Vox populi

New York

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:
New York

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.
New York

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:
New York

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.
New York

Conversation of the week: Participating in a controversial policy

New York

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."