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):
Mayor Bloomberg presenting a budget update in November. In response to GothamSchools' survey about how schools plan to handle the budget cuts, several principals are saying they can't begin to speculate about what they'll slash because they don't know yet how much money they'll be losing. They won't find out for a while. Their first hint will come next month, when the city presents to the City Council its preliminary budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. Principals will really be able to start planning for next year in the "late spring," DOE spokeswoman Ann Forte told me. The state's fiscal year begins April 1, so by then schools will know how much they're losing from the state and will also have a good idea of how much they'll receive in city funds. The process to arrive at the city's preliminary budget is underway now.
At a LYFE center at Urban Academy. Picture by ##http://flickr.com/photos/rreid/##Los Dragonnes## via Flickr. A report out today by the New York Civil Liberties Union says the Department of Education should bolster its daycare program for students with young children of their own. But because of budget cuts, the DOE could actually move in the opposite direction, cutting off young parents' access to free DOE-run daycare centers currently housed in 40 public schools across the city. The programs, called LYFE centers, have existed since 1982. Last year, after the city eliminated special schools just for pregnant and parenting teens, saying that the schools were academically weak, the LYFE centers became the centerpiece of the DOE's services for young parents. Now the centers could also be on the chopping block, a possibility that has one editor of the report worried. Without the LYFE centers, "the DOE would lack any real meaningful services for this very high-risk population," Galen Sherwin, director of NYCLU's Reproductive Rights Program, told me. "The outcome would be devastating." The LYFE centers have already taken a hit from the faltering economy.
One highlight of the mayoral control panel put together by the parent commission Friday night was testimony by Robert Tobias, the former city testing czar and now New York University professor. Tobias has often been quoted expressing concerns that the Bloomberg administration inflates its record of educational improvement. But the analysis Tobias presented Friday, explaining exactly what progress he thinks happened ("real" improvements in math) and what he thinks did not (any narrowing of a longstanding gap between the state and city students' scores on reading tests), was the most succinct summary I've ever heard him deliver — not to mention a striking counterpoint to the sanguine evaluations of Chancellor Joel Klein, Mayor Bloomberg, and even Caroline Kennedy. Here's what Tobias said: Tobias also tempered the fact of the improvements in math scores with a warning about score inflation, the phenomenon by which test-prepping, in his words, can "undermine" the meaningfulness of the test as an indicator of what students know, versus how well they have been prepped. (Harvard Graduate School of Education's Daniel Koretz has written the most on score inflation that I know of. For more on the topic, see this story I wrote for the Sun and these posts by Eduwonkette.) Tobias's remarks on score inflation are below the jump. Thanks to David Bellel for sending me the video.
110 Livingston Street, home of the old Board of Education, now houses condominiums. But the Board of Education lives, however quietly. Earlier this month, I wrote about all the investigations into the Department of Education that happen every year but are never publicly reported. (In 2007, the Special Commissioner of Investigations into the DOE filed almost 300 reports that never became public knowledge.) A key to the reports' remaining outside the spotlight: The only person besides the investigator who gets copies of them is the chancellor. But it turns out that there's another city group that might have the right to look at the reports: The Panel for Educational Policy, the 13-member group charged with voting on policy changes proposed by the chancellor. The logic behind that possibility is buried inside the law that created the investigator in the first place, an executive order issued by Mayor David Dinkins in 1990. Here's an excerpt from the order (PDF): (e) The Deputy Commissioner shall, at the conclusion of any investigation that results in a written report or statement of findings, provide a copy of the report or statement to the Commissioner of Investigation, Chancellor, and the Board of Education. What's the Board of Education in an age of mayoral control?