New York

After Senate standstill, Assembly will start mayoral control talks

The state Senate ground to a standstill on the question of who should control the city's public schools this week, but a consensus among members of the Assembly looks like it will be easier to come by — and it could come soon. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told New York City members this week that he will hold the Assembly Democrats' first conference on the issue next week, according to a member who was there, Mark Weprin of Queens. The conference will kick off formal talks within the Democratic conference about whether to reauthorize, revise, or scrap the 2002 law that granted control of the city's public schools to the mayor. Several Assembly members are already putting together legislation on the subject, much of it influenced by the constellation of advocacy groups that are bombarding Albany this week. A slew of Assembly members are standing behind recommendations put out by the Campaign for Better Schools, while bills in line with the recommendations of Betsy Gotbaum's commission on school governance and the Parent Commission on School Governance are said to be on the way. Assemblyman Alan Maisel of Brooklyn today introduced a bill, backed by the city principals' union, that would beef up the power of superintendents. But the conference would be the first chance for Democrats to try to work out a consensus on the issue. The bills currently in circulation clash with each other on several points. More importantly, they also clash with the position of the powerful speaker, Silver, who supports giving the mayor a majority of appointees on the citywide school board.
New York

The Smoking Gun

I've been skeptical of New York City's Teacher Data Initiative for some time.  As I've commented previously here and here, I see few ways in which the Teacher Data Reports produced via a value-added assessment of student performance on state math and ELA tests could actually lead to better teaching.  What the Teacher Data Reports do is rank teachers, and they're not even very good at that, given the unreliability of student performance.  Lurking in the background is the fear that the Teacher Data Reports will be used to evaluate teachers.  "Absolutely not," is the steady refrain from Chancellor Joel Klein. "The Teacher Data Reports are not to be used for evaluation purposes.  That is, they won't be used in tenure determinations or the annual rating process," wrote Chancellor Klein and UFT President Randi Weingarten, in a joint letter last October.  I think  that this is the primary purpose of the Teacher Data Reports, but they are being cloaked in rhetoric that describes them as a professional development tool.  It turns out that there's a smoking gun.  Today's New York Times feature story on Chancellor Joel Klein makes mention of a recently-published book by Terry Moe and John Chubb for which he wrote a book-jacket blurb, entitled "Liberating Learning:  Technology, Politics and the Future of Education."  The book has a brief section on New York City, drawn, a footnote tells us, from the public record and an interview with Deputy Chancellor Chris Cerf.  Here's what Moe and Chubb write:   
New York

A pitch to expand the city's parents' bill of rights (which exists)

While lawmakers in Albany battle over how much to limit the mayor's control of the public schools, a City Council member from Brooklyn is zeroing in on another part of the city school system he wants revised: the parents' "bill of rights" — which apparently exists! Bill De Blasio, who is running for public advocate this year, is using the bill of rights to illustrate his argument for a "bottom-up" rather than "top-down" approach to improving public schools. The current version of the list, created by the Department of Education and published on the department's Web site, includes five rights that parents have (the right to file a complaint, the right to "be actively involved") plus seven responsibilities (they must send their children to school "ready to learn," they must keep track of their children's performance, they must treat educators with respect). The version drafted this week by Bill de Blasio, a City Council member from Brooklyn, outlines 10 rights that would give parents much wider latitude to participate in policy-making (plus the crowd-pleaser right to a "reasonable approach to cellular phones.") De Blasio has been telling supporters that he would improve the city schools by using the public advocate's office as a kind of organizing arm of government that would empower parents to get more involved in improving their schools — and to supply them with the information required to do that. De Blasio explained his position at a recent fundraiser in Harlem tied to education issues that I attended, where supporters brought toys to donate along with cash for the campaign and De Blasio's two children, both public school students, made an appearance. Here's the full bill of rights, below the jump: