Education news. In context.
Diversity & Equity
Politics & Policy
Teaching & Classroom
Student & School Performance
Leadership & Management
Charters & Choice
Find a Job
How to be a Chalkbeat source
Republish Our Stories
Code of Ethics
Our News Partners
Work with Us
April 5, 2013
Comments of the Week: Our story on a parent activist goes meta
As soon as our story about Leonie Haimson, the prominent parent activist who ceased being a public school parent last summer, went live on Wednesday, comments applauding Haimson's advocacy began rolling in. Among the first to comment was Assembly Education Committee chair Cathy Nolan, who wrote as "freshmanmom," I love working with leonie haimson; her dedication, research skills, advocacy and passion are very helpful to me both as a parent of a nyc public school student and as the chair of the assembly's education committee. Leonie has a right to send her child to whatever school she thinks is best for her child, especially after fighting for years to improve the public school system for all familes. Later, Haimson herself added a comment and urged readers to visit her blog, NYC Public School Parents, to read the post she had published before seeing our story: Thanks for the tremendous support from those of you who commented here, on the lists or privately; your friendship, understanding and support helps keep me going! Many of Haimson's supporters also questioned, sometimes with ferocity, whether we should have written the story at all. We have invited Kelly McBride, a media ethicist at the Poynter Institute, to weigh in on that question and on the question of how well our story accomplished its goals. We'll publish her ombudsman-style response next week, no matter what she says. For now, we'll point you to what the public editor of the Education Writers Association, Emily Richmond, wrote when she discussed our story on her own blog today, in a post that also appeared at the Atlantic:
March 22, 2013
Comments of the week: Selections on selective high schools
Friday afternoon is normally where great news goes to die, but last week's important story about selective high school admissions was kept alive by our readers. Fewer black and Hispanic students were accepted to the the city's eight specialized high schools than in previous years, a total that sparked debate over diversity, socioeconomics and educational access. Performance on a single test determines high school admission, but critics believe it's not the fairest measure. Ms. v, a teacher who said she is familiar with materials used to prepare students, said it would be difficult to do well on the tests without prep: In many cases, even with my advanced degree and above-grade level reading habits, I found at least a couple of answer choices arguable, and most of the passages needlessly dry, poorly written, and seemingly difficult for difficulty's sake. The test is inequitable because it really does require outside prep, and as many commenters have pointed out, that is costly and not equally available to all. One commenter read the admission numbers and said that the admissions process discriminated against members of certain racial and ethnic groups.
March 8, 2013
Comments of the Week: Teaching literacy, history, and the arts
This week, our readers added pedagogy to the usual mix of politics and policy in their comments. One interesting discussion opened up after we reported about educators' efforts to incorporate the Common Core learning standards in literacy. Do the new standards, which emphasize "close reading," mean that students should be taught there are right and wrong ways to understand texts? Drew Golburgh wrote: Reading for a correct answer goes against the purpose and power of art. Close readings should include open ended questions; students must be taught to support their responses with experiences and contextual evidence from the text. Every student response should be followed up with, Why? ... Reading for a correct answer teaches kids that there is a right and wrong way to interpret, to understand, to think. This is the danger of our standardization. Then, the teacher of the class we documented, Frances Olajide, added her voice.
February 22, 2013
Comments of the Week: Cutting past rhetoric to the classroom
One hundred percent of the city's yellow school buses hit the roads Wednesday for the first time since the bus strike began. Parents, advocates, DOE officials, and our readers turned to the challenges ahead. Paul Rubin wrote: Don't forget the lost week from the hurricane and the 2 or in some cases many more weeks of lost "real instruction" for the few dozen damaged buildings. This year's test results figure will be absolutely abysmal... Noryeln argued that the strike's educational costs to students will soon turn into costs for the DOE: Once children get back to schools parents will be requesting make up sessions with therapists and tutors. What the children missed in a month of a strike will be painfully evident and require action on the part of the DOE. Expenses will rise as parents insist on make-up sessions. This strike has been a debacle for everyone.
February 8, 2013
Comments of the week: what to count and what to let go
This week, commenters debated whether attendance should count in middle school admissions, students should spend school days in Albany, and new academic standards for student athletes will help or hurt students and schools. A Remainders link to a parent and child psychologist's article on why school attendance shouldn't be used to screen students for selective middle and high schools sparked a conversation about what role attendance plays in academic performance and whose responsibility it is to get students to school. A.S. Neill also wrote in favor of taking absences into account, arguing that they pose problems for individual students and for their schools: Whatever the reasons for excessive absences in elementary school, by middle and high school, these students become problems for schools both because it lowers their rating scores, and they require extraordinary efforts to correct the deficiencies in their lagging education, often unsuccessful. As such, they pose difficulties for other students in the classroom as well, which is why parents know to try to get their kids in schools where the "good" students are.
January 25, 2013
Comments of the week: Readers dissect a dead evaluation deal
The long weekend just wasn't enough time for readers to cool off after last week's surprising news that a long-awaited teacher evaluation deal had failed. After months and months of negotiations, the two sides walked away from the negotiating table without a system to submit to the state, forgoing $240 million in state aid in the process. So there was plenty to talk about at the end of last week and as this one began. Many, including Commissioner John King, sided with the UFT's account of how talks broke down. A review of the hundreds of comments that poured in on posts about the breakdown in negotiations suggested a lot of our readers agreed. But others weren't so fast to give the union a pass. "The real debate," Night Rider wrote, "surrounds the fact that there is way too much secret dealings going on and the rank and file are not having a chance to have a say in these negotiations. Heck, even if the UFT and the DOE came up with a last minute deal on the evaluations last week, the Delegate Assembly would have had mere minutes to look at the proposal."
January 11, 2013
Comments of the Week: Anxiety over special ed funding change
Readers found no shortage of news to air their thoughts, grievances, and gripes this week. Most opposed city's move to close 26 schools, but were more split over the union's ongoing offensive on Mayor Bloomberg. But it was our exclusive stories detailing the acute anxiety that principals felt as the city prepared to yank special education funding that drew the reactions that we'll highlight in our weekly roundup of reader comments. Principals learned this week they could lose up to hundreds of thousands of dollars because of changes made to the special education funding formula. For those catching up, here's how we explained the funding shift yesterday: The new model allots funds based on the percentage of time students spend in each kind of special education class. Students who spend more than 60 percent of their time in Integrated Co-Teaching classes — which mix special education and general education students and have two teachers, one with special education certification — each bring their school $7,100. Students who spend less time in the classes, which are expensive to run, bring their schools fewer dollars. Principals and teachers helped us a lot with our stories, but we learned more a lot from those of you who chimed in afterward. Comeonnow estimated the staggering mid-year cuts that some large high schools could be forced to sustain, suggesting that something more nefarious was at play: As it stands right now, some large schools with large numbers of special education students stand to lose $500K in the middle of the year because DOE counts Phys Ed as one of the classes a school should offer to non-PE adaptive students. This is nuts and the DOE knows it.
January 4, 2013
Comments of the week: On technology, retention, and dentistry
GothamSchools commenters didn't take much of a vacation this year. This week, they were already back in action, releasing some steam and sparking a few debates worth highlighting in our regular weekly roundup. (As a reminder, each Friday we highlight a sampling of our favorite comments from the week. Review our commenting policy to find out more about what we like.) Our story describing the report out this week from Governor Cuomo's education reform commission sparked a discussion of education technology. Digging into the report, readers picked up on one of the recommendations we'd given less attention — the suggestion to create "innovation zones" to spark novel uses of technology in the classroom. A technology teacher named Steve Kinney who said he works at a school involved in city's iLearn pilot applauded the recommendation. "I can only imagine," he wrote, that the "innovation zone" idea "is based on the similarly named program in New York City," which he applauded for improving on itself each year. The program has allowed us to offer courses to our juniors and seniors that we would not have been able to offer otherwise (most notably: AP courses). It allows us to be more flexible with our scheduling and use the time students spend with their teachers having rich discussions about the content they were introduced to outside of the classroom. Additionally, as part of the program, we now have access to a wide number of instructional media like NBC Learn and Discovery—not to mention the equipment we've received as part of the program, which has been a tremendous blessing. Basically, it's saved us money and allowed us to do a better job serving our students and I'd like to see something similar at the state level and based on what's happening in New York City. "I noticed that..." replied skeptically, pointing Steve to a dispatch by Diane Ravitch about the Rocketship program's blended-learning model, which Ravitch described as a way to cut costs by replacing teachers with computers. The commenter wrote:
December 21, 2012
Comments of the week: the gift of gab for the holidays
Yes, we took a brief — and temporary — break from our "Comments of the Week" feature, which our most ardent readers happily reminded us of. But we're back with a few select comments from the past couple of weeks. Last week, Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky's Community Section post about the city's vision to accelerate the leadership track for talented teachers drew a steady stream of criticism from readers. Smart and ambitious young teachers often appear to be ideal candidates to lead a school — at first, said A.S.Neill. But he said that the strategy does not hold up over time, since good leaders possess more than intellect and a good work ethic. The problem is that the intangibles to those who look closely are not good. They are ambitious and bright, which later easily turns into arrogance. Although on the surface, they seem to get along with everyone and are polite, in fact, they lack interest in or skill with people (except close friends on the same fast track they are), and for that matter, do not appear to be interested all that much in students personally, except as an object to improve on a test in their upward career path. They are easily overconfident but make basic mistakes often with people. One could go on here, but the basic idea is that they are a disaster waiting to happen. A good discussion on charter school autonomy in evaluating teachers followed last week's story on the charter sector's decision to ignore a request to submit teacher ratings to the state education department.
November 30, 2012
Comments of the week: Students grading their teachers
TripodProject.org Should students have a say in how their teachers are evaluated? The question surfaced this week after the teachers union came out in staunch opposition to the idea as an evaluation measure. Department of Education officials say that they would eventually like to see it happen. In comments and on Twitter, teachers reacted with a range of emotions. One teacher, Mook, said the surveys would be a welcome measure if it meant less of an emphasis on test scores: I would like to have the option of using student surveys as part of my evaluation. Of course, I'd like to use it in place of whatever ridiculous measures of student progress we'll eventually be forced to use. Not only am I confident I would do well on the surveys, but they wouldn't take an extra minute of my planning time. No data collection, no seething about the lack of scientific rigor in the collection of the data. But many teachers shared their union's position on student feedback, which is that placing such a high-stakes decision into the hands of students was unreliable and could wrongly threaten their ratings. "Seriously????" asked DisgustedNYCTeacher: After 25 years of teaching, my professional future will d[e]pend on the evaluations of 13 year olds? The same ones who can't remember to bring a pen to school every day and forget their books in class?
November 16, 2012
Comments of the Week: The informational text and the poem
Several readers sought to assuage high school teacher William Johnson's fears, shared this week in a Community post, that new standards will render his English class "deadly boring" with its emphasis on informational texts. The Common Core standards, which the city is rolling out right now, ask students to read more non-fiction than they traditionally have in school. A nearly 50-50 balance of fiction and non-fiction in eighth grade is supposed to shift to 70 percent non-fiction in 12th grade. Several commenters said they thought the addition of more "informational texts" need not be a bad thing, and in fact could be a boon to some students. But one commenter used a poem, by William Carlos Williams, to let Johnson know that he is not alone in his fears. (And speaking of the new learning standards: Please join us Nov. 26 to talk about the Common Core over wine and cheese!) A.S. Neill said he is not a fan of the Common Core – but he still thinks there is an upside to its reading requirements: Research shows that males read less and more poorly than females but girls prefer narrative fiction, romances, poetry, plays while boys prefer science fiction, fantasy, special interest, and news.
November 9, 2012
Comments of the week: Schools cope with Hurricane Sandy
In response to the devastation Hurricane Sandy wrought on schools and families last week, city officials and educators have been scrambling to help school communities—some impacted more immediately than others—cope. For some schools, that means making sure students have access to the resources they need to get their schoolwork done, whether it's internet they lack, or unable to return to their homes. In other schools, some of the most pressing concerns for teachers and administrators include creating meaningful lessons out of the hurricane, and making up for the lost week of instruction. In our Community section, iSchool teacher Christina Jenkins argues that schools should take the opportunity to teach students about how communities respond to crisis and natural disasters. "Real life should trump our lesson plans," she writes. "There’s so much to analyze: cartography, disaster risk and our ability to mitigate it, the fake disaster images circulating online, the power of crowdsourcing." Commenters agreed that engaging students on the challenges facing the city now was a good idea, but they suggested a few different approaches for doing it without preventing them from covering the curriculum they had already planned.
October 26, 2012
Conversation of the week: Participating in a controversial policy
Some of our most thought-provoking comments this week came in response to a first person account of starting a new school in the GothamSchools Community section. In his post, teacher Stephen Lazar described his inner conflict over helping to start Harvest Collegiate High School this year. He believed in the new school, he wrote, but he knew that it would occupy space vacated by a school that was being closed. That school is Legacy High School, a struggling small school that will share its building space with Harvest in Union Square until it finished phasing out. Lazar chose to join Harvest's founding team, but still, he said, the question stymied him: Should a teacher help create a new school if he objects to the policy that led to its creation? Commenters were divided in their answers. "Former Turnaround Teacher" said that Lazar's discomfort about his participation in the city's reform effort is a common among educators at new schools and phase-out schools: When I was looking to transfer at the end of the past school year I often faced a similar decision. I could not bring myself to apply to certain schools that I know where in current phase out buildings. However I did apply to some schools in buildings that had finished phasing out. When it comes down to it, in the current system unless you are lucky enough to get into the 20% or so of High Schools that are either specilized or the DOE for whatever...
October 19, 2012
Comments of the week: probing city's teacher certification idea
When Department of Education officials announced their interest in creating a teacher certification program earlier this week, the city's teachers union and many of our commenters responded with concern and alarm. United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said he “strongly opposes” any effort to give the city authority over teacher certification, a process currently reserved almost exclusively for education colleges. City officials said it could help alleviate the shortage of teachers in some subject areas, but Mulgrew contended that the department's policies are to blame for the system's shortages. He called the department's professional development record "abysmal" and argued that it is encouraging teachers to flee the profession. Many of our commenters agreed. "Lisa" was among the commenters to question how well the city could train the uncertified teachers who would enroll in its program (and eventually work in the schools): Wow, "fast tracking" a fresh out of college special education teacher who will not even need a masters degree by placing him or her alongside a veteran teacher in a "thriving" school and then dumping them into a hard to staff school. I bet there are a ton of parents of special ed kids who can't wait to have that kind of teacher.
October 12, 2012
Comments of the week: Blame for UFT Charter School's demise
The school week was short in length, but it began with a splash here, with a report on the tenuous status of the politically-charged UFT Charter School. The story stirred critical commentary from readers on the role that teachers unions could — and should — play in school management and accountability. (As a reminder, each Friday we highlight a sampling of our favorite comments from the week. Please review our commenting policy to find out more about what we like.) When it opened in 2005, then- President Randi Weingarten declared that the UFT Charter School would become a proof point that the union contract was not a barrier to success. But seven years in, the school is now one of the lowest-performing in the city. Commenters were divided on how to assign blame for the school's demise. "BB" argued that the school's label as a unionized school was besides the point: Poverty, crime, massive class sizes, lack of parental engagement, high staff turnover, lack of teaching resources, and non-experienced educational leaders are the real cause of most of the problems schools face in this country. The difference, "Danny" responded, was that assuming full responsibility for school's management put the union a position where it was directly accountable for school performance: "[T]his school was run, from the top to the bottom, by the UFT, whereas regular district schools are run by the NYC DOE, with only the teacher side influenced by the UFT-DOE contract...The charter gave the UFT a chance to show what they could do if they were calling ALL the district-level shots."
In your inbox.
Chalkbeat New York
How I Teach
Rise & Shine Colorado
Rise & Shine Detroit
Rise & Shine Indiana
Rise & Shine Tennessee
The Starting Line