New York

State's plan to move ELA and math tests to May upsets schools

Beginning next year, state math and reading tests will be given in May, rather than two months apart in January and March, the state decided earlier this week. But beyond the barest outline of the schedule, details about the change are still unclear. Details up in the air include when exactly the tests will be given and how results will be tabulated in time for the start of the next school year. "Work is now underway to revise current examination calendars and scoring timelines," State Education Department deputy commissioner Johanna Duncan-Poitier said in materials released this week. The schedule change is throwing schools' plans for next year into question just as teachers are leaving for the summer. Steven Evangelista, the principal of Harlem Link Charter School, said his teachers have already planned their lessons for all of next year, and finding out that the state tests are moving is forcing them to revise the plans. "At this late date, when we have already mapped out our entire curriculum and assessment calendar for 2009-10, changing the date of high-stakes tests throws a monkey wrench in our plans," Evangelista said, adding that he wondered whether getting results over the summer would give teachers enough time to use the data to inform their instruction. He said he hadn't heard about the Regents' debate before this week. In the past, some schools have focused more heavily on reading before the state test in January, then shifted their focus to math in the months before the March math test. Some schools also plan different kinds of lessons for after the state tests, when the pressure to prepare students for the exams has lifted. Even schools that shun explicit test prep, including Evangelista's, say the schedule change could pose problems for them.
New York

DOE forecasts near anarchy in schools if Senate doesn't act

As early as this Monday, Mayor Bloomberg refused to countenance the possibility that mayoral control could expire June 30, spiraling the system back to a power-share with 32 community school boards and superintendents, plus a citywide Board of Education. But with the state Senate still deadlocked, the mayor is agreeing to meet with the Manhattan borough president, Scott Stringer, and discuss contingency plans, Stringer said this morning. Department of Education officials are also burrowing into education law — and what they're describing is a school system that would become almost anarchical if the 2002 mayoral control law expires. School officials explain a chain of events that would lead to the power vacuum in a memo that is circulating inside Tweed Courthouse and City Hall. The first problem is that if the system abruptly reverts to pre-2002 status, there would be no community school boards. The pre-2002 law prevents board elections from happening until May 2010, and no one has the authority to appoint temporary members: "Therefore, community school boards will exist, but they will have no members — and will thus be incapable of taking any action," the memo says. No community school boards means no acting community superintendents, which means several crucial school matters would be left without anyone to OK them. According to the memo, the matters include filling teaching vacancies, firing school employees who commit crimes, and deciding whether to promote students to the next grade after summer school. Classroom decisions could also be affected, the memo says: "While principals have the authority to make curricular decisions, those decisions will require the superintendent's approval, and without a superintendent, it is not clear how schools can make needed instructional decisions at all." It's important to remember that these predictions are based not just on conversations with lawyers, but also probably political calculations. The department has been pushing strongly for mayoral control to be renewed, and so threatening doomsday if the Senate doesn't act is in their interest. Here's the full document:
New York

Principals are cutting positions, but no word yet on how many

New York

Randi Weingarten resigning today from city teachers union

Randi Weingarten testifying at a mayoral control hearing in February. (<em>GothamSchools</em>) Ending what might have been one of the city's worst-kept secrets, Randi Weingarten this afternoon is announcing her plan to resign as president of the city teachers union at the end of next month. Weingarten is making the announcement to members of the United Federation of Teachers right now at the union's Lower Manhattan headquarters. Before today, she had not confirmed her intention to step down, even after news of her impending departure leaked to the media. Beginning in August, Weingarten will be devoting herself full-time to the presidency of the second-largest national teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers, which she assumed last summer. A union press release (posted in full after the jump) contains praise for Weingarten's 23-year tenure at the UFT from a host of prominent figures, including Gov. Paterson, Mayor Bloomberg, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. One name that doesn't make an appearance in the press release is that of Michael Mulgrew, the union vice president who is widely assumed to be next in line for the presidency. Anna just posted a profile of Mulgrew in which she calls him "the new power broker you probably don't know." From the profile: Mulgrew also couldn’t be more different from Weingarten. Tall and apple-cheeked, he has the physical presence of Mr. Clean (both shave their heads) and a quiet charm. “Women seem to like him,” noted one union member. Still, he’s often bullish and he gained renown in the union for being one of a small number of people to stand up to Weingarten. Read the complete profile. Below the jump, read the union's press release announcing Weingarten's resignation: