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New York

Merryl Tisch: Turnaround plan "has nothing to do with the kids"

Tisch spoke on a GothamSchools panel in 2011. Breaking her silence on the city's plan to overhaul 33 struggling schools, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said late Wednesday that she believes "turnaround" is a political strategy, not an educational one. "There's a fight going on here that has nothing to do with what's going on at the school," she said. "It's a labor dispute between labor and management and has nothing to do with the kids." Tisch was referring to the stalemate between the Bloomberg administration and the teachers union that gave rise to the city's turnaround plans. Bloomberg announced the plans in January as a way to get federal funds for the schools even though the city and union had not been able to agree on new teacher evaluations, a requirement of less aggressive strategies already in place. The turnaround strategy, which require the schools to be closed and reopened after changing their names and half of their teachers, has only deepened enmity between the city and UFT. On Wednesday, Tisch visited one of the schools, William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School, and said she was impressed by the changes underway, which she attributed to its principal, Geraldine Maione. The school received millions of federal dollars in the last two years while undergoing "transformation," which funded extra tutoring, additional programs, and new technology. "This is a school that is moving in a really fine direction," Tisch said of Grady, which received a B on its most recent city progress report. "This is the wrong message to this school at this time. Don't be so dismissive of the efforts going on in that building." It was Tisch's second visit to the school. Last week, she brought fellow Regent Kathleen Cashin for a visit that was scheduled after she met Maione in February at a principals union event featuring Diane Ravitch. On Wednesday, Maione said, Tisch and Cashin brought State Education Commissioner John King along with them.
New York

Poll: Voters don't trust city's teacher ratings but do back release

New York

Poll: NYers don't trust Bloomberg to protect students' interests

New York City residents won't be appointing Mayor Bloomberg as students' chief lobbyist any time soon. Nearly twice as many New Yorkers trust the teachers union to protect students' interests than they do Bloomberg, according to a new poll out of Quinnipiac University. Bloomberg's approval rating on schools has hovered around 25 percent since early 2011, according to the poll. The poll, conducted Jan. 30-Feb. 5, found that 56 percent of registered voters in New York City say they trust the union more to go to bat for students. Less than a third, 31 percent, said they trust Bloomberg more. (The poll of 1,222 registered voters had a margin of error of 2.8 percent.) Among households containing public school students, the split was even more pronounced. Just 21 percent of those voters picked Bloomberg, and 69 percent chose the teachers union. Parents' backed the union more often than even households with union members. The news comes in an education-packed poll conducted after a month in which in a showdown over new teacher evaluations led Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo each to ratchet up rhetoric against teachers and their unions. The poll found that the percentage of New Yorkers with favorable opinions of teachers had fallen, from 54 percent last March to 47 percent now. But while a different poll earlier this week found high approval for Cuomo's school policies, a set of questions designed to assess New Yorkers' feelings about a slate of policy initiatives Bloomberg proposed during his State of the City address last month elicited mixed results.
New York

Parents demand stronger role at council hearing on engagement

As today's City Council hearing on parent engagement wore into its third hour, parents grew agitated that they had yet to deliver their testimony. After listening to chancellor Dennis Walcott and executive director for family and community engagement, Jesse Mojica, discuss parent engagement with council members for hours, the parents were ready to contribute, but the meeting was scheduled to end at one. "It's really unfair that this wasn't mostly parent voices," Michelle Lipkin, P.S. 199's PTA president, said when she took the mic. "There's a real disconnect between the definition of parent engagement for parents and the definition of parent engagement for the department of education." That disconnect was made clear as parents and council members agreed that the Department of Education can engage parents all they want, but without power, the engagement is all for naught. “There’s no big secret in what gets parents involved," Councilman Charles Barron said. "It’s when parents actually have power.” He suggested giving parents a say over curriculum, principal hiring, and budget. Others agreed and noted that the Panel for Education Policy, the Community Education Councils, and the school closure procedures give only the guise of engagement. “The parents need power through legislation. Not engagement, not feedback, not any of those pretty words. We need a vote on the PEP,” Christine Annechino, president of CEC 3, testified. “We have no voice. We have no power.” Concerns raised by council members and parents during the meeting included the cut of 57 parent coordinators earlier this year, the accountability and assessment of parent coordinators, the lack of communication about toxic school environments, and the relocation of last night's PEP meeting. While the tone was civil throughout, the issues always came back to the fact that parents don't just want to be kept abreast of issues in their child's school, they want to have the power to effect change.
New York

The principal of a school newly slated for closure speaks out

Margaret McAuley, principal at Chappie D. James Elementary School of Science, questions the extent of support provided by the Department of Education to her struggling school. Just hours after learning that Chappie D. James Elementary School of Science would be phased out, Principal Margaret McAuley publicly registered her concerns about the process that had brought the school to the point of closure. McAuley testified Thursday evening at a meeting of the Citywide Council on Special Education, an elected parent group, which had been set aside to discuss closures well before the city announced yesterday that it would shutter 12 schools. After the Department of Education's director of engagement strategy, Meg Barboza, narrated a PowerPoint presentation about the city's closure strategy, fielding challenges from council members along the way, McAuley took the microphone. As music from a principals union event wafted into the second-floor meeting room at Brooklyn Borough Hall, McAuley described her efforts to serve students at her Brownsville school, which she started in 2008 after a previous school in the building had been closed because of poor performance. She said she had chased down resources and partnerships, sought out extra training for teachers, brought in computers and programming for parents, and put new expectations in place for students. McAuley said she wasn't surprised by the school's first progress report grade last year, a D — scores remained very low. But she said they were improving, slowly but surely and unfortunately not in a way that this year's report card grade, an F, could capture. Most of all, she said, she hadn't been informed that her school's performance wasn't up to par until October, when the city added it to the shortlist of potential closures.
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