The city office that investigates the Department of Education today released a statistical summary of its last year's work, showing that it completed more investigations in 2008 than in any other recent year. According to the report (pdf), the Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation substantiated 327 cases out of 725 started, reflecting a slight uptick in both the number of cases opened and the number of complaints substantiated. But the office issued only 17 press releases about its investigations.
To some, it may seem that there's no way this year can be more exciting than 2008, with its protracted campaigns and historic presidential election. But with questions about governance, leadership, and funding looming large, 2009 promises to be quite the year in the New York City education world. Here are three big questions that will be answered, at least in part, in the next 12 months:
A Boston-based program that pairs adult mentors with middle school students who want to learn how to design video games or launch a business is now bringing its brand of mentoring to New York City kids. Citizen Schools, a decade-old organization that facilitates apprenticeships for students in almost 20 cities nationwide, set up shop at four middle schools this year, two each in Brooklyn and East Harlem. At each school, the organization is offering professional instruction, an after-school program, and classroom support, according to Nitzan Pelman, Citizen Schools' New York City executive director. The centerpiece of Citizen Schools' programming is the apprenticeship, in which adult volunteers spend 12 weeks teaching students about a particular subject before the students present their work to a panel of experts on that subject.
Ms. T. is blogging about her experience working in a Collaborative Team Teaching classroom. CTT classes have a mix of students in general education and special education, and each class has two teachers, one with special education certification. Ms. T is the general education teacher in her classroom. As the year draws to a close, I begin to reflect on the changes that have taken place in my teaching life throughout the last year. I left a wonderful school, with an amazing administration, and a great team of coworkers. I moved states away to New York City to spend a torturous time finding a job (but at least I found one). I have felt miserable more days than I thought possible working at this school, more days than I’d ever thought possible, period. Teaching has always been my highlight, my enjoyment. The past few months have taught me one thing for sure. It’s not always easy, and sadly, it’s not always fun. Yet, despite all the less enjoyable thoughts that come to mind when I think about the second half of 2008, I can also find some truly amazing things that have happened.
Another notable nugget from the mayoral control forum Friday came from Udi Ofer, the advocacy director at the New York Civil Liberties Union. NYCLU hasn't taken a position on the most basic question of mayoral control (should the mayor have control or should there be a school board), but the organization seems very likely to push for adding checks and balances to the Department of Education's authority. Echoing concerns that I wrote about last week, Ofer said a central problem lies in the Department of Education's peculiar position between being a state agency subject to state oversight and a city agency subject to city oversight. He gave two examples of how the dilemma plays out. The first is that the DOE, by his account, refuses to follow both the state and city versions of a law called the Administrative Procedures Act, which forces government agencies to, among other things, allow some finite public comment period before enacting new regulations. Here's his explanation (and below it I'll put his second example, the mayor's refusal to enact the City Council's Dignity in all Schools Act):