wisdom of the crowds

Teachers sour on Walcott and policymakers, new surveys show

Screen shot 2013-09-05 at 7.49.45 PMTeacher dissatisfaction with policymakers in charge of the city school system hit an all-time high last year, according to survey data released by the Department of Education today.

In his second year as New York City schools chancellor, Dennis Walcott’s popularity fell to levels that rival the tumultuous 95-day tenure of his predecessor, Cathie Black. Fifty-seven percent of teachers said they were “unsatisfied or very unsatisfied” with Walcott, the highest disapproval rate for a chancellor since at least 2010.

A little more than one in four teachers expressed strong approval for Walcott.

Teachers’ perception of the Panel for Educational Policy, the controversial policy-making body that is controlled by Mayor Bloomberg, took an even sharper dive. Compared to a 40 percent satisfaction rate last year, just 26 percent of teachers said they were satisfied with the PEP this year. Since 2010, the approval rate has dropped by 20 percentage points.

The city said a record number — 985,700 — of parents, students and teachers responded to the 2013 surveys, which the department says is the second largest in the country after the U.S. Census. It came in a year of turmoil for city schools that included Hurricane Sandy, a bus strike, a failed teacher evaluation system and new anxiety-producing tests.

The results, which include individual school surveys that are used by education officials to evaluate whether a school should be closed, weren’t all gloomy for Walcott. Nearly three in four parents who responded to the survey said they approved of Walcott and the PEP.

Other highlights:

— More teachers said their school used the Danielson Framework to evaluate and give feedback on their instruction, though not as many said the feedback helped them integrate Common Core standards into their classroom.

— A little more than half of students said their classroom activities and assignments “often” aligned with the Common Core, while most other students said their schoolwork is “sometimes” aligned with the Common Core.

— Overall, the percentage of students and parents satisfied with academic expectations, communication and engagement increased. Parents were less satisfied with “safety and respect” at schools.

The citywide analysis of the survey is embedded below, and individual school results can be viewed by downloading the “2013 survey data for all New York City public schools” and tabbing through the categories listed at the bottom of the Excel document.

2013 NYC School Survey Citywide Analysis

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.”