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August 10, 2017
Chalkbeat explains: When can private schools discriminate against students?
Here’s your guide to understanding when, why and how private schools can say no to some students.
where credit is (and isn't) due
August 5, 2015
Behind city’s latest credit-recovery controversy is a complicated history
Low-performing high schools, now under threat of being taken over by outside groups, are still under pressure to increase their four-year graduation rates.
July 18, 2012
Seven takeaways from a closer look at the state test scores
The state released the results of this year's third through eighth grade tests yesterday, and officials from City Hall to the charter sector lept to celebrate students' gains. Some changes were the focal point of the Department of Education's Tuesday afternoon press conference—like the drop among English Language Learners and the boosts charter schools saw. But they avoided nuances in the results for the city's new schools, which have been at the center of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's education reform policies. Beyond first impressions, here are seven interesting takeaways we parsed from the trove of data: Like last year, English Language Learners took a step back. Students who are identified as English Language Learners improved slightly in math, but took another step back from the statistical gains they made on the literacy test (ELA) earlier in the decade, before the state made the exams tougher in 2010. While just under half of the city’s non-ELL students met the state’s ELA standards, just 11.6 percent of ELL students did so. But in math, the percentage of ELL students scoring proficient rose by 2.5 points, to 37 percent. But students in other categories that typically struggle showed improvements. The percentage of students with disabilities who are proficient in math and literacy went up again this year, to 30.2 percent in math and 15.8 percent in English. And although Black and Hispanic students are still lagging behind their white peers by close to thirty percentage points in literacy and math, they also saw small bumps in both subjects. Officials said that new initiatives targeting struggling students, particularly students of color, contributed to the gains.
April 25, 2012
Unraveling three and a half months of "turnaround" twists: Part II
Immediately after Mayor Bloomberg announced plans to "turn around" dozens of struggling schools, Department of Education officials began laying the groundwork to implement the complex and politically charged process. Planning is well underway, and it is likely to ratchet up after Thursday night, when the Panel for Educational Policy is set to vote on the proposals to close and reopen the schools with new names and new teachers. Approval is virtually assured, because the panel — whose majority consists of mayoral appointees — has never rejected a city proposal. Yesterday, in a first post about turnaround's past, present, and future, we looked at how the process landed on the panel's agenda. Today, we are summarizing what we know – and what we don't — about what is likely to come next. What will happen to the teachers at the schools? All teachers will have to reapply for their jobs. Under the 18-D process outlined in the city's contract with the union, each principal and a team of teachers chosen by the principal and the union will set hiring guidelines and hire back at least 50 percent of the teachers from the old school who apply and are qualified to work in the new one. Federal turnaround requirements call for the schools to replace at least half of teachers who have been on staff for more than two years, suggesting that the rehiring might have to achieve exactly a 50 percent replacement rate. But city officials have said they are not setting a rehiring quota for turnaround principals.
April 24, 2012
Unraveling three and a half months of "turnaround" twists: Part I
Since Mayor Bloomberg announced plans to "turn around" dozens of struggling schools during his State of the City speech in January, the city has hammered out specifics while holding two rounds of raucous meetings at each of the schools that could be overhauled. Meanwhile, community members, politicians, and union officials have argued against turnaround at rally after rally — even as the city's plans evolved. On Thursday, they will air those arguments one more time as the Panel for Educational Policy — which has never rejected a city proposal — sits down to hear public testimony and then vote on 26 turnaround plans. In two posts, we will summarize how the city got here, what turnaround entails, and what could happen after Thursday. First, some recent history: What exactly is turnaround, anyway? Turnaround is one of four federally prescribed school overhaul strategies that cities can adopt to qualify for School Improvement Grants. The SIG program was developed to entice states and school districts to improve the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools after U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan committed to funding overhauls. The program has gotten mixed reviews across the country but still has sent school districts into a frenzy trying to win scarce funds, which can amount to millions of dollars per school for three years. If districts want the funds, they must select one of the four strategies for each school on the list. They can close the schools and disperse their students; partner them with nonprofit groups or turn them into charter schools under "restart"; add new resources and programs under "transformation"; or choose turnaround.
February 21, 2012
Students say 2 p.m. is too late for lunch, but state law is murky
The schedule at Paul Robeson High School. Students at Paul Robeson High School are served lunch at 2 p.m. or later. As we reported earlier this month, many students at the phasing-out school say the schedule leaves them hungry and unable to focus on classwork by the second half of the school day. "Later in the day, my stomach [is] talking to me, and the teacher is talking to me at the same time," senior Akeem Pearce told me. "I don't know who to listen to." Our readers asked whether it is legal for a city school to serve lunch so late in the day. The short answer is yes, according to the letter of the law — but maybe not according to the spirit. State law governing school lunch schedules does not specify a window of time for serving lunch, but rather requires that schools serve lunch at a "reasonable time," which could vary from community to community. Overcrowding and co-locations — which ask multiple schools stationed in the same building to share a single cafeteria, gym and auditorium — have caused some schools to complain that they are unable to schedule lunch at a reasonable time.
February 16, 2012
New state evaluation framework leaves much up to local districts
Teachers can expect unannounced observations to factor into their annual ratings under the terms of the evaluations agreement that Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today. The unannounced observations are one of several ways that the State Education Department and state teachers union, NYSUT, agreed to flesh out the state's 2010 evaluation law, seen as so open-ended as to stymie implementation. The agreement, which Cuomo is set to turn into law through the state budget amendment process, resolves some major points of contention while continuing to leave many elements of districts' evaluation system subject to local collective bargaining. Districts and their unions have until the end of 2012 to turn the framework into a local evaluation system, or risk losing state aid. The framework hews to the broad contours of the 2010 teacher evaluation law: 20 percent of ratings will be based on a calculation of student growth based on state test scores; 20 percent will be based on other assessments that are decided locally; and 60 percent will come from subjective measures such as observations, also decided upon locally. Teachers will still receive a score between 0 and 100 and a rating ranging from "ineffective" to "highly effective." But there are new constraints. In a major win for the state, teachers whose students show no academic growth will get an "ineffective" rating, even if the rest of their evaluation is strong. The evaluation law had not provided for such a circumstance.
January 27, 2012
City could try to replace fewer teachers at 33 turnaround schools
Two weeks after Mayor Bloomberg announced a plan to to replace half of all teachers at 33 struggling schools, efforts are underway to soften the threat. Department of Education officials said today that the city is exploring the option of replacing fewer teachers at the schools under an allowance included in federal guidelines for the school improvement strategy known as "turnaround." The turnaround process, which Bloomberg announced two weeks ago to sidestep a requirement of other school improvement strategies to negotiate new teacher evaluations with the teachers union, mandates that 50 percent of teachers be replaced. But the U.S. Department of Education makes special allowances for some teachers who have been hired in the last two years. Now the city is looking to take advantage of that flexibility when it files formal turnaround applications with the state next month. The catch is that not every teacher hired in the last two years is automatically eligible for the exemption.The federal guidelines make an allowance only for teachers who were selected "according to locally adopted competencies as part of a school reform effort" headed by a principal handpicked to lead it. That means, according to the guidelines, the teachers should have been screened for an ability to "be effective in a turnaround situation." It's not clear how many of the roughly 3,400 teachers at the 33 schools would fall into this category. As recently as Monday, Chancellor Dennis Walcott told state legislators that there would be "possibly up to 1,500, 1,700 teachers" cut loose from the schools.
September 19, 2011
Why New York City isn't joining Chicago in extended-day uproar
New Yorkers following Chicago’s snowballing union-district standoff over plans to extend the school day may not realize that similar conversations take place inside city schools every year. Chicago's new mayor, Rahm Emanuel, and his schools chief, former New York City deputy Jean-Claude Brizard, are pushing schools to add 90 minutes to their 5-hour-long days, among the shortest in the nation. But they have offered teachers only 2 percent more pay, raising the ire of the teachers union, whose president, Karen Lewis, has said Emanuel is creating "a nightmare" by asking union members to override their union contract. Even though the union has filed a lawsuit over the plan, Emanuel and Brizard decided to shop the proposal school by school, and teachers at at least nine schools have voted to extend their working hours—and the instructional day. The city and the teachers union send out warring press releases each time another school takes a vote. Staff at New York City schools routinely take similar votes, but with less fanfare. There has been no system-wide push for a longer school day in years, and educators do not foresee a Chicago-style showdown repeating in New York. That’s in part because the average New York City school day is already much longer than Chicago’s, and slightly longer than other major cities’, with many students in school for 6.5 hours or more. In addition, the district already struck a flexible deal with the union five years ago to extend the school day by 37.5 minutes four days a week for at least 290,000 city students, mostly those who struggle academically. How that time is spent is, to a large degree, up to each school. Researchers say it is almost impossible to make a good estimate of the length of the New York City school day—something that one Chicago columnist found last week when he tried to tally the numbers—because instructional time requirements vary by grade-level and subject, and principals and teachers can decide together how they want to structure parts of the school day.
June 21, 2011
Five things to know about today's UFT-NAACP lawsuit hearing
A lot has happened since May 18, when the city teachers union first filed a suit against the Department of Education's plans to close 22 schools and co-locate 17 charter schools in the 2011-2012 school year. There were mass protests, low-key concessions, more lawsuit threats and signs of settlement. There was also a request for a preliminary injunction to place an immediate halt on all interim co-location and school closure plans, which is what today's court date is about. In these preliminary hearings, Manhattan State Supreme Court Judge Paul Feinman will listen to arguments and decide whether or not to grant the request. Here is a rundown of the latest news and analysis of the lawsuit and its implications for how it will affect school co-locations and closures for the upcoming school year. 1. What's a preliminary injunction? A preliminary injunction is an early court order that requires the defendant to either proceed or cease with a specific action. In today's hearing, Judge Feinman will decide if the DOE and co-locating charter schools can proceed with plans to move into district school buildings until a final ruling is made. The injunction — if granted — would halt any construction, renovation or facility upgrades that the schools planned for its co-locations. The key to winning the injunction for the UFT will be to prove, among other things, that the co-locations are irreparably harmful in the interim weeks (as opposed to when the school year begins) while the lawsuit is pending. They will also need to prove a high likelihood of ultimately winning the case. 2. What's at stake?
March 2, 2011
The real but misunderstood incentive to remove senior teachers
Do New York City principals have a financial incentive to get rid of veteran teachers? That's been a fiercely disputed accusation as the teachers union and city have traded shots over layoff threats in recent weeks. While the union embraces the claim as evidence that senior teachers need to be protected from layoffs, Chancellor Cathie Black denies that senior teachers are penalized at all. Black recently told the Staten Island Advance that if a highly paid teacher is let go, a principal can go out and hire another veteran teacher without any repercussions. "It really doesn't matter if it's a more senior teacher making more money, or a younger teacher," she told the newspaper. "It doesn't change the equation. I think the UFT has really distorted that." The dispute is even more confusing because different Bloomberg administration officials appear to take different positions on the matter. According to a report in the New York Post, one of Black's deputies has described the incentive structure as a problem and floated a plan to eliminate it, at least temporarily.
August 11, 2010
College-readiness reports useful, but not complete, city says
City schools are learning more about how their graduates fare in college. But parents aren’t getting the new reports, at least for now. That’s because the city knows how only a small fraction of graduates perform in college and doesn't want to suggest it has complete information about how well schools prepare their graduates. A data-sharing agreement between the City University of New York and the Department of Education means the city knows more than it ever has about high school graduates enrolled at CUNY schools. But they make up only half of all college-bound graduates, who in turn represent just 60 percent of high school students. The new reports explain whether graduates who enroll in CUNY colleges need to take remedial classes and whether they stay enrolled. But they don’t say anything about the 42 percent of graduates who go to private colleges and colleges outside of the city. And they also leave out the one-third of graduates who don’t go to college at all. Without that information, the reports aren’t terribly useful for parents trying to figure out how well schools prepare students for college, and they could give inaccurate impressions of how well schools compare to each other, said Shael Polakow-Suransky, the deputy chancellor in charge of accountability. “You could have really misleading information if you try to make a comparison [between schools], because there are variables missing,” he said.
June 1, 2010
More answers to your teacher layoff questions: when, who, how
A week ago, I posted a Q&A about teacher layoffs and many readers left comments with more questions. Last time the questions were invented (or overheard on the subway). This time they're from you. My chapter leader told me layoff notices will go out on June 4. Is that true? Not necessarily. While the union and the Department of Education discussed that date as a possibility, it depended on principals receiving their budgets by today. That has not happened — when principals logged into their internal budget system this morning they were greeted with an announcement saying their new budgets had been delayed. It didn't say until when, so layoff notices could come out days or weeks from now. If I lose my job, will I be placed in another school? There are two ways of losing your job. If you are excessed, it means your school can no longer afford to keep you on staff, but you are still a public school employee and you remain on the city's payroll while you look for a new teaching position in the system. If you are laid off, you've lost your job in every sense. Teachers who are excessed will not be placed into vacancies at other schools.
May 25, 2010
What to expect when you’re expecting layoffs: a rough guide
We’re told that are layoffs coming. But how many people will be laid off? Who will they be? And will you or your child’s…
May 25, 2010
What to expect when you're expecting layoffs: a rough guide
We're told there are layoffs coming. But how many people will be laid off? Who will they be? And will you or your child's teacher be among them? "I wish I had more money and I wish I had more clarity," was Chancellor Joel Klein's answer to these questions a few weeks ago, speaking to principals by conference call. The process of laying off teachers in New York City is so complex that few people have clear answers right now. But after studying the state law that sets teacher hiring and firing rules, talking to union and city officials, and looking back to the 1970s — the last time a economic crisis forced thousands of teacher layoffs — I have some clues. Here are answers to questions I've heard from parents and teachers (send more!). Will there be layoffs? Several scenarios exist that could reduce — but probably not eliminate — the number of layoffs. In its leaderless, unpredictable state, Albany could rewrite the budget forecast as I type these words.
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