Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NYC delays release of ratings on teachers

The latest on the battle in NYC to release teacher ratings:

A battle that erupted in Los Angeles this summer over the public release of teacher ratings is flaring in New York this week and could become prominent in the debate over school reform efforts nationwide.

On Wednesday, New York City education officials announced plans to provide news organizations ratings on teachers that are derived from calculations on how much year-to-year progress their students make on standardized tests.

But on Thursday, a city education spokeswoman said, officials put that plan on hold for several weeks while a state court considers a teachers union petition to block the release.


NYC delays release of ratings on teachers

By Nick Anderson

Washington Post Staff Writer 
Friday, October 22, 2010


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Response to NYC article

Speaking of which, a friend who is a rock star AP teacher sent me this email in response to the article about NYC releasing teacher ratings:


I had an Assistant Principal  come to my class for five minutes, (the last five of the class), and he decided that I didn't have a lesson plan, and that my students were not grasping the material.


This was the only five minutes he spent in my class all year.


He gave me a U, and then relented and gave me an 'N" for needs improvement.


I was teaching Nietzsche to a class of underperforming sophomores, who were given to me so I could "get them on track."


As my class ended, he asked a sophomore who was rushing to get to his next class what he "thought" of Nietzsche.


This kids puzzlement justified my "U"


I had to have the principal intercede on my behalf.


That same year I had 85% pass rate on the AP exam.


The point I am making is this...


You see a story about making teachers evaluations public, and immediately the public thinks that this is a cover up because we are inundated with a system of slackers who are living the "Life of Riley" off of the public dime.


My point is that these evaluations are rarely a measurement of your worth as a teacher, and if a particular administrator has it in for you, as I assure you this one did and still does for me, then they can screw you with the evaluation.


Hence, where one might look to this as a cover up by the Teachers Union, another way to look at it is the airing of an "assessment tool" that might present otherwise diligent educators in an unfair light.


When I replied by asking: "I'm not sure I understand. Wouldn't you benefit if your evaluation was done via objective tests (like AP exams) vs. subjective evals?", this teacher replied:


That's correct...


However, I know far too many people that are slugging it out, doing the right thing, and working in public schools.


They are union in name, but for the most part tolerate the many indignities because a lot of good gets done.


I know your views on Unions...


I suppose what I meant to say is that, just as you can be defensive about an article that might call into questions that real gains made by charters, it pains me to see this as yet another way to rubber stamp the "failed public school system" and the "Evil teacher's Union" when, like Charters, there is grey area that can never be investigated because it doesn't scan well in a headline.


I don't get up in the morning and scrutinize my contract, and I know very few of my colleagues who even know what is in there.


Most of us show up, work our ass off, and repeat.


As far as assessment, I hear you.


My father, a Union leader at his school, and a lifer in the classroom, always told me that the only thing you can take away from this job is the way your students remember you.


Also, test scores (hard data) can be interesting because, AP aside, (because they show up), my global scores are much lower because attendance. 


Literally, whether or not a student comes to school is not factored into how they do on an end of the year, or mid-year exam.


Based on the kids that fail because they are truant, my evaluation would suffer as well.


I have literally been told if a kid doesn't show up, I have to find another way to teach them.    

The beat goes on...

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Moskowitz Charter Plan Draws Fire

Good for Eva and the Success Charter Network.  Even in wealthier areas, some schools are terrible and parents there deserve a better option as well:

Eva Moskowitz is planning to open a charter school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, a move that is causing an uproar in a neighborhood that is concerned about tight classroom space.

The founder of the Success Charter Network, a group of seven charter schools with a nearly all black and Hispanic demographic, Ms. Moskowitz said she is bringing her model to a neighborhood that she said may be more affluent but is just as desperate as Harlem and the Bronx for good, new schools like the ones she runs.

"Even if you're a person of some means, finding a great school for your kid is not easy," Ms. Moskowitz said.

"If you're zoned for P.S. 87 or P.S. 199, you're set," she added, referring to highly coveted schools. "But if you live one block out of that zone, you might have to struggle for a great school for your kid. I thought this would be a great new option for families north of 96th Street who have to struggle" to find a good school.


  • OCTOBER 20, 2010

Moskowitz Charter Plan Draws Fire



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Charter school hearing in Manhattan gets ugly over videotape flap

If anything, the forces of the status quo are MORE powerful in areas like the Upper West Side, so they are fighting the new Success Charter School:


Charter school hearing in Manhattan gets ugly over videotape flap


BY Kerry Wills and Joe Kemp



Thursday, October 21st 2010, 4:00 AM


A public hearing to bring a charter school to an upper West Side public school erupted in chaos on Wednesday when the head of a community board tried to boot a woman for videotaping the meeting, officials said.


Larisa Beachy, 24 - an operations coordinator for the Harlem Success Academy - was arrested after she refused to leave Public School 145 on W. 105th St. on the ground that she had the right to openly record the public meeting, officials said.


Beachy was hired by the Success Charter Network, run by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz (D-Manhattan), to document the meeting of about 300 people.


"This was an important public meeting," said Jenny Sedlis, a spokeswoman for the group. "It's a shame the CEC [Community Education Council] obstructed the public's ability to participate."


Beachy was ordered to turn the cameras off when Noah Gotbaum, president of the District 3 Community Education Council, said she had to show her permit to film inside the building. "They refused to stop filming," Gotbaum said.


The demand caused the crowd to grow wild. The police were called, and after Beachy refused to leave the school, she was arrested and given a summons for refusing a lawful order.


Beachy's group said calling the police was nothing short of ridiculous."Apparently, this meeting was for all the public - except for us," said Stefan Friedman, also a charter spokesman.

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Governor Christie's Ultimate Test

This story on the war between Gov. Christie and Barbara Keshishian, president of the NJ state teachers union, is on the front page of today's WSJ:

After the Republican's victory, Ms. Keshishian sent a letter congratulating Mr. Christie and requested a meeting to "work together on our commonly shared goals." He didn't respond.

At his January inauguration, Mr. Christie called New Jersey schools "broken" and said they "have failed despite massive spending." The next month, he called for pension and benefits changes.

In his budget address March 16, Gov. Christie proposed $820 million in education budget cuts after $1 billion in federal stimulus money dried up. He then took direct aim at NJEA.

"The leaders of the union who represent teachers have used their political muscle to set up two classes of citizens in New Jersey: those who enjoy rich public benefits and those who pay for them." He said it was "unfair" for teachers to receive "4% to 5% salary increases every year, even when inflation is zero, paid for by citizens struggling to survive."

The union website disagrees, saying "the average salary increase over the past year has been approximately 2%."

Ms. Keshishian ordered up a series of counter-punches to the governor's charges. The NJEA shifted money from "Pride in Public Education" spots to 30-second ads critical of Mr. Christie. New Jersey's teacher of the year appeared in one. "Stop attacking teachers and education, and start funding our schools," she said.

On March 23, Gov. Christie, under pressure to make up an $11 billion budget shortfall, called on teachers to accept a pay freeze, and urged taxpayers to "vote down" school budgets that didn't include one. More than half did. He proposed teachers help pay for their lifetime health benefits by contributing 1.5% of their salary in premiums, and pushed through a law mandating that for all new teachers.

NJEA led its members and other community and labor groups in a rally, dubbed "Standing Up, Standing Together." About 35,000 members gathered at the state capitol in Trenton.

Gov. Christie spent the day at the Monmouth Park racetrack for a bill-signing. When asked about the gathering, he told reporters: "I'm here. They're there. Have a nice day."

New Jersey Senate president Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat who heads the state ironworkers' unions, said the rally backfired for the teachers union. "It may have made them feel better about themselves, but many of my constituents saw it as a message that the NJEA isn't going to change even if taxpayers have to suffer."

In April, Joe Coppola, president of the Bergen County Education Association, a county union chapter, emailed a memo to members with a closing prayer: "Dear Lord, this year you have taken away my favorite actor Patrick Swayze, my favorite actress Farrah Fawcett, my favorite singer Michael Jackson and my favorite salesman Billy Mays." He concluded: "I just wanted to let you know that Chris Christie is my favorite governor." The private memo became public.

Mr. Coppola didn't return a call for comment for this story.

Ms. Keshishian went to the Governor's office across the street April 13 to apologize in their first face-to-face meeting, she and the governor recall.

He demanded she fire Mr. Coppola. Ms. Keshishian said she couldn't, because he was elected locally, adding, "It's just a joke, albeit in poor taste, but not meant seriously."

Gov. Christie threw her out of the office. "But we have important issues to discuss," she countered.

"Not with you, I don't," he replied.


  • OCTOBER 22, 2010

Governor Christie's Ultimate Test



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The Biggest Race You Haven't Heard Of

As one of the founders of Democrats for Education Reform, I don't often endorse Republicans, but Harry Wilson warrants it.  Here's a recent WSJ article about him and the race for NYS Comptroller:

Forget Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino. Let us turn instead to a race that might truly matter in terms of the nation's economic future. It's the most important 2010 election you've never heard of—for comptroller of New York State.

"Comptroller" is the second or third most boring word in the English language. Comptroller: That's the green-eyeshade guy who keeps the books. He's always adding up columns and somehow it all balances. But as everyone now knows, in the public sector the books don't balance. They balloon.

New York, like California and many other once-important states, is sitting on a public- pension debt bomb. If it blows, it will take great swaths of the productive American economy with it for years. Harry Wilson thinks he can defuse the New York bomb.

If Harry Wilson can get the public-pension death spiral under control in New York—and he just might have the professional and intellectual tools to do it—it should be possible to reform pensions in any state.


  • OCTOBER 21, 2010

The Biggest Race You Haven't Heard Of

A rare chance to defuse the pension bomb.



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What I've Learned About Great Teachers

I liked this interview with Bill Gates, especially his reply to the last question:


PARADE: Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has criticized Waiting for "Superman" for focusing too much on charter schools as a solution. What do you think? 
 She points out that, on average, charter schools don't do better than other public schools. She's right. But it's a strange point to make: "Hey, they're as bad as we are!" The fact is, we're failing those kids. Ms. Weingarten represents the teachers' union, but say there was a students' union. Might they ask that the dropout rate be lowered? Might they stay at the negotiating table until it was below 50%? We ought to ask kids whether they think the status quo is working.



What I've Learned About Great Teachers

by: Paul Tough


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NYT book review on “The State of Liberalism”

The incomparable Jonathan Alter (who was especially amazing in Waiting for Superman) has a long article in this weekend's NYT book review on "The State of Liberalism" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/24/books/review/Alter-t.html?pagewanted=all) in which he mentions education:

It's encouraging that even a paleo liberal like Mondale now believes that "we should weed out teachers who are unsuited to the profession" and that teachers' union rules "must have flexibility." There's a great struggle under way today within the Democratic Party between Obama and the reformers on one side and, on the other, hidebound adult interest groups (especially the National Education Association) that have until recently dominated the party. If liberalism is about practical problem solving, then establishing the high standards and accountability necessary to rescue a generation of poor minority youths and train the American work force of the future must move to the top of the progressive agenda. Education reform is emerging as the first important social movement of the 21st century, a perfect cause for a new generation of idealists.

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This looks like a great event in DC on Nov. 1st:

On November 1, we will have a unique opportunity to celebrate the district's highly effective teachers. At A Standing Ovation for DC Teachers, the highest performing teachers in DC Public Schools with gather at the Kennedy Center to be honored as the heroes they are!  We have assembled an all-star "cast" for the evening, including Jim Vance as host; Secretary Duncan and Dr. Jill Biden as speakers; Chrisette Michelle and Dave Grohl performing; and Kerry Washington, David Gregory, Thomas Friedman, Mayor Fenty, Chairman Gray, Chancellor Rhee, and a few others as awards presenters.  

In this exciting time for education reform nationally, and interesting time of transition locally, Standing Ovation represents a key opportunity for us to send a signal to our teachers, and the education reform community, that this work will continue!  Please read the recent editorial in the Washington Post to learn more about the need to salute our high-performers: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/23/AR2010092306507.html.

Please visit  www.standingovationfordcteachers.org for more information and to buy tickets.

Here's the Washington Post editorial on this:

The District's best teachers finally get their due

Friday, September 24, 2010

AS D.C. SCHOOLS developed a rigorous evaluation system, attention focused on the teachers who were fired. But others have been judged excellent at their profession and, for the first time, are being rewarded accordingly under an individual pay-for-performance system that is viewed as the most ambitious in American public education.

In the first year of the IMPACT system, 662 teachers, or 16 percent of the District's teaching force, were rated highly effective. They are teachers such as Eric Bethel, who was able to lift the test scores of his fifth-graders at Marie Reed, and Roaenetta Mayes Browne, who, as a special-education teacher at Sharpe Health, expects and gets the most from children with challenging health problems. Data from the school system show that the highly effective teachers range across all experience levels. For instance, teachers with 20 or more years of experience make up 19 percent of the overall teaching force and 23 percent of the highly effective teacher corps.

The school system recently hosted a reception at Union Station honoring the teachers, who, along with outstanding charter school teachers, will be invited to "A Standing Ovation for D.C. Teachers," which is being produced by George Stevens Jr. on Nov. 1 at the Kennedy Center. Recognition also comes in more pay and unprecedented bonuses -- ranging from $3,000 to $25,000 -- under the performance pay system developed in collaboration with the Washington Teachers' Union. Bigger bonuses go to teachers of high-need subjects or in schools with students from low-income families or English-language learners.

A singular failure of the traditional teacher compensation system has been the inability to differentiate between those who do a good job and those who don't. D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee raised millions of dollars in private money to finance performance pay by developing a system that fairly evaluated -- and rewarded -- teacher ability. The aim, of course, is to ensure that every child has a good teacher. D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, soon to be mayor, has raised some questions about the evaluation system. We hope that he allows IMPACT -- with all its rigor and its rewards -- to continue.

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Interim D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson accepts reform challenge

Speaking of DC, the Washington Post had a nice profile of interim (and hopefully someday permanent) chancellor Kaya Henderson:

Henderson, a school principal's daughter from Mount Vernon, N.Y., first met Rhee in Los Angeles in 1992 when they joined Teach for America as young recruits eager to change the face of public education. "We were all sort of with the same pedigree," Henderson said. "We were hungry, driven, hellbent."

Henderson taught middle school Spanish in the Bronx and eventually became TFA's national director of admissions. By 2000, she said, she had grown so frustrated with how school systems recruited and trained teachers that she was preparing to enter Harvard's urban superintendent program - not to run her own district but to become a consultant.

Rhee lured her to do the same work for the nonprofit Rhee had just founded, the New Teacher Project, where she worked to recruit teachers for the District, one of the firm's clients. Henderson also helped write two of the organization's most influential reports. "Missed Opportunities" examined the questionable personnel practices of some school districts, including late-summer hiring decisions that cause systems to lose some of their most promising teaching candidates. "Unintended Consequences" studied the effect of collective bargaining provisions that restrict the ability of school systems to transfer teachers from school to school.

Henderson was Rhee's first hire when she was named chancellor, and many of their decisions have been informed by the findings of those studies.


Interim D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson accepts reform challenge

By Bill Turque

Washington Post Staff Writer 
Thursday, October 14, 2010; 7:18 PM


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Teachers Fight Release of Data

STOP THE PRESSES!  This is HUGE!  Barbara Martinez of the WSJ is, as usual, on top of the story:

The New York City teachers union is fighting the release of data that tries to gauge the effectiveness of 12,000 of its members, saying the measuring system is too flawed to make teachers' names public.

The city Department of Education was set to release the data Wednesday, spurred by public-records requests from news organizations, including The Wall Street Journal. But the United Federation of Teachers threatened a lawsuit, and the DOE delayed its plans. A DOE spokeswoman said that unless a court interferes, the city intends to make them public Friday.


  • OCTOBER 21, 2010

Teachers Fight Release of Data



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What I wrote a few months ago about the release of data in LA

This is what I wrote about this topic a couple of months ago in LA (http://edreform.blogspot.com/2010/08/union-leader-calls-on-la-teachers-to.html):


To absolutely nobody's surprise, A.J. Duffy, one of the most backward union leaders in the country, is trying to intimidate the LA Times by organizing a boycott (which will, of course, fizzle).  He's right that this article isn't fair to many teachers who will be identified as ineffective even though some of them probably aren't.  This raises troubling privacy issues, especially since tests alone, even when used in conjunction with a good value-added analysis, aren't a sufficient way to properly evaluate teachers (contrary to union talking points, NOBODY thinks this is the case).


So why do I think this reporting by the LA Times is so important and why did I call it "breakthrough journalism"?  Because it's going to force both the unions and the school district to stop the unconscionable status quo, whereby NO teachers are evaluated in any meaningful way at all – where 99% of teachers get a satisfactory rating, every probationary teachers gets lifetime tenure for merely having a pulse, etc.

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Mulgrew's coverup: UFT boss trying to keep teacher performance data from the public

This NY Daily News editorial is spot on:


United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew will go to court today in an effort to hide from New Yorkers which of the city's teachers are superstars and which are turkeys.


Mulgrew is wrong. The courts must rebuff out of hand his attempt to hold back the tide of accountability that is sweeping public education.


The Daily News is among the media organizations that have invoked the Freedom of Information Law to compel the Education Department to release the measurements it has been keeping of the performance of 12,000 teachers in fourth- through eighth-grade classrooms.


There is little doubt the public is legally entitled to view the information, and there is no doubt it should be published in the service of public good.


Hey, Mom, hey, Dad, would you like to know how little Johnny's teacher stacks up in imparting achievement? Sure you would. Accessing that enlightenment is what's at stake here.


Mulgrew's coverup: UFT boss trying to keep teacher performance data from the public


Thursday, October 21st 2010, 4:00 AM



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The UFT's worst nightmare: Public can see how well Los Angeles teachers teach

Two months ago, the NY Daily News covered how Randi and Mike Mulgrew had very different views (at least publicly) on what was going on in LA:

The L.A. teachers union leader predictably said, more or less, "Over our dead body" and is organizing what he calls a "massive boycott" of the paper.

A more enlightened educator, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, says parents have a right to know how effective teachers are: "What is there to hide?"

Amen. And here's the beauty part: Randi Weingarten, who once led the city's United Federation of Teachers - and now heads the national American Federation of Teachers - is siding with Duncan. She told the paper that parents have a right to know how well their children's teachers are rated on appropriate employee evaluations.

Now, she's not for the newspaper releasing that information to the general public, but she does want it to get into the hands of principals, and moms and dads.

Where does her successor at the UFT stand? A Mulgrew press aide issued this statement:

"The recent debacle around state test scores in New York makes it obvious that relying on test scores to make high-stakes decisions about students or teachers is a bad idea. Parents and teachers expect much more of their children's education than standardized tests."

Asked to be more responsive as to whether Mulgrew agrees or disagrees with Weingarten's position on transparency, the spokesman responded: "Our statement is our statement."

And obstinacy is New York's problem.


The UFT's worst nightmare: Public can see how well Los Angeles teachers teach

Monday, August 23rd 2010, 4:00 AM


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Despite Image, Union Leader Backs Change for Schools

Speaking of Randi, the NYT ran a cover story about her last week that was nothing short of fawning.  That said, relative to most union leaders, she IS a reformer and deserves credit for some of the steps she has taken, regardless of whether it's motived by genuine reform instincts or simply because (unlike the NEA), she's smart enough to realize that, as Chris Cerf correctly says in the article, "The earth moved in a really dramatic way":

In "Waiting for Superman," the new education documentary, the union leader Randi Weingarten is portrayed, in the words of Variety, as "a foaming satanic beast."

At a two-day education summit hosted by NBC News recently, the lopsided panels often featured Ms. Weingarten on one side, facing a murderer's row of charter school founders and urban superintendents. Even Tom Brokaw piled on.

It's nothing personal, really. Ms. Weingarten happens to be the most visible, powerful leader of unionized teachers, and in that role she personifies what many reformers see as the chief obstacle to lifting dismal schools: unions that protect incompetent teachers.

A combative labor leader who does not shrink from the spotlight, Ms. Weingarten has been fighting back. She issued awritten rebuttal to "Waiting for Superman," and she has publicly debated the film's director, Davis Guggenheim, arguing that teachers have been made scapegoats. More to the point, the portrait of Ms. Weingarten as a demonic opponent of change — albeit one more likely to appear in a business suit and cashmere V-neck sweater, with a Cartier Tank watch and a red kabbalah string around her wrist — is out of date, according to many education experts.

In the past year, for example, she has led her members — sometimes against internal resistance — to embrace innovations that were once unthinkable. She has acted out of a fear that teachers' unions could end up on the wrong side of a historic and inevitable wave of change.

"She has shrewdly recognized that teachers' unions need to be part of the reform," said Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, an education research group.

Christopher Cerf, a former deputy schools chancellor in New York City who has sparred with Ms. Weingarten, offered a similar, if more skeptical interpretation.

"The earth moved in a really dramatic way," he said, "to the point that a very successful strategist like Randi has to know that teacher unionism itself is in jeopardy, perhaps even in mortal jeopardy."

Both friends and foes describe Ms. Weingarten, 52, who became president of the 1.5-million member American Federation of Teachers in 2008 after a decade leading the New York City local, as a superb tactician who cares deeply about being seen as a reformer.


Despite Image, Union Leader Backs Change for Schools


Published: October 15, 2010


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'Superman' debate: Waiting for the teachers’ unions

Larry Sand reminds us that the unions, in general, are still an enormous obstacle to what's best for kids:

In issue after reform issue, the public has come around to the reform side. In fact, reform, which used to be the dominion of conservatives and libertarians, has crossed over and liberals and progressive are now embracing reform – one of the rare issues that has become truly bipartisan.

Kevin Chavous, an Obama-voting Democrat, leads a group of determined pro-choicers called the Black Alliance for Educational Options. Joe Williams, a former newspaper reporter in New York, heads up the Democrats for Education reform. Davis Guggenheim , the director of "Waiting for Superman," is an admitted "unrepentant liberal." And evenOprah Winfrey has gotten into the act, featuring a couple of shows dedicated to educational reform the week "Waiting for Superman" was released in New York and Los Angeles.

What does all this portend for the unions? They have been exposed. Having lost the war of ideas, but flush with money, they will keep flailing away trying to sell the public their tired old "more money will fix things" canard. As for their claims of teacher-bashing in the movies – nonsense. Good teachers were praised constantly.

"Superman" and the other films unflinchingly tell the story of why public education in America is failing. The unfortunate reality is that teachers' unions protect not the good teachers but the bad teachers. Teachers' unions are clearly losing the battle because they are out of ideas and the public is finally realizing that the unions are not about the kids or the quality of education at all. In time, the unions will be marginalized and education will be freed to educate children and allow excellence to return to classrooms across America.


'Superman' debate: Waiting for the teachers' unions

By Larry Sand, Thursday, October 21, 2010


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KIPP school leader rejects charge of narrow teaching

Jay Mathews quotes Josh Zoia, the rock star founder of KIPP Lynn in Massachusetts, rebutting an idiotic – yet common – critique not only of KIPP but other high-performing schools: that they're heartless, drill-and-kill factories, etc.:

I just can't understand how a person could draw the conclusion, 'a punitive mission statement that claims it has a method of controlling the children of the dangerous poor (Much like the philosophy of the first juvenile courts in the early 1900's; poor immigrant children could only be 'saved' if they were removed from their families so that the corrupting influence of their parents could be overcome.) on its website in an effort to attract interest from corporate and wealthy donors' from our website …

"What I do know is the following:

"In our mission statement it talks about maximizing the potential of ALL of our students.

"We had a 2.8% student attrition rate last year…the lowest in the KIPP network and one of the lowest in the charter school space.

"We have 150 parents (over half) engaged in our adult education classes. We keep the school open until 9:00 at night 3 nights per week for English classes, computer classes in both English and Spanish as well as a citizenship class.

"We offer recess every day and have 20 different elective offerings including sports teams, several types of dance … African dance, a step team, a Latin Dance team, and Jazz dance, as well as art, music, Tae Kwon Do and yes knitting.

"All students are part of an advisory with 12 or less students that meets at least 2 times per week so each kid gets a personal touch.

"But most importantly, fun is one of our core operating values. You see it and feel it in every classroom throughout the day. So the best answer is that he needs to come and see our school in action before casting judgment. It is possible to interpret our website in a negative way if that is what you are bringing to the table, but that is not what is happening every day at our school."


KIPP school leader rejects charge of narrow teaching

Jay Mathews, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/class-struggle/2010/10/kipp_school_leader_reacts_to_c.html

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Protecting School Reform in D.C.

A great NYT editorial a week ago, with a warning to Gray and well-deserved props for Kaya Henderson, who hopefully will be made the permanent chancellor:
October 14, 2010
NYT editorial
Protecting School Reform in D.C.

It was inevitable that Michelle Rhee, the District of Columbia's hard-driving schools chancellor, would resign after her boss, Mayor Adrian Fenty, lost last month's Democratic primary. It was no secret that Ms. Rhee had a strained relationship with Vincent Gray, the presumptive mayor and chairman of the City Council.

Still, Ms. Rhee's departure is a loss for the nation's capital. It has unsettled middle-class parents who valued the strong, reform-minded leadership that was setting Washington's schools on the path back from failure. And it sent a tremor through the private foundations that provisionally committed nearly $80 million to support the school reforms that were started during Ms. Rhee's tenure.

After Mr. Gray's clashes with Ms. Rhee, it was good news that he said the right things after her resignation. He pledged to move ahead with the reform agenda, which has strengthened the city's teacher corps, remade a patronage-ridden central bureaucracy and raised math and reading scores. He said he would keep Ms. Rhee's senior staff on for the remainder of the school year and named her deputy and longtime associate, Kaya Henderson, the interim chancellor.

Ms. Henderson has a softer personal touch than Ms. Rhee, but is just as steely when it comes to policy. She has been outspoken about the stunning lack of professionalism and accountability that characterized the district's school system when she first arrived in the city. She was also the point person in the last round of contract negotiations, which gave the city greater leeway to pay, promote and fire people based on performance instead of seniority.

The new contract, which included generous salary increases, is the linchpin of a strategy that is supposed to improve the quality of instruction by helping struggling teachers improve and pushing out those who don't.

But the contract will come to nothing, and the city's children will suffer, if the schools lapse into the Washington tradition of hiring people based on patronage instead of ability — and keeping them on forever no matter how poorly they perform. It is up to Mr. Gray to keep that from happening.

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Statistics about Newark’s schools

Some VERY sobering statistics about Newark's schools, from a report by the school system itself, signed by Cliff Janey: http://www.nps.k12.nj.us/StrategicPlan/Strategic%20Plan%20-%20FINAL%20REPORT%20-%204-09.pdf




Only slightly more than half (52 percent) of our students graduate high school within four years, based

on the new, more accurate graduation rate adopted by National Governors Association (versus almost

80 percent, based on the state's old formula). Fewer than half of these graduates enroll in college;

almost all need remediation.


49% of NPS graduates enrolled in college in 2006.


53% of those graduates enrolled at Essex Community College.


96% of those students needed remediation.


In three of our five largest high schools, fewer than half the students graduate within four years. In five

of our highest-performing high schools, approximately 75 percent graduate on time. Both rates are

too low. Our lowest-performing schools must be overhauled and our best schools need to get better.

The good news is that more students are taking Advanced Placement (AP) and SAT exams, but

performance remains low. Only 32 percent of students score 3 or higher on the AP exam. Average SAT

scores are 378 in critical reading, 392 in math, and 383 in writing — well below state and national



Thus, only 25% of Newark's 8th graders will ever go to college (52% x 49%) – and half of those that do attend Essex Community College and nearly ALL of them need remediation.

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