The Fordham Foundation's blog, Flypaper, is reporting that President-elect Obama will announce his education transition team either tomorrow or early next week. The blog reports that Clinton administration official Judith Winston would lead the team, which would lay the groundwork for the administration's first moves in education. I spoke to Winston at her office today and she said she couldn't comment. If she is heading up a transition team, the choice suggests that Obama is still side-stepping that little problem of figuring out where to land on the spectrum of policy positions. My understanding is that Winston is someone who knows the bureaucracy well, but not necessarily someone with a strong stance on education policy. Winston was the general counsel to President Clinton's education secretary, Richard Riley, for eight years, and Under Secretary for two of those years. Even if a transition team is named, big decisions like who will run the Education Department will likely not happen immediately. People close to the process tell me that the president-elect has not made a decision on which person to select as Education Secretary. In past transitions, that decision has taken about a month or so to make. In that department, here are the names I'm hearing, including a new surprise that I'll start off with:
The Department of Education would abandon a program it launched last year to reward schools that earned A's on their progress reports, under the budget cut proposal Mayor Bloomberg released yesterday. The program was supposed to give $30 per student to schools that earned both an A grade on the progress report and a "well-developed" score on their Quality Review. That money, which entered the school's general budget, was separate from awards given to principals and teachers in high-performing schools. But now, as part of a $180 million reduction in DOE spending ordered by the mayor, the $3.4 million earmarked to pay schools this year for their 2007-2008 performance is slated to be slashed from the department's budget. When bonuses were awarded for the first time, last January, 134 schools qualified. The number skyrocketed in the reports' second year, to more than 380 elementary and middle schools. The higher grades followed a wave of higher test scores across New York State. Even more schools could have been awarded bonuses: High school progress reports haven't yet been released. As far as I can tell, progress report bonuses are the only element of Chancellor Joel Klein's accountability initiatives that are already slated for elimination. I've posted the mayor's complete list of proposed budget reductions for the DOE below the jump. Do you see others?
Chancellor Joel Klein smiled when reporters asked him what he thought about being mentioned in yesterday's Washington Post as a possible Secretary of Education for Barack Obama. (He was mentioned twice: in a news story and in this column by Ruth Marcus.) The president of the teachers union, Randi Weingarten, who was recently named head of a national teachers union, probably had a different expression on her face. She called the mention of Klein an "old rumor" that surfaced because Klein is friends with Washington reporters who don't know the day-to-day realities of the city schools. She suggested that Klein would be a poor choice for Secretary of Education. "This is a period of time where everybody has to step up and share responsibility," she said. "One of the reasons that the teachers in New York City are deeply troubled about Joel Klein is because he’s had a history of being a lightning rod."
The New York Times reported yesterday that anxiety over an impending rezoning of the Upper West Side had families frantic about whether their assigned neighborhood school could change overnight. Last night, the parent group that ultimately gets to approve any change took a step toward eliminating the worries, recommending a scaled-down rezoning that would affect only a small number of families. Since the Department of Education first proposed rezoning the area in late September, some Upper West Side families feared being shut out of their neighborhood school, and at least one school, the Center School, railed against a plan that would require a handful of schools to relocate. In a meeting last night that was closed to public comment, the Community Education Council for District 3 recommended that the Center School vacate the building it shares with PS 199, in which classes must be held in hallways, and move seven blocks south to PS 9. Space would be made available there by relocating the citywide gifted school, Anderson, to a middle school building on West 77 Street. Center School administrators and parents oppose such a move, saying that the school has thrived in its current location, despite its tight quarters.
Principals' Weekly is the newsletter that Chancellor Joel Klein sends to principals every week, to keep them in the loop on internal policy news and updates. (Here's a workshop.) It used to be available online for the world to see. Then it disappeared. Only principals can access it on the Internet now. But we have this week's copy, and we're uploading it. Click here to read the full newsletter, in Word document form, or look below the jump for a transcription.
A year after the program was launched to a widespread "meh," the $80 million ARIS data system that is supposed to give educators and families detailed information about students' performance in school is now online, all over again! This week, principals are beginning half-day training sessions to learn how to access their students' data, and soon they will sign up two members of their staff to become in-house experts on the system. Signing up staff members is listed as a "***REQUIRED/HIGH PRIORITY***" item in this week's newsletter from Chancellor Joel Klein to principals. This launch is going to get political fast, especially in this budget climate. Many groups, including the teachers union, principals union, and an immigrant families group, have singled out ARIS as a line item that should be first on the chopping block. In terms of slicing jobs, the accountability office, which has been ballooning in size, partly in order to manage ARIS, is an easy target. (Right now the Department of Education lists nine job openings in the accountability office.) The administration will argue that without ARIS, the department could not execute its innovative initiatives.
Harlem Success Academy charter schools held mock elections. (Courtesy Harlem Success) Our first peek inside the classroom, Election Week edition, is from the Harlem Success Academy charter school network, the schools run by living-legend Eva Moskowitz. This week Harlem Success teachers organized mock elections for the students, complete with mock election booths. (See right.) And today, students reacted to Barack Obama's victory with great enthusiasm for the president-elect, according to Jenny Sedlis, a top aide to Moskowitz. Sedlis sent me some quotes she collected from students. A quick guide: At Harlem Success, "Class of" refers to the students' projected college graduation class. So a second-grader is Class of 2023. College-for-all in action! Here are the quotes: Guyonna T. (Class of 2023/2nd grade): "I think he's a strong man who can handle the world. I'm so happy I don't know what to do." Sekou C. (Class of 2022/3rd grade): "His dad is from Kenya and mine is from Mali. He made history two times. He was the first African American to win the first round and now he's won the whole thing." When asked what does that mean for you he said, "I guess that means that I can be president too." Jenni F. (Class of 2024/1st Grade): "I wish he can be the president forever."
Randi Weingarten, the president of the teachers union, and Betsy Gotbaum, the public advocate, are usually hard on Mayor Bloomberg when it comes to education budget cuts. But because the majority of school cuts announced today will come from the Department of Education's central bureaucracy, not individual schools, they have both issued cautiously optimistic responses to today's budget announcement. Weingarten's and Gotbaum's full responses after the jump. UPDATE: Maybe this will turn out to be a budget fight. The principals' union president, Ernest Logan, just came out with a statement, and it's more confrontational than Weingarten's. Weingarten said she is looking forward to working with the mayor; Logan says firmly that he opposes a mid-year cut. "Forcing another mid-year cut will hinder the progress we have made thus far," he said. And he adds: "Let’s be clear - CSA is committed to standing up for the children of this city and will continue to fight for what’s right."
DOE headquarters at Tweed Courthouse Who is getting fired and when? That's the question on everyone's mind at Tweed Courthouse today. As Elizabeth already reported, as part of the mayor's citywide budget cuts, the Department of Education is cutting 6.6 percent of its budget centrally and passing down 1.3 percent cuts to individual schools. That means 475 DOE jobs are going to be lost. The bulk of those jobs — nearly 300 — will be cut from the department's central administration, housed at Tweed. In a conversation with reporters outside City Hall this afternoon, Chancellor Joel Klein said he has already asked his senior leadership team — heads of departments and other top DOE officials — to identify positions they might eliminate. In addition, department officials are looking at "every program" to identify which are "less vital" or possible to streamline, he said. No one has yet been fired, the chancellor said, but layoffs will begin within the next few days. All of the positions will be eliminated by the end of 2008. DOE officials chose to make the majority of the department's cuts centrally because doing so is in line with the DOE's focus on children, who "didn't create the current financial crisis," the chancellor said. Still, schools will lose 1.3 percent of their budgets for this school year.