Headlines

Rise & Shine: Zooming in on both high- and low-rating teachers

Teacher Data Reports news:

  • Controversial Teacher Data Reports were released. (GothamSchools, DNAInfo, HuffPo, Post, NY1, WSJ)
  • The ratings show that teachers with both high and low scores work in schools across the city. (Times)
  • The city says it found no relationship between schools’ demographics and their teachers’ ratings. (NY1)
  • Some feared a focus on low-scoring teachers, but high-scoring ones are getting attention, too. (Times)
  • On average, schools with top scores on city progress reports had higher-rated teachers. (Daily News)
  • Long-reported swings in year-to-year scores has some skeptical of their value to the public. (WSJ)
  • News outlets that published the ratings varied greatly in their approach to error and reliability. (NY1)
  • The UFT is turning the release, which it opposed, into an opportunity to galvanize members. (Times)
  • The city’s rating release followed a similar, equally controversial release in Los Angeles. (L.A. Times)
  • Just one of the 15 highest-rated teachers is a man, reflecting the dearth of men in city classrooms. (Post)
  • The court decision letting the release take place set a precedent that applies statewide. (Journal News)
  • The ratings’ release could make for some uncomfortable conversations as school resumes today. (WSJ)
  • A Queens teacher who inspired a bully on “The Simpsons” got low scores in reading and math. (Post)
  • The value-added methodology gave several teachers cumulative scores of zero. (PostDaily News)
  • Two Bronx schools, both with high-needs students, have teachers with very different scores. (Post)
  • Parents who ask that their children be moved out of low-rated teachers’ classes won’t have luck. (Post)

And Teacher Data Reports reviews:

  • Some parents at a Queens school where a teacher got a very low score say they want changes. (Post)
  • Chancellor Walcott said this weekend that he thought the ratings were causing healthy dialogue. (Post)
  • A handful of local politicians, including the Staten Island borough president, praised the release. (Post)
  • Other Staten Islanders, including teachers and parents, gave mixed reviews to the release. (S.I. Advance)
  • Many teachers oppose the ratings’ release; some find some value. (Daily News 1, 2)
  • Some parents say they appreciate the information the ratings’ release provides. (Post 1, 2)
  • The Post says the release of the ratings was a victory for kids and transparency of government data.
  • The Daily News says even though the ratings aren’t perfect, they should have been released.
  • A Manhattan Institute scholar says the ratings can be useful if consumed cautiously. (Daily News)

In other news:

  • With diversity declining at Stuyvesant, being a black student can be a lonely experience. (Times)
  • Some churches held services in city schools after a late court decision kept the doors open. (WSJ)
  • City students who overcame great odds to succeed received scholarships from the New York Times.
  • New Jersey’s schools chief wants to remove free lunch eligibility as a definer of poverty. (Star-Ledger)
  • Michael Winerip: Arne Duncan’s ties to Michelle Rhee could cloud a federal investigation of her. (Times)
  • Long obscured, donors to Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst campaign are now being made public. (HuffPo)
  • The Daily News praises the city’s efforts to crack down on graduation rate inflation.

News from midwinter break:

  • An audit prompted the city to overhaul Regents grading and credit recovery policies. (GothamSchools)
  • Our explanation for why we would not publish the teacher ratings with names attached. (GothamSchools)
  • An average of five students a day were arrested in city schools last fall, new data show. (GothamSchools)
  • A city charter school’s closure has spurred talk about how to help struggling charters. (GothamSchools)
  • Despite a new mandate, some schools are still turning away special needs students. (Insideschools)
  • Some state districts had their federal funding restored over evaluations, but not NYC. (GothamSchools)
  • The city actually called off a state hearing to make the case for a funding restoration. (GothamSchools)
  • After the state’s evaluations deal, more city principals signed a petition in opposition. (GothamSchools)

defensor escolar

Memphis parent advocacy group trains first Spanish-speaking cohort

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Manuela Martinez (center left) and Lidia Sauceda (center right) are among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship.

Manuela Martinez doesn’t want Spanish-speaking families to get lost in the fast-changing education landscape in Memphis as the city’s Hispanic population continues to grow.

The mother of two students is among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship, a program that trains parents on local education issues.

“We want to be more informed,” said Martinez, whose children attend Shelby County Schools. “I didn’t know I had much of voice or could change things at my child’s school. But I’m learning a lot about schools in Memphis, and how I can be a bigger part.”

More than 200 Memphians have gone through the 10-week fellowship program since the parent advocacy group launched two years ago. The vast majority have been African-Americans.

The first Spanish-speaking cohort is completing a five-week program this month and marks a concerted effort to bridge racial barriers, said Sarah Carpenter, the organization’s executive director.

“Our mission is to make the powerless parent powerful …,” she said.

The city’s mostly black public schools have experienced a steady growth in Hispanic students since 1992 when only 286 attended the former Memphis City Schools. In 2015, the consolidated Shelby County Schools had 13,816 Hispanic children and teens, or 12.3 percent of the student population.

Lidia Sauceda came to Memphis from Mexico as a child; now she has two children who attend Shelby County Schools. Through Memphis Lift, she is learning about how to navigate Tennessee’s largest district in behalf of her family.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Hispanic parents attend a training with the Memphis Lift fellowship program.

“Latinos are afraid of talking, of standing up,” Sauceda said. “They’re so afraid they’re not going to be heard because of their legal status. But I will recommend this (fellowship) to parents. How do we want our kids to have a better education if we can’t dedicate time?”

The training includes lessons on local school options, how to speak publicly at a school board meeting, and how to advocate for your children if you believe they are being treated unfairly.

The first fellowship was led by Ian Buchanan, former director of community partnership for the state-run Achievement School District. Now the program is taught in-house, and the Spanish-speaking class is being led this month by Carmelita Hernandez, an alumna.

“No matter what language we speak, we want a high-quality education for our kids just like any other parent,” Hernandez said. “A good education leads to better opportunities.”

Stopping summer slide

On National Summer Learning Day, Memphis takes stock of programs for kids

PHOTO: Helen Carefoot
Torrence Echols, a rising first-grader in Memphis, builds a tower with giant legos at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on National Summer Learning Day.

When it comes to summer learning, it’s been a better year for Memphis, where a range of new programs have helped to stem learning loss that hits hard in communities with a high number of low-income students.

On Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland celebrated that work in conjunction with National Summer Learning Day and against the backdrop of the children’s reading room of the city’s main library.

He estimated that 10,000 children and teens are being reached this summer through learning programs spearheaded through Shelby County Schools, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Libraries, churches and nonprofit organizations across the community.

That’s a record-breaking number, Strickland says, in a city with a lot of students struggling to meet state and local reading targets.

Summer learning loss, also known as summer slide, is the tendency for students to lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained during the school year. It’s a large contributor to the achievement gap, since children from low-income families usually don’t get the same summer enrichment opportunities as their more affluent peers. Compounded year after year, the gap widens to the point that, by fifth grade, many students can be up to three years behind in math and reading.

But this summer for the first time, Shelby County Schools offered summer learning academies across the city for students most in need of intervention. And Memphis also received a slice of an $8.5 million state grant to provide summer literacy camps at nine Memphis schools through Tennessee’s Read to be Ready initiative.

Literacy Mid-South used Thursday’s event to encourage Memphians to “drop everything and read!”

The nonprofit, which is providing resources this summer through about 15 organizations in Greater Memphis, is challenging students to log 1,400 minutes of summertime reading, an amount that research shows can mitigate learning loss and even increase test scores.

Reading is a problem for many students in Memphis and across Tennessee. Less than a third of third-graders in Shelby County Schools read on grade level, and the district is working to boost that rate to 90 percent by 2025 under its Destination 2025 plan.

The city of Memphis, which does not fund local schools, has made Memphis Public Libraries the focal point of its education work. This summer, the library is offering programs on everything from STEM and robotics to art and test prep.

Parents are a critical component, helping their kids to take advantage of books, programs and services that counter the doldrums of summer learning.

Soon after the mayor left the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on Thursday, Tammy Echols arrived with her son, Torrence, a rising first-grader at Levi Elementary School. Echols said they visit regularly to read books and do computer and math games.

“We always do a lot of reading and we’re working on learning sight words,” Echols said as she watched her son build a tower out of giant Lego blocks. “Torrence is a learning child and it’s easy to forget what you just learned if you’re not constantly reinforcing.”

You can find summer learning resources for families from the National Summer Learning Association.