Chelsea families have been organizing for weeks to oppose a city plan to relocate their middle school. But city school officials say no such plan has ever existed. In fact, they say they never even made a formal proposal to move the Clinton School for Writers and Artists, a small school currently sharing space with an elementary school on West 21st Street. The apparently mistaken idea has its roots in the popular school's desire to expand. Department of Education officials suggested moving Clinton to PS 33, a nearby, lower-performing elementary school that has classrooms to spare. But Clinton's principal, Jeanne-Marie Fraino, convinced DOE officials that the move would not be good for her school, so they dropped the idea, DOE spokesman Will Havemann told me today. "We have no intention of moving Clinton for Fall 2009," Havemann said. The news has not gotten to Clinton parents, who are sending frenzied e-mails in advance of a meeting tomorrow of the Community Education Council for District 2, the elected parent council that is supposed to advise the DOE on school siting decisions. "We should dress in red so we can make our presence felt," read one e-mail sent to Clinton parents.
Has President Obama finally picked a side in the education wars? Three prominent New Yorkers are worrying that he is at least leaning — and that it's not in the right direction. Deborah Meier, the respected small schools pioneer, said President Obama's appointment of Arne Duncan as education secretary "leaves me sad." Today, Diane Ravitch, the NYU historian and Meier's blogging partner, described Duncan as "Margaret Spellings in drag." "This is not change I can believe in," she wrote in Politico. And on Saturday, Ann Cook, another small-school movement doyenne, said she is also concerned about Obama's choice of Duncan. All three women sympathize with the "Broader, Bolder" manifesto, which argues that schools alone cannot be expected to close the achievement gap and whose members are more suspicious of popular innovations such as charter schools and test-driven accountability systems. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein leads another camp, which strongly supports test-based accountability, the No Child Left Behind law, and charter schools. Klein's Education Equality Project circulated a rival petition. Obama made a point of not selecting a side in the debate. He chose two top education advisers, one from each camp. And he touted his chosen education secretary, Duncan, who had signed both petitions, as a pragmatist. But in the last few weeks, concerns about Duncan have begun to surface.
As I continue to visit charter schools in Manhattan, I am struck with the prevalence of arrangements in which there are two teachers in a classroom. The classrooms themselves often have between 20 to 30 children, but the kids are frequently split into two groups or some other arrangement in which they seem to be getting more attention than the typical single-teacher approach. A few thoughts on this: 1. Aaron Pallas wrote yesterday "One of the truisms about class size reduction is that, if the student population stays constant, the only way to reduce class size is to increase the number of classes, which requires more classroom space." This makes sense to me, but is the goal class size reduction, i.e. reducing students per foot of classroom space, or is it to reduce the student-teacher ratio in classroom settings? Is class size important for reasons beyond the student-teacher ratio in classroom settings? How important are these other reasons? 2. In part, charter schools are able to afford lowering the student-teacher ratio because they generally employ younger teachers and they don't participate in the UFT benefit plan. Since most charter schools roughly follow the UFT salary scale, they can't afford to compete with salaries for the most senior teachers.
Part of the flier the union sent out today. In its campaign to unionize a KIPP charter school in Brooklyn, the national American Federation of Teachers union has a new target: other teachers in the wide KIPP network. The AFT today reached out to KIPP teachers from San Jose to D.C. to Boston, asking them to join an e-mail campaign to urge the charter network's co-founders to recognize the union. The saga began earlier this year, when 15 teachers at the Brooklyn school, called KIPP AMP, told school officials that they want to form a union with the help of the local United Federation of Teachers. They said a union would help them feel more secure in their jobs and have a stronger say in building their school. KIPP leaders, who have traditionally touted their freedom from teachers unions as a strength, because it allows them to hire and fire as they please, could have recognized the union and worked with it. Instead, they have hedged — and even indicated they might fight back against the teachers or drop their affiliation with the Brooklyn school. A state labor board is now considering the teachers' petitions. (And the group of teachers, meanwhile, has swelled to 16 from 15.) The fliers sent today ask KIPP teachers to send e-mail messages to KIPP's co-founders, Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg, asking them to recognize the union — and offer teachers tips on how they could form a union themselves. Titled "BE NICE," a riff on the KIPP motto, "Work Hard. Be Nice," the fliers narrate the story of how Levin and Feinberg founded KIPP 14 years ago. "They put good ideas together with hard work and a relentless drive," the flier says. "They also worked for supportive administrators who gave Dave and Mike the power they wanted to start a new program." The flier goes on: Today in Brooklyn, a dedicated group of KIPP teachers and parents want the same thing and they're forming a union and PTA to have a stronger voice. They're asking for the power to add their own knowledge to the program and to sustain the school's success. Full flier is below the jump.