From an invitation advertising the retreat. Here's an interesting picture of how things happen at the Department of Education. A while ago, a source told me about a retreat he attended at a hotel in Westchester, where the Department of Education invited a bunch of education people — especially small school and charter school leaders — to a hotel for a two-day community-building experience. An invitation had promised discussion of "The Future of Our Work," including a run-down of the successes and challenges of the Bloomberg administration's school efforts. Successes included the fast expansion of small and charter schools, which the invitation concluded are out-performing traditional district schools and the reorganization of the school system with "schools at the center." Challenges included the financial "sustainability" of partner groups that assist the schools; the requirement of sharing facilities with traditional public schools; and "Human Capital development." There was also a lot of worrying about what is probably a bigger potential obstacle: The possibility that, come 2009, when the state Legislature votes on whether to keep, abolish, or alter mayoral control of the public schools, the system could be organized in a completely different way. There was no question on which side the Department of Education stood. At the end of the first day, a group that is fighting for the preservation of mayoral control of the public schools, but which has said it has no formal ties to the Bloomberg administration, spoke about its political plans. Chancellor Joel Klein also gave a speech passionately declaring that the successes that have happened would endangered if mayoral control was abolished.
In case you were not fully convinced, it appears that, yes, Teach For America is flexing its muscle to influence Barack Obama's Secretary of Education pick. The organization is concerned about the possibility that Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond, who has criticized TFA and is chairing Obama's education policy committee, could get a prominent role in the Obama administration. In a mass e-mail today, Teach For America urged alumni to "stay on top of about [sic] what is happening and not happening regarding education reform at the national and local levels." The e-mail (pasted below) also directed them to the Web site of TFA's new political group, Leadership for Education Equity, where alumni are invited to post comments on several Web sites (including this one), saying, "Decision makers do watch online reactions." We hope so! Here's the e-mail, after the jump:
A late-afternoon e-mail sent by the Department of Education yesterday means that new teachers facing termination on Dec. 5 can enter the Thanksgiving weekend with renewed hopes for a career in the city's classrooms. Called Teaching Fellows, the teachers are brought into the system with no teaching experience but gain credentials through evening university classes. About 100 90* fellows who had not been placed in classroom jobs are slated to be removed from the city if they still do not have a job by Dec. 5, a deadline that had some lobbying for more security. Yesterday, they got a little bit, in the form of an e-mail from the head of the program, who said that they can be added back to the payroll if they find positions by Feb. 3 of 2009. Those who don't find a job by then can join next fall's Teaching Fellows class, according to the e-mail, and all of the Teaching Fellows who finish out their required coursework this semester can work as substitute teachers for the rest of the school year.
Teachers at a small charter school in Brighton, Massachusetts, have decided to unionize under the American Federation of Teachers union, the Boston Globe reports. The teachers reportedly had complaints about management — which is interesting also because the school leader, Diana Lam, appears to be the same Diana Lam who was ousted as Joel Klein's first deputy chancellor in a nepotism scandal. This is a clear victory for the AFT, which has been campaigning to bring charter school teachers under its fold in New York and nationally. But is it a loss for the charter school world and, more importantly, for children? Charter leaders in Massachusetts are reacting with vocal concern, much more than I saw raised here when a few charter schools unionized. Here, charter leaders have quietly sought to counteract union efforts to organize teachers, offering information on the downsides as well as the up-sides of unionization, but supporters have also welcomed warmly a unionized charter school, Green Dot, to the Bronx. The Globe quotes the school's board chairwoman, Stephanie Perrin
Andy Rotherham at Eduwonk highlights two writing assignments, both given to seventh-graders, with widely different levels of difficulty. As Rotherham says, this is what wonks mean when they worry about an "expectations gap." I'm highlighting this because we would like to collect similar comparisons from New York City. What does student work look like at your school? What do the assignments look like? Send us your stuff so we can start comparing. We're happy to keep you and your students anonymous, as long as you give some identifying information (grade, district, public/private, charter/traditional public, large/small). The first seventh-grade assignment:
Lots of state education funding news today. First, Governor Paterson removed his proposal to enact mid-year cuts. From a letter he sent to school leaders today: While school aid reductions remain on the table, it is unlikely the Legislature will consider them any time soon. Therefore, we would be well into the final quarter of our fiscal year and even further into the school year before any action would likely occur. So mid-year is off the table, but Paterson says that means cuts next year will have to be much worse; the state simply cannot afford to ramp up school spending as it had been doing, he wrote. The Campaign for Fiscal Equity has already pushed out a response to this letter. The group, which led the 14-year-long lawsuit asking for more funding for New York City schools, asks Paterson to find ways to raise revenues before cutting budgets. One idea is to raise income taxes on wealthy New Yorkers. The full letter is below the jump, and for a review of all planned budget cuts, see my cheat sheet here.