Friday, February 27, 2009

Personal Success Academy

ednotes has a feature on this "success story" waiting in the wings to be our next train wreck of a mayor
an excerpt from Juan Gonzalez in the nydailynews
Ex-Council member Eva Moskowitz made $371,000 for running four charter academies, more than Chancellor Joel Klein got for running 1,400 city schools.
Eva Moskowitz, the former City Council member who founded a small chain of nonprofit charter schools, is a passionate and abrasive champion of the charter school movement.
She's also making a bundle.
Moskowitz, who makes no secret of her desire to create 40 charter schools across the city and run for mayor some day, raked in $371,000 in salaries in the 2006-2007 school year from organizations connected to her four schools, tax records show.
Those schools, Harlem Success Academy 1, 2, 3 and 4, have an enrollment of about 1,000 pupils, from kindergarten to third grade.
The nonprofit organizations connected to the schools have yet to file more recent tax returns, but Moskowitz said in an interview late Thursday she received $310,000 last year - the 2007-2008 year - $250,000 in salary and $60,000 in a bonus.
That means Moskowitz, who is responsible for four schools, makes more than Chancellor Joel Klein, who gets $250,000 to run 1,400 schools

from gotham schools on Eva's methods
The New York Times story, by Elissa Gootman, is fascinating as a portrait of the day-to-day of Moskowitz’s second coming. We learn that, although she has recently been a strong public ally of Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein, privately she is still the tough, demanding woman who will challenge anyone she doesn’t think is doing their job correctly: Gootman excerpts some cross e-mail messages she has sent to school officials. We also learn that her son, Culver, is one of a tiny number of white students at one of Moskowitz’s charter schools, Harlem Success 3.
But it also paints a picture of how Moskowitz’s schools are actually run. Moskowitz says her curriculum is a mix of, on one hand, the liberal Bank Street ethic — there are dress-up corners in the kindergarten rooms — and, on the other, the drill-and-kill of programs like Success for All, which she uses for literacy. And she has not been afraid to fire staff; in the first year, an assistant principal and two teachers were let go.
Finally, she appears to ask as much of parents as she has of elected officials, making requirements that a traditional public school would have a hard time pulling off:
She demands a lot from Harlem Success parents: They must read their children six books a week, year round, and attend multiple school events, from soccer tournaments to Family Reading Nights. If children are repeatedly late, the parents must join them to do penance at Saturday Academy.
Nefertiti Washington, 28, whose son is a kindergartner, said some parents walked out of a springtime information session when Ms. Moskowitz made her expectations clear by saying, “If you know you cannot commit to all that we ask of you this year, this is not the place for you.”

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The So-Called Education Revolution

A public affairs program on Australian TV drank a good deal of nycdoe kool-aid, but the caped crusader, Eduwonkette put to rest many of the hyped claims of Klein & Co. From ednotesonline via Trevor Cobbold at Save Our Schools

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Two Ways To Cross The Delaware

The Wrong Way

The Right Way

Lessons for Michael Bloomberg on President's Day, from David Bloomfield on the nycpublicschoolparents site
In December 12, 1776, with the new nation on the brink of defeat, the 2nd Continental Congress granted George Washington “full power to order and direct all things relative to the department, and the operation of the war.”
On June 14, 2002, with the New York City Public Schools foundering, the Governor signed legislation granting Mayor Bloomberg the right to appoint a majority of the Board of Education, with power of removal. The Chancellor was designated Board Chair as well as the superintendent and chief executive officer, to “serve at the pleasure of and be employed by the Mayor of the City of New York.”
How Washington and Bloomberg used their broad powers is a study in contrasting leadership styles.
In his Pulitzer Prize-winning history, “Washington’s Crossing,” David Hackett Fischer describes how General of the Continental Army George Washington “found a way to combine energy and decision with the principles of a republican polity” by working closely with congressional officials and other civilian authorities.
In a contrary manner, Mayor Bloomberg now argues that the schools are exempt from the structures of local government and that he may act unilaterally, outside city purchasing, audit, and legislative mandates.
In their use of data, supposedly a signal accomplishment of the Mayor’s, the two men also differ. Rather than monopolizing data collection and dissemination, Washington encouraged “a free and open system of information gathering, engaged the efforts of many people, produced multiple sources, and got better results than closed systems.”
But these differences in acceptance of democratic principles are not merely structural or operational. They go to the character of the two gentlemen. As described by Fischer, Washington functioned “more as a leader than a commander; always listening, inspiring, guiding; rarely demanding, commanding, coercing.”
In two pivotal decisions, Washington demonstrated this trait of collaborative leadership, a characteristic the Mayor would do well to emulate. After the First Battle of Trenton, back on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware, with the British on the opposite shore still poised to take Philadelphia to end the War, Fischer writes that, “as at every difficult moment, Washington decided to convene a council of war.”
Rather than rendering a unilateral command decision, Washington led the council in an open discussion in which the General took pains to hide his own opinions, letting the purposely pluralistic membership freely argue their various proposals. “It was his way of encouraging open discussion and constructive debate,” Fischer concludes.
After deciding again to attack and successfully fending off the British and Hessians in the Second Battle of Trenton, Washington faced another critical decision: whether to withdraw or continue to engage the enemy, led by General Cornwallis. Fischer compares the councils formed by each:
“Cornwallis imposed his plan from the top down, against the judgment of able inferiors...Washington in his council of war welcomed the judgments of others and presided over an open process of discovery and decision that yielded yet another opportunity.”
Suppressing the desire to re-engage, the collective decision was made to withdraw the exhausted army from the Trenton battlefield, resulting in later victory at the Battle of Princeton. The rest, as they say, is history.
Leadership in the 21st century may have different demands than in 18th, but it is hard to believe that Bloomberg’s challenges are any more daunting than Washington’s quest for national survival. Yet even in the urgency of war and knowing the high stakes of broken confidences, Washington pursued a politics of openness and consensus.
I don’t know what debates may take place within the Mayor’s and Chancellor’s inner circle but as a long-time member and former President of a citywide parent organization created by the Chancellor ostensibly for the purpose of advising him, I know that we are not consulted and that our proffers of help are routinely rejected. The Mayor’s top-down approach is also well known, even to the point that his appointees to the city school board are removed if they oppose him and forbidden to speak publicly about their work.
As the Mayor contemplates his third term and educational legacy, perhaps it is time to learn the lessons of our greatest leader. Be open. Listen. Reject coercion. Pay attention to democratic principles, guide, and inspire.
---David C. Bloomfield is Professor of Educational Leadership at Brooklyn College and the author of American Public Education Law (Peter Lang, 2007)
Let us also remember: Washington famously refused to run for a third term, even though he was encouraged to do so, believing "that no president should serve more than two terms lest he be looked upon as a king." In contrast, Bloomberg showed no such reluctance -- collaborating with the Council to revoke term limits unilaterally, even though NYers had voted twice against this.

Paterson Duped Again

great article in this weeks village voice by Wayne Barrett
an excerpt:
Jonathan Lippman and Shelly Silver grew up together on the Lower East Side in the 1950s, living next door in the insular Grand Street projects and sitting near each other's family in the neighborhood's Orthodox shul. After both graduated from law school in 1968 and drifted into low-level courthouse gigs in Manhattan in their early careers, one went on to become the longest-serving Democratic legislative leader in modern New York history, master of an unprecedented 107 to 43 majority in the State Assembly. The other remained largely unknown, except inside the state's vast court system.
Last month, the two old friends reunited in the Red Room in the State Capitol to celebrate their emergence as the most powerful duo in state government.
Below the political radar, the black-hatted, still religious, and gravel-toned Silver, who is celebrating his 65th birthday and 15th year as speaker this month, has been quietly boosting the more secular Lippman for years. Last month, he finally pushed Lippman from the series of back-office management posts where he had labored for years to the job of top gavel in the State Judiciary.
Appointed Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals in mid-January by the accidental governor, David Paterson, whose troubled tenure continues to erode his own ranking among the state's power elite, Lippman is awaiting virtually certain confirmation in the next few days from the new and narrow Senate Democratic majority. He will take over a court system that spends $2.3 billion a year, employs 21,000, and is likely to deal with issues like gay marriage, the housing foreclosure crisis, Wall Street criminality, and the still anti–city school aid formula during the six years he will reign until his mandatory retirement at 70.
A year younger than his boyhood friend, Lippman awaits State Senate confirmation before becoming the first chief judge since 1898 to lead the state's highest court without ever serving as one of the court's nine members

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Belated Valentine Post

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

from gotham schools, reporting on Michelle Rhee's visit to
New York to bring another gift to Joel's anti union arsenal
Michelle Rhee touted her red-track/green-track teacher pay proposal last night at Pace University, saying it’s made such a splash that Mayor Bloomberg asked Chancellor Joel Klein if they could bring a similar model to New York. The proposal, which is being negotiated with the D.C. teachers union right now, would award some first-year teachers nearly $40,000 raises in exchange for giving up their tenure rights — while others could choose a “red” path where they retain tenure but are paid less.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hearings On Governance of the New York City School District: 2/12/09

Devastating testimony by Staten Island parent Anne-Marie Caminiti about failures of special education under mayoral control

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hearings On Governance of the New York City School District: 2/12/09

To review the impact of governance changes which granted mayoral control of the New York City school system Friday, February 12, 2009, 10:30 a.m., College of Staten Island Center for the Arts, Williamson Theater, 2800 Victory Boulevard, Building 1P, Staten Island, NY Catherine T. Nolan, Member of Assembly,Chair, Committee on Education, Other Members Present: James F. Brennan, Daniel J. O'Donnell, Michael Benedetto, Matthew Titone, Michael Cusick, Lou Tobacco
In this segment Loretta and Gene Prisco offer testimony. Lynda Bernstein is also questioned.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Another Phony Company Fink: Schmo Torre

(L-R) Rudolph W. Giuliani, Donald Trump, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Bill Clinton, Joe Torre, and Billy Crystal attend the 2008 Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation Golf Classic at Trump National Golf Club on July 14, 2008 in Briarcliff Manor, New York
from Cindy Adams
ANOTHER little baseball-related item. Instead of being wild about Schmo Torre's hit-and-run book, many Yankees, except for maybe general manager Brian Cashman, seem even pleased. They say now everyone will know the guy they know. They say he's an egotist. Money-hungry. They actually labeled him "Dough" Torre. They say he's not a nurturing team player but someone only in it for himself. They say he'll show up and make appearances for charity, but never give an actual buck to any cause. They say they say they say. They say plenty. They also say this is the end of the line for him career wise.
Sad to say he fooled me. Maybe he's the one who ratted out A-Rod.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Company Finks 2009

learn-ny is a 2009 version of the company fink
They packed the hearings with their folks last Friday at the Governance Hearings You can even spot some of their handlers in the slide show above. Their funding no doubt comes from the same source that puts up all the posters in the subways and buses. If you go to their web site there's a comment from a parent
"I love my school. We are a family oriented school and everyone is moving from good to great. Teachers and staff are on point and students are learning as well." Audrey Mitchell, PS/MS 149

I know this school very well. It's a school that is "in need of improvement" run by a leadership academy principal. It will eventually close despite the political connections and the tuchis leching. Enough said. People can be easily manipulated. The UFT has a political agenda as well but in the battle between the "company" and the union I'll be on the side of the union
In the Lingan Strike the Company Finks saw the error of their ways
from a great Canadian singer I recently discovered, Maria Dunn
"In 1882, coal miners in the town of Lingan, Cape Breton, went on strike for the right to unionize. Within a few months, mine owners imported Scottish miners in an effort to break the strike. However, when the Scots arrived and realized the role they were meant to play, they refused to go to work. I first read about this incident in a book called Working People: An Illustrated History of Canadian Labour by D. Morton & T. Copp (1980). Thank you to Kate Currie, Archival Researcher at the Beaton Institute in Cape Breton for further assistance with research materials."
We're all the way from Lanarkshire, we’re thirty hardy men
And we've crossed the bold Atlantic to the shores of Cape Breton
They told us there'd be honest work, there's scarce of that at home
But today we lay our tools down as if that coal was stone
As if that coal was stone
For Lingan we were headed, boys, and thought we had it made
A rich seam lay in waiting for our skilled and eager trade
But just before we landed, well the story it came 'round
That a hundred solid local men would not go underground
Would not go underground
And here we are but poor men, three thousand miles we've gone
But we can see, as clear as day, the right man from the wrong
The right man from the wrong
The tale was too familiar-we'd been through the same at home
Where a man could labour years and still be cast out on his own
If ever he should fall sick or be injured in the mine
It's as if he'd never given of his breath or of his time
His breath or of his time

The BlackLeg Miner

the background, from wikipedia
Blackleg Miner is a 19th-century English folk song, originally from Northumberland (as can be deduced from the dialect in the song and the references in it to the villages of Seghill and Seaton Delaval).
It is not entirely clear how old the song is, although it is thought to have been written either in the late 19th or early 20th century. Richard Thompson, who released a version of it in 2006, dates it as early as the first half of the 19th century. However, if this was true, it must have been translated into more modern English, as the lyrics would not have been part of the language of 19th-century Northumberland.
The lyrics, which are traditional depict the aggressive stance against strikebreakers adopted by collectivised strikers - the term blackleg being an older word for scab. (Britain's mining sector was always heavily unionised and strikes could cause bitterness both within and between pit communities).
For a period in the 1960s and 1970s, the song's aggressive lyrics were ignored and it became a common feature of many folk music societies. However, the UK miners' strike (1984-1985) saw striking miners using the song to intimidate those who continued to work

In England they have a better understanding on the value of unions and class struggle
comments from the youtube post of the above song by Steeleye Span
I'm an American, and the proud daughter of a member of the United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO Local 1179. Those in other countries may find it hard to understand that so many Americans believe that Labor Unions are merely greedy and corrupt. I want to scream Who the hell do you think is responsible for your 40 hour work week, fool. Or the fact that laborer's children got to University. I love Steeleye Span with all my heart, and this is one of my favorite tracks.SOLIDARITY FOREVER! Bless the miners hated Thatcher.
scabs-the lowest form of life. my dad was a miner at rossington shut and they're thinking of reopening harworth...scab pit just across the border in about rubbing salt in the wound. how they can look at themselves in the mirror is beyond me. i know in their hearts they have nothing to be proud of. scum...

the lyrics
It's in the evening after dark
when the blackleg miner creeps to work,
With his moleskin pants and dirty shirt,
There goes the blackleg miner.
Well, he grabs his duds and down he goes,
To hew the coal that lies below,
There's not a woman in this town row
will look at the blackleg miner.
Oh, Delaval is a terrible place,
They rub wet clay in the blackleg's face,
And around the heaps they run a footrace
to catch the blackleg miner.
And even down near the Seghill mine,
Across the way they stretch a line
To catch the throat, to break the spine
of the dirty blackleg miner.
They grabbed his duds, his picks as well,
And they hoy them down the pit of hell,
Down you go, we pay you well,
You dirty blackleg miner.
It's in the evening after dark
that the blackleg miner creeps to work,
With his moleskin pants and dirty shirt,
There goes the blackleg miner.
So join the union while you may,
Don't wait 'til your dying day
For that may not be far away,
You dirty blackleg miner.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

New Dollar Menu Item

from Ravitch's testimony
We must wonder whether we can believe any numbers for the graduation rate, because the city has encouraged a dubious practice called “credit recovery,” which inflates the graduation rate. Under credit recovery, students who failed a course or never even showed up can still get credit for it by turning in an independent project or attending a few extra sessions. A principal told the New York Times that credit recovery is the “dirty little secret of high schools. There’s very little oversight and there are very few standards.” (NY Times, April 11, 2008). Furthermore, the city doesn’t count students who have been discharged; these are students who have been removed from the rolls but are not counted as dropouts. Their number has increased every year. Leaving out these students also inflates the graduation rate.
We have all heard that social promotion was eliminated, that students can’t be promoted from grade 3 or 5 or 7 or 8 unless they have mastered the work of the grade. Nonetheless, a majority of eighth-graders do not meet state standards in reading or math. And two-thirds of the city’s graduates who enter CUNY’s community colleges must take remedial courses in reading, writing, or mathematics. These figures suggest that social promotion continues and that many students are graduating who are not prepared for postsecondary education.

A Deleted Scene From The Godfather

Much of the testimony at the governance hearings was pretty damming of mayoral control, but, according to nyceducator,
Ravitch's testimony eviscerated him
If only life imitated art...figuratively, of course

Leonie Haimson's Testimony At NYC School Governance Hearings

the transcript:
Testimony on Mayoral Control For Assembly Education Committee
I testified at Friday's Assembly Education Committee hearing on school governance. Thanks to Assembly Chairperson Cathy Nolan and Assembly Members O'Donnell, Brennan, Kavanaugh and Benedetto for their attention.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I am Patrick J. Sullivan, the Manhattan Representative to the Panel for Educational Policy appointed by Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer.
Over the last year, Borough President Stringer has recommended a number of revisions to the school governance structure. I will summarize those recommendations in my testimony, but I would like to focus today illustrating why these changes are necessary based on my experience on the PEP.
Make the Board a More Effective Check and Balance Mechanism
With regard to the PEP, we recommend several measures to strengthen the board so as to serve as a more effective check and balance mechanism against abuse of mayoral control and to more effectively represent the viewpoints of parents:
1. The terms of the members should be fixed rather than having them serve at the pleasure of the appointing official.
2. The board should be reduced to include fewer mayoral appointees.
3. The authority of the city board should be clarified with regard to policy and budgetary approval.
Transparency and Customary Rules of Order
In my experience I have seen how the lack of independence of the PEP members has allowed the Chancellor to manage the PEP with complete disregard for how a board of directors should function. For example:
* Meeting agendas are typically distributed only a few days in advance.
* Presentation materials are rarely made available to members before the meeting. When they are provided it is typically within 24 hours of the meeting.
* Under its bylaws the PEP is supposed to meet in executive session once a year to discuss how to improve its functioning but this meeting has not been held, at least since I joined 22 months ago.
* Members may request roll call votes under the bylaws but my attempts to do so have been refused.
* There are no transcripts. Meeting minutes have not been not distributed since early 2007.
* There is no audit committee.
* Investigative reports of the Special Commissioner for Investigation are not provided to the board as required by executive order.
These poor practices serve to obscure the workings of the board and inhibit communication between the PEP members and the public school families they are supposed to represent. A board structured to be more independent, especially with a provision for fixed terms would provide the members with sufficient security to set higher standards for the conduct of the board.
Budget Decisions
I would like to discuss some of the votes where I dissented from the majority positions. I am extraordinarily fortunate to be appointed and supported by Borough President Stringer who has insisted that we always represent the best interest of the children even if it means drawing the ire of the mayor and chancellor. I think these examples will illustrate both how the board functions today and suggest how a more independent one would achieve a more balanced outcome:
Operating Budget
When the Chancellor brought to the PEP a budget that provided steep cuts in operating funds for many schools I objected. I explained that by state law we are tasked with proposing a budget sufficient to fund school operations and we should not send to the City Council a budget that clearly did not do so. We were also asked to approve a high level budget without being presented with sufficient detail to understand the spending. The budget was approved with eight votes in favor and my one against. Nevertheless, the City Council determined that the budget was insufficient to fund the schools and restored enough funds to eliminate cuts. Rather than starting with the funding provided by the mayor and reducing expenditures to achieve his desired balance, a more independent board would put forward a transparent budget with the “total sum of money deemed necessary” as state law requires.
Capital Budget
Similarly with the capital budget we see how the board’s insistence on rubber stamping the mayor’s proposal shortchanges our children. The capital budget vote was especially marred by a lack of candor and transparency. Both DOE and the School Construction Authority asserted that the current plan, now in its final year, would improbably accomplish all its goals: reduction of class sizes to 20 in every classroom K – 3, elimination of portables and an end to split sessions. Furthermore, the administration provided no credible explanation as to how this spending would align with their own class size reduction goals required by Contracts for Excellence statues and regulations. Despite the readily demonstrable inadequacy of the plan, it was passed again with only my one dissenting vote. We now have a new five year plan ready for approval this month yet no needs analysis or assessment has been provided. The PEP is simply told to believe that what the mayor is willing to spend is exactly what the children need. An independent board would require a careful assessment of need be published and spending be aligned with statutory and regulatory requirements.
Special Education System Contract
There is an acute need for the State Legislature to clarify what spending must be approved by the city board. When I read in the press that we would sign $55 million contract for a new special education system, I asked the DOE general counsel if the PEP would vote to approve the contract. I pointed to state law requiring approval of any contract which would "significantly impact the provision of educational services or programming". He explained that the new system “is not changing either the nature of the services we deliver or the manner in which we deliver them” and therefore no vote is required. When I objected on the record at the January PEP meeting, Chancellor Klein questioned what the purpose of such a vote would be. I explained that before voting, I would make sure all the CDECs and especially the CCSE reviewed the system requirements, provided input and preferably issued a resolution or letter endorsing the project and/or stating concerns.
But the Chancellor did not see the need or benefit for such collaboration. CCSE was never invited to provide input. Like me, John Englert, the president of CCSE read about it in the press. The Chancellor explained to me the PEP had been functioning this way for seven years. He didn't see any need to change. Hopefully the Assembly will see to it that the families whose children are served by the public school system have this reasonable and appropriate input into these massive expenditures. I suggest to you that all contracts above some set threshold be approved by the city board.
Policy Decisions
Gifted and Talented Admissions
The new Gifted and Talented admissions policy is a comprehensive failure of educational policy. Ostensibly seeking to improve equity, the Chancellor swept away the various admissions criteria employed by the schools and districts and replaced them with two standardized tests. Like many, I warned Deputy Chancellor Lyles that the new tests, focusing more on preparedness than giftedness, would only shift G&T seats from low income to higher income neighborhoods. Even one of the mayor’s appointees told me I was “100% correct on this issue”. Now the damage has been done with many programs in low income neighborhoods shuttered and new classes skewing even more heavily toward higher income students. A more independent board would never stand for this poorly considered policy.
8th Grade Retention
The original PEP was opposed to the mayor’s testing-based retention policy. As a result, several members were removed in the hours before they were to vote on this controversial policy. When we were asked to vote on 8th grade retention a wide spectrum of academics and community leaders protested the weak underpinnings of the policy and the total absence of any program to improve education in the middle schools. The research and evidence from other similar policies in Chicago and elsewhere demonstrate they are extremely costly and don’t work. Even with a more independent board the mayor may have eventually implemented his policy. The difference is that it would he would have had to couple test-based retention with a real plan for addressing the needs of struggling students with proven approaches including tutoring and smaller classes. I heard Deputy Mayor Walcott explain earlier today how the candid debate we had helped to improve the policy. I would disagree with him and point to how the Bloomberg administration, after contracting with the RAND corporation to study the test-based retention program implemented in 5th grade still refuses to release the research reports to the public. I've brought them here to show you; you can see there are hundreds of pages. This information should be not be surpressed but rather released to inform the debate.
Parental Involvement
I would like to conclude by asking the Assembly to strengthen the Community District Education Councils as bodies representative of the parent perspective. The ambiguity of the law with respect to CDEC duties, responsibilities, and powers must be clarified. In many ways, Community Boards are analogous to CDECs. Our City Charter clearly outlines the functions of Community Boards and there is no ambiguity on which planning decisions they are required to offer opinions. I would urge the State Legislature to use the language in New York City’s Charter with respect to Community Boards as a guide for outlining the duties and responsibilities of CDECs.
I have always sought input from CDECs on policy and budget votes. Requiring advisory votes from CDECs which the PEP members would be expected to follow would be one way to channel parent input into policy decisions.
I hope today I’ve been able to provide you with insight into the functioning of the current citywide board. In its current form the Panel for Educational Policy does not make policy or even meaningfully advise the chancellor. Those roles are reserved for the chancellor's management consultants and the distant foundations of wealthy men: the Broad Foundation, Gates Foundation and Dell Foundation. But we parents know better. The real insight into the challenges of urban education lies in the communities, school leadership teams, PTAs, community councils. We will never have real improvement in our schools until we embrace parents as real partners in the education of their children. I urge you to restore balance, order and even simple decency to the governance of our schools.
Thank you for your time.

Hearings On School Governance: Part 1

To review the impact of governance changes which granted mayoral control of the New York City school system Friday, February 6, 2009, 10:00 a.m., Assembly Hearing, 250 Broadway, Room 1923, 19th Floor, New York, NY . Catherine T. Nolan, Member of Assembly,Chair, Committee on Education, Other Members Present: James F. Brennan, Michael Benedetto, Alan Maisel, Mark Weprin

Edited highlights

A-Rod's Stimulus Plan

Saturday, February 07, 2009


Klein got skewered, but there appeared to be victims of another nature at the hearing.
How infantile, using that old "pull my finger" routine!

Choices, You Don't Need No Stinkin' Choices!

While I was babying my camcorder's battery and during a tape change I kept my voice recorder on at the hearings on school governance. Luckily I caught Assembly Chair Nolan's
brutal skewering of Klein on the non-school choices that exist in her overcrowded Queen's district. I added images I found of Catherine Nolan, and a few choice others, to accompany the sound track. Paterson should have picked her to be Senator instead of that lightweight Gillibrand

Friday, February 06, 2009

K.O.'d Klein

Back in November of 2007 the chancellor and his high priced hit squad messed with Diane Ravitch. She fought back and bested the bestid. He "tangled" with her again today. Same result. see video below

Ravitch Rocks

Testimony of Diane Ravitch, Research Professor of Education, New York University, Hearings of New York State Assembly Committee on Education, February 6, 2009
I am a historian of education on the faculty of New York University. My first book was a history of the New York City public schools, entitled The Great School Wars. It was published in 1974. It is generally acknowledged to be the definitive history of the school system. Since then, I have continued to study and write about the New York City school system.
When the Legislature changed the governance of the school system in 2002, I supported the change. I supported the idea of mayoral control. I looked forward to an era of accountability and transparency. From my historical studies, I knew that mayoral control was the customary form of governance in our city’s schools for many years. From 1873 to 1969, the mayor appointed every single member of the New York City Board of Education. The decentralization of control from 1969 to 2002 was an aberration.
Having observed the current system since it was created, however, I have become convinced that it needs major changes.
It needs change because it lacks accountability. It lacks transparency. It shuts the public out of public education. It has no checks or balances. It lacks the most fundamental element of a democratic system of government, which is public oversight.
Never before in the history of NYC have the mayor and the chancellor exercised total, unlimited, unrestricted power over the daily life of the schools. No other school district in the United States is operated in this authoritarian fashion.
We have often been told by city officials that the results justify continuation of this authoritarian control. They say that test scores have dramatically improved. But no independent source verifies these assertions.
The city’s claims are contradicted by the federal testing program, called the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The federal tests are the gold standard of educational testing.
New York City is one of 11 cities that participate in the federal testing program. On the NAEP tests, the city’s scores were flat from 2003-2007 in fourth-grade reading, in eighth-grade reading, and in eighth-grade math. Only in fourth-grade math did student performance improve, but those gains had washed out by eighth grade. The eighth-graders were the product of the Children First reforms, yet these students showed no achievement gains in either reading or math. The federal tests showed no significant gains for Hispanic students, African American students, white students, Asian students, or lower-income students. The federal data showed no narrowing of the achievement gap among children of different ethnic and racial groups.
The SAT is another independent measure. This past year, the city’s SAT scores fell, reaching their lowest point since 2003, at the same time that national SAT scores held steady. The students who take the SAT intend to go to college; they are presumably our better-performing students. Yet the SAT reading score for New York City was an appalling 438, which is the 28th percentile of all SAT test-takers. The state SAT reading score was 488, much closer to the national average than our city students.
Are graduation rates up? The city says they have climbed from 53% to 62% from 2003-2007. The state says they have climbed from 44% to 52% from 2004-2007. Either way, the city’s graduation rate is no better than the graduation rate for the state of Mississippi, which spends less than a third of what New York City spends per pupil.
We must wonder whether we can believe any numbers for the graduation rate, because the city has encouraged a dubious practice called “credit recovery,” which inflates the graduation rate. Under credit recovery, students who failed a course or never even showed up can still get credit for it by turning in an independent project or attending a few extra sessions. A principal told the New York Times that credit recovery is the “dirty little secret of high schools. There’s very little oversight and there are very few standards.” (NY Times, April 11, 2008). Furthermore, the city doesn’t count students who have been discharged; these are students who have been removed from the rolls but are not counted as dropouts. Their number has increased every year. Leaving out these students also inflates the graduation rate.
We have all heard that social promotion was eliminated, that students can’t be promoted from grade 3 or 5 or 7 or 8 unless they have mastered the work of the grade. Nonetheless, a majority of eighth-graders do not meet state standards in reading or math. And two-thirds of the city’s graduates who enter CUNY’s community colleges must take remedial courses in reading, writing, or mathematics. These figures suggest that social promotion continues and that many students are graduating who are not prepared for postsecondary education.
The present leadership of the Department of Education has made testing in reading and mathematics the keynote of their program. Many schools have narrowed their curriculum in hopes of raising their test scores. The Department’s own survey of arts education showed that only 4% of children in elementary schools and less than a third of those in middle schools were receiving the arts education required by the state. When the federal government tested science in 2006, two-thirds of New York City’s eighth grade students were “below basic,” the lowest possible rating. These figures suggest that our students are not getting a good education, no matter what the state test scores in reading and math may be.
The Department of Education, lacking any public accountability, has heedlessly closed scores of schools without making any sustained effort to improve them. Had they dramatically reduced class sizes, mandated a research-based curriculum, provided intensive professional development, supplied prompt technical assistance, and taken other constructive steps, they might have been able to turn around schools that were the anchor of their community. When Rudy Crew was Chancellor, he rescued many low-performing schools by using these techniques in what was then called the Chancellor’s District. Unfortunately this district—whose sole purpose was to improve low-performing schools–was abandoned in 2003. There may be times when a school must be closed, but it should be a last resort, triggered only after all other measures have been exhausted, and only after extensive community consultation.
The Legislature owes it to the people of New York City to make significant changes in the governance of the New York City public schools.
First, the governance system needs checks and balances. Having the chance to vote for the mayor once in four years is no check or balance, nor does it provide adequate accountability. The school system needs an independent board, whose members serve for a fixed-term, to review and approve the policies and budget of the school system. This board would hold public hearings before decisions are made. It would review the budget in public and give the public full opportunity to express its concerns.
Second, the performance of the school system should be regularly monitored by an independent, professional auditing agency. This agency should report to the public on student performance and graduation rates. Those in charge of the school system should not be allowed to monitor the system’s performance and to give principals and teachers bonuses for higher performance. Such an approach does not produce accountability; instead, it only encourages principals and teachers to find creative ways to boost their test scores and graduation rates.
Third, the leader of the school system should be appointed by the independent board, not by the mayor. The chancellor’s primary obligation is to protect the best interests of the students. If elected officials say that they must cut the schools’ budget, the chancellor should be the voice of the school system, fighting for the interests of the children and the schools. If the chancellor is appointed by the mayor, his first obligation is to the mayor, not the children.
There are many challenges facing the New York City school system. Many of the students that it serves are disadvantaged by poverty, are English language learners, or have special needs. Changing the governance of the school system will not solve all the problems of educating more than one million students.
Nonetheless, the Legislature must learn from experience. It should correct the flaws in the law passed in 2002. That law went too far in centralizing all authority in the Mayor’s office and in excluding the public from any voice in decisions affecting their communities and their children. It is time to change the law.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Bite Mike

Mike's out campaigning to retain his iron-fist hold over the schools
When Mayor Michael Bloomberg hits the campaign trail, he'll be touting his record at City Hall, and that includes his takeover of the city schools.
But with the mayoral control law up for renewal, top education aides are already making the case.
"It's very important to me, and it's very important to the future of the city that the mayor be held accountable for the decisions about the school system. The model that doesn't work is if you have divided authority," said Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.
State legislators have final say on whether the law stays in place, and Assembly members on Thursday conducted the first of five hearings on the contentious issue.
Some of the toughest criticism is coming from parents, who complain they are shut out of the centralized school system.
"It's not saying that everything we say is right, but we have to be brought to the table. Unfortunately, too often, that's the problem. We are not at the table," said Zakiyah Ansari, a concerned parent.
"The mayor and Chancellor Klein serve as dictators. There is no open dialogue between them and the parents," said David Quintana, a concerned parent.

Mike Vs. Chuck 3

Mike Vs. Chuck 2

Mike Vs. Chuck

from 1010wins
Did I hear correctly, but didn't that guy say, "Come on out your girl friend is here."