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June 26, 2015
What did you learn this school year?
With the year at an end, we asked some Chalkbeat readers to tell us — and they had some great answers. We'd love to know yours, too.
A New Challenge
September 8, 2014
For unaccompanied minors, the school year begins with uncertainty
Hundreds of minors who have fled violence in Central America will start school this fall with the question of their immigration status looming overhead.
July 1, 2014
As Columbus closes, its last class celebrates a bittersweet graduation
More than 140 under-performing schools have closed since the Bloomberg administration began phasing schools out early in his tenure. Christopher Columbus High School is one of 18 to graduate its last class this year.
August 9, 2013
The Envelope, Please: Checking My Common Core Math
Here’s the dirty little secret: No one truly understands the numbers. We are behaving as though the sorting of students into four proficiency categories based on a couple of days of tests tells us something profound about our schools, our teachers, and our children.
August 2, 2013
Big Schools Questions That Need Candidates’ Answers
New York's school system is too complex, our students too diverse, for yes/no answers to our most pressing problems. In electing someone to govern, rather than merely win, mayoral candidates should be made to answer hard questions to earn their place in City Hall.
July 18, 2013
When My School Failed, Nelson Mandela Re-Inspired Me
On the occasion of Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday and Mandela Day, celebrated worldwide, GothamSchools is collecting tales from New York City schools about the former president of South Africa. Jeniffer Montano met him in 2009 when she was a student at Jill Chaifetz Transfer High School. Nelson Mandela, the man, the leader, the hero, had, for a brief moment, acknowledged me. That simple handshake changed my whole life. If I could do something worthy enough to be placed in front of Mandela, then surely I could achieve anything.
July 18, 2013
Independent Study Spurs Unlikely Meeting With Mandela
On the occasion of Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday and Mandela Day, celebrated worldwide, GothamSchools is collecting tales from New York City schools about the former president of South Africa. Rabih Ahmed is a college student who met Mandela in South Africa when she was a ninth-grader at Bronx Guild High School. Had I not traveled to South Africa during my freshman year of high school, I wouldn’t be the conscious and educated young adult that I am today.
July 15, 2013
Reading Closely For Connection In The Common Core
The Common Core’s reverence for the text as “the master class,” as chief creator David Coleman said in a 2011 speech, means that students’ personal interpretations are deemphasized — and even denounced. That particular pendulum swing has me concerned because, in my experience, students must also bring their own perspectives and experiences to the text if they are to read critically.
June 21, 2013
Toward A Broader Definition Of Teacher Excellence
A few days after a new teacher evaluation system made headlines in New York, I was honored as one of 50 finalists for the Department of Education's Big Apple Awards, designed to “recognize the city’s best teachers and support a system-wide conversation about excellence in the classroom." ... But couldn’t the Department of Education do more to honor not just 50 of “the city’s best” but the great majority of city teachers who work hard for their schools and students every single day?
June 6, 2013
Broker Like a Champion
I’ve been a Doug Lemov devotee for a couple of years now, but I never expected his lessons for teachers would also apply to apartment-hunting until I was racing around Brooklyn with real-estate brokers during a sticky Memorial Day weekend.
May 21, 2013
If NYC’s Common Core Test Scores Mimic Kentucky’s
Until now, only Kentucky has administered state assessments aligned with the new Common Core standards, and the results were frightening. ... I’ve made some projections of New York City’s likely performance on the new state assessments, based on what happened in Kentucky.
May 10, 2013
Having A Dream, And A Dream Director, In High School
It is so easy to feel defeated in high school, so it is incredibly powerful to know that there is someone in my school whose full time job is to support my dreams and believes in me.
April 24, 2013
The Trouble With Not Releasing State Test Items
Discussions about the content and quality of New York State's Common Core-aligned assessments are hamstrung by the state's decision not to release test items to the public.
April 22, 2013
A Principled Defense Of Standardized Testing
Some of the criticism that has been directed toward the latest state tests has been misplaced. Understanding basic principles of test design makes it possible to see that the tests are doing their best to accomplish a steep, socially important task.
April 12, 2013
How Student Work Can Illuminate Teaching
Sometimes, after a discouraging week, I sit down to correct homework and am enlightened, intrigued, and moved by what I read. For this reason, the opportunity to showcase and discuss my students’ work comes as a great treat.
April 9, 2013
On The Decision To ‘Out’ A Public School Parent Activist
After some of our readers criticized our decision to publish a story about parent activist Leonie Haimson's decision to send her younger child to private school, we asked Kelly McBride, a media ethicist, to evaluate our reporting and promised to publish her assessment, no matter what she concluded. This is what she said.
April 4, 2013
What I’m Thinking As Common Core Math Tests Near
Teachers and students feel very worried that they do not know what the tests will look like this year. My students read in the news that scores will drop this year and that the test will be harder, but when they ask for reassurance, we don't have answers to give them.RSVP now for "Adding It Up," a discussion of the new Common Core standards in math, coming April 9.
April 1, 2013
An Academic Probation Officer’s Peril And Promise
I remember so vividly the anticipation of getting my grades each term in the mail, tearing off the perforations to reveal whether or not my all-nighters were worth it. Now, even though grades are available in an instant and perforated paper is a thing of the past, I have that same anxiety for my students each time they send me their grades online.
March 14, 2013
Broadway In El Barrio (And The Bronx) For A New Era
When I first saw "In The Heights" on Broadway five years ago and found a stage packed full of performers who looked exactly like the students I teach, telling stories that Lin-Manuel Miranda could have overheard in our school's hallways, I knew our students' response to the show was going to be epic.
March 5, 2013
New Social Studies Framework Needs Improvement
While the state's proposed high school social studies curriculum "framework" in some ways represents a step forward, it also falls into longstanding habits that have not been conducive to strong social studies teaching and learning.
February 28, 2013
Learning My Students’ Stories, And Sharing My Own
A storytelling program illuminated strengths and aspirations I knew my students had but did not previously have a way to express. The StoryCorpsU lesson plans allowed me to learn that Jose wants to be a pilot, Christian’s family owns a farm in the Dominican Republic, and Jennifer has studied Jiu-Jitsu and has a green belt in karate.
February 25, 2013
19 Months Of Stalling By The NYC Education Department
Might Joel Klein, in the waning days of his tenure as chancellor in 2010, have put in place a NAEP test prep initiative for the Spring 2011 NAEP administration in New York City? I don’t know. But I figured I could ask. So in July 2011, I filed a request for public records with the New York City Department of Education.
February 19, 2013
Celebrating 10 Years Of Creative Learning On The Stage
Ten years ago I was in a trailer behind the church on Webster Avenue in the South Bronx where my school used to rent classroom space, staring at the bored, glazed-over faces of the kids in the first theater class I had ever taught.
February 15, 2013
Just How Many Ineffective Teachers Are There In NYC?
How many New York City public schoolteachers are so incompetent that they should be fired? That’s the $250 million question that must be addressed by both sides wrangling over what kind of teacher-evaluation system the city is going to build.
February 13, 2013
After One Space Shift, Our School Contemplates Another
Even if the negative consequences of sharing space are unintended, they are deep and wide — and can truly change a school. I’ve seen it happen, and so have my students.
February 6, 2013
Using The Boy Scouts To Advance Inclusion In My Class
Recently, when I picked my second graders up from lunch, several of the girls rushed toward me in a tizzy. “Ahmed and Mohammed told us we couldn’t sit at their table at lunch because we’re not Boy Scouts,” they reported indignantly. I dropped my jaw in front of the offending boys, put my hands on my hips and said the words that I hope inspire some sort of dread amongst my little ones, “We will have to talk about this when we get back to the classroom.” Now, as a fourth-year elementary school teacher in a public school in Brooklyn, I am no stranger to lunchtime drama. No matter how much work I do toward creating a positive classroom community and a supportive learning environment, all bets are off when my students enter the lunchroom. Typically, my co-teacher and I brush off these cafeteria skirmishes by encouraging our students to deal with their issues during lunch and not bring them back into the classroom. But every now and again a problem pops up that needs to be addressed with the entire class back upstairs in our room. The Boy Scouts issue certainly merited further discussion.
January 25, 2013
Delving Into John Stuart Mill With My Students
Teachers need time to read and think, even if they have a strong background in their subject. Certain works and concepts reveal their meanings over the years; on the other hand, teaching is one of the best ways to delve into them. Not only that, but such delving will inform the very practice of teaching.
January 24, 2013
On Picking Up Speed After Coasting To College
While it is important for students to be told that they will be successful in college, it is equally important to remind them of the changing academic expectations that will be placed upon them.
January 18, 2013
City Could Ease Strike’s Financial Burden On Families
The Department of Education will begin helping families who cannot afford to wait to have their transportation costs reimbursed during the school bus strike, the department's top special education official told the Citywide Council on Special Education Thursday night. ... This sounds like a great partial solution. But it does not solve the fact that this strike has put unnecessary stress on over 150,000 students, including 52,000 with disabilities, and their families.
January 16, 2013
Toward An Equity Framework For Teacher Evaluations
In the debate over teacher evaluations, the city and teachers union are both missing a major issue: whether and how a new evaluation system would advance educational equity and opportunity for the city’s 1.1 million students.
January 14, 2013
Improving Teachers And Principals Go Hand In Hand
The New York City schools’ current administrative structure — with networks, clusters, and community superintendents — results in principals not having an immediate boss with a manageable number of schools and the authority to hold them accountable for the skillful support and evaluation of teachers. ... This must change before teachers will feel safe with the innovative evaluation practices being proposed.
January 11, 2013
Failing The Stuyvesant Test
Use of the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test as the sole criterion for admission to New York's elite high schools perpetuates a political moment long since past.
December 28, 2012
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December 18, 2012
On The Revolving Door Into (And Out Of) The Classroom
Instead of disparaging transient educators, we need to work with them. We can capitalize on the energy of eager, talented college graduates: If we rebuild the system, we could complement — and support, rather than dissolve — the career pipeline towards becoming a full-time educator.
December 12, 2012
Cultivating The Next Generation Of School Leaders
One of the Bloomberg administration’s first big education policy moves was to create a fast-track principal training program that in its early years recruited heavily from outside the school system. Now, in the administration’s final year, that program — which drew fierce criticism and produced mixed results — is smaller and the Department of Education is investing in programs to develop potential principals from within the city's teaching corps. Here, the department’s chief academic officer explains why the department is looking inside itself for future school leaders. By engaging strong educators early in their careers, we can cultivate their leadership skills as they take their first steps toward school leadership.
December 7, 2012
An Embarrassment of Riches (Or Why Comparisons Fail)
The Harvest Collegiate High School that I helped to open in September is the result of an inspirational plan written by a brilliant principal, deep and thoughtful work and planning by a team of passionate and experienced educators, and the incredible courses imagined by our teachers. Our school can be proud about these accomplishments. But Harvest is also equipped with a number of advantages, some born of current school politics and others of luck, that will give us a huge leg up on other schools in New York City.
December 4, 2012
Nurturing The Next Generation Of NYC Bike Advocates
The city already has a budget to provide physical education to teenagers. There’s no reason cycling can’t be part of the curriculum.
December 3, 2012
Researcher: Class divide extends to HS admissions
The Useable Knowledge series brings education research to GothamSchools readers. In this installment, Madeline Pérez presents her research into how families approach the high school admission process. Eighth-graders must submit high school applications by Dec. 10, a week from today. A public high school admissions process that serves mostly low-income people of color but is based on white, middle-class assumptions must be redesigned. Providing school choices — such as by creating more small high schools or welcoming charter schools — is not enough to improve the prospects of students’ high school placements.
November 29, 2012
Losing My Fear Of Having To Handle College Alone
“No one will be there for you. At college you are on your own.” ... Soon, it became my biggest fear for attending college. ... But after the first week of being a freshman at the University at Albany this fear went straight down the drain. I met more than enough people willing to lend a helping hand and a shoulder to lean on.
November 27, 2012
Harvest Collegiate: A Small School Where Nothing’s New
When I meet educators from across the country and tell them about my new school, they ask one question more than any other: “What is new and innovative about Harvest?” I am increasingly comfortable and proud of the following answer: absolutely nothing.
November 20, 2012
What’s Worked & What Hasn’t In Bloomberg’s Schools
A former top Department of Education official says the next mayor should keep some Bloomberg administration school policies but do away with many others. On the hit list: the Innovation Zone, new learning standards, and using the school board as a rubber-stamp for proposed policies. The next mayor and schools chancellor will have their work cut out as they endeavor to provide all of our children with the kind of world-class education required for success in the 21st century. Being able to differentiate between what has worked and what has not would be an excellent place to begin.
November 14, 2012
Common English And Its “Domain-Specific” Vocabulary
Under the Common Core, English teachers are told that for every unit we spend on "The House on Mango Street," we must spend another on texts that are less rich and less complex. We are instructed not to teach the literary elements that make deep, complex writing possible. In the end, we are required to emphasize the most basic and superficial aspect of written communication — the simple transmission of information — at the expense of all the elements that make students want to read "The Hunger Games" rather than watch reality television.
November 12, 2012
Traversing The State To Support New College Students
As a college counselor with Bottom Line, I visit my college students on campus monthly to meet with them one-on-one. Sometimes we problem-solve (think "I don't have my books!" or "My bill is incorrect!"); sometimes we prepare for the future (think “What classes should I take?” or “Can you help me edit my resume?”); and sometimes I'm just a familiar face from home with a handful of Jolly Ranchers, ready to listen.
November 7, 2012
A Teacher’s Argument Against Moving Past Disaster
In my classroom and in many others that were fortunate to survive Sandy unscathed, we had conversations about post-hurricane well-being and then we moved on to the regularly scheduled program. As a teacher, that’s devastating. As a student, it must be baffling.
October 26, 2012
Neuroses Of A Privileged White Educator
Teju Cole, in speaking about “KONY 2012,” controversially coined a term he calls “the white savior industrial complex.” He uses this term to describe when white people expend “big emotions” in helping racial minorities so that they can “validate” their own economic privilege. I can’t help but ask: Does this apply to me?
October 23, 2012
Embracing Discomfort After An Exile On Elizabeth Street
It’s easy to observe ethnocentrism on MTV and scoff at a spoiled teenager for refusing to build a hut with cow dung. It’s a lot harder when you’re the one facing a plate of chicken feet with a pair of chopsticks.
October 22, 2012
Why I’m Starting a School: The Political Answer
I’m excited for Harvest Collegiate High School to be born, but for that to happen, Legacy High School has to die.
October 16, 2012
On Breaking the Class Size Barrier
I don’t know where my students will be going when they graduate high school, nor do I know what they will be taking with them. But I hope to give them something more substantial than the definition of a “motif,” something more meaningful than a basic knowledge of algebra — I want them to have choices.
October 11, 2012
Breaking Stereotypes, From The Bronx To Buffalo State
Three days. It only took three days for the perception of me at Buffalo State to go from “the innocent girl” to “the girl with the rough upbringing.” All I had to do was answer one simple question, “where are you from?” As soon as I answered “the Bronx,” gasps and wide eyes filled the room.
October 10, 2012
Why I’m Starting a School: The Personal Answer
I get asked frequently why I’m helping to start a school. I have three different answers to the question, depending on the audience. All are true, and I’m not sure they’re contradictory. I gave the first answer, the particular one about why Harvest Collegiate High School now, in a post last month. The second answer is more personal. I hated high school. Like many adolescents, I thought I knew better than my teachers and the school. To take one example of my frequent critiques, as a senior I wrote an op-ed in the school newspaper, of which I was the editor-in-chief, criticizing the staff of the school for being distant from their students, only focusing on their content and not the human beings in front of them. I made the radical suggestion that teachers who so choose should be able to go by their first name to signal to students that they were interested in a two-way relationship rather than to simply deliver information to them. My then-English teacher, in whom to this day I find a model of how not to teach, wrote a letter to the editor calling my views “naïve and didactic.” (In hindsight, she might have been right on the latter point.) Two years later, I took a philosophy of education course during my sophomore year at Brown University. There, we read Ted Sizer’s "Horace’s Compromise," in which Sizer argued that American high schools and their students had entered into a tacit agreement to let students get away with not thinking as long as they behaved. Reading about the composite Franklin High School and its English teacher Horace felt familiar. For me, Franklin was my high school, and Horace my favorite teacher there (it would turn out that teacher was a huge fan of Sizer’s work, and tried, but failed, to bring it to my high school because it was blocked by my hated senior English teacher). Sizer captured everything that I saw wrong, and more. And he imagined something better, which his Coalition of Essential Schools helped to bring into fruition in many cases. Here I was, a 20-year-old smartass who finds that not only were my views potentially not naïve and didactic, but that the dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education agreed with him and had a solution. I was in.
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