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December 21, 2016
Education candidate Josh Thompson challenging de Blasio with long-shot bid for mayor
Thompson supports school vouchers, charter schools and merit pay for educators -- all contentious issues in New York City, where the teachers union is famously strong.
back to the future
October 11, 2016
AFT freaked out after Joel Klein was rumored to join Hillary Clinton’s campaign, WikiLeaks email shows
"Joel may have been incredibly good in Bill Clinton's Justice Department, but he has a toxic reputation when it comes to education," Weingarten said.
November 3, 2015
De Blasio official touts school choice as a solution to segregation, echoing Bloomberg
Critics who consider the idea of a high-performing but highly segregated school system unrealistic have grown increasingly wary of the overlap.
memories of a leader
February 18, 2015
Remembering longtime deputy chancellor Kathleen Grimm
Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced Wednesday that longtime deputy chancellor Kathleen Grimm had died, just weeks after retiring.
End of an era
January 7, 2015
Longtime deputy chancellor Kathleen Grimm to retire
Kathleen Grimm, the deputy chancellor for operations and a fixture in the Department of Education under four chancellors, is stepping down, Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced Wednesday.
October 29, 2014
What Fariña wants to keep from the Bloomberg era: tech, leadership focus
Since taking over the school system, Fariña has increased the experience requirements for both principals and district superintendents, moves that stand in contrast to the Bloomberg administration’s creation of a fast-track principal training program that drew criticism for filling the city’s schools with inexperienced leaders.
September 30, 2014
To raise graduation rates, the de Blasio administration needs a comprehensive strategy
Former deputy chancellor Eric Nadelstern: So far, Chancellor Fariña's initiatives have not globally addressed the entire school system, and they have not made student performance their central ambition.
December 13, 2013
Joel Klein says curriculum is his legacy's lone dark spot
The further away Joel Klein gets from the New York City school system, the firmer he is about the changes he brought during his tenure. But there is one blemish on a generally positive self-assessment, which Klein disclosed Thursday night as part of a 60-minute conversation with CUNY Institute for Education Policy Director David Steiner. A lone regret, he said, was an early decision to push schools to adopt a uniform curriculum that embraced philosophies of progressive education over more traditional instruction. "This was, in candor, not my background," said Klein, a former U.S. Attorney General who taught math for a year in the late 1960s.
November 18, 2013
Students in high-tech math program saw big gains, report says
PHOTO: Caroline BaumanStudents in New York, Chicago and Washington D.C. schools in a program called Teach to One made better-than-average math gains. Students in a high-tech math program that features computer-generated student work schedules, virtual tutors and live teachers posted above average math gains last year, according to a new study. More than 2,200 students in seven middle schools in New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., that used the Teach to One learning model made an average of 1.2 years of math growth, according to the report by researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University. That was 20 percent more progress, on average, than other students made on an optional test used in school districts across the country. But the gains varied across schools, according to the report, which follows an inconclusive study that was released last year. Students at five of the schools gained less ground than the national average in at least one grade, the report found. Teach to One, which has expanded to 15 schools in seven cities in its second year, grew out of a city Department of Education program called School of One, which enjoyed national attention and federal funding before its co-creators left to start their own nonprofit.
breaking the silence
July 2, 2013
Weighing in on mayor's race, Joel Klein takes aim at detractors
Schools Chancellor Joel Klein is chiming in on the mayoral race to defend his tenure. After staying silent as mayoral candidates have taken aim at the education policies he engineered, former schools chief Joel Klein is now speaking up to defend the Bloomberg administration's school policies. In a speech in Washington, D.C. to charter school supporters this morning, Klein plans to criticize what he calls "a complete lack of courage among most of the candidates" for statements they've made during the campaign to replace Mayor Bloomberg, according to a copy of the speech provided to GothamSchools in advance. In the speech, Klein praises the reforms that took place during his eight-year tenure at the Department of Education, listing the growth of charter schools in Harlem as a crowning achievement. Klein has stayed mum so far on City Hall politics since he abruptly left the department at the end of 2010. He was quickly hired by Rupert Murdoch and now runs NewsCorp's education technology division, Amplify, from its Brooklyn headquarters in Dumbo not far from his former office at the Tweed Courthouse. But as Bloomberg's third term comes to a close, the administration's legacy, which Klein helped establish, has been under attack. Klein's most divisive policies, which include closing schools and opening non-union charter schools in their place, have received the most scrutiny from leading Democratic candidates.
May 13, 2013
Kopp vows that TFA's "unstoppable force" will steer next mayor
Department of Education Senior Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg and Shipnia Bytyqi, a graduate of the high school he founded who now teaches at a charter school in the city, took the stage last week at Teach for America New York's annual gala. Teach For America used its annual New York City benefit last week to wade into the city's political debate. Praising the Bloomberg administration's education record, founder and board chair Wendy Kopp vowed that Teach For America and its supporters would fight to preserve the mayor's education legacy after he leaves office at the end of the year. "No matter who takes office," Kopp said, "we are creating an unstoppable force." The remarks reflected Teach For America's transition to playing a stronger role in public dialogue about education. Kopp suggested that the organization would not throw its support behind a single candidate. "Progress isn't a function of one leader," Kopp said. Instead, she said, the educational change Teach For America supports requires "a constellation of committed souls." The strength of that constellation was on display at the nonprofit's gala, held Wednesday at the glittering Waldorf Astoria hotel. In one night, the organization announced it raised $6.7 million, and speakers included Charlie Rose and Richard Parsons, the former CEO of Time Warner and Teach For America board member who also chairs Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Education Reform Commission.
July 23, 2012
After 18 months, Klein outlines plan for NewsCorp's ed division
A screenshot from Amplify's website The day Joel Klein resigned as New York City schools chancellor in November 2010, he said he would be joining Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation "to put [the company] in the burgeoning and dynamic education marketplace." But after quickly acquiring people and companies, Klein decamped for a year to lead NewsCorp's internal handling of its phone-hacking scandal. Just what, if anything, was happening behind the education division's doors remained far out of public view. That changed today. A month after Klein returned to the division fulltime, NewsCorp announced in a press release that the division has a name, a website, and a mission: "reimagining K-12 education by creating digital products and services that empower students, teachers and parents in new ways."
Pomp and Circumstance
June 27, 2012
End of an era as iSchool's first graduates are told to 'go and do'
Former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein speaks at iSchool's graduation on Monday. Principal Alisa Berger is on the stage to Klein's right. In May 2009, the Department of Education launched a new initiative, NYC21C, to remake the American high school using technology. Then-Chancellor Joel Klein made the announcement at the NYC iSchool, then completing its first year, and praised its students and co-principals, Alisa Berger and Mary Moss. Now, all of those people have moved on. Klein left the Department of Education in November 2010 and now earns more than $4 million a year running the education division of a multinational corporation. Moss left last year when her family moved to North Carolina. Berger's family is relocating to Massachusetts this summer. And on Monday, members of the school's inaugural class graduated in an afternoon ceremony, featuring a speech by Klein, held at the Ethical Culture Society on the Upper West Side. This fall, they'll enroll at colleges and universities up and down the East Coast. "Our greatest hope is that you love college, that you discover something you love learning about, that what you love to do is something that makes the world better, even in small ways, and that you find fulfillment in your life," said Moss, who returned to see the school's first students graduate. Of the 100 students who entered the selective school in 2008, 94 graduated on time. "I ask that you go and do — that you take what you've learned at the iSchool to transform the colleges you attend and create communities for yourselves the way that you have created the iSchool," Berger told the graduates.
New kid on the block (Corrected)
June 5, 2012
NY branch of Rhee's group will focus on parents, school choice
This story has been corrected from its earlier version to clarify the positions expressed by Lasher yesterday. Two months ago StudentsFirstNY, the New York branch of Michelle Rhee's political action committee, announced itself with a splash. But it hasn't been clear where the group will direct its financial and political might. Micah Lasher, StudentsFirstNY's executive director, fleshed out the group's platform for the first time at a discussion hosted Monday by the DL21C, a group of young Democrats. GothamSchools' Elizabeth Green moderated the discussion. StudentsFirstNY will also focus on organizing parents to demand policy changes around improving teacher quality and school choice, Lasher said. He also said the group might well weigh in on next year's mayoral race, whose victor will determine the next phase of the city's education reforms. "If there comes a time where it becomes clear that there is a candidate that we think would be effective on these issues, and it makes sense according to our political judgements and the way we think we can best improve schools in the city, I would allow us to get involved in getting support of a candidate," Lasher said.
June 1, 2012
"Blame em," Klein is urged about teachers union in latest emails
The latest internal Department of Education emails to come to light are mostly dark: The 228 pages released today contain large swaths of blacked-out text. But between redactions, a few messages stand out — including one in which charter operator Eva Moskowitz speedily outlines an agenda that became the driving focus of former Chancellor Joel Klein's last year in office. Urging Klein to be "SUPERAGGRESSIVE in [the] standard of excellence" for schools' academic performance, Moskowitz wrote, "If folks criticize you for having the bar way too high, you know you are inching closer to success." The emails were part of the yield from a massive Freedom of Information Law request filed by the United Federation of Teachers. The union wanted to see the communication exchanged between the city Department of Education and charter school supporters during a period when legislators were under pressure to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state. That cap was raised in May 2010. Hundreds of emails between Klein and charter advocates were released last month, showing that Klein kept careful tabs on the legislative action and was quick to connect advocates with support.
April 20, 2012
Shift in city's priorities seen as gifted program denied expansion
Parents of children admitted to the STEM citywide gifted program at P.S. 85 attend an open house Wednesday. Every morning, Tim Smith and his nine-year-old son leave their Bronx home at 7:30 a.m., catch a MetroNorth train to 125th Street and then board the M60 bus into Queens — all so the third-grader can attend P.S. 85 in Astoria, home to one of New York City’s handful of citywide gifted-and-talented programs. Even so, they brace themselves for an even more difficult journey ahead: Finding a middle school. In 2009, when P.S. 85′s program opened as part of an effort to expand gifted education, the Department of Education pledged “to identify nearby middle schools where students in these programs can continue after fifth grade.” But last month, responding to parents’ pleas to make good on the promise, the department informed them that P.S. 85 cannot handle expansion into a middle school because it is already “operating close to 100 percent capacity.” It said students in the gifted program — called the STEM Academy (it stands for Science, Technology, Enrichment and Math) — must go to middle school elsewhere. STEM is the only citywide gifted-and-talented elementary school program that ends with fifth grade. (It is the only citywide gifted program housed within another school.) Three of the four other citywide programs — Manhattan’s Anderson School and TAG Young Scholars, as well as the Brooklyn School of Inquiry — continue through eighth grade, and Manhattan’s NEST+M carries students through the end of high school. “The school was meant to be a peer for the other citywide gifted programs, and admission to a middle school program was supposed to be seamless,” said Smith. STEM parents charge that their program has been neglected because of a shift in priorities at the Department of Education.
the legal process
March 5, 2012
DOE officials called to stand in case of closing schools' support
The UFT wants former Chancellor Joel Klein to take a break from running News Corporation's education division to explain just how the Department of Education helped schools it was once barred from closing. The union has subpoenaed Klein to appear in court in the next phase of a school closure lawsuit filed last year. It has also issued "notices of deposition" to require 11 current Department of Education officials, including Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky, to testify. That lawsuit, which a judge ruled should not impede the city's school closure plans, argued that the department had not provided 19 schools with promised support. The city had committed to providing the supports — which ranged from assigning temporary teachers to add extra support to providing additional teacher training — under the terms of a 2010 closure lawsuit. The union's 2010 suit focused on the city's compliance with state law about public notification of closure proposals. A state Supreme Court justice ruled that the city had not followed the law, halting school closures for that year. In a settlement, the city promised to pour extra help into the schools to help them boost performance and avoid closure the next year. But a year later, 14 of the 19 schools were back on the chopping block.
light of day
February 24, 2012
City releases Teacher Data Reports — and a slew of caveats
When the Department of Education's embargo of Teacher Data Reports details lifted at noon today, news organizations across the city rushed to make the data available. The Teacher Data Reports are “value-added” assessments of teachers’ effectiveness that were produced from 2008 to 2010 for reading and math teachers in grades 3 to 8. This morning, department officials including Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky met with reporters to offer caution about how the data reports should be used. They emphasized the reports' wide margins of error — 35 percentage points for math teachers and 53 percentage points for reading teachers, on average — and that the reports reflect only a small portion of teachers' work. "We would never advise anyone — parent, reporter, principal, teacher — to draw a conclusion based on this score alone," Polakow-Suransky said. Most of the news organizations that filed Freedom of Information Law requests for the ratings plan to publish them in searchable or streamlined databases, with the teachers' names attached. GothamSchools does not plan to publish the data with teachers' names or identifying characteristics included because of concerns about the data's reliability. At least two other news organizations that cover education are also not publishing the data: the local affiliate of Fox News, according to a representative of Fox, and the nonprofit school information website Insideschools. Department officials are asking schools not to release the reports to parents. They issued a guide today advising principals about how to handle parents who demand that their child be removed from the class of a teacher rated ineffective.
January 31, 2012
DOE's press chief leaving to become Rupert Murdoch's top aide
The Department of Education's press office will be getting a new director in less than two weeks. Natalie Ravitz, the department's communications director since June 2010, is leaving to become chief of staff to Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of News Corporation. Her last day at the department will be Feb. 10. Ravitz is following a well-worn path from the department to NewsCorp: Ex-schools chief Joel Klein, who was chancellor when Ravitz was hired, now heads the company's growing education division. Last summer, Klein picked Kristen Kane, the department's former chief operating officer, to become the division's COO. He also acquired Wireless Generation, the technology company that developed and managed ARIS, the city's school data warehouse. After years in political communications, Ravitz arrived at the department during the summer of 2010 and shepherded its press operations through two abrupt changes in departmental leadership. She succeeded David Cantor, who held the job for longer than any of his predecessors before leaving for the private sector.
what he said
December 2, 2011
Bloomberg's class size comments more strident but in character
If Mayor Bloomberg had his druthers, he would fire half the city's teachers and pay the remaining half more to supervise twice-as-large classes. That's what he said during a wide-ranging speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Tuesday in which he argued that weak training, social change, and the teachers union have conspired to fill New York City's schools with less-than-ideal teachers. "If I had the ability, which nobody does really, to just design the system and say, ex cathedra, this is what we're going to do, you would cut the number of teachers in half, but you would double the compensation of them, and you would weed out all the bad ones and just have good teachers, and double class size with a better teacher is a good deal for the students," Bloomberg said. Listen to the portion of the speech where Bloomberg talks schools (starting at about 5:00): 11-29-11 MIT Speech - Part 2 The comments have drawn fire from UFT President Michael Mulgrew, elected officials, and many others. But while they were provocative and unusually specific, the speech tread familiar territory for the mayor.
Compare and Contrast
November 30, 2011
School choice advocates rank city's enrollment policies as best
The same admissions processes that leave city parents scratching their heads or, worse, pulling their hair out have put New York City at the head of the pack in a new study ranking districts' school choice policies. The report, by the nonpartisan Brookings Institution, which has long pushed for expanded school choice, compares choice policies in place in 25 urban school districts and how families took advantage of them. New York City came in first, in part because students here are never assigned to schools based simply on where they live. Of the 25 districts, New York was the only one where students are assigned to schools based on applications that asked for families' preferences, not just their address. The city has a labyrinthine citywide high school matching process and district-based middle and elementary school admissions processes that many believe could be improved. In a district with more than 1,600 schools (the Brookings report tallies 1,474), the processes are seen as bringing order but also as sometimes pitting schools against each other and limiting options, particularly in high school, for students who aren't happy with what they've chosen. The Brookings report also gave New York credit for making data about school performance public and closing or restructuring low-performing schools. But its B grade would have been higher if it had more virtual school options and provided transportation when students enroll in schools outside their districts. To tie in with the report, former city schools chancellor Joel Klein, who bolstered and expanded the city's school choice policies, is speaking at Brookings' Washington, D.C., offices today.
Mergers and acquisitions
November 15, 2011
NYC-based education reform group folds into Stand For Children
John Legend Talks About Stand for Children from Stand for Children on Vimeo. With both of its founders off the education stage, the Education Equality Project gracefully closed its doors this week when its remaining board members joined Stand for Children, a national school reform advocacy group. Board members announced the news in a press release today, although insiders said the partnership was considered a done deal for several months. EEP has been without a staff since December and has been looking for suitors to meet its lofty national ambitions ever since. By tapping into EEP, Stand For Children will gain three board members — including Grammy Award-winning R&B singer John Legend — and access to a powerful and diverse Rolodex of influential people who could help it establish beachheads in more states.
inside baseball (updated)
November 8, 2011
NY Mag: Bloomberg pushed Klein out before he was ready to go
The press conference where Joel Klein's resignation was announced When Chancellor Joel Klein suddenly announced his resignation a year ago tomorrow, speculation immediately mountedthat he had been pushed out. But Klein insisted that he had chosen to leave the Department of Education and said Mayor Bloomberg had asked him to stay on. Now, new details tucked into a New York Magazine profile of Rupert Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth seem to confirm that Bloomberg set the timeline for Klein's departure — and suggest that Klein's decision to head to Murdoch's News Corporation was hastily made. From the article: On Sunday morning, November 7, 2010, Michael Bloomberg called Klein and told him that he would be announcing that Klein was resigning that week. Klein and the mayor had been discussing Klein’s departure from Tweed Courthouse for months—but Klein was still taken aback at the timing of the decision. He had been in informal talks with several Wall Street firms, but nothing had materialized. Without a job lined up, he “panicked,” according to a person familiar with the matter. So Klein called Rupert.
October 12, 2011
Required to help ELLs, city to open 125 new bilingual programs
The city will launch 125 new bilingual programs under the terms of a required plan to improve the treatment of students who are classified as English language learners. Test scores and high school graduation rates for ELLs lag far behind the city average, and last summer the state told then-Chancellor Joel Klein to produce a "corrective action plan" for how to serve the students better. That plan, released today and posted below, sets out an ambitious remediation schedule — and also highlights just how much the city has lagged in providing legally mandated services to ELLs. In the plan, the city promises to reduce the number of ELLs whose teachers are not trained to work with them and to punish schools that fail to provide services to which ELLs are entitled. It also promises to launch 125 new bilingual programs by 2013, including 20 this school year, on top of the 397 that are already open. The new programs will open in districts with many ELLs and where parents say they prefer their children placed in classrooms where instruction takes place in two languages, rather than in English-only classes with extra help for non-native speakers. The city has hired Ernst & Young, an auditing group, to monitor whether parents' choices are honored. Some of the new programs will open in high school campuses where no bilingual instruction currently takes place. When he approved several school closures in July, State Education Commissioner John King expressed concern about whether new high schools would serve the same students who attended the schools that closed. The plan commits to opening new programs when existing ones phase out along with their schools.
September 19, 2011
Why New York City isn't joining Chicago in extended-day uproar
New Yorkers following Chicago’s snowballing union-district standoff over plans to extend the school day may not realize that similar conversations take place inside city schools every year. Chicago's new mayor, Rahm Emanuel, and his schools chief, former New York City deputy Jean-Claude Brizard, are pushing schools to add 90 minutes to their 5-hour-long days, among the shortest in the nation. But they have offered teachers only 2 percent more pay, raising the ire of the teachers union, whose president, Karen Lewis, has said Emanuel is creating "a nightmare" by asking union members to override their union contract. Even though the union has filed a lawsuit over the plan, Emanuel and Brizard decided to shop the proposal school by school, and teachers at at least nine schools have voted to extend their working hours—and the instructional day. The city and the teachers union send out warring press releases each time another school takes a vote. Staff at New York City schools routinely take similar votes, but with less fanfare. There has been no system-wide push for a longer school day in years, and educators do not foresee a Chicago-style showdown repeating in New York. That’s in part because the average New York City school day is already much longer than Chicago’s, and slightly longer than other major cities’, with many students in school for 6.5 hours or more. In addition, the district already struck a flexible deal with the union five years ago to extend the school day by 37.5 minutes four days a week for at least 290,000 city students, mostly those who struggle academically. How that time is spent is, to a large degree, up to each school. Researchers say it is almost impossible to make a good estimate of the length of the New York City school day—something that one Chicago columnist found last week when he tried to tally the numbers—because instructional time requirements vary by grade-level and subject, and principals and teachers can decide together how they want to structure parts of the school day.
September 16, 2011
Union: From style to substance, relationship with city improved
With the city's Teacher Data Reports now in the past, the teachers union is set to move forward on negotiations that will build on a pilot program that's in place in 33 schools. The controversial reports, which assigned ratings to about 10,000 teachers based on their students' test scores, were championed by former chancellor Joel Klein. Klein said he would release the scores to the public after news organizations filed a Freedom of Information request for them — a move that the United Federation of Teachers quickly opposed in court. But in his first major reversal from one of Klein's policies, Chancellor Dennis Walcott has said he does not think the ratings, which the UFT agreed to in part on grounds that they would remain internal, should be made public. Yesterday, Department of Education officials told the New York Times that they would no longer calculate teachers' ratings according to the TDR algorithm because the state is rolling out a different model. UFT President Michael Mulgrew told GothamSchools today that doing away with the TDRs wasn't necessarily a precondition for the UFT to work with the city on a new teacher evaluation model, required under state law. But he said their disappearance would clear the way for negotiations. "I really do appreciate that Dennis has taken that position, unlike previous chancellors," Mulgrew said. "But it does help that we have a better relationship and we're working together. That helps getting to any deal."
August 31, 2011
We read Steven Brill’s “Class Warfare” so you don’t have to
Eva Moskowitz did not generate the idea for Harlem Success herself; Randi Weingarten has been criticizing her successor, UFT President Michael Mulgrew, to her friends; and former Chancellor Joel Klein thinks that at least two of his former deputies have gone soft on reform in their new school districts. These are among the claims in "Class Warfare," Steven Brill's new book on the education reform movement. Much of "Class Warfare" will be familiar to GothamSchools readers. The book's main characters include, on one side, former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and, on the other, teachers unions president Randi Weingarten; many of its main plot points center on New York City, and some of the key classroom scenes take place in Harlem. But the following insights — some of them more solidly sourced than others — were news to us. Here's a run-down of Brill's most intriguing New York-related reporting: The war behind the war: Bloomberg v. Klein On labor issues, Bloomberg sometimes undercut Joel Klein. Klein’s team thought they could get the UFT to sign off on a change in the teacher termination process. But Bloomberg, who was nearing reelection, told them not to push their luck. “The mayor blinked,” the DOE’s one-time labor chief, Dan Weisberg, told Brill. “The mayor just gave up.” Weisberg said he “clashed almost daily” with City Hall over back-channel contract negotiations in 2005.
August 23, 2011
Principals cut 2,000+ teaching jobs; city plans school layoffs
Budget cuts caused principals to cut thousands of positions this year, but the total number of teachers without permanent jobs rose only slightly, the Department of Education revealed today. The Bloomberg administration also announced plans to lay off nearly 800 school employees who do not belong to the teachers union, which negotiated a deal in June to avert layoffs. Most of those employees — 737 of 777 — belong to DC-37, which represents school aides and other auxiliary school personnel. The layoffs are set to start in October. When the city announced in July that schools would have to cut an average of 2.43 percent from their budgets, many principals complained that they had little fat to trim. They said they would have to turn to eliminating necessary positions and sending junior teachers to the Absent Teacher Reserve, the pool of teachers whose positions were cut or lost as a result of school closures or enrollment changes. In the end, they sent 2,186 teachers to the ATR pool this summer. More than a thousand of those teachers have already left the pool, either by finding new positions or leaving the system. A DOE spokeswoman said many of the teachers were rehired by their original schools after funding became available to keep them there. That leaves 1,940 teachers in the ATR pool with just weeks before the start of the school year. Last year, the pool contained 1,779 teachers just before classes began. Though small, the growth in the size of the ATR pool still places added financial stress on the department.
press the press
July 27, 2011
When the story is education, Rupert Murdoch gets involved
Rupert Murdoch takes a strong interest in his newspapers' education coverage. (Photo by WorldEconomicForum on Flickr) How involved is Rupert Murdoch at the newspapers he owns? When the subject is education, Murdoch's views directly influence the coverage in the New York Post and, at the least, the sorts of meetings taken at the Wall Street Journal. Azi Paybarah at the Observer reports today that at the New York Post, education stories are ordered up according to Murdoch's visits: One former reporter said his own editor requested a week’s worth of stories about the New York City public schools because “Rupert was going to be in town.” It was coveted real estate in the paper, and the reporter reluctantly obliged. We have previously chronicled the Post's open campaigning on behalf of the Bloomberg administration's education policies and its effort to renew mayoral control. The coverage prompted Education Secretary Arne Duncan to praise the newspaper for its "leadership" in covering mayoral control. There are some exceptions — New York City education beat reporter Yoav Gonen is even-handed and columnist Michael Goodwin takes no prisoners. But on and off the editorial page, the newspaper often matches Murdoch's education views: aggressively dismissive of the teachers union and ridiculing of critics of the mayor. At the Wall Street Journal, the line between news and opinion and newspaper boss seems to be thicker. But it has some holes. Last week, the New York Times reported on a meeting arranged between Joel Klein, then still the schools chancellor, and reporters: When Mr. Klein visited The Journal last year to discuss education issues with news and opinion writers, Mr. Murdoch interrupted to lavish praise on the chancellor, much to the surprise of the writers. “Just listen to everything that Joel is saying,” Mr. Murdoch insisted, according to one person who attended the meeting.
July 21, 2011
Rupert and Wendi Murdoch backed a scandal-ridden city school
Besides his Joel Klein hire, his company’s $27 million state contract, and his entrance into education politics, there’s another schools angle to Rupert…
July 6, 2011
New hire a first step in effort to bridge district, charter divide
An initiative designed to ease tension between district and charter schools in the city has moved slowly and largely under the radar this spring. In December, then-Chancellor Joel Klein joined 88 of the city’s charter schools in signing on to a District-Charter Collaboration Compact, which mandates that charter schools “fulfill their role as laboratories of innovation” and requires the Department of Education to support city charter schools. The compact, which the Gates Foundation urged and is funding, emphasizes collaboration around issues of enrollment, space allocation, and instruction. But after more than six months — which were bookended by Klein’s sudden departure and a contentious lawsuit over charter school co-location — little progress has been made toward fulfilling the compact’s requirements. In June, the New York City Charter School Center took a first step by hiring Cara Volpe, a former Teach for America employee, to be the city’s first district-charter collaboration manager. Later, a not-yet-formed advisory council of district and charter school employees will help Volpe set priorities, according to city and charter school officials. Volpe “will be expected to implement the council’s vision for identifying, establishing and implementing the partnerships, policies and programs that will help tear down the boundaries between great district and charter schools,” according to advertisement for the position, which the charter center posted online at GothamSchools’ jobs board, Idealist, and elsewhere. Volpe’s work will come at a time when tensions around charter schools are at an all-time high.
June 16, 2011
Principals report mounting anxiety about not knowing budgets
With just weeks before students and teachers disperse for the summer, principals are still without any official word of how much money they'll be working with next year. "No word of budget at this point. Not even summer school. I have no idea what’s going [on]," said a high school principal, who reported being told originally that the budget would arrive at the end of May, and then the first week of June. "I have no idea on what next year looks like at this point." Every year, the city enters a budget for each school into Galaxy, the Department of Education's budgeting data system. Principals use the system to allocate those funds for the next year according to their needs and also city, state, and federal regulations. But because of up-in-the-air negotiations over the city's budget, which are centering on Mayor Bloomberg's plan to lay off 4,100 teachers, school-level budgets haven't yet been uploaded. That means principals don't know even how many teachers they will be able to afford next year. Last year, principals received their budget June 2 — and that was late, then-Chancellor Joel Klein told principals at the time. "Even though Albany has yet to pass its own budget, we can wait no longer to release school budgets," Klein said. "We know you need as much time as possible to decide how best to spend the dollars available to your school."
May 4, 2011
City to renew $4.5 million contract with Wireless Generation
New York City's Department of Education already has contracts with Wireless Generation — a Brooklyn-based education technology company — but the timing of this latest one is bound to cause a stir, fairly or not. About six months after former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein joined News Corporation and the company bought Wireless Generation, the DOE plans to renew a $4.5 million contract — $1.5 million a year for three years. The document describing the contract says only that it is for "published and copyrighted assessment and testing materials." A spokesperson for the DOE said a fuller description of the contract was still being written and would not be available until several days before the Panel for Educational Policy meeting on May 18, when the contract will be voted on. She said the city has been using Wireless Generation's software for seven years and is voting to renew a long-standing contract. [Update 5/5/11]: Wireless Generation spokeswoman Andrea Reibel said that the contract permits schools to purchase assessment software from the company. The software allows teachers to watch their students as they read or work on math problems and enter their observations into a program on a mobile device that can then sort and analyze the data. "The $1.5 million is their [the DOE's] estimate of what the expenditure is likely to be so they can provide the Panel for Educational Policy with a sense of how much money we’re talking about," Reibel said.
up up and away
April 18, 2011
J.C. Brizard, a former DOE official, to head Chicago schools
Jean-Claude Brizard, the embattled superintendent of Rochester, N.Y., and a former New York City Department of Education official, will be Chicago's next schools chief. Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel announced his superintendent pick at a press conference today, billing Brizard as a leader who is "not afraid of tough choices." In three years as Rochester's superintendent, Brizard alienated local leaders and the teachers union with his support for charter schools, tying teacher evaluations to student test scores, and closing low-performing schools. Picking Brizard suggests that Emanuel could be preparing to tangle with Chicago's teachers union, whose president, Karen Lewis, took an aggressive stance in her fights with Ron Huberman, the superintendent who resigned last year. The choice also signals yet again that administrators who cut their teeth under former New York City Chancellor Joel Klein remain in demand around the country. Earlier this month, Klein told GothamSchools that Brizard was one of several New York City school officials, past and present, who were "being recruited in multiple venues right now" for big-city superintendencies. In addition to Chicago, other cities looking for leaders include Newark, Boston, Atlanta, and Providence, R.I. A current DOE deputy chancellor, John White, will become superintendent of New Orleans next month. Brizard's departure from Rochester is not surprising.
April 8, 2011
At MS 223, a microcosm of reform's benefits and challenges
MS 223 in the South Bronx was the first school I visited when I started covering the city's public schools nearly six years ago.Principal Ramon Gonzalez introduced me to the on-the-ground issues that principals face every day — and now he is doing the same thing for readers of the New York Times. The cover story in Sunday's magazine, a profile of Gonzalez and MS 223, uses the school to examine how former Chancellor Joel Klein's school reforms are playing out in corners of the city far from Department of Education headquarters. Author Jonathan Mahler writes: In certain respects, 223 is a monument to Klein’s success: empower the right principals to run their own schools and watch them bloom. Thanks to Klein, González has been able to avoid having teachers foisted on him on the basis of seniority. He has been able to create his own curriculums, micromanage his students’ days (within the narrow confines of the teachers’ union contract, anyway) and spend his annual budget of $4 million on the personnel, programs and materials he deems most likely to help his kids. And yet even as school reform made it possible for González to succeed, as the movement rolls inexorably forward, it also seems in many ways set up to make him fail.
dotting the i's
April 8, 2011
Bloomberg files formal request to make Walcott schools chief
The city's official request that Dennis Walcott be allowed to become schools chancellor even though he doesn't meet all of the state's requirements is now in Albany. Bloomberg sent the waiver request letter to outgoing State Education Commissioner David Steiner last night, city officials said. Until the waiver is approved, Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky is legally the city's chancellor, according to city officials. State law requires district leaders to fulfill a host of requirements, including holding a superintendent's license, which Walcott does not have. But the law also allows state officials to grant exceptions to the requirements for prospective district leaders who have "exceptional training and experience" in education. Bloomberg's letter to Steiner emphasizes Walcott's training and experience. The deputy mayor has a master's degree in education and significant experience in city education policy, as well as a year and half of experience as a kindergarten teacher in the mid-1970s. Former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein received a waiver based, in part, on teaching experience that was shorter. Steiner approved a waiver for ex-Chancellor Cathie Black only after she agreed to make Polakow-Suransky, a longtime teacher and principal, her second-in-command. Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch told GothamSchools yesterday that the state had not yet received a waiver request for Walcott, but that she had promised Bloomberg quick approval once it did.
the bright side
April 7, 2011
Joel Klein: Deputies' departures a selling point for Cathie Black
It would be reasonable for Schools Chancellor Cathie Black to be alarmed by the rapid exodus of the Department of Education's top deputies. After all, when her predecessor Joel Klein handed over the reins last November, he declared, "I also am comfortable in saying I’m leaving you the best team ever assembled in education.” Mayor Bloomberg also emphasized that he was confident that Black could get past her lack of education experience by leaning on her deputies. Now four of those deputies have left or are about to. John White, deputy chancellor for talent, labor, and innovation, is set to be named superintendent of schools in New Orleans. Santiago Taveras, deputy chancellor for community engagement, left earlier this week for the private sector. Eric Nadelstern, a top educator who had been with the department for nearly 40 years, retired abruptly n January. And Photeine Anagnastopoulos, the department's finance guru, tendered her resignation the day after Klein's. But Klein said earlier this week that he is not worried about Black's ability to recruit new talent to the department. In fact, he said, the exodus could be a boon for Black, if she sells it right. "The message is come to New York and you’ll be on your way to a superintendency," he said.
up up and away
April 5, 2011
Wanted: Big-city superintendents with Joel Klein's imprimatur
At least half a dozen major city school districts are combing the country for new superintendents — and they’re frequently looking to administrators who…
January 18, 2011
Casting former chancellor as villain, students' play goes on
A play written by Queens high school students finally came to the stage last Friday, after igniting controversy for its criticism of former Chancellor…
don't stop till you get enough
December 23, 2010
On his way out, Klein pushes for end to ATR pool, last-in first-out
The final installment of Joel Klein's weekly memo to principals In a nostalgic final missive to city principals this week, outgoing Chancellor Joel Klein suggested three things to do once he's gone. He urged lawmakers to end the last-in first-out process of teacher layoffs, pushed for an end to the Absent Teacher Reserve pool, and underlined his belief in the importance of closing struggling schools. Klein's statement that "we have to eliminate the ATR pool" ratchets up the city's position on the pool of teachers — city teachers who lose their positions, don't find new ones, but stay on the city payroll anyway. Previously, the city has asked the union, in contract negotiations, to add a limit to the amount of time a teacher can spend in the reserve pool. That would make the pool smaller, but it would not cause it to disappear altogether. Describing the costs of keeping those teachers on the city payroll as exceeding $100 million a year, Klein argues: We cannot afford it, and it's wrong to keep paying this money. It amounts to supporting more than a thousand teachers who either don't care to, or can't, find a job, even though our school system hires literally thousands of teachers each year. That's money that could be spent on teachers that we desperately want and need. Klein also describes teacher layoffs as a sure thing. "I wish it were otherwise, but the economics of our state and city make this virtually impossible to avoid," he writes. The Bloomberg administration has a history of being bullish on layoffs in order to push for the end of the state law regulating how teachers lose their jobs. Klein reiterates that case in his letter: If we have layoffs, it's unconscionable to use the last-hired, first-fired rule that currently governs. By definition, such a rule means that quality counts for zero. Our children cannot afford that kind of approach. They need the best teachers, not those who are longest serving. (If you had to have surgery, would you want the longest-serving surgeon or the best one?) This doesn't mean that many of our longest-serving teachers aren't among the best, but this is not an area for "group think." We need individual determinations of teacher effectiveness to decide who stays and who doesn't. Klein also quoted his favorite T.S. Eliot poem, "Little Gidding," excerpting four cryptic lines that seem to summarize his "odyssey" as something more complex than a straight line of a progress: We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time. Other curious lines from the poem: ... Either you had no purpose Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured And is altered in fulfilment. ... Klein has sent a memo to principals every week for years. Read the full letter here and below.
December 21, 2010
Looking back: What Joel Klein said about leaving last year
Here’s a reminder of exactly how much can change in a year. Though Chancellor Joel Klein now says that he told Mayor Bloomberg…
December 17, 2010
Education Equality Project director departs, future in question
An education advocacy group launched by Chancellor Joel Klein and the Reverend Al Sharpton over two years ago has lost its director and faces an uncertain future. Unveiled in 2008 in Washington D.C., the Education Equality Project was intended to influence discussion of education policy in the presidential election. (Remember those wars — manufactured or not — within the Democratic party?) It was also a way for Klein to broadcast his views on a national scale, much like former D.C. schools superintendent Michelle Rhee is doing with her new advocacy group, StudentsFirst. After Arne Duncan was named Secretary of Education, EEP seemed to lose steam. Now comes news (via edReformer) that EEP director Ellen Winn is leaving for a job at 50CAN, where she'll be in charge of expanding the education advocacy group's work beyond Connecticut. Winn's departure was expected, said Democrats for Education Reform Executive Director Joe Williams, who is on EEP's board, but the group hasn't found a replacement for her yet. Williams said the board hasn't met for several months.
December 16, 2010
The superstar skill Joel Klein most lacked: management
Why is Mayor Bloomberg so confident that Hearst executive Cathleen Black will make a great chancellor? Maybe because her “superstar” management skills are exactly…
bland and calm
December 14, 2010
Joel Klein promises to leave in January no matter what
Outgoing chancellor Joel Klein at his last Panel for Educational Policy meeting. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein vowed tonight that he will absolutely leave…
November 26, 2010
Black will receive waiver after city vows to promote Suransky
Cathleen Black will receive the state waiver that lets her become the next New York City schools chancellor, following a Thanksgiving deal between the city and the state, an official familiar with the deal confirmed today. PHOTO: GreenleeShael Polakow-Suransky, the man whose promotion allowed Cathie Black to become chancellor The deal calls for Black to give a major promotion to Shael Polakow-Suransky, an education official who has sparred with Chancellor Joel Klein's top deputies, even while working alongside them. Suransky, currently deputy chancellor for "performance and accountability," will now hold two titles: senior deputy chancellor and chief academic officer. Suransky engaged in especially vigorous debates with James Leibman, the official who created Klein's controversial school report cards, according to department officials. He successfully lobbied to give schools the opportunity to create their own assessments rather than follow state tests. The disagreements didn't stop the two men from respecting each other. When Leibman left the Department of Education to return to Columbia University, Klein promoted Suransky to succeed him as head of the accountability office. An official said that Leibman promoted Suransky to the position. Suransky is also one of a small number of top Department of Education officials who regularly refers to "instruction" as the part of education he would like to change — a trait he holds in common with Steiner and his top deputy, John King. Like King, Suransky is also a former teacher and principal. He has worked closely with state education officials on their main project, the reforms they are creating with their federal Race to the Top funding. Suransky has taken an especially prominent role in creating new assessments designed to make it harder for teachers to "teach to the test."
November 22, 2010
Murdoch buys education tech company Wireless Generation
Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation took its second step into the education world this evening when it made a deal to buy Wireless Generation, a Brooklyn-based education technology company. Murdoch took his first step nearly two weeks ago, when he acquired the chancellor of New York City's public schools, Joel Klein. In an announcement that took most of his staff and top advisors by surprise, Klein told reporters that he was leaving the Department of Education for a job at News Corp., where he will be an executive vice president overseeing investments in digital learning companies. After Klein resigned, News Corp. officials told The New York Times that they planned to make "seed investments" in entrepreneurial education companies. The acquisition of Wireless Generation may be the first of these investments. "Wireless Generation is positioned to grow aggressively, and it was the right time in the company's journey to find a home where it will have access to the resources it needs to fuel that aggressive growth," said spokeswoman Andrea Reibel in a statement. Reibel would not comment on when talks began, but said the deal was finalized this evening. For $360 million in cash, News Corp. now owns 90 percent of Wireless Generation, a company with 400 employees.
November 19, 2010
A mistake and a typo prompt good humor between two rivals
Though they are at times each others' harshest critics, Chancellor Joel Klein and noted education historian Diane Ravitch proved last week that they can occasionally share a laugh. Last week, Klein e-mailed Ravitch asking for the "latest draft op-ed." The message was an accident — presumably Klein meant to send it to the Department of Education's press secretary, whose name is quite similar. "That’s what they get for getting a PR person named R-a-v-i-t-z," Ravitch said when she forwarded us the e-mail. A humorous exchange followed. Read from the bottom up: -----Original Message----- From: Diane Ravitch Sent: Friday, November 12, 2010 6:11 PM To: Klein Joel I. May God be with you I was afraid for a second that I mistyped "luck" Whew
on your marks
November 19, 2010
Commissioner names panel of experts to screen new chancellor
State Education Commissioner David Steiner has named the panel of education experts that will help him decide whether to allow magazine executive Cathie Black to become the next schools chancellor. Without a background in education, Black needs a waiver from the state that will let her bypass the prerequisites: that she have a degree in education and several years of teaching behind her. Though the final decision rests with Steiner, the panel will play a role in reviewing the city's case for why Black is qualified and making a recommendation. Reviewing the list of panel members, New York University Professor Pedro Noguera said the commissioner had covered his bases. "Steiner's aware that this is very controversial," Noguera said. "So if you think about it, instead of just him making the decision he can say, 'Look, I got a group of very reputable people in education who agreed with me.'"
musings on a legacy
November 18, 2010
Klein reflects on his tenure: "We should have been bolder"
Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Chancellor Joel Klein declined to give any public advice to the mayor's choice for his successor, publishing executive Cathie Black. The outgoing chancellor said that while he has been meeting with Black each day, most of that time has been spent explaining what he has already done, not telling her what she should do in the future. But a few minutes later, Klein told a group of local and national educators that he did have one piece of advice for the next chancellor: push his reforms even further. As he often does, Klein invoked Sir Michael Barber, an education aide to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair known for his impatient approach to school reform. Barber's instructions, Klein said, were to "be bold." Klein said that he wished he had followed that advice more closely. "We should have been bolder," Klein said. For example, Klein said, he wishes that Department of Education officials had started their experiments with online and personalized instruction like the School of One and iZone programs earlier than they did.
jobs jobs jobs
November 12, 2010
Bloomberg defends his private search and choice for chancellor
Mayor Michael Bloomberg fought against growing opposition to his selection of magazine publisher Cathie Black this morning, saying that he and Chancellor Joel Klein had "spent a lot of time finding the right person." Bloomberg said he had been discussing Klein's departure with him "for months" and only began to search for a successor in earnest once he "slowly...became convinced" that Klein truly intended to leave. His remarks, on the John Gambling radio show this morning, described the search process: Anybody that comes in wants to have a chance to really get up to speed and make a difference and stick with that difference and implement it and show that it works earlier rather than later. And we'd been talking about it for months, and I've been looking — at the beginning I wasn't sure he [Klein] was serious, but slowly as I became convinced he was, I started looking — and he and I together spent a lot of time finding the right person. The description follows a report in the New York Times that Klein himself only learned who his successor would be on Monday. Black told the New York Post this week that the mayor offered her the job after approaching her a "couple of weeks ago on a Monday." Black's account, as reported in the Post, suggested that the mayor offered her the job at their first meeting: "Monday the mayor called," she told me. "We know each other a long time. I didn't know what he wanted. He only told me this was a personal call and he wanted to meet. I couldn't exactly say, 'Sorry, Mr. Mayor, but I'm busy,' but the fact is I had back-to-back meetings at Hearst, so I said I couldn't today but could tomorrow.' "He said, 'How's 7 a.m. tomorrow?' I said, 'Fine.' We met in his foundation offices. The offer came out of left field, and my stomach did a flip-flop. The opportunity made me feel fantastic." In her Post interview, Black described meeting with Klein for an hour and a half.
RISE & SHINE
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