Outside the registration center at Brooklyn Tech Most of the kids who started school today spent last week enjoying the waning days of summer vacation. But those who moved to the city this summer or hoped to transfer from one city school to another spent at least some time at a DOE registration center figuring out where to report for classes today. The 13 temporary centers, located in schools in every borough, range in size and tone, with some centers struggling to assist a huge volume of families each day since opening Aug. 25 and others with such sparse attendance that DOE officials are able to offer each family in-depth personal attention. On Friday afternoon, about a dozen families sat scattered throughout the auditorium at the South Bronx Educational Campus, waiting to be called to register or apply for transfers for their children. Norma Nonis, director of borough enrollment for districts 7, 9, and 10, said the registration process was working quickly and painlessly at the site, which opened last year, in part because it serves comparatively few families. Before last year, the 75 families that the South Bronx site registers each day would have had to travel to Manhattan to register their children for school. At other sites throughout the city, the process was not moving so fast when we visited last week.
Maurice Jordan with his children on the first day of school. "If you know where your kids are, step up to your responsibilities and be a man," Maurice Jordan, father of Shakim, 13, and Muneerah, 5, said this morning, as he accompanied his children to school. Fatherhood, he said, is "an easy job, it's a fun job." Jordan, who says he got custody of his children last year, believes his involvement in their education has led to academic success. "Between these two, I think it's like thirty awards and certificates last year." To promote this kind of involvement, organizers from churches, community organizations, and the Office of Children and Family Services encouraged fathers — and other male relatives — to walk their children to school today as part of New York City's Million Father March. The march, sponsored nationally by The Black Star Project, the Schott Foundation for Public Education, and other organizations, aimed to highlight the importance of fathers in their children's education. At C.S. 133 in Harlem, parents arriving with their children were greeted warmly by school administrators and teachers, event organizer Melvin Aston of the Office of Children and Family Services, and City Council Member Inez Dickens. Dickens said that fathers must be encouraged to step out from their traditional behind-the-scenes roles and play a more public role in their children's lives. "We need to show them, it's all right for you to bring your child to school instead of the mother, it's all right for you to bring them to a doctor's appointment." Both boys and girls benefit from having an involved father, she added. The movement focused on one school in each borough this year, although fathers throughout the city were encouraged to walk their children to school, according to Deb Jenkins, Senior Pastor of the Faith @ Work Church, who organized the Bronx event. "When a father is present, we see that the academic outcomes are greater," Jenkins said.
Joe Biden may bed down with a teacher every night, but Sarah Palin, the woman John McCain has picked to be his vice presidential running mate, was born to two of them — her father taught middle school science and her mother worked as an education support provider in Alaska's public schools for many years. Though we know her pedigree, we don't know much else about Palin and education, especially her views on national policy issues. There's virtually nothing about schools on her official homepage as the governor of Alaska, and the policies she has supported do not seem to fall neatly into either of this year's school improvement camps: the "Broader, Bolder Approach" and the "no excuses" philosophy espoused by backers of the Education Equality Project. In fact, because Alaska's schools are so different from those in the rest of the nation — for practical reasons, there are thriving distance education and homeschooling movements, for example — Palin has had little opportunity as governor to participate in national-scale education policy discussions. Here's what little we do know:
Chicago school buses by ##http://flickr.com/photos/good_day##Today is a Good Day## With only the long weekend separating them from the first day of school, religious, political, and education leaders in Chicago are gearing up for a major protest in which more than 100 busloads of Chicago students will roll into a middle-class suburb and try to enroll in schools there to highlight unequal school funding between the two districts. Although organizers briefly offered to drop the boycott plan if the state's top Democrats agreed to back a $120 million reform initiative to benefit Illinois' lowest-performing schools, yesterday they announced that "the window has expired" and the boycott would go on. The Committee for Concerned Clergy, led by state senator Rev. James Meeks, has been developing plans all summer to bus Chicago students to Winnetka, an upper-middle-class suburb 20 miles north of the city that's home to New Trier Township High School, one of the nation's top-rated high schools. Once there, the students will try to enroll in Winnetka schools, although the district's residency requirements and state laws prohibit them from being admitted. For their part, Winnetka officials are cooperating with protest leaders and are planning to make it easy for the busloads of students to fill out registration forms. Back in Chicago, school officials are nervous about a funding formula that will cost schools $110 a day for each student who is absent during the first week of school.
Painting McDonough HS by ##http://flickr.com/people/jodyanderic/##Beurremanie## Three years ago today, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans. Since then, the city has struggled — valiantly at times, less so at others — to rebuild. As Paul Tough's New York Times Magazine cover story from two weeks ago reminds us, nowhere has the rebuilding meant such a "radical experiment in reform" as in the city's school system, where currently half of students attend charter schools, many of which are being run in the KIPP model, and many teachers come straight from college with far more energy than teaching experience.
Links to state standards, the city's scope and sequence, professional development opportunities help with DOE email, and HR information all in one place, plus news and a calendar: the city's new Teacher Page looks like a useful resource for teachers. You can use it to subscribe to newsletters from the DOE, although it looks like everyone in the system will be automatically subscribed to the Teachers' Weekly through their department email. The teaching resources section, divided by subject area, could use a little work; at the moment, it's just long lists of links, without much indication of what you might find there or how it might fit in to the city's programs. Special education includes no links to anything about Collaborative Team Teaching (CTT), Gifted and Talented doesn't include anything about the Schoolwide Enrichment Model, and in Science, the FOSS, Harcourt, and Glencoe sites, which relate directly to the city's curriculum, are mixed in with resources like Bill Nye the Science Guy. Increased communication of this kind will help teachers solve HR problems and connect to resources for themselves and their students, but it's just a small step.
PHOTO: Tajuana Cheshier/Chalkbeat TNFrancesca Martinez, left, and Alexis Noa While many teens spent their summer vacations relaxing, Francesca Martinez and Alexis Noa manned the phones and filed purchase orders at the employment office of the Henry Street Settlement, a comprehensive service provider on the Lower East Side. Noa, a senior at Manhattan's High School for Leadership and Public Service, and Martinez, a junior at Millennium High School in Tribeca, were among the 43,000 young people who this spring won an annual lottery: a job through the city's Department of Youth and Community Development's Summer Youth Employment Program. Nearly three decades old, SYEP is more popular than ever — this year receiving more than 100,000 applications for 43,000 positions — and a model for summer employment programs in cities around the country, even as DYCD officials refine the program’s structure here in New York.
The Gothamschools Time Machine The city announced today that it will open 18 "new" school buildings next week with the start of the school year. A few are brand new construction. Others are adapted from use as government offices or Catholic schools; the two high schools moving into a renovated building on Adams Street in Downtown Brooklyn, for example, occupy an old family court building. And still others are annexes to existing schools: the buildings may be new, but the schools themselves are not. Despite their different provenances, however, all of the new schools are likely to provide suitable physical conditions for teaching and learning. But what about the days when schools were disgusting? Not trash-in-the-halls gross, but diphtheria-inducing, reeking-of-dead-animals gross? Back in the late 1800s, that's how Charles Wehrum, a member of the Board of Education, characterized the city's 140 schools after surveying their conditions:
Four-Year Outcomes for the Class of 2007 When the state released graduation figures earlier this month, I wondered what the city's old formula for determining graduation rates would have said about the class of 2007. Yesterday, Edwize pointed us to a 276-page report available on the DOE's website that includes the answer to that question and much, much more. Although the state's graduation figure of 52 percent is the official one thanks to an agreement between the city and state last year, the DOE still calculated the graduation rate for the class of 2007 using its old formula, which gave credit for students graduating in August and for students completing a GED or IEP diploma rather than a local or Regents diploma. According to this formula, 62 percent of students entering the city's high schools in the fall of 2003 graduated on time, an improvement of 2.3 percentage points over the class of 2006.
Monday night, I stopped by the Teachers Unite kick-off and orientation event, interested in learning more about ways that teachers and community based organizations are working together across the city. "Public schools should and will reflect the communities they are in," said organizer Sally Lee. "The role of teachers is to work with members of the community to create an educational space that reflects the values of that community." To that end, Teachers Unite plans to partner with community based organizations to use teachers' unique knowledge and skills to strengthen the work of these organizations.
<em>Photo from ##http://biden.senate.gov/issues/issue/?id=05ff8333-5c0c-40d7-96d6-c76dca96224a##Biden's Senate webpage##.</em> "I sleep with a teacher every night," said Barack Obama's running mate Joe Biden in a Democratic primary debate in February 2007. He was talking about his wife, Jill Biden, a former high school English teacher. Has this relationship provided Biden with intimate knowledge of education issues? You be the judge. At OnTheIssues, a quick look at excerpts from speeches and debates shows Biden consistently in support of increasing teacher pay to make the profession more appealing to top undergrads. In considering merit pay, he seems to understand teachers' concerns about being evaluated fairly by administrators. And he thinks the solution to the racial and economic achievement gap is to improve early childhood education, lower class sizes and provide the best teachers to disadvantaged students. His voting record shows yes votes for many education spending measures,
What does NBA player Tim Duncan have to do with teaching? ##http://thejosevilson.com/blog/2008/08/05/a-letter-to-a-new-nyc-teaching-fellow/##It's all about the poker face, says Jose Vilson.## The start of school is fast-approaching, and teachers around the "edusphere" are offering advice to newbies. Here in NYC, Jose Vilson writes a sharp, good-humored letter to new Teaching Fellows, advising them to be humble, reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, observe other teachers, keep emotions in check, and stay out of school politics. Coach Brown, starting his eighth year in California, says it's all about doing what's best for kids, and this takes hard work, preparation, finding your own style of teaching, and knowing how to pick your battles. Don't waste your students' time, he warns: Students are some of the best judges of good teaching that exist. 95% of all students actually want to learn. They tell you in means that are not typical but will tell you immediately if you are doing it "wrong". ...However, students will always have a positive response to work they find meaningful. Jamie Huston, a high school literature teacher in Las Vegas, offers 50 Things New Teachers Need to Know.
<em>The PS 22 Chorus performing last year at the Tribute WTC Museum. Courtesy of ##http://ps22chorus.blogspot.com##PS 22 Chorus##</em> "A week from tomorrow, the games begin," Chancellor Joel Klein told an audience of a few hundred teachers at a welcome event this morning at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. Speaking of New York City students as "my kids," Klein encouraged teachers to "teach them well and they will do well on these exams." In addition to speeches by Klein, UFT Secretary Michael Mendel, Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, and others, the event featured performances by city students, including the music of the PS 22 chorus from Staten Island, double dutch by Stan's Pepper Steppers, and foxtrot, swing, and mambo by the Dancing Classrooms Youth Dance Company. Pointing to the accomplishments of his fifth grade choristers, music teacher and chorus director Gregg Breinberg told the audience, "I know many of you are entering the profession, and I just want to tell you — reach, reach, reach." Other speakers echoed that message of high expectations for students — and for oneself as a teacher. "Quite frankly, we don't have room for so-so teachers, we don't have room for that mediocrity in our schools," Deputy Chancellor Marcia Lyles said. She recalled the way her sixth grade teacher made each child feel like her favorite. Lyles honored 33 teachers chosen for the Gotham Graduates Give Back Award, a $1,000 prize given to select teachers who graduated from New York City public schools.
AP Tests by ##http://flickr.com/people/doctorow/##gruntzooki## Last week, all four of the city's major papers led their education news with previews of the first REACH NYC payout event, at which the privately funded consortium awarded city students cash prizes of up to $1,000 for scores on Advanced Placement exams. While some of the papers provided analysis of the numbers, all focused on the declining scores and suggested that the incentives program might actually have contributed to worsening outcomes for students. I want to revisit this coverage because, as with all education data, we need to ask ourselves what inferences we can legitimately make from the data we have available. First, it's important to note that last year's "incentives" were announced well over a month into the fall semester, long after students had already started courses. And many of the schools selected for the pilot, including Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem, already had strong AP track records. At least for its first year, we might better understand REACH as a "rewards" program for already-achieving students. Still, we can make some inferences about the fact that the number of top scores increased, but the number of other passing scores decreased.
Tucked in at the end of Elizabeth Green’s Sun story about Obama’s education orientation, Obama advisor Jonathan Schnur argues that dividing education policy into two camps — those who side with the “Broader, Bolder” platform and those who prefer the Education Equality Project’s — “presents a ‘false choice.’” Philissa hinted at the same point in her post about “total schools.” The more I read posts accusing "Broader, Bolder" supporters of making excuses or "Education Equality" supporters of scapegoating schools and teachers, the more I tend to agree. As an educator, it makes no sense to sit around and wait for society to level the playing field so that all your kids come into school healthy, prepared to learn, and fully supported at home. You see that you have kids who didn't benefit from good prenatal care, nutrition, early childhood education, or clean air, and who face physical and developmental challenges as a result - but what are you going to do about it? You throw yourself into your teaching, and, if you're lucky, your school comes together to tackle the other issues to the extent possible. You can work some wonders this way, but you know, deep down, that while it's not an excuse, you could do more if the background issues were addressed. As a policymaker evaluating schools, it makes no sense to ignore context.
The education blogosphere is abuzz this week with responses to Jay Mathews' most recent Washington Post column, in which he issued a call for a term other than "paternalistic schools" to describe the wave of schools, mostly charters, featured in "Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism," a new book out of the Fordham Institute. Mathews considers several terms — including "tough love schools," "achievement-focus schools," "high-intensity schools," and "tough little schools" — but says none of them successfully conveys to parent and policymakers alike all of the schools' characteristics. Other suggestions have popped up around the internet, from "relentless schools" to "elite charters." Over on her blog, Joanne Jacobs is toying with "total schooling," suggesting that the term comprises both the academic and "values" approach these schools employ. I have to take issue with Jacobs' nomenclature, because I've actually been thinking recently about the term as well, but in a somewhat different way: as an education counterpart to the notion of "total war." Total war is a modern iteration of warfare in which one side marshals all of its resources, both military and civilian, to defeat the enemy. World War II is widely considered a total war, for example, because civilians contributed to the war effort and were considered legitimate targets for military action. The theory translates imperfectly to the education world, of course, but in my mind, "total schools" would be those that marshal all of the resources of the community to defeat the "enemy" of low achievement.
How do you know when something is developmentally appropriate? asks the Science Goddess. My first thought was, I'll bet Daniel T. Willingham has addressed this one. Willingham, from the University of Virginia, writes a regular column in American Educator called "Ask the Cognitive Scientist," and sure enough, his column this summer asks, "What is developmentally appropriate practice?" Willingham writes that research has disproved some key assumptions behind the "developmentally appropriate" concept. The problem is that cognitive development does not seem amenable to a simple descriptive set of principles that teachers can use to guide their instruction. Far from proceeding in discrete stages with pervasive effects, cognitive development appears to be quite variable--depending on the child, the task, even the day (since children may solve a problem correctly one day and incorrectly the next).
With the start of the school year fast approaching, and the list of "persistently dangerous" schools released yesterday by the state, student behavior is on the mind of many educators and parents. New and returning teachers alike plan procedures and systems to help their students focus on learning, and many wonder how they will be supported as they try to create a positive classroom environment. Class rules, <em>by ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindah/113841605/##LindaH##</em> In response to last week's post about restorative justice, a reader sent me a link to the Dignity In Schools website, which includes an annotated list of resources for schools that want to implement strong, positive behavior management systems, improve family involvement, and make schools safer. Worth a look; I could imagine whole schools or grade teams coming together to study and implement some of these ideas.
The Gothamschools Time Machine When Mayor Bloomberg held a press conference in the Bronx this week to celebrate the opening of 18 new charter schools this fall, the largest number ever in the city in one year, the news almost didn't seem like news. After all, charter schools have opened in New York City every year during the administration of this mayor. But it wasn't so long ago that the city's first-ever charters opened — just nine years ago, in fact. On Sept. 8, 1999, the New York Times reported that the city's first two charters, Sisulu Children's Academy and John A. Reisenbach Charter School in Harlem, were open for business: A year ago, [the 1,000 families enrolling at the state's three charter schools], many of them among the state's poorest and most disadvantaged, would have had no choice but to go to traditional public schools. They switched because they are searching for new hope for their children, and because educators and politicians have given them faith that charter schools can cure everything that the stereotype says public schools lack: good teachers, higher test scores, discipline and safety.
City council member Robert Jackson spoke at a rally for the School Safety Act last week. Nineteen schools in New York state - including 16 from the city - were deemed "persistently dangerous," down from 27 last year, the state department of education announced today. Eight schools are new to the list, while sixteen were removed as a result of reporting fewer incidents. The list is based on the number of serious incidents relative to the number of students, and the seriousness of those incidents. Under the No Child Left Behind act, students have the right to transfer out of persistently dangerous schools, although the late-summer release of this list would seem to make transfer difficult for many families. NCLB requires that the list be released no more than two weeks before the start of the school year.
New York State has the highest local taxes in the nation, prompting Governor Paterson to propose a cap on how much property taxes can be increased for education funding. But how would a tax cap affect public education? Studies show that tax limitations decrease revenue for public services and are associated with lower student achievement and higher class sizes, according to a briefing paper by the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Research and Information Services. The briefing paper reviews more than a dozen studies and concludes that state funding does not replace local funding limited by tax caps; in fact, local funding is often used to make up for state funding cuts during economic downturns. Furthermore, tax caps affect poor families and their communities the most, widening inequality. Studies linked tax limitations with lower student achievement, both when comparing districts affected by tax caps to similar districts not affected and when looking at achievement before and after a tax limitation took effect. Also, according to a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Massachusetts' Proposition 2 1/2 made local budgets more dependent on state aid, which fluctuates along with the health of the economy. Prop. 2 1/2 took effect during the "Massachusetts Miracle," a period of rising state revenues due to economic growth; CBPP warns against enacting a similar law during a slow economy, when state funding is unlikely to make up for local shortfalls.
Yesterday's Student Safety Act rally brings to light the need to explore alternatives to policing for making schools safer. Few would dispute the need for school safety agents to handle the most serious incidents of violence, but what options exist for resolving the low-level incidents that characterize many school environments and make students feel unsafe on a day-to-day basis? Could school safety agents and others in schools play a different role in resolving conflicts? Finally, how can schools prevent problems and resolve underlying issues? This post takes a look at one possibility — expect more in coming weeks. What is restorative justice? An article about restorative justice in Rethinking Schools describes what happened when a student who broke a window at Humanities Prep in Manhattan went before the school's "Fairness Committee": During that session, the members of the committee found out that the day before he broke the window, his family received notice that they were being kicked out of their shelter and had no place to go. While this did not fully excuse his actions, we were able to discuss more fully and fairly what the consequences should be, as well as discuss more constructive ways to deal with anger. We jointly decided that he needed to give back to the school community in some way. Knowing that it would be ridiculous to ask a student who was homeless to pay for the window, we all agreed he would help answer the phone after school for a month. In the meantime, his advisor and the school social worker were able to reach out to his family and offer support. If the fairness committee had been a systematic, rigid mechanism, we would not have been able to brainstorm these solutions. "Restorative justice" refers to interventions like that conference that facilitate discussion among the offending student, those harmed by his or her actions, and others with significant relationships to either the victim or offender, such as family members. The process seeks to make the offender aware of the harm he or she has caused, take responsibility for it, and try to repair that harm to the extent possible by making reparation to the victim or community.