Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Monday, August 29, 2005
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.
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).
Sunday, August 28, 2005
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
Check back for more details next week.
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
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?
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?
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
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.
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
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."
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
"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
Friday, August 19, 2005
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.
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
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.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
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.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
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
Friday, August 12, 2005
"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.
I have it from my sources that NY Education Commissioner Richard Mills could release the scores today if he wanted to; apparently, year after year, he holds onto the scores until it's a good time politically to hold a press release. My source says that he has, in the past, waited until November to release the scores.
If this is true, then NYC public school students are taking twice as many tests for nothing, as this Daily News editorial suggests.
P.S. How would Mills respond to this post? Check out this line from that interview from ETS linked above:
Objections to accountability are often hidden in objections to the tests.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
“What strikes me is that our findings are almost perfectly aligned with what manufacturers are telling the public is such a problem,” she said. “I think it’s important that the public and policymakers know that education is being likewise impacted.”And even scarier is how administrators wish they could handle the problem if they didn't have unions to negotiate with:
Pressed for their views on possible solutions, 70 percent said they considered shifting insurance costs to employees to be “promising.” Fifty-three percent saw merit in “wellness” programs aimed at encouraging healthier lifestyles. About half saw value in “educating employees about benefits.”
Finally, the scariest thing of all: This chart --
A total of 68% of respondents agree that the cost of health care negatively affects student learning.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Why? The state has not been able to report scores before September, which is too late to accomodate Bloomberg's no-social-promotion policy in grades 3, 5, and 7.
UPDATE: More to come on implications for charter schools. I believe it was the case before that schools chartered by New York City were not held to the mayor's social promotion policy; unsure if that's still the case. If they are, then some NYC charter schools will have to take the city tests, and others (those chartered by SUNY) will not.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
But I wanted to make sure everyone was aware of this development (or should I say, regression?) at NYU.
Friday, August 05, 2005
The interesting part of the story (to me, anyway) is that one of the two co-founders is a refugee from the now-closed School of Science and Technology, which was managed by Edison Schools. The former math teacher blames the school's closing, as well as that of the other charter school that was shut down, on their for-profit education management organizations (EMOs):
The people who want to run the new charter school believe the schools failed because they were run by corporations. They plan to do things differently because they'll be self-managed. Bradley said, "We want to show we can manage within our own community, from our own management team with our own board of trustees."
Rochester Leadership Academy, the other closed charter school, was managed by National Heritage Academies, another for-profit.
SUNY, the charter authorizer of both schools, recommended that they be closed based on poor academic achievement and poorly prepared teachers, according to this article.
Now, why would two different for-profit management companies, who are supposed to have all the brilliance at schooling that the private sector has to offer, have such ill-prepared teachers on their staff?
Because for-profit EMO's hire new, inexperienced teachers at the bottom of the pay scale to save a few bucks. We know this. Even in their charter schools, where they know they have to provide something good so that parents will choose their product!
And on top of all that, apparently some don't even put in the $$ to make sure their new teachers have professional development opportunities. Check this out from a NYSUT (the New York State branch of the AFT) press release about the charter school closings:
Charter School Institute evaluators, who made several site visits, found test scores at all three schools were substantially below their comparison schools in Rochester and Syracuse . Staff at the School of Science and Technology are represented by the Rochester Teachers Association led by president Adam Urbanski. He said staff turnover at the school been very high and that Edison Schools failed to provide adequate professional development and mentoring.
"There's a lot of disappointment among the staff," said Dennis Moriarty, RTA's representative at the charter school. "The union kept pushing the school to hire more experienced teachers and invest in professional development. But to keep costs down, they just kept hiring new people."
That, to me, is the biggest argument against for-profit education.
As I said last week in this post, education is the most important issue to Latino voters in the upcoming mayoral election in New York. And according to this op-ed in El Diario from Lilian Rodriguez-Lopez of the Hispanic Federation (in Spanish only), Bloomberg seems to be making some headway in convincing Latino voters that he is doing a good job on issues that matter to them. A recent poll shows that 51 percent of Latinos had a positive opinion of Bloomberg, an increase of 17 points since 2004, when almost 70 percent of Latinos gave him bad marks. It's hard to know how much of Bloomberg's recent success among Latino voters is the result of his education reforms. Bloomberg needs to do a lot more (like supporting the Education Equity Act, for one, and there are a number of other complaints) to improve the quality of education for Latino kids in the city, but he is certainly doing a good job of communicating to the voters. It'll be interesting to see if this issue plays a big role in the outcome of the election.
I haven't seen this being reported in any English-language papers, but I'll keep you posted.
The Education Equity Act is desperately needed in New York City because so many parents do not speak English well, and one of the easiest steps to make towards improving education is to promote real parent involvement. But it's pretty hard to tell immigrant parents to be involved if the school can't (or doesn't bother to) provide translation at parent-teacher conferences and PTA meetings, or doesn't translate report cards or other school documents for parents.
Here is New York Sun write up of the protest:
IMMIGRANT STUDENTS PROTEST SCHOOL LANGUAGE BARRIERS
About 40 students from immigrant families gathered on the steps of City Hall yesterday afternoon to protest school language barriers they say prevent their non-English-reading parents from being involved in their educations.The protesters called for the adoption of Intro. 464, which would require the city's Department of Education to make documents intended for parents available in the nine most common languages spoken in New York City and develop an interpretation system for meetings and events. According to the New York Immigration Coalition, 50% of public school parents require translation and interpretation assistance.
A lot of ethnic media were on hand, and here is a good, long article (in Spanish) from El Diario.
Chris can talk about this better than I can, but I think that in Bolivia, not only is voting mandatory, but it is also a national holiday. Why can't we have a national holiday for voting here? We have a national holiday for an old, dead explorer who began the process of colonization and genocide in the Americas.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Much like pro-charter groups called out the New York Times for reporting the AFT's findings on charter schools as fact, citing the partisan nature of the AFT as a reason to doubt its study, "Closer Look" is calling out the NY Daily News for reporting the pro-charter findings of this pro-charter New York City organization, noting that "Double Standards Distort Charter School Debate."
Now that I have pointed out the double standard, however, I have to say that "Closer Look" really didn't do such a good job of pointing out the double standard. Really, what it did was make the EXACT SAME (stupid) ARGUMENT that people were making against the AFT study last year: that the data cannot be trusted simply because the people who crunched the data have an agenda. Check this out:
The newspaper failed to fact check a questionable claim on a controversial matter from a group that clearly has an agenda.That is from the AFT. Now look at this excerpt from an op/ed by a bunch of pro-school choice researchers that appeared in the WSJ last year:
It is not unusual for interest groups to issue misleading reports that further their political agenda. And for this reason, newspapers generally ignore them, treat them with great skepticism, or make sure they vet the study with independent observers. Not so in the case of the recently released study of charter schools issued by the [AFT] ...The argument didn't make sense back then, and it doesn't now. The fact is that there is NOTHING either side can substantively say is wrong with these two reports, the AFT's or the NYCCCSE's on charter performance. Did New York City charter schools perform better than non-charter public schools on city and state tests? This year, it happens to be the case that they did. Are charter schools as a whole nationwide performing better than non-charter public schools? Based on NAEP data, not really. Do these two facts blow our minds? No.
Monday, August 01, 2005
Two other new and interesting charter schools opening up in my old stomping grounds of the Atlanta suburbs (links added by me):
Dunwoody Springs, which opened as a traditional school in 2000, won conversion charter status in January. It will become Georgia's first Designated Professional De- velopment Focus School, in partnership with Georgia State University.
The school will serve as a laboratory school for developing and implementing the best practices for teaching diverse, transient and urban students. Another unique feature will be that students entering after the first 10 days of school will spend five to 10 days in a "transitional" classroom to assess the students' academic needs and their families' social service needs while providing orientation to the school.
Amana Academy in Roswell is Fulton's newest startup charter. It will offer project-based learning and Arabic instruction. Students will remain with the same teacher for two years.