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September 13, 2017
This top-rated black teacher may lose her job over one test. Are ‘high standards’ working?
A Baltimore teacher may lose the job she loves because of a single test — an example of how efforts to "raise the bar" can play out on the ground.
August 14, 2013
City crunches teacher prep data in early bid to assess programs
The city's presentation about new Teacher Preparation Program Reports shows what proportion of training programs' graduates went to work in high-need schools. City officials said they were "pleasantly surprised" by what they learned from their inaugural effort to analyze data about teachers by the programs that trained them. Just one in five of the 10,135 recent graduates of teacher preparation programs hired by the city between 2008 and 2012 left the school system within three years. In contrast, about one in three teachers left their jobs nationally during the same period, according to city Department of Education officials. "New York City is really bucking the trend," Deputy Chancellor David Weiner said today during a press conference to unveil "Teacher Preparation Program Reports" for 12 colleges and universities that together supplied about half of the city's new teachers who came through traditional training pathways. The reports represent a new frontier in the department's accountability efforts. They analyze the teacher preparation programs' graduates by six characteristics, including how long they stay in the classroom, how often they receive poor evaluations, where they work, and how they have fared on measures of their students' growth. City officials warned against making strong conclusions about the preparation programs' quality. Next year, after the city implements a new evaluation system, the training programs will be rated by their graduates' scores, they said, but for now, the reports are meant to spur collaboration with local colleges and universities.
August 13, 2013
Albanese says he could offer both retroactive raises and pre-K
CUNY Institute of Education Policy head David Steiner spoke with mayoral candidate Sal Albanese this morning. Long-shot mayoral candidate Sal Albanese has a proposition for the city’s labor unions: Let me change your pension plans, and I’ll give you retroactive raises. “What I would propose in exchange for retroactive pay is reforming our pension system,” Albanese said today at a forum at Hunter College. “I want the unions to allow me to reform the pension system. We have a clunker of a system. It’s not modern.” One of the next mayor’s first responsibilities will be to negotiate new contracts with the city’s municipal unions, including the United Federation of Teachers. Mayor Bloomberg has allowed the contracts to expire, and many unions say they plan to push for back pay for their members once they get to the negotiating table. Albanese said offering the back pay, which Bloomberg says the city cannot afford, is possible if the unions agree to other changes to their benefits. Albanese cited a Toronto pension system as a model for reform, saying that it outperforms New York City’s. If New York City’s system functioned as well, he said, “we would save about $2.5 billion a year.” Albanese made the comments at the latest forum held by the CUNY Institute of Education Policy this morning at Hunter College. David Steiner, New York State’s former education chief, is hosting mayoral candidates to let them explain how they would run the city’s schools.
July 9, 2013
With less fanfare, Cuomo's education commission revisits NYC
David Steiner, Dean of Hunter College's School of Education, answers a question from state Senator John Flanagan, a member of Cuomo's education commission. For the second summer in a row, the body that's helping Gov. Andrew Cuomo form his education agenda visited New York City. But unlike last year, which drew a crowd and Campbell Brown, Tuesday's meeting happened with little fanfare and much more focus. It's been a little more than a year since Cuomo assembled the Education Reform Commission, a 25-member body made up of businessmen, government officials, union leaders, researchers, lawmakers and nonprofit executives. The commission was created to recommend wholesale reforms to improve the state's expensive school system. It's too soon to measure the commission's impact, but the handful of first-year recommendations that Cuomo adopted — the commission recommended 12 — will only affect a small percentage of schools. Cuomo used an allocated $75 million in the budget to create competitive grants, available by design to limited number of districts, to launch longer school days, expand prekindergarten and create schools that offer more nonacademic services to low-income students. Cuomo also allocated $11 million in stipends for "master teachers," to fulfill another recommendation, which aims to recruit and retain top teachers for in-demand subjects. Cuomo announced that teachers can begin applying for the program this week. It's unclear what the commission will recommend in its second year, but the possibilities seem more narrow. Last summer's meeting resembled more of a City Council hearing, with 17 speaker testimonies and a public comment period that covered a spectrum of education policies. It was also the place where Campbell Brown first launched her cause célèbre, to make it easier to fire teachers who've acted inappropriately in school. By contrast, Tuesday's event, held in a dimly lit performance arts theater inside the Borough of Manhattan Community College, featured lengthy PowerPoint presentations from five people who honed in on a few issues.
June 3, 2013
At a time of dramatic change, a DOE insider urges the long view
Like most officials who work for city schools’ support networks, Nathan Dudley plans to spend the week helping the principals he works with understand…
May 10, 2013
Alone among policy heavyweights, Vallas conveys reform fears
On a night when education leaders offered a spirited defense of the policies they are trying to implement, an unusual voice emerged as the dissenter: Paul Vallas. The Bridgeport, Conn. superintendent — who has served stints in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New Orleans and earned a reputation as a turnaround consultant for struggling districts with big budget gaps — said reforms he backed were at risk of collapsing “under the weight of how complicated we’re making it.” “We’re working on the evaluation system right now," Vallas said of Bridgeport. "And I’ll tell you, it is a nightmare.” The peripatetic schools chief's self-proclaimed "Nixon goes to China" moment came during the high-profile panel at the launch of the CUNY Institute for Education Policy, a think tank that former New York State Education Commissioner David Steiner is directing.
May 9, 2013
Q&A: David Steiner aims again for nonpartisan education policy
Two years removed from his post as New York State’s schools chief, David Steiner is back in his old office with his old job. But Albany gave Steiner, serving a second stint as dean of Hunter College’s School of Education, a vision for how education policy can and should be shaped. That vision is coming into fruition today with the formal launch of the CUNY Institute for Education Policy, a nonpartisan think tank that Steiner is directing. In an exclusive interview, Steiner described his vision for a one-stop shop for policy makers to seek guidance, education leaders to settle disputes, and reporters and members of the public to get the straight story about education policies. Speaking in his corner office at Hunter’s Lenox Hill campus, Steiner spoke carefully about the lessons he learned in Albany during a transformative tenure that included the overhaul of state tests, the adoption of Common Core Standards, and an ultimately successful bid for federal Race to the Top funding. And he shared insights about the craft of teaching and the challenge of being non-partisan in a highly polarized climate.
April 19, 2013
At Common Core talk, a principal says his reality includes vomit
PHOTO: Megan QuitterJoseph McDonald, a professor at NYU Steinhardt, (pictured far left) moderated Friday morning's NYU Steinhardt Education Policy Breakfast Series Common Core discussion. From left to right: Randi Weingarten (American Federation of Teachers president); James Cibulka (president, National Council for Accreditation of Teaching Education); Okhee Lee (NYU Steinhardt professor) and Ramon Gonzalez (M.S. 223 principal). Principal Ramon Gonzalez has been a principal for ten years, but this week, he said, he's experienced a lot of firsts. "I've had my first experience of students vomiting on a test. After we cleaned off the test, we had to call testing security to make sure it was still valid," he said. "I have to tell you, I was happy to submit that test to the testing authorities."
November 30, 2011
Amid sweeping changes, state's testing chief resigns suddenly
The State Education Department official who has supervised the state's testing program since 2004 — through skyrocketing scores, a brutal crash, and the dawn of an overhaul — has resigned. David Abrams, the State Education Department's assistant commissioner for standards, assessment, and reporting since 2004, announced his resignation today. His resignation is effective immediately, shocking some people who had expected to participate in meetings with him this week. Abrams's departure comes at a time of robust efforts to overhaul both state tests and how their scores are used — and of robust criticism of those efforts. Most recently, principals across the state have launched a rebellion against the state's plan to use student test scores in teacher evaluations. This week, a plan to lengthen reading tests to four hours was released prematurely, then rescinded the next day amid backlash. The department has yet to find a replacement for Abrams, according to SED spokesman Dennis Tompkins. He said other department officials would fill in for Abrams for now, as would members of a privately funded group that has been advising SED on implementing Race to the Top commitments, which include redesigning student assessments and teacher evaluations. “Obviously [Abrams] will be missed, but we do have a really strong team that can fill in,” Tompkins said. He declined to comment on the reasons for Abrams's departure. Abrams supervised the state's testing program during a period of controversy and change.
November 30, 2011
Pioneers in teacher prep chart changes in training landscape
If the people on a panel Tuesday about teacher preparation didn't convey the urgency they felt about improving teacher training, then a flash poll of the audience surely did. More than two-thirds of the audience, made up primarily of young teachers, said they didn't think their masters degrees had made them better at their jobs, according to electronic votes that were tallied in real time. With that context, a five-member panel of advocates for alternative certification and training dove into a 90-minute discussion about how traditional theory-driven teacher training had failed the profession, particularly in high-needs urban schools. Research has shown that having a masters degree does not make teachers more effective, and local, state, and federal efforts are underway to re-imagine how teachers are trained. Panelists largely agreed that many traditional education schools lack accountability, aren't willing to share performance data for their graduates, and have a detached relationship with the public schools where their graduates eventually work. "For too long schools of [education] have sat back and spun out academic theories of what should work in the ideal school with the ideal conditions," said a panelist, Bob Hughes, president of the nonprofit New Visions for Public Schools, which trains and certifies teachers and operates 99 schools in New York City. "And they've been divorced from the reality of what happens in schools ."
August 15, 2011
Steiner said he wondered "where the allies were" in Albany
When David Steiner announced his resignation as commissioner of the State Education Department, people close to him speculated that he was burnt out by…
July 25, 2011
Movement to videotape teaching has outlasted its first camera
The movement to revolutionize teacher training by showing teachers video clips of themselves in action is losing its original tool: the Flip video camera. As the dean of Hunter College's education school, former State Education Commissioner David Steiner pioneered the use of Flip cameras as a teaching tool. Instructors coaching teachers-in-training could offer documentary evidence of what they did right and wrong. Now, each student at Relay, a new education graduate school that grew out of Hunter's program, receives a Flip camera to document their lessons, according to a long article about the movement to revamp teacher education in this Sunday's New York Times Education Life supplement. The article's main featured a Flip video camera atop a miniature tripod. But production stopped this spring on the low-cost, one-button, no-cord digital video camera.
July 20, 2011
After early win, PS 9 parents lose bid to keep charter school out
A legal challenge that prompted city education officials to rewrite all of its co-location plans was denied today. Well before the co-location was approved in February, parents at Brooklyn's PS 9 had battled against the city's plan to move Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter School into the building. In April, then-State Education Commissioner David Steiner halted the co-location plan, agreeing with the parents that the city Department of Education's space-sharing plan had many flaws. After the city revised the plan — along with all of the other co-location plans that had the same problems — parents appealed again. Today, state officials rejected that appeal, clearing the way for Brooklyn East Collegiate to take over classrooms and some shared space in the Prospect Heights building this fall. The decision comes as a blow not just to PS 9 parents but to others across the city who are trying to prevent co-location plans from moving forward. Steiner's April ruling on PS 9, which has come to be known as the Espinet decision, emboldened groups of people at other schools facing co-locations this fall to file their own appeals with the state. In recent weeks, State Commissioner of Education John King dismissed two other appeals, allowing site plans for Coney Island Preparatory Charter School and Explore Charter School to move forward. Today's decision did not come from King, but from his deputy, Valerie Grey.
May 16, 2011
Regents give districts choice of tougher teacher evaluation
Deputy Commissioner John King, who will soon become commissioner, said that for a teacher to earn a rating of developing, effective, or highly effective, there should be some evidence of student progress on state tests. Introducing a new option for how to change teacher evaluation, the Board of Regents voted today to allow districts and unions to increase the weight of student test scores on those evaluations to 40 percent. According to the law passed last summer, which changed how teachers in New York State are evaluated and introduced their students' test scores as an element for consideration, state tests would count for 20 out of 100 points. Another 20 points would come from local assessments, which school districts could devise on their own. Yet the set of regulations approved in a vote this evening will allow school districts, with the approval of teachers unions, to count students' progress on state tests for 40 points of a teacher's evaluation score. The board voted 14 to 3 to approve the regulations. Regents Betty Rosa, Roger Tilles, and the board's newest member Kathleen Cashin, voted against the proposal. The increased emphasis on students' progress on standardized tests turned up in the final draft of regulations after Governor Andrew Cuomo stepped into the discussions last week. In a letter to Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, the governor said he believed that students' scores on the annual math and reading tests should carry more weight in the evaluation of their teachers. Mayor Bloomberg agreed, saying that an earlier draft of the regulations did not place enough importance on the tests. Yesterday, a group of 10 prominent education researchers sent the Regents a letter asking them not to place more weight on value-added scores, which measure students' progress on tests against that of similar types of students.
May 16, 2011
Regents appoint John King the new state ed commissioner
The last appointment of a state education commissioner came in 2011, when the Regents chose John King, a former managing director at Uncommon Schools.
April 8, 2011
Bloomberg files formal request to make Walcott schools chief
The city's official request that Dennis Walcott be allowed to become schools chancellor even though he doesn't meet all of the state's requirements is now in Albany. Bloomberg sent the waiver request letter to outgoing State Education Commissioner David Steiner last night, city officials said. Until the waiver is approved, Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky is legally the city's chancellor, according to city officials. State law requires district leaders to fulfill a host of requirements, including holding a superintendent's license, which Walcott does not have. But the law also allows state officials to grant exceptions to the requirements for prospective district leaders who have "exceptional training and experience" in education. Bloomberg's letter to Steiner emphasizes Walcott's training and experience. The deputy mayor has a master's degree in education and significant experience in city education policy, as well as a year and half of experience as a kindergarten teacher in the mid-1970s. Former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein received a waiver based, in part, on teaching experience that was shorter. Steiner approved a waiver for ex-Chancellor Cathie Black only after she agreed to make Polakow-Suransky, a longtime teacher and principal, her second-in-command. Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch told GothamSchools yesterday that the state had not yet received a waiver request for Walcott, but that she had promised Bloomberg quick approval once it did.
April 7, 2011
David Steiner, top state ed dep't official, to leave at year's end
David Steiner. Photo courtesy of State Education Department. Yet another top education official is making plans to vacate his position — this time at the State Education Department. SED Commissioner David Steiner will leave the department at the end of the school year, he announced today. Steiner appears to be leaving entirely of his own accord. People close to him described him as less interested in the "nuts and bolts" work of implementing the vision he helped the state set out for education. They said that Steiner, a former education school dean, is considering returning to the quieter and less political territory of academia. The news outdid Mayor Bloomberg's announcement this morning that his deputy mayor, Dennis Walcott, will replace Chancellor Cathie Black — at least in the department of rattling surprises. Even Steiner himself did not know that he would be announcing his departure today, according to people close to him. "The only reason the announcement came today is because there clearly were rumors, and then after the Susan Arbetter show, and she raised those rumors, it felt like we needed to address them because we didn’t want to have rumors continue to percolate and circulate over the next few days," a source at the state education department said. Asked about rumors that Steiner might resign on that show, Capital Pressroom, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said that Steiner was "exploring other options" after less than two years in Albany. Tisch appeared on the show to discuss teacher evaluations but also addressed the resignation of Cathie Black as New York City schools chancellor. Steiner became commissioner in July 2009, replacing 14-year veteran Richard Mills. Steiner had been chair of the School of Education at Hunter College, where he pioneered the practice of videotaping teachers as they worked and then critiquing their performance. Improving teacher evaluation emerged as one of the main themes of Steiner's tenure as commissioner, with the state reaching an agreement with teachers unions on a plan to change how teachers are assessed. That plan has yet to go into action because it requires individual school districts to develop their own assessments and have those assessments approved by local unions. Recommended guidelines for the local assessments were released only this week. "With the anticipated approval of a final teacher evaluation program in the coming months, I have informed Chancellor Tisch and members of the Board of Regents that I intend to leave the State Education Department later this year," Steiner said this afternoon in a statement. "Together we will begin to plan for a seamless transition." People close to Steiner said he had grown disinterested in the job of commissioner.
April 1, 2011
At Brooklyn's PS 9, state overturns a space-sharing plan, again
For the second time in less than a year, State Education Commissioner David Steiner is putting a kibosh on a city charter school siting. Steiner yesterday annulled a contentious February Panel for Educational Policy vote to place Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter School inside the PS 9 building in Prospect Heights. His 16-page decision sides with seven parents who filed a lawsuit alleging many failures in the Department of Education's proposal, including that it had not provided mandated details about how the colocation would affect the use of common spaces such as the building's gym and cafeteria. "I am unable to conclude that DOE's failure to comply with the statute's requirements in this respect was harmless error," Steiner wrote. The decision bars the city from trying again to site a charter school in the PS 9 building until it releases a new plan that includes the missing information. Because state law requires that any plan be approved six months before a new school moves in, it's unlikely that the city could get permission to place Brooklyn East Collegiate inside PS 9 this fall. Meanwhile, another school already open in the building, MS 571, is set to start phasing out due to poor performance, and PS 9 administrators say they will push to add middle school grades.
November 29, 2010
Steiner grants Black waiver she needs to become chancellor
As expected, State Education Commissioner David Steiner has granted publishing executive Cathleen Black the waiver she needs to become the city's next schools chancellor. Steiner's decision follows a deal struck between city and state officials, the details of which emerged late last week. The agreement called for Black to promote Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky to a new position of Chief Academic Officer and was designed to ameliorate Steiner's concerns about Black's lack of experience in the education field. Under state law, the commissioner is allow to waive the requirements for education experience and certification if the chancellor candidate's experience is "substantially equivalent." In his letter today, Steiner cites the waiver that his predecessor, Richard Mills, gave former Chancellor Harold Levy 2000. In that case, Mills wrote that the chancellor's experience did not need to mirror the required credentials, but rather that the candidate's experience has prepared her for the chancellor's job. "After careful review of the record before me it is my judgment that, when viewed in its entirety, Ms. Black's training, background and experience are substantially equivalent to the certification requirements set forth in law," Steiner writes.
November 26, 2010
Black will receive waiver after city vows to promote Suransky
Cathleen Black will receive the state waiver that lets her become the next New York City schools chancellor, following a Thanksgiving deal between the city and the state, an official familiar with the deal confirmed today. PHOTO: GreenleeShael Polakow-Suransky, the man whose promotion allowed Cathie Black to become chancellor The deal calls for Black to give a major promotion to Shael Polakow-Suransky, an education official who has sparred with Chancellor Joel Klein's top deputies, even while working alongside them. Suransky, currently deputy chancellor for "performance and accountability," will now hold two titles: senior deputy chancellor and chief academic officer. Suransky engaged in especially vigorous debates with James Leibman, the official who created Klein's controversial school report cards, according to department officials. He successfully lobbied to give schools the opportunity to create their own assessments rather than follow state tests. The disagreements didn't stop the two men from respecting each other. When Leibman left the Department of Education to return to Columbia University, Klein promoted Suransky to succeed him as head of the accountability office. An official said that Leibman promoted Suransky to the position. Suransky is also one of a small number of top Department of Education officials who regularly refers to "instruction" as the part of education he would like to change — a trait he holds in common with Steiner and his top deputy, John King. Like King, Suransky is also a former teacher and principal. He has worked closely with state education officials on their main project, the reforms they are creating with their federal Race to the Top funding. Suransky has taken an especially prominent role in creating new assessments designed to make it harder for teachers to "teach to the test."
November 23, 2010
Look, but don't speak, State Ed tells reporters about Black panel
Update: Maura sends this picture of the assembled panel. From second man on the left they are: Bernard Pierorazio, Kenneth Slentz, Louise Mirrer, Susan Fuhrman, Commissioner David Steiner, SED staff member Erin O'Grady-Parent, Jean-Claude Brizard, Andres Alonso, and Michele Cahill. Not pictured: Ronald Ferguson. And because high school never really ends, all of the panel members who worked for Chancellor Joel Klein are sitting at the same table. Update 5:20 PM: The panel has voted to deny Cathie Black a waiver. Two members voted in favor, but four voted against it and two voted "not at this time." The final decision rests with Education Commissioner David Steiner, who has not made a call yet. In just a few minutes, the panel selected to advise Education Commissioner David Steiner on Cathie Black's suitability as chancellor will convene for the first time. But its eight members won't be pausing to field questions about their stances on Black's appointment or on their possible conflicts of interest.
November 19, 2010
Commissioner names panel of experts to screen new chancellor
State Education Commissioner David Steiner has named the panel of education experts that will help him decide whether to allow magazine executive Cathie Black to become the next schools chancellor. Without a background in education, Black needs a waiver from the state that will let her bypass the prerequisites: that she have a degree in education and several years of teaching behind her. Though the final decision rests with Steiner, the panel will play a role in reviewing the city's case for why Black is qualified and making a recommendation. Reviewing the list of panel members, New York University Professor Pedro Noguera said the commissioner had covered his bases. "Steiner's aware that this is very controversial," Noguera said. "So if you think about it, instead of just him making the decision he can say, 'Look, I got a group of very reputable people in education who agreed with me.'"
November 12, 2010
State lawmakers' objections to Black shaded by mayoral control
State Education Commissioner David Steiner is the person who has the final word over whether Cathie Black is permitted as Schools Chancellor Joel Klein's successor. But the group of people who effectively oversee Steiner are trying to have their say, too. A number of lawmakers — including Assembly members Marcos Crespo and Deborah Glick, as well as State Senator-elect Tony Avella — have already sent Steiner letters urging him to block Black's appointment. Others have not gone that far, but are expressing deep misgivings both about Black's lack of education credentials and the mayor's abrupt and secretive selection process. In making their stance, state lawmakers walk a fine line. On the one hand, the legislature appoints the Board of Regents, who in turn appoint Steiner. And Steiner frequently needs to negotiate with lawmakers, as he has done this year over the charter cap and state budget. Lawmakers' stances on Black's appointment therefore matter. "I think it should [matter]," said Queens Assemblyman David Weprin. "[Steiner is] going to have to deal with the legislature on a myriad of issues, as he has already." But at the same time, these are the same lawmakers who extended sole authority over the city schools to Bloomberg last year.
October 7, 2010
State issues guidelines for district Race to the Top spending
State education commissioner David Steiner and deputy John King discuss New York's Race to the Top application. As school districts and charter schools prepare their proposals for spending their share of nearly $700 million in Race to the Top spoils, state officials are giving guidance about how they should use the money. School districts have until November to create their plans for using the federal funds. On Monday, State Education Commissioner David Steiner and Deputy Commissioner John King held a videoconference with superintendents and school administrators around the state to help them begin to plan. (Watch Steiner and King's presentation and see the accompanying slides here.) The state education department will keep half of the Race to the Top winnings; the other half will be distributed among participating school districts and charter schools according to the federal Title I formula, King said.
August 25, 2010
With Race to the Top won, NY's education officals look ahead
Education Commissioner David Steiner and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch at yesterday's press conference in the governor's office. Why should the Race to the Top grant have a greater effect than previous federal money? And why make New York City's data system statewide if it's not exactly beloved in the city? WNYC reporter Beth Fertig put these questions and others to State Education Commissioner David Steiner and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch yesterday. Clips from the interview ran on WNYC yesterday, but you can listen to the full conversation below. convertedfile_edited-interview-long-of-fertig-with-steiner-tisch-on-rtt And here's the complete transcript: WNYC: This money is not supposed to be plugging the gap that we hear about in the state's education expenses. STEINER: That's correct. This money is dedicated to specific education reforms. Primarily the following areas. First, turning around lowest performing schools. Absolutely critical, it's a moral dilemma that we face and we've got to solve for our students. Second, the preparation and support of outstanding teachers and principals, from the moment that they enter their training programs in preparation, to their entire professional careers. Third, providing our teachers and principals and parents and districts with world-class data systems so that we know in real time what is being done in the classroom, what's working, what isn't working, what needs to be changed. And, beyond that, working on our assessments and curriculum, so that the materials that teachers share with children really do prepare them for further education for university, college, and the workplace, and the assessments give us an accurate reading of how those students are doing.
July 28, 2010
Test scores down sharply; biggest decline for needy students
Source: New York State Education Department The day of reckoning has arrived. After weeks of warning that adjusted standards would mean far fewer students passing state exams this year, state education officials released the exact numbers today. Average raw scores on the state third through eighth grade math and reading exams remained flat. But because the state decided to raise the scores required for a student to be deemed proficient, the number of students passing fell sharply. In New York City and other big cities, the number of students passing reading exams dropped by more than a quarter — from 68.8 percent of city students passing last year to 42.4 percent this year in reading, for example. Just over 53 percent of third through eighth-grade students statewide passed the reading exam, compared to 77 percent last year. Around 61 percent of students passed their math exams, compared with more than 86 percent last year. Pass rates of students learning English, students with disabilities, and poor students fell the farthest. The percentage of students learning English who passed the reading exam fell by more than half, from 36 percent to under 15 percent. Just 15 percent of students with disabilities passed the reading exam, compared to 39 percent last year.
July 22, 2010
State officials ask feds for leniency as standards are raised
As New York State grapples with improving its standardized tests, officials are asking the federal government for more time to make changes before schools are…
July 13, 2010
Push to make tests harder finds a critic in Buffalo schools chief
State education officials are responding to widespread calls to make state tests more difficult. But they're getting some harsh criticism from a surprising corner: the head of the Buffalo school system. As Education Commissioner David Steiner and Deputy Commissioner John King travel around New York explaining their plans to overhaul the state exams, they've largely met with support. In New York City, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has called for tougher exams. But last week, Buffalo School Superintendent James Williams told The Buffalo News that he doubts Steiner and King's approach will really improve the state's schools. “I think they’re two people who don’t know what they’re doing,” Williams said. “A more rigorous test is not going to improve student achievement. It’s not going to improve the graduation rate. I think it’s ridiculous.”
May 11, 2010
What to expect from today's teacher evaluation agreement
A new teacher evaluation system that's likely to become state law could mean that, for the first time, school districts will fire teachers if they repeatedly fail to boost their students' test scores. But to do that, the state and school districts will have to track student work in more detail than they ever have before. And state and city teachers union officials sold the idea as a way to create better professional development for teachers and principals. The agreement struck between the state education department and the teachers union today means that, in three years, all New York teachers will be evaluated according to a new 100-point scale, with 40 of those points determined by student achievement data. The agreement was ushered out just in time for the June 1 second round deadline for the Obama administration's Race to the Top grant competition. So far, the new teacher evaluation system exists only in concept. To flesh it out, school districts will have to create a new battery of customized tests or other ways to measure student learning.
May 10, 2010
Cuts could shrink New York's education department to historic low
New York State's Education Department could shrink to a historically low number of staffers next year, Education Commissioner David Steiner said this weekend. Speaking at the United Federation of Teachers' conference on Saturday, Steiner said told an audience of teachers that Governor Paterson's proposed budget cut would eliminate 5o to 60 staff members if it goes through the legislature unchanged. "We haven't had so few colleagues in living memory," he said. Those cuts would come at the same time the department takes on more responsibility.
March 4, 2010
Even as a finalist, NY still a Race to the Top longshot, officials say
New York's education officials and politicians reacted with shock to news today that their dark-horse state was named a finalist in the competition for Race to the Top funds. But the unexpected good news did little to instill confidence among lawmakers, who cautioned that the state is still a long-shot for a win. Many officials and advocates said the state legislature's failure to act on several key elements of the application — namely, its cap on charter schools and teacher tenure laws — could hobble the state's chances at the badly-needed funds. And they urged Albany to enact those changes immediately, before the state makes its final pitch to the grant program's judges in two weeks. The winners of the competition will be announced in April. Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said she was "thrilled" that the state's application, which centered on proposals to build a new data tracking system and to overhaul how teachers are trained and certified, was judged strong enough to make the finals. But she added a note of caution. "Now we need to make sure that the possibility doesn't slip away," Tisch said.
January 29, 2010
New York State releases details of its Race to the Top bid
New York State's Education Department has put aside its anxiety about releasing its Race to the Top application and finally posted the document on its website today. Initially claiming that releasing the state's bid to win $700 million would compromise its ability to compete in the second round, New York became one of four states (out of about 40 competitors) to withhold its application. Now SED has changed its mind after officials from the U.S. Department of Education said they'd make all states' applications public in April before the second round of the competition began. "Recent information from USDE indicates that releasing the application will not compromise New York State's competitiveness," said the department in a statement released today. According to the City Room blog, the state's application run some 1,000 pages.
January 21, 2010
New York State places dozens of NYC schools on replacement list
The New York State Department of Education has singled out 34 New York City public schools, most of them large high schools, that it believes should be replaced. Many of the schools are already on the city's to-be-closed list and others have had poor reputations and low grades on the city's annual report cards for years. Now that SED has designated which schools are the bottom five percent across the state, school districts will have to submit plans to Commissioner David Steiner detailing which of four federally mandated plans they intend to implement. The plans are a menu of sorts: four options the U.S. Department of Education believe can transform "persistently low achieving" schools into success stories. Before the list came out today, state officials said they planned to replace many of the schools with charter schools, a proposal that could be severely delayed by the state legislature's recent decision not to lift the state's charter cap. Long before the list came out, Chancellor of the Board of Regents Merryl Tisch said the state's choices would not be controversial.
January 8, 2010
City waiting for charter cap resolution before signing RttT bid
With just over a week until the state's Race to the Top application is due, the city is playing a game of chicken with the state legislature to pressure lawmakers into raising the cap on charter schools. Today was the deadline for school districts to sign onto the state's Race to the Top application, signaling they will participate in the state's reform plans and making them eligible for a slice of the federal funds. But the Department of Education of New York City —the state's (and country's) largest school district — has not yet agreed to the plan, taking advantage of a last-minute state extension of the deadline. "We're awaiting action on the charter cap," DOE spokesman David Cantor said. The more school districts that sign onto a state's application, the more points the state earns in the competition for grant funds. If New York City refuses its buy-in to the state's plan, it could potentially cripple New York's bid for the grant, which could deprive the state of a badly-needed $700 million in funding. The governor is currently withholding nearly $600 million in school aid from districts around the state, a move he defends as an attempt to stave off state financial insolvency.
December 15, 2009
City and state take different tones in linking test scores to tenure
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is aggressively pushing for the city to link test scores to tenure decisions this year, but state education officials are less confident that the tests are a reliable measure of progress and are proceeding with caution. Using test scores as a factor in teacher evaluations is one of the most controversial elements of the Race to the Top guidelines, which states are striving to meet in order to win the federal grants. On Monday, the State Board of Regents endorsed linking test scores to tenure decisions. But state officials are wary of using the tests before they're improved upon, an approach that contrasts with the city's decision to use the data immediately. Speaking at a press conference about the state's Race to the Top application yesterday, State Education Commissioner David Steiner warned against giving too much weight to the state tests or making them the sole indicator of a teacher's success or failure. "It would not be sound policy to ground the assessment of teachers in assessments we don't have complete confidence in," Steiner said.
December 14, 2009
Board of Regents urges state legislature to lift charter cap
State Education Commissioner David Steiner and the Board of Regents today urged the state legislature to increase the cap on charter schools in New York. While he stopped short of asking for a specific number, Steiner roughly calculated using the Race to the Top application guidelines that a cap of 400, twice the number currently allowed under state law, would best make the state competitive in that section of the Race to the Top application. The request comes as part of a larger effort by the Regents to create a sense of pressing need for legislative change to help the state compete for a slice of the $4.3 billion federal grant. New York is eligible for up to $700 million of the grant money. "The crucial thing here is to say, we can't stand still," said State Education Commissioner David Steiner. States earn points in the competition for grants on a variety of measures, including how friendly it is to charter school expansion and to using student test scores to rate teachers and teacher training programs. States will be judged by their policies in place at the time applications are submitted in the middle of January. The state has nearly hit its current cap on charter schools, and a law banning the use of student data in teacher tenure decisions remains on the books. Legislation introduced in October designed to make the state more competitive for Race to the Top has failed to gain momentum.
December 14, 2009
Regents to push Race to the Top school turnaround strategy today
State Education Commissioner David Steiner and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch welcome board members to their December meeting in Albany this morning. The public…
November 30, 2009
Tisch parts ways with Bloomberg on common standards, sort of
Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch disagreed with Mayor Bloomberg's education proposals in the most agreeable way possible tonight, saying that the mayor's call for New York to accept common national curriculum standards doesn't go far enough. In a speech in Washington, D.C., last week, Bloomberg called on Tisch and Steiner to ratify the common standards "as soon as possible and without material alteration." "As much as I respect the mayor, I have to disagree with him," Tisch said, saying that instead, New York should adopt standards that are tougher than the national bar. "We will reserve the right to increase the rigor of the standards and be at the top of the heap and not at the bottom of the heap," she said.
November 16, 2009
State plans to link teacher certification to student performance
The New York State Board of Regents wants to certify new teachers based on their students' academic achievement in their first two years of teaching, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Education Commissioner David Steiner announced today. The proposal came as part of a plan to overhaul the way teachers are trained and placed in classrooms that state officials hope will help them win competitive federal Race to the Top grant money. Under the plan, a new teacher would also face a tougher set of tests and must prove to the state that he or she is ready to enter the classroom before receiving their initial certification, possibly through portfolios of lesson plans and videotaped teaching sessions. "Instead of just a paper and pencil test, instead of looking simply at course credits, instead of waiting until the last semester for a formal experience of student teaching that has a different caliber of qualities associated with it, we want to use these performance assessments to ensure that our candidates for teaching have the skills that matter," Steiner said in a press conference today.
November 12, 2009
Confident state ed officials press forward on Race to the Top
Brushing aside criticism that current state laws could jeopardize New York's chances at Race to the Top Funds, state officials say they will enter the contest in round one. On Monday, the State Education Department will release a comprehensive plan to overhaul teacher training, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said today. Tisch called the proposal a "very aggressive package" that will be a major element of New York's Race to the Top application. The strength of a state's teacher training program is a heavily weighted component of the final Race to the Top criteria unveiled today. At a speech in New York City last month, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called for states to better prepare new teachers. But even with a new teacher training initiative, it remains to be seen whether two controversial state laws — one that bans the use of student test scores in teacher tenure decisions and another that caps the number of charter schools allowed in the state — could derail the state's application. In a conference call with reporters today, Duncan emphasized that states with such policies will be at a distinct disadvantage compared to states that are "vigorously challenging the status quo" by eliminating such caps and barriers. Some states are changing their laws to improve their Race to the Top chances, but New York has not.
October 16, 2009
Steiner and Tisch: "The times are a'changing" in state ed dept.
Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch addressed members of the New York State School Board Association this morning. New York State education commissioner David Steiner and Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch declared this morning that the state education department is entering a new era. Speaking to a packed room at the annual meeting of the New York State School Board Members Association, they said that after years of acting as a regulatory body following an outdated curriculum, the department would now focus on innovation. "We spend an enormous amount of effort regulating districts that frankly would do very well without us," Tisch said. She said that her goal was to remove as much unnecessary regulations from school districts as possible. "I would like people to say that we re-invigorated the concept of the state education department, that we re-invented what a state education should be across this state," Tisch said. "The only way to do that is to restore our integrity. Every chit that takes away from our credibility needs to be addressed."
October 14, 2009
Steiner calls for state math tests to become less predictable
Reacting to differences between the state's own testing data and the results of a national math assessment, Commissioner David Steiner called for the state to review and redesign its tests to make the questions less predictable. "The New York State NAEP scores in mathematics, released today, are of great concern to the Board of Regents and to me," Steiner wrote in a statement. "We are struck by the contrast between results on the NAEP and on New York State's own math tests." The call from Steiner is the strongest language a state education official has used since critics began challenging the state tests in 2007.
October 5, 2009
Steiner's challenge: how to make big change from little money
David Steiner is making raising standards and the overhaul of teacher preparation his major goals as education commissioner. But his ambitious agenda for reform may be slowed by a grim financial climate and a large, unwieldy bureaucracy, education leaders said in interviews last week. Steiner, who was sworn in as commissioner of the New York State Education Department last Thursday, has long argued for making the teacher certification process more rigorous and for adding more in-the-classroom experience for teachers in training. In his first moments in office, he acknowledged that he has a difficult mandate. But he also pointed to circumstances that he said would help push his agenda forward. "A lot of powerful forces are coming together," Steiner told reporters. He noted that the state Board of Regents and the federal government seem to be aligned in a strong commitment to raising academic standards and that he thought parents were becoming more committed to their children's education than ever before. "So while this is a very challenging moment, fiscally and otherwise, it's also a moment of extraordinary opportunity," he said.
August 12, 2009
Anybody have commish-elect Steiner's address lying around?
The confusion over what GothamSchools is, most of it outrageously inflating our place in the world, never ceases to flatter me. We regularly receive questions…
July 27, 2009
New York State could have hope for elite $5 billion stimulus fund
The fact that New York prohibits the use of student test scores in teacher tenure decisions would seem to axe the state from the race for Race to the Top dollars. But there are growing suggestions that the state could take home a share after all. Race to the Top is a special $5 billion federal stimulus fund meant to spur innovation in public schools. It is available only to states and districts that meet certain requirements. One of those requirements is that they allow teacher evaluations to be tied to student performance. New York State's tenure law, passed last year under pressure from teachers unions, says student test score data can't be the sole determinant of whether a teacher gets tenure. But three top officials — teachers union president Randi Weingarten, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, and incoming State Education Commissioner David Steiner — are arguing that the law will not disqualify New York from the fund. "It is our firm belief that the language of Race to the Top funding does not preclude New York," Steiner said today. "New York has a law on the books that relates strictly to tenure." Weingarten noted that a second section of the same law explicitly requires teachers' annual evaluations, which take place even after they receive tenure, to be based in part on how they use test score data to improve their instruction.
July 27, 2009
David Steiner crib sheet: New schools czar to focus on teaching
David Steiner. Photo courtesy of state education department. For years, one pesky paper has stalked David Steiner, the man elected New York's education commissioner this morning. The paper, published in 2003, while he was a professor at Boston University, attacked education graduate schools as intellectually weak and ideologically slanted, marking Steiner as a brave "maverick" among those critical of traditional teacher education — and enemy no. 1 among those who defend it. Steiner, who was raised in England but was born in America and spent one year at P.S. 41 on West 11th Street, has shrugged off the to-do in the years since. He kept a reasonably modest profile as dean of CUNY's Hunter College School of Education for the last four years. In conversations, he calmly insists that there is a middle ground in the fierce debate about how to improve public schools. But the paper that marked him also foreshadows some of the innovations he has tested out at Hunter and the thinking he might bring to the state Education Department, where he is set to become commissioner Oct. 1, replacing Richard Mills, who announced his intention to retire last year. Mills had served in the position since 1995. The position means Steiner will run the state Education Department, the large bureaucratic organization that enacts education policy set by the state Board of Regents and oversees both universities and public primary schools.
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