Thursday, June 30, 2005

For-profit charters in a dither over losing federal funds

For-profit charter owners/operators in Arizona are set to lose $3.6 million in federal special ed and Title I funding, according to this Arizona Republic article. A quick search of found, buried in this August 24, 2004 document, that the schools aren't really "losing" the funds (as the editorial lambasted in this shutupandteach post suggests), they just were never supposed to receive them in the first place:
Under Arizona State law, charter school LEAs may be private or public entities. However, under applicable Federal laws and regulations, only public entities may receive Title I and IDEA funds.
Now this has me confused for several reasons:
  1. Are no for-profit schools, anywhere in the country, supposed to be receiving Title I and IDEA funds? And are they receiving them anyway?
  2. What is the logic behind cracking down on this funding? Isn't it going to further encourage for-profits to "counsel out" costly special ed students, who could eat into profits?

Did Bush's proposals fuel illegal immigration?

That's what this article in today's Washington Post asks. Judical Watch, a conservative group, argues that, based on surveys conducted by the Border Patrol, that many undocumented immigrants attempting to cross the Mexico-U.S. border were doing so because they believed Bush was offering amnesty (he had offered some very vague proposals about a guestworker program where undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. could receive temporary legal status).

This uninformed suggestion is belied by a recent study from Douglass Massey (released by the CATO Institute, a libertarian think-tank), which shows U.S. immigration policy since NAFTA has actually increased the flow of undocumented immigrants by pursuing economic integration with Mexico while prohibiting the free movement of labor. Massey also argues stepped-up border enforcement not only has not discouraged undocumented immigrants from emigrating to the U.S., but it caused many immigrants to stay in the U.S. longer than they would have because of the difficulties in crossing the border. This argument, which makes perfect sense, should be heeded by those who base their support for more border enforcement on how much it costs taxpayers (incidentally, most immigrants pay taxes also, but I won't get in to that debate right now) to pay for public services used by immigrants and their families.

Blaming amnesty proposals for an increase in "illegal" immigration (Bush did not propose amnesty, nor have any of the other immigration reform bills, particularly the McCain-Kennedy bill) is a common argument by anti-immigrant groups. A much more important cause of undocumented immigration is the large number of jobs requiring cheap labor in the United States.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

bring on the evaluators

i agree with chris that having an independent review of the test scores is a good idea. if learning really has improved due to hard work, and the gains are not the result of an easier test, more children exempted, or any of the various reasons given by bloomberg's political opponents, then it can only be good for both bloomie and the city.

and as this poll from the NYT found, he's not doing so bad. apparently,
Asked how much credit he deserved for rising test scores in the schools, 66 percent said "a lot" or "some." Mr. Bloomberg has said that voters should judge him principally on education.

(graphic made possible by a new feature on blogger! thanks blogger!)


Eduwonk is right on about a Washington Post story about a Missouri girl originally from Costa Rica that is danger of being deported but could have been saved by the DREAM Act (the Act would overturn a 1996 provision that prohibits state universities from offering in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants, and, important especially in cases like these, would allow undocumented students that complete college to become legal residents).

It is outragous, as Eduwonk says, that the DREAM Act hasn't passed Congress despite Bush's interest in and understanding of immigration. In the days before Sept. 11, as depressed as I was about Bush's "victory," I really thought he would be able to deliver sensible immigration reform. I don't know why he hasn't supported any number of good immigration bills that have come up since 9/11 (including AgJobs, the recently introduced McCain-Kennedy bill and of course the DREAM Act) or pushed for his own pro-business guest worker program (which would be better than the status quo). It's probably a combination of the strength of the anti-immigration lobby (not all Republicans - even conservatives like Orin Hatch support the DREAM Act), Bush's unwillingness to spend political capital on anything that isn't an issue for social conservatives (besides the war) and the fact that immigrant issues just aren't being seen as pressing on a national level.

As I have said before, I think the state-by-state movement to allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition shows that pressue for change is building. Supporting immigrant kids that want to go to college should be a no-brainer, not matter what your views on undocumented immigrants are. Not that MO Senators Bond and Talent will ever get it.

For those of you in New York City with a little time on your hands now that school has ended, there is a rally in support of the DREAM Act in Thomas Paine Park this Thursday (June 30th). The park is on the corner of Worth and Lafayette (N, R, W or 6 to Canal St, or C, 4, 5, 6, J, M, Z, 2, 3 to Broadway-Nassau)

Cap update

according to an e-bulletin by the New York Charter School Association, all is not lost for lifting the cap on charter schools in NY:
While an agreement was not reached as the session ended, the discussions at the Capitol have provided the charter school movement with a tremendous boost. The Legislature may reconvene later this year to continue work on some issues left unresolved —such as the charter school cap.
and as the Albany Times Union reported about the cap lift, "... such a law would be high on the to-do lists of lawmakers next year, especially for those representing largely black and Hispanic districts."

School's over, but the debate about test scores isn't

Several articles today look at the debate over what New York City's recent test score increases mean. In this NYT article, Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz (head of the education committee) questions Bloomberg's assertion that higher test scores represent greater student achievement and continues to call for more information to be released so the reliably of these scores can be analyzed. In response to this criticism, Klein is thinking about creating an independent panal to evaluate student performance (similar to Chicago's), reports the Daily News. Finally, this Newsday article has Schools Chancellor Klein sounding optimistic about next year even as Moskowitz hammers away about low morale throughout the school system.

I think having this debate is good for NYC schools, and I'm glad the City Council isn't taking Bloomberg and Klein on their word that one year of rising test scores means that real progress is being made towards fixing city public schools.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Getting immigrant parents involved

This op-ed in Newsday by Andrew Friedman of the DRUM Major Institute makes a lot of good points about the importance of providing translation services for immigrant parents. Although I think he is right to argue that NYC politicians have an obligation to support legislation that will help immigrants access services, the main point should be that increasing parent participation in schools (in a city where 25 percent of adults do not speak English) is too important to leave to squabbling over how quickly immigrants should be learning English (even though he correctly says that immigrants are trying to learn English but most classes in NYC are full).
This quote shows why the City Council (and Bloomberg) need to make sure that translation is being provided for immigrant parents at parent-teacher conferences, PTA meetings and any other time they come to their children's school:

According to Linda Hodges, president of the national Parent Teacher Association, "When parents are involved, children have higher grades and test scores, better attendance, increased motivation, better self-esteem, higher graduation rates and a greater likelihood of pursuing a postsecondary education."

It's amazing that Bloomberg isn't backing the Education Equity Act, which would require the DOE to translate for parents and provide translated school documents, when Schools Chancellor Klein has said things like this: "We know that when parents get involved, schools improve and our children benefit." Part of me thinks that despite the mayor's well-publicized ad campaign in Spanish, immigrant concerns still aren't being taken seriously in this city. How else can you explain Bloomberg and Miller's tepid response to a relatively inexpensive initiative that would almost certainly improve schools (and probably test scores), even as both candidates continue to harp on education issues?

john walton killed in plane crash

billionaire wal-mart heir john walton died yesterday in a plane crash. this really is horrible and i feel bad for all the negative things i've said and thought about the guy, who heads up the Walton Family Foundation's efforts to fuel the voucher movement. (the WFF gives money to many other good things as well, including one of the charter schools with whom i work.)

Monday, June 27, 2005

A cap even brute force could not remove

according to this Newsday editorial, pataki did not succeed in lifting the charter school cap before the legislative session ended last week.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Educating Girls

The New York Times has a really interesting editorial today about the benefits of educating girls, particularly in the developing world. They cite a report by Save the Children that has some pretty amazing findings. Among them is this one:

“The more time girls spend in school, the better their chances of breaking the cycle of poverty and becoming mothers who raise healthier children and send their own children to school – girls and boys,” said O’Gara. “Investing in girls’ education also leads to increases in income, both for individuals and for nations as a whole, over several generations.”

Save the Children says that 58 million primary-school age girls worldwide are not in school, but that some poor countries are making dramatic gains, including Bolivia. In the rural communities I visited there, women were much more likely than men to be illiterate and mono-lingual Quechua (an indigenous language prevalent throughout much of the central highland valleys) speakers, meaning many never even went to primary school, which until recently conducted classes only in Spanish. It seems like the introduction of bilingual education programs (Quechua-Spanish, Aymara-Spanish, etc) - along with some other education reforms - has encouraged more parents to send their girls to school (completion of primary school has risen from 10 percent to 78 percent). Although Bolivia seems to be jumping from one crisis to another these days, this is really encouraging news.

More controversy over test scores

Newsday reports today that New York State Regents math tests will be rescored because the exam was deemed to be too difficult. Apparently a much higher percentage of high school students failed the exam than in previous years, leading the state Dept. of Education to issue a "conversion chart" for the scores. But the article also mentions a high volume of complaints from parents had something to do with the decision. It will be interesting to see the details of where these complaints came from and whether the income level of the parents had anything to do with the decision. A parent and the superintendent from Harborfields, NY (Long Island) are quoted in the article - and I see that the high school there has some pretty striking differences from the average NY public school - a much higher percentage of white students (84% to 58%), a much lower percentage of students on free lunch (3% compared with 26%) and a pretty high median income level in the district ($69,657 to $43,515).

Friday, June 24, 2005


Here is an interesting article on the mix of English and Russian spoken by Russian immigrants in New York and beyond. Apparently some people estimate that 130 million people speak Runglish (although the author of the article disputes the claim), which consists of a combination of Russian grammar and pronunciation with English words. Like with Spanglish, there is a debate on the merits of immigrants straddling the line between English and their native language. It is interesting that the Tower of Babel is mentioned - I happened to come across an anti-immigrant blog the other day and many of the negative reactions to a New York City Council bill calling for city business to be translated into other languages pointed to the Tower of Babel as a reason for forcing immigrants to speak English (as did the New York Sun in this tolerant piece that claimed that most people in New York that speak Spanish are not citizens). As with many of the arguments from the anti-immigrant wing, I think many English-language-only proponents are motivated by fear of the unknown. As this article and Ilan Stavan's wonderful book "Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language" argue, languages (even English) are dynamic and are constantly borrowing from other languages and cultures. Speaking English will always be important for immigrants in this country to get ahead and won't cease to be no matter how many immigrants arrive because their kids are learning English (and, as I have argued in previous posts, they are doing their best to learn), but the fact that "languages" like Spanglish and Runglish are thriving shows how xenophobes may be losing the battle.

Moderation in politics

This has nothing to do with education in New York City, but I feel compelled to comment on some recent events in the Andes. Jon Stewart is doing a great series over at the Daily Show on toning down the political rhetoric in this country. But I wonder what he would say about the current events in Ecuador, where prisoners have been crucifying themselves in protest of overcrowded jails. And this isn't good news:

"Today there have been crucifixions. Tomorrow there will be something worse," a prisoner told the Reuters news agency.

I'm quite sure the conditions in Ecuadorian prisons are terrible, but crucifixion as a means of protest has always bothered me (it happens more than you think in Latin America). Once protests go that far, there isn't any room to step back and the conflicts tend to intensify.
But in Bolivia, which is experiencing similar popular upheavals, moderation just might have a chance. In big news, Evo Morales (the leader of MAS - a leftist political party with a base among coca growers) is working on forming an anti-neoliberal alliance with an emerging center-left political movement based in La Paz. Politics are really polarized in Bolivia, and this an important development with general elections coming up later this year. Of course, Evo Morales as president is the Bush administration's worst nightmare.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Where's the accountability for special education?

Another report, this time from a federal audit, slams the special education system in New York. The audit's findings, reported on in this article in the New York Times, describe the record-keeping system that used Medicaid funds to give poor special ed kids speech therapy as "chaotic" and charge that city schools misspent $870 million "by channeling tens of thousands of poor special-education students into speech therapy performed by unqualified practitioners, often without proper referrals."

City and state officials are saying that the audit is being unfair and that federal regulations are confusing, but this latest report underscores a major problem of the New York City special education system - the lack of accountability. The audit even mentions that many parents still complained about receiving services despite all the improper spending. It is unacceptable that poor special education students are getting speech services from unqualified therapists, and it is unacceptable that only 12 percent all special ed students are graduating from high school.

Doggone liberals thwart Santorum's plans again

the Santorum family may end up having to pay tuition to homeschool their kids if a bill passes in the PA senate requiring cyber-charter school students to live in-state to receive a free education.

UFT charter holds lottery

as reported in today's NY Daily News, the United Federation of Teachers Elementary Charter School held its admissions lottery last night. it will open for grades K and 1 in september. 400 parents submitted their kids' names for 150 slots. exciting!

charter school politicking -- pataki to lift the cap?

according to the NY Sun, Pataki is currently engaged in an aggressive last-minute push to raise the cap on charter schools in the state from 100 to 200 schools. rumors of his backroom methods for getting what he wants range from carrots ---
Mr. Pataki convinced lawmakers to allow charter schools in New York seven years ago, in exchange for a legislative pay raise. There was some speculation yesterday that another pay hike would be offered in exchange for raising the cap, but aides to the governor said such a deal was not on the table as of late in the day.
to sticks --
But people close to the talks, speaking on condition they would not be identified, said the governor has threatened that unless changes to the charter school law are made, he will veto bills that direct money to upstate school districts, a number of which passed in the Assembly this week.
the legislative session ends this week. i'll keep you posted on any cap movement.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Dropout Crisis for ELLs

An article in today's Education Week looks at the recent trend for states to enact tougher graduation requirements for high schools. While I (and most Americans, according to this survey, also from Education Week) believe that a lot of graduating high school seniors are not ready for college and should be challenged and expected to meet higher standards that will increase their chances of succeeding, I'm still not convinced it is a great idea to set strict graduation requirements when students have so many different needs. Take English Language Learners (ELLs) in New York City, for example. According to a press release yesterday by the New York Immigration Coalition, over half of ELLs (many of which are newly arrived immigrant students) in the class of 2001 failed to graduate in 7 years and dropped out of school (shown in a recent study by the city Department of Education). In the face of this crisis, the State Board of Regents will be increasing the passing score for high school students to 65 in 2008. ELLs (while more likely than other students to fail) that actually do pass the Regents tend to score in the range of 55-64, which currently allows them to meet the requirement for the low-pass option and receive a local diploma.

Asking for a little flexibility for ELLs (like establishing an alternative English proficiency test for late arriving immigrant students to be able to graduate) to me isn't a question of watering down standards and lowering expectations - it's about recognizing reality and trying to help kids that really need it. According to Margie McHugh, the director of the New York Immigration Coalition, "When ELLs get the help they need and become proficient in English they have the highest graduation rates and lowest dropout rates of all students in New York City—we know that ELLs can succeed if they get a quality education and have a fair chance at meeting appropriate standards.” The gap between proficient and non-proficient ELLs clearly shows that city public schools are not meeting the needs of a lot of ELL and immigrant students, but instead of focusing on the problem (like putting more resources into ESL and bilingual teaching), the state's actions will cause more students to fail and drop out, which hurts their chances at eventually finding good jobs. Schools need to make sure that students are challenged and better prepared for life after high school, but not at the expense of populations like ELLs that need more help and a little flexibility in order to succeed.

post to come ..

.. on the recent changes in graduation requirements in NY State. meanwhile, for more info on the changes, check here, here, and here. (editorial here.)

(also, for more information on the giant popsicle that melted in Union Square yesterday, go here.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

it's all about relationships

zweichenzug over at The Bellman wrote a very thought provoking post about the grad student unionization issue, the main point (to me anyway) of which was that it's dangerous to talk about grad students as being different from, say, migrant farm workers, because they are "knowledge workers" and not laborers, because doing so ignores the fact that their work is being commodified just as much as the pickers'. it's also a class thing. i am guilty of doing this myself and need to think about it some more.

in the meantime, while i think about that, here's an excerpt from an email i got from Jacob Lew, Executive Vice President of NYU, and David McLaughlin, Provost (can't find the full text online -- i'll put up a link once i do):
At the same time, many members of our community have expressed deep reservations about the impact of the collective bargaining framework on our academic programs. These reservations include the difficulty of reconciling a non-academic intermediary between faculty mentor and student, and the introduction of the one-size-fits-all approach – traditional in the labor context –into a University that values distinctive scholarship and prides itself on the diversity of its graduate programs.
and here's a statement by Wal-Mart on unions (lifted from this article):
Wal-Mart's statement on unions:
At Wal-Mart, we respect the individual rights of our associates and encourage them to express their ideas, comments and concerns. Because we believe in maintaining an environment of open communications, we do not believe there is a need for third-party representation.

Monday, June 20, 2005

DREAMing of College

An article in yesterday's New York Times revisits the debate over whether undocumented immigrants should be allowed to pay in-state tuition at public universities (it focuses on New Jersey). Although a 1996 immigration reform bill included a provision to deny lower tuition rates to undocumented students, states like California, Texas and New York have found ways to give tuition breaks to immigrants who grew up in the state's public school system. There is now a growing movement across the country (including red states like Kansas and North Carolina) to pass similar laws, and Utah Republican Senator Orin Hatch continues to push the DREAM Act (albeit without too much success - Senate leaders killed the bill after it passed Hatch's Judiciary Committee). Being able to pay in-state tuition is vital because without it many undocumented immigrants cannot afford college (they also do not qualify for most forms of financial aid).

The trend is important because it shows that communities and local politicians are able to recognize the complexities in the immigration debate, unlike some anti-immigrant national politicians and organizations that are foaming at the mouth. Putting aside the larger (and much more complicated) discussion of immigration reform, I think it makes a lot of sense to support bills like the DREAM Act, especially since it would help to legalize many of the students. For one, as this Wall Street Journal article from April argues, encouraging undocumented immigrants to go to college helps communities by increasing the local tax base. Denying in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants that have a chance to go to college also turns away bright and hard-working students that could help move this country ahead. Most of all, barring immigrant students from college sends the wrong message to kids (not only undocumented ones, but their friends as well) - you can work hard and get into college against all odds, but if your parents came to this country illegally, too bad. Shouldn't we be rewarding these students instead of taking out our fears on them?

Friday, June 17, 2005

Test scores aren't so rosy in Queens

With Bloomberg asking voters to judge him on his education record, test scores this year have sparked a lot of debate. Democratic mayoral candidate (and speaker of the City Council) Gifford Miller is attacking Bloomberg over the mayor's education record. Bloomberg has been all smiles over increases in language arts and math test scores in city public schools for 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th graders. It's hard to know if things are actually improving with all the spin and politics, but nothing has changed (or it has gotten worse) at the middle school in Queens where I work. Only 75 8th graders will be graduating this year, while the remaining 220 or so will be in summer school. The school has to open up a new floor at its summer building to accommodate them all. Most failed the city math test. It must have been a terrible day yesterday when most of the 8th graders were told they couldn't get their cap and gown for graduation.

acaademia's union busters strike again

now that the National Labor Relations Board has overturned the 2000 decision that allowed NYU graduate employees, and all graduate employees of private universities, to form a union, NYU is planning to disband the union before the start of Fall Semester.

it's a tricky subject, because it's harder to have sympathy for grad students than it is for, say, migrant farm workers. but here's the bottom line: as universities start acting more and more like corporations, they are relying more and more on graduate students, adjunct and part-time faculty for cheap labor. despite their non-profit status, they are acting no different from any major corporation, and therefore these workers are entitled to representation to ensure that they are not abused.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

does size matter?

class size is now a political football in the NYC mayoral race, as this NY Sun article describes. but contrary to the experience of teachers, parents, and students, the bloomberg administration is arguing that reducing class size isn't all it's cracked up to be. this is a favorite argument among economists -- that when you reduce class size, the average quality of teachers goes down because you have to hire from deeper in the barrel:

"You can choose between the most sought-after master teacher in the school with 28 students, a competent but not inspiring teacher with 23 students, or a new teacher with 17 students in the class," [DOE deputy chancellor Carmen Farina] said. "I guarantee most parents would opt for no. 1."

but i wonder if anyone has done any research on correlations between class size and
retaining new teachers (something NYC in particular has problems with). first-year teachers frequently have problems with discipline and classroom management. it would make sense to me that while a small class size policy may reduce the overall quality of teachers in the short term, it would improve in the long term. consider this an RFP. any takers?

Translation Services for Immigrant Parents

It's budget time in New York City, and debate about the Education Equity Act is heating up. The bill would require the Department of Ed to translate school documents into the eight major languages and provide interpreters at school functions. This article in the Gotham Gazette makes some good points about the bill and also gives a little room for an opponent to share his views. I think he is dead wrong - providing translation services does not discourage immigrant parents from wanting to learn English. Immigrants need to learn English for a number of reasons - to get good jobs, communicate in govt offices, hospitals, etc, and the desire to do so wouldn't magically disappear if translators were present at schools. Providing translation services for immigrant parents to would show that New York City values the contributions of immigrants and that it really wants to increase parent participation in schools (I personally know of a lot of parents that don't go to PTA meetings because they can't speak English). But even if James Oddo and other opponents of translation services in school were right, why aren't they making a fuss about the lack of free English classes for immigrants in the City? The New York Immigration Coalition found that more than a million New Yorkers wanted to learn English, but there were only 50,000 classroom seats. You can't complain about immigrants not wanting to learn English if you don't want to fund ESL programs.

Changing the way we think about undocumented immigrants

The Pew Hispanic Center's new study on the undocumented population in the United States has some interesting findings. A few could help refocus the debate on immigration in this country: male undocumented immigrants participate in the labor force at a higher rate than native born Americans (at a pretty astonishing 93%), a quarter of undocumented immigrants have attended college, and the level of education among recent undocumented immigrants has actually been increasing in recent years.
It would be great if we could hear about all the good things immigrants do for this country (for example, the April 5, 2005 New York Times article that reported that "the estimated seven million or so illegal immigrant workers in the United States are now providing the [social security] system with a subsidy of as much as $7 billion a year") instead of being bombarded by fears about terrorism and the overuse of public services. Sure, there are a lot of reasons to be concerned about the porous U.S.-Mexico border, but the fact remains that the vast majority of immigrants come here to work and should not be treated as potential terrorists. A serious attempt at immigration reform could shore up the border and stop forcing hardworking immigrants underground. But the conservative anti-immigrant faction seems to have gotten to Bush, who I always thought (against reality, I see now) just might do something good for immigrants, just as another good immigration reform bill has a chance of moving forward.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Special Education isn't very special in New York City

a recent report by Advocates for Children slams the state of special education services in New York City. among the most incredible stats was this one:

"in most years 88% of the students who receive special education services leave school without a regular high school diploma"

students of color in special education are even less likely to finish high school (Asian and white students have a graduation rate of 22%, while blacks and Latinos graduate at half that rate). 70 percent of special ed kids leave school without any kind of certificate or diploma. the bad news goes on and on. for 76 pages.

i have been trying to help a woman who has been desperately trying to get her son out of special education for 2 years. she is desperate because she knows that her kid won't be receiving the tools to succeed in life if he stays in special ed. she's afraid that he will end up so disillusioned that he will drop out and won't be able to get a good job. and this report shows that she is right. the system is really a mess. mayor bloomberg needs to make turning it around a priority.

Charters and Unions

Head of the Mass. Public Charter School Association predicts apocalypse if charter school teachers unionize: it "'would spell the end of innovations' at the alternative schools because principals would lose flexibility in hiring and firing."

I still think that equating unions with lack of flexibility and innovation is missing the whole potential of unionized charter schools. There's no reason that a charter school whose teachers are in a union has to abide by the contract that governs the whole district. Yes, the proposed UFT charters in New York are going to use the city's contract, but that's to prove the point that it's not the contract that stifles achievement. Even so, it looks like hiring will be done by the school itself, not some faceless bureaucracy.

A unionized school hiring its own teachers? What's next, a golden retriever summoned to court?

First day of school, first day of school!!

apparently not for everyone in Bolivia. many teachers in rural areas haven't received their pay since May and have refused to return to school for the start of the new year. some urban teachers are on strike as well. maybe the fact that winter vacation was cancelled had something to do with it. even though the protesters (who were demanding the nationalization of the country's natural gas reservces) led by evo morales went home after president mesa resigned, the new president still has his work cut out for him.

hopefully no one will get kidnapped and forced to wear a dunce cap (as did the vice minister of education last year) ...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

If you don't have ganas, I will give it to you because I am an expert

Continuing our lovefest for Jaime Escalante (coincidentally one of the most famous Bolivians ever), here is some of his advice for aspiring math teachers.

the effort debate

the washington post asks whether or not teachers should give points for effort. since i am not a teacher (yet!), i'm not going to weigh in with an opinion. but teaching legend (and one of the school of bloggers' favorite people) Jaime Escalante,
said he also raised grades for effort when he taught at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. "If the kid put in a lot of hard work, I had to recognize that," he said by telephone from Bolivia, where he is semi-retired. "And if you put in a lot of effort, you're going to learn something."
pretty awesome!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Impact Schools

A report by the DRUM Major Institute for Public Policy sheds some light on "Impact Schools," 20-some middle and high schools in high crime areas in New York City where the police presence has been beefed up. A piece in the The Gotham Gazette today points to the disturbing trend of criminalizing kids while doing nothing to address the root cause of the problem. The report shows that Impact Schools are large, overcrowded and (surprise!) receive less funding than the average city school - an average of $1,482 per student less. Kids at these schools are also predominately poor, overage and black (there are also far fewer white students than in the average school).
What isn't mentioned, according to Luis Reyes of the Bronx Institute of Lehman College, is that English Language Learners (ELLs) make up a higher percentage of students at Impact Schools (17.7 percent) than they do at other city schools (13 percent). ELL students already are in the midst of a drop-out crisis for a number of reasons (more on that later) and being in rough, poorly funded schools certainly doesn't help.

i think "field trip to mcdonalds" says it all

eduwonk has some good initial thoughts about a week-long series on the Milwaukee voucher program in the Journal-Sentinel (first two installments here and here). the main point: what distinguishes charter school programs from voucher programs is public accountability.

under no state charter school law would a school like this be allowed to open:
In some cases, voucher schools are really only a step up from day care centers, serving only very young children.

For example, reporters tried to visit the Academy of Excellence Preparatory School twice, each time finding a large, empty classroom in the back of the Parklawn YMCA on the north side. The classroom appeared unused, with few books or toys in sight.

On a third visit, the school's principal, Joe Nixon, said she kept the supplies in a back room. On that day, she had only two students. The school said it had seven choice students on the January student count date. The two students, a 4-year-old and a 5-year-old, were drawing. Nixon said she was getting ready to take them on a field trip to McDonald's.

yes, there are bad charter schools out there. yes, there are charters where kids play cards and watch movies all day. but, if the system works correctly, those schools do eventually get shut down. under most voucher programs, there is no safeguard against this.

charter school initiatives are about innovation. voucher programs are about deregulation and privatization. while there may be components of each in the legislative intents of both charter and voucher laws, you can tell by the facts that are just starting to show up on the ground what values the supporters of each school choice program have.

give them saturday school or give them another year of 5th grade

a piece in yesterday's ny times seems to give evidence that accountability works, especially when there are consequences for families and students when learning doesn't happen.

but there's something else to this story: the mayor's promotion policy seemed to spur the improvement, but what got them there was an increase in resources --
Still, principals and other officials insist that this year's scores reflected real achievement, a result of increased spending on many initiatives. Some practices were new this year, like the Saturday classes in fifth grade. Other initiatives are nearly a decade old, like New York State's push to widen the availability of prekindergarten.

seems to give some creedence to these guys and those who follow their lead.

Saturday, June 11, 2005


Welcome to the School of Blog, written by two people who work in education-related nonprofits in New York City and care about general issues in education and all things related. Chris works for a community-based organization in Queens, and will be blogging about bilingual education, ESL, issues relating to immigrant students and families, and various other juicy topics. Julie works with charter schools in Brooklyn, and will be blogging about charter schools, education policy, privatization, and other sexy topics. And we will always be sticking it to the man.