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 ..

From 11alive.com:
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.