media culpa

Parent says NY Post fabricated his opinion of teacher ratings

The parent of a Queens public school student is accusing the New York Post of fabricating his support for publicly releasing teachers’ effectiveness scores.

Queens Community Education Council member Brian Rafferty said that an op/ed published in the New York Post last week bore his byline, but not his views. Rafferty, who is also the executive editor of the Queens Tribune, made the accusation at a council meeting in Ridgewood, Queens last night. The piece, titled “Dad: Union putting my child last,” criticized the city’s teachers union for going to court to block the city from releasing teachers’ ratings.

Last night, Rafferty told a room packed with parents and teachers that he does not support releasing 12,000 teachers’ ratings with their names included.

“I might be skeptical of the union sometimes, no offense guys, but there is absolutely no way that these opinions are mine,” he said.

Rafferty said that an assistant to a Post reporter called him last Wednesday night and asked to transcribe his comments for an op/ed piece, yet his actual views never ended up in print. “I feel duped and used,” he wrote in a letter to the Post’s editors, that he said the newspaper refused to publish. Rafferty explained his opinion of teacher ratings in detail:

“First of all, what I know that I said is that I assume the teacher ratings are as reliable a measure of the performance of a teacher, as an ELA is reliable as a measure of performance of a student. Testing, microscopic pieces of data, do not provide valid results for rating anything or anyone. And I made it very clear that the position that I hold is that these teacher ratings could be a very useful part in training and assisting the teachers to be better, assisting the department of education to better serve the children of this city and that if data were to come out relative to the schools, that could be useful for the parents in making decisions about schools and school choice. But that the private information and the names of teachers associated with those ratings, to release that, would be just as harmful as it would be to release the names of poor performing students. That somehow, got left out.”

GothamSchools contributor Ruben Brosbe, who wrote about his data report for the Post, had his piece edited so that it was more supportive of the city releasing ratings.

Last August, the Post was one of several city newspapers to submit a Freedom of Information Request for teachers’ effectiveness ratings. Since the city announced its intention to release the ratings last week, the newspaper’s editorial board has lambasted teachers union president Michael Mulgrew for barring the release.

Rubenstein Associates, which handles public relations for the Post, did not return calls for comment.

money matters

Report: Trump education budget would create a Race to the Top for school choice

PHOTO: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead
President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos participate in a tour of Saint Andrews Catholic in Orlando, Florida.

The Trump administration appears to be going ahead with a $1 billion effort to push districts to allow school choice, according to a report in the Washington Post.

The newspaper obtained what appears to be an advance version of the administration’s education budget, set for release May 23. The budget documents reflect more than $10 billion in cuts, many of which were included in the budget proposal that came out in March, according to the Post’s report. They include cuts to after-school programs for poor students, teacher training, and more:

… a $15 million program that provides child care for low-income parents in college; a $27 million arts education program; two programs targeting Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students, totaling $65 million; two international education and foreign language programs, $72 million; a $12 million program for gifted students; and $12 million for Special Olympics education programs.

Other programs would not be eliminated entirely, but would be cut significantly. Those include grants to states for career and technical education, which would lose $168 million, down 15 percent compared to current funding; adult basic literacy instruction, which would lose $96 million (down 16 percent); and Promise Neighborhoods, an Obama-era initiative meant to build networks of support for children in needy communities, which would lose $13 million (down 18 percent).

The documents also shed some light on how the administration plans to encourage school choice. The March proposal said the administration would spend $1 billion to encourage districts to switch to “student-based budgeting,” or letting funds flow to students rather than schools.

The approach is considered essential for school choice to thrive. Yet the mechanics of the Trump administration making it happen are far from obvious, as we reported in March:

There’s a hitch in the budget proposal: Federal law spells out exactly how Title I funds must be distributed, through funding formulas that sends money to schools with many poor students.

“I do not see a legal way to spend a billion dollars on an incentive for weighted student funding through Title I,” said Nora Gordon, an associate professor of public policy at Georgetown University. “I think that would have to be a new competitive program.”

There are good reasons for the Trump administration not to rush into creating a program in which states compete for new federal funds, though. … Creating a new program would open the administration to criticism of overreach — which the Obama administration faced when it used the Race to the Top competition to get states to adopt its priorities.

It’s unclear from the Post’s report how the Trump administration is handling Gordon’s concerns. But the Post reports that the administration wants to use a competitive grant program — which it’s calling Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success, or FOCUS — to redistribute $1 billion in Title I funds for poor students. That means the administration decided that an Obama-style incentive program is worth the potential risks.

The administration’s budget request would have to be fulfilled by Congress, so whether any of the cuts or new programs come to pass is anyone’s guess. Things are not proceeding normally in Washington, D.C., right now.

By the numbers

After reshaping itself to combat declining interest, Teach For America reports a rise in applications

PHOTO: Kayleigh Skinner
Memphis corps members of Teach For America participate in a leadership summit in last August.

Teach for America says its application numbers jumped by a significant number this year, reversing a three-year trend of declining interest in the program.

The organization’s CEO said in a blog post this week that nearly 49,000 people applied for the 2017 program, which places college graduates in low-income schools across the country after summer training — up from just 37,000 applicants last year.

“After three years of declining recruitment, our application numbers spiked this year, and we’re in a good position to meet our goals for corps size, maintaining the same high bar for admission that we always have,” Elisa Villanueva Beard wrote. The post was reported by Politico on Wednesday.

The news comes after significant shake-ups at the organization. One of TFA’s leaders left in late 2015, and the organization slashed its national staff by 15 percent last year. As applications fell over the last several years, it downsized in places like New York City and Memphis, decentralized its operations, and shifted its focus to attracting a more diverse corps with deeper ties to the locations where the program places new teachers. 

This year’s application numbers are still down from 2013, when 57,000 people applied for a position. But Villanueva Beard said the changes were working, and that “slightly more than half of 2017 applicants identify as a person of color.”