in the red

Black approval rating stuck at 17%, says NY1-Marist poll

A month’s more time in the public eye has done nothing to lift Chancellor Cathie Black’s approval rating. The number of New Yorkers who approve of her work remains at 17%, according to a NY1-Marist poll released tonight.

That’s the same place last month’s Quinnipiac poll put Black and a drop from her 21% approval rating measured by Marist last February. And for context, the 17% figure is two percentage points below Governor Paterson’s approval rating at its lowest, a number Marist described as historically low.

Approval for the public school system’s performance overall is higher, but not by very much. Only 38% of respondents said they approved of the school system’s performance, and 20% rated the schools’ performance as poor.

School performance reports divided along racial lines. While 45% of white residents polled by Marist rated the schools highly, only 36% of Latino respondents and 25% of African-Americans did the same.

Approval was higher among households with children who attend public schools. A little more than half, or 53%, said they approve of the system’s performance.

The poll results come on the heels of a disastrous report for Mayor Bloomberg’s school policies. That poll, also by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, found that public approval of the mayor’s handling of the public schools has dropped more than 20 percentage points since 2009.

Today’s poll supported last week’s report on public opinion of the city teachers union.

The poll released last week reported that 56% of respondents believed that the union’s fight to save “last in, first out” was intended merely to protect institutional seniority. Only 35% thought that the union wanted to retain experienced teachers.

Today’s poll reports that 55% or residents believe that the union “does more good than harm,” while only 35% think the opposite. Opinion on the union divided along age lines, with younger respondents showing more support: 67% of people between 18 and 30 said the union does more good than harm, compared to 43% of those over 65.

The poll also asked an unusual question: Which union is stronger — the city teachers union or the NFL Players Association? A decisive 50% of residents believe that the football league has the stronger union, while 38% responded that the UFT has got the goods.

Read the full results:
April 4th, 2011 NYC Poll Release and Tables//

weekend update

How the education world is reacting to racist violence in Charlottesville — and to Trump’s muted response

PHOTO: Andrew Dallos/Flickr
A rally against hate in Tarrytown, New York, responds to the violence in Charlottesville.

For educators across the country, this weekend’s eruption of racism and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, offered yet another painful opportunity to communicate their values to families, colleagues, and community members.

Many decried the white supremacists who convened in the college town and clashed with protesters who had come to oppose their message. Some used social media to outline ideas about how to turn the distressing news into a teaching moment.

And others took issue with President Donald Trump’s statement criticizing violence “on many sides,” largely interpreted as an unwillingness to condemn white supremacists.

One leading education official, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, followed Trump’s approach, criticizing what happened but not placing blame on anyone in particular:

DeVos’s two most recent predecessors were unequivocal, both about what unfolded in Charlottesville and whom to blame:

Leaders of the nation’s two largest teachers unions responded directly to Trump:

The American Federation of Teachers, Weingarten’s union, is supporting vigils across the country Sunday night organized by chapters of Indivisible, a coalition that emerged to resist the Trump administration. The union also promoted resources from Share My Lesson, its lesson-plan site, that deal with civil rights and related issues.

“As educators, we will continue to fulfill our responsibility to make sure our students feel safe and protected and valued for who they are,” Weingarten said in a statement with other AFT officials.

Local education officials took stands as well, often emotionally. Here’s what the superintendent in Memphis, which is engaged in the same debate about whether Confederate memorials should continue to stand that drew white supremacists to Charlottesville, said on Twitter:

Teachers in Hopson’s district return for the second week of classes on Monday. They’ve helped students process difficult moments before, such as a spate of police killings of black men in 2016; here’s advice they shared then and advice that teachers across the country offered up.

We want to hear from educators who are tackling this tough moment in their classrooms. Share your experiences and ideas here or in the form below. 

Betsy DeVos

‘Underperformer,’ ‘bully,’ and a ‘mermaid with legs’: NYMag story slams Betsy DeVos

PHOTO: New York Magazine
A drawing of DeVos commissioned by an 8-year-old starts the New York Magazine article.

A new article detailing Betsy DeVos’s first six months as U.S. education secretary concludes that she’s “a mermaid with legs: clumsy, conspicuous, and unable to move forward.”

That’s just one of several brutal critiques of DeVos’s leadership and effectiveness in the New York Magazine story, by Lisa Miller, who has previously covered efforts to overhaul high schools, New York City’s pre-kindergarten push, and the apocalypse. Here are some highlights:

  • Bipartisan befuddlement: The story summarizes the left’s well known opposition to DeVos’s school choice agenda. But her political allies also say she’s making unnecessary mistakes: “Most mystifying to those invested in her success is why DeVos hasn’t found herself some better help.”
  • A friend’s defense: DeVos is “muzzled” by the Trump administration, said her friend and frequent defender Kevin Chavous, a school choice activist.
  • The department reacts: “More often than not press statements are being written by career staff,” a spokesperson told Miller, rejecting claims that politics are trumping policy concerns.
  • D.C. colleagues speak: “When you talk to her, it’s a blank stare,” said Charles Doolittle, who quit the Department of Education in June. A current education department employee says: “It’s not clear that the secretary is making decisions or really capable of understanding the elements of a good decision.”
  • Kids critique: The magazine commissioned six portraits of DeVos drawn by grade-schoolers.
  • Special Olympics flip-flop: DeVos started out saying she was proud to partner with the athletics competition for people with disabilities — and quickly turned to defending a budget that cuts the program’s funding.
  • In conclusion: DeVos is an underperformer,” a “bully” and “ineffective,” Miller found based on her reporting.

Updated (July 31, 2017): A U.S. Education Department spokesperson responded to our request for comment, calling the New York Magazine story “nothing more than a hit piece.” Said Liz Hill: “The magazine clearly displayed its agenda by writing a story based on largely disputed claims and then leaving out of the article the many voices of those who are excited by the Secretary’s leadership and determination to improve education in America.”