Higher hires

As hiring freeze thaws, more new teachers enter city classrooms

For the first time since the city imposed a hiring freeze two years ago, the number of teachers entering the classroom from alternative certification programs has risen.

While some senior teachers worry about finding positions, two prominent organizations, Teach For America and New York City’s Teaching Fellows, are contributing hundreds of new teachers to the city’s teaching force. The organizations estimate that they will bring about 800 new teachers into classrooms this fall.

That would be 25 percent more than last year, when the groups brought on just under 650 new teachers, about 2,000 less than in 2006.

The dropoff began in 2009, when the Department of Education enacted restrictions limiting most hiring to teachers who were already in the system. The policy severely curtailed recruitment plans for TFA and Teaching Fellows and in a matter of two years, both were producing just a few hundred teachers per year. Most of those teachers worked in shortage areas, such as science and special education.

Now, as the city has eased some longstanding hiring restrictions in new subjects, those numbers are inching back up in response to demand.

Teach For America admitted 335 members this year, a 50 percent increase from last year. For the second straight year, a majority of those teachers – about 180 – will work in charter schools. As many as 145 could end up in district schools, said New York TFA executive director Jeff Li. A small group will also be placed in non-profit organizations that support early childhood education.

Li attributed the increase to demand from new and expanding charter schools and in high-need subject areas in district schools.

Teaching Fellows, which doesn’t place teachers in charter schools, also increased its enrollment, but by less — from 425 to 455.

Despite the restrictions, the DOE still  hired roughly 3000 new teachers last year, according to a spokeswoman. It also lost about 2,600 teachers through attrition, according to a report from the Independent Budget Office, and projects losing 2,600 more this year.

Rise & Shine

While you were waking up, the U.S. Senate took a big step toward confirming Betsy DeVos as education secretary

Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as education secretary is all but assured after an unusual and contentious early-morning vote by the U.S. Senate.

The Senate convened at 6:30 a.m. Friday to “invoke cloture” on DeVos’s embattled nomination, a move meant to end a debate that has grown unusually pitched both within the lawmaking body and in the wider public.

They voted 52-48 to advance her nomination, teeing up a final confirmation vote by the end of the day Monday.

Two Republican senators who said earlier this week that they would not vote to confirm DeVos joined their colleagues in voting to allow a final vote on Monday. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska cited DeVos’s lack of experience in public education and the knowledge gaps she displayed during her confirmation hearing last month when announcing their decisions and each said feedback from constituents had informed their decisions.

Americans across the country have been flooding their senators with phone calls, faxes, and in-person visits to share opposition to DeVos, a Michigan philanthropist who has been a leading advocate for school vouchers but who has never worked in public education.

They are likely to keep up the pressure over the weekend and through the final vote, which could be decided by a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.

Two senators commented on the debate after the vote. Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who has been a leading cheerleader for DeVos, said he “couldn’t understand” criticism of programs that let families choose their schools.

But Democrat Patty Murray of Washington repeated the many critiques of DeVos that she has heard from constituents. She also said she was “extremely disappointed” in the confirmation process, including the early-morning debate-ending vote.

“Right from the start it was very clear that Republicans intended to jam this nomination through … Corners were cut, precedents were ignored, debate was cut off, and reasonable requests and questions were blocked,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Week In Review

Week In Review: A new board takes on ‘awesome responsibility’ as Detroit school lawsuits advance

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
The new Detroit school board took the oath and took on the 'awesome responsibility' of Detroit's children

It’s been a busy week for local education news with a settlement in one Detroit schools lawsuit, a combative new filing in another, a push by a lawmaker to overhaul school closings, a new ranking of state high schools, and the swearing in of the first empowered school board in Detroit has 2009.

“And with that, you are imbued with the awesome responsibility of the children of the city of Detroit.”

—    Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens, after administering the oath to the seven new members of the new Detroit school board

Read on for details on these stories plus the latest on the sparring over Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. Here’s the headlines:


The board

The first meeting of the new Detroit school board had a celebratory air to it, with little of the raucous heckling that was common during school meetings in the emergency manager era. The board, which put in “significant time and effort” preparing to take office, is focused on building trust with Detroiters. But the meeting was not without controversy.

One of the board’s first acts was to settle a lawsuit that was filed by teachers last year over the conditions of school buildings. The settlement calls for the creation of a five-person board that will oversee school repairs.

The lawyers behind another Detroit schools lawsuit, meanwhile, filed a motion in federal court blasting Gov. Rick Snyder for evading responsibility for the condition of Detroit schools. That suit alleges that deplorable conditions in Detroit schools have compromised childrens’ constitutional right to literacy — a notion Snyder has rejected.


In Lansing

On DeVos

In other news