budgets. Education has become the largest percentage of the budget, and more state funds are now directed to the neediest schools.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Principal Skinner speaks

Harry Shearer, voice of Principal Skinner on the Simpsons, discusses his favorite teachers in Edutopia.

(Be sure to scroll down to the end.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Superheroes in Brooklyn?

A friend in London sent me this wonderful article. Why haven't I been reading the Guardian's Education section all along?

The article describes 826 Valencia, a pirate shop in San Francisco that is a front for a mysterious drop-in tutoring center. There is one in Brooklyn too -- in my backyard all this time and I never knew about it! The storefront is, apparently, a superhero supply store, but education goes on within.

The creator of 826 Valencia, David Eggers, has taken on teacher pay as a cause. He wrote another piece for the Guardian on teacher pay in the U.S., and at the end of the article there's this table comparing the average salaries of teachers in the U.S. and England:

Comparative study
Starting salary for primary teacher
England: $28,608 USA: $30,339
Salary after 15 years for primary teacher
England: $41,807 USA: $ 43,999
Number of students per teacher primary
England: 20 USA: 15.5
Number of students per teacher secondary
England: 14.8 USA: 15.5
Contracted hours, full-time teacher primary
England: 1,265 USA: 1,353
Contracted hours, full-time teacher secondary
England: 1,265 USA: 1,371

Source: OECD Education at a Glance 2005. 2003 figures.
At first glance, U.S. teachers seem to be doing okay, at least comparatively. Their starting salaries are higher, and they have a smaller average class size in the early grades. But look at the number of contracted hours (even though it is safe to assume that teachers in both countries are working far more than that).

Bottom line is that in neither country are teachers paid what they should be. In Japan, average teacher salary is about $52,500 a year.

Anyway, if you haven't already, spend some time with the Guardian. There's just loads of stuff, from basic skills to the naked chef.

Pushing Kids out of High School

Just as Bloomy and Freddy are arguing over New York City's high school graduation rate and what the rate, if anyone could actually figure out what it is, means (NY Times article here), a high school in Brooklyn has been accused of forcing students out of school. It's pretty disturbing to hear how these kids were forced out and how their parents were kept in the dark the entire time by school officials, but it's almost worse to see the response of DOE officials.

Michael Best, the Education Department's top lawyer, issued a statement that did not address the allegations in the suit but said the parents should have asked school officials for help.

Can he possibly be serious that parents were expected to get help from the same school officials that were illegally pushing their kids out of school?

And how about the response of the school's former principal? He basically blamed the kids.

In an interview yesterday, Mr. Mickens complained that large schools were being forced to take all of the city's special education students and students with behavior problems while the small schools being created by the mayor were not admitting these children. "I am not going to sit there as principal and welcome a student who threatens me or my staff," he said. "I stand by my record."

So there you have it - this high school wasn't pushing students out of school despite all the evidence compiled by Advocates for Children, but even if it was, it is the students' and parents' fault anyway.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Bloomy Cans Cap and Charter Misinformation

I'm starting to feel like the New York Post with my cap-related headlines (maybe I should go all out and start calling it the New York Po$t?), but anyway. Here's what Bloomy has to say about charter schools in an election year. Here's what Freddy had to say:

"We should do more charter schools," Ferrer said, "but we have a dropout crisis in our public schools."
It is dismaying to me that someone running for mayor in this city is falling prey to the most common misconception about charter schools. Charter schools ARE public schools.

I come across this misconception all the time, and many people are shocked to learn that charters receive public funds (if not an equal proportion), kids can go there for free, and they are required to take all city and state-mandated assessments. They must comply with No Child Left Behind if they receive Title I funding, which I would venture to guess that most of them do.

Charter schools are public schools. I bet if we did a better job at informing people of this fact, it wouldn't be as hard a struggle to lift the cap.

P.S. Something else the public should know about charter schools -- a recent study shows that they don't serve a proportionate number of special ed students.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

I'm Depressed

This week, I was talking to a kid from Honduras in my after-school program about choosing a high school for next year. I brought up a high school in Queens for new immigrants, which generally do a great job teaching English to immigrant students quickly, since he arrived in the U.S. only a few months ago and speaks no English, and was surprised when he declared that he was not an immigrant because he had residency (i.e. he was here legally).

So this is where the immigration debate in this country is going - all immigrants are seen as law-breakers, and even a newly arrived kid who is not listening to the fanatics in the media and spends all his time (at school and in his neighborhood in New York City of all places) around immigrants from all over the world can pick up on this association.

Get off your ath let's do some math

Not in some classes at my school. A parent came in last week to complain that her son's class had been without a math teacher since the first week of school. She didn't speak much English, so the front office blew her off and told her to wait for a month until they found a new teacher.

It would have been great if the office had tried to communicate with the parent and listen to her concerns (or at least explain what was going on), but the real problem here, and it is a big one, is that some 7th graders are going without math teachers when they are required to pass a math exam in order to be promoted. Can we take Bloomy's and Klein's "no social promotion" policy seriously when they obviously are not putting enough resources towards retaining and hiring qualified teachers in high-need schools? Not having math teachers at this school shouldn't take anyone by surprise - apparently one class didn't have a teacher for several months last year.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Todo Mundo Quiere a Ramon??

The LA Times has a really interesting editorial (in Spanglish!) about the value of watching TV shows in another language after some cable viewers in Los Angeles had their favorite shows switched into Spanish this week.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Cap Attack

Battle is brewing on charter schools

Forty-two charter school applications were submitted across New York by last week's deadline, setting up a potential showdown over the state's decision to limit the number of charter schools. State law allows just 100 charters - public schools operated independently of the local school system - to be set up. Eighty-four already have been granted.

New applications include 18 submitted to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, who last month called the state cap "irrational and unfair."

One new application - for a high school - came from the city teachers union, which has fought against lifting the cap. The United Federation of Teachers already runs a charter school in Brooklyn.

Joe Williams, NY Daily News

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The other other mayoral election

Remember the other mayoral election? Well, there's ANOTHER other mayoral election, this one on Buffalo, and charter schools are making a showing. The Republican candidate, Kevin Helfer, is taking a Bloomy-like stance on charter schools and centralized school management.

Buffalo's school system is having major financial problems, as evidenced by their health insurance woes. Charter schools may be partly to blame. The candidates are straddling the choice issue.

P.S., is this a direct dig at Bloomy by Democratic candidate Byron Brown?:
"While I'm going to be a hands-on manager, I don't believe the mayor should
micromanage things," Brown said.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Why can't we live in a Jeb Bartlett world?

On last night's West Wing, a reporter asks Josh if he had a comment on the New York Post. Josh says he's against it. And that remark is off the record.

I appreciated that comment even more so today after reading the NY Post's "INVESTIGATION" on "Teacher Brain Drain" in New York City.

Of course, being the NY Post, they try to play the blame game with the brain drain and blame it on seniority rules. They give a couple of lines to the UFT's argument, which is that "seniority transfers are a negligible factor in pay disparity, claiming just 118 veteran teachers fled low-performing schools for better ones last year. Seventy-six seasoned teachers did the opposite, the union said."

At last ...

There is a (tentative) contract!

Where are all the teachers?

Last week the school where my after-school program is had "Meet the Teacher Night" for all the parents. I've been told by a number of teachers that this is the only event that parents actually come to, so all the SES (aggressive and reasonable alike) providers and the PTA were running around setting up for it. Parent involvement is a big problem at the school and the turnout that night was pretty light, but I was amazed to hear that a lot of teachers didn't come. If there is only one night to connect with parents, how is it possible that the school didn't put everything it had into making the night great for the parents that bothered to show up.

The problem here is not the teachers, of course. It's the system. I heard complaints from the teachers that were here about the lack of parents showing up. I'm sure teachers are frustrated about the lack of parent involvement over the years (I know I am in the after-school program, and we tend to have the more involved ones), so it's hard to criticize them for not wanting to spend another night at school while parents don't bother to come and meet them.

And of course there is the language problem - the school makes very little effort to provide translators (the orientation course for parents of English Language Learners was staffed by a teacher who spoke no Spanish, despite the fact that all the parents in the room were Spanish-speakers and spoke less English than their kids), so many teachers can't communicate with the mostly immigrant parent population even if both parents and teachers showed up.

I wonder how we can begin to break out of cycles like these. Translators would be a big step - a lot of immigrant parents probably come once and are blown off because they don't understand English. But the problem is bigger than just dealing with the language barrier - parents need to feel like partners in their kids education, and I don't feel like that is happening here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Gotta run ...

... but I wanted to make sure everyone saw this.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Quiero hablar contigo

I was a little down this morning after reading about the test scores for 8th graders and thinking about how difficult this year is going to be. But the kids in the program always seem to pick me when I get discouraged. Today, a girl from Russia asked my co-worker how to say "I want to talk to you" in Spanish. She ran back over to her table and repeated it to another girl (a recent immigrant from South America). They met in their ESL class, and even though both spoke very little English, they were inseparable. Working with kids from neighborhoods with diverse immigrant populations makes me so hopeful sometimes.

Sort of like a snow day ..

Governor Sonny Perdue has announced that he has requested that all the state's school systems take an "early snow day" and close on Monday and Tuesday of next week in a fuel saving measure as a result of Hurricane Rita.
"Any supply squeeze is temporary, and is nothing we can't handle," Perdue said.
Perdue also has signed an executive order that eliminates non-essential travel by state employees.
Perdue's office is also encouraging telecommuting and alternative scheduling by non-essential state offices in order to save on fuel costs.
If all of Georgia's schools close, the governor estimated about 250,000 gallons of diesel fuel would be saved each day by keeping buses off the road.
The governor also said an undetermined amount of regular gasoline also would be saved by allowing teachers, other school staff members and some parents to stay home those days. Electricity also would be conserved by keeping the schools closed.
The Archdiocese of Atlanta has announced that all of their schools will be closed Monday and Tuesday in accordance with the governor's request.

NY State math scores in

The big news in all the New York papers today is that the scores from the 2005 Statewide Math tests have been released. (Here's the NY Times write up, and an editorial from the NY Daily News.)

The good news is that 4th grade math scores have gone up. The bad news is that it isn't news at all. These scores could have been released months ago, but the state has sat on them for god knows what political reasons.

The media have interpreted this as incompetence on the part of the state, as in this opinion piece from last Friday's NY Sun. I don't usually agree with Andrew Wolf, but I fully agree with this column, especially this:
We may have come to the moment when the stakeholders in our public schools
- parents, educators, and taxpayers - should demand new leadership in the state
agency. Commissioner Richard Mills - while saying that he supports testing -
has, through his bumbling administration of the testing program, undermined the
imperative of objective assessment. It is time for him to move on. We need a
state education chief and a department that are not paralyzed by bureaucratic

Is competition among SES providers good for kids and parents?

This week my middle school held its SES (Supplemental Education Services) provider fair, which serves to inform parents of the free tutoring services and introduce them to the providers. The CBO and after school program that I work for provides SES (mostly just to the kids in after school), and there are also about 7 or 8 other companies this year, most of them for-profits. The for-profits had their slick sales representatives and glossy packets on display, and they really went after the parents hard.

The School of Bloggers think that having companies compete to give free services to poor and disadvantaged kids is probably a good thing. I see health insurance companies all over poor neighborhoods in New York City giving out insurance, and it seems like more people will take advantage of free services when they are actively recruited (and spoken to in their language, something that is noticeably lacking in many public institutions in this city). True to form, most of the companies brought Spanish translators to the fair while the school is usually unable to find one for parent meetings, although they did have one at the fair.

But although parents might feel like their kids are getting better services as a result of the competition (I really have no idea whether this is true, but there are a lot of stories about terrible SES providers - I remember a story about kids in a Platform Learning program just watching movies all the time), most of the parents I talked to at the fair seemed confused and totally overwhelmed. There were so many providers that the administrators rushed through the description of what SES was and didn't give the translator much time at all, so most of the parents had no idea what they were signing up for.

If this is the case, does it really make a difference how many providers there are in the school? Even if parents understood what was going on, how can they possibly choose the best provider for their kid when they are being bombarded for all sides by sales representatives? Maybe having agressive providers can be a good thing if they are able to reach more parents at home (there were a very small number of parents at the fair), but I'm worried that the cutthroat competition at the school will turn a lot of parents off and push them to avoid the whole thing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Student Protests in the Bronx

Interesting article in the NY Times today about the student response to increased security measures at a high school in the Bronx. 1500 students walked out of the high school and got their meeting with DOE officials. Their demands (they want the metal detectors to be removed and they want to be able to leave school for lunch) weren't met, but the school administration seems to be listening. It's great that these kids are responding in such a constructive way to security measures that treat kids like criminals. I'm definitely bringing this up with the middle schoolers in my after school program, especially since there is talk of requiring ID cards for all students in the school this year.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Monday, September 19, 2005

Bad bloggers

The School of Bloggers apologize for their poor blogging behavior! They spent the weekend far, far away from noisy Brooklyn on Lake Chatuge in North Carolina.

Nor do I have time to say anything profound right now, even though there is SO MUCH TO BLOG ABOUT. So I will let the Public Education Network's "Quote of the Week" say it for me.

"Democratic values are a necessary, even if not sufficient, condition for defending the existence of a system of public education. Only from a democratic perspective can one claim that the schools have an impact on and responsibility to the whole society and that as a result they are a democratic decision making. From Jefferson to Dewey to Mann, and especially during the heyday of progressive education, such ideas were at the center of educational politics. In their absence, there is no longer any convincing rationale to keep the school public and social in terms oftheir governance, finance, and pedagogy.

The battleground over their future is thus yielded to those who argue that the market can and should make such determinations. This ultimately supports a system of privatized schools in an educational free market, linked to a curricular agenda defined by the needs of a capitalist economy and the national-security state associated with it. In short, we cannot defend public education, mobilize a constituency behind it, or achieve the visions of democratic educators without a clear and convincing democratic ideological framework that provides a rationale for maintaining a socially owned, controlled,and financed school system. If the market prevails as a model for organizing U.S. education, the possibilities for strengthening a democratic society and developing a democratic citizenry are ended."

-Michael Engel (author/professor/school board member), "The Struggle forControl of Public Education: Market Ideology vs. Democratic Values

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Oh Boy

Check out Ms. Frizzle's cute first day of school Carnivale.

Moskowitz Moskowitz Moskowitz

The results are in from yesterday's Democratic primary. Weiner conceded to Ferrer to prevent a run-off election. Other people we liked, including Mike Peters who ran for Brooklyn district attorney, didn't do as well. School of Bloggers' buddy and City Councilmember David Yassky was not running for anything, but City Councilmember (and charter school aunt) Letitia James did run for reelection and won in a landslide.

The only other remarkable occurrence was the failure of Eva Moskowitz (city councilmember and head of the Education Committee) to take the Manhattan Borough President seat. Read all about it over at Eduwonk.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Facilitator

I would be remiss if I didn't mention this story, for those of you who haven't heard about it yet.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools' headline on this story is "NYC to become national leader on facilities."

What's up with the timing here? It was announced four days before the Democrats' mayoral primary, and a scant two months before the election. Are charter schools really that popular in the city that Bloomy feels they'll give him a boost?


No no, I am not becoming an establishment-hating radical after one week of courses. My "Inquiries"-related ennui is not making me regret my decision to enroll in a teacher certification program rather than going the emergency certification route.

I just question the value of certain curricular requirements toward achieving that goal.

BTW, it's not just my program; all New York State teaching candidates must take "college coursework" in "foundations in education."

And BTW again, maybe my rebellious spirit is the result of the undemocratic way in which the state tells me I must learn how to be a teacher. Paulo Freire meets the Gadfly!

Friday, September 09, 2005

First day of Petrie dish

Lots on the first day of school in today's papers, especially on the first day of the UFT charter school.

Sad, very sad

Re: this, this columnist argues, among other things, that education schools (including, presumably, the school at which he teaches and I learn) don't do enough to give teachers a strong background in their content. He says:
Our schools of education are also at fault, saddling future teachers with
"methods" courses at the expense of disciplinary content.

I am definitely feeling that after my 2 classes last night. Actually, the "methods" class seemed like the more useful one. It's "Inquiries into Teaching and Learning" that is making me want to poke my eyeballs out.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


The state came out with its annual report on charter schools this week, based on the 2003-04 school year. (Can the state do anything on time?) Report here, Albany Times-Union here.

The gist: Charter schools in N.Y. state are doing better in general, but are draining money from the traditional public schools.

One more tidbit for follow-up: According to the report, less than 2 percent of charter school students in N.Y. are English language learners. That seems REALLY low, doesn't it?

Chris, any idea?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Like Arnie's plan but with much more tact

Here's a roundup of the stories I would have pontificated about today had I had time:
  • Rep. Rangel and Teachers College pres Arthur Levine have proposed pay incentives to attract teachers to hard-to-staff schools. Story here, Eduwonk here.
  • Two new studies of charter schools by the big boys in the evaluating world, one on Chicago and one on North Carolina. Results: Charter schools are effective in some grades, under some conditions, some of the time. My conclusion: Stop trying to prove that charter schools are or are not more effective than non-charter public schools. Start trying to figure out what the good schools do that makes them effective.
  • The Education Department has paid people to write anti-public school op/eds. Well, that is a slight exaggeration; but what is certainly clear is that the Bush administration has put a lot of money into propping up minority-focused organizations (like Hispanic CREO, referenced in this article) that are really just front organizations for their conservative friends.
Also, I had my first class yesterday: "Inquiries into Teaching and Learning." Seems a little pointless -- could all those people be right who say that education schools are a big waste of time and money? -- but I am keeping an open mind.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

UFT Charter School Opens on Thursday

Daily News write up here. More on this later this week once the School of Bloggers get internet access at home.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Fighting for Translation in Schools

Here is a good Newsday article about advocacy groups in New York City putting the pressure on the Department of Education to provide translation services to immigrant parents.

Bush and Bilingual Education II

The New York Times editorial page weighs in on the controversy surrounding the Bush administration's decision not to publish a report on bilingual education that is at odds with conservative opinion (previous post here). The editorial calls on Bush to allow the researchers to publish the report privately, which is probably the best option seeing how Bush is unlikely to anger conservatives at a time when he is being criticized from the right on immigration.

I understand that there will always be some opposition to teaching immigrant students in a language other than English for political and cultural reasons, but if bilingual education does indeed offer limited English proficient kids the best possible chance of succeeding academically (which the report supposedly says), shouldn't we be giving it a shot? At the very least we should be debating it and commissioning other studes, which can't happen until the administration allows the report to see the light of day.

"We'll need your help"

Public school advocate Sen. Mary Landrieu from Louisiana calls for support in the Washington Post. (Via National Alliance for Public Charter Schools)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

War of attrition

Two really interesting NCLB-related stories today:
What's the connection here? They represent two of the big flaws of NCLB: that you can't be a SES provider if you're not making AYP yourself; and that to make AYP you have to hit a specific percentage of students reaching proficiency, a number which goes up at unrealistic rates and has the perverse effect of encouraging schools to focus on the kids at the margin and ignore the growth of the other students.

Spellings is wise to give flexibility in the first case, and would be wise to give flexibility in the second. Addressing these two issues is a reasonable thing to do, and doesn't detract from what, to me, is the important part of NCLB: making sure that all subgroups of students are on their way to proficiency, and aren't being ignored.

For-profit EMO loses its groove in NY

No, i'm not talking about emo. I'm talking about an Education Management Organization, in particular Imagine Schools, formerly Chacellor-Beacon Schools, a for-profit company that runs a bunch of charters.

The Syracuse Post-Standard looked into whether the company is losing ground across the country, something that certainly seems to be the case in New York State. The company was charging the Central New York Charter School for Math and Science high fees, but not delivering the kind of management they needed, leading to the school losing its charter.

By the time the school was forced to close on June 30, it was supposed to have paid Imagine $475,616 for the 2004-05 academic year, according to the charter school's financial statements. That represents a 40 percent increase above the $338,734 annual fee paid the previous year.
"I didn't ever really understand what we paid them to do," said Kelly Norcross, one of 45 teachers at the school who lost their jobs this summer when the state pulled the school's authorization. "At the end of the year, that's when I started seeing them. As far as everyday school, we never saw them."

Yet another argument (as if we needed any more!) against education's profiteers.

Which side are you on?

The NY Sun is on top of yesterday's NYU rally, with full coverage and a lead editorial. The Sun points out that fewer than 100 actual NYU grad students were in attendance, which apparently means "that most graduates realize who is on their side."

Yes, the Sun editorial is all about "which side are you on," but in this case it's not either workers or management, but "Defenders of academic freedom" or "the left wing of the labor movement."

By making this argument, the Sun is wholeheartedly buying into NYU's argument that they are opposing the union to somehow protect the academic interests of the grad students. This is the argument that all companies make when they oppose unions: saying "we care" while simultaneously endorsing policies that exploit workers.

By the way, classes don't start for another week at NYU, a fact that the Sun neglects when reporting that "fewer than 100 NYU graduate students joined him at the protest out of a bargaining unit of 1,000."

UPDATE: By the way, Miller did show up.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I met you on a midway ...

This week's carnival of education is up at the Education Wonks!

More on NYU demonstration

Well, the rally for the NYU grad student union is going on as we speak, and if the NY Sun can be trusted on the accuracy of its information, then Gifford Miller had plans to be there. Did he show? I will keep you posted.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Bush and Bilingual Education

USA Today reports that the Bush administration is trying to sweep a two-year study on bilingual education under the rug because it doesn't agree with the results. According to the article, the National Literacy Panel, a group of university researchers, called into question the effectiveness of English-only classes for immigrant children. The findings of the study, although backed up by a lot of research, apparently challenges the view of some conservatives that all education in the U.S. should be in English.

It's terrible that Bush is letting politics (about immigration and cultural issues, not education) get in the way of finding the best way to educate immigrant children. But this article got me thinking about a mother who received an invitation for her 8 year old son to attend a school with a dual language program in New York City. The mother, an immigrant from South America that doesn't speak any English (the kid does), was dead set against having her kid take any classes in Spanish, and I have heard a lot of immigrant parents say the same thing about bilingual education. They want their kids to have the most opportunities possible, and think that taking any longer to really learn English will set the kids back.

I also know that a lot of immigrant parents do support bilingual education and dual language programs, and I hope the debate over bilingual education will be played out between both groups of parents alongside informed research that can help them decide what is the best for their children. Right-wing anti-immigrant groups shouldn't be calling the shots.

Solidarity forever

Leo Casey at Edwize is publicizing a demonstration at NYU this Wednesday at noon protesting the university's decision to disband the grad student union.

The Bellman ruminates on the solidarity expressed in this move (the NYU grad student union was an affiliate of United Auto Workers, whereas the UFT is a local of the AFT).

Excessive testing update

Third, fifth, and seventh graders may not have to take the state reading and math tests this year after all, according to the NY Post.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

School of Blogger needs your help!

Diane Ravitch had an op/ed in the NY Sun on Friday about how dismally bad American students are at History. She blames this, in part, to the fact that so few high school history teachers actually majored in history.

Well friends, I'm part of the problem. Next week I'll start taking classes at night toward my certification in high school social studies. But my college major was Urban Studies, and the only history class I ever took in college was one on the urban crisis in the U.S. post-WWII.

So over the course of the next two years while I do my coursework, I'm going to attempt to recreate the history education I never had. But I need your help in putting together the syllabus. In the comments section, please post the top 5 (or more, or less) most important history books you have ever read.

My future students thank you.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Promoting Real Parent Involvement

The School of Blog has learned that City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and Councilmember (and head of the Education Committee) Eva Moskowitz have decided to support the Education Equity Act (previous posts here, and here), a bill that would provide comprehensive translation services to parents in NYC public schools. The support of Miller and Moskowitz (along with 33 other council members) means the Education Equity Act has a real shot of passing this year. Providing translation services could go a long way towards getting all parents involved in public schools, where over 25 percent of parents cannot participate because of language barriers.

Check back for more details next week.

School of Blog on the mayoral candidates: Part I

Anthony Weiner was at the Grand Army Plaza station this morning. I have to admit, he is a handsome specimen of mayoral candidate.

According to the flyer he gave out, the first step of "The Anthony Weiner Plan for New York City" is to "Improve Our Schools by cutting through the red tape to allow our teachers to teach and our principals to discipline. He'll also help us to keep the best teachers by increasing salaries and allowing them to get back to the basics."

Vague. A trip to his campaign Web site clears things up a bit. Here's what he says about the curriculum:
The current uniform curriculum was chosen without real input from teachers, and micro-manages every aspect of the teaching process. The original reading program - Month by Month Phonics - had to be radically scaled down and supplemented after it failed to meet federal standards and was roundly criticized by
education experts. The math problem emphasizes "concepts" rather than basic mathematical skills like the multiplication tables. It's time to start over, emphasizing real involvement from teachers and a back to basics approach.

I am not a teacher, so I couldn't say if this is something that really concerns teachers. To me it sounds a little fishy; if you are a teacher, please comment!

Weiner also implicitly ridicules Bloomberg's parent coordinator initiative as a waste of money elsewhere on his Web site. True, the parent coordinator hasn't been taken fully advantage of in every school. But a mayor who doesn't value the role of parents in schools .... ?

UPDATE: Good analysis in the NY Times today -- the gist: the Democratic candidates just don't have that much to say about education.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Latino voters and high school reform

The Alliance for Excellent Education released an opinion survey today on public high schools in America. The message was pretty clear: people want high schools to improve. Some excerpts:

The findings are conclusive: the American public sees problems with high schools and they overwhelmingly want governors, members of Congress, and the President to pay more attention to them. In fact, for the first time, the public feels more urgency to improve high schools than elementary education.
"This poll is important," Wise said, "because it clearly states that for the first time, Americans believe that high schools should be a top priority for our federal and state officials, as well as for business and community leaders. The poll also shows that simply improving grade school is not enough; the commitment must be made and maintained at every level."

Among other findings, the National Council of La Raza reports, is the very strong support among Latinos nationwide for public school reform. Over 80 percent of Latinos thought there was an urgent need to improve high schools and that President Bush and Congress weren't paying enough attention to the matter. Any wonder why Hillary Clinton gave this speech to an enthusiatic Latino audience in July?

Is Richardson the new Anthony Williams?

Here at the School of Blog, we have a particular penchant for Bill Richardson, who we think would make a good presidential candidate in 08. But lately we just don't know what to think about the guy ... cracking down on undocumented immigrants? And now, the face of vouchers in the New York Post??

Okay, well you can't see it in the online version, but in the print version of today's NY Post, Richardson's headshot accompanies an opinion piece on Democrats backing school choice. It refers to his pre-K initiative in New Mexico, which the piece calls a "voucher program."

Now, I don't have the time or the knowledge to go too far into it right now, but Richardson's program sounds to me much less like Cleveland-style vouchers and more like Head Start.

But that aside, is it a good thing or a bad thing that two conservative opinionmakers have made Richardson out to be a conservative Democrat?

Lift the Cap!

Paula Gavin (CEO of the NYC Center for Charter School Excellence) calls for lifting the cap on charters in NY in today's Daily News.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

NCLB II: No Community Left Behind?

Not sure how far she'll go with this, but Arizona Governer Janet Napolitano apparently has some ideas for a national school reform effort that goes beyond NCLB by "address[ing] fundamental challenges facing the education system."

Napolitano is co-chair of this task force, whose recommendations are not earth-shattering nor particularly realistic, but some are certainly interesting. For instance:
Link neighborhood schools with their communities and families by providing such things as social services, English classes, parenting skills classes and home visits.

Wize or Otherwize

It seems like the sleeping edu-blogging beast has awoken in recent days! EdWize has been up and running for 4 days and already has garnered veiled/unveiled criticism from the Daily News and Eduwonk. This triggered a scathing response.

I'm psyched to have another labor-friendly education-related NYC blog on the scene, and in the interest of keeping them around I think the people at EdWize would be wize to put up an "About" page. Who are these people, and what is their purpose? Clearing that up would stave off a lot of the "don't you people have better things to do than voice your liberal ideas" questions.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Dems don't like Bloomberg, but they'll keep his tests

At yesterday's mayoral debate, the four Democratic candidates got a little testy over budget and tax issues (NYT article about the debate here). One interesting note though, all four candidates said they would continue Bloomberg's policy of holding back 3rd and 5th graders (and now 7th graders) that did not pass English and math tests. And Virginia Fields apparently promised that all NYC public school students will meet standards if she becomes mayor.

The four descended into a bit of squabbling when asked if they would continue Mr. Bloomberg's policy of holding back public school students who do not pass new academic tests. Mr. Miller said yes; Mr. Ferrer said he would keep the test but rethink Mr. Bloomberg's approach; and Ms. Fields said she would keep the test because under a Fields administration, "they will pass the test."
"Everybody will pass the test?" Mr. Miller asked.
Mr. Weiner said that he supported tests, and then jabbed: "If you guys are the nominee, I'm going to vote for you over Mike Bloomberg, but I don't know what you're talking about. This is a simple yes or no question. Are tests important, should we keep them? Yes, we should keep them."

Charter effort revived in Detroit

In Detroit, philanthropist Robert Thompson is reviving a plan to donate $200 million to furnish the city with 15 new charter schools. The offer died a couple of years ago after massive protests by the Detroit Federation of Teachers. Thompson is apparently part of a growing number of philanthropists who give to education-related organzations to achieve specific reforms.

From my understanding, the Detroit Federation of Teachers wasn't pissed off at the Thompson deal because they "argue charter schools drain money from the traditional public system and criticize Thompson for not working with the district" as the Detroit News article suggests, but because Thompson was offering to donate the schools to Detroit on the condition that the schools not be unionized.

I'll have to check on this fact and get back to you; in the meantime, does anyone know any more about it?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A Few (More) Good Schools in New York City

An article in The Daily News highlights several primary schools that have been added to the guide "New York City's Best Public Elementary Schools", which is published by Advocates for Children (they also have a great website with information on almost every school in the city). The comments in the article by Clara Hemphill, the author of the guide, are also interesting:

"New York City has a surprising number of excellent public elementary schools - you may have one just a few blocks from your home," Hemphill writes in the guide's new third edition.

"New schools are opening all the time, and strong leadership can transform a mediocre school into a good one in just a few years."

The emphasis on the importance of the leadership of school administrations and parent involvement (mentioned in a couple of the reviews of the schools) in turning around primary schools shows that a lot of the problems with NYC schools can be solved from within the school and the community. Of course, there are a lot of problems that require more funding and action from the DOE (and there are a lot of schools that are not close to being on the list), and middle and high schools have harder time promoting parent involvement than primary schools do, but Hemphill's take on city schools seems to be pretty upbeat. I'll have to keep that in mind after the school year starts.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Brooklyn School Taken to Court for Ignoring Racial Violence

Newsday reports today that Lafayette High School in Brooklyn is being taken to court by the Justice Department under the Civil Rights Act for ignoring racially motivated violence, specifically against Asian and Asian American students.

Friday, August 19, 2005

NCLB and ELLs in New Jersey

The Philly Inquirer reports today that English Language Learners (ELLs) in four school districts in South Jersey failed to make adequate progress on reading and math tests. Throughout the state, 40 districts did not meet English fluency standards.

This is the first year that schools are required (by No Child Left Behind) to report the progress of ELL students, and these won't be the last districts scolded for not raising the achievement of immigrant kids. Of course, it's impossible (for me, at least) to know whether the state standarized tests are accurately measuring how well ELLs are learning English in New Jersey, but I think it is great that schools are being pushed to recognize that the needs of their immigrant students are not being met and to improve ESL and bilingual classes.

New NYC ed blog

Looks like the UFT has a new blog, and we're in the links! Pretty cool design. Welcome, edWize.

Update: Daily News article on Edwize

more on Teachers vs. Kids

Eduwonk responds to yesterday's post about the idea that teachers' unions are at odds with the interests of kids.

I completely agree with him that teachers' unions (and their unions) sometimes pursue policies that are "at odds with the public interest." After spending a year in the employ of a major teachers' union, I am certainly aware that they do not always have the best interest of students in mind when lobbying for or against certain policies. Their desire for the annihiliation of No Child Left Behind is a good example.

What bothers me is when politicians take issues like health care or an increase in salary and imply that by demanding these things, teachers and their unions are somehow against kids. One simply has nothing to do with the other. It's a stance they can take because we are talking about children and we are talking about teachers, who are liked best when they are seen as martyrs and do-gooders, who have no special talents or skills. This line of thinking would not exist if the public genuinely viewed teachers as professionals, with professional training, who deserve to be compensated for their expertise.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Teachers vs. Kids

Two articles today relating to negotiations with teachers' unions in NYC and Buffalo -- both visit a theme that really bothers me, so pardon this little rant.

In Buffalo, the union and the district are at an "impasse" over the teachers' insurance benefit options, which the district wants to consolidate. The president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, Philip Rumore, is challenging this decision with a law suit. In response, the superintendent said this:
"If we don't do this, the school district will go bankrupt," Williams said of the consolidation. In a comment clearly aimed at Rumore, he added: "Do you care about children, do you care about teachers or do you care about yourself?"

In New York, the UFT and Bloomberg are apparently further from a contract than we thought they were. Addressing this impasse, Bloomy said:
We do need to have some changes in work rules that are inhibiting our ability to educate our kids, which is the fundamental purpose that the Department of Education exists for. It’s not a, the Department of Education isn’t there to create jobs. It’s there to educate our kids, and, so, we need to get some changes, which, I think, would not be onerous to teachers.

Got the pattern yet? Public officials use this kind of language all the time: teachers unions act in their own interest at the expense of kids. They create this false choice: that the unions can either side with the teachers, or they can side with the children. If teachers are gaining, children are losing.

But this is an inaccurate and silly way to look at the role of unions. The funding that goes to teachers in the form of higher salaries and benefits would not otherwise "go to the children." School funding goes toward bringing the best available resources and personnel into the classrooms. If you're not spending that money on health insurance, say, then you're repelling some teachers who are qualified enough to take a job somewhere that can afford to give them a great benefits package.

No other industry works like this. Not even Wal-Mart makes the argument that their employees somehow don't care about customers if they want union representation and benefits. Why does this exist? It goes back to teaching being historically a female occupation; its persistence is a barrier to real teacher professionalism.

Another school year, still no contract

UFT contract fails to materialize yet again. (Via NYC Educator)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Vallas throwing Bennett a bone?

The Philadelphia Public School Notebook (an independent publication that covers Philly's public schools) finds something fishy about the district's selection of K12 for their new science curriculum in grades K-3.

While not saying so outright, the writers suggest that political ties were involved in the Vallas administration's decision to adopt a curriculum that is not as academically rigorous as other curricula in the running.

It does say that cost was a major factor -- choosing the K12 curriculum could save the district $700,000. Not only that, establishing a relationship with K12 can open some financial doors to Schools CEO Paul Vallas, who:
... spoke to the “added value” of K12’s “capacity to help us secure the funds, to help us lobby for other funds, to secure additional funding for their programs from other state and federal resources.”
The bottom line, if you read the article, is that the Philadelphia School Reform Commission is sacrificing curricula designed through "scientifically-based research" in favor of access to some deep pockets.

And this is not the first time that K12 has won contracts based on something other than their academic soundness.

"See you at three."

Jaime Escalante gets a little shoutout in yesterday's "Class Struggle" by Jay Matthews.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Bloomberg's Promotion Policy Approved

Last night, the DOE's Panel for Education Policy voted to adopt new promotion standards for 7th graders in New York City.

New York Times article here, Newsday article here, and the Daily News write up here.

It sounds like there weren't too many objections, although some protesters at the meeting did criticize the increasing reliance on tests to measure student achievement. It seems like Bloomberg's promotion changes (previously for 3rd and 5th graders) have been accepted by most people (in fact, fewer 3rd and 5th graders have been held back under the new rules as a result of increased funding and test preparation), although we won't know the impact of the decision to test the 7th graders until next spring.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Education (and Hillary) and the Latino Vote

According to a survey published in Time magazine (subscription required, article about the survey in El Diario here), education ranks as the top issue for Latino voters nationwide. Immigration is next, with a strong majority of Latinos supporting a guest worker program and opposing vigilante groups like the Minutemen. Interestingly, Hillary Clinton comes in first among potential presidential candidates, trouncing Latinos like Albert Gonzalez. I have posted several times about Hillary's rather complex stance on immigration (she has claimed to be "adamently" against illegal immigrants but supports almost every good bill on immigration in the Senate), and it seems like she is doing a good job of positioning herself on education and immigration issues.

Friday, August 12, 2005

John Roberts and Educating Immigrant Kids

The LA Times reports today that a newly released memo shows that John Roberts opposed the 1982 Supreme Court decision that overturned a Texas law that barred undocumented immigrants from attending public schools. Roberts, who was working as a lawyer for the Justice Department at the time, had this to say about the decision:

"It is our belief that a brief filed by the Solicitor General's office supporting the State of Texas — and the values of judicial restraint — could well have … altered the outcome," Roberts and Kuhl said. "In sum, this is a case in which our supposed litigation program to encourage judicial restraint did not get off the ground and should have."

Roberts' opposition to this case will probably be discussed in terms of his views on judicial restraint (and it should be). But it's also important to look at the case itself and what Roberts' opposition to it means (and could mean if he is confirmed by the Senate). It scares me that we might have a Supreme Court Justice who would seek to prevent the government from intervening to make sure that the children of undocumented immigrants are allowed to go to school. Public school should be open to all children, regardless of who their parents are, because it embodies what is so great about this country - everyone is given a chance to succeed (public school education doesn't give everyone the same chance, of course). If we don't allow undocumented immigrant kids to go to public school, we are ensuring the creation of a permanent underclass of unskilled, low-wage workers in this country.