hot potato

City dissolves fleet of "master" and "turnaround" teachers

The teachers union’s victory in a legal fight over the city’s “turnaround” plans kept thousands of teachers at 24 struggling schools from losing their positions. But it has also put another group of teachers at risk.

They are the “master” and “turnaround” teachers, a cohort of experienced educators selected to put in extra hours helping their colleagues in exchange for extra pay.

The positions were funded through federal School Improvement Grants, but without turnaround or another overhaul process in place at the schools, those funds will not flow to the city. Last week, just after the city’s final bid to reinstate turnaround failed, the 71 master and turnaround teachers got a letter from the Department of Education telling them to look for other positions.

The demise of the elite positions has given rise to yet another city-union dispute centered around the schools formerly slated for turnaround.

The special positions, created in 2010 when a handful of city schools first received SIG funding to undergo a school reform model called “transformation,” offered exemplary teachers large annual bonuses to work in struggling schools. Last year, the teachers were distributed across 33 schools undergoing transformation and another overhaul process, known as “restart,” including schools the city ultimately did not propose for the turnaround model. Some of the schools funded part of the teachers’ salaries with their discretionary budgets, but others used the federal funds to cover the full cost of the extra teacher.

The positions were always something of “a gamble” because the teachers’ job security depended on the federal funds and the schools’ continued success. The funds were yanked from the schools in late December after the city and teachers union failed to reach an agrement on a teacher evaluation system by the state’s deadline.

The city asked the UFT in June to agree to keep the master and turnaround teacher positions alive for another year, union officials said. The officials said the union would sign off on extending the program — but only if the schools returned to the restart and transformation models, which do not require any teachers to be removed. The proposition would have required to the city to agree with the union on an evaluation system for the schools at a time when the city was fighting to preserve the turnaround plan instead.

“We told them that we would complete the things necessary to put those schools in compliance if they wanted to it,” a union official involved in negotiations said. “We already have a lead teacher program in our contract. If they want to put a lead teacher into these schools, let them fund it and do it.”

The lead teacher program, in place since 2006, lets experienced teachers spend half their day coaching other teachers. Now, the city is letting educators who had been hired as master or turnaround teachers enter the central lead teacher pool, according to a letter sent to the teachers last week. But those jobs could send them to schools around the city.

The master and turnaround teachers will be added to their current school’s faculty roster as a regular teacher unless they tell the city by Wednesday that they are choosing another path. Other options outlined in the letter include filling vacancies at their previous schools, finding a new school altogether, or entering the Absent Teacher Reserve, the pool of position-less teachers who rotate through schools on a temporary basis.

Some teachers might also choose to leave the system. Lori Wheal, who was a master teacher at M.S. 391 in the Bronx last year after working as a classroom teacher for a decade, said on NY1’s Inside City Hall last week that said she is leaving teaching now that her position no longer exists.

“It was the master teacher program that kept me in the system,” Wheal said. “Now that program has been ripped away because we’ve lost our funding, I am looking to go into education policy.”

The city’s full letter to the 71 master and turnaround teachers is below.

Dear Master Teacher,

We are writing to update you on the status of the Master and Turnaround Teacher program for the next school year. As you may know,these positions will not continue for the 2012- 2013 school year and we wanted to ensure that you have clear information on your next steps for the coming year.

The UFT and DOE have agreed that Master and Turnaround Teachers will take their rightful place in seniority order on the school’s Table of Organization as a regular teacher unless one of the following options apply and you choose to exercise it:

If there is a vacancy in your license area at your prior school, you will have a right to return to that the vacancy until school opening only; it is the teacher’s choice whether or not to take this option.

If you and your current principal agree, then you may go into excess rather than staying at the school. Master and Turnaround Teachers going into excess may choose to go into excess in the current districtor the district of their prior school. Decisions must be made by August 7, 2012.

All Master Teachers and Turnaround Teachers will be invited to join the central Lead Teacher pool. Teachers in the central Lead Teacher pool may apply for and be selected into available Lead Teacher positions citywide through August 7, 2012.

Consistent with the rights of all teachers, Master Teachers and Turnaround Teachers may seek a position at a new school via the Open Market through August 7, 2012. To facilitate your transition, we ask that you indicate your preferences for next year by completing this short survey by August 1,2012. Should you not respond to the survey, you will assume a position in your current school’s Table of Organization.


Charter Schools

A new study reveals which NYC charter school networks are outperforming their peers

PHOTO: Creative Commons / Leila Hadd
A KIPP school in the Bronx

All charter schools are not created equal. That’s according to a new study published by Stanford University research group CREDO, which shows some New York City charter school networks are better than others at improving their students’ math and reading test scores relative to surrounding traditional public schools.

The results are part of a broader study released this month that analyzed hundreds of charter schools and networks across 26 states to assess which types of charters are most effective in boosting student learning.

Most notably, the study found that charter school management organizations (CMOs), which CREDO defines as agencies that hold and oversee the operation of at least three charters, perform better than both traditional public schools and charters not aligned with CMOs. Academic growth was defined in the study as the change in a student’s scores from one testing period to the next.

Nationwide, students at CMO-operated charters received an equivalent of 17 days of additional schooling in math and reading compared to similar students in traditional public schools. In New York City, those rates were substantially higher, with students receiving the equivalent of 80 extra days of learning in math and 29 days in reading.

In comparison, non-CMO charter schools in New York City saw students grow only an additional 34 days in math and actually decline in reading compared to students at traditional public schools (The non-CMO reading difference was not statistically significant).

Five out of 11 CMOs in the city saw distinctly better results. Success Academy Charter Schools, which recently won the Broad Prize, came out on top, significantly outperforming most other networks in the city. Its students gained the equivalent of 228 days in math and 120 days in reading instruction compared to their peers in nearby traditional public schools.

However, the study only examined 168 students from the large network, a small share of its total enrollment of roughly 14,000 students in New York City. In an email, CREDO’s Lynn Woodworth told Chalkbeat that many Success students were excluded from the study because they couldn’t be matched to similar students in “feeder” district schools since the network takes few students after the initial enrollment period.

Icahn Charter Schools, Achievement First, Uncommon Schools New York City, KIPP New York City and Democracy Prep Public Schools all posted lower rates than Success — but still outperformed nearby district schools and the city’s average for CMOs.

Students at Icahn Charter Schools received the equivalent of 171 additional days of learning in math and 46 days in reading, compared to students at nearby traditional public schools. Achievement First students were close, with 125 extra days of learning in math and 57 in reading. KIPP New York City, Uncommon Schools New York City and Democracy Prep all posted gains equivalent to roughly 100 days in math and 50 days in reading.

Two networks — Lighthouse Academies and Public Preparatory Network, Inc. — performed closer to the city’s CMO average. And the three other CMOs — Ascend Learning, Explore Schools, Inc. and New Visions for Public Schools — performed comparably to nearby traditional public schools.

“At the average, independent charter schools show lower gains for their students than CMOs,” the report found. “Despite the wide range of CMO quality, larger organizations of charter holders have taken advantage of scale to the benefit of their students.”

First Person

I’m on a Community Education Council in Manhattan. Mayor de Blasio, we need to move faster on school integration

PHOTO: Patrick Wall

Mayor de Blasio,

As the mother of a fifth-grade student in a New York City public school and a member of the Community Education Council in Manhattan’s District 2, I thank you for acknowledging that our public school system does not provide equity and excellence for all of our students.

I’m writing to you understanding that the diversity plan the city released this month is a beginning, and that it will take time to integrate our schools. However, the black and Hispanic children of this city do not have decades to wait for us to make change.

I know this firsthand. For the past six years, I have been traveling out of my neighborhood to take my child to one of the city’s few remaining diverse elementary schools, located in Hell’s Kitchen. In looking at middle schools, my criteria for a school were that it matched my child’s academic interests and that it was diverse. Unfortunately, the only middle school that truly encompasses both is a long commute from our home. After commuting by subway for six years, my child wanted a school that was closer to home. I obliged.  

At my child’s middle school orientation, I saw what a segregated school looks like. The incoming class of sixth-graders includes few students of color and does not represent the diversity of our district. This middle school also lacks a diverse teaching staff and administrators. (Had I not sent my child to this school, I would only be fueling the problem, since my child was one of the few children of color admitted to the school.)

These predominately affluent and white schools are creating a new generation of students who will not know how to interact with others that come from different racial, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Integrated schools, on the other hand, will provide opportunities for them to learn and work with students, teachers and school leaders that reflect the diversity of our city and the world we live in.  

There are measures we can take that will have a stronger impact in integrating our schools than what is listed in the diversity plan. I am asking that you come to the table with students, school leadership and parents that are directly affected by school segregation and consider our ideas to create schools that are more equitable for all students.  

In the words of Valerie Castile, whose family received no justice in the death of their son Philando, “The system continues to fail black people.” While she was speaking of the criminal justice system, true reform of that system begins with educating our children — who will be our society’s future police officers, politicians, legislators and judges.

Mayor de Blasio, you have the power to spur change. The students and parents of our great city are asking for your leadership in integrating our schools.

Josephine Ishmon is a member of District 2’s Community Education Council. This is her personal opinion and does not reflect that of the CEC.