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August 20, 2009
More Cesar Chavez test questions in ’09
The number of students at a high-performing charter school who received extra time on state reading and math tests continued to exceed statewide student averages…
July 23, 2009
Thompson says he's inclined to end "foolish" progress reports
Comptroller William Thompson called the letter grades given to city schools "arbitrary" and said he would probably eliminate them if he is elected mayor. Thompson made the remarks in an exclusive interview with GothamSchools today. The controversial reports assign each school a letter grade using a complicated formula that takes into account student test scores and responses to surveys. Critics of the reports have said that they are not statistically reliable and unfairly stigmatize good schools. Today, Thompson called the reports "foolish." "Information about schools is important," Thompson told me. "I think that we've seen how arbitrary these letter grades are and I probably would not keep letter grades."
July 21, 2009
Numbers show teacher evaluation system broken
Download pdf version of this story * Nearly 100 percent of teachers in Colorado’s largest school districts received…
July 8, 2009
New accountability chief says he'll carry on Liebman's legacy
Shael Polakow-Suransky, the city's new accountability chief. Accountability czar James Liebman is officially leaving the Department of Education, but he isn't going far. From his office at Columbia University, he will help the city win federal stimulus money to boost the very programs he pioneered during his three-year tenure. In an interview today, Liebman said he'll go back to teaching criminal law this fall. But he'll also help the department put together "the most powerful proposal" for federal innovation funds, he said. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said that New York City's accountability and teacher pay initiatives are top candidates for a $650 million grant program meant to spur innovation. Liebman is leaving behind an accountability system that has divided educators and parents. "I think [he] has forever changed the way this public school system thinks about accountability and the way public school systems around the country will think bout accountability in the future," said Eric Nadelstern, the department's chief schools officer. But some principals reacting to the news of Liebman's departure this afternoon showed relief. One laughed joyfully when she saw the city's press release at an event today. Another jokingly wrote to a fellow principal, 'No more progress reports?' Shael Polakow-Suransky, the former principal who is replacing Liebman, said the basic tools created by the accountability office would not change.
June 24, 2009
City to roll out a new "parent-friendly" school progress report
After years of criticism that its school report cards are too difficult for most parents to understand, the city is redesigning the report cards that give each school a letter grade. Starting this fall, the Department of Education will produce one-page progress reports that contain only the most important pieces of performance data about each school. The new reports are meant to deliver complicated accountability information "in a more parent-friendly way," according to Phil Vaccaro, a representative of the department's accountability office. Vaccaro presented a draft of the new report to the city school board yesterday. The "progress report family summary" has the same content but a different design from the data-packed two-pager currently produced for each school. For example, instead of having eight different numbers to describe student progress, there is just one, the proportion of students who made a year's progress in a single year. A member of the school board, Dmytro Fedkowskyj, worked with the department to develop the new reports. "We need to present them in ways parents can understand," he said, adding that parents who misunderstood the reports could make misinformed school choices. Critics of the progress reports said the family summary might actually be too simple.
May 1, 2009
Accountability bill heads to governor
“It’s kind of gone through quietly, but in the education world it’s making a big noise” was how Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, described Senate Bill 09-163 after the Senate accepted House amendments and just before it was repassed 28-5. The bill, known as the Education Accountability Act of 2009, makes substantial changes in the ways that student, school and district performance are measured and reported, in how underperforming schools are improved and will expand what information is available about school performance.
April 20, 2009
NYU is building an accountability system to measure its teachers
Robert Tobias The former testing czar at the old Board of Education, Robert Tobias, sometimes offers criticism of the accountability programs being produced these days at Tweed Courthouse. He's also been hatching an accountability system of his own — this one to study the effectiveness of teachers produced by New York University's school of education, where he now works. Preliminary results suggest that teachers trained at NYU are getting above-average results in English, but they give students no extra boost on math tests, Tobias said last week at the educational research conference Philissa and I attended in San Diego. He also found that NYU-trained elementary-school teachers produced significantly greater results for students than middle-school teachers, and that the teachers get better as they become more experienced. The effect tapers off at between five and nine years into the job, he said. Tobias's results could provide one clue about what's being found in an ongoing research project about teacher training programs in New York City. So far, that project has found that different programs produced different student results but has not named the programs that had the largest effects. The results could also be important as alternative teacher training programs like Teach For America increasingly bring into question the need for traditional programs based entirely at universities. "As a dean I want to say I want to steal these three and have them do it at my school," said Rick Ginsberg, who runs the education school at the University of Kansas, referring to the professors working with Tobias. “We’re fighting this battle all the time.”
March 26, 2009
Public advocate hopeful takes aim at DOE's spending on testing
A figure from Bill De Blasio's report showing how many teachers' salaries could be supported by each assessment expenditure. The Department of Education could foot the salaries of more than a thousand teachers with the money it spends measuring and promoting student performance, according to a report released today by City Council member Bill De Blasio. By reducing spending on developing, administering, and grading tests, and by cutting the department's media relations office, the DOE could save more than $57 million a year, De Blasio's office found. That would be enough to support the salaries of 1,038 teachers who earn an average of $50,000 a year. At today's City Council hearing about the DOE's budget, De Blasio, who is running for public advocate, told Schools Chancellor Joel Klein that he is "perplexed by the notion that assessment is somehow more valuable than front-line" school staff. The department's preliminary budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes potential teacher layoffs, but it does not call for substantial cuts to the DOE's accountability office. Klein defended spending on assessment even when budgets are tight, saying that teachers cannot do their jobs without good student performance data.
March 17, 2009
Number of city schools failing to meet NCLB standards drops
The number of city schools failing to meet guidelines laid out in the No Child Left Behind law dropped this year to 401 from 432 last year, buoyed by improvements at 58 schools that came off the last. Another 10 schools that had been failing were shut down, while 37 saw their test scores, graduation rates, and other factors that go into the NCLB calculations decline and were added onto the list. The pattern of improvement matched trends statewide, where the number of failing schools dropped to 665 from 719. The changes follow test scores last year that shot up at a rate so dramatic some researchers challenged their validity. To get off the NCLB failing list, a school must meet performance benchmarks — a combination of test scores, attendance rates, and graduation rates — for at least two years in a row. Mayor Bloomberg greeted the news as evidence that his efforts to improve the public school system are working. "This is yet another sign that our school reforms are producing real results for New York City students," he said in a statement. "In a year when many districts across the country saw increases in the number of schools needing improvement under NCLB, the number in New York City fell significantly."
March 2, 2009
Shuttered schools, high scores mean state failing list shrinks
The number of schools considered to be failing state standards dropped to an all-time low this year, both among city schools and schools across New York state, according to a new list released by the state education department today. The state has been using student test scores to make the list of schools placed "under registration review" since 1989. Every year, the state makes avoiding the list slightly harder, by raising the bar for how many students need to pass exams. Schools placed on the list risk being shut down; of the more than 300 schools placed on the list since 1989, 228 have been removed. Today's list, which includes 43 schools statewide, takes into account test scores from last school year, which skyrocketed across the state in reading and math for students between grades 3 and 8. Thirteen New York City schools improved their test scores enough to climb off the list of schools categorized as being "under registration review," while four city schools joined the list. Another three city schools would have joined the list, but are being shut down by the city. As Elissa Gootman reports at CityRoom, the Times metro blog, two of the four city schools joining the list — West Bronx Academy and New Explorers High School — are among the recent new small schools created by Mayor Bloomberg as part of his effort to improve the school system. The other schools are Boys and Girls High School and PS 230 in the Bronx. Three schools, Samuel Tilden High School, a large high school in Brooklyn, Business School For Entrepreneurial Studies in the Bronx, and South Shore High School in Brooklyn, would have been put on the state failing list but are being shut down by the city.
March 2, 2009
Paterson not convinced on assessing teachers via student tests
Governor David Paterson. (Via ##http://flickr.com/photos/doublespeakshow/2801607982/##Flickr Creative Commons##) An important story slipped by our watch late last week: Governor Paterson waded into the debate on how…
February 19, 2009
Getting an F or a D led schools to assign fewer essays, projects
When the Bloomberg administration announced it would assign every public school a letter grade, based largely on test scores, critics worried the grades would lead to a "drill and kill" approach to teaching. Forced to raise test scores, they said, schools might avoid teaching creativity and problem-solving in favor of focusing on basic skills. New research suggests that the critics worries may have come true — but the researchers don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. Jonah Rockoff, a professor at Columbia business school who has been studying the Bloomberg administration's accountability system, presented the finding today at a lunch at New York University. It's part of a paper whose central conclusion — that grading schools with D's and F's led schools to improve their test scores — was publicized last year. But the paper has many other interesting aspects, and Rockoff's research is continuing. Today, I'll stick to the "back to the basics" idea; future posts will tackle other areas of interest. Rockoff's paper draws three conclusions about schools tacked with D's and F's that lead to the "back to the basics" conclusion. In the months after getting the failing grades, these schools 1) spent less time on work that involved essays and projects; 2) saw an increase in emphasis on using test score data to make decisions about curriculum; and 3) were less likely to have teachers report that their administrators' focused on teaching quality.
February 13, 2009
After abuse, a call for school bus drivers to get new training
All school bus drivers would have to be re-trained immediately and citizens could call in concerns about individual drivers to a city hotline, if the city followed a list of demands Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum issued yesterday. The demands come on the heels of reports of school bus abuse, including a 7-year-old stranded on a bus in Queens this month, a four-year-old Brooklyn child stranded on a school bus last month, and a severely disabled 22-year-old left on a freezing school bus overnight January 1. Asked whether the city will follow Gotbaum's demands, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, Marge Feinberg, said, "We have an effective policy in place that suspends bus personnel for half a year for the first infraction and decertifies them if it happens again." According to the policy, drivers who leave children alone on a bus have their licenses suspended for 180 days. The licenses are revoked if they commit an error a second time. School officials also pointed out that two of the three most recent cases of abuse happened on private buses, not school buses run by the DOE. (The 4-year-old in Brooklyn was riding a DOE school bus.) In a press release, Gotbaum points out that while cosmetologists in the city have to register 1,000 hours of training, school bus drivers are required to put in just 10 hours of training and two three-hour refresher courses a year. She also cites a 2007 Daily News investigation that found that the Department of Education hid 225 cases of bus abuse, including one case where a bus driver beat a student with special needs. (Since then, the Department of Education has taken steps to prevent hidden abuse in the future, hiring a new chief manager of the investigative unit and a slew of experienced investigators, Feinberg said.) Gotbaum's full list of demands is below the jump.
January 20, 2009
School support organizations will be graded, too — and publicly
The organizations that schools can choose to affiliate with for bureaucratic support, like New Visions for Public Schools, the Knowledge Network, and the Empowerment network, are being graded this month for their effectiveness. The Department of Education's accountability office is writing the grades of the "school support organizations," and Chief Schools Officer Eric Nadelstern said the outcome will eventually be made public. "It will definitely be public before schools have to make the selection as to which SSO they want to affiliate with next year, so that parents and teachers and principals can make that decision on the basis of all sorts of factors," Nadelstern said yesterday. The school support organizations were created last year as part of an overhaul of the school system's bureaucracy. Rather than being forced to report to the superintendent in their neighborhood, schools can shop around among a set of support organizations to decide which bureaucracy they prefer. This is the first year that the support organizations will be graded, since they've now amassed a year's worth of a track record in student test scores. Nadelstern said that the accountability office, headed up by Columbia law professor Jim Liebman, is basing its grades on both schools' progress report cards and on their quality reviews, written reports about schools based on in-person interviews and observations. The report cards have come under heavy criticism for being statistically problematic, if not meaningless.
November 18, 2008
Geoff Canada: Fixation on "outcomes" will hurt poor communities
Geoffrey Canada (via Flickr) Harlem Children's Zone founder Geoffrey Canada has been a big supporter of Joel Klein and Mayor Bloomberg's education initiatives. So I was surprised yesterday to hear Canada criticize the kind of focused attention on test scores that has characterized their leadership. The education world's focus on basic academic results could put valuable programs at risk as the economy sours, Canada warned yesterday during a conference hosted by TC's Campaign for Educational Equity. He said he worries that the recession will hit poor communities such as Harlem the hardest, as government and private funders slash budgets for education and other services. Canada said that distress could be compounded by the education world's fixation with math and reading performance because other subjects could get short shrift when funds are scarce. "Unfortunately, so much of the discussion is around academic outcomes that people are going to make some false choices," Canada said. "We are going to create a hole that we are not going to be able to dig ourselves out of.”
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