merit pay

Schools and teachers collect prizes for math, science instruction

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Michelle Persaud of Murry Bergtraum High School of Business Careers is one of seven math and science teachers to win an annual award for their work.

A leading nonprofit thinks one of the city’s very best science teachers works at one of the city’s most struggling high schools, and it’s putting its money where it’s mouth is.

For the fourth straight year, the Fund for the City of New York and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation are giving city teachers awards for excellence in teaching science and mathematics. One of the seven winners is Michelle Persaud, whose school, Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers in Manhattan, received a “D” from the city last week.

The honorees were nominated by students, parents, colleagues, and administrators and then selected by a committee made up of representatives from local science museums and universities, based on their students’ achievement, their involvement in extracurricular activities, and their efforts to promote math and science inside and outside the classroom.

Schools with winning teachers each receive $2,500 to support their math and science programs. They are honoring their winning teachers in a series of assemblies today and Wednesday, and the teachers will receive their prizes — $5,000 to $7,500 each — at an award ceremony on Wednesday.

Here are this year’s recipients, along with a highlight about each that we pulled from longer biographies compiled by the Sloan Awards:

Teacher: Neal Lutchme Singh
School: Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Arts and Performing Arts
Subject: Earth Science, Environmental Science, AP Environmental Science

Why his school thinks he’s great: Singh revamped LaGuardia’s environmental science program, increasing enrollment sixfold by focusing on environmental justice issues, bringing in outside speakers, and taking students upstate to study for the Advanced Placement exam in the ecosystems they have learned about.

Teacher: Cameron H. Cassidy
School: Gotham Professional Arts Academy
Subject: Geometry, Pre-Algebra, Robotics

Why his school thinks he’s great: Cassidy brings nontraditional approaches to math to his alternative school, exposing struggling students to robotics, other hands-on approaches, and the relationship between mathematical concepts and art through a partnership with the Whitney Museum.

Teacher: Michelle Persaud
School: Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers
Subject: Living Environment, Earth Science, Forensic Science, Bio-Med Tech, Chemistry, Anatomy & Physiology, Research Methods, Psychology

Why her school thinks she’s great: In addition to revamping Bergtraum’s science program to include new courses such as biomedical technology and forensic science, Persaud is helping to lead a broader effort to bolster the curriculum in all subjects at the large, struggling high school.

Teacher: Naoual Eljastimi
School: Leon M. Goldstein High School for the Sciences
Subject: Chemistry, AP Chemistry

Why her school thinks she’s great: Students say they beg to get into Eljastimi’s chemistry class because it is so engaging, and she also leads the school’s Science Olympiad team, oversees the science section of the student newspaper, and keeps students in the loop about science-themed events in and around the school.

Teacher: C. Anthony Finney
School: Flushing International High School
: Living Environment, College Now

Why his school thinks he’s great: Even though they are all recent immigrants who are still learning English, two thirds of Finney’s students pass the Living Environment Regents exam and some also participate in an after-school science investigation club through Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Teacher: Eyal Wallenberg
School: Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice
Subject: College Math Prep, AP Microeconomics

Why his school thinks he’s great: In Wallenberg’s math classes, students are pushed to solve problems, think critically, and discover concepts on their own, and he also created a microeconomics course in which nearly all students passed the Advanced Placement exam, earning them college credit.

Teacher: David Griffin
School: Collegiate Institute for Math and Science
Subject: Chemistry, AP Chemistry

Why his school thinks he’s great: Griffin opened advanced chemistry courses to all students at CIMS, regardless of their academic achievement, and students of all skill levels have taken him up on the offer to experience engaging lessons that have used taste tests, cooking, and explosions to illustrate various concepts and principles in chemistry.

Betsy DeVos

‘Underperformer,’ ‘bully,’ and a ‘mermaid with legs’: NYMag story slams Betsy DeVos

PHOTO: New York Magazine
A drawing of DeVos commissioned by an 8-year-old starts the New York Magazine article.

A new article detailing Betsy DeVos’s first six months as U.S. education secretary concludes that she’s “a mermaid with legs: clumsy, conspicuous, and unable to move forward.”

That’s just one of several brutal critiques of DeVos’s leadership and effectiveness in the New York Magazine story, by Lisa Miller, who has previously covered efforts to overhaul high schools, New York City’s pre-kindergarten push, and the apocalypse. Here are some highlights:

  • Bipartisan befuddlement: The story summarizes the left’s well known opposition to DeVos’s school choice agenda. But her political allies also say she’s making unnecessary mistakes: “Most mystifying to those invested in her success is why DeVos hasn’t found herself some better help.”
  • A friend’s defense: DeVos is “muzzled” by the Trump administration, said her friend and frequent defender Kevin Chavous, a school choice activist.
  • The department reacts: “More often than not press statements are being written by career staff,” a spokesperson told Miller, rejecting claims that politics are trumping policy concerns.
  • D.C. colleagues speak: “When you talk to her, it’s a blank stare,” said Charles Doolittle, who quit the Department of Education in June. A current education department employee says: “It’s not clear that the secretary is making decisions or really capable of understanding the elements of a good decision.”
  • Kids critique: The magazine commissioned six portraits of DeVos drawn by grade-schoolers.
  • Special Olympics flip-flop: DeVos started out saying she was proud to partner with the athletics competition for people with disabilities — and quickly turned to defending a budget that cuts the program’s funding.
  • In conclusion: DeVos is an underperformer,” a “bully” and “ineffective,” Miller found based on her reporting.

We’ve reached out for reaction from DeVos’s team and will update when we hear back.

home sweet home

‘Finally! Something useful’ or a dangerous mistake? Detroiters respond to city’s housing deal for teachers

PHOTO: Detroit Land Bank Authority
This home on Harvard Road was up for auction the week after Detroit announced a half-off-on-city-owned housing deal for teachers.

Friday’s announcement that all Detroit school employees — whether they work for district, charter, or parochial schools — will get a 50 percent discount on houses auctioned through the Detroit Land Bank Authority stirred a lot of discussion.

Some of our commenters on Facebook had high hopes for the deal:

But one commenter wondered if it’s the city of Detroit that’s actually getting the best deal, not the employees — or other people seeking to buy homes in the city:

And others argued that people who already live in Detroit won’t benefit from this deal:

Still, some readers appear to be ready to move — and have even picked homes to bid on (though not necessarily from the Land Bank Authority)!