Campers ask their mentors about college. <em>Photo: Kelly Vaughan</em> "The cool thing about teamwork is it can translate to any part of your life," NY1 host and reporter Budd Mishkin says, concluding a story about Michael Jordan's 1995 game-winning assist in a match against the Knicks. A roomful of lanky adolescents in blue and grey jerseys listen intently, occasionally interjecting good-natured jokes into Mishkin's talk. Seated among them are adult mentors, who come every evening for a week to play basketball, eat dinner, and participate in leadership activities with the youth at the 5-year-old Hoops & Leaders Basketball Camp in the West Village. About 40 youth and 40 mentors are participating in this year's camp, held at the Tony DaPolito Recreation Center, and although the camp is technically only for boys ages 13-16, this year's group includes one young woman and a female mentor, according to director Justin Weir, who says the camp tries to pick boys with potential who don't make it into academic prep programs or elite sports camps. "What happens to good kids who are trying their hardest in school and basketball and are superstars in neither?" Weir asks. "Those are the types of kids that we want to be in our program: the kids who don't get picked but still have value and potential to blossom into amazing people if given the proper attention."
With the 2002 law granting control of the city's schools to the mayor set to expire in less than a year, discussion about school governance in New York City is getting serious — and parents and educators are invited to share their thoughts tonight at a forum in Brooklyn. Photo by p_a_h For the last year, parents, educators, and community activists have weighed in on what the State Assembly should do when the law sunsets in July 2009. Some, including many in the current education administration, believe the law should be renewed as it is currently written. Others are advocating for a complete return to community control of schools, saying that mayoral control has shut out parent and community voices in school leadership. And still others have developed proposals for revisions to the law that would institute checks and balances on a mayor-controlled school system. But until recently, it wasn't clear how these wide-ranging proposals might gain traction. Now, members of the State Assembly have turned their attention to the mayoral control question as they gear up to tackle it in the upcoming term. Tonight, the Senate Democratic School Governance Task Force is holding its second of five hearings on mayoral control, at Brooklyn Borough Hall from 5 to 8 p.m. Hosted by Martin Connor, a state senator from District 25, which covers Lower Manhattan and much of the waterfront neighborhoods in Brooklyn from Greenpoint south to Carroll Gardens, the hearing is among the first organized by members of the governing body that is actually tasked with addressing the law. Democrats are considered likely to take control of the State Senate this fall; in a recent Quinnipiac University poll, 52 percent of likely voters said they hoped Democrats would win control, compared to just 32 percent who said they wanted Republicans to retain control.
The graduation rate of students with disabilities continues to be a dark spot on the school completion picture in New York State. Statewide, only 5 percent of students with disabilities earn a Regents diploma in four years, and in New York City, only 20 percent of students with disabilities graduate in four years with a Regents or local diploma, according to the data the state released yesterday. Also alarming is the proportion of students with disabilities statewide who are included in the 4-year cohort data as receiving an IEP diploma: 12 percent.
Graduation rates statewide are improving — they now average nearly 69 percent in four years — and in New York City, the 4-year graduation rate has exceeded 50 percent for the first time, for students entering 9th grade in 2003, according to data released this morning by the State Education Department. The state calculated both June and August graduation rates for the first time this year, finding that an additional 3.5 percent of New York City students graduated after completing summer school in 2007. And a fifth year of high school added 10 percentage points to the city's graduation rate for students who were in 9th grade in 2002, education officials noted.
Yesterday, LA, Denver, and Houston. Today, Baltimore, DC, Chicago. The tour continues... First stop, Baltimore. Maryland School Assessment test results - proficiency levels only - are available in a giant PDF report. But the state DOE saves the day with a data navigator that lets you check off groups you're interested in and view graphs of proficiency data based on your choices. Two screenshots should give you a sense of the range of data available here. Screenshot of the Maryland Report Card data tool. Screenshot of county-level demographic data.
In reflecting on transparency in government, I thought I'd take a look around the country at a few other urban school districts to see how they make data available to the public. Are there school districts out there that are models for all in terms of making data accessible? Today, LA, Denver, and Houston. Tomorrow, DC, Chicago, and Baltimore. If there are other cities you think I should look at, leave a comment. Next week, we'll see what users in each of these cities have to say about the availability of data - if you're from one of the featured cities and can provide perspective, please email me. Also, what tools would be most helpful to you as someone interested in education? In exploring each site, I looked to see what information is available, in what format, how quickly I found it, and whether special tools were available to help me navigate the data and answer my own questions. Please keep in mind that since I'm not from these other cities, I'm a "naive user" of these sites, perhaps similar to a parent or community member interested in but not expert at finding what's out there. If I've missed anything on any of the sites I visited, let me know so I can update this. Screenshot of California's STAR system Starting out west, I spent a few minutes at the LA Unified School District homepage, which relatively quickly led me to the California Department of Education's Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) system, a tool that allows you to search at different levels (county, district, school), by subgroup, and view or download tables of information. Both mean scale scores and the percentage of students at each proficiency level are reported. What's problematic is that to compare subgroups or years, you have to create separate reports for each category you want to compare (e.g., first request 2006 data, then request 2007 data, then compare on your own); the tool would be immensely more powerful if it allowed you to select two or more subgroups or years for comparison. Summary tables comparing different subgroups and different years are available with the 2007 press release, but only for some kinds of data (proficiency statistics are compared but not scale scores, for example).
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at yesterday's rally. The atmosphere at the rally for a new middle school at 75 Morton St. yesterday was more like that of a festival than a protest. Supporters arrived on stilts, manned a lemonade and cookie stand, and tied balloons to their wrists as they celebrated the city's announcement that it would seek to preserve 75 Morton St., a fully handicapped-accessible state-owned building, as a public middle school. "I'm confident that ... very soon, we will be standing outside of this building in a different way, welcoming students," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn told the crowd of parents, community leaders, and elected officials who assembled on Morton Street in the late-afternoon sun. The building can undergo "renovation, not construction or major reconstruction," said Deborah Glick, the State Assembly representative from the neighborhood, and open as a fully wired middle school in 2009. But even though activism in District 2 appears to have been successful at the site of the rally, there is room for improvement elsewhere in the district and throughout the city, speakers emphasized. "It's not just about 75 Morton," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. "It's about your multi-million dollar capital plan." The city's next plan, due to go into effect next summer, must reflect coordination between education and city planning officials, he said.