New York

At rally, charter parents stuck between Lhota and a hard place

Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota greets young charter rally participants on Tuesday morning. For a full account of the charter school rally, see Geoff Decker's report here. Just before 11 a.m., Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota leaned down to eye level with five year old Kenyon Lovett, a student at Success Academy Cobble Hill. He wants to be an architect, his mom explained. "What do you want to build?" Lhota asked as dozens of reporters and curious parents pushed closer. "Is that the mayor?" another girl asked as she squirmed toward the candidate. Lhota basked in the attention from parents and students this morning at the end of their march across the Brooklyn Bridge in support of charter schools, greeting children and answering questions outside of City Hall Park an hour after delivering a speech at the Association for a Better New York touting his support for the charter sector. That position puts him at odds with Democratic frontrunner Bill de Blasio, who has advocated for capping the number of charter schools in the city and charging charter schools rent to operate in public buildings. At the rally, many parents admitted that they were perplexed about how to square their Democratic ties and their desire for a mayor who is friendly to the charter school movement. Kenyon's mother Yolanda White told reporters that she had never voted for a Republican. But Lhota's support for charters means that if she can convince herself that his policies are reasonable, "I have no problem jumping the line for him," she said.
New York

As terms end, council members push to curb school closures

New York

Report: District-charter special ed gap not from "counseling out"

New York

NYC sitting out national move to tie charter, district admissions

New York

Touting city's top test scores, officials visit its most elite schools

New York

Principal, King frame tensions over school choice changes

A back-and-forth between State Education Commissioner John King and a Brooklyn high school principal today provided a window into the tensions at play when high-needs students are placed in city schools — at a moment when additional shifts in enrollment policies may be imminent. As King toured the High School for Public Service, principal Sean Rice outlined his worries about serving 35 special education students, up from "almost none" two years ago, in a school with about 440 students. Five or six have been added to his rolls in just the past week, he said. Commissioner John King spoke with principal Sean Rice, center, about special needs students at his school. "It is a major concern," Rice said. "It's going to be challenging for us this year, because we have a teaching staff that has not had extensive experience with students with disabilities." But Rice's situation is rare for how few special education students he has, since some high schools, like William E. Grady High, have more than 20 percent special education students. Figures like that have created a schism between the city and the state for years, as King has criticized the city's school choice policies for allowing some schools to become overloaded with needy students. "I think this is the balance, though, between our concern—which we've long expressed—of students being concentrated in isolated buildings, and attempts by the city, which I think is the right direction, to try and avoid those overconcentrations of students," King said to Rice during a discussion with Chancellor Merryl Tisch and other state education officials.
New York

"Gold standard" study identifies benefits of TFA math teachers

New York

Seven moments in UFT history maybe more pivotal than this one

New York

As UFT elections get underway, dissenters face an uphill climb

P.S. 15 teacher Julie Cavanagh, speaking to teachers at Murry Bergtraum High School last week, is running against UFT President Michael Mulgrew in this year's union elections. It's been nearly three years since Michael Mulgrew was elected to his first full term at the helm of the United Federation of Teachers, which means election season has arrived for the city's teachers union. As would-be candidates work to meet Wednesday's deadline to collect the signatures they need to get on the ballots in April, we'll be keeping you up to date on Mulgrew's re-election bid and about what to expect from the changing union landscape. What is clear is that there won't be much suspense in the race for UFT president, as Mulgrew will almost certainly coast to a second full term. He's backed by the union's longtime dominant party, Unity, whose presidential candidate typically wins by a landslide. Three years ago, Mulgrew received 91 percent of the vote. The unified support that the union's leadership typically receives is one of many ways that the union has remained powerful in the face of threats. In other ways, too, the elections are about more than Mulgrew. There will be hundreds of positions on the ballot, including 90 executive board positions and delegates to the national and state unions, many with significant ability to impact decision-making. The vote totals also offer an opportunity to gauge dissent within the union — and this year, the dissenters are working hard to harness their power.
New York

In new arrangement, teachers' pensions to fund infrastructure

New York

'Restart' partners say they plan to ease into management role

The radical "restart" plans for 14 struggling schools seem likely to get off to a slow start. In exchange for millions of dollars in federal School Improvement Grants, the city announced this week that it would turn over the reins of 14 schools to nonprofit Education Partnership Organizations. But with the start of the school year just weeks away, those groups say that much of their first year will be spent assessing needs and adding support, not making drastic changes. “Whenever you’re in a position of partnering, you’re always balancing the need of that sense of urgency with the idea that there is a certain risk or downside to, say, overhauling the master schedule two weeks before school starts,” said Doug Elmer, the director of Diplomas Now, which will manage Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn and Newtown High School in Queens. The nonprofits put in their bids to take over schools — where they'll control everything from curriculum to hiring to budgeting — in May. But after a delay while the city and teachers union hammered out a deal over teacher evaluations in the struggling schools, the groups learned only in the last two weeks that the city wanted them to become EPOs. And they found only just this week which schools they would take over. The city had asked the schools and organizations to rank each other, then paired them off. "It was a little bit of a flurry," said Sheepshead Bay Principal Reesa Levy of the matching process. But she said she was excited to work with Diplomas Now. "We're actually thrilled. I think maybe this will give us that extra push." The federal government has promised up to $2 million a year for three years for the restart schools.
New York

Church policy could complicate city's new sex ed requirements

Public schools located in former Catholic school buildings will have to find another place to teach newly required sex education. Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott surprised principals last night with the news that sex education will be mandatory in middle and high schools starting this year—a decision the New York Civil Liberties Union called "a great step forward for students' health." For schools that operate in space leased from the Archdiocese of New York, the new requirement could induce a scheduling headache. A Department of Education spokeswoman, Barbara Morgan, confirmed that those schools would have to conduct the sex education lessons off-site in accordance with the archdiocese's longstanding policy prohibiting sex education in space that it owns. As Catholic schools have lost students in recent years, the archdiocese has closed dozens of schools, including 27 this year. The city has then rented some of those buildings to relieve its own space crunch. Last year, when the city decided to rent the former Saint Michael’s Academy to house the Clinton School for Artists and Writers, it noted that students would have to return to the school's previous site for sex education. Fran Davies, education spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said today that church officials were still researching the issue. Most public schools housed in rented former Catholic school space are elementary schools, which are not affected by the new requirement. But at least a few middle and high schools, like West Brooklyn Community High School and El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice in Williamsburg, will have to make other plans if they haven't already.
New York

City billing teacher-sharing as a way to keep arts positions filled

More than 50 schools have signed up for a new matchmaking program to help them pool positions. The Department of Education has created a centralized process for principals looking to share teachers with another school —having a teacher work a few days a week at one school, and the rest of the week at another. In a notice to principals, the city said sharing teachers "may be a particularly efficient way to provide arts instruction." In the process's first month, 38 schools have indicated interest in gaining a shared teacher. Eighteen of the schools are looking for an art, music, or dance teacher. Another 28 schools have indicated that they have someone to share, including nine arts teachers, according to DOE spokeswoman Barbara Morgan. It's a positive step toward providing more students with access to the arts, according to Richard Kessler, director of the nonprofit Center for Arts Education. But he's not convinced principals have the support they need to share teachers effectively. Splitting teacher schedules presents a logistical challenge for the principals who pay their salaries and teachers who might have to travel. Kessler said those logistical difficulties are one reason why the practice has become rare after being relatively common in the 1980s. "The majority of principals just don't know how you share faculty from school to school," Kessler said, adding that he did not know of any schools currently sharing arts teachers. “There was a reason why it disappeared — it gets tricky traveling from one school to another. But in tough times, this is certainly better than nothing."
New York

Cuts cost a gym-less school its physical education teacher, too

New York

As closure looms, Columbus teachers plan curriculum revamp

Christopher Columbus High School students wait to receive their diplomas at graduation in the Lehman College auditorium.Tamjid Chowdhury, this year’s valedictorian of Christopher Columbus High School, said in his graduation speech that the fight to save his school from closing had ironically provided some of his favorite memories. Tamjid Chowdhury, this year’s valedictorian of Christopher Columbus High School, said in his graduation speech that the fight to save his school from closing had ironically provided some of his favorite memories. "It was one time I was awed by the sense of unity in the school,” he said of the rallies. For teachers and staff at the Bronx school, another year under the threat of closure has ended with stories of coming together to improve. The unity extended beyond protests at public meetings. Without anyone asking them to, a group of teachers at the school spent the year huddling together to redesign the school's curriculum. “We knew if anything good was going to come out of this year, we would have to generate it, and we would have to execute it," said Christine Rowland, an English teacher who also works for the UFT. City officials tried to close Columbus this year and last year, and they want Columbus phased out by 2014 to open a new school in the building. Teachers have tried to save the school multiple times by rallying behind efforts to convert Columbus into a charter school, and Columbus remains at the center of the lawsuit filed by the teachers union and the NAACP to stop school closures. “It’s a really big blow to our psyche,” said Larry Minetti, an art teacher who has taught at Columbus for 16 years.
New York

At Grady, transformation funds change school's look and feel

New York

As Walcott watches, AP stats students scrutinize school metrics

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott listens to a student presentation on their school's progress report. Statistics students at a Brooklyn high school took an unusually high-profile final exam today: They presented an analysis of the city's school report cards to an audience that included their principal and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. Their teacher, Eleanor Terry, had invited the Chancellor via email, hoping to put together an official audience for her Advanced Placement statistics students at the High School for Telecommunication Arts and Technology. The school earned an A on its most recent progress report. But that didn't stop students — who wore buttons depicting their statistics class mascot, the "normalcurvasaurus" — from scrutinizing the way their school was graded. They examined technical issues including bias in survey questions, the way students are broken into deciles by their eighth-grade test scores, and how different scores were weighted to come up with their school’s final grade. The students peppered their presentations with recommendations for Walcott, ranging from offering the student surveys online to factoring a school’s size into its grading. Walcott spent more than an hour scribbling notes during the presentations. When students described difficult experiences in freshman physics classes and adjusting to high school, which they said could affect the student progress section of the report, Walcott asked, “Should we be doing something different freshman year?” “The kids were unbelievably impressed that he said he would come. And I can’t say my reaction was any different,” Principal Phil Weinberg said.